"The early 21st century, after the cataclysmic Third World War, heralded in the Age of Robots, so called because of the rapid advances in artificial intelligence. One particular robotechnician, Dr. Thomas Light, and his nemesis Dr. William Wily, deserve special mention, as well as the very famous Rockman, called by American papers, "Mega Man." None of our current repliroid production would be possible without these three very important historical figures . . ."
--excerpt from Repliroids and their Place in Society by Dr. Alan Cain, historian and archaeologist
In the center of darkness, a pool of incandescent light surrounded the man.
About fifty years old, his hair was full on top of his head, though prematurely white, shot through with streaks of iron grey. His beard and mustaches were both snow-white as well, and the crinkle lines around his blue eyes indicated a face more accustomed to laughing than frowning. Indeed, in another country, he might have been likened to Santa Claus, for he was as portly around the middle as the jolly old elf was reported to be.
Dressed in his old and faded white lab coat, the man snipped the last wire with a pair of electrical wiresnips. He looked up from his work to the luminescent clock on the wall across the lab.
Three-thirty four. Blast. He hadn't meant to work this late.
Still, it was worth it; the job was done.
Below the Santa clone, lying on the table, was what appeared--by all rights--to be a man. His hands were a work of art, if the old man dared say so himself. The raven-black hair looked completely natural, although it might be shot through with highlights of midnight-blue in bright sunlight. Large, piercing blue eyes regarded the man sightlessly in a well-proportioned face.
Were it not for the mess of wires and bolts that lay revealed within the man's chest cavity, he would appear completely human. The old man picked up the access panel and placed it back on the man's chest, where magnetic seals and synthetic skin made a seamless close.
By any reckoning, Thomas Xavier Light was a genius.
The man grinned at the android lying on the table before him. All that was needed now was the master control chip in the brain, and the invention would be complete. Who could have imagined that it would come this far? Dr. Light's grin grew even wider.
Certainly, he had never imagined such success when he had first attended the Tokyo Institute of Technology. His first idea had been to become a linguist, for Thomas Light spoke German, French, Japanese, and of course, English with equal ease. Yet somehow, in applying to Japanese universities, he had been drawn to the ever-growing field of robotics.
From the invention of his first robot, a sort of "cybernetic suitcase," as he liked to call it, he had been hooked. His German cousin, William Albert Wily, had already also been accepted at a prestigious Japanese Technical Institute, and so Dr. Light followed in his footsteps.
Here, then, was the crowning achievement of Light's career to date. The new android would be identical to a human in every way, but for its inability to make certain decisions. For instance, it would never be able to violate any of the three Rules of Robotics:
A robot must never harm, or directly cause harm, to a human being.
A robot must act for self preservation unless it conflicts with the first rule.
A robot must obey all commands, unless they are in conflict with the first two rules.
Still, it--he--would be fairly human. Even Dr. Light couldn't say for sure exactly what his personality would be when activated. Of course, the doctor could, and had, provided guidelines, but the finer points of it would remain unknown until the moment of activation.
Thomas Light looked across the room to where the android's "female" counterpart lay on a corresponding table, almost invisible in the blackness of the night in the lab. As a joke, he had named them Rock and Roll. Rock, the newly completed "male" android, would be an assistant to Dr. Light in his studies, as would Roll, to a lesser extent.
There was so much to be done, still! Dr. Light grinned into the night at the challenge. With technology like this . . . why, the Earth could be reclaimed from the radiation and overpopulation which poisoned its body!
Dr. Wily was due to arrive tomorrow--no, later today, Light reminded himself--so he'd better get some sleep so he could meet his cousin at the Turboport. There was so much to do and so little time!
With the grant from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, the two cousins, as partners, were to begin their massive project on the following day. Hopefully, Rock and Roll would prove of great assistance, once activated.
Thomas X. Light straightened his back and ignored the popping sounds it made in protest as he set down the electrical wiresnips. Tomorrow would be a busy day, and he had so much to look forward to!
* * * * *
William Albert Wily sat aboard the Bullet Train and studied the schematics.
Of course, they were only preliminary sketches, but better than nothing at all. He had been working feverishly on the designs since the week before when his cousin, famed robotechnician Dr. Light, had called on the televid and announced that the pair of them had been given a grant to develop six industrial robots of amazing capabilities.
Wily recalled the conversation perfectly.
"More robots?" he had asked. "Didn't we just finish with this? Didn't Blues teach you your lesson?"
"They'll be better than Blues, Will!" Dr. Light's effervescent voice had disarmed Wily's apprehension. "I learned my lesson, yes! Blues' brother will never be allowed to make the same mistakes. Come on, it'll be the challenge of a lifetime!"
At the word "challenge," Dr. Wily had buckled, and agreed to join his brilliant cousin in creating the six most advanced robots the world had yet seen. So it was that Dr. Wily found himself riding on a Bullet Train to Tokyo.
The Tokyo Institute of Technology itself had specified that the pair work on developing robots to counter six of the worst environmental problems that threatened society on Earth. Human laborers survived for too little time in most cases; they tired quickly and frightened easily in radioactive cleanup areas. Therefore, the robots would be designed according to the need for filling the gap left by distrustful and rebellious human workers.
A wilderness reclamation robot was needed to clear away nuclear rubble generated during the blessedly short-lived Third World War, while a waste disposal robot would work in tandem with it to dispose of the nuclear waste and other garbage that threatened to overwhelm most urban areas. Teams of four each could be assigned to cities in varying degrees of quantity.
Perhaps most important would be the atomic energy robot, which would help tremendously in utilizing the full potential of atomic power plants around the world. Hopefully, many of that type of model could be used at the World Power Plant in Sydney, commissioned as a last show of a tenuously United Earth.
No less important would be the Antarctic exploration robot, which would help in purifying water at the South Pole. Because the South Pole alone had somehow avoided the ravages of nuclear winter and the poisonous radioactive hell which possessed the waters after the Third World War, all water in the world was drawn from reservoirs deep beneath the surface of Antarctica. The only source of pure, clean water on the planet came from the World Water Purification Plant in New Shirewick at the South Pole.
Finally came the timber felling robot, to help clear areas for new housing and provide lumber for buildings, and the ground disruption robot, to aid in the mining of minerals needed to maintain the flow of always-increasing industrial robot production.
In front of him, Wily held the sketch for the wilderness reclamation robot. Like the others, it was humanoid. It had massive shoulders and a stout body to support its "muscle" structure. A huge lantern jaw would be used to crush large pieces of rubble to smaller, more manageable sizes, while the "hard hat" on its head would protect it from falling material.
Although it looked a bit cartoony, the design appealed to Wily's more fanciful side. Thomas would understand: hadn't he named his two robots Rock and Roll? Wily chuckled to himself, but frowned as a servingbot approached and offered him a drink. What ever happened to human service?
The world was too dependent on robots, Wily surmised grimly as he refused refreshments. It would be the downfall of humanity, should the robots somehow go berserk and revolt. Of course, Wily reminded himself, that was why they were all programmed with the Three Rules.
Wily shivered and glanced down at his old, leatherbound copy of Karl Capek's R.U.R. It could happen too easily of somebody got careless. The world would indeed be a grim place if somebody were to . . .
Wily brushed the unpleasant thought aside and dozed off into a sleep with dreams of a dark haired welder and a silver-colored welding shield, brand new on the day of its experimental plasma-burst proof test . . .
Continue to Awakenings--Chapter 1
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