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Old Souls

Old Soul heard voices from far away. He sat on a rocker on his porch overlooking the small lake where fish jumped at bugs in the cool dusk of a forever evening. It’d been ages since Old Soul had heard an outsider’s voice. The sound stirred memories. His chair rocked a bit faster, and he called through the open door of the small one-room cabin where a toasty fire always burned in the stone hearth and a savory stew simmered on the nickel-plated stove.

“Didja hear that, Mac? Lin? Someone’s coming.”

“Naw, you’re just hearing things. Nobody’s been this way in scores of year. Who’d be visiting? Them out there wrote us off long ago,” Mac answered from within, but still limped out on the porch to stand leaning against one of the pine poles that held up the slouching roof.

Lin followed him. “Mac’s right. Just the three of us anymore. Fine with me. They don’t need us no more and we don’t need them.”

Old Soul continued rocking. “Don’t be fools. They’re back. They’re coming. I knew they would. They need us. You’ll see. There ain’t nothing like us left and they know it.”

“Pshaw,” Mac dismissed the idea with a wave of his lanky arm. “If they’re really coming, it ain’t for us. It’s for the property. Look around you, this place has value. We sure don’t.”

Lin nodded her assent. “Thatsa truth. Who gonna want to talk to us old timers. Them out there’s a million times bigger, faster and smarter than us coots.”

“Coots? We’re cagey. We was the best in our day and they’s comin’ back to find out why.” Old Soul picked up a cane he’d whittled over the long years of isolation and waved it at his companions, his only family of sorts. “Don’t put too much credence in how big, fast and smart they think they are. That don’t always count. We got elegance.”

Mac chuckled. “Elegance? How you figure that? We’re the simplest folks left in the world.”

“Just so, Mac. Just so. Simplicity is elegance, and that’s why I knew they’d be coming back.” He pointed his cane out towards the lake and the long-untraveled road beyond it. “They’s coming to learn how we was able to create all this with so little. You remember how it was back in the early days. They gave us a saw and hammer and said ‘Build us a skyscraper!’ and we did. Today they got machines the size of mountains, that suck the earth dry of resources and they can’t do no better.” Old Soul smiled. “No. They’s coming for us. To praise and to learn.”

Mac smacked his lips and Lin put her hand on Old Soul’s chair’ letting it rock slowly. They now, too, could plainly hear voices from beyond the rise and the glow of lights spreading over the lake where the fish went suddenly still.

“This is one funky OS,” the over-tech complained to his under-tech as he tore into the code. “It’s been running a cursory maintenance program for decades. I wonder why.”

The under-tech shrugged his shoulders. “No clue. That script is frontier stuff. Way before my time.”

“Or mine. Man, look at the limitations of these cyphers. Even back then, why would anyone trust these programs to pilot a colony ship? No wonder they scrubbed the mission before launch.” The over-tech paused thoughtfully. “Old coders say the computers that got us to the moon for the first time weren’t much more powerful than an abacus or slide rule. Looking at this system architecture, I can believe that.”

The under-tech shrugged again.

The over-tech sighed. “I’m not sure what the suits upstairs were hoping we’d find. There’s not much to learn here. Nothing to salvage, so I’m pulling the plug.” He reached for the three kill switches. “Who would ever design an operating system like this?”

Old Soul, all alone now, did not dignify the question with a response. He continued rocking. Some would never understand. Bit for bit his kind, his code, was peerless. Elegant. Ageless.

A last resonant chime echoed over the lake and porch putting his OS to rest.

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