This continues an excerpt from Mad Science Institute, a novel of calamities, creatures, and college matriculation. (type “J” to skip back one post; type “K” to skip ahead one post)
The novel will be available 12/16/2011, but you can read the beginning here first!
Rusty wasn’t trying to catch her, he was only trying to stay two steps behind her wherever she went. The problem was that nobody, especially not the little girl, could see the difference. The girl and her mechanical pursuer careened through the aisles, first bowling through the crowd and then through the tables. Test tubes, telescopes, circuit boards, and all kinds of other expensive experiments smashed to the floor. One of the dads in the crowd lunged for my robot, but he only managed to knock over someone else, who fell against another person.Before I knew what was happening, half the crowd went down in a tangle of arms and legs.
Everybody was screaming. The girl started shrieking “Help! Mommy, Help!” but that only made things worse because Rusty is programmed to respond to verbal commands, and “help” means you need a hand up. When she said it, those two pincer-arms deployed, reaching out for her and snapping as they came.
The MIT judge was right in my ear, yelling at me to turn it off, but before I could reach for the power knob, another judge shouldered me out of the way and cranked the knob as far as it would go… in the wrong direction.
The thing about broadcasting electricity is that the electromagnetic pulse, the EMP, is the same thing that causes blackouts within a hundred miles of a nuclear bomb explosion. At lower power and at just the right frequencies, Rusty’s EMP could run small electronics for short periods of time. Maybe it was a mistake to have fit Rusty with the most powerful Tesla coil I could make, because at maximum power it made the magnifying transmitter dangerous to anything with circuits or wires.
The moment the judge accidentally cranked the power to maximum, there was a bright flash overhead as the light bulbs in the ceiling burned out. On the tables all around us, dozens of experiments with electrical components burst into flame, and everyone within twenty feet of Rusty yelped in almost perfect unison as the cell phones in their pockets overheated. At the same instant, Rusty collapsed in place, a pathetic trail of smoke rising from his back, his battery fried by his own sudden output.