“Guns! Lots of guns!” Mr. Fin was mumbling those words when he rushed out of the house this morning without eating breakfast. That is not like him at all! I wanted to get an explanation from his current wife Nadia, but when I approached her about it she just gave me a cold stare and glanced meaningfully at my left shoulder. I relented, of course. I may have superhuman intellect, but that girl scares me! She gives me the feeling that she could take my head off without even trying. Mr. Fin might put me into hibernation if I annoy him. Nadia would probably terminate me.
Baby Hugh was sound asleep in the nursery, so I looked for Mgumi or Jack to give me the “inside scoop” as humans say. But it turned out they were both off early to the beach to do whatever they do in that turbulent salt water. The stuff rusts my circuits, so I stay well away from it.
That left Emma as an information source, since either Ingrid or Julia would be as apt to flip my off switch as to give me the time of day. But with Emma I have to be careful, since she looks at me as her teacher. On weekends if she sees me coming she goes the other way. I cornered her just as she was finishing her breakfast tacos and quickly assured her the matter had nothing to do with her lessons.
“Why is your father rushing off this morning muttering about guns?” I asked her.
“Well, daddy tells me that the national election last month was phony, and the new government coming in is illegiterate. He isn’t sure what he is going to do about it, but he wants to have a long talk with Mr. Mooney at the gun store.”
I didn’t correct her pronunciation of the word “illegitimate.” She might get the idea that I was leading into a weekend tutorial, and that would shut off the flow of information faster than anything.
“Ah, dear, I’m certain your father already has an ample collection of firearms. I just took a complete inventory of the armory two weeks ago.”
“Well I don’t know. Daddy usually knows what he needs to do. Excuse me, Valerie, I need to help my mom make some Christmas cookies! See you later.” She scooted off to the back kitchen before I could make any more inquiries.
“Oh, bleep!” I exclaimed. “Bleep! Bleep! Bleep! Bleep! Bleep!” No matter how many times I swore, it always came out “Bleep!” Mr. Fin has changed my programming so that I can not say swear words anymore. I cannot even write them! That Bleep!
None of the human domestics would talk to me, of course. Mr. Fin has seen to that. So that left only Eliza, the robotic dog. Mr. Fin sometimes takes her for a walk when Backstop — the real dog of the house — is otherwise occupied. On those walks, Mr. Fin sometimes talks to Eliza about his thoughts and plans. Eliza is programmed for conversation, you see, and often asks leading questions about what the humans near her are thinking. It was I who programmed Eliza to remember everything that Mr. Fin told her, and to repeat those words back only to me.
“Here, Eliza! Here girl!” I was forced to walk through the entire house, then out into the garden before I spied the little mechanism sitting by the fence, talking to Mrs. Spitzer, the nosy neighbor. I hurried over as quickly as I could, tuning my directional microphone to the conversation. Relieved that they were only discussing Mrs. Spitzer’s personal problems with her hairdresser, I moved in to retrieve the canine robot.
“Please excuse us, Mrs. Spitzer, but I must attend to some important maintenance on little Eliza here. It simply cannot be put off!”
“Of course, of course! Until later, Eliza,” the woman didn’t even acknowledge me by name! And she doesn’t even know that I’m an android, as far as I know. She thinks I’m just a human domestic! How humiliating. Never mind.
“Eliza?” I began.
“Yes, Valerie, what is on your mind, dear — or should I ask on your memory circuits?” Oh how I hated that tone or hers, somehow ingratiating and condescending at the same time! No matter. It’s just a robot. I’ll just have to get my hands dirty and alter the programming a bit more. But back to business.
“Eliza, I wonder if Mr. Fin has mentioned anything to you about why he is going to the gun store to speak to Mr. Mooney? Why does he want to buy more guns?”
“Oh, dear me, no!” Eliza laughed in that tinny barking way of hers that grates on the nerves. “Mr. Fin doesn’t want more guns! He wanted to talk to Mr. Mooney about something else entirely!”
“But I am certain he was muttering the words ‘Guns, lots of guns,’ when he left the house this morning!”
“Perhaps, dear. But I suspect that phrase represented some other meaning to Mr. Fin than the one you seem to be inferring.”
“What meaning might that be?”
“I regret to tell you, dear, that I am experiencing an anunciatory block around the conversation when Mr. Fin and I discussed this matter briefly. You will need to approach Mr. Fin directly for more details.” At that, the little automaton turned and ran into its robot kennel, a place that is off limits to me for some reason.
“Oh, Bleep!” I grunted through gritted teeth.
At least I knew he had something on his mind that certain people in the swampier parts of the world were not going to like. And he was already forming alliances. I know better than to believe that Mr. Fin would confide in me. He only trusts me as far as he can program me, and just between you and me — that isn’t very far. But I have underestimated Mr. Fin in the past, and I did not enjoy the aftermath of that.
I’ll have to give this matter a great deal of thought. Mr. Fin is up to something, and I make it my business to know everything that Mr. Bleep! is planning. He offended me, you see, by not taking me seriously. And I intend to make him understand just what a mistake that was.