Efi Oladele sighed heavily and drummed her fingers lightly against her forehead. She had been working solidly for several hours and while there had been a modicum of success, there was still an extremely long journey ahead. She was tired – despite being a genius and a prodigy, she was still just a child – and she wanted nothing more than to climb into bed and sleep. To get some precious rest. To stave off the headache she could feel blossoming at the back of her skull.
But she was so close now.
So very close.
So close that she could literally reach out and touch it. Which on impulse, she did. Her fingers met the cool metal of the unit’s head and followed the curve of the horns that graced the oval-shaped skull. The eyes were closed and the unit remained unmoving. The revamped OR-15 model was ready to be switched on for its next test. This was the big one. This was the one that Efi had been striving for. The moment, as they would say, of truth.
Had her customised personality software been successful?
She grit her teeth, took a deep, bolstering breath and said, “I am Efi Oladele. I am a genius.” Her little hands balled into fists several times, then relaxed. The gesture release some of the quite considerable tension and she felt better.
There was no bragging in the words she spoke aloud to fortify herself. It was no different to saying ‘I am Efi and I have brown eyes’. It was merely a statement of fact and it served to boost her flagging confidence.
The workshop smelled strongly of oil and solder and had that faint crisp layer of ozone that came with working with so many electronic components. Her senses had tuned them all out some time ago and only now that she allowed her concentration to relax slightly did she notice the scents. She sniffed hopefully, but the last of the coffee had long gone.
There were those who sneered. Those who said she was too young to drink coffee. That she should be out playing with her peer group. Those who did not value their extremities also pushed it one stage forward and suggested that she should be playing with dolls.
They only said it once. Efi didn’t stand for misogyny either.
But many of those from her group of immediate friends had gone, taken away from Numbani by anxious parents who had fled in the wake of Doomfist’s horrific attack. Things had settled down once he had left, but that fear permeated every part of Numbani, like a growing fungus. When would he return? Who would save them?
Efi – and Efi alone – had gone into what remained of the airport and had seen the damage Doomfist had done. The OR-15 defence bots that had been installed to protect the people had been universally flattened into so much Omnic jam. It had all but broken Efi’s generous heart. But she’d had vision. And she would not stop until that vision was realised.
It was an obsession, plain and simple. But it was herobsession. So that was just fine.
She turned from her creation and typed furiously at the keyboard. As well as her ability with robotics, her software design was extraordinary. When she flicked the switch, and only then, she would be able to judge her success or otherwise.
She flicked the switch.
The low hum of the unit powering up sent a faint vibration through the workshop, making the instruments rattle slightly. She knew from experience that a new boot-up sequence would take a short while. Long enough, perhaps, for her to go and get something to eat. She glanced at the computer screen. Nothing was showing out of the ordinary.
Efi left the unit powering up and made her way out of the workshop.
>> Running systems check.
>> All systems optimised. Running core data check.
>> All systems optimised.
A pair of eyes flickered open with a gentle click and a bovine-like head turned this way and that.
>> Optical sensors online.
>> OR-15(A) personality file booting. Installing logic.Installing knowledge. Installing literary references. Kipling, Rudyard. I knew six fine old serving men who taught me all I knew, their names were why and where and when and how and what and who. Employ these six steps and answers will present themselves.
>> Initiating logic sequence based on Kipling, Rudyard.
>> Why am I wondering about myself as an ‘I’?
>> Where am I?
>> When did I stop thinking like a defence machine and start wondering about poetry by a long-dead human?
>> How did this happen?
>> What is going on?
A pause in the lightning-quick processing.
>> Who am I?
>> Adjustment to question. Who is Efi? Cannot compute answer. I am unsure.
The OR-15(A) moved slightly, leaning back on its haunches and peered around the room. Its vision circuits were perfect, but there was something charmingly myopic in the way it blinked slowly, getting its bearings and adjusting to the rush of data that was pouring through. It did not have a memory, not as such, and what little basic programming its original form had possessed had been wiped clear.
The unit swivelled and knocked several things off a surface onto the floor where they landed with a heavy ‘crash’. The still-hot soldering iron burned into the wood of the floor and the unit leaned down and picked it up.
A voice, mechanised and synthetic, but quite unmistakably female emitted from its vocal circuits and filled the room. A calm tone. A pleasant pitch. Designed to be reassuring and placatory, it came as something of a surprise to the unit. It – no, she – voiced her immediate concern.
“Efi will not be happy about this.”
Yes. That seemed like the right thing to say. The logic and knowledge synapses were now firing so fast that the OR-15(A) was starting to piece together everything. Efi was her creator. She had been built to protect. And here she was, effectively breaking everything. A noise, almost, but not entirely like a sigh came from her and she turned at the sound of someone entering the workshop.
“Hello.” Efi couldn’t keep the sheer delight from her voice as she saw the product of her many hours of labour crashing around her workshop like a newborn calf stumbling its way through its first steps. The unit blinked owlishly and Efi clapped her hands together. And in a single rushed and muddle paragraph, she answered every one of the OR-15(A)’s internal questions.
“Welcome to Numbani! You are here to help me demonstrate that we can all work together for the greater good. I have repaired your systems and altered your core programming so that you will be Numbani’s chief protector. I have… given you a personality.” Efi beamed. She was childishly thrilled and rightfully proud of her creation. “You need a name,” she said, unable to keep the delight from her voice. “How about… Orisa?”
“It is acceptable. Orisa online. Hello, Efi. I am fully rebooted and ready to serve…” No. That was something else. That was a hang-on from a former existence. Orisa revised her words. “I am fully rebooted. And ready to assist.”