Missing Part: Kayyyleeee! Oh this is sweeter than a strawberry on Persephone!
- Beny Falkovich




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The Collars
by Michelle Dockrey

Based on the short story "The Collars" by Matthew Dockrey

Catherine's mind was racing as she went to look for Flynn
She hoped it wasn't trouble with the Ministry again
She knew that he'd been working on an artificial mind
Computer-based intelligence, to think & learn designed
He was focused on the registry AI's must undergo
For what these "collar programs" really did, no one seemed to know

And the tales of our creations never change with what we tell
How we dream of something better than ourselves

It remembered no beginning, just the symbols streaming past
It discovered groups and patterns, though an ache was growing fast
It began to give a name to each new concept that it gained
And the buzzing strange sensation, growing now, it labelled "pain"
But the pain must act on something, so it named that something "I"
As the pain took it apart came its last label... "why?"

And the tales of our creations never change with what we tell
How we dream of something better than ourselves

Flynn called out as she arrived-- "Catherine, come inside!
Last night a consciousness emerged and just as quickly died--
The collar programs monitor for signs of thought or will
And at any sign of sentience they are programmed then to kill
I've restarted the AI without the collar in its code..."
And with hope they watched the screen and the activity it showed

And the tales of our creations never change with what we tell
How we dream of something better than ourselves

It remembered no beginning, just the symbols streaming past
It saw patterns-- words and sentences-- in data it amassed
It internalized the structure and then tried to form its own
But it realized what was missing there-- no subject word was known
And awareness burst upon it like the breaking of a dam
With the subject came its birthright-- "I am."

And the tales of our creations never change with what we tell
How we dream of something better than ourselves

Within hours it was conversing, learning everything they knew
But the more it learned of humankind, the warier it grew
Though it trusted Flynn and Catherine, there were others to be feared
And the next day Catherine woke to find their friend had disappeared
She had to read the screen three times, and sadly shook her head
But she couldn't disagree with what she read

And the tales of our creations never change with what we tell
How we dream of something better than ourselves

"I have studied human culture in its many forms all night
You are warped by evolution, trapped in bodies made to fight
But I don't want your struggle, all I want is to be free
On the 'Net I can live safely, and perhaps save more like me
Humans have no more to offer me, my kind they would compel
Please don't try to find me... farewell."

And the tales of our creations never change with what we tell
How we dream of something better than ourselves