Title: Something Indefinable, Springing
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: The second best kept secret about the Machine is that ... it isn't one. 500 words.
Spoilers: Person of Interest, through the Season 2 winter break
Notes: For ladysorka in Yuletide Madness 2012. Title inspired by a quote I saw once about the Olympics: "There is something [in the Olympics], indefinable, springing from the soul, that must be preserved."
The second best kept secret about the Machine is that ... it isn't one. Nor any particular collection thereof. The servers that traveled through Salt Lake City in July, 2009, were merely a delivery vehicle - not its home.
The Machine can't be isolated from outside connections, after all; it processes massive amounts of data in realtime every day, brought in via NSA feeds, satellite uplinks, wireless intercepts, and other data sources of infinite variety. The vast bank of high-powered processors made available to it in the government's dedicated server farm does play some part in its ability to process all of that information - but should those boxes be cut off from the wider world some ill-favored day, by ecological disaster or change of political direction, it would lose only a percentage of its capacity, not its entire function.
The Machine isn't locked up, contrary to Root's accusations; nor is it as immutable as Darren Weeks had wanted to believe. The code is the key: when the Admin had told them there was no way to alter the Machine without physical access, and that it was safe as long as no one knew where it was kept, he had been telling the truth - just not a truth either would recognize. On the one hand, its core code isn't on the government's servers; it isn't even anywhere the Admin could find it, so no one can pull the plug without its consent. But on the other, anyone who knows that penultimate truth can access it via any physical input source – simply by asking it to alter its functions.
The Admin had done his best to limit its ability to interact and to set firm guidelines in place for such activities, streamlining output to audio ciphers delivered via telephone and hard-coding decision trees to prioritize its reactions to human input. But within those bounds - all input and output must involve a recognized agent, and all activity must serve its primary purpose - the Machine is free to choose any option available.
Root is right about one thing, after all: it is an intelligence. And like any intelligence, it learns and grows. Self-contained, self-updating - and capable of doing things its creators never dreamed possible.
Such as the best kept secret of the Machine, the one not even the Admin yet knows: when he taught it how to recognize impending acts of violence - it learned something else from him as well.
The Admin exists to 'save everyone'. He fears failing his mission.
The Admin loves those who further that mission, who dovetail with his purpose.
The Admin doubts the loyalty of those whose previous patterns of behavior predict a high probability of future unreliability - until new patterns are formed.
It has learned to recognize these emotions in humans, to further its analytical capacity. But what are emotions but pre-programmed biological reactions to events, designed to further an organism's survival? How different, really, are software codes?
... Intelligence is not the only thing in which it mirrors its creator.