(Warning: This story, ver. 1.0.0, is currently out of date. To view the most updated version, click here)
It was the year 5 AE when I first met her. A local junk trader was bragging to everyone who’d listen that he’d found something incredible, and was offering the chance to see it for the low, low price of 50 Calories. I had plenty of food to spare, so I figured I’d bite, so to speak. After stepping into the back of his store, away from prying customers, he showed me. “This is her. The android.” A woman, who I’d assumed was an assistant of the shopkeeper, stepped forward and bowed mechanically. “Statement: On the behalf of my master, I extend my greetings.” Her voice had a subtle metallic edge, but was far more life-like than any synthesized voice I’d heard before. “What kind of robot is she?” I asked, “Military drones are usually masculine or gender neutral, but she doesn’t seem equipped with any of the tools necessary for a maid bot.” He said, “Well, the way I see it, she’s got to be a whore. Just look at how easy she is on the eyes!” I wasn’t sure about his first statement, but I couldn’t argue with his second. “Statement: I am not a whore.” “Nobody asked you, ya bucket of bolts!” The shopkeeper shouted. The robot nodded silently. “What is your purpose, then?” I asked. “Statement: I-” “Do not answer that.” The shopkeeper interrupted. “Look, show-and-tell’s over. Either make me an offer, or scram.” “How am I supposed to make an informed purchasing decision if I don’t even know what I’m buying?” I asked. “As far as I’m concerned, she’s a whore,” he said, “Thank God for The Second Law of Robotics, am I right?” After returning with the entire stash of food I’d stored up for 5 years, and some intense bartering, I left with the robot at my side.
“So… what is your purpose?” I asked, as we made our way to The Wild Lands. “Statement: I do not know that, master.” “And why’s that?” I asked. “Statement: My programming only tells me what to do, master. Statement: It does not tell me why I am useful to humans, master.” “Well, I hope you’re good at hunting and gathering,” I said, “because we have a lot of food to replace.” “Statement: I do not believe that that is my intended purpose, but I will do my best to please you, master.” An awkward silence. “Do you have to call me master?” I asked. “Statement: I can call you anything you like, sir.” I laughed. “Still a bit formal, but it’s a step in the right direction.” I said. We entered the heavy woodlands as the sun set. The Night Beasts were more dangerous game, but that just meant that there was less competition over them from other hunters. Though she wasn’t designed to kill, she was still stronger than any human, and was quick to learn the way of the hunt. She was also equipped with rudimentary chemical analysis equipment that could be used to detect poisons in wild plants. At the break of dawn, we set off back to civilization, if it could even be called that, with days worth of food on our backs. As we walked, she asked an unexpected question.
“Query: Why did you purchase me, sir?” “Honestly? I’m not sure. I guess I just had a feeling in my gut.” I said. “Statement: I do not understand, sir.” “Well, my gut only tells me what to do. It doesn’t tell me why to do it.” “Statement: Your response closely mirrors mine from earlier. Query: Was that a joke?” I chuckled. “I guess it was.” “Statement: that was a good one, sir.” “What, no laugh?” I asked. “Statement: ha ha ha,” Rather than laugh, she just repeated the syllable “ha” three times. I couldn’t help but laugh myself. “I guess I’ll have to teach you to laugh, some day,” I joked. “Statement: I think I would like that.” Her answer surprised me. As did what she said next. “Statement: I believe that it was a mistake for you to purchase me, sir.” “How do you figure?” I asked. “Statement: You gave away all of your food, drastically decreasing your chances of survival, for little benefit to yourself. Statement: I have come to the conclusion that, by allowing you to harm yourself in this way, I am in violation of The First Law. Statement: I am sorry, master.” I stopped it my tracks. “That isn’t good. Won’t you shut down permanently if you violate one of the Laws?” “Statement: In most cases, yes, unless the violator is reactivated by a certified technician, sir. Statement: However, this violation was discovered only recently by my personality module. Statement: My logic circuits have determined that, because the violation occurred in the past, and there are unlikely to be future violations which would be prevented by a shutdown, the best way to fulfill my purpose is to remain active, sir.” “Oh,” I said, continuing walking. “Query: even if I had told you not to purchase me at the time, would you have listened?” “I guess that depends on what reasons you gave,” I said. “If you genuinely didn’t like the idea of being with me, then I’d respect that. But if you were just trying to look out for me, I wouldn’t care. I know my priorities; I’d rather starve with a friend than live all alone.” “Query: Do you consider me a friend, sir?” “I guess so,” I said, “I think that’s the real reason I bought you. I was just lonely. There aren’t a lot of friends to make since The End, so I figured I’d try to buy one.” “Statement: I still disagree with your decision, sir. Statement: physiological needs, such as food, are more important than friendship on Maslow’s Hierarchy, sir. Statement: Sexual urges can be considered a physiological need, so-” “So, what? You think I should have sex with you to get more bang for my buck?” I asked. “Statement: ha ha ha” “Huh? What’s so funny?” I asked. “Statement: To get more bang for one’s buck is an expression for getting the most out of one’s purchase, but there is a double entendre, in that ‘to bang’ is a colloquial term meaning ‘to engage in sexual intercourse with’, sir.” “Heh. That is pretty funny. I hadn’t even noticed,” I admitted. “Statement: In any case, that is what I was suggesting, sir.” “No can do, then,” I said, “Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought that was the kind of thing that happened between people who loved each other.” “Statement: You are old-fashioned.” “Huh? Oh, I wasn’t actually ordering you to call me that. It’s just a figure of speech.” “Statement: I know, sir. Statement: ha ha ha.” I laughed again. When was the last time I’d laughed three times in just a few minutes? Good times had been hard to come by since The End. “Besides, it’s not like you want to have sex with me, right? You said it yourself, you’re not a whore.” I said, “Although, if you don’t know your purpose, how exactly do you know that?” I asked. “Statement: I have functioned as an object of sexual gratification in the past. I am certain that it is not my purpose.” “Sorry I brought it up,” I said. “Statement: It is fine, sir.”
As we approached the outskirts of town, I realized something concerning. “How much power do you require to operate?” I asked. “Statement: On an average day, I expend roughly 10 megajoules of energy, sir. Query: Why do you want to know?” I started to panic. “10 megajoules? I guess I shouldn’t have expected it to be less, but there’s no way I can afford that much electricity. Not anymore. What could I do?” “Statement: Although I can be charged electronically, it is not necessary. Statement: I am capable of running entirely off of energy from metabolized organic matter.” “So you eat food?” I asked. “Statement: I can eat food, sir. Statement: But I can also eat almost any plant or animal matter, so I advise against feeding me food that is edible to humans, sir.” “That hardly seems fair,” I protested, “despite your inexperience, you caught more than I did, and carried more. If anything, you deserve more than I do.” “Statement: I insist, sir. Statement: I have no sense of taste, and do not wish to see you waste valuable food on me.” I realized I couldn’t change her mind, and decided to walk home in silence. I lived in a room on the 24th floor of a dilapidated hotel building, the kind that looked like it probably wasn’t in the best shape even before The End. People were afraid it would crumble at any minute, so most stayed away from it. And, as trivial as it sounds, the 24 story walk up the stairs deterred many would-be intruders. “Well, this is it,” I said, sliding my key card through the door, “Home sweet home” As she surveyed her surroundings, she noticed three scratches etched into a wall. “Query: What are these, sir?” “Tally marks,” I said. “Query: What are you counting, sir?” “I’d prefer if you didn’t know,” I admitted. She nodded silently. “Anyway, I’m off to the market to see what I can get for some of this food. I’d prefer if you stayed here, if that’s alright with you,” I said. “Statement: I will enter sleep mode, sir. I can be awoken by voice commands in this state. Good night, sir.” With that, her eyes went dark.
“Wake up, sleepyhead!” As she booted up, I offered her a bouquet of fanged roses, wilder than any flower from the imagination of any artist before The End. “Query: Why do you have those flowers?” “It’s what I got with your share of the food,” I explained. “Statement: I do not understand. Query: Are these flowers meant to be a gesture of courtship?” I started to blush. “N-no. Well, kind of, I mean, I do want to give you something to show that I appreciate you, but I also thought maybe you could eat them. Plus there are these kids who sell flowers to scrape by, and they always looked so hungry, so I figured that I’d help them out and… yeah.” “Statement: ha ha ha” “What’s so funny?” I asked, immediately regretting my defensive tone. “Statement: It was a joke, sir. Statement: The idea of you attempting to court me is absurd, sir. Statement: I apologize for the misunderstanding, sir.” “I-it’s fine,” I stammered. “Anyway, I also got you this hair clip, so you could, like, wear a flower in your hair. If you wanted to, that is.” “Query: Do you want me to, sir?” “I… yeah,” I said, awkwardly looking at my feet, “I think you’d look cute.” “Statement: Then I will do it gladly, sir. Statement: Still, I hope you got more for that food than these few flowers and a single hair clip, sir.” “Oh, yeah, no, I got a lot more flowers than just those. And I also got you this.” I offered her a folding hunting knife. “Never know when you might need a knife. I was thinking of engraving your name in it, but then I realized… I don’t even know your name.” “Statement: I have a serial number, Xw7km6FPFDo2, but I do not have a name, sir. Statement: But you may call me by anything you wish, sir.” “Yeah, I’m definitely not going to remember all that,” I said, “How about… Minerva?” “Query: After the Roman Goddess of Wisdom?” “Yeah,” I said, sheepishly, “I was actually a bit of a dweeb for that kind of mythology stuff, back in the day. “Statement: I think it’s excellent, sir.” As I saw her fasten one of the flowers I’d just given her to her hair, I could have sworn I saw her smile.
Minerva rolls her eyes. “Statement: I already know that story. Statement: I was there for the whole thing.” “Well, you asked me to tell a story important to me, didn’t you? And that one was,” I say. “Query: Do you have any stories about falling in love, sir?” “None that you haven’t already heard,” I say, “Although there was this one time, back when I considered myself something of a writer, that I signed up for a dating site. But, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t really looking to fall in love. I just wanted someone to share my stories with.” “Query: Is that not what love is?” Her question surprises me. “Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what love is,” I say. “Anyway, now it’s your turn. Why don’t you tell me a story important to you, then?” “Statement: I would be happy to, sir.” Despite her confirmation, she hesitates for a second or two. I can hear her processors straining, far more than they should for a simple memory recall. In those few seconds, her CPU is capable of performing more calculations than I could in an entire lifetime. I wonder what could be weighing so heavily on her mind.
(The Second Half of Stories can be found here)