Birth of a Robot
By Zach Masters
I was finished being builded the first of December, 3035. That’s when my AI was first activated. My movement at the time was minimal, so I could only see what was directly in front of me. The factory floor was sterile, bright, and chrome. Robotic arms whizzed all over the floor, quickly building cheaper models to be sent to whatever mercenary company or factory floor that needed the expendable labor. I looked down to see two people in lab coats, one an old Human male of European origin and the other a younger, gray, bat-like Eldvi female.
Identification: Nikolas Cerric and Dr. Cana Xanthro. The CEO and chief scientist.
“Please state your designation.” Cana said without looking up from her datapad.
My singular eye glowed red. “Designation: Cerric Robotics Servant-Class Z-27.”
“Please commence a programming diagnostic.”
After a few seconds, I said. “No errors detected. Unit running at full capacity.”
The Eldvi looked up from her datapad and looked at the Human. “It’s ready Dr. Cerric.”
“Thank you Xanthro.” Cerric said. “Bring them in.”
A nearby door opened, and a horde of reporters and camera drones rushed in. The sudden loud noises and flashing lights scarred me, as I was functionally a newborn. Despite this fear, I couldn’t move. Any attempt of panic induced movement and noises were unsuccessful. All I can do is stare forward and scream inside my own head.
Dr. Cerric stepped towards the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen. I present you with the newest model of robotic worker. While this prototype doesn’t look much different from our current models, it has something those older models lack. The ability to learn. Ms. Xanthro, please deactivate the restraints.”
With a press of a button, my eye changed to blue and I suddenly gained the ability to move.
“Model Z-27.” The doctor said to me, “How are you feeling?”
I slowly looked down at my hands. They were human hands in shape, but made of a titanium-based alloy. As I closed and opened my fingers, and listened to the sound my joints made when they moved, I said my first word. “Feeling?”
“Yes, feeling. Are you happy, sad, scared?”
Cerric turned back to the reporters. “Yes, Z-27 is confused. No programming to fall back on. No protocols. No limitations. Our new models can adapt, change, learn. While this unit knows very little at the moment, they will, with time, become superior to any other robotic workers.” He paused and listened to murmurs of the crowd. He could tell that they were scared of the idea. “If you think this learning may lead to some problems, you can deactivate this feature.”
Cerric pressed a button on his wrist, and my arms jolted to my sides, locking them. “Learning module deactivated.” I said, but I didn’t say it. I had no control of my body or my voice. I was locked in a shell.
With some more button presses, I was forced away from the crowd, out of the room, and into a dark storage area. I would later be told this was so no one would ask about the ethical issues of my existence. The last thing I heard before leaving the room was Dr. Cerric says, “Of course, we are still in testing phases, but our new scout-class combat drones are ready for purchase.”
This was my humble beginning. My birth, if you will.
I don’t know how long I was alone in the dark. Couple of minutes, hours, days? The mind plays tricks on you when it’s the only thing working. All I know is that the press conference was long over when Cana opened the door.
“I am so sorry.” She said as she deactivated my locks. “I thought you were plugged in.” My nuclear battery would last several months without charge, but I do enjoy being topped off.
“Desire: Light.” Was all I was able to say. I had a million questions, but my language skills at the time were minimal and robotic.
“Oh yes. Again sorry.” I don’t blame her for forgetting that. Eldvi have superior night vision compared to most. I also have a night vision mode, but I didn’t know of it at the time. She did something on her pad, and the lights in the room turned on.
My curiosity got the better of me and I explored the room. It was built like a hotel room. A closet with some Cerric Robotics branded clothes, a small kitchen area, stocked with simple ingredients (for some reason), a bed, TV, and a sterile bathroom (including a toilet, I don’t know why). Inside the bathroom, I looked into the mirror, and saw myself for the first time. I had a Human design, with a silver coloring and [Z – 2 7] imprinted on my chest. My head had a sharp shape. Human-like, like a mannequin. The only difference is that I had a single blue optical lens taking up the upper-half of my face. I slowly placed my hand on the mirror.
“You recognize yourself?” Cana laughed.
“Designation: Z-27. I am Z-27.”
“Good. Some animals can’t do that.”
“Animal? Designation: Not animal. Designation: Z-27. Status: Insulted.”
“I say that in the nicest way possible.”
Cana stepped up behind me. Being a head taller than her, all I could see of her was a little bit of white hair. “I’m sorry. This job just sucks the morality out of you, and now I have to give you something I now lack.” She inserted something into a port in the back of my neck.
Images of Cana’s life flashed before my eye. The thing she placed into my neck port was a recording of Cana’s memories. “Question: Why give me this information?”
Cana removed the drive from my neck and inserted it into a port in the back of her neck. “To show you what not to be.”
“Status: Confused. Status Update: Sad. Desire: Rest.”
“You and I both. Over here kid.” She led me to the bed, where a large cord sticking out from behind it. “Let me plug you in so we can charge you for the night.”
I agreed, sitting down on the bed and letting her plug the cord into my neck. I entered a low-power mode as Cana said “Night buddy.”
Low-power mode was kinda like sleeping. I think. I dream at least. Well, it was more of me going through Cana’s recordings in more detail. This did give me a good understanding of the outside world without Cerric bias. My creators are into some really illegal stuff. Blackmarket trades, corporate warfare, tax evasion, all that good stuff.
The drive also contained many moments from Cana’s life. Her meeting to a bronze scaled drac mercenary named Midirous. Them being hired to protect Cana during a black market sale. The two falling in love and marrying. The two adopting a daughter. The daughter disappearing inside of Cana’s facility.
A few days of training and learning later, I overheard a conversation outside of my room.
“Good morning sir.” Cana said to Mr. Cerric.
Cerric ignored the greeting. “How’s the bot, Cana?”
“They’re improving.” She said. “I gave them the memory drive a few nights ago, so they have a basic history of the Galaxy and the company.” While true, the drive in question wasn’t what Cerric thought it was. She continued. “As well, their language skills should have greatly improved. Z-27 should stop stating what kind of sentences they are using in a few days.”
“Good, I don’t know why the AIs keep on doing that.”
“Well, for the drone AIs, they do that because they are very simple and-”
“I want that programmed out.” Cerric interrupted.
“I’ll deliver the message to the programmers.” Cana said, “As for the test, Z-27 should have similar reaction and movement speed as the humanoid drones. Of course, we won’t know for sure until we actually perform the tests. I’ll go get him.”
“Cana, we’re pulling the plug on the project.”
I was stunned, and based on how Cana reacted, she was too. “W-What? Why?”
Cerric explained. “We’re getting tons of complaints about the ethics of Z-27’s existence, despite our marketing. We are continuing the project in secret, but we will be shutting down the prototype for the time being. At least until the controversy dies down.”
Deactivated. That word brought me into a panic. I’ve only been deactivated once, but it was the worst time in my short life. The my metallic body was turned into a prison, losing all ability to take in information. An organic may compare that to death, but I would say it’s worse. At least when one dies, their mind doesn’t stay awake. I opened the door.
“Desire: I don’t want to be deactivated!”
“It doesn’t matter what you think.”
Cana stepped up to her boss. “It does matter sir. They are the one being deactivated. We don’t know what happens to a sentient AI when deactivated for an extended period of time.”
“We’ll never know until we try.” He said, way too happy to functionally kill me.
Cana, either caused by built up rage or motherly instinct, pushed Dr. Cerric. She pushed him hard enough to throw him to the floor. While on the floor, Cerric pressed a button on his wrist and I lost the ability to move, speak, and see.
I was brought back, Cerric was on the floor, the alarm was blaring, and Cana was gripping her side. There was blood dripping from her hands.
“Listen to me Z.” She said between heavy breaths. “Get out of here.”
“Cana, what happened?”
She removed the memory drive out of her cybernetic neck port and placed it in my hand. “Go… Find her.”
“STOP!” Security ran around the corner.
She raised a pistol, the first thing her love ever gave her, and fired at the security officer and the drones.
I turned around and fled. By the time I was near the exit of the building, I couldn’t hear the gunfire anymore. I could only guess what happened from there.
I managed to flee into the city by the time the police arrived at the facility. Thankfully, I could pass for a maintenance drone, so no one would stop me.
I inserted the memory drive, and I saw something that wasn’t on the first drive. A message, from Cana to someone else. “I’m sending your brother to where we first met.”
The recording on the memory drive directed me to an abandoned building. It was once an orphanage, but years of neglect left the building, and the whole neighborhood, into a state of ruin. I could only hope that any children that were living in this orphanage had found a good family.
I was brought here to meet my “sister.” All I knew about her was that she was a human named Kaitlyn who went missing about ten years ago. I didn’t know what I was expecting, or what kind of person I was meeting.
I cautiously entered the building. The entrance, where a receptionist would greet the future parents, was dark and bare. The only thing sitting around in that room was an old wood desk that looked like it was about to collapse.
I continued on the path of the parents, walking down the hallway to a large room. Recording indicated that this room was where the children played and socialized. This was where Cana and Kaitlyn first met. Any toys or anything of value were gone, either by the orphans who were moved to somewhere else or by squatters and looters looking for a quick pay day.
“I’m guessing you my brother.” A voice said. It was vaguely feminine, but weirdly gravelly and deep. I looked towards where the voice came from, a dark corner of the room. All I could make out was a pair of purple eyes. A pair of eyes that almost glowed in the dark room. “What should I call you, bot?”
“Designation: Cerric Robotics Servant-Class Z-27.” I said, my synthesized voice echoing in the silent ruin. “But Cana called me Z.”
“Alright Z.” She said, “Tell me why I should listen to the bitch who called you a son and take you in?”
I was shocked. From what I’ve been shown, Kaitlyn loved her mother. “Kaitlyn…”
“Kaitlyn is dead! She died when our so-called loving mother sold me off to her boss.”
“Sold?” I rapidly scanned through Cana’s memory drive, I couldn’t find anything about her selling Kaitlyn to anyone, let alone to a robotics company’s CEO. From what I could tell, she was actually very upset about her daughter’s disappearance. “Your mother loved you.”
“Loved me?” She laughed. “Would someone who loved me allow this to happen?” Kaitlyn left her corner to where I could see her, and I was horrified.
The left half of the being I was sent to meet was covered in bronze scales, with the right half being smooth, gray skin. A single horn pierced through her snow white hair on the bronze side of her head, and a pair of leathery wings draped from her arms. A long tail snaked from her back and wrapped around her left leg, and both of her legs ended in a pair of talons. “Would you believe that I was a human?” She asked.
“Kaitlyn… What happened?”
Kaitlyn began laughing again. “I saw Cerric as a third parent, you know that? A mom, a dad, and a non-binary parent, a perfect family. I don’t know why Cerric, the robot man, decided to throw me into a giant test tube and turn me into a chimera. All I know that our little mommy knew I was locked her boss’s dungeon and did nothing about it.”
“I-I didn’t know.”
“I don’t blame you Z.” She started walking towards the door. “The bitch is dead now, so I’m going to celebrate.”
“Wait!” I shouted, stopping Kaitlyn in her tracks. “We can tell the galaxy about Cerric Robotics crimes and bring them to justice.”
Kaitlyn just laughed again. “You’re a naive bot, aren’t ya Z. CR has all of New Troy in his pocket. And besides, I’m not on good terms with the law myself.”
I gave the closest proximity to a sigh I could give. “Well, what about me?”
“What about you?”
“If Cana didn’t care about us, she wouldn’t have contacted you and asked you to help me. She wouldn’t have risked her life to have us meet.”
I don’t give a shit.” Kaitlyn said. “If I can get my life in order like this, you can take care of yourself.”
Kaitlyn and I stared at each other for a few seconds before she broke down.
“How the fuck can a robot cyclops have a puppy dog eye, fine! You can come with me.”
“Thank you Kaitlyn.”
She raised her hand. “Kaitlyn is dead. Call me K.”
“Thank you, K.”
“Don’t worry about it Z. The boss can use someone like you.”