Adapted from the film A.I. by Bryan Harrison
David had no idea what he was going to do. Joe had brought him this far, and when his mind was settled hed be thankful for that. But now he had to think about how to get to Man Hatten, the place where the lions weep. What was weep? That was crying, right? Why would the lions cry? He must figure out this puzzle. Yes this was a puzzle that he had to solve before he could find the Blue Fairy. Then he could go home!
Suddenly he felt a tug on his shoulder and he turned to see Joe. Davids face turned grim as he felt a sudden complexity of shifting emotions, another unnoticed advent to Mecha kind. He liked Joe and felt safe with him, but he could not let Joe dissuade him any longer from this quest! He started to tell Joe to go away when he noticed the look on the bigger Mechas face. Joe was gazing dumbfounded over his head. David followed his gaze and saw the amphibicopter parked in the middle of the square. The thing was the real version of the toy that Martin had tried to make him destroy. It had writing and some kind of pattern on its side. David had seen the insignia before. And hed seen the word in the back of the craft before too. Police is what it said. Beside him, Joe had begun to quickly back away. But too late. From the crowd around them erupted a stern faced group of people, clad in dark uniforms and dark glasses over their eyes. To David they looked like the pit-bulls at the Flesh Fair. What did they want?
Wordlessly the team of New Jersey State Troopers descended on the two rogues.
The robot that had triggered the identity scanner at the gates of Rouge City had been verified as the same one that Johnson Johnson had captured at the Flesh Fair. The Criminal Intelligence Network that questioned the broken man had not understand what had caused the ruckus that had destroy his operation. Nor was it their concern. They were after a Mecha; a special Mecha.
They had dispatched a small squad as soon as the signal had come over the wire. Rouge City had many sensitive concerns, and special agreements had been made with its owners and operators. There were no uniformed patrols on the grounds. Private security did most of the policing and made their presence known only when the prized patrons got out of line. But this situation was different. This was the jurisdiction of the State Police.
The team had landed their two amphibicopters in the City after a quick jump from Central in Trenton. They had alighted in the Central Plaza just outside of where the trigger had been activated. No sooner had they touched down and begun to scour the crowd than the rogue had been spotted in the company of another. They had moved in quickly before the two noticed them and the one they sought was taken utterly by surprise.
David felt the big men place their hands on his shoulders. He was immediately reminded of the muscular men at the Flesh Fair and had almost gone into alert mode when one of them took off his dark glasses. He was an older man and looked at David with concern in his eyes.
Are you ok? he asked. Has this one done anything to you? David was confused and looked from the policeman to Joe and back a few times.
No. He is my friend, David said finally. Was that what this was all about? What did they think Joe had done to him?
The policeman snorted. Better pick your friends more carefully, kid he said. Wheres your parents? David thought about this. He realized that he had to be clever how he answered. Just like with Dr Know, he had to choose his words with care. With more care than the cop had.
I am going to see my Mommy now, he replied. It wasnt really a lie.
The big cop eyed the kid skeptically. The brat was too young to be in the Plaza. Legally there was nothing against him being in this main area, but if he should enter one of the Casinos? Hmm What kind of parent would let their kid roam the plaza by himself in the company of an unlicensed prostitute Mecha? There was something strange about the kid too, wasnt there? Something about his eyes. He didnt seem to Then the cop realized what it was that bothered him. But that wasnt possible was it? Why would someone build something like that? And what would it be doing here in the Rouge? But he realized that he didnt want to know the answer to those questions. He didnt feel like dealing with that particular paperwork.
Lets go, he said slipping his glasses on, and the team left David standing in the crowd as they took Joe away. They had their Sim; the special one that had defied its programming and torn its license off to flee. What had driven it to kill the Bevins woman? Theyd know when it was shut down and its processor ripped out.
Joe watched David over his shoulder as he was led away. The Bevins situation had almost completely slipped his mind. He knew it was his time. As the curious crowd shuffled in, obscuring David from his sight, Joe knew a new kind of pain. It was an intangible thing, one hed not known before. He wanted to call out to David, to apologize for saying the cruel things in the hall. He had only wanted to protect him, to keep him safe because
Youre in big trouble, the State trooper said to Joe as they loaded him into the back of one of the copters.
David watched the Police crowd around the large copter in which Joe was being held. He didnt know why they had taken Joe. Hed never asked what Joe was doing in the forest with the old rejects. David was too concerned with his own quest, and now it was too late.
Then David noticed something and al thoughts of Joe left his mind. There was another, smaller amphibicopter just across the plaza, away from the cluster of officers next to the big copter that held Joe. The smaller one was a regular cruiser, designed for just patrol officers. And it was empty! The canopy was open. David had an idea. He had been programmed against taking things that didnt belong to him. He was designed to be a good boy. But his design parameters were a thing of the past. He approached the copter unnoticed by the police and what remained of the small crowd that had watched them take Joe. He made sure no one was watching, then he slipped quickly into the craft.
It was official policy to keep all unmanned State Vehicles under security lock-down at all times. That was the policy, but like most olicies, it was only occasionally observed. The Police Amphibicopter should have been locked down. The onboard system should have been online, connected to the main cyber regulation number. It should have not allowed the little Mecha to take a seat. It should have asked for his clearance code and then sounded an alarm when he couldnt produce one. But enough shoulds and a couple of new-bucks might get you a cup of coffee nowadays. When David crawled up into the big seat, the computer didnt even notice him. His size and weight confused the machine.
David looked at the flashing control panel in front of him. There were rows of buttons that were lit up in different colors. The words written on them described things he was not familiar with. There was cruise and set route and auto route and so many others. He was confused by these terms. This was different from the simulator game that Martin had shown him. Then he saw one he knew. It said canopy. He pressed it hopefully. The upraised reinforced-glass doors closed beside him, and he and Teddy were locked inside the copter. He saw another. It said amphi-initiate. He pressed it but only a harsh beep came from the lit up dashboard. Then he hit another initiate button and to his surprise, and pleasure, the engine began to hum.
It was time to go! David placed his hand in the stirrups of the steering bar. He had seen Mommy drive before. He remembered precisely what she had done. He had played on Martins simulator. Could this be that different? He pressed his thumbs into the accelerator buttons in the steering bar and the copter quickly lifted into the air.
The officer had been warned about leaving the copter security inactivated, but so had everyone else. The operative assumption was that nobody was stupid enough to try and take a State Police Amphibicopter! Right? So that is why his mouth dropped open and he was speechless for that vital moment when he could have warned his fellow officers. He just didnt believe what he was seeing. Someone was inside the copter, and it wasnt one of them. Damn! It was
The kid...! he yelled finally, but too late. He ducked as the tail of the two-man cruiser swiped through the air above his head. It would have decapitated him. The crowd screamed and dove to the ground as the tail section of the craft spun in a quick circle over their dodging bodies. Miraculously, none of them were hit.
Be careful David. This is not a toy, Teddy warned as he saw the Orga dodging and running all around. Hed been with David long enough to know that the boy-Mecha was not going to listen to reason and surrender the craft, but at least he could be cautious in his operation of the vehicle.
The police ran out of the range of the gyrating tail and tried to group together. But the copter swung and hit building signs and knocked over the tables of the pavilions, throwing obstacles in the path of their organization. Then the thing began to swing from side to side and they knew they were in trouble. They hit the ground again and reached for their side arms.
Joe heard the commotion, but he had been locked inside with one of the big men. Through the cage door they could see lights flashing as something large passed by the copter. The lights came again and the policeman with him had just opened the door to see what the trouble was, when there was a deafening crash and the world turned violently upside-down.
David was trying to stabilize the craft. He had finally stopped the thing from going in circles, and fortunately he could not get dizzy, or his trip would have already been over. He could feel that he had been over-adjusting, and thought that hed finally figured it out when once again the copter had moved quickly sideways. And then they hit something. It must have been big! And they hit it hard!
When the world righted itself, Joe found himself sitting on the ground. He was in the plaza again! What?! He scanned his environment quickly and realized that he had been thrown clear of the copter. The thing was lying on its side just a few meters away from him. Its canopy was smashed open and the onboard system was complaining loudly about a security breach. Then Joe saw what he had caught glimpses of through the caged door. It was the other copter. The thing was moving back and forth quickly just above ground level, as if some lunatic were operating it. When Joe suddenly caught a glimpse of the confused but determined little face at the controls, he laughed.
Be careful with your aim! the lead officer yelled. If they should hit someone, their careers would essentially be over. Get down and aim upwards at the thrusters! The team knelt and aimed their weapons at the copter. Fire on... but the man never got a chance to finish. The copter swung across the plaza suddenly, and they all ducked again as the stolen machine smashed into a large metal trash receptacle, dumping its sticky and stinking contents on them.
David could not get the machine to balance. He was angry and said some of the words that Martin had taught him. Then he saw the man running beside the copter. Was it a policeman? He couldnt let them get him... he had things to do; places to...
Wait! It was Joe! He looked cautiously at his friend who was running aside the cockpit trying to avoid being hit by Davids frantic maneuverings. Was Joe going to be mad that David had tried to leave without him? Was the older Mecha going to try and make him stay again? But when Joe smiled, David smiled back and took his thumbs from the buttons that made the thing go. He hit the canopy button again and the glass door opened. Joe climbed in quickly. David had to crawl across the seat to let the bigger Mecha take the controls.
The computer had been confused at first about the size and weight of the driver. But now someone with a more familiar physicality was sitting at the console. Destination? it asked.
Man Hatten Joe replied, and the copter immediately took over and began to lift into the sky. David had not known not about this feature. Though now that he was with Joe again, he was glad that hed not made his escape already.
The copter lifted into the sky quickly, but was still difficult to control. Davids crashing of the vehicle had caused some disruption in the navigational systems. The ship was having a hard time determining how close things were. In its ascent, it struck one of the grav-resistant signs that floated over Rouge, sending a shower of sparks and debris down onto the crowd below. It was a coincidental piece of luck for the runaway Mechas that, in the process of hitting the sign, the tracking device in the tail of the craft had been destroyed. Navigation would be a little rougher, but there would be no communications with this craft anymore, nor could it be traced from the central dispatch.
On the ground beneath them the State Police converged on their fallen copter and called for assistance. Their damaged craft didnt want to respond to flight commands at the moment.
As they rose into the darkness above the night signs of Rouge, Joe stole a quick glance at his young friend and then watched the controls again. The boy was watching the city recede beneath them. David had saved his brain again! He decided that whatever the little Mecha wanted to do, hed help him. He would stand beside him until they found that Blue Fairy. no matter what manner of creature or machine it might turn out to be.
David watched as Rouge City quickly shrunk and disappeared below a layer of dark clouds. When they reached the appropriate altitude, the craft straightened and set its auto course for Man Hatten; The City at The End of the World. David looked warmly at Joe, who was manning the controls. He felt safe again. Joe knew what he was doing. The Blue Fairy was getting closer all the time, and so was the end of his quest. David held tightly to Teddy and watched the milky line of stars overhead. The infinite eyes of eternity gazed down on them as they flew through the darkness into a new and unpredictable future.