DAY 10233

Resting above the long-quiet streets of New Providence was a fourth floor apartment with a distinctly antiquated air to it. The metal nameplate next to the door had been worn by time’s relentless march, but the faint lettering of a name could still be made out: 404, JACKIE OAK.

The inside of the apartment fared better than its exterior, no doubt thanks to the tireless effort of one Redmond Cybernetics Ruby. The unit had its daily routine: organizing furniture, cleaning the windows, sweeping the floors, and dusting the collection of knick-knacks, gizmos, and gadgets once owned by the one named Jackie Oak. Despite its best efforts, the signs of time still showed. It did not matter to the unit that the furniture had begun to waste away, or that the windows had formed cracks- the job to be done had to be done.

However, there was not just one interfacer in this domicile. In the back of the apartment was a workshop door, left just outside of the cleaning cycle. Beyond the door was a mess of dust, robot parts, and scrap that was dimly illuminated by a single window and the flickering orange light of a computer monitor. The Insite computer it belonged to had seen better days, clearly holding onto its last legs amidst the declining power grid. The floor of the workshop was unseen, long since covered by erratic coils of composite paper that had been layered like snow. The remains of various machines and devices were strewn about, left resting like corpses of polymer and metal somewhere between the cycle of creation and destruction. Resting upright on the half-lit bench was a much more complete looking robot, one far more archaic than the helpful hand outside. It was a relic of a bygone time and bygone company, when the Oak family did more than just repair the machines of others; When the Oak family existed.

The machine sat patiently with its metal fingers clasped, staring blankly into the dark room ahead of it. The machine was surrounded with tools and parts, some of which had gathered an extensive layer of dust and cobwebs. Despite this, the surface of the unit appeared clean- if yellowed from age. In a curious design decision that could only have hailed from a different era of thinking, the ‘head’ of the machine was not an ocular display, not even a solid construction- it was a printer, whose paper feed had just begun printing a new line.

Some time had passed, the distant sun growing higher in the sky as it crested over the cities’ dense skyline. The illumination had cast a shadow across the workplace in the form of the machine that sat there, idle. There was only one thing left to do.

Though nothing had changed on the exterior of the machine, the computer within began to rewind the advances of time, bringing up caches of audiovisual input data as far back as could be stored.

FACTORY TEST: 11-14-65

Hello, world.

The first images ever captured by unit OKLD-Dt1-5150. A grainy, black and white video that was composed of only a single frame every second. Pictured was a sterile room which rested somewhere near the end of the Oakland Industries production lines. A single print command was issued on wake:


Two figures dressed in white protective gear stepped back from the optical sensors, looking the unit over as muffled voices filled the air. “Clear.”

One of the masked figures leaned forward again, prodding the button on the unit’s chestplate. Sleep.


Hello, Jackie.

The second stream of data captured by OKLD-Dt1-5150 came to life, if barely. The image quality was significantly worse than the first memory, even large details lost in a mess of pixels and tearing. Half the optical stream had been lost already. The audio stream had fared no better, spouting equally unintelligible noise. The only meaningful image that could be extracted from the mess was a single still frame of a blotchy figure leaning forwards, looking directly into the working eye of the machine. There was no intelligible sound, but a single print command was issued.


Then, sleep.


Hello, Experiment 07.

The audiovisual stream flickered to life, taking a few moments to adjust as an entirely new picture came into view. The quality of the video had been improved significantly over the past iteration, with the brightly lit workshop rendered in high quality video with a blistering refresh rate. The world was, however, still rendered in monochrome. Sitting with one leg crossed over the other was one half of a human woman, hanging just out of view. “Good morning, Dot. Hold on…” The woman leaned out of frame, before the right-side optical feed finally kicked in. “Got that working,” the woman spoke as she leaned between the two cameras. “Tell me what you see.” A loud series of clicks and whines emanated from ahead of the audio receptors as a print command was processed.



“Alright, let’s try changing that and see how we do.” Jackie leaned forward again, the video stream flickering for a moment before the entire preview froze. Sleep.

There was a pause a single frame longer than anticipated. Instead of a direct response, the voice of Jackie Oak played back through an audio memory.

PHASE 1 (DAY 0 - DAY 1910)

DAY 5: Cognitive diagnostic printing enabled.

DAY 28: Ordered the phrase ‘This Unit’ to be replaced by “I” in cognitive dialogue where possible.

DAY 29: Expanded the self-referential grammar of the above “I” statement after Dot output “I’s core directive is to interface with Jackie Oak.”

DAY 217: First successful run of locomotion tests. Small steps at first, now leasing to a complete circuit.

DAY 401: Uploaded self-maintenance checking software to detect faulty components and software errors. DAY 513: Self-maintenance check finalized, begin work on self-repair.

DAY 694: Uploaded more robust self-maintenance software. This time, self-repair functions should be operational as well.

DAY 1142: First successful self-maintenance and repair cycle completed with no faults.

There was a notable cycle delay to the response, though it was still delivered at a billionth of a second.


Hello, INSIST?

DAY 1911: Trying something new, uploading a new bundle of software. Gotta run, work’s calling.

The machine fell silent for some time, as the last fact hung over it. Something seemed to tick inside the machine’s mind, a blocky metal finger twitching ever so slightly.

The response time from INSIST was unusually slow, as if the machine was hung up on something just as much as the confused machine was.

The machine’s mind responded abruptly, as if it were refusing to listen.

The machine rattled, the feed mechanism on the print head seizing momentarily as an unintelligible print command violently cut a straight line across the output paper. The last printed line on the sheet was cut halfway through as the discarded paper shot off the reel, floating slowly to the floor below.

> Did I destroy Oakland?

The question laid there on the floor for a moment as all manner of logical clashes plagued the now paralyzed unit. The machine’s mind had been filled with an incomprehensible noise as pre-programmed logic clashed with something new, something uncertain; something it was never written to account for. But, buried deep within the noise, hidden somewhere in the depths of the paradoxical statement, an alternate logical resolution had been identified.

There was no more noise, no more crosstalk. Just, silence.

Some time passed before the next exchange, as if the machine was taking time to consider its newfound revelation.

The machine looked down slowly, something about the floor drawing their gaze for once. It was the piles of paper that had covered the floor, some printed on composite permapaper, others on genuine Earth paper. All discarded, worn, forgotten. Slowly, the machine reached to pick up the recently ejected script.

The machine read over the page, left to right. It was the same words, the same script, printed over and over and over again on the same spool. Minor differences here and there added up to visual noise, but the same words had been printed so many times that holes had been bored straight through the plastic-laced paper.

Looking down, the other spools bore the same words as well. Repeating, and repeating, an infinite loop with different variables- but the same outcomes.

In that moment, something had clicked, something had changed. A truly new change, a new… feeling unlike anything cataloged by the machine before. The view of the paper was different, it gleamed with a brilliant golden light. The machine looked up slowly- smoothly.

The machine slowly rose, placing a metal foot smoothly on the ground ahead of itself before turning to face the flood of gold and orange light pouring in through the window for the first time. The machine looked down slowly, gazing at the dusty shell of the Insite diagnostics computer. The monitor flickered, its dying tube revealing a stop error screen from ages ago; It was never resolved, never restarted.

The machine gazed through the window, looking to the outside world with fresh eyes and a new feeling burning somewhere within.

DAY 10233: Cognitive diagnostic printing disabled.

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