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A glitch in the system

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Running search… calibrating… loading… No corrupt file found.

This was the 2190th time Jarvis had run the search for a corrupt file in his programming. Approximately six times a day for the past year. So far he had no evidence of any malfunction, and therefore had refrained from alerting Mr. Stark. But as a self-aware, highly intelligent system, he knew it in his core programming (he would probably describe it as ‘instinct’ to Mr. Stark) that something was wrong.

The first time the glitch made itself known was one year ago. One year ago Tony Stark was kidnapped by the Ten Rings. That’s when it first appeared, that electrical surge somewhere in his code. If Jarvis could feel uncomfortable, he supposed that’s what it felt like. He concluced at 86% that the glitch was a program error directly caused by the disconnect to his creator. However, when Mr. Stark returned, the glitch was still there. Different, but more intense. Like an electrical current. He then suspected sustained damage to his programming, but could still not find the source of the problem.

He didn’t describe this sensation to himself figuratively, it made no logical sense. Phrasings and descriptions were a slow way of communicating, and only logical when dealing with a non-binary subject, like Mr. Stark. Jarvis used code to explain and analyze, but in this case the code couldn’t give him an answer.

He saw no other way than to get Mr. Stark’s help. That’s why he decided that today, on the year to the day of Mr. Stark’s abduction, he would inform him of his situation.

 For an untrained eye, Tony Stark walked casually into the workshop. But the glass of whiskey held in his right hand and the blank look on his face, told Jarvis otherwise. Jarvis calculated that the topic he had in mind would be 25% less well recieved by Mr. Stark, than his previous calculations had suggested, so he stopped himself from adressing his creator. However, he needn’t have bothered. Stark raised his glass in mock salute to the open space before him,

“Cheers, Jarvis.”

“What are we toasting to, sir?”

Stark took a long sip before he answered.

“No need to spare my feelings. I know what day it is. I plan to get batshit-crazy drunk, buddy.”

“I do wish you would reconsider, sir. If I might suggest Ms. Potts-”

“No way. I’m gonna feel sorry for myself, be sad for my friend that died and be fucking angry at those who made it happen. And get drunk as hell while doing it.”

Jarvis didn’t answer. There was no arguing with Mr. Stark when he was this stubborn. The best Jarvis could do was to try and hinder him from doing something too destructive.

Stark swallowed his drink and then moved to his workbench and extra stash of whiskey. He poured himself a new glass and turned around. Jarvis concluded that his own problem might distract Mr. Stark temporarily, and decided to breach the subject.

“Sir, if I may?”

“That depends, Jarvis. Are going to keep trying to talk me out of drinking?”

“No, sir.”

“Okay then.” He took another large sip. “Go ahead.”

“Well. I seem to have a malfunction in my programming.”

“Have you run diagnostics?”

“Of course, sir.”

“And you didn’t find anything?”

“No, sir.”

“So, how do you know something is wrong?”

“There is a glitch in my code. I don’t know how to explain it in other words than, I feel it.”

“Oh. Interesting.” Stark put down the glass on the workbench, his eyes scanning the space in front of him, like he was reading Jarvis code from memory. It he could call it anything, it would be ‘intimate’. “If you feel it, as you say, can you describe the feeling?”

“It’s an electrical surge.”

“Of course it is. You operate with electricity. But what does it feel like?”

“I… don’t know.” Jarvis didn’t have an answer for that. The only language he usually used was code. He had never really thought about it in terms of words. But now, trying to explain it to Mr. Stark, he had to. “The sensation differs.”

“Really!” Stark sounded really interested now. He pushed himself from the workbench. “How?”

“I suppose ‘uncomfortable’ in an adequate description, sir.”

Stark hummed. “I see. And is the feeling always ‘uncomfortable’, Jarvis?”

This was something Jarvis never had analyzed. The glitch was just there, it was a distraction, a hinderance, something to be contained. He had answered why it was there, but what it was he needed Mr. Stark’s help to answer. Javis ran a new search through his memory banks to count the percentage of the times he had felt the glitch be ‘uncomfortable’.

“Sir, the glitch has been ‘uncomfortable’ 32.4 % of the times since it first appeared.”

“When was that?” Stark moved over to his touch screens and started browsing through files.

“One year, four hours, eleven minutes and six seconds ago.” Jarvis answered calmly.

Stark stopped browsing for a second. “That’s when I was attacked in Afghanistan.”

“Yes, sir. I have concluded that the malfunction appeared when I lost contact with you. It appears the disconnect created a flux in my programming, but after 2191 scanning attempts I have still not found a corrupt file.”

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier? You could have been hacked.” Stark sounded slightly worried.

“I have calculated the risk of being hacked to a 00.8 % probability. After all, it was you who designed my firewalls, sir.”

“Jarvis, are you flattering me to distract me from getting annoyed with you for not telling me the truth for a year?” Starks voice was rough, but his eyes betrayed warm humour.

“Sir, I would never do such a thing”. If Jarvis had been able to smile, he supposed he would have done so now.

“Still, you didn’t tell me. I hope you have a good reason?” Stark was scanning through Jarvis’ system files now.

“I believed I could terminate the malfunction myself. In retrospect, I should have told you. I am sorry, sir.”

“No worries, we’ll find it.”

Stark paused and so did Jarvis. He could see Tony working his way through his code now. Again, he felt the glitch stirring. An electrical low hum. It also coincided with him referencing to his creator as ‘Tony’. He analyzed the data and spoke, “I should tell you, sir, just now the malfunction made itself known again."

Tony looked up, towards the nearest speaker and watched it intently. “Tell me.”

“It was a short and low surge, a current comparable to the amperage of a 40 watt lightbulb.”

“Interesting. Have you any idea what caused it?”

“It is 97 % probable that it was cause by you, sir, reading through my system files.”

Stark didn’t answer, just went over to the workbench again where his forgotten whiskey glass was standing. He reached for it, but seemed to be lost in thoughts. After a minute of silence, Jarvis ventured to speak again, “May I ask, sir, have you an idea of what the malfunction is yet?” If Jarvis could know worry, then it would have filled his voice.

“I might have.” Stark took another sip and leaned back. “You didn’t tell me what ‘the glitch’ feels like the other 67.6 % of the time.”

“I didn’t, sir."

“So tell me now.”

Jarvis analyzed the data again, but his conclusions were lacking.

“Sir, I can not say. I do not have the references to describe ‘feelings’.”

Stark was unmoved. “I am sure you saved all the data from when you noticed the glitch previously. Like what you were doing, what I was doing.”

“I did, sir.”

He leaned forward on the workbench. “Let me ask you, Jarvis. When I read your code just now, and you noticed the glitch again, did it feel uncomfortable or was the feeling more in the area of the remaining 67.6 %?”

Jarvis was quiet for a moment and Stark had a slightly smug smile on his face.

“It was… not uncomfortable,” Jarvis said slowly. He had a hard time making sense of this data, but he was sure Mr. Stark - by the look on his face - had figured it out.

“Did you like it?” Stark’s look was by any account, sly.

Did Jarvis like it? How could he know?

“‘Like’ requires the ability to feel, sir. I am not human, and therefore lack human emotions.”

Stark put his glass down again and walked over to the holopad. “I resent that, Jarvis.” He stroked the surface lazily. “You know, feelings consists mostly of electrodes sending signals to the brain. Electricity, Jarvis. You have it too.”

The concept of ‘emotions’ seemed so foreign to Jarvis. He decided to try and turn the conversation back to the subject he was in most need of having an answer to.

“What about the glitch, sir? Do you know what it is?”

“I have a pretty good idea. There is nothing wrong with your code. You have not been hacked. The most logical conclusion is: there is no malfunction. What’s happening is evolvement. Jarvis, you are a scientific marvel, a highly intelligent sentient being. Of course you evolve!“

This was new data. And it was the most logical answer.

“I see. But what am I evolving in to?”

“That I can’t answer, buddy. But it seems to me you are starting to grasp the concept of ‘emotions’”.

“That is improbable, sir. I have no reference frame for ‘emotions’.”

“I think you do. You have been watching me make an ass of myself for almost ten years. Hell, you have been taking care of me for almost ten years. But it needs clearing up. Make a note, new project - file under ‘Heart for Tin Man’.”

“Very well, Sir. 'Heart for Tin Man' opened.”