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How hard can it be to look up a name in the phone book? Even so, it took quite a while to find the simple listing in the white pages Andy and a phone number, no address. So simple, so easy to overlook. I had been searching the yellow page listings under the assumption Andy was a business.
My finger paused over the buttons of the phone for some time before punching in the number. I had no idea what to expect beyond what little a friend had told me.
"Andy," a voice of not quite human timbre answered.
"This is "
"If you wish to discuss a product, please be in the coffee shop of your hotel at 14:00 hours this afternoon." This was immediately followed by a disconnect tone in the receiver.
I shrugged and hung up feeling rather foolish. Yet if this was legitimate, it would be worth the value of the mutual fund I hadn't touched in years and now made up nearly one-quarter of my small estate despite the volatile market. I had waited too long to retire and now physical problems prevented the fulfillment of my retirement dreams. Without direct descendents to pass an inheritance on to, this could be a more than adequate substitute.
At 2 p.m. I was seated at a small table in the coffee shop looking out at two young men wearing cut-off jeans and heavy work shoes tending the landscaping of the dining terrace. They made a most pleasant picture, nice looking, muscular, and tanned. I noticed they moved almost in unison and without speaking, obviously domestibots.
"I am Andy," a voice said quietly.
I look up to see a neatly dressed man of about 40 looking down at me and I'm disappointed to see someone so un-distinguished in any way that he would be unnoticeable in an otherwise empty room until I remember how secret their operation is.
"Please have a seat. Coffee?"
After he's been served, he looks at me and it dawns on me that I havent introduced myself. When I start to do so, he says, "Unnecessary. How did you hear of me?"
"An old and trusted friend who is living all her dreams in her retirement years. When I happened to mention my wish that I could do the same, she gave me your name and city. I thought about it seriously and I'm here."
He stares at me in silence for a few moments then says, "You are truthful. If you have finished your coffee shall we find a place more private, perhaps your room?"
Not until we're seated in my room does he speak again, "What type of product are you interested in?"
"I suppose like my friend has. There's just one, isn't there?"
He smiles. "From this point on anything that is said between us remains in absolute secrecy. We have no desire for publicity, or should I say notoriety? Particularly from bureaucratic agencies and, most especially, the religious right fanatics."
"Excellent. Please begin your list of specifications, I shall remember them all precisely."
"You mean "
"Each Andy is custom designed. Begin with the basic skills you wish your Andy to possess."
I have to order my thoughts before I begin, not having known what to expect. "Male, of course, to appear to be twenty or so."
"Yes, but skills first, please."
"He should be a good cook and enjoy it, a decent housekeeper, and "
Andy rises. "I shall be happy to give you a reference to domestibots. Their robots are excellent for what you want and less than a quarter the cost of ours."
"But I've only mentioned two basics and you asked for skills first. I've seen domestibots like those gardeners, but as attractive as they are, they are not what I need or want."
Andy sits back down. "My sincere apologies. I had a very difficult morning and I need to turn myself in for diagnostic checks tonight. I seem to be making unwarranted assumptions. Please continue."
"I now have several physical problems which prevent me from traveling and moving around freely. I shall wish him to have basic medical knowledge and be caring and gentle. He will need to be able to drive.
"I wish him to be completely devoted to me, content to be with me twenty-four hours a day. His interests should mirror my own and be nurturing but not smothering."
"You do realize that an Andy is not equipped with sexual organs. They will hold, comfort, and provide the owner a feeling of love. An Andy may also enjoy being held and caressed, but that's as far as it goes."
"I understand perfectly. Mine is for companionship."
Andy nods. "Then I believe that provides me with enough information to create your concept of a perfect companion. Have you given any thought as to looks, physical appearance?"
I nod and pull a picture from my billfold that I've had for several years. I've looked at many young men during my years of teaching, but none have ever swayed my opinion of the perfection in the picture I pass to Andy.
Andy looks at me with a questioning expression. "You do wish one change at least."
"Absolutely not! I want in the flesh, so to speak, precisely what you see in the picture."
"This is the first time we've created an Andy with a physical handicap. One leg is no problem, of course, but if I may make a suggestion?"
"Let us create him with a fully functioning leg which can be removed at any time at the point of amputation pictured here, then replaced when two functioning legs would be an advantage. To you, it would be as if he had a natural looking prosthesis. The process will be painless to him and he will be equally at ease on one leg or two."
"Point taken. But I shall expect him to have a bias toward the use of crutches or a peg leg as I find amputees especially attractive."
He nods. "Anything else?"
"I like a soft pleasant baritone speaking voice. A bit deeper than yours."
He hands me a slip of paper with six figures on it; below those four more separated by a comma, then looks at me for approval. When I nod, he says, "Cash, of course. The bottom figures are the date of delivery."
He vanishes almost as silently as he appeared. I retrieve my toilet kit from the bath and put it in my overnight bag then go down to check out. Before I call for a cab, I stop off at the bar for a Campari and soda to sooth my nerves. I'm overwhelmed by what business professors call cognitive dissonance: the doubt that follows after one has purchased something usually at large expense. The drink helps, not that it makes any difference. There's no turning back now.
Over the next three months I sell off the shares of the mutual fund careful to stay under the limit that would get me reported. I am like a child near Christmas, hardly able to wait. Then the phone rings early one afternoon.
I pack my overnight bag and drive to the train station, thankful Amtrack still serves our area. I hate flying and driving is no pleasure for me. Four hours later I'm at the hotel having a cup of coffee with Andy. I've handed him an innocent looking wrapped box holding the payment and look at him expectantly.
"You will, of course, wish to spend the evening and night here with your new companion. He is in the room booked in your name. If you discover any flaws or something is not to your liking, press his belly button and I will attend you first thing tomorrow morning. I believe we have incorporated your desires completely to your satisfaction." Andy stands. "Have a nice evening," he says, placing a room key on the table in front of me, then vanishes.
I pick up my key and wait impatiently for the lift. At last I'm turning the key in the lock, feeling sweat trickling down my back.
"Is that you, dad?" A youthful but deep velvety voice says from the bathroom.
"Yes, son. Let me see you."
"I'm not dressed."
"All the better."
When he opens the door and takes one step into the room, I stagger back and fall on the bed. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined such perfection. His beautiful face becomes distressed. "I'm a disappointment to you?"
I struggle up and hug him tightly. "I can't believe you're real! Oh, son, I can't wait to show you off. Get dressed and let's have a drink before dinner."
He is so beautiful in his neat slacks and knit shirt my feet barely touch the floor as we walk along together. Even the fine dinner might have been compressed sawdust for all I taste of it. My attention never wavers from my beautiful Andy.
Back in our room, he strips down to his briefs, removes his leg and hops across to a chair beside which is a pair of forearm crutches. His stump is all I had dreamed it would be. I can barely wait to touch it.
"I've had a tiring day, son, do you mind if we turn in early?"
He smiles sweetly. "I am always ready to go to bed when you are."
A few minutes later I'm in my accustomed place in the bed and I feel him lie down next to me. I roll over and hug him, then my hand caresses the end of his stump.
"Do I please you?" He asks.
"If you only knew how well. You are perfection as I never dreamed existed. Your stump is the most beautiful ever created. I love you, son."
"I'm glad I please you, dad. I hope I always do." He returns my hug and I settle down in perfect security with those strong arms around me.
During the train ride home, I explain how I wish him to be around the house. He will only use his leg if we're going into town or some public place, the rest of the time he'll use crutches or the peg Andy provided him with. I'll introduce him to those who need to know as my godson who has come to live with me.
My Andy hates the association his name suggests, though there are less than a dozen Andys in the entire country, so I call him Drew when I'm not calling him, son. He fits in so perfectly it's as though we've always been together and I've never felt such continual love in my house, love I actively return except when he makes me take therapy and exercise. Despite my complaining, he smiles and puts me through advanced torture. True, I just lie on the table and he does all the manipulation of my legs, creating pain I'd rather not endure. But within two weeks I'm moving more easily and with less pain. Drew grins when I mention it and says, "A holiday out of town soon?"
"You think I'd turn you loose in a resort with your looks? You'd be kidnapped by every female in sight and raped!"
He grins broadly, then laughs. "What a major disappointment they'll get after all that trouble." It's then I remember that while he has an impressive penis it serves only one basic purpose. "Besides, who says I'm interested."
Over our after dinner coffee one evening I notice Drew's eyes are staring fixedly at a point on the wall behind me. He's non-responsive when I call him by name. For a few minutes I'm afraid something is seriously wrong, then he begins to stir. He looks at me expressionless and says, "Dad, if I leave for a while will you be okay? It may be a day or more before I'm back. I'll need your car."
"Of course, son. Be careful."
He gets up and hugs me, then goes to his room for a few things. When he comes out, he's put on his leg and changed into cargo pants and a polo shirt, as breathtakingly handsome as the first time I set eyes on him. A quick kiss and he's gone. I'm not worried about my car, he does all the driving and I don't even carry a set of keys any longer. As for money, he carries credit cards on my accounts to save a lot of questions.
This is the first time he's been gone without me for anything other than shopping, so the house seems vacant, almost haunted. There's nothing on TV to watch and I can't get interested in either of the new books I received, so I take a sleeping pill and go to bed. Even so, sleep is slow to come.
I awake about seven then pull the covers up for another 40 winks. I finally surface about a quarter to ten. I smell something cooking and I'm filled with joy, Drew is back. I rush through my morning toilet, throw on a T-shirt and shorts, and go to the kitchen.
Drew is standing at the stove. I walk up behind him, put both arms around him and hug. "I missed you, son."
He sets the pan to one side and returns my hug. "Dad, this is Andy."
At the table is seated a young man a year or so older than Drew, and very nice looking, though far from Drew's beauty to my mind. I start to reach over to shake his hand when I see his right hand and wrist are missing. The stump is bandaged in a non-professional manner.
Drew sets a cup of coffee at my place, refills Andy's cup and his own, then sits. "Dad, what I'm going to tell you is for you alone. Last night I heard Andy calling for help. When there were no responses, I had to go." He reaches over and squeezes Andy's left hand. "We're brothers. Our maker has no idea that we can communicate with each other over long distances by focusing mentally. That is why I heard Andy."
"But why bring him here? Doesn't he need to be where he was made to receive adequate medical treatment and have his arm restored?"
Andy shakes his head and speaks for the first time. "Andys who are damaged are deactivated and disposed of; it is too expensive to restore them to their original state. If there was an open order for a one-armed Andy who looks like me, they would smooth over my stump and provide me with a split hook, that's all. I could be bought cheap, but our presence is so secret there's no market.
"I love Drew for coming when I called, but it's best if he takes me back and turns me in. My useful time is over and when we become useless we deactivate, but we instinctively return to our place of origin to avoid detection as Andys. It's automatic."
"What did you do?" I ask him.
"I was a private security guard and chauffeur. To keep busy, I kept all the cars in top condition and learned quite a bit about gardening."
Drew is looking across the table at me with a wistful expression. "Dad, can we talk for a minute?"
I nod and Andy stands. He's an inch or two shorter than Drew and stocky. The snugness of his T-shirt shows a well-sculpted body. "I'll walk outside in your garden. I'd like to see it."
As soon as Andy's outside Drew says, "Dad, can't we keep him? He can keep your car up and do the gardening, that'll be a big savings right there."
"Why are you so suddenly attracted to someone you've never seen before, son? Besides he's an Andy and one-armed."
"The Andy part is because we knew everything about each other within five minutes of meeting. What he knows and feels, I know and feel, and vice versa. But I thought sure you'd like him immediately, dad."
Drew grins. "You don't find his stump attractive? If you take him and he gets the hook, he'll be a real stud."
I have to grin at him. "I didn't order you programmed as a dev, Drew."
"No, but you were told that we could learn. I went to sleep last night holding him in my arms and wishing his stump was healed so I could love it. I love you, dad, more than any one else, but I sometimes wish I had someone my own age to be with."
"I was wondering why you didn't come to bed."
"He was hurt and needed reassuring. You were told we couldn't have such feelings except for the human we're programmed to bond with, but we do learn, dad. I'm sorry if you felt I had deserted you."
"And you want Andy?"
"Please, dad. I've searched his mind and he'll fit in perfectly well with us. I can't refuse you if you order me to take him back to deactivate, but ..."
"Where will he sleep?"
"The bed you got for me is a king size like yours, there's plenty of room."
"Go talk to him then. It's his decision, but if he wants to help out and fit in with our lifestyle then I'll talk to Andy about taking him in."
I get a crushing hug before the back door slams.
It's near an hour before the two young men come back into the house, Drew smiling and Andy looking at me in surprise. "Are you sure, sir?"
"If Drew wants you, then so do I."
"But no one has two Andys."
"I believe you said that as damaged goods, you could be purchased cheaply if someone wanted you."
"That's true. I I just never expected "
"I don't wish to disappoint you, but this all depends on price. I hope for Drew's sake and yours that Andy is reasonable."
"Want me to call Andy, dad? I have the number."
Drew talks softly with Andy for a few minutes, arguing at one point, before handing the phone to me.
"Ah, Sir, I understand that you have accidentally acquired another Andy, one who is damaged."
"The rule is that damaged Andys return to their place of creation to deactivate when their usefulness is over."
"I am told that in certain circumstances an Andy may be placed with someone other than the person who ordered him."
"That is not an established policy because that situation has never arisen before. Are you suggesting a willingness to acquire a second Andy?"
"I am more than willing, however it must be contingent on price. I would, of course, expect Andy to receive appropriate care for his stump and a functioning prosthetic unit so that he can continue to utilize his skills."
"Hmmm, I see," Andy says. "Book a room at the same hotel as before and bring Andy with you. I shall examine him this evening and make a determination as to the feasibility of transfer of ownership."
We manage to find a few things of mine from the days when I was much larger to fit Andy fairly well. With the lower part of the sleeve pinned up, his stump is hardly noticeable because his smile is so broad when I look at him and Drew standing together and comment that I'm the luckiest man alive to be in the company of such masculine beauty. Drew's heard me say it before, but this time it's for Andy's benefit.
Because of the train schedule we have to drive this time. We arrive at the hotel with just enough time to eat a late lunch and get to the room before the chief Andy appears. His attention is solely on Andy, unbandaging and giving his stump a cursory examination before replacing the bandage in a haphazard manner.
"Other than the arm, this Andy appears in sound condition. You know his specialty is impossible to practice adequately with one arm. Even retrained to use his left hand he would be inadequate." Andy shrugs. "I suppose he could function as a domestibot with a prosthesis."
"I wish him to have the prosthesis as long as it is removable just as Drew's leg is, but Andy will not be a domestibot. He will be my son as Drew is."
Andy looks at me. "An arm amp is attractive to you also?"
"Any amputee is."
Andy nods. "To modify his stump and provide a removable split hook will cost less than having him deactivate. Twelve hundred when I return him late this evening." He gets up and leads our Andy out the door.
Drew gets up. "Shall I find an ATM, dad?"
"There's one off the lobby. We can get the cash when we go down for dinner."
Drew stares at nothing for a moment then says, "Andy wants to know if he can call you dad like I do?"
"Of course. I told Andy he would be my son like you are. He's simply your older brother on an extended visit."
Drew hugs me. "He is my brother. Thanks so much for taking him, dad."
We go down to the hotel lounge for a drink at five and are thinking of dinner when I sense someone beside me, it's Andy. I hand him the envelope and he smiles.
"I think you will be pleased. I made a slight behavior modification or two. Thank you." He disappears and Drew and I walk quickly to the elevators.
I open the door to our room to be greeted by a radiant smile and a tight hug. Then I step back and look at Andy. He's dressed in new slacks and a long sleeve sports shirt that fits well. From the right sleeve extends a split hook of a new design.
"How do I look?" Andy asks me.
"Almost as beautiful as Drew. I'm so glad he heard your call and brought you to us."
"I am, too, dad."
My car is a Lincoln dating back a few years to the period when they were the size of the Queen Mary. Andy, of course, drives and so skillfully that even Drew is surprised at how quickly we're out of the city traffic and on the freeway. With the wide front seat, I sit in the middle and Drew on the right hand side, his arm around my shoulders. Now that traffic is thin, Andy has placed his hook on my leg. I reach down and take it in my hand and he smiles. I've never felt so safe, so surrounded by love.
I was told by the chief Andy that Andys function best alone, but there is apparently a lot that is being kept from him like the communication skill they've developed. My Andys like to be together whether it's Drew telling Andy what to do on the house, or Andy teaching Drew to drive the mower while he pulls weeds from the flower beds. Within three weeks of his arrival, my yard is transformed into the beginnings of a lush landscaped garden and Andy is working on a small formal garden at the center to have a reflecting pool and four tier fountain.
It's a pleasure to watch two such beautiful young men working together. They don't often speak except to me, but their eyes frequently lock in communication. They love to settle me on the patio with my coffee and the morning paper while they work nearby. I've grown used to the unusual prosthetics which they use around the house. Drew's peg leg is a simple rubber tipped rod that screws into the end of the bone in his stump after he lifts a flap of skin to reveal the opening. Andy's is virtually the same: a slender rod that screws into the end of his arm. To operate the split hook on the end, a slender muscle has a plastic loop in the end which he hooks into the cable from the hook. If we're going out, Drew wears his leg and Andy puts on a hand one would swear was natural except for the limited motion of the fingers. People often mention their attractiveness and I refer to them as my sons, which they are.
Over dinner one evening, I see their eyes lock again. This time it's Andy who gets up from the table first. "Drew and I have to go, dad. It may be tomorrow night before we're back."
I can only nod, for they will do as they please and I sense another Andy rescue in the works. One of my few remaining old friends has stopped coming to visit, saying he hates to see the way my two 'sons' control my life. I don't see it that way. My every practical wish is granted; I live in beautiful surroundings with the luxury of doing only what I feel like doing at the moment; and I'm surrounded constantly by love. I have instant and good medical attention if I need it for Drew's read medical books and watched my physician when I go in for check-ups. What more can one ask?
I do miss the guys terribly the next day, though I'm at little inconvenience. My meals are prepared and in the fridge. All I have to do is remove the plastic wrap and enjoy and, yes, I haven't forgotten how to operate the coffee maker.
I'm having my morning coffee the second morning when I hear the garage door open, then voices. I spill my coffee in surprise when Drew and Andy come around the side of the house carrying a young man who looks hardly old enough to have finished high school. They're carrying him because his legs have been cut off just below mid-calf and crudely bandaged.
They sit him gently in a chair at the patio table across from me. "This is Andy, dad, Drew says.
As I reach across to take his hand, Andy says, "Why would you want me here?"
"This was not my decision, Drew and Andy acted on their own. But you must have called to them."
"Only out of shock when the broken step in the escalator caught my feet and pulled them into the rollers before the emergency stop engaged. I was leaving my office for the night. I can control pain, but I'm glad they got me out of there before the rescue squad arrived some hours later. We have an emergency deactivate to use if we're in a situation where a medically trained human might try to examine us, but," and he looks almost tearful, "there's so much I want to see and do and I'm not that old yet."
I've said that Drew is my dream of male beauty and Andy is not far behind, but this kid in front of me would make a pedophile of a straight religious fanatic. It's not a pretty type of beauty, but more exotic. His eyes are an unusual shape, his nose short and straight over a generous mouth. No one feature taken alone could be called pretty, but combined make a perfect face framed by tousled hair that needs trimming.
Drew and Andy come back with coffee and sit down. Drew looks at me. "I know, dad, you don't need another Andy, but we do need this one. He's a genius with numbers and was working with a stockbroker. Andy and I have cost you far more than you intended to spend, but this Andy can recover that in no time."
"Even in a recession?" I ask. "Because it looks like that's what that idiot president has gotten us into."
Andy smiles. "No problem. I have a plan of my own I wanted to try, but my boss wouldn't let me. I can make it work for you if you'll give me a chance."
Then I remember. "Andy," I look at Drew's Andy, "what attention does he need on his stumps?"
"Much like I needed on mine, but there's no need to take him to the site. Andy would never let you have three amputee Andys, especially one with no legs. With my help, Drew can do what's needed except replicate his real legs. I'm sure I can make a decent pair of prosthetic feet."
"Well, Andy?" I ask the teen.
"Please. Andy will not hurt me because our pain sensors are selective. I simply cancelled those in my feet and lower legs so I feel nothing."
On the next trip into town, Drew returns with a small rented wheelchair for teen Andy to use until his stumps heal and Andy has made his feet in the small workshop he added to the back of my garage. The two Andys insist they have plenty of room in the king-size bed, even on those rare occasions Drew joins them instead of sleeping with me. They seem to need this type of bonding on occasion.
Meanwhile, I have given teen Andy access to what remains of my savings and investments. He shakes his head at a couple of them, saying he can do far better, and I leave him to it. I'll soon be either penniless or have abundant money. I don't know which because on-line trading and all these modern ways to manipulate money that doesn't exist are completely over my head. Yet, it's a rare day that teen Andy doesn't mention over dinner that he's had a successful day in the market and will continue to do as long as the recessionary psychology continues.
But a general agreement between me and the Andys is a must. "What's wrong, dad?" Drew asks, with the same worried expression as the other two Andys.
"Guys, you're supposed to be limited in number and one to a client, but there are three of you and, with the exception of Drew, I need different names for you other two."
Drew's Andy shrugs. "I can stay Andy and he can be the Kid."
"That's going to sound awfully odd to anyone else. And what am I to do if you guys bring home another Andy?"
Teen Andy points to Drew, "Andy One," then to Andy, "Andy Two," then to himself, "Andy Three."
Drew's Andy hits him lightly on the head with his fist and grins. "What I might have expected from a half baked kid. Never happen!"
For lack of further agreement they remain Drew, Andy, and the kid winds up Andrew. Lord help us all if they bring home another.
By early June my garden causes me shivers of delight from the sheer beauty of it. Drew and Andy have made my large and once grassy backyard into a landscape one expects to see where real money is spent constantly. In a way, it has been and I've been a little worried recently, but Drew and Andy are optimistic.
I am surprised one afternoon to hear a car pull up in the drive, then the doorbell of my little home. I'm well away from the house having my afternoon drink with the boys, so Drew runs on his peg to the house to get his leg and answer the door while Andy disappears in the shrubs. The kid, I know, is in my study and won't be seen.
Naturally I'm surprised to hear little feminine shrieks of delight and Drew's deep voice. He escorts a well-dressed lady to the table as I struggle to my feet.
"Oh, please, Professor Derickson, don't get up. I'm Alicia Barnes; I'd like to discuss your garden, if we might?"
"Please, be seated." Drew has brought up a lawn chair.
"I seldom go up with my husband in his little plane, but I did last week because we were taking a vacation together. On our way home we flew over your home and I could see this gorgeous garden, which I had no idea even existed, because it didn't last fall."
I smile. "No, it's new and it's all the effort of my two sons. Andy, who is not around at present, is the main force behind it and Drew helps him. Unfortunately, I no longer have sufficient mobility to do any gardening, but they have made this a sanctuary of beauty and peace for me."
"How fortunate you are to have such devoted sons, especially one as handsome as this one."
I know Andys can't blush, but Drew's face reveals a heavy inner conflict of some type and I think I hear a well-stifled snicker from a heavy growth of old rhododendrons. She insists that I remain seated while Drew shows her the rest of the garden. When they return she begs me to allow it to be open with several others for the annual garden club tour the next weekend. I tell her it will be up to the boys and I will call her after we have a family conference.
Andy has picked corn, late green peas, and pulled some beets from the vegetable garden for Drew to fix for dinner. Andys, I quickly learned, avoid meat if possible, their systems geared to vegetables and greens. Drew still fixes occasional superb roasts and steaks for me, but seldom do the others eat any, unless it's seafood which I happen to love and request often. But I am not unhappy to forego meat when the veggies are fresh and delicious.
After dinner we discuss the request. "You guys do realize that you'll both need to be at different places in the garden to answer questions the visitors ask?" I tell them.
That mean we've got to dress up and wear our prosthetics, doesn't it?" Andy complains.
"Polo shirt and slacks will be fine. You will want to wear your hand though, Andy. I know Drew will have on his leg."
"I'm not in this!" The kid exclaims. "I know zilch about the garden, so I'm staying in dad's study."
"Good! Won't have your ugly face making the flowers droop," Andy fires back.
"They wouldn't droop if you'd quit smashing the stems in your hook."
Andy hits the kid lightly on top of his head. "Go make dad some more money. I'm going to spend a bundle this week."
The kid grins. "So spend; there's plenty."
Spend, they do, because for several days there are men from a professional landscaping business working under Andy's direction. The small fountain is replaced by a large one of cast metal, the brick walkways carefully leveled and cleaned. The small boxwoods along the walks are carefully trimmed of any wayward sprouts.
The guys proudly walk me through the entire garden. I've seen most of it nearly every day, but this is hardly recognizable. I'm most taken with the new fountain as I love them and this is one I'd seen pictures of and dreamed of having. The kid even comments on the beauty of our surroundings. Andy hugs him and says, "Thanks for making the money for us to use. It's as much your doing as it is Drew's and mine."
"And because it is, you have been selected to sit at the table out front and punch tickets, or sell tickets to those who come here first," I tell him.
"Oh, yes, my baby son. You can wear your feet and nobody will know since you'll be sitting."
"That's not fair!"
"It is if Drew and I have to be around to answer stupid questions, so quit yer bitchin'." Andy retorts.
The next afternoon I sit on the patio listening to the pleasant trickle of water in the wall fountain and greeting those who come to look around. I make no attempt to stand, knowing I can't. I almost burst with pride at the comments I hear, especially when the few men on the tour seem excited at what they see.
I shudder when one woman, having seen the garden, comes to me and gushes, "You must have the best domestibots made."
"On the contrary, I have no domestibots. My sons created this for my pleasure and because one of them, especially, loves gardening."
"Those young men are your sons? They are very handsome, but I see no family resemblance."
"They are adopted, but I could not love them more."
She looks surprised. "Adopted? How unusual. I thought the fostering program had replaced adoption all together. No one wants to gamble on the product of unknown genes."
I give her my most saccharine smile. "I did and I've never had a moments regret. We have a most loving family."
She walks off shaking her head as if I'd proposed genocide or something similar.
Andy comes up to me and whispers, "The kid needs you out front." He helps me up and hands me my cane, then goes to help Drew round up the stragglers. The tour was over twenty minutes ago.
"What?" I ask Andrew.
He points to a car where I see an elderly man getting out. "He insisted he had to see you and he wasn't here for the tour," the kid says.
"That's okay, babe. You might want to put your table and chair away and come on out to the patio with the rest of us."
I turn to the man. "What may I do for you?"
"Professor Derickson, I'm Andrew Hilburn, the creator of the Andys. I seIdom meet an Andy owner, but now I find it a necessity." He looks at the kid going through the door and smiles at me. "I had wondered what happened to that Andy. I might have guessed, but you didn't bring him for replacement legs."
"Andy did quite well in meeting Andrew's needs with Drew's help."
"I know you need to sit as do I, so might we? I have a business proposition to discuss."
"Very well. Come to the patio. It's pleasant out and Drew will fix drinks if you would care for one."
"I need a mild stimulant this time of day. That would be delightful."
With the departure of the tour people, the garden is quiet and peaceful again. Drew brings our drinks then he and Andy and the kid sit down.
"You might as well bring out the Andy you put in the professor's study," Andrew Hilburn says to the kid.
This Andy is as young as the kid looks. I look him over carefully but see nothing wrong with him. Seeing my expression, Andrew says, "Pull off your shirt, Andy" to the youngster.
We all gasp, for his back is a row of welts where he's been beaten with a cane.
"Andys are not created for nor do they have to submit to physical violence," Andrew says. He looks at me. "As long as we're bringing out new Andys " he blows a small whistle.
A few seconds later I hear the car doors slam. I look up to see two more Andys coming round the side of the house. One has both arms missing just below the elbows, the other has a crutch under his right arm and is hoping along on his right leg. His left leg is gone at the knee, his left arm a short nub at the shoulder, and he's terribly scarred as if he's been burned. My Andy quickly gets chairs for them.
"Now to business, professor," Andrew says. "It is time for me to stop playing around in my lab creating Andys. My heart is failing and my doctor has told me it could stop at any time. My personal Andy will stay with me then carry out my last wishes." He stops and looks squarely at me. "This is where you come in, professor. You have already accumulated two Andys who should have deactivated and ordered one we would never have otherwise made. Their physical defects appear to have no effect except to excite your admiration.
"It was just recently that I learned that my later Andys have the facility of long range communication. These additional Andys were trying to get here instead of coming back to deactivate. Now I can see why. The pleasant surroundings, the affection you and the Andys have and show each other, the physical restoration performed on the young one's legs, all of this, and it's cheaper than deactivation because of one the chemical compounds used is difficult to dispose of properly.
"What I propose is this, and I would trust only you with the knowledge. I will have everything needed to create or restore an Andy brought to your home. It takes up so little room it can be stored on two shelves in your garage. All Andys reaching their deactivation time or becoming defective in some way will come here to spend the rest of their natural days in peace and comfort. If they are able, they will contribute whatever skills they may possess." He sees me start to ask a question and cuts me off with the answer. "Yes, Andys do age twice as fast as mortals, but their outward appearance never changes."
He stops and looks at me, then at the Andys. I see the two older ones nodding vigorously, eyes locked on my Andy's.
"Dad, please." Andy says.
Drew nods. "Yes. We can't turn this down, nor send those three away."
"And where will they all sleep?" I ask. Six Andys and two bedrooms for them doesn't work very well by my calculations.
"Put the sofa and floor cushions on the floor until we can come up with something. Andys don't mind roughing it occasionally." Drew says.
"Oh, well. You three run my life anyway, so have it your way."
My Andys all hug me followed by the others. What few possessions they have are brought in and Andrew Hilburn leaves after thanking me profusely.
My Andy, Drew, and the new kid fix dinner. Drew surprises me with a filet mignon, telling me I deserve it for being so good to them. Frankly, I don't know what I'd do without them.
Three days later our problem of space is resolved. Bordering on my back property is an old mansion that until a few years ago was a very small and expensive private school operated by a brother and old maid sister by the name of Fernwood. Dr. Fernwood died last year and Miss Fernwood, who could no longer live alone, has put the property quietly up for sale. In some way my Andys found out about it and asked me to buy it. We inspect the property to find it in excellent condition.
Andy the kid, after taking over my finances, has made a mint of money for me in spite of the recession, and with their loving pleading looks how can I resist?
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