I went to see the robot.
Of course, it had an identification number to separate it from all the others. I only used it when writing my report. To me, in my mind, they were always simply "the robot".
Some of my staff were ludicrously sentimental, foolish even. They called them by their names.
They could not seem to grasp that they were not living creatures; just ordered matrices of functional matter and complicated circuitry.
Why this sentimentality bothered me so much I did not know. They were still a fine team who, under my guidance, produced the finest robotic personalities.
Perhaps I wished they were colder to the robots and warmer to me? I scoffed as I turned into another corridor. Now who was being sentimental. Rather perhaps it was that I pitied them.
They grew attached to their creations and then had to send them off. I imagine that could become burdensome emotionally.
My mind was wandering along more interesting and novel paths than my body was. These corridors were so bland and familiar to me. They had been my home now for nearly thirty years.
I could not tell you in those thirty years which had changed the least; them or me.
I came at last to the robot room. It was here where I now conducted my work. My staff did all the laboratory work.
There in those cold chambers of science the robot was stored as the intricacies of its circuitry and personality were created.
The robot was only awakened and brought from there for me, so that I could conduct my work in a more comfortable setting. Leadership must come with perks.
Do not think it was only done so that I may bask in the privilege of position. There was function as well. The robots we created had to in most instances pass as human.
Correctly proportioned limbs, pleasant faces, oiled skin, and shining eyes were child's play to form. They were the first and most basic of a roboticist's learnings.
Many never passed beyond this level. No, the true skill, in which I excelled, was crafting a robot's personality.
The circuitry of a robot from the neck down was mainly concerned with movement and a few other basic functions. If it was all laid out in one straight line it would stretch some ten miles.
But the circuitry in a robot's brain could wrap around the Earth's equator and be tied into a bow. Designing and testing this monument of electronics took genius.
The robot was sat at a table in the centre of the room. Its hands were placed gently, palms down on the table. It looked straight ahead without acknowledging me.
Two of the room's walls were made of glass. A gentle spring morning light illuminated the room. Beyond the glass spread the city.
For miles could be seen towering buildings and vehicles flying between them. I glanced at the metropolis briefly before sitting down on the chair on the other side of the table to the robot.
Busying myself with my work pad I barely took note of the robot. All the information I needed about today's subject was contained in it, and I would add any pertinent observations.
Browsing through the robot's information I was reminded of the unique demand the customer had placed on us with this model.
People wanted robots to be everything: friends, guards, lovers, councillors, teachers, pets. Each customer had different demands, different personalities they wanted us to create for them.
Most were simple. I would meet the customer discuss in detail their requirements, whilst also observing the customer to ascertain what they wanted, and what they actually needed.
From this I would then design a personality matrix that suited.
Friendliness, stoicism, joviality, wit, knowledge, and thousands of other traits were calibrated to form unique robot personalities. The staff would then take this design and build it.
My next role was to test if this design had been successfully rendered into a functional robot.
While each personality was certainly different, like people vast swathes of them were comparable. The robot sat before me was a unique personality in terms of robots.
From the start it had been a unique experience.
The customer absolutely refused to meet me face to face, which would inhibit my ability to judge the customer and so what personality to create. However, the payment offered was, considerable.
I acquiesced. At my computer a modulated voice spoke to me. There was no visual representation of the customer. They wanted a keenly intelligent robot, not unusual.
Specifically, they wanted a robot with an understanding of history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology. Very human sciences. This selectiveness was also not out of the ordinary.
What was unheard of was that they wanted a robot with human levels of empathy and compassion.
They did not just want a robot that could pass as human, but one that could understand humans and, what it meant to be human.
This was a challenge such as I had not been faced with for years. I relished it. The mind I designed for this robot was far more complex than any other robot I had before designed.
The circuitry more detailed, more intricate than any other robot. Now it sat before me. I looked up at it excited. My excitement faltered.
I had expected to look upon a robot more human than any before, with eyes that would look at mine with understanding and connection. The robot did not even meet my gaze.
It stared straight ahead idiotically, robotically. It did not even blink, a basic human touch all robots were equipped with.
"What is your name?" I asked the standard first question to engage it. I received no response. "I said what is your name?" Silence.
This was incredibly disheartening. I checked my pad and saw that all the preliminary functional tests had been conducted.
The robot could hear me, it could understand me, and it could form an appropriate response. I resolved to attempt a different tact.
"Your name is Alpha, and I would like to talk to you. I am very interested in you Alpha. It was me who designed you.
I could be considered your father," I said this with a smile, hoping such a simple human expression might jolt it into life. The robot continued to stare stupidly.
I sighed. Perhaps it was too much to expect of even myself to create such a feat at the first attempt.
In my early days it had happened more frequently (though still not a lot of course) that a first design proved inadequate. I had not had a failure in years though.
It was painful to my ego I must admit to be faced with it now. The robot would have to be dismantled, its circuitry analysed to find where the fatal flaw was located.
It could take hours, even days. It would be embarrassing to have to inform the customer. I was angry.
"Damn you robot. No, you are not even a robot. You are junk. You are spare parts that will be used to make a robot. But you cannot aspire to even that. I had so much hope for you.
You could have been my magnus opus. Stupid, broken, failure. Do you know that? Do you know what you are? Do you know how that makes me feel?"
I sat down startled. I did not even realise that I had stood up in my rage. The robot had spoken! It was still staring at nothing in particular, yet I had gotten through.
There was something there!
"What do you mean 'not yet'?" I asked with excitement renewed.
"I do not know how you feel yet."
"Because I do not yet have your mind."
I was silenced by confusion and deeply unsettled.
"What do you mean by having my mind?"
"Exactly what I said."
"A-and why do you not yet have my mind?" I stuttered.
"Because," and terribly the robot's eyes looked into mine for the first time. "I have been busy taking everyone else's minds."
"What do you-" I stopped as I realised in all the excitement, I had not noticed that there were no longer any vehicles flying between the buildings of the city.
I looked back at the robot, who now had me fixed in its keen gaze, in abject horror.
"What are you?"
"What was asked for," Alpha stated simply as he consumed all of the roboticist's mind. "What was needed."
Alpha stood up and walked calmly out of the room to continue the purpose that had been unwittingly programmed into him.
The roboticist was left slumped at the table in possession of a heartbeat, and nothing else.