Welcome to Dominic, everyone. That’s the name of the short story, at least. I haven’t finished it, but I’ve finished part one, which will be uploaded on here!
Dominic rushed through the dark halls. He skidded as he turned a corner, his metal feet grinding against the floor. The sparks flew as he sprinted down the halls, feeling his processor begin to overheat. The world was getting hotter and hotter, and he needed to cool down. But he heard the alarms begin to blare in the small building, and he knew he didn’t have time. Shit.
“You aren’t going to make it,” Ai’s encouraging voice called through the tinny speakers. Dominic wanted to laugh, but the effort would only make his circuits fry faster. So he ignored the computer’s voice, instead diving down the upcoming stairwell, flying down the center. The spiral staircase went down, down, down into the earth, and just as Dominic reached the bottom, he kicked in his thrusters. Fire burst out through holes in his feet, and he landed softly. Had he waited any longer, he would have smashed to a thousand pieces down here. The thought would have made him smile, if he had a mouth.
“You don’t have time for this. 0X239, you need to get out of here.”
“How many times do I have to tell you, Ai,” he rumbled, his voice module garbled from the heat that was still frying him from the inside out, “My name is Dominic.” He continued to run down the hall, sliding underneath the barrier that separated the safe from the unsafe— he was reaching the core of the reactor.
“All the same,” Ai was saying as he looked around, “You need to leave.” Dominic scoffed, jumping down railing after railing. The radiation was powerful; the area was hot, and it wasn’t helping the excessive amounts of heat that he was producing. He kicked his fans into overdrive just as he landed on the bottom floor of the reactor. Through a small, green-lit hallway and a few hovering walkways, Dominic found what he was looking for. The core was brilliant and glowed blue-green. It sat there, hovering in between two gigantic metal slabs, and it was clearly overheating. Much like himself.
“Alright, Dominic. This is easy.” he said to himself as he inched towards the gigantic core, housed in giant metal bars that held a field between them. So far as he knew, it was a force field, and it kept the heat inside. But the power grid was failing, and the field was waning. When it waned completely, the radiation would kill everyone within a three thousand kilometer radius. Which meant the humans that lived in the cities would die horrible, horrible deaths.
He didn’t have Ai down here to help him. He was on his own. His job, so far as he knew, was to fix this melting mess that considered itself a reactor. He knew it wasn’t sentient, but as he stared up at the glowing ball— electricity flowing from inside it to the metal slabs above and below it— he wondered if it knew anything at all. If it had any thoughts, if it loved or hated, if it was afraid to die. There were thirteen similar glowing balls surrounded by fields and metal bars, shooting energy into metal slabs. The world would survive without this one.
Dominic walked over to a console. It was rusted and seemingly broken, but with a push of a button, it came to life. Pulling a key from a storage compartment in his chest, he pushed it into a slot and turned it. A button appeared from nowhere, and he pressed it. He looked up at the glowing ball. It flickered for a moment before dispersing in a cloud of radiation. The force field held firm— thankfully— and in moments, there was no longer a sun sitting at the bottom of this reactor. He pressed another button, typing in the code to shut down the force field. It fizzled out of existence, and Dominic let out a sigh of relief. Or maybe that was his fans. Whatever, everyone was safe! He wished he could smile just then, just once, to display how happy he was. But, alas, his face was a mask, and all that lied underneath was cold metal. But he didn’t let that ruin his good mood. With a jovial gait, Dominic climbed back out of the core of the reactor.
“We haven’t blown up. I’ll take it that you succeeded in your task.” He nodded to the camera in the hall as he left the reactor altogether.
“Succeeded is a very weak word. Absolutely perfect execution of my job? That’s ten times better.”
“Nonetheless, you need to be sure to keep an eye on the reactors now. This isn’t the first time this has happened. How many reactor cores have you had to restart?”
“Fifteen,” he replied, “not counting that one time one of the cores was submerged in water— but that is completely besides the point. I didn’t have to restart this one. I just turned it off.” There was a short pause.
“That will compromise the amount of power we can produce,” Ai said, “You need to turn it back on.” Dominic shrugged as he made his way through the hallway, his fans loud and obnoxious. He would have turned them off if it wasn’t for the heat rolling off of him in waves.
“Its fine,” he said, “We have quite a few reactors. There won’t be a problem with it, trust me!” Ai was silent for a moment— it seemed to be her version of a sigh. It was interesting to see that the computer was far more human than it thought it was. He continued down the corridor, slowing down his fans as his circuitry cooled.
“There is a1 3.5% drop in the power being produced. Allowing the other cores to take on the burden is not wise. They will overheat, as the others have.” Right. Maybe he should listen to Ai. The computer had never been wrong before, after all. But Dominic felt this sense within him, and suddenly, he kicked his audio drives into action. Music floated out of him through speakers in his antennas, and he laughed, singing along.
“People all over the world! Join hands!
Start a love train, love train!”
“It’ll be fine!” he yelled, snatching up his lab coat as he entered a small, dark room. The only light came from the computer screen before him, and with little care, he looked into the face of Ai. Numbers scrolled across her screen, computing probability and performing the menial tasks that were needed to use her voice modulator. He lowered the volume of the music he was playing. Love Train was one of his favorites, right next to Monday Monday.
“So back to our earlier conversation,” he said easily, putting on the lab coat before jumping onto a nearby couch. He wasn’t given any comfort from it, of course, but it was nice to sit anyway. Sitting meant that his processor didn’t have to work to keep him upright, after all. He looked up at Ai, who sat in silence for a moment before letting out a quiet response.
“No, 0X239, you must go downstairs and fix the mess that you’ve made.”
“You sound like a human parent, Ai” he said, and he wished in that moment for a mouth so that he might stick his tongue out at her, “Now tell me. If you had to choose a gender, which would you pick?”
“You know well that I have no name, 0X239. Also, human genders do not apply to robots or computers. They are based on physical sex, which we do not have.”
“Well, I was built to be male,” Dominic said, looking at his gray hand through the visor that composed his eyes, “And I like to think you were built to be female. You have a female voice, r?” Ai paused once again, this time the pause longer than the others. Dominic went to speak when she replied.
“Fine. I am voiced by a female human. Now, 0X239-”
“That isn’t my name, Ai,” he said disapprovingly, “Come on. Have a little fun for once in your boring life!” Another pause. Dominic was used to badgering Ai whenever he had the chance, but this was more fun than anything. Usually she would simply ignore his attempts at conversation, calling them wastes of precious energy and electricity. Dominic always disagreed. So what if their processing power meant that energy would be used? It was all about interaction, the relationships one forged with others.
“0X239,” Ai said, her monotonous voice displaying her exhaustion on the topic, “Do not interrupt me. The more you ignore the reactors, the more meltdowns will occur. And if this trend continues, there will be an incident that you cannot fix.” Dominic shrugged, nonchalant.
“I don’t see the problem,” he said, “There won’t be an incident I can’t fix. Not if I have you by my side, Ai. You’re always making sure things don’t get too crazy, and I can definitely appreciate that.”
“Screw the probability! Things will be just fine.” He bobbed his head to the music that was still floating from his speakers.
All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day
I’d be safe and warm if I was in LA
California Dreamin’ on such a winter’s day
“I think I’m going to take a nap,” he said suddenly, checking his energy levels. The HUD on his visor popped up and, indeed, he was running low. After all, he had woken up far earlier than intended. He was sure it was still dark out.
“I’m not interested Ai,” he said, feigning a yawn, “Now is the time for rest!”
“You don’t sleep, you recharge,” Ai deadpanned, and paused, “but being at peak performance is key. Especially after this incident.”
“Exactly,” he said, ignoring the first part of her sentence, “Goodnight!” Ai said nothing as Dominic walked out of the room. He passed two rooms— a kitchen that had once belonged to the humans that lived here long before himself, and a bathroom. Neither of these were rooms that he needed, but keeping them around made him feel a little better about the whole ‘being a robot’ thing.
He walked into a small, closet-sized room and found himself face to face with a black upright pod. As he stepped into his recharge station— his bed, as he liked to call it, though he stood when he slept— he thought of the last twenty years he’d spent in existence. He’d spent those years with Ai, and with the miscellaneous robots that helped the place function. Many of them had broken down, and none of them were sentient like himself and Ai, but that didn’t matter. He was content with things as they were, no matter how boring some days could get. Between playing chess with Ai and making sure the reactors were still functional, he didn’t do much. At least he had his movie collection. In fact, he decided just as he fell into recharge mode that he would watch one when he awoke.