... I need to find more ways to finish that.
Welcome back to the ongoing saga of Chloe and her allies as they try to get off of Earth. Unfortunately, it seems like every time they turn around, there's something there stopping them. First they get waylaid by the exhumans of Vegas, and then they realize one of their own was working with the exhumans... and now Chloe is backed into a corner.
This is Part 3 of "What Happens in Vegas...". To find the other 2 parts, and the rest of the Human Black Box story, go to the HBB Archives, located here: HBB Archives. In the meantime, let's get on with the show.
ES-Mikhail: [Not that there's much you can do about it now. I was hoping that we'd get a chance to merge the two egos in that body before you found us. There's three of us living in here right now. Apparently you woke up too soon. We'll just have to change that. Now hold still. This will only hurt until you stop feeling.]
Mikhail leaned forward and charged her. He cut loose with a loud screech, and took the full abdomen of Ahmed to the side of his head. Mikhail was planted on his side, the weight of the half synthmorph knocking him flat and dazing him.
Ahmed: [Hey! I'm not a fucking club!]
Chloe: [You are right now.]
Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [I've heard of grievous bodily harm, but never grievously harmed with a body.]
Chloe slung Ahmed back over her shoulder, and tried to figure out what she was going to do. She couldn't carry Hotaru - she was too busy carrying Ahmed. She would have to find the others first, but there was no guarantee that Hotaru would be safe there if she left her alone with Mikhail.
It simply meant finishing the job with Mikhail.
She sat Ahmed on the floor, as Mikhail finally came back around and roused itself.
ES-Mikhail: [What the hell was that?]
Chloe: [...The synthmorph of truth.]
ES-Mikhail: [Synthmorph of truth.]
Chloe: [Yep. Better than the Sack of Mechanical Potatoes... of truth.]
ES-Mikhail: [You're mocking me.]
Chloe: [Trust me. You make it easier than it has any right to be.]
Mikhail lashed out at her again, and she stepped around the blow. She had to focus here; she had to think and clear her mind. She knew what she was doing. She'd fist-fought an uplifted gorilla before and won. There was no reason why she couldn't fight a exhuman, too. Hie closed in on her and she took a step backwards, reeling back and planting a savage blow on the side of hir head. Hie didn't even flinch; the claws bit into her armor as hie pushed her back, Chloe pushing his arms aside and slamming her own head down on hirs. The blow dazed her as much as it dazed Mikhail; the headbutt caused hir to temporarily halt the struggle.
Chloe: [Holy fuck your head is hard. That was like face vaulting into a cinder block.]
She fell backwards and grabbed onto the wall.
Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [Don't do that again, Chloe. You honestly hurt yourself. Your medical sensors are reading a concussion and possible hemorrhaging. If it wasn't for the medichines, I'd be panicking. I think I should still probably panic, for good measure.]
Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [You don't have to tell me twice.]
Mikhail staggered back upright, as Hotaru shuffled and sat up.
Sava: [Mikhail! Do something!]
Chloe forced herself forward, and as Mikhail stood up to look over at Hotaru, she drilled him with a nasty blow to the face that lead to the crunching of bones. Some of them were likely hers. But the blow was so nasty that it took Mikhail off of the ground and put hir on hir back a few feet away, hir head slamming and bouncing off of the floor.
Chloe: [That was pretty impressive. I broke four fingers, but that doesn't take away from the impressiveness any.]
Ahmed: [I think you killed the poor SOB. That's terrifying.]
Ahmed: [What are you, a damsel in distress? It can't possibly be that fucking hard to block Sava out.]
Hotaru: [I don't know how! He got around it before, and I don't have a muse to help!]
Chloe turned towards the door, as Ahmed used his one good arm - his only remaining limb - and hauled himself up on the table beside Hotaru. Chloe was making her way towards the door when it swung open, and one of the exhumans came charging it. It spotted her and immediately made for her, tackling her as she grabbed it and threw it backwards. The two started tumbling on the floor, as Hotaru staggered onto her feet. She picked up the box and slammed down with it on the exhuman's head, giving Chloe the momentum she needed to push back and knock it on the wall.
She was back on her feet as the first of the headhunters came into the room.
Ahmed: [Oh hey, look. We haven't seen those in a while.]
One of the three that flew in made a beeline for Chloe. She grabbed the exhuman that she'd just kicked on the floor and threw it at the headhunter, the giant hands clamping down on the neck as the exhuman, realizing what was happening, screamed and tried to get free.
The buzzsaws came down, and in several arching sprays of blood, hie didn't have to worry about it anymore.
Chloe grabbed Hotaru, and ducked under another as gunfire rang out.
The headhunter hit the ground, bullet holes smoldering as Chloe turned around and made for Ahmed, who was still on the table.
Ahmed: [No! Get the fuck out of here!]
Chloe: [I'm not leaving you!]
Chloe grabbed the headhunter as it clamped down arms down on Ahmed; he was struggling to get free, and until Chloe felt clamps on her own shoulders, it looked like she was helping.
She struggled to get free as gunfire strafed the room, and two massive hands bashed the headhunter on the ground. It hit the floor, as Zaius caught Chloe. The saws were already sinking halfway through Ahmed's neck; She tried to make for him again but another headhunter interposed itself.
Ahmed: [Just! Go! They've probably got my back up running around up there by now, anyway! If you die, everything will be for nothing! Go!]
He was batting at it with one arm, as Zaius threw Chloe from the room. Zira caught her, spraying rounds into the room as Zaius charged out.
Zaius directed her towards the stairs. In the lower floor, they could hear the fighting as the exhumans engaged the headhunters; it didn't take a genius to figure out which group would win. Chloe spun around, shoving Ahmed's fate from her mind and grabbing Hotaru, her, Zaius, and Zira racing down the stairs.
Sava: [See. This is what happens...]
Chloe & Hotaru: [Shut the fuck up!]
Chloe stopped for a second, looking at Hotaru.
"You'd say that too, if you had to listen to him constantly."
"Just keep moving," Chloe said, as they caught back up with Zaius and Zira. Zaius slammed through the doors, and as they ran through the bottom levels, Chloe noticed a familiar flashlight shining out from the night.
She grabbed Hotaru and hit the deck as Zaius and Zira ducked as well, the round slamming through the glass and punching through the wall.
Unknown: [Que faisons-nous İndi Məndən əvvəl burada var? Може да тича? Did-d-d-d-d-didid you think you could lopen?]
Chloe pushed her green bangs from her face, looking up as the looming form of the warbot appeared in the dust. She could feel the ground shake under its feet, as it moved across the parking lot, the darkened silhouette's motion punctuated by waving tendrils from its back.
Unknown: [Jy kan nie hardloop vorm my; Můžete se schovat před vším, co je. Ik ben ARES. હું અહીં છું બહાર કચરો લઇ]
Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [Ares? I... I misheard that.]
Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [No. No you didn't. That warbot just said it was ARES.]
Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [Blue, translate that...]
She drug herself back upright, as several headhunters appeared in the night sky. She and Hotaru were back up at about the same time that Zira and Zaius were, the group moving as quickly as they could to escape the building as the warbot that called itself ARES drew another bead on them through the glass windows.
She didn't want to believe it was ARES.
Of course, part of her knew that if they could kill it now, then they wouldn't have to wait until they got to Area 51. But then, there was the little part about killing that stood in the way...
The round slammed into the glass. The whole thing was like a repeat of their hurried escape from the hotel back outside of Flagstaff.
Zaius grabbed Zira and the two ducked down a hallway, and Chloe grabbed Hotaru, following. She was hoping that gorilla knew what he was doing; otherwise things would get ugly quick. Behind them, she could hear the headhunters closing; at least, that was until Zaius grabbed the her and Hotaru, pulling them into service entrance and slamming the door shut.
The headhunters shot past, and now they were looking at a flight of stairs heading down. Chloe held onto Hotaru's hand tightly, as they started down the stairs.
Chloe: [How do you know where this leads?]
Zaius: [I don't know. But it's dark and it looks unused. Maybe it has a way out of here.]
Chloe: [I don't like the "I don't know" part of that, Zaius.]
She squeezed Hotaru's hand, as they walked onto the floor.
Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [I'm pretty sure that wasn't ARES.]
Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [Why?]
Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [I think Seed AIs are too big. What he might have done is forked himself and downloaded his fork into the Warbot.]
Chloe didn't know what the difference was. She reached out and felt for Zira's shoulder, the female gorilla's firm grip easing her somewhat.
Zira (private chat, #Chloe#): [I'm still here.]
Chloe (private chat, #Zira#): [Good. Don't leave me.]
She squeezed Hotaru's hand, wrapping her arm around the girl's shoulder and bringing her closer. It was dark, and it didn't look like it was getting any brighter anytime soon. Just when it seemed like it couldn't get any more dark, they stumbled on a flight of stairs that took them right up to a back alleyway.
Moonlight washed over them, an Chloe heaved a huge sigh of relief. They ducked into the alleyway, Zaius covering for the three of them as they found their way into greater Las Vegas. She couldn't see where their vehicles had gone, but she assumed they were somewhere nearby. She just couldn't be sure where.
Once they were far enough away from the building, they took a minute for a breather. Hotaru looked up at Chloe, swallowed once, and then hugged her. Chloe hugged back, feeling her own arms and hands tremble.
Ahmed was gone. He hadn't made it out.
Chloe: [He gave his life for us. For me.]
Zira: [Maybe... maybe you'll run into his back up, when we get off planet, huh?]
Chloe sat down on the ground, as Zaius joined them.
Zaius: [They got everything. I'm not sure where any of our stuff is at.]
Chloe: [The black box is still in there.]
She was drying her eyes, and trying to keep a stiff upper lip. The whole thing was beginning to wear on her now. That was when a new reality hit home - one she hadn't thought of.
"Yeah," Zaius said, nodding and looking at Zira.
"Zira... they got Cornelius' stack, too."
Chloe watched her gave a sharp laugh, and she shook her head. "I... It'll be okay, right? The odds are only stacked against him."
Chloe reached over and hugged her, and Zira returned it, as she tried hard not to cry. Zaius frowned, looking back at the building.
Chloe: [Did the TITAN get it or did the exhumans get it?]
Zaius: [Hard telling.]
Chloe squeezed hard. The cost of this was becoming prohibitively high. She was wondering if they would be even able to get off of this planet now.
Edit: Thanks, Brin