Chapter 1 - Dismantling - Three Days Before
This morning is different from the others.
Today dawned with a gloomy, discontinuous rain. It is as if the sky is crying because it is going to part with the sun; the lonely rain makes people depressed as well.
I awaken Professor and prepare her breakfast after that. But today, for some reason, I accidentally charred part of the egg, I wonder why.
On this unusual morning, Professor said some unusual things as well.
While walking out of the arc entrance, Professor looks back at me from the place where the courtyard connects to the streets outside.
“What is it, Professor?”
“After I come home today, I have something important to tell you.”
Professor nods while holding her umbrella.
Her expression looks very calm, but also lonely at the same time.
I ask “What is the matter?” and raise the umbrella slightly higher, looking at Professor’s face.
“I’ll tell you after I come home. Yeah, after dinner.”
“I really don't like it when you act mysterious like this!”
“Heh heh heh. Mnn, it isn’t anything bad. How should I put it…… Ah, you could say that it’s a present?”
I cry out loud “That’s great!” and raise the umbrella even higher.
“Wha- what are you giving me!? I want a marriage application with Professor!”
“Don’t talk nonsense. Ah, but, marriage application huh…… It does have the meaning of ‘eternal happiness’.”
“Huh? Eternal!? Wha- what is with this!?”
“I’ll tell you when I get back. Be a good girl 'til then”
“Understood! Professor’s Iris will be a very very good girl today too!”
“Then I'm off.”
Professor starts to walk.
“Take care on the road! Come home earlier!”
Without turning her head back, Professor waves her right hand lightly.
The blue umbrella is just like a lightly painted water color drawing, losing its focus in the raindrops and becoming foggy. Professor vanishes just like that after going around the corner.
The rain starts to get heavier. I run back to the doorstep. For some reason, I suddenly have a feeling of someone pulling my hair, so I turn around to have a look before entering the house.
There isn’t anyone at the arc door.
This afternoon, I complete the housework and my task of recharging myself. After that, I start to study hard on the sofa.
This book is called ‘New: Basic Theory of Robot Engineering’, and I borrowed this from Professor’s collection of books. Professor is a young beauty with an exceptional figure, but her bookshelves are full of academic books, without even a trace of books related to fashion.
By the way, I’m reading the chapter ‘Emotions and Expression of Robots’ in the book.
The theme of the chapter tells of how the ‘emotions’ borne from the mental circuit of a robot would affect the ‘expression’ that is expressed by the artificial skin on their faces.
Humans usually laugh when they’re happy and cry when they’re sad.
However, it is different with robots. If a special mental circuit is not built in, robots would not have ‘emotions;’ if their artificial skins and muscles are not modified by a technician with considerable skill, the robots would not be able to convey their ‘expressions’ either.
In addition, human expressions are very complicated. Just the action of ‘laughing,’ there’s the heh heh laugh, the ho ho laugh, a gentle smile, a sweet smile, a silly laugh and so on, and there are a lot of differences between the expressions. Human expressions can be categorized into about a few hundred; only by making subtle changes to the mental circuit, robots can convey expressions that are lifelike. Hence, the facial expression and language recognition software are the best and the most expensive ones in the robot market. The price of expression software would sometimes be even higher than the price of the robot itself.
I have the latest version of the expression software installed on me. I am thankful to Professor for letting me laugh and cry, fly into a temper, throw a tantrum and so on.
I close the book that I was reading. It is now five forty five in the evening.
Professor will be back soon. I should prepare dinner now.
Over an hour passed, and it is now seven thirteen at night.
— Professor is so slow……
Professor isn’t back yet. She’s late for about one hour, thirteen minutes and twenty one seconds. The pot in the kitchen is filled with today’s dinner— Laulyl styled butter stew, and it’ll just need a slight heating up.
— it’s so strange.
Professor would contact me every time she comes home. Even so, I haven’t received any messages from her today.
I feel like calling Professor’s phone, but she reminded me before not to call her when she’s at work.
I impatiently stared at the hands of the clock on the wall.
Professor isn’t back yet.
I finished all the housework.
Not back yet, not back yet?
The second hand turned in a circle, two circles, three circles—
At the instant when the seventh circle arrives.
Trriiiiiing, triiiiiing…… The phone in the corridor starts to ring.
— it’s Professor!
I run to the corridor like a spring, jumping onto the receiver of the phone.
“Hello, sorry for the wait! This is the Umbrella residence!”
I wait for the answer of the opposing party with a pounding heart.
“Sorry for calling so late. This is the First Robotics Laboratory of Oval University.”
A male voice is coming from the other side of the phone. The First Robotics Laboratory would be where Professor works.
Learning that he isn’t Professor, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, but I still answer calmly.
“I am Wendy von Umbrella’s robot. My master is not here at the moment, so please leave a message if you wish to contact her.”
I answer in the tone of a machine.
After a moment’s silence, the man says in a low voice: “I am Professor Umbrella’s assistant, Ralph Ciel.”
The sensitivity of my auditory function increased sharply.
“Is that so. Thanks for taking care of my master all this time.”
“…… about Professor Umbrella.”
— it’s strange.
Goosebumps appear on my skin at that moment.
Why has this person called here specially?
If he wanted to look for Professor, he could just call her own phone.
Uneasiness and fear crawl on my back like bugs.
“E- erm!” Therefore, I can’t help but ask, “Did something happen to Professor!?”
He hesitated for a moment, then says in a determined voice.
The sharp weapon of truth pierces into my ears.
“Professor Umbrella has died in an accident.”
“— hello, hello hello!?”
The sound of someone talking is coming from the receiver.
I wonder how much time passed.
— a guest.
The electronic voice called me again and again.
— there’s a guest at the door.
That moment, I finally came to my senses.
There is something touching my leg.
I look down, only to see the swaying receiver knocking lightly on my leg.
My fingers start to move.
The lost memories surface from the depths of my consciousness.
—because of an accident……
—there was a phone call.
A terrible phone call.
—there’s a guest. Please greet them immediately.
Because of the electronic voice urging me, I start to walk.
Almost like I am running away from here, I walk step by step down the stairs, opening the door.
Reached the outside.
Outside, it already sank into the total darkness of night time.
I walk to the arch door, seeing a black car parked on the road in front of the door.
Outside the driver’s seat, a man wearing a suit and a pained expression on his face is standing there. The man is still young, but his face is a sickly white, and his cheeks are sunken like an old man.
I call to him, then he leaves the body of the car that he was leaning against just now in surprise, proclaiming that he is the assistant, Ralph Ciel.
He’s the person who gave me the terrible phone call.
“You’re Miss Iris Rain Umbrella…… huh?”
Ralph says in a low voice. I nod silently.
After that, the door of the car opens silently. Because of Ralph’s urgings, I sit down on the seat beside the driver’s seat.
I did not ask where we are going.
While sitting in the car, I look out the windows with unfocused eyes. The neon lights in the Commercial Street are casting thin rays of lights like fallen meteorites, falling away from me gradually.
Ralph says nothing. If you say that he’s not talking because he’s worried about me, it’s more like he doesn’t have the energy to speak. The more pressing problem is that the only common topic between us is Professor, but if we were to speak of her, we could not avoid coming up against the terrible news again.
After about ten minutes, the car reaches the hospital. I step down from the car, staring at the white building greeting us in the night skies.
Ralph brought me to the basement entrance of the hospital. We underwent quite a few security checks on our way, in the hall and the elevator, and our IDs and other items were inspected. After knowing that I’m Professor’s robot, some people stared at me with a curious expression.
The room is at the end of a corridor at B4 level.
Pushing open the door that has a sign of ‘cold storage’ on it, I can see a round capsule-like box that is about two meters long at the center of the room. According to Ralph, Professor’s body is kept in the white box.
Before opening the box, Ralph explains the ‘incident’ simply.
This morning, Professor was in the seventh dissection analysis lab on twelfth floor, performing a ‘judicial dissection.’ Quite a lot of rampage incidents like this have happened recently, and these robots are repeatedly sent to the lab. At this time, I recall the robot that went on a rampage at the Venus Fountain Plaza.
“The incident happened about thirty minutes after dissection started.”
Ralph licks his dry lips and continues.
After the robot was brought to the dissection analysis room, Professor and Ralph’s group started to dissect him.
The dissection proceeded well for half an hour, and at that moment that the accident occurred. The robot suddenly rebooted, stood up and started to go on a rampage. Though his battery level was rather low, he still rebooted for unknown reasons. Before they managed to use the emergency laser gun, the robot broke down the massive walls of the dissection analysis room with a power unimaginable to humans in normal conditions.
“Professor Umbrella was the nearest person at that moment. …… Since all of that happened all of a sudden, Professor didn’t have the time to run away, so the robot—“
Professor’s abdomen was pierced through.
Professor is dead.
After that, the robot was overwhelmed with laser gun.
And here we are.
The white lid of the capsule opens like a flower blooming, then her body appears before me.
I stagger towards Professor, who is lying inside, like a sleepwalker.
Professor’s face has lost its usual color, but looks very peaceful, as if she is sleeping. Even so, a stain of blood can still be seen at the corner of her mouth. The red blood stuck to her chest and her belly looks very strange in stark contrast with her white face, so I cannot help but stare for some time. As though she is a red rose sealed in white ice, Professor radiates a certain frozen beauty.
I extend my hand to Professor, touching her white face.
Professor’s body is so cold that I suspect my temperature sensing function has malfunctioned. Her body temperature is much lower than that of a living person.
I start to plead soundlessly.
Professor. It’s me, your Iris.
Professor. Is it painful? You lost so much blood, so it’s probably painful.
Professor. Why did you do such dangerous thing? Why didn’t you just let the others handle the robot in a rampage?
Professor. Professor, who helped robots all this time, why must you be killed by a robot? This just doesn’t make sense.
Professor. I’m here. Your Iris is here.
So Professor. Please open your eyes. Give me an order. Tease me. Touch my hair—
Just at this moment.
‘That’ gave out a dim light at the corner of my vision. After looking closely, I spy a familiar silver cigarette box on the small table that has the capsule containing Professor’s body. Professor loves this locked up box that is like a necklace.
I stretch out my hand to it. My fingers are still trembling comically.
The cigarette case in my palm is stained with blood, and only a circlet cigarette can be seen after opening the oval lid.
And I noticed at that moment.
A tiny photo is stuck to the inside of the lid. The photo's background is a movie signboard, and there’s a young girl with a forced smile and a woman smiling devilishly placing her hand on the girl’s shoulders.
This is the group photo that Professor and I took before this.
“When Professor Umbrella died, she was still clutching that cigarette case.”
Ralph says in a low voice.