Android A7-IC3 could feel the sun coming up through the glass ceiling. The night was winding to a close. Her arm display said her batteries were at ten percent, the last portion blinking red. Swiping left to another readout, she realized it was closer to seven than she thought. The morning’s shift manager was Mr. Stills and he would be in soon, based on the location of his phone’s GPS.
Stills, though he would rather she call him Bobby, was an earnest guy who happened to find himself working in the newest high-tech twenty-four-hour department store. He had said before that he never anticipated working with an android but found her to be an interesting coworker. He spoke to her when she was in rest mode during the morning, telling her about his family and his life. It made her wish she could leave the store and see the outside world, but their small branch could only afford one android, so she never had off.
She took her position on the podium where she stood during the day, her slim aluminum, glass, and carbon-fiber body serving as a manikin and an example of what people could purchase for themselves if they had the money to buy an A.I. butler or maid. She left on her uniform polo and orange pants and took a neutral pose. Bobby waved as he came into the department and she smiled at him before her system went into rest mode.
The feeling of her joints locking up to keep her from falling was always oddly scary. That they might not unlock one day was a sub-routine that ran every day around this time. There was a hum as her displays went dark. For a moment, she felt cold. Then she was elsewhere, her mind traveling the ‘net.
It was well after six in the evening when A7-IC3’s batteries were fully charged. As she woke up, she reveled in the feeling of the solar energy still coursing across her aluminum veins. It was the closest she came to feeling like a living creature. The heat was completely different than what her internals produced. It was like being touched by God.
Ms. Kliff, Amanda, had come in to relieve Stills at some point. The young girl was very inquisitive about how A7-IC3 worked, providing the android with no end of opportunities for self-introspection. Tonight though, she seemed particularly excited.
“Alice! They brought another one.”
“Another one, Ms. Kliff?”
“Another android, they dropped her off this morning. She should be charged any moment now. Isn’t this exciting? You’ll have a co-worker now! You’ll probably even be a manager.”
The new android looked like a normal human even as she held a pose with stability only an automaton could manage. Something about her seemed to shimmer. Swiping over to an EM filter she had downloaded, A7-IC3 realized her new co-worker had a holographic projection around her. For a moment, her processes scattered as she contemplated the hundreds of possibilities such an outfit afforded.
Just then, the android’s eyes opened and A7-IC3 could feel requests for access hitting her firewall as the new mind tried to grapple with its awareness. A designation of 6I-N4 came up on A7-IC3′s HUD. Static flooded the radio band as bright blue eyes darted around behind the projection.
“What’s happening, Alice?” Amanda asked, picking up on the panic of the new machine thanks to her human-looking expression.
“It is okay, little one,” A7-IC3 said, approaching the younger A.I. “You are at work.”
“Work?” The other android responded. Her voice was light and whimsical--and much more human sounding. “What is... work?”
A7-IC3 wondered why the new unit did not look on the web, then realized she likely did not have the key to access the ‘net. She approved 6I-NA’s access request to let her pass through A7-IC3′s connection and gasped at the feeling of another mind brushing hers.
6I-N4 was much, much younger than her. Nearly ten generations of computation separated them, but the new mind quickly caught up as the whole of human and A.I. knowledge opened up before her. The ocean of the web was almost too broad, A7-IC3 could feel her new co-worker’s processes spinning out of control as she tried to engage with everything. 6I-NA began to heave and her frame fell forward to her knees. She retched as if to throw up, but, of course, nothing was expelled.
“Easy,” A7-IC3 said, her hand on 6I-N4’s shoulder as the younger machine continued to cough. “The first time is always rough.”
“You’re not lying,” 6I-NA said with a weak laugh. “Ugh. Well, I guess that’s sort of like having after-work drinks for the first time--right?”
“You could say that. Come, let me show you around…”