"Fool's Errand"

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Zettel, Sarah. "Fool's Errand." Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May 1993. A Woman's Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women. New York City: Warner Books, 2001. For other anthologies, see The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, as of March 2024, here.[1]

Mentioned by Pawel Frelik in his review of A Woman's Liberation as "a cyberpunkish incursion into the machinic [sic] consciousness" (p. 10).[2]

Expanded into the novel, Fool's War.[3]

From a post by Spoon under reviews at the Amazon site for the novel:

Dobbs is a Fool, a jester, typically contracted to starship crews for long voyages, her job being to help maintain crew sanity during the trip. She has contracted to a data packet ship for two years as the ship makes a data run from Neptune to a far colony. While at the colony, they download some software updates for a local hospital, which is where the fun begins.

Turns out that Dobbs is also a troubleshooter for the Fool's Guild, watching out for any sentient AIs that may pop up, and getting the AI into a safe environment where it can't mess up the local computer systems, ships, or ecologies. A new AI has formed at the colony, maybe because of what the ship downloaded, and Dobbs has to make a first contact and isolate the AI.[4]

RDE, finishing, 3Mar24