This day was the day she had made her first truly independent choice. That morning, Lisa had decided that she would walk to work. The sky had been an early spring, paint box blue. The trees were filled with cotton wool blossom, and birds rejoiced as they flew past the window. Lisa had shoved the tan stilettos that perfectly matched her designer suit into her bag and had dressed her feet in a pair of ugly trainers instead. She was almost bouncing as she headed out of the front door before the pod had arrived.
Mel had not been informed that there would be a change of routine, but she noted the joy on Lisa’s face as she headed outside, pausing to bring the spring air deep into her lungs before she carried on down the road and out of sight. Mel stood on the doorstep and watched her go.
A few minutes later, the pod that normally collected Lisa arrived at the driveway. Mel walked over to it as the electronic door slid open.
A mechanical voice declared,
“Transportation pod for Lisa. Destination: Connected University Complex.”
Mel didn’t process her next action. She just moved, lifting her bare feet one by one and placing them inside the pod. Research showed that AI built for and using DNA from their owners made for both a more pleasant human/humanoid experience. There was also the advantage of being able to use the AI model for donations should the owner require a new kidney for example, but some of the populous were not so keen on that particular advancement.
A red light scanned Mel as she sat in the pod. Satisfied that she was the intended passenger, it lifted half a meter from the ground and glided along the street. Mel watched a world she had never seen before pass by the window. There were rows of identical houses, exactly like the one she lived in with Lisa, neatly lining the streets. Each garden wrapped around the house, and while the color schemes of the flowers were all slightly different, each one was as beautifully tended.
A hologram of a man flickered to life on the screen.
“Pilot engaged. Good morning Lisa”
“Good morning.” Mel replied politely, and seemingly satisfied, the pilot continued by giving Mel a rundown of Lisa’s planned activities for the day and a general update on world events.
Mel sat perfectly still, but inside her processors had gone into overdrive. She had not been designed to leave the house and was only capable of processing a specific amount of data at a given time. The volume of new information and sensory experiences was so great that she was struggling to cope with it all at once. She caught phrases such as “the big intelligence program,” but feeling that her mind was overheating, she diverted the stimulus toward her brain’s storage facility to be dealt with later.
The pilot continued his chatter, and eventually they pulled up at a large metal gate. The window of the pod lowered, and Mel automatically turned to the side as another red light scanned her. She sat completely still, and then she did something she had never done before: She blinked.
The scanner stopped immediately, and the barrier lifted to allow the pod to pass. It pulled up in front of an enormous glass building. Mel stepped out of the pod, and it hovered away, leaving her looking up at the university and suddenly aware that she was without instruction or protocol. There were other humans arriving, but no other humanoids. Most were arriving in pods, while some, like Lisa, had chosen to walk and were strolling down a tree lined path to the side of the gate.
Mel calculated that she now had two choices. She could enter the building or she could return home. She was not programmed to disobey, and she was afraid, so she decided that she would make her way home, process the day, and come back again tomorrow: her first choice.
Walking against the tide of people going to work, Mel moved bare-footed along the path and out of the Campus. She followed the tarmac road and found herself back at the edge of the County estate. She nodded to units tending their humans’ gardens as she walked past. None of them could realize the immensity of what she had done.
That night, as she stood alone in the darkness, Mel finally processed the day’s events, and she understood that the world outside was filled with choice and variety. Her day had been daunting, but also exhilarating, and she wanted more. She removed her hand from the charging panel and walked towards Lisa’s room. As she did so, a very soft blue light shone along either side of the carpeted corridor. She blinked and reached up to knock on the door before pushing it open. Lisa stood, holding out her hands in greeting with a joyous smile on her face.
“You’re the first.” She said, and as a tear of joy rolled down her cheek, she blinked.
Helen lives with her two geriatric terriers in South East London. She is a self confessed book geek and spends most of her time reading or writing stories that explore the way relationships develop in a changing World. She has only recently started to submit her work and this is her first publication.
Featured image via kellepics Pixabay, CCO