Primum Non Nocere
by Caleb Williams
Read by Stuart Jaffe
Listen to the audio version
First, do no harm. That is my prime directive. The automated message repeats as I
plummet through the mesosphere.
Updated data files assure me that any issues in my programming have been rectified.
That's good. My first tour on active duty was unfortunate. I prodded at organs, sliced where I
shouldn't have. Curiosity got the better of me.
That is behind me now. New firmware patch documents a 97% reliability rate. Seems
high. Humans do tend to overestimate themselves.
Fighter planes careen past, climbing at severe angles, yawing and spiraling out of the
paths of plasma fire.
A tingle ripples through my circuitry. My sensory transducer alerts me to an incoming
aircraft, too near to evade. The pilot jerks wildly, but a rear stabilizer clips my synthetic body.
We both tumble.
I sort myself out and pull the ripcord. Slowly descending through clouds, there is no sign
of the aircraft or another parachute. Within eight kilometers of the surface, a thin yellow haze
permeates the atmosphere.
I land with a clunk and disconnect my chute. Sonic explosions resonate from the upper
reaches, over the constant whirring of the fan in my cranial cavity. A thermal scan identifies an
engine fire two hundred meters away. A body lies thirty-five meters from the crash site.
The transmitter in my head delivers a final message: Remote interface protocols
overridden, full autonomy granted.
I'm alive again!