are the key. It doesn't matter what kind of fancy 'buster
you're armed with or what kind of blade you hold in
your hand. Lord Sigma learned that the hard way. A laser
can be reflected. Electricity can be absorbed. Plasma
can be deflected. But toss a bomb at one of those highly-touted
Hunters, and they'll run like hell itself is following
on their heels."
--Counter Hunter Serges, prior to the second
Irregular Uprising in Neo Tokyo
glanced from side to side, hologram-cloak photoreceptors
taking in every detail of the small room. Crystalline
lenses flicked back and forth like a nervous cat's tail
as the top-heavy emulation robot committed every square
nanometer of the room to its ROM.
its brain still wasn't fully functional yet, Docman
had gained a sort of primitive sentience; it was aware
of its surroundings, and it was able to make some small
decisions of its own based on interaction with its environment.
It had come to identify the tall, wild haired human
as its father, at least. That was a step in the right
robot took a few tottering steps forward and stared
at the mechanical roach before it. A thermal sensor
sweep revealed a much higher body temperature than was
normal. A few additional sensor sweeps confirmed to
Docman that the roach was actually one of Dr. Wily's
in design and easily hidden, the robot roaches had been
mass-produced by the millions at Dr. Wily's command,
and had been spread across the globe to spy for him.
It was because of the tiny cybernetic insects that Dr.
Wily knew of James Walken's plan to betray him.
it was through the eyes of one his many spies that Dr.
Wily had--while monitoring Docman's emulation of Blues--happened
to witness the destruction of Iceman. As soon as Docman
had returned, the wild-haired robotechnician had flown
into a fit of screaming rage. Docman didn't understand;
he had been ordered to speak certain words and steal
the Plant's operation key.
Wily had told Docman that Iceman would certainly have
taken control of the Purification Plant and destroyed
it before schedule if the key were not removed from
the plant with alacrity. So, as the German doctor's
loyal servant, Docman had left disguised as a robot
called Blues to steal the key away, and to plant a certain
surprise for Rockman in Iceman's systems.
then, was Dr. Wily angry?
had held up the key proudly; he knew it would bring
his master great joy. Like a puppy, Docman was eager
to please his master and receive praise. It was his
purpose in existence.
had been a terrible shock to the emulation robot when
Dr. Wily had slapped the key out of Docman's hands.
All of the quasi-developed robot's childish glee at
a job well done had dissolved under the German roboticist's
scathing, vituperative rage. Docman had eventually hidden
under a table to avoid another outbreak of insults and
hurled tools by his master.
Dr. Wily had fallen asleep in the corner, weeping about
the death of Iceman.
not sure what to do, had crawled out from under the
table and sat in sentinel vigilance, guarding his "father."
And now he had discovered the roach.
half-formed positronic brain relayed a few electronic
signals, and the robot got an idea. It would make Dr.
Wily happy if he woke up and found that Docman had destroyed
the organism called James Walken. Docman did not know
why his master hated the organism so much, but Docman's
place was not to question.
small smile forming on humanoid lips, Docman walked
slowly to a security monitor in the corner of the room.
It was one of hundreds just like it that displayed what
was seen by the robot roaches within Skull Castle. Trying
with all its might to understand the dials and switches
which adorned the monitor, Docman began the laborious
process of searching for James Walken . . .
* * * *
Walken giggled as his father leaped out of the bush
and caught the young boy by his armpits, lifting him
up and swinging him around in a circle.
cheated!" Jimmy protested as his father set him down.
"I said no hiding in the trees!"
is a bush," George Walken pointed out. "Anyway, my boy,
it's called 'Hide and Seek,' not 'Hide Anywhere Except
in the Flora and Seek.'"
frowned. "I still think it's cheating. You're way bigger
than me. You should have to walk on your knees to chase
me. That'd make it fair."
Walken opened his mouth as if to answer, but cocked
his head slightly instead.
hairs stood on end. With the big war overseas, everybody
here at home was really tense. It scared Jimmy to see
his dad with such an alarmed look on his face--especially
after the way he had acted last night.
George Walken hadn't spoken to Jimmy about it, the child
had heard on the news last night that America had joined
the war, and some big dictator in Europe was really
angry about it. There had been threats, but Jimmy hadn't
is it, dad?" Jimmy pulled on his father's pant leg.
It was covered with dirt and smelled of the juniper
bush George Walken had just been hiding in. "Dad?"
Walken "shushed" his son and stained to hear a far-away
a six-year-old boy like Jimmy, such treatment was unacceptable.
he snapped, his face darkening with a scowl. "Dad! What
flinched as his father's molten glare turned on him.
"Jimmy, I'm trying to--"
words cut off in mid-sentence. Jimmy's heart raced as
his father's eyes grew larger and rounder than Jimmy
had ever seen them.
I want you to climb that tree over there and don't come
down until I say to." His father's voice was a harsh
it!" George Walken nearly threw his son into the large
oak nearby. "Get up there, boy! And stay there until
I tell you it's all right! Do you understand?"
deadly seriousness with which George Walken spoke would
tolerate no argument, and Jimmy knew it. There was something
else in his father's voice, though, that made Jimmy want to scramble up the tree and hide like a
sooner had he reached the top of the tree did Jimmy
see them. There were only ten of them, but that was
enough to scare the boy out of his wits.
were silver-plated and disc-shaped, with blue lights
flashing around the rims of their bodies. Easily fifteen
feet across, the disc-shaped robots glided along the
ground without a sound.
park was in the middle of the city, and Jimmy could
easily see his house a few blocks away from his vantage
point high in the tree. There were more of the silver
disc-shaped robots at his house, he could see.
watched in horrified fascination as the robots approached
are evil, Jimmy," his father had told him. "They're
a sin against God. The good Lord didn't intend for the
sons of Adam mock Him."
don't understand, daddy," Jimmy had said. "Mrs. Kerzon
says that robots are just metal and plastic, and that
they can't think!"
"They can think, Jimmy," his father had snapped emphatically.
"But they don't have a soul. And that's the worst sin
shrugged. His father was a Baptist minister, and Jimmy
supposed that his daddy knew a lot more about what God
liked and what he didn't than Jimmy ever would.
Jimmy was torn from his reverie as one of the robots
Walken," it said in a terrible, icy voice. "Age: 34.
You are to come with us."
Walken stood defiant before the robots, his chin jutting
out. "I will not."
arrest is a crime, Mr. Walken," the foremost robot said.
heart raced. Arrest? His daddy?
what reasons am I to be put under arrest?"
mechanical alacrity, the robot began to list charges.
"Illegal arms sales to the New Frankish Empire. Sabotage
of government property. Resistin--"
did you find me?" George Walken's harsh whisper was
not heard by his son.
match, Mr. Walken," said a second robot as the first
continued to list off charges. "The blood you left behind
when you escaped arrest last time." The robot extended
a pair of arms, holding handcuffs. "Come, Mr. Walken.
Your days if weapons smuggling are over."
. . and treason," the first robot finished.
frowned. What was the robot talking about? His daddy
was a minister! Jimmy didn't know what "smuggling" or
"treason" meant, but neither sounded like something
that a minister would do.
have to kill me," said George Walken.
face turned ashen.
Laws of Robotics had been created by the genius Isaac
Asimov decades ago. However, the international talks
to instill the Three Laws in each robot manufactured
had broken down when the war broke out. It was fully
possible that these robots might kill Jimmy's father.
is scheduled for next week," the robot droned. "Lethal
injection, as per the laws of--"
robot exploded in brilliant white flame. Jimmy had never
even seen his father draw the laser pistol from his
emotionless, the second robot began to speak. "You are
only making it worse," it said. "If you try that again,
Mr. Walken, we shall be forced to--"
second robot exploded, too. Jimmy was nearly blinded
by the flash. Waves of heat rolled over him up in his
tree. Bits of steel and glass rained down, landing in
his hair and cutting his arms. Jimmy bit his lip to
keep quiet. These robots scared him more than anything
else in the world.
any warning, the third robot dropped to the ground.
The smooth top of its shell split and a long, thin silver
proboscis slid out of its electric innards. Jimmy's
eyes were glued open in terror when the invisible laser
blasted forth with a force that could be felt up in
was little transition. One moment, George Walken was
next, the was a headless body standing where Jimmy's
father had been. Shards of bone lay carelessly strewn
about the park, and deep crimson blood was already beginning
to pool around the body.
pitifully, the body crumpled to the ground without a
robots turned and departed, a silver procession of mechanical
* * * *
Walken awoke with a start.
had been decades since his father's death. Although
George Walken had been posthumously declared guilty
of the crime of treason against the United States of
America, James Walken had never believed that his own
father would be a traitor.
left one explanation; it had been an error. Somewhere,
a robot in charge of the DNA match of the man who had
been smuggling weapons to the New Frankish Empire had
made an error, which resulted in the unjust death of
had to be it. James Walken refused to believe any other
so James Walken had founded the Human Supremacy League
to destroy all robots, that nobody else should suffer
such injustice. Robots had destroyed James Walken's
life; he would not permit them to do so to others.
the HSL was now allied with Dr. Wily and his army of
unholy creations was of little concern to James Walken.
When the world had been shown what a plague robots could
be, then they would join the HSL in destroying both
Wily and his robots.
Walken rubbed the sleep from his eyes. There had been
something important to do today . . .
That was it!
devil-spawn who pretended to be human would die today.
James Walken's lip curled with disgust that such a monstrosity
should be allowed to exist. Dr. Light would pay for
that. George Walken's words echoed through James' mind: "They can think, Jimmy. But they don't have a soul.
And that's the worst sin of all."
Walken had found long ago that such words aroused anger
and indignation in people very easily. Faith was a valuable
weapon to James Walken. He had duped most of the HSL
into believing that he was some sort of prophet, and
that it was God's will that all robots be destroyed.
door cracked, and a knife-blade of light fell across
James Walken's face.
recognized the voice. "Yes? What is it, Kelly?"
young woman walked into his room hesitantly. "Sir, you
aked me to wake you at 5:00. It's that time now."
you, Kelly." James Walken waved a dismissive hand. "You
may go, now."
a young Australian woman of about 25 years, shifted
uncomfortably. "There's more, sir. Dr. Wily sent for
you, but I told him that you weren't to be disturbed."
She swallowed hard. "He was really angry, but he said
just to send you as soon as you woke up."
eyes narrowed. Dr. Wily was becoming a genuine nuisance.
"Thanks, Kelly. I'll go see him."
visibly relaxed. It was obvious that she disliked being
caught between two powerful men as a courier. As she
turned and left, the door closed behind her, plunging
the room into darkness again.
Walken stood and dressed unhurriedly in the dark. "So,
it's 'as soon as I wake up' is it? We'll see what the
arrogant old bastard has to say when he's dangling at
the end of a rope!"
leader of the HSL left the room angrily.
him, a robotic roach twitched its antennae, and in the
monitoring room, Docman smiled with the lips of a German
roboticist. The plan was working perfectly so far .
* * * *
Rock arrived in Tokyo, Dr. Light merely shook his head
the massive hole in Rock's chest and the near-dismemberment
of his arm, Roll raised a questioning eyebrow. "Do I
want to know?"
Rock snapped. "Nice to know that you kept the wolves
away this time," he said acerbically as he noticed the
lack of reporters.
really," Roll countered. "We just told them that you'd
be back in two hours. We got your message from the South
breathed out in relief--an amazingly human gesture that
he no longer even thought about. "Good. Is there a team
answer, Roll smiled. "The world's main water source
is functional again."
Light put a hand on Rock's shoulder. "You've been injured.
Rock couldn't think of any other reply to the obvious
get you fixed up," Dr. Light said. "Did you get the
held up the chip between his index and middle fingers.
Dr. Light smiled. "You can sleep and we'll fix you up
and install the chip."
the way," Roll said as Rock turned to leave for the
repairs room. "We received a televid call from a guy
called Snap. He wanted to talk to you, but we said you
were out defending justice, liberty, etc... Do you know
him, or is it another reporter?"
smiled genuinely. "Snap! I met him in Sydney and saved
him and his two daughters. I gave him instructions to
get away from Sydney as fast as he could. I'm glad to
know he made it out alive."
than that," Roll interjected. "He's in Tokyo."
laughed, for no particular reason at all. Then he dropped
the floor. His heating circuits had been working overtime,
and had now cut out. Rock felt his body temperature
drop rapidly. As a safeguard, his automatic systems
gave electrical jolts to his steel musculature, in order
to generate some friction-heat.
all appearances, Rock was shivering.
think," he chattered, "I think that Iceman hurt me worse
than I detected."
* * * *
Iago was not happy with this assignment.
believed fervently in the HSL's cause, but this still
didn't feel right to him. Despite what he had told James
Walken, Juan didn't feel confident of any sort of victory
against Rockman. After all, the robot had single-handedly
destroyed three powerful Robot Masters. What use would
lasers and pistols be against a foe that strong?
his fingers through his black hair--a nervous gesture
of his--Juan scanned his team. There were twenty top
men assigned to this task along with Juan. Each was
a weapons expert and highly skilled in hand-to-hand
lot of good that last part would do them. Juan snorted
in disgust. A robot like Rockman was probably equipped
with muscles of steel cable and titanium. No matter
how strong a human was, Juan knew it was futile to fight
against such power.
had to think positively. Taking a deep breath, he mentally
recited the League's "motto," if that was what it could
be called. Robots are inferior to us. They are lower
than humans in every way, and need to be obliterated
from the face of this world because they are Satan's
believed almost all of that.
had been raised in a religious family, and felt that
the ideals of the League were admirable. After all,
robots could not be allowed to dominate the world. Sloth
was a sin, and robots encouraged sloth in their human
owners. Juan had always been on the lookout for ways
to thwart the devil in his machinations, and this was
no exception to the tall Brazilian.
was good at what he did, and he knew it. Even before
the HSL had been founded, he had been an expert and
blowing things up. Now, however, instead of demolishing
abandoned buildings, he was destroying the factories
in which the unholy robots were created.
he killed humans in the attack didn't trouble Juan's
conscience at all. If the people were merely victims
of circumstance, and had been forced by hard living
to work in such a place, then their souls would go to
Heaven where they belonged. If the people had chosen
to work there of their own will . . . Juan believed
that they would go where they deserved as well.
grim determination, Juan looked over his team again.
Finally, setting his jaw firmly, he spoke. "Well, gentlemen,"
he said authoritatively. "God's will be done. Let's
go fry that bastard."
order was met by cheers from the gathered members of
the Human Supremacy League.
* * * *
black hooded figure held a large axe.
crowd below cheered with bloodthirsty enthusiasm.
watched in horrified silence, unable to move. He could
see each face in the mass of human flesh assembled in
the city square below his vantage point. Some face he
recognized. Snap was there. So were his daughters. After
a small amount of searching, Rock spotted Roll, Dr.
Light, and several workers from the LighTech robot factory
in Gladstonbury. Off to the far right, Rock even saw
Akira Yamatsu--the worker from the LighTech factory
in Tokyo whose eyes were mismatched in size.
of them cheered.
black hooded figure shifted on the podium in the middle
of the square, leaning on his axe.
held his breath as the sea of humans below parted to
make way for a trio of figures. The one in the middle
was hunched over and wearing a something grey and filthy.
On either side of it was a security guard: tall, muscular
and dressed in the dark blue armor and uniform of the
cheering increased in volume and intensity as the trio
drew nearer to the podium on which the black hooded
figure stood, waiting.
the the three came to stop at the podium, Rock noticed
the wooden block in the center of the podium. A small
hollow had been meaningfully carved out on one edge.
Rock had always wondered what it felt like to be nauseated.
Now he was fairly sure that he knew.
two security guards threw the hunched figure down on
knew who it was before the eyes turned up in pathetic
appeal to the crowds.
William Albert Wily knelt on the stage in the center
of the crowd, his eyes beseeching forgiveness. Beside
him, the executioner waiting with menacing stillness,
the large axe gripped meaningfully in his hands.
eyes caught Rock's and held them as he was forced roughly
down. His neck was lain across the chopping block, and
his eyes filled with tears as he stared at Rock, pleading.
Rock shouted, as the executioner lifted his axe high.
"No! Don't do it!"
unable to hear Rock over the clamor of the massive audience
to the public execution or heedless of the cry, the
executioner swung the axe down in a cruel, merciless
silence descended on the crowd.
winced as a dull, wet thunk rang out across the
of him wanted to rejoice that Wily's threat was abated.
Another part was disgusted at the waste of human life
and sorry for the pain Dr. Wily had suffered. Even now,
the dead eyes stared at Rock, as if not quite able to
believe what had just occurred.
Wily's head, in slow motion, fell to the dusty floor
of the raised stage. Blood flowed from the neck stump,
and the body slumped over. Rock bit his tongue as the
head rolled like a ball into the executioner's foot
and remained there, soaking in a puddle of thick blood.
Rock had possessed a physical heart, it would have stopped.
executioner removed his hood and looked directly at
was his own face. Exactly.
the crowd erupted into cheers.
Long live Rockman!"
screamed as his doppelganger on the stage graciously
bowed and laughed . . .
. . and he was suddenly sitting up on the operating
Light was shaking his robotic "son" by the shoulders.
put a hand to his head. By the reverberations of sound
in the room, Rock knew that he had been screaming in
reality, and not just in his dream.
happened! Rock, speak to me!" Dr. Light looked with
genuine concern into Rock's eyes. "In the name of God,
tell me why you just did that!"
raven-haired, lapis-eyed android shakily removed his
hand from his forehead.
don't know," he answered. "I was having a nightmare--"
what?!" Dr. Light's and Roll's exclamation of surprise
Rock snapped. "You know: a bad dream!"
Light shook his head. "Amazing," he breathed.
looked envious. "I've never had a dream."
blinked. "Really? I have them all the time, now. Ever
since . . ." he trailed off. "Ever since I destroyed
Jason," he finished.
you say?" Dr. Light asked. "Not just a replay of your
a shudder, Rock said, "Not unless a duplicate of me
beheaded Dr. Wily in front of a screaming mob and I
just don't remember."
eyes widened. "That's some dream. I'm not sure whether
to be jealous or sorry for you."
wouldn't be jealous," Rock said darkly.
Light coughed uncomfortably. "Yes, well . . . we'll
have to look further into this. This is most interesting
. . ."
it one of the signs of madness?" Rock asked suddenly.
Light started guitltilty. "What?"
Blues went mad," Rock asked. "did he start having dreams?
I'm afraid I might be having a neural breakdown. Maybe
all this stress on my circuits--"
Dr. Light shook his head emphatically. "I've been keeping
track of your mental state through your helmet, and
you're doing just fine."
didn't answer my question." Rock folded his arms.
Light shrugged. "We were never sure. While he recharged
. . . "slept" . . . he sometimes would speak softly
as if he were talking to another person. Whenever I
asked him, though, he just whistled."
see." Rock's voice was flat. He took a deep breath.
"Well, what did you do to me?"
chimed in. "Well, you got the Ice Slasher. It's a modified
version of Iceman's weapon. We went over the visual
records of your battle with him, and it looks like this
thing will pack quite a wallop. It'll be another option
in your weapons submenu."
nodded. "Anything else?"
really. It's only been a couple hours, and it took most
of that time just to fix up the damage that the bastard
did to you." Roll fidgeted. "I'm really sorry for what
you have to go through. I hadn't watched any of the
visual records of your fights before. It's . . ."
Rock finished. "I don't know what human sickness feels
like, but I think I feel sick every time I know that
I've destroyed one of my friends, and that it's not
over yet. I hope it will feel different once Wily's
power is broken and I don't have to fight anymore."
nodded fiercely. "Yeah. Me too."
Light cleared his throat. "There's one more thing."
sound of the aged roboticist's voice made Rock's head
turn immediately. "What?"
second shot Iceman hit you with. It was different from
the first, wasn't it? More painful."
answered Rock. "Why?"
have reason to believe that there was something encoded
within the molecular structure of the icicle. Something
bad. I don't know what just yet, but there was some
sort of energy signature left behind in your systems
for a few minutes afterwards. I don't know if it's serious
or just a random side effect of the Ice Slasher. I want
you to keep an eye on it, though." Dr. Light gestured
lamely with his left hand. "That's all."
understand," Rock answered. He hung his head. "I'm still
your systems recharge some more," Roll urged. "Go to
your room and sleep."
about the reporters?" Rock's acidic inquiry was directed
at Dr. Light.
handle them," the roboticist said. "Just get some rest.
You're halfway done, but there are still three more
key areas that need to be liberated, which probably
means three more Robot Masters to destroy."
nodded gratefully and left for his room. However, when
he arrived, he did not go to sleep immediately. He envied
Roll her dreamless sleep, and cursed that fate should
place him in such a position.
justice, Rock told himself before going to sleep.
he did not dream.
* * * *
James Walken stood before a groggy Dr. Wily. "Why did
you send for me at this hour?"
Wily frowned. "What are you talking about? I just woke
up ten minutes ago."
Walken struggled to keep control of his temper. The
deterioration of the man's mental state was pathetic.
"My assistant received a video message from you stating
that you wanted to see me right way."
Wily opened his mouth to protest. "I never--" He stopped.
Understanding dawned on his face. "Oh. All right, then.
the hell that means, James Walken thought
what was it that was so important?" Walken demanded.
frowned. "Don't use that tone of voice with me, James.
You might think I'm mad, but I still have power, and
that's all that counts. Oh, don't look so surprised;
I have spybots all over this castle. Did you think that
any move you made wasn't being watched?"
see." Walken's face was a mask. "And what do you intend
at the moment," Dr. Wily answered. "But know this; that
expedition you sent out to destroy Rockman is a wasted
jaw tightened. "They will succeed."
impossibly stupid." Dr. Wily waved a hand in dismissal
of Walken's statement. "I meant that Rockman will be
dead before your men can reach him."
leader of the Human Supremacy League smirked. "Three
of your highly-touted generals failed to kill that pretender-to-humanity.
I think you will fail to destroy him with the other
Wily, rather than launching himself at the other man
as Walken might have expected, laughed. It was a deep
laugh that rose in timbre and intensity until it was
shrill, piercing siren that hurt Walken's ears.
suddenly Wily stopped and glared lasers at Walken. "You
idiot. Don't you think I know that? I made safeguards
against it. You may say I'm mad, but I'm not stupid.
I sent Docman to New Shirewick just before Iceman was
destroyed. Iceman's matter-synthesis module, though
he didn't know it, was slightly modified by an undetectable
beam from Docman."
was genuinely impressed and interested. "Go on."
he fired his special weapon, the ice would constructed
in such a way that it's molecular structure would be
able to carry a certain energy signal into Rockman's
virus," Walken guessed.
very potent one," Wily agreed. "It will render all of
his systems useless within seventy-two hours."
Dr. Light will discover it and erase it," Walken objected.
snake-like grin crept across Dr. Wily's weathered features.
"I think not. The virus is bonded to Rockman's primary
module. Specifically, it's bonded to the Three Rules
of Robotics, a section of Rock's brain that Tom would
ever think to tamper with."
there's no way that Rockman can shake this virus?" Walken
felt hope creeping into his heart.
Wily snorted. "None. I bonded it to the Second Law:
'A robot must protect its own existence.' If--by some
error in Tom's hard-coded progamming--he fails to protect
his own existence to the extent that the Second Law
can be considered broken, then he will inevitably die
anyway, and breaking the Second Law is the only way
to dissolve the virus's program."
Walken smiled. "You devious son of a bitch."
Wily clapped him on the back. "I'm sorry you were disturbed
in the night."
made no answer, but left the lab. Dr. Wily's expression
suddenly turned icy cold as the lab's doors closed behind
the leader of the HSL. "And we'll see who shall dangle
at the end of the rope when this is over," he snapped.
Then he turned to the back of the lab, where Docman
have you been up to?" he demanded.
* * * *
New China had never been scenic.
the Third World War, the entire city had been converted
into a sort of giant munitions factory for China, which
had been allied with the New Frankish Empire. Because
Chengdu sat at the base of a large mountain range and
directly over several large veins of iron in the Earth's
crust, a mining industry had been strong there ever
since the end of the Third World War.
was no surprise to anybody who paid attention to that
sort of thing when Chengdu had been chosen for the location
of the Global Mining Industry Complex, dominated by
a large central tower.
had expected that if Wily had placed a guard on Nokaneng,
he would be doubly sure to place at least one Robot
Master in charge of Chengdu, so that had been the next
place he'd come.
first, he didn't see any real difference. The sky was
still a pale blue; it seemed to have been partially
bleached of its color by the poisonous chemicals spit
into the air by the hundreds of industrial plants in
the city. Even treeborgs had a hard time surviving here.
The only ones Rock could see were large, cylindrical
ones plated with iron almost entirely. There were no
leaves to be seen; only large, rusted iron orbs atop
the huge trunks.
shook his head. Millions of workers had once lived here,
and now it was deserted. Rock hoped that most of them
had escaped before they were killed, but he knew that
it was unlikely.
had teleported down fairly close to the Global Mining
Tower, and decided that it was as good a place as any
to begin his search for the rogue Robot Master. None
of the previous three had been difficult to find, though
getting to their lairs had been a challenge.
his eyes to avoid momentary optical overload from the
glare of the sun, Rock scanned the area. This area had
been in Dr. Wily's control for more than a week, so
the android surmised that security would be even tighter
here than in Iceman's demesne. Sure enough, Rock saw
immediate signs of fortification around the tower.
one thing, several chasms had been opened around the
tower, encircling the structure as bottomless moats.
Heavy construction material and/or explosives would
have been necessary for the depth of the moats. Rock
frowned. He'd already faced a Tim model, but that was
no guarantee that there would not be another here.
the concentric rings that were the chasms, Rock could
see that the lower levels of the tower had been built
up. Ladders, bricks and sheets of steel all hung from
the sides of the tower, with the appearance of a cancerous
growth on the otherwise perfect symmetry of the white
smoke drifted by in clouds. Rock curled his lip. It
was this kind of poison that had brought mankind to
the brink of destruction not fifty years ago. The smell
of it alone was enough to set off alarms in Rock's internal
point in waiting around," Rock muttered, starting towards
had broken Wily's power in three places. Three out of
six. It didn't take Rock's supercomputer brain to calculate
that he was already halfway done with his task; beyond
destroying Wily's six generals, his only other concern
was to find Dr. Wily himself and bring him to the authorities
. . .
concept was a farce, and Rock knew it. Was it justice
to destroy the Robot Masters? Certainly, they caused
unforgivable injury to the human race and murdered countless
people. Still, destruction didn't cancel destruction.
a way, Rock felt sorry for his opponents; they had not
always been this way. The Robot Masters that Rock hunted
were merely pawns in Wily's bid for world domination,
and, in truth, were enslaved by their programming. They
were no more than weapons in a war whose stakes were
it be justice to melt down the gun that killed a bank
teller in a robbery? In truth, the robber was to blame--not
the gun. And in the same way, Dr. Wily was to blame
for the death that Rock had already witnessed, and would
doubtless encounter again.
abruptly swelled up in Rock. Damn him! Damn that traitor!
What had anybody ever done to Dr. Wily that the German
robotechnician should make such a strike at his fellow
men? Had Rock been human, he knew that his first choice
would be to kill Wily, but his programming prevented
him from that.
wouldn't have changed that, even if he had the power,
but the seeming futility of his struggle enraged him.
then, even the rage faded away, to be replaced with
bitter frustration and sadness. Even Dr. Wily wasn't
fully responsible for his own actions; it had been the
teleporter that had destroyed his sanity and made him
into the monster that controlled the Robot Masters.
the thoughts angrily away, Rock found himself at the
edge of the first chasm. Rubble and debris made a kind
of staircase up to the edge of the seemingly endless
drop. Rock stood still.
wind howled across the chasms, resulting in a deep-voiced,
discordant choir with a deeply unsettling effect. More
haze and pollution-spawned smoke drifted by as Rock
waited. He wasn't quite sure what it was that had stopped
him from walking up the "stairs," but something definitely
told him not to move yet.
was the second time he'd experienced such a feeling,
and it vaguely disturbed Rock. He'd forgotten to ask
Dr. Light about the subject, and cursed inwardly. It
was picosecond later that Rock realized that his memory
was perfect, and that it should have been impossible
Rock ran a virus scan on himself, but could detect nothing.
sudden sense of dizziness wept over Rock. That is to
say, his gyroscopic laser system that helped him to
keep his frame balanced malfunctioned slightly, and
Rock found himself teetering on his feet.
now that he had suffered some damage, Rock scanned himself
again, but to no effect, but for the dizziness again.
Rock pondered the situation. If he were afflicted with
a virus, and his scanners hadn't detected it, the only
explanation was that the virus had affected his scanning
program. The scanning program was an integral part of
his overall program, located in priority higher than
almost everything except for . . .
blood would have run cold if he's been human.
except for the Three Laws.
. . ."
was a feeble whisper soon lost on the howling wind and
swallowed by the discordant hum of wind across the chasms.
any virus Wily would inflict on Rock would be brutally
quick. Why, then, was Rock still alive?
he wants me to suffer first . . .
thought made Rock grind his teeth. Fired by new determination
in the face of such a challenge, he straightened his
back against the wind and readied his plasma buster.
is of the essence . . . damn intuition.
took a few steps back. Bracing his boots against the
rocky ground, he took a running leap over the chasm
and immediately cursed as he came face-to-barrel with
a high-energy U.S. Army Issue Plasma Cannon. An industrial
orange painted dome nearly as wide in diameter as Rock
was tall, the cannon was motion activated, as Rock knew.
Sensing the android's motion towards it, the cannon's
burst-proof armor split along its seams and opened to
reveal a large, cylindrical plasma coil.
his body in midair to avoid being blasted backwards
into the chasm, Rock landed at an angel that would have
snapped a human ankle. He quickly rolled and ducked
in anticipation of the star-hot burst of energy that
he knew would come . . .
enough, less than a second later, the cannon opened
fire on the location where Rock had been only moments
before. Golden-white energy with more heat than the
core of a star crackled and blasted forth from the cannon's
quickly, Rock lifted his arm and blasted the cannon's
main coil, calculating that the added heat would overload
a space of time that the human eye could not detect,
the cannon's coil turned white-hot, and then proceeded
through colors of the spectrum invisible to human perception.
Then, with a miniature thunderclap, the cannon exploded,
hurling superheated shards of steel in hundreds of directions
and bleeding foul, dark smoke into the sky, to blend
with the rest of the smog.
breathed a quick sigh of relief. Heavy plasma cannons
were nothing to be toyed with.
Rock could make any move to rise, a silver football-shaped
object blasted out of the chasm and rose several meters
into the air. Rock tracked it with a growing sense of
anger. It was an Arabian "fist" bomb!
"fist" exploded in mid-air and hurled eight main sections
on a three-dimensional axis. Rock ducked and covered
his head to avoid them, and quickly stood once the attack
had passed. So far, there had been no robots in evidence.
Well, fine. He preferred automated weapons to thinking
robots anyway; it made his battle less difficult.
leaped to the top o the stair-formation and scanned
Three more chasms to clear. He could see over them from
his vantage point atop the stair-step structure. Beyond
that, there seemed to be a ruined greeting hall of some
kind. Rock couldn't see clearly to the bottom of it
for the patches of ceiling which still remained. Still,
he guessed that they would be full of various sentries.
that, the tower itself rose into the sky. Rock could
see cancerous additions to the tower; sharpened steel
stakes jutted from several places, and he was sure he
could detect a myriad of different cannons.
He'd gotten through more heavily-guarded places.
himself to move quickly, Rock played a deadly game of
hopscotch as he leaped over each chasm, avoiding flying
bombs and plasma bursts from the mounted cannons. It
was hard work, but quick. As long as he could keep himself
moving in a pattern, he knew that the danger would be
from his last jump, Rock found himself on the hole-patched
roof of the ruined reception hall.
he had suspected, he could see trouble below, in the
form of two multidirectional U.S. Army Rotocannons.
As powerful as the Heavy Plasma Cannons Rock had encounted
earlier, these could twist on a horizontal axis and
fire a burst of up to twenty plasma shots at a time,
in as many directions. Such power required massive power
cells beneath, which meant that below the room must
be several dugouts with the cells housed in them.
the Heavy Cannons, the rotocannons were set on a timed
cycle, and not triggered by motion or pressure plates.
Rock quickly determined their timing cycle and leaped
across the stable portions of the once-roof to reach
up it, he was faced with a mess.
large room had once been a lounge of some sort. Now,
however, it had been dominated by four large heavy Plasma
Cannons. The roof of the room had been blown away, leaving
only a small patch that was attached to the rest of
the displaced fire escape, the steel of which had been
torn like paper and placed several meters to the left
the floor of the roof, sharpened steel stakes ensured
that any fall would be a disastrous one. Rock cursed
quietly and quickly climbed to get as far away as he
could from this nightmare of a room.
by one, the Heavy Cannons opened and loosed their deadly
blasts at Rock. Trapped on the ladder, there was little
the android could do to dodge their fire. He braced
his feet on the rungs and leaped upwards to avoid one
blast, and let himself fall a short distance to avoid
the next. The third blast missed him completely and
blew a section of wall near Rock into dust.
fourth scored a hit square on Rock's chest. The raven-haired
android cried out in pain and felt himself slip several
rungs as the searing sensation bit through his armor
and crisped his synthetic flesh beneath, revealing sensitive
need time to recharge. Now's my chance.
with supernatural speed, Rock scaled the rest of the
ladder, jumped to the next section and made his way
out of the room. Above it, the ceiling/floor was solid.
Rock paused and took several deep breaths. Many more
blasts like that, and he wouldn't have to worry about
the virus doing him in.
if his thoughts had been a summoning, Rock felt a twinge
in his leg circuitry. He forced himself to move on to
the next ladder, which would take him up to the thirteenth
floor. He was almost halfway up this section of the
the top of the ladder, the building stretched out in
a relatively flat area for several square meters. Beyond
that, Rock could see more stair-structures, presumably
concealing long drops to the bottom of the building.
front of that, however, was a 12-KIF.
welding armor was a dull pea-green color, and its photoreceptive
equipment was concealed behind a heavy welding mask.
In front of it, the 12-KIF held a silver-white welding
kind that Blues disappeared while testing, Rock
robots, while mute, could understand several key commands
in different languages.
Rock ordered. It was worth a try.
12-KIF responded by rotating its shield a few degrees
and letting loose a blast of plasma.
easily dodged the attack and retaliated. His shot scored
a direct hit on the 12-KIF's torso. Stumbling back a
few steps, the 12-KIF fired again. So, too did Rock.
As if mirroring one anothers' actions, the pair leaped
the shots intended for them and landed on guard.
was quite intelligent for a simple industrial robot,
but Rock soon was able to trick it into falling into
a pattern of firing and leaping. Every other time it
landed, Rock was able to score a hit. After ten such
minor victories, Rock was rewarded with the explosion
of the 12-KIF. He had not escaped unscathed, suffering
another blow from his opponent's plasma buster.
next stretch was much the same as the first had been.
Three chasms made an effective guarding tool when coupled
with heavy plasma cannons and a seemingly endless stream
of the zoomorphic "Sharksfang" missiles (complete with
shark's face painted on them).
his way past the attackers, Rock reached another fire
escape, and quickly climbed.
to move faster! Rock gritted his teeth. The longer
he took, the more chance that the virus would overtake
him before he could reach Dr. Light for repairs.
large, plaza-like room stretched below him, lined with
sensor 'bots and rotocannons. Rock blessedly made quick
time across the blackened patches of the concrete roof
not destroyed by plasma fire. Once, upon looking down,
Rock saw a pile of blackened human bones.
jaw clenched, and he moved faster. Humanity was all
but helpless against this threat. If he didn't act quickly,
it would be too late!
seemed like no time at all that he had passed by another
room whose floor was lined with sharpened stakes and
up to the roof of the building. The roof had also been
lined with spikes in some sections, but some creative
jumping had taken Rock safely past them. Some equally
creative shooting had dispatched a pair of 12-KIFs that
guarded the roof as well.
left Rock standing before a bunker of sorts. He had
reached the top of the tower and found no Robot Master.
The squarish structure in front of him would be the
entrance to a stairwell that would lead back down, if
Rock was any judge of architecture.
Rock flung open the door and took a step forward. He
had no time for a game of hide-and-seek with this homicidal
because of the virus' effects, it was almost a full
half second before Rock realized that he as falling.
His blue-armored hand shot out and found purchase on
a cylindrical ladder rung.
This had been a stairwell; Rock could see the places
where the stairs had been. However, it was now just
a long, square passageway that led straight down. A
ladder still clung to the side of the wall, as a leech
might cling to its host. Other than that, there was
no way of getting up or down, short of flight.
climbed down the ladder cautiously, avoiding the cube-shaped
Eyebots which hovered back and forth, searching for
the bottom of the ladder was a trapdoor.
no mood to be patient, Rock opened the door and looked
down. It was about a thirty foot drop, but he could
manage that if he was prepared. Taking a deep breath
to recharge and mentally commanding his body to behave
itself, Rock plunged downwards.
landed hard, but unharmed, in an empty room. There was
no sign of any habitation--human or robotic. The walls
were tiled with blue-green rectangular ceramic, and
the floor was sturdy, no-nonsense cement. This was obviously
intended to be a safe-room of some sorts.
was no door, and no way of getting back to the top of
the room from which he had entered. Rock swore violently.
It was a trap! He had been so anxious to do things quickly
that he hadn't stopped to think. No it was to late,
and the blue-armored android snarled in self-disgust.
klaxon alarm sounded, and a red light flashed in the
at least I won't die of boredom. It was pessimistic,
but Rock was angry at himself and the situation. Somebody
has to notice that and check it out.
the minute, "somebody" had. Rock found himself staring
at the round, orange and black androbot that had just
teleported in. Not stopping to wonder how the androbot
had managed to teleport inside a magnetic field, Rock
raised his arm cannon.
the great Rockman doesn't even stop to think anymore,"
the androbot snapped. "He just shoots first and asks
lip curled in irritation. "Your sick master has ensured
that I don't have time to worry about moral questions
anymore," he bit back. It was true. Now that he had
this virus, Rock had no way of knowing how long he would
survive, and thus no time to ponder the morality of
his battle. Now he must act first.
Is that what you say of everybody who has more power
than you?" The androbot's brow furrowed. "I had thought
better of you than that Rock. It seems we have both
not Rock anymore," Rock answered, fighting to keep the
hurt of that truth out of his voice. "I'm Rockman."
there is a distinction," the androbot agreed.
"I am Scott no longer. My name is Bombman. Now, prepare
up," Rock snapped, loosing a string of plasma blasts.
first hit Bombman square in the chest. The dual-colored
androbot stumbled back and grunted as if surprised by
the attack. Then his eyes narrowed, and Rock could detect
the supersonic whine that signified the activation of
a matter-synthesis module.
black bomb appeared in Bombman's hand.
rushed his adversary, firing the whole time. Perhaps
if he could get Bombman to drop the bomb . . .
made an amazing leap straight over Rock's head and hurled
the bomb downwards at his blue-armored opponent. Rock
cried out in frustration and pain as the bomb exploded
and hurled him back into the tiled wall. Pain sensors
screamed alert and Rock struggled to rise as another
bomb descended in its flight towards him.
himself away from the shattered portion of the wall,
Rock rolled towards Bombman and fired again. From the
angry noise he heard, he assumed he had hit his opponent
again--at least once.
better than I expected." Bombman stalked towards Rock
as another bomb formed in his hand. "I'll try harder."
that he could not move. The virus had rendered him immobile!
Pain numbed his circuits as the relays became overworked.
Desperate to avoid destruction, Rock tied everything
to jog his motion circuits into action.
ha ha! Look at you, sitting terrified like a rabbit!"
Bombman hurled another black orb, which exploded on
Rock, hurling him back once again. "Aren't you worthy
of my combat? Get up and fight, you pathetic scrap!"
by the pain and the virus, Rock couldn't even speak.
I can't let it end like this! There must be a way to
break its hold . . .
suddenly, the virus receded again.
an angry roar, Rock charged his opponent and tackled
him, knocking Bombman to the ground. His plasma buster
pressed against the androbot's main thoracic cavity,
Rock grimaced with animalistic ferocity.
murdering filth," he spat. "I don't die that easily."
do I." As Rock released his blast into Bombman's internal
circuitry, the bomb which the spherical androbot had
been forming exploded beneath Rock, hurling him across
the room with a blast that shook the walls.
a long moment, a terrible, ghastly silence filled the
Rock pulled himself erect to stand.
what was left of him--lay shattered on the floor. His
chest had been blown open by Rock's plasma charge, and
its blackened edges peeled back from the main body like
rotten fruit which had burst open. The arms were stretched
out as if to embrace the sky, and the legs had been
separated entirely from the body, and were lying several
meters away, leaking circulatory fluids onto the floor.
the smell of ozone, Rock stepped forward and reached
into the dead androbot's body. Rooting around in the
head cavity like a mortician, Rock finally found the
renegade androbot's matter synthesis control chip.
wave of dizziness wept over him again, and Rock quickly
activated his teleporter so that he could get back to
the lab. The sooner he could get this virus removed,
to Firestorm--Chapter 8