Nervous Nelly News
Trent staggered through the living room in his bathrobe and slippers. Briefly, he looked for Bob, but all he could see of him were his long dreads hanging over the back of the sofa. When Trent saw what Bob was watching on the wallscreen, he looked away fast.
Bob loved to watch the fractal screen saver on the SyFy channel. Every channel had them. Whenever you turned off the wallscreen, it didn’t really turn off. They presented a screensaver instead. Usually it was a slideshow — nature pics or sailboats or whatever, but Bob preferred “Emerging Fractals.” Since the wallscreen presented the shifting, swirling, vivid patterns as a shallow hologram the effect was mind bending, and it gave Trent a headache.
In the kitchen, Trent dug into the pancakes and sausage Bob had laid out. From there, Trent could watch the wallscreen and he often did. For the thousandth time Trent reminded himself he could just tell Bob to turn the fractals off, but he didn’t believe in acting like that. If the service robot liked the fractals, then leave him be.
Trent finished his breakfast and joined Bob on the couch. “Let’s check out, BackTalk, Bob.”
The service robot didn’t even move. Among many other things, he was a two-legged remote control. The channel changed to BackTalk with Dave Carpenter.
“Isn’t it possible?” said Dave with his characteristic hand waving.
“It’s pure news sensationalism, Dave,” said his slender guest debater. “Screensavers cannot trigger erratic behaviors in service robots. That’s outrageous.”
“But you admit, the LifeShift circuits that give all Artificial Intelligences creative thinking and thus, their lifelike behavior, can be affected, right?”
“Well of course, but it won’t make them jump out a window!”
Dave turned towards the camera. “We’ll see about that after these messages.”
“Think that’s possible, Bob?” said Trent.
The service robot turned and looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
When Trent purchased Bob, he’d opted for the Mocha and Sand color scheme. Bob’s various body plates were artfully arranged with smooth curves and alternating colors. His faceplate was soft and mobile so he could mimic any human expression. Luckily, Trent had purchased a later model that featured head hair and eyebrows. After years of careful study, scientists realized people felt more comfortable when robots had eyebrows. A tiny addition meant robot sales went through the roof. People liked them better.
“Sounds supremely stupid to me,” said Bob, with a grimace. “These howling heads happen to hear something honed from heuristic hubris and here we have to hear it harrowing us hereafter.”
Trent gritted his teeth. “You’re doing it again, Bob.”
“That alliteration thing. It bugs me.”
“Oh, don’t you think it’s…”
Trent relaxed. Finally, Bob snapped out of it.”
“…petty to pontificate perpetually about piddling problems?”
“That’s it! I’m taking you to the shop.”
Actually, Bob drove. It was faster. But once again, Trent didn’t dare look. Most cars were driven by service robots anymore. Every robot communicated smoothly with the others, so every driver knew during each microsecond what the other planned to do. That meant the cars moved very fast and very close together. Last time Trent tried watching Bob’s driving, he nearly pissed himself in terror.
At the service shop the counter was actually manned by…a man. Trent said, “Would you check out Bob? He’s doing this weird alliteration thing.”
“Like, ‘five french friars fanning a fainted flea.'”
“Isn’t that a tongue-twister?
“Yeah, but it’s alliteration too. A straight-up tongue-twister is like, ‘Can you imagine a menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie?'”
“I can’t imagine that.”
Trent gritted his teeth. “It’s a tongue-twis…! An example? ‘Kay, would you take a look at Bob for me?”
“Sure, Lab #3 is available down the hall.”
Trent opened the door and saw a robot was already in there. “Sorry! I thought…”
“Please come in,” said the robot. “I’ll be examining Bob for you.”
After the robot connected Bob to the analysis system, Trent noticed the robot had been watching “Emerging Fractals” on the wallscreen. Trent said, “So is there anything to the news that service bots are affected by screensavers?”
The robot grimaced. “Don’t listen to that stuff. It’s sensationalist crap.”
Trent relaxed. This robot was clearly unaffected by screensavers. Trent scolded himself. Had he been blind? Hypnotized, mesmerized by blatant shock-news stories? “Thanks, Doc.”
“No problem,” grinned the robot. “Those Nervous Nellies in the news know nothing from nowhere that’s nearly newsworthy no-how!”
This week at Grammar Ghoul Press’ Mutant 750 writing challenge, it’s not just a word that is the prompt, but a writing construct. This week it’s, “Alliteration,” where most of the words in a sentence begin with the same consonant. The media prompt was Natalie Merchant’s “Carnival.” I chose to key on these lyrics, “Have I been blind…Hypnotized, Mesmerized.” Look here to see how other writers responded to the prompts: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-42/#more-1885