No wonder he never did it again unless I dropped about a dozen hints!”The toaster again nodded. “Bradley got to you before Torger could confess, though to behonest, I doubt he would have gotten the nerve up anyway. The next month his parents packed upeverything and moved the family to Prescott, Arizona to help with his allergies, and that was theend of that for him.”Sue put her face in her hands. “And Bradley wooed me through the rest of our school days, andknocked me up just after graduation.” By that time, Bradley had discovered alcohol, and while thatlove affair began slowly, it soon developed into a torrid romance that outshone everything else inhis life. Their marriage had lasted long enough to produce two kids before his downward slideturned into a plummet, and the day he threw a beer bottle at toddler Shelley’s head, she’d thrownhim out of the house and filed for divorce. As far as she knew, the Bradley-booze marriage wasstill strong.But Sue still didn’t understand. “So, what does any of this have to do with Torger? Are yousaying he built you?”With a shallow bow, the toaster continued. “Yeah, he turned out to be quite the genius. Withhis allergies under control in Arizona, he blasted through junior high and high school in recordtime, went on to college at 13, med school at 17. He was a regular Doogie Howser, but I guess notas young? I’ve never seen the show. Anyway, first thing he did was invent a major-league allergyremedy. Pretty much cured his allergies up, and made him filthy rich.”Sue interrupted. “Wait, he invented Sniff-B-Gon? I
that stuff!”The toaster nodded again, still looking like a Pixar character, and Sue was beginning to letherself be charmed. “Yeah, he cornered the market on allergy relief. From there he decided to pursue his personal interests in computers, robotics,”—it tapped itself with a claw—“artificialintelligence, all that stuff. Filed some patents that got him even filthy richer, which is when hedecided to find out what had happened to his childhood love.”Sue rolled her eyes. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, he sent you here to spy on me?” Every time shecursed Sue had to resist the urge to look to make sure her kids weren’t within earshot, but under these circumstances, she felt justified in letting her filth flag fly.Arms waving, the toaster cried, “No! No no, he sent me here to protect you! I don’t send anyinformation back to him, in fact, I’m forbidden to even tell him anything about you! I’m just hereto keep an eye on your household!”Sue snorted her disbelief, but it continued, “Look, he has reason to believe that an extremescientist has taken in interest in you.”“What do you mean, taken an interest in me? Another mad crush?” Sue crossed her arms again,frowning.Shifting uneasily on its feet, the toaster said, “Extreme scientists are by nature an...
lot. They brains are constantly out on the fringes of thought, and it’s easy to lose perspective, loseyour bearings. They can become unstuck from conventional morality if they’re not careful, like the Nazi scientists in the concentration camps who performed absolutely horrific experiments thatwere also completely ridiculous. Not that extreme scientists like to be compared to Josef Mengele, but let’s face it, the impulse is often the same—the urge to explore areas of science that othersdon’t dare to touch.”With a tilt of her head, Sue said, “You keep saying ‘extreme scientists,’ but we’re talking mad,right? I mean, mad scientists.”She couldn’t see its eyes, but Sue had the distinct impression the toaster was nervously lookingleft and right. “Look, they
hate that expression, but I mean, yeah, if you’re thinking of secret