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.”