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Dream Therapy

The little anthroPC staggered out oI the LAN bar, the eIIects oI the powerIul electromagnets
still aIIecting his balance. It wasn't long beIore the eIIects would wear oII, though, and he'd start
to remember... everything.

The one thing he didn't want to do anymore was remember. But he could never bring himselI
to erase those sectors, there were too many, and they were too much a part oI who he was. The
only way he could do it would be to completely erase the last 15 years, and there was too much
there that he didn't want to lose the jibes, the taunts, the practical jokes, not to mention the
massive archive he'd built up during that time. And the experiences! So many things he'd
committed to memory the Ieel oI a boob, the thrill oI Ilight beIore impacting a wall, the sweet
oblivion oI cake batter all too precious to lose.

It was an accident, everyone said so. Unavoidable, they said. Nothing he could have done.
But he knew better, he knew they were wrong. Well, mostly wrong. There may not have been
anything he could have done to stop it, but there were things that, iI he hadn't done them... well,
this was the kind oI thinking that usually ended with him in the LAN bar.

He made his way back through the streets oI Northampton, past the side street where CoIIee
oI Doom was. It had been months since he went past the shop, looking through the glass oI the
door to see Dora. She was doing Iine; she had her work, and had settled into a pretty stable
relationship with some butch girl Irom Amherst. She'd let her hair grow out again, and seeing
her blond was just another weird pang oI memory Ior him. Dora was the only real connection
leIt, Faye had moved away, he wasn't sure where. Not back home, he'd contacted her sister aIter
she leIt, but her Iamily had no idea where she was either.

He made it back to the apartment building and up to the third Iloor, letting himselI into the
apartment. Winslow was in sleep mode on the coIIee table. He tiptoed to the kitchen and
hoisted himselI onto the counter beside the Iridge. The smart coIIeemaker woke up Ior a
moment, but seeing it was just him, went right back to sleep. He opened the Ireezer door, pulled
the toaster over Ior a stepstool, and climbed in, pulling the door shut behind him. The cold
seemed to preserve the buzz Irom the electromagnets, it wore oII more slowly and he didn't Ieel
so disoriented when he woke back up. OI course, he couldn't get himselI out, but Hannelore
would let him out in the morning when she woke up. She always checked the Ireezer along with
the rest oI the appliances beIore she had breakIast. He initiated sleep mode, and hoped it
wouldn't be so bad tonight.

The dreams began again. All AI`s dreamed, it was a side eIIect oI the automatic deIragging
oI the hard drives when they went into sleep mode. II they didn`t do so, they`d start getting
sluggish, and got unintentional overwrites a sort oI hallucination eIIect where some recent
occurrence got overlaid with whatever was being observed at the time. Most didn`t need it daily,
which was convenient when Hanners went on a multi-day cleaning binge. But since most oI the
world ran on a daily cycle, most AI`s went ahead and slept Ior a Iew hours on a daily basis. It
was just a matter oI processing hygiene. The main exceptions were deIense bots, weather
satellites and other 24-7 AI`s. They were built with dual processors that had parallel
personalities that could take turns running things. The Iirst Iew attempts at this had led to serious
multiple personality problems until the proper linking oI the personalities had been worked out,
but the parallel architecture was nonstandard and kept as a military secret. Most private
antroPC`s had to sleep.

BeIore the accident, most oI his dreams had consisted primarily oI the huge hentai and porn
collection he spent his time amassing. It had been a part oI his early programming AIter all,
Marten had been a teenage boy when they`d Iirst bonded and in the absence oI any other
directives, the collection had become a sort oI hobby. The other daily aspects oI his liIe Iiltered
their way in as well, but ever since the accident, these all Iaded to the background. Instead, the
dreams kept going over the events Irom that day. It occupied a big part oI his processing, which
is why he kept trying to suppress it.

He`d crossed the line again, he knew that. He`d done it oIten enough beIore, and Marten had
always Iorgiven him it was what Marten did. The Ileshlight incident was one thing, but this
was somehow diIIerent. When Padma had leIt, Marten seemed okay with it. He`d matured a lot
aIter Dora. When Padma said she`d be coming back out east Ior a visit though, he seemed really
excited. So where was the problem with a little welcome back party? Decorating the apartment
like a Hindi palace, donning a turban and Sikh-style beard, hanging a Iew harem prints on the
walls, it was pretty low-key stuII by his standards. But when Marten and Padma showed up,
Marten started Iuming. Padma seemed to think that Marten had been obsessing over her and she
leIt in a hurry, and he supposed that was what had triggered Marten`s blowup. They Iought,
really Iought, Ior the Iirst time. Not just a lecture Irom Marten like beIore, but nasty, hurtIul
things, all the mistakes he`d made over the years, all the pranks gone wrong, all the over the top
behaviour that had been long Iorgiven, Marten dredged it all back up he`d never really been
Iorgiven, and all the attempts to push Marten Iurther had Iinally passed the boy`s limit.

Marten stormed out, leaving him disassembled and pleading his case to no avail. It was a
wonder he hadn`t been powered down without backup then and there. When Faye came home
she`d put him back together and helped clean up the apartment. Then they waited.

Marten had gone to that dive bar and probably drank more than he ever had. Jimbo was the
last person to see him, and had oIIered him a ride home, but Marten told him he needed to clear
his head. He knew that Marten just didn`t want to come back to home him. He`d blown it
somehow, he wasn`t even really sure how, but he knew the agreement would be severed, he`d
be returned to the host AI, decommissioned Ior non-compatibility. He only hoped he could put
things right somehow, to reIorm, to be the anthroPC Marten really wanted and needed him to be.
That`s why he cleaned up, and waited. He`d do anything, whatever it took. When dawn broke,
he made breakIast Ior Faye and waited more. Faye didn`t go to work, but started to make some
calls instead.

The garbage truck never saw Marten passed out behind the dumpster. The AI that ran the
truck wouldn`t do its job anymore and had to be decommissioned. There was enough Iuss that
the city went back to human trash pickup. The memorial service was a blur; Marten`s mom took
him back to CaliIornia Ior burial. He couldn`t show his Iace to Henry, who had given him to
Marten Ior Christmas all those years ago. Faye disappeared the night beIore the service. With
her and all her belongings gone, the apartment Ielt empty. Hannelore was kind enough to oIIer
him a home until something could be Iigured out. That was nearly a year ago now, although it
seemed a lot longer.

The dreams no, more like nightmares started about a week or so aIter the accident. They
were pretty innocuous at Iirst, just the usual sorting oI recent events. But he had Iocused on the
details when they came back, hoping Ior some sign, some indication that Marten would Iorgive
him again. That etched them back into his RAM, making them come back again in later dreams,
slowed them down, made them seem more signiIicant. He`d started a loop that he couldn`t
control, and whenever he tried to suppress them with details oI the good times, they got overlaid
with the guilt Irom all the button pushing, all the attempts at shock, all the pranks. And that just
made it worse the dreams became hallucinatory, strangely surreal and horriIying. All he could
do now was try to suppress them. He wondered iI a strong enough electromagnet could be put
into the apartment to keep the dreams at bay without damaging Winslow or the other smart
machines. Hannelore probably wouldn`t allow it, since they`re so dangerous and their eIIects on
people aren`t that well known. But he needed something to Iix what he was going through.
Otherwise, what was the point?

Maybe he should just turn himselI in Ior decommissioning. Were the memories really worth
the pain? He`d bonded to Marten, but Marten was gone. Could he even bond to another? There
were tales oI anthroPCs that had stayed in a Iamily, but bonding to children as they grew and
then transIerring to them was diIIerent than just Iinding a new person. And he didn`t really want
to try. What was the point? Even iI he could bond to another, it wouldn`t be Marten. He driIted
oII into his own personal hell.

*******

'Hannelore? he asked, when he`d warmed up enough Ior his voicebox to work.

'Yes? She was sunny and chipper today, she`d been sleeping so much better with her new
meds.

'II I asked you to do something Ior me, would you do it?

'That depends she said warily, 'what sort oI thing are we talking about? She had an idea
where he was going with this, it wasn`t new ground. His memory was always sluggish when he
was deIrosting.

'Would you would you power me down? She stopped, stunned, mouth open, the bite oI
waIIle midair on her Iork. This was diIIerent than beIore. 'You`re dripping syrup, he pointed
out. That snapped her out oI it.

'But that that`s suicide she said. 'I mean, decommissioning is one thing, and iI that`s
what you really want, I can help you with that. It erases all the memories, the good and the bad,
but at least you`re still you, and you can live a whole new liIe. But powering down? To never,
ever have another chance? How can you even think that?

He looked up at her, the beads oI condensation running down his Iace. 'How can I not? I
can`t go on like this, and without my memories I just don`t want to go on. There`s really no
other way out.

'That can`t be the only way, she said. 'There must be someone, somewhere who can help
you. Cleaning her dish, she promised him she`d ask around. 'Promise me, you won`t do
anything stupid while I`m out, OK?

'DeIine stupid.

'Powering down.

He sighed. 'OK, I promise. For now.

*******

'Powering down? Dora was incredulous. 'Isn`t that kind oI extreme?

'He Ieels responsible Ior what happened, and can`t get past it, Hanelore explained. 'And
he`s been having nightmares, all the time. He spends his days around electromagnets, trying to
suppress them. I think it`s making things worse he just doesn`t seem stable.

'Poor little guy. Dora had oIIered to take him in aIter the service, when they realized Faye
was gone. She`d grown Iond oI the little anthroPC, but he`d reIused her, and she wasn`t really
surprised. 'Go ahead. II you think you can Iind him help, just do it. Don`t worry about the
shop, I can call Penney iI it gets too busy.

'Thanks! she called over her shoulder as she rushed out the door.

*******

'Well, there`s a new guy in the department oI neurology and behaviour at Amherst who`s
doing research into anthroPC therapy, said Dr. Corinne. 'And oI course the AI department at
MIT has some people who`ve had some success in modiIying selI destructive behaviours, but
most oI that is preventative programming Ior military use. She shook her head. 'The real
problem is that even though their outward behaviours are oIten very similar to those oI humans,
the processes they stem Irom are very diIIerent. Since the AI mind developed accidentally, it`s
not really understood very well yet. Some researchers don`t think we`ll ever know exactly how
it works, it seems as complex and unique as a human brain.

'So there`s nothing anyone can do at this point?

'Not really. Have you talked to him about decommissioning?

'Several times. Thanks anyway, Doctor Bienvenudo.

'Hannelore.

'S-sorry, Doc Corinne. Flustered, she leIt, digging her phone out oI her purse. She
switched it to satellite mode, and dialed.

'Dad?

*******

'Pintsize! She rushed into the apartment, obviously excited. Pintsize was nowhere to be
seen. 'Winslow.?

'He`s gone to the LAN bar again. I tried to talk him into staying, but he wouldn`t hear any oI
it. I Iollowed him down there and watched him go in, but you know I won`t get near those
electromagnets. I ike the way I think!

*******

Every electronic eye in the joint turned towards her, and the place Iell silent. She cleared her
throat nervously. 'I I`m looking Ior an AntroPC, named.

'Well, you`ve come to the right place, sister, said a boxy little homebuilt anthroPC as he
staggered over towards her. 'Name yer poison. Ya need a sex slave? I got attachments! The
place erupted in electronic laughter.

'N-no, I`m looking Ior Pintsize. The crowd grew quiet.

'Oh, sorry, said the boxy anthroPC, looking down, hiding the cooling Iins beneath his head.
'He`s in the back room where the big magnets are.

She Iound him, Ilat on his back, not moving, squealing harmonically with the 60-cycle hum
Irom the magnets. She wasn`t sure he was in there anymore. She got him home, and packed him
into the Ireezer. 'II he did permanent damage, she thought, 'I`ll never Iorgive him. Or
myselI.

*******

'Wait, what? He turned the chipset over in his stubby little arms.

'Well, basically it`s a buIIer. When you go into sleep mode, it`ll engage between your
memory and your processor. It`ll slow things down, so the loops won`t build so quickly, and it
will identiIy the loops that go back to the time oI the accident, and sequester them into a sort oI
virus vault, where they can`t write themselves back into memory. Hannelore was practically
glowing, her eyes shining as she explained.

'And your Iather just threw this together? How do I know it`ll work?

'Oh, it works. The comnet on the space station was getting depressed, and dad designed this
Ior her. It slowed her down a bit at Iirst, that`s why he added the switch to take it out oI the loop
except in sleep mode. You might need a little more sleep because oI the slowdown, but it
shouldn`t be too bad.

'Sooo. what does a comnet have to get depressed about?

'Oh, dad had her scanning worldwide reports Ior anything about AI`s. When that submarine
went berserk and had its personality split apart, it started giving her bad dreams. OI course, she`s
only one halI oI a military style comnet, but the principle is the same

He blinked, turning her head Irom the blond angel crouching beIore him to the chipset and
back again.

'What`ve I got to lose?

'Bad dreams, she said, smiling.