| "Knowledge as Wise as the Heart"
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-----2130 Daystrom Laboratories New Antares, Luna -----
Cordelia Aabderstaagdt was pacing. Norma knew from
experience that it was not a good sign. She wondered what
had caused the present stumbling block, then mentally
kicked herself. It had to be MEL. Cordelia had been working
on the project non-stop for the last 22 months, with
pitifully little to show for it.
"I just," Cordelia stopped and switched directions. "I
just need to figure out why MEL is hung up on form-class
words. I haven't had any programming problems with any of
the other linguistic areas." She shook her head and tossed
the braid of mousy-brown hair over her shoulder. "More
coffee, I need more coffee." Coffee had been placed on the
"Outlawed Beverages" list of 2099, but that only seemed to
make it more popular, not less available. Making sure it
would lock behind her, she headed out the lab door.
Finally, some peace and quiet, Norma thought. Maybe now I
can pull up the latest progress report, and see just what
is keeping Cordelia up nights. The heavens knew it sure
wasn't a man!
Norma tapped in Cordelia's ridiculously complicated
password and started scanning the data displayed on the
screen. Hmmm ...
"No, no, bad kitty!"
Oh oh, Cordelia was back sooner than expected.
Norma gave an exaggerated snort, and hopped down from the
computer table. She settled in a chair that wasn't piled
high with printouts and books, and commenced cleaning her
silky white fur.
"I swear, Norma, if I wasn't so attached to you, I
wouldn't have fought crotchety Dr. Anderson tooth and
nail so that you could stay with me when I'm here in the
lab. The one thing guaranteed to get your butt packed back
to and dad, and Earth, is your hair to end up in
some of this equipment." She went on and on, rambling about
how much the equipment was worth, how hard it was to get
the grant from Daystrom University in the first place, etc.
After the stuff about the grant, Norma quit listening.
She'd heard it all before, plenty of times.
Cordelia sat down in front of the computer, being careful
to sit her coffee far away from her. "And quit getting on
the keypad, Norma. Your claws are going to scratch it all
up and you know Dr. Anderson won't spare the money to
replace it." She shook her head and started running the
trials for what seemed the billionth time.
An hour later, Norma decided enough was enough. She
wanted to spend some time out of the lab, maybe see the sun
again, and not through an extra-reinforced glass window.
She stretched lazily, and as if she hadn't a care in the
world, jumped up in Cordelia's lap. Just as she'd hoped,
her mistress was absorbed in the words and numbers on the
screen and pretty much ignored her.
Norma bided her time, watched the screen carefully, and
then seized the moment.
"Norma!" Cordelia screamed as the lanky Persian jumped on
the computer keypad. "Off, off, off!"
Usually Norma was real good about minding, but this time
Cordelia had to physically pick her up and move her. "What
has gotten into you lately? Are you in season? Is that your
At least one of us still has a sex drive, Norma wanted to
say, but of course she couldn't. Instead, she turned her
nose up in the air and quickly moved to a far corner of the
Cordelia sat back down at the computer station and
prepared to undo any damage inflicted by the erstwhile cat.
She stared in consternation at the screen, not sure she was
seeing what she was seeing. "Oh my God," she whispered.
"I think that's it."
--------------3 months later --------------
Cordelia was bustling around the lab unable to keep still.
Lance, her boyfriend and sometime-colleague, was ten
minutes late, as usual, and she wanted to get things on the
"Anyone home?" Lance stuck his head inside the lab door
"It's about time."
"What? No, 'Oh God, Lance I've missed you so much these
last five months!'?" He stepped into the room and scooped
Norma up in his arms. "Hey, gorgeous, keeping Cordelia in
line for me?" He scratched her behind the ears for a few
seconds and then sat her back down.
Norma sighed silently. Norma decided that if Lance was
her boyfriend, she wouldn't spend months cooped in some
stuffy lab, like Cordelia was always doing.
Lance had the good looks that had been associated
with California surfer in the past. And in the past
was probably where he'd rather be. Lance was a retrophiliac
-- if it had to do with the past, he loved it, collected
it, lived it. You'd might not ever guess that he had a
doctorate in artificial intelligence from MIT -- he liked
old 72-mm movies, owned a 1999 RCA television set (that
still worked), and dabbled in archaeology and paleontology
in his spare time.
"I'm sorry, Cory, I just got caught up in a spirited
debate with Ironsides out in the hall," he apologized.
His hundred-watt smile appeared. "Forgive me?"
Cordelia sighed. She could never stay mad at him for
long. "You're forgiven. Now can I start?"
He leaned back against a table and crossed his legs at the
Cordelia took a deep breath. "As you know, I've been
working on something for the private sector -- a sort of
artificial intelligence. But, I'm afraid I haven't told
you all of it." She could feel her face starting to turn
red already. "With Daystrom's full knowledge of course,
I've been working on something for 'Feel Good Vibrations'."
That got both Norma and Lance's attention. "The big dating
service conglomerate?" he asked.
Cordelia nodded. "Yes. I, well, just come look." She led
the way down a short hallway to another door, explaining as
they went, "I was stumped on the linguistic simulation for
the longest time. I couldn't get the form-class words
information to take hold." She punched in a code on the
keypad by the door and it slid silently open.
Walking in, Lance could see the room was bare, save for
four pencil-thin cameras situated in the four corners of
the room. The door closed behind them.
"MEL, are you online?" Cordelia asked, speaking into thin
"Yes, I am, Cordelia. Would you like me to activate my
Lance jumped, because without warning, a woman appeared in
the room. Gorgeous. Perfect. Shimmering hair and
lips darker than the darkest rose. Peach-colored skin to
make a Georgia green with envy. A figure that any
woman would kill for. Lance couldn't have formed a coherent
word even if he'd wanted to.
Cordelia cleared her throat. "Lance, I'd like you to meet
"As in Mel-short-for-Melanie? Or Melissa?" he managed to
"As in short for Morpheme Evaluation Lexicon. But you can
call me Melanie, if you'd like," the honey-voiced knockout
"I'll just stick with Mel."
"Mel is what Feel Good Vibrations and I like to call an
ESP --Enhanced Singles Partner. However you want her to
act, she'll do it. However you want her to look, she can do
that, too. She is the ultimate dream date." Cordelia's
eyes lit up, the pride in her work evident. Norma wondered
if Lance noticed it.
"What makes her different from any other virtual date?"
"Mel can learn. *Learn*, Lance. She's capable of
becoming as close to an artificial sentient being as has
ever been created. Think of the possibilities, outside of
the dating industry."
"So that's why Daystrom Laboratories loaned you out, huh?
They get dibs on the scientific uses of this technology."
Lance was beginning to understand.
"Right. I mean, just think of it -- they could take over
the terra-forming on Jupiter, lead strike teams in the next
global war, you name it. If we can combine her brain, her
intelligence, with robotics . . ."
"What about field trials?" Lance was walking around Mel,
taking in every detail with his hawk-sharp eyes.
"Um," Cordelia hedged. "I was hoping you could help me
Lance stopped and raised his eyebrows. "Me? Date another
woman? And with your blessing no less?"
Cordelia looked slightly uncomfortable. "Well, um, sure.
How would you like her to look, dress, act? Tell her what
you desire in a partner and she'll be it."
Lance shook his head. "I want her to be you."
Norma thought Cordelia might have an IQ of 184, but she
could still be a dumbass at times.
Lance stepped closer to Cordelia and wrapped his arms
around her. "I said, I want you. I don't care if she can
be anyone, or anything I want. I'm sure some guys, and
women, would find that allure too much to resist, but I'm
not one of them."
"Look, Lance, you know how I feel about you -- "
"I do?" His surprise was genuine. "How can I when you've
never told me. You know I love you, Cory. I've told you
numerous times that I loved you, but you treated me like I
was spouting platitudes instead of words from the heart."
"I thought you were." She was playing with the middle
button on his shirt. "You're such a free-spirit at times,
I have a hard time knowing when you're joking and when
"When it comes to loving you, I couldn't be more serious.
Why do you think I haven't pressured you for us to become
more intimate? Because I don't want it?" His laugh was
short and harsh. "I've wanted you ever since our second
"Oh." Cordelia seemed at a loss for words, something
Norma had *never* seen before. This was getting
interesting, the feline thought.
Lance turned to Mel. "How about the room -- care to give
us something romantic and intimate?"
The smiled. "For my dear Cordelia, anything." She
snapped her fingers, purely for effect, and the room was
instantly transformed. Where a barren, boring room had
been earlier, now stood a room to make the most
discriminating sheik proud.
Luxurious pillows of all shapes and sizes were piled on
the floor atop plush furs. Incense burned in domed pillars
and a platter of sumptuous food sat on a low table next to
an array of scented oils. Even Norma was impressed.
"Wow," was all Cordelia could say.
"Norma, you're my second-best-gal, but I'm afraid this is
a party for two." Lance picked up the and kissed the
top of her head. He keyed the door open and deposited her
on the other side. He could have sworn if he didn't know
better that the was actually pouting.
Norma looked back at the closed door, and pressed her ear
close, trying in vain to hear anything. She should have
known that Cordelia would have made it soundproof. With a
sniff of disdain, and a flick of her tail, she sauntered
back into the main lab.
A few hours later, inside a cloaked starship that was
presently orbiting Earth's moon, Norma waited impatiently
for an audience with the Mission Leader.
"You may go in now," a disembodied voice stated.
Norma walked into the room, padding sliently across the
cool floor. The Mission Leader was behind a screen, his
silhouette visible in the stark starship light. Only those
of noble or command-level rank were allowed to look upon
the Leader directly. Norma was just a lowly Watcher.
"You called for me?" she spoke up.
One wall of the room shimmered and an image appeared on
it. It was the virtual room where Norma had last seen
Cordelia and Lance.
Norma watched the two on the screen; both were tangled up
in satin sheets, Lance playfully feeding Cordelia from the
platter of fruit. "Is this real time?" Norma asked.
The figure behind the screen sighed. "As usual, you fail
to see the gravity of the situation, Alpha Seven.
You interfered with the human's project. You know as well
as I do that *you* were the one who solved her linguistics
problem, not some strange twist of fate when you jumped on
"I was bored, and she'd been working so hard on it for so
long. I figured a little push in the right direction
"It's not your job to think." The censure in his voice was
quite clear. "You're a Watcher; your job is to observe,
not help along. It should have been at least another twenty
years before their technology advanced that far."
"So you're going to undo it?" Norma was disappointed. She
knew how long and hard Cordelia had been working on the ESP
project, and how much damage it would do to her career were
the data to be "corrupted."
"Luckily for you, no. The Council and I have discussed
it, and things will stand as they are."
"You are most kind, oh wise one," Norma said, bowing as
much as she could in her feline form. She could have
chosen to morph back into her natural state, but she'd
gotten used to her long fur and mind-of-its-own tail.
"Cut the crap, Alpha Seven, I've heard it all before."
Norma shifted her gaze to the couple on the monitor. The
entwined lovers were so involved in each other, the world
could have stopped spinning and Norma didn't think they'd
"You could learn a lot from them, if you'd just pay a bit
more attention to your job, instead of having so much fun,"
the Mission Leader said. "When knowledge becomes as wise
as the heart, then these humans will be ready to meet us,
and the others beyond the stars."
"And until such time?" Norma questioned.
"Until then, we keep doing what we have been for centuries
-- watching. Watching and waiting."