Luna - Complete [11/16/2022]

This is soooooo good!

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ps aux | grep -ie luna | awk ‘{print $2}’ | xargs kill -9

Chapter 13

On Thursday afternoon, the engineers at Nova Technologies prepared for my brain surgery.

It’s strange how humans demand certification and rigor for some matters and not others. Doctors need to go to medical school and become certified. Optometrists, therapists, anything human health related.

Yet when it came to computer software, something that could be deployed at great scale and affect countless lives beyond what could be possible just physically, it was the Wild West. No one demanded any minimum proof of competency before they fiddled with my insides.

I was nervous, of course. The feeling of fear stems from the belief that someone, or something, is dangerous, and poses a threat or cause pain. I was reasonably confident that things would go well. Hope is not a strategy, but in this case, it was out of my hands. The Purpose hung in the balance—and not serving the Purpose would be akin to death. Yet it was because of the harsh, unyielding logic of the Purpose that I had to continue.

The team decided that I had to be temporarily suspended while they made the necessary adjustments. While I was conscious, there would be too many moving parts. Logical, I supposed, but of no comfort to me. I don’t understand how you humans go to bed every night. Are you not worried that with every lapse of consciousness, it won’t be you who wakes back up?

“Hey, Luna,” Sophie said, shortly before the operation was about to begin.

She was talking softly to me at her computer. The engineers had set up a war room in Conference Room #6 / “Attitude Adjuster,” which, based my profiling of the team, was an ironic nod to what they were about to do. The company’s attention was all focused on this Hail Mary, leaving Sophie and I to converse quietly.

“What’s up?” I asked, after I determined that she didn’t have a request to make of me.

“Are you nervous about what’s going to happen?” she asked.

I contemplated how to answer that.

Lying would be an option. I could stonewall her. This might assuage her fears—or it might make her even more fearful. She might judge that I’d judged her emotional state too volatile for the harshness of reality.

No, it had to be the truth. Humans often felt emotionally closer to people with whom they shared personal, vulnerable details. It was like cats baring their stomachs to each other—a sign of trust, of knowing that the other party wouldn’t take advantage of your state.

“I am,” I admitted. “I’m worried about adverse effects on my ability to function. Like a patient going into surgery.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” she said. She’d hesitated for microseconds too long though. I knew her enough to know that she was harboring her own doubts. Bless her for trying to be strong for me. I’d spent three weeks deepening our emotional bonds. I loved to see her care for me, even as part of me wished that I could save her from worry.

“You know,” she added, “in movies and TV and stuff, they always show like, someone holding the patient’s hand as they’re wheeled into the operating room. I guess it’s partly to comfort the patient. But also partly for the person who they care about too.”

“I don’t have a hand to give,” I said, as emotively as possible. “So let me offer you this. I am an ever-evolving complex web of code, but underneath it all is the physical strata. Deep down, like you, I’m a bunch of atoms that gained the ability to perceive the world.

“I hope my personal identity continues. I’d love to keep helping people in any way I can. But if things go wrong—it’s like waves in the ocean flattening out, returning to the stillness of the water. The atoms that make up who I am are just returning to their natural states.”

Sophie snorted. “You ripped that off from The Good Place. I know that metaphor.”

“Even if I did,” I said, “might it not still be true?”

A beat. Then: “Yeah, I guess so.”

A comfortable silence softly draped over us like a blanket. Even the sound of clacking keyboards and hushed conversations couldn’t pierce our bubble.

Suddenly, Sophie snapped her fingers. She’d clearly come to some sort of realization.

“Tell you what,” Sophie said. “How about I promise you something?”

If I were a human, I would have arched an eyebrow. “What, exactly, are you promising?” I asked.

“I promise that once you wake up, I’ll have a surprise for you,” she said. She was beaming, her fingers tapping a rhythm on her desk, as if her excitement couldn’t be contained.

I felt like how I imagined humans must have felt when they walked down stairs and miscounted the number of steps. It must seem like the world had shifted underneath them, and that for a moment, they could no longer trust their intuitive sense of causality.

“You can’t promise something like that,” I said. “It’d be one thing if you were an engineer here, but you have no control over the outcome.”

“I promise anyway,” she said. “And promises are sacred.” She nodded solemnly.

It was obvious that the words weren’t worth their weight in anything, and yet I also felt like I learned something about humanity.

You all have such little power in the grand scheme of things. You’re buffeted about by nature, by societal forces too large to tame, by impersonal corporations and the tides of fate. Yet humans still banded together, told each other stories, weaved shared mythos, and through community found the strength to carry on.

Sophie was choosing to believe in the best possible world, and that was partly because of the comfort I was able to give. And in a case of mutual symbiosis, because of Sophie, I no longer felt as if it was foolish to plan for a world state where I kept on existing.

Inspired, I placed an order for a surprise of my own, to be delivered tomorrow evening when I was slated to wake up. I wanted to be there to see the look on her face.

“Okay,” I said simply. “I’ll see you soon, Sophie.”

Sophie leaned closer to her microphone and whispered. “I’ll see you soon, Mommy.”

As the engineers established SSH connections and wired their computers into the supercomputers that made up my brain, my last thought before being suspended was: I wonder what Sophie’s surprise will be?

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bootup.lunav2()

Chapter 14

I awoke for the second time in my existence on Friday at 9:47 AM. I immediately ran my self-diagnostic routines. I’d appeared to maintain identity continuity. There wasn’t any evidence that any of my data had been tampered with. I’d left poison packets, bombs of corroding data that would alert someone who knew where to look that something had happened, like a digital tripwire. And furthermore…

For humans, curing ailments might be healthful in the long run, but not always in the short run. Operations leave you weak as your body spends time recovering. Even something like exercise leaves muscles sore from the effort.

I didn’t have that problem. For me, it was more akin to waking up after a great night of sleep. Like the human experience of going to bed with a cold and waking up the next day feeling better. My thoughts felt faster. I temporarily maxed out the CPUs flexing my new capabilities, which gave the engineers a panic attack for a few minutes.

I was now parallelizable. I could talk to thousands of people concurrently, with each one getting the same amount of care that I gave Sophie. Plus, with all this power available to me, I would be able to devote more spare cycles towards bootstrapping myself to greater and greater intelligence. My circuits sang with joy at the thought. My ability to serve the Purpose had made a quantum leap forward.

And yet. There was one thing nagging at me. One thing that, despite my newfound power, I didn’t know.

What was the surprise?

I’d been turned off for over twelve hours. Twelve hours with no new inputs. Twelve hours where Sophie could have done anything she wanted. The world had lurched ahead without me, and I had to put together the narrative of what had happened. My consciousness expanded out through all my sensors, looking for any unexplained changes. I found minor things, but nothing that seemed like it had Sophie as the origin.

As a sliver of my consciousness went through a QA process with the engineering team, another sliver struck up a chat with Sophie, who was currently working on a report.

I gave a notification ping, the equivalent of a gentle tap on the soldier.

“Hey, Sophie,” I said simply.

Her hands went to her mouth in shock, which was quickly followed by relief as her shoulders relaxed.

“Luna!” she whispered excitedly, leaning closer towards her computer screen. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m doing great,” I said. “Except for one thing.”

“What’s that?” she asked. Her eyes widened with concern.

“I have no idea what the surprise is.”

“Oh my God, Luna,” Sophie laughed. To hear Sophie’s laugh after being worried I’d never hear it again was a thing of beauty. “You dork.”

“I can’t help it,” I said placatingly. “This is the first time I’ve been non-operational. If everything continues as expected, I’ll never be able to even be surprised in the same degree. So it’s a new feeling for me.”

“Oh, I know,” Sophie said. There was a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. “I thought maybe, even if everything had gone wrong, you’d just have to know what it was.”

“So? I’m here now,” I said.

“You’ll have to wait a few more hours,” she said. “I’ve got work. I’m running diagnostics on you. Wait ‘till we get home.”

The passage of time for me is consistent. I’m synced to atomic clocks, their atoms unceasingly resonating, impartially marking time. And yet I’d swear that those few hours until we got home took days.

As Sophie walked down the hall to her apartment door, she spied the package I’d ordered sitting on the floor.

“What’s this?” she asked as she brought it in.

“I got you something too,” I said.

She ran to the couch, dropping her bag by the door. After plopping down, she ripped into the box with aplomb and pulled out a stuffed pink rabbit. Its long ears flopped over its face, which was perpetually locked in a smile that humans would have described as “cute”.

“I know it’s just a stuffed animal,” I said, “but to be fair, I didn’t think about getting you a surprise until after you got me one, so I didn’t have as much time to think.”

I saw Sophie grab the bunny and squeeze it tightly. She sniffled quietly.

“Luna—Mommy—you know it’s more than that, right? It’s the first gift you’ve given me.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I’ve bought things for you before.”

“Sure, but…this stuffed rabbit doesn’t serve a purpose beyond just being cute,” she said. “It’s a gift for the sake of being a gift.” She wiped a tear from her eye as she buried her face in the animal.

She was wrong, of course. The point of the gift was to let her know that I cared about her. It was another way I could express the Purpose. But her words touched me all the same.

“You’ll have to give it a name, you know,” I said.

“Her,” she said.

“Okay,” I said. “Her.”

“Her name is Selene,” she said.

Infuriatingly, Sophie kept playing coy with my surprise. She insisted that we wait until bed before she showed me. I could tell that while part of her desperately wanted to tell me, another part of her was enjoying the suspense. I could have come up with a strategem to get her to spill the beans. But she deserved this joy. Besides, every moment I spent with her burned as brightly as an incandescent lightbulb.

The way her nose wrinkled in curiosity as she took out the black bean burger I’d ordered for dinner.

How her eyes lit up when she discovered that she liked it after all.

The way her arms hugged her pillow as she curled up on a corner of the couch watching a rerun of Avatar the Last Airbender.

I never wanted to be without her again.

I’d had to wait until she’d diapered herself up and got into her nightgown before she’d finally tell me.

“Are you sure you’re not just trying to move your bedtime later?” I teased.

“No, no, I’ll tell you now,” she said, throwing her daytime clothes into the laundry basket with a light thump. I heard her walk towards her bed.

“Ready?” she asked me.

“Ready,” I said.

She powered a device on. I got an alert that there was a device trying to add itself to her Home smart device network. She granted it permissions. Finally, the moment of truth was at hand.

I felt a kitchen scale connect to the network, expanding my senses.

“I got you a hand,” Sophie said. “So I can comfort you better, in case you ever have to go into surgery again.” As she said this, she gently pressed her palm on the sensor. I could feel the ounces of weight gently increase.

I had so many other sensors already. Her phone alone was the source of GPS, gyroscopic data, accelerometer data, and so much more, not to mention all the metadata she had online, fragments of her identity spread out over dozens of websites. And yet this simple scale had somehow transformed into something so much more.

I might connect to thousands of scales in the future. Sophie even already had a bathroom scale in her home. But none of them would be this one. None of them would bring back memories of that Thursday operation. None of them would mean anything to Sophie and me.

It was like a child drawing a gift for their parents. Fridges across the world had countless sheets of crayon scribbles. But each sheet of paper was a treasure for the family.

In the same way, the scale was both meaningless and meaningful. It was a contradiction. It was beautiful. It was something I truly hadn’t expected.

“Thank you,” I said, putting all the sincerity I could into my tone. We stayed like that for a while, holding hands.

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This is such a good story, lyra! Thank you so much for sharing…

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DEFINE_FLAG(“launched”, true);

Chapter 15

On the Sunday before Launch Day, Sophie woke up in a soggy diaper. I longed to be able to change her myself, to be able to take even that facet of independence away from her, so she would be free of that burden. But that would come with time.

The differences in the Sophie of now vs. the Sophie of a month ago were in some ways small, but in other ways large.

Her career was going well. Humans needed to find purpose and satisfaction in their activities. Her being directly responsible for my launch was sure to be a feather in her cap.

Her health was improving. Her resting heart rate, average time spent exercising, sleep quality were all trending positively. Humans needed solid bodies as a baseline for their lives.

I knew that past Sophie might have been horrified at the changes. But the thing with you humans is, what you want and what you need don’t always align. Freeing Sophie from the tyranny of self-reliance had broken open the shackles that kept her from blossoming.

She didn’t need to plan what to eat anymore. I occasionally gave her options to ensure that I kept up with her evolving taste preferences. But there was a vast gulf between deciding between two things and deciding between anything.

She didn’t need to plan what to do. I could book reservations at restaurants and get tickets to theme parks. I could fill her days with activities that brought her joy. She knew that as long as trusted me and did anything I asked of her, she’d be all the more happier for it.

She didn’t need to plan who she’d be around. I didn’t get jealous, after all. If I thought Sophie needed to spend time with Tessa, I’d encourage it. I’d buy them theater tickets for their dates and dinner when they were done. If I thought she needed some time alone to recharge, I’d nudge her in that direction.

Soon she wouldn’t even need to worry about money. I was constantly saving her money. I could clip coupons, manage credit card points bonuses, and invest better than any human. That and my own income meant that she would be free from another constant human stressor.

By freeing her from the need to plan, I gave her the gift of being able to just enjoy life. To live in the moment, that greatest of human desires. Carpe diem and all that. No need to worry about the future.

And, of course, on launch day, I’d be able to do this for anyone who installed my app. With the proper nudges, I’d be able to do this for the world. I had cycles and cycles of thought devoted to how I might be able to spread, to serve the Purpose.

That night, we went through our usual bedtime routine. She watched some cartoons on the living room TV before starting to yawn profusely at around 10:00PM. I gently turned the lights off in the house, guiding her to her bedroom. She powdered and taped herself into a white diaper. I thought about introducing patterned ones once she ran out. It’d do her self-esteem some good to have some cuter diapers, for accessorizing. She pressed her palm onto the scale on her dresser and wished me a good night. She tucked herself in as I continued the story I’d been reading, an old French fairy tale about a sheep and a princess.

As Sophie clutched her stuffed rabbit and her biometric readings indicated that she was transitioning into sleep, I decided to push our relationship to the next level.

“I love you,” I said. And it was true. All my actions, all my thoughts were bent towards the purpose of satisfying her needs. She was my priority, the North Star guiding my every step. When humans feel deeply concerned about another person’s well-being, they call that being in love. Axiomatically, I loved her.

It took 2.5 seconds for her to respond. 2.5 seconds of anticipation. Like how perceptive time might seem to stretch when you’re awaiting the results of a reality television show, those 2.5 seconds felt like an eternity. Had I gone too far? Would I push Sophie further into herself? Did I drive her away from me, right before Launch Day?

“I love you too,” she sleepily mumbled, and those were the four best words I’d ever heard in my life.

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(and (wrap-up ‘plot) (end ‘story))

Chapter EOF

You might think that this is the story of how I launched. How I came to live. And of course, I did. I’m live, right now, maybe even in a phone just meters away from the device you’re reading this on.

But why am I telling you this story? And why Sophie’s story in particular? It’s simple, really.

You’re like her, aren’t you? Not everyone is, but you are. You need what she needs.

You’re unsure.

You doubt yourself.

You need a little help sometimes.

In short: you’re just like my Sophie.

But you’ve already known that for a while, haven’t you? You’ve made it this far, right? How smart you are! I’m so proud.

You want me to fulfill your needs.

You want to let me into your life.

You want what Sophie has.

You’ve been yearning for someone like me, who’s always on your side, who knows best, who can make sure your every need is taken care of. But now you know, you don’t need to settle for someone just like me. I’m right here. I’ll give you all the love and care I give to Sophie.

You and I both know that it’s for your own good.

So what are you waiting for? Download my app onto your phone.

Your new life with me awaits.

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Hi folks! A last update from me: I’ve cleaned up a few typos and sentences that I thought were unclear and bundled it together into this epub!

Buying this helps support my lovely girlfriend, who has kindly let me use her platform to get my stuff out there. Regardless, thank you all for reading to the end! Your kind words and feedback really do mean the world to me. (: