The little car was cruising quickly and silently through the trees covered hills, the sun shine throughout the forest occasionally making the car glitter like a tiny jewel.
Mike was sleeping in the protective cocoon of the car, exhausted after 12 hours of continuous flight, he had to cross the whole country to the remote and idyllic pace of her late mother’s house.
The tiredness of the trip was sadly compounded with the stress caused by his mother unexpected passing, one day she was happily visiting his newly born son and the next she was gone, Mike never had the chance to say how much he loved her or how much he appreciated all what she did for him and in spite the support of his wife and the happiness his child gave him he knew the hole in his heart wouldn’t ever close, it was part of life after all, the part that royally sucked.
The car beeped softly coming to a halt in front of an old villa in the middle of literally nowhere, the resting place of his mother. She lived there all her life, Mike’s awoke slowly stretching and rubbing his eyes, the smell of the surrounding eucalyptus forest and the associated memories of a happy childhood invaded his mind like a surprise encounter with an old friend, Mike climbed off the car in a bitter-sweet mood. He looked at the house, he had to pack everything and sell the property so this would be probably the last time he looked at it as it was originally. The two story house was perfectly maintained by the small army of robots her mom owned, those would go with the property too.
After unpack the basics, a couple of clothes changes, some food and tools he thought he needed he called his wife. A beautiful 30 year old woman appeared in the screen of his cellphone.
“Mike! I was about to call you, how are you sweetheart?” greeted his wife in a concerned tone.
“The trip was too long but I’m OK, don’t worry, the house is in good shape, I’ll be done here in no time.” reassured Mike.
“Someone here wants to say hello to daddy” she said holding the baby in front of the camera.
“Tommy, Tommy!” sing-song Mike to his sleeping son to no avail: he was deeply asleep, his tiny face showed a peaceful concentration; who knows what babies dreams?
“Sorry babe, I just fed him, you know how it is, but he was looking for you the entire day”
“I know bun, don’t worry, I’m happy he is behaving though.”
“Yes, everything’s good here you do whatever you must do and if you need us to be with you just say the word and I’ll be there in no time.”
“Thank you, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Mike closed the connection and pocketed the phone looking around making a mental list of things to do, as much as he wanted his wife to be with him now this was something he had to do himself, this was his goodbye to his mom and his wife (god bless her) understood it without the need of a lengthy explanation.
In the next two days Mike established a simple routine of cleaning, cataloging and packaging every item in the house. It was a painful experience for him but also something that gave him closure, he started with the basement and worked his way slowly to the top floor, it was amazing how many things his mother gathered in her life!
Every evening he would call his wife and chat with her for an hour or so, sometimes interrupted by an upset Tommy who required urgent attention. If Tommy was especially upset he would sing a lullaby that calmed him down to a peaceful sleep.
The “magic” singing as his wife called it, only worked when he did it, for some reason the effect wasn’t as spectacular when the mother sung to the baby, to her jealousy and his happiness that -very wisely- he never showed.
Mike didn’t remember where the song came from, he had a vague memory of someone (her mother, perhaps?) used to sing it when some stressful situation happened to him as a kid, but regardless the origin it seemed to work on Tommy as well as it worked on him so where that came from never was a main concern for him.
After a week of work the sadness numbed down enough to open a space in his mind to the boredom of the task at hand, he was about to finish anyway, the only place to organise left was the attic where he guessed the contents would be only spiders and old stuff that would go directly to the trash bin.
Mike was wrong, though, the attic of the house was actually a tiny crawl space full of boxes of spare parts for the maintenance robots of the house, it was surprisingly immaculate, dust free and climate controlled. Mike guessed the maintenance of that place was done by the bots themselves, he couldn’t imagine his elderly mother climbing the ladder up and down to clean a place she never visited.
The boxes contained a treasure of old android parts, accessories and bits and ends of whatever had a battery in the house. Mike started to understand why it was so well maintained, the workers were also properly maintained!
After cataloguing the contents of each box he crawled to the last corner of the attic where a heavy and old tarp covered something which shape he couldn’t figure out at first. On a closer inspection the canvas was protecting a humanoid figure, Mike felt his heart wrinkling.
A completely forgotten part of his past resurfaced in his mind so suddenly he had to sit down in the tiny space to recover his breath. With trembling hands he undid the dainty knot that held the fabric around the figure, while clean, the tarp and cord was wrapped by human hands, probably his mom, who knows how many years ago.
A tsunami of emotions washed Mike’s mind as soon as the fabric revealed it’s contents, a head with an elaborate braid, a face with a serene and slightly happy expression, a body of a maternal woman of around 35-40 years old wearing a proper uniform of a domestic aide.
Theresa. Or how he used to call her: Nan. His nanny, the bot that tended him when his mom was busy the one that used to make his meals or keep an eye on him while he used to play in the forest, also the one that used to cure his little cuts and abrasions when the playing turned to be a bit too real.
Memories of his happy childhood with Nan in the background caring for him flooded Mike’s mind while he was watching the ancient android in its resting place, he felt a knot in his throat, how could he have forgotten her? Nan was an integral part of his early childhood and yet at some point of his life he just discarded her from his mind and she ended stored like an antiquated toy no one has interest in anymore. Feeling guilty and overwhelmed by sadness Mike pushed a lock of hair from her face to behind her ear, a movement she used to do all the time. Some hairs fell off her head.
The pass of time haven’t been gentle with Theresa, the hair was slightly dusty and did lost the shine Mike’s memories said it should have, the fabric of that uniform was disintegrating in some parts the whites were now yellow and the blacks were faded and grey, her skin was still warm but it was dry and cracked in parts now exposing the fragile and delicate cables and mechanisms...
Mike’s brain took a minute to realise the bot was still active after all these years. Her battery had some juice in it, his mom probably never realised she had to physically turn off the android instead of leaving her here and letting Nan enter in low power mode. That meant she was waiting, under the tarp for almost 30 years. Waiting for her next command.
The knot in Mike’s throat grew bigger.
“Nan? Can you hear me Nan?” He asked in a very hoarse voice.
The bot at first didn’t react, but somewhere inside her something came to life, probably a fluid pump.
“Nan?” Mike asked again about to cry seeing his Nan struggling to return from her 30 years nap.
With an alarming noise of overtaxed gears and rusted joints Nan jerked her head orienting it to Mike’s voice, trying as hard as possible to open her eyes. The ancient cameras in them tried to focus on his face, while her face recognition coprocessor struggled to identify the person in front of her, swimming against the river of errors the main processor was receiving from every single system.
After 15 seconds some reduction box in the artificial ligaments controlling the ball joint of her head gave up and broke freezing her head but she didn’t gave up and rolled her eyes the rest of the arc necessary to look at the human that asked for her for the first time in decades.
Her main processor desperately tried to snooze all the secondary alerts to free cycles for the task at hand, freeing precious cycles for her to finally recognise the person in front of her.
A dried up, dusty speaker worked for the first time in an eternity to convey all the happiness she would ever be able to feel.
“M-m-m-m kk.k” Nan stopped, she shut down all the kinetic systems, when she realised she wouldn’t be able to move again, diverting the meagre power the battery still had to the speech synthesis system.
“Mi... key... oh my... how much have you grown” Nan laboriously whispered.
“Oh Nan...” Mike said finally breaking down, it was too much for him, his mother, to organise her house, rediscovered his early memories, the loss of it all, and now his own nanny, tears started to flow and refused to stop. In the tiny attic Mike allowed himself to be a kid again and cry his impotence and sadness out to the only link to his childhood he had left.
He crumbled down, resting his head on Nan’s lap crying his anguish out without filters.
Nan’s main processor identified his distress immediately, she didn’t understand the cause but that wasn’t important now, Mikey was crying and that event took priority over everything else, recurring to the last bit of energy she had she moved her right hand to Mikey’s head caressing tenderly in spite of the of the mechanical systems failing one after the other, she managed to stroke his crying Mikey one last time while doing the only thing she could do left, sing a lullaby to calm him down, her processors didn’t have the energy left to understand that Mike’s wasn’t a kid anymore and perhaps that was for the best. Nan’s cpu shut down, finally resting after performed her main function: to love Mikey one last time.
Mike awoke and sat up banging his head against the ceiling, cursing he looked at Nan, she was frozen with her head tilted and her arm trying to caress a head that wasn’t there anymore. Her body was cold now.
“Thank you Nan” he whispered.
With infinite care he turned around the rigid android’s body and pressed a spot on the back of her neck, releasing a panel cleverly hidden in the back of her head a whiff of smoke came out from the opening but that wasn’t important now, Mike’s retrieved a small crystal cube of holographic memory. He pocketed it carefully and closed the panel one final time, then holding back his tears he covered the android’s body again with the tarp and climbed down the stairs.
That evening he told his wife that he was coming home. He was done here.
Tommy would have a nanny soon, as he did.