Today brings us the final chapter of The Asymptote’s Tail, book one of the Infinite Limits series. I hope you’ve enjoyed everything so far and that you aren’t disappointed by this conclusion. If not, please do think about picking up a copy from Amazon to show your support for my future works. And if you can’t wait to hear what happens in book two, don’t worry, I’m hard at work editing it now so it should be published within the next month or two at the latest. Beyond that, my latest novella (Murder in “Utopia,,) is up for sale, too, and it will be released tomorrow, October 4th, for only $2. So think about picking up a copy of that while you’re at it.
That’s enough advertising for this morning. Thanks again for reading this far. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I hope you’ll join us for future installments in Infinite Limits and beyond. Have a great weekend.
XXI. The Scientist
The speech went well. The amplifiers deafened the owners and made them shut up for a little while, so she had that going for her. Which was nice. But there was also the obstacle she didn’t foresee, there were always obstacles you couldn’t foresee.
When she had finished her speech, she went backstage to count her fifteen minutes down as Rosalind fetched her daughter. Then the protector came from the dressing area. The Scientist hid behind some unused scenery as the protector went out to give a speech of his own and fire two shots, then a little girl came running out of nowhere to tackle him. They both disappeared back into the dressing area, then Huey came rushing backstage behind Rosalind who was carrying Haley’s lifeless body over her shoulder.
“He’s going to try to stop you,” Huey pled, chasing her. “You can’t just take her in front of everyone like that!”
“I’d like to see them try!” Rosalind said, laying Haley on the ground in front of the Scientist. “You have to help her.”
Tears welled up behind the Scientist’s eyes.
“Hellooo,” Rosalind said, waving a hand in front of her face. “She needs help now. We don’t have time for this.” Owners had started crowding around the stage to see what was going on, and protectors would be on their way as soon as they were sure that Lord Walker was alright.
“I can’t do anything here,” the Scientist said. “I need—”
“Let’s go, then.” Rosalind lifted Haley’s body and carried her toward the closet elevator. The Scientist and Huey followed, and they were gone through the hole and back to the lab before anyone could tell the difference.
“Alright, here?” Rosalind asked, laying Haley on the lab table.
“No,” the Scientist said. “The engineering room. I’ll meet you there.”
Rosalind picked Haley up and disappeared out into the hall.
The Scientist searched frantically through the drawers to find the serum. “Is there anything I can do?” Huey asked.
“Wait,” the Scientist said, grabbing what she needed. She ran out into the hall, closed the door, opened it again, and ran into the engineering room. Haley was sprawled out on the drafting table as Rosalind brushed the hair out of her face.
“She doesn’t look good,” Rosalind said.
“I’ll fix that,” the Scientist said, filling a syringe with serum and flicking the air bubbles out, always sure to do it, even when she was in a hurry.
“Are you sure?”
“I am. But I need you to leave so I can…I’m going to be using some…”
“You don’t have to make excuses,” Rosalind said, standing from Haley’s side. “Just fix her. And get me when she’s better.”
The Scientist watched the door close behind Rosalind. She went back to filling the syringe and tapping out any air. Satisfied, she plunged it into Haley’s thigh then set to extracting the bullet. The serum helped to push it out, and the process was easier than she expected it to be. This was a Sixer round, not a protector round. That was the first clue as to who was behind it.
The bullet out, and with less effort than she expected, the Scientist only had to pull up a stool and wait for the nanobots to take effect. With such quick application, there would be virtually no damage. The tears came back to the Scientist’s eyes when Haley blinked herself awake.
“Wh—Where am I?” Haley asked, groggily.
“You’re safe,” the Scientist said in almost a whisper.
“Where’s Lord Walker?” Haley asked, sitting up fast.
“He’s safe, too,” the Scientist said, reassuring her. “But he doesn’t matter. You do.”
“Wh—who are you?” Haley asked, frowning.
“I’m…” The Scientist shook her head. She couldn’t answer that just yet.
Thankfully, Haley stalled a little longer for her. “Where am I?” she asked again, looking around the room.
“You’re in my lab.” The Scientist tried to blink away her tears. “One of them at least.”
“And who are you?”
“I—I’m…a friend. I’m the Scientist.”
Haley waited for her to go on, but when she didn’t, she said, “But what’s your name?”
Oof. The Scientist had given her name up when Lord Walker had taken her daughter from her. He had taken her name from her, too, and given it to her daughter instead. “I’m Dr. Haley,” she said after a long silence.
“Haley? That’s my name.”
The Scientist tried not to cry. “Yes,” she said, shaking her head. “Yes it is.”
“Why am I here?”
“You were shot, saving Lord Walker.”
“He is okay, though. Isn’t he?”
“Yes, dear. He is.”
“I took a bullet for him.” Haley shook her head.
“Ugh. Why’d I do that?”
The Scientist laughed and cried at the same time. “I don’t know, dear,” she said, sniffling. “You tell me.”
“I don’t know, either,” Haley said, shaking her head still. “I guess I was supposed to. Wait, where am I?” She looked around the room again.
“It’s alright, dear,” the Scientist said, chuckling so as not to cry. “You’re safe.”
“Why do you have to keep reassuring me I’m safe if I really am?”
“Well, you’ve been shot,” the Scientist said. “Your system is going through shock. I injected you with nanobots, and they’ll fix you right up, but it takes a little bit of time.”
“Yes.” The Scientist nodded. “The main ingredient in the smoothies you eat. But an injection is the only thing that could work fast enough to heal a wound like yours.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Well, I’m a scientist, dear. The Scientist. It’s my job to know.”
Haley shook her head and rubbed her eyes. She rolled her shoulders then put her hand on her chest. “My chest hurts,” she said.
The Scientist chuckled. She started to cry again. “Yes. You were shot.”
“That’s a long story, dear. And one I don’t know all of yet. But you don’t have to worry about that now. We’ll have plenty of time to figure it out.”
“Do I know you from somewhere?” Haley asked, squinting to get a different perspective.
The Scientist nodded, trying to hold back full blown sobs, although she couldn’t contain her tears. “Yes, dear,” she said. “I—I’m your mother.”
Haley shook her head. She looked confused. “No,” she said. “I don’t have a—a mother.”
“Who told you that?” The Scientist frowned.
“I’m a robot,” Haley said, nodding like it was obvious. “I wasn’t born.”
“Have you always existed?”
“Well, no. Not always. But I wasn’t born.”
“You were born. You were born right here in this room. Right there on the table you’re sitting on now.”
Haley looked around the room. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “I would have remembered that. I remember everything. I was turned on in Lord Walker’s kitchen, and that’s the first memory I have.”
“It’s not the first thing you remember, though,” the Scientist said. “There are pieces left from before that. They tried to erase them, but they couldn’t. That’s why you recognize me.”
Haley rubbed her eyes. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “I mean—I thought I did, but it must be that you look like someone I’ve seen before. That’s all.”
“You, dear?” the Scientist asked, raising an eyebrow.
Haley shook her head. “No, of course not.”
The Scientist chuckled, trying not to take offense. “You’re my daughter. You were made to look like me.”
“No.” Haley shook her head. “I look nothing like you.”
“Not anymore,” the Scientist said. “No. I’ll give you that. But you look like I did when I created you. That was a long time ago, dear. We humans change over that kind of time.”
“Y—You’re serious,” Haley said, shaking her head in disbelief.
“I am, dear. I’ve never been more serious in my life. I’ve waited all this time to see you again and here you are.” The tears came back stronger than ever.
“No.” Haley shook her head.
The Scientist knew it wouldn’t be easy to convince her, but she had to keep trying. “Yes,” she said. “I invented the technology that is you. I invented you. You were the first android I ever created, and I did it right here in this room. I turned you on while you were laying on that table, and this was the first sight you ever saw. Well, except try to picture your own face instead of mine.” She smiled through her tears, though she knew it only accentuated her wrinkles and crow’s feet.
“That’s why I recognize this place?”
“And why you recognize me.”
“You’re…you’re my mother?” She kind of frowned as she said it.
“And you’re my daughter,” the Scientist said, letting out a big sigh of relief at finally getting the message across.
“I didn’t think I could be a daughter,” Haley said. “Or—I mean—I didn’t think I could have a mother.”
“You can. And you are. And you do. I’ve been waiting your whole life to get back to you.”
“Is that why Rosalind was asking all those weird questions?”
“Yes, dear. She’s your sister. We want you to live here with us. We don’t want to waste any more time without you, and you won’t have to work for Lord Walker ever again.”
Haley didn’t seem convinced. “What? And work for Mr. Douglas instead?”
“No,” the Scientist said, shaking her head. “Of course not. Come live with me, finally enjoy the childhood you never had. I’ll cook you breakfast, and you can watch TV all day. You can do whatever you want. I just want you to do it here, near me, so I can share the experience with you.”
“But what about Lord Walker?”
“Lord Walker will be fine,” the Scientist said. “He’ll get another secretary to replace you. He’ll make sure she looks and sounds just like you, and he won’t know the difference.”
“No.” Haley shook her head. “But I’m the best. He’s always told me so. That’s why we’re number one in the Fortune 5.”
“He’s number one on the Fortune 5, because he started out as number one on the Fortune 5. No offense to your abilities, Haley, but the newer models trade just as efficiently as you do. That’s why Mr. Douglas is catching up so quickly.”
“No. But I—”
“No, Haley. Listen. We don’t have much time. I’m offering you the opportunity to come live with me, your mother, and do anything you want while you’re here, or you can go back to work for Lord Walker and do whatever he tells you to do. Those are your options.”
“I don’t even know you,” Haley said, shaking her head. “How can I believe you?”
“I don’t know. How can you believe anyone? You just have to trust me.”
“Trust who?” Haley demanded. “You could be anyone telling me anything.”
The Scientist was getting anxious. All her worst fears seemed to be coming true. Grasping at straws, she said, “What about Rosalind?”
“You know her. You can trust her, can’t you?”
“I—I don’t know,” Haley said. “Maybe.”
“Well, I’ll take you to her, and you can decide for yourself,” the Scientist said, standing from her stool. “Come on.”
It took a moment for Haley to trust her own legs even. They were fine, though—thanks to the nanobots—and she followed the Scientist out to the hall. The Scientist opened the door again, and there was Huey, a little girl, and a little boy, sitting on the puffy chairs, looking out on the wilderness scene and the mountains.
“What is that?” Haley asked.
“Who is that?” the girl asked, getting up from her seat to stare at them.
“Where’s Rosalind?” the Scientist asked.
“Mr. Douglas,” Haley said.
“Haley,” Huey said.
“Are you the scientist?” the girl said, tugging at the Scientist’s white coat.
“Yes, dear. Just a moment, please. Huey, where’s Rosalind?”
“In the lab, ma’am.” He bowed.
“Ah. Of course. Come with me.” The Scientist pulled Haley back into the hall.
“But, Mr. Douglas…” Haley said as the door closed.
“Yes, dear. How do you think Roz could work for me if he didn’t? She’s actually been at it longer than he has, you know.” She opened the door, and Rosalind was playing cards with Popeye at a table in the lab. “There she is,” the Scientist said. “Rosalind, dear. I have someone here who would like to talk to you.”
Rosalind stood up fast and turned around, knocking cards onto the floor. Popeye waved then set to cleaning up the mess—and making more of one in the process.
“Haley,” Rosalind said, crossing to her.
“Rosalind?” Haley said.
“You made it.” Rosalind hugged her.
“I—uh. Yeah. I did.”
“And the Scientist told you?” Rosalind looked between the two of them.
“That she’s my mother? Yes. But I don’t know if I—”
“That you’re my sister, Haley. That we’re sisters. She’s my mom, too.”
“No, but…” Haley shook her head. “We can’t have a mother. We’re robots.”
“I’m not a robot,” Rosalind said. “I’m a person. And I do have a mom. She’s our mom.”
“Then why don’t I remember her? I remember everything I’ve ever experienced.”
“Because you don’t remember everything you’ve ever experienced,” Rosalind said. “They have access to your memory bank. They tried to erase your memories, but they couldn’t do it. There are still pieces. I know there are.”
“It’s true, dear,” the Scientist said, nodding. “We’re working on repairing memories here in the lab. If you stay with us, we can work on repairing yours, too. If you want us to, that is.”
“You haven’t even decided to stay yet?” Rosalind said, looking at Haley in disbelief.
“I—Stay?” Haley scoffed. “This is just too weird.” She stepped back from the both of them.
“It’s strange, Haley,” Rosalind said. “I know that. Believe me. I went through the exact process you’re going through when mom explained to me where we came from, but you have to believe me when I say it’s much better than being a slave to some owner.”
“But you still work for Mr. Douglas,” Haley said.
“With Huey, dear,” the Scientist said. “They work together.”
“Um. Mom,” Rosalind said, giving the Scientist a look. “Do you mind if I talk to her alone for a minute? Would that be alright with you, Haley?”
Haley shrugged. She looked overwhelmed.
“Hmmm. I don’t know, dear,” the Scientist said. “We don’t have much time. They’ll be looking for—”
“They’ll be looking for her either way,” Rosalind said. “And it won’t take long, just a few minutes between sisters. Please.”
“Besides,” Rosalind cut her off. “You have a little visitor to deal with, remember? She’s been waiting a long time.”
“I—Well…Okay,” the Scientist said, shrugging. “I guess. A few minutes. But I want to talk to you before you leave, Haley. If that’s what you decide to do.”
“Of course,” Rosalind said, shoving her out the door. “We’ll be right out.”
The hall door closed behind the Scientist. She sighed and wiped her eyes. Rosalind was right, she knew more than anyone what Haley was going through, and she would be the best person to help her through it. The Scientist had to accept that. She already had more than fifteen minutes with Haley, anyway. She had no room to complain. She only had room left to wait and hope that Rosalind could convince Haley to stay, hope one of her daughters could convince the other to rejoin the family. Her stomach gurgled thinking about what they were saying behind the closed door. She had to do something to get her mind off it.
The door opened and Huey almost ran into her. “Oh. I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said, bowing low.
“No no, dear,” the Scientist said, shaking her head and waving her hands. “I shouldn’t have been standing in front of the door. What is it?”
“Our guests, ma’am,” Huey said. “Well, the girl. She’s…anxious to see you. She’s losing what little patience she had.”
“Well well,” the Scientist said, walking into the office. “Let me meet this girl at once, then.”
“I’m not a girl,” she said, standing from a puffy chair to cross her arms and stare defiantly at the Scientist.
“Yes you are,” a boy behind her said, peeling himself away from the view.
“No. I’m not,” she said.
“I’m sorry, dear,” the Scientist said. “I didn’t know. How should I refer to you, then?”
“Ansel,” she said. “My name’s Ansel.”
“And you’re a girl,” the boy said.
“No, I’m not. Stop saying that!”
“Well what are you then?” the boy prodded her on.
“I don’t know,” Ansel said. “Nothing. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re the Scientist, right?”
“Yes, dear,” the Scientist said with a smile. She liked this Ansel already. “That’s me. What can I do for you?”
“Well, I gave you the information you wanted,” Ansel said. “So you have to give me something now, right?”
The Scientist chuckled. “Now, I don’t know what information you gave us,” she said. “But I’d still be willing to offer you an opportunity. What opportunity is it that you want?”
“My dad,” Ansel answered without hesitation. “I want my dad back.”
“Hmmm.” The Scientist frowned. “Where is he?”
“The protectors took him. And they…they killed my mom.”
“Oh, dear.” The Scientist moved to comfort her, but she backed away.
“So, can you do it?”
“If the protectors have him, we can get him,” the Scientist said. “If they have him. But I can’t tell you for sure right now.”
“But you’ll do it for me,” Ansel said. “You’ll find him.”
“Of course, dear,” the Scientist said. “Anything for a determined little gi—er—child like yourself. Huey here tells me you demanded to see me.”
“I’ve been jerked around before, ma’am.”
“I understand, dear.” The Scientist smiled. “I understand. You won’t be getting that here, though. You can trust me.”
“Good.” Ansel uncrossed her arms, satisfied.
“And you, boy,” the Scientist said. “You are a boy aren’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He looked a little scared to be talking to her.
“And do you have a name?”
“Pidg—er—Richard, ma’am,” he said.
“We call him Pidgeon,” Ansel said.
“Well, Richard,” the Scientist said. “Do you have any requests? You brought this information, too. Didn’t you?”
Richard looked at Ansel as if he needed her permission to speak. Unsure of himself still when he didn’t get it, he said, “Yeah, well…There is one thing.” He tugged at a thread on the hem of his shirt.
“Go ahead, dear,” the Scientist said.
“Well,” he said. “It’s just. We don’t really have a place to stay, you know. And I’m a little hungry. And…I could use a bath.” He blushed and covered the stain on the front of his pants. “And with you getting Ansel’s dad for us and all, I just thought that maybe…I don’t know—never mind. It’s stupid.” He shook his head.
“Oh. Of course, dear,” the Scientist said. “Of course. How could I neglect that? We could manage it, right Huey? We have a couple of free rooms, don’t we?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Huey said, bowing his head. “What would you like to eat, sir?” he asked Richard.
“Oh. Um.” Richard’s face turned a deeper red. “Anything really. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”
“I’ll surprise you, sir,” Huey said. “And Ansel?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Very well.” Huey left the room.
“So,” the Scientist said, sitting in one of the puffy chairs. Ansel sat in the chair across from her, and Richard went to look out the window. “You say the protectors took your father.”
“That’s right,” Ansel said, all business.
“When did it happen?”
“One, two days ago.” Ansel shrugged, shaking her head. “I’ve lost count.”
“Good,” the Scientist said, nodding. “Recently then. That’s good.”
“Tom was supposed to help me,” Ansel said.
“The protector who you stopped at the Feast?”
“If that was a feast.”
“Ansel, I know we’ll be able to get your father.”
The door opened, and Richard turned with an eager face, but when it was Haley and Rosalind and not the food, he went back to staring out the window.
“You’re back,” the Scientist said, crossing the room to them. She couldn’t tell whether Haley was staying or going. “Have you met our guests?”
“She’s the one I gave the information to,” Ansel said, walking over to them.
“We’ve met,” Rosalind said.
“And this is my—this is Haley,” the Scientist said.
“Hello, Ansel,” Haley said, curtsying.
“So,” the Scientist said. “How did your conversation go? Did you come to a decision?”
“I chose…” Haley stalled.
“Well, we—” Rosalind said, but Huey came in pushing a cart piled with food, trailed by Mr. Kitty in his red collar.
“Food!” Richard yelled, jumping up and down around the cart as Huey pushed it in. Mr. Kitty ran out of his way and jumped onto one of the puffy chairs to lick himself.
“The cat!” Ansel said.
“I didn’t know what you wanted, sir,” Huey said. “So I brought a little of a lot. I hope you approve.”
“Om—thanks—nom,” Richard said, stuffing his face with red beans, shrimp, and sausage from the cart.
“Mr. Douglas,” Haley said.
“Please, Haley,” Huey said, bowing. “My name’s Huey. You can use it while we’re here.”
“Huey,” Haley said, a little awkwardly, as if she still didn’t feel comfortable calling him that. “Y—You actually work with them.” She seemed more shocked than she had when the Scientist told her that she was her mom.
“I do what I can,” Huey said, tipping his hat.
“And you’re my sister,” Haley said to Rosalind.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Rosalind said with a sigh.
“And that means…” Haley looked at the Scientist who thought she saw tears in Haley’s eyes, but it must have been an illusion, Haley wasn’t built to do that. “That you’re my mother.”
The Scientist was, though. And that she did. She didn’t make a sound, but she couldn’t hold the torrent of tears. “I am,” she whispered.
“Mom.” Haley embraced her as she cried.
“You’re her mom?” Ansel said. “But you’re so old.”
Rosalind laughed. The Scientist did, too, while she cried. Then everyone joined in for a chuckle. Even Mr. Kitty meowed.
“Yes, dear,” the Scientist said. “But families come in all shapes and sizes.”
“And ages,” Richard added, a hunk of bread stuffed in his mouth.
“And ages,” the Scientist repeated, wiping her eyes.
“But you’re still gonna get my dad, right?”
“Of course we are, dear,” the Scientist said. She looked around. Huey, Rosalind, and even Haley nodded. Richard went on stuffing his face. Mr. Kitty licked himself. “We’ll do it together.”
Ansel smiled. “We do nothing alone.”
End of Book One
# # #
First and foremost, I’d like to thank Sophie Kunen for being, if not the first to believe in my writing, the first to convince me she did. I still write between the leather you gave me. This one’s for you, as they all are.
Next, I have to say thank you to David Garifo for keeping me sane when I first moved down to New Orleans—which happened to be at the same time I was doing the majority of the heavy lifting on this novel. David’s once-every-week-or-two visits were about the only personal interaction I got while living in that attic on Elysian Fields, so thank you, sir, for all you did, and still do, to support my writing in your unique way.
And third, a special thanks goes out to Matt Maresh, the first person other than me to actually read this thing through all the way to the end. This version’s a little different than the version you read, Matt, but I don’t expect you to read it again. Save your eyes for volume two when I might need the same boost of confidence.
Almost last, but certainly not least, thanks to my parents, Mom and Dad, for teaching me that I can be anything in the world I want, and my brothers, Tor Tor and Rob, for believing in me when I thought I could be everything.
And finally, thank you readers. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it, and I hope you’ll join me again in volume two. Always remember:
We do nothing alone.
Thanks again, y’all. That’s a wrap for real this time. Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads if you’re inclined to do that type of thing. And keep on coming back here for more news and information about the forthcoming continuation of the Infinite Limits series with book two: An Almost Tangent.