Excerpt from The First Robot President, Chapter 1
Geraldine and Jacqueline arrived at Thomas’s apartment within a few minutes of each other, just before two o’clock. Inside the apartment, Thomas kissed his mother on the cheek and gave Jacqueline a hug. “You are going to love Esmeralda,” he said.
“Esmeralda?” asked Geraldine, sitting down in an armchair.
“I’ve named her Esmeralda.”
“And may I ask what you paid for her?”
“Two point five million.”
“Isn’t that a little extravagant for someone who’s still paying off his college loans?”
“Not really. I have friends who paid more than that for their first aerocar.”
“You know you can get a basic sex robot for under 500,000 dollars,” said Jacqueline. “A stripped-down model—no pun intended.”
“There you go,” said Geraldine. “Why spend two and a half million dollars when you can get a basic sex robot for a fraction of that? After all, don’t you just want it for sex?”
“Not exactly,” replied Thomas. “I want a robowife who can carry on an intelligent conversation. The reason I bought such an expensive model is that she has a high IQ. Also, her memory bank has a knowledge base equivalent to that of a college graduate.”
“Heaven help us!” exclaimed Geraldine.
Jacqueline sat down beside her mother. “Well, if Thomas thinks he can afford it, I guess it would make life more interesting having a sister-in-law—especially if she is as intelligent as he claims.”
“How soon is this robowife going to be here?” asked Geraldine.
Thomas, who was still standing, turned to the east wall of his living room. “James, can you give me an update on our UPS delivery?”
The monitor on Thomas’s east wall lit up, and his digital assistant appeared. “Of course, Mr. Jenkins, give me just a moment.” After a few seconds, James provided the requested update.
“The UPS drone is currently crossing Leesburg Pike near the intersection of 495. The projected arrival time is in approximately four minutes.”
“Thank you, James,” said Thomas. “That will be all for now.”
James disappeared, and the east wall went dark.
“May I get either of you a glass of water while we’re waiting?” asked Thomas.
“I think I’m going to need something stronger than water,” replied Geraldine.
“Do you have any wine?” asked Jacqueline.
“Is white wine okay?”
“I’ll take it if you don’t have anything more potent,” said Geraldine.
“Okay,” said Thomas. “I will bring you some wine. Please listen for the doorbell.”
Thomas left the room, and mother and daughter looked at each other.
“This is going to be interesting,” said Jacqueline.
“You are a master of understatement,” replied Geraldine.
In a couple of minutes, Thomas returned with the wine; and in another minute, the doorbell sounded. When Thomas opened the door, he saw a UPS drone hovering above a large package. The drone immediately scanned Thomas’s face to verify his identity, then snapped a photograph of him for the record. “Thank you for allowing UPS to serve you,” said the drone. “We hope you’re satisfied with our service.” The drone then ascended and quickly disappeared.
“Do you need a hand with it?” asked Jacqueline, standing and turning towards the door.
Thomas stooped down, grabbed the cardboard handles, and lifted the package. “It’s not as heavy as you might think. I’ve got it.”
Thomas carried the package into the living room while Jacqueline closed the door.
“It’s barely more than four feet high,” said Geraldine. “I hope she isn’t that short.”
“Maybe they bent her over when they packed her,” said Jacqueline. “I hope we don’t have to assemble her.”
“Well, let’s open the box and find out,” said Thomas. He stepped back and examined the box more carefully, looking for an opening. “Okay, we seem to have it right-side up. It says to open from the top. Here we go.” He removed a Swiss Army knife from his pocket, opened it, and cut open the top flap. The four sides of the box immediately fell to the floor, revealing a young woman seated in a cardboard chair. She appeared to be in her mid-twenties with long, dark-brown hair and Asian features and was fully dressed with a blue skirt and a color-coordinated print blouse. Her eyes were open, but she appeared lifeless as if in a coma. One eye looked slightly different than the other, the only clue that she wasn’t human.
“Holy smokes!” exclaimed Jacqueline. “She looks so real!”
“She reminds me of a corpse,” said Geraldine. “Why didn’t you just go to the morgue?”
“Bear with me,” replied Thomas, assessing the situation. “She needs to be activated.”
“There are instructions on the cardboard,” said Jacqueline, pointing to the opened box.
Thomas looked down at the cardboard box lying on the floor. The instructions were printed on the inside of the box: Before activating your robot, please view the orientation video from your home computer. Open www.generalgooglemotors.com/robot, then click on Connect.
Thomas looked over to the east wall. “James, please log me on to the Internet and pull up the following web site: General Google Motors slash robot.”
The east wall lit up, and James appeared. “I understand, Mr. Jenkins, you would like me to access the internet site General Google Motors slash robot. Did I get that right?”
“Yes, and when the site comes up, click on Connect.”
“Of course, Mr. Jenkins. Give me just a moment, please.”
Thomas, his mother, and his sister all watched the east wall as the web site appeared. James clicked on “Connect” as instructed, then disappeared. A middle-aged man dressed in a business suit appeared on the monitor.
“Hello, my name is David McKenzie, and I’m the program manager at General Google Motors for the robowife program. Congratulations on your purchase of a robowife!”
“I didn’t know General Google Motors made robowives,” said Jacqueline.
“They make everything,” replied Thomas. “It’s practically the only manufacturing company left in America.”
“You have made a smart decision,” continued Mr. McKenzie. “Your robowife has been manufactured to the highest standards and is nearly maintenance-free. She can perform all the functions of a human wife, but she will never argue with you. Moreover, she is programmed to love you, and only you, so you will never have to worry about her being unfaithful.”
“Thank goodness!” exclaimed Geraldine. “You wouldn’t want your robowife sleeping around now, would you?”
“Depending which model you ordered,” continued Mr. McKenzie, “your robowife comes with basic, intermediate, or advanced cooking skills. She can also make the bed, do the dishes, do the laundry, and clean the house. Most models can also mow the lawn and tend to the garden.”
“This isn’t sounding so bad,” said Jacqueline. “I wonder if they make robo-husbands.”
“One of the many advantages over a human wife,” Mr. McKenzie continued, “is that your robowife’s beauty will never fade—she will look exactly the same at age one hundred as she looks today.”
“Oh yes!” exclaimed Jacqueline. “I definitely need to find out if they make robo-husbands!”
“Give me a break!” exclaimed Geraldine.
“In fact,” continued Mr. McKenzie, “your robowife is guar-anteed to last one hundred years. She is self-cleaning and will recharge herself once a week using a standard 120-volt electric outlet. The only thing you have to remember is to replace her battery every thirty-five years.”
“Just as advertised,” said Thomas.
“One word of caution,” Mr. McKenzie added. “Your robo-wife will need some time to develop social skills, so we don’t recommend your taking her out in public right away. A good plan is to watch movies together until she gets the feel of how human beings relate to each other. Within three to six months, you should be able to take her anywhere, and no one will have a clue that she isn’t a real human wife.”
“I will believe it when I see it!” said Geraldine.
“I’m sure you are anxious to see your new robowife in action,” Mr. McKenzie continued, “so let me tell you how to activate her. You will find her battery in a package taped to her back. Remove the battery from the package, lift the back of her blouse to find the battery compartment, and look for an allen wrench taped to the outside of the compartment. Use the allen wrench to open the compartment and insert the battery as shown in the diagram. When you close the battery compartment, your robowife will wake up. Give her a few seconds to become oriented to her new surroundings.”
“That sounds easy,” said Thomas, looking for the battery package.
“You should be all set now,” concluded Mr. McKenzie. “If you need any technical support, please contact our help desk at www.generalgooglemotors.com/robot/helpdesk. Once again, congratulations, and good luck with your new robowife!”
Mr. McKenzie disappeared, and the east wall went dark.
Thomas lifted the back of the robot’s blouse to find the battery and the battery compartment. Following Mr. McKenzie’s instructions, he removed the battery from its package, found the allen wrench, opened the battery compartment, inserted the battery, and closed the compartment. Then he sat back down in a chair and waited for the robot to boot up.
As soon as Thomas closed the battery compartment, the robot began to stir.
“She is waking up!” exclaimed Jacqueline.
“Her name is Esmeralda,” said Thomas. “Please call her by her name.”
Esmeralda blinked, moved her head from right to left, and slowly rose from her cardboard chair. Once on her feet, she stepped away from the box and looked around the room, focusing briefly on each of the three people in the room. Then her gaze returned to Thomas, and she smiled. “You must be Thomas, my fiancée. I recognize you from your photo.”
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