It became increasingly hard not to blurt out anything about the Megaleioths as each scientist and doctor in the lab came up to me with 'their ideas'. I praised them and let them
do their own thing, but the fact that those ideas were just being planted in their heads nagged at me. How proud they always looked, how excited. Part of me actually wanted to see their reaction
when I told them all they really had was a pile of ash in their hands, er, heads.
We were inching along at a steady pace, with little to no dry areas in our research. Things were constantly coming up, it was almost unbelievable. If the Megaleioths hadn't told me everything five minutes before one of the employees was running up to me, I might have been surprised a few times. I didn't understand half of what they said, and had no clue what was being made in the Tech Medics area in regards to the cure, but I had a feeling it was all going well.
I heard nothing of Albert or Pasteur Labs as the days went on in a repetitive pattern, and that was just fine with me. However, there was one thing at the back of my mind that made me feel like I was forgetting something. Two things in fact. The first, was all the information Kumar had collected. What did it all mean, and where had he gotten it in the first place? The second, was more tricky. All I could determine was that it had something to do with Gary.
At least one of these things is probably a clear as water to you, but I had other things and other people badgering me. Why waste time on something so utterly insignificant? This principle kept all of those troubling thoughts away, and they were shoved to the back of my mind like old possesions when Harrington told me we had a peculiar problem a few floors down. He lead me out of my office that afternoon, wearing his pink suit that somehow made him more threatening. I followed in my usual dark blue tie that was now matched with a clean white suit. I thought I looked pretty good in it.
We took the elevator down to the floor that specialized in human and animal research. Volunteers passed me in lines along with creatures of every shape and size being held in cages or tanks. We walked past a room where a group of lions were roaming freely, with the door wide open. One yawned at me, apparently prefering to eat four-legged lunches.
Harrington seemed full of strange energy and urgency. He walked at a quick pace and stopped for nothing, not even when someone had dropped a jar of lizards right next to a line of volunteers. Needless to say, hilarity ensued. The hallways became less crowded as we continued. I figured we were probably heading towards the crazier stuff, the things regular people weren't aloud to see.
"We've got quite a problem, Mr. Anderson." Mr. H looked back at me, walking a little slower now.
"Has our zoo permit expired?" I asked. He didn't laugh.
"We've recently been having technical dificulties with one of our oldest residents. A unit of artificial intelligence."
"If you wan't to call him that."
We turned the corner and came into a much older section of The Lab. The room in front of us was circular, much like the one that contained the flying car, but it was also a lot larger. Most of the people were scientists (I assumed) with only two people I could see wearing the blue engineer outfits. There were computers along the walls, and the middle of the room dipped down about a foot or so with miniture staircases on two sides. The middle section was surrounded by sections of what looked like bullet-proof glass. Inside of it was a small bed, a nightstand with a lamp and an alarm clock, an old-fasioned TV in front of the bed, and a cage with a hamster running wildly on it's wheel.
Standing next to one of the glass sections, apparently speaking to one of the scientists, was a metal man. From far away he might have been mistaken for a normal person, but it was easy to see from where I was standing that he was anything but. He was a hybrid between a junkyard and the latest car model. Parts of him were old, black, and rusty, their inner workings coughing and sputtering weakly. The rest of him was gleaming metal, ranging from a yellow-gold color to silvery white. He was both the silver platter and the paper plate.
I looked to Harrington, wondering what I was supposed to do. He gave me a tired, slightly annoyed look before pointing towards the bot. Ok, so me and Mr. Roboto were going to have a little chit-chat. I rolled my shoulders and walked towards the center of the room, ignoring the looks my employees gave me, ranging from excited to suspicious. I was used to them by then; the real mystery was how long it would take them to get used to me.
"Good evening, sir." The robot looked away from the scientist (who was eying me in a particularly strange way), and turned to me, his voice sounding like he was underwater. The metal pieces that made up his mouth began to move, some turning and others sliding to the side, briefly revealing a cog or two. He was smiling at me. His eyes were metal balls with white light shining through slits, making me wonder whether he could really see me, or if he had picked me up with some other sensor.
"Good evening. You think you can tell me why I'm here?" I, of course, had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, but that was normal those days.
"I think I can do just that, sir." He looked to the scientist. "A piece of me is malfunctioning, correct?" The dude in the lab coat nodded slowly, still giving me a 'who the hell are you' look.
"What kind of piece? And uh... how is it malfunctioning?" And why does it concern me? I thought in a rather cruel way. Why isn't some tech guy down here instead? I dismissed both of those thoughts with minor disgust towards myself. Harrington wouldn't just bring me down here to do something I'm obviously incapable of doing (in this case, fixing an AI), and I was the one responsible for anyone who stepped into The Lab, human, animal, or robot.
"The piece is located within my brain. As to why it is no longer preforming its normal duties, it is simply too old, I think. It was a part of my original design, this piece." Two pieces of metal slid over his eyes, giving the appearance of eyelids. "...You are Anderson, not Moore." His voice was quieter now. It was a simple statement, yet I could feel some kind of emotion behind it, or whatever passed as emotion for a robot. He seemed... sad, almost. "Paul is dead, correct?"
"Well, Yeah. He died about three months ago." I frowned. "Didn't anyone tell you?"
The scientist had somehow managed to disappear at this point. The robot slowly opened his eyes again and looked at the ground, a kind of mournful expression on his face. "No. News rarely makes it this far down. I have heard your name a few times, however. Todd Anderson, the new heir of Heisenberg Laboratories Inc. It makes sense now, why you should be down here instead of Paul."
I sighed. Earlier that morning I had wished I would no longer hear so many remarks about how I was only like Paul in appearance, or how I would never live up to Paul, or how Paul was so much better at everything. Now, as I looked at this robot, who had probably lost the only person who didn't just look at him as if he were only a hunk of metal, I realized the Megaleioths had been right. I would be lucky to come anywhere close to a man like Paul, who would have done anything for anyone. Or so I believed at the time.
"They want you to find another piece for me, in a place where bad things happen." The robot brought one arm up and touched his chin. I could hear things whirring and clicking inside of him, as if he were an old clock. "They are convinced the piece can be found no where else, by no one else."
Well 'they' sure looked at things in a cheerful manner. "Alrighty then. No problem. Where is this place?" I was strangely enthusiastic then.
"That's classified." Harrington spoke from directly behind me, making me jump a little. "You will have to be personally taken there by someone who has had experience with the location."
"You'll never guess who it is." Behind Harrington stood a familiar face with a familiar smile.
"How the hell do you know about anything classified?" I raised an eyebrow at Kumar, who only shrugged.
"That just so happens to be classified, too." He winked as I turned back to the robot.
"You hear that?" I asked. "Now they're not telling me anything."
The bot smiled again. "I am sure they have a sufficient enough reason not to relay such information. I bid you good fortune on your travels, sir. But before you go... may I suggest another companion for you to include?"
Harrington looked suspicious, but he gave a little nod. "So long as they are capable of being useful."
"I believe they will prove almost vital when the time comes." He turned to me. "When you exit this room, there is a small corridor with two doors on each side and one at the end. Go through the final door, and you will know of whom I speak." With that, the robot began to walk away from us, apparently to go watch his hamster for awhile.
Harrington informed us that he was going to go make sure a time travel experiment wasn't creating too many paradoxes. "In the meantime," he said, "you two go find your third party member and be on your way." He sighed. "We don't have as much time as was originally thought..." I nodded in understanding, and he was gone.
"Well, let's go make a friend." Kumar clasped his hands together as we made our way towards the previously described corridor. The final door had nothing written on it, but there was a camera eying us from the ceiling. "I feel so welcomed." He opened the door, and there was a sudden hissing noise almost immediately.
"Well isn't this just fan-fucking-tastic! So what's your job, jackass? You here to take some more blood or are you just going to stick a thermometer up my ass while your buddy holds me down like I'm his fucking girlfriend?"
The room looked like an animal shelter of sorts, with cages stacked across the walls and pet accessories like leashes and mousey toys laying scattered in odd places. Most of the cages were empty, but the occasional pair of yellow eyes would stare out at us from behind a set of bars. Directly to our right, was a large tom cat sitting with his tail curled round his paws. His ears were pinned to his head, and his furry mouth was curled back to reveal rows of pointy teeth, but the enormous amount of fluff this cat had took away almost any sense of him being a true threat.
The two of us stared at him for awhile, until he licked his lips and began to speak again. "Well? What the fuck are you two staring at?"
"This is him?" Kumar looked at me, waiting for my judgment.
"I suppose so. The robot back there said we'd know him when we saw him." Or her. I thought briefly.
"He's actually an android, not a robot."
"Does it matter?"
"Hatchet sent you?" The cat broke in, relaxing a little.
"His name is Hatchet? Who names their robot Hatchet?" I asked.
"Android." Kumar corrected.
"Enough of this pointless shit! What the hell are you two here for?!" The cat hissed.
I shrugged. "Apparently 'Hatchet' needs a new part and me, Kumar and you are supposed to go looking for it."
The cat blinked, thoughtfully. "I see." He sat there for awhile, looking down at his large paws, as if trying to determine whether one was bigger than the other. When tilted his head back to us again, I saw less hostility in his eyes and more wisdom, as if he knew things I didn't. He reminded me of Harrington around Paul's last days. "I assume we are heading to the Graveyard?"
"The what now?" I already didn't like the place. On a side note, i noticed how many generic place names I was running into; 'The Lab', 'the Graveyard'. What was next? 'The Temple'?
"It's the place Heisenberg Labs dumps all of their old experiments. It wasn't too bad until the rats took over and started turning random things on." Kumar looked at the tom. "Guess that's why we need you."
"No shit Sherlock. Who else is going to take care of those scumbag rodents for you?" He leapt neatly off of the counter he'd been sitting on, his grey and brown fur rippling majestically.
"And you could probably hear things coming before we could." I added, hoping I was being helpful. I already had the impression that this feline was looking down on me.
"Well aren't you just fucking brilliant?" He huffed and padded towards the door. "Come on, shit heads, we got work to do."
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