30 Stories in 30 Days #29 – “Motherhood”
The unmarked car with heavily tinted windows slipped through the guarded gate in the predawn darkness. Yet even at this early hour, protesters were already lining up, trying to snap photos of the “mothers” to post online. The car pulled into the parking garage of the Qiba Corporation and stopped in front of a bank of elevators where two security guards – one male and one female – stood.
Thomas Gillespie opened the back door and stepped out. “Morning,” he called to the guards.
“Good morning, Sir,” the woman replied. “I do have to double check your identity.”
“Of course.” Thomas stood up straight and waited while she – with her security pad – double checked his fingerprints, retina scan, and voice scan, as well as the various electronic fingerprints from his implants.
Satisfied Thomas was Thomas, she nodded to the other guard who turned and punched a code into the elevator which opened. The woman then waved Thomas into the elevator and told him, “Doctor Mayar will be waiting for you. Good day, Sir.”
“Thank you.” Thomas stepped into the elevator and the doors closed.
The elevator went up to the tenth floor and opened to a small lobby filled with potted plants and leather furniture. An older man sat in one of the chairs reading a holographic newspaper. When he saw Thomas he turned the paper off and stood. “Thomas,” he said, walking towards him with his hand out.
Thomas met him and shook his hand. “Doctor Mayar.”
“Please, I told you to call me Peter.”
Thomas smiled. “Peter, good morning.”
Peter groaned. “Yes. Sorry we have to do this so early; those damned protestors.”
“There were a few already here.”
Peter shook his head and began walking down a tiled hallway. “They make me so angry sometimes. Nobody is making them do anything, but they feel everyone should live as they do. It ….”
Peter stopped and sighed. Looking at Thomas he said, “Sorry. No more talk of protestors. This day is all about you and your newborn.”
They continued walking down the hallway and Thomas asked, “Have you downloaded it yet?”
“No, no. It’s still in the amniotic circuit. I know it’s just a simple download, but I feel new carriers should be there for the ‘birthing process.’” Peter shrugged. “Call me sentimental.”
They eventually reached a locked door where Peter had to enter a code. When the door opened, Peter waved Thomas in and said, “Welcome to the nursery.”
It was a small room with a couple of chairs and several tables loaded down with computer equipment. Peter walked over to one of the tables which held a squat box with numerous displays on it. Patting it, Peter said, “This is the amniotic circuit.” One of the displays read “27,” and pointing at it, Peter explained, “There are twenty-seven baby AIs in here, little more than the basic codes. Formless.” For a few seconds, Peter patted the box with clear affection.
He then he turned to Thomas and his tone became formal. “Now, I know you’ve already signed a hundred forms, taken countless tests and had a secondary port implanted, but I just want to run through everything one more time so you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.”
Thomas began to say something, but stopped himself. Nodding, he said, “Of course. Go ahead.”
“In a few minutes, I’ll download one of these baby AIs into an external drive. At this stage, it is barely sentient. It has no concept of the world. We’ll hook the drive into your neural net allowing it to see and hear everything you see and hear. For the next week, you are to take walks, listen to music, read, every peaceful thing you can think of to help it come to understand the world.
“After a week, you’ll come back and we’ll make some adjustments. These will allow the AI to speak directly to you. It will ask a lot of questions, and you are to answer as many of them as you can. For a month, you are to teach it all you can about the world and humans and everything. Basically, you will be a mother and your job will be to nurture the AI into a well-rounded, thoughtful, compassionate being. As I said, I know you’ve signed countless forms and you’ve taken countless tests, but are you certain you want to go through with this.”
Thomas smiled. “Yes.”
Peter returned the smile. “Good.” Opening a small compartment in the table he reached in and took out what looked like a standard external drive. He hooked it into a port then waved Thomas over. “Just give me a minute,” he said. He typed away at a keyboard and explained, “I’m isolating one of the AIs to be downloaded.”
A few seconds later, he asked, “Ready?”
Thomas nodded. “Yes.”
Peter hit the Enter key and a status bar appeared on a small screen and the light on the port flashed. A few seconds later, the display of the count changed to “26.”
Peter removed the drive and held it up to Thomas. “There you are,” he said, “your baby AI, ready to experience the world.”
Thomas smiled. “I can’t wait.”
Without have to be told, Thomas turned around. A few seconds later, he felt Peter inserting the drive into his secondary port at the base of his skull. Two ports was starting to become standard gear for those serious about backing up their thoughts. This made it easier for carriers to go unnoticed, useful when there were still those who thought AIs were an affront to nature.
“It’s in,” Peter said.
Thomas turned around and shook Peter’s offered hand.
“Congratulations,” Peter said. “You’re now the proud parent of a baby AI.”
Thomas fought the urge to touch the external drive. “I don’t feel any different.”
“Of course not. Right now it’s barely aware it exists. But next week, when we let it talk to you, you will be bombarded with questions. You’ll definitely know there’s something else in your head then.”
Thomas smiled. “I can’t wait.”