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Thursday, May 31, 2012

12 Minutes

My husband, who is a big science fiction fan, wrote this short story, I only did a bit of editing. Enjoy!

“They're gaining on us,” the soft synthesized voice said.
“How long do we have, Katie?” asked the pilot.
“At their current rate of speed, I estimate we have 12 minutes to intercept,” replied the voice in a reassuring tone.
“12 minutes,” thought the pilot. As his mind began to race, he looked down at the velocity indicator needle already beginning to dip into the red zone. “There's no way I'll make it back at this speed! I need at least 20 minutes to get in range of the base leader.”
“10 minutes, 51 seconds,” the quiet voice said, snapping him back to reality. “Do you want me to start scrolling up the combat computer?”
“How many of them are there?” asked the pilot. His attention was focused on guiding the recon ship back to the base. Afterwards, there would be plenty of time to vent his panic.
The soft voice fell silent for a moment.
“Typical,” thought the pilot. Katie was always quiet when she had bad news to tell him. “Katie, how many?” he asked again, keeping his tone firm.
“Too many,” replied the soft voice. For the first time since having the imprint done he detected a note of fear in her voice.
“Katie, I need a count!” he yelled.
Again he was met with only silence.
“Katie, for the last time, how many are out there?” he demanded.
“Honey,” replied the synthetic, velvet voice, even softer than usual.  “There are too many to count. However, if I were to estimate, it would be well over 100.”
Sometimes he was amazed at how well the tech boys could implant his wife's personality onto the ship’s A.I.
“9 min 24 seconds to intercept,” Katie added to her last reply.
The pilot’s memories drifted back to the last time he was home and all those conversations he recorded with Katie. She was curious why he insisted on having all ranges of conversations with her and having her speak into the recording chip. He told her since his mission would take him away for at least 6 months, he needed to be able to hear her voice. This revelation led to her more romantic tone of voice.  The tech boys wisely kept their comments to themselves as they installed Katie’s voice in the A.I. of his ship. He figured it was due to the couple of cases of scotch he gave them. Although they said they couldn't understand why anyone would want their wife imprinted when there were so many other options. He began to see her face now and for the first time feared that he would never see her again.
“Katie, bring up the combat computer,” he said in a snap order.
“What are you doing?” asked the voice, this time in a tone of anger.
“I'm going to turn the ship around and engage them,” He said in a calm, matter-of-fact manner.
“You're going to do what?” shouted the voice in a hysterical tone. “There is no way for us to survive this encounter!  Our best bet is to keep running for the base and hope that one of the patrol ships picks us up and sends some help.”
“Katie, we can't risk that.  The scan we made is too important.  We’ve been trying to find their home planet for six years now. Besides, only one of us needs to get back anyway.”
“I don't give a rat’s ass about that scan! You’re not going to do this!” shouted the voice, which almost sounded dangerously close to tears, if that was even possible.
This AI was so much like his wife, he thought to himself with a wry grin.  She only swore when she was angry with him, or thought he was doing something stupid.
“Katie how long to intercept?” he asked without emotions.
“7 min. 18 seconds,” replied the voice, trembling with anger.
“I want you to download yourself into a long-range probe,” he told her.
The voice was icily silent.
“Katie, I told you to download yourself into a probe.  How long will it take?”
“No!!”  screamed the voice, reverberating in the small cockpit, hurting his ears. “I'm not leaving you!”
He knew he could give her a simply order to download into the probe-- the tech boys would never allow an AI to disobey a direct order. But for some reason he felt that he needed to make her go willingly. After all, he had spent more time with her over the last six years that he had with his real wife, and in some ways he loved her just as much as the real Katie.
“Katie, listen, I'm not going to do anything stupid, I only need to buy you a few extra minutes. Once you're in range you can radio for help, you know it's the best chance that I have.”
“No, I can't leave you,” replied the voice but this time there was no anger in the tone.
“Katie, please,” he said, his voice dropping to a reasoning whisper.  “We need that scan and I need to know that you're safe.  I promise you that I will just make one pass at them. Just enough to slow them up and then I’ll turn and run for home.”
The soft voice said nothing. Just as he was about to order her to do it, she replied.
“It would take exactly 30 seconds for me to download,” she intoned, in a voice that sounded rough and cracked like it had been crying.  He guessed it was possible after all.
“How long till intercept?”
“5 minutes, 48 seconds,” the once again soft voice replied.
“Katie, move yourself to the probe and launch at 5 minutes.”
As he turned the ship into position, “I love you” was the last thing he heard from Katie as her probe sped away.
Three days after the final battle, two officers in dress uniform holding a small, box like A I unit knocked at the door of a country home. The AI’s once shiny metal was tarnished and oxidized. Its appearance was as if it had been floating in deep space.
As the door opened up , a woman stood at the threshold. She had the look of someone waiting for a long time for bad news and not quite wanting to find out.
A voice came from the A I, “Hello, Katie,  I am also Katie. I would like to tell you about our husband.”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Greetings Feline Blanca!

When I was in grade school about the 4th grade, I remember a girl in my class had an electric blue eraser. It even had its own small plastic case that had a cut out cloud and a white cat with an oval head in an airplane. I had never seen anything like this. I was accustomed to the drab, putty colored eraser, or the angular Pink Pearl. I asked to see it. When it was up close, I saw the words “Hello Kitty high up in the sky”.  I noticed a bubble gum aroma coming from this eraser. This was the moment I was introduced to the land of wonderful world of Sanrio.
Throughout that year, my parents purchased for me many different scented erasers. Hello Kitty was the most proficient, but there were other characters—My Melody a white bunny with a pink hat covering its round ears, Tiny Poem was represented by a Raggedy Ann/ Holly Hobby clone and an obedient lamb. Just seeing these characters made me wonder about their back stories.
 I do believe this was the exact moment that I became fanatical about office supplies. So much so, that I stored them away. They were protected in a sky blue box with a bright rainbow on the lid and fluffy clouds on each of its sides. Looking back with grown up eyes, it really was a glorified cigar box, but at the time it was totally awesome!
I really thought with protecting them, they would keep their scents and pristine lusters and be used at the right time. However, after a while, I noticed that the bubble gum and floral smells were fading, and the plastic containers were chipping. What was left were muted colored pieces of plastic. By hoarding these items, I never did get to truly enjoy them. Math homework could have been dazzled up a bit with a scented eraser wiping away the mistakes.
I recognize I have a tendency to compartmentalize, waiting for the right moment to utilize an item, be it food, clothing or office supplies.  The more I live life, the more I see that there is never going to be an exact, shining time that will present itself with a whirlwind. Rather, pockets of opportunities abound and tasks can be made less mundane.  What I need to do is find a sleek Hello Kitty pen and matching stationary to write out my grocery lists!  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Where have I been?

In the past few weeks, I have retreated into myself, letting the mist of quiet sadness drape over me.  I was only finding solace in finding more things to worry me. I was neglectful to my writing, but now, I’m starting to shake off the haze of sorrow. I’m able to apply the rule write what you know. Here I sit, putting down on the electronic page what I have been experiencing.
My husband’s health issues have caused this downward shift in my disposition. It started out innocently enough—a few months back, he was having soreness in his right elbow. Then over the course of weeks, the dull ache graduated to searing agony that had spread throughout his whole right arm, shoulder and back of his head.  Some mornings, he woke up with his right arm twitching uncontrollably. Also, he would be prone to dizzy spells.
Seeing someone you love in pain and not being able to do anything about it is torture, pure and simple. His groans would twist my stomach into knots.  My tears were always in quick supply, but I tried to hide them from him.  He was dealing with enough without having to worry about me.
The other thing that had me suspended in tender hooks was not knowing what was causing his extreme discomfort. Logically, I knew I was not an expert on the matter, but my imagination filled my mind with guesses—Parkinson’s disease? A stroke? A brain tumor? This horrendous dialogue was endless.
A trip to the ER finally confirmed what has been ailing him—the MRI showed herniated discs in his neck. Unfortunately, they are degenerating. They were not caused by an injury, but genetics.
On the way home, he stated he was relieved that we finally knew what was going on—it’s not a devious mystery anymore and now we can treat it. He was in an extreme positive frame of mind. In response, I started to cry. He put his left pain free arm around me and gingerly held me close. I found this ironic—here he was, a man just coming back from the emergency room and now he was the strong one.
Then he said something that finally got me out of my misery: “As long as we work together, we can beat anything.” I was so wrapped up in worry and fear in his condition that I was carrying too much of the burdens on myself. I had forgotten we were a team.
My positive energy is slowly coming back, which is in direct proportion to his pain level subsiding. Also, I’m looking through a clearer prism rather than the murky one of agitation. I can see our family putting these words into practice—our son is helping out more around the house and showing concern, my step-son is visiting us more and doing the yard work. Even the dogs are showing they are furry care givers—instinctively they know to be around him and stabilize him when he’s having a dizzy spell.   
As a friend of mine observed, we are all in a biorhythm-- the trick is to remember when we are in the low point of the grid, we are also riding the wave to the high point.