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Nov. 13th, 2010 @ 04:40 am robot builder ray: a children's story
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Once upon a time there was a little boy named Ray.

(Illustration of a spiky-haired boy, about eight or nine years old, wearing a welding mask on his forehead and a yellow shirt on his body. Not necessarily anime, but he clearly intends to look like it. A little steampunky. Backgrounds are minimalist, maybe just a couple of washed out hues.)

Ray loved to build robots.

(Ray sprawled out on the floor, tinkering with gears and circuit boards, surrounded by tools.)

He read all the robot books,

(Ray reading from a large pile of books, some of them engineering textbooks, some of them science fiction--maybe Asimov, Heinlein, Philip K. Dick.)

watched all the robot shows,

(Ray watching a mecha anime on a little TV. The anime is called Vanguard Avenger Alpha. The TV is singing, "For tomorrow's future! Go! Go!")

and watched grown-ups put robots together.

(Ray anxiously watching an adult human, facial features hidden by a welding mask, repair a circuit board inside a broken robot puppy.)

Ray grew up to be a brilliant inventor.

(Ray, now maybe sixteen, at a workbench, a welding mask over his face. He is poking at a five-fingered humanoid robot arm with a soldering laser. There is a circuit board on the workbench. On top of the bench is a digital clock radio.)

One day Vera came into his workshop. "Hello, Ray," she said. "What are you up to this weekend?"
"Hi, Vera!" Ray exclaimed. "I'm building the best robot in the world!"

(A petite sixteen-year-old girl, dark-haired, wearing a purple dress, peeks out from behind a doorframe and waves. Ray, at his workbench, lifts his welding mask to look at her.)

"I'm performing at a concert," said Vera. "Want to come along?"
"Sure!" said Ray. "Why not?"

(Ray rises from his seat, the soldering laser and robot arm momentarily forgotten. Both he and Vera look very excited.)

(Wordless page. A huge bandshell in a city park. On the stage is Vera, holding a guitar. A hurricane of musical notes is wafting from Vera. Ray is seated in the front row, deep in thrall. Extra color and detail.)

"That was great!" cried Ray after the concert. "I love your music almost as much as I love robots!"
"Wonderful!" cried Vera. "I've always wanted someone to sing duets with!"

(Ray and Vera exiting the bandshell gates with dozens of other couples. The other couples are holding each other, singing with each other and smiling. Each couple's musical notes unite, forming musical staffs in the air.)

But Ray couldn't sing. Ray only knew how to make robots.

(Ray and Vera singing together. Ray is nervously croaking out a few off-key notes. They unite with Vera's notes, but are broken and ragged, and derail the measures of the staff into a scribbly mess. Vera looks away from him, disappointed and embarrassed.)

So Ray went back to building the best robot in the world.

(Ray back at his workbench, welding mask on, working on a robot leg. In the background Vera and a boy in a purple shirt walk away, cuddling and singing together.)

One day Caroline came into Ray's workshop. "Hi, Ray!" she said. "Got any plans for tonight?"
"Hi, Caroline!" Ray exclaimed. "I'm building the best robot in the world!"

(A tall sixteen-year-old girl, brown-haired, wearing a red dress, peeks out from behind a doorframe and waves. Ray, at his workbench, lifts his welding mask to look at her.)

"I'm going dancing," said Caroline. "Want to come along?"
"Sure!" said Ray. "Why not?"

(Ray rises from his seat, the soldering laser and robot leg momentarily forgotten. Both he and Caroline look very excited.)

(Wordless page. Ray and Caroline going wild on the dance floor, Peanuts-style, at a school dance, with dozens of high school students. Music floats around them like playful fish. Lots of color and detail. Lasers, disco ball, a DJ on the turntables. All the dancers except Ray are wearing some shade of red.)

"That was fantastic!" cried Ray. "I love dancing almost as much as I love robots!"
"Hooray!" cried Caroline. "I've always wanted a dance partner!"

(Ray and Caroline are getting in position to do the lindy hop, as are all the other couples. The lasers, disco ball, and DJ are gone. Lights go dim.)

But Ray couldn't dance. Ray only knew how to make robots.

(Montage of Ray stepping on Caroline's feet during a swingout, dropping her on the floor during a dip, and, finally, accidentally throwing her into a potted plant. Last panel has Caroline storming off in tears and Ray desperately but futilely reaching out to her.)

So Ray went back to building the best robot in the world.

(Ray back at his workbench, welding mask on, working on a robot torso, the finished arm and leg on the floor. In the background a boy in a red jacket can be seen comforting a weeping Caroline.)

One day Donna came into Ray's workshop. "Hi, Ray!" she said. "Is that a robot?"
"Not in the mood--Oh, it's you, Donna!" Ray cried surprisedly. "Why, yes! I'm building the best robot in the world!"

(A sixteen-year-old Ray's height, red-haired, glasses, wearing a yellow T-shirt and jeans, peeks out from behind a doorframe and waves. She is wearing aviator goggles on her forehead. Ray, at his workbench, lifts his welding mask, astonished.)

They talked about robots for hours.

(Ray and Donna at a coffeeshop, seated at an outdoor table, gesticulating wildly. The table is laden with notebooks and three-ring binders. Images of patent figures and blueprints and and circuit diagrams fly around them. A barista arrives with two lattes, judging Ray and Donna silently.)

"Can you sing or dance?" Ray asked.
"Not really," Donna answered. "I only know how to make robots."

(Ray gesturing in the air. Donna looking clueless.)

"Will you come to my workshop and build robots with me?" asked Donna.

(Donna being coy, Ray awestruck.)

(Next page has no words, just the two of them embracing.)

Together Ray and Donna made many, many robots.

(Ray and Donna tinkering on an amusingly large menagerie of zany robot children, no two alike.)

But Ray was not happy.

(Ray sitting awake in bed, Donna asleep beside him.)

Ray missed singing.

(Ray at the bandshell, his the only unhappy face in the audience.)

He missed dancing.

(Ray alone on the dance floor, awkwardly flailing about by himself while couples slow-dance around him.)

He had found something in himself Donna would never understand.

(Ray sitting awake in bed again, looking at Donna and frowning.)

So he left.

(Ray, in silhouette, walking away from Donna's workshop. The dozens of robots he built with her loom ominously in the foreground.)

He went back to building the best robot in the world.

(Ray back at his workbench, tinkering on a robot head. The faceplate of the head is made from his welding mask, on which he has crayoned an image of his own face. The robot legs, arms, and chest lie by his feet, completed.)

He looked at his legs and thought, "I can't dance with these."
So he replaced his legs with robot legs.

(Ray, using a screwdriver to make final adjustments to his new cyborg legs.)

He looked at his chest and thought, "I can't sing with this."
So he replaced his chest with a robot chest.

(Ray, punching commands into a control panel in his new cyborg torso.)

And finally he looked at his arms and thought, "I need these to make robots."
So he thought for a long time.

(Ray's arms, extended in an existential pose, from Ray's perspective.)

And he replaced his arms with robot arms.

(Ray's new cyborg arms, extended in the same pose as before.)

Finally he looked in the mirror. But one thing was still missing.
Ray still had a human heart.

(Ray as a grotesque mechanical monster, staring at himself in the mirror, lowering the robot head onto his empty shoulders.)

Ray knew what he had to do.

(Ray's metallic cyborg fingers pensively finger the digital clock radio atop his desk.)

(Wordless page, in silhouette, of Ray slumped in his workbench chair, inserting the clock into his chest.)

(Another wordless page of Ray's silhouette turning the dial.)

Ray had built the best robot in the world.

(Ray's silhouette still slumped in his chair. "For tomorrow's future! Go! Go!" croaks out from both his head and the radio in his chest. From the two voices emerge cold, geometrically perfect notes, which harmonize into a musical staff.)

(The End.)
About this Entry
cavestory
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From:drabheathen
Date:November 14th, 2010 08:17 am (UTC)
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I like.

Small point: I see the trajectory, but why couldn't he be happy with a human heart? He can dance and sing now!
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From:erf_
Date:November 14th, 2010 08:54 am (UTC)
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It's broken.
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From:oddtodd
Date:November 15th, 2010 04:41 am (UTC)
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wow