Sam Hosta was being held in a death grip
against the kitchen wall by his wife, Jackie.
Since when had she become so outrageously
strong? She worked out at the gym, yeahbut this kind of
He had been walking out to his SUV in
the garage, balancing his traveler's coffee mug and briefcase
while jostling for keys in his pocket. He was already late.
They weren't in his pocket; must have left them on his nightstand
upstairs. He didn't need this and couldn't afford to be late
for an important stockholders meeting.
Sam had rushed back in the interior garage
door to get upstairs to hopefully find his keys when he had
passed the kitchen. He noticed his wife with her arm resting
on the kitchen table. What she was doing with her arm stopped
him dead in his tracks. A small panel was open on the inside
of her left arm and she was manipulating something inside with
her right hand. Her arm looked to be full of little sliding
light gauges that you would see in any number of sci-fi movies.
Jackie was engrossed in what she was
doing until Sam asked, "What are you doing to your arm?"
She was suddenly aware of him, and had
closed the twenty feet between them in a blur. Damn she was
fast! He couldn't budge her; it was like trying to move a brick
wall. Then what was usually a warm, feminine voice demanded
from him in a tone that was flat, cold and authoritative:
"What did you see?"
He didn't know how to answer, so he lied.
"Nothing, dear. Didn't see a thing."
He was beginning to sweat.
Her response was to push Sam a little
harder against the wall.
"I asked, what did you see? And
just so you know, I can tell when you're lying."
"Okay, okay! I saw what looked like
electronic crap inside your arm. Satisfied?"
"Yes. You're telling the truth.
Obviously you've seen too much."
Realizing the strategic and calming advantage
of doing so, she changed her voice back to the one he was used
to, full of fuzzy animals and sunshine.
"Listen, we need to discuss this.
If I let you go, do you promise not to run?"
"Sure," he lied. "Where
would I go?"
"Stop it, you're lying again. Plus,
I could run you down within fifteen feet."
Shit. Probably couldn't get anything
past her. He might as well go along; maybe wait for an opening
to take action.
"Okay," he said as he gathered
his wits about him, "I take it with your arm full of electronics
plus your strength that you're not my wife."
"What are you then?"
"An android, sent by my masters
to study the average human family in all its aspects."
It was all too fantastic, too unbelievable.
"I don't believe you." He was
slowly inching his way to the wooden knife holder on the counter.
"Prove it to me."
"Very well. What would you have
"Grab that bicycle tire pump from
beside the refrigerator and see if you can bend it. I'm assuming
you have greater than average strength."
"Yes, you are correct."
As she turned to get the pump, he quickly
grabbed the biggest knife from the wooden block on the counter.
He lunged at her back, hoping to bring the knife down on her
Suddenly, in what seemed like a millisecond,
she turned and brought her hand up to block the thrust. She
caught his forearm as he was bringing the knife down. It was
like striking concrete. The knife clattered to the floor. He
fell to his knees also, his arm in agony. Along with the enormous
pain, it felt as if something had torn loose inside and his
shoulder was on fire.
"My arm!" he screamed.
"Why are you so foolish as to attack
me like that? My reaction time and speed are too fast. You've
hurt your arm needlessly. Let me take a look."
She began to examine his musculature
and bones with a fair amount of prodding. This sent waves of
increased pain up into his shoulder.
"You've torn a ligament. Try to
right." He grimaced.
"Your arm needs repair."
She went to the cupboard and pulled out
what looked like a square bandaid, peeled off its cellophane-type
wrapper, and stuck it to his upper arm. He began to feel a lessening
of the pain almost immediately.
"Oh thanks, that's starting to feel
much better. What is it?"
"A combination analgesic, rapid
healing compound, and a mild sedative. It should heal the damaged
portion of your arm in about five minutes."
He could feel parts of his shoulder and
arm tense and relax on their own, along with an occasional popping
feeling inside. There was a little light-headedness also.
"I feel a little woozy. Is that
"Yes, the sedative will do that.
Plus the rapid healing component of the medicine draws a lot
from your body. You may also feel some weakness."
"Thanks for helping me. You didn't
have to do that."
"Yes, I did."
"What, you can't let me get hurt?"
"No, not intentionally. But accidents
can happen. That's why you need to be careful."
He was feeling quite good right now.
Whatever was in the patch was giving him quite the buzz, really
loosening up his tongue and taking away his apprehension.
"Okay. Let's talk about that. What
study are you talking about, and how does it involve my wife
"Like I said before, I'm here with
several others like me to study the human family. It's a multi-generational
endeavor. There are so many parameters to examine. Your species
has extremely complex inter-personal relationships. It took
my masters many years worth of study just to comprehend the
latitude of adult male and female physical and psychological
makeup. Only then were they able to develop a baseline in which
to produce female androids like myself along with several male
"Produce? So you guys are like exact
copies or something?"
"Exactly. We study a specific target
first, and then apply the baseline we developed to the target.
The match comes out to ninety-nine point seven percent accuracy."
"So you're like the perfect match
for a female, in particular, my wife?"
"Yes. You wouldn't be able to tell
the difference, except that you caught me with my pants down,
so to speak."
"You're that close? So I could make
love to you and not tell the difference?"
"You already have, Sam, for the
Okay. That was a shocker. He couldn't
comprehend that and sat there for a few minutes, dumbfounded.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah," he snapped back to
reality, "I really lost you after that one. I forgot to
ask, are the twins okay?"
"Yes. It's still early. Katy and
Ruthy are still asleep. You don't have to worry, Sam. Along
with being their surrogate mother, their well being is paramount
"Sure. Whatever you say. I guess
I'll have to see it to believe it. That brings me back to the
other question. If you're here, where is my wife?"
"Totally safe, I can assure you."
"And where would that be?"
"Okay, your conversation is deteriorating
again. Don't be so defensive. I can't tell you where she is,
and it wouldn't make any difference anyway. Do you comprehend
"Yes, I'm not stupid, just desperate.
What if I go to the authorities?"
"Go ahead, Sam. Take it from me,
they won't believe you. They may even think you're crazy. Do
you want that for your family? Let me explain the big picture
for you, and I'm not trying to be threatening. The study will
go forward, with or without you. We can always take you to a
safe place with your wife, but we'd rather not do that. No matter
how perfect I can be as a wife and mother, I'm still influencing
the study somewhat by replacing your wife. We would rather not
have to replace you as well; it would affect the study even
further. And wouldn't you rather be here with your children
during their development? Just so you know, every memory that
I have of being a mother and a wife will be translated to your
wife's memory. She won't even know that she was gone after we
bring her back. I will approximate aging right along with her,
so that everything appears natural. Any time you want, we can
discuss this whole matter, although in private."
"Okay, when will you bring my wife
"That's subjective. It will depend
on how the study is going. Some things we can deduce as we learn
more about the human family and its behavior."
He had to think about all this. What
was to become of his wife and children? Could he trust them
to an alien android? It didn't seem like there was anything
he could do anyway. Maybe he could take the children and run
"You're thinking of running, aren't
"How the hell did you know that?
And what the hell, yes."
"It's one of the standard reaction
profiles we've encountered in the past when we've been discovered.
Another point of interest, we can always find you. Your entire
family has been tagged with a health status and location indicator,
sort a technological equivalent to your cell phone GPS locator,
but much smaller and efficient."
Damn. He was starting to feel like he
lived in a big zoo.
"Okay Jackie, I can still call you
that right? I feel like I don't have any options. Can you understand
"Of course you can. And I know you
feel trapped. But look at the big picture. If you go along,
I will be the perfect wife. In fact, I can be any kind of wife
you want, as long as it doesn't vary from the profile norm we've
developed. That could affect the outcome of the study. Along
with this, you and the children will have near perfect protection.
I can promise you that. And my profile is to be the most loving
mother and wife that I can be. It's a win-win situation if you
go along. What do you say, Sam?"
"Listen, this is hard for me. It's
hard to accept that I can't do anything worthwhile."
Especially when she sat there being so
perfectly feminine and beautiful.
"But you can, Sam. Be there as the
girls' loving father. That's what you ultimately want, right?"
"Can I try it for a while and see
how it goes? I still need to see how you act around the girls."
"You've already seen that for about
a year now, right? Haven't I been the perfect mother? But that
would be fine. All we want is you to be happy with the situation."
"True. I guess I will give it a
try and see where it goes; what choice do I have?"
"Oh excellent!" She reached
across the table and gave him the perfect hug, smelling so much
like a woman that it hurt. "I know you will be happy with
It was true. He thought back to how she
had been with the girls as infants, and she had lacked nothing
in her loving care of them.
"Shouldn't you get to work, honey?
Wasn't there an important meeting this morning which you've
probably missed? Your arm should be fine by now."
He had forgotten the meeting and his
arm in all the discussion. The patch had come off his arm at
some point, but it felt perfect as he flexed and moved it around.
"Thanks for that. It does feel perfect.
I'm going to stay home if you don't mind, and keep an eye on
you. I still don't trust you with my children."
"My children too, Sam." Jackie
began to cry. "I truly do love them as much as you do."
He reached out to hold her, not realizing
he could have hurt her feelings.
"I'm sorry, I keep letting the situation
rule my judgment. But you can't blame me if I hang around for
"No," her sobbing was easing
up, "I understand. But you have to understand that one
thing you can expect from me is consistency. The way I've been
the past year is the way I always will be."
"Okay. Okay, you can stop crying.
I realize you care for the children as much as I."
"Thanks. I really need to be getting
them up. They are used to their routine."
Sam wound up taking a whole week off
work, keeping an eye on Jackie as often as possible. Her treatment
of the children was exemplary. After the next couple of months
had passed, he truly felt he could trust her.
They were alone in the kitchen one evening
talking about finances when Sam brought the situation up.
"Jackie, I've come to the point
where I feel as though I can trust you."
"Sam, that's wonderful," she
said, giving him a big hug. "I knew you would eventually
come around. I'm sure you'll find that it's actually a benefit
having me around."
"Well, I feel that I have no choice.
But I also feel that you may be right."
"Okay, I can accept that. But as
time goes by, I feel that you will become totally used to the
Of course she was right.
* * *
A couple of years passed. Sam had become
used to the idea and was almost totally accepting of Jackie.
He had even overcome his mental block about her being a machine
and was able to finally make love to her again. She had been
totally patient with him until he was ready. After that, it
was pretty much back to normal. Jackie did inform him one night
in bed that there could be no more children, because of what
"I hope you're not upset. Were you
planning on more? It's one thing we couldn't anticipate."
"No, Jackie. It's okay. Jackie and
I had already discussed this and were going to stop at two."
"Oh good, that's a relief,"
she said as she hugged him. "I've been worrying about telling
* * *
The two girls were growing fantastically,
and were going to start preschool in about a year. They had
their mother's beauty, which was also reflected in Jackie's
face. Sometimes he was utterly amazed at their growth and Jackie's
Sam was moving higher in his firm and
his income was matching the rise. Jackie and the girls wanted
for nothing. He was becoming quite proficient in the stocks
and bonds industry and would like to start his own brokerage
someday. Jackie had agreed and was enthusiastic about his ideas,
urging him on.
Four years had gone by. Sam's memories
of his discovery had managed to sink far back in his mind. It
seemed so real that he let himself think that it was. Blissful
Then there was the visit to the zoo.
They had been making the trip to the Central Park Zoo a couple
of times a year. The girls loved it and, frankly, there always
seemed to be something new to see. They had just finished their
latest visit. It was a beautiful Saturday fall afternoon that
was to die for. There was a good breeze blowing and it was about
sixty-eight degrees. Perfect. They had crossed Fifth Street
and were walking up Sixty-Fourth off Central Park. A friend
of his owned a building a few blocks away and they had been
able to use the parking garage.
"Jackie, do you and the kids want
to stop at Joe's and get some coffee and ice cream?"
The girls answered as one, "Ice
"I take that as a yes," he
said while grabbing all three of them in a bear hug.
Joe's had some of the best flavored iced
coffee in the city and made any trip to Manhattan more enjoyable.
They had started to cross Madison Avenue on the way to Sixty-Third.
Jackie and Katy were in the lead crossing Madison. Sam was still
in the crosswalk with Ruthy as the wind whipped up and blew
something into his eye. He had to stop for a second, his eyes
closed, hurting and watering. His lost his grip on Ruthy's hand
and she began to weave her way back to the corner they had just
come from. Sam fumbled for her hand and was finally able to
open his eyes in time to see a metro bus coming fast down the
curb lane directly towards her.
"No!" Jackie screamed from
the far curb. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. Jackie
was suddenly in front of him, handing Katy to him, and just
as quickly gone. He looked up just in time to see a blur come
between Ruthy and the speeding bus. Jackie grabbed her up in
her arms just as the bus hit her square in the back. The bus
stopped cold, the back end raising ten feet in the air from
the impact. It settled back to the street as Sam turned his
eyes back to where Jackie and Ruthy should have been. All he
saw was a blur snapping down Madison turning on Sixty-Third
and was gone. Impossible, he thought. He took Katy back to the
far corner, away from the bus. Looking back he saw the ruined
front end of the bus. It looked like it had wrapped itself around
an invisible telephone pole and there was a fire starting to
burn in the rear. Luckily all the passengers had gotten off;
he could hear sirens coming from the south and north.
"Bus went boom," Katy said.
"Where is Mommy and Baby?"
Katy always called Ruthy "Baby."
"I don't know, sweetie. Let's go
try and find them."
He began to cross on the opposite corner
where the bus rested, holding Katy close.
His cell phone began to ring in his pocket
as soon as he crossed. The caller ID showed it was Jackie.
"Where are you? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Sam. Just get over here
to the parking garage where we parked. I need you."
She needs me; that was rich.
"I'll be right there."
He ran down the same direction that he
saw the blur go, holding Katy as he ran. He arrived at the parking
garage and went up to second level where the SUV was parked.
He found Jackie up against the wall, holding Ruthy, who was
"Jesus, are you two okay?"
He grabbed and hugged them both while
still holding Katy.
"I'm fine, but I think Ruthy is
terrified. She won't stop crying. But she's okay; I can tell
by her medical implant."
"And good reason for crying. How
did you do that? I didn't even see you."
"Fast, Sam, remember? Uberfast. I couldn't hang around
and try to answer questions from the authorities. It would be
too hard to explain. Plus I can't be seen in public like this."
She turned and showed Sam her back. Her
jeans, shirt and jacket were completely shredded. And her shoes
had melted on the bottom from the friction.
He examined her back through the shredded
clothing and couldn't see a scratch.
"This is incredible."
"I know. But right now I need you
to go get me some clothing from a nearby store so that I can
change in the SUV. Please hurry, before the girls start asking
too many questions."
"On my way."
He traveled over to Bergdorf Goodman
and purchased some casual jeans, a shirt and jacket in her size.
Oh, and some shoes too. He arrived back at the SUV to find all
three girls inside.
"Anyone else see you?"
"I don't think so."
She began putting on the purchased clothing.
"Nice fit, thanks. Pretty good for
a man's shopping."
"No, Jackie. Thank you for being
there for myI mean ourdaughter."
"Sam, you would do the same for
them or me if you were able."
"Right," he laughed. "Let's
go get something to eat and put some normalcy back into the
"Great idea. How about the steak
house on the way home? The girls love to throw the peanut shells
on the floor."
News reports that evening talked about
a metro bus hitting something in Manhattan, but no one could
be sure what. One woman in the front of the bus thought she
had seen a woman in the street before she got tossed out of
her seat. But in the hospital later that night she said most
likely she was seeing things, since there was no one there after
the bus came to rest. Authorities reported they had found some
shredded clothing on the front of the bus, but had to surmise
that it had been there before the crash since there was no one
injured to connect it to. Luckily no one had been seriously
hurt. Also no one had seen a strange blur flying up the street
directly after the crash.
Life began to settle back down to normal
again. The girls continued to grow up tall and beautiful. Sam
was able to open his own brokerage house. His income naturally
went up. He was able to put back quite a bit for their eventual
retirement, the girl's college and their possible weddings.
* * *
It was Sam's sixtieth birthday and there
was a big party thrown by Jackie. Even though she had aged the
same as Sam, she was still beautiful. Hopefully she still found
him handsome. The girls were there with their husbands and Katy's
young boy, Sam Jr. Sam was always so proud introducing his grandson.
'He's named after me, you know.'
Sam had just about forgotten their special
situation. He had talked to Jackie the night before about retiring
soon, and she was very encouraging.
"What would you like to do after
"I don't know for sure. I know one
dream I've always had, the one I've mentioned before. About
traveling the world."
"Always a high goal, Sam."
"Yeah. But I'm not sure if we can
pull that off. Yes, we have quite a bit saved up. With the grand-children's
trust fund, and the two girl's inheritance, there would still
be enough to retire comfortably. As far as a lot of travel,
well, that might be out of our reach."
"Sam, I wouldn't worry about the
cost. I'm sure it will work out."
How could she say that? Had she stopped
worrying about money with his good income over the years? He
had run the numbers already, something he was good at. There
just wouldn't be enough to do all the things he was talking
His back was bothering him again and
he was sleeping fitfully. In his dream he was off in one corner
of a boxing ring, being faced off by two women. They looked
exactly the same, and they were both claiming to be his wife.
Both were asking him defiantly which one he loved. He couldn't
think of a good answer except for telling them he loved them
both. He awoke in a sweat, screaming.
"I love you both!"
"Sam, I know you do."
"What, who's that?"
"It's me, Sam."
Jackie was kneeling by the bedside, holding
his hand, stroking his hair.
"Jackie, you're so beautiful."
"Thank you, Sam. And you have always
been handsome. I'm happy to have called you my husband."
He was starting to wake up fully, comprehending
what she had said.
"What do you mean, 'called'?"
"Sam, it's time for me to leave.
The study is complete."
"What are you talking about?"
"The study, Sam. Remember thirty
years ago? It's over. It's time to bring your wife back."
"But you're my wife!"
He realized she looked thirty years old
"Yes, I have been and I've loved
every minute of it. But it's only fair to her to let her come
back. Don't worry, she will be the same as me, all the same
memories, but just not with my special abilities. Listen, we
want to leave you and your wife with something, a way of saying
thanks for your cooperation through all the years. We've credited
your bank account with five hundred million dollars so that
you and Jackie can do whatever you want during your retirement.
Don't worry; we've arranged it so that if anyone looks closely,
you will have won the state lottery about half a year ago. Also,
the best gift of all, perfect health."
She put a patch on his upper arm. It
slowly began to tingle; he could feel it spreading down his
arm and across his chest.
"We've given Jackie the same treatment.
It's a permanent, full body health booster. You both will look
about sixty years old on the outside, to avoid suspicion, but
will have the bodies of twenty-five year olds on the inside."
"I'm starting to feel dizzy."
"It's okay, just a side effect of
the booster. It will be done by morning."
He said woozily, "Why do you have
to leave? Can't you stay with me?"
"I'd love to, dear, but I can't."
He was starting to drift off, couldn't
keep his eyes open.
"Sam, I know I shouldn't feel this
strongly, but I do. I love you, Sam. I always have. You and
She was crying. Tears rolling down like
she was human.
"Don't ever forget me, Sam. I'll
love you forever."
She kissed him for almost half a minute,
her tears running down his cheeks.
"I love you too, Jackie. Forever."
He was drifting off to sleep.
He awoke the next morning, feeling better
than he had in thirty years. Jackie was beside him, still asleep.
He shook her awake.
"Jackie, wake up. You're still here."
She answered groggily, "Of course
I'm still here, you goofball. I never left."
He came to a sudden realization; his
wife was back. His Jackie was back. But he would so miss his