An Alchibah Epilogue

Usually on a summers day like this I would be at the plant helping William out. But today with the girls visiting Bill’s married sister up in the country I had stayed home working on the books while Billy Jr. played in the yard out front.

I heard some noise outside and looked out the open window to see what Billy was up to. He was dashing around, poking and waving a branch at R. J.P. yelling “Can’t catch me! Can’t Catch me!” J.P. mostly just stood there turning slowly and taking small steps towards Billy when ever he would stay still for a moment. This had to stop now!

I shouted, “William Parker Bartlett, stop that right now and get your butt in here!” Billy knew when I used all three names he’d better pay attention. He dropped the branch and head hung low came towards the house. As he stepped inside I ordered him to the wooden chair by the kitchen table and said “Sit”.

Looking outside again I could see J.P. was just standing motionless in the middle of the yard. “Wait right there Young Man! I will get back to you in a moment. As I neared the Jeep he turned and haltingly looked at me and said, “Good morning, good morning Miss Janie… Is there something I can do for you?”

“I’m Glenda, Glenda J.P….. Miss Janie…. well she passed on years and years ago.”

He was expressionless yet somehow I knew saddened and confused. I gently touched his elbow and said “Come with me, up by the house. We’ll get you out of the sun.” I nudged him along and soon had the Jeep under the awning and attached to his charging cord. He never seemed to get above 5 percent anymore.

“J.P. Just stay here for a while and I will look after you in a bit.” As he slowly nodded his head I went back inside.

“Billy, If I ever see you teasing the Jeep like that again your bottom will be so sore you won’t sit for a month.”

“Ah Mom!”

“Don’t you Ah Mom me. Listen here, you should know all this but pay attention anyway. It’s very important! Over a hundred years ago, before anyone had ever set foot on this planet, J.P. was part of our family. He helped your great, great grandpa Bart Bartlett get the Mayflower here from the old planet Earth.”

“And after grandpa Bart married great, great grandma Janie, J.P. helped to raise and teach all the Bartletts from then on. For five generations, for over a hundred and thirty-five Earth years he‘s been with us. Why he raised me, and my father, and my father’s father. And when you and your sisters were just babies he took care of you too.”

“He is very old now, your dad thinks he may be the last of the original robots still around. I know he is the last with his original programming and memories. The Authority has been after us for years to put in a new brain and recycle all the old parts. We won’t do it. Never! When the Jeep is gone a part of our family will go with him. Try to understand Billy. If you can’t now someday you will wish you had. Now go back outside and play, but be nice to the Jeep.”

I watched him pass J.P. and heard him say “Sorry Jeep”. Then he went over by the Pole Pine in the middle of the yard, took up a bat, and started swinging at the ball hanging from above. I went back to the books.

I was almost finished when I heard Billy scream in terror, “Mother!! Mother!!!”

I ran to the door and saw something I had only read about. It was less than eighty feet away. A three foot long head with pointed, razor sharp teeth, on a twenty foot long alligator body, six sets of staggered legs raising it two and a half feet off the ground. There hadn’t been a full grown Slizard seen within 50 miles of here in more than 30 years. It must have come down river and somehow evaded the nets. Just as I spotted it, it broke towards Billy.

“Run—run to the house Billy!”

But I knew he couldn’t possibly make it. And then moving faster than I had ever seen, faster than I had ever imagined, was the Jeep streaking across the lawn, and throwing himself in front of the charging Slizard. A terrible crash and J.P. was on the ground with the Slizad’s jaws clamped halfway through his body. I saw the Jeep swing his free arm once then once again, and then no motion at all. Billy was standing barely two feet behind with the ball bat clenched in both hands, just staring.

I went over, hugged Billy hard for a moment, then forced myself to let go and sent him back to the house to call for help. I could see the Slizard, skull crushed and battered, with the Jeeps broken arm and hand atop.

“J.P, J.P., can you hear me?” The lenses of his eyes rolled slowly in my direction and seemed to focus. There was no other motion, no sound. I said, voice breaking, “Oh no, J.P. say something, anything. I was always told, I always thought, your programming would never let you do this. And you have saved my son’s life.” Then I heard him, for the last time. Halting and weak.

“I am sorry Miss Janie, so sorry. But I promised, I promised the Boss I would always look after you. So sorry.”, and then almost inaudibly, “Please Miss Janie let him know I did my best.”

“He knows Jeep, Bart knows.”

Two days later we buried his remains in the family plot overlooking the Landing River under a marker which read.

J.P. Bartlett
Dec 11, 2052
53:04:83

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