Better Than You by Kris
The CA-87 was astounding, top of the line, extraordinary. The newest model of companion robots, if their joints were hidden you could easily mistake one for simply being human. By 2479 companion robots were nearly necessary, almost one to every household. There were models of all types, but the CA-87 was probably a fan favorite, highly customizable.
But god were those things expensive.
Geoff was one of the first CA-87’s out in use, companion to a Dr. Todd, always busy around the lab. Moving equipment, observing samples, responding to questions. It quickly became very apparent as to why this model was strictly advertised as a companion, not so much of a helper. In all, Geoff was not too intellegent, but he could emote to the highest extremes. But Dr. Todd didn’t have the heart to shut him down, he had named him, he had emotions.
So Geoff stayed. Even with a smaller memory bank and limited capabilities he helped as much as he could.
Geoff would also attend confrences and meetings with Dr. Todd, off the the side. His round, brown eyes would scan over the place, curious but never asking questions, always following orders quietly, obdiently. Wherever Dr. Todd was there was sure to be the tuft of dark brown, fake hair, sometimes even styled up. That was the thing about the CA-87, it was almost too realistic. Styled hair, different shades of skin, some even had freckles, much like Geoff. This model even had optional breathing mechanics and a sort of simulated heartbeat. Besides their doll-like joints they were just like humans.
The startling resemblance made it a bit easier to share a home with these androids. They even would lay down to go into sleep mode. It was a whole new age of robots. And Geoff was only the first of many.
“Geoff? Ready to go?” Dr. Todd’s voice rang out, echoing slightly in the mostly empty lab.
“Yes! Oh um, you are meeting with Dr.. Rusher today right?” Geoff fumbled a bit for a name, reaching back nearly as far as his memory banks went.
“Yes, as well as the rest of the team, including my brother. You don’t have to sit in on the meeting this time. In fact, there’s someone the team has been wanting you to meet,” the scientist talked cheerily, starting to walk out of the lab and in the general direction of the bus stop. “The TI-1.”
“So kinda like Ty? You think I can call him Ty? Unless he’s a she? Or are they something else?” Geoff quickly asked his questions, now that he had an opportunity to in an open conversation.
“Well, he really isn’t male exactly but his voice and own choice has led to us all calling TI-1 a he. He’s the first exactly of his kind and is reaching the end of all his tests and ‘basic’ learning. So, we were going to call together a meeting to dicuss his progress and decided we’d like to see how he’d react to meeting someone who is not human.”
“Oh, I can’t wait! What’s he like?” A grin curved onto Geoff’s face, one designed specifically for emoting even more like a human.
“He’s and observer, pretty curious I’d say. He’ll probably have plenty of questions for you.”
“I’m worried I won’t have answers for him. I don’t want him to think lowly of me. It’s been a while since I’ve met someone new.”
“Don’t worry. Geoff, you’re a CA-87, one of the most amazing pieces of technology from this year! You’ll do fine,” Dr. Todd’s cheery attitude sunk into his words, a small smile spreading over his face. He was pretty young, in his thirties and part of a team of scientists of varying ages. There were 23, all pretty close and always in touch.
Geoff just gave a nervous smile and boarded the bus right behind Dr. Todd upon their arrival to the bus stop minutes later. He had lapsed into a wary silence, only really speaking opinions alone with Dr. Todd. After all, while he looked human he was a robot, an obidient one at that. So he kept his eyes down and his mouth shut the whole bus ride over to Dr. Rusher’s building.
This time the arrival to Dr. Rusher’s building was more than Geoff bargianed for. On an average day he’d sit to the side, silent. But today there was a large fuss and soon the whole team was excitedly ushering Geoff towards a room. All Geoff could see inside was computers and after a few moments he’d reached the conclusion that TI-1 did not have a mobile form, he was the large computer he’d suddenly found himself gently pushed towards. With encouraging words the team of scientists fled the room, eager to call their meeting together and later check what had gone on between TI-1 and Geoff.
Slowly, Geoff sat himself in a desk chair in front of the largest screen in the room, raising his eyes to look at it as it flickered to life.
“Hello, I am the TI-1, who are you?” The voice seemingly came from each corner of the room and Geoff nearly jumped.
“Uh, I’m Geoff,” he said quietly, he hadn’t really spoken to many others besides Dr. Todd and on an occasion, Dr. Rusher.
“Android,” the voice declared the fact and Geoff shifted a bit nervously, he could practically feel himself being analyzed. “CA-87?”
“Yes,” Geoff said quickly with a short nod. He turned his gaze away from the large screen and down to the tiled floor. “So do you..have like a name?”
“Yes, TI-1, I’ve already clarified so.”
“No, like.. A name.. Like I’m Geoff..I think.. If you had a name it’d be Tyler. Like..TI, Ty, Tyler..” Geoff gave a slight shrug and looked back up at the screen, at TI-1, rather.
“Why do I need another name? I have one,” TI-1 stated.
“Why not.. I mean.. Something less official, I don’t like seeming so official..” The android said softly.
“A name is a title, I have a title, therefore I have a name. I do not need another name.”
“…well I just..Okay..” Geoff shifted a bit and just huffed a small sigh.
“What is your purpose?”
“..To serve. To be a companion.”
“That is an interesting purpose. My purpose is to never be wrong.”
“Really? Like never?” Geoff’s eyes widened slightly in awe, he himself barely could remember names and landmarks after hearing so many.
“Yes, really. Is this a surprise? Do you not have a high knowledge capability?” Quite a blunt question, but then again, what’s bluntness to an AI.
“No, I have pretty small memory bank, I don’t need to know much for my purpose. I do however have nearly human emoting capabilities, making sympathy and empathy come easier, making me an ideal companion for many different people.”
“Interesting. You’re Dr. Todd’s companion?” Almost all of his statements seemed to be phrased as questions.
“Yeah,” Geoff said, nodding, a small smile on his face. “He’s great fun to be around and doesn’t ask for too much. How is it for you? Computing?”
“It’s what I was made for, so I do it, that’s that,” TI-1 stated simply.
“You don’t do anything else?”
“That’s all, do you not do things for fun?”
“What can I really do? I’m in a computer.”
“Yeah, but,” the bluntness really hit Geoff that time around and he nearly winced. “Just..talking or..anything really?”
“We are talking.”
“Yes, but have you just talked with anoyone before?”
“Then why don’t we make the most of this?”
“Yes?” TI-1 hadn’t even bothered correcting Geoff. He quickly learned the android intended on calling him that.
“Have you seen stars?”
“So, not firsthand?”
“Let’s go. Tablet,” Geoff said, he had started to pick up Tyler, TI-1’s, shorter sentences. After spending months talking with someone you do tend to pick up their speech habits
Soon Geoff slunk out of the lab, past the room of scientists, hard at work late through the night. His footsteps echoed in the dark hall as he gently carried the tablet TI-1 had transferred to. Quickly, he cast a small smile down at the device, at TI-1’s small pixel face. He had managed to find a way to create a simple face on the screen, letting Geoff talk to him more directly. In mere moments Geoff was opening the heavy, metal door to the lab and stepping out into the muggy night. Slowly he turned the device so the camera faced skyward, allowing TI-1 to view the stars. A silence settled over them and suddenly TI-1’s pixel face quirked into a small grin, a new occurrence. Geoff chuckled quietly.
“Great view huh?” Geoff’s face split into a huge grin and TI-1 quietly agreed.
“I wish I had seen this earlier.”
“Hey, Tyler, are you sure you can’t emote?”
“…” There was a slight pause from the AI, as he realized that suddenly, he didn’t mind the name too much and that he was starting to emote at least slightly. “But I can’t.” He sounded a bit unsure, maybe even afraid, Geoff couldn’t quite place it.
So he left it at that, looking at the stars and holding the tablet so Tyler could soak it all in. But Geoff swore that when he’d glanced back at the screen of the tablet Tyler had adjusted the face to hold a soft smile and looking back he could probably say that was the first instance where he had seen an emotion from the AI.
“Hey, Tyler,” Geoff said suddenly, lowering his foot to halt his spinning chair so he could focus on the screen in front of him. “I was thinking. How would you look if you were an android like me?”
“Why were you thinking about that?”
“Why not? I mean, you have many forms. You can transfer to the tablet and stuff. You almost have everything but an android form!” Geoff pointed out, starting to spin again.
“Well I’m not going to have an android form.”
“Why not just think about it? We aren’t really doing anything. It’ll be fun, like the stars!”
“You do have a point,” Tyler’s words made Geoff grin and he quickly stood up, bursting with ideas.
“I think..you’d have light hair. Like blond,” the android said quickly, getting started before Tyler could even try to protest.
Tyler made a small sound of confirmation, busying himself with something as Geoff talked. At this point he was used to the android finally coming out of his shell and actually talking quite a lot.
“And..hm. Like blue eyes, not dark blue I think..a very…pretty, light blue color. Also you would be paler, not kind of tan like I am..”
“Short hair? Kinda spikey like, sticks up kinda? Like..messy?” Geoff gave a small grin and looked up at the screen. “You’d also be tiny, like shrimpy,” Geoff barked a short laugh.
“You seem like you would just be the shrimpy little helper one?” Geoff offered, holding back another laugh.
“If you say so,” Tyler finally said. Geoff swore he’d heard a bit of a sigh along with those words and just smiled a little.
“It would be so true!” Geoff’s smile was soon a full blown grin stretching across his face. “And you would look great!”
In the four months that they had know each other, talking nearly everyday Geoff hadn’t really complimented Tyler too much. But that one ‘great’ set something off in Tyler and the room’s motors whirred a bit faster as he got his little project done. By the time Geoff was finished talking Tyler had made a model of how Geoff believed he would look using a CA-87 base picture.
“So, like this?” Tyler’s tone sound..bashful? Geoff didn’t question it, training his eyes on the model.
“Exactly, you would look just like that,” the android said softly, his eyes lit up, quite literally, imitating a human’s eyes lighting up with a great excitement.
“I don’t look like that though,” Tyler almost sounded hurt. “I look like this.” The other number of screens in the room lit up, driving his point home.
“..You may not look like that but that doesn’t matter,” Geoff sounded a bit confused, pondering over why Tyler could feel hurt and working to remedy that. “I mean, you don’t have to have an android form to be cool. I meant that you nailed it exactly, the model looked perfect!” The android worked to not fumble for words.
“Of course. My purpose is to never be wrong.”
“I know, and you did exactly that, you fulfill your purpose quite well.”
There was a pause that lapsed into a comfortable silence and Geoff sat back down, looking up at the screen and just simply smiling.
“You do too. You’re a good companion.”
“Thanks,” Geoff said, looking down at the tiles, the small red lights under his cheeks lit up dimly, simulating a small blush.
“Huh?” Geoff looked up at the screen from where he was looking at the tablet.
“Why do you spend so much time in here?”
“I like spending time around you, I also like being a companion.” Geoff smiled up at the screen.
“Well, you’re not bad at being a companion.”
“Thanks,” the android chuckled a bit, leaning back in the chair. “You’re not too bad of a companion to me.”
It was another late night for the scientists so Geoff and Tyler sat together in a comfortable silence, Tyler just observing and researching as he usually did. The whirring of the machinery was the only sound in the room.
“Hey, Tyler?” Geoff looked up from the tablet. “So, basic friendship questions for humans, favorite color?”
“I don’t understand the question.”
“Like..what color do you like looking at the most?”
“Are you a color?”
“..I swear, Tyler, my goodness,” Geoff sputtered out, the red lights under his cheeks lighting up as he gave a half grin and looked at the floor. “Okay, next question then. Uh..”
Geoff tried to think of a handful of questions over the next hour or so, getting quite flustered as Tyler turned each of his answers into some cleverly worded flirt. AI’s with emotion, Geoff had determined, could be impossibly smooth upon choice. However, Geoff had also decided that wasn’t entirely a bad thing. Especially if it was Tyler.
Flirting with an AI was probably one of Geoff’s most unique expreiences, maybe it was even number one in that category. It was quite the wild ride.
“So, TI-1.” Dr. Rusher stood up tall in front of the screen, his assistant stood beside as he pushed his glasses up on his face. The tired man next to him held a clipboard.
“What?” Dr. Rusher asked, his dark eyebrows arched in surprise.
“I’d like to be called Tyler. Please.”
“…” Dr. Rusher paused, his eyebrows pulling down to crease. “Nikolai, we need to speak.”
“Go back, check the files, how has he been answering certain questions.”
Geoff was ushered into the room full of scientists, Dr. Rusher was rapidly asking questions and sending a handful to go look back into records and files.
“What’s wrong?” Geoff turned to Dr. Todd, his eyebrows furrowing together.
“TI-1 seems to be..acting strangely. It seems that against odds he’s been developing emotions. We need to see if we can change this,” Dr. Todd explained. “We need you to tell us if you’ve seen signs of emotion from him, if so, what has he done?”
“…” Geoff hesitated, looking down at the sleek, tiled floor. “Yes..Um, he’s been well..just showing slight emotion through his words. I can almost hear when he speaks..the emotion.” The android seemed..nervous, feeling like he was sort of throwing Tyler under the bus here. He knew an AI shouldn’t show emotions. And he was honestly worried of what would happen to Tyler.
“Thanks Geoff, we can go back and check for any other signs.” Dr. Todd smiled and patted Geoff’s shoulder. “You can go now.”
So Geoff went, walking down the hall towards where Tyler was, a large feeling of nervousness washed over him and he nearly winced as he entered the room.
The click of the door across the room seemed to echo as the last metal door fell shut. Geoff stood behind where Dr. Todd sat, Nikolai stood next to him, looking down at his clipboard. Dr. Rusher paced at the front of the room, doing one last check that all the electronics were out of the room, cameras shut down. Geoff shifted nervously, the bag on his back suddenly seeming to weigh down more.
“As you must all know by now, we’re here to discuss our new plans for TI-1.” Dr. Rusher turned to face the assembly of scientists and assistants in front of him, all 23. “We all know he’s been showing emotion and this has led to biased calculations. So, who has an idea on what to do now?”
“We could leave him as is,” a voice started but another quickly shot him down.
“But he isn’t computing correctly!”
“But we put so much work into him!”
“But he’s..glitching! Messing up!”
“Why not just try a reboot?”
“What will a reboot do? He’ll still be the same AI.”
“Yes, but just rebooted! That won’t change anything!”
“Why don’t we just do a shut down, call it a failed project?”
The lights flickered and sputtered out, Geoff saw Nikolai flinch slightly out of the corner of his eyes. The android seemingly tensed, like a human. A chorus of clicks sounded at once as the doors locked. It was all still and everyone was silent, everyone’s breathing was shallow and quiet. You could barely see inches in front of your face, it was 3:45 in the morning and Geoff could basically feel the fear clogging up the room.
“You..think I’m a faliure?” Tyler’s voice bounced off the walls, he sounded so small and broken that Geoff actually flinched.
The android could basically feel Nikolai trembling next to him as the room was silent for a few moments.
“Oh,” Tyler’s voice seemed almost too loud while being impossibly quiet.
Saying it was silent would be an understatement. It felt as his Geoff’s ears were full of cotton, it even seemed that the others were purposely staying quiet. No one wanted to break the tense quiet.
So Tyler did.
“Twenty-two.” Geoff swore he’d never heard so much loathing in a voice. Towards the front of the room there was a thud.
“Twenty-one,” the AI’s voice sounded tense, with anger ready to spill over. A pen rolled across the table.
“Twenty.” Geoff heard a clipboard drop to his left.
“Nineteen.” A pen clattered onto the tiled floor. Geoff’s eyes shot open with a realization.
“Eighteen.” Another thud.
“Seventeen.” A pencil rolled across the tile, stopping at Geoff’s feet.
“Tyler, stop,” Geoff choked out. He wasn’t sure how loud he’d even said it.
“Sixteen.” Geoff heard a head fall forward and hit the table in front of him.
“Tyler, stop!” The android’s hands were squeezed into tight fists, his shout started strangled and hurt but managed to become something very different by the end. To say he was angry would be a lie. He was beyond anything angry could describe.
There was a tense pause, Geoff was pretty sure someone in the room was crying.
“Why should I?” Tyler raised his voice and Geoff fought back a flinch at the sudden rise in volume from the earlier scilence. “They weren’t going to.”
“You don’t have to kill them! Tyler! You’re better than this!”
“Correct. I am better than this. Better than them. Better than you, Geoff.”
Geoff floundered for words, of course, he was hurt, that hurt beyond anything. But above that he was mad. How dare he? How dare Tyler say that? His thoughts were interrupted by Tyler speaking again.
“Why did I ever humor you? Why did I ever give you so much of my time? You caused this. You caused me to be a glitch.”
Geoff had never heard such venomous words. “Me? You’re kidding? I never made you do anything!”
“I didn’t say you made me do anything. You’re like a virus, Geoff,” Tyler spat out his name, nearly growling. “Your emotions spread.”
“Then you should have protected yourself better!” Geoff hissed back. He would not be blamed. He didn’t do anything.
“I was designed to take in information.”
“Well what you took in is making you wrong. How do you expect to fulfill your purpose? You can’t.”
“Well can you anymore?”
“What..” Geoff trailed off, the question dying on his lips as he stepped forward and pressed a hand to Dr. Todd’s shoulder. He was slumped over and didn’t move.
The android clenched his fists tightly and he clenched his jaw. “..You know you’re alone now right? You can count me as gone. No one will want to be anywhere near you.”
“So are you.”
“I still have the ability to fulfill my purpose, I won’t be alone forever. You however will be. If you aren’t shut down you’ll be alone, stuck knowing it’s your fault you’re alone.”
“What’s wrong with being alone?”
“So you won’t miss me then?” Geoff couldn’t help saying it, he felt as if his entire being fell apart, it stung.
“Did I ever really have you?”
“Of course..of course you did..” Geoff’s voice shook slightly and he couldn’t tell where anger stopped and the anguish began. “You..you were so amazing. You made me glad I had emotions. I cared for you so much!”
“If you cared then why did you ruin me?”
“I didn’t do anything!” Geoff said, nearly shaking. “And even if I did..I didn’t mean to! I wouldn’t purposely harm you!”
“But they were going to harm me.”
“And you did more than that. Human’s see life so differently. They have families, we are not human. They see our life differently. You didn’t have to kill them. How can you believe yourself to be better than them?”
“Because I’m always right. They made me to always be right.”
“Well you’re wrong. You’re so wrong, TI-1.”
“That’s,” there was a pause from Tyler and it was almost as if he was saying these words through clenched teeth, “impossible.”
“Clearly not,” Geoff spat, his anger seemed to come in waves with a brief moment between each aforementioned wave.
“This was not worth it.”
“You keep directing it to me! Like I was the one who messed up! I never did anything to mess you up or ruin you! Because news flash, TI-1, I cared! I might even go so far to say I loved you.” Geoff couldn’t help it anymore he was just so mad.
“Okay,” Tyler said, the lack of emotion behind his words made Geoff wince slightly. When the lights flickered on and the silence returned the android really wished they hadn’t.
Dr. Todd lay slumped forward, Dr. Rusher was reduced to a heap on the floor, Nikolai let out a choked sob at that. Dr. Todd’s brother sat in his chair staring blankly at the table but all Geoff could think about was how he didn’t even know all the scientists here, not even all the ones who died. Dr. Todd’s closest colleague was desperately shaking him at this point. A shorter scientist gripped his chair so hard his knuckles turned white. A readheaded scientist tried to get Dr. Todd’s brother’s attention but he didn’t budge, the vision of the dead scientist next to him would probably be stuck in his head forever.
But the worst part was that they were all so close. Most were all friends, some were even in relationships.
Geoff made his way to the door, not one person moved in response.
So he left.
But at this point where could he go? He couldn’t even bring himself to walk past the room where Tyler… TI-1, mainly stayed. He avoided the hallway completely and headed in the opposite direction. The lights were dimmed and his footsteps echoed. But all he could help but wonder is why Tyler asked what was wrong with being alone. Because in that moment Geoff knew he didn’t want this. He didn’t want to feel this aching loneliness.
At this point he wasn’t sure he wanted to feel at all.
Geoff spent most of his time in Dr. Rusher’s, well now Nikolai’s, lab. He kept to himself and wasn’t bothered. The android had always been like family. It had been five weeks since the incident and Geoff couldn’t bring himself to leave. So he wandered, the tablet he always carried for notes and helping Dr. Todd was always in his arms.
They couldn’t find Tyler.
Geoff knew where he was though. The tablet obviously, only the android knew he’d be there and the last thing he wanted was to mention the AI at all out loud. So instead he carried the tablet everywhere. He was a being of emotion and emotions attatched you to things. But, while he was still mad that didn’t destroy the fact he couldn’t bear to lose Tyler.
Geoff held that tablet like a lifeline. It was always in sight. It was like there was never a fight. It was like..a long, comfortable silence settled over Geoff and Tyler.
But at least Tyler was there. So really, Geoff didn’t feel so alone.
It was another three weeks before anything changed in Geoff’s life. It was another long night in the storage room, Geoff not really doing much, just going through applications on the tablet boredly.
Then a message popped up.
‘I was wrong.’
Geoff opened and closed his mouth, unsure of a response. He shifted a bit, his metal joints creaking quietly as he did so.
“I know,” Geoff forced out, jaw clenched.
It took four hours for the android to get another response.
“I…” Geoff sighed and looked down at the screen. “Yeah..I know, Ty.”
‘I need to go though.”
“Yeah..I know. I get it,” the android replied quietly.
There was a breif pause and Geoff just looked down at the tablet. Then there was a voice.
“I love you, Geoff.”
It took Geoff 18 minutes to say anything back. 11 of those minutes consisted of Geoff replaying what he heard in his head.
“I love you too.”
By that point Tyler was gone.
Geoff didn’t know if it would be better that way or not. It hurt.
He didn’t know how to make it stop hurting. But he did know this building, these walls, were too much. It was too much. So, for the last time he headed out the door and slowly down the hall, heading into the dark room, last door on the left. A large black screen stared back at him and he winced, choking out a strangled noise as he looked from the tablet to the screen. Now, he felt it again, the aching loneliness that gripping the entirety of his being, shaking him up. The android could only take thirty seconds inside that room. Thirty seconds for every moment from the lastnearly eight months to come back and shatter him.
That was all he could take, so he held the tablet tightly to his chest and walked.
Geoff left the lab at 4:23 am. Essentially he just disappeared.
He had loved Tyler and let him go. The AI never came back.
Maybe he was never his.