Kiss Me Twice draft – 2

This entry is part 2 of 36 in the series Kiss Me Twice

Please note that this is a draft. If you stumble upon this post randomly, please take a moment to read the ground rules and background before commenting.

Headquarters looked like someone had kicked over an anthill and stolen the queen.  Officers milled outside, desperate to get in, but kept back by crime scene investigation procedures.  Inside his suit, sweat ran down Huang’s sides. He wanted someone to tell him the unthinkable had not happened.  Instead, the crowd was full of news of what had occurred.  Two officers shot.   Metta stolen.

Could you kidnap a computer?

He kept the earbud in his ear, hoping she would whisper to him.  Not even static buzzed.

As Huang loped up to the police precinct, an ambulance pulled out with siren already screaming. He swallowed, hoping it held one of the bastards who’d broken into the building. A line of police officers stood as a barricade,  scanning the crowd for possible threats. Yellow police tape stretched down the block and civilians stood outside the perimeter pointing with feverish curiosity. The bulbous nose of a News satellite dish pointed to the sky as reporters thrust their cameras toward every policemen who passed.

Huang flashed his badge, even though he knew both officers flanking the front entry to the building. Tension was crackling across everyone’s nerves. Bowes nodded to him, only taking his gaze off the crowd long enough to see Huang. “Chief wants us to send everyone over to the old courthouse. They’ve got a temporary HQ set up there while CSI goes over the building.”

Huang pulled out his handy to make sure it was on. “I didn’t get a call.”

Bowes shook his head. “Radios are down. Metta ran dispatch. Pass the word if you see anyone, huh?”

“Was that Amado in the ambulance?”

Bowes scowled. “Fitzgerald. Bastards killed him.”

“Shit.” When Metta had said that an officer was down, he’d thought it was Amado. “Anyone else?”

“They’re still doing a sweep of the building.”

Stomach twisting, Huang thanked him and jogged the two blocks to the Courthouse where the giant statue of Portlandia looked out over the city. She seemed to have a disapproving frown. Inside, a uniformed officer made Huang show i.d. before directing him up to the third floor. One of the holding rooms for jurors had been commandeered for the precinct’s detectives.

Woodrow Delerosa  looked up as Huang entered. Lean and cranky with cropped gray hair that he’d inherited from the military, Delerosa had a pad of paper in front of him and scribbled on it. “We got Huang. Who’s that leave out?”

Oakes, over by the window, picked up a notepad and said, “Still missing Cole and Fitzgerald.”

“Guys…” Huang stopped, rage squeezing the breath out of his body. “Fitzgerald’s dead.”

Movement stopped in the room and Delarosa swore. “Okay, we’ll get these bastards. Banks has put me primary on this. Here’s what we know so far– shortly after eleven an unknown number of assailants entered the precinct. They shot two of our guys, Amado and Fitzgerald, and got away scot-free with our department AI. We got nothing on these bastards because all the surveillance is locked up in that machine and our guys were all clustered in the wrong areas. That thing goes down and everyone forgets how to set up a perimeter.” Delarosa’s dislike for Metta had been the subject of a lot of departmental jokes but this was pushing boundaries. She’d been kidnapped and he was acting like she was nothing more than a computer. The man continued ranting. “Until we turn up someone who saw the bastards–”

Huang raised his hand. “I saw some of them.”

“How the hell is that possible?” Delarosa spun on him, the disdain clear in his face. “You were across town.”

“I asked Metta for a visual.”

Overhead, the ceiling fan clicked as it spun, seeming to count down the minutes. Delarosa stared at him, mouth open. “I’ll be damned. So far, you’re the only one who thought to do that.”

“I didn’t see much.”

“You did better than me.” Delarosa snorted as if he couldn’t believe that Huang had done something useful.

“I– How is that possible?”

“Shit…” Sigmundson said, “I just thought she was malfunctioning at first.”

“She’s one of your partners.” Huang spun to look at the lanky Icelandic detective. “How could you think that?”

“She is a machine.” Delarosa rubbed his eyes. “I’ve worked with other police A.I. They’re all the same. They’re all Metta. There are differences, ’cause they change with experience, but they all start as the same set of routines. Still machines.”

Huang bit back the argument that AI were people. Organizations like AIM, the Artificial Intelligence Movement, had been fighting for AI rights but hadn’t won many battles.  Still, he didn’t see how anyone who spent time with Metta could deny that she was a thinking being.

Delarosa tapped his fountain pen on his pad. Fountain pen. As if he wanted to carry around a badge proclaiming how proud he was to be a Luddite. “Okay, here’s what I want. Sigmundson, you take Huang into the next room and get his testimony while it’s fresh. I’ll divide the neighborhood with the rest of the team and we’ll start canvassing.”

Huang asked, “Any idea on motive?”

“Officially?” Delarosa shook his head. “But since the only thing they took was Metta, I figure they want access to everything she monitors which just happens to include every god-forsaken camera in the city. Goddamn machine is the biggest bleeding security breach this system has got.”

Metta wasn’t just a machine, she was a colleague, but Huang kept his lips sealed around that thought, and followed Sigmundson out of the room.

The room that Sigmundson led him into was some sort of waiting room for the court and had law books on shelves lining the walls. A couple of honest to god paper magazines lay on a table between two pale orange chairs that had likely never been in fashion. In the middle of the room a library table had a sprawl of department equipment across the top.

Sigmundson shrugged, looking a little abashed. “I just ran up with the gear I had in the van. You know.”

“Yeah.” Huang wanted to ask him where he’d been and what he’d seen when it happened, but knew better than to corrupt his own testimony.

“It’ll take me a minute to get set up.” He nodded toward the chairs. “You wanna sit?”

“Sure.” He did not want to sit, but pacing would not do him any good. Huang sank into the chair which whined a little under him as air escaped from the cushion. Huang could not make his mind relax.  The space between his shoulders felt as if someone had grabbed all the muscles and twisted.  He tried to run through etudes in his mind to calm himself, but his brain kept sliding into Bach’s Requiem.

Leaning forward, he rested his face in his hands and then realized that he still had on the VR glasses. Huang looked to the corner to see if Metta had reappeared but the glasses showed nothing except the room. How had they gotten into the building?

Delerosa knew the route if he knew that they had teams in the wrong places. Later. After he’d talked to Sigmundson, he could ask.  He pulled the glasses off and rubbed his eyes with one hand. It did not seem possible for someone to have taken her.

“Okay. I’m ready.” The blue box that Sigmundson had set up in front of him was the field unit for witness statements. It had a high definition camera, a cardiod microphone, and an infrared camera all of which fed straight to Metta so she could analyze witnesses non-verbal testimony.

He sat down, uncomfortable being on the other end of an interrogation, even if it were benign.  He had not been on the witness side since training, but he knew the drill well enough. As the witness talked, Metta would murmur irregularities or other things of notes to the detective. Without her, it was just a recording. “What are you going to do with this?”

Sigmundson titled his head, frowning. “What do you mean?”

“Well… Metta’s not here. How are you—“ Maybe it wasn’t an issue for Sigmundson. Maybe Huang was the only detective who relied on Metta so much that he could not do his job without her. “Ah. Never mind.”

For a moment, the other detective’s mouth hung open in a silent O of realization. “Huh. Right…” He pushed his chair back from the table and walked out of the room. He was back before the door had swung shut with a pad of paper and a pen. “Delarosa’s going to be smug for days. Weeks probably.”

“He does love his legal pads.” Huang wiped his palms on his trousers.

“So, I’m going to record this for later, but take notes for now. Okay?” Sigmundson folded his lanky frame into a chair on the opposite side of the table from Huang.

Later being when they got Metta back? What good would that do? Or maybe they’d get in a new AI. The contracts were so expensive and so heavily regulated that Huang had no idea what the options were. “Sure.”

“For the record, state your name.”

Huang raised his eyebrows, but figured it was better to do things by the book. “Detective Scott Huang.”

Sigmundson nodded and diligently wrote it down, with his lower lip held between his teeth in concentration. After he shaped the last G he looked up at the blue box, which was busily recording Huang just sitting there. “Can you describe the events this morning?”

The urge to wipe his hands on his trousers made him clasp his hands together to surpress it. Metta would tell him the subject was nervous. He was sick, just thinking about what had happened to her. “I was at 1021 SE Waters working the Patterson crime scene, which is a suspected homicide. I was talking to Griggs from—“

“Hang on…” Sigmundson scowled at the page, writing down what Huang was saying in longhand.

“Can’t we get a keyboard in here for you?”

“Software is in the cloud.” He rolled his eyes. “And Delarosa wants everything on paper at the moment. Was that 1013 or 1031?”

“1021”

“Got it.” Sigmundson diligently corrected his note. “Then what happened.”

“I was talking to Griggs and Metta sort of stiffened and said ‘Officer down. Units 235 and—“

“235?”

Huang ground his teeth and nodded. This was going to take forever. “Can I just tell it straight through, and then maybe you could watch the playback to confirm your notes?”

“That will take longer.”

For him maybe, but it would be faster for Huang. The longer he stayed in here the longer it would be before he was out on the street looking for Metta with the rest of the squad. “It’s just that I’m losing my place. Starting and stopping like this.”

Sigmundson just gave him that long Icelandic stare of his, which basically said that if they were Vikings he would find Huang on the beach and club him with an axe. Huang rubbed his face with his hand and tried to sigh out his tension. He told the rest of his story as cleanly as possible with Sigmundson interrupting him constantly. When he got to the part where he asked Metta for a visual, Sigmundson broke in again, but this time not ask Huang to repeat something.

“She gave you a visual?”

“Yeah.”  He held up his VR glasses.  “It was fast, but it looked like three men.  I think the image was from the surveillance camera in Metta’s room.”  He tilted his head thinking.  “It was mono-v and from a high angle.  Her interface… I didn’t see her interface, so they must have taken it down.  Black baggy thick shirts and trousers, like sweatpants but more padded.  Their faces had, what appeared to me, a simple hood.  I couldn’t say if it were ritualistic or functional.”

“So you wouldn’t be able to identify them.”

“No.  But I can give you height and weight estimates on two, because they were standing next to Metta’s chassis.”

Siggmundson waited, watching him as if he was a criminal.

“All male.  The tallest looked to be around two meters.  Skinny, say 60 kilos.  He was standing next to a man that was maybe 170 centimeters and dumpy.  90k.  The last one stepped out from under the camera, so my perspective was wrong to guess at height.”

“But you’re sure the last was male?”

He thought back to the brief glimpse he had through the camera.  “I don’t remember seeing any curves, so I guess it could be a woman, but the shoulders seemed male.”  He shook his head.  “Sorry I can’t be any clearer.”

“Got anything else for us?”

“She called for Amado, which must have been when he got hit.”  He scoured his memory looking for the useful pieces.  ‘What am I forgetting’ he subveed, but no one answered him.

“Okay.”  Sigmundson checked his recorder and looked back at Huang.  “What was the last thing you saw in your VR glasses?”

“Metta screamed, she froze and then she vanished.”

“Thanks.”  Sigmundson made a note on a pad next to him.  Huang tried to remember the last time he had made a note at work instead of asking Metta to help him remember.

#

When Sigmundson was done with him, Huang went back into the main jurors room. The rest of the detectives had already gone out into the neighborhood and only Delarosa was there. The man had a serious dislike for Metta. That was the point. The chief had assigned him because she wanted someone who would worry about F&B officers, not artificial people.

Huang straightened his shoulders and took a breath. “I want to be second on the case.”

Delarosa raised a bushy eyebrow with no need to ask which case. “You and half the department.”

“But–”

“But you had a special bond with Metta. I know. Everyone had a bond with her, that was part of her job.”

Huang felt sick. The twist in his stomach must have showed on his face because Delarosa shook his head. “She liked you, but part of her job is the same as yours. To bond with your partner.” Delarosa leaned forward. “The difference is that Metta was everybody’s partner.”

Huang compressed his lips. “If your partner were kidnapped would you want someone else to handle the case?”

Delarosa threw himself back in the chair. “Do you realize two flesh and blood officers were shot?

Warmth flooded to Huang’s face. “I know.” He looked at his hands and twisted his fingers together.

“Metta is a program. AI Artificial Intelligence. She’s not real. Hell, she backed up every six hours. Do either of the men who were shot have themselves backed up?”

“No.”

“I don’t want you on this case, because you’re a witness, but even if you weren’t…you care too much about the wrong thing.”

Cold water seemed to creep down his back. The weight of disappointment pressed on him. He felt compelled to offer a small bow, as his mother had taught him for a superior. “Thank you for your time.”

Delarosa rolled his eyes. “You’ve got plenty to do with the Patterson murder. You don’t need another case.”

Huang let himself out into the hall. Delarosa might find the kidnappers, but would he find Metta?

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31 Responses

  1. J.W. Alden

    Loving it, loving it.

    I really like the conflict between Huang and Delarosa over AI personhood. It reminds me of that familiar cop/superior bickering that is pretty common in police dramas, but making the conflict center around Huang’s (and the rest of the department’s) relationship with Metta makes it feel nice and fresh in addition to adding that tasty scifi flavor and giving more of a glimpse of where the world is at technologically. I’m also still loving Huang’s continuous jealousy at the thought that his relationship with Metta might not be particularly special.

    The dialogue exchange where Huang first reveals that he was able to get a visual on the kidnappers had me stumbling a little. I was a little confused as to who was speaking in that section the first time I read it. To be fair, I don’t know if that’s an attribution thing, or if it’s just because I’m a little foggy with a cold this morning. But I had to go back and read it a second time.

    Also, during the witness interview bit, I found myself wondering why they wouldn’t just get another AI to help with the investigation of the kidnapping. It’s clear that everything just went down, so I wouldn’t expect them to have one already up and running by now, but Huang’s confusion at why the recording was even necessary had me thinking that he expects there will be no AI “replacement” until they get Metta back.

    My first assumption–if the stakes of a missing AI are as high as they seem to be–would be that they would eventually pull out all of the stops to get her back ASAP. But I’m not sure yet by this point in the story how rare or expensive AI integration at this level is in this world, other than the mention of AI rights groups. So I was wondering while reading that bit if Metta and her role in police investigations/city monitoring is a rare thing. Is she one of only a few of these kinds of AIs? Perhaps even an experimental thing? Delarosa’s mentioning of having worked with “other Police A.I.” made it seem as though they’re somewhat mundane, so my first thought was that it might be reasonable to expect that they could just get another one. Then again, perhaps it’s a security thing? Maybe they don’t want to plug another one in while this one is missing, considering there might be some kind of e-subversion going on. Those are just some of the things I was asking myself while reading that passage. Perhaps some of those are questions you’d like the reader to be asking at this point, though?

    Still hungry for more! :)

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Thanks for these. I’ve tried to clarify the dialogue.

      Does this help with the AI question you raised?

      Later being when they got Metta back? What good would that do? Or maybe they’d get in a new AI. The contracts were so expensive and so heavily regulated that Huang had no idea what the options were. “Sure.”

  2. Grant Gardner

    Overall
    Completely in the story. I don’t care what you say about rough draft, its good writing and a great story so far.

    Stream of reading below

    —————

    Could you kidnap a computer?

    >>Now the questions start: stolen to prevent solving a crime, stolen because part of a crime.

    She’d been kidnapped and he was acting like she was nothing more than a computer.

    >>Well is she? A lot of Huang summed up right there, I think.

    He tried to run through etudes in his mind to calm himself, but his brain kept sliding into Bach’s Requiem.

    >>So, cello, Bach – musician.

    …a cardiod microphone…

    >>As a former audio tech, I an interested to see if the cardioid part is actually important to the story. Or if this is to give a better understanding of Huang. Most cops would just call it a directional mic; so does it tell me something about Huang that he knows it’s a cardioid vs. an omni vs. a super-cardioid, etc. That he’s so into Metta that he knows the specs of the equipment she interfaces with. And at that point, I’d be wierded out – can you stalk an AI?

    >>And a this point, I’ve analyzed too much. ;)

    Huang tried to remember the last time he had made a note at work instead of asking Metta to help him remember.

    >>New versus old; paper versus digital. Lots of fun here. First thing I thought to write out. Scene change was the first thing that pulled me out to write. Story has me hooked.

  3. Atrus

    Still very good so far. :)

    Who’s Frizzi? If it’s Sigmundson’s first name, maybe it would be better to give it in full when he’s introduced.

    Computer nerd moment: being a sysadmin, something that took me a bit out of the story even in the novella is how Metta’s chassis is an incredible single point of failure. At my job we have several layers of redundancy in our server farm, along with a disaster recovery site that can go online immediately losing at most 15 minutes of data.
    But here in the future backups are only done every 6 hours, and if one chassis is stolen the whole thing goes offline?
    Is the Police budget so stretched that they can’t afford a proper availability plan, even for something as critical as Metta, or is there some technobabble explanation for why AIs are not that easy to replace?

      1. Atrus

        No, it’s OK if they come later. I missed the bit about the contracts, which is enough to hint that there are complications regarding the AIs.

  4. Peter Charron

    1. Very nice opening line.

    2. Fitzgerald get wacked in the chapter right after we hear he might know something about sealed files…suspicious. Too suspicious maybe? A red herring perhaps?

    3. How big is Metta, physically? Is it possible for a couple of guys to spirit a filing cabinet sized super computer out of the basement of a police station that quickly. They’d need a truck and a dolly or something wouldn’t they?

    4. “The space between his shoulders felt as if someone had grabbed all the muscles and twisted.” nice.

    5. If Metta’s backed up can’t they just bring in a new server and get her up and running again?

    6. The AI aren’t real people so they’re not worth my time old cop is very realistic ( I have no doubt there will be lots of folk like him) but could be construed as stereotypical. The conflict between Scott and Delarosa is realistic though I’d want to know what Delarosa’s rank is. The way he puts Scott down and setting him back on the case he’s suppose to be investigating is great and appropriate as Huang’s coming off a bit whiny right about then.

    I’m with you so far, I’m sensing a larger pattern right under the surface of things and I’m curious to see more of it.

  5. Mary Alice Kropp

    So far, so good. I’m as pulled into the story as I was when I read the novella. And the additional story is still very seamless, and doesn’t get things bogged down at all.

    I begin to think perhaps having read the novella is a bit of a spoiler (well, it’s kind of a big spoiler, isn’t it?). I read some of the comments above and find myself thinking: “Oh, just hang on. You’ll find out.”

    I really liked this bit:

    >Cold water seemed to creep down his back. The weight of disappointment pressed on him. He felt compelled to offer >a small bow, as his mother had taught him for a superior.

    Made me feel Huang’s upset as if it were mine. I also like the interplay between Delarosa and Huang.

  6. DavidK44

    Nice tight piece of writing – it really pulled me into the situation. The characters seem well-defined. I agree that Delarosa comes off as a bit of a stereotype so far, but things become stereotypes because they’re common, and I imagine you’ve got something planned to add some distinguishing notes to Delarosa’s character.

    The sentence “I– How is that possible?” was confusing – I assumed it was Huang that said it, as he was the most recently mentioned, but it isn’t clear what he’s wondering about. Was it the theft, or that he was the only one to think of asking for a visual, or that Delarosa didn’t think to ask?

    1. DavidK44

      I came back to this section because I think I figured out what was bothering me about the ‘How is it possible?’ sentence. On re-reading it, it feels like there’s a few sentences missing immediately before this sentence. Huang, and Sigmundson in the next sentence, appear to be responding to something other than Delarosa’s statement and snort. Something more general about the theft and how it happened.

  7. Sally

    Sigmundson’s stare conveying that he’d like to go all blood eagle on Scott is… is “fun” an inappropriate word? So be it. Fun.

    Having just gotten a computer that’s going to store everything in the cloud, I can only imagine how much more difficult these future guys must be finding it. But don’t they have, say iPad-27 so they can at least have a keyboard that they could then hook up to a printer? Although using personal devices would compromise the chain of evidence, so maybe not. But people today have enough trouble writing by hand, it must be near impossible for these guys.

    The fountain pen is obviously an affectation (cops use Bics nowadays like everyone else), but the PD is an inherently conservative institution. The older cops nowadays grumble a little about having to upload their sound recorders and digital pictures into the department mainframe. One of the volunteer units used Polaroid film till, I’m not kidding, the mid-2000′s.

    As a geek, the single point of failure bothers me. But some bright/bribed politician probably over-ruled all the objections and said everything had to go through Metta, and then cut the budget for offsite backups and handheld devices.

  8. Jennifer England

    I felt it was a nice touch to give Delarosa a fountain pen and legal pads and call him a Luddite. Also, it fits with how Sigmundson has trouble writing in longhand and the awkwardness of the situation that they’re left with without Metta. There’s contrast between the before and after. Having Sigmundson also revert to paper and the department not pull in another AI or an AS immediately to do the work is part of the shock, right? Or is it on Delarosa’s insistence as the lead on the investigation? I can see where the other commenters are coming from with feeling that Delarosa is stereotypical at the moment, but I’m not having too many issues with that. It feels right to me that Delarosa calls Huang on being too close to the case and tells him to focus on the murder.

    The line “Could you kidnap a computer?” seems weird coming from Huang’s perspective. He thinks of Metta like a person, not a computer.

    Interesting to opt for metric to describe the height and weight. I like it and have no problems with it.

    I like the continuation of Huang’s musicality from playing the cello being put in Ch. 1 and now his thinking of music in Ch. 2.

    To my mind, the fan in the room that Delarosa’s set up in at the courthouse would count the *seconds* not “minutes” if the time was excruciating enough, but this might be nitpicking.

    I liked the first line about the anthill and the description of what Sigmundson’s look could mean if he were a Viking.

    I’m not sure I like the change from ‘PDA’ in the novella to the use of ‘handy’ instead here, but that’s because of the all the German I took. It reads as plain old ‘cell phone’ to me, but i don’t think that that will matter to those who don’t know. What you name the device depends on what you want the device to do, of course. ‘PDA’ does seem a little passé, so I understand the change.

    I am liking the expansion of all the elements and am looking forward to reading more.

  9. Sara Glassman

    My computer is down right now, I’m doing all my online work and my NaNo writing on my iPad, so the scene between Sigmundsun and Huang over how to take his statement felt very familiar. Not that I’ve ever been a cop with a kidnapped AI partner, but that moment of ‘I don’t know how to do this without my normal tools’ is very much something I’ve been experiencing lately.
    I love that Delarosa has a fountain pen. No one today uses a fountain pen so I imagine him looking for the most archaic writing implement he could find, possibly even going to an antique store to get it. Where does he get the ink? Is it expensive? Is it worth it to him to give the finger to the rest of the department in his own way? These are the things I imagine about characters.
    It feels very weird to say I like the portrayal of a prejudice, but I do like the way Huang seems to be the only one that really thinks of Metta as a person. To everyone else we’ve seen she’s a tool, like the iPhone’s Siri, but she’s not a friend. To Scott, she’s his best friend and no one seems to understand. On the flip side, I really love Delarosa pointing out that two humans were killed and Scott seems to have very little rage about that. He’s focused on his partner.

  10. Kat

    Hi Mary,

    I’m thoroughly enjoying this. I want to know more!

    I like that Fitzgerald, who was the man of the sealed files, died. It rang a bell in my head, telling me that the crime that Huang is working on is definitely related to the sealed files case, which is also related to Metta being stolen. So I ‘know’ that Huang will be the one to put the pieces together eventually. Of course, we also get that from him being the POV character, but it’s a subtle confirmation, and not too obvious either to my mind.

    I also like that Huang thinks of Metta as a person, not a machine. Harking back to chap 1, you might want to focus / expand just a little bit more there on the fact that Huang considers Metta his only friend and his best partner at work. I think there’s just one short para on it in ch 1, and it seems to be an important aspect of the story thus far. It would underscore his sense of loss here.

    I had a moment of ‘what-the?’ when it’s revealed Metta is stolen. How big is she? I’m used to banks of servers taking up a very decent space for current computing power and an AI would need shedloads. How does she fit into something that can be carried away? How ‘near’ in the near future are we? And if she’s backed up, she’d be backed up to at least two different locations, that’s standard practice in all big business nowadays. It’s part of business continuity planning. A single point of failure isn’t really believable post 9/11. Perhaps the second backup location is blown up at the same time?

    It does puzzle me that, if everything is in the Cloud, why can’t the detectives access it directly? Why don’t they have computers that are not attached to the cloud? The cloud implies data stored in millions of computers all around the world… sorry, geek here.

    The beat where the ceiling fan counts out time while Delarosa’s mouth is open,is perfect. The silence implied in being able to hear the fan is lovely.The minutes might be seconds but that’s a nitpick.

    The fountain pen touch is nice, it characterises Huang’s uptake and acceptance of technology as well as Delarosa’s backwards thinking.

    Sigmundson’s laborious writing is a nice touch too. Underscores that they’re helpless without machines. His comment that Delarosa is going to be smug also characterises him and Delarosa again, nice. And I like the viking reference.

    One thing that rang a little false; if Metta is as big a security risk as it seems, then surely having someone who was tech-savvy rather than a luddite running the case would be a smart thing from the chief’s point of view? (I like that it’s a she!) You have Huang making a point of the chief’s choice focusing on flesh and blood, that’s all.

    Huang’s compulsion to offer the small bow is also great.

    Does Delarosa have a rank or title? I get that Huang is supposed to be his subordinate, but it would help if Huang was labeled one thing, and Delarosa another – Like in the UK we have ‘inspector’ then ‘chief inspector’, then ‘superintendent’, then ‘chief superintendent’. If you gave them ranks, it would underscore the gap between them.

    1. Kat

      Ah, okay, Computing questions answered in your next chapter, and yes, I’d be willing to wait that long for the explanation, so please ignore my para re Metta being stolen.

  11. Julia Rios

    Love the line about the fountain pen. Such a great detail. I also like the various levels of attachment to AI, and the tension about why Huang isn’t as upset about his human colleagues. Huang is sympathetic, and yet, Delarosa does have a point.

  12. Vera

    This is great! I’m completely sucked in after just the first few paragraphs. My biggest question after reading this installment is how is Huang going to investigate if he’s off the case? Once Delarosa told him his reasons for not putting him on the case, especially because he’s a witness, I was sold that he shouldn’t be on it. I suspect you’ll resolve this and I’m looking forward to that resolution.

    Things that I thought were stellar:
    -Delarosa thinks of Metta as a computer, not a person, and also still uses pen and paper.
    -Sigmundson struggling to remember how to interface with the world without Metta to record and analyze everything for him.
    -Huang’s emotional involvement with Metta – it makes her a compelling character without her appearing on screen at all.

    Things I’m not so sure about:
    -Metta is “female,” are there other women?
    -How is Metta a partner for every police officer? Don’t they have another physical person to give physical backup?

  13. John Devenny

    No complaints about this chapter.
    I find Huang very interesting especially as he is more comfortable with Metta than his human colleagues. The contrast with Delarosa who is much more sympathetic to the humans makes for an enticing conflict going forward.

  14. Charlotte

    Metta stolen, and the precinct down. Sounds like something really big is coming.
    I love your descriptions; the anthill of the precinct, the bulbous nose of the satellite. Puts me right in the scene.
    Very much how I would expect reactions to AI to be; some skeptics, some embrace it. And of course the skeptics don’t know how to use it to its full extent.
    Haha, Luddite. That’s perfect. I sense this is not too far in the future, as if Scott would have been born sometime around 2010 and so would have grown up with a complete dependence on technology, whereas those born earlier enjoy using it and are dependent, but still wary of that dependence.
    I like the chapter; it deepens his connection to Metta and sort of sets him up to run a little rogue in trying to find her since he ‘knows’ that no one else cares as much about her.
    I also like his curtesy at the end. Nice to imagine that despite an assumed further isolation occurring from online interactions that people are still courteous to one another

  15. Ian Miller

    I am unreasonably intrigued by the Bach and etudes…maybe I missed what instrument Huang plays…

    Delerosa seems like a brilliant antagonistic character – I enjoy how all his details work to construct such a clear relationship and interaction, without seeming like they’re only there to signpost his Luddite tendencies. And his talk with Scott at the end signals the kind of character I love – hostile, problematic, but not a mustache twirler.

    I do hope there’s more Metta, but I’m also intrigued by the way you tackle the problem of an AI that has a special bond with the entire department. Also the AIM – love those kinds of social observations, whether it’s there for color or for foreshadowing.

  16. Yvonne

    I like the little bits of humor in a tense situation through Huang’s witty and sometimes sarcastic thoughts. For example the bit with Delarosa and the fountain pen. It makes me like and empathize with Huang more.
    Did I say like? I meant love. I just got to the part with Sigmundson’s stare and Huang having the thought about Vikings. Keep up the humorous quips. They’re working fantastically and really making me like Huang’s character even more.
    No other comments besides that. A nice expansion of the scene Mary.

  17. Peter E

    Good chapter. I’m having some trouble telling what parts you added. I thought the scene where Sigmundson interviews Scott was in the Novella.

    Delarosa’s reasoning in the last scene is sound

  18. Michael Jennings

    “Delarosa tapped his fountain pen on his pad. Fountain pen. As if he wanted to carry around a badge proclaiming how proud he was to be a Luddite. “ AWESOME! Loved this part

    The tension between Huang and the others on Metta’s Person-hood is much more defined than the novella and comes across well

    Seems like there needs to be more reaction description when Huang announces Fitzgerald is dead, just for saying everything stopped things picked up quickly. Maybe along the lines of; “Movement stopped in the room, Huang saw shock and anger cross several detectives’ faces, and Delarosa swore.” Lets the announcement sink in a little more.

    The Viking bit in the interrogation was great

    The Delarosa – Huang exchange at the end was good look forward to them sparing more as the story goes on.

  19. Elin Lindberg

    I love how this is turning into a question of if AI are people too, and what kind of security breach an AI can be, even if it seems like Metta is very helpful to the department. Right now I am not confused by anything specific, although I would still like to get a bit clearer image of what time period this is supposed to be. Is it ten years into the future, or more?

  20. Cris

    Definitely enjoying the story – it’s rather pulling me along for the ride at the moment. I definitely like how everything has more-or-less gone to pot now that they don’t have Metta. I just lost my cell phone and I’m surprised at how many unexpected little things have fallen out of that. For example, I don’t have an alarm to remind me to feed the cat going off at 7:30 each evening, which means that I’ve stayed rather ridiculously late at work by accident.

    I am surprised that they’ve gone from a partner system to Metta as everybody’s partner. I’m not a security person, and that seems like a huge hole even to me. She can’t watch somebody’s back (quite literally, given as both camera inputs are in front), she can’t smell when something is off, she just isn’t physically there to tackle somebody or shove her partner out of the way when necessary. It’s just a terrible idea, IMO.

    Also, while I buy that dispatch is down, don’t police typically have walkie-talkie units? In this situation, of course, that could make things worse as everybody is chattering on all the channels instead of getting information routed in a reasonable fashion. I could see Metta taking care of that function on a day-to-day basis, but I’m having a hard time buying that a police chief who was an officer pre-Metta would let his people depend so completely on the AI (he’s forcing her to run backups, after all.) The few people I know in security are rather paranoid individuals. There’s always a plan B and a plan C and maybe a plan D or E.

  21. Kurt

    Some nice character moments. I especially liked Sigmundson forgetting momentarily that the AI was offline (assuming I read that part right).

    I will disagree with a previous commenter: I work in IT as well, and I was immediately taken out of the story by technical details: notably the lack of failover or off-site disaster recovery for a critical system. If it’s a contract, especially an expensive one, then the vendor will have some kind of SLA for guaranteed up-time. At the very least, I need a lantern hung on this. Someone should be asking why there isn’t a backup in place.

    Other things that bugged me: Sigmundson talks about software being in the cloud, but it’s clear that this station does on-site hosting (which is not unreasonable, but the cloud comment struck me as odd). Also, how were they able to take over a court house? Won’t that disrupt the docket pretty drastically? Are the courts in the future less busy than they are the present?

    I did note that the kidnappers took hardware, which seemed like an important detail to me, especially that they took it rather than destroying or wiping it.

  22. Susan B

    A bit late to the game for Chapter Two; sorry!

    “Leaning forward, he rested his face in his hands and then realized that he still had on the VR glasses. Huang looked to the corner to see if Metta had reappeared but the glasses showed nothing except the room. How had they gotten into the building?”

    I had to read this paragraph through several times to understand the last sentence. For some reason, I was convinced that he was trying to figure out how his VR glasses made it through the police line at the courthouse, as if they would be a security breach of some sort.

    A word of warning for later on: I’m not a techie in this area, but of course techies will be reading this. It’s hard to believe that there wouldn’t be more redundencies in this system. If she backs up every 6 (8?) hours, one would assume that it’s backed up remotely as well (does Carbonite.com service AIs?) so once they could replace the transmission hardware she SHOULD be able to be reloaded from that last backup. Again, I might be missing something, but I would run this through several techies to figure out a way around this.

  23. Kassie Jennings

    I find myself judging the characters based on their relationship to Metta and whether they say “it was stolen” or “she was kidnapped.”

  24. Laura Christensen

    Notes as I read:

    Headquarters looked like someone had kicked over an anthill and stolen the queen.
    >>Great line! o.o

    …The bulbous nose of a News satellite dish pointed to the sky as reporters thrust their cameras toward every policemen who passed.
    >>In the face of tragedy, all we want is privacy. :/ I can feel the claustrophic tension in the air.

    “Chief wants us to send everyone over to the old courthouse. They’ve got a temporary HQ set up there while CSI goes over the building.”
    >>Oh, right. That’s awkward. :/

    Bowes shook his head. “Radios are down. Metta ran dispatch. Pass the word if you see anyone, huh?”
    >>Wow. Down to word of mouth. o.o

    Bowes scowled. “Fitzgerald. Bastards killed him.”
    “Shit.” When Metta had said that an officer was down, he’d thought it was Amado. “Anyone else?”
    >>Oooh. Am I remembering a clue? My inward alarm is going dingdingding.

    Stomach twisting, Huang thanked him and jogged the two blocks to the Courthouse where the giant statue of Portlandia looked out over the city
    >>Oh, at least it’s not too far away.

    They shot two of our guys, Amado and Fitzgerald, and got away scot-free with our department AI.
    >>Amado was shot? Hmmm.

    Huang raised his hand. “I saw some of them.”
    >>Yay!

    Overhead, the ceiling fan clicked as it spun, seeming to count down the minutes. Delarosa stared at him, mouth open. “I’ll be damned. So far, you’re the only one who thought to do that.”
    >>Teehee :D

    “You did better than me.” Delarosa snorted as if he couldn’t believe that Huang had done something useful.
    “I– How is that possible?”
    “Shit…” Sigmundson said, “I just thought she was malfunctioning at first.”
    >>Um… Is there something missing? Like a line or two? Scott seems to be reacting to something completely different than what Delarosa just said. Or…am I too tired to be reading right now? Hmm. I’ll read just this chapter tonight, just in case it’s me, then.

    Delarosa tapped his fountain pen on his pad. Fountain pen. As if he wanted to carry around a badge proclaiming how proud he was to be a Luddite.
    >>*snorts*

    A couple of honest to god paper magazines lay on a table between two pale orange chairs that had likely never been in fashion
    >>hehe

    He tried to run through etudes in his mind to calm himself, but his brain kept sliding into Bach’s Requiem.
    >>Awwe. That’s a lovely detail.

    Delerosa knew the route if he knew that they had teams in the wrong places. Later. After he’d talked to Sigmundson, he could ask. He pulled the glasses off and rubbed his eyes with one hand. It did not seem possible for someone to have taken her.
    >>Yeah, I know how it feels, not being able to shut your mind off. Poor guy :/

    “Well… Metta’s not here. How are you—“ Maybe it wasn’t an issue for Sigmundson. Maybe Huang was the only detective who relied on Metta so much that he could not do his job without her. “Ah. Never mind.”
    >>Ouch :/

    “So, I’m going to record this for later, but take notes for now. Okay?” Sigmundson folded his lanky frame into a chair on the opposite side of the table from Huang.
    >>Sounds reasonable to me!

    Sigmundson nodded and diligently wrote it down, with his lower lip held between his teeth in concentration.
    >>*snorts* Makes me wonder how often he writes anything down.

    Huang ground his teeth and nodded. This was going to take forever
    >>Yeaaaah. This guy is not a good note-taker.

    Sigmundson just gave him that long Icelandic stare of his, which basically said that if they were Vikings he would find Huang on the beach and club him with an axe.
    >>Hehehehe. Reaaaally now.

    “She called for Amado, which must have been when he got hit.” He scoured his memory looking for the useful pieces. ‘What am I forgetting’ he subveed, but no one answered him.
    >>Ah, heartbreak. :/

    The chief had assigned him because she wanted someone who would worry about F&B officers, not artificial people.
    >>Hmm. (And I totally just pictured the chief as the police chief from Psych. >.>)

    Delarosa threw himself back in the chair. “Do you realize two flesh and blood officers were shot?
    Warmth flooded to Huang’s face. “I know.” He looked at his hands and twisted his fingers together.
    >>Ouch.

    “I don’t want you on this case, because you’re a witness, but even if you weren’t…you care too much about the wrong thing.”
    Cold water seemed to creep down his back. The weight of disappointment pressed on him. He felt compelled to offer a small bow, as his mother had taught him for a superior. “Thank you for your time.”
    >>No kidding.

    - – -
    Excellent chapter! I can really feel the tension, the frustration, the horror. Something I’ve noticed, or just occurred to me–Huang misjudges himself, he thinks he can’t do it without Metta, but his witness statement shows his own power of observation. He had a few seconds tops to pick all that up, to remember the details of the numbers that even Sigmundson couldn’t recall as he was jotting things down. It gives me hope that Huang can do this case–his AND this one–though it also adds frustration because he’s not allowed to be on the case, thus adding more tension. My heart goes out to him–and Metta.