Defining a Date
“Is this a date?”
Mem and the nameless cyborg, who’d decided to go by John with her for lack of any better options and a taciturn unwillingness to explain his situation to her currently, blinked. It looked superficially like a date, sure, with the two of them talking over vegan sandwiches and skin-on fried potatoes, but they hadn’t gotten together at 6 o’ clock sharp, her in a cocktail dress and him in a nice vest, and gone somewhere fancy. That’s what he normally imagined dates to be, since he couldn’t remember ever going on one himself.
Well, on this subject, he had no reason to be dishonest. He just shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“That’s what I’m thinking!” Mem told him. “It would be very unusual to pick up your date from a hospital, wouldn’t it? I did suggest that we get lunch when I led you back to Moss Bay, once they treated your wounds, but it still seems very unconventional!”
“Mem,” he said, lowering his voice so he didn’t sound too gruff or harsh, “the fact that you eat is unconventional.”
At times the nameless cyborg had written down a note here or a note there, at work, about staff that were arguing over whether it was unethical to deprive a robot of “olfactory devices”, so he knew to stay out of their way in the future, and that told him that the idea of letting robots do even simple, fun things was controversial. But the robot sitting across from him now smiled placidly, as if she’d gotten used to all of it.
“Yes, I understand that,” Mem said, “and the fact that I have already finished is also unconventional! The human esophagus is less fast and efficient than the method I use.”
The nameless cyborg leaned over the table to squint at Mem’s empty plate.
“Well alright then. I’m about full, but I figured I’d wait for you to finish. So much for that,” he said, before laughing dryly.
Mem, in immediate and stark response, played back a soundbite of mirthful laughter -- she hadn’t calibrated her own advanced vocalizations recently, and didn’t want to risk sounding out of tune.
“We may not have been able to determine whether this is a date, but I believe that by making specific choices, we will be able to definitely categorize what we are doing!”
The cyborg flicked his head and took his last bite of his half-finished salad. “Go on.”
Mem began to explain. “If we part ways now, then what we have done here would most likely be taking lunch together and nothing else. However, if we were to move on to another activity, such as watching a movie or visiting the park, then using the ‘reasonable person’ standard, we could more easily categorize our time spent together as a date!"
The nameless cyborg nodded along, then stopped to think about what she’d offered.
It took him barely a moment to realize that he’d spent the entire time watching the miracle of a robot eating a burger, when he could have been learning things. Asking about what she wanted, what she came for. If there was anything to help him in his present condition.
Maybe he was being quiet. Maybe, he thought as he looked at her plastic smile, he was still doing it, and really ought to stop.
Composing himself, the man said, “I’d like to go for a walk in the park, if that’s alright. I’d like to get to know you a little better.”
“Of course! As I stated, the park is one of the most optimal choices for where to go next if we would like to define this meeting as a date.” Mem stood up with only a small portion of the stiffness one would expect from a body of silicon and steel, still smiling.
It seemed to him that Mem’s focus on the idea that this was a date was a matter of simple curiosity, of experimentation with the boundaries humans created and the meaning they placed into words. It was, in other words, not what he was thinking about at all.
To him, the fact of the matter was that this girl probably didn’t appear from the sky. And if, as she’s told him before, he had lost his memories just after they’d met, then it was probably going to happen again. And that’d mean forgetting about her -- wasting an opportunity to get to know someone, even if that someone was a corporate experiment on the loose. Someone who could help him.
The nameless cyborg stood up and tossed his coat over his arms. “Let’s go.”
As they approached the park, Mem told the nameless cyborg about the history and purpose of the park. He was fine with this; on his own, he would never guessed that its tight confines were because there was already plenty of greenery around when it was built, and the people in the town, sharing all of their space with demons, agreed to keep their ferris wheel and their merry-go-round to themselves.
He might have had a better chance of guessing that the petting zoo was a project that demons contributed to: that many of the naturally-minded deities and creatures of the dark were happy for the humans of Moss Bay to take in animals, as long as they were treated well.
The pair stopped in front of a path lined on either side by tweedy, yellowing grass. On one of its sides was a chain-link fence, past which the grass suddenly turned vibrantly green, healthy strands swaying in the breeze side-by-side with length that indicated they were not mowed, but simply tended.
Trying to be a bit more adventurous, or at least less taciturn, the nameless cyborg poked a finger through the fence to point at a tree in the distance. “Are those squirrels?”
The edges of Mem’s eyes rotated, black plastic swirling against black-backed glass, and then her red pupils inched forward. “Yes, they are. They’re a species that’s originally native to this region, as opposed to other species brought from islands further south or from across the sea to the north!”
He didn’t want to come off as too accusatory in prompting her about what she’d just revealed, so the nameless cyborg stayed topical. “You know a lot about squirrels for a heavily-armed scouting robot. Does that have a purpose?”
“Yes, in fact,” Mem told him. “I was given information about the habits of many different species to avoid disturbing them in my work. Agitating wildlife is considered unethical in some cases and an unnecessary risk in others. Spooking a flock of birds could alert a person to my arrival, and damaging a bear den could cause them to migrate towards poorly-defended suburban areas!”
At times he was surprised at how readily she volunteered information, something he really hadn’t done to anyone -- sure, he couldn’t remember to say for sure that he’d never gotten drunk and spilled his day to someone at a bar, but he felt pretty confident in thinking that’s not something he’d ever do.
But maybe he should start. If she kept this much in mind, she could probably remember a few things about him, too.
“Would you be willing to help with my condition?”
Mem stared blankly for a few cycles. “Hmm!” After a few ticks, she looked directly at the nameless cyborg. “What do you propose?”
“I… well, if you could record things…”
He reached into his jacket, “I have this journal, I’ve been writing down a few notes here and there between wipes, but you see,” he flipped to a random place in the journal. Torn pages and water stains made any scribbles on the page impossible to decipher. “This only works so well.”
“Hmm!” Mem responded, in the exact same tone of voice, volume, and intonation as the first hmm. “That is an interesting proposal! Are you a sufficiently interesting person to warrant that level of high level treatment?”
With a stammer, the cyborg mumbled, “well, no, not really. I don’t think I lead an interesting life.”
Mem’s shoulders raised, head tilted. “I suppose you wouldn’t think that! But I disagree.”
“ACCESS DENIED.” came the reply from Mem. She recomposed herself, cupping her hands together in front of her waist. “What I mean is, I don’t think I can tell you why. But I would certainly not mind being your scribe and or travel companion for future endeavors.”
A little confused, the cyborg took a moment to watch the night sky and the unusually clear view of the stars in the distance. “I– what I would like to say is– I appreciate that, thank you.”
“Thank you, good sir.” Mem’s eyelids closed, her smile shone brightly. It seemed that the android had taken a liking to him, whatever he was.
And, hell. He had no chance of asking anyone in the world to do this. If he was going to be adventurous, he might as well be REALLY adventurous.
“And… would you mind being my girlfriend, too?"
“I would certainly not mind being a travel assistant, long term companion, last resort assassin, and a reinforced surface to rest your weary head on. However, I must warn you. Improper behavior will be met with swift disembowelment, per protocol.”
The cyborg let out an uneven sigh. “I think that’s more than I could ask for. Thank you, Mem.”
“Anytime!” Mem beamed, and shuffled over just a little closer to the cyborg’s coat.
Wiping sweat off his brow, the cyborg’s thoughts raced for what to do next. “So… how would you record, uh, share recordings with me?”
“Oh, that’s quite simple. I can tap your cerebral cortex interface. The company’s logging is quite easy for Kronos-class machinery to interpret, when it isn’t content protected.”
“Interesting. Some logging isn’t protected?” It’s possible that the cyborg was once told this, but most memories of acquiring his interfaces had been lost, appropriately.
“Yes, it’s quite convenient. Only the business-class memories are content protected.”
“Who…” the cyborg trailed off. It was best not to ask questions about who would be making calls of this nature, unless he wanted everything leading up to the moment to be destroyed with it. “Nevermind, alright. Where would you like us to go next?”
“I would like to see your room again, so that I may give it a good cleaning. Especially if I am to be taking up residence in a corner of it.”
“Makes sense.” The cyborg quickly got out a hot needle, pulled out of a nail gun cartridge, to write a note on his inner right arm. “Just… give me a few minutes, I need to make sure I have something I can’t misplace to capture all this.”
“Understood! I shall wait patiently.” Mem’s red eyes dimmed as her shoulders fell limp, still standing upright. A light snoring sound could be heard from the girl’s head.