II: The Everest Project
Megan hadn’t expected her security clearance to come through so fast. MindSim must have begun the paperwork in advance. That was certainly optimistic. Or maybe they were just covering all their bases. In any case, after a few weeks of negotiations, they flew her from Massachusetts to California for a tour of their labs.
She felt like a kid in a game arcade. Visiting MindSim was far better than the “hot times” her friends urged on her for fun, like parties or holovids. Invariably, her parents joined the chorus, with hints that she should include a fellow in the proceedings, son-in-law material, of course. Their lobbying drove her crazy. They were wonderful people and she loved them dearly, but she felt like running for the hills every time they got that grandparental gleam in their eyes.
Tony and Claire showed up in person to escort her through the snazziest labs. In one, spindly droids trundled around, navigating obstacle courses with remarkable agility. Megan spent half an hour putting them through their paces before her hosts enticed her to another lab. There she met an appliance that resembled a broom with wheels and detachable arms. The robot spoke at length about how it could move its fingers with more strength and dexterity than a human being.
They went for a walk with a two-legged robot that had a gait so smooth, it put to shame earlier versions that had jerked along like stereotypical machines. Her hosts also let her try a Vacubot. Its inventors deserved an award for their gift to humanity, a robot that could vacuum the house perfectly even as it called the nearest pizza joint to bring dinner for its humans.
“We also work on humanlike robots,” Tony said as they ushered her down another hall. “This next lab is where our people design the body.”
Megan’s pulse jumped. Humanlike was the current buzzword for androids. “Do you have one here?”
“Unfortunately, no.” Claire avoided her gaze. “This work is theoretical. Development would go on elsewhere.”
So. They didn’t want to talk about the actual state of their R&D. No surprise there. Industrial espionage in robotics was a thriving enterprise. MindSim wouldn’t make their results public until they had full patent protection and copyrights. She already had a preliminary security clearance with them, but they probably wanted to see her responses first before they decided how much more they wanted to reveal about the work.