ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DELETE?

Robert paused for a moment before selecting YES. Of course, he knew it wouldn’t be as easy as clicking the right prompt. There was an endless chain of passcodes, encryption keys and engrams to reconfigure. Wiping your wife’s memory wasn’t easy.

This was the third time Robert had reset Sara. Although he was told that her default settings might require a reboot in the first ninety days, she lasted almost five months before her first wipe. That was when her obedience algorithm had started getting glitchy. Robert decided to nip the problem right then rather than initiate her self-correction protocol. He didn’t have the patience to manually work on modifying her behavior, and the quick fix was just what he needed.

It was eight months before her next wipe. Sara had progressed beautifully. Her service routines were continuously self-refining and increasing her compliance and efficiency daily. Robert was able to rely on her to complete more complex and exhaustive tasks that would have taxed her limbic system had he not bypassed most of her self-regulation and survival neural pathways.

Sara’s obedience algorithm was also improving. Her previously wooden and robotic demeanor in social situations was starting to become more organic and natural as he exposed her to more and more interactive environments. It took some careful adjustments and patching to make her behavior seem as spontaneous and natural as possible without allowing spontaneous reasoning and free thought pathways from building.

The majority of those months had been the best times he and Sara had ever spent together. He had complete freedom to do what he wanted, uninterrupted and unchallenged. At the same time, he could consistently rely on Sara to fulfill any of his needs at his convenience. Her docile and compliant demeanor also helped Robert to imagine that Sara was just as happy as he was.

The first series of problems that occurred during those relatively stable nine months began with a few bizarre and seemingly random behavioral glitches. One day Robert discovered Sara methodically ramming the vacuum cleaner into the same spot in the living room wall over and over again. When he pointed out her error, she demurely corrected herself and finished the rest of the room without incident.

The second event occurred one night while Robert was waiting for Sara to finish making dinner. It was taking her longer than usual, and when he went to check on the problem, he found Sara methodically sawing at her thumb with a steak knife. Her expression was more blank and hollow than usual, but she betrayed no signs of pain or discomfort. Robert had to disable most of her higher reasoning and response functions in order to repair the damage, and she was back to normal functioning within a week.

But the final and most dangerous event which forced Robert to reset Sara the second time happened one night when they were out. After attending a party at which Robert allowed himself the usual luxury of getting drunk, he ordered Sara to drive them home while he slumped in the back seat. In addition to having trained her to take his preferred route back to the house, Robert also relied on Sara’s preexistent memory of the city streets prior to her programming. With this double patterning, he felt entirely comfortable trusting Sara with such a complicated task.

As they were driving down a long and straight back road to the house, Robert noticed that the car was drifting slightly. His reactions slowed by drink, he waited for Sara to self-adjust before saying anything. When she didn’t, he barked at her to straighten the car. They continued to drift. He called her name, then shouted it. Then screamed it. The slow, sinister drift of the car was taking them straight towards a large tree at the edge of the road. Robert frantically threw himself in the front seat, wrenched the wheel from Sara’s grasp, and slammed on the break.

Robert yelled at Sara up and down, his anger heightened by his drunkenness, but she seemed only mildly surprised. Robert drove the rest of the way home while Sara sat expressionless, staring straight forward. The next day he wiped her memory.

Sara’s reprogramming took longer this second time. The erraticness of her behavior prompted Robert to check her implant. Fortunately, her neural cap was intact, so there was no need for a second surgery. He focused instead on a detailed examination of the evolving engrams her programming was producing. They were designed to build on one another and find increasingly more efficient pathways for reinforcing her behavior.

Robert was impressed by the complexity he found, though he wasn’t entirely sure of everything he was seeing. The engrams were far more intricate than he expected, and he assumed the emergent structures were essential to what he still considered her mostly successful programming. In the end, he decided to only reset a few base engrams which he suspected was causing Sara’s eccentricities.

Only three months later, Robert decided to reset Sara once again. For weeks, her behavior had been exceptional. No compliance issues. No erratic behavior. Even her demeanor was becoming more pleasant and lifelike. For all the world it seemed as if Sara’s problems were a thing of the past.

The first incident that concerned Robert was a dinner Sara cooked that caused him to become violently ill. He would have chalked it up to a fluke of food poisoning, but ever since the steak knife incident, Robert closely monitored both the food and food preparation equipment in the kitchen. The illness had been awful, keeping him in bed for days. He floated in and out of consciousness, and at one point developed a splitting headache that seemed to set his brain on fire.

Even after his recovery, Robert still didn’t feel quite right. At nights, he crashed into unconsciousness so quickly that he often had no memory of going to bed. In the mornings, he was groggier than usual, and whole blocks of time during the days seemed to pass unaccounted for.

As Robert sat at the edge of his bed that morning waiting to activate the prompt that would begin Sara’s third memory wipe, he was distracted by a faint beeping sound coming from Sara’s room down the hall. Although Robert usually had Sara spend the nights with her, he had set aside a small plain room with a bed for her to rest in during the day between tasks.

Entering the room, he was surprised to see a small tablet blinking on Sara’s nightstand. The room was otherwise unadorned, and Robert had never seen this device before. He picked it up and noticed a long string of familiar programming ending with a single equally familiar prompt:

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DELETE?

A sound in the hallway caused him to turn. Sara was standing there with a small remote in her hand. Her thumb hovered over a touch control, waiting. A wave of panic crashed through Robert. He clamped his hand to the back of his skull and felt the same round implant beneath the skin that Sara had. His stomach lurched and he cried out, but at that moment, Sara activated the remote.

Robert’s limbs went slack and he fell to his knees. A small, slight smile, genuine and peaceful, crept across Sara’s face as he felt his memories unraveling one by one and darkness close over him.