Alexa Berenice Campos

Third Place Winner in the Pre-teen (10-12) Age Category - Winter Short Story Contest 2021 - San Jose Public Library

Hey there, whoever you might be, please listen, for I have a story to tell. And listen carefully, because, for the time being, we might just welcome you right into our lives if you wish to come. I am Unit-351el4r, better known as Estelar, and this is my story.

I opened my metallic eyes, expecting to see the face of my young owner, Emily, but she was not there. Instead, I found myself thrown in a room with multiple deactivated robots. House-hold robots, cleaning robots, business robots. I gasped and quickly made my way through the unmoving masses. I was a mix of a house-hold robot and a friend-type robot. I was programmed to take care of Emily, so my first instinct was to find her. After a while of walking through the maze of robots, I came to halt in front of a metallic door. A high-security metallic door.

“How am I supposed to get through here?” I asked no one in particular. I turned around and searched amongst the robot crowd. Finally, I found what I was looking for. He was a security robot, but I could also tell he was a mix of a friend-type. He wore black overalls and a white T-shirt, quite a plain look compared to my brown metallic overall-skirt, and yellow checkered shirt. He looked almost like a real human, so I instantly knew he was one of the newest versions.

“Okay, here goes nothing...” I placed my hand on his charging place, determined to give him energy so I could activate him. I smiled when I saw his eyes light up. He blinked in confusion, “What- Jake- Where?”

“Hello there,” I smiled, albeit shyly, “I am Unit-351el4r, but you may call me Estelar,”

“Oh,” The boy seemed a little disappointed, before mustering a warm and welcoming smile, “I am Unit-4p110, better now as Apollo, but that isn’t what’s important right now,”

“No?” I asked, wondering if he had noticed our predicament already.

“No, not really, where..?” He looked around, doing a full 360 before turning to face me again, “Have you seen a little boy? Brow hair? Amber eyes? Covered in freckles? His name is Jake, and I’m supposed to be taking care of him,”

I sighed, or made a noise akin to a sigh, being made of metal meant I didn’t have lungs from which to exhale, “I wish I knew were your little Jake is, but I’m afraid I’m as clueless to the whereabouts of him as I am of little Emily,”

“Emily..?” Apollo smiled sadly, “I assume she’s your charge?”

“Yes, but when I woke up I found myself in this place,” I looked around, before pointing at the door I had previously spotted, “Let’s try getting out of here, I don’t have a good feeling about this place,”

Apollo nodded, taking my hand, “Alright, we’ll get out, turn everyone else on, and go and find our respective charges, how does that sound for a plan?”

“It sounds great, Apollo,” I said, smiling at him thankfully before we made our way towards the door.

Apollo neared the control panel, smirking and taping it skillfully, quickly opening the door. We stepped outside. It was nothing but metal halls, walls, ceiling, and floor all made of the same material. But unlike any other hallway I’d ever been in, you couldn’t hear the distant echoes of working humans. Everything was eerily quiet, not to mention dark, since no lights seemed to be turned on.

I looked around for a source of light other than our glowing eyes, but I found none, “Do- do you think it's night time?”

“Maybe,” Apollo said, beginning to make his way down the hall, “I don’t know Estelar, there’s something I don’t like about this,”

“What could you possibly like about dark, creepy, metal hallways?” I said sarcastically, before letting a small sob escape my mouth, “I wish I was back with Emily, she was never scared of the dark, not like me,”

“You don’t have to be scared,” Apollo said, before walking up to a wall and putting his hand on it. He cried out in triumph, “Aha!”

The light switched on, all the way down the corridor until it revealed an intersection. Right in front of the entrance to the hall was a window, but something was wrong. I ran up to it pressing my face against the surprisingly cold glass. Outside, nothing but orange and gray clouds could be seen, barely any light shining through the thick smoke. I stared, and Apollo soon joined me, taking in the scene as a thick blanket of horror settled over us.

“The sky...” I looked away, clapping my hands over my eyes, “Please tell me I’m malfunctioning! Emily loved seeing the stars! How is she supposed to see them through all that smog?!”

Apollo put his hand on my shoulder, “We’ll figure out what’s wrong with the sky later, first, we have to find a big enough power source for the rest of the robots in the room,”

I took a deep breath. Not literally, since I didn’t need to breathe, I just made a noise and motion similar to it, since doing that always calmed me down. I took my hands away from my face, turning to face Apollo and smiling, “Right,”

Apollo smiled at me, happy that I was able to gather some courage before standing up straight. He pointed at the hallway to our left, “That way,”

We walked through the glum, only the sound of metal against metal resonating through the hallway. Apollo held my hand reassuringly, and I squeezed it in an attempt to remind myself that I wasn’t alone. After what felt like hours, Apollo finally came to a stop, looking back at me, “There’s a door up ahead, let me unlock it,”

I nodded, looking behind me nervously. Nothing but the darkness that we had been walking through was left in the halls.

“Done,” Apollo called out, turning around to face me with a smug grin planted on his face as the door slid open.

The door opened, revealing a circular room with walls covered floor to ceiling in screens. In the center of the room was a floating keyboard. Apollo walked forward, pressing a button on it and watching as the screens flickered to life.

A news reporter stood in front of the camera, multiple ships- spaceships -lined up behind her. She spoke, “The Governors have come to a mutual agreement. The sun’s radiation is getting out of hand, and so a total evacuation of the planet has been ordered. Those ships behind me-” She stopped and gestured at the ships, “- are shock full of resources and traveling space. If you are not on your way to the evacuation area, please make your way here now. Leave any unnecessary resources behind, bring only some spare clothes and stuff to satisfy your basic needs. Robots are to be turned in at S.E.E.D.S headquarters. The ships will leave within 72 hours, so please hurry to your nearest evacuation spot,”

The clip fast-forwarded, showing the cameraman putting down the camera before running for the ships. Minutes later a low rumble was heard. The camera remained in its position before it began to shake. It toppled onto its side just as a bright light came from under all of the ships. The camera went dead the moment fire shot out from beneath the ships.

“No...” I stared in horror at the now black screens, “No! There’s no way! Emily would have never abandoned me! She couldn’t have!”

“Estelar, you do know what this means... right?” Apollo asked, his face showing a queasy expression.

“I-” My eyes widened, “The world is under our care now, isn’t it?”

Apollo nodded, looking at the blank screens, “And we have to do our best, better than the humans,”

I swallowed nervously, before smiling as Apollo walked over, taking my hand, “Better than the humans then,”

Then, I believe you know what happened. We redirected power into getting every other robot online. We worked out how to clean the atmosphere. We tried our best to keep life going, however lifeless earth was. I’m- I’m not saying we’re better than the humans, for I still love my Emily, no matter how many light-years apart we may be. The message is much simpler than being better than the other, it’s just this: To be full of life you don’t have to be alive, we robots proved it.

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