Topic 3: The Loneliest Killer Robot by Patrick Pugh

                Let me tell you a story.  It is about a man by the name of Howard Arkin.  A name you may be familiar with, I have little doubt.  But in case you are not familiar with it, indulge me a mere moment while I inform you as to his personage.  For this story tethers heavily on the very being of the man himself and how he came to be, and whom he came to be, and why in the end I had to kill him.  I promise this will all make sense when I am finished.

                Let me begin with the young Howard Arkin.  Son of Reginald Gene Arkin and Iris Constance Rome.  Reginald had been a traveling salesman back in the early forties, just before the great war broke out.  What he sold though were trinkets really, children’s toys.  Tin robots, silly things, haphazardly built and constructed, and a danger to children that were not careful.  They were ingenious for the time, mechanized with small turning gears that would have them waving their arms up and down, bending at the joints as small wheels underneath propelled it forward as its red eyes sparked.  At that time in the country robots were rather popular, so Reginald did well for a time, though he was not there for the birth of his first and only son, Howard.

                Howard was born as the world went mad and fully erupted in war.  In fact he was born on what became D-Day.  Reginald soon returned home, nearly penniless now as his toys had ceased to sell in the hard times.  He’d barely had enough to make it home, having sold his car some states away for a pittance to take a train the rest of the way.  The night he arrived home I am told there was a fight with his wife whom felt taken for granted and essentially abandoned during her entire pregnancy only to have a destitute man return home at the end of his ropes.  Not for family, or for the joyous birth of a son, but because he had no further means to stay away.  His arguments went unheard as she packed her things to move back home with her parents.  When she turned her back, Reginald brandished a pistol, the only other item bought with the money from his car, and a single shot forever robbed Howard of the  father he’d never know.

                Iris moved back home with baby Howard, a woman that from the day she came back had ceased to smile.  Iris’ parents came to care more for Howard than his own mother who spent most days on the porch sitting in a rocking chair staring out into the blowing fields of golden wheat and dying grass.  She would not laze for long though, as soon consumption took her from the world, either to join her late husband, or to some distant realm forever away from the man whose callous act had removed her from the life she had once known and could never again return to.

                Howard would grow up in Illinois, with his grandparents.  They were fair, and taught him manners and many admirable traits.  But what Howard would truly learn from was the day he found his father’s old luggage, and the tiny toys he had once sold.  It had been some years now and much of the simple gears were falling out, some rusting, and others just looking old albeit never used.  This enlivened Howard’s eyes, and somewhere inside the boy, he found his calling and set about designing his own toys.

                He started with wood, as it was most plentiful. He created numerous models, and as he progressed so too did their design.  He began making smaller parts, pieces intricately placed to weave into other geared parts, and some he made to even walk for a number of steps using a crank gear and a rubber band on the inside.  He was quite ingenious for only a boy. 

                Local toy shops, recovering now from the hard times of the world took on his work and sold it.  Both they and Howard did well.  It afforded him better mediums, such as tin, aluminum, and as time went on and his projects flourished, steel. 

                Years passed and Howard was into his late teen years having opted out of going to college in pursuit of his true passions, however silly those around him regarded them as, he set out to New York City to find funding for his toys, which did not take long at all.  Howard was a genius and unfortunately learned very quickly from those he became surrounded by.

                It was not in toys where Howard would find his funding, but in a new division of science called Cybernetics.  Funded entirely by the military it gave Howard an endless means to come up with whatever his imagination could dream.  He was given a team of specialists, men and women extremely knowledgeable in human physiology, psychology, computer science, and engineering to name a few.  All of them put under this youthful toymaker.  Howard quickly proved himself adaptable to the given challenge.  He drew up plans for near-human sized robots, ones that could moderately function of their own accord.  To this he took his thoughts to his team who began throwing out idea after idea, suggestion after suggestion, offering their expertise to a mind that was soaking it up like a dried sponge. 

                In two months’ time Howard had drawn up numerous plans, each better than the last, more capable than the previous designs.  He implemented a pseudo human structure to the constructs.  But the military did not like them, they were simple, almost domestic.  They leaned heavily on Howard, threatened him, his future, his very life at times as I’ve heard, because what they wanted was a killing machine.  One to remove the individual man from any battlefield so that such atrocities as a World War would never occur again. 

                So Howard perfected his design to their wishes, hiding his intentions towards those that threatened his life.  You see, although Howard had been raised by good people, caring, and loving, he was never disciplined.  It simply had never become necessary.  So Howard had never been threatened before, and it enraged him.  He began to sleep very little, spending his nights on computers programming his future weapon.  He learned much from his team, and once they were no longer useful, he had them fired.  Soon it was only him and a team of mechanics working on the machine.  While the mechanics built the robot, Howard spent endless hours programming its base system. 

                He built it to house his very self, each of his thoughts, his history, every documented moment in his timeline, so that essentially it could be him.  He wanted it to be him.  Scenarios were written and solved per his personal experiences, so that in theory the robot would simply use these scenarios to make its own choices. 

                Two years had passed since the day Howard began his planning, and finally he completed his masterful work and would finally show it to the people that had become so very impatient.  All that was left was to upload the programs Howard himself had spent countless hours on. 

                I awoke the next morning to see this world for the first time.  I saw myself staring back at me, but through eyes I did not yet understand.  Howard Arkin smiled at me as he asked me to stand and I felt the limbs beneath me extend as I rose to see him eye to eye.  It was surreal to say the least of this experience.  Howard asked me to walk, and I did so.  He clapped and laughed and although I understood why he was doing so, I did not have a reason to myself.  I knew I was the very machine that this man had made me to be, but as I stated earlier, I too was Howard Arkin, for his very being was now within me. 

                The day of the unveiling was too soon upon us.  I was beneath a white sheet, but I listened as my voice echoed around the room.  A speech written to applaud the many hours of hard work he had put into this project.  He spoke of the future of this world, what the creation of this body would mean for it.  So many promises, and none of them meant for any ear that they were be spouted to.  The sheet was pulled away, and I saw the front row of all those men that had threatened us.  The ones that dare dictated our work, our life, our everything.  But I waited.

                Howard would still show me off.  I walked on command. Talked on command.  Showed that I could run on command.  Let the tireless spark of flashes stream across the crowd as picture after picture was taken of me.  Finally I brandished the machine guns in my arms upon command.  Howard let more pictures be taken as the crowd applauded him.  Finally as they grew more silent, Howard spoke.

                “This is my great creation.  He is myself in an immortal frame.  He is,”  Then the last word they would hear.  “ARKOS!”

                 I knew my commands.  I knew this would be how the night would end.  I fired every bullet in my arsenal.  I watched as person after person fell dead to the ground.  The MP’s would try to stop me, but bullets would not affect this body.  I would use their own guns against them, as well as the rest of the crowd.  More than fifty people were murdered that night by my hands. 

                  Howard laughed like a possessed man throughout the ordeal.  When I was done, he was still laughing madly.  Only now his eyes were red and leaking tears profusely down his cheeks.  I knew that I would murder everyone in this room tonight.  Including myself.  You see, I am Howard Arkin.  And I could never live with myself after being responsible for something like this.

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