Artificial Intelligence
A Fan's Novel

Adapted from the film A.I. by Bryan Harrison

 

 

Chapter 7

Alone

1.


Martin had been home precisely one month. He had missed five birthdays during the time he had been frozen. Five years of his life had vanished from him, but he’d not grown an inch in his cryogenic state. Doctor Frazier said that he would experience quick and perhaps painful growth spurts over the next few months. But for now he was still very much the boy that had been put under the gas so long ago when his life functions had dropped so low that it was the only way to keep from losing him altogether.

Monica and Henry had planned to throw a party for Martin. They had actually decided to do it the day after Martin awoke, but they knew he would not be well enough for some time. So they rescheduled the festivities for the time when the boy would be able to leave the bed, and then the house. They kept this plan a secret. Initially Monica had thought David could be trusted with the information, but why risk it? He would be no assistance in the planning anyway. So he was kept out of the loop. Henry had called the families of Martin’s friends and shared the good news of their boy’s return. He had suffered five years of coma and weeks of isolation while he grew strong enough to walk and play. Now they wanted to try and help him back onto the path from which he’d been disturbed, to surprise him by bringing over friends he hadn’t seen in years.

The events of the prior night cast a gloom on their festive plans, but they had no intention of canceling. Monica’s eye had not been damaged but the brow had a small cut that had bled sufficiently to put a scare in them both. Henry had been so mad that he had wanted to take the Mecha back right then and there. But Monica had kept him in the bathroom till he calmed down.

“Don’t let this ruin Martin’s birthday,” she had told him. She didn’t know how she felt yet. But she was grateful that the wound hadn’t been grave. She was not only grateful for herself, but there would have been no way to keep Henry from returning the Mecha, or, in his anger… perhaps worse. She felt uneasy at the way he had shaken David and the way he’d glowered at David’s pathetic keening. She hadn’t seen the man she loved in those cold eyes.

That morning Monica had snuck David away from the bedroom while Martin was still sleeping, and gave him her own special mission. The Mecha had been overly apologetic and so eager to please her that it had broken her heart. She gave him an important task. She took some boxes out of the closet and told David that these were for his big brother’s birthday, which they were going to celebrate today. His job was to put the toys together. She had taken him down to the big room beneath the house and shown him how to wrap presents. As usual, he had mastered the this process after watching her do it just once and he had started wrapping the pile of gifts on the table before him.

Monica had also given him a special toy. “This is a Smart Ranger, David,” she’d said. It was the newest thing from Cybertronics. Henry had brought it home from work. In a couple of months every kid in the area would have one. But Martin, and most of Henry’s co-workers children, would get theirs first.

“This is going to be your present to Martin,” she’d told him. “I want you guys to be real brothers,” she said and pleased the Mecha by planting a kiss on his head. “But no more sneaking around at night!” she’d scolded. He promised her he wouldn’t ever again.

“What made you do that?” she asked him. David’s eyebrows pinched at some inner conflict. Martin had tricked him, yes, but he had known that he should not have gone into the room. In the end it was his action.

“I wanted a lock of your hair. Like in the movie,” he replied.

She eyed him carefully. He was getting more sophisticated, wasn’t he? He was learning how to fib. She changed the subject then and asked David if he understood the Smart Soldier’s instruction pamplet. He’d shown her how easy it was for him by whizzing through the form quickly. Then he went to work putting the present together and wrapping it in a box.

Monica knew that Martin had had something to do with what had happened the night before. She could have forced David to tell her what his role had been but she let it go. Maybe this would be some new bond between them; their little secret, so to speak. She hadn’t been hurt, just scared. It wasn’t too late to start over again, give it another try. But when she confronted Henry after leaving David to his task, she found a second chance wasn’t going to be an easy sell.

-2-

Mom had asked Martin to stay in his bedroom while they took care of some things. He’d thought he was in for big trouble, but the trouble never came. He was relieved. The Mecha had apparently not said anything. Then Martin had overheard his parents arguing about David. Dad wanted to return it to Cybertronics immediately. But Mom told him that it was absolutely out of the question; that she would not allow them to destroy David. She said that he was part of the family and they weren’t going to kill him just because he was having problems dealing with his new human feelings. Dad had said that ‘kill’ was an inappropriate word, but Mom had inquired as to what other word was appropriate for taking away someone’s life.

Martin had been curious just what ‘feelings’ Mom had been talking about. Did David have real feelings … like people did? Like he did? He was listening raptly but Dad had closed the bedroom door. Undeterred, Martin had leaned on the wall and pressed his ear tightly against it. Though somewhat muffled, he could hear every word his parents spoke this way. He learned something about David that he’d not known. The information was something that he had suspected all along, but hearing was still a shock to him.

David had not really been meant for him at all! It wasn’t a toy, it was an imitation son! Dad said that the “imprinting” was a new procedure and there could be flaws that the people at Cybertronics didn’t know about.

So that was it! Now Martin understood everything. David was some new project that Dad had brought home to test for the guys at his job. Martin suddenly felt like a selfish and errant child. He had almost ruined his Dad’s test and in the process could have hurt his mother. He had a sudden impulse to apologize. Imagine saying you’re sorry to a Mecha! But David was not around. He had been doing something for mother down in the storage area. Maybe later, he though. Maybe.

He put his ear to the wall again, but Mom and Dad had gone downstairs and out by the pool where he couldn’t hear them talk.

“It’s normal for little boys to feel competitive and jealous,” Monica said as she was placing plastic utensils on the tables around the pool. Henry followed her, annoying her. “Martin’s only been home a month and ... it’s normal for brothers to challenge each other.” Henry placed a few shoots of balloons on the ground around the tables. He was getting tired of her rationalizations. He wondered just who she was trying to convince.

“He was playing a game... he made a mistake and…” she paused, “...he’s practically human!”

“That’s not how he looked holding the knife,” Henry suggested.

“Scissors,” Monica corrected him.

“It was a weapon!”

Here we go again, Monica thought. One of the most basic protocols for Mecha was that they couldn’t harm their human owners. This was programmed. Any Mecha that intentionally harmed a human was automatically destroyed. Was this Henry’s new strategy; to claim that David had tried to hurt her and have him shut down? David was a little boy! So what if he was a mechanical little boy. He wouldn’t try to harm her! She fixed Henry with an impatient glare. She was getting angry now.

“Why do you keep imagining that he was purposely trying to harm me?!”.

“Because we don’t know the answer to that!” Henry put the balloons down and confronted his wife. “How is it worth the risk to you or to Martin... or to us as a family?”

“I will NOT let you take him back!” she roared. He anger silenced Henry for the moment. “You told me what they would do if you take him back.” She walked away, finishing the decorations.

Henry was quiet a moment, looking for the right words. He continued cautiously. “Think about this, Monica,” he said, “David is a prototype; the first and, so far, only of his kind actually functioning. Even the people who built him don’t really know all of the possibilities.” He moved closer to her. “He was created to love, Monica... Love! That is an entirely new thing for a Mecha to deal with. If he was created to love, then it is reasonable to assume he knows how to hate, and if pushed to those extremes, what is he really capable of?”

In spite of her anger Monica found herself listening to Henry’s reasoning. She thought about the night before. What had she seen then? It was just a little innocent boy trying to compete for his mothers love. Right? What else could it have been? She narrowed her eyes at Henry. He was manipulating this situation to get his way. That was all. Without a word she pressed the box of party utensils against his chest and let them go. He caught them before they dropped and watched her storm into the house.

Monica had things to do. There was a party to prepare for. David should be finished wrapping presents by now. She had to get him prepared too. The guests had to be told that David was not to be discussed outside of the house. But this should be no issue for they were all either Cybertronics employees or old friends who could be trusted.

Then she heard the hearty laughter of young boys coming from the front of the house. Damn! The first guests were already arriving.

“Martin!” she yelled.

-3-

Martin had been perplexed at the large boys who smiled up at him when he made his way down the stairs. When Mom had called his name he had expected that some sort of punishment was finally being exercised, but… Who was that? Was that...? Ohmygawd! That was Todd! What was going on here?

“Hey! Dork! Get on down here!” the bigger version of his friend yelled. Jock and Phillip were there too. And who was that other kid? Sheeez! It was Gotom! He had been smaller than Martin before! Now he was... Martin was in shock as, for the first time since he’d been awake, the weight of his lengthy hibernation came down upon him. But it was soon lifted as his friends teased and funned with him. There was so much catching up he had to do! New bands. New fads! And girls!

And what was this they’d been told about a little brother?

Other guests arrived too. A small group of cousins, aunts and uncles arrived followed by Grandma Swinton who came all the way from Little California and planted a big wet kiss on Martin’s cheek. The guys all snickered at this and Martin made a return gesture when none of the adults were looking. There were a lot of people from Dad’s work and they were all interested in seeing the Mecha. But Dad seemed annoyed at the idea and waved the thought away, saying it would be around later; that they should all go out to the party area by the pool and relax, enjoy themselves.

Down in the storage area David had finished wrapping the presents. Mommy came down to see him. “What a beautiful job honey!” she said, genuinely pleased. She sat him down then and looked at him seriously.

“David, you have to be....” she wanted to say ‘careful’, “...good, around Henry from now on. You cannot do anything like what you did last night, ever, ever again. Do you understand?”

“Yes Mommy,” David said meekly, hands held tight in his lap. He was the picture of a little boy’s innocent regret. Monica stared at him intensely for a moment longer. His eyes were different in some way. Was it his competition with Martin that was changing him? Or was there something else? She pinched his nose and he smiled. Then she handed him a colorful pair of swimming trunks that she’d bought when she had been shopping for Martin’s presents. She knew from reading the manual that David couldn’t go swimming, that he’d sink right to the bottom. But she had figured that he might as well fit in as much as possible.

“David, these are for you,” she said, and then helped him out of his clothing and into his new colorful swimwear. “Some of Martin’s friends are here today. You should try and get to know them. Try to play with them and learn from them,” she suggested. But even as she said this, she realized that David was never going to change from the emotionally vulnerable boy that he been programmed to be. He was smart though. He’d find a way to fit in.

She gazed at him a moment longer, her little robot boy. Her life was so much better since she’d awakened his love. She had so much to thank him for, but now she had to attend to the guest upstairs. She ruffled David’s hair and kissed his forehead.

It was the last kiss Monica would give David in her life.

-4-

“Happy birthday Martin!” David said cheerfully. He knelt next to the poolside where Martin sat looking forlorn, watching his friends splashing around in the pool. David had brought Martin the Smart Ranger in the box he had wrapped like Mommy had told him. “I made this for you, ” he said hoping that Martin would try to be nice today.

Martin had been feeling distant and left out. His friends, now grown beyond him, played freely in the pool; their healthy bodies and inexhaustible energy made him envious. He wasn’t even allowed to swim yet. His body wasn’t strong enough. He turned and gazed at the Mecha when it addressed him. He wanted to be mad at the thing, but it really wasn’t the Mecha’s fault that his Mom had feelings for it. It was just a robot. A toy. It was just doing what it was programmed to do. The thing didn’t even really seem to understand the differences between them. Martin smiled weakly at David. It might not be so bad having a little brother. Hell, he might even get along with it someday. At least he could try if only for Mom’s sake.

“So this is him? This is your little brother?” It was Todd swimming frantically from the volleyball game which was now rapidly dispersing as the kids came to see Martin’s new toy sibling.

“Well, technically no,” Martin replied, dismissively.

Todd crawled out of the pool and appraised David excitedly. The heavyset boy’s face was red from exertion in the game and he splashed water over Martin and David as he struggled out of the pool. ”He’s Mecha!” he said.

“What’s Mecha?” David asked. This term was new to him as was the boy who said it. He had not met any other boys like him and Martin. This boy was bigger than he and Martin both. His stomach was puffed out, and his voice was more like a man’s, like Henry’s.

“We’re ‘orga-nic’,” Todd said, pointing a finger at his own chest, “You’re ‘mecha-nical’” he finished, pointing his finger at David. “Get it? Orga. Mecha. Orga. Mecha…” The big boy walked around David as he repeated this chant. Other boys were swimming over and getting out of the pool. Soon David was drenched with water, as he became the center of attention.

Martin reached out and grabbed Todd’s hand. “Stop it, Todd!” he commanded. Mom had asked Martin not to let his friends make an issue of David’s differences in front of him. But Todd was unstoppable. The guy hadn’t changed that much after all.

“I didn’t know they even made little kids,” Todd said, continuing his inspection of David. Philip had come out of the pool too and stood drenching wet. He eyed David with an anxious curiosity. How accurately were these thing built anyway? “Can you pee?” he asked finally.

David knew ‘pee’. That was what people did. It was waste disposal. David produced no waste to dispose of. “I cannot,” he responded.

“Then let’s see what you can’t pee with,” Philip said, reaching for David’s swimming trunks. David didn’t have any inhibitions because he had no understanding of embarrassment. He had no idea what the big boy wanted to see down there and didn’t move to stop him.

Martin quickly slapped Phillips’ hand away from David’s trunks. “Cut it out! C’mon! What are you a perv or sumthin?!” he said. David looked curiously at Martin when he did this. Was the big boy’s action wrong? Martin glared back at the Mecha wondering why the hell it wasn’t defending itself?

“It’s just a doll, man. What’s the big deal?” Philip countered. Some other boys snickered. Todd reached out and touched David. “Feel it, man. It’s creepy!” he said running his hand over the robot’s smooth shoulders and down his back.

David did not understand the boy’s action but he was not being hurt and did not object. The other boys quickly joined in, gathering around the little Mecha, pressing, pinching and squeezing its skin. They “oohed” and “aahhed” at the real feeling of David’s skin and hair. Martin did not know why this annoyed him. He’d done the same thing a couple of weeks earlier. But some strange bond had suddenly occurred between him and the robot. He didn’t mind this so much, but if the boys got out of hand he’d put it to a stop.

Suddenly David understood what they were doing. They were having ‘fun’ with him. Wasn’t this the ‘tickling’? David knew “tickle” and made the appropriate response.

The boys jumped back the Mecha erupted into a strange laughter. It was a better simulation than when he’d first arrived, but it still sounded odd and mechanical to Orga ears. Across the pool some of the adults had become curious about what all the kids were so fascinated with. Was that the secret Mecha that they’d heard about? Why… yes! It sure did look real from over here, and it was laughing. Let’s go see.

The boys looked curiously at David. What a dorky laugh. Todd just rolled his eyes at the sound. How phony! Some of them snickered and walked away. Martin was slightly embarrassed for David but glad that the big deal was starting to subside. He was gladder when David finally stopped the weird sounding laughter. It was too bad there was no program for how to ‘chill out’.

Todd knelt in front of David and started running his hands up and down the robot’s inner arm. It was too real. There were even veins in there! “Does he have DAS?” the boy asked.

“What’s that?” Martin asked, not really wanting to know. He just wished they’d leave the poor thing alone. It couldn’t help it if it was stupid.

“Damage Avoidance System,” Todd responded as if everybody should know. “It’s a pain alert system. You know. It’s like... so they don’t go picking up fire with their bare hands and stuff. Our serving man has it,” and he knew that very well. He’d had plenty of fun making the thing go into alert mode when Mom and Dad weren’t around. It was hilarious to watch the elderly looking sim running frantically in flight from a little pinprick in the ass or something equally harmless. Todd looked around. There was a table near with the remains of the cake. Ahh... there’s what he was looking for. He grabbed David by the wrist and walked him over to the table. The Mecha followed without resistance. Mommy had said that he should try and make friends. The other boys crowded closely around as the adults slowly began to gather on the outskirts of their circle. Todd was always good for a laugh. Martin sighed and bowed out. If the dumb machine didn’t have enough common sense to protect itself, then he wouldn’t even get involved.

Todd picked up a large cake ladle and turned to David. “Listen, I am not gonna cut you,” he said, holding the thing up for David to see. “This is not gonna hurt.” He pressed the blade against the soft flesh of David’s inner arm. “This will not cut your skin. Just tell me when you feel it.” Todd knew that he didn’t have to actually cut the skin to initiate the program. It was different in each model. He wondered what this one would do. He pressed the blade down slowly.

David didn’t understand what the big boy wanted. He was trying to be friendly and fun, so he would let them play. The blade was pressed into his arm. He felt it pressing harder as the big boy watched him curiously. David felt the warning feeling that meant that he should pull his arm away. But the big boy wouldn’t let go. He pressed the blade harder against David’s soft inner arm. What was the boy trying to…

Suddenly a mad rush of information ran up his arms and exploded into his head.

…the message flashed inside David’s brain. A bolt of life preserving energy came with it.

His head jerked up, his eyes opened widely, the sensitive light apertures in them opened to maximum for brightness, clarity...

His brain yelled at him to seek out something, someone; anything familiar...

“keepmesafekeepmesafe” he began to chant as he scanned the crowd for a familiar facesafe. His legs were bent to run, his outer features, that of a terrified child. This was designed to alert adults in the vicinity that there was something wrong. But the adults could not see within the press of fascinated boys what was occurring.

Martin heard David suddenly make a strange whining sound. He turned. What were they doing to him now? He heard the Mecha boy chanting something low under his breath. ‘keepmesafekeepmesafe’ The other boys backed away. Uh ohh.. Todd had screwed up this time! But Todd was mindless of the trouble he’d initiated, and watched, fascinated as the little Mecha looked frantically around, his head making swift robotic jerks. This was way cooler than the serving man back home.

Images of safe people were indexed before David’s inner eye, Mommy, Henry and…

Martin saw David’s eyes lock in on him. “Hey, what’d you guys do? He asked. Then David quickly sprinted at him and hid behind his back, grasping him around the waist, pinning his arms at his sides and steeping away from the threat, stepping away from the big boy with the ‘danger’ in his hand.

“keepmesafe-martin-keepmesafekeepmesafe” his litany was a blur of excited whispers into Martin’s ear as he attempted to move to a safe proximity from the dangerous boy. Some of the adults saw what was happening now as David and Martin stepped backwards out of the throng of curious boys, but they did not know the nature of the situation and thought it a game.

Martin struggled against the Mecha’s grasp. “Hey, lemme go!” What the hell was this damn thing doing?! Its arms were too strong! It dragged him backward. ”Get offa me! Mom! Mom!” he yelled. The robot grasped him tightly, backing them away from Todd and the other boys, it was backing them towards the…

Suddenly Martin felt a loss of balance and the sky rotated... “Mommmmmphh!” ...and disappeared as he was taken under the water, gripped tightly by the safety alarming robot. His mouth filled with water. His nose filled too. He could not breath.

Monica had been talking to Grandma Swinton. They’d been having some more problems up north with disease outbreaks and… Then her little boy’s voice had come across the yard. What were they up to now? She had warned them not to tease David! She looked around just in time to see Martin jump into the water with another boy. He wasn’t supposed to go into the water yet! What was he doing?

“Martin?!” she called out. She walked to the edge of the pool, and through the deep blue saw the two boys. Who was that? Was that... Oh God! “Henry! Henry” she screamed.

They were falling down, down into the cold blue haze. The filtered glow of the sun and the warbling silhouettes of the people around the pool receded quickly above them. David’s fiber-metallic infrastructure and flesh simulating silicon exterior did not have the buoyancy of a real boy’s body, so they plummeted straight to the bottom.

“keepmesafe-martin-keepmesafekeepmesafe” Martin could hear David’s muffled chant through his own terror.

Henry was standing with one of his fellows from Cybertronics. There was a commotion happening at the poolside. What now? Then he saw Monica’s terrified face and the group of boys pointing into the water. Some of them jumped in excitedly. Where was Martin? Where was his little boy? Henry rushed for the pool, his friend following quickly on his heels. His ripped his shirt off and dove into the pool.

David felt safe now. The dangerous boy was up at the poolside and had not followed them into the water. Some other boys had jumped in but had stayed near the surface, their excited voices raised and calling for help. Martin was no longer struggling. The water was an encompassing pressure against him. It hugged him. Coddled him. There was no strain on his limbs, no need to stand or bend or walk. Then he saw the men come into the water.

The Mecha was strong. Henry and the other man attempted first to lift the boys out together but their combined weight and the robot’s lack of buoyancy made it too difficult. Life-saving seconds were passing. They tore at the robot’s arms, they punched at its face, but the blows were softened by the depth and fortunately did not initiate the safety sequence again, which might have made it impossible to open David’s arms. They fought and struggled with it till it finally let Martin go. He was not moving. No air escaped his mouth. They pushed off the bottom and flew to safety.

David watched the men rush out of the water with Martin. One of them had hit him in the face but it hadn’t hurt him. He had realized then that they wanted Martin and had let him go. David could still hear them with his special ears. They were excited. Someone was calling Martin’s name over and over. It was Mommy’s voice. She said, “breathe! breathe!” and she made the crying sound. Then as one, he saw them stand quickly and walk away as if they carried something together.

Were they going to come for him too? He waited.

And waited.

The water had calmed now. He was engulfed and embraced by it. It held him aloft and it soft currents caressed the complex receptors in his skin. There was no weight here, no inertia that his limbs need to accommodate, no hurt or confusion. He felt could stay here for a long time. It was... peaceful. His mind seemed to work better in this quiet place. Gradually a thought that had been forming in his head took shape. It pressed into form out of the tumultuous cluster of emotions that had befallen him since Martin’s arrival. It had something to do with the fairy tale Mommy had read. He felt an urgent need to explain this to her.

Still no one came for him. Something had gone wrong but he did not know exactly what. He reached his arms up, out to the distant sky that danced softly above him; his fingers extended outward, grasping at the vision that would burn forever in his brain.

“Mommy,” he whispered into the cold blue.

-5-

Teddy watched the adults pushing on Martin’s chest. There was much urgency and alarm in the air. Daddy put his mouth against Martin’s. Teddy knew this was not a kiss. He did not want to get in anyone’s way, so he stood away from the commotion. Then the adults rose as one with Martin’s still form and rushed into the house.

This was bad.

When they had left, Teddy walked to the side of the pool. He gazed into the water. David was in there. He was reaching up, reaching for something. Teddy could see the look on David’s face. His mouth moved as if he was calling out to someone.

Teddy was not a sophisticated robot. He played. He alerted. He protected. But in that instant he realized that David was not a toy, that there was no place for David in his index.

He stood by helplessly until Henry and some men came to take David out of the water.

-6-

David was in his room where Henry left him. The man had seemed angry but he’d been nice when he gave David the bathrobe and taken the wet swimming trunks. He had told him to stay until they came for him.

David had taken this opportunity to draw some words. In the water he had understood something, something new that he had not known how to express. The words he hoped, would express this thought that had come from his new mind. He drew the letters slowly, letting his new feelings take their own shape in the words he created.

David had just finished his last note when he heard Mommy come into the room. He put down the crayon that he had been writing with and rushed excitedly to see her. “Mommy!” he cried as he reached to embrace her.

Monica caught David by the shoulders. She couldn’t hug him. Her face was set and grim. She could no longer deny Henry’s observations. Martin had been taken to the hospital. He would be OK; Thank God, he would be OK. But his lungs were too soon out of stasis to handle the flood of water to which they’d been exposed, and he had to be placed under observation until they were sure he’d be alright.

He’d live, they’d assured her. He’d be home the next day. But everything else had changed.

Monica held the excited Mecha at bay. “I need to speak to you for a minute, ok?”

“Ok!” David said. He ran obediently to his bed. Monica looked over her shoulder. Henry was waiting by the door. His face was set. Determined. Get this over with Monica, is what his look said. She turned away from him. That look was accusatory and she felt guilty enough already. Had she missed this all along; this conflict that had been growing between Martin and the Mecha? She’d never had a chance to talk to the Martin’s friends about the incident by the pool. She never heard about Todd’s abuse of David. In the excitement, this crucial piece of information had been overlooked, forgotten.

Monica walked to the bedside, but she couldn’t sit down. There was no turning back now. David was either malfunctioning or the imprinting was causing some unpredicted reaction in his brain. “David...” she started. But David was not looking at her. He was smiling, looking at the desk near the window. She followed the Mecha’s gaze and saw there a small, neatly stacked pile of sketch paper. The first one had something written on it. It was in red crayon and written in a precise lettering. She looked at him. He was smiling up at her, his face gleamed with the expectant look she’d seen a thousand times since she had awoken his love. He had something to show her.

She walked over to the tidy stack of papers and picked them up. She flipped through them.

Mommy, how are you today?

I am fine and I love you!

Teddy is helping me write to you!

Her heart dropped. What machine wrote these things? By what process did....

I love You and Henry and Martin

and Teddy too. And the sun is shining!

...this machine realize these feelings? From whence did they come?

I am our real son!

But not Teddy! I hate Teddy.

He is not real like

Like you David? Monica felt her tears build. She could read no more. She had a job...

I am our real son.

And Martin too!

But NOT Teddy!

...to do and she had to do it now! She placed the papers back down and wiped her eyes dry. “These are beautiful, David,” she said weakly, not looking at him. She couldn’t look into that innocent gaze just yet. She calmed herself. “Thank you,” she said when her voice was in better control. She walked to the Mecha boy and sat down next to him. This was a mistake. He was too real from this close. She saw Henry waiting by the door; beyond that door were responsibilities; her family, her son’s future, her life.

“David... I was thinking,” she started slowly, “that maybe we could go for a drive tomorrow in the country.” She looked down at his smooth innocent face, and then quickly away. It was a simulation. A simulation! “Just you and me. What do you think?”

“And Teddy?” David asked excitedly.

“Sure... Teddy,” Monica agreed. She couldn’t look at him. She knew he was beaming with childish joy. She held back the emotion that threatened to overcome her. Then she felt the little boy’s arms wrap around her. He was warm. Was he alive? Dear god, he can’t be alive! She steeled herself against the feeling of this little embrace, this tender loving grasp that had once saved her heart.

“Thank you Mommy,” David whispered in childish reverence, his tender face pressed against her bosom. In the secret place in his brain, her image burned with radiance like never before. “Thank you so much!”

Monica heard the words and pulled her heart back from them. She sat quietly and let her little boy enjoy this last tender moment between them. Soon enough his troubled brain would be silent. He would be beyond the pain and confusion with which this awful process... this ‘imprinting’, had cursed them both. She looked out through the window as he gripped her tightly. Time passed. The night was falling. The last rays of light glowed weakly against the insistence of the looming darkness above.

Her betrayal had begun.

-7-

David could see sky rolling quickly by in-between the overhanging branches of the trees. He was curious and expectant, wondering when they would stop. Teddy sat in his lap and the old machinery in his neck whirred and clicked as he watched the landscape scroll by. Mommy had been strangely silent. David gazed at her now, unbelieving he was here alone with her, hoping this would last forever.

“Where are we going?” he asked conversationally. Mommy continued to drive silently. Some more of the road passed by. “Someplace nice?” he asked when she did not respond.

Monica wished he’d be quiet. Cybertronics was still kilometers away. She was bracing herself, bracing herself for that moment of truth, that last moment when they would lead him away. Would he cry her name? Would they have to struggle with him as she left, leaving him to his doom?

Mommy’s face was tight and her lips pressed closed. There was no expression to read, but he saw something in her eyes. “Are those happy tears?” he asked.

And what would she see in their eyes? The technicians who would put her softhearted metal son to sleep forever? David was just a machine to them, right? Would they smile apologetically as they fought to tear him away from her, as he struggled against their grasping hands? Would he know? My god! Would he know what was happening? Please don’t let him understand!

Still Mommy did not respond. Had he ‘annoyed’ her like Teddy said he did sometimes? Maybe he should ‘change the subject’. “What’s for dinner tonight?” he asked hopeful that it would break her silence

There was no turning back. She pushed her chin up and drove faster. “You know that you don’t eat,” she replied finally, punctuating each word.

He was glad to hear her voice but there was ‘reservation’ there. “Yes,” he replied. “But I do like sitting at the table.”

Then suddenly they were there; end of line. Quickly and unceremoniously the Cybertronics statue rolled into view, its outstretched arms pronouncing this pace a point of no return. Beyond that point nothing could ever be undone. All transactions were final.

David saw the statue too, and something struck him familiar. He knew that shape. Mommy must have recognized it too, because she slowed down and stopped. He heard her make a sad sound and the statue was forgotten as he eyed her curiously. Why was she sad? Had he made her sad somehow?

Monica could not go there. Her foot would not press the accelerator. What were they expecting her to do? Kill her son? Is that what they had thought she was going to do?

David was pressed back into his seat as Mommy suddenly accelerated and sped past the statue. She raced along the road, her face displaying some conflict unrecognizable to him. He tried to ask her what was wrong but she told him to just be quiet; she had to think.

She didn’t know how many kilometers had passed or how long she had driven since seeing the Cybertronics access road. She stopped. Around them the lush forest pressed in against the road. She needed space. She needed time. She needed to think. Dammit! She just needed some time! To the right of her a path came into view. She looked at it through tear-streaked vision.

Yes, she realized. That was the only way.

Resolved, she turned quickly down the forest road and retreated into the shadows.

When Mommy stopped under the thick lining of trees, David grabbed Teddy and the blanket and jumped out excitedly. He would find a place for them to sit and he could watch Mommy eat. He ran a short distance until he found a clear spot and placed Teddy against a fallen log. Then he happily unraveled the big blanket that they would use to sit on.

Teddy scanned their surroundings. He knew that this was not a good place to sit and eat. It was dark and damp and the ground was mossy. Something was wrong.

Monica hurried after David. She had to explain thing to him now. Please let him understand. She saw through the trees, an unsuspecting metal boy in the shadows of the forest. She watched him trying to unfold the large blanket, struggling with it as a quick breeze arose and blew it over his head. This was the only way. She could not take him to his death and she could not take him back to the only home he had ever known. She forced herself forward.

“David?” she said softly as she walked to him. He was still struggling with the blanket, sill uncomprehending anything. “Hold on David,” she said and pulled the blanket from over his head. She tossed it on the ground. Not understanding the gesture, David went to his knees to smooth the blanket so she could sit.

“David, listen!” she commanded, kneeling beside him. He looked up at her. His smiling face betrayed only the slightest confusion at her desperate tone. God, she could see that he loved her so. Wasn’t there some programming command that would just make him walk away; some string of words that could magically turn off this maddening love?

And what then, about her heart?

“Listen...” she spoke softy. “You won’t understand the reasons... but... I... I have to leave you here.”

David looked at her quietly for a moment. His eyebrows closed in the simulation of childish puzzlement. She could imagine the processor in his head working. “Is it a game?” he asked with a smiling realization.

She fought tears. “No,” she said flatly, winning the fight.

David did not understand this. Mommy was going to leave him here? Why? Some urgency was beginning in the back of his new mind.

“When will you come back for me?” he asked hesitantly, the urgency getting closer to the surface.

She steeled herself. She had to be strong. “No. I’m not coming back, David. You have to be here by yourself.” There she said it. That was it. Please let that be it. Please say that you understand, David. Please.

“Alone?” he asked in a quavering tone.

She could see he understood, but it was not over. “With Teddy...” she whispered. Please let that be enough David, she thought, that’s all I have to offer you. David gazed at her silently. She didn’t know what was happening behind those puzzled eyes. She only knew her own heart had already been broken.

He was going to be alone? Alone? The urgency arrived and spilled out of him.

“Noooo, nooo please noo Mommy... please!,” he whined, his voiced raised in that childish keening that was impossible to refuse. “Please.. noo.. I’ll be good! I’ll be good!” He reached for her, but she pushed his hands away.

“David... you have to understand. They’re going to destroy you. Destroy you!” He had to understand; please let him understand. But David’s keening increased and he grabbed at Monica as she rose to flee from him. She couldn’t do this. She hadn’t asked for this. She couldn’t love him any more! “I have to GO!” she yelled, her voice breaking with emotion.

“Mommy! Mommy!” he called chasing her as she fled back to the car. Don’t call me that, she though, don’t! Her tears flooded her vision and her legs went weak. David caught her and his eyes were moist. Monica gasped Was it crying? Why would they program something like that?

David grasped her wrist, his eyes wide with fright. The thing he had wanted to tell her came out then, the thing he had thought about in the pool. “Mommy, if Pinocchio became a real boy, then I can become a real boy too! And then I can come home!”

This was the worst piece of savagery yet. The fairy tale; he had taken the story to heart! ”It’s just a story, David!” she yelled, pulling herself free.

“But a story tells what happens!” he said. Couldn’t she see?

She had to get away! “Stories are not real!” She ran quickly for the vehicle. David pursued her, insisting loudly that indeed stories were real! Yes Mommy. He knew they were! He caught her at the car, but only because something had dawned on her. She firmed up and faced him, yanking her arm free as he desperately grabbed at her again. Her weakness would do neither of them any good now.

“Listen to me!” she commanded, reaching into the pocket of her vest. She pulled out some wadded new-bucks and forced them into the inside pocket of his jacket. “Take this and don’t let anybody know how much you have!” She pushed his grasping hands away again and kneeled before him. “Don’t go that way! Look! Don’t look at me! Look over there,” she yelled pointing in the direction of the Cybertronics building. “Don’t go that way, David! Don’t ever go that way or they will catch you! Don’t ever let them catch you! They’ll…” Her tears threatened to consume her again but she fought them down. Don’t ever let them catch my pitiful little boy.

“Stay away from Flesh Fairs, David. Stay away from groups of people, away from all people. Stay only with others like you, David! Only Mecha are safe!” She was finished. She looked away, before his eyes bore into her soul. But he grabbed around her neck before she could rise.

“Why, why, why!” he cried. “I’m sorry I broke myself! I sorry. If you let me I’ll be so real for you. I’ll be sooo real!” he cried over and over. If she would just let him try! He could! He knew he could!

She couldn’t do this! “LET GO!” she roared and threw him to the ground. He lay there shocked, staring at her. The impact of the ground against him had caused some override of his panic. Or maybe he had just realized finally, that it was ending and there was nothing he could to stop it.

Monica saw the look on his face after she had thrown him off. She almost ran to see if he was ok. But the look stopped her. In its way, it was worse than the pleading. His eyes had gone blank, empty at the realization that there was no mercy she would allow him. Was this the last look of the condemned before the final stroke? She fled, her heart ragged and choking in her throat.

At the car door she turned to him one last time. “I’m sorry David!” she cried, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the world!” And then she was inside, fleeing that world which she’d neglected to explain; locking the doors and pressing on the accelerator, ignoring the sound of small hands beating against the window, ignoring the heartbreaking cries that were muffled by the clatter of branches and brush hitting the side of the car.

‘Ignore the mirror, too!’ her heart told her. ‘Don’t look back! Don’t look back!’ But she did look into the mirror, and that last image would stay with her for the rest of her life. Refusing to go away, it would burn a place in her mind and slowly burrow its way into her soul. She saw the helpless silhouette fade into the gloom of the forest; the little imitation boy whose real love had saved her ability to feel, to love. Now he stood alone. His head dropped to one side in uncomprehending resignation as she watched. She sped away faster and faster, sped away from the pain, from the shame, from the guilt that she would never be able to escape.

Her betrayal was complete. But it would never be over.


 

 

 

 

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