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A note from Elliot_Flanders

One of the stretch goals has been met, and a bonus chapter has been released. See below for the updated goals.

The meal passes pleasantly, mostly in a comfortable silence interspersed with small talk. You still have questions, of course, but you worry about fatiguing Mr. Brennan. There would be more than enough time for questions later, you reason. After lunch, Mr. Brennan tells you to get ready. Having performed your daily maintenance earlier during the day, you tell him that you're ready to leave. Stepping through the front door, you suppose he has one or more clothing stores in mind.

Mr. Brennan's car elicits your curiosity. It's a relatively recent model, very sleek and attractive, but one apparently suffering from a certain number of defects. Mr. Brennan had to open the door to the passenger seat, for instance, and once inside you notice the GPS is inoperative. Instead, Mr. Brennan hands you a plain, old-fashioned map, clearly expecting you to give directions if needed. You venture to ask him about this once you are en route to your destination.

"My car? There's nothing wrong with it. I've simply disabled a few undesirable features." He looks at you briefly before returning his gaze to the road. Then why the map, you wonder.

"This way you can guide me," he says, seemingly reading your thoughts.

You look at him in puzzlement. "I can give directions if you want, sir," you reply slowly, "But... why would that matter to you?"

He sighs, but does not otherwise respond. You have the distinct impression that he expects you to answer that question yourself. The answer, you think, must be... "It's necessary to keep you human."

Mr. Brennan doesn't look at you, but the briefest hint of a smile shows on his face. "Relying on a map keeps me human? How does that work, exactly?"

You contemplate the road ahead, thinking carefully about your next words. "It's... I suppose it's... about the other person. If you rely on a map then you have to trust in the person next to you. It's about... communication and trust." He glances at you, his hazel eyes glinting in the early afternoon sun, and you find yourself unable to look away. "Exactly," he says, a faint smile still on his face. "A map allows for an interpersonal, human interaction. A GPS does not. Turning it on would make you a passive party while I interact with a rudimentary program."

You have a flash of insight. "And so, the automatic car door opener...?"

He nods. "Same principle. We would've entered the car without interacting and I would have been deprived of the opportunity to open your door for you. Of course, as an android you're much stronger than I am, but the rationale isn't that you need my help to climb into a car; rather, it's that I wish to demonstrate, even by means of trifles, my willingness to make efforts, to sacrifice for your sake."

"I don't think it's a trifle," you say softly.

He turns his head to you then, the wind passing through the half-open window ruffling his chestnut hair, and smiles very slightly. "Neither do I."

You both sit in comfortable silence as the scenery flashes by: the endless highway, the strip of grassy fields and endless neighborhoods, and in the distance, the office buildings of the city. "I take the next right, correct?" Mr. Brennan asks you.

"Yes," you reply, looking down at the map, "it's about three miles up the road." He nods in acknowledgment of your words. There’s a brief pause. "Everything you've said... it's all an extension of our conversation from yesterday," you observe.

"Indeed. Giving meaning to material objects, using them to further a relationship," he summarizes. "I get a fair bit of ribbing, good-natured or otherwise, for my 'old-fashioned ways', but the alternative of bonding with automated programs instead of persons does not appeal to me in the slightest."

All of a sudden, you feel like you have acquired a major piece to the puzzle that is your new husband. You feel you have a better grasp of his motivations, his philosophical outlook on life. And yet, something still seems off. A nagging doubt in the back of your mind. Mr. Brennan mentions that he is Catholic, but you feel like there is something more to that. As if he's not telling you everything. You can't put your finger on it, but it's there.

Sensing that you are trying to analyze his mind, Mr. Brennan wryly interrupts your thoughts. "You are clearly pondering some unspoken concern. I will be happy to clarify."

"Well, sir, I did have an inquiry." Mr. Brennan waits for you to go on. "I am indebted to you for having spoken with me at such length last night, sir. Yet, there are some things that I feel are still unclear. For instance, your religious beliefs. I know you mentioned being Catholic, but there seems to be something more to it."

At that moment, your mental playback of last night's conversation reveals to you an anomaly:

"So during your investigation, you came to think it curious that churchmen are so fond of discussing the common good but so loathe to discuss doctrine given by the very same Church on that subject?"

"I... I guess so. I mean... I'm sorry, I really tried to keep an open mind, but..."

"No, no. That's perfectly all right. Your honest thoughts are good." You watch as he contemplates you with a pensive expression, as if he's not quite sure what to make of you.

"So," he starts reassuringly, "we're agreed that menial labor and carnal intimacy do not a marriage make?" He smiles.

Right there, you think to yourself. He avoided the subject. You thought he was leading up to it, but instead he simply diverted the conversation into another direction. You decide to press the matter.

"Sir, I apologize if this is just my curiosity speaking, but... why did you change the subject last night when I brought up the Church?"

Your husband looks at you in mild surprise. "Did I?"

"You prevaricated, sir. Not once, but twice. I know you did for a certainty because I can consult my memory banks."

Mr. Brennan raises his eyebrows. "So, you've been analyzing my words for a way to probe me?"

"No! I mean, not intentionally. I just..."

He lifts a hand from the steering wheel, waving it in a deprecatory gesture. "It's fine. You can't help having perfect recall. I'll answer your question, Amie."

"Thank you, sir."

"Knowing might disappoint you, though. The truth... is that I forgot."

"Forgot?"

"Yes. After covering society's views on marriage, I intended to present those of the Church and present-day hierarchy. But the first part of our discussion took longer than I anticipated, and by the time it concluded it was time to retire for the evening. By that point I had long forgotten my original intention."

"I see." You study your husband's face. His expression is impassive. "Can we continue that discussion now?" you ask him.

He shakes his head. "We've almost arrived," he says, reading street names. "When we can converse at our leisure I will endeavor to make up for my omission." He cranes his neck sideways. "Now, would you terribly mind telling whether or not I ought to take a left or a right at this junction, before we exhaust our bio-fuel in this labyrinthine deathtrap of steel and concrete?"

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Elliot_Flanders

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