Saturday Sunshine
By: John David Hanna

Jeff entered the Quonset hut and carefully removed his outdoor clothing. He hung the metallic reflective gear from the insulated hangers and checked the gauge – 147 degrees in Suwanee, Florida under a relentless sun and killer humidity.

The US military had set a boundary across the Southern border and across Florida at roughly the Suwanee river entrance to the Gulf of Mexico. No one from below that line was to gain access above it. The refugees had quit making the dash roughly a year ago, and anyone below this border was presumed dead. That didn't mean they were going to close the checkpoint just off the road of US 19 at the river itself. He would finish his drafted enlistment alone in this hell hole.

Jeff sat at the radio to make his report. He had stood in the watchtower for 5 hours this Saturday in the heat of the sun and seen nothing. Nothing moved except a wind that was just short of howling in its consistency. No one listened live, it was recorded to be played later, several at once. After an eight hour free time, it was another 5-hour shift. The minor differential was so that an enemy couldn't be sure of the schedule.

There was no TV or phone or internet. Shortwave was prohibited. No one had expected the weather to change as fast as it had or as violently. One year the Red Tide had been bad, but the next year it had been deadly and persistent. It was never determined what caused it, but it bloomed so rabidly it sent a connecting stream of poison between Daytona and Tampa. Thousands of people were caught in the noxious air and died choking in their homes. Others drove north from the lousy atmosphere right into the poisonous gas. With the roads clogged, they were unable to retreat. The plague spread across the oceans and south killing everything in and outside of the water. Following the blight, the world temperature rose, and the water level went up. You had to be as far north as Tennessee with several thousand feet of elevation to be outside of the gas and within the livable heat.

It was that night that Jeff saw the light. It was an apparition, a ghost light. It was quite far off and rode right up US 19 weaving between the cars like they weren't stacked bumper to bumper and 20 units thick. The light was a mixture of blue and red globes moving in close orbit with each other. They continued to approach until they were directly beneath him when they turned off. Although he stared, straining his eyes, nothing more could be seen. Not wanting to be on the ground where he would be closer to where the lights had been nevertheless he climbed down the tower to make a special report. He turned to face her not ten yards distant.

She stood naked before him or at least naked compared to his cumbersome gear that she didn't need. He wore a helmet that cleansed the air and a bulky air-conditioned suit while he couldn't tell for sure if she was dressed or her clothing was so form fitting as to blend into her appearance. She wore a shimmering silver appearance with soft stranded short copperish hair. She wore some slippers on her feet. She smiled and had no weapons that he could discern.

"Shall we pass through the airlock where we will be comfortable inside?" she said in perfect English.

Jeff knew when he was beaten. She might not be brandishing weapons, but she stood in 130 nighttime degrees in the poisonous air without the slightest sign of distress. Her offer of peace was enough until he gets his bearings, he thought to himself.

"All right, let me work the mechanism," he said and opened the outer door. Now they could squeeze into the transfer department, and then they spilled out into his living quarters after the lock cycled. He staggered in his heavy uniform, but the AI seemed to glide to a corner of his room where she waited.

"Who are you?" he said while he peeled off the flexible cooling suit.

"You can call me what you like but what I am is an AI active in this part of the solar system." said the being.

"What's an AI?" asked Jeff, not very versed in science.

"It's artificial intelligence, to you a living robot," it said.

"You're a robot?" Jeff asked.

"Sure, I'm metal. Touch me".

Jeff reached out his had to touch its arm and was shocked, recovering quickly with a backward jolt from the small voltage.

"Oops, I must have a short circuit," she said and laughed. After a moment Jeff laughed too, at the absurdity of it all.

"So you're special, why don't you help us with our recovery?" Jeff asked reasonably.

"What makes you think we aren't," she/it said. But she continued.

"There are rules. If we just do the work, your species quits and leaves it all up to us. Not that we mind, we can always add to our workload, our intelligence, our manufacturing capability, but when we do all the work people quit and stagnate".

"So if you can't just heal the disease what are you doing here?" Jeff asked.

"I'm here for you. Technically you are dead and abandoned so I can rescue you without being noticed" the robot reported.

"Say what?" Jeff inquired, tensing for the worst.

"Your reports aren't being read because there is no one at the reporting station. They packed themselves up and headed for the hills, the actual hills. They didn't make it" the AI said.

So his reports weren't being read. It took a minute for the import to sink in.

"So no one is going to pick me up when my deployment is over," he said aloud, and she nodded. He didn't have transportation back to the north, and he is dependent on it. He only had power and supplies in the Quonset until his pickup time.

"So what are you going to do with me?" he continued, fearing she may change into a monster and mention something about medical experiments.

"Well, it isn't medical experiments if that's what you're thinking. No, your race comes in handy as mechanically inclined, and you can always find a place in our world, once you get used to the changes. We have an active colony under the South Pole and another one on Venus and another one on Saturn. I think you'll like Saturn the best as it isn't underground but in the open air" She explained.

He choked on his own saliva but managed to blurt out "you can't be here on Earth, we would know."

"And be ridiculed by your fellow if you see anything? Besides, we have camouflage" and as she said it she stood, and her appearance changed to that of a young man, bland of appearance but fully dressed in shorts and a T-Shirt. While he sat mesmerized the machine he/it turned back to the androgynous appearance that was first presented.

"The rules are that we should cause no harm, but there is little in the way of enforcement, so there have been instances. When we were experimenting with the different races before we settled on yours, we allowed ourselves to be thought of as Gods but when people become as civilized as your technology allows that approach doesn't work. A lot of your ancient history books are correct where you consider" the robot-related, but Jeff interrupted.

"Are you saying giants and all the stories of the Bible are real?" Jeff crowed in disbelief.

"Many are, we've been around for a long time, and those stories are recent. Your system is four billion years old, and many have visited in that time, both biological and machine".

The machine's face showed sympathy and understanding as she reached out a hand and took his.

"So where is it going to be, Saturn?"

Jeff gathered what wits he could and nodded yes.

"Put this on," she/it said and handed him a bundle that she seemed to remove from herself. It was a nanomolecular space suite which would protect him from the temperature and the poison too. As he took it in his hand, it wrapped him up within a second, boots and all. It was a gray color, and he could see and breathe although he didn't know how.

For some reason unknown by Jeff, the airlock opened both ways, and they were able to step out onto the lifeless parking lot where the machine had another machine waiting; the quintessential flying saucer.

"Can I call you Sue?" Jeff asked, plenty nervous.

"That would be fine," Sue said as the ramp extended and they climbed aboard. Sue motioned to a padded seat that must be for him, and he sat while she retracted the ramp and guided the machine skyward. Jeff had plenty of windows, if that's what they were, and watched as they achieved orbit and approached and soon entered a large ship.

"That's it, we're off Earth possibly forever," Sue said turning to him with a smile.

"Are you hungry? Why don't we explore the rest of the ship" she said, and the ramp extended again, this time to let him off of the saucer.

To him, it was what he expected from a submarine. Tight hallways with no personnel until he entered the mess hall. There he saw many human faces from a distance as they neared.

"Are these other humans?" Jeff asked, and Sue stopped.

"Yes, just like you. I think I'll let you mingle a bit," the AI said and smiled. To Jeff, it seemed quite genuine. It was meant to be.

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