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"Guaranteeed NOT To Happen"

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 +J.M.J.+

Guaranteed NOT to Happen

By “Matrix Refugee”

 

Author’s note:

This is a shameless near-plagiarism of “First Law”, a tongue-in-cheek short-short robot story by SF dean Isaac Asimov, in which a work animal robot starts behaving strangely, then wanders away for no reason only to return with its offspring. Some genteel low comedy here, so be prepared. No flames either! It’s all in good fun.

Disclaimer:

I do not ‘own “A.I.”, its characters, concepts or other indicia, which are the property of the late Stanley Kubrick, of DreamWorks SKG, Steven Spielberg, Warner Brothers, et al.

Jane was Tapperson’s best female lover-Mecha, but out of the blue she started acting strangely. Clients complained to him about her acting cold and witchy to say the least, downright frigid at worst. After a few weeks of this, few regulars asked specifically for her. His business didn’t suffer much, but here it was the beginning of the summer season and he needed every Mecha he had putting out its 200%.

After almost three months, he pulled her from the line of service and brought her up to Simulate City in Brackenhurst, north of his home base in Haddonfield. It was early for the routine six-month diagnostic, but not when she was acting this badly. He took a good look at her during the drive.

She even looked bad, if that were at all possible. It wasn’t from wear and tear, he was careful to keep her well repaired, having portions of her skin replaced when it showed signs of wear from normal use and the occasional rough customer. Maybe it was just a trick of the eye resulting from her suddenly listless attitude, but her sultry face somehow looked puffy and her perfect figure had thickened, especially at the waist. No, he was imagining it, couldn’t be.

He even bothered to ask her if she knew what was the matter with her.

“One doesn’t ask a lady about this until she is ready to tell it,” she said.

The technicians in Service, lead by one Machar Pathak, took her in with the thought this would be a simple, routine evaluation and repair as needed, the kind of stuff they did all the time.

***********************************************************

Tapperson waited while they worked over her in one of the company workrooms. At length, Pathak came out to him.

“Well, we ran the usual diagnostic: there’s some sort of energy drain, but we haven’t come to the cause. Everything seems to working normally so far as we can tell now. I’m afraid we’ll have to keep her overnight.”

“Do a little exploratory surgery, eh?” Tapperson said, with an ironic edge.

“The Mecha version at least. It might be nothing worse than a dirty battery contact or a small short circuit somewhere.”

***********************************************************

Next morning, Pathak called Tapperson.

“We found out what went wrong with your JN-8523,” he said, an odd, even somewhat humorous edge to his voice.

“So, aren’t you going to tell me what’s the matter with the damn Mecha?” Tapperson asked, trying to keep calm.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to come up to see it, we’re not sure what to do with it. We decided it was best if we didn’t make a move until you had seen it.”

He didn’t really have the time; he almost didn’t go up. What could have gone wrong that would require him to see it? He didn’t know much about how these things were put together; selling their capabilities was what he specialized in. But he found the time to drive up to Brackenhurst that afternoon.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen!” Tapperson exclaimed, practically screaming.

“Well, I’m afraid it’s happened. We can replace the model if you should decide to return her,” Pathak said.

“If I do, what do you plan to do with her?”

“Because this is so highly unusual, even extraordinary, we were considering keeping her for observation.”

“In that case, I hope you can find out how this happened in the first place. These things aren’t supposed to happen, it’s guaranteed! How is this possible?” He tried not to splutter. First she was just malfunctioning, now there was more to it. If she were Orga, it would be much easier to explain.

“We’d like to know that ourselves, in case it ever happens again.”

“It better not cut into the industry. It’s one thing that the Orgas are strapped to the eyes with regulations regarding…that function.”

“On the other hand, you can’t help wondering how she got that way.” Pathak grinned wickedly. “Like, who got that Mecha pregnant?”

“It better be only someone’s idea of a sick joke. If I hadn’t seem it with my own eyes, I couldn’t believe it.”

**********************************************************

Six months later, they got their answer. Because Jane lacked uterine muscles, the techs had to go in and remove the Mecha-infant.

They laid the tiny, squeaking robot on a tabletop. “What does it look like to you?” asked Roster, one of Pathak’s assistants.

The infant had dense, black simulated hair and impeccably green eyes. “It looks a lot like a miniature Companionates model JO-4379 to me.”

“Maybe it’s a sick publicity stunt from Cybertronics: they’re makin’ kid Mechas, why not make baby bots?” Brecker, another assistant, twitted. Pathak detected a trace of envy in her eye and voice; Brecker and her husband had been tied up in knots, trying to get a pregnancy license.

“How many JO-4379’s were built?” Roster asked.

“You’d have to check with Companionates,” Pathak said. “I think it was a short-run model.”

Later that evening, just after Pathak got back to his studio apartment, his phone rang. He almost let the answering machine pick it up, but he answered it anyway. It was Roster.

“I don’t mean to bug you, boss, but I just checked out Companionates’ database. I think I’ve found out who or what got that JN-8523 in a family way.”

“All right, what then?”

“Okay, there were all of five JO-4379’s built. One’s in Paris, another’s in Beijing, a third is in Brazil City; the fourth malfunctioned and was decommissioned, while the fifth, the prototype, is right here in Haddonfield.”

“The apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” Pathak said.

***********************************************************

Later still that evening, as Tapperson was going over the books with his accountant, his phone rang.

“This is Machar Pathak; I think we’ve figured out what happened to your JN-8523.”

“What is it, a prank?”

“I know this will sound ridiculous, but we think another Mecha had something to do with it.”

***********************************************************

A few minutes later, Tapperson, with Pathak at his heels, strode through the streets of Haddonfield, scanning doorways, watching the sidewalks, keeping his eyes open for anyone or anything that resembled the sneaky bugger.

As they passed by the Shangri-La Hotel, the doors swung open and a tall, lithe male figure in black swaggered out into the evening. Tapperson paused and turned to watch it.

“That our fly-by-night?” he asked Pathak.

The other man consulted a page on his palmtop. “That’s the one.”

“Hey, you!” Tapperson called out. The dark figure paused and looked around. “Yes, you. Is your name Joe?”

“They call me that for short,” the Mecha replied.

Tapperson approached it and reached into his breast pocket. “You know anything about this Mecha?” He took out a holopen, flicked it on, and projected a small image of Jane, dancing enticingly on the palm of his hand.

The Mecha drew the corners of its mouth together in a smile of astute pleasure. “Ah, yes! the divine Jane. Now I know, in all the senses of that word, what it is that draws your kind to mine.”

“Then you did it!” Tapperson cried, flicking off the pen and pocketing it.

“I did what, may I ask?” It asked this innocently.

“You got her stuffed! You got her pregnant!”

The Mecha looked at Tapperson dead on, its brows furrowed with processing. “How can that be? We all know there is only one way my kind are reproduced.” It said this with an almost sarcastic edge.

“Well, I’ll be damned if I know how it happened. All that matters is the whelp looked just like you.” The Mecha started to step away, but Tapperson caught it by the arm. “One last thing.”

“That would be?”

Tapperson shoved it away. “Stay away from Jane or any of your kind that looks like her, y’hear?!”

“I heard you, there is no need to shout.”

Tapperson turned away from the Mecha, which went on its merry way, as if the announcement made no difference.

“So what are you doing with the little stranger?” Tapperson asked.

“We’re keeping it for observation. We’re still trying to figure out what really went on with her. We might have to run a controlled experiment to see if it could happen again.”

“He’d be ready and willing to assist you on that one,” Tapperson growled, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at the dancing figure retreating into the glare of the neon light and the shadows. “You going to contact his owner and garnish part of the fees to support the offspring?”

“There’s really no need for that.”

“Huh! Bet the deadbeat parents of the last century would wish they had as easy as that fiberhead has it.”

 

Afterword:

Isaac Asimov is probably spinning in his grave for this one, and I’m sure there are some of you who are groaning over it, but it’s only in good fun.

Literary Easter Egg:

“’Who got that Mecha pregnant’?”—This, and much of the whole plot for that matter, might have come from a Smithsonian magazine article I remember from a few years aback, about how crash test dummies are built, and how one designer had designed a dummy to simulate a pregnant woman, complete with dummy preborn baby. Of course the designer and his production crew made a lot of jokes about “Who got that dummy pregnant?”, guessing it might have been “Vince” or “Larry”, the crash test dummies from the old “You Could Learn a Lot From a Dummy” public service messages.