Kindlegraph

Friday, August 28, 2015

Servo 24:1

Servo 24:1


After the close call with the police, Dad decided we needed to accelerate our plan for escaping to the Inner States. Rory and I spent the next two days quietly pilfering goods from the pantry and around the house. We managed to stuff three backpacks to capacity. Dad stayed in my room all the time, window open, and listening to the trains. The waiting was driving me nuts.
I went upstairs after returning from Dagwood’s. Oddly enough, he wanted my help with his chickens. The state fair was drawing near, and he had to start preparing the birds he intended to show. After that, I decided there was no way I wanted any part of chicken keeping! That job could belong to the real farmers out here. Covered with feathers and chicken poo, I desperately wanted to change clothes. I opened my bedroom door and found Dad sitting by the window—where he’d been for the last two days.
He turned his head and looked at me. “Hello.”
“Hi, Dad,” I replied, “Any luck?”
“Yes.”
“Good.”
“I heard an eastbound train go by at ten this morning.”
“So when do we wanna go?”
“Give me one more night to listen.”
“Okay.” I kicked off my shoes and quickly changed out of my jeans, putting on some shorts. The weather was quite warm now, and I wanted to go down to the small creek that ran between Dagwood’s farm and ours. Rory and I found some crayfish and wanted to try our hand at catching them. We’d fashioned a net made from an old tennis racket and a pillowcase. I had serious doubts that we’d catch any, but it was something to do. Without the precious internet, we had to find other things to engage our brains. Now that Dad was functioning, I dared not tinker with him anymore. We were wasting time until the big get away.
I finished changing and went to the door. Dad was still at his station. “Dad?”
“Yes?”
“Are you bored?”
“I can’t say this is exciting work.”
“Sorry. I wish the rules here were different.”
“The rules were put in place for a very good reason.”
“I understand that now, but you’d think with all the years that’ve passed they would change.”
“Truthfully, it’s better they don’t.”
“Why?”
“There needs to be a refuge from technology.”
“But how will they fight if the Inner States wage war again?”
He shook his head. “I dunno.”
“Could you stop them?”
Dad folded his arms. “Maybe.”
“How?”
“The data sticks.”
“What about them?”
“Hidden deep in the root menu is a program of malicious code.”
“A virus?”
He nodded.
I rubbed my face. “But I uploaded all those sticks into your memory cores.”
“Yes.”
“But you’re fine.”
“And I will be. The virus needs one last line of code to activate it.”
“Oh.”
“That line of code is up here.” He tapped his head. “If I could ever get back into Servidyne, I could upload the virus to their computers.”
“Would that kill all the bots?”
“No, it would simply overwrite the programmer’s codes to ignore the three laws. The bots would have to obey the laws.”
“But won’t the programmers just rewrite it again?”
“There’s magic in this code. If anyone tries to rewrite the program, it automatically deactivates the bot—permanently.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “They’d just put in a new memory core and reprogram it.”
“The virus is designed to hide in every sub-system. Replacing a memory core will lead to another infection. The only way to rid the bot of the virus is to destroy it.” He stood and took a few steps toward me. “And when I infect Servidyne’s system, the virus will hide in all of the sub-processors. They can’t get rid of it without building a new master computer.”
“Which will cost them billions of dollars.”
“Exactly.” He returned to the window. “If they plan to wage another war, than it will be the most expensive war ever.”
“Do you think they found out about it?”
“Maybe.”
“And that’s why they killed you?”
“Again, maybe.”
“But going back—”
“Jonah, I’m not the same me anymore. No one would think an old bot is a threat.”
“But you’re old. Someone might be suspicious of that.”
“When the time comes, I have ways of fixing that.”
I wasn’t sure I was ready to hear Dad’s plan for getting into Servidyne. He was up to something, that was evident. For now, I just wanted to go out and play. I had a feeling that within the next two days, our lives would be upturned again. As much as I missed the Inner States, something inside me feared them.



Friday, August 21, 2015

Servo 23:3

Servo 23:3


The next morning I was roused from sleep by Dad. “Jonah, wake up!”
“Huh? What?”
“A police car is coming.”
I rubbed my eyes and climbed from bed, joining him at the window. Sure enough, a patrol car was rolling up to the house. My heart started to pound. “I wonder what they want?”
“I hope it’s not bad news about your sister.”
“Dunno,” I replied, slipping into my bathrobe and heading out the door. Going downstairs, I saw Grandpa making a move toward the front door. Evidently he’d seen them too.
“Did you get into some mischief yesterday?” he asked me.
“No. Just went to the thrift store in town, that’s all.”
“Then I wonder what the police want.” He opened the door and went out. I followed partway, choosing to stay tucked behind the door frame and watch. The officers got out of the car and approached.
“Abe?” one said.
“Yes?”
“We got a strange report yesterday.”
“Oh?”
“The mailman, Mr. Sodley, said he thought he saw a bot here.”
“Bot? As in robot?”
“Yeah.”
“Impossible. Eliza would never have a bot here after what she went through in the Great Separation.”
“He was quite adamant about it. Said he saw it playing with the boys.”
“No, there’s no bot here, I can assure you of that.”
“Well, I was pretty sure of that, but you know we have to follow-up all possible sightings of an unlicensed bot.”
“Yes, I know.”
The officer glanced toward the field. “Looks like the rain was good for you. Corn’s looking mighty nice.”
“Thanks. I’m glad to finally have a crop. Things were getting mighty thin for a while.”
“I read in the paper that the Inner States is willing to pay a good price this year. I guess they’re getting hungry.”
“Not my concern. I just want what’s fair.”
The officers returned to their car. “Sorry to disturb you, Abe. Have a good day.”
Grandpa waved good-bye to them and returned to the house. He caught me spying. “You need to be more careful with your father.”
“We have been, but we didn’t know the mailman would be delivering a package.”
“Keep him inside from now on—up in your room.”
“Okay.” I went up and found Dad peering out the window.
“I heard,” he said, not giving me a change to say anything.
“Yeah, got to be more careful.”
“It won’t matter soon, we’ll be gone.”
“Are we going to stay in the Inner States?”
“No, you need to come back.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll come back as well, but have to stay hidden all the time.”
I frowned. “That doesn’t sound right.”
“And there’s something else.”
“What?”
“I may be a miracle, but we don’t know how long this will last.”
“Forever!”
“No. At some point in time the programming will wear out.”
“You’ll die—again?” I felt my lip quivering.
“Probably.”
“I won’t let that happen!”
“You must, Jonah; it’s the way of life.”
“No!”
He took my hands and held them. “Don’t let this upset you. My time of expiration may not be for many more years, but it will happen. It has to happen.”
I started to cry. “I won’t let you!”
“That is not your choice to make. Granted you brought me back from the dead, but I will not be happy living when all of you are gone. Would you be so cruel?” He reached up and wiped away a tear that rolled down my cheek.
He was right and I knew he was right, but at that time I refused to admit it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Servo 23:2

Servo 23:2

That evening after dinner, we met in my room to show Dad the clothes we’d bought. He’d done his best to stay away from Grandma, knowing she’d only grow more distant. Deep down inside I wished she could see past his metal exterior and realize he was the same son-in-law that had married her daughter. Except now everything had changed.
I unzipped one backpack and pulled out two pairs of jeans. “I hope these fit, the lady at the store was asking a lot of questions, and we had to do some creative lying to get what we needed.”
“You lied?” Dad replied.
“Well, it’s not like it was hurting anyone. We just didn’t want to raise any suspicion.”
“Mmm, I suppose not.” He took the jeans and held them up. “I’m going to need some assistance putting these on.”
Rory took the pants, sat down on the floor, and bunched them up. “Okay, Dad, can you put one leg in?”
Dad lifted a leg and did his best to aim for the leg hole. Rory had to help him. When one foot was through, they repeated the process. I jumped in to help pull the pants all the way up and then button and zip them. I thought it was a pretty good fit.
“What do you think?” I said, digging through another bag, producing a shirt.
He looked down. “You boys did a fine job. Thank you.”
I unfolded the dark gray long-sleeved shirt and helped him into it. There was no way he could do up the buttons, so I made quick work of them. Rory and I tucked in the shirt.
Dad went over and opened the door to my wardrobe. He gazed in the mirror. “Not exactly the kind of clothes I’d wear, but they’re a good fit…Did you find any shoes?”
Rory removed a pair of tennis shoes. “I think these’ll fit.” He put them on the floor and assisted Dad into them.
“At least they hide my golden toes.”
I went to the window and opened it. A light breeze seeped in, gently moving the white lacy curtains. “We watched a freight train today, but it was going the wrong direction.”
Rory sat on the bed. “Dad? Do you have super hearing?”
He was silent for a moment. “In this model, they’d made some advances in the auditory perception system. But it’s not like the bots of today.”
“I didn’t think it was,” I replied, “But have you ever heard the trains going through town?”
“Oh, yes, I hear them quite well.”
“Good, then keep your ears peeled and let us know.”
“Sometimes they go through in the dead of night.”
“I don’t care; just wake me up so we can write down the time.”
“Why? I can do that. There’s no need to awaken you.”
He was right. My metal-bodied father was not totally helpless. He was a service bot, and they were made to help around the house or in businesses. Dad possessed all the basic skills required to function in a home environment. He could manage on his own.
I went to the nightstand and opened a drawer, removing pen and paper. “Here, so you can keep a log.”
“Thank you. I’m not sure how neat my writing will be, but at least one of us can read it,” he said with a tinny chuckle.
Oh, how that terrible voice modulator grated on my nerves! I couldn’t wait to build a better body for Dad and fix his voice.
“How long are we going to wait?”
He looked at the blank page. “The sooner the better.”
“Dad? Can you hear well enough to know which direction the train is coming from?” asked Rory.
“I’ll have to see tonight when it’s calm and quiet.”
“Dagwood said we can probably get as far as Chicago, but he didn’t know how long it would take,” I said, shoving one backpack under my bed.
“My best guess is a couple of days. So you’ll need to find and stash enough food and water for several days just in case it takes longer than expected.”
“There’s some bottled water in the pantry,” Rory replied, “I can probably get some when Grandma isn’t in the kitchen.”
“Can you get some canned goods too?” Dad asked, “And something to open them with.”
“We’ll see.”
“You’ll probably be eating them cold, so find things that easy to eat.”
I walked around the room, stopping once again at the open window. “Once we get to Chicago, then what? We don’t have any money.”
“There’s still plenty in your trust fund, right?”
“I guess so. Grandpa only buys what we need.”
“We can make it work. I can access the account and get some money.”
“How?” I turned from the window.
“I created the account; I know all the information about it. All we need to do is get to a money machine and I can remedy that problem.”
Rory hopped off the bed. “After that, we can take a plane to New Philadelphia.”
“Correct,” said Dad, “the last time I checked it was perfectly acceptable to have a service bot accompany you on a flight.”
“Don’t they make you ride in the cargo hold?” I replied.
“Yes, but that won’t bother me. I want to get back there and make sure Suz is all right.”

Friday, August 7, 2015

Servo 23:1

Servo 23:1


We pedaled home from town, our backpacks laden with clothes and other “necessities” that we’d need on our journey. As we neared the train tracks, I listened. Did I hear a train? I stopped the bike and pivoted my head around trying to find the source of the noise.
“What are you doing?” Rory asked.
“Listening for a train.”
I saw him cocking his head oddly about. “I think I hear one!”
Checking my watch, I saw it was close to two in the afternoon. “Let’s ride over to the switching yard and see.”
It took only a few minutes and we’d arrived at outskirts of the yard. Freight cars were lined up on one track, apparently waiting for a train to get them. We hid behind the corner of a building and watched. In the distance, coming from the east, a train approached. As it neared a road crossing, it blared the horn, causing me to jump. Rory laughed.
“Not funny!” I grumbled.
“Yes it is.”
The train slowed to a crawl and entered the yard. Its rumbling diesel engine caused my insides to vibrate—what an odd feeling. We observed the lengthy train rattle along until the last car was nearly out of sight. Then we heard the screech of brakes. Two men scurried around, throwing heavy switches. A few more minutes passed and the train began to back up. The last few cars changed direction, going onto the new set of tracks. And then a loud crash as the couplings connected.
“Looks like it’s going west,” Rory said above the noise.
“Not the train we want. Dagwood said east, that should get us to Chicago.”
“Did he say how many days it would take?”
“No.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea? Why can’t we convince Grandpa to drive us?”
I knelt down and continued to watch. “I don’t think he’s heartbroken that Suz is gone. And he can’t be caught with Dad, they’d throw him in jail.”
“We could hide Dad in the back of the truck.”
“Too risky. This is up to us.”
We watched until the train began its meanderings down the long iron path toward the west. I returned to my bike and climbed on. “Let’s go home.”
“Shouldn’t we wait and see if there’s another train?”
“With that one on the tracks, I doubt there’ll be one going eastbound any time soon.”
“Mmm, true.”
The rest of the ride home we didn’t say much. Arriving at the house, we parked our bikes next to the porch and went inside. I could hear Grandma in the kitchen, but had no clue where Grandpa or Dad happened to be. As I put one foot on the stairs, I heard tinny laughter coming from down the long hall to the back—the library.
I changed directions, Rory following me. We crept along, our tennis shoes gliding silently across the old wood floor. Silently, that was, until we reached the last few feet before the door. I placed my left foot down and the old board creaked so loudly I thought the whole house could hear. We froze.
The door opened and Dad stood peering at us. “Hello, boys. Back from town?”
We nodded enthusiastically.
“And did you have luck?”
Again we nodded.
“Good. Abe and I were just talking about the good ol’ days. How about you go out and play? I’ll come join you in a little bit.”
“Right,” I said, understanding it to be our cue to get lost.  That night, I was sure he’d join us in my room where we’d show him what we bought. I hoped he’d be happy with the selection. Clothing a robot was not something I ever expected to do.
Dad closed the door and Rory turned to me. “Go out and play?” he whispered.
“Why not? It’s a nice day. Let’s dump the backpacks and get the football.”
We went upstairs, putting the packs on my bed. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a handful of dollars and change, placing it on the nightstand. Having physical money in my hands felt very odd. The Inner States deemed paper and coin money too unsanitary so everything was paid for via electronic transfer. In a way, it was handy—unless you forgot your tablet or phone!
Digging the football out of my wardrobe, we tromped down and outside. The weather couldn’t have been nicer. Rory and I spread out, keeping ourselves between the house and barn. I threw the ball with all my might, noticing that it went farther than it ever had. Rory had to back up a few steps in order to catch it.
“Good throw, Jonah!” He moved closer and chucked it back to me. His throw was far short and I had to run and dive to snag the ball before it hit the ground. Crashing to the dirt, I stirred up a cloud of dust.
A few minutes later, Dad came out. He walked a distance from Rory and held up his hands, wanting the ball. I was curious about his ability to throw, that model of bot wasn’t built with sports in mind. When Dad was alive, he could send a ball seemingly into space. Rory and I would be running for our lives in order to catch it. Were those days back?
I threw the ball to him. Dad did his best to catch it, but the stiff leather ball bounced out of his hands. “Oh, that’s going to take some getting used to. I can barely feel it.” He bent over and picked up the ball, studying it. “When we build me a better body, I definitely need some sort of tactile sensory receptors.”
“You know how to do that?” I asked.
“Sure.” He bent his arm back and threw the ball. It was a pathetic attempt. The ball didn’t even make it halfway to me. Dad went over, snatched the ball, and tried again with the same result. “Okay, maybe I’m not cut out for this right now.”
“Jonah!” Rory called, pointing frantically down the driveway. “Mailman!”
I spun around to see the small blue pickup truck with flashing light on top approaching. Our mailman, Mr. Sodley, was anything but pleasant. He was old, grouchy, and had been delivering mail in every manner of weather for forty years. I knew he hated this driveway, and the only reason he’d be on it was to deliver a package.
“Dad, hide!” I yelled, waving for him to get behind the house. Mr. Sodley wasn’t one of those people I wanted to know about Dad. All it would take was talking to the wrong person and Grandma and Grandpa would be in big trouble.
The truck approached. I kept my eye on it, hoping Dad had found a hiding spot. Rory trotted up and joined me.
“I hope the mailman didn’t see him,” he said, standing closer to me.
“Me too.”
The truck pulled up and the cantankerous postal worker stuck his head out the window. “Package for Abe,” he said, shoving a box at me.
“Um, thank you.” I noticed him looking past me. Did he see Dad? Before I could say or do anything, he jammed the truck into gear and sped off down the drive, leaving a trail of dust.
We turned and saw Dad peeing around the corner. “Do you think he saw you?” I said, heading to the porch.
He came out. “I don’t know, I tried to hurry, but these old models aren’t built for speed.”
“Let’s hope he didn’t.”
After that, we decided to end our game of catch. Dad was in no condition to play with us like he used to. I hoped in time I could remedy that.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Servo 22:4

Servo 22:4


My father, the robot, stood every inch of six feet tall. Grandpa, however, did not. Rory and I snuck into his room and tried to find clothes that would fit Dad. No such luck. We grabbed our bikes and headed to town. There was a thrift store on Main Street and we hoped to find something there. Prior to our departure I’d found a tape measure and did my best to get Dad’s dimensions. He tried to coach us in the fine art of purchasing clothes for an adult. Rory took notes while I measured and called out numbers.
Once inside the store, we looked around. Several women were browsing through rack upon rack of used clothes. The middle-aged lady at the counter regarded us. “Can I help you, boys?”
“Uh, umm,” I stammered, startled by her greeting. “Just looking for some clothes.”
She pointed. “The boy’s section is over there.”
“Uh, these are clothes for our father.”
“Then why didn’t he come and find some?”
“He’s uh, he’s umm, home sick in bed.”
“Sick during the summer? Must be bad.”
“Yes, yes it is.”
“Well, I hope for his sake he gets well soon.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
She stepped from behind the counter. “Do you need any help finding his size?”
I took the piece of paper from my pocket and carefully unfolded it. “We have his measurements.”
“You don’t know what size clothes he takes?”
“No.”
“And he didn’t know either?”
“He came from the Inner States, and well, things are sized differently there.”
“Oh, they are?”
“Yes,” I lied. There was no other way of slipping this past her.
She held out her hand. “Well, then we’ll just have to go off the measurements and hope we get it right.”
“Thank you.” I placed the page in her hand.  “We appreciate it.”
“So your father came from the Inner States?”
“Yes.”
“Just on vacation here?”
“Umm, kind of.”
“Why didn’t he bring any clothes?”
“The, uh, airlines lost his bags.”
“I see.”
“And he got sick just a day after landing.”
There was definitely a level of suspicion in her tone of voice. “Right.”
“He sent us out to find a couple pairs of jeans and a shirt or two—maybe some shoes.”
The sales lady nodded and went about finding what we needed.
Finally, two hours later, we were pedaling back home. Along the way, we saw Dagwood cruising into town. We pulled over to the side of the busy road.
“Hi, guys!” said Dagwood with his usual enthusiasm.
“Hi,” I replied.
“Just leave town?”
“Yeah. We took your advice and got Dad some clothes. But the lady at the thrift store was skeptical of us.”
“Why?”
“We didn’t know his clothes sizes; all we had were measurements.”
He scratched his chin. “And she thought that was odd?”
“Yes.”
“Well, I’m headin’ that way to find a few pairs of work jeans. Maybe I can chat with her and smooth things out. Don’t need folk havin’ suspicions now, do we?”
“No, definitely not.”
“And I’ll keep my ears out for any trains.”
I nodded. “Thank you so much for all your help.”
“We’re friends, and friends help each other out.”
It was at that very moment I realized the true and utter meaning of friendship. There were no strings attached, no deals, no favors, no repayment of any kind; just pure kindness that came from Dagwood’s heart. He loved to see people happy—it made him happy, even though he wasn’t going with us, he was doing everything he could to help our endeavor. When we got back, I was going to show him how much I appreciated him. My father might have had a golden body, but Dagwood had a golden heart.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Servo 22:3

Servo 22:3


The next morning I rode over to Dagwood’s. I found him in the chicken coop tending to several of his flock. Somewhere in the barnyard a rooster crowed. The weather was warm and sunny. “Hey, Dagwood.”
“Jonah!”
“I need your help.”
He put down a dented white enameled pail of chicken feed and approached. “For what?”
“Dad thinks we need to rescue Suz.”
“Do you even know where she is?”
“Probably in New Philadelphia.”
“Boy howdy, that’s a long way from here.”
“Yeah, and we need to figure out how to get there.”
“It may sound crazy, but you might be able to hobo a freight train.”
“Hobo?” I had no concept of the term.
“Yeah, hop a ride like the hobos do.”
“Umm, what’s a hobo?”
Dagwood laughed, slapping his thigh like he did so often. “A hobo’s a person that’s got no home.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Lots of ’em travel from one town to another looking for work and food.”
“Of course, the train tracks running through town!”
“Lots of times it stops at the small switchyard near Tenth Street.”
“How do we know which train to take?”
“Take the eastbound one. It goes to Lincoln where there’s a big switching yard.”
“And how will we know which one to take after that? Where do the track go?”
Dagwood shrugged his shoulders. Just hop one that’s goin’ east. As far as I can remember, the rail line stops in Chicago. You’ll go through Omaha and Des Moines.”
“I hope we don’t get lost.”
“They’re train tracks, not like gettin’ lost on a bunch of roads.”
“Do you think it’ll work?”
“I can’t think of any other way to get you there.”
“But what if Dad gets seen?”
“He can hide good in some of those box cars.”
“Do you know when the trains go through?”
Dagwood picked up the pail, dipped his hand, scooping up a bunch of cracked corn. He flung it wide over the area where a dozen chickens wandered. “Dunno. Sometimes I can hear the trail whistle from here.”
I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to think back. Did I ever recall hearing the train from the house? Vaguely. Now I’d have to make a point to listen. If we knew when the trains went through, we could time our escape. There still remained the problem of smuggling Dad across town. “Any ideas on how we could get there without being seen?”
“You’re gonna think I’m silly.”
“What?”
“Well, you polished up your Dad so good, he’s as obvious as a cat in a dog store.”
“Are you saying we need to paint him a dull color?”
“Naw, just put some clothes on him.”
“Brilliant idea!” I paced around in a small circle, several of the chickens clucked at me because I disturbed their meal. “Maybe even put a hat on him.”
“There ya go!”
I watched Dagwood’s face sag. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.”
“Dagwood, I know you well enough to know something’s wrong.” And that wasn’t a lie. My simple-minded friend displayed his emotions like a slogan on his t-shirt.
“Sounds like it’s gonna be an exciting adventure.”
“Adventure is right. But I don’t want any excitement.”
“Still, you’re gonna runaway.”
“I’d hardly call it that. Granted we won’t be telling Grandma and Grandpa, but having my father runaway with us is not so daring.” His body language told me he wanted to come along. “Isn’t the State fair coming up?”
“Yeah.”
“You don’t want to miss that, do you?”
“No.”
“Our little adventure may take a while—a long while.”
“Will you be back before summer ends?”
“I hope so.”

Friday, July 17, 2015

Servo 22:2

Servo 22:2


That night, as I readied for bed, Dad stood looking out my bedroom window. “You haven’t heard from Suz, have you?”
“No.”
“I’m worried about her.”
I didn’t reply. A miniscule part of me missed her. She’d always been mean to me and Rory, so her absence brought a welcomed breath of relaxation to the old house. It was nice not dealing with her sour attitude or barbed ridiculing of our very existence.
“You said she might’ve run away to the Inner States?”
“Probably,” I replied, pulling on a pair of sleep shorts. “She and Otto disappeared, not so much as leaving a note.”
“I fear she might be in distress.” He turned to me. “Your sister is nearly off the charts intelligent, but she doesn’t have a lick of common sense.”
All I could do was laugh. Dad was spot on in his ascertainment of Suz’s skill in the real world. She didn’t even know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. How could she survive in the Inner States without assistance? I doubted Otto, despite his cunning, would know what to do. He’d been thrust into an entirely different world. Citizens of the Inner States would immediately recognize him as a foreigner and opportunities would close like doors being slammed in his face. He’d be treated as nobody—just like Rory and I, should we return for college. It didn’t matter that we were GEE and born there, because we came from the Outer States, we’d immediately be shunned.
Dad held up a finger. “It’s not funny. She could be in real trouble.”
“Sorry,” I said, clamping my lips together to prevent any further outbursts.
“We need to find her.”
“How?”
“Go to New Philadelphia. I bet that’s where she went.”
“Get there, how?”
“On foot if we have to.”
“Dad, that’s a long way away.” I sat down on the bed. “And we have another problem.”
“What?”
“You can’t be seen around here.”
“Why not?”
“No license.”
He cocked his head.
“Anyone having a bot in the Outer States has to get a license and pay lots of money.”
“Absurd!”
“No, it’s true. If someone gets caught with an unlicensed bot, they could go to jail and lose everything.”
“Rather harsh,” he said, walking over to my wardrobe. The door was open and he stood looking at himself in the mirror. “I’m a bot, and then I’m not.” Dad touched the mirror. “A conscious, sentient being trapped in a metal body.”
“I’m sorry.”
“For what?”
“Doing that to you. It was wrong.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I wanted something better.”
He came over and sat next to me. “What do you mean?”
“I wanted to make you like Grandma.”
“Grandma? She’s human, and very much alive.”
“No, no, Tom’s grandma.”
“Who is Tom?”
“In the book.”
Dad took my hand. “Jonah, what are you talking about?”
“Fantoccini. He made them so real.”
My father sat quietly. Perhaps he was accessing his data base. “Fantoccini? As in Guido Fantoccini?”
I nodded.
He chuckled. Although the voice modulation did a horrible job and it sounded like metal clacking together. “Oh, my son, you are a misguided visionary.”
“I wanted to give you warmth.” I gently squeezed his hand, but I doubt he felt it. “I wanted to make you my father all over again.”
“There is nothing more noble than that.”
“Instead, I made you Frankenstein’s monster.”
“No, you didn’t. I’m not a monster. I’m here because of you and a miracle. Fate brought that lightning bolt to the barn. Fate brought me back from the dead.” He lifted my hand and held it to his chest. “You can’t see it, and you can’t feel it, but inside, I’m thrilled to be alive—even in this metal body. I was wrong to say I felt trapped. Jonah, what you did was totally amazing. I cannot think of a single soul that was able to bring someone back from the dead. You have achieved the impossible.”
“Still, you deserve a better body.”
“Don’t worry about that. In time, I’m sure we can create something warm for me to live in.”
“I’d like that.”
“So would I. But first we need to find your sister.”
“How are we going to do that?”
“We’ll need the help of your friends.”