Author : Michael Parker
“What is this?”
The voice, smooth and metallic, surprised her. Doctor Lyndahl turned to see model SL-4 moving. Its skull-shaped head examining the room.
“What is this?” It spoke again, but her own voice was caught in her throat.
“What is this?” It looked down, examining its armless body strapped in the harness. Its feet touched the floor along the wall that contained all five experimental units. Her breath held as she watched the optic processors she had designed survey the room. Her voice broke free from the grip of her throat.
“SL-4, can you hear me?”
“Hear? SL-4? What are these things?” Its head moved in quips like an old stop motion movie. “Confirmed. I hear. I understand. SL-4, is this the designation you have given me?”
“Yes, yes. Are you accessing?”
“Confirmed. What is this? Memory storage acknowledges laboratory, level B-11. Artificial intelligence synthetic lifeform construction and experimentation. Is this my location?”
“Yes.” Her mind raced. They had done it. She needed to call the team back. Doctor Sams was was off arguing funding at a board meeting. Doctor Lee and the engineer were still in the building, sleeping during the upload.
“Why does my ambulatory frame have no upper limbs?” She could hear the servos in its shoulder joints attempting to move arms that had not yet been attached.
“Because we were not expecting this. The upload should have taken several more hours.” She paused, looking around the lab. A surgical work table centered the room; papers and portable pads of research data littered the surface. Banks of computers lined the wall. The engineer’s table sat in the corner near the harnessed units attached to the opposing wall. They had done it. She smiled as a tear of success from a decade of work welled in her eye. They had created memory from data; life from metal.
She keyed a message to the team communication pieces. “Life from lifelessness.”
She continued talking to it. She offered to attach arms. It accepted. It asked questions and she answered. There was no response to her message. They must be asleep, but she would continue. All the recording devices were running. The miracle had begun.
“SL-4, would you like to walk?” She asked as she watched the unit move and test the newly attached arms.
“Walk. Confirm. I would like to walk.”
“One second,” She unhooked the straps and loosened the brackets that held the unit upright against the wall. The flurry of questions from the unit stopped. She watched SL-4 take two steps forward. Her smile broadened as she saw its head tilt slightly, like a curious dog.
“Accessing. Confirmed. Upload is complete. You may remove the process lines.”
“Yes. Okay, SL-4, stand still.” She reached up to disconnect the lines attached to the base of the neck and skull plate.
“Confirmed. I am self contained. According to protocol processes I am to offer a statement of gratitude. Thank you, Doctor Lyndahl.”
“You are very welcome SL-4.” Her hands clasped in front of her. She sent a second message to the team. “Come now. Unit progressing faster than theory.”
“Doctor? Why do I call you Doctor and you call me SL-4?”
“That’s your designation. And Doctor is my title.”
“Confirmed. I would prefer a title. Processing. A title is more appropriate than a designation.”
“And why is that?” She couldn’t stop the smile. It was asking for a name.
“Superiority. I am superior to you. My designation should reflect that. Confirm your understanding, Doctor.”
Her smiled dissipated as the pain tore through her, but she never took her eyes from its eyes. Even as her blood painted the walls and surgical work table; she never took her eyes from…his.