Snakes and Pills

191 - canals

Dawn fumbled around in one of her toolsheds, looking for the right size of magnetic grapplers. Nothing was organized or labeled, but she could usually find whatever it was that she was looking for.

She held one in her hand, running her fingers over its grooved ridge. The feeling was right. Similar enough, she hoped. It would have to do. The toolbox which she found the grapplers in was on the floor, and rising back up from her crouched position, she felt her knees ache.

What was her age, again? She honestly wondered for a moment, having no difficulty losing track of such things now. Despite never having set foot on the blue planet, she still measured her age in Earth years. Such was the habit of the colonists, never quite bringing themselves to leave everything behind.

Forty-eight, she remembered. She walked back into the warehouse that served as her workshop. OV-32 turned to look at Dawn as she returned. He had been staring off into the distance, and she wondered what ran through his mind when he was left alone.

"Did you find it?" OV-32 asked her. The crude emotional expression he was capable of with the features on his face was currently reading "expectant." OV-32 was one of the older models, probably a few Earth years older than Dawn herself.

She actually found earlier specimens like him more endearing. The newer robots had much more expressive faces, but there was always something just not quite right about their looks. On the other hand, OV-32's expressions were easy to interpret, like a cartoon. She easily understood him to be happy when she replied to his query in the affirmative.

"I thought I was going to be stuck without function in that joint forever!" he said, relieved.

Dawn's hands were soon covered in pneumatic oils from working on OV-32's right shoulder. She installed the grappler, working delicately, regardless of the fact that her patient was unable to perceive pain.

OV-32 happily chattered with talk about the village. Last cycle, he had been elected to the Council of Nine, and now he had no shortage of gossip about the goings-on within the small robot enclave. The total number of residents currently stood at 391, plus one human. He seemed to have a tale about every one of them, and Dawn wondered what gossip he shared about her when he was with the others.

Finishing her work, she carefully screwed all of the access hatches closed. He flexed his arm a few times, testing the repaired joint. "Feels as good as the day I was powered on," he happily reported.

After thanking her profusely, he scampered off. A Councilor could never rest, after all. Dawn smiled and waved as he departed. As friendly as OV-32 was, she hoped he wouldn't reappear in her workshop too soon. She was having more and more difficulty tracking down parts these days, especially ones that kept the older models running.

She never fully understood why the robots couldn't learn to repair themselves. All she knew was that the inability was a deliberate fault in their programming, so they could never become all-powerful eternal beings.

Many years ago, Dawn had been glad for such a fault. It gave her a purpose. The robots welcomed her into their community, if only because they needed her. The last of her kind here, she was the only one who could help them.

Watching OV-32 fade away into the distance, she felt her knee pain flare up again, and her hands ached. Someday, the village's residents would need to carry on by themselves.

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