Where Dreams Are Born

By Holly Maguire

Author's note:

I got the idea for this while reading Bryan Harrison's excellent fan novelization of "A.I." (which you can access through "A.I." fanfic diva "Matrix Refugee's" website). At one point, I caught myself wondering what would have happened if David hadn't snuck out of the Cybertronics building and fallen into the water. What did "the team" have in store for him?

Disclaimer:

I don't own "A.I." or any of the characters, which belong to DreamWorks, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick et al, and which was based on Brian Aldiss's "Supertoys Last All Summer Long".

* * * * * *

With Mecha-like precision, Dr. Allen Hobby strode up the stairs to the lab where the design team which had built David awaited confirmation that their lost one had been found. He walked this stiffly only to keep his heart from overflowing with emotion. He had almost despaired when the word had come that David had been spotted in a Flesh Fair near Barn Creek, New Jersey. At least the audience had been simple-minded and fickle enough to change heart on impulse. And if they ever found the lover-Mecha that had escaped with David and had guided him this far, the same lover-model that had been implicated in a murder in Haddonfield, Hobby would do everything in his power to see to it that its record was cleared.

But he had other things on his mind at that moment, more pressing things to attend to.

He pushed open the lab doors, barely able to contain the joy and relief in his heart.

The programmers at their consoles looked up toward their chief of design, expectation on some faces, concern on others.

"He's back," Hobby managed, keeping an unseemly wobble out of his voice. "He's downstairs in the library. I want you all to come down to meet him..." That sounded foolish in his ears. "To escort him up here for the evaluation."

The techs glanced at each other. Whispering among themselves, they rose to follow the Director out into the hallway, then down the stairs to the main office and conference room, which had doubled as a lab during part of the development process.

Mixed emotions started jostling each other in Hobby's spirit. He hoped David would hold up in the next phase. The initial experiment had been such a success, the next phase would doubtlessly go just as smoothly.

A rush of cold air bore a gust of wintry rain splattering into the landing shelter as they passed by it on their way to the library. Over the wash of wind and rain came the low whine of an amphibicopter's propulsion turbines. A police copter pulled into the shelter out of the reach of the storm closing in and set down. The canopy opened and a uniformed Trooper emerged.

"Hallo there!" Hobby called to the police. "Do you have a lover-Mecha there?"

The Trooper glanced into the 'copter. "Yeah. We also have a missing Supertoy belonging to one of your employee's family."

"Let them both go," Hobby ordered.

"Dr. Hobby, the sex-Mecha may have killed the wife of the Haddonfield DPW administrator."

"Let him go," Hobby insisted. "He has information we need."

The Trooper regarded Hobby with brows furrowed. "All right, but any trouble it causes is in your hands."

"We're well-equipped to handle it," Hobby replied.

"All right then." The Trooper turned back to the 'copter. "Hey you! Get your sorry metal rump out here; the good doctor's given you a second chance.."

First something small and furry hopped out of the 'copter to the floor of the shelter, landing with a purring grunt before, joints creaking, it toddled toward the library. One of the female techs caught it. The bear looked at her and growled.

Then a tall, slim figure dressed entirely in gleaming black and silver climbed out, gazihng about him, his jade eyes impassive, his face expressionless with something vaguely like resignation.

"You, young man. What's your name?" Hobby asked.

The sex-Mecha (what else could it possibly be with an exquisitely molded face like that?) turned toward Hobby. "They sometimes ask for me by name: 'Hey Joe, whaddya know?'" He looked about as if searching for something. "Where is David?"

"He's still in my office. I'd like to thank you for bringing him here."

The Mecha smiled. "You are welcome, but in truth, he led the way: I merely served as guide."

"He couldn't have gotten this far without you. I hear they tried to connect your name with some bad trouble back in Haddonfield."

"If you are referring to the unfortunate demise of Miss Samantha Bevins, I assure you I had nothing to do with that terrible event," Joe replied.

"I believe you, and I'll see to it that the officials know that as well," Hobby said.

The Mecha smiled, but the smile did not quite reach its eyes. Was that distrust mixed with the usual Mecha impassivity? No matter: There were more important matters at hand.

* * * * * *

David stared up at the rows of still figures slung on metal racks in Dr. Hobby's office. Martin's words came back to him, as clear as if Martin stood beside him, whispering in his ear.

"So, I gues you're the new Supertoy?"

If they had made so many things that looked like him, then he must not be special or...unique, at least not to Dr. Hobby.

Then he heard Joe's words, still fresh in his memory and still painful: "You are neither flesh nor blood, David. You are not a dog or a cat or a canary. You were designed and built specific, just like the rest of us. And you are alone now only because they tired of you, or replaced you with a younger model, or were displeased with something you said, or broke."

He glanced back toward the library, where the broken *other* lay smashed amid the wreckage of the glass table. The same hot impulse he had sensed when he had smashed his rival passed through his being. HE was David! HE was unique! HE was the only one. They couldn't do this to him or to any of his kind.

Spying another lamp on a table neary, he took it up and swung it at the first replica on the rack nearest to him. It fell to the floor with a clatter. He struck its head and stomped on it, like he'd seen Martin smashing an already broken toy. He knocked over a second. No sparks flew up from its body: the things were not "alive" like the first *other*.

As he toppled the third and the fourth, he remembered something Martin had said. "These things look better in pieces, they do." Martin was right, but not about the toy amphibicopter!

* * * * *

As Hobby and the team, with the sex-Mecha trailing them, entered the library, loud smashes and metallic crashes met their ears.

"Uh oh, I don't like the sound of that," said Cheung, one of the senior programmers. What the devil was going on?! Hobby thought, stepping through the open doors to the lab. He motioned the others to stay back as he went in.

The Swinton's Supertoy trundled past him. "David, No!" it ordered, waddling in the direction of the commotion.

"Oh God, what is he doing?" Hobby murmured, knowing the answer. As he hurried forward, the sex-Mecha came up from behind him; with the longer legs of the two of them and with the vigor of the healthy youth in his twenties it was modelled after, it overtook him and caught up with the rampaging child-Mecha.

"David!" it said, its cadenced voice sounding strangely assertive.

David felt something tug his pant leg. He looked down to find Teddy there.

"David, you will make Dr. Hobby mad," Teddy warned.

"Go away, Teddy!" David snapped back.

David started to strike out at another replica, but strong hands, even stronger than Dr. Hobby's seized his arms and turned him around.

He looked up into Joe's green eyes, but the look in them made David look away. It reminded him of the way Henry had looked at him when he tried to cut Mommy's hair.

"David, you've gotten yourself into very bad trouble," Joe said, his voice cold.

* * * * *

Hobby watched in something close to disbelief. The sex-Mecha wrestled the dented lamp from David's hands and now it spoke to the smaller Mecha with almost the same tone as a concerned father.

Amazing. Apparently, the changes in David brought about by imprinting had affected a change in the programming of the other Mecha. They would have to look into this as well...

David looked up. His face took on a puzzled mixture of wonder and concern. He looked down at the wreckage around him, like any guilty child.

"He must be malfunctioning," suggested Joly, one of the junior programmers. "All that work --"

"No, we'll worry about the damages later: he's only damaged five units," Hobby said, waving aside other murmured objections and stepping closer to David. "David?"

The boy-Mecha looked up at Hobby. Setting down the lamp, he gripped the other Mecha's arem, clearly for protection, but the other tried to push him off.

"It's all right... seeing those must have been a terrible shock to you," Hobby said. "But they are different from you, as each human is from the next." It wasn't wholly true, but he had to subdue the boy's "fears" somehow.

"But I thought I was one of a kind," the boy said, his lower lip trembling.

"Yes, you are, but you are also the first of a kind. And we want you to help us make the others different in different ways."

"What are you going to do with him?" the sex-Mecha asked.

"We're only going to ask him a few questions," Hobby said, reassuringly. "He won't come to any harm. Can you stay here while we talk with him?"

"I can do this which you ask of me," Joe replied. But Hobby detected an almost petulant note in the older Mecha's tone.

Hobby held out his hand to David. "Come along with me, David. We have so much to talk about. We want to hear everything."

David released his grip on Joe's hand and put his hand into Hobby's. Henry had never taken his hand like this; it was almost like taking Joe's hand, only Joe wasn't real.

* * * * * *

Joe watched his small friend go out with the professor and his entourage. The way they closed in behind the man and the boy reminded Joe wierdly of the police closing in on him.

This looked like bad trouble, but he could not say why he thought this. Despite Hobby's request, he could not stay put in the library. He had to find out...

To be continued...