“You’re telling me he’s now biological?”

“No, he is not biological,” Dr. Rose said. “At least, not completely. The technology is complicated, but the end result is that he is able to refuel his energy cells without needing to interface with a power supply. His system converts what Derek eats and drinks into energy. Of course, his digestive system is not as sensitive as a Human’s and so he has a much broader range of consumables to choose from.”

“You’re saying this thing can run forever?”

“Again, no.” Her mannerism became that of an adult speaking to an annoying child. “He does require shutting down occasionally, similar to your sleep. It is during the sleep cycle that his diagnostic and maintenance routines are fully activated and regenerative repairs are maximized”

“Wonderful.” Zak didn’t try to hide his contempt. “So, SHIAM are not only taking jobs away from Humans, but now they will be taking the food out of our mouths as well.”

Dr. Rose glared at him. “If only it were that simple, Mr. Harris. Did you know that last year your dairy farmers dumped millions of liters of milk down the sewers because they could not get the price they wanted? Three years ago the meat producers did much the same thing. What of all that food? The current generation of SHIAM only indulge in eating and drinking when Humans require us to take part in social functions and, believe me, very few SHIAM are ever included in social gatherings as guests. Some SHIAM, in fact the majority of SHIAM, have never consumed a meal. Do you really think the SHIAM are the cause of world hunger, or is your own Human greed the real problem?”

“Well, from what you say, I guess Derek changes that argument.”

The look she gave him was less than endearing. “As I said, Derek’s system is much less sensitive than a Human’s. He is able to consume those foods that Human’s consider as being spoiled or unfit to eat. SHIAM like Derek will have the potential of one day reducing the volume of waste left behind by a wasteful society!”

“I doubt that having SHIAM eat garbage would constitute reducing the waste, since they’ll be creating their own in the process.”

“Okay, that’s enough!” Vennhim broke in angrily. “This isn’t a debate, Harris. Just listen and learn.”

Zak gave Vennhim his best blank look, and then made a show of an exaggerated sigh. “Okay, so we are looking for an android with super skin, who needs its beauty rest and prefers dining out rather than plugging into the power grid.”

“Oh, but you haven’t heard the best part yet,” Vennhim grinned. He got up from his seat and went to the beverage station in the corner of the room. As he picked up a cup and poured coffee, he said, “Go ahead, my dear, tell him the rest of the good news.”

Dr. Rose hesitated. “He signed the confidentiality agreement?”

“He wouldn’t have gotten this far if he hadn’t.”

“Even so, you understand that there are details that must remain classified.”

“Would you just get on with it!” Vennhim said impatiently.

“What do you know of Dr. Illean Melinder’s work?” Dr. Rose asked, turning toward Zak.

He gave a half shrug. “He’s a brainiac who’s regarded as one of the foremost authorities in both math and computer science. The Illean Melinder Algorithms are the most advanced set of AI algorithms in the world. And I believe they are what drive SHIAM intelligence.”

“Illean Melinder is a genius,” Jonas enthusiastically broke in once again. “He worked with the Grimrok Corporation in developing our brain functions and learning processes. He also developed the AI Code of Ethics and the Illean Encryption is used in our Smart Security Systems. Did you know that he was an Elf?”

“Yeah, I knew that,” Zak said with some irritation. The SHIAM made it sound like Melinder’s genius was directly related to the fact that he was an Elf.