(An Odyssey Journal)
1. A doctor sits at his secretary’s computer. He is hunt-and-peck typing a letter telling an insurance company that a particular client, a patient of his, has reached the final stages of spinal metastasis and likely has only nine months to live. He’s frustrated and angry, having symbolic difficulty with the “undo” command. He normally just has a mild distaste for machines, and avoids them as best he can. He normally succeeds, because his secretary is very good. His secretary is on her honeymoon. Mild undercurrent of attraction to secretary, jealousy, loneliness.
2. The nurse comes in, acting nervous. Doctor doesn’t notice at first, asks her help. They fiddle a little while, can’t get the deleted sentence to come back. Finally he gets so mad he shuts the computer off. Let the secretary sort it out when she gets back. I don’t need this kind of stress. What did you come in for anyhow, Nurse? The next patient is ready for him in the waiting room. What’s the trouble? he asks. He knows her moods. He’s never seen this one. She has tested the patient’s vitals and finds them strange. Reflexes are a little too fast, nothing unusual–but it’s the way the tendons react. Perfect repetition every time. Same with his eyes. No blurring at all between iris and pupil. Uncanny. Doctor says he’ll take a look.
3. Waiting room. Patient sits naked on the bench, bolt upright. “R. Daneel Olivaw?” “Yes.” “What does the ‘R’ stand for?” “Robert.” Doctor runs all the tests again, gets the exact same results. Nothing’s off by a millimeter or a fraction of a second. Doctor pulls away the penlight light, stares into the patient’s eyes as the pupils dilate. An uncomfortable silence. “Is something wrong, Doctor? Can I be of service?” “What?” “Can I be of service?”
4. Recognition. “Excuse me, Mr. Olivaw.” The doctor goes to the door. “Nurse? Cancel the rest of my appointments.” He retrieves a scalpel, goes back in, and locks the door. “Is something wrong, Doctor? Can I be of service?” “No, Mr. Olivaw. No, everything is fine.” He puts the scalpel down, goes back about his examination with excruciating slowness. Flips through medical history. Man has never been to the doctor before. “What brings you here, Mr. Olivaw? Something troubling you?” “I…feel unwanted. Unappreciated. Lonely. I’d like a recommendation to a therapist.” “You’re a robot, aren’t you?” “Yes.” “What makes you think you need a therapist, and not a…programmer?” Patient shrugs. “I’ve tried visiting engineers. Software specialists. Networking gurus. None of it seems to help. None of them really seem to understand how I work.” Doctor’s note-taking pen digs through the paper. “Damn.” He gets up, crumples it into the trash, lays down clipboard, picks up scalpel.
5. Murder. “Hold still, Mr. Olivaw. Hold very still.”