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On the Shoulders of a Mad Titan; Personal Saga | Chapter 2
Topic Started: Feb 17 2018, 06:07 PM (168 Views)
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Ch. 1: The Great and Many Fortunes of Dr. Gero

Intermission: The Viper Gang - Call of Duty - The Protector - All Your Own Stunts - Plow The Fields - Digging


There was a strange dichotomy between both of the doctor's points of contact with the Capsule Corporation up until this point. On the one hand, there was the encounter at Doctor Gero's old laboratory that had not nearly lasted as long as it had felt for all those involved - the solution to quite the catastrophic breach in the security of the facility that had ended the lives and half-lives of most anyone who worked at the mountainous site, as well as most of those who had been sent to deal with the resulting emergency situation. When the search and rescue team, that had evidently been dispatched from Capsule Corp. headquarters had arrived, he'd been the only one left keeping to himself within the Cybernetics division of the laboratory, and he had certainly been waiting for any sort of response for a while. However, his involvement with the squad that had arrived had only lasted part of a day - hours getting more and more dreadful as they passed until finally the unstable specimen of the Cell program had been dealt with. By that point, only himself and a soldier by the name of Carmichael had been left alive. One single experiment, and the amount of lives lost had been downright disturbing.

On the other hand, there was a brief encounter with a group of scientists out in the middle of the desert, being hounded by the local biker gang, the Vipers. There had been a great deal of them in his path as he'd made his way from the mountain that was all he'd known for as long as he could remember, towards the coordinated that Carmichael had entrusted him with. The marine had been supposed to bring him in for debriefing as the only surviving member of Doctor Gero's staff at the facility, but he had opted not to do so, assuming the worst intentions at the heart of that request from his own superiors. Instead, he had brought back the body of the captain of his unit and the intention to speak his mind on the happenings at the laboratory, and his judgments about the doctor himself. The road had been long, and as he had rode along it on two of the motorcycles used by the Viper gang, his view of what the outside world had to offer had not exactly been a positive one. Either the people he ran into were part of that gang, or they had been their victims.

The single positive point, however, was that the strange disconnect he had in his experiences with Capsule Corp. personnel meant that the corporation was more than just some military outfit. Of course, the unit that had been involved with the mission to Doctor Gero's lab had only been a search and rescue team, not a fully operational military squad, either, but they had been very well armed, and Carmichael's reluctance to actually take him in after the entire ordeal told him what he thought at the time was enough. They had scientists, that much he had understood from the soldier, but he'd not exactly known what they did. In actual fact, he still didn't. He had met with some of their scientists, but they had not at all been involved with anything revolving around robotics, cybernetics or anything of the sort. He'd found them in the middle of an excavation out in the barrens between the mountain he'd left behind and the Capsule Corporation's headquarters Carmichael had pointed him toward. What the reason was for the to dig up old bones, he didn't exactly understand; there was very little chance that any discoveries that would be made based of some fossilized tissue would actually result in some technological breakthrough. However, chances that the scientists were aware of that were indeed very high. So what was the idea behind Capsule Corp.'s involvement there to begin with?

He pondered these things as he rode along that long, seemingly endless road that had barely any intersections - and what little options to dip left or right he did have, led to extremely small settlements. Single farms in some sparse amount of fertile soil dotted the landscape in the middle of an outstretched vastness of gravel, dirt and dry earth. Every now and again, a collection of multiple houses included a store or two, and some minor display of law enforcement. He stayed in some of these places as night fell, to try to get to some small amount of knowledge about life above ground, away from the constant droning schedule of work in the robotics labs of the mountainous facilities of Doctor Gero. People appeared very simple, for the most part. They had their work, most of them involved in some form of trade or toil. The farmers lived at their own farms outside the settlements, and only came into town to set up a trade deal concerning their crops, or if they needed tools to do their labor. All life and work around this very dry region all seemed set up around the idea of providing for the farmers so they could, in turn, provide for them, and the subsequent relaying of excess crops and food to other settlements. It appeared that that lone road was indeed all they really needed in terms of communicating with some semblance of the outside world; every harvest, there were travelers across it to visit the nearest settlement in each direction to negotiate deals about the most successful crops and their excess. Otherwise, there appeared to be very little traffic either way, especially now that the Viper gang had mysteriously stopped showing up as often as they had in the past. There was quietly positive conversation about perhaps being able to feed everyone properly if they managed to avoid a particularly harsh seizing of their next harvest.

The doctor couldn't help but feel some sense of accomplishment and worth as he drove on from his latest stay in one of the villages. It was a small good he was doing, but seeing the smiles on the faces of the people he had been seeing over these last few days as a direct result of his actions concerning the Viper gang played into his programming in some fashion. He had always been taught and aspired for efficiency and a positive result. As far as his work in the Cybernetics labs had been concerned, that meant he hadn't necessarily been allowed any of his own creativity in the experiments Doctor Gero conducted. That was to say; he hadn't had the pleasure to have much creativity, and it had showed in his dealings with the unstable Cell splicing he had fought off with the soldiers and the Viper gang he'd gotten involved with over the last few days. All he'd known to do to combat the specimen at the laboratory, he had known because he understood what manner of experiment Cell had been born out of, and he was programmed to understand how it was going to operate, and how to deal with it should it disobey its master as it had so catastrophically done.

Perhaps that was why he was still on his way to those coordinates Carmichael had left him with. Riding on, over the course of several days, with that one piece of information in mind that truly might be able to help him make sense of what existence was going to be from here on out. The soldier had left him with the idea that the world was open to him; he was free to do whatever he pleased. But what did he actually want, now that he was no longer trapped in the monotony of doing what he had been built and programmed to do? Had it even been a trap he was stuck in? He didn't recall ever longing to be rid of any shackles; he'd never truly wondered about what was up above, even with the curiosity that was a part of him. He had always been curious about robotics, because that way he could actually be of use to his creator in making suggestions and spotting flaws in designs that Doctor Gero himself missed. And so, with his curiosity only newly turned to the world outside of the laboratory, he only really had one clear objective.

Capsule Corp., while not necessarily the safest place for him to be heading to, certainly was the most likely place in terms of finding something to do with his time now that the facilities in the mountain were no longer operational. It was were the only person he'd had any sort of prolonged contact with would likely be - and even if Carmichael was off again on some sort of mission, he'd probably have a reason to stick around until the soldier returned. He didn't quite like his chances if he was going to be there without the marine, but by the way he had been treated by him, he knew that he probably had a better chance to survive at Capsule Corp.'s headquarters than somewhere out in the barrens in a village where nothing ever really happened and the people seemed to survive by sheer luck of the harvest. That kind of life, he knew already, wasn't for him. The prying eyes he'd already had in Greenville told him enough. Soon, very soon, someone in one of those villages would come to the conclusion that he wasn't as much of a human being as he appeared to be - he already had issues with the presentation, he knew.

And so, despite reservations, he kept coming to the same conclusion; as free as he was, there was this pull to something familiar. Whether it was the name of Capsule Corp., that he by now had some vague, peripheral connection with through Carmichael and the scientists he'd met along the road, or their work, which at least seemed to be somewhere in line with his own scientific programming. He had no idea what they actually did, and all he knew about them through the people he'd met is that they were some outfit that did research into various subjects. The scientists in the barrens had certainly not been able to defend themselves from the Viper gang hounding them, and therefor it seemed easy to assume not all of their activities were intended to turn violent. With that in mind, his calculations about his chances were anything but hopeful. But even with all the choice in the world, there was that need for something he knew he could do. He could turn around at any second. But he didn't. He had to know.

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As the road just kept going, he wondered just how fast one of Capsule Corp.'s airships had to be for Carmichael to be able to get to headquarters before dark, that day. He himself had only managed to walk to Greenville, which in itself was of course not that surprising. He hadn't exactly been in a hurry, and to be honest with himself he still wasn't. He had those words still running around in his mind; Carmichael would take some time to make sure people knew the doctor was an ally and as the soldier had put it; 'good people'. However much time he could give him, the better, he thought to himself. But still, the pace at which he was approaching the coordinates he had been given was certainly brisk, riding his motorcycle along that one, singular road that still seemed to stretch out in front of him. He knew where he was going, of course; West City. Several days into the trip already, however, and still he had only seen this one road out from the mountains, through the barrens and passed some small settlements and patches of soil here and there that could sustain farming. It was a miserable existence.

The fertility of the lands he drove through was improving steadily, however, and with his dispatching of the Viper gang he'd been able to refuel or take on a new bike every so often, allowing him to keep going on this road. Of course, he could fly without issue, but the amount of human beings who could do so was so limited that he'd rather not present himself as one of them for the time being. He'd heard stories ever since he'd been out of the mountains. Several villages had had run-ins with people who boasted powers that caused disbelief, admiration and fear in almost equal measure - yet those people had been actual people, and not fabrications like he was. It was best to act as regularly as he could if nothing else was required of him. And so, almost a week's drive out of the mountains, he finally began to see something in the distance that looked like some density of civilization.

West City was indeed something unlike anything he'd ever seen before. It was not something that really filled him with wonder or curiosity like he had imagined it would, but to say that it didn't leave its own impression on him would be false as well. It was as if all the road he had behind him was condensed into a much smaller area, and the settlements and farms he'd come across were all shoved together, and then multiplied several times over. There was no place for farms anywhere in the city, and where each house in the villages he'd come across had been a simple home for a single person or a family. In the city, there were large, towering buildings that lots of people were going into and coming out of. The biggest, tallest buildings in the villages had been stores that the proprietor lived on top of, or an office for the political leader of the settlement. Here, everything dwarfed anything he'd seen previously, and it was the stores that seemed smallest, with large signs and lighting to draw customers. They were confined to certain streets, with rows of them lining the road as he passed by. There were stores for everything, from food and drink - sometimes only certain kinds - to general supplies, clothing stores - again sometimes confined to just shoes or pants or tops, or even to specific types of clothing like denim - and even stores that boasted its proprietors were experts at piercing human skin or decorating it with ink. He was drawing very close to Capsule Corp.'s headquarters as he drove towards the center of town where he saw these stores, but he was sidetracked for a moment as he saw a store that aimed towards a very specific clientele - bikers.

The doctor's motorcycle sputtered to a halt as he drove it up to the sidewalk, where a few other bikes had been parked in front of the store. He lined it up alongside them and switched off the engine. He'd been riding on his third bike since coming down the mountain, and he had to admit it wasn't nearly as aesthetically pleasing as the other bikes parked outside. He assumed the others were owned by people who were not part of a gang, since every motorcycle he had seen up until that point had been outfitted with some form of rack or holster that held an easily accessible weapon, like a bat or a large blade. These other bikes certainly didn't have any of that, but his own surely did. On the other bikes, he could see that they were intended for other things entirely. One of them was large, and bulky, not at all meant for high speeds, but rather outfitted with storage containers along the back, with a large case behind the seat and several more along the rear tire. It seemed to go against the idea of a motorcycle being sleek. He'd seen other vehicles far more suited to hauling around baggage. Then again, he had his own bag strapped to the back of his stolen bike himself, but this was mostly because he hadn't been able to steal someone else's truck in good conscience. Another bike rode low to the ground, and was far longer than any of the others. The handlebars came up exceptionally close to the driver's face, though the make of the seat suggested the rider was intended to be leaning back quite a bit. He didn't see the use in the design at all.

As he stepped onto the sidewalk and stepped towards the store to enter, he could see people inside looking over the shelves and items on sale. One of them stepped outside just as he went in. He was a large man in every sense of the word, his belly hanging over the buckle of his belt that held up a wide set of denim pants. He wore a leather vest and nothing else over the top of it, putting all of the excess weight on full display for passersby. He knew enough not to stare or make any sort of judgment of the man, but as he saw him sliding himself onto the low-riding motorcycle parked outside and kick his pudgy legs to roll his bike back out into the street, he knew that kind of bike was clearly not meant for him. He stepped inside, and the little bell hanging over the top of the door chimed.

Inside, other riders were looking over various biking accessories. He imagined the leather boots and jackets proudly on display based on which logo was sewn into them to be apparel geared towards bikers. He himself still wore the steel-toed security boots from Gero's lab, and a quite basic pair of jeans that he was sure he'd owned since before he'd been turned into a walking computer. His tattered, damaged black tee-shirt and the coat he'd taken from the locker rooms near the lab's mess hall were perhaps not fit for riding a bike, though he noticed the bandana he wore around his neck to pull it over his mouth while riding was a more common thing among riders as he scanned the shelves. Fortunately, some of the people he'd ran into on his way to West City had seen fit to pay him for his efforts. He'd not known exactly how to deal with being offered money, and so he had taken it as to not to appear rude. Up until this point, however, he'd had no actual idea about how much the money had been worth, but looking over the prices of the leather items especially he got some semblance of monetary value. It appeared he could get himself a few things to replace the clothing that had gotten damaged in the fight with Cell and the biker gang. He noticed there was a designated area in the store to try on clothing, since they were being sold in various sizes. Not thinking much of it, he took a few items and moved towards it, closing the curtain behind him and getting to trying a few things on.

A good while later, and a good bit of money lighter, the doctor stepped out of the store in the same security boots he'd walked in on. He'd even gotten a curious inquiry from the proprietor who wished to know where he'd bought them and if he knew the brand of them. He'd had to excuse himself for not knowing the proper way to go about telling him where to get them, and had quickly come up with the excuse that they had been issues to him by a former employer, which had been partially true. He'd bought himself a new pair of jeans, that was lined with padding around the knees; leather sown into the denim itself in case of a crash. He knew he was unlikely to be damaged by something so simple as an accident in traffic, but it had been a while since he'd had new clothes. He wore a brand new black tee, and over the top of it he'd bought himself a brand new duster, a deep brown color with a light, leather inseam. It fell down to his knees, and as he stepped onto his bike, it draped nicely over the seat behind him. He felt very pleased with himself as he pushed the machine back onto the road, and as soon as his new coat started flapping in the wind as he began to ride, he imagined this is what it might be like for a human being to feel accomplished.

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Despite the new clothes and the understanding that presentation was a big part of his chances in dealing with the Capsule Corporation's chief officers, his motorcycle still very much looked like it had once belonged to a biker gang. There wasn't a lot he could do to remedy that situation immediately; even having ridden past a garage here and there, he'd seen vehicles being worked on and judging by the speed of those operations and several machines being entirely stripped down, it would take a few days of roaming the city without having anything to do to get his bike back in a state that could be considered to be safe for presenting himself with. As such, he rode on, and figured he would park the thing a little ways away from the building he was heading towards to make sure he wasn't spotted on it. He didn't exactly know why he paid so much attention for this machine that was neither his nor sentient, but he felt at least some sort of connection to the idea of having it - even if it was his third in a week's time. The idea of being able to freely cross large distances without making himself known was probably a big part of it.

Fortunately, as big as the city was, it was easy to navigate and considerably less spread out than all the settlements dotted along the road through the barrens. He was still presented with a multitude of different buildings on either end of each road, with crossroads ahead everywhere he turned a corner, but he found himself feeling a lot more at home in the bustling activity of the city than he did in the wastes. In a sense, it was much like a factory, where everything had its place and every person was a moving part; a cog in the machine going where it was needed and producing whatever their task was. It was a lot larger and a lot more complex, to be sure, but it helped to think of the massive swarm of human beings as parts of a moving whole. As if the city itself was one large organism being fueled by smaller beings. It helped to think of it as such - he'd had trouble remembering names of people he didn't have a lot of interaction with, and he found himself pasting faces onto bodies he was fairly sure didn't match up properly. Perhaps that was also one of the reasons he kept thinking about Carmichael's promises to him. With Dr. Gero and Captain Glenn gone, the soldier was the only person he had prolonged exposure to, and he was eager to be introduced to the world by someone he felt he could trust.

He drove right past the Capsule Corp. building the first time, though he didn't exactly miss spotting it. It was an odd thing, to be sure. It appeared to be a gigantic sphere built in the middle of a large district that was home to a great many corporate buildings and offices. Glances at placards and signs out in front of the structures told him a lot of this area of the city was dedicated to scientific research, development of technological materials and computer parts. It was as if there was a large cluster of science in one place, all part of different organizations. Doctor Gero had been the sole man behind his own laboratory, and he had gone to great lengths to separate it from others. To see so many buildings belonging to different scientific minds pooled so close together didn't make a great deal of sense in many ways. Still, he circled the sphere along the roads that blocked it in, his eyes mostly focused on the main building but noting satellite buildings around it; one of which was clearly meant to send and receive airships, considering the hangar bay underneath and the launch pad that much resembled the one Carmichael's squad had landed on at the mountainside laboratory. He could see an airship in the hangar that much resembled the type that had been waiting for them there, but from this distance it was hard to gauge whether the acid damage it had sustained was also present on this particular model.

Before long, he had ridden around the block and came back to a point he'd already passed. His eyes dragged along the sidewalk to spot a place to park, yet he was unsuccessful until he spotted somebody's vehicle turning away from the road and driving down a ramp hidden underneath the spherical building. He rode along and threw a glance at the entrance; seeing a lever in place to block out anyone attempting to follow the vehicle in. At the side of the road was a brightly colored pole, that housed a small computerized system. He rode up to it and had a look. It appeared to be a scanning device, just about the size of a human hand; his eyes glazed over with a flicker of infrared flashes of light, and he spotted fingerprints covering the scanner - hundreds, if not thousands of them, all applied countless amounts of times. His eyes returned to their presented selves, the light blues of his irises and the black of pupils he didn't have settling in. He reached out his hand and placed it over the scanner, which flickered red. His brow furrowed. Once again, there was a flicker in his eyes, and a crackle tickled along his fingers and the palm of his hand, a gleam in the red gem at the center of it. The scanner flickered green, and the lever blocking his path rose.

The ride down the ramp was a surprisingly short one, and he found himself in a dark, concrete chamber, where the floor was a slick mixture of asphalt and what smelled vaguely like rubber. It was a hard combination to place, but the tires of his motorcycle rolled smoothly across it even without his hand on the acceleration. His feet touched the ground to keep himself steady at the slow speed, and he tapped his boots along the floor as he strode and glided towards an empty spot in one of the many rows of vehicles parked underneath the Capsule Corp. building. He rolled the machine into it and kicked the stand out from under it to place it securely in the open slot. He retrieved the keys and slid them into his pocket, before undoing the bindings on his bag and hoisting it over his shoulder. Judging by the lay-out of this place, it was purely meant as a place to gather all the vehicles of employees of this place - a lot of them had the Capsule Corp. logo imprinted on their side or back. He paced along the rows and rows of cars and trucks, towards a glass wall on the side opposing the ramp he'd came down on. Behind the panes, he could see now, was an escalator that rolled up into the building itself. Before he could get onto it, however, he had to pass another scanner positioned in the frame of a door placed into the glass wall. If anyone really wanted to get in, he thought, the glass looked easy enough to break. Instead, he planted his hand onto the other scanner, and with another flicker of energy in his fingers, the green flash opened the door in front of him.

He slid his boots onto the escalator and rode it up, seeing the floor above him slowly come into view. He emerged at the top, in a large central hall that seemed entirely inefficient in the space it used. Of course, considering the shape of the building, this was, possibly aside from the very top level, the smallest floor of the complex, but it was mostly empty. At the sides of the large area were thick columns that suspended the higher floors, and between them were yet more escalators and elevators that brought people up and down along the building. In the very center, along the entire width of the floor, was a large counter, at which multiple people were sat behind computers. They wore headsets and were almost all deep in conversation - some with people on the other end of whatever line of communication was open on their headsets, or people standing at the other end of the counter. The body language of those standing on the other end suggested they weren't all sure where they were supposed to go - and that included him. He stepped along, bag slung over his shoulder, and slid into one of the lines that had formed in front of it.

Minutes passed, and he slowly stepped forward as someone in front of him either gave up and left entirely, or was sent through to the proper floor of the building after some entirely too long discussion and debate and waiting on their end. He saw that most of the conversation was being done over the headset, leading him to believe that traffic at the counter was entirely too much for the employees of the corporation to handle. He listened in on the person currently at the front of his line, caring very little for their privacy.

"Please, could you make it snappy? I'm supposed to be over at O'Connor Chemicals in an hour and a half to discuss this issue," a man in a perfectly tailored suit made clear. He received a stern look from the young man at the other end of the counter. A sigh from the man he'd been listening in on. "Look, if Dr. Briefs doesn't care about losing his grants from my organization, I'd be happy to leave."

The young man obviously did his best, judging by his frantic shushing of the man he was physically speaking with and his patient listening to the other end of his line of communication. The doctor crossed his arms and leaned slightly to the side to get a better look at the conversation, only to see the man's fingers tighten to the handle of his expensive-looking briefcase. Another impatient sigh later, the man turned on his heel and proceeded to march towards the very escalator the doctor had just arrived in on, taking the opposite belt down into the parking area. Vincent looked ahead to see an older woman shuffle herself up towards the counter.

"Hello young man, I've come to see Dr. Andrews about my prescription. She should be expecting me," she said in a weak voice. The young man behind the counter gave her a smile and informed her he would check Dr. Andrews' diary. It only took him a few seconds to pull a card out of his computer and hand it over to her, with instructions to take an elevator up to the 9th floor medical offices.

Once again, Doctor Pryce had no earthly clue what it actually was they did here. The man who had stormed off had obviously been talking about some sort of financial support - Dr. Gero had talked about 'grants' a great deal, mostly in terms of not ever getting any. He'd been quite passionate about his dislike of his lack of funding many times; something that often inspired conversation about how exactly he was paying for all the high-tech equipment he had available in the laboratory, not to mention actually building it. It couldn't have been cheap to actually hollow out a mountain. Contrasting the man with the suitcase, however, with an old woman merely coming in to talk about her medication to what he assumed was an average physician... Grants wouldn't be given to just any medical center, would they? The entirely thing was completely illogical. Following on from that conversation, he witnessed a man and a boy together asking to see some sort of exhibit. They were sent along with a visitor's badge and told to go down in the elevator to the 3rd basement level. Things were getting stranger and stranger, until he was first in line. He slowly stepped towards the counter.

"Are you expected?" the young man asked.

"In a manner of speaking," Vincent answered, truthfully and unsure of how else to approach this. "I'm looking for Carmichael."

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The doctor didn't necessarily have a good understanding of how things worked in the world of humans, whether it was in the world at large, in corporations run by them as opposed to solitary power-hungry scientists like Doctor Gero, or Capsule Corp. specifically. He had no idea if this person could direct him to Carmichael or not - he'd not seemed to have any trouble in sending the old woman along to see Doctor Andrews, nor the man and boy to some 'exhibit' they had requested to see in one of the basements. The expression on the young man's face seemed a confused one, however.

"Give me a moment, sir," he said, not an ounce of conviction in his voice. The doctor watched his hands type away at his computer's keyboard, seeing him type out the name 'Carmichael', and letting his hands hover. "We don't have a Dr. Carmichael anywhere in the records, I'm afraid, sir," he then said, as if he'd suspected he would be giving him this answer.

The doctor stood for a moment, his hand placed on the counter in front of him. The faintest glow in his red gem illuminated the piece of the counter directly underneath his palm; obscured behind the screen of the young man at the other end of the desk. He felt at the surface, and his fingers detected the activity in the computer. Where he had been able to control a certain subset of electrical wiring in the laboratory and the garage on his way through the barrens simply by touching a wall the wiring ran through, however, he could not see into the computer at this desk from where he stood. He figured the wiring was hidden away somewhere else, and he decided he had to deal with this person the way other human beings presumably dealt with a situation like this.

"I don't believe Carmichael is a doctor, in actual fact. He works as part of the Capsule Corporation's military arm - in a search and rescue team deployed from headquarters," he stated, dryly as ever. Perhaps he should not have.

He saw the young man's look, and noticed his eyebrows falling into a frown. He turned back to his computer and took his mouse into his hand to click through a few different stages of his programs. Once again, fingers typed onto the keyboard, and once against he noticed the pattern of his fingers typing out the name of Carmichael. The eyebrows rose again, in some level of surprise. He didn't look back up at the doctor, however, and instead his eyes rolled from left to right and snapped back again; he was reading something. As he did so, the young man's hand slowly slid along the desk, and he finally looked back up to the doctor.

"What did you say your name was?" he asked. There was a very subtle quake in his voice.

"I did not, I apologize. I am Doctor Vincent Pryce," he explained, his cool, blank eyes affixed to the young man's face.

He saw the hand slide on, and noticed it sliding away from his view behind the screen of his computer. The shoulder dropped, however, suggesting that the hand was reaching down. His own hand flat to the counter, he felt at the lacquered and painted wooden structure. A click ticked through the furniture, and he felt the rush of wires properly this time. It shot through the building. The doctor kept his eyes on the young man behind the counter, and tried his very best to look like a regular human being, failing dramatically as he remained standing silently and without emotion. The signal triggered by the button the man behind his desk had pushed, it shot upwards and downwards in equal measure, triggering several mechanisms along the way. Downstairs, he could sense the activation of a signal, sound and light. Upstairs, something very similar. He could see a sense of nervousness on the face of the young man he'd been speaking to, as the hand moved back on top of the desk, and he turned his attention back onto the doctor'.

"If you'll just wait here a moment, someone should be right by to collect you," he said, though he was not convinced with his own words, and everyone else the doctor seen step up to the counter in its multiple lines had been given a pass to find where they needed to be on their own. Something about his case was different, and he didn't have to calculate the possibilities at all to know what the young man had done. His hand slid away from the counter and he gave him a nod, knowing that this was likely not at all his fault - it was likely to be protocol, and ever since the young man had been reading the file on Carmichael, there had not only been a hint of nerves in his face; most of it had been downright fear.

He turned away from the counter, and faced towards one of the staircases at the very ends of the lobby. The clambering of boots from either side was unmistakable, and sooner rather than later he could see, one by one, a full squad of soldiers running into either end of the lobby - one from the basement below, another from a floor up. They spread out, and kept familiar rifles trained on the doctor as they surrounded him; several of them moving to bring the other people standing at the counter out of the way to form a half circle around the doctor from each end of the counter to the front doors to the spherical building. The men and women that had been sitting behind the counter had all scurried off as well, disappearing behind a pair of doors to the wall in the middle of the floor that the counter connected to on either end. The doctor remained calm, as he was want to do, and looked over the soldiers. They were all wearing helmets with visors and masks attached; their mouths covered with metal plates, eyes hidden behind deep black glass from where he could see.

"I'm guessing none of you is named Carmichael, then," he stated dryly, and the man in the center of the group of soldiers stepped forward. There was a different symbol on his shoulder, than the other men were marked with. Similar, but more elaborate.

"You'll come quietly, 'doctor', or we'll shoot. We have full permission to engage if you resist in any way," the man stated sternly, though there was a hint of unease to his command.

"You're taking me to Carmichael?" the doctor asked. If he had been human, he might be perceived as slow, or stubborn. Instead, his problem solving was currently quite stuck on the single objective he had set himself.

"Shut your trap," the soldier barked at him, and nudged his rifle towards the staircase his team had rushed out of, indicating for him to move.

The doctor didn't make a big deal out of the situation, and perhaps that's what unnerved the soldier the most. The slow, calm steps of Vince's boots along the recently waxed floor of the Capsule Corp. headquarters seemed to be reason to nudge the rifle into his back and push him along several times over. He didn't feel rushed by any of it, of course, and he could tell the nerves in the rest of the squad was quite apparent. From what he'd seen in the mission to Gero's laboratory, Capsule Corporation's soldiers weren't usually prone to jitters like these; though there had been plenty of fear in them, none of them quite readily showed it, and they had had much better reasons for it than these men did at the moment. He started up the stairs, his heavy boots thudding to each step, with the rumble of boots behind him, a quartet of rifles aimed at him; the rest standing down to as not to accidentally aimed it at their own squad.

As they all slowly stepped, one by one, onto the first floor of the building, he spotted yet another indicative nudge of the lead soldier's rifle, pointing him down one of the hallways. At the start of it, however, was a similar scanner to the used he'd previously used to get into the parking structure and the lobby downstairs. This one, however, didn't require a hand print, which was fortunate considering the gloves all of the soldiers wore. The lead soldier stepped in and pulled a thick card from his vest and slid it into a slot in the scanner, mounted to the wall. A green flicker came across the small screen that seemingly did accept a hand print if needed, judging by all of the marks of finger prints across its surface. The doctor's eyes quickly reverted to their light blue irises as he received a hand to his back, pushing him to move as the thick, reinforced door slid open to reveal the hallway. It wasn't a long one, but he could immediately see why this location would be sealed off from people who did not have access.

On the left side of the corridor was a small room, glass panels like the ones below shielding it from the hallway itself. Within, there were a row of lockers that presumably held the equipment the soldiers were using. The small room was lined with benches for the soldiers to gear themselves out on, stray boots and vests here and there that had not yet been placed securely back in their lockers. He remembered outfitting himself with some of the security gear in the lockers at Gero's laboratory and how utterly useless most of it had been to him. Even if he had to escape from this science complex, he doubted he'd have much need for their equipment. Even so, the soldiers seemed to keep him away from the glass wall as they stepped into this short hallway with him. Instead, they pressured him towards the room on the right - it also appeared to have some form of glass walls, but they were opaque and he couldn't see inside. The lead soldier stepped out ahead, the rest of them aiming their rifles at the doctor. Another slotting of the security card, and part of the pane seemingly slid into itself. He was nudged through with another push of a hand to his back.

Inside, the room appeared almost entirely focused on a single, metal slab in the middle of it. It had a couple of pairs of hinges along its length; about seven feet high, and two feet wide, with the metal separated at roughly the height of a person's knees and waist. He was pushed towards it as he looked around; there were cabinets placed along the walls of the room, and a circular groove in the floor around the slab of metal he was being guided at. His boots thumped to the floor as he paced, his arms hanging passively to his sides. The lead soldier barked at him to turn around as he reached the plate, and he did, perfectly following along with everything he was told to do. As he stood there, the groove around him opened and a thick set of bars shot upwards and slide into several holes in the ceiling. Between the bars, glass seemed to slide right out of them, and the panes collided with one another, only to meld seamlessly together. He could no longer hear, even as it looked like the soldiers began to speak to one another, their leader indicating with a hand as he addressed the others. One by one, they started to filter out of the room until just their leader was left. He turned to face the cage the doctor had been placed in, and slowly stepped back until he'd left the room. He looked in for quite a while, before his hand reached out for the control panel, and the door closed, leaving him on his own in a brightly lit room with sterile white cabinets, white floors, white walls, and white bars that obscured his vision.

Just a moment after the door had been closed, it opened again, and the soldier's hand slid along the control panel. The glass between the white bars on his cage turned an opaque white as well, and he was held in a circular cell he could not hear or see out of to notice the door had closed again.

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As he spent an increasing amount of time in the purely white cylindrical cell he'd been placed in, the doctor started wondering what a regular human would experience when placed into one of these. It was very likely that it had been designed for regular people, after all, and he knew a few things about them and how they behaved. It was easy enough to make some sort of early, preliminary judgement on humans, their fears, and their understanding of the world around them. He'd interacted with enough of them and how much they all seemed to value their freedom of movement and choice. Being put into this small circular chamber would no doubt get to them on some deep, psychological level. They would feel threatened just by the simple idea of being left in there, alone, with no way to hear or see out. It would get to them, rather quickly. There was no sense of time for them, being locked away with just their own thoughts in the complete silence to keep them company, and probably slowly drive them insane.

For him, however, it did very little in those terms. His legs couldn't get weak from standing. His mind didn't wonder into the depths of his fears and regrets; if there's anything he was good at, it was doing as he was told and waiting to be told something else. Being led into this cell had been as easy as being told to assemble a machine, and the execution required much less work on his end. He simply stood, and kept standing. He didn't even think to put the bag of supplies slung over his shoulder down onto the ground; he didn't notice the weight on his frame at all, nor did it require any sort of effort to hold it up. Internally, all that went on after a moment of considering the effect on human beings, was the slow ticking of the passage of time. Twenty-two minutes and nineteen seconds, it took, before the glass between the white bars that surrounded him turned clear once again. And not only that - he could see the glass thinning in places, until the material turned porous, and sounds flooded in towards him.

"Dr. Vincent Pryce, you said?" a voice from a new person he had not seen before entered the cell.

The doctor scanned the room, and he noticed there were quite a few people standing around the place. The soldiers that had led him upstairs and into this room were positioned along the walls, rifles in hand. Their leader, who had shoved him along as they had walked, and had been the one to open all the doors and eventually closed off the white cell he had found himself in, stood in front of him almost directly. He had his helmet off, now, and the doctor could see he was a younger man than he expected - though the expression on his face was one of some grizzly experiences. He seemed to be a man who wanted nothing more than serve in some sort of combat zone, but the scars on his face had likely made him unfit for any serious duty; one of his eyes was obviously fake, and the largest cut across his face went right across it. The bushy hair of his left eyebrow had a clear bald spot just over his nose, where the scar began. It ended at his cheekbone, almost at the other corner of his eye. If the cut had been more shallow, it might even have gone unnoticed with his neatly it went across, how it was almost horizontal.

The soldier, however, was not the one speaking. Even with the amount of people that were new in the room, he had had no trouble finding the point of origin for the voice that had addressed him. It was a female voice, among a large group of mostly male soldiers who were naturally silent as per their orders, and most of the newer visitors were men as well. There was no clear pattern to deduce with the people who had arrived, however; some of them wore the kind of long, white coats that he had seen the Capsule Corp. employees at the excavation site wear; yet others resembled something more similar to the soldiers lining the walls, but were not at all outfitted for any sort of conflict. Yet others appeared to be dressed entirely casually, or in something that resembled the attire of the people behind the counter downstairs, something that made them look 'official', he thought. The men wore ties, like he was used to seeing in the early stages of Gero's lab in the mountains, and some of the women wore sharply trimmed skirts, while others wore pants. One thing they all had in common with each other, however, were the lanyards around their necks that carried cards at their ends - cards that looked similar to the card the soldiers' leader had used to open the door to this very room. The cards featured pictures of the people wearing them, and several categories describing them.

He looked to the woman who had addressed him. She was one of the people in the white coats, and dressed utterly professionally. Her long, red hair was streaked with grey strands to show her age, though her face seemed to carry a youthfulness to it that made her actual age hard to guess at. Her deep, green eyes were partially hidden behind the thick frames of her glasses as she looked down to a clipboard in her arm, as if not at all caring to look at him. Around her neck hung the lanyard with the access card that showed to give her Level 5 Clearance, which was entirely different from the soldier's Level 3 Clearance - whether that was a significant step up or down, or indeed a more limited form of access, he couldn't tell. The card further revealed her to be Dr. Madelyn Yates, the head of the Artificial Intelligence Department.

"That I did, Doctor Yates," he responded. The scan of the room had taken him a handful of seconds, at most, and the woman peered up over the frames of her glasses with slight surprise on her face. She was standing a good ten feet away from the bars, and the font of her name on her card was quite small.

"How... Have we met?" she asked, taking a sudden interest.

"Not that I recall, doctor. It would have to be a very long time ago, indeed," he answered the question he was asked, not thinking much of the reason it was asked.

"Then how do you..." Dr. Yates started, but caught herself before she lost herself too much in something that in the grand scheme of things did not matter at all. She stepped forward, however, seeing the calm demeanor with which Dr. Pryce adressed her. He didn't seem in any way bothered by spending almost half an hour on his own in an enclosed space. "What can you tell me about the events at Doctor Gero's laboratory, doctor?" she went on to ask, stopping about five feet away from the cell. Vincent gave her a blank stare, as was his usual expression, and he proceeded to talk, dryly.

"Several days ago, the facility suffered an internal security breach. For reasons I am not aware of, the emergency protocol triggered a relayed message to your headquarters, to which your security detail responded by sending in a search and rescue team under the leadership of Captain Glenn. Arriving on site, the captain and his team performed a sweep of the laboratories, where they found me on one of the lower levels. I had found shelter there from the creature that stalked out facilities, and was able to provide the captain and his team with information about the specimen that had breached its containment unit. By the time they had reached me, however, a number of soldiers in the captain's unit had already lost their lives, and yet more did so in pursuit of the creature, which I had informed them was most likely looking to escape the laboratory altogether. I joined them in their hunt of the creature as the day progressed, and we devised a strategy to bring it out into the open. Unfortunately, it managed to get out of the entrance bay before we were able to destroy it, causing some urgency in chasing it down. I did not wait for the others and sped after it. While I was engaged with the specimen outside, it took the life of the pilot of your team's transport, whom I had not been aware of until it was too late. The creature and I damaged each other quite a bit, but it was weak and I had it cornered. In its panic, it attempted to use whatever might it had left to take me down with it, but its attack failed and scattered across the woods. In doing so, Captain Glenn himself lost his life. Carmichael and I remained, alone. He told me he would be heading back with the captain's body and his report on what happened at the facility - I trust he did so, he did not seem a man to break his word."

Dr. Yates' eyes were fixed to his face, and the look in her eyes spelled some mesmerized intrigue. He couldn't tell whether she was more interested in the story or the person telling it, but he did notice that she was not doing anything with the information he provided. Off in the corner of the room, nearest the door he'd been brought in through, however, someone was tapping his fingers to a small, transparent panel he held in his other hand. He could see the flickering of the circuitry within, and the letters that glowed to the front of the small slate in reverse. He was typing along with his story, this Alan Belmont, Junior Archivist, though he was quite selective in his entries. Keywords, mostly, and personal observations - 'cool', 'indifferent', 'deadened'. Dr. Yates turned to this man called Alan as Vincent's story wrapped up, as if looking to him for answers.

"Most of what he says is how Corporal Carmichael told it, ma'am," Belmont said, his tone almost as matter-of-fact as Vincent's own. He was fairly sure the man was human, however. Dr. Yates turned back to him.

"You came here to see the Corporal, then?" she asked, her arms clutching the clipboard to her chest. Apparently, there was no additional information on it that she needed at the moment.

"I do not know why exactly I am here, Doctor Yates," he responded immediately, not even taking the time to think about some possible reason for his presence. "Carmichael told me I could find a use for myself here, though not in those words. I came to look for a purpose to put myself to, and this is the only place I knew of to come. I asked for Carmichael at your assignment desk because I know of him, and he knows of me. I would like to see him to understand your corporation better."

Dr. Yates did not immediately answer. She appeared to be in thought, another completely alien thing to Vincent. Of course she had several options; both in her reply and her approach to the situation at large, but the most optimal one was surely already in her mind? From his standpoint, the optimal approach, of course, was to bring Carmichael to him so they could speak, but considering all of these people and the obvious concern for security, Dr. Yates had other interests to contend with.

"We would also like to know more about you, Doctor Pryce. Understand you better." Her lips were pursed, some concern in her look.

She reached inside of her pocket in her white coat and pulled a small device out. He couldn't see the circuitry at work in this object; it was opaque and solid, though at the front of it he could notice several buttons with shorthand instructions labelled on them. The doctor pointed it at the cage he was being held in and clicked a button. Behind him, the metal slate that protruded from the floor whirred with the grinding of small gears. Along its sides, thick cables extended, their tips parting into claws. They clasped to the doctor's waist and held him still. Another button was pressed, and overhead another claw reached to grasp at the bag around his shoulder to draw it up over his head and away from it arm. It was set to the floor gently. The claws at his body drew him back to lay him flat to the slate, which began to fold. It sunk to the ground and turned under his knees to lay his legs down, and pushed his back up until the slate had slid into the shape of a large, firm chair. The claws retracted and left him seated. At his wrists and ankles, however, thick, bent bars slid from the slate and clicked into place, locking him down. They would do nothing to stop his escape, he could tell. This this was obviously not designed with powers like his in mind.

Around the cage, it appeared, people understood this. The soldiers remained in place, with their leader still scowling at him, helmet under his arm. He gave Vincent something of a puzzle to work with. He was expressive, but he was hard to read even with all of the parameters of his face clear in view and presentation for his servos to scan. Doctor Yates, in turn, had stepped up closer to the bars again, and was almost pressed up against it; her clipboard but an inch away as she tilted it forwards to read off of it again.

"Corporal Carmichael is off on assignment, unfortunately, Doctor," she started, though her tone of voice did not seem to match the feelings she said to have at this news. "We would have all wanted him to have some time to process everything that happened at the laboratory, but there is considerable fallout from those events and you'll understand that after the losses we suffered there everyone is in something of a state. We needed every good man we have to deal with issues off-site."

"When will I be able to speak with him?" Vincent asked, not at all concerned with the possible additional problems that might have arisen after Gero's laboratory was breached and subsequently abandoned.

"In a while. I am at this time unable to give you a clear answer on that. You'll be dealing with me for the time being," Doctor Yates made clear, and let the clipboard slide down to her side as her arms uncrossed. "I trust you'll be cooperative in our research, Doctor, you know how much easier it is when everything does what it needs to do, yes?"

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For some reason, being restrained in this manner, while absolutely not enough to hold him back should he feel like escaping, proved to be enough for Doctor Yates to feel more comfortable with approaching, and even putting up some attitude. He didn't much mind the way she spoke to him; who was he to question how she acted? She was clearly in some position in this corporation to be able to exert such a personality. Judging by the people around her not stepping in, he assumed she was very much in charge. She proved so once again when she clicked another button on the device in her hand, and the glass panes between the white bars seemed to liquefy and reverted back into the bars themselves. They slid away, retreating into the floor. The holes they sprouted from were then sealed up from within, to turn the floor an even white. He was sitting openly in the room now, mounted on top of the metal slab that had formed into something like a dentist's chair underneath him.

As Yates stepped in, one of the other people in white coats came along as well, bringing along a small seat for her. It rolled along on wheels at each of its five prongs on the leg, the seat and the backrest of it of seemingly high quality despite how slim they were. The seat itself seemed plenty springy as Yates sat herself down, the back of it perfectly shaped to her back. He could barely see the seat after she sat down next to him, though she seemed to fit into it perfectly. One of her legs rose and slid over the other knee, her ankle and the back of her foot visible as her pants slid up slightly with the movement. She had something of a scar, he thought it was, running down the front of her leg, but it was very neat and almost so insignificant that he doubted any human eyes would be able to spot it.

"Alright, Doctor Pryce, let's start with some basic questions, shall we?"

Vincent sat still in his makeshift seat, as immobile as he had been since stepping into the small circular cell. He noted that whenever Doctor Yates addressed him as 'Doctor', her voice seemed to harbor an inflection that wasn't present with any other words she spoke. It wasn't very obvious, and certainly wasn't something she emphasized, but he certainly noted it as a point of interest. He merely looked at her, and when she once again turned her eyes up from the clipboard she was once again looking over, she seemed to realize that he was not answering, and merely waiting for her to present him with the first question.

"How would you say you're feeling today?" she asked, not looking down at her clipboard this time. Her eyes were set on his own as if trying to drill into him.

"I don't feel, Doctor Yates," he answered her, with the same speed he was used to answering questions that had a very simple answer. "My programming does not allow for emotion, only for understanding and processing."

"Right," Yates noted, though he could see that she had not entirely expected that answer. Her eyes did gaze down to her clipboard now, and she took a pen from her breast pocket to jot down a quick note. He traced the pattern the pen made in her hand, but the act of writing was still unnatural to him. He couldn't make out her note from where he was sitting. "And this... programming of yours. What would you say its purpose was when you were in Doctor Gero's employ?"

"I was designed to consider the theoretical side of Doctor Gero's research. My calculations were designed to be discerning and thorough on every spectrum of operations, to inform and to correct any flaws inherent in any patents and blueprints for development the Doctor himself invented."

"But you did not correct the flaws present in the specimen that ended up destroying your laboratory." This question, he knew, was not on the clipboard. Perhaps some variety of it was, but this was entirely reactionary to his answer to the previous question. He had found the intent of this interview very early on.

"I was not aware of the existence of the specimen that breached the facility. Doctor Gero..." He stopped answering to see Doctor Yates turn away from him.

She raised herself out of her small chair and began to walk around the room. His eyes followed her as she moved between people still standing in their place, looking over him as he sat there, contained to the chair he'd been pulled into by the device that was clearly intended to house prisoners. He didn't much feel like a prisoner, even though he realized he was being treated very much like one. He didn't understand what had been wrong with Carmichael's report to warrant this kind of approach to his arrival. Dozens of eyes fixed on him, he still had not given many of the people around him as much as a look. He could see the leader of the troupe of soldiers glaring daggers at him, and Belmont in the corner, keeping track of everything that was said - though not typing along with whatever Doctor Yates was now saying to another scientist.

His eyes looked him over, this time starting with the card attached to the lanyard around his neck. Terrell Coleman was a dark-skinned man who worked at Yates' department of Artificial Intelligence as a Senior Development Lead. They appeared to be deep in discussion, though why she'd seen the need to hurry off and get this conversation started without even properly hearing Pryce out about Gero's security clearances and his obsessions with some of his creations, he didn't understand. The two doctors were constantly looking back at him throughout their conversation, as if trying to gauge something in his eyes or his body language. There was very little chance of that, of course; he had not at all been programmed to emote or have any sort of body language to his mannerisms whatsoever. He was a machine built for efficiency. The conversation in front of him seemed to die out with some deliberation; the looks on the faces of the doctors spelling confusion after some back-and-forth. Before long, Doctor Yates' feet were carrying her back towards her seat, though the steps themselves were less hurried than they had been when she'd gone to speak to Coleman.

"When Doctor Gero went about his inventions, at what point would you say you began to have any involvement?" she asked, as if she didn't need to hear his reason for not being involved with the Cell specimen.

"I cannot answer that question," he began, but he recognized the look on Yates' face immediately. It wasn't surprise, it was badly hidden fear. "I did not see the plans to any of Doctor Gero's processes until he was sure he could not longer improve upon the design. Sometimes, that meant I never saw anything. Yet others, I saw before the plans were even beyond an idea."

That seemed to take away most of the expression on Yates' face, convincing her she had misunderstood the first part of his answer. He still didn't quite have human communication down - his inability to give a clear answer had been seen as either a desire not to, or his programming to not be allowed to. He could see Doctor Yates had not even remotely made up her mind about him, and she was unlikely to come out of their conversation with any positive feelings. By the way she clutched her clipboard - fingernails lightly scraping across the back of it - and how stilted and hurried her breathing had gotten, he could see that she was, to some degree, afraid of him. She had rolled her seat a foot or so back again since sitting down.

"The case with the specimen that escaped," Yates addressed, unsteady. Her fingers brushed her red-and-grey hair behind her ear, a slight tremor in her hands. She tried to control it and did a remarkable job of it, considering the same line he had spotted across her ankle was also present at her wrist, starting at the beginning of her ulna and running down into her white coat. Again, the marking line was incredibly faint, to the point of blending into her skin almost perfectly. "This is one of those experiments you were not involved in?"

"Indeed. There were never supposed to be two. I was involved with the Cell project at its infancy, and that experiment was a resounding success after we limited some key issues present in the initial design. The specimen that escaped, based on my experiences with it after the breach... It is quite likely Doctor Gero continued on his own with the initial design. He had not been pleased with the safety measures we installed to stabilize the specimen. He thought we were compromising the design by instating safer parameters to the regenerative function specifically."

"And this is the function that appeared to cause the issues our men faced at the facility," Yates noted, though not as a question. She seemed to be entirely aware of the degrading tissue the unstable specimen had to continue restoring by hunting down as many living beings at it could. "You say there is another Cell specimen. Where is it?"

"I do not know the answer to that question," Vincent said, altering his earlier way of saying so, as to not shock the doctor interviewing him. Yates appeared to spot the fact he had done that, however, as her pen danced across the paper on her clipboard again to make a note. "The completed Cell specimen was released from the facility a very long time ago, without my knowledge. It was my understanding that Doctor Gero was not convinced a limited specimen was going to be an asset, and left it up to its own devices. We were told, that after this release, the division and the lowest floor of the facility was being shut down in order to improve on the design further. Obviously, this was not the case, and Doctor Gero had decided to proceed development of the initial design - leading to the consequences we are all aware of."

"I see." Doctor Yates was short with him for a reason, he noted, as she was looking over her notes and whatever information had been on the clipboard before she'd stepped into the room with him. She turned her eyes back up to him, her finger reaching up to slide her glasses up her nose. "A lot of what you're telling me is very similar to the debriefing Corporal Carmichael went through, but we still know very little about what exactly you are, Doctor." She appeared unsatisfied with this conclusion. "If you don't mind, I'd like to run some more invasive tests."

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The room had somewhat cleared out, a few minutes after Doctor Yates had announced there would be no further questions at this moment. Plenty of the doctors and other staff that had been present for the initial interview seemed to either be satisfied with the answers that had been given, or had some other reason of clearing out for what was to follow. 'Invasive procedures', she had said. Doctor Yates remained, of course, as did Doctor Coleman and Mr. Belmont in the corner. He was not a doctor, he noted as he looked at the card on his lanyard again. The rest of the remaining crowd was comprised of the soldiers that lined the wall; their leader stepping away from the makeshift chair he had been fastened into, and sitting himself down in one of the seats that lined the walls. The other scientists, however, appeared to step closer. Some of them pulled thin, synthetic gloves out of their pockets and slid them on. He didn't think much of any of it. Doctor Yates pressed a button on her device and the bindings unclasped from his arms and legs.

"If you would remove your clothing, Doctor," she said, almost as dryly as he himself would have.

Again, he complied. He saw no reason to ask why he was asked to do this; he was programmed to follow orders he received from ranking officials. He was obviously not in a position to refuse the request of someone in Doctor Yates' station. She certainly seemed to be the one in charge of everyone else in this room, and they already worked here. He'd come hoping to find a purpose, and for now that was still a prospect - even if it was a distant one. He sat up and slid his long coat off of his shoulders, handing it over to one of the other doctors - a Travis Southgate, Intelligent Software department - who had his hand outstretched to receive it. His new black tee followed. If he had to get undressed for these procedures, he was at least pleased to see his clothing was being handled with care. He was about to start on his belt when Doctor Yates stopped him, by setting her hand on top of his own and shaking her head. She seemed to realize the contact only after it had been made, and was quick to remove her hand. Vincent laid back against the chair again, and as he did, another button was pressed, and he was once again locked onto it.

As he lay there, the doctors formed a pair of lines at either of his sides, Doctor Yates in the middle to his right, Doctor Coleman in the middle to his left, both of them flanked by two others, Southgate among them. Two of them moved off to the cabinets lining the walls, having to move between the soldiers as they rolled out little carts that were strewn with all manner of equipment. They brought them along and took their places at his back, near the upturned part of the chair that held him aloft.

"No need for alarm, Doctor, we are simply performing some exploratory procedures," Yates said. He was sure it was supposed to be reassuring, but he did not exactly need reassuring, nor did the tone in her voice convey it properly.

He stayed perfectly still, as he had been told to do, and watched as Doctor Yates removed the claps at his wrist on her side. His forearm was turned to have his palm facing upwards, and it was lifted to rest on his elbow. The doctor took a scalpel from her assistant after sternly calling for one, and tapped her index finger to the back of the small blade at its tip. The sharp edge slid into the skin that covered Vincent's arm, and drew a clear, almost oil-slick liquid on contact. He could hear a slight hum coming from one of the doctors around him, though he couldn't tell which one with his attention fixed on what Yates was doing to him. She drew the blade from the inside of his elbow down to the joint at his wrist, and slid his arm open at the center of his forearm. Underneath a quite dense layer of skin, there was a single, thick casing of lightweight metal. It was divided in several panels, with access to the inner portion worked into the center plate. Doctor Yates' scalpel moved to place two smaller, horizontal cuts at the wrist and elbow, to open his tick skin into two, long flaps on either side. Her assistant handed out small sets of pliers and magnets to the other doctors, who proceeded to pull the skin apart and connect the magnetized equipment to the metal stale he was presented on to hold his arm open for her procedure.

The doctors briefly discussed on how to open the panel in his forearm, and decided on a mixture of equipment - there was no clear entry point for them, as the plate was not constructed by any regular medical means. There was no screw to unwind from its clasp, there was no clear button to press for access. The arm's casing, aside from the lines between its plates, appeared to be entirely smooth. Vincent himself did not indicate how to access the inner portion of his construction; he had not been asked to provide information he absolutely did possess. Instead, he merely watched the discussion, seeing the doctors trying to figure it out among themselves until Doctor Yates' hands, impressively steadily, returned to his arm with the scalpel and a pair of delicate tweezers. She slotted the scalpel between the panels; the thing just thin enough to do so without issue. She tilted it aside and felt for resistance between the plates, and came up short. She was unsure which of the pieces of metal would break first; either of the panels, or her scalpel. She sighed and removed it.

"How is this supposed to work?" she asked herself in a clear sort of frustration, balling her fists and setting them onto the edge of the metal slate; equipment still in hand.

"There's a pressure point on either end at the left side of the plate," Vincent responded. "Both need to be pressured for five seconds at the same time to prevent accidentally triggering the mechanism."

Doctor Yates looked at him, staring directly into his eyes for much longer than she needed to press down on the plate. Her hands didn't move, as if she was trying to make a judgment on what he had told her to do. It took her a moment to realize she was not going to see the intent behind his comments, no matter how long she stared at him. She had a question ready, but it took her an additional moment to understand that, no matter how awkward it would be to ask that question to a robot, she was going to have to ask it if she wanted to know more about his statement.

"Why didn't you mention this when we were trying to figure out how to operate it?"

"You did not ask," he dryly stated. "You merely discussed."

Doctor Yates' face seemed about ready to turn red with the tension in her jaws, though she held herself together. She was used to things not going her way, he could tell; despite the firm grip into her equipment, she handed the scalpel and the tweezers off to her assistant. Her eyes still fixed on Vincent's face, her fingers did exactly as he had explained. The side of the center panel nearest to his body gave way just a slight amount as her middle fingers pressed down on both corners on that side. She held on, and exactly five second later, her fingers felt the resistance give way and a click resounded. Her hands retreated and the panel followed them along, the well-oiled inside of his arm allowing the hinges hidden at the other end to silently turn the plate upwards. Doctor Yates pulled it open further to rest it along the synthetic skin flap already held aside by the magnets. Inside of the casing of his arm, there were two large pistons that ran at either side of the arm; they resembled human bone structure, without the bend in either of the long, pneumatic devices. Between them, there was a smear of oils along the casing itself that kept everything in perfect working condition, as well as a long slate that ran along the entire length of the arm. Upon it, were five thin sets of metallic wires and hinges. Doctor Yates made an assumption and bend at Vincent's index finger. The second wire from the right shifted downward, the hinges turning to tighten the wire back into place. She released it.

"Move that finger, please."

Vincent pulled the curl back into his index finger, and the hinge itself moved first, drawing the wire down. Yates nodded, as if agreeing with her own conclusion on his his hands operated. Then, she spotted something behind the slate of wires and hinges. She leaned in to have a closer look, but she seemed reluctant to touch anything going on within. She hooked her finger at her assistant and offered her palm as if to silently ask for something. She received the scalpel and tweezers back, and she dipped yet lower to get an even closer look. Her long, red hair almost dipped into the opened panel before her hand holding the tweezers slid it back across her shoulder. Her glasses were on the tip of her nose, where it seemed she liked to have them for an inspection like this. She reached down with her scalpel and tapped it to the side of the wired slate. It didn't move, at all. Her tweezers joined in, grasping at its secure surface, and she attempted to tilt it. She sooner rolled his entire arm over than move the slate out of the way, and she sniffed in frustration. The casing was slick in its design, but something she had thought to see behind that neat collection of metal unnerved her. She retreated from the arm.

"Have I seen everything that you can operate within that arm?" she asked, finally starting to understand that he wasn't exactly going to lie to her.

"No," he said. "There is a power back stored behind the mechanism that controls my fingers. It feeds the energy expulsion unit embedded in my palm."

Yates' pale face turned impossibly white as her eyebrows crept up her forehead, her eyes focused on the red gem at the center of his hand, as if not having noticed it before. She looked back to Vincent, then to the other doctors, and chose her words very carefully.

"What does it do?"

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It seemed that Doctor Yates' latest question had cast some doubts among the other scientists in the room. He had just been about to answer her question when he stopped himself to look around. Yates was certainly in charge around here, but he had not yet heard the other people around him be vocal in any way. There were murmurs among them, in such a low, hushed manner that he was altogether unable to really decipher any of it. They talked among each other as they took steps away from the metal slate upon which he sat. Even if he couldn't hear exactly what they were saying to each other, it was readily apparent that there was some sort of nervous fear in their movements. They held their hands in front of their mouths and gestured in his direction as they moved away from him. He didn't quite understand the apprehension, especially since Doctor Yates herself seemed to be entirely curious as to how he operated. It appeared her scientific curiosity won out over any nerves she might have felt, but she remained seated next to him all the same. He turned back to her to see her expectantly looking at him.

"I can answer that question. Fortunately, you did not ask how it works, because I have to say I am not entirely sure." Vincent raised his elbow from the table; the first movement he made since taking his seat on the metal slate. He saw Doctor Yates pull back from him slowly; either to give him space or to create some distance between the two of them for her own safety. he opened his hand entirely, the red gem in his palm clear in view. "This is the expulsion unit," he said, twisting his wrist to bring the attention to his hand. Doctor Yates shifted her glasses to get a good look of it. "The power bank inside my arm supplies the unit with energy that is generated by my movements and other factors. When needed, I can use the functionality of the expulsion unit to do a variety of things with the energy stored in my arms. This includes propulsion to take flight, all the way to a weaponized discharge."

Doctor Yates looked closely, entirely interested. Her eyes followed the gem in his palm to the casing in his arm, her fingers twitching and shifting to her own palms. It looked like she was eager to get a much more involved look at the systems in use. She nodded at his explanation, as if the concept was familiar to her. She listened to him carefully as she watched, though there was something missing from her experience of the situation.

"Could you demonstrate a minute discharge?" she asked, beckoning one of the soldiers lining the walls over. The soldier obeyed; she seemed to hold sway over them as much as she did the scientists. The soldier's superior, however, was not so easily persuaded.

"Doctor Yates, with all due respect, you cannot-" he started, but stopped talking as the doctor's finger was sternly raised. Her head turned to face him, and the clench in her jaw and the coldness in her eyes showed a stern side that had no doubt helped her in getting to the position she currently held withing Capsule Corporation.

"Sergeant, I will not tolerate your insolence in front of our... guest. You have made your prejudices and concerns perfectly clear and we will leave it at that. Private, step forward."

The Sergeant stepped back, and the private did as she said. There was a noticeable hesitation in his step now that had not been there, previously, however. It was as if the sergeant's objection to the idea had made him think twice about what exactly it was he was being asked to do. The soldier had no idea what to do with his hands, either. He held onto his rifle, but he was shifting between holding it in both hands or just letting them hang loose to his sides. His feet shuffled on the floor, finding the appropriate distance from Doctor Yates for her request. The doctor pressed another button on her device and both of Vincent's hands were now free. She indicated for the soldier to move directly in front of the metal slate. He did so, and then resumed his shuffling and the awkward transition of his arms in various positions. Doctor Yates looked back at Vincent and rolled her seat a small distance away from the chair herself, giving him room to move.

"A very minute discharge, please, doctor," she repeated, and emphasized.

Vincent sat himself upright on the metal slab, his legs still held into place on the seat underneath. The situation was strange, to say the least. In all of his time working at the laboratory, he'd never actually resorted to using his energy for any violent means. The security breach courtesy of the failed Cell specimen had been the first time he had really needed to exert his energy in that manner. The days after the breach and the mission undertaken by Carmichael and his squad had provided him with plenty of opportunity and reason to keep doing so, but this was an entirely new manner in which to use those measures. He was being asked to do so, of course, but he'd had no cause to attack any of these people so far, even though quite a few of them seemed to feel like he might lash out at them any second. He sat still for a moment and looked over his exposed casing.

"You may want to sit on the other side, doctor, if you wish to observe the internal process."

Doctor Yates nodded and rolled her chair around. Her hands grasped at the metal slate; her feet tapping to the floor as she slid along the floor. The wheels of her chair whirred within their housings and passed effortlessly over the slick, smooth white floor until she sat at Vincent's left. He raised his arm up and turned it so his palm was pointed towards the soldier, his fingers pointed up and slightly to the right. His forearm's skin had slipped away from the grasp of the clasps that held it pulled open to either side, leaving the flap on each side hanging loose underneath. It was an unusual sight, especially given the lack of blood. Instead, the clear oils that ran through his casing and throughout his limb rolled down the synthetic skin in thick lines, staining at his ribs and running down his sides eventually. Doctor Yates stopped him and called people over to reapply the clasps to make sure everything was entirely within her view. About a minute passed, and Vincent's arm was an improvised mess of wires and magnets on the opposite end of the opening in his skin, but the flaps were once again pulled cleanly aside to leave his arm's insides exposed. Yates have him the go-ahead to proceed.

As it had so often done in the last few days, there was a shimmer that crept over the red gem embedded in Vincent's palm. The slick, smooth surface of the opaque, glass-like piece of jewelry gleamed with the lighting around the room to begin with, but there was a certain shine that overtook the predominantly white light that illuminated the metal slate he sat upon. It lit up from the inside of it, and the deep crimson of the semi-spherical unit turned slowly to an increasingly vibrant orange, and then began to transition into a clearly gleaming yellow. The soldier who stood out in front of the metal slate only began to shuffle his feet even more than he had already been doing. He looked back and forth between Vincent, seated calmly on the metal chair, Doctor Yates, not paying any form of attention to him as she was enraptured with the inner workings of Doctor Pryce's arm, and the Sergeant, who was still scowling in Vincent's direction. Neither of the doctors were in any way concerned about the soldiers, however.

Yates' eyes were focused on the open casing; within, there were clear and present signs that something was happening within to fuel the brightness spreading into the gem nestled into the doctor's palm. In the casing, the wires that controlled Vincent's fingers were pulled taut as his wrist was pulled back, and his digits were outstretched to present his palm to the soldier in front of him. Behind that plate guiding the wires, there was a faint glow, building and radiating against the casing itself. It shone out from the opened plate, and Doctor Yates held her hand up between it and her face, still wanting to see. There was a faint crackle at the gem, and the glow seemed to rush forward through the casing; trailing the source of the shining from his elbow to his wrist. There was a light click and a thin bolt of energy shot from his palm to collide with the soldier's body armor. He was thrown back and the glass pane trembled as the man's body was flung against it. Judging by the sounds, it wasn't glass, however, and the resounding tension spreading through it halted much quicker than he had expected. The soldier dropped to the ground, a groan coming from his body. The Sergeant hurried towards him to check him for injuries.

"Minute!" Doctor Yates suddenly threw out, her hands at the metal slate, fingers tense to the surface.

"That was minute," Pryce answered, dry as ever, still sitting upright. His hand had closed into a loose fist.

"Oh..." Yates said, and she looked back at his arm. The glow had subsided and she chewed on her lip in thought. Her eyes did not leave his arm, and her fingernails rasped across the metal of his chair. Something about the look in her eyes made her suddenly appear very intense.

"Would you be able to sit in on a meeting later and weigh in on some possibilities?"

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Doctor Yates and her people had left, and all that was around him were the soldiers lining the wall, minus one. The Sergeant was sat at the door to the cell, scowling at him still. He wasn't entirely sure where the soldier had been taken, but he had been led away by two of the scientists as Yates had announced her departure to take care of some other stressing matters. He'd been released from the clasps that held his ankles into place and allowed to put his shirt back on, but his coat had been taken away. Yates had implored him to stay seated, and he had done so. For five hours, now, he had been sitting where the doctor had asked him to, no movement in his body whatsoever. He could almost feel how uncomfortable the soldiers were getting, and in the case of the Sergeant, he had an eyeful of his restless right leg ever since. There was a certain element of fear in the air around him, owing to the fact that he had widely announced how tiny the charge of energy had been he'd thrown out at one of their own. The simple fact that he had done so on Yates' orders was, he felt, all that still held the Sergeant back from trying to assault him in any way. It had to be clear to him, too, however, how little chance he'd have of actually causing any damage on the doctor's body.

Five hours he had been here, and his internal clock was slowly ticking into another thirty minutes when the door to the room was finally opened again. It was not Doctor Yates, nor anyone else who had been in the room previously. Eliana Torres was not a doctor, according to her access badge, and indeed her access badge was not at all sufficient in letting her into the room to begin with. Behind her, another ranking soldier stood posted outside who retreated their card from the access panel that opened the door. The young woman stepped into the room with a tray in her hands. Upon it lay several pieces of equipment generally used in surgical procedures. It looked very much like one of the trays the assistants had wheeled in from the cabinets, that had since been returned to them. She strode through the room comfortably and set the tray down on the metal slate at his side, where she sat down on the seat Doctor Yates had left vacant when she left. He looked at her access card with more detail and noted Eliana Torres was part of the Prosthetic department.

"May I see your arm, please?" she asked, with some labor to her voice. She seemed to be reciting a line she'd been studying.

Vincent lifted his arm from the slate and turned the open forearm upward to give the young woman a good look at it. She leaned over the slate, with her hands set to the edge of it. Her short, dark hair dangled along her temples and forehead in a wild mess, though there was a trace of product in it that was not at all unlike the clear oils in his arm. It was as if she had gone through no small effort to look like she didn't care about how she looked. Her skin was a shade he had not seen before; dark, but not so much to classify her in the same realm as Carmichael's decidedly brown skin. Her eyes were a deep brown, as well, giving her altogether an exotic look as compared to most of the people he'd seen in the area. Almost all of them had looked somewhat like his own design; Yates, with her red and grey hair, had been even lighter-skinned. By all accounts this woman was rather young, especially compared to the stern manner Yates had about her. Torres wore a white coat, as well, but she had no hint of the formal attire he'd seen among Capsule Corp.'s employees so far. She wore a knee-length, dark blue skirt that seemed rather playfully loose, as if it were made with younger girls in mind. Her black top had a blue flower pattern running along the front.

"Oh wow, this is really advanced stuff!" she exclaimed, apparently giddy with excitement as she clapped her hands together.

Torres reached over to the tray and collected a few of the instruments - scalpel and tweezers, incidentally. It seemed this was standard equipment for the task of opening up an android's arm. She had her tongue between her teeth as she inserted her tools into the open casing, and tapped the instruments to the metal pistons and the plate that contained his wires. Her head shifted and tilted to get herself a good look at what she was doing - even if she wasn't doing much of anything at all. Her eyebrows were furrowed in some intense concentration as she fumbled around inside for a bit. Eventually, she puffed out an exasperated breath and sat back in the seat, her hands in her lap.

"Boy, that looks really complicated!" she complained. Vincent didn't understand; he was one of the most efficiently designed prototypes he'd seen, at least among Gero's blueprints. The young woman sat up again, however, and turned to face him. Once again, her voice was quite labored as she spoke. "Would you allow me to close your arm up again?"

"Do you know how to do that?" He hadn't answered anyone with another question before, but then again he had not been asked for his opinion on anything yet. He could see the doubt in her face as she looked between his face and his arm.

"I think so!" she piped up again. "I've never done anything like this before, but I'm really good with instructions."

She didn't wait for his response this time, and he didn't give any. This had not been a question. She turned herself to sit still, facing his arm, and took a deep breath. Then another. Her eyes were closed for a moment and if his sensors weren't so sharp as to take note of it, her mumbling of 'alright Ellie, you can do this...' would have been indiscernible. The calculations hurtling through his circuits immediately let him know that this young woman was far more likely to do some serious damage to his systems than any of the soldiers in the room were; even all of them combined would have to put in some serious effort to get close to the chances her overeager, inexperienced hands would cause something to malfunction.

Fortunately, she left the tools on the tray for her second attempt at having a look at his arm's casing. Instead, she reached into her lab coat and pulled out a piece of paper. It was folded up several times, the creases in the paper somewhat distorting the handwritten notes written down in pink ink. The I's had hearts for dots. It appeared he wasn't the only one struggling to discern what the paper said exactly. In his case, he was unfamiliar with handwriting to begin with. In her case, she seemed to have been the one who wrote it, but she was tilting the paper to catch the light and bringing it closer to her face. Eventually, she turned the paper to him and held it several inches away from his face.

"Does that say 'reattach or detach'?" she asked, as if there was very little consequence to the different.

It didn't matter what he saw, however, as he didn't have enough time to really look at the piece of paper before it was pulled away from his face again and Torres sat there, staring at it. She had her elbows on the slate of metal and leaned in close to examine it. The two words might have looked alike in her handwriting, but he thought the difference between the two would have been easy enough to spot. She mulled it over and looked at the casing in his arm several times in between reading her copied instructions. Eventually, she nodded decidedly and laid the piece of paper onto the slate where he could look at it. The word in question, he only noticed after some very difficult calculations, was written directly over one of the creases in the paper and it was indeed hard for him to differentiate the two possibilities. However, he failed to see what needed to be detached from his internal systems.

She seemed to have thought the same, as she looked at the piece of paper again with her fingers on the open plate of his casing. Her lips moved as she read the words, and she very slowly pushed the plate back into place on the casing. It clicked, and the casing was sealed off as neatly as it had been before Doctor Yates first pressed down on the pressure points. Torres squealed in delight and clapped her hands together, her body bouncing in the seat. A repeated 'okay', ever increasing in pitch, left her mouth as she grabbed the paper again and went over the next step with her tongue between her teeth again. It took her much less time to mull over the options on the next step, and he could see why. She dropped the paper and simply slid the two flaps of skin back into place. The I-section of synthetic material looked as neat as it had when it had first been cut into him. Again, the paper, before Torres turned to the tray and picked up a packet. She opened it with all the difficulty of a vacuum-sealed plastic bag, and a few sheets of oily material threatened to fall. Her hands flailed to catch them, and she smeared some of it onto her coat and flowery top.

"Aww, come on!"

Amidst comments about just having had 'it' steamed, she began to separate the sheets and lay them out carefully on the opened packet. She held one in her hand, and in the other she collected a tool he had not yet seen before, but which looked oddly similar to some of the tools he had available to him in Gero's lab - some of which he had brought with him in his duffel bag. Torres slid the sheet in her hand onto the cut in his arm, and rolled the other device over the portion of the sheet that directly covered the open wound. He didn't exactly feel pain, but there were sensors in his arm that allowed him to notice contact, and something he assumed had to register as tickling came over his arm. He held it perfectly still, as that was expected of him, and watched Torres work on the cut. The oils seeped into the three cuts Yates had made along his arm, and the tension in the synthetic skin drew each piece of the flaps of loose skin together. It began to seal up as the sheets themselves dissolved into the material. Torres had to take a new sheet several times over when there was nothing left of the old ones, and after about five minutes of rubbing the sheets into the cuts, there was a neat set of lines along his forearm, that had already begun to fade. The young woman looked thrilled with the results.

"That's it, I think!" she exclaimed, and interlocked her fingers in front of her, to rest her chin on them. She sighed in contentment, and her eyes trailed through the room for a moment. She sat there for a solid two minutes, her foot tapping to the floor underneath the slate before she suddenly jumped up. "Oh! I need to get back!"

She quickly tossed the equipment left over after the procedure to the tray she'd brought in with her and got up to her feet. She seemed a lot more hurried than when she came in, and the Sergeant got up from his seat at the door to reluctantly slide his access card into the panel near the door to let Torres out. Her sandals swishes and flopped at the soles of her feet as she scampered off, and just as the door started to close behind her, her voice trailed in from the hallway.

"Thank you, mister robot, goodbye!"

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It was almost strange how much alarm there had been initially, concerning his presence at Capsule Corp. headquarters, in comparison with how lax and hands-off the higher-ranking employees had become. Aside from the visit from Eliana Torres, he'd been sitting in that room for the better part of the day. Where it had been relatively close to dawn when he arrived and announced himself willingly at the front desk, it was starting to creep up into dusk outside. He had no evidence of this, but his internal clock certainly noted that the hours spent sitting in that chair without moving alone was starting to move towards the double digits. The Sergeant was still in the room with him, even though the door had opened a few times to alter the shift of the other soldiers lining the walls to give them some leave and undoubtedly breathing room. Near every guard that left did so in a hurry, with sighs of relief as they exited the room. The tension in the Sergeant's face was likely the cause of most of the tension in the room, since doctor Pryce barely moved a muscle. Perhaps that was the reason, however, they all felt so uncomfortable around him. It wasn't until the Sergeant threatened to fall asleep on his own watch, that the door opened and there was no changing of the guards to be called.

In the open door stood Doctor Madelyn Yates, from Artificial Intelligence, and again someone he had not seen before. Professor Thomas Kristiansen stood next to Doctor Yates, but he did not wear a lanyard with an access card around his neck. His name was embroidered into his lab coat, underneath which he wore an impeccable suit. Dark and tailored to fit his slim figure, it was a three-piece like he had not seen anyone wear, not even those who dressed formal. He was a tall, lanky man, easily having a foot and a half of height on Yates and taller than most of the soldiers he had seen, as well. For all of his height, however, he did not appear intimidating at all. His tie was boring; black, with the CC logo on the knot in an off-white. It was dead center, as if practiced and perfected to wear it just so. He was clean shaven, with exception of a thin mustache that looked like it was clipped every morning to make sure none of the hairs looked anything less than perfectly maintained. At his temples, there was a dusting of grey hair that seemed to be brushed and combed just so that it showed equally between the rest of his hair, which was a light brown.

"With us, if you'd please," he said, and he turned away from the door to start pacing down the corridor. Doctor Yates remained, her clipboard hugged to her chest.

Pryce slipped out of the seat, and in the corner of his eye he could see the Sergeant standing up as well. He heard the uneven steps of boots behind him, the Sergeant obviously tired after a day of doing nothing by glower at him. Yates did not seem to pay the Sergeant any attention, however, and beckoned for Vincent to come along. He left the room without being in any way impeded by armed men, though the Sergeant was on his heels, rifle set to his shoulder. As Yates looked back, she shook her head - not in a manner to dissuade the act, but as a way to communicate that she had no idea why the Sergeant was so adamant in still keeping such watchful vigil. Over the course of the day, and certainly her research into Pryce's arm, it had become very much clear for everyone present that even if they did all they could, no amount of security was going to stop him from leaving if he ever got the idea. Fortunately, so far he had been co-operative and he could see in Yates' face that she had become altogether more trusting of his presence as the day went on.

"Never mind him, he's got a chip on his shoulder," she said, indicating the Sergeant. Vincent looked back, and concluded there was nothing on the Sergeant's shoulder at all. "Thomas has agreed to have you sit in on that meeting I told you about this morning. He wasn't easy to persuade, but I have some leverage in this building yet," she said, her fingers tensing on the clipboard. He had no idea what she was talking about, but she was passionate about it.

They walked through the much longer hallway on the other side of the staircase the soldiers had forced him up, and eventually came to what felt to his sensors to be the center of the building. There was a row of elevators to their left, one of which was open. The Professor was already inside, and Yates beckoned Pryce to follow. With the three of them in, the Sergeant intended to follow, but Kristiansen held up his hand as he tried to enter, blocking his passage with a single gesture. His other hand released the button that held the doors open, and they closed in front of the scowling face of the Sergeant, his fake eye the last thing visible between them, but there was an eerie sort of glaze to it that almost made it look real; like he was still angrily glaring into the elevator with that eye. As unemotional as he was, there was something about that look that made him think he was genuinely more comfortable after the eye had disappeared from view behind the sliding doors. There was a click in a mechanism somewhere, and a press to his feet as the elevator started to rise. It didn't make a sound, and if he didn't have his sensors that told him they were indeed rising in altitude, he might have thought they were entirely stationary.

The ride in the elevator was entirely silent. Kristiansen did not seem the talkative type, and by the way he dressed and had not even gone about introducing himself, he assumed the Professor was an entirely efficient man. Yates seemed nervous about something, but it could have just been the silence getting to her. He didn't quite know how social interactions generally progressed between people who worked together; it had been such a long time since he'd had to talk to another scientist about anything other than the science of their work. This Professor certainly wasn't helping make things pleasant for Yates. Her fingers were squeezing into the eternal clipboard at her chest, her nails rasping across the wooden panel her papers were pinned to. The Professor made a sniffing noise, and she seemed to relax her grip on it for a moment. The light click in the mechanism returned, and there was a faint push on his shoulders as they arrived at a higher floor. According to his circuits, they would be somewhere in the middle of the building. The doors opened, and the three of them stepped out into another hallway. Looking behind him, the elevator they stepped out of was the only one that actually came to this floor.

Kristiansen and Yates were already in stride again, and Pryce followed behind. He had eyes on him as others passed; white lab coats on everybody he saw, except himself. His black tee-shirt certainly stood out, and they had not returned his brown leather duster to him yet to even remotely resemble someone who belonged. He took the glances in the stride, though, as he assumed the people walking passed him had nothing to add if they were not spoken to by the Professor or the Doctor walking in front of him. Yates made a few polite nods and said hello to a few of the scientists, calling some by their first name, while Kristiansen stayed entirely silent during their walk. He was the first to step up to a large set of double-wide doors, and as he stood in front of it the access panel on one of them, were the doorknob was supposed to be, flashed green and the doors swung open on their own. The three of them stepped through, and he saw what had to be the largest room in the building.

There was a massive, black table in the center of it; round at first sight, but its edge was straight and sectioned in front of each seat placed at the table. The corners were very light and rounded, owing to the fact that there were so very much of them around a table of that size. His eyes went around the table and he counted at least forty seats in all. The chairs were spaced much further apart than they needed to be, but the main reason for the table being as large as it was, was the perfectly smoothed bowl in the middle of it. It took up most of the surface of what had to be some kind of carbon fiber construction; he'd never seen anything of that size successfully carved out of wood. At each seat, there was about two feet of space at the table before it dipped into that large bowl, and it looked like there was a distension in the floor underneath to even house the bottom portion of the table. At the very center of it was a flat surface again, where a small device sat. There was a slow flickering of a red light at the center of it.

The walls of the room would have been the first thing to notice when stepping inside, if it was not for the table and its strange proportions. They ran up to the ceiling, this certainly wasn't a strange thing, but compared to the hallway they had just stepped in from, the ceiling here was much higher - so much higher, in fact, that he assumed this chamber spanned three floors of the Capsule Corp. building. The edge of the chamber was not rounded like the building itself was, so it seemed logical to assume it didn't span the entire floor outside of the hallway and elevators, but it was hard to see judging by the dimensions of this room and the building that there was much room for anything else on any of the three floors it was built across. Along the walls were servers; thick, high vaults of them. Circuits were tangible to his own, and he could feel the vibration of all of the information that was being sent through it. Most of it, he felt, left the room, and probably powered the all of the systems in the entire building. At the back wall, however, was one giant piece of equipment that spanned almost the entire wall in both breadth and height, and all of its information was being sent towards the table - and came together in that small device built into the bowl.

"Seats, please!" Kristiansen said, in a loud voice. He wasn't shouting, which he probably would have had to do if he wanted to reach the other side of the room with that announcement. It seemed people starting to shuffle and talk among themselves was enough to get the message across. Vincent had not even noticed how many people had been standing around the servers and already chatting at the table before his attention was called to them by their movements.

"You're with me, come," Yates said, and she tapped him on the shoulder to indicate she was going the opposite way to Kristiansen.

She led him along to the only section of the table that had two chairs placed at its edge for the occasion. The second chair was out of sorts with the rest of them, as if it had been scrounged up from somewhere else. It appeared that this room was normally as clean and organized as Kristiansen was. He took his seat without protest, however; Yates was not the person to speak to even if he had some sort of issue with a substandard chair. After sitting on a metal slate for close to ten hours, any normal person would be happy to have something with some spring to it to sit on. So sit, he did, silently, with his hands on his legs, looking out over the hole in the table, as Kristiansen moved to almost exactly the opposite end of the table. Now that he saw it, he noticed the Professor's chair was different from the others, as well, even though its style was very much the same. The only thing that stood out about it was that it was bigger and more luxurious. Kristiansen remained standing however, and placed his hands on the edge of the table. As if just by sheer touch, a piece of its surface slid open, and underneath there was a panel with a wide array of controls. The Professor hit one of them.

There was a flash from the device in the middle of the bowl - the device itself no longer visible, the flash certainly was; and with good reason. What started as an initially linear beam of light that shone onto the ceiling in a very sharp blue, turned to a more soothing yellow as it shaped itself into a sphere. The bowl itself was filled with it, and as it expanded the light began to shape itself. It happened very quickly, but his eyes were able to follow the steps perfectly. He saw flickers as the light traced itself into edges, as if following a road map, until he could recognize the pattern it drew as one of the files he had been able to see in one of Gero's designs. It wasn't anything, purely scientific, however, and he had thought it uninteresting at the time; it was a globe. The lights were tracing continents, though most of them were to be proven redundant as Kristiansen pressed another button and the globe zoomed in on a single one. There was a whip of light, and an alteration in the projection that briefly made his eyes flicker to adjust to the new information. He had to look away from it, though he saw the humans had no such issue. He looked back, and found himself stumped.

No matter which way he leaned as he looked at the new map, he noticed that at whichever angle, the map looked exactly the same. It seemed as though it was turning to face him perfectly with every small motion; the other people sitting around the table didn't seem to notice that it was turning in place at all, or did not experience the map in the same way he did. He was fascinated, to the point of setting his hands on the edge of the table and leaning in to get as close a look as possible. Yates reached a hand aside and set it to his chest, pushing him back into his seat gingerly. He didn't resist and noted that he had not been asked to examine anything, so assumed he was not to get too interested in the material quite yet. Yates didn't seem bothered by it, however, and at the other end of the table Kristiansen had not even noticed.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the Professor began, and the murmuring around the table silenced instantly. He hadn't even raised his voice this time, and he was quite hard to hear from Vincent's side of the table. He couldn't imagine how Yates was keeping track for just a moment, but as he looked aside he saw that she wore a small device in her ear.

"Let us get straight to the situation at hand, shall we?"

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The globe swirled in place in the center of the table; at least the lights did. He could see them swaying and turning at the base of the globe, the gleam and shine of them dimming as the globe shaped at the top. It was no longer the complete map of the Earth, however, and even though the projection was clearly spherical, the focus within the orb had been reduced and zoomed in rapidly. West City was clearly marked on the map that was projected as it whipped though levels of magnification and sped along past the city, shifting instead towards the mountains. He knew which mountains they were; he had been there for most of the life he could still remember. As the map zoomed in, clear images of trees atop a mountainside came into view. They looked so very real, aside from the fact that they seemed to be made up entirely of light. He could see the landing pad Carmichael had flown away from in the Capsule Corp. hovercopter, and the solid steel doors that led into the entrance bay of Doctor Gero's laboratory. The doors were even forced open a near undetectable amount - Cell's last bit of strength before he had ran off into the woods surrounding the landing strip in front of the gates. The projection seemed to use some incredibly advanced imaging techniques, but as the zoom neared the gate, it stopped. It seemed it could go no further.

"As you are all aware, this is the infamous laboratory of our old colleague, Doctor Gero," Kristiansen began.

It hit him like a ton of bricks. Of course that's what was behind all of it. The funding to construct the facility to begin with. The fact Capsule Corp.'s search and rescue team was first on the site to provide support when the breach occurred. The connection was unmistakable now that he had new information to process. It explained everything. Why Gero was so adamant in keeping his employees sealed within their stations, the tight security on a site that was almost impossible to access or leave unless you knew where it was and how to secure transport. The fact that, despite all of the resources being brought in, he never actually saw new people. The fact that resources came in at all, sometimes. Eventually, he noticed Yates was looking back at him. She did not do so for no reason; his fingers had pushed dents into the carbon fiber polymer the table was shaped out of. The tension in his hands was palpable. He released it as he noticed what he was doing, and for the first time he could see something resembling concern in Yates' face. It was not the same kind of look she had had when she feared some repercussions to his sudden presence. It was a look he'd only seen once before; the farmer worried about providing enough food for his family after his crops had been destroyed by the Viper biker gang.

"...the breach in this facility." His attention snapped back to Kristiansen. How much had he missed? "Reports on the incident are sparse; two, to be exact. However, they tell us very much the same thing about the situation as it was at the time of the operation. What we do not know, at this time, is the consequences of that situation. We have received some manner of information that leads us to believe that Gero's experiments were as unknown to his own staff as they were to us this last year. That is correct, is it not, Doctor Pryce?"

Nearly fifty heads turned to face Vincent, suddenly, as the Professor looked at him. One hundred eyes seemed intent to burn into his skull to prize all of the information they could out of him. He had been invited here for a reason, but he had not understood it to be an interrogation. Still, a question was asked of him.

"That is correct. I was designed to oversee the blueprints of initial designs and make adjustments for efficiency and stability. My improvements were taken on board and the projects continued after my alterations. However, the Doctor always kept his initial designs. The breach in our security was caused by an unstable design - the design presented to me before I made the necessary adjustments to ensure it would not meet the fate that the offending specimen met."

"Thank you, Doctor," Kristiansen said, curtly. It was undoubtedly information the Professor had heard before, and there was a good chance he merely involved Vincent in the meeting in order to reinforce whatever he had decided the proper course of action was going to be. The Professor still stood at his side of the table, with everyone else seated, and he had moved away from the control panel in the surface of the large device. "I believe you all know where I am going with this," he said, his lips thin, his eyes almost dead as he looked around the table. "We have no way of knowing what Gero has kept hidden from us within this laboratory. What we do know is that he was the most gifted of us all when it comes to the development of Artificial Intelligence. We have once again been witness to that with our new visitor."

This time, he did not need to look in Vincent's direction for all the other heads in the room to do so on their own. Once again, he felt the stare of an entire company devoted to the progression of the sciences gazing at him as if he was some sort of ticking time bomb. Kristiansen noticed the distraction among his staff, and he appeared to let it linger considerably longer than a man of his efficient nature should. He had a point to prove, and the way he named Gero with a sneer at every turn suggested a personal history that had only been hinted at. He had called Gero 'gifted' with all the praise he had ever heard Gero gave his old 'friends'.

"So," the Professor brought the attention back to his side of the table. "It is imperative that we find our just on how many fronts Gero has deceived all of our trust and funding. Many of you have been involved on his teams here at Capsule in the past, and many of you will remember how many of his ideas never came to fruition when the board blocked his research and headed him off at the pass. It is... not inconceivable that he used this facility in the mountains to work on those projects in secret. Even when we had access to the research files in his systems, we cannot be sure how much he managed to keep hidden from us. This facility at the bottom of the laboratory that housed the Cell-experiment was not in our blueprints of the facility, to give you an indication of how imperative it is that we shut down everything we can still find within the mountain."

It would have been a hard sell for anyone to convince Pryce that all of Gero's work would need to be destroyed and left to be forgotten in the annals of history. However, with Gero's disappearance and the continued amassing of evidence that Gero himself had kept so many secrets in his life; not just from him, but also from the ones he supposedly worked with and for, for a great deal of time, did not sit right with him. He had been designed to produce the most efficient, the most successful of scientific advancements. He existed purely to troubleshoot and make improvements on flaws in the design of Gero's plans, and he had been ignored on the Cell specimen. Kristiansen's comments that there was no way of knowing just how many projects had been in development that he had no idea of even existing was not at all what he was programmed to agree with. If these projects were all as damaging as the unstable specimen he and Carmichael had faced in the laboratory, there was a genuine threat against all of science and the world at large brewing inside of that mountain. Once again, his fingers were on the desk, but he did not dent it further. Instead, he sat patiently, with Yates next to him, trying to gauge his reactions.

"Unfortunately, this presents us with multiple problems. This afternoon, we received word from Captain Wilkinson. His operation to the east surfaced something we had been expecting from the moment the initial call came in."

The globe sprang into action again as Kristiansen's finger tapped onto another button in the console on the table. It zoomed away from the gates of the laboratory, and pulled back into a wider view of the mountain itself at first. It followed a clear trail, this time, at the opposite end of where Vincent had slid down the cliff to start his journey towards Capsule Corp.'s headquarters. There, it swept towards the side of the mountain to show some kind of indentation along the cliff. It wasn't a natural crumbling of the structure, however; there was something gleaming further into the recess that had been created. Another point of access into the mountain. It appeared much lower than any facility he was aware of, however. The globe continued spinning, and the view of the other side of the mountain revealed a much rockier climate than he had trekked through. It appeared entirely inhospitable, but after a good while of travelling along with the view, there was something much like Greenville had been at the side of the barrens; a small settlement. It was not in a good state, and where there had been trees from the rocks towards the settlement, there was a clear path carved through it. The view fixed on the settlement, and in the middle of it lay a large shell-like object. On the outskirts of town was a group of soldiers that looked to be geared out very much like the Capsule Corp. soldiers he had come into contact with so far, both within the headquarters and out in the field. They were all armed similarly to Captain Glenn's search and rescue team.

"This is the last piece of intelligence we received from Wilkinson's team, before the distress signal." Kristiansen looked over the globe, and then to Vincent directly, before returning to his pattern of glancing around at the people at the table at random. "The coalescence of these situations is unfortunate, and as such I am not convinced they are unrelated. This is exactly why, upon reports of an incident so nearby Gero's laboratory, we made sure to deploy Corporal Carmichael along with Wilkinson's team. As you recall, the Corporal was the only surviving member of the operation in the facility earlier this week. This distress signal is extremely disconcerting keeping that information in mind, and we cannot risk a second operation in the Gero's lab without Corporal Carmichael's assistance and experience."

At every single seat at the table, the surface slid away as it had done in front of Kristiansen's chair at the start of the meeting. Within, however, there were no control panels. Small screens rose up from a horizontal position, and slid back to free up a small pad with keys to operate the screen. Yates made a motion for him to move aside, and he did so without protest. His chair rolled a foot or two to the left to allow Yates access to the keys in front of the screen. He noticed just about everyone leaning in to get their fingers on the keys as well. As the screen rose and dipped forward, he could see a set of files flicking onto the screen. There were personnel folders on Captain Wilkinson, Corporal Carmichael and three other soldiers dispatched to investigate the intelligence report from the settlement near the mountain. There was also a file on the settlement itself; Woodport was enveloped mostly by forestation, something entirely out of the ordinary within a region that he had seen as nothing but barren lands outside of the mountain reach the laboratory had been built into.

"Within your files, you will find a mission statement to provide assistance to Captain Wilkinson's team at Woodport and the forests surrounding it. As regular procedure dictates, this requires a vote from each of you to approve the mission. I will, however, urge each of you to take a close look at the selected unit to undertake this operation. It... may inform your vote, and I would not be doing my job correctly if I did not warn you of this irregularity."

Vincent leaned in closer, interested by this statement from the Professor. Irregularities did not seem like something he would approve of, but there was very little to read in his expression as he looked around the table. The scientists, and he now noticed, people without lab coats but in suits much like the one underneath the Professor's own coat, looked closely at the screen as well. Some of them frowned, others shook their heads. Some of them tapped a finger to one of the keys in all haste, as if urgently dismissing what they found. Vincent turned his eyes to the screen, but noted as he did so, that Doctor Yates' hand was hovering over the keys, looking quite tense.

His eyes turned to the screen, and at first he could swear there was nothing wrong with what he saw on the screen. The information concerning the mission itself and the goals of the operation were exactly what had been laid out by the Professor only moments ago. This could not be the cause for alarm among a few of the people around the room. Still, he could hear some of them voicing obvious concern, even though he was not listening to their exact words intently. Underneath, however, was an immediate indication and cause for all of the concern around the table. The warning from the Professor to pay close attention to the unit selected for this particular operation somehow had not fully dawned with Pryce until he looked over it. There were pictures next to the names assigned, and one of them caught his eye only after reading the name next to it. It was the fake eye that alerted him to knowing the man; the grizzled face beyond the actual age of the man sprang a familiar scowl into his processes, but he had not dared to guess why the scowl had been so constant.

Sergeant James Button.

He had not seen the resemblance with the excessive scarring on the Sergeant's face, and the disheveled state in which the soldier that was a part of Captain Glenn's expedition had been found after he had been left out of service on the floor of the Cybernetics lab two floors below. He had seen the soldier's face, but not committed it properly to memory. The fact that the Sergeant was going to be involved in this operation, however, would not have been anything to concern himself with, if he was on his way to support Carmichael on the operation near Woodport that apparently went belly-up. If the Sergeant, and Doctor Isaac Hemlin, and Privates Lawrence Halstrom and David Forester were the four who would support the team of five already in place. But it was not a team of four. There was another name, and there was no image attached to it because it was a name that was not yet entered into the systems at Capsule Corporation.

Doctor Vincent Pryce.

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To be continued in Ch. 3

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