God in the Machine
The limousine sped down a desolate road in the Negev Desert, a black line contrasting with the whiteness of the surrounding sands and jutting curls of rock. Inside the limousine, air conditioning hummed, keeping everyone cool. Double Deuce, an American robot detective in Israel, had internal coolant to make sure temperatures never bothered him, but he was grateful for the chill. His friends, including his young creator Phineas Yoshinaga-Glass, and his assistant and hacker Serena Steele, couldn't regulate their temperatures like he could. Phineas sweated a little and wiped his pale face with the sleeve of his school blazer. Serena offered him a bottle of water, which he gratefully accepted. Some flying insect splattered on the windshield as the limousine flew along, leaving a yellow stain on the tinted glass. Double let out a slight groan. This was a hell of a country to call a Promised Land.
The three members of the Iron and Glass Detective Agency sat together on end of the limousine, opposite their employer. Miss Education, a high end corporate secretarial robot, sported a dark pencil skirt, smooth chrome skin, and platinum blonde hair. Her dexterous fingers tapped on a tablet as the limo rumbled along. "Long way out," Serena said. Her nose-piercing shone in the bright desert sunlight. "Why couldn't we just meet Golem Bet in Jerusalem?"
"You are escorting Golem Bet to Jerusalem," Miss Education explained. She glanced up from her tablet. "That is why your Detective Agency was hired by the Peretz Foundation – you are to guard Golem Bet and make repairs if he becomes damaged."
Phineas raised a hand, like he was in a classroom. The twelve-year-old was probably more used to classrooms than limousines. "Excuse me, but why does he want to go to Jerusalem again? I know Golem Bet is the Peretz Foundation's most advanced creation – a robotic commando who has fought on behalf of the IDF and Mossad for several years – but what does he want to do in Jerusalem? And why is it such a big deal?"
Miss Education replaced the cover on her tablet. "He wants to pray," she explained. "At the Western Wall. The Kotel, as the Israelis call it. Golem Bet and the Peretz Foundation have served the Israeli Defense Force and intelligence services very well and they agreed to his request. They hired me to facilitate this process. And I hired you."
"Why does a robot want to pray?" Double asked.
"You'll have to ask him," Miss Education explained. "But it hasn't gone over well for many people."
"I'll bet," Serena muttered.
"That's why we're meeting him here in the desert, then stopping at the Jericho Resort outside of Jerusalem before proceeding into the city. Golem Bet has defended Israel and the government wants to keep him safe. From all of threats."
The dusty road ended in a dry plain, where a few ragged trees drooped in the heat – what passed for an oasis in the Negev. A couple stone walls and a few rusted shacks rested in the stripes of shade. "So, who wants to hurt him?" Phineas asked as he pushed up his spectacles. "Who do we have to defend him from?" Phineas had a good heart and he liked robots. Double hoped that this job wouldn't be too difficult for the kid.
"The usual suspects." Miss Education revealed her tablet, showing a picture of a young man in a shining gold tracksuit. "This is Ahmad October." He was posing in the picture, sporting sunglasses, a golden assault rifle, wide sunglasses, and a smile revealing gold-capped teeth. Each cap had a jewel-inscribed letter, adding some Arabic verse to his smile. "That's what he calls himself anyway. He's the son of some Oil sheik, American-raised, and thinks that international terrorism is the coolest thing ever. He's released quite a few videos on his personal website attacking Israel for what they've done to the Muslim world, along with his hip-hop compositions." Miss Education removed his picture with a swipe of her metal finger. "I'll spare you having to listen to them."
Double's circuits hummed. "He doesn't sound like too much trouble."
"He's got his father's fortune and spent it all on weapons – mostly gold-plated – and black market military robots," Miss Education explained. "Then issued a personal fatwa against Golem Bet, for his crimes against the Palestinian people." She swiped the tablet again. "But he's only one of the problems. The Grand Rabbinate Council hates the idea of a machine praying at the Western Wall. The Council's chief, Rabbi Moshe Goldman, has made a number of death threats. He says it's against Halacha, or Jewish religious law, and is an insult to God." Rabbi Goldman, a pudgy Chasidic rabbi, sported a dark fedora, a stiff beard, and ear locks flanking his square glasses. He jabbed his forefinger into the air, a number of similarly-dressed rabbis clapping in agreement. "We'll have to watch out for him as we near Jerusalem."
"Poor Golem Bet," Phineas said. "All he wants to do is pray – and all of these people hate him. It's not fair. Not really." He pointed to Rabbi Goldman. "I read up on Golem Bet on the plane ride to Tel Aviv. He was given advanced emotional programming to help him understand his targets, sort of like Double Deuce. Now that emotional programming is telling him to pray, and everyone hates him because of it." He turned to Serena and Double. "We'll help him, won't we?"
"We will," Double agreed. "Don't worry, Phineas. Some spoiled brat playing Bin Laden and a bunch of rabbis don't seem like a real threat. I think this whole job will be done with easily, and give us a nice chunk of change from the Peretz Foundation."
Serena leaned her head on the window. "Don't be so sure, Double. Things in the Middle East are always complicated."
The limousine rumbled to a halt on the side of the street, the robot chauffeur stopping the car and parking it in the shadow of the dying trees. This was the meeting place. The desert stayed still for a few moments, broken by the hum of air conditioning. Phineas shifted in his seat as Serena glanced at her cell phone. Double stared through the window, overlooking the desert. He thought about their case. A robot wanting to pray at the Western Wall – it sounded ridiculous. But Golem Bet had been designed by Israel's top engineers. He was as intelligent as Double, if not more so. His desire had to be sincere. The hum of helicopter rotors tore Double away from his thoughts. He reached for the door and motioned for the others to join him. Double, Serena, Phienas, and Miss Education all stepped out into the bright sun. Phineas slurped from the water bottle. A trail of ants walked through the desert, crawling over Double's Chuck Taylors. He kicked them away.
Miss Education stared into the distance. "Here he is."
An Israeli Air Force transport helicopter, a Black Hawk in tan desert cameo, hummed through the air and neared the road. It descended quickly, unleashing a storm of dust from its rotors. Phineas coughed and turned away. The helicopter touched down and the side door slammed open. A pair of Israeli soldiers in olive green uniforms moved out, high-tech assault rifles swinging to cover everything. Behind them, Golem Bet emerged. He wore an unmarked green uniform and a matching beret on his tan, metal head. A pair of heavy automatic pistols rested in his belt and his cool green eyes fixed on Double and his friends. A Hebrew inscription – a homage to the Golem of myth – rested on Golem Bet's forehead in gold script.
He walked over to Double and held out his hand. "Mr. Deuce." An Israeli accent crackled under his electric voice. "I understand you and your friends will be helping me get to the Western Wall. I am very thankful that the Peretz Foundation hired your company." Double shook his hand. Golem Bet did the same with Serena and Phineas. "And you are Serena Steele and Phineas Yoshinaga-Glass."
"Hey." Double accepted Golem Bet's firm handshake.
"Pleased to meet you," Serena said.
"Hello, Mr. Bet," Phineas said. "Wow – you've got a wonderful range of movement. I was reading about your creation on the plane ride over to Tel Aviv, actually, and I was very impressed. The Peretz Foundation did a wonderful job—"
"You went to Tel Aviv?" Golem Bet gave Phineas a thumbs-up. "You should go the beaches, when this is finished. Or at least see some of the Roman ruins. Did you know that archaeologists have found clockwork Roman legionnaires in the ruins of the some of the outposts?" Phineas's eyes widened with awe. "And there are Crusader clockwork knights, automated Saracen siege engines, and many more strange machines in our museums." He stared into the desert. "Every empire in the world has come to Israel and left their machines in our dust."
Phineas nodded in amazement. "We'll have to go see them." He turned to Mr. Deuce. "Can we?"
"Sure thing," Double agreed.
"You could live here, Phineas, actually. Right of return and all that." Golem Bet shrugged. "You're Jewish, I think?"
"On my mother's side," Phineas explained. "I'm not really religious, though. Not at all."
"Well, I think it's just the ancestry that matters, for the Right of Return," Serena explained.
Golem Bet nodded and then stopped. "Wait." He turned to the two soldiers. They raised their assault rifles, covering the desert. "Miss Education, is the limousine bullet proof?" She nodded. "Good. You and the other civilians should get inside the limousine immediately. My auditory sensors are picking up a sound in the desert across the road. I don't have any visual contact, and the sound is very quiet, but it's growing louder, and—"
A column of dust sprang into the air, forming a thick, yellow pillar. The long barrel of a tank emerged from the dust, like some strange steel worm struggling to the air. Tank treads hummed. The rest of the tank burst out of the dust and rolled toward the road, its turret already turning. Two Praetorian drones, both covered in dust and splotched with rust, stood near the tank. They carried assault rifles and their bulbous white noses turned to face Double, Golem Bet, and the others. The machines must have been buried in the desert as a trap and activated when Golem Bet arrived. Someone had set a trap – which had just sprung.
The two Praetorians closed in, bringing up their guns and unleashing a quick burst of gunfire. Double grabbed Phineas's hand and dragged him behind the limo. Golem Bet did the same with Serena. They crouched down as bullets hummed through the air. The IDF soldiers ducked for cover behind the helicopter. Bullets cracked against the limousine, leaving thick cracks in the black tinted glass. The tank fired, the shot going wide and slamming into the desert. Another burst of dust hit the air. Phineas closed his eyes, terrified by the gunfight. Double withdrew the pistol from the holster on his belt. He normally didn't carry a firearm, but had decided to make an exception in Israel.
Double peered up from behind the limo. "Two Praetorians – bought on the black market – and an old Soviet automated tank. Same source, I bet." He turned to Golem Bet. "And we both know who the buyer is."
"Ahmad October." Golem Bet withdrew both of his automatics. "Go to the hood of the car. Put some suppressing fire at the Praetorians. I will do the rest." His pistols seemed comically oversized, but he handled them well. "Fire and move, to draw their attention from the civilians." He glanced at Serena, Miss Education, and Phienas. "Do not worry. I have been in similar situations may times. I was built for this. You will not be harmed."
"You're gonna take out all of them by yourself?" Double asked. "Mr. Bet, you can't just—"
"Go, Mr. Deuce!" Golem Bet cried. "Come on – yalla!"
The Israeli cry to move spurred Double to action. He hurried to the hood of the car, firing his pistol as he ran. He shot blindly, hurling lead at the Praetorians. The drones fired at him and Double launched himself into the dust to avoid their shots. He crashed down and rolled over, gravel clicking against his metal body. The Drones turned their guns on him, and then Golem Bet came to his feet. His pistols thundered, sending a high-caliber bullet into the skull of each Praetorian. The bullets carved their way through, releasing sprays of sparks and electronics. The heads of the drones shattered as the Praetorians flew back and thudded into the road.
Golem Bet kept running. He holstered the pistols as he ran and shouted an order to the Israeli soldiers. One tossed his assault rifle. Golem Bet grabbed the gun from the air as he faced the tank. He fired from the hip, pouring a whole clip into the front of the automated tank. His bullets couldn't pierce the front of the tank, only caused sparks to fountain up as the bullets pinged and clanked – but they ruined the small camera below the turret. Then Golem Bet reached the tank. He hopped onto the front, leapt nimbly onto the turret, switched clips in a single, swift motion, and fired down into the hatch.
Serena poked her head up. "Damn." Double felt the same way. Golem Bet fought without hesitation or fear. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing, as if each move was well-practiced. He was probably one of the greatest robotic soldiers in the world.
The hatch popped free. Golem Bet withdrew a few grenades from his belt. He pulled the pins and tossed them down, then leapt away. The tank treads whirred as the armored vehicle tried to roll away – and the grenades exploded. Smoke and fire tore through the turrets. Metal flew as the fire flashed. Golem Bet came to his feet as the turret flew from the top of the tank, carried up in a ball of flame. The tank went still, smoke curling from its wounds. Golem Bet calmly reloaded.
Miss Education emerged from the limo, along with Phineas. "Is everything okay?"
Phineas stared at the ruined Praetorians and the smoldering tank and then looked at Golem Bet. "Mr. Bet – did you take them all out?" He sounded almost scared, as if he couldn't believe the destruction that friendly robot could cause.
"We're clear," Golem Bet agreed. He walked over to the helicopter, handed the assault rifle back, gave the soldier a pat on the shoulder. He turned back to Double, Serena, and Phienas. "Ahmad October was testing us, seeing what we can do. Hopefully, we didn't disappoint." He pointed to the limo. "Now, I think it's time for us to go to Jerusalem."
"I guess so," Double agreed. He held open the door. "After you, Mr. Bet."
Golem Bet slid neatly into the limo. Double, Serena, and Phineas followed him in. The Israeli military robot sat by the window, staring out at the Negev as the robotic chauffeur started the car and sped away. Phineas sat between Double and Serena, shaking slightly. Double clasped the boy's hand and gave it a quick squeeze, while Serena booted up a game on her cell phone for Phineas to play. That would take his mind off the attack, at least. The limousine sped past the remains of the automated tank, which still smoldered. The bent gun in the turret creaked down and crashed into the street, kicking up more dust. The limo rolled past, heading past the smooth rock formations and sand. Double began to wonder if this job wouldn't be so easy after all.
Before going to Jerusalem, they stopped at the Jericho Resort – an upscale hotel just out of town. Golem Bet would get to rest there while the Israeli authorities made sure everything was okay in Jerusalem for the military robots arrival. Copious sprinklers had turned the Jericho Resort into a strange oasis, a splotch of greenery surrounded by desert sand. The sprinklers worked continuously, coaxing rolling green hills up from the desert around a palatial main hotel. Golf courses and swimming pools sprawled out behind the hotel, but Golem Bet didn't bother with them. He went out to the patio, sat down next to some newspapers, and stared at the desert while the sun beat down. Double and Phineas watched him while they strolled on the green grass, after the flock of shaggy goats who called the Jericho Resort home. Serena had a place on the corner of the patio, checking online on her cell phone for any updates. After the gunfight in the desert, it was nice to get a little break.
Sheets of water poured down from the sprinklers, which erupted to life with no warning in front of Double and Phineas. Water droplets covered Double's metal skin and splashed on Phineas's spectacles. The boy laughed a little as he scrambled out of the way of the sprinklers. Double followed him. They moved back to the little brick pathway winding through the lawn. Phineas removed his glasses and scrubbed them clean with his suit coat. He looked at Golem Bet with his naked eyes. "Mr. Deuce?" he asked, his voice quiet.
Phineas nodded to Golem Bet. "What do you think Mr. Bet is thinking about right now?"
Double considered the question. "I guess he's thinking about going to Jerusalem, getting before the Western Wall, and praying. Maybe he's thinking about God, and thanking him for getting him through that little skirmish in the Negev." He paused. "Maybe he's praying." It seemed strange to think of a robot saying prayers. "Silently, I mean."
"Do you ever pray, Mr. Deuce?" Phineas asked. "Do you believe in God?"
"Well, do you?" Double looked at the boy. "I don't want to put you on the spot, or anything, but I don't really know the answer to that question myself. I never really thought about it, I guess. It seems weird for robot to think about."
"It does," Phineas agreed. "I mean, Golem Bet's the only robot I know who is religious." He stared at his shoes. "I'm not. I didn't really want to say this to Golem Bet when we met earlier, because I didn't want to be rude, but I don't think I believe in God at all." He glanced at Double. "I'm an atheist, I suppose. I don't even think there's a possibility of a God – like an agnostic. I'm a complete atheist, and maybe that's why Golem Bet seems real weird."
"Okay." Double stared at Phineas – who knew a little about Phineas's beliefs, but had never heard them out loud. "Why are you an atheist?"
"I guess there's a lot of reasons." Phineas put his hands in his pockets. "Firstly, there's so many awful things that go on in the world. We've seen some of them, I guess, during our cases. There's poverty, cruelty, disease, disasters – how could God be nice and create those things? And religious people do all kinds of terrible things. I was reading about them on the plane. All these terrorist attacks in Israel, suicide bombings, and then Israeli reprisals that kill Palestinian women and children. I know religion's not the only reason for them, and it still feels like it's sort of responsible." He sighed. "And life feels just too complicated for there to be some simply creator or basic reason behind it all. It just doesn't fit with everything we know."
"You're a scientist," Double suggested.
Phineas shook his head. "No, this is more of a personal thing. There's plenty of scientists who are religious. Maybe it's because my parents don't practice. I went to temple a few times with my mother, and my father took me to a shrine in Japan, but they didn't really pressure me into anything. Maybe if they were more religious, I would be to."
"Are you ashamed?"
"Maybe a little. Especially here, with Golem Bet."
Double knelt down next to the boy. "Trust me – he doesn't care if you believe in God or not. He still likes you just fine. And so do I." He tapped his metal cheek. "It's different for robots. We know that we were created. We see our creators every day – and you humans are normally pretty cool, but you're definitely not worthy of worship. No offense, Phineas."
"None taken." Phineas smiled. "But you really think Golem Bet – or anybody else – won't mind that I don't believe in God?"
"I think Golem Bet thinks that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. As long as you respect his, he'll respect yours." Double didn't know if that was the case, but it sounded nice. "And I know you are very respectful, Phineas."
"Thank you, Mr. Deuce."
"No problem." Another burst of sprinklers washed over. Double ducked away from the water. "Let's get out of here before I start to rust."
They hurried back from the sprinkler and ran up the brick pathway, back to the patio. As they approached, Serena hurried out with her cell phone at her side. She motioned for Double and Phineas to join her. "Have a look at this." They hurried to the patio and gathered around the same speckled stone table. Golem Bet looked up from his silent meditation and came to his feet, staring over Serena's shoulder at the screen of her phone. "I was checking out Ahmad October's website, seeing if he's detailed any more of his nefarious plans for jihad. He just released this new video an hour ago, and I watched it. It's all about Golem Bet."
"Bad news?" Double asked.
"Yup." Serena's finger lingered over the play button. She glanced back at Golem Bet. "Mr. Bet, you don't have to watch this if—"
Golem Bet shook his head. "I have seen my friends torn to pieces by enemy explosives. I've gone into our cities after Palestinian rockets rain down. I can see some stupid American boy's threatening video. Play it, Miss Steele. I'll watch."
She pressed the button. The video opened with Ahmad October standing outside, a desert to his back, smiling and showing off his gold teeth, inlaid with verses from the Quran, as he fired a gold-plated assault rifle into an Israeli flag. The assault rifle chattered and roared, shredding the flag to pieces. Ahmad lowered the gun as the flag fell in tatters. "Yeah, boy!" He patted the gun. "That's how it's done! AK's gonna bust into the imperialist Zionist forces, bring some liberation to the people. Know what I'm saying?" He reached below the screen. "Now, I know the Prophet, blessed be his name, said that we shouldn't drink stuff that's been fermented, but he didn't say nothing about Patron!" He withdrew a square jug of tequila, upended it, and drank greedily. It made him sputter and cough. "Damn, yo. Stuff's strong." He set the jug down.
Double glared at the screen. "How much of this do we have to watch?"
"Just wait," Serena explained.
Ahmad October set down the bottle. "Yeah, your boy Ahmad October here – coming at you from an undisclosed location. Fighting a war against Zionist and American imperialism. Fighting for my people." He pounded his chest. "Striking back. Guerilla warfare. RPGs and AKs. I'm 'bout it, and today, I'm 'bout taking out that goddamn, baby-killing tool of Zionist oppression called Golem Bet. You listening to me, Golem? You been around for too long. The vengeance of the Palestinian people is on the way. Soon as you get to Jerusalem, I'm gonna get you, I'm gonna capture you, and I'm gonna execute you –and post the video on my website." He smiled at the audience. "So, please, like this video and subscribe to my feed."
"Christ," Double muttered. "I hope you didn't hit 'like,' Serena."
"I don't even like giving this clown the hits from watching this," Serena said.
"Now, my tactics have been criticized by other freedom fighter groups for being a little too over the top, a little too concerned with Western materials." Ahmad October rolled his eyes. "Shout out to the International Fedayeen Brotherhood and the United Muslim Martyrs. Just kidding. You punks kicked me out." He spat on the ground. "Bunch of haters. Well, all you haters can just watch while I show you how it's done, by executing a Zionist war machine right here. That'll teach you for kicking me out. Until then, peace be upon you, and don't give up the struggle." He waved to the camera. "YOLO!"
The video ended. Phineas glanced back at Golem Bet. "You don't need to listen to him, Mr. Bet. He was just being a jerk." He paused. "You haven't really killed any babies or done anything like that, have you?"
"No," Golem Bet explained. "I'm not gonna pretend that sort of thing doesn't happen, but I don't have a single civilian casualty to my name. I'm very careful about that. And don't worry about Ahmad October. He's just a little punk who likes playing jihadist. And I've got very thick skin. I'm not afraid of his threats, either. They certainly won't stop me from praying at the Western Wall."
"Don't worry," Double explained. "We'll protect you."
As he spoke, Miss Education hurried across the yawn. She dodged the jets of water cast by the sprinklers, ducking swiftly under the streams, and hurried to the patio. "Mr. Bet – we need to move now." Miss Education's high-heeled shoes clicked on the patio as she approached. "Hotel staff just telephoned me. It seems that Rabbi Goldman found out that you're staying here and he and his supporters are—"
Shouts and chanting in Hebrew drowned out her words. A mob of protestors stood at the fence surrounding the Jericho Resort. They clambered up the fence, vaulting easily over the wrought-iron metal, and then landed in the grass. Orthodox men, all in their dark coats, hats, and beards, formed the mob. Double had seen Orthodox Jews in Steele City, clustered together with their families as they walked to synagogue on Saturday, but these Israeli men seemed to be a different breed. They hoisted signs covered in Hebrew script and their pockets bulged and clanked with rocks, while they carried more stones in their hands. Rabbi Moshi Goldman led them. They charged across the lawn in a dark mass, shoving their way through the sprinklers as they neared the patio.
Rabbi Goldman sprang to the ornamental fence surrounding the patio. He hauled himself over and pulled another stone from his pocket. "Golem Bet!" he roared in Hebrew as he pointed at Golem Bet, then switched to English. "It is said in Exodus that an ox that gores a human should be put to death by stoning. You are like an ox, Golem Bet, for you are not human – and yet you have killed. You should not go to the Western Wall and profane that holy place with your presence. Instead, you should be destroyed by stoning."
Golem Bet stood up and held out his hands, a conciliatory gesture. "I understand your displeasure, but the Israeli government—"
"Secularists and fools." Rabbi Goldman hurled his stone. It missed Golem Bet and struck the table, overturning a cup of orange juice. The juice struck the ground and spread in a yellow puddle. "They are the kind of who order settlements torn down, who would make Israel weak. That's what you are, Golem Bet – a blasphemous example of Israel's weakness."
Miss Education lowered her voice. "We need to leave. This could turn ugly very quickly."
"Understood." Double put his hand on Golem Bet's shoulder. "Come on, Mr. Bet. Time for us to leave." More Orthodox protestors arrived. They formed a thick clump on the lawn, pulling the stones from their pockets and readying for a barrage. Golem Bet glared at them. His thick skin might cover Ahmad October's insults, but that didn't extend to his fellow Jews. Rabbi Goldman's words hurt him, and Golem Bet didn't know what to do.
Phineas stood up. "You need to be tolerant, Rabbi Goldman. Please." He glanced at Golem Bet and Double. "Mr. Deuce is a robot. I built him myself – but he has the same mind and emotions as a human being. Golem Bet is the same way, but he has religious beliefs as well. And we need to respect those beliefs, whatever they are." He paused, his confidence faltering. "L-look, Rabbi Goldman, I'm sort of Jewish as well and—"
"No, boy." Rabbi Goldman pulled back his arm, another rock at the ready. "You are not. And you know nothing of Judaism. Now step aside while we bring God's justice to the unholy machine who would desecrate the Western Wall." He turned to his supporters and shouted in Hebrew. They prepared a volley of stones for Golem Bet.
Double touched Golem Bet and Phineas's shoulder. "Come on, guys. Time to leave."
They turned as the rocks clattered down. The barrage of stones fell on the patio, clattering against the stone. Rocks clicked on the furniture and struck the glass windows of the hotel. The glass shattered and broke, casting glass into the grass. Double decided not to bother with the hotel. Instead, he hurried to the edge of the patio, vaulted the fence, and motioned for the others to join him. Serena picked up Phineas and carried him over, while Golem Bet nimbly jumped the fence. Miss Education hauled herself up and then they ran down the lawn, hurrying through the sprinklers as they pounded for the road leading to the hotel, where their limousine waited.
Rabbi Goldman tossed another stone in their direction. It bounced off the back of Double's head, denting the metal. "Chase them down!" Rabbi Goldman cried. "Do not let the godless machine into the Holy City of Jerusalem!" He repeated the order in Hebrew as he gave chase. The Orthodox Jews followed, roaring as they tossed their rocks through the air.
Serena took Phineas's hand and helped him along. They hurried through a curtain of water from the sprinklers, which soaked them as they ran through. The Jericho Resort's goats spotted them coming and ran in a white crowd, calling excitedly as they waved their shaggy, horned heads in the air. More rocks pattered down, thudding into the grass. The bleating goats, the trickling sprinklers, the falling stones, and the Hebrew roars of the protestors drowned out everything else. Double continued along as another stone banged against his shoulder. He ignored the blow and stared ahead. The limousine rested there, the robotic chauffeur already getting the engine running.
They left the lawn and sprinted to the car. Serena reached it first. She pulled the door open and Phineas leapt inside. Miss Education followed, and then Golem Bet. "Get inside!" Double cried. "And drive!" The engine rumbled to life and the limo rolled down the driveway leading to the Jericho Resort. Double increased his pace, raced around a goat, and reached the limousine.
Golem Bet leaned outside the open door, his hand outstretched. Double grabbed his arm and the Israeli robotic commando pulled himself. Double landed on the leather seat of the limo, the cool of air conditioning rushing over his metal body. He reached to the door and slammed it shut, just another volley of stones struck. The rocks smashed against the bullet proof glass, denting the windows and leaving more cracks. Those cracks joined with the ones caused by the bullets of Ahmad October's drones, creating and endless spider web. More stones rattled and banged against the roof. The limousine rolled on and shot into the open road.
The protestors formed up next to the road, roaring as they hurled more stones. The limousine honked at them as it zoomed by. Phineas stared out the window, wincing and pulling back as a stone smashed down. He looked back at the car. "Is everyone okay?"
"Structurally intact," Double agreed.
"Good to know." Serena looked at her hand. She had been gazed by passing rock, enough to draw a little blood. She unzipped her backpack and pulled a bandage. "Bunch of crazy religious fanatics. They're the type who panic if women go around in anything less than a floor-length dress. No wonder they're ready to riot if a robot deserves rights."
"I don't blame them," Golem Bet said.
"You're a better man than I," Serena replied.
"You don't blame them?" Phineas asked. "Why not?"
"They're entitled to their beliefs. They're just trying to do what they think is right. I guess everyone is, in their own way." Golem Bet shrugged. "They mean well, at least. I think that has to count for something." He lowered his eyes. "But I can't believe that God would consider me an ox. He made the men who made me – and they were good men. They talked about prayer often, and so did the human soldiers I fought with, on all my operations. I tried it too and I found it comforting, especially after some very intense missions."
Double leaned closer to Golem Bet. "Is that why you want to pray at the Western Wall?"
"I want to experience it," Golem Bet explained. "Praying in a stressful situation, believing in God, brought me peace. I think the Western Wall will do the same. And nothing Ahmad October or the Grand Rabbinate Council will do can change that."
"Don't worry, Mr. Bet," Phineas explained. "We'll be ready for them."
The limousine rumbled on, driving to Jerusalem.
They reached the Old City in the early afternoon. Jerusalem stretched out behind walls of golden stone, with narrow, crowded streets under stone archways. Crowds of tourists packed the place, snapping pictures at the ancient stones, the numerous shops, and the hordes of stray cats meowing their way through the street. The limousine struggled its way to the Western Wall. Traffic made the progress slow. Double kept one optical sensor out the window, making sure that Ahmad October of Rabbi Goldman wouldn't show up to harass them. Getting pinned down in Jerusalem could mean that they would never reach the Western Wall. As the limo rumbled its way down a choked road, Golem Bet opened his backpack and withdrew a square wooden case. "We're going to reach the wall soon," he explained. "I want to get my supplies ready." He opened the case, revealing leather-bound prayer book, a matching yarmulke, and a striped scarf, marked with blue and white. "The scientists at the Peretz Foundation gave me these," he explained.
Serena watched as Golem Bet withdrew the scarf. He started to make Hebrew prayers, speaking them rapidly in his electric voice. "What's with that shawl, Phineas?" Serena asked. "I don't know if you're an expert on the Jewish thing, but do you know what it is?"
"It's called a Talit, I think." Phineas watched as Golem Bet put the Talit over his shoulders. "It shows devotion to God. Mr. Bet will use it to help him pray when he gets to the Western Wall."
"You'll get one too, Phineas. When you become a Bar Mitzvah." Golem Bet paused in his prayers. "Though my Talit is custom-made." He resumed his prayers, reciting them with mechanical precision. He continued praying as the limousine rumbled to a halt at a crowded intersection. Traffic prevented them from making any headway.
Double released an electric sigh. "Might have to put your prayers on hold. We seem to be boxed in."
"Jerusalem traffic," Golem Bet explained. "It's a usual thing for the most holy city in the world."
"Why does everyone fight over it?" Phineas spoke the question suddenly. Golem Bet stared at him. "Not over Jerusalem, I guess – but over this whole land. It's hot and dusty and full of insects. It doesn't seem like any sort of promised land at all. Why has there been so much bloodshed here and so much death?"
"It's people's home, honey," Serena explained. "Their holy places. Maybe it gives them comfort to call something holy and to fight for it. Gives a meaning to all their struggles." She pointed through the back window. "Double – we got company. The Rabbi and his terror squad are here."
Double glanced in the rearview mirror. Sure enough, the Orthodox mob had arrived in Jerusalem. It must have been easy for them to move in on foot, using ancient alleys and side streets to find their way to the main thoroughfare. Once again, Rabbi Goldman led them. He carried a large protest sign showing a crude outline of Golem Bet, a robot in prayer shawl and yarmulke, praying, and crossed out. The Orthodox protestors plowed on heedlessly into traffic, ignoring the honking horns and angry shouts and curses as they closed in on their target. Rabbi Goldman pulled out another stone and let fly. The rock banged against the back window of the limousine, making Phineas jump. Double turned to the road ahead – still clogged with cars.
He leaned closer to Miss Education. "We gotta find another way to the Western Wall."
"There's a shortcut through some alleys up ahead – but it's very narrow." Miss Education tapped on the glass partition separating her from the robotic driver. "Then again, I don't suppose we have a choice." The partition rolled down and Miss Education gave the command. The chauffeur's gloved hands twisted it wheel. It rumbled off the road, hit a narrow road between two ancient stone buildings, and took off down the cobblestones.
The Orthodox protestors followed. Rabbi Goldman broke into a run, diving ahead of a driving car, tripping in the street, and then springing up to reach the limousine. He dashed for the back, throwing another stone. It flew into the limousine, bounced on the roof, and clattered to the cobblestones. Golem Bet sighed. Rabbi Goldman reached the back of the limo, jogging along to keep pace with the car.
"I could step outside, shove him away?" Double suggested.
"You're not going to beat up a rabbi," Golem Bet explained. "I don't want that to happen." Then the limo slammed to a sudden halt. Golem Bet and the others swayed in their seats. Phineas tumbled down and hit the floor. Double looked through the windshield and spotted a pair of tortoiseshell cats blocking the alley, their tails raised as they meowed plaintively. The limo driver had been forced to stop to avoid hitting the cats. Now the chauffeur slammed on the horn, honking rapidly. The cats meowed back. The limo lay frozen in place.
Rabbi Goldman ran to the back door of the limo. He grabbed the handle and tugged, then rammed a stone against the glass. Bullets and rocks had weakened the glass, and it cracked inwards and broke. Double sprang to the door. "Can I punch him now, Mr. Bet?" Rabbi Goldman rammed his hand inside and plucked the lock. it clicked and the door sprung open. Before anyone could stop him, Rabbi Goldman darted inside.
He withdrew another stone from his pocket and held it like a grenade. "Now, your unholy, godless machine, you will meet your destruction." Rabbi Goldman tossed the stone at Golem Bet. It bounced off his chest and landed on the floor of the limo. "My congregation will be here soon, and then we will—"
The blare of the honking horn drained out his words. The two cats finally took the hint and cleared away. As soon as they scampered to safety, the chauffeur hit the gas. Dust flew from the tires of the limo as it screeched down the street. Momentum knocked Rabbi Goldman back against his seat. The limo sped away from the protestors and turned the corner, leaving them behind. Now Rabbi Goldman sat in the limo, surrounded by the friends of the robot he wanted to destroy. He sat up and adjusted his glasses, his eyes moving around the limo's occupants as his face went pale.
"Godless—" He started. "Godless machine."
"Don't worry, sir." Golem Bet folded his arms. "You won't be harmed."
"He's got a thing about punching rabbis," Serena explained.
Phineas moved back into his seat, next to Double. "But you really don't have to be so mean. Most robots may not all have the intelligence or emotions to be people, but Golem Bet does. He respects you. I think you should do the same to him."
"Why would I do so?" Rabbi Goldman asked. He paused as he stared at Golem Bet. The anger seemed to drip from my voice. "Look, as a member of the Grand Rabbinate Council, I am expected to make proclamations. I can say that quinoa is Kosher for Passover, or that is not acceptable to log onto a computer on the Sabbath, unless you are answering a certain kind of email. I look through the torah, try and find the verses that have some relevance to the topic, interpret them as best I can, and make my decision."
"Well, I guess that's what happens when you try and apply modern concepts to a book written thousands of years ago," Serena explained. "No robots in the torah, after all, so you decided the ox goring people was the closest thing."
"Who should be stoned," Double muttered.
"Well, maybe you could change your mind?" Phineas asked. "Look at the torah again and find some other verse, that says it's okay for a robot to pray at the Western Wall?"
"Why would I do so?" Rabbi Goldman asked. "I could look back, but the others rabbis have all agreed on the decision regarding the ox. They would have to change their minds as well." He stroked his beard. "They would need a great deal of motivation."
"Perhaps the Peretz Foundation could provide that motivation," Miss Education said. She tapped on her tablet. "Allow me show you some figures, Rabbi Goldman, and perhaps we can—" But before she could finish her sentence, a deep mechanical creak echoed through the limousine.
Something banged against the limo's roof, heavy enough to dent the steel. A rattling roar came down from the sky, filling the alley and making Double's auditory sensors ache. Golem Bet drew one of his pistols and moved to the window. Double did the same, motioning for his friends to stay back. "What's going on?" Miss Education asked. "Are we under attack? is the Grand Rabbinate Council trying to smash our vehicle?" Double poked his head out of the window. Nobody attacked them in the alley, but then he twisted his head around and looked up.
A sleek automated combat helicopter hovered above the alley. The rotors of the helicopter formed a buzzing blur. The angular aircraft sported a pair of rocket pods, along with a minigun in the nose, but it didn't bother shooting. Instead, a thick cord dangled down to the limousine roof's ending in a wide, magnetized clamp. That magnet connected with the roof of the limousine. Before Double could shout out, the helicopter lifted into the air. The rotors roared as it buzzed up from the alley. The chain went taut and the limo rose, carried along under the helicopter. The chopper ascended swiftly, leaving the alley and flying straight into the blue Jerusalem sky.
The sudden elevation knocked Double back into the limo. Phineas pressed against the wall and Rabbi Goldman fell to the ground. Serena and Golem Bet helped him up. Wind whistled through the hole smashed by Rabbi Goldman when he tried to enter the limo. The helicopter buzzed away from the alley, dragging the limousine with it. Double's circuits hummed in panicked. They were taken for a ride and he couldn't do anything to stop it.
Rabbi Goldman panicked. "What is this?" He had to shout a little over the creaking. "Why are we flying?"
"Helicopter got us with a magnet on a rope," Double explained. He pointed to Rabbi Goldman. "It's not your people I take it?" Rabbi Goldman shook his head. Everyone knew who must be behind the abduction.
Golem Bet kept an arm on Phineas's shoulder, preventing him from falling. The limousine's edge clipped a nearby rooftop, shattering stone and making the whole vehicle shake. The helicopter flew a little higher, pulling the limo clear of all obstructions. Now they soared along freely. "It's Ahmad October," Golem Bet explained to Rabbi Goldman. "An American-born terrorist who is intent on executing me and posting the video to the internet."
"For some kind of jihadist street cred," Serena added.
"Oh dear God." Rabbi Goldman looked around the limo. "Then we can only imagine what he'll do to us. Even the boy." He turned back to Golem Bet. "We must do something. We must find some way to escape!"
"We could just lock the doors, sit in the limo, and wait until help arrives," Double explained. He glanced at Serena and Miss Education. They were punching buttons on their cell phone and tablet, but to no effect. "I guess he's got some kind of jamming device, cutting our communications. Still, someone must see this helicopter dragging us away and report us to the police. It'll take them a while to find us, though." He glared at Rabbi Goldman. "But we can't sit tight because someone smashed a hole in the glass with a rock."
Phineas pressed close to the window, staring down at Jerusalem. Golem Bet joined him. From the air, they could see the shimmering gold of the Dome of the Rock, next to the Western Wall. They had been so close – and now they might not make it there at all.
Double turned to Golem Bet. "I don't think you've got anymore grenades, but we've still got our side arms. We can come out blasting, take out whatever machines Ahmad October has set against us, and make a break for it."
"We'll be mowed down the moment we emerge," Golem Bet explained. "No. We'll have to wait and be patient, until it's time to strike. That's something I learned very well in Mossad." He looked over the occupants in the limousine, his eyes drifting over Phineas, Serena, Double, Miss Education, and Rabbi Goldman. "My major objective is to keep you safe. Even if it means sacrificing myself so that Ahmad October can get his video – and I hope it won't come to that – I need to make sure all of you are protected."
Rabbi Goldman rested his hands on his knees. "Why?"
"Because I'm an Israeli soldier and that's my job," Golem Bet explained. "That's why I was created."
"You see?" Phineas asked. "He is a good guy. So you should respect his right to pray."
"I don't know," Serena admitted. "Right now, it might not matter so much."
The helicopter buzzed away from Jerusalem and reached the surrounding countryside. It hauled the limousine over the ancient stone walls of the city, and then over the dusty hills. Double and his friends sat in the helicopter in silence. Rabbi Goldman and Golem Bet prayed quietly. Double watched them as they rocked back and forth slightly in their prayers. It might have been nice if he could do something similar – more comforting maybe – but he knew that he couldn't. He didn't want to send out any prayers to creator. His creator sat with him and needed him. Double took Phineas' hand and gave it a squeeze. The helicopter weaved between the hills, and began to descend – flying low to avoid radar. No IDF helicopters pursued them, and Miss Education and Serena still couldn't get their messages out to ask for help. From now on, they were on their own.
After hovering over a set of dusty, rolling hills, the helicopter reached its destination. An abandoned village, with crumbling cement buildings surrounding a duty town square, extended below them. The buildings had been abandoned for some time – home only to animals now. Golem Bet let out a slight groan when he saw it. "A Palestinian village," he explained. "Abandoned since the War for Independence in '48."
"Abandoned?" Phineas asked.
The limousine descended toward the town square, lowered carefully by the helicopter. The taut cord extended. The limo swayed slightly as its wheels drew closer and closer to the cement. Double glanced out the windows. Praetorians Drones stood at the corners of the town square – more black market machines armed with powerful assault rifles, combat shotguns, and submachine guns. They brought up their guns in unison, their bulbous white noses pointed toward the limo. The wheels of the limousine touched down on the cement. The car creaked and finally came to a rest. The helicopter buzzed away and settled down on the square rooftop of a nearby structure.
Serena pointed to the edge of the town square. "Looks like Ahmad October's got everything set-up for a shoot." Sure enough, he had posted a number of lights around a camera on a tripod, all facing a small stage set near the desert. A table rested on the stage, covered with a white cloth. Double didn't want to find out what was under that cloth.
Ahmad October himself emerged from a square house on the far end of the square, flanked by two Praetorian drones wearing keffiyehs and carrying shotguns. Ahmad October had a golden assault rifle slung over his back. He sipped from a water bottle as he walked to the limousine. "Golem Bet?" He finished the water bottle, crumpled it, and tossed it away, then waved at the limo. "You're in there, right?"
Double moved to the crack in the window and raised his pistol. "I've got a shot."
"Don't take it," Golem Bet said. He pointed to the windshield. "Look over there."
Another Praetorian Drone faced the limousine, armed with an RPG – spray-painted gold. The RPG could destroy the limousine completely, killing everyone inside. Double's circuits released a crackling groan. Ahmad October may be an idiot, but he had planned this well. They would have to play it his way.
"You see the RPG pointed at you, right?" Ahmad October asked. "Yeah, I can blow up your limousine if you want. Catch that with the camera and still post it online. It won't exactly be what I want, but everyone likes explosions. Still, I got a better idea. So open the door, toss out your pistols, and then come out with your hands on your head. Don't try nothing or get my robot boys will bust. You know what I'm saying, bro?"
Golem Bet sighed. He leaned over, unlocked the door, and then removed his automatics and tossed them into the dust. Double pulled his own pistol and set it down. Golem Bet turned back to the people in the limousine. "Don't worry," he promised. "I will not let you be harmed." Then he stepped out of the limousine, his hands on his head.
"All right!" Ahmad October clapped his hands – delighted that he had succeeded. "The rest of you, get out too." Double took Phineas's hands and they left the limo, along with Serena, Miss Education, and Rabbi Goldman. They stood next to Golem Bet. A slight breeze whistled through the abandoned town, stirring the dust. Ahmad October looked them over. He paused before Serena. "Damn, girl. What are you doing traveling around with some Zionist murdering robot?" Serena just glared at him. Ahmad October turned to Rabbi Goldman. "And who are you? Golem Bet's spiritual counsel or something?"
"He's an Orthodox rabbi who hates Mr. Bet, actually," Phineas explained. "Just like you."
"You brought a kid?" Ahmad October paused. He stared at Phineas. "Well, don't worry, kid. There won't be any real blood. Just sparks and flying metal and that sort of thing. And you won't get hurt, long as you play by the rules." He turned back to Golem Bet. "I heard about the Grand Rabbinate Council being pissed about you wanting to pray. I sympathize, yo. All these stone-cold terrorist types hate me, say that I can't join them because I went to an exclusive prep school and like to get wasted off purple cough syrup now and then. Haters gonna hate, after all."
"So you kill Golem Bet, film it, and they'll think you're one of the cool kids?" Serena asked. "That's what this is about?"
"Hell, girl – after I do this, I can recruit my own men. My rep's gonna go through the ceiling." He faced Golem Bet. "You ain't said a single thing to me, man. Come on. Don't you want to talk to you own executioner?" Golem Bet stared ahead, saying anything. "Oh, I get it. Moral high ground, huh? Zionists love to have that." Ahmad October held out his hand. "Well, take a look at our surroundings."
"What about them?" Double asked.
"This used to be a Palestinian village – my people used to live here! Then the world decided that Palestine would be a great place for the Jews to hang out, so my people had to go. They got pushed out of their way and shoved into the Gaza Strip and refugee camps, gunned down and massacred if they refused. Now Israel can go on bombing sprees or raids whenever they want. Kill Palestinian civilians and they get a big thumbs-up from Uncle Sam." Ahmad October shook his head. "It ain't right, bro. That's why I'm doing this. For justice in the eyes of God."
Phineas glanced at Rabbi Goldman and Golem Bet. "Is that true?"
"It's debatable," Rabbi Goldman explained. "And this ingrate has not mentioned the countless Israelis, including women and children, who were killed in suicide bombings and rocket attacks committed by terrorist organizations."
"Hey, sorry we ain't got no million-dollar attack helicopters and commandos to fight our wars, Mr. Rabbi," Ahmad October replied. "We have to make do with whatever we can, including our brothers and sisters who are ready to die for the cause." He faced Phineas. "Yeah, it's true. Israel kills civilians all the time. They dropped thermite charges in Lebanon. Burned people alive, because they thought rockets were coming from the area."
"Those rockets struck kibbutzim and killed our people," Golem Bet retorted.
Ahmad October sighed. "Hey, I don't want to argue, bro. That's not why I captured you." He walked over to the table before the camera. "Instead, I think I'm gonna decapitate you, film it, and post it to the internet. Except, I won't use no machete or blade." He grabbed the white cloth and pulled it aside. A chainsaw rested inside. "Check it out, yo – chainsaw massacre swag!" He pointed to the chainsaw, smiling like a kid with a new toy. "So get over here, Golem Bet. Kneel down and I'll take off your head."
Golem Bet stared at Ahmad October. "And if I don't? Will you hurt my friends?" His eyes moved to Phineas. "Will you hurt the boy?"
"I don't want to, bro," Ahmad October said. "But the other terrorists – they're gonna say I'm weak if I don't." He scratched his chin. "I could just have you shot and drag you over. You don't want that." He sighed. "Look, don't make this harder than it is, already. Just get over, and let me cut your head off."
"Very well." Golem Bet glanced at Double. His eyes gleamed. He had a plan.
"I'll go with him." Double walked after Golem Bet. "We may not have the same beliefs, but we're both robots. I'll stand with him until the end. Can you respect that at least, Ahmad October?" He looked back at his friends and gave Phineas a comforting nod. The boy still looked terrified.
"I can respect it." Ahmad October pointed to the stage before the camera. "Get over here and kneel down. I'll get the camera rolling. Don't try nothing now." He walked over to the camera and pressed a button as Double and Golem Bet knelt down next to each other. Golem Bet's hands wrapped around his talit, fingering the blue and white fabric. Before Double could ask a whispered question, blaring hip-hop music boomed from the speakers. Ahmad October swaggered before the stage and grabbed the chainsaw. He waved the chainsaw in the air, smiling and showing off his grills.
Double lowered his head. "Oh god. I almost wish he'd get on with the execution already."
"What up, internet?" Ahmad October asked. "It's your boy, Ahmad October – coming at you from an undisclosed location with a live execution." He raised the chainsaw and tugged at the cord. The blades spun, releasing a loud whirr. "Hell yeah! Nothing more gangster than cutting some fool's head off and posting the video online. Like and subscribe for more." He walked over to Golem Bet. "And here's my target, the mechanical tool of Zionist oppression. Shout out to all the haters who said I couldn't be a true soldier for Islam. Look at what I'm about to do!" He walked over to Golem Bet and raised the chainsaw. His hand paused. He stared at Golem Bet. "You ready?"
Golem Bet pulled the talit over his head. He gripped the edges, his metal fingers tightening around the cloth. "I am ready."
"Okay." Ahmad October pulled the cord.
The chainsaw roared as the blades blurred. He swung it down on Ahmad October's neck. But as the chainsaw descended, Golem Bet pulled the talit from his head and swung it upwards. He wrapped it around the chainsaw. Somehow, the blades didn't slice through the fabric in a second. Instead, they caught in the cloth. The teeth dug into the fabric, tearing it and fraying it, but not piercing through. Ahmad October stared in horror and then Double sprang up and ran to him. He slugged Ahmad October, grabbed the golden assault rifle, and ripped it from the would-be terrorist's back. Double pulled the gun free and turned it on the Praetorian Drones.
His internal targeting system swung into action. Double pulled the trigger, sending out bursts and dropping the drones as the attacked. He shot two drones, blasting through their metal skulls and knocking their bodies to the ground, and then scrambled to the limo. "Get inside the car and stay down!" Double ordered. His friends would be safe in the bullet-proof car. Serena grabbed Rabbi Goldman and Phineas's arm and hauled them back to the limousine. Double hurried across the dusty town square, firing from the hip as the drones tried to stop him. More shots whistled past him, one tearing through his shoulder. He reached Golem Bet's dropped pistols, grabbed one gun, and hurled it back. Golem Bet caught it with one hand, bashed the handle against Ahmad October's head to drop him, and turned to the drones.
Their guns clattered together. Golem Bet fired the pistol with lethal accuracy, bringing down the Praetorians before they could mount a defense. The heavy automatic thundered in his hand, blasting into the drones as they approached. One Praetorian turned the RPG in their direction and reached for the firing stud. Golem Bet put a round through his chest as he fired. The rocket streamed out, rushed past them, and exploded in the side of a dusty hill. Smoke and sand flew through the air.
"I'm out." Golem Bet holstered the empty pistol. "That's the problem with the Desert Eagle." He pointed to a fallen shotgun, dropped by a dead drone. "Cover me." Double nodded and fired the golden assault rifle, shooting down the attacking drones. Golem Bet raced across the town square, grabbed the shotgun, and came up firing. Together, they blasted down the remaining drones.
The roar of rotors came over the desert. "Damn." Double pointed to the automated attack helicopter. "Mr. Bet, we've got trouble." The helicopter whirred to life and hovered above the town square. The minigun started to spin as the helicopter sped closer. It could blow Double and Golem Bet to pieces in a single blast. "What do we do?"
"No need to worry," Golem Bet explained. "My friends are here."
A flurry of missiles slammed into the attack helicopter, blasting it from the sky. It fell in smoldering chunks of metal, which rained down on the town square. Double turned. Another helicopter, bearing Israeli colors, buzzed in from behind, followed by a Black Hawk. They landed together, IDF soldiers already emerging from the Black Hawk and gunning down the remaining drones. Ahmad October was an idiot. The IDF had found out about his location and now came to rescue Double and his friends. Double released an electric sigh. They were safe.
Ahmad October wailed. He sat up, his nose bleeding. "Oh man." His eyes darted from Golem Bet to Double. "This wasn't suppose to go this way. I'm gonna be a goddamn joke if this ever gets out!" He turned to Double. "Please, bro – shoot the camera, okay?"
For some reason, Double felt a little sympathy to Ahmad October. He gave the camera a burst from his assault rifle, smashing it to sparking shreds. Ahmad October smiled, even as the IDF soldiers hauled him and dragged him away. They pulled him back to the helicopter as Golem Bet removed the shredded talit from the teeth of the chainsaw. Phineas, Serena, and the others hurried over to join Double and Golem Bet. "Mr. Deuce, Mr. Bet, are you all right?" Phineas asked.
"We're fine," Double explained. He looked at the talit. "What was that thing made of, Mr. Bet?"
"Kevlar," Golem Bet explained. "My scientists figured it might come in handy. I guess it doesn't meet all the qualifications for being a real talit, though." He paused as he glanced at Rabbi Goldman. "But I don't really care. Now, why we don't get back in the limo? I think I'm ready to finally go to Jerusalem and pray."
Serena nodded. "Sounds like a plan, Mr. Bet. Let's go."
They headed back into the limousine. After this mess, Double figured that Golem Bet had earned his prayers.
An hour later, Double, Serena, Phineas and Miss Education stood on the sloping stairway leading to the Western Wall. They watched as Golem Bet read from his prayer book and rocked back and forth before the ancient tan stones, surrounded by tourists and other worshippers. Rabbi Goldman stood behind him, praying as well. The rabbi had been much more cooperative. Double wasn't sure why. He turned to Miss Education. "What's with Rabbi Goldman embracing Golem Bet all of a sudden? Seems like he changed his mind."
"We came to an agreement on the drive back," Miss Education explained. Double had been getting repairs from Phineas and hadn't really been listening to their conversation. "The Peretz Foundation is funding the Grand Rabbinate Council's brand new Yeshiva School. Rabbi Goldman looked into the torah and found some passages that can be interpreted in such a way that a robot is allowed to pray."
"A little underhanded, isn't it?" Serena asked.
Phineas nodded. "I guess so. But it seems worth it." He pointed at Golem Bet. "He's happy, Mr. Deuce. He's praying and he's happy. I'm very glad that we could help Mr. Bet out and let him follow his dream."
"I'm just happy to help another robot," Double agreed. They listened to the chanting filtering up from the Western Wall as Golem Bet and his people prayed.