The mech factory was dark and quiet when Monkey and Trip arrived. They had trekked back here across the wasteland because this was where Monkey had left his bike, and if they were going to travel anywhere further the vehicle would be invaluable.
Fortunately, they had already eliminated most of the mechs when they had passed through with Pigsy. Several times, however, they passed the bodies of mechs which appeared undamaged, but which did not respond or seem to function at all. Trip suggested that, just as Monkey's head-band had powered down upon Pyramid's death, it could be that Pyramid-controlled mechs had lost power at that moment too. Still, they proceeded cautiously.
Monkey stuck close to Trip whenever he could. The strong protective instinct was deeply ingrained in him now. The head-band no longer functioned, so his own life no longer depended upon Trip's wellbeing, but that didn't stop him from watching her like a hawk. His behaviour had not changed at all. If anything, he actually missed some of the head-band's more useful functions. The ability to see mines on his HUD for one, and the ability to monitor Trip's vital signs was another. He no longer had the reassuring proof that she was okay, and so he found he kept glancing over to her more often, just to check she was still unharmed. To check she was still breathing. She had started to notice, but he didn't care.
"We'll stay the night here," Trip said, when they reached what had been Pigsy's abode. It had once been some kind of control room for the factory, if the metal walls and floor and banks of non-functional consoles were anything to go by. Pigsy had added his distinctive flair to the place, which consisted mostly of faded, discoloured posters of semi-dressed women and a certain, particularly unpleasant smell. But, it was shelter, and it was reasonably safe. The turrets Pigsy had set up – at least, those Monkey had not already destroyed – were still functioning, so they were unlikely to be ambushed by mechs as long as they stayed within Pigsy's compound.
The bed looked less than savoury, so the pair huddled instead on the floor by a wall, and Monkey found some of the cleaner cloths and blankets to try to keep Trip warm. They slept sitting up with their backs resting against the wall. Or rather, Trip slept. Monkey stayed awake through force of habit, keeping watch so that Trip could rest, keeping his staff within reach. He wrapped one arm around her slim shoulders and pulled her to him, and she rested her head against his shoulder and curled in close, no doubt happy for the extra warmth.
Trip awoke with the first sign of dawn. She looked up at him and frowned.
"Did you sleep at all, Monkey?"
Monkey gave a half shrug. "Someone's gotta keep watch."
Trip looked displeased. "Tell me next time... We can share watch duty." Not a word about how he didn't have to protect her anymore. Monkey was thankful for that. He didn't want to have to argue the point. Instead he just nodded in assent. It seemed fair, he supposed.
They crossed the rest of the mech factory in relative peace. It was eerie, passing the broken carcases of mechs and half waiting for them to spring to life. Not all the mechs were out of commission; they did run into some, but their attacks were not as co-ordinated as they once would have been. They didn't follow the patterns Monkey had grown used to, and seemed to act as though they were malfunctioning, running rogue, simply attacking anything that showed up on their sensors. More than once, the mechs destroyed one another and all Monkey and Trip had to do was get back on the boat and coast past them.
"They're cut off from their central mainframe," Trip said quietly. When Monkey gave her a questioning look, she explained, "Pyramid mechs were probably connected via their CPUs to the central computer at Pyramid HQ. Now Pyramid's destroyed, they've got nothing controlling them. Without commands to follow, I guess they're going haywire…"
"Just like the slaves," Monkey said.
They were quiet for the rest of the journey through the factory.
Monkey's bike was where they had left it. Monkey kick-started it, noting that the fuel gauge was getting low, and Trip took up her place behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned her forehead against his back. They didn't set off yet, just waited, with the bike's engine humming.
"Mm?" He half turned, thinking that Trip was being quieter than usual.
"Where… do we go now?"
He knew exactly what she meant. The only home she knew had been wiped out, her last ally killed. The wilds spread all around them, nothing but wasteland for hundreds of miles.
"We find fuel for my ride," Monkey said, his tone practical. "And we look for food. And you think about where you wanna go…"
"What about you?"
Monkey turned away. He scanned the desolate road ahead, calculating how far he thought they could get on the gas left in the tank.
"…I go where you go."
Blessedly, they came upon a gas station on the desert road before the bike ran out of juice. Monkey guided the big machine off the road and onto the station forecourt, eyes scanning for any mechs in the vicinity. The place seemed deserted.
Trip got off the bike and started to look around.
"Don't go far," Monkey said. He checked the pumps to see if there was anything left in any of them.
Trip nodded. "I won't." No arguments. Could be she was just as used to sticking with him as he was with her. Could be she knew.
They were in luck. There was enough fuel in the pumps combined to top up the bike. While Monkey was doing that, Trip checked out the building and looked for food. She came back with a few cans of something - the labels were too faded to see what they contained.
"Seems that way," Trip said with an apologetic smile. "Better than nothing."
Monkey made a fire, and they sat. They opened the cans with a sharp shard of metal and cooked the contents – some kind of generic stew – over the fire. It wasn't much, but it was enough.
They sat in silence, watching the fire. Monkey knew that trip was dwelling on the same thing he was – Pyramid. It had been chaos. They had been lucky to get out of the building alive.
Trip had tried to be the leader her father had been, had tried to aid the freed slaves' transition into their new lives, give them someone to help them and to guide them. But the slaves had been wrenched straight from their dream lives and thrust into the harsh wasteland that was the real world they refused to accept. They had been lost, confused, anguished, angry… Trip had tried and failed to soothe or to lead them, and Monkey had had no choice but to get her out of there before they were both killed in the threatening melee. Trip had yelled at him, had commanded him to stop, to let her keep trying, but with Pyramid dead the head-band had already ceased to function. That meant he was no longer bound to follow Trip's commands. Instead, he had slung her over his shoulder, just as he had when fleeing the Leviathan, and run as fast as he could for the freedom of the desert.
They had made the journey across that desert on foot, past the broken wrecks of the mega-mechs. Monkey had carried Trip on his back most of the way. The girl had been despondent and quiet, and Monkey had worried she wouldn't snap out of it. Never once did he look back, and he hoped Trip had done the same.
"Done much thinking yet?" Monkey asked. He poked the fire with the slim, sharp piece of metal. Trip sat curled up beside him, watching the flames. "'Bout where to go?"
"…Where are we meant to go, Monkey?" Trip sounded resigned. Monkey looked at her. "There's nowhere left…"