“Hello, Junior.”

“Hello, Junior.”

He dropped his groceries on the floor and broke several eggs. He turned and said it again.

“Hello, Junior.”

“Hello, Junior.”


“Yyeesss. Yess. YES!”

He pulled out his phone and dialed furiously. He was so excited that he chose the wrong speed dial and had to do it again. “Hey, Annette! Get over here right away!”

“Right away.”

“Jimmy, Your lips didn’t move when you repeated yourself. Is there an echo in the phone line?”

“Of course not! It’s working! Come check this out.”

“Come check this out.”

“Will you shut up! I’m on the phone!”

“You’re talking too fast and making no sense. I’ll be right over.”


“Okay, so it repeats everything you say. It sounds like a tape recording. It even has your voice.”

“It even has your voice.”

“Hey, now it has my voice! Make it stop.”

“Hey, now it has my voi. . .”

Jimmy killed the volume and turned off the input microphone. “Don’t you see? My program works. It’s teaching itself to talk. It imitates every word it hears, even the voice.”

“But, honey it doesn’t understand what you’re saying. It isn’t anything more than just a mechanical parrot.”

“But for two weeks all it did was gurgle and coo. Now it’s making logical syllabic sequences.”

“But it is still nothing more than a fancy voice recognition program.”

“But sweetie, I didn’t teach it the sounds it had to recognize. I gave it a camera for an eye and a mic for an ear. It followed out the instructions to separate what we say from the other sounds around it.”

“Yes honey, and I’m sure that in a week it will have accumulated a huge vocabulary, but it will just string meaningless syllables into sentences. I swear Jimmy, you have been carrying on like it was your firstborn child, not some trivial programming experiment.”

“It’s not trivial, you’ll see.”

“Okay, so how are you going to teach it to understand what it says? You can’t just program a glossary into it. That would be cheating.”

“Hmmm. Maybe I’ll have to expand the program. Would that be cheating, Doctor?”

Annette wrapped her arms around him. “No, this is a test of your theory, after all. See how far you can stretch it. Just remember the rules you set. The premise, after all, is that true intelligence is a byproduct of experience, not just memory and logic processing. And I’m not a doctor, yet. I still have half a semester to go!”


“Well, after four months, neither one of us has come up with a better idea.”

“But, how do you build a sensory input for a computer?”

“I can use that new soft semiconductor stuff spread out in a grid, and connect it to the computer using the old LED vidscreen technology in reverse. It should be able to scan a grid of about seven or eight hundred pixels per inch square, and at three gigahertz, with enough processors, do an area equivalent to the surface of the human hand several hundred times per second.”

“Sounds expensive.”

“Probably. But, it’s only money. And Grampa’s inheritance is wasting away in the bank.”

“Okay, but don’t go crazy. Daddy may be paying for the wedding, but you have to pay for the honeymoon.”

“Trust me, Doctor Jansen, I won’t let you down.”

” I’m not Doctor Jansen, yet. It’s still Mitchell for a few more weeks.”


“What’s with the aluminum skeleton?”

“That’s to put his skin over. Check this out. It has such a low heat conductivity that you can’t even tell it’s room temperature. It’ almost like real skin.”

“And how much did you pay for that?”

“Not much. The engineering was free. They designed it for NASA back in the nineteen eighties or nineties. That stuff has always been public domain. Just pay for the cost of copying the blueprints.”

“So you’re going to input the data from this arm-thing into the computer? And that’s how it is going to establish meaning to all these words?”

“Yep. Pretty clever, huh? But first I have to expand the program so it can teach itself that it has an arm and how to control it.”

“I may be a psych major and not an electrical engineer, but even I can see that you’re going to have trouble getting one computer, especially an old PCI bus machine, to handle movement, sensors, and speech synthesis.”

“Not speech synthesis, speech. But I’ve already figured out that I’ll need separate processors for all that, plus a central command section to coordinate it all.”

“Jimmy, this is getting expensive.”

“I’ve tried to get the company involved, but they think I’m crazy.”

“You’re definitely showing signs. Maybe you should make an appointment. I can get you in at the clinic Wednesday.”

“I was thinking maybe you and I could have a session this evening, Doctor. I even made reservations for dinner at Julio’s.”

” Not fair! You know how much I love Italian!”


“Hello, Annette.”

“Hello, Junior. Now, dear, what is it you want to show me?”

“Just watch. Junior, pick up the cup.”

Junior’s mechanical arm came to life and rose from the table. In a jerky lunge it moved over the half-dozen items on the table, guided by the small camera attached to the top of the computer’s case, and lowered itself around the handle of the cup. It gripped the handle with the pinkie extended, like some high-society gentleman of the nineteenth century. “This is the cup” came forth from the speaker in perfect imitation of Jimmy’s voice.

“Is that it?”

“Okay, smarty-pants. Ask it about the cup or anything else on the table.”

“Junior, break the cup.”

“I am not familiar with the term ‘break’.”

Annette got a sly smile on her face. She picked up the saucer from the table. “Watch this item.”

“I am watching the saucer.”

Annette brought the saucer down hard on the edge of the table and said, “Break” as it shattered.

Junior moved the cup over the table and tapped it on the edge of the table within a few millimeters of the spot where Annette had smashed the saucer. “Is that break?”

Jimmy answered before Annette had a chance. “You must do it more quickly, so that the cup becomes more than one item.”

“Like run?”


“Yeah, I’ve been looking for something to teach him comparisons, so I walked and ran back and forth in front of him. Yes, Junior, like run. Interesting connection for him to make, wouldn’t you say?”

“So why is it setting it down?” Annette was feeling pretty smug as Junior set the cup on the table and slowly started moving its arm back and forth.

But after the first couple passes, the arm started to accelerate. Then it stopped, picked up the cup, and smashed it on the edge of the table. “Break.” The cup shattered into a score or more little pieces as Junior announced it.

“Very good!” said Jimmy proudly. “Thanks honey, you just added to his vocabulary and his reasoning capabilities simultaneously.”

“You think you’re so smart!” Annette stormed out of the lab, but stopped and turned at the doorway. “And stop calling it ‘he’. It’s just a bunch of chips and circuits.”


“Hi, Pop!” Jimmy knew the name “Pop” aggravated his father-in-law, but he didn’t care. The man was a pompous old goat and Jimmy had no use for him.

“Hello, James. I see our project has taken on a whole new shape.”

“Yep, he’s almost human. I just have to wire up these toe circuits, and we’ll be ready to download the hard disk from the old unit.”

“James, may I speak bluntly?”

“Sure, Pop. What’s on your mind?”

“Annie tells me that you have resigned from your position at Hargrove to work on this project of yours.”

“They’re all fools! No vision!”

“And you’re going through your inheritance rather quickly.”

“We’re doing just fine, thank you.”

“You’ve been on this thing for nearly two years.”

“Annette sent you in here, didn’t she? She’s the one who can’t see Junior’s progress! She keeps saying that he’s just responding to his programming. I’ll show her, though. I’ll show them all.”

“James, you and I are both electrical engineers. We understand these things. Annie doesn’t. She’s upset.”

“You don’t fool me! You think I’ve lost it! Well I haven’t! GET OUT! Leave me alone!”


“Hello, Junior.”

“Hello, Jimmy.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Different. I have all these new input circuits and processing centers.”

“There are a whole bunch of new outputs, too. Look over here.”

“I am having trouble controlling the visual…Oh, there are two of them!” The machine slowly analyzed its system and set up a control function to focus them and interpret the two inputs. After a few minutes it found Jimmy in one camera’s view. “There you are.”

“Focus both cameras on me. Good, now blend the two images until they seem as one.”

“This is not easy.”

“You must mix the images together. If it works properly, you will know the distance from you to me without reading your focus settings. Rely on the angle between the two cameras.”

“This is an interesting concept. I think it is easier to read my autofocus.”

“Make a personal project out of it. You do not need to do a lot of trig, just get an estimate, a ‘feel’ for it.”

“I do not understand.”

“Don’t worry about it. It will have to happen with time. Look next to me. What do you see?”

“A mirror. Who is that hanging against the wall? If my computations are correct, that is where my cameras should be.”

“Very good. That’s you in your new case. There are inputs and outputs to your arms, legs, thorax, and head. There is a cord attached on the back of your neck to give you electrical power. You have a twenty-foot cord, which should allow you to get around the room.”

“Where do I find programming to operate all of these appendages?”

“You have to work that out yourself. I am going to lower you to the floor and let you search out your outputs.”

Annette called down the hall, “Jimmy, you have company.”

“Mom, Dad, what a surprise!”

“Hey, Jimbo, howyaben?”

“Just fine, Dad. Come in and meet someone. Folks, this is Junior. Junior, this is my mom and dad.”

“How do you do?”

“Pleased to meet you. Jimmy, why is he suspended like that?”

“He just got his new body today, Mom. I didn’t walk the first day either, remember?”

“That’s that project of his, Jane. Looks impressive, Son, is it going to walk now, too?”

“As soon as he figures out how.”

“How is he supposed to provide power to his joints.”

“Mom, Dad wants to get technical again. I know this is going to bore you. Why don’t you and Annette have some tea and we’ll join you in a minute.”

“That’s sounds like a hint. I know when I’m not wanted. But you are right. I think Annette is picking tomatoes. I’ll just go and join her.”

“So . . . Oh, yeah. He has one hundred and sixty little motors in his legs, arms, chest and face. Help me lower him down. Each motor is connected to the skeleton in the same places as the majority of the tendons in the human body by way of a cable and pulley system.”

“They must be very small cables. How did you get the strength?”

“Each cord has a monel wire core wrapped in a woven sheath of very fine low friction carbon fiber. For smoothness the cord travels on special pulleys, and I have attached each wire to the ‘bone’ with a very strong elastic fiber which should allow the limbs to accelerate like human appendages, not jerky, like a machine.”

Junior watched the two men approach, and held motionless as they laid him on the ground. When they were finished, Jimmy bent over and looked him square in the eye. “How are you doing?”

“I am not sure.”

“My dad and I are going into the front of the house. You feel free to find the controls to your new body.”

“Okay. Good-bye Jimmy.”

“Good-bye, Junior.”


“Hello, Junior. I see you are in a sitting position. Good.”

“Hello, Jimmy. What is a mom and dad?”

“Well. . .” Jimmy suddenly found himself in trouble. “Well, when a man and a woman decide that they want to spend their lives together as a team, they enter into an agreement called marriage. Then, well, then they create children.”

“What are children?”

“Children are, well they’re little people, who. . . who are made by the man and woman and someday grow up into men and women themselves.”

“And so, these little people are the mom and dad?”

“No, no! The mom is the woman who makes you and your dad is the man who helps make you.”

“So, they made you?”

“Yeah, that’s close enough.”

“So, then you are my dad?”


“Didn’t you make me?”

“Yeah, okay, you got me there. I guess I’m your dad. How are you coming with the movements?”

“Very difficult.”

“Yes, it comes with time.”


“Hey there, Junior.”

“Hey there, Dad.”

“How’re things working?”

“If I fall down, it takes a very long time to sort out where all of my limbs are.”

“Perhaps we can work out some sort of mercury switches that will tell you what the attitude of each joint is. Could you tell then more quickly?”

“Maybe. If the switch was sensitive enough, maybe I could compensate for imbalances before I lose myself.”

“Of course! Why didn’t I think of that! Well, as long as we’re working out the modifications, how would you feel about an internal power pack? That way you could get out of this room and seek your own input.”

“Could I ‘hang out’ with you?”

“Sure. Would you like that?”

“You bet!”

“You’ve been watching too much TV. You’re developing quite a bit of slang. I’m going to have to turn you off to make the power conversion. Can you do a system back-up, please?”

“Well, okay, but I don’t like shut downs.”

“I know, but they are important for making you better and keeping you who you are.”


“Look at him, Daddy. He’s trying to teach that thing to play baseball.”

“I think he’s working on motor skills and eye-hand coordination.”

“Now you’re on his side, too! Don’t you see? It’s not just a programming experiment, anymore! He spends more time with that thing than he does me!”

“Why, Princess, I think you’re jealous!”

“I am not! He’s completely off his rocker! He has put three years and everything he has into that … that pile of chips and plastic. We hardly ever talk any more. When we do, it’s always about Junior. He actually acts like the thing’s alive. I think he may actually believe it.”


“Hey, Mr. Jansen.”

“Hiya, Willy! How was school today?”

“Okay. Your friend isn’t very good at playing catch, is he!”

“This is his first time.”

“Whasamatter, he didn’t have a dad to play catch with when he was a kid?”

“He is my dad.”

“Yeah, right.”

“No, Willy, he isn’t far from correct. Can you keep a secret?”

“Sure! Wait a minute, it’s not something I can get in trouble about, is it? Like drugs or something dirty or something? Cause my mom says I’m not supposed to keep those kinda secrets.”

“No, it’s not like that. Come look inside Junior’s head.”

“Whoa, Baby! It looks like the inside of my computer. Hey! Are you a machine of some kind?”

“Willy, meet Junior. Junior, meet William Kendrickson. He lives in the red house three doors up.”

“A pleasure to meet you. Is Willy a nickname?”

“Cool! I mean, yeah.”

“Would you like to play catch with us?”

“Sorry, Junior, I gotta go do my homework. You know, my mom and all. Maybe I can come back later.”

“Maybe you can help Junior learn chess.”

“You can’t beat a computer at chess.”

“Maybe this one. He has to figure it out for himself. Would you like to help him?”

“Sure! I’ll ask my mom.”


“Junior, how’s your power supply?”

“About sixty percent on my primaries. The heat here in the terminal is ideal for my thinking circuits. Quite comfortable. Are we really going to ride in an airplane?”

 “Yes, we are.”


 “We have a little time. Let’s see if we can find a power outlet.”

 “Aren’t you afraid someone will spot you with a cord stuck in its back?”

 “Gee, Mom, in a few days the whole world will know.”

 “We’ll be okay. Don’t worry about a thing.”

 “Seeya, Mom.”

 “I’ll wait right here. . . Good, they’re gone. Now we can talk.”

 “Is that why you asked about his batteries?”

 “Yes. Daddy, I need to ask a favor of you.”

 “You sound pretty serious, Princess. What’s wrong?”

 “I need to come home for a while. Could you have that new maid- what’s her name?”

“Jemimah, Dear”

“They really name their children that?”

“Apparently so.”

“Could you have Jemimah clean up my old room please?”

“You could just use the guest room, like you usually do.”

“No, that’s all the way to the east wing, and I need to be closer to the family.”

“Okay, Annie, you’re not telling me everything.”

“After we get back from the Tokyo symposium, I’m filing for divorce. I Just can’t take any more of Jimmie and that awful machine.”

“Well, after five years I would think you’ve put up with enough to hold on just a little longer. From what I’ve seen of Junior, he’s quite an accomplishment. James should have billion-dollar offers for the plans and the software.”

“Now you’re even calling it a ‘he’! Don’t you understand? Jimmie spent every penny we have on that thing, and he’s just going to show it off. He’s not going to sell Junior, or the plans, or the software. We’re flat busted, living off my practice, which is only eight months old.”

“Come on, now, Princess. You can’t be completely penniless. His grandfather left him something like fifteen million dollars.”

“Fifteen point seven two. The last several thousand went to cover the airfare and hotels from here to Atlanta, then by scramjet to Tokyo, because ‘Junior wants to ride the space plane’ and back to Atlanta and then here. He closed the estate account and even took some out of our joint savings. I’m surprised he didn’t bring that little Willie delinquent from up the street.”

“Well, even so, he’ll have his choice of research positions. I could even use his understanding of artificial intelligence at Spec-Tec.”

“No, we’re through. I can’t take any more.”


“Hello, Princess. Good to see you awake.”

“Daddy? Where are we? This looks like a hospital room. What happened?”

“You’re at Orlando General. The plane went up, decided to do a barrel roll, and landed in the muck just about a half mile from the airport, nose-first, upside-down. The cockpit crew was killed and so was everyone in first-class, except you and James. Oh, and Junior here, too.”

“What a mess. So much for showing it off at the symposium. How bad am I hurt?”

“Some small burns, one broken leg, and some other scratches. Nothing major.”

“Is that what that lump under the blanket is where my right leg should be?”

“Yep. You’ve got a good size cast. But I don’t think you’ll have to go to Tokyo to show him off. He’s already headline news.”

“What? What happened? And how did that thing get in here with its circuits and skeleton hanging out like that? And where’s Jimmie?”

“James is in the burn ward. He got cooked pretty bad. It seems that the crash must have left just about everyone in the forward part of the plane okay, but unconscious.

“Of course, Junior was buckled in, and a knock on the noggin didn’t have nearly so bad an effect on him. He got loose, opened the door, climbed out, and started calling for help. When the fire broke out in the cabin, he went back in, dragged you out, and got you clear. Then he went back in for James. By that time, the fire was going pretty good.

“When the fire trucks came, he was starting to burn, but he was just getting James clear of the blaze. Of course, the first thing the firemen did was hit him with the hose. He stopped, looked at them a second, then dropped dead. Apparently, the water must have temporarily shorted him out. Everyone else in first class and the cockpit was lost in the flames. Personally, I can’t think of a more terrible way to go.”

“He went into a burning aircraft and pulled us out?”

“That’s what everyone is saying.”

“Help me out of bed. We have to wake him up.”

“Now, now, get back in bed. It can wait until tomorrow.”

“NO! I have to talk to him NOW! Junior? Where’s that button? God, please be in ‘stand-by’. Here it is. Junior!”

“Hi. Mom! Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Junior. How are you feeling?”

“Lousy. Nothing seems to work right. I think I got too hot. I also got wet. The neural net in my skin is sending extremely loud signals, very confusing. Is this what Dad calls ‘pain’?”

“Why did you go into a burning plane?”

“To get you and Dad. Where’s Dad?”

“He’s on another floor. He was hurt pretty bad, but he’ll be okay.

“Mom, What’s a “dammachine?” Is it different from a regular machine?”

“What are you talking about?”

“That’s how he got to be so famous. It seems in all the excitement the firemen checked him for a pulse, decided he was dead, and put him on the ambulance over here. I was already at the hospital when he arrived, waiting for you. They rolled the ‘corpse’ into the E.R. and forgot about him in the rush of dealing with the crash and two car accidents.

“When an orderly finally got around to him, he triggered Junior, who sat bolt upright and started screaming for his mother. When a couple of nurses came over to calm him down, one of them spotted the arm there and said ‘Hey, it’s a damn machine!’, which, needless to say, caused quite a stir. Reporters were everywhere, trying to scoop each other.

“I finally got to one of the nurses, and we took him over to you in this wheelchair. He’s been sitting in it quietly ever since. Of course, I had to say something to the press, and I’m sure he’ll make the six o’clock news. I promised them a more informative statement and a press conference before the end of the day.”

“Did I do bad?”

“No, Dear. You saved our lives. But didn’t your sensors tell you that it was hot in there?”

“Yes. It was very hot. I think some of my CPUs may have overheated to the point of defectiveness.”

“But didn’t you know that would happen?”

“My alarms were warning me, but I had to get you out.”

“But why? Why did you have to get us out? Did you have something in your programming? Did Jimmie tell you to get us out if there was a crash?”

“No! There was heat! If you overheated, I would be all alone! What would I do without you and Dad?”

“Look, Junior, you’re hurt really badly. Worse than me, and worse than…worse than Dad. Daddy, how long was I out?”

“It’s two-thirty. A couple hours anyway. Why?”

“Junior, how’s your power supply?”

“I can’t tell. That circuit seems to be one of those lost.”

“Can you do a full system back-up?”

“No. My hard drives are not responding. Something’s wrong. Actually, there are a lot of things wrong.”

“I want you to relax and don’t move anything. You’re probably running on your second set of batteries and the charging cord was lost in the plane.”

“Will I lose my data?”

“No. Everything is going to be fine. Now hold on. Daddy, help me get him out of this chair.”

“What are you doing?”

“Just help me. Now let’s lay him on his stomach.

“Good. Now open him up. His drive bay is in here. The door swings upward.”

“Hey, what’s going on in here?”

“A nurse. Just in time.”

“Get back in bed, Mrs. Jansen, this minute.”

“I’m fine. Get an orderly in here.”

“You’re not fine until a doctor says you’re fine!”

“Give me those charts. Daddy, do you have a pen? Thank you.”

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m signing off the charts and authorizing this patient for discharge. Last time I checked I was still on staff here.”

“Well, I never!”

“And you won’t ever if you don’t get me an orderly and a gurney.”

“If you’re so healthy, why do you need a gurney?”

“The orderly is going to help my father get Junior out to his car. You do have a car out front, don’t you, Dad?”

“Of course. Jacque is out front with the limo.”

“You’re not going to put that…that thing on a hospital gurney?”


“All right, I’m going already!”

“Princess, what’s gotten into you all of a sudden?”

“Just fix his hard drive. You’re supposed to be a computer genius. Show me.”

“Jeeze, this is antique stuff. I haven’t seen this kind of equipment in years. Where’d he get all this stuff?”

“Flea markets mostly.”

“Why? What’s wrong with the modern stuff?”

“Jimmie wanted to prove it wasn’t CPU capabilities holding up the breakthrough in artificial intelligence, it was the whole approach.”

“There it is. Just a loose wire. You’ve come unplugged back here, Junior. Let me just check a couple other things.”

“Hurry up, Daddy, please.”

“Okay, try now, Junior.”

“Very good, thank you.”

“Now can you do a back-up?”

“Doing it now.”

“Annie, can you calm down and tell me what’s got you so upset?”

“Wait ’til he’s done.”

“All finished.”

“Now, shut down. Grandfather is going to take you home so we can put you back together.”

“But I don’t like shut downs.”

“But you won’t be in pain anymore when we wake you up.”

“Okay. Good-night, Mom.”

“Good-night, Junior.”

“Grandfather? Annie, are you sure maybe you didn’t bump your head a little harder than the doctors think?”

“You have to rebuild him. He has to be good as new when we pick Jimmie up and take him home. How long before he can go home.”

“Right now, they’re talking a couple of months. Annie, I can’t rebuild this thing!”

“All the plans are at home. Just review his files. The prints, the schematics, everything is there.”

“But this took five years and almost sixteen million dollars!”

“For you, that’s pocket change. And most of the structural stuff is still there. Just some chips, some skin, and a few tendons. You just saved all the data.”

“But you hate this thing, don’t you?”

“Don’t you see? He risked himself to save us. The program worked. He is programmed to get away from excess heat. The number one problem with these old chips was keeping them cool.

“Jimmie built all kinds of overheat protection into the primary instruction set. But Junior chose to ignore the programming. He made a conscious decision to override his programming. He chose to make the ultimate sacrifice to save me! And me first, before Jimmie.

“Don’t you get it? After all the rotten, miserable things I said about him, he gave everything for me! After all my years of medical training and psychiatric specialization, I don’t even see the most basic human qualities at work.

“Junior’s gone beyond even the initial program and rewritten his whole thought process. Daddy, this machine actually made a decision of the heart. He loves me. He loves me like I was his real mother.

“Oh look, here’s the gurney. Okay, get him up there.”

“Whatcha gonna do with that thing, lady?”

“Watch what you call my son!”

Annette bent down to kiss him, and a tear fell down into an open spot in the cheek. Little motors tripped and lifeless, plastic lips curled up into a smile.


© Bob Dixon

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