Chapter 1

Taylor was eight years old and lived in a castle with her mother and father and the maid Matlida. She was known by her friends as T. She had several constant companions who appeared as stuffed toys to everyone except T. Arnold and Rachel were armadillos who tried to get T to do things. Rachel was intuitive and Arnold was rational and the two always seemed to argue. Limil and limiL were ground hogs. Limil was emotional and limiL liked to sense his surrounding and measure things. Igy was an Iguana whose main purpose seemed to be to warn T if there was a possible problem to be avoided.

The insides of Taylor's castle changed shapes. Her bedroom sometimes moved between floors. She could go to bed on one floor and wake up on a different one. Windows could change size and location on the walls. Many times the views through her windows gave T ideas about what she wanted to do. T also had a library on each floor of the castle and a friendly Librarian named Jane.

Taylor's father worked at a science laboratory where he and others designed robotic components. Many of the developments that were safe to play with were placed in the children's room. Father and Ted his assistant and others knew that children were sometimes smarter than the engineers in finding out what worked and did not work. Taylor knew that grown-ups saw what they thought they should see and that children saw what was there.

Ted and Father were interested in making robots that they called 'bio-bots', or 'bots', from synthetic materials that they developed. They made what they called Noetic Noodles from MEAC (Multi-nodal Elastomeric Accretion Channels) strips which acted like nerves and muscle. One of their first creations was Perry, a periscope like structure that acted like an eye or a biologic video camera. They also had developed a nose called Ollie, and artificial hands and feet and ears and a biologically based computer like system for a brain.

Before they made the biological based components they had made robots with a rigid, mechanical like body with a computer like brain. Their first development looked a little like a large spider and was called Spyde. Spyde was put in the children's room and it became the lab greeter for visitors and taught the children of workers how to play checkers and chess and how to operate any of the devices that had been developed in the labs and placed in the children's room.

In Ted's lab all the components of human like body were being developed. Ted had a stand that held a skeleton and another stand that held the parts he was making. The parts where attached using velcro. On top of the second stand, where the head would go, Ted had placed a mirror. When anyone asked who the body he was building was, he answered, 'Who do you see. It is You.'

In addition to You all the components for a second bot had been made and were scattered around the lab on different benches and shelves. Ted referred to the second bot as Uoy.

The bots power source was a chemical solution. In the development stages the solution was charged using electrical power. Ted and father had planned to develop the equivalent of liquid batteries to power the bots and power regulators called Reggies.

Taylor was having breakfast with mother and father and planned to go to the lab with father for the day. Father had mentioned that Spyde had some new games to show her. Half way through breakfast the table shook spilling Taylor's milk and father's coffee. Dishes and pot and pans clattered to the floor, the chandelier over the table swayed like a swing at the park.

'Earthquake,' Matilda screamed and crawled under the table before Taylor knew what was happening. There wasn't enough room for another person under the table. Father pulled Taylor over to and under a closet door frame. Mother got under the door frame to the hallway. Taylor could hear objects falling on the floors in the living room and in bedrooms on the second floor and sounds from the rooms higher up. Igy had crawled onto T's shoulder and was flicking his tongue at the swinging chandelier.

T said, 'I hope Grif is okay.' Grif was a large griffon that lived in a nest on a cliff in the mountains surrounding the Castle. Grif was T's protector. She could see out the kitchen window and saw Grif circling above the field between the castle and the forest.

The shaking of the ground stopped and the chandelier stopped swinging. 'Come with me Taylor. I have to get to the lab and see if any damage occurred there.' Matilda was still under the table when father kissed mother goodbye and he and Taylor went out the front door.

The drive to the labs took longer than usual. Small landslides had slipped down onto the road. In a couple of place boulders larger than the car had rolled down onto the road. Father stopped before one bridge and walked onto the surface looking for any signs of weakening of the foundation before they continued.

'I have never seen anything like this,' Ted said to father. 'There was a small quake but it seemed to resonate with the building structure and really shook things up. Every thing fell off the shelves in the lab. The drain in the floor was plugged and the bio-ion solution we used in growing MEACs covered the floor. A lamp fell on the floor and short circuited but didn't trip the circuit breaker so the solution was being charged electrically. Arms, legs, ears, noses, Reggie one and Reggie two and all the other bot components were splashing around. Then it started to happen. I couldn't believe it.' 'Legs were hopping all around the lab and arms and fingers crawling everywhere. A hand bumped into an arm and connected. All the parts were splashing around. Both the torsos of You and Uoy were on the floor. Both Reggies were buzzing around in the solution and one bumped onto the Neck of You and locked in on the contacts. The other Reggie found the Neck of Uoy. An arm being dragged around by the fingers on its hand bumped into You and connected. A leg hopping past Uoy attached. Whenever a leg hopping by or fingers on an arm pulled the arm by, a Reggie would seem to have a torso snag it with its Velcro connectors. Both torsos snagged a Perry, a nose, an Audi and ears.

'I watched them for an hour. They assembled themselves. I can't believe it happened but it did. There might be videos on the security cameras. Sorry, I was so fascinated I didn't think about anything else. Before I could call both You and Uoy stood up.' 'Remember the trays I had put together with stacks of MEAC strips' Well I had put them in cranial containers, assemblies that look like a head, with connectors that could go to the other parts of a body. The cranial containers with MEACs inside fell into the solution. In the thrashing about of all the parts in each Reggie connected with a cranial container. The arms lifted the containers and put them on top of the Neck like putting on a hat. I could tell by the displays anchored to the walls that all the parts in each assembly were starting to communicate with each other.'

Ted pushed the door open and he and Father and Taylor watched two robots picking up any object within reach and throwing it at the other. When the door opened there was a chorus of 'Hi Ted, Hi William, Hi Taylor' from other components in the lab. Both robots turned and starting throwing dishes, books, tools and other objects in their direction.

Ted pulled the door closed. The three looked through the thick glass window as the two assemblies turned their attention to each other.

'Now what?' Taylor asked.

'Let's watch for a while,' father said. 'They can't harm us here. Everything in the lab can be replaced including the assemblies. This has never happened before.'

'Where are they getting their energy?' Taylor asked.

'Probably from the lamp that is lying in the solution on the floor,' Ted said.

'Which means,' father said quietly, 'when we turn off the power to the room they will stop. I don't know if we can start them again.'

Arnold said to Taylor, 'Ask why the things are throwing objects?'

'Why are they throwing stuff?' Taylor asked. 'Where did they learn to do that' Don't they have to see something to be able to do it? Does their memory have pictures of throwing things.'

'Possibly,' Ted said. 'While I am working I sometimes have old videos running of World Series games. I am pitcher on the baseball team and like to study pitching techniques. Maybe the Perry devices have recorded the videos. Rachel laughed. 'Tell them to throw a ball and bat into the room and see what happens.'

Taylor made the suggestion. Father and Ted looked at her and at each other.

Ted ran to the locker room and came back with a ball and bat. 'Too many strange things have happened so far. Why not give it a try.'

He pushed the door open slowly. Both assemblies sent trays and jars crashing against the door. Ted threw the ball and bat in as fast as he could and pulled the door closed. Both assemblies focused on the new objects. Uoy moved toward the bat with a jerky motion and picked it up in both hands. Its right hand found the handle of the bat and swung it into the door with a loud thud. Uoy looked through the window at the three viewers as if signaling he knew what the bat was for.

Uoy pounded the bat on the wall, then a lab table and started moving toward You swinging the bat.

You had picked up the ball and moved its hand up and down squeezing the ball and seemingly weighing it. You saw Uoy coming at him and threw the ball at Uoy as a defensive gesture. Ted said, 'He is defending himself.'

Rachel whispered, 'Idiot, he is playing baseball.' Taylor knew better than to say 'Idiot' so she just said 'He is playing baseball.'

Father looked at Taylor in disbelief and back into the lab. Uoy had hit the ball which bounced off the ceiling, the back wall and a side wall and rolled toward You. Uoy stood and waited. You picked up the ball and threw it at Uoy again with the same results. He hit the ball.

Ted asked father, 'Can we use them in the ball games?'

Father didn't answer. He just watched two new creations playing ball.

Uoy hit the ball off the ceiling and the ball smashed into the lamp on the floor that had been providing the electrical power. The plug pulled loose from the wall. Both assemblies took faltering steps and fell to the floor.

'Can you plug them back in?' Taylor asked.

'It is not safe for us to go in with the floor covered with water and bio-ions and play with electricity,' father said.

'Ted, call maintenance and unplug the drain The assemblies seemed to learn by having watched a video. Tomorrow let's see if we can alter their behavior by changing their MEAC strips and playing video tapes. Let's see if we can make them engineers, or preachers, or artists, or politicians, or real-estate agents.'

'Taylor and I are going home. It has been a strange day.'


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