Fatigue lines circled James Walkers eyes and forehead; dry canals of wrinkled flesh ran down the sides of his face. A flood of light washed over him, flickering ever so often. He found himself hissing at that inconvenience before resuming his examination. James spent months inspecting every piece of hardware and taking voice notes—he was ready to proceed. “James Walker, Ph.D.,” he said into the recorder. “After meticulous examination that produced minor wins and fails, everything seems to be in order. The mechanism is responsive. I’m proceeding to the next step—implementation. Cooling systems have taken to the previous modifications, refer to doc-234. Internal examinations will continue intermittently.” James clicked off the recorder and sighed. He walked across the room and paused inches from his destination, letting his eyes scan the table and its contents. The thin, silicone-based polymer suit reflected the soft light in the room. The project was close to completion and when he thought of what was at stake, the usual litany of questions and doubts arose. He scratched his stubble and pushed aside thoughts of consequence. He knew all too well that one wrong move might bring down his research like a flimsy deck of cards. “Positivity doesn’t exist in the realm of fringe science, but you have to try,” he muttered under his breath. Those words fueled James, who focused on the most favorable outcome. The augmented bio-hybrid suit had muscles, tendons, and ligaments designed to replicate the human body—an exact replica. He rolled the table close to the gurney then proceeded to couple the parts together. It took thirty minutes of concentrated effort to get the body sheathed. James took a step back and admired his masterpiece. It reminded him of a Renaissance anatomical painting he once saw in a museum. A smile tugged at the corner of his lips, but he wiped it away with the back of his hand. He attached a transfusion tube to the small glass cylinder filled with dense liquid. He injected the mixture into the body’s cervical vertebrae. Spider-like microscopic nanocells hurried down the spine and spread into the hybrid suit. The muscle tissues expanded and solidified over the impenetrable frame underneath. James watched the process unfold. His heart beat in double time, eager to move to the next phase. The pulsating vibe in his ears synced with his anxiety. He ambled to a wall lined with metal cabinets and retrieved the synthetic skin from its compartment. At the table, he arranged them over the entire body like a giant jigsaw puzzle. He watched the panels of skin adhere to one another. His hands imprisoned within his pockets to resist the urge to touch. Soon, skin covered the mechanical suit and a man lay in its place. The transformation was a success. Exhausted, James glanced at his watch and wondered if he should call it a night or continue to the next phase. Logic advised against that course of action, but the restless inventor needed to proceed. A tremor ran through his hand, a reminder of the imminent situation he was in. Time was no longer a commodity he could afford. He shook off the reverie and began the final phase. He flipped a switch and waited. James didn’t expect movement, so when the eyes fluttered, he was startled. Rapid eye movement meant the system transmitted the packets of data through a private server James created, which allowed limited access to a vast global network. “William? Can you hear me?” James whispered. He moved closer to the table and repeated the question. The eyes continued to flutter for a moment, then flew open. Gracefully, the body sat up and surveyed the room. It—he—was trying to assess its surroundings. “How do you feel?” James asked tentatively. “William? Is that my name?” His deep voice resonated throughout the room. His eyes stopped on the bespectacled man in a dark green, cable knit sweater, who stood next to the table. He looked to be in his fifties with tired blue eyes and short, graying, brown hair. “Yes. Your name is William. And my name is James. I am your creator.” The AI tilted his head to the side. His dark brown eyes rose to meet James’. “You’re ill. You ha—” “I-I know,” James interrupted. “Do you know what you are?” Will held up his hands and flexed the digits. “Am I awake, or am I programmed to feel awake?” James smiled and sat in a chair near the wall. Excitement welled up inside him. “The fact you even ask that question gives me hope that you are exactly what you’re meant to be.” “I’m not human,” Will stated. “No, you’re far more advanced. I was able to correlate specific patterns of the central nervous system with emotions and thought processes to create something beyond a program—an organism. You are the first AI ever to have this organism installed.” They held each other’s gaze for a moment before James broke contact and continued. “This evolutionary system will gradually alter and determine your choices based on the human interaction you experience throughout your life, much like a regular person. Over time—I’m not sure how long—but over time, you will start to engage in a more human-like behavior. You will continue to write code as a sentient being.” Will canted his head and blinked rapidly. “I’ll be able to freely write my own code?” “To a degree. There are restrictions, uh, goal-oriented programs. More specifically, there is a source code which will prevent you from accessing data that can alter or corrupt your program. Once certain milestones are crossed, you will have the ability to act upon your own thoughts and emotions.” James looked at Will and let out a deep sigh. The expunged breath formed a visible cloud over his face before it dissipated. “For the time being, I need you to remain here in the lab until I’m certain your program is fully functional and is safe enough.” “Safe enough for what?” William asked. James didn’t answer.