Waiting With Their Pictures In Her Mouth

The Robot and Frances:

The old robot had once thought that it was a man. But in fact, it had just been a prisoner of the old days. Those days, back when it served as a stenographer for the State. She had been here, for most of this time, as a part of that Project.

For past few hours however, it had been waiting. Waiting for Frances to finally say something, while pictures of faces gently scrolled across the display situated where one might expect it's mouth to be.

When she did finally speak, it was to say, "It is the burden of having an arm that is still".

She thought this might make the robot smile... Could this robot smile?

"One constructed of confusion and sweat." retorted the robot. "It could be different though. I could be a lie. But I think there is a detachment when we meet our sinners." at which the scrolling faces began to iterate rapidly as they trended with more troubled expressions.

Is that what a robot smile looks like?

Frances smiled and/or frowned. Sometimes the robot had difficulty differentiating the two. She never was good at reading human faces.

"And you, sir," Said Frances "You're a hard woman."

The stranger:

The view outside the window, where the dials vanished, was of the sky, pouring across the pathway. From the stranger's perspective on the far side of the room however, it was merely a trifle. He groaned as he shifted to a sitting position.

In the round mirror the robot could see Frances walk over and lick water off the stranger's face.

The robot wheeled around. It was time to embark.

Earlier, the stranger had sat down at the top of a corridor. Burdened with an elusive thought, he instead remembered the whaleboat which was now lost to the stars.

What if I am too close to it? he asked himself. What if there were no more paralysis? What if they were human?

The whole thing was a fine bird. A separate voice in his head retorted. A message from the place where they dipped their feet into the darkness.

It was less a statement, than it was a promise. A hint that there might be a way to accept it. What kind of nonsense is that?

What has happened to me?

As he remembered this, ears still ringing, he shook his head. Who was it who said "Acceptance is a horrible little catapult"?

The robot raised it's eyes. It could read his uneasiness.

"I'll try to make it quick!" it chirped.

Owling and Bonnie:

Meanwhile in the Rest Stop, there was a lovely man who had fallen in love with a stewardess. He was discreet, and she was silent.

Owling opened his eyes. "They may just be a better contact," he said to Bonnie. "But I suppose there aren't any second services. Not on that kind of ship"

Bonnie nodded half-hurriedly. "I have something I want to share with you."

She held out a chip. It was an old release, one from a few years back. A micro single by the Some New Electrical Stuff.

"I remember these guys!" said Owling. "They slept on my lawn after they listened to the lights. They liked to be outside that way."

He squeezed the chip and it began to play.

Don't be angry, dear.
Don't be like that when the story has changed.
Don't be surprised at the truth.
Don't be so sure, you know.

Speak to the natives. Maybe they're not so stupid after all.
Sing of the beginning of an electronic ball,
That's all.
That's all.
That's all.

They smiled, each in their own way, then set out on a walk. Intent on winding between this rest stop and the range of the lake, feeling as if they were one with the scene of this country.

She again looked at him, this time without saying anything. But there's a difference, she thought, Only it was left along the way. Along with a whole other story. It was part of the truth that has yet to be found.
When they reached the far end of the hill, they found the robot waiting for them, with their pictures in her mouth.

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