The robot loomed closer to us, its hulking mass moving easily over abandoned cars and crushed bricks that had once been buildings. Since I’d last seen it, it had upgraded its gun, an update that I found somewhat unnecessary, since—big as it was—it could just step on humans and achieve the same effect as shooting the gun.
“Get down!” Sara said.
We were partially hidden behind a pile of debris—her more so than me. As a hiding place, it wasn’t the best, but we had no idea how the robots tracked people. Maybe the sunlight didn’t make us easier to spot. Maybe they were using infrared. Maybe they relied on sound, though the robot’s constant running commentary to someone called Dave seemed to belie that hypothesis.
At any rate, it didn’t matter. I’d had enough of the running and the hiding and the not sleeping and the eating fried rats. It was time to put a stop to this.
I stood up.
“What are you doing?!” Sara said. She didn’t sound pleased.
“Trust me,” I said, and then I vaulted over our debris wall. Or tried, anyway. It was closer to a controlled fall, but I managed to regain my balance on the other side and set off running toward the robot.
I stopped about ten meters in front of it and waited. This was just a guess, really. I’d never tried this before, but there was no going back now. Just a few bricks strewn across the ground separated the robot from me. The sun beat down on it from behind as it took another step toward me and then another.
I considered holding my breath, but decided I didn’t want to get shot and die while focusing on not breathing.
And then the robot stopped. Its calm voice cut out mid-sentence. Its steps halted. It shuddered, just slightly, and then with a groan of metal it began to topple forward.
I hurriedly backed up, tripped over a brick, and fell down.
By the time I’d picked myself back up, Sara had joined me. “What did you just do?” she said.
“It’s this technology-canceling field I project,” I said. “No big deal.”
Fortunately, the above possible near-future has not yet come to pass. Hopefully it never will. I do not relish the idea of trying to use my superpower in a real life, combat situation. However, it would be nice to have Sara around, though perhaps not in the middle of the robot apocalypse.
Unfortunately, even when the robot apocalypse is not occurring, my superpower still kicks into action. You may recall that, a few months ago, my computer died, perpetuating my disappearance from such helpful communication tools as Skype and also hampering my emailing. Then the screen to the work computer I was using made popping sounds and died. Finally, this past Sunday, my computer began experience what’s known as kernel panic. While I appreciated the name because it reminded me of a Young Wizards book, I did not appreciate the event itself. I’ve heard it said that once something happens three times, it’s on its way to becoming a habit. In this case, the habit is breaking technology due to some sort of field that I am projecting.
After an early morning conversation with an Apple IT man on the West Coast, I was no closer to a solution. He hypothesized that it was a hardware problem and said I’d need to take the computer into an Apple store. I gave him a brief lesson on Indonesian geography (“Yogyakarta is in Java.”) and then established that I could go to the Apple re-seller in one of the malls here.
Accompanied by my language teacher, I went to the re-seller. Between the two of us, we managed to communicate what was going on and the man said he’d look at the computer, come back in an hour or two. After a jaunt through the shoe section in one of the department stores, we had dinner—Szechuan noodles for my teacher, Singapore char kway teow (mysteriously lacking in prawns) for me.
Enough time killed, we returned to the store where I learned the bad news: the hard drive probably had to be replaced, and they wanted me to pay for it. They’d look at it some more, though, and I was to return the next day to hear a true verdict. I protested a few times about my warranty, to no avail.
Depressed by this new development, I heartily agreed to watching a movie with a few more teachers from my language school. I spent the next two hours watching a movie about boys in an Islamic boarding school and eating popcorn that cost just over sixty cents. Afterwards, I was still a bit disturbed by the situation, but also a bit giddy after spending so long hanging out with people who actually understood my Indonesian and whose Indonesian I could actually understand.1
The next day, I called Apple Care Indonesia. Or, rather, I had one of my Indonesian officemates call Apple Care Indonesia, since I was not at all confident in my ability to explain everything and get helpful advice in Indonesian, especially over the phone. After about thirty seconds he handed the phone back to me and said they were speaking in English.
As it turns out, Apple Care Indonesia doesn’t speak Indonesian. In fact, they’re located in Singapore and (judging from the three or four people I spoke to) seem to be entirely staffed by Australians. They’re also a bit lacking in knowledge of Indonesia. I spent a long time on the phone, the majority of that listening to elevator music, followed closely by the percentage that I spent describing repeatedly how to use Apple’s confusing website to see the store location where my computer was. Eventually, as I was about to be put on hold again, I said that I had to go—I had a class to teach.
After class, I returned to the store where I was greeted with a possibility that I had not foreseen: “I replaced the hard drive,” the man told me,” With a smaller one that I had here. You don’t have to pay.”
Very confused by the whole thing, I took my computer and left.
And that is how you find me now. My computer’s data was once again lost and now I have a hard drive of unknown origin in my computer. After speaking once again with the Australians, it seems that at some point in the near future I need to bring my computer to Jakarta so that they can “restore it to warranty conditions.” Luckily, Sara will be in Jakarta soon, so I guess that will be the location of our next tearful reunion.
And hopefully by then I will have learned how to control my superpower. We’ll see what happens.
1When my language teacher was helping me in the Apple store, no English was actually involved. I was speaking in Indonesian and the man trying to fix my computer was speaking in Indonesian, but my teacher was necessary to mediate between the two of us. (The crazy bule is saying what? The man talking way too fast is saying what?)