Loading the second to last truck had taken very little time, with over half of the cargo well and able to move itself. Very few in the squad had been badly wounded in the assault, but they had chosen to be the last ones on board. The driver had watched nervously over his shoulder as those nearest the cab moved around, draping themselves over boxes or tucking themselves in the odd corners between the pieces of retrieved, dilapidated, ancient equipment. Two were even leaning back to back, covered in scorch marks and had seemed sound asleep each time the driver checked.
It didn’t help that their designs were so utterly unlike anything he had ever seen.
With the light load, the trip would be done half an hour quicker, and it really couldn’t be over fast enough for him. He did feel a little bad for Tai Chi and Sheer, sitting back there with ‘Them’, but not enough to talk loud enough to be heard in the back.
‘Them’, with those odd, eccentric designs . . . intellectually he knew that it was just time having warped parts of their bodies out of proper shape, but to look at them was just to feel that something was wrong. Dead wrong. It was even worse to watch their halting, awkward movements.
Shuddering at the thought, he quickly started yet another check on the truck’s systems. Yes, the sooner this was over, the better.
Amongst all the silence in the back of the truck, Sheer quietly rubbed her hand along Tai Chi’s back – the other femme was still curled up, ears flat to her head, forehead on her knees, arms around her legs. She’d not taken the vast destruction very well, and Sheer had decided she should at least make sure Tai Chi made it safely back to base. The bobcat-reploid hadn’t spoken a word since her team had bodily picked her up and moved her out of that room.
Sheer repressed the urge to shudder as she suppressed the memory of the room – it had been bad enough just seeing it over the malfunctioning cameras. As it was, there was a no-man’s land between the reploids and the ancient robots, a wobbly strip of truckbed that neither intruded upon.
Across the way, the ancient robot who’d said his name was Wood Man was staring at nothing in particular in the manner of the almost terminally bored. He’d just climbed into the back of the truck without any fuss, even helped load the least mobile of the other ancient robots. And had insisted on letting them load themselves in a particular order, citing that this or that one really hated or got along best with this or that one of his ‘brothers’.
The word bothered Sheer. ‘Brothers’ . . as in family? A robot having family? It was rare among Reploids to begin with . . . the words were out of her mouth before she could put much thought in them. “Why do you call them your brothers?”
Wood Man even looked a little baffled by the question, turning with a squeak of gears to look at her directly. “That’s simple. We all have the same dad.”
“The same . . . Dad. But none of you look alike.” Sheer wondered aloud, bafflement in her voice. None of them had similar functions, or were even from the same production line.
It was clear she didn’t understand. Wood Man nodded once (with an almost unholy accompanying screech as old parts long unused rubbed against each other). “Well, sure. You don’t look exactly like your brothers, do you?”
The old robot added as Sheer shook her head no, “Because then they would look like girls.”
Sheer had to smile at that. She had a brother, a younger brother she gained when she trained him in dispatch his first month of life. “No, he doesn’t look like me at all, but he’s still my brother.”
“So who wins your fights?”
“Well, me usually. I’m older.”
“Yeah, those fights are always great. Especially afterwards when putting bros back together.”
Douglas practically bounced as he moved about his lab, checking each and every bit of the six experiments he was running simultaneously. Duplicating that rubber coating (now that he had the body back from Nidae), directing his assistants in dissecting the weapons of not one, but /six/ different ice-or-water-based robots, with more electric or even weather-controlling ancients to analyze later . . . life was very, very good for Douglas. He was humming as he moved around the lab.
Most of his assistants were very, very quiet, intent on their work. But one on the end was frowning. “Douglas, sir?”
“Mm-hmm-mm-What is it, Miles?” Douglas didn’t look away from the beaker he was currently checking, swishing the translucent fluid inside with a practiced hand. The expected reaction hadn’t happened – the shred of sample from the ancient body hadn’t dissolved, or done anything other than stain the acid a faint pink. Plugging it back in, he started typing on the central console, setting up the computer to analyze any possible fumes coming off the mixture.
Miles glanced up at his boss before turning his attention back to the body part in front of him. Other than sheer age, he’d noticed there wasn’t any wear or tear on it. “Sir, what’s going to happen to these once we’re done?”
“At most, they’re going to be smelted down and recycled – there may be potential in developing Damascus blades. Unless the museum in Giga City wants to put some of this on display.” Douglas was entirely un-interested in the concept of the parts going to a museum. It wasn’t as if any experiments could be done to them if they were stuck behind preserving stasis shields. “Useless, if you ask me. Not when there’s so much to learn from them.”
Silent for a few minutes, Miles turned to look across the room. Over there, two of the assistants were at work slowly extracting the oldest sample from its stasis pod. The ice had proven to hide a lot, and for a brief moment he could see the serene expression on the ancient robot’s face. Shuddering, Miles turned back to his own work.
The gold and blue one was staring at him again. Zero twitched slightly, not yet ready to give up his nonchalant ‘bored’ position. Anything was better than socializing with these . . . things. There was no way he was – Zero shut down that thought train quickly, grinding his teeth as he glared off to the side.
Really, it wasn’t like they knew anything about Wily, it’s just that he couldn’t stand the thought of not being X’s bro- no, not going to think about that.
Not at all.
“So what the hell happened to the prototype? Proto-dude, or whatever he was called.” The gold and blue actually glared at him, of all things, before turning back to the monitors. Whatever. Zero just snorted and flipped his ponytail back to the other side, making sure it was clear of his saber.
Outside of the room, that little green bastard dashed past the doorway once more, swearing loudly in some strangely familiar nonsense language (stupid nightmares) at the one in yellow and brown chasing him – Zero blinked. “Butterfly net?”
First | Previous | Next