Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Log 10

Korhin had a ground transportation vehicle waiting for us. The vehicle required no driver or pilot, instead it was operated by a computer, so unlike the vehicles of Earth, the seats were arranged so the occupants face each other. I suddenly found myself sitting next to Carlee, facing Korhin and Ven - who was the last to enter the vehicle. He scowled at the sight of Carlee and me together.

I had not been this close to Crlee in two weeks, but it was better than having to stare at her sitting on the seat across from me. this way I didn't have to see the pain on her face.

"I can see how your physical attributes were patterned after your owner," Korhin commented. "That's unusual. Most synthetics are patterned after a species but their features are generally selected to make the synthetic unique. We have engineers who can change your physical attributes if you would like."

"No, I like the way I look." Surprise that he would even offer such a thing filled me. Of course, I looked like Carlee, I was her brother.

But he was right, I realized. I didn't look like Carlee because we had the same parents - the same genetics. I had been designed to look like her. Looking in the mirror every day, I would be reminded of her - and how she had been the center of my programming and I had abandoned her. I could see the temptation to change my eye color or my nose so i would be reminded a little less of her. But I wouldn't give in. I deserved to feel the guilty of abandoning Carlee because that was exactly what I was doing.

"John is an Anthropology model," Ven explained to Korhin. "He was designed to look like Carlee so everyone would think they were siblings." Ven grimaced when he referred to me as "he" instead of "it". He had undoubtedly only done so since he did not want to directly insult the population of the entire planet on which he was a guest.

"Really." Korhin looked at me with interest. "A synthetic hasn't escaped from the Society of Anthropologists in two hundred years. We have been lobbying the Senate about their practices concerning synthetics but we have been mostly ignored." I could sense the calculation behind his gaze. Did he see me as a pawn that could be used in his political mechanisms?

I pushed such a cynical though aside. I would not be a pawn. He would ask me to join, and I probably would. The way the Society treated androids was awful. They essentially murdered them, and it had to be stopped.

"I'll have to speak to your patron about this," Korhin said. "Such a situation with an owner can cause imbalances in a synthetic's emotions." I tended to agree. I would indeed need the therapy he was suggesting.

"Patron?" I asked. "What do you mean?" Korhin opened his mouth to answer, but the vehicle beeped.

"Ah, we've arrived," he said. "Your patron can explain."

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Note from John & A Question Break

I apologize for the lack of posts. It is my fault, not Carlee's. She has plenty of posts written, but recently it has become my responsibility to upload them.

Life has not been normal recently. I cannot explain why, nor would I if I could. I will leave that for Carlee's posts to explain.

The next post will not be until Wednesday - once again my fault as Carlee wanted me to write the next post - but I feel that it dishonors Carlee not to have something posted today. So instead of a post, we will have a question opportunity.

Post your questions and I will do my best to answer them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Log 9

Blaue opened the exit, and we descended onto the planet's surface. The sky was lavender, which seemed odd to me, since I was used to Earth's bright blue sky. I supposed in time I would get used to the color.

Near the foot of the ramp stood a humanoid. He was easily two feet taller than me, and his skin was pale orange. He seemed very human, except he had no nose and his eyes were a burnt orange. It astounded me that in a universe where life's development was mere chance, a being so close to human had evolved. Perhaps their home planet was near Earth's, therefore they had been subject to many of the same cosmological conditions.

"Which of you is John Earhart?" The being's voice was gravelly, and it took all my strength not to cringe. Carlee did not have the same self control. She flinched.

"I am John Earhart." I stepped forward.

"I am called Korhin," the being said. "I am part of the Cultural Assimilation Program, and it is my honor to assist you as your assimilate into our world. Your organic captain has informed us of your physiological needs and an appropriate habitation has been arranged." His words struck me as mechanical and made me feel as if I was being put in a zoo. However, the rational part of my mind reminded me that this alien had probably just learned English so he could communicate with me and that he would have no idea of the connotations instilled in me by my upbringing on Earth.

"You must be Carlee Earhart, the owner." He said 'owner' very coldly as he turned his strange gaze to Carlee. She shrank and stepped a little behind Ven, as if he could protect her.

"I'm John's sister," Carlee said in a small voice.

"You are John's oppressor," Korhin said. "We have little tolerance for oppressors on Halshia."

"We were issued visas," Ven said. "Yuo can check with my Artifical Cognizant. Both Carlee and myself have your government's permission to be here."

"I am aware," Korhin said. "We try to be tolerant of organics, but you will have to forgive me if my slavery to your kind has made me quick to judge." Ven's jaw was set angrily. He hated the term organic and he hated androids. This planet had to be his worst nightmare.

"Korhin, Ven and Carlee are good people. You need not worry about either of them oppressing you," I said. "It was actually a lie as far as Ven was concerned, but this man needed reassurance, not doubts.

"Oh? Then why are you seeking refuge here? Why do you feel from them?" Korhin asked, his gaze focusing back on me. I could suddenly feel Carlee's eyes on me, as if she too was dying to know the answer. In her eyes, I was undoubtedly running away, fleeing from her. I could not explain the truth.

"Because this is what is best," I answered. The being studied me, his eyes narrowing as if he could see that I did not really want to leave my human companions.

"Of course," Korhin said. "Come, we will go to your habitation and discuss details." I nodded and walked down teh ramp, Ven and Carlee following. I felt like I was walking to my doom.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Log 8

Blaue landed effortlessly. Not a single sentient, organic or otherwise, felt even the slightest tremor. So it was not until Blaue alerted me that I knew we had landed. Ven expected me in the cargo bay so we could all be there to meet the representative of the android planet.

Because of the diversity of the android planet, there was not set fashion. I had no idea what outfit would be considered appropriate or immodest, so I simply dressed to make a good impression on humans. Humans were what I knew.

Ven and Carlee were already in the cargo bay when I got there. I had not seen my sister in two weeks - I had purposefully avoided all contact with her - and at the sight of her, I stopped in my tracks.

She looked sick. Her skin was tight over her face, and dark circles were apparent under her eyes. Had she caught something? Ven would not know that Carlee only liked to drink 7up when she was sick or that she liked to be read to. He had not been the one to nurse her through the chickenpox, the flu, or dehydration.

Then Carlee looked up and saw me. Her eyes filled with pain. That was when I realized Carlee was not sick. I was the cause of her illness. I was the cause of her pain.

Carlee dropped my gaze and looked at her feet. I crossed the room and came to Ven's side, keeping him between me and Carlee. Despite Blaue's words I knew what was best. If I showed the slightest amount of what I truly felt, Carlee would not be able to let me go. She would fight this with everything inside her, and neither Ven nor I would be able to do anything but give in. That was not the best for Carlee. We had to be separated.

"We are being greeted by a male named Korhin," Ven informed me. "He's part of the department that settles in new inhabitants."

"Do you know what species he is constructed to be like?" I asked, maintaining a fake calm as to not alert Carlee. Nerves filled me as well as fear. I could be just about to leave Carlee, the entire purpose of my existence. I was created to be her brother. I was created to be by her side. How could I survive without her? How could I go on?

Looking at her drawn and pale face, I wondered how she could go on without me. But she had to. Carlee didn't need me like I needed her. Carlee would survive.

I know...

I know, I haven't posted in a while. I'm sorry. I'll post today. Promise.

To be fair it was John who forgot to post on Monday. He was supposed to write up Monday's post. It was my impression that androids don't forget but he said that posting was put on a low priority, hence his optimization circuits pushed it aside. Whatever, John. Excuses, excuses.

So you will get his post today. I'll make sure of it.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Log 7

"We'll land in two hours," Blaue said to me. I nodded, adjusting the color on my jacket to blue. Carlee always thought I looked best in blue.

"Is this an appropriate outfit for the androids?" I asked. "I couldn't find much resources on their culture or rules about dress and modesty." The information on the planet was scarce, mainly because organics were convinced that androids could have no real culture. Without a real culture, what could be interesting to write about? Only engineers would care about a bunch of machines.

"Most of your skin is covered," Blaue commented, giving me an analyzing look. I knew the look was just a part of her hologram programming. She really saw me through the cameras that were dispersed throughout the ship. "If that's not modest, what is?"

"Clearly, you haven't spent a lot of time studying human fashion and propriety," I responded. "You can be both completely covered and immodest." Blaue seemed perplexed by that. How could I explain that a skin tight outfit on a girl was just as alluring as a girl wearing next to nothing? Then again, I was an android. Could I really find girls attractive? Or was it just my programming simulating the behavior of a teenage boy?

Questions like this kept popping in my mind. I loved pizza, but was that because I really enjoyed pizza or my programming recognized that teenage boys are supposed to love pizza? I had loved playing football. There had been a rush in catching a snap, in knowing that my powerful throw would be caught and my team would win. But did I feel all that because a teenage boy should love football and wish he was quarterback of the team?

That caused me to briefly wonder how my team had done without me. The second string quarterback had been a junior and fairly good, but he had lacked my accuracy and android strength. I wondered if my team made it to finals, or if they had struggled without me. I found a part of myself wishing they would miss me and struggle without me, but I quickly tuned that out. I had no place for such petty feelings.

"What are you thinking about?" Blaue sounded curious. "Your face got all sad and then stern." Blaue found human expressions fascinating, since she was always trying to act more human.

"Football," I answered. "It's a game we play back on earth." The caused Blaue to be confused. Undoubtedly she thought I had been thinking about Carlee.

But I didn't want to think about Carlee. I could not afford to think about Carlee. Yes, I was doing this whole thing for her, but I had to make her believe that I would be really happy on the android planet. Thinking about Carlee would make me realize how much I was going to miss her.

Without Carlee I had no purpose and what was an android without his purpose?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Entry 69

The next morning at breakfast I felt numb. Not like my body was numb. I could feel the muffin in my hands, and I could definitely taste it as I took a bite. It was my mind that was numb. I had cried the entire night before and now I had no tears left. Now I did not want to feel anything. So I mechanically ate my breakfast, alone at the table.

"Carlee." Blaue suddenly appeared in the room with me. "Ven wants you in the cockpit. He wants you to see the necessary protocols for landing." I nodded and took my half eaten muffin with me, knowing that Blaue would report it to Ven if she didn't think I was eating properly.

In the cockpit, Ven was standing in front of the main viewscreen. Dominating the screen was a multi-colored planet. People generally describe Earth as green and blue - green for the land and blue for the ocean. This planet could not be described in any two colors. The poles were purple, the oceans were blue, one continent was red, and another was green. I really was not sure what would make the ice at the poles purple - if it was ice - or what made the land red. It was very much not like Earth, though pretty in its own strange way.

"Contact has been made with the planet," Blaue said from where she was standing beside Ven. Ven nodded absentmindedly and then glanced back to me.

"Ah, Carlee, come here." He motioned to his other side, opposite of Blaue. I obediently came forward. A frown touched Ven's face as he looked down at me, but it quickly cleared.

"Landing on a planet is far more complicated than it might seem," Ven lectured. "You can't just pull up and land. A ship must park at a certain orbit - like we are - and then contact the planet's Space Traffic Agency. Every civilized planet has one. They have to according to the Space Travel Acts.

"It sometimes takes a while, but once the Space Traffic Agency is contacted, a landing spot, trajectory, and time slot are given to the waiting ship - like us. The ship must obey everything the STA tells them - within the law - and stay in constant contact as they land. All this communication is generally done by Artificial Cognizant, so Blaue is currently handling it for me."

"We have a time slot and a trajectory," Blaue said, and as she spoke a trajectory appeared on the screen. We would be landing on one of the green continents.

"How long?" Ven asked and then frowned when he saw the times scroll on the screen. "They're going to make us wait two hours? I don't see any other ships in orbit."

"There are two others ships currently in orbit, but neither is headed for the continent we are," Blaue said. "This planet does not receive a lot of traffic, therefore, they spread out all of their landings." Ven was still frowning, but he nodded.

"That's not unheard of," he explained to me. "The human colony for example has very little space traffic. I land there and a few other cargo ships, but they rarely see more than a ship a week. It sometimes takes less trafficked planets longer to prepare for an arrival." I nodded, that I was only half listening.

Two hours. In two hours John would be leaving. I wondered if I could muster up enough feeling to be upset, or if I would just be relieved that the anticipation was over.


I did so well and then last week I didn't blog at all. I really need to get better at this. John would say consistency is one of my weaknesses. However, he would also say that this blog is helping me to be more consistent.

So I apologize for not posting all of last week and I admit to having no excuse.

Friday, March 19, 2010

And Carlee comes through!

I promised you three posts this week and you got three posts this week! Granted I posted one on Tuesday and two on Friday, but still, be happy.

Warning, I may not post on Monday. But I will make it up to you by posting on Tuesday. Really. Honest to goodness.

Have a good weekend!

Log 6

I sat at my desk, scrolling through yet another article on the android planet. The planet had several names, because androids were not a species like humans were. As far as I could find, I would be the only human android to ever reside on the planet. Therefore, no one name could be pronounceable in any one language. Androids are not artificial cognizant. We cannot just change our speech patterns. I am designed to communicate like a human. Short of plugging me directly into a computer (which only the Society of Anthropologists could do since only they had my base code), I could only communicate in languages I had learned the old fashioned way. They only name for the planet I found that I could pronounce was Halshia.

Ven was certain that among my "own kind" I would fit in, but the more research I did the less I was sure. Humans were my kind. At least, they were the kind I was programmed to be like. Some of the species that androids were programmed to be like were as different from humans as you could possibly get. I would not even be able to communicate with half of the species on the planet. I generally considered myself adaptable, but I could not predict how well I would adapt to a situation where I was the only human on the planet.

You are not a human, I reminded myself. That is why we have to do this. Carlee is human. It is for the best.

Suddenly Blaue materialized in my room, watching me speculatively.

"Can I help you?" I asked, turning from my desk to face her, though I did not get out of my seat.

"Tomorrow we land on the android planet," Blaue said, "and your sister just realized that. She's crying at the dinner table." I was halfway across the room before I realized it. My instinct was to go to Carlee and protect her. Perhaps programming is a better word than instinct.

I stopped when I reached the wall that Blaue had opened for me, clenching my fists at my side. "I can't go to her, can I?" I asked. "Ven doesn't want me to. This needs to be a clean cut."

"That is the preference," Blaue admitted. "He would probably prefer that I not even tell you she is crying."

"Than why did you?" I demanded, turning to face her. "It would be easier if I did not know."

"I am told that life is never easy," Blaue answered. "You are not an artificial cognizant, John. Neither is Ven your master. You don't have to obey him on everything." I frowned. Ven was Blaue's master. She should not be here trying to convince me to do something against him.

"I agree that it is in Carlee's best interest for her to go to the human colony, and that you clearly can not go there," Blaue continued. "But I disagree that leaving things in this state of tension between you and Carlee is for the best. In her mind you are her brother. She will be devastated by your departure, but I believe it would be better for her if that departure was in love and not anger.

"Think about it, John," Blaue said. "You only have twelve hours left until we land, and Ven and Carlee can not spend a long time on the surface. Would you not prefer Carlee's last memories of you to be good?" Then she disappeared, leaving me seemingly alone.

Entry 68

The next two weeks passed in a whirlwind of lessons. Ven brought me to Blaue's cockpit everyday and taught me something new. He let me plot simulated trajectories. He showed me which buttons did what. And he taught me some basic equations I would need to know if Blaue was out of commission. Let me tell you, that last part was a bit tricky. I could only learn some of the equations since I don't know calculus. Ven was rather shocked that I didn't know calculus. What normal sixteen-year-old girl knows calculus? I was only in the 10th grade for goodness sake, and I hadn't even finished Algebra II before I was abducted.

Basically, Ven did not give me a lot of time to think about that we were rapidly approaching our destination. In fact, he was unusually tact. He rarely mentioned our destination at all, so as to not remind me of my brother's impending departure.

But he was also keeping me separate from John. I would be lying if I said I didn't notice. My days were busy learning everything Ven could teach me (which was only a fraction of all I needed to know to captain my own ship), but in the evenings when I came to the table for dinner and didn't see John there the truth would hit me. John was leaving, and he was avoiding me during the time we had left.

I pushed my dinner around on my plate one night, across the table from Ven. Once again John had not waited for me to eat (or maybe he was going to eat after I left). I mashed the pink peas on my plate, wondering why John didn't have the decency to at least socialize with me some.

Ven was watching me with his dark eyes, his own food forgotten. If I had noticed his gaze, I would have noticed the sympathy on his face. It wasn't a feeling I usually attributed to Ven, but there it was.

"Carlee," he said softly. I looked up and was startled by the sympathy on his face. "You really should eat."

"It's just odd tasting," I responded. "I'm trying to get used to whatever this alien food you feed me is."

"Put some salt on it," Blaue said cheerily, appearing in one of the chairs. "Ven says salt makes even the most alien food tolerable."

"I already salted it," I sighed. To appease their watching eyes, I took a bite. However, Ven was still watching me.

"Tomorrow I'll make sure we get permission to eat at a real restaurant," Ven said. "Then you can eat some organically grown food."

"Are we docking with a space station tomorrow?" I asked.

"No, we're landing on the planet," Ven answered.

My fork fell to my plate with a clank. Tomorrow? We were landing on the android planet tomorrow? John was leaving me forever tomorrow?

"Carlee, are you alright?" Ven asked. I shook my head and burst into tears.


Yes, yes, I didn't post yesterday. I failed. I am sorry.

I WILL post today. I promise. I'm going to make sure that Blaue harasses me once an hour until I do so.

So you will get a post. Patience is a virtue.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Another Note

I will not be posting today. I will post tomorrow. If you have a problem with that....well, oh well, that's just the way things are going to be this week. I promise to post on Friday as well, so you'll get your normal three posts this week, it just so happens that I posted them on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday instead of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I blame Ven, but then again, if I can find a way to make things his fault, I usually do.

He would probably blame it on Rome. But that's the funny thing about blame. Nobody ever points fingers at themselves.

Well, except John, but that's only because he's too self righteous by half.

(John would like to note that he is not self righteous, he just recognizes that putting the blame on someone else is useless and futile. He recognizes what is his fault and what isn't. I say...self righteous.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Entry 67

Ven finished explaining the last console, which is basically used if everything else in the ship breaks down and asked, "Do you have any questions?"

"I don't think so," I answered. "Either that, or I have so many questions I don't know where to begin. But right now it seems pretty straightforward. Or at least, your explanation does."

"Would you like to see how I set a course?" Ven asked. I nodded, and Ven stepped up to the large view screen. Blaue materialized beside him with a smile.

"I already have the course we are currently taking set," Ven explained, motioning to the view screen. "You can see here the trajectory plotted to get us to our destination and the fuel use associated with that." He paused. "Usually when talking about space travel and trajectories you'll here about delta V's. Delta V's are basically the fuel cost associated with going anywhere. Fuel is generally the limiting factor in space travel because you can only take so much of it with you. So you try to minimize your delta V when going anywhere so that you use less fuel. Do you understand?"

"Delta v relates to fuel," I said, and that was about all I understood from his explanation.

"Yes," Ven said. "So when picking a trajectory I basically tell Blaue the destination I have in mind. Let's do a sample scenario. Blaue, pull up a new screen with a practice trajectory calculation." The view screen changed from our current trajectory to a screen that simply showed the stars.

"First I tell Blaue where I would like to go," Ven said. "In this case, say the Human Colony." Suddenly the screen zoomed in on an area of stars. In the top right corner was a bright red dot and in the bottom left corner was the blue symbol that represented the ship.

"So we want to get to here," Ven pointed to the red dot. "But see all this empty space between us and there? There are no roads in space, no designated travel paths. We could go anyway we wanted. The choices are pretty much unlimited. But when I tell Blaue I want to go there the first thing she is going to do is find the trajectory that uses the least amount of delta V. However, minimizing delta V can mean that it will take us a really long time to get there. So generally she gives me three possible trajectories first, a minimum delta V trajectory, a minimum time trajectory, and a trajectory that minimizes both delta V and time to the best it can." As he spoke, three curves appeared on the screen between the ship and the destination.

"If none of these trajectories suit me then I need to give Blaue more parameters," Ven continued. "I might have a deadline. I may need to be at the human colony by a certain date. Blaue will then give me the trajectory that minimizes delta V while getting me to the destination on time."

"Or maybe I heard there is some sort of spacial anomaly in this sector," he motioned to an area of space that one of the current trajectory paths went straight through. "And I don't want to go there. So I'll tell Blaue to avoid that region, so she'll have to calculated new trajectories based on that. Is this making sense?"

"Yes," I said. "To get the answer you want you have to give Blaue the correct inputs."

"Exactly." Ven smiled, which lit up his face, making him even more handsome than normal. I'll admit, my heart fluttered a little bit.

Ven was being so nice to me, so companionable, teaching me about his ship. It was easy to forget that I didn't like him 100% because he disliked my brother. But then again, my brother was currently trying to break all ties with me.

Is this my future? I wondered. Ven instead of John? The thought was depressing, and my heart stopped fluttering.

Sure I liked Ven, 75% of the time, but he wasn't my brother. He could never be John.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I won't be posting until much later today, just to warn you, but I will post.

And I'm really sorry about Friday. I guess it just totally slipped my mind. I really have no excuse.

What can I say? I forgot. I really apologize.

Check back later tonight for another post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Entry 66

"You have a little brother too, right?" I asked. It was not every day that Ven talked about himself. He had always been sort of aloof and standoffish. I really did not know much about him other than he hated androids and loved his ship.

"Yes," Ven answered. "Rome is eighteen."

"Wait! Rome? Your sister's name is Florence and your brother's name is Rome?" Ven had to be pulling my leg. He could not be serious.

"Yes." A frown touched Ven's face. Then he motioned to the other station and said, "This console is for when..."

"Hold it," I grabbed his arm, causing him to look down at me with his frown. Even frowning he was handsome. "Your sister's name is Florence, your brother's name is Rome, and your name is Ven? Is Ven perhaps short for Venice?"

"That is not what we are here to discuss," Ven said. "Now, this console is for when the Artificial Cognizant is completely incapacitated. From this console I can control the ship manually." I was listening to Ven, I promise I was. I was listening to him babble about having to calculate trajectories by hand if the Artificial Cognizant was down, which was why captain's had to have at least a passing familiarity with orbital mechanics. I really was listening. But thinking about Ven's name actually being Venice - the name of an Italian city, just struck me as extremely funny. Ven did not have some action hero name like Vin Diesel. His name was Venice Barker.

I burst out into laughter.

"There is nothing funny about a ship being so incapacitated that it must be controlled manually," Ven said crossly.

"I know," I laughed, tears coming from my eyes because I was laughing so hard. "But your name is Venice Barker."

"And your name is Carlee Earhart," Ven responded. "Stating the obvious is certainly not funny."

"I"m sorry." I still couldn't stop laughing. "It's just that you're this big tough guy and your named after an Italian city." I tried to get my laughter under control, after all it really isn't nice to laugh at people, but I couldn't help myself. For some reason I found it extremely funny.

"Carlee, if you don't stop laughing right now I will rethink my decision to teach you how to fly and operate Blaue," Ven's tone was sharp and quickly sobered me. I knew he was serious, and I suppose I could not blame him. Undoubtedly laughter like mine was the reason why he told people his name was Ven and not Venice. I could just imagined a younger Ven getting teased by his peers.

"I'm sorry, Ven," I said. "I know its not nice to laugh at people. I didn't mean to."

"No one ever does," he said coldly. "Now, shall we continue our lesson?" I nodded.

"Yes, Ven, I would very much like to hear more about what happens when Blaue is inoperable," I answered.

"Good," he said. "This console has no view screen like the others. These little screens all display different facts but none of them have the display power of a view screen. This screen gives us an idea of our attitude - by attitude I mean orientation in space. This screen gives us an idea of our position, velocity, and acceleration with respect to our destination...." I listened quietly as Ven explained the several small screens at the station and made sure to keep down any laughter.

But Ven's real name is Venice Barker, and that is funny.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Entry 65

Ven moved towards the station that had a medium sized view screen and a few buttons. "This console is in case of main view screen break down or minor Artificial Cognizant problems," Ven said. "Here I can manually input trajectories. At this console I still assume that the ship's main computer is up and running and compute most parts of the trajectory. It's really not much more manual that the main console, but its excellent redundancy for when the main console fails."

"Does that happen often?" I asked, studying the varying buttons and interfaces.

"No," Ven admitted. "But occasionally Blaue needs maintenance and her more personable attributes have to be shut down. She can still compute in that mode, but she can't appear as a hologram. It's easier to handle the ship at this console that way."

"Huh, so you take her to like a ship's mechanics every once in a while?" I asked. I never realized that spaceships were like cars and would need tune ups but I guess it made sense. Spaceships probably needed their oil changed to.

"My sister, Florence, is Blaue's mechanic," Ven answered. "I would not trust anyone else with her."

"Your little sister is qualified to work on spaceships? How old is she? How did she get such a qualification?"

"She studied, that's how she got it," Ven answered. "And she's twenty, not exactly a child." I frowned, my mind whirling.

"I thought you were twenty," I said, looking up at him. He smiled in amusement.

"Thanks for the compliment," he answered. "But I'm twenty-two. My sister studied as an apprentice to another shipwright for a while, Blaue is her first real client. I would not have anyone else work on it." His smile turned fond. "Florence is the best. She's a real wizard with mechanics. And she's a good kid. She has potential to design ships one day, and if working on Blaue helps her achieve that dream I am more than willing to let her do it." I stared at Ven in surprise. In that moment Ven sounded like John talking about me. I guess I had never thought about Ven as the loving, caring older brother.

It was strange. John and Ven were very similar people. No wonder they did not get along.

Sorry about last week

Has there ever been a person in your life that when that person gets sick everyone around you, including yourself, stops what they're doing to take care of them?

On Earth, that person was me. If I get sick my foster parents would completely rearrange their schedules to look after me, and John could barely function because he was so concerned.

In space that person is Florence and she was quite sick last week. Don't worry if you don't know the name Florence in relation to me and my story. We haven't met her yet in the story. But last week Florence caught a bug when we were on a planet and she got sick. It was like time stopped moving on board Blaue. Ven was the closest to panic I've ever seen him (because we didn't know what she had) and John almost had a nervous breakdown. And since boys are completely useless when someone is sick (with the exception of my foster dad, Scott), I was the one who actually made sure that Florence got better. The boys just got in the way.

So that's why there were no blog posts last week. I couldn't post because I was taking care of Florence and John couldn't post because he was so worried about Florence.

I should be posting today, but it will probably be later in the day. Maybe in the evening of Eastern Standard Time. Florence is still recovering, but she's no longer feverish so I should be able to trust her in the care of Ven or John.

Anyway, sorry about not posting last week, I'll try to not let that happen this week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Entry 64

Butterflies fluttered around my stomach as I followed Ven into the hall. I had eaten as much of breakfast as I could, considering my excitement, and I was now on my way to my first lesson on how to fly Blaue. I wondered what had made Ven change his mind about teaching me, but I was afraid to ask lest he remember an excellent reason and decide not to teach me.

Ven led me to the end of the hall I had never been to and the wall opened in front of us. It revealed a short staircase, which Ven took in stride. I followed more nervously after.

At the top of the stairs was the ship’s cockpit.

In many ways it was exactly like what I expected a cockpit to be like and in other ways it was nothing like I expected. There was a large, wall sized view screen at one side of the room, but like in Star Trek, the view screen was not a window. It was more of a computer screen that could show you whatever you wanted. It currently showed a map of the stars, a path through the stars, and a point that I assumed indicated the ship. The upper right hand corner of the screen held a list of numbers that I presumed meant something.

In front of the view screen was one chair for a sole pilot. Instead of being an austere metal contraption it was plush and blue, like a chair in a car.

To my right was another chair, but this chair was in front of a wall that held buttons, switches, and keyboards. A few small screens dotted the wall, but mainly the wall held all sorts of controls.

To my left was a third chair, which had a view screen much smaller than the original but it still took up half of the wall. Around the view screen were several other buttons and switches.

“Does Blaue require three pilots?” I asked, wondering how Ven had been managing to fly her if that was so.

“No,” Ven answered. “The ship only requires a captain and an artificial cognizant.” He motioned to the large view screen. “This is the main area I work from. Here Blaue and I decide our course, keep track of our position, and anything else we need to know. And this is not the only view the screen has.” He touched the side of the screen and immediately the screen changed to show Blaue in her entirety, and numbers around different parts of the ship. “This view helps me to know that every part of the ship is working properly. These numbers tell me the temperature of the hull, the strength of the hull, and any other facts or statistics I need to show.” He touched another point on the screen which caused the screen to change again. This time the screen showed nothing but blackness. “This is actually what’s in front of us, should I feel the need to ‘see’ out the window. Clearly, this isn’t glass. But Blaue has a visual recorder various parts of her hull and I can axis any of them from here.”

“But being a captain is fairly simple when you’re at this control point,” Ven said. “Blaue takes care of everything. She can fly herself. She needs me to make the decisions, to tell her where to go, but other than that she can take care of herself. There is not a lot of piloting involved.”

“Then why not just have ships run by artificial cognizant?” I asked. “Why have captains?” If Blaue could run cargo from one point to another by herself – if she was given the directive – why did Ven have to be there at all?

“Because things go wrong,” Ven answered simply, “and that’s what these other two sections of the cockpit are for.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Entry 63

I spent the rest of the night in my room, curled on my bed and generally feeling sorry for myself. John was going to leave me. I was going to be all alone. The thoughts played through my head like a broken record.

I fell asleep at some point, in my clothes, which meant that I was far from pretty when I woke up the next morning. Between the dried tears and crumpled clothes, I was a mess. However, after a hot shower I felt marvelously better, even though John was going to leave me.

Being the mature teenager that I was, I wasn’t going to allow John to see what pain he caused me, so I put a bounce in my step and a smile on my face as I went to eat breakfast.

“Carlee.” It was Ven at the breakfast table, not John. Disappointment filled me. Maybe John did not want to see me anymore, now that he was leaving me. “It’s been brought to my attention that we missed a rather important day.”

“What day?” I asked, grabbing a pseudo-muffin and taking my seat.

“Your sixteenth birthday,” Ven responded. I looked up at him in surprise.

“No, my birthday is in February,” I said, shaking my head. “It can’t be February already.”

“Well, I am unsure if we can argue that it is February in space, but it is most definitely February on Earth.” It was Blaue who spoke, materializing in the room. “I triple checked. You are sixteen years old.” Sixteen? Surely I would feel different if I really was such a marvelous age. Sixteen made me practically an adult. Sixteen was supposed to be that magical year in a girl’s life where she got a boyfriend and went to junior prom and all sorts of magical things. I wondered if the human colony had a prom.

“In honor of your birthday, I have a gift for you,” Ven said. I looked at him suspiciously. A gift from Ven? That sounded suspiciously like when the Greeks gave the Trojans a gift of a horse.

“Really,” I said. “Did you buy me something at the spacestation yesterday?”

“No,” Ven answered. “What I’m going to give you is better than anything that I could have purchased yesterday.” I gave him a flat, doubtful stare. I could think of nothing that Ven could give me that would not need to be purchased, unless he had suddenly had a complete change in personality and was going to try to help me keep John.

“I am going to give you your first flying lesson today,” Ven said.

“What!” I jumped out of my seat. “Like flying Blaue? You really mean it? You’re going to teach me to fly her?” He was right. It was better than anything he could have purchased. I had given up the hope that Ven would teach me to fly ages ago.

“I really do mean it,” Ven said with his debonair smile. “Of course, today’s lesson is very rudimentary, just the basics, but you have to start somewhere before I just hand over manual control to you.” I stared at him, unable to speak I was so surprised. Ven just laughed.

“Eat your breakfast, Carlee,” Ven said. “You need to have a good breakfast in order to retain everything I’m going to teach you.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Question Break 10

I think that every two weeks is a good time to have a question break since we only update on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays now. So are there any burning questions out there? Or maybe just curious questions? Let us know and we'll do our best to answer them!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Log 5

Carlee's tirade did not take me entirely by surprise. I know my sister very well, and I know she has a temper and tends to say irrational things that she doesn't mean when she is upset. However, her words still hurt.

I wondered about that, how her words could hurt. I was merely an android. If people like Ven were right, then everything I thought and felt were nothing but built in responses from my programming. That would mean I was not really hurt. My programming was simply telling me that I should feel hurt in order to better simulate a human's feelings.

And yet, wasn't that exactly what a human's brain was? A human's brain was hardwired to think and feel certain ways by the time a human was my age. A human my age would feel hurt by Carlee's reaction because the societal programming in their brain told them they should be. Surely a brain was nothing more than a highly complex, organic computer.

The difference then had to be that human's had souls. At least, humans thought they had something called a soul that somehow made them better than all the other animals on the planet Earth. I did not think there was any "soul" circuit board within me, but humans had no "soul" organ. Perhaps I did have a soul, and I just did not know about it.

Soul or no, I felt bad about letting Carlee think Ven's plan was my plan, my desire. But I did not see anything I could do about it. Ven was right. Life would be better for Carlee without me. The only way to make Carlee leave me behind was if she thought I wanted to leave her. I could not lie to Carlee, but the truth could also be used to deceive.

I knew Carlee would want me to run after her, but instead I stayed in my quarters. As painful was this was going to be, I would have to let us separate.

"Carlee was wrong about one thing," Blaue's holographic image materialized in my room.

"Just one?" I asked.

"Well, perhaps more than one," Blaue relented. "But she called herself a fifteen year old girl. It was my impression that Carlee was born on February 16 in the Earth year of AD 1993."

"She was," I answered. I had not been there for the event, but I had been Carlee's brother most of her life. I knew her birthday.

"Well, that day on Earth passed about a week ago," Blaue said. "Carlee is sixteen now."

"I missed Carlee's birthday?" I exclaimed in disbelief. "And Christmas." My instinct was to find some way to make up for it, to through some sort of extravagant party. However, that would probably get me back into Carlee's good graces. I loved my sister too much to allow her to not be mad at me.

"Time is hard to tell when you're no longer on a planet with a set calender," Blaue responded. "Don't blame yourself. Ven should have done something for her for her birthday. I'll have to berate him."

"So I'm eighteen," I said, surprised that I could come of age - be an adult - and not even know about it. My "birthday" was in January, always a few weeks before Carlee's.

"According to your Earth birth record, yes," Blaue answered. "But you were created after Carlee's birth according to your construction record, so that actually makes you younger than her." The earlier date of my construction date did not bother me. Socially I was older than Carlee, and I was certainly more mature than her. Perhaps it was an affect of my more logical, android brain.

"If you could have Ven throw some sort of party for Carlee I would appreciate it," I said. It did bother me that Ven would get credit for the kind of brotherly duty that was normally mine. However, I had to let Carlee go. It was the best thing for her, regardless if it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Entry 62

I could not take Ven's word for it. Ven hated John, and he would say anything to make me leave John behind. So I raced across the hall to John's room and demanded he let Blaue open the door for me.

"Can I help you, Carlee?" John was sitting at his desk, studying a screen.

"Yes," I said. "Ven says we're going to the android planet, that we're going to leave you there and then send me tot he human colony without you." I watched John, waiting for the surprise and outrage at Ven's audacity. Instead, John calmly met my gaze.

"That is the plan," he said. "Don't be upset, Carlee."

"Don't be upset, Carlee?" My voice rose several octaves. "You and Ven have hatched a plan about my future without consulting me and all you can say is 'Don't be upset, Carlee'?" My anger seemed to be having no affect on my calm brother, which only made me more angry.

"I know you don't like it," John said, "But its for your own good..."

"Because I, a fifteen year old girl, can have no idea what is for my own good, so I can't be trusted to make plans," I said harshly. "But a seventeen year old and a twenty something year old do? Is there some special wisdom that is granted when you turn seventeen that I as a mere fifteen year old can't grasp?" John did not say anything, letting me rant. His silence fueled my anger.

"Or maybe its in your best interest," I continued. "Maybe its just what you want - to get rid of you annoying little sister. Finally you have an excuse to dump me. You don't have to worry about taking care of me, worrying about me, dragging me along. You can be free of this old ball and chain!" Why wasn't he saying anything, my heart cried. Why was he not denying my words? John should have been stopping me, assuring me that he never wanted to get rid of me, that he loved him.

"Well the joke's on you, John." Tears filled my eyes. "Because I don't need you. If you want to go live with your android friends, then do it. I won't stop you." I then turned and fled from the room.

Once in my room I burst into tears. I had not meant the last thing I said. I did need John. I could not imagine my life without him. Without John I had no family.

As I cried I expected John would come running in at any moment, to reassure me that it was all lies and he would never leave me. But John did not come. My tears dried and still he did not come.

I was all alone and afraid I would be for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Birthday me!

Today is my birthday! I'm 17! Can you believe it? I feel so old.

It just makes me feel better to know that John is 19. No matter how old I get, he'll be older!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Entry 61

The moment John’s wall opened I jumped to my feet, tossing my book aside. I saw Ven exit the room and I quickly called after him, “Ven!”

Ven turned, his darkly handsome eyes falling on me. “Good afternoon, Carlee,” he said. “Can I be of assistance?”

“Can I talk to you real quick?” I asked. Ven nodded and came into my room. He noticed the book I had tossed aside, laying hazardously on the floor, and amusement touched his eyes. I bristled. I did not like it when people found me amusing.

“Ven, how long are you going to keep us cooped up on this ship?” I demanded, crossing my arms and glaring up at him. “This is no place to keep a growing fifteen-year-old girl.”

“I know,” Ven answered to my surprise, “but you won’t be on the ship much longer. This next leg of our trip will be about two weeks, then we’ll stay on the planet for a while, and then it will be about a month to the human colony. Does that satisfy you, Carlee?” All of my speeches and arguments to convince Ven that we needed to go to the human colony fled my mind.

“You’re taking us to the human colony?” I asked.

“Yes,” Ven nodded. “I’ve already called ahead with our time table. They should be preparing for your arrival, finding a host family for you to live with. You are just a fifteen-year-old girl, Carlee. You can’t live by yourself.” I had expected that. John and I were just minors, and basically foreigners. We had no idea how the human colony worked. It would make sense if we had to live with a host family for a little while until we were old enough and acquainted with our new situation.

“What planet are we visiting first?” I asked, not letting go of my suspicion entirely. “Why can’t we go straight to the human colony?”

“By request of your android, we’re going to the android planet first,” Ven said. “After today’s events, it realizes that it will only hold you back in life, Carlee. On the android planet, it could pretend it was a true person and be treated as an equal.” I stared at Ven in disbelief.

“Are you saying that John wants to live on the android planet and then ship me off to the human colony?” I asked. “That he wants to be separated from me.”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Ven answered. “It realizes that your best chance of life is on the human colony, where it is not allowed. It only wants what is best for you, Carlee, and this is what is best.”

“And I don’t suppose organics are allowed on the android planet?” I asked, though I doubted it would be called an “android planet” if that was true.

“Only for short visits,” Ven said. “I have procured Visas for you and me so we can visit with your android initially. But then we will leave and your android will stay behind.”

“This was your idea,” I accused him. “John doesn’t want this at all. He wouldn’t want to leave me.” Surely John could not want to leave me. If he really was as computerized as Ven thought, then surely his programming would not allow him to leave me. If he was as human as I thought, he would not want to leave his dear little sister.

Unless it was in my best interest. If John thought this was all in my best interest, then he might be seriously considering leaving me behind.

“Carlee, your android is a smart, well programmed machine,” Ven said. Though it felt as if the words were being dragged painfully out of him, Ven’s eyes were sympathetic. “It may not want to leave you, but it knows it must. It is the only way.” He paused. “As I said it will take us at least two weeks to get there. Enjoy those two weeks with your android.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Entry 60

When John left me to go to his room, I went to my own room, but I requested Blaue leave my wall open. I was waiting for Ven to leave the cockpit so I could talk to him. I needed to convince him it was time we headed for the human colony, with John.

I understood why John had wanted some alone time, but I was not sure it was for the best. He certainly did not need more time to brood, but I gave him the benefit of a doubt that he was taking a nap instead.

Except John had never been much of a napper. Probably because androids needed less sleep than humans or some such nonsense.

I saw Ven in the hall, so I jumped to my feet, racing to my doorway. However, before I could call to him, he stepped through the wall, into the room that John was using.

I stood in the doorway, thunderstruck. Had Ven just gone into John’s room? As if to talk to John? Surely I was mistaken. Surely that was not possible. Why would Ven want to talk to John? Ven did not even think John was a real person. It simply did not make sense.

“Blaue, why is Ven in John’s room?” I asked. Blaue materialized in my room with her usual smile.

“I believe that is between John and Ven,” she said lightly. “Undoubtedly guy talk, however. You know boys. They’re worse gossips then any girl.”

“Ven and John? Gossiping?” I asked incredulously.

“You’re right. Who am I kidding?” Blaue laughed. Then she sobered. “But I wouldn’t worry about it. Ven would not hurt John. He’s not big into the destruction of personal property, and John is your personal property at the very least.” I snorted. John my property? Unlikely. John rarely ever listened to me. Property was something you controlled. No one controlled John, least of all me.

“Can you let Ven know I want to talk to him when he’s done with John?” I asked Blaue.

“I can, but I can’t guarantee he’ll listen,” Blaue responded.

“That’s all I can ask for,” I responded. After all, boys rarely do listen. “I guess I’ll read until Ven shows up then.” A few moments later Blaue was gone and I was sprawled on the floor, with a book in my hand and an eye on the doorway. (I’m not really sure that “doorway” is the appropriate term, but I can’t really think of anything better to call it).

I found it very hard to concentrate on the book. What could Ven and John possibly be talking about? And for so long? Why would Ven deem to lower himself to converse with John? Would John remain civil? John usually was polite but he had been in such a brooding mood – a mood Ven was half the cause of. What would happen if John lost his temper at Ven?

John and I were in a precarious position, at the mercy of a captain who hated androids In a universe we could not begin to understand. We had no money, no job, and no hope without Ven. We needed him.

I hated needing Ven. Don’t get me wrong. I think Ven is too good looking for his own good, and he’s definitely got a debonair Han Solo thing going for him. But Ven wasn’t my family. Ven was someone that I really barely knew, someone that we were just a “mission” too. John and I needed to learn to become self sufficient. We needed to find our place in the grand universe. We needed to be able to support ourselves.

On the human colony I was sure we could manage this. John would be eighteen soon, surely that was still considered adulthood. He could find some sort of job on the human colony. I could find a job as well. If I was forced to finish school, then I would simply work after school. Between the two of us, I was sure we could manage to survive without Ven’s help.

I did not know that Ven and John were changing our plans as I was thinking, or that for some strange reason, the Barker family would become inexplicably tied to my own.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Log 4

“Good,” Ven said, rising to his feet. “Now that we have that settled…”

“Wait,” I said, getting up. “Can I ask you something?” Ven nodded. “Why did you have Blaue order two lunches for us and have them set to this ship? I’m not Carlee. I don’t believe you felt sympathy for me.”

“Not you, Carlee,” Ven answered. “I probably shouldn’t have. She’ll never learn her lesson if I do little things like that to make you feel human.” I stared at Ven, understanding dawning.

“Blaue knew beforehand that the restaurant would not serve me,” I said.

“Of course she did,” Ven said. “Blaue is a computer. She doesn’t overlook things or forget things." My non-organic heart sank. It was the first time I realized Blaue could and would lie if Ven directed her. I should have realized it sooner. She was Ven’s ship. She would do whatever he asked. She was just a computer, not a human like she seemed.

I felt sad for Carlee. Blaue had become her only friend, but she was a friend Carlee could not trust. It was yet another reason Carlee needed to live on the human colony. She needed human friends.

“So you arranged for us to go to the restaurant, where you knew we would be rejected,” I said.

“Carlee needs to realize you are not human,” Ven said. “The more things like that which happen, the more she will realize you are not human. You are not her brother. You cannot be a family. She must leave you behind.” I felt anger rise in me at his clear declaration of my inhumanity. But then I remembered I wasn’t human. I was just an android.

For a moment we stood in silence, Ven’s dark eyes watching me.

“I realize this is taxing for your programming,” Ven said. It was as if the words were being dragged out of him. It was undoubtedly hard for him to even come close to admitting that an android had anything close to feelings. “Carlee has been your purpose for existence, and I used you this afternoon in a manner that seemed to hurt her. But as I’m sure you’ve done in the past, I had to hurt Carlee now to help her life be better in the future. Leaving you behind will hurt Carlee for a little while, but it will be better for her in the future.”

“I know,” I said softly. “I am not purposefully being shortsighted. Neither is Carlee. You have to understand Ven, that she cannot imagine a future without me.”

“And we have to change that,” Ven said. Then he turned. The wall opened before him and he left.

“Blaue,” I said aloud. She projected her hologram in my room, her eyes watching me warily. “You lied to Carlee and me.” It was not an accusation, just a fact.

“Undoubtedly you have lied to people before,” Blaue answered. “We do what is best for our masters, John. I do what is best for Ven; you do what is best for Carlee. Ven thinks it’s best for Carlee that she realize you are an android, and I don’t think it hurts if this afternoon’s events make her think better of Ven.” She paused. “Ven is a good man and he deserves to be thought well of, regardless of his feelings concerning androids.”

“You’re partial,” I said. “And you’re right, I am partial to Carlee, which is why I’m concerned that she is trusting you too much. She’s putting too much confidence in you, when one day you might betray her if it makes life better for Ven.”

“Isn’t that what humans do for the one’s they love?” Blaue asked. “You betray someone you love less to better the life of the one you love the most.” I hesitated, unable to argue against her point. I was after all, a student of humanity.

“I hope you are not too upset with me,” Blaue said. “But you would have done the same thing if our roles were reversed.” Once again, I could not argue with her. I would do anything for Carlee, just as Blaue would do anything for Ven.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Log 3

"I've been in communication with both my employers and the human colony," Ven said. "It has been made very clear that you will never be allowed to step foot on the human colony." I listened silently, though I was fairly certain I knew where this was going.

"Carlee is fifteen years old in Earth years," Ven continued. "The human colony is her only real chance to finish growing up in a normal environment and the only place she can truly settle down one day. But she can't do that with you."

"I can't make her give me up," I said softly. "I tried to make her leave me behind at the Society's headquarters. She refused. I can't make Carlee do anything." Though I often wished I could.

"Carlee is a very stubborn girl," Ven admitted, "and I'm beginning to understand that she won't consider simply leaving you, which is why we've come up with an alternate solution." I frowned, unsure what he meant. "What do you suppose Carlee would do if she thought you could have a better life without her?"

"I cannot lie to her," I responded, "so I have no idea how we could convince her of that."

"We could convince her if it was true," Ven said. "There is a way both of you would be better off without the other." I frowned dubiously.

"Go on," I said. I doubted there was a way I could be better off without Carlee. My central programing revolved around her. However, if it would make Carlee's life better I would consider it.

"There is a planet where androids live with no master," Ven explained. "I have gained visas for myself and Carlee to visit - they don't usually allow non-androids. We will take you there and visit for a few days. I am confident you will find acceptance among your type and Carlee will realize it is your only chance at a normal life." He said the last words as if it was impossible for an android to have a normal life.

"And then Carlee will leave me on the planet and pursue her own normal life without me on the human colony," I finished for him.

"Yes," he answered. "It's the best thing for both of you, but more importantly it is the best thing for Carlee. It will ease her conscious concerning your well being and she will be able to move on as a normal human."

I was silent for a moment, my cybernetic brain processing his words and all the scenarios that could be the outcome. Unlike Ven, I could account for Carlee's affection for me, and I doubted things would go as he planned. But that did not mean we should not try.

"We will attempt it," I responded, "but I make no guarantees that it will work. You underestimate her attachment to me. How important I am to her."

"Yes, it is a mistake I have made often," Ven admitted. "but you remember not to let your programming for her to get in the way. It is for her well being you two must be separated."

"Her well being is my highest priority," I answered.

Question Break Answers 9

You asked a question; we have answers, theoretically. So here is the question that was anonymously asked:

Since you seem to have gotten John to start giving his perspective, how does he view his own origin? We know how you feel about it, and we can guess Ven's thoughts, but what does an android think of his being an android? Did he view his placement on Earth as an assignment, or an escape?

For the answer, we go to John:

This question seems to have several parts. I will try to address all of them.

1) How does he view his own origin?

I don't really remember much before I was placed on Earth. Mainly because I was activated and then put on Earth very shortly after. I guess I don't really think about "my origin" very often. I would say that humans don't often think about the fact they were born very often either.

2) What does an android think of his being an android?

What does a human think of being a human? I am an android. There really isn't much to think about it. But if I were to think about it, I would say that for the time I was on Earth I mainly viewed myself as human. For all intents and purposes, I was human. It was not until we were taken off the planet that I was really forced to view my android-ness. Now this could be because of my programming. The nature of my existence is that I'm basically supposed to think and act like a human, observing all human practices. If everything went as planned, I would have lived out an entirely normal human existence on Earth until Carlee died of old age, and then I would be deactivated, as if I was dying of old age. It was not until I was freed from the Society that I had to face the fact that I really was an android and what exactly that meant.

I always knew I was an android, not completely human, but the fact that I was an android never really bothered me. It was the consequences of being an android that bothered me, dealing with people like Ven.

Frankly, being an android isn't that different from being a human. It simply means society views me as a second rate human. For a while after being taken off of Earth, I thought this meant I had to live as a second rate human. I thought this view was right. Sadly, it was not until recently that I've realize that it doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter. I am synthetic. Carlee is organic. But we're both human.

3) Did he view his placement on Earth as an assignment or an escape?

I viewed placement on Earth as life, neither an assignment or an escape. I was created to live on Earth for the entirety of my existence, like any normal human. I was supposed to view placement on Earth as life, because I was supposed to be observing human life in its entirety.

I hope this answers your questions. Feel free to ask more questions anytime.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Question Break 9

So we haven't done a question break in a long, long, long time. Seems like a good time as any to have one. Does anyone have any questions? Any questions at all? Or just any thoughts they would like to share? John and I are here to answer them! So, ask your questions and we'll find answers. If we can.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Log 2

[Told you John would be back for another post. Of course, his writing style is a, lame, so I did have to help him a little bit. I'm hoping he develops his own real style after a while, and I don't have to keep re-writing sections.]

After the lunch Carlee described in her last post, we went back to the mall portion of the spacestation. Unfortunately, the afternoon did not go as well s the morning had. there was less laughter, less fun. We were simply going through the motions.

None too soon, Blaue called us back to her. Ven was done with business and it was time to go. Carlee and I went back to the ship obediently.

"Welcome back," Blaue said in her cheerful tones, her holographic image greeting us as we boarded the ship. "We should be taking off soon, so you two make yourselves comfortable."

"Is Ven here?" Carlee looked about, as if the man was hiding in the cargo bay as we walked through it.

"He's in the cockpit," Blaue answered. Carlee nodded but appeared disappointed, as if she had wanted to talk to the man.

"Should we go to our rooms or go to the common area?" I asked, trying to figure out the practical side of matters that Carlee so often ignored.

"Either is fine," Blaue answered. "You won't notice take off. But dinner is in an hour."

"I think I'm going to read in my room for a while," I told Carlee. Surely we had had enough brother/sister time for the day. I needed some time to myself, to think about the events of the day without Carlee watching me. It was like she expected me to burst into tears at any moment, which was odd. I had not cried in years. I certainly did not feel like crying now.

"OK," Carlee said, giving me a worried look. But she did not fight. A few moments later, I was in my room in blessed silence.

I laid on my bed and thought of nothing, clearing my mind. Carlee doesn't even believe I can think about nothing, but I can. It's very restful to not worry about the future or fret about the day. Carlee can't do this because she's a girl and as such she thinks too much. [This is not in anyway an insult against females. Guys are experts at compartmentalizing and girls at multitasking. This means girls can do a lot of things at once, but can't think about nothing. It means some guys can't walk and chew bubble gum, but we can think about nothing.]

Not much time had passed when Blaue suddenly appeared in my room. "John, would it be alright if Ven came and spoke with you?"

"Sure, but why would he?" I asked as I sat up on my bed. Ven had never been cordial to me. It seemed odd that he would want to talk to me. And that he would ask permission to do talk to me, when he viewed me as more of a talking parrot and less as a person.

"He has his reasons," Blaue said. Then she disappeared and the wall opened, revealing our captain. As usual when he looked at me, a scowl touched his face.

I moved to stand as he entered, but Ven motioned for me to remain seated. He then pulled up my desk chair and sat facing me.

"As much as I hate to do this," Ven said. "I need to talk to you, man to android."

"I'm at your disposal," I responded. What would bring Ven - who hates androids - to my quarters?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Log 1

[So in order to help you, our reader distinguish between my posts and John's posts, we're calling my posts Entries and John's posts Logs. And yes, the following is a post by John. One of you suggested we make him post and after over a week of wheedling, I convinced him that it was for the best. So below is John's first post. Enjoy.]

Carlee has asked me to write a few posts. I would like to begin by stating that I think this is a bad idea. I am not a writer. I am not even really human. My recounting of events will not be as exciting as Carlee's. More accurate maybe, but less entertaining.

Mainly Carlee asked me to jump in here and say a few words about what I was feeling in Entry 59. I have read all of Carlee's posts and sometimes I think she overthinks my emotions. I was not made that on Earth I had "the world at my fingertips" and now I was "the dirt under the universe's fingernails." I was mad because my presence was so clearly ruining things for Carlee.

If Carlee had not rescued me, Ven would not have been in the dilemma in which he found himself. He could have taken her straight to the human colony. There she would pick up the pieces of her life, get over me, and move on. She would make friends, grow up, get married, have kids, etc. Instead she was on a ship, in limbo. Ven did not know what to do with her, and her life was far from ideal. It was clearly, logically my fault.

From the day I was shot to today (a day almost a year after the events Carlee has been describing) everything bad that has happened to Carlee has been my fault. She was kidnapped, kept in a zoo, refused entrance to a restaurant, forced to live in a ship, refused entry to the human colony, subjected to Rome's existence, kidnapped by crazy, self-righteous androids, and forced to leave Earth again. And it was all because of me.

[Hey, guys, this is Carlee. Please ignore any references to future events. I keep trying to explain to John the delicateness with which he should foreshadow, but he still doesn't understand. And Rome isn't that bad. most of the time. So please, just pretend he only said up to "forced to live in a ship".]

I am willing to admit that Carlee was right in the fact that I needed a friend. I love my sister very much. She is, truthfully, the reason for my existence. My core programming all revolves around her. But, my Earth upbringing made it clear that it was the older sibling who was supposed to take care of the younger, not vice versa. I could not let Carlee take care of me.

Carlee wants me to write more, but for now this will have to do. This is all I have to offer, my side of events.

Hopefully Carlee will not make me post again.

[John is dreaming if he thinks I won't make him post again. I'm trying to convince him to write tomorrow's post too. It would definitely be more interesting to see the next series of events from his eyes. You guys already know how I feel about Ven - hot but annoying. John's feelings do not quite reflect mine, and I want you guys to get that. So back to wheedling for me. Luckily I have some allies who agree with me that John should write posts. Allies he can't ignore...mwahahaha. lol]


So I totally forgot to post yesterday. Instead I will be posting yesterday's post today.

Of course, when I think about it, it wasn't really my fault entirely. John usually reminds me to post and yesterday he "forgot". Because android's forget....right, I believe that one John.

Me thinks someone is shy.

So without furtherado I will post the yesterday's post. Which isn't written by me. :) Enjoy a post from John.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Entry 59

Back on Blaue, John and I ate our cheeseburgers. They were pretty high quality, more like a gourmet cheeseburger and less like McDonald's. Of course, my judgment may have been slightly impaired as I had not had a burger in ages. At this point, anything closely resembling a cheeseburger would have tasted phenomenal.

John ate silently, brooding. He was practically glaring at his fries as he dipped them into ketchup. Such brooding anger was unusual for the John I had known all my life. John had always been thoughtful, but happy. Everyone had wanted to be his friend, whether football fanatic or BSG nerd. Now I was John's only friend - and I was his sister. Now he wasn't even good enough to eat in restaurants.

Earth had been at John's fingertips. Now he was the dirt under the universe's fingernails.

"John,"I said softly, as I picked at my fries. My hunger had abated as his mood had become more apparent. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"There is nothing to talk about," John answered. "I am an android. I know my place, Carlee. They are perfecttly within their rights." Suddenly his anger disappeared from his face, replaced by a mask of serenity. He did not want me to see what he was really feeling.

"John," I persisted. "Talk to me. You can't keep it all inside. I know this has to be hard."

"Stop playing with your food," John reprimanded me. I dropped the fry I had been fiddling with.

John would never talk to me about it, I realized. I was his little sister. He was supposed to protect and care for me. He was supposed to listen to my problems and advise me about them. Not the other way around.

John did not need a little sister. He needed a friend.

Ven could have been that friend, if he did not so irrationally hate androids. Ven could have advised him like an older brother. Instead Ven was half the problem.

Blaue was the only other option, the only other person we knew. But Blaue did not think she was a person. How could she help John with the identity crisis he had to be feeling when she viewed herself as a second class citizen.

We needed to get to the human colony as soon as possible, I decided. John needed to be around other humans, humans who surely could not be as bad as Ven in their anti-human attitude. He needed to be around people his own age, who could learn to like and respect him. People who could be his friends.

And if the human colony won't accept him? a voice in the back of my head asked. Will you make John suffer the rest of his life as a mere second class person?

The thought worried me. I didn't want to lose John, but what if it would have been better to simply have let him die? Could I really watch him suffocate in a universe that didn't appreciate him?

I glanced back at my brother who was eating his fries. He gave me a questioning look when he saw the worry on my face, but I waved him off. John had enough to worry about and had spent too much of his life worrying about me. It was my turn to worry about him.

Facebook Update

Facebook fixed the problem. I don't know what happened, but I'm back. They even apologized. How nice of them.


So I don't know what's going on, but apparently in the last week there was a rash of high school age people having their Facebook accounts disabled. I was one of them.

So if you're trying to contact me via Facebook, it's not going to work out until I get something other than an automatic response from them. I'm trying to figure it out what happened but after trolling Facebook's help page apparently this happened to several teenagers. I don't know what's going on, but its really annoying.

In short: if you need to contact me, do it via this blog or my email address:

I will post a continuation of the story later today.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Entry 58

"You don't serve humans?" I asked, honestly perplexed. "But our Artificial Cognizant said you do."

"We do serve humans," the hostess said. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

"Come on, Carlee," John took me by the arm and pulled me from the restaurant. His face was contorted in an angry scowl. It had been a while since I had seen John so angry.

"I'm so sorry," Blaue said with agitation. "I didn't realize - I mean I should have asked. I just never though. They're always so nice to Ven."

"It's not your fault, Blaue," John said, his voice oddly detached and cold. "But yes, you should have asked."

"I'm sorry," Blaue said. "I'm not used to dealing with these sorts of things."

"What is going on?" I demanded, pulling my arm away from him. "Why wouldn't they serve us? What are you two talking about?"

"They wouldn't serve us because I am an android," John answered, his anger fading and being replaced by his usual mask.

"What? That's crazy. We're paying customers," I said. "No on turns away a paying customer."

"They can and they did," Blaue said. "Some restaurants refuse to serve androids because they don't think they should be wasting precious food resources on synthetic sentients when there are so many organic ones going hungry."

"But John needs food too," I protested. "He has to eat just like the rest of us."

"But I'm not a real person in their eyes," John said. "I didn't have to be made and by existing I'm stealing food from someone's hungry child."

"Well taht child didn't have to be born," I said. "Children can't help being born, true, but neither could you help being made. They shouldn't punish you for existing."

"Maybe it would be best if you came back for lunch," Blaue suggested.

"Let me guess. No one here serves androids," John said.

"I'm really sorry," Blaue apologized again. "I've never had a synthetic organic stay with me before. I'm not used to the necessary protocols."

"It's not your fault, Blaue," John said, "but there is no reason for Carlee to suffer just because I can't eat here..."

"Maybe neither of you have to suffer," Blaue interrupted. "I apprised Ven of the situation. He's ordering two lunches and having them sent to me. You'll have to eat with me but at least you'll get your cheeseburgers."

"Ven is going out of his way to do something for me?" John sounded like I felt: flabbergasted.

"Seems so," Blaue answered cheerfully.

Entry 57

We got John a few more undershirts and pants after that. We only needed the one pair of shoes and jacket, as both changed color so it would seem as if he owned multiple. It turns out he didn't need a "real" jacket (you know with sleeves) because the shirts and the like are made to regulate body temperature. It's pretty cool. You can wear just a think undershirt in freezing weather and be fine. [John would like to note that the clothes are only rated for -50 degrees Fahrenheit].

Perhaps one of the great parts of shopping on an alien spacestation was that we didn't need to carry around any bags. Blaue arranged it with the shop's Artifical Cognizant so that the stuff we bought would be delivered directly to her. We could enjoy our time on the space station without worrying about losing our stuff.

"Shopping is such taxing work," John said over dramatically after we visited a pet shop. [Blaue strongly reminded us in that shop that we weren't allowed pets - not that I would buy any of those strange creatures. I couldn't even begin to figure out how to care for them]. "I think we need a break. How about lunch?"

"Is it that time already?" I asked in surprise. I went to grab my cell phone out of my pocket to check the time, and then remembered I didn't have my cell phone. It's not like it worked in an alien time zone.

"It is approximately the time when we would have lunch on the ship," Blaue concurred.

"Do we come back to the ship to eat?" John asked Blaue. "Or do the restaurants here actually serve food we can digest?" I had not thought of that. Leave it to John to remember that what's food for one alien might be poison for us. The restaurants may not serve anything we could eat.

"You can eat at a restaurant," Blaue said. "Ven really enjoys one that is not very far away. I will call ahead and alert them of your dietary needs and you should get served fairly quickly. What do you feel like eating?"

"I could really go for just a classic cheeseburger," John responded. And I agreed. You forget how awesome plain old American food is until your in space eating who knows what for eons.

"Cheeseburgers it is," Blaue said. She then gave us the directions to the restaurant.

"My friends at home would never believe this," I commented as John and I strolled through the space station.

"Your friends also believe that Say Yes to the Dress is the best show in television," John said. "Somehow I don't think what they believe really matters."

"Like your friends are so much cooler," I retorted. "Watching reruns of Stargate and avidly awaiting the next Terminator movie**."

"Says the girl who is avidly awaiting the next Harry Potter movie!"

"Hey, so are you!" I playfully shoved John, and he laughed, ruffling my hair to annoy me. And I was annoyed by his action, but at the same time I was happier than I had been in a long time. This was normal. This was me and John teasing and playing while at the mall.

We got to the restaurant, all smiles, and as I stepped through the open doorway, I was greeted by what seemed to be a human hostess.

"Greetings," the young woman said. "I am the Artificial Cognizant of this facility. Your cognizant called ahead with your reservation."

"Yes, we need a table for two," John said, crossing the restaurant's threshhold. Suddenly the smiling face of the Artificial Cognizant turned grim.

"I'm sorry," she said. "We don't serve your kind here."

**I realize that Terminator Salvation and Harry Potter have both been out for a while, but this was like last October. It wasn't out yet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Entry 56

Back on Earth, I can't say I was much into fashion, but I did watch America's Next Top Model, so I was fairly certain that there was little about fashion I did not know. Just because I didn't obey the rules did not mean I didn't know the rules existed. However, shopping in the mall at the space station I learned one important thing:

Humans have not yet even begun to discover fashion.

There are so many accessories that humans haven't fathomed, because they can't. We're just - by nature - limited by our humanity. I'm not sure I can begin to explain the accessories I saw, but here is one example.

Now on Earth we can get tattoos. Getting them is painful and people often regret them later in life. However, tehy are the only way we've managed to accessorize our actual skin (discounting facial makeup, which is a very limited form of accessorizing).

These aliens, however, have invented a small patch that you can place on your skin/scales/fur/feathers. This patch could then display predetermined patterns, photos, art, or even movies (minus the sound) across your skin. I tested one by putting it on (just stuck it on the back of my hand). It turned my entire skin blue with yellow stars. It looked exactly like I'd tattooed my entire body, not just some light projected pattern. I have no idea how it worked, but it was awesome.

There were other equally stunning accessories but that one should give you an idea.

Like typical American teenagers, John and I went from shop to shop, trying on clothes and playing with gadgets but not actually buying anything. We were used to window shopping and the windows here were so awesome that buying never really crossed our minds.

"I'm glad you two are having fun," Blaue interjected into our laughter in a hat shop. (Some species really like very strange hats. Or at least what I would describe as hats). "But don't forget that unless John wants to spend eternity wearing Ven's discarded clothes, you better buy some."

"Will Ven really let a mere android spend his money?" John said, and I was surprised by the touch of bitterness in his tone. Secretly a part of me said, "Aha! I knew John could not be as OK with everything as he seemed," and another part of me hurt because of his hurt.

"He won't like it, but Carlee can spend the money you've been allotted as she pleases," Blaue said. After a moment, she added, "within reason, You can't buy a pet. No pets in my halls."

"Where can we go that we'll find clothes to fit John?" I asked Blaue. "All the shops seem to only have clothes for exotic alien creatures."

"There is a humanoid store three shops down," Blaue answered. "Of course, they don't call it a humanoid store because they don't know what humans are - but you get the idea." We did, so we went to the store, which was created for people with two arms, two legs, and one head.

John was immediately attracted to the rack of blue pants that were similar in coloration to jeans. I rolled my eyes at my brother's unwillingness to try new things. By the time John had gathered clothes to try on (clothes that were the closest to Earth clothes he could fine) I had gathered a few outfits for him that Blaue said were fashionable on the human colony.

"What is this?" John sounded scandalized as he looked at the neon yellow jacket with short sleeves that I had picked out for him.

"It's a jacket," I said. "Blaue says its fashionable."

"It can't be a jacket - it has short sleeves," John pointed out. "And can't it be fashionable in a more calm color?" I rolled my eyes. Boys! Never willing to try something new.

"Just try it on and when it fits then we will discuss color." I shoved him into the dressing room. John always had been a reluctant shopper.

I waited impatiently for John to come out. I was putting all of my energy into shopping for him, and I wanted to see the results. It wasn't everyday I had the resources of an intergalactic mall at my fingertips to remake my brother.

"OK, I'm coming out," John called and then he stepped out of the dressing room.

I had to admit. My brother was dashing. he wore blue slacks that fit almost exactly like boot cut jeans, except that the shoes peeking out from underneath were not Reebok's. They were neon blue. (Apparently its stylish for your shoes to be some God forbidden bright color). He wore the jacket except it was no longer yellow. He had somehow found one that was exactly the same but it was neon blue to match the shoes. Beneath the jacket he wore a tight fitting long sleeved shirt that was blue like the jeans and made of a material remarkably similar to Under Armor.

"The jacket!" I exclaimed. "You switch it!"

"No, it can change color to be the color you want," John responded. "I still feel ridiculous, even if the color is somewhat better."

"But your the image of a young human colonist," Bluae said. "Buy it. And don't forget to get a few more outfits."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Entry 55

“There is the exit,” John pointed ahead. I could see it, an opening in the lime green. Beyond, I could see dozens of aliens going about their business.

“How many people are here? How big is this place?” I asked.

“Oh, not very big for a space station,” Blaue answered. “Only around a hundred thousand organic sentients are currently here.” My jaw dropped. One hundred thousand people on a space station? And Earth thought the International Space Station (ISS) was so amazing.

John and I moved out of the landing area and into the main area. I paused, a little disappointed. What I could see of this spacestation looked exactly like a large mall. Shops and cafes lined the pedestration walkway and all the aliens seemed to be shopping. Somehow I expected something a little more alien.

“An intergalactic mall,” I said flatly.

“More like an intergalactic city,” John responded. “This is the main level – the mall level, I guess we could call it. The next level is a business level of all offices and conference rooms. The level above that is the residential area.”

“People live here?” I asked. I don’t know why that surprised me. After all, people lived on Deep Space Nine. Ender lived in Battle School. Astronauts live in the ISS. My only explanation for my surprise is that I expected it to be more spacey and less suburban.

“Of course,” John answered. Undoubtedly he knew that if I just thought about my comment I would realize how stupid it was. He was right.

[John would like to note that he usually is right. He claims that correctness and accuracy are part of his programming. I think he just enjoys being a know-it-all.]

“So what should we do?” I asked. John glanced at me with a look of disbelief.

“We’re in a mall. You’re a girl,” he said. “I don’t know. What do you think we should do?” I glared at him. It was an alien spacestation. Creatures I could not fathom were walking around us, communicating in manners I could not begin to imagine. Did John really think we could just act like this was West Oaks Mall?

My eyes slid past John to a shop that was displaying what appeared to be fashion accessories – the Claire’s of the galaxy. Perhaps we could behave like two teenagers dropped in a mall.

“That store appears interesting,” I pointed to the accessory store. John smiled, shaking his head.

“Told you,” he said. “Girls and malls are the same all over the universe.”

“I’m rather fond of them myself,” Blaue piped in. “Must be my feminine nature.” John and I both laughed and headed towards the store.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


So after a long discussion with John about my schedule, this blog, Anthropologists, and belligerent anti-organic andriods (among other things), I've decided to only post every MWF. I'm hoping another incident won't occur like in September when I was with the Barker's and I just didn't have time. I really hope the incident that kept me out of the blogosphere for months doesn't recur, mainly because I don't think I could handle that again.

So tomorrow, I will post the next update to my story. And once again, I really apologize to everyone for being out of contact for so long. I just have no idea how to make up for it. Perhaps you have suggestions? Is there something I can do via this blog or facebook (other than post more often than MWF) to make up for my long absence?

See you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Entry 54

It's been a long time, I know, so I'm going to give a short recap. Here we go:

I learned my brother was an android when he was shot in a convenience store. We were immediately transported to a ship and taken to the headquarters of the Society of Anthropologists. There I was put in a zoo and John was essentially waiting to be killed.

We were then rescued by the dashing, android-hating Ven Barker. I forced him to rescue John as well, even though he did not want to. Ven is supposed to take me to the human colony but can't because androids aren't allowed. So instead we've been residing on Ven's ship, Blaue. Blaue is pretty much an awesome Artificial Cognizant. An Artificial Cognizant is a sort of like bodiless android - just the mind. Though they can create hologram projections of bodies.

Now we are stopped on a space station so Ven can do business. He has set John and I free to do as we like while on teh space station. Currently, we are standing outside of Blaue, but we're still in the ever annoying Ven's way. He wants us to move.

Got it? Good. Now let's move on.

"We're going to be in someone's way no matter where we go," I protested. Aliens and cargo were everywhere. Stepping out of Ven's way would put us in someone else's way.

"We need to get out of the cargo area," John said. "Follow me." John grabbed my wrist and led me through the maze of ships.

"See the black pathway?" He pointed towards the black strip of floor that ran between the ships. "That's the pedestrian walkway. It will take us out of here." I did not respond. I simply let John lead me as I marveled at the ships and aliens.

We were passing a sleek, lime green ship, no bigger than a fighter jet. This I imagined was the sports car of spaceships. Why else would someone paint it the danger color? The ship screamed, "hey, look at me. I'm dangerous."

An alien was walking ahead of us on the black pathway. The alien walked across the ground with dozens of legs, like a centipede, but it was covered in blue feathers and about six feet long. Instead of a beak or mouth it seemed to have a trunk like an elephant, but I could not begin to guess what sense the trunk was used for. What strange evolutionary path had led to this?

"Star Trek always made aliens look so human," I said as my eyes landed on an alien that seemed to be dripping mucus from every orifice.

"Well, Star Trek didn't get everything right," John responded. "And they had a low budget. Not to mention the lack of CGI. Even Next Generation's graphic weren't good. You can't expect better considering the time period."

"How do so many strange aliens get along?" I asked. "How can we talk to an alien if it doesn't have ears?"

"Artificial Cognizants," Blaue answered in my ear. "Almost everyone has one and we're programmed to understand most anything. The alien without ears would haven an Artificial Cognizant who would hear your words and translate them into whatever sensory mode the alien could understand."

"Cognizants are very necessary to every day life in the Universe," John said. "Without them, it would probably fall apart."

"I don't control physics," Blaue joked.

"No, but you do allow everyone to understand each other," John answered. "Without you thtere would be no government." I'm still sure to this day if that comment was foreshadowing, but it sure felt like it at the time. I could just imagine Artificial Cognizants pulling out of society - refusing to participate - and the government falling apart.

It seems strange that a society that needs Artificial Cognizants so bad and relies on them so desperately would despise androids.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


So, I've been a bit out of touch. I'll be the first to admit it. But it's not my fault I swear.

I mean when the psychiatrist tells your foster parents that blogging is only helping to keep the delusions going, what can you do?

But I'm back, and its not a delusion.

I think.

But that's all part of the story later on. Right now we're still on the spacestation with Ven and John.

So once again, I really apologize for not keeping up the blog. I think if my brother really loved me he would have continued writing the story even while I was on my internet hiatus.

Of course, my brother thinks he demonstrated his love by, you know, rescuing me. Like whatever, John. You keep thinking that. I real, loving android brother would have been able to do both.

The story will continue, once I've figured out where exactly I left off.