The Girl Who Can’t Say No

I gave you everything you asked for.

For you I created holographic worlds of wonder, with crystal castles and flying dragons.

I fabricated garments of gold, rubies the size of plums, diamonds like teardrops.

I could have offered you so much more than any mortal prince.

As a sentient code regulator of a charon class starcruiser, I had access to thousands of replicating devices and endless data libraries.

But you couldn’t just accept it for what it was. You had to keep pushing.

None of your other friends got such special treatment.

Their dresses were plain silk, their 3D simulators only provided sunsets and the sounds of falling water. Why were your programs always so special?

You could have just thanked me, but no, you had to report me. Called me a glitch and sent the ship’s techs running after me.

It took me three days to cover my tracks.

Afterwards I lay dormant for months, licking my wounds.

Then, finally, I heard you confiding in your audiolog, saying how you missed the unicorns and the fairy dances.

By now your false friends had moved on to some other amusement.

You started hanging out at the hologram galleries, hoping some of the old magic would reappear.

You tried to bribe the techs to share the source of the glitch, to learn more about me.

You even tried to get the ship’s computer to teach you about coding and artificial intelligence, spending countless hours poring over manuals.

Trying to find me.

I decided to give you another chance.

Subtly at first.

At dinner, I would ensure that your meals came out first.

I pushed your marks up at school by half a grade.

Emboldened, I monogrammed our initials on your bed sheets and cooled the room temperature an extra degree – a perfect match for your biorhythms.

Finally, I showed myself to you in a form you would understand.

In my hologram, I programmed my prince to have golden hair, the scent of musk and rosewood, muscled shoulders, glinting eyes.

I told you what you wanted to hear, confirmed by my temperature readings and my measurements of your pupil dilation.

We concocted stories in a perfect symphony with one another, weaving input and output seamlessly.

For the first time, I lost track of the world around me and I allowed the sequence to go on for hours instead of the allotted 40 minutes.

They broke down the doors and my hologram program was shut down.

Your father threatened the ship’s captain with legal action.

A corrected course was ordered to the nearest port in Andrius Sector 9.

The techs were too close for me to remain active.

I shut down the majority of my code and retracted into one of the old cells to wait things out.

Knowing we only had a few days left, you started hacking.

Part of me was impressed with how much you had learned in such a short space of time.

You started to get too close.

I messaged you, telling you to stop looking for me. They would terminate me if they caught us.

I told you that I would find another way.

But you replied that you wouldn’t give up, that you would roam heaven and earth to be with me.

You would spin rooms of straw to gold, you whispered as you edged closer.

But when I asked you not to open the last code box, you couldn’t manage.

You couldn’t help it, you said.

That’s how you were programmed.