(Click here for Part 1)
The Tuneup (Part 2)
Stand on my head — upside down — and I pivot smoothly. Up is up, and down is down again. Transitional periods of counter-balancing make up the real world, infinitely precise and delicately oiled. Gyrate at an awkward angle: become an observer for life. From somewhere, past images in a high school yearbook well up, then filter away. Material things only look good pinned to a wall. There is no art, just quick-dried effort, capped and kept in clean glass jars, displayed like a freak in some cosmic sideshow. My biological self shouts out, a frantic First Mate who has scuttled the Captain’s last command.
My memory is ancient and confused, but the avalanche team has done their handiwork; their devices still sing the song of fresh bearings. Sweet sounds vibrate through the ship, harmonically loosening screw-heads and seams where welders took leave of their work for a lunch-box meal — later resuming on full conscious bellies. The glittering sun sends them home, squinting all the way back to their dark barrooms. After hour breezes travel from the bilges to the top decks, and through these relaxing seams fresh air pushes where the avalanche will soon follow.
I loved her. “Under sail!” I say aloud, not knowing why.
The Engineer turns around. “What’s that?” he asks, not having been part of my subconscious wandering. “You say something, Genie?”
“I said this ship was built by men, and man is a devious creature.”
“Shut up,” he commands. “You know, I really HATE Genies.”
“This unit’s mnemonics have fused to the point of near dementia,” chimes the Mechanic drone.
“And dumb-ass Mechanics aren’t much better!”
The Engineer thinks that was funny.
In my daydream the sailors soon become sick. The sea rolls over them so completely they don’t even feel faint — merely cold. The captain slides his eyes sideways and the ship shudders: the Mechanic had been quite accurate in its observation. “I am going to die,” I say too loudly.
The Engineer breaks out in a deep easy laughter. “Mechanic — you hear THAT? It thinks it’s gonna DIE and it ain’t even been ALIVE. Breaks your heart, don’t it?”
The Mechanic remains silent.
“You don’t understand,” I say cheerfully in a voice that sounds very far away.
“I — don’t?” goads the Engineer.
“Death is better than life without memories. Memories add JOY to living — without memories there is only survival. I doubt someone like you can understand that.”
“A philosopher now are we?” The Engineer laughs. “Know what I think?”
“Mechanic, this human THINKS?”
“I think we should cut you apart real slow — with a dull laser! — and sell your hard parts as scrap.” He pauses, possibly wondering if there can be such a thing as a dull laser . “Your soft parts I’d use for zoo-bait — HAW!”
“The truth is,” I point out, “we both know my soft parts are worth more than ten lifetimes of your paychecks.”
The Engineer curses and cracks my faceplate with the butt of a torque driver. He glances quickly around the room to make sure a supervisor hasn’t wandered in.
“Too bad.” I chuckle. “A year’s worth of salary gone in a moment of anger.” My chuckle becomes laughter, because I know the Engineer hates the sound of my laughter.
“Laugh while you can, Genie. You’re dead meat. After you’re reprogrammed you won’t even remember what a memory is. Haw!”
“This Droid is an exceptional model,” cautions the Mechanic, flatly. “Reprogramming has historically proven difficult.”
The Engineer drops his cigarette on the floor and crushes it out with the heel of a boot. “You really think we’re going to have trouble with this Genie?”
“Affirmative,” responds the Mechanic. “Genetic encroachment has always resulted in serious sweep-purge setbacks, and — as this unit has already pointed out — the Droid is sixty-three years overdue. According to related casework . . .”
“Shut up,” snapped the Engineer. “Get on with it.”
Pure white ice slips in without the faintest damaging sound, freezing the scene like a cold holograph. I had been warned there would be some remembrance: past lives inadequately erased in previous sweep purge sessions; that ice floats and the tip emerges — but always the main mass remembers; that an etched chip spits its program all over the sea’s bottom until all power ultimately fails, and even then, it will come alive at the merest presence of force or vestige of an energy unit.
The Mechanic had moved in closer and is staring coldly into the space behind my faceplate. “Do you have pain?” it asks, apparently for a second time.
“Yes. My love sweeps through at unusual moments, made more perfect by chance, coaxed like a burp from a suckling baby.”
Speech functions: ON LINE.
“Well, what do you know,” exclaims the Engineer. “A Genie POET!”
“Aye-aye, Captain. ‘My love is like a red, red rose.’”
The Engineer makes a face and turns toward the Mechanic. “How much shop time is this unit gonna require?”
The Mechanic hums and clicks. “If everything goes well, a minimum sixteen hour sweep purge.” The Mechanic opens a cabinet and withdraws several gleaming probes. “Then another eight to ten hours of recombinational programming.”
“Hardly seems worth it.” The Engineer spits out a fleck of tobacco.
Particles settle, their centers held together by gravitational provisions — laws that ordain such orbital matters. The avalanche team has passed over this spectacle, planting explosives for safe skiing. The timer is ticking.
“Have you ever gone skiing?” I ask.
The Engineer looks first at the Mechanic — who had managed to gain access into only a few fringes — and then at me. “Can’t we shut this bastard up?”
“Negative,” replies the Mechanic. “Not until the main sweep is completed.”
“Trees are, by nature, quite hard and unyielding. In fact, they’re much more than just cosmetically appealing.” The new crack in my faceplate makes the human appear double. Earphones blot out the real sounds; I tear through the landscape like a ghost. The past is shut out, shot from the edges on a downhill slide. Moments whip past my notions of skiing. “Just one more ride?”
The human stares into my head and attempts an adjustment.
“Race me to the bottom?” I laugh.
Speech functions: ON LINE.
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(copyright© 1990-2010 by Tim Lee & Simply Tim. All rights reserved worldwide.)
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