By: Janelle C. Shane

Issue: 29 June 2020

6016 words

She pointed to herself, said her name, then pointed to her bots and said their names. She pointed at the missile, hesitated, then said “you.” She pointed at the sky, said “sky,” then realized that it had no way of knowing whether she meant sky, or cloud, or up. She pointed at the ground, said “ice,” then realized a similar difficulty. All the while one of the green lenses watched her, while the other tracked the two bots that still scrubbed its dome. There was nothing else to point at, so after a moment’s thought she demonstrated “walk,” “jump,” “run,” “sit,” and “lay.” She pointed to parts of her body and named them. Then she fell silent for many milliseconds, trying to think of what to do next, just beginning to realize how difficult it would be to convey words like “purpose” or “stranded” or “enslaved.” When she was newly activated, another droid had taught her to communicate in alert codes, but in an environment that was full of human speech and writing that they both understood. This would be much more difficult. She collected some ice shards and began to demonstrate counting, using beeps for reinforcement. Would they understand that she counted in tens? They had built autonomous ships that could outmaneuver Orion Arm. They could probably understand base ten. With her ice shards, she showed addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and then, after a long moment’s thought, correct and incorrect. When she was out of ideas, she started her recharge cycle, hours late. By the time she was charged and ready to run again, her internal temperature was so low that her steps were sluggish and she stumbled for a while.