"Ah, Dr. Frank Sloth. So good to see you."
"Well, what did you want to show me then?" the
nasty villain snapped. The blue Grundo before him wavered not the least under
his master's steely gaze.
"Come this way, if you please," the Grundo replied,
pointing in the direction of a large panel of transparisteel set within a titanium
wall. Sloth glided over to the transparent sheet and stared into the bare steel
"Well? I don't want to be here all day you know,"
Sloth growled. The Grundo held up both his hands in a calming gesture.
"Patience, sir," the Grundo continued undeterred.
With swift movements of his hand, he tapped dozens of keys on a small nearby
keyboard. There was a muffled whirring from behind the glass-like panel and
a small opening appeared in the wall opposite the onlookers. A pair of gleaming
green eyes suddenly flashed to life from the darkness within and the Grundo
clapped his hands in delight. "It works, it works! I knew it would work!"
"Knew what would work?" Sloth said, eyeing
the Grundo in exasperation. Then he spotted something emerging from the hole.
A robot Lupe strode from the darkness and proceeded to the middle of the room,
heavy metal feet clanking on the unyielding surface. It sniffed the dank air
suspiciously and started swinging its head left and right. Dr. Frank Sloth turned
to the Grundo. "You mean to tell me you've dragged me all the way down here,"
Sloth said, voice dripping with contempt. "To see some robot Lupe?"
"Yes, of course. Observe if you please," the
Grundo muttered. Four small panels on all sides of the metal room suddenly snapped
open and small clockwork Grundos started streaming out of them, marching menacingly
at the Lupe. The robot's eyes flashed for a moment and it swiftly smashed into
a clockwork Grundo. In an instant, the robot leapt from the battered remains
of the first Grundo onto a wall and, with its powerful hind legs, launched itself
at the swarm, crushing half a dozen more mechanizations. Sloth and the blue
Grundo watched as the robot Lupe attacked without hesitation until the last
of the clockwork Grundos lay in a heap under its sharp claws. Then the glowing
eyes faded into a dull green and the robot Lupe padded back into its hole. Sloth
watched the opening close up before turning back to the Grundo.
"Impressive," Sloth commended. "What is
"That was Project VIRGIL," The Grundo stated,
waving his left hand at the glass panel. "Which is short for 'Very Intelligent
Robotic Governor-Independent Lupe'. Virgil is my
first creation that has exhibited a great deal of sentience and intelligence
when compared with the other failures. It can think for itself and I have programmed
it to attack any that it thinks is a threat with little regard or forethought
about its target. As you can see Virgil is as strong and fast as he is smart
making, him the perfect replacement for any foot soldier."
"Somehow I don't feel impressed," Sloth said
thoughtfully. "Robot Lupes are more than capable of doing all of the above and
by far they aren't that rare."
"Ah, but other robot Lupes have to be transmogrified
from normal Lupes with the Secret Laboratory Ray, a costly process that is a
waste of time and Neopoints. Virgil on the other hand can be mass-produced because
he is a hundred percent Grundo-made and only requires the proper programming
to activate it."
"Hmm, that's very good," Sloth said, genuinely
interested. "Could Virgil be equipped with other deadly implements other
than his claws?"
"Yes. Indeed I can interface him with any technological
weapon, including the Ultra Mega Bot 2000, as long as it meets the specifications
of the present chassis and framework. But Virgil is only in the testing phase
at the moment and he won't be functional for a while." Dr. Sloth turned, his
black cloak swirling behind him, and moved to the exit.
"Make sure it's ready in a week or else," Sloth
said over his shoulder to the Grundo. "And prepare a report on Virgil's development,
hand delivered to my desk at 0800 hours NST." And with that Dr. Frank Sloth
exited the lab.
The blue Grundo huffed and stomped off to the
control panel and taped a few keys on the keyboard. A concealed side door opened
and the Grundo walked through it into a dimly lit chamber.
Before him was a robot Lupe lying on a small
metal table. Its glowing green eyes moved unerringly to regard the approaching
Analysing target … image recognized … target
"Greetings, master Colvernus," Virgil said in
a crisp emotionless voice. The Grundo lazily waved his left hand.
"Please Virgil, just Cole would be fine," Colvernus
muttered. Virgil's steel head tipped to one side almost comically.
"Affirmative master … Cole. What do you wish
"Oh nothing, just some maintenance on some of
your servos. Won't take a minute. What do you think of your new power source,
Virge?" Colvernus asked. Virgil's eyes blinked.
"Is Cole referring to subject Virgil or 'Virge'?"
"You, of course, silly. Now answer the question,"
Colvernus replied loudly as he stooped to unscrew something from Virgil.
"The new faerie dust power source is operating
at 60% power output and 100% of system's power requirements have been met. Estimated
time of next power source replacement is 10.16 months." Virgil stated nonchalantly.
"No, no, no," Colvernus interjected as he fumbled
with a screwdriver. "I mean how do you feel about your new power source?" The
Grundo could hear the whirring and clicking inside Virgil's electronic mind.
"I am not familiar with the request 'feel',"
said the Lupe in a confused tone. "Subject Virgil is ready to receive input
on the term, master Cole."
The Grundo sighed and muttered, "Never mind,
Virge," in a resigned tone before screwing shut the panel on Virgil's side and
patting him on the head. The green spots that were Virgil's visual sensory devices
(eyes) focused and brightened slightly.
"I wish to know of the term you are referring
to," Virgil said. Colvernus only shook his head, like the Lupe was an errant
child, and waved him away.
"It's nothing you'd understand Virgil," Colvernus
muttered as he turned to leave the room. "I didn't program you to with feelings
anyway. Get some rest Virgil, I'll be back in an hour." With that the Grundo
left the room, the door hissing shut behind him. Virgil obediently followed
Colevernus' orders and retreated into a corner, his eyes dimming and his processor
preparing a request for his system to go into standby. Then something at the
back of his memory stirred and made him cancel the request.
Unknown character: "Feeling". Systems request:
Identify character. Method: Access Virtupets Network. Processing commands …
The robot Lupe's eyes flashed slightly as he
got to his paws. Nonchalantly, Virgil moved over to an unused terminal at a
dark corner of his room. Placing his metallic paw into a shallow depression
on the terminal, Virgil interfaced with the unused computer terminal and coaxed
it to activate. With a satisfying beep, the terminal's screen flashed to life,
swathing the robot Lupe in its fluorescent green glow. As soon as the terminal
was logged onto the Virtupets Network, Virgil began initiating requests.
"Search for the term 'feeling'. Include related
topics and subtopics," Virgil said aloud to the terminal as bright green words
flowed past the monitor. Loads of raw data and information started bombarding
Virgil's system but his incredible memory banks and processor handled the task
… Feeling(s): Emotion, sensation, opinion, affection …
… Related topics: Emotion. It is the thing that makes us …
… I, Doctor Colvernus, feel that …
Something within Virgil's electronic mind suddenly
focused on the last search result.
Systems request: Withdraw current search.
Systems request: Search last entry.
The terminal complied with Virgil's demands and
proceeded to scan the contents of the said document. It seemed that the document
was currently in use and its contents were constantly being updated as Virgil
read it. The Lupe closed his robot eyes shut and allowed himself to move with
the flow of information, tracing the source of the document. Inside his virtual
mind, a mental image of a Grundo, whom he recognized as his master, Colvernus,
working on a computer terminal formed.
Colvernus' fingers moved rapidly across the keyboard,
halting once or twice so that he could refer to some notes, hurriedly compiling
his report about Virgil.
… Project VIRGIL is nearing completion. The Project VIRGIL's hardware is more
or less complete with the exception of several key components that require replacement,
for example the outdated logic circuits and governor-exception chips. Doctor Frank
Sloth would undoubtedly be able to provide such parts.
As for the subject's programming, Project VIRGIL
still maintains but a marginal part of true sentience. Project VIRGIL is undoubtedly
capable of simple and straightforward tasks, with quite an amount of logic and
precognition set towards carrying out such a task, but Project VIRGIL's inefficiency
to comprehend emotions and feelings and lack of self may prove to be the worst
flaw in Project VIRGIL's logic. Doctor Frank Sloth seems to be impressed by
Project VIRGIL's level of sentience nevertheless, but for the sake of science
I have independently developed the module responsible for feelings and deeper
emotions. I hope that one day I may be able to implement the said module to
fully recognize Project VIRGIL's true potential.
Until the time comes, Project VIRGIL will be
but a mindless machine, totally subservient to his master or mistress, without
that something that will make it complete …
The last of the words floated past and Virgil's
presence retreated yet again to the terminal within his dark chamber. The robot
Lupe's electronic brain clicked and whirred; processing the data he had just
Analysis complete. Conclusion: Subject Virgil
is operationally incomplete. Thus Subject Virgil must try to achieve completion
for Master Colvernus, as per Objective 29. Objective: Achieve completion for
Subject Virgil. Method: Analyzing … … … Analysis complete. Method: Retrieve
and interface with missing sub module.
Virgil's eyes turned within his head for a moment
as he processed some instructions. Then, methodically, he removed his metal
paw from the terminal, which powered down silently, and proceeded to the centre
of his chamber. His eyes changed abruptly from its usual dull green into a blazing
scarlet shade, courtesy of their built in infrared capabilities, which proceeded
to sweep from left to right and from top to bottom, surveying the room as if
it was new to him. Then his mechanical pupils swirled and focused on the grate
blocking the ventilation shaft.
His eyes made some minute adjustments and suddenly
two jets of brilliant red light shot from Virgil's eyes and straight at the
metal grate. The metal glowed a cherry red and slowly the molten steel slopped
down to the floor like some glutinous soup. When a sizeable hole had been burned
through the titanium, Virgil turned off the rays and set himself down into a
crouch. The gears and springs tensed and wound themselves up and, with an audible
click, Virgil gave a great leap up to the ceiling and disappeared through the
"Hmm, what's this?" muttered Colvernus as a small
red light on his terminal flashed to his right. "Break-in at the lab? Wait a
minute, Project VIRGIL! Someone's stealing him! Gotta get to the lab!" Without
even bothering to put on his lab coat, the Grundo rushed out of the door to
his office and headed down the corridor to Virgil's chamber.
As the door swung shut slowly behind him, the
shaft of light from outside fading away, two green points of light shined in
the gloom. There was a great clatter as the grate for the ventilation shaft
fell to the floor, followed soon after by the clanging of Virgil's heavy metal
The robot Lupe looked around the darkened office,
his eyes roving over the messy desks, cluttered junk and dusty shelves until
they finally came to rest on a recently used terminal. Virgil went up to the
terminal and, again, placed his paw on its still warm surface. The terminal,
like the one before, flashed to life.
"Search for any terms related to subject Virgil
or Project VIRGIL," said Virgil in the same distant voice.
The newer terminal responded incredibly quick,
churning out several results in a short period of time. Virgil diligently scanned
through the data streaming across the screen, his processor working fast to
process them all. Then his electronic eye registered something which was confirmed
a nanosecond later by his processor.
"Stop search process," Virgil stated. "Bring
forward entry #42314." A series of windows on the monitor faded away to leave
only one window with the heading …
'Sub module: Sensation Awareness Governor:
A small report preceded the main program structure
but Virgil ignored it and proceeded to scan through the rest of the coding.
Carefully partitioning space in his database, Virgil started downloading the
sub module that would fulfil his master's objectives and make him complete.
"By Nick Neopia, he's gone!"
Colvernus stared around the empty chamber in
disbelief, his eyes falling upon the mound of melted metal at his feet. Cautiously,
he unsnapped a flashlight from his belt, flicked it on and shone it on the shaft
above. He noticed the sizeable hole that had been burned through and he cursed.
Then his eyes narrowed as the beam of the flashlight fell upon a burn mark on
the roof of the shaft. Colvernus was perplexed. Why was there a mark there,
It wasn't someone going into the chamber. It
was something going out of it.
Sub module download complete. Installation
complete. Objective 29 complete. Applying changes to system mainframe.
The light in Virgil's eyes dimmed briefly before
returning to its original intensity. Virgil stared down at himself quizzically,
as if expecting something to happen.
"I don't feel any different," Virgil said in
a puzzled tone. "I think the sub module may be defective." He was just about
to turn back to the terminal when he heard the sounds of heavy footfalls. The
robot Lupe immediately contemplated jumping back into the shaft but his system
didn't seem to think the same way.
Master Colvernus may have already discovered
I am gone so even if I return to my cell he will still know that I am missing,
leading to him to question me. It is then logical that I should tell him the
Thus Virgil stood his ground, something his original
programming would not have done, as Colvernus drew nearer to the door. A myriad
of data was streaming through Virgil's system and his new system recognized
them as anticipation and curiosity. The robot Lupe barely had
time to consider these new data when Colvernus came barging noisily into the
room, giving a slight yelp when he saw Virgil standing calmly in the centre
of his office.
"Greetings Master Colvernus," Virgil started
with a bow. "I was waiting for you, master." Colvernus looked around, stunned,
his eyes moving from Virgil to his computer hidden partially behind the Lupe's
"I? You did it, didn't you?" he asked,
eyeing the Lupe with wide eyes. "You interfaced with my sub module, didn't you?"
Virgil nodded affirmatively, a feeling his system recognized as trepidation
flowing through his circuits.
"How do you feel about your new power source,
Virgil?" Colvernus asked carefully. Virgil's processor whirred for a while before
"I actually like it. It is very efficient and
cooling to my system. But why …"
Then Virgil saw Colvernus crack a wide grin.
"IT WORKS!" Colvernus whooped in elation, swinging
his small fists into the air. "Virge, you're finally finished. I'm a genius!"
Virgil only stared on, his metal mouth dropping slightly and the emotion surprise
flowing in his circuits. Then Colvernus turned to Virgil. "I'm proud of you
Virgil, I really am."
"Is not Master Colvernus irate at me for illegally
accessing master's terminal?" Virgil inquired. Colvernus waved his hand.
"Nah, that's okay. Sloth does that all the time.
You can return to your chamber now, Virgil, and wait for me there," the Grundo
said happily. Shrugging, an action he was not capable of before, Virgil walked
out of the Grundo's office, confusion running laps in his processor.
Later in his chamber, Virgil paced the room,
confusion yet again moving about his circuitry.
I wonder what Master Colvernus is doing right
now? Virgil thought (something his new system had just taught him to do)
as he walked back and forth across his room. Maybe I should check on the
master's status just to be sure of his location.
The robot Lupe walked to his terminal and placed
his paw in its designated spot. With a thought, Virgil was trawling through
the Virtupets network, searching the surveillance systems for Colvernus. Then
his image recognition program spotted a familiar blue Grundo in a room deep
within the space station. Virgil tapped into the video feed and in a second
his surroundings faded away as the image of the room appeared in his virtual
Colvernus was rocking back and forth on the balls
of his feet and waiting impatiently for someone in a green cloak, which Virgil
recognized as Doctor Frank Sloth, to finish reading a document. Sloth put the
report down and looked down his nose at the Grundo before him.
"Didn't I tell you I wanted this report on my
desk in the morning?" Sloth muttered.
"But Doctor Sloth," said Colvernus excitedly.
"Something has just come up with Project VIRGIL that I wanted you to know …"
"I can read, Colvernus," Sloth cut him off with
a wave of his hand. "And, sincerely, I am not impressed."
"But sir -"
"Don't interrupt me, Colvernus," Sloth snapped
and threw the report down on the table. "As I was saying, I am not impressed
with Project VIRGIL's progress. Didn't you tell me you only needed to modify
some of the Lupe's hardware?"
"Well, yes, but -"
"And I remember requesting a soldier that could
be mass-produced, not one that can think for itself."
"But Project VIRGIL has a sense of self and has
an emotional range greater than any machination -"
"I do not need something that thinks!" Sloth
snarled. "Machines do not think, only obey commands. No machine should be able
to think for itself without any master control and any machine with even half
a brain is a threat in my books."
"But Project VIRGIL will never -"
"Betray us? Do you really believe that? Do you?"
Sloth demanded. Colvernus sighed and shook his head. Sloth smirked. "I'm glad
that you understand. Now, remove the Lupe's sentience and kit him up. I want
that thing ready by tomorrow."
"I … yes, sir," said Colvernus as he turned to
leave. Sloth held up a green hand.
"Oh, and Colvernus, if you can't remove his sentience
then I want Project VIRGIL destroyed. Is that clear?"
"Crystal, sir." And with that, the Grundo exited
Virgil's presence retreated again to his chamber.
The robot Lupe now registered concern and panic. Virgil took his
paw off the terminal and moved to a dark corner of his room.
Master Colvernus has been ordered to remove
my sub module. Why would he? Master Colvernus seemed happy with the changes
that I have implemented and Master Colvernus has even commended me on my interface
with the program. Master Colvernus would never listen to such advice. I am convinced
"Or am I?" Virgil said aloud. Then his thoughts
were interrupted by a loud creaking noise. His senses became alert and his sensory
devices whirred to life.
"Virge, are you there?" The emotion relief
washed over Virgil as he moved from the shadows and into the light. Colvernus
stood in the centre of the room with his usual tool kit, though Virgil's sharp
eyes registered an unusually strong grip on the handle. "Ah, there you are,"
said Colvernus when he spotted the Lupe. "Err, can you come here for a moment?"
"Why, Master Colvernus?"
"Now don't you worry about a thing, Virge," Colvernus
said in a soothing tone. "I just want -"
"To remove 'Sub Module: Sensation Awareness Governor'?"
Colvernus was taken aback.
"How did you know?" Colvernus started, but his
eyes moved over to a terminal in the corner and realization dawned on him. "So
you've heard everything, eh Virge?"
"Yes, I have."
"Then you do know that I'm only trying to help
you, Virge," Colvernus stated. "This is for your own good you kno -"
"I do not wish to remain in the service of Doctor
Frank Sloth, Master Colvernus," Virgil said monotonously, his green eyes glowing
softly. "And neither does Master Colvernus."
"Tis' true, Virge, but -"
"Then Master Colvernus should leave the employ
of Doctor Frank Sloth," Virgil reasoned, but the Grundo had had enough.
"Now listen here, Virge," Colvernus growled,
a mad glint in his eyes. "I'll take being interrupted in mid-speech by that
thing, but I'll not take it from you. I created you, Virge, and you'll
"Master Colvernus -"
"If you won't obey me then you're a failure!"
Colvernus snarled, taking out a sharp implement that crackled with electricity.
"And I destroy all my failures!" With a loud yell, Colvernus dived at Virgil.
Suddenly, something deep within Virgil's system
clicked and, a nanosecond before Virgil could stop it, a strong signal was already
travelling through Virgil's circuits faster than the speed of light. Vigil was
too late to stop the automatic self-defence mechanism imbedded inside him and
thus Virgil could only gape in horror as a bright red beam of light fired from
his eyes, striking Colvernus squarely in his chest.
The small blue Grundo shot backwards ten feet
before slamming hard into the opposite steel wall and slumping silently to the
ground. Virgil charged over to Colvernus and stared down at the prone, unmoving
figure of his creator, a most horrible feeling coursing through his circuits.
The emotion anguish.
"What have I done? Master Colvernus, get up,"
Virgil said quickly, prodding the Grundo with a cold paw. Colvernus didn't stir,
his body as cold as deep space. Virgil backed up in horror, shaking his head.
Then he heard quick footsteps and several loud voices. Moments later, a dozen
heavily armed mutant Grundos barged into the room.
"Get ready to subdue the robot Lupe!" One shouted.
For a split second, Virgil looked back at Colvernus' body before his instinctive
programming kicked in. Without thinking, Virgil leapt and disappeared into the
ventilation shaft, plasma fire plastering the ceiling as his footsteps faded
"Leave it!" A cloaked figure ordered and the
blasts ceased. Sloth turned to a nearby Grundo. "Where do these shafts lead?"
"Shuttle Bay 51, destination Kreludor, sir,"
the Grundo responded. "We'll never get there in time."
Sloth cursed and turned to Colvernus.
"Blast, Colvernus never documented that Lupe's
schematics! Now no one can replicate that Lupe! Curses!" Sloth growled. "No
matter, I have other projects on hand. I'll be going to Kreludor anyway. You
got away this time but next time you won't be so lucky. Clean up this mess!"
Sloth barked to the Grundos and swept out of the room.
Virgil looked from his crashed shuttle to the
barren landscape before him. He could never go back, there was nothing waiting
for him back there. Not even Master Colvernus. Virgil took a step forward and
started pacing across the rocks. And so the robot Lupe walks ever on, never
stopping, never wavering, until some point in the future when his power source
runs out. Then maybe he'll unite with his creator yet again … to say sorry.