Spacer Talus 36
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    "Hi," he said neutrally.
    "Hi." Awkwardly. "How's it going?"
    "Pretty quiet until tonight. Nice that way."
    "Yeah. What about that?" I glanced at the object; it appeared quiescent. "I doubt you'll be able to charge it with anything."
    "I know. You know anything about artificial intelligence law?"
    "Not really." I never had gotten around to asking him about my own legal status, I realized, but this didn't seem the time. "Rough field?"
    "It's a nightmare."
    When questioned, the robot claimed that it had achieved sentience after its crimes had been committed—specifically, when the members of TECH had tried to kill Dr. Scott, who had been horrified to discover the use to which they had put his invention. Unless it was a precociously good liar, there wasn't any real reason to doubt it. It had followed orders the whole time I had seen it, and apparently didn't mind staying where it was. A tendril of its substance snaked up and into a light socket, absorbing energy in a quiet way.
    "At least this one is easier than you were," he remarked.
    "Don't bring it up." You'd think he would know better by now.
    "Sorry. Of course you know what Ellis is going to say."
    "What's that?"
    "He'll want you to take it into custody for us. If it decided to walk out of that cell we couldn't do anything about it."
    "I hate to tell you this, but neither could we. It's inorganic, neither Albert nor I are much use in that area." I shrugged. "I suppose we could watch it just as well as you, though, if you need the room here."
    "I'd appreciate that." He looked exhausted. I wondered what he had been doing with his time lately. I wondered about a lot of things that weren't strictly any of my business, and didn't ask any of them.
    We made uncomfortable small talk for a while until Reilly mentioned that he had to call his—er. Um. I told him I would see him later and asked the blob to come with me. Other than regular updates on Jeffrey's condition, it didn't seem to have any immediate needs, and followed me as a diffuse cloud.
    I spent most of the night talking to it, finding out its makeup (bizarre), abilities (impressive), what it knows (very little) and wants to know (just about everything). It doesn't have a name or seem to feel a lack of one. It can read; when I finally went to bed it was working its way through an encyclopedia with an air of quiet determination.
    Lucky spent the night at Chandler's place, and I guess that by the time he woke her up the news had been told that we were keeping an eye on the thing, so she wasn't as surprised as Albert was when he finally stumbled downstairs. The morning passed in a sort of fitfully useless fashion. Lucky and I got in an argument about calling our guest "it" or a "thing," although it doesn't seem to mind either. She wants to call it Scott, after its creator. Until we do settle on a name, I'm going to refer to it as "INH." Insert Name Here.
    Said creator, we found when she called, was awake and in stable condition, and could certainly receive a visit from his "son." I gave Lucky a disbelieving glance; so did the hospital staff when we arrived. Dr. Scott was weak and dopey but lucid, and he was pleased to see his creation, although considerably startled by its sudden leap to sentience.
    "Don't kill anyone," he stressed to it, then told us how he had been used by TECH, and had tried to hold them all at gunpoint—brave, and foolish enough to qualify for heroism. He was lucky to be alive. If we hadn't shown up, I doubt "Scott" could have protected him from all of them. He tired quickly, and we left the two of them alone for a few minutes before heading home as a foursome.
    Oh, and Lucky wants a rottweiler. Someone please shoot me.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson