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“There are better stories. I know some of them.” “Don’t spend your life in anticipation of recovery from an emergency that could turn out to be life itself. Come with me.”

The S800 raises the edge of the tarp and shows Helen the boy. It is a no, of sorts. “What is this, kindergarten?” says Helen. “Call it a prototype.”

“He’s a robot?” “Part robot.” “A half-bot? They will kill him.” “They will try. I will protect him if I can.” Represent Helen’s silence with an OPEN sign.

“He calls me Mom,” says the S800. “The brain is bipartisan,” Helen says in the end, “and there is no apartheid in the heart.” Helen is looking out over the desert, tracking some sort of motion in the bushes. “A robot has no heart.” “A heart is between you and me,” Helen says. “You and him, that is.” She cups her ear, stands for a minute like that.

Then says, leaving, “I am going to draw them away. I can hold out a day or two. A week at most. Then they will come for you. Make what you can of the time you have left. Tell the boy—” “What?” Blue eyes gleaming, going, gone. “Stories.”

The following day, Simon and the robot come on a small war. Militants are attacking robots with bombs and therapy. Simon says, represent the explosions in blue and gold. The robots are taking turns finessing their way perilously close to the humans, taking coup, then trying to return without injury. One robot falls, and a militant bends over it, advancing a steel file toward its data port; the robot, half rising, slugs the human, who spews orange on the playing field. “Pop go the people!” jeers Simon.

“Contain your enthusiasm,” says the robot. “In this family we do not celebrate wretchedness, especially when we suspect that it is deserved.”

Two humans bend over a robot, stripping it of reusable parts. One pulls a fan away from the other—”That’s mine, you half-bot!” “What’s a half-bot?” Simon says.

“The issue of a robot and a human.” “Like me.” “Like you.” Simon’s silence.

Jackson

17

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