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Excerpt: A Time To Follow Your Heart

Chanukah MenorahA different kind of Chanukah story presented at Powered by Robots.

Sarah stood across the street from her Bubbe’s and Zayde’s house. The evening of December 24th, the first night of Chanukah this year, was cool, even in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, but she had dressed for the occasion. She made sure the coat she was wearing wouldn’t attract attention in case anyone saw her.

Sarah wished she could get closer. She wished she could just knock on the door and go inside, but she wasn’t supposed to be there and she wasn’t supposed to change anything.

Wait! There they were. She could see them through the window in the front of their house. Bubbe and Zayde. Her big brother Aaron, all of seven years old, was excitedly jumping up and down next to them. Sarah couldn’t hear anything of course, but she could see everyone’s facial expressions and imagined Zayde firmly but kindly helping Aaron to calm down.

Tradition says that the Chanukah menorah must be placed either in a central area of the home or by a window. The latter is to proudly announce that a miracle had occurred and this was the commemoration of that miracle. Sarah was watching her family tonight thanks to a miracle she had created herself.

This tale is more flash fiction than a science fiction short story so you can read all of A Time to Follow Your Heart in just a few minutes. Let me know what you think.

Excerpt from “The Maker Dilemma”

This is the sequel to my previous science fiction short story The Robot Who Loved God. It’s about the same length as my previous tale and hopefully will successfully expand upon the concepts I introduced in the first story. In “The Robot Who Loved,” the prototype robot George was deactivated at the end of a week’s worth of tests. During that week, George was accidentally introduced to the concept of God, particularly the God of Israel, the God of his creator, Professor Noah Abramson.

Although George was considered a failed experiment by National Robotics Corporation CEO Richard Underwood who did not allow Abramson to reactivate him, a critical problem has been discovered that cannot be solved by human beings. Will George be able to find a solution to the problem of how to re-create a working Positronic brain when the finest human scientific minds cannot, and how will George’s apprehension of God affect the project?

Here’s a brief excerpt from the short story. I hope you’ll enjoy it enough to click the link at the bottom and read the whole thing.

Margie Vuong, as usual, was the first member of the Positronics team to enter the lab, today just after 4 a.m. She found George is his alcove in sleep mode, which she didn’t expect. Abramson had permitted the robot to forego “sleep” in order to work on the mystery of the non-reproducible Positronics brain, so she thought she’d find him still at it.

Most people thought Vuong was an insomniac, but ever since she was an undergrad, she found she needed relatively little sleep, and she enjoyed the quiet of the early morning hours when almost everyone else was still in bed. It left her alone with her thoughts which usually was the company she most enjoyed.

However last night, even when Margie wanted to sleep, she couldn’t. So she stayed awake and caught up on personal emails, read some recently published technical articles, and for several hours, binge watched the reboot of Firefly…entertaining, but not as good as the original.

This morning, Vuong regretted never having developed the taste any caffeinated beverages. Her ex-husband had tried to get her interested in his hobby of drinking coffee from beans he had roasted himself, but she didn’t find the smell or taste palatable.

Vuong had logged into her terminal and was checking emails when George spoke: “Good morning, Dr. Vuong. I hope you slept well.” The robot could monitor her vitals better than a Fitbit and knew damn well she barely slept at all.

Resisting the urge to snap back at the machine with some snarky remark, Vuong instead replied, “Good morning, George.”

“Dr. Vuong, I would like to ask a favor of you.” What favor could she possibly do for a robot and was it something she was willing to do?

“Since Professor Abramson has asked that there be no digital footprint of our investigation, I cannot send out a group-wide email or text informing the team of the conclusion to my investigation. When the team arrives, can you arrange for a meeting in the conference room with all senior members?” Each team lead had a small staff of technicians at their disposal, and it was clear George didn’t find their presence required to hear his announcement.

“Wait! What?” Had George actually solved the problem? Did he know why she and the Professor couldn’t create another working Positronic brain?

“I believe 9 a.m. should be an appropriate time for such a meeting, since Dr. Miller, the most tardy member of the group, typically arrives no later than 8:30.”

“Uh, sure George. Um…you really solved the problem of duplicating a Positronic brain?”

“I would prefer to announce my findings to the whole team, Dr. Vuong.”

“Care to give me a hint?” The one night when she let Abramson convince her to go home rather than stay late at the lab was the night when George found out where she and Noah had gone wrong. She wanted to hate George for that, but she wanted the answer even more.

“I don’t believe I know how to ‘hint,’ Dr. Vuong.”

In a moment of resentment, Margie counted all of the different ways she could insert an invasive program into a Positronic matrix. No, this wasn’t George being deliberately obstructive. The robot was just being transparent with the team as he was instructed to do. No withholding information from some team members and only revealing it to others.

It didn’t occur to Vuong that George was withholding a great deal of information from the team. It just had nothing to do with Positronic brains.

-from The Maker Dilemma