tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Non-Standard Man Ch. 14

The Non-Standard Man Ch. 14

byMissPrim©

My eyes opened wide as sunlight streamed through the fabric panels hung on over the wall window. For a second I didn't realize where I was, and the noises of deep male breathing next to me added to my disorientation.

Where? I was in my bedroom, not a detention center.

Thank gawd!

Who? Oh, shit, Roger. My husband laid next me, something he hadn't done in years.

Why? Fuck. He was shot and I let him come home with me like he was some goddamn stray puppy.

Still half asleep, I eased my feet onto the carpeted floor, trying not to wake him. I padded into the living room, then the kitchen and fumbled for the coffee. Where the fuck was Andrew? Why wasn't the coffee ready?

Oh yeah. He was in jail.

Fuck me.

There are just no words to convey the level of shittiness my morning revelation brought. Everything ached in my body. I was hungry, exhausted and my stomach turned at the smell of the coffee grounds.

I barely made it to the bathroom where I heaved unproductively. Not even the Chinese food from the night before made a showing. Good in a way, but now my sides hurt. I lurched to my feet, and went back to the kitchen, looking for bread to toast. After fumbling around in my cabinet, I found some and tossed a couple pieces in the toaster.

With that accomplished I stumbled around the kitchen until I got the coffee maker going. When the toast popped up I munched in it dry, willing my recalcitrant stomach to behave. God, if this is how motherhood started, I could only wonder at other joys it would bring throughout the years.

Within minutes, coffee was fait accompli and I sucked at it gingerly. My phone rang somewhere in the apartment. A quick search brought me to the living room where I left it the previous night.

"Ms. Shipley," said the voice on the phone. "There is a Mrs. Shipley here to see you."

I nearly dropped my coffee.

"Send her up."

I ran around the apartment, and cleaned up last's night Chinese, sweeping the cartons into the trash. Finally I looked at myself in the hall mirror. With my hair sticking up at odd angles and bags under my eyes, I was an unfixable mess. So I decided to answer the door.

There on my doorstep was my-mother-in-law, fashionable in her beige designer suit, and her big brunette hair piled on her head. I had not seen her since my wedding day, fifteen years ago. Yeah, we loved each other that much.

"Raina," I said. "Come in."

She looked askance at the two black-jacketed security guards on either side of the door. "And where is my Roger?"

"He's still asleep."

"Well, at least you didn't dump him in a hotel like you usually do."

I plastered a smile on my face as she crossed the threshold into my apartment.

"It's a pleasure to see you too, Raina. Would you like some coffee?"

"Have you taken up, cooking, Evaline? How refreshing. But no. I've only come to check on you."

"Me?"

"You are carrying my grandchild are you not?"

"I'm pregnant, yes. And, yes, Roger is the father."

Her eyes narrowed as she gave me a fake smile. It has the effect of making her look like a shark circling in for the kill.

"I'm very glad."

I'm sure she was.

"She will inherit the Shipley fortune, and, of course, she will have the best of everything."

"I'll make sure of it."

She looked around my apartment, Gauging by her narrowed eyes it did not meet her approval.

"No, I will make sure of it."

"Mother!"

Roger stood in the doorway of the bedroom leaning against the jamb.

"What lured you away from the country club?"

"Darling," she said as she crossed the living room and gave her son a kiss. "How are you feeling? You gave me a nasty scare."

"Motherly concern. I'm shocked."

"Now, Roger, don't snap at me."

"I think, Raina, that Roger is not himself. Perhaps you should come back another time."

"Nonsense. I need to speak with both of you."

She settled on my couch and patted her hand for Roger to join her. He lurched over, in pain, and I went to get him his painkillers.

When I returned with the pills and some water for Roger, Raina smiled approvingly.

"I'm glad you are taking care of him. Perhaps it's the maternal hormones kicking in."

I sighed. "What do you want, Raina?"

"Well, I want us to get to know each other better. Now that a child is coming, I want to mend fences, offer what help I can."

"Buy our affection?" said Roger.

"There are other ways I can handle this, Roger," said Raina with a warning voice. "But if you notice, your wife is in a hell of a lot of trouble. If she ends up in prison, and with your record of instability, well..."

She let her words trail off.

"So," I said. "Either we go along with you, or I have no chance in hell of getting clear of these charges? The famous Shipley influence brought to bear on the right people?"

"Or on the other hand, it all goes away. All I ask is for generous visitation with the child."

She stretched out the word "generous" too long.

"You mean physical custody, don't you?" I said.

"Semantics," she said making a brushing motion with her hands. You both, after all, are her parents. And you are busy with your practice, Evaline, and you, Roger, are, well just busy. The child deserves the undivided attention of a caring adult."

I stood.

"Get out."

She glared at me, her eyes as hard as diamonds.

"Don't cross me, Evaline."

"Oh, I did that when I married your son. And you don't scare me, Raina. Get out."

She stood, her lips drawn into a tight line.

"I see how it is. Both of you are far too unstable to raise a child. And if you bring that robot back into this house, you'll demonstrate that to the authorities. Don't think you'll get out of this like you've done everything else, Evaline."

I opened the door to my apartment.

"You can leave under your own power, or-" I nodded my head towards the security guards. She marched out indignation trailing her footsteps. Raina turned and looked me up and down.

"You'll hear from my lawyer."

"Good," I said. "We'll let the lawyers talk. "Bye, Raina."

With that I closed the door hard.

"Come on," said Roger. "Help me dress."

I must have looked at him like he had two heads.

"We have court in an hour? About Andrew?"

"You don't have to go."

"Oh, yes, I certainly do. Especially since you just threw my inheritance out the window."

"Oh, please, Roger, I keep you well within the lifestyle you enjoy."

#

My nerves were on edge as Roger, Betty and me settled at our table in the courtroom. It didn't help that we had to fight a crowd of reporters to get inside the courtroom, bringing a flash of deja vu from the previous day. This time however, a pair of thick-armed security men moved on either side of us. Just their grim presence calmed the aggressiveness of the reporters, especially if one dared to get too close.

My hands gripped the ancient wood table in front of me. I glanced over at the defendant's table. Sitting there was a woman I didn't know, though she had the high-priced wardrobe of someone who did very well. I guessed she was the RIB's lawyer as Agents Greene and Pataski sat behind her in the front row of the gallery seats. The prosecution lawyer from my arraignment yesterday sat at the table too. What the fuck? Then a woman in a cornflower blue suit made her way up the aisle. I swore. I knew this woman. Priscilla Grant, partner in Grant, Forbes and Tisdale, our biggest competitor. Then I put the names together. Sinta Grant, Priscilla Grant. Fuck. I should have known. These people run in packs. The more inbred they were, the more viscous too. "Morning, Evaline, Roger," said Priscilla as she got to the plaintiff's table.

I smiled widely.

"Prissy. How nice to see you."

She ignored the use of her nickname. "Oh, I'm afraid I'm not familiar with your associate." She nodded her head toward Betty.

Bullshit. Priscilla would have every element of this case scoped out before she walked into a courtroom.

"Oh, you know Betty Reynolds, Prissy. I'm sure you've heard of her work. She's a very good defense lawyer."

Priscilla looked down her nose at me.

"Yes. From what I've heard, you need one."

"Now, girls," said Roger in his best condescending tone, "Let's save the head locks for the trial, eh?"

"Congratulations on the baby. Are you sure you're up for this though, Evaline?" said Priscilla.

Roger put his hand on my arm to prevent me from standing. I didn't get to say anything else. A murmur rose up from the galley.

Andrew was brought in from a side door. The RIB ridiculously dressed him in an orange prison jumpsuit and had him shackled, making him look more dangerous that he was. He smiled when he saw me.

"How are you, Evaline?" he said. "Are you feeling well?"

I nodded. "Yes, Andrew. How are they treating you?"

He frowned. "They have not damaged me, but-"

"Enough," said a guard. "You, robot, over at that table." She pointed to the plaintiff's table. "I'll stay with Evaline," said Andrew.

"Did I give you a choice, you bucket-of-bolts?"

I wanted to protest, but at this moment, where Andrew stood was the least of our problems.

"It's okay, Andrew. It's not permanent."

He nodded his head. "I trust you, Evaline." The guard herded Andrew to the right hand side of the plaintiff's table.

"All rise," said the bailiff. And the trial began.

#

The RIB trotted out their arguments to confiscate Andrew. That was cut and dried. "Dangerous sentient robot, ad nauseam." I didn't say much yet. Then Priscilla presented her case for the ownership of Andrew.

"Andrew was created by Androdyne, and is proprietary work product," Priscilla said.

"I object, your honor. Androdyne no longer owns Andrew Shipley. I own him, as attested to by this receipt.

"The sale was illegal. He was stolen from Androdyne Labs and sold without Androdyne's knowledge."

"Mrs. Shipley," said the judge. "Do you have proof the robot was sold legally to Peck's?"

She had me there. No. I did not have proof. Jason arranged the sale and he wasn't here.

"I do," said a voice from the back of the courtroom.

The galley erupted in a flurry of noise. I turned to the voice and couldn't believe that Cicily Wells stood there.

"Order in the court," said the judge with annoyance.

"Your honor, " I said. "I'd like to call Cicily Wells to the stand to give testimony on this issue."

"Objection, your honor! Cicily Wells is not on the witness list. And with good reason. She's dead!"

"Apparently not," said Cicily dryly.

There were a few chuckles scattered through the galley, and the judge struck her gavel again silencing everyone.

"I'll hear Miss Wells," said the judge.

#

"Miss Wells," I said, "how did you come into possession of Andrew?"

"I created him. He was the first Andrew, the prototype."

Thank you, Jesus! The woman confirmed the information in my court brief.

"And how did Andrew come to be at Peck's?"

"I sold Andrew to Peck's." She pulled out a paper receipt from a pocket. "Here's the bill of sale."

She handed me the paper, and Priscilla objected again.

"There's no foundation," she began.

"Objection denied," said the judge. "Move along, Mrs. Shipley."

"Why did you decide to sell Andrew?"

"He was of no further use to us as he was."

I didn't like her answer. It skated on dangerous ground.

"No further questions," I said.

Priscilla stood.

"Ms. Wells, why do you return from the grave?"

"Objection!"

"Sustained."

"I'll reword. Ms. Wells, your death was reported in the media. Why is this so?"

"Internal problems within my company made it more politic for me to disappear. I didn't like the plans my partner had for the Andrews, and I needed a way to halt the research on them. I thought my "death" would accomplish this."

"Isn't this fraud, Ms. Wells?"

"Your honor!"

"Goes to the witness' character, your honor."

"Answer the question, Ms. Wells."

"Apparently it depends on what legal authority you ask. But I assure you I took great pains to insure no one, other than my partner, was harmed. And no life insurance money was taken for my 'death.'"

"Do you deny you created a sentient robot?"

"Yes. At the time Andrew left Androdyne's lab, Andrew was not sentient."

"But he's sentient now?"

"I couldn't say. I haven't had time to examine him."

"You don't deny he's sentient now?"

"Yes, I do. Andrew's reactions could be our mimicry algorithms at work. We spent a lot of time on the mimicry algorithms. You know, when someone acts just like you, you give them credit for being as smart as you?"

Some in the gallery snickered.

"Order!" snapped the judge.

Priscilla apparently saw she wasn't going to get useful information from Cicily. And I had to admit Cicily was good. Even I was beginning to believe her bullshit.

"No further questions."

"You're excused," said the judge to Cicily.

Cicily left the witness box. Priscilla walked back to the table.

"Never-the-less, your Honor," said the RIB attorney, the robot is still dangerous and we ask that you grant our motion so we can dispose of him."

"I object, your honor. Even if you were to rule that Andrew was Androdyne's property, the government does not have the authority to dispose of Andrew. He is a first of his kind, and as such he is a historic landmark. He is protected under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended in 2006."

"Your honor!" said Priscilla, "That act refers to historic buildings."

"Your honor, a historic landmark is composed of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history. This is stated in section one hundred one in the act regarding the National Register of Historic Places. I submit that since Andrew is the first of all pleasure 'bots, he does hold a significant place in our history."

"Your honor, the states have to recommend a historic landmark to the Secretary of the Interior."

"In most cases, yes. However Andrew's legal abode is within the boundaries of Washington, DC, and DC is not a state. According to section one hundred one, subsection three, an individual can recommend a historic landmark to the Secretary of Interior. Here is the verification of that this document was submitted this morning. The Secretary has ninety days to make her determination, and until that time the government cannot destroy him."

Priscilla glared at me.

"Your honor!"

I swore the judge looked like she was trying to hide a smile.

"Ms. Grant, far be it from me to circumvent established law. Besides which, we can wait ninety days. There is no need to rush to judgment."

"In that case, your honor, I request the return of my property."

"Not so fast, Ms. Shipley. I still haven't determined if the robot is your property." She looked back and forth between us. "But I find in the face of the evidence, that this robot is your property, Mrs. Shipley. Whether you harbored a sentient robot will have to wait on another court. And Miss Grant, Miss Waters, I find no prima facia evidence that the robot is sentient, so Mrs. Shipley, he is free to go home with you. But, Mrs. Shipley, the robot is to be kept strictly within the confines of your home."

"On the other hand, I issue a warrant for the arrest of Ms. Cicily Wells for conspiracy to commit fraud. Bailiff, take Ms. Wells into custody."

The sheriffs quickly cuffed a compliant Cicily. She gave me a little smile. She knew what she did. Cicily sacrificed herself for Andrew.

As the bailiffs pushed her past me, Roger and Betty, she looked at Betty.

"I'll need a good lawyer."

Betty nodded.

The judge hit rapped her gavel.

"All rise. Court dismissed."

Andrew looked at me.

"I can go home?"

"Yes, Andrew. For now."

"Good. You need some rest, Evaline. You look very tired."

#

It was almost comic watching Andrew and Roger try to enter the car together. Both wanted to sit next to mw. Finally I settled myself between both of them.

Andrew took my hand.

"Get your hands off her," growled Roger.

Andrew merely lifted his eyebrows.

"She's my wife," said Roger.

"Yes. But she's mine," said Andrew with finality.

My headache grew. I'm not used to having men fight over me. With our society as it is, it usually is the other way around. I must confess, I got a secret thrill from the posturing of these two as they tried to claim their turf. But I wasn't turf, and I wasn't on the menu.

"Gentlemen!" I said sharply. "Let's get a few things straight. First! No one owns me. Not my husband," I said pointedly looking at Roger, "Or," I said turning my head to Andrew, "My robot. I'll spend time with who I want, when I want, and both of you will have to live with that."

"Humph!" said Roger, settling noisily back in his seat. "Getting back at me, aren't you?"

"Not at all," I said. "I don't understand this sudden need to claim me, Roger. It wasn't an issue before there was competition for my affections."

Roger screwed up his face in a frown. He wasn't going to argue. It wasn't his way, and he knew he couldn't win against me anyway.

Andrew looked ahead with his cold robot stare.

"As you wish, Evaline."

Great. Both of them had a pissy attitude.

#

A crush of reporters crowded the garage door. The security guards had to get out their SUV to push them back so we could get into my building. There was more four more security on the inside, two patrolling the halls, and two at my door.

I wondered where all the extra manpower came from. My phone chimed and I say Tersa's message. "Better safe than sorry," she texted.

We walked into my apartment, and Andrew stopped at the hall closet, standing there.

"Andrew?"

"Is there some function I can fill for you?" he said in his pissy voice.

"Roger, dear. Can you order us some lunch?"

"Sure," he said, his one word as cold as a artic wind.

"Andrew, come into the bedroom with me."

"Yes, Mistress," he said.

I gave him a warning look and then walked ahead to my room. He followed and I closed the door.

"Do you want sex, Mistress?"

I sighed.

"We have to talk."

"About what? You made your position clear."

"I had to say that. Andrew, despite the fact I'm very happy you are home, I am worried too. The judge let you come home with me too easily."

"You made very good arguments."

"They weren't that good. And this morning Roger's mother visited. You need to know that Roger's family is very connected. Very powerful. She wants custody of my child, Andrew, and she's going to make a case for it."

Andrew's eyes blazed. "She can't have your baby."

"If she can prove that I'm unfit, she might be able to do just that. She seems to think that having you under my roof will prove a danger exist to the child."

"She thinks to prove your unfitness by my presence here?"

"Yes."

"Then send me to Cicily and Jason's."

I shook my head. "You might trust them, but I do not. They have a lot invested in you, and their future plans include getting you back. Besides, I need you."

"Need me?"

"Yes."

I put my arms around his neck.

"What about Roger?"

"What about him?"

"I see he's moved in." His head jerked towards Roger's sleep pants lying on the floor. "Am I to service him too?"

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Ridiculous? Evaline, I hardly know what I'm suppose to feel, let alone feel it. I don't want him here, but I have no say over that."

"You're right. It's not fair. But I think we have to live with some unfairness until we get things straightened out. Until then, I need you to act perfectly civil to Roger."

"While you sleep in that bed with him."

I kissed his neck. "Yes."

"You ask a lot of me, Evaline. If I did not love you, I'd say no. But I do, so I'll be civil to Roger."

"Good."

"But he does his own laundry."

I raised my eyebrows.

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