Out of Control

Chapter 1: Mad Science

By Japanese Teeth

For I am every dead thing,
In whom love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,

- John Donne

"Okay, let's see if this works..."Chao thrust her hands into the air as she released a maniacal laugh. "BWAHAHAHAHA!"

There was a bright flash from the contraption behind her, coupled with the sound of a thunderclap from the enormous speaker on which it rested.

"Perfect!" She shoved her goggles onto her forehead and began fumbling along the wall for the light switch. Why the heck didn't we make the lights voice activated? We really need to get around to that... There was a crash as she tripped over one of the dozen pieces of machinery that littered the floor of the workshop. As she climbed back to her feet, the lights popped back on. She squinted through the brightness to see Hakase standing in the doorway.

"Chao, what are you doing?"

"Just finishing up the Dramatic Lightening Generator." She gestured at what appeared to be an enormous Tesla coil sitting on top of a gigantic amplifier. "Watch this! BWAHAHAHAHA!" At the sound of her laugh, a massive arc shot off of the coil, and the sound of thunder echoed through the building. "Isn't it awesome? I wanted to get it done before we activate Project X. Can't activate a humanoid robot without it."

"Isn't that a waste of department resources?" Hakase eyed the device curiously.

"You kidding? I built this thing out of the spare parts in the junk room."

"Can I use it?"

"Sure. How's progress on Project X, anyway?"

"You should probably just see for yourself."

Chao followed Hakase into the next room, where Project X awaited. It had started as yet another Mahorafest project, but had quickly garnered interest from the entire department. So much so that roughly half the robotics budget had been allotted to Hakase and Chao for their experimentation. The original point had been to create a fully humanoid robot that would not fall victim to the Uncanny Valley. Chachamaru's design had been a massive step in the right direction, particularly when Hakase had engineered the synthetic skin. Naturally, the next step was to remove the robotic attributes. Chachamaru would be, in appearance at least, indistinguishable from a true human.

But still, taking that last jump from "obviously a robot" to "human" had proved a problem. Despite their mechanical expertise, getting pneumatic pumps to accurately simulate human muscle was an enormous pain. Sure, if the antennae were still visible, the robotic precision made sense, but without the antennae...needless to say, even the cats that she fed every day were slightly off put. So the antennae were going to stay on until they fixed the problem.

But Chachamaru had eventually gotten sick of being a guinea pig. Changing synthetic skins every two or three weeks was one thing, but having her arms replaced every few days was just too much. So Project X was born; a means of experimenting with humanoid robotics. The effort that the two girls put into the project was admirable.

Too admirable.

All it took was a single glance at the schematics and the department head practically dumped money on them. And as it turned out, despite their oft-repeated claim they had sold their souls to science, it was clearly evident that they were enjoying their bottomless wallet a little too much.

At first, Chao had simply expressed interest in installing an improved "offensive proton beam" in the olfactory receptors. Then a few days later, a mysterious package addressed to her had arrived at the lab, and there was a small, but noticeable dent in the budget. The floodgates had opened, and before long there were stacks of packages scattered around the lab. Most were unlabeled, although the one package that had been marked "Stage-2 propulsion unit" had raised a few eyebrows.

Chao poked her head behind the curtain which hid the project from view.

"Oh. Hmmmm." She withdrew her head. "Okay, we may have gone a little overboard. I see you had some trouble installing the plasma kukri..."

"Just a little." Hakase scratched her head nervously. "Um, there's also this..." She held out a small ledger for Chao's inspection.

"We're overbudget, aren't we?" She glanced at the book. Her irises seemed to shrink into nothing as she did the calculations. "Okay, I knew that the miniature arc reactor was expensive, but I didn't think it would be that much...can we send it back?"

"Only if you can come up with an alternate power source..."

"Fine, it stays." Chao disgustedly tossed the ledger onto a nearby table. "We'll probably get in hot water over it, but we have no choice." She looked at the curtain. "Do you think we're ready for the preliminary activation?"

"Well, we have no money to spend on more parts, so I suppose we might as well."

"Alright then..." Chao smiled. "I'll go get the Dramatic Lightening Generator."