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It’s sight failing, the forlorn robot used its one good arm to pull itself along. It could feel no pain, but it knew it was only a matter of time before its systems would shut down and fail. Programming dictated its purpose, it had watched dozens of its fellows fall, a blue blur of death smashing them aside like toys, while it had moved with determination toward the goal. The castle was now in sight and as usual a fine mist of rain began to fall, something to do with the masters experiments in weather control. The water wasn’t going to help, it was seeping through its broken shell and beginning to short out vital electronics. Its programming became hazy but the purpose remained clear, get the goal item back to the castle at all costs.

Doctor Ivo Robotnik eyed the monitor with distain. Of the hundred newly designed ‘badniks’ (he hated the term, coined by the peasants he now ruled with an iron fist, he knew his creations were masterpieces) only one had survived, and that was smashed and about to fail. Its feeble efforts at pulling itself along the ground, with no regard for is own survival was lost on him, what’s more the robot appeared to be allowing the precious item to drag along the ground! This incensed the old Doctor so much that he decided to spend even more resources, and send a rescue party to retrieve it and destroy the failed and useless thing.

Its progress now slowed to a few inches as the manipulators that were its fingers began to seize, the hydraulic fluid that provided the movement was slowly leaking from many ruptures and the water from the rain began to short the power source. Its vision picked up movement ahead, and perceived it as friendly. Rescue party, was probably the wrong term to use as the robots chosen were designed to collect and destroy garbage. A little tweek in their program, and an addition of a lighter manipulator to handle the delicate item without damage was no trouble at all for the Doctors genius, as soon as those mindless drones returned he could turn his attention to more pressing matters, namely the latest idea to crush the Blue Menace that tormented him for so long. Chuckling to himself he stood up, and moving away from the bank of monitors, walked over to the heavy iron door that was the entry to the lab.”Good Evening Sir, the subject has not moved since your last visit, 58 minutes ago” The computers voice had an edge of sarcasm Robotnik thought, but that was impossible, the computer was a machine programmed and built by him, why on earth would he make a sarcastic super-computer? The room was dimly lit, banks of machinery lined the walls, cogs, gears and rods littered the floor. A surgical table, covered in a cloth was in the centre, at the touch of a switch it was bathed in a brilliant bluish white light revealing a tuft of orange fur from the side of the cloth where it just didn’t cover the lumpy object beneath.”This is sure to work, that blue idiot has a soft spot for his pathetic side kick!” Robotnik pulled the cloth back a little and inspected what was underneath.

What it revealed was very unpleasant indeed.

The first of the Cleanerbots reached out with its redesigned manipulator, and flipped the seemingly dead robot over, its case was smashed, both its legs were useless, where it had dragged itself along the ground mud and filth had accumulated, adding to its sad and desperate look. No pity or feeling was shown as the Cleaner attempted to rip the item from the still hand of the bot whose frozen fingers were clamped tightly around it. Whether it was the smaller manipulator, or some stubborn part of the smashed bots program, the Cleaner could not free the object from its grasp. Clicking with frustration, it reasoned the best way to complete its mission was to bring the whole robot back to Robotnik, lest he damage the precious item.

On their return to the castle, they found the Doctor waiting impatiently for them. The Cleaner offered the stricken robot to him, clumsily holding it by the remaining good wrist, letting the damp and mud encrusted body dangle like a broken puppet. Robotnik grabbed at the spherical object still clutched in the damaged hand. It was covered in ooze and slime from the road that had mingled with the leaking fluids of the stricken robot. “Let go you moron!” bellowed the Doctor. The arm raised and jiggled in his grasp, but refused to give up its prize “Arrrrgh!” Robotnik screamed in infantile rage as he realised that there would be more delays as he now needed to gather tools and cutting gear to free it. The Cleaners shot each other a sideways glance, and Clicked in silent laughter.

Robotnik was a genius, no doubt about that. He viewed the world around him as his laboratory, its inhabitants as guinea pigs and the results good or bad, triumphs of his abilities. His world was also marred with unfathomable failures, most of which were interferences by an inhabitant of Mobius, a self styled Peoples Champion’ known as Sonic. A resident of Mobius, this creature possessed astonishing abilities and even more astonishing luck. Worse of all Robotnik, despite his genius and almost unlimited funds and materials, could only stand and watch as machine after machine, robot after robot, scheme after scheme was smashed with almost laughable ease by this thing who’s weapons were no more than a courageous heart and raw talent. This new venture would succeed where the others had failed. Sonic had a heart, he had feelings and a sense of loyalty and duty. All of these things so far had been ignored by Robotnik, feelings and decency had no place in his life and considered them a pointless weakness. How could he have been so foolish? Strike at the heart and the body dies! He couldn’t build a machine to match Sonic’s speed and power but he could construct something that would tug hard on the values that damn hedgehog held so dear, dragging him ultimately to his doom.

Watching the egg shaped body stamp off toward the lab, the first Cleanerbot glanced at the pathetic mess in its manipulator. A small pool of hydraulic fluid had formed on the floor below it, and it struck the drone that the thing appeared to be bleeding to death. The shock of this thought was like a thunderbolt to its primitave processor, thoughts had not been an issue when its main task was to collect and process garbage. Perhaps  the good Doctor had made an error when reprogramming it for this special task, perhaps he had been a little slack, desperate to retrieve the precious item that now also seemed to be seeping a reddish, treacle like substance over its manipulator. Cleanerbots , like other bots did not feel anything. They just followed orders until dismantled or destroyed. The Cleaner stared at the goop that was running from the now obviously cracked sphere in the smaller bots tiny hand, and for a second, a split second, just a splinter of time in an endless sea of nothing, the Cleanerbot felt warmth in its manipulator, that split second was all that was needed to plant the seed of an idea, in a very barren mind.

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