No Better Friend Than You by Celeste Shea
There is a slight chill in the lab as I stare at the computer monitor, hoping something will pop off the page and give me the solution that everyone is searching for. The solution is hiding somewhere; somewhere where I haven’t been able to find it.
The sound of the lab equipment makes a low hum in the room; it’s kind of soothing as I work, hunched over the computer. The clicking of shoes echoes in the hallway, bouncing off the walls like a rubber ball. The glow of the computer monitor reflects off of my face and illuminates the dark room. The light dances around the lab every time something on the monitor changes or shifts. How can something so powerful and possibly dangerous be so eerily beautiful?
After the war robots are only allowed to be in work places, like here at NASA. This advanced computer I’m working on now is considered a robot. We are allowed to use robots, but not harm them in any way at all. The government believes robots should now be treated like humans. There are no more house robots that will cook your dinner or put away your dirty clothes. No more robots to do whatever you want them to. The government has come to their senses and finally put restrictions on the robot use. The robots working here are used for labor and things that you would need to run a laboratory, like extra help in tedious work. None of this matters right now though. I have to find a solution.
Time is running out. In exactly one week the most important place to me will be destroyed- unless I do something about it. Fast.
Right now as I stare at the monitor there is a meteor hurtling toward earth, more specifically my home town. Our technology has detected it, but NASA has come to the conclusion that they will evacuate my home town, instead of trying to stop the meteor. I grew up there. My house, my elementary school, and everything that had an impact on who the person I am today is there. If we let the meteor hit that town, thousands of families will lose their homes. People will lose jobs. I have to do something.
Here at NASA we have the newest technologies and some of the best scientists, but we still won’t do anything. The most logical way is to hit it with something and possibly throw it off path, or blow it into pieces that won’t hit earth; hit something that’s very big with something that’s even bigger, or simply blow it up. Of course, before it enters the atmosphere. But how will I do this myself? Or convince NASA to do it?
My brain is starting to throb like it’s ready to explode. It’s time to stop staring at the monitor for a while. As I stand up I straighten out my white knee-length lab coat with my name embroidered on the left side, right below the NASA logo. At NASA I am an astronomer, but my job mostly focuses on the technology and robots we use here. I attempt to fix my shoulder length blonde hair as I walk out in to the hall, adding my own clicking heels to the few coming up behind me.
“Hello Cecilia, any luck?” inquires Dan as he comes to walk beside me. Dan is tall, with short brown hair. He is around my age, 25. He is one of the nicest scientists at NASA, but he is very serious about his work. I’ve told him about my project to save my home town, and he seems very interested in helping me any way he can.
“No, nothing yet. I’m about to go down to the tech storage room to clear my mind a bit before I jump back into research.” I say as I walk quicker, anxious to get to my destination.
“What do you have to do down there? Hang out with some robots?” Dan replies sarcastically, with a grin on his face. He has no idea how accurate his statement is.
“Um, no. Just going to do my job.” I reply with a nervous laugh.
“Well I have to go, Cecilia. Good luck.” Says Dan as he begins to walk into an open door.
“Bye Dan.” I reply as I put my head down and walk faster.
Finally I reach the door that opens to the stair case leading to the tech room. As I open the door I can feel the cool, damp air hit my face. The winding concrete staircase is lit by dim, flickering fluorescent lights. If you’ve never been down here before, you would think something evil and murderous is waiting behind that door at the end of the stair case.
As I turn the key in the lock, I check behind my back to see if anyone is coming, even though most people don’t come down here on a regular basis except for me. When I open the door, I turn on the lights to reveal the large room. On one side of the room there are cases of robots, hanging in storage; it almost looks like clothes hanging limply in a closet. On the other walls there are bookshelves full of miscellaneous items. There are a lot of books, all on various topics from cooking to robotics and engineering. Also on the dusty old bookshelves are parts. Thousands of different screws, bolts, and everything needed for the construction of a robot. In the middle of the room sits an operation chair, with a robot lying in it, with cords sticking out of its head, leading to a computer a few feet away from the chair. The robots face is made of cool sleek metal. Its whole body is plated with the same metal, covering the tangle of wires bending around its body frame. There seems to be a small smile played across its lips, like its waiting to tell a joke.
I walk over to the robot, and pull a chair up to the computer, and sit down. I press a few buttons on the keyboard, and the robot next to me comes to life. Its shiny face reflects the light as it turns to look at me, opening its metal eyelids to reveal glass eyes underneath. Its eyes seem to light up when it turns to see me.
“Hi Cecilia, how are you today? I’ve missed you” it says in a choppy voice.
“I’m quite fine Jay, how are you? I’ve missed you too” I responded.
Jay is different than all of the other robots here. All the robots have “feelings” but they’re programmed emotions. Jay is different. He actually feels the emotions; you can tell by the look in his eyes and the way he talks. To me, he has become my friend. About a year ago I discovered Jay deep in the tech room. I hooked him up to see if he could become another working robot to use in the lab, but instead, he woke up and we became friends. Ever since then I come down to the tech room to talk to Jay, and give him some company. Jay isn’t my only friend; I’m friends with other scientists at NASA, but Jay is easy to talk to and he understands me. I never thought that I would become such great friends with a robot, or have such a strong attachment to one. We talk like old friends and can discuss like scientists. Today, I wanted to talk to him about a certain question I hoped he could help me solve.
“Jay, how would you stop a meteor from hitting a town and destroying it?” I questioned, anxiously awaiting his response. He stopped and processed this for a while, his eyes moving back and forth in his head, as if looking for the answer amongst the wires and switches in his head.
“Well, I would say you should hit it with something before it enters the atmosphere that could make it go into multiple pieces, so that they avoid earth. It would be very risky to do such a thing, but I think that’s one of the only solutions.” Says Jay as he turns to look at me.
“Well how will we make sure it is accurate and actually hits the meteor?” I say while staring into Jay’s eyes.
“Send a robot to make sure the explosive hits the meteor.” Says Jay.
“You know we can’t do that, Jay. Robots can’t be harmed in any way. I’m pretty sure sending a robot into space to get blown up is harming them, just a little bit.” I say sarcastically, with a chuckle.
“Oh, well I guess you’re right.” Jay thinks for a moment, his eyes focusing on something he is seeing in his thoughts. “Why don’t you just send me?” Jay says with a smile spreading across his face, like he doesn’t even question what he just said. Jay believes he is here to help humans in any way possible, even if that means killing himself.
“No. I will not allow that.” I say, with the thoughts of losing one of my best friends in my mind.
Jays face looks disappointed for a second, but he immediately goes back to smiling. We continue to talk about various scientific discoveries and theories for the next few hours. Jay and I can talk about anything. He knows so many things about everything, including details about my personal life. I always talk to him about work, and things relating to science. I am always amazed at Jay’s amount of knowledge, and the way that his answers and statements show his emotion. The thought of Jay going up there and never coming back wanders into my mind again. It makes me feel sick to even think about it. Soon I leave Jay to go back up stairs, but I still can’t get Jays idea out of my mind.
5 days after I talked to Jay about the meteor I am still trying to figure out how to stop the meteor. I’m walking down the long cool hallway to the lab. The walls shine and reflect the florescent light, making it shine so bright my eyes hurt. Everything in the building is so modernistic and sleek. But suddenly, down the hall I see a man running with a folder in his hand. As the figure gets closer, I realize its Dan.
“Cecilia! Cecilia! I’ve got something!” he yells as he runs faster to meet me. “Look what I have.” He says as he comes to a stop in front of me and hands me the folder.
“What is it?” I say curiously as I grab the yellow folder from his hands.
“Well,” says Dan out of breath from running, “It’s paperwork. I talked to the head office about your situation, and they gave me this.” He says while grabbing the folder from my hands and pulling out a piece of paper and handing it to me. “This paper says that they will fund the destroying of the meteor, but only if you can find a robot that will willingly go out into space with the explosive to blow up the meteor.” says Dan. Immediately my heart sinks. The only robot I can think of that would do that is Jay. I would never let that happen.
“Well thank you so much Dan.” I say with a hit of disappointment in my voice.
“Um, you’re welcome Cecilia.” Dan says with a hint of confusion in his voice. “I have to go, but good luck.” He says while walking away.
I stand in the middle of the hallway with the folder in my hand. So many things are running through my mind right now. I have to talk to Jay.
Today is the day. The day the meteor is going to hit; the last day we can do anything about it. I talked to Jay yesterday after Dan gave me the folders. I told him what the papers said, and told him that he can’t do it. Even if the town is very important to me, I can’t lose him. Right after I told him that, he told me that his time was up. He had to do it, whether I liked it or not. So here we are today. I feel like there’s butterflies in my stomach, and a brick in my heart.
I go down to the tech room to say my final goodbye to Jay. I feel like every step I take down the stairs pulls at my heart even more. When I open the door, I see Jay sitting up on the operating table, looking down at his hands, in deep thought.
“Hello Jay.” I say with sadness in my voice as I walk closer to him.
“Don’t be sad Cecilia. It’s what I feel I have to do. You have no idea how much joy it gives me to save a whole community, and do what I was meant to do on this earth; help my friends. You have made such an impact on me in my short life, and there is no better friend than you.” says Jay, looking into my eyes. I give him one last hug, as a tear rolls down my check. Jay stands up and looks me in the eyes, and gives me one last smile before walking out of the room.
The meteor was stopped. Thousands of houses were saved. Children still have schools and playgrounds. People still have jobs. I still have my childhood memories; but most importantly, I have the memories of an amazing friend.