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The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
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Ozymandias

Cantankerous

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This is a story about a boy named Edward. Edward lives alone in the forest. The songbirds fly around him, the squirrels play across him, and the owls fear and hate him. Edward is so much larger and so glittery that he frightens away their dinner.

Edward is a robot boy. He was designed to look like a boy by his creator because his creator imagined that something large and glittery might frighten animals, but something small and glittery would attract animals such as raccoons. Raccoons are famous everywhere for their love of shiny things. They are even famous far, far away, where Edward was built and was sent from. Edward is a very special robot. He is so special that his creator loved him enough to name him. None of the other robots had names. They only had alphanumeric designations. No-on else uses Edward's name, especially not now, but it is his, and it is how he refers to himself in the readouts he sees that monitor his actions, his memory banks, and his current systems status.

 

Edward remembers none of this, except for his action monitors and motor diagnostic programs. Edward was hit by lightning when he arrived, and now all he remembers are his action monitors and his motor diagnostic programs. All he knows beside these is that every other readout reads 'DATA CORRUPTED'

'ATTEMPTING DEFRAGMENTATION'

He knows that these mean things, but he can no longer say what.

 

So every day, Edward runs his motor diagnostic programs at their scheduled time. The motor diagnostics always come back perfect. Edward is a very special robot. He is much stronger than the other robots because he was designed to withstand a great many more things than the others. His creator (and his creator's helpers) did not create him to withstand those other things and a lightning bolt at the same time, however. So Edward's body was almost undamaged, except for a black spot on the top of his glittering head, and his memory was very badly damaged indeed. His brains are attempting to repair the damage, but Edward does not remember they can do that.

 

All Edward can do now is turn his head to the north, south, east, and west in the morning, take three steps forward in the afternoon, and open and close his fingers at night. The rest of the day he can only stand, motionless, and play back all of the diagnostic reports on the movements he has made. So he does, even though he does not remember what they are. He does this because he is supposed to.

 

Edward is also supposed to retrieve two samples of all of the living creatures he encounters, one male of each type of creature, and one female. He does not remember this either. He can only remember how to look at the morning, walk in the afetrnoon, and grasp at the evening. So he does. Because he is supposed to, even though he does not remember that either.

 

Much time has passed already, and much more does as well. The squirrels chase each other across him. Some birds will land on him to rest, or to peck, a few bears relieve themselves on him, and all the rest of the animals of the forest meet him in similar ways, eventually. He makes his slow, steady way across the forest, and he meets them.

Then one day, he meets the new creatures. They have not been seen all this time because the animals he has already met came to him. These new creatures did not come to him, his walking took him to them. If Edward could remember, he would know they are called Human.

 

The humans react in as much surprise and fear as the original animals he met when he came to the forest did; loudly, in disorganization, with fear. He is not loud- part of his design that made him able to withstand so many things made him very strong, but very light. He is also a steady, agile robot boy. He makes little noise as he takes his third step that day.

 

Even though he has stopped moving, the humans are still afraid of Edward. For he can withstand almost all weather here too, but that does not mean that it has not made him very very dirty and plant-covered. He now looks like a monster directly from the stories that many of these humans have heard as children, and he cannot tell them he is not.

The misunderstanding is only heightened by the last bits of shiny metal on his body shining through his grime and overgrowth in places that would make sense for eyes to be on a monster.

 

Most of the humans have fallen backward or stumbled away from him now. One is hiding in the thing that Edward can not remember is called a "tent". A few of them have run away. The two left standing watch him, quaking. The one in the tent listens, quaking.

Edward stands there in the treeline of the campsite clearing watching and listening to them in turn. When he does nothing for several hours, one of them is finally brave enough to poke at his mossy chest with a stick. Edward sees this and hears this, but does not feel it. Robots do not feel.

 

"It's...kind of small, isn't it?"

"Yeah..."

The noises are a language. Another thing Edward knows, but does not remember. His brains work furiously on his damaged memories. Still the only thing he sees in response to their movement, their noises, and the stick is 'DATA CORRUPTED'

'ATTEMPTING DEFRAGMENTATION'

 

"That's...what the Hell isthat?", says the human named Simon. Edward and the humans have been so still and silent for so long that Simon's question frightens away a bluejay. The human named Eleanor stays right where she has been, sitting on the ground where she fell hours ago, looking at Edward warily.

"It almost looks like a kid", Eleanor eventually offers. The human named Simon rests the stick he has just prodded Edward with against his shoulder, and he too, remains where he is.

Neither human has seen the third human still present (the human named Sally) since she fled into the tent. Edward has seen her on his thermal scanners. Neither Edward nor the human named Sally have said anything since Edward's arrival.

 

Edward is a very special robot whose brains have been working furiously to repair his damaged memory. Edward's brains have now finished their repair work, and all of his statuses turn blue, and read many, many things instead of 'DATA CORRUPTED'

'ATTEMPTING DEFRAGMENTATION'

Edward takes another step forward.

The human named Eleanor flinches away, briefly. The human named Simon hurriedly takes two steps back, but remains facing the robot boy. Edward, who is loved by his creator, greets them.

"SAMPLES LOCATED."

"Wha...?", asks the human named Sally. The human named Simon frowns, lowering his stick as if to be ready to strike the robot boy. Simon does not love Edward very much. Simon does not love Edward at all. Still, the human waits as Edward takes four more steps toward him.

Edward has a very special mission. He has been sent here to collect two samples of all of the living creatures he encounters; one male of each type of creature, and one female. He remembers this now.

Edward raises a glittery finger, and takes another step toward Simon. He is now almost touching the human's chest. Eleanor finds the glitter oddly comforting. Simon does not. The robot boy pokes Simon in the chest, leaving his finger where it lands.

"Ouch", the human tells the robot boy. The finger feels sharp.

To what Edward does next, Simon says nothing. At what Edward does to Simon next, Eleanor begins to scream. Simon can not say anything to Edward.

Sally hears all of this and begins to cry. She cries harder and louder (no matter how hard she tries to muffle herself) when Eleanor stops screaming and something red splatters across the side of the tent. The red splatters are very large.

Edward begins to walk forward again. He leaves, leaving Sally untouched, and unspoken to. Edward only needed one male sample and one female. He remembers this now.

 

This is a story about a man named Carlton. Carlton works in the United States army. He trains human soldiers and leads then into battle. Carlton trains his men to use many different weapons, and many different tactics.

He has taught them to use rifles. He has taught them to use pistols. He has taught them to use explosives, he has taught them to use tanks, and trucks, and jeeps.

Carlton has taught them many different ways to use all of them, how to use them in many different places, and in many different weathers.

He has fought with his men against small groups and against large groups. They have fought in the day, the night, the afternoon. Carlton and his men have even fought in water, swamps, and trees, and sand, and rocks.

Their weapons can kill men in light or blackness. Some are only good for killing from close by, others let them kill from the other side of the city. Some weapons can kill from the ground, some even from the air. Carlton and his men have weapons to blind men or even make them sick, too. What they have not trained for, or fought, is anything like their mission today. Today they (and many other men like Carlton) must join other groups of men from the United States Army in attempting to destroy a single, small target. Today, they are fighting a small robot who looks like a boy.

 

Carlton does not know the robot's name, or if it has one. Carlton does know the names of all of them men and women who came here with him today, as well as the names of all of the men who brought their own teams today. He knows that the robot has been walking in a straight line ever since it came out of the forest, and that it has been killing animals and insects the whole time it has been traveling. Carlton also knows that it has been taking pieces of everything it kills into itself. Carlton also knows that noone knows why.

He has also seen cars crash when they only come close to the robot, or simply stop working. Carlton has even seen it tread right over people, killing them- and killing them in many other ways besides, if they get close to it.

The robot is not taking anything from humans, though. Carlton does not know why. No-one does, not even Sally.

Carlton knows that the robot is very dangerous, and can not be reasoned with. He knows that the United Sates Army must destroy it, so he waits for the orders to do so from the men that lead him.

 

The order comes to fire, and their tanks, and their air weapons, and many other things stop working. Some of the gathered men run away. Carlton's men are afraid, but they hold their ground. Carlton is silently proud of them. Carlton (and the other men like him) received the order before things stopped working, so they and their men attack with what is left. The small robot is much stronger than the other robots. Eventually, Carlton and his men stop attacking.

Many run away. Many can not run away.

They were brave enough. Carlton knew that when he came today. They were not strong enough. Carlton feared that when he came today.

 

This is a story about a robot named 1VAR-0. 1VAR-0 is small, smaller than a child, smaller even than a loaf of bread. 1VAR-0 has thin receptors on its head, almost too thin to see. It has a hide covered in a soft insulation. Its insulation, visual receptors, and olfactory receptors are brown. It also has black and white stripes in its insulation.

1VAR-0's pointed audio receptors flick backward and forward as it makes its way through the trees. It slots the memory request for acorns away in the bottom of the priority list. 1VAR-0 is also a special robot. It is a chipmunk and a machine.

1VAR-0 was bred with a greatly varied set of cellular samples, programmed at the genetic level with his operating systems and his governing programs for a very special mission. 1VAR-0 was created to perfectly mimic a chipmunk, and to destroy another unique robot. 1VAR-0 chitters and scampers quickly though the forest on that mission now.

Its target has gotten a three month headstart on it, and 1VAR-0's core programming fairly screams at it to put on all speed, so it does.

Not many chipmunks are known for being capable of a forty-five mile per hour running speed.

It surprises a deer, who is startled enough to rear and kick at the small hurtling thing. 1VAR-0 responds by putting on the its final burst of speed and flying past the flashing hooves that *could* have crushed and killed it at sixty-five miles per hour.

1VAR-0 is made of mostly animals, but is also constructed of living robots called 'nanites'. One of its component animals is a cheetah. 1VAR-0 is technically an animal, but only *looks* like a chipmunk.These factors, along with its core program, make it very hard to outrace the robot, and very hard to tire it.

 

1VAR-0 runs, jumps, and climbs without slowing. Its eyes and ears seem to be flicking toward everything it passes. 1VAR-0 veers right abruptly, hurdling a stream in a blur of furry little legs. It has found its target's footprints; the exact size and shape of which the chipmunk robot had been downloaded with in its 'conception'. The other robot was moving in a straight line, crushing plant and animal in its wake, knocking rocks out of the way, and breaking branches. The path is *extremely* clear travel for a pursuer of 1VAR-O's size and stature. It loses no time in follwing exactly the direction its target is traveling.

 

The destruction is readily apparent the further 1VAR-0 travels. After the forest, the target robot's path had petered out somewhat, the grassy hills offer 1VAR-0 only deep footprints in the soil to follow (for as long as the weather held away from them).

When the tiny robot made its way to the city, however, the trail was very different. Cars are still being pulled from each other and buildings in which fires have broken out. The injured and dead people on the streets have already been taken away for saving or for sanitizing. Police and National Guard Equipment and vehicles sit inert or wrecked across a mile-long stretch of the target's inexorable arrow-straight path. Before the guard vehicles and equpiment end, there is also a small crater burnt into the street itself. The single set of footprints in the center of the blast site are clearly delineated, and still smoking. 1VAR-0 skirted around the edges of it, still not bothering to analyze the blood, gore, and metal anywhere along his path. It knew that none of this would belong to its target.

It had to stop its target, Android Reconnaisance and Retrival unit 3DW-4D from completing its own mission, or all would be lost. To that end, 1VAR-0 had a special set of teeth, the surgeries for which were begun when it was born. Android Reconnaissance and Retrieval Unit 3DW-4D has a very specific weak point in his main power conduit, and 1VAR-0's teeth had been constructed and implanted for piercing that very spot.

The small, furry robot runs on past bent signposts, broken bodies, shattered windows, collars without pets, mangled vehicles, and screams. There are also many boarded windows. It knows that wood wouldn't stop *it*, let alone Android Reconnaissance and Retrieval Unit 3DW-4D. It runs on until the sounds of violence ahead get louder.

 

Edward continues on his way until he is cut off by a small animal running in front of him. He continues his movement toward it (the small thing that his scanners initially name 'Chipmunk') because he has not collected any chipmunks yet, then stops. An instant after his screens tell him 'Chipmunk', his scanners tell him 'Mastodon', 'Cheetah', 'Rat', 'Doberman', 'Rhinoceros', 'Peregrine Falcon', 'Snowy Owl', 'Cockroach', 'Foreign Body', and such a host of other living things before there are too many readouts for the them to cope with and all of his scans this small creature that has closed the distance between them has generated once more read 'DATA CORRUPTED'

'ATTEMPTING DEFRAGMENTATION'

The thing that is not a chipmunk leaps, baring its teeth as it flies straight for Edward's neck.

 

There is an explosion that blinds forever all living things watching it, and 1VAR-0's mission is complete. There are no remains of either robot ever identified.

 

The virtual play on the lenses of the students' eyes ends with dramatic music in their ears and a fade to the classroom. The professor scowls up at all of them from the base of the hall. He says, too loudly, "And that, boys and girls, is why time travel will never be invented. Because we are stupid, destructive things."

This is the story of Professor Richard Halliburton, and the day he got fired by the University.

Professor Halliburton arrives home two hours later (Nearly a half an hour of this was comprised of the dean shouting at him. Another hour was taken up by Halliburton's shouted response. The rest was him cleaning out his desk, setting fire to his office, and stopping for kitty treats on his way home.). He is greeted by a soft "miaow", followed by the black cat who made it leaping deftly from the staircase.

"Hello, Perseus", he greets the purring form winding its way around his ankles with considerably less scowl than he has had today.

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