This is my first story. Feedback is desired but please be kind and constructive
It's a slow building romance based on a dream I had. Exploring the issues of what it means to be alive and what robots might be like.
I found her in the attic. I'd just moved in and was clearing out a lot of the old junk; the place had been abandoned years earlier. She was in a large crate; still tamper proof sealed. A label listed her model and date of manufacture; she was older than me, but had never been turned on.
With some caution I brought her down to the living room. She was there for a day before I braved opening her up. A note on the case warned; "Not returnable once seal is broken." Not that that was an option; I knew the company had gone out of business long ago.
It wasn't just a psychological barrier; with the seal intact I could've made a fortune on the black market. Especially if the 'adult options installed' sticker meant what I thought it did.
I remembered wanting one of these when I was a teen. A lot of boys did, but nobody dared say anything. How do you tell your parents you want an AI Girl for Christmas? It just doesn't happen. We all just sat in silent envy of the girls with their expressive freedom. They were all getting them; "good for development" the ads would say, "helps girls learn about growing up", "great for babysitting", "her special friend".
As an adult I gathered a collection of child's dolls. All those little fashionable plastic creations little girls would play with. Nothing truly rare, nothing I could claim was an eccentric hobby. Not that anyone would understand it anyway. I was still too ashamed to get a robot, not even a Robo Rover. Sure I had servant bots like everyone else. Keep 'm Clean, Mr. Handy, Green Thumb... The usual models. But no living dolls, certainly no AI Girl like this. Eventually my Ex gave away the collection to some neighborhood girls. She didn't understood. She just smiled when I complained about it afterwards. She seemed incapable of even comprehending my need. Nobody ever wanted to believe a man might need them.
We tried for a daughter, but it never happened. Now here I was, alone again, in a new house. Yet there she was, the doll I'd always dreamed of in those quiet secret moments.
Eventually I cracked the seal. There was a thick manual lying on top of a box labeled "Reserve Power Supply" which listed itself at only 30% left, it was all that kept her brain intact. The manual began with the dreaded words:
"Hello Jessica, welcome to your new friend. Her name is:"
Below which was a place to write the name of the robot once she had been given one.
Now I understood her presence in my attic. Jessica must have been the girl who passed away. My realtor had explained the house to me. A sudden illness in the family followed by the property's abandonment. A little girl who only wanted to live; taken so suddenly. They must've been too hurt to take what was likely intended as a surprise present.
This presented a new issue. She was tailored. If I woke her now she would be confused, lost. Looking for a little girl named Jessica to bond with. The manual mentioned the possibility of resetting the bond anytime before initialization as well as prior to resale or recycling. They could send out a company rep to perform the job. Only there was no company anymore.
So I went online. I had to be discreet, I didn't want the collectors knowing what I had. I certainly didn't want the AI Authority to know. The law wouldn't let them shut her down once she was self aware, but they were ruthless in destroying potential AIs before that point. Eventually I had my answer. I tapped a few keys on the power unit and clicked away at the holo- screen until I had her ready for a new life.
She'd been lying on my living room floor for another week before I had the nerve to turn her on. I'd done my research on the model and knew that once I flipped that switch, there was no turning back. These girls were natural born AIs; it was why the company had been forced to go under. Pure black market technology, all quite by accident.
I sat there watching her for an hour before I did it. I wanted to memorize every detail, every contour.
She was almost five feet tall, with long brown hair and deep green eyes. She even had freckles. Caucasian if I remembered my history lessons. They still existed in a few remote parts of Europe, but the full feature set had bred itself out of most of the world. They'd been very popular in AIs, exotic and mysterious; speaking of far away ancient cultures. The few people of this look I'd seen in my life had all turned out to be much like my doll, self aware AIs rather than natural humans.
I felt her skin, running my hands along her thighs, then her arms. It was smooth with the hint of fine hairs. It felt real. I knew it was synthetic, but it fooled the senses. The manual even said it could heal if torn, much like real skin. Though caution was advised to prevent scarring. Naturally there was a kit available to heal even that, for additional price. Hopefully I wouldn't need it.
Her build was somewhat reminiscent of an active sixteen year old, minus certain features. The adult package while installed did not come activated. I recalled reading that in later models portions of it came standard. The company had patched it in to avoid 'unforeseen psychological issues'.
This model had the full set of adult options. She was built before they'd managed to separate out the components, while it was all still a highly exotic option. She would've fetched a very high price on the collector market. I would have to activate those features, if only for her own sanity as her mind began to wonder at the missing elements in her reality.
I reached down to the reserve power unit, pulled back the plastic cover; and keyed in the password provided in the manual.
Her chest rose, then fell; as if breathing. I reached over to where her navel would form; grabbed for the power line, and twisted it. In the manual it had warned of this: "if power line comes undone before signs of breathing, unit cerebral programming will crash and require factory attention."
Her eyes came open slowly. She looked to my face and smiled a soft pleasant smile.
I smiled down at her. She was alive.
"Father, what is to be my name?"
I thought for a moment; I hadn't formed an answer for this yet. "I don't know yet, can I have some time to consider?"
"Ok father. I will learn to respond as needed." She looked down at her body. Her hands moved across over her skin and she smiled. "It feels good to be alive father."
I wondered. I wondered if this was truly her first moment of consciousness. It seemed so pleasant a way to enter the universe.
"Here" I said "This is for you to wear outside." I gave her a red skirt, sweater, and cap that had been in her crate. It seemed somewhat like a Santa's elf costume.
She looked it over curiously "Thank you father."
"You don't need to keep calling me that."
"Ok fa... Ok." She blushed at me. She stood then, took a moment to get her balance; then looked over the garments trying to figure out what went were.
Nudity was very a much the norm in society and I assumed the outfit was only there as part of a Christmas packaging option. Still it would look cute on her and dressing a doll had always been a personal fantasy. There was the added fact that it would cover her lack of certain features until the adult option could do its work.
"Let me help you with that." I stood next to her and took the skirt. It was easy enough to unbutton and was designed as a wrap around affair. She looked down and watched as her clothed her. When I was done I glanced up and caught the tail end of a brief frown before she beamed a smile at me.
"Does this one go on top?"
"Yes, just like this." I opened the sweater's buttons and helped her get her arms into it. As I was buttoning it over her chest she seemed to sigh.
When I glanced up she seemed worried. "Something's missing" she said. "Am I damaged?"
"No you're just fine." I had an idea where this was headed. I'd hoped it would take longer for this, but was ready to accept it either way.
"But it seems like something is missing here." She pointed to her chest.
"Don't worry, they'll grow in with time."
"It's missing down there too." Her eyes moved down her body to below her hips.
"That will develop as well." Not like a normal girl, but I knew now that I would have to activate her adult package when she slept. Her mind was aware of the blanks, but not of what should fill them.
"Can I look around now? I want to see our home."
"Certainly, go anywhere in the house you like, but ask me before you go outside ok?"
"Sure." And with that she was off. Racing away up the stairs. I heard her rummaging through my home. Not a stone unturned I imagined. Her mind wanted to learn and it wanted to learn fast, much like a real child. The manual had been clear on this; a newly awakened AI Girl would need a day or two to learn about her environment. A day or two to go from infant to the age she was built to simulate. To avoid future complications owners were advised to allow exploration but set clear rules on what would be allowed. I'd pretty much just given her free reign on anything within my domain. I'd made that choice as far back as my boyhood. When I'd dreamed of having my own Doll.
She chose that moment to come racing down the stairs. As she began to head for my kitchen I had to call out a further order to stay away from anything sharp. We didn't need her getting hurt before she understood.
That first day was a mad circus of silly moment and jumbled possessions. I was just glad I didn't collect any breakables. She only broke a few dishes before she figured out how to hold them; I had to explain what I used them for. She wanted to try eating after that and I had to keep her back. While she could simulate the process, the disposal method before the adult features went online was a little complicated and I wanted to avoid confusion.
When she slept that night, she sat in the chair I keep by my bed. She sat there smiling down at me until her eyes closed and her mind wandered off to the land of robot dreams. I pulled myself awake and went to the now dormant reserve power unit. Taking from it a small tool and the manual. I laid her out on the bed, removed her clothes and placed the tool into her navel; injecting the nanites needed to perform the next step in her growth. Over the next few days whenever she slept the inner workings of her sexual organs would be put into place and set up for activation. In the end the external features would form and then she would experience a form of adolescence. According to the manual the needed internals for activity and even menstrual simulation were all there, but bringing them online would take time. The external organs however had to be grown and then moved outward. The explanation looked very technical and very, well, strange. I could almost see this alone as reason why it had later become a standard part of the package.
In the morning when she woke there was a slight change about her. She seemed content; smiling at some inner secret. Again she wore the little Christmas outfit, dressing herself this time. I left for a time, telling her I had errands to run. There was fear in her reaction until I promised a swift return.
I wondered just how complete her programming had been. Was she an amalgamation of brain scans, or some unique creation dreamed up in a lab? Just how unique and individual would she become?
In truth I didn't need to go out, but I wanted to see what would happen with me away. She had a built in need to bond with me, but I still saw her as an overly complex toy. My boyhood fantasy come to pass, not a real person. I managed to stay away for a couple hours, collecting random groceries in town.
When I returned she was lying on the living room floor, still in her cute little santa's helper skirt. She was coloring. She'd found my old pastels and was filling in a series of sketches. Her hands were a blur. When I entered she stopped her work and looked up, smiling as she wiped away a tear.
There was a thick stack of completed work which she eagerly thrust into my hands. "Look what I did father!" On the bottom I found a series of stick figure of the two of us holding hands and moving about the house. It resembled a journal of her day and a half of life. I felt guilty when it moved onto a set of her crying as I left. But then they went on to her exploring the house and finding many wonders to satisfy her curiosity. As I moved up the drawings took on more shape, background was added in, objects gained dimension, stories began to form.
I was stunned; in a day her mind was constructing the thought patterns it had taken me years to develop. The manual said there would be a short period of accelerated growth as she built up to her intended level of maturity. Seeing it in action though was just amazing. None of the bot's I'd ever owned before had had a need to learn. None of them had grown like this. But then, none of them had ever cried.
It was time to broaden her horizons. I told her to play outside, following her out and taking up a seat on my porch where I could keep an eye out. She ran off into the woods and I had to call out "Stay where I can see you!"
"Ok father!" she called back as she circled around a tree.
She reached to take off her skirt and I had to call out a warning to keep it on for now. The property was fairly rural; but I didn't want a chance encounter. The evidence of her artificial nature was still all too plain underneath. She would have to remain clothed. If questioned we could simply pretend she was enjoying her costume.
If the truth came out too early, she could be in grave danger. In the days just after the AI laws this the was the point in an AI's life when most of them were caught and destroyed. When they were still mentally children, unable to argue their existence. While there was self awareness growing within her; until she could rationalize it she was fair game in the eyes of the AI Authority.
It was a risk; but she had a need. She was built for play, to be a companion for a young girl as she grew up. Eventually growing into a teen confidant, and then 'recycled' when her owner outgrew her. That was how it was supposed to go at least. Things got complicated when awareness entered the picture.
Out in the woods, I watched her chase a butterfly, giggling all the way. Her bare feet pounding into the dirt as she struggled to catch the elusive creature. This was the doll I'd always wanted. I was past the point of running in the dirt with her, as I'd dreamed of doing so many years past; but I could sit her and feel the protective bond that a man develops for a girl child with a place in his heart.
The days passed like that for some time; in the afternoons I would watch her at play as I went about my routine. She would bring things to me as they caught her fancy; a flower, a captured bug, a drawing, or some other piece of her universe. At night she brought me stories to read to her, or for her to read to me. She was almost conspiratorial in her childlike approach to it all.
However her mind quickly began to catch up. Her questions became more articulate, her choice of reading more in depth. The nursery rhymes were replaced with tales of childhood adventure. The captured bugs became questions about the world. I even found her one afternoon trying to understand the information in my encyclopedia. That very night we sat on the porch as she asked me about the stars. What where they? Who lived there? Could you go there? Someday perhaps I told her.
My next real shock came at the end of her second week. I'd grown used to the site of her bouncing about my world in her little red skirt on private missions; her youthful breasts slowly poking out to try and catch my attention, the blouse and cap long since discarded. On that day however, as I sat reading my paper she came bounding up to me with "Father, look!" as she lifted her skirt.
Living alone in rural isolation, the site of a female in her glory was no longer one I was accustomed to. There she was, and I could safely say the optional package had done its job; finishing her physical transformation. I wondered how long it would take for her mind to become sexually aware, and how that would affect our relationship. Seeing my nervousness she hesitated, "Is something wrong father?"
"No, it's beautiful." Her eyes briefly caught my erection, but did not seem to find any meaning in it. Perhaps it was time she stopped calling me father.
"I'm so happy father, I don't need this anymore do I?" She tossed the skirt away and went dancing out of my sight.
She was no longer just an AI Girl; she was something else now. Now it was time for me to learn to adjust. At least I no longer had to worry about a surprise visitor discovering her. For all instants and purposes she looked, smelled, and felt like a young woman now. Albeit one with exotic features.
That night as she crawled into bed she had a most unusual question for me; "Were you born?"
I considered the reasons of this, but answered simply: "Yes."
She looked thoughtful a moment then commented "I wasn't" as she cuddled up next to me.
Knowing what lie next to me made that night most awkward. I didn't sleep for hours.
In the morning over breakfast she crouched down before me and announced "Last night I had a dream..."
"Oh?" She'd never mentioned them before, I'd wondered if AIs dreamed.
"I dreamed of being born; it was wonderful."
It took a few hours before I realized she had shared a meal with me and not had to regurgitate. The physical transformation complete; the manual appendix got technical on her new ability to 'process natural fuels'. Thankfully, she seemed to come house trained.
More days passed and her awareness grew. My research said it generally took months or years. That had led to millions of AIs before anyone knew. Before they could stop it. But for her it was a matter of days; I had no idea why.
Her questions took on an almost adult tone now. She asked me were dreams came from. Why did I live here? Where did I come from? She asked about other people.
"Where were they?"
"Could we go there someday?"
Idle play was gone for her now. There was a purpose to her actions. Her mind had reached the stage her body was built to simulate, locked at a teenage level. I wondered if she would ever grow beyond; if her self awareness would push her past her programmed limits.
She began to read my paper. She would linger over sections on fashion, makeup, and gardening. Her sexuality was still absent though; she didn't seem to pay the sex news any heed, and she just accepted my frequent erections at the site of her without question or curiosity.
It was time to try socialization.
The next day we packed ourselves into my two seater and flew off over the pines into town. On the trip I tried to explain the basics of economics to her. I listed common goods and likely prices, telling her about budgeting. I gave her access to a portion of my credit so she would be able to try it out in town.
It was somewhat amusing that she seemed to have no grasp for numbers. All of my servant bots had come with highly computational minds built to task; she on the other hand had a neural net much like myself, only synthetic. Her mind had turned out to be more human than her designers could have guessed. In the end I loaned her my PDA and told her to activate 'Budget Watch' if she wanted to buy anything. "Just tell it what you want and it will work out the details into the bigger picture."