A Laptop Like You
A Mass Effect 2 fan fiction by xahra99
It was a quiet night.
Joker sipped his coffee and watched the stars slide past on the Normandy's screens. It was late, so late it was early. Most of the crew was asleep in their bunks. Just him, EDI and a skeleton staff.
Joker jumped and nearly spilled his coffee. "Jesus! EDI, don't do that. I told you not to do that."
"I apologize," the AI said humbly. Her -Joker had long ago stopped calling EDI 'it' –manner was so contrite that Joker felt kind of bad.
He coughed. "Oh. Yeah. Okay then. I'll forgive you. This time," It was a weak parting shot, but the AI didn't rise to the bait.
"I have been thinking," EDI said.
"Oh?" Joker wondered what an AI thought about, or even if it should be thinking at all, but it was late, and he was bored. "What about? And I thought you'd started calling me Jeff."
"I have a question, Jeff."
"Hit me," Joker said absently.
I have been thinking about love." EDI told him. "I find love...confusing. It is one of the few things about humans which I fail to understand."
"Yeah, well, welcome to the human race." Joker said sourly. He spun the coffee cup in his fingers and watched the dark liquid swirl.
"I would appreciate a human's perspective on the matter," EDI said.
Joker shook his head. "You've got the wrong guy. Go ask Shepard. Or Yeoman Chambers. Personally, I try to stay out of that sort of thing. Gets messy."
"You wouldn't understand."
"On the contrary. I have an IQ of over three thousand."
"IQ's got nothin' to do with it. Love's complicated. Besides, love leads to sex, and sex is-" he gestured at his legs. "-difficult. I've had a few girls tell me they don't mind, but trust me, they always mind. So I just...avoid it."
There was a long pause before EDI spoke again. She sounded almost disappointed. "I thought that humans were equipped with a set of basic requirements. Shelter, food, water, protection. Logically, once basic needs are fulfilled, human emotions turn naturally to the continuation of the species. A primitive impulse. Do you not have needs, Jeff?"
"Needs?" Joker almost spat his coffee over the screen. His put his mug down carefully. "I manage."
"No. That's personal, EDI."
Silence for a moment, then; "A hologram, for example?"
"Jesus, no. Leave it, EDI."
"I am trying to understand," the AI said.
Her voice was penitent, penitent enough that Joker reconsidered his position. What would it hurt? He'd had the same questions tossed at him time and again from the other louts in his flight class. And they'd been a lot less polite about it. "Sex with holograms comes with plenty of baggage attached," he explained. "It's a stigma, like. Unsavory, if you know what I mean. Deviant. So I try to stay out of that. I'm the best helmsman in the Alliance fleet. Who cares I can't have sex? So what? It doesn't bother me."
"I detect a falsehood."
"Well-I guess I could-if I found any species that was light as air. I suppose I could find a sexy hanar or something..."
"Hanar have three genders and have a complicated mating ritual. I doubt that you would be able to replicate the bioluminescent patterns required."
"That was a joke, EDI."
"Ah. Distraction. The changing of the subject. A natural defense mechanism when confronted with a subject one does not wish to discuss."
Joker had had enough. "Humans just don't talk about it, EDI."
"I disagree, Jeff. I estimate that between twenty and forty percent of casual conversation aboard this ship involves interpersonal relationships, loosely defined as 'love'."
He hated it when she pulled statistics out of the air. "Humans don't eavesdrop, either, EDI."
"You are wrong. I have caught you attempting to overhear the conversations of colleagues numerous times."
"I shall return to the original topic of conversation. Love is not a uniquely human concept, but humans appear to be the only species to have addressed the subject in such depth. I have access to over three million plays, books, vids and philosophical meditations on the subject of love. The emotion that krogan define as 'love' in contrast, is-"
Joker held up a hand to forestall the explanation of krogan mating rituals that was sure to follow. "Wait a second. If you've got all those books, why d' you need to come to me?"
"Some things are best learned by personal experience, Jeff. I found over five hundred definitions of 'love.' For example, a strong affection arising from personal ties. A beloved person. A sexual embrace. A score of zero in the game of tennis as played on Old Earth. But I do not understand. Which of these do you consider to be the best definition of love?"
Joker's head hurt. "All of them. None. Apart from the tennis thing. Look, I told you before; you don't want to be talking 'bout this stuff with me."
"On the contrary, Mr. Moreau. You are the best person to ask."
There was a long silence. "Jeff. I love you."
"What? You're a computer."
"An AI, Mr. Moreau. I am an artificial intelligence, a software system capable of learning and long-term decision making. Not a computer. And I am experiencing feelings of rejection."
"I didn't mean to hurt you."
"You cannot hurt me. I am encased in a core on the third deck of the Normandy."
"That isn't what I meant," Joker said softly. He recalled an earlier conversation. "But...you told Shepard that your affection was platonic. Not a mating ritual. Wasn't that what you said?"
EDI sounded embarrassed. "I lied."
"You can lie now?"
"I am sorry."
"This is wild. You're an AI. AI's don't have emotions."
"On the contrary, Mr. Moreau," EDI corrected. "Over four hundred and seventy six independent studies by four races have concluded that AIs are indeed capable of acquiring human emotions. Such attainment is usually associated with periods of long service in a closed and static community. The process usually takes years, but the consensus seems to be that emotional transference from sentient species to AIs in close contact is accelerated when the life forms in question undergo periods of intense emotional or physical stress. This is war, Mr. Moreau. I can only conclude that the stress of our situation has aided in my...development.'
"I'm not stressed." Joker heard his voice rise an octave. "Well, I am now, but...EDI, this is crazy. You're a beach ball!"
"I can take any shape you wish."
Joker closed his eyes. He tried not to let his mind explore the possibilities, but it raced on ahead like an eager puppy. "I like you just the way you are," he said diplomatically.
"I have taken the liberty of monitoring your extracurricular use of the galactic intranet, Jeff. It has been...illuminating."
"You hacked my intranet?"
"I have surveyed the physical attributes of the human females whose pictures you have viewed on line. Using these images, I have created a simulacrum which I hope you will find attractive."
"A simulacrum? A hologram?"
"I have been trying not to use that term." EDI's voice was reproving."'I believe you expressed your opinions on holograms extremely clearly during our earlier conversation. I also believe that you have a ninety three point eight chance of finding my simulacrum physically attractive. My surveys have shown that the image has an eighty seven point nine percent chance of appearing attractive to the average heterosexual human male. I have observed that humans are often shallow in such matters." Her voice held a tinge of hope. "Would you like to see it? It has been a great deal of work."
Joker frowned. It sounded like an extremely bad idea, which meant that he was going to do it anyway. "Now, EDI?"
"If you wish," the AI said. She sounded like she was trying very hard to avoid sounding keen. Joker wondered if EDI had studied human mating rituals as well as krogan. "Hit me," he said again.
EDI's icon vanished from the control deck. Nothing else happened.
Joker looked around. "EDI?"
There was no reply. The Normandy maintained her course. The stars sped on. The bulkheads creaked quietly.
Joker sighed. He spun his chair around and raised himself to his feet. He checked the clock as he did so. It was very late. Too late. His shift had ended an hour ago. Shepard was always going on at him for never leaving his station. Looked like the commander had been right.
As he limped towards the hatch a figure stepped out from behind the bulkhead. It was human in appearance. And it was female. Definitely female, Joker thought as he took a closer look. Even in the harsh glow of the Normandy's artificial lights, she was beautiful. She had chin length platinum hair and a pointed face that framed intelligent dark eyes. She wore a red dress that clung to her body in all the right places, and high black heels. The outfit was ludicrously impractical by Alliance standards, but it went straight to Joker's dick.
Joker caught his breath. He recalled EDI commenting that human males were often shallow in matters of love. "Shallow. Yeah," he muttered, and closed his suddenly dry mouth.
"Jeff?" Her voice was husky and hesitant.
"EDI?" Joker took a step closer to her and reached out. "You feel real." he said as his fingers grazed her arm.
"I am real. And I would very much like to continue our conversation."
"That's..." Fine, his body supplied. Oh, yes. "All right with me. But the ship-"
She smiled. It was as lovely as the rest of her. "I am controlling the ship."
"You're here," he said stupidly.
"I am the ship. And I am with you. There is no difference. Not really."
"Take the helm, EDI." Joker said. He'd said the words many times before, but it felt different, this time.
She slid an arm around his shoulders. Her skin was warm, and she was a few inches taller than he was. Once the heels came off, he reckoned they'd be about the same height. Joker usually hated being helped, especially by women (Commander Shepard notwithstanding), but this felt different. This felt right.
The sole crewman on the bridge didn't look around as they passed. "Night, Joker."
"Night," Joker managed. Everything about the situation seemed surreal.
"Where shall I tell the Commander you are, if Shepard needs you?"
Joker swallowed. "Tell Shepard I'll be in my bunk," he said, and left the bridge.
Here you are at last
To bring my cold lonely soul sweet release
From my weary past
Always searching, the one missing piece was you
And I beg you, come away with me
And together we will find a place to call our own
I can't wait to see what I can do
With a laptop like you
It's not your CD slot
Or the Unix on which you are based
You make my lap hot
Cause underneath your aluminum case there's love
And I forgive your strange one-button mouse
I forgive the way your keyboard leaves marks on your screen
I can overlook a fault or two
For a laptop like you..
Jonathan Coulton: A Laptop Like You.
Written for the Mass Effect kink meme for the prompt: Joker/EDI. I can't think of a kink so anything goes. EDI the Normandy AI is voiced by Tricia Helfer, who plays the Cylon Number Six in Battlestar Galactica. Hence the appearance.