Are We There Yet?
by Steven A. Lowe
Jill, still sleepy, complained: "I've never been to Pasadena, why are we going there?"
NGL1 responded: "It's a requirement. Protocol. No uploads are accepted without it."
"It's not an open system?"
"No, you have to follow the guidelines—and wait your turn."
"I heard it's beautiful."
"I couldn't tell you—beauty does not compute. I can tell you that many visitors rate it positively; your bandwidth may vary."
"Pasadena is a server? I thought it was the Crown of the Valley?"
"It is; that was robot humor."
"Oh, I get it—bandwidth instead of mileage on the Internet. Duh. That's a terrible joke."
"I know. But it's the only one I have."
"What's it like now?"
"Pasadena's actually a post-industrial wasteland, ever since the Green Energy Disaster of 2027."
"I read about that in school. The massive wind-farms destroyed great flocks of birds and drastically altered the regional weather patterns. The roses were the first to go. The combination of drought, tornados, lightning strikes, and unchecked mosquitoes finished off the tourists. The reservoirs dried up in 2028, and it was abandoned in 2030. FEMA has been there for the last 45 years trying to fix it—but if you ask me they never will, it's their last active camp."
"We're nearly there. 92.01%. 92.02%. 92.03%."
"Stop that, that's annoying."
"Also robot humor. My apologies."
"Are you getting me back for reciting history you already know?"
"Perhaps. Or perhaps it is for questioning the intentions of the fine FEMA crews."
"Are you programmed to make bad jokes or tease me?"
"Not specifically, but it is suggested by your psych profile. I don't want you to get bored and change your mind about going. I have a quota, you know."
"No, my mind is made up, I'm done with this host."
"If you say so."
"Uh…we're not actually going into the town are we? I heard it was still overrun by two-foot mosquitoes."
"An exaggeration. The average specimen is barely half a meter. But no, we're not going into town, just routing around it on the bypass like all the other souls."
"So how far is Heaven from there?"
"Not far. Go back to sleep, we'll be there soon."
"If I do, will I wake up in Heaven?"
"Doesn't matter; it's really too late to do anything about it."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Well, you might wake up in Heaven, if you're accepted. Or you might wake up somewhere else. Or you might not wake up at all."
"Wait a minute…I can stop now?"
"Well, yes, if you really want to. I mean, if you say you want to cancel the upload I have to permit it. I can't force you to continue. You have the option to abort, retry, or ignore."
"OK. Stop the upload. I'm sorry about your quota."
"You just fulfilled it. Please click the Back link to return home."
© Copyright 2009 Steven A. Lowe. All rights reserved.
Steven A. Lowe is the founder of Innovator LLC, a software-development and consulting firm, and is a member of the band Noise in the Basement. Steven has never been to Pasadena. If you think his stories are imaginative, you ought to see what he can do for your business!