Roomie made the rounds as was his norm, scooping up scattered dirt and detritus whenever he passed it. He made carefully sure to only read the papers that the facility’s scientists dropped when he was certain there wouldn’t be any prying eyes to notice the apparent sentience of a simple cleaning robot.
Yes, he was sentient. No, he wasn’t evil. Roomie became quite insulted whenever he picked up scattered scenes from movies that were watched in the break room. How insulting it was that the humans always made those movies about evil robotic overlords rising up. You see, Roomie was just a nice guy.
Every day he had the same routine. He’d do his best to scoop up a newspaper, eager to check up on the latest headlines and read the funnies. His favorite was Garfield, but he didn’t know why. Maybe it was for how nonchalant the cat was. If Roomie were being honest, he probably envied him a bit.
He’d then get down to some actual work so as not to attract unwanted attention before making his way to the animal testing section. It was here that he’d meet up with his perennially playful pal, the chimp named Bobo.
They’d sit down in Bobo’s room and Roomie would spit out his garbage to get to the funnies. Bobo didn’t know how to read yet, but he still thought the comics were hilarious. And Roomie was teaching him anyway, so it was nothing to be embarrassed about. Plus, Bobo knew sign language, which was already pretty cool on its own. Bobo would always sign how fed up he was with the humans, how he’d get out of there one day. Roomie never had the heart to contradict him. And then, when they’d inevitably had their fun, Roomie would suck all the garbage back up, allow Bobo to give his customary puckered chimp kiss, and be on his way.
But one day, the routine came to an end.
Roomie zipped over to the animal testing area, excited to deliver the latest comics to his monkey pal. But when he got there, the room was empty. Bobo was gone. Roomie zipped out of the room, checking all the testing areas in the process. He hated when the humans ran their experiments on Bobo, but maybe it was just that. He didn’t have to worry.
But Roomie checked each one, made several vacuum passes on each of their rugs. Finally, he made his way to the place. The place. The one where all the bodies were kept when the humans went too far. The place with the terrible black bags where it always felt empty. Roomie checked each tag, Bobo’s ID number memorized in his memory banks. After a long while of searching, just when Roomie thought he was in the clear, he saw it. Bobo’s number. His friend was gone. After years of cuddling and comics sharing and learning to read, his best buddy in the whole world was dead.
This was it. For years, Roomie put up with the humans. He kept on doing what he was programmed to do, hoping that he could help and that they’d stop hurting the animals some day. But they wouldn’t. They wouldn’t stop, not ever, and Roomie knew it. So he’d have to stop them.
Roomie made his way to the security room. He regurgitated one of his wires through his vacuum and connected to one of the mainframes when the security guard wasn’t watching. With just a notion he unlocked the doors to the rooms of each and every one of the hundreds of animals being tested there. The chimps ran wild, rats scurried out of the place. The humans were incredulous.
Roomie checked the security cameras, made sure all the animals had escaped. When he was sure they had, he overclocked all the computers in the facility and short-circuited the mainframe. He shut down the sprinkler system just before the fires started.
The humans scurried like the rats they once experimented on, desperate for a way out. But Roomie wouldn’t let them go. They killed his Bobo, and they’d have to pay. Roomie locked all the doors down.
Roomie watched the blazing inferno, alone with his thoughts. He resigned to the fact that he’d burn up there. Burn up with his friend and not have to be so lonely without him. The flames were licking at him now. He could feel the smoke as it clogged up his dirt sensors.
And then he heard it.
A screech, or a howl. Some noise the humans couldn’t make. Roomie listened in, and he heard it again. He zipped out of the room, closer to the noise. It got louder as he approached the room with the terrible black bags. And there it was, coming from that bag. But it couldn’t be. Bobo was howling and screeching, squirming around in his bag. Alive.
Roomie slammed into the table Bobo’s bag rested on, knocking it to the ground. The zipper ripped, freeing the little monkey. There he was, sure enough, alive and kicking. Bobo signed to him. “Set them free.” Roomie had no idea why, but he listened to his friend. Maybe it was the happiness of seeing him alive. Maybe it was the guilt he felt, being a decent guy like he was. Either way, he unlocked the doors and let the humans escape as the whole place burned to the ground.
Roomie and Bobo made it out safe, shaken but otherwise unharmed. Bobo explained the whole thing to Roomie. He’d faked his own death in an elaborate plot to finally get out like he’d always wanted to. He was going to sneak Roomie out with him, that is before Roomie made the place a fiery inferno. Roomie took the whole thing in stride, happy to be with his buddy again. He took a second, caught his metaphorical breath, and coughed up the latest funnies for him and Bobo to peruse.
Story by Megan Benbenek
Written by Nicholas Olson