Chapter 2. Southern Georgia
Georgia state line, a shape of a man stood in an orchard while the overcast sky threatened with dark, moisture laden clouds.
And something new.
He was cold. Core temperature was warning of below sub-optimal functioning level. His core thermal levels were four-degrees celsius below normal.
He had walked in the rain for six hours trying to prevent anyone to follow his travels, any records of his journey would come to a dead-end at the last bus stop where he disembarked as a short, elderly woman before changing his shape and look.
Standing in the wet, secluded clearing, his feet made squishing sounds in the canvas shoes that he purchased with real money at a second-hand market.
Using the roll of money he carried, he had covered all his traces since leaving the metropolitan area. Traveling north on foot, he had interacted with a number of citizens.
Now, the core was turning up energy from his processors. But it was not enough, in the late November of this part of the country, the early winter’s storm was closing in. He needed to find an organic food source and shelter within twelve-hours or he would go into an unprogrammed energy debt and he did not know what might happen.
Looking at the trees, there was nothing in the branches to eat. A survey in his knowledge base indicated that among the peach orchard there was little to eat, so he walked on.
The wind picked up, a driving rain was causing his sensation of cold to increase to alarming levels. Being an artificial system, his creator designed tolerance for only a limited number of metabolic events. In the desert, he could function for a month without shade, the core processors able to withstand temperatures above what humans could survive.
Cold, that was another matter, his creator designed his systems for efficient heat reduction, not retention.
An oversite of his creator, the tissues he had over his frame were not required for operation, but they were still living tissue, he would receive unwanted attention if he had dying flesh falling away from his structure.
The sound of a vehicle telegraphed a possible splash from a nearby puddle he had just passed. Tugging up the knapsack he wore in a backpack style, he would use it for what little protection it offered and braced himself for the cruelty of the American motorist.
But it never came, no splash, no increase of engine noise to accelerate into the puddle. Instead, the sounds of decreasing power and a van with “Independant News” painted on the side with three men, one wearing a business suit, pulled up next to him from behind, rolling down the passenger window.
“You’re fixing to die out here. You might as well get in.” The passenger said to him.
“I don’t wish to impose, the rain will stop soon.”
“I’m a reporter, we’re sent out on a report of funnel clouds in the area, there is a severe weather warning out. You stay walking, you will find just how bad it can get.” The one in the business suit said.
“I’m Richard, Scott at the video controls, camera man over there at the wheel is Donde. You don’t have a local accent.” Richard the Reporter tilted his head and thought for a moment. “West Coast? Oregon?”
“Yes, a little town called Antelope. I’m Steve.” He responded. “I am cold, too.”
“I bet, the temp has dropped ten-degrees since we left the studio an hour ago. We are shooting on location every ten-minutes or so. Our next stop is a trucker restaurant a few miles up the road.”
“Thank you. I could use a bite to eat, too.” Steve said. “I’ll get some coffee and wait out the storm.”
“That is a smart move.” Scott’s voice in back sounded like a tuba in the back of the van. “It will get worse before it gets better. A good place to hang out will be up ahead.”
The van slowed down when they reached an open field, Donde pulled over, Scott opened the door and the three news-professionals looked around at the sky. In the distance where they were heading, the clouds were low and oddly colored.
Scott in the back, held his hand up to his ear.
“Rotation in a cloud, fifteen miles west by southwest relative to our location.” His video display overlaid with his gps. “It is moving Northeast at about twenty.”
“That puts the path in this area.” Donde nodded. “We can be in position for a good shot.”
“What are you looking for?” Steve asked, looking out at the sky.
“That line of clouds? I am betting there is a twister in there, somewhere.” Richard pointed. “Down low, where we can’t see as it moves this wa…”
“RICH!” Scott yelled. “Tornado on the ground, East Weather Agency just announced it! Fifteen-miles east of the county line, moving northeast.”
“Steve, you are going to stay with us for a bit. Turn the heat up, enjoy the warmth and pull on any of your dry things.”
“I don’t have anything dry.”
Donde laughed, unsurprised.
“Dude, my jacket is back there, with all the different numbers on it?” He spoke with a slight Puerto Rican accent. “Go ahead and wear it. Warm up, seriously, you look cold even in my mirror.”
“Thank you.” Steve registered this as an irrelevant offer on the part of the man. Nothing else to do with any part of his job. It was a kindness to a stranger that was unexpected. This American, Donde, had no reason to do this action.
The memory core management system created a new file for review later. Date, time, air temperature and processor core thermal levels. It would be transmitted later with the other details he would learn on his travels later. He would gather information on United States Air Force and Marine bases as he traveled north, later in the week.
Donde pulled into the parking lot of the truck-stop with Scott calling out numbers and running the geo-mapping software on his displays.
“This works out, Donde, pull up. We don’t have another good vantage for a few miles. Rich, you have as good of a view as we can get from here.” Scott tapped on the virtual display, using tactile induction. He could feel the cursor under his fingers as he moved the pointer around.
“Rotation, we have rotation in the atmosphere, coming directly at us. Wedge, Rich, get out there! It will be visible in a moment.” Scott yelled. “Vector change! It is turning north. It will miss us.”
Donde and Richard got out, grabbing at equipment that was under their passenger’s feet.
“Steve! Sit in the front, we need to get to the camera and run some cable.” Donde said, taking the cold hand of their passenger and pulling him out.
“Dude, you are seriously cold. Go into the café and gets something warm to drink.” Scott smiled. “Tell them to put it on our tab, we’ll be inside with you in a few minutes for safety.”
“Yes, thank you.” Steve said and walked across the parking lot while he could hear a faint siren in the distance.
A middle-aged woman stood at the window and looked out.
“James, I think it’s gonna miss us. Looks like it is hanging a left and following up north. I think it will get close to the base up the road.”
James walked out from the back, dressed as a waiter, his stress was visible on his face.
“My wife is there, she just got a promotion.” He wrung his hands. “Tell me they would be safe.”
“James,” The waitress noticed Steve as he sat at a table and stepped towards him. “The base is probably safer than your home.”
“Hi! Welcome to Lug’s. What can I get you.” She had a winning smile, but was showing age early in her life. No more than twenty, she had wisps of grey in her raven-black hair with traces of forehead wrinkles on her dark-brown skin.
“Coffee, white, sweet. Three eggs, scrambled and shredded potatoes, please.” He put a fifty-dollar bill on the table. “In case the storm comes, you can bring me the change later.”
“Hun, you can keep it for now. If the storm comes this way, it’s on the house, I wouldn’t be able to balance my drawer.” She laughed and walked off to put his order in.
Contact recorded: American female rejected the free money offering. Registered a conflict with his contact of the corrupt and greedy society. The programming was incorrect.
His fuzzy logic circuit subroutines registered the conflict, flagging it as an error and began adaptive corrections.
Steve Aldin, the android, learned something new.