For All Time
By Jim Gerrish
© 2004, Imagineering Magic. All Rights Reserved
Troy Robinson enjoyed going to the Sam O'Neil Science Park in
Irvington, NJ, not only to visit with his "Uncle" Don
Thorpe, but also just to watch the kids playing around with
physics games. These days, the park was filled with robotics
events, and today, as Troy went towards Uncle Don's office, he
passed a large crowd of kids gathered around tiny robots that
were struggling to navigate an obstacle course designed to make
it tough on them. Robot wars and battles were outlawed in this
park, but there were still plenty of challenges for robots and
Troy looked up at the top of a flagpole set in the center of
the obstacle course and saw a $1,000 bill waving in the breeze.
That was apparently today's prize and the goal of all the
struggling robots. Troy noticed one robot traveling on spidery
thin legs carefully (and gracefully) dancing over and around the
other robots on its way towards the goal.
Troy parked his Segway™
in the recharging locker outside Uncle Don's office, and swiped
his credit card in the card reader slot so the vehicle would
receive a full charge while he was inside. The card also secured
the locker, which could then be opened only by another swipe of
the same card.
"Come on in, Troy," came the sound of his Uncle
Don's voice from the intercom by the door. Troy pushed on the
door and found it was unlocked, so he went on in. He gave his
uncle a warm hug and then accepted the cup of tea his uncle had
just brewed for him.
"I heard your credit card enter the park on the
monitor," said Don. His head motioned towards a small
computer speaker that was rattling off names as people entered
and left the entrances of the park. Since the Age of Terrorism in
the first decade of the twenty-first century, devices like this
had been developed to make it difficult for anyone to remain
anonymous, especially in a public park designed for children.
While adults carried "smart" credit cards that served
as personal identifiers, children were given personal ID
"dogtags" at birth to wear until their eighteenth
birthday. Devices at the park entrances detected each person
entering or exiting and Don's computer announced each in a sexy
"How can you stand to listen to it babble like
that?" asked Troy. "You should just set it to alert you
to Nonnies and first timers."
"Mona has a soothing voice," said Don, sitting down
on the edge of his desk while Troy sat in the only other chair in
"Uh oh! Does Mom know about Mona?" asked Troy.
"Sure. She was the one who suggested the name,"
said Don. "It was a nameless robotic sounding voice until
your mother started tuning it up and fiddling around with it. She
gave it a personality all its own."
"I'll stop by the house around dinner time if that's all
right," said Troy. "Then I've got to get back to
"Too bad you can't take some time off and go camping or
something with your mother and me," said Don.
"TROY II wouldn't like it," said Troy.
"Besides, I'm almost done with the project. I just came by
to check out the statue."
"Tell TROY II not to meddle in the affairs of
or better yet, invite him to come along. I'll teach
him to fart and sing rowdy campfire songs."
"Not with my baby you won't," said Troy.
"You're a bad influence, Uncle Don. Next you'll want to
introduce him to Mona and try to make him fall in love."
"Can he?" asked Don.
"I don't think so," said Troy. "Love seems to
be reserved for biologicals like us."
"That hardly seems fair," said Don, opening a
closet door and rolling out a cart, which held a large object
covered up by a cloth. "Here's the statue. I don't want to
influence your vote or anything, but so far all of Sam's other
friends have approved it."
Don removed the cover and watched Troy to see what his
reaction would be. On the cart was a clay model of the proposed
statue of Sam O'Neil that awaited only Troy's approval before
being turned into a marble sculpture to adorn the entrance to the
Science Park that bore Sam's name. The statue depicted Sam
sitting on a park bench with a small child on his knee. Sam was
pointing towards the child's heart, and the child was pointing
towards himself with a quizzical look on his face.
Troy slowly looked at it from all angles. "How old is
this kid?" he asked.
"Sixteen," said Don.
"It was his idea
"Remarkable," said Troy. "It's an excellent
likeness of Sam of course, but the idea to pose him like this
shows genius. It's as if Sam is handing the child the
responsibility of the world and the child is asking 'Who
"I interpreted it as Sam passing on his knowledge of
physics and teaching the child that all the knowledge of the
universe is his for the asking. Everybody sees it in a slightly
different way, but I agree
the sculptor is a genius at
sixteen. He has a great future ahead of him," said Don.
"I'd like to meet him some day," said Troy.
"He's out there with the other kids in the park entered
in that robot competition," said Don. "Ten bucks says
he'll walk in here waving a thousand dollar bill any minute
"You're on," said Troy. "I'll bet he sends in
his robot waving the bill."
"I take it, then, you approve of the statue and he can
get to work carving it in stone?" said Don.
"Hell, yes! And I want a copy of it, too. I'll bet a lot
of people will."
"We'll be making and selling resin models of the statue
to raise funds for the park here and to promote other science
parks around the country," said Don. "We'll probably
send the finished statue on a tour of all the science parks at
some future date."
There was a knock on Don's office door. Troy turned to open
it and in waltzed a metallic spider with a thousand-dollar bill
in its tiny claws. "Pay up," said Troy.
They watched the spider-like robot dance around the room in a
very graceful way. Then it crawled up the side of Don's desk and
deposited the thousand-dollar bill beside him as he sat.
"Come on in, Weasel," said Don. "There's
somebody here who wants to meet you. Come meet my son,
A gangly teenage Black kid, dressed in a red athletic shirt
with matching red shorts and wearing expensive sneakers, shyly
pulled himself into view at the open door to Don's office.
"Congratulations," said Don. "What are you
going to do with your winnings?"
"Could you help me invest it?" asked Weasel in a
"Sure," said Don. "Tell your robot to deposit
it in my iron piggy bank until we can work out a good investment
"His name is Spy, short for Spy-der," said Weasel.
"Spy ret pape down n-e up hole drop," he
Troy and Don watched in fascination as the little robot
sprang into activity, picking up the thousand-dollar bill, then
climbing back down the side of Don's desk to the floor. There it
did a little dance to orient itself and traveled northeast to
Don's big office safe. It crawled up the side of the safe,
located a hole in the top of the safe and shoved the paper down
into the hole where it dropped out of site. Then the robot sat
still, waiting for new orders.
"Pretty neat," said Troy. "Does everyone have
voice activated robots in this contest?"
Weasel shook his head. "Just me," he said.
"Everyone else still wants to control his robot with a
"What about crowd noise," asked Troy. "Doesn't
that confuse it?"
Weasel shook his head. "Filters," he said.
"Try ordering him back."
Troy said "Spy down s-w up."
The little robot ignored him.
Then Weasel repeated the commands, "Spy down s-w up,"
and the robot sprang into action, climbing down from the safe,
traveling gracefully back to Don's desk and climbing back up.
"So it filters out every voice but yours," said
Troy. "Pretty clever. If you weren't such a terrific
sculptor, I could use you to work on my robotics project. When
you're finished with the statue though, you might give me a call
if you want some challenging stuff to work on this summer."
"Did everybody approve the statue yet?" asked
"My son Troy was the last one that needed to see your
model," said Don. "You can start work on the marble
whenever you're ready."
Weasel fished a cell phone out of his pocket and dialed a
number. "Start project 1257," he said into the phone,
then closed it and put it back into his pocket. Weasel looked up
at Troy. "The rockbots will work on it all night," he
said. "It should be ready by tomorrow. So where is this
robot project of yours?"
Troy looked at Don and burst out laughing. "You've got
robot sculptors working for you?"
"Why not?" said Weasel. "Michaelangelo had
assistants working on the statue of David. You don't imagine he
did it all by himself, do you?"
"Well, it just seems more like science than art,"
"There's the art," said Weasel, pointing to the
clay statue in the center of the room. "That I did by myself
and it came out of my mind. Now the rockbots are just going to
render it in stone, but it's still my work of art."
"Can I ask you a personal question?" asked Troy.
"My name?" asked Weasel.
"My mom named me that," said Weasel. "She said
I was always weaseling out of work by getting my computer or my
robots to do it for me. I don't see it that way. I mean, why have
robots and computers at all unless they do the boring parts of
work that humans don't want to do? But I liked the name and kept
"How do you sign your art?" asked Troy.
"Weasel," said Weasel. "That's what I like
about the name. It's very unusual. No other artist I know has
"Is school out for the year?" asked Troy.
"At the end of the week," said Weasel. "Then
I'm free until September."
"Will your mom let you come to Philadelphia for the
summer?" asked Troy.
"If I ask her to," said Weasel. "Why should I
ask her to? What's your project?"
"Have you ever heard of TROY II?" asked Troy.
Weasel gasped, then opened his eyes wide, suddenly
recognizing Troy. "You're Dr. Robinson! Troy! I should have
known! I've been reading your books on robotics and AI for years!
You want me to work on TROY II?"
"If you can get permission and we can work out housing
and that sort of thing," said Troy.
"I'll eat and sleep in the lab if I have to," said
Weasel. "I can't believe I'm going to meet TROY II!"
"It's the other way around," said Troy. "TROY
II can't believe he's going to meet you. He has no
beliefs at all. He has no intuition. He has no creative side. He
could look at you and make a drawing that's as clear and detailed
as a photograph, but only of what he sees. He would never have
thought to create that pose you made with Sam and the child. I'm
hoping some of your creativity will rub off on him."
"So that's all you want me to do?" asked Weasel.
"I don't get to make robots or anything?"
"Wrong," said Troy. "You get to do whatever
you want in any area of art or science. Just let TROY II follow
you around and answer any of his questions if you can. I want you
to come and play in my sandbox with all my neat robot toys. TROY
II is just one of them for now. I'm hoping he'll grow out of the
"Into what?" asked Weasel.
"Exactly," said Troy, seriously. "Into
- - -
"Anonymous entry at East Gate!" The loud warning
from Mona startled them. Don looked at the security computer
screen and saw that Mona had focused on a young man striding into
the park. He was dressed in white summer clothing and was wearing
sandals on his feet. He looked nervously around himself as if
fearful of discovery. Don picked up his communicator and said
simply: "Intruder, East Gate" into it.
The response immediately came back, "I'm already on
it," and, in fact, they saw the security guard on the
computer screen heading towards the young man. As soon as he saw
her coming, the man turned around and exited the park with Mona
announcing, "Anonymous departure from East Gate."
Don's communicator cackled into life. "Shall I
pursue?" it asked.
"Negative," said Don. "We've already passed it
over to the local police."
"Does that happen often?" asked Troy.
"It shouldn't happen at all," said Don.
"Nonnies are allowed to enter the park if they follow the
rules posted at the gates. They have to call me, Mona runs a
security check, and then they report here to get a temporary pass
to keep them from getting arrested. It's a pain, but they chose
to remain Nonnies. That guy deliberately chose to ignore the
"Maybe he couldn't read the rules,"
"If you just press a button at the gates, the rules can
be read aloud to you in English and Spanish," said Don.
"How about Arabic?" asked Weasel.
Don and Troy quickly looked at one another and then back at
Weasel. "What do you mean?" asked Troy.
"Nothing," said Weasel. "It's just that we
have a growing number of people from India, China and the Middle
East in Irvington. There should be more languages than just
English and Spanish. That guy looked Arabic to me."
"It doesn't matter," said Don. "Every alien
who enters the country is told about the Identity Laws in
whatever language they speak. They have to carry their passport
cards with them at all times, which means Mona would have
identified him. Aliens aren't allowed the choice to be anonymous
the way citizens are."
"That's what I'm doing when I get to be eighteen,"
said Weasel. "I'm tossing away my dogtags and becoming a
"Then you'd better cash in all your investments before
you do," said Don. "You won't be able to get a credit
or debit card so you'll have to carry hard cash wherever you
"I understand your need to be anonymous sometimes,"
said Troy. "That's why Uncle Don and I go camping in the
Adirondacks. We can leave our cards behind and roam all around
the mountains and lakes with no one looking over our
"Uncle Don?" said Weasel. "How come
he calls you his son and you call him your uncle?"
"It's complicated," said Troy. "I always
called him Uncle Don since I was a baby. When he married my
mother, I became his son, but I still think of him as Uncle Don.
It doesn't bother us and it's fun confusing other people.
"So, Weasel, I'll leave the papers you'll need to get
signed with Uncle Don and you can give them to your mother to
look over and sign. There'll be a phone number she can call if
she wants to ask me any questions. If all goes well, I'll see you
in Philly on Monday and introduce you to TROY II. Uncle Don, tell
mom I'm coming home for dinner and I'll see you both then."
As Troy left, with Weasel right behind him asking question
after question about robots before he could get away, Don looked
at his computer screen. Mona had finished doing an identity
search on the facial characteristics of the intruder that she had
recorded earlier and had finally come up with a match. His name
was apparently Khalid Selim Yasid and he was on the F.B.I.'s
wanted list of suspected terrorists. According to the information
posted, he was currently supposed to be hiding out someplace in
Europe. Don picked up the phone and dialed his private number for
F.B.I. Inspector Joe Pearson.
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