12:44 SCAN CLONE BANK POD ROOM
12:44 ACTUATING PROGRAM IN PROGRESS
12:46 CONTINUING SURVEILLANCE-LINK
.........-STATUS FOUR INDIVIDUALS
12:47 ROBOT DESTROYING - TEST ONE
12:49 INITIATE PROGRAM:
.........-FAIL SAFE 2
.........-OPEN DOOR 00498 AND DOOR 00561
Zhaxier grabs the nearby chair and sits down at the terminal as the vid-screen changes, displaying a list of options. Zhaxier can't help but look back at the others (over 75 meters away), milling around the now-wrecked robot. He wonders if they too are having the same doubts he is. Zhaxier swallows hard and turns in his chair as the door opens not 6 meters away with a swishing sound. For a second, Zhaxier's heart skips a beat, but only silence enters, and the light from the corridor beyond. The door remains open as if by command.
Turning back to the vid-screen, Zhaxier scans his list of options:
01 INITIATE CODE RED
02 START CLONE PROCESS
.........A) LIST POD NUMBER (---)
.........B) LIST ID NUMBER (---)
03 LIST TARGET NUMBER (---)
04 LIST TRANSFER NUMBER (---)
05 INFORMATION/SUBJECT DATA
.........A) LIST ID NUMBER (---)
06 ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROLS
.........A) LIST TEMP (---)
.........B) LIST HUMIDITY FACTOR (---)
07 REQUEST SERVICE BOT
.........A) LIST TASK NUMBER (---)
08 REQUEST MAINTENANCE BOT
.........A) LIST BOT NUMBER (---)
At the bottom of the screen blinks the words highlighted in red,
SECURITY ID NOT LISTED UNDER THIS TYPE OF WORKSTATION USAGE. A SECURITY
ROBOT IS BEING DISPATCHED TO INVESTIGATE. PLEASE WAIT FOR IT TO ARRIVE."
Searching the area, Nike finds nothing else of value except the metal wrench. She does notice the patch on her uniform has a picture of an ellipsoidal ship, the word "WARDEN" above, and a white box below with "Mar/Tech/fcs" embroidered in red. Nike looks towards the clone at the far end of the room when the door opens, and registers his surprise. The door stays open.
Chelydra approaches the robot. The very definition of spur-of-the-moment tension keeps him alert as he bends down and retrieves the small stun ray pistol (Chelydra being within the robot's grasp), and then backs away toward his pod. Chelydra straightens and takes a deep breath. Having been the robot's quarry is another experience which he will not easily forget. Chelydra glances at the patch on his pants, hopelessly the wrong size, and still within his drawer. The patch has a picture of an ellipsoidal ship, the word "WARDEN" above, and a white box below with "Lt/Sr" embroidered in red. Looking at the pistol, Chelydra casually tosses it to Percy.
Percy seems excited as he fumbles the pistol before gaining control of it (catching it). Percy's eyes scan everyone, but no one seems familiar to him. Holding the pistol, he feels a flicker of uncertainty, almost waiting for himself to change his own mind. Defeating the robot still feels good, even if he didn't actually partake in the battle. Percy raises one eyebrow and smiles, "Oh by the way, I'm Percy," he manages.
"I'm Nike." Her voice is meditative.
"I'm Chelydra," he offers with a nod.
Zhaxier is too far away to be introduced.
What do you do?
Not being able to recall her primary duties aboard the ship, Nike feels a little befuddled. Still, her belongings must hold some clue. She has been in too much of a hurry to look before---her primary goal was to dress and determine the intent of the hostile-looking robot. Yes, she should find out more about herself in order to contribute all that she could to this group's survival. "Excuse me for a moment," she begins, "I'm going to go look through my things and try to sort some of this out while we have a spare moment."
And with that, and some wild questions racing in her mind, she walks to her pod and begins to look in the drawers.
Percy nods as Nike and Chelydra introduce themselves. "Thanks, I think!" he says to Chelydra, tucking the pistol into the top hem of his trousers. "I think something definitely went wrong with the cloning program," he offers as Nike walks back to her cryo-tube. "My memory is full of gaps and I have a terrible headache!" he explains, pointing to his head. He then jerks a thumb at the robot. "And, I think something went wrong with that food-processing robot! Although that's pretty obvious, don't you think?" Percy tries out a chuckle.
Then Percy notices the carapace on Chelydra's backside. "Waaaaiiitaminute, what happened to you?" He gasps when he sees the carapace-covered man and his, well, carpace covering. He can't help but take a half-step backward in amazement. Not quite horror, but definitely surprise. "Does it, ah, does that hurt?"
When the door opens at Zhaxier's end of the room, Percy takes notice. He sees the man in the chair, obviously trying to operate the computer. "Maybe I can help out with that computer," he thinks to himself. Still uncertain of the knowledge---like Swiss cheese, for all its missing pieces---swimming around in his head, Percy nevertheless feels an inner confidence and thinks he could be of some use sitting in front of a computer monitor. But first there was the robot, or what was left of it. He moves cautiously toward the metal hulk and investigates the appendages and the still-sparking, hopefully deactivated unit.
"Let's see now, Mister Food Processing Robot...." Percy examines the robot without touching it yet, looking to make sure it is deactivated and also to see if there are any control panels he can access.
Zhaxier's veins, pumped full of fresh adrenaline, nearly cause him to jump out of his boxers (2 pocket variety) when the door opens. But he settles down soon enough when nothing emerges from beyond, and he returns to his screen. Some of the menu options look promising... but what's this at the bottom of the vid-screen?
"Frak!" His kidneys lurch with the autonomous command to squirt more stimulant. Whipping around to his pod-mates, he yells, "Hey, we're gonna have company! A security robot is on its way!"
He gets up and takes two steps toward them---there was a fourth clone now, and they'd overcome the butcherbot!---but then he back-tracks, and enters the number on his card into option 5A of the computer's displayed menu. Presumably, he reasons, it's a copy of the "real" Zhaxier's ID card, though no features appear on its plastic faces, save the number and a black strip. "Might as well figure out who the frak I am while I still am."
A random thought slips past the veil of his consciousness as he awaits the computer's response, and he is momentarily filled with hope: this terminal may tell him about his fellow crewmate, the woman whose tantalizing presence he can sense through the blindfold covering his mind's eye. As quickly as it arrives, the thought vanishes into the chasmal voids that pepper his memory: he doesn't know her ID number.
"Come on, come on!" he pleads into the vid-screen.
"No, Percy, it doesn't hurt. I feel fine, but not myself. I'm not sure who I am, but I'm sure I wasn't a turtle before. I can't even remember my proper name." He blinks as what Zhaxier yelled penetrates. "Security robot is not good news for us. We should go."
He turns to check out the space beyond the now open doors.
12:50 SCAN CLONE BANK POD ROOM
12:51 ACTUATING PROGRAM IN PROGRESS
12:53 CONTINUING SURVEILLANCE-LINK
.........-STATUS FOUR INDIVIDUALS
12:54 COMPUTER BEING ACCESSED
12:55 INITIATE PROGRAM: .........-FAIL SAFE 2
.........-SEND SECURITY ROBOT ASAP
As she walks back over to her cloning pod, the gathering weight of memories oppresses Nike's mind like fingernails grating across a chalk-board. Images swirl within a semblance of a window frame as well-remembered faces rise before her. Shaking her head to clear the troublesome thoughts, Nike kneels and pushes the button opening the drawer at the bottom of her pod. It opens slowly. Inside the drawer is a combat knife (in a holster), and a leg strap. Beside it lies a clip-on ID badge with her picture on it. It reads:
Captain Nike Thomason
XO-Bay Thirty Seven-G
SC Clearance Blue
Back then, Your hair was much longer than it is now, but the picture is yours.
Zhaxier notes the warning at the bottom of the screen, scans his list of options and then makes his decision: option 5A. He enters the number on his card as directed. Zhaxier still feels somehow everything that is happening is in some way technically orchestrated. Something just doesn't add up. It is like having a technical manual with random pages torn out for no rhyme or reason. Zhaxier raises his finger up for a moment, pausing in his key strokes as he feels a fresh surge of frustration. He hits the "enter" key.
Zhaxier jumps from his chair in horror when the vid-screen changes. It shows a long-dead skeleton. Even in his shock, Zhaxier notes the words "KAMINSKY MD4" at the bottom of the screen. At the top of the vid-screen is replayed "LOG VID S8346" in a continuous loop. Someone had set this up for you to see.
Walking the 60 some meters to Zhaxier, Chelydra enters the open door. Grimly, Chelydra's gaze turns inward, and he shakes his head slowly at the strange being he had become. His mood seems to change at every step. The words, "Open yourself to me; absorb from me my wisdom and experience and power. In this way you will carry on my life and work," enter your mind. You don't remember who said it.
Looking out the door to your left, you see a long, well-lit and empty corridor with dozens of doors. Looking to your right, you see a large man-sized robot on rubber tracks coming your way (about 120 meters away). One arm is a claw and the other is a heavy laser. Slapping the door lock, you shudder as the door closes instantly. That only leaves the other door at the far end of the clone bank room (150 meters from one end to the other) for escape. The security robot will arrive in two to four minutes tops, and you know a shotgun will not destroy an armored security bot.
Percy steps forward and examines the deactivated robotic food processing unit. The production serial numbers read FPD-CHA-19207. Bending down to check the robot's small display panel under one of its arms, he sees clearly that the unit was fried from its own internal heat. Pushing a button on one arm near the wrist, Percy releases the robot's needle injector (an item used to tranquilize animals). The needle injector looks very much like a pistol, with no visible needle. It was a simple robot and it could have been reprogrammed had it not been destroyed, you think, wondering why you find the unit so fascinating.
A warning shout from Chelydra gets everyone's attention. What do you do?
Rushing across the room to Zhaxier's side, she feels the adrenaline beginning to pound. It feels natural, and gives her a high that she recalls fondly. "Hey, can't you stop that thing from coming in here from there? It looks like I have security clearance. Should I try?"
Of course, if the computer isn't an option, then maybe they can disable the bot before anyone gets killed. But what then? Won't more bots be sent if they can't talk with the computer?
There is no time for introductions. Good thing, too; it would be painfully awkward dressed in boxers (2 pocket variety) in front of the attractive fem. Thank the maker his former self hadn't left him with "party panties." (Now where the frak had that thought come from?)
"I don't have security access---it's why the 'bot was dispatched. Give your card a shot." Zhaxier notes her reaction to the gruesome vid-screen display, so he hits a button to clear the screen and return to the main menu. "I entered my card number under option 5A and that's what it gave me. Try yours." Picking up on Chelydra's tense stance, he adds, "And quickly!"
Unnerved by the picture, anxious about the approaching security robot, and distracted by the fem, Zhaxier's body, unbeknownst to his mind, blends out of sight, leaving only his boxers visible. "Why is she looking at me that way?" he wonders.
"Incoming! Security bot, ETA 2 minutes, presumed hostile, considered armed and dangerous. Request backup." The shout pops out by reflex, and even Chelydra is not fully certain of its meaning, but one thing is clear: there is no way the security bot will be dispatched as easily as the food processing robot was.
"I suggest we try the other door, unless you guys have a better idea. I don't want to get shot again, kind of louses up your whole morning."
So saying, the reptile-man suits actions to words and begins moving down the clone bank room.
He hopes the others have some answers to what is going on, and as soon as they find a safe place to hole up for a bit, he intends to ask some serious questions.
Percy opens his belt pouch and carefully places the needle injector in it, nozzle facing away from him, or at least not directly into him. While the bag is open, he decides to refresh his memory---or as the case may be, to recreate a missing memory---of what is in his presumed tool pouch. With the other three clones now all together at the other end of the cloning bay at the computer terminal, Percy reasons that four would be a crowd.
So Percy busies himself with scavenging what he thinks might be useful bits of hardware, and learning and relearning what he can about the robot and its inner workings. He collects any pieces in the robot's bag, assuming it is empty. He tries to hurry his efforts, when the threat of the security robot is announced from the other end of the bay.
12:55 SCAN CLONE BANK POD ROOM
12:55 ACTUATING PROGRAM IN PROGRESS
12:55 CONTINUING SURVEILLANCE-LINK
.........-STATUS FOUR INDIVIDUALS
12:56 DENYING COMPUTER ACCESS INITIATED
12:56 INITIATE PROGRAM: .........-FAIL SAFE 2
.........-SECURITY ROBOT ETA 2 MINUTES
Rushing across the room to Zhaxier's side, Nike quickly discusses the topic of security clearance and what to do next, this being just one of the ideas she is considering even though the point is proved moot just as she speaks the words. Zhaxier frowns as the power to the vid-screen is cut off and the screen goes black. His eyes take on a faraway look, although Nike can't see them with his chameleon power in effect.
Chelydra's shout directs everyone's attention. His training tells him something is about to happen---something very bad. Persuasive influence is unneeded and the need for flight is at the forefront of his mind. The door lock panel explodes into a shower of sparks as a heavy laser burns straight through it like Caxiathan butter. Acting on pure instinct, Chelydra spins on his heel and sprints towards the other door at the far end of the room (150 meters away). Chelydra knows those who hesitate may very well die right here in this room. "Come on!!!!!!" Chelydra yells. If the other door is locked, they are indeed royally screwed. Chelydra zips past Percy and slides to a stop at the other door.
On bended knee, Percy removes the food processing robot's external control panel. For some strange reason, Percy feels it's a very important salvageable item, which can be adapted to a variety uses, including opening and controlling damaged items. Percy doesn't know exactly how he knows this. As Chelydra sprints by, Percy places the panel inside the food processing robot's empty cloth bag, as well as some wiring from the ruined robot. Standing, Percy sprints after Chelydra.
What do you do?
OOC: We may be playing a game here, but people really do die in Metamorphosis Alpha.
Just as the door panel explodes, Zhaxier realizes that the faint prickly feeling is his mutation in action. He quickly drops out of his boxers (to become fully invisible), holds them in front of him (to block them from the robot's view, he hopes), and books it down the right side of the long lab (to keep out of possible lines of fire connecting the robot and the clones in front of him).
"C'mon!" Zhaxier's disembodied voice yells to the other clone at the defunct terminal.
"Holy Shit!" she yells, racing for the door on the other side of the bay, careful to use cloning pods and tables as cover on the way. "Why does being a moving target not feel unfamiliar?" she wonders to herself as she feels the not so unfamiliar surge of adrenaline. Her muscles begin to twitch with anticipation. "Well hey," she thinks, "at least the turtle-boy makes a wider, more appealing target!" Grinning in her mind's eye, she ducks behind another pod.
As he runs toward the door toward which Chelydra is sprinting, Percy wonders if any one of them has access to open the door. If not, maybe he can hot-wire the lock mechanism. He turns back for a second, hoping to see Nike and the other clone close behind, but there is only Nike. He does see a pair of crumpled-up black silk boxers bouncing in mid-air and moving in his direction. "I'm hallucinating!" he thinks to himself, and slows as he approaches Chelydra at the door.
COMPUTER TIME LOG - DAY ONE
12:57 SCAN HALL 569870-K4
12:58 LOCATION CHANGE IN PROGRESS
12:59 CONTINUING SURVEILLANCE-LINK
.........-STATUS FOUR INDIVIDUALS
12:59 SECURITY ROBOT IN CLONE BANK
13:00 CONTINUE PROGRAM:
.........-FAIL SAFE 2
.........-TERMINATE WITH PREJUDICE
With a mixture of astonishment and indignation, and his breath somewhat heightened from the running, Chelydra touches the electronic pad beside the door. He doesn't want this room to hold his epitaph, as it may have for others before him. The lines in his face shift to a smile as the door makes a swishing sound upon sliding open.
Chelydra likes the thought of controlling the events around him, not the events controlling him. In this situation he has little choice but to react. Taking the shortest distance possible from trained experience, Chelydra side-steps out the door, placing his back to the wall for 100% cover. He tightens his teeth indignantly and waits.
Scanning the hall nervously, he sees that the corridor continues to his right about 15 meters and dead ends at a door. To his left, the corridor continues about 60 meters, spanning three evenly spaced doors on the right wall. Only darkness can be seen beyond the estimated 60 meters because the lights are off.
Percy slows when he approaches Chelydra at the door, as he notes the slickness of the floor and its potential to bust one's ass if not careful. Percy's eyes tingle with disapproval and uncomplaining seriousness as he glances over his shoulder at the far end of the room (150 meters away), where the security robot is pulling the door open by force and entering the clone bank. His items in hand, Percy exits the door and continues around the corner to Chelydra's left.
A cloning pod beside Nike explodes in a shower of sparks and a torrent of debris as she passes it. Resistance is one thing, but a rendezvous with a firing security robot is not on Nike's list of things to do. Nike whispers the words, "Luck to fools and idiots under fire," risking everything as she continues to run. Nike doesn't remember from where that saying comes. The heat of the heavy laser blackens the wall as Nike exits the room just a meter ahead of Zhaxier. It missed Nike by not more than the span of a hand.
As Zhaxier races toward the door behind Nike, he slips on the slick floor and falls on his back (still blended with the metallic color of the floor and walls). Scrambling to his hands and knees, Zhaxier scuttles through the doorway yelling "Close it, close it, close it!" Zhaxier crouches on the floor for a moment after he hears the swishing sound of the door sliding shut (Chelydra pushes the panel to close the door). Zhaxier feels the longing for a data pad in his hand and a comfortable chair---a far cry from his current situation. He scrutinizes the motley group he has unwittingly joined. Slowly, he stands.
previous | narration | home | nextAll text Copyright ©1999-2004 PBPArchives.