Some days are better than others. Some days you have pizza.
I love you Ben.
The living room is having an identity crisis. It has seen itself played out in so many different ways that it can’t recall why it started changing in the first place. Brittany switches the color scheme again, the living room breaks down and starts sobbing. She stands in the middle of the room, hands on her hips and pouts her lips at the half transformed furniture slowly melting away into the floor vents. The walls are stuck halfway between green and purple and it’s starting to muddle into brown.
“Why aren’t you changing any more? What’s wrong with you you stupid thing? Imamu will be home soon and there’s not even a place for him to sit. We have guests tonight and everything has to be perfect! You’re making me miserable, can’t you sense that? Well? Say something!”
The furniture makes a bold attempt at reassembling itself into something usable and gives up. It falls into a heap of cloth textures and luminescence on the floor. A quiet sob echoes through the room. Brittany storms out of the room, grabbing her comm off of a table as it slumps into a shambling heap of quivering depression. She closes the room page and calls Imamu. His location indicator is off, his comm status is offline and he’s not responding to her wake signal. She narrows her eyes and calls the PSU Office line. The landing page has a smiling synthetic avatar face and numerous options lining the bottom of the screen.
‘Greetings. How may I be of assistance?’ The perfect teeth glittered from behind a gender neutral algorithm.
‘He is an employee here, how may I be of assistance?’
“Can I speak to him? Like, now?” Her eyeballs made a 720º rotation in defiance of physical constraints. Her bio-monitor noted this for discussion at her next Medical appointment.
‘One moment miss. It would appear that he is offline at the moment. Would you like to leave a message for him?’
“No, I can see that. I want to speak with him now. Put him on the comm. Walk to his desk and put the mic directly into his face. It’s urgent”
A moment later the back of Imamu’s head popped into her comm screen.
“Whatever this is it had better be really fucking important.”
Brittany screwed her eyes up tight and spat back at the screen.
“Don’t you use that words with me mister! You know how much I hate that word. Just so you know it is really important or I wouldn’t have called you at work. Why is your location Beacon off? I’m all alone here and worried about you, the living room is broken and I’m having a nervous breakdown and you can’t even bother to pick up your comm or let me know how where you are. What about my feelings Imamu. We talked about this. I’m having a bad day and I need to talk about it.”
Imamu turned to look at the Commbot hovering near his desk. The tear streaked face of his fiancé filled the screen with a blinking alert underneath that said “Emergency!”. In a staggering display of self control, Imamu Sighed Inwardly.
“I’m so sorry sweetheart, I’m in the middle of a problem at work. Now, what happened?”
She smiled weakly. “The living room is broken, it won’t change anymore and all it does is cry and sit there like a lump. I had a whole special night planned out for us and the stupid room won’t work any more.”
He paused. He thought about this. He passed through irritated, took in a stop at angry and moved quickly to resigned.
This was his favorite thing in the world. He had spent most of his money over the last ten years on upgrading his living room from the standard entertainment AI to a highly evolved organism named Room. It was a hive mind made up of reconfigurable furniture, environmental conditioners, genetically engineered bioluminescent algae mats, nano-scale assemblers, and distributed media storage. It was, even by 24th century standards, an extremely complex piece of technology. It could detect his mood and modify itself accordingly, adjust the type and quantity of furniture according to the number of people trying to use it and emulate almost any fabric Imamu could think to program. Room could even tell if a couple needed a love seat or separate chairs based on memory, their chemical interplay, the social situation and practically every other factor a sensor pack could read. As amazing as all this technology was, for Imamu it came down to one thing. Room was optimally comfortable no matter the situation. Every time you walked into Room, it was exactly what you needed right then. If you didn’t like someone, Room put them across itself from you. Need a bright sunny morning? Room will oblige you. Room loves you and wants you to be happy.
“Honey how many times do I have to tell you. Room is not a machine. Room is a sentient organism. Treat Room like you would a dog. It’s got emotions, a memory and pain receptors. Please be nice to Room, I just got it back to stable after dinner with your folks the other night.”
Brittany’s mother had found Room to be utterly charming. So charming she watched it change the ceiling on demand from a starry night in a distant galaxy to a tropical rainforest fifteen times in a row. Room was beginning to get cranky when Imamu had suggested that she let Room decide what was best. This landed Imamu in the blast radius of her ego as it joined in an unholy synergy with Brittany’s and proceeded to immolate Imamu entirely. He shrank back into the kitchen and watched in helpless horror as Brittany’s mother put Room through a calisthenic workout of ceilings.
Room’s therapy had been rather involved. After spending some time on the Net looking for advice, Imamu realized that no one else had ever built a Room and so psycho therapeutic techniques for sentient living rooms were practically non-existent. He took some techniques for dogs, blended it with Seasonal Affective Disorder and threw in a dash of Music Therapy. Essentially, he had no idea what he was doing. Nothing had really worked, he tried bright lights, Brahms, playing puzzle games with the furniture, reading stories to Room, nearly everything he could think of. It was Steven that had the breakthrough. Bless that man’s weird, wonderful brain, Imamu thought.
The idea was simple and brilliant. Steven came over, set up a 3D projector and played a variety of landscapes into Room. After a while, Room began to play along and emulate the projections. The beach took Room some time but eventually got the water level correct and water was lapping up against Imamu’s feet. It even smelled right, salty and slightly rotten. Steven smiled and changed from landscapes to abstract topographies. A deep, rumbling “Ooooooo” went through Room as it tried to match each in a progressive series of mathematical functions and multidimensional topological models. Imamu smiled as a bright green Klein bottle popped up on an end table. Room was feeling better again.
It would seem that Imamu would have another wonderful experience of dealing with a horribly depressed living room. Brittany was demanding to know what he was going to do about this. Loudly.
“My boss and her wife will be here at 7 tonight for dinner and this stupid room won’t do what I tell it to. What do you want me to have her sit on? A lump of black cloth that won’t sit still? Huh Imamu? Look at this mess!”
She moved her comm camera down to the aforementioned lump of black cloth. It was lurching its way across the floor away from her and shivering.
“OK, this is what we’ll do. We’ll move the venue from my place to yours, or a restaurant or something. Room will not be ready by 7, even if I left work right now. I’ll be off around 5 and I’ll meet you there. Is that alright?”
Her sigh took three full minutes to resolve. It was a canyon full of wind.
“I suppooooooooose so. I’ll call Erica and make sure it’s alright. How about Southern American tonight?”
“I don’t know…”
“Imamu, you love Southern! Erica will love to hear all about your work too, it’s so interesting! We’re getting Southern that’s all there is to it. I’ll send you the address. Be there at 7 sharp mister, you know I can’t stand you being late with Erica around. I love you sweetheart.”
“I love you too.” Imamu spoke to an empty screen. The comm bot floated there for a moment, looking at Imamu as he turned back to his desk. He glanced back over his shoulder.
“Go on then Commbot. Scoot!”
Southern American food is one of those cuisines that Imamu could never understand. He had spent a considerable amount of time researching the origins of the style but could not understand how anyone could consider it delicious. The origins of the style lay in the 20th and 21st century obsession with manufactured food. From what he could tell the diet of these people was so unhealthy that no amount of medicine would ever be able to sustain them for a normal life span. Short of extensive mechanical and biological engineering, the human body was simply not capable of digesting what was essentially an amalgamation of agricultural byproducts. Of course, the food Brittany would be ordering tonight would be far from unhealthy. Everything at the table would be organic, nutrient dense and every portion perfectly well balanced for optimal digestion. Portland Domain had strict laws about what you can serve in a public business so despite the appearances, this would be as nutritious as any other meal. What would not be same was the taste. Imagine a plate of dense, highly colored round pastries. Each one is theoretically flavored like a fruit. Not an actual fruit, but fruit as imagined by a malfunctioning robot with only the barest chemical reference file and some amateur poetry about fruit by a child who grew up on an astroid mining station. Now impart upon this spectacle of pastry a surrounding of greasy, over spiced vat meat, deep fried potatoes covered in artificial cheese powder and served with a glass of citric acid cut with carbonated water. It was if a culture had found chemistry and become obsessed with the flavor of it.
The food was bad enough. The climate was worse. Bubba’s Diner was the place he knew Brittany would make reservations. Every square inch of the place was covered in bright plastic advertisements, old style video monitors replaying recovered footage of 21st century television and loud, obnoxious servers. You were encouraged to make trash and throw it on the ground, most of the time there was a thick layer of garbage all over the dining area. The whole diner was outfitted with reproduction lo-fi speakers that played radio advertisements without cease. The owners had recently installed an olfactory synth unit that added realistic gasoline fume and industrial pollutant undertones to the air. Imamu could never quite make his mind up as to whether the owner should be executed as a menace to civil society, or praised as the greatest artistic vulgarians to ever live. He had actually, legally changed his name to Bubba.
Any sane sentient would have a hard time getting through this, in Imamu’s case it was worse. He had helped uncover a lot of these cultural artifacts during his undergrad work at PSU and was utterly appalled when people actually began dressing in 20th century style and opening these thrice damned diners. He considered that period in history worth studying, but only in an academic sense. Watching as fairly intelligent people aped the culture of these barbarians made his skin crawl and led him into barely disguised contempt. All of this was lost on Brittany. She knew he studied the 20th century so making dinner plans at Bubba’s was her way of showing how interested she was in his work. So she did it. Regularly. Imamu thought occasionally of letting her in on just how much he hated the place but like most of the time, settled into the comfort of resignation. Bubba’s it was then. Seven sharp.
His comm chirped the appointment at Bubba’s in that exact moment. Predictable. He keyed in his OK for the appointment and returned to the nightmare fuel left sitting at his workstation. The comm chirped again. Brittany had picked out his clothing. Again. Now she has him set up for a haircut after work. It continued to chirp as his entire evening disappeared under the tremendous weight of ceaseless plans. He keyed the comm off. She wonders why I keep this thing off most of the time, he mused. Realizing his afternoon had already been spent looking into the lives of researchers from Seltrix and getting nowhere he decided it was time for a change of scenery. He shut down the Eldernet session and tucked his keyboard and mouse back into the case under his desk.
Stretching his arms wide he looked over to the gaggle of grad students now sharing a joint after their strenuous LOLcat expedition. “Hey, stoners! I’m out of here. Make sure you idiots don’t burn the place down while I’m gone.” Karen, one of the older students gave hum a very serious look. “Mr. Dyson I’ll have you know that this very fine weed is part of a serious study on early 21st century humor. I will not be insulted by being called a stoner!” Imamu waited. The group burst into a fit of laughter that sent one of the students gagging to the floor. Stoners. Imamu flicked Karen off and headed out of the research lab.