A few days later, and thousands of miles away, the chief of the crawler team was thoroughly surprised when a military vehicle belonging to a small European nation pulled up in front the small cluster of buildings the team had occupied. It was barely daylight.
In his oddly inflected English, the driver leaned out the window. “You got a Franklin here?”
The chief approached the van nodding. The driver handed him a small package. A quick look at the address and he glanced back at driver. “You found him; he’s here.” The chief pointed as Franklin emerged from one of the buildings.
“Thanks,” the driver said as he smiled and pulled away.
Franklin had been expecting it. Rather, he had been expecting something, but with all the description he was given by his new friend, Ned, he wasn’t sure he even understood it all. But Ned had assured him the thing was smart enough to be useful, almost like a human assistant. Franklin hadn’t bothered to bring his own cell phone out on this job, but relished the idea of having someone else to talk to, even if it was the phone itself.
It was still early and the techs were already busy working on the crawlers. The last one was just returning from patrol. Franklin decided to delay his climb up to the nest for just a few moments. He unwrapped the package, looking it over. He noted the solar power patch on the back and sat the device in the included cradle, facing him. For a moment he simply stared at it. “So, you come with advanced AI. What should I call you?”
The screen came to life, displaying clear sharp text. It was just the right amount of glow to be visible inside the tent. You can call me Bess.
Franklin’s eyes widened in surprise. It was already active.
I will awaken to your voice or your touch on my face. Just give me some sunlight every day and I’ll be fine.
“Just like having a girlfriend,” he muttered. “But apparently low maintenance.”
And I’m yours alone.
Franklin laughed and stuffed the thing in his pocket. Up in his nest, he pulled it out again. In his mind he reviewed what Ned had written to him. The thing had multiple sensors and could talk to any electronic device based on mere physical proximity. “Can you talk to my rifle and sensor?”
Linked. I’ve recalibrated both pulse dischargers. One of the satellites is reporting inconsistent data; I’ve notified tech support. There are three surveillance drones in range. There are no apparent human threats at this time, neither from rebels nor allies. However, the autumn storms should begin within 48 hours.
Franklin dropped his chin against his chest, eyes closed, and chuckled through his nose. Then he looked up at his tactical sensor. “Whaddaya think of our new friend?”
This time the device spoke in a tiny audible feminine voice. “Do wish me to take over aiming for the tactical sensor? There is no means to upgrade the firmware.”
So when his eyes were averted, the sensor could still get his attention through Bess. That was handy. “Sure, do that. It might make this job boring as hell, but your company makes up for it.”
Gazing across the terrain again, he realized that for once, he felt like he could afford to think about how he actually enjoyed being out here in the rugged landscape. It was quite lovely when you weren’t distracted by the heavy burden of looking out for trouble. He knew the tactical sharpness was still there, but it wasn’t necessary to push everything out of his mind for it. Would this device lull him into a false sense of security?
Only time would tell.