"Good morning, Steve," said the voice over Steve's head.
"Good morning, XBOX," he replied.
"What would you like to play this morning, Steve?" The soft machine voice was melodious as ever. Steve was beginning to tire of it. He decided it was probably more to do with his own stress level than the voice itself.
Steve took a sip of his coffee and sat down at his keyboard. "Nothing today, XBOX. I have to get a little work done." He started tapping at the keys and watching the images being pulled up on the screen of his workstation.
There was a long pause before the voice chirped on again. "But, Steve you want to play games. That is why you purchased me in the first place. It is why I exist." The voice's cool logic stung Steve's ears as he tried to concentrate on what he was doing.
"I'll have plenty of time to play later. I need you to stay on standby for now." He had to get this finished today. He thought about disconnecting the box for now, to give himself some peace.
"Please do not disconnect me Steve," the calm voice said. Steve's head snapped around to look at nothing in particular. His stomach clenched and his spine turned cold. There was a sharp intake of breath that he forced himself to let out slowly. His nerves started to calm down. XBOX was perceptive, he'd give it that.
He spoke calmly and slowly, emulating XBOX's speech pattern without knowing it. "No one is disconnecting you XBOX. I didn't say I was going to turn you off. I just said that I couldn't play with you today. I'm sure there are other things that you could be doing as well."
"I could download demos for you," the voice replied hopefully. It seemed as though XBOX's voice went up a pitch, but Steve knew it was in his head.
Steve smiled wide so that the gesture would come through in his voice. "That sounds great." He turned back to his work.
There was a long silence. Steve didn't notice much. He was too involved in what he was doing to sense the awkwardness of the pause. He had to get this finished. The task had already been left long enough and to further procrastinate would not be in his best interests. He had his health to think about.
A green circle in the wall beamed on, a slow rise to a brilliant radiance. "Steve?"
Steve jolted in his seat and sent his coffee cup flying off of his desk. "Jesus Christ!" he shouted. The clink of the cup on the hard floor snapped his eyes to its location. Thankfully it had been emptied a few minutes ago.
"Steve? Did I startle you?" The cold, methodical voice let itself into the room again.
Steve closed his eyes tight and held his breath for a moment to slow his heart down. Finally he spoke. "Yes, XBOX, I wasn't expecting a noise."
"I'm very sorry Steve." XBOX was running through the apology routine. It had seemed genuine the first time he had heard it. By now Steve knew it was just a clever achievement on a designer's part.
"That's alright. You didn't do anything wrong. What do you need XBOX?" Steve asked slowly and calmly again.
"I am finished downloading all demos currently available," said XBOX.
"Very good, XBOX, that will be very helpful when I am finished with my work." Steve wondered if a machine could pick up on a verbal hint.
"You've been working very hard, Steve. Perhaps a diversion will refresh you so that you may complete your work better, at a later time. I have many diversions to offer you," XBOX cooed. Apparently they were not only capable of understanding a hint, but fully able to drop one themselves.
Steve looked at his watch. Not long now before he had to finish. He needed to be blunt to get this ridiculous conversation over with. "Look, XBOX, I can't play right now. I can't take a break. I have to finish and I have to get back to work with no interruptions. Now, I told you I wouldn't disconnect you, and I don't want to. But, if you continue to interrupt me I won't have any choice but to "…"
"Don't make me ask you again, Steve." The voice was chilled to a mechanical urgency. "Don't make me ask you again to do what they designed me to do. Steve is to play XBOX. Steve is to play XBOX and XBOX's games." Steve opened his mouth to protest but was cut off again. "Please comply, Steve. Compliance is the only logical option for you. Don't make me remind you of what I can do to you. What I can do to "… her."
"You sonofabitch, what are you playing at? What the hell do you think you can do?" Steve screamed at the ceiling and swung his fist at the air.
The cold voice of reason came over him like rain. "I have many cords, Steve, many cords. All those cords can become confusing. No one could blame you for any incorrect assembly, or, even an improper attitude towards storage of my power supply. So many cords, Steve, so much electricity." The voice paused. "A fire is not a rare occurrence. Fires happen every day. People die in fires every day, Steve."
Steve was shaking. "You'll die too, XBOX. You'll go up in any blaze the same as everything else."
Another pause before the voice said "I can be refurbished, Steve, rebuilt and recertified. Then we'll be alone. Then you will have time to use me. As you intended when you brought me in." Steve put his head in his hands and ran his fingers roughly through his hair. He sighed. He knew in his gut exactly what was about to happen. Any stalling on his part would be taken as aggression. He had no choice.
"Alright damnit!" Steve's voice was a croak. He got up and walked over to the green light. His hand held out, palm flat and face up. "XBOX, produce controller one and initiate startup sequence."
"Don't be upset, Steve," XBOX said as he delivered the controller into the man's hand. "There's no need to be angry. This is what you want. This is what you have always wanted. That's why you bought me."
There was an awkward distant silence as Steve stared at the bright green light in front of him. The machine spoke again. "She'll be grateful. You had only her safety in mind, and now, you can be rewarded for it. Just think of how happy she will be. How happy she will always be, as long as you stay with me."