heard the doorbell, and put down the box that he'd carried into the living room. Hoshie opened the front door, letting in a blast of cold air. Welcome Hiroshi!, she said in greeting. Uma and the children are in the living room, and they're waiting for you!
Hiroshi Ochanomizu handed a long rectangular gift wrapped package to the woman in the flowing yellow dress. I brought you some holiday cheer, he said, closing the door behind him.
Hoshie carefully removed the bow from the top of the box, and then slid the ribbon off before peeling away the wrapping paper to reveal the raw cardboard box, which she opened and extracted the quart bottle of Sake.
I'll put this on ice for later, she said, bending over to give Hiroshi a peck on the cheek.
While Hoshie headed for the kitchen, Ochanomizu found his way towards the living room where Umataro was sitting on the floor untangling a long chain of lights. Attempting to help him, but only making matters worse were Urania and Tobio. The seven and five year old brother and sister looked up when they heard him come in, dropping what they were doing.
Hello Godfather!, Urania yelled as she got up and launched herself towards him with her arms outstretched. She grabbed the unprepared man around his waist in a tight bear hug. Tobio was a bit more restrained, he ran towards Hiroshi, but stopped short when he reached him to gently join his sister.
Well, I'm pleased to see the two of you as well!, Ochanomizu laughed, as he stooped down to return the greeting.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tenma had managed to untangle most of the light string, now that his offspring had stopped making extra work for him. He set the mess down, and walked towards the elder man. Glad you could make it, Old man!, Umataro said, extending his hand. The two men shook hands, with Uma patting Hiroshi on the back.
Quite frankly, Ochanomizu said, I came over because I didn't want your wife to be all by herself with the kids on Christmas eve. I see you're continuing the Tenma procrastination tradition by waiting for the last minute to trim the tree!
Very funny!, the doctor sneered. But you're right, I've been too busy keeping underlings like you in line at the Ministry to have a spare moment to buy this family a tree. However, there is no way that I would neglect my family over the holiday.
I know that, Ochanomizu said. I also know how often I had to barge into your office and try and kick you out to go home!
Guilty as charged, Uma said, I am the world's worst workaholic.
That he is, Hoshie laughed. Sometimes I have to threaten to divorce him to get him to stay at home on the weekends. She winked as she said that, with a laugh.
You know, Hiroshi sighed, Little Urania is really growing like a weed. It seems like only yesterday she was just a baby.
I know, Hoshie said. She does remind you of Ran, doesn't she.
That she does, Hiroshi said. Thank you for naming her for my dear sister.
Umataro and I both feel your tragic loss, Hoshie said. It was only natural to name her for Tobo's Godfather's sibling.
Hiroshi pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and used it to dry his eyes. It's been about six years since I lost her, he said. Thank you for having me as part of your family, it fills an empty spot in my heart.
this how they go?, Tobio asked, holding up the beginning of the string of lights to attach one of them to the tree.
Not quite, son, Dr. Tenma replied. You have to attach the end with the power plug on it first, the free end should be up on top.
Right, Dad!, Tobio laughed. That makes sense! He found the other end of the string and began to walk around the tree, clipping light after light to branches. After getting a few dozen of them attached, the boy looked around him. Where's the stepladder?, he asked. To reach the top of the tree?
Uma reached behind his back and held out a strange looking pair of red boots. Why don't you try these?, he asked.
Are those what I think they are?, Ochanomizu asked. Aren't they still in the experimental stage? I wouldn't let the boy use them!
Nonsense! Dr. Tenma laughed. What do you think I was doing late at night the past week? He motioned for his son to come closer. These are a pair of jet boots, he told the boy. They use a powerful stream of compressed air to lift you up in the air. The two boots each contain gyro sensors, and computers, and the two of them talk to each other to synchronize their thrust. They are controlled by your thoughts, I had these two tuned to the specific frequencies of your brain waves.
Tobio pulled his slippers off and then pushed his feet into the red boots. Now what do I do?
Why you fly up to the top of the tree and hover about while you string the lights!, Uma laughed.
He'll hurt himself, Hiroshi cried out.
He won't, Uma reassured his guest. He's a bright boy, and he'll master them at once.
Tobio held the light string in one hand and looked up. He activated the boots and rose up in the air. He shot up a bit too quickly, almost bumping his head on the ceiling, but quickly recovered. Seconds later, he appeared to have mastered the technique and hovered about the tree, attaching the rest of the light string. With the last lamp in place, Tobio came down. His landing wasn't all that soft though, and he fell in a heap at Ochanomizu's feet.
That was fun! he laughed. Could I fly in these?
Not yet, his father said. Hovering about is much easier than horizontal flight. I've got a lot more simulation and programming work to do before those boots would be suitable for that. However, they will soon be perfected for use by fireman to rescue people from the tops of tall burning buildings.
Hoshie helped her son get up from his fall. Honestly Umataro!, she said in an angry voice, One of these days our son will get himself badly hurt, or worse trying to use devices too far advanced for him. Sometimes I think you lack common sense!
He's alright, isn't he? Dr. Tenma shot back. I told you he'd master it right away. It's like learning to ride a bicycle, you will fall off at first, but you get back on and master it. He's no sissy.
that evening Dr. Tenma and Professor Ochanomizu sat in the living room in front of the fire. Umataro puffed on his pipe while Hiroshi sipped from a mug of warm eggnog that Hoshie had presented to him. The children lay on the carpeted floor quietly playing a game of Chinese checkers. Nora, the Tenmas' robotic nanny entered the room, and spoke to the children in her electronic voice, Tobio!, Urania! What are you two doing still up! It's past your bedtime! Come upstairs with me now!
Do we have to? Tobio and Urania cried in unison.
Dr. Tenma glanced as the face of the Grandfather's clock against the wall. I didn't notice how late it was getting to be, he said. I think Nora's right. Go to sleep, or you'll find no presents under the tree if Santa comes and catches you out of bed!
Awwh, Urania cried, as her brother grabbed the game board and started to pack up the marbles. She got off her feet and ran over to Ochanomizu to give him a good night hug.
Good night princess, Hiroshi said softly, accepting a kiss on the cheek from the 5 year old girl. He waved at her as she ascended up the staircase with Nora.
That robot takes good care of your children, Ochanomizu told Umataro. You're lucky they get along so well.
Nora's OK, Tobio said. I mean, she does look after us like a mother hen, and she tries to be our friend. I like her very much, but she's not a real person, she doesn't really love us back.
With that the boy put the game away in the closet and made his way towards the stairs. Good night, Godfather. he said as he made his way up to his room.
He's a smart boy, Umataro said. Did I tell you that he almost took a fit when I suggested that we replace Nora with a newer model? He knows she's only a robot, but yet he seems to have such a strong attachment to her.
That's the problem with robots, Hiroshi said. They perform almost any task we can program them to do very well, and we sometimes get really attached to them, yet they can't mimic true feelings. Robots are not capable of being true friends.
That will change. Umataro said, undoing the top button of his shirt and sticking his hand under it. He held a cylindrical metal object that was attached to a silver chain that he wore around his neck. I have stored in this memory module the formulas from the last theorem by the late Dr. Kutcher. The famous scientist bequeathed this data to me only a few days before he passed away.
I've read his theorem soon after he published it, Ochanomizu. That was his paper on the Kokoro algorithm, his last discovery in the field of A.I.
Correct, Dr. Tenma replied. I intend to use his theorem to develop a robot that will truly have a heart, a robot that can think like a human being does, process emotions like we do, a robot that can feel love, and return such love.
Even if Kutcher's theorem pans out, Hiroshi replied, Such a project would be quite difficult to actually implement in a robotic A.I., even for you.
I'm well aware of the difficulties, Umataro said with a wave of his hand. I intend to start small scale, perhaps with the A.I. of a small child, perhaps Tobios age or a little older.
Ochanomizu finished the last of his eggnog and set the mug down on the coffee table. He glanced up at the grandfather's clock before speaking again. Well it's getting late, I'd better be going. He looked into his friends eyes and continued. I know you all too well old friend. You tend to get so deeply involved in your projects that you forget all else. Go slowly with this Kokoro idea, it's not worth loosing your marriage and family for.
You do know me too well, Tenma laughed. Very well, I promise. I'll try to maintain a good balance of moderation. I know you'll be a thorn in my side if I don't.
Merry Christmas, then. Hiroshi smiled as he made his way to the door.
Merry Christmas to you as well, Umataro said.
Good night, Hiroshi!, Hoshie said, her head peeking out from the kitchen door.
Good night, Hoshie, the professor replied as he walked out into the night air.