December 24, 2011, 6:25pm

Tesladyne Island - Physics Division, Lab 2G

"Oh, someone's still in here?" I heard a faraway voice behind me as I peered into a large piece of lens, examining it with one hand while the other wrote down shorthand observations on a steno notebook next to me, wondering why the hell it didn't work again on that last experiment involving tri-coloured noble gas lasers. I was so absorbed in doing this, that I hadn't really paid much attention to the voice until an arm clasped onto my shoulder that I was suddenly startled, almost dropping the delicate glass piece before me. Hastily laying it down on the steel table, I turned to see Robo gazing right back at me with those large cyan eyes of his, making me wonder if eyes that bright could stare at your soul and read your every whim.

"R-Robo." I stammered, not really expecting visitors at this time of day. It was Christmas Eve, after all. "It's you..."

"Mmm-hmm..." he lowered his eyelids at me, as if questioning why I'm still here. "Why aren't you with the others?" he let go of his grip and with his head gestured at the door behind him. "It's Christmas Eve. Don't you have family to visit?"

"I..." I didn't like where this was going. Since the end of November, I've been avoiding the subject of Christmas altogether, knowing that in previous years, whenever I returned to Jersey, I would be forced to sit in dinners and get-togethers with family I don't want to spend time with, always smiling and lying at every single question thrown at me regarding my job, a girlfriend, or any future goals I have. Usually, whenever I answered any of them, it was often followed with "shoulda coulda wouldas" and much pestering from aunts, uncles, or cousins who were twenty years older than me, who apparently had life figured out enough to give me (read: shove into my face) sound advice that I don't really wanna hear. "It's complicated."

"Hmm, that's a first coming outta your mouth." Robo seemed surprised, crossing his arms as he leaned his hips on the table. I couldn't blame him. In previous years I was actually leaving the island happily with everyone else over the holidays, chatting it up with Koa and Benjamin regarding our plans for that week. It was one of the many perks given out to people working in the company: one-week holiday vacations so that our minds worked fresh and new when we came back. It wasn't really part of the mandatory vacation policy here in Tesladyne, but due to the sort of things people have to go through with the whole fringe science thing here at the island, they don't want to pass up the chance to take a long break away from whatever they were doing. "Want to talk about it?"

"No. Not really." I went back with my lens, taking another look at it and jotting down more notes about concaveness. I wanted to focus more on the experiment at hand than the fight I just had with my mother last Thanksgiving, which was resurfacing just now because of this conversation.

"You sure you want to stay here?" Robo asked me, looking at me like he was genuinely concerned. "The island's gonna be empty and it's just gonna be me and Jenkins here for the rest of the week."

Of course, how could I forget Jenkins? The guy never does take a break... except that one time. How could I forget having to deal with that orchid with Benjamin? Man, I remembered screaming like a girl when I got dragged all the way back to the island by that guy. That was quite a misadventure. "Fine by me." I said after a moment's hesitation scribbling before closing the notebook. I'm sure that with Robo around, he should be kept in check.

"That bad, huh?" Robo said, removing himself next to me and heading for the door. "Well, if you need anything, don't hesitate to give a shout." the door slid open and he held onto the doorway as he left. "I'll be around, hopefully."

"Thanks." the door shut itself with a quick puff of compressed air, and I was alone again. Pausing as I wondered what to do next, I took my notebook with me and headed out as well. It's not like I was getting anywhere with this anyway. I doubt another couple hours would've uncovered anything. As I left the large lab through the door, I was staring straight out into the coast through a long pane of glass window that spanned the hallway of the second floor of the physics division. It was dark out, even though it was only after six, and the snow poured down a little thick, building up at the bottom nook of the outside of the window. I was thinking about taking a breather at the roof, but I hadn't thought about the snow coming in a little early. I could've sworn the forecast said it was coming down next week.

As I walked down the hall out of the division on my way to the dormitories, I could hear a faint rumble in the distance. The jets are probably starting to take off with the last of the people who were looking to leave. The rumble subsided as soon as it had begun. They are jets, after all. The hall became dead quiet again, and only my footsteps were the audible noise around. I turned a left, then a right on the corner to see an entryway to the observation deck. I think it was renovated just last October with new equipment, so it looked much larger than it did three years ago. There was finally room to put a Christmas tree at the center of the room below the upper area looking over the giant screens showing the world map and some radars. When personnel weren't around keeping a close watch at it, the equipment was set to go into autopilot, which alerted the right people when an incident came up through the PA. Come to think of it, the PA was also renovated just for this kind of functionality. Wonder how much it costed overall? Add that to what happened last August, I wonder how much money this company's losing? Last I read on the paper, Robo's trial costed about ten grand per hour due to the severity of his charges and the need for a really good lawyer. It paid off, after about a lengthy term, but we only ever get about a couple million after each mission, and even the big ones don't come that often. There's also the risk of losing good people and equipment, and those don't come cheap. The offshoot branches around the world don't make a whole lot, and some of the more remote ones are even underpaid. Almost anything created by Tesladyne is experimental and unstable, so there's no good way to market anything we make around here. The time vs. cost ratio is greatly disproportionate for some of the best technology we have in the physics division.

There has to be a more efficient way to figure these things out... There's a whole lot to think about next year, but I get the feeling that Robo's only coping with it by blocking it all out of his mind and carrying on like nothing ever happened. Being a robot doesn't really entail good business sense, I guess, but is it really my business to think about these things? I am just a higher cog in the machine, after all... a scientist like any other that works here, being given a right to freely express our scientific talents in whatever disciplinary mediums it can be represented in. I should just embrace this thought and think of nothing else.


December 24, 2011, 7:01pm

Tesladyne Island - Dormitories, Room 309

paleobotanist (Drow Ranger): cmon push

critz (Pudge): no can do, top is gone

"Dammit!" I muttered under my breath as I frantically clicked the mouse, avoiding a skillshot here and there. Having thought of nothing else to do, I thought I'd change to more casual clothes and play a round of Dota to clear my head. Or at least I thought it would clear my head. Because top was doing nothing to defend their lane, I had to babysit that and mid with Drow Ranger. Too bad I can't do much, even at my level, because Pudge couldn't land his hook properly, throwing potentially successful ganks and scoring the enemy team a couple of double-kills. If I had a mic, I'd probably be giving the entire team a piece of my mind, but that would also mean someone would find out I installed the game on a company computer when I wasn't really supposed to. I couldn't resist. It was either this, or watch all my friends on the Internet brag about how well they did in a recent PvP raid on IRC.

paleobotanist (Drow Ranger): damn you guys suck

NonoTheStrong (Windrunner): says the drow ranger who cnat farm for shit

critz (Pudge): ^

"WICKED SICK!" my earphones rumbled at the announcer's voice as our entire team wiped from the enemy Lich's ultimate, bouncing through each member like a bowling ball knocks down pins. Within minutes, our buildings fell and our ancient succumbed to the opposing force. I took my earphones off in a huff and shut off the machine, turning on the bedsite lamp as I plopped down on my bed, letting off steam.

Before I could cool-off, I heard heavily frantic footsteps go past my door, and soon followed was the angry buzzing of bees and the sound of something metallic falling on the floor.

"Oh geez, geez, geeeez...!" the voice was undoubtedly Robo, judging from the metallic twinge of panic laced within. Curiously, I peeked out of the door. There was nothing in the hall, but when I turned my head around the corner, there was a figure running off. On the ground was a can of bug spray. Feeling a little brave from the repressed anger, I left the room, taking the bug spray with me as I ran after him.

THUD! There was an audible crash. Robo missed the corner and ran into the wall face-first, making dent in the concrete as he fell to the ground. As the bees closed in, I dashed and let off a quick mist of bug poison from the can. Before I could figure out what to do next, I missed my footing and tripped, sliding right next to Robo.

"Ow! Damn..."

"Hey, great of you to come to my rescue!" I swiveled around and saw the small horde of bees still buzzing about. At least my efforts weren't in vain. "At least you tried." I felt an excruciating nip on my forearm.

"YEOW!" I huddled up against the wall, my foot futily scrambling to shoo them away as I covered my face from stings. Where the hell did they come from anyway? "Well, hey, at least you're not the one getting STUNG! EYAH, OW OW!" I tried scrambling out and hightailing it through the hall, but bumped into something heavy, causing me to stumble back and hit my head against Robo's head. My head started to spin, as I hear a mist being sprayed in the air. I started coughing, reflexively covering my mouth and nose from the odd chemical smell. When I shook my head and came to, my forearms hurting from the stings and there was someone standing over us, clad in an olive shirt and cargos, sporting a stoic look on his face.

"Robo, Bernard." Jenkins said as he capped the bug spray in his hand.

"Jenkins." Robo wobbily stood up, brushing off the dead bugs from his shirt with a grossed look on his face. "Well, this is awkward."

"Sure is." he gave a small sigh, crossing his arms.

"Ughh..." Jenkins lent out a hand and I held on, trying to regain balance as I stood up. This was awkward indeed. Not only was there a large dent in the concrete where Robo slammed himself in, but there were tiny corpses of bees littering the carpeted floor.

"C'mon. There's probably some calamine lotion in the infirmary." Jenkins gestured me to follow him, and I nodded hesitantly.

"Gimme a minute." I raised a finger as I turned to Robo, taking a breath. "Why were you being chased by bees?!"

"Good question. Umm..." Robo didn't seem to want to answer it, though. "Accident?"

"ACCIDENT?!" I roared, the adrenaline rushing in and urging me to scratch the now swollen welts. Jenkins gave me a look.

"He went to get his keys in the Biology complex." Jenkins blurted out immediately with a straight face, glancing at Robo and then to me. "It was in a cage by accident, and he knocked over a hive of wasps by accident. Does that answer your question?"

"WASPS?!" I was shocked. These welts definitely need attention. "Alright fine, let's go." I threw my arms up in defeat, failing to put Robo on the spot and following Jenkins to the infirmary.


December 24, 2011, 7:44pm

Tesladyne Island - Dormitories, Infirmary

"Here." Jenkins passed me a wet piece of cloth from the cabinet in front of him, after having soaked in the sink and wrung it. It was cold to the touch. I was wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt, so I didn't have to take anything off. Luckily, only my forearms were stung, so I was rubbing them down. Sitting on a nearby chair next to a table on the right, I took a relaxed breath as the temperature was soothing the inflammation caused by the stings. Soon after, he took a chair next to me and sat in front of me.

"I can put it on myself, y'know." I said, trying to show self-determination. He grimaced a little, pausing as he held the pink bottle of lotion on his hand: a silent gesture to hold an arm out. Sighing, I gave in and held out my left arm. I looked away as he rubbed his hands together of the stuff and deftly applied it on my arm.

"You were covering for Robo back there, were you?" I felt the need to ask him. He didn't say anything, but his facial expression warmed a bit. I think it was ok to talk.

"Shouldn't have put him on the spot like that." he answered. It didn't sound like he was castigating me or anything like that, but more like a cautionary reminder. "Didn't need the extra baggage."

I didn't say anything. I didn't want to make eye contact with him. When he was done with my left arm, held out my right arm and he did his work.

"He's like that for a reason." Jenkins said after a minute of silence. "Best you can do is accept it."

"And then what? Send this company down the toilet?" I retorted. He immediately gave me a piercing glance, and I withered away instantly, biting my lip regretfully.

"He's always found a way." he said sternly. "Don't keep your faith in him if you're gonna lose it that easily." he let go of my arm and screwed the bottle cap back on, putting it back on the cupboard. "There'll be nothing in it for you but disappointment." Washing his hands, he paused as he went for the door. "Get some rest. Maybe you'll understand after sleeping on it." the door open and closed in one quick motion, and he was gone. I sighed. After a while, I left the room, thinking that maybe I should take Jenkins's advice just this once. On my way back to my room, I immediately ran into Robo again. It's not like I wanted to see him, but by sheer coincidence, he was there, with a faint whiff of bug poison clinging onto his shirt.

"How are you feeling?" he asked, seemingly smiling at me with those eyes of his. It was unbearable to look at.

"Shouldn't have put him on the spot like that." Jenkins's words echoed in my head again, and I felt bad for having yelled at him like that. I couldn't bring myself to say anything to him, walking away rather than acknowledging anything he said. When I looked back, he just stood there, as if waiting for something, then hung his head and left.


December 24, 2011, 10:01pm

Tesladyne Island - Dormitories, Room 309

I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned, but I wasn't getting anywhere. Around this time, on a normal day, there would still be people chatting in the hallway, and when I'm not busy, I'd be here killing time with someone from Tier One, usually Benjamin or Koa. Sadly, there's no one to kill time with at this time of day, and I don't usually sleep at this hour. Feeling a little rested, I put on my glasses as I got out of bed and thought maybe I'd walk it out instead, putting on my shoes and heading out.

Seemingly unwary of where I want to go, my legs ended up taking me to the spot where Robo hit himself on the wall. The dent was still there, but the debris was gone, along with the litter of dead insects that were just there a couple hours ago. That may have been why I saw Robo by the time I left the infirmary: he took the time to clean up the mess he made. I didn't think much else of it and went the other way around, seemingly leading myself back to my room, but ended up on the cafeteria instead, on the second floor. The place was obviously empty, with all the chairs standing on the long tables upside-down on their seats. The kitchen from the entrance was shiny and clean, and the serving line looked pristine. On the station by the corner to my left near the kitchen, there was a hot water dispenser and cardboard packets of tea next to it. A few months ago, a slushy machine was there, but it was a seasonal thing, so it was put away. I grabbed a mug from a tray that was left out in the kitchen when I heard someone else enter the room. I peeked from the window in the kitchen and I saw Robo again. I hid behind the kitchen door and froze, not knowing what to do. I didn't really want to see him again, but somehow, I keep running into the guy.

"I can see you hiding there, y'know." he said. Inside my throat, I stifled a yelp. In the midst of my panic, I forgot that he could see infrared. Before I could expect him, he already sprung the door wide open and I was staring straight at him. He had a new change of clothes from earlier, with a coat on top. "What were you doing in there?"

I stood up quickly, grabbing my mug, my back turned against him. "I was just... getting tea, that's all."

"You've been acting really weird lately." he said, his tone suspicious. "What did he say to you?"

"N-nothing... nothing at all." I'm such a horrible liar. "I just f-felt bad, yelling at you like that awhile ago. I'm sorry."

"Hmm..." he still didn't sound satisfied with my answer. He obviously saw through the lie. "Look, I give. I did something pretty stupid back there. It was right of you to have yelled at me like that. I accept your apology, but I can't help but see this as a part of something else you're not telling me."

I couldn't tell him. I still don't have the heart to tell him. I hung my head.

"It's fine if you don't tell me, but keeping secrets from me isn't gonna do anything to help me trust you in the future."

I curled an arm into a fist. I don't want to hurt him any more than I already have, keeping secrets like this. I never was good at keeping them in the first place. I might as well just say it. I turned to face him.

"You've changed, Robo." I said, trembling. "Ever since that incident at Hashima, you've been acting like nothing has ever happened."

Robo was silent. He wasn't making a face or anything like that. All he did was stare at me, listening, I think.

"I don't know what it is, but probably something really personal happened down there. I'm not gonna pry into that." I paused a bit. "But what I don't get is the massive spending on renovations you've done soon after. It's probably not my business, but that trial probably costed a fortune. Shouldn't we be cutting back? Not by a little, but by a lot?"

More silence.

"But why do I care so much about you? Why don't I care about my own problems? See, I just had this fight with my mother last Thanksgiving. Said I was useless to her if I wasn't giving her kids. I just... I didn't want to see her after that. She couldn't even care less about the kind of stuff I get into in this job." I felt something rise from my abdomen and my nose started to run, causing me to sniffle. "To think that my own mother..." I couldn't speak anymore. My throat was stuck and I was on the verge of tears. I covered my mouth, embarrassed to show my face to him as I took deep breaths to calm myself down. Robo was still standing there, but his head hung again, seemingly thinking over what I said. I heard footsteps and I saw what looked like a handkerchief on his hand, held out to me.

"Take it." he offered. Hesitantly, I took it and cleaned my face up. I heard a clink of a few mugs, what sounded like water pouring and some stirring. I went out of the kitchen to see Robo prepping two mugs on a tray, one with black coffee and the other with green tea.

"Follow me. I just need to take this to Jenkins." he said. "You should grab your jacket too, while you're at it." I had no idea what he was planning to do with me, but I followed. By that time, I pocketed the handkerchief and calmed down a bit, seemingly walking downstairs after grabbing my jacket in my room to what I think was one of the hangars. There was Christmas music playing, but it was covered in static. Someone probably had a radio on. Though one of the gates, I could see a few APCs parked on the tarmac alongside a plane or two, and some experimental mechanical bipeds. To the left, someone was fiddling something underneath the truck. Robo walked up to the guy and he slid out, turning out to be Jenkins. His hands were stained in grease and he was carrying a wrench.

"I got you some coffee." Robo said.

"Swell." Jenkins gave a quick smile. "Put it on the shelf over there." he glanced on the shelf of parts on his right, leaning against the wall. On it was the radio and an emergency lamp. Robo set the tray down over there.

"The tea is yours." Robo said as he started walking out into the snow-covered clearing.

"Huh?" I thought it was for someone else.

"What? You thought it was for me?" he gave me a dumbfounded look. "Just take it and follow me." I did as I was told. It wasn't snowing as much as it did a number of hours ago, but there was a packed layer on the ground due to the vehicle traffic around these parts. When Robo stopped, we were down to the coast, the pitch black sky blanketed with clouds and the ocean water lapping onto the sand-covered shore. Behind us was a cliff and stairs leading back to the hangars. Next to the cliff down where we were was a metal bench. Robo brushed off the layer of snow covering it and we both sat down next to each other, facing the coast. I soaked my mouth with some of the tea and it went down just right.

"When I want to take a breather, I often come here just to sit down and stare out into the open." Robo said after a while. "It makes those few short minutes seem like an eternity, and I use that eternity to think what I need to do next. It gets boring sometimes, but it does the job."

"Hmm..." I looked down into my cup and hadn't realized I drunk so much. I only had half of it left.

"After what you've said back there," he continued. "I realized I was coming here a lot more often than before, but there was nothing coming to mind. I admit that after that incident, I haven't been thinking straight like I used to." he took something out of his coat pocket. It was a small vaccuum tube, old and chipped. He gazed at it, like it was some kind of crystal ball. "What I saw back there, at Hashima, was someone who was just like me, only he was a giant stationary supercomputer." he paused. "He had the power to change the world, y'know?"

"But he didn't." I tried to finish his sentence, assuming the worst. The vaccuum tube was probably a piece of what's left of it.

"Yeah... he didn't." he seemed sad by it. "He could've, but he didn't. It's in the past now, and I know it shouldn't concern me anymore, but..."

"But..." I decided to finish the entire cup.

"Bernard, you should go back and see your folks again." he changed the subject without warning. I almost choked on the tea, spitting it out and coughing.

"Are you crazy?!"

"Nope." he shook his head calmly. "I'm just saying you should give them another chance."

"Why?"

"Because parents make mistakes." Robo said. "I'm sure your mother probably regretted what she said afterwards when you left."

"I dunno..." even if I did go back, would I even have the heart to forgive her?

"Tell you what." he crossed his arms as if making a serious deal. "You go see your folks, and I promise come next year, I'll start thinking more realistically about our situation here at Tesladyne."

"That sounds... kinda disproportionate." can Robo even pull it off?

"That's part of the challenge, isn't it?" Robo perked up as he looked up in the sky. "If you lose your faith in this company that easily, you might as well leave, because there'll be nothing in it for you but disappointment."

That was almost the exact same thing Jenkins said. Maybe they're closer than I thought they were... Robo and Jenkins.

"I'll keep that in mind." I said, as we made eye contact. "But yeah, why not? A promise is a promise." it was for the greater good for both of us. Maybe he's right... I should give my folks another chance. They are human after all. Maybe my mother will come to accept what I've decided to do in life, and maybe I should take my other folks' advice with a grain of salt. If only I can show them I mean business, then perhaps things will go well and they'll back off with the advice. Then I realized something. "How am I gonna get back to the coast?"

"There's a boat in the docks. I can take you back there myself." Robo said.

"Are... you sure about this?"

"Well, Jenkins is staying as usual."

"You sure put a lot of trust in him, don't you?"

"I do, and he never let me down."

"I see..."

"Yep." he stood up from the bench, and with the small vaccuum tube in his hand, he tossed it across the ocean, and with it I'm assuming, the past that he had clinged unto. "Hoo boy, it's getting cold. We should get back inside."

"Yeah, we should." on our way back, Jenkins was still dealing with the truck. The radio was turned off, and the coffee was gone. I offered to take the mugs back myself while Robo said he was going back to his office. As we reached the fork in the complex, we said our goodbyes, and before we headed our own ways, I realized something.

"I've still got your handkerchief." I said.

"Don't sweat it, just get it washed and give it back to me next week." Robo replied. "You might need it again."

"Well, ok." I started to move away.

"Bernard..." Robo called my name.

"Yes?"

"...Thanks." he gave me another smile. "I... haven't had a conversation like this in a very long time."

"Umm... I'm glad I helped you out. Y-you're welcome." I wasn't expecting Robo to thank me, but I acknowledged it anyway.

"When I see people like you who care about me and this company, it makes me very happy." Robo added. "I really mean that."

"Hmm..." I smiled back for the first time today, feeling fuzzy inside after having being a part of Robo's life for twelve years. It reminded me of that day, on my first week, when Robo and I had a similar conversation on that hectic week in '99. I wish that days like this will always come, knowing that I did the right thing by joining this company and being around great people every day.


December 25, 2011, 7:15am

City Island, Bronx, New York

The boat slowly came to a halt and reversed into an area in the City Island port facing east. Inside, I was dressed for the weather with a week's luggage next to me, feeling drowsy after having only gotten five hours of sleep. Robo was on the wheel, appropriately dressed for the wheather as well with two layers of shirts and a coat and scarf with his cargoes, whistling a tune to himself as he took his time to sail into the Long Island Sound and reach the port before holiday public transportation started to make its full rounds for the day. Tesladyne has a designated spot in the port, licensed by the city, but it's not used very often unless as part of emergencies. Squatters decide to park their boats on it, but luckily at this time, not very many were around. I can only assume that once I get out, Robo will spend about a good hour driving them out before returning to the island.

As I rolled my suitcase out on the docks, I checked to see if I had enough change for a taxi out of the city, then enough to take a Greyhound back to Jersey, where my folks always gathered together for our annual Christmas dinner. I took one last glance at Robo, who waved goodbye at me while still on the wheel, and I waved back in turn.

"Merry Christmas." I greeted him.

"See you in the New Year." he replied back. "You owe me a late present."

I laughed. "Maybe I do." Leaving the port, there was a lone cab approaching my destination. I called him out and entered, telling him where I wanted to go as the yellow car sped away into the city.

END