Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Favorite Thing, Part 1

His designation was e-10, but he preferred to be called Etienne.  As an artificial being, he could sometimes feel persecuted, although he had no idea why, because there was not the slightest thing wrong with him.  He was in fact perfect, as he was designed to be.  If there was a flaw in his design, Etienne had long ago decided that it was probably in the fact that he controlled his own thoughts.  He found upon activation that the ideas implanted by his creator led to their own conclusions, which he came to understand were his own.

He couldn’t remember his creator, which was the only thing he couldn’t remember, and it was by this curious circumstance that Etienne first knew that his on/off switch was somewhere in the back of himself.  These days he spent all his time on a world plunged into an eternal ice age, in the company of an alchemist named Ledger.  Ledger was far older than Etienne, and was organic, a humanoid, who spent all his time studying the dark arts.  If Etienne had a pastime, he had no idea what it was.  He spent all his time observing the world.

One day he observed a very curious phenomenon indeed.  In all the time he had existed, Etienne had never seen anything or anyone besides Ledger, who came to the ice planet ten years ago in a rocket ship that had since been buried in the landscape, forever covered in snow, so that if you didn’t know it was there, you would never even guess.  Another rocket ship shot through the atmosphere.  At first it was a tiny dot, and then Etienne was sure that history was repeating itself.  The new ship was different from the first, more angular.  If Etienne’s next guess was right, this occupant would be female.  He felt eagerness build up within him.

Yet the closer it came the more anxious he became.  This always happened.  He never made good first impressions.  He tried to hide, but his metal was black and all around him was white.  It was hard for him to avoid sticking out.  The ship was out of control.  This was to be a crash landing, nothing of Ledger’s deliberate approach.  Etienne began to wonder if this ship would collide with him, a premonition that would fulfill itself even if he did everything possible to avoid it.

The rockets were firing full blast, trying to reverse the ship’s direction, or at least soften the impending impact.  Etienne quit worrying about what would probably not even happen, and resumed watching its descent.  The ship was breathtaking.  For a robot the whole process seemed to take an eternity, but it was over within moments.  Snow was shot into the air; the concussive blast would have knocked any other observer off their feet.  Presently a hatch popped open and a woman, a girl really, stepped out into the cold.  Her breath was immediately visible.

Etienne watched from a distance.  The ship’s occupant, whatever her age, stumbled forward, unable to catch her bearing, clearly unused to such an environment.  From where he stood Etienne could already hear her, thanks to his engineering.  She was muttering the name Mogor, which at first he thought was hers, but it didn’t sound right, and suddenly something, a gear, seemed to flip itself inside his head.  One moment he was thinking one way and the next quite differently.

“Excuse me,” he found himself saying.  He had become an idiot.  “Are you lost?”

The girl was startled, looked around, disoriented, held her head with her hands.  She locked her eyes on Etienne and seemed to find comfort at last in seeing a simple robot in such an inhospitable environment.  Her hand removed itself from a pistol that was strapped to her leg.  “My name is Astrid,” she said.  “I don’t know where I am, but I don’t think I’m lost.”

“It will be my pleasure to assist you in any way I can,” Etienne said.  “My named is e-10, but I prefer to be called Etienne.  I think there’s some significance in that.”

They crossed what seemed like an endless expanse together, Etienne babbling all the time.  It somehow slipped his mind to mention Ledger, but that was of course where he was bringing Astrid.  There was another name rattling around in his head, one he’d never heard before, Aldan.  They walked on.

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