Monday, November 19, 2012

Comes Again Another Day

With this feeling present in him, he opted to stay out of the little robot's internal systems.  He'd stuck to mostly lower-order automated devices up until now, but the robot possessed an actual, if rudimentary, intelligence.  It might notice if he started interfering with its sensors.  And then the city might notice.  And if that happened...

The little robot found another tiny sprinkling of red, and blipped an excited comment.  Perhaps it was communicating with the roomba-bot some distance away.  It was following the trail he'd been following from the first information station.  If Kris had possessed a stomach, it would have felt the same foreboding cold weight that the wolf had inspired, all those years ago.  He looked up a list of nearby surveillance devices, cross-referenced them with the avenue he currently occupied, steeled his mental legs, and leapt.  

Environmental sensor.  For a moment, he lost the ability to summon words, but that was alright.  They'd come back when he needed them.  He allowed himself to sink into the sensor's murky, visionless world until he found his bearings.

18.333 degrees, ideal human habitation temperature.  Pulse the ventilation system a little bit to offset a source of heat generation, diminish the accumulation of mites, keep CO2 at healthy levels.  Single occupant.  Slightly elevated heart rate, wakeful.  Slight increase in humidity but nothing worth reacting to yet.  Light levels low but adequate.  Vibrations, arrhythmic.  A voice.  He found a camera on a personal computing station, turned it on, along with a microphone, and listened.

"Rain, rain, goes the way.  Comes again, another day.  Rain rain, goes the way.  Comes again, another day."

She sang the fragment tunelessly, over and over.  She wasn't old.  But she carried herself like an old person, hunched over on the edge of her bed nook.  The room was small but economically designed enough to allow a reasonable amount of space between the computing station, the bed, and the bathing area.  

There were few lines on her face.  Her clothing, a multipocketed article that reminded Kris of Alex's mechanic jumpsuit, was in fine repair.  But as she sat, humming the fragment over and over, rocking back and forth, staring at nothing in particular, Kris knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was quite mad.  She held a bundle of cloth - it might have been another jumpsuit, rolled up into something of a size that she could cradle in her arms.  

He queried the database, seeking information.  Condition green.  Within productivity parameters for down time.  Increase protein intake and vitamin B supplements, was all he could find.

"The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be.  Many fears ago."

She smiled then, and it was a porcelain, beautiful smile.  

The building schematic indicated to Kris that they were in a housing cluster.  The living spaces were adjoined, although there were no doors or access points between them.  They all lived alone.  He felt like screaming, but instead he leapt again.

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