This member has provided no bio about themself... or has he?
Posted by MasterofMetal on Aug 25th, 2013
Just a quick note: I decided midway through this chapter that General Fox will be removed. Dr. Hargreave is 'Prometheus' from here on out. I just couldn't be bothered going back and editing it. I apologise for my laziness.
The room Simon was currently being detained in was, boringly, white. White walls and white chairs and white lights; every static object he saw was coloured in the hue of purity. What this was all meant to signify, he didn't know, but what he did know was that he was in the prison-like section of the underground tunnels. The Pentagon rarely took captives, but when it did, it was because there was something about the prisoner that made them very important. Simon learned through his last thieving visit that sometimes it wasn't always information the government wanted; sometimes it was the minds of the prisoners themselves. They would slowly turn the captive's mind against his or her own personal cause and place them in the employ of the F.B.I, C.I.A, N.S.A, or some other federally controlled institution as inquisitorial machines. Simon also learned that if the brainwashing failed to work, then the subject would be disappeared. Popularity and wholeheartedness with the population was the key to secrecy and power. Perhaps that was what they wanted to do; turn him into another tool of government oppression. Lest that was the case, he couldn't allow that to happen.
Simon heard the door close softly behind him. He didn't turn from his chair to look; he would try to be as unresponsive as possible. This time his hands weren't cuffed. Odd that they wouldn't take that precaution, but maybe they underestimated him; to them maybe he was all brain and no brawn. If he was ever going to escape, they'd quickly find that he was more of a warrior than they thought; he didn't stay in The Simulator for real-time hours on end playing first-person shooters and practising martial arts for nothing. As the person who entered walked over to Simon's position, he smiled at the thought.
The person sat down in the white chair in front of Simon. It was probably more comfortable as he sunk into the cushions a lot more than Simon did.
"Simon," the man said as he raised his head up from a clipboard in his hands. The man was of Asian origin, but had an American accent, indicating he had stayed a long time, "what seems to be the problem today?"
The question vexed him. To his own mental cursing, he disobeyed his unspoken commandment of silence, "What do you mean, ‘today'?"
The man smiled a small smile, "Why, don't you remember me?"
Simon narrowed his eyes to see past the white. The man had a white beard and spectacles... "Hargreave!"
"The very same."
"How does it feel that your most promising project was given proper life, eh?"
Hargreave looked back up from his clipboard with, curiously, a puzzled look, "What are you talking about?"
Simon slumped back in his chair smirking to himself in success; he'd humiliated his polar opposite to the point where he would deny the existence of his creation. Fantastic!
"My question still stands, Mister Murray, what's been happening recently?"
"You already know."
"Then enhance my understanding."
"If you insist, Doctor. You people have subjected me to near-drowning five times within the week, whacked my head into more surfaces more times than I can count, winded me a few hundred times, stabbed my stomach an bandaged it up more times than me being winded and... What are you writing?"
"Oh, don't mind me and my notes," he stated, "do go on."
Simon continued while maintaining a look of suspicion, "You've also shot me in the leg several times, healed up the wound, and shot it again, and I've also heard from the guards that you guys plan to have one of my limbs under the knife, reattach it, heal it up, and cut if off again, without anaesthetic... If I were you, I'd give up already with the torture; I'm never going to talk."
The Doctor wrote out some more on the paper attached to his clipboard, "Hallucinations... persist."
"What?!" Simon yelled, almost forcing himself from his seat with his voice's force. Unfussed, Hargreave looked up from what he was writing without moving his head, then returned his eyes to the page, "Are you really expecting me to believe that bullshit?!"
"And it's Simon, for crying out loud."
"...Simon, there is no need for that profanity in this institute."
"What's that? The Institute for the Education of... Delinquents?"
"No, no, Simon, this is the same place you've been in ever since you first started having these delusions you're still experiencing."
"And where the hell is that, Hargreave? For the past six years I've been living in British Columbia, Canada, until recently when you bastards showed up and took me away from her. Now I'm here in The Pentagon in this room with you, and YOU'RE telling ME that everything's just been one huge mental fantasy?!"
"I didn't want it to be put it that bluntly, but, yes."
"Well then I hate to say this, but fuck you. Fuck you and fuck this shit."
"Simon, may I need to repeat myself that we do not encourage nor do we tolerate that language or attitude in this organisation."
"So what am I doing in The Pentagon anyway? Aren't special cases like me supposed to be disappeared?"
"Simon, this isn't The Pentagon. This isn't even the USDOD. You should know that."
"Oh sure, I'm supposed to take in this crap?"
"I'm not hallucinating you bastard!"
"Alma's real! You're all real!"
"Perceptions... of reality."
"Will you just listen to me?!"
"I am Simon. And every time you've been in here you've told me-"
"I have never been in this room!"
"Every time you've been in here, you've told me the same story over and over again. If you ever expect to be let out and see your family, your condition is going to need to improve."
"What the hell are you talking about? My parents are dead!"
"No, they're not. You've always told me and maintained a belief that they are, but they aren't. They're just waiting for you to get better."
"Whatever you idiots are trying to do, it's not going to work."
"We are trying to make you better. Those six years you said you spent in Canada? You've spent five and a half years in here."
"And where is here if not out there?"
"Here is the Harrison Institute. Here, we've been treating the mentally impaired and deluded for decades. This isn't The Pentagon, Simon."
"You honestly think this is pulling the wool over my eyes? I've seen what you've done to everyone down here. Those machines you have in the pens with me-"
"Those machines are people, and those ‘pens' are rooms. That room you have there has been yours for those five and a half years."
"This is just crap."
"It's the truth. And I must say, Simon, I applaud the elaborate backstory you've made up. You've told me a fair amount about this Alma character, and Newblood too. My professional opinion, however-"
"Your profession, Doctor Hargreave, is creating war machines for the military."
"I cannot deny that I have had fascinations with robotics and studied it a fair bit, and how you found out this information I don't know, but it has never, never, been my profession. I'm a psychiatrist. And I have never had dealing with the military."
"Bullshit you haven't."
"...Now as I was saying before, my professional opinion makes me believe your Autism is partly to blame on all this."
"I've had so many things blamed on it already, imagination included. That's why I failed math a few times."
"I know. We have your records; they go back into high school. I understand you were suffering from some depression from years 10 to 12. Have you ever considered that it continued on?"
"What are you trying to say?"
"And in interviews with psychiatrists, you said that listening to music and playing games were your only escape from the world."
"So, I'm suggesting that after school, you couldn't shake your depression, but you couldn't escape from it anymore by playing games or listening to music. You had university and the stressed built up. And... after finding this skeleton in New Mexico, you found inspiration for a new escape."
"I'm sorry, Simon, but it appears I have to break the news to you again. The world you've created; your home in Canada; your parents dead; Alma; Newblood; the military after her; it's all in your head. It's all immaterial. You have schizophrenia. I've been treating you for the past five and a half years and every time you've come in here you've kept saying the same story."
"No! No I don't! It's all real!"
"Your family permitted you here. If you wish to see your friends and family again, you're going to have to improve and accept the fact that this is real. Alma doesn't exist."
"No! Stop saying lies! Shut up!"
"The longer you stay in this world and not the one in your head, you'll start remembering things clearly."
"We're only doing this because your family-"
"I SAID SHUT UP!"
"Do you even remember entering the room?"
"NO! You bastards sedated me!"
"No we didn't. You were guided in."
"If that's so, then why the hell did I wake up in this seat?"
"Schizophrenics can suffer memory loss during a transition from their mental world to the real one."
"Oh, is that a fact?"
"And how do I know that's true?"
"Because it came from me."
"Pwah ha ha! That is no reason!"
"You're right; in your state of mind, I shouldn't expect you to believe anything I say. I should just show you the real world instead of tell you about it."
"Nathan put you up to this didn't he?"
"Nathaniel Fox, Prometheus."
"The general? The president's brother? No."
"I'm maintaining my suspicions."
"Ugh. I thought as much. Now if you'll please follow me out the door."
"What are you planning?"
"If you're not planning to escape, I'm planning to show you what's been your home for the past few years, Simon."
"I highly doubt that."
Hargreave opened the door and walked partway through, and said, before slamming it shut, "Then may you have good luck returning to your room."
The slam echoed in the medium-sized space. Schizophrenia my ass! Simon thought to himself as he stared at the area where the Doctor had left. Whatever act they were trying to pull over his eyes, Simon would have to resist it - no giving in physically or mentally. Alma's existence... life... Alma's life depended on his strengths, and if he faltered in any way, shape or form, then his d... a great friend would be lost forever. Screw it. Maybe it would be best to play along with their little act for the time being. After all, it would mean they'd be more frustrated when they realise their efforts failed. Simon stood up, angrily sauntered to the door - conflicting with his mind whether it was a good plan at all - and struggled to find a handle. He found it in the form of a small indentation in the wall; he tapped the area and the section of wall opened towards him. The sight that awaited him was not of grey, depressingly claustrophobic tunnels, but of cream-white walls. And there was now more staff dressed in white coats pacing along the corridors than at any other time he'd seen. And people were being led in certain directions by some of the staff, in wheelchairs and on foot. There was a minimal security in the vicinity. Hargreave's arm shot up from the side to hold Simon back as a portable table rolled by with a covered body on top.
"It's best to respect the dead," he said as solemn as he could, following the table with his eyes, "even if you didn't know them well."
Simon felt a bit guilty as he scoffed, "I suspect he was one of your casualties in the process to find answers."
Hargreave returned a look of severity Simon hadn't seen in anyone since his father, "If you're implying that we did that, then no. Absolutely not. In a crazed state, he tried to attack of our guards. The guard responded with a Taser, but the man also had a heart condition. His heart gave out and he couldn't be revived. We had nothing to do with it, and the guard couldn't have done anything. You don't think about those sorts of things when you try to protect yourself. Maybe that's what the man wanted; an easy way out."
"Yeah, you drove him to that point and then gave him the easy way out."
"Simon, here we're trying to help our patients. If they don't accept we're trying to help, then there's nothing we can do. If you'll please realise that all this is the real world, then you can go back to family. You may not remember this place as well as you have on other days, but the longer you aren't fooled by your hallucinations, I promise your memory will return."
"Who am I to disagree with my elders?"
"You and I have had disagreements since day one; so apparently you are one to disagree with your elders."
"Good to know."
"Just follow me to your room, please."
Simon followed hesitantly behind the doctor's every move. Everyone he passed seemed so much more relaxed, but he noticed that they were increasingly wary around him. Of course, everyone could have just been paid actors, or the actual staff who were natural actors, but this all may have just been an elaborately well-constructed act. This couldn't have been the reality; he remembered Alma with such detail for it to be a dream or delusion or whatever Hargreave would insist on calling it. No way was this real. Well... it was all real, but this wasn't the real situation as Hargreave said it was: Simon did, admittedly, have high-functioning Autism, but this only impeded on his social life, which was basically non-existent outside Ethan and Hellcat and several other members of the online group Simon had created called the Incognito Society. Members came from all nationalities - from Australia to Turkey to Europe to Scandinavia - and all that was required was an open, philosophical mind and a wanting for a better, fairer world, even if there was nothing they could do about it. Just thinking about the topics he and the other members discussed made Simon angry; how arrogant and ignorant humans could be! Ugh! Whenever Simon saw one of the staff looking at him through his peripheral vision, he would shoot them an angry look back.
Simon noted that there weren't any Unmanned Ground Vehicles patrolling the corridors with the guards - who were less in number, less protected, and less well armed. This was a very dangerous gambit on the military's part of it indeed. No security cameras either. What were the bastards playing at? As he was such a high priority target, one would hardly expect his captors to let down their guard to the point of no surveillance, even if they thought he was all brain and no brawn, in which he was all brain and all agility. Furthermore, if memory served him correctly - which it did consistently on some subjects, and didn't on others - this wasn't the way back to his cell. In fact they were going in the opposite direction, again, if memory served him right. But then again, maybe the room he and Hargreave came from was new or... damn. Messing with his mind already, or perhaps he was messing with his own mind by thinking over things too much... God damn it.
"Your room, Simon," Hargreave said as he turned towards him, guesturing toward an open door. Simon peeked in and saw a regular room. No bars, no locks or chains, a bed, a table, some lights, and a walled section with a shower and toilet; luxuries they daren't give him in the beginning. And it would have taken heavy modification and ground-works to complete. It seemed that every other cell had the same treatment done. They could have just transferred him to another part of the complex though.
"What is this witchcraft?"
"What do you mean?"
"What have you done to this place?"
"Nothing has changed since last you were here."
"And how long ago was that?"
"That's just bull. Everything here was iron bars and grey walls, and there were military robots over in the other pens there too."
"It's all in your head, Simon."
"Then how come I can remember everything here to the exact detail? I can remember the sounds of the robots desperate to get out and be free! I can remember Alma perfectly! I can remember when the soldiers came and took me away! I can remember Alma telling me about how Newblood was trying to mess with her mind! I can remember everything important that's happened in the last six days up until Sergeant Lee dragged me out of my cell and sedated me!"
"Bullshit! It's all too real to be hallucinations! Don't you ever tell me she's not real!"
"Don't ever tell me she isn't real. I love her too much for her to be fake."
"Get inside, or I will start calling it a cell."
"Wow, so threatening."
"Just get inside."
"Simon, please, get inside."
"Not until you say sorry, Hargreave."
"Calling everything I've ever known to be fake."
"They are hallucinations, Simon."
"To you, maybe. But say you're sorry, then I'll go in."
"I'm not going to."
"Then I'm not going in."
"Get in, or I'll call security."
"Go ahead, it's not going to make a difference."
One of the guards Simon had seen before came around the corner from behind, and walked slowly towards them. He stopped just before Simon.
"I'm going to give you one last chance, Simon. Get inside, please."
"I'm going to give you one last chance, Hargreave. Say you're sorry."
"Wrong answer," Simon said with a smile on his face. As quick as a sound wave, Simon spun around and stole the guard's tactical baton. Surprised, the guard had little to no time to recover and adjust any tactic he was going to employ. Simon swiped the metal rod across the man's head, then again on his calf, and as the man knelt down in pain, once more across the head, knocking him out cold. Taking out the guard's Taser, Simon then aimed the device towards Hargreave, who was completely beside himself with astonishment.
"Do you have a heart condition?" Simon asked calmly.
"Wha... N... No."
Turning the contraption on to reveal blue sparks, Simon jabbed it into the man's chest, and Hargreave flopped to the floor uttering words of pain and anger. He remained in the same state as Simon dragged both the bodies into his cell, took Hargeave's staff pass, changed into the guard's uniform, and locked the door behind him using the stolen pass. Simon also made sure to rip the nametag off the uniform he was wearing lest any other staff or sentry identify him to be the man he'd just rendered unconscious. As Simon stormed off, he could just hear Hragreave's yelling come through the moderately soundproof door. Oh it was such a pity that he couldn't contact anyone through the guard's radio. Such a pity indeed.
Reaching the end of this corridor, Simon checked the Heads Up Display on the helmet's visor, and it said the nearest elevator was several hundred metres away to his left. Each time he passed a white coat or a bulletproof vest, he would hold his breath in a bit, and his heart rate would elevate to the point to the point where a beat felt like a hammer. Seriously, there must have been something they failed to cover up with this huge ruse. Well, did it really matter? If he could just escape, that would be brilliant. He stopped in his tracks and strafed to the nearest wall and leaned on it. What about Caroline and the other robots? He made a promise to her that if he was going to escape, he'd take her with him, and as many others as he could gather. Simon checked his H.U.D again and found nothing on the map. But, no, that was impossible! This was The Pentagon; to continue operations at a constant working rate, they wouldn't have changed anything to the map; everything would have been labelled the same and laid out the same. He never failed to keep a promise to a friend, and he wasn't going to start now. But without a correct map, he'd never find the holding cells, and the longer he stayed, the more likely he would be detected, either be vigilant eye or by Hargreave's voice. Simon couldn't stay in the facility forever.
Thirty minutes passed, and Simon had checked all of the three underground levels. There was nothing. No cells, no bars, no pens or any form of restraint; just hundreds upon hundreds of rooms, a few cafeterias with white coats and poorly people eating, toilets, but no robots. There were windows too! Thousands of them! All projecting some sort of holographic image of the countryside, so life-like Simon almost believed them at times. But this was below the surface in The Pentagon, not aboveground out in the wilderness! What lengths they went to to convince him! The government had probably spent more money on him now than they ever did on the general populace. Maybe he was somewhere else; perhaps they had moved him to a different installation instead of The Pentagon. In that case, sometime he would have to go back for Caroline and free her and as many others as he could. Sometime. Now he had to focus on getting outside.
Since this place was apparently a mental hospital, there had to be an exit somewhere, and as he'd not seen any on the floors he'd visited, that would mean this was probably all be underground still. Which would mean the only exit was up. Simon headed for the nearest elevator. While doing so, he heard the announcement he dreaded ring through on the radio of his helmet and resonate from speakers throughout the halls; "Attention all H.I.R staff, attention all H.I.R staff! Doctor Hargreave and Private Jones have been found detained in Simon's room. Simon has changed into Jones's outfit and is most likely proceeding towards the exit. He is hallucinating, is armed and dangerous. Security report to stations and restrain anyone wanting to proceed past. It is recommended that patients and available staff head towards the emergency assembly points."
Organised and efficient; the way it should be done. And that would mean he would have to face a fair bit of resistance before exiting the area, if they were there before he was. A patrol of two passed him through one of the corridors, Simon walked with purpose to avoid suspicion. It wouldn't be too hard to do the same for every other guard, so long as he kept his left side mostly hidden - as that was the side with the missing nametag.
According to the H.U.D, the exit was just up ahead, only there were several other green dots around the area too, signifying there were five more guards. He'd have to either act his way past or fight them all, and frankly he preferred a non-violent approach to things, though how intelligent they were remained to be seen.
"Hold up," Simon was told by one of them as he came into their view. He stepped towards Simon, staring at him through his visor; examining him, "Where are you headed?"
"I'm on duty at the top of the lift," Simon stated, trying to seem as if he had the power in this conversation - which he rarely had, and the fact the other man was taller and more well-built than him didn't help the intention. He crossed his arms to hide the missing nametag.
"Rogers!" the interrogator yelled to someone behind him, while keeping his gaze fixated on Simon, "is anyone supposed to be guarding the entrance?"
"Yes sir: Shelby Nicole and Benjamin Brock, sir.
"That's me, I'm Ben, sergeant..." Simon looked to the man's left side, "Chalmers." His pause had probably been too long.
"You don't look like a Ben to me."
"Well excuse me, sir," Simon retorted, possibly a little too out-of-character, "I don't think names matter when it comes to faces; I once met a Vladimir and he was dark-skinned."
"Sir," the man who'd called out the role said, "with all due respect, I don't think we can afford delays. Simon's out there. You know what he was like last time."
The man turned back to Simon's defender, then back to him. Simon could see his beady eyes behind the translucent visor, "Go," he finally said.
Simon stepped past carefully, cautious to keep his arms crossed as he passed the other four. As he stepped toward the elevator, he twisted back and asked, "Do any of you lot have heart conditions?"
"Why?" they all asked in synch.
"Just that one of the patients died from a Taser because he had a heart condition. Now that that Simon's got one... ya know..."
They all shook heads.
"Good... I guess," Simon finished saying, then finally curved back towards the elevator, just in time to hear more footsteps come from the hallway. Simon pressed the button to call the lift.
"Hold up! Where are you going?"
"Cool your jets, serge, I'm just heading up the elevator to my post."
"You aren't Shelby."
"Nah, do I look like a girl to you? I'm Ben, remember? You want me I.D?"
Simon turned around to see everyone's eyes on him. "Guess the jig's all up, eh?"
No one replied to his question, instead they all took out their batons.
Simon observed the elevator hadn't arrived yet, and turned his head back towards the encroaching guards, he had to seize the initiative somehow! "Let's go slap Ulysses!" he yelled with a smile on his face, and the smile grew even wider as the men stopped mid-step and looked at each other to try an see if anyone else made any sense of the sentence. No one could. "OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!?" Simon suddenly yelled out, pointing to a corner at the other side of the room with a face of fear and panic. Their helmet visors followed his finger. Perfect. Simon strafed over to the closest one as quick as he could and struck his baton out of his hand with his own. Surprised by the deception, the guard was only able to recover just in time to catch Simon's baton before it hit his head. Expecting this manoeuvre, Simon kicked the man in his stomach, winding him. It was by the sound of the short conflict that the others realised that Simon's exclamation was a ruse, and proceeded to attack him. The following struggles were more or less flurries of parries on Simon's part rather than calculated combat. When three had been knocked down and their muscles and lungs refused to let them back up, Simon could finally easily dispatch the last two.
The last two were on both sides of him, and it truly was difficult to dodge both their blows. Simon had tried to use his Taser on them, but neither would let his arm reach their torso, and he had suffered many bruises on his left hand as a consequence. They had done the same to him too with their own devices, sometimes just clipping his leg - which then would spasm uncontrollably for the next few seconds - but they generally met with the same punishment. The blows kept coming from both sides and the directors refused to let Simon have them on one side so he could deal with them easier. Simon was searching for a weakness in their defence just as desperately as they were with him. Sometimes they would head for his feet to trip him up, but Simon was always too quick for that; he could hear the slash of the metal on air far sooner than it could strike his shin. There must have been a way to break the stalemate!
Then Simon saw it; the man to his left - the sergeant - lost his footing a little as he swung his baton; he was tiring. Simon turned towards the other man and deflected another blow of his and struck him across the neck. He whipped around to face the sergeant again, who'd used the extra time of Simon's second attack to bring his baton right back, and was about to release the force in a hugely powerful swing - just as Simon planned. Simon ducked down just in time to feel the baton hit his helmet and send it flying across the room into the hallway he'd come from. Simon jumped up from his crouched position and grabbed the sergeant's hand that held the baton with his right, and punched upwards with his left. There was an audible crack as the elbow joint folded in the opposite direction it was supposed to, and it was quickly followed by the shriek of absolute agony from the arm's owner, who then fell to the floor in pain. Simon felt a shiver down his spine at the act; he loathed hurting others. Simon took out the radio from the pocket on the Kevlar vest and brought his foot down hard on it, smashing the contraption into circuits and pieces of plastic.
The man he'd hit across the neck took Simon by surprise with a Taser charge to the back. Simon wriggled his way out of the electricity and hit the guard on the helmet with the butt of his baton. For a fair while, both were equally disoriented by the blows dealt by each other and continually staggered about until Simon regained control of his legs, back, and mind, and swung his baton in an uncoordinated arc, causing the helmet of the guard to soar of his head. The helmet, thankfully, absorbed most of the impact and the man fell to the ground unconscious.
Another guard came rushing from around the corner only to find devastation in her wake rather than organised personnel. She realised Simon's face just as quickly as Simon saw her nametag; Shelby. She charged at him, baton raised high above her cranium, only to bring it down to nothing but air. Simon stumbled over aching figures as he readied himself for another attack; his own personal morals prevented him from hitting women. Yes those morals were old now that women were equally accepted in society but he had them, and combat wouldn't change them. Simon blocked attack after attack after as he purposely let himself be pushed back into a corner, all the while she became more confident with herself. Apparently his acting skills were flawless. He ducked as Shelby's baton struck the concrete wall behind him and picked up the helmet he'd hit from the last guard's head. Holding it in front of her staggered face, Simon punched the helmet's inside so it hit her own. Shelby was knocked to the ground and her helmet ricocheted off the ground and skidded along the floor. Simon then did the same once, twice, three times more until she was as comatose as all the others on the ground. Simon's own morals may have prevented him from hitting females, but they didn't say anything about inanimate objects. Besides, it may have helped efficiency.
Hands grabbed Simon's shoulders from behind and pushed him against one of the walls, head first. The same hands grabbed his head, and shoved it into the same wall again. He could hear the Taser begin to buzz. Slipping from the man's grasp, Simon bowled himself into his legs, tripping the guard and making him tumble into the wall. The man - Simon's first victim, who was merely winded not subdued - wasn't out for the count yet, and picked himself up quickly before Simon had any chance at offence. The guard launched a few attacks of his own, which were easily defended on Simon's part, who then counterattacked by hitting the man's hand. The opponent dropped his baton and resorted to his Taser, to which Simon replied by whacking the man's good hand - which held the Taser - to make him drop the new weapon. Unarmed and at a severe disadvantage, the guard raised both aching hands in the air to surrender.
"Press the button," Simon instructed, "This building's protected by its own personal C.T.O.S, isn't it? Which means only authorised personnel can access the outside. That's why the elevator hasn't come. Call the elevator. And take out your radio too."
The guard silently obeyed by fumbling with the Kevlar pocket as he tried to take the radio out, and when he finally did so he dropped it and it broke in two. The man then quickly sidestepped to the elevator door, took off one of his gloves, and pressed the call button. Nothing happened. He pressed it again. And again, nothing happened.
"Heh," the man said with a nervous smile, "It usually comes down when we press it."
"You didn't call in a lockdown?"
"No," he replied with a little fear in his voice, "I swear! The system's not that powerful."
"Press it again."
The guard obeyed. Nothing happened.
"Simon, nothing's happening."
"And you have nothing to do with this? Is that right?"
Simon lowered his baton, "And how the hell am I supposed to believe you? According to Doctor Hargreave I've spent the past five and a half years in this place! But my mind is telling me I've spent the past six years designing and spending time with Alma! I don't know where I am, I don't know where she is, I don't know what is real anymore! Who the hell am I supposed to trust if I can't even trust myself with anything?!"
UGV-T1-322 - or as Simon preferred to call it - Caroline had been sitting in the same cell it'd been put in several weeks ago. It had nothing to do. There were no toys that Simon said existed beyond the walls; absolutely nothing besides rolling around and around the cage, staring at the other defective robots and the dull grey wall behind it. Simon wasn't there anymore. They took him. They dragged him out. He kicked and hit yelled. They drugged him; stuck a needle in his neck and he fell limp. They then took him into that new room at the hallway. When they took Simon away for interrogation yesterday - or last night (no telling in the bowels of the earth) - they excavated that area and put something inside it. It was a chair of some kind, but Caroline had to go off of descriptions given by Simon for it'd never seen one itself. The day after - or night - Simon was put back in the cell next to Caroline, they too him again into the room and shut the door. Caroline hadn't seen him since. Door shut. Simon gone. No one to talk to. Guards? They just walked by and didn't even flinch when it said hello. It felt alone. It didn't want to be alone. Caroline never realised until just now, but it'd been alone its entire life. Entire existence, rather. All those tests they did. All the time spent with Hargreave addressing and observing all the other five hundred Unmanned Ground Vehicles. All those... faces... those staring faces. Caroline didn't want Simon to go. It liked him. He talked to it a lot. He told it what emotion was, even though it didn't know if it understood. He told it about his home in the mountains. He told it about his friends, Ethan and Hellcat, and others around the planet. And he told it in great detail about Alma. She sounded nice. No. She sounded wonderful. She sounded like... like... Aphrodite. He described her in such detail with such beautiful words as if she were a goddess herself.
Prometheus passed occasionally. ‘Occasionally' meant rarely, in this case. Simon explained the origin of his nickname. Just like the titan, Prometheus fell from grace and was cast into the bowls of the earth. Unlike him, however, he hadn't been punished by God; he was given a chance at redemption; Prometheus didn't cease giving fire to man; he kept inventing more things for man to use. Caroline was one of those inventions. It was the three hundred and twenty-second unit of his second invention, the first being the Sky Ravens and the third being ‘Newblood'. Caroline preferred to call them Promethean Birds, though they didn't eat the liver of their creator. It thought the name sounded better for some reason. Also it had a sense of... irony... Simon called it, whatever that meant. Perhaps irony was supposed to be some kind of joke. As if it had any sense of humour. It couldn't laugh anyway. What at? There wasn't anything funny down here, in the bowls of the earth. Jokes made by Simon were few and far between for most of the time his ‘mood' was as down as this installation was deep.
Simon never cried. Never. Despite everything they always did, Simon never cried. He never broke his silence aside from, he admitted, screaming out in pain. Caroline couldn't imagine what the sense of touch must be like, but it knew it didn't want any of the wounds it saw Simon sustained. They always healed him up, of course, with a cellular regenerator, but it was only ever so they could do more to him. It was sad. But he was always angry over anything else. Even when he spoke softly to it about life beyond the tunnels, Caroline would always detect a hint of roughness underlying every note. All this effort over a little brain. In the end, it thought, it all came down to whether a weapon should be used for ending life, or starting life. Was that philosophy? Maybe it was. Caroline the philosopher. Not particularly catchy. Simon said he was one too. But he also said he thought too much. Wasn't it good to think? Maybe not for some people. Soldiers, for instance. If soldiers were to think, then not one would remain in the army. Perhaps that would be for the best. No wars.
Then again, possibly it was being infantile. Caroline knew nothing of the outside aside from what Simon told it. And from what he told it, perhaps for the time being it would be best to stay underground. Be away from it all. Simon said that was another reason he moved out into the wilderness - to be away from everything. But Simon also said that he didn't want to stay here. Caroline didn't either. It wanted to go wherever he went. It wanted to stay with him to the end. It wanted to see the world with him. It wanted to see his friends. Get to know them. Live with them. Alma sounded like she was living, so why couldn't it?
Someone opened the solid metal door. Caroline had been staring at it the entire time. It was a white coat. She walked away with a holographic tablet and forgot to close the door. Caroline could see inside from its angle and it could see Simon! He was lying in the same chair it'd seen them put in beforehand. It thought about yelling out, but then the guards would hear. Whispering wouldn't work either. It settled for banging on the bars.
Somewhere to his left, Simon heard the sound of metal hitting metal. He turned in the same direction, but the sound wouldn't change its source; it was like it was fixed in his left ear.
"Are you hearing anything?" Simon asked the guard.
The guard said nothing; he just stared on with a blank expression.
"I'll take that as a no?"
Again, he said nothing. Something wasn't right about the way he held his eyes. He... he wasn't blinking! A human statue if ever Simon had seen one - which he hadn't. He slowly approached the frozen man, with the metal still ringing in his ear, and poked him out of interest. To Simon's astonishment, his finger passed right through the guard's chest and no more than a second later the man entirely degraded into pixels. The whole room too started to pixelate, then re-image, then re-pixelate, and cycled over and over until he saw small flashes; frames. In those frames, there were several faces staring down at him, shining lights and preparing needles. Simon felt a pain in his neck and the flashes and the pixilation ceased, and the guard returned to physical form. The metallic clanging stopped after a large bang of some kind.
"Did you just... teleport?" he asked with restrained shock.
"No," Simon replied bluntly, "You just glitched out was what happened."
"What?" the guard questioned with genuine bewilderment.
"You heard me, now how about you just die."
"Whoa, whoa," he said as he backed away from Simon, hands in the air, "Let's not go crazy now."
"Command Override: Kill;" Simon looked at the nametag of the guard, "Curtis Remington." Comically, Curtis's body dropped down to the floor lifelessly. Precisely the result Simon had hoped for. A bot. This place wasn't real. Now that he was hearing more voices in his ears, the area was becoming pixelated again, and it only confirmed his suspicions even further. "Command Override: End Program."
Everything blacked out. The voices became clearer, faster, rather than just slurred speech. He heard echoes. His neck stang and the muscles near the source were cramped. His arms became limp, as did his legs and head and everything else. He opened his eyes to see blinding light, and people in white coats squabbling about him; shouting at each other in anger and confusion. Simon knew precisely why.
Aching furiously, Simon summoned all his strength and sluggishly, painfully, brought himself to a seated position. He noted that the white coats stopped shouting at the spectacle - Simon couldn't guess the amount of sedatives they used on him, probably enough to take down a horse, and he was shaking it all off despite the fact. He slid off the horizontal seat and onto his feet and made his way for the open door, struggling to keep himself balanced in the process. Simon leant on the concrete doorframe and studied his surroundings through blurred vision; squinting hard to see distant objects. He could tell the room was the one he'd seen was recently built by the amount of dust on the walls outside, which meant he was only metres away from his cell, and from Caroline. Oh thank god he wasn't stuck back in that ‘reality' where the robot didn't exist. Without Caroline... Simon could well have lost his mind by now, or in the near future. The memory of Alma helped too, but Caroline provided that little bit of hope that things can change.
Simon staggered forward, supporting himself on whatever solid object he could find, most of which were the iron bars of all the robots' cells. They remained motionless and without sound, he observed, as they watched on, surveying his struggling body and limp legs. He proceeded in his pitiful state all the way towards his unlocked cell, where he opened the door, found the rear wall, and sat down leaning against it. They followed him, but stopped at the entrance, waiting for him to speak. So he finally did.
"If you're going to replicate something of mine, it'd be best if you don't everything exactly as the plans say, for your sake."
The white coats then just looked at each other for a few moments, then walked away back into the room.
"What happened?" Caroline asked, moving towards the wall of iron bars keeping the two from being together.
"You did that banging didn't you?"
"Yes. Was that good?"
"It was perfect. If it weren't for you, Caroline, I wouldn't have realised the whole thing was a dream."
"That seat that's in there? That's called The Simulator. It's my own design."
"How did it end up in here?"
"They rebuilt it, of course. Thought I sabotaged it..."
"Would you mind starting from the start?"
"Oh, yeah, all right. The Simulator was supposed to be sort of like a personal get-away, if ever it was released to the public. Basically it sends you into a dream-state, but you, the user, is in control of your actions, instead of your subconscious. You make the rules of your dream world. The objects and everything are created by your mind, so there's basically no limitations to what you can do. I the only working copy was the one I had, and I was supposed to have sabotaged it to where no one could rebuild it. Guess I was wrong. But they didn't count on the base console commands; I got out of that nightmare thanks to that. So thankyou, Caroline, for saving me."
"What's a dream?"
Simon stopped. He could easily describe scientifically what dreaming was, but he was to define it to a child. What was a dream? "A dream is... It's... It's like... I'm sorry... it's one of those things where... you have to experience it to... understand it. I'm sorry... If only I could tell you..."
"Well... why did they have you in... The Simulator?"
"...To get me to believe that was the real world I guess, and get me spill the beans on Alma and the others in a psychiatric interrogation or something. A bit complicated, and I guess I would have believed it if I'd stayed in there... but thank heavens you started banging on the bars when you did."
"What did it do?"
"It interrupted my sleep. That also meant it interrupted the simulation, so everything went to heck for a few moments so they had to sedate me again," he continued, rubbing the cramped muscles near his neck, then added, "bastards."
"Swear," Caroline quickly stated.
"Swear," Caroline repeated again, "they're not nice words. You said one. You shouldn't say them."
"So what will happen?"
"Maybe they'll try the same trick again, maybe they won't. But if they take out the console commands, there'll be no way of me waking up... Hate to sound grim, but who knows how much time we have left together."
"No no no," Simon interrupted, "You said it's sad. What ‘s sad?"
"Here. Us. Everything," Caroline noticed Simon's intense stare, "What is it?"
"Everything's sad," Simon repeated, though not exact to the words, "that's what you said."
"Wait, do you know what sadness is?"
Caroline held Simon's stare, and he could see thoughts whizzing behind the big blue eye, "I... think so. Sad is... you. You are sad because you are away from Alma. Alma is sad because she is away from you. I am sad because... Am I sad?"
"I think so, Caroline," Simon returned, "I think so. Why isn't your eye orange like the other U.G.Vs?"
"Is that bad?" the robot asked quickly.
"No, no, it's just different. I'm just curious, why is your eye blue while the other units have orange?"
"I like blue. Blue is funny."
"...Funny... You know what funny is. You are, Caroline, perhaps the most curious character I have ever met."
"I'm not sure. You're just... different. Not like the rest. That's good."
"I'm different," Caroline repeated, almost as if the very words were magical to hear.
"Do you know what else is funny?"
"Singing. Singing, song and music are perhaps the most enjoyable forms of art in the world."
"What are they?"
"They are words and sounds put in a rhythm. Listen, I'll sing something I would sing to Alma to help her get to sleep..."