Tuesday 27 March 2012

Bobo, Chapter 25

Bobo is a serialized science-fiction novella, as told by me, your tireless host, Cheeseburger Brown. This is the twenty-fifth and final installment of this tale.

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Thanks for reading, everybody. This is the end.

Bobo stood in the middle of the recreation room's stained carpet, alone.

His white carapace pieces shuddered against each other slightly as his systems spun up to speed. The vibration faded. Bobo executed a standard hardware diagnostic series, then looked around.

Birds chirped. Sun streamed in through the windows. Specks of dust glimmered in the beams. The covers on the sofas were very clean, and the colours of their designs were bright and even. A clock ticked languidly on the wall.

Bobo heard a noise behind him. He rotated on heel, raising his hands defensively.

An old woman was seated in a wheelchair by the window. Her gnarled hands held a pair of half defined mittens. The tips of her knitting needles shook. She looked up at Bobo and smiled toothlessly.

Bobo tilted his head. He heard himself say, "Is there anything I can get for you?"

"Aren't you a darling, Bobo," said the resident, laying her knitting in her lap. "If it isn't too much trouble I'd like some ice flakes to suck on."

"Madam, certainly," said Bobo.

He walked out of the recreation room. In the corridor he met a fellow shuffling to the washroom with a walker, so Bobo stopped to help him along. "Maybe you could help me outside to the garden after my lunch?" he asked Bobo hopefully.

"Sir, it would be my pleasure," said Bobo.

The garden was very beautiful. It was spring. Many residents were seated on benches around a pond filled with small yellow ducklings. It made Bobo feel optimal to be able to supply them with fresh crusts of bread for breaking up and throwing into the water, and also to bring glasses of cold water and hot tea or an extra sweater, and to read the very small printing on things, or to adjust the position and angles of their chairs and pillows and artificial limbs.

The garden was larger than he had remembered it. In fact, the property of the home seemed to go on forever. One day while strolling with two sisters who liked to squabble about crossword answers Bobo hit an invisible wall just north of the duck pond. He fell down.

"Gracious, Bobo!"

"Are you alright, sweetheart?"

Bobo explored the invisible wall with his palms. He could see the woods extending before him, but he could not pass through the barrier. He followed it west where it met another invisible wall standing at precisely ninety degrees. With methodical mapping he was able to ascertain that the home was situated at the geometric centre of a square exactly one kilometer to a side.

Sometimes Bobo asked what had happened to so dramatically delimit the spatial extent of the universe, but whenever he brought it up the residents asked him to rub their feet. Bobo loved rubbing feet.

Delivery vans delivered bath salts, rice pudding and canned prunes. Hearses retrieved the dead. Now and again police cruisers swooped in to drop off a resident who had wandered off and become confused. None of the vehicles ever had much of anything to say to Bobo, but Bobo was always polite with them anyway.

Bobo could not remember how he had returned to the home, or how long it had been since some other things and stuff had happened. He felt that there was a certain amount of corruption in his memory address space, and made a note to give himself a tune up. His time stamps were all screwed up, too. "Bobo, can you help me with my crossword? Ever since my sister passed I can never solve the horizontals."

"Madam, of course."

Bobo looked at the puzzle. The clue asked the player to solve a cumbersome series of differential equations whose output yielded the key for decrypting the pattern underlying a multi-axis irrational number set distorted by an unknown attractor; the answer would be a nine dimensional description of the attractor. "Right here," said the resident helpfully, "Twelve across. The answer should be nine hundred and four letters long, and the three hundredth letter has to be the square of the speed of light, or else I'm wrong here on sixteen down."

Crossword puzzles were also more challenging than he had remembered. He reasoned that perhaps the residents had significantly advanced their skills during his absence. Which was good, because keeping busy was important. Bobo nodded to the resident. "I get the same answer for sixteen down," he confirmed.

"Well, I'm just stumped."

"Let me see what I can do," offered Bobo, taking the pencil from her liverspotted hand. "Your mineral salts bath is ready."

"What would we do without you, Bobo?" asked the resident, groaning as she lifted her arms so he could slip off her sweater.

Bobo blinked. He had been lost for a moment looking at the crossword puzzle...

"There, there," he said as he turned back to her and starting tugging ever so gently on the sweater. "Tell me about your grandchildren."



Joshua said...

Outstanding. A great story from start to finish.

While following Bobo's journey I have, at various points, felt happy, sad, tense, anxious, angry, excited, and more. I have laughed out loud, and have quietly thought long and hard to myself. I have pictured intense and meaningful dialog, as well as exhilarating action sequences.

Speaking of action sequences, you had a tall challenge in regards to the battle between Bobo and the Executives. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying you answered this challenge formidably. It was everything I would have wanted and more.

Thank you.

Joshua said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the final chapter was beautiful and a great finish.

SaintPeter said...

Ahhhhhhh... Bobo in robot heaven. THAT was the ending I was waiting for.

You mentioned that you actually had multiple possible endings for this story. I'm wondering what you had in mind otherwise?

Sheik Yerbouti said...

All I can think of right now is the end of Forest of the Dead (spoiler alert for all you not-caught-up Doctor Who fans).

Two questions, which you may or may not choose to answer:

1) Did you consciously decide not to address Bobo's faulty logic re. the generation gap (from Chapter 23)?

2) Is crossword-puzzle lady actually Julia/Cassandra trying to get Bobo to help him escape?

Either way, well executed ending. Paper/Rock/Scissors will never be the same (whether or not you include Lizard and Spock).

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Joshua,

Thank you kindly!

Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Sheik,

1) Yes. By the time all was said and done it seemed redundant to me. I felt that the details of Bobo's idiot-savante nature did not require full amplification, since the theme of "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" seemed to well-established by the time I got to the ending. Do you still feel it needed to be addressed explicitly?

2) No. The crossword puzzle represents the efforts of Ishtari roboticists to trick Bobo into revealing the logic behind his fluidic computation and the equivalents revealed by the process. He is being slowly and methodically data-mined.

Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear SaintPeter,

I will address the subject of the bifurcated plot possibilities in the next post.

Cheeseburger Brown

Edward said...

I wonder how much the peaceful resolution of this was shaped by your real-world circle-of-life issues.

As always you are truly awesome, and I wish there was more I could do to help you out. In the last couple of weeks I have told several people about your work, though I doubt it will contribute much it's nice to feel like you are spreading the word.

Teddy said...

Wow...interesting resolution. I'm glad that Bobo is still alive! Does this mean that we can expect to see the further adventures of Bobo when he inevitably puts it all back together because of the Data Miners' clues and then uses the equivalent math to escape? I sure hope so.

I wonder if that has something to do with how Simon got stuck in Galilea in New Testament times...


Sheik Yerbouti said...

I thought Simon was in Galilee because of some Jeremiah-fueled time travel. Then again, maybe Zoran used his single-point intersection chessboard to toss them around.

Mark said...

Loved that he returned to the same setting as his humble beginnings. This story would be good to re-read now that it's all out here, because it starts out so simple and small, then quickly unfolds to planetary scale.