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Beneath The Surface

Part 4

Norman looked up as Dorothy entered the kitchen and placed her basket on the counter. "Did you have a nice walk?" he inquired.

"Yes, I did, Norman," she answered. "I brought you the potatoes and rice."

"Thank you, Miss Dorothy," Norman took the basket from her and put away the food. He cleared his throat hesitantly. "Have you other plans for this evening?" he asked.

"No, Norman," she said. "Why do you ask?"

"I was thinking we might sit down for a chat," he told her.† "It seems to me that you have a question waiting for an answer."

Dorothy pulled up a chair and looked at the butler expectantly. "I am listening."

Norman chuckled a little and sat down across from her. "Where to begin?" he said. "I had a chance to speak to Master Roger while you were out, and I have his permission to talk to you about it." He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts.† "You understand that human love is a very complicated subject?"

"You mean do I understand where babies come from?" Dorothy replied soberly. "Yes."

Norman laughed and patted her hand with real affection. "Leave it to our Miss Dorothy to get right to it," he smiled. "But thereís a lot more to it than that. If it were only biology, it would be a simple thing. What makes it so complicated is that there are feelings involved."

To Normanís complete and utter shock, Dorothy smiled back at him and squeezed his hand. "And feelings are complicated. Go on, Norman."

The butler cleared his throat, too surprised to speak for a moment. He didnít think he had ever seen the android smile, and her actions were so out of character that he had almost completely lost his train of thought. He collected himself with an effort.† "Well, if you will forgive my being so bold, Miss Dorothy, it seems to me you were given the simple version of things. Two people meet, they fall in love, they want to be close to one another and that includes sex. Am I correct?"

"Yes, Norman, thatís almost exactly how Grandfather explained it," the girl said quietly.

"Excellent," he said. "And your grandfather was quite right, my dear. When things work out as they should, itís exactly the way things ought to be."

"But sometimes they arenít..." Understanding lit Dorothyís eyes. "Sometimes things donít work out."

"Precisely," Norman said, relieved that she was catching on without him having to go into too much of Rogerís private life. "Sometimes one person feels love but the other doesnít. Sometimes loving feelings are shared on both sides, but something happens that destroys the good feelings. There are even times where one person feels one kind of love and the other feels a different kind."

"Different kinds of love?" Dorothy absorbed this new information. "Love is love, isnít it?"

"No, indeed not," Norman patted her hand again. "Look at you and I, Miss Dorothy. Iím not afraid to say," he cleared his throat again, suddenly a little shy, "Iím not afraid to say that I couldnít love you more if you were my very own granddaughter. Youíre such a big help to me here! The house has been a lot less lonely since you came, and Iím very proud of the way youíve been able to help Master Roger. That feeling is a bit different than the feelings between..."

His voice trailed off as Dorothy positively beamed at him and jumped up from her chair to hug him. "I love you too, Norman." She regarded the old man thoughtfully. "Your face is very pink."

The butler patted her shoulder awkwardly. "I donít know what to say, Miss Dorothy. Iíve never seen you act this way before and I confess that I donít know what to think!" He gently disengaged himself. "I donít think Iíve ever seen you smile, let alone hug someone."

"It feels happy to know that you care about me," she said simply. "Everything matches, Norman."

"Everything matches?" he looked at her, puzzled.

"Yes. You say the words and the way you look and what you do matches what you say so I know what you are telling me is true." She sat down in the chair next to him and continued earnestly, "When everything matches, I can act as I feel and not worry that I will do something wrong."

"You have feelings..." Norman said slowly, still trying to digest this totally unexpected information. This conversation was certainly taking an unexpected turn! He had been under the impression that the android was incapable of emotions.

"Why do you sound so surprised?" she wanted to know. "How else would I be able to interact with the world around me?"

"I hadnít really thought about it," he said slowly. "Tell me more, Miss Dorothy."

"There isnít much to tell, itís really quite simple," she said. She took an apple from the bowl of fruit on the table and held it up. "My hands are much stronger than a humanís, so how do I know how much pressure to put on it so I pick it up without crushing it?"

"I assumed you had a program that told you the relative strengths of different materials," the butler answered.

"That would be impossible," she informed him. "There would be millions of entries and I would spend more time looking through the database than actually doing anything. Iím set up the same as any human. I have sensors in my fingers that give me feedback. I press until I feel the material yield just a tiny, tiny bit and I back off a little from that and itís just right." She walked over to the sink and picked up the washing sponge, holding it up for him to see that she was applying just the right pressure to hold it without her fingers sinking into it.

Norman nodded. It did make sense, and he had repaired a large number of those sensors himself when restoring Dorothyís arm and leg after Gabrielís attack. "I understand, but what does that have to do with your having emotions?"

"Emotions are feedback to you about the world around you, brought to you by your senses," she pointed out, returning to her chair. "You feel fear in response to danger. You feel pain in response to damage. You feel contentment in response to safety. No matter how many layers are built upon the simple basic emotions, they all come down to feedback."

"You feel pain, too?" he said wonderingly.

"Of course," she responded. "How else would I know that I had been damaged and needed repair? The only difference between the feedback from your nerves and the feedback from my sensors is that my feelings donít overwhelm me the way yours can, not unless I choose to let them do so. The messages canít be stopped completely, but I can mute them enough that I still can function."

"I thought you just ran a systems check for damage," Norman mused. "This is very enlightening, Miss Dorothy."

"I only run a systems check for repair purposes," she informed him. "It would be much too cumbersome to have something like that running constantly, worse than consulting a list every time I wanted to pick up something."

"Yes, I can see how it would be," he agreed.† "And you are able to extrapolate more complicated emotions from this basic feedback? Interesting..."

"Sometimes," she answered. "It depends on how much practice I get and if there is any kind of conflict in the input. I knew about hugging because Grandfather hugged me all the time. It didnít take long for me to learn that it meant that he was happy with me, and from there it was a small step to me hugging him. When you said you cared about me and were proud of me, Norman, I remembered those times with my grandfather and it made me happy. I wanted to hug you, and I knew that a hug would be a good thing and that you would be pleased by it."

"I was," Norman reassured her. "I was just surprised because you had never acted that way before."

"You never patted my hand before," she reminded him. "I had almost forgotten how pleasant it feels."

"Youíre right, and Iím sorry, Miss Dorothy. It seems I underestimated you," Norman admitted. "Iíll try not to make that mistake again."

"Thank you," she accepted the apology gravely. "Thereís still a lot for me to learn, so Iím not very good at it yet."

"I can see that it would take time," the butler said thoughtfully. "Something occurs to me, Miss Dorothy. It might benefit you to do a bit of people watching, but not so that you can imitate them. When you see people do something, you might try thinking about what they were feeling that made them act the way they did."

Dorothy nodded. "I never thought of that before. I will try it."

"Very good," Norman smiled. "Youíve given me a lot to think about."† He rose and hugged the girl warmly. "And if you ever just feel you want a hug from me, Miss Dorothy, you might try asking." Her answering smile seemed completely natural and human.

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