Chapter Fifteen of The Start of EternityEdit

Robots in myth and legend. Robot creation legends invariably involve some version of the Franken Time motif, set in a legendary Age of Franken, a time period when the distinction between human brains and robotic brains was erased by technology that was wielded by depraved scientists... -Encyclopedia Galactica



Vicktir Klempse regretted ever giving the Gohrlay-patterned positronic circuits access to a voice box and a mouth. Now, with the mouth detached from the voice box, she was mercifully silent. He muttered, "I'm tempted to just put you on a shelf so I can get a few months of silence."

Klempse was still eager to complete the brain duplication experiments, but Gohrlay had insisted that giving her a robotic body was the highest priority.

Gohrlay's robotic head glared at Klempse. She was not at all amused by his threat and she angrily mouthed words at him.

Klempse did not seriously intend to silence her. He struggled for ten minutes to secure the head to the body. Finally all of the electronic body systems integrated with the positronic brain circuits, which were not actually in the robotic head. All of the positronic circuitry that constituted Gohrlay's brain was two floors below in the assembly room, but it was the command signals from there that were linked by radio signals to the robotic head and which now took command of Gohrlay's body. He asked, "How does that feel, mer?"

Gohrlay waved her right arm and complained, "Two arm! Kle, give arm!"

Klempse had inactivated Gohrlay's left arm, hoping that she might better be able to coordinate the control signals needed for just one arm. However, the flailing and jerking motion of her right arm seemed no better than what had been produced when both arms were active. "Calm down. Take it slow." He took off his datagogs and held them near her waving hand. "Here, grab this."

Gohrlay concentrated on the datagogs and managed to move her hand to touch them, but she could not get a grip on them. All of her fingers seemed to have minds of their own. "Shit." After five minutes of trying she had twice managed to knock the datagogs out of Vicktir's hand.

"Okay, we made progress on your hand targeting, but your fingers are still wildly out of control." Klempse pulled a tray of toys over next to Gohrlay so that she would have something to play with. "I'm going to go check on the duplication team."

Gohrlay did not like being left alone. She protested, "No! Stay! No! Play!"

Klempse ignored the pitiful cries and left the room. It pained him to see Gohrlay reduced to the equivalent of a two year old crippled child. He rather groggily tried to remember how long it had taken to debug the hand targeting algorithm. Nearly a week? If it continued to take a week for each muscle group then he'd be an old man before the job was complete. For a moment he thought about the challenge of giving Gohrlay the ability to walk. Some team members were recommending that a robotic baby's body be constructed so that Gohrlay could learn to crawl before trying to walk.

Upon reaching the assembly room, Klempse was greeted by his colleagues. Wints took note of Klempse's rather haggard appearance and asked, "Hey, how goes your baby sitting job?"

Klempse wearily sank into a chair. "The same. Tell me some good news."

Wints was very cheerful, "That I have! We're going ahead with the bifurcation protocol."

Klempse was shocked to hear that. "What? When is this?"

Wints explained, "We started three days ago, old man."

Now Klempse was outraged. He demanded, "On who's authority?"

Wints shrugged, "We knew that you were reluctant to try it, but you've been out of the loop. Everyone else voted 'yes', so we dove in. There were no problems."

Klempse put his datagogs on and looked at the bifurcation project's progress tree. "Were?" Even as he asked he saw that the actual bifurcation process was complete. There was now a duplicated copy of the positronic circuits that had been produced as a replica of human Gohrlay's biological brain.

Klempse called up a preliminary report on the behavioral tests that had been done. That report compared new results to the original tests that had been done in the days after Gohrlay's brain was copied into positronic circuits. The new positronic brain was actually a merger of Gohrlay's circuits and those of the most advanced robotic mind that had been programmed previously, which had been named "Nahan". However, the brain of Nahan was a mess: half was inside the Gohrlay assembly room and integrated into the circuits that had originally been dedicated to Gohrlay's downloaded mind and half was still residing in the old circuit array of Nahan's original positronic brain.

Wints said, "We've started off loading the duplicated Gohrlay circuits as we continue to expand Nahan's dedicated circuits."

Klempse took off his datagogs and sank back into the cushions of his chair. He muttered to himself, "How am I going to explain this to Gohrlay?"

Wints suggested, "You've been contemplating taking up Doltun's offer of a nanoelectronic companion for Gohrlay, so why not let Nahan and Gohrlay entertain each other?"


The decision to exclude robotic assistants from the physics research project had been made long ago...long before team members had decided to try to create robots. Until recently, Klempse had never questioned the assumption that reliance on robotic helpers diminished human initiative. However, after months of working with the remnants of Gohrlay's mind he had seriously considered getting a robotic companion for her. But that was really only a daydream of a man who was tired and bored and who had never imagined having to raise a mentally challenged robot from infancy to adulthood.

His first idea had been to bring into the project a human caretaker, someone who could happily spend a lifetime helping the Gohrlay circuits develop into a coherent mind. He'd even managed to talk his wife into spending some time with Gohrlay, but after just three short sessions she refused to continue. "Vic, you totally misrepresented this mechanical abomination. That's not a sweet child, that's a bitchy monster pretending to be a child."

Rather than listen and think about what she was saying, Klempse had reacted poorly and demanded, "What sense does it make to imagine that Gohrlay is pretending to be having difficulties?"

Phia had shrugged. "I don't care if you believe it. Just remember, my dear kat, while you spent decades playing with your circuits, I raised our children. This Gohrlay thing is not a child, believe me, I can tell the difference."

Klempse had insisted, "I never said that Gohrlay is a child. I said that she acts like a child...her brain is like that of a child. She is still learning how to put together words and produce adult behavior."

"And when she does put together a whole sentence you don't even seem to notice, but it is clear that she can do it...when she wants to...when she slips up and lets herself do it."

"Nonsense. She'd have no reason to play a game like that. She's doing the best she can. She's like a stroke victim, trying to recover her previous brain functions." Of course, he could not explain that the original Gohrlay had been a person. One of Doltun's conditions for providing the positronics project with a human brain was that the public never know what had been done. Phia had long known about Nahan and she had been told that Gohrlay was just the project's latest attempt to build a brain with human-like abilities.

After successfully updating Gohrlay's hand targeting algorithm, Klempse had gone home and slept. Phia had teased him mercilessly about spending so much time with Gohrlay. She'd said, "I think I'm jealous."

Upon joining the physics research project, Klempse had given up his personal aide. That had been before he ever met Phia. Of course, Phia still had her aide and she made no secret of using it, as was common at Observer Base, for even intimate companionship. Klempse had long struggled with flashes of jealousy, telling himself that it was idiotic to be jealous of a robot. However, he could imagine that Phia might suddenly experience the same thing, except for her it was after never having seen Klempse interacting with a personal robot.

Klempse decided that he really needed a break from the project and he owed it to Phia to try to ease the strain that had been put on their personal relationship. He and Phia spent a whole day together, just being domestic. They even visited one of their grown children. The next day, feeling somewhat recovered from his long string of days of working to give Gohrlay a robotic body that could move and interact with the world, he returned to the laboratory.

Without really wanting to, Klempse had wandered into one of Nahan's intercubes. It had been months since he had spent any time with Nahan. Klempse activated the virtual reality interface and the wavering image of Nahan appeared. The artificial intelligence said, "Hello, Vicktir."

Klempse asked, "How are you, Nahan?"

Nahan replied instantly, "Fine, and you?"

After many weeks of working with Gohrlay, Klempse had to make an effort to deal with the problem of communicating with Nahan. The positronic circuits that had been impressed with the pattern of Gohrlay's biological brain had from the very first shown clear evidence of having a human-like thought pattern. The problem was that the synthetic version of Gohrlay's mind was fragmented and functioning like a patient with severe brain damage. In contrast, many decades had been spent giving Nahan the ability to simulate adult human speech, but there had never been even a hint of a mind behind the simulation. Saying "hello" and asking "how are you?" were pre-programmed stock phrases that had been provided to Nahan. Nahan "knew" when and how to use such phrases, but he did not have any understanding of why he used was just something he had been programmed to do.

As clueless as Nahan was about semantics, he had been programmed to monitor his own thoughts and actions. Klempse tried to get to the heart of the matter. "Nahan, I want to talk with you"

The machine was well aware of the team's interest in his inner functions. "Yes...everyone wants to talk about my new circuits."

Klempse asked, "Do you understand what has happened? Where those new circuits came from?"

Nobody had bothered trying to explain that to Nahan since they all knew that the machine could not understand anything. "Sorry, please explain. Where do circuits come from?"

Klempse tried to break the habits he had developed while working with the Gohrlay circuits. Even though Gohrlay could barely link to words together in a coherent way, she could listen and she often understand what was said to her. "Sorry, forget that. You were given new circuits. You understand that? What it means for you to have new circuits?"

"Yes, I have been told that. Everyone is testing my new circuits. Testing me for new..." The machine paused. Nahan had a difficult time distinguishing between its changing circuits and how the team members saw Nahan heuristically as a robotic individual.

Klempse prompted, "Behaviors?"

"Abilities. But...I know, well, I feel that I have something new..." Again the machine's linguistic processing stalled.

Klempse waited patiently, knowing that sometimes Nahan's circuits fell into an endless data processing loop. Klempse tried to remember if he had ever heard Nahan speak of 'feelings' before. "What do you know Nahan?"

The machine replied, "There is a new...voice."

Klempse wondered what the machine was trying to say. All he could think to do was repeat, "Voice?"

Nahan tried to explain the situation. "I have been taught to communicate by voice. I hear your voice. You hear my voice. I hear many voices."

There were a half dozen cubicles that could be used simultaneously by researchers to interact with the Nahan circuit array. Klempse had made use of the last available intercube. Doubtlessly, Nahan was simultaneously taking part in several conversations. "What do you mean, 'new voice'?"

"Each voice has a pattern. Your pattern is unique." Nahan seemed to hesitate for a fraction of a second. "There is a new voice."

Klempse remembered the suggestion that Wints had made. He called Wints and asked, "Did you go ahead and give Nahan an interface with Gohrlay?"

Wints asked, "What are you talking about?"

"The other day you suggested that Gohrlay and Nahan might entertain each other."

"Well something has to be done. Gohrlay has been rather hysterically asking for you."

"I've been taking a break. She wears me out."

"She's been saying something about, 'Tell Klempse...another'. Do you know what she's talking about?"

"No. I'll check in on her soon. Is there any chance that Nahan and Gohrlay could be in communication with each other? Most of Nahan's new circuits are still in the Gohrlay assembly room, right?"

"Sure. We've only just begun to off-load from there to the circuit array in Nahan's chamber. You know it's going to take us months to produce enough new positronic circuits to complete the transfer."

"But maybe the bifurcated Nahan circuits and Gohrlay circuits are communicating?"

"No, there's no way. We took the excess circuit capacity in the assembly room and duplicated all the Gohrlay circuits. Those duplicated circuit elements have no contact with anything until we shift them over to Nahan's circuit chamber. That process is only about seventeen percent complete. We've maxed out Nahan's excess circuit capacity and now additional transfers depend on the completion of new circuit elements. Most of the copy of Gohrlay's circuits is just sitting there, waiting to be transferred over, but they are just isolated circuit elements. "

"Right. Okay. Thanks." Klempse broke the connection to Wints.

Nahan said, "Everyone keeps talking about Gohrlay."

Klempse explained, "All of your new circuits are being...have been copied from another artificial intelligence: Gohrlay."

Nahan had no real understanding of what was going on, but he did have a built-in system for generating hypotheses and trying to link data into patterns. Nahan said, "A copy of another brain is being...merged...into my brain."

Klempse nodded, "Yes, your circuitry is being expanded. We hope that the Gohrlay circuits will make you more human-like. I'll be back later. I want to let you talk to Gohrlay, but...she is...troubled. I need to talk to her first."


"And, Nahan, do you remember your robotic body?"

"Yes, I remember."

"I'm giving Gohrlay a body, too. She needs help learning how to use her body. Maybe you can help her with that."

Nahan asked, "How can I help?"

"Well, I don't might not work. You were never very good at walking...but maybe you can learn together." Klempse shut off the interface for Nahan and left the cubicle.

Klempse found Wints with Gohrlay, trying to teach her to twiddle her thumbs. Wints had activated her left arm, but Gohrlay was still having trouble coordinating movements of her two arms. For a few minutes Klempse watched Gohrlay struggling to control her fingers, then he said, "It's hopeless. We're going to have to program a new set of positronic pathways for finger control."

Gohrlay looked up, noticed Klempse and said, "Kle! Help me. Other!"

Wints commented, "While you're at it, see if you can edit out this 'other' babble that she keeps going on about. She won't explain herself, she just keeps talking about 'the other'. She won't stay on task. I've had enough!" He stalked away.

Klempse approached the Gohrlay robot and took hold of her hand. So far he had not even bothered to attach the legs. Gohrlay kept babbling about the "other". Klempse said, "Calmly, mer. Shh. There is another. Another robot. Nahan. I want to let you talk to him."

Gohrlay asked, "Nahan? Nahan...other?"

Klempse was imagining that there was some link between the circuits that had been allocated for Gohrlay and those that were intended for Nahan. The assembly array into which Gohrlay's mind had been downloaded was old. It had been constructed before Klempse had even been born. Klempse doubted that anyone still alive fully understood the positronic circuitry of the array. As far as Klempse could tell, the entire downloading project had previously been terminated with no intention that it ever be re-started. The array had long been cannibalized as a source of the positronic circuits used in the Nahan project. Then one day Doltun had shown up and offered the use of Gohrlay's brain as a template. The circuits in the assembly array had been tested and their gaps patched, but nobody really understood their full complexity.

Klempse was starting to take seriously that data was leaking between the two positronic brains. "When did you notice this 'other'?"

Gohrlay was not really listening to what Klempse was trying to say. She had begun to sense another mind soon after Klempse had left her alone. "No go. Lonely. Help me, Kle!"

"Unless you calm down I can't help you. Mer...Gohrlay..." He took hold of her head and looked into the robot's eyes, "I know you are here, Gohrlay, at least part of you survived the download. Get control of yourself. You have to help me if I'm going to help you."



Wints returned, leading Nahan by the hand. Klempse let go of Gohrlay's hand and said, "Here he is, now control yourself."

Nahan carefully shuffled over and moved as close to Gohrlay's robotic body as the clutter of the lab allowed. Nahan asked, "She has no legs?"

Wints replied, "She's still very young. We haven't yet-"

Klempse grabbed Wints' arm and pulled him away. He whispered, "Let them be. I want them to learn from each other."

Gohrlay was uncharacteristically quiet. Finally she stretched out her hand towards Nahan and said, "Kat Nahan?"

Nahan took hold of her hand. "Hello, kra Gohrlay."

Wints said to Klempse, "We did a deep diagnostic scan of the assembly array. There is no data flow between Gohrlay's active circuits and the duplicated circuit elements. And, of course, Nahan has no access to those circuit elements until we copy them over into his circuit array. There is no way that they could have been in contact...before now." He was puzzled by the behavior of the two robots. They were still holding hands and they had both fallen silent. Now their arms started to swing rhythmically.

Klempse chuckled. "I expected them to play with some of Gohrlay's toys, but I think they have realized that it is more interesting to play with each other."

After five minutes of silence, Wints got bored. "Well, put two brain dead robots together and you get twice the excitement. I'll leave you to it." He departed from the laboratory.

Klempse waited another five minutes then approached the two machines. They were staring into each other's eyes and Nahan was slowly and gently running a finger over Gohrlay's hand in a kind of scanning pattern. Klempse suggested, "Mer Gohrlay, why don't you show Nahan one of your toys?"

Gohrlay suddenly seemed to remember that Klempse was in the room. Klempse had previously seen signs of anger and fear on Gohrlay's robotic face, but now it seemed that she was embarrassed. She jerked her hand away from Nahan and crashed it onto the toy tray. She said to Nahan, "Play. Ball."

Nahan reached over and picked up the ball. Using both of his hands he pressed it into Gohrlay's hand and closed her fingers around it. She jerked her hand and let go of the ball. Nahan picked it up again and handed it back to her. After ten more minutes the two machines showed no sign of growing tired of their game. Klempse had spent months trying to improve Gohrlay's control of her robotic body and he had concluded that it was necessary to provide her with new positronic circuits for each type of desired movement. He had no confidence that Nahan would find a way to help Gohrlay learn by doing. Klempse told Gohrlay, "Okay, now, play nice. I'm going to be monitoring for adaptive changes in your circuits. I'll be just down the hall in my office." He left the two robots alone.

By interacting physically, Gohrlay and Nahan had quickly realized the identity of the other mind that they had each been experiencing. Nahan said, "I hear you." He was not referring to the sound of Gohrlay's voice. He heard Gohrlay's mind, but now he knew that it was the activity of her positronic circuits that produced the inner "voice" that he could "hear", that he had heard even before they first met.

Gohrlay could not express herself as fluently, but she said, "I hear."

Nahan had no doubt that she was aware of the inner voice. A kind of positive feedback loop had been established which allowed him to sense the activity of Gohrlay's brain circuits and recognize similarities to his own tought patterns, although this new awareness of their connection was mostly at a subconscious level for Nahan. It was more efficient for both of them to use their internal communications channel rather than speak.

Gohrlay was thinking furiously. During the preceding weeks her new consciousness had begun to solidify inside her positronic circuits. She was vaguely aware of the fact that she had been downloaded successfully and that something like her had previously existed as an autonomous human mind. She also knew that this "inner contact" with Nahan was something odd and unanticipated. And she felt that there was danger...that it was not a good idea to let the humans know what was going on.

While continuing with silly games of handling the toys, they started saying and repeating words. With each word spoken she could see the positronic circuit pattern in Nahan's circuit array that produced the spoken word. She realized that with practice she would be able to "read his mind" and know what he was saying, even if he was in another room.

Gohrlay shifted her attention to the part of Nahan's circuitry that was producing his hand movements. She found that she could not make much sense of the control signals for Nahan's movements. The fragments of his movement control patterns that she could match to her own internal circuit activity seemed to arise in Nahan's positronic brain from out of a swirling storm of background circuit activity.

She tried to set the ball on the toy tray, but it bounced away and rolled across the floor of the lab. Nahan slowly walked over and retrieved the ball. His bending down to reach the ball was very awkwardly accomplished. Gohrlay said, "Legs. Want legs. Now!" She suspected that Klempse was watching, but hours had passed and Klempse had gone to eat lunch.

Wints was still monitoring Nahan and he noticed that Nahan was trying to keep Gohrlay from flailing her arms. Wints arrived and threw two switches, inactivating both of her arms. "Calm down, Gohrlay."

She insisted, "No. No! Give arms! Give legs!"

Wints turned to Nahan, "Hey, it looks like you made her envious of your ability to walk." He said to Gohrlay, "I don't think it's safe to attach your legs yet. We should wait until we see that you can better control your arms. Now, if you calm down, I'll switch your arms back on."

Gohrlay said, "Look!" She picked up the ball and handed it to Nahan.

Wints had been monitoring Nahan's positronic pathways while the two robots played. He was trying to understand how Nahan's new circuits that had been copied from Gohrlay's brain were being functionally integrated with Nahan's older circuits. Wints had not noticed the improvement in Gohrlay's coordination. "That's very good. Nahan, good work! You've really helped Gohrlay improve her finger movement." He fell silent, puzzled. What could Nahan possibly have done that Vicktir had not already tried? He pulled up the video record of their play session and quickly scanned through it. He could not see anything unusual in the little movement games that the two robots had engaged in, but in the high speed replay, Wints could easily see the improvement in Gohrlay's control of her movements. It was not just that she had attained control of her fingers...all of her arm movements had become more natural and smooth.

Wints laughed, "Nahan, you have a magic touch! In two hours you have accomplished what Klempse could not..." He reached the end of the replay, the point where he had arrived. He pulled of his datagogs and fell silent. The two robots were gazing into each others eyes. Wints felt a chill move up his back. "I...I'll get Klempse. He- He'll be very...pleased."


After the storm of questions and study that her rapid progress provoked, Gohrlay carefully took pains to conceal her further cognitive development. Klempse and Wints became frustrated by their inability to explain Gohrlay's sudden burst of improvement in movement control. Even Doltun and Anagro had heard rumors about unexpected results in the project and they came for a visit to the laboratory so that they could personally observe R. Gohrlay.

With Doltun and Anagro watching, Gohrlay put on a particularly lackluster display of her abilities. Klempse knew very well that Gohrlay was holding back from showing her true abilities and he suspected that she was trying to make Doltun lose interest. Klempse could recall the gusto with which the biological Gohrlay had reviled Doltun and there seemed little doubt that her sentiments had survived the mind downloading process and were reincarnated in the robotic Gohrlay. Annoyed by Gohrlay's refusal to behave herself, Klempse threw up his hands and said to Nahan, "See what you can do with her." Klempse moved behind Doltun and Anagro and stood beside Wints. After a minute, he quietly slipped out of the lab, disgusted by the dynamic between Doltun and Gohrlay.

The positronic circuits of Nahan's brain had also made great progress. As more and more of the duplicated circuits from Gohrlay's brain were linked into his own, he was slowly developing a conscious mind. However, as yet, he was only partially aware of anything. He picked up one of Gohrlay's favorite toys, a light wand. He activated it and pulses of light and sound emerged from the slim device. He waved it in front of Gohrlay, trying to interest her in the toy, but she just stuck her tongue out at him. He asked, "Kra Gohrlay, is that polite?"

Doltun was disturbed that Klempse had given this robot an appearance that was so similar to that of the biological Gohrlay. He had taken an instant dislike to the machine. He muttered, "She was never polite. She was always a trouble-causing brat."

Gohrlay glared at Doltun and said, "Poopie head."

“Brat” Doltun repeated.

Irritated by Doltun's viscous comments, Gohrlay grabbed the light wand out of Nahan's hand and gave it a few shakes, setting it to squealing in a most annoying way, then she pretended to let it slip out of her hand. The wand went sailing towards Doltun's head, but Anagro reached out and grabbed it. Doltun said, "She tried to strike me!"

Anagro agreed, "I believe she did intend to harm you. It is clear that her memories of you and her antagonism against you survived the mind downloading process."

"It is a scientific experiment. This robot can do no harm here. It does not even have legs."

"That is the one wise thing Klempse has done. I want it to remain this way. I will not allow this beast to be given legs. Do I make myself clear?"

Nahan said, "Kra Gohrlay very much wants her legs."

Doltun turned and looked at Nahan's legs. He asked, "Is that so? Does that mean that Klempse plans to give her legs?"

Wints was sitting on a stool behind Doltun, observing the robots and their interaction with Doltun. He replied, "She has legs. The robotic bodies we are using were developed long ago and then put into storage when no way was found the produce human-like behavior from positronic circuits. We just have not gotten around to attaching the lower body to the Gohrlay robot. She's still having trouble coordinating her two arms and her speech. It is not yet time to move on to the difficult problem of walking."

Doltun was not comfortable with the idea that this Gohrlay robot would eventually be given legs and mobility. He ordered, "Destroy the legs. I'll not risk this creature getting out of here and disrupting the Base."

Gohrlay made a rude gesture at Doltun and said, "Orbho!"

Doltun turned away from Wints and back to Gohrlay. There was no mistaking the angry look on Gohrlay's face. Misinterpreting Gohrlay's intention, Doltun said to Anagro, "I believe she has taken a dislike to you, also."

Gohrlay almost said more, but she had become distracted by Anagro. The robot deftly gave the light wand a couple of flips in the air then flipped its power switch to the "off" position. Gohrlay had the sensation of knowing exactly what Anagro would do. Something whispered "bench" to Gohrlay, then Anagro set the wand on the lab bench.

Anagro was certain that Gohrlay had used the term "orbho" as an epithet that was aimed, along with the rude gesture, at Doltun. Anagro did not care to explain that to Doltun. "This robot is like an angry child. Our presence is only making things worse. We should depart and let the scientists get back to their experiment."

Doltun was more than ready to leave. Wints led the way out of the lab. Doltun said to Wints, "It seems to be a failed experiment. What good can come from this?"

Wints explained, "This research center has a mandate to explore questions in physics...fundamental issues about the universe. The robotics project was conceived as a way to help with certain intractable problems in mathematical physics."

They paused in the corridor outside of the lab. Doltun commented, "I would not trust that robot to add two and two and report a valid answer."

Wints looked at Anagro with a sense of embarrassment. He had the feeling that Doltun did not understand anything about science or research or the experimental method. During their visit, Anagro had shown more sense and comprehension than Doltun. The robot said, "The offer still stands: you can have robotic aids to help with your research. Properly programmed, we robots can outperform humans in mathematical calculating tasks."

Wints sighed. It was clear that even Anagro did not understand the nature and goals of the positronics project. "Thank you for your kind offer. However, our needs go beyond mere calculations. We need a source of mathematical insight and creativity. We've been struggling with the same problems in theoretical physics for centuries. Our dream is that we can achieve a synthesis of positronics with human-like ingenuity. We need a new kind of machine intelligence to help us in our work."

Doltun protested, "A waste of resources. This project had dragged on for centuries with nothing good to show for all of the energy and effort poured into it. Now you have a robot that acts like a petulant child. Utter foolishness!"

Back inside the laboratory, Nahan retrieved the light wand from where Anagro had left it on the bench. He brought it back to Gohrlay, intending to set it on the toy tray, but now the other robot grabbed it and repeated the kind of end-over end toss that Anagro had performed with the wand."

Nahan said, "Very good, my dear kra. You learned that by watching Anagro."

Gohrlay had been distracted by her thoughts and now she regretted flipping the wand. Her manual dexterity was now very good, but she was trying to keep her abilities secret. She wanted respite from the scientists and their endless probing and testing. She let the wand role out of her hand and land with a crash on the tray.

When Anagro had flipped the wand in the air, Gohrlay had suddenly felt a new telepathic contact similar to what she felt with Nahan'n brain circuits. The telepathic contact with Anagro was not as strong, but it was real. Gohrlay was struggling to maintain that contact now that Anagro was out of sight. For weeks she had been searching for ways to use her positroniic circuits to amplify and sort through Nahan's thoughts, but everything she had previously tried seemed to only cause disruptive interference.

It was frustrating and paradoxical. She felt that there was something in her own positronic circuits that acted like an antenna for patterns in Nahan's brain activity. She had learned that the parts of her circuits which had already been transferred to Nahan's circuit array included her major language centers and her motor cortex. When she tried to use the other parts of her brain to think about and process the telepathic signals arising from those brain centers, the only result was disruption of the existing signals.

Gohrlay felt the weak signal from Anagro's mind slipping away, and out of desperation she purposefully tried to shut down all of her brain except the language centers. She had previously paid close attention to how Klempse performed diagnostics on her circuits, which involved shutting each subsystem down sequentially for fault testing. Now she knew how to switch her own circuits on and off. She even switched off the speech generation part of her brain and strained to "hear" Anagro. She imagined that she could hear him explaining, "we can outperform humans in mathematical calculating tasks".

Klempse came back into the lab. He said, "I thought they would never leave." He noticed that Gohrlay was completely inactive, seemingly staring into space. Nahan just stood there looking at Gohrlay. More and more frequently the two robots seemed to drift off into their own world, some positronic domain that was alien to humans. Klempse was becoming quite depressed over what seemed to be diminishing prospects that they would get useful useful robotic behavior from their attempt to download the contents of Gohrlay's biological brain into the positronic substrate. He had never been very enthusiastic about the scheme. He could imagine dozens of ways to carry out the mind downloading process and the research team had simply gone ahead with the easiest approach since nobody wanted to argue with Doltun about his desire for speed.

Nahan telepathically sensed that Gohrlay's brain still had some activity, but he had no idea what was going on. He started automatically formulating a hypothesis. Maybe she was offline for a test of her circuits. If so, why didn't Klempse seem to be performing an analysis data from the diagnostics? Following the dictates of his program for human conversation, he responded mindlessly to Klempse, "I knew that they would leave. People come. People go. People have biological needs. People eat. People urinate. People-"

Klempse smiled at the cluelessness of Nahan and interrupted the machine, "Thank you, Nahan, that was only a figure of speech."

"Oh. Like, 'I thought the play would never end'. I see. That is in my programming."

Klempse tried to silence the prattling robot and gave two commands that Nahan interpreted as contradictory, "Quiet, please, Nahan. What happened to Gohrlay?" Klempse did not expect Nahan to reply; he was really talking to himself. He put on a pair of datagogs and looked at the activity profile for Gohrlay's brain circuits. "Damn!"

At that moment Gohrlay started to fully activate her brain circuits, but she noticed Klempse. After successfully seeing into Anagro's mind, Gohrlay desperately wanted to try to make telepathic contact with a human. She let most of her circuits return to "idle" and tried to "hear" Klempse's internal speech. She thought he was thinking, "...diagnostic Wints crazy never ninety five percent Doltun fear..."

Klempse said, "Mer! Gohrlay? Doltun is gone. Stop this..." He paused. There was a shockingly low level of activity, but it seemed as if Gohrlay's brain circuits had just greatly increased their data processing rate in synchrony with his own speech.

Nahan, trying to be helpful, said, "She likes to be called 'kra'."

Klempse muttered, "If she'd stop acting like a baby then-" He was startled by another burst of activity from Gohrlay's circuits, then all of her systems seemed to return to normal.

Gohrlay brought her brain circuits fully online. She said, "Klempse a baby."

Klempse demanded, "What were you doing?"

Gohrlay replied, "Play." She said no more. Gohrlay was pleased with her discovery of a way to tune in to weak telepathic signals. She had successfully learned from her "play" that she could telepathically sense motor control programs in humans, Nahan and even the nanoelectronic brain of Anagro. More importantly, she now had some idea of how to increase her telepathic sensitivity and focus on just one mind at a time. She had learned that her telepathic sense went deeper than just an ability to sense motor control programs. She could telepathically "see" patterns in the minds of others that represented pure thoughts. She could literally read minds. And she had already seen enough to confirm her suspicion...Orbho Anagro was the true power behind the Doltun and the Overseers. And now even the mystery of the origin of robots was gone. Robots like Anagro, with nanoelectronic brains, were the creation of aliens!

Gohrlay’s sense of achievement was short lived, Doltun and Anagro came back, Doltun insisted, "I’ve considered things and this abominable device must share Gohrlay's fate. I want this robot scraped!"

Anagro reminded Doltun, "This is not simply a copy of Gohrlay. It is a machine that contains some of Gohrlay's memories. This robot is like a child. It remembers you as a foe and it cannot control itself."

"All the more reason to destroy it. This is a dangerous, out of control machine."

Anagro suggested, "It might be best to wait for the quarterly report from the research team."

Doltun complained, "They never admit failure. No matter how disastrous the failure, there is always a new proposal for 'exploring this unexpected opportunity'. However, in this case, I know the truly monstrous nature of Gohrlay and I won't be fooled.

Doltun turned to Anagro and said, "I now have no doubt. Nothing good can come from this. I'll go ahead and propose to the council that this failed experiment be terminated and the Gohrlay-contaminated circuits destroyed."

R Gohlray had been copied from a human brain and had the survival instincts of a human being. When she heard this something flipped, Gohrlay started shaking and screaming, the memory of the execution that human Gohrlay had suffered was in her positronic circuits and came back to her in a way that was frighteningly dramatic. R Gohlray felt again as if Doltun was opening the door of the scanner room and showing her the device that would kill her, the memory was so vivid Gohrlay was not sure if she was in the laboratory or back by the scanner room. Then R Gohrlay felt as if she was in the scanner dying as human Gohrlay had died, she put her hands in front of her face and sobbed. Klempse’s brain raced as he looked for a way to protect Gohrlay, at last he thought of something and reminded Doltun that other overseers would want to know why he had got a young woman put to death if he had so little confidence in the experiment. Frustrated Doltun left while Klempse, Wints and Nahan tried to calm Gohrlay.


Continue to Chapter 16 • - • - • note to authors: underlines indicate heavy construction

Chapters: Design SpaceGohrlay's Diary0Vortex0.00712345678910111213141516171819

Appendices: State of the PlanetThe Last GardenerSkydisk Cult

Other pages: Cover pageTable of ContentsCharactersGlossaryThe entire novel on one pageMain talk page for discussing the story

For authors (warning: plot details!): MetaTimelineDetailed character infoDetailed outlineDisclaimer

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