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Chapter 38: Waiting for Mega Man
Chapter 38: Waiting for Mega Man
After Link had come back to Mega Man to report his findings, i.e., the dead scientists, they went off to explore and inspect the research base for survivors or remnant robots. They found none. It appeared that the research base had been abandoned and Wily's robots killed the remaining humans when they invaded. It was probably an effort to avoid detection of his armament deployment. The three of them were the only living residents left. If Wily's robots knew they were there, they would come back in droves to get in.
Mega Man had gone off on his own to find a mode of transportation out from the base, to try and get to another sanctuary. He asked Link to watch over Roll as she completed her start-up. Her systems were mostly online now, and it was just a matter of her performing diagnostics and tests to make sure she was back to fighting form.
They sat at a table in an alcove of the cafeteria, overlooking a window at the edge of the base, so they could keep an eye on the outside. Link was peering out into the pitch-blackness with a vengeance, scanning back and forth for anything that wasn't black or white. A part of him was still determined to show Mega Man he could be useful in this world of super-enhanced beings. He could live up to his legacy of a legendary hero.
Snow was still falling down in torrents, obscuring their vision. Roll knew that Link wouldn't be able to see anything before the security scanners did.
"Here," she said as she handed him a mug of steaming black water. Link took the cup and looked into it. The smell was appetizing, to say the least.
"What does this do?"
"It's coffee. It has a chemical in it that keeps you alert and awake. Be careful, it's hot."
Link slowly tipped the potion up to his lips and immediately pulled it away when it burned to the touch. "Ow. It's hot."
"Wait for it to cool." Roll pulled the emergency blanket off her seat and sat back down in the chair, pulling the mantle back over her so she could warm up. They sat staring out the window for a few moments, each wondering where Mega Man was and if he was safe and if Wily knew of their presence here and there was an army of robots ready to invade and attack.
"So," Link said, watching steam rise from the cup. "How are your diagnostics going?"
Roll was performing her tests internally. "So far, so good. Nothing that can't be corrected. I'll need to get some minor repairs once we get back though."
Link stared down into his coffee potion. "So... you and Mega Man are siblings."
"Are you older or younger than him?"
"We were activated at the same time. But according to our logs, his starts at 12:51.545335 and mine starts at 12:51.569395. So technically, he could be considered older."
"How old are you? I mean, how long have you been alive... or... sorry, I'm still not really clear on the whole robot thing."
"I understand. Mega Man and I have been operational for 17 years."
"Uh-huh, and you started off the way you look now. I mean, you didn't grow up like us."
"Right. Well, Rock wasn't always like you see him. We both look like normal humans without our armor on, before we got changed to fighting robots."
"Rock, I keep hearing that, what is Rock? Is that Mega Man?"
"Yes, Rock was his name before he was changed into Mega Man. Most of the world calls him Mega Man, but us who knew him before typically call him Rock."
"So Mega Man's world-renowned here?"
"Oh, yes, he's basically the most important character in the world right now, because of his heroics. He gets asked to many social functions, people try to get his influence on important topics and politics and such."
"Yeah, we were talking about that some in Hyrule. I've got sort of the same thing going in my land. It's hard to walk around without being treated like royalty. I hate being worshipped like a god."
"Well, in this case, Mega Man is a god."
"Well, since he has superior abilities to humans, some see him as the messiah. There are some cults dedicated to worship of him. People send him gifts. At some points they've camped outside our house. But they're rather few and far between. And then there are some people on the other side of the spectrum who fear him, hate him. The world's rather confused about how to treat him." Roll looked away with anger. "Which is really a shame, because he's done so much for the world."
"They hate him? How could they hate him?"
"They hate him because they're afraid of him. They fear what he could do, since he's so powerful."
"But he's so similar to humans, I mean, except for the arm cannon and weird clothes. I didn't even know he was a robot until I saw his insides."
"They know the difference here. People are so used to seeing robots they can distinguish their mannerisms."
"Mega Man told me you work and live in harmony."
"For the most part, yes, but robots are subordinate to humans. They work for humans, because humans made them. But many fear they could take over, because humans built them with superior abilities to their own."
"Why would humans build something superior to themselves, if they were so afraid of it taking over?"
"Because of all the good they could do. Robots can do things humans can't because of their abilities, and that's what makes them so valuable. And so dangerous. That's why robots are programmed with the three laws."
"There are three laws of robotics which all robots are, by law, required to have in their programming, and organized in order of importance. The first is that a robot must not cause harm to a human, either by action or inaction. The second is that a robot must always obey a human's orders, except where that comes into conflict with law one. The third is that a robot must protect its own existence, so long as that does not come into conflict with laws one or two respectively."
Link pondered these statements for a moment. "Aren't these laws kind of vague? I can see lots of situations where those 'laws' could be conflicting."
"And there have been many. The laws are under constant scrutiny, and there's a whole constitution dedicated to clarifying when and where certain laws must be excepted and such. But the basic message is the same." Roll strategically neglected to mention her and her brother's own unknown exception to the laws. She was conflicted between telling her brother and letting his ignorance protect him.
"What if you programmed a robot to not follow laws?" Link asked.
"The government requires all robots of a certain level of artificial intelligence to be programmed with the three laws. And they're checked before they're made fully operational."
"What if you told a robot to tell a lie? What if a robot had to kill someone to prevent him from killing other innocent people?"
"There are many details about those questions that get rather complicated, but for the most part, programming sticks to the letter of the law. Robots have the ability to process the laws in a very sophisticated manner."
"It seems like a very slippery slope."
"It is. And it's not just humans. Many robots live in fear of being a situation that their laws would come into conflict with. It could completely undo their programming and they'd have to be destroyed. The country's very divided on how to treat them. But by now society is so dependent on robots for the quality of life they have, they couldn't get rid of them if they tried. Citizens would object."
"So humans live in constant fear of masters becoming the slaves."
"No. Not really. Because robots cannot exceed their programming by themselves. Anyone who works with robots, which is nearly everyone, are very comfortable working around them. They are intelligent tools to get the job done easier. And most humans treat them with respect. But as a general populace, the world regards them with a wary eye."
"So you just put a band-aid on it to make you sleep at night? That doesn't seem right."
Roll shrugged. "It's the best people can do."
"Well, hasn't it ever happened before? With a robot breaking the laws?"
"Many times. That's why Rock is so revered. He's the one that stopped robots from taking over."
Roll was speaking so objectively about her own kind. If Link had to make the same arguments, he would undoubtedly be biased towards defending Hylians, but he guessed Roll was so programmed that she could control herself to have no bias.
"So it has occurred?" Link asked.
"Over and over again. And always by one single man - Dr. Albert Wily. He was Dr. Light's partner. But he went insane." There were many details about the circumstances of Mega Man's origin Roll was leaving out, but for the interest of brevity and simplicity, it was necessary. "He programmed robots like Mega Man to annex key structures on the planet so he could take over the world, to make robots the dominant species. That's when Rock volunteered to be transformed into a fighting robot."
"Wait, Roc- Mega Man volunteered to be reprogrammed? I thought robots worked for humans. They had to do what humans tell them."
"They do, but they also emulate desires and feelings to a certain degree. It's hard to explain without giving you an advanced course in artificial intelligence. But Rock always had a strong sense of justice. That's why he wanted to be the one to stop Dr. Wily. When Dr. Wily started the first robot revolution, he took all the advanced robots he and Dr. Light had and reprogrammed them. Rock was the only one to resist that. I guess that made Dr. Light think he was special or something, and allowed him the opportunity to do something about it."
"So a human fixed robots so they would kill humans? That's rather ironic. Why? If humans think robots are servants?"
"Some also think robots are superior and deserve to be the dominant species on the planet, going so far as to sacrifice humans' own dominance. No one really knows why Wily does it. He's clinically insane."
"So to stop Dr. Wily, Mega Man was forced to kill those robots? His own kind? Doesn't he have any problems with that?"
"Not really," Roll said, "Robots don't have feelings of loyalty to a certain group, just because they belong to it. They are completely objective. But Rock believed robots and humans could live in harmony. And Dr. Wily was upsetting that, so Mega Man swore to stop him."
"So that's what he meant," Link thought, remembering the conversation they had in the temple where they found the lore of his legacy. "When he said he had to constantly be fighting. That Dr. Wily always comes back."
"He does always seem to come back. But Mega Man will keep fighting him until he's put away for good." Roll thought of a lie. "He can't kill him because of the laws. So Wily often manages to escape."
"If it was me, I would have destroyed him regardless of the laws."
Roll was forced to lie again. "He can't do that because of his programming. He can't do what he's not programmed to do." Roll was beginning to see this snowballing out of control. One lie on top of another. How long could she keep this up? Maybe if she kept saying it she could convince herself that her brother really was still under control of the three laws.
Link looked down into his nearly-cooled coffee. "And the laws keep him from hurting anyone? That seems kind of stupid."
"It's what the humans decided on." Secretly, she agreed. It was stupid that Mega Man would have to keep fighting Dr. Wily forever because he could never put that final stop to it. So Dr. Wily would always be protected behind his expendable robots. If it was her...
"It's like a rhino's bargain," Link said.
"Oh, that's a Hylian expression for an impossible situation."
"Yes, that's exactly what it is. But these are the exception to the rules. For the most part, humans and robots live together peacefully. It's only those few bad apples that spoil the whole bunch."
Link paused. "He never told me. When he was trying to describe his life, to compare it to mine, he never told me he was fighting for a world that hated him. If I lived in a world where they were going to be so ungrateful for me risking my life for them, I would just stop." He cradled his coffee in his hand and looked outside. "Maybe that's kind of insensitive of me, but I'm not really keen on sacrificing myself when no one's going to appreciate it." Link thought of the legend, that he would have to keep on fighting across generations. At some point, at least he would be able to rest and another would take over the fight. "At least in my world people like me. I don't think I could do it here."
"I'm sure Rock is conflicted about it as well, but he would never admit it. His sense of justice is too strong. That's why he wins each time. He's fighting for his ideals, not the people."
"But he loses each time, because he's restricted by the laws. So it's a cycle. So you'll never be at peace."
Roll shrugged. "I guess you could see it that way. But it's better that the laws are in place than not. Otherwise, mass chaos would likely rule, rather than stopping one madman."
Link continued, "Mega Man was telling me about the legend of Pinocchio, about a wooden puppet that became real. And he had to have a cricket for conscience. I guess that's sort of what those laws are - artificial conscience. To act as protection for humans who are too scared of robots and them taking over. If all the laws are in place, I just don't understand how humans here can be so fearful and hating of robots."
Roll looked into the window with a forlorn expression. Maybe there was another way of making Link understand. "There is another legend here, I don't think Mega Man told you about... Frankenstein." She turned back to Link who was eager to hear the story. "Long, long ago, probably from a society similar to yours, there was once a doctor who wanted to create a human being from parts of the dead, to give life to non-life, to discover the secret of creation. But when he succeeded, he was horrified by the monster he created and it ran away. The monster, shunned, rejected, and confused, accidentally killed some of the townspeople because he had no sense of his own strength or of morality, since he was practically a newborn with the strength of a man. The citizens of the town became angry and chased him back to the castle of his creator where they set it on fire and burned the two to death."
The two sat in silence for a minute, contemplating the meaning of the story.
Link said, "So there are two sides to everything."
Roll nodded. "Robots are complex machines. People made us too smart, too quick, and too many and we suffer for their mistakes. People fear what they don't understand. Then the fear grows to hate."
"It must be horrible to be so important, and have people hate you for it." He took a sip from the now luke-warm coffee. Quickly he spat out the bitter taste and spilled the mug on the floor. "Acck, it's poisoned."
"No, it's just bitter."
"Is this what you drink here?"
"I don't drink anything, but many humans like it."
"I think I'll just die of thirst, thanks."
"There're many other drinks for you."
"Well, I've never drank a revitalizing potion so bad before," Link said he wiped his mouth.
"It's not really a potion..." Roll started to say. Just then she received a communication from Mega Man.
Can you bring Link down to the hangar. I think I might have found a way out.
Okay, see you in a bit.
Link looked curiously at Roll as she stared blankly into space.
"I just got a message from Mega Man," she explained. "He says he found a way to get out. Come on."
"All right." Link picked up his equipment and followed her out of the room. She took him down the elevator to an underground hangar where Mega Man was waiting for them next to a small vehicle. It reminded Link of a flat, squished horse. Roll recognized it as a snow-skidder. It was meant for two people though. They were going to have to huddle up on it.
"It's fueled up," he shouted across the vast, echoing room. "I just need the doors open and we can get out of here."
"Right, I'm on that," Roll said and went into a room nearby with clear glass paneling so they could see what she was doing.
Mega Man waved Link over to him. "Does this fly too?" the Hylian asked, feeling the tightness in his stomach.
"No, it glides across the snow. Some people report the sensation as flying." Mega Man hoisted his leg onto the driver's seat and gripped the handlebars. Link seated himself behind as he would on a saddle as the robot turned a knob on the control panel. A great big sound erupted from the skidder. Link covered his ears in pain, and felt the seat below him vibrate violently.
"Hold on tightly to my stomach," Mega Man yelled over the din. Link regretfully removed his hands from his ears and wrapped them around Mega Man's cold metal armor.
Roll, get behind Link, that way he has a lesser chance of falling off.
The large double doors began to pull apart slowly. Snow started blowing into the base, frosting Link's cheeks.
"Thermal shield time." Link hit the button on his waist and the sphere enveloped him once again in comforting warmth.
"Good idea," Mega Man said.
Roll came out of the control room and headed to the skidder, hopping in behind Link. Link straightened up nervously as she put her hands under his arms, more alert than the coffee would make him.
"Okay, everyone, hang on," Mega Man said as he hit buttons and switches across the board, "This might be kind of fast."
He gripped a large lever on the floor and pushed it forward. The skidder started moving ahead, fish-tailing faintly from the standstill acceleration. The engine sputtered at a higher frequency and started propelling them out of the shadowed hangar. Wind permeated Link's shield, nearly blowing his cap off. Floodlights from all around the airport were lit up and giving off tons of light. Mega Man pushed the skidder forward faster in order to get them out of there before the robots found them.
"Faster, Mega Man," Roll uttered in fear.
"I'm trying. It's not an advanced craft. I need more speed."
Link was gripping onto Mega Man tightly enough to crush a like-like as the ground rushed faster and faster beneath them, inches from his boots.
"Uh, I think we should slow down actually. I think we're going too fast," Link said through gritted teeth.
"We haven't even reached top speed yet. This is only 5 of the speed we were going in the metonicle."
"Oh boy..." he said with fright.
"I think we're gonna make it," Mega Man said, looking around.
Suddenly, a yellow globule rushed past Mega Man's nose.
"What was that?" Link asked.
Mega Man looked behind him, there was a robot shaped kind of like a snow skidder speeding towards them. It was like he was built into the vehicle. "We've been spotted. Hang on." Mega Man tilted the handlebars to the left, trying some evasive maneuvers. The skidder took a sharp turn to the left to avoid the ground fire. The pursuer kept on them and continued shooting at them.
"Rock, what are we gonna do? We're sitting ducks up here!" Roll shouted.
"I know! I can't shoot and drive at the same time!"
"We can't outrun him!"
"No problem!" Link shouted. He dove into his knapsack and pulled out a round, black sphere with a string coming out. Finally, he had something they didn't.
"What's that?" Roll shouted.
"Your ticket outta here." He pulled on the wick and it ignited. "Bombs away!"
He tossed the globe over his head. It sailed in the air and dropped directly on the enemy just as it barreled through. The bomb exploded with tremendous force, and the skidder spun like a top, out of control, finally bursting into a snowdrift.
"Yeah!" Link said as he pumped his fist. "Got him! I am useful!"
"What?" Mega Man asked.
Next Chapter: Home Alone