TITLE: Thinking the Unthinkable

AUTHOR: "Matrix Refugee"


ARCHIVE: Permission granted!

FEEDBACK: Please, please, please!

SUMMARY: As Monica spirals deeper into despair, Henry resorts to drastic measures to save her from herself.

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, Amblin Entertainment, et al.

NOTES: Part three of an unexpected trilogy of fics about Henry Swinton, who I think should get more fanfic treatment than he does: he's such a complex and very human character, who means well and tries to do the right thing, but then he gets overly rational about the things that need to be handled by his heart and then he messes them up hopelessly... Well, here's how I imagined he might try to get himself out of the tight spot he got himself into when he had Monica bring David back to Cybertronics and Monica chose otherwise... Some possibly Alternate Universe elements, and I used several elements/characters from the "Who Killed Evan Chan?" Internet Mystery Game.

* * * * * * * * *

The thought of what happened to David would not leave my head in the days and weeks and months that followed. Monica kept marginally functional the way she had following the onset of Martin's illness, but I knew she was bleeding inside.

Months passed. Martin's strength improved. We hired a tutor-Mecha to come in each day and help him catch up on the five years of school he'd lost. Old stories tell us about kids back in the 20th century wanting to have a robot to do their homework for them, but this wasn't *that* kind of robot. I know for a fact -- based on personal observation, no less! -- that Emilia did not tolerate that kind of behavior from her student.

I was assigned to a project team marketing the David and Darlene line, which must have been an oversight on the part of the project managers. I caught myself wincing and regretful thoughts running through my head when I should have been applying myself to creating a marketing plan for the very model I was supposed to have helped beta-test. And which I had failed miserably.

Of course, all the families that had tested various units of the DA line had to fill out a questionnaire about the test period. I filled out my portion of it almost robotically (!). Monica handled it with an almost preternatural calm, but you'd have to be utterly insensitive not to notice how much she suffered underneath this calm.

I worried about her. Losing David had rattled me, but I wasn't sure how she'd take it if I told her. I feared that if I did, she would think I was trying to minimize her pain. I thought I knew her well, but after we lost David, she seemed utterly changed, just a shadow of the woman I knew so well.

The few people I dared to talk to about this offered the usual well-intended but ultimately useless suggestions: Go on a long trip together (Monica had never been much of a traveller)/ Get her a Mecha pet (She really didn't like them and we couldn't get a real dog or cat since Martin was allergic to pet dander). Someone even dared to suggest we should try getting a second parental license and have another child.

Jake Glover gave me the most support of anyone around me at work. He blew off the most pushy of the interlopers with a well-place jest. Once, he caught three guys talking around the water cooler about "Swinton's self-made Stepford Wife". I happened to overhear that and it made me mad enough that I almost lit into the goons that had said it. But fortunately Glover got one step ahead of me.

"Aw, you're just jealous beacause you haven't found someone as pretty as Monica, or because you wish your wife would stay home with the kid so you don't have to make payments on a Nanny Mecha," Glover teased back.

Monica's cousin Natalie was at our hosue so much, she suggested that she ought to be moving in with us instead of with Glover; they'd seen so much of each other since the aftermath of David's disappearance that they'd started dating and now, just six months later, he'd popped the question to Natalie. She asked Monica to be her matron of honor; the wedding preparations gave Monica a welcome distraction from her pain.

Unfortunately, Glover didn't qualify for a parental license on account of his bad asthma. That made no difference to Natalie, who was not about to ditch her sweetheart over something like that. Instead, she came to me and asked if I could help her and Glover get a David or a Darlene unit. They were as yet undecided which one to get, but Natalie really wanted a David.

"Do you really think that's wise?" I asked. "Monica might have a fit."

Natalie's face gathered into a guache but disarming smile. "Oops! Sorry. I didn't think of that. But... I was wondering in that case, if Monica could imprint him and be his auntie. Has anyone done that?"

"You know, I don't think they have," I said. "I'll have to run that by Dr. Hobby when he comes here for our progress report."

"You do that. Maybe I can convince myself to get a Darlene instead," Natalie said.

A week later, at the next progress report, I spoke with Dr. Hobby about Natalie's proposal, running this new variable past him.

"That's a scenario we haven't taken into consideration," he said. "I'm not certain if the coding in the unit would support that, but there's one way to find out."

"And that would be to have someone imprint their sibling's or cousin's unit?"

"Yes. I'll have to talk this over with one of the other test families," he said. But I couldn't help noticing the preoccupied look in Hobby's eyes.

* * * * * * * * *

Three months later, Glover and Natalie tied the knot in a simple ceremony held by a brook at the Haddonfield Country Club. I was Glover's best man; Martin was supposed to have been the ring-bearer, but he had outgrown that role completely: since his full recovery, he'd been shooting up like the proverbial weed and now he was nearly as tall as Monica.

Glover's half sister, who worked in the Cybertronics Research and Development department, had invited Dr. Hobby; he had managed to take a moment to attend, bringing along Jane Sutter, a young female protege from the Computational Psychology department, and that male Belladerma unit that had been the last to see David alive. During the reception, I noticed Monica approach Dr. Hobby and talk with him for a long time. I didn't get most of what passed between them since I was busy chatting with one of Glover's college friends from AIT, an environmental engineer named Evan Chan, who was a very close friend of Dr. Jeanine Salla, the head of Computational Psychology for Cybertronics. But one thread of Monica's conversation with Hobby jumped out at me:

"... Are you sure you're looking in the right places?" Monica asked.

"We're quite positive," Hobby replied. "We've scoured the sea bottom for a ten mile radius from the last spot where Joe saw him. We've even searched the old amusement park on the sand bar that used to be Coney Island. We've found no trace of the amphibicopter."

"Have you tried spreading out the search area?" Monica asked, desperate.

"We're doing the best that we can, but there's a limit to how far we can search. He could have taken the amphibicopter out to the middle of the sea and been lost there."

At this point, Ms. Sutter approached Dr. Hobby and said something to him. But then she took notice of Monica.

"Aren't you Monica Swinton, the woman who threw away the DA prototype?" Ms. Sutter asked, coolly.

That did it.

"I didn't throw David away! I couldn't bring him back to Cybertronics, they would have killed him!" Monca screamed. "Can't you people understand that?! He was an innocent little boy. He didn't deserve to die!"

Ms. Sutter kept calm. "He was only a machine we asked you to beta-test. Much as you may think this outburst may prove your point, it only proves how hysterical you are and therefore unfit to keep a DA unit -- "

The Belladerma unit had approached the group, apparently attracted by Monica's cries of distress. He spoke soothingly to Monica and put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but she shook him off. He stepped back, his eyes going blank with confusion. But then he stepped back again, nervously.

Monica's hand swung out, wide. I watched, almost in a dreamy slo-mo as her palm struck Ms. Sutter across the face. Ms. Sutter's head swung to the side, her eyes widening with shock as she raised a hand to her cheek.

"Excuse me, Evan," I said, breaking off my conversation with Mr. Chan. I ran to Monica's side. She'd started crying by now. Ms. Sutter rubbed her face: already her cheek was starting to turn purple where Monica had struck her.

"Mr. Swinton, I suggest you seek professional help for your wife --" Ms. Sutter began, but Dr. Hobby interposed.

"Monica, we're all aware of how losing David has affected you -- " But it was my turn to interpose.

"Excuse me," I said, taking Monica's arm. "But the strain of the long day is just getting to Monica." I lead her away from the group that had started to collect.

"I'm sorry," She sobbed against my shoulder, once I'd taken her aside. "I wasn't thinking. What she said was so crude."

"It's all right, I heard everything that woman said to you," I said, loosening my hold on her. "Come on, Monni, let me take you home."

The commotion had attracted Jake and Natalie, who came up to us. "Hey, Mon-ster, you okay?" Natalie said, putting a hand on Monica's head and tilting her face to look at it.

Monica didn't flinch from Natalie's touch. "I'm sorry. I guess I'm just tired. It's been a long day, that's all."

"Someone from Cybertronics criticized Monica for the way she handled David, but that's putting it mildly," I said.

"That's terrible!" Natalie said.

"Hm, tell us who it was: we'll have their wedding present returned: damaged," Jake twitted, but his eyes were dead serious. "I'll go find Martin and tell him you're almost ready to head home."

Monica was still crying when we got home. The next day, I let Monica sleep in while I got breakfast for Martin and me. I left for work same as usual, but something in me told me to go home early. Martin was still at school when I came home, but Monica hadn't gotten up yet. I asked her if she felt sick, but she said she just felt tired. "I hardly slept a wink what with all the wedding preparations," she joked, but I didn't like the dull look in her eyes.

"Hey, you take it easy the next few days. Martin and I will manage," I said.

But it got worse.

A week later, she was still as tired as before. She got up just to make herself some coffee and to have some fruit and a sandwich, but she'd creep right back to bed. I came home one evening to find Martin hovering outside the door to her bedroom.

"She's not even really sleeping," he said. I went in to take a look.

She lay curled up under the bedcovers. Her eyes were closed, but I could tell she was only on that fine line between sleeping and waking. I nudged her gently: her eyes opened.

"Hm? Oh, Henry..." she said, stretching just a little. "I must have dozed off."

"Yeah... are you feeling okay?" I asked.

"Just tired..." she mumbled. "Just tired..."

This went on for nearly a month. Finally I called Monica's doctor, Ayanna Mbembe, who fortunately agreed to make a housecall since I doubted I could get Monica to leave the house.

Monica managed to stay alert for the examination. I thought after the blood test, she might wake up, but as Dr. Mbembe took me aside to speak with me, I knew Monica was curling up to slip into that half-doze again.

"It could be nothing worse than a flu bug with mild symptoms, or it could be a mild vitamin deficiency, we won't know for sure untill the test results come back," Dr. Mbembe told me. "But I've seen another case like this and it turned out to be narcolepsy brought on by severe depression."

"That's terrible," I said.

"I'm hoping it's just something organic," Dr. Mbembe said.

"So am I," I replied.

* * * * * * * * *

The tests came back negative for any vitamin deficiencies or mild flu bugs. Dr. Mbembe gave us a referral for a psychologist, Dr. Rosaria Valdeas to come to Monica for an in-home session. She spoke with Monica for well over an hour before she came out and took me aside.

"Monica's problem is somewhat psychosomatic, but I really think there's a physical link as well," Dr. Valdeas said. "It's a little beyond my expertise since it's a sleep-related disorder: something like this requires long term care at the hands of specialists, the kind that's difficult to give at home."

My heart dropped into my shoes. "You mean.... I may have to put Monica in an institution?"

"Not the kind you might be thinking of," she replied, with quiet reassurance. "I highly reccommend you take her to the Catskills Seaview Clinic. They've successfully treated dozens of people with emotional and sleep-related problems."

"I'll have to give this some thought, talk this over with the HMO," I said.

"Take all the time you need," she said. "But the sooner you do something to help Monica, the sooner she will recover."

It didn't take me long to think it over: the Catskills Seaview Clinic fortunately was one of several clinics affiliated with our health insurance. Monica just wasn't improving and I hated to see her suffering like this, so I decided to bring her there, after I ran it past her and Martin. Monica was reticent at first, but I think she realized something was horribly wrong with her. Martin didn't like the idea of his mom going away, but I told him what was going on with her.

"You mean she's all upset over that dumb robot?" he asked. "I hope the doctors at that fancy-named place can fix what's wrong with her. I mean, if it was me acting like this you'd be all over my -- all over me."

"Well, even if I was, if we found out there was something physically wrong with you, I'd apologize and make it up to you," I said. "This is the way Dr. Valdeas explained it to me: Your mom is so upset over losing David that she's in physical pain over, and that pain is so bad that her body is going on stand-by to cope with it, so she can't feel the pain and so she won't hurt herself to stop it."

"Okay... That sorta makes sense," he said.

A few days later, I brought Monica to the Clinic for her initial visit and consultation. I didn't know what to expect, but when we arrived, I nearly gasped in awe. The building was made all of natural materials, wood and stone and concrete, set in a natural dip between two hills overlooking the Hudson Estuary.

The director and chief physician, Dr. Kimo Hookamili, met us in the reception area. He was a small Asian man, with an incredibly slender, graceful build and a light way of carrying himself, like a dancer. We'd later find out that his great-grandparents had come from the island of Bali, a tiny country known, before it sank, for its graceful and ceremonious dancers.

He escorted us on a tour of the clinic himself. It really didn't look like a clinic at all: with its high ceilinged chambers and passageways, all lit with skylights, it made you think of a temple dedicated to some gentle goddess. A quiet broken only the soft sounds of indoor waterfalls or the rustle of small birds in the plantings in containers along the walls hovered throughout this place. In fact, the building itself might be sleeping, and the caretakers -- Orga and Mecha alike -- moving along in their night-sky blue garments, might be the priests and priestesses in the service of a sleeping goddess that dwelt there. Monica said as much to Dr. Hookamili. He smiled and explained that she had guessed one of the clinic's secrets: the climate in the complex was regulated by an AI called Aurora who, in a sense, was asleep herself.

The four wings of the clinic housed at the most, a total of forty-five patients, which allowed each person who came to the clinic the care they needed from the human practitioners and four therapeutic AIs, one assigned to each wing: Psyche, Eros, Loki, and Ariel.

"So the rooms... talk to you?" Monica asked.

"In a sense, they do," Dr. Hookamili said. "Each room is equipped with a two-way holojector interface." He opened the door to one of the rooms and led us inside. "Come, let me show you."

We stepped into a room with soft white plaster walls and a picture window that gave a commanding view of the river.The furniture was soft and simple, all made from natural fibers and materials: a couch like a pile of large pillows on a dais, endtables made from sections of carefully polished tree-trunks, a tripod table of glass and wood with a large, natural rock crystal standing on it. And on one wall was a small screen like a flatscreen television, on which played a moving image of a forest pond over which fireflies played.

"Ariel? We have a potential," Dr. Hookamili said toward the screen.

The fireflies seemed to join together in a growing flock, taking on a shape... and then, on a cushion below the screen, the holographic form of a young man took shape, a figure about a foot tall, clad in a long white robe like a monk's robe, his hood pushed back from his dark face. He looked young, no older than his early twenties, and yet his large brown eyes held a wisdom far beyond his years, with a gaze that penetrated you to your soul and carressed it tenderly, like a parent touching a feverish child.

He held out his hand in a gesture of welcome. "Greetings, and welcome to this retreat for the soul and the body," he said, in a soft, dark voice.

Monica peered toward the holograph. "Hello..." she said.

The figure turned toward her, a gentle smile showing at the corners of his mouth. "So you are the new seeker who has come to find refuge from the storms of the soul. I am Ariel: I am here to help you find the peace you desire, should you so choose this refuge as a place to be healed."

Monica smiled. "I think I'd like that," she said.

After the tour, Dr. Hookamili examined Monica, a process that took several hours. At length, the three of us met in Dr. Hookamili's office on the ground floor, just off the central atrium garden.

"Mr. and Mrs. Swinton, I have to inform you that the nature of Monica's illness is as complex as we had feared. This is no ordinary depression and I greatly doubt that traditional anti-depressants would eliminate the symptoms. In most cases of narcolepsy, the condition has been known to grow worse if the patient chooses to take that sort of medicine," Dr. Hookamili told us. "I suggest that Monica stays here at the clinic for observation and treatment for two weeks. If she has not improved by then, we can discuss long-term options."

Monica clutched my hand in hers, hard. "Doctor... is that really necessary?" she asked.

"It's in you best interests, Monica. It may sound selfish, but given the condition afflicting you, it's the best course of action."

Monica nodded. "My one concern, though, is will my family be able to visit me while I'm here."

"Yes, you may. Some couples even opt to share a suite, but this would be a challenge for you."

Monica looked at me. "What about Martin? What about your job?"

"I'll apply to be transferred to the Manhatten division. I'll find some place Martin and I can stay in nearby and we can rent the house to Natalie and Jake. Monica, I want to be there for you."

She relaxed her grip on my hand, then pressed it gently. "I'll do it."

We filled out the necessary paperwork. Once we got back to Haddonfield, I applied for the transfer; somehow I lucked out and I got the job within a week.

Martin didn't like the idea of moving, even if it was only for a little while. "What about the soccar team we're starting at school?" he asked.

I hated having to take Martin out of school, but I'd found a school just as good on Brooklyn Island, where we'd be living while Monica underwent her treatment. "It's only till your mom gets better," I told him. And I had to admit, I hoped that would be very soon...

* * * * * * * * *

I'd thought of another idea to help Monica, but I wasn't sure if it would even work, and testing that idea would end up being costly. I wasn't even sure if Cybertronics would allow me to pursue it, after our fiasco with the first David. But the oppurtunity presented itself when I had a business presentation to give to Dr. Hobby and the rest of the board of directors. I decided that afterwards, I would run the idea past him. The worst he could say was "No".

I was hard put trying to get him alone so I could have a word with him in private, but I managed to catch his attention from amongst a crowd of several other people all wanting a piece of his time. But he took notice of me and took me aside.

"Swinton, how have you been? I heard the news about Monica," he said.

"Well, she has a good chance of recovery, and the people at the Catskills Seaview Clinic are doing their best to help her. She's getting the best care for her condition," I said.

I'd happened to notice that the Belladerma that had been with Dr. Hobby at the reception was nowhere to be seen. I'd heard rumors that something had been transpiring between Dr. Hobby and that unit, but no one had been able to figure that out. Hobby had seemed fixated on that unit, according to the people who knew him best, and perhaps that fixation had had something to do with the fact that this Mecha had been the last to see David alive. I even ventured to ask him about it.

Hobby shook his head sadly, and his eyes filled for a moment. "He's gone. Joe vanished. One night we found the locks on the door to his chamber opened and the security droids had had their cubes removed. He vanished. We suspected anyone of several reactionary groups, the ARM among them, but they wouldn't have slipped in and out so seamlessly."

"But what about searching the area? Did you find any trace of David?"

Hobby shook his head. "No. There's not a sign of him anywhere. We've searched the sea bottom for a ten mile radius and come up empty-handed."

The thought I hardly dared entertain reared up in my mind. I couldn't keep it in check any longer. Now or never....

"Dr. Hobby, I was wondering if it was possible for us... for Monica and I to acquire another unit of the David line," I said. My voice sounded so articulate, I caught myself wondering if it really was my own.

Hobby regarded me in silence. "But, after all that Monica has been through, would she be able to handle imprinting another unit?" he asked at length.

"I think that just might be the cure for what ails her," I said. "Could it be possible for us to have a unit that resembles... the David we knew? With the same hair, skin, and eye tones?"

"That can be arranged," he said. But I noted a hint of resignation in his tone.

* * * * * * * * *

I took the down payment for the new unit out of my retirement savings -- 2,000 NB. The new unit woulkd cost 40,000 NB, but it was a price I'd gladly pay. I'd come up with the money somehow. The hard part would be explaining to Monica how we'd apparently gotten him back. But, for that matter, I'd heard that the CRF was lobbying D.C. to consider child Mechas a dependant, and therefore a couple who had adopted a David or a Darlene unit could collect a tax credit. That would make it easier.

I set it up so that our David would be ready for me to bring home to Monica in time for September 29th, her birthday, when she would be coming home from the Clinic for a visit. She wasn't responding to the treatment as quickly as we had all hoped, but perhaps the suprise that awaited her would speed up her progress.

The day she came home to visit, I brought her to the guest bedroom of our apartment. "Don't kill me... I love you," I said, then I opened the door.

She looked at me, then pushed open the door. She stopped dead in her tracks, looking at a small form that sat on the divan within. Then she looked at me, puzzled

"Is that...?" she asked.

"He was a bit beat-up, and his memory cube was so messed up they had to wipe it and reload his software. But he's in one piece," I said.

"His memory... You mean, he doesn't remember us?" she asked.

"I'm afraid not. They even had to overhaul his imprinting circuits." That much was true: Cybertronics had found a few units with faulty imprinting processing paths and had had to rewire them.

"So we'll have to reimprint him?" Monica asked.

"Yes." I took her hand in mine. "Monica, I'm going to do the right thing this time. I'm going to imprint David. But I promise you that I'll let you imprint him first."

She hugged me around the neck. "Thank you!" she said, with a happy sob. And letting me go, she practically ran into the room.

She paused before him, leaning down. "Hello... David?" she asked.

He looked up at her. "Hello, Monica."

We spent much of that week getting acquainted with our David. Then, on the sixth day of Monica's stay, she and I imprinted him. All through that week, Monica showed no signs of narcolepsy. I called the clinic and told her doctors about it. They told me Monica would have to return to the clinic for a release evaluation, but I told them I'd have to run it by her.

At first Monica resisted the idea. "If they could see me with David, they won't need to test me," she argued, but at length she agreed to go back to the clinic long enough for the tests.

"Will Mommy be coming back?" David asked me as I tucked him in on the divan in Monica's sewing room.

"Yes, the doctors just have to see if she's really well enough," I said. "She was very sick for a while."

"How was she sick?" he asked.

I was at a loss to explain it at first. "Well, she lost something that she loved very much, and she was a little responsible for losing that, so she got very, very sad about it, so sad that it hurt her very badly inside. But she's all better and the doctors want to be sure that she'll stay that way."

"I hope she's all better, Daddy. We'll have to make her happy so the sad doesn't hurt her inside again," he said. And he reached up to hug me.

The next day, I got the call from the clinic: Monica would need some monitoring, but it was nothing that a visiting nurse-Mecha couldn't handle. So the three off us, Martin, David and I, met her at the door of the clinic when we went to bring her home. When she spotted us, she dropped her suitcase and ran to meet us like she hadn't seen us in decades.

In fact, it felt like decades since I had last seen her that happy. She hugged David and I close, and she caught David up in her arms, swinging him around with delight. He giggled, happy, that happiness echoed in the light in her eyes.

Then the four of us went home together....

Some people are likely to find my action reprehensible, but is it reprehensible to want the person you love the most to be happy and free from pain? I have to be honest: I never thought I'd see myself telling a lie of this magnitude to help Monica get past her sorrow, but I had to help her. I had to do something, even if it was something unthinkable for me to do.

The End