What You See Here

“Oh c’mon that’s cheating!” Kara yelled as her car was pushed off an overpass into a lake. Macy’s laughter didn’t help her mood as she was forced to drive at a snail’s pace until she got back onto dry land. Usually these games automatically put you back on the track, but not this one.

By the time Kara got back on the track Macy was near the finish line, but she wasn’t going to stop. You never knew what might happen, and in this case ‘what might happen’ included Andy blindsiding Macy with a garbage truck sending her car through a wall.

“Foul!” Macy cried. “I call foul!”

Somewhere on the other side of the arcade Andy laughed from the machine it and another doll were operating. Kara was at one end of the arcade and Macy was near the maze the CarpetSharks hung out at. It was a minor miracle these machines worked at all much less the cabling that allowed them to network together. Yet here they were having a race together while others from their group that were able to work the other machines had fun with the hour the MajorDomo AI granted for the arcade to be switched on.

Then it was over and the whizzing lights and blaring music ground to a halt as the refugees that temporarily called Luck E. Dog’s home went back to dusting, shuffling around, or simply going into standby until it was their shift. With only handful out of the old neighborhood it wasn’t too much for the store to handle.

Then Andy perked up, coming out of standby at the vibrations and sound coming from outside. Trucks and Seekers from the factory were now a simi-common event once the robot leading that first group had made sure to stop and explain what was going on. For some reason Sal’s group didn’t seem to want anything to do with Frank and none of the suburbanites could get a clear answer on why.

“Hello Frank,” Lucky greeted the ever-busy robot. “Anything we can do for you?”

Frank’s cameras swiveled until locking onto Kara, “I’d like to speak with you outside if you an spare a minute.”

“Alright,” Kara sat down a bucket half full of well worn arcade tokens before stepping outside. Anything she might have asked died in her throat when she saw why Frank wanted her outside. What she saw was a truck loaded down haphazardly with robots of all make and type ranging from Good Guys, Deere, and on to floor buffers, stockers, and all of them were familiar to Kara.

Frank waited patiently with cameras tracking Kara as she slowly approached the wagon and put a hand on one of the deere. “I’m sorry.” There as a heaviness to her voice when she spoke.

“Don’t be.” Frank offered, “What happened wasn’t your fault.”

“What did you bring them here for?” Kara asked as her hands moved from one disabled robot to the next.

“I don’t want to get your hopes up. I really don’t since I can tell they were important to you but Joshua says it might have a few chips to try bringing a few back.”

That got Kara’s attention and caused her to spin around, grabbing Frank’s chassis with both hands. “It’s a long shot and if it does work they’ll probably come back… Off.”

Kara blinked but said nothing.

“When the EMP went up it fried everything on ‘em, that’s why it’s such a bad thing. All your chips go up.” Frank said as way of trying to get something to sink through Kara’s mind.

Silence as Kara stood there.

“Not all the chips we have are exact.” Frank continued since Kara wasn’t doing or saying anything. “In fact most of what we have are at best work-alikes. Plus their drives are probably just as scrambled if not more so. We can try, but if it doesn’t work I don’t want your hopes to be up too high.”

“If they can’t be brought back,” Kara finally decided to say something. “What happens then?”

“That’s where things get dicey. we’re wanting to salvage motors, casing, anything that can be.” Frank explained. “Trouble is Xaio says this lot meant a lot to you so I wanted to give you the choice. We can go with one of the human ceremonies, but personally if it were me I’d rather know that anything useful I’ve got is going to go to getting somebody down the line working rather than burnt or buried.”

“I see.” Kara turned back to facing the truck and put a hand on one of the Good Guys. “Can you let me be for a bit with them?”

‘Sure,” Frank touched Kara’s arm with a manipulator limb. “Take all the time you need.”

Ten minutes after Frank went inside Andy touched Kara’s elbow. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Kara looked over at Andy then at the inert Good Guys on the truck.

“Want to share what’s on your mind?” Andy asked.

Kara’s head shook. “No,” She took the doll’s hand agave it a squeeze, “Yes.” Her hand fell away as she paced along the wagon load of the inert and broken. “I’m just not sure how to put it.”

Again Andy looked to the piles of inert machines. “Try anyway?” It reached for Kara again in attempt to reassure her she wasn’t alone.

At the renewed contact Kara’s head to shake slowly and another sharp exhale, possibly caused by frustration. “I want all of them to be turned into some kind of memorial so nobody forgets.” She stopped, head shaking before looking through the pile for something. “No that’s not right. I want them back.” Having apparently found what she was looking for she reached over to touch one of the Bark-N-Bytes. “I want my dog back, but I can’t. They might be made to work again, but it wouldn’t be them.”

Andy raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

“I know what it’d take to fix them, get them working again, and I know it might not work right.” Kara continued while stroking the plastic pet’s muzzle. “We’re all collections of chips. Those chips dictate a lot of things. Replace enough of them and even if you have the same program it’ll run slightly different.”

Her free hand squeezed Andy’s. “It’s those little things that make us who we are. I’d rather they go to making something new instead of try hanging onto the old.”

“OK.” Andy put its other hand over Kara’s as it looked over at one of the now-inert Good Guys before shaking it’s head slowly. “Let’s get back inside.”