Eris did not exist. Before her eyes, her fingers flexed, tools and weapons of another lifetime. The hour had come to disappear; yet she sat in darkness rooted to her swivel chair. Through the polished glass touch-top, she watched the pulsing green status light and resisted the temptation to boot the machine and follow the plan.
For four years, she had spent every night in this room while her skin turned sallow and her bank account grew fat. She was irreplaceable. Eris snorted remembering her mother’s snide comment, “When you’re done with all this education, the only thing you’ll be qualified to do, is teach!” The Committee thought otherwise, and she was heavily recruited.
She had perfected the algorithm the second year; anonymous partners parsing while she slept. Those were the honeymoon days, flowing wine and conversation. But then the negotiations began. The Committee grew, and disagreements led to silence and silenced. She fed the heuristics from their printed words on slips of blue and red.
Yesterday The Chair had signed off on the release. Tonight Eris had discovered the error. Three months of testing pleased The Committee, each member satisfied. Most had required cleansing. All were coached on maintenance. Their enemies remained unnamed, but she saw them rise in red as she fed the words into the machine.
Minos III was scheduled for silent launch tomorrow as an innocuous function of the world’s most popular search engine. The spiders had been crawling for decades, and she knew what would happen when people discovered the link. Her models showed early trending identities, Hitler and Elvis, Mother Theresa and Madonna. Embedded in code and human consciousness, consensus seducing trust and wet recursion.
Within hours, the apps would appear and memes would build. Who’s your celebrity soul mate? Are you more generous than your boss? Are you dating a scumbag? Is your mom a serial killer? Within days, investigations would launch, marriages would end and the cleansing business would breathe new life.
Public information fueled the engine. Teachers taught them to create and publish. Employers promoted transparency. Friends and family connected and shared. Lifestreams. The algorithm was less complex than she led The Committee to believe. Even the voice and facial recognition gave little difficulty, driven by data from her dissertations and studies of facial muscle underlying human expressions. She had adopted sophisticated translators from open source projects and fed her challenges to the support community.
She was not the judge. Minos III meted at The Committee’s command. Real code held and she had no regrets. As new information entered the system, humanities remained consistent. She had tested with names of those she knew, not just the powerful and their enemies. Her favorite professor ranked with intelligence, compassion and humor. Her college roommate displayed a mean streak, political inconsistencies and poor health. She knew they had not been cleansed.
Manual testing had ended months ago, and she should never have discovered the error. Tonight she had been surfing and the image caught her attention. His hair was now white, but the face was unforgettable. He held a child on his lap, and his smile seemed genuine, sincere, and innocent. But she knew that smile. She had been that child. She entered him into the engine and revealed his humanity. Minos III labeled him a philanthropist with deep religious values, generous, affectionate and an optimist.
She looked again at his face, and knew where she had erred. The muscle was easy to overlook, but she had assigned the code early in the development. It was a simple switch. On/Off. Good/Evil. Done. She had sighed and lifted the signed release, ready to move on, to disappear. Before shutting down for the last time, she tried one more search, and then another, heads of state, high school buddies, talk show hosts and sports heroes.
She tested her models and witnessed the results in horror. But horror led to resolve and conviction. Eris knew she was right, and right was all she had left. She was clean. She no longer existed. The island awaited and she was prepared. She set the alarms and walked away from the bunker.