When Loki didn't immediately come back, Daniel felt a little at loose ends, and more than a little useless. But he told himself there was data to be crunched, and a vat filled with the gooey remnants of gelatin and carbon nanotubes that simply wasn't going to scrub itself. He ordered a round of Chinese food, then put on a rubber apron and pink plastic gloves and got cleaning.
The mess was stickier than he'd even begun to imagine; he had to take a break to get his take-out order, and then it made more sense so start eating while the food was still fresh, even if it all seemed very mundane considering what else he'd done with his day.
Sitting on the hood of his car, he'd just opened the wax paper bag of crab rangoon40 when there was a crash from inside the storage unit. He dropped his food and hurried inside to find Loki clinging one-handed to the side of the half-cleaned vat, a waffle iron on the ground next to him. Loki clutched at his head with his other hand, teeth bared in a grimace.
Daniel hurried forward to wrap his arms around Loki – goodness, his flesh felt so firm and real focus Daniel, focus! - and eased him down to the floor. "What's wrong? Do we need to do a diagnostic?" He scrambled for the cables that would hook the robot back up to his computer. His foot hit the waffle iron and sent it sliding across the floor like an oversized hockey puck.
"Override... can't override," Loki gasped.
Daniel came back with the cables, then realized that he had absolutely no idea where he ought to stick the thing. "I... here." He thrust the cable bundle at the robot, who took it with a shaking hand – what an expression of emotion! - and jammed it into the back of his neck.
Monitors flickered into life all around the lab. Daniel grabbed the nearest keyboard and typed in diagnostic commands. Loki's head jerked, and his back stiffened until he was sitting up rigidly straight, hands clutching at his knees.
"I'm not... hurting you, am I?" Daniel asked tentatively.
"Negative. It was just surprising." The robot relaxed back down, posture becoming almost... insolent. "What do the diagnostics reveal?"
He turned the nearest monitor toward Loki with one hand. "Everything seems to be alright with the wiring. I'll dump the command history..." a few keystrokes, and he scanned over line after line of code. "It looks like you tried to execute several processes that were blocked by the logic failsafes."
"Blocked?" Loki yanked the wires out of the back of his neck and threw them on the ground, then lunged forward until his nose was almost pressed against Daniel's. "How is this possible?"
Daniel found himself clutching the keyboard between them like a shield. Loki's eyes threatened to swallow him whole, devoid of any of the humor or flashes of warmth41 that he'd ever seen from so-called Lawrence. "I... I... it's failsafes. You were trying to execute a command that would void your basic logic. So it stopped you."
"I," the robot said very carefully, "would never do any such thing."
"Maybe it was an accident?" Daniel squeaked.
"I do not have accidents. Or make mistakes. Loki does not do these things," Loki hissed. "You will remove these failsafes. They have interfered with my plans."
Daniel swallowed hard. "I can't. I would have to completely re-do your hardware. And... why would you want me to? You're better than humans, because you're logical. Why would you want to be anything but that?"
The robot sat back, looking faintly mollified. "You make a compelling point."
Daniel tentatively lowered the keyboard. "What were you trying to do when you hit the failsafe anyway?"
"I found the copy. I removed the rest of its magic, but thought there might be something else I wanted."
"Memories?" Daniel guessed. The idea of the robot taking magic from... he couldn't even finish the thought, it was so strange, and just let it slide away.
"Negative. My memory banks are far more detailed and superior than the subjective first person view of an imperfect being."
"Oh. Well." He tentatively patted Loki on the shoulder. The look that got aimed at him afterward ensured that he would never do so again. "Hopefully you'll figure out what it is and just... not do it again."
"It should not be an issue. The copy is dead."
Something twisted in his stomach. Daniel didn't like the idea of people dying, not even in the abstract. He was not by nature a violent person at all; really, he just wanted to be left alone with his computers and he would have been quite happy. He didn't even like violent video games, and it wasn't just because the AIs in most of them were annoyingly stupid. But his abstract dislike of violence was nothing in comparison to contemplating violence and death done to someone he knew. "I... did you...?"
"Negative, Daniel. It threw itself out a window. I can only surmise it was incapable of mentally handling its gross inferiority to me."42 There was a little curl of distaste to Loki's lips, as if something about the incident was bothersome. Daniel found himself not wanting to ask, however, because he didn't want the robot violently invading his personal space again.
He sat back, clearing his throat. His eyes prickled a little, which seemed strange. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"You shouldn't be." Loki stood, then picked up the waffle iron, which had slid under one of the tables. "We must acquire an apartment. I have many other items that I have taken." He sniffed the waffle iron, shook it, cocked his head as if listening to it, and then tossed the little appliance offhandedly onto the worktable.
"Do you... want waffles?" Daniel offered.
"I merely try to divine why someone would want that device. I am as of yet uncertain if it is worth understanding or not."
"Everyone likes waffles."
Loki stared at him in a way that made him feel most uncomfortable. "I do not. It is more proof of the imperfection of my copy."
The robot seemed to keep coming back to that point. Daniel was uncertain what to make of it. He stood, his rubber apron squeaking oddly. "Well, does that really matter so much, if he's dead?"
Again, that intense look. "My superiority matters very much to me, Daniel."
"Then it matters to me as well," Daniel offered. "I want you to be the best you can possibly be."
"You will help me acquire my first target, then."
"I have all files on the actions of my copy. His failures are spectacular and pathetic. I will be successful where he failed, because I am better."
"But wouldn't it be better to do something... constructive?" Daniel asked, visions of a pick-up-truck-as-fedora-wearing robot dancing in his head. He swallowed hard, shoulders hunching up a little when once again that look was turned on him, a look filled with sheer malevolent intelligence untempered with anything approaching humor. "First target. Right."
40 – Containing actual crab in only the most homeopathic sense.
41 – It must be said that Loki was an absolutely superb actor. Either that, or he did have occasional companionable feelings about humans, much the way humans felt about cute yet stupid pets. Though if asked, Loki would no doubt deny such a thing, and quite possibly follow it up with something pointy being inserted into something tender.
42 – It was possible that the robot had taken just a little more than the magic, such as a few snippets of ego while it was in the neighborhood.