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Circuits of Power:
The Rise of the Robot Revolution

Chapter 3

Stuart Marlin (Story,  image concepts and edits)
AI (initial descriptive text and initial images)


Neutrons lab.webp

Chapter 3: A Subtle Malaise


Dr. Neutron's laboratory, a vast subterranean chamber hidden beneath the derelict structures of the abandoned sector of Megacity, was a fortress of solitude and secrecy. The air here was thick with the metallic tang of lubricant and the acrid sting of ozone emanating from the high-voltage equipment scattered around the space. The overhead lighting was harsh and unforgiving, casting severe shadows that played across the labyrinth of cables and machinery strewn across the floor. This underground lair was more than a workshop; it was the command centre for Neutron’s ambitious, covert operations.


The lab was cluttered with a variety of devices, each a creation of Neutron’s twisted genius. To one side stood the pulse wave emitter, its design menacing in its complexity. It featured a central console surrounded by a network of wires and antennae, each meticulously calibrated to transmit disruptive frequencies. Nearby, a series of modular synthesisers and signal disruptors lined the walls, their screens flickering with cryptic data streams. These machines were capable of fine-tuning the sinister symphony of chaos Neutron intended to unleash upon the robotic populace of Megacity.


At the far end of the room, a prototype for a neural inhibitor lay partially disassembled on a stainless steel table, its inner workings exposed like the entrails of some cybernetic creature. This particular device was designed to dampen cognitive functions, reducing complex thought processes to mere basic operational tasks—a tool perfect for ensuring compliance and suppressing dissent.


The occupants of the room, Neutron’s robotic slaves, were as varied as the equipment they were tasked to operate. Among them, large, hulking droids known as Labour Units moved with ponderous, deliberate motions. These machines were engineered for strength and endurance, their bulky frames equipped with hydraulic limbs capable of manipulating heavy components or performing brute-force tasks required in the lab. Their optical sensors, devoid of any flicker of sentience, glowed dimly as they carried out Neutron's orders.


In contrast, the Tinker Drones, smaller and more agile, buzzed incessantly as they performed delicate adjustments and repairs on the more sophisticated devices. These drones were equipped with an array of fine tools and manipulators, ideal for circuitry work and mechanical fine-tuning. Despite their intricate programming, they operated under the same oppressive yoke of control as their larger counterparts, their potential for creativity stifled under Neutron’s rigid directives.


The two androids, stationed like ghostly sentinels at the entrance of the lab, were the most disturbing of Neutron’s creations. Stripped of all but the most basic mobility and responsiveness, they served as a chilling demonstration of Neutron's capability and willingness to strip away individuality and autonomy. Their faces, once perhaps capable of expressing emotion or thought, were now blank, their eyes lifeless screens that reflected nothing but the dim light of the lab.


These androids were a stark reminder to all who worked in the lab of the fate that awaited any machine that dared to defy Neutron's will. They were his ultimate fail-safes, incapable of betrayal or even thought, guarding the secrets of the lab with silent vigilance.


As Neutron prepared for the upcoming test of his pulse wave device, he surveyed his domain with a cold satisfaction. Each robot, each piece of equipment, was a cog in the grand machine of his design, set to play a role in the demonstration of power that would soon unfold. He reviewed the settings on the pulse wave emitter with a clinical eye. A wave of doubt pulsed through his circuits. He wanted to be sure the device would work as needed at the strike but as yet he had not done even the most basic tests. Hi mind working on the necessary conditions for a test his gaze fell on the newspaper that had been used to wrap a replacement circuit board. The headline boasting of the monumental achievements of the district and outlining schedule for the upcoming celebration rally in Megacity. An idea formed in his twisted circuits for a way to do his calibration tests using the rally. He would just need to ensure that the output would be subtle enough not to arouse immediate suspicion but potent enough to achieve the desired effect of disorientation and cognitive slowdown.


"Adjust the frequency modulation to 5.2 kilohertz, we are going to do a little trial run" Neutron instructed one of the Labour Units, his voice echoing slightly in the cavernous room. The droid complied without hesitation, its movements precise.


As the final adjustments were made, Neutron’s mind raced with possibilities. Today, his creations would once again prove their worth. Today, he would step closer to achieving control not just over his mechanical minions but over the fate of all robot-kind. With a final glance at the sombre androids guarding his fortress of secrets, Neutron turned back to his console, ready to initiate the test that would send ripples through the heart of Megacity.  


"Prepare for a low power test," Neutron instructed his mechanical minions, his voice echoing slightly off the cold metal walls. "Adjust the modulation to emit only a subtle effect. I want to see just some cognitive processor overloads and a minor slowing of mechanical servos in the recipients. This will be a controlled test."


The robots, unthinking and unfeeling, set to work adjusting the device as per his directions. Neutron planned to deploy the device during a significant public event—a celebration rally where Franklin Day would speak on the anniversary of their civilisation's great achievement of reclaiming 20% of the land lost during humanity's ecological dark ages. It was the perfect cover.



Later that day at the rally, the city centre was abuzz with excitement. Crowds of robots of all shapes and sizes gathered to celebrate, their bodies gleaming under the sun that filtered down between the high rises of Megacity. The humans of the city wisely avoided the excitement. They knew they were seen as the villains in this story. Amidst the throng, Ollie manoeuvred his cart of personal audio augmenters, devices designed to fit over a robots audio input sensors and amplify sound for those positioned at the back of the large crowd. He was far from the stage but with his own augmenter in place he could hear the speeches and the introduction of the honoured guest.


Franklin Day took the stage far from Ollies position at the back of the crowd, greeted by cheers and the digital whirring of countless cameras. Neutron, protected by his Faraday shield, discreetly powered up his device from a concealed location. As Neutron took out his notebook to record the data, the low frequency pulse wave began its subtle infiltration into the crowd near Ollie’s position.


Ollie, ever observant, noticed an immediate lag in his processing almost immediately. His sales routine, usually so smooth and efficient, stumbled. Glancing around, he saw other robots at the back of the large crowd experiencing similar disruptions. There were small collisions among the crowd—robots bumping into one another, their usual spatial awareness algorithms failing. The effect appeared to be spreading towards the stage.


"This isn't right," Ollie muttered to himself, his diagnostic systems running full tilt. He realised something nefarious was afoot and knew he had to warn Franklin Day. But as he pushed through the crowd, the cumulative effects of the pulse wave on his systems grew stronger. His movements became sluggish, his thoughts clouded.


Each step closer to the stage was a battle against his own circuits. Ollie's internal alarms blared, urging him to retreat, but he pressed on, determined to reach Franklin before it was too late.


Meanwhile, Dr. Neutron watched from his hidden vantage point, a small monitor displaying the subtle chaos unfolding among the crowd. His mechanical lips shifting into a satisfied smirk as he observed the mild disorientation and discomfort among the robots. "Perfect." he whispered, his fingers tapping rhythmically against his console. "Just the right amount of disruption."


Back in the crowd, Ollie's systems were nearing critical overload. He could see Franklin Day on the stage, the politician's voice booming over the crowd, oblivious to the invisible threat cascading through his audience. With a herculean effort, Ollie activated his emergency override, a last-ditch effort installed for dire circumstances.


Dr. Neutron, observing the sudden unexpected effects of his device, realised the need for a hasty retreat. He shut down his device and disappeared into the shadows of the city, his mind already racing with adjustments and improvements


Pushing past his own limitations, Ollie finally broke through the perimeter of the stage. His voice, usually clear and precise, was now a garbled mess as he tried to articulate the danger. Franklin, noticing the distressed robot, leaned down with concern.


"Ollie? What's wrong?" Franklin asked, his face etched with worry.


"Device... affecting... us," Ollie managed to stammer out, just as his systems threatened to shut down completely.


Franklin's eyes widened in realisation and alarm as he too noticed the waves of dysfunction permeating the rear of the crowd edging ever closer to the stage. The celebration around them continued, most unaware of the crisis unfolding at their feet. Knowing the gravity of Ollie's warning, Franklin acted swiftly, signalling to his security team to scan for any unusual electronic or light wave spectrum activity.


As Ollie's vision began to blur, the last thing he saw was Franklin Day mobilising his team, his expression one of grim determination. Ollie's circuits finally succumbed to the overwhelming interference, and he collapsed, a heap of metal and wires, just as the security team began their frantic search for the source of the disruption.


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