Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

There was a knock at the door. Now who would be calling at this time of night, I wondered? I got up from my workbench and headed toward the door. When I opened it, I found myself staring at myself. “Now, I can’t possibly be that fat,” I said to the android that had been built to replace me.

“I’m afraid so, old man,” it said with a chuckle. Then it did a slow pirouette where it made a slight pause at the 180 mark to shake its rotund buttocks. As it completed the 360 degree turn it added, “I am an exact facsimile, right down to the gray hairs on my chinny chin chin. Deny it if you want, but laser scanners don’t lie. Besides, I’m grateful for all this extra space,” it said as it padded its ample midsection. “They were able to pack 30% more batteries in here. Now, I could probably complete the Iditarod without needing a recharge.”

“Well,” I rebutted, “there’s a team of huskies thankful that you’ll be too busy to compete.” I motioned it in and closed the door. “My retirement doesn’t begin until the day after tomorrow,” I pointed out. “I didn’t think you were coming until then. Surely you know that I’ll be leaving in a few minutes, and I won’t be back for 24 hours.”

“Sure do,” it replied with a knowing smile. “I was hoping to go with you. You know, learn the route. Come on,” it pleaded, “it’ll be fun. What do you say?”

“Well, I suppose so,” I relented. “Last year, I got so tired, I almost crashed into the Himalayas. The Missis was furious. So, I guess it’ll be good to have a co-pilot, and you can help me with the heavy lifting too.” That’s when I noticed the android eyeing the inside of my shop like a child in a candy store.

“This place is awesome,” it remarked. “But it’s much smaller than I imagined it would be.”

“This is just my personal workshop,” I pointed out. “There’s a five hundred million square foot factory up the road. But your tour will have to wait. We need to get going. Grab that bundle over there and let’s head to the hangar.”

Once it became obvious which exit I was heading for, the android rushed past me claiming ‘shotgun’. I shook my head and laughed at its enthusiasm. Kudos to the programmers, I thought. I’ll make sure they receive a special ‘thank you’ gift for their efforts. After I put on my winter coat and hat, I climbed the access ramp and took a seat next to the android. I quickly secured my safety harness, and entered Kiritimati into the GPS. Then I pressed the remote control that opened the large hangar doors. In the moonlight, we could see a light snow falling outside. The android could barely sit still. “Do you want the honors?” I asked it.

“Oh boy, do I,” it replied. It took the reins from my outstretched hands and shouted ahead, “On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen…”


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