The Foundation – Part I

An eight-year-old is determined to give a future to a group of scrapped robots

* * *

22 February 1993

The little curly-haired, chubby girl had been waiting in front of the entrance arch of the town hall for quite some time. Nobody had paid attention to her. If anybody had stopped by to look at her, it had been because of her curly, rebel blank hair that made her head look like the crown of an oak tree.

When someone finally acknowledged her presence, it had been almost three hours.

“What are you doing here, little one?” someone inquired. The little girl lifted her head to look at the owner of that voice, a brunette in her forties with a kind face.

“I wanna talk to the mayor,” the girl announced, looking at the woman with imploring eyes. The woman smiled and uncovered her teeth, the kind of smile that the little girl knew to be one of embarrassment and not genuine. The woman’s eyes blinked and her eyes rolled before she said: “The mayor is busy, sweetheart.”

“But it’s important!”

“Is it?” The woman crossed her arms. “And what is it that you wanted to tell him?”

The little girl frowned and looked away. “It’s a secret.”

“Well, I’m afraid I can’t really help you then. But I can take you home. Where do you live, dear? What’s your name?”

The little girl stiffened and sucked in her belly to make her shoulders appear broader and look more impressive. “No need to take me home. I live nearby.” She made a step back and ran away from the short arcade of the town hall. The woman didn’t call her and didn’t follow her, but as she walked back home, the child felt that someone was watching her. When she looked back toward the town hall, she saw no one, but as she lifted her chin, she thought she saw the mayor Cesari bringing himself to the balcony of the hall, but she couldn’t be sure about it.

After walking another handful of meters, though, she realized that, mayor or not, that person was really observing her.

* * *

She returned home while her parents were still napping. Quietly, she closed the door behind her, locked it and went to the kitchen table to do her homework. When her father stepped into the kitchen to get himself a glass of water, she pretended to be very concentrated on her Italian grammar exercises.

“Do you want some water?” her father asked in a gentle tone. She shook her head. “I have to finish this,” she mumbled, her eyes fixed on the textbook. But then she couldn’t resist to the call of thirst and looked up at the fresh, inviting water in her dad’s glass, so she added: “Alright, maybe just a glass.”

Her father smiled and took a glass for her from the sideboard, that he immediately filled with tap water. The child swallowed it as if she hadn’t had any liquids for hours (and she hadn’t).

“Don’t forget to drink water while you do homework,” her father said, giving her a benevolent flick on her cheek before he returned to his room.

The little girl smiled. She wished she could tell her dad all the truth, but she knew he wouldn’t understand. When it came to her love for mechanical creatures, nobody seemed to understand her.

* * *

23 February 1993

The little girl went home immediately after school, accompanied by her parents, but after lunch she asked them if she could spend the afternoon with grandma Maurizia, who lived just a floor away. They agreed and her grandmother, as always, had nothing to say – actually, she liked to have her little granddaughter around.

They watched a TV show together, then she told her grandmother she would have done her homework while she napped. Diligently, she dove herself in books at 3:00 PM. However, in the background of her mind she eagerly waited for 3:30 to appear on the clock, because that was when Aquila was coming to knock at her grandma’s door. Well, so to speak, because she had asked him to not knock or ring the doorbell, because that would have wakened up her grandma and then she would have never had permission to go out again.

At 3:27 she went to the front door and inspected the condo’s corridor from the peephole. She had to force herself to stay focused and not let anything distract her for three minutes or more, but it wasn’t long until she could see Aquila appear from the internal entrance door of the condominium.

He was on time. She recognized the border of one of his wings before the entrance door opened, and she squealed inside. Then she she saw the remainder of his body and couldn’t wait for him to reach her grandma’s door. She heard his robotic footsteps, that she noticed he tried to deaden as much as possible by laying one foot after the other on the floor as gently as he could.

The little girl opened her grandma’s door slowly to avoid noise, then she went out and waved to Aquila as she walked toward him. Aquila returned her greeting and took her in his arms when she ran to him for a hug.

“Aquila, are you okay?” She asked that question with a soft tone, almost in a whisper, holding him tightly. Aquila held her close.

“I’m good, Luisa, don’t worry,” he said, rubbing her back in a fatherly fashion. “Do you have news?”

Luisa sighed. “I don’t, alas… he doesn’t let me in…”

… to be continued …