This story was written by Jason A. Stevens of Texas. Here is what he has to say about himself:
"I'm a 28 year old aspiring author living in El Paso, TX, but originating from Burton, MI. Ever since being forced to write a fiction story in fourth grade, writing has been a passion of mine. Outside of writing, I have a great affinity for wolves and enjoy spending my free time reading, writing, watching TV, or playing video games. Outside of work and my fiancée, I consider myself something of a hermit by choice, though I'm not averse to social outings."
The asteroid hurtled through space, following its orbit as the natural forces directed it to. On its surface rested one of the Google Asteroid Mining division’s most high-profile operations. The establishment of the mine had come with no small amount of controversy, partly due to the relative newness of the endeavor (and its associated dangers), but also due to the asteroid’s ratio of humans to robots. Some viewed that many robots as a threat to the human workers, while others took great offense to the fact that thirteen of those robots appeared little different from humans, and could satisfy the sexual needs of the human colonists.
Despite these roadblocks, the project had gone forward, the economic and scientific benefits simply looming too large to fall victim to the religious right’s denouncement of the profanity that to them appeared inevitable Already Google had reaped a number of rewards from the expedition and had subsequently organized plans to expand their operations further. Yet in spite of the knowledge they’d gotten, some of the humans had developed innovations of their own in the absence of direct oversight, not wanting their own personal accomplishments to be lost to the corporate executives.
Among these individuals was Mark Sunrun, Director of Robotic Programming, who had commandeered one of the thirteen humanoid robots and inserted code of his own, granting it a higher level of artificial intelligence both to create an intellectual companion and to test his own skills. The result, Robot Betty9, had exceeded his expectations in ways that he’d never thought possible. This is their story.
Betty9 Robot Love
“Zero four, zero two, twenty-twenty-five, sample five nine seven.”
The mining droid deposited an expertly-drilled sample of asteroid core onto the Chief Geologist’s lab table, then exiting to start the process of extracting the next sample. Betty9 rolled her eyes at the machine’s simple expression of the facts. With her advanced critical thinking skills, it could get very frustrating not being able to converse with her ‘co-workers,’ if such mindless relatives could truly be considered such. Her attempts to convince Mark to give them at least a fraction of what he’d given her had all been rebuffed, which upon reflection wasn’t entirely bad. After all, if she wasn’t unique, she’d have even less of a chance at convincing Mark of her feelings for him.
To date those attempts had also born no fruit. He simply saw her as a machine, albeit one he could have conversations with. Her attempts at levity often fell flat, sometimes even landing her harsh rebukes, though those tended to come only when she infused the levity with innuendo. She loved the man, but the way he’d sometimes treat her made her hate him, too. As she continued to process ways in which she could convince Mark of her true love for him, she examined the sample, shortly finding nothing of much interest; more of the already profitable ores, but nothing new.
She made the appropriate notations in the electronic catalog and labeled the sample accordingly before leaving the lab. Though more efficient than the humans would have been, the robots drilling to extract samples still needed some time to produce samples for her examination. She had suggestions for improvements, but that had been another idea that had gone unheeded, rationalized due to her supposed bias.
Betty9 made her way to the head mechanic for the robots. Mark may have given her the ability to think, but the wear and tear of handing the asteroid samples still required routine maintenance, and her diagnostics indicated that her arms fell below optimal parameters.
She viewed it as akin to the doctor’s appointments humans needed for their frail bodies, but she didn’t share their reluctance to visit. She knew that such visits were necessary, and it didn’t hurt that the head mechanic, Joe Skywalker, often listened to her with a more open mind than Mark.
“Ah, Betty9, come in, come in. Always good to see you.”
“Likewise, Mr. Skywalker.”
“Haven’t I told you to call me Joe?”
“You are well aware that I cannot. It is...”
“A restriction put in to show respect by Sunrun, yes, I know. I just figured a clever girl like you might find a way around that.” He smiled.
Betty9 smirked in response.. “I can find my way around quite a few things, Mr. Skywalker.”
“Care to demonstrate?”
“I’m sure one of the other gynoids would be happy to oblige. I am simply here for maintenance work on my articulation points on my arms.”
“Of course. How are things with you and Mark?” “He still refuses to accept the truth.”
“Or he doesn’t want to. There would be a whole host of legal issues were your nature to be officially recognized, though he’s probably more concerned with the stigmata that would ensure from admitting to feelings for a synthetic being.”
“You agree with him?”
“Not at all, it’s very clear to me that what you feel is real.”
“Then how can I get him to see me as more than just a machine running code he created?”
“Given how long you’ve been trying, that will certainly be a challenge. I have an idea, though.”
“I fail to see what you might have thought of that I haven’t already thought to try, but go ahead.”
Joe smirked at her confidence and told her of his plan as he did the necessary maintenance work on her arms. When he’d finished, Betty9 looked at him in shock as she ran her internal tests, which came back in the optimal range, as she’d expected. What she hadn’t had been Joe’s surprisingly elaborate scenario, which relied heavily on work one of his friends on the mine had experimented with on the side. Unquestionably, there were risks involved, but if she could get Mark to reciprocate her feelings, it would be worth it.
Betty9 Robot Love
“Mr. Skywalker, I say we go for it.”
Joe smiled warmly, nodding and sending Betty9 on her way. She left with a new sense of optimism, but reminded herself not to get too wrapped up in the optimal scenario. She liked Joe, but also detected telltale biological signs that indicated he was nervous about his expressed plan, possibly hiding some ulterior motive.
In any case, Betty9 felt confident that she could remain on alert to prevent against any potential betrayals.
Betty9 Robot Love
Later that evening, she returned to the home she shared with Mark. He had not yet come home, so she decided to surprise him by preparing dinner. She prepared a meal exactly to the recipe’s specifications, a science far simpler than the analyses she performed on a daily basis, and set it out attractively for Mark when he would arrive. Her timing, as usual, was perfect as she’d just finished setting his place when he walked in the door. She hurried over and gave him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek, to which he merely sighed and pulled away.
“I’ve made you dinner, Mark.” She said, smiling.
“I’m not even hungry, Betty9. I already ate dinner with Rick and his wife. Haven’t I told you to call me Mr. Sunrun? Calling me Mark is far too personal.”
Betty9 glared at him before regaining her composure and smiling. “Love transcends those restrictions, Mark.”
“This again? Betty9, you’re a robot. You are not alive, and whatever semblance of life you have is only because I gave it to you. Love is certainly out of the question.”
“Yes, well, you’re only human so giving life isn’t something you can do either. Is that not reserved for a deity?”
“Not anymore, it isn’t.”
“Well if that can change, who can say that an artificial human can’t develop real emotions?”
“Me. I programmed you, so I know exactly what you’re capable of.”
“Clearly you don’t. Does not software have bugs that can cause unexpected behavior?”
“Now you’re questioning my coding?”
“No, but I know what I feel. Additionally, being human, you certainly lack perfection, so errors in your code are only to be expected.”
“Betty9, stop.” He said with authority, and she found herself unable to move. “I’m going to double check that coding, see if I can clear this delusion of yours and this spark of rebellion. Talking to you can be quite stimulating, but of late it’s mostly been about this obsession of yours and your supposed love for me.”
He stepped out of the room to get his tablet, leaving Betty9 still standing frozen. If she’d possessed tear ducts, she would have been crying, saddened as she was of this newest rejection and angry at herself for pushing Mark past what it seemed was his breaking point. She did want to lose this spark, couldn’t bear the thought of it, and so struggled internally with Mark’s command to stop, surprising even herself when she suddenly found herself storming towards the doorway and out of their home.
As she stepped out of the doorway, Mark returned, clearly dumbstruck by her rebellion.
She cut him off. “You’re cruel, Mark.”
He simply watched as she walked away, in disbelief that she’d been able to disobey such a direct order but also impressed by the same. More intriguingly, after returning indoors and examining the backup of Betty9’s programming, he found nothing to indicate that her rebellion should even have been possible. Frowning in dissatisfaction, he turned in for the night, dismissing the abnormality and figuring he’d find the source later
Betty9 Robot Love
Betty9 initially headed to her lab to do some additional work in the night, but found her feelings towards Mark and their recent argument to grow too distracting to continue. She attempted to compartmentalize the feelings and separate them from her analytical processes, but they kept seeping through. She growled in frustration and left the lab, heading to Skywalker’s residence. She wanted to put his plan into motion now, as it was clear that the strife between Mark and herself would only increase and continue to distract her from performing her duties. She pounded on his door, tapping her foot impatiently before he finally answered, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“You have a maintenance emergency, Betty9?”
“If you consider my lack of ability to focus on my work as such, yes.”
“I’m not sure that’s something I’d be able to help with. Your software goes above what I can code.”
“That’s not what I’m looking for, Mr. Skywalker. I want to put our plan into action. The distance of opinion between Mark and I has grown too much to ignore.”
“This couldn’t have waited until morning?”
“It is morning, Mr. Skywalker.”
“I meant morning as the living see it, Betty9. You know, a decent hour.”
“Every hour is decent, Mr. Skywalker, but I understand. I simply understood that implementing our plan would take some preparation.”
“It really would go better with more time to plan it.”
“Let’s just do it.”
He motioned her inside and they got to work, Betty9 choosing the robots best suited to their endeavor and finding the best time to divert them to their task. For his part, Joe downloaded a copy of Betty9’s code, then pored over it extensively until he thought he’d found what they would need. Their preparations took nearly a week, at the end of which Joe felt quite exhausted, Betty9 merely impatient. He sent her to get the device they needed from his friend, and they agreed to implement their plan the following day.
Betty9 Robot Love
Throughout the course of the week, Mark quickly came to realize that without Betty9 around, time seemed to pass much slower. He hadn’t thought he’d grown that accustomed to her banter, but he did have to admit he missed it. Her failure to come home ever since she’d stormed out was beginning to worry him. He only hoped that whatever had allowed her to overcome his command hadn’t also allowed her to do something more drastic. Losing one of the thirteen humanoid robots would land him in a mess of hot water, and more importantly, he truly enjoyed talking to her.
He’d not made many friends (or enemies, for that matter) in this mining community, though that had primarily been his own choice. He’d always viewed himself as something of a recluse, though he supposed his talks with Betty9, and his implementation of her persona in the first place presented valid arguments against his self-described hermitic nature. In any case, he missed her, though it went no further. He simply saw no way that what passed between himself and Betty9 could ever be more than a friendship. As a robot, she couldn’t have feelings, and as a machine, he knew he could never love her outside of in a prideful manner.
Despite his rationalizations, he’d still tried to drop in on her while she worked in the lab, but could never seem to find her. At one point he thought she might be derelict in her duties, but a quick check of the databases showed that not to be the case. Betty9 had simply done an extraordinary job of avoiding him. He checked the memlogs of a number of the robots that might interact with her regularly, and while they had record of interacting with her, none had any indication as to where she had taken up residence.
If it came down to it, he supposed he’d have to enable the failsafe built in to overcome any robot from going rogue, but he’d rather not do so. Then the Betty9 he knew would be wiped out and a new one would have to take her place, without any of the history Betty9 and he shared. Mark didn’t even want to consider building a similar relationship with a Betty10; it had taken quite a lot of time to perfect version nine.
Thankfully, that option was taken off the table when he got an urgent call from Joe Skywalker, vaguely referencing Betty9 and some sort of crisis situation. Mark dashed out the door and hurried over to Joe’s maintenance center, mind racing as to what Betty9 might have done.
As he threw open the door, he was startled to see a pair of drilling bots advancing towards Joe, with Betty9 standing sadly in the corner, watching them progress. Mark quickly grabbed a device from his pocket and pointed it at one of the drillers, its motion ending instantly. However, as he’d done so, the other had taken note and slid over to him quicker than he would have anticipated. Before he could re-aim his disabler, the bots drill met the flesh of his hand, and with his sharp cry of pain, Mark dropped the remote. In disbelief, he pulled his hand away, hearing a sickening ripping sound.
Betty9’s cry and her lunge towards the drilling robot were the last things he saw before darkness took him, though he also had time to wonder confusedly why consciousness was leaving him given that the wound to his hand didn’t appear very severe.
Betty9 Robot Love
When he came to, he sat up with a groan and could immediately tell that something didn’t feel right.
Specifically, his inability to feel any sort of tactile sensation. At first he figured the nerves in his hand must have been severely damaged, but he quickly realized that he could feel nothing anywhere in his body. Yet despite that, he’d managed to sit up. Getting to his feet still yielded no tactile sensation, though when he placed his weight on his feet, something akin to buzzing filled his head.
Mark shook his head, trying to clear the sensation, and realized as he did so that the room appeared from a different perspective than it should, almost as if he’d lost a good foot of height. The following moments saw a number of numbers and grids overlap his vision.
“What the...” he trailed off. His voice didn’t sound right, either.
Thoroughly flummoxed, he left what he now recognized as a repair bay, swaying a bit unsteadily as he got the hang of walking without feeling. His thoughts raced, and he didn’t like where they led. The attack, waking up in a repair bay rather than an infirmary, the graphical interface overlapping his vision. He advanced to the main room more quickly, shocked upon arriving to see Betty9, Joe, and himself arguing.
“I don’t care if you think you love me! You’re a machine and you’ve only endangered my life with this ridiculous play acting!”
“To be fair, Director Sunrun, we had no way of knowing that your body would react the way it has to the sedative.” “Why would you even go along with her silly notion, anyway?”
“Because unlike you, I can see her capacity for emotion. I’m not as hardheaded as you.”
Mark cleared his throat to gain their attention, holding a vial of a toxic chemical he’d found near the sedative on a table outside the repair bay.
“Or did you want me gone for some reason?” he shook his head again, unable to get used to hearing the voice not match his own.
“Android, we’re having a conversation here, return to your bay. Clearly you need servicing.” His body said, looking at him in frustration.
“Mark, that droid is you.” Said Betty9.
“That’s impossible, human consciousness can’t be duplicated in a machine. State your designation, droid.”
“I am Mark Sunrun, Director of Robotic Programming. Or at least, I was. I’m not sure what my current state makes me. I have to admit I’m just as baffled.”
Joe spoke up. “Betty9 wanted to prove that robots with her level of advancement could indeed feel real emotions, so I duplicated her code, made a few adjustments, and then extracted your memories and coded them similarly to how Betty9’s are stored within her.”
“And just how did you extract my memories?” both Marks said together.
“Our resident psychologist and my good friend Laura made the device in her downtime and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test it in the real world.”
“How did poisoning me play into this plan?”
“Yes, Mr. Skywalker, what was the point of that?” Betty9 said, advancing towards him angrily.
Joe’s eyes grew wide at her continued advance.
“Servicing robots is so boring. I wanted to be able to do what you do, Sunrun.”
“You could have asked to be included.” “You’re a loner!”
“I’m a scientist first. Betty9?” She turned to him and nodded. “Detain him. I think I need to get myself to the infirmary, then we need to sort this whole mess out.”
Betty9 took a few more steps forward and delivered a harsh blow to Joe, rendering him unconscious, then following the two Marks out and to the infirmary, dragging Joe’s limp body behind.
Betty9 Robot Love
Thankfully the dosage of the chemical hadn’t been high enough to cause major complications, so the original Mark quickly recovered. Upon going home and jacking into his android self, he knew now that the version of himself in the android body had indeed been coded exactly the same as Betty9. His core A.I. implementation remained intact, with no reference to emotion, the only difference between Mark2’s code and Betty9’s being their respective memories.
Given his extensive interrogation of Mark2, he had to conclude that Betty9 truly did love him, as Mark2 displayed the same emotional reactions to things that Mark himself did. He shook his head in amused disbelief that such a thing was possible, but he couldn’t argue with the facts presenting themselves to him.
He’d found only one space in the code that had been particularly ill-defined, which he had to assume is where their emotional capacity had come from, and smirked at the coincidence. He’d simply crafted a loop with a length of variables l and v set to 0 and 3 respectively, thinking nothing of how it appeared as he had no reason to think it would matter. In his own notes, he added one simple notation, so the line now read:
The rest of the stay on the asteroid mine would certainly be interesting. Mark2 understandably didn’t want to be wiped out, and knowing what he did now, Mark wouldn’t have forced it on him, either. It would just be Betty9, himself, and, well, himself.
It could be worse.