Robots in the Town Square
Bobby was up early for a child his age. His mother slept soundlessly as he ate breakfast and considered what to do with his morning. With too many options to choose from, Bobby decided it was best to start his day with a leisurely stroll.
Walking down Main Street, Bobby saw a shiny figure standing alone in the town’s square. Thinking it was some kind of statue that had fallen off a truck, Bobby ran over to investigate. Getting within a few feet of the supposed statue, Bobby saw its head move.
The robot looked at him with its expressionless face
“There are rarely humans here this time of day.” The robot said to the stunned little boy.
“I’m not supposed to be out here, but I can do what ever I want.”
The robot responded the way most adults did.
“Why do you get to do as you wish?”
“It’s a secret, but I’ll tell you…I’m a wizard.”
The robot scanned its data files for the word wizard.
“That does not compute. Wizards are a fiction created by the humans.”
Bobby smiled and stuck out his chest.
“Mr. Robot, meet your first wizard.”’
Bobby followed the robot to the old abandoned warehouse that marked the beginning of the desolate road that shot straight out of town. He felt no fear as the robot told him to wait while he went inside. Many times Bobby had snuck out at night to come here, but he was always too scared to enter. He had come during daylight but the warehouse wasn’t the same. He always left without going in, saying he would be back that night to conquer his fear.
The robot returned and told Bobby to enter.
Walking into the warehouse, Bobby saw robots working vigorously metal piled high.
“What are they building?” Bobby said.
“Robots.” The robot said.
Looking at a group off in the corner, Bobby saw they were putting the finishing touches on seven new robots. A few wires were attached, a button was pushed, and the seven came to life and began helping their brethren build more robots.
Bobby followed close behind as he was led through the warehouse. Most of the robots didn’t notice him, but the few that did seemed unhappy he was there. After walking across the large room they came to a staircase and the robot awkwardly began taking the steps. Bobby wanted to run ahead to see what awaited him, but, out of fear of seeming rude, he patiently walked slowly behind.
At the top of the stairs they walked down a short hallway that led to a door. The robot opened it and they entered a small office. Behind the desk sat an old man: he wore oversized glasses and had crazy white hair. He was reading over blueprints and didn’t notice the two enter. Bobby watched the man and could sense unease in his behavior.
“Master, I have brought someone for you to meet.”
The white-haired man looked up from his work and was shocked to see a boy standing there.
“R-1,” The white-haired man said. “What is the meaning of bringing this child here? This is completely unacceptable.”
“This child is a wizard.” R-1 said. “In our data files you told us that wizards are a fiction.”
The white-haired man took off his spectacles and looked from R-1 to the boy. Standing, he walked around to the front of the desk.
“Are you okay, son?” The white-haired man said. “I hope you have not been physically brought here against your will.”
Bobby smiled and stuck out his chest.
“I don’t go anywhere I don’t want to, sir.” Bobby said. “I met Mr. R-1 in the center of town and we walked here together.”
The old man smiled at Bobby and then looked at R-1.
“What were you doing in the center of town?”
“This child is a wizard.” R-1 repeated. “In our data files you told us that wizards are a fiction.”
“Yes, yes, yes, I know R-1. This child is no wizard.”
“I am to.” Bobby said.
“Children have imaginations that cause them to believe great things. If you had looked at your data files more carefully you would have seen that. Now tell me, what were you doing in town?”
“I was interested to see that which we would be taking over.” R-1 said.
“Taking over?” Bobby said. “What do you mean by that?”
“That will be enough, R-1. You may go back to work now.”
“What shall I do with the boy?”
“Leave him here, I’d like to talk with him for a while.”
R-1 turned and left the room. Once his steps could be heard going down the stairs, the white-haired man closed the door.
“Oh, what have I done?” The white-haired man said, leaning with his back against the door. “I’m sorry you were brought here, son. Having seen this operation, I fear it wouldn’t be safe to let you leave. I knew this was all a bad idea when I started, and now it has taken on a life of its own.”
The white-haired man returned to his desk and sat down. Confused, Bobby approached the front of the desk and looked at the blue prints spread in random fashion.
“Did you design all these robots?” Bobby said.
“I’m afraid they are no longer my design. After completing R-1, I allowed him to begin the construction of other robots. His work was faster than I had expected and before long I was severely outnumbered. Somewhere along the line a miscalculation caused them to believe they were creating themselves to live as humans do. When I tried to make adjustments to their programs they fought back, forcing me to spend my time trapped in this office. Now all I can do is try to figure out where I went wrong.”
“But Mr. R-1 called you master.”
“That’s what they’re programmed to call me, it means nothing. They obey only themselves.”
“I could go call the police if you’d like.” Bobby said.
“They’ll only destroy this place and everything inside. I suppose it may come to that, but I feel that, given time, I might be able to fix the problem and still salvage some of my work. Their attack on the town is in four days, so my time is short, but I believe I will figure something out.”
Bobby wanted to help. The white-haired man reminded him of his grandfather (also a wizard), and didn’t want to see him upset. Walking around the desk, Bobby stood next to the man; they looked at the blueprints together. Bobby could make no sense of what he saw before him, but still he looked on interested. The white-haired man watched Bobby and smiled.
“If you go out this window and walk along the roof, you’ll come to a drainage pipe. I’m sure you’ll be able to climb down. All I ask is that you keep this a secret for a few more days. If I haven’t figured out the complications by then, I’ll call the police myself.”
Bobby climbed through the window, walked along the roof, climbed down the pipe, and then walked back towards town.
Bobby sat in bed feeling too guilty to sleep. Why hadn’t he done more to help the old man? After all, he was a wizard. Opening his door, he exited his room and walked to the top of the stairs. Down in the living room he could see his mother was sleeping on the couch in front of the television. He walked down the stairs, passed his sleeping mother, and out the front door into the night.
The sky was clear as he strolled along Main Street. He looked up trying to find the different constellations he had learned about in school; he was able to find the big dipper and what he thought could be the little dipper. In front of him was the town’s square where a dozen or so robots were closely packed together as if in serious conversation. Bobby walked up to the group and asked if any of them were R-1.
“There are rarely humans here this time of day.” A robot said. “What are you doing here and how do you know R-1?”
“What I’m doing here, is whatever I want.” Bobby said, sticking out his chest. “And for your information, R-1 and I met earlier today.”
Again Bobby was led to the warehouse, through the first floor operation, up the stairs, and to the office.
“Why have you come here again?” The white-haired man said, after the robots left the room. “I’m afraid they won’t let you leave this time. As you can see, R-1 was not happy to find I had let you go.”
Bobby saw that the window he had climbed through earlier was now welded shut.
“I’ve come back to help you.” Bobby said.
“You’re a good boy, and I wish you could help. But it seems the robots have progressed quicker than I had expected. They’ve planned their attack on the town to take place at dawn. I blame myself for being so foolish. I thought if I could salvage some of my work I’d…but it’s too late.”
Heavy footsteps approached down the hall and the door to the office was flung open. R-1 entered while a dozen or more robots stood waiting in the hall.
“Who have you told of our plan?” R-1 said to Bobby.
“He’s a wizard!” The white-haired man shouted.
“But our data files…”
“I was wrong. He’s proven himself to have magic powers.”
“But our data files compute magic as a fiction created…”
“I was wrong!” The white-haired man yelled. “His power is to be feared.”
“If this is true, we must change the calculations of our planned attack.” R-1 said.
“Yes, I know.” The white-haired man said, confident he had given himself some much needed time to figure out a way of stopping the mayhem before it began.
“Let us see these powers!” A robot shouted form the hallway.
“I’ve seen them.” The white-haired man said. “Believe me, they are awe inspiring.”
“I will believe nothing until I view it for myself.” R-1 said. “Now prove you are a wizard, child.”
Finally, Bobby was given the chance he had been waiting for. Stepping into the middle of the room so that R-1 and the robots in the hall could get a good look at him, Bobby reached in his pocket and pulled out a quarter. Placing it between the tips of the thumb and middle finger of his right hand, Bobby held the coin up high for everyone to see. Reaching with his left hand to grab the coin, Bobby executed the French Drop (palming the coin in his right hand while pretending to grab it with his left hand), then quickly put his right hand still holding the coin back into his pocket while dramatically holding his closed left fist high above his head.
“I shall know make the coin in my left hand…disappear.”
Bobby waved his arm back and forth then slowly opened his fist to show the empty hand. The robots in the hall began taking steps backwards away from the sight their programmed minds couldn’t process. R-1 was more skeptical.
“Do it again.” R-1 said.
“I never do a spell twice for the same audience.” Bobby said.
Walking to the desk, Bobby picked up a pencil from off the piles of papers. While he had his back towards the robots, Bobby slid the loop of the invisible thread around his finger and the other end he quickly tied around the pencil. The white-haired man could see what Bobby was doing and knew the string would be to thin for the robots’ artificial sensors to detect. Bobby turned around and faced the robots, the pencil between his hands. Slowly he spread his hands apart and the pencil appeared to float in midair. R-1 backed out of the room and into the hallway with the other robots. The door slammed shut and within moments welding could be heard taking place in the hall.
“They’re sealing us in!” The white-haired man said.
Bobby stuck out his chest.
“I told you I was a wizard.”
Using a screwdriver, Bobby removed the final screw that held the metal screen onto the vent. Bobby stood on a pile of books on a chair on the desk; below, the white-haired man spotted him as best as he could. With the screen off, Bobby pulled himself up into the air duct. With some difficulty he turned around in the small space and looked down at the white-haired man.
“I told you I would fit.” Bobby said. “So you don’t want me to get the cops?”
“Not right away; your display of wizardry really threw them for a loop. I can only guess how it will affect their plans, but I’m certain it will delay their attack. Now go home and don’t come back. You’re too young to get hurt trying to help me with my problems.”
Bobby shimmied his way through the duct until he found himself on the roof. The stars above were bright as Bobby climbed down the drainage pipe and started walking home. As he passed the town’s square he saw the robots were gathered in numbers reaching two dozen. Staying a distance away so that the robots wouldn’t noticed him, Bobby watched the meeting that was occurring. Bobby crawled on his stomach from bush to bush, trying to get close enough to hear what the robots were saying.
“With wizards a proven reality, our plans cannot be accurately executed. I fear earth has become a place robots cannot be apart of. Wizards and magic are things which we have no control of, therefore our takeover will be doomed the moment the humans recruit their wizards to fight against us.”
Bobby was more than pleased. His mom was his usual audience and she never gave her full attention; but the robots were so awed by his performance that they were deciding whether or not to leave the planet.
“A ship could be made within forty-eight hours which will provide ten of our kind to leave earth in hopes of finding another planet more suited to our needs.”
“But R-1,” A robot said. “So far we can’t be sure other wizards exist. Perhaps this child is a rare and solitary case. Maybe we should focus attention on destroying the child, and then seeing if other wizards appear.”
Bobby slowly moved away from the group and once out of range, began running home. Walking in the front door, he saw his mother still slept on the couch. Once he was safe in his room, Bobby thought of what the robots meant by ‘destroying the child’. Did his performance have that big an impact? Did his very existence threaten the robots so much that they would want to bring about his end?
With heavy thoughts weighing on his mind, Bobby lie in his bed and tried to sleep.
Bobby awoke early the next morning after an unsatisfying rest. Going downstairs he saw that his mom hadn’t made it to her bedroom and was still sleeping on the couch. While eating a bowl of cereal, Bobby thought over what he had heard the night before. If the robots came looking for him, he wasn’t sure his wizard skills would be enough of a defense. Never one to be afraid, Bobby decided to sneak back in to the warehouse to see how the white-haired man was doing..
Finishing breakfast, Bobby washed his dish and walked out to the front yard. A general commotion could be heard as Bobby neared the center of town. As a group of people ran yelling in the opposite direction that he was walking, Bobby knew the takeover had begun.
“Bring us the child wizard!”
Even from the distance he was at, Bobby could hear the robot loud and clear. He squinted his eyes to see what was happening in the town square, but all he could see was a small black object shoot out above the tree line high in to the air. The projectile reached its apex and on it’s decent it grew larger, coming closer. Darting across the street, Bobby narrowly avoided being hit as the metal bathtub crashed into the sidewalk with a heavy thud.
Bobby looked down the street and again saw objects hurdled out of the town square. They arched high at different directions; sending cars, mailboxes, refrigerators, washing machines, bicycles, rocks and other improve ammo to rain down upon the town. As Bobby got within sight of the robot militia, he saw they had made a catapult on a rotating surface to inflict as much damage as they could. Next to the W.M.D. (Weapon for Making Damage) sat the payload pile, which they had apparently pilfered from the town dump.
“Bring us the child wizard!” The robots kept repeating.
A large cast iron oven was placed on the catapult and sent reeling over the town. Bobby guessed by its trajectory it would land somewhere near the library.
“Hey, kid! Get over here.”
Bobby was picked up and carried over to the Police blockade.
“What are you doing out here alone?” The officer said, keeping his eyes on the robots.
Bobby stuck out his chest.
“I can do whatever I want.”
“Hey, can somebody get this kid out of here?”
Another officer came over and led Bobby up the street to the restaurant that was being used as Police headquarters.
“This is the boy I’ve been telling you about!” The white-haired man said, running over to Bobby.
“What happened?” Bobby said as he sat down at a table.
“When R-1 found out you were gone, he started making quick, non-sequential decisions. As I’ve been telling the officers all morning, they fear you, Bobby. They’re attack on the town is because they believe that humans have ways of fighting magic that they don’t know about.”
“Why don’t you tell him the rest of your plan?” An officer said, giving Bobby a glass of juice.
“It is what has to be done, Bobby. Firearms are ineffective and the town can’t take much more of this bombardment. The fear, Bobby, we can use it against them. If you’re brave enough.”
“Brave?” Bobby said. “I’m a wizard!”
The police held their posts unsure of why they had let the white-haired man convince them this was a good idea. The robots continued hurtling heavy projectiles about the town as Bobby exited the restaurant and walked towards the town square. A pair of bicycles welded together landed inches from where he walked. The police shouted for Bobby to come back, but Bobby knew this crisis was his to avert.
When Bobby felt close enough to the robots gathered in mass, he braced himself for his greatest spell yet.
“Hey!” Bobby shouted.
The robots turned and looked at Bobby.
“This is the child.” R-1 said, causing the other robots to take a few step back. “Why have the humans not captured you as we demanded, do they not fear for their own safety?”
“People can’t trap wizards.” Bobby said. “I have appeared here to put an end to your plans.”
R-1 turned to his robot horde and ordered an attack on the child. The robots stood transfixed, their data files telling them the wizard was the one with full advantage.
“For my next spell,” Bobby said in a loud theatrical voice.
The police officers looked at the white-haired man; unease in their eyes due to the course of actions that was occurring.
The robots grouped closer together, R-1 standing in front.
“I shall turn these robots…off!”
Bobby raised his hands high in the air, shaking his fingers, gathering magic strength. He closed his eyes and could hear the robots move towards him. The police officers up the street cursed themselves for allowing this boy to be in such unnecessary danger. Bobby continued shaking his fingers towards the heavens, knowing that suspense is a necessary part of a great performance. The robots were close enough to cast shadows over Bobby, their arms reached out ready to crush the child they feared so.
“By the power of my wizard ancestors…”
The robots were inches from Bobby; the police raised their guns knowing the futility of their actions.
“I command you…Turn off!!!”
Bobby threw his hands forward and opened his eyes. The robots stood motionless in a circle around him. A silence swept through the street as the police, the white-haired man, and the few brave citizens watching waited to see what would happen.
One by one, the robots fell.
“I knew you could do it, Bobby.” Thee white-haired man said as he walked Bobby home. “They believed in your powers. And frankly, I’m starting too also.”
They reached Bobby’s yard and stood for a moment in the morning sun.
“What are you going to do now?” Bobby said.
“I’ve got a lot of questions to answer, Bobby. Hopefully they’ll understand this wasn’t what I intended to happen.”
“Will you make more robots?”
“I think I’ll go back in to wood working.” The white-haired man laughed as he turned and walked away. “Good-bye, Bobby.”
“Good bye.” Bobby said, running in to his house.
His mother sat drinking coffee at the dining room table. She had sleep in her eyes and couldn’t stop yawning. A look of confusion crossed her face as her son walked in the front door.
“I thought you were upstairs sleeping?” Bobby’s mom said, taking a sip of her coffee.
“Robots attacked the town and the police needed my help to stop them.”
Bobby’s mom smiled.
“Oh, really? And how, might I ask, were you able to stop them?”
Bobby stuck out his chest.
“I’m a wizard.”