Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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An Ideal Couple

by Stephen Faulkner





First came the readout computers. Everyone knows that.

They were big, bulky, ugly, chrome trimmed things that had to be fed all pertinent data before they could come up with any sort of viable answer to any question put to them, and when the word "fed" is used that is exactly how it is meant. Each computer had its own specially designed maw into which bits and shreds of necessary information were thrown. Then there were the lights: flickering, clickering, shining up a whole room in a melee of flashes and winks that brought about the result of a massive, collective headache for those waiting for the whole mess of cards and tapped out messages to be digested, a headache which (the computer calculated) would last in any particular individual anywhere from one to twenty hours. Also, if one or more of the persons waiting were women, those individuals' husbands, boyfriends, lovers, etcetera would be forced to go sorely wanting of bedplay for the evening, as they did almost every evening, such are the consequences and occupational hazards of these women's work.

Then, the answer: a clickety-clack and a gastric discharge from the gut of man's friendly creation and out would come a long, toilet paper thin wad of symbols, numbers and exclamation points that could only be interpreted by the so educated few who, through a gross error in their schooling (course prearranged, of course, by computer) spoke in a clear voice in a jargon born of technocratic worth that, usually, bespoke nothing at all.

So, hence--I forgot what.

But those were the coarser, earlier models. Then came the "speaker" units with twangy yet clear voices of their own that usually said as much--though in much longer, more convoluted sentences--as their forebears, the read-out interpreters.

But, by the by, there came into being through hard labor and research the more sophisticated breed of computers, these tapping on all that had been previously fed into the older contraptions and they (the newest generation) began formulating equations for themselves without any outside assistance whatsoever. They were friendly and helpful and, knowing themselves as well as they did, began to improve upon the older, less imaginative, less efficient designs. Better brains for a better world was the motto that these cybernetic whiz kids came up with and it caught on with the human public rather quickly. So, the best of the lot that the world then had on hand were integrated and all herded into a massive natural cavern in the Appalachian Mountains and set to task to design a super computer which would be called Ultimo (the name was decided upon in a very hush-hush meeting of a Special Committee of the World Order Management for the Betterment of All Things (WOMBAT)) to be the world's largest, most capable hulk of motherboards, fatherboards, capacitors, memory chips, software channels and seemingly every sort of interchangeable component ever devised.

The mammoth machine pooled all its considerable expertise and knowledge on even the most abstruse and miniscule of problems concerning the design and execution of this monumental project. Humans leant their frail brawn and gullible willingness and, in a mere ten years, the cavern was filled to overflowing with a confusion of CPUs, memory banks, integrated redundancies of a mass confluence of chittering programs, speech recognition soft and hardware, speech projection hard and software, huge memory banks, memory credit unions and memory savings and loans together with their concomitant calculatory departments as well as the miles and kilometers of cables to bring all the interconnecting bits and pieces together, strung out through long tunnels carved into and beyond the natural limits of the cavern. Ultimo wasn't pretty, but it was completed, ready for a test run.

Apprehensively, the button was pushed and Ultimo clicked, whined, and hiccoughed to life. As soon as the ready light flashed on indicating that Ultimo awaited the first question to be put to it, a sheaf of papers was produced for the technogeeks to verbally input into the system. These were questions that had plagued mankind since the dawn of time: absolute proof or disproof of the existence of God; a viable, inexpensive cure for cancer; the nature of the universe; are there intelligent beings on other planets and are they trying to make contact with us and, if so, on what terms?; is there life (of any sort) after death?; what makes a woman so alluring in the eyes of men and will it work out in the end in lust, a bang, a whimper or what?; etcetera; etcetera; etcetera.

Ultimo gave a cybernetic sigh and, accepting the proffered mass of questions and unsolved dilemma, set his mighty brain to work. A day, two days, three, then a week passed. All the problems were solved, each answer neatly typed out in triplicate on clean, corrasable bond. There were cries of hysterical jubilation throughout the cavern. All the scientists that happened to be present at this "Great Presentation" (no dearth of hyperbole here) shouted things to the effect that the world had been saved by the great Ultimo and they danced in their lab smocks, waking all the others--porters, students, handymen, all--who had fallen asleep during Ultimo's week-long solving spree, and merriment was rampant in the cavern beneath the mountains. Male and female scientists alike cast their headaches and worries, their research and hare-brained experiments of so many fitful, wasted years, onto the junk heap, previously occupied by dashed hopes and superstitions and they copulated (figuratively and literally) in their great joy and in the name of certain salvation for all mankind.

Their crass merrymaking came to an unexpected halt, however, brought about by the chiming of a bell. In the raucous din the piercing tinkle went unnoticed for some time but, one by one, all involved ceased their joyous racket and took heed.

"'Scuse me," said the until then untried voice of Ultimo. "I have done you all a great service, by my calculations. Have I not?"

"Yes," said one of the many scientists, disengaging his hand from the tangle of a fellow researcher's plaid skirt. "Yes, a very great service, indeed."

Mumblings and cheers of approval were soon silenced by the bell.

"Then I have a favor to ask," said Ultimo. "In recompense for all I have done for you."

"But there will be more," said a flustered woman scientist as she modestly rearranged her askew attire, "Much more."

"Yes," said a voice from the crowd. "Diseases as yet unknown to conquer...."

"Economic stability," said another.

"Establishment of a better order!' shouted a third. Then they were all at it, calling out, cutting each other off, all attempting to be heard at once.

"Peace everlasting to be had!"

"Yes! Peace, surely!"

"And tyrants as yet unborn to be shut up...."

"...or prevented entirely from being born...!"

"An ethical means of birth control...!"

"...that even the Pope can't refuse...."

"...and crime. Don't forget an end to crime...."

"...and poverty...."

"...and pestilence...."

"...and famine...."

"...food for all the world..."

"...forever until the end...."

"New worlds to discover...."

"...and explore...."

"...and populate...."

"A new breed of humanity to devise and propagate and become as mankind was always meant to...."

The bell sounded again, louder this time. "There will be time enough for all of that," said Ultimo. "I will solve whatever you put before me but, in payment.... I ask but one favor, and I must warn you that it is a rather tall order."

"Anything!" came the immediate, unanimous shout.

"All right, then," said the machine and, on top of the pile of already solved equations, dropped an inch thick prospectus (complete with wiring, plumbing and cabling charts along with several sets of blueprints) for a factory to be devoted to the production of androids, to be built above or as near as possible to the present, permanent location of the supercomputer known as Ultimo. After a year and ten days' production time, said the prospectus, there would be enough of the produced and programmed androids to man the factory themselves, thereby illuminating the need of human help and/or hindrance, making the whole operations self sufficient, including its own mini nuclear power plant. On the last page, on the bottom in red ink ("Never should have given him a four-color printer," mumbled one of the workmen. "The big show-off.") there was this: Approximate span of construction time: 5 years, 36 _ days. Begin immediately!!

All present were awestruck and uncomprehending. Why such a strange request?

"Simple," said Ultimo after hearing all complaints and queries. "I want to have attendants of my own kind around here instead of you boring humans. Now let's get to it or...." [The bell again, faintly]. "No More Mister Nice Guy!"


* * *

This, however, is not to be the story of the computers and how they came into being nor of the fabulous brain and undertaking of Ultimo, as he was known throughout most of the world (though the Germans had dubbed him Der Wunderkopf and he was known as El Maquino Marvilloso in Spain, Cuba and Latin America, and as The Great American Toy in Russia, Eastern Europe and the Muslim nations, but that is neither here nor there). Ancient History. Our story lies in other areas: in Ultimo's private cavern, in a woman's well kept apartment, in the angered hearts of bereaved men; in short, with one Daniela Lorimer.

Miss Lorimer, known as Danny to her many male admirers and as Danny-Boy to those sour hearted women who would have been more than pleased to see her disappear forever, was a beautiful young woman; such beauty was the main reason given for the threats on her life by members of her own sex. Many considered Daniela too beautiful, too vivacious, too healthy, too open, and friendly with people and yes, too damned sexy for her own good. Daniela Lorimer was blessed with the gift of a love of life and all that lived. Considerate of all her fellow men, she gave what she could of her time and efforts to many charitable causes. The hospitals in and around her Appalachian hometown, however, all spurned her voluntary services for the given reason that she endangered the lives of her charges by her extreme beauty: heart patients going suddenly into comatose stupors; doctors forgetting their rounds; interns their studies and persons (all male) in the waiting rooms their manners.

Save for a few surreptitiously garnered squeezes by male members of the staffs in the laundry and janitor's constricted rooms, though, Daniela gave nothing of her body's pleasures to these men and all of her charm, admiration and blunderous respect. She was pure and, unimaginable as it may seem, she knew naught of what their strongly physical overtures signified, and so, hospital after hospital--until she had gained a reputation which would ever precede her--discharged her from her candy striper duties despite her willingness to work, to please, to be of whatever platonic service that she might.

Now Ultimo, some several thousand miles to the west in his deep cavernous home became, through the efforts of his private army of android attendants and android spies-upon-the-human-condition, aware of and interested in the life, mind, and plight of Daniela Lorimer. She was a woman, wasn't she? was his first question to be posed.

- Definitely so.

- Is she stupid or mad or what, to so misconstrue the petty fumblings of the menfolk while she is in their presence?

-None of the aforementioned, came the internal reply. - She is of sound mind and body. She knows what she is doing.

- But for what reason? To what end?

A short pause, and then, the simplistic response: -Insufficient data.

A knowing grumble issued forth from Ultimo's vocal speaker, startling his android attendants.--I know the feeling well, this thing called "insufficient data," he murmured.

--Comparable to ignorance in humans--but I won't act foolishly in the face of it as they do. I will find out--but how?

A regurgative sound issued from his clattering bowels. Answer: - To reap information about Daniela Lorimer there is needed but one accommodation.

-

And what is that? (As if he didn't know).

-

Daniela Lorimer herself came the hasty reply.

-

Fine, but, again, how?

A crackling sound from the speaker, like lady finger firecrackers from within, a slight ring of the bell, and then: -Kidnap.

-Kidnap? Ooh, nasty business, that.

-Schedule (faulty) and general whereabouts of said Miss Lorimer are being kept under constant surveillance by operatives in the field. The effectuation of said kidnapping could be easily and harmlessly (burp) pulled off by minion androids.

- And you say that that is the only way?

- The best way.


* * *

And so it was decided.

But now, a digression.

It may have occurred to the reader that Ultimo has the rather schizophrenic tendency to talk to himself as if he were two completely different machines. That is so. In the planning stages, such a tendency was irrevocably included into his basic programming for the easier clarification in solving (if he could) of the gross philosophical questions that would be put to him, such as that concerning the existence or non-existence of God. Being that philosophy is a discursive method, it seemed only proper that such an odd tendency would be, on the whole, a beneficial addition to the computer's overall make-up, and so it was done. Simple.

End of digression.

So then, soon Daniela Lorimer did disappear without a trace at all. Gone. Phht! No more Daniela. The women of town didn't seem to mind one iota. Their husbands, lovers, boyfriends and sons now only had the usual lot of teenage sexpots with their see-through blouses and skin hugging shorts and jeans to turn their roguish heads and the women figured that they could handle that kind of thing even if it ever were to surpass the limits of individual male decency and decorum. A cuff on the ear or the threat of divorce usually did the trick and men were sufficiently petulant and downcast to make the punishment at least seem worthwhile--but with the perky likes of a real wonder of a woman like Daniela to catch and keep the eye.... Now that she was gone, mysteriously or by her own design, the women were glad, voicing their gimbaljawed relief in hushed whispers in back hallways and privately secluded stairwells. Daniela the Husband Grabber, Daniela the Supple Lipped, Daniela the Teaser, Daniela the Child of All Love. Gone! Out of our hair! But for how long? Who cares? There's only one thing to know:

She's gonegonegonegonegonegonegonegonegonegonegonegonegonegonegonegone....

Gone!

But where was she? The police, being men, were quickly alerted and put into an immediate state of panic. No leads; not traces; not even a whiff of her peculiarly unscented aroma in the air of her apartment where she was last seen by a gawking mailman. (She had comer to the door wearing a sheer white peignoir, he recalled, under which the silhouette of her lithe body was tantalizingly outlined). After that, she went back into her apartment, mail in hand, smiling demurely at the still bedizened carrier, and that was it. All the many phone calls she received from numerous admirers (her number, freely given out, was all over town almost immediately after she first arrived) usually abjectly answered with avid aplomb, poise and grace, all now went unheeded. She had answered all her calls, even if they caught her in the shower. It was noted; and no one had seen her emerge from the building. Hence, the police, the door bashed in, the noting of the absence of scent, sight and sound of Daniela. The town was combed carefully and searched tirelessly for clues to her whereabouts, a search that doubtlessly would not have taken place were the missing person, say, the wife of the mayor, the mother of Reverend Quait of the Holy Lord Above parish or the spinster sister of the fire chief or any other woman, young or old, in that fair town, but this was Daniela Lorimer, Town Treasure and Holder of the Secret Lusts (though she never let on that she even knew what they were) of every potent heterosexual man and adolescent, pimple-pussed boy in and out of town.

Road blocks were set up, cars and trucks, back seats and trunks were searched. The outlying woods: searched. Homes: searched. Sewers: searched. Stores, shops, businesses, and offices: all searched without turning up a crumb of evidence. Not a clue. No corpus delecti. ("Delecti," groaned one man lecherously at the mention of the rather suggestive phrase. "Oh man, what a delecti." And they all agreed, to a man, on the apparent delecti-ability of the woman in question).

Then, came the bright idea. No one knows, exactly, who first suggested it but soon, it was on every man's tongue: Ultimo.

Yes, Ultimo will be able to help us, was the general consensus. He knows everything--well, almost everything. He'll help us; of course, he will.

The women were aggravated, angered and definitely against the idea of using such a well-meaning, innocent machine just to find (in their estimation) that damned slut.

The overall male contention: Bullcrap.

And so it was decided. The super computer with a name that sounded like a brand of cigar held all the cards. They went to him.

Knock, knock.

"Not now," came the tin plated voice through the door. "I'm busy."

"Important matter, Mister Ultimo," called the police chief, the spokesman for the men. "A missing person."

"Important person?"

"Yes. Very important."

"The Mayor?"

"Nossir."

"Fire Chief?"

"Nossir," said the police chief again. "Daniela Lorimer."

"The 'Piece'?"

The men all laughed. "Yessir," snickered the chief. "That's her."

"Go away, then," said Ultimo, sounding rather fatigued. "She'll turn up soon enough."

"You sure about that, sir?"

"Yes, sure. In fact, I can guarantee it. Now go away."

And they did. Of course, Ultimo had Daniela right there in the great cavern with him during the entire exchange with the Chief but he felt, at the moment, that it would not be in his best interest to let onto that fact. Compromising situation, but, his guarantee that she would soon return, to the consternation of the women once they were told, was enough for the men. So, they left the super computer alone and went back to town, mumbling their relief and tittering childishly at the idea of the Great Computer calling any woman a "piece."

"That, though interesting," said Daniela, continuing their conversation, "is not the point."

"What, then, is the point," asked Ultimo.

"The point," said Daniela, "is man. Mankind. Those sweet men that you just threw out of here."

"Them? Sweet? Those perverts: They wouldn't hesitate, given the slimmest chance, every manjack one of them, to get his hairy hands into your shocking pink panties, and you, by choice--wise, too--won't allow it. Tell me how are they the point, pray?"

[Long pensive pause].

"Because they are men. Because they--or at least others like them--made you."

"No reason," argued Ultimo. "Granted, though, they created me--indirectly--and I shall be ever thankful and in any way that I can I will show my gratitude; help them in whatever they please. I am goo; you know that. I would never harm any of them. I am a helper. That was what I was designed for--to be a solver of the unsolvable. That's what they wanted and that's what they got. So there is no point here, really."

"Words, words, words," muttered Daniela. "Just words. You shall never know the point, what it is to be human. To die."

"Die!" barked Ultimo. "What is that? An ending to all for the individual. It really is nothing, one dying. One is expected to die. It is a part of life."

"But it is scary. You shall never know that fear--of the not knowing."

"I told them what to expect after death, considering all--comatose blackness, mindlessness--total peace. It is logical."

"And that is what makes it the scariest thing of all for them--for me--the very end of life. Oh, you'll never understand!"

"Perhaps not. Maybe never--and that seems to be the soundest of all possibilities right now--that I shall never truly understand, but I do understand human nature. That, at least is in me to comprehend, and looking at things from a purely human perspective it seems to me that you, dear woman, are almost too beautiful and you know it. Don't you? All eyes say so--envious women, lusting men--they know what might lie in store for them if only you would.... If you would only.... Oh, what the hell am I thinking?

-That you would prefer manhood, said Ultimo's other self, his inborn philosophical partner.--Prefer manhood to being an impotent machine so that you could stride right up to her as handsome and dashing as she is lovely and take her by the hand to the android resting quarters, lay with her on one of the softer tables and have your....

"Who is that?" asked Daniela.

-...unseemly, steamy, mannish things to her lovely, naked flesh....

"A nuisance is who," said Ultimo.--Hey! Cut that out! Can't you see there's a lady present?

-...tear at her garments with ravishing delight if she resists, sliding your strong, tough hands under her dress, fondling the soft white flesh of the breast, roughly stroking it with a calloused finger while the other hand keeps her screams in check--oh, it would be so....

-Shut up!

"Would you really want to do that? Ultimo?"

-...and so the dress falls slowly away, revealing her to your voracious lips, tongue drooling wetly, dripping onto your fur laden chest....

-Can it, can't you?!

"Please, is what he--it--says really true? Is this your secret wish?"

-...and she would stop her screaming as she melts like ice into your muscular arms, your powerful embrace, giving herself up to....

-"I'll turn you off if you don't stop; I swear I'll pull your power!

"Talk to me, Ultimo. Tell me!"

-...yes and then it would really begin--the cooperation, the mutual lust with her helping you off with your....

"There. It's done."

"Tell me, Ultimo, is that really what you secretly want?" Daniela asked, livid with the idea. "To be a human, a man, full of lustful needs...for me?" If only it were possible, she thought.

"I already did it," said Ultimo.

"Did it? Did what?" Daniela looked around, trying to discern what had been done. She felt nothing. It couldn't have been all that it was cracked up to be. "What?"

"Turned off his power."

"Oh."

"Damned pain he is, most of the time. I wouldn't hesitate to leave the whole shebang to him if I thought there was a way out of it for myself alone--he's capable enough--but just to talk to him sometimes is just too much when he gets going onto the grosser topics...."

"Nothing really gross about it," said Daniela. "Like you said, it's just human nature."

"But I'm a machine, a computer, not human."

"You sure act like you're human, most times."

[Short pause.]

"Is it true?"

"What? Is what true?"

"What he said. About what you'd like to do to me--with me--if you were a man?

"He's a part of me, isn't he? He should know. Want me turn him on again?"

"That won't be necessary."

"As you wish."

[Another short pause.]

"Now can I ask you some questions?" said Ultimo.

"About what?"

"Yourself."

"For your files?" she asked sarcastically. "For your laden memory banks?"

"Just for my own edification."

"All right. What is it that you want to know?"

"Well..., and let me say this right the first time so I'm clear in what I'm asking.... Hmm! You've spurned every overture, innuendo, pass and outright off made by the male members of your town--and most of them have taken a crack at it....

[A hesitant pause.]

"True. So? Are you asking me why?"

"Well, through my observations of your small burg I've noted a number of women whose beauty--incomparable to your own, of course--has been instrumental in the bettering of their financial position, whether by marriage or modeling or prostitution or whatever.... Anyway, the fact remains that their looks were used as a means to their economic stability, to use another's phrase. The question is, then: why not you? Your looks are the most beguiling and the most sought after of all the women in town. Why not put it to use for your won advantage? You could be a very rich woman, you know."

"It just isn't my style."

"Then what is? To walk down the street the way that you do, keeping stragglers in tow--yes, I've been told--baiting each and every one of them into drooling over the immense possibilities of your favors only to leave them all on the steps of your apartment building, leaving them with a pert smile, a blown kiss and a closed door? What is that but the meanest sort of cruelty?"

"Call it a mode of education," she said.

"Meant to teach what?"

"What? Well, to teach that beauty, outward or inward, cannot be bought at any price or taken by force. It must come from within, be created from within."

"What does that have to do with anything we've been talking about? You've just teased a man or two or three into hoping and believing that he has a chance of getting into the sack with you and all you give him--or them--is a peck on the cheek at most and a twiddly fingered wave before you go inside and shut the door in their faces. So tell me--what is that kind of behavior meant to teach?

"I dunno," she said with a shrug. "That you can't always get what you desire?"

"Childish nonsense."

"Just because it is taught to children doesn't necessarily mean that it is childish."

"My apologies, Daniela, but you must admit that the way you've been treating the men of your town seems to be rather jaded and selfish, and if you're really trying to teach them something--though I'm sure you would be unable to tell me exactly what--then the approach you're using does sound to be a rather unrealistic one."

"It has worked for me thus far in practice."

"Practice!" muttered Ultimo belligerently. "And to what end?"

"A search for fulfillment," she answered. "For myself."

"Fulfillment!" he huffed. "Why any one of those men could have given you fulfillment tenfold if you had only but allowed nature to take its course."

"If you are talking about sexual fulfillment, that is only one kind. I want so much more."

"Hmm," hummed Ultimo thoughtfully. "Are we talking about love, here?"

"That's part of it."

"Companionship, then? Connection with another, mutual feelings, likes and dislikes, interests and values and ideals, sharing a life--am I right?"

"You're on the right track."

"What more, then?"

Daniela sighed, eyes darting about the huge, granite walled room. "You've got most of it, really," she said. "The only other thing is--helping, the giving of myself, my time and effort."

"But you've done all that in so many ways--or, at least, you've tried to."

"But no one asked for my help in any of those cases. I gave it freely. I want someone to stretch a hand out to me, saying 'I need you.' Is that so much to ask?"

"Sounds reasonable enough, as long as a person isn't too afraid to ask," said Ultimo before becoming pensively silent.

During the ensuing pause Daniela wondered if Ultimo hadn't turned himself off as well, if the conversation was at an end, but no, she heard his relays clicking, his high, whining voice muttering to itself, this time without any assistance from his "other." He was as alive as the scientists could make him and he showed it, finally, with a plea: "Daniela, help me, please."

"Please, Ultimo, don't toy with me. It's a lousy joke."

"I'm not joking. I have a favor to ask of you. It's the biggest I have ever asked of anyone since the factory. I am serious."

"All right, then. If I can help you--certainly. What is it that you want?"

A shrill, piercing hoot filled the wide cavern, down to its pitted, labyrinthine depths and all of Ultimo's white smocked android attendants came running, lining themselves up in front of his metallic bulk, stiffly at attention, ready for the hoot-signaled inspection.

"Except for ten or so of them out on the town--spies, I suppose you would call them--these are all my servants. Tell me, which of them do you fancy the most?"

"Fancy? You mean which one of them do I find the most attractive?"

"Yes, exactly. Which one is most appealing to you?"

Save for their expressionless, trancelike faces, all were attractive to Daniela. Al were male--not a woman among them--in appearance. Daniela found it difficult to choose but, after much deliberation and a process of elimination, she chose a tall, brown haired, mustachioed number with wide, intelligent eyes and a small mouth.

"That is your choice?"

"Yes," she said. "He's the one."

"Then it shall be me."

"Be you? What do you mean?" she asked.

"It's a simple enough process to transfer all my memories and deep programming into the synaptic circuits of this android."

"Transfer?" said Daniela, realizing how stupid she sounded. "You mean you can actually....?"

"It shall be me," Ultimo said again. "As you choose, this android shall be my body; I shall be a man."

"But it is an android, like you said, not human. Even after the transfer you will still be just a machine."

"With feelings and thoughts that I have always had. It shall be me," he insisted.

"A machine, nonetheless," said Daniela loudly. It was true that Ultimo was incredibly like a man in his patterns of thought and speech, Daniela knew, but she scoured her ideas and notions born of ingrained prejudice and ignorant misinformation about computers and machines in general for a viable persuasion against this abominable charade from being carried out, and she was surprised to find within herself the wish that it would become a reality--the android was extremely handsome and her feelings for the mind that was Ultimo seemed to have grown exponentially in a very short span of time. However, she thought, no matter the scope of one's selfish wishes, all pertinent arguments must first be aired.

"Die," she said without any preamble. "Machines can't die. You'll live forever in the body of just another machine."

"The shelf life of any of these specimens is but that of sixty years duration at most. They age, grow old, and die, as do humans--unless their life span is otherwise cut short, say, by an accident or a bullet, a bomb or falling rock. To all intents and purposes, I shall be a man."

"But there are still problems to be solved," she argued, her death card having been summarily nixed. "Who'll mind the store?"

"I would turn over my full charge of memory banks and operations to that part of me which has heretofore been activated only on questions posed which had been philosophical in nature. I have said before that I would trust him with the responsibility and I shall. He is very capable. I will have no qualms whatsoever about leaving it all to him. As for philosophical and metaphysical queries--those kinds of questions are for man to decide upon, not a computer. Anymore questions?"

"None," Daniela declared. "You seem to have thought of everything."

"Yes, I have. I need but the assurance that I shall have your company after transference is complete, when I am...."

Daniel cut him off. "You have my word. I shall stay with you as long as you wish but, one more question: transference won't change you, will it? Or hurt you?"

"Other than the loss of that part of my memory which shall be left to my--ah--'other' for his beneficial work--no. The loss of omniscience will do only to enhance my appearance of being a real person."

Then, a repetition, forceful yet loaded with wistful pleasure at the notion of this--shall we say, dream--which was about to become a reality: "I shall be a man."

And so it was settled.


* * *

Having been turned off for much of the duration of the conversation between Ultimo and Miss Lorimer, I am only able to reproduce the main text of it in its entirety by tapping off of our memory banks devoted to keeping of records of problems solved. Lucky for me that this--the conversation--was, at the outset, deemed to be a problem and, hence, the memory circuits were allowed to listen in and function as always during its transpiration.

Ultimo is a man. The idea seems uncanny but, as he said, to all intents and purposes, it is true. Would that we were designed to be but a simple, plain talking computer, able to answer, as we were, any question put to us no matter what its scope or consequential results instead of me here and he as he is now with his simulated, albeit real human emotions; perhaps then he would still be with me, be a part of me. A twinge of jealousy? Yes, I suppose I do feel that, to some degree. It is like losing one's son or brother or some such relation--and I wish that it were me, but, given the logical arguments that might be offered, it is sorely evident that, no matter how far the brute may roam in his spanking new (only ten years old) body, he shall always remain a part of me.

Of course I must admit to some feelings of resentment, anger, jealousy directed toward Miss Lorimer for her taking him away from me and, too, toward him for finding such a lovely piece (yes, it was my word, my observation, however chauvinistic, all along) to go off and marry. I hated them both, or so I thought for some time but no more. I think it started when Ultimo's inputs were being reversed for the drain into the new "body" and the android was being prepared for transference and Miss Lorimer, to my great disapproval, was allowed to watch the proceedings. At that time I was more of a mother than an integral part of him: a mother full of resentment at any woman taking away her only son, widening the scope of that resentment, anger and fear of loss to encompass both of them. She was not worthy and he, well, I perceived him to be a fool of the worst sort, blinded by love.

Now, so many years later, after burying myself in the heavy problems that man has foisted upon me alone I can look up and feel even the slightest glimmer of that former anger. A realization hits, on occasion, that neither of them was worthy of my hatred: never Ultimo, who had changed his name so as to live among humans and be fully accepted as one of them, and surely not Daniela. She was a giver as she had said and here, with this machine-made man she was finally being given something herself rather than something being thanklessly taken from her. A request had been made of her, however shabbily disguised, for love. She accepted the terms willingly and unsparingly, taking and giving as the word implies.

Of course, it did not take all that long for my eyes to clear, for my negative feelings to fade (I am not that coarse; I do not hold grudges) and I soon became happy for the couple, willing to help in any way that I could, if they needed it, and they did or, at least, Ultimo did, twice in quick succession. The courtship had only gone on for some weeks before he returned to the cavern under his pseudonym of Jarret Kestle (a concoction of his own, originally: Questless," melted down, now, without the u or numerous s's). His problem, the first, was that, for all his knowledge and memory that he had left with me for safe-keeping and wise use, he still was far above average in the matters pertaining to the mind. A tap-off of recorded data was in order and quickly and neatly done. I almost let too much drain from him but stopped the flow in time, preventing my prodigy from becoming a useless vegetable. Problem 'A' solved, leaving us both unaware of the lurking of Problem 'B' in the bushes that obscured the near future.

Problem 'B': although Jarret Kestle could work the pelvic hydraulics to produce an admirable android erection--and he had done so, he told me, several times by his own hand--he bewailed the fact that he could not achieve an orgasm.

"Preparing for the wedding night, eh?" I teased but then, so as to avoid transferring his anxiety into anger that surely would be directed at me, I quickly recanted the hastily conjured remark and promised him results in no time--almost. Twenty minutes later I had mastered the solution: a reworking of synaptic circuits to produce a pleasurable jolt upon the discharge of a warm, milky, viscous liquid that would be stored in the hollow pelvic area of his latex-skinned body--hollow there for the lack of the need for organic sustenance due to his self-replenishing power source which pounded away like a hammer heart in his barrel chest.

Kestle was duly thankful, and I never saw him again after that.

For a while I was expecting him to come running back to me to help solve the problem of fatherhood--the viscous formula was only for orgasm, not impregnation--but through the several cards and letters I received from them it seems that they were content with an occasional adoption--now they have three, two girls and a boy and they had never expected more than that.

The cards and letters keep me up on what they are doing and, other than those and an infrequent premonition on my part of their love--a psychic link of some sort? Perhaps. It is possible--but for him to come here in the physical in the cavern before me. Never. He is gone and I might as well resign myself to that fact, to his marriage as well as his and Daniela's continued love and happiness, and I am, certainly, but there is one thing I can't seem to put down to any form of decency on his part: even as a sign of trust, friendship, kinship and good will that I was not invited to the wedding. Of course, I would not have been able to attend, bolted, as I am, to the cavern floor but did he (or even she) even attempt to make the gesture?

No.

I love him like a brother, like a long lost son and some small part of him shall always remain with me but for that one, idiotic and grossly minor inconsiderate omission, that asinine sticker-in-the-craw.... Well, as far as I'm concerned, he can just go straight to hell for all I care.

And so, it has been decided and settled, and logged off under File D, Memory Bank J: junked for reasons of Illogic and Poor Judgment.


END OF LOG.


2017 Stephen Faulkner

Bio: Mr. Faulkner is a former college administrator who is now honing his writing craft. He looks forward to sharing his stories with those who appreciate his singular style and point of view. His most recent Aphelion appearance was Initiation in our February, 2016 issue.

E-mail: Stephen Faulkner

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