Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The C.W.A. of Dr. Z. Smith: Episode #95: Extortion, Robot Style

“Well, That took longer thaan I expected.”
   “But you still have The Touch, Sir.”
      “I do at that.”

-=fig. 610: final programming=-

Dr. Smith and his Robotic Butler, Jeeves, had just finished building a MK7 in the hopes of exchanging it for the life of Capt. James Brown, Mayor of the Grand City Of Legopolis and Dr. Smith's only friend.
   “Why did we ever abandon this design?” Dr. Smith said, almost wistfully. “It was so adorable.”
       “Wheels¹, Sir.” Jeeves Replied.
 “Ah. Yes.  Right, that's the last of it, you stay here Jeeves, I don't want them finding you.  I'll roll this guy out myself.”
      “Very Good Sir.”
 “Now Presenting!”  Dr. Smith tried to use his best ‘Circus Announcer’ voice, but he failed. “The most wonderful thing you've ever seen!  Never before shown publicly, until now!  The–drum-roll please–MARK 13!”
-=fig. 611: gold master=-

It wasn't. It was a MK7. But Dr. Smith was hoping that these evil robots–themselves only MK4's–wouldn't know the difference.
“It's beautiful” Said the Leader of the MK4's “So much better than that human-esque”–It said human-esque like it was in insult–“MK12.  Such articulation, such height. But it only has one eye.”
   “That shoots laser beams.²” Dr. Smith assured it, “And besides, People are less frightened of things with one, big, eye.³”  Dr. Smith hoped The Leader didn't have anymore questions.⁴
 “How do I get into this new form?” It asked.
   “You plug this cord into your AUX OUT port, and this end into the MK13's AUX IN port. That's it.”  Wordlessly a spare MK4 clunked over, and connected the two robots.
     “There had better not be any tricks.” The Leader said.
        “You have me over a barrel, what would I dare do?”
 There was a short transfer period, where both bodies went limp.
    The the MK7 straightened up.  “I Feel so powerful!” Said The Leader, from Its new body. It disconnected the cord from Its AUX IN port and tested out Its new wheels.
   “You can go up to 50MPH with those wheels, nearly silently too, which I imagine will come in handy in your imminent reign of terror.”
“Thank You, Doctor, and it seems it is now my turn to keep my end of the bargain.” The Leader said. “Henchmen, Our leverage is no longer needed. Kill him.”
-=fig. 612: streamlining=-

“We HAD a DEAL!” Dr. Smith yelled,
  “A deal which I broke.” Replied The Leader.
 But Capt. Brown was on top of the situation.  He had had upwards of eight hours to work on his bonds,  he was just biding his time until the right moment.
And This was the right moment.
   He snapped the ropes, opened the top drawer of Dr. Smith's desk and drew the six-shooter that was kept there.
He shot every gun-carrying MK4 in the one weak spot he could see. The ankles. There was a tiny gap in the ankle, and behind that gap was the vacuum tube that regulated the entire leg.  These robots weighed nearly a ton, so with only one functioning leg they collapsed.
  “Eight Seconds, James?” Dr. Smith called over jokingly, “You're slipping.”
    “Could'a done it in six if this damn gun would shoot straight. Remind me to get you a better one.”
    “What's Happening!” Demanded The Leader. Without waiting for an answer, it fired the shotgun mounted to it's back.
     Nothing happened.
     “Did you think I would Load it?” Questioned Dr. Smith. “You have one minute to live before the Program I have installed re-formats your entire hard drive, permanently erasing what ever you are.  But I can still Stop it, Do you Repent?”
   “Then Goodnight, Mr. Robot.”

-=fig. 613: bug deletion=-

That was when the miraculous, viral, confused and murderous thing that had been The Leader of an off-shoot branch of deadly MK4s, died.
 The MK7 sagged.
   Then played a cheerful eight-bit tune and stood to attention, all remnants of The Leader had been erased.
“Mk7,” Dr. Smith said “Begin Cleaning this room. Erase the Memories and Hard Drives of any MK4 you find, and set them up again in the manufacture hall.”
  The MK7 tried to salute. Then set about its task.
“Why do I feel sad?”  Asked Capt. Brown.
   “Because we just killed a life-form that created itself, and now are using its corpse for menial tasks. C'mon, I'll get Jeeves to make some bacon.”
knock knock knock.
 “Who is it?”
   “A representative From the Offices of Mr. Radio.”

¹Dr. Smith mistrusts wheels. Always has.

 ²This is a lie.

 ³This is another lie.

⁴Because he really was terrible at lying.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Charon is the one afterlife myth I can believe in.

  Take the Egyptians, they beleived that after you die, you get to keep all your stuff.
 But you'll need it, because dying is just the beginning, once dead you embark on a huge odyssey of trials, tribulations, tests, trickiness… Et Certera. In fact, so much, you need a guide book filled with the answers, and maps, and cheatcodes. And even if you do make it to the end, there's also the final test, where you heart is weighed against the Feather Of Truth.
A feather.
I don't don't know about you, but my heart isn't coming out on the better side of that deal.
And if you fail that one, crucial test, your soul is eaten by Ammit the Devourer.
 Game over.
And even if you do win, in a weight test, against a feather, their afterlife isn't too much better than what we have here.

Then take the Christian way, and allow me to put on my southern preacher voice here;
A–fter you die, THE A–ngels come DOWN from above, and bring you Up, Up Up! To the pearly white gates of heaven.  WHERE YOU wait inaline to be judged by HIS HO–LINESS the Archangel Wossname, And when it IS your turn, he READS his ledger, and says unto you: Sorry bud, you're not on the list. And Then he PULLS the giant red LEE–VER of rightiousnees, and Puh–Lunges your soul Down, Down, Down!  To BURN in the fires of HELL for all ee–ternity.

Not for me, personally.

But the Greeks, they had it down.
See, at this point, they were still simple farmers, mostly, that newfangled ‘Fancy Math’ stuff was still just getting started, but they had coins, and a system.
 They believed that after you die, you wander about in the fog for a bit, avoid the three-headed-dog {I can do that, Dogs are easy} and eventually come to the river Styx.
  Waiting at the river, is a ferryman. Charon. You pay the man your coins {Or on some cases, coin} that you were buried with, and he takes you to the other side of the river.
  And what's at the other side of the river?
      Well, you'll just have to find out when we get there.

The C.W.A. of Dr. Z. Smith: Episode #94: Plan B

Last Week As You Recall,
Our heroes were in something of a tight spot. 
Capt. Brown was getting a little antsy, understandably, he was fully armed and yet not shooting.
“C'mon Zachary¹, Plan B. Anytime now.” He said.

-=fig. 606: ricochets hurt=-

“I'm thinking I'm thinking I'm thinking”  Replied Dr. Smith
 “Do they have a weak spot?” Capt. Brown Asked, Trying to get the idea flowing.
  “No. Do I look like I would build weak spots into things? I never thought I would have to face off against them in my own house!”
   “Okay, So why did you abandon this design?”
     “Well, you know, James², They're pretty clumsy. And ugly. Slow, too.”
        “How slow?”
          “Pretty slow, they can barely outrun a normal person. ”
Capt. Brown, who up to that point had been pretty hopeful re: the shortcomings of the MK4, sagged a little.
              “So…” Capt. Brown Started, “Why aren't they attacking?”
“Bravo.” Said a new voice “You two sure can talk. Not a lot of thinking going on between the two of you, though.”
Just off the kitchen Dr. Smith had an office, it contained: a desk, a typewriter, a phone, a blackboard filled with indecipherable mathematical scribblings, and a shiny silver robot, who was glowing green.

-=fig. 607: glorious leader=-

“Please don't let my associates frighten you,” it said without a mouth “They are fearsome, and deadly, and don't always listen when I tell them not to kill our guests, but don't let them frighten you, no.”  This new robot was obviously the leader, for one thing, it could talk.  That was new.  “Come a little closer, Mr. Robot.” Dr. Smith said, “We can't quite hear you.”
 The office was on the other side of the room from Dr. Smith, Capt. Brown and the rest.
    “Ha ha ha.” Said the Robot, it probably thought it was laughing. “You think that if I come nearer, you may trick with some device and cause me to be destroyed. But there is no device what can damage Compound LZ129³. So I will come nearer. If only to taunt you.”
Dr. Smith was worried now, even though he didn't show it.
   He still didn't have a plan.

-=fig. 608: face to face meetings=-

“Your weapons cannot harm us. There is nothing you could possibly make that could destroy me. It is merely my compassion that keeps you from dying.”
  “It is a well-known fact,” Said Dr. Smith, “That robot do not have compassion.  So you must be keeping us alive for some other purpose.”
  The Robot's face would have shown surprise, had it had any articulate features.
    “So you are smarter than you look.” This wasn't a complement “Yes. This body is…inaccurate, frightening and ugly.  I require a new one, a better one. And you are going to make it for me.”
 Dr. Smith saw that he had a card. So he played it.  “And why should I?”
   “Because if you don't I'll kill you.”
     “Kill me. I'm the only one who can help you.”
       “You're right.  Kill…him.”  It gestured to Capt. Brown, the MK4's took hold Of Capt. Brown before he had time to react, The Captain was big and strong, but the MK4's were bigger and stronger.
   “FINE!” Dr. Smith Yelled, He had just lost his card, his only play. “I'll do it.  It will take time, however.”
       “You have forty-eight hours.” It intoned.
  That was a worryingly small time-frame.
          “I can't make a very good robot in just two days,” Dr. Smith bargained, “How much better do you want you new chassis?”
              “Better than an MK12.⁴”
                “That's impossible in just two days!”
                 “Forty-Eight Hours.” And that was that. “We will keep the good captain here, to ensure you preserve your end of the bargain.”
                 “What my end? The only end to this bargain is yours!”
                   “Your end is your friend does not die. 47:55:10.”
“An MK13 in just 48 hours. Hah.”  Dr. Smith was a grumbler, in private.
 “Sir? Is that you Sir?”

-=fig. 609: laboratorium=-
  “Jeeves! What are you doing in here?”
   “Hiding, Sir.”
    “Good Man.  What happened to the Laboratory?”
     “Those, pardon my expletive, damn MK4's came in here looking for me. I daresay they were no match for my hiding abilities.”
       “Jeeves, they want me to build them a MK13.”
         “A MK13, Sir?  Can it be done?”
          “Doesn't matter, they want it in 48 hours, less now, or they'll kill James.”
        Jeeves⁵ was pretty smart, he had seen cop-and-robber movies, read crime novels, and so knew that this was called kidnapping, and that it never ended with the hostage alive.
 He kept this to himself, however.
   “Sir,” Jeeves said, “Perhaps we could fool them with a MK6, a MK7?  Something better than what they have but still with known flaws?  Something we could exploit.”
Dr. Smith considered it.  “I like it, it could work. And we could make one of those in less than two days, lots less.  It said it wanted something less fearsome, less clumsy.  That sounds like a MK7 to me.”
  “Very good Sir.”

¹Capt. Brown is the only person that Dr. Smith lets call him ‘Zachary’.
 This is because Dr. Smith is not the least bit friendly with anyone he's not friends with.

²Dr. Smith is one of only a few people Capt. Brown lets call him ‘James’. Not because he's unfriendly, but because a certain amount of respect is lost when you call your mayor and glorious leader by his first name.

 ³Jeeves used to be made of this stuff, but it was too heavy.  So Dr. Smith made a new Compound, LZ130, which was lighter, but weaker.  He kept Compound LZ129 in the storage closet however, because you never know when you might need a nearly-indestructible alloy.

 ⁴ An MK12 is the latest model Jeeves, he is sophisticated, smart, obedient and human-looking.  These robots, however, are heavily based off of the older prototype Mk4 model, a mere production-line robot.

⁵An MK12, the only one in existence.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The C.W.A. of Dr. Z. Smith: Episode #93: Closing In

Last week as you recall our heroes were trapped in the upper level of The Smith Compound, a haphazard place made of Dr. Smith's house, a former neighbors house, the alley between, and whatever interesting bits of metal the Legopolis City Rooftop police could ‘Find’.
They were trapped by the MK4's { Prototype Jeeves’ } that had, through an accidental and nefarious series of events, up-risen from their original purpose of  manufacturing TaVee’s to a new level of marginal-self-awareness.
  Self-Awareness, no matter how marginal is a dangerous thing in a robot, as illustrated by the Hundreds¹ of dollars damage to The Grand City Of Legopolis.
   It didn't help either that the MK4's had taken Dr. Smith's house as their headquarters, because Dr. Smith's house, no matter how smallish it looked on the outside, inside is half-a-dimension away, and huge.
  The door can be disconnected from the actual place Dr. Smith lives, so this makes it ideal for withstanding, say, a siege.

-=fig. 603: dramatically staring at stage left=-
“So…What do we do?” Asked Capt. Brown, unusually worried.
  “I don't know.” Answered Dr. Smith “I have a key, so I could probably get in. The fact is that these robots don't seem the sort to ask or pay anyone to change the locks, but the pressing problem is every weapon I have shoots lead, and these robots are made of copper.  Without the LRD's² working, we have nothing.”
  Irvin, a third-class Rooftop policemen who was listening { as cannot be helped when six people are crammed on a tiny platform } piped up. “If we had access to a large amount of electricity, would that help?”
 “Yes.” Dr. Smith said, “The was the idea behind the LRD's, copper conducts electricity like nothing else. But we don't…do we?”
   Irvin gave a little smile, “As it happens, we do.”

-=fig. 604: volunteered=-

Dr. Smith walked gently.
 Of course they would send him. Who else would be stupid enough to volunteer?
   The MK4 hadn't realised he was there, which was good.
 Dr. Smith swung the shovel, Sparks flew and the MK4's internals were fried.
   There are benefits to always carrying Professional-quality insulated rubber gloves in your jacket pocket.
  The Shovel was hooked to a battery usually used by The LCRP³ for radio equipment, but the MK4's had disabled that somehow.
   Luckily the battery still held a charge.
     Not so luckily, the cord was only so long. There would be no carrying it in.
 Dr. Smith signaled the LCRP. Normally they wouldn't be able to touch the ground, they were prohibited by union law, besides the fact that they held it in such disgust.
   But the ground of the Smith Complex had been, officially⁴, declared a roof. This was because underneath the whole city was a network of tunnels, abandoned sewers, sneaky access tunnels, and stuff like that there.
 The door accepted Dr. Smith's key.
   Dr. Smith tried to ignore the fact that they were walking into an unknown, practically unarmed.
 Well, nearly practically unarmed.

-=fig. 605: basso profondo=-

GIVE YOURSELVES UP!” Shouted Capt. Brown, Basso Profondo.
   The horde of MK4's did nothing.
     The LCRP, however, unprepared as they were for Capt. Brown's impressive vocal chords, swayed gently, trying to blink away the spots that had just appeared practically everywhere they looked.
  Somewhere, an urn imploded.
   There was a hydraulic hiss as the MK4's stepped forward.
     “So…That did nothing.” Grumbled Capt. Brown.
      “Plan B, then.” Said Dr. Smith.
        “Wait, you have one?” Capt. Brown asked hopefully,
          “…er…um…No.  But give me a minute.”   

¹The Legopolian dollar is ridiculously strong, a comfortable single-family four-bedroom house can be bought for roughly $300.  And that includes furnishings.

 ²LRD=Long Range Defibrillator. Think Raygun.

 ³Legopolis City Rooftop Policemen.

 ⁴There was a Ceremony. Quite the Society affair, oddly, as Society At Large rightly believed the LCRP to be homeless, smelly, and above all, poor. Luckily, Society has yet to give up a chance to drink for free while wearing a tuxedo.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The C.W.A. of Dr. Z. Smith: Episode #92: Breakout

Last Week As You Recall…
  “Were we…were we dead for a minute?”
       “Yes we were, but we're fine now.  More pressingly, we are presumably underground in a small dark room with no doors or windows.”
Dr. Smith examined the walls while Capt. Brown rambled on in shock, which was understandable seeing as how he had never died before. “…I…I Died?  And you small-talked our way out of it.  How did you do that?”
  Dr. Smith looked at a bit of wall sideways and answered “Being Death is a lonely business.  You meet people all day but there's never much in the way of actual conversation.  Does this wall look weaker than the other ones to you?” 
  Capt. Brown gave his professional opinion as a former architect, which consisted of a shrug. 
   “I'm gonna take a swing at it anyway.” 
     “With what?”
       “I'll show you if you find my briefcase.” 
There was a brief search for the briefcase, which had gotten itself wedged in the corner of the small room.  Dr. Smith opened the tiny briefcase and pulled out a pick-axe. “We keep getting stuck in small places, usually underground, so I've taken to carrying mining equipment.”
  Capt. Brown tapped the side of his nose, “Smart move. We do keep getting trapped in the same places, don't we?  It's as if we're merely characters in some greater story where the writer's too lazy to stray far from where he's comfortable.  And where he's comfortable is…small underground rooms.  My analogy sort of petered out there, at the end.” 
“It did.” Dr. Smith decided to keep quiet the fact that he could hear a voice he had dubbed “The Narrator” Because that would make him seem crazy. 
  “I'm not crazy.” He mumbled, like a person who hears voices that most certainly are not there.
And the pickaxe was swung.
  The wall crumbled, like any sensible wall would when faced with steel and determination and Capt. Brown's notable muscles.

-=fig. 597: a whole new hole=-

On the other side of the wall was a narrow passageway.
   “Good, we're out.” Dr. Smith said.  “Now all that's left is up. What could be easier?”
     “Lots of things.” Answered Capt. Brown, “Down, For example.”
After walking along the narrow passageway for what seemed like forever.
  There didn't seem to be an end or outlet in sight.
    So Capt. Brown destroyed a nearby wall.
       They climbed through the hole and found themselves in a small, moldy room.
“What is this place?” Asked Capt. Brown.
  “It's a basement.”
    “So that means there's stairs up, in here somewhere?”
       “Right.  Good call on this wall.”
The stairs weren't too hard to find.
         “Any ideas on where we are?”
              “You first, then.”
               “Gee Thanks, James. That was sarcasm.”

-=fig. 598: short basement=-

“Argh.”  Grumbled Capt. Brown.  When you put a six-foot-seven man in a five-foot-two room, he hits his head pretty regularly.
  “Hey! We're downtown!”

-=fig. 599: putzkammers=-

“…How can you tell we're downtown?”
   “This is Putzkammer's Delicatessen.  It's across the street from my house.”
    “Oh yeah.  How come it got abandoned?”
      “Ol’ Putzkammer defaulted years ago.  It looks like somebody looted the floorboards out of here. This used to be a pretty little spot. Damn kids with their graffiti.”  Indeed, the walls were covered in lewd and profane graffiti, of the sort I'm sure you can imagine.
  Formerly the building had been an assayers office, back when Legopolis had primarily been a mining town.
  But when the Upisdaisium and Luddite dried up, so did the tourist dollars.
 That was when Legopolis fell off the map.  Which is a shame, really, because it's a pretty little town.
   The cheesy lock on the door couldn't hold up to a pick-axe, and soon they were on Ron Daveu Drive.
   It was quiet.  Which was odd.  A whole lot of evil robots on the loose and you'd expect it to be louder.
   As it turned out, that was because the robots had won this street.
     Ron Daveu Drive was where they'd started.

-=fig. 600: entrance blocked=-
“James!” Whispered Dr. Smith “There's an MK4 Guarding the entrance to the Smith Compound.”
   “Hold Still.”
     Capt. Brown carefully drew an LRD, Checked that it was charged, steadied his hand, and failed to fire.
   Shaking the LRD didn't change anything.
      “It's broken!” Capt. Brown whispered and handed the Raygun to Dr. Smith.
         As it turns out, Long-Range-Defibrillators don't fare well after being dropped from heights.
    “We'll go ’round back, then.”
       Dr. Smith Didn't know about this, “we have a back door to the compound?”
           “It's more like another front door.”
-=fig. 601: who goes there?=-

  “Who Goes there?” Shouted the guard.
    “Your Captain.”  shouted Capt. Brown.
     The Back Door turned out to be the front door of the Yellow House, one-half of the Smith Compound.
    It opened directly onto stairs, and they led to what used to be the top floor before the Rooftop Police got at the walls.

-=fig. 602: stragglers=-

At the top of the stairs, on the platform, were four dejected Rooftop Policemen.
  “Men.” Capt. Brown started, in his best Captain Voice “Robots have taken the compound.  How did this happen?”
  No one could explain it properly, those metal beasts were deceptively fast, but the facts now were: 1. The Compound was cut off from the greater network of rooftops, Communication-wise and physically, and b. The Robots had set up Doctor Smith's house as their base.
 “They've What?” Asked Dr. Smith.
   “The Robots have set up base in your house.”
      Normally Dr. Smith would have been panicked, but he realised this could only mean one thing.
   “We now know where the MK4 leader is!”