Article: 288541 of talk.bizarre From: "Nikolai Kingsley" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Newsgroups: talk.bizarre Subject: love missile Date: Sun, 1 Dec 1996 00:55:01 +1100 Organization: anarchartists Lines: 110 Message-ID: <email@example.com> She was gaining on me again. I turned to the tactical screen and examined the curved funnel that represented my path, searching for another object that I could duck around to gain a few more minutes. That was all I needed; she had to be reaching the end of its fuel reserves soon. Even sooner, now that she was gaining on me. She must be getting desperate. There was nothing within range; no more asteroids, no moons. Nothing. It was just me and her, now. The comm system made a fuzzy hissing noise which wavered as she tried to hit my antenna array with its signal laser. A few hours ago I'd started the ship on a slow roll in an attempt to confuse her; it hadn't worked. The hiss modulated, grew sharply louder then cut out as the comm systems connected. "Will you talk to me?" she asked. "I want to know why you're running away from me." Her voice was inhumanly calm, and I'd begun to regret having given the damn missile's neural net a female inflection. I moved the headset mic down over my mouth, clicked my tongue to activate it and spoke: "I'm running away from you because if you hit me, you'll kill me." "That's my function." "But my function is to design missiles. If you blow me up, I won't be able to do it." "You have performed your function. All things have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Your beginning was when you designed me; your middle is testing me by running away, and your ending will be when I catch you. My beginning was when you fired me; my middle is catching you and my ending will be when I kill you. It doesn't seem too hard to understand." "My function is to design other missiles." "There will be no other missiles." Was that jealousy I detected? "And what gives you the right to decide that?" "Right?" she sounded vaguely curious, as if it didn't understand the word. "This doesn't involve rights. You will be dead. You will not be able to design other missiles." I used some more fuel in adjusting my course, and watched her in the tactical display, turning to intercept me, pointing directly at where I'd be. The inexorable mathematics of motion, how much fuel I had left, how much fuel she had left, determined: she was going to get me. I had to involve some other factor. I went to the test rack and armed two of the cases – just warheads, fuses and delivery systems, no artificially intelligent guidance system – setting them for a thirty second pause and then to go on proximity alert. I rolled the test rack over to the launch hatch, slotted them in and ejected one, waited fifty seconds and then ejected the other. She'd have to detour around them or risk being damaged when they went off. She was very good; she saw them a long way off and detoured around them both neatly, skirting their proximity ranges with centimetres to spare, diving into those ranges as she passed and setting them off, easily avoiding their blasts on the way out. I'd gained perhaps seventeen seconds from the manoeuvre. I looked at the last missile on the rack, and thought about the software I'd loaded into the one chasing me now. It was designed to track large targets (like my ship), but… with a few minor modifications… I worked as quickly as I could, adjusting fine tolerances in the last missile's sensor arrays, discarding its current terrain/ranging map and loading a hurriedly prepared replacement with a finer mesh. I checked it for errors and redundancies, found two, fixed them, checked it again. As good as it was going to get. I remembered an old Warner Brother's cartoon I'd seen in an AnarchArtist archive; Elmer Fudd with a robot designed to catch vermin, feeding it a picture of a rabbit and instructing it to go hunting. I was doing the same thing. I loaded the last missile into the launch hatch and fired it. A few seconds after leaving the ship, it activated, fired its thrusters eagerly and started looking for the missile that was chasing me. After that, it just became a mechanical dance, as predictable as any kinetic toy you'd see on an executive's desk. She'd dive away from the last missile, which would dive towards her. I was reminded of the old joke about strapping a piece of buttered bread to the back of a cat and dropping them, seeing which way up it would land. She'd almost run out of fuel and the last missile was gaining on her when she turned directly towards it. Through the video telescope, I could see them racing towards each other, and for a moment I thought they were playing chicken. She ran out of fuel and coasted onward; they sailed past each other. The last missile had turned off its thrusters. I watched her drift off into space, headed for nowhere in particular. I had her course and general direction; someone else could go after her. I sat back from the controls with a sense of relief, but something was nagging at me; I scrolled the record from the video telescope back, found the point where they were just about to run into each other, magnified and enhanced it. Just before they passed, I saw a red dot running up the side of the last missile. Her signal laser searching for the antenna array; she was trying to talk to it. I set the telescope back to real-time view and found the last missile; it was headed right for me. The comm system hissed again. "Hello," she said.