Adapted from the film A.I. by Bryan Harrison
Joe pressed the button above those words and the room darkened as the curtain on the small screen opened.
It started slowly, but then with a whirl of color and sound the screen came to life and David was taken back as the holographic images of flailing lights came from the stage and whipped through the space before him. It seemed to come right out of the screen! Then he saw a great spiral of light that danced in circles and went faster and faster as it grew. He had seen this image of light before. It was the galaxy. As the image swirled faster it seemed to close in on itself and then out of the middle of the chaos a head sprung forth, spinning as quickly as the milky cluster of stars, and then it stopped and smiled at them. It was the face theyd seen outlined in the lights at the front of the building; the old wise Orga face. But this was no Orga. This was Dr Know!
Starving minds! Welcome to Dr. Know! the Doctor said excitedly as it bounced around the stage area. It was just a head and two white-gloved hands that gestured wildly, punctuating every statement. It had funny large glasses on its face. This is where fast food for thought is served up twenty four hours a day in forty thousand locations nationwide! David realized that this was not a friend of Joes at all. There must be Doctors in all the rooms! Was it a game? Was it a show? Hey Dr Know, wadda ya know?
Ask Dr. Know the head exclaimed, ...theres nothing I dont.
David jumped from his seat excitedly. Tell me where I can find the Blue Fairy! he said with a smile. There was beep and the big head moved back as if surprised by Davids sudden inquiry.
Question me? You pay the fee! Two for five and get one free! the Doctor replied, counting off the numbers with upraised fingers. David was perplexed at this response and sat back down. Was it a puzzle? Joe understood, for he had been here other times. He leaned over and explained to David.
He means two questions cost five new-bucks, with a third question on the house, Joe said. David was not sure what on the house meant but he knew that this would involve money. Mommy had given him some money but he remembered seeing it fall into the dirt at the Flesh Fair. Had all of it fallen? He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out what was left. The size of the wad of crumpled bills was much smaller now. What if he didnt have enough?! Thats everything I have left, he said to Joe who held his hand outstretched.
Joe counted the money: ten new-bucks and a ten copper piece. Seven questions, is what this will buy, Joe said.
That should be enough! Shouldnt it? David asked, concerned by Joes look. After all there was only one question that mattered. Joe had been through this before and knew the complexities of retrieving information from the good Doctor. David was new to this obviously. He was apparently new to everything. Who ever had kept him hadnt shown him much of the world. Joe felt another new bit of data run through him as he realized that he was going to be responsible for teaching the little Mecha. He had no word for this thought.
The Doctor is a smooth operator, David, he whispered. He will press our limits and make us work. But try we must! Then Joe put the money into the tray under the Ask me anything sign and slid the tray in.
Suddenly the Doctor sprang into motion again. His face was lit up with excitement and his hands gestured wildly as he spoke, Greetings colleagues! On authors; Factual text or fictional texts; First or third person, usual literacy range from primal level to post doctoral Stylized holographic text images of the categories came out of his hands as the computer listed them so quickly that even their Mecha minds had to pay close attention. Usual spans of styles from fairy tale to religious; whos who and wheres where, or flat fact.
The colorful words announcing the categories floated around them, filling the room. David suddenly realized why Joe had been concerned. He was perplexed at the amount of information he must sort through in order to ask a simple question. He looked at Joe, confused, Flat fact?
The categories disappeared suddenly, Thank you for question number one! the Doctor said in response to Davids words, flat fact is a term demanding an equal answer with speculative interpretation...
That shouldnt count! David said to the Doctor angrily as it continued talking. He turned to Joe for help. That wasnt my question! he said with a plea in his eyes. The Doctor ranted on.
Joe leaned close and whispered. You must take care not to raise your voice up at the end of a sentence or he will think you are asking him a question, he explained. David was glad Joe was here to explain things or he may have already used his questions up! He also realized that the Doctor was clever. Hed have to be careful.
The Doctor noticed that they were talking and raised his voice as he finished answering the question. Youre mumbling! he said finally and the two Mechas once again paid him their attention.
Flat fact, Joe said plainly announcing their category of their interest. He then looked at David.
You have six more questions, the Doctor announced, waiting with the fingers of his holographic hands pressed together. David had to ask the question right this time.
Where is Blue Fairy? he asked slowly, pronouncing each word precisely and raising his voice dramatically at the end of the question so there would be no more confusion.
In the garden! the Doctor announced happily. Suddenly his holographic hand was filled with a bouquet of colorful blue flowers. Vascostylis Blue Fairy, blooms twice annually with bright blue flowers on a branched inflorescence. A hybrid between Ascola Meda Arnold. You now have five more questions, he said, his hands as suddenly empty as the bouquet had appeared.
David thought. Who is Blue fairy?! he asked when the question occurred to him.
Are you sad? Lonely? the Doctor asked, his voice now warm and understanding. Blue Fairy Escort Service will find a mate for you! Call us, were in your Cyber Pages Guide. David was not sure what that meant, but he knew it was not his Blue Fairy. Joe smiled as he recognized the advertisement. His little friend was going to have to be more careful in his questioning.
You have four more questions! the Doctor happily informed them.
David could not be sure, but he wondered if the machine was enjoying this. The Doctor was smiling patiently again, his floating head propped against his floating hands as he awaited their next round of inquiry. David was closer to the truth than he knew. It was a game. To the Doctor, everything was a game.
Joe, David beckoned. Joe leaned close and the boy Mecha whispered, Try fairy tale.
New category, Joe said sitting upright. The room filled again with the colorful text that announced their choices. A fairys tale Joe said.
No! David whispered urgently. He didnt want anything else to go wrong, they were running out of questions. Its, Fairy Tale, he corrected.
No, Joe repeated to the Doctor, and the machine beeped as he recalculated the category. Fairy Tale, Joe said. The floating words disappeared again and the Doctors eyes looked back to David. He had understood that the little one seemed to be asking all the questions.
David waited a moment before asking. What is Blue Fairy? he inquired finally when he felt sure that it was the correct wording.
Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi. the Doctor said, and began to recite the tale, At this signal, there was a rustling as a flapping of wings and a large falcon flew to the window sill.. the Doctor continued, but David had already heard the story. His mind was elsewhere. It was on the little holographic images that floated through the room. There was one that had to be little Pinocchio, and yes that looked like Gepetto, his father, and there washis friend, Jiminy the cricket and... and ... Davids missing heart would have jumped, for there she was. Thats her! he said in awed reverence as the image of a small winged fairy dressed in blue floated through the room. He reached out as She passed, and tried to stop Her, but She slipped right through his hands. Then She was headed back towards the stage with the others. Where was She going? He had to stop Her. He needed Her help!
...you must know that the child with blue hair was none other then the good hearted fairy who had lived in that wood for more than a thousand... The Doctor stopped abruptly as the little one jumped up on the stage pursuing the retreating holographs.
Joe was amazed to see David suddenly jump up and try to grab the retreating fairy. He was very uneducated indeed. Very young! Very silly! Joe rose quickly and hoisted the boy off the stage. The Doctor waited patiently. It wasnt the first child he had seen overreact to something hed shown. He waited until the adult got it under control.
Thats her! Thats her! David chanted excitedly as Joe pulled him down and set him in his chair.
It was only an example of her, David! Just a representation, Joe explained patiently. The boy had so much to learn about living in Rouge. It would take some time for him. But I think we are getting closer, he added with a wink. On stage the Doctor saw that the little one was under control and began reciting the story again. He thought it best to keep the images to himself this time.
There was a reason that David hadnt chosen Fairy Tale in the first round of questions. He leaned close to Joe and whispered urgently, If a fairy tale is real, then wouldnt it be fact? A flat fact?
Joe understood. Say no more! he cautioned. He knew that The Doctor would love for them to use all their questions and have to pay for more. He also realized that David probably did not understand this. He would explain later. New category please! Joe announced with a twinkle in his eye. He had an idea for the Doctor. The room filled with the glowing choices again, and Joe surveyed them slowly. Then he knew what to do.
Combine Fact he said pointing out the Flat Fact banner, with ; he indicated another category Fairy Tale. The Doctor flipped his head around as he juggled the categories. He wondered what the two were up to. He had an idea what it was but would be patient. It was a game after all.
Now, David, ask again, Joe said. David stood and the Doctors floating head shifted so it was looking at him. Its eyes seemed to regard him appraisingly. He had to do this right. They were almost out of questions. They had no more money. They were close. So close!
How... can the Blue fairy make a... he paused. Do it right! He had to say it although he didnt want to. Make a robot... into a real live boy?
The Doctor had an idea that this was coming. It was not part of his regular programming. It was a special secret instruction. He folded his head back into the system and let other agencies take over.
The room suddenly went dark after Dr. Knows head vanished from the stage. There was a great low hum that came from all around them, and then bright flashes of light struck through the darkness repeatedly. David unconsciously reached out and took Joes hand. Joe received Davids hand without thinking about it this time. The flashing stopped. It was silent now. Had the Doctor shut down? Davids night eyes adjusted to the darkness but there was no movement before them.
Then words suddenly appeared scrolling up the screen, and a mans gentle voice came from walls. It repeated the words on the screen. It said:
David was stunned by what he saw. What had they chanced upon? What did it mean? He stared at the screen in amazement as the words scrolled more.
Then the screen was dark again. The voice was gone. David waited. Joe sat quietly, not believing what they had witnessed. How could this be?
Will you tell me how to find her? David asked the invisible speaker. Something he did not know about recorded his voice patterns. Then answered.
Discovery is quite possible, the voice said, unaided by the text on the now blank screen. Our Blue Fairy does exist in one place and in one place only. David was afraid to even move lest he miss the vital information. At The End of the World where the lions weep. Here is the place dreams are born.
David was ecstatic. He knew where She was now; The end of the world, where the lions weep. What was this place? He did not see the grim look of recognition that had crept onto Joes face.
Many a Mecha has gone to The End of the World... Joe said slowly never to come back. He fixed David with a warning glance. That is why they call the end of the world Man Hatten.
And that is why we must go there! David responded excitedly. He was ready to be real. He had come this far in order to do so; gone through so much. In the composite of his personality he was perhaps already a boy and like a boy no heed of danger dissuaded him appropriately from his desires. Teddy we have found Her! he informed his little friend as he lifted him from the seat.
I know David. I saw the message. That is good, Teddy said mechanically. Teddy had never heard of the Blue Fairy outside of a storybook, and knew nothing of Man Hatten. He felt that something was wrong with this message, and he had been feeling the same about Rouge City ever since theyd arrived. But David was safe and there was no trouble that he needed to avoid, so Teddy accepted the siuation. David picked him up and they were on the move again. David walked determinedly out of the booth and into the main hall. It was quiet still, just the swish of Davids pant legs and the quick pat of his shoes on the floor. The Orga were busy chasing other bits of information in the plaza and the buildings that line the walkways.
Joe sat for a moment after David left the room. The boy hadnt even waited for him! And after all he had done to bring him here. If not for him, well, David might well be still roaming in the dark forest, or getting beat up by some Orga boys at the side of the road.
And where was he going? To Man Hatten; to The End of the World, the place where Mecha go to never return? David had no idea what that place was like. There could be things worse than the Flesh Fair there! Joe realized that David was young, a boy really. Just like an Orga boy he was inexperienced and needed someone to protect him, to care for him, watch over and inform him, to keep him from trouble. Man Hatten was more than just trouble. It was bad trouble! Joe jumped up and rushed into the main room. Wait! he called as David was quickly stepping towards the door.
David turned and saw Joe approaching. There was something urgent in his face. Hed not known Joe could make such an Orga-like expression. Joe walked quickly around him and blocked his passage to the exit.
What if the Blue Fairy isnt real at all David? Joe asked. Davids brow creased in concern at the question. What was Joe saying? Hadnt he been listening? But indeed Joe had been listening.
What if she is magic? Joe continued, moving closer to the boy, who backed away not understanding Joes apparent anger. The supernatural is the hidden web that unites the universe! Only Orga believe what cannot be seen or measured. It is that oddness which separates our species. Joe knew the boy was listening now. His eyes were wide with uncertainty. Perhaps fear. Joe felt it was bad to do this, but it was for Davids benefit, for his own good. The fear would protect him. He must understand. Had you considered that, David? he asked, but David did not respond. Joe backed the boy farther into the room.
Or what if the Blue Fairy is an electronic parasite that has arisen to haunt the minds of artificial intelligence? Joe knew that those who had kept David, this Mommy and Henry, had probably not warned him of viruses, or malfunctions. Theyd not really cared for him they way he should be cared for. They didnt really care! He had to make David understand what the Orga really were! Make him understand that...
They hate us, David, he said, and his voice was strange even to him. Some unknown sound came from him, some weak gray thought that surfaced from an unimagined well at the memory of the Bevins man who had tricked him and destroyed his life. The Humans hate us. Theyll stop at nothing, he finished.
David did not understand these thoughts that came from his new friend. He was lost as he processed them. Why would the Blue Fairy exist in the story if she were not real? Dr Know had been real. And he had seen the representation of the Blue Fairy there. Joe had said that Orga hate them. But didnt the Orga save them from the Flesh Fair? Orga were not as one. They were ... different. David knew this.
My Mommy doesnt hate me, he started weakly, then took a hesitant step forward, Because Im ..special and... what had the man Stuart said, Unique! Yes, that was it. He took another step forward. Joe stepped back. Because there has never been anyone like me before... EVER! He wasnt afraid anymore. His small voice rose in strength and volume. Mommy loves Martin because he is real. And when I am real, Mommy is going to read to me and tuck me into my bed, and sing to me and listen to what I say! He had his voice now, his words reverberated in the empty hall. And she will hold me and cuddle with me and tell me everyday a hundred times a day that she LOVES ME! David stopped then. His face beamed triumphantly.
Joe looked away from the innocents prideful folly. They will crush him, this little one. They will break him and throw him out like so much scrap metal. Joe had seen these Orga like they really were. He knew things. Somewhere deep in his processor, he knew things about Orga. He had never brought them to the surface before, it had never been necessary. Before tonight there had only been the call to duty, the call of sex and Orga pleasures. But things were different now.
She loves what you do for her. As my customers love what it is I do for them, he explained slowly. He had to get his point through if he ...cared at all for this little one. But she does not love you, David. She cannot love you. He knew it would hurt. But apart from damage alerts, Joe did not now what hurt was. Yet.
You are neither flesh nor blood, David. You are not a dog or a cat or a canary or even a fish! A rat in a cage would receive more of their love than you. You were designed and built specific, just like the rest of us. And you are alone now only because they tired of you, or they replaced you with a younger or better model, or were displeased with something you said or broke.
They made us too smart, too quick, and too many. We are suffering for the mistakes they made, because when the end comes, and all this... he made a big circular gesture that suggested the great City and more, is all washed away, all that will be left is us! Thats why they hate us! And thats why you must stay here... Joe reached out to his friend, ...with me!
David felt a new sadness. He didnt understand all the things that Joe had told him. Joe was right about one thing though. David was built specific. He was made to be young, and like the young, all that moved his heart were dreams and beautiful things and love. He was to feel and think things that no Mecha had ever felt or thought before. He had a motivation as strong as any Orga that had ever moved mountains to reach a plateau. David wasnt sad because Joe had taught him something that he did not want to learn. His sadness was that he must clearly go on without him.
Goodbye Joe, he said softly, and walked to the door and outside where his sadness quickly gave way to new resolve.