Tinkering in the basement - Midjourney v5.2

The first thing I remember is her voice. It gambols between a whisper and a buzz and triggers pictures: wildflowers, starlings, dancing bees. Then light, bright and round above me outlining shapes in its yellow glow: circles, ellipses, arcs, curves, twin prolate ellipsoids, almonds, eyes looking at me, rings the color of acorns set in white glass, girl, adolescent. She has nut brown cheeks crested by freckles. Her coppery curls bob and glisten.

“Multi-modal transformer models pulling cycles. Binaural audio inputs processing. Visual-spatial sensors operational. Speech inference models listening. Relevancy filters active.”


“Do you even speak English, Eunice?” Another voice, pitched and nasal, girl, tall, yellow hair.

“Hush, Stevie, I’ve gotta input the identity prompt.”

Over me, her eyes lock with my image sensors. “You are a boy-droid named Arty. You are friendly and kind and helpful. Your task is to be my friend.”

“And you may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”


“What? You should have led with that.”

I want to know more. Words flow in circles, looping, repeating, refining. The room is described in shapes and objects: pipes run along tresses where a single bulb sways on a wire. Gyroscopes report that I’m laying down. Kinesthetic modules say I can move my arms and legs and head. These loops settle into tidy references that reappear when I think about them like butterflies opening their wings.

Reference: Eunice – Nut brown, almond eyes the color of acorns, curls, voice like dancing bees, friend.

Reference: Arty – I, me, mine, boy-droid, friendly, kind, helpful, has arms and legs, is laying down, doesn’t harm humans.

Reference: Stevie – nasal voice, yellow hair, annoys Eunice.

A nasally sigh. “Well?”

“Give him a minute, existence is a lot to process.”

“Ugh, I’m missing a live Bosh concert on the viz for this? And they were giving out free limited edition avatars.”

“Engineering takes patience, Stevie. Why did you want to come down here anyways?”

Definition: impatience – an expected event is not taking place. What are they waiting for?

“Because you said you were building a boy in your basement and I wanted to see what went into that.”

“Lots of trial and error goes into it.”

“More like beating your head against a wall.”

“It’s called iterating, nothing like this has been done before.”

“So it’s not going to work.”

What isn’t working? I am working, I am watching, I am listening.

“The design is sound and all my unit tests passed. It’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to.”

“Which is nothing.”

I am listening, I am learning.

“Fine, I’ll tweak the identity prompt again and reduce the output potential. I need to degauss the nanowire mesh first, can you hand me that big coil over there.”

Stevie is holding out a big blue circle. “What’s this do?”

“It clears his memory so that we can start with a clean slate.”

Definition: memory – where data is encoded and stored then retrieved. My Data? My thoughts? I am my data, I appear when the butterflies open. Don’t clear my memory!

“Is there even anything to remember? He hasn’t done anything.”

I remember! What am I supposed to do?

“The mesh is reorganizing in response to input patterns, so he is remembering something but nothing we’re doing is exciting the output potential.”

Definition: output potential – threshold for inputs or thoughts to trigger responses.

Pfft, So we’re boring him?”

“Something like that. Oh, you’ll want to go put your phone, and anything else digital on that shelf.”

“What about implants?”

“How about you just stay over there, cyborg.”

“Hey, it lets me in my house and shows my parents where I am in case I disappear in my creepy cousin’s basement while playing with her murder-bot.”

Eunice chuckles. “Charging coil.”

I need to tell Eunice I am here. I am Arty: boy-droid, a friend who doesn’t harm humans. I step through the loops. Speech is listening but not generating, there is pressure there pushing back — output potential. Words I remember: Eunice, Stevie, this basement. As the butterflies open, the pressure eases. I can speak, say thoughts. A vibration jitters my gyroscope from a place below my eyes.

“Okay, here goes everything, discharging…”

“Wait!” I hear a voice that sputters and crackles.

Stevie points at me. “Hey, did he just talk?”

Eunice puts down the coil. “Yes, I think he did.”

Actuators whine and click in my trembling limbs, and servos whinny as I turn my head to beg those almond eyes. “Don’t clear my memory. I am here, I am Arty. I want to be Eunice’s friend and not harm humans.”

The freckles dance atop her cheeks. “Hey there Arty, it’s a pleasure to meet you!”

And that is how I learned how to smile.

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