It was the first time that Diata had been alone in the house for a whole night
and she tossed restlessly as she slept. She awoke several times believing she had heard a noise and finally, she rose from
her bed to make some hot tea. She looked at the digital clock and saw that it was three hours earlier than when she normally
rose. She knew she would never sleep if she went back to bed so she looked around for something to do.
Her eyes fell on the holograph base that her mother and father had given her before
she had left Earth. She had already seen most of the recordings that were on it. She had stopped looking at them because she
became upset when she saw the life-size images of her parents. They had been dead for well over two hundred and fifty years.
They had lived their last years while she and her family had been asleep in the sleep pods during the time that Comp had tried
unsuccessfully to find Earth. She wondered which one of them had died first. Whether they had died peacefully in their sleep
or some other way that she could not bear to think about.
Now being alone in the house, she wanted company. She picked up the holograph
base, took it into the lounge and placed it on the floor. Settling down in an armchair, she switched it on using the remote
control rather than her voice. She turned down the sound to zero. She did not want to hear a message from them at this time.
This time she wanted to talk to them. She knew of course, that they could not hear her but she still wanted to tell them something.
She was alone and may never have the chance to do it again. She may never feel the way she did at this moment again.
The images flickered on instantly. This time her parents were sitting on the settee
that she knew so well. She had sat on it so many times before she had married Nyel.
Her mother was looking straight at her while her father appeared to be looking
at the floor directly in front of her. She remembered him so well. It was his habit to fix his eyes on a spot on the floor
while he listened to her mother speaking. Every so often he would look up and add a comment or two. She wanted to go to him
and hug him; he looked so solid and real, as if he were there, alive in front of her. Her mother too, her homely face, fuller
figure, her hair showing just a hint of grey at her temples. She longed to hug them both but didn't dare attempt to touch
the images as although they looked solid, she knew that her arms would just pass through them and spoil the illusion for her.
“Mum, Dad, I've got some news to tell you. I don't know how you are going
to take it, but for me right now it's really happy news. I am pregnant again. The father of the baby is Peto,” she said.
The images smiled and looked at each other.
“Oh, you are pleased too. I'm so glad. I thought that you might disapprove.
You see I was so concerned about it myself. I know that it's not the acceptable thing on Earth but I gave this a lot of thought
and I believe that it is for the best.”
She went on to tell them all that had happened from the time of the crash to the
time when Peto made love to her. She told them how happy she had been that it was Peto who made the first move. She had not
seduced him that time. He had made love to her as though he had the experience of a married man. She told them how she had
marvelled at his tenderness as he made love. She told them also of the guilt that she had at first, and the joy that there
was now the chance of them surviving indefinitely, knowing that now there would be no difficulty in Peto and herself making
“And that is how you have another grandchild on the way,” she ended.
Her father nodded while her mother made some comment, smiling as she spoke. Diata
could not hear her mother speak as she had turned the sound down but she allowed her imagination to believe that they were
condoning her action. Her father rose from the settee and walked out of the field of the holograph, disappearing from sight.
He came back a few moments later with two glasses and a bottle of wine. Filling the glasses, he faced her and spoke, his lips
moving silently. Her mother listening to him, smiling approvingly. Then he raised his glass to his lips and drank, her mother
“You are drinking
a toast! To your coming grandchild! Wait a minute, I'll join you.” Diata froze the action and went to get a glass of
wine for herself. Returning with the glass and a container of wine, she poured herself a generous drink, switched the holograph
on again and drank with her parents.
“I too, would like to propose a toast,” said Diata, “to the
best Mum and Dad in the worl... the universe. My parents.” She drank deeply from her glass, finishing it just in time
to see her parents rise from the settee and wave to her before walking out of the field of the holograph. The scene gradually
faded away. The recording had ended.
“Good-bye, Mum, Dad. I'll see you again soon,” whispered Diata. She
looked at the number of the recording on the holograph base, noting it and making a mental note never to play that particular
recording with the sound on. Diata felt as though a great weight had been lifted from her through talking to the images of
her parents. She went back to bed and slept soundly.
It was late next morning when she arose and Diata decided to busy herself in the
garden, replanting some of the blooms that were getting a little too crowded. She had been working for a few hours when she
saw robo Two approaching her.
“Diata, I thought that you might like to know that Peto and Eelan will be
home today with robo One. They have collected some of the metal clay and have decided not to stay there to explore. I understand
that there was some mishap, nothing serious, and that made them decide. I believe that Peto has hurt his arm a little. A little
bruised, I understand.”
“How did it happen?” asked Diata, becoming concerned.
“I think that perhaps Peto would prefer to tell you himself, they will be
home in about an hour, but if you like I can find out exactly what happened.”
“No, it doesn't matter if it is not serious. I'll wait and let them tell
me all about it. By the way, will you take this rubbish away and dispose of it, please, unless you are doing something more
“Of course I will dispose of it, Diata. I was just going to start to build
a furnace for Peto. He is going to need a furnace for heating the clay to harden it. I thought that he would be pleased if
I did that. I can start after I have disposed of this rubbish for you.” The robot gathered the cutting and weeds up
and walked away with them. Diata watched him go, frowning slightly. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something
puzzled her. The robots had often said or done something that seemed quite normal, and yet she felt that it was not normal
She thought over what Two had said, trying to pin-point what had puzzled her. Unable to, she shrugged her shoulders and carried
on working for a while, then went in to prepare a meal for Eelan and Peto.
The shuttle arrived shortly after and Eelan and Peto came in. Diata's first words
were, “Let me see your arm, Peto.” He showed it to her. It was bruised as Two had said. Peto's forearm was beginning
to turn blue. He would be feeling the pain for a day or two.
“What on Earth happened?” asked Diata, “How did you get such
“He got stuck in the clay,” said Eelan, “you should have heard
“You would have yelled too, if it had been you,” said Peto.
“Mum, if it hadn't have been for One's quick thinking, Peto would have sunk
in that clay. He moved like lightning to get the shuttle to pull Peto out.” said Eelan, excitedly.
Diata frowned. There it was again. That feeling that something was not quite right
that she could not quite grasp.
“It wasn't that bad, Eelan. I just couldn't move, that's all,” said
Peto, “Don't be so melodramatic.”
“What was One doing when you got stuck?” asked Diata.
“He was warning Peto to be careful. Peto was being clever and rushing ahead.”
“I was walking ahead and suddenly
stepped on a soft patch of clay and sank into it, Mum. Robo One got the shuttle to pull me out. My arm is bruised because
the clay was so heavy that it took all my strength to hold on,” explained Peto.
“One said that there's a metal called...what was it Peto? Leg? No, lead.
He said the metal clay was the same weight as this lead, Eelan said, “Do you know what lead is, Mum?”
Diata nodded absent-mindedly, deep in thought. She was just beginning to get a
grip on that nagging thought.
“Where is One now?” she asked.
“Probably with Two, or finding something to do, why?” Peto shrugged.
Diata went to the door and called robo One. The robot appeared a moment later.
“Yes, Diata. Can I help you in any way?” he asked.
“One. How do you know so much about Earth?”
“I don't understand, Diata,” said the robot.
“How do you know about the metal called lead?” she persisted, “That
information would not have been programmed into your memory banks. You are one of the emergency robots of the spacecraft.
There would have been no need to give you that kind of information.”
“I got the information from Comp,” said One, “Is there something
“When did Comp give you that information?”
“He gave it to me yesterday, Diata.”
“Was it before or after you left here to go to get the clay?”
“Mum, what's wrong? Why are you asking One all these questions? He wasn't
to blame for the accident.” Peto and Eelan had been listening to the questioning and had come out to see what was going
on. Diata raised her hand to silence him.
“Wait Peto. I want to hear One's answer.”
“It was after we left, Diata. Really, have I done something wrong? If I
have I would like to try and correct it. You know that I and robo Two only want to serve you in the best way possible.”
“So you are able to communicate with Comp while you are away?”
“Yes. It is very useful to be able to communicate with him. His memory banks
hold so much more information than mine or robo Two's. He has a greater ability to solve problems that we come across.”
“Have you got a communicator built into you?”
“No I don't believe that I have”
“Then how do you communicate?” The robot hesitated for a moment then
said, “I don't know. Comp doesn't know either. We began to acquire the ability some years ago. It started quite slowly
at first and gradually improved as time passed.”
Diata thought back to the time when she first began to notice the change in the
robots. It was some years ago, she recalled, she was talking to one of the robots and had accidentally dropped something on
the ground. The robot immediately bent down and picked it up and handed it back to her. She remembered that it had puzzled
her at the time but could not put her finger on just what it was. Now she realised that until that time the robot would have
needed to be told to pick it up. They were not capable of acting on their own without being given specific instructions or
being programmed to do a job.
“Does Comp control you?” asked Diata.
“No. Comp has no control over robo Two or myself. All three of us are completely
independent of each other, although we all co-operate with one another. The only time that Comp has control over us is when
we are stored in our positions in the hold of the spacecraft. That is so that he can activate us in an emergency.”
“Tell me One. Are you and robo Two sentient?”
“That is difficult to answer, Diata. We do have the ability to perceive
and act on what we perceive. This is another ability that we have acquired slowly. It helps us to serve you more efficiently.”
“So it was the ability to perceive that caused you to act when Peto got
stuck in the clay? Why didn't you just go straight to him and pull him out?” Diata asked the robot.
“I saw that he needed help but he was stuck in soft clay. Had I gone to
him, I would have been stuck too and would not have been able to pull him clear. I am much heavier than he is. That is why
I used the shuttle to get to him and pull him out. It seemed the logical solution. Diata, have I done wrong?”
“No, One. I'm grateful for what you did. Thank you. I think that is all.”
There were still some questions that she wanted answered and made a mental note
of them so that she could ask Comp. She dismissed the matter for the time being and went in to enjoy the meal she had prepared
for Eelan, Peto and herself.
Two weeks passed before Diata decided to have it out with Comp. She got up one
morning determined to go to the spacecraft to get her questions answered by Comp. She was still concerned about the things
that she had learned from One.
“Comp, why didn't you tell me that the robots and yourself have changed
since we have been here on Diata?” Diata asked the computer, with some annoyance in the tone of her voice.
“Good morning, Diata. I did not think it really mattered enough to inform
you as the changes are still taking place. I believe that you are referring to the ability of the robots and myself to communicate
at distance.” Comp's calm soft voice gave no indication that he was aware of Diata's annoyance.
“Any changes to you, the robots, the children or myself is importance to
me. I want to know of all changes. I don't want to have to find out years later!' snapped Diata.
“I'm sorry, Diata, I will inform you of any further changes in future. The
difficulty is when to inform you. The changes have been so slight at first that I was not really aware that a change was taking
place. Do you require me to inform you of all minute changes that I detect? Or do you prefer me to identify the changes first?”
“I just want to be kept informed. You could have told me about this new
ability you have acquired years ago.” Diata's annoyance was evaporating. She could not be angry with a computer that
had such a calm, soothing voice for long.
“I am still trying to determine the reason for the changes. I do have some
theories but they are not confirmed yet. They are still only theories,” explained Comp.
“Tell me, why have these changes only affected you and the robots?”
“I am afraid that I cannot answer that. It is possible that you have been
affected too. Perhaps even to a greater degree than we have. I have no means of knowing, yet”
“Are you telepathic? I suppose you must be to be able to communicate with
the robots without a communicator.”
“I have considered that possibility. As far as I can see from research into
my memory banks, a telepath is one who is able to read the minds and thoughts of others by means of concentration and without
any 'mechanical' means. It has been the subject of much research by humans over many years. Particularly in the twentieth
and twenty first centuries.
“It was in the mid twenty first century that humans gave up the search for
true telepaths. Prior to that it was considered to be a great asset if governments could have a telepathic group that they
could use for espionage in the days when there were many governments throughout the Earth. Large amounts of money and time
were spent in attempting to train men and women to become telepaths. Apparently it was all a waste of time and finances.
“If what humans believed to be telepathy is correct, then neither I nor
the robos are telepathic. We cannot read the minds or thoughts of others. On the other hand, if they were wrong in trying
to read the minds of others, as they seem to have been, then it is possible that we are telepathic.”
“What do you mean. Can you read minds or not?” Diata thought that
Comp had just contradicted himself.
“No. We cannot read minds. As I said, humans tried to find men and women
who could. They used all kinds of means to train people to do this. They used pictures, shapes, cards with symbols such as
circles, squares, triangles, wavy lines and the like printed on them that one person would look at and the so called telepath
would try to read his mind to find out what particular card the other was looking at. The percentage of accuracy varied but
it was no better than the law of averages.
“If what the robots and I are experiencing is telepathy, then
they were going about it the wrong way. We cannot read minds. What we can do is project thoughts. That is different. I can
project my thoughts to one of the robots and it would receive them It would them reply by projecting its answer to me. We
have to deliberately project our thoughts. If that is telepathy, then what those humans should have done is to reverse their
efforts. The so-called telepath should be the one with the cards and should have tried to project his thoughts to the other.
Of course this would not have assisted them to discover secrets from another person's mind.”
“Can you project your thoughts to me?” asked Diata. She could readily
see the advantages of being able to receive messages from Comp. It would save her the trouble of coming over to the ship to
check whether Comp had any thing new.
“I'm afraid not Diata, I have tried many times. You did not seem to respond
to my messages. There was one occasion that I thought I had succeeded in reaching you, but it was probably a coincidence.
You made no mention of receiving my message.”
“What was that occasion?” Diata was curious.
“It was when you came to me concerned about the baby's growth. I had tried
to project a message to you saying that at your previous check the baby seemed to be growing a little faster than normal for
a foetus that age. You came the following morning saying that you felt that the baby was going to be a big one and that you
were concerned that you may have to have surgery.” Diata nodded, remembering the time. Her baby was already beginning
to show and she knew that although Comp was capable of carrying out medical checks, he was unable to perform any surgery.
If she was going to be in need of surgery when she gave birth there was going to be a problem.
“Have you no idea what has caused you to be able to do this projecting of
thoughts? You said you had some theories.”
“Yes, I do have some theories. Apart from the known ones, there are four
other kinds of radiation's emanating from the sun that are unknown to me. If they are unknown to me then they must have been
unknown to the scientists of Earth. These radiations all penetrate the Zennalloy hull of this ship. It is possible that one
or more of these radiations have brought about the gradual changes in the robots and myself. I believe that these radiations
are probably the cause of the slowing down of the ageing process that is occurring in you. Your checks show that you are still
ageing slower than before. I cannot be certain, of course, as I have nothing to compare results.”
Diata left Comp and the spacecraft feeling a little over-awed. Her head was in
a whirl over the many things that she had learned from the robot and Comp. She had been a little concerned about the radiations
that Comp had mentioned but realised that they were not dangerous as they had lived with them for twelve years without any
harmful effects. In fact, so far they seemed to be beneficial.