The synthezoid was the first to feel it but even forewarned would barely react in time.
Miller had just pressed the ‘up’ button for the private elevator that would return him, Quinto, and Grace to the third-floor lab. Abramson was standing furthest from the group, nearest to the hallway exit to the lobby while Sophie was holding Grace’s hand and saying good-bye.
Although Grace detected the earthquake before any human being could, the shearing action along the Raymond fault line was abrupt and intense, so instead of a slow rumbling building to a maximum over several seconds, the quake was a sudden and severe jolt.
The overhead glass lighting fixtures shattered raining shards down into the hallway. Not even a second had passed, and if a human had been gifted with Grace’s perceptual schema, it would have looked as if everything was in slow motion.
The synthezoid swept Sophie up in her arms and immediately took her through the doorway to the stairwell just opposite the elevators. At the same time, the previously unknown flaw in the beam supporting the metal stairs leading upward bent radically. Grace rapidly drew the screaming child beneath her, using her android body as a shield as tons of steel stairs and beams collapsed on top of them.
Grace wasn’t pinned by the load resting on her back. She could have lifted it easily. However, she had determined that if she moved, she would risk extraneous debris falling on Sophie. The synthezoid was on her hands and knees, using her body as a ‘tent’ to prevent the concrete and steel that had fallen upon them from harming the six-year-old child. Her primary guiding imperative required that she remain in position rather than risk the little girl’s life.
Sophie coughed from the dust in the air as she regained consciousness. “G-Gracie?”
“I am here, Sophie.”
A small amount of light filtered in through cracks that formed in the walls, barely enough for the child to have a dim view of the synthezoid’s face above her.
“There was an earthquake, Sophie. Glass from the ceiling was going to fall on you. I pulled you in the stairwell to protect you, however, part of the stairs fell on us.”
“Can you get us out?” She was on the verge of tears.
“I promise that the most important thing in the world for me is to make sure you are safe. I will do anything possible to get you out of here.” She couldn’t say that she would get Sophie to Professor Abramson since she possessed insufficient information to determine if he were still alive and uninjured.
“Please don’t let me die, Gracie.” Tears were leaving wet streaks in the dirt and dust on her face.
“It will be alright, my angel. I promise.” If she didn’t have to maintain her position to protect Sophie, the synthezoid would have held the child in her arms, cradling her.
I’m reworking some of my earlier writing that involved Asimov style Three Laws robots into an entirely original set of stories. Actually, what were meant to be short stories are now chapters in an upcoming novel. I’ve amassed so much material in fact, that what I thought would become one novel will probably be converted into two.
This excerpt is from chapter three and is the first time a synthetic humanoid, referred to as a synthezoid, is confronted with a life or death situation. How will the synthezoid save the child in her care, and what emotions might Grace be experiencing for the first time in her existence?