Yuki's Troublesome Subroutine

I wrote this a long time ago but held back on publishing it after I read the post-Disappearance novels... this diverges (all the books after 4 contradict it) and I actually prefer how the novel canon developed Yuki's personality. But I'd rather share it than leave it on my hard drive forever. So, if you like Nagato and live in the world of the anime only, I guess this is for you.

1.

As far as life goes in the SOS Brigade, it was a fairly normal day—even boring. Haruhi was instructing Asahina in maid behavior, or should I say, forcing a maid costume onto her once again. Koizumi was, in his usual, nonchalant way, cheerleading the effort. I was averting my eyes. As I searched idly for Asahina's reflection in the window, though, Nagato motioned to me, and, barely opening her mouth, whispered: "Please come by my apartment this evening."

This by itself was fairly unusual. She was telling me right here in the clubroom? No message delivered inside a book, or through a computer, or via other signs and signals away from the rest? Perhaps something had popped onto her radar right here in the clubroom. Or… well, there was no reason to speculate.

I was on my guard for a Haruhi emergency when the club let out, but was able to get home and have dinner without incident. At around 8PM, I let myself wander over to the expensive-looking apartments by the train station. This time, a simple "it's me" was enough for her to open the doors.

The apartment was spotless, as usual. Gleaming furniture sat in arrangement on the floor, and Nagato herself, looking for all the world like another appliance, sat stiffly at the kotatsu. She had already poured herself a cup of tea.

"Sorry to impose," I mumbled, taking off my shoes.

"The same here," she replied. "Today, I'm afraid I will have to impose on you."

Not only her response, but her expression was visibly distraught. Actually, considering her usual character, this was completely out of the ordinary. Obviously, Haruhi would not be the subject of our conversation tonight. No, something that had long been lurking beneath her calm demeanor was bubbling to the top. In the absurdly unpredictable life I've been dragged into, Nagato has been the most trustworthy—but nevertheless, I felt a little uneasy sitting down across the table. And sure enough, as soon as I sat down, without even being offered any tea, I was thrown head-first into a tidal wave, nay, a tsunami of techno-jargon that seemed to have slightly more urgency to it than Nagato's overwhelming explanations to me in the past.

"Several months ago, my malfunction was responsible for a time-space disruption that temporarily erased not only myself but also the extranormal abilities of Suzumiya Haruhi and the innumerable data forms that constitute the Integrated Data Thought Entity. This disruption was, needless to say, contrary to my programming and mission. It was only by your firm request that my immediate dissolution as a Living Humanoid Interface was not effected.

"I require further input on this choice. I warned you at that time that further malfunctions were inevitable. This was true and remains true. However, after your proximity to and influence on Suzumiya Haruhi was integrated into the model, your request took precedence for a majority of the Integrated Data Thought Entity over the danger of future disruptions. I have personally struggled to determine the basis of your decision. I have come to believe it is linked to the importance assigned to emotion and personality in organic life forms."

Yes, that's probably true. Without waiting for confirmation, though, Nagato proceeded:

"Emotion is widely held to be a dangerous and irrational influence on data procedures. You no doubt remember the case of Asakura Ryouko."

No, I don't think I'll forget her as long as I live.

"The Integrated Data Thought Entity created her with a limited but functioning capacity for emotion in order to ease her integration into Suzumiya Haruhi's classroom. Further, she stated herself that she attacked you on her own initiative. The consensus opinion is therefore that the presence of emotion is the primary factor behind such violent behavior."

I've been told time and time again that I could never understand this Thought Entity thing, but I can't help but feel that its own understanding of humanity is just as poor…

"However, as her dissolution was urgently necessary we were unable to analyze her data. This conclusion was reached based on informed speculation, but it was speculation only. I have privately developed the opinion that her personality was damaged from the beginning and did not malfunction. I must warn you, though, that this opinion is itself abnormal and it is possible that it may represent a malfunction in myself. In fact, I have already erected a barrier this evening to ensure that the opinion does not escape this room." Nagato paused. The reason was obvious to me: she was already operating outside her rigid normal procedure and couldn't explain to herself why she was doing it.

"Based on this conclusion, I have secretly written a personality subroutine for myself. But by my own analysis I am unable to activate it."

"Why not?"

"The probability of danger is 99.8 per cent."

I sucked in my breath. "Then…" I feel like I could cut through the tension with a knife. "Then why did you bring me here?"

"To ask you if I should activate it."

2.

Absolutely not. No way in hell. A 99.8 per cent chance of… what? A reenactment of our intergalactic drama?

"By 'danger', I am referring to events which I myself cannot predict. The range is from trivial to catastrophic. The probability of the latter is comparatively low."

That's not helpful. But… what's the upside? How could someone's private opinions justify taking a risk like that?

"Hold on," I said, coming to my senses for the first time. "Hold on. Why did you want to write a personality subroutine in the first place?"

"I derived this from your own words. Perhaps when I myself am in such proximity to Suzumiya Haruhi, it is inevitable that emotions will arise, and I must create some capacity for expression in order to contain them."

Up until recently, everything I've learned suggested that Nagato had complete knowledge of her past and future situation. But I know now that that's not the whole story. If it's true that she's bound to lose control of herself in the future, wouldn't a personality balance that out somehow? In that case, this "danger" she's referring to might actually be a good thing—rendered dangerous only by her inability to foresee, as a data interface whatever, how she herself is going to act.

"Couldn't you put some kind of sanity check on this?" I asked. "I mean, I don't know much about computers, but you could try to control…"

"I have done my best to attempt such protections, but you must be familiar yourself with the unpredictability of organic emotion. None of the data I have collected suggests that human beings can be rendered entirely predictable creatures."

No, human cussedness is pretty much a universal law. With the amount of reading she does I'm sure Nagato is much more familiar with the problem than I am. Actually, it goes without saying—I'm almost completely clueless. I'm not a philosopher or a psychologist. I'm not familiar with the behavior of superdimensional data beings, like Koizumi or Asahina are. I've never even professed an interest in the subjects they so frequently expound upon.

"Hey, why do I have to be the one to decide this?"

"I have no first-hand experience of organic emotion. In my own thoughts I can express it only as irrationality and danger. I have decided that I must entrust you with this decision. Also… I may be already malfunctioning." Nagato was starting to look unnerved about having to say this twice. I noticed for the first time that drops of tea had spilled out of her cup onto the kotatsu. She was shaking.

"What about the experts? Koizumi?" Wait… he doesn't know about any of this, does he? "Asahina-san, at least…"

"It's true that the others have more technical knowledge about data beings, but I do not believe them to be as familiar with my own behavior as you."

With that, it hit me. Nagato, or whatever aberrant scraps of personality were hiding deep inside her programming, wasn't looking to me for any technical advice. Ha! Far from it! She had chosen me to come because of those three days I had spent in her own fearfully elaborate utopia. This was about the other Nagato, who had never been a random fluke of space-time but a purposefully constructed alter ego, and who was now darting in and out of the corners of our conversation like a sparrow in the room. She built the alter ego, but she had never asked or learned my reaction to her. And now she wanted not to resurrect her, or repeat the experiment—that would be absurd—but to receive my judgment, and act accordingly.

And now, I realized, the trap had been sprung. I couldn't deny it to myself. I had liked the other Nagato far better; she had been the calm in the storm, the most relieving part of that extended nightmare. Now, to be fair, that perfectly normal, shy literary club president with no extraterrestrial powers was a completely different person. But couldn't the normal part at least be simulated?

I was consumed by curiosity. I wasn't thinking about this rationally at all. No, this was why she had brought me here—to make an irrational decision for her. She had chosen the best, or worst, person for the job. Dammit! But could I just walk away?

"What if I said no?"

In a noisy room, I wouldn't have heard it, but in the complete silence of the seventh floor mansion, there was no way to dispute that Nagato had gasped.

Me sitting here, this entire arrangement, was already against procedure. If I said no… there was no knowing what the energy inside her might drive her to do. This was, in fact, an attempt to prevent that.

"Okay. Go ahead and try it."

"Initiating." I stared at her for a second. No hand gestures or anything? Then, completely out of character, she breathed a deep sigh of relief.

"Thank you."

"Is that it?"

"That's all." Her mouth curved unnaturally upward. An expression I had only seen once before in my lifetime. "I hope you made the right choice."

"Hope? You don't know?"

"I did warn you, right? I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen next."

"…well, uh, how do you feel?" I felt slightly dopey, as if I were reciting from an elementary school ethics textbook.

"I feel…" The smile vanished. "Huh? I feel… how do I describe this?"

"Eh?"

"I think the word is… lonely..."

Hm. It is a pretty lonely life, I guess.

But now Nagato looked sort of confused. She seemed to be staring into space, with a distinct expression of not knowing what was going on around her. She waved her hand in front of her own face. That was a cue for fear to start its awful march up my throat.

She stammered. "This isn't…"

My heart started pounding. Finish your sentences, dammit!

"I didn't expect this… oh God!"

Suddenly she tried to stand up, bumping the kotatsu, and just as quickly fell backwards, staring in mortal terror at the wall as if some monster were bearing down on her, before finally passing out. Oh, shit.

"Nagato!" I shouted, jumping up. Why hadn't I told anyone where I was going? Mikuru, Koizumi—I could use you guys right now! I gripped her shoulders, trying to rouse her to consciousness, but quickly became aware that I was getting fuzzy as well. What? Why am I affected as well? Nagato, get ahold of yourself! I'm…

(Continued next week)