V M rumors(death)=exaggerated

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"Soooo.....remind me again why we're out here?" For what had to be the twentieth time in half as many hours, Janning voiced the exact same question as he twirled an unlit cigarette in his begloved fingers.

"We're on a job, Ricard," the deep voice of Ivan answered, with a surprising level of the towering man's usual joviality still somehow intact. "Salvage operations at the behest of our dear 'captain'."

"Yeah..." Janning sighed heavily. "I mean I know what we're doing. I mean why are we out here?" He stuck his arm out the window, gesturing vaguely and indistinctly at what could be anything and everything in the dreary landscape. His face twisted into an ugly scowl and he withdrew his hand quickly, shaking it off like something had stuck to it. "This place smells like shit, looks like death, and we've already raked over just about every square inch of it half a dozen times already. What's left for us to salvage out here, man?"

"You're askin' the real questions, there, champ." Llang spoke up, lifting her visor from over her eyes. "Cap's gettin' more pushy every time he sends us back out here though. So we better find something, if we don't wanna get chewed out so bad we empathize with hubba buba."

Ivan let loose a deep, booming laugh, the titanic metal mitt of his left arm slapping the well beside him hard enough to make the entire makeshift shelter rattle and quake, dust filtering down from several cracks in the ceiling.

"DO NOT STRIKE THE BUILDING WITH SUCH RAMPANT MIRTH, MEATBAG." The synthesized, crackling voice of 024 cut sharply through the uneasy sound of shifting stone and steel as the massive bulk of his upper chassis rotated about to level the three-camera'd gaze of his displeased face at the well-dressed behemoth. "I AM NOT PROGRAMMED WITH ORGANIC SALVAGE PROTOCOLS."

"Ah, well, forgive me, forgive me," the old man chortled, letting his arm drop safely to his side. "But you know how I love such accurate and topical humor."

"I KNOW." 024's cameras whirred softly as they each spun in alternating directions, focusing and un-focusing rapidly in sequence. A gesture that had come to be known as the closest he could do to rolling his eyes. "YOUR COMEDIC RITUALS ARE BAFFLING AND INAPPROPRIATE TO PRACTICE IN OUR CURRENT SITUATION."

"Now, now," Llang spoke up again, with a cheeky grin flashing across her face. "I dunno about 'inappropriate'. A little laugh now and then keeps things interesting. Wouldn't want us to get bored out here. Janning might never shut up."

"Love ya too, jack-head," Janning said flatly.

"Ahem." Another voice cut in, as the door to what was probably someone's house -- or maybe particularly large storage shed -- opened. "Gentlemen. And Janning." Alyssa ran her gloved hands through her bedraggled hair, smoothing it out and brushing out a (very nearly literal) handful of dust and bits of debris. "Think I found something that'll make our trip out here worth it. Couldn't get to it on my own, but I tossed a spider close as I could. Think you can get a lock on it and get us some pictures, Llang?"

"Do I 'think' I can? Puh-lease!" The techie rolled her eyes and tugged her visor back down, her lips curling up in a smirk. "Just gimme the spider number and I'll have it running and transmitting in no time."

"I got number one, three and four out sniffing around some places I couldn't get a look at," Alyssa noted, checking her wristcom for a moment. "But I tossed number two at what might be our payday."

"Oh boy, here we go," Janning muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. "She's about to get all smug and braggy about her mad skills...like anyone with a datajack couldn't slot in a college degree or two these days."

"HER SKILLS ARE THE ONLY PART OF THIS GROUP I TRUST."

"You wound me on a deep conceptual level, twenty-four," Janning whined, sprawling over onto his back like a deflated balloon.

"BE GLAD I CANNOT WOUND YOU ON A PHYSICAL LEVEL, MEATBAG."

"Now, now." Ivan chortled, slowly strolling away from his perch by the wall to lean over Llang's shoulder as she worked. "I must admit, I don't really understand the work you do for us, Llang. But it's quite the wonder to observe."

"Well, I don't blame ya, old man." Llang's face was still split in a wide grin as her hands hovered in the air, fingers splayed, and several gleaming metallic wires sprouted from each fingertip. Sequences of lights flashed over her visor, as the wires moved in a dizzying array to work through the holographic keyboards she used. "This stuff is half way old tech, and half unnecessary flashing lights to look cool," she admitted. "I could probably do my job a lot quicker with more modern hardware and programs, and less flash and glitter, yeah. But hey...sometimes you can't get the 'softs for the most recent stuff, so you gotta homebrew the old scrap to work as best you can. And no reason not to make it look good while you're at it. Get it?"

"Ah, yes." Ivan hefted the colossal prosthetic that replaced his left arm. "I think I do. I suppose there is something to be said for the familiarity and...robustness of the old and familiar."

"Oh boy, are we having a 'bonding moment' now?" Janning swung himself back up into a sitting posture. "Cause I also got some tricks that you can't really—"

"WE DID NOT AUTHORIZE A HEARTFELT GROUP DIALOGUE ON THIS EXCURSION." 024's carefully modulated tone still somehow managed to harbor a tinge of disgust and exasperation.

"....maaaan, but I wanted to brag about what makes me special, too...." Janning whined. "Why do you guys get to do all the—

"Got it!" Llang chimed in. "Putting spider two on display....now!"
 
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This was it. This was her moment to shine.

Gearus Llang may not have been as good at the physical parts of their job as the rest of the team, but...well, she made up for it by being just about the only technically minded one. Sure, Janning knew his way around a bit of breaking and entering, bypassing technological security, and bypassing locks both physical and electronic better than most anyone she'd ever met, but he didn't know a thing about more in-depth areas of the 'cyber-bullshit' side of things, as he so often put it. Ivan was nearly hopeless with anything more advanced than a cellphone, and Alyssa...she was real good at using her drones and scouting droids, but if you asked her to program one or check its data logs for errors? She'd just stare at you funny for a while.

Yeah. They were all hopeless without her when it came to stuff like this.

Sometimes it did get a little frustrating, when more than half the team were so helplessly inept. They couldn't even tell whether half the salvageable stuff they did manage to find was worth anything without her. Sure, it could always be scrapped and sold for raw material if nothing else, but that was usually a fraction of what it would be worth if it was still in a state to be refurbished, or there were any still working components in it. And if it was somehow, by some miracle, in a functioning state? The kind of payout you could get for a working piece of tech, if it was old enough, was absolutely astounding, even in the seediest and most ripoff-inducing, undercutting and price-gouging black market hidey holes.

There was supposedly a guy who'd managed to get enough of a payout to retire with after digging up an entire shipping crate full of (mostly) still functional toasters, of all the fucking things. People paid a premium for them just because they were 'antiques' and 'relics of a time we don't have any real records of' and stuff like that. It was mind-boggling and kind of infuriating. The sheer luck involved...

A flickering holo-display sprang into view before her, momentarily full of nothing but static and digital snow. "Jeeze, Alyssa...when's the last time you checked these things for function?" she muttered. "Getting a lot of interference here..."

"Yeah, well..." Alyssa just shrugged halfheartedly. "You know these things were barely holding together when I got 'em in the first place. Can't really expect much better from third-hand tech."

"Ugh...we need to get you some better stuff, girl. This is embarrassing." Llang sighed. "Gimme a sec to clear this up and we can...." She trailed off, pursing her lips intently. "Ah, hang on. Interference isn't from any problems with the spider. There's somethin' close by that's messing with the signal. Move it a couple meters to the left, would ya?"

"Signal interference?" Janning arched an eyebrow, his attention finally grabbed fully. "Doesn't that usually mean, like...there's something else giving off a signal? Like, something active?"

"Usually, yeah..." Alyssa mumbled, as she tinkered with her wristcom. "Spiders have a little flaw like that...get real messed up by just about any kind of interference. From other transmission signals or even just minor magnetic fields. Could be anything, really...maybe just some unshielded electric cables with a little juice left in 'em."

"THE TECHNOLOGICAL INFERIORITY AND EASE OF BREAKING EXHIBITED BY YOUR PRIMARY MEANS OF CONTRIBUTION IS ASTOUNDING." 024 was, as ever, entirely too forthcoming about his scorn.

Alyssa rolled her one remaining eye, muttering something under her breath before looking up. "Any luck, Llang?"

"There we go...everything's clearing up." The resident techie grinned, pushing her visor up. Her silvery eyes sparkled, as she swept a wire-filled hand up, and with a quick gesture expanded the holo-display as the snow melted away from its picture. Still somewhat grainy and far from the clearest, but...she was working with limited hardware, here. "Alright. Got a clear link, now. Let's get a look at whatever you spotted in there."
 

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Once the signal interference was dealt with, and the spider's lights flashed on to illuminate its surroundings, things were clear enough.

The room the spider had been deposited in was dark, dank, and decrepit. Underground, probably several sub-levels down from the looks of it. The ceiling had partially caved in in numerous places, and one wall had been reduced to rubble. Sections of wiring and cabling within had been exposed to the elements, wearing away over who knows how many years. And in at least one place, the external metallic shielding and insulation had been shredded and torn open, as if it had been collateral in some fight or other.

Probably a pretty messy one, if the way ancient and long dried stains splattered over the floor, walls and ceiling were any indication.

The entire chamber was blanketed in darkness, as expected from such a subterranean location. From the little plop-plop noises as the spider skittered around, the floor was submerged under at least several inches of water. The occasional flicker of sparks from the exposed cabling in the walls made that a worrying prospect, but...not much to be done about it.

"Alright...it should be over here..." Alyssa muttered, her attention more focused on controlling the spy drone than paying attention to the display feed.

Slowly the spider crept and scuttled across the room, clambering over chunks of rubble and debris, skirting well around the potential risk of electrocution, its lights sweeping around the room before settling on something. The mangled remains of some kind of robot, or so it seemed at first glance. It had been completely ripped apart -- one of its arms missing, the other one looking as if it had been through a blender, bisected at the waist and half of its face literally gouged out, exposing the wiring and part of the central core that passed for its brain.

"Sweet mother of shit..." Janning whispered, shifting closer to peer more intently at what he was seeing. "Please tell me this ain't what you were talkin' about, Alyssa. We'd be lucky to get spare change for something in that condition."

"Nah, that's not it, don't worry. There's more, just..." The resident drone monger trailed off, her brows knitting together as she frowned.

The display showed the spider creeping forward, showing a trail of similar results leading across the room, along the destroyed and ruptured wall. A handful more robots and droids of various description, in varying states of more or less absolutely mangled and ripped asunder. The spider paused at one in particular, zooming in on the wreckage.

"Are those...bite marks?" This time it was Ivan that spoke up, as he tugged at his beard with an uneasy look in his eyes. "It certainly looks like it, but....I don't recognize the pattern." Ivan Roolski was many things, and experienced was chief among them. He'd been at this salvage game the longest out of anyone in their group, except maybe the real veterans in the captain's personal squad. It had cost him his left arm, and nearly his ability to walk, but he'd seen some real wondrous things in his days venturing out into the wastes like this. He'd been around the block so many times he could walk it blindfolded and backwards. He'd seen what kind of damage bite and claw marks from Akata could do and what they looked like, and knew damn well that the vast majority of zoids had jaws big enough to bite off half of something human sized, at the very least. He was no expert on their behavior, mind you, but...

This damage just didn't match up to either one, plain and simple. Way too small to be any zoid he knew of, and didn't make sense for akata -- they didn't get anything out of something made of metal and circuitry like this. That didn't totally discount them biting something to kill it, of course, but...that wouldn't explain why it looked like pieces of the android had been completely ripped off.

"Yeah...looks like something took a chunk out of 'em, alright," Llang muttered. "Beats me as to what or why, though. Can't really say the thought of a synthflesh, plasteel and nanocomposite sandwich ever appealed to me."

"DO NOT BE RIDICULOUS. SUCH MATERIALS WOULD BE INCREDIBLY ILL-SUITED TO A SANDWICH." 024 whirred as he tromped closer, hunkering down to focus his camera-eyes on the display. "THE DAMAGE HIGHLIGHTED IS INDICATIVE OF HUMANOID BITE PATTERNS. THEY WERE PLACED DELIBERATELY TO TARGET THE MACHINE'S PRIMARY COOLANT LINES."

"Humanoid?" Janning sputtered, his eyebrows making a beeline for his scalp. "You gotta be shittin' me. You're tellin' me somebody just..." He made a wild gesticulation of grabbing and gnawing on something.

"I AM TELLING YOU WHAT IT IS INDICITAVE OF, NOT WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS, MEATBAG." 024 snapped.

"Well...you never can rule out the possibility of some drugged up asshole with a literal steel trap for a cybered up jaw deciding to see what he could chew through." Alyssa shook her head, her lips twisting into a deep scowl. "I knew a guy once who replaced his..." She trailed off abruptly. "....y'know what, never mind. Not important."

"Well now I'm curious." Janning squinted at Alyssa.

"Focus, you guys." Llang snapped her fingers. "Now where's our potential prize in all this, Alyssa? You made it sound like it was something special, this time."

"Right, right...I'm gettin' there, gimme a sec. I spotted it through a crack on the far side of the room here, from up above. Had to search all over hell and creation to find a gap big enough to drop number two down there." She frowned, squinting at her wristcom as she resumed guiding the spider along. "Should be just up ahead, though."
 

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The scene of carnage carried on across the room, growing more and more grim as it went.

The iridescent rainbow sheen of long-spilled oil shimmered among the water, the presumably ancient stains long since dried and evaporated and only still there as a decaying slick among the rubble. Here and there, equally ancient bloodstains flecked the walls and debris, rusty red-brown in the dim light of the spider's scanners. A haze of fine dust lay over most everything else, hanging still and nearly unmoving in the mostly sealed room.

Then the spider's tiny lamps came across something else. A section of roof and wall in one corner that had been blown open deliberately from the looks of it, mounds and piles of rubble and debris spilling out into the room in massive heaps and turning into slag and mud after enduring who knew how many years since its destruction. Ruptured and shattered piping and cables lay dangling weakly out of the exposed section of wall. One of them bore old lettering and labeling too far worn and faded to make out any longer, save for an actually engraved symbol of the almost universal 'DANGER, THIS SHIT HOT' warning sign.

"Looks like something got royally messed up," Janning muttered. "Anything in the way of that thing when it got ripped open would've been flash-fried."

"I've seen a man who was too close to a steam vent when pressure was release, once before," Ivan murmured, tapping his pipe against one knee with a grim frown on his face. "It nearly melted his entire face off in a matter of seconds, even while he stumbled away after only an instant of exposure."

"Yeah...pretty much anything would've been completely wrecked," Llang agreed, with a slow nod. "I think even 024 might have some issues, if he took it head-on."

"ONLY IN PROLONGED EXPOSURE," the demolition droid responded, as if offended at the prospect. "MY CONSTRUCTION IS DURABLE ENOUGH TO WITHSTAND HIGH TEMPERATURES IN EVENT OF EMERGENCY."

"Yeah...but not if you were pinned down under Arbiters know how many truckloads of 'oops, all rubble' brand cereal, chief." Janning shook his head. "I know you're tough, big guy, but even you would take a hot minute to dig your way outta there. And if you were being blasted by a nice steam plasma bath the whole time..."

024's camera-eyes slowly turned and rotated, focusing and unfocusing in a rhythmic sequence. "I WOULD NOT HAVE SUFFERED MORE THAN MINOR DAMAGE. BUT IT IS LIKELY I WOULD HAVE BEEN REDUCED TO A MINIMAL POWER STATE, OR BEEN FORCED INTO VENTING MODE TO PURGE EXCESS HEAT AND MOISTURE FROM MY SYSTEMS. THERE IS A 67.3% CHANCE I WOULD HAVE BEEN RENDERED TEMPORARILY INOPERABLE AND GONE OFFLINE."

"And not everyone is built like the trash compactor that tears down brick shithouses." Alyssa briefly looked up, her lone remaining eye glimmering red as she glanced at their large, metal companion. "Most lesser robots, or just about anything living, would've been reduced to a lot worse condition after just a couple seconds of that kind of exposure."

"AFFIRMATIVE." 024 acknowledged.

"Which leads to the question of why on Cevanti anyone would willingly blast open a pipe like that?" Janning scratched at his forehead with one gloved finger. "It doesn't make much sense to me. If it were accidental then maybe I could write it off, but....I think we've all planted enough blasting charges and seen enough walls that have come down with a bad case of explosions to know better, here."

"It certainly does look like this was a deliberate action," Ivan agreed. "The previous damage we saw looked much less....methodical. It was sporadic, littered about the room almost at random, as if by convenience or sheer chance. This, though....was done by one, singular blast, not random damage or errant firepower from some struggle."

"The fun part of all this is...." Alyssa murmured, dropping her eyes back to her wristcom. "....there's somethin' real interesting here. Look real close." She directed the spider onward, creeping closer as it skittered over chunks of rubble and shards of piping. Up and over and around and splashing through a murky puddle until....its lights fell on something unexpected. Something shiny and nearly pure white, covered in a thick film of dust and dirt and moisture, but unmistakably different from its surroundings.

"Whassat?" Janning squinted, leaning forward to get a closer look at the static-filled display monitor. "Another piece of droid wreckage or something?"

"It's a droid of some kind, alright..." Llang muttered, quickly fiddling with her holo-displays and keyboard to try and clean up the image. "I dunno about 'wreckage', though. Doesn't this one seem more or less intact?"

"Intact? It's entirely in one piece!" Ivan cried, his weathered old face splitting into a broad grin. "Look at it....it badly needs some cleaning, but I don't see a scratch on it!"

"IT IS WHOLE AND INTACT. ANY DAMGE IT MAY HAVE SUSTAINED IS NOT EXTERNAL." 024 confirmed, his scanners rotating and extending outward slightly in intense focus. "THIS IS PUZZLING. ITS APPEARANCE SUGGESTS SOME FORM OF PRIMITIVE COMPANION DROID."

Janning flashed a confused look at 024. "The fuck is a companion droid?"

"IF YOU ARE NOT LONELY OR DEPRAVED ENOUGH TO ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER TO THAT," the demolition droid said slowly. "THEN CONSIDER YOURSELF FORTUNATE."

"Alright, alright, alright...." Alyssa stifled a laugh at that. "There's one more thing I wanna point out here, though." She grinned, seeming unusually excited about something or other, as she directed the spider to continue forward, clambering up onto the half-buried droid's chassis and up to its chest. Its tiny lamps and cameras focused on its head and face....

".....what in blazes?" Llang whispered.

"No way...." Janning's eyes went wide.

On the black glass visor that made up the newly-discovered droid's face, beneath the dust and grime, a dim glow of neon yellow light could be seen. A yellow triangle, an exclamation point within, and the words 'ERROR 606' flashing slowly on and off.

"It's still....functional?!" Ivan bellowed.
 
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There had been a flurry of frenzied activity, the moment the realization of what they were all actually seeing finally hit them.

They'd already dug up other stuff from out here before. A few scraps and bits here and there were more recent, but almost everything had been pre-End tech. Some of it had even been salvaged in decent enough condition to be repairable, or scrapped for still useful for parts. In all their company, though, they'd only ever found two pieces of actually still-functioning technology and equipment, across the entire expanse of their search efforts and area. Of course, there were always rumors of plenty of other old and ancient tech found out there, much further from Markov and scattered across the planet, dug up in still functioning condition by much large and better-equipped teams and groups.

The scraggly bunch they worked for were lucky they could range out a couple hundred miles at most. Even that was cutting it dangerously close, and mostly out of desperation from all their other usual spots being picked clean.

So with a revelation like this...they had all scrambled into action.

"You said this place was way down underground, right? Way down below...." Janning idly rubbed at his chin as he studied the map they'd been able to construct of the area, tracing one finger along slowly. "We're lookin' at like four, maybe five sub-basement levels down. If there was still any kind of juice in those power lines, it means there's probably at least a little power left in the rest of the building." He frowned, one eye narrowing slightly. It was a peculiar tic he had, when he noticed something he really didn't like. He blamed it on one or other of the many tiny scars he had on his face, around the non-squinting eye, but it sure didn't stop him from rolling them both like a fool.

Most of the group thought he just did it to be weird.

"Spot something amiss, o great master of sneaking and unlocking?" Alyssa spoke up after letting him stew for several seconds.

"....maybe. It just occurred to me; if there is still power in this place, means there might also still be emergency power. And if that's the case, then any security in place might still be active."

"Security?" Ivan flashed a bold grin, hefting up the massive bulk of his metallic left arm. The colossal limb gave an ominous sound of grinding gears as its fingers curled into a fist the size of an engine block. "You really think a place like this would have anything that would actually be any real obstacle? You worry far too much, Ricard!"

"Listen, Ivan, my dude...." Janning pinched the bridge of his nose with a heavy, groaning sight. "I pick locks. I crack open safes and vaults. I disable security scanners. But what I don't do? Dodge bullets and lasers. I also definitely don't dismantle any angry security drones or rogue sentry bots." He reached behind his back and pulled out a knife, tossing it up and down in his hand. "I stab people and run away, sometimes screaming, if I get into a fight. You feel me, here, big guy?"

"He's a coward," Llang piped up, with an amused grin. "But he's also pragmatic. He isn't a fighter, like you are, Ivan. He'd just get in the way. If we run into any active security or defense measures down there, it'll be mostly up to you and 024."

"I AM NOT DESIGNED FOR COMBAT OPERATIONS."

"Yeah, well, you can still defend yourself if you get shot at, right?" Alyssa patted the disgruntled deconstruction droid on one of his bowling ball-sized shoulder plates. "Besides, just treat anything we run into the same way you'd treat any other old, run down piece of tech. By this point it's gotta be obsolete and in serious need of some deconstruction to clear the way for something new, right?"

024's camera lenses slowly whirred, each one making two full revolutions out of sync with each other as the bulky machine processed this line of reasoning. "AFFIRMATIVE," he finally said, lifting one gargantuan hand as its normal grasping digits retracted into the forearm housing. The now-empty opening slowly rotated to the right, before disgorging a something that looked like a three-fingered, hydraulic pincer. "INFERIOR, OUT OF DATE TECHNOLOGY POSES CLEAR AND PRESENT RISK TO LIFE AND LIMB, AND RAISES POTENTIAL FOR DAMAGING ALREADY POORLY-MAINTAINED STRUCTURE. ADMINISTRATION OF IMMEDIATE DECONSTRUCTION WILL BE COMMENCED UPON SIGHT."

"Alright then." Llang nodded enthusiastically. "Me and Alyssa will hang back here, and keep an eye on things over comms and with her spiders. We'll try and warn you of anything up ahead before you actually run into it."

"I've already got my other three bugs headed back." Alyssa looked down at her wristcom, the flickering green display reflecting in her eye in the dim lighting of their temporary bunker. "They should have already slipped inside by the time you guys hit the door from the surface. Happy hunting down there."

"It's been a while since I got a chance to be part of the action." Ivan rolled his neck, the not-quite-old man's neck popping several times. "Let's hope I haven't gotten too rusty."

"Somehow, something is going to go very wrong down there, I can just....sense it," Janning muttered, patting himself down to make sure all his gear was in its proper place.

"SINCE YOU ANTICIPATE DIFFICULTY, BEGIN THINKING OF BACKUP PLANS BEFORE THAT DIFFICULTY HAPPENS, MEATBAG."

".....thanks, tinhead. I'll keep that in mind." Janning grumbled flatly. "The unexpected can't fuck us all over if we were expecting the unexpected."

"Precisely, my friend!" Ivan boomed, clapping his (thankfully human) hand on his compatriot's shoulder, before striding briskly for the door. "Now let's be off with us!"
 

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"I ever tell you guys I have trying to open locks while getting shot at?!" Janning groaned, wincing with a mostly muted yelp as a bullet or some other distinctly bullet-like projectile impacted the wall inches from his head.

"Several times, my friend!" Ivan bellowed, flexing his titanic metal mitt as he peered briefly out of cover. "How much longer?"

"Just another couple seconds...!" Janning wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead, gritting his teeth. "Alright, big guy, gonna need you to get their full attention for about ten seconds...I gotta hit the main panel over there!"

"AFFIRMATIVE." For all his snippery and flippant comebacks, 024 was nothing if not a tremendously loyal friend. Without so much as batting an eye that he didn't have, the goliath of a walking, talking wrecking ball lumbered out of cover and into the view of the two remaining sentry turrets. Their flickering laser sights immediately zeroed in on the easy target, unleashing a hail of gunfire in the machine's direction.

"I WAS DESIGNED TO WITHSTAND BUILDING COLLAPSES AND INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENTS." 024 spoke up, his colossal frame planting itself squarely in the one avenue of clear sight between the turrets and his much more fleshy and vulnerable to bullets comrade. "YOU WOULD REQUIRE ARMOR-PIERCING AMMUNITION TO EVEN DENT MY CHASSIS."

The turrets slowly spun down at the droid's statement, the targeting lasers sweeping up and down along his immense bulk.

Behind, Janning swiftly crept along in an almost comical high-stepping tip toe, reaching for a ring of keys on his belt. Or well, they looked like keys, but he had always swore by them actually being very high-tech electronic lockpicks. That just happened to also be keyed to act as regular lockpicks. They had to this day never been able to tell if he was full of shit in that regard.

There was a loud droning whine from the turrets, before a heavy KA-CLUNK and their activity lights flashed from red to blue.

"They've changed ammunition types!" Ivan bellowed, stepping out of cover and snatching up a chunk of dislodged masonry the size of a small child. "024, move!" In a blur of black steel and a frenzied screeching chorus of hissing pneumatics and pressurized engine's, the old hunter's massive metal arm whipped up, and pitched the miniature boulder overhand like a shot from a gun. It kicked up a heavy plume of dust as it rocketed across the chamber, and struck with an impact like a car crash; the turret it hit was knocked completely askew, its casing all but completely pulverized and its gun barrels bent into useless wreckage.

It did nothing to the second turret, however, which proceeded to unload its freshly-cycled payload. A somewhat slower rate of fire, but each round now impacted with a heavy sparking boom, plumes of fire and electrical sparks erupting from each bullet hole. The old mechanisms were no longer a perfect shot thankfully, especially with such immense recoil as these heavier rounds seemed to put out, but even so. 024's immense bulk kept him nearly rooted in place for a second too long, the massive demolition machine suffering a line of seven hits across his left side as he lurched out of firing range.

"Got it!" Almost in time with the loud electronic chime announcing the door's opening, a stray explosive round hit the wall behind them, the shower of sparks raining down on a very disgruntled Janning. "Gah! Come on, man!" he shouted, frantically brushing embers and nearly-molted rubble shards off of his cloak. "Get a move on, you two!" the violet-haired thief shouted before bolting toward the opening doors, and in some heretofore unforeseen adroit display of athleticism, he leaped through the barely opened doors with something between a somersault and a twisting spin. He landed on the other side in a crouch, and lurched into a hasty scramble to frantically throw himself through a half-open doorway nearby.

"Guys, watch your asses! We got guard bots in here!" he hollered back.

"Wonders never cease, do they?!" Ivan roared, as he swung his mighty fist in a raking arc along the floor and a nearby chunk of rubble, throwing up an immense cloud of dust he used to make his own mad dash for the now open doors. "Thankfully they really skimped on the security here; these things only have a visual feed on their scanners!"

"A BUDGET-MINDED DEFENSE IS A POOR DEFENSE." 024 announced as he tromped after his fellows, seeming utterly unperturbed by the several new sparking ventilation holes he had gained in the brief scuffle. As he strode through the doorway, his optics scanned the sight before him and he let out a noise somewhere between electronic interference and a disgruntled sigh. "THESE DEFENSE DROIDS ARE INACTIVE."

Ivan whirled around in the doorway, raising his gargantuan metal arm and pointing the fist at the remaining turret. Using the gleaming, searching source of its laser targeter to line up his own attack....the knuckles of his hand popped open, revealing an array of gun barrels that unleashed a quick salvo of fire. Most of the shots went wide, the weapon never really intended for any kind of accuracy, but enough hit home to produce a shower of sparks and the targeting laser went dark. A grin etching onto his face, he closed the concealed firearm and turned back to his allies.

"Inactive, eh?" the old hunter grumbled. "Think they're in decent enough condition to bother hauling back with us?"

"NEGATIVE." 024 tromped forward, undaunted, toward the quartet of inactive defense droids. "THEY HAVE BEEN RENDERED INOPERABLE BY DAMAGE." He lifted one claw-fingered hand, prodding the nearest one with a single finger. Almost comically it shuddered and tipped over, crashing to the ground in a heap. "A BRIEF DIAGNOSTIC SHOWS SINGS OF SEVERE ELECTRICAL DAMAGE. THEY WERE AFFECTED BY AN EMP DISCHARGE."

"EMP?" Janning poked his head out of the room he had ducked into, one eyebrow raising up in an inquisitive arch. "Like....magnetism and stuff?"

"Electromagnetic pulse," Ivan confirmed. "It's designed to interfere with electronics. Depending on its source, relative frequency, duration and strength...it can either simply interfere with operation and reduce performance, force them into a shutdown state, or cause enough damage to permanently render components inoperable."

"Huh..." Janning rubbed at his chin, casting a weather eye over the incapacitated droids. "And just from lookin' at em from the outside....you'd never know anything was wrong."

"EMP WEAPONRY IS ONE THING MOST ROBOTS FEAR." 024 announced. "EVEN THOSE WHO ARE NOT PROGRAMMED TO FEEL FEAR."

"......that's real terrifying, big guy," Janning muttered, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "How do you make something that doesn't comprehend fear feel fear?"

"That's something we may never really know," Ivan spoke up. "I've always personally thought of it as the same kind of instance as everything that lives instinctively fearing their own death, even if they don't really understand what it means to die."

"THAT IS NOT AN ENTIRELY INCORRECT APPROXIMATION." 024 turned away from the piles of worthless EMP-fried scrap. "IT IS NOT COMPLETELY ACCURATE. BUT IT IS SUFFICIENT TO TERMINATE THIS DISCOURSE. WE HAVE WORK TO DO."

"Sure, sure, big guy." Janning chuckled, shaking his head. "We can ponder the deep issues of robot mortality later."

"IF YOU DO NOT IMMEDIATELY DECREASE YOUR SNARK LEVELS, I WILL PONDER THE DURATION YOU CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT OXYGEN BEFORE YOUR SKIN MATCHES HUE WITH YOUR FOLLICLES."
 
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"So, uh....problem." Janning squatted in the doorway of what was, at once time, an elevator, his toes precariously dangling over the edge as he squinted down into the gloom, shining a small flashlight down into the depths.

"THE ELEVATOR IS MISSING." 024 loomed over his larceny-minded compatriot, seeming utterly nonplussed at this discovery. "THIS COMPLICATES THINGS."

"Maybe a little. Shaft looks clear enough, nothin' obvious that'd be a problem, but light ain't makin' it all the way down to the bottom. From what the lovely ladies dug up for us, it should only be three levels down from here, but..." Janning rubbed at his chin with the butt of his flashlight for a moment before reaching behind his back and plucking out something, delicately holding it between two fingers. It shimmered and gleamed in the dim light, softly pulsing and swirling through myriad hues of rainbow color. "Let's make sure of that before we go parachute-free base jumping, shall we?"

"What've you got there, friend?" Ivan leaned over curiously, peering at the glimmering object. It appeared nothing more than a chunk of glass or some flawed gemstone, perhaps the size of a golf ball, roughly cut but all its edges ground and worn smooth. Save for the dim twinkling of light at its core, it seemed entirely unremarkable.

"Oh, just a little trinket I picked up from an old traveling merchant friend," the thief murmured. With a dextrous roll of the shimmering stone between his fingers, he propped it up on one curled thumb. "Ears open, now, gentlemen," he muttered, and flipped the stone off into the elevator shaft. It left a trail of twinkling motes of light as it tumbled down into the gloom before....eventually it landed with a distinct, ringing sound of shattering glass interspersed with a whispering and echoing screaming, somewhere in the darkness down below. The noise made Janning grimace, shaking his head.

"Noooot....what I wanted to hear."

"EXPLAIN THE MEANING OF YOUR WOEFULLY NON-TECHNLOGICAL SHENANIGANS, MEATBAG." 024's looming grew positively uncomfortable, as his sensors zeroed in to practically bore a hole through the back of Janning's head.

"Relax, relax, big guy. Yeeeesh." Janning straightened up, shuffling back from the edge. "It's called a prism stone. They constantly emit that sparkling light you saw, no matter what, and feel nice and pleasantly warm to the touch. It isn't magic, or anything like that, just...sort of a thing that happens." He gave a faint shrug, palms upward, with a shake of his head. "More importantly, though...they tend to break real easy, with even a decently solid tap or a bit of force. Drop 'em from just a few feet and they'll crack, with this nice little musical tinkling sound. Hold onto 'em for a while, though, and they...attune to yourself. Once they do, if you drop 'em from too high, well...." And he gestured down into the void of the elevator shaft.

Ivan curled one eyebrow up, stroking his beard between his thumb and finger. "By 'too high', I would assume...you mean a height that would prove hazardous to you?"

"Bingo, big man." Janning grinned, flashing a quick one-two finger gun 'bang bang' at his much larger ally. "It doesn't necessarily mean it's fatal...but it isn't gonna be a pleasant landing."

"So are we at an impasse, then?"

"NEGATIVE. THE ELEVATOR CABLES APPEAR TO STILL BE INTACT." 024 tromped up to the edge of the ledge, anchoring himself in place by latching one of the industrial metal shredders he called hands onto one side of the doorway, and swinging himself partially out into the void. A series of sharp clicking noises from his head, and it slid upward several inches with a soft hiss, rotating freely about so his optics could scan the entire shaft. "STRUCTURALLY IT APPEARS INTACT. I CAN GRASP THE CABLES AND LOWER US DOWN SAFELY."

"And how'd we go about getting back up again, tinhead?" Janning crossed his arms, one of his eyes squeezing into a disgruntled squint.

"I WILL ENSURE THE CABLE IS LOWERED WITH US. YOU TWO MEATBAGS WILL GO CONDUCT THE SALVAGE OPERATION, WHILE I PERFORM BASIC REPAIRS TO RE-ATTACH THE CABLING TO WHATEVER REMAINS OF THE ELEVATOR CAR."

"Then when we're done, you'll just haul us back up, is that it?" Ivan grimaced, visibly not exactly delighted at the idea. "You sure you can manage something like that?"

"MY REPAIRS WILL NOT BE UP TO CODE, OR STAND TO LAST VERY LONG." 024 admitted bluntly. "FORTUNATELY, HOWEVER, THEY WILL NOT NEED TO. A FEW MINUTES WILL SUFFICE FOR OUR PURPOSES."

"I want to go on record that this is a terrible idea," Janning groaned.

"If you don't like it, you could always try coming up with a plan yourself, lilac." Over their comms, Lang's voice cut in, only rendered slightly incomprehensible by static.

"Cut me some slack here, Llang! These two haven't even given me a minute to think!"

"We can give you one, if you'd like," Ivan mused.

"WE CAN EVEN GIVE YOU THREE, IF IT GIVES YOUR MEATBAG BRAIN EXTRA TIME TO PROCESS IN ALL ITS INEFFICIENCY."

"Maybe a quick break would do you all some good, anyway," Lang added. "Take five, guys. Come up with another plan or two. Having extra options in your hand never hurts, y'know?"

"If Eggplant down there doesn't come up with anything brilliant, y'all owe me fifty creds!" Alyssa chimed in.

Janning pinched the bridge of his nose, while everyone else involved broke into a chorus of quiet laughter. "......I hate all of you."
 

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"......friend," Ivan rumbled, after standing in silence and just watching for several silent seconds. "I have a great many questions about what you're up to right now, but I have a feeling you'd just dodge most of them. So I'll only bother with one. Where, in the name of the great gray wastes, were you keeping that?"

Janning, as he knelt down near the edge of the indisposed elevator shaft, was working carefully at something or other. Looked almost like a climbing kit, with all the belts and hooks and bolts, but...it just didn't quite line up. Not with the way he was anchoring it into place on the doorframe and what was left of the elevator cables.

"That, my great big bearded friend," the would-be master thief finally spoke up after a solid ten seconds of muffled swear-filled work, "is what we call a trade secret. But since we work so closely, I can let you in on at least a hint..." He stood up, dusting his hands off and turned to look at his much larger compatriot with a grin. "I have very deep pockets."

"POCKETS OF ANY DEPTH POSSIBLE TO FIT ON YOUR PERSON WOULD NOT ALLOW YOU TO CARRY THAT MUCH MASS. CEASE THIS SMUG PLAYFULNESS AND EXPLAIN YOURSELF PROPERLY, AT ONCE." As always, 024 was not amused.

"Sorry, but afraid I can't. It really is one of the only secrets I have left." Janning shrugged helplessly, a brief look of genuine apology flitting across his face. "We all have our little secrets about our real skills and where they came from. Where I keep all my lovely little trinkets, gizmos and toys is mine, alright?"

"IT IS NOT ALRIGHT, BUT YOU ARE ENTITLED TO YOUR SECRETS."

"I suppose I can understand that much, at least," Ivan relented. "Far be it from me to be the one to press anyone here on how they do what they do. You've been kind enough to not badger me about my greatest contribution." He flexed his massive metal mitt for emphasis, the groaning of gears and servos announcing itself quite pointedly in the otherwise silent stillness of the subterranean room.

"Riiiiiight, so anyway!" Janning turned back to the elevator shaft. "This thing works more or less like a zipline. Except, you know....it's powered. Goes up and down, instead of just letting gravity and momentum carry you across a big gap or something." He stepped up to the edge, pulling a clip and handle from his belt. "Grab on to the handle and hold on tight; it'll slow you down enough to not break anything on the landing. Should even be enough to support our big metal pal, here."

"WHY DID YOU NOT SIMPLY DEPLOY THIS DEVICE AT THE OUTSET? WE HAVE WASTED TIME PLANNING HOW TO GET SAFELY DOWN."

"I don't like to reveal my tricks if I don't have to, okay?" Janning heaved an exasperated sigh. "The more stuff I show off and pull out of my back pocket, the less I have left in reserve in case of an emergency." He shook his head, and stepped back off the edge. "Handle will come back up once I hit the bottom. See you guys down below!" In a flash, with only the grinding and whizzing noise of the handle on cable, he dropped out of sight into the depths of the elevator shaft.

"Sometimes I swear he just does that for dramatic tension," Llang spoke up over comms. "He just like to be the hero sometimes, in whatever little ways he can. Let him have his moment."
 

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The entire complex, or facility, or whatever you wanted to call it, almost seemed to dead end in the room they finally reached. The room where their "prize" was laying half-buried in the dust and rubble. It was pitch-black down here, lit only by the flickering light of glow-lamps and the red glare of 024's sweeping vision. When not viewed through the crackling screen of Alyssa's little spiders, the entire place took on a somehow...incredibly disturbing cast. There had been that layer of disconnect before, just watching, and it didn't quite carry across the sheer...feeling of the place.

The combination of dust and rust blanketing everything, the distant sputtering of some blown-out wire still struggling to somehow transmit emergency power, the quiet plink of water or some other fluid dripping somewhere among the darkness. The smell of blood and rust and oil, the old faint tinges of decay and rot, swirling among the mist and dust stirred up by their passage. It made the entire place feel all too unsettlingly like a tomb. The fact that it seemed no one had so much as set foot in here in who even knew how long only added to the pervasive feeling of something being very, very wrong. Like something terrible was about to happen, even when you knew that it was perfectly safe.

The only things down here were the three of them, piles and piles of rubble and useless wreckage, too many bodies and corpses to bother counting, and their prize.

The latter of which finally, slowly wavered into view ahead of them. Half-buried in rubble, covered in thick layers of dust and undisturbed for....umpteen hundred years, at least.

"Anybody else beginning to get a real pharaoh's curse feeling about this whole thing?" Janning muttered, squatting down next to the mysterious droid in the detritus. "Don't get me wrong, I'm with everybody else on this one. The kinda payday we'll get for unearthing somethin' like this would set us up for years, at least, but..." He frowned, his fingers cupping his chin as he squinted at the sight before them all.

"You're being paranoid again, lilac," Llang chimed in over comms. "Sometimes, even things that seem too good to be true can actually be true."

"This place's been picked over so many times before it's a miracle that no one else found this thing, I won't lie,"
Alyssa added. "But hey, this isn't the first one in a quadrillion chance we've heard of in our line of work. Remember about Dougan, a few years back? Him and his crew were trekking back through territory they'd already picked clean, after that incident with an akata nest...and bam, freak storm out of nowhere. Lightning strike shattered a building on top of 'em, triggered a landslide, washed 'em into a cave."

"A cave that turned out to be an until-then lost and forgotten military installation, yeah," Janning grumbled. "I know. I remember. Place was locked down tighter than Aria's personal vaults, but the inside was completely untouched since it was locked up."

"DO NOT FORGET THAT DOUGAN WAS KILLED FOR HIS DISCOVERY." 024 reminded the group why he was the professional mood-killer. "HE WAS UNABLE TO KEEP HIS ALCOHOL-LUBRICATED MEATBAG LIPS FROM SPEWING ITS SECRET TO ANYONE WHO WOULD LISTEN, IN SPITE OF THE GENEROUS PAYMENTS AND FINDER'S FEES TO BUY HIS SILENCE."

"Well, solution to that is, just don't be a dumb-dumb Dougan!" Llang said cheerfully. "Besides, this is just one robot, with nothing else here. We can ID this thing and sell if off, and then it's out of our hands altogether. Even if we did blab about it, not like it'd mean anything to anyone."

"Okay, okay, already!" Janning groaned. "Fine....guess it's not like this is some secret production facility or something, anyway. Let's get this thing and get outta here already." And he shook his head, hopping back up to his feet and stepping down from the pile of rubble. "Do your thing, big guy." He patted 024's shoulder.

"AFFIRMATIVE."

The goliath of a droid lumbered forward, crushing chunks of rubble into powder under his tread as he stepped up the pile of debris. With all the ease of sweeping up piles of dust with a broom, his colossal pincers for hands brushed and tossed aside the chunks of stone and metalwork partially burying their prize. Moments later, a blast of compressed air from a nozzle in his wrist dealt with the layers of dust promising a gas bombing for any unwary fools who tried to move it otherwise.

"That's enough for now, friend," Ivan spoke up. "We can finish any further cleaning when we're back at base. No sense getting it all prettied up here, when we don't even have the equipment to do a proper scan."

"AS YOU WISH, MEATBAG."

024 drew up to his full height, and shifted one of his arms out into a stark perpendicular angle, his metal-shearing mitt rotating and withdrawing into his forearm to be replaced seconds later by what looked quite like the grasping claw of some infuriating arcade-addict's nightmares. It slowly rotated down to dangle below his outstretched arm, as he swung himself around to let the claw dangle over their unearthed prize. It dropped down with a soft chunk of releasing gears, and opened its blunted teeth to capture the long-abandoned droid's torso in its loose embrace. A beat later, the claw closed in to grasp more tightly to the comparatively tiny machine and haul it slowly up off the ground.

"Man...they put in way too much work on this thing," Janning muttered. "Look at it just...dangling there. If it weren't for all the plastic white, metal and caution tape...." He trailed off with a disgruntled frown.

"It does have a rather stark resemblance to a human," Ivan rumbled. "Perhaps that was an intentional choice on the part of the designers."

"USING THE OUTWARD DESIGN OF A COMPANION DROID AS A MASK FOR OTHER MODELS WAS NOT AN UNCOMMON PRACTICE." 024 chimed in before turning to start his lumbering tread back toward the elevator shaft leading them on their exit of this place.

Janning hung back for a moment, looking equal parts flabbergasted and frustrated. There were way too many things he wanted to say and ask in that moment, but as he finally let out a sigh and jogged after his pals, the only one that he whispered out was, "Seriously, the heck is a companion droid?"
 

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The ascent back up was somewhat slower than the trip down. The added bulk of a floppy plastic and metal noodle doing its best to be an uncooperative person-shaped annoyance complicated things. Wisely deciding to let 024 make the trip back up first, to ensure there was as much strength left in the system as could be, Janning and Ivan waited for the all clear from above.

"You really think this thing is even gonna be worth it?" Janning muttered after a few seconds too long of intense near-silence.

"What do you mean?" Ivan had taken to leaning against the wall, his pipe resting at his teeth as smoke gently drifted in wispy curls from the bowl.

"I just mean...look, don't get me wrong, whatever that thing is it's gonna be worth somethin', that much is clear," the violet-haired thief turned about, restlessly pacing in the narrow confines of the elevator shaft. "But like...what is it? I'm no robot expert or anything, but have you ever seen anything like it?"

"I'm less knowledgeably about robots and machinery than even you are, friend," the burly old man rumbled, with a shake of his head. "It's as much a mystery to me as any other."

"Ugh..." Janning pinched the bridge of his nose. "That's my point, man... If we can't identify what it is, then we won't really know how much it's worth to know if we're gettin' ripped off or not!"

"Don't you worry about that any, champ," Llang cut in over their comms. "With it still being functional, between me and little miss spyders over here we can at least figure out who made the thing, and work from there."

"Yeah, but..."

"We're already on the way out of this one, lilac," Alyssa cut him off abruptly. "This thing is old as all get out, maybe even predating The End. That much alone would be worth a whole pile of cash, even to just some smarmy collector who wants a pretty piece of tech to lock up in a big glass box and show off to all his other rich pals and their fuckbuddies. Don't sweat more details than that!"

"...yeah." The thief hunched his shoulders, an uncertain look still on his face. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Even if we don't get the full value of this thing, whatever that'd be, we'll still be walking away with enough to be set for a good long while."

"That's the spirit, friend," Ivan boomed. "It isn't like you to be so hesitant when a payday is looming like this."

"I just dunno." Janning scowled darkly, looking back into the room they'd retrieved the robot from. "Something about this just doesn't feel...right. I can't for the life of my put my finger on what, but I've had the heebies, the jeebies, the creepies and the crawlies since we set foot in here, man..."

"Alright, alright..." Llang heaved a heavy sigh. "If it'll make you feel any better, we'll slap an EMP inhibitor on the thing as soon as you get it back topside, and we'll run a full root level system scan once we're back at base to make sure there's nothing...off about it, okay?"

"What?! But that'll take, like, days!" Alyssa whined, audibly banging something against a wall.

"I know, I know. It's a major pain, alright. But we don't keep Janning around just for his good looks and black belt in lockpicking, remember?"

"I've never met someone with such a well-developed survival instinct and sense for danger." Ivan tapped his pipe against the wall, the tiny clinking sound reverberating ominously in the confined space. "I've seen it before...in soldiers and people who have survived facing down certain death. But it was never honed quite like our friend's, here. It's a special kind of gift." He stepped forward, reaching his massive metal mitt up for the anchor point on the rappelling wire as it slid back down into view from above. "It's saved all our skins before, never forget."

The titan of a man flexed his knees and was off like a shot, zipping up the line with a high-pitched whining of the motors working, until he vanished into the dark.

"I'm not tryin' to be a buzzkill here, you guys, I swear." Janning ran both hands through his hair, pacing all the more fervently now that he was alone. "But I'm tellin' you, there is somethin' majorly wrong here. Ever since we got down to the level above this one I been getting this uneasy feeling, deep down in the pit of my gut. I don't know what it is, it's like...not like we're being watched, exactly. But like something bad is about to come crawling out from around a corner at any second."

For a mercifully long moment, there was no sass forthcoming from either of the two lovely ladies of their squad.

"...sorry, lilac," came Alyssa's eventual response. "I'm not trying to make light of you. It's just...there's a payday like this sitting right under our nose. It gets me antsy. I don't wanna sit on it any longer than we absolutely gotta, you feel me?"

"Don't get me wrong, I get you." Janning grimaced, as he heard the high-pitched whine of the line coming back down. "Like I said...I'm as eager about this payout as any of us. It just doesn't sit right. I couldn't for the life of me tell you why." He knelt down to wrench the bottom anchor loose, and grabbed the handle. "Might just be the atmosphere of this place. Kinda feels like a fuckin' tomb down here..." He zipped on up, out of the dank basement level and up to where his friends were waiting.

He reached the top of the shaft and had barely put his boot on the edge, still hauling himself up onto solid ground. "Glad to be done with..." He trailed off, his eyes lifting up to find himself face to face with their newest find. His kneeling posture, already at a lower height, had him at eye level with the thing even as it hung there limply in 024's grasp. The big hulking machine's lack of acknowledgement of personal space had him standing close enough to the doors that its face was hovering at a distance you could measure in inches, if you wanted to be dramatic.

And its mouth was hanging open, probably jostled from being lugged around as it was. Gleaming wet, slick with something in spite of however many years had passed. A disturbingly human-like set of teeth, though showing far too many sharpened points glinting in the dim light of 024's sensors and lights. Her vacant expression almost seemed locked into a sinister, teeth-bearing smirk with the way she hung there limply.

Worst of all though, the bizarre visor that made up her face where the eyes should be. Janning swore it said something else before. Some kind of error message, right? It had said...said...

He blinked, something icy settling into the pit of his stomach. Regardless of what it had said before, it had also been a different color before. A bright, clear and unmistakable red. A bright, neon yellow glow now stared back at him, a sideways X burning brightly. A dull noise, harsh and grating, like electronic feedback from a microphone rang in his ears as his entire field of view filled with a burning glare of neon yellow. Blood rushed in his ears, as he yelled something, he was sure. His footing slipped, the ancient stone and rusted metal cracking under his boot and his nerveless, panicking fingers let go of the rappelling line and went for the knives at his belt.

He felt the world turn and seem to spin wildly around him, as everything went black again.
 
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