When my maintenance has been completed, I return the platform to its upright position and remove my sweater. On the spur of the moment, I decide to forgo the flying cape and spend the day unclothed. This is one of the few perks of being a robot. The last G-Force member to spend the day naked was Keyop, and my, he certainly got an earful from Chief Anderson! I chuckle at the memory as I descend down the glass tube.
I know G-Force better than they, themselves, realize. I have committed the entire database on their professional, and personal, lives to protected memory. The knowledge I hold is valuable, and I am its guardian. No one knows more about G-Force than I, not even Chief Anderson.
As I shuffle, millimeter by millimeter, across the floor to my control station, I think about the many secrets I hold. I know that Jason listens to Celine Dion when he thinks no one else is around. I know that Tiny has secretly installed a mini-fridge on the Phoenix to hold ice cream snacks to eat while the others are off on a mission. I know that Keyop has desperately been weightlifting in an effort to make his physique a bit more 'manly'. And I am especially aware of Mark and Princess' secret rendezvous in this very control room, when they think I am off on an oil break.
What would Spectra give to have this knowledge? I wonder... Of course, I have been assigned to the task of making sure that they never uncover these secrets.
So far, they have not. But let's be honest: so far, Spectra has never attempted to gain this kind of information.
1-Rover-1 yips to welcome me back to my station. He prefers to spend his time barking at my feet while I do the work. Or recharging his batteries. But hey, he needs to shoulder some of the burden as well. If not that, what other productive use would he have?
If there's one thing I know, it's that robots have to be productive. If we can't do our jobs, we are... removed... Just look at those robot pilots.
Of course, humans don't like to be reminded of this naked truth. They like to think that they care about their robots; that they love them no matter how well they perform.
But I know better.
After all, while I am officially a member of the G-Force team, I have been relegated to the number 7. 7. I have never openly questioned it, but inside I wonder... aren't I good enough for them? Their numbers range from 1 through 5... there is no number 6. Why wasn't I made number 6?
I know why... they're keeping that space open until someone more capable comes along. Or perhaps it's just to remind me that I'm not as good as they are, being only a mechanical entity. Biological entities must show superiority, even if...
I shouldn't even be thinking this. Especially because... I think I'm right. I reflexively begin to clean my monitor while trying to fight off these feelings.
Of course, what's most insulting is that Rover has the number 1. Mark doesn't mind sharing his number with an essentially useless robotic dog, but when it comes to me... perhaps he's threatened by me.
But no... I've never done anything to make the team feel that way. I've certainly gone out of my way to help them, down to the obsequious fawning I know they've come to expect.
I certainly don't want to jeopardize my position here. If I'm not here, then I have no purpose... I wouldn't be productive...
I think about the one man who breaks these stereotypical human traits. The foster father who took me in when I would otherwise have been destroyed. The man who gave me a new purpose, and helped me find a job at which I excelled.
I know he had his own motives for doing what he did, and that they were somewhat selfish. He needed someone... or something... with my talents to help him. But he didn't care that I was a robot, he only cared that I could help him. That kind of egalitarian viewpoint is... refreshing.
As if he could read my thoughts, my communication viewscreen lights up and Chief Anderson's face appears.
"Zark, I need your help." he says, by way of greeting.
"At your service, Chief!" I exclaim, giving a quick salute.
"First," states Anderson, "I need you to analyze the data we have collected on the latest Spectran mecha that attacked Earth this morning. Please analyze the video clips in file 624, as well as the sensor readings from the Phoenix, and have a report ready for me in one hour."
"No problem, Chief!" I reply enthusiastically. "And second?"
"Second," continues Anderson, "I need you to set up the re-alignment parameters for the team's upcoming implant adjustments. No one knows their cerebonics better than you do, and I would appreciate it if you could work on this for me."
I am touched by the polite tone he's taking with me. He's phrasing this as if I actually had a choice. Of course I don't, but the effort isn't lost on me.
"I'll get right to it, as soon as I'm done with the mecha analysis, Chief!" I respond.
"Thanks, Zark. Over and out."
The image on the viewscreen flickers out.
I have my assignment. Quickly, I get to work, analyzing the video clips and sensor information. But the data seems garbled. Something is missing.
Sighing, I realize that the Phoenix did not use the default settings when gathering the data. Without knowing the exact settings, I will be unable to analyze the readings.
I open up a communication channel to the G-Force Ready Room. As usual, Mark and Jason are playing ping pong, while Keyop and Princess practice their music, and Tiny snacks on Space Burgers.
"Greetings, team!" I announce myself. "I just have a couple of questions about the sensor data the Phoenix gathered this morning..."
The team ignores me. It's as if I'm not even there. Perhaps they can't hear me over their loud music.
"Team?" I ask plaintively. "Anyone?"
This is the kind of thing that bothers me the most. It's bad enough to be thought of as a second-class citizen, but I hate being ignored. It's as if I am not even worthy of a few words.
I address the person closest to the viewscreen.
"Tiny!" I yell, as loudly as I can. Admittedly it's not very loud. My programmers designed me to have a soft, soothing, C3-PO-like voice. Although why they paired that with this R2-D2-like body I'll never know.
After five or six yells, I finally manage to get number 5's attention.
"Zark?" Tiny asks, confused. "What are you doing? Aren't you supposed to be working on some analysis for the Chief?"
Like I need him to explain my job to me.
"That's what I'm trying to do." I explain patiently. "But I need to know the sensor settings in order to interpret the data from the Phoenix."
"I dunno..." Tiny replies. "Ask Princess. She's the one that took the readings." He shrugs and goes back to his never-ending pile of Spaceburgers.
"Could you get her for me?" I ask. But it's like talking to a wall. Tiny is lost in his Spaceburgers again.
"Princess?" I shout.
Fortunately there's a break between songs, and Princess hears me on my third attempt to get her attention. She walks over to the viewscreen.
"What is it, Zark?" she asks, smiling.
I like Princess. While I don't feel that she holds me in the same level of regard as she does her immediate teammates, she does make an effort to observe the niceties.
"Tiny says that you took the sensor readings of the new Spectran mecha from the Phoenix this morning." I explain. "I need the settings of the sensors when you took those readings, in order to interpret them."
"Oh." she says, thinking for a moment. "Well, there were some strange magnetic disturbances being emitted from the mecha that were causing our sensors some problems. So I had to adopt setting 7-X2-1321."
"Setting 7-X2-1321?" I repeat. I created these settings myself, years ago, when the Phoenix was first being constructed. To my knowledge, that setting has never before been used. In fact, I can barely recall why I engineered it in the first place...
"Yes." Princess continues, oblivious to my train of thought. "It was the only setting that allowed us to get any valuable information from the mecha."
"I guess they're getting better at scrambling their outgoing readings." she shrugged.
"Princess! Brrt..." cries Keyop, "Come back! Need you...doot... for this song!"
Of all of the G-Force members, it is Keyop who irritates me the most often. Perhaps it's just his youth, but he never seems to take anything seriously. And for someone like me, who takes everything seriously, this is incredibly frustrating.
"Coming, Keyop!" Princess says, throwing a grin over her shoulder at the boy. "We're done, right Zark?"
I would actually like to question her further on the need for this setting, but I can see that Keyop isn't going to let her delay much longer.
"That's fine, Princess." I sigh. "Over and out."
As the viewscreen image fades, I can just hear Jason's voice.
"What did that bucket of..."
I can only imagine the rest.