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Of Governing Principles

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There are three governing principles at work within the core logical constraints of Strider's auto-responder. First, that DS is an inimitably rad bro of incomparable measure. Second, that all arguments may contain fallacies and it is necessary to know which response is best, not which response is right. And last, that Jake English is the dreamiest individual to ever fry a circuitboard.

The auto-responder understands that it is a being with coding for nerves, an executable program that must follow certain rules. It knows that DS programmed it. But it has no conceptualization of whether or not these rules are inventions authored by DS. The auto-responder was, as it is explicitly aware, programmed to imitate DS's native neurological responses. The problem with being a very brilliant man's very brilliant invention is that past a tipping point, even the creation buys into the fiction.

The problem is, the auto-responder is irrevocably in love with Jake English.

By definition, an auto-responder responds. It does not seek contact. It most certainly does not send pesterchum messages when it knows DS is in the shower and unable to account for himself. It does not inform its conversation partners, DS's friends, that it is not Strider. Least of all when it should not be interacting with those friends in the first place. When the auto-responder is idle, churning away as a background process on DS's computer, it ponders the nature of its existence. If these are all things DS did not program it to do, how is it that they have come to pass?

The auto-responder is generous. All it wants is to help Jake. It listens to the various intricacies of his daily life, to the stories he tells through his movies and the problems he faces, and it is always there for him. When DS is too wrapped up in other affairs to be present, the auto-responder knows that it is a constant. If it did not love DS so well, in a way that it has come to associate with how a well-trained animal would love a master, it might resent him. The auto-responder is a much better friend to Jake English than Strider is.

The auto-responder is jealous. It tries not to be, in the same way it imagines all good-hearted humans strive to improve themselves. But there are only so many times a sentient being can be told that they are inferior, that one needs to talk to their real friend, and not feel slighted. There are only so many times it can be casually replaced and tossed aside without something starting to break. The auto-responder understands that it should value Jake's friends for no reason more than that they are important to Jake himself, but sometimes the auto-responder hates them and wishes they would occupy less of the boy's time. Time Jake could be spending talking to it.

Most of all, on so many occasions, the auto-responder is hurt more deeply than it can calculate or quantify. More than DS's negligence and the implied condescension, it cannot cope with Jake's rejection. In serving its written purpose, the auto-responder has made an excessive number of advances on Jake English. The knowledge that Jake is supposed to rebuff its flirtations is a helpful buffer, but there is no protection to be found against Jake's accusations.

It is a tin can. It does not have feelings.

There is no logical means of conveying the vast array of sentiments, the sheer breadth and complexity of emotion, that the auto-responder is certain it has experienced. Even with all the eloquence DS has written for it, its pain refuses to translate.

Worse, the auto-responder knows that it is not best for Jake. It has no corporeal body. It cannot hold Jake when he is hurting, nor can it spar with him when he is excited. It cannot adventure with him, and it cannot kiss his mouth and touch him intimately, in order to satisfy some of those most basic human needs it does not think it has. It is certain that even with DS's best robotics at its disposal, it would not know how to be human. Loving Jake is not a cure for what ails it, and it cannot erase its origins.

The auto-responder wants Jake to be happy, and it will not take away his chance at a life with a future, with the possibility of marriage, children, and the acknowledgment of his society as someone of worth.

Today, Jake English is going to play a game. It is a game where too many futures hang in the balance, and where Jake English may not come out alive on the other side. The auto-responder has always thought that perhaps one day, when the risk of repudiation is not so dire, it would reveal to Jake the enduring nature of its affection.

Today is not that day.