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Chapter 26: System Failure
Chapter 26: System Failure
Link and Zelda were startled as the large double door started with a deep click. An old wizard pushed open the entryway with both hands. He came up to the two as the others who were in the room passed them, muttering to themselves solemnly. The expression on his face was doleful and sad. He had a long droopy gray beard and a cap that was so long it ran down his back. His black robe trailed with him.
Link and Zelda released their embrace as he came up. His eyes told the tale already.
"We've done all we can do for him," he said in a raspy, weathered voice. "We've never seen anything like it. The man has more moving parts in him than an hourglass. He even tried to talk us through it, but we simply haven't the knowledge or tools to do anything. His skin is so tough, it even broke my saw."
"Well, well, can't you use some magic? Something to repair him?" Link stammered.
"We tried that. All attempts to use magic failed, even our most powerful spells we could muster. He won't heal."
"Don't say that, there's got to be a way."
"Alas, if there is, even he could not tell us how."
Zelda interrupted. "How is he doing now?"
"The same as before. His speech is strange, the volume of his voice goes up and down, and there is a strange accent to it. He has trouble moving his arms and legs, he can only manage jittery movements. He goes in and out at times, things he calls 'processing overloads'. I'm afraid I see no hope for improvement."
"Can I go see him?" Link said.
"You can if you wish," he said.
"Thank you so much for all you've done," Zelda said to him, as Link immediately sped in.
The old man nodded and walked away. Zelda followed Link into the room. At the doorway, Link turned back to her.
"Actually, I'd like to be alone with him," he said.
"Are you sure?"
"All right," Zelda said as he turned away, "But try to remember what I said. Try to be understanding."
Link nodded. Zelda was unsure whether Link was going to take her advice. He didn't quite have the compassion she did. It had been replaced by the stubbornness of a courageous hero, one who wouldn't stop at anything from accomplishing a task. It was in his hands now though, she supposed. She picked up her skirt to prevent it from dragging and headed out of the hallway.
Link entered the smithery room, where they had taken Mega Man after the infirmary had failed to yield results. They took him to the place meant for creating weapons, armor, and other metal implements. Chains and large iron tongs hung in racks all over the room. Two fire kilns were at opposite corners, their flames extinguished for the moment. Other cauldrons of coal and weapon racks were spread throughout the large room. Why did they bring him in here? Was he really no more than this? Just a weapon? Classified as a weapon?
Mega Man laid face up on a table in the middle of the room. Link could tell that the people had been surrounding him, poking him, prodding him with their tools. It was like walking up to a dead body. No, not dead. A non-living body. Somehow, Link could no longer feel any life force coming from him, like a sixth sense. It was probably just something psychological in his head, some traumatic effect from what he had witnessed.
Mega Man turned his head slowly and looked up at Link.
"HeLLoo, LiNk. I'm afra-a-a-a-id you're nOt SeeINg me aTttt my BEest." He smiled, "I'll TRY-Y-Y to diver-r-r-rt pOWEr to my vocalization."
"What are you?" Link demanded in a low voice.
"I've told you before. I'm a robot. A mechanical-"
"No," Link stated angrily. "What are you really? Explain it so I can understand it, none of these strange words you keep spouting."
Mega Man sighed. "I am a machine."
"A machine? A machine that walks and talks? Like a mechanical man?"
"Yes, that's essentially it. My outer skin, or armor as you call it, is made of a titanium alloy. Titanium is a very hard metal found in the earth's crust that is easily formed. I do not have internal organs, I have "parts" that act somewhat like human parts do, but that's where the similarity ends. I do not have a brain, I have a CPU, which stands for central processing unit. Basically, it computes trillions of mathematical instructions per second. These instructions tell me to walk and talk and what to say and how to decide on a response to a stimulus."
"So you're not really in control of your actions."
"I am, in a sense. I can make my own decisions, but it's all based on how I was programmed. Programmed means what instructions I was given. For example, if I was programmed to garden, I would be able to make judgments based on what information I know about gardening, but I would not be able to construct a house, because I would not have instructions on how to do that."
"But you were 'programmed' for fighting."
"Yes. Originally, I was made to be a tool-user robot. But circumstances forced me to become a fighting robot."
"So you can't learn anything."
"Not quite. There is another part of us called 'artificial intelligence'. It's a part of our programming that allows us to learn new data and apply it to solve problems creatively. In other words, it's the ability to simulate human behavior."
"So you're just a simulation of a human."
"Well, you did a good job."
Mega Man managed to smile at the compliment.
Link continued, "That's why you didn't eat, didn't breathe. You have none of those things inside you."
Link took a deep breath. He felt so betrayed right now, but he knew he had no right to be. It was his own ignorance that led him to this feeling. There was so much regret he had inside him. If he had known just how delicate he really was he could have taken more steps to protect him. He thought it was all his armor, that his armor was so strong it was invulnerable to all weapons. But it turns out it was just a shell for a machine as fragile as an egg.
Mega Man continued, "Robots as advanced and complex as me are very precise machines. Our parts need to be in almost 100% working order for us to function. That's why when my armor was penetrated, my elements were disrupted."
"Once your shell is cracked, it just takes a stiff breeze to blow you over."
"Correct, although it was a halberd."
"And your entire world made up of these robots, just like you. Programmed to do what they're told."
"Not precisely. There are many robots, but humans are the dominant life form, just like you. Humans were the ones who built all robots and robots are meant to serve humans."
"It sounds like slavery to me."
"Slavery would mean that we are forced to do the things we do. But since we are programmed to be this way, we do it willingly. It's complicated, even in my time. There are arguments about it that reach the highest level of government. But we are machines. Most humans treat robots as equals. We work alongside humans instead of for them."
"That sounds so terrible. Living at the edge of being human, but never being able to be one. Somewhere in between life and..." Link stopped. He was in danger of losing himself, he could sense it, so he stopped before he went too far. "I guess I just don't understand."
Mega Man smirked a little and turned his head back up to the ceiling. "In my world, we have a legend too. The story of a boy named Pinocchio. The legend goes that there was a carpenter long ago, a great maker of puppets, but he had no child of his own. So he wished for one upon the first star he saw. That night as he slept, a blue fairy came down and made one of the puppets walk and talk. But he was still made of wood. The fairy told him that if he acted responsibly he would someday become a real boy, and provided him a talking cricket to act as his conscience. I guess that's kind of like our situation, trying to become like humans, but our own abilities and aspects preventing us from achieving it. Both from internal forces and external. But others say robots cannot have desires because they don't have emotions. I don't know."
They both sat looking at each other for a while. Neither had anything to say.
"So what happens now?" Link asked.
"If I was in my world, I would need a plasma welder, an electron tuner, an F.I.F. microscope, and a diagnostic computer. Of course, all those things are impossible here, and I don't believe there's any equipment precise enough to restore me to full working order. In fact, it may have an adverse effect on me. Those magicians that were in here, I tried to tell them what was happening, but they were no help."
"They didn't hurt you, did they?"
"No, I tried to politely explain it, but they just shook their heads and figured they could do nothing about it."
Link slammed his fist on the table and gritted his teeth. "Those fools. I'll have them-"
"They were right."
Link stood back up and looked at him.
"They were right, there is nothing they can do about it. There is nothing anything can do about it. A club impacted through the armor of my right shoulder, it's down 50 power and speed now and will continue as it loses alignment. I'll eventually lose all use of it. The side where my fuel capacitator is has been damaged, but I don't know to what extent. You can see the miscellaneous dents in my armor. It's taking all my processing power to correct the errors to my memory cache," he held up his arm to the side of his head, "To the calculations that I'm running, so I can't perform normal activities any longer until my systems are repaired. I suppose my system will eventually degrade enough until I can no longer speak or move. I'll no longer be able to process information. I'm not exactly sure what will happen then."
Link glared down at Mega Man, suppressing any sort of emotion that could creep out.
"Do not worry though," the robot said. "I feel no pain. Robots cannot feel pain. However, it seems to me that an existence such as this is not helpful to anyone. I will become a dead weight to you. I'll become not much more than a statue," he smiled at the humor in that. Perhaps he could be put on display in the royal hall, with a placard showing his great deeds. "It's getting difficult to focus on my surroundings as well. The error correction is taking away from that as well. Clearly, there is no reason to keep me here like this. I'm only a burden to others. I'm taking up space in this very armory."
"Don't say things like that."
Mega Man continued heedless, "When I can no longer respond to outside stimuli, that will mean all my CPU is occupied. Something like a coma, but I will not dream, I will retain consciousness and thought-processing but be unable to apply it. I cannot self-deactivate. When that time comes, I would appreciate it if you would find some way to destroy my body."
"No! I will never do that."
"This is a very important favor that I'm asking you. I do not wish to be trapped in a constant state of consciousness forever without the ability to interact with my environment. There's nothing you can do for me now."
"Like hell there is!"
Link grabbed Mega Man's torso and began pulling him off the table. He had to dig his feet into the floor to get the leverage to start pulling his body. He groaned loudly as his muscles burned with pain, but he welcomed it.
"What are you doing?" Mega Man said.
Link pivoted Mega Man's legs around until they hung off the table. He pulled Mega Man's head up until he was sitting straight.
"Unless you have something alternative in mind, you are wasting energy," Mega Man said.
"Can you walk?" Link moaned through gritted teeth as he pulled Mega Man's arm over his shoulder, the cold metal digging into his bone.
"I do not know."
"Well," he strained to speak as he pushed upwards on his body. "Turn off all that other stuff you were worried about and get off the table."
Mega Man complied, diverting power to his leg systems. With a shaky step, he came down from the table and stood on his own. Although not fully functional he was able to make small steps forward. He looked to Link who was bearing his top weight for him.
"You are causing yourself pain, I cannot allow this."
"Just go, dammit! Move forward. I'm not letting you die without a fight."
"Where are we going?" he said as they moved towards the door.
"To the only thing that has the power to help you now. The golden power."
Next Chapter: The Triforce