When I pulled into the parking lot I saw the Robo Hiker leaning against the wall outside the Wayside. It was raining heavily and he didn’t seem to notice the other visitors rushing inside to get out of the rain. I watched him for a couple of minutes before grabbing my rain coat and walking over to talk to him.
“You’re probably surprised that I’m hiking back to Springer Mountain. I can always fly up to Maine and then hike south from Katadhin. I heard the black flies aren’t as bad in the fall. I didn’t see you at the press conference in Harper’s Ferry, though I heard you were in town. How was your meeting with the ATC Director?”
“Let’s go into the restaurant or sit under the pavilion. I’m getting soaked.” I walked over to the pavilion next to the visitors center and he followed carrying his backpack. “So tell me about your new toys,” I asked.
He handed me one of the lightweight hiking poles. The sensors embedded in the wood were almost invisible to the naked eye. The MIT engineers hadn’t discussed these sensors with me or why they had to be in these hiking poles. Before I could ask about them he sat down across from me and said, “When your funding runs out am I going to be recycled or reassigned to another research team?”
I wasn’t ready to discuss this so I motioned towards the hiking poles and asked about the MIT engineers. “They’ve pissed me off. They replaced one of the Japanese neuro-linguistic processor because someone complained that I sounded “too human”. Since it’s not synchronized with my facial nerves it sometimes sounds like I have a mouth full of marbles. And the damn hiking poles are throwing me off-balance on the wet rocks. They’re making this much more complicated than it has to be.”
As the rain let up I picked up the hiking poles and walked towards my car. “I’ll send these back to MIT and insist they work all future enhancements through me. They won’t like it but I don’t give a shit. We’ll talk about your next assignment the next time we see each other.” As I drove away I saw the Robo Hiker go into the visitors center as the sun came out.