Cold. Amanda woke up shivering, which was just about the only movement she could make. Her arms and legs were strapped to the bars of a hospital bed and another strap across her chest made sitting up impossible. She was alone. The room was windowless, dimly lit and empty save for a lone metal chair and the bed in which she lay. How long had she been out? Where was she? And where was Brian?
“Hello? Is anybody there?” she called out. After a few moments, the door opened and a man walked in. She expected a doctor —that was the hospital bed, she supposed— but the man wore a well-tailored dark suit.
“Hello, Amanda,” he said with a smile. “Sorry about the restraints but we didn’t want you wandering aimlessly until we had a chance to talk.”
“Where’s Brian? Where is my husband?” she demanded, struggling against the straps holding her down.
His smile faded. “That is the central thing we need to discuss.” He took a step closer. “I’m going to take you someplace where you’ll be a little more comfortable. I need you to trust me, ok?”
Amanda nodded wordlessly. She wanted answers. No, she needed them. She would at least cooperate until she had them.
“My name is Nathan Bishop,” he told her as he removed the restraints from her feet. “Get up slowly. You might be a little woozy from the anaesthetic.” After releasing her hands and the strap across her chest, he stepped back to wait by the door. “Your shoes are by the side of the bed. Take your time.”
Amanda swung her legs over the side and gingerly stepped into her shoes. After she was sure she could stand upright, she took a tentative step toward the door. Nathan took her arm firmly —either for support or control, Amanda couldn’t tell which— and led her from the room. They followed a long hallway, interrupted occasionally by other solid doors with no indication of what lay beyond, until they reached an intersection and turned left. Shortly after, the tributary terminated at a pair of double doors. Nathan, till holding Amanda’s arm, stepped close to a small panel beside the door and waited while his retina was scanned. The doors slid open with a soft whoosh.
The room beyond was half conference room, half lounge, with a large oblong table and chairs at one end, and a seating area with three sofas forming a U-shape clustered around a low table on the other. It was to this second area, Nathan led her. A woman and another man rose as they approached. “Amanda, this is Lydia Castle and Alexander King.” They each offered a hand to shake. “Please have a seat,” Nathan said.
“Amanda. Where to begin?” Lydia said with a warm smile. “I’m sure…”
“Where is my husband?” Amanda interrupted. “What have you done with him?”
Lydia held up her hands in a gesture of surrender. “We have a long story to tell you. Please bear with us. You see, Brian… well he’s not who you think he is…” she paused, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “In fact, he’s not even ‘what’ you think he is.”
Amanda felt the blood drain from her face and she gripped the sofa cushions for support. “What do you mean?” she rasped.
The man called Alexander spoke. “Amanda, Brian is… well, he’s a highly advanced… em… highly advanced artificial intelligence.”
The room spun. Nathan reached out to steady her. Amanda looked from one to the other to the other, trying to absorb what she’d just heard. “No. It can’t be…” she began. “He’s human. He’s as human as I am.”
Lydia shook her head sadly. “No, I’m afraid he’s not. Brian —or as he is officially called: SAIW-02— is property of the United States Government.” She hurried on as Amanda gaped at her. “Amanda, just let us explain…”
Alexander sighed heavily. “Amanda, throughout history, it’s been the military that has been the biggest driver of scientific innovation. Until recently, it’s been about developing the most efficient ways to kill. Bigger bombs, better targeting, stealthier planes. We already have the means to destroy this planet many times over. Now…” he lifted his hands and let them drop. “The focus has begun to shift.”
Lydia continued. “It’s about preserving lives instead of taking them. Keeping our military personnel as safe as possible. I’ll give you an example you’ll be familiar with: drone technology. We can send a remotely controlled drone to take out a target when in the past we’d send pilots in planes and risk them being shot down. If a drone gets taken out, no lives are lost.”
“The truth is, Amanda, our technological advances are far ahead of anything the public has dreamt up. The world isn’t ready for civilian applications of this kind of science,” Alexander said. “The SAIW program is the next step in innovation.”
“What does that stand for? SAIW?” Amanda asked.
“Strategic Artificial Intelligence Weapon,” Nathan answered.
“Amanda, your ‘Brian’ is an android super soldier,” Lydia said.
To be continued…