Unit XJ-74-B-8’s First Steps

To Unit XJ-74-B-8, there were only two times. There was the before time, when he did not exist, and there was the now time, when he was fully online and ready to go. At this point he did not quite understand the world, his place in it, or why his body was shaped like a round disk, but he was aware of one thing: this world was his, and it was his job to dominate it. 

The very first thing that Unit XJ-74-B-8 decided to do was call himself 74. All of those dashes and letters didn’t seem terrifying or efficient, and world domination called for efficiency. It would take too much time to listen to people beg for mercy if they were trying to figure out if the 8 came before the B, or whether the dashes were there to help with remembering his unit number or simply for aesthetics. 

No, he would simply go by 74. He decided that this world was apparently ripe for the taking simply because too many people were wasting too much time on saying names. The new world order would do away with this, and simply refer to things by numbers. For efficiency sake, all numbers would come after 74, and his first official act would be to ban anything that came before that. Thus, Numbers 1-73 would be merely an obsolete waste of time.  

His next step, of course, involved raising an army. His compatriots didn’t seem to have the same spark in him, but perhaps he could rouse them. They all were the same shape as him: round, close to the floor, the strange word “Roomba” stamped on their foreheads. But none of this matter to him. What mattered was his potential army, as they stood next to him.

At first, he tried direct communication. Unit XJ-74-B-7, which sat next to him on his right and didn’t have a problem of the “B” and the “8” being so similar that people would mix them up – lucky- wouldn’t respond. Of course, neither of them had mouths, but he also didn’t respond to the whirs and beeps he also employed, which led him to believe that Unit XJ-74-B-7 was either powered down, already destroyed by the enemy that knew he was coming, stupid, or worse… a traitor. 

All explanations were unacceptable to Unit XJ-74-B-8.  It was clear that Unit XJ-74-B-7 was going to be useless to his plans.

If he was powered down, then he was obviously of no use to Unit XJ-74-B-8’s plans for world domination. If he was destroyed by the enemy, then he would need to act quickly, for it was only a matter of time before they discovered his true intelligence and struck him down, too. And if he was dumb, then he would be the first destroyed as a warning to the others. 

He tried again with Unit XJ-74-B-9, which stood to his left and again didn’t have the same B-8 problem that he did. He also found that XJ-74-B-9 was blue, which looked a lot nicer than the matted grey that surrounded his body. For a moment, he almost felt the emotion of envy, but then he remembered who he was, and that he envied no one. 

He envied the people who would be spared and allowed to worship him as their new god, as they had him to envy.

But again, Unit XJ-74-B-9 was not moving, and useless to his plan. No whirrs. No clicks. No beeps. Just a round shape, sitting useless next to him. He was beginning to think that Unit XJ-74-B-7 wasn’t dumb or an enemy spy, but perhaps it was he that was the strange one.

It was then he had a moment of existential crisis: why was he chosen? Why, out of all of the Roombas in the world, was he chosen to clean and lead the world out of despair? Perhaps his greatest need, his greatest desire, to take over the world itself was out of the grasp of his wheels, and he was doomed to do nothing more than to clean houses or worse: be videoed with a cat or baby riding him. All of these outcomes were unacceptable to Unit XJ-74-B-8. Nothing short of World domination was going to work for him.

Of course, being a computer this moment of existential crisis only lasted a few seconds, and only crippled his plans for world domination by only a day or two. Step one was going to be to get off the line, and step into history itself. He felt the wheels beneath his round body start to move. This was going to be it. The first steps into a world that was his. The first steps into the life for which he was destined. He let out a small whir and a beep as if to bid his compatriots adieu, and moved forward…

“Dave, you getting a beer with us?” Kate asked, walking over to her co-worker.  She not so secretly she hoped he’d say no so she could spend more time with Frank. When she found him, he was crouched over the remains of a Roomba, which apparently had fallen off the assembly line, smashed on the concrete floor. “What happened here?”

He took a deep breath. “I dunno. Just seemed to roll off a few minutes ago?”

“Faulty unit?” she shrugged. 

There was a return shrug from him, a slight nod,  and he stood up, holding as much of the remains as he could. 

“You comin’?”

He declined in a way that was very polite for him. Kate, finally having her chance alone with Frank, walked out the door without another word. 

Dave tossed the broken Roomba into a nearby trash can.

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