TITLE: "Newcomers in the Nursery"

AUTHOR: "Matrix Refugee"

RATING: PG-13 (some references to child abuse)

ARCHIVE: Permission granted

FEEDBACK: Please? Please? Please?

SUMMARY: A simulated magazine article commenting on the impact of Cybertronics' latest creation

DISCLAIMER: I do not own "A.I., Artificial Intelligence", its characters, settings, concepts or other indicia, which are the property of the late, great Stanley Kubrick, of DreamWorks SKG, Steven Spielberg, Warner Brothers, et al.

NOTES: I dedicate this fic to Pazu and to "CR Ermite" on ff.n. I've been trying to write some fics dealing with other "A.I." characters besides Joe, so I thought I'd write about David's siblings, and the effect they have on their world. But just any old typical fic didn't seem objective enough, so I resorted to the medium of a fake magazine article.

* * * * * *

*Newcomers in the Nursery*

"Time" magazine, September 12, 2138

By Cecie Martin

* * * * * *

In a play center in a large shopping mall, two boys with dark blond hair, about four and a half feet tall, perhaps eleven years old, dive into a ball pit, no differently than the other children romping around them. But display all the signs of childhood glee, but something absents itself from their behavior, as if both might be mentally challenged. One occassionally still sees children like this, whose parents have not conceded to the general trend toward perfecting the one child they may have, but this does not seem to be the case.

One of the boys emerges from the ball pit and gazes about him wth mild, blue eyes. The other like him, identical in all respects except clothing also emerges from the heap of of brightly colored balls that chime and flash colored lights as the other children tumble them about. They take no notice of the sounds and colors around them. Their eyes have met. Their smooth faces wrinkle slightly with puzzled frowns. They approach one another.

"Who are you?" one asks.

"I'm David," the other replies.

"That's my name too," the first boy says.

Are they twins seperated at birth, whose respective families happened to give them the same name? The slightly artificial gloss to their skins and the quietly unblinking gaze in their eyes only telegraph to the world what these boys are.

They are both Mechas, seperate units of a new line, the DA model, created by Cybertronics of New Jersey and known as "David", the product of an unusual new experiment in machine intelligence.

* * * * * * *

*Artificial Emotion?*

Normal Mechas may be able to emote, to behave as if they expressed emotion, but it goes no deeper than the very surface. Jab a Mecha's hand with a pin and it yelps with pain, but it does not affect them inwardly. They have no inner core of consciousness or "self" to be offended.

But the David line, the magnum opus of Cybertronics' chief designer Dr. Allen Hobby, and a tangible demonstration of the theories he expounded in his groundbreaking monograph "How Can A Robot Become Human?" is designed with this unique ability. Once the "parent" who has adopted one of these little Mechas activates certain centers via a switch on the back of the unit's neck and reads off to it in exact order a string of code words unique to that unit, "imprinting" circuits in that Mecha activate and remain so as long as the Mecha still functions.

From that point on, the Mecha depends upon this person for emotional interaction. With a happy obedience, they do the chores assigned to them. Even the simplest smile from their parent delights their innocent little heart.

Some critics have described the love shown by these little ones as "obsessive" and there have been some instances where a child Mecha has acted exclusivistly toward an imprinted parent, but often in these instances, the parent that imprinted showed obsessive tendencies themself, and/or the spouse of the imprinting parent had not imprinted the child-Mecha themself.

* * * * * *

*"His Love is Real, But He Is Not"*

The prototype unit, DA 001 was beta-tested and adopted by Henry and Monica Swinton, a young couple living in Camden, New Jersey. Henry worked in the Cybertronics' West Camden division as a marketing executive. The couple have a now eighteen year old son, Martin, who at age nine had been placed in cryostorage while a cure for the Sinclair's Syndrome that struck him was being researched. With Martin facing very uncertain medical prospects, Henry agreed to take home the David prototype unit when he was selected to field test it. Monica was reticent about having David around, but after only a week, she imprinted him. Henry, the more practical one waited before he imprinted since, he admits, he was uncertain about having the Mecha around and he did not consider himself truly qualified to assume the role of parent toward a child-Mecha. "I felt as if I were betraying Martin," he adds. "The project was admirable, but it was also bizarre."

When Martin's illness went into remission and he was sent home, David found he had a rival for Monica's affections. Martin, like any older child when the new baby comes home, continually challengedDavid's presence in the family, even prodding David into trying to eat, whcih caused the Mecha a mild mechanical freeze which left him undamaged.

It also appeared that something dangerous had emerged in David's behavioral programming: he cut Monica's forehead while trying to cut off a piece of her hair as she slept, then a few days later, at a pool party for Martin's birthday, David apparently tried to drown Martin. In light of these apparent threats, Henry ordered Monica to bring David back to Cybertronics. Unable to sacrifice her son, Monica abandoned David in a forest outside the town of Haddonfield.

When it came to light that David's actions had been misinterpreted -- the hair-cutting was a prank gone awry, instigated by Martin; the near-drowning happened as a result of scuffle caused by one of Martin's friends trying to test David's DAS (Damage Avoidence System) -- the Swintons turned to Cybertronics for aid in finding him. Dr. Hobby himself organized a simple plan: David had, after hearing Carlo Collodi's fairy tale "Pinocchio" and how the Blue Fairy had turned a wooden puppet into a live boy, had wanted to find the Blue Fairy himself so that she might do the same for him. Hobby uploaded to the Dr. Know franchise server a message that would lure David to Cybertronics' headquarters in Manhatten. David arrived there in the company of a male sex-Mecha, a Simulate City J-O 4679 who had escaped from a Flesh Fair that had captured the both of them. Not finding his Blue Fairy, David vanished, stil seeking her, according to the lover-Mecha.

* * * * * *

*A Love of Your Own*

Since the disappearance of the prototype three years ago, Dr. Hobby has remained in isolation in his Manhattan office; he has made himself utterly unavalible for interviews or queries, but other insiders on the David Project have revealed some pertinant information. At first Hobby nearly shelved the project and tried to retract the release, but with seventy units built and ready for release and several hundred more under construction, he could not casually discard a creation whose prototype was nearly two years in construction and programming, or else he would face the backlash from both investors and Cybertronics employees alike. For that matter, according to Theophane Cheung, Hobby's design chief, Hobby chose to design the prototype as a replica of his own son, David, who died of Sinclair's Syndrome complications twenty years ago at the age of twelve. "Some people accuse Hobby of suffering from resurrectionism, a condition where the bereaved tries to maintain the presence of the departed through a proxy, for example, a person who has lost their spouse might remarry later, but marry someone who looks like their late partner," Cheung maintains. "But there is a lot more going on than that. Dr. Hobby is well aware that the David prototype could never really take the place of his son, so he chose to redirect energy otherwise wasted on prolonged suffering and grief into helping other couples, other parents in similar situations, or couples who are unable to obtain a parental license."

Besides these people, business women seeking to avoid the inconvienience of pregnancy and of caring for an infant, are especially drawn to the DA line. One woman, an accountant of the present author's acquaintnance, states, "He's never cranky. He never whines when I have to work long hours. I don't have to hire a Nanny Mecha to keep an eye on him, not like my ex's son."

However, a "love of your own" comes with a price. A DA unit retails at about 700,000 NB, though due to demands, the price has come down to 350,000 NB. Units are availible with every shade of skin and hair and eyes natural to their Orga counterparts. A widowed male reporter in Rouge City had a unit customized with red-brown hair and blue-green eyes. "Too bad they come already named," he says. "But I suppose it's the same way if you're adopting an Orga kid." Cybertronics has announced that it is experimenting with changing the names of the units, even customizing them with a name chosen by a prospective parent. However, "[this] requires additional circuitry and modifying the imprinting parameters," says Cybertronics of Manhatten's neurosystems chief Lambert Meroveque. "The imprinter has to call the unit by name during the imprinting procedure, therefore, these chips have to be reprogrammed with the new name. It sounds like the complicated process that it is, but it has to be followed. There have been instances where an imprinter has tried to change the unit's name which has caused that unit to become confused."

* * * * * *

*Keep Me Safe*

But this confusion is the least of the woes inflicted on DA units. There is a dark side to this new model. Police in several states report that child Mechas are more likely to be abused than Orga children, most often by a non-imprinted parent or a disapproving relative Some are left with their emotional programming corrupted from negative feedback and have had to be dismantled. Others have been 'killed'. One Georgia man routinely molested his daughter's David until the Mecha ran away from home to escape the torment; the Mecha was later captured by a Flesh Fair and slowly destroyed, hacked apart, limb by limb.

The CRF has protested the creation of the DA line and has tried to urge Cybertronics to discontinue it, but the company has no intention of halting production. The line is selling so well they have had difficulty meeting the demand.

Police have also used David and Darlene models in successful sting operations, tracking predators of children. "It's much better than using an actual child or having an adult affected by dwarfism work undercover," reports Marcus Grune, Chicago's chief of police. "We use unimprinted models, therefore the bot is less likely to be emotionally affected by the operations, and it hasn't had a chance to attach to one person. It makes them a little more gullible that way."

And it is this gullibility that some utterly unscrupulous adults have exploited in the most horrendous ways imaginable. Rouge City "Broadsheet" photographer and crime reporter Halloran "Hal" McGeever discovered a club in the city's Red Zone which featured at least five Darlene models availible for customers to molest for a fee. "The thing may only be a bot, and I hope this keeps some people from abusing their own kid or someone else's," he states. "But there's a limit. These bots just were not designed for that kind of activity." There are even reports of some procurers having sexual performance chips installing in DA units, but this has not been confirmed.

* * * * * *


Besides the CRF but for very different reasons, perhaps the most vociferous opponent to the David/Darlene line has been ARM operative and Flesh Fair impresario Kevin "Lord" Johnson-Johnson. Following the "Haddonfield incident", Johnson has stated in no uncertain terms that some child-less couples, on purchasing a David or Darlene, may decide not to have a child of their own afterward. "Why have a whiny brat [defecating] on the rug when you can have a child that never eats?" he has been heard to say, sacrastically expressing these couples' possible sentiments.

So far most couples to adopt a DA model have been those unable to have a child of their own for whatever reason., either from sterility or from lacking one requirement for their eligibility for a parental license. Some otherwise fertile couples moght purchase a unit, but but their names will doubtlessly not be legion.

Even still, these little Mechas are far from being perfect. Some have suffered mechanical failures from faulty hydraulics and actuators; others have contracted viruses and ahd to be reprogrammed. Cybertronics repair crews report that of all the models Cybertronics carries, DA units are the ones most likely to show up for repairs and to have regular service inspections, like a human child being taken to the doctor for a check-up. Very, very few have been returned to the company for dismantling.

Which raises the question, when the imprinted parent(s) age and pass on, what is to become of their Mecha children? Will they be adopted by some family member of the deceased, or will Child Services deem it neccessary to dismantle orphaned chuld Mechas?

And what of a child Mecha belonging to a couple which divorces? Will these changes fall into the range of the child's discernment? How will it affect that Mecha? What new custody issues will arise on account of the emotional neediness of the Mecha child? Will the child be shuttled back and forth between parents like an Orga child? Or, like the pivotal B1-66-ER vs State of Massachusetts of 2124, will the case be regarded as a mere property dispute?

* * * * * *

As well-intentioned as Allen Hobby's project may have been, it opens a whole new Pandora's box of moral conundrums and legal issues dealing with Mecha-Orga relations. It may even reflect negatively on relations between adult Orgas and their flesh and blood children. This may well become the ultimate in the "child-as-chattel" argument of the 1800s and it is not alarmist to realize tha the same attitude shown towards child Mechas may be applied, inadvertantly, to Orga children.

It is a question that will continue to grow even as the children it concerns do not.


Ms. Martin is a copywriter living in Rouge City with her widowed brother-in-law and her companion-Mecha, a Simulate City J-O-4679.