How High The Moon
“You’re a robot, you know. I made you.”
“I’ve heard that before,” Nomie said. She put the tea tray down and settled into the lawn chair. “But I don’t think I’m a robot.”
“Programming,” Manny said, “I programmed you not to know.” He blew on his tea and sipped. Just the right amount of sugar and cinnamon.
“Dear, I have news for you. You’re the robot. I made you.”
“Nonsense. You don’t have the programming skills.”
“But I do know machinery. I spent years designing starship components.” She waved her hand towards the scraggly field outside their homepod. “You can always outsource programming.”
Manny held the teacup against his lip, feeling the steam on his nose. Winter was coming early. Maybe it was time to pack up and head south. Selene rose above the horizon, bright in the late afternoon light. Albedo six and a half times higher than Luna, he remembered. Sure nice to look at.
“If I’m a robot, how come I grew old? The durability of the plumbing leaves much to be desired.”
Nomie smiled and tucked a wisp of gray hair out of her eye. “I tried to make you as human as possible, even the stuff that’s not practical, so you’d have something to complain about.”
Manny cradled the cup in his hands, drinking slowly, feeling the heat fade as the sun went down. “I programmed you to be creative,” he said. “So that’s the exact sort of thing you’re supposed to say.”
Manny put the cups and spoons away and powered on the washer. His back twinged as he straightened. Ha! He’d never program a robot to have pain that came and went with the weather. He left the galley and went to the living room, aglow with light from the flatscreen.
Manny settled into his chair, took his bookpad from between the cushions.
“What’s our song?”
“Huh?” he said, trying to ignore the video and his wife.
“You know. Our song. What is it?”
“It’s ah... it’s... you know. That one, by that guy.”
Nomie smirked. Manny struggled to come up with at least a likely candidate, and his bookpad scrolled along without him.
“Wait a minute. This proves that you’re the robot. You’d never forget if you were a robot, and since I’ve forgotten, I must be the human.”
Nomie paused the video and leaned back on the couch. She patted the empty space beside her and Manny came over.
“I might have forgotten that bit of information when I subcontracted your programming, thus proving that I’m the human, and you’re the robot.”
Manny snuggled closer, tossed his bookpad back on the chair. “There’s a subroutine for imagination,” he said. “I wouldn’t leave that out.”
He spent the rest of the evening watching Nomie’s video.
“The doctor, the one at the starport. He showed me scans. Bones, internal organs, blood vessels. I’ve got ‘em all.”
Nomie pulled down the comforter and got into bed. “Fakes, all of them. I paid the doctor a few bucks to keep his mouth shut.”
Manny got in, thumbed his bookpad to find his place. He waved the lights dimmer and settled in. Through the porthole, he saw Selene on the horizon, setting as the Milky Way rose.
“Honey,” he said, “how long have we been dirtside?”
“Seven... no, eight years.”
“What if we’re both robots? Will we go on like this forever?”
“Yes, of course. I used only the most durable materials.” She rolled over, leaning into the pillows, asleep by the time Manny found his place in the bookpad. Her breathing rose and fell in a steady pattern, fifteen per minute, zero point two-five Hertz. Just a time varying function.
Manny waved the light off, put his bookpad away. Outside the stars wheeled in their endless dance. Selene hung on the horizon, still bright.
Les Paul! That guy from Earth, he remembered. He shook Nomie awake. “How High the Moon. That’s our song. By Les Paul.”
“Yes, that’s it,” Nomie mumbled, eyes flickering closed. “Now go back to sleep, robot.”
He couldn’t be a robot. Not if his memory worked like that, dredging up information long after it was needed. Unless, unless it was a search routine that got stalled in a data table...
Manny looked at his wife’s face, so relaxed, so peaceful. Could he have made something that perfect? No, he was only a second rate programmer.
Selene gave one last twinkle, leaving the sky for the lesser stars.
“So what if I’m a robot,” he said. “I’m happy. We’re happy.”
Nomie murmured agreement in her sleep and he pulled the covers higher and snuggled closer.
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About the Author
Pat writes mostly science fiction, with an occasional fantasy, and once a year (usually around Halloween) a horror story. His first published story was in Writers of the Future, Volume 24. He fondly remembers Les Paul’s gigs at Fat Tuesday’s, and would like to dedicated this story to his memory.
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Copyright © 2009, Patrick Lundrigan.