note: This is a follow-up to Once A Perfect
Day. It is suggested that be read first.
It was low tide, with a storm moving in from the southeast. The sea was
retreating loudly and rapidly, seemingly determined to drag the rest of
the world with it.
It was his favorite time of day.
The man stood before the open window-wall in the living quarters of his
penthouse complex, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He loved the sea, and
the smells that drifted into the apartment along with the outside breeze.
Since gaining control of the company nearly seven years ago, he had made
time each morning to stand and watch the waves crash against the nearby
buildings, and to watch the sun rise over the remnants of Manhattan.
The mecha call it MAN-hattan, he thought, accenting the first syllable
in his mind the way the mecha spoke it.
The Lost City at the End of the World, where the lions weep. The Place
Where Dreams Are Born.
He smiled at the poetic description.
Their "heaven" substitute. I've wondered how long it would take
for that particular seed to germinate.
He sighed, and rubbed sleep from his face, running his fingers across
It's been twelve years already, he thought to himself. He'd be twenty-three
years old now, doing graduate work.
The comset on the desk pinged.
But he will always be eleven years old. Always. Never changing. Always
caught in a freeze-frame.
The man broke from his reminiscing. He turned, turned back again for a
last look, then walked to the nightstand and spoke.
"Close panels. Light."
The transparent window shutters closed as the ceiling glowed softly with
a carefully adjusted daylight radiance. He waved his fingers over the
"Good morning, Selena."
"Good morning, Professor Hobby. Just a reminder about your meeting
today, at eleven-thirty."
"Yes. The development team. They're coming here, correct?"
"Anything else pressing?"
"No, but you have several messages."
"Mmm. Hold my calls, and let me know when the team arrives, all right?"
"Yes, Professor. Would you like anything? Coffee or -"
"No, thank you, Selena. Ask Dr. Yamasaki to come up before the meeting,
let's say…ten forty-five."
"All right, Professor."
"Thank you." He waved off the comset.
Hobby returned to the window, and resumed watching the motion of the waves,
and the dark clouds forming on the horizon. He reviewed in his mind the
path he would set his feet upon in just a few hours, a path for which
he had been searching twelve long years.
Later, his office door opened, and a familiar smiling face peered inside.
Hobby looked up from the desk, and grinned wide.
Yumiko-san, come in, please. Thank you for coming on such short notice."
Yumiko Yamasaki, in her ever-present lab whites, entered the room and
shut the door behind her. Hobby stood and offered his hand.
"Of course. It's good to see you. I've meant to stop by long before
now, but I've been so busy. As have you."
She took the hand offered, then settled immediately into a chair in front
of the desk.
"Yes, as have I," sighed Hobby, regaining his own seat. "I
understand you've heard something interesting."
"Indeed. Apparently, Molnya and Bolle have had a break-through, of
sorts. They have reportedly managed to isolate and record coherent streams
of human engrams."
"Yes. There's not much information on either the hardware or the
script yet. It seems that they recorded the engrams from a human subject
as the subject was in motion, and played them back simultaneously through
one of our mecha, which was modified for the experiment."
""Oh? I should call the legal office right now," said Hobby,
"I thought you'd like that. Anyway, the mecha copied the motion precisely,
but…it only worked as long as the subject and the mecha were connected
to whatever routing device they're using. The device will tell the story
here, I think, because when the human subject was removed, the recorded
engrams played back as before, but to no effect. Apparently, the ability
to record and play engrams in itself is not enough. It would appear at
this early stage that some agent or catalyst not yet discovered is present
in living humans that is necessary to…do what? We're not sure. Translate
organic cerebral activity to orderly electrical signals?"
Yamasaki shrugged her shoulders, and shook her head. The professor smiled.
"Possibly. Shades of McBride, and Liebowitz . The work's confirmed?
I wouldn't put it past Bolle to wire up a fancy mimicry unit and pass
it off as genius to up his funding."
"As far as we can tell at this point, it's legitimate."
"Hmm. If that's the case, it's pretty amazing. Can we get it?"
"Yes, Professor. Our people are on it. We should have the particulars
"Excellent. You know, Yumiko, should we ever manage to find the answers
to all this, we could dispense with our mortality altogether."
"I'd be for that, as long as the regular salary increase and bonus
Hobby chuckled, and leaned back in his chair.
"Wouldn't we all?"
Yamasaki cleared her throat, and fixed Hobby with a questioning look.
"You're making the proposal today, Allen? The mecha-child?"
"Yes. It's more than a proposal, actually, though I do like to keep
up the appearance of democratic teamwork around here. This will be the
goal for the next year or two. With the mapping of the neuron impulse
pathways complete, it's time to move to the next level. I think they'll
bite hard, Yumiko. This is exciting stuff we're getting into, and we're
far overdue in stripping yet another layer of artificiality from our creations.
The availability of a sentient child substitute, capable of associative
thought, and with the ability to truly love its adoptive parent, will
in this near-childless world open up an enormous market. If nothing else,
our development team understands that company profit affects them directly."
"I'll bet you a newbuck that Angela raises the moral questions before
Hobby laughed, and crossed his legs on the desk.
"No bet there. I'm counting on it. I'm happy that we have someone
like her. Us scientist-types need an extra conscience or two around to
keep our heads out of our collective ass."
Yamasaki chuckled, then became serious.
"Are you all right?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure. This project you're proposing today. A child, a robot
child, modeled after your own son. God knows I'm excited over it, but
She indicated the photographs of David that surrounded the desk.
"Why your own son, Allen? Why do you want to...I don't know...it's
like bringing back a ghost."
Hobby leaned back and spread his hands.
"Why not? He is the child I knew best. To be completely honest, he's
the only child I've ever known. What other model would I use?"
"I see your point, but is it wise? Allen, have you thought about
what might it do to you, if months from now, you find a mecha with the
face and voice of your long-dead son standing before you?"
"It's not an issue, Yumiko."
"So you say now. I hope not, but I'm worried about it, Allen. I really
am. You know that Kenji and I care for you very much, Older Brother. I
hope you don't end up regretting what you're about to do."
Hobby looked at his feet and unconsciously bit his lower lip. Then he
EIGHTEEN MONTHS LATER
Hobby lay in bed, reading. He couldn't sleep, and thought it might help
if he read tech studies for a while, but he could not keep his mind on
We've outdone ourselves. God, he's so real, even with the personality
He sighed, sat up, and placed the book on the nightstand.
I'm not sleeping, and he does not. He's just sitting down there, waiting
for the next thing to happen.
Hobby stood and walked wearily from the penthouse into the hall, and took
the elevator one floor down, to David's room off the main lab complex.
David was sitting in a chair, the same chair in which he'd first awakened,
looking out the window. He turned as Hobby entered the room.
"Hello, Professor Hobby."
"Don't you sleep?"
"Yes, David, I do. But not tonight. Not so far, anyway. What have
you been doing?"
"I like to watch the waves at night."
"Hmm, yes, it is very beautiful here at night, under the moon. You
have a chessboard, don't you , David?"
"Yes, Professor Hobby."
"Would you like to play some chess?"
David got the board, placed it on the table, and began to set up the pieces.
With just the surface programming active, he's a bit tight, and doll-like,
like every movement is carefully planned before he executes it. It will
be interesting to see the whole personality functioning. Imprinting should
smooth out some of the edginess in his movements, his mannerisms.
David finished setting the board, and was waiting patiently. Hobby sat
in the chair opposite him, and picked up two chess pawns, one white, one
black. He put his hands behind his back, placed a piece in each hand,
then held them out to David, fists closed.
"In one hand is a white piece, in the other, a black. The one you
pick will be your color for this game. Since white has the advantage of
the first move, this is a fair way to determine who gets that advantage."
David's eyes began to bounce back and forth from hand to hand.
He picked the left hand. Hobby opened it, revealing the white piece. David
smiled, and took the piece from Hobby's hand.
That smile was real, thought Hobby.
They played three quick games, with Hobby observing closely. Though David
was designed to be a child, his computer brain gave him certain learning
advantages. There were internal governors installed to keep him as a child,
but he seemed to go just a bit beyond them each game, quickly learning
strategy by watching Hobby.
"Very good, David," said Hobby, as David captured his queen
in the seventh move of the game.
David smiled his doll-smile, waiting for Hobby to respond.
To hell with the agreement. I want to know now. I want to see what imprinting
will do to him.
"David, come around here for a minute. We'll finish the game later."
David stood and walked around the table as Hobby moved the chessboard
to one side.
"Sit here, in front of me, please."
Hobby slid his chair back to make room, as David sat on the table. He
reached up, placing his fingertips precisely on touch points at the back
of David's neck.
"David, I'd like you to look at me while I say some words to you.
Just a few words, but I need you to listen very carefully and look at
me, all right?"
"Yes, Professor Hobby," replied David, still smiling.
My eyes and ears tell me it's David, but I know it's not. It's not.
Hobby's heart was pounding in his chest as he looked straight into the
eyes of the robot child and spoke, slowly and carefully.
It happened. Instantly. David's face changed markedly, like a curtain
was being pulled back. The doll face vanished.
Oh God, thought Hobby. I know it's not him, but…
David cocked his head a little to one side.
"Why are your eyes wet, Dad?"
Even the inflection.
Hobby chuckled, and grinned, which caused tears to run down both his cheeks.
Suddenly, David was sitting in his lap, hugging him, as Hobby wrapped
his arms around him, and cried, and laughed.
Professor Hobby and David passed the night together, there within the
confines of David's room. As David had no experiences about which to talk,
theirs was mostly a one-sided conversation, with the Professor telling
David about all the wonders of the world, and all the things David would
see and do. They finished the chess game, played another, then sat together
as David read aloud from a book once owned by Professor Hobby's son, just
as they had done so many years ago.
But the Professor knew, as much as he did not want to admit it, that this
David was not his son back from the dead, and to keep him, which was his
prerogative, would be unfair. This David was his finest creation, one
of a kind and far beyond any existing mecha, and the Professor, in spite
of his feelings, knew that this David should be given the chance to find
his own way, and have his own life, as much as would be possible.
And so, as the dawn cracked the distant horizon, Professor Hobby held
David in his arms, rocking back and forth and recapturing an old memory
for possibly the last time. Then he sat David on the table in front of
him, as he had done earlier, and revoked the imprint and all memories
of the preceding hours from David's mind, resetting the imprinting code.
Only he could do this, and it was an ability the Professor would retain
only for himself.
As he walked slowly back to his own quarters, he mused over a quote he
had suddenly recalled.
"It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death."
There was so much more to learn, and so little time to learn it.
in Unto All The Final Days