Copyright S. Bradley Stoner.
When I got to my brother's house, the boy took me to his father's basement workshop. I don't know what I expected, but whatever it was, it wasn't what I found. In the middle of the room stood this enormous thing. It looked like a cross between a Saturn V rocket and a '58 Chevy.
"What is it?" I asked.
"A transformer," he replied.
I thought of Edison. I thought of toy trains. "Neat," I said, but I think it's a bit large. You could regulate a power station with this baby."
The boy looked at me blankly. "Huh?" he said.
I became suspicious. I wasn't sure we were on the same wavelength. Maybe "transformer" had a new meaning in today's high-tech world. "Maybe you'd better explain," I suggested.
He grinned. "What's it look like?" he asked.
"Like a spaceship with Henry Ford overtones," I responded.
He grinned again and said, "Watch this!"
He pushed a button on the small panel in the front. Something like a head appeared from within the nose cone. It had red eyes that blinked. It had a mouth that looked like a Rolls Royce grill. It had a whip antenna and a little hoop that kept rotating every time the eyes blinked. He pushed another button. The tail fins unfolded and pushed the entire structure toward the ceiling.
I was astounded. It looked just like some of the robots you read about in futuristic science fiction stories. I was impressed. "Wow! What a neat toy," I said. "There wasn't anything like this around when I was a kid."
He looked hurt. Then he looked indignant. Then he looked angry. I never knew a little kid could be so loud, "TOY?!" he roared. "TOY?!"
The robots head swiveled and blinked at me. Its little hoop was spinning furiously. It started to raise a mechanical arm. "Calm down, Vortex," my nephew said. The arm dropped. The hoop slowed. The taillight eyes quit flashing.
When I quit shaking, I squeaked, "Vortex?"
My nephew's face grew serious. He had my attention. I listened closely. I had to. When my nephew gets excited or serious, his speech becomes holophrastic. "Vortex-is-a-VOX-controlled-mini-mainframe-artificial -intelligence-inertially-guided-thermofustion-powered-antichild-abuse-device," he said in a single breath without pausing between words.
I stared at him, trying to decipher this high-tech gobbledegook. "Huh?" I said.
He looked at me sadly and shook his head. "Don't you watch Saturday cartoons?" he asked.
I shook my head. "What's it do?" I asked.
"It follows me around and beats up guys who pick on me."