I, Robot: To Protect Book 1, page 1
For Pat Rogers,
Chief Warrant Officer 3, U.S. Marine Corps (retired),
Sergeant NYPD (retired), a real hero
Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.
— Isaac Asimov
The Three Laws of Robotics
About the Author
THE THREE LAWS OF ROBOTICS
* * *
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
* * *
July 2, 2035
Protestors mobbed the grassy swatches outside Manhattan Hasbro Hospital, their signs throwing checkered shadows in constant motion across the sidewalks. Among the hospital workers and mostly bewildered new interns, Susan Calvin headed grimly toward the entrance, already beginning to question her residency decision. Having graduated medical school at the top of her class, with impeccable references, she could have matched at any hospital, including the quieter and smaller private facilities upstate. Instead, she had returned to the bustling metropolis of her youth, to a massive facility at the cutting edge of technology and, also, the one closest to the father she missed and loved.
In the middle of the screaming and chanting demonstrators, someone lost his balance. The sudden jolting movement spread, wavelike, through the crowd, sending a young man staggering over the invisible perimeter onto the sidewalk and directly into Susan’s path. For an instant, he stood, looking stunned and uncertain, clutching a sign reading DESIGNER BABIES ARE A SIN.
Instinctively, Susan caught his shoulder, steadying him. “Are you all right?”
For an instant, his dark eyes caught her pale blue ones, and he seized the moment. “You’re not planning to work here, are you?”
As he seemed to have regained his balance, Susan removed her hand, tossing back straight brown hair without a single wave. Though she had never worn makeup, and her familial slenderness robbed her of significant curves, she still displayed the natural beauty that often accompanied youth. “As a matter of fact, I am.”
“Do you know,” he said as he drifted from the sidewalk, “that Manhattan Hasbro fashions babies? That they create infants outside the womb and —”
Susan expected the protestor to couch his argument in eugenics, in the murkier science of choosing intelligence, gender, and height; but she suspected his actual concern lay with the classic religious arguments against artificial reproduction. She cut him short. “You mean … they help infertile couples conceive?”
Apparently, Susan had struck the proper nerve. The man’s lips compressed into a grim line. “If God wanted them to have children, he would have blessed them with a pregnancy.”
“Like the crack whore down the street who delivered her sixth baby into the toilet? Or the drunkard under the Verrazano who sold her infant daughter for a fifth of gin?”
Apparently unmoved, the protestor shrugged. “God works in mysterious ways.”
“Yes,” Susan agreed, shoving past him. “Like blessing us with the technology to ‘fashion’ babies.” She rejoined the crowd funneling into the foyer.
Blocky, padded chairs in links of five filled most of the open area, with small wooden tables at the end of each grouping. Glass cases hung on the walls. Paintings done by children on the pediatrics ward filled one, while another held craft items with tasteful price tags attached. A third displayed a history of Hasbro toys: from ancient clunky-looking Mr. Potato Heads and antique G. I. Joes, through the years of garish My Little Ponies and Transformers, then a slew of fly-by-night television-and movie-based creatures to the sleek, familiar characters and realistic, interactive animatronics of the day.
People slumped in some of the chairs, many sleeping, seemingly oblivious to the foot traffic peeling off in several directions around them. Susan Calvin followed an arrowed placard that read WELCOME, NEW RESIDENTS, winding her way through the chairs and passing the general patient updating area, an information desk, three cafeterias, five restrooms, and an in-house pharmacy before following another sign that took her down a long hallway filled with physicians’ offices, an ethicist’s station, and a legal wing.
An additional sign turned Calvin ninety degrees to an auditorium with the doors thrown wide. Tables in front of it held row after row of plastic name tags, interspersed with papers that presumably organized them in some logical fashion. A mass of mostly twentysomethings paused here, all in standard outfits of dress polos and pleated pants, the majority wearing tasteful khaki. Susan knew her blouse and canvas blues fit right in with the attire of the other interns. Murmurs suffused the group, occasionally split by a laugh or cough. As individuals grabbed their pins and headed into the auditorium, Susan gradually moved nearer to the tables.
Susan deliberately gravitated toward the leftmost table, assuming the name tags had been set up alphabetically. But, as she reached the tables, she found the papers divided them by specialty, and she had to edge toward the other end. Spotting PSYCHIATRY, she reached toward it, only to bump hands with a man already clutching his pin. She raised her head to apologize and met a pair of green eyes beneath prominent brows, and a generous straight nose, fine lips, and chiseled cheekbones. A mop of dark blond curls swept from his forehead. Finding him unexpectedly attractive, Susan could not help smiling shyly before speaking. “Sorry about that.”
The young man smiled back and acknowledged her with a nod. “No apology necessary. I’ll take any excuse to hold hands with a pretty woman.”
Susan’s grin broadened, and she could feel warmth crawling across her cheeks. “How sweet.”
“Remington Hawthorn.” He pinned his name tag onto his dress polo; it contained his name and his residency program: NEUROSURGERY. “Harvard Medical, class of ’35. Kristy Honor Society. Nominated AOA.”
Susan recognized the distinctions. Only the top ten percent of any medical school class got nominated for AOA, and only a third of those received the honor. Currently, Harvard was the second-ranked medical school in the country. She reached for her own tag, pinning it to her shirt. “Susan Calvin, Psychiatry.”
Remington’s grin wilted. Mumbling an excuse, he turned to leave.
Susan followed him only until they had moved out of the way of the interns behind them. He had switched off the charm in an instant, and Susan believed she knew why. Many surgeons saw the strictly medical fields, particularly the primary care specialties, as beneath them. Susan pursed her lips, irritation flaring, and caught his shoulder.
Remington turned to face her, his features bunching curiously.
“You didn’t let me finish my introduction,” Susan e
Remington’s brows inched upward. “Really?”
“Really.” Susan studied him, waiting for the apology she deserved.
Other residents passed them, pouring into the auditorium.
“Forgive my directness.” Remington seemed incapable of taking his eyes off Susan’s name tag. At least, Susan hoped that was where his attention lay. Otherwise, he had fixed his gaze directly and fanatically on her left breast. “But why?”
“Why waste such incredible credentials on a specialty so … so …” Remington seemed incapable of finding an inoffensive term. “Well, unscientific?”
Susan spoke volumes with one crooked eyebrow. “Because I’m excellent at reading people, without the need to slice them open first. For example, I can tell you’re an arrogant jerk who judges people on shallow criteria, then wonders why you get stuck with nothing but vapid bimbos.” With that, she turned on her heel and headed into the auditorium.
A hand touched Susan’s elbow, gently guiding her. She looked to her right, expecting Remington but finding a stranger. He had straight ginger hair, with a splash of freckles across his cheeks. His large-lipped mouth split into a grin, and his dark eyes appeared to be laughing. His name tag identified him as Kendall Stevens, also a psychiatry resident. “Calvin, you missed your calling.”
Bewildered, she turned her attention to him.
“You should have been a urologist.” His smile widened further, contagious. “Orchiectomies a specialty. I’ve never seen anyone castrate a man so quickly.”
Susan’s irritation receded in an instant as they slid past seated residents into a center row. “No one does surgical orchiectomies anymore. Not even for chronic prostatic cancer.” She considered one remaining instance. “Not even for sexual predators. Drugs only.”
Kendall passed an empty seat, taking the one beside it. “Tell me, Calvin, where do you get that tongue sharpened?”
Susan felt a hint of remorse. Her tendency to speak her mind had hindered her social life at times. That and her focus on her studies had severely limited dating. “Was I that hard on him?”
“A witch,” Kendall confirmed. “With a capital B.” He gestured to the empty seat, and Susan accepted it. As she sat, he planted both elbows on the armrest between them. “I’m just kidding. He deserved everything he got; most surgeons do.”
Susan rolled her eyes. “Now who’s stereotyping?”
“Me.” Kendall turned to face the stage. “But it’s based on truth. Surgeons act as if they have a lock on intelligence and competence. The rest of us are peons who exist only to perform their day-to-day scut work; obviously, if we had any talent, we’d be surgeons, too.”
Until she started medical school, Susan had had no experience with physicians of any type. Her mother had died when Susan was in preschool, and she knew little about her father’s job at U. S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc. When she asked questions, he always answered vaguely. “What isn’t restricted is dull. And actually, come to think of it, the confidential stuff is boring, too.” Then he would change the subject to her studies, her friends, her hopes and dreams. “All surgeons can’t be like that.”
Kendall shrugged. “All the ones I’ve met. And my dad’s a hospital administrator, so I’ve met a bunch.”
That caught Susan’s attention. “Administrator? Here?”
“Here? Hell, no.” Kendall feigned a dramatic shiver. “What a horrible thought.”
Susan did not understand. She adored her father and would love working under him. Before she could reply, however, a slender middle-aged man took the podium at the front of the auditorium.
“Greetings, new residents.” The nearly invisible microphone clipped to the pocket of his dress polo carried his voice evenly through the room.
A vague murmur rose from the audience, and the splendid acoustics carried that as well.
“My name is Brentwood Locke, and it’s my job to begin your orientation to Manhattan Hasbro Hospital by explaining the three holy commandments.”
Susan settled into her chair for a series of long-winded speeches. She glanced at the Vox on her left wrist. Currently, it displayed only the time: 8:03 a. m. With a few deft adjustments, she tuned it in on Brentwood Locke, bringing him into vivid focus on the screen. Looking around, she saw other residents doing the same thing. She double-checked to make sure the transmitter was turned off.
“The first thing you need to know is Manhattan Hasbro prides itself on being one of the most progressive hospitals in the country. We pioneered human manipulation of animal-and plant-based stem cells, created the passive ventilator, and have the largest in-vitro fetal diagnostic center in the world.”
A spattering of polite applause followed the pronouncement.
“Which makes us a leading recipient of government and private research grants, but also the target of every kook with an agenda in the known world. As I’m sure you all noticed on your way in this morning, we always have a plethora of protestors.”
Kendall leaned toward Susan. “A plethora of protestors,” he repeated. “Is that like a gaggle of geese? A herd of horses? A pod of porpoises?”
Brentwood Locke continued. “Commandment number one: no engaging with protestors under any circumstances. Some of those people are rabid believers with agendas that might include violence. We don’t want any of you harmed or killed, and we don’t invite unnecessary controversy.”
Susan sucked air through her teeth.
Kendall jerked his head toward her, then chuckled. “You castrated one of them, too, didn’t you?”
“Shut up.” Susan doubted anyone would fault her for a short conversation with a protestor before she learned the rules, but she did not need Kendall’s blabbering her mistake all over the auditorium.
Locke was still speaking. “Commandment number two: We obey strict rules of confidentiality. It’s fine to talk about patients with anyone who is involved in their care, including attendings in your specialty, consultants, other residents on your team, parents, guardians, spouses, designated spouse alternatives, and adult children of the patient. However, these conversations must not take place in areas where other people can overhear you, including occupied elevators.” Locke said the last with enough emphasis to make it clear problems had already occurred in that last venue.
“If you speak about patients with your family and friends, you cannot say anything that could identify the patient. No last names, no clear descriptions, no occupational designations that might make it possible for anyone to guess the patient’s identity. And, if someone such as … Lolinda Cosada,” he said, naming a prominent movie star, “gets admitted for any reason, no specifics or details leave her room, even if they seem unimportant and unrelated to her treatment. Violation of confidentiality policy is grounds for dismissal and possibly legal action. Do you all understand?”
Mumbles swept through the audience again, along with a few clear affirmations.
“And, last but not least, stone tablet commandment number three is if you wind up involved with any medical studies, you do so with the explicit understanding that the lead researchers’ word is law and no information leaves the hospital grounds. After years of arduous research and expensive grants, no scientist wants his results leaked, or his ideas stolen, before publication. If you violate number three, you will likely disappear off the face of the planet. And rightly so.”
The directness of the speaker caught Susan by surprise, though she appreciated it.
Locke wound down his speech. “Now, if any of you here have any doubts about your ability to perform the necessary duties of a resident in such a facility, please step outside the auditorium now. We will find you another placement, no questions asked.” He looked around the auditorium. “Anyone? Don’t be shy. If you matc
The rumble of conversation took over the silence, and every head moved about, seeking someone who did not belong. No one accepted Locke’s offer. Susan supposed anyone who interviewed at Manhattan Hasbro already knew its reputation. She had chosen it more for location than anything else, but the cutting-edge research and facilities had seemed like a bonus.
“Thank you.” Brentwood Locke stepped down from the podium.
A crisp young man, barely out of his twenties, took Locke’s place. After a brief introduction, he proceeded to bore the residents with a thirty-minute presentation of the history of Manhattan Hasbro, from its inception as Manhattan Public through its long years of service and reconstruction, to the years when the current Hassenfeld CEO donated the money and had it renamed in honor of his company. Susan found her mind drifting, especially when her Vox display blinked to indicate a text message from her father.
Though she would have liked nothing better than to converse with John Calvin, Susan knew the moment she lost the thread of the history lesson, the speaker would say something she absolutely needed to know. Instead, she touched the Kwik-key sequence that indicated she was busy and would get back to him as soon as possible. Her father flashed a “^-luck,” then an “ILuvU,” and disappeared from the screen.
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