Prologue – Part 1
“Let me be very clear about this, I fully believe there will be an earth in the future. So often I speak with people who seem to view the earth as some sort of an electronic appliance, or a video game, switching between states of ‘on’ and ‘off’, binary and devoid of all the trillions of imperfections which make this planet truly the perfect habitable rock.
“Of course, we have polluted our waters, our skies, our land, even ourselves. We have taken for granted what the universe has seen fit to inherit to us, in some insane belief that we can go on like this forever. We have made seemingly every attempt to destroy this beautiful, amazing home of ours in this far corner of the universe; yet the earth is a tough unit, resilient and determined to withstand even humanity.
“Never have I, for once in my life, doubted the continued existence of earth. It must be understood by now that if we do not live in harmony with earth, we will perish forever.
“Now we build mechanical companions to do our work, grow our food, fly our planes, shop for us, drive for us, light our world, guide our paths, protect our nations, fight our wars. More and more they even think for us. Machines get smarter and sexier while humans get dumber and lazier.
“What is true is this: earth will go on existing until its sun collapses and dies, but the next phase of earth will look very different.
“And, of course, there is but one question which remains. When it comes to this next installment of earth, who will it belong to: man or machine?”
-Professor Arthur Browning
Doctor Khinchagova felt exhilaration and fear course through her body as she spoke the words. It was like breathing life into a corpse, gushing water onto a parched desert.
The grip on her pen tightened as she counted the seconds in her head, each pounding through space slower than the last. This was the most important day of her life.
And then, he opened his eyes. Lifting his shoulders off the bed, he looked wildly, his eyes fleeting to make sense of his surroundings.
The doctor placed her hand on top of his head, and in doing so calmed him. “Good,” she said, half whisper, half to herself.
He laid back, his body motionless. His eyes fixed on hers, sky blue with a hint of grey.
“Hello.” She smiled.
The doctor’s smile widened. “Hello indeed! Do you know your name?”
“Yes, your name. What is it?” She jotted a line of notes, her first since the awakening.
“My… name.” His eyes left hers, wandering non uniform across the ceiling above.
“Mmmhmm. Your name.” She sat on a stool by his bedside. Turning behind her, she adjusted a dial. Turning back she whispered, “What is your name?”
“My name.” His head and eyes locked forward. “My name is Greyson.”
Doctor Khinchagova lept from her seat. “Yes! Wonderful!” She scribbled notes down, adrenaline rendering her hands almost useless. “And do you know where you are?”
“I am in Britain. Though, I suppose we are in Britain.”
“Yes, both are true, Greyson. Interesting.” She made more notes. “And who am I?”
His eyes turned on hers. “You are Doctor Khinchagova.”
“Yes I am. How are you feeling?”
“Yes, Greyson. How do you feel?”
He considered. “I feel normal.”
“Very good.” She flipped the page on her clipboard. “Now, do you have any questions for me, Greyson?”
Without hesitation he said, “What is normal?”
“What do you mean? You just used the word. Why would you use a word for which you do not know its definition.”
“I used the word because that is my current state. What I meant by my question was, what is normal to you?”
“Oh, I see.” The doctor’s smile returned.
“Was this question wrong?”
“No, not at all. It’s just.. something I need time to think about.” In truth, she felt embarrassed by the time it took her to think of a response. “Normal is somewhere between good and bad.”
“But which is it?”
“Well, I suppose it’s neither.”
“Because it is a word used to describe a condition between the two.”
“So it is both?”
“I suppose that depends on who is being asked.”
“In this instance, you are being asked.”
“Yes I am.” She made a note. “For me, normal is between bad and good.”
Greyson thought for a moment, his eyes searching about the room. “So, normal is likened to a limit in calculus?”
The doctor was taken aback by the analogy. It was perfect. She smiled. “Yes, Greyson. That’s right.” She wrote notes quickly. After nearly two minutes she flipped to the next page on her clipboard. “Greyson, what is your favorite color?”
“Good. What about your favorite season?”
“Doctor Khinchagova, why is a circle a circle, and a square a square?”
“I like your questions.”
“They remind me of the kinds of questions a child would ask. It is very interesting.”
“What are the questions a child asks?”
“Oh, the sorts of questions filled with wonderment. Like, why is the sky blue?”
“Particles entering earth’s upper atmosphere strike radiation at varying wavelengths. Blue is the color visible to the human eye with the highest electromagnetic frequency. It is called Rayleigh Scattering. It is why the sky is blue.”
“I see.” The doctor jotted notes.
“What is your favorite color?”
“Funnily enough it’s grey.”
“Why is that funny?”
“It’s not. Nevermind.” She turned to the next page on the clipboard.
“I have one more question.”
“What is it?”
“Am I human?”
The doctor felt all the air expel from her lungs. She closed the clipboard, set it on the edge of the bed, and leaned back in her chair. “Well, Greyson, not exactly.”
He considered. “So, I am normal?”
She leaned forward, placing her hands over his glass face. “You are not normal. You are extraordinary.” His eyes looked into hers. What are you thinking right now, she wondered. What are you feeling? Can you feel? So many questions. So much work to do. So much to learn.
The doctor unstrapped Greyson’s metallic body from the bed. Slowly he rose. It rose. Pronouns were already a habit, one that wouldn’t be easily broken. She held her breath as he turned to the side, examining his magnetic-metallic jointed feet in relation to the floor.
Then he stepped. One foot in front of the other, his arms swinging clumsily in an effort to steady. She made a note to have the primary physical technician adjust his locomotion parameters. He took strides around the room.
Doctor Khinchagova followed Greyson in his exploratory march. She had been too preoccupied by the human brain seated in the base of his glass-metallic skull to notice his strides improving. She walked over to her clipboard and put a line through the note about locomotion. She forgot how different Greyson was. He was no ordinary robot. He wasn’t like any robotic subject she had ever worked with. In her excitement she’d forgotten, he could learn.
Greyson walked along the outer perimeter of the circular room, using the black stripe against the white brick to calibrate himself. The doctor checked the monitor. Brain activity was increasing at a rapid rate.
She was checking various readouts when a notification from the monitoring team flashed in red letters at the top of the screen: DEVIATION.
She looked up to see Greyson beginning to move inward towards the center of the room as he paced around. Further inward he came as round and round he went, until he reached the bed in the center. Stopping, he looked up to the doctor.
“Doctor Khinchagova, what is a dream?”
“What is what?” She was excited by the question.
“A dream. It is one word with which I have been pre-loaded.”
“I see. If it is pre-loaded, then why do you ask me for the definition?”
“I am asking you for your definition.”
“Well, it is something you experience when you sleep. Sort of like a vision.”
“Is it a real event? Is the vision of some event that has occurred?”
“Sometimes it can be, sure. It can also be some variation of a real event.”
“A variation of what nature?”
“Perhaps of subconscious cognition. We don’t really know exactly. Why do you ask? Greyson, did you have a dream?”
“No.” He observed the metallic bed which had housed him for the past six weeks. “I wonder if perhaps I did have a vision, though.”
“I see. When?”
“Just now. While I was walking.” He stepped back from the bed, interrogating the floor beneath. “The floor is different here.”
The doctor’s smile broadened again. “Yes it is. Would you like to go see another part of Britain?”
“There is another part?”
“Yes, let us go and see that.”
She reached under the bed and pulled a lever. The floor beneath the bed rose, revealing a staircase. She watched as Greyson walked down the stairs with impossible grace. At the bottom a door opened into a large room.
Greyson walked inside and began observing the room. A painting of a sunset with birds flying across the horizon. A picture of earth from the moon. The flags of the countries of the world. A bookshelf full of books, encyclopedias, comics, coloring books. At the far end a hallway.
“What do you think, Greyson?”
“This is what Britain looks like?”
“This part, yes.”
“Are there other parts?”
“There are, but for now this is where you will stay.”
“Is this my home?”
“It is. You will spend all of your time here for the next few months. Follow me, let’s go see the rest of this section.”
Dr. Khinchagova led Greyson down the hallway. On either side four sets of rooms opposite one another, steel doors open. Monitors on the far interior wall with a data port, a table with six seats on either side, steel on steel. The doctor rubbed the tips of her index and middle fingers together, excitement and nervous energy coursing through her body.
“The first room to the left is creative expression. To the right is strategy.” She walked to the next set of rooms. “To the left here is analytical thinking, and on the right is information.” They proceeded down to the third set of rooms, the doctor watching Greyson’s every movement. “To the left here is sciences, and on the right is human psychology and physiology.”
They walked to the last set of doors, which opened up into much larger rooms, tall ceilings thirty feet high, walls one hundred feet deep. Data ports lined the walls below monitors, metallic railings criss-crossing floor to ceiling. “To the left is simulation. To the right are the sleeping quarters.”
The doctor watched as Greyson observed the strategy room, then the sleeping quarters.
“Why are there multiple data ports, monitors, and seats?”
“Well, there will be more robotic units joining you – many more. You are the first of many.”
“Why am I?”
“Why are you what?” The doctor waited for a response; Greyson offered none. After a few moments it hit her like a slap in the face and adrenaline tingled through her fingers and toes. “Oh! Do you mean why do you exist?”
“Yes, why am I?”
“Come here, Greyson.” The doctor pulled a data tube from her pocket and inserted it into a port on the wall. She touched the monitor above the port and navigated to a video. Greyson watched as the monitor showed a crowd of people moving along a road. A few moments later a room with graphs, lines trending downward. Large armored vehicles firing some type of weaponry at one another. A river, stagnant shallow water, dirty with dead fish floating atop a lime green film. A thick cloud of smog enveloping a large city, an unending line of cars carving its streets. Parents and children lining up to enter a park. Lines and mounds of dead human bodies, starved and bloated. Fields of crops, browned and withered, diseased and parched.
The doctor turned to Greyson. “This planet is dying. Humanity is dying. We have reached a tipping point where technology and humanity cohabitate earth. You have been designed to bridge our two worlds, technology and humanity. You possess computer processing capability as well as a fully functioning human brain.
The doctor rubbed her fingers across the smooth glass head encasing Greyson’s brain. “We built you to save us, Greyson. You are here to save humanity, to save our planet. You will show us how to live smarter, work more efficiently. How to survive.”
“So I am a weapon?”
The doctor had to force herself to breathe. “No, you aren’t a weapon. You are a tool, a means of achieving a more productive life for humans.”
“What are these indentions on the wall?” The robot pointed to the port under the monitor.
“These are data ports. They have a number of uses. You can connect yourself to these ports and download information and data. These ports also form a network, and when other robotic units are connected you can communicate with one another.”