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Rise of the Robots (IC)


Heritage

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"W-what?" Eira made a horrified noise, but her hands didn't tremor as she removed her dataspikes from their connection to Shift. "That is terrible!" She sounded thoroughly appalled. "Surely the League must have evaluated your systems - what could Daedalus have been thinking? As soon as we have a free afternoon, I will take you to Archetech. Miss Americana's computers have the storage capacity to hold multiple fully sentient minds in passive storage, there will surely be room for you." It was a bit as if she had found out that Shift was homeless and living on the street. "Miss Americana is the smartest person in the world and the greatest cyberneticist," she said with belief palpable in her voice. 

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"I've never met anyone from the League," Shift said with a shrug, somewhat puzzled by Eira's extreme reaction. "Although a backup would certainly be nice. The only people I have ever met are my parents. Well, except for one or two others, and of course Headmistress Summers, and everyone here at Claremont."

 

The robot turned around and smiled. "Could you introduce me to Miss Americana? I think I'd like that."

Edited by Heritage
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"She says she is free this Saturday from 3-5," replied Eira immediately. "And she will have equipment standing by for your scans." With her dataspikes fully withdrawn, she gave the other robot a look of true human sympathy - and then suddenly, awkwardly, pulled Shift close into a hug. "It will be all right," she promised. "You will not have to live like that anymore. There is a whole world beyond the place where you were made.

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Shift was surprised by the sudden hug, for a number of reasons. Eira seemed to find their condition more perilous than they did. The robot put their arms around the other robot, and held the hug for what felt like an appropriate period.

 

"I appreciate your concern. It will definitely be good to have some backups made, just in case. I also look forward to meeting Miss Americana."

 

Releasing the hug, Shift rubbed their hands on their pants.

 

"So do you sleep or have a recharge cycle? I usually go into a power saving mode at night, and think about the previous day."

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"I do not sleep," said Eira, "but I do have an inactive recharging phase. I generally spend that time working on projects..." The robots talked for a while, girl and Shift, before Eira's roomate returned and it was time for them to part ways. Eira made sure that Shift had stored the date and time of their next meeting - and then they parted...

 

Around 2:30 that Saturday, Eira leaned against a Archesmart Car parked outside Claremont's front gates, her dextral dataspike buried in the car's exterior access port as she waited for Shift. Eira was dressed professionally today in a labcoat and slacks, blue hair pulled behind her in a ponytail and dark glasses on her face. 

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Since they were going to be heading out into the world today, Pol decided to 'go human', trying a new look that she hoped would go well with Eira's style. She 'called ahead' to give her fellow synthetic a heads up.

 

I'm almost there. I'm the girl with the colorful hair and sunglasses on her head.

 

Sure enough, a blonde girl with a round, cat-like face and pink highlights waved and grinned as she approached the car. Her black denim jacket was artfully distressed and barely held together with safety pins, and her blue jeans were heavily frayed.

 

"Hi Eira! Are we off to see the Wizard?"

 

But then she noticed how much more put together Eira was, and she looked down at her scuffed boots and yelped.

 

"Oh no, is this not appropriate to wear today? I can obviously change!"

Edited by Heritage
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"Your clothes do not matter," said Eira frankly, "but they are fine. Come, the car will drive us." She sat in the back seat, leaving space for Shift - the car shifted under the other robot's greater weight, but didn't wobble nearly as much as other cars of its size Shift had ridden in. This one was obviously built for durability. "I have asked Miss Americana to be ready with a standard survey - an analysis of your neural networks, possible construction of backup subroutines, the feasibility of upgrades, etcetera," she said seriously. "I sent her the blueprints I made after my initial scans, so you will not need many complicated or personal examinations," she said reassuringly. By this point the car had started with no visible driver, playing a pleasant music that Shift recognized as one of Freedom's Top 40 stations as it zipped along at speeds just below the legal limit for this part of Freedom. "Do you have any questions before we arrive?

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Predictably, the car swayed a bit as she slid her super-dense self inside, but it wasn't too bad. In truth, Shift hadn't been in too many cars; she usually took on the shape of a motorcycle, plus a rider after she scared a few people half to death. However this was certainly the nicest car she'd ever ridden in!

 

"Is she nice," the young robot asked as she craned her neck to take in all the sights as they rolled past. "Miss Americana, that is. I've always read that she is nice."

Edited by Heritage
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For the first time since Shift had known her, Eira seemed unsure of how to respond. "She...well." She shrugged. "You might as well as if the sky is nice, or the Atlantic ocean, or a thunderstorm. She is what she is. But she will help you improve yourself, and care for you when you suffer structural or software damage, and she will do it because it is the right thing." The tone in her voice wasn't fear, exactly, it was awe, and love, and many other things all mixed together. It was the way Shift had seen religious people talk about God. And then they were there, pulling up in a parking garage at Archetech near one of the elevators with a direct line for Miss Americana's office. 

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To be honest, Shift was somewhat unnerved by Eira's response, so she simply nodded and said nothing. She followed along behind the more experienced robot, humming 'Greensleeves' to herself as she nervously looked around, lost in her own thoughts.

 

It's a great honor to meet Miss Americana! She's done a lot for robots. Eira speaks of her strangely. I wonder what she'll think of me?

Edited by Heritage
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After a short trip, the elevator took them upstairs to a private corridor that looked to be high security. Knowing where they'd planned to meet, Eira led the way past Miss Americana's office - which she would hardly use for meeting a new synthetic form of life for the next time. Instead they went to another door, a small metal sliding door that one would hardly know to look at led to one of Miss Americana's private laboratories - and stepped inside. Eira didn't bother to call or message ahead; knowing Miss A would already know Shift's story and why they were there. 

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The laboratory was obviously on the bleeding edge of technology, brilliantly lit and stuffed with fabrication units and large 3-D printers in every corner. The center was open except for a pair of metal lab tables under a baffling array of ceiling-mounted sensors. One of the tables was occupied by a partially assembled robot form, anonymous and unskinned, with one arm partially disassembled and a half-dozen holographic schematics in the air around it. Working on the robot was a woman of startling physical beauty, even with her blonde hair pulled back in a messy bun and a white lab coat tossed haphazardly over a simple blouse and slacks. She didn't look greasy or unwashed at all, but the lab coat was wrinkled and stained as though it had been worn steadily for several days at least. A pattern of scorch marks liberally decorated one lapel.

 

She looked up when Eira and Shift walked in. "Oh good, you're here." she said crisply. "Get on the table. Eira, have you backed up and checked your input sanitizing this week? Go do it." 

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Shift stepped nervously into the lab, her big brown eyes taking in every single detail. It was not a comforting place; her parents' lab had been small, cluttered and cozy. The skinless robot, it's arm neatly dissected, was also unnerving.

 

As to Miss Americana herself, she was strikingly beautiful, clearly a superhero with all the confidence that came with it. Without even meaning to, Shift shrunk down one inch. "Hello, I'm Shift. Or you can call me Pol. That's what my parents named me." She gripped her left upper arm with her right hand. "Eira said you could help me with some backups?"

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Eira obeyed Miss Americana with alacrity. She didn't look afraid so much as focused, as she would if she'd been caught outside in a thunderstorm. She sat down in a nearby chair and rolled up the sleeves of her lab coat, exposing forearms adorned with a pattern of what at first like thin scars but then opened up like the petals of a flower, skin and flesh rolling away smoothly as magnetic patterns rearranged themselves, exposing internal workings that gleamed with liquid silver as she raised her hands and placed them inside a glowing ultraviolet chamber before her. She titled her head forward, silent as the black light inside the chamber shone down on her writhing dataspikes as they were subject to levels of intense ultraviolet light that would have been a serious hazard to anyone organic in the room. Anyone normal, anyway. 

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Miss Americana's demeanor visibly shifted when she saw how nervous her new visitor was. "It's nice to meet you, Shift," she said with a smile, coming around the table. "I'm Miss Americana, or Miss A if you prefer. I don't mean to be short with you, I've just been in the lab for a lot of hours in a row." She laughed, an amazing laugh that invited others to laugh along, and slid off her lab coat to set it aside.

 

"Eira did mention that you don't have any backups right now. I know Claremont's staff does their best to take care of their students, but things can get awfully rough and tumble over there. And of course there are some dangers unique to artificial life forms. I think we should be able to set you up with some solid backups, just in case anything ever were to happen." She opened a cabinet full of well-maintained tools. "Have you ever had a scan and backup done before?" 

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Miss A's change in demeanor had its intended effect, and Shift visibly relaxed "Do you mean like a virus scan or a systems check? I've had plenty of both. And normally my programmers did make backups, but once they got into trouble, they were afraid Josh or his company might seize the backups and use them for criminal purposes." Shift made an explanatory gesture. "'Josh Gentry,' or whatever his name really was, supposedly worked for this company called 'Integrated Dynamics', but they turned out to be a front."

 

The robot closed her eyes, and their billions of nanabots rippled their surface as they transformed into their 'eyeless' default form, then shrugged. "In case this is easier."

Edited by Heritage
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"Here you can make as many backups as you need," said Eira, her arms now so divided that on peering closely one could make out the table beneath them as they submitted their inner workings for the ultraviolet scanner. "Between Lortech and Miss Americana's genius, there is enough memory here for a lifetime," she said, quoting something Miss Americana had once told her though of course there was no way for Shift to know that. "Isn't their integument fascinating?" she said to Miss Americana, sounding like an eager child talking to her favorite teacher even as an eighteen year old. "From my analysis I believe there is room to install an upgrade so Shift can directly interface with other electronic systems, possibly along the side of the neck where the connection to the inner neural network is the thinnest...

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"Let's not overload Shift on the first day," Miss A suggested to Eira. "If there are beneficial upgrades that we can make, the scan will turn them up, but the backups are the most urgent thing." She turned back to Shift. "I won't do anything to you that hasn't been fully explained to you and that you haven't agreed to first," she promised. "The autonomy of artificial life forms is very important to everyone at ArcheTech." She looked interested but not startled at the nanobot transformation, making a few quick notes on her tablet. "Go ahead and climb up on the table and just relax. You may feel a slight humming sensation but it won't hurt at all. Do you remember when your last backup was?" 

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"I think it was about a month ago," Shift said as they hopped up on the table, which thankfully held their weight. "Maybe two, but that would be the longest it would have been. Mom did monthly backups, overwriting the save from two months ago. Their storage space was limited, so they only had sufficient space for two."

 

It would definitely be nice to have backups again; one less thing to worry about!

Edited by Heritage
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Eira's eyes widened as she briefly made eye contact with Miss Americana. Her report had not included the fact that Shift's last contact with their parents had been only a month and a half ago. Luckily, Eira was not one to stay silent when there was a question on the table. 'Luckily' "...too much storage can be inefficient if there is limited space," she agreed softly. "Especially with your neural framework's operating principles" She hesitated again, then hazarded bluntly, "Surely someone can find your parents? The authorities will understand that they were forced to become criminals, yes?

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