Greetings to you. I suspect you've not met anyone quite like me before. I'm a bit of a puzzle even to myself and to those people I work with and who rely on me. One man perhaps understands me. The one who made me. Some people call him the Magician but there's nothing really magic about him.
He made me for his daughter. As a companion for her but also as someone to keep an eye on her. She's a feisty thing and often puts herself into dangerous situations.
You think of it as some kind of fantasy, Frankenstein's monster, don’t you? But that was actually a scientific experiment. My creator has perfected that method and now he makes lots of machines like me. I look like a plain old domestic cat, don't I? Well, indeed there is a bit of that animal in me. The animus, it's called. I have a vague memory of a cat-like existence. But I am also a highly developed machine that can process data faster than most computers, and that can interact effectively with humans.
My first mistress and I got on well. But then I had a reason to leave and she wasn't sad. She was pragmatic. So was my master. He was going to create another machine for her, with the animus of a snow-leopard, I believe. An attractive creature, possibly even more attractive than me.
Yes it was all very rosy and cosy. Arabella liked to explore and I was happy to keep her company. The cat part of me enjoyed hunting for mice and rats. Naturally I had to either kill them or let them go because a machine such as I cannot digest biological matter. I usually let them go again; they were part of the ecological balance on that planet.
One day we were in the caves that border our town. I could detect something human in there. I could smell whoever it was and all of my other sensors also suggested human activity. It took several days to find her.
But what a shock when I did. The poor girl was covered in sores and nasty red patches on her skin. She was also very small. She looked like a Terrestran.
"You look unwell, Madam," I said to her. "Can my mistress and I be of any assistance?"
"I don't feel too bad today," she said. "At least it's cool in here. And dark. It's the sunlight that harms me the most."
"May I examine you?" I asked. "I only need to place a paw on your wrist."
She nodded her agreement.
What an assault on my robotic senses, though, and even the cat part of me was somewhat overwhelmed. Cellular exzenema and possibly the worst case in the whole universe. This child should have never been allowed to develop. I was able to interpret her thoughts. Her name was Petri and I could see straight away that there was a history of a loving father who had not allowed her embryo to be destroyed even though the disease had been discovered whilst she was still in a petri-dish.
"You're all alone here," said Arabella. "What about your friends and family?"
"They come here every so often and I visit them. But I like being on my own."
"What if I left Catbo with you? He'd be good company and he's very clever. You wouldn't mind, would you, Catbo?"
I bowed slightly. "I am here to serve you, Mistress. It is as you wish."
"Please stay with her, Catbo. She shouldn't be on her own."
So I stayed.
She was a little wary of me at first. She ignored me. She just got on with whatever she was doing. She even gave me the slip - or tried to - occasionally. I'm really much too wily for her to succeed at that. I kept a discreet distance from her, but watched her carefully.
She really had made a nice little home for herself in the caves. She had a small kitchen. It had a drawer for delivering readymade meals. Every so often a house droid came and cleaned and tidied for her. She had made one cave into a sitting room and another into a bedroom. She had a small alcove set up as a study. There was running water and electricity. I could charge myself.
Whilst she was sleeping I was able to look at her dataserve. She was a good girl. A good daughter, I could see. Her school work was all up to date - which I could definitely not say about my former mistress. And there was so much evidence of her searching for a cure for her terrible disease. If only she would let me help her. I can process information a hundred times as fast as a human and I can communicate directly with dataserves.
Very occasionally, when she was tired, she would forget herself and run her fingers through my fur as if I were a real cat. Then I would obligingly purr, run my cheeks against her arm or roll over for my tummy to be tickled. I've even been known to lick my bottom or fart to keep the illusion going. No. Not illusion. There is still a very small part of me that is cat.
One day she had to go up to the surface for a school meet or some such. She was in agony when she came back. She'd been very careful about wrapping herself up but even so she was covered in painful blisters and she was burning up.
She burst into tears. "It hurts so much, Catbo. It really does."
I set to immediately. I urged her to use her wands. She was due some medication then anyway and she had a palliative wand but I could see it only took the very edge off her pain. I contacted the medics and ordered them to do something. Within ten minutes there were two powerful wands in the delivery draw. One was to ease the pain and the other was to make her sleep.
"You are so good to me, Catbo," she said as she snuggled down in bed. I could tell the pain was easing and she was becoming drowsy.
She slept well and in the morning she seemed quite perky. Most of the blisters and blotches had disappeared.
"Thank you so, so much," she said. "You are a clever little cat."
"I am but a machine, Mistress," I replied. "And may I suggest that you allow me to conduct some of your searches? I can find and process the information much more quickly than you can."
"You can?" She hadn't realised.
"Of course. That is one of my main functions."
"Well then, let's do it." She laughed. She actually laughed. I don't think I'd heard her do that before.
"Mistress." I bowed and started work straight away searching via her dataserve.
So from then on she allowed me to help. We searched and searched. We found new things to try. Some worked a little, some not at all. She became better at managing her pain.
Then one day it all went away. Her father - not the biological one who rescued her from a petri dish,- sadly he was killed in an accident at work - but her adoptive father, attachment of her step-mother, this adoptive father was a high-ranking diplomat and she began gradually taking over his role as he also became ill. Inhabitants of another planet were able to affect the cure for her. There were tough negotiations but in the end she was cured. Completely.
You might think I feel a certain amount of frustration at that but you'd be wrong. I am glad for her, really glad. She now leads a normal life - in some respects anyway. Life can never be completely the same as that of another young girl for her - she has so much responsibility.
Anyway, can a machine feel frustration? Can I feel glad for her? And yet I do.
I'm always busy helping her. I've been able to look up information for her rapidly. I've advised her on some courses of action and I've been able to alert her to enemy space craft approaching the planet. I have even become her confidant on matters of the heart. Only the other day she said to me, "What shall I do about Toby?"
"Do you love him?" I asked "Or is this just lust?"
"I adore him. I want him with me always. But will he be too much of a distraction?"
"Mistress, you may be even more distracted if you keep him distant," I replied.
I now observe they are spending much more time together and she is happier.
And naturally from time to time I am just cat.
It's puzzling to me that I have become this instinctive creature that can love and hate, despise and respect, and even be sad or happy.
Her adoptive father has now died. She needs me less in some ways because she has so many other people around her. And she needs me more in other ways because he was her mentor and friend as well as a father and she misses that. Plus, her step-brother, the biological son of her adoptive parents, is a very difficult child. And he has become more difficult since his father died. He has befriended a droid. Norman. An enemy droid.
So, I have been busy.
I have managed to preserve the animus of her adoptive father. I am attempting to link it to the droid, Norman. Thus, she will have her mentor still and her step-brother will have his father. The enemy will also stop being the enemy.
I understand what you're thinking. Why doesn't he appeal to his own creator? Is this moral what he's doing? Is it safe?
Well, I have to keep this so secret. It has to happen without anyone noticing. I'm safe talking to you. You are our past. Even if you write this down for future generations it’s so fantastical, isn't it, that people who read it will think it but a fairy tale.
Norman is beginning to act like their father. The other day I heard him say to Petri: "Go girl!" That was her father's pet phrase whenever she was facing something difficult.
I'm not so sure how this will develop. So, I'm warning you. Look at me. A mere cat and a mere machine have developed into something much more ... sentient, intelligent? What may happen if we use a human animus in the first place? Now, I'm working for the general good and so is Norman. But could it swing the other way? Please be careful.