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Catherine Snodgrass - The Invention

Catherine Snodgrass - The Invention

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Published by: rachael302001 on Jun 24, 2011
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THEINVENTION
AShortStoryby
CATHERINESNODGRASSTHEINVENTION
Andreastaredoutthebigpicturewindowthatwasthecenterpieceofherlivingroom.Agoldenmoon,fullandbright,casteanamberglowoverthelandscape.Alover'smoon.Turningawayfromtheview,shegaveaforlornsighasshesettleddownforanotherlonelynightof television.SheknewwhenshemarriedAndrewhowdedicatedhewastohiswork.Butthislatest projecttookhimawayfromhermoretimesthanshecaredtothinkabout.Heandhisfellowscientistshadembarkedonthistop-secretprojectnearlyfiveyearsago,andasthedeadlineforcompletionneared,theworkhoursbecamemorelikemarathonsessions.Ithadbeenamonthsinceshe'dseenAndrew.Longerstillsincetheycuddledatnight.Theironlyconversationshad beenbriefexchangesofinformationoverthetelephone.She,aswellastheotherscientist'sspouses,hadnoideawhattheprojectwasabout.Theywereallowednocloserthanthesecuritygateatthelab.Theydidknowthat,whateverwasgoingon,theworkwas beingconductedinoneofthelab'sundergroundvaults.Andreahateditandfreelyadmittedherjealousy.JustthinkingofhowithadcomebetweenherandAndrewmadeherboil.Withanuncontrolledsnarl,shehurledthetelevisionremotecontrolacrosstheroom.Sherefusedtostayherealoneanothernight.IfAndrewwasn'tgoingtobehome,thenneitherwasshe.Shestormedtothedoorandwasabouttoleavewhenthetelephonecalledherback.Sheallowedtheansweringmachinetotakethecall,butlistenedasthemessagerecorded.“Andrea,honey,Iknowyou'rethere,”Andrewsaid.“Pleasetalktome.It'sveryimportant.”Reluctantly,shepickedupthereceiver.“I'mhere.Whatisit?”
 Anothercoupleofdaysaway?
“Honey,pleasedon'tbethatway.Iknowthishasn'tbeeneasyonyou.Ithasn'tbeeneasyon
any
ofthespouses.That'swhatIcalledabout.We'vefinallygottenpermissiontoshowourproject.Tomorrowtheworldwillseeit,buttonightisforfamiliesonly.Canyoucomedown?”Theexcitementinhisvoiceurgedhertocomply.“I'monmyway.”Sheslammeddownthetelephonesoquicklysheforgottosaygoodbye.
 Nowwe'llseewhatallthissecrecyisabout.
 
Duringthetriptothelab,shetriedtodeterminewhatcouldhavebeeninventedthistime.Peacehad prevailedforatleastacentury,sotherewasnoneedforanewweapon.Spacetravelwascommonplace;thenewvehiclesmadeiteasytogofromoneplacetoanother.Perhapsitwasahigh-techfueloramuffledboosterfortherocketsledstheyoungstersdrove.Shewasatalosstofigureitoutandsoongaveup.Shearrivedatthelabgatewheretheotherspouseshadgathered—twentyinall.Aftertheiridentificationwasverified,theguardunlockedthegate,swungitwide,andusheredtheminside.TheHeadofOperations,Simon,greetedthem.Hesteppedforwardwithawidegrin,armsopenedandinviting.“Welcome.Thankyouallforcoming.Pleasefollowme.Yourspousesarewaiting.”Heledthemtoawaitingelevatorthattookthemdeepintotheground,tothatverysecretvault.Fromtheretheywenttoadarkroom.Thedoorclickedshutbehindthem.Andreaheardatumblerlockthemin.“We'rehere.Turnonthelights,”Simonsaid.Amberlightfilteredaroundthem,notunliketheglowofthemoon.Witheachsecondthatpassed,thelightgrewuntilitfeltlikeithummedaroundthem.Finally,asoftwhitebeamedthroughthelarge presentationroom.Thescientistswaitedbeforethem.Smilesoftriumph,ofpride,brightenedeachface.Twocloth-drapedobjectsstoodinthecenteroftheroom.OnewasastallasAndrew'ssixfeet,theotheraboutsixinchesshorter.AndreacaughtAndrew'ssmileandfelthisexcitement.Butitwasn'tjusthismouth—hiswholebodyseemedtosmile.Itwascontagious.Shehadtosmileback.Hegaveherawink.Then,eversocarefully,heandoneofhiscolleaguesremovedtheclothfromthelargerofthetwoobjects.Stunnedsilencefilledtheroom.“Thisisit?Thisisyourinvention?”onewifesnapped.“Believeme,it'snotwhatitlookslike,”Simonsaid.“Andrew,pleaseexplain.”“Gladly.”Apunchofabuttononthecomputerpanelsetthehologramdisplayinmotion.“Whatyouseehereisasystemlikenoother.Webeganwithabasicframework—askeleton,ifyouwill.Asmoother substanceatthejointsallowsformovementwithoutfriction.Thesefibersontopoftheskeletonarewhatmakeitmove.Then,ofcourse,wehavethisnewlydevelopedcoveringtoprotecteverything.”“Whatmakesitgo?”someoneasked.“Amagnificentdiscoverywecall‘graymatter.'”Andrewtappedthetopofit.“It'shouseduphereundethisprotectivecap.It'sthemostsophisticatedcomputereverinvented.”“Howdoesitpowerup?”Andreaasked.“It'sfueledcontinuallybyplasmaalreadywithinit.Whenitreachesitsdestination,itwillautomatically begintofunction.Itsplasmacanrejuvenateitself.”
 
Agaspwentoutamongthecrowd.Andrewnodded.“Yes,it'strue.Itiscompletelyself-sufficient.”“Whatisthecoveringoverit?It'slikenothingI'veeverseen,”Andreasaid,inaweoftheobjectsbeforeher.“Ittookalmostayeartodevelopit.It'smadeoftinyinterconnectingcellsseverallayersthick.We'venameditskin.It'sfarsuperiortowhatwehave.”“Whatistheotherobject?”someoneasked.Theclothwasremovedtorevealasmaller,roundedversionofthefirstmodel.“Sowhatwillyoudowiththesethings?”“Ourcounterpartsintheupperlabshavebeenworkingonthat,”Simonanswered.“They'llbesenttoliveonadistantplanetafewlightyearsfromhere.Theywillbeleftalonetoliveandmultiplyamongtheobjectscreatedfortheirexistence.”“Multiply?”anotherasked.Simonchuckled,atinnylaugh.“Yes,myfriends.Theseunitshavethecapabilityofreproducingthemselveswithnotoolswhatsoever—onlywhatyousee.Andtheirreproductionswillbeabletodothesamething.”“Itsoundslikeyouhavefoundtheperfectreplacementsforus,”adisgruntledhusbandhuffed.“Areweandroidstobeextinctnow?”“Notextinct,butitisbecomingincreasinglydifficulttomaintainourselves.Theseinventions—wecallthem‘humans'—willgrowanddevelop.Theircomputerswillgainmoredataastheyevolve.Whenthathappens,wewillmigratetotheirplanetandtheywillcareforus.It'stheonlywaywecansurvive.”Hishumorfadedasthedirenessoftheirsituationobviouslyhithim.“Ourprobeswillmonitortheirprogress.”Theimportanceofherhusband'sworkhumbledAndrea.Andhereshewasjealous.Theseweretheir salvation.“Wherearetheygoing?Whatisthenameofthisplace?”ItwasAndrewwhoanswered.“ToEdenonaplanetcalled‘Earth.’We'vecalledthetallhuman,amale,‘Adam.’Thesmalleroneisafemale,‘Eve.’Adamleavestomorrow;Eveleavesthefollowingday.Theywillarrivewithindaysofeachother.Inafewthousandyears,wewillfollow.”“It'snotaverylongtime,”Andreanoted.“No,butit'sallthetimewehaveleft.”Andreasteppeduptothe‘humans’andhesitantlytouchedeachone.Theircoveringwassoftandresilient;shecouldseethebenefitsoverherownsiliconecovering.“Goodluck,”shetoldthem.“Learnwellandfast.Ourraceisdependingonyours.”
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