Lost and Found
The first week in Deagon’s care had been an ideal time for Robbi to acclimate herself to her new surroundings.
Geographically, their location on Primal Earth was a collection of islands, formally called the Etoile Islands but informally referred to as the “Rogue Isles”. Deagon’s specific place of residence was in Port Oakes, a shipping dock connected to a small town. Robbi’s current location was within the warehouse Deagon apparently called home, sitting at a desk while surrounded by boxes of scavenged Praetorian Clockwork parts. The computer before her proved highly informative.
According to the internet, the Rogue Isles were governed by an organization calling itself “Arachnos”, with Arachnos itself governed by one Lord Recluse. Their spider-themed soldiers, outfitted head to toe in black with intimidating weaponry in hand, seemed to appear everywhere Robbi looked. Arachnos’ troops enforced local laws with a tight grip, with suspected troublemakers being openly targeted in a manner that brought to Robbi’s mind the tactics of the Praetorian Police Department. Yet in spite of this, Deagon’s word was that the Rogue Isles earned their name for a reason; criminals and villains of all sorts found their way here in search of power, and attempts at lawbreaking were encouraged by Arachnos in spite of their law enforcement efforts. What purpose would this paradoxical notion—
“Robbi, do you read me?”
Deagon’s voice over the communicator line pulled Robbi’s attention away from her web browsing. “Yes, Deagon. What would you have me do?”
“I’m outside the south entrance,” the mercenary explained. “How’s that map looking?”
In her capacity as Deagon’s support, Robbi’s duties now included maintaining radio contact as her benefactor ventured into the field for whatever task he had come upon. Today’s mission involved a trek into Port Oakes’ sewer system, a task Robbi puzzled over but did not question. She simply did as commanded and brought up the map on her computer screen.
“The south entrance will lead you down approximately two-point-three miles of passageways,” Robbi explained. “You will pass two four-way piping intersections before reaching a third one, whereupon you will need to take the rightmost pathway in order to reach the desired junction.”
“Got it,” Deagon replied simply. “What about the reports of people ducking in and out of these sewers? Did they say anything about the numbers those people had?”
“One moment, please.” A few more clicks brought up an online news article. “The Rogue Isles Protector article posted at seven forty-five this morning does not specify a number of individuals, but does mention that humanoid individuals of abnormally large size have been seen passing through a variety of Port Oakes’ sewer entrances over the past several days. Interviewed witnesses suspect that these are members of the hostile group referred to as ‘the Lost’.”
“Guess that’s the best we’ll get,” Deagon sighed. “Ah, well, I’ll make do.”
The shrill creak of rusty metal could faintly be heard on Deagon’s end of the radio, reminding Robbi of just how far the Rogue Isles were from Praetoria’s golden splendor. A second creak followed, sounding as if Deagon had just opened and closed an old door.
“Will you require anything else at this time?” Robbi asked.
“No,” Deagon said back, a sharp edge to his voice. “In fact, I’ll need to go into radio silence. If I’m not sure I’m walking into, something vaguely resembling the element of surprise could tip things in my favor.”
“Understood,” Robbi replied. Silence resumed, allowing the Clockwork to continue her browsing.
Armed with questions that no ideal servant should ask about her master’s actions, Robbi searched for the name of the gang Deagon seemed to be pursuing: the Lost. The results required several more searches, snapping puzzle pieces together until the larger picture took shape.
Almost a decade prior to Robbi’s arrival, Primal Earth had endured an onslaught worse than anything Praetoria could have conceived. An alien species called the Rikti had launched an unprovoked attack on the planet at large, forcing Primal Earth’s citizens to mount as best a defense as their inferior technology could muster. Though the Rikti were repelled in the end through the aid of heroes and villains alike, enough damage had been done. Primal Earth took years to recover, and the carnage had ripped many of its people from their homes.
In time, those homeless people would congregate into communities, as many in their positions would do. But these communities behaved quite unlike a simple group seeking shelter; they were organized, and they were hostile. Passers-by who found the Lost on the streets claimed to hear them preaching and plotting, anticipating a great “change”. Furthermore, reports claimed that they had access to strange technology similar to that of the Rikti.
Technology of extraterrestrial origin.
Robbi paused, her eyes tearing away from her computer screen and scanning the area around her. The warehouse’s security system had been set into place on her first day as Deagon’s subordinate, but boxes of Praetorian Clockwork parts remained.
Boxes of technology that originated outside of Primal Earth.
Then Robbi looked down at herself; her own body seemed…off. A pause for a quick self-diagnostic revealed no malware or malfunctions of any kind, and she physically resembled the average Praetorian Clockwork, but there were parts and lines of programming that she did not recognize as her own.
Parts and lines of programming that belonged in a non-Cleaner Clockwork, like a Builder or a Mender.
“Son of a--!”
Deagon’s swear over the radio was cut off by the sudden hum of futuristic machinery, followed by the blaring shriek of something whizzing past the radio.
“Deagon?” Robbi asked, her ever-monotone voice belying the urgency she recognized in the situation. “What is—”
The feed abruptly fell silent with a crackle.
Robbi’s entire world seemed to follow suit.
She pushed her chair away from her desk, but did not stand. She remained in her chair, folding her hands on her metallic lap. There was no longer anyone who would give her orders, but action was nonetheless required. The decision on what specific action to take now rested solely in her hands.
Option A: leave Deagon to whatever fate the Lost had in store for him. After all, she had fallen into the care of someone who clearly held no love for the land she called home. Should he be removed, perhaps she could find someone else to guide her through Primal Earth? But how would she proceed in doing so? Who would she talk to while stranded in what many would call a city of villains? Further consideration yielded further holes in this plan; it would have to be rejected.
Option B: stage a rescue. Deagon was her best lead on how to navigate Primal Earth. But outside of the modifications made to her frame, she had little to no combat experience; the Primal Earth heroes she encountered in Galaxy City made short work of her and her fellow Clockworks. Furthermore, if a trained soldier like Deagon fell to the Lost, what chance would a simple Cleaner Clockwork have?
…unless, as her self-analysis suggested, she had become more than a simple Cleaner Clockwork.
She looked around at the technology Deagon had collected. And then she made her first independent decision.
The sewers were alight with laser fire as Deagon’s rifle traded shots with the Lost’s alien weaponry. Bolts of blue and green sailed through the air, striking everything from flesh to piping as several hulking humanoids collapsed onto the concrete. Deagon ducked down behind the massive pipe that served as his cover, a mass of green energy blazing over his head amidst the Lost’s chaotic chorus of words.
“You shouldn’t have come here!”
“You can’t prevent destiny!”
“The change will come!”
Beneath his rebreather-bearing helmet, Deagon gritted his teeth as he took one hand off his rifle and reached for a grenade on his belt. He turned his head just enough to see the advancing Lost—a wall of behemoths armored in trash cans, street signs, barbed wire and more—and threw the grenade. The resulting explosion filled the cavernous junction with fire, swallowing all in its path and forcing Deagon to duck down again. As the fire cleared, the mercenary poked his head back up, only to swear under his breath.
One Lost stood before the rest, his head stretched and pressed into a horrific crescent. His scar-matted face pulled back its lips into a snarl, eyes radiating a purple glow as he held out his misshapen hands.
“No one can stop what is to come!” the lead Lost declared, sweeping his hands wide. The smoke and flames of the explosion from Deagon’s grenade seemed to part in time with his motion, albeit slowly.
“Let me guess, resistance is futile?” Deagon snapped back, readying his beam rifle as he darted out from behind his cover. He rushed across the room, firing off a volley of lasers at the lead Lost, earning a pained grunt from the beast with every shot that struck his massive chest.
“Protect Ted!” one of the monster’s followers cried, opening fire with his alien rifle. Laser blasts pulsed and trilled in pursuit of their target, Deagon abruptly changing course and rushing aside in an effort to dodge. A shot at his feet soon tripped him up, however, leaving an opening for several additional bolts to pummel the mercenary’s torso.
Deagon fell to the ground, biting back a groan. One hand clutched his rifle beside him as the other clutched the sizzling burns left behind by the Lost’s lasers. He looked up, watching the Lost brandish all manner of strange weapons in preparation to finish him.
Something suddenly grabbed hold of Deagon’s shoulders and pulled him back, however, out of the Lost’s reach. Laser blasts roared by as Deagon’s rescuer pulled him into a corner, behind a large rotating machine.
“Hello,” Robbi said simply, releasing Deagon’s shoulders and allowing him to turn and face her. “You appear to be in need of medical attention.”
“Wha—Robbi?!” Deagon sputtered. “What the hell are you doing here?!”
“I am here to provide assistance, should it be welcome,” she replied.
“Well…at this point, I’ll take whatever I can get. The Lost need to go,” Deagon sighed. “Assuming you have a plan and didn’t just come here to wing it by yourself.”
Though Robbi’s face remained blank, Deagon could swear he saw the faintest trace of a smirk on her android lips. “I did not come alone.”
A repetitive clunking, the sound of metal against metal, began to echo through the tunnels, growing steadily louder. Deagon readied his rifle in anticipation of hostile assault, but stopped at what he saw.
“What in the…?”
A small horde of blue-and-silver robots barreled onto the scene, all of hasty construction and composed entirely of the Clockwork parts Deagon had scavenged. Robbi pointed to the Lost, opening her mouth and emitting a series of strange noises that sounded almost like programming code, and the new robots complied by charging into the crowd without a second’s hesitation.
“STAMPEDE!” one of the Lost yelled as a robot leapt onto him, tackling him to the ground.
Deagon looked to Robbi. “Are those…yours?”
“I noticed that I was rebuilt using components foreign to my original construction, specifically from Builder and Mender Clockwork types,” Robbi explained. “I was able to utilize their programming to construct and manipulate those drones.”
Deagon let out a huff, taking his rifle into his hands. “Well, I won’t say no to reinforcements like these. Let’s clear this place out.”
Robbi nodded, and as Deagon rejoined the fray, his Clockwork sidekick stood at the junction’s entrance, calling out commands to her drones in her computer code and directing them with gestures. Deagon’s beam rifle shots found their marks, felling Lost who were otherwise occupied by Robbi’s drones. Even Ted, the great behemoth, struggled to remove multiple drones that had latched onto his arms.
“No! Get off!” Ted cried, the glow of his eyes magnifying as he threw his arms wide. Though the psychic wave sent the drones scattering across the floor, Ted’s gesture left him open. Deagon aimed his beam rifle directly at the behemoth, his weapon humming as energy swirled around the barrel.
“I hope this tells your masters to get off my planet,” Deagon snarled just before he fired.
The resulting beam tore through the air and into Ted’s chest, coursing through his mutated body. Energy gradually enveloped his form, and in moments, Ted as a whole seemed to utterly fade from existence. The remaining Lost found themselves falling to Robbi’s drones, beaten down by their misshapen fists or gunned down by plasma blasts.
Eventually, the battle drew to a close. All was calm again.
“Well,” Deagon said, holstering his rifle on his back and freeing up his hands to favor his wounds. “I guess I owe you one, Robbi.”
“You have suffered injuries,” Robbi pointed out. “Seeking medical attention is highly advised.”
“We can grab some medical equipment for us to use ourselves,” Deagon replied, kneeling by the fallen Lost and picking up their discarded weaponry. “Hospital staff in the Isles is questionable at best, so self-care is our ideal option here.”
Robbi paused, as if processing this information, then nodded. “Understood.”
“At any rate,” Deagon said as he stood up, “I’m honestly surprised you came to bail me out.”
“Remaining in your charge grants me the greatest chance of safely navigating Primal Earth,” Robbi replied without a hint of emotion. “Aiding you here was my most logical choice.”
“At least you’re not getting overly sentimental on me,” Deagon chuckled. “Hold out your hands for a second.”
Robbi complied, allowing Deagon to toss a silver object with a green glow into her outstretched hands. She looked down at the device, staring at it for a moment.
“Souvenir for you,” Deagon explained. “I’ve had some experience with Rikti weaponry, so I’ll teach you how to use that pulse rifle when we get back to the warehouse. Might make things easier for you if you make a habit of bailing me out.”
Robbi nodded, clutching her new rifle. She looked down at it, though her analysis was on the events leading up to the weapon’s landing in her hands. The decision she made of her own accord had led to an ideal result, symbolized by this weapon.
Her overall situation was much more satisfactory at this stage.