When Rock and I were five months old, Dr. Light told us we were going to play a game.
A woman was coming to visit us, he said. While she was here, we must pretend to have no feelings. Fool her, and we'd win.
Then he taught us how to do it: to walk with stiff and deliberate steps, to stare ahead with a vacant half-smile, to speak in only the politest register of speech, and to do whatever we were asked without question.
According to the rules of the game, Rock and I were supposed to be a team. But privately, I became consumed with the idea not only of winning the game, but of being the best. Here it was, I thought: my chance to prove myself against Rock. How proud Dr. Light would be of me!
So each day for hours I practiced with single-minded determination, long after Rock had given up out of sheer boredom. I banished every feeling from my mind as soon as it tried to manifest. Slowly, my face in the mirror became a blank: the outer visage of a rosy-cheeked little girl, only a shell, a china doll; nothing underneath.
The day came and the woman arrived. Dr. Light ushered her in toward the armchair opposite the sofa where Rock and I were waiting so very still with our hands in our lap, just like we'd rehearsed.
"Oh," the woman said. "Oh." She looked at me, then at Rock, then at Dr. Light. Her eyes widened. Emotional Analysis indicated Surprise, Incredulity. "This is them?"
"Yes, of course," Dr. Light said. The corners of his mouth turned up just a little, and he clasped his hands together. E.A. indicated Restrained Self-Satisfaction.
Dr. Light introduced the woman to us as Ms. Maika Sasaki, a reporter from the Yomiuri Shimbun.
"I'm Rock," my brother said. "How do you do?"
"I'm Roll," I said. "How do you do?" And together we gave her a polite, scripted little bow.
Ms. Sasaki sat blinking at Rock, then at me, and at last turned toward Dr. Light, looking lost.
"Go ahead and say hello," said Dr. Light, and gave Ms. Sasaki a friendly poke in the arm. "They won't bite."
"Right. Um... hello," she cleared her throat. "How do you do?"
In her appearance and mannerisms Ms. Sasaki was completely different from Dr. Light: slimmer, softer, longer-haired and smoother-skinned. It perplexed me that her fingernails and lips were a matching shade of magenta, just like the azaleas in the garden, and that she emitted a strong scent that reminded me of flowers.
Dr. Light had a smell of his own, utterly different from hers, pleasant only for its fond familiarity.
Ah, yes. Whiskey and earwax.
Their stark differences stunned me. And why surprised, why incredulous, on the face of this first-ever human from the Outside? What was so surprising about Rock and me? If I hadn't supposed this was just part of the game, I would have asked. Instead, I stared with half-lidded eyes at the lower part of the woman's face, as Dr. Light had said was appropriate, and tried very hard to be content with my ignorance. I wondered what Rock beside me was thinking, but I didn't dare to look at him directly.
I wanted to win.
"Thank you again for coming today, Ms. Sasaki," Dr. Light said, his voice warm and eager. "I hope this interview is going to clear up some… misconceptions about my work."
"And thank you for having me," said Ms. Sasaki. "I consider it a rare honor…"
"Now, before we begin in earnest… about our agreement…"
"Of… of course. I'll do as you asked."
Rock and I didn't know about the terms of their "agreement." We had only the vague impression that our visitor, as another player in our game, had rules of her own to follow.
Ms. Sasaki withdrew a netscreen from her bag and took a deep breath. "Well, let's get started, shall we? Dr. Light, as a little girl I used to watch your science programs every day. It was a big shock for me, as it was for a lot of people, when earlier this year you came back into the public eye. The creation of Light Labs, Inc., and your recent announcement that you're planning to reveal some breakthrough A.I. technology at the expo in Tsukuba next month... well, it's all quite sudden, and very exciting, to say the least..."
"Yes, it is," Dr. Light said.
"...And the question on everyone's mind is: what exactly were you doing during those twenty years when you dropped out public life? What do you say in response to the rumors that you were involved, during that time, in a secret project to create the world's first self-aware A.I.?"
"The rumors are true, but the project was a failure. That's all I have to say."
"Are these two, by chance-" She pointed at Rock and me- "in any way related to that project?"
"Oh, come on, now, Ms. Sasaki." Dr. Light chuckled. "Why would I wish to repeat a failure? I spent my entire youth on a quest to create synthetic intelligent life. At the end of two long decades of blood, sweat, and tears, all I had to show for it was the realization that it was nothing but a fool's errand. I want the public to know that, from here on out, I'm only interested in A.I. systems which serve a pragmatic purpose."
A flurry of typing on Ms. Sasaki's netscreen. Then, more talking which I registered only as a muffled blur drowned out by my own thoughts.
E.A. would have indicated Evasion in Dr. Light's answers, and Persistent Prodding in the questions from Ms. Sasaki which followed, but I wasn't paying attention. I was too busy pondering the mystery of what made Ms. Sasaki Ms. Sasaki.
The rain was coming down in sheets outside, forming little lakes in the garden. Dr. Light's hydrangeas, mere seedlings the month Rock and I were activated, were now big balls of blue and purple stretching toward the sky. That was one change in our world; the abrupt invasion of Ms. Sasaki was another. What was going to change next? The scenery of our lives was changing. It surprised me now that I noticed it, but in the next moment I chided myself for being surprised. I should have known the hydrangeas would grow; I should have known Outsiders would one day come.
And what was Outside like, anyway? Before today, the concept of Outside had been grey and formless in my mind. But here, in Ms. Sasaki, was a fragment of Outside in the flesh, tangible and hued. I remembered that Ms. Sasaki was only one human in nine billion. My mind reeled. I felt my hands clenching each other in my lap and I forcibly relaxed them.
"...May I?" Ms. Sasaki drew in close, so suddenly that I almost jumped in fright, then with tentative fingers took a lock of my long hair and stroked it in hushed fascination. "Dr. Light," she said. "This hair... is it organic?"
"No," Dr. Light said. "It's made of an ultra-durable monofilament fiber."
Pay attention, Roll, I told myself. Look at that. You nearly lost.
This game was going to be more difficult than I'd imagined.
How much of Dr. Light's and Ms. Sasaki's conversation had I missed? Aural memory, replay. Ah. Dr. Light had told Ms. Sasaki about the grant which had financed our creation. Then Dr. Light had told Ms. Sasaki the lies we had rehearsed regarding our purpose. Domestic helper prototypes, built to care for sick and elderly owners, scrub the toilets, hang the laundry, do the cooking. What a funny idea. Of course it wasn't true; we were built for no other purpose than to be Dr. Light's beloved children, beloved, in fact, more than anything in the world. Dr. Light's delivery was dry. Great. We were going to fool that Ms. Sasaki for sure.
Then Ms. Sasaki had asked Dr. Light if she could touch me.
The woman leaned in closer and ran her fingers over my scalp, with fondness in her eyes, like a little girl grooming a new doll. She had no idea how much I wanted to touch her in return—and that she was as much an enigma to me as I was to her.
Was everyone on the Outside as pleasant as this, I wondered? Did they all color their nails? Did they all smell like flowers? All nine billion of them? It was a logical fallacy of the sort I was prone to making back then: a naive bit of generalization from the particular.
...Then again, what were you thinking about when you were five months old? How best to maneuver your big toe into your mouth, for example?
Ms. Sasaki's eyes in my peripheral vision were intent, penetrating. She was looking directly at me. It was almost as if she was searching for something...
"The public's going to want to know…" she said to Dr. Light, dreamily, her gentle fingers resting just behind my ear. "Why was it necessary to make them look so... cute?"
"I suppose I outdid myself with these two," Dr. Light said. Restrained Self-Satisfaction again. "But their childlike appearance, and also the cute appearance of Numbers Three through Eight, serves an important purpose. Many people are afraid of the recent advances in A.I. technology, especially something as powerful as these. The public is going to be a lot more accepting if they don't look threatening."
Ms. Sasaki's eyes narrowed a little. Suspicion. "And, Dr. Light… is there anything to be afraid of?"
"Absolutely not," said Dr. Light, and smiled broadly. E.A. indicated One Hundred Percent Complete Sincerity. Talk about failsafes, firewalls, and the Three Laws of Robotics followed. He wasn't exactly lying-only omitting the fact that the Three Laws applied only to Numbers Three through Eight. As far as "safety" was concerned, Dr. Light had once told us, where Rock and I lacked the Three Laws we more than made up for in Reason and The Ability to Love. Theoretically, at least.
Ms. Sasaki typed furiously, her face a silent blank. I stole another glance at her eyes. E.A. on her came up empty-handed this time. How annoying.
"Why do you smell so good?" I wanted to ask Ms. Sasaki, but embedded in the question was an opinion, and opinions of all sorts were strictly barred from the game. I thought of asking "why do you smell like flowers?" instead, but speaking without first being spoken to was forbidden as well. So I held my tongue. I felt rather proud of myself then for saying nothing at all, at being so good at hiding all trace of my curiosity. I was sure I was going to win the game. I imagined Dr. Light taking me up in his arms and saying, "oh, my dear girl, you did so well, so well..." just as he'd done when I'd learned to walk or say my first words.
The woman turned to Rock—and now she was bolder. Without even asking his permission first, she took his upturned hand in her own, pried his fingers apart, and traced her thumb along the lifelike grid of grooves and wrinkles, all the while emitting an "ooh" here and an "ahh" there.
I watched spellbound in my peripheral vision. Rock's eyes fixed on Ms. Sasaki's mouth were wide and gazing. Somehow, despite sitting perfectly still, he seemed to infuse the air around him with nervous energy. He was like a wound-up coil. E.A. indicated Excitement, Restlessness, and Deep Suffering.
Well, that's what you get for slacking off during practice, you lazy dunce!
When Ms. Sasaki's fingers moved upward toward Rock's wrist her touch must have lightened to a tickle, because Rock screwed up his face as if stifling a laugh. If only she would look up, she'd notice… It took all my willpower not to gasp...
In the corner of my eye Dr. Light's countenance dropped and went pale. E.A. indicated Oh Crap. Rock was unwittingly on the verge of breaking the rule—and I realized for the first time that, in all our weeks of preparation for "the game," Dr. Light had never once told us what would happen if either of us lost.
But my heart leapt. Surely Dr. Light had noticed how well I'd done so far compared to Rock? Wasn't I doing wonderfully? Wasn't I…?
"Ms. Sasaki!" Dr. Light raised his hands instinctively, defensively—and then, as if realizing his hands required an alibi for being raised, he reached out and gave the woman a fatherly pat on the elbow. "Wouldn't you like to see a demonstration? I didn't design them just to sit there, you know. They can clean, cook..."
Ms. Sasaki set Rock's hand back down in his lap. He didn't dare to move, but I sensed his relief. "Well, of course," she said, and picked up her netscreen.
Dr. Light forced an accommodating smile. "Great. Give each of them a job, then."
"Hmm…" Ms. Sasaki glanced all around her, and her eyes settled on the door to the kitchen. Then her eyes met mine. "Um... Roll, was it? Roll, I'd like you to make some miso soup."
"Yes, Ms. Sasaki," I said, and nodded.
"And Rock? I'd like you to vacuum the floor."
"Yes, Ms. Sasaki," said Rock, and nodded, still wearing the same pained wide-eyed look. He seemed newly conscious of the fact that, once he'd chosen that expression, he'd have to hold it for the entirety of Ms. Sasaki's visit. E.A. indicated Overwhelming Regret.
Good. Served him right.
I stood and went stiffly into the kitchen looking as calm as I could, set up the adjustable stool fitted especially for my use, tied my apron, and took the necessary ingredients from their usual places. Making miso soup was an easy task, and I willed myself to think only of the steps ahead. Heat a pot of water, prepare the dashi, chop the scallions... Surely one didn't need feelings to do this. I would model my movements on Numbers Three through Eight, currently in hibernation in the lab downstairs. Slow, steady, reliable. Emotionless. Perfect.
I'm here only to serve you, Woman From Outside. The mantra I'd settled on during my weeks of practice played on a continuous loop in my mind. I have no will of my own, no feelings of my...
I saw the distant figure of Dr. Light, a white blur, standing in the doorway at the other end of the room. Was he watching me? Wasn't he terribly impressed? Wasn't I doing much better than Rock?
I began to dissolve a lump of miso paste in a wooden bowl, and soon Ms. Sasaki's face leapt into my peripheral vision. She came very close then, too close, and her eyes stared down at my hands while I whisked away at the lump with my chopsticks.
No feelings of my own...
"Do you do this often?" she said.
"I've done it nine times," I answered, having been warned beforehand by Dr. Light to steer clear of subjective words like often.
Then, horror of horrors, Ms. Sasaki leaned her torso over the countertop and looked me directly in the eye. "Do you like doing this?"
My hand gripped the whisk more tightly. What on earth was Ms. Sasaki saying? Why that question? Why that look?
I wanted desperately to look away, but I held her gaze. Half-lidded. Serene smile. No feelings of my own. Come on, Roll, you can do this.
"I don't have preferences, Ms. Sasaki," I said, expertly monotone. "But I'm happy if you're happy."
"I see," she said, and gave me a tight-lipped smile. E. A. indicated Not Quite Buying it.
Oh no, oh no. What had I done wrong? I'd played the game perfectly so far. It was Rock's fault, wasn't it? She'd noticed that he'd almost laughed, hadn't she? It was only natural that she'd suspect both of us of having feelings if one of us played poorly. If I lost the game because of Rock's slip-up, I'd make sure he never heard the end of it.
You dum-dum, if you'd only practiced properly...
Ms. Sasaki buried her nose into her netscreen and began typing away. Behind her, Rock's messy mop of black hair popped into view-somehow, the fifteen minutes Dr. Light had spent earlier that morning slicking it down had already come to naught-and he peered wide-eyed into the kitchen, vacuum cleaner in tow, with the quiet cunning of a mouse on the lookout for cats. When he saw that Ms. Sasaki's back was turned in his direction, he flashed me a brazen grin.
Stop it, I thought. I want to win, and if you smile at me like that I'll end up smiling back and I won't win. I forced my eyes downward at the paste dissolving in the bowl, and tried to clear my mind of everything but finding and smoothing out the remaining lumps.
A wave of relief swept over me when the vacuum began to whir. As long as the white noise of the motor filled the room, punctuated by the scraping and sliding of the vacuum head over the hardwood floor, perhaps Ms. Sasaki wouldn't try to speak with me again. Rock at last appeared intent on his work, his mouth frozen in a stupid half-smile, his movements theatrically slow and mechanical. Ms. Sasaki had turned away from me to watch him. I relaxed a little, and I blithely slid the miso paste into the pot and began to stir. By the time Ms. Sasaki turned again toward me, I'd regained most of my lost confidence. Perhaps that strange knowing look I thought she'd given me had been nothing more than a misunderstanding on my part. Perhaps my Emotional Analyzer hadn't yet finished calibrating itself to the full range of human facial expressions. In short, surely there was no way Ms. Sasaki could have suspected...
...Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my brother rocking back and forth from his heels to his toes as he sometimes did when he was in high spirits.
What do you think you're doing?
Dr. Light must have noticed it too, because from the tiny image of his white blur in the far corner of the kitchen came a couple of pointed coughs in Rock's direction. Rock glanced backward, shrank into himself for just a moment as if knowing he'd done something forbidden, and at last placed his feet flat on the floor. He'd barely managed to return to his blank, dumb smile and monotonous movements before Ms. Sasaki turned toward him again.
Another near miss. Wow, Rock was terrible at this game. Dr. Light hadn't needed to come to my rescue even once.
Over the next few minutes, my confusion turned to shock, and then abject disbelief, as Rock continued to let down his guard every time Ms. Sasaki looked away. He flashed another grin at me. He stuck out his tongue at her. He twirled the vacuum around himself as if it were a dance partner. Dr. Light erupted in a paroxysm of coughing.
"Are you okay?" Ms. Sasaki asked him.
"Fine, fine!" Dr. Light answered. "Seasonal allergies."
Why was Rock doing this? It didn't make sense to me. It seemed almost as if he was trying to lose. Up until now I had thought I'd known my brother. Dr. Light had even told us our programming was a slight variation of the same source code. Now, suddenly, he was a mystery to me. Intolerable. E.A. on him indicated Diddly Squat.
Forcing my eyes downward, I chopped the scallions, I cut the tofu into little cubes-but my mind was scattered. My confusion over Rock's behavior, the rude reality that I was not as prepared for the game as I'd thought I was, the apprehension that Ms. Sasaki would realize I had feelings, and the fear of disappointing Dr. Light were all bearing down on me. If the game didn't come to an end soon, I was certain I was going to scream...
And then, a percussive bang, a crash, and a howl soared out above the whir of the vacuum, and Ms. Sasaki and I both turned our heads just in time to see Rock rubbing at his knee with one hand as he clasped the other over his open mouth. The fruit bowl lay overturned on the floor. Oranges rolled in all directions.
Ms. Sasaki approached Rock slowly, uncertainly, crouched, with her head cocked to one side, mouth hanging open. "You…" she said. "You're..."
Rock picked up the vacuum cleaner, and tried pathetically for a moment to resume some pretense of moving it back and forth, but the lingering wince on his face was all too obvious.
"Dr. Light, what does this mean?" Ms. Sasaki said. "This one's acting as if... as if it's been hurt."
"That's impossible, Ms. Sasaki," said Dr. Light. E.A. indicated Thinly Veiled Panic. "None of the Light Numbers can feel pain."
"But I saw…"
"I'm certain you didn't see what you think you saw, Ms. Sasaki."
"I beg your pardon, Doctor."
"Just what are you implying, ma'am?"
"That 'Rock' here is…" E.A. indicated Flabbergasted. "...Is… well, I don't know exactly… But there's something awfully strange about him! It's almost like he… it... has feelings."
The moment I'd anticipated had come. Rock had lost. Looking deflated, he put down the vacuum; there was no point in pretending anymore. Staring up at Ms. Sasaki and Dr. Light on either side of him, twisting his hands awkwardly, he had the look of an animal caught in a snare.
Shame crept up in me. I didn't care about the game anymore. Winning, being the best… what good was any of it if it meant Rock had to suffer a defeat like this? So what if he hadn't practiced enough? So what if he hadn't taken the game as seriously as I had? Hadn't he been the first person I saw, grinning down at me, when I awoke on my table downstairs, five months ago? Hadn't he held my hand as I took my first barefooted steps across the concrete floor? Hadn't his excitement been contagious as he guided me through the house, saying "and here's the study, and here's the kitchen, and here's your bedroom!" Hadn't I learned to speak by imitating his "ka, ki, ku, ke, ko, sa, shi, su, se, so…"? What a patient and eager teacher he'd been, despite being only two weeks my senior. How happy he'd been that I was alive-beaming uncontrollably with that same open-hearted emotion which had just cost him the game.
If Rock was going to lose, I wasn't going to let him lose alone.
I glanced down at the pot which, neglected, had now excited itself to a rolling boil, and I knew what to do. One particular display of emotion I'd seen from Dr. Light weeks earlier had left an impression on me, and although he had made me promise never to imitate it, it now seemed to be just what the situation required.
"Oh, shit! Damn thing's ruined now!" I raised my clenched fists in the air in an affected fury. For good measure I gave the stool a nice hard kick. It lifted from the floor, ricocheted against the cabinet, flopped across the room, and came to rest legs-up at Ms. Sasaki's feet.
Dr. Light glared at me with a wild look I'd never seen before and have never seen since, a fraught amalgamation of terror and rising anger. E.A. indicated Now You've Done It.
But it was no use. Startled though I was, I knew nothing then about fear. This was just a game, wasn't it?... like bridge, or chess, any of the other games I'd played in my short life up until that day in which losing had no consequence? Rock and I were meant to be a pair, after all; Dr. Light had told us so from the start. We were supposed to do things together, to help each other—so what did it matter if we lost the game, as long as we lost as a team?
"Look how angry I am!" I roared. And then I tilted my head back and screamed.
It was magnificent.
My brother's eyes met mine, and in an instant he let his face and body relax—and he was his normal self again, suddenly beaming up at Ms. Sasaki with the ebullience he'd struggled to hide all morning.
"Hey, Ms. Sasaki," he said, in his usual sing-song voice, "Why do you smell so good, anyway?"
I laughed. "Hey, I've been wanting to ask that too!"
And just like that, the game was over.
Rock, having forgotten all about the pain in his knee, locked his hands with mine and began to laugh with me. Even the stark white of Dr. Light's horrified face, and Ms. Sasaki's stare, weren't enough to dam the cascade of eager questions that came pouring out of us then.
"Ms. Sasaki, what's it like on the Outside?"
"Ms. Sasaki, why are you thinner than Dr. Light?"
"Ms. Sasaki, may I touch your hair too?"
"Ms. Sasaki, wanna see me do a handstand?"
"Dr. Light, what… are they doing?" Ms. Sasaki took a halting step backwards, patting our unruly hands away. Not only had Rock and I slipped into the casual register, we'd raised our voices to a yell to be heard over the blaring of the forsaken vacuum. And soon Rock was upside down with his hands planted on the kitchen floor, legs kicking in the air, shouting, "Ms. Sasaki, look what I can do! Look!"
Dr. Light let out a nervous chuckle. His eyes darted toward Ms. Sasaki, then toward the vacuum, as if wondering which disaster he should quell first. And then with a hiss the broth boiled over onto the kitchen counter and flames leapt up all around—and with an exasperated groan Dr. Light ran toward the stove. And then, just as his back was turned, with premeditated speed and cunning Ms. Sasaki silently flung open her suit jacket, produced a little black rectangle-shaped box, and pointed the object at Rock and me. We heard a click, and were blinded by a flash of white.
When our vision returned we saw the reflection of our peering faces pressed together in its circular glass eye, and the pulse of the tiny red light blinking in its upper right corner—and the device, whatever it was, fascinated me just like the electric drill, the antique ham radio, or the farm tractor motor, or any of the other bi- or tri-weekly gadgets Dr. Light was so fond of presenting to me, which I'd then spend the rest of the day happily dismantling and reassembling.
Greedily, I grabbed for the box. Ms. Sasaki let out a shriek and yanked it away.
"I just want to see it," I said, feeling a little hurt. "Won't you let me?..." I put my hands up pleadingly, and Ms. Sasaki, without thinking, held the box high above her head out of my reach-and in the next instant Dr. Light had snatched it up with a look of triumph in his eyes. E.A. indicated Ah Ha, followed shortly by Righteous Anger.
"You promised me no cameras, Ms. Sasaki," he said. "This is the end. Get your bag and get out."
Ms. Sasaki's mouth dropped open. "Dr. Light, I… I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what I've just witnessed here today."
"No. This is my house," said Dr. Light, "and these are my... ch... inventions. We had an agreement, Ms. Sasaki." He withdrew a little card from a slot in the side of the camera and squirreled it away into his trousers pocket. "This interview, as I made very clear to you beforehand, was conditional upon your compliance to the terms of said agreement. You lose. Goodbye."
"Dr. Light, the public has a right to…"
"I said goodbye." He turned toward Rock. "Rock, kindly bring me Ms. Sasaki's bag, would you?"
Rock, bewildered, did as he was asked. Dr. Light opened the front door and unceremoniously hoisted the bag through it. Poor Ms. Sasaki, with one last exasperated look at my brother and me, followed reluctantly behind. And then Dr. Light took the camera in his right hand, leaned back, and let it soar. It flew in a broad, perfect arc out over the lawn and landed in a patch of tall grass right next to Ms. Sasaki's car. It reminded me a little of Naohiro Yamaguchi's legendary 154-meter hit in the 2054 Japan Series playoff between the Yomiuri Giants and the Hiroshima Carp.
"Home run," said Rock wistfully beside me.
"That's what I was going to say," I said.
No sooner had Dr. Light shut and bolted the door behind her than we were captured and scooped up into his arms, feeling the chafe and tickle of his whiskers against our cheeks. He squeezed us, so tightly it was almost painful, and we couldn't have managed to pry ourselves away even if we'd wanted to.
"We lost, didn't we?" I said.
"Oh, no, my children," he said, and let out a low moan, "you did wonderfully. I'm so proud..."
"But we didn't follow the rules," said Rock.
"Damn the rules," said Dr. Light. "It was too much to ask of you... I shouldn't have... Forgive me..."
You may find it strange that, at the time, we didn't wonder about the purpose of the game, any more than we thought to ask Dr. Light about the disastrous "early project" Ms. Sasaki had mentioned. We didn't know then how desperately Dr. Light had hoped to spare us from being made a media spectacle, or at least delay the moment for as long as he could—or that, more urgently, there were powerful people "Outside" who, if they knew what we really were capable of, would insist that we were too dangerous to be allowed to remain alive.
Even our creator couldn't intuit the far-reaching events that public knowledge of our mere existence would set into motion: for example, that before the week was out our "Uncle Albert," whose name we'd never before heard even in passing, would demand the right to meet us after reading Ms. Sasaki's article in the Yomiuri Shimbun. Only in far hindsight would Rock and I be able to contextualize the sequence of events that happened next: Albert yanking Dr. Light away from our side, the sliding of the door behind them, and the muffled exclamation, "Tom, you fool, what the hell have you done?"
The rest, as you know, is history.
Perhaps you will judge Dr. Light for his short-sightedness. He pushed us into the world long before the world was ready to receive us. His brilliant mind, otherwise crammed to bursting with heaven-vaulted visions and schemes and dreams, was devoid of even one single realistic plan to keep us safe. Yes, maybe you'll even hate him for that. If you knew what had become of his "early project," you'd hate him even more.
But you've never been embraced by his wide and sturdy warmth, or been lulled into sleep mode by his deep voice reading by lamplight. You haven't felt what I or Rock have felt, or shared the happy memories of our early cloistered lives. Afternoons pulling weeds together in the garden. Standing under the starry summer sky, talking about black holes and quarks. Walks in the woods. The gentle prodding to think harder, perform better. Dr. Light looking silly and adorable in his house robe and slippers. Dr. Light looking ridiculous after cutting his own hair. Practical jokes on Rock, who loved them. My bedroom just the way I liked it, strewn with gears and parts and manuals. The ultimate indulgence of being able to interrupt Dr. Light in his lab, anytime we wanted. No matter how deep into his work, he'd welcome us with a smile and a kiss. Always you are welcome, you are wanted. The honor of helping him with his work. Admiration freely given, never demanded. Love.
In short, we loved our father, and that's just how it was.
As for Rock's weird behavior during the game, I asked him about it later that afternoon.
"Rock, why were you being so careless? Those silly faces when Ms. Sasaki's back was turned… It's almost like you were trying to lose."
He gave me a funny look. "Didn't you know? Of course I was trying to lose!"
"When Ms. Sasaki reached out to touch your hair, you tensed up for a second. I was sure she noticed. You must have been spacing out big time. You do that a lot, you know, sis. Anyway, when I saw that, I got scared that you were gonna lose, and I didn't want you to lose alone."