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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Metallic Heart - Chapter 23

 Chas was not at home when I arrived that evening after buying a second cell phone and a few other things at the store.  The empty house gave me an idea.
 Although I knew that odds were not in my favor, I decided to snoop around in Chas’ home lab looking for any information that might help Noella and I break into his main lab.  
 First I checked all of the drawers, but found nothing but metal scraps and mechanical parts.  I also checked through all of his files and notes, but came up short of any real information.
Last thing I checked was the trash bin attached to his workbench and found nothing but trash.  Chas had been careful not to leave any revealing information around for me to find.
Slightly disappointed, I turned my attention to another important matter.  Something that I’ve been putting off for a little while.  I headed to my computer to find a bit of information that I needed.
I woke up very early the next morning, before Chas this time, and prepared to put my plan into motion.  First I headed into our kitchen and cleaned the cabinets and refrigerators of any and everything edible by humans.
Although we bots primarily eat scraps, from time to time we still enjoy a human meal. It gives our emotional systems a boost, although our system does nothing but completely dissolve the food.

I packed what I found into three picnic baskets. 

Today was the day that I decided to make contact with the humans.  I knew that the bots of Lunar Lakes would be looking to me, their new leader, to get to the bottom of the president’s death.  After all, I had no hope of the police finding answers, but maybe I could.  I would question the humans first.
But before that, I had something even more pressing that I had to do, and I wanted to do it before I was expected at City Hall.
The sun was still low in the sky when I directed my driver to a very isolated part of Lunar Lakes; using the address that I jotted down last night after searching for it on a Lunar Lakes database on my computer.
I got out once we arrived at my destination; a fairly nice home on a hill.
Because we bots are not accustomed to knocking I entered without announcing myself, taking the occupant by complete surprise.
The old lady turned around and gently placed the baby that was in her arms down on the ground.
For a brief moment I saw an older version of Frida’s face, but only before it morphed into complete terror.  I realized that this must be Frida’s mother.

“Why have you come here?  I’m just an old sick woman…I…I’ve committed no crime and I  have nothing to offer you!”

“I have not come to harm you,” I said in a gentle tone, but I realized that my mechanical voice may not be very soothing to a human whose daughter has been falsely accused of a crime and thrown in jail by a bunch of bots.
“Please!  I’m the only one here to care for Leah,” she said, and her voice trembled to the rhythm of her shaking, weak body.

“I am here at the request of your daughter,” I said hoping to put her at ease.

Frida?  Frida sent you?”  Her tone now mixed with a bit of surprise to accompany the fear.
“I am a friend.  I am here to help you,” I said standing as still as possible so as not to alarm her any further with any sudden moves.
Only when her face and stance began to relax a bit did I slowly step forward a little.

However, her tone was still suspicious, “Why would
Frida send you here?”
“Nana na na na nana,” the baby at the old lady’s feet began to babble, helping  to put the old lady at ease.
With the old lady’s attention on the baby, I stepped forward until I was close to the old lady and the baby.  “Is that Frida’s daughter?  Leah is it?”  I asked never before being this close to a human baby.
“Yes and I’m the only one who is here to care for her,” the old lady said once again defensively.

I quickly glanced at the old lady’s frail body and face.  She was ghostly thin and was obviously very ill; her skin appeared as if was barely thick enough to contain her skeleton.  “I would like to help,” I said with what I hoped registered to her as a sincere smile.

“And why would you do that?  I saw you on TV when the president made his announcement.  You’re with them.”
“You are aware that the president has been murdered?” I said in slight questioning tone.  I did not wait for an answer before continuing, “Well  I am the president now and I want to change the way things are.”
Frida’s mother did not respond, but I saw what I thought was a flash of hope in her eyes.  I saw that as a sign to continue talking.  “I want to find a way to have your daughter’s sentence reduced.”
“She should have never been sentenced in the first place,” the old lady said as Leah continued babbling at our feet; clueless that we were discussing her mother.
“I realize that and I know that it is my fault.  I want to make it up to all of you.”
Frida’s mother laughed, but there was no humor in her eyes.  “Make it up to us?  How’ll you do that with those vicious bots out there?  They killed one president…what makes you think they won’t kill you?”

“I have to try.”

“You can try, just like you did with Frida…but look where she ended up.”
Frida’s mother continued,  “I think you should just go back to your part of town.”
“I really want to help,” I said pulling out a doll for Leah.  “I am sure that you and your granddaughter are not getting enough to eat.  I will make sure that the two of you never spend another night hungry.”
Frida’s mom looked as if she was thinking about what I said.  There was no way she could deny that she and Leah were in trouble there alone; especially with her in her current condition.
While she was busy thinking about what I had said, I took the opportunity to place the doll on the ground in front of Leah.
Leah smiled and began babbling to the doll, “nana na na na,” she said cheerfully.
Finally the old lady seemed to snap back, “I’m sorry if I don’t trust you politicians.  That President Aron was a tyrant and I just don’t know how you can be any different.”

I avoided the old lady’s eyes because I could understand her hesitation.  We bots have treated the humans terrible since their arrival.

She continued, “As soon as you get any resistance from your fellow bots, you’ll be right back to treating us like trash.”

Again, her words had some truth to them.  Going against the other bots regarding the treatment of humans would be hard and could cost me a lot.  I would be forced to find some sort of balance.

“I want to believe you, but how can I?  Especially with my daughter still being imprisoned and scheduled to die in a crystal mine.  Even if she survives, she’ll never be the same.”
All of this time, part of me wanted to believe that I was doing the right thing in having the humans, including Frida, serve their sentences in the mine.  But there was no justice in it and Frida’s mom knew it.  I felt demoralized in knowing that nothing I had done up to now was even close to being enough.
Then the old lady surprised me.  “But…if Frida trusted you enough to send you here…I am going to do my best to put my trust in you as well.”

My system sent me a smile response, even though I would probably have automatically smiled anyway. 

“Thank you.  I cannot promise you that I will be able to get your daughter out of jail, especially if I want to keep my position and change our unfair laws. But I can promise that you and Leah will never see another hungry day as long as I am here.”

“Then that is enough for me.  My priority now is Leah.”

Leah pulled her doll close and hugged it tight.
I watched the old lady retrieve a bottle and struggle to reach down and hand it to the child.  How had she managed to care for Leah thus far, when it appeared that she herself had been slowly starving to death?
Leah eagerly grabs the bottle from her grandmother, her sole caretaker.
I stared down at them realizing that I had just crossed a line that I could never undo.
If Chas or even Noella knew what I had just done…what I will be doing, I knew our relationship would be forever severed.
Still, I felt a response command that I could not even name, but it kept a smile on my face.
I placed the picnic basket containing at least a week’s worth of food down on the counter; realizing that it did not come close to being enough to make up for Frida’s injustice…
But at least it was something.



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