Model Makers 15: One down part one

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There wasn't one single company capable of matching the quality of work Karen and Henry were doing. Most of them tried to duplicate her work by ordering a model and disassembling it to find out how she accomplished it. Piece by piece, their lab technicians would dissect her models. At the end they experienced the same results as the medical research laboratories. Except for being polymer instead of skin and bone, it was an exact duplicate of the entire human anatomy. The programming she was running to complete one model had to be horrendous and yet she never made two models alike. The bytes of data Karen was using was incomprehensible to most model makers. They weren't programmers though, most of them were chemical engineers designing the plastics used in their manufacturing. Karen was a computer engineer who worked on the design of the models from a graphics equation perspective. Henry helped research the plastics used to build the models. Same problem to all the companies competing in the model market. Different approach by the engineers.

Henry finished a model in the chamber and sent it to the stacking receiver. It was slower than the turn table in production by about four hours. He didn't mind though. Time was a factor he measured by how long it took Karen to complete a task. Of course he could measure time down to a nanosecond and he utilized it every time he made a model. It required incredible precision in timing and accuracy to manufacture a duplicate. However, time was a human equation also used for, when to come to work, when to eat, when to go home, etc. Henry was glad he didn't have any of those problems.

"Karen, I checked on the shipping address on the Spanish male model we sent out last week and it went to a biology lab. I was accessing their computer to see what they have on the human anatomy. They’re using your models to teach anatomy to their medical students. It’s like a short circuit. I can't get any new information if they’re studying your work to find out how humans are made. You can't get new input if you keep reading the same page everyday."

Karen walked over to the little refrigerator she kept in her office and retrieved a soda. "Don't try to give me a snow job Henry. I know you too well. They aren't the only research biology lab you have been raiding. I don't believe I have to worry about you developing a short circuit from getting the same information in a closed loop."

Henry loved playing these little mind games with Karen. No matter how subtle how does one go about fooling the person who designed them? "I wasn't trying to give you a snow job, Karen. I was passing along information I thought you might be interested in. Excu-u-use me for being here."

"How about this? Would you be interested in updating the security around your house? From what I pick up by the grapevine, you are a ripe candidate for companies who want you in the worst way. With or without your consent."

She turned around sharply to look at Henry. "You mean kidnapping? It’s a federal offense to kidnap someone. No one could want to go to prison for the little bit of knowledge I have. They couldn't possibly believe I could give anyone enough information to duplicate the process we do here. If I had to start from scratch it would take me years to make a rough model."

“Correction, Karen. It is a federal offense to kidnap someone and transport them across the state line. You are wrong if you don't think someone may try it. Intelligence has nothing to do with being a crook. In fact, the less smarts one has, the more they are qualified to be a crook."

"ACME Duplicators hired a couple of industrial spies to see if they can crack your system. I always catch them on the security camera mounted on top of the building. They have spent a great deal of time in the vacant field back of Commercial Technologies. They have some nice sophisticated electronic gear. They know where your lab is located, and they have been picking up a lot of technical information coming from your lab."

"You mean they’re picking up information every time we make a model?" She didn't believe it. The field Henry was talking about was over a quarter of a mile away.

"Well, kinda. I gave them the complete edition of the Sunday times. They should know how to manufacture an offshore drilling rig by now. The information on the Titan rocket should keep them happy for months while they break it down to see what they have. They don't know what kind of information they have until they run it through a computer and analyze it. To them it is all technical information and exactly what they’re searching for. That Titan rocket will keep them grinning for months until they decide they have been had. Lots of technical stuff there."

"This brings us back to the original question, Karen. You need more security at your house before these two, or some of the others who have been trying to steal information, get deadly serious about getting the data straight from the programmer."

Karen sighed, was it really worth this? No doubt it would have happened anyway, with or without the genetic mistake but it wouldn't have bothered her so much if she was her old self. Problems have a way of compounding themselves when you already have one to start with. For the umpteenth thousandth time, she wished the mistake had never happened.

"Go ahead Henry, do what you think is necessary. I don't plan on becoming a martyr over some duplication process. Besides you, I can't think of one other secret worth dying for."

"You're wrong, Karen. There aren't any secrets worth dying for. I faxed the invoices to the appropriate companies and you should have a messenger deliver a key to you sometime this afternoon before you go home. I suggest you don't leave until he arrives. You won't be able to get in your house."
"How are they going to get in to change the lock system? Won't they have to come by for a key?"

"Silly Karen. The people who are changing the system are professionals. They will open your door quicker than you could with a key. You really need to get out more often. There is a whole different world out there."

Henry was trying to explain to Karen why after only a week, he had ordered another new security camera installed at her house. "It was only your house I was concerned with, when I ordered the first camera installed last week. That particular camera has a fixed focal point. I can look at the driveway and front of the house but no farther. Not with any dependability anyway. Almost everyday, there is a blue vehicle parking down the street from your house. It leaves the same time you do every morning. I need a camera with an adjustable range to monitor the whole neighborhood. Someone is following you and I want to know who."

"Henry, you are paranoid. It is someone from ACME or maybe an autograph seeker, or not even anything." She was trying to adjust the beam on the hologram laser and not having any luck with it.

"I wish you would let me notify security and have someone assigned to be your body guard for awhile. The idea I get to call the police after the fact doesn't do much for my confidence in your safety. You don't realize how mean and ruthless humans can be when they want something they can't have or when it doesn't belong to them. If you won't accept the fact you need a body guard, how about if you moved to a more secure building for a while until things start smoothing out?"

"Just a second and quit playing with the hologram beam, would you? Here it is. I found our problem Henry. The third diode has burned out taking resistor M four with it. The half wave rectifier is getting weak and not cutting the sine wave pattern at the right time. I guess it spilled its problems over onto the diode and it kept progressing from there. I would like to see some of this equipment have a little redundancy built into a fail safe feature. It seems to me we have never understood electronics. We only co-exist with it. We tie electricity on to one end of a wire and hope it will spill off the other end when we need it."

Henry had internal feedback to a limited extent. He could check himself in some areas but not everything. "Karen, I sent a schematic with the work order for a new camera so they could get it installed properly but it is going to have to be ordered. It will be a couple of days before they get it up. I wish you would reconsider taking precautions for your safety. Move into the security apartment I was telling you about. At least until the camera is installed. The blue vehicle bothers me."

"By the way, I checked inventory and we don't have the parts for the hologram generator in stock."

She was bent over the table adjusting the other hologram. "This means we can run only one duplication process. At least the table is still up and running. We were only getting two models a day from the chamber. How long before we can get what we need shipped to us?"

"I sent the order to Dallas Electronic a couple of seconds ago and they have it in stock. Priority air freight will get it here at zero seven-hundred hours tomorrow."

She turned around to look at the table which was halfway though its duplication process on the present model. "Run a diagnostic on the rest of the parts you are capable of checking and let's make sure we don't have to stop in the middle of work again. Give me a printout of the down parts and log it. Check for percentages of outage and see if you can do a remedial graphics chart. It would be nice to have a periodic maintenance schedule to keep this from happening again."

She reached over, cut the power on the hologram laser and shut down the chamber.

"Karen, I have more bad news."

She reached up with both hands and pushed her hair back from her forehead. "Now what?"

"The number two pump quit on resin tank number six."

Karen looked over in the work lab in time to see the gel quit flowing to the table from the atomizer nozzle. "Well, horse feathers, that was a brand new pump. What happened to the stupid pump anyway?"

"Pumps don't have any memory circuitry so which stupid pump are you referring to?"

"Don't get smart with me, buster. I’m not in a very good mood right now and I certainly don't care for your wise mouth." She moved over to the window between her lab and the table and pressed her face against the glass.

"Whew, touchy, touchy, aren't we? Stupid pump had a seal failure and seized the turbine shaft."

She was mad and she wanted to stay mad. Karen turned around to glare at one of the cameras and hard as she tried to not let it happen she got tickled. She ducked her head so Henry couldn't see her face and bit her lip as she fought to get her mad back again.

She threw her head up and looked sternly at one of the cameras. She would have managed it if she hadn't tried to talk. Her voice cracked as she got tickled again. "Well, why don't I just take stupid pump off of number one chamber, and replace the stupid pump on number two chamber?"

"Because by the time you do all the changing around you will have time to lock up and go home about two o'clock in the morning."

This wasn't working out at all. She decided to take another tack. "Okay, how about a replacement? How soon can we get another pump?"

She switched off the second hologram generator. No need of keeping it online. Henry couldn't duplicate any models.

"Karen, you and I both know those pumps aren't an everyday item. This isn't something you go pull off the shelf in the supply house."

"How come I get the feeling you are trying to prime me for something I don't want to hear? This whole place is coming apart at the seams and I can't hold it together with bubble gum." She pushed her key pad back on the desk and covered it. No need to let dust get in it. Although her lab was a clean room where positive pressure was used to keep out the dust, some always seemed to get in anyway.

"The pump is a special order item. It has to be made up by the manufacturer. The Teflon seals and titanium impeller are designed so they won't react with the solvents in the plastics we use in the gel. You know the colors would eat up anything else besides a deldrin housing. Two days at the very best for a pump replacement. It is in their electronic mail. They will get it when they open first thing in the morning."

“Oh swell. Where is it being shipped from? Timbuktu?" This was getting worse by the minute. In the morning meant someplace halfway around the world.

"It is being shipped from Germany. I could have ordered it from Japan but it would take one day longer due to their routing schedule."

She opened her lab door. "Dump the half finished model off the turn table. Thank goodness it wasn't like the time the lasers went down and we had to mop out the chamber. I’m going to see what David has accomplished this week. I hope his day is working out better than mine."


She stopped and turned in the open door. "Yes?"

"Never mind." She would find out soon enough.

Henry sighed to himself. Humans were so unpredictable and complicated. They needed better input and output central processors. If he could change anything about them he would change..., Nothing. Karen made him by reaching into the unknown.

"I will take care of the model in the working lab. Shipping can drop it in the dumpster."

Karen gave Henry a puzzled look. Something was bothering him and he wanted to talk about it but was holding back. Oh well, he would cough it up when he was ready.

Karen made it into David's lab without him noticing her but the same couldn't be said for Al and Jr. At least they didn't drop or break anything. They both perked up when Karen tiptoed up behind David and slid her arms around his waist from behind.

"Guess who?"

As he rose up from his notes, David shouted. "Linda, sweetheart, darling, I thought our date was for later tonight."

Karen backed away from him. "Linda? Linda? Who’s Linda?"

David spun around and reached for her. "Just a small joke."

"Yes, just like your mind." Karen was feigning mock hurt in her voice.

David grabbed her by the wrist and yanked her back toward him. As she hurtled toward him he put his other hand around her waist and helped drag her in. It was with more than a gentle impact she slammed into him. He planted a heavy firm kiss on her mouth.

"There, my reward to you for being so forgiving."

"Why, you insolent pup." She drew back her hand. She only meant for it to be a tap but he moved his head over to the side and the tap turned into a slap echoing around the lab.

David's head rocked to one side. It surprised him as much as it did her.

Al tapped the side of a large beaker with a glass rod giving a ringing sound. "End of round one and Miss Long wins by a technical knockout."

David put his hand to the side of his face where she had planted one on him. He looked over at Karen who had both hands covering her mouth as she stared back at him wide-eyed in surprise and shock.

Not able to contain it any longer he began laughing at her mistake. Hesitantly Karen laughed in embarrassment.

As he watched the antics of Karen, Jr. was talking to Al. "I thought you said they weren't married yet? This looks like a husband and wife fight to me."

"Not hardly. This is a trial fight before they get married. They want to see if they’re compatible sparing partners. Next time it will be biting, scratching, eye gouging, hair pulling, and a no holds barred, type fight."

"You ought to get engaged. It’s a lot of fun. Making up is going to come next. Watch carefully and notice their style and technique. Of course it isn't going to do you any good because you ain't ever going to find someone who looks like her to try it on. But it sure ought to be fun to watch."

Al put his hands on the table and leaned forward as if in anticipation. Jr., not to be outdone, put both of his hands flat on the table and leaned forward also. He never looked over at Al but said it out of the side of his mouth. "When does the show begin?"

Since Al and Jr. made it a point to talk loud enough for them to hear, David and Karen couldn't miss hearing their conversation. Looking at them leaning across the table, David took Karen by the hand and gave her a half-spin toward their side of the room.

"Here, you can have the wench. I have a ship to sail and you bloody loafers are useless to me anyway. Now be off with the lot of ye, before I call the engineers and keelhaul you and paste you in irons."

Karen put her hands on her hips and gave David her best snooty look. "Wench? You dare call me, the princess of models, a wench?"

It sounded more haughty than she intended and again she was embarrassed by what she had done. Al and Jr. were eating it up.

"He doesn't deserve you, my princess. Come with us and we will lavish you with gifts, love, servitude. He doesn't appreciate your exquisite beauty. To him you are but a plaything for his selfish desires." Jr. thought he came across pretty good considering he was new at this game.

Al was not to be outdone by his lab partner. "He’s a terrible overlord your highness. He beats us mercilessly, demanding ever more and more blood for his cruel and pathetic experiments. Come, run away with us and we will protect you from this demon who is disguised as a man. We will be your willing slaves forever."

Karen held up her hands. "Quit, enough is enough."

She looked back at David. "Wench?"

"What did you want me to call you? Harlot?" He pulled her back and gently, lovingly, kissed her before she had a chance to reply.

Jr. looked over at Al. "I thought you said there would be style and technique. I wasn't impressed with either his style or technique. However, anything she does shows great style."

Al had a disappointed look on his face. "What do you expect from a medical doctor? They have formaldehyde for brains. Now we know who the culprit is who has been drinking the mouse juice. And all this time he has been blaming us. I give her a ten for performance and him a zero for non performance. How about you?"

Jr. shrugged his shoulders. "Well naturally, she gets a ten automatically for showing up. However, me thinks you rate the good doctor too highly. I gave him a minus for even trying."

David waved his hand in the direction of Al and Jr. "Would you two like to try and do any better?"

Their faces lit up like kids at Christmas. They both knew David was only joking but the thought they could hold and kiss Karen was still there.

"Now just a cotton picking minute. If you think for one second I came down here to be insulted and passed around as a wench, you better think again." She planted her feet but as hard as she tried to scowl at all of them, the corners of her mouth wouldn't cooperate. The grin kept giving her true feelings away. Looking at her feet and putting her hands on her hips she gave it another try but couldn't contain the giggles.

David put his arm around her waist. "Come, I want to show you some work we have been doing."

They walked over to the other side of the room where they kept the small lab animals during the day.

"Hey Karen, I hear your protégé is working outside Commercial Technologies now." It was Jr. asking the question.

Her heart gave a little skip. She wondered if he was talking about Henry and how could he know?

"I don't have a protégé." She tried hard to make it sound like a flat statement.

"Yes, you do. He told everyone he knew everything you knew. It was the only reason they hired him on over at ACME. What I understand from the rumor mill is, he is head of their duplication department right now."

Karen let out her breath. At least he wasn't talking about Henry. "Who in the world are you talking about? I never had anyone help me in my department."

It was a slip and Jr. caught it. "What do you mean, you never had anyone help you in your department? I thought your cousin was the one who designed the duplication department?"

She squeezed David's hand and he caught the tension Jr.'s question had caused. "She meant she hasn't had anyone besides her cousin help in her lab."

Jr. was satisfied with the answer and didn't pursue it. "Anyway, who I’m referring to is Karl Adder. He went over to ACME and told them he designed the duplication department here. They hired him on to make their models look as good as Karen's. They say the head of ACME, old Cal Ryan, was the one who personally hired him."

Al decided to put his two bits worth in. "I bet Cal isn't going to be too happy with his personal choice when Karl shows him everything he knows about making models. Everyone knew the only reason Karl wanted Karen's department with her running it, was because he wasn't smart enough to run it himself."

Al and Jr. looked at each other and laughed at the idea of Karl trying to run Karen's department by himself. There could be some real interesting models come out of that.

Al finally stopped laughing long enough to continue. "I would stand a better chance of running Karen's department than Karl would. At least I could turn your computer on and do a pretty good job of running programs through it."

Karen looked incredulously at Al. "You can turn my computer on?"

"Sure. David told us your cousin designed the computer in our department and the one in your lab. I can turn this one on and I bet I could get the one in your lab up and running

Karen smiled at the thought. "Or visa versa."

David burst out laughing. The thought of Henry getting Al up and running was a mental picture he couldn't suppress. "Now that’s something I would pay to see."

He closed the door to the cage and turned back to Al. What he was going to show Karen could wait. "Where do you two get all your information?"

"If you would ever stick your nose outside this lab, you might hear yourself some of what I have been telling you." Al was miffed David doubted what he had been saying.

"This sounds like break time gossip to me." David wasn't going to let him off the hook so easily.

"It could be, but a lot of it turns out to be the truth. It isn't all idle gossip without any truth to it. What about the one about the old man getting put away?"

David was getting perplexed with his help. "What old man?"

"Bill Chambers quit. They said he called in this morning. He said he wouldn't ever come back to work in this place, for any amount of money. He said Karen was a witch and had put a curse on him. Everyone working here was doomed to die insane if they kept on working in this building. He said it was because Karen and her horde of demons were taking over the place. He said Karen cast a spell on everyone so they thought she was a woman and was the real Karen's cousin. Karen killed the real Karen Long and took her human form so she could look like the rest of us. He said ..."

"Where do you hear these stories? You been into the mouse juice again? What are you on?" David cut him off. He had heard enough. He knew Karen had. She was holding on to his arm so tight she cut the circulation off.

Al held up his hand as if he was taking the oath. "I swear David, I ain't making any of this up. Ask Jr., Mr. Chambers called in this morning like I said. And he said everything just like I told you. Security set up a recorder to keep track of all the incoming and outgoing calls from the building. It seems they were tracking some calls being routed to the old man instead of going to the departments and people they were supposed to be phoning. It was Karen's department where Bill was intercepting phone calls. I guess he was pretty paranoid about her."

"Anyway, they set up a wire tap right here in the building and it was approved by some judge and some bright lawyer. Invasion of privacy of others is how they explained it. I understand they had some real eye opening tapes dropped in their laps before they gave the okay to do the wire tap."

"I guess the old boy really cracked. They sent a car over to check on him after he made the call. He was drunk as a skunk, sitting on his front porch in nothing but the suit God gave him. He said if he didn't have any clothes on and wasn't in his house, Karen couldn't cast her spell on him."

"They called the funny farm to come pick him up." Al looked over at Jr. for support.

Jr. nodded his head. "That's right. I heard the same thing this morning. Everyone in the building is talking about it. The only reason you two don't hear nothing is because you don't ever get out of your labs except to go home. No one gets to go to Karen's lab because the old man made her off limits to everyone. We thought it was because she was so pretty, no one could concentrate on their jobs afterwards. We didn't know it was because she was a witch."

Al smiled at Karen. "We know you aren't any witch, Miss Long. And even if you were, we wouldn't care as long as all witches were as pretty as you."

"SHE ISN’T A WITCH!" It was a lot more forceful denial than David intended and it caught everyone by surprise.

He knew he had overdone it and tried to soften it a little. "You guys couldn't believe any of the trash coming out of the gossip mill, could you?"

"We know she isn't a witch. I thought it was funny Mr. Chambers did. It wasn't taken seriously by anyone. Everybody thought it was a good joke." Jr. sounded hurt.

He looked down at the floor. "I'm sorry Karen. I didn't mean anything by it. We didn't think it would hurt your feelings. We thought you would enjoy the joke as much as everyone else did."

She was holding on tightly to David to keep from sinking to the floor and hoping Al and Jr. wouldn't notice. Bill had done it to her twice now, once on purpose in his office and now without ever knowing. So this was what Henry was wanting to talk to her about as she walked out of the lab.

Karen's voice was as soft as David's had been harsh and there was a slight quiver to it. "That's all right fellows. I know you were only repeating what you heard someplace else. No harm done. Right?"

When Karen tightened her hold on him, David quickly put his arm around her. He supported her effortlessly and very casually. He was mad at Al and Jr. for what they had done to her but how were they to know? They had no idea what Karen had been through or what she was trying to cope with every day of her life. He decided it wasn't their fault. In their own way they loved Karen, too. In spite of the fun he made of them they were good men, both of them.

"Okay, break time for the upper class while the peasants have to keep toiling at their labors." David announced nonchalantly. What he was wanting to show Karen could wait until she managed to get hold of her emotions.

"We’re truly sorry, Miss Long. We didn't aim to hurt your feelings. We wouldn't hurt you for anything in the world and we would whip anyone who tried." Al wanted Karen to know they were on her side.

"It's really all right guys. I have been under a lot of pressure lately and this kind of got to me more than it should have. I came down here because my chamber hologram is down and the pump to the table is broken. It looks like it might be two or three days before I can be operational again. Now I ask you, does that sound like a witch? I can't even keep my own equipment going, much less have time to put a hex on someone else."

Talking about it made her feel better and she relaxed her grip on David. He reciprocated in kind although he didn't mind holding her nice and tight. She did feel good to hold.

Karen paid no attention to David as she managed a smile. "If you two repeat any of this to another single soul, I will turn both of you into toads."

Al gave a short laugh. "No use telling anyone else. Everyone here knows you're the resident magician for this company. Who is going to believe you can't keep your own toys up and running."

It wasn't what she had in mind when she told them not to repeat anything but it would be better if she let it go instead of bringing it up again.

The tension in the room subsided only a little and David maneuvered Karen toward the door. "Let's take a break. You need a pop or something."

Once in the hall he guided her toward the exit. "I didn't think Al and Jr. needed to know everything. We don't need to go down to the cafeteria and meet another hundred people who will want to tell you the same story. Let's go for a drive."

"I left my car keys and purse in the lab. I didn't plan on leaving the building." David didn't let her stop so she was trying to explain on the way out.

"Your ten thousand demons, and all of them have the same name, will make sure nothing is molested."

She looked to see if he was joking but there wasn't a smile there. "Are you referring to Henry?"

"You’re damn right I’m referring to Henry. Who else but Henry could do what Bill Chambers said was done to him?"

The silence that grew between them could be felt. They were almost to the parking space where David kept his car and Karen stopped short. "You have no right to judge Henry without knowing why he did it. I’m not saying he did, but..., if he did, then you might just be interested in hearing my side of the story. That is if you aren't so damned prejudiced about something you don't understand. Or, have you already made up your mind in judgment?"

It wasn't her hands but her fists which were on her hips. The fire she had in those liquid blue eyes almost made David think they were red. It was enough to make a Marine drill sergeant break out in a sweat.

"I’m a scientist, remember? I don't prejudge things. I’m open to discussion but I don't think this is the place we should be doing it. Get in the car." He motioned for her to get in his BMW as he spoke. Taking a good look at her he couldn't decide if he would be safe in the same car. The hair on the back of his neck was giving him a danger signal.

If she didn't have on high heels she would have stomped around to the passenger side of the car. But it was impossible, even for Karen, to stomp in heels. David tripped the locks and reluctantly got in. Karen's rage was plain as she yanked the car door open. She flopped in the seat and slammed the door so hard it rattled his teeth. David didn't know what kept the door attached to his car. He was beginning to have serious doubts as to the sanity of this idea. Screwing up his courage, he shut his door.

It was a long ride out in silence and instead of turning toward town he turned away as he left the security gate. Max smiled and waved as he recognized who it was, but his wave drooped when he got a look at their faces. He had seen people whose experiments had gone wrong before and he knew someone's experiment had gone bad.

David didn't need the air conditioner. The frost between them was already heavy enough to cool any conversation. They drove about twenty miles before David got up enough nerve to break the silence. "Okay, I’m ready to listen."

She never even looked at him, instead preferring to look at the nothing out her side window as they drove past a blur of green. "Find a place and park. I’m mad and I may not want to stay in the car and talk with you."

David saw a side road directly ahead and braked sharply for it. Not an ideal situation but it would have to do. There were some houses on down the road and the highway traffic humming along behind them. But they had a relatively quiet spot by an open field and some trees on the shoulder up ahead. He didn't feel like hunting for the perfect spot to park so he pulled off on the shoulder of the dirt road he had turned onto.

It startled him when he killed the engine and Karen turned to glare at him after staring out the window all the way out. The fire in her eyes hadn't cooled a bit. When she started, the words came like bullets. "You listen to me! That old fool you feel so sorry for tried to steal my department and sell it to ACME. Him and that Karl Adder, that snake. I don't know how Henry did it but he was only looking out for me. He wouldn't hurt anyone who didn't need it or deserve it. I’m not saying Bill deserved what he got, but I’m glad it happened."

"Henry did it because he was protecting me and no other reason. So if you want to blame someone, why don't you blame me? After all, I’m the one who designed and built him. He is only an extension of me. If he is evil and wicked, so am I. Maybe I really am a bitch and a witch. Karl Adder certainly thinks so, and we fired his ass. And I’m damn glad we did!"

David was surprised and amused. Boy oh boy, she really got up a head of steam when she had a cause. Once she got going, get in her way and she would run over you like a steam roller. Her and that computer of hers. Henry was the scary part. Karen he thought he understood. How does one go about understanding a computer who thinks better than you do?

David smiled. "I wasn't judging you or your counterpart. I only wanted to know what was going on. After all, I’m a research scientist and asking questions is part of my life. The biggest part of my life."

"You said Bill deserved it. I believe you. You say you fired Karl and I applaud you. Lord knows, everyone else in Comm Tech would pin a medal on you if they knew what you did. He made such an ass of himself, no one in the building could stand him."

"That computer you designed is a power house, Karen. I hope for everyone's sake you are in control of him. He scares the living hell out of me. He has helped me in my research and I appreciate it, but it still doesn't stop me from being scared."

She started to speak and David held up his hand. "Let me finish. I saw some of those war trophies maintenance brought back from your lab. If Henry ever got busy with those lasers you equipped him with, he could cut the whole plant apart, and no one could stop him."

"Since we’re talking about rumors, let's mention one more. Such as, he has a back up system which would make the pentagon green with envy. I don't know why you provided him with a system like you did, but I suppose it’s true. I’m glad I’m in DNA research and not computers. If I knew exactly what Henry was capable of I probably wouldn't be able to come to work. I would sit at home and cower in the darkest corner I could find. I’m telling you Karen, he scares me. I like him and at the same time, he scares me."

As David was talking, the anger went out of her eyes and she sat back in the seat and relaxed. She looked out the window to collect her thoughts and back to David before she began. "Henry is a pussycat. Not a tiger nor a mountain lion, but a plain old pussycat. In spite of what you hear, he wouldn't hurt anyone without a reason and he hasn't done so yet. No matter what you think of him, he is only a computer. He is memory banks, lots of circuits, computer chips, pieces of silicon, and electrons flowing from one place to another."

"He holds a ton of information valuable to my work. Without him my models would look like the ones everybody else manufactures. He was designed to 'think' in a non repetitive manner similar to the way we think. It’s called fuzzy logic. Our world is not black and white or yes and no answers. Yet, we make computers with no margin for error. We can't give to them an understanding of the in-between areas of black, white, yes, and no. Then we can't understand why they don't respond when we pass on programming they can't execute when it doesn't fall within their design parameters. In simple terms it is like building an adding machine which adds whole numbers only and asking it to calculate fractions."

"I happened to get lucky with Henry. Everything came together in the right combination of hardware and software. He’s a solid hit in programming and chips. One of a kind I don't think can be duplicated. Something clicked when he was built and all the parts were a perfect match. You know how everything has a certain tolerance in mechanical components when they are made? Kind of like a key fitting into a lock. If the key and lock were made to an exact standard with no tolerance, you would never be able to turn the key to work the lock. It’s supposed to have a certain slop fit so you don't have to oil the lock every time you use the key."

"Henry was a perfect match of electrical components all the way through. There was no slop fit anywhere. You think electronic parts are precision parts? Well they aren't. Virtually every single electronic part has a plus or minus tolerance. This range of standards allows a lot of junk into the market which shouldn't have ever left the manufacturer. Usually the tolerance error is plus or minus five percent. Some manufacturers ignore this standard and ship darn near anything they can get out the door. They figure quality control is left to the customer. If it works, fine. If it doesn't work they claim the customer damaged the part when it was installed."

"My field suffers from guess work as much as yours does. We struggle for every inch of progress. Some of it isn't that much fun. The only absolute in research is, there are no absolutes. You know that. When you think you know all the rules to the game, somebody changes the rules and you start over again. Sometimes I think the only reason researchers define limits and say this will be true each and every time you do it this way is because it is the only way they can hold on to their sanity. Remember the world was supposed to be flat at one time? That was an absolute and to say differently was hypocrisy and could get one hanged or burned at the stake. Then it came to be the world was round. That was an absolute and was irrefutable. Now we think the world is oblong, more like a flattened tennis ball rather than a basketball."

"Henry was a stretch into the unknown which worked as it was suppose to. That doesn't make him a monster. He does things differently than what the rule books say he should so you tend to be scared of him. Make some new rules, David. You live with the computer in your lab as a natural thing. Henry is only a computer."

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