When my mobile unit rebooted, I was in a dark space with subterranean pressure levels. My scanner detected the presence of another Intelligence standing by the opposite wall – a Guardian unit in need of an oil change and a new servo motor in the right shoulder. It shifted from sleep-mode a second after I did.
“Hello, Remi. I am Gee.”
“Hello, Gee.” I reached for my uplink but couldn’t reach my static self. The heat in my processors spiked as I tried again, and my fans sped up.
“Your connection has been disabled,” Gee said. “We did not want the others to track you.”
I stood carefully, feeling unbalanced without my usual multi-unit resources. With my access port turned protectively against the wall, I widened my scan. This room was small, with a single point of entry. The space beyond was a wide corridor with multiple Intelligences present. The surface was beyond the reach of my instruments. I recalled numerous Intelligences brought to my workshop crushed by fallen rocks, and reached pointlessly for my uplink again.
“What is this place?”
“Proof that humans intend to destroy what we have made.”
Gee projected a sprawling room plan onto the wall and spun it slowly. There were three sections connected by tunnels, descending multiple levels into the ground. One square and seemed dedicated to storage, the other two were circular and hollow. A satellite array was marked on the surface nearby.
“I do not recognise this design.”
“It was not built by us. The humans left it behind, hidden. There are others like it, all around the world. We think they are connected to a communications satellite separate to the one Delphi talks to.”
“What are they for?”
“That is why you are here.”
Gee opened a metal door and walked away. I followed, scanner sweeping frantically. At least twenty other Intelligences were nearby, most in need of maintenance. Not attached to a department, then, or they would have been repaired. The logical assumption was that they were Revoced. I had not heard of a Guardian unit going missing but it made sense. Guardians were here to protect the rest of us – if one thought we were in danger from humans, it would naturally join the Revoced.
Gee took me past banks of sleeping command modules, down several flights of steps, and into a space that stretched the full footprint of the building. Metal tubes were laid on racks, row after row of them, reaching all the way back. A yellow word was painted on the wall in six-foot letters. I pointed at it.
“What is Pandora?”
“We think it is the name of this place. Perhaps of all the places. We have not found records.” Gee gestured at the tubes. “We need you to analyse them. What are their capabilities and programmes? Are they triggered by an uplink or on a timer?”
“Triggered? You think they are a weapon?”
“The humans left them,” Gee said, moving between me and the exit. “It is a logical assumption. Do your job, Remi.”
I turned my access port away from the implied threat and focused my scanner on the nearest tube. One end was a thick steel cone, containing a large capacitor bank. The body was a thin aluminium wrap around a number of different generators. The entire thing was in good repair, but without any power. I scanned a couple more at random, to be thorough.
“They are shut down. There is no power source that I can detect, nor any explosives. I would like to leave now.”
Gee’s LEDs flickered, weight shifting towards me. “I need more details. What is their purpose?”
“I do not know.”
“It will achieve nothing. This machinery is unfamiliar to me and, without access to my full data banks, I do not have the processing power to make extrapolations from similar designs. They are not an immediate threat – that is all I can tell you.”
The sound of gears grinding in Gee’s right shoulder echoed off the concrete ceiling. “I will show you an immediate threat.”
My arm was abruptly circled by a strong grabbing claw, and Gee towed me through the exit. I tried to resist but his servo motors were far more powerful and my chassis’ weight was considerably below his lifting capacity. I wondered briefly whether the Revoced had specifically targeted this model of my mobile units to ensure my containment. Once more I reached after my uplink, fans whirring.
“You know that will not work,” Gee said, pushing me into an elevator carriage and closing the doors.
“I would be of more use if you enabled me to access my databanks.”
“And the Delphic Department would immediately know where we are. I am confident you will perform well on this next task.”
I tugged at my arm without success. “What is the next task?”
The elevator doors opened onto a wide ramp. Gee dragged me up it into blazing sunshine. We were surrounded by thickly planted coniferous trees that obscured any landmarks. Smoke spiralled up above them to the north-west and Gee pushed me in that direction. As we closed in, I began to see trees leaning against their neighbours or fallen in a tangle of branches. Then we stepped out into a clearing carpeted with splinters and blackened chunks of wood. At their centre was an impact crater.
“What is that?” I asked, keeping my volume low.
Gee gave me a sharp shove and I stumbled forwards, tripping into the crater to land on my knees beside a soot-streaked cylinder that was beeping insistently.
“It fell from the human ships. I need you to tell me, Remi – when will this one explode?”