Linda B. Munn - Author



                                                Chapter 1

The year is 2309, I have been chosen to participate in a Quad Comm Probe.  Quad Comm standing for four computers.  I have no basic knowledge of computer programming.  The only prerequisites that I am aware of is the ability to work well with a computer and a mechanical aptitude, both of which I must have or I would never had been chosen.

The basic concept behind Quad Comm is a space probe with four combinations of Computer/Human interrelationships.  The break down being: male computer/female human; male computer/male human; female computer/male human; and female computer/female human.

Since the advent of space travel, computers have played a very important part in the space voyages.  The main focus of their function was to maintain a steady course; control the atmosphere aboard the space vessel; supply entertainment; and the only means of communication from outside the ship to inside of the ship, as well as the historian for on-board events and scientific exploration.

As time wore on, and as computers became more personalized (pr "human"), as some scientists preferred to think of the inroads made in computer sophistication, another scientific field raised its head in the field of computers.  Psychology.  Some whiz-kid of science felt that computers were developing personalities and thsat with these personalities there was a larger ration for error, known as the human factor.

The more sophisticated star-vessel computers now had "extendo's".  Extendo's are robots that look like humans, function mechanically as a human, but thinks mathematically and logically.  Quad Comm is a test to see if an attachment could be made between an extendo and a human.  The scientists wanted the best attachment around, hence, the combinations of computer and human factors that comprised the Quad Comm Probe.

Each Quad Comm was assigned a number from one to four.  Only one of the Quad Comm's was in complete control of the star-vessel, but no one except the in-resident board of command knew which one.  All four Quad Comms were to act and respond as though they were all running the star-vessel.

I was one half of Quad Comm 3.  The other half I had yet to meet.  All I knew was that his name was Hal, an acronym for Human and Logical.  Someone had a large sense of humor.

While I was awaiting admittance to my new home away from hom, the S. V. Hope, I had the honor of meeting the human members of the other three Quads.

The three remaining Quads broke down in this manner:  Quad Comm 1 consisted of human, Boris Vatsures and extendo Dora (Dual Organic Regulated Automat), Quad Comm 2 consisted of human Bruce Johnston and extendo Cal (Calm and Logical), Quad Comm 4 consisted of human, Chris Andrews and extendo Nora (Normal Organic Regulated Automat).

My name is Jena Matthews.  As I stated before I truly don't know why I was picked for this mission.  The government of UW (United World) which is the whole of planet Earth, had surveyed every inhabitant to select just the correct four.

United World came into being after World War V in which over half of the world's population at that time was eradicated.  All of this took place in the year 2207.  Some freak of nature, according to the historians, had shorted out the primitive computers at that time and each of the nations and countries that had solar powered weapons launched their bombs at their neighbors.  Those who survived the holocaust because of some fluke, since no one was prepared for this catastrophe, began the slow progress of rebuilding.  It was at this point in time that the UW board wa established consisting of scientists; doctors; teachers; humanitarians; common laborers; and minorities from every sector of the world.  One of the first orders of this new regime was to improve the computers and try to prevent another World War, or holocaust.  Quad Comm Probe was phase III of this decree.

My three fellow guinea pigs in this probe proved to be interesting, flashy, and from a variety of backgrounds.

As I started to say ealier, I had no real computer experience.  My only exposure to them was the normal everyday house computer that saw to it that I arose on time and that my house was tidy.  There wer no extendo's in my sphere of life.  The whole house was a computer.  Every home was equipped that way.  Even cars were driven by computers.  However, if there ever was a computer breakdown, I had to call a service rep. to come take care of it.  I am not mechanically inclined even though I "tinker" with things for my own amusement.  In other words, I graduated the 15th year of school, which included one year of basic computer languages and maths.  That was in my 13th year of school and the only year that I managed to squeak through with passing marks.  Why I was chosen for this probe is beyond me.

Spending five hours in decontamination gave us four humans time to know one another.

Boris Vatsures is a large bear-like man who came from the Ukraine.  I was surprised to notice that he had an accent of some sort.  Accents are almost non-existent since everyone was taught to speak by a universal means, a computerized voice box.  By all rights we should speak with no inflections at all.  Boris, on the whole, was a quiet man.  Whenever he did speak his voice commanded your attention as it came booming out of him from what seemed like the bottom of his feet.

Chris, on the other hand, looked very small next to Boris even though she maintained that she was 5 foot 9 inches tall.  Although she had a short, easy to care for hair cut, she was very feminine looking and delicate.  You almost had to strain your ears to hear her when she spoke.  Such a big contrast from Boris, in all respects.

Bruce, is a short, slender man with yellow hair and pale blue eyes.  Every move he makes is delicate, almost to the point of being feminine.  His voice is soft and well modulated.  His step is very panther-like and graceful.

We all sat in the waiting room passing the day with idle chit-chat.  None of us seem to be willing to get to know each other too well.  It's possible that we were sizing each other up and collectively wondering why we were chosen for this particular probe.  I know that was basically what I was doing.  We sure seemed like a mixed bag of people.  The only ones who even acted liked they belonged were Chris and Bruce.

After what seemed an eternity Commander Bradshaw came in.  By this time all of us had quit talking and were bored by our wait.  Chris was reclined in her chair with her eyes closed, patiently waiting.  Bruce had his nose buried in a large book of some sort.  I couldn't tell what he was reading even though I tried, unobtrusively, to see what it was.  Being an avid reader I was most interested in what was holding his attention so raptly.  Boris was pacing the room like a caged bear.  Even though he was doing it quitely it was beginning to get on my nerves.  Since none of us were really sure what was expected of us we were as ready as we could be.

Captain Bradshaw cleared his throat which drew the attention of all four of us immediately.  Chris sat upright in her chair with her eyes wide open and expectant.  Boris stopped pacing and sat down in the chair next to mine.  Bruce, I noticed, had quietly closed his book and was looking intently at the Commander.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you all know that you are here to participate in the Quad Comm Probe."  His voice was modulated to a pleasing volume, but the authority still rang through clearly.  "Each of you were selected because each of you have a unique, er should we say rather, a uniqueness about you that deemed your participation in this project to be a necessity.  An example of this uniquess is a technique that is similar to E.S.P.  One of you has this E.S.P.-like technique.  Even I don't know which one of you has this technique.  Another of this group has the capability to understand the unspoken word, sort of a mind reading technique.  The board members have not taken me fully into their confidence, solely because I am too close to the situation and accessible to all four of you.

"All of you have a general idea of what Quad Comm Probe is about so I will not go into a discussion of the Probe.  I do want to welcome you aboard the S. V. Hope.  The crew and myself want you to feel at home and if there is anything that is necessary for your survival or happiness please let us know.  Now, if you will excuse me for a moment, I will go get your extendo counterparts."

After the Commander's back disappered from view behind the closing door, the four of us looked at each other.

"The time has come," boomed Boris.  It sounded almost sinister coming from him.

Within a few minutes the main door opened again.  Commander Bradshaw had returned with four very human looking extendos.  All four of the extendos were of the same height and general build.  The biggest and most noticeable difference was their hair.  Of the two males, one had black, straight, neatly cut hair and the other one had brown, curly, bushy, hair.  One of the females had short, feathered, bright red hair and the other had long, wavy, strawberry blonde hair.  The males had on silvery, one piece jumpsuits, and the females had on gold lame, long sleeved dresses with hemlines a good hand length above the knees.  The eight of us stared at each other until the Commander moved to begin introductions.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce the extendos to you and then I will tell you how each module is paired.  I hole that the parings will work to everyone's advantage.

"The extendo standing next to me is known as Dora," indicating the blonde, "next to her is Cal," meaning the bush haired male, "next to him is Nora and Hal respectively."

We all nodded to each other.

"Dora, I would like to introduce you to your partner in this venture.  Mr. Vatsures, please step forward and greet your partner."

Boris did as he was asked. Commander Bradshaw proceeded with the introductions.  Bruce was paired up with Cal, Chris was paired ups with Nora and I, in turn, was paired with Hal.

Once the pairing was done, Commander Bradshaw asked the extentos to take each of us to our respective new homes.  I didn't notice how the rest of our group left but I'll never forget how Hal and I left the waiting chamber.  Hal had smiled at me, took my hand in his and we walked serenely from the room.

At that moment several things happened to me.  I was surprised that Hal seemed so human.  I was charmed by his smile.  His had was warm as it claimed mine.  Our steps matched well as we walked the hallways to our station on the space vessel.  Without any logic or reason behind it, I felt as if I had come homej at last.  Could this be love?  What nonsense!  How can someone love a robot?  Hal was nothing but a robot.

He is something else.


He is something else.

Now where did that thought come from?  Nothing came back to that mental question.  I guess I'll wait and see if there is anything substantial behind that cryptic thought.

Eventually we reached our assigned quarters on B deck.  The hidden door to our quarters slid open silently on command from Hal's voice saying "open".  Shortly after we had passed through them they closed silently behind us of their own accord.

The room we were standing in was very business-like and austere.  The room itself was circular and the wall was, from floor to ceiling, flashing lights and circuitry of the main computer.  It was as though we had moved directly into the computer itself.  In the center of the room stood a workstation shaped in a circle, much like a doughnut.  A chair on a swivel pedestal, was in the center of the doughnut which was, in turn, surrounded by monitors, peakers, keyboard, and other necessary instruments to run the computer.

"This is our control center," Hal, informed me.  "I have spent my entire life in this room.  I am actually this computer in humanoid form.  Everything this computer knows or does, I know and can do."

I just looked at him.  What could I say to him that he, presumably, already knew?  I was beginning to doubt that I was going to be able to assist in this probe.

"Come!  I'll show you the rest of our quarters."

Once again he took my hand in his.  He led me to a portion of the circular wall that was bare of any adornment.  I was surprised that I had missed it.  I looked around the circular room again with a more practiced eye.  Directly across from where we stood was another barren wall...the door through which we had entered.

"Watch," Hal ordered.  He pressed a square that was faintly noticeable in the wall.  The door, in front of which we stood, slid open.  He pressed the square again and the door slid shut.

"Now you try it."

I pressed the square and the door slid open.  Pressing it a second time the door, obediently, slid shut.

"The door has been set to open, or close, only with your touch or mine.  It's a small measure of security.  Now we will enter our sleeping chambers.  I hope you will like them.  I took the liberty to decorate the room for you."

Once again he pressed the hidden square.  The door slid open effortlessly.  With my hand in his we stepped into our bedroom.  I was utterly amazed at the room in which we now stood.  I don't know what I expected to find, but the room was exactly how I would have wanted it.  It was soft and feminine looking yet functional and in good taste.  The bed was a double bed with fluffy pillows and a white comforter dotted with tiny bunches of violets on it.  There were night stands on each side of the bed.  The floor was covered with a pale green carpet with a lush pile.  There were two chests of drawers, a make-up table complete with the necessary toiletries, a bookcase filled with books...all by authors I liked.  There was even a conversation area that contained two comfortable looking wing-back chares covered in a muted chintz print, with a nice sized table between them.

"This is fantastic!  How did you do this?"

"Wait, there's more."

Opposite where the bed stood was a funny looking contraption and two open doorways with conventional doors.

"What is this?"  I asked, pointing to what looked like a giant stand for a doll.  The only difference was the back looked like a radio with knobs and dials.

"This is my bed.  When I stand here what I have learned, or done, during the day gets fed into the master computer and I receive feed-back on what's going on elsewhere aboard ship.  Plus, if I need a recharge, I get recharged.  Let me show you the rest of our quarters.  To the left we have the wardrobe."

We stepped inside.  Along one wall was all the uniforms I could possibly ever need.  Along the opposite wall were Hal's uniforms.  At the end of the room the hanging rack was half evening gowns and street clothes for me and the other half was tuxedos and street clothes for Hal.  Also within this room was an assortment of shoes and other accessories.


"Let's go into the next room, shall we?"

To the right of Hal's bed was the bathroom.  The tub was dark green marble and you had to climb two steps to get into it.  It was large enough to put four people in it.  There was a double sink vanity, with a mirror, that ran the full length of the wall.  The commode was also a dark green marble.  Hal, also, had hanging plants hanging all over the bathroom.

Without thinking I threw my arms around Hal and kissed him soundly.  Time seemed to freeze itself as the impact of my actions hit me.  I looked up into his face.  It was beet red.

"Hal, I'm sorry!"


"I've embarrassed you.  I only wanted to show you how much I liked our rooms.  You did very well with them.  I love them.  I know I'll be happy here."

"What was that?"

"What?  What was what?"  I asked him.

"What you did with your mouth?"

"My mouth?"

He bent down and kissed me.

"That.  What is that called?"

"That was a kiss."

"A kiss.  What does it mean?"

"That was a 'thank you' kiss.  There are other kisses.  Each one means something different."

"Will you show me all these other kisses?"

"Uh, well!  I don't know.  You just don't go around kissing people.  Kissing is used only with people you care deeply about."

"Do you care deeply for me?"

"I care for you.  I have to.  It's part of this probe.  Will you quit hugging me, please?"


"Yes.  Open your arms.  When you hold someone that close its called hugging.  That, also, is done with someone you care deeply about."

"I care deeply for you, Jena.  I feel as though I have know you forever."

"Hal, we've only known each other for all of an hour or so.  You can't possibly feel the way you do."

"Why not?  You were the one I chose."

I was stunned.  "What do you mean?  How did you choose me?"

"We were allowed to read the profiles for each of the humans that were to work with us.  Then Commander Bradshaw asked us to pick the one we wanted to work with.  I picked you."

Now my curiosity was piqued.  "What helped you decide to pick me?"

He laughed a manly, fun sounding, laugh, "There were many different reasons why I chose you."

"Like what?"  I countered.

"We are much alike.  We like the same literature, the same artists, the same music, and the same foods."

"Sure we do.  I thought robots didn't eat food."

"I'm not a robot," he responded.  He sounded very offended.  "I'm an extendo.  We are almost human.  That's why we are working with humans.  To help make us even more human by showing us how to react emotionally."

I didn't have a comeback for that so I kept my mouth shut.

"Don't look so unhappy," he said touching my face with a warm very human feeling hand.

"I'm not unhappy.  I'm just perplexed.  I just can't fathom how this will ever work out the way the scientists want it to."

"Come.  Let's sit down and I'll fill you in on the routine of things here.  Plus, I'll explain what's to be expected of us duty-wise."

Hal's time was spent wisely.  After the couple of hours it took to fill me in on things, he proceeded to tell me I had time for a bath before the evening meal.  I hadn't realized I was hungry until he mentioned dinner.  Then I was famished.  I obeyed his directive and prepared to take a bath.

"Since this is a special day, what with it being our first dinner as teams, it'll be a 'fancy' dressed dinner.  Kapish?"  Hal's voice came through the intercom.

"Kapish!"  I answered back.

I finished washing myself.  Then I proceeded to towel dry and wrap the large bath towel around myself.  I found a toothbrush and toothpaste in the wall recess over the sink.  When I finished brushing my teeth I walked out of the bathroom still wrapped in my towel.

"Under garments are in the top drawer of the dresser to your left."  Announced a navy blue suited Hal.

"You look nice," I replied, as I made my way to the proper dresser.

"Thank you.  Would you like me to pick a dress out for you?"

"No, thanks.  I can do it."  Thinking  that sounded ungrateful I added.  "If you don't mind."

"I don't mind.  I'd like to see what you'd pick out."

With bra, underpants, and hosiery in hand I proceeded to the walk-in closet to dress.  I located a chiffon, lilac colored dress that I thought would be apropos and put it on.  As I turned to open the door, I found to my delight, a full length mirror attached to it.  I was pleased with what I saw reflected there.  You really are sort of cute, I said to myself, grinning at my image.  My hair needed a brush run through it and maybe I should pile it up on top of my head.  Lifting my dark, heavy tresses up to the crown of my head I studied the effect.  Not bad.  Maybe I'll fix it this way.  Letting my hair drop back into its normal disarray around my face, I opened the door and stepped into our living quarters.

Hal rose from the chair he was sitting in.  "Beautiful!  That's exactly the dress I would have picked for you to wear." 

"Do I have time to fix my hair?"

"No!  I'm sorry, that was rude of me.  Leave it as it is.  The effect is stunning."

Boy, is he a man of honeyed words!  Out loud I said, "Let's not tamper with 'stunning' then.  Shall we go?"

He offered me his arm, which I took, and we proceeded to the dinning room.

He was correct in the fact that dinner was a dressy affair.  Everyone there had a suit or a pretty dress on.  Not a work uniform in sight.  The dinning room itself was a large room with clusters of tables capable of seating from two to ten people each.  There was an air of festivity over all.  We noticed several members of the "Probe" seated at one of the large tables, so we went over and joined them.  Boris and Dora were there along with Bruce.  Cal had gone to see where Nora and Chris were.

Dora had on a black knit dress that displayed her perfect figure perfectly.  Boris had on black pants and a tweed jacket.  He reminded me of a history teacher I had in grade 11.  Bruce looked quite stylish in a black suit with a white turtleneck sweater.  Soon after we were served a pre-dinner drink, Cal showed up with Nora on one arm and Chris on the other.  Cal looked distinguished in a gray suit and red tie.  Nora had on a green jersey dress, with long sleeves and a cowlneck neckline.  Chris was decked out in a peach colored suit with a subtle shade of scarlet, silk blouse.  She looked like a doll.

While we exchanged greetings and got comfortable at the table, waiters started delivering platers of food and bowls of steaming vegetables.  I was amazed at the wide variety of food that finally ended up on our table.  Some of the food was unknown to me but I made the effort to sample just about everything.  I also refrained from asking what it was I was eating until after I had tasted it.  Hal was very knowledgeable on the cuisine that was foreign to me.  There were a few things that did not appel to me in any manner. One of those dishes was a black cube in a black viscid liquid and the other was a long, green, wiggly thing with four red dots on each end, which was brought to the table on a platter.  When the opportunity became available to ask Hal about those two dishes, I quietly inquired about the "oil and nuts" dish and the "green worms".  I was informed that the "oil and nuts" was a delicacy from Klaxton V and was actually nightfruit and juice.  Very sweet to the palate in taste and texture according to him, but I still couldn't bring myself to try them.  The "green worms" were actually a mammal from Zylon and had a taste similar to fish.  The red dots were its eyes and was always served live.  This bit of news made my stomach churn.  I was thankful no one at our table sampled thst particular dish.

After our strange, but pleasant, dinner other members of the crew stopped by to introduce themselves and pass a little time with the "newcomers".  Other members of the crew were picking up various instruments from one of the far corners of the room.  Within a short span of time there was an impromptu band playing familiar and unfamiliar tunes.  The whole evening turned into a party with people singing and dancing as though there was no tomorrow to contend with.

I was talking to the Chief Engineer, Artu Defrost, when I felt as though someone was staring at me.  Then I heard a voice.  It was a soft, almost whisper-like sound, like the wind was blowing.  Had I really heard a voice?  Yes!  I had, but not with my ears, with my mind.


There!  I'd heard it again.  I looked around for Hal.

'Over here, Jena.'

I turned in the direction fron which I thought it had originated.  I found him.

'Yes,' I answered back with a thought.

'Care to leave?'

'Yes.'  Boy, was talking this way hard!  I was getting a headache.

I excused myself from Defrost, pleading a headache.  By this time Hal was almost by my side.  I reached out for him and he grabbed my arm.  We left the dinning room hand in hand.

"Did you have a nice evenint?"  Hal asked, as we walked back to our quarters.

"Yes, I did.  Did you?"

"We've had them before.  Before you and the other three boarded the ship.  It's a pretty friendly crew aboard here."

"Hal?"  I stopped in my tracks and turned him gently so that we faced each other.  "How did we speak to each other earlier?  With our thoughts, I mean."

"I just sent the thought out and concentrated on that thought alone.  That's why they're 'short and not like normal speaking." 

"Why did it give me a headache when I tried it?"

"It does that at first.  Mainly, because you are concentrating so hard.  It gets easier with practice.  Once you get the hang of it I'll be able to pick you up better."

"What do you mean by that?"  I wanted to know.

"Well your first answer came through feeble and your second answer was just shy of being a scream."

"Thanks, a lot," I replied with a teasing tone to my voice.

"Come on.  We're almost home."

On that note we continued down the corridor to our quarters.

Once inside our quarters, I excused myself to the bathroom with my robe in my hands.  I removed my clothing, folding it neatly and putting it in a stack on the counter.  Standing before the sink, naked as the day I was born, I brushed my teeth and then brushed my hair one hundred stokes.  I made use of the toilet while I was there.  Then I put on my robe and gathered up my pile of clothing.  Stepping into the main area I found the room in semi-darkness and Hal was in his sleeping contraption.  He had on a silvery gown of some sort and his eyes were wide open.  I wondered if he was asleep.  I tiptoed past him, just in case he was sleeping, and laid my clothes on the bed.  I took my dress from the pile and took it to the closet, being careful not to disturb Hal.  Once that was done I put the rest of my piled clothing into a laundry bag.  I pulled the blankets down on the bed and looked for the switch to turn the lights off.

"Just go to bed Jena.  I will get the lights."

"Oh!  I thought you were asleep."

"I was waiting for you to go to bed.  The lights that are on now are controlled from my console here, as well as at the door.  So there is no need for you to move around in the dark."

"I would have turned on a bedside lamp and then turned off the ceiling lights."

"There's no need for that if I'm here."

There was nothing left for me to do but go to bed.  Dropping my robe, I hurriedly climbed into bed, trying not to think about Hal seeing me in the nude.

"Goodnight Jena."

"Goodnight Hal."

Hal awoke me in the early hours of the morning.

"Get into the tub while I order breakfast for you.  I took the liberty to lay a uniform out for you in the bathroom."

"You're very efficient, aren't you?  By the way, what time is it?"

"It's 6:00 A.M. and I am very efficient.  Now off with you."

I started to get out of bed when I realized that I was nude beneath the covers.

"Could you turn arouned, please?"  I asked Hal.


"Because I don't have anything on."  I stammered.

"You needn't be ashamed.  You're beautiful with or without clothes.  Besides, I've seen you nude before and nothing happened."

I'm being childish, I thought.  He's right.  He did see me nude before and nothing happened.  So, I hopped out of bed under the full gaze of his eyes and donned my robe.  I sauntered over to the bathroom and opened the door.

"See?"  Came Hal's voice.  "Once again nothing happened."

I found that he had drawn my bath for me, as well as laid out my clothes.  The clothes were work clothes but the thought behind them was beautiful.  Hal is always one step ahead of me it seemed.  I really should do something nice for him.  But what can you do nice for a robot?

'How about loving him?'  Came an unwanted thought.  Now did I think that or was my friend eavesdropping on my thoughts?  I didn't receive an answer to that.

'Hal?'  I sent out as strongly as I could.  I paused awhile then tried again.  'Hal?'  Still no response so I figured everything was my own thinking.

Finishing my bath, I donned my forest green jumpsuit, then brushed my teeth and hair.  I decided to just let my hair hang loose and full around my face.

As I stepped into our living area I was greeted with the delicious aromas of breakfast: toast, bacon, and coffee.

"Um, sure smells good in here!"

"I took the liberty of having breakfast delivered.  Hope you don't mind."

"Mind?  No, I don't mind, this is great!  What else do we have here?"

"Eggs: sunnyside up.  Cereal, to round off the bacon, toast, and coffee."

He even knows how I like my eggs.  I pulled my chair up and dived into breakfast as though I hadn't eaten for days.

Hal laughed at my greediness.

"Have some," I mumbled between bites.

He helped himself to a little of everything.

"I thought robots didn't eat food," I said pausing for air before the next bite.

"I never thought humans ate like that," pointing his fork at me.

I laughed.  Reaching for his hand, I took it in mine and squeezed it.

"You're terrific," I said.

We finished our breakfast and someone came to collect our dirty dishes.  Hal took me by the hand and led me to the console in the center of our control chamber.

"Take your seat," he urged.

I sat down in the comfortable, vinyl chair and looked at the rows of flashing lights, push buttons, and levers.  I was more than a little nervous sitting in that seat.  Boy, could I mess things up by just pressing the wrong button!  I looked up at Hal only to find him looking back at me, with a smile on his face.

"You look scared to death."

"I am a little put off by all this," I said, indicating the control panel.  I don't think I can master all this without causing mayhem somewhere along the line."

"With me here to guide you, you'll do just fine.  Really, Jena, you have the aptitude to take care of this panel and much, much, more.  In order to make you comfortable with this room, we'll spend a week or so running through a check list on what everything does or controls.  Here," he said, handing me a clipboard with a sheif of paper under the clip, "we'll go through the list and start familiarizing you with all the buttons and levers."

We spent the next several housr going over the console in front and around me.  My head was swimming with terms such as: left vector bar; right vector bar; memory bank 1 up to 30; voice box on/off; intercom; station-wide intercom; and tele-viewer number 1 through 10.

"You look worn out," Hal said.  "Why don't we take a break and go down to the dinning room for a bite to eat."

"That sounds wonderful!"  I agreeded, letting a sigh escape.

We deposited our clipboards on top of the console.  Hal reached over and flipped the voice box switch to "on".  Then he grabbed my hand to lead me out of the control room.

"Take care, Number Three," Hal said into the room.

"Will do, Hal," came a computerized voice within the room.

"Who was that?"

 "That was the computer.  When you switch the voice box 'on' the computer can answer you.  I was going to let you be the first to switch it on, but I don't like to leave our quarters without turning it on."

"Good afternoon, Number Three," I said into the room.

"Good afternoon, Jena.  Nice to have you aboard."

I started to laugh.  Hal took me by the elbow and hustled me down the hall.

"What's this all about?"

"Number Three is sensitive and your laughing would have hurt him."

"Hal. he's a computer!  A machine!"

"Still, he does have feelings!  Just as I do and I'm a machine!  Or have you forgotten?"

"No, I haven't forgotten," I said, chastised again.  "I was laughing at how he said, 'Nice to have you aboard.'  He sounded just like the Commander when he said that."

"I'm sorry Jena.  Number Three and I are pretty close.  You could say he's my alter ego, or my parent.  He is the father and I am the son."

Once again he took my elbow and we continued on to the dinning room at a more leisurely pace.  Now when we passed people, or they passed us, we didn't get stared at as we had earlier.

"Jena, the Quad Comm Probe is a test of emotions in computers and extendos and the building of an emotional bond between them and humans.  As things strand right now, today, you are a vast vat of emotions with cynicism, anger, and rudeness your most noticeable ones."

I started to protest, but he held a hand up and gave me a "don't you dare interrupt me" look on his face.

"As for myself and Nunber Three we are all emotions tuned to a low, even pitch just waiting for our tuner to tune us to our best, workable pitch.  You are our tuner, Jena.  Please, I beg you, give Number Three and myself a chance.  We are like clay waiting for the artist to mold us.  We can create a marvelous set of emotions, or continue as you are and create mean, vicious monsters out of Number Three and me."

Tears were beginning to well-up in my eyes.  "Oh, Hal!"  I choked out.  "I don't want that to happen.  You have been so sweet and kind to me.  Our quarters tell me that you are sensitive and loving.  Can you ever forgive me for being mean and spiteful?"  Now the tears were rolling freely down my cheeks.

He pulled me into his arms and kissed me tenderly on the lips.  I hugged him close after our kiss, nore to steady myself since his kiss caused as quickening thrill coursing through my body.  I do believe that I was falling in love with Hal.  I can't allow that to happen because it might do something to ruin the Quad Comm Probe.  Hal drew a handkerchief out of a pocket somewhere and wiped my tears away.

"Feel better now?"

"Yes, much better," trying to smile cheerfully, I took his hand in mine.

"That's good, because we're almost in the dinning room.  I'm famished!  How about you?"

I realized I was starving.  "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse."

"Are you serious?"  He asked in astonishment.

"That's just an ancient earth saying implying that I'm starved.

We entered the dinning room and seated ourselves at a table for two.   



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