Welcome to the seventh grade...again. And again.
Fitting in at a new school is tough for any kid. But what if you were a robot? Roger is one of the new children--sophisticated androids created to act and talk and think just like normal kids. Only these "kids" are machines. A mysterious toxic plague has infected the human population, and the only way to have children is to manufacture them. But machines don't grow up like normal children. They can't grow. They just keep repeating the same year over and over again. At some point Roger's owners--er, parents--will replace him with an older Roger. The problem?
Roger doesn't want to be replaced.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
It awoke suddenly. For a second it was completely confused as input flooded its senses: ocular receptors registered light and shadow; blinking, it began to channel the flood of data. Visual reconnaissance indicated a ceiling covered with acoustic tiles and suspended halogen lamps. Then, closer, life forms peering down, observing. Sentient life forms of a fairly evolved type. Homo sapien. Human. They were...people.
There were smells it classified quickly: sterilization chemicals, several forms of lubricants. A faint scent of some kind of organic-based nutrient, also. But what?
There were accoustical disturbances, from least to most intrusive: noises. A soft sighing: air filter. Low electronic humming: diagnostic and monitoring equipment. Its sense of touch indicated that many of these were connected to its body through stick-on sensors.
And something else: rapid inhalation and exhalation. Source? The humans. All signs indicated elevated heart rates coupled with rapid respiration. The humans appeared to be in a highly agitated or excited state.
The faces began communicating. He deconstructed the words instantly: standard English, North American sub-variety.
"--appears to be aware, Dr. Naughton."
That face he recognized as being female. The clues were obvious: lack of facial hair, eye shape, and the tone and range of the voice consistent with female vocal patterns.
"The mental processors should be on-line," the one called Naughton answered. He bent forward. "Yes, the eyes are following movement "
This was clearly a male. There was no facial hair, but a subcutaneous scan revealed that the hair had been scraped off. A micro-enhanced scan indicated that the sheared hair was already starting to grow back. The voice was lower in timbre, too, consistent with male vocal patterns.
"Is he awake?"
A third voice! It could only see two humans. This third voice was a cross between the male and female.
A voice recognition test indicated an adolescent male. Twelve years old. A child. This child was the main source of the excited breathing.
"It's not a he, Adam," Dr. Naughton protested.
"Well, you'll have to call it something," the female said with a laugh. "He needs a name."
Naughton sighed. "Even you're projecting human attributes on it," he complained. "But, very well--a name." He looked at it. "Your name is Roger."
It processed the name. Roger. Roger.
"Does he understand you, Dad?" asked the child. "I sincerely hope so." Dr. Naughton checked the diagnostic monitors plugged into Roger. "Everything looks fine. Why hasn't he spoken?"
The female laughed again. Roger experienced an odd sensation. He liked it. "Because you haven't talked to him yet, Doctor," she suggested, correctly. The conversation so far had been directed around Roger, and not to him. There had been no call for a response. The female leaned forward, and Roger could smell a lingering scent of lilac on her. He liked that, too. "Can you hear us, Roger?"
"Yes," he replied.
"All right!" the child exclaimed happily. "Dad, you really did it! He's awake!"
"Well," Naughton said cautiously, "we'll have to check him out, of course, to make sure Roger is working properly, and not just saying things at random. But I'd agree, it certainly looks like we've not been wasting our time. "He looked at Roger. "Do you know what you are and why you're here, Roger?"
He considered the questions for a moment. He ran them through his memory, but came up empty. "No," he said.
Dr. Naughton nodded. "Understandable, since that information hasn't been programmed into you yet. Roger, you are a machine that my assistants and I have created. Technically, you are an android. Do you know what an android is?"
Roger answered: "A robot constructed to look and act like a human being."
"Right." Dr. Naughton smiled. "And that's what you are. A machine that looks like a person, and is programmed to act like one."
"Here," said the female. She held a mirror in her hand. "Take this and look at yourself."
Roger saw a human face gazing back at him from the mirror. A child, about the same age as the Adam unit. It had mid-length fair hair, and blue eyes. Roger. He looked fully human. "This is... interesting," he said, handing back the mirror. "I am an Adam unit?"
"No!" Dr. Naughton looked startled. "The Adam ... Adam is a human child. You are a replica of a human child. Do you understand the difference?"
"Of course," Roger answered. He had made a logical mistake, and filed this away for future reference. "He is real, while I am artificial."
"That's right," said Dr. Naughton, greatly relieved.
"I am your designer and creator. My name is Doctor Brewster Naughton. Adam is my son. This," he gestured at the female, "is Doctor Elizabeth Bradley. She is primarily responsible for the design of your mental processing circuitry. You have an incredibly sophisticated computer for a mind, one that will enable you to think as quickly as a human being, and react accordingly."
Roger understood. He was a machine, created by these people in their own likeness. He frowned slightly. "For what purpose did you create me?" he asked. "What is my function?"
"Interesting question," Dr. Bradley said. "Something we all want to know."
"Then let's answer it," Dr. Naughton said. "Roger, you have been created because we wanted to be sure that it was possible to create an android. You are the first we have ever assembled and fully activated. You are our prototype. And if you work out the way we sincerely hope, you will be the first of many."
"I am... unique?" Roger asked.
"Correct--for now." Dr. Naughton smiled. "So
we're going to be studying you a lot. We have to find out if we've succeeded in making you as like a human child as we possibly can. It will mean a lot of tests, and work. You don't mind that, do you?"
"Mind?" Roger was confused. "If you created me to test me, then that is my function. I would have to be malfunctioning to object."
"I like that attitude!" Dr. Bradley said, with a grin.
"And I'm going to take advantage of it, bust me."
"But I can play with him, right, Dad?" asked Adam.
"Of course you can, son," said Dr. Naughton.
"That's an important part of the testing process. We have to be certain that he can pass as fully human before we can let him go with you out into the world."
Out into the world. The concept intrigued him. His memory disks were loaded with data about the world. It would be interesting to access that knowledge firsthand. He wished to have--he scanned his memory for the right word. Yes. He wished to have ... experiences.
* * *
The testing was long and thorough. Adam was sent away for long periods of time, while Dr. Naughton and Dr. Bradley poked and prodded. Roger found some of the tests strange, but he did as he was told every time. Presumably the purpose for these tests was evident to his creators.
While he was being tested, he learned a great deal about himself. There was little in his memory concerning androids. He asked why this was. Elizabeth Bradley smiled. "Because you're the first, Roger. There isn't really any information on you yet. You'll have to add it to your memory as you go along."
But I don't function as normal children do?' he asked.
"No," she agreed. "You mimic their functions, but your body is very different from theirs. For instance, everything needs energy to exist. Children get their energy, as you should know, from ingesting food, and breaking it down in their bodies chemically. This releases the energy they need to live."
"However," Dr. Naughton added, "this was far too complex for us to even consider replicating in your body. So instead, your energy comes from a very small battery that we've placed inside your thorax. Your replicated skin has photoreceptors in it that gather in solar energy, and they charge the battery up during the day. So you don't need to eat or drink."
"And so you don't have a sense of taste," added Dr. Bradley. "It would have been pointless to try to duplicate."
"I am inferior to real children?" Roger asked. It was a notion that intrigued him.
"In some ways, yes," Dr. Naughton admitted. "But you are superior to them in others. For example, your skeleton isn't made of bone but of high-density tungsten steel. It's far more durable than a human being's. You're not at all likely to ever break any of your bones, short of having a tank run over you. And it makes you far stronger than a human being."
"So there's good news and bad news, so to speak," Dr. Bradley added. "You lack some things people have, but have some things people lack. You're not a human being, don't forget, but a simulation of a human being. You're meant to look and act like one, not be one.'
Roger nodded that he understood. It was going to be educational to discover these differences. He was looking forward to it.
Dr. Naughton and Dr. Bradley seemed to be pleased with his tests, and finally they allowed Adam back in to talk to Roger. Roger was pleased, because he wanted to examine the human child and see what he might discover about their similarities and differences.
Adam seemed a bit subdued when he came back, though. "Is he safe?" he demanded, looking at Roger oddly.
Dr. Naughton sighed. "You've been watching too much bad TV, I see," he said quietly. "Adam, Roger is absolutely safe. We've built a lot of restraints into his logic paths. He can't even think about harming you or anyone else. Remember those stories by Isaac Asimov I had you read?"
"The robot stories?"
"Right. Well, we incorporated Asimov's Three Laws into Roger here." He patted Roger's hand. "He can't harm a human, or allow one to come to harm. And he will preserve himself only when it doesn't contradict the first law."
Adam scowled. "What about the other one? Obeying all orders he's given?"
"Well," Dr. Naughton said slowly, "that's not there. You see, until he's learned a lot more about life, Roger could get into trouble if he obeyed all orders he was given. For example, what would happen if someone told him to get lost? He'd have to obey it. Since he's going to be around kids a lot, we figured that we'd give him the inclination to obey orders, but to use his best judgment before doing so."
"In other words," Elizabeth Bradley added, "if you were thinking that you'd got your own personal slave, you're out of luck. Roger will make his own mind up about things."
Roger had been reluctant to break into this conversation, but something had been said that intrigued him, and he wanted to check it out. "I am to be around children?" he asked.
"That's right," Dr. Naughton answered. "As soon as we're certain that everything is okay with you, you're going to be going to school with Adam."
"School?" Roger accessed his memories. A building where children were taught to become productive members of society. "That should be interesting."
"That's one word for it," said Adam. "Not the one I'd pick, though. But I guess you'll have fun coming to terms with it."
Fun was in his vocabulary, of course, but Roger had no practical idea what the word meant. Perhaps he would learn that, along with everything else, at this school he was to attend.
™ & © 1999 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Torkids, 1999. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110812575660