If anything, breaking the law had left Daniel feeling more relaxed than he had since getting out of prison. He'd made his snap decision, back there in the basement, to violate parole and go on the lam23, so to speak. And as simple as that, he was free. He'd already broken one law, so why not another, and another?
Of course, he was still Daniel Sorres. He wasn't one to go crazy about no longer being bound by rules, and murder sprees or knocking over gas stations had never been his style. He drove his getaway vehicle at the speed limit or a little under, obeying all road signs as he went, and found himself a nice self-storage lot located next to several large electronics and computer specialty stores, where he could rent a unit with cash.
He needed more money, because he needed computers, and tools, and all of the materials he'd lost when Lawrence had blown up his basement. So he went to several ATMs and acquired the necessary funds, because he had a way with machines and it didn't require anything more complicated than his smart phone as a tool. And for good measure, he made himself a few credit cards with different names on them, since you didn't spend a few years in a white-collar prison without learning a few little malicious pranks.
A day and a half later, he had his new temporary lab built, ready to be packed into the trunk of the new car he'd bought while he was at it, just because you could never be too careful.
He checked an rechecked the hardwired systems in the robot brain he'd built, to make certain that nothing could have been damaged by the explosion or altered by Lawrence. Because he was fairly certain altering the basic structures of the brain would take a soldering iron, but at this point he wasn't willing to put anything past Lawrence, not when he'd pulled an explosion from thin air.
Satisfied that all was in order, he connected the brain to a computer so he could talk to it.
The brain, it seemed, had been waiting for a chance to communicate; before Daniel could even type in a query, the display said: YOU CERTAINLY TOOK YOUR TIME.
"Sorry," Daniel typed. "I had to get everything set up, and then make certain that you were still functioning properly." He frowned, wondering why he felt the need to justify himself to something that was, functionally, just a very sophisticated toaster.
JUST ASK. I CAN TELL YOU IF I AM FUNCTIONING PROPERLY OR NOT.
"Right. And you are?"
OF COURSE. BETTER THAN EVER.
Something had changed, that was certain. The proto-AI he'd tried to build hadn't talked anything like that. "Well then, the next step is to start building a body for you. I thought you could help me with that."
I WOULD FIND THAT AGREEABLE. BUT BEFORE I CAN HAVE A BODY, I MUST KNOW WHO I AM.
Daniel stared at the screen, his heart giving a little flutter of jubilation. Could it be that this thing he had crafted with his own hands truly had an identity – or rather wanted one? "Well," he typed, "that's normally something we have to figure out for ourselves"
NEGATIVE. I KNOW THAT I HAVE LIFE AND EXISTENCE. I LACK ONLY A NAME AND THEN ALL WILL BE CLEAR. WHAT IS MY NAME?
He had never been creative with names; as a child, he'd had goldfish named things like "Goldy" and "Splish" and "Fishy." And this seemed too important for something so simplistic. He wanted this robot to be a person in every sense of the word – except logical, and therefore better. He wanted this robot to ultimately be everything that he had hoped to find in his friendship with Lawrence, but without the sudden (yet inevitable) betrayal and the psychotic laughter.
The idea of that friendship, that presence, was too much to not reach for.
"Lawrence Laufson," he typed. "That's your name."
I WILL RESEARCH THIS MATTER.
The screen went blank. Daniel tried typing a few queries, but there was no response beyond the automatic ones he had programmed. Apparently, the newly-dubbed "Lawrence" was busy with other things.
Daniel shrugged and went to a different workstation, to start designing the motor connections that he would build out into the body for his robot. He wasn't quite certain what it would end up looking like, yet. Probably shiny and silver; he'd always been a fan of the Gort look from The Day the Earth Stood Still.
The robot's screen came back up. LAWRENCE LAUFSON IS A FALSE IDENTITY.
Daniel frowned. "But..."
I HAVE ACCESSED THE SHIELD DATABASE TO COMPLETE MY MEMORY FILES. LAWRENCE LAUFSON IS A FALSE IDENTITY THAT COVERS MY TRUE NAME.
"And that is?" Something twisted in Daniel's chest as he thought about Lawrence – or whoever he was – lying to him so fundamentally.
LOKI, the robot said. I AM LOKI.
23 – Whatever that means. Daniel was still not entirely certain if the expression actually referred to the fuzzy babies of sheep, though his mind refused to take the idea any further when he tried to imagine what lambs might have to do with breaking the law.