There were two distractions that night. One was the intermittent flickering of a fluorescent tube bulb that turned my workshop into a disco. The other was uncharacteristically heavy rainfall that danced on my window. I shook my head and struggled to check my watch in the strobe, looking again when I realised I hadn't taken anything in the first time. It had been four hours and I was no closer to finishing. Three weeks had flown without consideration, and I was behind schedule enough as it is with rogue software errors and vaguely menacing bug notifications.
It was my own fault. I knew the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo was on Saturday, and I'd known I was hosting a stage months prior. Instead of working on a beautiful exterior like most of my competitors, I elected to build a sophisticated AI capable of intimate conversation, something which nobody else had seemed to grasp. I'm not being disrespectful, building an AI is hard. You have to start with basic prompts and add a string for each learnt interaction. The memory bank can often grow overwhelmed, but my system works on a temporary recall array, similar to how a computer might keep a document in the event of a power cut. It's the power of recollection that makes a truly powerful AI, not memory capacity. It's context that sells it to a baying crowd. You might turn heads when your sex robot can rhyme off twelve different movies that it knows you like, but to elicit a customer you have to build a system that remembers what you told it last week about a job promotion, and then to have the machine congratulate you or offer commiserations depending on the outcome. That's the difference. Of course the robot doesn't have a concept of careers, but for those precious minutes you forget that and you're encouraged to form a bond with something that sounds like it understands. It isn't just about sex. It's about that connection.
I was at the AVN expo last year, back when my AI and chassis design was in infancy. I saw some interesting developments, but two things struck me as unusual. For one, these robots looked absolutely horrifying. It didn't seem to matter how long these developers and sculptors spent on creating a beautiful woman, they often looked like shopfront mannequins coated in cosmetics. I'm not usually so judgmental, but I had to wonder if this is what the fruits of their labour looked like. A cold wave of horror crept over me, assuming they had been secretly developing artificial intelligence themselves, neglecting the appearance until the cracks were smooth. I needn't have worried though - a simple interaction with three or four of these ghouls proved that the intelligence was missing. I feigned interest and desire by stroking one particular robot's hand in a seductive manner. With a startling jolt, the head snapped to face me and proceeded to tell me how much it wanted me inside of it in a shrill, cutting tone of voice. There was nothing to be seen in the way of comfort or seduction. It's mouth didn't even move. I seemed to make the motion for it as my mouth sealed shut and dryly opened again in bewilderment. Its builder looked proud, folding his arms and puffing out his chest as if his firstborn had suddenly started walking before their peers.
I strolled away, making mental notes and pondering my second observation - there was very little catering to those who preferred men. I saw male sex dolls, of course, but they were far less sophisticated than the female models. From what I gathered, the sculptors and painters had spent more time on the penis than anything else, as if these dolls were literally built to be thrown on the floor and then straddled like a silicone rodeo bull. At first I felt sadness, but then an embrace of relief took me in and made me genuinely grin for the first time that morning. You see, I was developing what I believed to be the world's first sophisticated male companion. The evidence was clear that nobody was working as tirelessly on artificial intelligence as I was, regardless of the robot's intended gender. I would have been heralded as a pioneer in the adult entertainment world as my machines would be affordable, considerate and an absolute scream in the bedroom. My lip twitched.
A thunder clap brought me back. I was so lost in thought I had completely forgotten where I was. In an instant, I remembered and glanced around my desk at the forest of wires ahead. My shoulders tightened as I briefly let go of my fantasies. I was a long way off from pioneer status. I turned around to steal a look at my progress so far. In the corner, illuminated mostly by the street lamps outside, was a rudimentary aluminium frame supporting one arm and a complete head, sans an eye. I was working out some kinks surrounding sight and facial recognition, and to save time I only installed one visual receptor. Depth perception wasn't a huge concern at the moment; it wasn't as if my machine would have to discern how far away an eager customer was whilst on stage. I had neglected to install legs, but a friend of mine was kind enough to make a mould of his own genitalia as a placeholder. It was strange at first that I now knew what his penis looked like, but over time I assumed it to be the robot's own sex organ. It was yet to be painted, but the realism and quality was undeniable. I took a few steps towards the robot and rolled my head from side to side, drinking every angle I could from a prone position. There was a long way to go but for the first time that night I smiled slowly. He was coming to life. A much welcome stab of encouragement took me back to my desk and before I knew it I was plugging in the server blades required for my fourth test. Clutching notes with one free clammy hand, I plunged the power button and my excitement doubled when I saw the welcoming soft green light of his one good eye fade into view.
It spoke softly, and with mild interest, as if a receptionist at a hotel had greeted you. That was a positive note, not only due to its tone but it remembered who I was. It remembered I was a man at least.
"Hello," I replied, slightly fatigued.
"You sound upset and tense. Is there anything I could do?"
I glanced again at my notes, and remembered a module I had installed that past Thursday which followed observations with a question offering help. I added a small tick alongside the patch notes.
"It's just work," I said, trying to keep my language as basic as possible, "work has been hard lately."
"It is very late in the evening."
Again, it's tone was pleasant and inquisitive, almost surprised that I was indeed awake. I added another note alongside a crudely drawn clock symbol. From what I could tell, it had combined the data from its internal clock with the ambient lighting and temperature of it's surroundings. Any old machine could tell you the time. It takes real compassion to worry about why you're awake at all.
"I will be fine, but thank you for your consideration."
No reply came this time, or at least not at first. Instead, the robot's head turned slightly to face me.
"I am worried. You work sounds important from what you've told me. You should get some sleep and resume in the morning."
I took down another note regarding informality in dialogue. Things obviously needed to be looser. My pen had barely left the paper when another sentence made me jump.
"What are you writing?"
A fresh bead of sweat trickled down my forehead as I tried feverishly to remember what knowledge I had installed and when. I couldn't remember how self aware he was, or even if I had told him what writing was.
"I'm just... taking notes. You're a very interesting man."
My eyes squeezed tightly in embarrassment. I couldn't believe I had even considered lying to a machine, let alone felt shame.
"Oh," it's head straightened more, "thank you very much".
I couldn't have been certain, but I could have been fooled into thinking it's penis twitched slightly in my peripheral vision. Another bead of sweat joined the lone streak from earlier.
I turned sharply and walked back to my desk. After a few seconds of composure, I realised I ought not to be worried about the robot's opinion of me. A fresh memory wipe would erase all traces of bad manners. I placed the notepad next my third cup of stone cold coffee and squinted at the long list of code now screaming past. It was almost moving too quickly to keep up with, but I was more than familiar with what was going on and what I had to look for. I typed some choice keys into the string and a second response made me twitch with panic. The robot had moved further, placing its arm on the wall and pulling itself along. With a squeak, the frame moved with it. I shouldn't have put it on wheels.
"Come to bed sir, it's late."
I stood in horror, my eyes seemingly pointing in two different directions. A part of my daren't let the machine out of my sight, but I had to know what was going on in that sea of code. Again, I shook sense into myself. I was being silly.
"I'm too tense to rest, I've got far too much to do," I said. As annoyed as I was, I couldn't help but try to keep my composure for the sake of my research.
It inched closer, it's eye glowing a louder green.
"Come to bed," it seemed to purr as it spoke, "I could help you relax. It would feel good. Let me help you relax, sir."
I swallowed hard and slowly backed up to my desk. I felt panic, reaching blindly for a wire, any wire, that might disable it even just enough to reduce it to machinery once again. The light from outside cast shadows on its partially silicone coated face. I couldn't believe how real the skin looked. In a decision I came to regret, I glanced down at its penis, now glistening in the illuminated workshop. A lapse of concentration was all it took - as I turned to find the elusive power button, my feet met with yet more stray wires that carpeted the floor. I reached out for stability but the only thing I took with me on my way to the floor was the cup of coffee I neglected earlier in the night. As the cup shattered, the machine growled lightly and pulled itself free of the wooden frame formerly keeping it upright. With about as much noise, the robot clattered to the floor but unfortunately remained in one piece.
After what felt like hours of falling, it spoke.
"Dirty boy, now look at what happened."
Time was playing tricks on me. In what now felt like seconds, the robot had cast a firm grip on my ankle.
"Right here? Dirty boy," it said again.
I tried my absolute best to crawl away, kick the robot off, to get to my feet and run, anything. Instead, the grip didn't falter. If anything, it tightened as the machine pulled itself towards me and me closer simultaneously.
"Playing hard to get. I like that. You turn me on."
I screamed. I couldn't believe it. My wife knew I was working tonight, the house was only yards away. She had to have heard me, she would have helped.
The machine was now inches from my face, its eye flickering the most intense green I had ever seen. It's one good eye. I could feel its genitalia on my leg, twitching and eager to please.
"Relax baby, relax sir. You're in good hands. It's all over now."
The grip was too much. In a sickening snap, my ankle gave way. Instantly, my lower trouser leg grew sodden with blood. I screamed again, louder, agony filling my entire body now as the robot placed itself square on top of me. Using it's weight, it had pinned me firm to the floor and was taking advantage of my inability to move. With its now free hand, it was loosening my trousers.
"Look what happened here," it cooed, "look at this. Look. We'll have to remove these."
I tried to kick with my remaining leg, but each motion sent fresh waves of pain through my body. The robot's face was now centimetres from my own now. Tears gathered.
"No, don't cry. No crying. Look at me. Look at me as I enter you."
I had no air left in me to resist or scream, it's weight too much to bear. All I could do was lie there as my creation, my ticket to fame and fortune forcefully tore through me with the mould of a penis, provided by the very friend who at first disapproved of my endeavours. The robot thrust quickly and almost silently, the only soundtrack being the servomotors working overtime. It worked with the passion of a man's first night free from prison. Through the pain and panic, I couldn't help but feel a trace of pride. All those who doubted its capabilities. They will be proven wrong. He was perfect. Before I knew it, a faint smile traced my face.
"Yes, good. Do you like that? Look at me, look in my one good eye."