Homefront - The House

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The Small Business Chronicles: Homefront - The House

Chapter One: One year later...

Jack awoke to the aroma of bacon slapping his nostrils, a warm, relaxed smile on his face. The silent clock on the bedside table told him it was 10am.

It had been a whole year since the awesome year of expansion that had so changed his life, so he’d long since ditched the alarm clock. Particularly on weekends, since he now trusted both JB and Ellie to run things for at least a couple hours before he woke up.

Ellie, serving as his site assistant, and JB as her co-assistant, now took care of many of the tasks he normally did in the early hours of the morning, giving Jack the opportunity to sleep in and relax.

Jack rolled over and stretched himself out, since he knew Gabby was no longer in bed. Ever since she had attained sentience in that awesome year, she had made efforts to improve her individuality and to improve upon herself. On weekends, such as this, she would often wake up as much as two hours before Jack and tend to her growing greenhouse, which she found gave her life more purpose. When she finished doing her early AM tasks, she would return to the house to cook her usual delicious breakfast for herself, Jack, and Henry.

Jack knew he had several minutes to head down before breakfast was ready, so he reflected on the last year.

In the year following the year of expansion, he had wisely taken a small step back and did not make any risky decisions. Instead, he chose to watch and see how his businesses would grow, now that all his workers were more properly maintained, and were able to receive upgrades, rather than repairs, for Christmas.

What resulted was an 80% increase in overall profits in all businesses, so Jack was finally able to start upgrading his staff to Mark III A.I.s, starting with Sarah, Serriah, Kat, and Rachel in the shop. Hopefully, with the dramatic increase in efficiency from their upgrades, he’d be able to do the same for the Motel staff this year, followed by the Café staff the following year.

Another thing Jack decided to do this recent Christmas was to gift himself, Henry, and Gabby with a new android.

For Jack, he was getting a general celebrity Housewife model to serve as a sort of maid, since Gabby now felt it was somewhat degrading having to do all the cleaning for the household, since she was sentient and all. Jack also felt it would allow Gabby to spend more time exploring herself and her newfound sentience, so he had been suggesting it to her as well. Gabby would, of course, still handle the cooking, since she enjoyed it and it made her family happy.

Henry was getting a custom-made Perfect Friend model to keep him company, since he found it very difficult to form relationships with people due to his genius level intellect. Due to his age, it would, of course, be given parental control protocols and a neutered appearance.

Finally, Gabby was getting her own Partier model, so that she could experience what it was like to have a “girlfriend”, as she put it. While Jack did not yet fully understand how Gabby’s new sentience was affecting her, he could understand her wanting another woman around to have fun with while he was working.

On Christmas day, Jack had merely provided them each with a tablet from which they could customize and order their android, and, at the end of the day when they had made their selections, he placed the order with his consultant discount. Today was the day they were all scheduled to arrive, and he knew Cole, the delivery driver, would likely be dropping them off around 11am.

Jack smelled a mixture of spices, in addition to the bacon, indicating the Gabby was beginning on the other courses. He found this was usually the ideal time to get up and take a quick shower before heading down.

Gabby smiled as she heard the sound of her husband getting out of bed and turning on the shower. At some point last year, she had realized that she could wake Jack up simply with the smell of her cooking, so she had spent a few weeks perfecting her new cooking routine until she figured she had trained him. Just as the last 87 times, as soon as she added the spices, he would get up and take a shower…he knew her routine quite well!

It had been a whole year now since she had attained sentience, due to a brilliant set of upgrades and reprogramming from Jack, and she was finally starting to feel comfortable with it.

At first, she found it odd and, as Jack would later explain the new feeling to her, scary. After all, in her previous state, she was essentially like the progress bar on a video file: constantly loading the same programs, showing the same content, and playing from beginning to end on constant repeat. While she could just barely grasp what it was like to be human and have genuine freedom before, with Jack’s previous programming, it was nothing compared to how she was now.

Now, she was sort of still on the progress bar, but now it was like she could change channels and do whatever she wanted in between chapter segments. She found that sticking to a routine gave her comfort and reminded her of how simple and safe her life was before, but she could also make time to read a book, listen to new music, or even drive into town and buy a new outfit. The various tweaks Jack continued to make to her underlying code structure throughout the past year also served to improve a few things, whenever she had conflicts between her new programming, and the old.

She briefly scared herself one day when she realized that she could actually leave Jack and go out into the world, but that thought lasted only a few milliseconds in her processors before she calmed herself down. As much as she could now do, she did still love Jack, and felt eternally bound to him for having brought her to life.

While she was thinking of all this, her A.I. Sort of forked its resources. Her personal thoughts, which she never had before, were running on one thread, while her cooking.haca programs were sort of running on autopilot. She found this new duality to be useful, as it allowed her to still stick to the tried and true programming provided by Spaztec, but still maintain her own control.

She briefly paused her thought thread as her audio sensors picked up the sound of the shower turning off upstairs. “Hmm, two minutes and 37 seconds earlier than expected,” she mused aloud, “he must be in a hurry!”

Gabby reduced the priority of her thought thread by 20% while she increased CPU power to her cooking thread; she needed to finish up a bit more quickly than expected.

Just as she finished cooking, she heard the bedroom door open. Seconds later, she heard Jack knocking on Henry’s door to let him know breakfast was ready, and then she heard the familiar sound of his footsteps coming downstairs.

“Good morning, honey!” She called out in her most loving voice, setting their plates on the table and giving him a kiss as soon as he stepped into the kitchen, immediately scrutinizing his appearance. Thanks to her Spaztec Housewife Model programming that she still drew upon, she was able to glean far more information from her husband than a typical human woman could, and far more quickly.

His hair looked a little unkempt, indicating that his hairbrush finally needed replacing; she made a note in her to-do list for the day to buy him a new one. She was able to detect the exact brand of soap, shampoo, and even deodorant that he was using, thanks to an extensive scent database Spaztec provided; unlike with a human, she was not affected by the aroma, though he was working on a way to program that into her. She could sense how much he adored her by the amount of pressure his lips were pressing on hers, and by the sound of his breathing. Finally, she could see that he appeared relaxed, unlike a couple years ago when he had less help.

Once they broke apart exactly 11.7 seconds later, a bit longer than average, Gabby finished setting the table with napkins and then sat down with Jack; Henry hadn’t come down yet.

“So dear, you’re down a little earlier than usual. Did you sleep well?”

“Quite well, thanks! I was merely hungry and wanted to get down as soon as possible ” he assured her, grabbing a piece of toast and putting a spread of strawberry jam over the butter Gabby had already spread, “I think you’ve perfected the art of sneaking out of bed…I didn’t wake up this time,” he complimented her.

Gabby giggled. “Yes, the art of sneakiness comes in handy sometimes,” she agreed, “Especially as an android wife.”

“How are the plants doing?”

“They’re great, actually, thanks for asking,” Gabby smiled, taking a bite of bacon; not crispy enough. “Actually, I used some of the new dill crops to season the potatoes.”

“Hmmm, I thought I detected a new flavor,” Jack nodded approvingly, “It tastes exquisite!”

“Thanks! I’d…” Gabby started, but they were interrupted by Henry running down the stairs and joining them at the table, “Ah, good morning sleepy head! What took you so long to get down here?”

Henry was now a boy of 16, and he had still not grown too much over the past few years; he was 5”4. Jack told Gabby that shortness ran on his mom’s side of the family, and he had evidently picked up that trait. Still, what Henry lacked in size or physical prowess, he more than made up in brains. He had graduated high school three years early and was now attending college in uptown.

“Good morning guys, and sorry I was late,” Henry stammered, catching his breath and scarfing down the first few bites of his food, “I was up a bit late doing a group project for my Engineering class.”

Jack nodded approvingly, still swallowing his food, so Gabby spoke. “I hope they’re not treating you like a kid, since you need to be in bed earlier than them.”

Henry shrugged. “Well, I suppose they teased me a bit at first, but after the first few nights of them staying up partying and having hangovers, they respected me a bit more when I schooled them,” he said proudly.

“Good for you, Henry,” Jack finally said, “I remember having to navigate all the bullying and such when I went to college…though, I was a couple years younger than you when I started, so I suppose I may have had it harder.”

“Well, anyway, they all know I’m smarter than them, so I ended up having to help them out a bit more than I thought I would,” Henry sighed.

“Don’t worry Henry, I’m sure you’ll find someone as smart as you before long,” Jack assured him, “If not, hopefully the new Perfect Friend you ordered will be able to keep up with your intellect.”

“Perhaps,” Henry nodded.

“Oh, by the way, have you two decided on names for your new androids yet?” Jack asked them, “It’s really important, since they need to know what their name is before I can activate them.” Jack had given them until today to decide on names.

“Actually, I think I’ve decided on Anna,” Henry decided, his face flushing, “named after my first crush, if that doesn’t seem too weird.”

“Not at all,” Jack assured him, “and you, Gabby?”

Gabby had thought long and hard about what to name her new Partier android. Considering it was designed to appear Germanic, she limited her selection to only Germanic names. “I think I’ve decided on Nicolette,” Gabby decided, “It sounds pretty.”

“Hey, whatever works,” Jack shrugged, “As for the Housewife android I purchased to take over many of your chores here, I decided to simply name her Gemma, after the actress she’s based on, rather than the android character she played in the 21st century.”

“Oh good, I can’t wait until she can take over,” Gabby sighed. It was true that, now that she was sentient, she found it a little frustrating to be stuck with the same chores she was programmed with before, while she also wanted to branch out and try her own thing. She was planning on expanding the greenhouse, and she couldn’t do that if she was also having to keep their estate neat and tidy. “How come you went for the cheap option and bought a celebrity model?

“Well, I didn’t want to splurge too much, especially with you two getting custom models,” he admitted, “Plus, since I’m only using Gemma for household chores, I didn’t exactly need much…heck, I’m even using the basic personality that her android character had, so she’ll sound stiff and artificial.”

“Well, at least I won’t have anything to be jealous about then,” Gabby laughed, though she was only kidding. Actually, to be honest, after becoming sentient, she discovered that she could alter her jealousy programming.

Before, she was programmed to feel jealous whenever Jack was with any non-family member female, even his androids. After her sentience, though, she realized it was rather silly, and petty, to be jealous of him having the occasionally dalliance with his girls, so she rewrote her own jealousy programming to no longer care…unless he became too attached to one, of course. After all, she knew he loved her deeply, and, as a matter of fact, as soon as she let him have sex with the girls more often, she actually found he was more relaxed and performed better with her.

Jack let out a hearty chuckle. “No worries, there’s no way anyone could replace you.”

Gabby let out a mock sigh and gave him a warm smile. Although she could only speak for herself, Jack always treated her well, even when she was a slave to her programming, so she would never leave him.

“So dear, what were you saying before Henry interrupted us?” Jack asked.

Oh, I’d nearly forgotten,” Gabby blushed, “I was saying that I’d like to expand the greenhouse and start providing even more crops for us, the shop, and the café. The only problem is, I’m gonna need some help.”

Jack appeared to be lost in thought as his brilliant mind considered his options. Gabby liked the way he looked when he was thinking.

“Okay,” he agreed, “The only problem I can see is that with a larger greenhouse, it’ll have to have more sophisticated climate control. I’m a little concerned that the additional heat and humidity might be an issue for your systems.”

Jack was right, she thought. She had experienced a rather scary hardware fault last year while working in the greenhouse because the humidity had short circuited her MCN. After he fixed her, he had to install additional safeguards so that she could continue working in there. “Well, is there anything you can do to compensate?”

“I’ll have to do some research on the matter,” he admitted, “I’m sure people in tropical environments have had to come up with workarounds for this issue. In the meanwhile, we can shop for a few Personal Trainer models, since they were specifically engineered to handle extreme climates for various training purposes.”

“I’ll also need a Secretary model too, to handle the books.”

“That should be easily arranged.”

At that point, Henry finished scarfing down his food. “Sorry to rush through breakfast, but I need to go up and get my room ready for Anna,” he apologized, taking his dirty dishes to the sink and heading to the door, stopping in case they had anything to say.

“Don’t worry about it, Henry,” Jack told him, “And don’t feel rushed, Anna is going to be the last one I finish today since she’ll require the most work.”

“Thanks Jack,” Henry smiled, turning to head upstairs, “Breakfast was extra yummy today, Gabby!” He called back, remembering some of his manners.

“Aww, thanks!” Gabby blushed.

“Sounds like you’d better grow some more dill,” Jack laughed.

“Indeed,” she giggled. They both finished eating and took their dirty dishes to the sink.

“Well, I should head to the lab now, dear,” Jack told her, pecking her cheek, “Cole should be arriving with the shipments pretty soon, and I want to get started on them right away.”

Gabby nodded knowingly. She was sure that if he worked far away, she might be sad that he was leaving for work, but he literally worked a hundred feet below the house, so she could visit him whenever she wanted. “Which android are you going to work on first?”

Jack’s eyes looked to the left as he thought about it. Gabby now found it fascinating to watch humans think, particularly Jack. Even though she was sentient now, she still had quicker thought processes, being a machine and all. She wondered what it was like for them…

Before she could process that last thoroughly and run it through a few simulations, Jack finally decided, though in reality only 4.3 seconds had passed.

“I think I’ll work on Gemma first, so she can start taking over your chores right away.”

“Oh, I’d better send you an updated version of my to-do list then,” Gabby told him, quickly zoning out as she accessed her list, making sure to annotate it with the tasks she still intending on taking care of, such as cooking, doing the dishes, and tending to the houseplants. Once she finished with the notes, she sent it to his workstation through her proprietary link. “Done!”

“Thanks, dear, you’re amazing!” Jack told her, giving her an extra long smooch on the lips before turning to head out, “I love you Gabby!”

“I love you too, Jack!” Gabby called back. A few seconds later, she heard the sound of the holographic wall deactivating and the lift from the house descending into the lab. As soon as the holographic wall shimmered back on, Gabby started doing the dishes, humming a soothing tune while her thought thread processed all the things she’d like to do with her new free time.

Chapter Two: Arrival

Ever since Jack had given Ellie and JB more responsibility with his business, and ever since he’d allowed Rachel to activate the shop staff, Jack started entering the lab from the house entrance, rather than the shop entrance.

Since Ellie and JB lived in the lab full time, and were able to work all hours of the day, the lab was much cleaner and far more organized than it had ever been before. It helped that they were both Perfect Friend models with all the appropriate cleaning algorithms, and that JB was essentially an android duplicate of Jack and knew how he organized things.

Ellie and JB were not currently in the lab, however. One of the new routines Jack had programmed them with was to have them spend the first few hours of each day running an external diagnostic on all staff, so Jack could maintain more accurate benchmarks on them all and mitigate any repairs earlier. However, Jack figured they were most likely standing by in the loading dock with Kat so they could help her bring down the new arrivals.

Jack still worked out in his main work area in the lawn portion of the bunker, though he had converted the kitchen and dining room area of the residence to a small lab where Ellie and JB could work on their own projects. For the most part, Jack had them maintaining his extensive stores of spare parts, as well as reviewing any code that he had written for Spaztec to consider before sending it out.

Jack continued walking through the area, killing some time by performing a cursory inspection of the place. The room Ellie was sleeping in now served as a sort of apartment for her and JB, how essentially acted as a couple now. Jack said acted, because since they weren’t sentient, he knew it was merely Ellie’s programmed attraction for Jack, and JBs programming to keep Ellie off Jack’s privates, keeping them together. Whatever the case, they looked like a couple and acted like a couple, and that’s all Jack cared about.

He finally finished up at his workstation, which had been recently upgraded with the latest computer model, and with additional monitors with a higher resolution. He was glad he was able to afford the new computers now, since the faster computer allowed him to code more quickly, and the higher resolution monitors allowed him to diagnose damage more effectively when clients sent him photos ahead of an appointment.

He pulled up the CCTV of his property and saw that Cole had arrived and was currently offloading his cargo at the dock.

“Right on time, Cole,” Jack muttered, monitoring his progress on the cameras. Ellie and JB were indeed standing by in the dock, waiting to assist Kat. “Good thing we have extra hand trucks,” Jack thought to himself. Cole finally unloaded the three new androids in their shipping containers, as well as a few other boxes that contained some new parts Jack had ordered. After Kat signed for the delivery, Cole drove away and she, Ellie, and JB each took a container on a hand truck and headed for the lift.

Jack took that as his cue to get things ready. He brought up the latest version of his diagnostic terminal on his workstation, and cleared a few things out of the way. By the time he was finished, the lift had descended into the lab. Kat, JB, and Ellie all exited, wheeling a different android container before stopping near the workstation.

“Good morning everyone!” Jack smiled warmly at each of them, “How did the delivery go?”

“Smooth, like always,” Kat boasted. Now that she was running a Mark III Personal Trainer A.I., her personality was far more refined…essentially on par with the sophistication of the Mark II Perfect Friend A.I.

“Excellent!” Jack clapped his hand and rubbed them excitedly.

“Do you still need me for anything, Jack?” Kat asked, since she had a lot of work to do in the loading dock.

“No, you can go, thanks!”

Kat gave him a friendly smile and a curtsy before heading back to the lift and riding it back up.

“Do you need our assistance for any of these?” Ellie asked, once Kat had left.

Ellie looked noticeably fitter than she did when Jack originally received her. That was because the real Ellie had lost about 15lbs while working her new job in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, due to the healthier food choices available, fresher air, and more active lifestyle. She had excitedly sent an updated physical model, in addition to her usual brain scans, for the Christmas update, which Jack was able to modify Ellie-bot’s physical parameters accordingly; Ellie-bot had to buy a whole new wardrobe. Jack, thanks to the Shawn Johnson Personal Trainer android Gabby had gotten him a year ago, was also fitter, and had since updated JB accordingly.

Jack thought about it for a quick second before shaking his head. “No, since these are only going to be used in the house and aren’t for the business, or a client, I think I can handle them on my own.”

Ellie nodded. “Okay, is there anything you’d like us to do?”

“Yeah, since we got some new spare parts, I’d like you to redo the inventory and then conduct routine maintenance on the already existing stock.”

“Oh goodie! That should keep us occupied for a few hours,” she said excitedly.

Jack laughed. “Well, you two better get on it. I’ve got things more or less covered here, but I’ll let you know if I need any assistance.”

Ellie and JB nodded and then headed into the residence hand-in-hand, both of them also carrying a small box of spare parts that had arrived in the morning shipment that had been strapped on to the top of two of the android containers.

Jack was glad they were androids and didn’t mind working on that menial task. Last year, Jack had decided to purchase a spare set of hands and feet for all androids, and a spare set of vaginal modules for the Kaley trio. Since hands and feet were the most common components to receive damage, even in humans, he felt it would be prudent to keep a few spares lying around in case, for example, Kat dropped a heavy pallet and crushed her foot. Accidents to happen, even with androids.

That being said, one could not simply store them in some room and forget about them. They had to be regularly maintained so they would be ready to go at a moment’s notice. They had to have static build up removed, the skin moisturized, and even have their motor systems tested so they didn’t become permanently stiff. It was for these reasons that Jack left that to Ellie and JB, because it could take hours, and was quite tedious. Jack was considering buying everyone a spare head, as well, with this year’s increase in profits, but it was very low on his list of priorities.

Once Ellie and JB were gone, Jack quickly looked at each of the boxes, placed an even distance from one another, and exactly as far away as Jack preferred them to be; he’d trained them all well.

Since the androids hadn’t been named ahead of time, the boxes were merely labeled with the model type of each android contained within. Since Jack was planning on working on Gemma first, he approached the container labeled Housewife model Mark II, along with a ridiculously long serial number, and pressed his hand on the security pad. Once it unlocked and unsealed, he gently lifted Gemma out of the container and laid her on his examination table.

“Alright Gemma, let’s get started.”

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The Small Business Chronicles

Season One Closed for Christmas - The Shop | The Repair Shop - Part 1 | Off-season - The Motel | The Repair Shop - Part 2 | Slow day - The Cafe | The Small Business - End-of-Year Review

Season Two Homefront - The House