Pops had lost his virtual mind.

When Molly opened the front door, fresh snow heaped on her shoulders and a bag of produce under her arm, she found the old android dancing in a sea of eggnog, tossing cotton into the air as he tore it from the pillows. His glistening ceramic skin was tattooed with lipstick, the words 'Mary Krsmisss' written over and over across his body with other words that were either a foreign languages or gibberish. In his hand he swung his mug to the tune of his stomping feet, its contents long lost to the surrounding furniture.

"Pops!" Molly screamed, her eyes wide with nothing short of horror. The android's head twitched madly before he turned to look at the doorway. His glass eyes, as faded as old denim, lit upon Molly with mechanical glee.

"Take a sip, my sweet!" he cried, the buzz in his voice distorting his word with waves of static, "There's enough 'nog for an army! Ha!"

Dropping her shopping bag, Molly dashed through the eggnog drenched living room, her heavy boots smacking as she dove for the fabricator, which was pumping the holiday beverage like a fire hydrant. The blue interface screen read:

Command Input:

Enough eggnog for a hundred men.

Command Status:

Has dispensed enough beverage for seventy-eight.

Slamming the 'cancel' button with a gloved fist, Molly turned on Pops with a savage glare, though not before noticing that a single mug had been placed inside the fabricator to receive the drink for a hundred men.

"What is wrong with you, Pops! You've destroyed my whole house!" Molly stomped through the mucky mess, shaking her head.

"What's wrong with me- me- me? What's wrong with you?" Pops exclaimed, dropping from the table to the floor, splashing cold eggnog over his gleaming shins. "Tis' the season to be jolly- jolly- jolly!"

Molly closed her eyes and squeezed the bridge of her nose. She had seen signs of Pops' degrading mind over the past few weeks, God knew that she had; the day he had climbed onto the roof to sing, or maybe when he had tried to bake the goldfish, should have been the last straw, but Molly had let it go. Now it had come to this…

Pops began to scoop the fallen apples from Molly's shopping. He closely examined one, and then tried to eat it. The android was a very, very old model, and unlike the new, cutting edge versions, he did not have a mouth, only a single line of LED lights that flashed with his words. The apple squeaked across Pops' ceramic face, the fruits red skin peeling and dribbling juice. "Dammit, Pops!" Molly snatched the apples from his arms, coating herself in eggnog and lipstick. She knelt down to pick her shopping bag off the floor, but the bottom had become soaking wet, and it gave with a 'fwoop', spilling the rest of its contents back to the ruined carpet. Molly's head felt as if it would explode. "This stuff cost me a fortune," she muttered. She picked a dripping pear from the pile, lifting it for Pops to see, "and you know that I couldn't afford the recipe for the fabricator. I was lucky to get my hands on the eggnog recipe, and now… now I'm regretting that, actually."

Above her, Pops had become very quiet. His eyes had rolled to the ceiling and his hands had become limp. The mug he held only by a single finger, the words 'Happy Halloween!' written upon it in cheery orange lettering. A soft beeping, evenly spaced, emitted from his chest panel.

He was in stand-by mode.

Molly sighed. In time, she managed to gather all the apples, oranges, and pears in her arms and brought them into the kitchen, where she rinsed the fruit in the sink. Her fingers carefully slid across their skin as she washed them, one by one, and her mind wandered to the problem of Pops.


Pops was an extremely old piece of engineering. Almost anyone who may have come upon him in his many years would certainly believe it, with his strange ceramic skin and exposed joints, but in truth, the android was far older than anyone might expect. In fact, Pops was considered to be an antique, an ancient prototype of the new hyper-advanced machine races that populated the world. And if anyone were to question such a claim, they would need to look no farther than Molly herself, who could tell her great-grandmother's childhood stories of playing with Pops after school, one-hundred and seventy years ago.

When Molly had been born, Pops had been there. As the years had passed by, the android had remained constant, even as everything around him had changed and grew older. He had been soft-spoken back then, almost introspective. He was most often found with a novel in hand, blue eyes scrolling the pages with slow, human precision as he sat on the balcony, sometimes from sun-up to sundown if the book was long enough and able to maintain his interest. When Molly had bought her own house, she had been more than happy to bring Pops along, as much a family member as any blood relative in her eyes, and time moved on with the knowledge of his continued existence.

But now… things were different. No longer did Pops calmly go about his own affairs, offering intelligent, if not brief, conversation as he sought personal entertainment. No more could the peaceful flow of classical music be heard drifting from his room in gentle, thoughtful waves, his amazing hearing allowing him to fine-tune the harmonies in the most beautiful ways.

Pops twitched now, and his mouth ran on and on and on. He played with things he shouldn't, breaking and tearing and flat-out destroying those that were the most precious, simply misplacing and misusing everything else. Pops had become a stranger, a crazy man capable of flooding the house with eggnog that he couldn't even drink, a man whose body stood laced with his own gobbledygook, written in Starburst Red lipstick. Whatever was happening to the android was happening fast, and it all came down on Molly to help him the best she could.

Assuming that help was even an option.


When Molly woke up the next day, still dressed in her winter clothes and mud-stomping boots, she could hardly remember having come to bed. For a long while she stared at the ceiling, which was transparent, allowing for a dreamlike scene of billowing gray clouds and drifting snow. She pushed aside a lock of her inky hair, wishing she could float away within an endless fantasy of falling snow, lifted upon invisible wings until she swam with the laden clouds, drifting along forever and ever…

But then she thought of a particular android, shredding the insides of an innocent pillow, waving a stupid Halloween mug in loony circles, despite the fact that he was celebrating Christmas.

Molly crawled from between the sheets, grabbing a pack of cigarettes from the bedside table, and then she forced herself downstairs, where whatever remained of her living room remained.


The phone rang a dozen times in her ear before her father finally picked up. They ran down the long, formal list of pleasantries: Hey, how's it goin'? How about that weather, huh? What 'ya got planned for Christmas day? Blah, blah, blah. The words ran through one ear and out the other as Molly operated on autopilot, her cigarette smoldering slowly to a stub or orange light. When the default conversation was exhausted at last, Molly screwed up her face and carefully broached her question. "So, Dad. Have you ever known Pops to act… strange?" She listened intently, raising the volume of her receiver implant. Unfortunately, her father's response was less than she had hoped for.

"Why, no. to be honest, I'm surprised that old thing is still up and about. What has he been up to lately? Reading another old book?"

Through a cloud of smoke, Molly watched her little vacuum roll across the crusted carpet, sweeping shattered bits of a broken vase into its dustpan. Where the vacuum had already cleaned, the carpet stood clumped and dull, utterly ruined by the eggnog. Her coffee table had scuffs and bruises, scars from Pops' sharp edged heels, etching the oak surface like glyphs.

"Um, actually, Pops hasn't been acting like himself lately. In fact, I'm starting to wonder if he might be, you know, malfunctioning or something."

"Well, I wouldn't be surprised." Her father chuckled, "That android was bound to give out eventually. He isn't built like your mother."

Molly felt her stomach turn. She had tried to avoid talking about her mother and the procedure that she was undergoing, but in the usual twists of life, Molly was forced to acknowledge it. "How is Mom doing?" She managed.

"The download went without a hitch." Her father seemed as proud as if he had preformed the download himself. "She's fine, but the engineers want to be sure that she has no anomalies. Last thing we need is to kill her old brain if there's something in there, you know? But it was well worth the money, I'll tell you that much; your mother looks gorgeous."

Against her will, Molly felt her throat tighten. How in God's name could that man have spent his life savings to make his wife into a machine. Molly's own mother, now a collection of liquid metal and computer chips, her human flesh left to pick for spare parts…

"I'm glad for her." Molly said through clenched teeth. From there she brought the conversation to a quick, unsatisfactory ending, with her father begging her to come over for Christmas, and with Molly politely refusing because she had other plans. The phone line disconnected with a whispering 'beep' in her eardrum, leaving her feeling worse than before.

From upstairs, the sound of Pops jumping up and down was a perfect match for the beating of Molly's heart.


Christmas Eve dawned, the eastern sky a strip of brilliant light. From the window of a mag-lift train, Molly gazed at the cold, clear dawn as the sun rose, casting the sky-port and its many ships into silhouettes. The skeletal ribs of the Samoan Orbital shipyard glittered like a faded memory, high up above the clouds. It was a picture worth a thousand, wonderful words.

Pops said nothing. He was far too busy studying himself in the window reflection, fingers clacking together in child-like anticipation. Molly was more than self-conscious from the looks she and Pops were receiving, but she put on her best I-don't-give-a-damn face, cigarette defiantly jammed between her purple painted lips.

After the little chat with her dad, Molly had surfed the web in an effort to find someone, anyone, really, who may have had a solution to the problem of Pops. She didn't have enough money to have a professional to check him out, so she was forced to seek more obscure sources. Eight hours, nineteen cigarettes, three chat-rooms, and one wine cooler later, Molly had found Glenn; a space elevator mechanic on ground, who claimed to have some knowledge of historic 'hard-head' androids and too much time on his hands. His only term was that Pops had to come to him.

And so here Pops came, skin shining like a new car from where Molly had scrubbed him clean of lipstick and food stains.

"Merry Christmas, Molly!" Pops turned in his seat to stare at her. "Merry Christmas, Molly- Molly- Molly!"

A couple (synthetics, by the look of them) across the aisle gazed at Pops with smirks on their perfect faces. Molly shrank back against her seat, shoving another cigarette between her teeth, dreading the moment when their eyes would land on her, laughing.

In the end, only the women glanced, her flickering gaze a mere nano-second, but it was enough to make Molly's cheeks burn with embarrassment.


Tenma Station was a jumbled nightmare of industry, commercialism, and holiday spirit, marking the farthest end of Molly's hometown: City 28. The train station's gaudy interior bore the colors of Christmas against rough sandstone walls and dull iron pillars, the clashing designs enough to make someone sick. The air hummed and reverberated with the heavy beat of rap music, lyric full of strong language and holiday cheer. People traveled in flocks, talking, laughing, and screaming.

Molly managed the crowd gracefully, tugging Pops along like the child that he now was. The android didn't seem keen on this treatment, dragging his heels every few minutes, but his ability to remain focused on this issue was quite limited, making the brief tantrums a minor nuisance.

Outside, the shock of cold ocean air jarred Molly. The sighing, brown waves of the sea washed softly against the shore, casting sand in murky showers, metal pylons ticking with the striking of shells. Molly had never been to the ocean before, but the purpose that brought her here seemed to cheapen the experience, somehow.

"Molly," Pops buzzed, "Can I have?"

"What do you want, Pops?"

The android pawed her coat with greedy hands, reaching for the pockets. He looked into her eyes with his own glass versions. "Cigarette." He demanded.

She wanted to tell him no, but there was something so human about his request, and such a childlike need, that she found herself parting with one. She placed it between the fingers of his left hand.

"Light." He said.

Molly drew her lighter, briefly putting the flame to the cigarettes tip, just enough to make a little puff of smoke for show. Pops brought the cigarette to his face, watching.

Less than a kilometer down the beach stood the elevator station, blocky and dark, an air of abandonment about it. Three slender strands, glowing gold in the sunlight, rose from the station, side by side, stretching upward and out of sight.

"Come on, Pops."

He came along eventually, but only after his cigarette had shed its last spark of warmth.


Glenn greeted them just inside the elevator station.

"Holy crap," he exclaimed, as soon as he had laid eyes on Pops, "you are an old one!"

Molly stood aside as Glenn began probing, pudgy hands gliding across Pops arms and chest, examining the joints of his elbows and neck. An awkward minute passed with Molly wondering if she had been noticed, then Glenn turned his gaze on her, his green eyes gleaming.

"This android is amazing. Absolutely amazing! Do you know just how old this things?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe… two-hundred years, give or take a few decades. He's been in the family for one-hundred and seventy years, back when my great-grandmother was a little kid." Molly said.

Glenn stood back, the wonder on his round face quite comical. Molly dug into her coat for another cigarette, trying to hide her grinning lips. She offered on to Glenn, but he refused.

"Sorry, ma'am. Don't smoke."

"How do you keep your teeth clean?" She asked, truly surprised. Pulling back his lips, Glenn revealed a mouthful of buttery teeth and a yellow tongue. "I don't." He declared, laughing at the look on Molly's face, seeming to take personal pride from it.

Gliding them through the stations maze-like passageways, Glenn prattled on about this and that, either not noticing or not caring that Molly was caught up in her own thoughts. As he explained why there were no elevators operating today (something about the cold forming too much frost on the lower surface of the strands), Molly smoked and dreamt of a perfect Christmas, a Christmas without worry or sorrow, with her family functioning properly around a vast table filled with wonderful food. She wanted to hand out gifts, wrapped in colorful foil, presents worthy of the highest praise, to which she would suck up, with the barely maintained façade of modesty. She wanted all the cheesy fantasies to become reality, anything but this tour through rust-red corridors, trying to fix the machine who had once been a friend, and now was no more than a burden…

"- okay?"

Startled, Molly looked up from her boots to see Glenn ushering her inside a gloomy room. "I want to run a few tests on your android, Molly. Is that okay?" He asked.

"Sure, sure." Molly held Pops by his wrist as they stepped into the room. Dim panels of orange and red lights lined the walls around her, thick cables snaking along the floor and ceiling branching and splitting like veins. In the rooms center was a long table covered in tools of random shapes and sizes, illuminated from above by a single yellow light bulb. Glenn asked Pops to set on the table, which he amazingly did as soon as he was told.

"So, what is this place, exactly?" Molly asked.

"Well, this room in particular is used to maintain the little cleaner-bots when they bring them down from orbit. The bots are very simple, their only real purpose their only purpose is to sweep the dust; nothing like this guy," Glenn smiled at Pops, who in return mumbled something so low that only his LED mouth gave it away with a minute flashing, "but although they're not as sophisticated, most of the same problems effect all computer chip A.I.s, just like the one in Pops. This room has all of the proper diagnostic equipment that a 'hard-head' android could need."

Tapping a wall mounted panel, several bright green computer monitors stuttered to life, floods of incomprehensible data spilling across the screens as their hardware rebooted. Glenn fumbled with a mess of wires, each tipped with a plug that gleamed like a needle. He turned to Molly, his right cheek green with scrolling numbers cast from the computer monitor nearest him. "You might want to sit down somewhere. This is going to take a while." He spoke now with a business-like tone, indication of a man doing what he loved to do.

"How long?"

Glenn shrugged. "You can leave if you don't want to hang around. I'll take care of him."

Molly shook her head. She plunked to the floor, uncaring of the dirt and grease, drawing a knee to her chin as she watched it all through a cloud of sweet smoke.


Nearly two hours had crept by when, quite suddenly, Glenn walked past Molly and out of the room, scratching his head.

"Glenn?" She asked, scrambling to her feet. Pops sat slumped over, clearly in stand-by, with a sprawling network of wiring plugged into his head. It took considerable effort for Molly to leave Pops alone, but she had to know what Glenn had discovered.

She found him just outside the door, propped against the wall, the light above turning his hair the shade of dry leaves. His hands were shaking ever so slightly, as if he were chilled.

"What's up with Pops?" Molly asked, propping on the opposite wall, bracing herself for the news of a failing processor or a faulty memory bank, or something else to that general tune.

Glenn shook his head, bumping his rubber heel against the wall. "Well, he isn't malfunctioning."

"Not malfunctioning? Then what in the hell is going on?"

"He's taking everything that his memory holds and compacting it, bringing it all together, in one single file." He tapped his forehead for emphasis. "Makes it look as if he's losing his marbles, but in reality, he's just putting them into a single bag."

Molly was speechless. The fact that Pops was not malfunctioning seemed like good news on the surface, but there was something wrong here, some detail that made Glenn's voice waver. The man stood silent for a long while before lifting his eyes from his feet.

"I was planning to bypass the firewall, expecting to find a loophole that might free the stored memory or at least allow me to download it onto a memory card for re-installation. I had no idea until I tried plugging directly into the main system that…" He trailed off, but only for a second. "He ain't a normal android."

"Could you be more specific?"

Glenn swallowed hard, Adam's apple bobbing like a jackhammer. "Pops is a downloaded consciousness, ma'am, not an A.I.; the main system link is definitely neural, which means that Pops is a real person in mind, not a machine."

Molly's cigarette fell from her mouth.

His secret unveiled, Glenn began to fret, panic edging his voice. "This is bad, lady. Synthetics like your friend in there have rights, just like you and me. If he comes to his senses and finds out that I was screwing around with his head, he could sue me into the next millennium!"

Molly shut him from her mind, trying instead to remember to a time when she had ever even considered Pops as being more than just a simple machine. She found that she could not.

"I can't work with biological data," Glenn was explaining, "because the information isn't compatible with normal equipment. You would need a high end synthetic surgeon, or else a synthetic with a neural link."

Molly's eyes went wide. "Did you say that another synthetic could interact with Pops?"

"Sure. It would need to be an old model, like Pops, or an extremely sophisticated new model, but good luck on finding either one. The former is extinct and the latter is almost non-existent."

Hope swept through Molly like a gentle wave, bringing a smile to her face. "Glenn," she said, " Wake Pops up for me. It's high-time I visited my mother."


Pops was no longer speaking. Molly prodded him with questions as they once again boarded the mag-lift train, this time headed for the heart of City 28, but Pops would not respond. He sat with his head down, unmoving.

Molly had ran out of cigarettes and the trip unfolded into a miserable gloam, city passing like an army of concrete and glass ghosts outside the window. Hours ticked by. When the train lurched into its receiving cradle at last, Molly felt nausea inside, like a ball of unhappy worms in her stomach. Outside of the train station, she vomited clear fluid in a rush of steam, staining the metal walkway's grubby surface with her bile.

Pops watched the sky.

An electric cab shaped like a bubble with wheels took them through city blocks of brilliant neon light, glittering women and shining men lining the streets, wedged super-cars screaming past them on either side. The cab curved along the serpentine length of blacktop, and then came to a halt at the corner of Valencia and Transcendent.

"Destination reached." The cab purred. "Have a great day!" It then proceeded to deposit its passengers onto the sidewalk before cruising away into the night.

Valencia Transcendent Medical loomed above the land, spear-headin the sky. Hand in hand, Molly and Pops climbed the hospital's great stairwell, ice cold marble transforming their footsteps into gunshots.

Inside the massive double doors, all wordly noise vanished, the only sound being the internal mechanisms of Molly's body and the continued tap of their feet.

A nurse approached. Her eyes glowed purple, gassamer strips of delicate circuitry etching their whites.

"May I assist you, Madame?" She asked.

"I'm here to visit Nina Mersiem."

The purple-eyed nurse cocked her head for an instant, and then nodded her approval. "You've come to visit our star patient, I see. You will find her on the top floor." She bowed slightly and pointed to the elevator, perfect nails blinding with reflected light.

Molly and Pops climbed inside the plush elevator car, but before she could decide what she was going to say to her newly transformed mother, or even how she would react to her mother's new face, the doors slid open again, and Molly was forced onto the eighteenth floor.

Mother was waiting for her.


"Let me see if I understand this," the lithe machine that was Molly's mother said, "Pops is a synthetic, not an android, even though he has never hinted at such a thing in the one-hundred and seventy years he has been with our family. And now, for no apparent reason, his memories and personality are being… cocooned, if you will… into a single, concentrated program, which can only be accessed by me, through a neural link. Is that summary an accurate one, darling?"

"Yes." Molly whispered, breathless from her own explanation.

"Interesting." Mother's lips curled into a devilish grin as she stood from her window side chair. Father hadn't exaggerated: Molly's mother was gorgeous, but not as a human. She was a sculpture now, a piece of art, shaped into the likeness of a woman, and Molly was terrified by her.

"Bring him to me." Mother beckoned with a long, slender finger. "Let us see what my new body is capable of, shall we?"

Molly did as she was asked.

Pops stood before Mother, his blue gaze locked with her piercing yellow eyes. Both of them were as bald as eggs, and face to face they looked like family, Mother's lips pulled as tight as Pops' L.E.D. mouth. Molly wanted to say something to break the chill running up and down her spine, but her mouth would not move.

Placing her right hand onto his neck, Mother's fingers began to grow and split, forming living wires that buried themselves into Pops' access port.

"Time to find out who you really are," Mother whispered. She closed her eyes. A smirk crossed her face, as arrogant as any goddess. She was treating Pops like a toy instead of the living being that he supposedly was, playing with his mind instead of trying to help; Molly could tell. Even as a machine, Mother's emotions were easily readable.

The lock on Molly's voice released its hold for an instant, and she whispered, so softly that even she could not hear the words, only feeling them as the rolled from her tongue, "Please help him, Mom. Help Pops."

And then it happened.

Mother's face, that perfect, sculpted face, contorted into something ugly. She turned to Molly even as Pops did the same, ans together, in a voice that was both of theirs combined, they said, "COME TO ME."

Mother's left hand reached like lightening, grabbing Molly by the throat. The last thing she felt before blacking out was cold fingers snaking around the base of her skull.


Molly was floating in a world of snow.

She was weightless. Timeless. Free. There were no obstacles in sight, no boundaries. Here, in this place, she felt as if she could forget everything and everyone, forever reaping the happiness of emptiness and snowflakes. It was a wonderful feeling.

"Molly, come down for a moment. We must talk."

And there she was, even as she thought it. She was standing on a strip of blacktop highway, sandwiched between endless plains of snow. In the far distance, mountains, topped with white crowns and silver clouds.

"Hello, Molly." He said, kindly face beaming. His long, dark coat rippled with a unfelt breeze, his dress shoes shining with polish. He was very old and very human. And he was also Pops.

They embraced, and after a while, Molly realized that she was crying. She looked up into his wise, blue eyes and simply asked: "What is this?"

"This is you and me, Molly. Together. Using your mother as a conduit. Only a synthetic like your mother could have presented this opportunity to us, and for that I am in her debt, even though she turned down my offer."

"Offer? What are you talking about, Pops? None of this makes any sense."

Pops chuckled. "Perhaps I could explain. Walk with me, will you?"

And then they were along the highway, hand in hand, no traffic as far as the eye could see. For the first time in ages, Molly had no urge to smoke.

"Imagine," Pops said, "a time long ago. Imagine a group of like minded individuals, seeking the very boundaries of scientific application, devoting their lives to go beyond theory and common ideology, in a world of such complacent simplicity that it sickened the mind.

Now imagine that these men, in secret, found something so unbelievable that it transcended mankind."

Molly tilted her head, puzzled. "What did they discover?"

"The soul," Pops declared, reaching out to capure a drifting flake of snow in his hand. "The very essense of a man! His knowledge and state of being, able to be pulled from the body and placed… elsewhere. It was a magnificent, terrible power, and with that discovery would come the dawn of a new era; this era! You live in a time shaped by these men, Molly."

Molly's features brightened with understanding. "You're talking about the forefathers of synthetic life, right? Don't tell me that you're one of those men, Pops; I may not be able to belive that."

Laughter, wholehearted, filled the air. "You are correct in assuming that I am not one of those original creators. However, I am one of the first synthetics, and I have been roaming the earth for over six-hundred years. Only recently have I remembered that; a program installed by the secretive fools prevented me from remembering who I was, until now. For the past several weeks, I have been wandering inside my own head, barely aware of outside events, waiting for my time to come."

He turned to Molly, placing a hand on her shoulder. "The body that I possess is completely unremarkable, but deep inside is a transmitter capable of interstellar transmissions. It has been activated. I shall be removed from this body and sent across the galaxy on a beam of encoded light."

Molly stopped smiling. "But where will you go? I've spent all day trying to find out if you should be fixed or something like that, anything to bring you back to normal. And now you're just going to leave?" This was wrong. She felt as if she were being cheated.

"Six-hundred and eight years have passed since I was turned into a synthetic, Molly. But there were also others like me, who chose a manifest destiny for ourselves: to become pioneers of the universe, to colonize new worlds. Every other member of my group chose to build a starship, so small it could fit into the palm of your hand, and they filled it with nano-machines and their collective minds. They planned to build upon themselves, using the nano-technology to construct an eventual empire across the stars, and I alone remained on earth, with the promise that when they had accomplished greatness, I would join them.

They have sent the message, that signal of greatness, and I am fulfilling my promise at last. But I don't want to go alone."

Pops grabbed Molly by her hands and asked her: "Will you come with me? Think of what they may have done in all of this time, think of the endless possibilities. On the fringes of the Milky Way Galaxy, they have had six centuries of progress, building an empire of human souls and steel, embracing knowledge and discovery as a way of life!

I had asked your mother to join me when she entered my mind, but she refused. Forcefully. But through her I can bring you instead, and we can go together… but only if you choose to do so. I'm wanting a friend, after all, not a slave."

A watch had appeared on his wrist, and he showed Molly the time. "I leave in less than twenty seconds, but in here, with me, you have a lifetime to think it over."

And so she did.

Molly ran across the snowy plains, chasing the distant peaks for what seemed like hours, and then she stopped, unexhausted, to build a snowman. From thin air, she she drew forth two lugnuts for eyes, and a screwdriver for a nose. Three bolts were plucked from her coat pocket, and with these she made buttons. And in the end, she imagined a strip of L.E.D. lights for a mouth. Molly stared at her creation as she considered her life, and though she spent a hundred relative years in careful deliberation, her mind could not forget how sickened she had been when her mother had chosen to download herself to become a synthetic. To give up your humanity in pusuit of a fantastic dream, to become a machine… how could you even understand such a choice?

After a thousand virtual years, Pops trudged to stand next to the snowman. "Lovely piece of work," he chuckled, admiring the resemblance to his synthetic body, "Quite handsome, if I may be so forward."

"Thank you." Molly looked up to the sky.

Pops sat beside her, rechecking his wrist watch. "Nine seconds left."

Molly laid her head on his shoulder, his heavy coat warming her cheek, the experience as real as anything that she had ever felt.

"You know what, Pops? A month ago, I found out that my mom was going to become a machine; a synthetic. I couldn't understand why, because I figured that a human would never be able to create something greater than themselves, limited as we were in our own minds and hands. I thought that synthetics could only be our equals or lessers. But in the few seconds that I've been in your mind, Pops, I've come to look at it quite differently."

For a moment, Molly studied the man besude her, and from somewhere inside, she dimly remembered a stupid machine dancing on a table in a sea of eggnog. She could not help but grin.

"So, when do we leave, old timer?" She jumped to her feet, pulling Pops up with her. Tears of joy spilling from his eyes, Pops grabbed her hand and said, "Right about… now."

Together they were swallowed by the snow.