Taban started to feel worried. He suddenly felt much weaker then when he first entered these barren lands. As if something was slowly draining the life from him. He couldn't quite place it. He turned around. Releived that he could still see the dome, Taban continued to approach the large structure. It was metallic, like the dome from before, but this…structure seemed completely wrecked. The structure had been in ruins for quite a while.
Perhaps he could re-use some of the metal and wiring in his efforts to improve the dome. The roof was not finished, and he needed more materials to make sure it would stay structurally safe for a few years, at least.
"HELLO! ANYBODY HERE?" He yelled, but got no reply. "I guess it's just me."
Taban tapped on a lone sheet of metal, intent on testing it's stability. The short, yet fierce sound of metal of metal echoed around the abandoned buildings before fading into the ever-lasting sounds of the soaring winds.
"Seems solid enough." He looked around for more usable sheets, when he noticed that most buildings had the letters "Site 32" on them. "Site 32? Hmm...this looks like some kind of research facility." There were all kinds of simplified warning signs on the walls, and a defunct neon sign that said "Use caution when handling all chemicals."
He continued his search, wading deeper and deeper into site 32. At first he was cautious, but it soon appeared to him that nothing could live out here. Oh, how wrong he was. On a whim he continued until he reached a large open space. In front of him were more defunct laboratories, but to the rright there was a large flat space that stretched past many of the buildings.
"That looks just like one of these metal roads. Hmm…I guess this is the end of site 32, then. Hold on, what's that?" Taban could see a vehicle in the distance. Carefully he approached it, and examined it closer. It was painted blue on top, and yellow on the lower half. Small flaps of metal extended from the front of the object. In the lower back there were several pipes leading right into the object. From the wheels below it taban could determine that it was an autonomous carriage, or as he liked to call it, a vehicle.
It was simply incredible. Taban had came up with the idea of an autonomous land vehicle, but it didn't seem possible…yet. Guardia had steam powered boats, but these engines were not suited for land travel. They were too big and bloated, no kind of land vehicle would be big enough to carry them and still be able to move faster than a horse drawn carriage. With some study, perhaps he would be able to repair it, and control it.
Suddenly, he could hear several creaks. Metal hinges moved back and forth. Taban suddenly recognized the sound. It sounded like one of the robots he encountered below the dome.
He was surrounded, by 10 or 12 different robots. They seemed ready to leap at him, all at the same time. But Taban was ready. He planned that he could take out one robot with his gun, before using the distraction of his surprise attack to break out of his encirclement. After that, he could find some place where he could find cover, or protection. If he stood here ,out there in the open he would definitely lose the upcoming fight. Taban slowly slid both hands to his hammer and gun, waiting for the best moment to strike.
The robot suddenly focused on something on the right of him. Taban could faintly hear an engine running, and the sound continuously kept becoming louder and louder. Soon he saw a two-wheeled vehicle drive into the open space and stop just in front of him.
To Taban's surprise the vehicle seemed to transform...fold into a human-like robot. It had a brown , featureless-face with sunglasses but lacked a mouth. Its wheels folded into it's back, and the pipes folded to there as well, still steadily blowing smoke.
"Bro!" the robots chanted , in unison. They seemed excited., even though the flat tone of their speech was making it quite difficult to determine that
"Wait, you can talk?" Taban feel from the first surprise into the second
"Thank you for the intro, boys!" The robot turned around to face Taban. The voice of the robot seemed much clearer then other voices.
"You lowlife can call me Johnny. I'm the leader of this pack."
"I am not a lowlife, I'm a human." Taban sounded defiantly, but he was stil aware of the odds being against him.
"A human? Interesting. " Johnny paused for a while, before continuing. 'Now, listen up. The ruined highway ahead is the only road we've got. You wanna reach the other side? Then you're going to have to drive – in a race against me, that is."
"Why would I race you?"
"Because." Johnny answered. Taban waited for the rest of his sentence, but it never came.
"I'll let you use the jetbike." Johnny pointed at the bike. " 'cause that's the kinda guy I am. Don't sweat it – and don't you dare chicken out, babe!"
Taban noticed the threat underlying his last few words. His chances of defeating the robots on his own were slim. Perhaps the race was the best idea. He just had to win. Or so he said to himself. He didn't know what the alternative was, but it didn't seem pretty.
"All right. I'll race."
"We'll ride like the wind, yeah!"
Johnny morphed into his bike form again. Taban carefully climbed into the jetbike. The inside was filled with all kinds of different buttons and handles. One the underside of the main panel Taban could see a hole, suited for a key. But he didn't have the key. He looked at Johnny again.
"I don't know how to drive it!"
"Better find out fast, babe."
"What's a babe?' Taban wondered.
'Thank you for that oh-so-helpful answer!"
If he was going to drive the jetbike he had to do it all on his own, like pretty much everything he did since he entered this strange world. With some careful hammer smashes he had removed the keyhole, revealing the wires that lay underneath. He linked up several wires, following the pattern he could make out from the back of the keyhole. Nothing happened.
"All right, Taban, think. You insert the key…and then.." The markings on the keyhole showed that the key must have turned after inserting it." Turn it to…" He pulled out his screwdriver and carefully inserted into the keyhole. After turning it to the right the underside of the device put out a short spark. "Dangit. I should have started out by just turning it!" Grumbeling he undid the damage he did before and put the keyhole device back in its place. After turning the screwriver again the panel lit up brightly, and the vehicle slowly shook back and forth. From the damaged mirror to the left of him Taban could see smoke coming out of the rear of the jetbike.
"You are so slow, dude, I would have finished the race twenty times , if I wasn't the guy I was." Johnny turned back to his human from and folded his arms.
Taban looked at Johnny. He could never, not even in his wildest dreams, have thought of a robot with such a…human-like level of intelligence.
"I don't know how to drive this thing. Could you give me a second to find out?"
"Whatever." Johnny's voice was played at a lower pitch then usual, as if he wanted to show his boredom…or indifference.
He examined all the different levers and buttons, before setteling on the wheel in front of him and the large blue lever to his right. As soon as he moved the lever forward the shaking increased, and the jetbike began to move. With the wheel in front he could make a pair of flaps move in the back that allowed him to change the direction of the bike from right to left. Gently he drove a few circles before Johnny called out
"Are we gonna race, or are we going to ride in circles? 'Cause I hate circles just as much as I hate the slow ones!" Johnny returned to his bike form.
"Yeah yeah, whatever. I'm ready."
"You'd better be, dude. I'm ready too. Follow me to the start, and we're good to go."
Taban drove the jetbike behind Johnny. Eventually Johnny stopped in front of a dark brown line. It looked like someone had drawn it with a laser weapon. Or rather, some robot. Taban didn't know what Johnny was capable of, and he didn't want to find out. He stopped the jetbike next to Johnny.
"All right, dude. He's the rules. Whoever is first to the end of the highway wins, and by whoever, I mean, me."
Taban nodded. He had his hand on the handle, ready to pull it from it's neutral stance.
One of the robots from before showed up, and stood on the starting line.
"Johnny. Versus. Unknown." It lit up it's lone eye. From red, to yellow, to green."
"3…" Taban took one more look at Johnny. He wondered how he went from discovering a new source of materials to racing a robot that had threatened to kill him.
"2…"Johnny looked back, his bland face unable of showing any emotion.
"1…" Taban checked for the last time that he was using the right handle, and that his other hand was on the steering wheel.
"RACE!" The robot fired a laser into the air. Johnny initially sped away from Taban, and was gaining speed fast. Taban pushed the handle until it reached it's very end. The sudden acceleration pushed him into the back of his chair. Johnny was quite far ahead, but Taban was catching up to him…he hoped. At least the distance between them was decreasing. The road was filled with small holes but the jetbike easily drove over them. But in the distance taban could see a lot of incoming obstacles.
Large pieces of deformed metal appeared in the distance. The road wasn't blocked, but Johnny was forced to slow down, taking sharp turns left and right to dodge all the obstacles. Taban pulled the handle back a bit as well, and with a yank on the wheel the jetbike steered to the right, avoiding the first large obstacle. Johnny was still in the lead, but Taban now had a chance of winning.
With a practiced ease Johnny slipped past everything that approached him. He had ridden this course time after time, and knew the fastest route. Taban struggeled to keep up. Then, he crashed into a small pile of rubble. The jetbike shook violently, but continued to venture foreward. Taban removed his hand from the handle and used both hands to jerk the jetbike away from another oncoming hazard.
Taban was close to quitting when the oncoming barrage of obstacles stopped. The road was flat again, and not far ahead of him rode Johnny. Taban pushed the handle with all his might, and the jetbike started to close in on Johnny.
"Come on, you have to go faster then this! Taban looked around for anything that could help him. He felt as if the jetbike wasn't going as fast as it possibly could. On the right he noticed another handle. This one had markings with 1,2 and 3 on the site. Taban set the handle to 2, hoping that it stood for engine power. The jetbike shook, and it sounded like the engine protested.
But then the engine shifted gear , and the jetbike seemingly doubled in speed (according to Taban, that is.) To his own surprise Taban sped past Johnny, and for the first time was in the lead
"No way. I will not lose to..." Johnny increased his own speed, and was closing in fast.
Taban could see Johnny approaching from his rear mirror. Johnny was now right next to him, and attempted to overtake him. Taban flicked the gear handle on the left into three.
Johnny felt incredibly satisfied as he noticed that Taban fell back. But then he was once again put into second place by the jetbike roaring past him.
"That is impossible!" Johnny tried to keep up, but he couldn't. He was at his maximum. Taban raced over the finish line. He didn't notice that he had won until Johnny slowed down, and came to a halt. Taban put the gear back to one, and slowly turned around.
Johnny stared at the ground in defeat. "You raced me, and you won. Challenge me again, if you want to. We'll ride like the wind, baby!"
Johnny turned around and preparedto ride away when Taban stopped
"Hey Johnny!" Taban got out of the jetbike, and walked over to Johnny. "So that's it. You're just going to leave like that?"
"You won, I lost. That's the way it goes. Losers' gotta leave, winners gotta win."
"Actually, I have to tell you something."
Johnny turned around
"You're the first thing I've met since I came here that hasn't given up or tried to kill me yet…I think. I'm here trying to help these people in the dome back there. I could really use some help, from anyone, even a robot like you.
"You want me to help you? Why in all my cricuits would I go with you?"
"What else are you going to do then? Practice this race on your own until you meet a new challenger. "
"Exactly". Johnny put his arms over each other.
"Did you just call me insane? " Johnny slowly approached Taban
"No, I did not. I said that doing the same thing over and over is insane. You look like a good per…robot. These people need your help, our help. Please."
"I can't just leave site 32."
"What is stopping you?"
Johnny thought about it, but he couldn't come up with a single reason. "Nothing."
"If nothing is stopping you, please come with me to the dome." Something popped into Taban's mind. "If you do, I will race you again later. But hey, if you don't want to come that's fine." Taban walked back when he felt that Johnny put his hand on his shoulder.
"Stop. I will go with you, unknown."
"Taban, the name is Taban. " Taban shook Johnny's metallic hand. "Lets drive back to the start and then I can show you the dome."
"Whatever you say, Tay-ban."
'"Taban, not tayban." Taban climbed back into the jetbike. He smiled wildly. For the first time since he came here….he didn't feels so alone. The other humans weren't exactly great conversationalists, and the robots below only spoke in deadly lazers. Johnny didn't seem like the type of per…robot he would like to talk to, but beggars can't be choosers. Any company is better then none.
"So this is the dome. Pretty radical. Looks way better then site 32." Johnny remarked as he returned to his "human" form.
" I've been here fo quite a while now. I've been repairing the roof, electrical system, plumbing, and anything else. Inside are a few humans, but they have long abandoned any hope. I'm trying to help them, as much as I can." Taban removed his screwdriver from the keyhole.
"I was planning on fixing the roof when I noticed something in the distance. It turned out to be site 32. With those extra materials I could surely fix the entire roof." Taban pointed at the gaping hole that he had recently started to fix.
As they entered the main hall the people inside paniced at the sight of Johnny.
"A robot! Look out!" Almost everyone in the room rose to their feet and flet ot the back of the room.
"Calm down, calm down!" Taban yelled. "This is Johnny. He doesn't want to kill you, right Johnny?"
"Why would I want to kill you?" It must have been Tabans mid, because he could swear that Johnny looked pretty pised.
The people didn't seem very relieved. Only the old man slowly walked forward.
"And what do you want with this robot?"
"I don't know really. But, he's here to help me help you."
"Whatever he said." Johnny slowly approached the old man. "I'm Johnny , and I'm the coolest robot around. Killing isn't cool.."
"Okay then. Welcome…Johnny, to our dome." The old man nodded at the others to relax.
Taban sighed. All fo a sudden he felt very tired. But he couldn't sleep, not right now. He stepped into the enetron and smiled at the feeling of pure rejuvinaton. But after the process was complete, his stomach roared.
"Shut up. There's no food here, so there's no reason to be complaining."
"As I have said before, our food storage is below, but no one ever returns…except you.
"I'm not going in there again. I barely made it out alive." Taban walked over to his work bench, examining three other guns he had constructed from the robots he encountered below.
'What are those things, dude?" Johnny picked up one.
"It's a gun. If you pull that trigger there it produces a beam. Don't aim it at the people!" Taban carefully handed Johnny a gun. "don't you have any of these lazers yourself?"
"Nope. I am not a security robot. All I got are my wheels, man." Johnny used his free hand to spin one of the wheels on his back while firmly gripping onto the gun with his other hand.
Taban's stomach complained again. It still wanted something to eat. It suddenly fell into place. The enrertron was keeping him alive, but the lack of food was still weakening him. Taban looked at all the weak, skinny people he was surrounded with. If he was unable to find any food soon, he would end up just like them.
"My God." Taban exclaimed. "I'll be just like them…unless…" Taban didn't like venturing below again, but he now knew he had little choice. "Johnny, I'm going to descend into the lower parts of the dome to find some food. You want to go with me?"
"Where do you need that `food ´for?"
"To not die."
"All right, I´m game.` Johnny put the gun back onto the workbench. Taban checked his equipment two times before carefully opening the valve, exposing the ladder that led to the hallways below.
`Well, here goes nothing.` Taban started to climb down, and was quickly followed by Johnny. Once they reached the end of the ladder Taban activated his gun on the lowest setting. He used as a flashlight, scanning the unfamiliar surroundings.
`Where are we going?`
´Don´t know, but the old man told me that there should be a food storage here below. ` Taban quickly recognized the hallway that was blocked on the left, but the right led into the hallway where he had his first encounter with a robot.
The hallway led into an open space, with several robots in the distance. For some reason they were moving back and forth, patrolling. They didn´t notice Taban and Johnny yet, but that didn´t last long.
`Hey there bro!` Johnny walked over to one of the robots that loked very much like those at site 32
`Hostile detected, opening fire.` The robot seemingly opened his shoulders and launched a few small rockets at Johnny, who was barely able to dodge them in time.
`It´s me, Johnny. You know me, so don´t attack me.`
`Identification rejected, opening fire.` the robot stated before launching another volley at Johnny. Johnny morphed into his bike form, and dodged the rockets by outrunning them.
While that was happening Taban put his gun on the maximum setting, aimed at the robot and shot at it´s one eye. He fired three shots, yet only one hit it´s eye The other two shots hit its ` neck`, disabling the robot.
`Whoa dude, that robot tried to destroy us.`
`They try to do that all the time.`
`Robots are not made to kill humans. They are made to protect.`
`Well then, why did that robot fire at you?`
``I wasn´t made to fight, dude, I can´t help you here.`
Taban sighed. ´ I understand. I´ll take you back then.`
`This place has lost it´s cool. How much more of these robots are trying to kill you? `
´Don´t know, a lot. ´ Taban secured the hatch. ` I just have to take them out, one by one.
´That´s a pretty epic thing to do. Too bad I don´t have any weapons, bro.`
`But I do…` Taban looked up and smiled. `Johnny, you can one of my guns.` He handed the robot a gun. Johnny, under Tabans guidance, aimed the gun at theground and pulled the trigger. The gun promply broke under Johnny´s crushing grip.
`Ah!` Taban yanked the gun out of his hand `You broke it.
`It happens, bro.` Johnny picked up a loose piece of the gun form the ground and gave it to Taban.
`Hmm…` Taban took the gun and looked at johnny. `I might just have another way. But I´ll have to modify you.`
`What do you mean, modify= I am perfect.
`If I could observe your inner circuits I could perhaps attatch a gun, or even two to your body.`
`You mean, give me two lasers? I hate to be modified but I´d take that upgrade, any day!`
Taban instructed Johnny to lie down on his workbench. He had no idea what he was going to do next, but he had managed to operate like that since he arrived here. Taban removed part by part of Johnny´s outer casing, revealing the multitude of wires and small engines below.`
`This looks pretty complicated, where do I attatch the guns to…`
`Perfection is complicated. I have been made in site 32, home of all advanced robots. `
`I can see that` The inner workings of Johnny were most likely made by a professional, or rather, a team of professional s with intellects far above his own. He carefully examined every loose part of Johnny, theorizing on what it´s purpose would be. It took him quite a while before he found an appropriate place for the two guns to be attatched. Near Johnny ´s shoulders he had two small robots that allowed him to raise his shoulders separately. These two motors had no other function then that, and therefore Taban believed he could attatch the guns without harming or hindering any other part of Johnny´s functionality. He first reattatched the lower parts of his casing, protecting his inner workings again. Then, he pulled out his gun, and began to attatch the first gun to Johnny´s left shoulder.
`Be very carefull. Do not move your shoulders of you could ruin everything, okay`
`I am cool itself. I can do this for years!`
`Mmhmm…` Taban drifted back off into this thoughts, no longer hearing the story Johnny was trying to tell to him about some time when he raced someone.
With a reasonably low setting Taban started to weld the gun to Johnny´s shoulder. He ttatched the trigger to the small engine below his shoulder and then used metal wiring to circle around the gun. After he was sure he had properly attatched the gun he tried tuggin at it. It wouldn´t move.
`And there we go, that´s one.` Taban thought backabout the way he attatched the gun, and then repeated the process on the second shoulder. At least, he was done. He checked Johnny´s casing and both guns, before helping Johnny back up.
`All right, this should do it. You can now use these two guns by raising your shoulders. Don´t fire yet, first make sure you can´t hit someone.` Taban took Johnny outside. He tossed a large scrap of metal onto the black ground ahead.` Try hitting that.`
Johnny slowly raised both shoulders. As he did both guns produced a laser. Johnny was taken back by the effect. ``This is awesome. I should have done this years ago!` Johnny focused the guns that were now sticking out of his shoulders, and hit the scrap.
`That was pretty good.`
` It was double awesome, dude. Thanks.` Johnny raised his hand, and Taban shook it.
`Let´s go back downstairs, okay? If I do not find food soon I will become weak…like the others. It´s already weakening me, and it can´t continue.`
`Whatever you say, gunman.`
`Taban wanted to correct him, before realizing that it was a compliment.-
Johnny and Taban made quite some progress. While Johnny was reluctant to fire upon another robot, all robots opened fire at first sight. After a while Johnny didn´t let them have the chance to fire any longer.`
They cleared out room, by room. Taban couldn´t resist smiling. Johnny was turning out to be a great partner, one he setteled into the role. Taban examined the next door. Softly, he opened it to peek inside. A robot turned around, ready to fire, but before it could Taban had already turned it into a swiss cheese robot.
`It´s safe.` Taban entered the room, lowering his gun´s setting to flashlight. In front of them stood a very large device with all kinds of buttons and a large, vertical glass plate.
`What is this thing?` Taban looked at the device, but he couldn´t at all determine what it was. But, his stomach roared again. It was interesting, but he would have to save that for later. Taban left the room, and closed the door behind him. `Nothing there.`
`We still haven't found your `food``. Are you sure it is down here at all, man?`
`I don´t know….I no longer think so,` Taban leaned back against the wall. `That was the last room. There´s nothing else down here. Damn it!`Taban slammed his hammer at the wall. `So that´s it. I can do whatever I want, in the end I´ll just lay down on the floor and die. Nothing matters any more.` Taban slammed his hammer against the wall again. `I´m going to die, stuck in this place….without my family or my friends.`Taban´s eyes started to tear.
`Dude, don´t cry. Crying isn´t cool.`
`WHO GIVES A SHIT IF IT´S NOT COOL! I´VE BEEN WORKING DAY AND NIGHT FOR MONTHS TO HELP THESE PEOPLE AND IT DIDN´T EVEN MATTER!` Taban calmed down a bit. Nothing really matters . Anone can see, nothing matters any more.I guess I´ll just sit here, and wait for my death. " Taban let out a deep sigh, and dropped his hammer.
He looked at his hammer, and more specifically the words on top of it. He smashed the hammer into the wall again. Then, he herd a strange metal clank. The metal showed clear traces of the impact of the hammer ,and Taban looked.
"Perhaps…" Taban picked up his hammer and stood up. "Do you remember at the entrance? There was a path to the left but a study metal door was blocking it. I tried to move it before but it wouldn't budge." Taban pointed back to the entrance, and Johnny followed him there. The depression Taban felt soon faded away, replaced by a new beacon of hope. The food storage could be near, it could be there.
Taban examined the door closely. IT had multiple locks on it, and wiring that led to the panel in the middle. The panel asked for a code, but after a few attempts Taban knew he just had to smash his way through. With scientific precision he started to hammer away at the doors hinges. Johnny stood a meter behind him, unable to produce a single sentence.
The door started to deform and bend backwards. Taban put his hammer down and put his gun on the highest setting. With a clam demenour he started cutting away at the very top of the door. With one fierce kick the door came free and fell onto the ground.
"That. Was. AWESOME!" Johnny played the sentence at a higher volume then normal.
"Yeah, whatever. Let's go."