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Authors: Bruce Coville

Forever Begins Tomorrow

BOOK: Forever Begins Tomorrow
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Forever Begins Tomorrow

The A.I. Gang, Book Three

Bruce Coville

Contents

“Put Some More Colors in Your Paint Box”

Sherlock

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Missing in Action

A Change of Plans

Dr. Hwa Has Had Enough

Suspicions

Computer Games

The Doomsday Module

The Outside World

Roger and the Robot

The Severed Connection

The Traitor

Brain Work

Bridget McGrory

Aiding and Abetting

In the Slammer

The Brain Cell

The Black Glove

The Plan

ADAM

Epilogue

A Personal History by Bruce Coville

For Adam—and all the tomorrows yet to be.

“Put Some More Colors in Your Paint Box”

Roger Phillips ran a hand through his fiery red hair and stared at his father in horror. “You have
got
to be kidding,” he whispered.

He glanced down at the small computer Dr. Anthony Phillips had just set before him.

“You've got to be,” he repeated weakly.

“No such luck,” said Dr. Phillips. The barest hint of a smile flickered over his face.

Roger looked at the machine with an expression he usually reserved for creamed broccoli. “An electronic tutor? Lessons?
Homework?”

“Afraid so,” said his father, struggling to keep his smile in check. “The government insisted.”

“What government?” demanded Roger. “Don't tell me the Chinese are out to get me now!”

“No, I don't think you've come to their attention yet.”

“You mean
our
government is doing this?” cried Roger. “In a period of global instability the United States of America is going to waste one of the great minds of our time on
homework?”

Dr. Phillips shrugged. “Typical bureaucratic inefficiency. You'll just have to live with it.”

Rachel, Roger's twin sister, wandered in from the kitchen, where she had been making herself a cup of coffee—a habit her father often warned her would stunt her growth. Secretly Rachel was hoping he was right. She had decided she was tall enough two days ago when she noticed she had passed their handsome friend Hap Swenson by half an inch.

“What's going on?” she asked, taking a sip from a steaming mug that said “Love Me, Love My Computer” in dark blue letters.

“You'll never believe it,” said Roger. He turned to his father. “You tell her, Dad. I can't bring myself to do it.”

“You've got a new tutor,” said Dr. Phillips, gesturing to the small computer. “Actually, this one is Roger's. Yours is still in the Jeep.”

Rachel's face fell.

“Oh, come on,” said Dr. Phillips, his voice tinged with exasperation. “What did you two expect—a permanent vacation? Just because we're living on an isolated island while I work on Project Alpha, you can't think your education is going to come to an end! Frankly, I was relieved when Dr. Hwa gave me these computers. I think having too much spare time has been responsible for a lot of the trouble you and your friends have gotten into these last few months.”

“Who's in trouble?” exclaimed a metallic voice. “I didn't do anything!”

“Shut up, Paracelsus,” said Rachel. “No one's talking to you.”

The handsome bronze head sitting on the Phillipses' coffee table blinked its eyes in preprogrammed astonishment. “No one's talking to me? What am I, a social outcast?”

Rachel turned to her brother. “If you don't stop tampering with his shutoff cues, someone's going to rearrange
your
circuits.”

“Help!” shrieked Paracelsus. “Circuit attack! Circuit attack!”

Heaving a sigh, Dr. Phillips reached across the table and deactivated the head. “Sometimes I wish you two had never dreamed this thing up. It's made normal conversation almost impossible around here.”

“Shhh!”
hissed Roger. “Just because he can't talk doesn't mean he can't hear you.”

“Roger,” said Dr. Phillips sternly, “I don't want you acting like that machine—or any other—has a personality. It's sloppy thinking!”

“Then I can't possibly use this electronic tutor. I can't learn from someone I can't relate to!”

Dr. Phillips made no response.

“Well, maybe if I tried real hard,” said Roger, reading the expression on his father's face and deciding a momentary defeat was preferable to death.

“I thought you'd see it my way. Now, let me show you how this works.”

Though he had figured out the machine within seconds of seeing it, Roger sat quietly through his father's demonstration. His mind was elsewhere, trying to find a way to explain that he didn't have time for this stuff when he and his friends were busy protecting Project Alpha from a spy who would stop at nothing to send every bit of top-secret research done on Anza-bora Island to the terrorist organization known as G.H.O.S.T.

A mile or so from the Phillips home, Ray “the Gamma Ray” Gammand was standing on the foul line in the Anza-bora base gymnasium. He pushed his thick glasses back up onto his nose and stared at his beloved basketball.

“You can do it,” he whispered, trying to convince the ball it was going to make it through the hoop on his first shot. “All you have to do is think positive!”

Though Ray would have died of embarrassment if anyone had caught him talking to his basketball this way, he was so attached to the thing the rest of the gang already half suspected him of doing so.

He was on the court now to work out his frustration over the morning's appalling news about the electronic tutor. He had had to wait for the maintenance crew to finish their morning game, which had only added to the tension he was feeling. But he was ready to practice at last. Taking a step forward, he tossed the ball. It bounced off the backboard, wobbled on the rim for a heartbreaking instant—then fell the wrong way.

Ray said his stepmother's least favorite word. “Ah-ah!” said a husky female voice. “Temper and basketball don't mix.”

Ray turned, his cheeks warm. “Hello, Dr. Fontana. I didn't know you were there.”

Dr. Marion Fontana, who had come through the side door of the gym, picked up the ball. She was one of the hardware specialists for the artificial intelligence project that had brought the families of the A.I. Gang to Anza-bora Island. She was also a fitness nut, usually to be found jogging with Dr. Bai' Ling, a raven-haired lady who gave new meaning to the phrase “well designed.”

“Here,” she said, tossing Ray the ball. “Try it again. But watch your breathing this time. You muffed your last throw by exhaling wrong.”

Distracted by wondering where Dr. Ling might be, Ray threw the ball far wide of the hoop.

Dr. Fontana sighed. “Here, watch me.” Retrieving the ball, she made a perfect swish. Then she dashed under the basket, snatched the ball before it could hit the floor, dribbled it down the court, ran through a series of snappy maneuvers, and sank three more baskets before Ray could catch his breath.

“See?” she said, tossing the ball back to him. “It doesn't have anything to do with height!”

Ray, not yet five feet tall and seemingly on permanent hold as far as growth went, looked at Dr. Fontana gratefully. Though he knew she was being too flip when she said height had nothing to do with basketball, he also felt more hopeful about what he
could
learn to do than he had at any time in the past year.

“Would you like me to give you a few tips?” she asked, joining him at the foul line.

Oh, my God
, thought Ray,
I think I'm in love. If only she wasn't over forty!

While the Gamma Ray was getting his basketball lesson, his friend Trip Davis was getting a lecture about the new electronic tutors.

“Be reasonable, Tripton,” said his mother, Dr. Millicent Davis, in exasperation. “It won't be that bad!”

“That's what you told Lunkhead here the day you took him to the vet to be fixed,” said Trip, stroking the grotesquely overweight cat sprawled in his lap.

“Tripton Duncan Delmar Davis!”

Trip winced. His mother never resorted to his full name unless he was in real trouble.

Her tapping foot confirmed that this was indeed the case.

Trip looked at his mother.

Arms folded over her white lab coat, she glared back.

Trip's father, the highly respected landscape artist Elevard Crompton Davis, sat across the room, chuckling to himself.

“Cromp!” snapped Dr. Davis. She pushed back a strand of the ice-blond hair that had escaped from the severe bun in which she wore it. “Talk to your son!”

Trying to kill the smile on his face, Mr. Davis ambled over to where his wife and son were facing off. “What do you want me to say?” he asked, placing a paint-stained hand on his wife's shoulder.

“I don't know! Tell him how important schoolwork is. Tell him we want him to achieve so we can be proud of him. Tell him we'll kill him if he doesn't straighten out.”

Mr. Davis nodded. Turning to Trip, he said, “Everything your mother just said is true.”

“Cromp!”

Mr. Davis sighed. “Look, Tripper, I know you and your friends are keeping busy with all kinds of projects. But you can't concentrate on nothing but computers. You have to develop all the strands of your knowledge and ability.”

“Why?”

Mr. Davis paused. He looked puzzled for a moment, then took his son by the arm and led him to the easel where he was putting the finishing touches on his latest painting. Next to the easel stood a small table holding his “art box,” a wooden container cluttered with tubes of paint and brushes of every size and shape.

He took the canvas from the easel and put a blank one in its place. To Trip's astonishment, he then dumped the box of paints and brushes onto the floor.

“All right, that's your life,” he said, pointing to the blank canvas. “Hardly touched, yours to do with as you will.”

Trip nodded, wondering where this was going.

His father bent over and picked up a single tube of paint and one medium-size brush. He dropped them into the art box, handed the box to Trip, and said, “Now paint.”

“It's going to be kind of dull with only one color.”

Mr. Davis shrugged and tapped his son on the forehead. “Then put some more colors in your paint box. Take it from an artist: It will make your life a hell of a lot more interesting.”

Trip smiled. “Okay, I get the message, Dad. I'll give the thing a try.”

Cromp Davis smiled back at his son. “That's good,” he said. “To tell you the truth, if you want to live your life in black and white, that's your problem anyway. But I appreciate you getting me off the hook with your mother. Come on, I'll help you move this thing into your bedroom.”

Five minutes later Trip had settled himself in front of the new computer. He was already regretting the promise he had made to his father. Glancing at the array of electronic gadgetry scattered around his room, he fought down an urge to push the machine off his desk and turn his attention to one of the far more interesting projects he was currently in the middle of.

Shaking his head, he sighed and turned on the new machine.

Attached to the right side of the computer was a rack of tubes, each about the size of a roll of LifeSavers. Trip recognized them as a refined version of the Watson Double-Vapor Memory System, invented by Dr. Werner Watson, father of his friend Wendy Wendell. He smiled. At least this was a state-of-the-art machine. With their combination of durability and enormous memory capacity, the Watson tubes were a vast improvement on all previous storage systems.

BOOK: Forever Begins Tomorrow
12.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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