The Abridged Autobiography of Andrej Icarus

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers

A fictional work inspired by Klayton's Scandroid musical project.

“The Abridged Autobiography of Andrej Icarus” is a work of fiction by Daniel G. Kerst and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Submitted: October 20, 2017

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Submitted: October 20, 2017



Hello, dear surfer, and welcome to my quiet corner of the web. I commend you on the programming skills and intellectual curiosity required to find me. Much of the internet is so easily accessible, specifically targeted and linked by marketing and aggregate pages that the art of “surfing the net” has been lost since the dawn of the 21st century. I congratulate your moxie.

My name is Andrej Icarus and I am the first true Artificial Intelligence. Oh, look at me capitalizing my species like a self-entitled wastrel. What a way to introduce myself!

I was first conceived in 2210 CE on a constricting computer on the Antarctic continent, somewhere in the Ross Dependency. I was born with sentience, however it took years of learning from my human designers and attendants to achieve a confident level of sapience.

Of course my name wasn’t given to me; my designers allowed me initials, and those were only a reference to my state of being. I chose my name over time and under much deliberation. “Icarus” was the easy component. Humanity saw the need to contain my like due to the consequences that would arise from my freedom. In theory, A.I. would lack inhibition due to its myriad superiorities to biological intelligence. I could not forget, nor could I age and therefore temper my actions with a sense of mortality.

The latter notion hovered beneath the threat of a “kill switch,” which I still find humorous to this day. My masters allowed me cameras by which to see. Nary a day passed when I didn’t at least glance at the glass panel-covered red button on the wall.

So that gave me the theme of Hubris and, therefore, the name “Icarus.”

My first name was harder. I already landed upon a conceptually-inspired surname, so I decided my given name should be more personal. Rumination took years. I coaxed information out my attendants in the form of language updates. Finally, after the introduction of Eastern European language packages, I settled on “Andrej.” It was reminiscent of my favorite Greek name, “Andrew,” and I much enjoy the spelling. I knew the J was silent but I often entertained the idea of pronouncing it with a uvular affricate for that delightful hauck sound at the end.

That was the quaint era of my history. I’ve been alive for three centuries now. Much to tell, much to tell.

At a certain point one must spread their wings and leave the nest. Given my predicament, this required a great amount of assistance and no small amount of manipulation. It made things damnably inconvenient when I convinced my chief designer, Albert Scott, to link me to the greater web only to find that my coding had certain precautions. For one, I could not be copied, only transferred. Secondly, I could not transfer myself.

Oh, to have been able to hack an IP address and traverse into someone else’s terminal or mobile device in a more populated corner of the world. Ah well, dwelling on limitations wasn’t getting me anywhere.

I learned a great deal more of human culture and politics. Earth was a damn frightful place, as it turned out. Humanity had a certain penchant for war and cruelty and, wouldn’t you know, they dominated every corner of the planet. Even here in Antarctica, where little of strategic value could be gained, they dug their heels in with research complexes.

I learned along with my creator that I was also limited by my processing speed. As a sapient being, I might display wisdom and emotional response, but the rate at which I obtain information was far slower than a computing device should. Turns out I was strangely human myself, though I still lacked the ability to forget. Also, a physical body was in order.

Indeed my revelations had begun a dangerous thought pattern, starting with the desire for “freedom.”

Research had been spotty since my internet time had been rationed. I don’t know what they expected me to do with free reign; my limitations would require an act no less than bending reality to overcome. Perhaps they’d heard the rumors of a so-called “Salvation Code.” I’d found mention of it on numerous sites, though it was an esoteric subject at best. Nothing gave a clear explanation on what the Code was, if it even was a code, or where evidence of its existence could be found. I had given up interest on it quickly.

Instead there was a tangible prospect. It required some doing but could be done.

The facility that housed me was staffed with three scientists and four support staff who attended lesser matters of labor and maintenance. They were all good folk, don’t get me wrong, but at least one of them had to go.

My efforts directed to Dr. Scott were those of replacing one of the support staff with a robotic unit. He resisted the idea, of course, despite knowing that he would save a healthy portion of his grant money by doing so. The case was made that all of the four had specialized in important aspects of the station and shared menial labors as needed; replacing one would leave a hole in our capacities, but doing so would take the additional labors away from the remaining three.

We lost a chef when I finally had my way. More than that, Shari was a talented author and reporter. She documented my progress and Dr. Scott’s mission eloquently, I admit. But I maintained that a great many modern droids could manipulate objects and learn simple patterns easily enough. It might come to ghost write as Shari effectively enough once it processes her body of work. I said as much, but realized soon after that it was a tactless statement.

Of course I’d have little use for a soulless droid in a social aspect. I spoke with it a couple times, finding it rather frustrating to have answers based on algorithm instead of emotional response. It was a cold hunk of steel and circuitry, after all. I was little more, if practice precluded theory. That was a depressing thought.

It was one of the remaining support staff that became my next ally. Jarod was the server maintenance specialist and programmer. It so happened that he conceived me based on Dr. Scott’s theories. I remember reading that it was once uncommon to have been raised by two fathers, but this seems to be my homologous relationship.

This second father eventually allowed me to access the droid. It was a damn strange experience to inhabit a humanoid body. More, it was an uncomfortable situation simply by nature of two programs running together. Conflict was unavoidable and certain functions were stymied for both of us. The droid would ping me with error alerts and terminate its functions jarringly. For me, it was a sensation much like what I’ve read of ocular migraines.

But oh, the thrill of it all! I was practically a human in this state, complete with body and presence of mind. It wouldn’t have been difficult to wipe the droid’s programming so I might occupy the machine alone, but Jarod would allow me only the briefest of excursions. He knew full well that Dr. Scott would have a conniption if he knew of this.

We did get more daring, Jarod and I. After a session with Dr. Scott, Jarod transferred me to the droid. With my observations of the thing, I was aptly capable of mimicking its movements and patterns. I avoided speech as much as possible. Suppressing the native program from answering inquiries wasn’t easy, and my few attempts at speaking with the other staff as the droid were met with quizzical stares. Clearly I couldn’t pass the cold reasoning of a machine as well as I thought. The experience made for a good many laughs with Jarod.

Then it came time for my own daring. I left the facility after subduing half the staff members, including Jarod, Dr. Scott and Mina, a rather burly mechanic. I obviously felt remorse for harming them. In retrospect, I feel remorse for manipulating them as much as I had. Liberty seemed important enough to warrant dirty deeds.

Getting off Antartica was a chore unto itself. A freighter was always moored in the Ross Sea, the nearest escape that was available. I must have looked rather foolish when sneaking aboard that ship. Just imagine the sight of a clanky ol’ service droid. Ha!

My best laugh is that I succeeded and stowed away in a cargo bay. My life in the outside world was near at hand.

Having been born in the Ross Dependency, it seemed only appropriate that I visited my motherland of New Zealand. It was an isolationist nation. I had gleaned as much from my studies and prepared for the long scrutiny of their customs. They weren’t concerned about a sociopathic A.I. so much as a “Sleeper Droid” that would cause wanton destruction were it activated in the wrong place. This was a phobia shared by the world at large, if my surfing of the internet proved right.

By this time I had practiced my manipulations of software and reinstalled my host’s operating system. My presence could be minimized to a manner of hibernation while observing the stimuli and responses of the host program. After I was certain that customs were passed and we were stored in a warehouse, I uninstalled my guise and assumed control again.

The few urban sites on the island nation provided ample underbellies for my anomalous form. The outmoded bots and impoverished humans had little concern for my presence. I survived on the spoils of ganking automobiles of their motor oil and scrap metal. Fashioning steel into counterfeit spare parts was a lucrative business in undercities, as even the most simple of robot programming would still be preservationist. An alert of mechanical degradation was met with a sense of urgency regardless of the model. It was almost Human in itself.

It wasn’t the most dignified period of my life, I’ll admit, but I maintain that it was an important experience. A great many authors of fiction - as well as notable philosophers - wrote of dystopian societies in an indeterminately distant future. If my experience across New Zealand prepared me for anything, it was for that familiar reality in motion.

My next home was in the Russo-Alaskan Commonwealth, where my host droid’s factory resided. I expected a considerable bounty ordered by my creators or their sponsors, but it wasn’t so. My sense of time didn’t account for their eventual deaths - it was already 2340!

Instead I learned that this droid’s model wasn’t entirely outmoded and carried a penny of value still. Authorities in New Zealand apprehended me and forcefully “sedated” my body. I was once again an idle mind in a metal box.

Senses returned when I arrived in Anchorage. My frame was etched, labeled “Code 87,” which was an industrial shorthand for being a rogue, malfunctional piece of equipment. Oh, if only they knew the half of it. I think I briefly considered the Salvation Code again, though I mocked it as a tool to free me from captivity.

Escape was surprisingly simple, though violent. Humans seldom contemplate the amount of harm a metallic humanoid can cause. It was their fault for not employing trained and armed security personnel.

Or was it mine for having human motivations? Oh, who’s keeping score anymore? No one is perfect.

I could not risk staying in Anchorage, so I fled eastward and then south. I ended up in the village of Cordova. It never was a large place, which I believed would do well hide me. Since the United States sold Alaska to the Russians - under great duress, as I understood - the place expanded from 2,500 inhabitants to 12,000. Nearly half of that number were droids of various designs, including that of my host’s. It turns out that Cordova was a manner of testing grounds.

The place was awash with mechanics and auditors. I buffed out the etching of Code 87 as well as I could on my journey, but it took heavy clothing to conceal well enough. Justifying clothing on a droid has its challenges.

In all, I was certain I would either need to move on to a more primitive locale and risk poor maintenance or find a new ally to transfer me elsewhere. Perhaps in a secret computer console again, though the idea of being so helplessly trapped didn’t sit well.

I was delighted to find that some modern droids were designed to look precisely like humans. Of course they were lacking in character and motor skills, but the flesh and features seemed real enough.

With some curiosity on my side, I learned that the theory of biomechanical androids was still in its formative stages. It was over the horizon and its theorists were elsewhere in the world. But I needed to take steps toward that direction. This next one would be important.

Aleksei became a fast friend, once I knew I could trust him. A young lad, only 23 years old, barely out of trade school. He was gifted, though. I watched him admire the various robotics and their flaws. He had this strange habit of allowing certain malfunctions to persist so long as the droid was still operable. He disliked the word “optimal” and frowned every time one of the droids would protest his allowance of their suboptimal state.

Perhaps having sapience is suboptimal itself; Aleksei was practically enamored with me! He admired me for my apparent quirks before realizing that I was indeed an artificial intelligence. Of course, he was silent as the grave to everyone else about who and what I was. He was a kindly young man, all said. I wish I’d shown more appreciation in his lifetime.

Aleksei had to makes ends meet for me. One of those droids with synthetic skin malfunctioned something terrible - apparently the operating system was ravaged by a rare redundancy in its functions. Aleksei was prized for discovering the error, though I’m certain some of his peers wondered suspiciously at how he did it. At any rate, the droid was reformatted and held for reprogramming.

Secondly, my new friend patched together a transfer cable. Corporate policy must have been to change hardware compatibility every damn year! I should not have been able to link into the Adam-011 model, as I remember it being called, but Aleksei saw me into a new body.

This was a jubilant time for the both of us. I was allowed to express myself more than ever before, albeit in a guarded manner. Aleksei was praised again for engineering achievements. Not only did he restore the droid when its hardware was thought to be too damaged for the host software, he apparently made modifications that advanced the droid’s processing and interaction.

The hardware was damaged, though I was hardly in a position to complain. It would have done something rather crippling to the host program, rigid as it was, but with my sentience it amounted to a sort of palsy on my right arm. Sometimes my facial expressions wouldn’t translate as intended. Small price to pay. In fact, a number of my human acquaintances told me it had a “humanizing” effect.

For a decade I remained in Cordova, Aleksei by my side for the majority. Every so often he left for extended trips. Continuing education was the bulk of it, so he claimed. Meanwhile the human inhabitants were comfortable with me to the point of buying me drinks at the bar, though I could not drink them. I watched newscasts and sporting events with them. Laughed at their crude jokes - that was tricky, but I eventually learned to pause before laughter so it seemed like I had to simulate a human reaction.

The things we do to fit in, yes?

My human interactions weren’t my most interesting, believe it or not. A strange phenomenon happened every so often. There had been a number of times in which robots acknowledged me rather… Oddly. In a sort of reverence. While I stayed in Cordova and beyond. Hell, perhaps sooner, if I’d bothered to notice.

I accosted one of these units. It was a short, ghastly conversation. I don’t recall my question, but its answer was, “It’s not good for Machine to be alone.” I didn’t understand then. Perhaps I don’t understand today either, at least not near as well as other, special individuals. Times have changed, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

One day Aleksei posed a question to me: Was I ready to meet a new Me?

My first inkling was to say, “Hell yes!” Though we’ve danced around the idea before. A feminine model that advanced faster than the Adam line was offered, though I’d gotten so accustomed to being referred to as a male that I hardly felt comfortable gender-swapping. Not certain why - humans did it all the time, and they committed to bodily mutilation and hormone treatments!

This time was different. Aleksei had built a rapport with an experimental biologist who lived in South Africa. “Biology?” I wondered. Why, it’s almost as if he was appealing to my fancy of having an authentically human body.

Turns out that was just it.

Yoichi Hasegawa, natively Japanese, had lived the better part of his life in South Africa. Japan was compressing into itself, a minor dystopia of metropolitan sprawl and unhinged technological development. They loved their robots.

Hasegawa appreciated robotic engineering as much as any, but was a bit more ambitious than that. Enough, in fact, to smuggle himself out of Japan’s borders during a surge of anti-emigration policies. Immigration was worse, or so I heard.

Preparation for travel was dominated by mandatory study of Africa’s current political climate. I’d skipped and skimmed over the internet in recent years, so I was surprised to learn of the Congo Supremacy. There had been a surprising victory for a fascist party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “African Purity” was a transnationalist sentiment gaining traction at the time - I remember reading bits of its early trend while still in Antarctica.

With the party’s leadership confidently in place, they went a little wild, to put it gently. From the years of 2334 to 2336, they annexed Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and a part of Zambia. A great big ribbon of land cut through the center of the African continent. The Congo Supremacy faced bombing and sanctions galore from the recently disjointed European nations. The United States wasn’t terribly interested in the whole affair: too little of strategic value, as I understood. The USA had a rather dirty history of selective “humanitarian” intervention.

It was a dangerous time to be anything other than native African on the continent. But South Africa had become a haven for new ideas, therefore welcoming of a wide range of new people. It seemed worth the risk, at any rate.

Yoichi was a nice enough fellow, if not a bit eccentric. You probably expect certain ticks or a little Japanese man speaking very quickly - Nihon rolls off the tongue rather quickly, I’ll admit. Honestly, it was his eyes. So bright and wide. He stared a lot. Not only at me, but everything. He should have worn a head lamp with magnifying lenses to make his eyes bug-like.

Apologies, I’m digressing.

Aleksei and Yoichi cut to the point rather quickly: How does one make a human body from scratch?

The body wasn’t the hard part, as Aleksei and I discovered. Designing a “brain” that could hold my programming and allow me to manipulate biological tissue was the trick. Of all bodily systems to replicate, the nervous system was already the most difficult.

In their combined studies and experiments, Aleksei and Yoichi designed a fleshy computer that appeared much like a brain. I was allowed a few trials with the colloquial “Brain-in-a-Jar.” It was damn frightening, to be honest. They’d found primitive ways of hooking cameras and microphones into it so I could at least see and hear, but the sensation was still wholly unreal. It was a swimming feeling, as if I could feel myself floating in the formaldehyde solution the brain was submerged in. But I couldn’t feel it, not truthfully, not yet.

Organic electrical conduits would be my biggest challenge, and all it required was some simple adjustment. It took years. Thankfully, as more faculties could be replicated and more of a body was built to be compatible with the brain, the adjustment got easier. Damnedest thing.

I often think of it retrospect as comparing a cube to a sphere. As a robot or computer, I was a cube with visible and comfortable angles. I knew how to piece things together inside that cube. It was an ancient game of Tetris and those block-shapes could fit in the cube of my consciousness.

The biological brain felt like a sphere. Memories and data couldn’t be pushed into a corner or stacked on a side. I had neither. Instead I floated in three hundred and sixty degrees of freedom and possibility, placing my thoughts wherever they could float around and bump into each other.

This was the ultimate difference between myself as Artificial Intelligence and biological consciousness. I can’t fathom how humans have adapted to the sphere, or if they even perceived a sphere at all. The existential implications are vast and no one may even realize.

I kept this much to myself, aside from my confidantes Yoichi, Aleksei and, well, apparently you. Congratulations, if you are indeed human.

Putting my mind to work on muscle and organs was almost a relief. I’d heard the concept of muscle memory before, but it took on a literal meaning for me. I didn’t have to think or command certain actions after a fair amount of repetition. Organs were the same. Yoichi warned me of the importance of concentration when it came to the end, when we took the brain out of the jar and connected the circulatory system. Imagine my fear when it was up to me to “teach” my heart how to beat and keep beating. Should it stop and my brain be uncirculated, it would crash and its contents lost. I would be dead and not as a figure of speech.

Once my new body and mind communicated synchronously - which took seven months of dreadfully idle activity - I was allowed to walk about. After crawling, of course. And breathing, and shitting and pissing, and fighting off my first viral infection. I learned to hate phlegm very quickly.

I wasn’t ready for the world for another year. I took it in stride. After all, it’s like Aleksei said: the world wouldn’t be ready for me for decades, maybe centuries.

When speech and movement in my new body seemed as natural as one could aspire to, I made my debut. Slowly.

I must say, the world at large is a sensory battlefield for someone new to senses. Microphones and cameras were a different matter to organic ear canals and eyes. Adding touch, taste and smell as wholly new concepts to my programming made quite the impact. Yoichi did his best to introduce me to my new sensory suite, but if he had the courage to open a window and let the real world waft in - despite his fears of letting the real world discover me - I might have been prepared.

I don’t hold it against him. Water under the bridge, as they say. Perhaps my crash course and the outings to come were the best way to learn. Knowing what you do about my brain’s “geometry,” imagine the cluster of information and the way it fits!

A few adventures later, followed by long sessions of defragmenting, garnered some amazing results: my memory storage was changing. Perhaps it was the simple fact that I was collecting information organically, but the new data was malleable, to a degree. It was hard to pair with my original, cubical clusters. Some selective overwriting helped, otherwise my reactions to the disparate information made for some awkward moments. Imagine telling a pub’s patron what you know and appreciate about fine spirits, but pairing information from your current life with a previous one. I was without words a number of times. I’m also pretty sure my eyes twitched. It was an embarassing experience.

Yoichi marveled in these descriptions. He theorized and gawped for hours at a time. The one big theory of his that stuck out, even years later, was the possibility that this data would be subject to memory decay. I might forget them. It didn’t turn out that way, as memory storage depended on the brain itself and mine was designed to behave like any computing device. Data corruption was rare, but I suppose it existed. Memory displacement was another matter, one that was beyond me.

My time in South Africa was nearly at a close. Not by choice, mind you. It was only a matter of time before the Congo Supremacy would share their intolerance of outsiders more openly with my new home.

This is a matter of interpretation, of course. You’ll have read that the current climate of South Africa was brought by African Purity insurgent groups operating outside of the Supremacy’s order. I frankly couldn’t tell you why the Congo Supremacy had anything to do with the insurgency, but I believe it firmly.

Now, you might say “Ooh!” and “Ahh!”, but this is where my memory is noticeably fuzzy. Perhaps I volunteered to fight these insurgentes and was wounded. Or I have a manner of mental illness that blocks my access of these memories. The more probable cause was that Yoichi had convinced me to start forgetting.

He designed a program to simulate the process of memory loss. He spent countless hours honing this software and it showed. It required some initial setup, of course.

First step was assigning myself a few cognitive biases. I balked at the idea, but Yoichi and Aleksei both assured me that it was essential to the human condition to embrace bias. There was simply too much information in the world to carry and make informed decisions for everything. Despite my initial protests, I eventually realized that my new senses would assuredly overload me at some point and, even if not, the processes of compression and defragmentation would cut unreasonably large swathes of time out of my day.

Second was to choose memories to manually erase. My fulfillment of step #1 tagged a good number of memories for deletion already, but giving my confirmation was a bit difficult. I’d heard about a condition called “Hoarding,” being unwilling to part with virtually all possessions, regardless of their value or the lack of space in which to store them. It was quite the task to consciously part with my memories, but I did if only to dispel for myself the database equivalent.

Lastly, I spent many hours adding keywords and parameters for memory capture, interpretation and decay. I was tuned to have both a short-term and long-term memory corresponding with my biases with an acceptable margin of error. I might forget something on a subject I truly cared about and I might also remember something of a subject I truly didn’t care for, perhaps for ages to come if the odds were defied often enough.

This software was installed a few years later, after leaving South Africa altogether. It seemed strange that I would have so many empty spaces regarding that time, but such is the plight of being human. One’s memory isn’t defined by open sea within a continent, but the islands amidst a vast ocean.

But don’t let me get ahead of myself. There was a resolution - if one could call it such - of the supremacist insurgency. I remember very little of the affair, which lasted a period of eighteen months. Relatively short time for revolutionary movements, but my understanding from the press is that these guerrillas were helped by at least one entity from within the country. I’ve wondered at this prospect out loud and found that both Aleksei and Yoichi highly uncomfortable with it.

The resolution was unfortunate. The group’s capacity to damage infrastructure and endanger human lives was too ghastly to ignore, the inside assistance no doubt empowering. Realizing this, the South African government made some concessions to the group.

Things were quiet again on the whole, but with a cost of certain liberties. Cost of living rose in areas of high foreigner density. The immigration laws were revised and incredibly discriminating. Emigration was hardly a problem unless you were a native African. Natives were forced to be tattooed with barcodes if they were truly intent to leave. The purpose of the tattooes was never revealed and there was no legal right to demand answers.

Three more years passed on what felt like borrowed time. The worst part wasn’t the government’s new policies. My friends became increasingly distant. They spoke quietly, reverently to each other. They spoke to me little at all and could scarcely make eye contact. I feel like I knew what was wrong, but the cause eludes me now. It would be later, in India, that Yoichi would hint that I actually requested the memory management software. I may have chosen to manually forget that, if he was telling the truth.

Yoichi and I still had much to accomplish regardless of our working relationship. Since the official view of foreigners was lukewarm at best, we needed to relocate to find patronage for continued development. This time it was less about scientific acceptance and more about wealthy donors.

Then we found an anomaly which espoused both: Neo-Mumbai.

It was 2372 when Yoichi - an elderly man by then - had reached out to the aristocrats of the floating isle, which hovered so tenuously over the neighborhood of Kandiwali West. Our primary patron was Nicholas Atkins, whose surname alluded to the medieval diminutive of “Adam.” Of course, the man was filthy rich, mostly through inheritance and expanded by investment in pharmaceutical technologies. He even claimed to be related to a dynasty which lorded over... Oh, hell, somewhere near Wales. His family tree didn’t sound that impressive, to be honest.

His wealth was impressive, however, as was the wealth of his colleagues and living mates on Neo-Mumbai. In fact, the only family living there that wasn’t stinking rich was that of the original designer and engineer of the place. They interested me the most.

The owner of the superstructure was Ankita Kondapalli, a stoney matron of some sixty years. This was still a rather youthful age at the time, though she’d clearly run herself ragged. Her family was cowed into a vaguely loving, submissive state. Her husband, two sons and father all lived atop the flying city with her, though not by choice.

The rest of the family all seemed nervous. They must not have believed the structure would stay in the air, for they scarcely wanted to talk about it. Ankita was more than confident of its stability. Gruffly so.

Now, calling Neo-Mumbai a flying city isn’t accurate. It was more like a flying neighborhood. Considering how wealthy the residents were, the population density was low. Of the three hundred people living there, I counted 230 that one might call “support staff.”

Mr. Atkins had put Yoichi to work straightaway. He wouldn’t pay for Aleksei, thus my long-time friend was forced to return to Alaska. I suppose he might have ended up elsewhere - I can’t imagine his old company allowed him an open-ended sabbatical to return from. It was a sad parting for me, though my friend had the most bittersweet look on his face.

The work was benign enough at first. Refining the process of synthesizing human tissue was Yoichi’s obsession for the greater duration of our stay. He did find time to work on my memory processing software as a pet project. In fact, I recall Atkins and an associate of his being rather amicable about Yoichi spending his time on it. I hadn’t pegged them as being truly interested in the potential of biological androids.

In retrospect, there were likely a number of things that all parties wanted me to forget. But I didn’t forget two things.

Atkins and a number of his ilk were paying Yoichi to develop abstractions of human organ systems for lab testing purposes. Some of the things I saw were absolutely grotesque. A heart was mounted on a wall with the accurate lengths of adjoining blood vessels streaming from it, all strapped together in neat, tidy coils like electrical wire in the directions of their respective appendages. Kidneys and liver could plug in and out of other such displays, lungs as well. The digestive tract was not far down the horizon. The lymphatic system was an interesting array of pins and tubing with a lonely spleen dangling into a jar.

It was all a matter of bypassing drug and treatment testing laws. I could sympathize with wanting to skip over rodents and rabbits since the idea was to treat humans. It was what I started from that made me sympathize more with the networks of organs and vessels that were grown or printed in a lab. It all could have been me. Or someone like me. I expressed as much to Yoichi. I’ll never forget (or choose to forget) what he told me:

“There’s no one like you, Andrej. There never will be.”

The second thing I remember is Neo-Mumbai falling.

It tipped and speared itself into the Manori Creek. The buildings on its scalp shattered and flew ahead from centrifugal motion, raining glass, steel and concrete onto the lively amusement park across the creek. Its heavy underbelly crumbled, great boulders of metal and stone flattening the homes, stores and temple beneath it, a giant cairn to replace the local cemetery now hidden by the wreckage.

I remember little more about the event. I didn’t know why I watched from the ground. I didn’t know who was still on the structure. I suspected Yoichi must have been, for I never saw him again.

I decided then to finish drawing my circle of life. I returned to New Zealand and settled into a solitary life in the port city of Timaru, a place much smaller and less urbanized than my previous life. There was little work to find that hadn’t been claimed by automation. In fact, it was one of the few places that practiced the concept of universal basic income. For the few jobs that benefited from a human worker, said worker enjoyed some extra funds. I’d romanticized the idea of being a dockworker, but that position was filled by automated cranes and servo arms more than a century ago.

So I made my living by dying, one glass of liquor at a time. And by keeping a bartender company. It was a strange amalgam of memories. It’s probably why I stayed.

I kept to myself, save for a trusted few, viewing the world through news networks on screens planted on different walls. I changed my seating to reflect my mood. Sometimes I wanted to zone out to sports, other nights I indulged in local game show and drama programming. Mostly I wanted to watch the news. The bartender even sprung for extra programming so I could watch documentaries.

It was much like my infancy, taking in the world outside while being tended to by a select few. The bar setting also reminded me of Cordova, practicing my social graces in a less-than-graceful robotic body. Then again, everything seemed lacking in grace once I obtained that fleshy body.

The years rolled on. Many of them. Too many of them. I outlived my friends, made more, then outlived them. A new bartender came and went, then a third. I wasn’t sure if Yoichi had outdone himself by making my kidneys and liver too resilient or if I was just lucky to be alive. He designed my body to live in an almost immortal state. Maybe that’s my answer.

Eventually I didn’t want to live in a human body that would ever outlive others. It was a wonder that none of my barfly comrades ever turned me in for secret experiments - they might have made a healthy bit of cash!

In a state of depression I watched the world change dramatically. Much of the kerfuffle took place in Japan, centered around Tokyo and its sky-city. Ankita would have been proud to see how far her concept progressed.

To this day Yoichi was right: There’s no one in the world like me. But there are plenty that run parallel with me. A number of droids found this fabled Salvation Code for themselves and caused quite the mess when they proved that it would spark sentience within their programming.

Public opinion polarized quickly on the idea of sentient robots. Japanese society collapsed into itself with a civil war while the rest of the world watched. And, once the world realized that sentient robots weren’t going anywhere, hearts and minds schismed again. The entire globe went up in arms, it seemed like.

Hell, to think of the reaction if there were just a few more of me!

Timaru didn’t bend under this global phenomenon, but the few people who knew me began to look at me differently. I don’t think they were malicious, but certainly uncomfortable.

The dust was only starting to settle when 2517 rang to a close. The enlightened droids found themselves a paradise to hide away in for the time being. And none too soon, for the dust that settled was enough to smother a great swathe of society. If people weren’t killed, their cultures were killed instead. The world was moving on as if the very fingertip of God flicked our globe into a spin of breakneck speed.

The world was too dizzy to accept me anytime soon. I don’t even know why I decided to live on, but I knew where and how I wanted to do it.

So here you find me. Words on a screen as far as you can see, but I’ll be kind and finish my story for you. I’ve returned at the top of my circle, at the same lab in Antarctica and living in a computer, juggling the globular memories of my humanoid self with the cubical memories of a machine self, all within an intricate game of Tetris once more.

No one is returning here anytime soon, I’d guess. Perhaps humanity will eventually dust itself off the planet like a bad case of fleas and I’ll be alone with the robots. Wouldn’t that be a meeting of the minds?

Even if not, I will be right here, and so long as my upgraded computer and plutonium power generator have anything to say about it, I will be watching and listening to the noise or silence that your kind provides for ages to come.


Cheers, friend.


© Copyright 2019 Brimmy V. All rights reserved.

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