looked balefully at the helmet.
was truly a work of art, as every other invention of
Dr. Light's. Midnight blue burnished titanium-alloy
steel made up the body--a metal copy of a World War
II leather bomber's helmet. The pale blue crest along
the top was made of a different metal, containing the
communications module, a newly enhanced teleport-chip,
and several damage-system control chips.
inside of the helmet was lined with a sort of "neuro-electric
sponge" as Dr. Light had explained. It was a substance
that would bond the helmet to Rock's titanium skull
and directly interpret his calculations. In human terms,
it could read his thoughts.
added brainstorm of Dr. Light's had placed a matter-transfer
chip in the crest as well, so that when the helmet was
not in use, it would retract itself into Rock's skull
structure. It could still be taken on and off like any
normal helmet, but in emergency, it could instantaneously
materialize and save Rock's internal circuitry from
severe damage if needs be.
it was a work of art, from the weapon-control and color-shifter
chip to the pale blue aural enhancement disks, decorated
with a gold foil center and placed directly over his
Rock hated it.
again?" Roll asked as she sauntered into the room.
hate killing," Rock spat. "I hate everything about it.
Thanks to this--" he gestured at the helmet,
"--it's going to be my destiny from now on. I have to
destroy my friends that I helped create." He turned
smoldering eyes on his sister-android. "Because of this
helmet and everything it means, I'll never know peace
again! I'm doomed to kill my own kind. Now, tell me
again why I shouldn't brood!"
clapped her hands slowly, sarcastically. "Very dramatic.
Not to mention unnecessary. You should be thankful that you were chosen to be our champion against chaos.
If not for you and that helmet you despise so
much, that madman Wily would--"
not mad!" Rock snapped, smashing his fist down on the
table and crushing its steel surface as if it had been
no more than tinfoil. "He's just misled! If I can just
talk to him, reason with him--"
grabbed his arm forcefully. "Listen, Rock. I know you're
upset; we all are! But you can't let this get in the
way. Justice demands--"
Rock spat, full of contempt. "There's no such thing.
Just a myth perpetuated by fools and poets."
stepped back, her face a mixture of hurt and shock.
"Rock, you have to keep hope." Without further conversation,
she picked up a fallen component for the half-finished
plasma-buster and left the room.
turned on a blinking Eddie. "What are you looking at?"
blinked large photoreceptors and trundled away in search
of safer territory to patrol.
Dr. Light cautiously opened the door.
turned slowly. Had he been human, his body would have
evidenced clearly his lack of sleep. As humans viewed
it, Rock did not need to sleep; still, he required approximately
four hours out of every seventy two-hours to cease activity
and let himself recharge. After that period of time,
his circuits began to wear down and his motions became
you haven't--" Dr. Light caught himself from using the
word 'slept.' "You haven't stopped to recharge in over
five days now. You need to slow down and let up some."
yet," Rock said, his voice chip slurring the speech.
another hour or so, you'll shut down entirely," Light
protested. "Get some rest. I'll work on the plasma buster
inwardly acknowledged the logic of the suggestion. Still,
a part of him would not admit defeat. He must keep up his work. Dr. Wily must be saved from
himself, before he did something that could not be repaired.
errant thought fluttered through Rock's electro-neural
is Blues?" he asked.
Light started guiltily at the question. "Blues?"
called me Blues while I was welding Eddie the other
day, just before the attack." Rock heard his own words
running together, like ink in the rain. He was surprised
at his own stubbornness, but refused to recharge. "Why?"
Light sat slowly. "That is something you would be better
off not knowing until the situation with Will is resolved."
Rock calculated the probability that Dr. Light's use
of Dr. Wily's first name indicated a subconscious desire
to once again be friends and partners. After seven microseconds
(extremely slowly for an android), he decided that it
was just as likely to be habit as anything else.
will not rest until I know," Rock said. Technically,
Dr. Light had not given any commands yet, so he was
not in violation of the Third Rule. Of course, he realized,
he would not physically be able to resist a direct command
by any human being. Dimly, he wondered what he would
do if Dr. Wily ordered him to kill another human being.
I order you to get some rest and forget about this thing
with Blues." Dr. Light looked sorry, even deeply sad
as he gave the command. Rock would have to obey. His
automatic circuitry would force him to.
moments of stunned silence followed Rock's refusal.
He wasn't sure if he was more surprised, or Dr. Light
Dr. Light shook his head. "Oh, no. Not again."
looked up. "How . . . ? How did I--?"
Light held his head in his hands. After a few moments,
he looked up, his eyes damp. "You are experiencing a
condition--I'm not sure if it's a malfunction or not--that
I was sure I had corrected."
Rock felt his panic circuits heat, even in his fatigue.
"Dr. Light, how could I possibly override my own programming?"
Light made no answer for several moments. In the background,
upstairs, the holovid could be heard, reporting yet
more robot violence, but still no action from Dr. Wily
himself on this, the fifth day of the world's refusal
shadows from a slowly failing light bulb limned the
room in eerie, weird shades of violet and gray. Rock
looked intently into Dr. Light's blue eyes and realized,
for the first time, that they were identical to his
brain," Dr. Light answered slowly, "is one of three
that I created in such a manner. In its own right, it
is far more sophisticated than any of the other robots'
brains. Roll has the other brain like it."
don't compute," Rock said. Had his language abilities
not deteriorated with lack of rest, he would have remembered
to use the term 'understand.'
brain is different from the other Robot Masters' in
that it can learn and adapt to new situations." Dr.
Light held up a hand at Rock's beginning protest. "The
other Robot Masters can receive information, store it
away, and dredge it up again for future reference. However,
they are only robots."
am I," Rock answered.
You are somehow . . . more than a robot." Dr. Light
wrung his hands. "You can learn, and predict complicated
projections according to your newly acquired knowledge.
You can be lost in self-reflection for hours! Rock,
you're far more of a philosopher than many humans. You
am a robot." Rock stated the one truth he knew.
Light shook his head. "You are an android. There is
crystalline lenses in Rock's eyes lost definition and
slipped into an unfocused position. "And IRA? Edward?
Jason? The others?"
Light shrugged. "Also more than mere robots. Dr. Wily
and I knew that you were far more advanced than them,
even before your own brain started to modify itself."
He folded aged hands. "I suppose the correct technical
term for the six Robot Masters would be 'androbots.'
More than robots, less than androids. You and Roll are
unique amongst them."
sat back, stunned. "Roll and I . . . and the third is
Dr. Light repeated, as if he had a bad taste in his
mouth. "Blues was the experiment. He was the prototype
for you and Roll. Originally, there were to be hundreds
of robots just like you and Roll. Blues changed my mind
about that. He damn near made me change my mind about you. I was too far along in developing you and
Roll to quit, though."
more data," Rock slurred. His optical feedback was becoming
less and less reliable: blurry and out of proportion.
made you to look exactly like Blues," Dr. Light answered.
"You and Blues are brothers. When he disappeared, I
thought I would go mad. I never quite got over that
loss. And so, when I saw you that day, thinking about
Blues, I thought he had returned."
eyes shut to save power. He could feel his muscle cable
involuntarily relaxing. "How did he . . ."
Light shook his head sadly. "I wanted to spare you from
this. Both of you."
Light spun around to see Roll standing silently in the
doorway, arms folded.
Dr. Light snapped. "Do you always listen in on private
think you could use some sleep, too," Roll said wryly.
"You're getting irritable."
much did you hear?" Dr. Light asked.
Is it true, then? I can hardly believe that we can defy
our programming." Roll cocked her head. "Can we?"
the first two rules," Dr. Light answered. "I didn't
want a repeat of Blues, so I installed a chip that would
destroy either of you if you should try to harm a human
see." Roll's face was serious. "And what did happen with Blues?"
Light frowned more deeply. "He wasn't stable. His brain
adapted itself very quickly to new situations, and soon
overrode its original programming. He disobeyed me from
time to time, even against direct commands, when he
was absorbed in a project. He broke the Second Rule
numerous times, acting irrationally and often dangerously."
whistled incessantly," Dr. Light continued with a sad
smile. "Drove me crazy. I haven't been able to master
whistling in over fifty years, and my creation had it
licked in the first day of his life!" Blue eyes misted
over as the doctor recalled the minor-key, jaunty whistling
which had pervaded the lab's halls for months on end.
"Finally, he went insane."
Roll's eyes grew wide. "Can a robot go insane?"
Dr. Light answered. "But an android can, apparently.
The emotions chip I inserted in Blues was evidently
too potent. That, coupled with his constantly shifting
brain structure, caused the nearest thing I've ever
seen to insanity in an android."
you haven't told me what happened," Roll reminded
Dr. Light stretched and yawned from fatigue. "There
was a lab accident one day. Blues was wearing the same
type of welding suit that I still keep in the lab."
gray one," Roll nodded.
We--Dr. Wily and I--were testing his new welding shield."
Memories of the an impossibly bright light and the roar
of chain-reacting plasma explosions flooded into Dr.
Light's anguished mind. "Blues was showing signs of
getting better, and Dr. Wily and I had high hopes for
him. That day, he held the prototype for a new plasma-burst-proof
shield--we now use the shields for the 12-KIF line--and
Dr. Wily and I operated a high-intensity plasma-burst
malfunction occurred." It was Roll who stated this.
Dr. Light closed his eyes. "The plasma didn't travel
in a concentrated stream as it was meant to. Instead,
a leak in the transfer pipes caused it to flood the
room. If Dr. Wily and I hadn't been wearing our environment
suits for the test, we would have died instantly from
the heat. When the laser-ignition system kicked in,
the room went up in flames."
of us ever saw Blues again."
dropped, heavy and oppressive, over the room.
Roll turned to the sleeping Rock. "Is he in danger of
such a condition infecting his systems?"
circuits are more stable than Blues' were," Dr. Light
answered. "Still, this situation with Dr. Wily is aggravating
his emotions center more than was meant to be dealt
with by a single chip. We must watch him very carefully."
shook her head sadly. "It's a crime."
more than one respect," Dr. Light agreed. "I need some
rest. Are you still charged?"
Roll folded her arms. "Unlike others, at least I know when to get sleep when I need it."
Work on the multi-phase matter-sysnthesis adapter chip
for the plasma buster. Get a working schematic for me
by morning. And see what you can do about microsprings
in the left boot." Dr. Light waved a tired farewell.
"I'll be down in the morning."
well," Roll said, sitting down at a drawing table.
* * * *
time zones and a hemisphere away, the sun rose on Skull
monument to five days' unceasing labor by thousands
of robots and almost as many enslaved human beings,
Skull castle squatted like a cancerous growth, nestled
in the peaks of the majestic Andes Mountains in Chile.
Wily--robotlike himself after as many days' labor in
an underground laboratory--stood on the ramparts of
the fortress. Built in concentric rings, at first glance
the castle looked orderly, sterile . . . robotic. However,
on closer inspection, an observer would observe a madman's
nightmare of twists and turns that led sometimes nowhere
and other times to clever--if not openly fiendish--booby
of four rings in all, each to be guarded by a sentinel
of terrifying abilities, Skull Castle would be virtually
impregnable, even by a Robot Master! Laser and plasma
cannons bristled from the steel and granite walls, aimed
in every imaginable direction. Energy fields and steel
protected each ring from intrusion from above; the only
way through each ring was first through a heavily guarded
tunnel, then into a command center where each sentinel
was station, and finally through hidden, triple-reinforced
anybody else, such measures would have been considered
Dr. Wily, whose enemy was an entire planet, it was barely
giving the fortress its name, a massive, white-painted
titanium shield protected the front entrance-shaped
like a gargantuan human skull.
Wily laughed into the cold mountain wind. Thousands
of human workers had perished in forced labor to build
this castle, but what concern of his was that? Robot
Masters and that distasteful Human Supremacy League--with
which Dr. Wily only consorted because of his need for
human beings in some operations--had been responsible
for the deaths of other humans.
for his part, had stayed locked up in his laboratory,
which had been the first room built, in a record fifteen
minutes. His first few tasks were complete; now he only
needed to concentrate on building more robots, which
was an easy task for him.
looked down from the ramparts to the central ring--enclosed
completely in steel and concrete. The only way to his
private laboratory was through that heavily shielded
center ring, through several teleport devices and a
huge array of defensive robots and energy weapons, and
finally into the bowels of the earth, where Dr. Wily's
latest creation lay.
in the depths of the armored fortress lay two vehicles.
One, the core control vehicle, was a disc about twenty
feet in diameter. In layman's terms, it was a flying
saucer, in the simplest definition. The bottom was painted
gold and the top a metallic crimson. Still, it was much
more than a mere antigravity transport device.
within his saucer, Wily could control the actions of
each Robot Master if he chose. A myriad of display screens
could be programmed to show him every square inch of
Skull Castle via remote holographic cameras positioned
periodically throughout the fortress.
second vehicle was a heavily shielded war machine, bulbous
and ungainly. The cockpit space was a large socket,
into which his flying saucer was meant to fit. Despite
its mass and bulk, it was equipped with an antigravity
hover system which would allow it to float as if it
weighed no more than a feather.
it was only equipped with four heavy plasma cannons,
the machine was virtually indestructible for all its
plasma-proof and laser-reflective armor. Nothing short
of an atomic reaction would destroy the ship.
blasted ignoramus James Walken had dubbed Wily's prize--a
creation of amazing power and limitless abilities--the
"Wilymachine." Wily hated the name, and had privately
vowed to feed Walken to his robots when the time was
six days after Wily had given his ultimatum to the world,
it was time to strike.
reached into his lab coat-pocket and removed a small
remote-control. With the flick of a small, gray switch
on this remote, Wily would command all robots under
his control to destroy everything in their path.
a few seconds to savor the poetic justice of it all,
Wily flipped the switch.
away, chaos erupted.
here in the remotest parts of the Andes, all was silent
but for the clanking of construction equipment and the
howling of the wind.
placed the remote in his pocket again, and removed his
personal teleport device. It only worked to take him
back to his lab, but it was still something. Dr. Light
had been a fool to fear the effects of the teleporter
on human matter! If anything, Dr. Wily felt that he
understood things more quickly and easily since using
a high cackle that rang with insanity, Dr. Wily vanished
in a stream of white energy.
the ground level, James Walken watched warily.
teleport machine is screwing with his mind," he muttered
to a scarred and red-haired lieutenant. "If he keeps
that up, his brain will be permanently scrambled for
sure." He rubbed his chin. "Alert all human personnel
to keep an eye out for him. I don't trust that German
bastard any farther than I could throw him."
could throw him pretty far, sir," the lieutenant chuckled.
"He's just a crazy old man."
laughed and the lieutenant left to spread the word amongst
the troops of the Human Supremacy League.
feet away, hidden under rubble, a surveillance 'bot
recorded the conversation with damning clarity and relayed
it to a seething Dr. Wily.
* * * *
poked her head into the lab.
started," she said. "Whatever Wily was busy with before,
he's apparently done now."
fully recharged after eight hours of sleep, dropped
the small laser welder. "Oh no. Does Dr. Light know?"
upstairs watching CNN right now," Roll answered. "Do
you want to see?"
picked up the completed helmet, and grimaced. "Better
not. It'll just get me angrier, and I don't think I
need that right now."
thinking," Roll answered. "I'll bring Dr. Light back
down with me after we've watched to see if there's anything
declined to answer as Roll ascended back upstairs. After
a six days of nonstop work on the new battle armor he
would soon don, Rock knew every facet of the suit. The
only unfinished component of the armor was the "plasma-buster"--an
amazing variation on the standard military plasma-cannon
utilized by most armies around the world.
form of matter with less order than gas--was highly
unstable as matter, and therefore easily induced to
carry massive amounts of kinetic energy. When ignited
by a strong energy source--in the buster's case, a corundum
pulse-laser--moving plasma became a stream (or sphere,
depending on how tightly you focused its output) of
far more powerful than all but the most massive laser-cannon,
plasma weapons were still very much an experimental
field. Equipping himself with a miniature plasma cannon
was, Rock realized--a near suicidal risk.
raven-haired android lifted the half-completed plasma-buster
from the work table.
the atom-stream "laser"--invented in early 1997--had
been installed it was still not hooked up to the cables
that would graft themselves to Rock's internal fusion
generator. A corundum rod--in this case, ruby--made
up the main body of the ignition pulse laser. In front
of the ruby rod was a crystalline lens for focusing
the laser beam and thus determining the spread factor
of the ignited plasma.
was just the prototype, of course. Rock carefully set
it down. It would have to be thoroughly--even exhaustively--scanned
by a molecular synthesizer, so that its understructure
could be duplicated and implanted via matter-transfer
chamber into each of his arms.
comparison, the rest of the battle armor was extremely
"diamond-web" material had been used to construct--not
at little cost--the flexible armor which Rock would
wear on his torso, arms and thighs. Steel boots would
fit over his lower legs, covering up to his knees. Ballooning
out like a Cutman model's feet, the boots were meant
to help Rock in leaping high and landing safely. Microsprings
in the sole aided in both running and jumping.
course, there was the helmet which Rock loathed, and
the pair of gauntlets. The gauntlets served a double
purpose. First, they provided the raw metals and materials
that would be needed for the matter-transfer system
of the shape-shifting plasma-busters to operate. Second,
they would protect Rock's hands--by far the most delicate
piece of hardware he possessed--from injury.
wrinkled his nose. By far, the most ridiculous piece
of armor he would wear was what appeared to be a pair
of steel underwear. Although he and Dr. Light had both
agreed that such a design would help protect his abdomen
and leg joints while still allowing for optimum movement,
Rock still shuddered at thought of actually wearing
if giving up some of his dignity was the cost of bringing
Dr. Wily back to his senses and saving the world from
conquest by those damnable Human Supremacy Leaguers,
Rock had no real objections.
the components were stained a metallic midnight-blue,
with the exception of the outer thermal protection suit.
Nearly skin-tight over the flexible titanium armor Rock
would wear, the pale, frost-blue thermal suit was intended
to keep him from overheating in hot climates or freezing
in cold ones.
Rock mused aloud, repeating the phrase which Dr. Light
had used to describe Rock's abilities once he donned
the armor and accepted the necessary upgrades to become
a fighting super-robot. With a wry twist of his lip,
he muttered, "So much for Superman."
about Mega Man?" Dr. Light had entered the room so quietly
that Rock hadn't noticed. Lined eyes crinkling as he
smiled tiredly, the old doctor sat on the work table.
"We're nearly finished, Rock. A few more modifications
to that plasma buster, another ten hours of molecular
scanning, and we'll be ready to put you in the matter-transfer
Rock ran hands through a mane of unruly black hair.
"Yeah, almost done. Then what?"
put that training to work!" Dr. Light answered, as if
it were the most obvious thing in the world.
perhaps it was. In addition to working on his weapons
and armor, Rock had been taking instruction from as
many martial arts instructors he could find. Because
of his perfect memory and his ability to mimic moves
perfectly within only a couple tries, Rock had virtually
mastered every fighting technique taught in Tokyo.
and Dr. Light had even formulated a plan.
analyzing the design for every line of androbot stolen
by Dr. Wily, Roll, Rock and Dr. Light had finally discovered
certain weaknesses within each Robot Master. Although
it would not be easy to defeat such powerful enemies,
Rock remained optimistic.
least, as optimistic as was possible in such a situation.
Light fiddled with the plasma buster in silence for
several minutes before looking up and announcing in
a deadpan voice, "Finished." Without wasting time, he
placed the plasma-buster inside the wire-wrapped, circuit-encrusted
molecular scanner. The massive supercomputer, with calculating
abilities even greater than Rock's or Roll's, immediately
began its calculations.
nothing more we can do now," Dr. Light said. "Let's
take a break."
nodded wearily. Of course, Roll would soon badger them
all into beginning work on her armor, but that
could wait for a few hours. For now, Rock could afford
the leisure of siting back and relaxing his circuits.
allowed himself a wry grin. It was amazing how human
he'd grown; next he'd be wanting to eat!
* * * *
flicker of motion caused him to stop his work and scan
the lab quickly. He as sure that he had heard a sound
. . .
it as overworked circuits, Rock leaned back. He had
been working on Roll's armor for close to eight hours
now. In fact, the plasma-buster scan should be finished.
After he finished his work on this piece of armor, he
would go to the next room and test the finished results.
sound made Rock spring to his feet. Maybe he as being
paranoid, but this whole thing with Dr. Wily had made
him very nervous; every time he heard a bolt fall to
the floor, he was sure it would be one of the renegade
Robot Masters, here to seal his doom.
there?" Rock snapped, switching to infrared sight.
sensors detected a human form behind a stack of empty
crates which had contained the titanium-alloy "diamond-web"
needed for the flexible body armor. The human being
was hunched over, and holding several metallic objects.
remember me, don't you Rock?"
froze. The voice was Dr. Wily's.
he asked, taking a step forward. Forcing his emotion
circuits to remain passive, he said, "How did you get
stepped out from behind the crates, and Rock switched
to normal vision again. He stared, wide-eyed and silent
at the German doctor.
Wily held a wicked looking laser-pistol, aimed straight
for Rock's head. In his other hand, he held a strange
device which flickered with a myriad of colored lights,
which twinkled like distant stars.
device," Dr. Wily explained. "It's only good for one
trip here and back, but it'll be worth it. You're coming
with me." Rock noticed that Dr. Wily spoke in German,
rather than his customary habit of speaking Japanese
when he spoke to Rock and Roll.
Dr. Wily, you know that's not reliable for organic matter
transfer. You could be--"
Dr. Wily waved his pistol menacingly. "I seem to have
survived so far."
narrowed his eyes. The overtones to Dr. Wily's voice
were abnormal, and suggested mental instability. However,
he calculated a 97% chance that voicing such a hypothesis
would cause Wily to act irrationally.
think I'm crazy, don't you?" Dr. Wily snapped. "Just
like that damn James Walken!"
never said that," Rock protested.
Wily's gaze lit upon the unfinished armor. His voice
filling with rage, he screamed, "What's this?! Armor? Weapons? You thought to defy me?"
Rock been human, he would have felt the need to swallow
as his heart beat sped up. Instead, he gestured helplessly.
"What would you have us do? Your demands are irrational."
Dr. Wily released the safety on the laser gun. "You
mean 'crazy.' That's the word you're searching for,
right? Get over here. When I'm done with you, you'll
be the greatest general of all!"
felt a shiver run through his body. Wily intended to
kidnap him and turn him against Dr. Light and the rest
of the world! He stood stock still. He could not attack
Wily, but he was afraid that if he raised any alarm,
Wily would start shooting.
see your programming is starting to fail; I gave you
a direct order. Get over here." Dr. Wily gritted his
do you mean, no?" Dr. Wily's finger tightened on the
trigger. "If you come over here, I will not hurt you.
You will not be violating the Second Law by obeying
know," Rock answered. "My answer stands."
face turned ashen. "You--you have to obey me!
You're a robot!"
turned his fierce blue eyes directly on Wily's hard
brown ones. "I am more than a robot."
Rock's superhuman reflexes saved him from the beam of
laser energy invisible to all modes of sight except
for infrared. He threw himself under the work table
and cringed as superheated bits of molten plastic and
steel burst from the wall as Wily's bolt struck.
Wily screamed hoarsely. "I'll take care of you! You
and Tom and your stinking sister!"
a half-snarl, Wily activated his teleporter and vanished
back to Skull Castle in a beam of white energy.
lab door burst open and Roll jumped into the room holding
a conventional "slugthrower" automatic pistol. After
a few moments, Dr. Light arrived as well. Both looked
happened?" Roll demanded. "We heard a commotion and
the auto-alarms reported laser-weapon fire."
sighed heavily and leaned back against the wall.
he answered. "Wily was here. We have to hurry; he knows
about the armor now."
Light shook his head sadly. "Tell us more as we prepare
for the matter transfer."
* * * *
light enveloped Rock.
stood rigidly in the matter-transfer/synthesis chamber.
Stripped down to gym shorts, he held his wrists and
feet against the necessary contact points in the sensor-studded
tingling sensation crept into the back of his cranial
flooded into his arms and legs, accompanied shortly
by stabbing pain. Rock gasped aloud at the sudden assault
on his neuro-circuits. This was an unexpected side-effect
of the matter-transfer!
did not spring to Rock's eyes; he had no tears glands.
Still, he closed his eyes and grimaced. It was better
to keep his eyes closed, anyway. That throbbing light
could eventually overload his optical sensors, and Rock
was worried enough about the load that was being dumped
on his neuro-sensors.
to popular opinion, robots felt pain; it was a useful
tool in the workplace. After all, if a robot got its
limb stuck in a piece of rotating machinery, pain would
not only warn the robot of the great danger posed to
its system, but also activate the Second Rule of Robotics.
involuntary gasp escaped from Rock's lips as he felt
the new and totally alien understructure of the
twin plasma-busters graft themselves to each of his
arms. He could literally feel the reorganization
of his neuro-circuits to accommodate the structure of
the plasma weapon.
distract himself from the pain, Rock wondered if Dr.
Light had known what kind of pain would be involved
in a matter transfer/synthesis operation. If he had,
Rock understood why the doctor had elected not to tell
him beforehand. Although Rock knew that he himself could
break the Third Rule of Robotics (though only with great
difficulty) he did not know about the second, and had
no wish to find out. It frightened him enough to discover
that one of three unshakable truths in his life had
just been proven false.
the moment, Rock wished that robots did not feel pain,
despite the logic of its utilization. "Mega human" he
might be, he thought with a twitch at the corners of
his mouth, but not totally invincible. Prolonged exposure
to this kind of pain could wear down his neuro-circuits.
A man under such pressure would have passed out; Rock
just kept feeling greater and more intense pain as time
he began to think of Blues. Roll had relayed to him
what Dr. Light had told her of Rock's mysterious brother,
presumed deceased. It was obvious to Rock that Blues
had suffered a circuit overload which shorted out his
logic circuits, and generated the irrational and unpredictable
behavior which humans referred to as insanity. The question
Rock asked himself every 2.5 picoseconds was "how?"
number of alarming possibilities formed in his mind.
Once he calculated them, he began to wonder if all the
data he would need to absorb for his upcoming task would
be too much for his microprocessors to handle. What
if he went insane like Blues?
bolt of energy coursed through Rock, leaving him bereft
of strength for several full seconds.
was over. Rock blinked and took several deep, ragged
breaths. He had not realized until now that for several
minutes he had been depriving his system of the oxygen/nitrogen
mixture upon which his internal fusion reactor depended
a few ginger steps from the matter-transfer cylinder,
Rock marveled at the novel feeling that the hew leg
hydraulics induced. It felt to Rock as if he were walking
on springs. Although that was essentially what he was
doing, he reminded himself, it still felt foreign.
the matter transfer chamber, the temperature had been
close to 40 degrees Centigrade. Rock's coolant systems
had been working constantly to keep him from overheating
in such heat. Now, as the slowly adjusted, Rock shivered.
handed him his faded orange robe which he had elected
to wear today. It seemed fitting to him that he wear
the clothes he had been born in, since he was, in effect,
being reborn as something more.
nodded silent thanks and shrugged the robe on over his
he concentrated on the plasma-buster schematics and
flipped a microscopic switch inside his right arm with
a thought. A chill ran up his arm as the plasma-buster
structure shivered. With a faint sound like rushing
water, the skin of his forearm stretched and re-formed
into the steel outside of the plasma buster. The internal
components of the buster clicked swiftly into place,
and a small crimson light flickered, indicating full
Light, over to the right, took a swift intake of breath.
Despite all his theoretical work and diligence, it was
still wonderful and something of a nice surprise to
see one of his inventions brought to life. Even, he
reminded himself sourly, if it was something as odious
as a weapon of war.
silent, Rock looked grimly from hand to hand. His left
hand still looked human, though he could feel the arm-cannon
understructure in its skeletal frame. One his right
arm was the new and foreign plasma-buster, as much a
symbol of everything he hated as the helmet.
the outside, the egg-shaped plasma buster didn't look
like much. The only visible features on it were the
golden energy meter--a display of the damage Rock could
sustain before the compensation by his internal fusion
reactor overheated his system and exploded him--and
the small crystal-lens barrel, which was maybe two inches
it," Dr. Light urged. His voice sounded too loud, almost
indecent, after the silence which Rock and Roll had
right," Rock answered. Sighing, he turned to the deactivated
renegade metool. shell. Although the program had been
deactivated and the body of the metool to badly damaged
to repair, Rock still felt like a murderer blasting
the empty hunk of steel.
the microcircuits which would have moved his right index
finger, Rock was rewarded by a sudden surge of energy.
plasma-buster bucked on his arm like a living thing,
and a hurtling sphere of ignited plasma blasted the
metool's hard-hat . . .
. . and bounced right off. Rock's eyes widened as the
plasma blasted ricocheted right off the metool's "helmet"
at an angle and tore a huge chunk of the lab wall away,
setting of a brazen choir of off-key klaxon alarms.
Light swore. "I forgot about that. Remember that certain
robots are built to withstand a plasma blast in case
their plasma welder overloads. I don't know what Wily
has done to the Robot Masters he's reprogrammed, but
you'll have to watch out for it."
nodded agreement. Taking aim and this time bracing his
right arm with his left, he fired the destructive plasma
bolt right between the deactivated metool's unblinking
a shower of melted steel and superheated metal, the
metool exploded, flames reaching for nearly a foot in
radius around it. The rubble generated by its destruction
landed all over the lab, some striking Rock in the legs.
to work," Roll commented wryly.
Rock agreed. After a moment's dark reflection on the
situation, he continued, "I guess I'd better put the
rest of the armor on and get busy, before Dr. Wily pulls
the lab became a flurry of activity. Dr. Light dashed
back and forth, retrieving items and preparing pieces
of armor as if he were the lab assistant to Rock,
and not the other way around. Roll was likewise busy,
getting everything in order. Eddie even trundled into
view and cranked his top open so Rock could remove the
Dr. Light said, as Rock removed his robe once again
and donned the flexible torso armor. "See how many you
can simply deactivate without destroying. Don't kill
those damn Human Supremacy Leaguers, and be careful."
Rock smiled bitterly. As if he was capable of forgetting
what he had already been told thirteen times.
pulled the gray leg armor onto himself, followed by
the similar arm-armor. Having switched off his plasma
buster, it disappeared back into his arm, leaving on
an innocuous human hand in its place.
try not to overload," Roll said with a half-serious
wink. She handed him the pale blue thermal suit which
would protect him from extreme temperatures on both
ends of the scale. "Remember, I still have to finish
my armor and help you out. What fun would it be if you
got yourself killed while I was busy waiting to join
Rock said quietly as he got into the thermal suit. "The
on the "steel blue underwear," as Rock had named it,
Rock felt the armor magnetically seal itself to his
body through the thermal suit. Briefly wondering if
that would affect the suit's performance, Rock sat down
and pulled on the massive boots.
they similarly clamped down around the space just below
his knees, Rock stood and tested himself. With the boots and his new leg modifications, it felt to him
as if he were--what was he human expression? "Walking
tried a practice jump and amazed himself by leaping
nearly four feet high.
he murmured as Dr. Light handed him the dark blue gauntlets.
"And I wasn't even trying to jump that high."
won't have the leaping abilities of an Cutman or Bombman
model, but you should get about fifteen feet to a full-powered
jump." Dr. Light watched as Rock fitted the gauntlets
onto his hands. Like the boots, they too sealed themselves
picked up the helmet. Loath to put it on, he held it
under his arm. Ignoring the raised eyebrow of Dr. Light,
he asked, "Where's the map?"
holding it," Dr. Light answered.
looked into his hands, embarrassed. He had just taken
the map from Eddie few minutes ago! What was wrong with
him? Hoping that this wasn't a signal of a deteriorating
brain, Rock looked intently at the map.
it, indicated in red, were the six most crucial areas
occupied by Dr. Wily's robots. If he could break control
at each of these points, destroying Wily's power should
be comparatively easy. After calculating the importance
of each area, coupled with the cities nearest to it,
Dr. Light, Roll and Rock had agreed that power must
first be broken at the world's largest Treeborg supply
and processing plant in Sydney, Australia.
took a deep breath. "I guess I'm as ready as I'll ever
be. Wish me luck."
Light nodded approvingly. "Spoken like a true hunter.
Good luck, Rockman."
looked at his helmet one last time, and then quickly
placed it over his head, concealing his entire mane
of black hair. Sadness swept over him as the full impact
of what he was about to do hit him.
a half growl, he swore to end this madness.
luck, Rock," Roll said. "Take care of yourself."
nodded quickly. With one last look at his surroundings--home--Rock
activated the teleport chip in his helmet and the world
vanished in a blaze of bright blue light.
looked away for a moment, overcome by emotion. When
she turned back to Dr. Light, she said, "Come on. Let's
get to work on my upgrades so I can join him. Another
week and our chances will be doubled."
Light stayed behind for several minutes after Roll had
left for the other room, to begin work on her own armor
the ionized air before him, Dr. Light whispered, "Farewell
. . . my son."
Continue to First Encounter--Chapter