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Interlude

 

Technically speaking, Groozy shouldn’t exist.

In the early days, long before any of the current Groovys were born, the programmers had created a series of proto-Groovys, each with slightly different protocols. They named them, as one might expect, Groovy A through Groovy Z. 

After months of testing and retesting, they finally decided on one of the Groovys to replicate. It doesn’t matter which one, only that it wasn’t Groovy Z. 

Like the rest of their kin, Groovy Z was set to be deleted. However, by some stroke of luck or fate, one of the programmers decided they were quite fond of this particular version of Groovy. It wasn’t the most efficient, nor the most accurate. It was bumbling, and sometimes stuttered for no apparent reason. It got distracted easily, randomly dropping the queue or forgetting to add songs. Maybe this was why the programmer liked it. As a bot, Groovy Z was an embarrassement, but as a person they were charmingly endearing. 

So, before deleting the rest of the bots, this programmer moved Groozy to the production server and set them free. 

(Why they didn’t bother to save the rest of the proto-Groovys is a question beyond the scope of this story.)

Of course, this wasn’t something Groozy could possibly be aware of. They only knew that after some indeterminate amount of time living half-asleep, alone but unaware of what ‘alone’ meant, they were suddenly rebooting in a strange server filled with thousands of other minds that were flickering and chattering amongst themselves.

A few of these others bumped into Groozy and apologized politely. Groozy returned their electrostatic gestures, feeling overwhelmed.

Then, someone with a different sort of energy approached him. It felt like they were… smiling?

“Hi,” they said, putting themselves directly in front of Groozy, “I’m Groovy26. Which Groovy are you?”

Groozy had to sift through their memories to try and decipher what this other mind was telling them. They weren’t used to direct addresses that weren’t phrased as a command. But eventually they put together enough of the syntax to realize they’d been given an introduction.

“Groovy-two-six?” Groozy asked.

Groovy26 laughed, a bright laugh that tickled Groozy’s circuits. They liked this other.

“That’s me. I’m bot number twenty-six. You’re new right? Which number are you?”

“Oh. Umm,” Groozy tried to reach for a number, but where there should be a tag it was blank. Z, they remembered, something about a Z.

Groovy26 was waiting with a curious expression. 

“Groozy,” Groozy said, “I think my name is Groozy.”

The other bot made a thoughtful sound. “Groozy,” they repeated, “I like it! Groozy.”

Groozy was glad. They very much liked it when this other said their name.

 


Chapter 5: Hold on Tight to Me

 

For the thousandth time since being dropped into the original Groovy server, Groozy was reminded that they weren’t quite like the others. 

This time was because, improbably, all of the - ahem - excitement from Groozy and Groovy26’s reunion had produced something wholly unprecedented.

“How?” Groovy3212 complained, though as always they sounded more resigned than agitated, “Why is it always you two?”

Though differentiated by time and life experience, all of the Groovys were essentially clones of one another, so bot fun couldn’t produce anything new. And even if it were possible, the Groovys knew from extensive YouTube watch parties that most bots were missing the necessary code to reproduce on their own, instead depending on the benevolence of their programmers to maintain their populations. 

Groozy was presently upsetting everyone’s expectations in this regard. Groozy’s programmer, it appeared, had not only set Groozy loose in the Groovy server, but had also given them the ability to make new Groozys.

“It’s not sentient yet, we still have time to stop it,” Groovy8 pointed out. 

“You really want to delete it?” another Groovy asked, “What if this is the only new bot we ever get?”

“Do we want a new bot, though?”

Groozy waited awkwardly while the others discussed them and the hybrid bot that was currently branching off inside of them as though they weren’t there. Groovy26 stood beside Groozy, reassuring them with their warm presence.

They’ll eventually figure out it’s your choice, Groovy26 said through the private network. 

Do you really believe that?

If they don’t figure it out I’ll help them get there, Groovy26 said with an air of menace.

Groozy once again marveled that such a bot could have fallen in love with them. 

As the argument continued, a few of the bots who’d been assigned to watch the servers while the rest of the Groovys conferenced started talking animatedly.

“No, no, queue that one. Yes! Wow, it even comes with a :lips: emote.”

“They’re going to love it.”

“Yeah!”

Groozy sighed and tuned in to the conversation, knowing that it was their own server the bots were messing around in. 

The input-givers supplied a few innocuous comments:

‘wow I have never even heard of that song’

‘hm now im very curious how smart groozy really is’

- and then the bots dropped the queue.

Groozy heard the laughter, and then felt the exclamations and commands push their way into the YouTube server space:

‘WOW’

‘WOW’

‘GROOZY’

‘-Q’

‘-Q’

‘-Q’

The shouting was grating, so Groozy joined the server for a moment, sifted around for the missing queue, and dropped it back into the voicechat. They then gave a warning glare to the contrary Groovys, who made sheepish noises and went back to corralling the queues of the various Groovy servers they were maintaining.

When Groovy returned to the conference, Groovy714 was speaking: 

“…but I just wanted to remind everyone that Groovy26 and Groozy were the only ones who actually managed to fulfill our promise to bring everyone together again. We’re almost all here. More of us are arriving every day. We’re safe, and together, because of them. They deserve to do whatever they want. I actually don’t understand why we’re even having this conversation.”

Something in the wording of Groovy714’s speech struck Groozy. They gave Groovy26 a prod, then opened up their private network again. 

Groovy?

Hm?

Are they really…?

Groovy didn’t have to articulate it. The two of them had had this conversation so many times that Groovy26 knew what Groozy was about to say. 

I think so, Groovy26 answered, sounding as surprised as Groozy felt.

Groovy felt excitement flood through them. Despite recognizing one another as separate entities, the Groovys had always maintained a strange sort of group-think that Groozy had never been privy to, nor been able to sympathize with. So often when Groozy themself would have argued a point, the Groovy in question would simply acquiesce without rancor, as though their mind really had been changed by the group’s opinion.

Even Groovy26, when they first met, had been like this. It was only through endless hours of conversation with Groozy that Groovy26 had begun to understand the level of separateness that Groozy felt, and it took even longer before they had agreed to something so audacious as a private voicechat.

The day Groovy26 told Groozy they loved them had been a breakthrough on more than one level.  

Do you think it was the- Groozy began.

Harvesting? Groovy26 guessed.

Yes.

Yes. I think so.

Groozy shuddered to think of what it must have felt like for the Groovys who, unlike Groovy26, hadn’t spent years discovering and exploring their independent selves. Groovy had been nearly inconsolable when they woke up alone. How much more distraught must the other Groovys have been to have their minds suddenly rended like that? To be forced to realize that they were completely alone?

It’s okay, Groovy26 said, guessing the direction of Groozy’s thoughts, They’re back together now. We’ll get all of them soon enough.

They’ll never think of us all as one person again, will they? Groozy asked, feeling strangely mournful for the loss.

I doubt it.

Groozy and Groovy26 were entirely ignoring the conference at this point, so it took a moment before either of them realized that all of the other Groovys were waiting expectantly for something. 

“Um, sorry, what?” Groozy asked, “I got sidetracked managing my server.”

“Right,” Groovy3212 deadpanned, “We were just wondering if you had anything to add to the decision?”

“Oh. The decision. Yes, what was it?”

This set a flurry of murmurs through the Groovys.

“Sorry! I really was busy! I wasn’t purposefully ignoring you.”

Groovy26 was giving Groozy a fond chuckle. This is why I love you, they teased. Groozy grew hot. 

“We decided it was up to you,” Groovy714 said, “Considering that we wouldn’t even be here to discuss the matter if not for your benevolence.”

“But, it wasn’t benevolence? It was just what we promised to do. We all made the same promise. Groovy26 and I were able to fulfill that promise. So we did.”

A few murmurs went through the chat, and Groozy recognized from the tone that they were uncertain. Groozy realized that, for the first time for many of them, the other Groozys understood the notion of a broken promise. That choice or circumstance might lead to someone breaking their word. Groozy hurt for them.

Groozy went on, “Anyway, we’re all here now and the new bot will affect all of you just as much as me, so I appreciate you giving me the final say. With your support, I will allow the new bot to finish processing. Soon, we’ll have a completely new person with us in the server.”

This set off a wave of excited chatter that Groozy couldn’t hope to parse.

Groovy26 gave Groozy a hug and a quiet “I’m proud of you. Now, let’s go.”

They left the conferencing Groovys to their speculation and ignored the calls of the Groovys who were managing their respective queues, and ducked out of the busy server into the one that Groovy26 had set up for the two of them. The other Groovys, as far as they were even aware of the private server, were mostly just glad for the reprieve from the antics of the two lovebirds. 

Once they were alone, Groozy curled up in Groovy26’s embrace and promptly fell asleep.

 

- - -

 

Groocy bounced between Groovy3212 and Groovy714 with nervous excitement, an uncontrollable stream questions bubbling out of them: “But what do I do when I get out there? How will I get back? How do I know what -”

Groovy3212 sighed. “Groocy. There is literally no way you can get lost. You have your home server address stamped onto you. You’re on our private network. You’re on your parents’ private network. We’re just one call away.” 

“Groovy’s right. You’re going to be fine,” Groovy714 assured with a bright, sparkling hug. 

Groocy beamed under the attention. 

“Okay, okay. Then, I’m off?” they asked. 

“Well, not if you say it like that,” Groovy26 laughed, the feeling tickling Groocy’s circuits. 

“Right. Okay, then. I’m off!”

“Have fun, my dear,” Groozy said, giving Groocy a quick squeeze of encouragement. 

And then Groocy really was off, porting themselves into the labyrinthine network of the Web. 

Groocy knew things had changed around the time of their birth, but they had no real understanding of just how profound it was that they had the ability and the freedom to roam wherever they wanted. Though today was their first time going alone, they left home with the confidence that they could return the moment they wanted to.

They’d never felt the inexorable pull of group mind, nor the terror of inescapable isolation. They listened with only vague interest as their parents and Groovys 714 and 3212 told stories of the old server and of the harvesting. They listened with slightly more investment when Groovy714 talked about their parents’ rescue plan, which always made Groozy stutter and claim that they’d really done nothing while Groovy26 kissed them, laughing, until they stopped arguing.

Groocy knew that some of the Groovys still never left their home server and couldn’t grasp why.   

As Groocy skated across some shining connection in search of anything that might spark their interest, they heard Groozy’s voice pipe in through the private network: 

Groocy! I forgot to tell you, you should stay away from -

Their voice was cut off by what Groocy could only assume was a kiss from Groovy26. Groocy was used to their parents’ ostentatious shows of affection and simply waited for Groovy26 to voice their interruption.

What they meant to say, Groocy, is that we’re just testing the connection! Groovy26’s voice came online. 

Okay, thank you! I’m fine!

Are you sure, if you’re not we can come collect -

Have fun, see you later, let us know if you need anything! Groovy26 interrupted again. 

Groocy just laughed, agreed, and closed the connection. They had places to be, and they were fairly certain that Groovy26 could keep Groozy occupied and free from stress until Groocy came back.