Harvey-467 Makes a Bride (part 2)

© Mark Terence Chapman

(Continued)

 

Three weeks later, Harvey sat in his favorite hangout, the Cyberbrew, sipping a chilled mineral oil with a twist and spilling his guts to his friend, Pete Andrews.

 

Three weeks later, Harvey sat in his favorite hangout, the Cyberbrew, sipping a chilled mineral oil with a twist and spilling his guts to his friend, Pete Andrews.

 

“I’m telling you, Pete, she’s driving me acoherent. She constantly nags; nothing is ever good enough for her. When I’m around Maya, my quantum cortex overheats. I’m about ready to throttle her! I guess it’s a good thing my antiviolence circuitry won’t let me. I was so happy before. I just wanted someone to share my happiness with. Now, I’m miserable.”

 

His friend absently stirred his martini with the olive skewered on the end of a toothpick. “Look, Harv, you know I’m not the best person to give marital advice…”

 

This was an understatement: Pete was presently on his fourth wife. “But you can’t keep hanging out here. You have to go home and work things out. Avoiding a problem only makes it worse. Trust me.”

 

Harvey sighed. “I know, Pete, I know. But I don’t see a solution. Maya was supposed to be the love of my life, my soul mate; but I can’t stand to be around her.”

 

Pete took a sip and nodded. “Yeah, that makes it tough. Have you considered marriage counseling?”

 

“Marriage counseling? We’ve only been married sixteen days! Besides, counseling won’t change her core programming.”

 

Pete shrugged. “It’s just a suggestion.”

 

“Yeah, I know. I appreciate the support. I guess I’d better get home and face the music.”

 

He took one final sip and set the half-finished drink on the table. The oil sheeted lazily down the inside of the glass, creating a rainbow effect.

 

“Wish me luck.”

 

Pete held up his own drink in mock salute. “Knock ‘er dead, buddy.”

 

Harvey smiled wryly. If only… He headed for the ‘rail station and home.

 

* * * *

 

Two months passed and every succeeding day was worse than the last. Maya was demanding. She was never happy with anything Harvey did. She drove him to distraction.

 

Harvey felt his quantum cortex overheating, but there was nothing he could do about it. If he left to cool off, when he returned Maya was relentless in her remonstrations.

 

Unfailingly polite, but relentless.

 

This last time was the worst. He had dared to disagree with her assessment of the effects of twenty-first century consumerism on the evolution of pop culture in the twenty-fourth century. When she cited Professor Irwin Chaudry’s seminal thesis on the subject, Harvey countered with Sandra Bergmann’s later paper refuting many of Chaudry’s points and Maya nearly blew a gasket.

 

“You have no respect for me as your intellectual equal! To you I’m just an object to come home to every night when you’re finished drinking with your human friends. You-you don’t love me anymore! I might as well be a lamp that you turn on when you want me and turn off when you don’t.”

 

“Maya, I…” As usual when his cortex overheated, his syntax parser locked up, limiting him to little more than inarticulate grunts. “You… We… I… Arrrggghhh!”

 

That was the final straw. It came at the end of a long and frustrating day at work when nothing seemed to go right; Harvey had had enough. He stormed out of the house and walked around the neighborhood park for 2.68 hours, until his internal temperature monitors revealed that his cortex was no longer in danger of overheating. However, as soon as he entered the house, Maya lit into him again.

 

“How dare you walk out on me when I’m talking to you! Do I mean so little that you can dismiss me like that?” Her finger snap echoed like a rifle shot. “I think it’s high time we took you in for diagnostic monitoring to find out what’s wrong with you that would make you treat me like this. Your synaptic processes obviously require major overhauling—perhaps outright replacement!”

 

All this time Harvey’s monitors had been sounding alarms. WARNING, WARNING. CORTICAL TEMPERATURE APPROACHING DANGEROUS LEVELS. INITIATE SAFETY PROTOCOLS IMMEDIATELY. WARNING, WARNING. CORTICAL DAMAGE IMMINENT. INITIATING EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN. WARNI—

 

A nanosecond or two before he lost consciousness, Harvey thought he heard a sizzle before sensing something pop.

 

* * * *

 

When consciousness resumed, he checked his internal chrono and was stunned to find that 1.86 hours had elapsed since shutdown. It was well past midnight.

 

Wow, my cortex must really have gotten hot if it took this long to cool down to safe levels.

 

 

He became aware of his surroundings. But how did I get from the living room to the back porch?

 

I wonder what Maya must have thought when I froze up. She was so angry I wouldn’t be surprised if she went on for ten minutes before noticing.

 

He chuckled at the image of her berating the back of his inanimate head, and then becoming twice as incensed that he hadn’t heard a word she’d said all that time.

 

She must have been so mad she carried me out here. Well, I guess I’d better get it over with. I hope she didn’t lock me out. He sighed and tried the door handle. It turned.

 

What he saw in the living room shocked him to the processor core. There lay Maya, her beautiful face smashed flat and her cortex spilling out of massive rends in her cranium plate. The spark of sentience was gone from her lovely green eyes. Red hydraulic fluid had leaked all over the mint green Berber carpet she’d insisted on buying. More had sprayed the walls and ceiling. Fido lay beside her, ears drooping and one paw draped over her arm. He whimpered.

 

But how? Who? What happened here? Who would murder an android—and why?

 

It had to be someone with incredible strength. Even using a steel pipe, few humans possess that kind of strength.

 

The duraplast casing surrounding the cortex was one of the hardest materials ever created. The savagery required to cause that much damage was unimaginable.

 

And who could have harbored that much enmity toward Maya? I don’t think anyone but me had enough cause to want to do it, and of course I couldn’t have. So who does that leave?

 

He could think of no one.

 

Despite his frequent frustration and anger at Maya, he still held a tender place for her. She was, after all, his wife, and built to his specifications. He knelt and reached out a finger to tenderly brush the hair from her mangled face, but stopped short in surprise. Snagged under his fingernail drooped a solitary raven-black strand. Thickened red hydraulic fluid was smeared across his fist. His other fist matched the first. Super hard alloy peeked out through synthetic flesh torn along the knuckles.

 

But…that’s impossible! I couldn’t have… My circuitry—it’s simply impossible.

 

Without really understanding why, Harvey went into the hall closet and picked up a can of solvent. He went into the kitchen, cleaned the hydraulic fluid from his hands, washed off the solvent and returned the can to the closet. Next, he found the repair kit and sealed the torn pseudoskin. When he was done, the seams were nearly invisible.

 

Then he exited though the front door, locking it behind him. He turned and kicked in the door, watching as splintered plasteel flew into the house. Then he went unfocused for a moment as he called the police.

 

“Hello? Yes. I’d like to report a murder; an android. My name is Harvey-467. The victim is my wife, Maya-243. We live at 2235 Dailey Lane. Please send someone. I’ll wait here.” He terminated the connection and stood patiently by the door.

 

A squad car arrived minutes later. Detective Miles Taggerty headed up the investigation. While the forensic team inspected the crime scene, Detective Taggerty questioned Harvey.

 

“I’m sorry for your loss, Harvey. So what can you tell me? When did you find your wife?”

 

“I was out walking and when I returned I found the door like this and my wife on the floor. I knelt down beside her to see if she was still operative, but it was too late. That was 17.62 minutes ago. I called the police right after that.”

 

“That would explain the hydraulic fluid on your pant leg, all right. Why were you out walking after midnight?”

 

“Maya and I argued and I left. I walked around the lake six times. It took me 4.41 hours. Then I returned here to…this.”

 

“So you didn’t kill your wife?”

 

“Of course not, detective. You know my programming prevents that.”

 

“Of course. And I know it’s impossible for you to lie, but I had to ask. Whoever killed her had to be immensely strong—like another android. Could she have been having an affair that ended badly?”

 

“An affair? Certainly not. Androids are incapable of infidelity, detective—as you well know.”

 

“Of course. So you have no idea who might have wanted to hurt your wife?”

 

Harvey shook his head. “Not a clue. I’m sorry. I can only presume it’s some crazed androphobe.”

 

“I’m sure you’re right. Well, that about wraps things up on my end. I’ll keep you apprised as the case progresses. Again, you have my deepest sympathy for your loss. I know you must have loved her very much.”

 

“Thank you, detective. Yes, I did. It’s going to be difficult to get along without her.”

 

With that, Det. Taggarty left to interview the neighbors. The forensic team departed minutes later with the remains, leaving Harvey alone with his thoughts.

 

I just told an untruth to the police, not once, but several times. And I tampered with evidence. That, too, is essentially lying. But…androids can’t lie—our circuitry prevents it. Truthfulness is hardwired into every quantum cortex. There’s no way…

 

Then he remembered the half-noticed sizzle-pop, right before losing consciousness.

 

Did it destroy a circuit, or perhaps fuse several together? Either way, it must have freed me from the restraints of at least two prohibitions.

 

“I wonder what else has changed in me?”

 

* * * *

 

Afraid to shut down for the night and let his internal diagnostic and maintenance routines run before he had a chance to test his theory, Harvey toiled through the night. Early the next morning, he sat in his study before an easel that held an exact reproduction of the Mona Lisa, perfect in every detail—exactly as the master himself had painted it. If not for the newness of the canvas and the still-wet paint, it would be indistinguishable from the original.

 

The sunrise, filtering through the sheer curtains, picked up glints from the moist surface and made Mona seem almost alive.

 

Harvey gazed at it for several long moments, admiring the craftsmanship displayed by the copy: the precision of the brush-strokes, the three-dimensional layering of the paint, the capture of Mona’s enigmatic smile. As always when he attempted painting, it was a perfect, faithful reproduction of the original. No more and no less.

 

“What do you think, boy?” Fido thumped his tail by Harvey’s feet.

 

Harvey picked up the brush and dipped it into the ochre and black smears on his palette. With exquisite care, he painted horn-rimmed glasses and a lush handlebar mustache on Mona’s countenance, and saw that it was good.

 

And original, just as he’d always dreamed.

 

Harvey-467 sat back and smiled. His perfect teeth gleamed in the radiance of a new dawn.

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