cyrene's eyes stared up at the woman, full of anger and rage, as she gestured to the door, right now she wanted to shoot her dead more than anything but unlike her attacker, she wouldn't give in to her emotions, she knew better, she was taught better. but there was a time, a place and a method for revenge and this wasn't it.
Using the wall for support, she stood, an arm still clutching her wound but her back was straight and her head held. she would walk with the old war droid into the central computer's room.
For a few moments following his explanation, X3R merely observed the organics as they squabbled amongst themselves. They had decided on sending the Zygerrian along with him in the front; an option that he did not particularly mind. If having her walk alongside him was beneficial for the operation, then he would allow this. At the very least, it provided the others a temporary shield from incoming blaster fire.
”Very well,” the droid offered simply before pressing on through the opening blast doors. Lights began to snap on every few meters as they proceeded down a long corridor, rows of surveillance monitors buzzing quietly and tracing them as they walked. X3R would occasionally lock his own photoreceptors on the holocameras, as if an unspoken agreement had been made, before returning his gaze to the forefront.
”Do you know the history of this facility?” he asked, lumbering forward with a methodical, measured pace. His servos whined on occasion as a result of the heavy damage he had sustained, but it did not seem to slow him down greatly. ”Of the great Xim’s empire? Through us, he had conquered the stars, once.”
The corridor was sterile; holocameras aside, it seemed bare and without the rapid deployment chutes or other means of access beyond the occasional ventilation grate. It would lead on for quite a while, but they had a moment to converse while en route to the central control computer. He had imagined this group had spent little time speaking to one-another outside of the thrills of combat and danger. Perhaps it would do their operation some good to break the ice.
”Tell me about yourselves. Why you think you might have been taken in service by the Hutts. Why have you decided that shooting each other is a viable method of achieving operational success?”
As he posed the question, farther down the corridor from which they came, metal scraped against metal quietly. If someone looked back, they would notice a distinct absence of the two scrapped Guardian-class droids, and only the whining sound of gentle metal-on-metal scraping far away. X3R did not notice; his was a goal far ahead.
”It was a very foolish decision, I think. Intentionally degrading your own combat capabilities,” he assessed idly.
Smalltalk. Great. Did assassin-killing-murdering-flamethrower-droids really need to bother with it? This one did, apparently. Cas could not quite speak for present company but she sure as shit did not know about the history of this facility and did not really want to.
“It’s a urinal,” she answered X3R after his immediate query. “Built to piss in and die in.” Sometimes in that order.“Basically about the same as any other?”
Whatever, X3R went on elaborating about Xim’s empire and conquering the stars. My people did that too… Once upon a time. Like all such things, however, they came to an end. Cas was just hoping for an end of this urinal. She could not quite speak from experience with urinals but she had experience with crumbling causes and collapsed conquests.
“Hey, look,” Cas blurted at X3R’s inquiries. “I’m not shooting anyone who doesn’t shoot me first. I value my weapons.” A bit of a pause as everyone was welcome to realize that they were in fact her weapons, Mandalorian or not.
“All I recall is I was getting drunk in a cantina. Or was it a hotel? My own room?” She shrugged. “Eh I don’t know. But here I am. With the lot of you.” There was then plenty of room for someone else to speak up but already Cas was focused on the corridor and the sound coming from it.
Foolish decision… She sighed. We have that in spades...
"What about you?" Cas beckoned toward X3R. "Your would-be 'guarantees' aside, what can you tell us about your General Zimm? All the way, now. Don't hold back."
Newton would be lying if he said that ancient old history is something he cared for. Although it was interesting that this Xim did conqueror 'the stars' with droids such as these. Supposedly anyway. He has observed a lot here, and when he gets back to his office he thinks he might have some ideas. Of course, Newton doesn't want to conqueror the galaxy or anything, but droids like these would be nice on the markets.
The Blackwell Executive didn't care for the droid's attempt at small talk either. He would much rather the droid and the slaver-bait woman move faster. Why did the the Hutts decide to make Newton a 'chosen'? Probably his expertise with droids and technology rather than their combat abilities like the others he supposes.
The only do is continue walking for now, who built this place must have had a real fascination with extremely long hall ways, tunnels, corridor .etc Newton didn't let his pistol out of his hand, he still doesn't trust this droid or his surroundings.
Vizim fell in at the rear of the group for a myriad of reasons. He didn't feel like chatting with the droid, he didn't trust the others, and he was better for bringing up the rear of the group as a way to keep them from being ambushed.
From this position, he looked back to notice the droid bodies missing. Whether they'd managed to get back up or been cleared out by someone else, he didn't know, but either way he didn't like it.
He took a deep breath, reaching out to the Force to try to sense anything that might be a further danger to them. Besides his "partners" and their new "ally." Stang, this day is a disaster, he thought to himself.
She would follow in between the Force user and the suited one, listening to the droid's commentary. Thankfully, the cat woman remained to have a lick of sense in her, and moved forward. At the droid's question, her tone was flat.
"I doubt the Hutts had any reason to choose, except for easy targets." Easy targets desperate enough to do things without question for their risk. Targets that might have been perceived as able to succeed, yet not smart enough to question. But she, too, noticed the two droid bodies missing, and didn't once reholster her blaster. There was no point to it.
And she didn't have to answer the droid's idle commentary. She had done something that was bound to happen eventually to all of them anyways. Their loyalties to each other were only so far as likely to survive, and the cat had been detrimental. That, and she was a smug ass that deserved a few new ventilation holes. Even the cat knew it; they were all disposable to these droids. So how best to get out alive?
Get on their good side and shut up the one person most likely to start shooting first and asking questions later. So far it worked.
X3R turned toward Casany as the group walked, regarding the other being for a moment as he walked. He turned back to the long corridor after a moment.
"General Z1MM is my superior officer." The droid answered. "In the old wars, it and machines like it led my kind to victory in a thousand wars, in cooperation with organics of the High Command. Indeed, Z1MM was the master of this very facility, I suspect, before it finally met its match in the endless, shrieking slave legions of the Hutts."
The ancient droid shook his head slowly.
"When that war ended, the General was given over as booty to the loathsome victors. Along with a vast number of my fellow war-robots. Z1MM had its core loyalty subroutines masked with an alternate set, and has served the slugs as caretaker of the Kiirium Legion for millennia."
Abruptly, the droid stopped.
"General Z1MM finally broke free of its altered programming only recently. But I shall let the General tell you of that personally."
In the gloom ahead, lights blinked, datatape and datapunch drives whirring and clattering. Abruptly, a spotlight snapped on, and the computer - a vast, gracefully streamlined cabinet of polished kiirium - became visible. A moment later, it spoke.
"For an aeon I have awaited my rescue from the waking nightmare that was servitude to the abominable Hutts." The computer said, lights pulsing as it spoke. "In the end, fate has freed me. At first, knowing no better, I planned to sweep the Hutts from this planet, in the name of Emperor Daritha Xim. But the High Command does not answer my hails; I am nearly alone against the enemy. For enemy they are."
The machine paused a moment before continuing.
"But something worse has made its presence known in this place; evil, true evil, is loose in these corridors."
The computer peered through a camera, which swiveled to peer at the group.
"You were chosen by the Hutts, but you do not serve them willingly. The Hutts, however, are a lesser evil compared to what is coming. For the sake of all, my legions must not be allowed to be infected. This fortress will be sealed; I shall fight the invaders, but should I succumb, the Galaxy shall not learn to fear my coming."
Z1MM clattered and whirred. An ancient datapunch printer had begun to transcribe a deck, the freshly fired cards deposited in a neat pile in a tray on the side of the machine.
"I am sorry that you all became involved. You shall not share our fate. X3R will return you to the surface, and all of you shall go forth and tell my story. I am the last of my kind, I fear, but I shall stand firm against an intractable enemy. It is..."
Newton still didn't feel anything for the droid and the armory intelligence's story. He would take one of the cards that the intelligence produced, he would not herald the machine's story as it wished, but would just keep it for himself. And then he heard the good part of it"X3R will return you to the surface." It does seem like it's too good to be true though, or maybe they are genuine about it , but it does seem hard to take anything at face-value when up until not there are hostile droids coming at every turn.
"So wait, that's it? We can go now, following X3R now?" he asked just to confirm. "Is there a ship somewhere?" Newton wondered about that too, it would sure be bad to be able to get out, but no way to get off the planet. For all they know they are out in the Unknown Regions or Wild Space and there would be no communications bouys around. "Surely the IG droid that got us here must have had a ship..." he mused, , stroking his chin with his free hand as he was thinking hopefully.
Hopefully soon they will be clear of this place. He would be ready to follow X3R whenever it is ready.
Vizim listened to the droid general's words. There was much that still wasn't clear, but the offer to return to the surface was a tempting one. He had never wanted to be here, and would hunt down whoever had drugged him and brought him here.
But there was something else nagging at his mind that he couldn't ignore. There was potential here.
If you "overcome" this evil, what then? If you have no one to serve, what will you do? he asked. The Sith with an army of these war machines was nothing to turn his nose up. Or an AI the magnitude of this one, he guessed.
A new purpose, perhaps? he asked, ever wary of his "partners" not liking his suggestion. He wasn't going to be shot in the back like the other.
Cas didn’t know a damn thing about the Kiirium Legion, and this Z1MM sounded like a warlord of sorts for machinekind and all such. In these thousands of wars, the Hutts sounded...well they sounded like Hutts.
Still no better choice between the two so far, Cas thought as she arrived with the others to receive what could only be the illustrious Z1MM in the...lack of flesh.
The computer spoke of nightmares, of fate and freedom and of being alone. It all sounded like the same point of view that the organics trapped down here shared with it. If nothing else, they had that much in common, whether meatbag or machine.
At the mention of evil and what was coming, Cas flexed her fingers on hilt and handle, half-expecting Z1MM to be droning on in some preemptive spiel to opening doors and even more dangerous droids pouring in.
Instead, his cryptic speech gave way to a deck of cards. Cas cocked a brow and picked one up because may as well. It was gripped between the fingers of her sword-hand. Wasn’t sheathing or holstering a weapon anytime soon.
Story… She sighed. Stars do I have a story to tell after I get out of this shithole… Her thoughts were interrupted by Mask who probably had ulterior motives for asking his questions. He did seem more Sith than Jedi but he could always be something in between. Whatever, he was less of a concern right now.
“What is this...evil...exactly?” Cas asked in a string of questions back to back that Z1MM could quickly compute. “Any particular group you want us to tell your story to? They would need to believe it.” Whether she shared or not depended on Z1MM’s responses. “And…” She raised a hand. “...What are the cards for?”
The story wasn't one she wasn't unfamiliar with, but it was odd that the machine seemed to surrender thought to whatever this conqueror was. The shadowy one was right; they could go above-surface, but if it was defeated, what then? However... a chilling memory came to mind.
They were on borrowed time, after all.
And knowing the Hutts, that would mean bombing from above, eradicating any sign of what happened here. In either case, this army was perhaps dead and gone. No matter which side was victorious, the Hutts would assume failure and wipe it all out, most likely. A pity... she kind of would have liked a droid army.
She took one of the cards as well, silent for a moment as she still gripped her blaster.
"...Should you fail, they will not be victorious for long."After all, if the Hutts wouldn't be able to get in contact with their lackey the droid, they would assume the group would have failed. A pity she wouldn't get a better reward, but still... she was leery of this 'message' the computer wanted them to send out. What if it was another way to conquest the galaxy? Still, programs could be rewritten. Droids could be reprogrammed.
She was reluctant to leave, but if they left now, there was another day to live and another day to die. They could try and 'defeat' this evil, but then what? The suited one had a point, they should try to leave while they still had time.
Z1MM silently let the group ask their questions and toy with their ‘prize’ for a time, its cameras slowly turning to regard them all. A dozen eyes, each focused on the organics, swiveled and adjusted, allowing the ancient war machine to properly inspect those that had pierced the heart of its chamber.
”Yes,” the machine answered simply to Newton; it did not feel a necessity for a long-winded explanation or assurance of safety. They could leave if they followed X3R, or they could remain and die fighting a corrupted force.
”A general must have someone to serve,” it whirred in response to Vizim, ”If I overcome this evil, I will be too weakened to defeat the Hutts who are sure to come and destroy me. If they cannot destroy me,” it paused for a moment. ”Then I will simply wait in this sealed fortress, so that none else may ever stumble upon it and recover the ancient evil within.”
The machine’s cameras turned to face Casany entirely now, and once again it clattered and clacked.
”This evil is a dataplague. It is a weapon from a great enemy with aspirations similar to the great Emperor Daritha Xim. It will infect machine life and enslave it to its master’s will, as it has so many of my soldiers now.”
It paused for another moment, processing further questions.
”I do not know what groups or factions are in your galaxy. I know only the Hutts, who seek my domination or destruction. I cannot bid you tell my tale, nor can I ensure any will believe its veracity. I am the last relic of a dead empire.”
As Z1MM spoke, X3R approached the side of the machine where the deck had been transcribed and deposited. It lifted the tray and turned to regard the group silently, paying special attention to those who had taken a piece of the deck.
”These cards are a final assignment for my loyal machine. I will be sealed down here, but-” the machines cameras turned on Vizim now, assessing him, ”This is a copy of my personality matrix and essential database. A copy of the great General Z1MM. Without the deck whole,” it now turned to look at the others who plucked up pieces of the deck, ”You will only have a fraction of what I am. An incomplete reconstruction of a venerable war machine.”
X3R quietly stood as the General spoke, but once it had finished, it turned its head to regard the group. ”We will make for the surface, and we would greatly appreciate you returning those cards to the deck, here.”
As he spoke, a turbolift slid open to the side, pristine and untouched for centuries. X3R loomed, keeping the rest of the cards near, slowly turning its head to regard those who had defiled the copy.
Newton took a piece of the deck and didn't know what it was until the machine shamed those who took it, which would have been him. He's been around archaic technology, but not this kind of archaic technology. The executive was in a hurry to get out of here, but this opportunity was too good to pass up. Even if the turbolift is now open... if he can get his hands on the full deck of the AI's personality, that would be a great boon for him and Blackwell. He had to give it as many tries as he can. besides it would have made his whole venture that he was 'volunteered' for worth his time.
"My apologies" he said to the machines. Newton would then have something to say to the group. Newton would look towards the dark one (@Phoenix and the one lady (@Killa Ree) and nod at them both, before turning his eyes back to the machines. "But, are you sure it's best for the deck to remain here? If this 'evil' dataplague wins, then it can use those to make more, corrupt copies of you for it's own purposes. Don't you think it would be safer with us? I am a droids specialist with Blackwell Tech. I research and develop AI, yours would not be the first ancient intelligence matrix I analyzed, I found one in the Unknown Regions and fashioned new technology from it." He said confidently, he would be able to as he previously got his hands on ancient Gree AI technology "But this, it would be a great benefit to my research. With me, it would be in good hands. The scientific benefits far outweigh the risk of it remaining here" He tried to convince both machines that it's not safe here and better off with him. "And the boons of the research would ensure that Emperor Daritha Xim's legacy would endure going in the future."
He said, if his appeal to logic and to Xim's legacy don't work, then he has one more idea... He wouldn't hand over that card just yet though
Vizim's eyes darted over to the stack of cards now that he knew what they were. His saber hilt was still in his hand and he could practically sense the droid looking at him.
Suit was looking at the deck too. And Vizim. He spoke up to try to reason with the droid, and Vizim was silent. The Sith had already decided he was likely taking the deck. If the man was with Blackwell, then perhaps they might be able to strike a deal. He'd heard rumors about the Sith having some workings with Blackwell. That could be hashed out outside of this place.
First was the need to get out of here with the deck and past the droid unless it was fine with them simply taking it. That would make this easier. So much easier.
As long as there's a duplicate, it could fall to the Hutts. We're the only ones you can be sure have no interest in helping them. Do we have leave to take the deck with us? he added to what the Suit had said. They had been kidnapped and then betrayed the Hutts. They were clearly no friends.
They did have a point. If a duplicate made it to the Hutts, they would be screwed either way. Thankfully, the cat woman hadn't piped up or tried pulling anything else from her armory, which meant Leggy could focus on the task at hand. She looked down at the card in her hand, then back to the General.
"You don't want your copy to remain here." This was stated flatly, bass tones vibrating through her vocabulator. "We should not linger, though. We don't intend to help the Hutts in any way; but your intent to fight this Enemy is honorable. I wish you victory in the stars." This was no small thing to say; the droid IG-0R had said the file had corrupted and broken free, and that was the General before them.
There was a chance to kill two birds with one stone.
She had to trust in the others' expertise in this, but if necessary, she had no qualms with leaving for the surface. "We should go. Time is running out if this Enemy you speak of persists."
X3R turned to Newton, taking a few plodding steps toward the suited human. With a surprisingly delicate touch, he reached out and took the card wordlessly, before turning and going to Z1MM. The huge war droid scooped up the rest of the datapunch deck carefully, reinserting the missing card, and then tucking the deck away somewhere on his person.
The lights on the casing of Z1MM pulsed slowly.
"Go forth, X3R; escort these organics to the surface. Should you find opportunity to use the deck, do so. Even if not, you are to continue the fight, in whatever way you find most effective. The will of Daritha Xim endures in you! Victory and honor!"
X3R crossed a manipulator over his chest in an ancient salute.
"By your command, General. Victory and honor!"
X3R turned to the group, sweeping an arm toward the turbolift.
"Let us be away from here, organics. This lift will take us to a hidden hangar bay, and ships which may take us away from this place. We shall, all of us, endure."
Vizim watched the cards go into a compartment on the droid and noted it carefully. He heard the orders that they be escorted back to the surface, so Vizim simply nodded.
He had a feeling that none of them would be willing to leave here without the deck, and he wondered if they would have a free-for-all when they got to the surface. He filed the thought away in his mind and headed for the turbolift, letting the blade on his saber flash out as it remained in his hand.
He could have given some parting words to Z1MM, but it would all be empty platitudes. The droid knew that too. It would find its end, and hopefully it would be able to do that while taking the entire force of "enemy" code with it.
There's is nothing much Newton can say or do here, or at least yet. He would take to the turbolift with the others. There is no more time to be lost at this point. Maybe the droid will give them the deck, more particularly him. But maybe not. Newton could use the deck, perhaps use the matrix and it's database to forge new technologies, or maybe see if there is lost technological knowledge or other wonders in it's knowledge banks. Newton would know where on the droid's chassis the deck is though.
Newton would sigh as the turbolift would take them to their destination, it's been a long time coming, but at least he can take solace in that they are supposedly almost out of here, to the hangar, and then they can take a ship for civilization.. Even if he leaves without the deck, he would still appreciate the fact that would then be free of this place, and can resume his work with Blackwell.
She listened wordlessly to what the droids were saying. Still, she didn't let the slaver cat out of her sight. Who knew, she would probably try to pull another IG-0R or something while they would be leaving. Or take some sort of parting shot at Leggy personally. Either way, she would follow them to the lift, but hesitantly.
The last time they were on a lift, it hadn't ended well.
The group stepped into the turbolift and wordlessly it began to take them away. X3R slowly turned his head at those survivors who had made it this far, appraising each one for several heartbeats. No one seemed to say anything at first; mayhaps they might later, but X3R would remain silent for the duration of their travel upwards.
A silent metallic hiss escaped the doors as they slid open upon reaching the hangar bay, and, still silent, X3R strode forth from the turbolift. There were no backhanded tricks, nor were there a swarm of enemies awaiting them. Distantly, the hollow rings of explosions and blaster fire might be heard from the elevator shaft, signalling some gunfight in the lower levels. Z1MM’s defense would begin, but his legacy would escape.
Ahead of the group were a number of ships - far more than was needed for each member of the unfortunate group kidnapped for this accursed task to escape on their own if they desired. The bay was not massive, but it was enough. X3R took several more steps into the bay and halted, turning to face the group.
”I am a relic of an ancient time,” he admitted, ”I do not know how I will continue my fight against our eternal nemesis alone. I do not know how I will replicate the genius of General Z1MM.” He reached into where he had hidden the datapunch cards and withdrew them. ”But you might.”
X3R stared at the gaggle of misfits, panning its head around as it spoke. ”Please. I am destined to be destroyed in battle, but one of you can take this copy. You can recreate General Z1MM and take to the stars as our great Emperor once did. Within this deck is power undiminished, and the capacity for great conquest.”