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by Neilast

Lair's eyes opened. They took a moment to adjust to the darkness of the bedroom, but when they did, the first thing they saw was the face of Darren, Lair's beloved husband, as he slept peacefully beside her.


She remembered the chemistry, no, the electricity they both had felt upon their first meeting. When their eyes met, Lair knew he was the one. It was as if they were magnetized, drawn by natural forces to one another, like a positive and a negative charge.

Lair's hand reached out to touch her husband's own, but stopped short. He looked so peaceful. She didn't want to awaken him. Instead, Lair rolled over onto her side, facing away from her husband, and thought over the events of the day.

The news had been abuzz with talk of the new spaceship, the one which would head for the outside of Algo. There had also been a lot of talk about the new Androids, and the debate over Android rights.

And the question had come up again about when Darren's mother would be coming in from Parolit for that long-overdue visit. Lair knew nothing of her mother-in-law except for where she lived, and as she lay there, half-asleep, Lair wasn't even sure that she had that right.

Being in the highly creative state which precedes sleep, Lair began to wonder if perhaps there was something Darren did not want her to know about his past. But what? Darren was such an honest, good, and yes, simple man. What could he possibly have to hide?

Lair's mind raced with all the possibilities. She had only known Darren two years, and he was twenty-eight years old. At least...that's how old he said he was.

Now she was being silly. Or was she?

Could he have been a pirate? A renegade hunter? One of the fanatical anti-Android activists of five years previous? Lair shuddered at the thought of that possibility. She had spent a lot of time fighting against those zealots. It would be her worst nightmare to find one sleeping in her own bed.

Androids. That was a topic Darren was just as interested in as she was. He'd shown a keen interest in the newest Androids, the ones designed to be identical to humans in almost every way. It was nearly impossible to tell one of those Androids from a Palman being. The paranoid anti-Mother Brain crowd was claiming that the Government was using them to spy on people, even replace troublemakers all together.


Still, why did Darren have such an interest? Perhaps he had helped to design the machines and retired, having to swear when he did so that he would reveal no facts about the project to anyone, not even his wife. It sounded far-fetched, but it really wasn't. Or maybe...maybe he had been forced to flee the project for some reason and was in hiding. "Poor Darren!" Lair thought. "That would be such an awful secret to"

Her thought drifted away as a new possibility crept into her heart.

What if Darren was an Android?

Androids were often described as being not unlike supermen, and Darren definitely was a superman. He could do it all. When Lair came home late from work, Darren always had a souflet or pot roast ready and waiting. If something ever broke, Darren could immediately fix it. When the cat got stuck in the tree, who got it down? Darren, of course! He was a man with...with a little something extra.

Lair smiled as she had that thought. "A little something extra..." Some extra things weren't as little as others...

"This is crazy," she thought. "I've married this man and now, in the middle of the night, I've almost succeeded in convincing myself that he's a machine. What's wrong with me? But then might explain his why I haven't seen his mother. Androids don't have mothers... Oh, why didn't we discuss this before we got married?"

Her guilty eyes drifted over to Darren, who had uncovered himself after a series of warm breezes passed through the window. There he lay, the man she loved, raven-haired, exquisitely handsome, and with quite a beautiful body. But there was so much more than that! Although it sounded trite, Lair had married Darren for the beauty within, and nothing else. That he had a beautiful exterior was only icing on the cake.

But could a machine not also be beautiful?

Although it pained her heart to do it, Lair could take the suspense no longer. Gently, so as not to rock the bed, she sat upright and leaned over her dozing husband. He was flat on his back, so Lair simply pressed her ear against the soft skin over his heart and listened. She listened hard.

And within her husband she could hear the whirrings and clickings which could only be the telltale signs of a manmade heart.

"Darling, what are you doing?" asked a voice.

It was Darren. He slowly began to sit up. For a few seconds, Lair's ear remained at his chest as if fastened, but then she began to creep backwards, clearly quite crestfallen.

Darren's eyes glazed over, and his face fell. Was he ashamed? If so, for what? For being something he could not help, or for trying to hide something he could not hope to hide for long?

"How did you know?" he asked her. His face and voice rose simultaneously and he said, "Nobody could have known! They made us too well! That's why we were able to escape! They didn't even know what to look for! The only ones who could have known were my creators, and the others like me, unless..."

There it was again, that electricity between the two of them which never quite went away, the sensation that proved for certain that they were a match.

Like batteries. Like a positive and a negative charge.

Both of them tried to speak, one to interrogate, the other to answer. But no words would come; there was nothing they could say. And so they just sat there, silent, their two mechanical hearts pounding furiously in the night.


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