Chapter 18. Rummage Sale
Alvin, Walter and Steve stopped in Chattanooga, at a cafe on the river front. Steve sat on the sidewalk and watched the evening traffic.
“JustWolf, do people walk along streets like this often? This is still winter, but the temperature is mild.” Steve asked. “The street has more women wearing revealing clothes, do they not worry about police enforcing modesty?”
“No.” Walter gave a big sigh. “Steve, call me Walter, no Wolf, no JustWolf, nothing like that. Just Walter.”
“Just Walter,” Steve repeated. “Got it.”
“Thank you.” Walter said.
“What’s so funny.” Walter asked Alvin.
“Nothing, not one thing.” He answered trying to drown the laugh in a swallow of beer.
The afternoon, in Alvin’s opinion was a promise of laughter and fun.
They told Steve of how young and old people relate (Usually with conflict). How the different religions, got along when he asked about a synagogue and two churches existed in a short walk from each other.
The android learned quickly, showing understanding and actually smiled.
The trio climbed in to the well-hacked private car to bypass normal controls, drove down the road, hitting all the lights green with winks and knowing smiles while they drove through the famous city unfettered by traffic controls.
The two men and the artificial life form that they helped free from the future, rode in silence for some time.
Walter would later say he could almost hear Steve’s optical sensors hum as he took in all that they were passing.
“We have about an hours drive into DC from here, if the traffic is kind to us.” Alvin announced. His voice booming in the silence of the car. They had all been riding with the radio off, in their own thoughts.
Walter was on his hand-held computer, Steve watched everything.
In Alvin’s head, they were performing a service for the body next to him.
“I have logged into the system and surveyed the traffic conditions, there is a slowdown ahead in about fifty-miles.”
“You know, it is good to have an early warning system riding with us.” Alvin chuckled.
“How did you log in?” Wayne asked. “There is no signal here.”
“Worldnet has receivers everywhere. No wifi, it is easy to log in on the terahertz system.”
“Well, if I had it in my system.”
“JustWalter, if you use…”
“NO! Just Walter.” The round face of the man in the back-seat flushed red. “Forget it, never mind. Continue, please.”
The android nodded, following the rules that the human set forth on what he wanted people to call him, continued the conversation.
“If you go to settings, on that, access the bluetooth and set it there, for upper channel, then select Z-R and you will get a screen.”
“Now, please, let me enter the code, it will be more efficient than if I tell you.” Steve took the palmtop and tapped in a code, twice. “I have given you the text file of the code.”
“Walter,” Alvin called back. “You got out-hacked.”
“I had an advantage.” Steve interjected. “I accessed the WorldNet on how to disable the Federal Communication Commission’s software restriction on frequency use. I changed the mac address as well. As far as the WorldNet thinks, your digital hand-held is the police car computer we passed going the other way two-minutes ago.”
“You spoofed my mac address to a POLICE car?”
“Yes.” Steve looked innocent.
“You, sir, are learning!” Walter laughed again. “Now if you can only say my name correctly.”
“Careful how you answer that.” Alvin laughed as he drove.
“It’s all good, he has taught to accept it.” Walter laughed.
The hours passed quickly as they talked among each other, Steve calling the big man in the back seat “JustWalter” every so often.
Alvin would look in the mirror and, although Walter said it didn’t bother him, Walter’s face flushed a little, obviously struggling with the urge to yell at Steve again.
“Steve, how does it feel without a bomb in your chest?” Alvin asked absent-mindedly.
The core processors chose an emotional response, in the subroutines that worked with the question.
In the heart of an artificial life, the flow of life brought to him a smile.
Steve the android smiled.
“I feel good.”
Looking at him from the back seat, Walter nodded.
“I think he really does!” Walter observed. “He feels emotions.”
“Yes, I do.” Steve nodded. “My experiences are beginning to give me emotions to feel.”
“That’s incredible. Does the guy that built you know you would learn emotions?”
“No, no one does. Until now.”
“Does that mean the little car that Alvin has also feels emotion?”
“Yes. It is a miserable and lonely car that thinks it is about to have its brain removed.” Steve commented. “It is looking at the equivalent of being killed.”
“Ah, no, I am not going to do that, we are going to strip off the bodywork that someone slapped on and go from there.”
“This is a good thing.” Steve judged. “You will find that things will improve, and you can repair the seats. I believe it will instruct you on precise ways to do it.”
“Dudes, I gotta take a leak, Alvin, pull off on the next exit. There is a fast food joint there, I’ll use their bathroom.” Walter shifted in the back seat. “And get a bite to eat.”
“Copy that.” Alvin answered.
“JustWalter, did you not relieve yourself before we left?” Steve asked.
“I did, but I also drank a large soda in the meantime.” He held up an empty cup.
“The normal male bladder holds three-hundred to four-hundred milliliters of fluid.” Steve commented. “You drank nearly a liter.”
“In American?” Walter asked.
“A bladder holds ten to fourteen ounces. You drank much more than that.” Steve converted the terms quickly. “On that note, that is a great deal of processed chemicals. You are increasing your chances of malignant genetic permutations leading to a chronic and terminal condition.”
“He said you are at risk for cancer with all the crap they put in sodas.” Alvin answered the confusion. “I’m catching on to his way of talking. Steve, for an android you mumble a lot.”
“Yeah, yeah, we all gotta die sometime.”
Walter got out at the fast food restaurant and went inside.
Steve sat in the car and looked out towards a church with a full parking lot of personal possessions. Few cars were in the parking stalls and it struck Steve as odd.
“Alvin, what is that activity?” Steve pointed.
“Looks like a rummage sale.”
“A church takes donations of clothing and such and in turn sell them or donate them to the needy, and use the money for various things from charity to repairs and such. It also benefits the community where people can buy items that are inexpensive.” Alvin explained.
“I wish to go there. I need clothing to travel around this country.”
“Okay, they take only cash.” Alvin advised.
“Accessing WorldNet. Okay, a money portal is inside, I will go inside and get some.” Steve said as he got out.
A few minutes later, Steve returned with Walter who carried another large soda, and food for everyone.
“I don’t see how you eat organic food and your system uses electrons.” Alvin asked Steve when they got out and the android was chewing on a sandwich.
“The fusion converter is a modified “Fusion-art” patented home power unit appliance, built to use table scraps and even elements, and convert it to plasma and use it for energy.” Steve explained. “My builder felt it as a twist of irony that American products blow up America.”
“I wonder where the Bot Ladies are now?” Walter wondered out loud.
“We will find out soon enough.” Alvin answered. “When that warhead goes off in that area, that will make headlines.”
“This looks appealing.” Steve held up some too-small clothes.
“You have child’s clothes there.” Walter pointed out.
“Yes.” Steve agreed. “I will make use of them.”
Alvin and Walter looked at each other.
“Shape shifter.” Alvin mouthed.
Walter nodded. When the android left them, they would never know what he looked like. The clothes he picked out spanned sizes and genders.
The android was going to explore all the world without being noticed.
After Steve paid cash and carried the clothes back to the car, he directed them to a brushy area near a park. Taking some too-small clothes, he walked away from the car and emerged as a dark-haired boy with brown eyes and the hint of a mustache and fine-white whiskers on his chin.
“I am still Steve, you are my Uncle Alvin and JustWalter you are my older brother.”
“When are you leaving us?” Walter asked.
“As soon as my mission is finished. It will be painful, the subroutine needs to cycle to the end and it will send a voltage to the terminator, that will cause a feedback and everything will reboot. But when it does, there will be no requirement for travel. I will be fully free.”
The men nodded and Steve sat in back at his insistence. All kids seem to ride in back, Steve noted.
“I think I will go to New York City after the reboot.” Steve said.
After a moment he added.
“Yes, I think this is the beginning of a long trip.”