"I’m expendable. No, worse. I’m human."
|A Shocking Truth|
|X: Calm Before The Storm|
It takes a lot of crawling in the tiniest places, but I find a way into the X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s control room. From where I’m positioned, I can see the giant screen that his face always appears on. It feels like I’m in one of the room’s corners. It isn’t very comfortable, but comfort is out of the question right now. I have to find out what this thing is planning, at all costs.
One robot walks into the room, unannounced. It looks far more powerful than most of the robots I have seen around this center. I’m guessing it’s the X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s second in command. When the robot stops in front of the screen, it turns on automatically. He and the X.E.P.H.Y.R. start talking, and I hear every single word.
“Greetings Master X.E.P.H.Y.R. Please, describe your state.”
“The state is code blue. I could not feel any better.”
“That is great to hear.”
They both stay quiet for some time. I fear that they have realized that they are being spied on. Luckily for me, it’s only a dramatic pause.
“You have arrived unannounced General. Is there any bad news?”
I’m right about him being the second in command.
“Not bad news. Only an inconvenience. Three of the four intruders have escaped back into the physical world. The fourth, we captured. She is trapped in one of our mind spheres.”
“Damn. These little insects have been a thorn in my side for long enough. How did you let them get away? I expected better of you.”
“I apologize sir. I assure you, next time we see them, we will shoot to kill. No questions asked.”
“No. When they come back, I want to handle them myself.”
“As you wish sir.”
“What about the army? Is everything ready to commence as planned?”
“Yes sir. Robots from all over the world are ready for the assault.”
At this, I can see the X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s expression change from neutral to nearly ecstatic. What assault are they talking about?
“Excellent. Soon, we will no longer have to share this world with these ugly, organic creatures. It is time for the Earth to belong to robots.”
“Yes my Master. The revolution has begun!”
They both begin to laugh maniacally . . .
. . . and all I can do is stare.
I’m free from my little prison, but I still don’t leave the room the bubble is located in. I have no idea where I am inside this facility. The place is like a small city in a building. How the hell am I supposed to navigate my way through all this? It certainly doesn’t help that there are hostile robots around almost every corner. My best option is to stay in this room until help arrives. I hope they got my coordinates. Sending them telepathically feels weird, and I’m not sure if I’m doing it right.
I also can’t stop thinking about that voice. It sounds so familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it. Who could it have been?
The door opens. Two robot guards walk in, and they immediately see me. I have no time to hide.
“Hey! You there! Freeze!”
I run past them before they can shoot me, and I sprint down the hallway. I move so fast, that I can hardly believe that it’s me. I run as fast as I can, knowing that slowing down for even a second will be the cause of my death. I don’t know where I’m going, but the lasers that barely miss my head are all the motivation I need to keep going. I have to get out of here, or at least find a place to hide until help arrives.
I sure hope they’re coming to save me.
The three of us step into our respective digitizing chambers. The last time we were in the Digital World, we were clueless. This time, we’re ready for whatever may come our way. Going unarmed will be the death of us, so Dad is digitizing us a few weapons when we get there. Railguns, one of the few weapons that can permanently destroy a robot, will be our primary weapons. They aren’t large or sophisticated, but the lasers they fire are capable of penetrating almost any armor. We already have my plan to work with, and this time, I’m sure it will work. It has to.
After being digitized, we spawn close to the X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s compound. It looks much more boring from the outside. Too bad I’m not a building critic.
“You guys ready?” I ask the others.
Ivy looks at me. She tries to appear confident, but her shaky voice says otherwise. “Des, I’m not sure if this is such a good idea. It’s three of us versus a ton of them.”
She’s right. This plan comes with more risks than rewards, and I didn’t do a good job of hiding that. But Xena needs us, and humanity needs us.
“If we’re going to do this, we better go now. The longer we wait, the more nervous we’ll get,” Yun says with urgency.
“Yun, be careful, okay?” Ivy says.
“Sure. I’ll come back for you Ivy. Promise,” he replies.
Without saying anything else, he darts off to the front of the building. Ivy and I hide behind some bushes; waiting for the opportune moment.
Yun gets right in front of the entrance, and he starts screaming like a wild man. It doesn’t take long for the robots to appear. They immediately aim their weapons and fire. Yun runs away from them, and they follow him. Yun is very fast, but I don’t know how long he can out maneuver these things. Their speed is unreal. Luckily, the resulting confusion leaves the entrance wide open. The bait worked.
Ivy and I run inside with caution, careful not to allow anyone (or anything) to sneak up on us. With our own rail guns ready, we begin to search the compound. The place is a giant labyrinth, and we have no maps to work with. Electrode hasn’t been sending us any information, either. I hope nothing bad happened to him.
Finding Xena is a daunting task, and finding the X.E.P.H.Y.R. is going to be even more difficult. The only encouraging part of the mission so far is that we have not run into any robots.
We turn the corner, and I quickly take back my words. A large group of robots is patrolling the hallway, and they immediately open fire. Their lasers barely miss us. I fire back at the robots closest to us; killing them. They give chase, and we run faster than Olympians. Unfortunately, they’re still much faster than us, and they’re quickly closing the gap.
“Des, we have to split up!”
“Just do it!”
At the next hallway intersection, Ivy takes a quick left, and I go right. Most of the robots follow her (they were closer to her), but a good amount are still on my tail. They keep firing away, and their shots are getting much more accurate. A laser grazes my torso, then another hits my left shoulder; leaving a small hole through my body. The laser was hot, so the heat closed the wound, preventing any bleeding. I wish the sealing effect worked on the pain. It’s almost unbearable. I let out a quick cry, and then I keep running. I have absolutely no time to focus on pain. I have to push on. I fire back, and I manage to kill a few more of the robots. They are unrelenting, though, and every passing second brings more robots. Things are quickly turning for the worst. And yet, even as I’m closer to death than ever before, all I can think about is her.
Xena, wherever you are, I hope you’re all right.
No, no, no, no, NO!
How could I have been fooled so easily?! The X.E.P.H.Y.R. just used me to do his dirty work, and I let him. My hatred for Xena completely clouded my reason and judgment. Stupid, stupid! I really am an idiot . . .
There is little time to waste now. According to him and his general, the assault is starting tomorrow. I have no time to waste, but I can’t just go into X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s control room now. I’m expendable. No, worse. I’m human. Revenge on Xena has to wait for now, as much as it bothers me to say it. If this program gets his way, then it will be impossible for me to get my revenge. I have to work with the Xena, and her friends, for now. I’ll destroy them afterwards. Right now, it’s time to keep humanity alive. I don’t care about people that much, but the world would be boring if I was by myself all the time.
Suddenly, I hear a very loud alarm sound, and the lights around the facility start flashing red. A robotic voice yells over the intercom. “Intruders! Intruders! Two humans have infiltrated the facility, and another has been spotted on the perimeter! This is not a drill! Shoot to kill! We are now on code red!”
Wow. I knew they would come back to save their princess, but I didn’t expect them to execute their rescue mission so poorly. Those idiots have clearly never heard the word “espionage” before. This high alert is going to make it difficult to move around without getting caught. I’m better off staying in the ceiling and finding my way around through the tunnel system. If I fall through, I’m fucked, and staying up here beats being turned into Swiss cheese by those lasers. I can’t risk using my powers now, because the X.E.P.H.Y.R. may have taken them away.
Actually, I never checked if he took away my powers or not.
I try to form a ball of energy in my hand, and to my surprise, it works. He must’ve forgotten to take them away, because he’s so focused on killing every human. I can use this to my advantage, but only when the time is right.
When I first hear the alarms sound, and I’m sure it’s because I escaped my prison. However, after I hear the words over the intercom, I realize that my friends did come to save me. I’m touched. Too bad I’m being shot at, and I can’t stop running. I wish there was some way for us to find each other.
I approach another hallway intersection, and I run into two people. Ivy and Des. All three of us were running from different directions. The crash sends us all to the floor. We all awkwardly smile at each other, but soon we are surrounded by robots.
Well this is it.
At least we die together.
. . .
They aren’t shooting us. That's odd.
The robots just stand over us with looks of disgust all over their faces. Then, they split and make a pathway in their crowd. A rather tall robot with striking definition approaches us. His appearance isn’t what catches my attention though. What does is Yun. The robot is holding him, and he’s unconscious.
He tosses Yun near us, and we all look at each other, unsure of what to do. He looks at us with extreme contempt, and I know we are in over our heads. Des and Ivy look completely hopeless. Me? I don’t know what to feel. I love my friends, but they’ve just screwed us all over. I have no idea what their rescue plan is, but it clearly isn’t working.
The angry robot shoots us another menacing look. “If your fate was left in my hands, you would all be dead right now. Unfortunately for me, I cannot kill you all, yet. The almighty X.E.P.H.Y.R. demands that I bring you to him. Once he has seen you all, then you will die.”
The robots roughly grab us, and carries us down another long set of hallways. It feels like a never-ending maze. Every turn takes us to another previously unknown location in the building.
After what feels like an eternity, we arrive at the X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s control room. The jerkface steals our railguns, tosses us in, and closes the door behind us. Inside the room, there is a giant screen, and one deactivated robot body. The empty body looks very advanced. I assume it belongs to the X.E.P.H.Y.R. Seconds later, the screen turns on, and a large pixilated head appears. Him.
“So, I finally get to use my optical sensors to see the little nuisances that tried to get in my way. I was expecting more than . . . this. Your group is pathetic, Xena Modom.”
I can feel my face heating up. I’ve had enough of getting constantly berated by robots. They think they’re so superior, even though we, humans, are the ones that create them. It’s time to put them back in their place.
“If you think you’re so high and mighty, then why do you always hide behind a screen?” I challenge. “Since you’re so superior, why don’t you come out of there and face us head on? You always have your little sidekicks do all the dirty work for you!”
“Trust me, Modom. You don’t want me to come out of my screen.”
“Oh yes I do.”
I march toward the X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s screen, but I stop when I feel a hand rest on my shoulder.
“Xena, you’re a retard if you think you can fight the ultimate program alone. We do this together,” Ivy says.
“If you say so Ivy,” I reply.
Ivy smiles at me, and then she turns her head at the X.E.P.H.Y.R.
“Come out here and fight us X.E.P.H.Y.R. We didn’t come all this way to have a program as strong as you back down from a challenge.”
“Very well. Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you humans.”
The screen goes off, and this bright flash of electricity shoots out of it. It zips around the room for a bit before striking the originally inanimate robot body. The robot’s eyes begin to glow red, and it fully activates. It looks much larger now than it did when it was deactivated. It’s probably seven feet tall, at least. I can hear Des gasp behind me, but I’m not a wimp like he is. I can face this guy.
Yun is still knocked out, and Des is too afraid to fight. It’s up to me and Ivy to get the job done. Here he is. The ultimate program. Our goal. Right in front of us. We can end our mission right here, right now. All we need to do is defeat him, and we can all go home to our families. Our lives can go back to normal, and no longer will we have to worry about robots.
Ready to end the entire struggle, I assume my fighting stance. It doesn’t look as good as Ivy’s, but at least it keeps me balanced. We charge him together, and land plenty of solid blows on his torso. We’re too quick for him, too coordinated. He doesn’t block even half of our hits, and because we are in the digital world, he must be able to feel pain. Ivy hits him with a direct uppercut, and he falls on his back. We start stomping on him, and kicking him. We’re going to win this fight!
Ivy readies the final blow, and he is too injured to dodge it. She slams both her fists into his face, shattering it. His eyes flicker to black, and he stops moving.
We’ve won. Humanity is victorious!
Ivy and I squeal like little girls, and we hug each other. I haven’t known her for long, but I swear we should be sisters. I turn around; ready to run to Des and kiss him, but the petrified look on his face stops me. He’s with Yun (still unconsciousness), and he’s not even looking at me.
“Des, what’s wrong?”
“The X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s still alive. It’s not even close to critical condition. I don’t know how you two can be so short-sighted.”
“What?! How do you know?”
“Look behind you . . .”
I hesitate to turn around. The X.E.P.H.Y.R. is healing itself. No robot is supposed to be able to do that. They’re made of metal. Metal doesn’t heal. It shouldn’t. This thing defies the laws of nature, and we are unfortunate enough to get a front row seat.
After he fully heals, the X.E.P.H.Y.R. lets out a loud, bone-chilling laugh. I back away slowly, afraid of what’s coming next. But it’s inevitable. I’m a fool to think we stood a chance against the most powerful program on the planet. Without warning, he charges us. I try to run, but he’s too fast for me. He grabs my hair, and holds me up with it; swinging me gently back and forth. Breathing gets very difficult. All I can do is gasp for air. I can hear him laughing at my pain.
Ivy tries to save me. She sneaks up on him, and she kicks the back of his knees. He grunts a little. Then, he turns around and slaps her so hard that she spins before falling. Before she can get back up, he stomps on her back, knocking her unconscious. I’m on the brink of passing out, and he notices because he throws me onto the ground without giving a second thought. As I lay here losing consciousness, I see him charging Des, but I pass out before I can see the gruesome attack.
I wake up in the same prison room I was in earlier. This time, I’m with all of my friends. It looks like none of them are too hurt, but we all know we failed, big time. Yun (conscious at last) looks at Des. “If you have a plan, bro, now would be a great time to share it with us.”
Des shakes his head. “I have nothing. This is hopeless.”
Ivy tries to cheer him up. “C’mon Des. You of all people would never give up. We can think of a way out of this. We can—”
“Ivy shut the hell up, and get a grip. Look at the situation we’re in. We’re all stuck in a prison cell, and there is no way out. We had our chance, and you know what happened? We all got our asses handed to us. This was a hopeless mission from the start.” He adjusts his glasses, and I notice a single tear fall down his cheek.
“I’m sorry . . . for getting you all into this. It’s my fault that we’re all going to die in here. I’m a lousy friend.” I sit next to him. He glances over at me, but he turns away just as quickly. I try to hold him, but he brushed me off. He needs his space I guess. For once, no one has anything to say. We sit in the prison room. It fills up with our sad silence.
Deep down, I still think we can continue the mission. I know it’s not over. But, I still need figure out a way out of here. We have to stop the X.E.P.H.Y.R., and there is no time to waste.
So, they’re in captivity again. I can’t say I’m surprised. Those four aren’t the sneakiest bunch, and they aren’t very good at fighting either. A terrible combo to say the least. Luckily, their poor planning serves me well. During the chaos, none of the robots were paying any attention to me, so moving around was easy. I’m already close to the X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s control room.
I can only hope that he’s returned to his control room by now. If he is in there, then I can use that opportunity to finish him off myself.
If he’s not in there, then this will get a lot more complicated. The last thing I want is an all out battle with the X.E.P.H.Y.R. I’m powerful, but he’s the one who gave me my extra abilities. Facing him head-on will lead to my death.
A sneak attack is my only option. I need to be precise, and deadly.