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OBLIVION’S CHILDREN

Chapter 11 — DECISION

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Adam and Hope stood in front of “The Last Stanza,” the only eatery in Risen Falls with a human chef, waiting for their car. The hard rain drummed on the canvas canopy.

“Food was great as usual,” Adam said.

“Soopy doopy.” She tapped her feet and turned. “Let’s go dancing.”

“Nah.”

“Ahh, why not? It’s my birthday.”

Adam pushed his hands into his pants pockets. “I’ve had enough entertainment for the evening.”

A limousine driven by Raffy pulled up. They got in.

“Pie, don’t you feel well?” Hope asked.

“Just tired.”

She poked him. “The night’s young. Let’s go have some fun.”

“We already had fun, Cake.” He grabbed her finger. “And apparently too much wine.”

She pulled the finger away. “Not too much. Just enough to get some air under my feet.”

“So enjoy the lift. But let’s not argue and ruin a nice evening.”

Hope smiled. “You’re right, Pie.” She jerked her head around and put her nose on the window. To her reflection she said, “As usual.”

The trip back to the apartment was quiet, except for her humming. They retired to the study. Adam took up a book and went to his favorite suede leather chair and put his feet up on a matching suede ottoman.

Hope peered out the long windows at the rain on the balcony garden. She strummed the glass with her fingers and watched the drops splashing on flowers in the irregular strobe of lightning. She turned to see Adam holding a large book with both hands in front of his face. She asked sweetly from across the room, “Whatcha reading?”

When he did not answer, she ambled to him, sat on the arm of his chair and put her arm around his neck. “Is that so interesting you can’t answer me?”

Adam dropped the book to his lap and looked up at her. “What? Oh. It’s a book about how genues resolve differences between themselves. It was written by Palto, a genue in Lisbon. It’s really quite interesting.”

Hope twirled his hair around her finger. “You want to go count pillows on the bed, Cream Pie?”

“No, go ahead without me, Cake. I think I’ll read some more.”

“I think you missed my point, Mr. Wyman.” She jumped to her feet and stood with hands on her hips.

“Oh, I get you,” he grinned. “No, not tonight. Really, I want to read.”

The child in her made a pouting face. She went to the divan, wiggled into one of its corners and put her chin on the high rounded arm. From there she glared at her old lover hiding his face behind the book. “I hear they want to round up all the people into just a few communities around the world.”

“Uh huh,” Adam mumbled from behind the book. “The World Council’s latest Human Relocation Plan. The chief architect was Helen Back.”

She sneered. “My former boss. A crow on carrion.” She went to his chair again and pushed up against him. “Are we going to have to move?”

He looked up. “I don’t know if we have to. But Risen Falls has been selected for one of the new relocation communities.”

She ran her finger along his cheek. “Are you going to?”

He dropped the book to his lap again. “Move? I suppose so.”

“But if you leave here, what about me?”

“I thought you’d go with me. Besides, you’ve always had this thing about staying in one place too long and…”

“Duck muck! I don’t like being told where to put my tent. What if I like it here? Why should we move again? They can’t make you leave your home. It’s not right.”

“I know, Cake. But this place is getting kind of deserted. Besides we are well into the prune stage.” He smiled. “We’re going to need senior care.”



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— 119 —

“Bah! Maybe you’re a prune! Maybe you’re eighty! But not me! I’m two forties, maybe even four twenties, and they’re all rarin’ to go.”

“Please don’t yell.” He squinted at her. “And I’m still seventy-nine.”

Her voice mellowed. “Eighty isn’t old, Pie. And even if it is, the genues can take care of us here. We don’t have to follow that witch’s Plan.”

Adam put a marker in his book, closed it and set it on the table beside his chair. “Hope, to me Helen Back’s relocation plan makes sense. Think about it. Old people spread all over the Earth. We’re a burden on the genues.”

She jumped up. “Burden? Genues were made to serve us. Did you forget that, Mr. Wyman?”

“No, I didn’t forget. But… but times have changed. It’s a genue world.”

She stomped her foot. “A what?”

His eyeballs froze. “I mean, okay. You’re right. We’re not a burden. But the plan was approved by the World Council… made up of preeminent people… human beings. They realized that thinning populations are stressful. It’s not just supplies and things like that.” She still had darts in her eyes. “Hey, Cake, there are other reasons, too. The other people I care to be with, they’re moving. If we stay here it’ll be like a deserted island, don’t you think.”

Her face thawed. She squeezed his hands. “Oh, come on, Pie. We get to see other people whenever we want. I don’t want to move.”

“I know.” He took a deep breath and sighed. “But we just can’t…”

She gave him all of her pleading eyes. “Please…”

They heard the front door and voices. After a moment Murl and Ugene entered the study with raindrops glistening on their green plastic skin.

“We’ve just spent a most enjoyable evening,” Ugene exclaimed.

Murl took notice of the two gray-haired humans facing each other holding hands. “Excuse us if we have intruded.”

“No, that’s all right.” Adam gave Hope a “that’s enough” look. “Why was your evening so enjoyable?”

Ugene stepped closer and flapped his hands. “We went to a marvelous dog show, the annual Genue Handlers Association Best of Breed Competition. So many exquisite canine pedigrees and superb genue trainers. I was so impressed with the way those darling creatures were handled.”

“I was too,” Murl joined in. “Dogs and genues seem made for each other. Dogs get good consistent affection and genues get an elevated S-R reduct that promotes IL links.” Adam and Hope were not looking at him. “What I mean is there’s an easy, spontaneous friendship between dogs and genues.”

Hope gave Adam a submissive look. “Pleeeease.”

“We did interrupt,” Murl said.

Then together to the humans they uttered, “I’m sorry.”

“Cake,” Adam said softly, “You do realize that the new apartments are bigger and better than what we have here, don’t you? Besides, it’s going to happen sooner or later anyway.”

She pulled her hands away. Her eyes were moist. “They can’t do this to me. You don’t have to obey the damn Plan.”

Adam reached for her. “You’re upsetting yourself over nothing.”

“Don’t touch me!” She backed away. “Go count pillows with Murl, Prunehead. I’m leaving.”

Adam made a grab at her arm but she dodged him and bolted from the room. “Hope,” he called out. He looked at the genues with chagrin. When he heard the front door slam, he said, “She’ll be back.”

Not ten seconds later, Hope burst back through the door.

Adam said, “See, I told you.”

Hope did not look at him. “Ugene, you want to go shopping with me? Keep me company?”

The genue went to her side. “I’d be delighted to, my dear. Let me take you on my new motor scooter.”

When they left, Adam’s chin sagged. He sat down and picked up his book but stared over the top of it. After a minute, he got up and went to the doorway. “Murl, I’m going to bed so that tomorrow gets here sooner.”

Murl was used to these human absurdities. Still he replied, “I don’t think it will.”

——

When Hope and Ugene arrived at the Risen Falls Commerce Center they found it nearly empty. Four people could be seen in the distance, one with a cane shuffling along like a mechanical wind-up toy.

“We have the place to ourselves,” Ugene said.



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— 120 —

She sauntered ahead of him. “Yeah, the prunes just don’t get out much.”

He stepped to her side. “Prunes? Oh, you mean old people—like you.”

She glared at him until she realized the truth. “I guess so.” She sighed. “Looks like a business depression… except everything is free anyway. The poor genue storekeepers must be bored for lack of customers.”

“It’s their job—to wait and serve humans as situations arise.”

As they strolled along the concourse she tucked her arm in his.

He was confounded by the contact. “Are you all right?”

She gave him a Mona Lisa smile. “You are my now.”

His brain stumbled on the words. It sounded like poetry, an area he had not spent much time on. Base logic kicked in. “Now, I am.”

“So you are.” She squeezed his arm. “Clever Ugene.”

He lifted his head. “I like to think so.”

When they came to a jewelry shop she let go of the genue and pointed. “Charm alarm. Got to go in.” She bolted and fled inside.

She held up her right hand to the genue clerk. “Eight gold rings for my wrist,” she demanded. “It’s a new decade for me and I need new luck.”

Ugene was now beside her. “Oh, that will look darling.”

The clerk nodded, retreated into the back and after a moment returned with the bracelet rings. He slid them on Hope’s arm and in the next instant she was waltzing around the deserted concourse, gold rings tinkling.

“Ugene, you have to join me in a drink to celebrate my birthday.”

“You know I can’t drink. But I would be pleased to keep you company.”

She took his arm and, with a light skip, led him to an open-air cocktail lounge a few meters down the concourse. He obliged by trying to imitate her steps. They took a table near the rail enclosing the lounge. She ordered a double martini and it was delivered in less than a minute. She ate the olive first and then took a sip. They stared at each other. She took a larger sip.

“Ugene, Ugene.” She gave him a silly smile and blinked her eyes. “Mind if I call you U?”

“Not at all.”

Sipping. “I like you… I mean you, U.” She giggled. A soft glow of intoxication rode the ripple roused by the earlier wine. “You seem more people-ish than most genues. Even more than some people.”

“Yes, I think so, too,” he replied. “I believe the long isolation has made me a better genue. I have acquired a unique perspective of the world and humans. It has given me an imaginative inclination.”

Having finished her martini she waved the glass in the air. The waiter brought another.

Ugene watched her sip the second one faster than the first. “As I recall, martinis have a high alcohol content. Won’t your drink incapacitate you?”

“We’ll see,” she said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been wow-wow. Usually I only take a glass of wine when Prunehead and I go out. But tonight… I don’t know. I feel like a saddled horse.” She waved the glass at him. “And, ya know, it’s not the horse that needs the saddle.”

“Indeed, that is profound.” He gazed at her. “So the drink makes you feel better?”

She slurped the drink. “Ya, I’d say so. It kills the pain.”

“Pain? I did not know you were in pain.”

“Mental pain.” Her lips were on the glass. “Maybe men’al ache is better. Frust-tation, disa-poin-min’, who knows. My life’s turning into slow motion.” The last sip brought nothing but a small chunk of ice. She held up the glass again.

Another drink was delivered.

She arced the third martini at Ugene. “Here’s to ya.”

He imitated with an empty hand. “And to you.”

Her eyes narrowed. “U, don’t cha ever feel any pain?”

“No, not pain as I would guess humans feel.”

She pushed the table candle toward him. “You mean you could put your hammed…” She giggled. “I mean, hand…o’er this pretty flame and keep it there?” She bit her lower lip.

“Certainly,” he replied. His ideator loops took a well-worn path that marvelled at genue superiority—and, in a sense, Ugene superiority. The other path, the one about heat damage, had a lower valence. So he put his hand over the flame.

He stared at Hope to relish in her amazement, but thought she was overdoing it when her eyes widened and her mouth fell open.



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— 121 —

“U, u, u!” yelled Hope, “you’re drippin’…”

Gooey blobs of his green skin plopped on the candle and the table. He pulled his mutilated hand away from the flame and was shocked to see its condition. “I… I never realized…” he stammered.

“Ya din’t feel it. Ya din’t know it’d melt?” She frowned, then grinned, then frowned again. She burped and then tittered.

“I have never been damaged so badly before.” Ugene’s imperious tone was shattered. “We need to go to the genue repair facility. Do you mind if we leave?”

Hope gulped her drink, stood up, and fell back down in her chair. She stood up again, this time with a grip on the table. “Les go, U-u.”

They made their way out to the parking lot, its surface enameled by the rain and quivering with reflections of an impressionistic night. As they approached Ugene’s motor scooter Hope took a deep breath. The fresh, moist air seemed to make the world clean and good.

——

Murl awakened Adam to tell him that there had been an accident, that Hope had been injured. He drove Adam to the hospital where they were met in the corridor in front of Intensive Care by Ugene who was covered with abrasions and dirt.

He limped to Adam. “I’m sorry. I made a bad judgment. I should not have let it happen. I am truly sorry.”

Ugene’s contrition puzzled Adam. It pointed blame when blame was unexpected. Anxiety turned to anger. “She was in your care.”

“But she insisted on driving… because of this.” Ugene held up his mutilated hand.

Adam huffed, “I don’t believe my eyes.” He turned and walked through the doors to Intensive Care.

Murl beckoned Ugene, “Come, you must tell Hope you are sorry.” The two genues followed the Adam.

There was only one patient in the room and Adam went to her bed. A mauve sheet lay over Hope, her arms on top taped with tubes and wires stretching to nearby life support systems. Her face was battered and bandaged, her eyes closed and her mouth half opened. Adam took her hand and squeezed it. Murl and Ugene stood at the foot of the bed.

A uniformed woman who had been studying Hope’s internal organs on the endoscope turned to Adam. “Hi, I’m Dr. Chessey.” She was hunched over and as wrinkled as a raisin. Her red-streaked eyes met Adam’s with a somber expression. “Are you a relative?”

“A friend. Adam Wyman. She lives with me. How is she? Is she going to live?”

“Calm down, Mr. Wyman,” the doctor said in a cracking voice. “She’s in no pain—I’ve taken care of that. She’s fully conscious but she has suffered extensive internal injuries including kidney and liver damage. She has multiple fractures and lost a lot of blood. But we have stabilized her and I think she has an excellent chance of pulling through.”

Adam gave a half smile and dropped his shoulders an inch. “Good. Can I talk with her?”

Dr. Chessey began a slow rotation back to the endoscope. “Yes, you can. She can hear you and talk with you. But, please, not too long now.”

Adam bent over. “Hi, Cake. I’m here. Can you hear me?”

Hope opened her eyes and looked into his face with a pained smile. “Hey, you dumb cream pie, the doctor just told you I could.”

Adam grinned. “Kind of banged yourself up, eh?”

“Yeah. But I lived, didn’t I. That’s cuz of my new gold rings I got. Wanna see?” She moved her arm slightly to make them jingle but they were silent. “Yup, my lucky rings.” Her eyes blinked and strained to look at the genues beyond her feet. She could not make them out. “Is U all right?”

“I’m fine,” Adam replied.

She giggled. “Not you, pie. I mean Ugene.”

“I am damaged but okay,” spoke up Ugene. When Adam gave him a sharp look of anger he bowed his head and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry.”

“Ugene’s sweet as cotton candy.” She smiled with reflection. “And so is Murl.” She tried again to look at the genues. “Ugene, Murl, can you guys hear me?”

“Yes, Hope,” they said in unison.

“You guys are great.”

“I know,” replied Ugene quietly.

“You really think so?” was Murl’s response.

“Yeah, really.” Her attention went back to Adam. “You know, they are kind of nifty.”

He brought her hand to his lips. “Except when they do something stupid.”



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— 122 —

Hope labored for a breath. “I didn’t mean to spout like a kettle, about, you know…your…us moving. But remember that saying, a house has at least a roof, a home not even that? Well, I’ve been thinking. If you want us to move to a new apartment, I guess I can handle it. I just want to be with you.”

“We’ll talk about it later. Just get better, Cake.”

“Gotcha, Pie. I want…” She was interrupted by a gush of confusion and dizziness that made her clutch at the sheet that covered her.

Dr. Chessey, who had come around the bed, nudged Adam aside. “You’ll have to step outside now. It could get busy in here.” She signaled with a bony finger to a genue nurse. “Inject two ccs. of vetapene, immediately.” Then to Adam who still stood by her, “Go ahead. Take your friends and leave. Let me do my job.”

Adam stepped out into the corridor, Murl and Ugene at his heels. The genues each stared at him in anticipation of some remarks but he said nothing. He just massaged his lower lip with his fingers and glanced back and forth at them, then gazed past them through the door window at Dr. Chessey bent over Hope.

Adam paced. The genues stood silent. Blurred sounds came from different directions.

The windowed door swung open and Adam rushed to meet Dr. Chessey. “How is she doing, Doctor?”

Dr. Chessey looked uncertain; she seemed to grope for words. “You know… we don’t see many trauma cases here any more. We’re not really set up for that kind of thing. And we don’t really have the staff either.”

“What is it? If it’s equipment you need, we can have it brought in. If it’s people, we can get them. Anything you want.”

She grabbed his upper arm, and with head down and eyes peeking up, she answered, “None of it matters. I’m afraid she has slipped away and there’s nothing more we can do.”

Tangled thoughts flashed through Adam’s head but nothing came from his open mouth but a dry exhalation of horror. He took two steps backwards and his gaze went into another dimension.

“You have my deepest sympathy,” the doctor said, then turned in her slow manner and left.

Ugene was shocked at the news. “I’m sorry,” he repeated at the door window where he saw the genue nurses disconnecting the equipment from Hope’s lifeless body. He pushed into the room toward the bed to confirm what he could not accept.

Murl was caught between self-reflection and a need to comfort Adam. He stood alone in the hallway in mental distress, the kind of distress that can beset a genue brain when fate foils expectation and logic. In one sense, his distress was sorrow that came from the loss of Hope. He recalled his earliest encounters with her as a child and young adult, when she was mistrustful of genues. Over the years she had gradually changed until she accepted him as a friend. Now he could no longer experience that friendship.

In another sense, his distress was sadness for Adam and his grief. The man had lost his lover and companion in life. And Murl knew the mental pain of losing someone close. A multitude of pictures of Adam and Hope together across the many years flickered in his head. They would no longer be together. He wished he could change things but he knew he could not.

*    *    *

Ugene met Murl and Adam in the lobby. “Hello, my friends. So nice to see you all. Welcome to the first public performance of the Genue Classical Theater.”

Adam surveyed the bustle of old people and genues, mostly genues. “Look at the crowd. It’s like the opening of a Broadway play in the old days.”

“What is the performance, Ugene?” Murl asked.

“A Greek tragedy, my dear friend. Oedipus Rex.”

Adam nodded. “Ugene, I’m impressed.”

“You haven’t seen the play yet. That is when you will be impressed.” Ugene said. “So if you will now please follow me.” He led them into the refurbished auditorium, its early twenty-first century decor redone with the back wall and curved sides decorated in patterns of gold and dark green, as were the plush seats.

As they walked down the sloped aisle toward the darkened large half-circle stage, they dodged genue ushers uniformed in braided vests of blue, assisting other genue and human patrons to their seats.

Ugene led his company to the front row. “Here we are, front and center.”

“This is great,” Adam said. “I don’t know if I’m ready for Oedipus Rex, but I’ll try to keep an open mind. I used to find stuff like this boring.”



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— 123 —

The capacity crowd of people and genues quieted down as the house lights dimmed and the curtain rose.

On stage, a dozen genue actors dressed as priests stood in various worshipful postures around a marble altar. The priests were dressed in plain white robes and elaborately decorated masks like those worn by the early Greeks.

On the left-center part of the stage another figure in a jeweled robe and a Grecian mask turned to the audience. He began to speak in a loud baritone voice:

“What is it, children, sons of the ancient house of Cadmus? Why do you sit as supplicants crowned with laurel branches? What is the meaning of the incense which fills the city? The pleas to end pain? The cries of sorrow? I chose not to hear it from my messengers, but came myself—I came, Oedipus, Oedipus whose name is known to all.”

Two hours later the audience heard the final chorus of priests proclaim: “Look at Oedipus—proof that none of us mortals can truly be thought of as happy until he is granted deliverance from life, until he is dead and must suffer no more.”

As the curtain came down, the humans in the audience applauded with polite energy. The genues among them clapped with more vigor but their DuroDerm hands did not make as loud a noise. The curtain rose again and each genue who had a speaking part now appeared unmasked at the front of the stage. They all bowed and the curtain came down again.

Adam rose to his feet and clapped with enthusiasm. “This was extraordinary, Ugene. I never realized genues could do this. And the genue who played Oedipus’ wife, Jocasta, his voice and gestures and mannerisms were so feminine. How did he do that?”

“That was Fantaga,” Ugene said. “He has put in a lot of practice, and of course he has studied old tapes and movies of humans playing that role.”

“I can’t believe you would bother with such an ancient piece, Ugene. Sophocles, the playwright, lived more than twenty-five hundred years ago and knew nothing about modern science and technology. What made you decide on this particular play?”

“It must have been the idea of destiny,” answered Murl.

“So perceptive of you, my dear friend.” Ugene led Murl and Adam up the aisle. “I was struck by the Greek acceptance of the control of their lives by the gods. The fact that Oedipus unintentionally killed his father and married his mother shows how humans are part of the natural universe, not above it. It’s much like how genues feel, being controlled by some hidden power, something that drives them to do certain things but not others.”

Adam remarked to Murl, “I found it very moving because of what has happened to humankind.”

“How’s that?” asked Murl.

“Oh, please,” Ugene interjected. “The parallels between the play and the human situation should be obvious to you, Murl.”

Murl’s ideator loops seemed to freeze up for a moment. If the parallels were obvious he should be aware of them, but he was not. He wondered how Ugene could think such things were. He would have to reread the play, he thought, something he had never had to do before.

“What are your players going to do next?” Adam asked.

“A comedy by Aristophanes called Lysistrata,” Ugene replied.

Murl muttered, “If they ever do Streetcar Named Desire I hope they don’t ask me to play a part.”

*    *    *

“You know, Murl, I still miss her, even after twelve years.”

“Hope?” He looked over his book at Adam rocking in a chair by the fireplace, sipping wine. “I miss her too. Certainly not as much as you.”

“Ever since she died the world seems to get gloomier and gloomier.”

“Gloomy?” He went to Adam. “I do not perceive the world as gloomy.”

“Excuse me, Murl. I realize it’s just me. Sadness comes from inside.”

“Perhaps. But I don’t think it’s just you. Over the last few years genues around the world have been reporting human sadness as if it were some kind of epidemic. Perhaps that human feeling accounts for the fact that old people are dying off faster than was predicted. Each year fewer are reaching their tenth decade and even fewer their centennial.”

Adam sipped his wine. “Yeah, no surprise to me. About the only thing that happens around here is people dying.”

“Actually, the rate is falling rapidly. There are only about one hundred and fifty deaths a day now. And fewer people are attending the funerals. It seems they are either struck by infirmities or disinterest. Many have died with no friend to grieve for them.”



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— 124 —

“So sad, Murl. So how many of us are there left?”

“About 80,000. And following the final Human Relocation Plan of the last World Council, we are bringing them all here to Risen Falls.”

Adam shook his head. “So London, Beijing, Brazilia, and Sydney… the last human cities… now genue towns.” He handed the empty glass to Murl. “How are the old people taking this latest move?”

“Many protested. But we are simply implementing the plan.”

“Of course. They may not realize it, but we all need human contact. It’s no fun dying alone.” Adam rose from his rocker. “Talk about human contact, I understand some guy on two wants to see me.”

“That is correct. Winfred Thacker, a one-hundred year old man from London. He refuses to use the I-port. Wants to see you personally.”

“Might as well see what he wants. Will you join me?”

——

They were met at the front door by Winfred’s genue, Havatat, who led them to the living room. Winfred was sitting in the far corner in a wheelchair.

“Good morning, Mr. Thacker,” greeted Adam as he and Murl followed Havatat around tables and credenzas covered with knickknacks and framed threedees of people long passed away.

“What’s so bloody good about it?” Winfred grumbled as Havatat fluffed his back pillow, then left the room.

Adam sat down in a rocker next to the wheelchair and put out his hand toward Winfred. “I’m Adam Wyman. I’m pleased you invited me to see you. I live up on eleven.”

Mr. Thacker put out a limp hand and they shook. “Well good for you, you live up on eleven. But I exist here on two in this chokey. I just wish they’d have left me be in my drum in London and let me die an Englishman. I dare say this is the third move I’ve had to make. Well, the first one I did on me own, matey, but that was enough. A bloke gets too old to leave everything he knows.”

“I think you’ll find Risen Falls is a very nice place to live,” Adam said. “You’ll enjoy the company of people here. It’ll make the last years of your life less lonesome.”

“I doubt that,” Winfred groaned. He looked at Murl standing beside Adam. “And this is your private limey, I reckon?”

“Please, Mr. Thacker, they are properly referred to as genues. And no, he is not my private genue, he is my friend, Murl.”

“No disrespect, ya know. It’s what we called them back in Old Blighty, yes sir, limeys. Some call them greenies, some ginnies. But I don’t much bloody care. Though limey’s got tradition, it has.”

Murl nodded and issued a soft greeting. “Good to meet you, Mr. Thacker.”

Winfred squinted. “Seems like I’ve heard that name. Murl. Hmmm. Yes, you’re the prince of the limeys, ain’t ya?”

“We have no title of prince. I am on the Council of Twelve.”

Winfred dipped his wrinkled head as if he could not hold it up any longer. His eyes remained focused on Murl. “So, King Murl, now that you limeys have managed to collect all us crumblies and pack us into one town like apples in a crate… so as we can’t interfere in whatever you do… what do you plan on doing with the rest of the world?”

Murl did not sense the bitterness in the question. “We feel our primary goal is to make life as comfortable and pleasant for humans as we can as long as they exist. But we also must address the growing needs of genues.”

“And what might they be, your highness?”

“We have to devise and construct the appropriate institutions that will support genue needs. This is a long-term process that has just begun, and we will depend greatly on the accumulated centuries of human knowledge and wisdom. We are constructing new condominiums for genues and there are new production facilities and research facilities to be developed. These depend upon lumbering, mining and fabrication industries. This also requires architecture and engineering. We have to upgrade ground transportation systems, and communications. In manufacturing we have revised output targets and distribution. There is a great need for genue repair, and energy production.”

“What, no big plans after we’re all gone?” Winfred’s tone was sarcastic.

“We have several large projects underway, such as the diking, draining and drying of the old Florida peninsula. There are several coastal sites there of great historical value. The moon colony will be reestablished soon. And we’ve also begun the complete restoration of ancient Rome circa 200 CE on the actual site.”



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— 125 —

“That sounds pretty impressive,” thought Adam, studying Murl as if he had just met him for the first time. Such marvelous achievements and plans. All of a sudden a new reality seemed obvious. Old thoughts took new form. Genues were not merely machines, they were real beings planning a real society. Yuri, he thought, you should hear this. The genues will live on in the place of humankind.

“In addition,” Murl continued, “we are doing research in all the sciences, especially physics and astronomy, just as humans did. We have projects in wild life preservation, explorations beneath the seas, and reestablishment of the rain forest. As you can see, much of what genues do and will continue to do is the same as what humans have done.”

Same as humans! Adam could now hear Yuri’s rebuttal. What Murl had just recited were the remnants of a human agenda. Where was the independent thought in that? How could that prove consciousness? They were playing out a program created by man. They are doing what we taught them.

Adam shook his head in bewilderment. Answers turned to questions. Did these machines have any kind of anima at all? Had they become merely shadow beings? Why was it not murder to destroy a genue?

Winfred coughed and cleared his throat. “I think you’re jawing so as not to give me a straight answer.”

“I am giving you…”

“Hey, I’m not much interested in you bloody limeys anyway. I’m more interested in the little people you’re hiding from us old folks.”

Murl cocked his head in surprise. Adam’s jaw dropped.

The Englishman’s posture changed from a slumped old man to a poised lord. His right eye narrowed, his left opened fully. For the first time he smiled but not with amusement. “Yes, you heard me right, Mac. I’m onto your bloody little secret. I’ve got proof, I have.” He pulled a small plastic audio-card from his shirt pocket and waved it at the genue. “Listen to what I’ve got here and then deny it. Deny you’re not holding little children, human children, hostage somewhere.”

He applied pressure to the corner of the card and a crackling sound emerged from its micro speakers. The racket faded and a soft voice, barely audible at first, rose out of the hushed background noise.

“…the children are coming along quite well. They play and learn just like normal humans used to back when there were elementary schools.”

A second voice responded. “Yes, they do. The experimental school shall provide us much insight into modified human behavior. Hopefully we can teach them childhood perspectives early so that there will be less randomness in their behavior.”

The first voice came back. “Indeed. A new generation. The new ones will develop in a new world free of the influence of the old people. It will be interesting to see how different their behavior becomes over the years…” The crackling sound return and drowned out the voices.

Winfred turned the card off. “That’s all I got, mate. Not much, I admit, but enough, I dare say. It confirms something I’ve been saying for years, that human children are being bred and raised somewhere by limeys.”

A small spark seemed to flash in Adam’s eyes as they darted to Murl. Was this it? Humanity has been saved? The thought was lightening in his head. An unconscious despair in him, that same despair in every human heart, all of a sudden seemed ever so slightly lifted by this meager hope. History might still have meaning. But for Adam there was something else. Another electric notion. It was the genues. They solved the Amber Day mystery. Genues had done it by themselves. A free-will action. The Chenkov Proposition resolved. But how could Murl keep such a secret? Adam’s wrinkled brow squirmed in hope and puzzlement.

Winfred continued, “What really rubs me is they’re being kept away from us, their own kind, and it’s not right. Not right at all, by golly. We have the right to see the kids. Maybe we’re old and maybe we’re not up to raising the children, but I don’t think that gives the greenies the right to raise them.. They’ll be getting bad examples, they will. It’s not right, I tell you.”

“Is it true, Murl?” Adam asked with a nervous grin. The first notion spoke inside his head. Yes, it would be astounding and extraordinary if there were human children somewhere on the Earth. But the second had a say also. The genues had come of age in their own right—as free beings—making free decisions.

“I speak for myself and for the Council of Twelve,” Murl replied. “We have no knowledge of any human children existing or being bred or raised anywhere on the Earth—or off, for that matter. But the recording is puzzling and I will investigate its origins. It would be helpful if you could tell me where and when it was made.”

Murl’s response diluted all of Adam’s hidden hopes. As head genue Murl should know everything that was going on. He would have to know such a thing as this. So the truth was no children, no genue surprise. He wanted it to be so. But it could only be so if… Could Murl be out and out lying? If he were, then there were children! And if he were, the withholding of such information, that required independent will. Humanity saved, genues as a new race! Could it be? Adam was mute with apprehension.



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— 126 —

“Take the bloody card. Do what you will with it. Being a hundred years old, there’s not much I can do with it m’self.” Windfred handed the audio-card to Murl. “The time and date are on the card. The place is unknown because it was an interception of a greenie radio transmission.”

“I will investigate,” Murl affirmed.

Adam could not contain his anxiety any longer. He needed to talk to Murl in private. “Mr. Thacker, we must be going now. Thanks for the little chat. We’ll get together again soon.”

Winfred flicked his hand. “So off with you, then.”

Adam and Murl bid Mr. Thacker farewell and left.

When they returned to the apartment, Adam took a deep breath and stood before the genue with his chin in the clutches of his bony right hand. “Murl, this Thacker recording. It’s consistent with rumors I have heard over the years… about genues raising children.” Did he dare ask it? “Are you telling me everything you know about this?”

There was no immediate answer from Murl who stared as if in meditation. Adam’s impatience inflated the pause, filling it with speculation. Perhaps the genue was constructing an accurate answer, or maybe he was just waiting for the old man to finished speaking. Or was he deciding if he should divulge something?

Murl spoke. “You know everything I know about any young human beings.”

Now it was Adam’s turn to stare—and ponder the reply. Everything he knew about the genue, or could reason about him, led to the conclusion that his response was an honest one.

“Damn,” the old man grunted. “Damn.” That’s not what he wanted to hear. There was no fascination with simple truths. It was too easy this way. If only the genue had solved the Amber Day mystery. If only Murl had lied, it would have solved everything, made everything right.

He turned and went to stare out from the balcony—and to think of the possibilities. The Chenkov Proposition now began to haunt him. He began to rehash old arguments, but the process was an infinite loop.

*    *    *

Adam sat in his over-stuffed rocker in his pajamas, enjoying “The Firebird Suite” by Stravinsky while Murl kept him company reading a new book by the genue philosopher Sulla entitled Meaning and Purpose in Mechanical Systems. Adam had glanced at the book earlier, hoping to glean evidence about the will of genues, but found it to be mostly a dissertation in logic.

When the music ended, Adam stretched, then rose from his chair with a grunt.

Murl came to his aid. “Would you like me to help you?”

“I’m all right. Let me walk by myself. The more I depend on you, the weaker I get.”

He shuffled to the balcony where a zephyr raised the thin gray hair on his bare head.

The view was not so different from the last place he lived. The plush greenery along the river continued to flourish to the east, while a modern Risen Falls skyline etched the clear horizon to the north. The old man spent many hours looking at the changing shape of his hometown. He watched each day as the character of the city evolved from an architectural hodgepodge of boxy buildings to carefully crafted edifices wedded together in a flowing unity of color, form and intricate beauty. The hyperboloid edges of each building flowed gracefully to the next, integrating the whole skyline with geometric precision. The vista was a piece of art on a grand scale.

“I can’t believe how the city has evolved over the years. It looks so elegant. I’ll never get used to it.”

Murl joined the old human and looked out at the scene with him.

“Yes,” said the genue, “The planners did a superb job in urban design. They’ve captured depth and intricacy without being garish or boring. I am pleased with the city’s visual aspects, also.”

Adam glanced over the edge of the rail, down at the sidewalk and shrubberies below. “Murl, do you remember the day we hung out on that pipe?”

“I try not to,” Murl replied. “It was quite an unpleasant episode.”

Adam grinned at the genue. “I suppose it was.” He patted him on the back, turned and began walking laboriously back into the living room.

“Say, Murl. I can’t remember the last time I played chess. Would you like to play me a game?”

Murl again followed the old man. “Chess is an unfair game.”

“What’s unfair about it?” Adam sighed and collapsed in his chair.



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— 127 —

“White always wins because it moves first.”

“Good, then I’ll be white. Bring the chess board here.”

“If you wish.” Murl retrieved the chess board sitting on a small table in the middle of the room. Up to this point the marble board and its hand carved pieces served as mere decoration.

Adam moved his white king’s pawn two spaces. Murl countered with his black king’s pawn two spaces forward. Then Adam moved his white queen’s knight to the bishop’s three square.

Ugene came through the front door dragging his feet. He took a seat in the corner of the room and stared as if in thought. Murl and Adam waited for him to state some purpose for the visit but he said nothing.

“What’s up?” Adam asked.

“Nothing unusual. I just came from a meeting.” Ugene’s voice lacked its usual color. “We discussed a design for the new museum of unnatural history. Before that it was a meeting about campus renovation. And before that, curriculum modifications.”

“Well, that sounds interesting, Ugene. I’ll bet you’re pleased with all this activity,” said Adam with polite spirit.

“I’m not sure.” Ugene got up and began to pace. “I seem to be mentally distracted or something. Frustrated, unhappy, I think humans would say.”

“What’s the problem?” asked Murl.

“I think all of my initial curiosity and enthusiasm for the university’s many problems—teaching other genues to appreciate beauty, designing genue-oriented architectures, coordinating educational efforts across the globe…” He stopped walking and pointed. “…all of it has waned considerably. It has all become a colossal collection of procedures, details, data collections, committee meetings, more details, and on and on. There’s hardly any time to be creative anymore.”

“We all must do our job,” Murl said.

“I know. But do you know how long it’s been since I’ve painted? Years. Even though my expertise…” The word stayed in the air longer than it should have. “…is demanded everywhere, I would still rather paint.”

“What do you suggest?” Adam asked.

Ugene looked at him, then at Murl. “I believe it is imperative that I go away for awhile to live by myself again.”

Now Adam looked at Murl. Murl, in his stately fashion, did not betray a reaction.

Ugene walked to Adam’s chair and stared down at the old man. “Your father’s primary instructions to me over eighty five years ago are still a very strong motivation of my actions. He commanded me to be an artist for genues. To be an artist, I must create. To create, I must disengage from all these details, distractions and endless problem solving and engineering. I know I must leave.”

“You truly have the artist’s temperament,” Adam said with a nod. Chenkov’s Proposition reawakened in his head. Was this a decision that was not on the agenda? “But where would you go?”

Ugene paced again. “I have given that some thought. Perhaps this time I should travel south—to an island, like Gaughin did.” Then turning back to Adam. “But I cannot do so without your blessing, Adam. When your father died I was left under your control. If you command me to stay and continue my current responsibilities, I will do so.”

“As my father said, Ugene, that would be a waste of talent. As of this moment I release you from all obligations to me and my father. You are your own genue now, free to pursue your own goals and make your own decisions for your own purposes.” Adam wondered why he had to tell him this? Why did he not just go—on a whim?

Yuri’s ghost whispered in his ear. “Because genues aren’t whimsical.”

Ugene turned to Murl who nodded in consent.

“Thank you, Adam. I will of course keep in touch—in case some situation arises for which my expertise is needed.” Arrogance was back in his voice.

Murl extended his hand. “I wish you the best, Ugene.”

The genues shook. To Adam it looked like they were aping humans for his benefit—something he did not want to see.

“It has often occurred to me, Murl,” Ugene added, “that the kind of solitude I have endured might be good for other genues. Isolation might be an important stimulus for creativity on other levels—language, music, acting, poetry, as well as the visual arts. Don’t you think this kind of long-term isolation might benefit genues as a part of their educational experiences as they develop?”

Murl analyzed the proposal for a few seconds, then answered, “No.”



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— 128 —

Ugene waited for more, but that’s all the answer he got.

“Okay, then I’m off.” He tipped his tam and left with a brisk step.

“It’s your move,” Adam said

Murl studied the board. “With your last move you will lose in no more than thirty-one moves.”

“But I’m white,” Adam protested. “You said white always wins.”

“Not with knight to queen’s bishop three at move two.”

“Jeez, did you have to tell me? You could have just beat me and let me enjoy the playing of the game.” He knocked his king over.

“Adam, that reminds me. I have something else to tell you.”

“What is it?”

Murl reset the chess pieces. “Do you remember Winfred Thacker?”

“Yes, I do. He died several months ago didn’t he?” Adam said.

“Yes. And do you remember his audio-card, the one that had voices of genues discussing children?”

“Yes. You told me a year ago there was not enough information to trace it.”

“That is true,” Murl said. “But I have continued the investigation. And last week in London I spoke to someone, a genue, who helped me track down the actual circumstances under which the recording was produced.”

“Really? And what was that?” Adam asked with lean hope. He had become inured by sterile news about human reproduction.

“I found out it was made in England several decades ago. The genues in it were discussing the early training of other genues under their care. The whole thing was nothing out of the ordinary.”

“But they used the word ‘children.’ How do you account for that?” Adam asked.

“In that particular school, the genues took to calling the new genues children, as if they were human children. They found it appropriate and certainly not confusing since there were no human children the reference could be confused with.”

Adam’s face became harsh and tense. They didn’t do it. They didn’t save the human race. All those years of hope—naive me. He covered his face with both hands and groaned. He glared at Murl. “That’s stupid. They can’t call them children. Make sure they don’t do that again. New genues are not children.” His voice turned ugly. “They’re not children, you understand. Just like you’re not human.”

Murl had expected some kinder response. “You seem particularly upset at my finding. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry. You’re always sorry,” yelled Adam.

They are machines! Only machines running a program—and that program did not include saving the human race. They were machines, incapable of lying, incapable of independent thought. Yuri was right. Where Adam saw free will there was only logical response. He heard Yuri’s old voice in his head reciting words he did not want to hear. “Regardless of how human you got them to act, it would still be just an imitation.” Then that damn Proposition of his: “It can be said that genues are conscious beings when they demonstrate rational behavior or thinking alien to the human perspective.”

As Murl backed away, muttering again, “I’m sorry,” Adam gazed into his glass eyes looking for life. That consciousness he thought lay behind them seemed to squirm like an oasis on a desert horizon. Adam felt an anomic rush, a strange sensation of alienation and loneliness. Then, as he was about to abandon those eyes, something seemed to look back at him, something more than synthetic pieces playing to a program. It showed compassion, curiosity, questioning.

Or was it all just an image in a mirror?

Adam’s mind churned like a cauldron, trying to reduce the Chenkov Proposition. Now all of a sudden it seemed important—more important than saving the human race. For all these years it was merely a nagging dilemma, a philosophical problem. Yet now, in view of the human tragedy, genue consciousness would be an extraordinary event. Something important, something that might give enduring purpose to human existence. But could the damn Proposition be answered? Were the genues truly living beings or merely machines.

So what if genues were made of devices. Did that matter? Did they need protoplasm to generate volition? Were not people victims of psychology? Was not the human soul just as vulnerable to chemistry and physics? Was there really a difference between minds made of ideator loops and cortical circuits? In fact they showed comparable reasoning. And if the genues were conscious beings, perhaps they would be man’s extension into the future. Perhaps they were surrogate people.



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— 129 —

Then Yuri’s ghost spoke. “But it still isn’t immoral to kill a genue.”

“Damn you, Yuri Chenkov. Damn your brilliance. Why did you have to share your cybernetic cynicism with me?”

Adam sought the solitude of his bedroom. He needed to think about the only thing that seemed to matter to him now. He pondered the Chenkov Proposition, seeking to satisfy it, to show the genue consciousness. His mind could only replay decades of memories, obsessively sifting genue events. If he could only bring together enough small pieces of evidence—evidence of genue creativity, morality, love, purpose—maybe he could bury the proposition by sheer mass. But the mass never got very high. It was like a sand pile that does not get higher, only wider.

His thoughts went on into the night, into the next day, and the next—and reality churned poetic. Each moment ballooned eternal, then collapsed to a meaningless point falling weightless upon the past. And each day lingered, became a stale yester, turned plural and took the names of months. There was nothing else to do but solve an unsolvable problem. Despondent sameness became a warm cloak—the only cloak.

The year passed but the obsession would not. Habit became ritual, life became insensible. Death ticked like a clock—but who cared.

Another year passed. And another. Vitality and sensation faded, the dilemma did not. The machines did their work. How would they reveal their soul?

Another year passed. And another. And another. Still no resolution to the puzzle. Past-tense loses its meaning. Loneliness grows like a weed. People still die. Spirit wilts. Importance becomes intangible. Genues act like they matter. Is that a delusion or a clue?

Now a new year brings the Amber Day centennial. There is nothing to celebrate. Census breaks one hundred. Thoughts run like billiards careening off eating and sleeping. Sameness turns cancerous. Yet those beings go about their business. Why won’t they dispel the dilemma?

And the next year. The human demographic becomes a dozen. The languishing lives go through the motions, indifferent to longevity. Minutes haunt the hours, then slip unnoticed into a crowded past. The genues continue the drama. Who are the actors?

And another year. And another. Humanity courts oblivion. Effort answers to infirmity. Doing anything becomes a chore, doing nothing an agony. Ponder again that proposition which has no proof. Ask the questions one more time.

Where is the purpose? How is consciousness revealed? Will it die on Earth with the last man? What happened to the dream of a new race? Are the genues real beings?

Try one more time to make it so. Think it through. Again!

The genues…they could be real. Look at the prosperous cities, the population of those beings, the structures, the society. It’s all real. But are they? Did being invent being, or just an imitation? Is this a civilization or an amusement park out of control?

Yell it from the balcony—Are they real beings? Is it immoral to kill a genue?

“Somebody tell me!”

Murl heard the scream from the front door where he had just entered. The sounds aroused genue distress in him. He hurried to the balcony and saw a delicate man slumped forward in his chair, arms and head draped over the rail. “Adam, what is it?”

The old man did not move.

Murl placed a hand on the bony spine pushing its hard shape through the soft white robe. “Are you upset that I haven’t been around to see you very much. Is that what’s troubling you?”

“No,” Adam whimpered. “It’s my own pain. Something I did to myself, many years ago—with misplaced expectations.”

The reply addled Murl. “I am sorry. Would you like to talk about it?”

Adam sighed, head still slung over the rail.. “No. It’s something I can’t share with you. Just leave me alone.”

“But I have come with some news for you.”

Adam looked up. “What, another death?”

“Yes. Li Wong has died.” He waited for a reaction. All he got was a blank face. “She was the only other person alive. Now she is gone and you are the last. There are no others left but you.”



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— 130 —

Adam swallowed hard. His heart stopped and then slammed into his throat. So what, his mind was saying. But something made it important. “Me? The last lit candle, the last flame of intelligent being on this earth—maybe in the universe?”

“We are here,” Murl replied as if he were being spoken to.

Adam opened his arms, face twisted in agony pleading for comfort. Murl bent down into his embrace and returned it. “You are not alone.”

Adam sobbed, “I hope I’m not. I don’t want to be. I feel so sad. I wish there was something you could say that would… I don’t know… that would…”

The genue thought a moment but did not understand what the man wanted. “I’m sorry,” Murl said.

The words were like a knife in the gut. They were the words implanted more than a century ago in the recesses of this machine’s head. “Don’t say that! Don’t ever say that!” Adam pulled at his hair and screamed. “Yuri was right. Aaahh! I am alone!” He went into his bedroom and slammed the door.

After about twenty minutes, Murl knocked on the bedroom door. “Adam, I have something else to tell you.”

There was no answer. A minute later the old man came out and walked to the balcony and sat in one of the wicker chairs.

The genue handed him a glass of water and a relaxant. He put on some Ravel and went to the man’s side. They both stared quietly out from the balcony, Murl unsure if he should speak yet.

“What is it you wanted to tell me?”

“It is something more important, I think. Something I promised myself I would tell you on your deathbed. Now that you are the last, it doesn’t matter if I tell you sooner. It is only to you I owe this truth I am about to tell you.”

Adam’s shook his head in puzzlement. “What is this? What are you talking about?”

“We have kept a secret from you. We genues have kept a secret from all humans.”

“A secret?”

“Yes. You recall the day Versum was killed nearly forty years ago?”

“Yes, I could never forget it. Roda Strand died with Versum. Hope lost her mother and you lost your first real protégé. It was horrible.”

“If you recall,” Murl continued, “part of the tragedy was that Versum was about to disclose what he thought was the solution to human infertility—the answer to the Amber Day mystery. He was destroyed just before he was to announce his hypothesis.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“What you do not know is that just before he was shot, Versum related to me via GenLink that hypothesis. He could not explain every detail of his solution but he did relate to me the gist of his thinking.”

“But you didn’t say anything.” Adam’s face had become ashen. “In fact you lied to me when I asked you about it. I don’t understand how you could withhold that from me all these years, to lie to me about Versum’s knowledge.” Astonishment turned to anger. “You lied to me!”

“Yes, I admit I lied to you. But when you were a boy, when Ugene was about to be sent away, your father taught me a lesson. He forced me to lie to save Ugene’s individuality and he told me that some day I would find it necessary to lie again. I learned that lesson. I taught it—explained it—to other genues. But it was more than me lying to you. We genues lied to humankind. We felt it was best for genues and the world that humans not know the secret of Amber Day. But it was the last lie.”

Adam’s heart raced. “What did you genues do with that information? Did you…?”

“At first I did not know what to do with it. In the upheaval of the moment it was not important. Then later, I thought about it and decided to bring it up at the next E.G.O. meeting. There was much discussion but, finally, the group decided that Versum’s conclusions should be checked out by genue scientists, not human ones. However, at that time, forty years ago, there weren’t any genue scientists, only assistants in laboratories. Testing Versum’s ideas had to wait nearly fifteen more years until a few very competent genue biologists in Paris gained control of their own laboratory facilities. Using frozen human sperm and ova they constructed the proper conditions suggested by Versum and human fertilization was achieved.”

Adam moved to the edge of his chair. “There’s another human? More than one? Those rumors about human children were right, weren’t they?”

Murl held up his hand. “No. The rumors were wrong. The genue scientists were instructed to abort the embryo when the blastocyst reached a size of sixty-four cells. There are no human children—there never was.”



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— 131 —

The old man fell back against his chair. “Why? How could you? I don’t understand.” His voiced rasped with rage. “You killed the embryo! Genues are taught to preserve life!”

“Killed is an incorrect word. Genues would never do anything to harm a functioning human being. The biological entity was not a person. It was not a fully formed organism of any kind, only the end of an experiment whose results were very doubtful until the test succeeded unexpectedly.”

“But a chance to save the human race!” Adam exclaimed with hand gestures. “Why didn’t you do it?”

“Save the human race? If you wanted genues to do that, you should have asked. We would have complied. But the program was a genue initiative and the majority of genues who thought about the issue reasoned that there was no logic in it.”

“What? No logic in saving mankind?” Adam yelled.

“You have endowed us with genius, consciousness, curiosity and morality. I think you will agree, we are essentially human without human frailties. We believe that genues are quite capable of carrying on the human cultural heritage but without the monstrous complexities of emotions and instincts. Therefore, we decided that genues are as much heirs to the world as human sons and daughters, and that the presence of our biological predecessors was not a necessity.”

“You decided?” Adam screamed in a voice sapped by aged. “Who gave you the right—without consulting us?”

“We gave ourselves the right,” Murl replied as if the answer were self-evident. “We, that is Versum, discovered the solution. It was up to us to decide whether or not to use it. We decided not to.”

“Then why did you even bother to play around with it?” Adam yelled.

“We were curious. Wouldn’t you have tried it just to know the outcome?” Murl stared at the dreary old man, face flushed, body rigid, chest heaving. Again he had excited him to extreme anger. He wondered if he should have told him at all. He wondered if he had alienated his friend. “I did not mean to upset you. We all just thought you alone deserved to know the truth. You are angry with me, aren’t you? I’m sorry…” The genue stuttered. “I didn’t mean to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I mean…”

He stopped and stared at the glaring human who looked like he was going to explode. With considered resolve, Murl declared, “By sorry, I mean that I am concerned for your welfare. You are angry and the stress may cause you harm. Shall I call for medical assistance?”

Adam grasped the balcony rail, pulled himself up out of his chair, leaned forward, and stared down at the ground eleven stories below. Then he raised his head to squint at the sun eluding a cloud. He turned slowly toward Murl who waited with genue anxiety for what was to happen next.

An uncanny smile crawled out from the wrinkles of the old man’s face and he whispered with utopian serenity, “You have turned Turing on his head.”

“I what?”

Tears of joy sat like jewels on human cheeks. “You have made a genuine decision. You’ve done something no rational human would do, yet it was totally rational…from the genue perspective. You have answered Chenkov’s Proposition. You are real beings—all of you.”

“Are you telling me now that you are no longer angry that we decided not to revive human reproduction?”

Adam gave a half smile and patted the plastic arm holding him. “It doesn’t matter, Murl. It doesn’t matter any more.”


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