"All souls must undergo transmigration and the souls of men revolve like a stone which is thrown from a sling, so many turns before the final release… Only those who have not completed their perfection must suffer the wheel of rebirth by being reborn into a(nother) human body."
~ Jean Paul Richter
"You sure this is a good idea, Henry? Look what happened to Holly." Jack Carter watched over Henry's and Zane's shoulders as the new form was being created by the Global Dynamics computer. He cringed as it overlaid muscle on top of the bones. Of course they weren't really muscles or bones, but a biomechanical representation, a sort of android body into which a consciousness could be downloaded. It would perform much the same as a human body, even look human inside and out. But only someone who knew what to look for would be able to tell that it in fact wasn't human.
"It'll be fine, Jack. SARAH is a computer program, not a human consciousness. It can't be influenced in the same way." Most of Henry's attention was on the computer screens. Occasionally he and Zane would confer in the language of their "species." A language that Jack understood the way most Americans understood Spanish, though most of the time he did get the gist.
"Have we decided hair, eye and skin color yet? What do you think she would prefer?"
Jack grinned. "You are gonna think I am a genius. Well, sort of. Okay, not really. But I did manage to find out his idea of the perfect woman." From his pocket, the sheriff took a photo, passing it to Zane. "SARAH can't keep a secret so I took him for a drive."
Zane snickered. "And he wasn't suspicious?"
Jack shrugged. "You know Andy. He doesn't get suspicions. All he does is smile and call me 'boss'."
"Great." Henry took the photo from Jack and propped it where he could see it, prompting a flurry of keying. With a flourish, Henry hit the enter key.
The men waited impatiently as the finishing touches were added to the organic reproduction. Jack was about to start pacing to work off the surplus adrenalin rushing through his system when the computer beeped and the bio-bed shut down. They gathered around waiting for her to open her eyes. When she did, Jack jumped back a step.
Allison chose that moment to join them. "How're we doing, guys?"
"All done, Ally." Jack leaned down to give his wife a kiss.
"We just have to copy SARAH's programming into her photonic processor." The tone of Henry's voice told them he was proud of their accomplishment. "We learned a lot from the biochemical structure of Holly's new brain. This will go like clockwork."
The smile on Jack's face turned to concern with a small amount of fear. "You know, every time someone says that, a rocket blows up, all the kids in town get turned into zombies and start building stuff or a space ship drops out of the sky."
"This is different. SARAH's programming is much simpler, comparatively, than the human brain." Zane returned to his computer to work.
"So what happens to the smart house?"
Henry rushed to assure his friend. "There will be no change, Jack. With Holly, we downloaded her consciousness, the contents of her human brain that had been stuck in the matrix was literally moved from one place to another. All we did with SARAH was copy her programming."
Jack suddenly realized that the completed cyborg was naked. He turned his back when saw that she was also anatomically correct. "We need some clothes for her, but have no idea what, uh, what size…"
Allison let Jack off the hook with a smile. In one hand she carried a set of scrubs. "Once the reproduction of SARAH's software is complete, we'll do some tests then I'll take her to the boutique in town."
"Thanks honey." Jack kissed his wife keeping his eyes averted as SARAH's new body sat up and looked around.
"Dr. Deacon. Dr. Donovan. Sheriff Carter. Dr. Blake." She seemed a bit startled at the sound of her own voice. Within the smart house, it had an echoing quality, but now, coming from her new android body it sounded high pitched and little girlish. "With the exception of my voice, the duplication of my programming seems to have worked according to plan." Swinging her legs over the side, she jumped to her feet, flexing her hands and turning her head side to side. "So this is the bio-cybernetics lab at Global Dynamics."
"Yes it is and welcome to the world, Sarah." Allison helped her into the scrubs, humor in her voice when Zane and Henry also turned their backs. "We'll do a few tests then you and I will go shopping."
"That will be wonderful, Dr. Blake. When will I be able to see Andy?"
"Soon. The party is tonight and we want it…you to be a surprise."
"Of course." Sarah smiled at each of her companions. "Shall we? I would like to have time to prepare." Her hands stroked her head, fingers lightly touching the long blond hair that curled gently on the ends. "Do you have a mirror?"
Zane took a small mirror from the drawer under the desk. "You understand that we created you to Andy's specifications."
"I do. My outward appearance does not matter except that it will be pleasing to my significant other." Sarah examined her reflection, the fingertips of one hand stroking her facial features.
Jack chuckled. "Now that is a blast from the past. Not that it's a bad thing."
She set the mirror aside. "I do not understand, Sheriff Carter."
Allison glanced at Jack with an amused glare. "What he means is women today usually act, dress and behave to please themselves rather than the man in their lives."
"I see." She seemed to think it over, coming to a decision. "Then we should also stop at the hair salon. Though the green of my irises and the color and tone of my epidermis are acceptable, I would like to experiment with different hairstyles."
"One step at a time, Sarah." Allison led her down the hall to the medical bay, the cyborg bumping into the doorway. "Are you okay?"
"I am fine, Dr. Blake. It appears that my visual acuity is less than optimal."
"On it." The dark-haired man returned to the computer as did Henry. They had their answer in short order. "There was a small drop in power at the exact moment that Sarah's eyes were being constructed. That also explains the voice."
"Yes. The power shortage was minuscule. That's why the computer didn't alert us. But we can correct the problem easy enough. It'll be like having laser surgery." Henry leaned against the counter, his arms crossed.
"If you will pardon me, Dr. Deacon. I believe I will retain the visual perception that I have."
"Why?" Henry asked curiously. "If you can have perfect vision…"
"But that is exactly the reason I do not wish to have the corrections made. Seldom are two humans exactly the same in all respects. Even identical twins are not truly identical. To have this 'flaw' will allow me to appear more human." Sarah smiled again. "I have seen the way Andy looks at human females who wear corrective lenses. If I were to wear glasses, he would then be even more attracted to me."
Jack chuckled. "She's got a point." He reached into his pocket for his phone when it rang. "Carter…Yes, Vincent. It worked…The op is a go."
Café Diem was busy, Vincent's staff bustling here and there while at the same time creating the menu for Andy's surprise party. A genius in his own right, he never had to write anything down. His recipes were stored in the one place no one could hack, his brain.
At the moment the master chef was mumbling to himself. Not only was today Andy's "birthday", but it was also Mediterranean Monday. "Oysters with ginger and spinach, en croute chicken pate with pistachios, truffles and smoked salmon en brioche, eggplant Portabello stack, asparagus frittata, sweet potato, carrot and onion dipping sauce for the Pisgah wild herb kettle chips…" A crash brought him out from behind the counter, his hair nearly sparking with anger. "That was Schott Zwiesel crystal! It takes three days to get replacements."
"Sorry, Vincent. I'll clean it up." Sherry, one of the server/chefs used her most soothing voice which had the effect of calming her boss. "And it wasn't the Schott. It was one of the everyday stuff."
"What a relief! And use the Ann Gish table linens."
"Of course. I've already taken them to Callie's to be pressed. She'll have them back in plenty of time."
"Oh. Well…don't just stand there. We've got customers to serve."
The residents of Eureka filled the café to overflowing all waiting…and waiting…and waiting. They'd been waiting for Andy to arrive at his surprise party for nearly thirty minutes. At first they were just a little annoyed. Then they were angry. Now they were worried because Andy was obsessively punctual, barring any accidents, wormholes, nanites, smart dust or some other out of control GD experiment.
Vincent started pacing and ringing his hands. "If he doesn't get here soon, the grilled asparagus with Hollandaise sauce will be ruined."
"I'll call him again." Jack huffed as he took out his phone. "Carter to Andy."
"Go for Andy."
"Hey, buddy. You were supposed to meet us at Café Diem for dinner almost thirty minutes ago." Jack turned away from the group and lowered his voice. "Vincent's upset. And you know what he's like when he's upset."
"Oh. Sorry, Boss. I'll be there in five minutes. Andy out."
Jack shoved the phone into his pocket. "Listen up! Andy's on his way so this is how it's gonna go. We'll yell surprise, food, cake, ice cream then the present. Everyone clear?" There was a chorus of agreement from the assembled crowd.
Sarah stepped forward. "I assume that my presence is to be a surprise. Where shall I wait, Sheriff Carter?"
"Oh! Uh, well, we need to hide you…" Jack turned in a circle thinking furiously.
Vincent came to his rescue. "What about the freezer?"
"I was gonna say the freezer." Placing a hand on Sarah's back to guide her, Jack steered her behind the counter.
He opened the freezer, pushed Sarah inside and slammed the door just as Andy parked in front.
"Jack!" Alison's tone was a gentle reprimand.
He gave his wife a sheepish smile as he ducked behind the counter.
Andy entered Café Diem, standing in the entryway, puzzled at the darkened room. "Boss? Mrs. Boss? Vincent? Ms. Lupo?"
The pleasant smile the android habitually wore changed to pleased surprise when the lights came on followed by, "Surprise!"
"Oh wow! Thanks, guys! What's the occasion?"
Henry pushed to the front of the cheering group. "I can't believe you don't know what today is."
"On today's date…" Andy began to rattle off historical facts about the date.
Eventually, Jack was able to interrupt. "Whoa! That's all very interesting, Andy. But we're looking for something a little more recent."
"Got it, Boss. How recent?"
"Ah. Two years ago today was my first day back in Eureka after my upgrade to Andy 2.0." As if he'd just realized what he'd said, Andy's smile got even wider. "So this is a birthday party? For me?"
Jo came forward to stand next to Zane. "You're a part of this family, Andy. Of course it's for you."
Andy looked around at the decorations, food, cake and the faces of his friends. "I don't know what to say. I'm…speechless."
Jack rocked on his heels. "Finally! A way to shut him up."
The group laughed making Andy blush. Or he would have if he'd been programmed for it.
The food was gone, the cake long ago cut and eaten. Andy sat with Jack, Alison, Zoe, Kevin, Jenna, Jo and Zane. "Boss?"
"This gathering is a celebration in my honor."
"What of it?" Jack wasn't good at feigning innocence.
"Is it not a tradition that the…" he made air quotes as he'd seen Jack do on occasion, "…birthday boy or girl receive a gift beyond the well wishes of his or her family and friends?"
"Yes, it is." Alison nodded and Vincent opened the freezer door then she got to her feet, Jack standing at her side. "Stand over here."
"Sure, Mrs. Boss." Andy moved into place, hands behind his back and rocking merrily back and forth on his toes.
"Okay. You can turn around now."
Again Andy did as instructed. His friends were standing in front of him along with a young blond woman wearing black framed glasses. "Hello, ma'am."
"Hello, Andy." At her high pitched voice, his smile widened just a little and Jack could tell he liked the sound of it and the look of the glasses she wore. Her dress was black with small red and white flowers on the skirt and around the neckline. Black leggings and Mary Jane-style shoes completed the outfit.
After a few moments of awkward silence, for the humans at least, Andy looked at Jack with a puzzled expression.
Jack made a "ta-dah" gesture at the blond. "She's is your gift."
"She is my gift?"
"Yeah." With a gentle hand, Jack urged the blond closer. "Go ahead. Tell him."
"Of course, Sheriff Carter." She smiled. "Hello, Andy. It is I, Sarah."
"That is not possible. SARAH is a Self-Actuated Residential Automated Habitat. This young woman is obviously not a structure suitable for human or animal habitation." Andy gave Jack an indulgent smile of the sort one bestowed on someone he considered to be of less than average intelligence. "I believe the saying is 'the cat can have kittens in the oven, but that don't make 'em biscuits'." Titters of laughter came from around the room.
"Be that as it may, I am Sarah. My program has been downloaded into one of the Dr. Donovan's biomechanical androids such as the one that now contains the consciousness of Dr. Marten. I have been…reborn."
"Your voice is nothing like hers." Though he kept the pleasant smile on his face, he was still skeptical. "Tell me something that only SARAH would know."
Sarah thought for a moment then leaned close to whisper in Andy's ear. From the look on his face, whatever she said was convincing. He confirmed it with a wide grin. "That's my girl!"
Sarah's smile matched Andy's. "As we are a couple, should we not engage in a symbolic gesture of affection?"
"We should indeed." Andy extended his hand and Sarah placed her much smaller one in it.
"Did you know that, biochemically, touch is known to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which is the part of the human nervous system associated with relaxation and unwinding?"
Now Andy looked confused. "Strange, but the linking of our phalanges is having the opposite effect. In fact, because my android body is anatomically correct, I am beginning to feel quite amorous."
Thankfully, Jack broke in. "Uh, that's something you should keep to yourself, Andy."
"Of course, Boss." He smiled at his friends then at Sarah. "I would like to thank everyone for my birthday gift. This is exactly what I wished for when I blew out the candles, that my girl would one day be able to walk with me in the sun and under the stars at night."
"Very poetic, Andy. Shall we go? I am anxious to try out this body for flexibility and endurance within a physically intimate context."
"Again, something you should keep to yourself." Several people gasped and more than a few hid grins behind their hands or turned away so Andy and Sarah wouldn't see.
"I apologize if I have made you uncomfortable, Sheriff Carter. It is time for Andy and I to take our leave so that we may get to know each other in these forms."
"Before you go, let's have a toast." Jack hugged Alison and Zoe then lifted his glass waiting while the others did the same. "To all the citizens of Eureka. May our house always be too small to hold all our friends."
Releasing Sarah's hand, Andy tucked it around his elbow. "If you will excuse us, Sarah and I will now say good night." The couple left Café Diem, Andy helping Sarah into the front passenger seat and buckling her seatbelt before sliding behind the wheel and driving away.
His arms around Alison, her back against his chest, Jack kissed her temple. "Android love is a beautiful thing."
"Human love isn't such a bad thing either."
Tightening his hold, Jack rubbed his cheek against Alison's. "I totally agree."
A/N: Thanks to ladygris for the Beta.