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Bring Your Daughter to Work Day

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Kiku watched from behind one of the many huge filing cabinets that littered Yao's laboratory as the engineer ushered a young girl through the front door. The android blinked, even though he didn't need to—who was this new human? Was she another of Yao's colleagues? She didn't look like a scientist, though—she was young, dressed in flowing clothing, and though Kiku wasn't yet very good at deciphering human expression or duplicating it, she looked nervous.

"Kiku!" Yao called. "I'm home!"

The android stepped out from behind the cabinet. He bowed. "Welcome home, Yao," he said, not bothering with inflection or emotion.

Yao frowned. "What have I told you? Call me big brother!"

"Of course, onii-san," Kiku replied. "Who is that?"

Yao's frown disappeared in an instant, replaced by a smile. "Kiku, this is my little sister, Xiu. Xiu, this is the android I built. It's called Kiku."

The girl—Xiu—bowed. "It's nice to meet you," she said.

Kiku bowed in return, flattening his irritation at being referred to as 'it'. "My pleasure, Xiu."

"Wow!" Xiu exclaimed to Yao. "It looks and acts almost human! Is it just programmed to say those things, or does it actually have an AI?"

Yao smiled warmly at Xiu. "Kiku has an AI. It can understand everything you or I say and create sentences all by itself."

"That's amazing, er ge!" Xiu exclaimed. "You really built that, all by yourself?"

Yao nodded. "Yes, that's correct. Yong Soo must have told you about it, right?"

Xiu frowned, dredging up memory. "Wasn't he really worried about how you weren't eating or sleeping or talking to real people?"

Yao laughed, dismissing Xiu's concerns. "That was nothing. Did you want to hear more?"

Xiu nodded eagerly.

"Give her your details, Kiku," Yao ordered.

Quashing his mounting annoyance at being talked about as if he couldn't hear or understand, Kiku recited flatly, "I was first powered on at eight-thirty-two and twenty-nine seconds PM Greenwich Meridian Time on March third, 2173. My body is composed of steel, titanium, various electronics, latex, and glass. My brain is a computer with AI, over three hundred terabytes of storage, and learning capability. I can perform almost any task or computation and I can easily pass for human."

"Whoa…" Xiu's eyes were shining in awe. "What was the hardest part of building it?" she asked Yao.

Yao considered this. "Programming the AI, I think—that, and the outermost layer of skin and facial features."

Xiu nodded. "Seems like it." She took a small box—some kind of recording device, it seemed—out of her pocket and clicked a button on it. "I think that's all the data I need. Thanks for letting me visit!"

"No problem, Xiu," Yao assured her, walking her to the door. "Don't be shy about asking for help on your project."

"Don't worry!" With that, Xiu left, the door swinging shut behind her.

"So, Kiku, how'd you like your sister?" Yao asked.

Kiku reminded himself not to lose his temper. "She's all right. I don't quite understand humans yet, I think." He carefully did not say anything else, anything that could have led to an explosion. He had accustomed himself to humans treating him as just another machine, one that could not understand anything other than specific words and command keys, but that didn't mean he had to like it.