A snippet from Family Law 6

April woke up slowly. Normally her eyes popped open and she was eager to get up. Today she still felt tired and a bit stiff, to the point she wondered if she was coming down with something. It had been years since she had even a cold.

“What time is it, House?” she called at the ceiling.

“Eleven o’clock and a tenth,” it replied.

“Oh, Derf time,” April muttered, trying to remember their system.

“Yes,” the house agreed taking it for a question.

“How many hours are there in a Derf day, House?” April asked.


OK, so it was early afternoon, April thought. She’s slept longer than expected. She knew exactly with what inflection Heather would say “You must have needed it.”, she might be right too. She had been through a long rough day from which to recover.

“Is Jeff Singh at home, House?”

“I am blocked from discussing Jeff’s location, schedule, or history.”

“Are you allowed to send him a message, House?” April inquired.

“Yes, I am,” It agreed.

“Then tell him I am awake if not actually up yet, House.”

“We have not been introduced for me to be able to define ‘I’,” It informed her.

April ground her teeth a little. There was nothing like dealing with an Artificial Stupid to irritate her. Even the top-end AI in a ship was so literal minded it could reduce you to tears. An AI supposedly suitable for a house had the personality of a two-year-old. On the other hand, this was probably Jeff’s fault in granting his permissions, because he was paranoid. It tended to make for a paranoid machine too.

Just out of curiosity, April asked, “Do you have my voice sample logged from yesterday, House?”

“Yes, I do.”

“In those conversations did Jeff call me by name so that you could extrapolate that the voice sample you took matched my name?” April asked.

“Your name was never spoken by Mr. Singh,” the house said. “Your name was mentioned by him to the hotel preceding your arrival, but Mr. Singh has blocked me from accepting identification directly or inferring second-order associations by event, proximity, or third-party testimony. I may only attach a name to your voice file by his direct order.”

“I’ll ask him to do that, House. Please tell him that the guest, claiming to be April, informs him she is awake and contemplating getting up sometime today.”

“Message sent,” the house informed her. It took it a full ten seconds to parse out her statement and decide it passed every test.

She’d be even more irritated if it wasn’t for the fact AIs irked Jeff almost as much as they did her. For the first time, she considered that perhaps he brought some of that upon himself. In particular, she hated it even worse when people used a cheap or free AI as an unannounced com answering avatar. If she called someone and found out several sentences into the conversation that it was just a message taking program, she just disconnected. If they obnoxiously allowed the program to use their voice, she just deleted the contact. April had to admit that giving an AI any freedom to apply logic could come back on you in a nasty way. One way to deal with that was Jeff’s way – to lay narrow restrictions on them. Since that didn’t work with people, why should it with AIs? She still had no real solution.

“Hello, guest claiming to be April,” Jeff’s voice teased her from the ceiling. “Do you have some mutually known fact or event to verify your identity?”

“You could march in here and see who is in your bed in about the time it took you to ask that. Or, you could check your guest registry and see how many other guests could be talking to you through your insane paranoid house computer, and identify me by process of elimination. If you don’t introduce me to your house I’m going to go stay elsewhere.”

“No need,” Jeff assured her. “Just a simple DNA scan will satisfy me.”

“I could be a clone,” April warned him.

“Aged the same? I can imagine the Chinese might try to do that. Though I think you’d be one of their last choices who to try it out on. I could write a nasty horror novel where an April clone turns on its creators by its devious nature before they can properly program it. I think I’d accept that as functionally equivalent if we could do it,” Jeff said. “It might be handy to have two of you even if one could be brought up to speed somehow.”

“The maintenance would kill you,” April assured him.

“You must be ready for lunch,” Jeff said.

“That wasn’t what I had in mind, but you’re right, I am hungry already. Did you make an appointment to speak with Lee while I slept? Do we have time for lunch before seeing her?”

“I arranged for us all to have our luncheon together,” Jeff said. “She, the hotel kitchen, and I are all waiting in breathless anticipation for you to refresh yourself and join us. Your bag is beside the shower and when you arise, I will give word for Lee and breakfast to join us in a half-hour,” Jeff said. “Same table, same balcony as this morning. Do you think you can find it?”

“Likely, but if you will introduce me, the house can give step by step directions.”

“Oh, very well. House, the person I am speaking to is April Lewis. You may register that ID to her voiceprint and give her full administrative rights to the house.”


“See, was that so hard?” April asked.

“We’ll see who comes to lunch,” Jeff said darkly.

“Or what,” April replied in the same ominous tone. “Conversation ended, House.”


35 Responses to A snippet from Family Law 6

  1. Mike G. October 4, 2020 at 7:43 pm #

    Surprising that AI’s (or AS’s) have progressed so little between the April series era and the FL era.

    Of course, Derfhome might just not be up to date, but that’s not what this sounds like.

    In any case, looking forward to this a lot! I just finished rereading all the FL and April books in a row, that was quite entertaining.

  2. Cheryl October 4, 2020 at 8:23 pm #

    Very entertaining

  3. Thorsten October 5, 2020 at 1:08 am #

    The issue isn’t that AIs haven’t gotten smarter. Santos house in Hawaii was a lot smarter than that already. The issue is clearly some characters lobotomize their AIs. (And the author is clearly AI-ist.)

    I would very much like to see a reasonably written scene where Santos (I would guess he’s still around in this timeframe) has a conversation with whatever his house AI has grown into by now.

    • Michele Starr October 9, 2020 at 8:10 pm #

      Thanks for such stimulating thought. I will enjoy imagining the possibilities.

  4. Big Ben October 5, 2020 at 11:25 am #

    First off, I really enjoy all the teasers you put out, this one included.
    That said, the unrealistic lack of growth in the field of AI between the April and F.L. timelines seems unrealistic, as others have mentioned.
    Moore’s Law doesn’t exactly apply, as it has to do specifically with circuits / hardware, but as fast as Jeff himself was pushing general tech growth in the April series (from the original Happy Lewis scooter to FTL interstellar ships in just a few years), the systems which an AI would run on must certainly have improved drastically in the intervening decades between April and F.L.
    Tech always gets smaller and faster … though the programming does not necessarily improve at the same rate. Heck, in my lifetime we’ve gone from room-sized computers to almost infinitely smarter computers in your pocket, or even your Apple watch.
    It seems improbable that there wouldn’t be a huge industry revolving around AI development over the intervening decades, even if April and Co. had nothing to do with it.
    … Though now that I think about it, Gabriel’s ship Cricket had a competent AI that seemed to really impress Lee. Master Dilbert Hathaway … (yes, I had to look it up. My memory’s not that good!). So maybe the anti-AI snobbery is specific to April.

    Looking forward to whatever you release next!

    • Mac October 6, 2020 at 5:42 pm #

      I’m going to comment on Cricket and AI in this coming book.

    • mrmeval October 18, 2020 at 3:09 pm #

      As the snippet implies the character Jeff knows something not wholly disclosed where he does not trust AIs. This has been evident in Mackeys past writing.

      From my POV unless you can create the software and hardware or implicitly trust the person, entity, corporation or cooperative who created it gutting the damn thing is appropriate.

      In many cases I cannot wholly own the hardware or the software I use now. I can merely mitigate my exposure to harm. I expect that to grow worse as time progresses not better. Even when I can get a ‘simple’ cell phone that I can own and install my own OS as clean as I and others I trust can make it there are hardware subsystems that have been shown to have backdoors in their firmware. Then you discover that the microcode in a microprocessor has a backdoor either by design, incompetence or hack. Fun times.

      Then there are the network connected excretions of corpulent corporations..

  5. Thorsten October 5, 2020 at 11:28 am #

    April Book 4 – A Different Perspective

    Eric looked at his pad and it announced: System Message – The Fourteenth Assembly of Home is being convened in session this ninth day of May, 2086.

    April Book 5 – A Depth of Understanding

    “The eleventh Assembly of Home is called to order,” Eduardo Muños said softly. He didn’t depend on bombast and volume to maintain order.

    “The Assembly of Home is met in its twelfth session.

    April Book 6 – And What Goes Around

    “The fourteenth Assembly of Home is called to order,” Eduardo Muños said without fanfare.

    • Mac October 8, 2020 at 9:03 am #

      Yep – got then out of order. Now the question is which to change….
      Changed 11th to 17th in #5 and used the opportunity to fix some capitalization and punctuation issues. Will do similar to #6.

  6. Kyle October 5, 2020 at 3:55 pm #

    As far as the A.I. conversation, it was mentioned I think FL 4, that current thought coding for A.I. is just too linear to be amazing. It was stated that even Jeff tried making an A.I. and it became too paranoid and would answer questions with questions. That was during Lee’s conversation while she was getting the tour around the amish community.

  7. Don October 5, 2020 at 6:36 pm #

    I am not genius enough to myself juge the risk. So I rely on reading and listening to people much smarter than I am. Elon Musk has it right I think when he said recently that the danger from AI is not so much they would attack us rather the danger would be that they evolve so fast and move to a higher order of being. Then the danger is that they would have an objective that we are in the way of and we would be like an anthill in the way of a highway, bulldozed and paved over as they achieve an objective beyond our understanding.

  8. Bruce Harrington October 6, 2020 at 5:03 pm #

    Just finished April #12 and Started FL#1. Have FL 1-5 on my Kindle. Looking forward to FL#6 where April comes back.

    • Bruce Harrington October 17, 2020 at 7:55 pm #

      Just finished FL#5. What a ride. I love these books. My biggest problem is I’ve been taking Alzheimer’s meds for about 8 years. They have helped a lot, but my short term memory has gotten progressive worse, so I lose a lot as I read each book.. But I get to start all over in a couple of months!

  9. Thorsten October 7, 2020 at 8:22 am #

    April Book 8 – It’s Always Something

    “My problem revolves around general Kilpatrick,” Bellini admitted. “He desires to avoid conflict with the heathens of Home. They are dangerous, but everything in me says it is wrong to back down, even temporarily, from such a great evil as tampering with God’s perfect code of life.”

    BBC World News was the header. “General Kilpatrick, head of God’s Warriors faction sharing the temporary government in North America is reported as having been assassinated,” the anchor said, with just the slightest smirk at ‘temporary’.

    April Book 9 – A Sudden Departure

    “I remember the conversation and the video you shared. Orders were passed along to leave them alone. But there wasn’t any reason given. Zealots are difficult to manage,” Bellini sighed. That was a brave thing to admit.

    “So are Patriots, apparently,” Kilpatrick groused. “The controller who got snarky with the girl wasn’t our man backing up his brethren. It was a Patriot at a strongly Patriot facility.”

    April Book 10 – Been There, Done that

    General Bellini looked at the map display in horror. The Texans…


    The continuity here seems off.

    In book 8, Bellini and Kilpatrick are first introduced as characters, and while it’s not explicitly spelled out, it’s certainly implied that Bellini is probably the driving force behind the assassination of Kilpatrick, for not being sufficiently zealous to putting Home in their place.

    In book 9, there are only 2 scenes with Kilpatrick and Bellini. Kilpatrick seems rather alive for an assassination target and they both seem to be getting along well enough.

    In book 10 (and later) there is simply no mention of Kilpatrick anymore, and Bellini is suddenly referred to as General.

    • Mac October 8, 2020 at 10:04 am #

      Yep – I don’t always detail what happened – too many threads to cover.

      • Thorsten October 8, 2020 at 10:37 am #

        I don’t really have an issue with Kilpatrick disappearing between Book 9 and 10…

        But if the reported assasination of Kilpatrick in Book 8 didn’t happen and was misreported, I would have liked/expected that to be mentioned/explained in Book 9 instead of simply having 2 scenes with Kilpatrick and Bellini.

        And if the assassination actually took place and was successful and it’s a mistake that you used Kilpatrick, you could probably fix it by just switching Kilpatrick -> Bellini and Bellini -> Brinks in these 2 scenes.

        • Mac October 10, 2020 at 10:17 pm #

          Will look at that when it isn’t this late and the brain is braining.

  10. Thorsten October 7, 2020 at 11:07 am #

    Another potential continuity issue… The way Victor Foy is presented in Book 9 is very different from how he’s presented in later books.

    April Book 9 – A Sudden Departure

    “I’m Victor of the Foy family,” he said when Jonathan came to a stop. “You go downhill to the northwest until you hit a stream. Go uphill and you’ll pass an abandoned cabin in rough shape. We’re another mile and a little more past it. About seven miles in all from here. We have a dinner bell on a post by the stream for folks to announce themselves.”

    “Folks seem to be settling down. There were a few people who lived hereabouts all year long. Mostly retired. And those who could reach their property after things went all to hell seem to have made it. I don’t expect a whole lot more to show up. Some weren’t the owners of record, but that’s no concern of mine. There was one case where folks arrived to find squatters and they shot it out. We have two of the kids who survived that in our family now. I was told of another case where they came to an agreement and allied.

    Victor showed up again in a couple weeks, working on extending his survey for the promised map of the area. They let him sleep by the stove, before he went beyond them. He brought his own food and insisted on giving them a small gift of a local herbal tea. He had a deck of cards and they played a game of Rummy before going to bed. Jon and Jenny had played cards before, but it was a new thing to the others.

    “I thought he was going to have one of his adopted boys ride out mapping,” Jon said, after he left in the morning.

    “They are ten and twelve,” Jenny said looking at him funny. “The twelve year old hasn’t got the sense to be trusted alone yet he told me, and certainly not to risk a horse to his keeping. Maybe next year he said, maybe not.”

    “Are you aware Victor is single?” Jenny asked.

    “Well no. He mentioned his family, but not a wife. I sort of assumed. . . ”

    “You assumed too much. You watch, Mr. Foy will find reason to pass through here every few months. He has his eye on Eileen. He was very impressed with how she found a safe hidey hole for them and survived just fine. She’s smart too. Did you see how fast she learned the card game?” Jenny asked.

    April Book 10 – Been There, Done that

    “I have near eighty acres, hair over seventy eight, because the original survey wasn’t as accurate as the recent ones. We wouldn’t be poor, because the land is enough to support us, but there’s no cash economy to speak of right now. I had two orphans staying with me, but they moved out to work for a family that needed the help.


    The one single mention of “two orphans” in Book 10 is the only reference to explain the absence of the “Foy family” that was mentioned and implied extensively in Book 9 before.

    Even assuming that there really was no other family and he took in these two boys all on his own, I can’t see how he would then have left them (at 10 and 12) behind alone for long stretches of time while he was doing his “long range survey work”.

    • Mac October 8, 2020 at 10:03 am #

      Just one of those things I didn’t detail. He farmed them out to families where they’d have a better home life than he was able to provide. I guess I’ll have to have one of them make a cameo. An yes people left kids that old alone when there was no CPS to object.

    • Mac October 10, 2020 at 10:19 pm #

      I’ll cameo them eventually. Figure he found them families.

      • Kyle October 18, 2020 at 6:32 pm #

        I could have sworn it was mentioned somewhere in “Been There, Done That”, that Victor mentioned finding other homes for the boys since they did not make an appearance at all from the time Eilene showed up to present book.

        • Thorsten October 19, 2020 at 5:51 am #

          I quoted exactly that above. There was a single sentence that mentioned it.

          But the 2 boys were never actually my focus. Book 9 in it’s tone makes it sound very much like Victor is a member of a large family.

          And if you read the relevant parts of book 9 and 10 right after each other, the abrupt shift in tone of how Victor is presented is quite jarring.

  11. Thorsten October 7, 2020 at 11:29 am #

    Also this one:

    April Book 9 – A Sudden Departure

    “That’s a danger to me too. That why I am looking at the next spring. This spring is too early. We have satellite com and get good weather reports still. I’m sure I have a three day spell we won’t get any snow right now. This is probably the last week I’ll be able to go out, even on horseback, before the deep snow sets in. About late May I hope to send a young man out further than I can go now.”


    The “We have satellite com” seems in direct conflict about how happy he is a few books later about getting a working satellite phone and the fact that he didn’t have any working electricity before getting the solar panels.

    • James J Davis October 7, 2020 at 7:34 pm #

      Perhaps the “we” in “we have satellite com” refers to the general community, rather than to Victor’s household.

      • Mac October 8, 2020 at 10:00 am #

        Exactly – as in available not personal. Should have said reports or similar.

  12. Thorsten October 8, 2020 at 12:54 pm #

    Possible continuity issue. The story in April Book 10 and later seems to require that the Sandman is a single unique ship, but in Book 9 there is the following paragraph:

    The ship was an oddity in that it had no national registration. There were three sister ships all jointly held by the nations sharing the Mars program. Happy vaguely remembered that they were chartered under the auspices of the United Nations, but had no idea what the current legal fiction was to allow the crew to be rotated among the members. Something similar to ISSII probably.

    I think that’s the only reference ever to there being more than just that single ship.

    • Mac October 10, 2020 at 8:21 pm #

      Right you are – forgot that will correct it. Doesn’t make sense financially. Fixed some punctuation too.

  13. Mike Wood October 11, 2020 at 2:02 pm #

    For the first time, she considered that perhaps be (be should be ‘he’) brought some of that upon himself. In particular, she hated it even worse when people used a cheap or free AI as an unannounced com answering avatar.

    • Mac October 11, 2020 at 3:49 pm #

      Thanks – been fixed already. I was lazy and didn’t update here. Snippets are always unedited.

  14. Thorsten October 12, 2020 at 9:11 am #

    Continuity issue:

    Family Law 4 – A Hop, Skip and a Jump

    Miss Anderson,

    “I feel as your counselor in past Claims Commission matters, …

    Being ‘in the trade’ as it were, due to our firm’s specialization in composing and presenting claims, we have had a number of private communications from those within the power structure that one might characterize as leaks.

    Moore, Harper, Goldberg and McPherson, Attorneys at Law


    Wrong attorneys… should be Green, Bennett and Glenn, which are the ones specialized on claims.

    Moore, Harper, Goldberg and McPherson are specialized on Family Law.

    • Mac October 13, 2020 at 10:34 am #

      Wow big catch – they were suggested by the first.

  15. Thorsten October 13, 2020 at 10:09 am #

    Further evidence that the scene shown in the snippet posted here is either inconsistent with previous published stories, or that Jeff has gone out of his way to lobotomize the House AI between the scene below and the on in the snippet above:

    Family Law 5 – Friends in the Stars

    “You’re over thinking it,” Lee said. “Watch how easy it is.”

    “House, we’d like a buffet served for four humans, two Derf, and a Badger. The humans all have gene modified metabolisms, so figure double portions. Label or segregate the badger portions where safety dictates. Go heavy on cold appetizers and hot desserts, coffee, mineral water, and beer. “Maintain temperature and offer any leftovers worth saving to staff or local charities.”

    “Processing order. A printout of the proposed menu will be on your com desk if you wish to examine it for modification,” the house computer responded.

    “They’re really good if they can work from such simple orders,” Jeff said. “I’d expect to be pestered with checklists and hundreds of choices.”

    “Why do you think I live here?” Lee said.

    • Rick Boatright October 13, 2020 at 10:44 pm #

      That’s Lee talking to the hotel computer, which might well have forwarded that to a bio sentient for vetting before printing out the menu. I just assumed it was forwarded to catering and the printout reply was on a macro click from catering not the comouter.

      Also, Lee hasnt lobotomized the hotel computer.

      • Mac October 13, 2020 at 11:16 pm #

        Yes – One assumes Jeff uses his own computer for his private messages and security but will pass through things like talking to the hotel kitchen – just like I place an order for my pizza on my PC by connecting to the Green Lantern Pizza computer – but that is a separate function.

  16. James J Davis October 15, 2020 at 8:32 pm #

    Regarding the AI discussion, it seems reasonable that the state-of-the-art for AI has advanced considerably between April and Family Law. It also seems reasonable that the capabilities of AIs encountered vary widely. I’m sure that religions. laws and politics will influence where Turing-capable AIs may be found. In the hospitality industry, dealing with a human, rather than an AI, might be a selling point. Finally, as a computer professional, I see Turing AIs as a potential security hole… and I keep my on-call thermonuclear weapon network well isolated from them.

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