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Chapter 27

Tell me something, Sigfrid, I say, how nervous am I?

He is wearing his Sigmund Freud hologram this time, true Viennese stare, not a bit gemillich. But his voice is the gently sad baritone: if you are asking what my sensors say, Rob, you are quite agitated, yes.

I thought so, I say, bouncing around the mat.

Can you tell me why?

No! The whole week has been like that, marvelous sex with Doreen and S. Ya., and floods of tears in the shower; fantastic gambling and play at the bridge tournament, and total despair on the way home. I feel like a yo-yo. I feel like a yo-yo, I yell. You opened up something I cant handle.

I think you underestimate your capacity for handling pain, he says reassuringly.

Fuck you, Sigfrid! What do you know about human capacities?

He almost sighs. Are we back to that again, Rob?

We bloody well are! And funnily, I feel less nervous; I goad him into an argument again, and the peril is reduced.

It is true, Rob, that I am a machine. But I am a machine designed to understand what humans are like and, believe me, well designed for my function.

Designed! Sigfrid, I say reasonably, you arent human. You may know, but you dont feel. You have no idea what it feels like to have to make human decisions and carry the load of human emotion. You dont know what it feels like to have to tie a friend up to keep him from committing murder. To have someone you love die. To know its your fault. To be scared out of your mind.

I do know those things, Rob, he says gently. I really do. I want to explore why you are feeling so turbulent, so wont you please help me?


But your agitation, Rob, means that we are approaching the central pain

Get your bloody drill out of my nerve! But the analogy doesnt throw him for a second; his circuits are finely tuned today.

Im not your dentist, Rob, Im your analyst, and I tell you

Stop! I know what I have to do to get him away from where it hurts. I havent used S. Ya.s secret little formula since that first day, but now I want to use it again. I say the words, and convert him from a tiger to a pussycat; he rolls over and lets me stroke his tummy, as I command him to display the gaudier bits from some of his interviews with attractive and highly quirky female patients; and the rest of the hour is spent as a peepshow; and I have got out of his room one more time intact.

Or nearly.

MISSION REPORT | Gateway | Chapter 28