There's something to be said for the Robotnik homestead. At first the automated sidewalks, glowing purple water spilling out of anthropomorphic fountains and robotic animals (often termed "badnicks" by Robotnik's detractors) are a bit discomforting, like you've suddenly stepped into some alien world where evolution has progressed not on the cellular level, but on that of the microprocessor. There is nothing to be seen, heard or felt that could be called "natural" in the strictest sense; even the air you breathe is processed, circulated through and artificially "purified" by a highly sophisticated network of intermingled shafts running overhead and down the walls. But at the same time, there's a strange sense of peace, of tranquility; the estate seems a physical manifestation of the peace of mind achieved by the greatest zen master. Everything flows; everything works. Gone is nature's random whimsy, its tendency toward chaos.
Order. Order, logical and consistent, scientific and clean, is a way of life in the home of Dr. Ivo Robotnik, founder and CEO of Robotnik Industries, Inc. I'd come at Dr. Robotnik's invitation to clear the air in the wake of the most recent of what his company labels as attacks by anarchist eco-terrorists.
LJ: So let's get right to the main issue everyone wants to talk about right off the bat: Sonic the Hedgehog. You certainly have a history with him by now. How does it feel to have a nemesis?
Robotnik: (laughs) Well, I wouldn't call him so much a personal nemesis as a terrorist threat to every advanced nation around the globe. But true, it has gotten personal in the past decade.
LJ: You first encountered Sonic during a venture on South Island. According to videos his organization released to the press, your company was using the Chaos Emeralds as a power source and turning animals into robots. I know you responded to those allegations before, but would you like to remind us of the issues?
Robotnik: Certainly. We acquired the rights to operate on South Island from the Moebian government, of course. I personally presented the legal permits in court.
LJ: And what was your purpose there?
Robotnik: We were attempting to find the Chaos Emeralds. We had reason to believe six of them (Ed. Note: There are currently believed to be seven Chaos Emeralds, as well as seven Master Emeralds that draw power from them.) would be found on South Island. You can understand how attractive an energy source like that is to a company like ours, so we really put a lot of effort into finding them.
LJ: Right, and your company has been criticized for trying to use the Chaos Emeralds as an energy source.
Robotnik: We have, yeah, though I don't really understand it. I mean, no one's using them, and they're an infinite energy source, so it's not like we're going to use them up. I mean, that's the definition of an infinite energy source: you can just keep using them forever. It's a lot better than having to burn fossil fuels.
LJ: There were also the allegations you were turning animals into robots.
Robotnik: And we were, but that was portrayed in a horribly biased fashion in the media. You see... I mean, the thing is, I'm an environmentalist. (laughs)
LJ: Do you care to explain that statement?
Robotnik: Sure. It's like this... See, animals are dying out all over the world every day. I mean, it's evolution, survival of the fittest in a sense, and not everything's going to be able to adapt on its own. That's sad. So what we do is help animals evolve via technology, give them that fighting edge so wildlife can continue existing in the twenty-first century.
LJ: Many of your critics point to the fact that "helping animals evolve via technology" usually includes military applications.
Robotnik: Well, that's evolution too. I mean, look at a bunny. It's cute and cuddly, but it's not very threatening. Now, make it weigh three tons, able to jump nine feet horizontally and let it, say, fire carrot missiles out of its mouth, and now you've given it a fighting chance against predators.
LJ: Your critics have also pointed out that sometimes these "upgrades" cross boundaries between species--for example, a robotic ape will house a turtle or bird inside its shell.
Robotnik: I know, but you have to think about what's best for the poor thing. I mean, some species are just better adapted to live in some environments. (shrugs)
LJ: Still, some have a problem with what they term as "disturbing the natural order."
Robotnik: Look... You can see just looking at me why I turned to technology. I mean, my legs are shaped like wiffle bats and about the same length, I have the ass of a sumo wrestler and the arms of a t-rex. I've gone in-depth before about how my mom did meth when she was pregnant with me...
LJ: Right, a real life rags to riches story.
Robotnik: It's more than that, though. I had to turn to technology to survive. I mean... it's embarrassing, but I couldn't dress myself in the morning without a little robotic help. So I feel very strongly about improving nature via technology; I suffer every day from physical deformities that only technology can help remedy. Is it wrong to apply science in a way that helps me survive when I otherwise wouldn't be able to? And it's the same way with these poor animals. They need some help.
LJ: You said you suffered greatly after the South Island incident, especially because Sonic was regarded as a sort of folk hero following the incident.
Robotnik: Oh, definitely. All the sudden we were the bad guys. Never mind that a talking hedgehog had just shown up and completely destroyed nearly a billion dollars worth of government-approved operations and stolen six Chaos Emeralds after we put in so much money and manpower into digging them up. The media turned against us, the people turned against us, our stock plummeted... it was a bad time for us. Thank god the military turned to us for their next big contract.
LJ: You're referring to the Death Egg project?
Robotnik: Right. Now let me make one thing clear: I wasn't the one who called it the Death Egg. No one at RII was responsible for that. Death Egg was the military's codename for the project. We were hired as a private contractor to try to build the thing, and we knew that our reputation was riding on the project.
LJ: You then recovered all seven Chaos Emeralds for the project, correct?
Robotnik: Right, right. Sonic just got rid of them after he stole them from us, so we recovered the first six in no time, and we found the seventh not long after. And it was all going just fine until that... terrorist showed up and started destroying everything.
LJ: Sonic alleges he found evidence of major ecological threats. He especially points to a zone called Oil Ocean, where he alleges your company was dumping thousands of gallons of waste oil into the harbor, and--
Robotnik: Completely blown out of proportion. Look, I'll admit, there were problems with containment in that area. I was appalled when I showed up on the site and saw what was happening, and I ordered an immediate clean-up. It blows me away that Sonic tries to portray himself as some kind of ecological avenger given his record. Do you really think he gives a damn about the animals he's supposedly rescuing? Like okay, when we tried to abandon the project and get the Death Egg out of range before he could destroy it, his first lieutenant Miles "Tails" Prower was flying him after our ship on a biplane...
LJ: Right, the infamous Sky Chase that was filmed and broadcast live at the time...
Robotnik: Right, watch that footage. You can clearly see just how little he cares about the animals there. There you have animals flying through the sky--
LJ: Animals passed through your "upgrades."
Robotnik: Right, but they're just in the sky, and what does he do? Destroy them! And what happens when he destroys one of them? The poor animal that was safe inside goes plummeting to the ground. Do you know what happens when a turtle falls from 600 feet up into the ocean? Try to tell me Sonic cares about the environment.
LJ: So you tried to salvage the Death Egg project on Angel Island afterward, where Sonic followed you yet again.
Robotnik: Right. We even hired some local security, but the propaganda in the media turned him against us, and we ended up losing the whole thing. I remember just looking at (President of R&D) Cluckster and saying, "Well, that's it. We have to declare bankruptcy." Without that project, the entire company was (expletive deleted).
LJ: Right. But nowadays RII is back on its feet, isn't it?
Robotnik: In a way, sure. I mean, it's hard, and it's not like it used to be. My reputation has been permanently damaged, and we've had to pursue more conservative projects than we used to.
LJ: There are allegations you once tried to harness the power of the Time Gems to completely rewrite history and make yourself into a god. Care to comment?
Robotnik: Oh now, that's just absurd. (laughs) Seriously though, that's the kind of crap I have to put up with on a daily basis. People actually believe this nonsense. That's what I mean about our brand being irreparably harmed by the one-sided media coverage in all this.