« Mouse 21 | Main | Curiouser »

Observations in the Field

by Rudi Dornemann

Marcus hiked out before dawn, over snow with just enough ice on top that it held his weight for nearly a second before he crunched through. He got the robotic crow into the tree well before dawn.

The flock of real crows came up from the river while the sky was still predawn pink, and alighted in the next tree over. The robot issued its preliminary croak. Marcus held his breath for the flock's response. It never came -- something spooked the birds. Wings slapping like applause, they disappeared into the forest dark.

Marcus swore and keyed "recall" on the control fob. The robot bird fluttered to his feet and went still. The cold metal stuck to his gloves as he put it back in the padded bag

He walked out by way of Highway 212 -- a longer, but easier route. He had time. Of all Halverson's raven trials, the only ones that had worked had worked on the first encounter between wild birds and the robot mimic. Marcus hadn't had a successful integration yet, on any encounter. He'd have to find a new flock, maybe nearer to Agriville, where there was more of a farm and forest mix... He was trotting along the on the frozen gravel shoulder when the beep of a car horn interrupted his thoughts.

A small car pulled alongside, and a frosted window purred down. The driver leaned across the empty passenger seat. He shouted, even though the engine only murmured softly, "I can drop you somewhere!"

"Sure," said Marcus, and he climbed in.

The driver was friendly enough, and said his name was Larry. "What are you doing way out here," he said, "and so early?"

"Research," said Marcus. "Ornithology." He wrestled his notebook from his back pocket to jot some notes while he still remembered details of the non-encounter.

Larry nodded sleepily; sipped a styrofoam cup of coffee. "I'm meeting some folks for breakfast in Winslip," he said. "Denny's." Another sip. "Join us if you want."

He sipped again, the exact same pursing of the lips, a forward tilt of the head to the exact same angle as the last sip. The kind of thing Marcus would never have noticed if he hadn't spent the last eight months trying to program that kind of uncanny nearly-lifelike quality out of the crow.

"Sure," said Marcus. "Breakfast sounds good." He could take notes later.


This is eerie--good job.
i like not knowing why the robot
Larry's there.

Posted by: David | June 9, 2008 2:02 PM


Posted by: Rudi | June 10, 2008 2:45 AM

Post a comment