Admitting the Inadmissible

By "Matrix Refugee"

Author's Note:

I've seen a few Martin fictions and Monica fictions, but I haven't seen any fictions about Henry Swinton, so I thought I would compensate some of the lack thereof. As always, this is somewhat sentimental, though I tried to harden it a little. Dedicated to my dad, Mike, for learning to accept my quirks; to Sam Robards, who excellently played the part of Henry in the film; to Laurie E. Smith, thanks for the review of "Zenon Eyes II" and the collaboration offer: I wrote this as a warm-up exercise for it; to fom4life, who got me hooked on "A.I" and therefore helped me get over my robot phobia; and to Mecha-huggers everywhere.


I do not own "A.I [Artificial Intelligence]", its characters, concepts, and other indicia, which are the property of the late, great Stanley Kubrick, of Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks SKG, Warner Brothers, et al, based on characters and concepts from Brian Aldiss's short story "Supertoys Last all Summer Long".

It's not easy for me to admit that it often seems the things that you work the hardest to obtain are often the things you have to work the hardest to maintain, and that makes it hard to let them go when it looks like you have to withdraw your hand and let them go.

Like most men in my line of work, like most of my fellow employees at Cybertronics, I'm a man of brains; but at least I've been able to know where to draw the line. I've known people in this company who have alienated their families by treating them with the same detachment they have toward the Mechas our company produces. Thank God, I haven't done that, that I've always done the best for my family, at least until now.

When we were first married, Monica and I tried hard to get our pregnancy license; by some luck of the draw, we didn't have to wait years to qualify, but the wait still tried our patience. We almost despaired, but then the papers went through. That was the happiest day of our married life, but for me, it paled by contrast with the day three months later when Monica called me from her gynecologist's office to tell me the good news.

I'm not like most men in robotics; for me, it's family first, job second. When Martin was born, I took the longest paternity leave I could afford: a whole three months, just so the three of us could be together. You'd think someone like me, who sees things "come to life" everyday would get hardened, but holding Martin when he was just minutes old made me realize what being a father really meant, what a burden of joy and responsibility had been placed in my hands. I just hoped I was man enough for the task.

As Martin got bigger, he got to be more of a buddy, but I often felt a sense of awe as I watched him grow and play and learn over the years. Here was this little person, this bright little guy Monica and I had brought into the world. You'd say we spoilt him a bit, and I admit I went a little crazy with the digital camera around him, but I knew when to be firm with him. Monica relied on Teddy a little too much in keeping an eye on him; you had to take a direct approach with Martin, and I used this as was needed. He had a strong streak of mischief in him and he could get lazy with his homework and his chores, but he's a good kid overall.

You'd say we had a perfect life: we lived in a nice little gated community in Hartsford, New Jersey, within easy commuting distance from Cybertronics' New Jersey plant in Haddonfield where I had a good job as a director of design; there was a good school in town for Martin and plenty of cultural activities for Monica. You'd say we had it great.

Maybe that's why all this happened, why Martin got sick. Maybe this was a wakeup call for us, that we weren't completely in control of our existence, that there is a thing called fate or destiny that throws a glitch into the code to remind us we aren't gods.

It started out small. Martin woke up feverish and chilly one morning; Monica prudently kept him home form school: it was probably just a cold, but it was a good idea to keep him out of the winter rain.

But the next day, even though we gave him the OTC sulfa drugs, he wasn't any better. By the end of the week, he'd slipped into unconsciousness. We brought him to the hospital; the doctors ran a few tests and broke the bad news to us: it was Werner's Syndrome, resulting from a severe allergic-type reaction to the sulfa drugs. In adults it was deadly, but in children it could linger for years. There were treatments, but these had produced only spotty results.

We tried everything available, but nothing worked. Other treatments were in the experimental stages, but it could be years before they could be tried on volunteers. Our one option left was to put Martin in cryogenic stasis until the experimental treatments became available.

I knew this devastated Monica, but I took it on myself to be the strong one. But days came, I'll admit, that when no one was looking, I had to tuck my head and cry. I started crying harder when I realized the irony, the times when I'd told Martin that big boys don't cry. I promised myself I'd never say this to him again when he recovered. If he ever recovered.

I read everything I could get my hands on about this disease. I'd go online for hours after work and run searches on any new treatment that came to light. I'd talk to Monica about it, but she listen with only one ear. We visited the cryogenics center twice a week. I often accompanied her so I could talk with Dr. James Frazer, the pediatric specialist, about my most recent finds. I'd get so worked up talking to him about this new paper by Li-Hwang, or the treatment by Reichenbach that showed success in laboratory subjects that I probably sounded as if I had discovered it. I'll give Frazer credit for his patience, listening to me, month after month.

But even still, it could be awhile before Martin could qualify, and some of these treatments were unapproved. At least the treatments we had tried hadn't worsened his condition.

The months wore into years. Monica withdrew into a shell of routine. She had put away many of Martin's things, his books and toys, but then she unpacked them and rearranged them in his room. She brought some of his favorite books to the ward, along with her MP3 player; she'd sit beside Martin's crypt, reading aloud to him and playing hours of the light classical music she played for him when he was little. It was as if she were trying to bring back some of what had been. If we could find the right treatment, she wouldn't have to do this. We'd have Martin home, terrorizing Teddy and his other Supertoys.

Four years passed like this. We tried several drugs as they became available, but to no avail. One day in mid-spring, during a visit, when I was talking Frazer's ear off for the thousandth time, he calmly told me the one thing I didn't want to hear. Martin was possibly beyond the reach of medicine, but I still had to keep my grip on Monica. He'd seen too many other couples who'd put too much faith in science and wasted too much energy trying to find the right treatment, to the neglect of maintaining their relationship with each other, only to have it fall apart when their child slipped beyond the reach of man and medicine.

Martin may only be pending, for healing or collapse, but Monica was still there, and she needed my care as much as Martin did. Maybe even more than he did. She had to find some useful outlet for her repressed maternal instincts and some way to let herself grieve.

I tried to encourage her to take up babysitting some of our neighbors' kids, to give their mothers a break, but she shrugged off the suggestion. Having another child, even illegally, was out of the question. Even if Martin died, it could be years before we could get another license.

I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't admit that I sometimes buried myself in my work, like many other parents of children with Werner's Syndrome. I found an online support group, which I tried to get Monica to join, but she found some excuse to avoid it. I really couldn't blame her; a few callous types came on to scoff at the pain of the others—probably those in the worst denial of their grief—but even then, the group pulled together to defend each other and literally drove out the scoffers. Seeing this would have made her feel better.

But without my trying to force the issue, my work provided a means for one of us to heal and move on. Some of my coworkers had teased me, suggesting I try one of the new lover Mechas coming out, but I neither needed nor wanted anything like that. No, this would be something Monica and I could both utilize.

A memo came down from Cybertronics headquarters in what was left of the towers in Manhattan. A top-secret team had been hard at work on some project we'd heard whispers and rumors about for nearly two years. But now the prototype of a completely new line of Mechas had been constructed and programmed and was ready for field-testing. Glover, one of my assistants, kept dropping hints that I might be considered as a possible field tester, not just me, but Monica as well. There had been talk that Manhattan had been working on a Mecha that could love—not a lover-Mecha, there were plenty of those; but a robot programmed to love, like the love of a child for a parent. The Director himself had overseen the project at every phase; it was his brainchild, but little was revealed of what it actually was.

I agreed to help if I—we, rather, were chosen. I didn't get my hopes up too high, not a hard task if you think about it. I'd done it a dozen times with all the treatments we'd tried on Martin. You might say I was practiced.

One day in April, an official memo came to my desk. No less than Dr. Alan Hobby himself had personally sent for me to go to come up to Manhattan; he had personally selected me to test the new prototype. I had every freedom to accept or decline if I felt I couldn't handle it, but I should at least go to see the new prototype.

There was time enough for me to decide. I almost divulged the secret to Monica when I came home from work, but I decided to keep it a secret as well. I merely told her that I'd have to go up to Manhattan the next day and I might not be back till later.

Next morning, Glover and I took a company amphibicopter to Manhattan. All the way there, Glover kept kidding me about "the new lover model" and "Wait till Monica hears about what you've been up to behind her back." I tacitly ignored him, the only really effective way to handle someone like Glover.

Now I know why Hobby chose Manhattan for company headquarters: it's so hard to get to the Cybertronics building, in the heart of what was once the financial district of the city, that no one without a boat or an amphibicopter can disturb the labors in progress there, or infiltrate to swipe company secrets and patents.

Dr. Hobby himself met me in the landing dock and led me into the building, to his office.

"I'm sure you're wondering what we've kept such a secret from everyone," he said, offering me a wing chair in the library of the outer room.

"I have to admit I'm not alone, but I'd like to know why I've been chosen, of all people."

Hobby sat down in the chair opposite mine. "Swinton, I've read over your profile and your work history. You've distinguished yourself for the quality of your service and your lifestyle. Your coworkers tell us you are a principled man, not out for gain, that you work to make a living for your family, nothing more."

I shrugged sheepishly but kept my face straight. "I do the best I can for Monica and Martin." I was tempted to add, 'But what does this have to do with the project?', but I kept it to myself.

"I know you do," he said. "I've seen it. That's why I've chosen you for this." He rose from his chair and gestured toward the inner room, separated from the smaller outer room by a set of glass doors.

A secretary Mecha came forward and swung open the doors. Three technicians in white coveralls approached from the back of the room wheeling something forward, a chair it seemed.

They drew close and stepped out of the harsh white-gray light of the inner room to the softer light of the outer room. The shadow in the chair took on a form, a small form, a ten or twelve year old boy with blond hair and blue eyes, clad in a baggy pullover sweater and white pants.

He sat perfectly still, eyes utterly blank, lightless, dead.

I stood up, trying not to stare at it. I looked at Hobby.

"This, Swinton, is our new model. This is David."

"A Mecha child?" I asked.

"Yes, a child model, for the childless or those who have lost a child, or even those who want to relive their childhood. This can be a boon to our world, a chance for us to reclaim the innocence our cynical age has lost. But there's more to him than meets the eye: he has a gift, a talent, if you will, that no other Mecha has had before.

"You've been in robotics all through your career: what is the thing robots have lacked that humans possess?"

I thought over this carefully. It was a question that didn't allow a quick answer.

"I suppose," I said at length, "That would be affective emotions?"

He smiled. "And that is what we proposed to give to David: the ability to love, innocently, unconditionally, free from guile or cunning: pure love."

"To love," I repeated, looking at "David". As I looked at this little Mecha waiting to be awakened, I thought of Martin in his stasis crypt, waiting to be reawakened.

Hobby continued. "We have programmed and trained him with the knowledge and behavior he will need to simulate a child. The rest he can learn from you and Monica, should you agree to take him into your home. If you would rather not attempt this, it is your decision. You were our first choice, but you were not the only one who matched the criterion we set for this test."

"How is this unconditional love possible?" I asked.

"We made this possible through a means we call imprinting. By this, the child Mecha's parents would trigger two activation sites, one on the Mecha's forehead and the other on the back of its neck. The first would initiate the sequence, but it would override itself in sixty seconds should the parent have any hesitation before triggering the second. After activating the second site, the neuronal feedback trigger, the parent must read off in precise order a string of seven code words in their exact sequence. This initiates dormant circuits within the Mecha, forming a string of neuronal impulses that enable the Mecha to form a permanent emotional bond or imprint upon the parent who activates the code. Afterward, the Mecha would depend emotionally upon the imprinter, seeking emotional stimuli to reinforce its emotional responses and, at the same time, it would seek to make its imprinter happy through its behavior."

"Like a child," I said.

"It would be a perfect child, not without the emotional needs of a child, but also an obedient child."

"So would all the members of the family have to…imprint the Mecha?"

"For optimal results, yes."

"Has anyone tried this before? A robot that can love?"

"We looked at earlier robots programmed to simulate emotion, most notably a face robot from early in the last century, which a woman roboticist at MIT designed to interact with humans, but it didn't go much deeper than that. This robot responded to any human subject; it could not bond to any subject or subjects."

"But what would happen if the imprinter grew tired of this Mecha, or if something should go wrong? If this bond is permanent, what then?"

He breathed deeply. "In that case, the imprinter would have to return the robot to Cybertronics. The Mecha would have to have its memory centers removed and destroyed. We couldn't reuse the memory banks, for security purposes."

"Like a computer drive that's had top secret documents on it," I said.

It sounded like a good experiment, if nothing else. And it just might help Monica in the process. That would take care of two situations.

Still, I hated to admit it, but I didn't like something about what Hobby was telling me; maybe it was just me. He sounded too optimistic, too simplistic about the new venture. I knew, like almost everyone else in Cybertronics, that Hobby had had his share of pain, what with losing his wife and son in a plane crash some years ago. But I knew some of his pain resembled mine, so I decided to give his experiment the benefit of the doubt.

A robot that could love. I'd seen plenty of lover models over the years, but they had really only gone through the motions of passion and eros. But a robot that could love? I'd have to see that with my own eyes.

"I'll take him in," I said. "We'll do it."

Of course there were legal papers I had to sign first, which I read over carefully, making sure I got the gist of what the liabilities entailed. Monica would have to sign the same documents when I brought David home. That is, she would sign them if she would agree to the experiment.

Once I had signed the papers and the legal matters were settled, Hobby gave a signal to the techs.

They rolled the chair to a table that stood nearby. They lifted David onto the tabletop and laid him out on it. One tech rolled the Mecha's shirtfront up to the chin. I expected another tech to trigger the skin of the lower torso so that it drew back from the lower "ribs", but instead, the second opened the synthetic skin of the torso and clamped it open, as if they were performing surgery on a flesh and blood child. Inside, he looked no different from any other Mecha except everything was smaller, child-size: fiber optic threads, translucent chipboards, a titanium infrastructure that mimicked the human skeleton. Where his solar plexus would have been was an empty place; the senior tech dropped a battery smaller than my fist into the opening and closed a contact plate over it. He pressed a small switch and stepped away as the other techs closed the skin over the Mecha and quickly sealed it shut.

The eyes came to life first. They didn't blink, but they twitched. Despite the typical Mecha vacancy, life showed in them. His head jerked up and his eyes roved about the room, his head tracking with them more slowly.

His limbs twitched as he pulled himself up into a sitting posture. He stepped down from the table. One knee folded under him, but he kept his torso upright, arms spread as if to balance. Then he rose up on both feet, arms still spread, his spine straight, his posture perfect. He stood looking up at us.

"David, there's someone I want you to meet," Hobby said. He pointed his hand toward me. "This is Henry."

The Mecha's mouth curved in a boyish smile. "Hello, Henry," he said. He put up his hand to me. I reached down to him and clasped it. The palm was soft and smooth, like a child's. I'm no sentimentalist about Mechas, but I swear those big blue eyes looking up into mine took on a trusting look. His smile widened, showing his pearly little boy teeth. He might have been the ten or twelve year old kid next door, but for the slight synthetic sheen to his skin.

"David, Henry wants to take you home to meet his family," Hobby said.

"Okay!" I detected no reticence in his tone.

Hobby gave me a copy of the release forms for Monica to sign and an envelope of thick red plastic that contained the imprint protocol papers. The senior tech, carrying a case containing a couple changes of clothes in David's size, and he accompanied me back to the dock, where Glover waited for me.

As the tech helped David into the rear of the amphibicopter, Glover turned in his seat. "Aw, ain't he cute!" he cried. "This yer nephew, Doc?"

"No, this is our David prototype," Hobby replied.

Glover's eyes lost their mischievous twinkle as he looked longer at David. "No foolin'!" he gasped, with realization.

I sat beside David the whole way back. My impulse was so that he wouldn't be lonely and so I could get to know him better. But then I realized there was little to be said to him just yet, he was so new to the world.

His eyes scanned around him, at the earth below as we flew back to Haddonfield, but he mostly scanned my face. I tried to tell him a little bit about the world, but I ended up falling awkwardly silent. I wanted to tell him a little bit about myself, but I realized he'd probably do better finding it out for himself. I'd worked around these things since college, when I'd interned at another company, Companionates, and even before that, as a kid, I'd played with some of the crude early Supertoys. For the first time in my life, I had to confess, I felt nervous with a robot and it was the least likely to arouse nerves. Imagine feeling awkward around a child!

We got back earlier than I'd expected; I called Monica from my office. I couldn't keep the news from her, but I still couldn't tell her what exactly was going on, I could only let myself tell her not to leave the house till I got back.

She reacted to David as I expected she would: she was shocked and even scared. She rebuked me in private, but I saw her resolve begin to crack and crumble as her pent-up maternal instincts got the better of her and broke the shell of repression she'd built up.

I had to admit, it was hard to think of him as just a Mecha, he looked so natural, especially later that evening when I got him ready for bed. Once I helped him out of his plain white clothes and into the red check pajamas they'd sent along, he looked like any other kid, except he moved too well, too precisely, without the scamperiness of a real kid.

I stressed to Monica what was at stake here; I didn't let on to her what I thought David could do for her; that would have upset the experiment, the "placebo effect" if you will. But I stressed to her the implications of imprinting David: that it was irreversible, that if she imprinted and then changed her mind, that David would have to be brought back to Cybertronics, for destruction. I didn't choose the right words, as I found out later, much later.

But David did wonders for Monica, just by his being there. She started to unfold from that tight little wad of reclusion she'd balled up into. I cautioned her against taking him out much at first: he was a top-secret project, and Cybertronics didn't want too many people to find out about what the company was attempting. Besides, he had to acclimate to his new home surroundings first before we could take him into new settings. It was a little like bringing home a new baby, except the baby was the size of a ten year old.

She imprinted him after only a week. I thought it was soon, but it was her decision, and I know from experience that once she makes up her mind, it's almost impossible to sway her from it. There was no turning back anyway. She encouraged me to imprint him, but I kept putting it off. He was a good little guy, but I couldn't see myself bonded to him. He was a machine after all. You'd say I knew too much about him.

I hate to admit this, but it got to me. Pre-imprinting, David was okay, but post-imprinting, he was like Mama's little shadow. He hung on her every word and watched her every move with something like reverence, even worship, as if Monica were a goddess. Don't ask me why this bothered me, maybe it was because Martin had never acted like that. David didn't ignore me, but I sensed something less than congenial in his attitude toward me. Monica reassured me that David would show more interest in me and become just as affectionate to me as soon as I imprinted him. Much as I didn't mind having him around to help Monica pass through her rough time, I couldn't see myself imprinting David and then having him following me around like that.

In some ways, I was glad when she gave Martin's old Teddy Supertoy to David the night of the spring ball, our first real night out since Martin's illness. Not only would it give him something to relate to, Teddy would also keep him out from underfoot around Monica. Besides, if Martin ever survived, if he ever healed, it might be years from now and he'd have no use for Teddy.

Two weeks later, I got a call at the office from Dr. Frazer. Without any explanation, Martin's illness had spontaneously gone into remission. Martin could go home; he'd be under medical supervision for some time, maybe a few months to see that he didn't relapse, but he was better.

We brought Martin home the next day. He was in and out of a drowsy state resulting from the after effects of the cryogenics, but he'd soon come out of that, perhaps within a week or so.

I brought up the subject of David to Monica that night. Now that Martin had healed, perhaps we should quietly return David. The experiment was a success as far as I could see. Perhaps it would be a little soon for Cybertronics, but there would be other field tests with other couples.

She refused. David would be good for Martin, she insisted, like a little brother and playmate until he was strong enough to go out and play with his friends and go back to school.

I didn't argue with her. It might work. But after I saw the mild dismay in David's eyes when Monica moved about Martin's bed, I started to question the feasibility.

The tension mounted day by day, especially after Martin recovered from the aftereffects and started to move about. David behaved well enough around Martin, but he displayed the same sort of reserve he had around me. Martin seemed by turns perplexed and bemused by David, then he settled on regarding the Mecha like a human Supertoy. I would have liked to see him treat David a little better, perhaps not the way Monica did, but at least he could be little nicer to David; that might have been what caused David to act politely aloof around him. I said as much to Monica once, adding too quickly, "Maybe he would treat Martin a little better if we could get Martin to imprint David."

She only nailed me with a glare, as if to rebuke me for not following my own advice.

Things started to come to a head after the spinach-bolting incident; David had deliberately tried to damage himself. I tried to brush this off as a malfunction just to keep the record clean, but I couldn't fool the techs that repaired him any more than I could really fool myself

Then the following night, David crept into our room with Monica's sewing scissors and somehow nicked Monica's eyebrow. It's basic protocol that any Mecha that deliberately, by action or inaction, harms a human must be decommissioned and destroyed. I wanted to write off David then and there, but Monica insisted that Martin and he might have been up to some boyish prank that went awry.

A few days later, before Martin's four-birthdays-in-one party, as Monica and I were decorating the pool area, I brought up the subject again. Monica thought it was high time we showed David off to our friends and relatives who'd be there later; I thought it was best if we kept him out of sight, especially in light of recent events. But she insisted that he be allowed to join the party.

It ended up being the catastrophe waiting to happen that I expected. Somehow, whether it was a boyish scuffle that got out of hand or some short in David's programming, Martin nearly half-drowned in the pool when David somehow dragged him in, his lack of buoyancy worsening the situation.

That put a damper on things to say the least. My father and I got Martin to the hospital; Frazer decided to keep him overnight under observation, though there was no threat of Martin's dying. He recovered consciousness on the way over, but because his lungs were still frail from the aftereffects of his hibernation, he could still have some complications.

Monica and her cousin fished David out of the pool, a fact she tried to rub my face in when I got back. But I put my foot down to her then. David had endangered himself, had harmed her and now had threatened our son. I didn't fear for my life, but I didn't want to be the next target, though of course I did not admit this to her.

"You have to think of Martin now. He is our real son. He's all we can ever have," I concluded.

She gave in. She agreed to take David to Cybertronics the next day. I told her it was the only thing we could do: three strikes, and he was out.

Next morning at breakfast she gave me the silent treatment. I didn't bother to remind her about what needed to be done. I avoided the subject; anything else would be stating the obvious.

I told Glover, once I got to the office, that Monica would probably be in that afternoon, with the David model.

"Uh, oh, what go wrong with Robo-boy now? More spinach?" he asked.

I told him about Martin's near drowning the day before.

"Mmm, sibling rivalry gone overboard?—sorry, cheap shot; dang, I was gonna see if m' step-sister could qualify for one."

"It's better for us to find these things out now than later when the model goes on the market."

He eyed me oddly. "You sure it wasn't just an accident? Maybe if you'd taken a bigger hand in this experiment, the results would be different."

"What, are you trying to tell me I wasn't a man enough with David?" I said this somewhat jokingly, but Glover's face was dead serious, and when he's dead serious, I know he's on to something I've overlooked.

I chewed over this at lunch. Maybe if I had imprinted David, none of the near-horrors would have happened. I called down to the receptionist and instructed her to send Monica up to me right away if she came in at all.

I didn't hear from her, and the technical division hadn't seen her all day. At least there was a chance; maybe her resistance had given way, maybe some childish little thing David had done had made her change her mind. Or maybe he had seriously hurt her somehow…I tried not to entertain this thought.

I went home early, not sure what I'd come home to find.

The house lay in silence as I stepped out of the minivator that brought me to our level in the low rise. I walked through the rooms listening for movement.

"Dad?" Martin called. He limped from his room; he didn't need to wear the awkward Cyberbraces on his legs any more, but he had his shaky moments.

"Hiya, tiger," I said, trying to sound cheerful. "How you feeling?"

"Okay, I guess, but something's wrong with Mom," he said.

"Where is she?"

"She's in your room. She's cryin' and she won't open the door."

I went to our bedroom. The door stood shut and a light glowed on the latch, indicating she'd put it on smart.

"Honey?" I called. I rapped on the door. "Monica, open the door."

"Go away."

"Monnie, what's wrong?" I asked, using my old nickname for her.

"I said go away!"

I shrugged. "Well, I'd like to know why I'm being sent away."

I saw her silhouette against the ribbed glass. She threw open the door. She looked at me with eyes ablaze, but the tears that started to run down her face doused them. She flung herself at me and clung to me so hard she almost knocked me down.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"I couldn't do it! I couldn't bring him there. I couldn't let them destroy him!"

I held her. "Where is he? What did you do?"

"I drove beyond Cybertronics. I was all set to bring him there. But I just couldn't! So I drove down a path into the woods and left him there."

"In the woods?"

"I told him to stay away from Orga, to find his own kind and stay with them."

At least she hadn't destroyed him herself, though she could probably do that no more than she could harm Martin.

"Okay, okay, it's gonna be all right. I'll file a missing Mecha report with the police and I'll contact Dr. Hobby. He'd want to hear about this.

"But won't that cost you your job?"

I meant to say, 'It might be a very long time before I get another raise,' but instead I said, "Let's not worry about that."

I started to turn away to start making calls, but she clung to my arm. She looked up into my face. "What's got into you?"


"You sounded concerned about David."

"I haven't made up my mind, and this isn't a promise: but I'm considering imprinting David." I couldn't admit to her that I hadn't been involved enough with David. It was hard enough to admit this to myself.

Reporting David missing gave no guarantees that he would be found intact. Add to this: a Flesh Fair had entrenched in Barn Creek and there had been a rush of calls into Cybertronics all day from people updating their Mechas' licenses. Nothing was certain.

I made myself apologize to Hobby on the phone, for the mishap with David. "I think I may be most to blame for this," I admitted. "I haven't imprinted him yet."

"If he should turn up intact, I would advise you to imprint him as soon a possible," he told me. Then he asked me to put Monica on so he could hear her side of the story.

I could hardly admit to promising Monica that I'd imprint David once we got him safely back. She'd react to it too strongly and I'd change my mind. But I admitted to myself I hadn't been enough of a man and a father to this little metal boy. Even if he wasn't made of the same materials as Monica or Martin or me, he was human and he only wanted to be treated like a human. I just had to admit to myself that I'd closed my heart to him when he only wanted to enter it. I just hoped we weren't too late.


I may revise this in the future, so constructive criticisms are welcome and very greatly appreciated.

Literary Easter Eggs:

The callous types in the online support group—This happened to me when I joined a depression chat room on AOL. Some very sick person got on there and, after being basically polite at first, suddenly started using very abusive language and making rude comments about people's problems. Fortunately, everybody pulled together to defend each other and tell the wacko off.

"A face robot from early in the last century…"—This is a real robot, Kismet, built by Cynthia Breazal; Kismet basically consists of a metal frame head with animated eyebrows, pink plastic ears like a pig's, rubbery red lips, and big blue eyes that scan the room looking for the human faces or brightly colored objects it enjoys looking at. It sure doesn't look like Haley Joel Osment, but it's almost as cute in its own way. For more about Kismet, check out the book Robo Sapiens by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio