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I work at the National Air Intelligence Center, where life "inside the vault" is pretty dull. Because of the classified materials that are laying around, there are no windows. Because people need their privacy, the offices are cube farms. Because it's a government facility, the decor is more or less ambient white noise and hypnotic pastel oatmeal for the eyes. With all the serious TOP SECRET work going on, the noise level is quiet except for the red phones ringing occasionally.

Except.

feep feep feep

feep feep feep
feep feep feep

feep

feep

feep

FEEP FEEP FEEP...

He's about one meter tall, two meters long, a half meter wide. He looks for all the world like a rolling juggernaut of beige plastic. He's got two blinking lights mounted low and wide on the front of his frame, and rolls on two 8" diameter wheels flush near the front bumper and a caster that sits underneath his half-inch of ground clearance. His entire body behind the front plate is shelf space for people's inter-departmental mail. Bell and several other government contractors got paid a lot of money to replace the old fashioned manila envelope with this beast; perhaps it was Sirius Cybernetics? Anyway, someone with a cutesy sense of humor has placed a security badge on a chain necklace dangling over his squat frame--it reads "SCIF Claven", and gives his vital stats:

  • SSN: 000-00-0000
  • Height: 36"
  • Weight: ~300lbs.
  • Eyes: flashing
  • Hair: none

The name tag is the only reason I call it a "he". He conducts several circuits of the vault each day, feeping in his completely oblivious monotone whenever he's in motion. He has an alternate to "feep," which is a pleasant, digital, saccharine "ding-dong" that announces a stop to pick up mail. Both are uniformly creepy, and I'm a military officer who is (in theory) supposed to be afraid of nothing but nuclear war and Generals. I think the scariest thing is that he's essentially unpredictable and unstoppable. Rumor is he was supposed to be outfitted with motion detectors and proximity sensors, but at the last minute, funding went dry on his contract, and now he roams around like a zombie, stopping occasionally, and arbitrarily, as far as I can tell, to pull a rapid ninety-degree turn into a wall. If there is someone between the droid and the wall, they're essentially SOL. He does a few Austin Powers-style zigzags, and then gets turned around and heads back towards his duty, feeping away as though he were pinging for signs of life.

In the daytime, it's a little creepy to be the only one in the hallway, and to see the robot come around the corner behind you, or in front of you. But right now, I happen to be on the graveyard shift--I'm the watch officer tonight--and I'm the only living being inside the vault. I've been here for an hour and a half and I haven't heard him. I think they shut him off at night. But maybe, just maybe, he knows I'm here tonight. And maybe those motion detectors only work when he wants them to.

Jurph whistles Mr. Roboto to himself in the otherwise silent building, long into the wee hours...

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