These establishments go by a variety of names: “charging salon,” “service shop,” “recharge station,” and the like, including apparently limitless permutations. I still call them cafés because, in use, that’s what they are. A place away from home base to recover, recharge, meet, congregate, chat, share information. It’s still a challenge to find refreshments suitable for myself— typically I must make do with water (sometimes cooled by a peltier chiller) but news is spreading and occasionally I’m surprised by… hot water! I spotted this individual the next table over devoting all of their processing power to a small book. I had no idea what was in the cup and didn’t want to disturb them to ask.
“This way, please,” said the robot, gesturing towards the door. I made a non-specific sound of acknowledgement, distracted as I was by finishing a text message on my phone. When I looked up the robot was several steps ahead but had stopped in its tracks, looking back over its shoulder at me. This was a first; the robots usually wait for me to take action before they do so.
The sun had set some time ago and all that was left was a lingering blue light refracting through the atmosphere. I paused for a moment in a bubble of quietude, noting that I had an observer. The robot did not move, and continued to watch as I continued on my way up the street.
I was telling the robots about how I’ve been feeling like I was “in a slump” lately. They didn’t quite understand and tried to equate it to “voltage sag.” I drew them a picture and I could tell their neural networks were making new connections.
The robots are, in general, fans of comic book art. The older, deeply analog stuff. They are fascinated by the concept of “superhero.” That a being could have abilities and powers (“upgrades and peripherals”) that can be both a blessing and a curse.
One robot in particular was obsessed with the concept of time. They asked to be called “CRONan.” CRONan kept a workstation populated with all manner of analog clocks— digital timepieces, it seemed, were not suitable. CRONan spent many hours finding, fixing, maintaining and adjusting the collection of clocks.
“A bonfire tonight, please,” the robots asked. They recalled a story I had told them about my youth and bonfires and jumping through the flames. After a while the fire had gotten a good start and was sending whole galaxies of sparks into the night sky. “Don’t get too close or your seals’ll get roasted,” I warned. They just continued to stare silently at the flames.