LAST NURSERY SCHOOL CLOSES
SCHOOLS BRACE FOR DECLINING ENROLLMENTS
GENUE PRODUCTION MORE THAN DOUBLES
That last headline brought a smile to Micael‘s face. He read the accompanying story not for the information, but to wallow in his pride. He leaned back in his leather chair, put his feet up on the oak desk, and put his arms behind his head. “You know, Murl, I never dreamt we’d be living in such a spacious home.”
Murl, who was washing the tall windows overlooking the pool and patio, recognized the communication as chit-chat and responded, “This is a fine house.”
“I particularly love this room with all the mahogany paneling.”
“Yes, the paneling is nice, too.” Murl noticed dark clouds forming in the western sky. It confirmed the weather report for rain at 11:56 this May morning.
A small voice rippled through the tranquillity of the study. “Daddy, whatsha doing?” Little Adam dressed in his red and white pullover and short blue pants ran to his father.
“Hi, Adam.” He picked up the six-year old and put him on his lap. “I’m just reading the news. See, it says here, ‘Last Child, Adam Wyman, Completes Kindergarten.’”
“That’s me. I’m Adam Wyman.” He pondered a moment. “Why am I the last child?”
“Because no one has been born after you.”
“Because a strange cloud…” Micael paused and rubbed his chin. “Because something happened to…” He looked at Adam’s big eyes. “Well, just because there haven’t been any more babies in the world. But maybe someday soon scientists will fix all that. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
“I see babies on I-port shows,” said Adam. “But I never saw a real one.”
“It’s been awhile since anyone has,” replied Micael. Then more to himself than Adam he mumbled, “No toddlers in the park, or in the malls, or even in the movies much anymore. Politicians aren’t kissing babies, stores aren’t using them in ads. You don’t see cribs or diapers or baby food or cute infant clothes or toys in the stores. The word ‘baby’ is still used, but it’s meaning has grown up with the last generation and now refers to six-year-olds. How the world has changed. And it happened so slowly no one really noticed.”
Adam studied the toe of his sock.
Murl spoke. “I’m finished in here. I will mow the lawn next.”
“No,” Micael replied, “I don’t want you working in the rain.”
“Then I will not. But the moisture will do no harm to me.”
“I know, but it’ll still be messy, all those grass clippings sticking to everything.” Micael studied the genue gathering up his cleaning equipment. “By the way, how’s the new DuroDerm skin feel? I don’t want to put an upgrade into production until you give it the okay.”
“A little tight,” Murl said. Then he recalled one of those canned phrases he had heard humans use so often. “But I suppose it’s what you get used to.”
“And the ideator loops. How are they functioning?”
“The ideator loops have brought a strange phenomenon upon me. I now find myself thinking even when I am in the idle state. It used to be that after I had completed a task or responded to a request, I would go into a pause. I could perceive things well enough, but there was no thought. I was dependent on outside signals to restart me, to motivate me. But now it is as if I had an internal eye that can look around in my head, that can examine my memories, and can track several notions at the same time. My brain seems to be responding, not only to external stimuli, but to itself. I realize it is the ideator loops that are providing the thought strings, and each is competing for central focus, to rise above the attention threshold, but…” Murl stopped talking for a moment. “I’m sorry. It seems the loop assigned to respond to you got below threshold. To answer your question, my ideator loops are functioning quite well, although they may take some time getting used to.”
Oblivioun's Children — Chapter 3: Ideation
Adam, who did not understand anything being said, jumped down from his father’s lap and walked to the door leading to the yard. The glass partition slid open and then closed behind him.
“Micael, may I ask you something?”
“Sure, Murl. What is it?”
“Before I had ideator loops, I knew the word ‘happiness’ as a description of certain human states that were portrayed in my training videos. I knew it existed by the evidence, such as smiles, laughter, and a certain look. Now in my thinking I realize I don’t know what ‘happiness’ really is. I don’t understand its function or necessity. Can you explain what it is?”
“Hhhmmm.” Micael bit his thumb “You know when you have a task, like cleaning those windows, there is some goal to that task. You have a notion as to what the result should be. If you perform the task correctly it causes what we call a program congruity peak. Something analogous to a feeling.”
“That congruity peak is happiness?” asked Murl.
“Perhaps ‘satisfaction’ is a more anthropomorphic word. Satisfaction is a close cousin to happiness. Only, happiness can occur without the precursor of a task, at least in us biological creatures. Do you see what I mean?”
Murl did not answer. He was staring out the large glass panels into the yard. The image of a child thrashing in water raced at the speed of light through his head. It was not right. He must act quickly. He dashed across the room, smashed through the large glass window without breaking stride. Micael jumped up and looked out into the yard, seeing little Adam’s frantic splashing in the swimming pool. He ran through the shattered sliding door.
Murl jumped into the pool feet first thrusting up a cylinder of water. Standing in three feet of water the genue grabbed the child and hoisted him over his head. He sloshed a few steps and placed the child on the pool’s edge. Adam sat up coughing and spitting while Murl climbed out.
Micael stooped down and patted the boy’s back. “Adam, damn it, didn’t I tell you not to go near the pool without an adult nearby?”
Adam began to sob as he tried to answer.
“What happened to the glass?” Dawna stepped through the broken door. Then she saw her baby, water dripping from his clothes. “My god. Why is he crying? What’s happened? Is he okay?”
“Yes, yes. He’s all right. He got to the pool when we weren’t watching. Murl pulled him out.” He ran his hand over the water beads running down the genue’s green plastic skin. “Murl, how did you know he was in danger?”
“When I saw him thrashing in the water, I recalled something tragic from my experience training, a movie called Titanic. The context suggested immediate action.”
“You probably saved Adam’s life. I feel like we should reward you somehow,” Micael said.
“Yes, we want to give you something that will give you happiness—like we were discussing.”
“I see.” The genue thought several seconds. “It would give me satisfaction to repair the shattered glass windows.”
Dawna nodded as she stretched out her arms to received Adam. “That would be nice.”
Micael winked at her. “It’s a deal.” He handed Adam to her. “Give this young man a talking to, will you? I’ve got to get to a meeting at the plant.”
“You’ll miss Roda,” she said, wrapping her arms around the child. “She says she’s got astonishing news. Says it will shock the world.”
Micael replied over his shoulder as he headed back toward the house. “If she said nothing, that would shock the world.”
Markam Morris tapped the gavel twice and the chatter in the large conference room dissolved to a few random coughs. The short, stocky president and chairman of the board of Vomisa Corporation rose to speak. His hand stroked the black and gray curls of hair on his round head.
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to our May corporate officers’ meeting. I would like to start by congratulating you people here in Risen Falls for getting this new facility up and running in such a short time. We really need the added capacity. As you know, we at Vomisa are producing the only truly humanoid interacting synthetic servant. Our patented experiential memory systems have been imitated, but, as our sales records show, we have no real competition. We are producing 130 genues a day at our Flatpoint facility, and now, with the opening of this new building in Risen Falls, we are producing an additional 350 genues each day.”
The room buzzed with sounds of approval.
Oblivioun's Children — Chapter 3: Ideation
“It now gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the man most responsible for our success, our chief project engineer, Dr. Micael Wyman. It was Micael’s tireless efforts and ingenious designs that have led to the incredible success of the genue product line of Vomisa Corporation.” President Morris placed his hand on Micael’s shoulder. “We’re indebted to you, Micael. And now you can give us your first report as the newest vice-president of Vomisa. Congratulations.”
Micael stood up and everyone applauded. Vice-president. Wow, wait until I tell Dawna! He cleared his throat. “Thank you, President Morris. I’m honored to be a vice-president of Vomisa Corp.” He looked down at his notes. “In addition to the new facility at Risen Falls, I am proud to announce several major enhancements to the genue system. First, beginning this week all genues will be covered with a new skin called DuroDerm, patented and produced by Vomisa. It will enable genue touch sensitivity almost equaling a human’s. It’s soft, yet nearly impenetrable. It’s clear but not glossy and should allow maximum light penetration for energy conversion. And with our new immersion application, there will be absolutely no external passage into the genue. This means no internal contamination of any kind without puncture.” The members around the table, some whispering to others, smiled and nodded. Micael walked over to the presentation screen and continued.
“Now I would like to present to you an even more dramatic enhancement to the genue. It is called the ‘ideator loop’.” Micael waved his hand and a three dimensional genue skull appeared to float in space. It split in half revealing a profusion of electronics and wires. “This is the new genue brain. As you can see,” he pointed at a set of small components in the right hemisphere, “here, as in the current genue brain, are the memory residuals leading into the collating analyzer. This leads to the motor response pool with a shunt to the amygdala circuit which provides the sensory interface. What we have added are these ideator loops here on the left. These loops are circular memory integrators, thoughts actually, that are joined to…”
“Just a second,” interrupted Markam Morris. “Micael, you’ll have to forgive us, but we’re not syn-psy engineers. I’m afraid this presentation isn’t telling us very much. Why don’t you just tell us how these innovations will be manifested in the performance of the genue.”
Micael reddened. “Excuse me. Of course.” He thought for a moment, then began again. “Basically, what we’ve added to the genue is the ability to hold an idea, and to have it become the stimulus for the rest of the brain. The genue will no longer just be reactive to environmental stimuli. The ideator loops will give them a sort of primitive self-awareness and the ability to make more complex value judgments.”
A gray-haired woman sitting at the far end of the table tapped her finger to get Micael’s attention. “Dr. Wyman. By God’s grace, what does this primitive self-awareness you talk of add? We have an excellent product now. I don’t see any point in making the artie more humanlike. You know, I’ve already sensed a certain animosity toward our product. There is resentment out there by people who view our genues as a threat to their jobs.”
Micael had never seen this woman at annual meetings before. He was eager to respond. “But… Msss…”
“Abellina Fye, is the name,” the old woman said with her chin up.
He nodded. He was impressed by her refinement. She might have been attractive decades ago, but now, with her age written indelibly across her bony face and the skin crinkled around her neck like some loose fitting garment, elegance was her measure.
“Ms. Fye. Every year the world population drops by 100 million people. There won’t be people to fill all the jobs. By making the genue a truly thinking being it will be possible for them to take on some occupations where we have shortages and may continue to have.”
The woman raised her nose in the air. “Young Doctor Wyman, I see the news. I know all about the declining population. I also know we are on the verge of playing God by creating something that thinks like a human being. What innovation do you plan on introducing next, sir, a soul for the artie?”
“Genues, Abellina,” prodded Markham, “They’re genues.”
From the other side of the table came a soft response. “Explain how the soul works and what its function is and perhaps we can incorporate it into our next model.” Everybody looked at the man, who, realizing his impertinence, bowed his head and pretended to be writing something.
“And who might you be, young man?” Fye asked.
“That’s Yuri Chenkov,” Markham said. “He’s head of the memory division under Wyman. And co-designer of the ideator loops, I believe.”
Micael saved him. “We’re not talking souls. We’re talking about the ability to take initiative. Genues that stand around waiting for commands will have limited use. Even as a housekeeper the genue must be able to maintain long-term goals in memory when performing tasks as simple as cleaning and picking up. If it doesn’t, it has to be told each time what to do.”
“I think that’s what people want,” asserted Abellina. “They want control. They want to do the telling.”
“But it may be years yet before the population decline is halted. And what if it doesn’t stop? Then what?” asked Yuri.
Oblivioun's Children — Chapter 3: Ideation
“I see,” Abellina huffed. “That’s what this is all about, Mr. Wyman. You and your smart ass genius over there think you can build replacements for people out of plastic and beams of light. Well, let me tell you something. That is not what my late husband had in mind when he started this company. No, sir. He wanted to be a simple supplier of servo’s to the RT Corp. He would turn over in his grave if he saw what we’re making now.”
“But all we’re saying is that as the population falls…”
“And I don’t know if mankind is headed the way of the dinosaur, and, frankly, I’m not sure I care. That’s God’s decision. But whatever happens to our species, I believe it is wrong, even if it’s possible, to try to create a being as our equal. God made us to serve Him. Not to imitate Him.”
“I didn’t say our equal.”
“You did say ‘self awareness,’ did you not? You did use the words ‘complex value judgments,’ did you not? That scares me, Mr. Wyman. Remember what happened to the people of Babel? Yes, they tried to play God, didn’t they.” Abellina paused and sniffled.
She continued. “Amber Day! Amber Day! Think about it, Mr. Wyman. It’s God’s warning. Yes, sir. Don’t you think it coincidental that it happened just as we introduced this new fangled artie?”
Micael bit his thumb. First I have to argue with a humanist fanatic, now a religious nut. He started to answer. “Ms. Fye, you don’t really believe…”
“Here, here, people!” Markam Morris interrupted. “This is not the time for philosophical discussions. Abellina, I can see your point—you know I do. We’ve talked about this before, when you agreed to the introduction of the genue almost six years ago. And you did agree.”
“But I never thought that it would…”
Markham showed her his palm with a stiff arm. “And I told you I personally will not be upgrading my own genue. But if we don’t incorporate these changes, our competition will. We’ve got to expand our customer base.”
Another board member raised his hand. “Quite right. You know, the Fuji robot by Pome Systems is particularly popular with artists.”
Morris continued. “Yes, that’s right. We’ve got to stay ahead; add improvements. And I cannot see how these changes could possibly pose problems for humans. Most importantly, Abellina, they’re already in production.”
“Murl, you can finish repairing the window later. Come play Crazy Eights with Adam… and don’t always win,” Dawna commanded.
“I will do my best.” Murl placed the glazing tools down on his work caddie and went into the large family room and knelt on the floor at Adam’s miniature table.
Thunder broke the soft sounds of Murl and Adam playing cards and drops of rain began to wiggle down the large picture window. Dawna stared out through the water streaks, brushing her long black hair, waiting for Roda, wondering what sort of shocking news she had.
A red and silver sports wagon sloshed up the driveway. Dawna jumped up and hurried to open the front door. From the covered porch, she waved to Roda getting out of her car and the brown-complected girl reaching out to be carried by her mother.
“I’m pregnant!” Roda splashed up the walkway lugging a curly haired child on her hip. “Can you believe it? I’m pregnant!”
“What? Are you kidding?” exclaimed Dawna as they came through the door. She wiggled her fingers at the little girl. “Hi, Hope.”
Roda stopped in the foyer and put the child down. As she shook the off rain, her eyes followed the tangled green vines from the vaulted ceiling to the glossy parquet floor. “Goodness, galore, Dawna. Your house is fabulous. Hickory paneling, Spanish tile, textured walls, silver knobs. This is the neatest place this side of death. You lucky goose.”
“Yes, we’ve been doing very well.” Dawna turned to little Hope. “My aren’t you pretty. You’ve grown so much since I last saw you.”
The girl buried her chin in her shoulder. “I’m six and a half years old.”
“Yes you are. Would you like to play with Adam?”
Dawna led her guests to the family room. “Adam, Hope is here.”
When Roda saw the backside of a genue sitting on the floor beside Adam her smile dissolved and she uttered, “Oh.”
Murl, who was trying to lose at Crazy Eights while still following the rules, turned around. He saw a red-haired woman whose large eyes stared unblinking at him. He looked at the child by her side but did not recognize her. He looked back at the woman and saw in his head a barbeque, a flying baby, and red hot coals. Then he remembered a kick in the stomach, and angry words. There was no valence to these memories. They were just there. He looked again at the child and reasoned that she must have been the baby called Hope. He turned back to the game and played a card.
Oblivioun's Children — Chapter 3: Ideation
Dawna said, “Adam, I’d like you to play with Hope while Roda and I visit for a while.”
“Okay,” he answered. “Can Murl play with us too?”
Roda took a step backwards pulling on Hope. “I don’t think…”
Dawna noticed her discomfort. “Some other time, Adam. Murl needs to go back to fixing the windows in the study.”
The genue got up. “I understand.” He approached the doorway.
Roda put Hope behind her and gave him wide berth to leave. When he was gone she gave Hope a pat on the head. “Now you can play with Adam.”
Dawna smiled. “They’ll be okay. Let’s go sit in the living room. We’ll be able to hear them from there.”
Roda followed her friend down the hallway. “I didn’t mean to… Well, you know, it’s not just the barbecue thing… or your artie… or whatever.”
In the living room they sat at opposite ends of a mauve sofa.
“You don’t have to explain,” Dawna said.
“It’s just that I’m not comfortable with any robots. You can never tell when they’ll go berserk on you. I know you have to have one around here. But I really don’t know how you put up with it. I imagine…”
“So tell me, Roda.” Dawna clapped her hands and beamed with excitement. “Are you really pregnant? Is it possible?”
Roda’s eyes lit up. “Oh, Dawna, let me tell you. I’ve been seeing this Afghani doctor, Nawh Usimi. He says he’s solved the Amber Day mystery. He knows how to make babies. And I’m his first client.”
“That’s great. Why isn’t it all over the news.”
“Dr. Usimi didn’t want anyone else to know about his research until we were sure I was pregnant.” She raised her hands in the air. “And I am!”
“How’d he do it?”
“He used comparative genetics. Since chimpanzees are the closest relative of humans and they haven’t been affected by Amber Day, Dr. Usimi compared their DNA to ours. He looked at how their fertilization occurs at the molecular level and correlated it to human fertilization.”
“And he found the answer?”
“Yes. So three weeks ago, he took sperm from Jake and an ovum from me and forced a union. Then he replanted the fertilized egg in me. And yesterday I found out it worked. Isn’t that the chips?”
“Boy, I bet the university’s going to get a lot of international attention.”
“Not really. Dr. Usimi doesn’t work for the university any more. He’s opened up his own lab and clinic just outside of town.”
Dawna took Roda’s hand. “Oh, I’m so happy for you. And think what this means for the world, for everyone. How many others are pregnant?”
“None. I’m the only one he’s performed this procedure on so far. He’s a very cautious man. He said I’d have to go the whole nine-month term and give birth before he’d repeat the process. Meanwhile, after his announcement tomorrow, he’s just going to take subscriptions and use the money to expand his facilities so that in nine months, when everything turns out okay, he can begin full scale, in vitro unions. You should sign up, Dawna. It’s only $180,000. If it doesn’t work, Dr. Usimi will return the money.”
“No thanks. I like my family just the way it is. Just me, Micael and Adam… oh, an Murl.”
The little electric two-seater pulled into a parking spot at the Risen Falls Fun*opolis. Murl took Adam’s hand and led the boy to the Heinlein people conveyor that snaked around the vast lot and threaded its way into the large entertainment complex. Adam’s little feet had to take several steps for each of Murl’s.
As they walked, Murl tried to figure out Dawna’s remark, her “little joke” as she called it. She said that by his attending to Adam all these years he had become a Fenchman. Once only a baby sitter, now a “chauffeur” and “chaperon.” She said it was a language joke, and then she did that human thing called laughing. He did not understand the response. But it did not matter. He knew he was not programmed for humor.
Oblivioun's Children — Chapter 3: Ideation
The boy with his toy laser gun tucked in his belt and his green companion hopped on the slow moving inner track of the three-stage conveyor, then moved to the middle track going a bit faster, and at last to the outermost track taking its passengers toward the mall at nearly fifteen kilometers per hour. Adam gawked at the people standing behind them. A short, obese woman smiled and flapped her fingers at him. The boy dropped his head in shyness. He then yanked on Murl’s arm.
“What is it, Adam?” Murl asked as the conveyor carried them through a portal into the interior of the immense building.
Adam bent his head back to look at the face of his tall chaperon and made an innocent, yet audible, observation. “That lady eats too much.”
Murl looked at the lady who was obviously insulted by the youngster’s comment. “It appears so,” he replied.
The woman’s mouth dropped open. “Why you…”
Murl, who was not expecting any reply, stepped onto each of the slower tracks of the conveyor, pulling Adam after him. With boy in hand, he marched away down the center concourse without looking back. Murl knew where he was going—he had made the trip several times before. Adam always wanted to go to the Crania-Mania down at the end of the left wing of the Buster Keaton Concourse with all the other pursuit games. Adam loved to jump and run through the mazes and dodge virtual hazards while solving, what seemed to Murl, trivial puzzles and mysteries. There were other game rooms, but Adam always wanted to go to Crania-Mania.
They both knew the way. The long walk took them by several playhouses, comedy clubs, casinos and museums. They strolled through a picnic area and around a water ride. Then they passed some ball courts, an aerobic spa, a sports bar, and sculptures and fountains of all kinds. As they walked, Adam put his head back and scanned the layered balconies overhead, wondering what strange places were hidden up there.
They had to dodge the throng coming at them and jostle with the horde going with them. The concourse bustled with all the oddities the human race was capable of producing. People tall, short, fat, skinny, pretty, ugly, old and young—but no babies. Through the mingling masses small taxis carrying one or two passengers darted about in fits and starts, sounding beeps that pricked the chaotic chorus of humanity.
They passed Horror Heaven, the Crafty Artsy Studio, and Olive Palm, the fortune teller. Across from the Wee Love pet shop, in the center of the concourse was a miniature Niagra Falls fountain.
Adam craned at the bubbling water as they walked. “I’m thirsty.”
“Perhaps we can stop at a refreshment store,” the genue answered.
In a few moments they found themselves standing in front of a blinking sign that read “Eat, Drink and Be Merry.” Murl studied the sign for a moment and concluded that this must be a refreshment store.
“You should be able to get something to drink in here.”
Murl pushed open the old, dark door next to the sign hanging on an opaque, stained-glass window. He followed the boy into a darkened reception area. Off to the left was a restaurant flickering in the lights of globed candles on small tables. A sign blocked their way, “Wait to be seated.” To the right was a narrow western-styled bar going down the length of the room. The lights were dim also, only they did not flicker. Murl observed the many glasses hanging from a ceiling rack and bottles along the back wall, so he decided that this must be where liquid supplements would be provided.
The place reeked of old beer and liquor rotting in the carpet but Murl could not smell anything and Adam did not notice. Murl led the child to the long polished counter and placed him on one of the swiveling stools. Adam set his toy laser gun down on the empty stool beside him. Murl remained standing beside the boy. An apple-faced man on the other side of the counter approached the odd couple.
“What can I do for you?” he asked with no joy.
“Adam would like something to drink, please,” responded Murl.
“We don’t serve minors.”
Murl searched his lexicon memory bank to make sense out of the statement. Within seconds his semantic analysis was complete. “Oh, you are mistaken. We are not miners. I am Murl, a genue servant for the Wyman family, and this is Adam, their son.”
“We don’t serve younguns,” the bartender reaffirmed. He gave Murl a long look. “And we don’t serve genners.”
“Younguns? Genners?” Murl repeated in his head. “He must be referring to Adam as a youngun and to me as a genner. What a strange speech pattern.” With the meaning of the bartender’s statement ascertained, Murl addressed him again. “I do not take liquids, but why do you not serve younguns?”
Oblivioun's Children — Chapter 3: Ideation
The bartender began to show impatience. “Cause younguns ain’t allowed to drink.”
“That cannot be,” Murl said to himself. “I must still have the wrong vernacular context.” Again he searched his lexicon memory bank. “Drink” was the word that was causing the miscommunication. He did recall some incidents in his primary experience training where “drink” was related to the consumption of a particular fluid containing ethyl alcohol that later made the imbiber act in strange ways. Perhaps a restatement was in order.
“Adam would like a root beer and I would like nothing.”
The bartender squinted one eye, said, “huh” under his breath and turned away to fill the order.
Murl reflected upon the communication problems he was having while Adam sat with his chin on the rail counting the bottles on the back wall. After a moment the bartender brought Adam his root beer and said to Murl, “Two dollars, but he can’t drink it here. Take it with you.”
As Murl fished out the money card from the small purse hanging on his belt, he felt a poke in his side. He turned to investigate the sensation. A middle-aged woman dressed in ill-fitting clothes sat slouched over the padded rail of the bar bobbing her head trying to focus her eyes on the nonhuman. She jabbed her elbow at him again. Adam had started sipping his root beer.
“Who the hell are you?” she slurred.
“Excuse me,” is all that Murl could respond without some analysis.
“I said, who the hell are you?” the drunkard repeated.
Murl pondered the intrusion and decided to reply in the prescribed manner. “I am Murl, genue servant for the Wyman family.” Then pointing at the lad on the stool beside him he added, “And this is Adam, their son.”
The woman struggled to reach the half empty glass in front of her. As she raised it to her lips she uttered. “Aliens from outer space. And the little one in disguise doesn’t fool me either.”
Murl considered the remark, then replied. “I am not an alien from outer space and neither is Adam. In fact, the international agency searching for extraterrestrial life has found no evidence of any such aliens. However, this does not discount the possibility…”
The drunk glared at him with glassy eyes. “I know better,” she hic-cuped. “I know you guys tampered with people’s sex organs. You creatures think you’re gonna take over the world. Well, we ain’t gonna give up that easy.”
“Madam, I truly do not understand what you mean,” Murl said with increasing puzzlement. Adam looked back and forth at them as they exchanged remarks.
“You did the Amber Day thing. You ain’t trickin’ nobody any more.” She turned on her stool, then drove her palm into Murl’s chest.
He swayed backward but his photon gyros reacted quickly and his feet kept him erect.
The genue tried to create a constructive outcome for this situation based upon his limited repertoire of experiences. It was clear to him that this woman’s mind was not functioning properly, perhaps because of the effect of the ethyl alcohol. How was he to respond? He could not recall any beneficial result from a violent confrontation. It was evident that reasoning would not settle the disagreement. And he knew retaliation only elevated the violence. The only thing to do was to leave.
Startled, Adam jumped down from his stool. He grabbed his toy laser gun off the empty stool and aimed it at the woman. “Don’t do that, lady, or I’ll blast you with my laser gun.”
She cringed back on her stool holding up her arm in front of her terror-stricken face and bellowed, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” She peeked under her arm and realized she had a chance to escape. She dropped off her stool and waddled away.
Murl was transfixed; his brain raced to understand what he had just seen and heard. The boy had said something that was false and had no relevance to the situation, and then the unpleasant woman left in fear.
The bartender came over to Murl and Adam. “I asked you two to leave. Get going. I don’t need you chasing away my customers.”
“Yes, we’ll leave,” Murl responded.
They exited Eat, Drink and Be Merry and began to make their way to Crania-Mania. Adam placed his gun in his belt and grabbed the genue’s hand. Murl glanced back at the tavern sign and made some mental notes. Signs do not always express truths. People who drink alcohol make no sense. Violence may be avoided by making nonsensical statements.
* * *
Oblivioun's Children — Chapter 3: Ideation
“I’m Clyde Peters and this is News Capsule.”
The WNS camera scanned to his left.
“And I’m Betta Farlowski. Tonight we will interview Dr. Nawh Usimi, the doctor who may make medical history.”
Clyde shook a pencil at the camera. “But first, Betta, what’s better than a genue? It’s the new enhanced model with thought-generating ideator loops from Vosima Corp. In the last few months, the new genue has proved to be such a success that most owners of the original model are having theirs upgraded. These new genues can be seen driving trucks, serving as secretaries and operating production facilities. But it’s not all good news. The more talented genues can produce animosities. This was the case in the town of Hill Valley where there had not been a fire in over thirty-five years. When the two firemen were replaced by a pair of genues, within two weeks there were thirteen fires, including the fire house. But this is an exception, says Micael Wyman, a spokesman for Vosima. He says that the new genues provide an undeniable economic advantage to businesses that employ them.” Clyde looked at his co-anchor. “What do you think, Betta?”
“Thanks, Clyde. I think that’s great. But the bigger story is not genues but a pregnant woman in Risen Falls. Roda Strand has captured the whole world’s attention. Here is a woman who could not bear children while others did. Now she carries a miraculous conception when others can not. Just as renowned is her obstetrician, Nawh Usimi. Apparently he has accomplished what all the other scientists and medical doctors have not. You would think Dr. Usimi would be a hero. But he has his critics.” The camera panned to a man wearing a turban. “How are you, Dr. Usimi?”
Dr. Usimi stared into the camera without blinking. “I am good.”
“Tell us, doctor, why won’t you publicly announce your methods so others can verify and duplicate your achievements?” asked Betta.
He held up his hand like a holy man. “I have said this over and over. There will be no more experiments, no more impregnations, until success has been demonstrated. If I were to disclose my methods for revitalized human reproduction, there would be no stopping the thousands of impatient, greedy doctors from premature application of the technique. What if, God forbid, the Strand infant is malformed or handicapped in some way? Or doesn’t come to full term? No, no, I say. The world must be patient.”
“What about the infant, Dr. Usimi? Have you done any tests on it?”
“Wouldn’t it be appropriate to take a scan of the fetus? Take fluid samples? Wasn’t that customary before Amber Day?”
The doctor shook his head. “I do not understand the thinking of the medical community. This pregnancy is potentially the most important event in the history of mankind and they talk of testing the fetus. Should we, because of our impatience, risk the health of the child with probes and scans to tell us what we will find out in the next few months in any case? Let us not tempt fate. What could we find out? Either the child will be well-formed or it will not. If it is, then I will tell my secrets and the world can rejoice. If it is not, then I will bear the laughter of my peers and the world can lament.”
“So you have no idea if the fetus is healthy?”
“Oh, I know,” Dr. Usimi answered. “And so do others. Roda Strand has been examined by her obstetrician and two other doctors. They confirm from non-intrusive methods the fetus is doing quite well. Small for its age but nothing abnormal.”
The interviewer changed the point of attack. “Isn’t it true you have collected several millions of dollars through various contracts with medical centers, in addition to the large fees from the many women who have made arrangements with you for future impregnations?”
Dr. Usimi, impatient with the verbal thrusts, moved his head sideways in disgust. “You say nothing when the preacher takes his tithes and gives wooden words in return. You say nothing when the charlatan puts a price on hope and delivers despair. You are indifferent to the idols of entertainment who earn millions for amusement. Sir, let me collect my dues, like the sports hero, and the video star, and even like the Nobelist.”
Betta faced the camera. “Thank you, Dr. Usimi.”
* * *
Labor came early for Roda. She was off to the hospital on what would have been just another gloomy November day. But this one held out the hope and promise for a new beginning for the human race. The pregnant woman was met by a well prepared but nervous hospital staff who, of course, had not attended to a human birth in almost six years.
Murl was able to alert Micael and Dawna of the impending event when he learned of the news from an I-net bulletin that broke in on an old movie he was watching. He was actually reading Darwin’s Origin of Species at the time with the old movie providing background noise—there was something comforting in the sounds of old movies to him.
“Oh, Micael, isn’t this exciting,” Dawna said as she cuddled up to her husband on the divan. Adam grabbed his wooly bear and climbed on the opposite end of the couch. Murl stood behind them watching in silence.
The I-port screen showed two local reporters facing the camera exchanging quips. In the background was a bustling scene of doctors and nurses scurrying to the left and right.
Oblivioun's Children — Chapter 3: Ideation/p>
“Okay, Lola. It looks like Roda Strand is in advanced labor, and here it is, only seven months since the historic conception performed by Dr. Nawh Usimi.”
“Yes, Bram. And the doctor is not present. Can you believe that, Lola? They can’t find Dr. Usimi. They’re still trying to make contact at his several residences.”
“That’s right, Lola. However, I understand that Dr. William Henry Pratt has been called in to do the delivery if Dr. Usimi doesn’t show up in time. Dr. Pratt is a former obstetrician who, after the Amber Day mystery had decimated his practice five years ago, decided to become a veterinarian. He was on standby at the University animal clinic and was rushed here when the news of Mrs. Strand came to light and Dr. Usimi could not be reached. Okay, let’s pause for an important message.”
A bottle of hair shampoo with pigtails and a pair of legs danced across the screen.
“Why don’t they show us Roda?” Dawna asked. “I’m worried about her.”
“Why are you worried?” inquired Murl.
Micael answered. “Because Roda is a friend of Dawna’s, Murl, like you and I are friends. Friends care about each other.”
That stunned Murl. He had always considered himself merely as a servant for the Wymans. That was his purpose. How could he, a genue, be a friend? Friends were always humans, like in the movies he watched. And how did caring fit into friendship? Caring was just not doing harm and carrying out orders. “I am a genue. I care for all humans equally. I do not consider humans as…”
“Be quiet, Murl,” Micael cut in. “They’re back from the commercials.”
“Okay, Lola,” the male reporter began. “I’ve got a report that Dr. Usimi still has not been located. All efforts are being made to reach the doctor. One can only guess at his whereabouts, but perhaps the unexpected early delivery has caught him incommunicado, or is it incognito. Whatever. Anyway, it would be a cruel irony if this world-shaking event took place without the good doctor’s presence.”
“That’s right, Bram, it would be. I now understand that Dr. Usimi is not at any of his residences or his laboratory.”
“And another side to this story, Lola. Roda Strand has said she will name the infant Faith regardless if it’s a boy or girl. And a thoughtful name it is. For it is faith that is sure to save mankind.”
“First Charity? Then Hope? Now Faith?” Micael piped up. “This better be Roda’s last child. She’s just exhausted her store of names.”
Dawna smacked him in the arm. “Hush.”
“Okay, Bram. Let’s see if we can get a word from Dr. Pratt who just entered our viewing area. For those of you who have just joined us, Dr. Pratt will be stepping in for Dr. Usimi to perform this historic delivery. Dr. Pratt, how is everything?”
The frizzy haired man poked his face into the camera. “Yes, hello. The name is Henry-Pratt, Dr. William Henry-Pratt, if you don’t mind. No time to talk. Everything is fine. Perhaps five more minutes.” He receded into the background.
“Okay, Lola. We’ll be going to the birthing room. First some important messages.” The scene dissolved and was replaced by a pepperoni pizza spinning in outer space.
Adam jumped up. “Mommy, Mommy, can we have pizza tonight?”
Murl turned his head toward the child. Through his still lips he said, “Today’s dinner is already in preparation, Adam. Pizza is not the entrée.” Then turning to Dawna, “If you like, I can prepare pizza for tomorrow.”
“Oh, I don’t care,” said Dawna. “I’m so excited. I wonder how Roda is doing.”
Micael patted his wife on the leg. “Just think, Adam won’t be the youngest child anymore. Now Faith will get all the media attention.”
The thought puzzled Adam. “I won’t? But I like being the last. Everybody is so nice to me. Does that mean they won’t be nice to me any more?”
Dawna pinched his cheek. “We’ll always be nice to you, Adam.”
Murl spoke up. “Micael, do you think if people can reproduce again they won’t need genues any more?”
“I wouldn’t worry about that, Murl. We were going to produce genues before Amber Day happened. Since then, I think a lot of people have gotten used to you guys.”
The commercials were over and the scene now showed Roda lying on a green-sheeted table, legs positioned in their stirrups high in the air. Dr. Henry-Pratt was watching an I-port monitor while resting his arm on Roda’s right knee.
“We’re back,” came the voice of Bram, the reporter. “The time is very near for the birth of Faith Strand and the hope of the world. Lola, any word on Dr. Usimi?”
“No, Bram. He has completely vanished and the police have been called in. There have been rumors that he was kidnapped. As the man who holds the secrets to the future of mankind, it certainly would be a handsome ransom.” An off-screen groan could be heard.
Roda moaned. The camera zoomed past the two reporters through the window of the birthing room. The doctor took his position between the legs of the squirming woman. The cameras moved in. The nurses peered over Roda’s knees.
“Okay, Bram, this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Here it comes, folks.”
Roda screamed again.
“I see the head, Lola. It looks rather small. Too bad Dr. Usimi isn’t here to see this triumphant moment. Here it comes. Here it comes!”
The nurses screamed.
Lola put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my… What in the world?” The cameras came in for a close-up. The doctor raised the infant to the camera.
Roda panted and yelled, “Let me see! Let me see my baby!”
“It’s not human!” gasped Bram. “It’s a monkey! A baby monkey!”
Dawna buried her head in Micael’s lap. “How could he? He used her. And Roda trusted him.” Then she burst into tears.
Micael watched with large eyes as he tried to comfort Dawna with gentle strokes of her hair.
Murl looked at the odd sight on the I-port, then at Dawna crying. He did not know what to make of all the human emotion being displayed. But from all that he had seen and heard he could make a logical deduction. “Well, we know Dr. Usimi hasn’t been kidnapped.”
Oblivioun's Children — Chapter 3: Ideation
Continue to Chapter 4