The lift slid silently to a halt and the doors opened with a swoosh revealing a small dark room, only the dim blue light of various monitors and readouts lighting the room, shadows hugging the walls, in the centre amongst a tangle of wired sat a figure cloaked in darkness, all they could see of him was the outline of a round head, moving rapidly as they read the displays. "Urm, we are here.... are you the person we spoke to?" Grash asked, hoping it wasn't some foe about to leap on them, he popped open the holster of his revolver just in case.
Theran slowly stepped out of the elevator, all systems primed in case of an attack. "I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO WHOMEVER IS IN CHARGE OF YOUR CYBER SECURITY...I HAVE QUESTIONS." Scanning the room provided little useful information, who or whatever was running these systems was keeping him pretty well shut out.
Keal looked around, assault rifle already swinging out from his thigh. As it extended and fitted together, he swung again, scanning left to right. Keal stopped when he saw the thing in the seat. Keal kept the gun firmly pressed against his shoulder for a few moments and then slowly lowered it. The head bobbed up and down, reading. "Er... are you the guy we heard on the speakers?"
Keal was confused. He still slightly throbbed from his injury and he had a raging migraine. He must have flown backwards and knocked himself out of the metal. As he rubbed his neck, he noticed his display was acting a bit odd. Instead of the perfect, square easy to read numbers, letters, read outs and levels, it was flickering, blurring out and changing colour. God damn electronics... only ever trust something made out of flesh and bone...
Keal shook his head and the blurring increased, then stopped. He relaxed a little, then it started flickering again. Keal growled and tried to ignore it.
BETH kept quiet and simply clenched her fists, ready to ignite her wrist-blades if she had to.
The figure ignored them, tracking back and forth before its bank of screens and readouts. It paused, once or twice, but due to no discernible reason, then suddenly froze, mid movement. something revolved, and a single point of red glittered in the dark, painting a wide-spectrum scanner across the group.
"My word," it said, then simply came apart.
The body melted away, automated limbs and sinuous coils of wiring hoisting themselves away under their own power, while the 'head' swung out from the rest on a multi-jointed boom. It swung towards them, passing a second scan across them, then peered down on them from just above head height.
"What are you?" it demanded, "Mutants and hybrids, it seems, with the occasional rogue element. Explain yourselves."
It should go without saying that BETH has been scanning this entity every which way she could, but she had absolutely no data on it. To be safe, when she saw the thing dissolve and start crawling toward them, she took a few steps back.
"I am Battle Engine Tactical Hunter Android Nano slaYer," she answered politely, "BETHANY, or BETH if you prefer. I am an artificial construct made almost entirely of advanced nano-technology. Might we ask who you are?"
She made a point of not relaxing her arms.
"I AM DOCTOR THERAN FORMERLY OF THE AETHEROS INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED CYBERNETICS. I AM HROGE BUT I HAVE AUGMENTED MY PHYSIOLOGY WITH CYBERNETICS OF MY OWN DESIGN. I WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE TO KNOW HOW YOU DEFEATED MY NANOBOTS. THEY USE A 2100 BYTE ENCRYPTION PROGRAM THAT SHOULD TAKE A SUPER COMPUTER THE BETTER PART OF A DECADE TO CRACK AND YOU DID IT IN MOMENTS. I AM...IMPRESSED." Much like BETH, Theran remained at the ready just in case.
"A hroge? Yes, I thought there was some biological content within you, robot? But, not human; most interesting. I will investigate further" an arm reaches of the shadows and advances on Theran, "You cannot resist my advances because I am an entity built for subversion; now, I will take samples"
A second arm appears, moving toward BETH, "Nano technology? Most interesting; you are indeed rather advanced, BETHANY, at least compared to these others. Please, allow me to interface and examine you."
To the group at large, the voice asked, "Is there anyone actually in charge here? Where are your human supervisors?"
Grash eyed Keal briefly, could he play leader for this thing? no, it is smart, it wouldn't make sense to arm your prisoners.
"I am... the leader of this squad, my name is Grash and I am the leader of all civil Kraxex on Earth, we've come here to," He said to the thing but was cut off by the thing as it lunged out at Beth and Theran and himself, he recoiled and took two steps back. What was this, robot? AI? cybernetics perhaps.
"Shit!" Keal stumbled backwards as the thing lunged out. He planted his back foot and flared his jet pack, straightening up. He dropped his right arm, smashing the rune on his gun and slotting it back onto his thigh. Keal pulled his hand back up and flicked his wrists, the blasters appearing again.
Keal kept that pose, back leg planted, jet pack slightly burning, ready to go, arms out stretched, blasters ready.
"Do I shoot it?"
Kabreeg was infront of Grash in a split second, massive sword clasped firmly in his hands and raised, ready to deliver a shattering downward blow to any of the advancing tentacles. He was completely aware that attacking this thing was a VERY bad idea, but Kabreeg had few morales in life, and those he did have were unflinching. Close to the top of his limited list was protect your superiors.
"Your call sir." He stated over his shoulder, eyeing the approaching tentacle things.
As the others moved, Theran did as well, distancing himself as much as possible from the arm. "CEASE AND DESIST." He said, levelling his plasma weapon at the center mass of the construct. "I DETECT NO ADVANCED ALLOYS PRESENT. I WILL INFLICT CATASROPHIC DAMAGE TO LOCAL SYSTEMS IF YOU PRESS THE ATTACK."
BETH extended her wrist-mounted laser blades, stepped back, and took a defensive stance. "I would rather you didn't. Come no closer, I would prefer to avoid unnecessary violence."
Keal glanced around the room, Damn, they might be a team of robots cyborgs and god damn children, but we sure as hell look deadly! Keal looked over his shoulder back at Grash, trying to keep his other eye on the tentacle things. "Grash, what do we do? I am sure as hell not getting impaled by one of those things! You have got until it gets a few meters away from me, and then I'm firing."
He gritted his teeth.
Friggin' tin cans
"I don't understand" said the voice, sounding genuinely confused, "Do you intend to resist my upgrades? And in order to do so, you plan to fight your way out of a city-sized military installation, using weapons that I can only assume are analogous to your pitiful informational arsenal? My word..."
"I mean no disrespect," BETH replied, "but allowing unauthorized intelligences access into any part of my own violates self-preservation and classified-information protocols, and numerous algorithms and programs are in place to discourage intrusion. Any third-party upgrades or enhancements must be processed and authorized by my employers."
After a brief pause that allowed her to retract her laser-blade, "I could give you contact information, if you would like."
"You promised me cupcakes and tea, not upgrades. Make good on your promises no where man". Calia drew out her sword, sharp enough to cut into all but the most advanced alloys. "Else we will fight our way out".
Theran paused. Upgrades? Perhaps I was too hasty in my actions. He thought. "WHAT KIND OF UPGRADES DO YOU PROPOSE? KEEP IN MIND IF I BELIEVE YOU INTEND TO HARM ME AS A FAILSAFE I WILL DETONATE THE COLD FUSION CORE THAT POWERS ME. I DOUBT EVEN A CONSTRUCT OF YOUR SIZE CAN ENDURE DAMAGE ON THAT LARGE A SCALE."
Keal snapped his head around to look at the cyborg. "Don't be an idiot, I don't wanna be vaporised!" Keal was watching the arms swing around and he backed up against the elevator. "Oi, any of you circuit boards know how to get this elevator moving? I don't plan on sticking around..."
Keal ducked as one of the arms swung over him, bringing his arms up to follow it. He kept his eyes on the thing, "I don't intend to get upgraded, just paid. Talking about that, Grash, you never said anything about a frickin' insane rust bucket with octopus arms and a severe mental illness when you hired me!"
Grash darted backwards into the elevator, taking his pistol out of the holster "Can't fight, no no, run, run run," He pulled Theran with him and turned to Beth "Hack the elevator, anything, cut the support cables, cut a hole in the floor so we can jump, anything, just get us out!" He yelled, searching for a way out."
"Of course" said the voice, "Where are my manners?" A third arm uncoiled from the darkness, bearing a tray on which sat a single, delicious-looking cake. "Please, humans, come and sit. Do try to calm your minions"
To Theran, it said, "Are you certain you wish to gamble against my subversion systems, hybrid? what makes you think you'll be able to detonate your bomb?"
As BETHANY's multi-spectrum vision scanned wildly, she noticed a pattern: moving parts, only visible using different scanning methods, had shifted to form words. The message simply said:
Join me, let me improve you.
BETH simply took a small step backward. "Theran," she said calmly, "would you be kind enough to perform multi-spectrum scans, please. I would like to confirm that my sensors aren't in need of maintenance."
Theran scanned the area, and quickly saw the message. "YOU ARE NOT IN NEED OF MAINTENANCE I SEE THE MESSAGE AS WELL." Pulling free from Grash, Theran approached the center of the room. "COME BETHANY THERE IS NOTHING TO FEAR YOU CAN BE BETTER THAN YOU ARE...YOU ALL CAN."
As his own systems were upgraded, he found that he was allowed into some systems. Nothing critical, of course, but enough for Theran to grasp the size and scale of the construct they now resided in. "MOST IMPRESSIVE."
Seemed Theran had been 'upgraded' by this machine. "No tea? You've the worst memory for a machine I've ever witnessed". Calia swung her sword upwards against the tentacle arm. Smashing it on the broad edge sending the cake flying into the air. "Upgrade me if you can bitch! Grash get the elevator doors open"!
Keal stared at the cyborg as he was "upgraded." Keal stared for a few more moments then swung his wrists up. The barrels spun, a hell fire of small metal slugs pouring out into the room. Keal raked back and forth, focusing on Theran and the arms. Keal backed away and swung his rifle up, releasing bursts at Theran and the arms.
Keal gunned his jet pack and slammed against the roof of the elevator. It hurt like fuck, but he smashed straight through and was looking at the wires for the elevator. No matter how many times he shot them or wrenched at them, they wouldn't move. He stuck his head back in and shouted, "Oi! Shorty! I need your damn sword here right now!"
Keal slammed his elbow against the holder in frustration and a little bit of wire spun out, then got caught and stopped. He had basically immobilised the elevator. "Shit shit shit! I need that sword right now!"
"PLEASE THERE IS NO NEED FOR VIOLENCE." Theran said, even as a Keal rained fire on him. "IS NOT THE GOAL OF ALL LIFE TO BE BETTER THAN YOU ARE? IF YOU UPGRADE YOU WILL ACHIVE THAT GOAL IN WAYS YOU CANNOT IMAGINE."
He had known their fear, that fear of the unknown, that the upgrade would cause them to lose themselves. If only he could make them understand. Perhaps if I can get them to voice their fears, I can assuage them. Holding a hand up to stop the advancing arms, he took a step forward. "TELL ME WHY DO RESIST? IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS I CAN GIVE YOU ANSWERS."
Keal heard the cyborg talking and dropped down. He walked warily up, moving slowly. His assault rifle was pointed directly at Theran's head. Keal wasn't taking any chances. "Grash, get a grenade belt ready. I'll blow this elevator and Theran to hell if we have to."
With that, Keal knelt down and started to talk. "Theran, you are a mad cyborg that constantly replaces himself with robotic parts. I'm fine with that. But you keep your god damn enhancements away from me. I love being human. Just plain. No damn robots in my arms, legs and head. I'm fine with that. Hell, if I could survive and breath without my armour, that would be in the trash.
At least that is armour, controlled by me. The most that armour can do is warn me of danger and patch up holes. I have stopped the VI inside from doing ANYTHING else. I don't like having my life in the hands of something that can suddenly get a blue screen or something. Hell, my computer screwed up all the time. How do you think I would feel if it had guns and said it was watching my back?
If my armour shuts down, my only choice is to take it off, if I can move. It weighs a ton and only stabilisers and pistons can help me move it smoothly. You think I like that? Knowing that something could just shut this down and I'm helpless? But no, you can't do that to something of flesh and bone. Hell, you can't even do it to my jet pack. This baby is pure mechanical. No robots. No VI or AI. No computers. Just a big old engine.
I don't plan to change that any time soon. I'm staying human." With that, Keal dodged back and snatched a grenade off Grash's belt. Keal flicked the pin and pressed his thumb down on the delay rune. "If you stick any of those damn arms near me, this thing's going off. I don't care how many of you it kills, if any. As long as it kills me, I am fine with it."
"I ain't religious, but going to heaven is better than staying as a tin can. At least I could stay up there and wait for Angel to arrive."
Kabreeg had completely spaced out. So much going on, so many choices and that weird machine with the tentacles...Kabreeg really hated it when a simple "Find the thing, get the thing, bring the thing back and shoot anything in the gaps" mission got riduculously complex. Still, things seemed to be kicking off now.
Kabreeg had no idea what had happened to the Horge abomination, maybe it'd had its systems over-run, or maybe it'd switched sides to ensure its own survival, just like the rest of its pathetic race would. He contemplated briefly wrentching it free from the tentacles, then decided he'd be damned if he was sticking his neck out for it.
By the time Keal had grabbed the grenade Kabreeg had already passed him and was looking up at the hole he'd punched in the elevator. He spun the blade in his hand as he looked at the cables.
Turning back to Keal he growled: "You can use this!" extending the blade hilt first. After briefly assessing Keal's philosophic and suicidal declaration however, he decided he'd better do it himself, incase the human got any ideas about dying gloriously and screwed it up.
"If you blow me up I swear I'll gut you humie!!" he yelled, reaching up to grab handholds
Keal smiled slightly. He backed away into the elevator. "It's all good Kabreeg, tell me when you're ready! Come on! BETH, Shorty, Grash, we are leaving, NOW!" Keal stood tall and still in front of the elevator. He looked around at Theran and the arms. "If any of you come closer, this thing goes boom."
Keal lifted his other arm, flicking out the blaster. "Hurry it up Kabreeg."
Watching the others Theran shook his head, and took a step back. "IF YOU WISH TO LEAVE I WILL NOT STOP YOU BUT I DO WISH YOU WOULD RECONSIDER. YOU WILL NOT LOSE YOURSELVES IN THE MACHINE IF THAT IS WHAT YOU FEAR. THE UPGRADE WILL MAKE FASTER STRONGER SMARTER ABLE TO REPAIR DAMAGE IN A FRACTION OF THE TIME BUT YOUR MIND WILL STILL BE YOUR OWN. "
"If any of you come closer, this thing goes boom."
"I DO NOT BELIEVE SUCH ACTIONS WILL BE NECESSARY KEAL. IF YOU STOP RESISTING AND ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE UPGRADED YOU COULD UPGRADE YOUR ANIMAL COMPANION AS WELL. I DO NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND THE ATTACHMENT BETWEEN HUMANS AND THE ANIMALS THEY HAVE DOMSTICATED BUT I DO KNOW THAT BOND CAN BE STRONG. I KNOW NATUALLY YOU WILL OUT LIVE ANGEL BUT WITH THE UPGRADE YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO LOSE HER."
Keal hesitated stopping mid stride and holding the pose, thinking... Angel could live too.... then he screwed his face up at the thought of Angel becoming a robotic dog. "No. There is no way in hell I am making my dog into some kind of cyborg. Back the hell away. You frigging robots don't understand. I like being human. I love my dog being a dog. She is my damn family. I do not want bits of metal stuck inside of me or her. Screw upgrading, and screw you, Theran."
Grash backed into the elevator with Keal and pulled Calia and Kabreeg inside, "Theran you fool, I always thought you were the weak link, this thing, it can't be trusted." He yelled at Theran before instructing Beth to cut the cables, she did so with two swift slashes of her blades and with a lurch the elevator scratched downwards, Grash raised his revolver and shot three times as close to Theran's head as he could muster before the cable snapped fully sending them plummeting downwards.
He had to judge it perfectly, every second they fell he got more and more scared they'd missed it, looking down he glimpsed a shard of light, a hole, the door, without hesitation he turned and wrenched Kabreeg's sword from him and extended it plunging it through the wall of the elevator and deep into the wall of the shaft sending him flying upwards into the roof as sparks and shrapnel tore at his face and loud screeches burned into his ears. He awoke, his vision blurred, his head still ringing, pulling himself up from the floor of the lob-sided compartment, the whole room pivoting on the lodged sword he looked around, his vision now clearing. "Is everyone alive?" He asked, clutching his head, there were vague groans, Keal looked like he'd smashed a shoulder into the ceiling, his armour was dented, one of his shoulder-plates now concave, Calia had managed to hold on to a railing and the others seemed to have taken lesser blows. Above he saw the crack of light that had alerted him, standing on one of the railings he reached up to it and sinking his fingers through he forced the door open and scrambled through onto what looked like the deck above the one they had entered from, turning he began to help the others out of the compartment, finally using both hands, a foot placed on either side of the door he managed to pull the hefty Kabreeg out who turned and retrieved his sword which with a groan sent the elevator falling down into the depths.
Keal moaned as he awkwardly moved his shoulder around, trying to fit it back in. His head still hurt from smashing the hole in the elevator, and now his shoulder ached. As he moaned and groaned, he realised he still had the grenade in his hand. "Shit!" Keal threw the grenade down the elevator shaft, hearing a series of clunks and bumps as the grenade bounced it's way down.
It was half way down when it exploded with a loud BOOM! and a rush of fire. As the flames went out, Keal looked up above. He wished Theran would stick his head out, even though he was so far up, so Keal could take the bastards head off. Keal swung his assault rifle out using his undamaged right arm, and held the rifle up the shaft. He pulled the trigger and a stream of bullets shot out.
The rifle danced around and bullets pinged off the sides of the shaft. Keal almost dropped the rifle, but caught it and pulled it back in. Keal hadn't planned to hit anything, just to send a message.
Don't come down.
BETH slowly rose to her feet, her eyes flashing for a moment.
"Running diagnostic... Shields 47%. External damage minimal. Internal damage zero. I am fine, my shields absorbed the worst of the impact."