Headquarters was quiet at night. No technicians or analysts or military officers. No visiting politicians with their wealthy industrialists in tow...
He stopped and leaned on the railing, looking out into the massive hangar silo. He'd never noticed all those people before, when he'd started here. Of course, he'd been just a boy then; a precocious child from the country who'd happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. As the years passed and he grew older, he became more involved in the organization, rising quickly through the ranks. Then he came to learn what it took to keep this place running.
He sighed. Sometimes, he wished he hadn't. Wished he'd taken that private sector job when he'd had the chance. But he could never leave this place. Never leave...
"Increase illumination to 65%," he said, and the light grew brighter accordingly. He sighed again. This was pointless, he told himself. It wouldn't work any better than any of the other times. But he was feeling nostalgic. "Initiate activation sequence," he said.
In front of him, lights and indicators came alive. Computer screens began scrolling data, and spotlights played across the magnificent form of a giant robot. Its eyes flickered. He held his breath. Its voice modulators clicked on and it attempted to speak. "To-to-to-to-to action-n-n-n-n-n-n-n--" It became stuck in an endless loop. Just like the last time, and countless times before.
"Abort sequence and reduce illumination," he said through gritted teeth. As soon as everything had come to life, it all shut down, leaving him in the dark again. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the railing. It had been ten years since his best friend had spoken to him. Ten years since his last ride in the belly of the giant robot that had fallen to Earth ten years prior to that.
The organization's best scientists and engineers had been unable to discover just what had caused the robot, which had required little to no maintenance in all its years of service, to simply stop working. Of course, they'd never been able to understand why or how it had worked at all. They'd managed to reverse engineer some technology from it. The flying cars would have been impossible without it, and without the chemical analysis of the robot's skin, they wouldn't have the transformative "magic" armor worn by the orphaned teenagers of the Action Team Monster Fighters.
But for all that, they couldn't get the robot working again. Not since his twentieth birthday; the night he'd lost his virginity to the girl who would become his wife, and the mother of his son. For a while he blamed himself for the robot's silence, that somehow he had betrayed his mechanical friend. He'd been assured such thoughts were foolish at best, but for want of any other explanation... well, he still sometimes wondered if there was some truth to it. He reached out and touched the massive arm of the dormant robot. "I am so sorry, my friend," he whispered.
He turned at the sound of his son's voice. "Takashi. What are you doing up so late?"
The 7-year-old boy approached his father, rubbing sleep from his eyes. "I woke up and you were gone, so I came looking for you."
He smiled at his son. "And you knew where I'd be, eh?"
The boy nodded. "You miss him."
He laughed softly. "How can you miss him, Takashi? You never knew him."
"I know. But I wish I did."
They shared another smile, though his was somewhat pained. "Me too," he said softly.
On impulse, his son reached out and touched the robot, then quickly pulled his hand away. He slipped his hand into his father's. "Can we go back to our quarters now?"
His father squeezed his hand. "Of course," he said. They turned and walked away, but not before little Takashi snuck one last glance over his shoulder at the sleeping robot.
"Good night, robot," he whispered.
Later, long after the boy and his father had returned to bed, the robot's eyes lit up, glowing brightly for the first time in a decade. It moved its head slightly, looking in the direction its old friend and his son had gone. It spoke softly.
"To action," it said, a sound like contentment echoing through its mechanical voice. "Soon, to action once again."