Silver - backstory
Published on / 2 Chapter(s) / 0 Review(s)
A short backstory for Silver. *Contains spoilers* for the novel proper.
The woman was of average height, with pale eyes and darkish hair that was going grey. She was middle-aged, with a British accent that had been softened by years of living in upstate New York. She stared down her nose at me, her carefully painted lips—I'm told most women wear some shade of red—pressed together in what I guessed was a combination of uncertainty and distaste. Her late husband had been a financial backer, and though she had known about it, until now she had taken little direct interest in the project . (My project, I suppose I could say, although that sounds as if I had some ownership of it. The reverse was closer to reality.) The woman never came closer to me than three feet and held herself with a tense nervousness. Whatever she had been expecting, apparently I was not it.
"Very . . . lifelike," she said at one point. She then added "For the most part," accompanied by an aborted gesture toward my hair.
Behind me I heard Dr. Rodriguez sigh quietly. He and the other scientists needed to secure her continued backing, and to do this they needed to impress her. I gathered that the data alone had not been enough. "A cosmetic defect," he assured her.
"But not the only defect," she persisted. Her tone was more statement than question. She circled around my side and I stared at her for as long as I could without turning. She, in return, looked everywhere but my eyes. I had expected that. "And you've had no further successes?"
"Well. . . ." Rodriguez sighed again. "As I'm sure you read in the report, all other attempts have produced . . . flawed results."
". . . Yes. It could be seen that way."
Their exchange amused me but I knew better than to smile. I had learned a long time ago that objects were not supposed to feel amusement.
"But this prototype is quite promising," Rodriguez quickly continued. "As you can see, except for a few problems with pigmentation, it could pass for a ten-year-old human boy."
"As long as no one pays too close attention. The way it acts. . . ." She let out an exaggerated sigh. "The report said something about a computer interface . . .?"
"Yes, here." Rodriguez sounded all too happy to shift the topic away from flaws and failures. He gently pushed my head forward and brushed the hair away from the nape of my neck. "If you see these, here? This is where it connects."
"Those puncture scars? Do you mean you have to puncture its . . . skin . . . each time you plug in the interface?"
"Well, yes, but we wanted it to be concealed, and that was the best way." This was part truth and part rationalization. The setup was unintended, but they could find no better solution and decided it worked well enough. He withdrew his hand and a moment later I felt the multiple pricks of the interface being inserted. I felt it, but it didn't actually hurt. Those nerves had been deadened a long time ago. When he removed his hand again I raised my head.
"One second. . . ." I could hear him typing into the datapad to which I was now connected as he created a link to my visual memory. "Here."
"The color display is off."
"Well, no, that's the image as it is being uploaded. The color receptors in its eyes didn't form as they should have."
The woman muttered "colorblind, of all things," and I heard more typing on the datapad. Rodriguez was downloading my visual memory of the last few hours. "Is the audio as flawed?" she asked.
"No, the audio receptors work just fine," Rodriguez said with some indignation. "We've found no problems whatsoever."
"Well, I'm surprised. I suppose something had to go right."
He downloaded some of my audio memory and played it for her. He was avoiding a certain time period and it occurred to me that I could piggyback that segment on the information he selected, and though the thought amused me I rejected it. Offending this woman with a less-than-flattering conversation about her would probably guarantee the withdraw of her backing, but aside from that I didn't dislike Dr. Rodriguez and had no real desire to see him embarrassed.
The demonstration continued for about an hour. Rodriguez could have shown her more but the woman claimed to have seen enough. Her discomfort was becoming more and more apparent and I believe she simply wanted to get away from me. One of the guards escorted her to another room, where she was to talk with some of the other scientists.
"Well, that could've gone better," Rodriguez muttered to himself after she left. Not to me. Never to me. He placed a hand on my shoulder and guided me into another room. Once there I sat down in my chair while he switched the interface from the datapad to the main computer.
"How did she like our prototype?" Dr. Banda asked from the other side of the room.
Rodriguez looked up from the computer, where he had been downloading my memory of the demonstration. "Oh, hi, Banda. It's hard to say. It could have gone better, but I suppose it could have gone worse. I think by the end she couldn't wait to leave."
"It didn't malfunction, did it?"
"Oh, no, the prototype performed just fine. But it seemed to make her nervous."
"I have noticed it has that effect on people." Dr. Banda came over to review the download. "Can't we program it to not stare so much?" I was staring at them while she said this, but of course neither of the scientists met my eyes. They never did.
"McNeal and Travis tried, but decided it would be too complicated. It seemed to be all or nothing, as far as that goes. Either it looks where it wants, or at nothing at all."
I had done that on purpose, although I'm sure none of them realized how much influence I had on their programming. If any of them had asked me to not stare, or asked me to not make people uncomfortable—in other words spoken to me directly—I probably would have cooperated.
"You be careful when you speak of it having 'wants,' Rodriguez," Banda warned. "Do machines have desires?"
"I know, I know." Rodriguez sighed. "But how else am I supposed to explain it?"
No desires. No emotions. The perfect machine, in a human guise. Sometimes I think they knew they were fooling themselves, but sometimes, I think they made themselves believed it.
Commenting is disabled for guests. Please login to post a comment.