“So… remind me again how this got here without any of you noticing?”
Jericho is standing in a field outside his Factory on Taniguchi lands. This hand been a very large, very open field covered in green gress and flowers slowly fading as summer gives way to autumn. It had been, in a word, empty.
It isn’t now.
Rising from field is a gleaming white complex of what look like connected buildings arranged symmetrically around a single spire that is easily the tallest structure around for miles. The complex dwarfs the factory.
And it hadn’t been there when Jericho went to bed.
“Uh, we don’t know sir. Night guards didn’t report anything. Only when it started getting light did we notice…”
It’s been quiet in the several hours since it was discovered half a mile from the Factory front gates. And the front door – or what appears to be the front door is open.
“Alright. Secure a perimeter…” Clearly, the Baronet intends to have a look inside.
Natsu stands beside just staring at the fortress, cocking her head from side to side. “We didn’t hear a thing …” she murmurs to the Baronet. “How … just how could something like this be created so quickly and so … quietly.”
The Factory had been quick to build in the scheme of things but even that took time.
“I’m coming with you …” she says rather quickly as he mentions the perimeter. He had called her impulsive not long ago, afterwards.
“-what the hell is that?!”
The exclamation comes from the cyborg man casually strolling across the field, brimmed hat tilted at a jaunty angle and snug over his orange and gray-plated head. He’d just come in from a patrol, but it’s probably not an unusual thing for him to opt for the graveyard shift given that he doesn’t need to catch any shut-eye.
If that ain’t the weirdest lawn ornament– but then again it probably isn’t, and given the reaction from Trent and his men, it definitely bears some looking into. Baldur quickens his pace as he catches sight of the Factor and Natsuki, tossing a hand in the air to wave. Ooh, they going inside? He wants to see too!!
Having arrived at sunrise with a shipment of delicate parts for the Factory, she happened to be arriving just as the Taniguchi guards noticed the strange new feature. Thus, when Trent decides he’s going to do something about the structure, her only reaction is to take a breath, then turn to truck and pull one of the rifles she keeps in the back for trouble along the roads.
She then digs into the storage under the back seat of her truck’s cab and spends another moment buckling on a belt with a gun holster and knife sheath attached. Both get filled and she steps over toward the Baronet. She doesn’t say it, but her actions make it clear that she’s not letting him OR Natsuki approach that structure without proper backup.
Stella had an H shaped piece of ‘scrap’ that had proven rather troublesome some time ago. It chooses this moment to make a reappearance, materializing in front of Stella floating and gleaming, blue light playing over it’s pristine white surface.
Jericho blinks. “That thing again?” It had been related to the Puma bots. Is it related to this?
And are the two related to each other?
Looks like Bridger, Natsuki and Baldur are all coming with him. The Baronet motions to his people to spread out and strides toward the entrance.
Just in side is where the little group hits its first snag. The doorway they enter leads to a wide, oval room. As they move, things begin to light up. Glowing neon holosigns point both straight ahead toward a hallway that heads toward the central spire and to the left and right toward passages that seem to arc around the edge of the complex.
“Huh… where to…”
“I … thought you got rid of that…” Natsu glance back towards the Factory where the two Pumas are housed for the moment. That piece had been embedded in her bot, Sparkles, she thought.
Moving slowly next to Jericho, she casts a grin at Baldur “Exciting isn’t it?” she asks. “This makes a nice change to the bookwork that I had to do this morning.” She’re reading the signs as they appear though and stops to frown at them. “That. That’s the language Sparkles AI uses.” It’s old english, so mostly recognisable. “And that … is the language that Lady Zelda’s bot uses.” Quebecois french. “I can’t read that but that one, I can read. CIC … through that hallway. I wonder what that is.”
If no one stops her, the part-elf is going that way.
Stella stops up short when that damned piece of scrap appears in front of her. AGAIN. “Seriously?” She glares at the thing for a moment, then shoulders her rifle and snags it out of the air with an annoyed gesture.
Once inside the structure she looks around at all the glowing and gleaming, and she really dislikes it. Intensely. But, with her left hand on the holstered sidearm, she moves cautiously toward …
“What is ‘Sparkles AI’?” She stares after Natsuki for a moment, then shakes her head and detours from what the smaller woman is looking at to study a section of wall. Then she looks at the piece of scrap in her hand, at the wall again, and reaches to fit the H-shaped object into a small indentation that seems eerily just right.
Baldur tips his hat towards Stella as she comes to join them. He pauses at the entrance, looking up at the thing before proceeding inside after Jericho and Natsuki’s lead.
“Soooo shiny,” he says, glancing about. He grins back at Natsuki, nodding in agreement. “So this thingy just…what, appeared outta nowhere?” he asks, looking from top to bottom, scuffing the toe of a boot on the floor.
“Reminds me of those fancy tech benches. Not a speck’a dust. …feel kinda bad about steppin’ in here after I’ve been trecking around in the dirt all night.”
He looks at the signs as Jericho wonders which way they’re to head, shrugging even as Natsuki reads them off. “Beats me. Close your eyes and pick a direction?” Because that always works.
“Exciting is not quite what I… wait. It’s in the language of the Puma bots?” That does argue very heavily toward this place being related to them. But what… is this the ‘command center’ that it had been repeatedly demanded that they report to?
Baldur has been tracking dirt. Or at least he should have been. He’s been in the mud. Jericho looks behind him though when the big metal man mentions it and… frowns. “There’s nothing on the floor.”
The floor is indeed spotless. As if it’d been cleaned after Baldur stepped there.
“I don’t really know which way we should…”
Stella’s experiment causes the lights to brighten… considerably. “Command key detected.” A woman’s voice says from everywhere and nowhere. “Please proceed down the indicated path.”
Guide lights on the floor begin to blink down the central path, the one Natsuki had said was labelled CIC.
“Please beware of malfunctioning maintenance drones.”
“What on earth-” Jericho gets hit in the face with something… Soapy water. He blinks.
“The hell?” There’s a little two engine drone with what looks like a small scale water cannon slung underneath him. It fires again and this time Jericho ducks as it does, a small servo arm unfolding with what looks like a sand paper belt as it floats forward.
“Sparkles is the Puma bot that adopted me.” Natsu says to Stella. “The AI, Artificial Intelligence, uses that language. The other Puma we found, that’s Jerichos’ and I’m calling it Bubbles.” This from the woman who called his first Mech ‘George’. Of course, she’s probably just waiting for Jericho to call them something … better.
“Mmmhmmm…” Natsu murmurs to Jericho, already on her way down that corridor. That probably saved her from a faceful of water. She does laugh though as the Baronet gets hit but soon sobers. “Uh. Can you dodge it?” Or does malfunctioning mean ‘dangerous’?
Malfunctioning to Stella means ‘not working right’, and in the racing world, not working right equals potentially lethal. Pulling the H-scrap from the spot on the wall, she moves to follow the others with her hand still on her pistol.
Jericho getting water-cannoned only encourages her to be more alert to their surroundings and she sidles past the sandpaper-handed drone into the corridor that Natsuki had originally pointed out.
“Let me guess,” she says to Natsuki. “You’re picking the worst names possible force someone else to come up with proper names.” She looks around the corridor warily. This place is just too … white. It’s making her twitchy.
“What now?” Baldur blinks and then looks down and back as well. “Uh. Okay. Anyone else think that’s creepy?”
He glances up at the voice that speaks up, belonging to neither Stella nor Natsuki. “Okay, if the disappearing dirt wasn’t creepy, then -that- definitely was,” he says. But hey, at least they know where to head next?
“-waaaaait, what? How many cats have you found? This is aside from your sister’s, right? When do I get me one?” He’s mostly kidding. Maybe.
‘Malfunctioning’ is a word that the cyborg’s come to take extreme offense to, and for a moment he thinks the voice is insulting him, at least until Jericho finds himself assaulted by soap water. Orange optics open and close, and before he can say something else, he finds himself the next target as the Factor ducks.
“Ack! Not in the face!” he sputters, stepping back and yanking off his hat off to shake water from it. One of his gun’s are out, snagged by his free hand, spun, cocked and aimed at the drone as it arms itself. And he is totally shooting the thing, the loud crack of the old-fashioned gunpowder gun always a satisfying sound to him.
“She is doing exactly that. And I think I’ve got it Suki…” Jericho grabs the little flyer, turns it over and finds the power pack. One pulled out pack later it won’t be soaping his face again. “There. All good.”
Surely if these are the maintenance bots that’s the worst of it.
The hallway is actually quite long and made of either glass or some kind of transparent metal that shows what… looks like were supposed to be gardens. They’re not especially well tended. They’re manicured to be sure, there’s lots of grass and shrubbery but where there are supposed to be trees or flowers, there’s only dirt. Eventually the hallway – which goes on for quite a ways – dumps them out into a larger ante chamber that seems to be an elevator cluster.
“Hrm.” The hacker hits the call button and watches as a car comes down.
“Does… anyone else hear hissing?” The door opens and a very large, very burly floating bot with several welding torches on the ends of various extremities is revealed as the doors open.
The bot turns and makes a deep thrumming sound as all of it’s welders spark to life and it charges at a speed that can only be described as reckless into the room.
At the same time a terminal lights up behind Natsuki. “Do not be alarmed Lieutenant Taniguchi. The Maintenance Bots are ERROR 404 WORK FILE NOT FOUND. They will only be a moment while the obstruction in front of you is cleared.”
Jericho. Jericho and Baldur are the ‘obstruction’.
Natsu looks oh-so-innocently at Stella when the transporter asks that question. “What makes you think that, Miss Bridger…” She really doesn’t think the names are appropriate but she’s enjoying teasing Jericho with it none-the-less.
“My hero…” she sighs slightly dramatically as Jericho ‘bests’ the drone. Oh, she’s enjoying this, way too much.
“My cousin, Baldur, Lady Zelda has one, yes. But two more showed up recently. One would only recognise me as the pilot but I managed to get the second to recognise Jericho.” So yes, Natsu is now … mech pilot.
And then there’s the hissing and the new little bot. “What?” she turns to face the console. “Jericho! You were given command of things, tell it to stop!” She says as she scans the console, not yet just stabbing at button but she’s close to doing that.
It hasn’t quite occurred to her that this is … might be some sort of command centre.
Bridge shoots Baldur a very brief glare when he pulls his gun on what is essentially an automated mop, but Jericho took care of the floating drone quickly enough so she leaves it at that. The walk through the corridor is, well, bizarre. It almost feels like this entire set up was designed to exist on a surface very different from normal lands like the Taniguchi grounds.
Then the welding bot starts to rampage. She yanks Jericho by the arm to put him behind herself and holds up the H-scrap in her left hand. “STOP! Full shutdown, now!”
If the thing happens to burn her left arm, it’ll still hurt like hell, but at least it’ll be easily repaired. She really doesn’t want to risk losing ANOTHER arm. The first one was traumatic enough.
Baldur looks a bit put out as he eases his finger from the trigger but a split-second before he could accidentally shoot Jericho instead. “Hell, Factor, you’re gonna end up with a hole in you if you go grabbin’ things I’m targeting,” he mutters, spinning his gun about before tucking it back into its holster.
He gives Stella a shrug. The place is creepy, admit it! Who knows what that thing woulda done if it wasn’t working properly?
As they continue on, things look less and less interesting, if only because it’s all so neat and clinical. The dirt is an odd touch, but given he’s used to the layouts of the Taniguchi gardens, he knows what’s missing when he sees it.
That ‘hissing’ sound that Jericho points out has the old cyborg grabbing his gun again, and not the old bullet-firing one at that. He’s already got it trained as the doors to the elevator opens and another floaty thing emerges.
“Can I shoot this one?” he asks, but with the thing seeming quite intent on them and -definitely- not as… well in his mind he still doesn’t believe the earlier one harmless– he’s pulling the trigger several times. “I’ll clear -you-!”
“Shut down now!” Jericho tries it like Stella but it doesn’t work for him.
Baldur… it’s a good thing that he can’t really feel pain. Well he can but it’s less than might otherwise be the case. Much less. Jericho ‘bravely’ ducks behind the big metal man and pulls a vibro-sword to come at it from the other angle but while he’s doing that Baldur shoots two of the welding arms off. Which is good but two more pin his left arm and weld it to his side.
Then Stella shouts. The thing turns and looks at her while trying to weld Baldur’s legs together (it’s not going well). It’s sensors focus on the H-Shaped piece of metal.
“Initiating shut down Liuetenant Br- ERROR! SHUT DOWN PROGRAM MAY BE CORRUPTED. PLEASE REINSTALL SHUT DOWN DRIVERS FROM THE ORIGINAL DISK! THANK YOU FOR USING MICROSOFT WINDOWS 2050.”
“The work bots haven’t had updates since service pack 25.” The hologram informs Natsuki. There is a shutter on the terminal that looks just about big enough to be hiding one of those ‘keyholes’ for the piece of metal but… someone would have to open it. Someone with command authorization.
“The windows haven’t been updated? Those bots don’t have windows…” Natsu says, very confused, eyes widening as Baldur is attacked. “Well that’s not good! Miss Bridger …” the part-elf gestures to the shutter “Open that access port, hologram. Allow Lieutenant Bridge access.” she says as she starts to hunt around for a power conduit.
“I’m going to try … rebooting it… If I can find the power point that is.”
Gods, she did NOT want to have to do this. She tries to mentally ‘link’ to the H-scrap and use that to send a full system shutdown command, and at the same time rushes over to where Natsuki is gesturing. If that shutter doesn’t open on its own, she’ll RIP it clear with her left hand. That thing is WELDING Baldur.
What was something her parents used to claim was an old saying? Oh, right. “End task, force close… just STOP already!”
“Yeah! How d’ya like th– Oh -fraggit- OW!” Baldur’s optics flare brightly as he grabs his antique weapon again, trying to angle it for a good shot at the offending drone. “You’re ruining the leather! You know how long it took to tool all that?! I’mma put a bullet in your processor, I swear–”
He’s about to fall over as his legs nearly get tangled up by the thing’s remaining arms, snapping a kick at it. You never do appreciate having two arms for balance until you realize that in cases like these it can make all the difference. He goes stumbling towards Jericho as he tries to right himself and only ends up awkwardly jerking a shoulder. “Dangit!”
Hold him steady, Trent, he’s still trying to kick at the thing to keep it off’a him! Or at least until he can get it targeted so he can make good on his earlier threat if the ladies can’t shut the thing down the other way.
Jericho comes around and lops off another welding arm with mechanical precision then has to dance away from the sparky, flame-y retribution. He can’t get welded the same way Baldur can. That’s three arms down but this thing had eight to start with and that leaves it with still more than both Jericho and Baldur put together.
Now it’s trying to weld Baldur’s mouth shut. Maybe it doesn’t like his language. The processor SHOULD be in the head and this thing doesn’t look armored. Shooting it… might stop it? Depends on how many redundant systems it has.
The port slides open… partially. Stella has to rip the rest of it open but there’s the port and it does look like it’s connected to the subsystems that… hopefully control the drones.
In even better news Natsuki has found a power conduit. It isn’t completely clear if that’ll shut the drones down or just this console but… can’t hurt either way.
“PLEASE CONTACT TECH SUPPORT FOR YOUR SOFTWARE NEEDS! NEWS! FLAPPY BIRD 16 HAS GONE ON SALE IN THE APP STORE!”
“What IS it on about!” Jericho says as he chops off another welding arm. Hah! NOW This is an even fight. Ish.
“There are no birds in here …” Natsu is ever so confused. First windows that don’t exist in drones and now birds that flap in apstores. Whatever apstores are – some kind of nest perhaps. “But I’ve found the power outlet. I’m going to try and reset it, it works for Lady Zelda’s bot at times.”
Problem is, Natsu also knows that sometimes Zelda’s bot needs a kick to get started again.
“Ready?” Too bad if they’re not, she leans into it and pulls the … plug.
Stella slaps the H-scrap into the port and thinks as hard as she can at the same time as saying out loud, “Full system shutdown, NOW.” And regardless of what the console does in response to that she turns and pulls her sidearm and shoots from the hip, trying to hit the welding drone in the ‘head’, where she hopes its central processing is housed.
Of course, if that doesn’t stop it, she’s got her rifle and she’ll fill it with enough holes to make it pass for lace.
“Nice job, Factor! -agh!” Baldur jerks his head back, as the thing comes around with a new target in mind. At least it’s slowly running out of arms to do the deed, and the cyborg’s intent on keeping the one he’s got free.
At this point he has no idea what the thing’s rambling about, just as much as Natsuki and Jericho. He has no idea what Nats and Stella are up to but it’s taking too long so far as he’s concerned. He can feel the heat of the remaining torches but he brings his free arm up close, right against the thing.
His gun and wrist fold down, revealing the muzzle of the blaster mounted within his forearm. It glows with a dull whine of a quick power up, a flare of orange heralding the shot that fires point blank into the thing.
The bot jerks and goes a bit crazy, like a chicken. Jericho has to jump back again and Baldur’s chest suffers several unnecessary welds. But eventually the uncoordinated jerking leads it to fall over, still powered but no longer moving with a purpose.
Stella and Natsuki do their deeds at virtually the same time. The hologram blinks off and the ‘key’ turns with an audible chunk. When the power recycles the console boots back up.
Running diagnostics. Manual override mode engaged. Maintenance bots in standby mode.
The hologimager blinks to life again and the strangest figure appears. It looks like a thin band of metal that’s been twisted into some kind of an oblong loop and given big googly eyes. “It looks like you’re trying to troubleshoot the self directed drone system. Would you like help with that?”
“Jericho! Baldur!” Natsu finally looks over as the whine of the computer dies and then rises again. In many ways she’s letting out a deep breath of relief that it did indeed boot back up.
How much longer she’ll be doing that when she works out just how annoying that ‘assistant’ will be, is a good question.
Picking her way across the room, to the Baronets side, the part-elf leaves Stella to look after the computer. “Are you two alright?” she asks, checking Jericho over carefully before looking at Baldur and all those welds “Uh … that doesn’t look good.”
The cyborg sits on the ground, his hat somewhere a bit farther, knocked off from all the scuffling about. He eyes the damaged bot warily, seeming reluctant to holster his gun as he clicks his wrist and forearm back into position.
“Damn thing scarred up my favorite armor,” he says petulantly, following the torch marks with the tip of his gun across the leather chest piece he wears. “Burnt right through my clothes!” He sounds more upset about that than the state of his arm, which he finally starts to poke at. At least it’s not a seamless welding job given that the cyborg’s leathers kept metal from metal when clothing didn’t.
Stella visibly startles at the… THING that has appeared from the holoimager and points her sidearm at it even though it’s completely non-corporeal. And, of course, she reflexively responds to it. “NO. Go away.” She stares the bizarre holographic figure until it disappears again, then joins the others in checking Baldur’s weld damage.
She’s got a couple of options. The multitool she keeps in her pocket might be able to saw through that shoddy welding job, or she can try to YANK the cyborg’s hand free of his leg. “Baldur, do you want me to fix this neat, or quick?”
The metal loop vanishes. Hopefully it won’t be back at the worst possible time. That couldn’t possibly happen could it?
Ding. The door to the next lift opens. Jericho looks at Natsuki and then steps in to hold it. The weld job on Baldur isn’t very good so they should be able to break it. It is ugly though, he’s gonna need a good scrubbing.
“I’m okay, Suki. Baldur got it worse…” Though he should be fine too. Maybe a bit upset. Leathers and all.
“We can get you more clothes, Baldur.” Natsu says, helping the cyborg to the lift. After Stella’s seen to him of course.
“But come on. We’ve got this complex to explore …” And that excites the part-elf. Jericho should rather worry.
“Quick, so long as I can move,” Baldur tells Stella. If they run into any more surprises, he’d rather have both hands free. He looks around and makes a grab for his hat once he’s helped out and helped up. Guns holstered, he dusts himself off, still grumbling a bit as he follows the others into the elevator.
And hey, you’d be upset too if all the hard work you put into tooling leather ended up getting torched!
“So what -is- this place? We work that out yet? Why’s everything wanna kill us?” Or maybe not ‘us’ so much as specific party members.
Quick it is. Stella kneels next to Baldur, grips his stuck hand in her left hand, and then uses most of her body to yank the cyborg’s hand free of the welds. She manages to resist the urge to kick that welding drone as they step into the lift…. wait.
She rushes back to the console and gets the H-scrap back out of it before rushing to catch the lift before the doors close.
“I hate this place.”
The lift takes them all the way up to the top and it’s a bit of a ride. By the time they get to the top of the tower they’re over a thousand feet in the air and… well, everything looks so small down there.
The very top room has several large table sized console. The center of the room is dominated by a big holotransmiter, one bigger across than Baldur is tall. And armored windows show a panoramic view of the west of Dogwood.
“Woah…” Jericho murmurs as things start to light up as they enter. Every console interestingly looks like its in standby mode.
“Let’s see if we can get some of this running…”
A small, secondary emitter near Stella powers up and… that metal loop appears again.
“It looks like you’re trying to reboot the Combat Information Center. Want help?”
“I love this place …” Natsu murmurs rather enjoying the adventure they’re having. Adventure, that’s how she sees it. What would it take to change her mind? “It’s amazing and I’m sure it’s connected to this Northern Eagle Military Association place. I want to know who they were and why they’re doing this. This technology … it could be worth a lot.”
And if they can work out how to use it, it will help their cause.
“More importantly though, it might give us an edge in fighting whatever is coming out of the mountains.” As the loop thing appears, Natsu frowns “I’m going to call that ‘Loopy’. And I guess that’s what CIC stands for.”
She’ll let Stella deal with that. Natsu is going to enjoy the vista for a moment and check out that holotransmitter.
Stella glares at the annoying ‘Loopy’, but having this as a functional observation center would be a huge help. So, as much as it pains her, she thinks the holoimage is going to end up being useful.
But not for her.
She shoves the H-scrap into Natsuki’s hand. “Help Taniguchi with rebooting the CIC.” And leave her out of this.
Baldur would have to agree with Stella, but it’s not difficult to figure why.
The cyborg fixes his hat as he looks out while they’re brought up and up and up some more. “Cyborgs aren’t s’pposed to be acrophobic, are they?” he murmurs, stepping out of the elevator after the others. He eyes the view out the window, wandering closer towards it to look out while the others gather around the holotransmitter and their new ever so helpful friend!
“So how’s an entire place like this end up appearin’ clear outta nowhere in one night? If even that?” he asks. It’s an amazing view to be sure, but the reminder of where they are is still a little troubling when one thinks of it. Baldur glances back at the others, drifting over to see how things are going.
There is a keyhole that might help Natsuki’s efforts to get the holoemitter running again at least. There are five ports actually each looking like they’re sized slightly differently. Five keys, then?
“What have you found Natsuki?” Jericho walks over toward her to see. Stella winds up getting… followed by Loopy. It doesn’t talk but it keeps switching to emitters near her.
And then another appears near Baldur.
“The Puma Den Mobile Command facility was relocated to these coordinates to find Lieutenants Bridger and Taniguchi and Captain Trent after they failed to report for duty.”
“Wait… this thing can move?” Jericho glances back.
“Affirmative. It has full flight capabilities when fully charged.”
“Found?” Natsuki is still looking at the ‘H’ shaped item in her hand. “Not a lot. There’s five receptacles, all slightly different shapes. I suspect … that’s five Puma’s. We’d have to check Bubbles and Sparkles to see if they still have their keys or if this is something new… but…”
She inserts the key she has in the most likely slot and waits.
“A flying Puma Den. Well that’s neat, really. And what are your instructions now?”
Stella is very pointedly ignoring Loopy now. She looks out ov… okay, no. She VERY quickly turns to focus on the various panels inside the room, and what Natsukis noticed about the receptacles. “Wait. Five? So if you count your cousin’s, that’s three. Does that mean there are still two more out there?”
She’s SO regretting having ever touched that stupid piece of scrap.
It takes Baldur a moment to realize that the talking wireframe had actually answered his question. He blinks at it a few times, then glances towards the others, pointing at it as he gives something of a smile. “Hey, this lil’ guy’s helpful!” ‘course he’s only saying that because they’re finally getting answers. It’s a good start, at least.
“Uuuh…. So…basically this base is stalking you guys.” Beat. “Just like the giant robo-cats.” Squint. “Knew there was somethin’ creepy about the place, disappearin’ dirt and malfunctioning bots aside.”
He wanders over to where Natsuki is, tracing a gloved finger over the other shapes as Natsuki inserts the one.
One of the workstations lights up when Natsuki inserts the key and starts displaying data. It’s sensor records… three hundred years worth. Storms, disasters, demon incursions… and the recent records. Those show four large concentrations of ‘extra dimensionals’ all converging to the east, toward Dogwood and Vesper… and one another.
“Foreign computer detected. Attempting to access…”
//It looks like you’re being accessed by the mainframe. Did you want help with that?// Loopy is now… in Baldur’s head as the fortress’ main computer tries to, er, integrate him…
“The Duke of the North has one, though it doesn’t work. He’s asked us to fix it. So that makes four. Records indicate that there WERE five… but we don’t know where the fifth one is.”
Jericho turns and looks from Stella to Nat to… “Uh, Baldur? Are you okay?”
“Look at this, Jericho…” Natsu’s entranced. All that data. It’s invaluable. “We might be able to use this to map out weather patterns and D-Stone shifts. Well maybe not the latter, but … this is three hundred years of monitoring.” She’s pretty certain there’s never been anything like this found.
It’s the four large concentrations that draw her attention. “This group is near the villages we investigated from the Psi-Stalkers.” she points to one of the ‘blobs’ “And … there are four of them. All headed to us. This one…” she points to another nearer Vesper “Would be the one that wiped the Agents of the Crown out.”
That should be news to Stella and Baldur. There’s been no official announcement about that and Natsu and Jericho shouldn’t know about it.
“What foreign compu– Oh. Baldur? What’s happening?”
Baldur just sort of…ceases to move for a moment, the orange glow of his eyes flickering as internally his thought processes are suddenly buffeted by an external source.
“Blurgle….” he answers Jericho and Natsuki, right before shaking his head a few times. It…doesn’t seem like he’s heard them. Actually he has, but he’s…experiencing some technical difficulties.
//Accessed by– What? No! No access! Access denied! What’re you even doing in here?! It’s crowded enough as it is!//
Externally his dialogue is broken up, words cutting in and out a bit before his optics brighten again like he abruptly snaps to.
“AGH GET ‘IM OUTTA MY HEAD!!!”
Simply moving Baldur’s hand should break the connection and that’s what Jericho moves forward to do. “You okay?”
There aren’t anymore voices.
The Baronet sighs in relief. “We need to try to secure this building, Nat. Have your and my people sweep it and get as much of this data as we can. I think you’re right, this thing has been tracking those demons in the mountains. Prince Kai needs this information now.”
Still the building doesn’t seem dangerous anymore. Groups of soldiers can sweep it and they can… try to figure out how it works.
Stella and Baldur should be fine.
//It seems like you’re trying to recover mentally from a debilitating and horrifying experience in war.// A quiet voice says in the back of Baldur’s head. //Want help?//
Everything will be fine… surely…
An entire facility of some sort has just appeared seemingly nowhere and onto the Taniguchi's front lawn. Jericho, Natsuki, Stella and Baldur head in to investigate.
September 09, 2411