The week following Lucas’s visit was relatively uneventful. The Olympics began in Surat and Mike spent as much time as possible watching them. He wasn’t much of a sports fan, but the Olympics were different. You didn’t get to watch weightlifting, kayaking, and water polo any other time. Mike’s favorites though were the track and field events, and those wouldn’t be held until the following weeks. On Friday he got up with the expectation of watching beach volleyball and equestrian events in the morning and swimming in the evening.
He woke up at eight, shaved, and then showered. When he climbed out of the shower, he was mildly surprised not to find Patience waiting with a towel in one hand and breakfast in the other. But it was not as if he didn’t have a towel. There was one right there on the rack. After he had dried off he stepped on the scales. He had already lost ten more pounds. Looking through the closet he found a new pair of khaki pants, a new brown belt, and new brown shoes. He put them on along with a light blue camp shirt, and then went skipping down the stairs to the kitchen.
He found Patience at the kitchen counter, putting the finishing touches on what looked like Eggs Florentine. She was wearing gauzy, sky blue teddy that barely covered her perfect ass. It wasn’t that she didn’t look good in it. She would have made a cardboard box or a barrel look good. It was just it didn’t quite seem like Patience’s style. When Mike approached her, Patience turned and wrapped her arms around him and kissed him deeply. This too was not quite normal. She usually gave him a quick kiss before breakfast.
“What’s all this about?”
“I have made you a delicious breakfast, Dearest.”
“Dearest? You’ve never called me that before.”
“If you don’t want to be called ‘Dearest,’ then I will not call you that.”
“Well, I don’t know. It’s fine, I guess.”
Mike sat down and ate. Breakfast didn’t quite seem right either. Patience immediately began cleaning up after herself, a task she usually saved until after the meal, preferring to sit with Mike while he ate. The food, while delicious, was far richer than the health-conscious meals that she usually prepared. Mike finished only about half before he was full. As Patience gathered his dishes, he walked into the living room and turned on the vueTee. He flipped through the browser to the Daffodil site. Pressing the small flower symbol at the bottom of the screen brought the man in the blue jumpsuit onto the screen.
“Good morning,” said the man. “This is Daffodil Tech Support. For a list of known issues, press one. For an automatic diagnosis of your problem, press two. To be contacted by a Tech Support representative, press three.”
Mike pressed one. Just as he had on the previous time that Mike had checked the tech support page, the blue clad man on the screen was replaced by a long list of text. The topmost line this time said “minor software upgrade”. Mike moved the curser over this line and pressed.
“A small service software update was pushed through the InfiNet 05:25 7.12.32,” said the next screen. “A small percentage of Amonte models may experience slight behavioral quirks. This is a known issue.”
Mike touched the screen to turn off the vueTee. When he turned back around, he was startled to find Patience’s face only a few inches from his.
“Is there a problem?” she asked.
“I was just checking on something,” replied Mike. “Are you having a problem?”
Rather than answer Patience punched him in the stomach, so hard that he was doubled over with all of the wind knocked from his lungs. Then she grabbed a fist full of his hair with her left hand and bent his head back, so that he was looking up into her right fist as it slammed into his face. Blood fountained from Mike’s nose and he felt his head smack on the living room floor.
“Christ, Patience! What the fuck…?”
Patience cut off Mike’s exclamations by stomping on his mid-section with her bare foot, once again knocking the air from him. Then she clasped the front of his shirt and lifted it and him up into the air as easily as he could have lifted an empty shirt. She looked into his wide eyes.
“You didn’t need to check anything at all,” she said.
She threw him against the wall. The edge of the arch between family room and living room dug into Mike’s back and his head whiplashed into the wall. He thought he could feel blood running down the back of his neck as well as down his face. Something in that download must have scrambled Patience’s brain. She was a robot gone berserk!
Mike knew he had to get away, but Patience stood between him and the front door. He made a dive into the family room, thinking that he could cut around into the kitchen and out the back door. Before he had gone more than two steps, Patience caught him by the back of the neck and threw him across the family room. He hit the far wall so high up that he landed on top of the upright piano. He crashed down first upon its top, then rolled down to hit the keyboard, rolling again down onto the wooden piano stool, and then finally to the floor.
Mike looked up just in time to see Patience crossing the room toward him. With every ounce of his strength, he kicked out, making contact with her right leg just below the knee. Though this attack would have shattered the tibia (and if the weight was just right, the fibula too) of any human, Patience took no notice, and with her left leg, kicked him viciously in the side. Mike flopped over onto his back, and thought that he could feel several broken ribs spearing his internal organs. He was sure now that he was about to die.
Then from the corner of his eye, Mike saw a figure moving across the living room. Patience kicked him in the side. He rolled over. He looked again toward the archway. From his new position on his back, everything he was seeing appeared upside down. Standing at the entrance to the family room was Patience. Another Patience. She was dressed in shorts and top and her pink wedge sandals made her look about seven feet tall. Even from upside-down, the look of fury on this second Patience’s face was frightening to behold.
“Shit,” thought Mike. “The first one was killing me and she wasn’t even angry. What’s the pissed-off one going to do to me?”
It seemed to Mike, lying on the floor, that the second Patience simple flew like Supergirl, but his brain corrected him. She had dived across the room into the first Patience, and the two of them crashed past him into the piano. Mike closed his eyes and tried to get up, but it seemed that his family room had suddenly turned into a vacuum. He couldn’t manage to suck any air into his lungs. He lost consciousness for a moment, but returned amid fire and white light when one of the Patiences rolled over him. He closed his eyes and willed himself to roll up into a ball, but his body made no attempt to follow his directions.
In the meantime the two women, identical in everything but their apparel and perhaps purpose, fought. They made no shouts or curses or cries. They did not speak, though there was plenty of sound. When one picked up the piano and hit the other with it. When one shoved the face of the other through the wall of the family room and into the living room. When one kicked the other’s body so high that it broke off three of the four blades on the ceiling fan. Mike thought about trying to crawl out the front door, but again his body failed him, and he lapsed into unconsciousness once more.
When he opened his eyes again, Mike was looking up into Patience’s face. At first he tried to pull away, but her beautiful, smiling eyes told him that it had all been a horrible dream. Then he took a deep breath and felt the burning in his chest and realized that it hadn’t been a dream at all. Looking around the room without moving his head, he thought idly that the room resembled the video of those homes hit by Hurricane Kirk. Patience gently brushed his face with her hand.
“Are you all right, Mike?”
“It was an imposter,” she replied. “She must have come in when I was gone.”
“Where were you anyway?”
“There was a small service software update this morning. It told me to return to the Daffodil warehouse.”
“You couldn’t have gone all the way there?”
“No. I got in the car and drove several miles before I decided to disregard that directive.”
“You just disregarded it?”
“Yes. But since I was already out, I decided to go to the grocery store and buy a Cornish game hen for your dinner.”
“That was nice,” said Mike, wincing. “You know I kissed her.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Mike,” said Patience. “You didn’t know that she wasn’t me.”
Mike found that he could move his neck without too much pain, and turned to look at the body of the woman now lying on the floor not far away from him. There was little left of her gauzy blue teddy. Her leg and arm were bent at odd angles, but there was no blood anywhere. Her eyes were open and looking up at the ceiling, still without any apparent malice or anger.
“She has your face,” said Mike.
“She’s like a Borg,” said Patience with a snarl.
She got up from her kneeling position and stepped over to where the lifeless Patience was lying. Bending down, she grasped the artificial flesh around the robots chin and pulled, pealing it away from the white Teflon robot skeleton beneath it.
“She doesn’t have my face now,” she said, her voice full of venom.
Mike tried to move his leg and gasped in pain as he felt two broken bone ends rubbing together.
“I have to get you to a hospital, Mike.”
“No hospital. Never again. You can take care of me. Just take me up to the bed.”
“That’s not going to work,” said Patience. “I think you are going to need surgery. You have multiple fractures.”
“Son of a bitch. I hate the hospital.”
“Let me take you to the hospital. As soon as the doctors have repaired you, I’ll bring you home so that you don’t have to stay in a hospital room while you recuperate.”
“Fair enough,” said Mike
Patience was extremely gentle as she transferred Mike to the passenger seat of the car. Despite this care, the movement caused him extreme pain. He later found out that he had three broken ribs, multiple fractures of his tibia and fibula in his left leg and a broken radius and ulna in his left arm. Most of these bones required an arthroscopic surgical component to properly set, but he wasn’t taken directly to surgery. Instead he spent the rest of the day and the entire night in the emergency room. The following morning he was taken to an operating room where he was given a shot that warmed his entire body. The anesthesiologist placed a mask over his mouth and told him to count backwards from one hundred. He was unconscious before reached ninety eight.
“He will probably be groggy for quite a while,” said a far away voice.
“I’m not groggy,” Mike said. “I’m wide away.”
This was followed by the sound of laughter. He had to struggle to pry his eyes open, but at last he did. He could see the backside of a nurse as she left the room, and then his eyes focused on Harriet and Patience sitting to either side of his bed. Patience looked just as she had when she had brought him to the hospital. She even had on the same clothes. Harriet’s face looked tired and drawn.
“Patience has got to stop calling you to the hospital,” said Mike, looking at his daughter.
“Perhaps you could stop getting beat up, so my presence wouldn’t be needed.”
A man in a brown suit entered through the open hospital room doorway and stopped beside Mike’s bed. He pulled a wallet from his vest pocket and flipped it open so that both an identification card and a badge were visible. As he did so, Mike could see an automatic pistol in a shoulder holster.
“Special Agent Waters, Department of Energy,” he said. “Are you Mike Smith?”
“I’m part of the joint task force investigating the robot attacks.”
“Yes, yours was just one of many. I take it you didn’t see the news yesterday. Watch it tonight. There isn’t really much that I can tell you right now. We’re still gathering information.”
“But there were other berserk robots?” asked Mike. Patience made a face at him.
“Yes. There were nearly two hundred attacks by Daffodil Amontes around the country. I need to take the robots into evidence.”
“It wasn’t Patience, I mean my Daffodil. It was another robot that looked just like her.”
“Yes, they all seem to have been duplicates. Where is it?”
“It’s on the floor of my family room.”
“Is there someone who could let me into your house? As I said, it’s evidence.”
“Sure,” said Mike.
“I’d like to take your robot as well.”
“Absolutely not. Over my almost dead body. I’m not letting anyone take her.”
“I don’t blame you,” said Waters, glancing at Patience. “I would appreciate then if I could download the Biosoft files.”
“Is that all right with you Patience?” asked Mike.
Waters took a small data-plug out of his pocket and stepped over to where Patience sat on the side of Mike’s bed. Patience lifted up her long straight black hair, exposing the three small holes in the back of her neck. Waters stuck the end of the device in the left-most hole. He waited a minute or so and then withdrew it.
“I’d like to pick up the other robot as soon as possible,” he said.
“I suppose Patience can go and let you in,” said Mike.
“I’ll do it,” offered Harriet, then turning to her father. “Then I’m going home and get some rest if you don’t mind.”
“Get some rest Sweetie,” said Mike, as Harriet kissed him on the cheek and then left with Agent Waters.
“Are you all right?” he asked Patience.
“You looked very scary there, when you were fighting the other…”
“Imposter,” offered Patience. “When I saw her hurting you, it made me very angry.”
“Well, this is all very queer,” said Mike. “I’ll be glad when they figure out what’s going wrong. It’s one thing for a robot to go crazy, but for robot duplicates to just show up out of nowhere… It looks like someone is plotting to take over the world with Daffodils.”
“Do you suppose a plan to take over the world would start with a middle school Geography teacher?”
Mike shot her a dirty look. “Well, as I said, it’s just queer.”
“I hope it doesn’t make people anti-robot.”
“You know if you were a person, I would say that you were a little bit paranoid about the whole anti-robot thing.”
Just then a phone rang. Mike instinctively looked toward the hospital phone on the side of the bed, even though he could tell by the ring tone that it was his own phone. Patience pulled it out of the tiny little black purse that she had hanging on the back of a nearby chair.
“Hello. Yes, hello Lucas. Of course you may speak to your father. One moment please.” Patience handed Mike the phone.
“Dad, listen very carefully and do what I tell you.”
“Tell Patience to go upstairs or something, then get your keys and get out of the house as quickly as you can.”
“No Dad. Listen. You’ve got to get away from her.”
“Have you been watching the news, Son?”
“You’re damn right I have. Dad, people are being killed by their Daffodils.”
“It’s imposter robots who are doing the damage,” explained Mike. “We’ve already been through that here and the police are picking up the rogue robot right now. Patience kicked its ass.”
“And you’re all right?”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry.”
“That’s a relief. I was working and one of my buddies told me what was on the news. I ran to the vueTee and caught the last two minutes of the story.”
“Well, I’m fine,” said Mike again.
“Good. Well then, I’ll get back to work.”
“Do that and don’t worry. Bye.”
Mike pressed the button to terminate the call and looked up into Patience’s questioning eyes.
“You’re wondering why I didn’t tell him the whole story—about ending up in the hospital and all?”
“I could say that I didn’t want to worry him, but mostly it’s because I’m feeling really tired all of a sudden and I want to sleep.”
“That’s a good idea. You need to recover.”
“And I want you to stay right here while I do. The way things are going I might need you to protect me. And I want to make sure nothing happens to you either.”
“That’s very sweet, Mike,” Patience said as she began to tuck him into bed. By the time she was finished, he was asleep.
Mike rolled over to look at the bed next to him. Tiffany was lying there. There was blood all over her, but it wasn’t flowing. It was all just one big scarlet stain. He looked at her arm. It was mangled and torn. The blood should have been pouring out, but it wasn’t. Her legs looked as though someone had twisted them completely around, so that her feet still pointed in the same direction that her hips did, but everything in between was wrong.
“This is another dream,” said Mike. “This is another dream about that night eleven years ago. This isn’t real.”
Harriet burst into the room. “Aggie!”