Today's Reading

And that was just fine. It was my other memory that was an issue.

Professor Thornton, genius he truly was, built a compact reel-to-reel memory tape that sat in my not insubstantial chest cavity. The micro tape in question had the capacity to record everything I did during a single day. But twenty-four hours, and that was it. When my time was up, the tape came out and I was given a clean one and the world was born anew.

A fact which made the yellow legal pad currently sitting on my knee an interesting, not to say vital, development.

It had been on the passenger seat of the car when I had gotten into it back at the garage. It was about half done, the pages neatly torn off the top but leaving a ragged ribbon next to the glue. The top few pages on the remaining pad had the impression of writing on them, and if I held the pad up and tilted it to the light I could see some of it, even read a little. Cycling through filters on my optics made a little difference but not much, but what was legible wasn't anything I could understand, anyway. It was mostly single words, some circled—several times in a couple of cases—and I could make out a lot of question marks and even an arrow or two connecting short statements.

What the notes were about were a mystery.

But I did know one thing. The notes were mine. I didn't remember making them but I knew my handwriting when I saw it. I must have left the notepad out on the open on the seat like that to get my attention the next day. Given how much of the pad was used it occurred to me that I had been doing it a while.

If only I had written something a little clearer. 'Ray's Little Book of Secrets' would have been more useful.

So I sat in the car and I kept the notepad on my knee and I switched my attention back to the diner. As I watched Touch Daley and his buddy I ignored the growing desire for a carafe of coffee of my own. I pondered getting a container to go, but that would mean getting wet and the coffee would steam up my windows which would make surveillance more difficult than it was right now, so I let it slide. And besides, I wasn't entirely sure I wanted Touch Daley—or anyone else in the diner, for that matter—to see me. A robot walking into a restaurant in the middle of a storm and asking for coffee to go was something I could imagine people would tend to remember when asked, and in my line of work it was fairly important that people didn't remember me at all.

So I sat and I watched. Touch's coffee must have been getting cold. The guy in the jacket had finished his food and had got a carafe of his own. That seemed like a waste but then it wasn't on my dime so what did I care.

Touch Daley. He had an interesting name. A nickname perhaps. Or perhaps not. This was Hollywood, after all. I didn't know what branch of the federal government he worked for but he looked like the kind of man who worked for a certain kind of agency, the ones that were full of a certain kind of man and had a certain kind of way of dressing them, all black hats and black coats and narrow ties. The kind of agency where smiling was forbidden, where the training program involved practicing an array of expressions from mildly annoyed to slightly angry.

At least, that's what came to mind when I watched him, and I didn't know why it did so I just put it down to another little gift from Professor Thornton. I was doing a lot of that today. It was an easy explanation and maybe a lazy one, but the truth was that in order to give me a mind and a personality all of my own, Thornton had used his own as a template. How that actually worked I didn't know because that information was locked away in a part of my permanent store that I didn't need to access, the area that was filled with raw program codes and machine algorithms that told my microswitches which way was up.

But having Thornton's template meant that I had a part of Thornton with me all the time and it meant that I enjoyed the smell of pipe tobacco and had opinions about baseball and the Fermi paradox. And maybe Thornton had watched too many cheap TV thrillers, ones filled with actors wrapped in black suits doing the best interpretation of men like Touch Daley.

Or maybe Thornton had dealt with his fair share of government agents in dark suits during his time at the lab. Given the nature of his work, that seemed a distinct likelihood—maybe he'd even dealt with Touch Daley. Because the name certainly rang a bell.

That was also something that happened sometimes. I called them fragments, and they usually rose up in my circuits like a slowly increasing voltage, giving me hunches or vague ideas. Less often they came as flashes that for a nanosecond took over all my sensory inputs and put me somewhere else, sometime else.

These fragments and flashes were an artifact, nothing more than electric dreams caused by my memory systems operating at the very edge of technology. The small tape in my chest was one of only a small number and they were all reused in rotation after being copied onto larger archive tapes. These big tapes were stored in a secret room hidden behind the office. But the erasure of the smaller, portable tapes was never perfect, and sometimes data got stuck in the cracks and sometimes I could read that data and I got ideas.

Or feelings. Like now. Because there was no flash and no vision but I had a feeling that I knew who Touch Daley was. But it didn't matter anyway. Not to the job. All I had to do was find Touch Daley and make sure he never had another cup of coffee after tonight.

So far I was halfway home.

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