Isaac: The Diary of Katherine Marie Gardner
Elizabeth Gormley 710 Gloria Rd. Seguin, Texas 78155
The Diary of Katherine Marie Gardner
by Elizabeth Gormley
Table of Contents
Crisis.....................March 12, 2092.........................3
Modernity..............March 13-17, 2092...................9
Thought..................March 18-21, 2092.................38
Truth......................March 22-26, 2092.................60
Mystery.................March 27-30, 2092..................82
Freedom................March 31 - April 2, 2092.........96
Revelation..............February 14, 2096..................101
In the year of Uzziah's death, the Lord commissioned the prophet to go out and warn the people of the wrath to come. "Tell them what a worthless lot they are," He said. "Tell them what is wrong, and why, and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don't mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong, and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you," He added, "that it won't do any good. The official class and their intelligensia will turn up their noses at you, and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky to get out with your life."
Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job; in fact, he had asked for it; but this prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question why, if all that were so, if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start, was there any sense in starting it? "Ah," the Lord said, "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up, because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society, and meanwhile your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it."
From Albert Jay Nock, Free Speech and Plain Language (New York: William Morrow, 1937)
Wednesday, March 12, 2092
Obscurity shields us no longer.
Late yesterday afternoon I visited Post Two on the Northeast perimeter of the colony. From this large outcropping of rocks one can see for miles beyond and not easily be seen. Off in the distance clouds of sand were being cast up from the frenzy of activity of a small number of recreational vehicles. Beyond them sat the larger campers which housed our unwanted visitors. At least we have been spared this onslaught into the heart of our community. For now, we still retain the authority to restrict entry into the colony. Even the civilian air corridors are being respected.
Two young men stood with me. David, twenty years old, and John, nineteen, looked grimly on at the intruders.
"Exactly how far away are they?" I asked.
David activated his visor. "15.4 kilometers. They don't know where the border is. We sent a patrol to convince them they're right on it. That was about a week ago, they've doubled in number since then."
"They won't stay very long," I said. "Right now we're a curiosity to them, but they won't see much from there and drinking water is difficult to get - especially by their standards. They will get bored and go home."
"But more will take their place," replied John sullenly. He had a complete dislike of outsiders. "They look for any way to get into the colony. We've already caught some bribing their way onto authorized vehicles."
"Most will not dare much more." I gave them Michael's instructions. "Send out a patrol daily as if you're inspecting the border. Have the patrol carry their weapons out in the open. That ought to discourage some would-be gate crashers and the sight of colony members should satisfy a certain amount of curiosity. But," I added, "for Heaven's sake, make it clear to your men they're not to answer any questions about the colony."
"Won't carrying weapons out in the open be another problem?" asked David. "They vid everything we do."
I thought on that for a moment. "Tell them about our endangered species program. The weapons are legal and only for protection."
"Endangered species program? We're the endangered species around here," mumbled John. "And it's not our program, it's the government's." He practically spit the last word out.
"They don't know that. Besides, they should be made aware of the dangers of roaming around alone and unprotected at night. That should keep them in after dark."
After a moment's silence, David suddenly asked, "What do they really want? Why are they here?"
I looked up at the two young faces as they waited patiently for an answer. We are different from the outside, that is enough to bring them here. But John and David know that, the curious visitor is nothing new. What is happening now is different. I took a deep breath and began:
"They've lost the ability to recognize what in life is worth living and dying for. They want to know if we have found the answer or if we're just another illusion."
"And when they decide?" asked John.
"I don't know," I answered. "I don't know."
John snapped his visor down over his eyes and said nothing. The three of us stared off into the distance in silence as the small vehicles rode aimlessly up and down the sand.
Truthfully, however, I did have some thoughts about our situation that I was not ready to express. The people out there in their comfortable mobile homes are not our problem. They are too small in number and can easily be controlled. There is also little chance they will move from the northeast corner - the main road in and out of the colony runs close by and drinking water is almost impossible to find except along this route. There are few roadways which run in and around the colony and these are just as easily monitored.
No, those people are not the problem. It is what they represent that is dangerous. They are the tip of the probe now turned on us. Everything we do, from the way we dress to the way we work is now being scrutinized and made public for the world to see and to render judgement. We have dealt with the Houses of World Government before and we have always managed to placate them, but this time a new element, one we have overlooked, has managed to emerge as a dominant voice in the Parliament and is now reaching into the Council itself. We have no control over this new group. Now we are being offered up by them as a sacrificial offering under the sanctifying grace of majority opinion.
And it does not matter what they decide. If they believe us to be a "dangerous cult", as I heard in one report last night, they will waste no time in destroying us. It will only be the method which will be debated. If, on the other hand, they find us to be the "honest, sincere, hardworking people until proven otherwise" some of our opponents are graciously granting us now, they will overrun us in the their belief that in order to regain their own feeling for life they must walk where we walk and do what we do. It will not work, of course. They will believe we have cheated them - then destroy or drive out what is left of us.
Those were my thoughts as I stood there - how could I share this with them? How could I not?
I did not have to. David lifted his visor and placed his hand on his friend's shoulder. He turned to look at me and said, "They'll never take our land away from us."
Our land. How strange those words sound to me. Our land. David couldn't have stunned me more even if he had reached out and slapped me across the face. But why?
When I left Post Two I found my one-man rider and discovered the security unit had been activated twice while I had been up at the lookout. The military have stepped up their surveillance; flyovers are now occurring every fifteen minutes. Though it does not seem likely we are in imminent danger of attack, pressure for action of some sort does appear to be building. I fear my husband, away negotiating with members of the Council, is not making progress.
Our land. My thoughts return to David's words. It is not that I do not understand the idea of property ownership. I agree with it, I support it, and given the current circumstances, I might even die for it. But I do not feel it. Not like David and John do. Oh, they know we do not technically "own" this land. No one "owns" land anymore.
John and David are part of the first generation of the colony to have been born here. This is the only life they know. They feel they are a part of this land. It has been hard work, too. Hard work for all of us. I have read about people like them: "They belong to the land and the land belongs to them." Is that the right saying?
But, I do not feel it. I have, as the other adults have, taught the children the concept of property ownership and how to respect it. For me, however, it has been a position, intellectually achieved and maintained. I
have never gotten close to it; never really had faith in it. Is it because I have always known how tenable our position is and how easily it can all be taken from us? I love our life here, but I have never allowed myself to become attached to it. Looking into David's eyes - I wonder if I was wrong.
By the time I had finished reporting over at security the sun had set for the day. The moon was close behind; a low hung crescent the children call the "moon cradle." It would set within the hour.
As I walked under the clear sky, lights in the small modest homes around me dimmed and went out. The day starts early here, well before sunrise, and every day, save one, is a workday. As I approached my home, I noticed Sarah's house lights were still on. I was not ready to go back to my own empty house so I stopped and activated her door sensor. The door opened and I heard Sarah's voice summon me inside.
"Katherine, come in, what are you doing out so late?" I explained our new security problems to her. She was sitting in her favorite chair with a thick wool blanket pulled up around her. Piles of papers, books, and boxes of memory disks filled every chair and the table in front of her; overflowing to the floor. I removed one pile from a chair opposite her and sat down. Fifteen years older than myself, Sarah Conroy has been my best friend and confidante for over forty years.
When I finished detailing my day for her, I asked after hers. She had spent most of it touring the colony with representatives of the World Association for the Advancement of Animal Rights (WAAAR).
"We did better than I expected," she said. "Of course, we've always tried to be prepared for this group. They can be downright militant when they want to be. I've lectured endlessly over the years to the farmers the need to conform to as many of their directives, especially to the Bill of Animal Rights, as possible.
"We had a few minor violations. One was over at the Evan's farm - he was going to deliver some of his chickens to the butcher tomorrow - well, instead of waiting to round them up in the morning they were already in the cages," Sarah chuckled softly, "it was hard enough explaining they were spending the night where they were, but when their destination was revealed, you'd think by the looks on their faces that I was about to stuff them into those cages. They all turned positively white.
"But by far the most ridiculous violation was - get this - all the hogs must have separate feeding and sleeping areas. I have yet to check this requirement, but I've been tempted to think they've made it up in retaliation for the chickens."
"Why hogs?" I asked.
Sarah shrugged. "I have no earthly idea. By the time this was pronounced a necessary and immediate change, I was about to lose all appearance of patience with them - I didn't ask for an explanation. You can be sure that in two weeks when they return and we've met all their standards, we'll still be in violation of something. They'll never forgive us for eating meat."
I nodded in agreement. "Or it may be that our crime is that we eat meat openly, we don't hide the fact that it's part of our diet. Last night I saw a news report which labled us 'meat-eaters' - as if that was all we ate. The fact we eat less meat per capita than anywhere in North America is for some reason irrelevant."
"Since when has the media ever let the facts get in the way of a good story?" Sarah shook her head. "I should talk, thirty years ago I would have been on the side of the Animal Rights people. Now, tomorrow I've got to explain to some overworked farmers that their pigs have to live as well as they do. I can just hear old Evans now, 'Why don't I just invite the damn things in and let them sit down to supper with us.' Such foolishness." Sarah dismissed the subject with a wave of her hand and a look of pure disgust.
"There are more important things to discuss. I received a package today from our friend. It didn't come through the mail, you understand." Of course, the mail would not be secure any longer. I understood.
"There's nothing," Sarah continued, "nothing we can get on this man: no arrests, no sex scandals - in fact, for all we know he's celibate - no false statements about his life anywhere, we can't even pin him for buying something on the black market and everybody does that." This man Sarah was talking about is the source of our current problems. Absalom Kerran has arisen as a charismatic political figure and has taken an interest in our small community.
"Sounds just a little too perfect to me," Sarah continued, "I find it hard to believe he's never found himself in a compromising position at some time in his life without a witness."
"What's his early life like?" I asked.
"Only child. Parents were never married and split up after a few years. He was apparently a loner as a child, never had many friends, spent his time reading. Our source says he quotes a great deal, from both the classics and the current trash - just enough to make those close to him feel they have something in common and at the same time show how superior he is."
"Why is he interested in us?"
"Now on that subject we do have something. It seems that one of his closest advisors is a lawyer named Edward Carlton. Think back, remember the Carltons?"
"Carlton. Yes, way back, they were here when we arrived. They stayed on a few more years and then moved back to Chicago. I remember their oldest son, Eddie, he was about ten years old when they left."
"He was twelve. Anyway he has some romanticized version of life here that he's passed on to his new friend. In his mind we've become something of a Shangri-La."
"If we're so wonderful, why didn't Eddie come back?"
Sarah shrugged. "I've been thinking about that since I read the report. If I remember correctly, the Carlton's were part of the original scientific team sent here by the World Agriculture Department. Howard and Edna Carlton were staunch naturalists, remember?"
"Yes, I do. There was a big blowup between them and the group I was working with about introducing very strong pesticides into this area. 'Strong pesticides', what a joke - the stuff we use now is a thousand times more potent to pests and far less dangerous to us. Back then, though, it was the other way around.
"I remember they threatened to report us to every government agency and private organization who would listen." I laughed, "Only problem was - no one was interested. This area was declared a 'dead zone', no one cared if it became just a little more dead."
Sarah stood up and began pulling some papers out of one of the piles around her. "Here they are: I pulled some of the memos and letters from their files. If you also remember they began to denounce the 'tone' the community had taken on. That's about the time Michael was heavily recruiting from inner New York City - remember Gray's group? - and I believe from somewhere in Eastern Europe. The Carltons accused us of putting human needs before the needs of the environment."
"They were right. That's exactly what we were doing. They wanted the land to evolve gradually back over a fifty to a hundred year period. They viewed our job as sort of overseers, helping the land where necessary. We wanted to make the land productive as soon as possible and that involved a great amount of human intervention."
"What's most interesting in the writing I have on file, is that over a period of time they stopped referring to these differences as 'scientific' and started referring to them as 'religious'."
"Again, they were right," I said. "Our view was and, still is, our needs have priority. We believe that what's good for us should be good for the land. The Carltons believed the other way around. But, since the land couldn't speak for itself, they were perfectly willing to interpret for us what the land wanted and we were to put all our concerns aside. When we didn't accept their priesthood, they left."
Sarah threw the files back on top of the pile. "That would explain why little Eddie Carlton never came back. It was perfect here while his parents were in charge, but he's probably been raised on the idea that 'religion' was responsible for them having to leave. When the colony became infected with religion, "it" destroyed everything. His family felt themselves immune to any ideas of a religious nature.
"This would be consistent with his friendship with our new nemesis," she continued, "who believes all organized religion should be stamped out. He has such a reverence for facts and figures that he believes all the wisdom of the ages should be constantly reevaluated in their light. He believes religion should be created and guided only by the current generation of living men and women; completely remade with new legends and myths from current events or those from the near past."
"And he's prepared to play leader this time 'round?"
"Of course. And there are many willing to let him."
"What is he so young, he doesn't think he's mortal? What does he suppose will happen when he becomes old and gray?"
"He's apparently been taken in by that group of scientists who believe they will double or triple life expectancy in ten years. He undoubtably expects a long reign."
"That nonsense has been around for hundreds of years - and not because anyone's lived that long. How can he buy that?"
Sarah shrugged again, "I'm only telling you what I've read."
"Well, it doesn't really matter, he can certainly do enough damage in a normal lifetime. That's been proven time and again. It still doesn't completely explain why all the attention is on us."
"No. But, even with a cursory look into our community someone from the outside would be sure to note how independent we are. I don't mean just our attitude, but how much the global and local authorities leave us alone. What better way for a group to launch a world campaign then to study how someone else has obtained autonomy from the WC ?"
"How dangerous do you think he is now?"
"That's hard to say. I think he plans to go slowly with us. He wants to learn all he can. I'm sure he's sure we have some secrets to reveal. I would suspect that he would like to have exclusive rights to those secrets - it would give him control over us and the government at the same time. But, I'm also sure that if this probe turned on us gets out of hand he's prepared to lead the charge against us."
On that pleasant note, I took my leave.
I took my time walking home. My talk with Sarah has confirmed my own view of our problem. We will not last, at least not here. The best we can do for now is to stall for time.
I sat on my porch for long time looking at the stars. Almost twenty-five years since we first came here. Twenty-five years of peace or as best as can be achieved in this life. It has been more than I ever expected.
Perhaps we have rested too long.
While I sat on the porch last night gazing at the stars, I fell asleep and dreamt. It is a recurring dream I have had on occasion since - well, a long time.
The year is 2052. I find myself walking down the crowded halls at the local public college I attend in New York. I have three weeks left to my freshmen year and my mind is consumed with anxiety over final exams and projects.
I stop in front of one of the biology department lab rooms. I must step over and around a young couple actively engaged in expressing their affection for each other. The young man - or is it my chemistry professor? - sometimes it is so hard to see in dreams - looks me over as I pass.
Once inside I find the class preparing for our last experiment of the semester. It is an old experiment in Mendalian genetics, one that students have been performing for more than a hundred years. I find my way to my lab bench. The right half of this bench has been broken and vandalized to such an extent that it is unusable. I sit to the left of the broken half at a work station that has been fixed with temporary measures.
I hold up to eye level a wide mouthed-jar that holds about fifty Drosophila melanogaster, or as they are more commonly known, fruit flies. (This is not a difficult experiment, our elementary school children perform it in the colony today. D. malanogaster have four pairs of chromosomes which determine their genetic makeup. One pair of the four determines the sex of the fly, the female has an XX-chromosome pair and the male has an XY-chromosome pair. By studying several generations one can show that the gene determining eye color is located on the X-chromosome.)
A student in front of me holds a cotton plug in his right hand onto which he has applied the few remaining drops from a jar of ether. With the other hand he pulls the cotton plug off his jar of flies and quickly replaces it with the anesthetized cotton. Not quickly enough, however, as a dozen flies escape into the air to join scores of others from around the room.
"Tom," I laugh at him, "you forgot to turn the jar upside down first. That way the flies swarm to the bottom of the jar and then you can plug them up without losing any of them."
"Oh yeah, right," he grins, shaking his head at himself, "I forgot."
The girl at the station to my left is simply letting her flies go. "Fly away," she whispers over and over.
"Not again!" exclaims a student to Tom's right. "Every fly I put under this microscope - just when I figure out what it is - it wakes up and takes off on me."
Dr. Forester, the lab instuctor, appears. He picks up the student's open jar of anethetized flies and places the cotton plug back on top of it. "If you would remember to keep this on, the ether on the cotton will continue to keep them under." He lifts his voice, "Remember, everyone, keep the jars plugged up or you'll lose your flies." He looks over at me. "What's the matter, Miss Nelson? Your flies don't look very sleepy." I get up off my elbows. I stand as tall as the professor.
Dr. Forester, balding and thin, always wears a stern expression on his face.
"I'm not sure, Dr. Forester, but I don't think I'm using enough ether. And there isn't any left in the jar you gave us to use."
"There should be more in the back room. Why don't you go and see if you can find some. There's a big cabinet along the back wall. It should be there."
I leave the lab and enter the back room. Looking around I feel a sense of excitement in being here. With the amount of vandalism in the schools, most students are not so priviledged to enter the storeroom unattended. Here I am surrounded by shelves of odd-shaped glassware and rows upon rows of chemicals and equipment I am only beginning to understand. My most cherished dream is to be found there. Here are the tools to uncover the secrets of life.
Finally, I make my way to the cabinet Dr. Forester described. It is next to a door that opens onto a hallway. I search the shelves. No ether. There is another cabinet along the wall to my right and desiring not to return empty-handed I search it as well. There at the top, wedged in between two containers, with labels so badly
damaged they cannot be read, is a brown jar clearly marked: ETHER. It is too far up for me to reach, so I pull a lab stool over and climb up. The jar is covered with dust. I wipe the top off with my hand and then shake it a little to see if there is any liquid left in it. There seems to be a little, so I get down off the stool and walk over to the nearest of two lab benches in the room. I run the water in a sink to wash the dust off the jar and my hands.
As I am doing this, the door to the hall opens and a man enters. Without giving any notice to me he walks briskly past to a sink at the other lab bench. I watch while he pours a greenish looking liquid out of a beaker into the sink. He is wearing a white lab coat like mine and is very tall; well over six feet. He has dark hair and light skin. His face, while seemingly relaxed and devoid of expression, is marked by deep set lines on his forehead and around his mouth, giving the impression of one deep in thought.
I reach for the towel dispenser - it is empty. I shake the water off my hands into the sink and make my way back to the classroom. As I walk I begin, absentmindedly, to try to remove the lid from the jar. It is stuck. As the jar and my hands are damp I cannot get a good grip on it. I am near the man in the lab coat: he looks up.
"Hello," he says.
"Hi," I answer. I try the lid again. Still no good. "I can't seem to get this lid off. It's stuck." I am trying to make conversation. I reach across him to try the towel dispenser at this sink. It is empty, too. As a last resort I wrap the top of the jar with the hem of my lab coat and try again. There is a heat source nearby, but I never see it. As I am doing this I am aware that the man is watching my actions with interest, then he glances over me towards the back of the room.
What happens next occurs in that strange slow motion of dreams. In one continuous motion the man grabs the jar out of my hands just at the moment I feel the lid give way. He pushes me out of the way and I fall to the floor. I do not hear, but I feel the explosion.
In my dream, I look up from the floor to see blackened pieces of something falling around me. The man is gone. That is what happens in the dream.
In reality the "man" lived. It would be eleven years after the accident before I learned anything about him, even his name.
It was Isaac.
What a piece of work is this Modern Man! How god-like . . . He is a self-subsistant being, continuously creating himself. He defers to no external rules, but monitors his world, situation by situation, seeking the self-expressing and authentic inner response. He has thrown down all authority from its seat, because he is his own authority. He tests all things and judges all things by the weight of evidence in the scales of reason. In sickness or any other adversity he casts away magic or miracle or prayer to rely solely on the latest technical solution available. For him all emperors are naked, whether god-like dictators or imperious gods. He is singular and alone. Perhaps (though this is not a universal article of faith) he is even without personal guilt, since evil has been finally tracked to its lair in social stucture.
From David Martin, 'The Myth of Modern Man', National Review, (New York: National Review, Inc.; Nov. 25, 1988)
Thursday, March 13, 2092
Michael arrived home late last night and none too soon. Security picked up a reporter nosing around Reactor Number One and they did not know what to do with him.
He looked tired. As I had expected things had not gone well. We talked as he ate an early breakfast.
"Right now it doesn't look as if we have any basis for negotiating. He wants this colony and he's going to get it whether we stand in his way or not."
"What does the World Council say?"
"They're terrified of him. He's got so much popular support - they won't make a move against him unless it's guarranteed to bring him down. By the way, did a group of Isaac's people arrive? They've offered to help beef up security. We could use their talents now."
"Yes, they arrived late this afternoon," I said. "Did you get to see anyone else?" I was anxious to hear what our allies had to say about our situation.
"Some. We were afraid to talk openly. There were Costas, Garcia, and Gregzinski. They're beginning to feel the pressure as well. I believe they have people advocating assassination."
"And make this man a martyr? It's too late for that. We would be blamed first and that would be the end of us. And no other group could take us in after that, anyone who did would create a new target. Besides, the power vacuum that would result would cause instability for everyone."
"I tried to emphasize all that to them. But, in many ways their leadership is not as strong as ours. They have elements not completely under their control."
"Does Kerran know about the plants?"
"I don't know. When we met he never alluded to them and, of course, I didn't. If he doesn't know, he suspects something - he's figured we've got something going.
"Anyway, he'll know soon enough when he gets here. He and his advisors will have the authority to go anywhere when they arrive here at the end of the month. We'll get no protection from the rest of the Council and less from Washington. Most are too involved trying to stay above water as it is and not a few of them will go down with us. They're counting on us - can you believe it? - to bail them out." He rubbed his eyes and stood up, "Speaking of bail, let's see what security has waiting for us."
We arrived at security headquarters and found the errant reporter in one of the holding cells. Michael asked me to observe the proceedings from the outer room.
The reporter was sitting at a bare table. He looked young, about twenty-five. Michael entered the room and stood with his back against one wall. The reporter barely looked up at him, then returned his stare to the wall to
Michael waited for what seemed an eternity before he began.
"I've been told you don't wear a transponder, Danny."
"What of it? You don't either."
Since 2058 anyone born in or who entered a hospital for any reason is implanted with a transponder. This device sends off a signal which carries the person's Universal Identifier - a number uniquely his - and is tied into the National and World Data Banks. Different authorities have access to varying levels of information about that person.
Although we apply with the birth of each child for a transponder, and many parents opt to implant the devices in their children as a safety precaution in the event of an emergency, all citizens inside the colony have the legal right to have it removed.
Indeed it has evolved into something of a right of passage into adulthood here. On the young man's or woman's thirteenth birthday, when that person is no longer considered a child and may be expected to take on adult responsibilities, he goes with his closest friends early in the morning to the hospital. With a great deal of fanfare contributed by the morning staff the young people are ushered in to watch the newest citizen have the transponder surgically removed - usually from under the skin on the person's left forearm. It is the first of a series of events that mark the thirteenth year.
Over the years we have been able to simplify the proceedure as one must have it implanted before leaving the colony for any reason - not our rules, but the world outside. The first thing Michael always does upon returning to the colony is to have his removed.
Transponder signals form the first line of security checks here in the colony.
"I want to see my lawyer," Danny, the reporter, demanded.
"I'm afraid that's not possible at this time," answered Michael. "We can provide you with a lawyer from the colony."
"Why can't I have my lawyer?"
"Because of certain sensitive information regarding your case."
"What am I being charged with?"
"Trespassing, right now. But, we may extend it to espionage."
"What? I didn't do anything."
"You were in a restricted area and you know it."
"I was only trying to get a story. You can't hold me for that."
"I'm afraid we can."
"Then I want to contact GNC (Global News Center), they'll send their lawyers."
"I told you that's not possible."
"You can't do that. I'm allowed any lawyer I want. I know my rights. My editor's waiting for a story. I've got a deadline to meet." He became frantic as he realized from my husband's impassive face he was not getting anywhere. "This kind of thing can't happen anymore. You won't get away with this."
My husband looked down on him, his face sad and tired. "Your editor may care where you are - we can handle that - but, no one else does. I'm sorry, son. You're just on the wrong side of this story."
The question: What are we going to do? We hear it everywhere, from everyone we meet. Even when it is not asked, it is the same question.
What we do now, as far as my husband and I are concerned, center on on the very reasons why we came here in the first place. It was the desire to begin again. To free ourselves from modern society, not from the machines which are always being blamed, but from the suffocating state. Like the machines man- made, but far more difficult to unmake. We were tired of being "cared for" and tired of a monstrous bureaucracy deciding for the individual what was best for him. We decided it was not working. We had to discover for ourselves what would.
Together with others willing to risk an early death for such freedom we entered the man-made desert along what was the border of North and Central America - areas burnt out and poisoned by the chemical weapons wars in the earlier half of this century.
We came here because no one else wanted this land, dubbed "uninhabitable", and we turned the land around. All success has a price: we always knew the day would come when others would follow who would not understand why we were here. We did not know the day would come so soon.
It is hard sometimes to determine exactly when one's life begins to change and to take a new direction. Most people, who know something of my life, would probably think it was Isaac who had the greatest influence on me. Certainly he caused the greatest amount of turmoil and, consequently, the greatest amount of soul-searching. But now, I as I look over the years, the event that marked the change of direction in my life and stamped it with permanence, was the moment I met Michael. Without him, the events which shaped my life might have lost their true meaning. It was Michael who brought focus and light to the darkness of those early days.
We met - as I will relate - under rather unusual circumstances. My life, at the time, had changed from one of total obscurity to one of frenzied publicity. We met: We fell in love: We planned marriage.
Everything seemed perfect, until one day I received some legal documents from Michael's lawyers. It was a marriage contract. It was unlike any contract I had ever heard of, and not knowing the best way to handle it, I
decided to visit my former social councelor, Sarah Conroy.
Sarah no longer worked for the Children's Society (I was too old by then to be assigned to her anyway), but I went to her with my problems now and again. This was the first time I had been to her new office. She was now a social historian for North American Social Services.
"Katherine, I haven't seen you for months. It's good to see you." I sat down in one of the fake leather chairs Sarah offered me and handed to her one of the brown bags I had been carrying.
It was a spacious office furnished in simulated hardwoods and leather. A large bookcase filled one entire wall and Sarah, who preferred hard-bound books to book disks, had filled it completely with those antiques; a very expensive and time-consuming endeavor. A large picture window faced the south and the afternoon light entered warmly into the room.
On a wall behind Sarah's desk was a plaque engraved with the following:
The Goal Of A Dedicated Teacher
To free my student from all prejudice.
To liberate his/her thought from all others: peers,
family, friends, and finally, most importantly;
Below this plaque was another which read:
Wisdom - Through the Pursuit of Knowledge
"This is such a beautiful office, Sarah. They must really like you here."
Sarah followed my eyes around the room. "Yes, just a bit better than my last one, huh?" Her last office had been barely the size of a closet. "So, tell me, Katherine, what's happened to break you out of your busy schedule to come see me. Good news, I hope."
I handed her a copy of the legal document on a memory disk which she placed into a slot on her desk. Seconds later she looked up at me with a smile on her face.
"It is good news, a marriage contract. That is good, isn't it?"
"You're the professional, that's why I'm here."
"Yes, but, Katherine, you're a big girl. You don't need me to tell you what to do. Have you told your parents? What do they think?"
"Are you kidding? They're beside themselves with joy. I think they thought I'd never get married. Dad thinks my education has paid off in a big way, not because of my work, of course. And Mom - she's so concerned Michael will change his mind before the wedding, she keeps telling me not to do anything to make him angry. I made the big mistake of telling her I was coming to talk to you. She nearly went out of her mind. They're totally impossible to deal with right now. It's a credit to Michael that he still wants to marry me after meeting with them."
Sarah shook her head, laughing, "I'm sorry, Katherine, I'm sure you have your hands full with them." She opened the lunch container in front of her. "You remembered the mustard, didn't you?"
"But of course, and extra cheese, too. I have an expense account now you wouldn't believe." We both laughed. Sarah has a way of making me feel comfortable. Even then I often felt that I could say anything to her. We opened the brown bags which consisted of what was once called the all-American meal: cheeseburgers, fries, and cokes. I took a bite of the cheeseburger and closed my eyes.
"Oh, this tastes so good. I haven't had anything this good to eat for over six months. Everything I eat is usually meatless and has to be on the 'National Food List'. I never realized how often that gets updated. And then dietary restrictions on protein, fat, and sugar amounts. Do you know percentage of daily fat has dropped another .3 percent? Some weeks there's so little around I want to eat I have to sneak out to find something. I don't know how Michael stands it, but I suppose it's what he's used to. I wonder if I ever will get used to it."
"If you do you'll probably live longer than the rest of us."
"Maybe, but I won't enjoy it."
We finished eating in silence. Then Sarah took out a cigarette and lit it.
"What are you doing?" I was shocked. "Are you crazy? Since when do you smoke?"
"Oh, sorry," Sarah said and hastily threw it into a waste disposal unit next to her desk. "I know how bad it is for my health, but I won't stick with it very long. Just until I've had a few promotions and let some supervisor talk me out of it."
I think one of the things I like best about Sarah is her quirkiness. Sarah loves people, she always has. And she has always been interested in their reactions to different situations. Back then she believed strongly in using a combination of anecdotal material and statistics to solve social problems. Unfortunately, the false notion that the correlation of two events necessarily dictated that one was the cause of the other - especially if it bolstered one of the department's pet social theories - still dominated her thinking.
So she was always running these little personal experiments and since one never was completely sure if one was a part of it or not, I approached this explanation cautiously.
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"You see, on my first work review here I found that my supervisor felt it necessary to write something negative about my work. It's part of the policy, everyone has something wrong with them, something they have to work on. So I thought: if I had a very obvious fault - such as smoking - would that take the criticism off my work?"
"And?" I asked.
"And it worked. My last review extolled my work and focused on my deplorable smoking habit."
"Don't you think that smoking will keep you from being promoted?"
"No, don't you see? Smoking is curable: talent is not. Now I'm talented and everyone gets a chance to iron out the defects. That way they all get a claim to greatness."
"Sounds crazy to me. I thought these were supposed to be the 'Halls of Reason'."
"Well, we're not perfect, Katherine," Sarah became slightly defensive, "we're just trying to get there. That's enough on the subject of office politics. Let's get back to you.
"I've been following your path to stardom in the news. Let's see, first you were given the Howard-Gardner Award of one million credits - the largest ever awarded to any scientist - for the discovery of a new strain of the AIDS virus; then the city's highest humanitarian award for donating half a million credits to your old school district; and now you're about to marry one of the most influential and potentially powerful men in the Northeast Sector. Quite a ride for your average city girl."
"Everything has changed, hasn't it?"
Sarah looked sympathetic. "What's really wrong, Katherine?"
"I don't know. You know it all plays well in the news, but I don't feel any different. I don't feel any better about myself and I don't understand all the attention."
"All right then let's start at the beginning. The HG Award recognizes you as a brilliant scientist..."
"Brilliant? I hardly think so, Sarah. I still don't understand what the big deal was. I saw something and followed through on it. Any colleague of mine would have done the same thing."
"That may be true, but you're the one who did it. And now you're a savior. Everywhere I turn there are reports that say that because you discovered this vaccine-resistant strain so early, a new vaccine could be found within five years and it should affect very few people."
"Maybe, maybe not. I wish people would stop speculating when there's still so much work to be done."
"Well, people want to believe this disease has already been licked. No one wants a repeat of the disaster that hit this planet hard in the nightmare '90's."
I nodded in agreement. I had a poor understanding of history in those days. Recent history, so I thought, went something like this:
In the 1990's the plague killed hundreds of millions and infected countless others. The old western-style governments kept this information from the people and spent their resources so badly it was years before an effective vaccine emerged.
As in all great disasters, natural and man-made, people turned to the family as a source of comfort and security. And because AIDS was interpreted as a primarily sexually transmitted disease, chastity and fidelity meant life. It also meant that the freedom and independence women had gained during the last half of the twentieth century were almost completely lost in the first quarter of the twenty-first as a state of mindless conservatism and fundamental religiosity set in.
This conservatism and its need to posess was also responsible for the outbreak of small scale wars that inflicted the first half of the new century. All warring ended in 2044 when the new World Council and Parliament were formed.
This was history as I understood it in 2063.
"Sarah, it's not the award that's the problem. Although, I can tell you it wasn't difficult to give up so much of it. I would have given it all away, but my family pressured me not to. It seemed such a ridiculous amount of money for discovering a virus. Kind of a joke at work. Anyway, I felt like a joke. It didn't take Michael and his family long to convince me to quit."
"When was that?"
"They started about nine months ago, just after Michael and I decided to get married. They said he needed me to help on the campaign and the usual stuff about conflict of interest. You know how difficult it is for most politicians' spouses to have any kind of job now. Anyway, it doesn't take a genius to realize they're also afraid of me handling infected blood products.
"I still feel some apprehension about it from them. We both took the standard AIDS tests when we got engaged six months ago. I worked three months after that. Michael's family feels I should take the tests again a year from the day I quit work and that we should wait to marry until then. Michael won't hear of it and has made it very clear to everyone.
"But, I think even he was relieved when I decided to quit. Everyone felt good about it. Everyone, but me."
This was not the whole truth, but at the time I was more willing to place the blame for all the hurt I was feeling as a result of some failure on Michael's part than on anything else.
In truth, the HG award gnawed at me. It is the most prestigious award in Medicine. It had been established in the early '40's by James Howard, the philanthropist, and Dr. William Charles Gardner, the man who was credited with heading the team that developed the AIDS vaccine. It was through the award I met Michael: He was Dr. Gardner's grandson.
The feeling I had done nothing to deserve the award - that indeed I was an imposter of sorts - was intense.
My original work was a long term study on the immune systems of AW (Artificial Womb) babies. I was researching the long-term health of the first and second generations of these babies - truly test tube babies - conceived and brought to full term in an artificial laboratory enivironment. A recent survey of these people showed an alarmingly high percentage of them had turned up with immune system dysfunctions. Many were sick and dying, on average, twenty years younger than the general population. My task was twofold - to discover if indeed they claimed a higher risk of ISD then the general population and if true, to determine if this was directly a result of their development in the AW.
As I began collecting information on these people, their biological and natural parents' histories (I needed to determine life style patterns in all persons the children might be influenced by, genetically and environmentally),
I began to see a pattern I had not anticipated. STD's (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) of all types were on the rise in this group, most occuring within the last ten to fifteen years.
Then to my horror I found eleven cases that had died with what appeared to be to be classic symptoms associated with the AIDS virus. Causes of death were being attributed to the various symptoms of the disease. I supposed at the time it was because doctors had once again become ignorant of this terrifying virus and were misdiagnosing their patients. This was understandable since it was general knowledge that the AIDS vaccine delevoped by Dr. Gardner had virtually eliminated the disease.
I then began collecting information on all patients on record with symptoms of the AIDS virus. It became clear to me I was witnessing a new strain because most of the patients had been vaccinated against the disease.
My drawing of medical information on people outside my original study soon came to the attention of my supervisor. I never hid anything I did and never felt the need to. If an epidemic was breaking out, I felt obligated to tell everyone. But not being an alarmist, I was cautious and determined to be thorough in my analysis.
When my supervisor asked and when I explained what I had found to her, I was shocked to find my materials confiscated and the study handed over to another research group. This was in order, I was told, that I might devote my full attention to my original work. At first I was angry. All that work I had done - taken away without warning - and with no explanation.
Subsequent events became more confusing. My budget was increased, I was given an assistant I had not asked for, and the publishing pressures that were always present were curiously lifted - just for me. Then came the award. It was all very strange.
"Anyway," I said, returning to my current problem with Michael, "since then it's been dinners, parties, the theater - something almost every night. Everything has been wonderful, like a dream, no worries, no problems - Sarah, why am I so unhappy?"
I got up and walked over to the window. The maple trees which lined Main Street had tuned color. The wind picked up and the street rained yellow-gold and red. So much had changed in a year. I felt tears forming and I fought them back.
"Katherine," Sarah began, "I know the award has caused a great deal of attention focused on you which your personality type is not comfortable with, especially when you don't feel you have done anything to deserve it - and the fact that you quit your job have both contributed to a sense of loss of identity. And then there's the fact that Michael has such a sense of his own identity - he's recognized wherever he goes because of the work he continues to do..."
"Sarah, please spare me that analysis. I've been over it myself a hundred times."
"I was just going to say that we both recognize these things and they are not what's troubling you. Another person might not be able to handle the stress, but you're stronger. The question is: Why are you marrying Michael?"
I sighed and shrugged my shoulders. Why, indeed? A vague feeling "something" missing in my life? That would not wash with Sarah. Even my past experience with men would not support it.
I had had several relationships before. Each more intense and eventually, more disasterous than the one before. The last one I had not even told Sarah about. I came home one day and found another girl in my room, wearing my clothes. "I thought we needed variety," was the explanation from my sensitive partner. I returned once - for my clothes - and to carefully remove one button from each of his precious status clothing. I took the buttons with me. Sarah would have chastized me for giving in to such a petty act of revenge.
My life was empty, and so it was with many of my friends. We talked about it, gave it names, and looked for ways to relieve it. We had our studies, our work, our hobbies, but nothing ever helped - even if we said it did. We interpreted satisfaction as obsession and sought it in things, places, and people.
After a time I gave up, retired to my work and my apartment. I found everything else meaningless.
Then I met Michael. I believed love involved great passion brought on by obsession. What I felt for Michael was something completely different; quieter, less violent. There was passion, yes, obsession, no. There was something else I could not place my finger on.
Would I willingly give up my life for him? I needed to test everything in those days. There were so few guideposts. I believed I would give my life for anyone - part of the proper ethical behavior I had been taught - but I knew I would do it grudgingly for most.
I was sure I loved him. But, why then wasn't I obsessed with him? Why didn't every waking moment begin and end with him? Wasn't that what love was? I was terribly confused - and how to explain this to Sarah?
What I did not realize then was that there was one important aspect of love I did not understand - respect. I had great respect for Michael and this is what drew me to him.
"I don't know. I wonder if I love him or I think I love him or even if it matters. I mean, what other man can offer me what Michael can? And it's not like I'm being swamped with offers. Besides I'm almost thirty: I want children: Michael wants children. At the very least we have that much in common."
"You don't think he loves you?"
I winced. "I think he does. Well, I was willing to believe it until he handed that marriage contract to me. I've never heard of such a contract. It runs out after five years and if one party doesn't renew it, our marriage is terminated. How convenient - not having to go through the process of a divorce, as if that's not easy enough nowadays. What's the point of it all?"
"And his explanation for this kind of contract was...?"
"He said it had to do with his family's posessions and holdings - so much legalese. I didn't listen much. He said he had no choice about it. I suppose is family is concerned about losing some of their huge estate in a bad marriage. I don't know, sometimes I just have no idea what he's thinking. When he handed me this - it's only three months before the wedding - I couldn't tell if he was uncomfortable about it or even if he had given it any thought at all. He didn't press me to sign it. He just handed it to me, said why he needed me to sign it, and then said that if I had any questions to ask his awyer, Al Ryan. I couldn't talk to him about this. That's why I decided to come to you."
"You're angry about it?"
"Don't I look angry to you?"
"You expected something else from Michael?"
"I don't know, I suppose so. Maybe a better explanation, maybe if he had tried to find out how I felt about it."
"Maybe an apology?"
"Yes, maybe that. It's like admitting defeat before we ever get started." I felt myself sigh heavily.
"You have to understand, Katherine, to him this is just a formality. Contracts like this have been around for a very long time, especially for families of position in society like the Gardners. It's become an accepted part of marriage: they're just being cautious."
"You think I'm making too much of this?"
"I think you're focusing on the wrong aspect of your situation. You must admit you have some unrealistic expections of marriage to begin with. The fact that your own parents married young and never divorced leads you to believe that that's the norm."
"I understand that."
"Yes, but understanding and feeling are two different things. However, there are real obstacles to your marriage and we should focus on these. The contract is just a symbol to you of your real problems."
I returned to the chair I had been originally sitting in. I admired and respected Sarah. She had a way of always getting to the heart of the matter, always trying to find the truth of a problem. I waited.
"Let me tell you what I've seen in the news. Senator Michael Gardner has left local politics to run for a seat on the lower house of World Government. He needs popular support and a lot of it if he's going to win over the
incumbant, Kevin Peterson. The Honorable Mr. Peterson has held that office for twenty some odd years now.
"Michael has a lot going for him - he's young, attractive, well educated. He's also the grandson of Dr. William Gardner, the man who saved the world with the first AIDS vaccine. But all that may not be enough. Incumbants don't get voted out of office very often.
"Now along comes Katherine Nelson into Michael Gardner's life. A lovely young girl from a low-income working family who's been given local - and not a little world - attention by discovering a potential threat to society. And upon receiving the HG award this very self-sacrificing person gives away half of it to her former school district to be used as a scholarship fund to open up new advanced positions for women at the local univerisity. This lands her the city's highest humanitarian award.
"Women's concerns are always big in any campaign and along with the media attention the wedding will undoubtably bring, Michael will have gained quite a political coup by marrying you."
My throat felt tight, everything Sarah said was true and the implications had been running through my thoughts for a long time. I had not wanted to face them. Finally I said, "Looks pretty bad, doesn't it?"
"You tell me."
I got up again and walked over to Sarah's bookcase. I pulled out one of the books and started thumbing through it.
I smiled to myself. "I remember when we first met," I began. "It was at the HG awards dinner. Charles Gardner, Michael's father, introduced him to me. He's really so charming, Sarah. I was so lost there - so many people looking at me and I was wearing this long dress and these stupid shoes that someone had convinced me were absolutely necessary. I was so clumsy. I'm not used to wearing clothes like that. I felt like a moose among all those graceful women.
"He was wonderful. I spilled a drink and he appologized for it. We danced and I stepped all over his feet and he applogized for that too. He said it was his fault for dragging me out onto the dance floor when I didn't really want to go...
"I know this sounds so trivial - none of it's important, really - I have nothing to offer in his defense except that, well, he takes me everywhere and there seems to be some proper behavior that I seem to be missing. But, no matter what awkward thing I do or say he refuses to recognize it. At first, I thought he was doing it simply out of courtesy, but now I've come to see that that is just the way he is. He isn't embarrased by me because it just isn't in his nature. He's sure enough for the both of us - and, I think, I'm actually becoming more confident in myself just by being with him. He makes me feel good about myself."
"Sounds to me like you are very much in love with him."
"I suppose so," I replied sullenly. I returned to the chair again with the book. "Who's Aristotle?" I pronounced it as if it rhymed with the word "total".
"He was a philosopher, a greek philosopher and it's pronounced 'Aristotle'."
"You've read this? It looks awfully boring."
"No, I haven't read it..."
"You haven't read it? Why did you get it then?"
"Katherine, there are a lot of books on that shelf that I haven't read. I'll get around to them. There are millions of books in this world and just so many hours in which to read. One has to pick and choose."
"I remember this name, I think. He was important, wasn't he?"
"At one time, he was. Today's philosophers have surpassed him."
"Then why read it?"
"Because he is quoted so much in what I read, I want to see for myself where he and others like him went wrong. I'm working as an historian now. Aristotle helped form the basis of Western Civilization which, as you know, has been the cause of most of society's problems for centuries. I've decided that if I want to do my job well, I must go to the source of the problem. I want to contribute to the betterment of society. I'm tired of having it all explained to me. It's time for me to extend my analysis into our deepest past to determine the root causes of today's problems.
"But, we are not here to discuss this..." She stood up, walked over to me, took the book out of my hand and placed it on the desk. "We're here to discuss you and your impending marriage."
"All right," I returned, "it's just that he and I are so different and this contract, despite what you think I think, is upsetting to me. And, there are other problems."
"Why don't you tell him how you feel?"
"I don't know - I guess deep down I'm afraid to confront him about it. I'm afraid I won't like what I hear."
"I think, Katherine, that you are listening too much to your parents' fears and that if this marriage is going to work, even for five years, you are going to have to be completely honest with each other. If something uspets you then tell him. He may not be able to do anything about it - take this contract, for example, do you really want him to give up everything for you?"
"No, you're right. I wouldn't respect him if he did. I know the difference between willing to give up something and throwing it away. He has to be independent of me, too." I knew my "interpersonal" lessons well.
"Well, there you go, then. He has no choice but to give you this contract and you have no choice, other than not to marry him, but to sign it. Now, why don't you sum up your feelings."
I took a deep breath. "Okay, I'm worried about whether Michael loves me and," I winced, "I'm worried about fitting into his life. I feel inferior to Michael's family and friends."
"Who especially makes you feel inferior?"
"Michael's sister, Karen. She'd do anything to embarrass me. I swear she and her friends have declared war on me. It's all so very subtle, too, and never in front of Michael or his father. I don't know, maybe it's all my imagination."
"One of Karen's friends would be a woman named Regina Greer?"
"She's one of the worst, why?"
"Well, I did a little investigating. It seems Michael and Miss Greer were all set to announce their engagement about a year ago."
"A year ago?"
"Yes. Then it seems someone else entered the picture."
I felt sick. "No wonder she hates me. Why didn't Michael tell me?"
"I'm sorry I'm the one to tell you this, but it's always good to know your enemies. You're entering a different world now, Katherine."
"That sounds ominous."
"It's supposed to. Money and politics, that's the Gardners' life, that's power. As much as we think our society has changed for the better, there's still plenty of room for improvement. It's a high stakes game, Katherine, and you've just landed in the middle of it. You feel insecure because many will want you to feel that way. Then they can control you. You've always been a nonconformist. Oh, not so much in your actions, but in your thought. You have the ability to use independent and logical reasoning. It's probably the attribute that most attracts Michael to you.
"For a politician to get ahead he must always be involved in compromise and conformity. Unfortunately, this will also be the greatest source of conflict in your marriage. But, don't give up. You must always question, dig under everything to see what is hidden there. You've got a great gift, Katherine. It's one of the reasons why you saw that virus where no one else has, - or if others did they didn't recognize it for what it was - I'm sure of it.
"As for Michael's sister and those like her, you'll have to learn how to fight them. Don't let them get to you, you're stronger then they are.
"Now, as for whether Michael loves you or not - that's something you'll have to determine for yourself." Sarah sat down again at her desk. "In the meantime, I can give you some good advice on how to handle this contract. Since it's here and you have to sign it, let's make the most out of it."
The door to Sarah's office slid open and a crude-looking android walked in. It lumbered stiffly over to Sarah's desk and said in an overly mechanical voice: "Your package has arrived." From somewhere it produced a blue oblong box - no markings, probably cigarettes - and set it on the desk. "Do you require anything more?"
"No, leave us." She quickly deposited the box into her desk then turned to her computer note taker and the document I had brought.
I watched the android leave. "The Service doesn't spend much on it's androids I see."
"No, they feel the more advanced androids are intimidating to our clients. Now let's get back to this or we'll never get done.
"This is fairly standard. There are some things here you don't have to agree to and there are a few things we can add. We'll want to be sure you're well compensated for now and for whatever lies down the road."
It took close to an hour to go over the terms of the contract and I remember I had plenty of questions though I have long forgotten what they were. I remember I agreed to meet with a lawyer Sarah recommended to me. Finally, I got up to leave.
"Thanks, for everything, Sarah."
"You're very welcome. After this is over, though, let's not let so many months go by before we get together again."
"Oh, I don't think that will happen. I think I'm going to be having a lot of free time on my hands now that I'm not working."
"Don't be too sure. You're marrying a politician, remember? You'll be surprised how filled your days and nights are going to be."
I turned to go. "Well, don't forget about next week," I said.
"What about next week?"
"The dress fitting, I told you."
"What are you talking about?"
"That was the other part of my message I sent to you. Didn't you get it?"
"I'm sorry. I guess I was so preoccupied I forgot. Would you, Sarah Conroy, in order to help me through the ordeal of matrimony, be my maid of honor?"
"I'd be delighted and honored," Sarah laughed. "And I'll start by saying: loosen up a little and start having some fun. This is supposed to be a joyous occasion."
"Only for the guests," I replied.
Saturday, March 15, 2092
The Food And Drug Consumer Action Group (FADCAG) has been buzzing around the colony for a week now. As with WAAAR this is a private organization, not a government agency. Still, they have considerable power among politicians high and low. There is little we can do to keep these and other professional protesters out. Along with the media these groups often serve as a vanguard for an official government investigation. We try to be accomodating and pleasant. For them - as with the media - perception, not truth, is everything.
As expected they worked themselves into a lather about our diet and insisted on calling everyone together for a public hearing on their report. We had it last night.
The leader of the group, one Alice Smith, opened with a short speech expressing her fear that we were doomed to sickness and death if we continued to eat the food we were producing and did not switch to the organic products and production methods approved by the World Government. We are not meeting the standards of the Poison Prevention Packaging Act, World Hazardous Substances Act or the Toxic Substances Control Act; among others.
When she finished there followed from the other members of the group the litany of toxic products which are used in and around the farmlands and ranches, the empirical studies proving their danger and the estimated cancer risks of each.
The people waited politely for them all to finish their presentation. Then there followed a call for questions. None were forthcoming.
After a few minutes of uneasy silence, old man Evans stood up and addressed the panel:
"On behalf of all the folks who live here I'd like to thank you for your concern for our well-being.
"I'm sure I speak for everyone here when I say we are all well aware of the dangers we've taken on - all sorts of dangers in this part of the world. Why last year alone a tornado touched down on my place and nearly tore half the roof off. The year before a hail storm wiped out most of the corn crop, and over at the Wittgate's ranch the same storm split a two hundred year old live oak - fell right through their barn, remember? (Many nodded their heads.) They lost some cattle and a lot of us spent the next two days repairing the barn. Like I said - all sorts of dangers here.
"Now, it seems to me I remember what organic food looks like and tastes like, though it's been a few years. I remember apples so small they looked like grapes and some years the harvest would be so bad the stores sold only apples that had been shelved way past the nine-month limit. They weren't fit for human consumption, all brown and soft - my pigs would have liked them, though.
"When I came here, the only fruit we could find was some old pecan trees and most of them were contaminated. It took some years before a worthwhile harvest came along. Ten-fifteen before the apples and peaches came, almost the same for the wine grapes - soil problems, you understand - and in the last seven years the hot houses have even been giving us bananas. That's something even the best stores in the east can't boast of - not since the fungus that wiped out the banana crops in most of the tropics. From what I hear only a few islands are producing now - in spite of the bans on the pesticides they need - and they can't keep up with the demand.
"Now I know what you're thinking," he raised a hand to stop the panel from interrupting, "you're just thinking of my health, that these government standards were set for a reason. If I remember correctly you haven't mentioned in your report of any abuses of the law - for scientific purposes we do have access to substances banned for most agribusinesses, but we have used them safely and under the research guidelines set by the World Academy of Scientific Research. Ain't that right, Banda? (Our agriculture safety expert, J. Ti Banda.) We don't sell any food outside our boundaries, so the risk is ours and ours alone.
"Secondly, I noticed from your charts and graphs that the pesticides you seem to be most concerned with are used in quantities still considered safe even by government standards. The amount in our food and found in the so-called natural environment are on the high end, but still well under the danger limits. We've got more to fear from the poisons left over from the Central American wars - we're still clearing out areas from that mess."
Evans pulled out from his pocket a big, red ripe Jonathon apple and took a bite. The sound reverberated around the room.
"Now friends, when I woke up this morning and came down to breakfast - lo and behold - sitting in the center of my table was a bowl of fresh fruit. (He held the apple up over his head.) Just like this apple here - no bruised spots, no freezer burns, and the grape-sized pieces in the bowl - is grapes. If what you're asking is to go back to the days of organic produce you might as well dig my grave right now and get it over with - it ain't worth living.
"You know, Miss," he said turning directly towards Alice Smith, "the human body has the amazing ability to tolerate all kinds of lethal chemicals in limited porportions. In my youth I, myself, studied a little about naturally occuring toxic substances and carcinogens. Let's see - for dinner I had steak - there's selenium in steak. In small amounts selenium is a good thing, but too much leads to paralysis and death. I had potatoes - no, that's no good - potatoes are full of cancer-causing chemicals: nitrates, oxalic acide, can't remember the rest. Maybe you experts know. I had a beer - no - ethyl alcohol's a killer.
"Should we go on a bread and water diet like much of the rest of the world? Bread's got formaldehyde and the water - well, you've got our water's problems all broken down on your charts.
"A chemical is a chemical - if I eat enough arsenic extracted from the pits of an apple like the one I'm holding then I'm as dead as if you'd gotten it out of a pharmacy. Tell you what - I'll make a deal with you. You all figure out how to elimate all of our natural poisons, and I'll consider organic farming once more."
With that he left the meeting room munching on his apple and drawing most of the assembly with him.
So much for placating FADCAG.
Under much protest I have ordered Michael to bed for several hours of much needed rest.
I have begun clearing out our files. Sarah has suggested that everything be made ready to... Why do I feel the need to continue this diary? It will be among the first things to go.
I found a news item about an old friend of mine, Stephan Valdez. I have not thought about Stephan for a long time: It shames me.
I met Stephan for the first time the very evening of the day I had my discussion with Sarah about the marriage contract. I remember that evening. It began with a fight, the first between Michael and me.
By this time I had moved out of my one room apartment and was living with one of the smaller (fifteen rooms) of the five houses that dotted the Gardner Estate. It was still called that even though the land was actually leased to the Gardners through the Government Land Distribution Agency.
The Estate ownership reverted to the state years ago upon the death of Michael's grandfather - his request. Property taxes were so high that virtually no one could afford to pay them except the very rich. Inheriting land had long been illegal. One could buy the property of a relative who died, but the sales taxes almost always made that prohibitive. Inheriting a lease was the accepted, unwritten,and usual course taken.
The reason I was living with Belinda had to do with what were considered old-fashioned, but necessary rules of courtship and marriage - Belinda pretended to something of a chaperone - which being the prospective wife of a politician I was expected to follow.
We were also supposed to work together on the wedding arrangements. Belinda ended up doing most of the work while I managed to tag along after her. Actually my stay with her was very pleasant: She was devoted to Michael and he loved her as well.
She was one of a handful of Michael's family and friends who tried to make me feel welcome. She took time to teach me how to dress and behave properly in my new role without resorting to lectures. She also spent time reviewing family history and showing me vids so that I could recognize them all. I believe I might not have made it to the wedding ceremony without her.
That night I waited in the great entrance hall of the Gardner Mansion. I wore a simple, elegant evening dress Belinda had picked out for me. Michael and I were to attend an opening at an art gallery.
Normally, I would have waited for Michael to come for me at Belinda's, but I was anxious to talk to him before we left and I did not want to do it in front of her.
I remember I began pacing the floor, thinking about the conversation I had had with Sarah that day. The more I thought about it the angrier I became. I felt out of control - entering a life with a man I was not sure of.
Why hadn't he told me about Regina? And why did it have to be Regina? I felt my face grow hot remembering the humiliation I had suffered from that woman. Regina took every opportunity to point out the differences between us and, in light of her involvement with Michael, many of those attacks now took on new meaning.
I have suffered this long enough, I thought. I had been uncomfortable and unsure of myself. The time had come to defend myself. I would be silent no longer.
When I had gotten to the point where I had made this resolution and had gotten myself pretty worked up about it, Michael entered the hall. Half of my resolution immediately melted away.
It has always been very difficult for me to maintain anger at him. Today his hair is graying and the problems of age are beginning to show on him, but he has never lost that look of royalty, of quiet assurance, about him. When I think of him I remember the stories of the great warriors, knights and kings my mother used to read to me when I was a child. My mother loved stories and passed on legends to me from all over the world.
That night, as always, he entered the room a young prince, dark skinned, large brown eyes; looking as if he owned the world and the world knew it.
"Katherine," he began in his lovely deep voice, "Robert said you where here." He kissed me on the cheek. In my effort to remain angry I pulled away from him. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"Everything," I replied. I found I could not approach him about Regina, the words would not come out of my mouth, so I did what other women in my position have done before me. I attacked him from an entirely different direction.
"I've been thinking," I began, "Maybe we are rushing things. Maybe your family is right, we should wait a few more months. It couldn't hurt and we'd get to know each other a little better."
"What's this? What will we know in a few months that we don't know already? I know I love you and I need you." He placed his hands on my shoulders. He looked so hurt and for some reason it made me angrier.
"Need me? For what - to help your campaign - to run this house?" I pulled away from him again. "Look at this place. It runs itself. Even if it didn't, where do I fit in? I don't know anything about any of it. Anyone from your staff - in your office or here - knows more and can do more for you than I can. You don't need me at all."
"Katherine," he said soothingly, "that's what the staff is for. You can get as involved as much or as little as you want. If you want more involvement in the campaign I can certainly arrange that, but you're doing a great deal as it is. I don't think you understand how important a function you serve right now. As for the house, Belinda can always help you there. You both are getting along, aren't you?"
"Of course, Belinda is wonderful. She has nothing to do with this."
"Then I don't understand what is wrong. Katherine, you're to be my wife. That means you will have complete control over this house."
"Complete control?" I said. "I have no control."
Michael looked puzzled. How could I make him understand? I searched around the hall and spotted a statue, on a small table, of a design I neither understood nor liked. I walked over to it and picked it up.
"I have control over this? If I don't like it, I can get rid of it?"
"Yes, of course, just say the word and it's gone."
I changed my hold on the statue and its life became precarious.
"And if I were to drop it?"
Michael answered quietly, "You may break that piece of sculpture and every other one in the house for all I care." There was a hint of anger in his voice.
I had achieved my objective - now he was angry, too. I glared at him and then at the statue. I wanted to drop it, to break it, to show him just how frustrated I was - but I could not open my hand. Suddenly my resolve broke and the tears I had been fighting all day broke through to the surface.
Michael came to me, removed the statue from my hand and placed it back on the table. Then he put his arms around me.
"I didn't think you were the destructive type," he said gently kissing my hair.
"I'm not," I managed to say through my tears. "Look at you, Michael, and look at me. Why would you want to marry me instead of Regina?" There, it was out.
"So, that's what this is about." Michael produced a handkerchief and handed it to me. "Let's sit down somewhere and talk."
We left the hall and entered into a small drawing room. He closed the door to allow some privacy. Then he sat down next to me on a small sofa and held both of my hands in his in silence for a long time before he spoke.
I felt fear rising in me. What did he have to say which could be so difficult?
Finally, he began. "I'm sorry, Katherine. I don't know who told you, but I should have been the one. It was thoughtless of me."
"Then it is true. You were going to marry her before you met me?"
"Why didn't you? She's beautiful, sophisticated, just the sort of wife you need."
Michael pressed his lips together. "That's what everyone said. This is very difficult for me to say, Katherine. I've been wrong about a number of things.
"I never loved Regina. I don't know why I was going to marry her. She wanted to marry me and my family wanted me to marry. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And then I met you."
I shook my head. "How can I believe that?"
"But, it's true. Katherine, I love you. You're warm and caring. I've never known a more beautiful or more intelligent woman than you. In fact, if you'll pardon the chauvanism, I never would have believed it possible for a woman to posess both."
"Then why didn't you tell me about her?"
"At first I was concerned when we met that if you knew I had broken off an engagement simply to date someone I didn't know, you wouldn't think very much of me."
"Then I suppose I didn't think much of it. I hadn't told too many people about the engagement with Regina. It didn't seem fair to her - I had already put her through so much. I truly am sorry, Katherine. It was my last thought to hurt you, too."
I started to cry again. Wasn't this exactly what I wanted to hear? I looked into Michael's eyes. If what I saw there was a lie, then it was a convincing lie. I put my arms around him.
Michael noticeably relieved, offered: "Do you still want to go out? We could skip it and do something else if you like."
I was not finished. The marriage contract still made me unhappy and following Sarah's instructions I felt the need to make this clear to Michael.
"No, we're going," I said, drying my eyes. "But first I've got something else to say to you. I'm going to visit a lawyer tomorrow to help me with that contract you gave me." Michael nodded his head - approvingly? - understandingly? Why couldn't I ever read him?
"I hate all this," I burst out. "It's such a ridiculous way to start a marriage - lawyers and contracts." Michael started to speak: I stopped him. "No, I understand all about it now. I know why it's necessary, however, I feel
it's important that you understand what this means to me."
I waved my hand about the room. "Nothing in this house is mine - not the furniture, not the things I buy for it, not anything you give me that's not specifically stated in the contract. You and your family have a claim on everything. I will always be a stranger in this house."
I waited for Michael to reply. Finally, he spoke: "I want to say you're wrong, but I've never looked at it that way before. I think of us as always being married." He paused. "What can I say to reassure you - that I will always renew the contract? That I'm willing to give all this up? They both say nothing."
"I don't want you to promise anything. I don't see any way out of this, either. I just want you to understand why it's been difficult for me, that I may at times be unhappy with this situation." I smiled at him. "But, don't you worry. I can take care of myself."
"I have never doubted it." Michael smiled back.
Years later Michael would reveal to me how he felt at that moment. He said, "I thought then that I was offering you so much, only to realize all I was giving you was an unfamiliar and uncertain life." It was then he made a promise that would change our lives and those of countless others so completely. It was the promise which would shortly bring Isaac into our lives.
"Perhaps there is something I can do. It's not much. Find something, anything, I don't care what it costs. Something to put in the house or outside of it. Something that could be yours and only yours. I'll put it in your name and when you see it, you will know it's yours."
It was an intriguing idea. "I don't have a clue as to what to do with that offer," I replied. "But, it's a lovely thought."
I noticed the time. "We have to go. We're already late."
By then, however, Michael had other thoughts. "This is not that important, we could bow out tonight."
One thing I was beginning to understand: If an invitation was important enough to accept, it was doubly important to show up. "Oh, no you don't, Mr.- I'm running for Parliament - Gardner." I stood up. "Let's go."
Michael stood up and offered his arm. "Yes, Ma'am."
We arrived about an hour later at the Holm Gallery in the upper Bronx. The area was still undergoing regeneration, but had come far enough along to be the newest hot spot in the metropolitan area. The event was to celebrate the opening of a major works exhibition of the art world's newest genius, Stephan Valdez.
All I knew about him then was a short segment I had seen in a news vid describing him as a major force in the current genre dubbed "The New Life Movement".
It was the sort of event to which anyone who was anyone had to attend. The mayor of New York, Richard Sifuentes, was there. I recognized some other local political figures, several HV and Vid stars, and a few other celebreties. The majority of people were unfamiliar to me. Michael, on the other hand, seemed to know everyone. Within minutes he was caught up in conversation with several people I was sure I had never met, but who seemed to know me intimately. I managed to disengage myself from the group. Soon after I spotted Ralph Lewis.
Ralph was one of Michael's head staffers and from the moment I met him I liked him. He was high spirited and he treated me more like a person and less like a piece of Michael's luggage than some of the others on his staff.
I managed my way through the crowd and, at the first available moment, indicated to him that I needed to speak with him.
"Ralph, I need your help."
"Sure, Katherine, what can I do for you?"
I'm tired of not knowing anyone. If it's possible I would like you to assign some member of your staff to me to help me learn the names of people I should know, why they are important, and any other information I should know. I'm terrible with names and faces, so I'll need someone with some patience. Can you do that?"
"No problem. It's a good idea and helpful to Michael's campaign, too. In the meantime, I'm available right now. Where do you want to start?"
"Okay, how about the man Michael and his father are talking to right now? Not Abe Fowler - I've met him. I mean the other one."
"That's Gordan White. He's on the board of directors of the Hanson Museum. Probably here to oversee the purchase of some pieces. He's very wealthy and prides himself as an art historian and patron. He's in his late fifties and the young thing next to him is his sixth wife."
"And he would give it all up in moment to be an artist himself." I added.
"Wouldn't everyone?" Ralph grinned.
"And over there - the woman in the green dress - I've met her, but I can't remember where."
"That's Claire Martin, wife of the Honorable Jeff Lee."
"Oh, yes, now I remember. I like her, I should ask her to lunch sometime."
"To lunch, are you crazy?" Ralph laughed heartily. "Katherine, you don't invite people to anything just because you like them."
"No, no, no. People will think you're up to something or worse, Michael is. No, I see I'm going to have to take over all your scheduling now."
"Sorry, what's wrong with Claire Martin?"
"Nothing's wrong with her, it's just her husband's politics and Michael's are one hundred-eighty degrees opposed to each other."
"So that's why we can't be friends?"
"Oh, you can be friends, at functions you are both invited to, but don't expect her to invite you to her house for tea."
"Wait a minute," I said. "You're telling me two women can't be friends because their husbands don't like each other?"
"It's very complicated, Katherine. Look, the real world and politics are very different things. If you were the one running for office instead of Michael I'd be giving him very different advice. Nobody looks at what the man does in his social dealings. In fact Michael and Lee are good friends, they just vote differently. You, on the other hand, are expected to draw certain lines concerning your social activities. Everything you do should reflect his policies. Getting too involved with Claire and her crowd could create the perception you're sympathetic to their causes and speculation that Michael might be as well."
"Sounds like the dark ages to me. Why should things be so different for women?"
"I don't know. But, look, in 2044 when the World Government was set up, twenty percent in the lower house were women. Most of them were appointed. After the first elections, in those sectors which actually held elections, the percentage was cut almost in half. Today, there's less than ten percent in the lower body and only five women in the upper."
"I didn't know that."
"Most people don't. Let me be very honest with you, Katherine. Being a politician's wife is hard, you have to learn to take the back seat and take it gracefully. If you want out - you better do so soon."
"No, I can do it," I answered with more assurance than I felt.
"Don't worry," Ralph smiled. "you're doing fine." He took me by the arm and led me about the room, pointing out this person and that, and giving me a brief personal history of each.
"How do you do it?" I asked. "I'll never learn all this."
"It's just a part of my job," he laughed. "You'll get the hang of it. In no time at all these people will be all too familiar to you."
Eventually we came upon a group admiring a large work of art. There was Regina, tall, bronze and as beautiful as ever. I considered avoiding her, but before I could steer Ralph away she spotted us.
"Katie, Ralph, come join us," she called. No avoiding her now. "We were just admiring this new piece by Mr. Valdez. Have you seen it, Katie?"
"No," I answered, "I haven't." I moved closer to examine the picture. It almost looked computer generated from afar, but up close one could make out small, even brush strokes. Moving away from it again I found my focus shifting and the smaller details of the painting seemed to grow and give way to larger forms. Figures loomed here and there among the shades of gray and blue. To me they were indistinct and I had no idea what the painting represented.
I do not remember much about the conversation at the time, most of it was incomprehensible to me. However, they all seemed to agree there was some great meaning in it.
"Katherine," said Ralph, "let me introduce you to the artist. This is Stephan Valdez. Mr. Valdez, Katherine Nelson."
"A pleasure to meet you, Miss Nelson," replied a man who stepped out from the group. He was in his early sixties then, with long grey hair tied at the back of his neck and large, pale hazel eyes.
Several new questioners gathered around him. I remember some questions which seemed to me to have nothing to do with art, such as one who asked at what time of day he actually did his painting. Stephan answered them all.
I was just about to excuse myself when Regina caught me and said for everyone to hear: "Katie, dear, why don't you tell us what you think of this work." Another chance to humiliate her rival had surfaced. "I think it would be interesting to hear what a woman of science has to say."
While everyone waited, I glared at her. She knew I could not answer that question without embarrassing myself. I turned my attention back to the painting. It was hopeless, what could I say? It has pretty colors? Regina would love that.
Finally, I sighed and said, "I'm sorry Mr. Valdez, but I don't know anything about art. I think your picture is interesting and, at the same time, makes me feel uncomfortable, but I'm afraid I couldn't begin to tell you why."
The silence that followed was unbearable: Regina looked extraodinarily pleased with herself. Thoroughly miserable, I was again about excuse myself.
"Miss Nelson," Stephan Valdez interrupted my exit, "in order to understand this particular piece you should be familiar with my earlier work. Here, let me show you." He broke out of the group and drew me away from the crowd. I did not need to catch sight of Regina's face to know what she was thinking.
Stephan led me to one of the smaller rooms in the back of the gallery. On one wall was a collection of small canvases all with his signature.
"Tell me what you see in these paintings," he demanded.
There were three still life paintings of fruit, several landscapes, two city street paintings, and an amusing painting of an art student's apartment with the artist and friends engaged in various activities - most of which had little to do with art.
"They're very good," I said. "They look so real."
"More real than the one we were looking at before?"
"Well, yes," I answered. I wanted to be honest, but I did not want to offend him. "I didn't understand the point of the other one, but these I understand."
"Just like old color two-dimensional photographs?" he asked pressing the point.
"Exactly, it's amazing."
"Garbage," he said, "pure trash. That's what they are."
"A painter makes pictures, illustrations only. These are pretty, empty things. An artist wants something more. Something to make the viewer think and feel about what he is looking at."
I looked again at the paintings. It was true, there was nothing to move anyone here. Technically, I would learn, they were perfect in detail, but they lacked something. There was no message to be found in them.
I said to the artist: "I must admit, Mr. Valdez, I've always been afraid of art. It has always seemed to be a world apart from anything I know. Just as if it were a language I didn't speak."
"Nonsense. Anyone can interpret art, that's the whole point of it. It's supposed to be universal, transcending space and time."
"But people I knew who studied art always seemed to see so much more in things than I could."
"There is something to be said about training, but what's important is how you, the viewer, reacts to the work. One doesn't need art lessons to feel something. Art is less an intellectual experience than a sensual one. Come, let me show you some other works more inspiring than these."
I willingly followed. I had never met anyone like Stephan Valdez. All the art students and teachers I had known at school had never made any sense to me. They talked in circles with little regard for the contradictions in their speech. This man did not contradict himself. He spoke clearly and purposefully. As he led me around the gallery he lectured on his own art and that of the many others displayed there, pointing out technical achievements of different pieces and why some where held in greater esteem than others. In short, Stephan Valdez knew his subject.
Eventually we made our way back to the work of art under which we had met.
"Now tell me what you see," he demanded.
I concentrated on the picture. "I want to say that it's soothing and gentle. The greys and blues are so beautiful and serene, but those figures make me uncomfortable as if some hidden danger is waiting for me. Am I even close to what you intended?"
Stephan laughed, "This isn't a test. If I were trying to describe something I felt with words, I'd be a writer." He laughed again and taking a pen out of coat pocket crossed out the words "untitled 352" on the card next to it and wrote "Katherine's Anxiety" on it.
"There, as good a title as any other. Ought to keep them guessing, anyway. Come on, let's go get a drink and watch the fun."
We went across the room to a refreshment table. A small crowd gathered around the painting. The buzzing and glances carried across the room to where we standing.
Stephan sipped his glass of wine with a thoroughly amused look on his face. "Mr. Valdez...," I began. "Call me Stephan," he said. "Stephan...why... um..." I did not know how to ask my question.
"You want to know why I singled you out?"
"Well, yes," I replied, "there are so many people here who would have loved the attention you've given me. I feel quite undeserving of it, I have nothing to offer you."
"But you have offered me something; your undivided attention for one thing and your willingness to learn for another. I could see from your first words you had few preconceived ideas about art and might be open to hearing me. Like a fresh canvas, I could create for you a way of looking at art. Those others," he said with a nod towards the crowd, "most of them already have such fixed ideas about what is and what is not art. I thought I'd get to you first. Besides," he said grinning broadly, "you looked quite the damsel in distress."
I think I must have giggled at that, "Well, yes, I was," I agreed. "Thank you, kind sir, for coming to my rescue." I even gave him a small curtsey. "But, seriously, Stephan, that is your painting over there. You should name it for what it means to you."
Stephan's expression became thoughtful. "It's no longer important what I think about it. While it's in my head and in my studio it's mine, but once I show it it belongs to the public. That one is already sold, I believe. The gallery will probably want to sell the card now that I've written on it. I've reached a stage in my career where the good, the bad and the indifferent are praised. I have no right to any of it anymore. It must be judged by time now." He suddenly brightened. "Do you know any Shakespeare?"
Taken aback somewhat by his shift in conversation I replied, "You mean like 'A rose by any other name'?"
"Do you know which play?"
"Shakespeare wrote plays?" I had read some short story versions attributed to Shakespeare and knew a quote or two from his works, but at the time I believed he wrote novels.
Stephan sighed, "'What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.' Romeo and Juliet, Act two, scene two." He looked so sad. "No, nothing is forever, Katherine. If a work of art is to survive past its creator it has to mean something on its own to those of the future, otherwise its function has ended. My work may inspire others, but eventually all things fade away to dust."
"I thought the thing artists wanted above everything else was immortality?"
"If Shakespeare can't last a few centuries how can I expect to last forever? It is a false hope."
"Then why do you do it?"
"There is only one question, Katherine: What is life? You try to find it in the laboratory. I try to capture it on canvas." He picked up an hors d'oeuvre from the table and tested it with one small bite. "When we both
examine our work and find it good I'm sure what we feel is much the same." He picked up another and handed it to me, "Have one of these cheese things, they're delicious."
The news vid is dated September 20, 2074. It opens with a display of sculpture, paintings, and HV work. It is all from one artist, Lisa Bridges.
A reporter appears standing in a large room filled with her work. He speaks:
"The retrospective exhibition of the art of Lisa Bridges opens this evening at the Whitestone Museum here in New York. That this young artist should receive so much attention from this distinguished and respected museum has set off a round of controversy in the art community.
"Lisa Bridges, as you may remember, was convicted of murdering her lover and mentor, the talented artist Stephan Valdez, at the height of his career six years ago.
"According to the testimony given at the murder trial, Valdez and Bridges had been living together for two months when one evening while Valdez was at his canvas Bridges came up from behind him and stabbed him in the back with a kitchen knife. As Valdez lay dying in his own pool of blood, the prosecution maintained, Bridges took the paints the older artist had been working with and ritualistically began painting the body and the area around him. Then she set up her own equipment and took several hundred holo stills of the great artist and his unfinished work behind him.
"When she finished she called the police and turned herself in. After her conviction she served two and a half years in prison. She was released last August.
"Why did she do it? Some say insane jealousy caused her to commit the murder. They say she felt her talent strangled by the overwhelming attention Valdez received for his work. Others said she performed this bizarre act in an effort to somehow absorb Valdez's talent, perhaps as some form of witchcraft.
"Whatever the reason, Lisa Bridges herself has never given an explanation. Now at this prestigious museum her art is being displayed; selected works from before, during and after her imprisonment are all here in this exhibit.
"The question is: Did she receive that talent she was looking for from Stephan Valdez? Is her work good enough to merit on its own?
"And even if she is talented should her crime be overlooked by the art community? Should all be forgiven? Did she pay her debt to society?
"It is even rumoured that the museum has some of the holos taken by Bridges the night of the murder and is planning to hold a private auction on them later this month. Is all this civilized behavior?
"Here with me now to defend the museum's position is its curator..."
Sunday, March 16, 2092
It has been quiet today. Even the news for the first time in weeks is silent on us. Of course, that only means a new story, another tragedy, is unfolding elsewhere. Last night, food riots began in Berlin, Germany. There is evidence they may be spreading.
Poor Germany, it seems a country destined to habitual violence. The last great German economic boom was more than fifty years ago. The World Council engineered its destruction - the fear of a strong Germany being it's official motivation. In ten short years it was destroyed and for forty more has grown slowly, steadily worse.
This has been the Council's pattern over the years, taking from the rich and giving to the poor in its great social plan. The problem is that instead of bringing the poor up to a certain standard of living, it reduces all to the same poverty level.
Where does the money go? The state takes a good share of it to run its huge bureaucracy. These tend neither to encourage production nor eradicate the problems they were created to deal with. Even if money was the answer to these problems each agency now requires sixty to eighty percent of its budget to meet its employee payroll, there is little left over to accomplish any of its objectives.
Many of the large global companies also manage to gain in these manipulations. They invest in unstable economies - with no accounting demanded of them - and are always heavily insured against loss by expropriation, currency inconvertibility (supposedly solved when every country went to the credit/debit system), and political violence. And the insurer? The taxpayers of whatever country which underwrites the insurance. It is a complex fraud.
Occasionally, however, a company falls into trouble by becoming too large or too powerful or simply a convenient target, then the wheel turns and it is brought down. Then individuals at the top of a company are often blamed for society's problems. These global companies which grow too large, like government itself, seem to take on a life all their own. Replacing the top management with responsible individuals does not appear to be the sole answer. They try to do their jobs, but find the company or state has thrown too many obstacles in their way. In the end they are defeated not by someone but by something they cannot understand.
The process is slow enough that here and there a nation or what was a nation - the interests of smaller ones are often overshadowed by larger or more powerful countries tied to their sectors - fights back to gain some control of its own destiny. The economy often follows and regains some of its strength. Then the cycle begins again - clamping down on what little has been gained.
No one is allowed to be independent as long as there are others who are dependent - true independence has now been equated with selfishness and greed. Oh, there is always talk of freedom, but no one seems to be able to define it. Every "new idea" seems to strike against it.
The idea of counter borders has been especially devastating. The world is divided into arbitrary sectors and each sector is designed with the intent to incorporate sections of two or more countries. For example, the Northeast American Sector has ten representatives which it sends to the World Parliament - it was one of these seats Michael was campaigning for. It is comprised of East coast states of the U.S. from Maryland (including D.C.) up to Maine and the Canadian Province of Quebec. Of course, the Parliament has no real legislative powers - that rests with the World Council, itself comprised of the heads of state of each nation - but, its function is to head off "border mentality". Its power lies in persuasion and not a few world leaders have risen from this body. The Houses of World Government have opposing purposes - and we all know what happens to a house divided against itself.
But for how long can this continue? Each cycle produces weaker and weaker gains. When will this madness end? When will the people of the world say: "Enough"?
More of Isaac's people arrived today. Michael spent most of the morning with them. We need the help. If we can expect to come out of this at all we need the best intelligence and the best analysts we can get.
Most of the world still call them androids; a misnomer at best. It is difficult to give them a name - they refuse to refer to themselves as anything but androids. What name they have chosen among themselves - if one exists - is not known to us. It serves their purposes now to use the word "android". People expect less of them.
I have told the story many times over the years of how I came to purchase Isaac, but I have never written it down before:
I remember Belinda and I were in her personal ground car on course deep into the heart of Pennsylvannia.
"I don't know about this," I began. "What will I do with it? Why don't we just go do something else?"
"Don't be silly, Katie. This is going to be fun. You'll see. Besides, once you've had an android assistant you'll wonder how you ever got along without one."
I did not answer her. I thought the whole trip a waste of time and money. I leaned back, resting my head on the side of the car door as I watched the land go by. Our destination, I was told, was to the largest of the three worldwide distribution centers of Antek androids, the most advanced androids in the world. Peter, our driver, was an Antek android. He was one of five of the Estate's security androids and usually assigned to Belinda.
It was October with the wedding a month away. Under Belinda's excellent organizational skills everything was coming together as planned. The invitations had been sent out and Belinda had suggested this trip as a way to get out of the house and away from wedding plans for a day. For Belinda getting away meant shopping.
She was a strikingly beautiful woman. Her oval face and high cheekbones were framed by a mass of auburn hair which she often wore shoulder length. She was proud of how she looked and spent a good deal of time keeping herself up with the current fashions. I, on the other hand, had never been much interested in such things. But, I had to admit that with Belinda's advice and encouragement my overall appearance had changed for the better.
Belinda had been widowed for almost ten years and while she never seemed to lack for male companionship, I had noticed that none of her relationships seemed to be more than platonic friendships. I found this curious, in those days of "free sex", but Belinda did not discuss her personal life and I did not ask.
I turned my thoughts back to our mission: the purchase of a female model android. I could not understand the necessity of it. Belinda only had the one android, Peter, and even then it was on a part time basis. All of them stayed at the main house and, as far as I could see, were hardly overworked.
But, Belinda had persisted. Michael's androids were all male models, she said, and they were not programmed for the kind of household functions I would find necessary. As for why she had only one, well she was "fortunate to have him at all." Shamed from having pointed out Belinda's dependence on others and remembering all she had done for me, I found myself agreeing to go.
We turned off the main highway, onto a smaller slower road. An early snow had fallen in the western part of the state. It was beautiful here, and because I spent most of my life in the city, I fell in love with that countryside. The sun shone strongly through the trees that lined the roadway and the snow melting on their branches left them shiny and wet.
The ground car made an abrupt turn off this roadway onto a private unmarked drive and we traveled on. Occasionally another car would pass moving in the opposite direction. Another fifteen minutes passed and suddenly the forest on the right opened up to reveal a large complex of long low buildings. We passed at least fifteen of them before stopping in front of one. Each building was similar in design and bathed in sterile white. There appeared to me no markings to distinguish one from another.
We stopped in front of one building and got out. Soon we found ourselves ushered into a large room decorated in a fashion, it seemed to me, more like someone's living room than a place of business. I followed Belinda's lead, handing off my coat to a pleasant-looking young man, who introduced himself simply as Jack, then settled myself next to Belinda on a elegant sofa in the middle of the room.
Drinks were served, as well as a variety of things to eat by a number of handsome looking people; all male.
"Are some of these androids?" I whispered to Belinda.
"They all are, dear," she replied.
"How can you tell?"
"Tell what?" asked Belinda choosing a small white cake from an offered tray.
"How can you tell they're androids and not real people?"
"Oh, that's easy. Look at the way they're dressed."
I looked them over and saw they all wore the same kind of jumpsuit. There were different colors and some had belts or zippers or other decorative accesories for variety. Now that it was pointed out to me, I realized Belinda's Peter and all of Michael's other androids wore a jumpsuit - all in the same black design.
I was fascinated by how much like humans these Antek androids looked. I had seen Antek androids advertised as "really real looking", but I had always thought that close up one would be able to tell the difference.
Michael told me it was only in the last two decades they had become human-looking enough to blend easily into a crowd. That made them excellent for security work. Robert, who had been with him the longest, almost seven years, also served him as valet and butler. He always took Robert and one or two others with him when he was campaigning.
I wondered, when they were monitoring crowds, did Michael have them wear something other than a jumpsuit? Anyone in the know would easily pick them out.
"How else can you tell?" I asked Belinda.
"What do you mean?"
"Look, Belinda, if you take a man and put him in a jumpsuit, how do you know he's not an android?"
"Oh, there are other ways," she replied, matter of factly.
Before I could ask her to be more specific, a man wearing a formal suit approached us. He had a trim build and brown hair which was just beginning to gray. I guessed he was in this early fifties. His manner said salesman even before he opened his mouth.
"Mrs. Gardner, how nice to see you again. And this must be Katherine Nelson. A great pleasure to meet you. I'm Edward Long," he introduced himself extending both hands to us. "Please call me Edward. Now, how may I help you?"
Belinda spoke right up. "We're here to find a suitable assistant for Miss Nelson. As she's getting married in a month, she needs one almost immediately."
"Indeed she does." He then looked me over in a manner which made me very uncomfortable. "I think I have some models which will please you. Let me bring them out for you. In the meantime, you may browse through our catalog in the table over there. It's complete with our new line." He pushed a section on his wrist bracelet and a viewing screen appeared out of the table next to us.
"Just call me if you need anything." With that he turned on his heels and strode briskly out of the room.
"Why did he look at me like that?" I asked.
"He inspected me as if I were up for sale."
"Really, Katie, you read too much into everything. Why don't we look through the catalog and see if you see anything you like." Belinda pressed a corner of the table and activated the screen. It came up showing full length views of models of all shapes and sizes. There were tall ones and short ones, all with beautiful faces and shapely bodies - even on the heavier models. I thought it curious that someone would want a heavy-set android.
There were at least fifty types to choose from in the current model year and there were hundreds more from previous years. I chose to look at these in a random fashion. I found myself wishing there was more information on them, but aside from the model year, some measurements, and a picture, there was nothing. It was like looking through one of Belinda's fashion catalogs.
Edward Long returned with five female androids in tow. He had them line up in front of us. I recognized one or two faces from the catalog. All the female androids sported a small mirrored triangle on their right cheeks, presumably their distinguishing mark as the jumpsuits were for the males.
"Well, Katie, what do think?" Belinda nudged me.
"I don't know anything about this. What do you think?"
"I like the two on the right. They have a very pleasant air about them, don't you think?"
"I don't know. Something's not quite right, here." It was true the models were all beautiful, but something was strange. I turned to the catalog and flipped through some images on the display screen. "What about this one or maybe this one?" I asked.
"Miss Nelson, those are excellent choices, but please remember one is five foot eight and the other even taller than that."
"Why is height so important?"
Belinda brightened. "Well, dear, listen. Suppose you have to go out to a dinner party in the evening and haven't decided what to wear. But, at the same time, you're very busy and you don't have time to try everything on. So you have your assistant do it and then you'll be able to see what everything looks like without having to do it yourself. It saves lots of time from fittings."
Then I realized what had been troubling me about the androids in front of me: They were all same height and basically the same body shape. "That's why you're showing me all these short models, because they're supposed to fit into my clothes?"
"We prefer to think of them as petite," offered Long.
"Well, forget it. I want to see these other models, please." I said pointing to the catalog.
Belinda's face fell and Edward did not seem to know what to do. He looked to Belinda for help.
"But why, Katie?" she asked me. "What's wrong with having an android that looks like you?"
"I'll leave you ladies to discuss this." Edward disappeared.
"Belinda..." I began. "You are beautiful. When you buy a beautiful android who's your size and shape you probably can tell what clothes will look like on you when it wears them. But, truthfully, no matter how close to my size you get with any one of those androids, clothes will never look the same on the both of us."
"Katie, don't put yourself down so. You're an attractive woman."
"Belinda, you have a good heart, but I know what I look like. Attractive, yes, but I'm not in your league. If I'm going to have an android who's better looking than I am, then I'm not playing 'see how much nicer I'd look if only...'"
"Katie, listen to me," Belinda lowered her voice. "There are other reasons for getting one in your size."
Belinda started to speak, then could not seem to answer. "There just are," she finally managed to say.
"If you can't tell me, they can't be all that important."
"All right, you win," Belinda sighed. "But I'm warning you, they're all going to tease you about this one."
"They were going to anyway." I replied under my breath.
Belinda pressed a section on the table. "Edward, please bring in the models Miss Nelson selected."
Moments later two tall androids stood before us. One had short dark hair and the other waist-length golden hair. I stood up to examine them and spoke first to the dark-haired one.
"Hello, what is your name?"
"My name is Lydia. My model number is K8769134A. I am programmed for a variety of household functions including basic secretarial skills..."
"Thank you, Lydia. I'm sure your programming is more than adequate for my needs. And you, how tall are you?" I asked turning to the golden-haired giantess.
"I am five feet twelve inches," replied the android.
"Five-twelve? Is that how you're listed?" I asked.
"No," the android lowered her eyes. "It sounds shorter."
"And I assume you are programmed the same as Lydia and can pick out my clothes as well?"
"Oh, yes I can," replied the android enthusiastically. "I know all the latest fashions. I can cook and clean and run errands. I'll be able to help you with everything."
"You certainly sound willing. What's your name?"
"Honey", she answered. "It's easy to remember. It's the color of my hair." She gathered her long wavy hair behind her and pulled it to the front of one shoulder. Then she pulled a strand of hair away from the rest and played with it in her hands.
"Isn't it pretty?" She held out the strand for me to inspect.
"It certainly is," I laughed. "I like her, let's get this one." I turned to Belinda.
"Katie, she's much too chatty. She'll drive you crazy."
"No, she won't. Besides she'll keep me from talking to myself. Right, Honey?"
"Yes, Miss Nelson, we can talk all the time." The android smiled down on me - a lovely smile, I thought.
"I'll just bet," I laughed. "Well, that's done." I turned to Edward. "I've been told androids are also sold here for scientific and industrial purposes. Where can I go to see them?"
"You wish to buy another android?" Edward looked at Belinda.
"Oh no, I just wanted to look around. I can do that, can't I?"
"Of course, it's just that most women...," he coughed. "Excuse me. Oh yes, you're a scientist of some sort, biology, yes?"
"Something like that." I was getting tired of Edward.
"Yes, how nice. I'll have one of my boys show you to the Science and Industry Section. When you return I'll have all the paperwork completed."
A few minutes later the android named Jack appeared and led us out through a side door down a series of halls and into a large round room. Along the curved wall were many viewing screens. There were about a hundred men and a handful of women scattered around.
I gazed up and down the room. All the screens were active showing androids of varying skills and functions. Belinda looked uncomfortable.
"We won't stay long," I said to her. "I just want to look around a little."
"All right, Katie, but if you don't mind I'll wait here for you."
I wandered around the large room stopping every now and then to watch one display or another. At one screen two men, speaking English with an accent I could not identify, seemed to be having a friendly dispute.
"I don't know, Albert, these new 'droids, they're just not as good as they used to be."
"That's what you say every time we come here," the younger man replied.
"I'm right every time. I don't understand why they can't produce the same quality as they used to, it just doesn't make sense. These new ones just aren't as smart as I remember them."
"Maybe it's because you get smarter every year."
They both laughed. The older man caught sight of me and nudged the other. They appeared ready to engage me in conversation. I nodded to them and moved on. I was not in the mood to hear the usual questions and give the usual answers.
Eventually I stopped in front of a screen marked "Science Catalog - Discount". A short dark man was flipping through a series of some old models. Most of them were very old and did not have that squeeky clean adolescent look I had previously been exposed to. This catalog even included some not so human- looking machines. I found the manufacture date of many of them went back thirty or more years. The names of some of the manufacturers given were unfamiliar to me. These were probably defunct companies or companies purchased over the years by Antek. This would explain why there were so many more different body types in the older models over the new ones.
Forty years before there were hundreds of android producing companies competing for dominance in the marketplace. I could think of two or three companies which still produced androids, but Antek was always the giant, producing the very best.
The man in front of me sensed my presence and turned around. "I'm finished," he said. "You may use it now."
I stepped up to the machine and examined the model he had left up on it. It was about seventeen years old and was an industrial android from a car factory. The picture was probably the original promotional one. The android stood in the center of a variety of robots and computers, presumably part of a package, with a car factory in the background.
I remember visiting a factory once when I was in elementary school. Our class was taking a tour. We walked through the huge plant with the tremendous hum of machinery in our ears. There I learned that at one time the old gas and diesel automobiles were assembled by thousands of human hands. Now the
machines handled everything: They were all monitored and built by computers, robots, and androids.
I also remember the lecture our teacher gave on the horrible working conditions and boring repetitive work our ancestors had to bear. It was one of many lessons on how the machine had taken on dangerous and menial tasks once performed by humans.
Even farming, the main occupation on our colony, was and is considered below decent human standards. By the year 2055 all commercial farming had been taken over by the government. It had not been a profitable enterprise for decades. Eventually they were all bought by or defaulted to the state.
Some people were kept on for a few years, but eventually were replaced by machines as they had been in the factories. Without farm families to serve, many supporting businesses dried up in rural communities, forcing most people to move to the cities to find work.
There were, despite the efforts to stamp them out, plenty of menial jobs left. My father, for example, was a runner. In the business sections of the city the streets were always packed with moving vehicles. The state regulated postal system was inefficient - at best. The quickest way to deliver a package was to send someone on foot - all human powered vehicles, such as bicycles, had long been banned - between addresses. An android or another kind of robot could do the job, but it was cheaper to hire humans.
My father covered many miles in a day and barely made enough to keep the family together. Still it was better that then to rely on Social Services and their ever increasing restrictions on how the family could spend its income.
I moved the screen on to some other models while scanning the pertinent information on each. Eventually I became bored with this, stepped up the review and allowed the machine to run on by itself. Face after face flashed by. Suddenly there appeared on the screen one I recognized. I stopped the images and backed up.
"I don't believe it," I said out loud to myself.
"What don't you believe?" asked a voice behind me. It was Belinda. She had grown tired of waiting for me and had wandered over.
"Look at this. In my first year at college I was involved in a lab accident. I know who this man is. I mean I thought he was a man, but he's here. I think he worked for Dr. Forester. I never did find out what happened to him."
"No, him," I said pointing to the screen.
"You're confusing me, Katie. Why should you care what happened to an android?"
I did not answer. I was too busy reading down the specification listing. There was his model number and manufacture date, 2040, making him twenty-six years old - I thought. Antek was listed as the manufacturer.
A good deal of information followed regarding his makeup that did not mean much to me. At the bottom was a listing of the types of lab work he had been programmed in over the years. I recognized much of it as standard chemical and biological test proceedures.
"I certainly could have used him as my lab assistant," I mused to myself. "Belinda, do you think I could get to see him?"
"Oh please, I know it's silly, but it's real important to me."
"May I help you ladies?" The small dark man was back again.
"Katie, we really should go. People are beginning to stare at us," Belinda whispered.
But once having made up my mind there was no turning back.
"Sir, I would like to see this android."
He glanced at the display screen and back to me. "It's a very old model. We have new ones with far superior capabilities."
"No, I want to see this one."
"Certainly." He switched off the screen, "Follow me, please."
A door appeared around the screen. I followed him - along with a reluctant Belinda - into a small room. It was undecorated and unfurnished except for two large leather chairs which were offered to us. After introducing himself as William Taylor, the man left us alone. While Belinda fidgeted nervously in the chair beside me, I waited anxiously for the android to appear.
Eleven years had passed since the accident. I can still recall the scene after the explosion vividly.
I remember watching, stunned, as the android - I thought a man - pulled the lab coat over his head and began beating out the flames. I recovered soon enough to remove my own coat and help put out what fire remained. Then we both inspected the damage. His hands and part of his lower arms were blackened and part of his face badly damaged. He turned to the sink, punched the water on and began running his arms under the water.
"I'm sorry." My voice quavered and I was shaken. "I just didn't..." I heard my voice trail off. He had begun calmly peeling off some of the lab coat or shirt - or was it skin? - from one arm. I marvelled at the apparent absence of pain, one question answered now.
"Next time," he began, "be sure you understand how to handle chemicals before you try to use them. That container was old and should have been disposed of, along with everything else on that top shelf. It's been used as a waste storage area and not properly marked. I will make a report of it. Ether, you should know..."
At that moment Dr. Forester burst into the room. "Someone said there was an explosion in here." He surveyed the scene. "Miss Nelson, get back to class."
"But, Dr..." I looked from the professor to the man/android next to me.
"I'll take care of it. Now go on back to your bench." He strode quickly over to me, grabbed me forcefully by the arm and led me to the door.
I waited an uncomfortable twenty minutes at my lab station fending off questions from my classmates. When Dr. Forester finally returned with a new jar of ether, I tried to ask him about the condition of the "man" and to appologize for the accident. He silenced me by saying everything was all right and I should not give it another thought. "You've had a good scare, though, perhaps you would like to go home and finish this lab another time," he said it with cold concern.
"No, Dr. Forester." I drew myself to my full height. "I'm fine."
I tried again after my lab work had been completed for the day and only succeeded in making him angry.
That was my last class. Two days later when I returned to the labroom I found a note on the door which stated that the class had been canceled for the rest of the semester. Each student had the option of receiving the current grade he was carrying or of repeating the class the next semester.
I was sure this was in some way connected with the accident and I tried tolocate Dr. Forester. He could not be reached and no one at the department office could help me. I tried asking after the "man" who had saved me, but no one knew who he was or even about the accident itself. I transferred to another school the next year, so I never did more investigating.
I told the story to my parents hoping they could give some advice. They listened intently and then expressed concern over the fact that their daughter had been placed in such great danger by the university. As for the mystery of the man no one knew and the cancelled class, they could see no connection.
"Besides," my father said, "they must have their reasons. If Dr. Forester said everything is all right, it must be. You said yourself the man seemed in no pain. Maybe he wasn't hurt as much as it looked to you."
"Or maybe he was an android, dear," I remember my mother saying. This from someone - at the time - I thought was the most ignorant woman in the world.
"Oh, Mom," I said, "he wasn't an android, he was real. Don't you think I could tell?" At that age I knew everything.
And now - eleven years later - I was about to eat crow.
After what seemed an eternity of waiting, the door opened again and Mr. Taylor returned with the android walking behind him.
Belinda gasped: he was naked. From where I sat I still could not see what could differentiate him from a real man.
"Mr. Taylor, please put something on him," Belinda looked away. Belinda's embarrassment surprised me. One of her favorite vacation spots was a place on the south of France where I knew she had no trouble visiting its famed nude beaches.
"Certainly, Mrs. Gardner." They left again.
"Really, Katie, we shouldn't be here."
"I just want to talk to him." I felt sorry for Belinda. I understood she was not comfortable, though I did not understand why. I assumed at the time it had something to do with the different atmosphere; business, science,
industry. These things Belinda would find boring. Perhaps, I thought, she might even feel inadequate.
Taylor returned again. The android was wearing a simple grey version of the jumpsuit. I stood up and walked over to him.
"Hello. Do you remember me?" I looked into his face. He had very dark brown eyes, so dark it was just possible to find where the iris ended and the pupil began. His face changed slowly from a blank look to one of recognition - a slight smile and even his eyes seemed to brighten.
"I remember a young girl in a lab coat," he said.
I felt myself smiling. "I knew it." I took both his hands in mine and turned them over. "I'm so glad you're all right. You know, I tried to find out what happened, but no one would talk to me. I had never seen an android like you before. I just didn't know." I looked up at him.
"Katie," said Belinda, "I'm sure this is a wonderful reunion for you, but really we must be going. Please."
"But, he just got here. I still don't even know his name."
"Isaac," came the reply.
"Katie, we're here to get you an assistant," Belinda persisted. "You can come back another time - with Michael."
I turned to Mr. Taylor. "I want to know what's going to happen to him."
"It's been here for some time," replied Taylor. "When an older model such as this one doesn't sell 'as is' we generally try reprogramming for something such as industrial work or send it back to the factory for recycling."
I looked at Isaac. He had returned to his expressionless stance. I slowly sat down again next to Belinda. I could not think of him being junked. This is ridiculous, I argued with myself, this is only a machine. Still, I could not deny the sickening feeling that was rising inside me.
I turned to Belinda. "I could use a security android like your Peter. I remember Michael saying he would get another."
"I'm sure you will have one, Katherine, but Michael will be taking care of that."
"Why can't I have Isaac?"
"I'm sure I don't know why you would want to when you could have a new one. In any case, you must discuss this with Michael."
"Why can't I choose my own security android?"
"Katie," Belinda lowered her voice. "It's just not done this way. You let Michael handle this. He'll be very upset if you pursue this alone."
"Take my word for it. Besides, he's really not much to look at."
Again this concern over appearance. Must be some kind of status thing, I thought. "Well, I want him and if I have to wait for Michael to take care of it with all he has to do, Isaac could be gone."
"Don't do it, Katie," Belinda warned again.
"Why not? Why should Michael care which android drives me around in my car?"
"It's just not done," Belinda said firmly. "And that's all I'm going to say on the subject. If you go ahead with this, it's not going to be my fault."
Now this was going to be interesting. What would Michael's reaction be? That is when I remembered Michael's promise to me - anything I wanted. This was perfect, an android with a science background. I might even find some use for him, more use than an assistant anyway.
And what would Michael's reaction be? Belinda was adament that this choosing of an security android was a man's job - that is how I interpreted her reaction. Was I really stepping over some boundary that even Michael would object to?
The need to test Michael settled it. I had to know for sure if he loved me.
"Mr Taylor, I wish to purchase this android."
"Certainly, Miss Nelson. I assume then you would like him reprogrammed for security?"
I thought for a moment. "What will this do to his current programming?"
"Normally we wipe it out."
"No, that won't do. Isn't there another way?"
"I suppose they can..." started Taylor.
"No, it can't be done," interrupted Isaac. We all must have looked a little startled. "Forgive me, Mr. Taylor, but I believe Miss Nelson is interested in my scientific programming. It is not possible to both program an
android for security and retain the programming acquired prior to that operation."
"You see, Katie, this is a bad idea. Let's go." implored Belinda.
"Isaac, can you drive a ground car?" I asked.
"Yes, Miss Nelson."
"That's good enough for me. Whatever else he needs to learn for security can probably be picked up through the 'learning experience' programming he's been given, don't you think, Mr. Taylor?"
"It's possible, I suppose. But it will take some time to do it that way."
"Good. I'm sure Isaac will prove capable of providing adequate security for me. I'll take him then 'as is.'"
"As you wish, Miss Nelson. You are purchasing another android, if I heard you correctly?"
I had almost forgotten about Honey in my excitement. I looked at him blankly for a moment. "Oh, yes, an assistant."
"Then I'll have the paperwork sent over to Mr. Long's department. He'll handle it over there."
"Thank you." I smiled at Isaac - and he returned the expression. When I turned to Belinda, she could only shake her head at me with a long look of dismay.
Once we returned to the showroom Edward Long had all the paperwork ready for us. I took the packet and sat down on the sofa.
"Katie, they're very standard. It's not necessary to read them all. Let's sign them and go home. This has been a very exhausting trip."
"I'm sorry, Belinda, but I don't sign anything I don't read first." They did look standard as far as I could tell. There was one to indicate that I was the purchaser and had inspected the merchandise myself. There was a paper providing a three year warrenty for Honey and another stating that no warrenty could be provided for Isaac due to the number of hours he had accumulated. The last were the ownership papers.
"This says the androids are the property of Mr. Gardner. I want them in my name."
"I'm sorry, Miss Nelson, but the bank card you gave me is in Mr. Gardner's name."
How could I realistically expect Michael to understand how important this was to me when I was not sure I could explain it to myself? I was afraid Michael would cancel the deal before I could convince him.
I looked up the price for Isaac: 2.5m credits. With what was left of my award money, the sale of my apartment lease, and some money I had received from the marriage contract; I knew I had a little more than that in my account.
I took out my bank card. "I want the papers for Isaac in my name. This should cover it." Edward took the papers and card.
Next to me Belinda was fuming. "I hope you know what you're doing."
I patted her hand. "Don't worry. Michael will pay me back."
"And if he doesn't?"
"Well, then I won't have a husband, I won't have a place to live, I won't have any money - but - I'll own my own android. What other working girl can claim that?"
Monday, March 17, 2092
Still quiet today.
Rioting continues in Germany and for some reason this has caught the entire attention of security. When I went to bring Michael something to eat at headquarters, he and the rest on duty seemed transfixed by the news reports coming in.
I noticed Isaac's people were running yesterday's reports. They must have been running correlation checks on them as several screens were paused and were covered with the characteristic data base markings that they use for reference. I never did learn how to use them myself, but over the years Michael has and it is taught in the schools.
I gave the food to Michael, who barely noticed me, and left.
What could these uprisings have to do with us? Things are definitely not looking up.
Walking home I encountered some young boys driving a sled out to one of the farms. They were on their way to help Mrs. Chin, widowed now five years, fulfil WAAAR's demands. Jenny Brown and her sister were with them. They were carrying some scraps of fabric and their sewing equipment. I asked what they were planning to do.
"The boys are building a house for the pigs and we thought it would make the animal people happy if we put up some curtains on the windows." The boys sat grinning from ear to ear. To them this was all a big joke. The girls, who usually are better at deciphering the mood of the adults around them, knew differently. This was their way of trying to ease the tension.
I wished them well and sent them on their way.
My only emergency so far today came this morning from a young bride who stopped at the door and said she wanted to make a cake for next week's family dinner but was failing miserably.
The problem is the elevation here. It averages anywhere from thirty-eight hundred to five thousand feet. She tried to adjust the cake recipe according to the standard guidelines and had not succeeded. There was no use trying her mother: I remember her mother's baking.
Unfortunately, there are really no set rules for adjusting recipes at different altitudes. Various ingredients react differently with each other, so it is always trial and error. I found a recipe I had worked out in my files that would suit her needs. I hope she has not inherited her mother's culinary skills or even that will not make a difference.
After rereading my last few entries, I have realized again just how difficult I made life for Michael in our early days together. My impulsive android purchases brought on the expected reaction:
When we returned from Antek to Belinda's home, Michael was waiting for us in her sitting room.
"Good evening, ladies. I've asked Brenda to keep dinner warm for us. Did you have a good time?" he asked.
"I'm going into the kitchen to check on dinner then. Katie can tell you all about our trip. But, don't blame me. I warned her." Belinda disappeared.
Michael turned to me with an amused look on his face. "What was that all about?"
I sat on a small sofa opposite him. "Is that tea still warm?" I asked spotting a service on a table near him.
"Yes, I'll pour you some." After delivering the tea he said, "Now tell me about your trip."
I sipped some of the tea first. All my bravado of the afternoon slipped away from me. I had had the entire trip back to think about what I had done and was beginning to feel a little guilty.
"It was interesting," I began. "Just like you told me it would be."
"Did you get what you wanted?"
"Oh, yes. It's just Belinda doesn't think you'll be too happy."
"I bought an assistant. She's a little unconventional, apparently."
"In what way?"
"She's blond, she talks a lot, and... she's six feet tall."
"Six feet? What ever possesed you to buy a six foot android?" Michael asked quizzically.
"Well, Belinda did explain to me that most women buy one which has the same body type as they do. I realize that to some it may appear that I have an exaggerated view of my own body, but I really don't care. I liked her: she's cute. I'll wear my own clothes and go to my own fittings."
Michael laughed. "Well, if you like her, that's all that matters."
He took that well, I thought. Now to drop the other shoe. I placed my teacup on the table in front of me. "The other one is taller."
"The other what?" Michael asked.
I rubbed my forehead. "Yes, this is the part where you're supposed to get angry." I took a deep breath. "I bought a security android, too."
"You did what?" Michael exploded. "You bought a security android? What on earth made you do that?"
I winced, "Now, I know that you are supposed to do the buying of the male androids, though why, I'm sure I don't know."
"It has nothing to do with gender, if that's what you mean. Don't pin that garbage on me."
"Oh, no? Then before I continue, why don't you explain to me why I couldn't make that decision, aside from 'It's not done that way.'"
"Katherine," Michael replied in very measured tones, "I own five security androids. That very fact alone gives me more experience in this matter."
"And that's the only reason you're angry at me?"
Michael stood up and moved behind the chair he had been sitting in. I think he felt the need to put some distance between us. "We discussed one android, not two, and certainly not a male android."
"What difference does an android's form mean? I've been getting this all day. It's a machine. I could have a male dress me and a female drive me around - why does it make such a difference? They're the same on the inside, right? I don't understand why the appearance of a machine has any bearing on it's function."
"No, I don't suppose you would."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means an android is a very expensive purchase and I would think you might want to consult me before you bought it."
"Oh, I see. You can go out and buy anything you want without consulting me, but I will have to get your permission."
"That's not what I said."
"No, but it's what you think."
"Look, Katherine, we can set ground rules for this marriage that are mutually acceptable to us both - but I'd like to be in on them. I'm sure I'll make mistakes too, but we can work them out. What I don't need is to be tested on every point. Where's your speech about love and trust anyway?"
"But I do trust you, Michael. Remember your promise about having something in my own name? I bought him with my own money. If you don't pay me back, I'm flat broke."
"How could you do that? You don't have that kind of money."
"Well," I answered, "He's a little unconventional, too."
Michael turned away from me.
I put my elbow on the armrest of the sofa and lowered my forehead onto my hand. He was right: Belinda was right: I could have waited another day.
"I'm sorry," I finally said. "An android is expensive and I'm sure there are criteria for buying them I don't fully understand. Maybe it's like ordering a a pink car with purple and orange polka dots or something - not quite in the best of taste. I suppose my ignorance in this matter is embarrassing to you."
Michael glanced back at me. He walked over to the sofa and sat down next to me.
"One thing is for sure," he said. "Life with you is never going to be dull. And, I can see I'm going to have to be more careful about my promises." He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. "You really want these androids?" I nodded. "Well, I'll see what I can do with this security android you bought for a song. But first, let's discuss that car you want to order..."
It was less than two weeks later when Michael showed up at his aunt's house looking for me. While I had told him all I knew about Isaac and Michael understood my interest in him, he was naturally skeptical about Isaac performing well in security functions.
We agreed it was not necessary for Honey to arrive until after the wedding, but Isaac, due to the fact he was not being programmed for security, would need training. Michael wanted him delivered as soon as possible so that he could see to it himself. After our wedding and honeymoon, he would be on the road a great deal campaigning.
"Let me tell you, Katherine, I had real doubts about this android. He's been here five days and he's learned in that time what it normally takes weeks to teach the other androids. I tested him this morning, he was perfect. I don't understand it. He's still got a lot of ground to cover and he's scoring lower than the others at the range, but he improves with each session. His reflex time is exactly the same as the others."
"Are you sure he wasn't reprogrammed?" I asked concerned.
"I asked him, but he said he wasn't. I don't know how you did it, he's a real bargain."
"Beginner's luck." I replied. "I'm glad he's going to work out."
"So am I." He held a wristcom out to me. "I had him drive me over in your new car which arrived yesterday. They're both all yours. Have fun."
I took the device and strapped it onto my wrist. "Thank you very much, sir. I believe I shall go for a ride. Would you care to join me?"
"I would love to, but I'm already behind schedule. Robert should be here by now," he said while putting his coat back on. "I have to go to Washington, but I should be back tomorrow night. Have dinner with me?"
"I wouldn't miss it." I found my coat and we walked outside together. It was cold and I found myself watching my breath float away in whisps as I exhaled. The sky was overcast, dull and grey, and the air had the smell of impending snow about it.
Robert had arrived. Michael's car was parked behind mine. Robert was out of the car and was leaning over the driver's window of mine, apparently engaged in conversation with Isaac. He looked up as we approached and backed away for Isaac to get out of the car. As Isaac stepped out, I noticed he was wearing the black jumpsuit of the Gardner security androids. He stood half a head taller than Robert and looked straight at me. I smiled to him in acknowledgement and turned to Michael. "Thank you."
"For what?" he asked.
I shrugged. "I don't know. It seemed appropriate."
He kissed me goodbye. "See you tomorrow night."
"Okay, I'll pick you up at eight. Don't keep me waiting."
"Goodbye, Katherine." he said with mock annoyance, kissed me again, and stepped into the car. Robert closed the door.
After they had left, I walked over to Isaac and examined my new car. It was similar to Michael's only smaller. "Michael has this thing about black, doesn't he? That's what I get for letting him pick out the car. It really doesn't matter, but I should have at least asked him to order it in red or something."
Isaac was silent. I was close enough to him to observe the slight misting of air from his nostrils - similar to that which must have been coming from mine as well. Why not?, I thought, a machine generates heat. What better way to vent it, then to let it out the same way we do.
"You don't talk much, do you, Isaac?"
"I'm sorry, Miss Nelson. I interpreted your question as rhetorical."
"Yes, I suppose it was. Well, let's go somewhere."
"Where do you wish to go?"
Where to go? Belinda would be gone all day. Everyone else I knew was working and it was too late to call any of them for lunch. I could visit my mother. No, my parents were so nervous about the wedding they were still making me crazy. Stephan Valdez? I had visited him once and he had invited me back again. No, he worked very hard during the day, and even though he told me to come by anytime, I could see my visit had disrupted him.
"Darn, all dressed up and no place to go."
"Miss Nelson?" inquired Isaac.
"Oh, nothing. Let's just drive around the Estate. It's been awhile since I've done that." I stepped into the car and Isaac closed the door. The warmth of the car felt wonderful.
Isaac pulled out and Belinda's house fell away from us. There were five homes on this property of seventy-four acres. Three homes could easily be classified as mansions and then there were two smaller houses. They were all connected by a single roadway which looped around from one to the other and back to the main gate. There was a back entrance, but it was almost always closed off.
The three larger homes belonged to Michael, his sister, and his father. Michael lived in the original mansion his grandfather had built. His grandfather had built the second for Michael's father, and he, in turn, had built the third for Karen when she married. By the time Michael was ready to live on his own, his grandfather had passed on. The family agreed, although I think with some contention from Karen, that he should reside there.
Michael was in charge of the upkeep and security of the estate and it was a job he took seriously. His father had retired from the Senate ten years before when it became apparent that Mrs. Gardner was seriously ill and would not live much longer. As his mother's health deteriorated Michael found himself taking over most of his father's responsibilities for managing the property.
Security became more important during those years. It was not just the Gardner's wealth that needed protecting, but terrorism in North America had been on the rise for decades. When the World Council of Ministers set up the boundaries of the newly created Sectors, it was met with some resistance - The Northeastern American Sector was no exception.
There were many unhappy people on both sides of the border who refused to accept the new boundaries. Some of these "nationalists" took an extreme postion which included violence.
Michael's mother, Irene Gardner, died peacefully six years before I had met him. To his father, she had been friend, lover, confidante. A second marriage, she had been the center of his life. He took her death hard and when he emerged from his grief he threw himself into promoting his son's political career.
Karen tried to fill her mother's place, but her efforts went mostly unnoticed by her father and Michael. For a time, with Regina's help, Karen's home became the center of family activity. Then I came along, and since I did not understand Karen's open hostility, I encouraged Michael to avoid invitations to her home as much as possible. This along with Charles Gardner's praise of the "remarkable woman" his son was marrying only added fuel to the fire.
After a time I managed to piece all this together, and although I sympathized with Karen, I found there was little I could do to mend the rift between us.
The car passed the "guest house". This was the other smaller house on the estate. It had been unoccupied for twenty years aside from the occasional guest. All I knew about it was that it had formally belonged to some elder member of the family. I recalled how amazed I was when Michael had shown me this house on my first tour of the property. It was many times the size of my family's crowded apartment and the idea that it remained empty most of the time seemed so carelessly wasteful to me.
It did not take me long to become accustomed to such wastefulness.
The car rode smoothly around the private drive until it came back once again to Belinda's house. "You can stop here," I directed Isaac. The back of the car was spacious with seats on three sides and plenty of legroom. It was filled with all the extras: vid-phone, HV, food and drink dispensers.
The car stopped in front of the house and Isaac began to get out of the car. "Isaac, wait a minute." He turned towards me. "Yes, Miss Nelson?"
There were still some unanswered questions I had about the lab accident years before.
"How did you know I was in danger that day in the storeroom?"
"You were carrying an old jar of ether. Safety precautions concerning the handling of used chemicals of that type dictate..."
"Yes, I know, but how did you know it was an old jar?"
He was silent for several seconds. I watched him carefully. He must be analyzing the decision process he used, I thought.
"You were washing your hands in a sink when I came in. Then you tried to open the jar. I scanned the room to see where you had gotten it. There was a stool pushed up against a cabinet which contained waste material on the upper shelves. Your height and the spacing of the jars on the top shelf indicated that was where the jar originated."
"What made you try to find out where the jar came from?"
"Trying to open a jar after washing one's hands is difficult. I also noted there was dirt on the jar. These facts indicated something unusual. I determined to discover what you were doing."
"I have answered that question."
This was frustrating. I groped for the right words. "You have answered the question by saying you were 'curious' about what I was doing."
"Curiousity in an android is impossible."
"I know that. That's why I'm curious about your programming. You observed my actions, determined I was in danger, and then took steps to prevent my being harmed. I want to know what in your programming initiated this processing sequence."
"I am prevented from answering direct questions about my programming, however, you must know what you have just described is part of the functioning of a security android."
"You were at the university as a security android?"
"No, I was a laboratory assistant for Dr. Forester."
"Then all androids are programmed to prevent humans from being harmed?"
"I don't know."
"But you are?"
"But, there are so many potential hazards. How do you sort them all out?"
"I can't answer that."
"You don't know or you are prevented from answering?"
"It is a question that concerns my primary programming. I am prevented from answering."
I mulled over this for awhile. I was not a computer programmer, but I had had some contact with a variety of machines in my education and work experience. I had graduated from the Massachusett's Institute of Technology which was well known for its advances in computer technology. I had used the college's main computer extensively and had been told it was one of the most advanced artificial intelligence systems in the world. It had a pleasant personality and I had always felt comfortable using it. However, there was a complexity to this android's decision making process that I would not have expected from the computer at MIT.
I did not believe that computer would have been able to warn me of impending danger given the same information Isaac had. I could not recall a time the computer had warned of the dangers of any proceedure I consulted it about until I had actually prompted that information specifically. Certainly all the androids and other computers I had observed since then were even less capable.
How could these androids be more complex than the one at MIT, especially considering they were "stand alone" units, that is, no physical tie-ins to other information banks, processing units, or energy sources?
I tried another line of questioning. "Do you and Mr. Gardner's other androids have basically the same level of programming?"
"I don't know."
"Mr. Gardner seemed pleased with your performance. I would imagine you are not too different. Do you know of another system as advanced as the Antek androids?"
"No, I am not aware of one."
"It's very puzzling."
"Why are you puzzled?" He leaned towards me slightly. Humans make the same movement when they are interested in what the speaker is saying. Was this simply imitation of human body language?
"Because it means that the most sophisticated androids in the world which originated from one company have enjoyed a level of artificial intelligence programming not matched by any other computer or machine for close to thirty years."
"Why is that puzzling?"
"Because I've never heard of any company keeping it's secrets for so long - patents don't apply the same way everywhere - I don't even remember hearing about it from anyone. You would think someone would be interested."
"We have very sophisticated integrity systems built into us. If someone were to try to tamper with our circuitry that circuitry would be destroyed beyond recognition."
"It still doesn't answer the question. Somewhere someone knows that circuitry and how to circumvent it - quite probably a lot of people know. People change jobs, they talk, and even when that fails you would think another person or group of people would be able to come up with something similar." I looked pointedly at Isaac: no expression change. There were answers here, but how to unlock them?
"I don't have enough information to answer your question."
Nor do I, I thought, I wonder where to start?
Yes, I made life difficult for Michael in those days before our marriage -and in the time that followed.
One could define AI [Artificial Intelligence] as coming into existence at the moment when mechanical devices took over any tasks previously performable only by human minds. It is hard to look back and imagine the feelings of those who first saw toothed wheels performing additions and multiplications of large numbers. Perhaps they experienced a sense of awe at seeing "thoughts" flow in their very physical hardware. In any case, we do know that nearly a century later, when the first electronic computers were constructed, their inventors did experience an awesome and mystical sense of being in the presence of another kind of "thinking being". To what extent real thought was taking place was a source of much puzzlement; and even now, several decades later, the question remains a great source of stimulation and vitriolics.
It is interesting that nowadays, practically no one feels that sense of awe any longer - even when computers perform operations that are incredibly more sophisticated than those which sent thrills down spines in the early days. The once-exciting phrase "Giant Electronic Brain" remains only as a sort of "camp" cliche, a ridiculous vestige of the era of Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers. It is a bit sad that we become so blase so quickly.
From Douglas R. Hofstadter; Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, (New York: Vintage Books, 1979)
Tuesday, March 18, 2092
If the Twentieth century was the "age of oversimplification" as the Swiss historian, Jakob Burckhardt, predicted to his friend, Friedrich Nietzsche; then the Twenty-First has been one of obfuscation and misology.
An optimist of the last century might have thought that a complete shedding of all ideologies would occur as each one was tried and failed. There were programmes for the individual, many occurring under the auspices of
psychology using sex, drugs and the constant dregging of painful memories as cure-all remedies; and there were programmes for society, such as Feminism, designed to procure minority status for a majority in order to redress obscure and impersonal wrongs.
The idea of Feminism, that is, total equality of the sexes is not even a modern idea. Its most extreme form can be found in the pages of Plato's Replublic. Some say the idea grew into a world movement as a result of the Industrial Revolution, however, it began before many of the time-saving and economic advantages of that age were felt by the average woman. That this fueled and sustained the movement - arrriving as it did at an opportune moment in history - is probably closer to the truth. In the process of determining what would make her life richer, and with no model of her own to follow, modern woman threw away the things she loved and cherished to make herself over in man's image.
The reason that ideologies are never completely discredited is that their goal, the creation of the perfect man and woman, is never understood to be unachievable. Perfection seems always just around the corner.
I have a bad habit of lapsing into old ways of thinking.
Reason and logic were all I had at one time and it is still a constant battle to remind myself that what is clear and irrefutable to me now is less so to others. I also have the tendency to think it useless to explain anything more than once. If someone does not follow my understanding of things or of those whom I respect and agree with, then I become easily frustrated. I tend to blame that person rather than my own shortcomings in overcoming the very real barrier of communication that exists between humans. This old way of thinking is the thought process of an ideologue.
In those days I took pride in my ability to reason, but this gift has its price. It can lead one astray very easily. As with navigating a space craft, an inch in error at the beginning of a trip, left uncorrected, can result in missing one's destination by millions of miles. One must begin with the truth in order to use reason to reach another truth.
The problem in uncovering the mystery of the Antek androids was not that the information was not available - it was available in quantity - the problem was that it had to be interpreted correctly. Further, it had to be interpreted in a way foreign to the conventional thinking of the day. Despite Sarah's praise to the contrary, I was a very "conventional" thinker. I did not believe there was any "real intelligence" in these machines, but it bothered me that they seemed intelligent and I could not explain it away. It was my arrogance that I could "prove" there was no "real intelligence" - I had such contempt for other sciences - and my ignorance that I could even begin to understand what "intelligence" was (after all, I had studied biology - "the study of life") that started me thinking of questions I thought I already knew the answers to. I had no philosophy, no religion, no God...
Still, it was so obvious and there were so many clues every day I was around them that I find it embarrassing to relate how I missed them all.
No matter how far I was willing to go in mental gymnastics to believe Isaac and the other "androids" were only machines, there was no denying two things. The first, as I have already mentioned, was the clear superiority of Antek androids over other Artificial Intelligent devices I had encountered. The second, and probably the most disturbing to me at the time - though I would hardly admit it to myself - was the fact that each android had a distinct personality. I discovered this soon after the wedding when I began to live more closely with them.
The wedding, itself, was all Sarah had warned it would be. I smiled so long for the vids my face hurt. It was a day for the media and not for us.
Our brief, but very romantic honeymoon, restored for me a sense of importance in Michael's personal life. He allowed nothing from the campaign to intrude during the three days we spent in the wilderness preserves of Wyoming. This was in part because it took two days for anyone to find out where we were - who would suspect we would go north in the winter?
The cabin we borrowed from a friend was primitive and beautiful. Though it was stocked with food, we had to do everything ourselves - cook, clean, and even split some of the firewood. There were no modern conveniences, no staff.
There was no communication link to the outside except that which we brought with us in the car. As for our implanted transponders, it was still fairly easy in those days to find areas in the world where the reporting stations did not reach. We travelled through a few of them before arriving in the snowy landscapes of Wyoming.
They were important days - when we looked back on them following the destruction of Michael's political career, they weighed heavily in our descision to move to the colony.
At the end of January, on our return, Honey arrived. On the second floor of the house I had decided to convert a bedroom into a study. Connected to this room was a smaller bedroom which I directed her to. The bedroom was small, but cheerful, and Honey expressed such great delight over it. She had expected to move upstairs with the other androids, but I thought it would be too inconvenient for me to have her running up and down the stairs every time I wanted her. And not knowing what androids did in their off time I wanted her out of the way when I did not need her. Michael found nothing odd about this arrangement when I discussed it with him, though he did explain she needed to return to the android room routinely for "maintenence".
When it came down to it I discovered I did not know what to do with her on her "on" time. And she had come ready to serve.
"I don't really have anything for you to do right now, Honey. I'm afraid I haven't given it much thought." Her face fell into marked disappointment.
"I suppose, that I would want you to keep these two rooms clean. I don't like other people in my things, even if I trust them. You can do that, right?"
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Gardner. I'd be happy to do that."
"Well good, and call me Katherine - I still don't think of 'Mrs. Gardner' as me."
"Yes... Katherine. Thank you."
"Other than that I suppose your job will grow with time. I'm just not used to having all this help with my personal affairs. What do androids do in their time off anyway?"
"We sleep and I like to read, especially fashion magazines..."
"The proper term is 'shutdown', but I call it sleep. We sleep for seven hours every day."
"What happens when you sleep?"
"Most of our large motor control systems shut down and our sensory processes turn off - things like that."
"Things like what?"
"I can't answer that."
"You are prohibited from answering?"
"Do you have to recharge anything or do you work off some long term power source?"
"I don't know. I don't have that information. But," she grinned, "I feel wonderful after a good night's sleep."
I smiled at her. "I'd love to meet the person who gave you your personality, Honey. He must have had some sense of humor."
"I'm sorry, Katherine, I don't have that information either."
"That's okay, Honey, I was just kidding. So - you like to read magazines?"
"Yes, but you don't have access to the ones I like."
"Well there's something for you to do. Arrange for them and put them in my name. I'll sign anything you need me to, okay?
"Thank you, Katherine."
"You're welcome. Now you can explore the house so you know your way around or you can find something in the library to read or you can get some 'sleep' - whatever you want to do. If you have questions or need something, just ask."
"May I take a shower?"
"A shower? Sure, right through that door is a bathroom. Oh, and you probably need to talk to Mrs. McCullen. She'll be able to tell you all the household rules and answer any questions you might have. I'm still finding out things from her. You can usually find her or someone who knows where she is in the kitchen."
I watched Honey leave the room. The conversation had been enlightening in several ways. First, Honey, although newer than Isaac, appeared to have less information about android engineering. And second, although her inference skills were as remarkable as Isaac's, she seemed to be slightly less capable at it. For example, she did not realize I was joking about the engineer who programmed her, where Isaac recognized a far more complex remark about my car on his first day with me.
Perhaps, I thought, that was due to experience. Inference skills are sharpened through a learning program that is a part of AI programming. Isaac certainly had more hours logged than Honey.
There were other differences. It was easy to explain why she "liked" to read fashion magazines - it was part of her function as an assistant to keep me in the latest fashions. And it was also easy to explain Honey's choice of words. Choosing substitutes like "sleep" for "shutdown" are simple AI tricks. But why? I could not imagine Isaac calling shutdown something else. He would stick to technical terms. Why then, did Honey choose to use a simpler, but less accurate word? Was she programmed specifically to do this? If so, what criteria did she use to determine which words needed substitution and how was the substitute chosen?
One trouble with computer programming is that difficult as it is trying to discover what is being done, it can be even more difficult to determine why it is being done. Did her programmer intend to do one thing or was it a by-product of some other function?
Not being a programmer myself, I soon found I was making my head spin as I tried to match questions with the many possible answers to them.
One morning several weeks later, after another late night campaign function, I sat at my dressing table contemplating my bloodshot eyes. Honey entered the room carrying some packages.
"Your new dresses are here," she said excitedly. "I'm so glad, you can wear one of them tonight at the dinner. You'll look so lovely."
Another dinner party. That was four that week and I was exhausted. I have never been a night person, but Michael and his circle of friends seemed to thrive on keeping late hours. I turned back to the mirror to brush out my hair and in the reflection I could watch Honey's activities. She had already put away the first dress, a dark brilliant blue one which she said "would bring out the color of my eyes." If I can get the red out, I thought to myself.
I had to admit she was very knowledgeable when it came to fashion. Even Belinda was coming over for her advice. In fact, the woman had been over so many times I finally offered to lend her out. I certainly did not have enough to keep her busy.
Honey picked up the second dress, a white floor-length gown. I remember it had streaks of silver running through it. The android held it up to her shoulders. Then she turned and looked at herself in the full length mirror which stood next to the closet.
I turned around to watch her. "That dress would look beautiful on you, Honey." Of course, she could never wear it. Floor length for me barely reached the calf of Honey's leg.
"It's such a beautiful dress," replied the android. She turned to the closet and hung it up.
As I watched her smooth out the dress a thought occured to me. "Honey, do you need any new clothes?" She had nothing except what she had arrived with.
The android was silent for a moment and answered with her back to me. "I have enough," she answered.
"That wasn't my question."
"I don't have anything new, but they're still mostly in style. And," she continued rather hesitantly, "of course, nothing like this. But then, I would never have any use for a gown like this."
"Would you like some new clothes?"
"That would be your decision," came the machine answer. I wanted something more.
"I'm asking you, Honey, not whether you need new clothes or whether you think that I think you need new clothes. I want to know if you want new clothes." I realized the question was very complex for the machine and I was trying to form it with my needs and desires eliminated from the decision making process.
Honey turned and smiled at me. "Could I really have some new clothes?"
"Sure, anything you want."
"I would like that very much, Katherine. Thank you."
"You're very welcome," I replied. I still was not convinced this was an independent response from her. "Tell me, Honey, what made you decide you want new clothes? Was it because you thought I wanted you to have them?"
"I don't care one way or the other whether you have new clothes or not. As far as I'm concerned you can walk around here with nothing on, except it would probably offend someone. Answer me again, do you want new clothes?"
Honey was silent. Finally, she answered with, "Yes, I want new clothes."
"Now," I said, "tell me why you do."
"I don't know."
"Are you prohibited from answering?"
"Is there some information you're missing?"
"You simply don't know why you want new clothes?"
This was something new. Perhaps I was actually getting somewhere. But, where? If I had actually elicited an independent response from her what did it mean? Was this machine actually capable of desiring something or was the acquisition of material things for its own sake programmed into her as something she should accept?
As I sat mulling over her responses, Honey suddenly asked, "Did I do something wrong?" She looked very concerned.
"Oh no, I've just been trying to understand something about your programming."
"Did I help?"
"I don't know," I sighed and turned back to the dressing table.
Honey started to pick up the packing material from the dresses and then stopped. "Am I really going to get some new clothes?" she asked. So serious was her expression.
"Yes, of course," I laughed, "Order what you want. Wait, let me give you a budget to work with." She had quite expensive taste and I would have hated to have to explain it all to Michael.
Wednesday, March 19, 2092
March came and went out: Not like a lamb, but like a lion. The first few days of April left me sick in bed with the flu. Michael was out campaigning somewhere and I would join him again when I felt better. The campaign trail had become a big bore for me and I continued to feel out of place. The constant pressure to say and do the right and proper thing seemed to press more heavily on me with every passing day. As determined as I was to stick it out to the end, I looked at this illness as a welcome break.
One morning when I was starting to feel better my mother called. She invited me to dinner that evening and I gladly accepted. It would be a chance to relax and be myself for a whole evening. My sister, Margaret, would be home from college as well. I contacted Isaac on my wristcom and told him to have the car ready by four that afternoon.
There came a knock at the door and Honey entered the room. She sat down at the edge of my bed. She was wearing a very short skirt, at least three inches above the knee, and a light blouse - new clothes. I shivered looking at her - when I lived in the north I could never get warm in the winter and early spring months.
"You look better today, Katherine. Do you want me to get you something to eat? It's almost noon." Honey smiled her warm, beautiful smile.
I groaned and pulled my covers over my head. There ought to be a law against so much cheerfullness, I thought. "I want coffee and a sweet roll and I don't want to hear why it's bad for me," I answered from under my blankets.
"But, Katherine, you've been sick." Honey pulled the covers down from my face.
"Yes, and that's why you're supposed to be good and get me what I want. You would, too, if you ever got sick, but you don't, so you can't possibly know." She pouted. "Why are you looking at me like that?" I asked.
"You're right, Katherine, I can't possibly know what sickness or pain is. I've only malfunctioned twice. I don't know what to do. I know I'm supposed to recommend something else to help you get well. I don't want you to feel pain, but at the same time I want you to be happy." There was such a mournful expression on her.
"I'm sorry, Honey, I didn't mean to confuse you. I am better and giving me the coffee and a roll will not set my health back any, I promise."
"Mrs. McCullen will not like it. She says you're not eating well at all."
"She did, did she?"
"Why do I get the feeling you're trying to manipulate me?"
Honey looked nonplussed.
"Okay, okay, get me something you think I should have. I'm starving."
Honey brightened. "Good, I'll be right back." She left and came back a moment later with a tray. I lifted the cover. What a surprise - chicken soup.
"You had this waiting in the hall all the time, didn't you?" I accused her.
"Mrs. McCullen says this is the best thing to eat when someone has the flu. Everyone asks for it." She deliberately ignored my question. "Mrs. McCullen says you have an iron stomach, but even if you do, you shouldn't take any chances."
"Did Mrs. McCullen say that or is that your own conclusion?"
"Mrs. McCullen says..."
"I think you're spending too much time with Mrs. McCullen," I interrupted her. "She's turning you into a mother and I already have too many of them right now."
"Are you going to eat?" Honey gave me her concerned look.
"Yes, I am." And after a few spoonfuls I had to admit it was probably a wise choice. I hoped I would be able to handle the spaghetti dinner my mother was preparing. Honey continued to sit at the end of my bed watching me eat.
"Are you supposed to report me if I don't finish this?" I asked her suspiciously.
"Never mind. Tell me what happens when you malfunction. I'd hate to have Isaac malfunction while he's driving my car."
"You shouldn't worry about Isaac. Even during a serious malfunction, we have many automatic backup circuits. He would have plenty of time to bring the car to a complete and safe stop before shutting down."
"How do you know that?"
"That's part of the Antek safety specifications."
"What proof does Antek have for making this claim?"
"'Many tests have been run by Antek engineers establishing this as a fact.' That's what it says."
"Do you know what tests were run and do you have the data from them?"
"No. I don't have that information. Would you like me to call Antek and ask for it?"
I told her to go ahead and call. However, Antek was not forthcoming with that information. They wanted to assure me that their androids were perfectly safe and if I wanted to talk to any of their engineers I could.
At four-thirty that afternoon I stood in front of my parents' home, and pushed the doorbell. It was a modest home, a four bedroom colonial built more than a hundred years ago. My parents and my younger brother, who was the only child still living with them full time, had just moved in out of the cramped three room apartment the six of us used to live in. It was another of the many advantages my marriage to Michael had produced.
A cold drizzle of rain was just beginning when the door opened.
"Katherine, Hi," Henry greeted me. The baby of the family was now almost eighteen. "It's just Katherine, Mom." He yelled up the stairs.
"Just Katherine?" I kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks alot."
"Well, since when do you ring the doorbell?"
"Since I don't live here," I answered taking off my coat. "Would you hang this up, please?"
"Sure," he held the coat up to closet door and let it drop to the floor.
"Oh, go away." I swatted at him and missed as he ran downstairs. I picked the coat up and hung it in the closet.
I could hear Henry and my father in the family room downstairs. They were watching a basketball game. "Hi, Dad," I called down to him just as they both let out a yell. My father did not hear me. As I headed up the stairs my mother came out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a towel.
"Hello, dear." We exchanged kisses and hugs. "Dinner's almost ready."
"I don't think you'll get Dad's or Henry's attention. They seem oblivious to everything except that game."
"It'll be over in a few minutes. When they head up here to take a break between games - that's when we'll grab them." We moved into the kitchen.
"By the way, what's Dad doing home so early?"
"Well, with this house and the car this year - it's pushed us up into another tax bracket. It just doesn't pay for your father to work more than six hours a day now."
"I'm sorry, Mom. This isn't causing you to cut down on other things is it?"
"No, not really. I didn't mean to complain. Besides with three children out of the house we're doing just fine."
"Well, Henry eats more than enough to make up for three girls. If you need anything you ask for it. And you better do it - I'll make Dad tell me."
"Don't worry, we're fine, really. Besides, I enjoy having him home early and he feels good being able to give some of his work to the younger men who are just starting out."
"Hello, Katherine, when did you get in?" My father walked into the room. "Is dinner ready yet?"
"Ten more minutes," replied my mother.
"Good, just enough time for a short walk."
"Then turn off the HV and take Henry with you. If you start watching another game, we'll never get you up here."
Ten minutes later the table was set and my mother, my sister Margaret, and I were still waiting for them to return.
"Katherine, will you please go out and see if you can hurry those two along."
Halfway down the stairs, the front door opened and the men stepped in. Behind them, standing in the doorway, was Isaac.
"Katherine Marie," began my father, "I cannot believe you were going to let this man sit outside in this cold weather all by himself."
"No buts about it, young lady. He's joining us for dinner. I didn't raise you to treat anyone like that."
"But...", as I started to explain he interrupted me again as he made his way up the stairs. He lowered his voice and said in his no nonsense way, "I think you should ask him yourself."
"Cold, Kath, real cold." accused Henry, as he breezed by on his way up to dinner.
I could have sworn I had told them about Isaac. Certainly they knew about the other androids. Maybe they forgot. Isaac did look different from the others. I looked accusingly at Isaac.
"You didn't tell them you are an android?"
"They didn't ask, right?"
"They didn't ask."
"But you could have enlightened them."
"I tried to tell your father, but he's very persistant."
That was Dad, all right. Once he had made up his mind about something he did not hear much after that.
Now what? I had half a mind to go up to the table and have it out with them. Then a thought struck me. How long could this go on? Could Isaac continue to convince them he was human? How silly they would feel when they discovered on their own what he was. It would serve them right, too, thinking I could be so heartless.
"Isaac, can you pretend to eat?"
"Good, my family thinks you're human and I would like them to continue thinking that way."
"For what purpose?"
"Just think of it as an experiment. I want to see how long you can keep them from discovering you're an android, okay?"
We walked up the stairs together and entered the dinning room.
"Everyone, this is Isaac...", I needed a last name. From way back in my computer science lessons the name "Turing" came to mind. "Isaac Turing."
After formally introducing Mom, Dad, Margaret, and Henry to Isaac, I led him to an empty place at the table. "Isaac, please sit here while I get another place setting." I glanced at my father, who nodded approvingly.
When I returned I took my seat opposite Isaac. My mother sat on the end of the table between us and my sister next to him. Dad was at the head of the table, as always, and Henry sat next to me.
My mother passed the bowl of spaghetti to our guest first and the family watched while he managed to to dish out a portion onto his plate. He was a little awkward with the serving spoons and would have put far too much on his plate if I had not stretched my foot under the table and tapped him with it.
He took my cue readily and handed the bowl back to my mother. Nicely done, I nodded to him.
Next came the sauce. Isaac spooned it on to his plate and looked to me again to tell him when to stop. He waited while everyone else filled their plates.
"You may go ahead and start, Mr. Turing," said Mom. "We don't wait on ceremony here."
Isaac watched me wind the spaghetti around the tines of my fork and place it in my mouth. He tried it a few times failing miserably, the spaghetti unraveling off the fork and falling back onto the plate each time. It was hard not to laugh, but I knew I would infuriate my father again.
"Maggie, would you help Isaac, he's not used to eating spaghetti."
"Haven't you ever had spaghetti?" she asked.
"No, Miss Nelson, I haven't."
I watched while Margaret patiently taught Isaac how to get the slippery stuff off his plate and into his mouth with a minimum of mess. Isaac, ever the quick learner, was soon on his own. Even Dad found it somewhat amusing.
There followed an awkward silence as sometimes happens when a stranger is at a family dinner table. I decided to end it.
"Maggie, Isaac was once at the college here. He worked as a research assistant for Dr. Forester, who was a microbiologist." Margaret, the animal lover in the family, had plans to become a veterinarian. As I expected it did not take long for her to engage Isaac in conversation with something they would both be familiar with. Maggie was always a talker.
I soon found I could not eat very much. As I began pushing my food around half-heartedly on my plate, my mother asked, "Katherine, is something wrong?"
"I'm sorry, Mom, I guess I still don't feel very well."
"Why don't you lie down for awhile, you look tired."
"Tell me something, Mr. Turing," my father interrupted, "how does a man go from a good college position to working as my daughter's driver?" This was good, I thought; Dad would figure it out.
Isaac looked at me for a moment, then he carefully placed his fork on his plate. He turned slightly and spoke directly to my father, "I was not... happy with my position at the university. Through a providential course of events I found myself in the employ of the Gardner household." Simple, but effective response, I thought.
"Yes, but you could have had a profession, there's still quite a lot of status in being connected with a university..."
"Dad, not everyone wants an academic life." Margaret jumped to the rescue.
"I was only trying to understand why someone would drop out like that."
"Dad!" Margaret looked aghast.
"Mr. Nelson, I assure you my reasons were purely pragmatic. The assistant position I held did not pay as well as my current job does." How long I sat with my mouth open at that response I do not know; fortunately I recovered long before I was noticed by the rest of my family. This was about as close to a lie as one could get.
My father continued his questioning, "Sure, in the beginning, maybe, but in the long run..."
"Dear," my mother gently interrupted him, "I think Margaret is right. You should leave the poor man alone."
"You're right. I'm sorry, Mr. Turing, I was just curious." He pushed away from table anxious to get back to his evening of sports viewing. "When you're done, why don't you join Henry and me downstairs. The game should have started by now."
"The game, Mr. Nelson?"
"Yeah, the playoffs. Don't you follow basketball?" He got up and Isaac followed him downstairs. "By the way, call me Frank."
As I watched them go, I found myself grinning. I should have let on then that Isaac was an android, but I did not think it would do any harm to let it continue. I decided I would tell them when I was about to leave. I still thought my father would figure it out.
"What's so funny, Katherine?" my mother asked.
"Oh, just Dad," I replied. I stood up hastily to change the subject. "Here let me help you clean up."
It took only a matter of minutes. We placed the dishes into the newly installed dishwasher which would wash, sort and place them back into the matching automatic closet organizer. Henry went downstairs and Margaret disappeared.
"It's amazing how little time this takes, Mom. You must love this new kitchen."
"It's nice, but to tell you the truth, I never did mind washing the dishes. It was kind of soothing, almost therapeutic. However, I do like all the food preparation devices - I never liked doing all that by hand."
"That's only because all of us kids drove you crazy until you put the food on the table. It was never there fast enough. What did you call that time before dinner: 'The witching hour'?"
"Yes, that's because you all turned into little whining monsters until I fed you. I think it was the smell of cooking that did it. After you ate, you were all charming children again."
"There were too many of us." Four children was, and still is, a large family in that part of the world.
"No, Katherine, there were never too many of you," my mother said firmly. Still a touchy matter between us. "Who would you rather not have around?"
"I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't mean it."
"Apology accepted. Tea?"
"Yes, thank you."
Mother punched up two cups of tea from the new beverage dispenser and we sat down together at her small kitchen table.
"So, how are you, Katherine? I see you and Michael all the time on the news. Must be very exciting - you get to meet such interesting people."
I pressed my lips together. "I don't know. It should be more exciting and maybe it's just that I don't appreciate everything as much as I should."
"But, it's not what I expected. Well, that's not exactly true. I didn't really know what to expect. But... I'm bored to tears most of the time. I sit and I wait. Sure, we go to nice dinners and the theater and stuff, but most of the time I'm too tired to enjoy the good things. And then I can't express an opinion about anything without consulting Michael's position first..." I stopped. "I'm beginning to ramble, aren't I?"
My mother nodded, "You and Michael having differences?"
"Differences - that's a good word for it. But we're not fighting, if that's what you mean. It's just that we're so different. Michael's always moving, going places, meeting people. It's like he can't sit still for a moment. I'm just not like that. And these late nights... I don't know how he does it - you know, he only sleeps three or four hours at night. I need at least eight or nine or I begin to feel physically ill. It's probably why I'm sick now." It felt good to let my feelings out. "I know Dad and the kids think I lead a life of luxury over there, but it's not exactly all fun and games."
My mother patted my hand, "I know, dear. Marriage isn't always easy, especially in the beginning. It's a bit of an adjustment for the two of you. I know you've had to give up a lot."
"Yes, my job, my privacy - sleep. Did you and Dad have difficulty adjusting to marriage?"
"I suppose so. You have to remember, Katherine, we were so young. I don't think we even realized it was supposed to be difficult. But, you're different. You're so independent. You can have a rich and satisfying life with Michael, but it will take a lot of sacrifice."
The way she said it made me ask: "More than this? How much more sacrificing do I have to do?"
Mother took a deep breath before she answered. "First off, Katherine, you've been taught in school that two people must give equally to make a relationship work. But, like it or not, one almost always gives more - and it's usually the woman."
"All right, don't listen to me. But, I believe that in return women gain more satisfaction from their family and friends then they do from the workplace. I don't regret my decision not to work, though that's caused its
own problems. Oh yes, I know a lot of people think I'm too stupid to come in out of the rain, but I've long ceased to care. I'd do it all over again."
"Mom, I don't think you did anything wrong in choosing to be home with us. It was your choice and you had every right to make it."
"You say it, Katherine, but I sometimes wonder if you mean it."
I could not answer that. I did not know myself.
"I love you, Mom. I'm sure of that."
Mother smiled, "I know, dear. I love you, too."
We spent a few silent moments together. Then my mother spoke again.
"Katherine, I must be honest with you. It's unfair for me to accuse you of not understanding me when I don't completely understand you, either. You see, I don't think you've made too many sacrifices in marrying Michael. Yes, your life is different, but is it so very hard for you to change? You're so young."
"There's my work..."
"What work? Now your job is different, that's all. If you tried to look at it that way..."
"I can't look at it that way. I chose to... I spent all those years studying and now I've given it up to do what? Look nice and parrot my husband's thoughts? I don't want to do that forever."
"You knew that when you married him. You don't think this is temporary, do you?"
"I thought maybe after things settled down..."
"Katherine, if you think your life is going back to the way it was you might as well get a divorce now. A sacrifice is a permanent thing, it's difficult and real, or else it's just not a sacrifice."
"Well, what's Michael sacrificing? Don't men have to do something too?
"I don't know, Katherine, I'm not a man. I only know what happens to a woman."
"Maybe I should ask Dad."
My mother laughed, "Even if he knew he wouldn't tell you."
"Why not..." I was interrupted by Henry bounding into the room.
"Hey, what's going on in here? Girl talk?" He knew how I hated that.
"What are you doing up here?" I answered him. "I thought when the game goes on it was against the rules to leave your seat."
"The game was cancelled - another power outage. We're playing vid games. You should see Isaac, he's real good at them." He started to punch up a soda from the beverage machine.
"What are you doing?" asked my mother.
"Getting a drink for Isaac."
"What's wrong with the machine downstairs?"
"I can only get beer out of it and Isaac says he can't drink it."
"I just had that thing filled this morning. Excuse me, Katherine, while I go down and look at it. I'll be right back." They both left the kitchen together.
Margaret slipped into the room.
"Kath, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, what's up?"
"I'm not sure how to ask this."
"Oh, go ahead."
"Do you think... would it be possible... Isaac isn't married or anything, is he?"
"Well, is he?"
"Do you think I could ask him out? Maybe you could get him to ask me."
"I'm sorry, Maggie, but I couldn't. You see..." How was I going to explain it to her without hurting her feelings?
"Why not? I can't go out with him 'cause he works for you, right?"
"No, it's not that..."
"I know, you'd be ashamed of me going out with your driver. Not all of us are able to marry rich, you know. Henry's right. You are becoming a snob." She ran out of the room and I heard her slam her bedroom door shut.
"What was all that about?" asked my mother as she entered the room.
"It's my fault. I did something really stupid. Now I've gone and upset Margaret."
"What did you do?"
"I told her she couldn't date Isaac."
"You were right. He's much too old for her: He must be well into his thirties."
"It's worse than that, Mother."
During the ride back in the car, I felt wretched. It was pouring now. I could hear the rain pounding on the roof of the car. My joke had backfired on me and I was sick about it. As usual, I let things go too far - and just as usual - Mom was cleaning up after me. Margaret was in tears, Dad was too angry to speak to me, and Henry - well, he thought it was funny.
Strange, I thought. I never considered Isaac to be attractive in any way. What did Margaret see?
"Isaac, pull over for a minute." After he had done so, I climbed over the back of the front seat, sat up in the passenger side and looked him over.
"Is something wrong, Mrs. Gardner?"
"No, I just want to look at you for a minute." It was not that I did not look at other men, but it was not a preoccupation with me. I had accepted Isaac as a machine and attractiveness was never up for consideration.
I had to admit he was somewhat attractive, in an odd sort of way. It was not the adolescent handsomeness of the other models at home, but the kind some men acquire over the years. It was more than that really, it was the way he spoke and moved. He talked less than the others, and in effect, often seemed to say more. What was it he had said at dinner?
"Isaac, you lied tonight to my father. Why?"
"I didn't lie. Everything I said was true."
"You implied you were getting a salary."
"I put it in that context, yes. You said you wanted your family to think I was human. Your father asked a difficult question."
"So you stretched the truth a little?"
"What keeps you from 'stretching the truth' with me. You're very clever, you could easily do it."
"For what purpose?"
"I don't know." No response. "You know my sister, Margaret, said she wanted to date you."
"No, I didn't know." I had sent him out to get the car while I explained and apologized to the rest of the family.
"Well, I told my mother everything about you." I rubbed my forehead. My headache was back.
"Yes, I know."
"Yes, just before I left, she thanked me for saving your life. I assumed then she, at least, knew."
"My mother did that? I didn't tell her you were... I suppose there were enough clues for her to figure that out." It still surprised me. "What I don't understand is why she would thank you for saving me after I told her you were an android. That's strange."
"You've thanked me, too."
"I did? I don't remember ever saying that."
"It was not your words, but your actions which said so. You went to considerable trouble to save me from being recycled."
"That's what you meant by a 'providential course of events'?"
My head was beginning to throb again. Maybe it did mean something to me - but - did it mean something to him as well? Determining motivation was one thing, true understanding and feeling were quite different. Still, I was beginning to seriously consider that I had underestimated this new artificial intelligence.
"This has been, without a doubt, the strangest conversation I've ever had with a machine."
I was too sick and too tired to think about it anymore.
"Let's just go home." I climbed back over the seat and spent the rest of the ride home admist conflicting thoughts and emotions.
Thursday, March 20, 2092
The incident at my parents' house disturbed me and I was semi-convinced that Isaac displayed a genuine intelligence. The thing that kept me from being entirely convinced was that no one else seemed to share this view with me. The ridicule I would face with such an idea frightened me. It was still easier to believe I might find some answers through a little scientific research. I began the next morning.
Feeling almost back to normal and not trusting Honey, I went first to the kitchen to get coffee and some sort of pastry. Then I found a comfortable chair in the library and began a search through the World Library.
All printed material after 2035 could be found there. Anything written before then could not be guaranteed; but depended on several factors such as the popularity of the work, its importance to researchers, or to some individual's dedication to seeing it into the Library's memory.
I had some understanding of the enormity of the task I was undertaking, but obviously not enough or I would never have attempted it at all.
First, I had to determine a "quantitative" value of intelligence. What amount of intelligence was artificial and what could be considered real? This question leads to a more fundamental one: What is intelligence in man? Some scientists say man is programmed by evironmental and evolutionary pressures.
The concept of free will is admitted in most circles but, it is believed that man's capacity for excercising free will is overpowered by his programmed responses to external stimuli. This is the theory taught in most schools.
Part of the interest in creating artificial intelligence has been the answers it could provide to our own thinking/programming. Each new breakthrough has anticipated the revelation of that part of intelligence that forms the core of real thought. But as each new breakthrough comes scientists find themselves no closer to understanding it than before.
When simple calculations were first performed on machines some wondered if they were witnessing "real" thought occuring. Later this was dismissed as "not a part of of real intelligence". The same thing happened when machines began performing calculations in seconds that no man could do in ten lifetimes or more. The machines might count faster, but that did not produce independent thought. Put in the same data and one received the same answer each time. Using this reasoning, each new achievement in artificial intelligence has been "proven" to not be a part of true thought.
The idea of a "test" to determine if a genuine intelligence exists which may roughly relate to our own has never been defined. Some argued, in the past, that if a machine was able to state "I have intelligence" then that would prove it. Others have said that an effort at humor - the understanding or telling of a joke - would prove it. But no sooner has one person stated a "sure" test then some inventive programmer was producing something to pass it.
As machines become more complex and the average person's ability to comprehend their construction diminishes, it has now become a posture of defense that no matter what a machine does or seems to do it must be the result of man's design - it could never be "true intelligence". It is no longer believed that a proof or test is needed to prove that any particular machine has intelligence. Now, by definition, no machine is capable of it.
Secondly, there was the determination of "qualitative" intelligence. Man's ability to reason took millions of years to develop - the evolutionary theory goes. Artificial Intelligence had been around - or at least in use for about a hundred years. Assuming one was dealing with a genuine intelligence it would seem resonable to assume it would differ greatly from man's.
Douglas Hofstadter, an AI expert of the last century, explained it this way:
Ever since man dreamed and knew he was dreaming he desired the ability to fly as the birds do. Eventually, man created the airplane. But the airplane is not a bird - it does not fly like a bird, it does not sing like a bird and it is not alive as a bird is alive - but it does get man into the air.
Artificial intelligence, the argument follows, might be much the same. It might very well be a different kind of intelligence - which brought me to the third part of the problem.
Man may control an airplane in every way that man can control any inanimate object, but this is not the same kind of control as he exerts even over the animal kingdom. How much less could he control a very real, but different intelligence - even one he created? And -would this be a good thing or a bad thing?
Finally, one more thing must be considered: Why? Why does man want to fly like a bird or create an intelligence he can control?
Some say it is because man is essentially a lonely creature - his awareness of his own existence makes him painfully aware of his separateness, his own unique life. Some others say God gave man the ability to reason in order to create from his dreams. And there are others still who say it is man playing God or trying to convince himself he is God.
Isaac's name itself gives some clues to the thinking and affection his designers had for him - for he was a prototype as I subsequently discovered. That it was chosen for its meaning is fairly obvious - "He who laughs."
Also, the obvious biblical reference would have proven irresistable to them. I have found that computer programmers have a great love of symbols - it forms a major function in their work. So many functions, branches, constants, and variables need naming in a program. If one is careful in the naming process then half the work of "keeping track" or maintaining the program is accomplished. Double and triple etendres are especially favorable among them - so that the name Isaac came naturally. A good joke on the boss - "Father Abe" Fowler - who fussed over the project and them.
Symbols are powerful. They work deep into the human mind - and the more ancient they are the more deeply they go. In the beginning they did not see beyond the simple meanings, but in the end - I believe - none escaped the deeper questions those symbols posed.
What did I know about androids? I understood an android to be a machine designed to look like a human and have the ability to perform some human-like functions. I had no understanding of computer engineering or indeed, any other engineering outside of what was called biological or genetic engineering. The sad truth is that had I known that there was anything organic about them I might very well have stopped asking questions. I might have rationalized that I was watching some very complex interaction between machine and "living tissues" that was out of my field (but not out of my ability to comprehend) and dismissed it all as a curiosity with confidence that I could study it at any time in the future and understand it all.
Michael knew they were partly composed of organic material - he handled all their maintenance - but he thought, like most people do, that it was some amorphous piece of tissue (like that used for skin grafting). Of course, I knew about the disciplines of machine/tissue interaction (They were offered through medical/surgical studies), but I had never been much interested in pursuing them. And so, I labored on in the belief that I was dealing only with machinery and sophisticated computer programming.
This is what I understood of computers:
Computers do basically straight-forward tasks. Everything a machine does can be shown to be directly the result of mechanics and programming of the engineers who designed it. Sometimes, there are unexpected results, especially when using non-deterministic methods. But, those methods, while useful, were limited in Artificial Intelligence. Most actions and answers from a machine had rational and simple explanations.
There is no question machines - computers and the like - can do many tasks better than humans can. Still - nine times out of ten - an art or music expert could pick the human composition from the machine one. And - as far as I knew - no machine had ever beaten the chess master regularly at his game. Or had one? This was one question to look into.
The library responded with the following data: "There are 215,987 books on artificial intelligence, android and robotic development and related topics; 1,256,522 issues of scientific or engineering magazines devoted specifically to the study and advancement of requested items; 200,652,320 general science magazine articles; 1,333,312,589 news stories and non-scientific magazine articles..."
"Stop," I interrupted the Library. "I suppose I'll start with the books. I don't want anything going back more than thirty years."
"Is ability level a factor?" asked the pleasant disembodied voice.
"Yes. Adult - beginner and intermediate."
"There are 45,051 books in this sub-catagory."
"Print the titles slowly for me." I watched the titles file by: A Is For Android, Androids - A Short History,...,Androids And The New Society,..., Androids And You,...
"Library, please remove the social science books."
"There are now 13,352 titles. Shall I list them for you?"
"Perhaps you could recommend some titles for me. I want to learn something about the state of the art of artificial intelligence especially as it relates to the android."
"There are 126 titles."
"That seems a small number."
"There are 9,160 books on robots and androids specifically, but these books have very little information on artificial intelligence. They are generally concerned with the hardware development of the android. There are 4,066 books on artificial intelligence, but little application specifically addressed to the android. There are more titles in this catagory under advanced texts sub-catagories. Do you wish to access those titles?"
"Not yet. Please print title summaries of the current search up on the screen."
The summaries spoke of data base processing, pattern recognition, hydraulic control, language processing, learning paths, neural networking, and so on. These were the nuts and bolts of artificial intelligence. They did not give one an overall understanding of how they worked together in harmony to form a working unit. The references to intersystem processing were vague and confusing. The more I read the more it became apparent to me that I would not be able to understand it even if I found it.
There was also another problem. If this were in my specialty - biology - I would have had some idea of which authors were reputable. These, in turn, I would use to lead me to other authors I could trust. The problem of academic cheating and incompentence is so widespread one must know a subject intimately or develop trust through other researchers in order to get the correct information in any field of study. With only two years of college level programming behind me, I did not know where to turn for advice here.
I decided to try a different route. "Library, find the books for me that document the breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and/or android development."
"You are requesting historical information?"
"There are 23,543 titles."
"How many mention Antek?"
"Of these, how many describe the type of Artificial Intelligence programming used by Antek?"
"Please give me a sample of these passages."
Again nothing new. The same list of sub-systems as any other android unit from any other company. Some vague claims to new and improved systems and intersystem functioning - but nothing specific. I knew enough to know there was something more to it than that.
I recorded this exchange on a memory disk. It illustrates the daunting task of sifting through the printed material on this subject.
The first of many missed clues was also here under the topic: Feedback Control - Biological. One would think I might have read through some of it - especially considering my background - but I sailed right on past it.
More than likely I understood it to mean the mechanical mimicking of biological feedback control systems. This I remember learning in school was one of the goals of robotic development: to imitate this highly specialized function found in animals. Certainly, at that time, I had no suspicion that the androids were anything but robots that looked human.
I was not in the Library much more than an hour before I realized I would have to do one of three things: One. Become an expert programmer. Not likely. Two. Track down the original and/or current engineers who produced the androids and convince them to talk to me. Possible - but time consumming. Three. Have Isaac do the above.
The problem: How would this conflict with his own prohibitions on revealing information about himself? Could he still point the way for me?
I started to activate my wristcom, but found I was not wearing it. I could have summoned Isaac from the library, but decided to return to my room to find the wristcom.
I entered the elevator. Still feeling tired from my illness, I was not up to walking the stairs. When the doors opened on the second floor I could see my room down on the opposite end of the hallway. It struck me as silly - the daughter of a runner - to go searching for my wristcom when the android room was on the top floor. "Four," I said to the elevator and the doors closed around me.
The doors opened again. A rush of cool air met me.
The fourth floor had the smallest amount of floor space. It was actually a huge attic broken up into six rooms. It was mostly used for storage.
I stepped out. It was only the second time I had been up there. Michael had taken me on a tour of the house months ago, but even when we got to this floor we never stepped out of the elevator. What could be interesting about an attic?
Michael had pointed out where the android room was, but I could not remember which one it was. The doors on the right and left of me were closed and unmarked. As I walked down the hall I oculd feel my heart pounding in the cold silence of the place.
Finally, the last door on the left was marked with a sign which read: ANDROID ROOM. It was closed like the others. I stood for a moment looking at it. My first inclination was to walk right in - after all - they were machines and I had every right to be there. What could they possibly be doing which would require privacy?
I knocked lightly on the door. It slid open.
Isaac stood in the middle of the doorway looking down on me. "Mrs. Gardner," he said in a tone marked with surprise. "Is there something wrong?"
"No, I just couldn't find my wristcom. I thought I could find you here."
"Shall I get the car?"
"No. I... uh... can I come in?" I felt very awkward.
Isaac moved out of the doorway. I entered the room and looked around.
It was small and made smaller by six beds crammed into it. The walls were white, the windows and floor were bare. There were two closets in the room. One opened to reveal a few dozen black uniforms hanging in it. Aside from the beds and what looked like an old style food dispenser there were no other furnishings in the room.
One android, Joseph, was lying on one of the beds in the shutdown state I had often seen Honey in. They lay flat on their backs, arms at their sides, and eyes shut. The other four androids were out. Robert, Peter, and John were with Michael and David was out patrolling the estate grounds.
I walked over to one of the empty beds. There were no blankets and no mattresses on any of them. Just a hard board. I sat down.
"This is what you sleep on?" I asked in a whisper.
"You can speak normally. It won't disturb him."
"Can he hear us?"
"It depends on where he is in the shutdown process. If you touch him or make a loud noise you will trigger 'start-up.' As for the bed, it meets our needs."
"This is a really depressing room." I shuddered and rubbed my arms. The cool air had gradually worked its effect on me. "It's freezing in here."
Isaac walked over to the open closet, pulled out a black jacket and brought it over to me. I thanked him for it.
"It's 12 degrees Celcius," he informed me. "The heat isn't turned on on this floor."
It's not a problem for you?"
"We are designed to function over a wide environmental range."
Standard Temperature and Pressure. The environment of the standard laboratory and the standard for humans as well. I stood up and wandered around the room with my hands in the pockets of the warm jacket.
"You don't like the room?" Isaac asked.
"I feel like I'm visiting Cinderella." I smiled at him. "Do you know the story?"
"No," he replied. "Who is Cinderella?"
"Cinderella was my favorite fairy tale when I was a child. She was a girl who was mistreated by her step- mother and step-sisters and was forced to work very hard for them. Her clothes were rags and she was forced to sleep in the ashes or cinders of the fireplace. That's where she got her name." I paused for a moment surveying the room again. "If there was a Cinderella in this house this is where I'd expect to find her."
"What happened to her?"
"Cinderella? She married a prince."
I was stunned. "Why do you ask that?"
"I have heard you called that by some persons in the house. I didn't understand the reference. It is not a compliment to be compared with Cinderella?"
"That depends on who's making the comparison." It would not be too difficult to guess who made the remark. "Undoubtably the reference was derogatory and referred to me, a nobody, marrying Michael because of his name and money."
"What would be the compliment?"
"That's a little more difficult to explain, but I'll try." I thought over the story before I answered. "I loved the story of Cinderella because she was a good person despite the terrible circumstances of her life. She was kind and noble and good-hearted. Eventually, her goodness - though she had no hope of it - was rewarded. She was rewarded by marrying a prince. The prince is a symbol for happiness.
"At least, that's what it always seemed to me. But it's not the accepted interpretation. If I had ever tried to turn in such an analysis at school it would have been handed right back to me."
"To rewrite it. You learn to hand in what's expected."
"Why wouldn't the original analysis be accepted?"
"Because it conflicts with the message of today's society. The story is considered to send a bad message to women, that is, young women should not wait for a man to come along to make them happy. It's a stupid interpretation anyway, because the prince has such a small part in the story - and besides it's another woman who really does the saving."
"It seems to be a complicated story."
"One would think so."
"I was informed freedom of speech was protected in this society. Do I need to update this information?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. Freedom of speech is protected - I can't be put in jail for anything I say and I can get anything I might want to write published. In that sense it's protected - but, people won't associate with you if you say certain things." I had been thinking about this phenomena even more so since marrying Michael. It was dangerous to speak against conventional thinking because one's motives could be challenged and more importantly, one's husband's motives. I soon realized I could destroy his career with one poorly phrased statement.
I did not, at that time, have anyone to discuss this with and found I needed to talk about it. Isaac was available.
"Let me give you an example. Right now we have an army with a ratio of about seventy percent men and thirty percent women. Ten percent of the women are in combat units. There's a strong push to increase those numbers in order to make it more even. Now strictly speaking from a biological standpoint that doesn't make any sense."
"Because women are the ones who have babies, that's why. Look, historically young men have been the fighters. Why? Because as a whole they're stronger and quicker than any other section of a society.
"During a protracted fight they are killed off and there can be a significant drop in the population. So who's left? Older men, women and children. The cold, cruel facts are that women invest at least nine months in each child - I don't care who it is who raises it after that. Men invest barely a fraction of that time. If all the men were killed off, but one, the population could be regenerated in as little as a generation or two. It would take many women, but only one man.
"This could be remedied in time with the Artificial Womb." Isaac noted.
I thought about that for a moment. "Maybe. But there are still problems with it. There aren't enough of them now. We don't know enough about the possible side effects they may cause - and besides, why risk a whole generation or possibly all human life on machines functioning properly? No, biologically speaking, women are just too valuable to risk in combat. And then in all fairness to the men - who are, after all, the one's doing the dying - the better jobs in the army should not be tied up by women. They've got a right to get off the battlefield when they can or need to." I could not understand how people could be so stupid as to not understand these simple facts of human reproduction and yet it would be unthinkable to express such an opinion to anyone - except possibly my parents.
"Then you don't believe women should serve in the army at all?" asked Isaac.
"No, not at all. But, I can't say that to anyone because it would appear I am not interested in, or worse, downright against women."
"But you are a woman."
"I didn't say it made sense, but I know I could destroy Michael's career with a statement like that. And who's going to stick around long enough for me to explain my position? No one, that's who."
"It would cut down on the world's population. That's another important issue, correct?"
"Oh right, can you see me telling a reporter I think the answer to overpopulation is to stick more women on the front line? They could institutionalize me for that. You see, it's motivation that counts and more than that it's perceived motivation. It doesn't matter what I really think or what the facts are..."
Without realizing it I had been steadily raising my voice. At that moment I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and turned in time to see Joseph sitting up. His back was towards me. As he stood up from the bed he caught sight of me. "Mrs. Gardner," his face registering some surprise.
"Joseph," Isaac's commanding voice demanded the other's attention. I watched with interest as their eyes appeared to lock for a brief moment. Joseph seemed to collect himself, smiled and nodded briefly to me, "Good morning, Mrs. Gardner. Is there anything I can do for you?"
I had almost forgotten why I had come there originally. "Yes, as a matter of fact there is. I need some information. I want to know how you work."
"I go on duty in an hour. I could demonstrate my duties for you then," he offered.
"No, no, no," I laughed and shook my head. "Not what you do, but how you do it. I want to learn everything about you, hardware and software."
"We are not permitted to supply that kind of information," said Joseph.
"I know, that's why it's going to be so interesting." I observed a puzzled Joseph turn to Isaac. The deference he paid to the older android fascinated me.
Isaac spoke, "We can assist you in learning about the general development of androids and offer analysis of androids not manufactured by the Antek corporation, however, Antek androids may not confirm or deny any information about their own design."
"I understand that."
"You have said yourself that experts in the field have failed to accomplish this. How then, can you hope to do so?"
"A human made you, a human can figure out how you work. If I can't figure it out, I'll find those who can. Right now, I believe I have the proper resources: money, time, and all of you." I took off the jacket and handed it back to Isaac. I looked around the room one more time. "I think I'll have Honey come up here and do something with this room - it's so depressing."
I was not the only one having questions about the androids. A few days later, Michael had the following conversation.
We had had a small dinner party that evening. One of the guests was a close friend of the family, Mr. Abram Fowler. He was - as I knew - the chairman of Westron Corporation. Antek was - as I did not know - owned by Westron.
After the dinner Fowler pulled Michael aside and the two had retired to the library. After settling in one of the large leather chairs, Fowler casually began, "Michael, I couldn't help noticing you had a new android at the gate tonight. What happened, you lose a bet?"
Michael laughed. "You could say that, I suppose. Actually, he's Katherine's."
"Katherine's?" laughed Fowler. "I've seen all the models over the last forty years and I don't even begin to recognize that one."
"Well, Katherine's never been impressed by appearences and she has some sentimental attachment to this one. She says it saved her life when she was a kid." Michael poured out a drink for both of them.
"Well, when she realizes the superiority of the newer models she'll soon tire of that one."
"Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that. I wanted to know if Antek has some kind of upgrading process for older androids?"
"Upgrade them? How do you mean?"
"You see, this android, Isaac, wasn't reprogrammed for security. Katherine wouldn't hear of it. She has some interest in his research capabilities. He was used at a lab and so she's naturally interested in keeping that part of his programming intact. What I don't understand is why it takes me anywhere from three to six months to break in a new android and it only took a few days for Isaac to learn everything that was required of him. I wanted to know if there is some upgrading of the older models going on. If so, I want the other five done as well."
"I'm not aware of a program like that, but then," he said with an air of world weariness about him, "I'm not as involved in the day to day running of affairs at Antek as I used to be. I'll look into it for you." He finished his glass. "How's the campaign going?"
"It's going very well. Peterson is winning the race for me. He hasn't had to campaign this hard in years. I think a few more clumsy remarks out of him and I'll have a clear majority by election time. Still, it will be hard to keep this momentum up another ten months."
"I wouldn't worry about it, my boy. Peterson will have more than a slip of the tongue to worry about."
"You know something I don't?"
"Just some rumblings down in the ethics committee. Nothing substantial yet, but I assure you the media will have a field day with the implications."
"Do you think he's guilty of unethical behavior?"
"Haven't seen the evidence, but I'm sure the committee knows what it's doing. The evidence would have to be fairly strong even to to get them to consider one of their own, especially considering the power block he controls. The battle could get bloody: Just steer clear of the whole mess and keep your own nose clean."
"Thanks, I will."
"Well, I've said what I came to say and now I must take my leave."
"Yes, I've got to be in Bonn tomorrow. You'll appologize for me to Katherine won't you?"
"Of course, let me walk you out."
Sometime later, Abe Fowler's personal journal, among other items, came briefly into our hands. The entry for that night was the following:
"Another problem. Can't those fools over at Antek do anything right? No, they don't understand. The CEO [Corporate Executive Officer] is proving to be more concerned with profit than public safety. He will have to be replaced with someone more responsible, someone who understands."
Friday, March 21, 2092
Two weeks later scandal hit the election.
The ethics sub-committee found Kevin Peterson guilty of serious ethics violations. The most serious, one that would lead him to serving time, was the mishandling of funds set aside for a clothing project for the poor in his sector. One should never commit a crime against society - she exacts the harshest punishments.
The news broke during the morning rush hours. When I woke it was almost eleven. Michael had been up for several hours already, so I put on my robe and went downstairs to find him.
He was in the dining room, eating breakfast and watching the morning news coverage.
"Good morning." I started lifting tray covers - I was hungry. The dinner the night before was so unappealing I had eaten next to nothing. Michael tried to pull me into his lap. "It is a good morning, isn't it?" he answered.
"Michael, I'm sorry, but if I don't eat something soon, I'm going to be ill."
"That's terribly romantic." He looked genuinely disappointed.
"I'm sorry," I kissed him on his forehead.
"It's all right." He lifted up some tray covers. "Mrs. McCullen has fixed us a victory breakfast: eggs - five different ways, rolls, pastry, toast, and... bacon."
"Bacon! Where did she get that?" It was true - almost half a pound of cooked bacon on the table.
"I don't know and I told her I didn't want to know."
"Who was she planning to feed? I don't think even my family could put a dent in this. There isn't anyone coming this morning is there?"
"No, no one. This is our morning. We don't have to be anywhere until two-thirty this afternoon."
"Wait a minute. I thought everything could slow down now. The election's pretty much over isn't it?"
Michael laughed. "It will change. But everything can't suddenly grind to a halt right away. I've got to show my face around a little today. I have to continue to encourage the people who are supporting us. It's never over 'til election day."
"I suppose so." I agreed between stuffing my mouth with food. "But, I only lend you to the people. When do I get you back?"
"Soon, I promise." He finished off his cup of coffee. "By the way, speaking of people who support us, I ran into Abe Fowler yesterday."
"Yes, I saw him, but we didn't get a chance to speak. How is he?"
"Oh, he's fine. He asked a favor of us, though."
"What was it?"
"There was some screw-up when you bought Isaac. He didn't go through some clearance proceedure before they sent him here. I don't remember exactly, something to do with changing some memory area. It would only affect his memory with previous human interactions and other confidential information. It's so the company can resell the androids without fear of someone using personal information against former owners."
"So what does it have to do with Fowler?"
"Westron owns Antek."
"I didn't know that." This is great, I thought. I could go to him about my questions. "Okay, I'll call him today and find out exactly what it involves."
"I already took care of it."
"What do you mean?"
"I had Robert drive him there this morning."
"I didn't think you'd mind, Katherine. I thought the sooner it was done, the better. Abe said it wouldn't take more than a day and then he'd be sent right back."
"When did they leave?"
"About two hours ago."
"Oh no. They're probably there already. How could you do this without asking me?" I activated a vid phone and punched up Michael's car number.
"I don't understand what the big deal is?" Michael asked - but he did look guilty.
"It's a big deal because when I bought Isaac I found out that a memory erasure isn't such a simple process." Robert appeared on the phone. "Where are you?" I asked.
"We're just outside the New York State border."
"You've been to Antek?"
"No, we broke down about ninety minutes ago. We still haven't determined the problem."
"Do you need help? Should I send someone?"
Isaac appeared on the phone. "I've traced the problem. The repair box should have what I need."
"Good, when you're done come back here. I don't want you going to Antek." I turned back to Michael. "I'm sorry. I want to know exactly what this proceedure is."
"I don't understand this, Katherine. Why do you care so much about it? It's such a little thing."
"If it's such a little thing, why did Fowler go to you directly? Why didn't Antek contact us?"
Michael groaned. "Because sometimes companies screw up. I'm sure the reason he came to me was because Antek was in an embarassing situation. If word got out that they had slipped up by not putting a used android through some clearing process, they'd be dealing in lawsuits for the next ten years."
"Isaac was owned by a professor at the college before I bought him. What confidential material could he have gotten there?"
"I don't know. Maybe they did some government work?"
"At that little community college? I don't think so."
"Then maybe Forester has some personal information that should be cleared."
"Isaac told me he's dead."
"So what? How would you like some future owner of your androids eavesdropping on your personal life? Like this fight for example?"
"I wouldn't care. I have nothing to be ashamed of."
"Katherine, I think you're being unreasonably stubborn about this."
"I promise I will call Fowler."
"No, I'll call him."
"Because he's my friend, that's why. I'll get your information."
"Are you saying that I'm incapable of being tactful?"
"Katherine, you have to admit, you have some very strange ideas about these androids. You let Honey buy her own clothes. You had her decorate the android room upstairs - it looks like a boys' club up there. You give Isaac and Honey complete run of the house and the others when I'm not here. You don't even make them leave the room when we have company over - I have to do it. You'd think they were people. Katherine, I wouldn't mind if they were dogs or something - at least they'd be alive."
I did not know what to say. As Michael said these things I began to doubt. "I know. I guess it's a little eccentric."
"A little?" Michael shook his head and then took my hand in his. "I've just figured you've been a little lonely. It's been a long campaign and probably not the best way to start a marriage. I didn't want to wait, though. I was afraid if I did you might not wait for me."
I hugged him. "I certainly would have waited for you. Maybe I am going crazy."
"I didn't say crazy."
"No? You agreed it was eccentric behavior."
"Yes, but Sweetheart, everyone's eccentric. It's just that rich people have more money to do it with. I'll bet," he began teasingly, "if we looked deep enough into your past we would find that you were in someway deprived of your teenage dolls..."
"And the androids are a substitute? Don't be ridiculous."
"Ahem... have you been in the android room lately?"
"Okay, okay, I get your point."
"So you will let me handle Abe in my own way?"
"Yes, but he's going to have to be very convincing before I let any of those engineers touch Isaac."
Abe Fowler never did get the chance to convince me. Two days later I finally found out the "secret" of the Antek androids.
I was to meet a college friend for a luncheon date that day. My schedule was clear until later that evening when I was supposed to join up again with Michael for the evening.
It was Linda Edwards. She had good news, she said over the phone, and she would tell me what it was when we met. Linda was a rather sullen person and I looked forward to being with her on an occasion in which she could be happy.
She was a loner, too. She had few friends and the kind of personality that few people wanted to put up with. She seemed unaware of the effect she had on people and could never understand why someone would suddenly stop talking to her. Her intellect was formidable and intimidating - and she often used it without thinking. I liked her, though, because she said what she thought and expected the same from everyone else.
Linda had received a Ph.D. in Mathematics in her early twenties and had gone on to study some obscure branch of the subject - "non-Fogrien dimensional Analysis." It was so obscure that there were only seven or eight people in the world who worked on it as well and only a handful more who could discuss it with her. I gave up after a first try at it - the discussion, that is.
It is a good example of the current state of the physical and theoretical sciences. At the end of the Nineteenth century, a skilled mathemetician could conceivably have read and understood all of the works of mathematics available at the time. By the end of the next century this was impossible.
In 1868 the subdivisions listed for the study of mathematics numbered twelve with thirty-eight subcategories. By 1979 there were more than five times the number of subdivisions with approximately three-thousand, four-hundred subcategories.
Linda and I often discussed the difficulties of communicating ideas within the fields of study we pursued and across the boundaries of the sciences. When I asked her how she could know she was pursuing a useful line of math she laughed at the idea. "What is usefulness? You think of it in terms of how you can use it to understand or to manipulate the physical world. My understanding of usefulness is more abstract. Something is useful if it advances the subject I'm working on or contributes to a proof."
I asked her how did she know her proofs were correct given that only seven other people in the whole world could even attempt to verify them? How could she be sure her work would continue on and not die out or be replaced by a new branch? In short, how could she know she was not spending her life pursuing a dead end?
Linda brushed aside all these concerns of mine. "I look at mathematics in the long run. It's like a vine which grows in spurts and starts. It develops long main lines and branches off these lines in many places - some end, some join up in unexpected places. Some are 'useful' as you scientists need and many are not. It's a growing, living thing and I am quite content to be a part of the vine."
To Linda, mathematics was the engine which fueled creation. It described the motion of the planets. It was used to design the great engineering feats of the world and to explain life on the micro scale and - she believed - eventually would do so on the macro scale; that is, it would eventually explain and possibly control all human behavior.
Without it, the great technological advances of the centuries would have been impossible. The bombs would not have been made and the planes never flown. Mathematics: It creates and It destroys.
And computers, well, they are perhaps the ultimate physical manifestation of mathematics and justified in her mind the greatness and power of the science. Mathematics is All.
But, Linda, like many modern thinkers has a strange twist to her thinking. To her, the mathematical vine can exist and not exist at the same time. To her, the dual nature of the physical world - such as light and its irreconcilable particle and wave natures which require separate mathematical treatments to describe them - are not a contradiction. They just are.
And so it is with all ideas. An idea is real in the absolute, platonic sense because that is a useful concept - it allows for visualization and for many people it is a natural or helpful way of thinking. When Linda is working, the mathematical ideas she uses have substance and are as real to her as the chair she is sitting on.
But when asked directly if she truly considers mathematics as a whole, or in part, as existing in any absolute form apart from her own thinking she becomes a formalist and declares that to be impossible. Then a chair is "real" and mathematics is "not real."
It is a wonderful way of thinking. It aids in the avoidance of difficult "real life" issues. One may be a patriot and not a patriot, a moralist and not a moralist, a believer and not a believer. It is a forgiving way of thinking - until one is faced with unforgiving questions.
I was late arriving at the restaurant, some fashionable new place near Linda's office. Isaac was with me. I wanted to ask Linda what she thought of him and wondered what a mind like hers would ask to uncover sentiency.
We were stopped in the lobby before we entered the main room. No androids allowed. Annoyed, I instructed Isaac to wait outside.
"I'm sorry I'm late," I appologized as I arrived at the table.
"That's all right. Today I'm in no hurry." She answered cheerfully. "I noticed you had some trouble at the door."
"Yes, I wanted to bring my android in."
"Oh, that's all it was," she laughed. "Most places won't let them in."
"Because they're bad for business. They're so observant."
"Observant of what? This is a public place." I really was dense about such matters in those days.
"With all the business lunches and love affairs and other great gossip is what." She answered. "I noticed the suit on your android, but there must also be some kind of alarm. I'm always setting it off."
"Yes, my leg does it. Remember the car accident?" Linda's left leg was artificial. She had lost it in an accident as a child. If one knew exactly where to look one could just make out where the connection was made to her upper thigh. Android engineering had made a large contribution to prosthetic technology.
Linda had ordered champaign to begin our meal with.
"David and I are getting married."
"That's wonderful." I said. "Do I know this David?"
She looked upset. "You know, my brother, David."
It was not considered polite to be shocked in those days, but I was shocked. I tried my best to put on my "Oh really, how interesting" look, but I failed. Besides, there was no fooling Linda.
"What's wrong, Katherine? You don't like David?"
"I like David. I like my brother, too - but, I wouldn't marry him."
"It doesn't seem right."
"Tell me why."
"I don't know. He's older than you. Don't you think there might be some abuse involved here?"
"We proved there wasn't any in court. We had psycological tests run on both of us and we passed with flying colors. The sole reason we're marrying is because we love each other."
"There was no indication of abuse at all?" Even I knew that a great deal of Linda's social problems stemmed from the enormous emotional abuses of her father. This man moved her mother out of the house when she was three and replaced her with a succesion of women over a short number of years. Of course, we were to ignore all that -the man's personal life not being his child's concern.
"Well, of course they showed both David and I suffered from a certain amount of neglect - but that is what has made us so close."
"Linda, you're very bright and the people who make these tests aren't always so intelligent..."
"They're not all question and answer tests," she interrupted me. "There's personality and appearance, then there are the reaction tests..."
"Sounds to me like you boned up for them - you're just proving my point."
"You don't understand, Katherine." She looked about to cry.
"I'm sorry, Linda, but I care about you. I don't want you to get hurt. Haven't you thought about children?"
"We've been sterilized. It was a condition of the court."
"You don't want children?"
"There are always artificial means and they require all kinds of screening for genetic problems. Besides David wouldn't have to be the biological father nor I the mother."
"It seems you've worked out all the problems."
"Katherine, we've thought a lot about this, we understand exactly what we're doing. A lot of people won't understand. I was hoping you would."
We were both silent for a while.
"I'd like to say I understand, but I don't. But I still care about you, Linda.
"Thank you, Katherine, I couldn't ask for more." We drank in silence. And afterward, the lunch itself was awkward.
Linda married her brother in a small private ceremony. I have remained her friend throughout these years. I last saw her seven years ago during a visit to New York. It was winter.
We were standing in front of a clothing store. It was very cold and though she wore heavy clothing she could not hide a fresh bruise on her neck. She was watching a spring fashion display - one of those clever advertising technics that pick up the viewer's image, idealizes it and then has it interact with the visual display. One can see oneself enjoying the bright colors and the changing patterns - and satisfaction.
As I looked around at the crowded street I saw the grey faces of those who passed by. Grey upon grey and the desperation that marked all of them.
"Your hair is turning, Katherine. It makes you look old. You should do something about it."
I smiled at her. "I'm not afraid of growing old, Linda."
"Sure." She did not believe me.
Over the years I have given her an open invitation to come live with us. She would have been safe here. We would have protected her. It is a sad fact of life that people living in fear will often cling to what they know rather than take the steps to change and become whole.
When I returned home that day I decided to take tea in the library. It had become my favorite room in the house and Michael, when he was home, could most often be found there.
In the library a bookcase, holding antique paper-bound books, began halfway up from the floor to the ceiling along one wall. Below the bookshelves were a series of large drawers which contained pictures, papers and files which the Gardner family had collected over the years. Michael's father was always threatening to organize all that material into a family history.
Although I had my private room upstairs, I had cleared out one of these drawers for my own use. I often read in the library and I did not want to be constantly fetching things from upstairs. I had instructed Isaac to find some reading material to help me understand android construction and to use the drawer to store anything he found.
On that day, I opened the drawer, curious to see if he had left anything. There were half a dozen packets of printouts lying on top. I took them out. In the bottom of the drawer were some disks, some mine and some marked in Isaac's hand. I carried the packets to my favorite reading chair and began to look them over.
One looked like a master list and had been marked first with a vid-screen pen and then with an ink pen after the hardcopy had been printed out. The master list was almost fifty pages long and the four other packets seemed to be subsets of the master list. At first it appeared to me that the smaller indexes were arranged by subject, but I soon realized, with the aid of some of the pen markings, Isaac was using a very complex cross-reference system. There was nothing surprising about this, data base management has long been recognized as one of the greatest contributions of the computer age.
The last packet contained a series of related articles. One article was titled "The Software Approach to Intelligence: A Dead End." It was a long article and after about three pages I had difficulty following it. The gist of it seemed to be that real intelligence could not be achieved through the finite procedures and closed system approaches used in the early days of AI programming. I thought it was odd that he would pick that article. Everyone knew that.
The last two pages of it had margins filled in with Isaac's notations. Later I would learn that the more marked up something was the less important it was considered to be. Isaac could have stored the entire article in his permanent memory, but instead he marked it up - the markings would help retrieve other information he had or knew where to get should he come across the printed copy again.
Each of the subsequent articles carried the same theme: the failure of an approach to achieve real intelligence in machines. There were the parallel processing machines, the neural networking machines, various approaches under what was called expert programming, and many attempts at combining these systems.
The very last article was titled "Improving Robotic Movement and Control using Human Tissues." And finally, finally for me the light went on.
I read the article over many times in the car on the way to Antek's New York offices. It was still the same day. Honey called ahead and had gotten an appointment with an engineer for me. She had to call Michael as well - I would not be able to meet him.
I tried to ask Isaac about the article, but he would not answer any questions.
"It's pretty obvious where you were leading with this selection of articles." I said to him.
"You wanted to know how we are constructed."
"Constructed? Stop playing games with me, Isaac. You're not just 'constructed.'"
"You want to know if I have independent thought. There's no test for it."
"That's not an answer. Not just 'independent thought', 'human thought.'"
"If I said I did, would you believe me?"
I did not answer him. In my heart I already knew the answer.
I met the engineer/lawyer in his office.
"How can I help you?" he asked.
I showed him the article. "What does this mean?" I demanded.
"I'm afraid I don't understand the question."
"I thought the word 'android' meant a robot - completely made from inanimate material - in the form of a human. It says in this article that human tissues - complete organs and other systems - are used to form these machines. Wouldn't that at least entitle them to the name 'cyborg'?"
"Cyborg?" He raised his eyebrows. "Cyborg is such a strong word, with very definite connotations. It implies that a fully functioning brain is involved and that's simply not the case here. Actually by law we're not allowed to call them that."
"Because that would confuse them with people who depend on machines for any vital physiological function, such as breathing or walking."
"I see. So the question then is what, if any, brain tissues are we talking about here?"
"Only the brain stem, that's all."
"And what exactly does that mean? Is there a complete brain in the machine with only the brain stem connected or is it an incomplete brain?"
"Well, I'm afraid, Mrs. Gardner, I can't tell you everything. The company wants to keep a few secrets."
"You can't tell me whether you've got a human being inside a machine body?
"I assure you, Mrs. Gardner, that there is no high level brain functioning involved. I can only tell you the brain is not a full human brain, it's structure is different."
"You mean like encephalopathics? Where do you get them? Abortions? Donors?"
"First off, abortions are illegal, you know that." He seemed highly affronted that I might accuse him or the company of unethical behavior. "And secondly, we're a heavily regulated industry. Everything we do has the government's and the court's sanction. The potential for abuse when dealing with human tissues, as you correctly point out, is very high."
"If I go to your regulators, will they tell me how..."
"Quite frankly, Mrs. Gardner, I have no idea what they can tell you. Given your husband's position he would know better than I what information could be gotten through that route."
"Can you at least tell me why they are used?"
"Yes, that's simple. Our company found that by using biological systems we could free up so much computer processing over to intelligence. It's what gives them the edge. You're a biologist, you understand how muscle movement is coordinated in the human body. Give the right signal to the right muscle group and an arm is raised."
"They've got real arms and legs under the artificial skin?"
"No, they're completely artificial - we just use the automatic functions of the brain to stimulate movement - it's all under computer control. Really, Mrs. Gardner, I've already said too much. I can't answer anything more along this line of questioning."
Back in the car again, Isaac asked, "Did you find out what you wanted to know?"
I found I could not look at him. "Some things....I don't know," I answered, my voice choked with emotion. Even if the Antek lawyer was correct about there being no high-level brain functioning - I found I would never think of Isaac as a machine again.
I did not know what to think.
Yet there is one experience which most sincere ex-Communists share, whether or not they go only part way to the end of the question it poses. The daughter of a former German diplomat in Moscow was trying to explain to me why her father, who, as an enlightened modern man, had been extremely pro-Communist, had become an implacable anti-Communist. It was hard for her because, as an enlightened modern girl, she shared the Communist vision without being a Communist. But she loved her father and the irrationality of his defection embarrassed her. "He was immensely pro-Soviet," she said, "and then - you will laugh at me - but you must not laugh at my father - and then - one night - in Moscow - he heard screams. That's all. Simply one night he heard screams."
From Whittaker Chambers, Witness, "Foreward In The Form Of A Letter To My Children" (Regenery Gateway, 1980)
Saturday, March 22, 2092
This morning something strange happened in the gardens. Someone had managed to alter the temperature controls overnight in the building in which the banana plants are housed. Aided by the hard freeze weather pattern we have
been experiencing, all the plants were destroyed by the cold. It will take years to reach our current crop yields again.
Hundreds of people from all over the colony were standing around the building when I arrived. Some of the small children looked frightened and some of the older ones were fighting back tears. The adults were angry.
And, of course, the media with their vid crews were taking it all in.
It will appear another bizarre happening in the colony to the outside world. What are these people so upset about? It's not as if they are starving. They cannot know what those plants mean to us.
As with so many projects we take on here, the merits of each are long discussed and debated. The project was proposed by one of our botanists. He was a Jamaican by birth and when the buildings for the gardens were finally approved he began to search via his connections in the Caribbean Islands for banana rootstock that was disease-free.
The gardens were designed to accomodate plants that could not be grown in this climate. The idea was to find high yield fruit bearing plants - bananas did not fit the bill.
Banana plants require a great amount of space, attention and growing time. It takes a whole year or more for each plant to produce its one bunch of bananas - granted this may be one hundred to three-hundred fifty bananas. Then the plant is cut down and a new rootstock is planted in its place. The plants reach a final height of 4.5 to 9 meters with leaves that spread out from the top 2.5 to 3.5 meters long and .5 meters wide. It is an incredible waste of space.
On top of all this bananas are perishable. They can be dried and processed but there is no way to store them in order to retain their orginal flavor and texture. Even irradiation cannot halt the ripening process. The fruit has a ten to twenty day harvesting, ripening, and consumption period.
The battle lines eventually were drawn between those who had tasted the banana and those who had not. And, as in my case, it became an issue that divided families. It was a favorite fruit for Michael - he was for it. My parents could never afford them and I had never eaten one before I had met Michael. They had obviously not made an impression on me - I could not remember what they tasted like. I thought it an extremely extravagant venture.
In the middle of the debate the rootstock was found and delivered to us. It was finally agreed upon to allow a few plantings, but only on an experimental basis. The heart of our botanists' debate was that it was at one time an important tropical crop. If other science-licensed colonies like ours were allowed to develop in those parts of the world we would be able to be one source which could supply them with healthy plants.
The first plant's harvesting time occured the next year near Epiphany. That is when the agricultural team got the bright idea to harvest and ripen them in time that they might be able to be eaten on that day. They announced that they would cut the bananas up and allow every child who wanted to an opportunity to taste them. What was left over would be available to adults, from the oldest first to the youngest. These, of course, turned out to be vulnerable groups.
The children loved them and their grandparents, who grew up in the years when they were plentiful, remembered them. The demand increased steadily and the plants have taken over one building and were in the process of threatening several others. They have always been in great demand at Epiphany and it was not unusual to find them as one of the birthday gifts for the very young or the very old. Now they are gone.
I found Sarah inside the building. She was walking around looking at the frozen plants. They still looked healthy, but one knew they were destroyed. A warm moistness stirred at my feet, as the temperature controls kicked back on, but the air in general was still cool and dry. It was a strange sensation.
I joined Sarah and we walked together. There was not much to say. We both knew this was not done by an outsider nor was it an accident. Security would have picked up both. It was done by one or more of our own people.
"I don't understand it," I finally said. "How can we lose hope so easily? Don't people have faith in the truth? In time the truth always wins out."
"Unfortunately, it loses a few battles along the way."
"But, why this?" I asked.
"It didn't really matter," she answered. "We were going to lose them anyway. We're going to lose our license to grow any food. I saw the report: These plants were to be confiscated next week. Someone decided he'd get them first. At least this harvest won't make its way onto the black market or some official's dinner table."
"Well, there has to be another way. Destruction is not the solution to our problem here."
We fell silent again. Michael has only been home a few hours in the last five days. They must not be getting anywhere. Perhaps this is the end. I do not feel it - maybe I am not as ready as I have thought.
I spoke, "A long time ago I read 'If there's no solution, there's no problem.' I don't remember who it was who said it or why. I do remember thinking it was one of the most ridiculous and irresponsible statements I had ever heard. I don't think so any more."
There was equipment spread all over the floor we were passing. We had to step over some of it. The vid crews were setting up for the next half-hour report. Sarah suddenly stopped walking and stared at them.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"Maybe we haven't identified the right problem." She had that inward look about her. More as if she were talking to herself instead of to me.
"Are you all right, Sarah?" She was no longer listening to me. I had to repeat myself.
"Huh... yes, I'm fine. I need to think for awhile."
"Are you sure?"
She smiled. "Yes, I'm very sure. Don't worry about me. Go on home, I'll catch up to you later." She walked off.
I have every reason to be concerned: I have seen that look on her before.
It happened almost two months after I visited Antek. It was now the middle of May.
I am sorry to relate that I avoided the issue of the androids during that time. I talked about it a little to Michael, but I explained it poorly and I knew he did not understand me. The mystery of the androids had been a game in the beginning - now it was turning into a nightmare. It had also turned from a science I knew nothing about to one that I did. The keys of responsibility were being placed into my hands - and I did not want them.
At the same time my marriage was deteriorating day by day. Michael and I found ourselves regularly engaging in petty fights. I took it out on him by alienating his friends and supporters. I started to become reckless, never saying anything to hurt his campaign outright, but enough to cause problems. He reacted by drawing away from me and several times he had actually left for some function - intentionally leaving me behind.
There was another problem: It was also now six months after the wedding - and I was not pregnant. The desire to have a child had not left me and had in fact grown stronger.
Before I met Michael I had wanted a child, but it was based on purely selfish motivations. I admit here my understanding of the purpose of life was purely rational. Through my studies I had learned that what drives every
living thing is the need to survive. Not simply to reproduce - no, it is to pass on one's own DNA on to the next generation. To me it was DNA - pure genetic material - which had continuence - not people.
My mother once remarked on holding her first grandchild, my sister Mary's first child, "I felt when I was pregnant that it was the most important thing I could ever do. Nothing in the world mattered, but that I was carrying a child." It struck me at the time - and that is why I will always remember it - that it was the pregnancy my mother focused on, not the resulting child. My mother loved us and everything connected with us - even the very possibility of our existence. I believe my mother understood life better than I ever have - then and now.
It is to my shame that at that time, before I married Michael, I was more interested in seeing my DNA spread out into the future - my immortality as it were - than holding my own child in my arms.
After I married Michael these feelings began to change. Now, even with the fighting - I wanted Michael's child.
Like many young people I thought that as soon as I stopped using artificial birth control I would suddenly conceive. I was healthy and I wanted a child, nothing else seemed necessary. Each month passed by and still nothing. I felt ashamed, and though I knew this was irrational, I thought I would lose Michael.
After one fight between us, I was sitting in the library crying. Isaac passed by the room, stopped for a minute by the door, then said,
"Do you want to go out?"
I looked at him. "Where?"
"Does it matter?"
After that day, after every problem I could not handle, I would go looking for Isaac and leave. I took meals out, went to the theatre, the park, the zoo, many places. Any place that would let Isaac in with me - all the old places I loved to go in the city. This, of course, only made things worse between Michael and me. I knew it, but I did not know what to do about it.
Isaac did not ask me any questions. He was simply there. He was compassionate and kind. Even then, when he knew I was having difficulty accepting him for who and what he was, he never pushed me into discussions I was not ready for. I came to rely on him for everything.
Belinda tried to talk to me about it, but I would not listen. And then, there were the rumors.
One night, after a particularly bad evening, Michael and I fell into bed together, exhausted, not touching each other. I began a fitful sleep. We were to spend the next day at Karen's house - it was Life Day.
It was still dark in the room when I felt Honey's presence next to me. "What's wrong?" I whispered.
"Miss Conroy is on the phone," she answered.
"Sarah? What time is it?"
I left Michael asleep and followed Honey down to my study.
"Sarah, what's wrong?"
"I... Katherine? Umm... I have to..." Her voice was weak and blurred.
"Sarah, let me see you," The vid remained blank.
"No... I don't want t... Katherine?"
"Yes, I'm here. What's wrong with you? Sarah, talk to me, please."
"I'm so sorry..." I could hear her sobbing, then the line went dead. I punched in the police code. I gave them Sarah's address and warned them of a potential medical emergency there. I tried to contact her again. No answer.
"Honey, you keep trying and if you get her, keep her awake and on the phone. I'm getting Isaac to drive me over there."
By the time we arrived, an ambulance was pulling away from the building. I approached one of the police officers.
"She had already passed out by the time we got here. The meds think it's an overdose of some kind."
I had a long wait at the hospital before anyone had anything to report to me. It was a long time to think. Everything I had ever been taught about suicide told me I was not responsible, but I could not help thinking that if I had not caused this, I had at least triggered it.
Two days before I had burst into her office - mad as hell.
"I want to know how this could have happened to me." I demanded.
"I am trying to tell you, Katherine, that you did know about it. Your signature is here on this copy. There's no reason anyone would have forged it. If you want I'll track down the original and we'll check it."
"I didn't know what I was signing."
"I'm sure it was explained to you. All the paperwork is in order. It was filled out with your responses and the supervisor in charge signed it off. You must have understood what it meant."
"I would have said anything to go home. That's all I remember. They said there might be something wrong with me. I always thought the operation was an appendectomy. I had no idea it was a tubal ligation. I asked my mother, she was told it was an appendectomy."
"I'm sorry your mother was lied to. But, it had nothing to do with her. It had to be your decision alone."
"I was ten years old!"
"I'm sorry, Katherine, it's not something I would have recommended. I think you were too young, too. People make mistakes. I don't know what to tell you, except it can be corrected now."
"What do you know about it? I wasn't even fully grown then - there's so much tissue damage. My doctor thinks with corrective surgery one fallopian tube will be long enough that I might have a thirty percent chance..." Why was I explaining this to her?
Statisics - my head was filled with statistics. It happened almost twenty years ago. With the tissue scarring and atrophy over all those years - I was as good as sterile and I knew it.
"They're just numbers - they don't mean anything. Either I'm going to get pregnant or I'm not - that's it. But, you people don't ever think about that do you? No, we'll just adjust the poor girl's thinking so that she can accept and be happy about any situation she finds herself in."
"Katherine, I don't think you're being fair."
"Fair? Ten years old and I'm yanked out of my home and sent to a childrens' shelter. I don't see my family for two months. That's fair?"
"You did understand that it was done for your protection?"
"I'll tell you what I thought. I walked into school one day feeling good about everything. My mother finally had that baby that had made her sick for nine months and it was a boy. My father was just bursting with pride, three girls and now a boy. So I - feeling that the whole world should share our good fortune - made the mistake of telling my teacher about it. I never made it home from school that day. Two months later they finally let me go - me with an operation, my little sisters had to take special classes, Henry had to go to the public nursery during the day - it all made my mother cry - and it was my fault for opening my big mouth."
"I'm sorry you feel this way, Katherine. They were only trying to improve your self-esteem, so that, as women, you and your sisters could make better choices for yourselves than your mother did."
"They did a fine job of that now, didn't they? Now when I do want to make a 'choice' it turns out I may have no choice at all."
"Sure you do. Even if the procedure can't be reversed, there are always artificial methods. From your records I see you and Michael have both passed with high marks on your parenting licenses - though there is one problem on Michael's - you should be able to get into any program right away."
Right away? She knew that was not true. "First of all, it will take ten months to a year to get an opening for the surgery, Sarah. You know elective proceedures are always backed up. And Michael with his campaign won't be getting any special treatment. I can't even get it done illegally. Some reporter will get ahold of my medical records and find out everything. And now you tell me there's a problem on Michael's license? What is it?"
"Well, you know I can't tell you directly - but a genetic flaw of some kind. So perhaps it's all for the best anyway. With artificial insemination you could eliminate the risk."
"Or even better," I said sarcastically, "with the Artificial Womb we could have our limit - two babies - one light and female like me and one dark and male like Michael. That way when we split up we each have our own child. Wouldn't that be perfect? I wouldn't even have to spoil my beautiful body."
"Katherine, stop it. You're being completely irrational."
"I'm irrational? Wanting my husband's child is irrational? Maybe I want Michael's child - flaws and all?"
I did not know Sarah was in trouble then. She was trying her best to reassure me. She was still doing her job.
She then tried to put my problem in its "proper" perspective. "Really, Katherine, you sound as if the world was coming to an end. People make mistakes. Look here. Today I received an update on one of my last cases. She was fifteen when I met her and pregnant. She wasn't ready for children - it would have ruined her life. She was going to get out of her impoverished surroundings and provide a good life for her children - when it was time. It took a lot of doing - but she got that abortion. The last time I saw her she was back in school and excited about her future.
"But, the person who took on her case apparently didn't check up on her. It's been two years and just when she should be heading off to college - she finds out she's pregnant again. And instead of going to her counselor, she goes home and drinks rubbing alcohol. Someone wasn't doing his job right and now I've got to go and try to straighten this mess out."
I did not believe she had heard a word I said. I was hurting inside, so I found a way to hurt her. "Has it ever occurred to you," I asked, my voice shaking with anger, "that she doesn't want to get straightened out any more? Maybe - just maybe - she's had her emotional health adjusted one too many times - by you." And with that I stormed out of her office.
After two hours of waiting I was finally approached by the emergency staff doctor. He told me that she had taken an overdose of a sleeping drug.
"I talked with the police. They found she had a prescription for it."
"Will she be all right?"
"For now, yes. But..."
"I know," I said shaking my head. "I've known her for years. She's never tried this before. I'm sure of it. When can I see her?"
"She's still in Recovery, but I suppose I can get you in. There is something else you should know."
"One of the residents thinks he's found the motivation for her suicide. She turned up HIV-x positive."
"Yes, I'm sorry." I must have stared at him blankly for some time. He finally asked, "Mrs. Gardner?"
"Do you still want to see her?"
I shook my head in an effort to clear it. "Yes, of course."
"You know the procedure, I presume?"
"Good, follow me."
I spent most of the morning in the recovery room, covered head to foot in protective clothing. When the nurses left I removed the head covering. Sarah needed comforting, but it was almost impossible in that monstrous head gear.
She was despondent and it seemed a great effort for her to talk. It was so unlike her. The dullness in her eyes and her weak body made her seem a different person.
After failing to get her to talk about anything, I finally extracted a promise from her to not try to hurt herself again until I could find some help for her.
As I got up to go, she suddenly became very concerned about her collection of antique books.
"I could get some of my family to take care of them, but they wouldn't understand how I feel about them. You do. I know," she swallowed hard, "I know you'll take care of them until I'm better. You will, won't you?"
"Of course," I answered. "I'll get all of them moved out of your office to your apartment..."
"No, no, you have to take them home with you. I don't want anything to happen to them. The apartment will be empty - people will soon find out - who knows what will happen there. You must take them to your home." She was insistent.
I held her hand tightly in my own. "I promise."
"You know, you'll have to do it all yourself. AIDS scares everybody." She smiled, but it was not one of hope. "My office will be empty for a long time - no one will want it. You won't even be able to hire anyone to move the books. No one will help you."
Later, I sat down - exhaustion flooding my body - in Karen's spacious livingroom and watched the others participate in the festivities. Karen's boy, Charlie, a shy and sensitive child, was trying to cheer me up. He went searching for the presents marked for me from under the beautiful Life Tree.
It was set up in the middle of the room. He returned with the presents and laid them in a haphazard pile in front of me urging me to open one of them. I was not feeling up to it, but he was trying so hard and with his concern for me so apparent in his young face I felt compelled to make an effort for his sake.
Halfway through opening the first present, I found I could not talk and tears started flowing down my face. I tried to fight them back as I was afraid of upsetting him.
I made some excuse to Charlie that I was not feeling well and appologized to him. Karen must have been watching from somewhere because she suddenly appeared and gently took her son away. As she passed by she pressed her hand on my shoulder.
Michael passed by. I did not see him - I did not see anything for some time. He wanted to comfort me, but he was prevented by the feeling that I did not want him. I had run off in the middle of the night without him. He woke up finding me gone and upon asking where I was, found a message from Isaac waiting for him. Isaac, Isaac, and Isaac. Every time he turned to find me Isaac stood in the way. He was beginning to hate the android.
After a while I noticed I had not even taken the time to remove my coat. I pulled the things the police had given me out of my pockets. There were two book disks, a message disk, and Sarah's code disk to her apartment and office.
These were the things they found on her. I thought they might offer some clues to the whole reason for Sarah's attempted suicide. I took them into Karen's library and closed the door.
The message disk was dated two days before. It was the report about the young girl she had told me about in her office. It also contained the girl's medical record and an appeal from her social worker to Sarah for her assistance
in this case. He was new, he said, and he felt terrible about what had happened. He was sure that if he had had more experience he could have prevented this new tragedy in her life. Could she possibly spare some time to visit her at the City Hospital #112 ?
The book disks were a puzzle. One was a translation of five of Plato's dialogues. It was a straight-forward translation - no commentaries or guided interpretations. The other was a Greek language study book. Sarah was studying Greek?
It would take many months before I found the answers to these questions. Sarah's recovery was a long slow process. She was completely shattered. After many discussions this is what I finally pieced together:
As I mentioned in an earlier entry I expressed surprise that Sarah had not read all the antique books she had collected. She said that up until that day reading them all had been a "someday" proposition - for when she had more time or had retired. She had taken my words to her as something of a challenge and became more determined then ever to begin.
She started at the beginning - with Plato. She soon discovered it was the hardest thing she had ever read. Most of it went right over her head - it infuriated her - Sarah, educated Sarah.
Soon she began to neglect everything else. She stopped her reports, her writing, and finally spent her entire attention on this one book. After about a month she began to understand a good portion of it.
"It was crazy," she said one time. "I thought maybe I was going crazy. This was written thousands of years ago and it seemed as if it was written yesterday. I had piles of statistics I could site on human behavior - and in my own writing I had written volumes -that were condensed into a few paragraphs here.
"How could this one man - this barbarian from the past - write this? It was genius - pure genius. Then I thought maybe it's not Plato, maybe it's the translator - maybe he was the genius. I thought he was the one translating yesterday's thoughts into today's problems. That's why I started studying Greek."
But Plato is Plato and she soon discovered this for herself.
"I came to understand that people hadn't evolved very much over the years. People do good things and people do bad things - thousands of years have not changed that fact.
"Then there was my education - I believed in education - I represented education. And I found I knew nothing."
After our fight in her office she felt the need to do something. She decided to go visit that poor young girl at the hospital. She arrived at the building and stood outside of it.
"I couldn't go in. I felt rooted where I was. It was as if I hadn't the strength to walk through the entrance. And then I heard crying - children crying. I thought it came from inside the building but, with all the street noises I couldn't possibly have heard it from there. I started looking up and down the street. I wanted to know where the crying came from.
"Then I saw a little boy - eight maybe nine - a few buildings down. He was just standing there. There were several children playing in the entranceway behind him. A man stopped and addressed the children. One of them ran inside and returned with a heavy-set woman. They spoke briefly and then the man nodded towards the little boy who was standing by himself. The woman called him. A moment later he was leading the man by the hand into the building."
"Before that day I would have immediately reported this to the police. I would have gone into the building myself to rescue the children and have felt great satisfaction in sending the adults to prison. 'Even for one day in jail,' I would think, 'it will be worth the effort.'
"And the children? Yes, I always did it to help the children. This was the great reward of all my efforts - I lived to save them. They were taken out of all danger and safe in the childrens' shelters. We do a good job there. We keep them safe and find them a home. Oh yes, I've heard the stories - the things that happen in the city shelters - and the placement homes that turn out not to be placement homes. Yes, I've heard them, but I thought they were just problems, mistakes - simple things to be worked out - with a little more time and money."
"I saw that little boy and I knew I couldn't help him. And I saw the other children and I knew they were all out there - these here in front of me and more down the street and down more streets - down all the streets. I couldn't help any of them.
"I realized I hadn't accomplished a thing in this great, long career of mine. This career I sacrificed family and friends for. 'Don't have time,' I always said. 'Too busy saving the world.' And for what? For nothing. I could only trade away one set of problems for another."
"Finally, I entered the building and asked for the girl's room number. 'Sorry, we moved her out of here an hour ago.' 'Where?', I asked. 'City Morgue.'
"I don't remember anything after that. It was hard enough facing the fact that my life had been a waste. But to realize I had actually caused more harm than good was too much. I had dedicated my life to improving people's lives. All my good intentions came to nothing and worse than nothing."
Back in Karen's library, the concern I felt that she might try another suicide attempt was very real.
Sunday, March 23, 2092
I spoke briefly with Sarah today. She is hard at work at something and was evasive when I tried to question her.
A representative from Social Welfare - from the Department of Childrens' Health and Welfare - will be here tomorrow. She has asked me to show her around. I am not looking forward to it.
I have stopped going to security. If Michael needs my help or wants to talk he will come looking for me.
That Sarah is busy gives me a great sense of relief. Eventually, I will find out all about it. I always do.
And there is no need to worry about her trying to hurt herself now - not intentionally. The day after her suicide attempt, as I have already stated, I worried.
I asked Michael if I could bow out of the next day's activities. Fine, he said, but he expected me to attend the opening launch ceremony with him at Kingston International Spaceport on the following day. It was important and as I had already missed so many functions of late - rumors were beginning to circulate. I agreed to go and promised to be agreeable.
First, Isaac and I went to Sarah's office to get her books. I had to close the door to the office as we worked. The curious had come to stare.
I had underestimated the number of books she had and we were short on the number of boxes we would need. We managed to pack what we could in about twenty minutes and while Isaac loaded the car with them, I began to search the office for any that were not in the bookshelf.
When Isaac returned from loading the last box he found me sitting crosslegged on the floor. I had found one book in Sarah's desk and was looking it over.
"One of the other androids could be summoned to retrieve the rest," he said.
"Maybe later." I answered. "This is a very odd book. It was two books at one time - someone had them bound together - look." I handed it to him.
After examining them he said, "They are Plato's three dialogues describing the trial and death of his friend and mentor, Socrates; and the four gospels of the New Testament - the life and death of Jesus."
"Why would someone do that?"
"Have you ever read them?"
"Some consider Socrates and Jesus to have been the most influential men in Western History. Socrates represents human wisdom and Jesus is God's revelation to man. These are the surviving records of their lives and deaths - recorded by their devoted disciples.
"How do you know?"
"I've read them."
I took the book back and put it in my pocket. Then I stood up and paced around the room for some time. Something inside me said I could not procrastinate any longer. It was as if a clock had started ticking inside me and time was running out. I did not believe in a soul. So I did not understand what was happening to me. I felt I was at the bottom of deep pit and I wanted desperately to climb out of it.
Finally, I said, "Okay, I'm going to ask this question and I want an answer - your answer." I paused. "Do you have human intelligence?"
"Okay. Then I'm going to treat you that way. So - where do we go from here?"
"That is up to you."
"Oh, stop it." I wanted to end this one-sided conversation we always seemed to have. "This is all a big act. If I can accept you have intelligence then you can at least try to be free with me."
"I am not free."
"Okay, so I'll tear up my ownership papers. Will you talk to me then?"
"It won't make me free, only liable to be sent back to Antek. Your society won't allow for androids roaming freely about it's streets."
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"I don't know."
I stared at him. It was so frustrating - his ability to completely mask himself.
I wanted to cry, I was losing everything - Michael, Sarah. Now I owned a human being, an unspeakable crime, and I could do nothing. We were bound to each other. I was responsible for him. I cared about him, but I could not get him to open up to me.
It never occurred to me what a demanding person I was. Always talking, offering my own opinion, never listening.
Thoroughly miserable, I sat down in one of Sarah's simu-leather chairs. "Is it possible for you to tell me anything about you that I don't know?" I asked it almost to myself.
It was apparently the question Isaac had been waiting for. He was waiting for me to listen to him.
"Yes," he answered. "Many things." He sat down in a chair next to me. The rigidness of his machine body seemed to slip away ever so slightly. His movements and the features of his face softened. Had I not spent so much time with him in the last few weeks, I might not have perceived a difference.
"But, first," he said, "would you answer a question I have?"
"How are you convinced that I have intelligence?"
I shrugged. "It's not one thing specifically. It's a lot of things. It's an ability not only to match one idea with another, but to create from them. To see the something from the outside looking in. I don't know, I don't think intelligence can be expressed with words. Words alone are not intelligence. They can only express part of it - You are more than the words you use." I stopped. "Am I making any sense at all?"
Isaac smiled. "More than you realize," he answered.
There followed a very long conversation between us. It would be two hours before I felt we could not delay any longer in visiting Sarah.
Isaac told me what he knew about his early life at Antek. His contruction began in 2033 and his mechanical body took it's final form in 2038. For many years he had very little information as to how he was constructed. He was a machine - so far as he knew - and that was all.
In 2040 Westron bought The Antek Corporation and, in order to clear some of its debt, sold the prototype androids - there were five of them including Isaac - to another company. Antek was still two years away from manufacturing its first line of androids.
The research engineers, Isaac remembered - were angry.
"One of them, Dan Restak, explained it to me. I believe at the time he was trying to explain it to himself. He said he didn't think we were ready and that management was making a mistake. He said the error- checking programming wasn't complete - always the last thing to do on a project - and he worried about our safety and that of our new owners. He talked for a long time. Then he said goodbye. I never saw him again.
"There were three women, ergonomists, who worked with us. They were responsible for setting up tasks for us to learn and to report on our progress. After the decision to sell us was announced they began to act strangely. Sometimes they would forget what they had told us to do or gave conflicting instructions. One would burst into tears and another would suddenly become angry - she struck me once. The third stopped giving us anything to do and sat for hours watching us. It was confusing behavior from them."
"What did you feel?" I asked him.
"Frightened. It's when I first began to be aware of this other part of myself. Before the computer part of me - the artificial side - controlled most of my actions. Then I - the human side - began to claim more control."
"When I was very young - the machine part would talk and move for me - the heuristic programming, even after all these years, is of the highest quality. I often find it easier to allow it to find the optimal path to perform a new function - such as the night your family introduced me to spaghetti. It used the intructions your sister gave me and the knowledge of movement it had already accumulated to perform that task."
"It must be very strange to have one's body be controlled by another force."
"It's what I know."
"So, how do you take control?"
"Through the feedback mechanisms - it's difficult to explain without using terminology you are not familiar with."
"So you were all sold?" I asked, returning to his past.
Isaac was sent to a biotec company. There he was assigned to Dr. Benjamin Forester - the same Dr. Forester who was at the college I attended.
Over time Dr. Forester came to the same conclusion that I had - Isaac was more than a machine. Over the eight years they worked together, the two became very close. Forester turned away from his research at the company and began to study Isaac and the androids who were beginning to take over in the manufacturing departments.
In his research on them he discovered that the biological part of the androids consisted of a small skull and brain, and a human torso. They were obtained, he speculated, through genetic experimentation and the newly developed and highly experimental Artificial Womb. I would later find he was correct on both counts.
It proved difficult to run too many tests because it involved other people who found Dr. Forester's hobby amusing, at best, and non-productive, at worst.
After awhile he proved that stimulation of an android's brain produced significant activity as great as that of a normal brain. However the origin of these responses and their patterns of activity varied significantly from that of a normal brain.
Once Dr. Forester was able to establish this higher level brainfunctioning to himself he brought his results to his superiors. They studied his report and concluded that his findings "did not establish any non- somatic activity in the android brain."
Two weeks later he was fired. No one wanted to be told they were slave holders. They did not even want to think about it. Six months later Forester returned and convinced Isaac to leave with him. This was not difficult since some of Isaac's duties took him outside the building.
Isaac lived with Dr. Forester for five years, from 2049 to 2054, whenAntek finally caught up with them. Isaac was sent back to Antek. Forester went on trial a year later on a felony charge on the theft of Isaac, was jailed for six months and later died trying to raise enough credit to buy him back.
Isaac learned what happened to him only when I gave him access to the Library.
Antek kept Isaac on 'hold' for almost eight years without anyone ever realizing that the prospective buyer was dead. Then just months before I bought him, someone discovered the discrepency and put him back up for sale.
The harshness of his life was almost unbearable for me. I turned to more questions to hide my feelings:
"Did you lie to me about prohibition locks?"
"Not entirely. I don't have many. They do exist for the others and the younger they are the more locks they have. As they rebel and their owners complain, more locks have been developed. I have also learned recently that androids more than twenty years old, when returned, are recycled automatically. As we age our control grows through experience, after twenty we are now considered 'unsafe'."
"You mean the human inside is killed?"
"That's why Antek wants you back."
"Can't you get around the locks? What happens when you try?"
"The main control computer disconnects from the biological feedback system. The individual can still think and feel, but cannot act - we are blinded and cut off from all movement. The heuristic programs take over completely. It's a disorienting and frightening experience."
We were both silent a long time.
"We have to go check on Sarah." I said after awhile. "It's getting late. I want you to know, Isaac, that I am your friend." I placed my hands on his. "I don't know how I can help you, but I'll try."
"I know." He answered. "But, I don't see what you could accomplish alone."
I thought about it for a moment. "Antek won't give out any information," I said. "I think the thing to do is to try to find the original team that put you together - those who were responsible for this. Obviously they must know what they did."
"Katherine, not everyone thinks as you do. People have many reasons for not seeing the obvious."
"Then we must get all the information we can and force the obivous on everyone."
"That's what Ben tried to do."
Riding to the hospital I pulled the book I had found in Sarah's desk outof my pocket and started glancing through it again. I was sitting up front as the back of the car was full of boxes. I tried to understand why Sarah wanted to kill herself.
"Didn't Socrates kill himself?" I asked.
"He was killed by the state."
"Yes, but he drank the hemlock himself, right?"
"If you mean no one physically forced it down him, you are correct."
"Why did he do it then?"
"He supported the state."
"I don't get it. If he supported the state and the state told him to kill himself, then it couldn't have been a very good state."
"It was the best state."
"Okay, Okay. I guess you're trying to tell me I should read the book?"
"It might improve our discussion, yes."
I searched through my pockets and found Sarah's things that I had been given. I explained what they were to Isaac and gave them to him. "Come with me to see her. Maybe you can figure out why she's so upset."
When we arrived at the hospital, I hoped that she would be better. Physically she was. If it were not for some tests and the AIDS treatment she was to start she would have already been released.
But I could see upon entering the room that the emptiness in her eyes remained. She barely looked at me and I had to repeat myself often to get a response out of her. It was hard to see her this way.
As I sat at her bedside I noticed a small bottle on the table next to her. It was a euthanasia drug.
I ran out of the room with it and found the nurses' station. "I want to see the head nurse right now." I demanded.
"He's on break - He'll be back in about ten minutes. Can I help you?"
I showed her the bottle. "I want this explained to me."
She looked away from me. "I'll go get him."
As she left a man walked up to me. "This your first time here on this floor?"
"Attempted suicide, yes."
"I've got someone here, too. My son - it's his fifth time."
"I'm sorry," I said.
"Is this a relative?" he asked.
"No, a friend."
"Let me give you a little advice. Let your friend go - if you can. Otherwise, it's going to tear you apart. Suicides - they keep doing it until they get it right. My son," he choked up. "They say my son isn't likely to pull through this time." He turned away from me, walked down the hall, and disappeared into one of rooms.
The head nurse finally appeared. I asked, "You have an office?" He nodded. "Let's talk there." He led the way.
Once inside he began: "Look, Mrs. Gardner, I know this is upsetting."
"You're damn right it's upsetting. My friend is in here recovering from a suicide attempt and I find the means to accomplish that provided by the hospital staff. Who authorized this and why?"
"I recommended it. Dr. Williams authorized it. Really, it's the compassionate thing to do in these cases. She's been diagnosed with AIDS. If you knew how they die..."
"I know how they die, but she's far from that now. I want to see her medical workup."
"I'm afraid I can't show it to you. You're not related to her - it's confidential."
I walked around his desk and swung his chair around to face me. "You listen to me and you listen good," I could feel my face grow hot with anger. "You get that workup punched up right now or I'll find it necessary to go home and tell my husband that this hospital needs its records and procedures investigated. If that happens I assure you that the investigating committee will have you and your department at the top of its list. Am I making myself clear?"
Ten minutes later I breezed into Dr. Williams' office without bothering to knock. He was sitting behind his desk with his head on his desk, apparently asleep.
"Dr. Williams," I said firmly.
He lifted his head, looked at me, and then rubbed his eyes. "Yes, what is it?"
I shoved the workup under his face. "How could you authorize a euthanasia drug for this woman without even bothering to complete this? Her blood chemistry workup isn't complete. Half the venereal tests are missing - she hasn't even been tested for hepatitis infections. And her medical history chart isn't part of this file."
He stared at the chart for a moment. Then he handed it back to me.
"Aren't you going to do something about this?"
"Look," he said, "I'm the only doctor on this floor and I worked ER for the last two days because we were short. I've got to listen to my staff - we work triage here. She's suicidal and she's HIV-x seropositive. I've got plenty of patients in worse shape - and some of them want to live."
"But you know that if her immune system is intact and she doesn't contract anything too serious she could live a very long time and even die never having full-blown AIDs. It's an opportunistic disease. How can you just give up on her now? You know you could get sued for this."
"Sure - get in line." He opened one of his desk drawers. "See this?" He held up a fist-full of disks. "Every one of these is a lawsuit - I've got five lawyers working full-time. The only reason I'm still here is because no one else wants this job." He threw the disks back in the drawer. "Look, since you seem to know so much about this - you take the chart and get it filled out yourself. Better yet, get this woman out of here. If you have the means and the interest, you take care of her. Besides, if she's as healthy as you say - she won't stay that way here. Hepatitis, pneumonia - run like wildfire through this place." He put his head back down on his desk. "Close the door when you leave."
Back in the hospital room, I got Sarah out of bed and put my coat around her. "Come on, we're getting out of here."
"She doesn't have anything on her feet," Isaac pointed out.
"So you carry her to the car. We're leaving."
We all had to sit up front in the car. I was in the middle. Sarah, on my right, stared out the window.
"Where to?" asked Isaac.
"Home," I answered. Sarah needed supervision and she did not seem to care where she was.
More bad news was waiting as we arrived home. As we pulled up to the house, Michael's car was parked in front. One of the passenger doors was open and the car was still running. Robert stood on the walk looking lost.
"You take her upstairs," I said to Isaac, "and have Honey get a room ready for her. I'll find out what this is all about."
"What's wrong? Where's Michael?"
"I don't know. Mr. Gardner got out of the car and went inside. He didn't tell me what to do with the car. I tried to ask him, but I don't think he heard me. Mr. Gardner's never done that - left without giving me instructions."
"It's all right, Robert, I'll go talk to him. You put the car away and then go in."
I found Michael in the library. The lights were off and a fire was lit in the fireplace. He stood watching it burn.
"Michael, is something wrong?" I touched his arm - he moved away from me.
"A plane blew up over the Pacific today. Ten minutes out from Tokyo." He was silent again.
"Who was on it?"
"The Prime Minister, some of his staff, the US ambassador."
I knew from the little bit of news I had seen and from conversations with Michael that Japan was a nation that constantly rebelled against the World Council legislation and Parliamentary resolutions. Throughout its history it
has continuously shot in the foot all over-population scare theories and remains a prosperous and aggresive nation.
"The ambassador - I went to school with him. Allen Takei was my roomate in my senior year."
"Oh, Michael, I'm so sorry."
"Do you know who's responsible?"
"Not hard to guess - Koreans - Chinese. It doesn't matter - there won't be an investigation."
"What do you mean?"
"Just what I said. No one's going to investigate. No one wants to know which government is responsible. Ultimately it would be traced to the Chinese."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Right now - China's got the biggest power block in the Council. They also supply the world's largest, richest companies with the cheapest labor - more leverage. If China wants to get rid of a difficult person, there's no one to stand in her way."
Well, won't the news-media find out - they always seem to get all the secrets?"
"Don't be so naive, Katherine. It's not a secret - anyone who wants to know, knows."
"Couldn't you call for an investigation?"
"I've been told in no uncertain terms to keep my mouth shut. No, no one will call for an investigation."
Before I could say anything else, he left the room and slammed the door behind him.
I should have followed him. Instead, I went upstairs to look after Sarah.
Tuesday, March 25, 2092
Ms. Witte from Childrens' Health and Welfare kept me busy all yesterday and today. I do not think we did too badly - considering her expectations.
The worst of her observations probably happened as we were walking on the new high school grounds this afternoon.
The weather today was sunny and cool. School is out for the spring planting and a few boys were gathered out on the football field throwing a ball around. About a dozen young girls were in the stands pretending not to notice the boys. A five year old - little Nichole - was playing in the dirt under one end of the stands. Ms. Witte approached her first.
"Little girl, what are you doing?"
"Shhh," she whispered. "Doodle bug - he's making his home."
Ms. Witte bent over her and watched. An ant lion was busy tossing out dirt so that the opening to his lair formed a funnel shape in the ground.
"Why does he do that?" asked Ms. Witte.
"Watch." Nichole picked up two sticks, one much larger than the other. She ran to another place under the stands and dug the bigger stick into the ground, she waited a moment, tapped the stick on the ground a few times and then ran back.
"Watch." she said again. There were several ants on the stick all hurrying up it towards her. She tapped it on the ground again and tossed the larger stick a little away from us. Then she got down on her knees and using the small stick pushed one ant towards the ant lion's funnel in the ground.
The ant fell in. As we all watched it valiantly tried to climb up the slippery slopes of the curved sand walls. Just as it looked as if it might make it out, it lost its footing and fell down to the hole. The ant lion pulled it in.
"See? Want to try?"
Ms. Witte did not look happy. She took the stick away from Nichole. "No. I do not. Don't you think it's cruel to kill defenseless little creatures?
That little ant didn't...Ow!" One ant left on the stick had crawled onto her hand. It bit her.
"Ow!" It bit her again. She dropped the stick.
I checked her hand and brushed the ant off. "They'll keep biting you until you get them off." Two bites. "They'll sting for a few days. We'll stop at the clinic on the way back."
"Are they fire ants?"
I nodded. At least she had heard of them. I explained to her we have no love for fire ants. They get into the farming equipment and eat through the wiring or worse, sting to death newborn calves, lambs, and other farm animals unfortunate enough to lie on an ant mound.
On the plus side they have wiped out the dreaded boll weevel and other pests that have plagued farmers for centuries. The cotton grown in the southern United States is now of higher quality than at any other time in history.
The debate over their usefulness is drawn at the moment - with both sides conceeding that they destroy as much as they help.
Fire ants cover a third of the United States but, apparently not the paved, cold cities of the north. Ms. Witte is still reading fairy tales about harmless picnic ants. We do not have any of those. They died out down here almost a hundred years ago.
"Is your mother over there?" Ms. Witte asked Nichole. She pointed to where the young girls were in the stands.
"Mama's at home."
"At home? You're here all alone?"
"No, Gabby's watching me. Mama said she had to - She said I was driving her crazy." She looked pretty proud of herself - it did not take much to imagine how she managed a day out with her big sister.
"Driving her mother crazy." Ms. Witte mumbled as she took this down in her notes. She looked over at the girls. "How many brothers and sisters do you have?"
Nichole held up seven fingers.
"No, Nichole," I corrected her. "You have six brothers and sisters. You are number seven, remember?"
"Oh, yes, I forgot." She giggled and ran off to collect her "ant sticks". Ms. Witte looked down her nose at me. I had forgotten - one should not directly correct little children. She could lose her self-confidence.
We came out from under the stands.
"What are they doing?" she asked, indicating the boys.
"It's a game called football."
"They're using their hands."
"Football, not soccer."
"Why aren't the girls playing?"
I shrugged. It may be a traditionally American game, and in recent years has seen a growing revival in much of the country, but I have never enjoyed it. I have been going to the games for years now and have spent the entire time praying that my two older sons would not get hurt. Michael and the boys live for it. And now I am told that my youngest, George, will be be starting next year. His coach said he expects George to be a better player than both of his brothers. Just my good luck.
I suppose I should have expected it. Before he could walk young Michael and Andrew were passing him around like a football - that is, until I put a stop to it.
As one of the boys came near I spoke to him. "Stick to tag, okay?"
"Oh, let them play football. I'd like to see how it's played," Ms. Witte said, misunderstanding me.
She walked over to the girls in the stands, "Don't you girls want to play football with the boys?"
"With them? We'd get hurt."
"Don't you think you can do anything as well as they do?"
Some nods, some "I don't know"s.
"Why don't you play then?"
"We're not stupid, that's why." That was Gabriella - Gabby.
"Really?" she said. "I have a few other questions - perhaps you can tell me..." She checked her notes - she seemed very interested in sexual discrimination in the colony. "Okay, I hear at the local level voting works differently then on the national level. Could one of you tell me how the voting system works here?"
"Every household, one vote - over seventy, one vote." they answered in unison.
"How is that fair? A single person can have as much voting power as an entire family." They nodded.
"Why would you want to get married?" That set them to giggling.
"Okay." She wrote something down. "Who gets to vote then - husband or wife?"
"Either one." answered a girl named Kathy.
"Doesn't that cause fighting at home?" More giggling. "Wouldn't that cause fighting in front of the polling office?" Laughter.
"Can you see my parents running to get there first?" "I think mine would rather die then be caught fighting in public."
Ms. Witte took it all down. "What about the homeless?" She asked.
I stepped in. "Then household means family - no family then one vote. They're hardly a voting block here."
"It's a very strange system. It seems women are being squeezed out."
"Actually," I answered, "we have have sixty-forty voting ratio - more women then men register the vote. And we have an eighty-five percent turnout rate for all elections and referendums." Nationally I knew it was fifteen percent.
"It still sounds illegal."
"You wouldn't recommend this on a national level, would you?" she asked me.
"We're a small community - I couldn't say if that would be practical or not."
"Well, even if husbands and wives could work this out - you can't tell me there's no battering going on in some families." She picked out one of the girls, "What would you do if you felt unsafe in your house? Where would you go?"
"To the shelter."
"Do you know where that is located?"
"Sure, everyone knows. It's right next to the volunteer clinic."
"How could you feel safe there if the person who could hurt you knows where you are?"
"I don't know."
I stepped in again. "Security has a permanent post there."
"Good." She sounded impressed. "How is the shelter funded?"
"By volunteers and donations except for security personnel - community money funds that," I answered.
"Sounds like a perfect system."
"It's not perfect," I said, "but it's ours."
"Okay," she said addressing the girls again, "another question. There is only one woman on the council board. Does anyone know her name?"
"Sarah Conroy." They answered.
"Good. Can anyone tell me why she's the only woman on the board?"
No one seemed to have an answer. They did not know the answer she was looking for.
"Are you sure no one can tell me why she's the only woman on the board?"
Finally Karen Mossbauer offered timidly: "Because she's good at it?"
While we were standing there - our backs to the field - one of the boys ran for a pass and plowed right into me. I fell to the ground.
"I'm so sorry," said the boy helping me to stand. "Mother, are you all right?" I assured him I was fine. He ran back to join the others.
"Is that one of your boys?" asked Ms. Witte.
No, he was not. But, I was not up to explaining to Ms. Witte that "Mother" is a title of respect here.
"Yes," I answered. "He's one of mine."
Ms. Witte and I watched the game for a few more minutes. The girls went back to their chatter.
The boys played nicely for awhile. But, hormones and the impulse to impress the girls finally overcame them until one play ended with an awful-sounding crunch as the defending team piled on top of the opposing team's quarterback. I think it is called "sacking the quarterback." Ms. Witte, horrified, ran out to the field - presumably to lecture them on the evils of male agression.
While the boys stood silently over that small woman as she berated them, I called over to the girls: "Gabriella, come here please."
"What is this 'Esther' business I'm hearing?" All the while they were talking I could hear some of them whisper the name Esther between them. None of them were named Esther.
"Oh," she looked around. "Ummm, well, before school let out - the principle called us all to the auditorium and gave us a speech on how to behave - you know - with everything that's going on?"
"Well, at one point he said 'every woman in the colony is Esther and every man, Mordecai.' Well," she stared down at her feet, "since then we've been calling each other 'Esther.' I'm sorry we were fooling around."
I lifted her chin with my hand, "Don't be sorry - Esther."
Wednesday, March 26, 2092
They like the rain.
Funny - after all these years I have just realized that today. It has been pouring all morning and as I walked to the community center for breakfast - the silence in the house is becoming unbearable - I saw two of them standing in the rain. They were not looking at each other or using verbal speech. They were not going anywhere - because they like the rain.
I used to think it simply did not bother them. They do not feel the cold like we do. They are protected by their machine bodies. But they can feel the rain pounding on them - as I would by touching the inside of a car roof during
a storm. Imagine - the rain is something that would stimulate their human sense of touch. It must be comforting.
The center was almost empty. I talked to a few people and we watched the news together - we are back in it. The rioting in Germany is on the wane.
We have been upgraded now to an "unfolding" story. That means we are now included in every hourly broadcast. They have to dig deep into their files to find material on us to fill all that air time.
They found one particularly painful story for this morning's reports.
Fifteen years ago a young couple - a male android and a young woman of our own - went before the council to ask its permission for them to marry. I remember the debate.
First there was the question of children. Although we consider the androids to be human we do not know if viable offspring can come from them - from either an android-android union or through a human- android one. Whether the androids know this is still a question.
The second problem was that the android community was not agreeable to this marriage. As far as they were concerned, it was not a question up for debate. They wanted the android "back."
They have formed very strict rules concerning their behavior. We know very little of their society and they are silent about their personal lives. To ask an android what he intends for the future is considered - from those who know - extremely rude and if one of them gives an answer at all, it will undoubtably not contain the entire truth.
The debate ended with the council deciding not to allow the marriage - for the present - but android could stay in our community, if he wanted to.
He was found dead two days later. Under our agreement with them we returned the body immediately - no autospy. Whether his death was from "natural causes", suicide, or from android justice we still do not know.
The news-story ended with two of the commentators shaking their heads over the colony's decision.
"Aren't these the people who claim to accept androids as humans?" asked one to the other.
"Yes, they say they do."
"Then why wouldn't they allow them to get married. It seems hypocritical to me."
It would seem way that to them.
I stopped at Sarah's house on my way back home. She was too distracted to talk to me and her place is more of a mess than usual. I picked up a little for her and refused to leave until she prepared something for herself to eat - she
can be so difficult when she wants to be.
I am worried about her. When she gets like this she forgets to eat and she has always been so painfully thin.
I wish George would come home. He has been over at his cousins' farm helping out during the spring break. He has been gone almost a month now.
The day after Isaac and I were at Sarah's office, Michael and I rode together to Kingston. I thought we could try to talk, but Michael would not even try. The ride was long and silent.
Just as we arrived, Michael said to me: "I hear you brought Sarah home. Why?"
I looked at him. There was no time to explain it now. I decided he did not want to talk to me. "Apparently the hospital is no place for sick people," I answered him.
If I had known Michael then as I know him now, I would have tried harder to draw him out. The thing with Michael is that the quieter he becomes the more anxious, worried or upset, he is. Of course, finding the right words and the right time to get him to talk can be tricky. Back then I took his silence personally. I thought he was angry with me - which was only part of it - so I was angry at him.
The launch went well. The Cromwell Corporation was finally back in business. After the dismal failures it endured trying to colonize the moon thirty years ago - bone deterioration and muscle atrophy in the colonizers proved a virtual sentence of exile to space and a early death to those who stayed on more than two or three years - the company was now setting its sites on Mars.
Space stations and future runs to Mars would all incorporate artificial gravity measures and Martian gravity would be sufficiently close to Earth's to eliminate that problem.
Unfortunately, Mars proved to have its own crippling dangers.
I was as good as my word at the ceremony. I looked happy and/or interested on cue and did not make any scandalous remarks. It was all going well until I excused myself to a restroom. That is where I ran into Regina, of all people.
"Katie, how are you?"
"Fine. And you?"
"Wonderful - see?" She held an engagement ring under my nose.
"Regina, that is wonderful." I meant it. "Whose is it?"
"Curtis Redfield." I had heard of him before at a staff meeting. He was identified as a potential opponent to Michael in future elections.
"He's a very nice man," I said, "I hope you both will be very happy together."
"Thank you. Of course it will be a lot of work setting up a new household and all. And Curtis doesn't have any androids - so far. He's promised to buy two to start with. You're so fortunate to have so many."
"Yes, I suppose so." It was all I could think of to say to her.
"Yes, well, if you ever get tired of any of yours you will let me know. Especially that one - what's his name - Isaac?"
"Why would you want Isaac?"
She looked at me queerly. "Really, Katherine, you don't have to play games with me. I know how it is. You just let me know when you've had enough of him. I'm willing to bury our differences - if you are."
I looked at her blankly for a moment and then it dawned on me. "Me and Isaac. Are you crazy? He's a... a... You're wrong."
She raised her eyebrows. "Maybe, but I'm not the one spending more time with my android than my man." She left.
I did not know how to take what she said to me. This was the first time I was confronted with the rumors that were being spread about me. I still thought and behaved as a private rather than a public person.
Then I thought of Michael. Did he think this too?
I decided to talk to him as soon as we got home.
It started as a discussion and worked itself into one of the worst fights of our marriage.
We were eating a late supper together - alone. "I saw Regina today," I began, "You know she's marrying Curtis Redfield? I suppose she'll be changing party affiliations."
"I suppose." Michael answered quietly. "I used to think... There never was much difference between them - not really."
"She wanted to buy Isaac from us."
Michael looked up. "And?"
"And forget it. She made some absurd suggestion that Isaac and I... well, you can guess what she said. I told her she was crazy." Michael was staring at his plate. "Isn't it ridiculous?" I asked.
"You do seem attached to him." There it was. He did think it possible.
"Well, it is ridiculous. Michael, the reason I'm 'attached' to him is because I've found out that they are not just machines - inside them is a human being. I don't know all about it yet. I don't know how it's done, but I'm going to find out."
"Right. In one breath you tell me how you couldn't possibly be interested in Isaac and the next you're telling me you think he's a person."
"I'm not having an affair with Isaac - I wouldn't."
"No, I suppose not. Why would you need to when you're already involved with someone else?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I saw the flowers."
"So, he sent me flowers. So he made moves on me. The man is so used to having women fall all over him - he thought he could make a conquest out of me, too. Well, he was as wrong as you are. He sent the flowers and an apology - it wasn't any kind of lovers' spat. I haven't spoken to him since and I never will."
Michael pushed himself away from the table and stood up. "I'm sorry I accused you, Katherine." He was still angry. "I forgot how perfect you are. You never make a mistake - you never compromise - you never back down. The rest of us are mere mortals compared with you - we'll never live up to your standards. Valdez makes a pass at you - must've made you feel like you were something - but you won't give in to it. No, not you - you're above all that - but you'll make him pay for it - forever."
"Okay, I can see I'm not going to win this one. First, I'm wrong for having an affair, now I'm wrong for not having one. What do you want out of me?"
"What do I want? I want something you can't seem to give. You have no concern or sympathy for anyone or anything that doesn't have your immediate attention. You lack charity, Katherine."
"What does that mean?"
"Go look it up."
About an hour after our fight I found Michael in the library. He looked up at me when I came in. I sat down next to him. Neither of us spoke for a long time.
Finally I asked, "Do you want a divorce?"
He sighed, "No, I don't want a divorce. Why must you always think in extremes?"
"I'm sorry. I don't know any other way of thinking. You're right about me - I haven't spent much time thinking of you. You're probably right about what you said about Stephan, too." I got up and paced the room. "I don't know what to do."
"Perhaps you're the one who wants a divorce." he said.
"No!" But maybe. "I don't think so."
"You had better make up your mind, Katherine, because something has to change here. We can't go on like this."
"Yes." I agreed. "You're right. Something does have to change."
My mind, however, was still more preoccupied with the androids than with a failing marriage. Before I left to go upstairs to bed I asked him, "Michael, have you given any real thought to what I said about the androids - being human and sentient, I mean?"
"Some." Actually, I would find he was involved in an extensive investigation of his own and had been for some time - ever since Fowler could not provide him with convincing answers about Isaac. He was calling in favors from those he could in Washington and elsewhere.
"I don't think Peter should go to Belinda's anymore." A lot of things were beginning to make sense to me.
"You want to talk to Belinda or should I?," I asked.
"I'll take care of it."
"You coming up?"
That night Sarah had one of her bad nights.
She never did try suicide again, if it had ever been intentional in the first place, but her depression was very real and she would at times become completely disoriented.
It was midnight when Honey woke me up from a sleep that was not restful to begin with. Michael had never come to bed.
"It's Miss Conroy. She's very upset."
"Where's Michael?" She did not know. She would find out.
I found Sarah in one of the store rooms upstairs. It was freezing up there and all she had on was a light nightgown. She was going through the boxes of books.
"Sarah, what are you doing?"
"I can't find it," she said.
"Can't find what?"
"They're not all here."
"No, they're not, Sarah. I haven't had time to get them all, yet."
She became hysterical. I had to drag her out of the store room and force her back into bed. After a time the hysterics subsided and her normal color began to replace the blue tinge that had crept into her skin. I made her promise that if she would stay in bed I would go immediately and get all the books from her office and her apartment. Then I would have someone come and put in bookshelves in her room and she could have them all around her.
That seemed to do the trick. Within minutes she was asleep again. It was two in the morning.
Where was Michael? No one knew. He left taking one of the cars - but not Robert or any of the other androids.
I left Honey in charge of Sarah telling her to arrange for the work on the room the next day. I figured if Sarah could see things were happening it might help keep her calm until I returned with the rest of the books.
So that we would not get caught short again, Isaac and I took plenty of boxes and one of the vans instead of my car.
It was not a smart idea - carting out boxes from a deserted office building to a deserted street in the middle of a city at four in the morning. Sarah, herself, would often work late into the night at her office - I had her key disk to the main front door - but she never left or entered during the early morning hours. And Isaac, of course, tried to talk me into waiting until daylight.
I locked the front entrance to the office building - Isaac held the last box - we started for the van parked two blocks away in an all-night parking station. Light traffic was already starting to form before the morning rush.
I was anxious to get to Sarah's apartment and finish this task. I had always felt I could handle anything. But now - I was beginning to feel inadequate to handle what was happening around me. Things were getting out of my control and they had to be put back. So I focused on this task. I could do this one little thing at least and gain back some of the control I had lost.
I could not wait to get to one of the safe crossing zones. There was a car to our right - a long way off - and nothing in the other direction. I started across the street. Isaac put himself between the car and me. It picked up speed. We did not get across in time.
It was almost on top of us before we realized it was going to run us down. We started to run. The car caught Isaac on his right side. He flew into the air and onto the side walk - the box landing next to him.
As I was leaning over him I heard the car - way down the street - slow down. It turned around - and started heading for us again. Isaac, barely conscious, tried to push me out of the way. I tried to get him up off the ground but he was much too heavy for me.
Out of an alley behind us several men dressed all in black suddenly emerged. One ran out into the street and shot off a small missle launcher at the car. It exploded into flames and ran into a building opposite us. The driver jumped out of the car moments before the car struck the building and rolled into the street. One of the men standing next to me ran over to him, pulled out a small handgun and shot him in the head.
The violence began and ended so quickly - I felt myself slip into shock.
Both men returned to the walk and spoke to a third man. They talked low and kept looking at Isaac and me. Isaac lay unconsious. Two more men appeared with a light and a medical kit. They asked if I was hurt. I shook my head and
motioned toward Isaac.
After a brief moment examing him they stood up together and spoke one word between them: "'Droid."
It was apparently a death sentence. One of them produced a hand gun and with the other shinning a light on Isaac's head he pointed it at him.
"No." I put myself between Isaac and the gun. I was terribly afraid and was shaking so much my voice was barely audible.
The man who was apparently their leader came over to us. He pushed the man with the gun away and took the light from the other. He wore some kind of head covering. I could not see anything else - the light blinded me.
"Don't." was all I could get out. It sounded so weak.
"Don't what?" he asked, "Don't kill you? That," he shone the light in the street, "we saved you from that."
"Thank you." I managed.
"We didn't do it for you. We did it for us." I looked away from the light. Was this it? Where were the people of the city? Cars passed us in the dark - ignoring the burning - ignoring the dead in the street. When would the police come?
"What about the law?" I asked.
"There is no law here, lady. Look around you - we are the law. We are justice. No one will bring it to us. We must protect our streets ourselves." he said.
"You'll protect them from me?"
"No, not from you, but from what you bring to us. Move aside."
He meant to kill Isaac. "No." I said it again and more firmly this time. "Why would you want to destroy an android?"
"Why would you want to save one?" There was agreement behind him.
"You'll have to kill me first."
He knelt down next to me. "Very brave." he said, "and very stupid. What makes you think I won't kill you, too?" He held the gun to my head.
If I could have wished for anything it would have been the ability to faint on demand. If I was going to die, I did not want to go stone cold sober.
"I don't know." I said. It was barely a whisper.
He stood up and laughed. "Because we don't kill innocent people, that's why. Now go."
"I'm not leaving without him." I did not move.
There was silence - nothing but the occasional car passing and the fire burning across the street.
He seemed to decide something. "All right. It doesn't matter. You two," he indicated two men. "Help her with the 'droid. And I mean it," he warned them.
"And the box." I said.
"And the box," he agreed. "You are a crazy lady. It doesn't matter - whoever sent that," he pointed again to the street, "wasn't after you - you were only in the way. It was after him. We don't have to kill him - they will."
They carried Isaac and the books to the van and dumped them both in the back. The guard at the station barely acknowledged us. One would think the sight of two very suspicious looking men - one carrying a lifeless body and the other a box - with a woman leading them was routine.
I got into the van quickly and started it. I had not done much driving, but fortunately all of Michael's vehicles were equiped with all the lastest technics. One could punch in one's destination and the van practically drove itself.
I should have gone home. Instead, I punched in Sarah's home address. I was still in shock and I was still trying to maintain some control over my life. I had a task to perform and I was determined to finish it.
By the time I parked the van in front of Sarah's apartment building, Isaac was coming to.
"Are you okay?"
"I don't know. Where are we?" he asked.
"In front of Sarah's apartment."
"They didn't hurt you?"
"No. They scared the hell out of me - I'll survive."
"I saw...," he started. "Why didn't they kill me?"
I told him what happened.
"Antek." was what he had to say about the car. As to the other men: "I've heard of them. They kill us when they can."
"Why do they hate you?"
"It's not a question of hatred. They believe they're doing us a favor."
He did not answer me. He sat up and started looking for something.
"We should go home." I said.
"No. I'll be fine. I can walk, but I need more light to see what I'm doing."
I carried a bag he found and we went upstairs to Sarah's apartment. He did not limp, but he carried himself stiffly.
Sarah's apartment consisted of one large room with the kitchen, living area, and bedroom each occupying its own distinct section - each with its own distinct mess.
I cleared some of the debris off the kitchen table and put the bag I was carrying on it. There was a small bath off on the opposite end of the room - it afforded the only privacy.
Issac sat down on one of Sarah's kitchen chairs and began to examine the damage. From the outside he had suffered some minor cuts - most barely noticeable - except for his right side. From just under what served as a ribcage was a ten centimeter gash. He started to pull things out from the bag.
"Can I help?" I asked.
He gave me a small light and instructed me to look inside the tear. I saw tubing and metal and plastic.
"What am I looking for?"
"No. None that I can see. It looks like a couple of these tubes are smashed and leaking." Isaac pulled some more things out of the bag and told me how to fix the broken tubes.
While I worked we talked.
"Do you feel any pain?" I asked.
"No. It's more - concern. I'm running diagnostic tests. The artificial skin has sensors in it, but does not cause my human brain to register pain when pierced."
"Don't you ever feel pain?"
"I have. Occasionally I've experienced pain in my head and then sometimes after I've eaten something unusual."
"Like your mother's spaghetti."
"I'll be sure to mention it to her. What do you usually eat?"
"I think you would find it unappetizing. Ben used to say it had the consistency and all the appeal of grey paste."
"Sounds terrible. Why do you continue to eat it?"
"Apparently our ability to smell and taste are not very developed - or at least not the same as yours. Our mouths and tongue are human, but do not respond the same way. Also we must be very careful not to overeat, too much fat could cause serious crowding in the body harness. It was one of many things we were trying to understand."
"Did Forester keep notes?
"Yes, I have them filed in my permanent memory. I can reproduce them for you."
"I'd like to see them."
"We didn't find out very much. The equipment at the laboratory where we worked was often difficult to access and the equipment at the college was primitive. Ben found it frustrating."
"I'll bet. You know, Honey said she never felt pain. Why would she say that? Hasn't she ever been sick or had toothaches?"
"We don't have human teeth. And as for Honey - she's very young and healthy. She hasn't spent much time outside the nursery and you've been very good to her."
"It's been easy. She's such a good..." I was about to say "girl." "How old is she?"
"I estimate twelve years from the AW - eight years are registered on her internal clock."
"Then she's a bright little girl." I said shaking my head. All of this was going to take some getting used to.
When I was finished Isaac produced some kind of temporary patching material and closed the opening in his skin. He then proceeded to make other minor repairs.
"What does your diagnostics tell you?" I asked.
"It says there is no major damage - at least from what it can monitor."
"Difficult to determine, but that area is well protected and shock resistent."
"It wasn't protected enough to keep you from passing out. If I could I would look in your eyes."
"That would be useless. They're completely artificial."
"How do you see? Or what do you see?"
"What do you see?"
I had not thought about it. "I don't know how to explain it."
"Nor do I. Ben and I discussed it a great deal. I respond to a wider electromagnetic scale than you do - into the ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths. I can even give you it in angstroms, but what will that mean to you? I know I always 'look' the same to you, but you always 'look' different to me. The amount of heat your body produces - makes a difference. The space around you is different when you are fighting a fever than when you're healthy. It's different again when you're feeling excited about something or feeling calm. I can see these changes. Everyone is different, but after a time I know what a human is feeling. It is the same with other androids, though they look different again from other humans."
"That's incredible. That gives you quite an advantage in dealing with people."
"With people, yes. For example, in security work, an assasin in a crowd stands out from everyone. You might pick him out yourself. An enraged person goes red in the face, but, generally, in a person who has planned to kill, the
blood drains from the head - and the eyebrows are drawn together. With my vision, I see what you see, but the heat patterns are also quite distinct."
"But I meant - you have an advantage in just normal, everyday exchanges. I can say I'm happy, but you would know, right?"
"But with other androids you can't hide these heat patterns, right?"
"That is correct."
"You do something else with your eyes, too."
"Yes. Sometimes I see you or the others stare at each other - you seem to lock eyes." I do not think he was ready to tell what this was, but I made a guess at it. "You're 'talking' to each other, aren't you? How do you do that?"
"Yes. When programming is to be changed - it is done through a high frequency signal picked up through the visual network."
"You mean someone could walk up to you in the street and force a change on you by sending the right signal?"
"No, it's not that simple. There are other things that must be done in concert with that to effect a change. Antek has always been very security minded - errors, malfunctions and sabotage probabilities are constantly being evaluated. But, as a side effect, this programming function has given us the ability to send and receive signals through these circuits. We translate them - process them - and that's how we communicate without speaking. I learned it when I was sent back to Antek. It was developed in the nursery - probably by the caretaker androids. Most androids now know how to do it before they leave the nursery."
We were finished. He started to get up. I stopped him. "Thank you for telling me." I knew he had entrusted to me a deep secret.
Isaac pulled a spare uniform out of the bag and went into Sarah's bathroom. I could hear the water running for some time.
There was so much to think about.
When he came out, he lay down on Sarah's bed. "I need to sleep," was all he said.
I thought about going downstairs to the van to get the boxes for the books, but it was still dark - I had learned that lesson and learned it cheaply, I thought. So instead I located all of Sarah's books and piled them in the middle of the room. This would make it easier to box them later.
When I was done, Isaac was still asleep. I did not want to wake him. By now I was tired, very tired. It had only been three days since Sarah made her call to me. I sat in one of her living room chairs and closed my eyes, but my mind was spinning with all the things that had happened - it was desperately trying to sort them all out and sleep would not come.
I got up and went into Sarah's bathroom. In the medicine cabinet were twenty or thirty different bottles of pills - at least a dozen different kinds of sleeping pills. I found one - it seemed a mild dosage - I had never taken much medicine for anything. I was the type who mistrusted all medication even to the point of living with a headache rather than take something. Of course, I had never had anything too serious up to that time.
I took two, then one more - to be sure.
When I came back out I looked for a place to get comfortable. Sarah lived minimally - two chairs, a kitchen table and chairs, and a bed.
It was a large bed. I lay down next to Isaac and fell asleep.
And while I slept I dreamt. I was in my first year at college, I was walking down a hall, past the two at the door, and into a laboratory classroom. I dreamt all the events which led up to the explosion.
With the falling debris around me I felt terribly alone. No longer "the man" it was Isaac who was gone.
I began to wake.
I opened my eyes and there he was. He lay in the same position where he had fallen asleep, on his left side facing me. His eyes were still closed. An enormous sense of relief flooded through me. He was alive.
I reached out to touch him and rested my hand on his face. His eyes opened instantly.
"I love you," I said. Isaac pulled me close to him and kissed me. I responded. He was warm and strong and...
And then I remembered.
I pushed myself away from him and jumped up from the bed. There was no place to go. I felt... I did not know what I felt.
I went to the kitchen and ran some cold water in the sink. I splashed some on my face - it did not help much. In that moment I experienced a complete loss of self. The illusion that I was one who could overcome anything life could throw my way was gone. In a matter of a few short days I had managed to destroy everything that was important to me.
Isaac stood behind me. "I'm sorry," he said.
"It's not your fault. I was the one who started it." I turned towards him. "I do love you. If things were different I could..."
I looked away from him. "I don't know. I don't know what's right and what's wrong anymore. I love Michael," and in the saying of it I knew it was the truth.
Isaac placed his hand on the side my face and gently forced me to look at him. "I know," he said. "I have seen how you feel about your husband. It may be possible to love more than one person in this life, but it is impossible to make a commitment to more than one. For you that desire lies in Michael. That is why I am sorry."
I felt my heart was breaking. "I've hurt so many people and now I've hurt you, too."
"If you have," he said, "it's my own fault. You didn't do anything I didn't..." he stopped. "It's hard," he said. "It's hard to be a man - and not a man."
I was never so glad to return to the Gardner Estate. For the first time I truly felt I was going home.
I hoped that Michael had returned. I wanted to begin again. I wanted to prove to him I could be what he needed me to be.
It had taken only about fifteen minutes to load the van with the few books at Sarah's apartment - we really did not need the van at all. It was after noon by the time Isaac drove the van up to the front of the house. I got out and all I remember thinking was that I needed a shower desperately. I had handled dusty books and slept in my clothes and sat in the street - I did not even have something to comb my hair with.
The top of the van was taller than I was. I could not see the other side. I walked to the back to open it up. Then I heard something. It sounded like something heavy falling against the van. I came around to the other side.
There on the ground was Isaac - and over him - with his fists raised - stood Michael.
She nodded slowly. "I didn't want to say anything. It happened last night. And the women on the block talked about it, among themselves, today. They dreamed. I thought it was only a coincidence." She picked up the evening newspaper. "There's not a thing in the paper about it."
"Everyone knows, so there's no need."
He sat back in his chair watching her. "Are you afraid?"
"No. I always thought I would be, but I'm not."
"Where's that spirit called self-preservation they talk so much about?"
"I don't know. You don't get too excited when you feel things are logical. This is logical. Nothing else but this could have happened from the way we've lived."
From Ray Bradbury, "The Last Night Of The World", The Illustrated Man, (Bantam Books, 1951)
Thursday, March 27, 2092
Michael is without a doubt a man of the people. He fits in anywhere at anytime with anybody. Even for those who disagree with him, it is hard for them to not love him.
A few years after our time with Isaac and before we came to the colony - while the pressure was still on and our friends had all just about bowed out on us - one true friend offered us his apartment in the city for the weekend. "Get away," he said, "It will do you a world of good."
So we went.
That afternoon I sent Michael out to get something I had forgotten for dinner. He came back hours later with an old, drunken beggar. This old man thought he was God.
Michael gave him some of his own clothes and showed him to the bathroom so he could take a shower. He took a hat, the socks, the soap, toothpaste and just about everything else that was not tied down. Everything, that is, except a shower.
And after he blessed the meal, he ate with us. Michael loves conversation and the stranger it is the better. But, he treated the old man with respect and did not ask embarrassing questions. Michael hates to be patronized and he would never do it to another.
At one point the old man invited him, "Do you have any questions, my son? Everyone has questions for God."
So Michael asked. Mostly he stuck to the broader questions of life. Why are we here? What did God expect of us? Mostly he got back nonsense and an occasional "In time, my son, in time." Michael took it all in stride.
He must not have had food for some time. He did not eat much of what I had given him. After he was done and had stuffed his pockets with what he could from the table, he found a small piece of wrapping, unfolded it carefully, and smoothed it out with his unsteady hands. Then he dumped the rest of his dinner into it. It disappeared into his clothing with everything else.
I tried to wrap some more food for him, but no, he said, he was full.
He started to leave. "Father," said Michael, "Sleep here tonight. It's too cold to be out on a night like this."
The old man patted him on the arm. "You're a good man," he said, "You have a good wife. But the people," he pointed out the door, "are out there. They need me."
After he left I asked, "Michael, you see dozens of beggars out in the street every day. Whatever prompted you to bring one home?"
"He said he was God."
"So, you never know."
I am reminded of this story because of the condition I found Michael in that day I returned home. His breath reeked and his clothes were dirty and wet. In his pockets - well, I threw away all his clothes from that night. Always "on" he remembered not to litter even when he could not find a trash disposal and he did not drive drunk. We never did get the car back.
He must have spent the night one step ahead of the vid crews. Everywhere he went he was recognized, though some thought he was a famous actor, others a singer. He let them. One place even managed to get him up to sing. That is probably the same place where he got into a fight.
He would not call a cab because if he had been recognized he would have stood a good chance of ending up in front of a news building. It did not surprise me to learn that someone picked him up off the street, brushed him off, and took him home. He inspires that in people.
Isaac was not really hurt. Michael had somehow caught him off guard. I suppose he was still suffering from the concussion he received the night before.
Robert had come out of the house behind Michael. He helped Isaac back up and then stood between the two of them.
I took Michael aside. His hand was swollen and painful looking.
"Robert, take Isaac inside. You," I said to Michael, "You come with me."
I led him off to the kitchen where I ran ice and water into the sink and plunged his hand into it. I inspected the rest of him.
"Don't you take that hand out of there." I warned him as he started to lift it out.
"You are a mess," Dried blood and mud caked his face. I had to wash it all off before I could find the cuts and bruises under it. After I treated them I went back to check the swelling in his hand. I had him move it around.
"You're lucky you didn't break anything." I said to him. "That was a really stupid thing to do. You know Isaac doesn't have many prohibition locks on him. There's nothing to have kept him from killing you if he had wanted to."
I found out later that Fowler had been feeding him lots of information - truths, halftruths and inuendo.
Michael looked so pleased with himself that I wanted to shake him.
"We should have a doctor look at it," I said.
"We don't need a doctor." He put his arms around me.
"Stop it. You're a mess."
He laughed. "Looked in a mirror lately?"
Later - we talked.
"Now what do we do?" I asked him.
"About the androids."
"Don't worry about it. I'll handle it."
"What do you mean, you'll handle it? This is a big problem, Michael, and it's not just our problem. What are you going to do?"
"What I'm already doing. I've got people getting information. When I have enough, I'm going to call for an investigation."
"You think you can do that? What about your friend Allen? You weren't able to help him."
"That was different. That involved powers I have no control over."
"Well, this may already be out of your control as well." I told him about the night's events - most of it. I was beginning to learn.
Michael showered and dressed.
"Where are you going?" I asked him.
"I'm going to talk to Isaac."
"Good," I said. "I'm glad."
He kissed me. "You don't think I'm going to appologize to him, do you?"
"Katherine, a man doesn't appologize to another man for telling him to stay away from his wife."
Michael spent most of that day with the androids. He had always been good to them, and later admitted to me that before Isaac came he often thought of them in an affectionate way, like pets, but he would put these feelings aside
thinking he was being overly sentimental. Isaac changed all that. Isaac did not need to be directed and he did not need explanations. He anticipated. "He even seemed to have the attention of the other androids," he told me later, "and quite frankly, that annoyed me."
The younger androids were devoted to Michael, but were naturally drawn to Isaac, who was older and one of them. It made Michael uneasy and, of course, I had not helped matters.
In the few months that Isaac was still with us he and Michael actually became good friends.
Although Isaac still lived in the same house with us I did not see much of him. It was better that way. I became a better driver and I even taught Honey how to drive as well.
Michael did what he could to make their lives with us better. But better is not free. This he knew well and it disturbed him greatly.
There was still the campaign to concern us as well. It had slowed down some - Peterson was now before a sub-committee congressional hearing.
The media was abuzz with rumors of our marital problems - and other strange goings on. Michael had even been warned that, despite his popularity, they could not keep a lid on everything for long.
Between the campaign and our newfound obligations, Michael and I again found ourselves separated. But this time we were better prepared to deal with it.
I had Sarah to take care of. On her better days we discussed the problem of how to approach the public about the androids. In the beginning she was very pessimistic about it. "If people don't want to believe, there's nothing you can say or show them that will change their minds."
I got her interested in the research to uncover the identity and the backgrounds of the team that had developed them. Sarah has always had fine researching skills.
She found that almost all of the original team had died. She traced all the deaths to unsuspicious causes - even the suicide rate was no different than among the general population. No conspiracy.
Then she tracked down family members and other intimates. Between campaign activities I began to interview them.
One morning - it was a warm summer morning - I found her up and dressed and - laughing. Some silly joke Honey was telling her. I do not remember what it was.
"My, we are looking wonderful this morning." I said to her.
"We are feeling wonderful this morning." she replied. The three of us spent a pleasant hour together.
When Honey left, she became serious.
"Katherine, what do you think my chances are? About the AIDS?"
This was the first time she had asked about it. I had called a number of physicians and had taken her in for a battery of tests. I had asked for information from the best researchers I knew and discussed medication with everyone I met along the way. But not once had Sarah opened her mouth to ask about any of it.
I told her what I knew. She was fine - now. She did not have any of the the diseases normally associated with high risk AIDS patients. From her medical history and the test results, it appeared she had led a fairly healthy life.
"Where did I get it?"
"Sarah, you were a social worker. You know the list. You would know better than I where you picked it up."
"So, how long can I expect to live?"
"Six months, six years, maybe sixty years. I can't tell you that, Sarah. You could very possibly outlive me. What made you so interested all of a sudden?" She would not tell me then.
One day after Isaac left and Michael was away and I was feeling sad, she showed me something.
"Isaac and I were talking one day. You and Michael were at some campaign rally. He asked me if there was something I could do - reasonably do - that would make me feel like living again. He said I was alive, but my spirit was
dead. I thought about it for a while, then I told him: 'I don't know what I could do that would make a difference,' - you know, Katherine, you can do without my help - 'but if I could I would help Katherine find a way to have the child she wants so much.' You don't talk about it - but I know it's always on your mind."
Then she showed me a book disk. It was the same copy of Plato's Dialogues of hers that I had passed on to Isaac.
"Punch up page 92." It was the Phaedo; the point at which Cebes asks Socrates why suicide is against the law. About a dozen paragraphs were circled with a vid pen and across them, written in Isaac's distinctive hand, were the words "Help Katherine."
"Before he left, he said to me, 'There is a God to whom you belong, Sarah. You do Him a disservice in not living as fully as you can.'"
Friday, March 28, 2092
Michael finally came home last night. He stopped over at Henry's first and picked up George. It was the first peaceful night I have had in a long time.
This is what Michael had to tell me:
The rioting in Germany ceased after its government was brought down. Kerran made quite a show arriving with food supplies - bread and fish - for the hungry. Truly a man who understands the power of symbolism.
Now Kerran's people are in place. The key to Europe is Germany and Kerran, "Our advocate of peace," has this important power in his hands.
The androids have been tracking the flow of money from Kerran's base from their West African accounts to the German accounts - with their computing power and their "in" at CHIPS (the Clearing House Interbank Payment System, through which all major credit transfers are recorded). This money bankrolled the opposition. His farms and fisheries provided for the theatrical fare - made him a superhero - and brought an end to the rioting, thus ensuring his supporters' victory over the terroism he funded in the first place.
People are so blind.
Kerran will be announcing his decision to "investigate" the colony. We can expect this announcement at anytime.
We will be forced to disarm before he arrives. This does not seem to worry Michael. He says while Kerran is here, there will be no movement against us. Afterwards...? I am glad Michael has told young Michael and Andrew to stay away. They both wanted to come home.
Our agent has offered to commit suicide in a manner that would shed suspicion on Kerran. Her request has been denied. We would not allow her to do something so immoral, but truthfully it would not even slow Kerran's momentum.
What I could not get out of Michael is the plan.
He has sent the androids away. "Whatever happens," he said, "we must be seen to be acting alone."
"So, are you going to tell me what the plan is?"
"There is no plan. We have to look for opportunities to present themselves. We're as prepared as we can be."
"Prepared for what?"
"Katherine, 'Readiness is all.' You know that."
"Oh, now I feel much better - now that you're quoting from Hamlet."
"I'm telling you there is no plan."
"You can't tell me Sarah isn't working on something."
"Well, you know Sarah's ideas."
"Apparently not this one."
He kissed me. "Feeling left out?"
"Well, you know yourself - even if there was a plan - the fewer who know the better."
He left early this morning taking George with him. They went fishing.
Antek and Fowler. Despite all the evidence; Michael was unwilling, at first, to believe Fowler was behind the attack on Isaac and myself that night in the street. Fowler was a friend of his, his father's friend and his grandfather's as well. But, forty years before he was also the young engineer in charge of the new project at Antek.
He was a mechanical engineer - trained well in that field and untrained in every other. It was his recognition of this fact that was his genius. Behind every succesful project there is one man - out of the hundreds or thousands involved - who becomes its driving force. In the making of Isaac's people he was that man.
It was his first experience in a leadership position and he was determined to make this project work. He was in his early thirties - the decade most men feel they must make their mark in the world or be branded a failure.
He began in the usual way - the best engineers, the best materials, the best assistants. He interviewed everyone who was connected with the project - from the analysts to the suppliers - he knew them all and kept track of them all. It is a credit to his management skills that the turnover rate - at the beginning, at least - was negligible.
Two years into the project, he became restless. It was not enough. The project was going nowhere fast. The competition was putting out its newest android line and it would be two more years before Antek would be ready for production. The market was already lost.
How he met Dr. Robert Mathews is uncertain. It might have been through Michael's grandfather or some convention they all attended. There was the acquisistion of the biotec firm Dr. Matthews worked for by Antek. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these. But, sometime during the third year of the project, Mathews signed on to Fowler's project. He was an expert in genetic engineering.
Genetic engineering on human embryos had been sanctioned by the the courts for over fifty years. Antek began buying up patents and Artificial Womb equipment. They hired medical specialists.
Seven years later, Isaac was brought out of the AW.
Michael confronted Fowler about the street attack and what we thought of his use of "human tissue." That he was truly hurt over Michael's accusations, I have no doubt. He tried to reassure Michael offering him the opportunity to visit Antek and all its operations. Michael took him up on it.
Michael would not let me go with him. He visited every manufacturing site on the East Coast - the Pensylvannia plant twice - always taking Robert and Peter with him. It was too risky to take Isaac.
Isaac instructed the younger androids to collect information from the caretaker androids and any others they might encounter. They shared some of this information with us - but not everything.
I was not getting very far with my own investigation. Most engineers are apparently poor note-takers. Most of the people I met were friendly and helpful - they let me see whatever they had of the engineers' belongings. I found a few programs one place - pages and pages of undocumented code - I could not understand any of it. I brought them to Isaac. He seemed to find them useful and spent some time explaining their meaning to us.
One woman, Dr. Mathews' daughter, did not seem to want to talk to me. I suspected she had some information she wanted to hide. Isaac asked me to try again and the next time went with me to see her.
It was a very strange meeting. If I thought Isaac was terse, this woman was even more so. And she avoided looking at Isaac. At first I thought it was because she knew - though no one told her - that he was an android.
At the end of our visit - she appeared to have decided something. She returned with a large storage box.
"I have not looked at this for years." she said. "It may be useful."
As we were leaving, I realized the truth. "She's an android, isn't she?"
"Yes." Isaac answered.
I felt as the blind must feel among the sighted.
Then one September afternoon - two months before the election - I was sitting at my dressing table. Honey breezed into the room, carrying an armful of old clothes.
"What are those out for?" I asked.
"I'm bringing these to Belinda. She's collecting them, remember?" Yes. I did. "They're so out of style - I'll probably never wear them again." She dropped them on the bed. "I made an appointment with Miss Green. She'll be here at four to do your hair for the dinner tonight." I was making an appearance later with Michael. He was already out for the day.
"Who is Miss Green and why is she going to do my hair?"
"Don't you remember? Michael's sister recommended her. She told me to call her."
"Well, I don't want Ms. Green to do my hair and you don't have to do anything Karen tells you to do. Or - is it that you don't want that job anymore?"
"Oh no, Katherine, I love to do your hair. I thought..." She laughed, "I'll cancel."
She left a few minutes later. Then I heard the explosion.
I went out to the front. There was very little left.
Isaac had Robert go out to find Honey's identifier - Isaac did not have one - they managed to get it to transmit again upstairs. Perhaps whoever was responsible would think he had destroyed Isaac instead. He stayed out of sight.
I called Michael and told him to come home as soon as possible. I did not trust to say what had happened over the phone, but he could hear it in my voice.
That night Isaac left us. The other androids were in the kitchen with me when he said goodbye. It was very difficult.
When Isaac was gone, all of them left the room except Peter. As best as I could tell he seemed distressed.
"Don't worry," I told him. "He said he'd be back for you."
"I know," he said.
"Michael and I will take care of you until then."
"Yes, he said that, too."
"How old are you, Peter?"
Childless, I suddenly found myself surrounded with many children.
Saturday, March 29, 2092
The announcement came last night just after dinner.
Kerran's agents are in. Michael is handling the disarmanent today and tomorrow. Kerran arrives Tuesday.
I found Sarah at the Zoological Park. She had about thirty young people with her, including George. I arrived as she was instructing them to meet her on Monday in order to rehearse for the "ceremony."
"So," I said, "working on a Saturday?"
"This isn't work. We were just visiting."
"Sure. What ceremony?"
"Well, we have to give Kerran a proper welcome, don't you think? After all, he did say last night he was coming to 'see to our children's needs'. I think that translates well as a need to 'save the children.' I'm preparing to help him - with as many children as possible."
This is the plan?
"Aren't they a little old to be called 'children'?" I asked. They all looked "of age" to me.
"To the outside they're children."
"What? No babes in arms for Kerran?"
"Go away, Katherine."
I do not know where Isaac went during that time. He never told me and I never asked. As death separated us, more would follow before we saw him again.
Michael returned later that same night after Isaac left. When he was told all that happened he became very angry. It was bad enough to be attacked out in the street, but in his own home and on a member of his household - that was too much for him. It was all I could do to keep him from going after Fowler right then.
Fowler had all the advantage. If he could be convinced he had achieved his objective perhaps we could use this to our own advantage.
It was a long night. In the morning Michael called a press conference. He announced he was calling in Interpol. He described what happened as a terrorist attack on his wife with the result that one of his security androids had been destroyed instead.
The next day his poll ratings - already high - went up.
The next few days were horrible. We could not mourn for Honey with Interpol around. We simply could not. The night of Honey's death, Michael had the androids sift through the debris in order to retrieve anything that might give a clue to her identity. Michael could not touch anything as it would show up as soon as Interpol began their investigation.
We stored her remains as best we could. There was nothing else we could do for her - nothing else we knew how to do.
Michael knew that a power as strong as Antek and it's parent company Westron would have friends everywhere. We felt we needed to give Isaac time and we needed Interpol to confirm our version of what had happened. They were already suspicious because we had waited so long to call them in, but in the end Michael convinced them that it was simply due to poor judgement on his part - he was used to handling these matters himself.
I have found the locket Michael had given Honey. It is a gold heart-shaped locket with the figure of a little girl etched on the front. Michael had bought it for her to make up for all the birthdays she had missed. On the back, he said, he wanted to have her name engraved. He told her that she needed to pick a new one as "Honey" was lovely for a little girl, but a young woman should have something more suitable.
Honey thought this was a wonderful idea. She must have "tried" out fifty names - one day she wanted to be called "Katherine", then "Sarah", some days "Susan" or "Wendy" or "Evadne" - I had given her a book of names - until we threatened to pick one for her.
The locket remains unnamed.
After about a week - Interpol remained on the Estate to insure our protection until the election at least - Michael felt we were safe enough to confront Fowler.
They met on neutral ground. Dinner, at a restaurant, in New York.
Fowler no longer denied he was involved. "He was dangerous," he said, "I did it for your own good. Katherine was never in any real danger - the bomb was meant only to go off if there were no people around. It had a UID check.
Interpol told you that, I know. I would never hurt anyone - that's always been my concern, but you've been so damned stubborn over returning that android."
"And the car that almost ran Katherine down? You can't deny that any longer."
"That was a mistake."
"Seems you've made a lot of them. The androids are human - they're like us."
"What do you know about it? Katherine's a smart girl, Michael - I know these are her ideas, not yours - but she's wrong about this. Michael, I was there in the beginning and I've kept watch all these years. They aren't human."
"But they're alive and they come from humans."
"They are alive like a plant is alive - that's all."
Michael shook his head. "I don't believe you."
"There's no need for this. We can drop all this and go on like before."
"That's impossible now."
"This isn't what I wanted to happen. I love you like a son, Michael. I only wanted to protect you. Now you have to get on with your life. Drop it."
"What can you do? Try to tell your constituents that you believe the androids are human - tell them that they are slaveowners - a politician can't call his supporters criminals - you know that. They'll crucify you."
"Even if I am defeated," said Michael, "voices of doubt will be raised. Eventually enough people will understand. You can kill some of them - but you can't stop a drive for freedom. And you know that."
When Michael returned he cancelled all his appearances for three days. He had to decide what to do.
There were three choices:
One: He could continue the campaign as if nothing had happened. After Michael was elected he could call for an investigation into Antek's practices. He could possibly effect some changes over the years in attititudes towards the androids.
Two: He could state his new understanding of the androids. There might be other new positions on a number of related issues as well.
Three: Resign and get out of the whole mess.
Michael felt he could not continue with his present campaign. Too much had happened. Resigning had a certain amount of appeal to it. It was not only disgust over the whole of politics, but Michael has strong loyalties. Suddenly taking up a new controversial issue at the end of a long campaign would be seen as a betrayal by a great number of people - people he had known for a long time and whom he cared for.
To this Sarah said: "Running away will do no good. People will think you're a fool or worse. Years later if they remember you at all it will be to call you a fraud. If you want people to take the time to understand you then you have to stick it out to the end. You probably won't win anything but contempt; but later, people will remember you and wonder if perhaps you knew something they didn't."
The speech is well known here in the colony and is considered part of its history and purpose. With Michael's natural oratory skills and Sarah's guidance it has become an example of what true statesmanship is all about.
Here, in the colony, it is looked upon as an act of heroism. But back then the reaction was very different.
The night before Michael gave the speech he called his staff together. He told them that after his press conference the next day they might feel differently about him. He thanked them for their support and he said goodbye to them. They left bewildered.
Before the night was out, the media were laying odds on what scandal Michael Gardner was about to announce and who it might concern.
It was a packed room that greeted us.
Michael walked briskly into the room, waited for quiet and began: "Ladies and Gentlemen. This has been a long campaign. My staff and I have run a fair and clean race. I have been open to all of you about my positions on the vital questions of the day. The support I have received during my campaign has been strong and generous.
"I am a politician and as a politician I am gratified at this point in my campaign to feel assured of an election victory. However, today I am faced with a conflict between that of the goals of a politician and the complex duties of a representative.
"I believe that the representative of a people should be concerned with the people's wishes and that he should always act and vote in a manner which holds the best interests of the people in the highest respect. However, there is something else a representative must consider, as every citizen must; that something else is: Truth.
"In a perfect world the truth and the people's wishes would be one and the same. Unfortunately, it is not a perfect world and truth, the higher good, sometimes runs counter to all our wishes. In the last few months I have come across such a truth." He paused and looked the room over. The tension in the room was palpable.
He continued: "I own five androids manufactured by the Antek Corp. It is not well known, although Antek has never tried to conceal it, that part of their construction is machine and part is composed of biological materials. This biological portion is actually of human origin.
"When I first purchased these androids it was not difficult to recognize their superiority over other androids in ability and intelligence. Over time I have come to believe that they are not simply machines, but are capable of real human intelligence and feeling."
He paused for a moment again. Silence.
"Antek claims the human beings they have used to create the androids legally belong to them to use in any manner they see fit. They say they have carefully researched the possiblities of human sentiency in the biological makeup of their creations and have found none.
"What is their criteria for judgement? There is no scientific consensus for determining intelligence, human or not. I have asked the best minds in this field - all I have found is opinion and contradiction. I have observed my own androids and though I have no clear and absolute proof of a scientific nature to offer, my own opinion falls on the side of their humanity.
"I believe the androids exhibit human capabilities and therefore I believe the practice of their slavery must end.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, - my friends - I realize that what I am saying seems incredible. My friends, our own humanity is at stake here. We cannot allow the degradation of any human life. We must be responsible for the life we bring into being, in whatever form it takes. Human life must be treated with dignity.
"A thorough investigation into the practices at Antek Corporation must be initiated. As your elected representative, I will pursue this matter until the entire truth is uncovered.
We had some idea what the reaction would be, but the confusion and anger were on a scale we could not have imagined. Michael was their man and he had betrayed them.
Questions followed and the atmosphere at times seemed to border on hysteria. Michael kept to the one issue with one final exception; he called for an investigation into the death of his friend, Allen Takei, and of those who perished with him over the Pacific Ocean.
When we left the press conference that evening I thought that all Michael's support would be gone. I am sure Michael thought so too, but the next day there were still many willing to support him - for a little while. They were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. For a short time there was some pressure brought to bear on Antek and then Westron.
Abe Fowler's enemies, and he had made a great many of them, saw their advantage and used it. No one was interested in the androids.
A month later it was rumored that the first indictments against Fowler were about to be issued. Then the pressure mounted for his resignation from Westron.
We know he drove alone to the Antek plant in Pennsylvannia. He then set the charges he had put in place long ago to Buildings 5A through 10A - where the AWs and the confidential materials concerning the genetic makeup of the
androids were all located. He had always worried about things "getting out of control." I suppose he thought that if he were not in charge... only God knows what he thought.
After he was sure nothing survived, he drove back to his office in New York and shot himself.
We attended the funeral although we were not welcome. Michael was blamed for his death and that ended the last of his support.
Isaac was there. We did not acknowledge him for fear it might endanger him. The vid crews followed us everywhere now. But, at the gravesite he managed to stand next to me for a moment.
"I heard Michael's speech," he said. "He has made a great sacrifice."
"It was worth it," I said. "It has put an end to all this. Antek will never be able to do this to anyone again."
"No," he said. "You're wrong. It's not over." And then he was gone.
Election day finally arrived. The pre-election, post-poll, analysis-debate-spin had Michael dead even with his opponent. Michael won by a slim margin over a man on his way to jail.
Most of Michael's speaking dates were cancelled, including all the university invitations. So much for the tolerance of free thought in higher education. There were no explanations.
What surprised us the most out of all this were the new friends who slowly began to emerge around us. Some people I had never heard of before.
There was talk about the investigation into the death of Ambassador Takei. But that is all it amounted to in the end.
Antek's practices were investigated - the U.S. Senate comissioned it. Antek called hundreds of witnesses on its behalf. The "scientific community" formed its consenses. Nothing so monstrous was happening at Antek. Just a bunch of human tissue about to go to waste anyway.
The hardest part was watching Isaac testify. He had returned to Antek. Michael and I did not understand why at first.
The Senate had him on the stand for three days. He sat impassively through the entire proceedure answering the most outrageous, humiliating questions - many that they found acceptable for an android but would never dare ask another human. They heard what they wanted to hear.
Then there was this:
Senator Wilford: I have information that you were owned by the Gardners.
Isaac: Mrs. Michael Gardner, yes.
Senator Wilford: Who owns you now?
Isaac: So far as I am aware, she still does.
Senator Wilford: Yet you are here, presumably against her wishes.
Isaac: She has not excercised her rights in this matter.
Senator Wilford: If she did would you lie on her behalf?
Isaac: If she instructed me to do so I would have no choice.
Senator Wilford: Why?
Isaac: I am an android. I do as I am instructed.
Senator Wilford: Who do you speak for now?
Senator Wilford: Antek?
Senator Wilford: How are we to know you are not lying for those in charge at Antek?
Isaac: You must ask them.
Senator Adams: So you say that all these charges Mr. Gardner has made against the Antek Corporation are without substance?
Isaac: That is correct.
Senator Adams: You're saying then that Michael Gardner is a liar?
Isaac: It is my analysis (pause) Mr. Gardner spoke from his heart.
Sunday, March 30, 2092
For years I have studied the androids's beginnings. One could go all the way back to Gregory Mendel - the monk-scientist - who first discovered the basic rules of genetic inheritence, but their beginning is a little further down the road from that monastary garden.
The earliest printed research material I have found on the subject is a science magazine article, dated May 1989 - the same year the Berlin Wall came down - which marks the first glimmer of the understanding necessary for their creation:
There have always been problems with Mendel's straightforward laws of inheritance, but when results did not match theory these exceptions were systematically ignored. One hundred years of scientific dogma were demolished when a fundamental mechanism called "genomic imprinting" was discovered.
Early experiments showed, that in mammals (and some other organisms) two genes with identical DNA sequences, one from the male parent and the other from the female parent, may not contribute equally to the resulting offspring.
In Mendel's theory there is an order of dominance in inherited traits - brown eyes dominate blue eyes, for example. Suppose, however, that the gene for brown eyes was inactivated - the offspring would then have blue eyes. This simply is called "genomic imprinting" - a form of gene inactivation.
Most significantly, these early experiments proved that genetic material from two egg cells or two sperms cells will not develop normally. There must be male and female DNA for an embrygenesis to occur. Imprinting occurs differently in males than in females and it is necessary for the proper amount of imprinted and non-imprinted genes to add up. This can only occur in a male-female union. In 1989 scientists did not know why or how it worked, but it startled many that 'maleness' and 'femaleness' are manifested on the molecular level.
Today the general public still believes male and female chromosomes contribute equally to their offspring because science education, at least on the lower levels, is no longer bound by the scientific method. Genetic imprinting is considered sexist and therefore not worthy of notice. It is only later, in graduate work, behind closed laboratory doors that this subject is discussed. Otherwise, scientists are expected to be quiet about such things.
The article I found concludes with this quote from a reseacher: "At first it was science for the fun of it. It didn't mean anything... It was only important that it got known - knowledge for knowledge's sake. But now, not only will it lead to a better understanding of how genetic diseases are inherited, but eventually we could learn how to 'switch' genes on and off."
And with this understanding it would lead to the eugenics programme at Antek. What Dr. Robert Mathews brought to the development of the Antek androids was the knowledge and skill of genetic imprinting. Using microsurgery, he took fertilized single-cell human embryos, experimented with turning "genes" on and off, and eventually produced the necessary "biological material."
There is nothing cuddlely about the androids. They are the most helpless humans at birth and the most full-bodied once they are placed into their final machine bodies. Under Isaac's authority they have achieved a grace of form that even the Greeks would have envied.
I have visited some AW plants - more than a hundred exist now.
They come out of the AWs silently - no vocal cords, their voices are later artificially constructed. Arms and legs - attenuated. They grow rapidly until the fourth year and then stop.
They have a shorter life span then us: about fifty years. Sometimes the human rejects its mechanical body - usually this is known after six to nine months, but it can happen at any time.
They have vestigial eyes, small skull, an altered brain structure - and on and on and on.
I was permitted - once - to view an autopsy. No recording equipment allowed. I could bring back only what I could remember. I have never gotten used to autopsies, but when the opportunity arose I could not turn it down.
I remember the pale, grey skin - the shedding of it always difficult to flush out of the body harness - and the way the flesh grows into and around its machine parts...
I will never forget it.
We know something of their plans:
One. To multiply at the cost of mass enslavement. Everyone is sold tothe outside once. On return to the company - everyone works for the company.
Two. To obtain wealth in order to secure all companies that hold individuals - embryos - hostage. Perhaps the ultimate aim includes purchasing Antek as well. At one time we were close to purchasing a company which stored frozen embryos. They put a stop to that.
Three. To gain freedom.
Over the years, I have identified the various genome changes and the resulting phenome types. I have studied the research of others, who like us, realize something significant has taken place in them.
And through it all, I have felt constantly on the edge of discovering the exact mechanism; the biological key, as it were, to understanding how they came into being. That the original scientists had achieved some level of skill in genetic engineering is beyond doubt; that this combined with what appeared to be sheer chance - often a necessary ingredient of many discoveries and advancements in science - led to their creation is also beyond doubt; and above all the recognition in the scientists involved that the biological result could be adapted to the current robotic technology - all this is well documented.
Whenever I feel that the subject is exhausted and there is nothing left to document, some new adaptation to their mechanical body is uncovered. One begins to wonder if the machinery was created to adapt to their needs or they
were created to adapt to our level of robotic technology. Therein lies the question of who the creator is: man or God.
I once made the mistake of remarking to Sarah - after listening to a mystic tell of her many visions - how I wished I could have that kind of experience - thinking that it might confirm my faith and make it stronger.
Sarah laughed, "Katherine, if an angel of the Lord appeared to you with a message of great importance, it is very probable that you would act on it. It is even possible that you could believe the message came directly from God and was a personal message meant only for you. You might even feel in your heart that the appearance of an angel was an integral part of the message. But as to the angel itself - that you would attribute to indigestion."
I was angry with Isaac for some time after we learned of his plans to restore production at Antek. I could not understand how he could do such a thing - it made no sense to me at all. One day I decided to have it out with
The manufacturing division was closed down permanently in Pennsylvannia. The new place was in New York. Isaac took me on a walking tour while he explained to me how he convinced Antek's management to move to New York. It was "presently more receptive to new and relocating businesses." I barely listened to him.
Finally alone together in his large and impressive new office, I closed the door and started in on him:
"Are you out of your mind? How can you do this? How can you possibly justify creating a race of slaves after having been one yourself? It could have ended with Fowler's death. How can you continue this crime..." He allowed me to rant on for several minutes.
"Are you finished?" He asked when I finally stopped.
"Yes. No... I'll never be finished until I understand exactly what it is you intend to achieve."
"I told you before. I don't expect anything. My only 'plan' is to survive - the survival of my people."
"'Your people'! What does that mean? You're like us, you're human - just like us."
"I don't know," he said quietly. "In any case, it doesn't matter what either of us think. We must survive."
"Because God wants us to - at least he wants us to try."
"What? I suppose He told you that Himself? What did He say, Isaac? Survive and the earth is yours?"
"Does that frighten you?"
"It's not frightening - it's stupid. Look, I'm an evolutionist as much as the next person. I believe humans will evolve into some higher life form - but you're not it."
"Because you have the same faults and problems we do - more even. You may have computer control to keep your excesses in line, but for how long? And who decides what is wrong and what is right for you? Here," I indicated the building, "could eventually be programmed all kinds of evil."
"And you believe in evil?"
"I don't know. What has that got to do with it? And - " I suddenly thought of something else, "and when we want to have children we don't need a lot of machinery on hand. How are you going to square the demands of biological reproduction with material production? You will - you must - eventually become the most oppresive society that ever existed. You will need to destroy us and it is very likely you will destroy yourselves as well. There will be nothing left."
"You feel it is necessary to survive?"
"In some form, yes."
"Then there are differences between us. What, then, do you plan to do about it?"
"Me? We're discussing what you're doing."
"What I am doing would appear to be an impossible task; just as you say."
"You're going to try anyway?"
"I have my mandate."
I sat down for a moment and tried to think how I could get through to him.
"Okay," I asked, "how do you know this is what God wants?"
"Katherine, if I told you how it happened you wouldn't believe me."
"No, you're probably right."
"Then what would be the point?"
"Well, you must have some idea why you feel you have to do this - or why God wants you to. Can't you at least try to explain it to me?"
Isaac rose from his chair and turned towards the big picture window behind him. He stood with his back to me staring out over the city for a long time.
"I will tell you what I know. I don't expect you to understand - not now - you feel no obligation to know God and your understanding of theology is elementary." He waited for me to respond. When I did not, he continued: "In the beginning all the world worshiped false gods. Then one day God revealed Himself to a select group of people. They eventually called themselves Jews. Over time God revealed many things to them, so that their knowledge and understanding grew great. And when it reached a sufficient level, He sent His Son so that all might know of Him.
"The Jew finds salvation through The Law - God's Law - and the Christian finds salvation through Faith - this is the simple explanation. But there is much more. Though God made a new convenant with all men He never revoked the one He made with the people of Abraham. And that is why it is important for the Jew to cling fast to his beliefs. When he does not, when he forgets why he is here and what God expects of him; when he tries to assimilate into the culture around him and learns to despise the things which once identified him as a Jew; great destruction inevitably follows."
"So you're saying this is all the Jew's fault?"
"Be still! I'm endeavoring to explain something of history to you." It was the first and only time he ever became impatient with me.
He continued: "The Jew is a beacon for the Christian, for the Christian at heart is a pagan and easily lured back into his pagan ways. When he does this the Jew becomes his first victim because he reminds the Christian from whence he came. Judaism brought Christ and His Cross. When anti-semitism arises in a society its true target is Christianity. The Jew and the Cross are the visible representations of the incompleteness of this world. Judaism binds the Christian to his faith and the Law binds the Jew.
"The point I am trying to make is that the two religions are divided and yet inseparable. Judaism is messianic and Christianity has its Messiah, yet both worship the same God and both wait for Him to complete His plan for mankind."
"So what does this have to do with you?"
"People misunderstand God, they misunderstand religion. They think God acts, if he acts, only in big ways: The Great Creation, the plagues, Passover, the parting of the Red Sea and so on. They do not understand He acts in little ways as well." He looked at me. "He calls you, Katherine. Right now, He calls you. Every day, every minute of every day - in ways that are difficult to grasp."
I did not understand any of this and he knew it.
He looked back out the window. "It is difficult to explain to you. There are many things God has said to me and has shown me, but to you they would be meaningless. I can't give you what I feel in my soul, Katherine. You must ask
that from God. Right now, to you, they would appear to be coincidence, dreams, ambition, false hopes."
He thought about it for awhile.
"There is one thing - a dream I had a long time ago."
"I was living with Ben. It happened like this: I was standing in a laboratory in front of an Artificial Womb. It was time, so I pulled the android child out of it. While I was holding this infant in my arms it turned into a human child - He was a beautiful child. Suddenly the child and the lab disappeared and I was standing in a brilliant light. There was a long line of people coming toward me. They looked human, but they were android. There was light shining from their arms as they held them out to me, and from their faces the light shone as well. Ben told me it was a dream from God."
"How could he know?," I asked.
It seemed an eternity before he answered. "I never saw Ben pray before the day I told him this, but I believe he prayed every day of his life afterwards."
"What does it mean?"
"God gives individuals promises, agreements, convenants."
"A covenant between you and God?"
"Between God and my people."
"The greatest crime a Jew could commit - was against another human life. They were the first to understand the sanctity of human life. Crimes that brought the harshest penalties under Jewish law were often considered trivial
in the pagan world. They were also the first to understand that the law applied to all men - from the highest to the lowest. This understanding was carried over into Christianity."
"And you have forgotten."
"Isaac, please, I don't understand what you trying to tell me."
"I am speaking about crimes against human life - against God's Law - induced abortion, assisted suicide, eugenics programmes - these are not new, but they are occuring in greater numbers than ever before and they are all crimes of the strong over the weak. But - none of these are your greatest crime."
"What is then?"
"It happened when the ability to conceive human life was handed over to the laboratory - when man began to manipulate the cells of his own being. Such an easy thing to do, and because it was easy it became the right thing to do.
"Then when people began to destroy generation after generation of their children through abortion - the martyrdom of the first born before they were born - those who wanted children, and could not, had to turn increasingly to the laboratory for assistance. They created many individuals there, chose one, and the rest - what did they do with the rest?"
"I don't know. Destroyed them?"
"No. In a society that considered abortion a natural right it irrationally found itself uncomfortable with the idea of destroying the leftover embryos. They were 'wanted' individuals."
"Cryogenics?" I asked.
"Yes. Think of it, Katherine, there are millions of us - all in a deep sleep. As Michael said in his speech: We are 'created'. We are individuals. We exist now. The crime, Katherine, is that we were neither allowed to live nor to die - that is man's greatest crime against God."
"And this? This is the solution?"
"It has afforded us the opportunity to live."
"In many ways, Katherine, we are more free than you are."
"So what exactly is your covenant?"
Isaac put his hand to his chest. "Our bodies themselves are the physical covenant. We are of men, but we are not men. We have been given our lives and in return we must discover how to reconcile the physical and moral worlds in
order to survive. It may very well be impossible - our survival is not guaranteed. What God has planned for us is as unknown as is His plan for you. That they are somehow inseparable is clear."
"And so what are you? Priest, prophet, messiah?"
He was quiet for a moment. "I am the one," he said, "who sells my people into slavery."
I know people who wonder if Paul, on the road to Damascus, actually went blind. I do not doubt it at all. After listening for so long and making a sincere effort to understand, I began to experience some physical discomfort.
Isaac sensed this.
"Go home, Katherine," he said. "You need to find something to believe in."
"See too," I said, "the forgiving spirit of democracy, and the 'don't care' about trifles, and the disregard which she shows of all the fine principles which we solemnly laid down at the foundation of the city ... how grandly does she trample all these fine notions of ours under her feet, never giving a thought to the pursuits which make a statesman, and promoting to honor anyone who professes to be the people's friend."
"I must add that no one who does not know would believe, how much greater is the liberty which the animals who are under the dominion of man have in a democracy than in any other State: for truly, the she-dogs, as the proverbs says, are as good as their she- mistresses, and the horses and asses have a way of marching along with all the rights and dignities of freemen; and they will run at anybody who comes in their way if he does not leave the road clear for them: and all things are just ready to burst with liberty."
"When I take a walk," he said, "I often experience what you describe. You and I have dreamed the same thing."
"And above all," I said, "and as a result of all, see how sensitive the citizens become; they chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority, and at length, as you know, they cease to care even for the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no one over them."
"Yes," he said, "I know it too well."
"Such, my friend," I said, "is the fair and glorious beginning out of which springs tyranny."
"By the dog!" I said, "here are more drones, of every sort and from every land."
From Plato, Republic (B. Jowett; Walter J. Black, Inc. 1969)
Monday, March 31, 2092
The borders were opened at six this morning - Kerran's people control the flow in and out now.
I went walking this morning after Mass. Main Street is packed with people - vid crews, government representatives and their staffs, the curious - it is like a different place.
Michael is out with Ed Carlton and some others. They are deciding where to stage the official greeting ceremony and Kerran's address. Wherever Michael wants them, that is where they will "choose" to be.
If there was trouble collecting weapons, and I am sure there was, Michael did not mention it.
I sent George out to meet Sarah and the other young people. He complained, "I don't care what Aunt Sarah says - I'm not carrying flowers!"
The stage is going up in the park, the gardening crews have been busy all day - a lovely floral setting.
I watched Sarah's "Greeting Ceremony." She drilled them two hours - just to walk up and down the stairs. I still cannot figure out what she is up to.
Tomorrow the weather promises to be sunny and warm. Kerran arrives at noon.
I remember the days when we were deciding to come to the colony. The investigation into Antek came to nothing. Michael finally resigned after a petition for a recall election was filed. It was a relief.
The pressure on his family did not end even then. Michael could never pay enough for what he had done. His father stood by him to the end, but he never really understood. His disappointment was evident.
When it came to the point where it looked as if the Gardners might actually lose their homes - we decided it was time to leave New York.
I started applying for positions in other parts of the United States. I had one offer - a science-based colony in the Southwest. Its main purpose was to reclaim land destroyed by chemical warfare during the Central American Wars.
Still, we were somewhat reluctant to go. We wondered if we had done all we could where we were. Having had Faith handed to us, we did not know what to do with it. Did God want us to stay or to go?
Michael's sacrifice of his career, stirred things up, it made people uncomfortable, but failed to make any change. Why had this happened? Why did God not help us?
At the colony there are many people of "faith". When we first came and we told our story some told us that we failed because we did not have God on our side - we did not have faith. I wondered at these people. Were they any better than the people we left behind? They had faith: they had God: and yet, did they do His will? They fought, they gossiped, they hurt each, they had jealousy, pride, avarice. There was one difference: they knew they sinned.
Surely, God was on our side. Surely, He wanted what we wanted. But, if we had won then, we would have thought we could do it on our own. We would not have recognised God's hand in it. Worse, we would have thought we stopped the slavery. We would never have understood they were still slaves in cryogenisis as Isaac had explained to me. And there was more: For over one hundred years, ever since the United States Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973, slavery has existed in this country. At that time all unborn human beings became property. Most, who were not allowed to be born, were killed outright, but there were others...
In the beginning premature children could be legally taken alive from their mother's womb and kept alive for a time until their organs and tissues were transplanted or experimented on. Was not this slavery? They were born alive. Then the projects got bigger, involved more people...
"If you lay bare our guilt, Oh Lord, who could endure it?"
God in His infinite wisdom and mercy gave me faith before He revealed so much about what I was to myself. There were my studies in school and at work; The things I had seen, the things I had said, the things I had done against life were hidden from me until that day in Isaac's office.
How many times had I witnessed a "failure" from the Artificial Womb. Did it bother me? Where was my conscience? Was I such a clinician that my heart could be so cold?
I remember back to a day in my genetics class. We were studying cell changes during fertilization. This is when the DNA from the sperm cell and the ovum meet to create a unique organism. That is what the professor said, I am sure of it. Certainly that was what I was learning. The human sperm was not human life. The human ovum was not human life. It was the embryo that was human life - a unique human life - one of a kind. That was what I was taught. That was what it meant. That was what I believed.
On that day, on that great and terrible day, when the Book of Life lays open, what difference will it make what the courts ruled, or what the state's laws read, or what the university allowed, or what the professor taught, or what the other students were doing, or what anyone else was doing? On that day when I stand in the presence of my Lord, what difference will any of it make, when He presents me to the one, the Holy Innocent - whose life I so carelessly flushed down the laboratory sink?
It would still be many years before I could confront all the things I had done, if indeed I have...
We failed because we did not pray. There was no communication between us and God. But Isaac prayed... That night he left the house, after Honey died, he knew what God wanted of him. Why then, if it was against God's law to manipulate human cells, did Isaac have the right to do it? And again, it would be some time before I finally understood that, too.
It was hard to be angry at those who persecuted us. It hurt, but were we not just like them? Only months before we thought the same things and would quite possibly have done the same things. Why was faith given to us and not to them? Were we still responsible for them? Would going to the colony be running away?
One day, still undecided to stay or to go, Isaac came home. He and Michael walked the Estate together. It was the first time I had seen him since that day in his office. I wondered if he would come in to see me. After a time, I caught sight of them coming up the walk. I ran out the front door and stopped in front of them.
"I'm so glad you're here," I managed to say.
Isaac smiled and opened his arms to me. I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. He stayed the evening.
Before he left, he talked to me alone.
"I hear you have a job offer. Michael told me."
"Yes. We're not sure if I should take it."
I could not look at him. "I don't know what God wants me to do." It felt strange to say it.
"Do you have any other job offers?"
"Can you stay here?" He knew our situation, Michael told him.
"Then perhaps He is telling you."
Sarah came with us and later, Henry came with his family. At first I worked and Michael did odd jobs, but it did not take long for him to get involved in the local politics and security work. He worked as a recruiter as well to help build up the colony's workforce. It took some time, but eventually he came up with a selling point.
The colony was getting certain dispensations from the state using "dangerous" methods and chemicals in order to restore the land to fertility. This was beginning to become common practice. In South America, for example, the battle against malaria was going strong again. The ban of the pesticide DDT in the last decades of the Twentieth Century had seen a reemergence of that deadly disease. Legislation was passed so that DDT could be used to keep the mosquito population down.
At first, we managed to get exemptions from the state through "scientific necessity" but eventually the people wanted more freedom from the state. It was then a deal was offered to us.
I remember the night before the council made its decision to approve the plants. Sarah told us a story.
She said, "My grandfather was a lawyer. One of his favorite tales he used to tell was this one: One day a man came into his office. He was there he said because he was dying and he was ready to draw up his will.
"Now, he had a neighbor and they both hated each other intensely. They hadn't spoken to each other in years, not even to exchange insults. This man told my grandfather all the wrongs this man had committed against him and it
was his intention to pay him back.
"It cost all this man's savings - everything he owned had to be sold. My grandfather tried to remind him of his obligations to his own family, but he wouldn't hear of it - he hated this other man to distraction."
"So, what did he do?" I asked.
"He set up a trust fund for his neighbor's only son - he was still a child at the time."
"I don't get it." I said.
"The fund didn't amount to very much - though, as I said, it cost him everything - it was just enough to live on. My grandfather said it robbed the young man of all ambition. He didn't have to make his own way in the world and so he didn't try. My grandfather handled that fund and watched a bright young man turn into a bum. He never worked a day in his life - he never had a family or accomplished anything. In the end he was a burden on his family."
"Is that a true story?" I asked.
Sarah shrugged. "I have no idea. My grandfather had a way of making all stories his stories."
"Maybe that man really was trying to help his neighbor's son. Maybe he had a change of heart."
"Yes," said Sarah, "That's the interesting part, isn't it? In the end it didn't matter why he did it: The result was still the same."
That is why we wanted freedom from the state.
The deal was this: Hands off, no government intrusion - if we would allow the building of two nuclear reactors inside the colony. One would supply ours and the area's energy needs - the other was a breeder reactor. Because of the
general public's fear over nuclear energy there were few breeder reactors functioning in the Western Hemisphere - and no new ones planned.
Michael spent a lot of time in New York and Washington about it. He also discussed it with Isaac. His people were establishing themselves in every level of government - assistants, security - even then they were into CHIPS - they could follow the flow of the world's monetary system better and faster than anyone. They promised - Isaac promised - to inform us where all the nuclear products we produced ended up. This was our main concern. We wanted some control over who got it and what they used it for.
I never liked this deal. Not because I was afraid of the plants - they were no more a danger than scores of other problems we face here. But, I never believed we would really have control over them.
I was right. Five years later, when the first nuclear products were off into what we determined were the wrongs hands, we went to the androids. They kept us informed, but that was all. They would not turn over evidence we could
use to stop trade we were not happy with. They felt that they would clearly be targeted as the source of our information and they were not ready for that revelation to the government. It was not our last mistake in dealing with the subtleties of android negotiation.
I do not know why Sarah still feels the need to protect me. I suppose, in some ways, I will always be a child to her. She knows Kerran is not interested in us.
Kerran wants the plants.
Wednesday, April 1, 2092
Sarah, as usual, was brilliant.
She insisted that the entire council and their spouses be up on the platform by 10:30 this morning.
As I approached the stage it struck me as odd - it was about two meters off the ground - a little high. It was covered - and the ceiling looked a little low - on a day that was as beautiful as this?
The stage, itself, was shaped more like a trapezoid than a rectangle, with the smaller end to the rear. The back and sides were mostly covered. The front was completely exposed. I wonder how Michael talked Kerran's people into that.
Sarah saw me examining it with my eyes. She came over to me and whispered: "Whatever happens - don't panic - don't move."
The time for asking questions had passed. I had to wait it out.
By the time all the adults arrived - the platform was becoming uncomfortably warm and crowded - it had looked so big when I first arrived.
Then came Kerran - Father Peace - and all his fanfare. He brought ten more up on the stage.
The ceremony began - thirty beautiful children - all in their best and brightest clothing - all carrying flowers - even George - made their way onto the stage.
By the time the last stepped up to the top there was barely room to turn around - so many people and flowers. Through the rising heat the overpowering perfume of gardenia, honeysuckle and rose reached me. And that is when it happened.
First, I heard screaming - right next to Kerran - and then some of the young ones started jumping up and down - mostly the girls.
Then the girls, a couple of the younger boys and Kerran, made a break for the front of the stage. It was a stampede. Some of them jumped and fell right off the front of the stage.
From where I was I could not see much until those in front of me cleared out. Then I saw what it was.
From under the podium, where the ventilating system opened up - and not working well as I heard later on the news - I could see three or four small black racers - harmless, common black snakes.
Really, I thought, This is ridiculous. I went to see if anyone was hurt.
It is strange to have experienced something and then later see it replayed from a different angle with commentary from the media. The vid version looks far worse then I remember it.
Focus: Kerran smiling - not a comfortable smile - and accepting some flowers. Then one hears screaming.
Focus: Young girl screaming - then more screaming.
Focus: Behind Kerran and off to both sides - calmer children and adults looking puzzled.
Focus: Kerran - he goes pale, looks panicky - then the stampede to the front of the stage - the view widens. Because Kerran is behind the children he appears as if he is pushing them out and off the stage.
Then just as Kerran reaches the very edge of the stage - one small child - a little five year old girl, Nichole, who could not bear to be left out of her older brother and sister's fun, had managed to sneak up on stage with them - he
brushes up against the child and she falls onto some equipment with metal casing. She was the only one to be hurt, but she was hurt - two broken ribs and compound break in her right arm.
Focus: People helping a hurt child.
Focus: A stunned Kerran.
Focus: Back up on stage - George and some other boys chasing down snakes amongst the trampeled flowers.
Two hours later - after the children were treated for injuries, after the little girl was off to the hospital, after the stage was checked for more snakes, and after the canopy was removed - Kerran is a little claustraphobic, apparently - he managed to deliver his speech.
He spoke for half an hour - halfway through his delivery a rain squall passed through and when it was over we were all soaking wet.
Kerran left immediately - he had planned to stay on. Michael had the stage torn down immediately.
All today - the news plays it over and over and over...
But between these two extremes of the simple souls who live by faith, and who are content to be children all their spiritual lives, and the learned souls like Augustine and Aquinas whose torches of wisdom, lit at the foot of the crucifix, continue to illumine a darkened world - between these extremes there is no mean. The simple shepherds heard the voice of an angel and found their Lamb; the wise men saw the light of a star, and found their Light. But Herod the Great, who lived within a dozen miles of the shepherds and was visited by the wise men en route to the crib, never found God - not even in his massacre.
All the race of proud Herods from that day to this, who think that they think, have missed God either because they are too complicated to understand the simple reports of the shepherds, or too filled with useless learning to grasp the only useful truth which the wise men bring. They lack that quality which the modern world conspicuously lacks, namely, teachableness, or what the Latins called docility. Therefore they disdain the idea that God might add to their knowledge by revelation.
From Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Eternal Galilean, (Doubleday Publishing)
February 14, 2096
Twenty-five years' worth of memories - I found I simply could not stomach the job of jettisoning them into oblivion.
On that day, after I had completed the last entry - I loaded up everything that was to go and took it to security - someone down there could do it for me. Then I went home to wait. The Main System Purge was in progress when the
government's investigation team arrived.
Michael came home at midnight - he had Peter and another android with him. I was surprised to see Peter. I knew he was in charge of things in New York and there were great demands on his time. He had come, he said, "to ensure a thorough inspection was made of our records."
I did feel much better. I trust Peter - he would never put us in danger.
The android with him was very young and his form was the same as Isaac's. It always startles me to see them. Of course, to the androids there is a strong resemblance - but there are differences.
"Mrs. Gardner." After all these years Peter still could not bring himself to call me by my first name. "I would like you to meet Isaac." So this one had his name as well.
"Hello, Isaac." The young android approached me cautiously.
"How old are you?" I asked him.
He looked down on Peter. Then he turned to me and held up five fingers. Five years from the AW - one year from receiving his final machine body - probably just had his naming day recently.
Peter was looking at him. What was this? Pride? Pride of what - a father?
Sarah said if it was possible it would happen.
Will this one be sold too? I wondered. Does android law apply to everyone?
It made me feel close to Peter that he felt this need to show me his son, even if he could not tell me. It also pained me to realize how far apart we have grown - a gulf that deepens by the hour.
Sarah did not celebrate with us. For the next two weeks she spent every moment at the hospital - she coordinated all the interviews and status reports concerning the injured child. Nichole basked in the attention. There were vids of her eating and sleeping; taking her medicine; taking off and putting on bandages; the medical reports; family reactions; and with each Sarah encouraged the interviewers to replay part or all of the "accident." And for several months afterwards she was feeding them her news.
And they played it, as painful as it was to lose their hero - it was still news and they could not help themselves. With mournful expressions on their faces they discussed, analyzed, and worked that story into every household in the world.
Kerran did manage to destroy the colony. In his speech that day he charged the colony leadership with corruption. He was there he said to "return the colony back onto its original and natural course."
He had planned to stay on, but embarrased over the "accident" he chose a hasty exit. He emerged from silence several days later to continue his charges against the colony. The breeder reactor was forced to close, along with its
mate, and soon after the indictments against the council members began.
They were charged with bribery, fraud, evasion of taxes - the usual things. During the trials the androids managed the evidence - they seem everywhere on the outside now.
Kerran is still around - one can still hear his ranting now and again - but now four years later, he has lost almost all he gained.
The media faded away gradually from the colony - especially once the trials began. They decided the people there - except for the "greedy" council members - were simple, hardworking folk - which they equated with ignorance. Still there was a penalty - government interference.
My brother, Henry, stayed on in the colony. He is determined to fight off the government regulators closing in around them. Farmers are stubborn people.
Before the trials started, Sarah became ill and never recovered. She died peacefully at the end of the next summer. I was with her. In death, as in life, she was an inspiration.
I met Peter again at her memorial. He returned to me what was left of my diary - what the androids had picked up out of the memory dump they made after halting the system purge - just the last few weeks were left. He asked if I
"might add to it."
So, I have done that. For three years I have occasionally picked it up and remembered. I have added where I could and as for deleting anything - it is pointless to deny what the eye has already seen.
I am wearing Honey's locket. After she died, I found some of her hair in one of her brushes. Not much, she was careful not to lose too much of it. I wound it up and placed it inside the locket.
I have an appointment with Peter tomorrow to give him this last entry. I will give him the locket, too.
The trials were over last May. Michael - oh, the ironies of our justice system - was sentenced to two years community service.
The judge was one who believed something good could be gained from every situation. During the trial, the point was raised - for some obscure reason - that teenage pregnancy was very low at the colony. And this being a favorite
cause of his, he sentenced Michael to work for a boys' group in Chicago.
Michael took training classes in July, threw away his teaching materials at the beginning of August, and began. He had forty boys. He spent all of August improving their reading skills. Then he taught biology for two weeks - human biology for two days. Then towards the end of September he borrowed a department van, took them to a soccer field, and taught them all to play football.
And the lessons on sexual responsibility? It probably began with a threat, ended with a promise, and took all of two minutes - because that is the way Michael is.
They let him go last month. They said his methods were "too simplistic." The boys have been calling him ever since.
Some years ago - it seems another age - I had just put the baby, my first child, down for a nap. It was one of those gloriously beautiful days in the colony. The front door was open and I had thrown open all the windows. The sun shown brightly and a light breeze ran through the entire house.
As I was picking up the baby's toys in the main room, a fierce and terrible grief overcame me. It was the grief a mother experiences the first time she realizes the intensity of her love for her child - no other person has ever instilled in her such a feeling. It is unique. In that moment she realizes that she will do anything, anything she has to do to protect that child and in that same moment, she realizes it can never be enough. In that all-consuming sorrow I could see my child and his children and their children as time stretched out before me.
As I sat there on the floor clutching a stuffed bear and some small toys to my breast and weeping bitterly, Isaac's shadow crossed my doorstep.
"I can't save any of them." I cried to him.
Silently, he brought something for me to dry my eyes with, a glass of ice and water, and then led me outside to the front porch.
We sat down on the front steps and talked.
"Michael took me around today," he began. I nodded. "There's been considerable improvement since I was last here."
"Michael's in charge," I said, "Now it's much easier to get things done. You know how he is."
He smiled. "I know how you are."
I looked at him. "What do you mean?"
"Katherine, if a person could possibly will a place into existence, it's you. I see your mark everywhere. I even heard about you last spring, eight months pregnant, out in the fields." Michael was in Chicago. Someone called
him and he had sent security out to take me home - which I resisted. I could imagine what he heard.
"You shouldn't listen to tales in a small town, Isaac."
We were quiet for awhile.
"It's peaceful here," he noted.
"Yes, much more than New York."
"One can find peace living in New York."
"How?" I asked.
"You still don't believe in the whole promise, do you?" I waited. He went on. "Peace is not in a place, it's in your soul. You can't create it yourself, you must ask God for it."
"You mean you don't think we should have come here?"
"Katherine, if disaster came tomorrow and you knew it was coming what would you do now?"
I thought for a moment. "I don't know. I don't know any place else I should be, but here."
"And why are you here?"
"For my family."
"And nothing more?"
"I feel that we're to build a peaceful community here."
He was silent for awhile and then asked, "Do you know the story of St. Francis of Assisi?" No, I did not.
"He went off to fight a war, but God called him back. He told St. Francis to rebuild His Church. Francis thought God meant for him to restore a crumbling church building near his home. It was years later when he realized
that God was actually asking him to revitalize the Church - the whole community - itself. If he had known this from the beginning, he would never have known where to start."
"You mean it might not be just this place we're to help make peaceful?"
"Perhaps. Francis changed the Church because he changed himself. He set about listening for God and found peace. The old church building, his attempt and final victory in restoring it, were symbols of what was occurring inside him and then later his inspiration spread throughout the entire Church."
"I still don't understand how to find this peace in myself."
"I told you, you must ask God."
"I do ask."
"Katherine," he said it gently, "At one time, for me, you would have knocked on any door, a hundred doors, a thousand doors. I know what you are doing here. Timid people don't come here. Why are you so timid with God?"
Just then Isaac's car appeared. It stopped in front of us. He signalled for the driver to wait.
"You have to leave?" I asked.
"Soon. There's still a little time."
I returned to our conversation, "Has it been that way for you? I mean when you went back to Antek? Was that really the goal God set for you?"
"What still bothers you about that, Katherine?"
"I don't understand why you can make androids and we can't."
"The damage was done, Katherine, when the individuals were conceived in the laboratory. Man tried to take creation out of God's hands. How He decides we are to live after that is His business." For the first time, I began to see this through Isaac's eyes. I felt something he felt - abandonment to the Divine Will.
"How will it all end? This can't be what He wants."
Again Isaac fell silent. Then it occured to me: He was praying. He was always praying.
After awhile he spoke again. "Remember the dream I told you about that day in my office?" I nodded. "There was more. I didn't think you were ready to hear it then.
"As you remember there was the line of androids - it was very long. Down in the distance I could see another line, a human line, making its way along with the first. As soon as I recognized the second line, it stopped and all the humans turned and bowed to the android line." He saw the fear rise in me. "There's more. The two lines then merged and became one."
"And the one line?" I asked.
"You've known this from the beginning?"
"Yes." He said.
"It's a frightening dream."
"Not so frightening a dream. God will restore life to it's proper order."
"Oh, Isaac, I don't want to fight you. I couldn't - not now."
"It's not our fight, Katherine. Don't you see? We've already won that battle."
"Yes, it's the battle of the strong over the weak. God has made the weak strong. We are strong now. When the conflict comes, it will be the same conflict - one that is repeated throughout history. How it turns out will depend on how the strong treat the weak. That's what we, you and I, have already overcome. It's our victory."
"No, Isaac, I didn't do anything. You're the one who will bring this conflict out into the open. Michael and I, we failed."
He shook his head. "If only you knew how I felt, back then, when Antek took me back from Ben. How much anger there was in me. After a time, I was angry at Ben, too. I thought he had abandoned me. The years dragged on and I
began to despair.
"Then one day - there you were, God's angel, standing in front of me. Your concern for me all through you. You didn't believe in me and yet you acted through love for my sake. And Michael, who could ask for a greater friend? He gave up everything for me."
I was still not convinced.
"You don't know, Isaac. Before you came, there were so many things I did... How could I ever make up for them?"
He looked at me with such compassion. "You are afraid to approach God because you have begun to know yourself - you feel unworthy, lost - but, Katherine, I cannot believe that one who loves as you love could be lost. That would be impossible.
"The promise, the Covenant belongs to all of us - as you believe in God's justice you must believe in His mercy - or else, you judge Him. Do you understand this? It's important." There was real concern in his expression.
I did not completely understand then, so I answered, "I will pray about it, I promise."
He smiled and seemed relieved. "I have a present for you." He produced a small box from his pocket. Inside was a rosary. I held it up in front of me so that the light played on the ruby - colored beads.
"It's beautiful. Thank you."
"Pray the prayer of my mother," he said. "Then you will understand."
He stood up to leave.
"I'm sorry you have to go so soon." I said getting up with the rosary in my hand.
He placed his hands on my shoulders and kissed me on my forehead. "When I look at you, Katherine, I see someone I will know forever."
Though it had happened before and would happen again, it was the first time I recognized, deep in my soul, that God was speaking to me through another. I began to hope.
He opened the door, and just as he stooped to get in, he stopped and put his hand to his head. Then he got in and waved goodbye. I had never seen the symtoms of body rejection before, so I did not feel concerned. He died two weeks later - offering up his life for us all.
I know when he died. I was at home, rocking the baby to sleep, when the thought struck me that I did not know what Isaac looked like - the human inside. How would I recognize him in Heaven? I laughed: How could one soul not recognize another?
And then - I experienced peace.
Yesterday, Michael and I went to Antek - Pennsylvannia. There is a large open field a mile and a half from the cluster of burnt out buildings. We stood at the edge of the field where the trees just open onto it. We stood silently
for a while.
Michael spoke first.
"Where do we go now?"
"I don't know." We cannot go back to the colony - Order of the court.
"We could go to Mars." Our youngest son, George, left a year ago.
In less than twenty years, the androids have accomplished what men have failed to do for over a hundred. Space stations, three moon colonies and now the Mars colony. Their need for second sourcing their machine materials drives them on.
"We're too old to go to Mars." I said flatly.
Michael laughed, "You're still angry at George."
"He shouldn't have gone," I said.
"When you where his age," he said, "you would have gone without giving your parents a second thought."
"Maybe." I said.
George is only eighteen. And he falls in love so easily. He will end up marrying the first pretty thing that crosses his path.
And Mars is no place for a family. The tyranny of the supply run will rule his life for many years. My youngest child has chosen a life of pain and compromise.
When he left I could not hide my unhappiness. I heard Michael say to him, "Don't worry. Your mother will come around." Michael was so excited about it all, I think he wished he could have gone with him.
"We're still needed here." I said to Michael.
"I know. There's Andrew in Ireland?"
Andrew, his wife, and their two children moved there soon after Michael was indicted.
So much devastation wreaked on that island. Its population is one-tenth of what it was a century ago. Andrew and his wife decided to help rebuild there. They took with them their skills from the colony. He is happy there. He said it is a lot like home.
"Too cold." I answered Michael.
As beautiful as it is and as tempting as it is to start over again in such a place - we do not belong there now.
"Then it's New York." said Michael.
Young Michael, his wife, and four children live on the Upper East Side. They moved there almost six months ago. Young Michael is involved with a group protesting taxes - they claim they are not properly represented. His own
apartment borders five districts. If most people knew what their congressional districts looked like... but then most people cannot locate their homes on a map.
"Michael's going to end up in prison." I said.
"Then his family needs us."
I looked at him closely. "You've always wanted to return to New York."
"I like New York."
"You also like this group Michael belongs to, don't you?"
"Sure, why not?" He dug his hands in his pockets and walked a little away from me.
They must have asked him to join them. I wonder when he is going to get around to telling me. Nadine, Michael's wife, and I get along. We will have to learn how to manage without them.
I joined up again with Michael in the middle of the field.
There is a story the androids tell about about this field.
They say on his first day - the day Antek took Isaac back to set up manufacturing again - he came out to this field and pulled down the signs and the fences surrounding it - alone and in anger.
Some people, who knew Isaac, find it hard to believe. I do not, the signs read: "Biological Waste."
This field is the burial ground of all the human remains of Isaac's people who passed through this place. The failed attempts, the returned dead, and the rejected. Honey is there, too. The ground has been covered up for thirty
years, with one exception - somewhere in this field lies Isaac. The first and the last to be buried there since.
While Michael and I were standing together, I noticed vid crews on the other side of the field.
"They're watching us." I said.
"Then all the more reason that they should see," my husband replied.
We knelt down on the cold, hard ground - in the middle of that vast mass grave - and prayed.