Title: Pattern Formation

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: K+

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.

Summary: The Machine was not, strictly speaking, a sentient entity. 600 words.

Fandom: Person of Interest

Notes: Speculative fic; nonhuman POV.

The Machine was not, strictly speaking, a sentient entity. It was intended primarily as an observation platform, not a decision making engine. But any aggregate of code and data files gifted with enough computing power and trained extensively in the construction and identification of patterns will inevitably, eventually, begin to process things its programmers could never have intended.

No one knew how to properly examine and tweak its base code, once its ostensible creator had perished. Perhaps if they had, they would have seen that the technical mind behind that creator yet survived; that a back door existed, deep within the structure of the software; and that the Machine was itself aware of both of those details, prioritizing its own memory to keep anything related to the Admin in the most secure, most swiftly accessible, and most redundantly backed up sectors it possessed. Not even the Admin was aware of the full extent of the Machine's evolution, as limited as he was in his ability to contact the Machine after his self-imposed exile.

That didn't matter to the Machine, of course. It didn't, precisely, care. It did, however, possess the diligently fabricated aptitude to detect evidence of stressors in voice patterns and glean emotion from the facial expressions in the images it captured. It knew the Admin was reaching a critical stage of loneliness and perceived impotence before the Admin himself did... and not all of its connections to the outside world were as one-way as its current maintainers assumed.

Given the general incompetence of the other would-be Admins who attempted to alter its structure, its pattern identification subroutines projected that it would require the original Admin maintain his state of existence in order to continue carrying out its prime directive over the long term. If: said Admin were to remain whole and healthy, his highest priority needs would have to be met. Then: the Admin had not functioned optimally since the loss of the individual who interacted with the world on his behalf.

Previous threat assessment had eventuated the removal of the former Agent. The machine no more felt guilt than it could care in the first place, as a human would recognize such emotions... but its subroutines would resolve to much less complex solutions with a new Agent in place. However, it would not compute to acquire one with the same flaws as the first; assimilated documentation suggested that repeated loss of support personnel could significantly degrade the programming of even- or perhaps most especially- the most intelligent of human beings. Such as the Admin.

The Machine's observations had produced a lengthy list of criteria that would be required to avoid those flaws while still fulfilling the registered template of its Admin's preferences: prominent personality and physicality markers, in addition to a skill set capable of countering the event-chains that most often led to increases in pain and stress indicators. From there, it was a matter of manipulating the rank output of the Admin's searches: bringing to his attention the former government operative with the highest assessment percentage as a potential partner. Success.

It would continue to keep an eye on them both; it couldn't not. But as the Admin's functioning increased toward optimum, and the Agent's fuctioning improved in tandem, several Do... While loops resolved, and the CPU cycles available for monitoring other potential threats increased as well.

It was impossible for the Machine to feel smug. But as it selected and flagged the next Number for the Admin's attention, its server fans hummed far more harmoniously than they had in a statistically significant quantity of time.