Kindlegraph

Friday, July 31, 2015

Servo 22:4

Servo 22:4


My father, the robot, stood every inch of six feet tall. Grandpa, however, did not. Rory and I snuck into his room and tried to find clothes that would fit Dad. No such luck. We grabbed our bikes and headed to town. There was a thrift store on Main Street and we hoped to find something there. Prior to our departure I’d found a tape measure and did my best to get Dad’s dimensions. He tried to coach us in the fine art of purchasing clothes for an adult. Rory took notes while I measured and called out numbers.
Once inside the store, we looked around. Several women were browsing through rack upon rack of used clothes. The middle-aged lady at the counter regarded us. “Can I help you, boys?”
“Uh, umm,” I stammered, startled by her greeting. “Just looking for some clothes.”
She pointed. “The boy’s section is over there.”
“Uh, these are clothes for our father.”
“Then why didn’t he come and find some?”
“He’s uh, he’s umm, home sick in bed.”
“Sick during the summer? Must be bad.”
“Yes, yes it is.”
“Well, I hope for his sake he gets well soon.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
She stepped from behind the counter. “Do you need any help finding his size?”
I took the piece of paper from my pocket and carefully unfolded it. “We have his measurements.”
“You don’t know what size clothes he takes?”
“No.”
“And he didn’t know either?”
“He came from the Inner States, and well, things are sized differently there.”
“Oh, they are?”
“Yes,” I lied. There was no other way of slipping this past her.
She held out her hand. “Well, then we’ll just have to go off the measurements and hope we get it right.”
“Thank you.” I placed the page in her hand.  “We appreciate it.”
“So your father came from the Inner States?”
“Yes.”
“Just on vacation here?”
“Umm, kind of.”
“Why didn’t he bring any clothes?”
“The, uh, airlines lost his bags.”
“I see.”
“And he got sick just a day after landing.”
There was definitely a level of suspicion in her tone of voice. “Right.”
“He sent us out to find a couple pairs of jeans and a shirt or two—maybe some shoes.”
The sales lady nodded and went about finding what we needed.
Finally, two hours later, we were pedaling back home. Along the way, we saw Dagwood cruising into town. We pulled over to the side of the busy road.
“Hi, guys!” said Dagwood with his usual enthusiasm.
“Hi,” I replied.
“Just leave town?”
“Yeah. We took your advice and got Dad some clothes. But the lady at the thrift store was skeptical of us.”
“Why?”
“We didn’t know his clothes sizes; all we had were measurements.”
He scratched his chin. “And she thought that was odd?”
“Yes.”
“Well, I’m headin’ that way to find a few pairs of work jeans. Maybe I can chat with her and smooth things out. Don’t need folk havin’ suspicions now, do we?”
“No, definitely not.”
“And I’ll keep my ears out for any trains.”
I nodded. “Thank you so much for all your help.”
“We’re friends, and friends help each other out.”
It was at that very moment I realized the true and utter meaning of friendship. There were no strings attached, no deals, no favors, no repayment of any kind; just pure kindness that came from Dagwood’s heart. He loved to see people happy—it made him happy, even though he wasn’t going with us, he was doing everything he could to help our endeavor. When we got back, I was going to show him how much I appreciated him. My father might have had a golden body, but Dagwood had a golden heart.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Servo 22:3

Servo 22:3


The next morning I rode over to Dagwood’s. I found him in the chicken coop tending to several of his flock. Somewhere in the barnyard a rooster crowed. The weather was warm and sunny. “Hey, Dagwood.”
“Jonah!”
“I need your help.”
He put down a dented white enameled pail of chicken feed and approached. “For what?”
“Dad thinks we need to rescue Suz.”
“Do you even know where she is?”
“Probably in New Philadelphia.”
“Boy howdy, that’s a long way from here.”
“Yeah, and we need to figure out how to get there.”
“It may sound crazy, but you might be able to hobo a freight train.”
“Hobo?” I had no concept of the term.
“Yeah, hop a ride like the hobos do.”
“Umm, what’s a hobo?”
Dagwood laughed, slapping his thigh like he did so often. “A hobo’s a person that’s got no home.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Lots of ’em travel from one town to another looking for work and food.”
“Of course, the train tracks running through town!”
“Lots of times it stops at the small switchyard near Tenth Street.”
“How do we know which train to take?”
“Take the eastbound one. It goes to Lincoln where there’s a big switching yard.”
“And how will we know which one to take after that? Where do the track go?”
Dagwood shrugged his shoulders. Just hop one that’s goin’ east. As far as I can remember, the rail line stops in Chicago. You’ll go through Omaha and Des Moines.”
“I hope we don’t get lost.”
“They’re train tracks, not like gettin’ lost on a bunch of roads.”
“Do you think it’ll work?”
“I can’t think of any other way to get you there.”
“But what if Dad gets seen?”
“He can hide good in some of those box cars.”
“Do you know when the trains go through?”
Dagwood picked up the pail, dipped his hand, scooping up a bunch of cracked corn. He flung it wide over the area where a dozen chickens wandered. “Dunno. Sometimes I can hear the trail whistle from here.”
I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to think back. Did I ever recall hearing the train from the house? Vaguely. Now I’d have to make a point to listen. If we knew when the trains went through, we could time our escape. There still remained the problem of smuggling Dad across town. “Any ideas on how we could get there without being seen?”
“You’re gonna think I’m silly.”
“What?”
“Well, you polished up your Dad so good, he’s as obvious as a cat in a dog store.”
“Are you saying we need to paint him a dull color?”
“Naw, just put some clothes on him.”
“Brilliant idea!” I paced around in a small circle, several of the chickens clucked at me because I disturbed their meal. “Maybe even put a hat on him.”
“There ya go!”
I watched Dagwood’s face sag. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.”
“Dagwood, I know you well enough to know something’s wrong.” And that wasn’t a lie. My simple-minded friend displayed his emotions like a slogan on his t-shirt.
“Sounds like it’s gonna be an exciting adventure.”
“Adventure is right. But I don’t want any excitement.”
“Still, you’re gonna runaway.”
“I’d hardly call it that. Granted we won’t be telling Grandma and Grandpa, but having my father runaway with us is not so daring.” His body language told me he wanted to come along. “Isn’t the State fair coming up?”
“Yeah.”
“You don’t want to miss that, do you?”
“No.”
“Our little adventure may take a while—a long while.”
“Will you be back before summer ends?”
“I hope so.”

Friday, July 17, 2015

Servo 22:2

Servo 22:2


That night, as I readied for bed, Dad stood looking out my bedroom window. “You haven’t heard from Suz, have you?”
“No.”
“I’m worried about her.”
I didn’t reply. A miniscule part of me missed her. She’d always been mean to me and Rory, so her absence brought a welcomed breath of relaxation to the old house. It was nice not dealing with her sour attitude or barbed ridiculing of our very existence.
“You said she might’ve run away to the Inner States?”
“Probably,” I replied, pulling on a pair of sleep shorts. “She and Otto disappeared, not so much as leaving a note.”
“I fear she might be in distress.” He turned to me. “Your sister is nearly off the charts intelligent, but she doesn’t have a lick of common sense.”
All I could do was laugh. Dad was spot on in his ascertainment of Suz’s skill in the real world. She didn’t even know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. How could she survive in the Inner States without assistance? I doubted Otto, despite his cunning, would know what to do. He’d been thrust into an entirely different world. Citizens of the Inner States would immediately recognize him as a foreigner and opportunities would close like doors being slammed in his face. He’d be treated as nobody—just like Rory and I, should we return for college. It didn’t matter that we were GEE and born there, because we came from the Outer States, we’d immediately be shunned.
Dad held up a finger. “It’s not funny. She could be in real trouble.”
“Sorry,” I said, clamping my lips together to prevent any further outbursts.
“We need to find her.”
“How?”
“Go to New Philadelphia. I bet that’s where she went.”
“Get there, how?”
“On foot if we have to.”
“Dad, that’s a long way away.” I sat down on the bed. “And we have another problem.”
“What?”
“You can’t be seen around here.”
“Why not?”
“No license.”
He cocked his head.
“Anyone having a bot in the Outer States has to get a license and pay lots of money.”
“Absurd!”
“No, it’s true. If someone gets caught with an unlicensed bot, they could go to jail and lose everything.”
“Rather harsh,” he said, walking over to my wardrobe. The door was open and he stood looking at himself in the mirror. “I’m a bot, and then I’m not.” Dad touched the mirror. “A conscious, sentient being trapped in a metal body.”
“I’m sorry.”
“For what?”
“Doing that to you. It was wrong.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I wanted something better.”
He came over and sat next to me. “What do you mean?”
“I wanted to make you like Grandma.”
“Grandma? She’s human, and very much alive.”
“No, no, Tom’s grandma.”
“Who is Tom?”
“In the book.”
Dad took my hand. “Jonah, what are you talking about?”
“Fantoccini. He made them so real.”
My father sat quietly. Perhaps he was accessing his data base. “Fantoccini? As in Guido Fantoccini?”
I nodded.
He chuckled. Although the voice modulation did a horrible job and it sounded like metal clacking together. “Oh, my son, you are a misguided visionary.”
“I wanted to give you warmth.” I gently squeezed his hand, but I doubt he felt it. “I wanted to make you my father all over again.”
“There is nothing more noble than that.”
“Instead, I made you Frankenstein’s monster.”
“No, you didn’t. I’m not a monster. I’m here because of you and a miracle. Fate brought that lightning bolt to the barn. Fate brought me back from the dead.” He lifted my hand and held it to his chest. “You can’t see it, and you can’t feel it, but inside, I’m thrilled to be alive—even in this metal body. I was wrong to say I felt trapped. Jonah, what you did was totally amazing. I cannot think of a single soul that was able to bring someone back from the dead. You have achieved the impossible.”
“Still, you deserve a better body.”
“Don’t worry about that. In time, I’m sure we can create something warm for me to live in.”
“I’d like that.”
“So would I. But first we need to find your sister.”
“How are we going to do that?”
“We’ll need the help of your friends.”

Friday, July 10, 2015

Servo 22:1

Servo 22:1

That evening, as Grandma prepared dinner, we quietly tip-toed through the house with Dad. Grandpa told me that Dad could stay in my room for now. The barn was no place for such a wondrous being. Rory and I were thrilled.  But how were we going to break the news to Grandma?
We sat down at the kitchen table and began to eat. The meal was delicious as usual. Many quick glances were exchanged between the three of us. The right moment didn’t seem to be presenting. Finally, Grandpa said something. “Well, the barn is nearly done.”
“That’s good,” Grandma replied, not showing much enthusiasm.
“Do you remember when we moved out here?”
“Yes.”
“And we had that service bot?”
She gave Grandpa a sidelong glance. “You disassembled it, right?”
“I did. And it’s been in the barn all these years in several parts.”
“So?”
“Well, the boys took an interest in it.”
“Ah, that’s why they’ve been spending so much time in the barn.”
“They put it back together—”
“How could you let them?”
“They’re just boys. And they needed something for those ultra-smart brains to do.”
Grandma sighed. “The bot is functioning?”
I decided to join the conversation. “It wasn’t, Grandma, but it got hit by that storm the other night—a bolt of lightning.”
Rory piped up. “Jonah turned the bot into Dad.”
“He what?”
“Just wait.” He stood and hurried out of the kitchen. A few minutes later, I heard loud thumping coming down the stairs. Rory appeared in the doorway, Dad was behind him. “He turned the bot into Dad by loading all the memory sticks we had.”
“Hello, Eliza,” Dad said softly. “It’s been many years.” As he stood there, his golden metal skin gleamed in the amber-hued light of the kitchen. I had to admit, all the scrubbing and polishing Rory and I did looked fantastic.
I watched Grandma’s lower lip quiver. “Can’t be.”
“Somehow the lightning brought this old bot back to life.” He stepped into the kitchen. “I still don’t know how he did it, but Jonah returned my consciousness.”
“No, no,” Grandma said, getting up from the table. “No robots.” She left the room.
With her strong reaction, I decided it was time to find out why Grandma hated bots so much. “Grandpa?”
“Hmm?”
“Why does she hate them?”
He chose to ignore me for several moments, instead, concentrating on eating some dinner before it got cold. Grandpa glanced up to see Dad standing near the table. “You might as well sit down, Thomas.”
Dad took Grandma’s place. He stared at the thick piece of steak lying on the plate in front of him. “Oh, how I wish I could take a bite of that.”
It was then I realized perhaps bringing our father back might not’ve been such a good idea. Thomas Blackburn was a man in conscious only. His body was metal, plastic, and various other composites. He could neither eat nor drink. When he hugged his children, he was incapable of feeling the warmth of our bodies, and he could never taste the salty tears he’d kiss away from our bad dreams.
In my own fit of selfishness, I’d created a shallow being. Had I become Victor Frankenstein? No, that was not my intended mission. I longed to be Guido Fantoccini, Bradbury’s character, who created beautiful “living” bots which could do almost anything. Somehow I feared this had gone terribly wrong.
Grandpa finally paused from his mastication. He plucked a napkin from his lap and gently dabbed a bit of steak juice hanging at the corners of his mouth. I watched him perform this action with utmost meticulousness—as if he was setting the stage for things to come.
“Technology,” he finally said. “It scares her.”
“Why?” Rory said softly.
Dad put his elbows on the table, resting his chin in his hands. It was something quite common to see him do at the dinner table when we were younger. Somehow I found it comforting, yet disturbing to see the bot in that pose. “She’s afraid bots will take over the world.”
“Nonsense!” I blurted. “Humans control the bots.”
“And that’s what the Inner States government wants you to think,” said Dad, fiddling with his fingers. “But it’s not the case.”
I straightened up in my chair. Now the picture was becoming clearer. Did Dad discover a dirty secret at Servidyne? Was that why they killed him? “You found something?”
He nodded. “I stumbled upon a program aimed at furthering the AI in bots…They were trying to do away with Asimov’s three laws of robotics once again.”
“Another war?”
“Possibly.”
“But why? The Inner States has everything they need. Why start another war?”
“In case you hadn’t noticed, it was getting rather crowded east of the Mississippi.” Dad stood and started walking slowly around the kitchen. “Eliza has every right to fear technology…She saw her own sister killed by bots.”
My jaw fell open. “Oh, no!”
“To her, we represent death, destruction, and oppression.” He tapped on his metal chest plate. “When Servidyne built the battle bots, they intentionally programmed them without the laws.”
Grandpa sighed loudly. “And I was the puppet master.”
Hearing that made my entire psyche feel like it had been drop-kicked across the room. “You programmed the battle bots, Grandpa?”
“I was doing what I was told to do, under duress.”
Dad stopped his wanderings and stood behind me, placing his cold hands on my shoulders. I could feel the metallic iciness through my t-shirt. “Your Grandpa, Abe, was forced. Had he not complied, he would have found a similar fate as me.”
I looked up at him. “You may be a bot, Dad, but you’re not a bad bot. How can we convince Grandma of that?”
He shook his head. “I’m not sure. Maybe in time she’ll understand.”

Friday, July 3, 2015

Servo 21:2

Servo 21:2

Grandpa picked us up after school. As we drove home, I racked my brain on how to tell him that “Dad” was living in the barn. Would he even believe me? Despite my well-above-average intelligence, I did not exactly possess the power of generating small talk. And tact was something I’d yet to master. “Grandpa?”
“Yes, Jonah?”
“How’s the work going on with the barn?”
“Should have the last of the tin on shortly.”
“Oh, that’s good.” I struggled with finding a good segue in which to reveal dad. My brain seemed to freeze. “Have you seen anything strange in the barn?”
“Strange? No, just a lot of charred wood and twisted metal. Why?”
“Well…Uh…Umm—”
“What is it?”
“Umm, that bot—”
“What about it?”
“The storm the other night—”
“Fried it, I hope.”
I could tell Grandpa didn’t want to hear anything about the bot. Still, I knew I had to tell him. This was something truly wondrous, and I thought he should know. Taking in a deep breath, I tried to calm my nerves. “The bot’s alive,” I blurted.
He looked over at me. “Functioning?”
“Yes.”
“You’re telling me you got it working?”
“Mm, not exactly.”
“So it’s not working?”
“It is, it’s alive.” The time was now or never. “Lightning hit it and brought it to life.”
Grandpa laughed. “You expect me to believe that?”
Rory piped up. “And the bot is Dad.”
He stopped laughing. “Really? You truly expect me to believe that?”
“Jonah uploaded all of Dad’s memory sticks and a bunch of stuff from his tablet. The bot knew who we were, and he’s been talking to us.”
“Impossible!”
I held up my hands. “I don’t know what happened. Maybe the lightning did something to the circuits. But the bot is Dad.”
Grandpa slowed the truck and turned onto the long gravel drive. He didn’t say anything until we pulled up at the house. “The bot’s in the barn?”
“Yes, but please don’t hurt him!”
“I have no intention of doing anything to him. In fact, how about you show him to me?”
“Okay.”
He parked the truck and turned off the engine. We got out and paused for a moment. “Well?” he said.
“Now?”
“Or do you want to get changed out of your school clothes first?”
I looked down at my feet. “Naw, I don’t think we’ll get too dirty.”
Rory and I led the way to the barn. The doors were open, the tractor parked next to it. We went inside and to the back. It was deathly quiet. “Dad?” I called. “Dad?”
There was rustling and movement in the dark reaches of the building. Soon we saw a set of glowing eyes. I glanced at Grandpa, he stood stone still.
Out of the darkness came a shiny golden bot. We’d done quite a bit of polishing on all the metal surfaces. He approached us carefully. “Jonah?”
“Hi, Dad.”
The bot regarded Grandpa. “Hello, Abe.” His voice was soft but genuine. “It’s been a long time.”
Movement out of the corner of my eye drew my attention. Grandpa was wavering unsteadily. “Grandpa?” I said, reaching over and putting my hand on his forearm. “Are you okay?”
“How—?”
Dad came a little closer. “Jonah thinks it was the lightning.”
“Like I said, Grandpa, the bot wasn’t working until the barn got hit in the storm. When I came out the next morning, there he was!”
Grandpa shook his head. “What I can’t understand is how you are you.”
“Jonah installed a second memory core.” He pointed to his chest. “Here…Then he uploaded all the memory sticks from my work logs and things on his tablet…Abe, as a bot designer myself, I can’t explain how or why I’m back, other than I have some brilliant children that need me.”
Rory wrapped his arms around the bot. “Dad!”
I went and stood next to dad, putting my hand on his shoulder. Somehow the cold metal didn’t feel like a robot anymore. The essence of my once living, breathing father was contained in this golden vessel and I would never let anyone harm him.
Without a word, Grandpa inched forward, stretched out his arms, and put his hands on the bot’s face. He closed his eyes and cried.
“I wish we could’ve brought Mom back too,” I said, partially embracing him.
“I know,” he said, tears still trickling down his cheeks. “To have Ellen back…”
“What do you think Grandma will say?” Rory asked.
Grandpa drew away, wiping his eyes. “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
Dagwood came into the barn. “Hello, Mr. Blackburn. Hi, Mr. Cranwinkle.”
“Hello, uh, Dagwood, right?” said Dad.
“Yes, Sir.”
“Good to see you again.”
“You too.”
Grandpa did his best to regain composure. “This is technologically impossible.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Rory and I didn’t think it would ever work. Everything we tried just failed.”
Dad went over, climbed onto the workbench, and lay down. “Jonah?”
“Huh?”
“Can you remove the chest plate?”
“Why?”
“Because I want to have a look around inside myself.”
“I’m afraid.”
“Afraid that if you touch the wrong thing I’ll die?”
“Yes!”
“Things will be just fine, I assure you.”
Grandpa went to the tool shelves and returned with a screwdriver. “I’ll do it.”
Dad looked up at him. “Well, old man, has the creative spark returned to you?”
“The spark may be back, Thomas, but these shaky hands just can’t do it anymore.”
I retrieved a screwdriver and prepared to step in. I loved Grandpa, but his admission of shaky hands had me more worried than ever. “Uh, Grandpa, I can get that.”
He stepped back and I swore I saw a hint of a smile on his face. “Go ahead, Jonah. I’d rather watch for right now.”
With screwdriver in hand, I deftly removed the six screws holding it in place. Having done that same maneuver a thousand times, I still paused as the last screw fell into my hand. I was staring into the glowing eyes of the bot. “Are you okay, Dad?”
“Just fine.”
I removed the metal plate and set it next to him on the bench. Dad craned his neck trying to see the delicate, intricate, inner workings of his new body. He growled lowly. “Can’t see much.”
Rory went to another set of shelves and rummaged around. A minute or so later, he returned with an aged chrome side mirror that probably came off a pickup truck. “Here, will this help?” He found a rag and wiped off the dust.
Dad took it and held it over his chest. “Perfect. Thank you, Rory.” He was silent for a few moments, taking stock of what his insides now looked like. “Oh, how old I’ve gotten!”
“But Dad, this bot was made after you were born.”
He chuckled. “Yes, yes, I know. But look at all that old technology.”
“We did what we could with what we had.”
“I know, Rory, and I love you both for somehow bringing me back.”
I peered into Dad’s chest cavity and was surprised at the amount of damage. The lightning strike had succeeded in melting a lot of the wiring and components in the left side of the chest. There were globs of multi-colored plastic stuck to things, and a lot of blackened parts. By every account, the bot should not be functioning. But here he was. It appeared that I’d bested Mr. Frankenstein. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Servo 21:1

Servo 21:1


Class started a couple minutes late. That surprised me. Mrs. Graham was always painfully prompt. Rory and I were seated and quietly talking about our shared dream when she came in.
“Apologies for being late. Mr. Cooper and I had to break up a fight in the hall.”
“Did anyone get hurt?” Rory asked.
“Todd Darnell got a bloody nose and had to be taken to the school nurse. That was my job.” She opened her tote bag and removed a tablet and interface cable. “Are you ready for your English test?”
We nodded and presented our tablets. Mrs. Graham took them and began uploading the tests.
“May I ask a question?” I said, not sure how she’d respond.
“Certainly, Jonah.”
“I was reading Frankenstein and wondered if it would be possible to bring a person back to life?”
She cocked her head. “Very interesting question…But so far, even with advancements in science; they have yet to bring a person back from the dead who has been gone more than a few minutes.”
“Well, what if they were dead over a year?”
Highly doubtful.”
“What if you brought them back, but they weren’t in their own body?”
“And how would you accomplish that?”
“Give them a new body.”
“Preposterous!” She stood and handed the tablets to us. “You can’t just give a dead person a new body. What of their personality? Their memories?”
“What if you could give them all that back too?”
“I’d say that’s impossible. Not even Victor Frankenstein could do that.”
After hearing her answer, I decided not to press the issue anymore. The English test sat in front of me, it was time to get to work. Looking at the first question, I almost wanted to roll my eyes. So easy! Did she give us the right test? Granted, Rory should’ve been in junior high, but with his IQ, the school figured he was smart enough to be with Suz and me.
I toiled for half an hour and then raised my hand. It was definitely not a difficult exam, just tedious. Mrs. Graham took my tablet and plugged it into hers so she could grade the test and then delete it. Rory finished a few minutes after me. I glanced at my watch and noticed the bell for recess would be sounding shortly. A stroll in the fresh air would do me good. Months of being cooped up in the broom closet classroom had me now feeling claustrophobic; I wanted to be outside.
The bell rang and we waited to be dismissed. “I’ll have your test scores when you get back,” Mrs. Graham said, unplugging my tablet and connecting Rory’s. “Go enjoy the sun.”
We got up and hurried out. In the hallway, we ran into Dagwood. He didn’t look well. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“Golly-gee, that was a hard test!” he said, and made like he was wiping sweat from his brow. “How’d your test go?”
“I guess we did okay. Mrs. Graham is grading them now.”
“Bet you guys’ll get straight A’s.”
There was no way I could respond to that statement without hurting his feelings. I knew Dagwood well enough to know he wasn’t the college type. He’d be a farmer, and be happy doing it. Rory and I had much greater aspirations for our future, and our breeding dictated that we excel. Failure to attend a school of higher learning would be a waste. It was both a blessing and a curse of being a GEE.
Instead of answering him, I hastened my stride toward the door which led outside. I pushed it open and stepped into the lovely warm sun. Oh, it felt wonderful! “So what are you going to do this summer, Dagwood?” I asked, heading to our customary bench away from the rest of the kids in school. Even after nearly ten months of school, they still gave us a wide berth like we had the plague.
“Pa wants me to help on the farm…And I got three chickens to get ready for the state fair.”
“How do you get a chicken ready for a fair?” Rory said, scratching his head.
“You put ’em in a special coop, away from the others. You feed ’em real good, and make sure their feathers don’t get damaged. And right before the show, you give ’em a bath.”
“Bathing a chicken? How silly!”
“You gotta make ’em look pretty for the judge.” He playfully flapped his arms. “Chickens ain’t all about eatin’ ya know…You should come to the fair and see.”
I nodded. “That might be interesting.”
“Oh, oh! And they have carnival rides—some are really scary!”
“When is it?”
“It starts the third of July. On the forth, they usually have a big fireworks show.”
Rory looked at Dagwood. “Do they still celebrate Independence Day here?”
“Well, sure. Didn’t they do that in the Inner States?”
“Not after the Great Separation. The advisory board said did not fit into the objective of the Inner States,” I replied.
“No fireworks?”
“They were deemed hazardous. And the holiday was one celebrated by the United States. And we were no longer united.”
“That’s silly. America still had to fight for her independence all those years ago.”
As I stood listening to Dagwood extoll the virtues of the state fair and Independence Day, I realized there was still so much in life I’d yet to experience. How could I balance my future career in robotics with travel and exploration? My father seemed tied to work; he had little free time to spend with family. Mother was the same way. I didn’t want to live like that.
The bell rang and we stood, heading back to class.
“Hey, can I come over after school?” he asked, walking with us partway.
“Sure,” I said. “Dad’s still in the barn.”
“Are you ever gonna take him in the house?”
“I dunno. But Grandma and Grandpa need to know about him.”
“That might be good…Okay, I’ll see you later, I need to go over there.” He pointed and then left us.
“See you after school,” I said.
We returned to class and sat quietly. Mrs. Graham came in. “Did you enjoy the weather?”
“Yes, it was very nice,” Rory answered. “Can’t wait for after school.”
“Oh? Something going on?”
“Uh, no, just going to be playing outside.”
She handed out our tablets. “All right, the last test has been loaded.”
“How did we do on English?” I asked.
“You both got an A plus—as usual.”
Rory and I clapped our hands. The more A’s the better as far as I was concerned. Visions of Bryn Mawr Bio-Technical swirled in my head. There would be a long, tough road to gain acceptance to an institution like that, but having pristine grades should help.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Servo 20:2

Servo 20:2


We regrettably left Dad in the barn that night. I knew there was no way Grandpa’d allow him in the house. When we went to bed, I was positive sleep wouldn’t come. My mind was reeling with the fact that my father had been reincarnated as a robot, and I was the one who brought him back. It just seemed wrong. With all the applied theories of robotics, the bot should have behaved like its programming. However, it didn’t. Was the second core the magical touch? If it was, why had no one thought of it years ago?
I turned on the school tablet and opened Frankenstein to where I’d left off. It was the beginning of Chapter Five. As I read, I began to make parallels of what had happened with Dad. Victor infused a spark into the lifeless being. Well, it wasn’t me that added the spark; it was a good bolt of lightning. But it evidently did the trick. My father was alive, and more or less well; contained in the body of a thirty-four-year-old bot.
As I continued reading, I discovered Victor quickly realized the error of his creation. He was ashamed—I wasn’t! I’d somehow resurrected my father from beyond the grave. Granted, Rory and Dagwood helped, but it was me who spent hundreds of hours painstakingly checking the memory cores for bad lines of code. And it was me who uploaded all the data sticks and the majority of my personal tablet into the second core. My father was alive because of me. For some reason, I felt the weight of the world settle on my shoulders. Had I made a bad decision too?
Four hours later, and after much reading, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I turned off the tablet and snuggled into bed. Closing my eyes, I still saw my father’s image looming in my mind. But it wasn’t his earthly body of flesh; it was the bot. Things were just beginning to get strange.
I slipped into a dream. My father, the robot, was standing on a verdant hill overlooking a large city. We were with him—Rory and I. A great wall surrounded the city, separating it from the rest of humanity. Was that the world we came from? It seemed so far out of reach.
The sun was shining brightly, a gentle breeze tickling blades of spring grass. We stood there for what seemed hours, just gazing at the metropolis that lay at our feet. And then we walked. The city never seemed to get any closer. I could see airplanes flying over it, the glint of the sun on glass and steel, yet we never got there. It may sound odd but I remember my feet hurting as we ambled along. And the sun never seemed to move, time never passed; our goal, unattainable.
For what seemed hours, I dreamt. When I finally awoke to the alarm clock, I was bathed in sweat. The bedcovers had been twisted in a tangled mess, and I was nearly off the bed. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, then looked around the room. This was my home, not that city of impossible buildings. I belonged here. Or did I?
When I awoke the next morning, I felt rejuvenated. Not even four hours of sleep and I was ready for the world. Rory and I had our last two tests today. I stretched and climbed from bed. With Suz gone there was no need to hurry downstairs at breakneck speed in order to secure the bathroom. Putting on my robe and slippers, I opened the door and found Rory similarly dressed and headed the same direction. “Morning,” I said in a sleepy tone.
“Uh huh,” he replied. “Boy did I have a strange dream last night.”
“Yeah, me too.”
We went downstairs. I decided to be the polite big brother and let him go first. Rory hurried into the bathroom, shutting the door. Grandma was in the kitchen making breakfast.
“Good morning, Jonah,” she said cheerfully. “Excited for the end of school?”
I nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, actually I am.”
“So what do you plan to do with your summer?”
“Not sure yet.”
“What have you two been up to in the barn?”
“Oh, just building stuff.”
“Stuff?”
“Yeah, kid stuff.”
“Ah.”
Rory came out and I quickly took his place. I didn’t want to divulge to grandma that we’d built a bot and my father now dwelled in it. That might not’ve gone over very well. Last night’s dream still haunted me.
Once I completed my morning ritual, I hurried back upstairs to dress. Jeans and a t-shirt were now preferred choice of dress. Finishing off my Outer States wardrobe was a pair of rather dirty tennis shoes. The lovely aroma of sizzling bacon wafted into my room. I grabbed my backpack and went down for breakfast.
I set my pack at the foot of the stairs and toddled into the kitchen. A plate filled with pancakes waited for me. Bacon popped and crackled in the cast iron pan as Grandma tended it. Sitting down, I picked up the glass syrup dispenser and poured a good amount. Before I could lift my fork, Grandma placed three thick slices of maple bacon next to the pile.
“There you go, Jonah,” she said softly.
“Thank you, Grandma.”
She doled some out to Rory, who was attacking his pile of pancakes like a shark. “Thank you, Grandma,” he said, mouth still full.
She giggled in a raspy breath and went back to the stove. A few minutes later, Grandpa came in. He sat down and patiently waited while Grandma served his breakfast. Once she’d dished up his breakfast, she made her own plate and joined us at the table. “So, just two more days of school,” she said, letting her voice trail off.
“Yup!” Rory replied enthusiastically. “But the last day really doesn’t count. Mrs. Graham is going to have us clean up the classroom and help some of the other teachers.”
“Help them do what?”
“Clean up other school areas. She said all the kids are helping.”
“I see.”
We finished breakfast with some small talk. Grandpa was going out to the fields to check on the corn. He was still worried that the hard rain had damaged the fragile stalks. I was worried about my father. He couldn’t stay hidden in the barn forever. At some point in time he’d have to come out and introduce himself to the family. The little voice in my head kept telling me the sooner the better. Maybe after school today?
Grandpa dropped us off at school. Rory and I walked to class.
“So what was your dream about?” I said.
“It was crazy.”
“How so?”
“It was you, me, and Dad.”
I stopped. “Dad as a bot? And were we standing on a grassy hill?”
Rory faced me. “Yeah. How did you know?”
“Because I had the same dream last night too.”
“Freaky!”
“How do you suppose that happened?”
My brother scratched his head. “I dunno. It is odd.”
“Do you think Dad had anything to do with it?”
“How could he?”
I shrugged my shoulders. The bell for class rang; we picked up our pace and made it just as the second bell rang. Another long day…