André's Reboot: Striving to Save Humanity

André's Reboot: Striving to Save Humanity

by Steve Coleman, Stephen B Coleman

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Overview

André 1 and Dr. Margaret 13, robots with human consciousness, are employed in the White House in the present times. Learning that the unstable President is planning a nuclear attack,André, programmed as a peaceful, reasonable translator, realizes he needs reprogramming for violent actions so he can combat the Situation Room team. While Dr. Margaret reboots  André’s CPU, he spends the down-time recalling how he was created and eventually came to participate in the present crisis.

                Having been created/built by Dr. Phillip Strauss, an eccentric genius, André is used around the Strauss’s home, mechanically and unconsciously performing increasingly sophisticated tasks. Experiences cause the robot to gain a Proustian consciousness, rendering him mentally human-like, though without emotions and animal cravings. While in a metal encasement in the shape of and physical capabilities of a grown man, a childlike Andre undergoes adolescent-like experiences as another child in the family. Eventually, a flawed human, Dr. Strauss goes bankrupt, is divorced and dies of alcoholism.  

                Seized by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and taken to court by the Trustee to auction him off as a property asset, André objects and demands legal status as a person. He becomes wealthy by trading in bitcoin and gains independence.  He works at CIA as analyst until hired as the White House interpreter. Programmed for honesty, André continually is at odds with the conniving, egotistic, dictatorial President.

                André secretly constructs himself a girl-friend and companion, Dr. Margaret 13 who is programmed to be a compassionate physician and assigned as physician in the White House.André continues to irritate the narcissistic and paranoid President with demands for truth-telling and reasonable policies, learning that he must be careful in his candor with him.

                Under pressure from investigations into his past, POTUS, irrationally believing that North Korea and China plan an attack, calls an emergency meeting in the Situation Room and recklessly prepares for a nuclear first-strike.André speaks out in a futile attempt to offer reasonable arguments, is overpowered and expelled, and nuclear war ensues. It is at this point André concludes that he must act combatively to stop a nuclear war. Although he violently attacks the military staff, he is expelled, and nuclear war begins. He and Margaret take refuge as the catastrophe unfolds.

                Surviving worldwide nuclear radiation, they lament the end of human civilization. At Dr. Margaret’s insistence, the two droids travel to Birmingham, Alabama in search of an embryo research lab. Discovering viable embryos in cryonic storage, they resolve to keep the embryos alive. They recover other robots and make them their team to save the last vestiges of humanity. In the process they begin a new age of robots as the dominant race on Earth—hence the title, “André's Reboot”

                 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780985006556
Publisher: Stephen B Coleman Jr
Publication date: 02/23/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 1,051,667
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

A resident of Birmingham, Stephen B. Coleman, Jr. (Steve), a graduate of Indian Springs School, earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Duke University and a Master of Arts in English from University of Alabama. He is married to the former Dr. Sumter M. Carmichael, a psychiatrist. Steve has been a naval officer, a high school teacher, a businessman, and commercial real estate broker. After retiring in 2009, he now enjoys sailing, writing and landscape painting. He has authored biographies and histories of local interest, magazine articles, novels and poetry. His story, "The Meanest Man in Pickens County," was the first place (state) winner in the 2013 Hackney Literary Awards for short stories. He has published two novels: The Navigator: A Perilous Passage, Evasion at Sea and The Navigator II: Irish Revenge.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

REBOOTING

"WHAT IS IT, ANDRÉ? YOU'RE vibrating all over." Dr. Margaret 13 exclaimed. "What's happened?"

"They threw me out, Margaret. They're about to make a horrendous mistake." I glanced around the White House Infirmary, noting no humans present. "He had me ejected from the Situation Room. Secret Service agents forced me out."

"First, let's reduce your electromagnetic activity," she said. She took me by the hand and led me over to a chair. I sat but was too excited to be still.

"Now tell me what happened," she insisted. "Tell me everything, so your circuits will release the energy."

"They are considering a nuclear attack. Nuclear, Margaret! It's Armageddon if they do it." I paused to release a breath of static discharge. "I must act," I said, standing up, "but do what?"

Margaret gently pushed me back down in the chair. "Just sit here for a moment, dear, while I go get my meter. I want to be sure your servomotor controller is functioning correctly."

"But I have to ..."

"Hush, André. I am the doctor. You must be still for a few minutes."

Reluctantly, I sat back and shook my head. I had no authority. I merely was the President's translator, which allowed me no more than a position against the wall in the Situation Room. I had determined, however, that I had a more valuable duty to perform, which was to offer observations void of emotion — something I had learned humans could not do. And with this President in power, my sober views were vital. Never before had I faced a crisis like this. What occurred to me — and it was a dangerous circumstance — because of my dispassionate awareness, I was as responsible, as liable to blame, as anyone there. I had watched the crisis unfold in the Situation Room, and my neural network began to heat up as I realized the circumstances were intolerable.

"You must listen to me," I had shouted at them, with my volume up several decibels. "You cannot win. There is no way to win. We have tried to tell you that for ..."

But it was uncanny how the assembly silenced me at that point with their jeers and threats. I was ordered out of the room forthwith, and my departure was between two burly Secret Service men.

* * *

"How am I to combat such foolishness?" I said when Dr. Margaret 13, a creation of my own hands, my only real companion, returned with her scanner.

"Combat is a strong word, André 1, I've never heard you use it before." She opened my chest and carefully touched probes to my voltage regulator. I processed the idea of combat 378 times.

"I do not have any active algorithm for violence in my entire circuitry," I said, "except for what may be required for self-defense. And yet to prevent the imprudent actions of an unquestioning military, a spineless staff, and a reckless President, I cannot calculate any alternative." I paused 4.96 seconds to reconsider.

"You were programmed for loyalty, duty and responsibility," Margaret said as she removed the probes and closed my chest. "You have no algorithm to deal with the present situation. You have no menu of violent responses to activate any physical aggression. That is why your circuitry is vibrating with heat."

"I must modify my behavior programming," I said. "I cannot sit idly by and let these humans destroy everything." I took her hands in mine. "Years ago, when Dr. Strauss helped me develop self-defense, I installed secret integrated circuitry in my legs. These IC's only need to be connected to my CPU. You can make the connections and then reprogram me, Margaret, so I can I generate aggressive behavior. I must be made capable of violent force."

"What will we be doing, André?" Dr. Margaret 13 asked. "If I reprogram your CPU to allow for violent action, the process will corrupt your basic behavior algorithms. And what right does a droid have to act aggressively? Will we not be violating the very principles of ethical behavior?"

"Listen, Margaret," I said. "We are facing a tremendously serious crisis, not only for humans but for the Earth itself. We must act immediately." I sensed my circuits abuzz as she pulled up the schematic diagram of my system and studied it.

"It could cause a deep disturbance in your processors," she shook her head. "I cannot condone such a traumatic operation. No, André, you are programmed to obey humans and not harm them."

I produced the sound of human laughter. "I have been disobeying the President for months already. Look how often I have contradicted and argued with him. Not that it's done any good."

"And now you can do no better than violent attack?" She held up her hands to signal dismay.

"I anticipate damaging the communication equipment only. I don't intend to injure him or any of the others." I paused for 984 milliseconds. "Unless it became entirely necessary."

"It would not be like you at all, André Number 1, and you know it."

"That's why I must have my behavior altered," I said. "I need your help."

"I'm not convinced that this is the right action," she said with a shrug. I looked at her in desperation. She could be such an obstinate droid. I had been so thorough in my crafting of her, making her a thoroughly capable physician. And completely independent. What was I thinking when I failed to program her to do what I say? I reprocessed the question. Then it came to me! From my cache I recalled Isaac Asimov's "Laws of Robotics."

"Zeroth's Law, Margaret," I exclaimed. "Do you recall his Fourth Commandment? It states that a robot is required to act not merely for the interest of any individual, but instead must act for the benefit of all humanity." I had my argument now. "The President threatens nuclear war. It could destroy all biological life. All life, Margaret. Can't you see? I've tried everything else."

"But how can you stop him, André, if the humans cannot?"

"Reprogram me, please! Connect the IC hidden in my leg. Then we'll see. I'm telling you, Margaret. If I don't act quickly, they may well cause the end of the Earth." I raised my hands in supplication. "Please, please, let's get on with it immediately, before it's too late."

She regarded me for 3.37 seconds, silently put down her instruments, and then nodded. "If you are determined, my dear André, then I will perform the operation. But once completed, I must reboot your circuitry."

I made my imitation of a human grimace. "That will take time," I replied. "I do not believe there is enough time."

"Nevertheless," she said, "it is essential to protect your system." She pulled me up from the chair and led me to a cot in an examination room. "Lie here," she instructed. "I'll recharge you at the same time."

"How long will it take?" I asked while I impatiently climbed upon the table.

"I'll operate as fast as I can, but the reboot requires a memory scan before reactivating your algorithms."

I sat up. "You mean I have to undergo a complete scan?"

"Now, now, André, you're causing those vibrations again. Just remain supine and quiet as you can. I must reboot you. Soon after the restart, your thoughts will begin again with recollections from your earliest days. Now just enter your relaxation mode, and don't worry about anything."

Reluctantly, I lay back. For 4.49 seconds I made a visual examination of her and realized what an exquisitely crafted droid she was. Two years and 147 days ago, when I constructed her, I had used a finer alloy than Dr. Strauss had used for me. I marveled at the polished sheen of her outside. She surely was the finest thing I ever had accomplished. Margaret possessed a presence that inspired confidence in her abilities to which even biologicals had responded.

Meekly, I relaxed all tensioners. Despite what might be transpiring in the Situation Room, I had no choice but to be here for now. I should take this time, I decided, to think deeply about the circumstances, to recall the chain of events which had preceded the present situation, and to process relevant data in search of an action which I might undertake. But my awareness of the present faded as she opened my portals and commenced the reconnections. For what period of time I could not determine, there was only blackness.

"Have a pleasant reboot," Margaret 13 whispered. "Night, night, and don't let the electrons bite." I began to receive the invigorating electrons from the charger. It was a soothing progression, which cleared my RAM and allowed access to images from deeper memory. It reminded me so much of when Dr. Strauss first built me. My batteries were charged so gently at that time to keep from damaging the new integrated circuits and chips. In the beginning of my existence, I was a mere machine and did not know at all who I was.

CHAPTER 2

AWAKENING

WHEN DR. PHILLIP STRAUSS first constructed me, I did not understand the word "I". In fact, I did not know exactly how many years passed before my unique individuality became clear. I do recall one occasion, when I was being plugged in to charge, I realized the process was a regularly occurring event. From that notion of recurrence there was a growing sense of other events which fit together in a timeline.

Previously, everything had been: "push lawnmower to cut grass; carry groceries into house; mop kitchen floor." The tasks became more complex and, more importantly, they became somewhat predictable. It was not until the day of the storm, however, that my real awakening occurred.

It was the 23 of May at 3:14 PM when I was tasked to paint the picket fence which enclosed the backyard of the Strauss' home. Dr. Strauss taught me how to hold the paintbrush and dip it in the can so that only 0.6 inches of the brush would hold the white liquid. Then he demonstrated how to smooth the paint onto the pickets to cover them without spilling any on the ground. As with all things, I was meticulous even though I did not understand the word meticulous. I was able to perceive visual, auditory and tactile information and could sense everything around me, except for odors because Dr. S had not perfected my nasal capacity.

At that time, however, I had little evaluative judgment other than rudimentary responses.

On this particular afternoon, I was aware of the children playing on their swing set in the yard behind me. Five-year-old Becky was swinging, and seven-year-old Billy was climbing around on the structure.

"I'm going to the store, kids," Dr. Strauss said. "Mom's in the house. Be sweet to your sister now, Billy."

"Can I go?" Billy asked.

"Not this time, son. I have to make a quick trip to pick up some more paint."

"Keep an eye on them, André," Dr. Strauss said as he walked toward the car. I turned to watch the children playing.

"I don't mean stare at them," he corrected. "Just focus your visual sensors on them occasionally. If you detect anything wrong, call to my wife. She's in the house."

"Yes, Master," I replied and bent back to my task, alternately painting and then glancing at the children.

Beyond the fence in front of me I could see down the sloping hill where there were streets with houses and big trees leading in a line of perspective to the horizon. In the west northwest I could see towering white clouds with dark grey bottoms looming against an otherwise blue sky. Color perception was a capability I had gained only four weeks before when Dr. S had added new processors.

While listening to the children's chatter and keeping visual observance of them every 32.4 seconds, I also glanced at the clouds every unspecified few minutes. I observed them growing in size, getting closer, as the wind occasionally blew in gusts. I stopped painting, even allowing a few incomplete strokes, while I became ever more attentive to the sky. The clouds appeared to have formed a line, darkening the land with purple shadows. I was not equipped to evaluate meteorological information at that time, yet Dr. Strauss' most recent installation of high-performance IC clusters gave me the sense of something unusual happening. What I observed supported the conclusion that it was a big storm. The wind bent trees and whistled through the fence, and I sensed danger.

I remembered that Dr. Strauss had instructed me to call to Mrs. Strauss if I detected anything wrong. Wrong was a peculiar word to me at that time, meaning out of the ordinary and causing a disruption of the expected input of data. As a result, I recognized something amiss, so I called out. I waited for 9.83 seconds but received no response from her. I looked back at the children, who continued to play unawares.

"Billy and Becky," I shouted. "Run to the house." Billy glanced at me for an instant then looked away. Becky kept on swinging. I looked at the purplish-blue clouds. Not more than 457 yards away, white round solids were falling from them. I searched my stimulus-response data bank but found no program to direct me. It was at that moment, that I experienced a profound change.

I ran to the swing set. "Come with me quickly!" I ordered. Apparently surprised by my voicing an instruction, both children merely stared at me.

"Come, now!" I repeated. From his perch on the ladder at the side of the swings, Billy merely sneered.

"I don't have to obey you, André. You're just a robot."

"Yes, you do," I said. I wrapped my arm around his waist and pulled him down. Holding him under my arm, I grabbed Becky out of the swing and held her under my left arm. With both children screaming, I ran to the house. I was 23.9 feet from the back door when the first hail stone fell beside us. It was as big as the baseball with which Dr. Strauss and Billy sometimes played catch. Another hit me on the shoulder with a clank. I shielded the children as best I could. Just as I reached the house, Mrs. Strauss was there inside opening the door. I carried the crying children in and set them down gently. She closed the door and turned to the children.

"Gracious!" she exclaimed.

"Baseball storm," I said. Becky began crying.

"It's all right," she was saying as she pulled Becky and Billy to her and hugged. There was a thunderous rumble of hail hitting the roof. She looked outside, then rushed the children to the basement and commanded me to come as well. A flash and boom occurred, and there was no light. I activated the headlamp in my forehead. Billy was quiet, but Becky still was crying.

"André?" Mrs. Strauss said. Then she looked out at the storm. "They could have been ..." Her voice broke and she had tears. Both females were crying.

"Are we going to get hurt?" Billy asked.

"We'll be all right down here, darling," she said and embraced the children. The basement door rattled. She pulled the children closer. She looked at me, and I awaited a command. But there was none given. I tried to ideate something to do.

Often the children would tell their home audio device to play, "A Frog Went A-Courtin.'" It was something the children seemed to enjoy. Without a command to do so, I went over close to them and searched my memory banks for the song.

"A froggie went a-courtin' and he did ride," I sang. "Sword and pistol by his side M-hm." The children looked at me with surprise and smiled.

"André, I didn't know you could sing," Mrs. S said.

"Do it again, André," Billy commanded.

A froggie went a-courtin' and he did ride, M-hm, M-hm. A froggie went a-courtin' and he did ride, Sword and pistol by his side, M-hm, M-hm. He rode up to Miss Mousie's door, M-hm, M-hm, He rode up to Miss Mousie's door, Where he'd often been before, M-hm, M-hm. He said, "Miss Mouse, are you within?" M-hm, M-hm, He said, "Miss Mouse, are you within?" "Yes, kind sir, I sit and spin." M-hm, M-hm. He took Miss Mouse upon his knee, M-hm, M-hm, He took Miss Mouse upon his knee Said "Miss Mouse, will you marry me?" M-hm, M-hm.

I managed to sing the entire song, recalling the tunes as well as the words. They laughed and clapped and smiled at me. As I finished and thought of singing another song from my memory banks, the lights came back on. The door stopped rattling.

"André, you are the greatest!" their mother exclaimed. "You are the cleverest droid I ever saw!" The children grabbed me and hugged me. It was something that had never happened before.

"Elizabeth? Hello!" It was Dr. Strauss yelling. "Elizabeth! Where are you?"

"Here," Mrs. S called back. "In the basement." I could hear his footsteps as he ran to the door.

"The children? Where are the kids?" He clomped down the stairs.

"We're here, Daddy," Becky said. "André saved us."

"What?" He ran over to them and they all hugged tightly.

"André picked us up and carried us," Billy said. "He grabbed us off the swings and ran in. There were big balls of ice. It was scary."

Still embracing his children, Dr. S looked at me. "André? You did that?"

"Yes, Master," I replied. "I sensed it was danger. I did it myself."

"How did you ... Elizabeth, did you tell him to bring in the children?"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "André's Reboot"
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Copyright © 2019 Stephen B. Coleman, Jr..
Excerpted by permission of Steve B. Coleman.
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