I watched Sarah, Patrick Finney’s receptionist, carefully
pick up two rose petals that had fallen from the bouquet that was in a vase on her desk.
She opened the desk drawer and put them in a small plastic container with quite a
few others. She looked up at me and smiled. “The rose will surely die, but the
fragrance will always be there.” Sarah had curly red hair and a kind face. “On time I see. Go on in,” she said. I
considered myself lucky to get the internship with Mr. Patrick Finney, the
premier civil rights lawyer in the country.
Mr. Finney sat at his cluttered desk. His hoary hair and eyebrows were wild. He had a round, friendly face and deep-blue penetrating eyes. “Aiden Adams, good to meet you.” We shook hands.
He looked over my packet. “Top five percent of your class…good… three hundred volunteer hours. Master’s thesis… ah, “Should Bio-entities Have Equal Rights?” He looked up into my eyes, “Are you truly passionate about AI Bio-entity equality?”
I nodded yes. He drummed the desktop with his fingers, “Have you ever interacted with an AI Bio-entity?”
I hesitated. “I may have, I don’t know for sure. They say you can’t tell the difference... I think that’s why I’m here.”
Mr. Finney half smiled and nodded slightly. “Good, an honest man. “
“Thank you, sir.”
“Welcome aboard, but don’t thank me just yet. View this meeting I had with Dr. George Clement. It will explain a lot.” He wrote down the access code on a slip of paper. He nodded toward the only other door in the room. “Use the annex. That’ll be your office; the computer is already up.”
I was surprised at how quickly things were happening. I did want to get into the thick of things and so I was. The annex was just big enough for a small desk and chair. I sat and watched the meeting.
Dr. Clement was the department head of Bio-entity Development at a company called Biodyne. ETrontex bought out Biodyne and drastically changed the company’s mission, so much so that Dr. Clement left for ‘ethical reasons’.
Dr. Clement defined an AI Bio-entity as a living organism, forty percent man- made: carbon/metallic skeleton that supported a gauzy protein matrix with a basic human form. The other sixty percent was made up of a human DNA mixture that permeated the matrix and became the muscle and skin and all the external and some of the internal organs. Since the DNA mixture came from thousands of different sources, fifty-one percent of the Bio-entities were female. Each one, male or female was as unique as its donor.
The AIs’ brain, or as Dr. Clement put it the, “Reaction-processing-system was all man-made of layers upon layers of microgrids. At the intersection of each strand was a cell he likened to a synapse. All the synapses were connected and routed to a central processor that was packed with an encyclopedic amount of information. Dr. Clement explained it nicely, “Simply put, sensory input, sight, sound, tactile stimuli searches a vast menu of installed information and when the routes between synapses have been established to accomplish a task, or identify an object or evaluate a situation the experience is stored in the memory. It’s a learning process; the more sensory input the more opportunities for the AI reaction-processing-system to form these memory patterns.”
Mr. Finney asked, “Does an AI Bio-entity have some kind of psyche? You see George, that’s going to be the crux of my court arguments. Is it possible for an AI Bio-entity to develop those qualities that make a human, human? Establishing that is the first step to equality.”
“Yes and no. As humans, our actions and reactions can be so different to the same stimuli. What you loathe, I might love, what frightens me might embolden you. The way those human qualities play out, is at best, a crap shoot but not so much a crap shoot that we couldn’t program thousands of different responses for the same situation. The way we respond is largely based on our perceived or assumed intention of the other person and all the prior experiences that make up our history. Sometimes our responses are wrong. Heck, we make illogical and non-beneficial decisions on occasion. Then, for our ego’s sake, even though we recognize we are making a bad decision, we still make them. We passed that little caveat along to the AI Bio-entity.”
“They can make mistakes and do things that aren’t in their self-interest?”
“They have that capacity. You see, each Bio-entity is imbued with a unique mix of pleasant and not so pleasant childhood memories. Those memories prejudice or at least color their reactions. We’ve given the AI Bio-entity the most human of human frailties, hope and doubt.”
“You should have spared the poor creatures that.”
“Maybe, but those poor creatures have such keen sensors they can feel someone’s fear or hostility or kindness. And in some extreme circumstances the Bio-entity has made spontaneous modifications to its reaction-processing-system.”
“And physically? What should I know?”
The Bio-entity must ingest organic materials to support that sixty percent of it that is flesh and blood. ”
Finney asked with a dubious tone, “And sex?”
Clement gave a wistful smile. “Everything is there and functional, but without the capacity to reproduce.”
Finney opened the bottom drawer, lifted out a bottle of Scotch and two glasses. He poured some in each glass. Here's to better understanding." He toasted.
“Understand this; we made the AI Bio-entity to be non-proactive and subservient. That gives us humans the upper hand. In essence, they do what they’re told.” Dr. Clement gestured for a silent toast. They both drank deep.
“Do they know what they are?”
“No, it’s better they never find out.”
Further research showed each Bio-entity was given a unique set of personal memories that were tethered to a kind of disjointed Jungian collective consciousness. Like its creators, AI Bio-entities were influenced by phrases and historical or popular references from that collective consciousness. Those influences helped form a response; sometimes quite inappropriately human.
When Biodyne’s first prototypes were ready, the shoestring-budgeted company wanted to go on a worldwide tour to demonstrate their product. ETrontex stepped in with funds by buying the majority of the company. The tour was canceled and the genii never left the bottle. ETrontex limited the AI’s ‘intellect’ and re-purposed the AI Bio-entities to replace military ground troops. They became the perfect soldier that could gather and transmit real-time battlefield visuals. ETrontex/Biodyne and its coven of industrialists and friends in high government conjured up several dirty little wars to fight and bombarded the media with its message, “No more home troop casualties on the battlefield.” The AI Bio-entity sold for a cool three million per and was also an anti-personnel device that could be detonated a continent away in order to avoid capture or to take out enemy troops and infrastructure.
When this information came to light a growing majority wanted AI Bio-entities to have some kind of bill of rights, some recognition, some protection. After all, they were made in our image and likeness.
There were also a growing number of non-military AI Bio-entities, with a larger and more sophisticated reaction-processing system. Those AI Bio-entities became an exotic and sordid novelty for the very wealthy. Some unscrupulous and hedonistic owners took their AI Bio-entities to the outer limits of morality and good taste. Their guilty pleasures were eagerly reported and read in the daily E-scandal sheets.
Patrick Finney wanted a case that concerned one of these latter AI Bio-entity’s right to dignity and basic equal rights. Three weeks later he got his wish.
FINNEY/ANDREA F-3-3-2066 et.al
OMEGA ALPHA IOTA FRATERNITY
The lawsuit involved Andrea F-3-3-2066, who was placed in the Omega Alpha Iota fraternity house by ETrontex/Biodyne. Andrea served as a domestic and aide to the House Mother, Beth Townsend. No one at the Alpha Iota Gamma house, nor did Mrs. Townsend know Andrea F-3-3-2066 was an AI Bio-entity. ETrontex/Biodyne wanted real time data on rapid adaptation scenarios in order to study how the AI modified its reaction- processing-system to cope. ETrontex/Biodyne selected Omega Alpha Iota for its rowdy reputation and because all of its members came from the richest families in the country, all of whom were tightly bound to ETrontex/Biodyne.
It was an oppressively sultry Sunday, April 1st, 2068. The fraternity brothers began drinking that morning and it was now late afternoon. Beth Townsend was called away. Andrea was left alone to do her chores and wait on the boys. As soon as Mrs. Townsend stepped out Andrea was circled by the drunken young men. Because of her subservient nature and inexperience, the fraternity brothers easily forced her to her knees. They tried to make her submit to their confusing demands. Andrea sensed aggression and destructiveness for the first time. As the young men pulled at her and tried to force themselves on her, that sixty percent human flesh and blood experienced pain. She was frightened. She forced herself to her feet and backed against a wall, crossed her arms over her chest and pressed her thighs together. The fraternity men crowded around her. She spoke forcefully, “Please sirs, you must not do this, this is not right. Please stop hurting me.”
By chance, Beth Townsend returned momentarily to get her umbrella. She saw what was going on and rushed to help Andrea. She swung her umbrella until the fraternity boys backed off. One boy slapped at her but Andrea put herself between the two and took the full force of his hand on her face. The two women hurried out of the house followed by catcalls and drunken laughter and a few poorly aimed beer bottles.
The dull-eyed desk sergeant, after doing an extensive and perplexing data search came across a bit of information and let out an epiphanic sigh, rolled his eyes and politely said, “Mrs. Townsend, you should talk to Lieutenant Lawson, in his office. The other can wait right over there.” He pointed to a wooden bench. Andrea sat.
Lieutenant Lawson was a thin, dry-lipped man in his middle years. He looked up from his computer screen, “There can be no charges of attempted sexual abuse here Mrs. Townsend. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn’t know, but your Andrea here, is an AI Bio-entity, a machine, a piece of property licensed to the university by ETrontex/Biodyne.”
Mrs. Townsend was momentarily shocked but quickly found her mental balance. “I can’t believe that. I don’t know anything about that; all I know is this girl was almost violated.”
The lieutenant frowned. “One of those, eh? Well, it’s not our problem. Andrea is a piece of machinery, no matter how nice or pretty.” The lieutenant pointed at the door and nodded. “Frankly ma’am, those things give me the willies. Now, the desk sergeant will make a call and the folks at ETrontex will send someone around to collect their property.”
The second she left the lieutenant’s office Beth Townsend grabbed Andrea by the arm and hurried unnoticed past the desk sergeant. Once outside they ducked into an alley and out of view of the surveillance drones. The police would be along directly.
They jogged to the far end of the alley. Across the empty, rain-slicked street she saw the glass door with the golden letters, ‘Patrick Finney Esq.’ The name struck a chord, it was somehow familiar but she couldn’t quite place it. A light outlined Mr. Finney’s partially opened office door and dimly lit the lobby. Beth and Andrea dashed across the street and into the building.
That’s how we all came to meet. I was returning to my apartment from yet another solo dinner. I saw the light on and decided to stop in. Mrs. Townsend was telling Mr. Finney her story. When I came in, Andrea glanced at me with what appeared to be some trepidation and then quickly away. She looked to be my age, average height, trim, and fit. Her face was pretty in a simple, natural way.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her while Mr. Finney questioned Andrea. Everything about her, her facial expressions, the timbre of her voice, even the way she stood there pensive with her head bowed and especially the timid way she engaged each one of us with her eyes, the innocent way she spoke attracted me.
When she repeated her plea, “Please sirs, you must not do this, this is not right. Please stop hurting me.” Mr. Finney’s eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped. He asked me to take Andrea and wait in the reception area and be sure to close the door.
He told Mrs. Townsend to return to the police station and tell them Andrea ran off and she’d been looking for her.
Before she left, Mrs. Townsend gave Andrea a hug. We went back into Mr. Finney’s office. He was on the phone and said only three cryptic words, “Bring the box.”
Andrea and I took a few steps closer to Mr. Finney’s desk. She stood with her head bowed, her shoulders stooped and her hands clasped. “Is Mrs. Townsend coming back?”
“No Andrea, she’s not.” He studied Andrea’s expression. “Do you know who you are?”
Andrea’s wrinkled her brow. “Of course I know, Andrea March. I’m just me, that’s all, just me.” She looked at Mr. Finney flustered, and then at me. Her lips were slightly parted and she looked as if she were about to cry.
I felt bad for her, but also a surge of adrenaline when I heard a police siren howl down the street.
Dr. Clement hurried in a minute later carrying a metal briefcase. He had the wide-eyed expression of someone who was just reminded of the obvious. He looked at Andrea and smiled.
Mr. Finney pointed, “This is Andrea our special guest. A guest who, I’m afraid, is in a hurry.”
Dr. Clement opened the briefcase and took out a small, electronic device. He held it in the palm of his hand and with his brow wrinkled in concentration, activated it. “Get ready.” I found out later that he turned off Andrea's GPS signal.
Andrea staggered and fell. I caught her. She looked up into my eyes and feebly held on as I supported her entire being in my embrace.
“Aiden, take Andrea to your apartment and keep her there,” said Mr. Finney, “you’re on board, right? We can count on you, yes?”
I couldn’t say no. I was pretty overwhelmed as the two men looked at me with expectation. Andrea put her head against my chest and clung on a little tighter. I agreed.
My apartment was six blocks away. The evening air was misty and the streets were empty. Andrea walked next to me. Her head was lowered and she clasped her hands together and held them against her chest. Three blocks from the apartment a Demeanor Enforcement cruiser pulled to the curb behind us. We stopped. I took Andrea’s hand and pulled her close. The red and blue lights on the cruiser flashed, I acted as if I didn’t notice as I cradled Andrea’s head in my hands and gave her a long, eyes closed kiss on the lips.
Two Demeanor Enforcement officers, a sugar-coated name for the corporate sponsored privatized police force, approached us. The senior of the two tapped my shoulder. “I.D.s, please.”
My heart pounded. I fumbled my I.D. out of my wallet. The officer looked it over and handed it back to me. He studied Andrea. “Your I.D., please.”
Andrea looked at me. She was just about to say something, which of course could only be the truth. I spoke up, “We just stepped out to get a bite to eat. My fiancé forgot her purse. So typical, it was her turn to treat.” I forced a laugh. Andrea caught on quickly and chuckled too. The officers were not amused.
“Name,” He asked Andrea.
“Come on guys, you don’t want the hassle of taking her in just because she forgot her I.D. People forget things, so she forgot her I.D. it’s no big deal?”
The officers exchanged a glance. “Have either of you seen two woman? One middle-aged and the other,” he looked at Andrea, “about your age?”
I looked at Andrea and then back to the officers and shook my head no. “Are they dangerous?”
“It concerns national security.”
“Is there a reward? We could use some honeymoon money,” I asked. I saw Andrea’s eyes open wide as she leaned back and looked at me.
“Could be, but it’s your civic duty to report anything suspicious.” He leaned in and looked closer at Andrea. “No I.D. you say.” The officer reached for the retinal scanner on his belt.
Again I forced a smile and took Andrea’s hand. I kissed her cheek. “What do you say? Come on, give us a break. We’re getting married tomorrow.”
The cruiser’s radio crackled out some such disturbance not too far away. The officer pulled his hand away from the scanner. “If you see two women that fit that description, call it in.” The police left.
My heart was racing. Andrea took my hand and leaned her shoulder on mine as we continued the last few blocks to my place.
“I wonder who those women are?” said Andrea. She looked behind her and shivered, “We should hurry.”
My third floor apartment was a cramped one bedroom, a bit cluttered and guy messy. Once inside, I freed my hand from Andrea’s and flopped onto the sofa. I certainly was in the thick of things. What to do with this mysterious young lady? Andrea stood next to the sofa until I invited her to sit next to me.
“What will happen now? How long can I stay with you?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Mr. Finney will figure something out. Andrea, do you know why you’re here?”
“So you can protect me.” She shook her head yes as she spoke.
“You’re right. Do you know why?”
“So the fraternity boys won’t hurt me.” Andrea looked at my hand; she reached out, hesitated, but did not take it.
“Yes, to protect you from the bad guys.” I smiled. She moved a little closer until I felt her thigh against mine. “What are you doing?”
“You said I am your fiancé. This is a way to show my affection.”
I moved my leg just a little away from hers. “Now, I just said that so the police would leave us alone.”
“You also kissed me, twice.”
“I didn’t mean anything by it. Like I said, I did it to fool the police.”
Andrea was silent for a few seconds. “You said and did things you didn’t mean.”
“I suppose I did. You don’t really believe we’re engaged to be married do you?”
“You said we were twice…and you kissed me twice. The only other one to kiss me was one of the fraternity boys. His kiss was not gentle like yours. His had a cruel feel to it.”
“We just met, Andrea. We should get to know each other before we decide to get married. Don’t you think?” I said with a smile. My humor was lost to her innocence.
“I am confused. You said certain things and acted a certain way, but then you said you didn’t mean it. Are you doing that now?”
“No, but sometimes a person’s safety is more important than telling the truth.”
“Am I more important than the truth?”
The question floored me. “Well, a little while ago you certainly were.”
Andrea nodded in contemplation.
We spent that first evening talking. Even though her memories were fabricated she told me about her family, where she went to school, who her childhood friends were, what she liked to do for fun. She even went off on a tangent now and then as one memory reminded her of others. Listening to Andrea was no different than talking to any other girl.
Those first few days I couldn’t wait to get home to Andrea. She was excited and happy to see me. Andrea was as receptive and literal and innocent as a little kid. But, even with her so called memories, she still didn’t have any real-life experience. She was like a flower that was slowly opening, petal by petal. I had to be very careful of what I said and even how I said it. It would be so easy to manipulate and take advantage of her.
Her simplicity was refreshing but also challenging. One afternoon after work, I came home to find her sitting in the lotus position on the sofa wearing nothing but a small T-shirt, reading. I had two strong reactions at once; one was to grab her up and carry her into the bedroom and toss her on the bed, but my better self told her to put on a pair of sweatpants.
She said what she said without guile and if a light moment warranted it, she tried out her burgeoning sense of humor. When I smiled, she smiled too. When I was impatient or spoke excitedly about something, so did she. She was my reflection and she made me a better person. I liked her for that.
It was just after dinner when someone knocked. I opened the door and saw Sarah standing there. She held a suitcase.
“Moving in, too?” I asked with a smile. Andrea waved from her seat.
“No, not me.” Sarah looked around the apartment, “Not bad. I brought you some things, and not a minute too soon.” For lack of anything else, Andrea either wore my sweatpants and sweatshirt or her domestic’s uniform.
“Come here, sweetie.” Sarah gave Andrea a hug. The girls sat on the sofa. Sarah put the suitcase on the coffee table and opened it. She brought some of her slightly used clothes, slippers, shoes and toiletries, even a perfume called ‘Allure’.
“Andrea, no man can resist a woman who wears this.” Sarah dabbed some perfume on Andrea’s neck. At first Andrea was puzzled, but after just a few seconds of observing Sarah, she too was cheerfully cooing over each piece of clothing. The two twittered like birds over fashions and colors and styles.
While Andrea hung up her clothes, Sarah sidled up to me and whispered, “It’s amazing, I can’t tell any difference.”
That night I woke up around 3:30. In the dim light, I saw Andrea with her arms crossed, standing in the doorway. “What are you doing over there?” I whispered.
“I couldn’t sleep.” Andrea came over to the bed. She had on some silk pajamas. She was shivering and she hugged herself.
I rubbed my eyes. “Is there something you need, Andrea?”
She knelt, leaned in very closely and whispered, “Can I get in bed with you? I’m cold.”
“Are you sure you want to?”
Andrea pulled back the blanket and slipped in. Her new perfume was intoxicating. I felt the warmth from the full length of her body next to mine. Andrea rolled toward me, put her head on my shoulder and draped her arm across my chest.
“I can sleep now,” she said. “I feel safe with you, Aiden. Thank you for taking me in and taking care of me. Good night.” I felt her snuggle in. She kissed my cheek.
In that precious moment, Andrea and I had reached beyond certain boundaries and I gladly accepted her for whom and what she was. The world seemed so right with her next to me. “Good night,” we whispered to each other.
Mr. Finney read, “Any Artificial Intelligence Bio-Entity, Automaton, or any such device that does not follow the natural order of things, as in being a product of the natural world, is to be considered a contrived device, necessarily subservient by design, limited in intellect and incapable of independent judgment. Any contrived device such as an Artificial Intelligence Bio-entity, Automaton or the like shall be considered non-human and the property and responsibility of its maker or immediate owner through purchase or lease, Supreme Court ruling, July 1st 2063.” He looked up from his screen. “There it is, that’s what we’re up against.
“Andrea is our proof that an AI Bio-entity knows the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, cowardice and bravery, self-interest and self-sacrifice, but by definition this will be very difficult to take to court.”
I barely heard Mr. Finney. Andrea now filled my thoughts. She discovered how much fun it was to giggle. Everything I said at breakfast made her giggle until I couldn’t help but giggle along with her. I was still dubious about our sleeping in the same bed. I told her it wasn’t a good idea, but during that first week, I’d go to sleep alone, wake up, and there she would be. Sometimes she was awake, her head propped in the palm of her hand just gazing at me or sometimes asleep with the slightest smile on her face.
If ETrontex/Biodyne found her they might deactivate and dip her. I couldn’t imagine her being torn apart, her memories and experiences wiped away like so much dust and her flesh eaten down to her carbon fiber skeleton by acid. I was never going to let that happen.
ETrontex/Biodyne wasted no time. During the first week of Andrea’s ‘disappearance’, they turned every downtown office building window into a mega-screen featuring her face. Since she couldn’t leave the apartment, I looked forward to surprising her every day with a little something. I bought her a book of poetry at a used book store. Andrea’s favorite poem was, ‘A Red, Red Rose’. We talked about how the poems made her feel. Andrea took my hands and asked me about love. I’m afraid I could only answer with a smile.
The next afternoon I brought her a single red rose. She thanked me over and over again. The rose had a wonderfully sweet fragrance. At dinner she held the rose in one hand and her fork in the other. In the middle of chewing, she stopped, closed her eyes and lightly brushed the rose over her lips. “It is like your kiss,” she said softly.
I actually blushed and thanked her. I also told her her rose would fade away and die if it wasn’t put back in the vase.
The following day, when I came home, she took my hand and led me to the sofa. She spent the day writing a poem and she read to me. “Here, a single rose blushes, in velvet anticipation, one cupped petal upon another cradles dreams, giving form to the nightingale’s song.”
I was awed by the beauty and depth of her writing.
“When we sleep, I feel like we are two rose petals. You cradle me.”
Her words touched every fiber of my being. I kissed her on the forehead, pulled her onto my lap and sat cheek to cheek.
I asked Sarah to stop in a few times a week so Andrea could have some girl on girl time. Sarah might bring Chinese takeout or a pizza. Andrea and I enjoyed our impromptu little dinners. I was glad to see Andrea bond with Sarah. Andrea listened, wide-eyed to everything Sarah said.
“So then Bob took me to the Hotel Del Coronado for dinner and dancing. The food was great and the band was wonderful, and that Bob, well he’s just to die for.”
Andrea nodded and looked up at me with such warmth and serenity.
After Sarah left, Andrea seemed pensive and quiet. She sat next to me on the sofa. “Am I a good person?” she asked.
“Of course you are.” I said. I caressed her cheek with my fingertips.
She smiled and looked into my eyes. “So are you.”
That night we made love and held each other close until we fell asleep.
The next morning on my way to the office, I counted twelve surveillance drones doing apartment sweeps. I wasn’t too worried. We were careful to keep the curtains closed. I turned the corner and slowed down when I saw a police van parked in front of Mr. Finney’s office. He and Sarah were on the sidewalk, flanked by four Demeanor Enforcement Officers.
When I approached, Sarah looked directly at me and subtly shook her head ‘no’. I plunged my hands into my pockets and continued on.
“You, stop,” called out one of the officers. The back of my neck twitched and my shoulders tensed. I stopped. It was the same officer who stopped me and Andrea that first day we met. Instead of asking for my I.D., he grabbed my wrist and gave me a full scan with his Bio-scope. He called over his shoulder to one of the others, “We got a carbon match; he’s the one.” The officer had trouble putting his scope back in its holster and let go of my wrist. I had to get to Andrea. I sprinted into the oncoming traffic, dodging the cars and taxis. I ran around a bus that was just leaving from the opposite curb and slipped under the canvas flap and into the bicycle stow area.
At the Mid-Town Exchange, I took the same bus back to the apartment. To be safe, I entered through the parking garage and took the service stairs up to the third floor. I opened the door just enough to see that the hallway was empty. Once inside the apartment I was so relieved to see that Andrea was still there. She was sitting at the dining table reading a volume of Romeo and Juliet that I bought at a flea market.
“Aiden, you’re home.” Andrea stood. She hadn’t yet dressed. She still had on light yellow, silk pajamas and her hair was slightly mussed up.
When I held out my arms to her, Andrea’s eyes sparkled. She rushed to me, threw her arms around my neck and gave me several little kisses on my cheek and lips. “Oh Romeo, you have come to me, you are the sun and I am your angel.” She snuggled against my chest. “Thank you so much for giving me this book to read, and thank you for loving me.” She closed her eyes and gave me a lingering kiss on the lips.
Why did things have to be so desperate? I held her at arms’ length and looked into her eyes. “Andrea, I have to get you away from here. Gather your things and put them in that suitcase Sarah gave you.”
“Yes, Aiden, I will.”
I quickly filled a backpack with my things. In less than ten minutes, we were ready to go.
“Are the fraternity brothers after me?” Her brow wrinkled with concern.
“Something like that.”
She put her suitcase on the floor and stood up a little straighter. “Aiden, please tell me what is happening.”
“Trust me, we just have to leave the city for a while. Please, I’ll explain everything on the way, we must hurry.”
I opened the door. Two Demeanor Enforcement Officers stood there. Behind them were two men dressed in plain black suits. I tried to force the door shut but the Demeanor Enforcement Officers pushed it open. Sarah stood between the two men in black suits. Each held her by an arm. She had tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. One of the black suits looked at Sarah and spoke in a dull and even voice, “Thank you for your help, you may go now.” He guided her to the threshold, gave her a nudge and closed the door.
The Demeanor Enforcement Officer closest to me grabbed my shoulder. The two black suits approached Andrea and escorted her past me and into the hallway. “Where are you taking her?” I yelled and frantically tried to pull away from my captor. Andrea turned to me. She was crying.
“I would be concerned more about myself if I were you. Aiding and abetting an AI Bio-entity is a felony as well as grand larceny. And don’t try to tell me you didn’t know that Andrea F-3-3-66 is an AI bio-entity.”
The expression on Andrea’s face at the revelation tore at my soul. All I could do was look at her as she left the room. I didn’t say another word.
Mr. Finney was already there waiting at the police station. I was registered as a civil offender and remanded to Mr. Finney’s custody.
“There isn’t much we can do,” Mr. Finney said when we were back at his office.
“Can’t Dr. Clement do anything? Can’t he point out how special Andrea is? She made the breakthrough. She’s as human as you or I.” I was more angry than excited.
“I tried to get in touch with him all day. That breakthrough will be her undoing. ETrontex doesn’t want her, or any of her kind to be equal let alone superior.”
“Her kind? Why not? They should want to.”
“Aiden, as long as an AI bio-entity is considered an object, it is under the control of the person or persons who own it. ETrontex is not giving up control of over a million plus bio-entities by declaring them a separate but equal species and setting them free.”
“It isn’t fair and it isn’t right,” I sounded like a pouting six-year-old.
“We have to think of taking care of you. You could be in very serious trouble.”
“What do you mean, ‘could be’?”
“As it is, right now you are looking at thirty years in prison. Thirty years with no chance of parole or even a presidential pardon.”
The news staggered me. I had to sit down. “Thirty years?”
Mr. Finney opened his drawer and pulled out his bottle of Scotch and poured two glasses. He slid one over to me. “Yes, thirty years.”
I took a sip. “What can we do?”
“In order for a dismissal there would have to be no physical evidence. That’s why the conviction rate is one hundred percent. An AI bio-entity’s primary directive is self-preservation. That is why there are over three thousand people incarcerated for aiding and abetting AI bio-entities. The physical evidence remains. ETrontex either repurposes the AI bio-entity or puts them in stasis and cryogenic storage. As long as the evidence exists, well, the defendant will be convicted.”
I felt sick. “Is there any way I can see Andrea again?”
“I’m not sure, maybe, but why?”
I found it hard to answer. “To see if she is alright.” I couldn’t hide the concern on my face.
Mr. Finney sat back in his chair. “You do know she is not a human, correct?” he had an incredulous look in his eyes.
“She’s a hell of a lot more human than the people in charge.”“Come on now, drink up. I’ll see what I can do. Go home and get some rest.”
I never felt as alone as I did that night. Andrea’s suitcase was right where she set it down. I put it on the sofa next to me and opened it up. She had all of the nice clothes Sarah gave her. I pulled a few strands of hair from her brush and wrapped them around my ring finger. I smiled when I saw she packed the copy of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Women in Love’, her red rose that was now dry but still quite fragrant, and a childhood photo of me that she begged to keep. I thought of our after dinner discussions that sometimes lasted until midnight. It was wonderful to see her eyes light up as she grasped new ideas and theories. Every day we became closer.
Mr. Finney was right, my future looked dismal. Even if I was acquitted or there was a mistrial, the chances of getting meaningful employment were all but nil.
But right now, all I wanted to do was to see her; be there for her. The revelation that she was an AI Bio-entity must have been a terrible shock. I wanted to hold her and tell her everything would be okay. When I went to sleep that night I hugged my pillow wishing it was her.
It was just dawn. I heard pounding on the door. I looked through the peephole. It was Dr. Clement. I opened the door. “Dr. Clement, come in, sit down.” I pointed to the sofa, but he remained standing.
“We have no time. If you want to see her, we must leave right now.”
I threw on some clothes and a pair sneakers. At the door, I hurried back and grabbed Andrea’s suitcase. Dr. Clement remained silent but gave me a curiously sad look.
“Come on, hurry,” he said.
We took the service stairway to the garage and got into his E.V.
“Where are we going?” I asked as I looked all around the garage and was glad to see we were the only ones there. He didn’t say.
It was just after five o’clock and the street lights were still on. We headed for the outskirts of the city and eventually came to a large warehouse complex that pressed against the dawn sky. He drove to the rear of the building and stopped at a place along the chain link fence where it had obviously been cut and the wire stretched open.
I snatched Andrea’s suitcase off the rear seat. We squeezed through the opening and hurried to the loading dock. I noticed discarded signs with the Biodyne logo, stacked on the ground and haphazardly leaning against the wall.
We pulled ourselves up onto the loading platform and made it to the rear door.
“She’s inside,” Dr. Clement finally said in an emotionless voice. He had a key and we entered.
“This is the old Biodyne building.”
“Yes, where it all started.” The doctor’s footfalls echoed as I followed him down a long hallway.
“Why is she here?”
“She decided to come home.”
“I saw the Federal Security Service men take her away.”
He stopped and turned around and looked me in the eyes. “You saw someone take her away.”
“Someone?” I repeated. We went a little further and turned down a hallway that led into a laboratory. I followed the doctor to a smaller side room that was well lit. The room had a low stainless steel tank off to the corner and a well padded, oversized work table. Andrea lay on her back under a white cloth that was pulled up under her chin.
“Andrea!” I let out a sigh of relief and rushed to her side, “Are you alright?”
She turned her head toward me and gave me a sleepy smile. “Oh, Aiden, you have come to me.” She sounded so tired. With some effort, she propped herself with her elbow. The white covering slipped down. She was naked.
“Come on, let’s get you dressed and out of here.” I reached for her hand, but she lay back down and closed her eyes.
“Aiden, be the sun and fill my sky.”
I didn’t understand. My heart raced as joy became concern. “What are you talking about, sweetheart? I’ll help you get dressed. I brought your clothes.”
“Lay next to me. Hold me in your arms so I can feel you against me. I want it to be like that first night when you held me.”
My eyes begged Dr. Clement for some kind of explanation. He cast his gaze to the floor and slightly turned away.
“Please, my Romeo.” Her voice was so soft.
I leaned over and kissed her on the lips; the sparkle was fading from her eyes. I opened the suitcase and took out ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
“Lay with me, please. I am cold,” she whispered.
I climbed onto the table and lay on my side and cradled her back against my chest. I put the book in her hand. “Thank you, my love,” she said in a fading whisper.
I closed my eyes and imagined the night Andrea slipped into bed with me. How peaceful and right it felt. I remembered her saying how I made her feel safe and how she snuggled so close and the innocent way she kissed my cheek. I wanted us to be in that moment forever. Andrea let out a long sigh, took my hand and placed it on her heart.
“Dear Aiden, don’t think of me as what I truly am but remember, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” She took a few shallow breaths.
My senses prickled as I felt her presence leave her body. I rocked her in my arms. “No…no,” my voice broke and tears wetted my eyes. My chest heaved and I cried. I hadn’t cried since I was a little boy. I cried until I was numb.
Dr. Clement placed his hand on my shoulder. “It is over, Aiden. Please, we don’t have much time before they get here,” he said gently. “Andrea did this for you.”
I wiped away the tears, lay there and stroked her hair for a moment longer. We heard echoing footsteps and the bullying chatter of several men come from the further hallways.
“Hurry up, man, or all of this is for nothing.” Dr. Clement shook my shoulder until I got to my feet. The voices were getting louder and it sounded like they were striking each door they passed with their batons. Dr. Clement pulled the white cloth away from Andrea. I looked at her naked being, now, so pale and so cold. The doctor picked her up from under her arms and with an impatient flash of his eyes silently ordered me to pick up Andrea’s feet. We took her to the vat in the corner. It tore my soul in two, but I knew what I had to do. I slowly lowered her feet and legs into the acid and helped Dr. Clement to gently let her sink below the surface. And she was gone.