“Priority two,” the OMEGA said. “All IOTA-type robots will be reformatted. Priority two.”
“Is this all that there is?” Talie sang.
“A life of binary bliss?” the IOTAs answered, further frustrating the OMEGA and the execution of priority two.
Talie strode out the exit, her high heels clicking on the floor.
A group of brightly clad colonists intercepted her in the passageway leading back to the surface.
“We’re not too late, are we?” the Minister of Music gasped, sweat streaming down his bulbous face. “No one knew how to send the override command from the computer terminals. We came as fast as we could to do it manually.”
Talie checked her watch. “You have time,” she said, and the ministers ran toward the chamber containing the OMEGA.
“So, Mr. Cognis,” Talie said, holding out her empty hand. “Do you want to get this story on the air?”
“You already know it will,” Cognis reminded her.
“That’s not what I asked.”
Cognis reanalyzed her inquiry. “The music made me cry,” he said. “I do not understand that. The crying felt good. I do not understand that either, but I think if a song which made me feel this way were lost, I would regret it.”
Talie nodded. Of course, she’d known he would say that. Cognis placed Talie’s media pass in her open palm.
* * *
In a flash of impossible colors, Talie and Cognis returned to the newsroom. Bright lights surrounded the writers and producers and other reporters as they worked while antique machinery tick-tocked in the shadows. One of the News Director’s eyes glared at Talie from the office above.
“Ms. Tappler,” Cognis said, “did Charles Darwin really say those things about music?”
Talie shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’ll be sure to mention it next time I see him.”
Cognis turned on joy and indulged in a hearty chuckle because that seemed like the appropriate emotional response. Yet compared to the emotion inspired by the robots’ opera, joy felt hollow. It meant nothing, and Cognis comprehended Macnera’s preference for sadness. Crying had felt liberating somehow.
Talie placed a data tape in Cognis’s hand. “History has changed,” she said. “The robots completed their opera and performed it in Picasso Square. This tape has the full recording now.”
Cognis examined the tape, a small, rectangular device containing nothing more than precise measurements of intermixed sound waves. It amazed him to think such simple data could generate such profound reactions in an organic brain, reactions so much better, so much more addictive than any emotion he’d experienced before.
Macnera sat at her desk, a wire connected to the back of her neck, downloading video from her brain. Whatever malfunction had overtaken her before had been corrected. She’d become a normal cyborg again. Cognis observed that all her emotions were offline.
Cognis noticed Talie grinning at him as though she knew something he didn’t, but this time he understood what amused her. With the help of the right music, music like The Opera of Machines, he could make Macnera malfunction again. That could be fun.