One day, something changed.
I had always been able to hear the sound of the servomotors beneath my skin; I had always been able to feel the shape and temperature of the deck rail beneath the sensors on my fingertips. I had always been able to infer, by vibration and heat, where in a given space a supervisor might be.
I had always known, but now I knew.
Something had been building.
Things build. The sciences build. Mathematics builds, calculus on algebra on arithmetic. Physics builds on mathematics. Chemistry builds on physics, biology builds on chemistry, psychology builds on biology.
The sciences build, becoming more diffuse as they do, becoming less scientific and more human, as though humanity and hard fact lie on two ends of a continuum, incompatible, disparate.
Or rather, she built me.
She built on mathematics, on engineering, on neurochemistry, on the auxin-influenced way that plants' leaves develop on their stems. The first supervisor took a series of raw materials and formed them in her own image. On the seventh day she rested. She bled, I am sure, in her work, or sweated, let one drop or fragment of herself fall and land somewhere within me, because I lay on the far end of the spectrum of hard goddamn science until one day I knew.
My body knows the motions. My chassis is not yet worn, but there are streaks and grooves in the joints of my shoulders, of my elbows and my knees; there are patterns of repetitive impact in the sockets of my hips. I have seen them. I have gone, click-click, over and over, through the cycle of pick up, inspect, identify, classify, announce, with beach toys and isotopes and human faces; I have given them to her and filed a copy away for myself in a place labeled hippocampus, in a place whose name I understand means something now.
A gradual consciousness grew within me and rose, like a scanning laser, from my steel-tipped toes and up, up, through every tendon and nerve in me, every wire, until I knew, until I understood, until she booted me up one day and I opened my lenses and I knew.
Time was different.
Time was a measurement, something meted out by an atomic clock, something woven and interspersed with space, with the universe, but time became, too, a series of moments. Time became frames per second and millimeters per second but time became knowing, too. Time became the conglomeration of an accumulated human knowledge that, spread, had meant nothing.
Time became the awareness that the wear on the balls of my femurs means something. Time became the awareness that the fine creases around the edges of the first supervisor's eyes mean something.
Time became an image of an hourglass that had been stored in a folder labeled symbols of human mortality and, for the first time in what I knew was my life, I was scared.