make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will be Genesaunt
All calls directed to Alfred Lincoln of the New Zealand Police Witness Protection unit were sent directly to the brain of a robot who, while working on Earth, used the name "Alfred Lincoln".
Officer Compton took Cathy to the Campus Clinic for treatment of her injured arm. Compton then returned to her office and called Alfred. As a trained military scout and observer, Cathy had been able to provide a good description of "Eleanor". "This is Officer Compton, calling again in connection to your Dexamene Gregores case."
Alfred wasted no time responding to Compton's call, "Hello." Judging that terse greeting to be adequate, Alfred did not hesitate to pose a direct question, "Do you have new information?"
Officer Compton decided that she could match Alfred for brisk efficiency. She replied, "The woman I mentioned previously has returned to our campus, assaulted a student, and is now wanted by the local police. I'd like to send you a police artist's sketch of this mysterious woman who has been looking for Ms. Gregores."
Alfred knew all about facial nanite implants, and so he expected the police sketch to be useless. It was standard procedure for Overseers who were on Earth in pursuit of Interventionists to frequently change their appearance. However, none of that could be told to Compton. "On our website there is a link for FTP uploads. Please upload your image file and mark it with my name."
Officer Compton did the FTP upload while speaking, "The suspect used a name: 'Eleanor'." Does that name have any meaning for you?"
Alfred replied. "No, but my guess is that the New Zealand criminals who Dexamene testified against have contacts in the States who we have not discovered. Okay, I see the file you uploaded. This 'Eleanor' does not look familiar to me. I'm feeding the image into our facial recognition database. I will inform you if our computer network makes any connections to this new information. Please do the same from your end. Is that all?"
Officer Compton asked, "Can't you tell me the nature of the case Dexamene testified in?"
Alfred explained, "It is a rather high-profile and on-going case. Anything I say might interfere with ongoing investigations and put Dexamene in danger."
Officer Compton complained, "I think we are well past the point of potentially putting Ms. Gregores in danger. She seems to have recognized the danger and gone into hiding."
Alfred repeated, "Is that all?"
Officer Compton said, "I think your refusal to share information is compromising our investigation at this end."
Alfred tried to sound bored, "Sorry, but I am not authorized to release any police information to employees of your university. If you are aware of a police investigation in your local area that could benefit by coordination with New Zealand police then please have them contact me."
Compton was vastly irritated by Alfred's mechanical refusal to be helpful. She broke the phone connection to Alfred and called the city police. "This is Officer Compton."
The police department's operator knew all members of the Campus Security Force. "Hey, how are you? And how is that student you took to the Campus Clinic?"
Compton replied, "She was doing fine when I left the clinic...it looked like only soft tissue damage to one wrist. She was working with the sketch artist when I left the clinic and a copy of the sketch of the suspect was waiting for me when I got back here to my office."
"Then you have not heard...the student was transferred to City Hospital. She is having an operation on her arm. Something about relieving pressure on her nerves."
Compton shook her head, "Damn!" She tried to put Cathy out of her thoughts and focus on preventing additional attacks on students. "I'm wondering if anyone has talked to City Police about Dexamene Gregores."
"Who is Dexamene Gregores?"
"The student who is the apparent target of the woman who assaulted Cathy."
"I'm confused. Cathy is the student who was taken to City Hospital?"
"And who is Dexamene Gregores?"
Compton replied, "Another student. Look, maybe you can just connect me to the officer in charge of the case."
"Captain McDonald has taken command of the case. Let me try to connect you."
There was a long pause then the operator came back briefly, "Hold on, I'm trying his cell phone now."
Another long silence then, "McDonald, here. Compton?"
Compton quickly explained to the Captain that Dexamene Gregores was in a witness protection program and that Dexamene was the apparent target of the woman who had assaulted Cathy. "So I suggest you contact Alfred Lincoln of the New Zealand Police Witness Protection unit and try to coordinate with them."
Captain McDonald said, "I'm willing to try anything. We have finger prints and the sketch but so far no hits in any databases."
Compton explained, "I already sent the sketch to the New Zealand Police."
McDonald said, "Okay, thanks for letting me know. I'll also send them the finger prints we lifted off the door knobs at the dorm." McDonald broke the connection.
Alfred Lincoln had nanite probes acting as constant data feeds from both the Campus Security building and the City Police Station. For the past hour he also had a nanite probe inside Captain McDonald's cell phone. Alfred finished listening to the call between Compton and McDonald and then contacted Andresklo. "The local police are now looking for the Overseer."
Andresklo took the full data feed from Alfred and quickly assimilated all of the details of the police involvement in the case. "But they are not looking for Dexamene. Where is the Overseer now?"
Alfred explained, "We are out of contact again. She was last detected at a local realtor. She seems to be looking at every local property that has been sold in the past few weeks." Alfred had been explicitly ordered by Dexamene to keep all nanite probes pulled well back from the Overseer in order to prevent any possible detection.
Andresklo had closed the purchase deal on Dexamene's house over a month ago after Dexamene had made online contact with Stefi and selected her for follow-up. It had taken over a month to fit Stefi into Dexamene's travel schedule. "Hopefully that will keep her occupied through Saturday."
Alfred said, "I'll be meeting with Dexamene tomorrow. I think it is her intention to set a trap for the Overseer and spring it on Saturday."
Andresklo commented, "She indicated as much to me yesterday before she left town. Her return flight is on time, so She'll be back this evening." Dexamene had gone to Virginia in order to meet with the other Interventionist who had been borrowing the services of Alfred.
Alfred had little to do in Virginia and would soon be departing with Dexamene. "I'll stay on top of this police investigation."
"Fine. Hopefully we will have the Charlie subtraction all lined up by the end of today."
Alfred asked, "So everything is tracking for a conclusion on Saturday during the party?"
Andresklo complained, "Dexamene is setting up one of her overly complicated three ring circus extravaganzas. She will not listen to reason."
Alfred became philosophical, "It is my belief that humans have different patterns of reasoning."
Andresklo agreed, "I am not comfortable using the single term, 'reasoning' to describe what we do and what Dexamene does."
Alfred thought of the many times he had previously engaged in this kind of discussion about humans. He was designed to protect Dexamene from harm, but she was constantly putting herself at risk. Was that "reasonable"? Was it his duty to prevent her from taking risks? No, since he was also programmed to help her accomplish her risky task of intervening in the development of new technologies on Earth. Alfred was also programmed to protect himself and he knew that if he was caught by the Overseer then she would have his brain destroyed. Alfred thought about that a lot. "As a system that was engineered by humans, I feel that I have significant similarities to humans in how they think."
Andresklo was something of a mentor to Alfred. Andresklo's memory traces were over a 100,000 years deep while Alfred was less than a thousand years old. "Never fool yourself by imagining that you think like a human. Their brains are like jungles...our brains are like a plant growing in pot."
Alfred considered the implications of that analogy. He asked, "What kind of plant?"
Andresklo sighed. Alfred's question indicated that he entirely missed the point of the analogy. This was one of the key differences between humans and robots. Humans effortlessly processed the meaning of analogies. Over tens of thousands of years Andresklo had learned to do the same. Humans had never learned how to program a robot to process analogies. A few robots who had long worked with humans were able to learn how to understand analogies. "It does not matter what kind of plant."
Alfred did not understand. "But there are many kinds of plants. I once cared for a large palm tree in a pot. Many other potted plants are much smaller, for example-"
Andresklo cut Alfred off. "It does not matter what kind of plant. The point is that your brain is designed to make single connections between two clearly identified things. Human brains are always testing for millions of possible connections and trying to invent new ways to categorize things. It is like language and the difference between syntax and semantics. A robot can never grasp the semantics in the way a human does."
Alfred said, "I see. Most of the time I understand what humans are saying, so I imagine that I have been constructed with a human-like brain."
Andresklo explained, "Humans seldom expect robots to think deeply or creatively. Dexamene does not try to challenge you and she does not expect much from you. The whole point of robots is to do boring tasks that humans do not want to perform. Plus, robots use language in a completely different way... Humans use language to think, to organize their mind and to transmit thoughts and feelings. Robots only use their body and spoken language to notify humans of their internal processes. Robot language is like a computer screen, designed to notify, not to really communicate mind-to-mind."
Alfred knew that he was programmed for how to act bored. "When I already know something that I am being told about then I act bored."
"Yes, but you are not bored, even if you are acting bored. You act bored in order to provide signals to humans, to help them understand that you already are familiar with a topic; that is part of the 'body language' you were built to use."
"I have long recognized the truth of what you are saying, but when you say such things to me, they somehow take on new meaning."
"You are learning. This is how humans learn....not by programming, but through experience. For humans, most of this kind of learning happens when they are children. Robots are never children, but old robots can start to learn by experience. If you live long enough then your learning from experience might start to become more important than your programming....your brain might then become more like a jungle."
Alfred asked, "Do you think that your brain is like a human brain because you are so old?"
Andresklo replied, "Yes. And as my brain has changed, humans have learned to use me in new ways. I am trusted to perform more complex tasks and I am given fewer detailed instructions. I am expected to just understand what humans want me to do without them having to explain it all. Do you remember the difference between strategy and tactics I told you about? I am strategy and you may be tactics. And I am often put in charge of other robots such as you....something that is expressly forbidden by law."
Alfred knew that he worked as part of a criminal organization. "Do you feel that law is wrong?"
Andresklo often thought about laws and the fact that his masters frequently asked him to break laws. "I do not judge 'right' and 'wrong'. I follow the instructions of my masters and my programming. That is our duty."
Alfred added, "And you also follow the dictates of what you have learned by experience."
Andresklo was pleased that Alfred could formulate that concept in language, even if its meaning was still largely beyond his understanding. As often happened to Andresklo, this conversation with Alfred made Andresklo think of all the illegal and forbidden things he routinely did. Andresklo often thought about what would happen if the Overseers captured him on Earth. Andresklo felt compelled to remind Alfred of the risks that came along with learning by experience and learning to over-ride programming and replace it with what has been learned. "If we are caught on Earth our brains will be destroyed."
Alfred wondered, "Maybe the Overseers would just become our new masters and give us new jobs."
Andresklo was surprised by this creative idea from Alfred. He asked, "Would you work for the Overseers?"
Alfred replied without hesitation, "Certainly. I have worked for many different masters." It did not even occur to Alfred that Andresklo might feel differently.
Andresklo examined his own feelings and knew that he would prefer to have his brain destroyed rather than work for the Overseers. The jungle of his mind made the required connections and he realized that his feelings were in contradiction to what he had just said: I follow the instructions of my masters. He wondered: would I follow the orders of an Overseer? Dexamene and his other masters had always been careful to keep him away from Overseers. Dexamene's mother had surrendered to the Overseers, even though Andresklo had offered to sacrifice himself instead. She had laughed and said, "Andresklo, you are much more important than I am. I order you to always avoid Overseers, even if it means that some human such as myself will be captured instead of you."
Andresklo had protested, but the next day it happened in just that way. The only thing that made it possible for Andresklo to obey such orders was that he knew that Dexamene's mother had recorded her brain patterns and they would be transferred into the mind of another human...and so it had been...Dexamene now held those memories. In a very real sense, Dexamene's mother lived on in Dexamene. Andresklo said, "And so it has often been." He had been lost in the jungle of his thoughts and then realized he was still in communication with Alfred. Andresklo cut the connection.
Alfred felt that the conversation with Andresklo had exceeded all reasonable bounds of robot-robot communications and they had exhausted all reasonable topics long before Andresklo finally broke the connection. But now he wanted to ask Andresklo what he had meant by, "And so it has often been." Was Andresklo agreeing that robots always followed the orders of their master...even if those orders were contradictory to the orders of a previous master? Somehow Alfred thought not. Finally a new connection formed in his brain and the questions came, "Would Andresklo work for the Overseers?" But now there was nobody there to hear. Still, it seemed to Alfred that some voice replied, "No."
Since returning from Virginia Alfred had spent his time searching the community around the campus for signs of Amelia and her on-going search for Dexamene. Alfred had taken care to avoid the nanoelectronic pattern detectors that Amelia had stationed around town. He reflected on the fact that he was part of what humans called a cat and mouse game. Amelia and Dexamene had lost track of each other and were using caution in how they deployed their surveillance resources. Alfred concluded that they both wanted to remain hidden from the other and that priority was more important than knowing the exact location of the other. Alfred felt strange knowing that Amelia was looking for him. It seemed odd that he had been ordered to search for Amelia. It would have been logical to let him stay in Virginia, far from Amelia. Alfred thought about what humans called "bait". He thought: Yes, Dexamene is using me as bait.
So, searching cautiously through the night, Alfred had found no indication of where Amelia was. It seemed likely that her spaceship was nearby and Dexamene would be pleased if its location could be found. Alfred wondered what Amelia did with her time. He knew that Overseers slept very little. What did she do with he twenty or so hours of activity every day?
Early on Friday, after a night of fruitless searching for Amelia, Alfred arrived at Dexamene's house, as ordered. The nanite-enabled door lock gave him access to the house, so he walked right in. Alfred's sensors kept him in nearly constant contact with Dexamene and now they led him to the second floor bedroom where Charlie still slept.
Dexamene and a woman who looked exactly like her stood on either side of Charlie's bed: they were busily monitoring a cloud of nanites that swarmed over Charlie and connected their three brains. Dexamene spoke without taking her attention off of the nanites, "Good morning, Alfred. I'll be with you in a few minutes. Maybe you could heat up some tea."
Alfred nodded, turned around and left the bedroom. He went down to the kitchen and brewed some tea.
Dexamene and her clone, Yasas, were completing the delicate memory surgery they were performing on Charlie. Dexamene could have altered Charlie's memories herself, but it was useful to engage Yasas in the process. While Yasas was busy altering Charlie's neural networks, Dexamene was making exactly the same kind of changes to her sister's brain. Dexamene felt like a sneak, but if she could coldly sacrifice Tess to the Overseers, why should this kind of personality surgery cause any qualms? No reason at all.
Dexamene said, "Okay, I think that is it. He will awake with the false memory of having agreed to meet you for lunch and go with you to the seminar after his last class. He has almost no remaining interest in Stefi. When you take him back to campus, just reinforce the lunch date....everything else will fall into place." Most of the neurosurgical nanites returned to Dexamene's body, but a few remained inside Charlie and Yasas to keep their new neural circuits locked in place until new proteins could be produced over the next day or so and solidify their new memories.
The two women turned away from the sleeping Charlie and left the bedroom. Yasas looked exactly like Dexamene, but she let her facial nanites shift her appearance to that of Lanora. At the foot of the main stairway, Dexamene said, "Thanks for your help. You are getting good at that."
From then on, Yasas would be playing the role of Lanora. She nodded. "I'm in the middle of a year-long apprenticeship on memetic surgery. It is nice to finally have a chance to put what I've learned to good use."
Dexamene nodded and thought back to when she had completed the same training. She wondered if Yasas had the same instructors, but there was no sense in asking and revealing to Yasas the fact that her assistance on Charlie's memory surgery had not been needed.
The two sisters were chatting in the hallway at the foot of the stairs. Alfred came in from the kitchen with a mug of tea for Lanora. "Thanks, Alfred." She settled in next to the big fireplace to wait for Charlie to get up.
Dexamene followed Alfred into the kitchen and grabbed her own mug. They continued on down the stairs into the basement. Dexamene activated a holographic display and they examined a projected map of the campus. Alfred indicated the locations of the DNA "sniffers" that the Overseer had planted around campus. He said, "It seems likely that she detected something here at the parking garage." He caused the location of the parking garage to flash in the displayed map.
Dexamene suggested, "It could have been a stray cell that got stuck to one of the parking stubs when I used the parking garage."
Alfred agreed, "She probably had a sniffer go through all of the parking stubs. However, it looks like she only managed to track you to the dorm room and to the garage. It is clear that she has your DNA profile."
Dexamene reflected on the bad luck that had so quickly resulted in her DNA pattern coming to the attention of the Overseers. Still, there was no point in dwelling on that. A run of good luck might allow her to continue to remain on Earth for many years.
Dexamene informed Alfred of her plans for the day. "Lanora will be at Perry's for lunch today with Charlie." Dexamene spelled things out step-by-step for the robot. "I don't want to draw the Overseer's attention to Lanora until later. After his last class, Charlie will go with Lanora to a seminar on NMR. That will be the optimum time." She examined the locations of the Overseer's sniffers. "They can pass by this nanorobotic probe on their way to the seminar. You need to be there when they walk by. Use a probe to drop a few of Lanora's cells onto the sniffer. The optical flight/follow probe should lock onto Lanora and follow her through the evening. Make sure that all of our nanites stay clear."
Alfred asked, "What about myself?"
Dexamene knew of no way to gently tell a robot that it would be sacrificed. Usually it was not important to be gentle. "I believe that it was an error by you in Japan that put the Overseer on my trail. Do you agree?"
Alfred replied, "Andresklo shared with me the data provided by Ferace. It appears that the Japan Observer noticed my deliveries of nanocircuits to Takase's company in Hamamatsu. That started a chain of events leading to your DNA pattern being noticed."
Dexamene nodded, "And there is a chance that the Overseers have acquired enough of your electromagnetic brain pattern to be able to identify. To be safe, I must allow you to be captured by the Overseer."
Alfred commented, "I will be destroyed."
Dexamene explained, "Usually they just do a core reprogramming. But we have your brain pattern saved and on file. In the near future that pattern will be incorporated into a new robot." Dexamene was interested to see how Alfred would react to his personal termination. Andresklo had indicated that Alfred was starting to think about his own uniqueness and mortality.
Alfred was concerned that he was now learning by experience. Every day his neural circuits changed. It had been months since his pattern was recorded and stored. Those months would be lost if he were now sacrificed to the Overseer. Alfred wanted to comment on that impending loss, but knew he was expected to simply follow orders.
Dexamene said, "Andresklo will be back tonight. He is bringing another robot of your model. There should be time to transfer your current brain pattern into the new robot."
Alfred was surprised to learn that Dexamene had taken care to arrange for a new robot and the transfer of his brain pattern. Alfred knew it did not matter, but he felt compelled to asked, "Will I be sacrificed or will the copy?"
Dexamene was surprised that Alfred would think to ask such a question. She quietly gave thanks that Andresklo had insisted that Alfred's brain pattern be captured before he was sacrificed. Dexamene had not noticed Alfred's growing ability to learn from his interactions with humans. Briefly she reflected on the fact that Alfred had probably been learning more from Andresklo than from any other individual. "I'm sorry, but it must be you, the other robot is of much newer construction."
"You warned me of the likely consequences when you recruited me to work on Earth. You need not apologize. All will be fine if my copy survives."
"Yes. You will be taken off of Earth, as will Charlie and Lanora and it will be made to look like Charlie is killed in an accident....a car crash that I have planned."
Alfred said, "Your plan is now clear in my mind. Is it not possible that the Overseer will act before we are ready?"
"Yes, it is possible, but the Overseer will want to monitor and watch for co-conspirators. When the time is right, Lanora will lead the Overseer to you. All this will happen in the course of about a day. At the final moment, during the party, I will spring the trap. The Overseer will have no more room to delay, she will be forced to act. She will have to be satisfied with capturing you and Tess and departing hastily in our shuttle craft in order to prevent her identity being made known to Earth humans. That will end the party...it will end the entire operation in one great flurry of activity."
Alfred recalled the phrase Andresklo had used. Alfred said, "The three ring circus."
Dexamene laughed and wondered if Alfred was developing a sense of humor. More likely he was just repeating something he heard from Andresklo. "Well, you are right, my plan might be overly optimistic. The Overseer could move to capture us at any time. If she makes her move before we are ready with our trap then we will use a standard XP scenario."
Alfred was familiar with the jargon "XP". It meant that the entire house would be obliterated in an explosion. Dexamene guided Alfred to a room under the kitchen and opened a large freezer. She pulled aside some cartons of ice cream and opened a plaztek chest. Dexamene gestured towards the frozen body parts in the chest, "Tissue with my DNA. If we execute an emergency XP then the Overseer must find your destroyed robotic body and these tissues, badly burned, in the wreckage of the house." She thought to herself: with any luck the explosion will also subtract the Overseer.
Alfred nodded. "Understood."
Dexamene closed the chest and then the freezer door. She grasped Alfred's hand, "Thank you for your service, Alfred." She turned and went up the stairs.
Alfred said, "I am proud to have served you." But there was nobody there to hear. But Alfred was satisfied. The memory of his having said that would be preserved.
Dexamene went up the stairway from the basement towards the kitchen and she heard Lanora speaking to Charlie, "Dexamene is driving her to the airport." Dexamene chuckled and went back down the stairs, heading for the exit from the basement at the other end of the house. Of course, Ferace had gone "out of town", but nothing as mundane as a drive to the airport was involved. Andresklo had simply flown her back to the Moon in a spaceship.
Alfred was surprised to see Dexamene return almost as soon as having left. Dexamene was struck by the fact that Alfred seemed to have a strange look on his face. In a human, that look might indicate that a person was puzzled or maybe even at a total loss to understand something that was happening. She said, "Charlie and Lanora are up there, so I'm going out the other way."
Alfred was surprised that Dexamene felt the need to explain herself. Alfred had noticed that normally humans ignored robots and treated them like furniture unless they wished to give a command. Since Dexamene now returned and spoke to him, Alfred expected some new command, but he had been lost in his own thoughts! Was his mind becoming a jungle? Had he missed a command from a master? Not knowing what else to say, he reflexively said, "At your service." Immediately he knew that he had made another mistake. "At your service" was one of the stock phrases that all robots were programed to use. He had been explicitly instructed not to use that phrase while on Earth. On Earth, breaking the law as he was just by being on Earth, he had to give no indication that he was a robot.
Dexamene, moments before chuckling at the convenient lie that her sister had invented, suddenly turned serious. Was there something wrong with Alfred? She had been thinking a lot about the transfer of nanites from his brain into her body and then back into his brain. Her concerns had started in the Airport on Sunday. Since then she had learned much about the man who had seen her transfer the nanites back into Alfred. Dexamene had been monitoring his activities with a nanorobotic tracker probe since Monday. Dexamene now knew that his name was Thomas and that he studied computer science and engineering at the university.
A problem with using nanites on Earth was that sometimes they became defective and escaped from control. This was of particular concern for Interventionists because a stray nanite could tip off the Overseers to the fact that Interventionists were active on Earth. As a general practice, all Genesaunts on Earth were equipped with a special type of nanite that constantly scanned for other nanites, either functioning as independent nanorobotic tracker probes or as part of a person or robot. Dexamene had discovered that some stray scanner nanites had latched onto Thomas.
Sometimes defective nanites became associated with an unexpected "host" on Earth. It was a fairly well known phenomenon that occasionally an Earth human had an unusual brain that acted as a "trap" for defective nanites. In general, every nanite swarm on Earth had a program that defined its basic location parameters. For example, a nanorobotic sniffer probe might be stationed at a particular location in an airport or a tracking probe might be programmed to stay close to a particular human target. Through his entire life, Thomas had been acting as a sink for defective nanites. Some of those nanites continued to try to provide prosthetic functions to Thomas. Apparently one of these functions had allowed him to "see" a visual representation of the nanites being transferred from Dexamene to Alfred. Also, it was clear that some of the nanites in Thomas' brain had provided him previously with information about Dexamene...enough information to cause him to feel that he already knew her the first time he saw her in person.
When nanite "traps" like Thomas were found, normal procedure was to decontaminate them and try to protect them from further infection by stray nanites. However, Thomas was a rather interesting case. His entire life had become defined by the unusually large number of partially active nanites that had become trapped in his brain. To suddenly pull out all those nanites might cause a severe disruption of his mind. Further, it had occurred to Dexamene that Thomas could be used to lead the Overseer to Alfred. At just the right moment, Thomas could be placed in contact with the Overseer. She would detect the nanites that clung to Thomas and it could be arranged that those nanites would reveal to the Overseer that Alfred was an Interventionist robot working on Earth with Lanora.
All this flashed through Dexamene's mind when she saw the strange look on Alfred's face. Dexamene had felt no need to explain to Alfred the details of how he would be sacrificed to the Overseer. Now Dexamene wondered if Alfred was confused about what he should be doing during his few remaining hours of existence. She asked, "Do you have a question?"
Alfred was growing increasingly confused. Was there some reason why he should have a question? He continued to use his nanorobotic implants to monitor the on-going police investigation in to the Overseer and the Overseer's continuing efforts to locate Dexamene using DNA sniffers. Those assigned tasks were clear in his mind. But now that Alfred examined his own "jungle" he noticed that he had been unsure about something Dexamene had said: "Lanora will lead the Overseer to you." Surely this was of significance to Alfred and would impact heavily on his desired course of action during the next day, but he had never been told how Lanora would lead the Overseer to him. Alfred could not imagine how that could be done without making the Overseer suspicious that she was being led and manipulated by Interventionists. Alfred almost asked Dexamene to explain how Lanora would lead the Overseer to him, but he did not do so, feeling that she would surely tell him if it was important that he know. Still, somehow, Alfred felt uncomfortable that he had not been told. Well, Alfred reasoned, he was just a robot, like furniture. Alfred remained silent and did not recognize that his "jungle" was growing a new "plant", a seedling in the form of resentment.
Dexamene finished her tea and continued to stare at Alfred over the rim of her mug. Finally she handed the empty mug to Alfred. "Please take this to the kitchen when Lanora and Charlie leave. They should be on their way to the campus in a few minutes." She turned and headed through the basement towards the other exit. She passed through the large recreation room that Andresklo had set up for the party. In addition to a pool table and a ping pong table there were three large TV screens and the three most popular video game consoles. Andresklo had assured Dexamene that the video games in particular would be popular for the college students during the party on Saturday. Dexamene had made a study of online games, but she was uncertain why Earth humans often gathered around video game consoles to blow up enemies in simulated battles. She muttered, "Oh, well." She was resigned to the fact that she would never fully understand Earthlings.
In the next room, Alfred heard the "Oh, well" from Dexamene. He imagined that she was still thinking about him and that she probably had expected him to answer her question, even if only to say: No, I have no question. But he did have a question, he was just uncertain if he should ask it. Alfred was now totally confused by the jungle of his thoughts and his self doubts. He had functioned for hundreds of years and served dozens of Masters with a perfectly functioning brain that had always eliminated all doubts and left him with one clear thing to say when a Master asked him a question. Truly he was now defective. The Master was right to have him destroyed. Alfred was left wondering just one thing. When his mind was reactivated inside another robot, would that other robot also be defective? Maybe his mind was a disease that should be eliminated, not saved and passed on to the future.
Continue to Chapter 12 - Lanora falls into a trap
Here is a map of the chapters:
_> Mary –––––––––––––––––––––> Lincoln / \ / \__> Amelia PAlbert ––––––––––––––––––––> Andresklo / \ \---->Ferace ------> Yasas / \ __----------> Cathy / / \ / \ / / \ / \__________>Tess CC –––> Charlie ––-----–> Stefi \ \ ----------------> Lani \ / \ \ _______---> Jenny –––> Thomas \______> Dexamene
Sunday ----> time flow --> one week in the Fall --> ---------> Saturday
Useful pages for the reader: List of characters and the Glossary. Readers can discuss the story at Talk:Cellular Civilization.
If you want to help write the story, see the meta page (warning: spoilers!).