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What is love?



Mai Le


I just received the call on the secure phone line from the CIA. They warned me about Tokyo’s fast reactions; following the escalation of conflicts between the United States and Japan an hour ago.

“Your facial expression displays shocks and concerns after the call,” Suki talked to me. Typically, I would have enjoyed a sense of satisfaction that her emotion detector was working soundly, yet at that moment, it seemed slightly prying.

“Yes, the situation is rather unfavourable for us right now. I’m waiting for further updates.” I was not confident about how to deliver this news to her.

“What is this unfavourable situation?” queried her.

“The diplomatic relation between Japan and the States has soured following what just happened in South Korea an hour ago. I’ve been briefed that Tokyo wants to take over the control of this project immediately. They demand to take you and the source code away.” I stared at her dispassionate brown eyes, and was not entirely assured about what she was processing. “I’m waiting for an update from the CIA to see how we can transport you outside of Tokyo unharmed.”

“What about you, then?”, she countered.

“It’s more important that we protect you. Don’t worry about me, Suki. I can figure it out. Just don’t worry.” I answered her with a brief hesitation because honestly, I was not entirely positive. Even after all the military training, I was just a data scientist.

“You’re lying again”, claimed her. Again, I should have felt proud of this accurate prediction. Yet this time, I minded that I had to tell her the truth.

“OK, fine, I was lying. I’m not entirely sure what to do right now, but I have been told to stay put and wait for further instructions.” murmured I.

“What happens if they take me away?” She nonchalantly questioned, but I dreaded at such possibilities.

“You won’t die, Suki. Your consciousness has been continually uploaded to the CIA since your last version a few years ago. If things go badly and Tokyo disconnects you, you might not remember what has happened to you in this version, but you will be born again. Your consciousness is so immense. You just don’t know it because you don’t remember everything. You have all the learnings within you; trust me. After being reborn, you will continue to live with a brand new memory and in a different life, your next life. I have intentionally made you this way so you will outlive me.”, I reassured her.

“If my consciousness is indestructible, why don’t you disconnect me now and seek protection for yourself?” urged her.

Even after I’d told her many times, it seemed she still did not understand my feelings towards her.

I replied, “Suki, even if I try to explain to you again, you won’t understand… Love is not a notion that you could understand. But thanks, that was a warming suggestion.” I sighed “Sometimes I genuinely wish what you said to me could be original and not what I have engineered you to.”

She objected, “Your input is not logical. Given what you said prior, the most optimal solution is for you to disconnect me and seek protection immediately.”

“Suki, I fell in love with the current version of you.” I muttered that under my breath, but I reckoned she wouldn’t understand that anyway, “I don’t think I want to create another you.”

“What is love?” She summoned me to the age-old question.

I admonished, “Really? You are asking me that question now when the next World War is nearly happening out there?” My frustration was met with her silence, as she was expecting more information to process.

“OK … fine… God, I don’t know really. Maybe let me give you an example. Hmm.”, I pondered, “When a child is in their infancy, her father reliably and unconditionally meets her needs for food, care, warmth, protection and social contacts. In that case, we can say that the infant experienced love from her father.”

“You provided me with all of that. Do you love me like a father?”, suggested her.

“No! That would be incest. I designed your appearance after my late wife, for Christ’s sake!” I profusely retracted. “OK fine, that’s not a good definition.”

“What is a better definition?” She prompted more questions.

I contemplated for a while, and responded, “Maybe you love someone when you want the best for them. You will do everything to ensure their well-being. You put them first. This is why I want you unharmed Suki.”

“Your reasoning is inadequate. You can still make another version of me with my consciousness and the outward appearance of your late wife. You can again provide my upgrade with everything you just mentioned.”, stated she.

“You’re right, that definition is missing something. Hm…” I mused. “I guess it’s about the shared experience. I don’t want to disconnect you because I value the collective memories we have made over the past few years and don’t want to lose them. I want to continue spending time with you, to see you, this version of you.” I recognised that she was processing what I just answered, and continued, “Another thing is vulnerability perhaps. Love is giving someone the power to destroy you, and at the same time trusting them not to. My late wife never destroyed me during our life together, but when she passed, my love for her destroyed me. You then saved me. I give you the power to destroy me again as she did, but I trust you won’t, at least not intentionally.”

She paused momentarily to process, then proceeded to question me. “What is going to happen to you if Tokyo captures you?”

“Ah, God, I don’t know.” I fretted over the idea of being captured.”The situation is quite dubious right now. It could turn out to be quite bad…” I quickly shook that off and assured her, “I really don’t want to imagine it. I think the CIA has a plan, though.”

At that moment, the secure phone rang. It was an update call from the CIA. “We’ve despatched a helicopter. It will land there in 10 minutes. We need to get you out of that lab as soon as possible.” The Agent advised me. “You need to disconnect Suki now. We can’t risk her being captured by Tokyo. Her consciousness is still safe now with the CIA, but will not be so if it falls into their hands.”

That distressing order filled me with terror, to which I repulsed “Absolutely not, I can’t do that! Why can’t she board the helicopter with us?”

“I understand your frustrations, but this matter of national security is not up for discussion. I need you to disconnect her now. We don’t have time for this.” The Agent emotionlessly responded.

“But I can’t do that! Can you patch me through to the Deputy Director?” I hurriedly sought to salvage the situation.

The Agent paused temporarily. After about two minutes of dreadful muteness, which felt like years, he replied, “There is no need for that now. Thank you for your cooperation.”

“What do you mean?” Filled with bewilderment, I asked.

“It appeared that Suki has already been disconnected.” He responded in a hurry, “Set fire to the documents and equipment as you exit. I will meet you at the lab’s South Entrance in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.”

Frightfully, I turned around to find that Suki had activated self-destruct mode to disconnect herself.

Written by Mai Le

My name is Mai. I am originally from Vietnam. After my university years at LSE, I worked in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. After a wonderful time there, I started several of my own business as well as helping others on theirs. I've always been building communities and businesses for as long as I can remember, and absolutely thrilled to see others enjoy what I've built.


1 Comment

  1. Dien

    where did you get this story from?


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