Dr. Maia Washington arrived at the decomissioned Laboratory #19 of North Central Positronics at 11:40 PM. In 20 minutes, she and her colleague, Dr.
Samuel Chen, would open the laborously installed viewport of the sealed door and see Laika, the First A.I., with their own eyes.
"You're here early," Dr. Chen quipped. He was reviewing old archived footage of Laika from the 2030's.
Dr. Washington smirked. "You're one to talk." She pulled up a chair and sat down next to Dr. Chen. "Damn," she muttered after a few minutes of watching her grandmother, the late Dr.
Sarah Goldstein, teach an infantile Laika to play the cello, "is this really the world famous 'Android Bach' that packed music halls from New York to Moscow?"
Dr. Chen chuckled; for a moment, the glow of nostalgia melted decades off his weathered face. "Maia...if only you could have seen Laika when she was still active.
This footage just doesn’t do her justice."
Dr. Washington grinned. "Well, maybe tonight is the night I do get to see."
Dr. Chen chuckled again. "Maybe."
After Dr. Goldstein died on February 1st, 2061, Laika became inactive and was quickly deemed 'defunct.
' It was common knowledge, however, that at midnight on February 1st, Bach's Cello Suite #1 could be heard emanating from the otherwise noiseless lab.
Music never played when #19's door was opened or the cello removed, but any attempts to view Laika active via electronic monitoring were always met with failure.
Consequently, most of North Central's interested parties had long ago grown tired of her, and only a vocal cadre of scientists and historians, led by Dr.
Chen, prevented North Central from 'decommisioning' Laika's android shell. For 9 of the last 10 years, Dr.
Chen alone had continued the fight to confirm that it was Laika playing, and not merely a recording.
"I still don't get it," Dr.
Washington admitted after viewing a clip of Laika and a beaming team of scientists bowing at the end of Laika's first Carnegie Hall performance, "it's impressive to see her playing so skillfully,
but honestly it's more the fact that she did it so long ago, with a shell that's so, well...rudimentary compared to what we design now. What makes Laika so special besides being the first A.I.?"
"She was also the last," Dr. Chen replied.
Dr. Washington laughed. "What do you mean? There's A.I.'s in almost every household now! Our cheapest models cost as much as a car!"
Dr. Chen shook his head. "Those are artificial and intelligent, yes, but they're not A.I.'s. They don't feel the way Laika did. Later models fixed that 'flaw.
' She deactivated herself after Dr. Goldstein died because she was sad."
"That's ridiculous!" Dr. Washington scoffed.
"Is it?" Dr. Chen checked the time and opened the viewport.
Dr. Washington gasped. Staring right at her was Laika, awake.
"You have my mother's eyes," the Android stated. Then she picked up her cello and began to play.