Kaito Zhang had spent months designing the streamlined body of his masterpiece. The outline itself had taken months to perfect, with all her swells and dips, even with the sophisticated software he’d written himself for the purpose. Detailing her features, from the texture of her hair to the exact tone of her skin had taken even longer.
Working on the electronics designed and modified to fit snugly in the cavity that was her body was a welcome escape. Most of that consisted of programming some chips and testing every component again and again until he was satisfied. But it was only a small reprieve from the personalized hell he’d put himself in.
The skin grafting was due to arrive today, and until then he was both relieved and apprehensive, and neither at the same time. The android was on standby, fully charged and turned on, and as he ran one last systems’ check from his computer he wondered if this wasn’t such a brilliant idea. The screen in front of him blinked numbers he’d seen a hundred times before. Kai eyed the insulated metal figure standing rigid at the far end of the room, plugged into a power outlet. No one would know if he took it apart now. No one had to know—
His thoughts were interrupted by the ping of a completed systems check.
ALL SYSTEMS READY FOR OPERATION
NO BUGS FOUND
NEXT RECOMMENDED SYSTEMS CHECK:
IN 14 DAYS
Before he could do anything about it, the comm system mounted on a wall announced the arrival of a parcel at his door. He’d have to leave the lab and make his way to the very front of his house. The parcel had to be the skin grafting, and he had to sign the delivery documents.
He’d never dreaded the sight of the artificial material so much.
She looked beautiful.
The eyes stared ahead without expression. The hair hung limp in the stuffy air of the lab. She wore a sleeveless white one-piece, more for his convenience than hers. There was only one small discrepancy. He’d made the left side of her face more symmetrical that it actually used to be. And he was going to forego that tiny scar under her right earlobe. Selene-42, after all, was modeled on his dead wife, Yue.
The electric blue eyes and silver blond hair were holding most of his attention. Their daughter, Nami, had gotten those eyes. Seeing them again brought back so many memories. Painful, nostalgic memories. The mirth in them after cracking a good joke, the anger at being ridiculed, the sorrow after a fight. He remembered the last time he’d seen those eyes on Yue’s face. Desperate and sad and scared. He remembered the last time he’d seen them in Nami’s, two months ago. He’d left her with her aunt.
He missed the days when he could spare a few hours to spend with her.
Kai sighed. Staring at Selene was something many people could do all day. She was beautiful. But she was the spitting image of Yue.
The only piece left in the jigsaw puzzle was sitting in his palm. It was her personality chip. He hesitated for a few moments. Whatever he’d done and was about to do… he didn’t know what sort of consequences they would have. He looked at the chip, then back at Selene, and decided it was now or never. Nami was coming back today. Inserting the chip, he made sure the power button was switched on, before stepping back.
Her eyes focused, the pupils first constricting, then dilating before reaching the optimum level. His computer, to which she was still connected remotely, reported all sensors in perfect working order and taking input. Other than the almost untraceable whirr of a fan somewhere inside her, everything remained unchanged.
Kai swallowed the lump in his throat. “Selene,” he called.
In response, she angled her head to look him directly in the eye. She blinked. “Yes?”
The sound of her voice, Yue’s voice, almost shook his resolve to pieces. And the all too familiar tilt of the head… This isn’t fair, he thought. I shouldn’t have been able to do this. This isn’t fair.
“Dr. Zhang? Is something wrong?” she said, with an all too familiar trace of worry in that voice. He wished she wouldn’t say his name like that.
Kai turned away. “You’re not her,” he whispered, feeling, for the first time since the start of the project, lost; feeling, for the first time since Yue’s death two years ago, so very alone. His eyes stung.
“I’m not who?” she replied with an air of impatience second only to Yue’s. “I don’t compute, Dr. Zhang.”
Kai remained silent for a while, during which Selene simply stood behind him, waiting. “You don’t have to,” he said quietly. His design was as flawless as he could make it, and so was the personality chip. Selene was Yue in every way. But her memory was blank, as blank as fifty-two zeta bytes of storage in a brand new android could get. As blank as Nami’s first electronic slate before she touched it. and that made them strangers. “And, Selene? Please call me Kai.”