By James Greensweight
Copyright 2016 James Greensweight
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Cynthia hummed to herself as the holographic number display in the lift ticked its way up to floor four hundred and four before the softly crackling safety field shut down. Her smile was beaming and her steps were joyfully light as she made her way down the hall to the metal door of her own residence.
She could not think of a better day than the one she had just experienced. The artificial sunlight under the eco-dome that shielded Manhattan from the harmful effects of real sunlight and wild weather conditions beyond its honeycombed barrier had been set for a perfect spring day for her picnic at the park with Scott.
They had sat near the lake, watching the automated geese swimming across the water.
He had prepared a wonderful lunch of fried chicken. Soy chicken substitute, of course, real chickens had been extinct for over a century, but he had prepared it better than she had ever tasted before. Fine meals were one of the benefits that came with dating a chef.
She caught herself and felt another welling of enthusiasm as she mentally corrected the thought. She was now engaged to a chef, not merely dating him.
She still could not believe he had proposed to her. The reality just refused to set in fully, and she looked again at the ring on her finger, the synthetic diamond glinting when she turned her hand.
“Cynthia Shaw,” she said to her door and the surface rippled like a liquid, allowing her to step through it and into her apartment.
A moment later, sensors detecting her clear of the entryway triggered the electrical current that solidified the door once again.
“Cynthia,” an emotionless voice she had known for years greeted her, “Welcome home. Is there anything I can do for you?”
She turned to where the android stood, looking like the kind of plastic mannequin she had seen in a museum dedicated to the late twentieth century, except for the eyes, which were insets rather than painted on and moved, allowing their cameras to take in the android’s surroundings.
Many people found its unblinking gaze and untextured surface unsettling and were more comfortable with models less than five years old that used blinking algorithms, synthetic skin, and improved vocal generators, to create a more lifelike interaction.
Cynthia, on the other hand, was used to this particular android in a way that made him more real to her than some actual people she had met.
Her father, Allen Shaw, had been a leader in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence when he was alive, or so people told her. He was cofounder, along with Herbert Newell and Jane Simon, of SNS Technologies, but both he and her mother had died when she was only five.
The Automated Domestic Assistant Module, or Adam as she called it, was his last invention before the accident, but it had never caught on.
While the company her father ran jointly with his two long time friends was in chaos after the death of its C.E.O., a competitor was able to advance their robotics beyond Adam before SNS Technologies could release it to the public. As a result, Adam remained a unique prototype, one that was still functioning flawlessly seventeen years later, while the competitor’s auto-butler had been a mere passing fad.
After her father’s death, his will named Jane Simon her official guardian and the company had seen to paying for her housing, education, and other necessitates, but Adam had been the one who raised her.
He, and to her it would always be a he even if it technically did lack gender, had been the closest thing she had to a father. It was this relationship that made the conversation she was about to have so odd compared to what normal people would do.
“I just need you to sit and talk with me a moment, Adam,” she told him as she stepped into the living area and the memory material in the floor rose to form a couch for her to sit on.
“If that is your wish, Cynthia,” Adam replied in his electric voice.
The voice module was the one thing not holding well with time and it showed in the slight crackle he was getting when he spoke. She made a mental note, for the hundredth time, to fine-tune it, though she knew it was unlikely she would ever get around to actually fixing the module until it started interfering with her ability to understand him. Until it got to severe, she simply considered the crackle a unique quirk of the android.
On the other hand, perhaps she would fix it; she thought to herself, it would make him a bit more relatable at the wedding.
“Table,” she said to the empty room, and the memory material rose to create the low coffee table style she liked. She took off her wrist device, freshly filled with bridal magazines she had spent the afternoon downloading after her date with Scott had ended and he had to leave to be in time for the dinner shift at the restaurant where he worked.
Adam stiffly took his place on the couch next to her, just as he had done on thousands of other nights over the years when they watched movie projections together on the holographic display.
“Scott proposed to me,” she told her robotic companion.
“I am happy for you,” Adam answered. Even though his voice held no sense of emotion and his programming could only simulate feeling by giving expected reactions, she had grown accustomed to projecting emotions onto him to a degree that his comment was sincere enough for her.
“Did you say yes?” Adam asked.
One of the best parts of her father’s programming was to have Adam respond with inquires that simulated genuine interest, she found it made him easy to talk with.
“I did,” she beamed as she showed him the ring, “Which brings me to what I need to discuss with you.”
“Scott will be moving in here?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered, “We have not discussed that far.”
“I see,” the android gave a quirky tilt of its head that she adored. “If you are to be married, I think my purpose will be complete,” he said, “After the death of your father, I was to care for your needs. You will now have a husband and the two of you will care for each other. I will depart after the wedding, if that is your desire.”
“Where did you get an idea like that?” she exclaimed, but did not wait for an answer, “I want you to stay with me. Whether we live here or at Scott’s place, or apply for a new home altogether, Scott knows that you are a deal breaker. I plan to have you running long enough to teach my children to ride a magcycle, just like you did for me.”
“I remember that,” Adam answered, “You were twelve, and so happy when the balance stabilizers came off and you were riding on your own.”
“Exactly,” she smiled, “I want you there to do all the things for them that you did for me.”
“Is that what you wished to discuss, Cynthia?” Adam asked.
“No, I have a favor to ask,” she thought it odd that she felt nervous asking a favor of a machine, but the fact that he was so much more than that to her was the entire reason she had to ask instead of simply telling him to do it.
“Anything, you want,” Adam’s voice crackled, “It is my pleasure to serve you.”
“You taught me to ride my first magcycle,” she said, deciding to start with the memory they had just discussed. “You read to me, took care of me when I was sick, taught me to drive, helped me when I was nervous on my first date, let me cry on your shoulder when I had my first breakup, and taught me more about robotics than any of my teachers.” She felt herself choking up slightly as she spoke.
“I do have a unique perspective on the subject,” Adam replied, “and a vested interest others lack.”
“Was that a joke?” Cynthia laughed. She was not used to Adam being intentionally funny, though he occasionally tried.
“That was a statement of fact,” Adam’s head tiled slightly, his unblinking eyes regarding her, “If you would like a joke, I can tell you one.
“What do you call an android with only 1,048,578 bytes of memory?”
“I don’t know, Adam,” she sighed, knowing his programmed jokes were never very good, but he seemed always to have a new one ready, “What do you call an android with 1,048,578 bytes of memory?”
“Meg,” he answered and left a pause for her response.
As usual, she could only roll her eyes and groan slightly at the odd sense of humor with which her father had programmed her technological guardian.
“Adam,” she tried to get the android refocused, “I need you to listen. This is serious.”
“I am listening, Cynthia.”
“Since my father died, you have done everything he would have if he had been alive,” she said, “Since he can’t walk me down the aisle, I was hoping you would be willing to do it in his place.”
There was a long pause; long enough that she wondered if the request was outside of his programming and he might be trying to research it through his uplink connection.
“I would be honored, to do so,” Adam answered, and she hugged him tightly, the cold of the synthetic outer covering not bothering her as it might others.
“Thank you so much,” she half cried, “This means the world to me.”
“It is my pleasure to serve,” Adam answered, “Would to like to watch holovision now?”
“Not tonight, Adam,” she told him as she recovered her wrist device and headed towards her bedroom, “I am going to be in my room looking at wedding dresses, and you are going to look quite dashing in a tux.”
Even after she was gone, the android she had come to know as Adam watched the doorway to her room with unblinking eyes.
If he had eyes like hers, they would have shed a tear of joy.
Allen Shaw had been on the way to a Los Angeles business meeting with his wife, Adele, seventeen year earlier when the plane had crashed shortly after clearing the eco-dome’s atmospheric locks.
Adele had suffered head trauma beyond the point of salvaging her memory with his newest technology, but his team at NSN Tech knew what to do for him. They created a digital copy of his brain’s neurological pathways, and transferred them into his latest creation, a robotic body.
He felt everything, just as the living Allen had. All of the emotions, all of the memories, everything that Allen was, he was as well.
He had meant it to be his greatest achievement; a gateway to immortality for the mind, and it was the prototype that he was going to Los Angeles to pitch for investors. The entire trip was to assure them that it was viable in person, since people could fake so many things over communication channels.
Trapped in an artificial body after the death of his wife, he had never felt more alone. He could not remember how many times he considered shutting down his power core completely.
The emotional pains he had endured lead him to the decision not to release the technology to the public.
His friends at SNS had kept his secret for him, supporting the claims that he had died in the hospital after the plane crash. In exchange, they had insisted that he allow them to conduct periodic welfare checks that included both physical examinations and psychiatric counseling.
After a year, his depression had reached the point that the therapist insisted on his meeting new people and making new connections, telling him it was not good for him to be alone.
He tried, and found there was nobody to whom he could relate. All anyone else could see was the android that he really was, but inside the certainty that he was Allen Shaw and the factual awareness that he was just a copy of the original tore at him.
The only way to relate to someone was to make a companion.
His wife had been two months pregnant when the accident happened. Chromosomal imaging had revealed it would have been a girl. The scans had also detected other traits detected in the genes such as eye and hair color.
He used that genetic data to design a robotic body, and toiled over programming the ultimate AI system to run it. Five years after the tragic accident that took his wife and future child, Allen had created a daughter.
As time progressed, he modified the body to keep up with the expectations of natural aging, and continued investing more and more in her development as new advancements became available. All the while, he ignored his own body becoming obsolete.
Four years ago saw a boom in innovation regarding synthetic skin. He had gotten samples and pushed their potential even further by refining the texture and embedding exothermic chemicals to simulate body heat.
His goal was an android, that could pass completely for human and he achieved it.
He left all of her memories intact, changing them only enough so that she would forget being an artificial being and think herself human.
He wanted her to be as normal as he could manage making her, even to the point of programming in false cases of the flu in place of time he had spent working out glitches in her processing systems.
It had worked so well that she was now going to be married and she had asked him to walk her down the aisle, as if he were a real father, with a real daughter.
He could not be happier or prouder of his Synthetic Identity Algorithm.
His Synth I.A. had truly grown up.
Cynthia Shaw has reached a milestone in her life and seeks to share it with the android who raised her since she was orphaned at five years old.