Crossword Conundrum – Chapter 6: The Robot & I

Ugh, robots.

This one’s alright though. AR73. Pretty cute and way smarter than any other non-fugitive robots I’ve ever met.

I just have no idea what to talk about.

Karina’s gone, and she was the whole one facilitating all of this. I was just along for the ride, and now I’m… here alone in a garage full of cars. There is so little for me to bring up that I have any awareness of, or that isn’t generic small-talk topics.

Nobody should ever let me be in charge of social situations. Please take the initiative for me.

“AR73, why don’t you tell me about yourself?” I ask, finally. “What’s your deal?” Here it goes, I guess? Was that interesting enough?

It answers immediately, saying, “I am AR73, a Model-X series Infobot designed by Blyth Industries engineers four years ago and produced two years ago in January. My purpose is to learn and explore the world with my mind as best as possible while assisting humans at every opportunity. My processors, the AR3102s, were created by Nigel Nakazawa, co-founder and former CEO of Dreamtech, and each of them come with–”

“Okay, that’s not what I meant. When people say ‘Tell me about yourself’, they don’t mean ‘list all your capabilities and manufacturing facts.’” Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.

“I thought you would be interested…”

“No, most humans don’t give a shit about that stuff.”

AR73 gasps. “You said a bad word.”

“Okay, Kobi.”

“What?”

“Actually, I wish I knew about you sooner so I could have let Kobi meet you,” I say. “You two would have made really good friends, I think.”

“Who is Kobi?”

“Some kid who– it’s a long story.”

“Fair enough,” AR73 says.

“Yeah, so whatever. Why don’t you tell me about your… love for art? Why do you enjoy it? What draws you to it as a robot? It’s unique.” (Heh, “What draws you to it.”)

“Haha, well, it’s a long story,” it says. “My visual receptors are some of the best in the industry, so I can see things with almost as much clarity as a real eyeball. When I see something beautiful, it’s… stimulating. I can’t explain it very well because as far as I am aware, robots are not supposed to feel such sensations from visuals, not like this. When I see these images of art people have created, I feel drawn to create images of my own, even if that may be out of my grasp so far.”

“Robots with emotions, crazy. Oh, did I say that out loud?”

“Emotions are wonderful! Even the bad ones. I like feeling happy and sad and tired and curious and sleepy. It’s so interesting.”

“What emotion are you feeling right now?” I ask.

AR73 looks around its room. “Right now I’m feeling a little upset,” it says. “I’m out of art supplies and Mr. O’Conner won’t take me to the art store.”

“Is it because he’s a dick?”

“Yeah…” Wow, even the robot he’s caretaking doesn’t deny it. How is everyone able to just get past his dickishness?

I feel bad for the little guy. Uh, the little thing. It’s stuck doing all this work for a really mean caretaker, and it’s not any good at its hobby. Kevin says he’s teaching it auto mechanics to benefit it, but I know he’s just using it as free labor so it can’t pursue its passion. Maybe I should…

“Will you take me?” it asks.

“Absolutely not.”

Its head lowers to the ground and it makes some sort of groaning sound. “I was so sure you’d understand…”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re just like me. You’re different from everyone else because you were created that way, but it bothers you sometimes because people don’t understand and it leaves you feeling a bit sad.”

Ha… that’s a bit incorrect, but the fact a robot could surmise my not-so-normal makeup just from its eyes is mighty impressive. Yeah, yeah, I promise I’ll tell you my whole crazy origin some other time. Techno-zombies and all. “Well, you’re not right. But you’re not entirely wrong,” I say. “I understand how you feel, but I just don’t want to spend all that time walking to–”

“Please?”

It’s such an adorable, tiny robot. It’s blinking its photoreceptors in quick succession and I can’t take it anymore. “Okay, fine.”

Yatta!” It literally leaps into the air in cheer.

“Eh? You know Japanese?”

「確かに。モルガンも?」

“What?”

“Oh, sorry. I had assumed Karina taught you Japanese since you are so close with one another. She helped me learn it, though as a robot I have a much easier time with language capacity.” Yeah, no, that would be highly overestimating my ability to care about stuff like learning languages.

“C’mon. Let’s get out of here so we can get back before dark.”

“Wait,” it says. “I have to tell Mr. O’Conner first.”

“Do we HAVE to………”

Unfortunately, it nods.

Because Kevin had previously locked the side door to prevent Mexicans from getting in or whatever, we have to leave the garage from the front, and go around to the front office from the outside.

When we get there, Kevin is currently sleeping at his desk. The news is still playing on the tiny TV behind him.

“Yo,” I call out.

He snaps awake, jolting to his feet at full attention and even saluting. When he realizes it’s me, he lowers his hand and sits back down. “Morgan,” he says. “You and the Asian girl done playing around?”

“Karina had to leave,” I say. “But AR73 and I want to go do some stuff.”

“‘Do some stuff…’ that sounds right suspicious,” he says. “You ain’t one of those robo-lovers, are you?”

“I– Huh? No. That’s gross.”

Kevin lets out a chuckle. “You’re so wound up. Get a sense of humor. Maybe you SHOULD try you a robot sometime. Loosen you up.”

“Can we not talk about this?”

AR73 interjects, saying, “Mr. O’Conner, Morgan and I would like to go fetch some supplies from the art store. I finished fixing up the muscle car you asked for, and I think I did a good job.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Kevin says. He looks at me again for a second. “Yeah, you can go to the art store. You want some money?”

“Well, I–”

“Tough britches, kid.” He laughs again.

“I have some money saved up from commissions,” it says. “Thank you anyway.” That last part was pretty biting considering he just denied his own robot some cash for its hobby. But what’s more of a surprise to me is that AR73 has received commissions. Who… is doing that…?

“Well then, what’re you waiting for? Hurry and get back so you can–” Kevin stops himself and points to my left hand. “What’s that you’re holding?”

“Huh? Oh, this?” I show the magazine I’ve been holding ever since I left the drug store. I’d forgotten I even had it by this point. “This is some new issue of The Rotten Peach.”

Kevin scoffs. “That rag. Of course you’d be reading something with that kind of bias.”

Is he MEANING to make personal insults disguised as jokes? Is he MEANING to make me want to sock him? “I bought this because there’s a big crossword puzzle, see?” I point to the glossy front cover advertising the alleged ultimate crossword puzzle. “There’s a mystery prize for whoever solves it all.”

“Ain’t gonna be a good prize. No prize from a progressive tabloid can be good. It’s gotta be all ‘politically correct’ and ‘diverse,’ so all you’ll get is some multicultural virtue points.”

“Hey, are you ready to go?” I ask AR73. It nods. “Sorry, nice meeting you, but we’ve got to run!”

To run as far and fast as possible.


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