A Study in Symmetry, or the Chance Encounter of an Android and a Painter
By Jamie Lackey
HK-812 stepped out of her charging pod and gazed out the single narrow window that her 8×14 living space boasted. The brick wall outside was a whole eight inches away from the glass, and the morning sunshine gave the red-brown a cheery tone. As she watched, a single moth fluttered past, its wings white and delicate and brilliant in the light.
HK hummed a happy tune as she pulled on her regulation gray uniform. It was going to be a good day.
Lawrence stared at the empty hook by his front door. “Where are my keys?” he demanded.
“They are in the sink in your painting studio,” his house replied. “However, the car is not in the driveway. Would you like me to ping the GPS?”
Lawrence sighed. “Yeah.” He vaguely remembered getting a self-driving car home last night after he’d drunk one (or two, or seven) too many toasts to the happy couple. He didn’t really remember painting anything. He just hoped he hadn’t left the studio a complete disaster area.
“Your car is parked in the lot at 124 Lake St.”
Outside the reception hall. Which was about twenty miles from his lakefront house. And now he was supposed to pick them up and drive them to the airport for their honeymoon. His college best friend and high school sweetheart—they were sickeningly perfect together. They’d fought over whose side he’d be on in the bridal party.
They told him that they could get to the airport on their own, but he’d insisted. He was happy to do it, he wanted to see them off, he was so happy for them.
Unit EX-702 comes back online when UV wavelengths activate its solar plating. Its optics are crusted with red dust; a low-powered system scan concludes that though its left arm is missing and there is excessive oxidation damage along its chassis and helmet, as well as a web spun from several arachnids (Nephila clavipes) now embedded in its servo stump, EX-702 is functional. Its operational protocols are intact.
This unit is programmed for the support of life and sapience.
Its databanks are semi-corrupted beyond basic functions and archived footage and base knowledge dumps. Attempts to access the ‘Net and reboot from a mobile hub fail with a repeated NO CONNECTION AVAILABLE alert. EX-702 lifts its remaining arm and scrapes dust away from its optics.
Operational Function 413: this unit will maintain self-preservation operations, including but not limited to the access of immediately available data to determine procedure, when it does not conflict with the preservation of homo sapiens’ survival.
EX-702 sits in the crater of what had been Newtonian Genetech Incorporated laboratories and HQ facility. Debris from the lab cakes the thick concrete and rusted iron walls. Its scanner matrix glitches with static-filled readouts and partially deteriorated unprocessed updates from microseconds before it was shut down.
Scientist voices agitated and unmodulated without appropriate safety masks. [STATIC] “—find survivors! Protect yourself!” [SHUT DOWN]
Something crackles against EX-702’s knee joints. Fibers, synthetic and organic—old HAZMAT suits shredded and woven around broken plywood and stripped copper wiring—shaped in a non-geometric design. Inside the structure sit three maroon and heather-brown eggs thirteen centimeters in length and six in diameter.
In 2007, I wrote a book. In 2010, I finished editing it*. Either this year or next, it’s going to be published**.
This is not a post about book contracts.
It’s a post about technology.
About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about how fast data storage technology is expanding. My example was my USB drive, which holds eight hundred times as much data in something the size of my finger than my very first hard drive, which was about the size of half a frozen dinner.
This morning, I was catching up on my news feeds and I found another technological change that struck me.
You may already know that BlackBerry — once the bastion of corporate offices and enterprise e-mail systems everywhere — has recently been on the ropes. Their tablet wasn’t perfect when it came out, and you have to be perfect to compete with the iPad. Their first touch-screen phone wasn’t so great either. They don’t have an app store with even close to the number of offerings that Android and Apple do. And — let’s be honest here — BlackBerry devices just aren’t cool.
That’s now. In 2012. But in 2006, I got my first (and only) BlackBerry, and it was awesome. It was the precursor to the Pearl, the first one with a narrow keyboard, and I thought it was the best phone I’d ever have. I could text, e-mail, surf the web (in a limited fashion), read stories online, play games, use personalized ringtones and message sounds, and, well, if I wasn’t able to take pictures, that wasn’t a big deal, because I had a camera already, right?
In early 2007, I started writing a novel (as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago). Because my main character was kind of a tech-geek, I made sure she carried a BlackBerry and knew how to use it. I don’t know which one it was, but I’m sure it was a good one. It may even have been the one I had. The point is, by the time I finished the book in the summer of 2007, BlackBerry was still the standard by which I judged phones. Anyone who was anyone had a BlackBerry.
Of course, the iPhone happened shortly after that, and that was most definitely a game-changer.
Between the end of the writing period for the book and the time it’ll be released to the public, I’ll have gone through five cellphones. Five cellphones in five years.
My aforementioned BlackBerry.
The HTC Tilt/TyTn II, a monster phone that I would’ve kept if it hadn’t started crashing on me all the time.
An iPhone 3G.
A short-lived Samsung BlackJack — a capable enough device, intended to be a BlackBerry replacement, it was given to me at my old job. I didn’t think I needed it, since I already had an iPhone, but they wouldn’t pay for it so I had to carry two phones.
I’m writing another book right now, and my main character has a touchscreen device — either an iPhone or an Android; I’m not sure which. The point is, I’m being a little more vague because (a) I don’t know when I’m going to finish writing this book and (b) I don’t know when it’s going to be sold once I do. I like to be as accurate as possible when I write, which is why Sarah (in the 2007 book) had a BlackBerry, and which is also why Andrea (in the current book) rides very specific bus routes to get around town. I believe little details make a story better — not too many of them, but enough to let the reader know that the author really put some thought into every aspect of the story. Get the small details right, and people in general will believe you if you fudge the big ones***.
But I’m still amazed that, only five years after finishing the book, the device that I gave my main character because it was so freaking cool is now so out-of-date that literally only one person on my entire floor here at work actually has one.
Technology is moving faster than ever. We writers have to keep up with it.