by Daniel Lively
“I still don’t really understand what I’m supposed to do,” the woman said. Doctor Hsu had introduced her as Kimberly Hsu, also a doctor and related to himself by marriage. I had no concept of such a relationship beyond the technical definition of the arrangement.
“Easy! It will barely even be a job. You shouldn’t have to take any time away from your normal work,” the male Dr. Hsu said. He had one arm around my metal shoulder and the other around the shoulder of the blonde woman standing across from me.
“He’s a robot, Greg. I’m a psychologist, and I’m more into theoretical psychiatry. I don’t even talk to people much. How am I supposed to help?” She eyed me up and down. She didn’t seem especially uncomfortable, but confusion was painted clearly on her face.
“I don’t need you in a professional capacity, Kim. I just need someone to spend time with him. Help him learn a little bit about how we act. What it means to be human. That sort of thing. He’s like Pinocchio and I need you to be his blue fairy. Or his cricket. Whatever.”
Kimberly laughed and kissed her husband’s cheek. “You’re such a dork. Why can’t you or one of your assistants take care of it? You know him better than I do.”
Dr. Hsu shook his head. “We’re too busy prepping for the mission, and besides, we know him a little too well. I’d really like his cultural liaison to be someone who doesn’t really understand the way his brain is built. I think the whole process will be more organic that way. No offense.”
Kimberly stuck out her tongue playfully. “None taken. Besides, I guess you really are just a bunch of geeks after all. Teaching inter-personal skills isn’t exactly your area of expertise.”
“Exactly!” Dr. Hsu smiled. “You want me to build a space ship with three engines and three interdependent computers that work together to keep the others in working order and that can theoretically run forever without fuel? Hey, I’m your man. Just don’t ask me to talk to a girl.”
“What am I, then?” Kimberly laughed. “How’d you get a knockout like me?”
“I implemented my superior brainpower to mathematically determine the best course of action for winning your heart, of course. It’s all math. Everything’s math.”
Kimberly laughed harder. “Fine, I’ll do it as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with my job. I’ve got my own genius work to do, after all.”
“Scout’s honor,” said Dr. Hsu, patting me on the back. “SE-004, meet Dr. Kimberly Hsu, your new teacher of the humanities.”
I offered my hand as I had been taught to do when meeting someone. “Nice to meet you, Dr. Hsu. Dr. Hsu speaks quite highly of you,” I said.
“Oh dear. Please call me Kimberly. Too many Doctors in this house already.”
My eyes clicked open and closed twice. “Very well. Nice to meet you, Kimberly. Dr. Hsu speaks quite highly of you.”
Both doctors laughed at this. I continued to stand where I was.
“He does need a little work, doesn’t he? And a name,” said Kimberly.
“We talked about that, actually. We agreed pretty unanimously that you should pick one out for him. He’s always been ‘SE-double-o-four’ to us. We named the other three and they all experienced cascading failures in their operating systems not long after.”
Kimberly frowned. “I don’t know what that means.”
Dr. Hsu smiled wryly. “They broke. We don’t think it was actually related to the naming itself, but it’s become something of a superstition at the lab.”
My eyes clicked three times. “I wish to reassure you, Kimberly: a designation would not be tied in any integral way to my operating systems. You will in no way endanger any of my functions by assigning me one. I am certain Dr. Hsu can corroborate that information and allay any fears you may have.” I looked at Dr. Hsu, who had a very large smile on his face.
Kimberly smiled and took my arm in hers, leading me away from her husband. “Okay, thank you for that. I’m sure it will be fine. Greg, honey, get back to your lab. I’ll take care of our new house guest. We’ll try to think of a name for you later. Meanwhile, do you know how to make tea?”