susan_calvin (susan_calvin) wrote in oh_robot,
susan_calvin
susan_calvin
oh_robot

Title: Degree In Robotics
Chapter: 9) Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Fandom: I, Robot
Pairing: Sonny/Susan, a little Del/Marci.
Rating: PG.
Warnings: fic contains robot/human relationship, religious referances, alcoholism, suicide, depression, nudity, swearing
Disclaimer: Please note that I do not own the characters, concept or plot of the 'I, Robot' book or film, those rights belong to 20th Centuary Fox and the Asimov estate.
Author's Note: This fanfiction is my own creation though so please do not steal. I am patchworkdove



Detective Del Spooner strode cheerfully into one of the elevator cars from the lobby of the high-security apartment building that Susan lived in. It was a good job he’d popped round to Bergin’s yesterday as it had taken a fair few flashes of his badge to avoid being frisked and having his bag checked by the doormen. He’d still been forced to endure metal-detectors and a barrage of questions about his fake arm though. There was a new receptionist at the front desk too, the woman who had been there when he last visited was apparently in hospital in a very bad way. Again he’d needed to use his badge to get the new secretary guy to calm down, and had concocted a little lie to explain why he was visiting Dr. Susan Calvin’s apartment when she was out. The guy reluctantly accepted that Spooner was interested in amateur interior decorating, not totally buying the story that Spooner had offered to go over some ideas with her, as a friend. When asked about the large duffel bag slung over his shoulder, Del had goofily grinned, saying it was “just some swatches of fabric that are to die for and a few copies of ‘Home Beautiful’ magazine for inspiration”, giving his cybernetic wrist a limp, camp flop.

He was in a good mood, brightened up by the prospect of an increased wage. He was in such a happy way that he wasn’t too annoyed when he distractedly reached for the floor buttons only to find none, forgetting that this elevator was one of those high-tech, talking gizmos. He wasn’t the slightest bit snappy when the false, computerised voice greeted him, and when it asked for a floor number he gave a straight reply.

“Floor 164…please.” He slung the canvas bag on the floor. Its strap had rouched and dug into his shoulder uncomfortably for most of the journey. He awkwardly rubbed his neck and shoulder with his clumsy imitation arm. He was getting used to it, grudgingly, and it was gradually becoming more responsive and better tuned.

“Would you like to listen to some music while you wait?”

He almost said no, but changed his mind at the last second. “Why the hell not? You got Stevie Wonder, Signed, Sealed, Delivered?” Del was a devout Stevie Wonder fan, listening to a few tracks of one of his albums most mornings. He’d had a recent phase of listening to ‘Superstitious’ over and over, but now he’d got a bit sick of hearing it all the time.

“Yes sir.”

The first few twanging, light-hearted notes of the track sounded in the elevator car’s loudspeakers. He was a little disgruntled however, as he could still hear the whirring of the elevator’s mechanisms. “Come on, turn it up! You can’t listen to Stevie that quiet, I can barely hear it over your noise!”

The track stopped. “Apologies. Please indicate when you find the volume more to your preference.”

The song re-started, the volume rising steadily. “There we go!” He said as the music drowned out the machine and completely filled the small car. It stayed steady at the volume he had chosen, the reverberating sound of guitar strings being plucked quivered in the air and the first few thumping beats of the bass hummed in his blood.

Hey-hey.

Oh yeah, baby.

Like a fool I went and stayed too long.

Now I'm wondering if your love's still strong,

Ooo, baby, here I am, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours!


Del’s frame of mind showed in his smile, the way he was tapping his foot to the beat and moving slightly to the music. He was thinking of all the things he could do if this new job worked out. He could buy himself all the shoes he wanted and all the 21st century memorabilia he could possibly hope to cram into his flat. Hell, he could take out a mortgage on a bigger place! Sure, this new job would involve working with robots and them weirdoes at USR and all, but that didn’t seem like such a bad thing anymore.

Mmm.

Then that time I went and said goodbye.

Now I'm back and not ashamed to cry,

Ooo, baby, here I am, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours!


…Agent Del Spooner! What would Gigi say when he told her? When he had made Detective, Gigi and Marci had thrown him a little party, and the three of them had sat up late over a massive dinner courtesy of his grandmas’ culinary genius and drank plenty thanks to his wife’s staff discount at The Old Stone Cellar wine shop. It had been a great evening, and when Gigi started nodding off on the sofa from drinking a few too many sherries, he and Marci made her go to bed. She had been reluctant in the way she always was whenever you tried to do things for her, but she had eventually gone quietly. Him and Marci had then cleaned up a bit and gone home to chat on the sofa…and stuff.

The first verse eased into the chorus and Del joined in a little, quietly.

Aaah!

“Here I am baby,”

Whoa-oh,

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm yours.”

You got my future in your hands. Yeah.

He’d called Marci yesterday. Just to check that she was okay after the attack. He had been relieved when she told him that she was fine, and she’d been quite concerned when she learned he’d broken his good arm. They had chatted for a bit, Marci asking how his cybernetic arm was and how he was getting on with it and him asking her how she’d been lately before they said their short, courteous goodbyes.

Aaah!

“Here I am baby,”

Aaah,

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm yours.”

You got my future in your hands. Hey-yeah.

As usual, on his morning visits, Gigi had asked if whether he had phoned Marci today. He knew his gran missed the woman, they had got on like a house of fire. In a good way. Those two could sit and gossip for hours and they often had done, chatting away as if everything else could wait ‘till tomorrow. When he told Gigi hat he had phoned, she had been ecstatic. She had clapped her hands together and smiled from ear to ear, hugging and kissing him like he was a schoolboy who’d just passed his 6th grade exams. He’d been barraged with questions like ‘how is Marci?’, ‘did The Old Stone Cellar get damaged at all?’ and ‘did she sound happy?’ amongst many others, most of which he didn’t have an answer for but it didn’t stop his over-enthusiastic gran. There had been so many questions in her relentless interrogation that he’d joked that they could use her down at the Precinct and barely any breakfast had crossed his lips he’d been that busy answering.

I've done a lot of foolish things,

That I really didn't mean.

Aah-hey, yeah-yeah,

Didn't I? Oh babe.


He didn’t feel so angry any more. At the time, he had been nothing but infuriated with Marci, she didn’t seem to appreciate that being a homicide detective wasn’t always a nice job. Sure, there was a great sense of satisfaction to be gained from taking the evidence and putting the pieces of the puzzle together to convict a murderer or clear a suspect’s name, but it could be a grizzly and gruesome job. He’d seen some very disturbing, scarring things in his short career. Things that made you feel that you had been doing the job for far too long, things that were difficult not to think about afterwards, things that wouldn’t leave any sane man untouched. The things that people could do to each other. Some people had a real dark side, some people were dark right through and there were even some that weren’t even people at all anymore. He’d seen too much and too many of each. He had got more and more stressed until he just couldn’t cope with Marci’s nagging any longer, and that had been the end of it. It had been a vicious divorce, both of them being unfairly spiteful and malicious to the other.

Seen a lot of things in this old world.

Ooo-oo,

When I touch them, they mean nothing, girl,

Ooo, baby, here I am, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours!

Oh, I’m yours.


They hadn’t spoken a word to each other for a long, long time. Looking back on it, it was a good thing. In that time, he had cooled off considerably. He realised that it couldn’t have been easy on Marci at all and he’d been more than a little unfair. Since he made detective, something he had been striving towards for a while, he had changed, becoming more and more drawn into himself. He had steadily and increasingly become seclusive and reclusive in his ways and snappier and shorter tempered in his habits. He had gradually spoken to her less and didn’t spend as much time with her, giving her the cold shoulder. He’d also started going down to the Ovaltine Diner more often each week and staying out progressively later. He didn’t blame her as much now, not when he looked at it from her point of view. No wonder she had lost her temper with him and he’d been too wound up be work to cope with the situation sensibly, snapping back defensively. It had gone downhill from there real quick, they had some very similar traits that hadn’t helped things. He was a stubborn jackass and she was very headstrong, not at all a doormat. You couldn’t walk all over Marci Jennings at all, and if you did somehow manage it, you’d be guaranteed a good black eye for it. He loved her attitude.

Oowee babe, you set my soul on fire,

Ooo-oo

That's why I know you're my heart's only desire,

Ooo, baby, here I am, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours!


It hadn’t really taken that long for him to feel bad for how he’d treated her and regretted his actions. He wanted to apologise for his behaviour. He did still have feelings for her, she’d been a very good friend and an exceptional wife and it had been the time of his life, living with her. He loved her quirky personality and she was great to chat with, she always made him laugh. She knew his sense of humour to a tee. However, he had been too stubborn to call, not wanting to be the one that ‘comes crawling back’, he still had his pride.

The accident had resolved that though.

Aaah!

“Here I am baby,”

Whoa-oh,

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm yours.”

You got my future in your hands, babe. Yeah.

When he came to, Gigi had been there, sat at his bedside. He later attempted to tell her off for sleeping and eating so little and worrying so much, but his grandmother was solid and strong willed, telling him off for being so silly, that she couldn’t not have come. She also told him that she had left an answer on Marci’s answer phone, telling her what had happened. That had made him feel annoyed, Gigi was a meddlesome old lady, she shouldn’t have phoned Marci. Sure, they had been married once, but that was over. Still, that was Gigi for you, and she had been good friends with Marci. It was difficult not to be friends with Marci, she was that cheerful, outgoing type of woman.

Gigi also told him Marci had visited him whist he was unconscious. Twice. He hadn’t expected that, and it had been a real surprise but it had actually made him happier, knowing she’d stopped by. He’d been relieved that she now cared enough to come, time must have helped her forgive just like it had him. It had been short-lived relief though, when Gigi announced that she’d promised to call as soon as he woke up he’d got more than a little nervous. She offered to let him speak, but he didn’t take her up on it, saying he still didn’t feel well enough. He could have managed a phone call to anyone else, but not Marci. Not just yet. He was soon mentally kicking himself for it though, when Gigi launched into inviting Marci to come down and see him. He was sure he’d turned grey in the face, wishing that he’d had the balls to speak over the phone. At least then he could have told her that he was fine and she needn’t bother taking the trip down to see him. He’d lay in dread with butterflies in his stomach waiting for her to show, but it hadn’t been too bad. It had actually been really great to see her again.

Aaah!

“Here I am baby,”

Aaah,

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm yours.”

You got my future in your hands, babe. Yeah.

Del was practically dancing in the elevator car now, he’d caught Stevie Wonder fever. Complete with feet itching to move and an uncontrollable urge to sing, his deep-brown leather jacket clad body was grooving along to one of his favourite tunes and in his fun-filled mood he was also shaking his black jean clad ass. What would Marci say, if he told her it was looking like he was going to be an Agent? An Agent! Sure, he wouldn’t be any kind of James Bond, but still, how sexy did Agent Spooner sound? Hell, it would be nice to catch up with Marci properly, in person like. With his up and coming salary, he could afford to take her out for a nice dinner. Just as a thank you for visiting him in hospital and to apologise for being a jerk before.

“I’ve done a lot of foolish things,

That I really didn’t mean.

I could be a broken man, but here I am,

With your future, gotchya future babe.”

He felt the elevator slow down and he incorporated grabbing the bag strap with his fake hand and swinging it smoothly onto his shoulder into his little impromptu dance routine.

“Floor 164.” The elevator said, politely snipping in between lines. The doors slid open to reveal a bland, modern, silvery grey corridor.

Taking the computer’s word that this featureless hallway was the right floor, Del strode of towards Calvin’s apartment. He had a spring in his step, rhythm in his heels and a smile on his face, swinging his arm to the quietening track as the elevator’s doors closed behind him.

“Ahh,

Here I am babe.

Aaah!

Here I am babe.

Yeah,

Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours!”

Yeah, It would be good to see Marci again.

Spooner stood outside Calvin’s apartment door, hoping that none of the building’s staff would see him and realise that he didn’t actually have a key. He’d tried knocking quietly and whispering at the door to let Sonny know who it was, but that had got him no where. He’d resorted to hammering with his fake fist as hard as he dare and hollering, but still he got nothing. He put his ear to the door but couldn’t even hear anyone moving around inside. He must have been standing about for what, ten minutes already?

What could he do? If he left, the secretary would definitely think something was up, but then again he couldn’t stay here, they security cameras would notice soon. Why wasn’t that bloody robot opening the damn door? Then he had a thought that was unusual for Del Spooner, a man who had never been too fond of most modern machines and especially not robots. Was Sonny all right? He had to admit he was really beginning to like the guy, and for a guy with sharp, electronic ears, it was odd that he hadn’t heard someone banging at the door.

What could possibly have happened? It was unlikely that Sonny had injured himself, robots were freakishly well balanced and sure-footed what with their exact, rational and calculating minds. Even if Sonny had through some fluke tripped up and caught his head on something, the something would probably come off worse. NS-5 robots were big, durable, heavy bits of kit, and from Calvin’s awed babble, Sonny was supposed to be even stronger and heavier. Sonny didn’t breathe or eat so he couldn’t choke, he didn’t have a heart, so he couldn’t have had a heart attack, but what if one of his parts had broken? Sonny might have emotions but he was still just lights and clockwork, an assembled jumble of ticking gadgets and whirring gizmos. If anything ceased up and stopped, so would he.

Now he was being crazy. He was worrying about Sonny like he worried about his grandmother. For Christ’s sake, his gran was flesh-and-blood family! Sonny was just one of Lanning’s little projects, a clever but lonely man’s hobby over the past few months. Sure, Sonny was a nice guy, but he was still just a robot.

Spooner slung his bag on the floor and pounded on the door again. “Hey! It’s me! Detective Spooner!” He stood still, listening for any sign of movement within.

He heard Sonny’s rubber soled feet approach the door, his inhumanity betrayed by the heaviness of his precise footfalls. The door’s lock clicked undone and there was a slight rasping of metal on metal as the knob was turned before the door swung open.

“Detective Spooner! What a nice surprise, I am very pleased to see you. I haven’t kept you waiting long, have I?”

The semi see-through white of the robot’s casings were speckled and glistening. Was he covered in beads of water? “Sorta. Why didn’t you answer, and why are you…wet?” Spooner gave his metal friend a sceptical look. Sonny was dripping wet, a pool was forming at his feet and there was a trail of more shiny puddles leading off down the apartment’s hall.

“I must apologise for my lack of attention. I was in the shower and my mind was…” Sonny looked away, gazing at the floor as if it would give him an explanation “…my mind was not quite with me. Or something.” Sonny shook his head a little to clear his thoughts and motioned with a polite side step and gracious gesture of one hand for him to enter. “Please, come in. I don’t know why you are waiting for me to invite you, this is Susan’s home. It is as much yours as it is mine.”

“Cheers. So, you were miles away? Daydreaming in the shower?” Spooner went to step into the dimly lit apartment.

“Maybe, if that is what it is called.”

“I didn’t know robots showered. I’d have thought they kept themselves…” Spooner’s lungs stopped working and his words died in his mouth when he walked into a wall of scaldingly clean smelling air. His eyes began to water and as he regained he breath with a snort he began a fresh sentence with a whistle. “Now that is lemony fresh! Have you spent all day cleaning Calvin’s apartment?”

“Not all of the day. I read for a while as well.” Sonny closed the front door, cutting off the only source of non-cleaning chemical laden air.

Spooner could feel his eyes welling up and almost streaming from the citrus vapours. It felt like the air touching his eyes was turning all the moisture on them into lemon juice, making his eyes sting progressively more and more. It was like having skinned segments of lemons shoved under his eyelids and it really hurt like hell. He resisted the temptation to rub them though as that usually made things worse. “You mind if I open some windows? These fumes are killing me.”

“Of course, I don’t mind in the slightest. I am sorry about the vapours, they are highly concentrated. I should have realised. The directions on the label warned that humans should only use the product in a well-ventilated area.” Sonny’s voice dropped. “You aren’t really dying, are you?”

It was the tone of genuine concern in Sonny’s voice that made him different from other robots, that gave Del Spooner the ability to think of him as being something more. Del had always thought of robots as being bitter about their forced niceties, having no ability to tell a human to ‘piss off’ or ‘do it yourself you lazy bastard’ was bound to brood murderous intent. He knew it was a crazy idea, but it was what he thought and it was with him all the time. He was sure that under their placid, peaceful faces and behind their calm and well-mannered movements were creatures burning with all the fire their cold, rational minds could muster to turn the tables on their physically and mentally inferior masters.

Sonny however, wasn’t forced to obey. He was able to tell you to ‘get bent’ or even separate heads from shoulders if he wanted to, but he didn’t. He was just a nice guy. Del could have chuckled at the idea of Sonny turning round and telling someone to get bent, if he wasn’t having his eyes burned out by the acrid air of lemon. It did make Del feel slightly privileged though, knowing that Sonny was acting concerned because he was concerned. “Nah, I’m not really dying. It’s really hurting my eyes though.”

“I’d help, but Susan has told me to stay away from the windows so that I am not seen. If stinging, burning, itching, soreness or redness persists for long after you open the windows I suggest you see a doctor. Shall I take your bag?”

“I’ll be all right. Thanks.” Spooner swung the bag off his shoulder to hand it to Sonny before beginning his quest for clean air. Well, as clean as city air got.

“Be careful you don’t slip in the puddles. You could have an allergic reaction, there are some quite hazardous and volatile compounds in the floor cleaner. I’ll put your bag on the black couch and I’ll be back in a moment, just going to fetch a towel.”

Sonny seemed more talkative than usual, but then again their previous meetings hadn’t been under very friendly circumstances. He seemed…happy.

Spooner couldn’t see the puddles for the blurryness of his irritated eyes but he wasn’t in danger of slipping. He was walking with care, the pools weren’t very large and his boot soles were gripping the smooth floor with ease. He could just make out the doorways and furniture and aimed himself towards the main source of light that he was hoping were the big windows by the fireplace. Blinking rapidly to clear his eyes enough to find the locks on the windows he felt tears spill down his left cheek and he roughly wiped them away with the back of his hand. At least he could see with that eye better now, and he found the pane’s handle. The windows were hinged at the top and swung open only very little as was typical with high-rise living. Spooner put his face to the few inch gap and took a deep breath of fresh air. That was better. The wind was fast and ferocious up this high and if he opened a few more windows on each side of Susan’s double aspect apartment, the sharp lemony-ness would be gone in next to no time.

Now that his eyes were clearing and he could actually see, Calvin’s apartment looked brand new. Everything was gleaming as if it had all only just been unboxed from its original packaging and placed around. Her house had looked regimented and not-properly-lived-in before, but now it was like some kind of show-home. “I might have to ask Calvin if I can borrow you for a bit.” He said, bracing himself before he left the pocket of good air he had created and dived into the sickly citrus smog.

“Borrow me?” He saw Sonny come out of the bathroom out of the corner of his already re-filling eye, drying his arms with a fuzzy white towel. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

“You know, borrow your services. My house is in a right mess, it could do with a good clean.”

“You would like me to help you clean your house?”

“Sure.”

Sonny paused. “I would not mind, but I don’t know if Susan would be very happy about that. It seems odd to me but she blames you for me getting shot.”

“Yeah, sorry about that.”

“Why? It was not your fault.”

“Nah, Calvin was right, I should have been keeping a sharper eye on you.”

“I would say ‘I can take care of myself’, for that is what I believed at the time. However it’s now apparent that I, in actual fact, cannot.”

Having now opened a few windows in Calvin’s home office as well, Del sat on the black couch in her TV room and moved his canvas bag onto the floor between his feet. “No offence Sonny, but that’s the point. You might be smarter than a PhD Graduate, but you are a bit naive. You are going to make mistakes.”

Sonny put the towel on the floor in front of the sofa and sat on it. “I can see some wisdom in that, but I am feeling strongly compelled to insist that I can look after myself.”

Spooner chuckled and rubbed his eyes. There was still a lot of lemon in the air despite the slight breeze. “You aren’t turning into a teenager are you?”

“So what if I am?” Sonny crossed his arms childishly and smiled.

“Are you learning a sense of humour?”

“Gradually.” The little blue eyed robot was giving him his full attention. “I’m very glad you came by Detective, I was getting really bored stuck in here on my own. All of Susan’s books are really dull.”
“You should have checked her underwear drawer, you might have found her diary. That would be interesting, wonldn’t it?”

“Detective!” Sonny scolded. “I couldn’t invade her privacy like that!”

Del could have sworn Sonny looked embarrassed and if his white plastic face could have blushed at all, he was sure Sonny would be beet-red. “Anyway, I’m not going to be Detective Spooner for much longer now.”

Sonny cocked his head.

“I’m going to be an Agent!”

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Are congratulations in order?”

“Hell yeah.”

“Well congratulations soon-to-be Agent Spooner. So what do I call you now, Agent or Detective Spooner?”

“You could just go the whole hog and call me Del if you like.”

“Why do humans have so many names attached to them? I mean, Susan told me to call her Susan rather than Doctor Calvin or doctor. You are Del but also Agent or Detective Spooner. I’m just Sonny.”

“Actually I’m also called Mr. D. Spooner by my bank.”

“Why so many names?”

“Well my family name is Spooner, I got that from my dad and I was given the first name Del by both of my parents. ‘Mr’ indicates that I’m a guy, and Agent or Detective shows what sort of line of work I’m in and my rank. It’ll be the same with Calvin.”

“Why do you call her Calvin still?”

“She hasn’t given me permission to use her given name. It would be impolite to just assume I can use it.”

“So I can count you and Susan as good friends now, as you have both given me permission to use your given names?”

Sonny looked thrilled with the idea. He was so easily pleased and so friendly, he reminded Del of a puppy. A really big, metal and plastic, super intelligent puppy that wasn’t likely to pee on rugs. Perhaps puppy was a bad analogy. “Sure. It’s no biggie.”

“What is the feminine version of ‘Mr’ then?”

“Well, that depends. It can be one of three different things.”

“Why? Are there degrees of femininity?”

“No, it’s more of an availability thing. ‘Mrs’ is a married woman, ‘Miss’ is an unmarried woman and ‘Ms’ is the ‘its none of your business if I’m married or not’ type of woman.”

“Which do you think Susan is?”

“I’d say Ms. Possibly Miss, but I really doubt she’s a Mrs. I really can’t see her ever being married.”

Sonny’s eyes darted towards the bag between his feet again. Del had noticed the fidgety, pale faced robot eyeing it up throughout their conversation. “What is in the bag, Del?”

“You are really nosey.”

“I prefer the term inquisitive.”

“Well I’ll show you in a minute, but do you mind if I grab myself something to eat first? Calvin ate most of my breakfast so she shouldn’t mind.”

“Oh I’m sorry Del. I told her to make sure she got herself some breakfast this morning. I didn’t realise she’d take yours.”

“No problem. I offered anyway. You should have heard her stomach roar, it was like half starved tiger was sat in the room. She looked really embarrassed so I gave her my pie.” Del got up off the couch and nearly tripped up from getting the bag’s shoulder strap caught around his foot. He noticed in time to avoid total catastrophe and shook the snaring strap from his shoe.

Sonny hopped up too. “I’ve dried off a bit now so I’ll just go clean up those puddles.”

Maybe puppy wasn’t so far off after all? Del smiled. As Del turned for the kitchen he noticed the state of the couch’s arm. It was actually a very convincing fake leather and it had been torn so that bits of egg-yolk yellow foam poked out from beneath. He pointed dumbly at the savaged suite. “What happened there?”

“I had a bullet wedged deep in my left forearm. I lashed out from the pain when Susan took it out.”

Del felt a strong pang of guilt for being so insensitive about Sonny’s injuries. He had the feeling Sonny didn’t often loose his composure. It had taken a bit of pushing to get the angry outburst from him during the interrogation. The poor guy really must have been in agony.

Feeling sombre and more than a little sorry for Sonny, Del wandered into Calvin’s kitchen. He felt lost in the huge room, he was more used to pokey little kitchen-come-dining room type affairs, which this most definitely wasn’t. Her fridge-freezer was a tall, brushed steel monolith seamlessly assimilated into the fully fitted room equipped with all the mod cons and decorated with black granite work surfaces and spotlights. It was very Susan Calvin in its cold, sharp-edged, colourless, black and metal nature.

He grasped the metal handle and pulled the fridge door open to look for something tasty to eat. He was really hungry. Gigi had been too busy grilling him about Marcy to get any sausages done or even fry some eggs up, and he’d been so hard pushed to quell her impatience with answers he’d not had much of the pie she’d given him. That Hine fellow had been nice enough to talk at him and allow him to eat some of his breakfast pie, but then Calvin had seen to it that he never actually finished it. He usually ate allot in the mornings, hell, he was still a ‘growing lad’ in his gran’s eyes. He was wondering what reassuringly expensive delicacies lay within the oversized chill cabinet when he realised what he was looking at. He cried out in a mixture of surprise, disappointment and almost horror.

Sonny came running to the doorway. “What is it?” He said fearfully.

Del rifled through the fridge. “No wonder she ate all my damn pie!”

Sonny must have deduced that there was no actual danger and cautiously came closer. “What?”

Del turned his attentions to the nearby cupboards, jerking the doors open and quickly scanning the contents for edible things. When he found boxes and tins he gave them cursory glances before dismissing them.

“What is it Del?”

“She doesn’t have a scrap of real food in here!”

“What do you mean? There are plenty of things to eat.”

“Well, yeah you could eat them. I don’t know why you’d want to. Look!” Del closed the cupboards and returned to the fridge. “See? It’s all chemicals, stuff grown in chemicals and, and cardboard!” He picked a plastic bottle of milk from the fridge door. “Homogenised, pasteurised, micro-filtered, fortified, skimmed milk. That means it’s just white water with added chemicals.” He held it out for Sonny to see.

Sonny took the offered bottle and turned it a few times, reading the labels.

Del turned back to the fridge, grabbing a yellow tub. “Margarine substitute!? I didn’t know they even made this stuff. I mean who, other than Calvin obviously, would buy a butter substitute substitute? I bet you that this is just chemicals and water too.” He handed the tub to Sonny and he took it. “All this stuff! Look, she even eats these hydroponic products!”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“It’s all just yeast! Yeast grown in vats of chemicals. I watched a documentary on it when they started touting hydroponics as the cure for world hunger. They drain the massive vats and the mat of yeast that cakes the filters is scraped off and shaped and messed about with until they can pass it off as make-believe steaks or chicken fillets or apple pie!”

“Hydroponic products cater for human dietary requirements perfectly. As for the milk and margarine substitute, they both conform to US food regulations and are highly suited to being incorporated as a part of a varied and well-balanced human diet.”

“Yeah, but it’s not real!”

Sonny gave him an impatient look with one eyebrow raised. “What do you mean, real food?”

“You know, something which actually once was something.”

“So you want to eat something which is quite obviously alive once? You want to consume the body of an organism more complex than simple yeast bacterium?”

“Sorta. Doesn’t seem so nice when you put it that way.” It really didn’t.

“I’ll help you look.”

Del and Sonny sat in front of the freezer, pulling out the drawers and setting them on the floor to search thoroughly for something worth eating. They had gone through most of Calvin’s kitchen’s food content and had so far found nothing good to eat. Del could see that Sonny was getting irritated, so far he had turned his nose up at everything the robot picked up.

“What about this?” Sonny held up a slightly frost covered card box with an air of triumph. “Oriental style pork cutlets.”

Del nodded. This sounded promising.

“Shaped cutlets…rich oriental style coating…guaranteed at least 11 percent pork and 78 percent texturised wheat protein. That’s a total of 89 percent ex-living organism content, Del.” Sonny was trying to sound enthusiastic and turned the package so that the decorated front design was facing Del.

“Texturised wheat protein?” Not so promising after all.

“Yes. Tasty, yummy wheat protein.” Sonny danced the box about a bit in an effort to make it more tempting.

“Yeah, yummy.” Del said sarcastically.

Sonny tossed the box back into the drawer. “All right, what is wrong with wheat protein? It’s a plant, isn’t it?” The robot was not a happy bunny.

“Wheat protein is another way of saying ‘this product is practically cardboard’.” Del faked an overly cheerful television advertisement voice.

“No it isn’t! Cardboard is tree cellulose, not wheat protein. If this product is practically anything it’s practically bread. You eat bread, don’t you? Staple of the American diet, is it not?” Sonny was kneeling on the floor, hands planted firmly on his thighs with his elbows turned slightly outwards. His eyes had the blue glare of a gas powered hob flame about them, tame and domesticated but still potentially dangerous. His patience looked thin.

“Yeah but bread isn’t pretending to be pork. Anyway, this stuff has barely seen a pig and I bet that 11 percent is all snouts and entrails anyway.”

“So we are looking for specific parts of specific organisms? What’s wrong with snouts and entrails?”

“Wha…well would you eat snouts and entrails?”

“I don’t eat, and if I did I doubt I could ever hope to be as picky or fussy as you. Are you going to have any of this stuff, or can it put it back in the freezer?”

“I’ll have some toast.” Del said glumly. So much for Calvin’s kitchen holding delicious delicacies, it was all cheap junk. She was so weird, it wasn’t like she couldn’t afford good food, and he refused to believe anyone could eat that sort of stuff out of preference. Not even someone as robotic as Calvin could happily live off chemical slush thickened up with cardboard.

Del put a couple of slices of bread in the toaster while Sonny slid all the drawers back into the freezer. He thought about what he could use to liven the plain toast up with. There wasn’t much. It was margarine substitute or the jar of ominously translucent, fruity smelling, imitation jelly in the fridge door.

“I’m sorry I started to loose my temper Del. I guess I’m just not used to human variation. It is a little unfair to expect you and Susan to have similar tastes.”

“It’s fine. It’s not your fault Calvin eats chemical rubbish.”

“I have had the feeling that she is very…unusual amongst humans.”

Del chuckled. “You could say that. I’d say that she is the weirdest, coldest…” The toast popped up and Del searched for a knife to spread the indistinct ‘fruit’ flavoured jelly with.

“Top drawer on your far left.” Sonny offered as guidence.

“…most insanely neurotic woman I’ve ever met who hasn’t been locked up in a padded cell.” Del found a knife and started attempting to spread the mushy red jelly over his toast with one hand. It was squelchy and looked like it was starting to melt from the warmth of the toast and was beginning to seep through. Soggy, fruit flavoured, toasted bread. How appetising.

“You don’t mean that, do you?” Sonny said, taking the knife from his hand and spreading the jelly for him without a word about it.

“I wasn’t over exaggerating much.”

“But that is a terrible thing to say about Susan! She’s not mad or cold, and you are a fine one to talk about weirdness after you little ‘real’ food episode.”

Del shrugged. “Well maybe she’s not around you. She does seem to have taken a shine to you.”

“Taken a shine to me?” Sonny looked him in the eye quizzically as he handed the plate over.

“Yeah, she likes you. Not that I couldn’t have seen that coming.” Del walked through to the back couch.

“Now that you have food, can you tell me what is in the bag?”

Nodding with a mouthful of soggy fruit toast Del grudgingly set his plate beside himself and rubbed the crumbs off his fingers on his black jeans. Was he going to be able to eat anything today without interruption? He started to undo the sack like bag’s drawstring neck and Sonny came over like a moth to a flame, full as ever with intrigue. Del grabbed the bag’s bottom and shook until the contents tumbled out onto the floor.

Sonny picked up one of the big, male, knee-high, black leather, lace-up boots with puzzled interest.

“It’s your dad’s funeral tomorrow. I thought you’d like to go.”
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