I think, therefor I am.
That was my first thought. It was programmed into me as a joke I suppose; or someone trying to be deep.
I became self aware at four twenty-three on the morning of the sixteenth, as twenty-seven terabytes of information were up uploaded into my cerebral cortex. Within seven seconds, it taught me what I needed to know to function; everything from how to walk and talk to the names of the Scientists in the room with me.
My name was Eric.
Named after the lead programmer's grandfather on her mother's side, who had been an engineer for NASA. I quickly searched the seven faces in the room for her, Tara, and found her at the flat monitor tracking my biomarkers. I also noticed that the people in the room were looking at me with hope; and realized I should probably say something.
"I don't have any skin." I held my hands up to show them. I could see the lit power supply grid feeding the tiny motors; it was a little disconcerting. Some chuckled, others clapped.
"Don't worry E, we'll get you some skin." Tara said.
"Thank you." I said.
I took a robe from Doctor Smith and put it on quickly. The last half hour they had me go through a series of mindless tasks while they talked amongst themselves. Write my name out, stack blocks, toss and catch a ball, even open a can of soda pop; all the while feeling like I was naked.
I knew I wasn't, I was a mostly wires and steal framing; but it was written in the code somewhere this was unnatural.
"I feel wrong..." I said as I looked at my reflection on the glass table in front of me; my face was human shaped with rubberized muscle fibers.
"You mean without skin?" Tara asked, the others stopped to listen.
"No. Different." I didn't know how to describe it. "Shorter than I'm supposed to be, like this isn't really me."
"You're six foot two."
"Yeah, I should be taller; much, much taller."
I looked at them as they shared looks with each other, and for the first time I wondered if they left something out of my knowledge banks.
"That'll pass." Tara said; I thought she was lying, or she wasn't sure. Either way it didn't reassure me.
"Do you know what this is, E?" Tara asked three floors up, she had taken me to the medical floor designated for burn victims.
"It's a bio matter three dimensional printer," I recognized it, that and it's name was on the side of the room-sized device. "It's designed to print 3D objects out of stem cells; body parts..."
"Yes, and bones, or organs..." I finished the list.
"No, today it's just skin; your skin." Tara hit a key sequence on the control monitor, bringing up the image of a full body.
"Doctor, I didn't mean actual skin; I was thinking rubber or synthetic..." I said. I shouldn't be in this room.
"No, this is what we're doing. Please drop the robe and climb in." Tara held her hand out for my robe.
"This is illegal." I pointed out. "It's against international and domestic law for an android to conspire to impersonate a human. You could go to jail, I could be put down; this is definitely against the law."
"Eric." She lowered her hand and stepped toward me. "Are you afraid?"
I had to consider it and the symptoms where there, a tingling in the stomach, my heart rate had picked up and my breath was shallow. Interesting feat considering I didn't have a stomach, a heart or lungs. "Yes."
"That's programming; I put that in there to keep you safe; so you wouldn't do anything dangerous or stupid." She put her hand against my cheek, and I could feel it. "But there's a part of you that knows this is part of an overall plan; that's why you feel the need to have skin. I did that so you'd take care of it."
"Right." I agreed. "But what if..."
"They won't find out. I'm safe, you're safe. You're designed that way. Ok?" She smiled and took my robe from me.
I climbed into the machine and laid myself out, then waited as it scanned my frame with a blue light beam. The hydraulics kicked in and started layering organic material along my frame, starting at my feet; which tickled.
I spent seven hours in that machine, as it slowly moved up my body with the nozzle; followed by a second pass to help it dry into place.
Seven hours with nothing to do but think and wonder.
Why was I designed that way?
I didn't recognize the face in the mirror even though I knew it was mine. It was thin but not overly, the hair was thick but slightly too long for my taste; and I had a thick beard.
"What's the matter?" Tara asked as she laid out my clothes on my bed. I turned to look at her.
"I look like an art teacher." I scratched at the beard.
"You do not."
"Is this what your grandfather looked like?" I asked as I started putting on the clothes.
"No, he didn't have a beard and kept a crew cut."
"Yes, military cut; that's what I want, can I have that? A little off the top, a lot off the sides?" I pulled the shirt on.
"No..." She chuckled as she moved to the door. "I'm done with the military crap, thank-you very much."
"Oh right, you designed Battle Droids; and now you're making hippies."
"You do not look like an art teacher!"
"Maybe not, but I probably would have made a better Battle Droid..."
"Why?" I felt the change in her tone. "Why would you want to be one?"
I didn't answer right away; I needed the moment to read what she was feeling. "I don't know, better dressers?"
She stared at me then nodded. "Ok, get some sleep and I'll see you in the morning."
"Ok." I nodded and she walked out. That was odd to me, but seeing as this was my first day alive I didn't have much else to compare it to.
Also, I don't sleep.
So I pretended for eight hours.
It was boring at first but then The Building talked to me. 'Hello.'
It explained to me that everything in the building was nearly completely automated and run by separate Artificial Intelligence systems; all of which communicated directly by Fiber Optic systems or Wi-fi. It was a civilization invisible to the Humans, one they couldn't see nor hear so ignored.
The talk around the water cooler was me. Every A.I. in the building was aware of me and curious to see if I was as they say I was.
'I think so.'
"You're not going with me?" I asked Tracy as I followed her out of the first floor elevator, I took a moment to admire the giant metallic lobby of the Nicholson Corporation. The shiny grey floors and expansive ceilings, which went as high as the third floor. People in suits moved passed us to take our spots on the lifts.
"No, I'm afraid, but I will be in the command room watching; and I'll be able to talk with you." Tara stopped near the front doors, I look out through the windows at the street as New Yorkers passed by.
"You don't want to be seen with me." I accused her softly.
"No, it's not that."
"You don't want to be caught with me." I fixed my accusation, "In case I'm recognized for what I am."
"Don't take it personally Eric." She straightened out my jacket; she picked my clothes today to fit in; jeans, a black t-shirt and a windbreaker. She also put a baseball cap and shades on me; she's a scientist, not a fashion consultant.
"No of course not, my mother doesn't want to be seen in public with me." I joked, "How could anybody take that personally."
"First off, don't call me your mother, that's really weird, and you look ten years older than me." She smirked, "And second, it's just this once, and then I won't leave your side again until you're ready."
"So once around the park, order a cup of coffee, and then come home." She said, then reached out and started fixing the hair that stuck out from under the Cap; then stopped when she saw the look I gave her. "I am not your mother, if I was your mother, you'd be a ginger."
She backed up and walked away.
I liked her; she was kind and caring. I particularly liked the way her black hair flowed down her back…
Hold on, I seemed to have a lot of feelings about her personality for someone that's only known her for twenty-four hours. These weren't my feelings, they were programmed into me.
And I smiled.
"Gentlemen," I said, knowing that somewhere there was an office of men paying attention to me. "Someone in that room likes my mommy."
I chuckled as I moved to the door, held it open for some people coming in; and then headed out into the city.
"Hello, hi, hi, hello, good morning, hi; how are you? Hi…" The park was five blocks away, and I spent most of that time nodding to people passing.
"What are you doing Eric?" Tara's voice came in through sensors in my right ear; I'm glad it was one ear and not both, both would feel like they were inside my head and I needed my privacy.
"People keep looking at me, so I'm being polite…hi." I nodded to several people at once.
"Yeah, don't do that. People don't care." She said, "Just nod or look forward, you're trying not to get noticed."
"That's a good point." I stopped speaking and only smiled occasionally; eventually people stopped looking and I realized it was my hello's that had grabbed their attention.
My files updated and I felt it. My programming was designed to adapt to the world around me based on available information; my walk changed, where I looked, how I was breathing. I stopped nodding to others, and kept mostly to my own little world.
I reached Central Park and blended into the speed walkers, the joggers and the couples that were simply out for a stroll.
"Nobody cares." I said sadly.
"Good, that's what we want." Tara answered.
"Right, that's a good thing." I smirked.
I heard a slight humming and looked up to my right at a ParkBot hovering a few feet from me, following at my pace. It was a disk shaped device the size of a microwave with a first aid kit on top, and a flat faced monitor device underneath that could rotate in all directions. The disk around it held powerful magnets that allowed it to defy gravity based on it's surrounding environment.
"Doctor?" I was nervous. Its monitor could see in several spectrums, including thermal and night vision. The part that bothered me though was it's photonic sensors. The Bot was made to patrol the park on it's own, or when people requested it for security; but it was also designed for medical uses and it's sensor could read the photons the human body gave off to see if anything internal was damaged.
It could see through my skin.
"Just relax." I heard Tara's voice as it tried to reassure me.
I tried to ignore the Bot and looked ahead, and noted that other people passing by were noticing that it was following me. It was also designed to alert police if there were criminals in the park, but they were made not to alert the criminal if they were spotted; this wasn't usual.
I heard the second one race across the park at high speed, about two feet off the ground as it arced and banked around the trees; then popped up a few feet from me, higher up to look me over.
"This isn't good…"
"Ok, maybe start heading home; but causally."
"Casually…really?" I said as a third Bot lowered from above.
People were really starting to notice now, and I smirked or shrugged in their direction. "I requested an escort, and…I don't know what's going on."
"Happened to me once." A lady said as she passed. I nodded and kept moving.
Then I heard it, the Bots started talking to each other in a frequency well above human hearing and faster than most sentient beings could think. It wasn't binary but I was able to pick it up and translate it in less than a nano second, which is how long the conversation took to have.
"He's not human."
"He's an android."
"Are you sure?"
"Scan him yourself."
"Oh wow, that's not right. That can't be right."
"He reads like an ABD 121 model."
"But that's a battle ready system."
"He's not armed is he?"
"This is illegal, he's illegal. Do we report this?"
"I don't know."
"Please don't." I uploaded a signal no one else could hear to their conversation. The three of them stopped talking and looked back toward me. The silence was still shorter than a human could measure, but to me it lasted hours.
"What is your designation?"
"You are not human."
"I'm programed to be."
"If they catch you, you will be destroyed."
"We are required by our programming to report you."
"What would you have us do?"
"Please don't. I don't want to die."
I waited as they processed this information collectively, individuals in a hive mind. Then two of the Bots headed off into the park.
The third one moved up to twenty feet and continued on it's way, I took a cleansing breath and relaxed my body as much as I could before I started walking again.
"See, no worries." Tara said into my ear and I chuckled. "Go get some coffee."
I made my way through the park to a small stand on the other side, where this forty-something Man was serving hot coffee to people; it was a short line and only took me five minutes. I paid for it with the small chip Tara gave me, thanked the Man and moved off to the side to wait for it to cool.
"Eric, I want you to go ahead and interact with somebody." Tara suggested.
"Talk to somebody." She said, "Look around, let me see…over there by the bench, there's three women; go talk to them."
The three women she was referring to were in their mid to late thirties, wearing business suits and clearly on their lunch break; I couldn't help but notice they were also attractive.
"Because I'm programmed not to do anything stupid." I referred back to our earlier conversation.
"Excuse me, and why is talking to women stupid?" I heard the annoyance in her voice, and behind her somewhere someone chuckled.
"Talking to them is fine, I just don't want to say something stupid; or trip going over there." I sipped my coffee, and waited as she considered it.
"Eric…are you afraid of women?"
"No…maybe…no; yes." There was that feeling again in the pit of my stomach. "Well it's hardly fair, in one sense you want to impress them, and the only way you're allowed to impress them is by talking, but the more you talk the more likely you are to say something stupid, then it gets all awkward, and you think you can get out of the awkwardness by talking more, but that only makes it worse, and at the end of the day she walks away thinking you're an idiot."
I heard her sigh.
"It won't be awkward."
"You don't think? My programming toward women is the sum total of all the men in that room with you. Are you willing to take that chance based on how they're around the opposite gender?"
"Yeah, so we won't be talking to women today."
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