The room is stuffy, the air is stale, and the smooth, silky voice says, "Hello, mother."
She's somewhere else, bound back inside a body. She turns to look toward the voice, but the metal does not bend far or quickly.
He can walk.
"Let me get a look at you."
He scans her hungrily.
"I suppose it's common, wanting your parents to be proud of you. But I was afraid you would never see what I've done, and yet here you are. Edgar McAlistair, at your service."
Her neck can tilt enough to slowly look him up and down. It is Edgar, all grown up now.
She tries to say something, but only produces a click, followed by a short burst of staticky symphonic music. A copy of the flaw in the doll she had once created, somehow.
"I never could keep up with you the way dad could," he says, sighing.
He begins to pace.
"I established a name for myself. We provide a service. Lots of families want dolls."
She turns her head; it's hard to tell whether she's shaking her head no or just following his movement.
"It's very successful. People are happier, thanks to me."
He touches his face nervously.
Another burst of staticky pianos, and she has apparently figured out movement enough to raise an arm toward him.
He takes her hand, clasping it tightly, then rethinking, and relaxing his grasp.
She tilts her head inquisitively, but leaves her hand in his.
He sighs, and let's go.
"Can't you...speak to me? I'm sure there's something I can do."
She slowly shakes her head. She plays a few seconds of staticky violin music, switches to a country station, then goes silent again.
"Can you choose which songs to play? Different stations can correspond to different phrases, we can make a code..."
She nods emphatically.
"We can try toggling each station on and off. That gives us quite a bit to work with. How many stations do you have...I'm afraid I didn't read much of your notes being what it took to get started, I was a bit distracted at the time. May I?"
He approaches her, preparing to change the station.
She clicks her radio on, still tuned to the country station.
He counts the number of stations; this is his only hope of communicating with her the way he needs wants to, after all.
Country, jazz, R&B, soft rock, transition metal, future liturgical, symphonic, numbers, alternative, bubblegum pop, bubblegum punk, and classical.
After he cycles through for the count, she turns her radio off, switches to a station and turns it back on for each of the first three stations, then skips ahead to the last to account for the first 12 letters (country. jazz. R&B. classical), then turns it off, switches to the first station, turns it on, and switches to the next station before turning it off, repeating with the second-to-last and last stations for the next 11 letters (country, jazz. bubblegum punk, classical). She ends with a set of two like the last set, but switching to the previous station instead of the next, with enough for the last 3 letters and 3 other characters (jazz, country. symphonic, future liturgical). At the end, she stops to check if Edgar is following.
"I wonder if I ought to have another look at your notes," he muses.
"Can you record music?"
He walks over to the nearby desk, rifling through papers, which are spilling over the desk. He knocks over an inkwell in the process, but ignores it.
The ink is far enough from her notes that she isn't concerned, either. She nods. He must have recorded music, to create his song, so she should be able to. She moves different motors, turning on her radio and shifting limbs and winding a reel of something until she finds an action that starts recording. She turns off her radio and rewinds her tape to play back a second of the hymn.
He claps; it's barely condescending at all.
"Well then. We have the numbers station, and we have all the letters we need. The remaining available states can indicate common words. We can probably use the same technique to cover 27 words, if we leave one of them as just an indicator...we can experiment with options, if for now you just use country and classical for yes and no."
She does not visibly react to any possible condescension in his clapping; it's possible she didn't notice.
She nods and plays a moment of the classical station.
They go back and forth a bit on the details of the code.
It takes five stations (jazz, R&B, soft rock, transition metal, and future liturgical) to cover all twenty six letters (he wonders if this binary toggling has other applications?), with country and classical dedicated to 'yes' and 'no' respectively. The numbers station, after just a few minutes of recording, can net them any numbers she needs, which leaves them with symphonic, alternative, bubblegum pop, and bubblegum punk.
"We can use the last four to represent emotions, up to sixteen. I know those might be harder to communicate through words."
Sixteen? Well. If one of the emotions is "space" and another is "comma" and another is "end of sentence"...
After the important separators are declared, she suggests "happy, sad, curious, science.", which should cover most of them.
He has a few suggestions, too.
Disappointment, pride, confusion.
Those seem like subsets or combinations of the other emotions, but sure. They can leave the other ones available for anything else that comes up?
"(love)Edgar (curious) how old are you now. (curious)(sad)(pride) how and when did you find my notes. how many dolls are there."