them. Burn them all to a Roasted Platter. Fire is the
ultimate weapon. Nothing better than to watch those
Mavericks burn to death by yer classic Flamethrower.
The power of fire is uncontrollable and spreads quickly.
Burn them all."
Dragon (Magma Dragoon), Former Maverick Hunter of the
slammed his fists down on the comm console in frustration.
"There's no possibility that Rock could have destroyed
the other four without help! You're mad, old man!"
Wily's holographic image smiled. "Well, this mad old
man is your master, and you're programmed to obey him.
Now, if you value your so-called life, you'll do as
I say. You know that your programming requires it."
snarled with frustration. "Of course I have to follow
your orders, damn you. But you're crazy if you think
that Rock is our only concern. He couldn't have beaten
my brothers with no help at all! He's a tool user,
for Christ's sake! Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
you're a Waste Disposal androbot, whose only ability
is to burn trash." Dr. Wily's sneer was mocking. "Don't
be an idiot, Fireman. Of course he was a tool
user! Now he's a soldier, just as you are. It's not
so strange a concept. You should be able to grasp the
idea of modification."
perpetual flame that burned at the top of Fireman's
fire-stove head module turned white hot. "Don't taunt
me, old man. I may be slave to your orders, but I can
still cause trouble for you."
no doubt," Wily answered, sounding not in the least
bit convinced that Fireman's threat was serious. Now
do as I command." The three-dimensional image of Dr.
Wily's face dissipated into thin air, leaving Fireman
alone in the chamber.
Fireman raged, scouring the walls with white-hot flame.
"Son of a bitch! Filthy human swine!!!" He blazed
his anger across the walls until they were coal-black
and his rage had subsided a little.
Wily was a damned fool to think that Rock--Rock--had
come so far on his own. A simple, trusting fool like
Rock wasn't worth destroying! He wasn't even worth worrying
about! Rock was a pathetic philosopher and human-lover
who would rather spend his days reading poetry and serving
drinks to his master than fighting. How dare Wily order Fireman to waste his combative talents on
such an insect!
door to the chamber opened, and Fireman whirled in a
the hell do you want?"
mute 12-KIF held a terrified, struggling human.
see. Another one." Fireman waved a silver-grey gauntlet
in dismissal. "Very well. Leave the filthy thing here.
I'll take care of it."
12-KIF saluted with its free hand. Then it roughly shoved
the human forward onto the floor and left the room.
stood with his hands behind his back, regarding the
fear-stricken, quaking human with utter contempt. Finally,
he turned his back on the filthy organic creature and
shook his head.
me," he grated through the silver half-mask that concealed
the bottom of his face. "Tell me, human. How did you
come to be here? I thought that all the vermin in New
Denver had been exterminated."
was no answer from the human.
didn't turn, but spoke in even, measured tones that
were more frightening than his enraged screams. "I asked
you a question, human. You are to answer. Now, let's
try again. How did you manage to come here when I have
personally seen all the human beings in New Denver destroyed?"
your time." Fireman's jibe was acerbic.
got lost on the road and ended up--"
turned with the speed of a cat, and in less than a second
had lunged across the room and backhanded the man across
the face, shattering his cheekbone and opening up several
blood vessels. The man's blood-chilling scream echoed
through the room for a handful of seconds.
don't like being lied to," Fireman said calmly. "Now,
you have one last chance. If you tell me the truth,
I will let you go. If you don't I will incinerate you
like I did those others in the corner." He gestured
to a heap of blackened objects that might once have
been human bones before hellish heat twisted them beyond
me go? You promise?" The man's voice was weak with fear.
Fireman loathed the sound of it.
Robots cannot lie. It is in our programming." Fireman
grinned beneath his mask.
his face was ruined and he was bleeding profusely, the
man spoke. Blood and missing teeth slurred his words.
"I'm from Boulder, out to the west--"
know where Boulder is."
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"
The sooner this was over with, the better. Fireman couldn't
stand the blubbering thing in front of him.
since we're a couple miles away from New Denver here,
there've been some survivors. A couple of us still have
televids, and we saw that Rockman had been defeating
the generals of Dr. Wily's army."
restrained himself from roasting the man for even saying
we thought to ourselves that if a robot could beat them,
then we could too. So we looted some abandoned stores
for weapons and came here to New Denver. We'd heard
that the Waste Disposal Plant here was where the general
of this precinct was, so we--"
enough." Fireman's hands clenched into fists. "You thought
that if a robot could do it, so could you? Are you implying
that robots are inferior?"
That's not what I meant at all!" The man gibbered and
clutched his pale hands to his bloody, crushed face.
many others were there?"
That's not counting me. You won't hurt them, will you?"
laughed. "Hurt them? How ridiculous!"
man relaxed. "Oh, thank the Lord. Oh, thank--"
course I won't hurt them," Fireman interrupted. "They,
unlike you, won't suffer before they die."
man's face paled. "You said--you said--"
please. You stupid creatures will believe anything!
Of course I can lie. As if I'd let my palace here be
infested by vermin like you." Fireman held up his fist.
man leaped to his feet and scrabbled against the firmly
locked steel door, crying and cursing and pleading all
since he wasn't facing Fireman, he never saw the white-hot
sheets of flame that ended his life and burned him into
a twisted, hunched, blackened figure that was barely
recognizable as a human skeleton.
* * * *
was like being drunk.
at least, was what Rock surmised. Never having consumed
alcohol, or--even if he had--suffering the organic effects
of motor-control loss and muddiness of thought that
was called "drunkenness," Rock had no frame of reference.
when he appeared in Tokyo, in Dr. Light's lab, Rock
fell to the ground in a heap.
Roll's concerned voice cut through the mayhem of reporters'
voices. "Rock, are you okay? What's wrong?"
tilted his head up. He was in the main reception room
of Dr. Light's mansion-like house. Once again, he was
faced with a sea of reporters. Faces blurred into one
another, and the voices dimmed to a buzz in Rock's auditory
sensors. The only thing Rock was truly aware of was
a deep, throbbing, humming sound that seemed to come
from within his own head. And the pain.
coursed through his titanium musculature, but the blue
robot hunter was too drained of energy to make any move
or sound in complaint. A grey, static field crackled
across his vision.
. . . rroooollll." He finally managed to slur a single
was at her brother's side in an instant, hauling him
to his feet. "Oh my God, what happened to you?"
realized through his virus-induced stupor that she must
think that he had been injured badly in the fight with
Bombman. His armor was charred to blackness nearly everywhere,
and his face was scorched underneath the helmet.
of his helmet made Rock realize that his head module
seemed overheated, so he quickly retracted his helmet
into his skull, letting the blessedly cool air of the
Tokyo evening ruffle his black hair. The coolness of
it felt like a sweet kiss on his feverishly hot crown.
Rock! Oh, please speak!" Roll's voice was laden with
concern and anxiousness. "You've got to pull through
this! You're our only hope now!"
were roughly pushed aside by Tokyo policemen to clear
a swath for Roll and her burden. Rock noticed Snap in
the crowd, and his two daughters, Julie and Bess. Their
faces seemed to be the only real ones in the tumult.
seconds, Rock had been heaved on the table. Dr. Light
and Roll were immediately bending over him, working
frantically at his skull-cap module to unseal his positronic
brain. "He's going fast," Roll said grimly.
strove to speak. "Vvvviiiirrrruuussss." He shivered,
despite the heat he felt. "Virus." His voice was getting
clearer. "Dr. W-wily gave me a v-v-v-virus. It--"
Dr. Light's voice was firm. "We realized what had happened
soon after you left. By then, it was too late to reach
you. Thank God you were quick in your work, or you might
not have survived at all to even reach us again."
felt a searing pain in his head, and the, suddenly,
it was gone. All of it. His meters respectively rose
or dropped steadily towards normal levels, and his body
temperature dropped back to his normal of 92 degrees
washed over Rock. He sat up.
I don't know what you did, but it really helped." He
grinned at Dr. Light. "Is the virus gone?"
Light looked away. Roll clenched her jaw grimly.
What is it?" Rock's brow furrowed. "What are you--"
HSL attacked while you were away," Roll said without
preamble. "I was powerless to help because of the Prime
Rule, but they were beaten back quickly enough by the
Tokyo police force. But they killed eight people and
stole all the armor that was meant for me."
shut his mouth in surprise.
was a planned attack," Roll continued tightly. "They
were all killed, but for two. One of them escaped. The
other was caught by the police. After they pumped his
bloodstream full of truth-inducing drugs, he confessed
that their orders had been to steal my armor and--and--"
assassinate me." Dr. Light's voice was bleak. He straightened
his shoulders. "We were then given a full description
of exactly what was to be done with my body." He shuddered
at the grisly memory.
orders?" Rock fought to control the fury in his voice,
and felt his emotion circuits heating to dangerous levels.
man killed himself before he answered the question."
Roll shook her head. "It could have been either Dr.
Wily or James Walken. Or both."
the man who escaped--"
actually," Roll corrected. "She disappeared without
a trace, along with my armor. We're back to square one
now, Rock. If you can't defeat Wily, there's no hope."
need rest," Rock said flatly. "I can't keep this up
without some recharge time. You can install this chip
while I sleep." He held up Bombman's matter-synthesis
control chip. "A 'gift' from Bombman."
Light nodded briskly. "Right. And we can fix up your
armor, too." The aged robotechnician attempted to smile.
"I work so hard on your armor, and every time you come
back, it's ruined. Plain carelessness, if you ask me."
forced a halfhearted grin as well. "Yeah. Well, it's
only a little burned this time."
to sleep," Roll urged. "We'll take care of things."
Rock sat back up with surprising speed. "There's something
I've been meaning to ask you about." He indicated Dr.
Light with a nod of his head. Dr. Light raised an eyebrow
in invitation for Rock to continue. "I've been getting
these feelings--half-formed ideas of what might happen
before it happens. Like intuition."
Light nodded. "It's a trait I had hoped to further develop
in you later on. As it is, the programming for it is
sketchy at best. But now is not the time to be asking
such questions, Rock. Go to sleep so we can work on
gratefully slipped into the dark oblivion of his recharge
* * * *
stepped into the room, accompanied by Bess and Julie.
he gonna be okay?" The swarthy Australian looked with
obvious concern at the damaged figure of Rock. "I mean,
I told him that Cutman--"
looked up, surprise plain on her features. "Snap?" She
shook her head, as if to clear it. "Yes, that's right.
You arrived before he left to fight Bombman, didn't
nodded. "Yeah. We heard all about him on the news while
we were getting here. He's amazing!"
he is," Dr. Light said quietly as he worked the matter-synthesis
chip into Rock's plasma buster. "I only wish . . ."
wrong?" Snap's face turned stormy.
be blunt," Roll turned on Snap. "My brother has been
infected with a lethal computer virus by Dr. Wily. It's
a self-replicating and self-modifying terror that has
a secure grip on areas of his brain that will be destroyed
if we tamper with them."
managed to delay the effects of it, but he's already
had the virus for sixteen hours and forty-eight minutes."
Roll took a deep breath. "If we don't find a way to
knock out this virus, he'll be completely inoperative
in fifty-five hours and twelve minutes. So please, let
us work. In less than three days, Rock has to defeat
the last two Robot Masters and storm Skull Castle. I
don't know how much help we can give him, but it will
be easier for us to save his life if we can have peace
Light looked reproachfully at his "daughter."
Apologize. That was unnecessarily brusque."
stood straight. "No need to coddle me, doctor. I'm a
tough man, and I understand when it's better to get
out and let people work than harry them with questions."
he allowed himself a grin. "I'm diff'rent than the reporters
genuinely smiled. "Thank you. I promise we'll let you
know when he can speak again."
nodded and turned to leave. As he was at the door, Bess
dropped his hand and rushed over to Rock's supine form.
"Get better," she said, kissing the android on the forehead.
Then she followed her father.
Light stood in stunned silence for a moment.
Rock were awake," Roll said, "I think he'd be crying
don't cry," Dr. Light said absently.
they should," Roll snapped.
* * * *
Iago flicked off the televid screen, and with it, the
images of Rock, Roll and Dr. Light.
Chengdu has fallen." He turned to Monique. "You got
Monique, an assassin and top-rate espionage expert,
nodded. It was barely more than a brief inclination
of her head. "We failed to achieve our secondary objective."
waved his hand. "It's not important. Dr. Light's death
would have been convenient, but not crucial. We have
what we sent you for."
seems," Monique said, "that we may not be needed to
dispatch him after all. If the virus will kill him within
a few days . . ."
Juan's rebuttal was flat. "Mr. Walken's orders were
clear. We're to destroy Rockman ourselves. If we wait
for the virus to do our work for us, he may do more
damage yet. Above all, Rockman must not be allowed to
pinpoint the location of Skull Castle."
last order had sounded uncharacteristic for James Walken.
It had been Juan's understanding that Walken had intended
to leave Skull Castle and Dr. Wily to the wolves within
a day. Still, it had been unmistakably Walken's voice,
Walken's face . . .
comm link beeped. Juan hit the green "receive" button.
Walken's head materialized before the pair of HSL terrorists.
Walken," Juan nodded. "Everything is going according
Walken smiled at the other end. "Remember that your
duty is to see that Rockman is destroyed before he can
reach Skull Castle. That is mandatory."
Juan answered. He didn't, though. Why should Walken
care what happened to Skull Castle? "Sir, is this channel
answer, Walken grinned even wider. "We need no longer
worry about Wily's snooping. I have taken care of him."
sighed in relief. "Good. Thank you, sir. That man gave
me the creeps."
* * * *
gave us all the creeps, Juan." Walken commiserated from
within the bowels of Skull Castle. "Don't worry. He's
finished now. I've declared Skull Castle our base of
staticy image flickered. "That's great, sir."
out." The image of the Brazilian terrorist and his French
companion dissolved into a million tiny pixels in the
air, scattering like errant fairy dust and disappearing
just as quickly.
Excellent! That was wonderful!" Dr. Wily smiled triumphantly
and clapped Walken on the back. "A perfect performance!
You're getting better every day!"
Walken's features distorted and twisted, then collapsed
back into those of Docman, who grinned widely. "Thank
you. I owe my adaptability to you, father."
puffed up with pride. "Yes, well . . . let's get on
with business, shall we?"
grin turned evil. "Time to give the much-vaunted founder
of the HSL a little visit."
Wily's laugh was rich and filled the subterranean room.
"So it is. So it is, my son."
rose and walked towards the door. Dr. Wily smiled to
himself in dark satisfaction. Soon that fool Walken
would be dealt with, and Wily would not need to fear
for his life within his own fortress.
German roboticist sat down in a cushioned leather chair
and looked back and forth at his laboratory. Things
had made quite a turnaround; Rock would be dead within
three days, James Walken would be dead within the hour,
and Dr. Wily would be the unquestioned ruler of the
he ruminated, it seemed to Wily that he had started
this business with reprogramming the Robot Masters to
prove a point, but that point eluded him now. No matter.
When he had the world under his thumb, he would conquer
the rest of the Solar System. Then he would have the
power to banish the hallucinations which denied him
sleep and sanity.
Devil rumbled in the corner, and Wily frowned. "Go and
guard the first ring," he ordered of his massive, stone-plated
cyclops. "Don't return until I tell you to."
voices . . .
Wily clutched his head as a fresh wave of jabbering,
inhumanly high voices rose in an eerie choir and drowned
bist verruckt, alter Man!"
im dunkelheit, klein Billy."
ist deine Mutter jetzt?"
voices taunted him, picked relentlessly at his mind
until the scabs of reason that had grown over his insanity
tore open and bled afresh. Wily screamed and waved his
arms helplessly as rows upon rows of metal demons marched
upon him rending his flesh to blood-slick ribbons.
Away! Leave me alone!" Wily stumbled backwards over
a tool chest and landed hard on his posterior. Pain
drove him to violence, and the German roboticist hefted
a welding laser and swung the heavy tool right into
the face of the closest hell-spawned nightmare.
creature took no notice of the attack, and leaped for
Wily's throat, jaws glistening with blood-washed saliva.
Dr. Wily screamed and flailed his instrument into darkness.
He had one hope . . .
teleporter! Dr. Wily managed an ugly grin of mad
triumph as he depressed the "teleport" stud on the silver
rod within his lab coat.
and space twisted for a moment, and reality became a
distant vision seen through a kaleidoscope of tortured
consciousness. A buzzing like a thousand hives of wasps
jabbed Dr. Wily in the temples, as if the sound were
a razor-sharp icicle. Then there was a flash of white
light, and Dr. Wily found himself standing on the ramparts
of Skull Castle.
demons had vanished, leaving Dr. Wily weak in the knees
Wily shivered and dropped to his knees.
was to blame for this. Rock and Dr. Light and Roll .
. . they had all brought this upon him. But soon, Rock
would die. The aged roboticist grinned feebly through
his delirium at the thought. Yes, soon. Rock would be
less than nothing.
Dr. Wily forced himself to stand despite the pain in
his head. The wind made the tails of his lab coat flap
wildly like bats' wings, and his wild hair whipped back
and forth in the gale.
the ramparts of Skull Castle, a vision of madness stood.
it began to rain.
* * * *
plodded down the hallways of Skull Castle.
had seen the black-haired Brazilian man Juan Iago enough
times to make a convincing holographic shell. The top-heavy
emulation robot straightened his shoulders and assumed
the features of Juan Iago. This would be too easy.
pressed the entrance request button of James Walken's
moment later, the voice of the HSL founder spoke. "Enter."
Docman said. "I return with good news!"
Walken stared dubiously at Docman/Juan. "Juan? How the
hell did you get here? Didn't you just leave?"
news!" Docman replied, ignoring the question. "Rockman
is dead! Our agents destroyed him near New Denver!"
frowned. "Impossible. My spies tell me that he hasn't
left Tokyo yet."
stuttered. "Y-yes. Well, he was about to go to--"
up, Wily," Walken spat. "Nice replica, but I won't be
fooled." Walken pulled a laser pistol from his jacket
pocket and let loose a beam of destruction right at
passed right through the holographic exterior and narrowly
missed Docman himself.
was your last mistake, human." Docman raised his arm,
permanently converted to a plasma buster, and blasted
Walken dead in the center of the chest. Walken gave
a strangled cry and fell backwards, blood spurting from
the parts of the wound that weren't cauterized.
the blood was black.
stood still for a moment, then walked forward and inspected
skin was stretched across titanium ribs, and the musculature
of the body was made of steel. A radiowave transmitter
had once been in the chest of the body, to receive remote-control
decoy!" Docman bit out loud. Angry, he blasted the robot
body into ashes, then turned and stormed out of the
several miles away, at the other end of a set of remote
controls, James Walken, pale and sweating, watched through
the eyes of one of Dr. Wily's robotic roaches.
* * * *
awoke to the harsh lights above him.
face appeared. "How are you feeling? Is everything optimal?"
was a momentary pause as Rock ran a quick scan on himself.
Haltingly, he answered. "I think so. There seems to
be some sort of block on a few of my sensors, though.
You . . . ?"
Dr. Light's voice spoke from behind Rock.
male android sat up on the table and swung his feet
around the side, letting them dangle. Forcing a grin,
he quipped, "So give it to me straight, Doc. How long
do I got?"
spasm of pain passed over Dr. Light's face as he answered.
"That's hard to say, Rock. We've managed to retard the
virus' progress, but we can't stop it. At best, we calculate
that you have a little more than two days."
blinked. "Two days? Two days until what?" He was afraid
of the answer, but had to hear.
virus," Dr. Light answered with obvious difficulty,
"the virus is self-replicating. It has a firm hold on
the module that governs the Three Rules, and we can't
get it to let up. As you know, any tampering with that
area of your brain could kill you instantly."
two days . . ." Rock's voice was little more than a
whisper. "I have only two days to live?"
gripped his shoulder. "We're doing all we can. If you
can keep Wily at bay for the next day, the extra time
might be enough for us to formulate a counter-program
that will nullify the virus."
deathly pall descended on the room, and Rock stood slowly.
see." He looked at his hand. "And if not . . ." His
hand clenched into an iron fist. "If not, I'll live
out my last hours destroying my once-friends." The android
felt his anger circuit-relays beginning to overheat
with too much current.
. . ." Roll's voice was gentle.
him . . ." Rock suddenly turned and bashed his fist
into the table, splintering the steel surface like balsa
wood. "Damn that maniac to hell!" He turned on Dr. Light
"And damn you for giving me life! Why couldn't I have
been a metool? At least they don't--" he made a choking
sound and fell heavily to his knees.
Light stood rigid with half-fear and half-sorrow.
voice was a miserable, almost inaudible whisper. "Don't
want to die . . ."
looked up as Dr. Light's hand came to rest on his shoulder.
The aged roboticist's eyes were bright with unshed tears.
The analytical part of Rock detachedly noted how the
light reflected unevenly off the doctor's corneas. "Rock,"
he said, his voice heavy with emotion. "I--you have
been as a son to me. I'll do all I can. " He took a
deep breath. "Life is never so precious as when you
fear you might lose it."
looked at his hands and shifted them both into plasma
buster configuration. Bitterness seeped into the overtones
of his tenor voice as he spoke. "Maybe it's better this
way. I've killed, and it isn't justice for a killer
to go unpunished."
couldn't stand any more of it. She roughly grabbed Rock
and forced him to rise, staring straight into his eyes.
"Stop it!" she ordered harshly. "You can't keep blaming
yourself for all of this! It's not your fault that you
have to fight, and you deactivated--"
Roll snapped "the renegade Robot Masters because it
was required by the Second Law. You've acted with courage
and justice this whole time, and I refuse to give up
on your life yet." She pushed her face right into Rock's.
"And damned if I'm going to let you give up on it, either."
took a few surprised steps back. "But I--"
'buts.' You straighten up and go do your job. We're
going to be breaking our tailbones back here to save
your neck, so you'd better get out there and save the
world's neck. I won't have that chance anymore." Roll
smiled wanly. "When this is all over, you'll never have
to fight again, but right now, the Waste Disposal Plant
in New Denver and the World Power Plant in Croatia need
seconds passed in silence. Dr. Light stood still as
a statue, amazed by the exchange. Never had he dreamed
that his programming could have been so successful.
Of course, he reminded himself, Roll's program, like
her brother's, was self-modifying. When this was all
over, he was going to sequester himself away with a
voice-activated word-processor and dictate notes until
he was hoarse.
finally nodded. New determination glinted in his eyes.
right. I can't give up. I have to save the world from
Wily." He paused, and added. "And I have to save Wily
from himself. Thank you, Roll." He suddenly reached
out and crushed his sister in a bear hug. "I guess this
is what being siblings is about."
couldn't speak, overcome with emotion.
Light felt a single tear roll down his cheek as Rock
turned and departed.
Roll said as she hurried after him. "I forgot to tell
you; you have Hyper Bombs now, just like Bombman's."
made no answer but a quick inclination of the head.
Before Dr. Light could say anything to his android "son,"
the midnight-blue steel of Rock's helmet materialized,
and Rock disappeared in a needle of blue-white incandescence.
Roll returned, he finally found his voice.
he said, "is how you are different from androbots."
* * * *
Rock landed in new Denver, the first thing he noticed
was the heat.
had arrived right in front of the Waste Disposal Plant,
which was reason enough for the heat. March in New Denver
always started out cold, but that had been negated by
the awesome blaze that perpetually burned in the Waste
his vantage point here in front of the square, grey
building, Rock couldn't see any smoke rising from the
massive heat-releasing chimney at the top of the structure.
That, at least, had not been tampered with.
chimney to the Waste Disposal Plant in New Denver was
unique. The top of it was equipped with a molecular
shield that broke the toxic smoke that rose from the
smelting area of the plant into its constituent atoms
and released only harmless oxygen, nitrogen and faint
traces of carbon into the air. That only the heat--not
the smoke--was escaping meant that whichever Robot Master
presided over this area had had sense enough not to
destroy the shield.
maybe he just hasn't gotten around to it yet . . .
thought spurred Rock on to action. The faster he could
get through the plant, the faster he would be done with
this whole terrible ordeal. He took a deep breath and
opened the massive cargo-loading area doors in front
of which he had landed.
looked cautiously around and ran inside. The cargo loading
bay was one of two on this side of the building. From
here, he could see a ladder leading to the upper storage
area that was directly above the cargo loading bay.
sense in dallying.
an equal mix of haste and caution, Rock scaled the ladder,
plasma buster at the ready.
soon as his head poked over the top, Rock saw a Rotocannon
mounted on the floor of the empty storage area. Smiling
grimly, he raised his arm. Whether the cannon was set
on a timed circuit or just motion detecting, Rock never
found it. With several judicious blasts, he destroyed
the rotating cannon before it had a chance to fire.
that cleared, Rock quickly scanned the rest of the storage
area. Finding nothing but a ladder that led up to the
uppermost storage area, Rock climbed that, too, and
dispatched two similar cannons.
however, he as faced with a small problem. He was in
a large, rectangular room. The only entrance or exit
lay in the ladder he had just scaled, and one like it
at the opposite end of the room.
the bottom of the ladder, Rock was fairly sure he'd
be met by another rotocannon.
cursory glance provided no clue as to the lower room's
contents, except that it was another empty storage room
like the one he had just exited a few moments ago. Gritting
his teeth and keeping his plasma buster at the ready,
Rock jumped down the ladder shaft and dropped ten feet
to the ground.
he ducked. As he had guessed, another rotocannon was
mounted in this room. Only his quick duck had saved
him from decapitation by a head-sized blast of plasma.
Still lying on his stomach, Rock blasted the rotating
stem of the cannon until the main gun separated from
its controlling circuitry below and fell useless to
quick jump down the next ladder brought Rock into a
nearly identical situation, which he handled with equal
alacrity. Now, he found himself in a mirror image of
the loading bay through which he had entered. This time,
however, the doors opened not on daylight, but into
a hellish red inferno.
inferno was a small burning/smelting pit: one of many
in the complex. Liquid-hot metal flowed in a small lake
at the floor of the room where Rockman now stood. From
time to time, flaming fragments of metal--perhaps they
had once been parts of robots--burst out of the molten
slag and flew several meters into the air before returning
to their fiery graves.
no point in delaying his necessary trip across the infernal
landscape to the ladder he saw beyond, Rock took a running
leap and landed on an observation platform in the middle
of the lava-sea.
nearly fell backwards into the inferno when a column
of flame blasted upwards through the platform directly
in front of him. Cursing breathlessly, Rock noted with
no small amount of dismay that his sensors indicated
that the ultra-hot air was searing away some of his
more sensitive internal circuitry.
took another quick jump and grabbed the hanging ladder
as the column of flame melted back into its flaming
parent sea. Quickly, eager to avoid any similar outbursts
from the temperamental sea of fire, the android gripped
rung after rung and pulled himself speedily up the ladder.
Once he had safely climbed to the level above the smelting
pit, Rock took a breath of the cooler--although still
the ceiling and floor had been fractured in multiple
places, and gouts of flame blasted through the floor
in places where incendiary gas drifted too close to
frayed electrical wires. Making his way carefully, Rock
reached the seventh story of building.
on his gauntleted hands to cool them from gripping the
red-hot ladder rungs, Rock surveyed the next stretch.
From here, flaming blasts still roared up from the ground.
Several meters before him, a service corridor ran uninterrupted
by flame or rubble.
for that small convenience, Rock strode forward. He
noted with some pride that he had yet to gain any black
bars on his critical countdown meter; he was still at
full energy. If he kept moving with this speed, perhaps
he could be back in Tokyo within only a few hours!
journey ended abruptly at the end of the corridor. There,
the ground dropped off into open space, and finally,
judging by the crimson glow from below, into a molten
smelting pit. There was only a small section of floor
to which Rock could jump from here. That, however, was
blocked off every few seconds by an arcing bolt of electricity.
up, the situation was much the same. Electricity crackled
there, too. It would be impossible to safely climb the
wall to a safer level. Rock cursed. Across the small
chasm, he could see that the eighth story seemed fairly
safe. If only he could make it past the electrical bolts.
don't have time for this," he growled.
note of the intervals at which the electricity built
up enough charge to complete the arc, Rock quickly jumped
to the undamaged section of the floor, acutely aware
of the roar of flames below him. Pausing for barely
a second, he coiled his steel-muscled legs under him
and launched his body an incredible ten feet into the
air to grab the ledge of the eighth-story floor.
that, the next section of broken floor and frayed electrical
wires was child's play to negotiate. Rock quickly made
his way across the rest of the eighth story.
control center was the likely location of the Robot
Master, and that would be on a lower floor. Rock bit
his lip in concentration. Finally, after a few moments'
deliberation, he walked towards the access ladder that
led back down the other side of this level and began
to climb down.
Rock swore loudly as a column of flame roared upwards
to meet him. Acting out of what might have been instinct
in an organic life form, Rock twisted his body to the
side and dropped the rest of the way to the ground.
reprieve was brief. Even as he rolled to stand on his
feet, another blast of flame rocketed past him, straight
through the floor. Tumbling and struggling to regain
his balance, Rock fell straight down a glowing red shaft.
caught the last rung of the ladder and dangled precariously
over another smelting pit. Emergency energy coursed
through him, and Rock again felt the robotic equivalent
of an adrenaline rush. He exhaled several times to reduce
the amount of oxygen in his system, and looked below
was hanging over the main smelting pit now. Its flaming,
white-hot molten mass churned slowly beneath him. This
was where most of the garbage was dumped and summarily
burned. Rock knew that to lose his grip would mean instant
death for him.
him, and spanning the pit, were several observation
platforms suspended above the magma-like surface of
the waste-disposal fire-sea. If he could drop onto the
nearest one, he calculated a 94% chance that--given
optimal structural stability of the platforms--he could
successfully reach the other side without befalling
was challenging work to jump from platform to platform
while avoiding the burst lava bubbles and flaming debris
that flew from the hellish bowels of the infernal pit,
but Rock finally made it across to the main observation
deck. From here, the stairs had been knocked out, but
an access ladder still hung down, leading up towards
the middle levels, where the control center was likely
climbed the ladder and stared dumbfounded at the place
it had brought him to.
a nest of heavily-shielded pipes drained the magma-like
substance from the upper levels of the plant where it
was melted down to the lower smelting pit. In places,
the pipes had been eaten away completely, and molten
metal poured slowly from the gaps.
only way out was up a ladder at the top of the room.
Grimacing, Rock realized that he would have to run along
the pipes to reach the ladder. The prospect was not
a cheerful one, but then neither was it fatal.
himself for the necessary but painful work, Rock climbed
up the nearest pipe, cringing and trying valiantly to
ignore the sensors that were screaming pain signals.
Within half a minute, the ordeal was over, and Rock
had reached the ladder. Nevertheless, those thirty seconds
of screaming pain had left him exhausted and drained
himself a few moments to regain his temporary operating
energy, Rock climbed the ladder.
last--stairs! Rock climbed the iron-web stairs carefully,
always aware that a small crack in the structure could
send him hurtling down to the blazing magma below.
high-band radio sensors, Rock could detect multidirection
scanning 'bots--which meant that he was drawing close
to the lair of the Robot Master. Rock was almost sure
that it would be IRA--probably calling himself "Flameman"
enough, when Rock reached the top of the stairs, he
saw a scanning 'bot. Before it could raise any alert,
he quickly destroyed it with an expertly-hurled Rolling
Cutter. He had not been prepared for the accompanying
Sharksfang missile, but it was easily dodged and destroyed.
sure to keep clear of the shrapnel hurled by the exploding
Sharksfang missile, Rock made his way across the top
of the area and climbed slowly down. Through the wire-wrought
floor, he could now see the miniature river of molten
metal that fed the main smelting pit.
was only a few jumps and dodges before Rock found himself
at the double-reinforced door that closed off the final
corridor leading to the main control center. He took
a deep breath and mentally congratulated himself on
coming so without losing any operating energy. If only
it could be this easy when he faced the Robot Master.
doors opened at a touch to the opening switch, and Rock
rotocannons had been mounted on the ceiling this time,
and Rock carefully destroyed each one. As he was firing
on the fourth and final rotocannon, he almost slipped
on what appeared to be a bar. On closer inspection,
Rock saw that it was a fire-blackened human femur.
gritted his teeth in anger and stepped through the final
* * * *
stood with his hands on his hips, absolute scorn emanating
from every part of him.
he sneered. "You've come. You surprise me, Rock. I wouldn't
have thought you'd have the strength or the will to
get this far."
answer, the blue-armored android leveled his arm-cannon
at Fireman. "Shut up and fight, traitor. I don't have
time to listen to your arrogant prattle."
laughed. "You dare to challenge me? You do remember
the Second Law of Robotics, don't you? I assume that
fool Dr. Light still has you restricted by them."
know the rule," Rockman answered evenly. "Now fight."
calculating module is obviously faulty," Fireman spat
in contempt. "If you honestly think you can defeat me,
you're so badly gone that you're not worth saving for
Dr. Wily. Prepare to die!"
let loose a massive blast of flame from his outstretched
hands. Nearly two meters in height and several meters
in diameter, the wall of flame rushed at Rockman, and
Fireman laughed again. Such a fool! To think a simple
tool-user should stand a chance against Fireman!
was to Fireman's great surprise that he saw his opponent,
limned in shades of gold and crimson by the passing
flame, leap over the wall of fire and loose several
blasts of concentrated plasma. With a mixture of indignation
and surprise, Fireman snarled.
good, Rockman. But that was luck. You cannot stand before
the power that I wield!" Fireman hurled another wall
of flame. This one was quickly followed by another.
Both left trails of flame on the floor.
time, Rockman could not--as Fireman observed with gratification--dodge
both. The second attack slammed home, hurling Rockman
to the floor. He cried out feebly. Fireman grinned to
himself beneath his half-mask.
not done yet," Rockman said. As Fireman watched, the
light blue parts of the android's armor turned silver-white,
and the midnight-blue parts turned forest green.
Fireman chuckled, "But I can still see you, my chameleon
black orb formed in Rockman's left hand. Fireman had
only a few picoseconds to recognize it as a bomb before
Rockman hurled it. Out of fear and surprise, Fireman
blasted several walls of flame at his opponent.
bomb exploded, momentarily blinding even Fireman. When
his optical sensors adjusted to the light, he could
see no sign of Rockman.
Fireman shook his head. The flames must have obliterated
the pathetic fool. "That was too easy," he said aloud.
Contempt made his voice steely.
had virtually no time to see from whence the attack
came. As he turned his head partially upwards, he beheld
with terror a rapidly descending vision of silver and
frosty-blue. Before he could cry out, Rockman had plunged
a massive icicle directly through the opening of his
stove-top head and into his body.
fell to the ground, his electrical motors making his
limbs twitch from the now-useless emergency energy.
In his last moments, he watched in mounting terror and
disbelief as several more icicles formed in Rockman's
hands. Amazingly, they did not melt in the fiery atmosphere.
preamble, Rockman plunged the icicles into five different
key locations in Fireman's body. On the last, Fireman's
vision blackened, and his motors ceased to respond to
his mental commands.
last thought before he died was: Impossible!
never saw the look of sorrow that passed over Rock's
face when he knelt and removed a chip from Fireman's
mutilated body. He never saw that Rock walked to the
computer console at the end of the room and deactivated
so he never saw when, long after Rock had departed,
the humans finally arrived and threw his body into the
to Wax Wings--Chapter 9