Author: Richard M. O’Donnell, Sr.
Frank Blair woke up confused, but that was okay. Confusion in the morning was normal, a challenge. His caseworker used that word a lot. “Frank, you have challenges and that’s a good thing.” So when the robot woke him from his night-night tube and asked him what his job was aboard the colonial starship, Esperanza, he answered, “I meet challenges.”
“But what is your job, specifically?”
Frank did not like the robot’s three eyes. His mother had one eye, but she still had two eyes sockets. She wore a patch.
“I miss Mother.”
“I don’t think you understand. I am the ship’s encyclopedia, Librarian-Prime. A meteor storm wiped out the mainframe and damaged the ship. I am responsible for retrieving as much of human history as possible to rebuild the library. Do you understand?”
“No, but that’s okay.”
The robot made a sound much like a sigh.
“I have interviewed 1,402,623 survivors for one week each over the last 26,899 years. I started with the human with the highest IQ and worked my way down to you. You are my last interview. In seven days, I will have recompiled as much human knowledge as is possible.”
“Mother would be proud of you.”
“Thank you, but human validation is unnecessary to complete my primary directive. Let’s start again. When you were on earth, did you work?”
“I folded pizza boxes at Larry’s Pizzeria in Farr Creek, Ohio.”
“Good, describe exactly how you folded a pizza box.”
Over the following week, Librarian-Prime grilled Frank on every aspect of his life on earth. Frank tried hard to listen, but it was…a challenge. The food didn’t help. The robot called it space oatmeal, but it tasted like paste. It reminded him of eating Elmer’s glue as a boy. This made him think of his mother. Most things made him think of her. She studied bugs. Frank liked bugs. Bugs tasted better than the space oatmeal.
At the end of the week, Librarian-Prime flew Frank in a shuttle to New Earth. Frank had seen the Esperanza from space when he boarded. It had looked like a city among the stars. Now the spaceliner looked more like a broken Lego castle.
“Ruined,” he said.
“Almost, the meteor shower wreaked havoc on most of the systems. Only my primary directive, to save the human culture, forced me to direct the repair and maintenance of the ship. I am programmed to improvise, adapt and overcome.”
“Meet challenges,” said Frank.
Dropping through white swirling clouds, the world below was a green forest dotted with shimmering lakes. As they neared his new home, Frank saw that the construction bots had cut a swath from the primeval woods along the shore of a blue lake. In the nearby fields, the ag-bots were busy bringing in the first harvest. They landed between a gigantic concrete building and a single log cabin.
“The cabin is all yours,” said Librarian-Prime. “The service-bots will meet your every need for long as you live. Best of all, I’ve transcribed human knowledge onto parchment and filled the library to the brim. Long after our power cells fail, the wealth of human knowledge will survive.”
Frank stepped into the cabin and frowned. Nobody was there. He looked outside the window. There were only three-eyed bots.
“I miss Mother.”
“I recorded her interview. You can view it anytime.”
“Where is she?”
“To fulfill my prime directive I invented space oatmeal.”
“I’m confused, but that’s okay.”
“It’s simple. To feed the interviewee, I fed them with the previous one. I improvised, adapted and overcame. The library is saved.”