Lisa* and I arrived a few hours before sunset. True to their word, the service pitched our tents near an old hand pump for fresh water. They'd brought in a supply of mopane wood and built a sizeable fire ring. A 50 gallon drum with another hand pump was our source of gasoline.
Lisa set about getting the generator started and hooked her umbilical up to recharge. I grabbed my copy of Death in the Long Grass and started to browse.
“Really? A paper book? What's next a windup assistant that isn't dependent upon electricity?” She asked.
I folded my book shut and looked up from my camp chair. “I'm a modern guy, but the paper copy is the one I own. I also don't believe in discarding last year's technology when it still works well.”
She stood a little bit straighter. Apparently robot girls are also worried about being replaced by a newer model. The generator hummed along, but was remarkably quiet compared to the ones I'm used to. Loud grunts came from the river.
Lisa's mouth dropped open. She froze in place, and scanned toward the river.
“We don't-have-any-wifi out here! What am I supposed to do without wifi? I want to know what's making those sounds?”
“Those are hippos.”
“Says you. I know how you are, and your fantasy world has tyranosaurs and dragons in it. I want to Google those sounds and I don't have any wifi.”
“Relax, think of it like a working vacation. Look at the scenery, watch for animals.”
“But I'm basically a walking computer. I gather data and repeat it back. Software lets me make some conclusions.”
“You'll just have to gather data with your eyes and ears. See that wet canvas bag hanging on the tree branch beside the kitchen tent?”
She put her hands on her hips. “Yeah.”
“That is an evaporative beer cooler. Do you remember how to get me a beer?”
“Sorry, that data is saved to the cloud. The same cloud I can't access without wifi.”
I swiveled my feet to the ground and looked at her. This was a point of contention I'd have to address.
She flicked the little cable that ran from her belly button to the generator. “I'm tethered to the generator for another hour.”
I sat my book down and retrieved a beer with no label. I don't know whether the Anurans left me something from outer space, dwarven ale, or tshwala the native beer that basically leaves you in a coma for the night. I rummaged through the kitchen tent, but couldn't find an opener. Sheepishly, I approached Lisa with my treasure.
She flicked the cap off with two fingers. “Hmph!”
“See, plenty of uses.” I retreated to my chair.
I found myself actually re-reading Capstick. He was a good author. By today's standards there are a few too many descriptive words, but they were all unique and not simple “ly” modifiers. His graveyard humor about burying the lion victim in a coffee can was pretty well described.
This is the danger of research. It becomes an entity unto itself. I wasn't so enthralled that I failed to make notes. I used my Stipula Gladiator fountain pen to make a list. This is the same pen I bought when I outlined The Cock of the South. Here is a partial list:
- Sausage trees
- Mopane wood
- Fever trees
- Pan = pond
- Tshwala beer
- Castle Pilsner?
- Dambo = flat
- Abercrombie & Fitch (originally started as safari outfitters)
- Rowland Ward
- Marula fruit
I don't know if all these exist in the time of my African adventure, or in the location I have picked out. I'm glad I don't have wifi or I'd be tempted to find out. This trip is all about immersing myself into the environment. I can get details later.
Oooorgh oooorgh, ugh, ugh ugh! A deep baritone roaring broke the quiet of our little camp. I sat up straight and twisted my bottle in the dirt so it wouldn't tip over. The lion sounded like he was about a half mile away.
Oooorgh! Sounded right behind me. I snapped my head around as Lisa answered him. She'd recorded him and played his own call back.
“What are you doing?”
“You told me to enjoy the wildlife.”
The lion answered back. Closer this time.
“Now he's coming here, he thinks you have a date tonight. Stop encouraging him.”
She patted her hip. “I brought the B.A.G. if he gets fresh.”
I raised up my book. “It's a pistol. This book is filled with references to rifles like .470 Nitro Express, .500 Magnums and the like. Do you understand the difference?”
“No, want to know why?” She crossed her arms and shifted to one side. “Because there's no wifi!”
“Okay, keep the lion calls down and maybe he'll go away.” I found an old board and a pocket knife to give her. “You wanted to make a sign for Camp Research, try that while I read and look constantly over my shoulder.”
I started reading a lovely bit about how elephants like to pound their victims against termite mounds until they are the consistency of a bota bag.
Lisa snatched up my list and scanned it. “You'll just lose it, and I have enough onboard memory to keep a copy.”
*Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept, and is a robot. Since her story ended, she works as my personal assistant. B.A.G. is our term for her Big Assed Gun.