Poor Nora, my heart has always bled for her. She was always a fantastic scientist, and in her younger days she was the best agent
Skyway Patrol ever had. She saved the whole planet more times than anyone could count. In the prime years of my youth, as
embarrassing as it is to admit, I had something of a boyhood crush on her. I still have a copy of the swimsuit issue of Science Friction
hanging somewhere in my closet. That crush eventually subsided for a platonic, professional respect for her achievements. I can still
remember the first day I met her in person. She was giving a lecture in my university's robotics class. Her work had inspired me to study
the field, and seeing the woman in the flesh for the first time was one of the most exciting moments of my life.
She had shown us her latest creation, a robot designated with the name "Model XJ6." Clunky, beautiless and rather inefficient, XJ6 was by
no means an impressive creation by modern standards. But at the time, it was an amazing sight. It was a robot that could fully
comprehend (or at least mimic) human behavior and emotion. At the time, it was the most impressive thing I've ever seen. I met up with
Ms. Wakeman after the presentation, I completely embarrassed myself gushing like a brainless fanboy meeting his favorite comic book
artist when I met her. Could it be helped? The woman was the person I most admired in the entire field. I told her how amazing her
invention was, how revolutionary it was, I told her it was the most marvelous and inventive thing I've ever seen anyone make.
She stared at me longingly with a look of utter shock and confusion. I had been so busy raving at her, I hadn't noticed she looked
embarrassed, even a little upset. I hadn't noticed that she was sneaking drinks out of what appeared to be a whiskey bottle covered in a paper bag. She looked me right in the eyes, as if she had to explain to her delusional son that he was not a werewolf, and he would need to go to the hospital. "No, it's not." she stated bluntly, in no uncertain terms. "It's a piece of shit."
Her strong language took me by surprise, and I admit I was a bit in shock afterwards. But once she started explaining her feelings to me, I
began to understand completely what she had meant, and why she felt the way she did. In her career, she was one of only a small handful
of scientists who believed robots could be capable of sentience, and part of an even smaller group who saw any potential in the idea. Most
scientists believed it to be a useless exercise - robots were for industrial efforts and military operations. What purpose would sentience
serve in those situations?
As the years went by, it seemed she would always work twice as hard for half the reward. Perhaps robotics was a boys club and she was
unwelcome, or perhaps it was due to her unpopular ideas. Either way, it was evident she faced severe handicaps in the field for unfair and
arbitrary reasons. Even though she was ten years my elder, I had quickly risen to the same level in the field as her. It was never fair, it was
The drudging she had to do to get ahead in her line of work was humiliating and demeaning. She had to resort to using digging through
cadavers for her research. She had to observe deceased brains, study them. Their patterns, their workings. Unfortunately, by the time she
had gotten her hands on them, they were already most decayed and useless. The most important cranial functions were already long
since dormant. She was lucky if even half the brain-cells inside them worked properly. This resulted in robots with exaggerated and
insurmountable personality flaws.
She got a bit of a boost from reverse-engineering the leftover Cluster tech she had scavenged in her younger days. Unfortunately, those
roughneck thugs at Skyway Patrol had taken most of it. The simple-minded brutes barely had any idea what to do with any of it. Whatever
tech she was able to struggle out of their brutish grip was so damaged and broken by the time she got it that it was practically useless to
With all the unwarranted and arbitrary hardship that Ms. Wakeman faced so often, it was a quite an odd sight to see her so elated, so
joyous in that cold autumn afternoon. I remember the smile on her face, that ear-to-ear grin took me by surprise. I don't know if I had ever
even seen her smirk before. She was almost unrecognizable with a smile on her face. "I did it, Henry." she said to me, a giddy pride in her
voice. "I finally did it. All the years of hard work have finally payed off."
She had just come out of the alpha phase of her latest invention, Model XJ9. Her newest robot, supposedly, was the best one yet. Capable
of higher thought than any of the others. Her weaponry was also vastly superior to any of the other models, but that was almost an
afterthought to Nora. The government had paid for that in full, and given her free reign to use whatever Cluster technology she pleased,
after they saw how impressive the new model was. But her programming? Her intelligence capabilities? Those were all solely her
accomplishments. No one could take it away from her.
But as happy I was for Nora, and as well earned as this victory was, I couldn't help the various objections and doubts that boiled deep
inside me. Sure, a few other scientists had achieved what Nora had, but not at quite the same level she did, and not with all the setbacks
she faced. After the massive failure Model XJ8 was, it was hard for me to believe her work could have improved so dramatically in such a
short amount of time. When I first met the robot, my doubts only grew stronger. I met her at the second annual Tremorton Robotics
Convention. Apparently the year before there was an incident involving the Cluster, so I can't be quite sorry I missed it.
XJ9 was an amazing robot, everything that had impressed me about XJ6 was taken to it's most logical extreme with her. The fluidness of
her movement, the sheer level of sentient thought and intelligence she was capable of, even just by looking into her eyes you could tell she
was much better than any of her previous incarnations. More alive, more real. I embarrassed myself yet again when she caught me
staring at her. She seemed to feel very uncomfortable, she was so much like a real teenager that I suddenly felt like an old pervert for
staring. Her mother calmed her down. "Oh, that's just Dr. Vincent for you." she said in a giggle. "He has some real, er, 'social' issues."
I placed my hand out to shake hands with the robot. "Hello, you're XJ9, I presume?" I said to her. "Jenny." She bluntly responded. "Uh,
what?" I asked. "I go by Jenny."
My heart sank when I heard this. To anyone else, it would seem mundane. "Jenny" sounds rather close to "J9." So it's easy for one to
assume the name has an innocent, benign origin. For me, however, the name has much dark, upsetting implications for me. I used to live
near a girl with that name. Jenny Walton. She was a cheerleader, an athlete, a pillar of the community. Everyone in Tremorton loved her.
She had been in the newspaper several times for her charitable actions. Saving kittens from trees, rescuing people out of burning buildings,
even stopping a bank robbery on one occasion. She was almost perfect. It was just a shame what happened to her.
The break lines in her car broke down. They weren't cut, it was a mechanical failure. The coroner had ruled out any wrongdoing. Her body
was completely incinerated in the crash. It was a horrible, wretched sight. The entire town mourned for her, even the usually snide Crust Cousins were
struck. It was just terrible. I can remember every awful detail vividly. But there are two things especially that unnerve me: the first being that
they never recovered the brain. It seemed to be completely gone, incinerated, perhaps? The second being that the incident seemed to
happen just after Wakeman had deactivated XJ8.
The implication makes me wretch. It is a dirty thought, I try to push it out of my head whenever it comes up. But no matter how hard I try, it
still persists, and it still comes back. The thought keeps me up at night. I'm not sure how long I'll be able to live with this fear. Luckily, I
doubt I'll have to.
I am dying. A rare disease, no name, no cure. It's eating away at my kidneys, and the rest of my body is soon to follow. There is
experimental treatment available, but it is very painful. I'm too old now, I've lived too long to continue to fight any longer. Whoever finds this,
I beg of you not to take my words to heart. They are merely the ramblings of a dying old man, waving scandalous accusations around. My
words should be taken with serious skepticism.
And Jenny, if you ever manage to find this, all I want you to know is no matter what, your mother loves you. Everything she's done,
whatever that entails, it's all been for you. No matter what the truth is, I only hope you can understand.
- Dr. Henry Vincent, Robotics Expert.