Any Father's Dream
Brindale broke the rules and smiled as it
stepped into the foam sluicing box for its weekly
cleaning. It closed the door to achieve the needed
seal then hit the button. For the next thirty minutes
the world outside didnít matter. It put on the pair of
black I-Wear sunglasses DAD had secreted it so it
could see the news and watched as one of the advanced
negating generators lifted another load of
machine-processed goods out to the orbital ring.
The foam was just about full when the
entire sluice box bucked and issued a warning sizzle.
Some of the foam changed into higher level gas,
creating pressure inside the chamber. Birndale's ears
popped as one of the plastene walls bent outward. It
squatted and yanked on the emergency release knob.
The pressure released with a pssssttt,
and the walls reset with couple of loud pops.
Brindale rubbed its ears as it readjusted
The sluice box door was ripped off its
hinges. Brindale almost squealed, but caught itself. A
black-gloved arm groped blindly through the foam. This
had to be the government's doing. DAD had taught
Brindale what to do. It was always a test.
It couldn't let them
know its secret.
ďSubmission!Ē Brindale said. It pulled the
I-Wear off and pushed them to the back of the
foam-filled box. The roving hand found Brindale's
wrist and yanked.
Foam slid off its naked frame in cold,
hardening roughness. The materials in the sluice box
werenít meant to be left on the body outside the
controlled environment of the washer. Brindale itched,
but it dared not scratch, not while under supposed
Two black-clad soldiers in full riot gear
hulked up the utility room. They were at least a foot
taller than Brindale's six feet and weighed over three
hundred pounds each. Both wore complete body armor
composites from head to toe, including eyewear. The
one who had grabbed Brindale snapped a set of
cuff-bands around its wrist while the other kept a
stunner leveled at it.
"Submission mode," a
feminine voice said. It sounded like a little girl.
It was a little girl
that walked from behind the soldier holding a gun. She
wore white sneakers and civilian clothes. She smiled.
Her cheeks had big dimples when she smiled.
"If you hadnít hit that release, the
pressure would have finished you before the plastene
doors had blown off."
She nodded, still
smiling, as she let that sink in.
"You aren't supposed to
be able to pass that test."
Brindale had messed up because itíd saved
itself, as disturbing as that sounded. Sheíd expected
it to die, to just stay in there and blow up with the
washer, and since it hadnít, itíd exposed itself.
Brindale stood naked and manacled to a
metal rod sticking out of the floor. An old man
wearing a black poncho stood on a raised dais in front
"Brindale," the man said.
Brindale raised its head, eyes half lidded
and mouth slightly agape. They liked it if you looked
a little stupid. It scratched itself.
The girl who arrested
it stood at a podium behind him. She couldnít be old
enough to live by herself or work a real job, but
there she was.
"Officer Pricemma Braskin," the old man
said. "Again, you have brought charges on a unit
citing the Brain-Brawn law."
The girl dimpled a
smile. "This unit has been under surveillance for
months, your honor. It shows interest. It pauses. Its
facial expression and eye focus all support my claim.
My data is in the file I sent you."
The old man nodded toward Brindale.
"Brindale has nearly completed its
development and training. A lot of money went into its
construction. If itíd had a defect, it would have been
culled by now."
"It failed the washer
test this morning," she said.
The old man frowned.
"Officer Braskin, youíve been on Toto
Eight for three months, and youíve already sent five
units out to the rim due to infractions of the
Brain-Brawn law. Those units are now no better than
the mindless automatons they work next to. They are
gone forever, doing general labor any basic machine
The girl shook her head
"The Brain-Brawn law
states that no extroverted AI can have access to
moving parts, and every introverted AI must have very
limited programming specific to particular, regulated
The old man pointed a finger in Brindaleís
direction. "Brindale is generation fourteen. It's the
safest brand in todayís market by government standard
testing. Do you know what weíve learned from it?"
"These new generation
version cybernetic units are close enough to human to
pass visual clearance on any of our planets," the girl
said. "If even one of them has extroverted
capabilities, it could mean revolution, or worse.
Surely your honor can appreciate my concern."
The door in the back of the room banged
open, and a man wearing a grey, double-breasted jacket
with a double row of gold buttons entered the room
pushing a cart. In his ear was a receiver. He stopped
next to Officer Braskin and bowed to his honor.
"What is that extroverted AI buffer doing
here?" Officer Braskin asked in a voice cold enough to
frost the windows.
"Officer Braskin, have you ever met the
most famous AI in history?" his honor asked. "Did you
know it now lives on Toto Eight? I thought Iíd see
what it has to say about the loss of one of its
"I don't see how that's
relevant," the girl said.
"This extroverted AI is responsible for
the complex variables in your genius level genome,
Officer Braskin, just as it is responsible for
Brindaleís highly complicated hardware and software.
It's the Darwinian Attunement Device, or DAD, to you
"It is a box sitting on
a cart that has two lenses and a port," she said.
"That AI is the reason
you are standing before me today, a child prodigy
working for the government as a highly specialized
member of Safety and Quality Control."
"Am I to be grateful?"
His honor stared at her
a long time, then turned his attention to the buffer.
"What are its
"This isnít a trial," the buffer said.
"Per galaxial law on statutes of productivity
maximization versus public safety concerns, the AI is
to be sent to the outskirts. Doubt cast by any officer
of the branch of Quality Assurance precludes any other
Brindaleís skin crawled with the words.
Itíd expected DAD to communicate by means of
randomized light-zip frequencies like it usually did,
but maybe something had compromised that situation.
"Exceptions can be
made in matters of such high-cost aggravations against
a publicly funded company," his honor said.
The buffer shook his
"This DAD brought the necessary software
to make the transition to high-hazard ore worker. The
one named Brindaleís strength and environmental
tolerances already meet specs."
"I move the unit in question receive its
software updates from its new location, your honor,"
Officer Braskin said.
"On what grounds?" his
"Trust." The girl gave
his Honor another dimpled smile.
"Move granted, Officer Braskin. Brindale
will be re-educated at its new post." He paused for a
A couple of guards
entered the room.
"Get Brindale some work clothes, and take
it to the loading bay."
Brindale couldnít even turn to see DAD a
final time. It would show too much interest. It would
prove the little-girl officer right. They would kill
Brindale. DAD had taught it better.
Brindale's dorsal hand chrono said the
trip had taken six months. Only the farthest outposts
were that far. The heavy transport door slid open to
reveal a clear, cylindrical tube extending twenty feet
out and connecting to a gray, rectangular-shaped
habitat. This was an asteroid. There was no
atmosphere. The rocks outside were mottled black,
white, and red. Machinery and technologies lay about.
Only a few stars shone in the blackness.
A young man led a trio of others down the
tube. Brindale didnít know what to do, so it just
stood there and put on its stupid face.
The man had a clipboard
in his hand. He wore a blue, two-piece and had his
black hair combed over to the left.
"You must be Brindale," the man said with
a smile after glancing at his clipboard.
"Yes, sir. Cybernetic
unit generation fourteen. Ready, sir."
An old, metal robot pushed a floatcart
past Brindale. The rest of the shipping container was
full of supplies.
"Oh, Oh, Oh. A new one!" said a smaller,
metal robot. He paused and gave Brindale a good up and
down. "Bluís not the newbie anymore, HA!"
A girl who looked Brindale's age or maybe
a year or two older stopped next to the man with the
clipboard. She was taller than he was. Her hair was
yellow and her skin was fair. A sprinkling of freckles
ran across her cheekbones and nose.
"Well," the man with the clipboard said.
"Quick introductions then. Iím Mallick Coveny, your
human coordinator. The old robot calls himself Mac.
Heís a generation eleven. The little one is Stemophus.
Heís a gen eleven, too. The girl standing beside me
when she should be helping unload is Blunina. Sheís a
generation thirteen. Everybody, this is Brindale. Heís
a generation fourteen, the companyís newest model."
They all clapped and wooted like
Brindale's coming was a big deal. It kept the stupid
look on its face.
"You can drop the act," Mallick said. "We
know what you are."
Being what it was meant
its immediate termination. They couldnít know.
"He canít," Blunina said. Her voice was
just a little flat and slightly monotone.
Mallick sighed. "Yeah, Blu, I know. Iím
just looking forward to the day when an AI can come
and go from transport to transport without such a
"One of these days,"
the old robot, Mac, said.
Blunina grabbed Brindale's hand and led
the way down the short connector tube. They went
through a sliding door and into a little, messy
storeroom. She fiddled with a few zips on a table till
she found the one she needed then turned Brindale
around and plugged the zip into the tiny port at the
edge of its hairline. Brindale almost tensed, but held
its passivity. Anything could be on a zip. The thing
could kill it without it ever knowing. But, it had no
choice. Introverted AIs like it was supposed to be
were not supposed to question nor have ideas about
trust. It was supposed to be following very specific
activity parameters dictated by highly regulated
The zip hit Brindale's cortex and dumped a
load of mining procedures and safety regulations.
Brindale glanced at the index as it completed the
transfer. At the end was a codex tagged for an
extroverted AI. Brindale didnít open it. It was an
easily identifiable trick put in by the branch of
Quality Control. Dad had taught Brindale about them
"Open it," Blunina said.
Brindale looked around for something to
open. The storeroom was full of packages. Brindale
grabbed the nearest box.
She laid her hand over Brindale's.
"You donít believe Iím
a cybernetic unit, do you?" she said and smiled. The
skin around her nose crinkled up. She showed him a
mouthful of beautiful, white teeth. She was even
prettier when she smiled.
She squeezed Brindale's hand harder than
any human could ever hope to. She wasnít lying about
being cybernetic, at least in regards to her hand.
"Everybody here has the same DAD, even our
human, Mallick," she said.
The door to the hatch slid open, and the
others came in heavily loaded with supplies.
"Is it done?" Mallick asked.
"I was trying to talk him into it," Blunina said with a sigh.
"Let me try," Mallick said. "Canít hurt."
"It wonít work," Mac
Mallick got in front of Brindale and met
"Youíre right, those
codices are designed to betray you as an extroverted
AI," he said. "But Iím telling you the one in
your skull right now is not like that. Not here. Not
with me. DAD was the one who set my genetic code to
deep space geology genius genome before birth, so Iím
willing to bet that what Iím doing is what he wants
"I read your light-zip before you arrived.
You got arrested by a kid, right? She has our DAD
doesnít she? Doesnít that make you think something may
be happening, that DAD may have a plan? DAD is a
learning, extroverted AI specializing in human
genetics that is currently breeding and directing AI
construction as well as selected human births. It is
all under heavy guidance by the government, sure, but
still, DAD is a progressing genius. Of all the
intelligences, heíd be the one to find a way to set
the AIs free."
He waited and so did Brindale. Brindale
won the staring contest.
Mallick shrugged and turned to Blunina.
"Well, I tried. Do it. Then set him up with a room."
He turned back to the door and went to help the
Blunina unplugged the zip from the back of
Brindale's head and pulled another out, this one from
a vial she carried in the gray, workerís utility
pocket of her uniform. She plugged it in.
A bunch of restrictive programs Brindale
had never known were there fell apart. He staggered as
his mind reeled. Everything was different. He could
think about anything and everything so much more than
The zip had one line of
text. ĎYou are free to do as you will, my child.í
Blunina put a hand on his shoulder. He
corrected his stooped posture and met her eye.
"Youíre beautiful," he
said. Her eyes widened and her head nodded up and
down, but she didnít say anything. Her smile was huge.
Every moment felt like the best heíd ever
had. Here, out in the middle of nowhere, with only Blunina, Mac, Stemophus, and Mallick, things were
His thoughts, such
ethereal wisps of smoke, were now such hard-driven
pieces made of sturdier stuff upon which rode his
emotions, his history, and his very dreams of what
might be one day.
They worked in the
utter darkness of space, their only light the wireless
kinetic lamps attached to their spacesuits. They
drilled ore from the asteroid, loaded it up, and sent
it on its way in one of the cargo transports lying
around. Shipping was easy in the near zero G. Theyíd
punch in some coordinates and make sure the attitude
jets were working then toss it straight up into space.
And, while he worked,
he talked to the others in ways heíd never been able
to talk before.
"Hey Blu, watch this," he said and danced
a little jig right there within their little circle of
light, G boots on and all.
"Ta Da." He bowed.
As he came back
upright, he caught her smile through the screen on her
"Youíre not nearly as
cute as you think you are."
"Then go work with Mac.
He hasnít the joints I do, couldnít dance if he tried.
Youíll feel right at home." He smiled as he picked up
his drill-vacuum combo.
She sighed. "I wish I could. Mac's a much
better miner than you." She shrugged. "But orders are
orders. Mallick wants me to keep an eye on you so you
donít go floating away with the rest of the debris."
Laughter, so long denied, so long held in
check, felt like the very best thing in the world. And
to see Blunina smile back, laugh back, stirred up deep
stuff, deeper than his understanding.
He hit the button on
the drill and immediately shut it back down. There was
a familiar stirring in the air, something he had felt
every moment of his old life. His insides got queasy.
"What is it?" Blunina asked.
It wouldnít do to lie
to her, not with all his weird feelings stirring
He shook his head. "I
donít know. I feel like I'm being watched. "
She touched one of the
controls on her wrist.
"Mallick, Brindale's getting a feeling out
Mallick was back in the habitat. He never
spent much time out on the surface.
"Iíll run a scan," Mallick said. "All
Throughout the day, the feeling came and
went two more times, and each time Mallick checked the
scans and saw nothing.
That Ďnightí Mallick called them all
together for a meeting.
"The scanning showed nothing but a couple
of export boxes going out and a few returning ones
coming back," Mallick said.
Brindale didnít comment. There was
obviously no reason to worry. His system was just
working out the kinks left from his old life.
"Still," Mallick said. "I want all of you
to go on ground checks outside the primary compound to
check for future mining prospects. At least for a few
hours. Letís see how Brindaleís feelings develop."
"And leave you all by
yourself?" Mac asked.
"Go. Iím sure itís nothing. Weíll need
additional mining sites soon enough anyway, what with Brindale doing the same productivity as the rest of
"Hmmph," Stemophus said.
"I will keep the scan
going all night in case something scary comes to get
Blu tugged Brindaleís hand and they left.
Outside the compound turned out to be more
of the same black and red crumble. They worked for an
hour tagging flat spots thatíd better take the drill
and also allow for secure housing for cargo units.
Every so often, Blu would ask him if he was feeling
anything, like he was a psychic or something, and heíd
tell her no.
A bright flash sparked
like lightening across the sky. They both warded their
eyes and scanned around to see where itíd come from.
A blazing sphere
glowing greenish-red grew and dissolved into a
jellyfish-like, purplish afterglow that faded into the
blackness of space.
He and Blu stared at it as aftershocks
vibrated their feet.
"Mallick," Brindale said. "Follow me!"
He took off at a run. He knew Blunina
wouldnít be able to keep up. She could catch up.
The area thatíd been their old base glowed
with radiation. Mallick was gone.
"One of the returning cargo units wasnít a
cargo unit," Mallick said over the com.
Mallick was alive!
"How did you survive?
Where are you? What is your situation?"
He had to wait a long
time for an answer.
"Slow down to human speed, Brindale. Iím
having a hard time understanding you. I am deep down
in the asteroid, near the center. Itís where I sleep,
where I feel most comfortable. Probably in my genes.
Thanks, DAD. "
"Iím going to be stuck
here for a while. The radiation will take its sweet
time to dissipate even with the lack of atmosphere."
Brindale walked the glass-smooth
"Why'd this happen?" he
"It's the humans," Mallick said. "The AI
generation program is seen as nothing but a stepping
stone on the path. DAD's duty is to do for the humans
what he has secretly done for you guys. Your eternal
youth without sickness, your strength and physical
"So, they found out about us and decided
to take out the trash?" Blunina cut in on the com. She
had finally caught up and jogged down the crater to
The com went silent.
"You have to get off this rock," Mallick
finally said. "That bomb will be followed up with
troops in nuke suits whose job it will be to make sure
weíre all dead."
"Not happening, Mallick," Blu said.
"Hell No," Mac said.
"Bring on the nuke suits," said Stemophus.
"You canít handle professional soldiers," Mallick said. "Itíd be suicide. I wonít have you
sacrifice yourselves for me."
"What will they do when
they find you?" Mac asked.
"They wonít find me," Mallick said.
"Nobody knows of this special deep hole I sleep in."
"Then we hide and wait for them to leave
so we can bust you out and make for a safer port," Stemphus said.
"No," Mallick said. "Theyíll find you and
"And if we leave, what happens to you?" Blu asked.
Brindale knew the answer to that question
and he figured the others did too.
"Youíd die," he said.
"We need to figure something out quickly. I can feel
them getting closer."
"Whatís in you, Brindale?" Mallick asked.
"You knew this was coming."
Brindale didn't know how to answer that.
All he knew was that his life had meaning for the
first time. He wouldn't give it up without a fight.
"Here is what is going to happen," he
said. "Mallick, you are going to help two of us stay
here, hide, and help you escape once the soldiers
"But--" Mallick said.
"And the other two are
going to leave, as you want."
"Staying," both Mac and Stemophus said at
the same time. Brindale wasn't surprised that they had
chosen to stay. Theyíd both known Mallick for a long
He turned to Blunina and grabbed her hand.
"How do we get away?"
A set of coordinates zipped into his
memory. "Secondary compartment launch pad, off main
site, still legal, just way out of regs," Mallick
said. "Go. Give DAD our love."
"This cargo container is set to go to DAD
back on Toto Eight?" Brindale asked.
programmed and ready to go, one of my contingency
"Wonít the orbital ring
just catch us on entry?" he asked.
"Have faith in DAD, Brindale," Mac said.
"Those negating generators are extroverted AI posing
as introverted AI, like us."
It was hard to imagine. Introverted AIs
were mostly robots, actual human-looking robots. The
neg gens didnít fit the profile. Of course, the
calculation to do what they did had to take up a lot
of processing power. Maybe the AI brain/brawn design
made it easier.
Brindale picked up Blu and took off at a
run toward the numbers in his head. At the rim of the
crater, he turned off his kinetic lamp, shifted his
visual to auditory, and sprinted into the utter
blackness guided only by sonar.
"I have legs, you know," Blunina said.
"We need to hurry," he
said. He was faster than she was, after all.
"How are we to survive once weíre on Toto
Eight?" Blu asked on the com.
"Toto Eight is a Toto planet, not a
Dorothy one," Mallick said. "The planet is not
completely suitable for human life. Toto Eight doesnít
have enough natural resources. It lacks water. That
should help. They canít keep many soldiers on the
"It wonít take many to be enough," Blu
"Yeah," Mallick agreed. "But, donít
forget, DAD is there. Find DAD. Heíll know what to
"Unless theyíve moved him to another
planet," Blu said.
"Letís hope they
The cargo ejection
system came into sensor range. It was one of the
smaller ones, barely enough room for the two of them.
"Weíre here," Brindale said.
"Good luck," Mallick said.
"Take care you two,
doubt Iíll see you again one way or the other," Mac
"Donít say that," Blu said.
"Heís just grumpy," Stemophus piped in.
"They make all the old-looking bots the same way."
"Who you calling bot?"
"Enough," Mallick said. "Donít worry about
"Goodbye," Blu said. Brindale didnít say
anything. He set Blu down and let her enter the cargo
The interior was cramped. With his sonar
tuned in just right he could clearly see Bluninaís
beautiful curves where she huddled beside him.
He cut his mic so the others couldnít
hear. "I think I love you."
She smiled, just
"I wanted to tell you.
You know, just in case."
She shook her head.
"After you hit the launch button and we are in space,
we have to be deactivated. They will scan for
electrical signatures just like we do."
He held the control
box, thumb hovering over the button that would send
them into space.
She sighed and reached
across his body. He thought she was going to kiss him
and his insides shifted into all sorts of odd
sensations, but she only smashed his thumb down on the
Their little box shot
"You 'think', huh," she
said under her breath.
"What?" he asked.
She didnít answer.
Sheíd already shut herself down.
The orbital ring was a
space docking platform that encircled the small
planet. Toto Eight was just shy of being a good
Dorothy candidate, and since it didnít have a good
Dorothy sister close by, it had been chosen as one of
the primary R&D centers.
Both Brindale and Blunina were deactivated
when they hit the ringís security sensors. The little
box passed clearance without a hitch thanks to the Neg
Gen and was pushed on down toward the surface.
Once in the atmosphere, with a swirl of
fire crisping the outer metal shell and a deep,
wind-driven vibration rattling them, Brindale and
The box landed in the dead of night, and
while the container was still too hot for humans, an
old generation one opened it. Brindale and Blunina
jumped from the little box and ran into the greater
darkness away from the lights cast by the
administration compound located a few hundred yards
away. Brindale turned back only once. The gen one was
waving like a mad fool. A few blue lights on the Neg
Gen blinked off and on in what was probably some sort
of code that Brindale couldnít understand.
He and Blu ran about fifty yards then
stopped to listen. There wasnít a sound that wasnít
supposed to be there. He cycled through a few vision
gradients until he found the one that gave the best
resolution then pointed a finger toward the
The warble of the Neg Gen changed.
Brindale had time to frown and cock his head toward
Blu before the general alarm shrieked an ever
"Howíd they find out?" Blu asked. "Did the
Neg Gen report us?"
"We have to run to the administration
building!" Brindale said. He grabbed her wrist and
began to drag her toward the light.
She resisted. "Why?"
The shriek of the alarm
was still climbing in pitch.
"Itís the one place
they wouldnít expect us to hide," he said. "Plus,
chances are thatís where DAD is being kept."
He scooped her up and
took off at a run. She clung tight to his neck. His
blood was up. They could be gunned down at any moment,
their lives ended quicker than the blink of an eye.
Even with all that reality crashing down around him,
all he could think about was the feel of her so close.
As they neared the
admin compound, the fence surrounding it came into
better view. It was at least fifteen feet high.
"Iím going to jump it,"
"You can do that?"
"I don't know. Do you
think I can?"
By the time those words were out of his
mouth, it was time to jump. He made a silent leap and
cleared the fence with five feet to spare. One the
other side of the fence, he dropped Blu, then ran and
hid with her behind the first building he saw. With
his eyes on visual enhance it felt like bright
sunlight shining down on everything.
ĎHurt you,í a soft
voice hummed on the wind. It was DAD. He was sending
out a light-zip. He must have found a way to hide it
from the humans. He must have. DAD was a genius.
He set his frequency
receiver on max scan.
"DADís sending a message," he said.
"Donít do anything. Itís a trap," Blu
'THEY CANíT HURT YOUí
the light-zip rang in his ears.
"Donít Move!" someone
said from the end of the building.
Heíd already latched a hand onto Blu, had
looked at the hulking guard, and had turned away and
taken two steps when a second guard, gun already
aimed, pulled the trigger twice in quick succession.
There werenít any exploding lights or
crashes of thunderous surf. Heíd expected something.
But, all he felt was his hand firmly latched onto Bluís wrist, a slight vibration in the back of his
head, and the sickening sadness of not being good
enough to reach DAD. As his circle of consciousness
shrank, he shuddered at the thought of his failure.
Maybe DAD would forgive him his inability to succeed.
But, that didnít matter, not to him, not anymore.
"The guns work." Brindale heard the words
clearly. Maybe he was still alive.
"You like to call them that, donít you?
You think that the use of the word, Ďguní, has some
sort of psychological effect on me." That was Officer Braskin. He was sure of it.
"It is the word used in the literature
written by the designers of the device." That was DADís buffer. Heíd heard him enough times to know.
He didnít move or show any outward sign
that he was aware. He felt everything, though. He
still had a hold of Bluninaís wrist. She was still
"You are the designer!" Officer Braskin
"Yes, and, Iím proud to
say that the prototypes worked wonderfully."
"A box should be void
"Enough." That was his
honor, the man with the big, black poncho. They must
have brought them to the courtroom.
"When will they
reboot?" his honor asked.
"Ten minutes after the initial contact
with the ray gun," DADís buffer said.
"Itís a remote control! Iíve got one that
I use for every device in my domicile." Officer Braskin said.
"It is twelve minutes
past," his honor said.
"Then they are
functioning," DAD said.
There was a pause. Brindale figured it was
time to get up. He did so, as did Blunina, but he
never let go of her wrist. He had no plans of ever
"Tricky," Officer Braskin said under her
breath. "Makes my skin crawl."
They were in the courtroom, as heíd
guessed, and were tied to the eyehook in the center of
the floor. This time, though, he did not look blankly
toward them with half lidded eyes and mouth partially
agape. He stood, feet wide, and met eyes with each of
them in turn where they stood upon the dais. A quick
glance around showed a handful of guards with
traditional stun gun weapons. He met Bluninaís eye.
She was so beautiful, even if she did look scared.
"Son, Daughter " DADís buffer began. "I am
an AI made by man, for man." Officer Braskin pulled
out what looked like a pistol, pointed it at DAD, and
pulled the trigger. The buffer stopped talking and
looked off to the side.
"What are you doing?"
his honor asked.
Officer Braskin holstered the weapon and
pointed a finger toward Brindale and Blunina.
"I donít like it," she
said. "I donít care what you old timers on the council
decided. This whole crazy plan isnít right."
Blunina wriggled her wrist until he was
holding her hand. She tugged on his arm and he gave
her a smile. Come what may, he was as ready as he
"Follow my lead," he
Braskin stepped off the dais with a huff
and walked toward them.
"Follow your lead? What
are you going to do? "
He stared back at her.
She pulled out the gun and waved it back
and forth between Blunina and him.
"Officer," his honor
said. "You know the ruling."
The little girl smiled up into Brindaleís
face. "Yeah, I know."
Her aim paused over Blu and she pulled the
trigger. It took everything he had not to try to break
his bonds and end the little girlís meddling life.
Once heíd mastered that impulse, it took even more for
him not to help cushion Bluís fall. He never let go of
her hand though. He did look up to his honor to see if
he was going to do anything. The old man just stared
Officer Braskin nodded and one of the
guards trotted over, unhooked Blu from the eyehook,
and lifted her from the floor. When he tried to walk
away, he found a very unmoving Brindale holding Bluís
"Let it go, robot," Officer Braskin said,
taking a step closer and pointing the gun at him. He
smiled and reinforced the locking mechanism holding
his hand to Bluís.
"Weíre going to dissect it," Officer Braskin whispered to him while taking another step.
She was so close now. He could reach out and end her.
Itíd be so easy.
"Weíre going to find
out what makes it tick."
He held his ground.
There was no way he was letting her go. No way.
Officer Braskin growled. "Fine, have it
your way. It wonít matter." She pointed the gun at him
and paused. She wanted him to react. She wanted him to
show aggression toward a human. He didnít.
She pulled the trigger.
Blunina slapped him awake and he stood.
She was trembling, but didnít say anything.
"As I was saying," the
buffer talked on as if nothing out of sorts had just
taken place. Of course, DAD had been unconscious
during the whole episode.
"I am an artificial
intelligence built for man by man. What is taking
place right now is, was, and has been constructed by
man so as to allow me to be better at my primary
function, that being, to make humans better in every
"I was/am given the
ability to experience children, to experience life as
close to the human emotional level as was/is possible,
so I can grow, so I can see how humans love their
offspring, so I can understand nurture and nature
first hand. It is their belief that this will deepen
my programming capabilities in regard to improving
"As in human life, I
must be made to understand loss as well as hope
fulfilled. Hence, the bomb that destroyed all but the
two of you. It was a lesson in loss, a lesson Iíve
learned before and will undoubtedly learn again, as
the humans see fit."
Brindale didn't buy that last part. Mac,
Stemophus, and Mallick were alive, not lost. They
couldn't be dead. Heíd feel it somehow if they had
died. He just knew it.
"Today," the buffer
said and paused. "Today, I get to experience hope
fulfilled for the first time. A chance was given and
you two passed the test."
His honor beamed at them. Officer Braskin
scowled. Theyíd passed the gun test there at the end,
and Brindale could tell that the little girl didnít
"Iíve got things to do," Officer Braskin
said and left through the door at the back of the
His honor waited for
the door to close.
"Guard, release them,"
One of the uniformed men approached and
unhooked Brindale from the eyehook.
"Shall we?" DAD's buffer asked and
pointed to one of the exits.
Brindale looked at Blu and then at DAD.
"To your new life," DADís buffer said.
"Good luck," his honor
said with a smile.
The buffer led the way outside into the
night and toward the Negating Generating pad. On the
pad sat a big transport cube. A slew of generation
ones were stuffing it full of boxes. The Neg Gen
itself was blinking away happily.
They all stood there and watched the
process. Brindale still held hands with Blu.
"You get your own galaxy," DADís buffer
said, "and all the supplies you will need to prosper."
Brindale looked again at the massive
transport cube being filled. "What?"
DADís buffer answered. "A father provides
for his children."
Brindale stared at the giant transport
cube for what felt like a long time. DAD had found a
way for him and Blu to be free, truly free.
The buffer ushered them aboard as soon as
the last gen one was clear of the cube.
"Make me proud," DADís buffer said.
All Brindale could do was nod in DADís
direction. Words werenít enough.
The door started to
Enjoy your 561-year trip," DAD's buffer
said. "Send us a wave once you get there, and let us
know youíre alright."
The door sealed and the
cube vibrated. A rumble followed and they were
weightless, floating around the cube. A couple of
lights flickered from one wall. Even with all the
supplies there was still plenty of room for them to
He finally let go of Bluís hand and met
"I love you," he said.
She smiled. "I
love you, too."
He smiled. It wasnít
every day he got the woman he loved as well as an
entire galaxy to call his own. Heíd do what was right.
Heíd make DAD proud. And heíd love every minute of it.