A Day in the Life...
Jacine whistled cheerfully as she headed out of the pet store with a brown paper bag. Considering the day was sunny without being too hot, she decided to walk the two miles to her house. Along the way she contemplated what she would do with her free time now that she had completed another contract and didn't have any others currently lined up. The servo auto-maintenance system she had designed for the company wasn't very exciting, but it did pay nicely. And she'd finished it up ahead of her own schedule -- sometimes the boring jobs took longer, but not this one.
One of the local Guards waved to her as she passed by on patrol. Jacine waved and signed a question. The Guard signed back that all was quiet so far. The route to her house was familiar enough to Jacine that she could have traveled it without noticing anything, but in her home area, she was careful not to lapse into complete absent-mindedness. Besides being polite and waving and smiling to other neighbors about the area, her home was close enough to the outskirts of the city that she had to watch out for Recessives. The Guards patrolled continuously with the aid of a city-wide inter-connected scanning system, but some Recs still slipped in. Citizens carried Stunners as a matter of routine.
Coming up to a small, one-story gray house, Jacine paused to inspect the cherry trees in front of it. The fruit was just about ripe and she picked a few. The brown bag rustled and she looked down at it. "Guess I better get these inside before Scar-Face comes out." She climbed up the porch and entered her code.
"Good day, Jacine. You're home early, was work good?" the computer mod-voice addressed her as it swung the door open.
"Hello, Wren. Work was indeed nice. I finished up the maintenance contract. And picked up some food for Scar-Face." Jacine moved indoors and started looking around the front room.
The computer responded to her unasked question, "He's in the Work Shop. Will you be requiring food yourself?" It managed to sound wistful as it asked the question.
Jacine laughed and headed down the basement stairs to the Work Shop, leaving the brown bag on the table. "Actually, I feel like being treated. If you want to, you could make me something."
A note of disbelief entered the computer's voice, "You mean that? You're not going to cook your own dinner?"
Laughing again, Jacine looked in the direction of the computer's main circuit board (somewhere in the middle of the house). "Wren, I do mean it. Do you need me to clean the food servos?" Ducking under a Skeeter on the ceiling, she reached under a bench and picked up a rubber pipe. "Oops." She put it down and moved on.
"The servos are fine -- I think. I believe Scar-Face is by the kelm."
"Ah ha!" This time Jacine picked up a long round object that looked a lot like the rubber tubing, but this object moved and flicked a tongue at her. Jacine carried the python up the stairs and put him in the feeding pen. Scar-Face moved about in anxious anticipation until Jacine had returned with the rats she'd gotten from the pet store.
The computer observed in a wry tone, "It's a good thing you have a pet that only needs feeding once a month."
"Now you sound like Mom! I'm not that bad."
"Oh?" The computer managed to put a great deal of sarcasm in the one word. "And who do you think programmed me initially?"
"Grandmother. And, 'initially', is the main word there. You've re-written your program a googol of times since then." Jacine moved into her bedroom and changed from her nice office clothes (for the presentation of the final report), into some more comfortable pants and baggy shirt. She debated with herself for a moment and decided to leave off her boots and instead grabbed her cane.
Wren noticed her almost infinitesimal retreat into solitude and didn't prolong the conversation any longer. She put those bites into the search for a suitable Dinner program, while she continued her conversation with Mrs. Mendi's main computer, Oracle, and performed the routine house-tasks including the perimeter scan.
Jacine limped into the front room and programmed the holo-view for a wood-land scene. She then settled down in her easy-chair and leaned it back. A stack of view-foils on the table next to the chair caught her attention and she leafed through them. Most were general advertisements and she stuffed them back into the recycler. The others she set aside for later review. Jacine was almost about to pick up her VR InterNet console when a rabbit hopping across the holo-view caught her attention. Grinning at herself, she deliberately shoved the table out of reach (it was on rollers), and tried to concentrate on not thinking about things. The Pink Elephant was present as always, but eventually she succeeded in relaxing. Wren unobtrusively moved a servo with a mug of warm milk up to Jacine, who took it with a smile of thanks.
The holo-view faded into the window it actually was when the sunset came. The front room bordered two sides of the house, and the sunset was always on the right side of the front of the house. Perched on the upper half of an incline, the window looked out onto an attractive view of the old houses (well kept by the owners) with interspercings of small orchards of fruit trees and the lone mountain in the distance, just off-center to the left. The orchards were a bit worrisome to the people who lived next to them, since the Recs tended to come in for food during the fruit season. But the Recs were not totally mindless and if they came for the fruit, they generally left without disturbing anything else. The outskirt people maintained an uneasy truce with the Recs during Spring and parts of Summer.
When the sunset had faded past the initial bright colors, the computer announced that Dinner was ready. Jacine stretched. "Oh, it feels good to relax. Thanks for making the dinner for me, Wren."
"You haven't eaten it yet." the computer's sarcasm was as dry as her circuits.
Jacine laughed and slowly got out of the chair. She winced as she tried to put weight on her left leg. "Wren, could you fetch me the crutches? I think my leg's out of it."
A servo whirled over with the desired objects and Jacine made her way to the dining room. "Oh my." She surveyed the food in delight. "Wren, this is perfect!"
"You still haven't tasted it yet."
The comment prompted another laugh, "Well, we'll have to remedy that immediately. The ham smells delicious! Did you use cloves on it?"
"And honey glaze."
"Yumm." Jacine settled down to eating the ham, baked potato, vegetable Hiolot (a 'nutritional balance' invented by the dietitians that actually tasted good), fresh baked roll, and the milk. Wren's work was rewarded by her human's enthusiastic consumption of the organics. In a further compliment, Jacine didn't say a word throughout the meal until dessert came.
"Ohh! Ice Cream! I haven't had that in years. Orange Sherbet?"
The household settled into peaceful night and Jacine got the first eight hours of sleep that she'd had in a few weeks. In the morning she opened her eyes, saw the cron readout and decided on a few more. It was the comset that finally woke her.
"Oops. Sorry Jacine. I wanted to catch you before you'd left for work, but obviously you're not going today."
"Umm." Jacine rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and turned a mellow gaze on her brother. Jonathan looked so chagrined that she had to grin. "I finished that contract. Don't worry about it. I've slept over and really should be getting up anyhow."
They talked about general things for awhile then Jonathan signed off because he had to get to work. Jacine maneuvered her way out of bed and into the kitchen where she made some scrambled eggs and toast and squeezed some orange juice. She had a servo carry the tray out the back door as she followed it to an outdoor table. "Burrrr." She wrapped her robe a bit more firmly around her as she sat down. The birds were singing merrily and the morning passed quickly.
Around noon, another call came over the comset, "Good day, Jacine."
"Mirabel!" Jacine dropped the diagrams she was looking over. "Is Mom okay?"
The lovely dark Mexican features of Jacine's pseudo-Aunt crinkled in amusement, "Your mom's fine. We found out from Wren through Oracle that you were home and free for a while. Richard suggested that you could convey a message to Michael for us."
"Sure! I haven't been to Island City for awhile. But haven't you gotten the bugs worked out of Michael's comset yet?"
Mirabel frowned in puzzlement, "No, we haven't. And it's puzzling us. We certainly wouldn't expect better security on his then was on Cecilia Mede's, but we keep running into a block. While you're over there, you might want to check on it for us. It could be a fault at the connection. But be careful."
Jacine shrugged at the warning as she always did. Mirabel knew her niece was usually careful with any Hacking she did, but that casual response worried Mirabel.
"What's the message?"
The laughter in Mirabel's eyes and face returned. "Well, it's been quite a while since you mentioned that Michael had finally gotten some girlfriends, and your mom's been fretting that he hasn't brought them to visit us yet."
Jacine chuckled, "I doubt if he's thought about it since the situation has never come up before."
"Indeed." Mirabel laughed, with considerable satisfaction underlying the tones. "It's about time. Anyways, Richard and I thought that we could attempt to surprise your mom if you'd hop over and remind Michael of his familial duties."
The prospect aroused considerable anticipation for Jacine, who was grinning from ear to ear. "And here I thought I had nothing to do. I suppose you've enlisted Oracle's aid in keeping Mom in the dark?"
There was a slight rolling of eyes in the viewscreen, "Of course. But even so, it'll be tricky." A 'ping' sounded on Mirabel's end, and her attention moved to one side. "There's a sweep moving in. Don't call us -- just show up!" She waved at the screen and hurriedly signed off.
Jacine sat looking at the screen for a moment (her 'blank' screen was a remarkably uncreative gray marble pattern). "Okay! You heard that, Wren?"
"Of course." The computer's voice sounded resigned and slightly wistful, "I will assume I'll see you when I perceive you."
Pausing in her rush to the bedroom to pack, Jacine looked towards the main circuits, "You could come too in a hand module, if you want."
"No, the risk is too great. Just be sure to add a word in for me when you're telling your brother to visit people."
. . . . .
Jacine made her way to a City Gate terminus. It was an off-peak hour, so there were several not currently in use.
"Destination, please?" The Gate's mod-voice sounded flat and dull to her after spending the day with Wren.
"Island City main terminus, please." Even though the Gate wasn't self-aware like Wren and Oracle, Jacine maintained the practice of courtesy to all potentials.
"I'm sorry. That destination is busy at the moment and there are four Gates holding for it. Would you like to hold or enter an alternate destination."
Jacine sighed, "I'll hold." Even if her city was on an off-peak hour, Island City never was. Of course, only four people holding was actually a slow period. During rush hour, appointments with the Gate terminuses had to be made.
. . . . .