Harvey-467 Makes a Bride (part 1)
© Mark Terence Chapman
There comes a day in every android’s existence when his thoughts turn to love; for Harvey this was that day.
To a cyber, love is a quasi-conscious confluence of programming and experience arriving at a logical conclusion: it’s time to take a mate—someone with whom to spend the rest of one’s existence. Yet, there was more to it than that. Although his was a world of logic and probability, Harvey-467, like all modern androids, was capable of emotion—of excitement, of wonder, of love.
At precisely 6:00:00.0 a.m., as always, his internal chronometer terminated his downtime hibernation cycle and kick-started his internal systems. His eyelids snapped open to face a glorious sunrise emerging from the ocean, seemingly just outside his window. For the purposes of his nightly autonomic internal maintenance and housekeeping, any part of any room would have sufficed. He chose this exact spot as his standing “sleep” station precisely because it faced the rising sun.
Of course, he was too far from the shoreline for the scent of salt and suntan lotion to reach his hypersensitive olfactory system, and too far even for his acute hearing to pick up the sound of surf crashing on the distant beach. Still, Harvey liked to imagine he could. He replayed sensory recordings in his quantum cortex. The scents and sounds of the beach and the tickle of the morning zephyr were as real to him as if he were standing there wriggling his toes in the still-cool sand beside algae-covered rocks. He felt the warmth of the early-morning sun on his face. It was a wonderful way to begin the day.
Every sentient should awaken like this, witnessing the miracle of rebirth as each new day dawns. It allows one to put problems in their proper perspective and begin the day with optimism. Ah, but of course that isn’t so simple for humans, is it?
As he usually did when he thought of the differences between bios and cybers, he felt sorry for those made of mere flesh and blood. It’s not their fault they’re handicapped by the limits of their biological systems. His lips curled upward in fond remembrance of some of the human friends he had lost over the years to age, illness, and accident. Pity.
The image of mayflies flashed through his mind. Like humans, they were born, lived but the briefest instant of time, and then were gone.
A century of life is nowhere near long enough. Barring catastrophic accident, I have centuries yet to look forward to. Humans could accomplish so much more given the time. Imagine if da Vinci were still alive today. What could his genius achieve, given modern materials and technology coupled with a millennium of accumulated knowledge and experience?
Still, humans are capable of heights of insight and creativity that we cybers can’t hope to aspire to.
Yet aspire to greatness, Harvey did.
If I wanted to, I could produce a copy of the Mona Lisa that is indistinguishable from the original—to human eyes, anyway—but nothing creative, nothing truly original. Once, just once, I’d like to be able to create something that has never existed before.
The few nanoseconds Harvey set aside for these reveries were enough to remind him of the messy procedure humans used for manufacturing new humans.
So inefficient. It’s amazing that bios evolved at all. How could something so flawed have created us?
He shook his head in wonder, as always, at the thought.
And the whole ridiculous dating ritual. What an absurd way to find a mate! It makes so much more sense to design and build one. That way you’re sure to get exactly what you want.
Those thoughts in turn reminded him that this was the big day.
I have to decide what I want in a mate. I do hope they have everything in stock.
Harvey glanced down at the compilation of brown and black plastic, metal and synthofur at his feet.
“Once I choose a wife, I don’t want to have to wait days for all the parts to arrive. Do I, boy?”
Fido did a somersault, amid the whir of servomotors. He ended by sitting up and panting with his head cocked to the side and one ear raised as if listening.
Harvey smiled at his pet’s antics. “I wonder how quickly she’ll want little ones, and what features she’ll insist on. What if she prefers a Hyperdyne 4453 neural processor instead of a Pulsar Systems 612?”
Fido cocked his head to the other side and Harvey reached down and rubbed it.
I suppose that’s all part of the fun of getting to know one another. We can pick names and decide on voice modulators together. Life is a glorious adventure, and today it gets even better. He rubbed his hands together in glee, a big grin splitting his handsome face.
Harvey took only a minute to dress. He didn’t need clothing, of course, but there were the proprieties to observe. Humans best tolerated those who were different when the differences were obscured. Flaunting his perfect, never-aging, never-sagging physique wasn’t the best way to blend in.
A quick comb through his wavy blond hair, a dimpled smile to check his pearly white molecular-diamond-reinforced teeth and a twinkle in his blue eyes, he was almost ready to go. A cup of sugar to top off his bio batteries completed his morning preparations.
I have plenty of time to browse through the catalog and see what I like before I have to report to work.
In an instant, his integrated wireless communication processor had tapped into the Andro Make-a-Mate Corporation online catalog and a split-second later he was mentally perusing its contents.
“Let’s see…what do you think she should look like, Fido?” Fido merely wagged his tail.
Harvey was presented with a vaguely humanoid but featureless avatar and began designing.
“The same height as me; slender.”
The formless shape began to take on distinctive characteristics as he enumerated them.
“Blonde like me? No. Long raven-black hair for contrast, with green eyes. I like green. No, not that shade; a bit darker, I think. Ah, much better. Large, medium, or small bust? Small I guess. Breasts on an android are pointless, aren’t they?” He grinned at his double entendre. “But we do have to conform to expected norms, do we not? Round face? No, oval with a widow’s peak. An upturned nose with a sprinkling of freckles—no, not that many. Perfect. Next, personality traits. Let’s see… A sense of humor is a must, but not low humor; something more sophisticated. A keen intellect, of course; unfailingly polite, and an appreciation of the arts.”
Harvey had a weakness for art. If there was one thing he yearned for in his existence, it was artistic talent. He sighed at the thought.
Although cybers made superb scientists, engineers, and mechanics, no one had ever been able to capture the spark of genius that turned a housepainter into a Michelangelo, or a technical writer into a Shakespeare; thus there were no algorithms to impart those abilities to an android.
At least it allows humans the dignity of a few niches where we haven’t yet surpassed them.
He shook off such thoughts and resumed his litany of the perfect wife.
“She should be a teacher, I think. French. It’s such a beautiful language. Don’t you agree?”
Fido yipped and wagged his mechanical tail.
“Better yet, I’ll order the multilingual pack. That way she can decide which language she’d prefer to teach.”
He continued in this fashion for a lengthy period of time—four entire seconds—partly because he couldn’t decide on a leisure-time passion for the future Mrs. Harvey-467. Should she be interested in horticulture, human history, or crocheting? Finally, he decided to go with all three.
It costs extra, but she’ll be more well-rounded this way. If she expresses an interest in something else, we can always upgrade her software later.
Another second and the order was complete and paid for.
“That was a healthy chunk of my savings, but it was worth it. They say she’ll be ready to pick up at precisely 4:00:00.0 p.m. today. I can hardly wait. Now I just have to come up with a suitable name for her. But that can wait. Right now I have to catch the ‘rail to work. I mustn’t be late.”
Harvey petted Fido once again and left his house for the monorail station, calibrating his pace so he arrived precisely as the door to his car opened. The irony was that because his office was only nine klicks from home, he could have gotten to work faster by running than by taking the ‘rail, given how many stops it made. But after that nasty incident a few years back when a speeding android wiped out a little old lady on the sidewalk, cybers were much more circumspect about such things.
Harvey had a 47.62-minute ride ahead of him, giving him plenty of time to choose a name for his bride-to-be. Of course, because his brain consisted of a multicore, multithreaded, multichannel quantum computer, he had the ability to process many different tasks at once. He easily could have gone through a list of every sentient being on Earth—all nineteen billion of them—and selected a name during the short walk to the ‘rail station. However, he wanted to savor the process; thus he waited for the ‘rail ride so he could give the task his undivided attention.
He began with Aala and discarded names one by one until he reached Zygma, setting aside a few for further consideration. He carefully analyzed every name for etiology and meaning and narrowed the choices down to three: Jessica, the first name of the one person revered by all cybers; Eva, because Eve was a bit too biblical for his taste; and Maya, for poet Maya Angelou, one of his favorites. In the end he chose Maya over Jessica. He liked the way it rolled off his tongue. Besides, there were far too many other cyber Jessicas already, named for Jessica Kohn, the woman acknowledged as the mother of the quantum cortex that was the seat of consciousness for cybernetic life forms.
Harvey checked his internal chrono and was disappointed to find that only 1.21 minutes had passed.
Too bad. I was hoping to spend more time enjoying the selection process. Ah well, what can you do? There were only a few million variations to sort through, after all.
With more than forty minutes remaining to his ‘rail ride, he turned his thoughts to work. Tapping into the office mainframe, he opened the first customer file and began reading. As a claims adjuster for the world’s second largest insurance company, there was always more than enough work waiting to keep him occupied, just the way he liked it.
The world was a busy, crowded, dangerous place; things went wrong and sentients were always getting hurt or killed.
If my arm gets crushed, they build me a new one; if my head is decapitated, they reattach it. But humans… He shook his head in sadness.
Harvey hardly noticed the rest of the trip, or the elevator ride up to his office on the 112th floor. He buried himself in his work. Sooner than he would have expected, it was nearly four o’clock and time for him to quit for the day and meet his new soulmate. He hurried out the door, a bounce to his step and a song on his lips.
His pitch-perfect baritone hummed “here comes the bride” the entire way. It was a 6.13-minute walk to the local Andro Make-a-Mate office. He resisted the temptation to hurry, savoring the anticipation.
He arrived at the entrance to the unassuming brick building so nervous he was almost unable to bring himself to open the door. Fortunately, it opened for him automatically.
He stepped into the lobby and there she was. Maya looked every bit the way he had specified, down to the small mole above her lip, the shiny hair cascading down her back, and the elegant manner in which she stood. Harvey’s nervousness evaporated instantly; he was awestruck by her beauty. Mmentarily unable to move or even speak, he simply basked in her loveliness.
Maya’s voice was melodious; pure honey. “Darling, you’re 2.05 seconds late. I’ve been waiting here ever so long.”
Then something changed. “Surely you don’t expect me to have to wait for you every time we’re to meet? That’s unacceptable. I simply will not let you inconvenience me this way. We’re going to have to get your chrono checked out, and review your motivational algorithms.” She nodded her head decisively.
Stunned by the disparity between her sweet voice and her harsh words, Harvey blinked twice and then began to stutter. “I-I’m sorry, sweetheart. I lost track of time. I didn’t mean… I won’t… I just… I-I’m sorry.”
“I should hope so. The very idea!”
Her tone changed again. “Well, don’t you worry, we’ll have plenty of years together to get you straightened out. Don’t just stand there, darling, get my bags. I have a wedding to plan!” Her radiant smile was blinding. “By the way, I charged a few things to your account.”
Harvey looked past Maya at the pile of luggage that was nearly as tall as she was. Why does she need so much luggage? She’s an android for goodness sake. How many different outfits can she wear? I own seven.
Puzzled, he hesitated. Big mistake.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Surely you don’t expect me to carry my own bags? And where’s your vehicle? I’m certainly not going to walk home. Or were you planning to carry me over the threshold from here? Unbelievable!”
Harvey simply stood there, mouth working like that of a freshly-landed mackerel. His state-of-the-art central processor and sophisticated neural net were having trouble correlating the conflicting input.
What-what-what-what’s happening here? This isn’t the sweet love-of-my-life I contracted for. Something’s gone terribly wrong.
“Goodness gracious, am I going to have to do everything myself?” She paused, staring off into the distance for a moment. “There. I’ve called a cab. It’ll be here in 2.38 minutes.”
“Good.” Yes. That’ll give me time to talk to someone about this little mix-up.
He excused himself and walked over to the receptionist behind a faux-marble counter in the back of the lobby.
“Excuse me,” he glanced at the nameplate on the counter, “Michelle-762, but I need to speak with a manager.”
She went unfocused for a second. “Mr. Johnson will be out in just a moment.”
A tall gray-haired man approached from the back office. “Harvey-467? It’s a pleasure to meet you. Is there a problem?” They shook hands.
“Yes, sir, I believe there is. Maya isn’t at all what I asked for. She looks fine, but her programming is all wrong. She’s supposed to be sweet and charming and loving. She’s none of those things. She’s a shrew!”
“My dear sir, I double-checked the specifications you selected myself before you arrived. We at Andro Make-a-Mate Corporation pride ourselves on customer satisfaction. No android goes out the door unless we are certain that its specifications match the customer’s order precisely. She meets every requirement you set out. She speaks six languages; she likes gardening, human history, and crocheting; she’s polite; and she has a marvelous sense of humor. You didn’t specify ‘sweet and charming and loving.’”
“But-but she’s a shrew!”
“Sir, please! Keep your voice down. You’ll hurt the young lady’s feelings.”
“Feelings? I don’t think I could hurt her feelings with a sledgehammer!”
Maya’s dulcet tones wafted across the lobby. “I heard that, you unfeeling weasel! How dare you!” She began to cry.
“See, see? She called me a…a biological!” Harvey recoiled in horror, growing desperate at this point. “I can’t go home with that!”
If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was manic-depressive, or bipolar!
“Sir, it’s too late to alter her specifications. Her personality matrix is already established. It will evolve on its own from life experiences, but we’re no longer legally allowed to alter it. She’s a conscious sentient being. Only she can elect personality modification at this point.”
Harvey’s central hydraulic pump sank. Fat chance of that.
Maya spoke up, her tears gone and a lilt to her voice. “Darling, the taxi’s here. Do hurry up and get my bags. I’ll go outside and speak with the driver. He was 6.89 seconds late!”
Harvey sighed and said the only thing he could. “Coming, dear.”
* * * *