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Friday, May 22, 2015

Servo 19:1

Servo 19:1


Exhausted, I must’ve fallen asleep on the basement sofa. When I awoke the next morning, I was curled up in a little ball, my head resting on a red velvet pillow, and a fuzzy blue and green blanket draped over me. The storm had been a doozie. Craning my head, I saw Rory at the other end of the sofa mirroring my position. Grandma and Grandpa were nowhere to be found.
I sat up and yawned. Rory stirred. Then panic set in. It was Tuesday, a school day. What time was it? I could see daylight out the basement windows. Why had grandma or grandpa not awakened us? Today was our final tests in history and physical sciences. We couldn’t afford to miss them.
“Rory, get up!” I said, throwing the blanket off. “We have to get to school.”
“Oh!” he gasped, sitting bolt upright.
We scampered upstairs to find Grandma in the kitchen just starting to make breakfast. I looked at the clock over the sink, it read 6:10. Whew!
“Good morning, boys. Did you sleep okay through the storm?”
“I guess,” I replied, rubbing my eyes.
“Get dressed and come for breakfast.”
We went up and dressed for school. I grabbed my backpack and shoved the school provided tablet into it. Mrs. Graham would upload the tests to our tablets, administer them, and after grading, delete the test. She did tell us that “back in the old days” they actually used paper to print the tests out and students had to mark their answers with pencil or pen. How archaic!
Breakfast consisted of cold cereal, toast, eggs, and bacon. All of us ate like we’d been starving for days. When breakfast was finished, grandpa headed out to the truck. Rory and I brushed our teeth and soon joined him. I stepped out into the bright morning sun and was immediately horrified. The storm had severely damaged the barn. A good chunk of the roof facing the house was peeled off, and I saw wisps of smoke coming from it. “Grandpa, what happened?!” I said.
“Looks like it took a lightning strike.” He walked closer to the smoldering building. Much of it was still intact. “Was probably raining so hard it put out the flames.”
“Will it be okay?”
He nodded slowly. “I reckon so.”
Rory elbowed me. “The bot.”
“Grandpa?”
“Hmm?”
“Can I go in and check on the bot?”
“You need to get to school.”
“It’ll only take a second.”
“Hurry up.”
I tore across the yard to the barn. The doors were still latched shut. Upon opening one, I was shocked to see so much daylight coming in from above. Everything was wet. Quickly, I made my way to the workbench. The sun shined in, illuminating the gold color of the bot. Somewhere in the storm, the tarp had blown off. The smell of smoke and damp wood hung in the air.
As I approached the bot, it seemed undamaged. Little bits of charred wood clung to wet metal. It appeared that it had escaped the wrath of the storm. I saw a dark area of scorched metal on the left side of the bot’s chest and shoulder.
And then shock.
The bot sat up!
“Holy—!” I said, jumping back. How had this happened? Last night the bot was lying there lifeless; now it was sitting up, regarding me. Its eyes were glowing, still rather faintly, but it was alive.
“Jonah?” the tinny mechanical voice said.
My heart was beating so fast I thought I’d pass out. Suddenly I was lightheaded. I was face to face with the living bot, and speechless. All I could manage was to let my jaw hang open.
The bot cocked its head slightly. “Jonah?”
“Jonah!” Grandpa hollered from the truck.
The bot nodded once. “Jonah.”
I felt the gravitational tug of two celestial bodies. Grandpa was beckoning me to school, but the bot was enticing me to stay. How on earth had this happened?
“Jonah! Let’s go!”
“Coming, Grandpa!” I looked at the bot in total disbelief. “Stay here,” I blurted, not taking my eyes off the machine as I backed from the barn. Latching the door, I hurried to the truck.
Grandpa seemed moderately irritated by my sluggishness. “Is that bot still in one piece?” His tone of voice showed displeasure.
“Uh, yes, Grandpa, it is.”
“Pity,” he replied, putting the truck in gear.
I said nothing more. Secretly, I hoped grandpa would not find the bot and dismantle it. I knew he’d be returning home and working on the wrecked barn after he dropped us at school. I feared the worst.
We pulled up if front of the school and Rory and I hopped out. I was brimming with excitement but had to keep it in check until grandpa was out of sight. The truck pulled away and I grabbed Rory. “You’re not gonna believe it!”
“Hey!” Rory griped, trying to shake loose of my grasp.
I dragged him around a corner that was flanked by a hedgerow. “The bot’s alive!”
“What?”
“The bot, it’s functioning. It spoke to me!”
“You’re joking, right?”
“No!”
Rory studied me for a moment. I’m sure he saw the seriousness engraved on my face.
“It’s working?”
“Yes!” I finally let my grasp slide. “It said my name!” Just then, I saw Dagwood walk by. I shot out, snatched him by the back of his shirt, and yanked him behind the shrubs. Considering he was twice my size, it would normally have been a difficult maneuver. But I was hyped up on adrenaline and I felt like I had superhuman strength.
“Hey!” Dagwood said.
“Dagwood!”
He turned, realizing it was me. “Oh, hi Jonah, hi Rory…What’d you do that for?”
“You’re not gonna believe this.”
“Did you guys get hit by that bad storm? We found some barn tin in our yard this morning. Looks like it came from Mr. Cranwinkle’s barn.”
“The bot’s alive!”
The expression on his face scrunched in confusion, then slowly softened, a slight smile forming on his lips. “It works?”
“Yeah!”
“Did you get it fixed?”
“Not exactly. I put in the last parts before the storm and then it got bad, so I went to the house. This morning I went out to see how bad the damage was, and the bot sat up and spoke to me.”
Dagwood threw his arms in the air and hopped up and down. “Wooo-eeeee!!!”
“But you can’t tell anyone. Got it?”
“Oh, no, I won’t say nothin’ to nobody…Pa’s gonna go over later and help Mr. Cranwinkle with the barn—it’s the least he can do after all the help your grandpa gave him over the years.”
“I hope they don’t do anything to the bot.”
“Why would they?”
“Grandpa isn’t too fond of them.”
“Didn’t he used to build ’em?”
“Yes. But that doesn’t mean he likes them anymore.”
The bell rang, calling us to class.
“I’ll come over after school. I wanna see the bot.”
“Sure,” I replied.
“Okay, gotta go.” Dagwood dashed off to class.
“Come on, Rory, let’s go. I hope this day goes by fast.”

Friday, May 15, 2015

Servo 18:3

Servo 18:3


After school, Grandpa was impatiently waiting for us. He’d had no luck in his day of making phone calls. Suz had vanished into thin air. I could tell he was worried. The lines on his face were more deeply etched than I’d ever seen them. His brow was furrowed, eyes contracted yet sorrowful.
We got home and Rory and I went upstairs to change. We put on our “barn duds” as grandpa called them and came down to the kitchen for our afternoon snack. We were greeted with fresh made chocolate chip cookies and tall glasses of milk. We destroyed the sweet treats.  In the hallway, I could hear grandpa on the phone. His voice had a strong helping of anxiety to it. I hoped Suz’s disappearance would not be the death of him. Grandpa did look a bit pale.
When I’d finished my snack, I quietly crept into the hallway. Grandpa had his back to the kitchen, so was probably unaware of my presence. I listened to his conversation. He was talking to someone at the local airport; I clearly heard him mention flights to the Inner States. Did he think my sister had left via plane? I didn’t think Suz had enough allowance money for a plane ticket. Grandpa concluded the call and picked up the phone book, searching for a number.
I quietly excused myself. As I headed out the door, I heard him talking to the sheriff. Rory decided to follow me to the barn.
“Do you think she’ll come back?” my brother asked.
“I dunno. She’s an adult; she can do what she wants.”
“Aren’t you worried?”
“Yeah, I am. But what can I do?”
“Nothing, I suppose.”
We reached the barn and opened one of the doors. In the distance, I spied dark clouds billowing in the west. “Looks like a storm’s coming.”
“A big one.”
“Grandpa did say we needed rain.”
“That looks like a lot of rain.”
Once inside, we went to the workbench. The bot lay covered with a tarp. I’d put everything back together, the memory core was now error-free, and my next plan was to implant the second core into the bot’s chest and wire everything together. I don’t know why I was bothering, the darn thing refused to work. Even with a perfect core, the bot would do nothing but make ticking, whirring, and clicking noises and the one eye would light up faintly. I was beginning to think it would never work.
I removed the top off the shoebox. It had made its way from my bedroom to the barn. Normally such a simple object would be tossed in the recycle bin and immediately erased from sight. Out here, things tended to live longer more useful lives—sometimes for years or even decades. Grandma showed me some old photos that she kept in a shoebox that she said were nearly one hundred years old. The box itself was dog-eared, yellowed, and tattered. I did not ask, but I wondered about its age as well.
The second core rested in a wad of pink tissue paper. I couldn’t find anything else static-free to place it in, so the paper that came from one of Suz’s Christmas presents had to do.
“Are you going to put it in today?” Rory asked, gesturing to the box.
“Yeah, but I don’t know why I’m bothering.”
“Maybe one day it’ll work.”
I regarded him with a deep frown. “As if by magic?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno.”
“Doubtful. Somewhere in this thing is a wrong wire, frayed wire, a single line of code that’s messed up, or something that I just can’t find. If Dad were here, he’d have it up and running in no time.”
Rory sighed. “But he’s not.”
I felt an intense pain in my chest. How I missed him more than ever. Why did he have to die so young? So soon? Why did he have to leave us on our own? It was bad enough when our mother died, but to have both parents gone was just something kids shouldn’t have to deal with. Parents were supposed to be there for graduations, marriages, and grandkids.
A wave of thunder rumbled over the farm. The old barn trembled, dust fell from the rafters. Somewhere I swore I heard a mouse scurrying for cover. Spring storms could be quite violent.
“Better get moving,” Rory said as he looked out the window. “Storm could be here soon.”
“If you wanna go in, go ahead. This is delicate work. It’s going to take me awhile.”
He watched me for a long moment. “I think I will.”
“Fine,” I replied, removing the bot’s chest plate. “I’ll keep an eye out. If it gets too bad, I’ll come in.”
“Okay.” He said nothing further and left me to my work.
My fingers moved deftly, sorting and pushing wires out of the way. The chest cavity of the bot was crammed full. Actuators, servos, small pistons that ran the limbs, loads of wire, the main battery, and auxiliary power solenoid filled nearly every inch of space. There was nowhere in the bot’s head to put the second core, it was jammed with functional memory cards, more wires, the core and junction interface, optical components, and speech synthesizing drives. Not to mention all the auditory sensors and actuators that made up the bot’s ears. Despite the age of the bot, it was surprisingly complex. In newer bots, all the components had been miniaturized to nearly one-third of what these parts were.
Thunder boomed overhead. I jumped. Then I heard hard drops of rain hitting the tin roof. I checked out the window to make sure it wasn’t hail. We quickly learned that hail was a bad sign when it came to warm spring storms. Coupled with wind, it could devastate an entire area, not to mention spawn my least favorite of weather anomalies: tornadoes.
I tried to ignore the racket above and concentrate on running a new wire through some tricky areas in the bot’s face. It would need to be passed down the neck and into the chest before connecting the second core. Still, I had my doubts about the bot ever working. It was ancient, the parts I was using weren’t exactly in great shape, and it had been in this barn for decades. My father told me that sometimes things will just never work, no matter how much you fix them. Surely this wasn’t the case? I didn’t want to believe all these months of hard work were to be for naught.
A crackle of lightning flashed outside the window. A moment later, the roar of a rumbling freight train as the thunder steamed past. Everything shook. It was shaping up to be a nasty storm. I wanted badly to get the second core wired up. Why? I dunno. I guess I was being obsessive about the bot so I could try and hide my feelings about Suz’s disappearance. Something in my mind feared the worst.
Taking a deep breath to settle my nerves, I narrowed my eyes and focused on the wiring. Miraculously, my ears seemed to shut off, buffering the savage tempest raging outside. I was in the zone, the place where scientists aspired to be. Nothing was going to stop me from completing my mission.
 My fingers worked almost uncontrolled. The thin wire slipped and looped around and over various bot components. I’m sure it took me at least a half hour, but in my mind, it took mere seconds. Now the wire was connected from the core in the bot’s head, down the neck, and into the chest. That left only to wire in the second core.
Dust rained down on me as another vicious explosion of thunder shook the barn. I went to the window and discovered a total deluge. It was raining so hard I could barely see the field. That much rain couldn’t be a good thing. Puddles were rapidly forming on the ground. I watched flashes of lightning reflect off them. And then I noticed the sky was an eerie pea-soup color.
It was now or never. Returning to the bench, I picked up a small pair of needle-nose pliers and prepared to make the final connection. The wire needed to be pulled under the right actuation servo for the arm and brought around to where its “heart” would be. Then I would insert the core into a tiny space and crimp the wire to the exposed terminal. Child’s play, really, but when it sounds like the earth is coming to an end around you, things get crazy.
With the wire in place, I quickly grabbed the core from the shoebox and wiggled it into position. A second later, the wire was attached. The barn shook with a huge crash of thunder. I wanted no more of this insanity. Putting the chest plate back on, I covered the bot, and tore from the barn. I knew where everyone else was: the basement. And that’s where I wanted to be. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Servo 18:2

Servo 18:2


Fortunately, there was only fifty in the graduating class. We were not subjected to sitting on the hard auditorium chairs for too long. Rory and I found it difficult to sit still. We inched, squirmed, and wiggled discretely for much of the proceedings. Grandma and Grandpa didn’t move a muscle except to clap for the alumni as they crossed the stage.
When all was said and done, Suz rejoined us. Grandpa patiently waited until most of the people had left. Then we made our way outside and back to the truck.
“Who’s hungry?” he said.
“Me!” Rory and I shouted in unison.
“I suppose we can hit the diner for some grub.”
“Yay!”
Suz stood with her mortarboard cap in hand. “Grandma, Grandpa, can I go out with Otto?”
Grandma regarded her. “Dear, don’t you want to celebrate with family?”
“I don’t think there’s much to celebrate. It was only graduation from public school.”
“All right then. Will you be home for dinner?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“Good. We’ll have a nice family dinner. I’ll even make chicken parm—your favorite.”
“Thank you, Grandma. Um, Otto’s back at the school building waiting for me.”
“Run along, dear.”

I suppose I should’ve been more observant on the day of Suz’s graduation. Maybe I would have seen it, sensed it, but I didn’t. When Monday rolled around and we were getting ready for school, Suz was nowhere to be found. She’d gone out with Otto again the previous night, but none of us noticed if she came home.
Grandma checked Suz’s room and found most of her belongings gone; the suitcase that lived under her bed, absent. Where had my sister run off to? Panic was beginning to envelope the Cranwinkle household. Grandpa got on the phone and called the Hogg’s in order to get the Arkman’s phone number.
Then he called Otto’s house.
“Hello? Mrs. Arkman?” he said.
Rory and I stood by, listening to one side of the conversation.
“Yes, is Suzette there? No? Have you seen her? No? Hmm…And Otto isn’t home either? Well, if you see them, please give me a call…Thank you, good-bye.” He turned to us. “Has your sister ever done anything like this before?”
We shook our heads.
“Never?”
“No, Grandpa,” I said. “She’s done some dumb stuff, but never runaway.”
“Where would she go?”
“My guess is the Inner States.”
“But the border to the Inner States is over six hundred miles away!”
“Suz probably saved up her allowance.”
Grandpa rubbed his face in frustration. “Why would she pull such a stupid stunt?”
“She never liked it here,” Rory said. “She hated leaving the Inner States. That was her home.”
“It’s your home too.”
“We’re not as stubborn as her.”
The old man uttered a bit of a chuckle. “Got that right! I thought Eliza was a stubborn woman. Suz has proven without a shadow of a doubt to be far more stubborn than my wife.”
“What was that, dear?” Grandma called from the kitchen.
“Nothing!”
All three of us tried to stifle laughter. In a way, I was glad Suz was gone. All she did was complain and grumble. The only time she was happy was with Otto. Well, now she was with him and they were gone. Admittedly, I was going to miss him. He’d been instrumental in getting parts for the bot and helping with some of the troubleshooting. However, the bot still remained inanimate. I had yet to unlock the secret that would make it live.
Grandpa hurriedly drove us to school. We had four days left. I couldn’t wait. With my days free, I could work on the bot and maybe accomplish something. It just had to work—it had to! Rory and I needed a father-figure in our lives.
Fortunately the school day seemed to zip by. We had two final exams, and Rory and I aced both. Mrs. Graham was very pleased with our scores. She said if we kept it up, she’d personally write a letter to our chosen college endorsing us for academic achievement. I figured I could use all the help I could get. My sights were set firmly on Bryn Mawr Bio-Technical. If grandpa could do it, so could I.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Servo 18:1

Servo 18:1


The month of May melded into June. Before I gave it any thought, we were faced with Suz’s high school graduation. It seemed like the last year flew by. Rory and I were now anticipating summer vacation. Work on the bot had slowed once again in favor of studying for final exams. But after next week, that would all be over. I was confident Mrs. Graham would give us high marks.
Today, it was Suz’s day. The senior class was allowed to graduate a week early. The Cranwinkle house was in total upheaval as Suz primmed for the occasion. The remainder of the household stayed quietly out of her way.
I was in my room getting dressed when I heard knocking on the door. “Yes?”
“It’s me,” Rory said.
“Come on in.”
He opened the door and stood in the doorway. “Do I look stupid?”
I glanced over and saw him clothed in a smart suit made of dark gray material. His hair was combed back, and he even wore a tie. “No, you look good.”
“It itches!”
“Where’d you get the suit?”
“Grandma bought it for me.”
“Did you pick it out?”
“Kind of.”
“Did you even try it on?”
“Yes. But it didn’t feel itchy then.”
“Maybe you were wearing a different shirt when you tried it on.”
Rory wiggled. “It’s not super bad; I suppose I can make it through the day.”
I slid into a dark blue twill jacket. It had a satin lining and felt nice against my bare arms. The weather had improved greatly and the warmth of summer was now making an appearance. Outside my bedroom window, behind the old barn, I could see little sprouts of green in the once dusty field. Life seemed to be coming back to the despondent farming community.
“Come on, boys!” Grandpa called from the bottom of the stairs. I guess that meant Suz was finally ready.
Rory said nothing and made his way downstairs. I paused for a moment, looking at myself in the mirror which hung inside the wardrobe door. Someone very different was staring back at me. Who is this kid? My hair was longer than I’d ever kept it, and my face didn’t even seem to be my own. I looked older. Could a year make that much difference? I stretched my arms forward to straighten the jacket and realized the sleeves were now a bit short. Somewhere in the last year, I’d grown too.
“Jonah!” Grandpa hollered.
For a moment, I pretended I didn’t hear him. I just stared in the mirror.
“Jonah!”
I broke my gaze and hurried out.
The whole family was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. Suz gave me a dirty look as I neared them. “And I’m always being accused of making us late!” she scoffed.
“Sorry.”
Little more was said as we left the house and piled into the truck. Grandpa drove, Grandma sat next to him, and the three of us occupied the backseat.
We traveled the five-and-a-half miles to school. The commencement ceremony was to be held in the auditorium. Upon our arrival, we found every available parking space filled. Of course there weren’t many, it wasn’t a particularly large school. The majority of campus took less than a square block. Across a street was the athletic field which took up almost another block. Grandpa circled the area like a vulture and finally had to park on a side street three blocks away. Rory and I didn’t mind the walk, but Suz grumbled because she was wearing new shoes. Grandma took it all in stride. She looped arms with Grandpa and they strolled along in the warm sunshine.
As we neared the school, the noise of hundreds of voices filled the air. Rounding the corner of the main building, we beheld the small courtyard jam-packed with people.
“Oh, dear,” Grandma said, obviously taken aback by the scene.
Being a Saturday, there wasn’t the same amount of school children as during the week. There seemed to be ten times more! Elementary and middle school kids darted between the throngs of high-schoolers, babies screamed and cried as their mothers tried to placate them, and parents did their best to maintain control over the situation. It was utter chaos.
Suz excused herself to head “backstage” for the event. The rest of us hung on the fringes of the mob, not wanting to get mixed up in the bedlam.
Grandpa put his hand on my shoulder. “When I graduated high school, there were just fifteen of us in the entire senior class.”
“Why so few?” I replied.
“The Philadelphia Science Academy only accepted the best and brightest. Not many were admitted each year.”
“You went to the Science Academy?!” In all my life, I’d wanted to go there. But I didn’t have a high enough IQ to get in the door. Suz could have gone, but she decided to stay in school with us. Secretly, I was jealous of grandpa.
“Four years of hard work followed by four more at Bryn Mawr Bio-Technical.”
“Wow,” I said softly. My very own father had only been a graduate of the Philadelphia School for Enlightened Students, and went on to Thomas Edison Industrial College where he majored in robotics. Grandpa was light-years ahead of my dad. He’d attended the finest schools in the country for technology and robotics. Now I was seriously jealous.
If I was lucky and kept my grades immaculate, I might get accepted to one of the lower-end technical colleges in the Inner States. Coming from the Outer States, with a plain high school education, and an IQ of 170, I had a severe deficit compared to the other students that were enrolled in Inner States schools. This just heightened my resolve to succeed.
Static crackled and hissed through the air. The next thing we heard was the booming voice of the principal, Mr. Simmons: “Everyone please make your way to the auditorium. Commencement will start in ten minutes.”
Again we hung back and let the surge of families go ahead of us. There was a mass bottle-neck at the doors as everyone tried to elbow their way in. Frankly, I was happy to stand in the sun. It felt good warming the dark twill jacket, seeping through and touching my skin. I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to picture my parents’ faces. They would be proud of us—all of us, even Suz. Something disturbed me deeply. I could no longer see their faces. Only a few months ago, I could see them—plain as day. Now, they were dim and blurry. What was happening? Was I losing their memories?
“Come, Jonah, let’s go. Most of the crowd has gone in,” Grandma said, giving me a gentle nudge.
I opened my eyes and looked around, sad that I was forgetting. After graduation, I’d go home and find some images of my parents on my tablet. I refused to let their faces fade. The love I had for my parents, especially my father, would extend beyond their graves. And there was still the question of why would such a brilliant man die so suddenly?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Servo 17:3

Servo 17:3


Once home, I tore upstairs and shut myself in my room. Evidently, Grandma had been through cleaning. My bed was tidier than I’d left it, and one window was open to air out the room. Thinking nothing of it, I collected all my gear and sat down on the bed. The tablet was connected to the wall outlet, ensuring I would not have a power interruption. I impatiently waited while it booted up. My father was the same way when he got into a project. He’d go days without eating, sleeping, or acknowledging family. My work ethic would much the same if allowed. Unfortunately school got in the way.
I removed both cores from the shoebox and connected the interface cables to the cores and my tablet. I opened the program for checking the code. The program went berserk. Silly me! Oh, yes, it’s only designed to run one core at a time. That would need to be rectified.
Lacing my fingers together palm-out, I stretched and cracked my knuckles with a disturbing loudness. Mother would grumble at me when I did that. She’d say I’d get arthritis when I got older. Well, I was older now and have yet to suffer the affects. Maybe she wasn’t always right…
I closed my eyes for a few long moments trying to visualize what I’d need to change in order to get the program to read both cores simultaneously. The software was fairly basic; any sixth-grader could’ve written the code. I opened the source cypher and began to scroll through lines. Ugh, it was like scanning lines of code in a core; except this program was far smaller. It wouldn’t begin to take me near as long, and the promise of headway motivated me.
My fingers moved deftly on the screen “keyboard” making tiny adjustments here and there. I paid little attention to the time. My goal was only minutes from coming to fruition when Grandma knocked loudly on my door, scaring the life out of me. I felt my heart pounding in my chest. Outside it was getting dark. How many hours had I been working?
“Jonah?” Grandma called. “Dinner!”
“Umm, okay, Grandma. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“I made beef ribs—your favorite.”
Taking in a deep breath, I realized she was correct. How had I not imbibed upon the wondrous fragrance emanating through the entire house? Was I that engrossed in my toils to not have noticed? It seemed my brain was only capable of one higher function at a time. My stomach immediately growled. I glanced at the time on the corner of the tablet screen and realized I’d sorely betrayed my appetite. It’d been hours since we’d eaten lunch. The more I breathed in the delightful aroma, the hungrier I got. The code reprogramming would have to wait until after dinner. Perhaps it was best, I needed a rest. Lines of code were becoming a blur of letters and numbers.
I tromped downstairs and headed to the kitchen. Rory, Suz, and Grandpa were already at the table. Grandma quickly went to work filling my plate.
“What would you like to drink, Jonah?” she asked me.
“Do you have any lemonade?”
“Of course.”
A moment later a huge plate of meaty beef ribs was thrust in front of me, and then a tall, cold glass of sweet-tart lemonade. There was never a more perfect meal that I could think of.
“Thank you, Grandma.” I wasted no time in digging in. Despite our proper upbringing, I now relished eating with my fingers. It was beautiful, messy fun that would be sorely looked down upon in the Inner States. Funny, I no longer gave much thought to what we’d left; instead, I chose to focus my thoughts and energies forward into the future. My past was slowly fading away.
My teeth tore off a hunk of meat. Sauce dribbled down the corners of my mouth and chin. I licked what I could, the rest had to be mopped up with a napkin. Beef ribs had to be Grandma’s pride and joy. She made them with every ounce of love inside her.
I chewed down the rich, delicate meat. Most of it was falling off the bones, so it could be consumed with ease. I glanced over and saw Suz struggling with knife and fork. She just didn’t get finger foods. Oh well, her loss. Rory on the other hand, was a saucy, greasy mess. He relished a good meal where utensils were optional. 
Once dinner was over, I retreated to my sanctuary. It was time to continue battling the lines of code. Making it worse was I had to compare each line on one core with the corresponding line on the other core. I’m sure this very undertaking has led to the premature insanity of many men. And since I’d done it already, I knew this project would take several weeks.
Settling on my bed, I opened the program and picked up where I’d left off:

                             Old core:                                                                     New core:
//boot2334-route-888.path.54677/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54677/trans
//boot2334-route-888.path.54678/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54678/trans
//boot2334-route-888.path.54679/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54679/trans
//boot2334-route-888.path.54680/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54680/trans  
//boot2334-route-888.path.54681/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54681/trans
//boot2334-route-888.path.54682/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54682/trans
//boot2334-route-888,path.54683/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54683/trans
//boot2334-route-888.path.54684/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54684/trans
//boot2334-route-888.path.54685/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54685/trans
//boot2334-route-888.path.54686/trans   |   //boot2334-route-888.path.54686/trans

Despite the necessary dinner break, my eyes were still bugging out after a short few minutes. As I prepared to index to the next screen, I paused, trying to catch my breath. I was glad I did. Upon a secondary inspection of the code on the old core, I spotted the tiniest of errors:

//boot2334-route-888,path.54683/trans

Had I discovered the root of all my failure? Was one miniscule comma causing the entire core to malfunction? My mouth went dry as I scrutinized the offending punctuation mark. Yes, there it was, plain as day. Without a second thought, I corrected the error. How had I missed that the first time around? Fatigue. Yes, I’ll chalk it up to fatigue. Were there more? Only time, patience, and perseverance would tell. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Servo 17:2

Servo 17:2



There was a big part of me that refused to stare defeat in the face. Maybe I got that trait from my father. He was never a quitter. If something didn’t work right, he’d spend hours, days, weeks, or even months until it functioned. He would obsess about it, spending long late nights in his home office staring at the computer, begging for the answer to magically appear.
And now I found myself doing just the same—again.
Rory and I weren’t normally pests, but when I needed another cable to interface the new core with my computer, I set about bugging Grandpa to take us into town so I could buy one. There was a miniscule electronics store in Broken Bow, hardly enough to even whet my insatiable appetite for technology. But I remembered seeing a cable that looked like the right kind. We just needed to get there.
Rain poured down making it entirely unsuitable to ride our bikes. It had been raining since the day after Grandpa and Rory planted the corn. I could tell Grandpa was worried. The last several years he’d been worried about drought, now he worried about floods and all the seeds washing away. Farming was such a fickle profession. Those who work the land must be exquisite gamblers; for the weather in one fell swoop can destroy everything so toiled for. I’d never be a farmer.
With a day and a half of badgering, Grandpa finally relented. He took us to the store after school. Suz grumbled a little until I reminded her that the clothes store was two doors down and she could see if any new fashions had arrived. She poo-pooed and fake grumbled, and then with a toss of her hair, strode down the sidewalk with an air of superiority about her. I knew she would never change.
On the other hand, I charged through the door of the shop with Rory right behind. I knew exactly where to look. The shopkeeper barely had time to greet us as we thundered by heading to the back. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Grandpa conversing with the man; their words, inaudible, the expressions on their faces skeptical. They didn’t matter to me.
Reaching the back of the store, I began to rifle through rows of clear plastic blister-carded cables that hung on wire racks. Rory stood silently next to me. The sound of rickety-clack, rickety-clack carried through the establishment as I flipped through packages.
Nothing.
My heart began to sink. I was positive that only two weeks ago I’d seen the very cable I needed. Now where was it? More searching yielded nothing. Even Rory dug in and went over the ones I’d already checked just in case in my haste, I’d missed it.
Nothing.
“What are you gonna do, Jonah?” Rory asked as he finished the last row.
“I dunno.”
“Need some help, son?” the shopkeeper said as he approached.
“Yes, Sir. I’m looking for a fifteen-pin to three-slot interface cable. I thought I saw one here a little while ago.”
“Yes, I did have one. Some fella passing through bought it.”
“Oh.” The length of my sorrowful face must have garnered some pity on his part.
“You know, I might have one in the back you can borrow.”
“Borrow?”
“You won’t be needing it forever, will you?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
He turned and headed to the stockroom. “A school project?”
“Uh, a project at home.”
“Right.” He disappeared into the back and we heard rummaging noises.
I regarded Rory, he was standing tensely, his fingers coming together at the tips and pressing repeatedly in anticipation. It was something our father did when he was worked up about something. We were truly apples from his tree.
Several minutes later, the storekeeper appeared with a thin black cable in hand. “Fifteen-pin to three-slot interface, right?”
“Yes, Sir!”
“Here ya go, son.” He handed me the precious cable.
I hiccupped.
Grandpa and Rory laughed. The shopkeeper smiled. “Must be a good project. You seem mighty excited.”
“Been working on it for a long time; hope I can finish now.”
He nodded. “Good luck. Just please bring that back when you’re done with it.”
“Yes, Sir, I definitely will. And I’m sure Grandpa won’t let me forget.”
“No, I won’t,” Grandpa added. “Come on, boys, let’s get your sister and head home.”
I thanked the kind man one more time before leaving the store. Carefully, I tucked the cable into the pocket of my light jacket. The weather was warming; just not fast enough for me.
We went down the street and into the clothes shop. Suz was meandering through seemingly endless racks of clothes. She didn’t seem particularly interested in what was hanging in front of her.
“Find anything?” I asked.
“No, just the same old stuff.” She sighed loudly. “I wonder what fashions are hot in the Inner States this year?”
“Dunno. Why should it matter?”
“Because we’re from the Inner States; that’s who we are.”
“But we aren’t there anymore.”
She plucked a shirt from a rack and held it up for inspection. “So drab and formless…Just like the people here.”
I looked over my shoulder to find Grandpa conveniently out of ear-shot. He probably wouldn’t take kindly to that insult.
“They can’t be all bad.”
“They are.”
I folded my arms. “What about Otto?”
“He’s different, he shouldn’t be here.”
“Oh? Really? He was born here, and he’s not even remotely a GEE. How can you bear to be around him?” I spread the sarcasm on thick.
“Like I said, he’s different.”
“Is he? Or do you just wanna believe that because you think he’s cute?”
“Shut up, Jonah!”
I’d hit a sore spot. Now Suz was in full retaliation mode. How ugly was she going to get?
“Hey, I was just pointing out that when we first got there, you wanted nothing to do with anyone in the Outer States.”
“For the most part, I still don’t.”
“Ah, yes, now that sounds like my sister.” For some reason I felt the need to taunt her. “The sour-puss, unsmiling, sharp-tongued, vain creature that you are.”
A moment later I found myself looking up at Suz from the cold hardness of the floor. My chest ached. Grandpa must have seen the altercation and decided to step in before it got out of hand.
“Children!” he barked in a short tone. I could tell he was angry but trying not to raise his voice and make a scene. “Enough!”
I scrambled to my feet and moved away from Suz.
“Apologize to your sister.” There was no mistaking the tone of Grandpa’s voice. He meant business.
“Sorry,” I said in a less than genuine nature.
“No he’s not,” Suz snapped.
Grandpa got us both by the arm and led us outside.
“I wasn’t done shopping yet,” she protested.
“You are now.” With firmness in his grasp, he walked us to the truck. “In.”
We climbed in without uttering a peep. The shopping excursion was curtailed. I was overjoyed that I got the cable to continue my efforts. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Servo 17:1

Servo 17:1


Dagwood and I rode home at breakneck speed. We’d totally thrown caution to the wind as we pedaled manically down the busy road. I was so excited I had a horrible case of the hiccups. Truly it did make bike riding more of a challenge. I couldn’t wait to show Rory what we’d recovered.
We pulled up to the barn in time to see Grandpa and Rory putting the tractor away. Once the thunder of the engine quieted, I waved. “Rory, come see what we got!”
He scrambled off the fender and trotted over. “What? What’d you get?”
I removed my backpack and took out the gingham check napkin that Grandma had previously wrapped cookies. Now it held the precious cargo of the memory core and junction interface. “We went over to Jimmy’s and Dagwood helped me get into the bot’s head.”
“But it was smashed to bits. What could you find useful in there?”
Dagwood clapped his hands in excitement. “Show him!”
Carefully I cradled the package in one hand while the other gently peeled back the corners of material. My heart was still pounding, and I doubt it was from the exertion of riding home. As the last corner of material fell free, the memory core lay gleaming in the warm sun.
Rory’s mouth fell open. “The memory core?!”
“And the junction interface!” Dagwood said proudly.
“But it was smashed, we saw it.”
“The tractor tire missed the important bits.” He made a circular motion with one arm. “The treads missed it.”
“Do you think it’ll work?” Rory was still in shock.
“All we can do it try,” I replied, heading for the barn. Rory and Dagwood were right on my heels. We gathered around the workbench and I quickly dove in.
“Shouldn’t you check all the code first?” Rory asked.
“No, I’m gonna plug it in as is. Maybe I messed up something with the other core.”
“Ah, true. Guess we’ll see if this is the magic fix.”
My fingers deftly swapped out the cores and junction interfaces. I’d done it so many times it felt like a natural sequence of events. Deep inside I was hoping this would be the magical solution. Just to have the bot function again even in a rudimentary fashion would be a triumph of my technical prowess.
Not bothering to put the bot’s face back together, I prepared to throw the on switch. “Okay, here goes nothing.”
“Something,” Dagwood said, “You want something to happen!”
“Well, yes, we do. Then here goes something.” I flipped the switch and heard a clicking noise followed by a faint whirring. All three of us leaned over, the tops of our heads knocking together. The left “eye” began to glow.
“It’s working! It’s working!” Dagwood jumped up and down.
We watched and waited for more to happen. Several minutes went by as we stared in anticipation.
But nothing transpired. The bot remained lifeless.  
“No!” I slammed my fist onto the workbench.
“What happened?”
I rubbed my face in frustration. “I dunno, Dagwood.”
“Gosh, it looked like it was gonna work.”
Rory wandered over to the window and gazed out. “At least we’re a few steps closer.”
“Darn few,” I said, throwing the switch. The amber glow in the bot’s eye faded. “Guess it’s back to the drawing board.”
“Now what are you gonna do?”
“I’ll take this core in the house and check everything.”
Dagwood looked at his watch. “Gosh, I’d better get home. It’s gettin’ late.”
“Thanks for the help today, I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome. But too bad the new core didn’t do the trick.” He left the barn, walking with hunched shoulders, climbed on his bike and pedaled out of sight.
I could tell he was disappointed that the core didn’t work. But it at least worked a little more than the one I had. Admittedly I was very unhappy. With everything we’d gone through to put the bot back together, and it still wasn’t functioning. Should I give up hope?
“Hey, Jonah?” Rory said softly.
“Yeah?”
“Do you have the capabilities to attach both cores to your tablet?”
“I’d either need another cable or a splitting device. Why?”
“I was wondering if you could scan both cores for differences and inconsistencies.”
“Hmm. The software would have to be modified.”
“Can you do that?”
I thumped my fist against my chest. “Am I not the son of the finest bot programmer ever?”
Rory chuckled. “Yeah, I get it. Do you think that would help?”
“Well, it certainly can’t hurt. I may have already screwed up one core.”
“But what if this one has a bad line of code where the other one doesn’t?”
“Running them in a parallel program might just uncover the bug.”
“Exactly!”
I ushered Rory out of the barn and we closed the doors. “I have a lot of work to do.”