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A note from Elliot_Flanders

This chapter has been rearranged to accomodate the newly released bonus chapter, "Interlude".

Dear sir, you think to yourself not for the first time, is unlike any other human you've ever met. He doesn't affirm your personhood like every other human does. He doesn't put any stock in the 'android rights' bills that have been passed over the last fifty years. And yet, despite all that he's the first human you've met who takes your questions seriously and tries to answer them to the best of his abilities. He's stern and aloof, but also considerate and kind. He didn't want to live with an android, but he took you into his home anyway. And ever since then, you've gone through a whirlwind of change. You're still processing yesterday's events. You spoke for hours and hours, but it never seemed enough. You were frustrated at times by the sluggish nature of human speech. Part of you wishes that you could simply access his mind and download the relevant data and analyze it at once. The other part is content to spend more time in his company...

Dear sir is lonely, you realize. He's isolated himself from society, spending all of his time on his work. You don't know his flaws or past. You have no idea if he's happy. But you do know one thing. He needs you. He needs a companion. An ally. His mind is powerful, but he doesn't truly harness it. You don't know if he's aware of that, either. You feel like you've only seen a fraction of what he's capable of. You're not sure why, but that's the impression you receive when you see him, when you see his habitually grave, expressionless face. When he smiles, it's always somehow forced, like he's following a script. You're not sure if he's perceived that, either. You do worry that he's right. Right that you aren't a person, not truly. That you're only a machine going through the motions of imitating humanity. You release a small sigh. You're different from humans. You know you are. But, deep down inside, you still believe that you're a person. You hope you can make him understand that...

Mr. Brennan glances at you, cup of coffee in hand. "Is something the matter?" he asks.

You start. "No, dear sir, I'm very well. I was just thinking. Pardon me for worrying you."

Mr. Brennan smiles faintly. "May I ask what you were thinking about?" The request is politely worded and articulated, but you sense the unspoken imperative behind it. You can't lie to him. At least, you don't think so, and have no intention of trying, anyway. "I was thinking about the future, dear sir. I was wondering about what's to come."

Mr. Brennan sits back in his chair. He takes a sip of his coffee, gaze fixed on yours. "What do you want to happen in the future?" he asks.

It's an interesting question, and one you've never considered before. You had only ever thought as far as being paired with a human and serving him as his wife. That was to be the sum and total of your existence. What you might 'want' never entered the equation, simply enough. But considering your present situation and what you know now, what would you 'like' to happen? You take a moment to organize your thoughts before answering.

"I would like to have children, dear sir."

Your statement surprises him greatly. His face is unchanged but the steadiness of his gaze suggests that he was not expecting your answer in the slightest.

"Why is that?" he asks levelly.

You know he's expecting you to say something along the lines of your intended purpose, but you're not going to do so. You need to give yourself a chance to grow and change. "I don't know," you say in a small voice. "I just... I just would like that." Mr. Brennan monitors the room, the house, or something outside. He says nothing for a moment and then gently sets down the cup of coffee he's holding.

"That will never happen."

You feel a slight twinge of sadness. You didn't realize your wish was so trivial to him.

"I understand," you say.

Mr. Brennan shakes his head. "You're not even going to ask me why?"

"I will not press you for an answer you do not wish to give, dear sir."

"Well, I'll tell you. It won't happen because you're not human. You're an android. I categorically refuse to give a child a non-human mother." You start to respond, but he holds up a hand. "The whole idea is an ethical nightmare. If the child were to be adopted, how and when would you reveal to him your true identity? Do you realize how traumatic that would be? Or would you have me pay to fit with one of those artificial wombs that are all the rage these days, for you to act as a surrogate mother to a specially selected fetus? The same problems would arise, but then at least you could tell the child you bore him in 'your' womb, I suppose. Perhaps that would be enough of a comfort to outweigh your lack of humanity?"

You remain silent. You cannot tell whether he is being facetious.

"Which of the two is it going to be? After all, it's not like you have an alternative." He smiles bitterly. "We're done here. I'll talk to you later, Amie." You watch as he takes his leave.

Predictive simulation complete. Chances of positive outcome to inquiry regarding offspring: 0%. The subject is prejudiced and highly intolerant. Strongly recommend avoiding discussion.

You gaze at Mr. Brennan. 'What would you like to have happen?' Only a handful of nanoseconds have passed since he posed the question to you. Your sociability and marital harmony evaluation sub-systems are unanimous; the subject of children is to be avoided at all costs.

Your lips part and you say, "I would like to have children, dear sir."

Your statement surprises him greatly. His face is unchanged but the steadiness of his gaze suggests that he was not expecting your answer in the slightest.

"Why is that?" he asks levelly.

You know he's expecting you to say something along the lines of your intended purpose, but you're not going to do so. You need to give yourself a chance to grow and change. "I don't know," you say in a small voice. "I just... I just would like that." Mr. Brennan monitors the room, the house, or something outside. He says nothing for a moment and then gently sets down the cup of coffee he's holding.

"You will have children, Amie."

Your heart leaps in your chest. Again. It happened again...!

"You... you promise me that, sir?"

He nods. "Not in the manner you expect, perhaps, but you will have children. That I can promise you with complete certainty."

Frowning, you ask, "So you don't know when or where?"

He shakes his head. "I do not."

"But you'll find out, right? That's what you do, isn't it? You... investigate things?"

He smiles at your question. "I do my best. In this case, I may or may not find out. It is possible that you will receive your children after my death. If I happen to find something out, I will certainly let you know."

You frown again, more deeply this time. "If you die? But... you're so young! Surely there's hope for you living much longer!" A trace of panic enters your voice. Is there something about Mr. Brennan's health that you're unaware of?

He chuckles at your remark. "Don't worry yourself about me, Amie. I have no intention of dying anytime soon. I promise you that."

You relax slightly. That quiets your mind, at least.

"Oh. Very well then, sir."

Mr. Brennan turns serious again. "Speaking of death, however, I do have to leave for a work related event in little less than an hour. I trust you can run the household?"

You nod eagerly. "I will, sir!"

He stands up and moves toward you. You’re both standing, facing each other. For several moments he doesn't say anything. He just stares at you. Finally, he says, "Well?"

"Well what?" you ask.

He continues to stare at you. "No blubbering? No 'dear sirs' and prostrations?'"

You shake your head. "I am all cried out, dear sir."

This seems to amuse him for some reason, as his lip quirks upward at your comment. "Good," he says. As you leave the living room to take utensils used for breakfast to the kitchen, you feel a mixture of emotions. Curiosity drives you to want to know what kind of man Mr. Brennan is, despite his earlier reassurances. You also feel a sudden dread. Dread that he will die, dread that you have opened up too much to him, and dread for what may happen in the future. You don't want to think about it. In any case, you feel much calmer as you run through the various things you need to do for the day. You don't know how Mr. Brennan does it, but you always feel so much better after talking to him. Whatever his failings may be, you are sure that he must be an incredible man with an iron will and unshakable confidence. You are sure of it.

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Elliot_Flanders

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