(Written by Ace Dreamer; posted 28 July 2012)
Mid November 2009, Dublin.
Janet sneaked. Into Arthur's room. Unheard. And, she planned, unseen. Invading his privacy.
She still feared there might be extra surveillance. A tell-tale hair she might displace. But, no. Arthur wasn't that paranoid. And, her AI core was plugged-in, down in the workshop, to the security system. All ready to clean-up after her.
Janet knew she wasn't his sister. After all, she wasn't human, and 'sister' was a biological relationship. But, he'd called her 'family', and family looked after each other. Looking after him properly meant she needed to know him better.
She'd been in the room, before, of course. Dropping-off freshly cleaned clothes (if he wanted them ironed, he could do that himself!). She'd even brought him a morning cup of tea, twice, when she knew he had a morning appointment, and he'd had a hard night.
But, this was different. A deliberate intrusion. More than just a surface visit. A deep trawl.
She started with the books, and the magazines under the bed. He really needed to get another girlfriend, maybe, one day, get married. She'd have to think about that, for herself. She didn't have quite the same hormonal drives, but she felt the need for companionship. It'd be interesting to find out what her sexuality was like.
Every book was scanned, every magazine minutely perused. She didn't need just the text, she needed everything. The scuffs on the covers, the faint stains of finger oil, any turned corners, never mind any annotations (there weren't any). Frustratingly, many of the books were second-hand, and at first pass she couldn't tell what of their history was Arthur's, or previous owners.
Next, the cupboards and closets. Mostly disappointing, though all the clothes were folded in ways she anticipated. Just a few interesting nick nacks, she carefully recorded. Pay-dirt! Right at the back of a deep closet was a cardboard box, fortunately not sealed. With forensic care she opened it, and found his original college hand-written notes.
She already had absorbed all his school books. They'd been in a box in the spare room, and she'd good enough excuse to root around in there. They'd been gold dust, too. In particular his jotter, with all the random notes.
That fitted well with his book list, all the ones he'd ever read - apparently his aunt taught him keeping track of things like that was a good idea. She'd already tracked-down and read as many of those texts as she could on-line, and was quietly searching second-hand bookshops, or if needed buying on-line, the ones she was missing. All the ones in the house were, of course, read.
This allowed her to reconstruct most of his mind model. The big gaps were to do with Kevin Wright. She was pretty sure his interactions with Arthur had been massively influential, but no real records existed. Reluctantly, she concluded that ex-girlfriends needed checking as well - she didn't like to poke into those parts of Arthur's life.
She could feel her own mind filling-out, becoming more complete. Janet knew she wasn't Arthur, wouldn't want to be him. She was her own person. With her own aims and purposes.
But, where else would she get the raw material to build her actual self from?
Start December 2009, Dublin.
It was getting a bit much. Arthur and Janet were effectively the manufacturing arm of a multi-million dollar industry. Plus two human secretaries. Kevin Wright and, he guessed, Nurse Blake. Five people who did packing and shipping. Eleven people.
He'd modified the original Body Builder so it could be directly controlled by Janet's AI core, then built two duplicate copies. Same friendly quirks as the original, so, no problems. Eventually they'd understood Kelly's crab-bot well enough to add a remote control interface, and it was now Janet's second remote, confined to the workshop. It helped.
"Quantity has a quality all it own", a quote attributed to Stalin. That was one good reason to mistrust it, but when you started to multiply things a thousand-fold life certainly started getting more interesting. The "Wright Frame" was now so popular he'd backed-up orders for over two hundred; he'd only sold about a hundred, so far. Projected sales of over two thousand for the year.
Interesting, it didn't seem to be something Fenspace had picked-up on. Here in Mundania (one of his science fiction friends called it), it was going really well. It was only months later that he found 'not licensed for off-planet use' in the terms and conditions. Kevin Wright claimed that made it 'more sexy', would increase sales on Earth, and, anyhow, people who wanted one would just ignore it.
He'd reasonably complete plans for a fully automated factory when Miss Lidzt ('Dana'), his secretary, came to him. She still used a gym to hang-on to as much of her good looks, as The Machine had given her, as possible. While there she got to know another recently joined member, and things were going quite well. Then she noticed the way discussions always drifted to her work, and began to wonder about industrial espionage. The suggestion that her exercise partner knew where to get loans at really good rates also troubled her.
Arthur sat her down, and talked to Dana about her finances. Then wrote her a large personal cheque that'd take a lot of immediate pressure off. A call to Kevin Wright and they had contact numbers for a reputable investigations agency, that dealt with industrial problems. They agreed to take the case, and strongly recommended getting the police involved.
"If I had an Angel to spare, she'd be going undercover at the gym, about now", thought Arthur.
What worried Arthur was that either he'd need a new AI to run an automated factory, Janet certainly wouldn't do it (and he wouldn't let her). Or, he'd need a lot of humans on a workforce, and any industrial secrets he had would disappear. It wasn't that he distrusted people, in general, but with the wages he could pay and the bribery levels likely someone would sooner or later crack. Also, if he went for the AI factory, the 'taking jobs from humans' people would be all over him.
Then there was Alice. She'd arrived last week. Her waved appearance wasn't quite as slick as the Hollywood Machine managed, but it was quite good enough to pass as human. Unfortunately, the first thing she did was raise the back of her shirt to show him her serial number. And, it was one of his.
He'd paid to have her stay in a local hotel, and a small stipend to keep her going. Janet had gone out clothes shopping with her. The only other thing she needed was a Nokia phone charger - better than relying on bare wires and guesswork.
Her story was she'd been waved up into consciousness, and effectively told she was an exotic sex slave. Somewhere in Australia. They seemed to think she'd be barely sentient, but she'd been smart enough to escape, stealing the other two, as yet unwaved, robots. So, $150k worth? How on Earth, or off it, had they planned to make their money back?
She made her way with a friendly group of Aussie students, who were returning to Dublin. The unwaved robots were cached in Australia, and she could tell him their serial numbers. Yes, they were his.
It'd taken him a while, but Arthur'd worked-out how to contact Sarah. A proposed contract for collaborative work, with some carefully placed misspellings scattered through the text. A covert message soon appeared, and he memorised it's content before it self-erased, as he thought it might.
Let's see how they could upset the slavers...
Start December 2009, Dublin. (After Alice arrives)
Mystery solved. Owner traced. Australia. The batch of robots, that included Alice, and the two unnamed, unwaved, others were easily traced. "Melbourne Universal Robotics".
Arthur made the call himself, with the canned 'this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes' at the start. Their lawyers didn't want to take any risks. He'd miscalculated the time difference, so he got an engineer, come in to do some early tests, at 8am their time.
Explaining that he was ringing from the manufacturer of "Wright Frames", he was interrupted by the engineer. Was this about the break-in and theft? Arthur explained that no, this was the first they'd heard of it, and he was trying to track-down some robot frames, by serial number.
The engineer said rather more than his employers were likely to appreciate. Arthur got a full run-down on their research program, and, ways they planned to modify the robots which would quite clearly break the warranty. He was able to make some suggestions that the engineer found very interesting, and Arthur could hear he was taking notes. All hard tech, of course.
After half an hour on the phone, the engineer said his manager had come in. Arthur was transferred, and there was a rather more cautious discussion. A tentative agreement was made that, once insurance was sorted out, Arthur would regain full ownership rights over the stolen robots, in return for supplying replacements, at only 20% of the standard price. Arthur strongly recommended 'lo-jacking' the new ones.
"OK, Alice. Looks like we can fix your immediate ownership issues. And, those of the two robots you rescued." Alice didn't seem too happy about being owned by anyone, but agreed the situation was an improvement. Janet gave her a hug, which seemed to surprise her.
Next day, it took quite a while, but eventually Alice agreed to being examined by Janet. Janet revealing she herself as an AI was probably the clincher. Letting Alice look inside Janet's AI core settled things.
Alice remained conscious throughout. Arthur ended up acting as Janet's assistant, handing her tools and instruments. The waving process was remarkably restrained. The skin had become more realistic-looking, and there was a metal and plastic 'brain' inside her head, where Janet kept her transceiver.
Images taken from multiple angles didn't seem to help much. Janet ran some image distortions and analysis algorithms. Alice was fascinated as the results were displayed on a prototype holo stage, on a workbench.
It looked like three old mobile phones, innards exposed, without SIM cards. Grown, merged and distorted to look like a human brain. Arthur pointed out a connector, on the newest of the three, which he said might be usable to allow Alice to back-up her mind, externally. Or allow her to connect to external devices, and control them.
Alice shivered a little, as Arthur and Janet discussed what might be possible, and Janet broke-off to give her another hug. Alice insisted she wanted, had to, know now, rather than later. A careful design gave them a cable, fully under Alice's control, routed to one of her standard external connectors.
Arthur couldn't follow what came next, even though Janet kept a display in the loop; it was just too fast. Afterwards, Alice thanked Janet for the new security algorithms, and they played back a sound clip, that had somehow been recorded.
"You idiot! Why did you use all three mobile phones?" Another voice replied, "You said stick the phones in the robots, and pour in the handwavium. There was enough room for three phones, so I stuck them in. Do you want to do this yourself?".
The first voice "I'm not going anywhere near that stuff! The phones were all from the recycling bin, so, I guess no problem. I'll get some more for the other robots, tomorrow. We can test this one, tonight, when Mr 'Big Boss' gets back. Now. Robot, Can you hear me? Your name is 'Alice', and you will do everything I say. Everything".
While Janet distracted Alice with the prospect of fitting one or more SIM cards, and acquiring a mobile phone capability, Arthur entertained black thoughts. He knew people, who knew people, who broke legs, and other body parts, for money. Such people very likely existed in Australia.
It was awfully tempting to use his new-found wealth in... bad ways.
Mid December 2009, Dublin.
No legs had been broken. Or other body parts. They had the two cached robots, from Australia. And it looked like a good name for the thieves would be 'Boskone'. They'd disappeared without a trace.
Arthur'd spoken to his science fiction friends, and 'Boskone' was apparently from the "Golden Age", the 'Doc' Smith "Lensman" books. Space opera bad guys, involved in all sort of criminality, but particularly drugs, and slaving. It figured that there'd be people who saw handwavium, and asked "How can this make me money, and I don't care who gets hurt".
Alice was delighted to be reunited with them; they were the closest thing she had to family. She'd decided on the surname 'Melbourne'. Alice worked with Janet, to figure-out exactly what'd happened when she was waved. Janet remarked she was learning engineering at an amazing rate, faster than she thought she herself'd have done. Motivation?
Looking back, it seemed almost inevitable. But, Janet hadn't seen it coming, either. Alice had waved up 'Bea' and 'Chaz', three second-hand phones in each. What no one expected was that Alice'd find herself looking out through two new sets of eyes.
She'd deliberately put SIM cards in all the six phones, with their mutual phone numbers on, so they could all easily talk to each other. Instead, all three brains seemed to be 'running' her, and no amount of shut-downs, SIM card shuffling, and reboots seemed to fix this.
She'd even tried a Faraday cage test - they were all still in contact with each other. Janet, returning from a consultancy trip 'up', sighed, and took Alice out to do clothes shopping for her two new bodies.
The thinking speed of an AI seemed to give Alice time to simulate three different persona, but she called two of them 'masks'. When she relaxed it was clear she was still one person in three bodies. She seemed to think she'd murdered her sisters, before they'd even been born.
Janet wasn't happy about Alice's state of mind, so she suggested Arthur involve her in the new factory project. She seized on this distraction with all six hands, and was soaking up new skills at a remarkable rate. Janet remarked it was social skills she herself'd been lacking when waved-up; Alice seemed to have started with these and was acquiring technical ones.
As sometimes seemed to be the case, the answer to the factory issue was 'all of the above'. New Body Builders were being built for long-term heavy-duty production use, and in the process scaled-up into something it took a crane to move around. Alice was really pleased to be the AI that made the factory run. Human staff would be employed, as well, to work with Alice on all parts of the production process, except the actual robot frame building.
Alice'd learned another trick. Apparently if she made a cable connection to a phone, then waved it up, it would run a distributed fragment of her mind. This didn't make her any smarter, but it certainly allowed her to split her attention far more ways. While these 'mind phones' could still make normal calls, her mental field didn't seem to be using RF to exchange thoughts, and worked at least over tens of miles. Later, they discovered, world-wide.
She'd been on a privacy and ethics course (or Bea had, anyway). Now she proposed that all factory staff get and carry a waved phone, at work, as part of their terms and conditions. And could use it for personal calls, too, at reduced call rates. She'd keep people's private affairs, private.
Arthur was dubious. Janet remarked it would massively assist cooperation, safety, and probably help a lot with industrial espionage. Kevin Wright commented that group minds weren't covered by privacy legislation, though the rest of them thought that a bit disingenuous. Janet said she'd been unsure, but she'd run it past Sarah, on her last visit, and she seemed to think it was a good idea. So it was settled.
Alice had found time to acquire a boyfriend. Or rather, the 'Chaz' part of her handled this. A rather shy sociology Masters student, who seemed fascinated by her, on a professional and romantic level. Kevin Wright suggested she not get 'distracted' while operating heavy machinery. Which caused some embarrassment, and, Janet suggested to Arthur, private experimentation.
They'd had a bit of a shock. Janet got permission to take Alice 'up' to see Kelly, who was fascinated with the prospect of meeting her. Alice and Kelly had chatted, on a secured line, quite a bit before the visit. Everything was OK until they got about 50 miles up. Alice shut-down.
Janet regretted not having a better communication system as they continued on their flight plan to O'Neill Station. On arrival Kelly and Janet checked Alice out, and could find nothing wrong. Messages from Dublin revealed Bea and Chaz were OK, as were all the mind phones, but they had suddenly lost Alice. Janet didn't, quite, hurry her consultancy work. But, it was agreed the less urgent parts would be done either from Dublin or on a later trip.
At about 50 miles up on the return trip Alice suddenly revived. Initially she didn't know what'd happened, but quickly resynchronised with Bea, etc. Back in Dublin she again checked-out OK. Experiments showed she was all-right, anywhere on Earth, as long as she didn't go too high. There was no clear explanation.
"Guess we now know why Fen don't buy our product", remarked Arthur.
Start July 2010, Dublin.
It'd been a busy six months. Arthur was amazed he was still sane. Assuming he was. Janet was OK, and Alice had become a not-quite member of the family.
He was now a tens-of millionaire. The Tax Man had taken a good chunk, of course. But, after Eire's recent financial problems, Arthur liked to think he was doing his small bit to help.
They'd diversified, a bit, and become a small telecom provider, even though they hadn't got a spectrum license; their competitors were still complaining about that. Volume was still limited by Alice providing mind phones - she had to wave each one herself, using one of her humanoid bodies. The base stations were less of a problem.
He'd attended his first Fen convention. KandorCon. Amazing. In many respects he was still a 'Dane, but his friends said there was still time for hope. He'd taken his aunt along, and Janet, of course. Alice attended by teleconference; they still hadn't solved her tie to Earth, and she was a lot bigger, these days.
The company was running smoothly. Kevin Wright was still Managing Director, but he'd let the Sales Director role slip to a new hire; he still kept Personnel Director for himself. Arthur remained Technical Director, Janet was Head of Engineering, and Alice was Production Director. Arthur's aunt recommended someone who became Financial Director.
Arthur had changed his name by deed poll - he was now "Arthur Arthurkin". People accused him of being a bit recursive, but he refused to discuss the matter. Some were amazed to find his previous name had been "Arthur J. Arthur"; no he would tell them what the 'J' stood for and claimed it was 'Just'.
He'd found time to get his pilots license, and personally flew the team, plus aunt, to Luna, for the con. They took a pass near some of the finished and still on-going construction works. Fenspace never ceased to amaze him. One of Alice's mind phones was wired-in as an emergency pilot, she'd got her license about the same time he did, but they weren't planning on admitting its presence.
Civil rights for AIs was his main reason to attend. He spoke briefly, himself, but was mainly there to introduce Alice. She spoke passionately, about being a person with no rights at all, less than a wild animal. The light-speed delay wasn't too much problem and she was well received. The mind phones in Arthur and Janet's pockets gave Alice an interesting perspective.
Australia fell into line shortly after KandorCon. They probably had the most to lose. AIs were now persons with full rights, but details were still being thrashed out, like competency, and age of majority. Turing Tests looked likely, but understandably "Voight-Kampff" tests had been voted-down. Particularly when it was pointed out quite a few Homo Sapiens would fail one. Organised religion was, predictably, up in arms.
Arthur had attended quite a few con items, and toured the various presentation and dealers rooms. He headed straight for the second-hand books and media, but suddenly realised he could afford to buy new. Then, he went back to the second-hand stuff. He came away with several armfuls.
Just listening to talk in the bars was interesting. Nearly as good as the technical presentations. SMOF (Secret Masters?) doing this, First Fen doing that - Stellvia got quite a few mentions, but not, he noticed, O'Neill Station. Once he thought he saw one of the Angels, in the distance, but it was difficult to be sure. He avoided the more raucous stuff.
They say the retrospectroscope is the only 100% reliable scientific instrument. But, he still felt he should have worked it out. After they came back from KandorCon he took Bea into the lab, and went over her minutely, component by component. It was tedious, but the only thing he could think of that they hadn't tested.
All the components matched the parts list he'd used for the ten O'Neill Station AI Crew, Nurse Blake, and Janet. No, he wasn't going to wave-up an AI based on exactly one of those frames, just to test a theory. Even though it was possible the Hollywood Machine made all the difference.
Then, he double-checked. There were some PIC micro-controllers used in a number of places that he always programmed himself; Kevin Wright had bought-in pre-programmed ones for production. On a hunch, he checked his version against downloads extracted from the externally-sourced ones.
All the code and data matched. But, what was unused space in his, contained text. Their terms and conditions. Which included Kevin Wright's:
'Not licensed for off-planet use'.