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Chapter 41: Link to the Past
Chapter 41: Link to the Past
Mega Man pulled up the red banister and let Roll and Link duck under the velvet rope. The little hanging sign said this section was under reconstruction, but they all knew that not to be true. Dr. Light had told them to section off this part of the museum so they could investigate it. It looked like the museum staff had done their job in an expedient manner. The inlet room had its lights turned off except for the emergency skylights in the ceiling casting dim shadows. Link couldn't really see anything very well, but they all looked like machines and devices on tables or in glass cases. The only thing he had recognized so far was an giant abacus in the entrance hall, meant to be a piece of art.
Mega Man led them to the center of the room, looking inside a glass case. There was a large square-like yellow monitor and a rectangular box next to it. It was situated on a wooden desk with a chair, meant to resemble how a person would have sat at this machine if they were using it for real.
"Well, it looks like we're the first ones here," Mega Man said. "That's a good thing." Apparently, there had been no break-ins, and no attempts to access the computer.
Link read the blurb plaque pasted on the side of the glass, seemingly floating in the air. "Dr. John Selkirk's computer. This was the personal computer of the infamous robot scientist. He designed nearly thirty different types of computer and robot A.I. until his career came to a tragic end, due to mental instability. After his arrest, his property was seized and auctioned off. The CORE group obtained his personal computer seized from his home where he undoubtedly designed many of his schematics."
"Undoubtedly?" Roll asked her brother.
"I guess that proves our theory no one ever looked at it. Probably because of the password needed. And I doubt they had anything compatible to hook it up to for hacking it." He gestured to the archaic looking machine. Any attempts to try and access its data using modern technology would have been fruitless, due to the incompatibility.
The three of them took different sides of the rectangular prism. "How do we open this?" Roll asked.
Mega Man knelt down to the floor. "It's latched into the ground. Let's see." Mega Man gripped his fingers between the glass and the pedestal it was bolted to. His fingertip flipped up and a thin metal reed extended out. He jammed it into the latch and moved it around for a moment. A click sounded and Mega Man took it out, opened the latch, and gripped onto the bottom. "All right, lift."
Roll and Link took both sides of the square and lifted up. Roll easily picked the cage up like it was paper. Link essentially did little more than keep it in balance for her. Once she had it over her head and over the computer she set it down on the side.
Mega Man pulled out the chair and sat down. "Computer." No response. The monitor stayed as a blank screen, and it made no acknowledgement sounds. "Computer?"
"Try that thing," Roll said.
Mega Man picked up the walkie-talkie communicator. "Hello, computer?"
Still nothing. "How did these things work?" he asked.
"Oh, wait, there was a power switch, wasn't there?" Roll said.
Mega Man pressed in the button with the universal symbol for power near the bottom of the monitor. A small LED next to it lit green, then switched to orange.
Roll said, "Orange? That usually means caution."
Mega Man said, "Caution what? It's not like I need to wait for something."
Mega Man tried hitting buttons on the box next to it, front and back. "One of these has to work." He typed onto the keyboard, pressing buttons he didn't recognize that might have activated the power.
"I'm pretty sure this is the power switch," Roll said, pressing one central button on the box. "I don't know why it's not working."
Link looked around the box itself. "What about its tail?"
"Tail?" Mega Man asked.
"Yeah," Link bent down and picked up a black cord. "Should I try yanking it? It could be some sort of pull-cord."
"Oh, right, the power plug. Let's see," he scanned the around the perimeter.
"It looks like it could fit into there," Link said and pointed over to a dark corner of the wall.
"Aha, there's one." Mega Man took the plug and walked over to the dark corner and knelt before it.
"I wonder if this still works. The museum used to use city power before they piped in hydroelectric lighting. Let's see." He pushed the cord into the slots so they lined up. "Now try pushing the buttons."
Roll hit the central button on the box. The light indicator turned green, much to her surprise. It began emitting a loud hum and several clicks. The monitor it was attached to lit up as well. Mega Man came over.
"It's starting up," he said. "Just wait."
The monitor displayed several colorful screens, picturing corporate logos of the software it was starting. A text box appeared, prompting for the input of a password.
"Aha, here we go," he said and typed in the long binary string he had memorized. The text box disappeared and the blue background was replaced with a screen of tiny pictures against one large pattern. They waited for a while, to see if it needed to do anything else, then Mega Man touched the walkie-talkie.
"Computer? Oh," Mega Man uttered in surprise. His touching of the walkie-talkie had moved a tiny arrow on the screen. Mega Man put the device back down, moving it in circles to test his theory. "It's like a touch-screen interface, but you use this instead of your finger."
He moved the pointer to a folder picture marked 'documents' and clicked a button. The icon turned blue, but nothing else happened. Mega Man tried clicking again several times and a white window opened up, filled with more little pictures neatly arranged.
"Man, how did he ever keep things organized?"
"Try that one," Roll said.
Mega Man clicked on some pictures, and some text appeared. The robots skimmed the words. "Nope," they both said.
Mega Man and Roll systematically opened and closed each text document, trying to find some keys to the mystery. Link got bored and started wandering around, looking at exhibits. One looked like a very tall human until he inspected it further. It was a large gray robot, nicknamed Rex. It was the first to have all three laws successfully programmed into its artificial intelligence. Link thought it looked barely human and barely robot, more like a machine tank. Another was a picture on the wall of Johnny - the first 'talk show' chatbot. Link had no idea what a talk show was. But it sounded similar to something he had seen in the ghost world.
"Wait, I know," Mega Man said. Link walked back over to Mega Man working at the computer. "Here's a recently used file list." He moved the pointer to the lower left corner of the screen and a list appeared. He selected one of the items. "I bet this is it." Mega Man expanded the white document and all three of them looked at it.
"It looks like a journal entry, but it's got a lot of technical elements. Like this schematic here. And the date says it was made close to his arrest," he said as he consulted a gray window listing dates.
"Wait a minute. Go back to that," she said as she leaned in closer.
"See, the creation date says it was made fifteen years ago."
"But look at the access date. It says its last access was... fifteen minutes ago?"
"That means someone's been accessing his files before we were."
"How can that be? The museum sectioned off this part. And they've been keeping security watch on it since then."
"I don't know but someone got to these files before we did. I wish I knew how."
"You guys smell something?" Link asked out of the blue.
"Yeah, something definitely smells fishy about this."
"No, not that. I mean something like smoke."
Mega Man and Roll looked at him curiously for a minute then sniffed the air. Something faintly detected of smoke. "Is there a fire?" Roll asked.
"There! The Computer!" Link said and pointed. Black smoke was wisping out of it in thin strands. Mega Man and Roll bolted upright just as the monitor flickered and blinked out.
"There's too much power. It's overheating!" Mega Man said as he realized his mistake. Computers in this age were designed to handle much less power input, and outlets back then produced much less. The little cooling fan inside could never handle that much heat.
The box suddenly erupted in flames. The monitor flickered and switched to a blue screen, then half-white, half-black.
"Aaah, Roll," Mega Man commanded. "The hard drive's crashing. Do something!"
Link pulled out his ice rod from his backpack without thinking. He aimed the crystal ball at its end at the flames and triggered a stream of ice to come out. Nothing happened. Then he remembered his magic wasn't working here and mentally cursed himself again.
"I'm on it." She held out her hand and a jet stream of steam burst forth. From his vantage, Link felt the temperature and realized it wasn't steam but some sort of icy vapor. The computer's flames died down, leaving it coated in white film and scorched on its corners.
Mega Man said, "Great. Now we'll never know who was on it."
"Roll..." Link uttered quietly. "Spray the computer again."
"Just do it," he said, maintaining his gaze.
Roll held out her hand again and sprayed the computer. Then she saw what Link was seeing. The mist was bouncing off some invisible force standing behind the desk.
"What is that?" Mega Man said.
Link backed up next to Mega Man and withdrew his sword. "It's invisible, whatever it is. And I'm willing to bet it's the thing that accessed the file."
"What's it doing? Just standing there?"
"Is it a statue?"
"I can't get anything on my scanners," Mega Man said. "It's projecting an invisibility cloak. All I'm getting is a power generator." He inspected it further. "Which operates remarkably similar to a lot of advanced designs. But it's just floating there. In space."
"It's got to be attached to a robot," Roll said with resolution. "I wonder..." she poked her finger out and touched where she thought the object was. It bounced back. "It's definitely a robot."
"But why hasn't it skedaddled yet?" Link asked.
"Maybe it's a dumb robot," Roll suggested.
"Well, obviously, if it's just standing there," Link retorted. "Go on. Do something," Link goaded him by brandishing his sword. He was used to enemies making the first move, showing their weakness.
"No, I mean it's 'dumb'. It has no processing capabilities, it just accepts output from some other CPU or controlling device."
"Like the remote for the holo-vid," Mega Man amended.
"So this robot's being controlled by someone else?" Link asked. "No artificial intelligence. And it's just standing there because..."
"Because whoever's controlling it hasn't given it any commands."
"I don't think so," Mega Man said, "This robot came here right before we did. Otherwise it would have escaped. Wouldn't it? You'd think whoever's controlling it would have wanted it to escape as soon as it got the information. I think it whoever's controlling it can't give it commands."
"Why?" Link asked.
"Remote interference? Maybe the tachyon field. It's got to be using some sort of undetectable communication."
"Why isn't it doing anything? It's creeping me out."
"It must be really dumb," Roll mused.
"Let's take it back to the lab, I guess. It'll give us a clue to where Wily is."
"Try talking to it," Roll suggested. "Give it a command."
"Decloak," Mega Man demanded. From his vision, the power generator remained still and no change occurred. "It's probably only set to obey commands from its creator."
"Okay, less talk, more action." Link burst out from behind Roll, swinging his sword horizontally. Suddenly the air rushed around the form of a robot, forming a sort of fluid outline of his humanoid body. It was bounding into the air, almost seeming to hover there for a second, well out of Link's sword range. Then it dive-kicked into Mega Man's stomach, knocking him back into a chair, shattering it.
Roll, gasping in surprise, took out her pistol in a flash, and just as she was about to aim it, felt her legs fly out from beneath her. The foe had sweep-kicked her down, disabling her. Link, acting instinctively, swung around with his sword down low, hoping to catch him in the legs. The horrendous sound of metal screeching against metal erupted, yellow sparks flying out, but did nothing to slow down the robot. The watery outline jumped over the Hylian and sped out the door as fast as a robot could, which was near inhuman speeds. Both Roll and Mega Man were just getting up.
"Definitely a Wily robot," Mega Man said.
"Yeah, they have no problem following the third law."
Mega Man shook his head to clear the cobwebs. "Did you see where he went?"
"Yeah. Away," Link said, as he bent down, looking at the metal shavings where he had sliced the robot's foot. There was nothing but charred crumbs in the scatterings, but Link did find a small tuft of gray-brown hair in the midst. He picked it up.
Mega Man helped Roll up and came over. "Great, now we have no leads, no information, and no idea what Wily's up to."
"And a new enemy to deal with," Roll added.
"It's got to have a weakness. We just need to find it," Mega Man said justly. "What have you got there?" he asked Link.
"Not sure. Robots aren't furry, are they?"
"Then we might not be at a total loss."
Next Chapter: Exploring Possibilities