It was one of those cold November days, the kind where the clouds seem to huddle against the ground for warmth. A bitter north wind was driving sleet against the windows of my workshop, and that one pane which I never seemed to get around to fixing was rattling fitfully against the gale.
Six months of steady work had led me to this point. Taking a Mitsubishi Meido-san, Model One, and upgrading the hardware was only the first step.
The original Meido-san had been a multi-purpose domestic robot. The machine's skin was silicone and fairly realistic to the touch, but while its contours were anatomically correct, there was no "there" there, as they once said. (Some Japanese pornos had featured suitably altered Meido-sans, but they were nowhere near being "fully functional". And Mitsubishi had made a point of mentioning that such alterations voided the warranty.)
The Meido-san was capable of about four facial expressions, and the mechanism for making those faces was obvious when in motion.
My first task had been to adapt the synthetic flesh used in prosthetic limbs for use as an external covering for a Meido-san chassis. That stuff is a cellular automaton and it's tricky to program; it took me two weeks of twelve-hour days to program the face alone--but that was the most important part, anyway.
Although CelluFlesh can convincingly simulate the movement of muscle tissue, it doesn't have much tensile strength. Replacing the rather noisy servomotors was out of the question, so even with realistic skin covering her, my Meido-san would still sound like one when it moved.
Programming was the hardest part of the project. There had been open-source kernals floating around the internet for years, and a few people had programmed some very feature-rich AI routines--but a lot of those required some serious hardware upgrades, the kind that required a rather large "backpack" with active cooling. I wanted my improved Meido-san's hardware to fit inside her chassis.
There were hardware kits; I'd bought a couple of them and hacked something together. It wasn't very elegant, but it worked, and the machine had passed all its self-tests. The important part was that the main processor fit in the machine's skull, and the memory modules fit in the "toaster" in her chest. With the CelluFlesh sealed over it, she looked human--well, human, with FireWire cables coming out of her solar plexus, anyway.
Today was the day I would finally do a full test run of her OS.
The hardware finished its self-tests and dropped to a command prompt; I keyed the boot/loader program and let it run. The OS was a couple gigabytes, so I let it download while I tidied up the shop a bit; finally the Meido-san announced, "Boot complete. Ready for startup."
I had not had a chance to change the voice. The original Meido-san used a voder, piecing together stored phonemes to make words. Mitsubishi had released an English module for it, but the woman who had recorded the phonemes had been Japanese, so the Meido-sans had Japanese accents. I had wanted to install real speech synthesis hardware, but had been forced to remind myself that you should only perform one hardware upgrade at a time....
I rattled more keys; and after a few moments the thing's eyes opened. I pulled the FireWire cables and the flesh obediently melded closed, invisibly, covering the ports.
"Awaiting instructions," she said.
#205: Don't believe this, part one.
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