2nd Excerpt from “Edan” (formerly “Iteration”) By Esau Kessler
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A week of overcast skies, hail, and light snow flurries had kept the spring temperatures cool under the forrest canopy, deep in the heart of Hoadi’s “Black Mountains”. Far from old roads, outposts, or campgrounds, one lone heliport served as access to 65 hectares of quiet back country. Visited only occasionaly by hikers and hunters, and mostly forgotten as ‘Copter access had opened the way for more exciting and less un-navigable destinations.
Aside from a healthy wildlife pop’, there was one human inhabitant; Simona Lyn Brando. She lived in the small converted ranger station elevated to tree level on a small hill against the northface of McClellan’s Peak. Mrs.Brando had aquired the land through a fluke inheratance deeded from the collapsed Northwest Commonwealth, which had failed to secure it, leaving the elderly but independent widow with a meager savings, a boatload of Cred, and a retirement of solitiude. She was accompanied by her two german shepherds, and a personal robotic assistant inhabited by an instance of her dead husband.
She sat rocking on an upturned plastic bucket on the deck, listening to the wind blowing through the pines and the playful chatter of birdsong. Scuffed pine needle ridden gelatinous air slippers covered her feet which tapped randomly to a tune she had long forgotten. Both dogs lay at her feet. Her growling tummy reminded her that in skipping breakfast, it was now nearing lunch time. She thought vacantly about making salmon patties with her own blend of sage and wild dill, or just snacking on smoked pine nuts and wild berries.
She sighed deeply. Causing both dogs to raise their heads up quickly and stare intently, at her ready, and then exhale loudly and lay their heads down in one unified motion. Tit…….tit-tit…..TIT-TIT-TIT-TAT! A micro-burst began it’s music on the metal roof of the cabin, making Simona’s choice to go in for lunch. Both dogs obediently followed her in. As the sliding glass door closed, she heard “Is that YOU Sim’? Welcome home ‘Doll, boy I missed you!”.
"(How Comforting…I’ve only been outside for an hour?)." She responded under her breath. Making a mental note to run a diagnostic on the natural language subroutine on Hue’s program.
"Yep, I’m finally back." She hollered. "Scotland was great!" squinting to see in the dark lodgepole dinning room. Beneath a loud staccoto of rain she could hear Hue reciting a Wiki entry.
"Scotland or ‘Alba’ in Gaelic, though recently acquired by the Israeli Commonwealth, remains independent, and is a home to a diverse and growing population…"
"Hue! IT WAS A JOKE" she mouthed and glared at him as she walked into the kitchen.
"Ooh. L-O-L!" he smiled broadly, cocking his head from side to side unnaturally as the microphones he had for ears overamplified the sound from the metal roof. He was rapidly de-boning, filleting, and packing to freeze, a large aerogel coolor of freshly caught salmon. The fluid motion looked amazingly natural, although it was being performed at roughly 2 times the speed of a human.
Simona grabbed two mismatched ceramic bowls from the cupboards, filling one with roasted pine nuts, and the other with a mixture of huckle, blue, ras, and black berries. As she passed by Hue, he dipped his head towards her trying for a kiss…”Na-ah-ah…Hue I told you. I DON’T like that. No.” she scolded waging her finger and mock frowning.
"But I’m your husband? Hue responded.
"No. No your not. You are a Submetatech Industries Family Dynamics edition of a personal assistant robot, loaded with my dead husband’s memories and personality profile." She said coldly, glaring at him as if he were capable of detecting her hostility.
"What ever you say dear." He randomly quipped from his general response library.
"(Now that’s more like it.)" She muttered.
"More like IT? What is "it"?" Hue paused his activity, his eyes dialating and undialating in an impressive near human fashion.
"Nothing." Simona turned away quickly thinking of the real Hue’s green eyes, and wishing she could look into them. It wasn’t that deep painful longing type of wishing, the one that constricted one’s chest, and produced a reservoir of uncried tears, and silent inner sobs. She had accepted her loss long ago. It was just a simple acknowldgement of a memory of someone she valued and the memory of pain. Most the time she was irritated with the robot. But once in a while it was like Real Hue was there with her. Even if for only a moment.
"Nothing? Hmmm..well I have seen a replica of the Pictish Hilton of Cadboll Stone, and find Sir William Wallace and his Wars of Scottish Independence of great interest." Hue queried Real Hue’s memories. "Next time maybe I could go to Scotland with you?"
Thunder crashed and the sound of gale force winds buffeted the pines. Hue rocked his head from side to side and resumed his tasks. Both dogs growled and wined, in the cabin on the hill, in the deep woods against the cliffs of McClellan’s Peak, in the Black Mountains of Hoadi.