Friday, May 8, 2015

HHII: Graduation 1.5 - Larry makes contact

[Graduation 1.5 here.]
[So, I realized that I forgot to have a follow up on Larry's mission in Graduation 1.5, thus: a follow up on Larry's mission.  Vivian, Oliver, and Larry are the only characters from the show here, everyone else was hastily made up on the spot because the background characters at the robot rumble never really got names or characterization.]

“How many geniuses does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” someone asked.

Someone else, clearly in no mood for jokes, said, “Not screw in, build. Build a light source in total darkness.”

“No need to get snappy, Mary,” the first voice said.

“Shut up, Peter.” Mary almost shouted.

“Could both of you be quiet, some of us are trying to work here,” a new voice said.

For about twenty eight seconds there was silence and then the same voice said, “Almost … there.”

About a dozen people in the underground chamber blinked as their eyes adjusted to the light.

Vivian, the owner of the third voice, said, “Now we need to find out how bad things are.” Then she noticed a body on the floor, “Oh, god! Oliver.”

Mary and Rob joined her in checking on Oliver, the others started to do diagnostics.

“What's wrong with him?” Mary asked.

“He's lost power,” Vivian said while pulling back fake skin to get at the machinery beneath.

“Oliver's an android?” Rob asked, though it was more an expression of shock than a question.

“Who built him?” Mary asked.

“I did,” Vivian said without looking up from what she was doing.

* * *

The night's events hadn't started yet when the power had been lost, there were only a dozen members present and they'd all been in the antechamber at the time.

Vivian continued to work on Oliver as Rob and Mary watched.

Peter and Alicia had gone off to set up a generator that they had never used. It was intended to power a line to the outside world in the case of an eventuality such as this. The set up was designed so that the generator would power a small computer terminal, a vertical conduit, and various equipment for sending and receiving data at a small, disguised, surface station.

The system was wonderful, of course. It was designed by geniuses. The gas generator that was supposed to power it had been bought at a Smarty Mart, hauled in, and largely ignored (because it had never been needed.) It was proving very difficult for the geniuses to get working.

The six other members took it upon themselves to find out what was working and what wasn't in the other rooms they could access, and, of course, see which other rooms they could access.

* * *

“What's going on?” Oliver asked. “How did I get here?”

“You lost power,” Vivian told him while putting his cosmetic pieces back in place so that he again resembled a human being.

At the same time Peter and Alicia finally got the emergency line to the outside up and running. When the data came in Alicia said, “This is impossible.”

“I don't see anything,” Peter said.

“Exactly. All systems are operational,” Alica pointed to some readouts, “but we're not receiving anything. No internet access on the wi-fi or the hard-line, no phone line, cell phone towers aren't responding, no AM or FM broadcasts. No television. No shortwave.”

“Satellites?” Peter asked.

“Nothing yet, I'm still looking.” She closed her eyes, composed herself, then delivered her conclusion: “It's like the outside world stopped existing.

Oliver had finished describing his memory of events to Vivian, Mary, and Rob. Mary explained, “It's called blacking out. It happens to human beings sometimes when they drink too much or hit their head. Things that are in short term memory don't get transferred to long term for whatever reason, so it gets lost.”

“You can't have lost too much,” Vivian said. “You update your permanent memory a minimum of once every two hours.”

Vivian noticed that Mary was looking away. “What is it?” she asked.

“Did you hear--” Marry stopped. Then walked to the door. She put her ear on it. “Someone's out there.”

“If they were allowed in they'd be in by now,” Rob said. Then his face met his palm with a loud smack. “Except that without power the security system is down so no one can get in or out.”

Mary knocked on the door. A knock returned from the outside.

“We need to let them in,” Vivian said.

“We don't even know who it is,” Peter said with suspicion.

An underground robot fight club wasn't technically illegal. It wasn't technically legal, either. It was in a technical gray area that involved subterranean rights disputes, definitions of pets, anti-dog-fighting laws, the push and pull between the desire to stimulate innovation and the desire to clamp down on sensitive technology, baroque restrictions on AI, strange interpretations of what it meant to corrupt minors, the '93 Tri-City Skate Park Accords, SV-288, the UN Accord on Non-Human Workers' Rights, the precise definition of “person” at any given moment, a semi-secret agreement between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries following the industrial mishap of '82, whether or not certain people were within 500 meters as the crow flies, what “as the crow flies” means when discussing underground tunnels, which judge was hearing the case, who had been bribed by whom, and the brand of root beer the eventual jury was given access to.

There was a reason attendance was by invitation only.

“Whoever it is might know what's going on outside,” Alicia said mainly to Peter.

Kit Bash, a recent addition to the rumble, had been drawn by the discussion and asked, “What's going on?”

“Do we have access to the tool room?” Vivian asked Kit.

“Yeah,” Kit said, “but it's about all we have access to. The others are still looking into things, but most of the doors are too heavy to move without power.”

“Get the others, get some tools, and cut open that door,” Vivian pointed to door the knocking had come from. It was a standard sized door, made of metal, and it served as the main entrance and egress to the robot rumble.

* * *

“The ventilation system is down; there are only so many rooms the air can circulate in; keeping the generator running is a danger to us all,” Peter said.

“There has got to be something out there still operational. Just give me a few more minutes,” Alicia said without looking away from the screen.

“You said that a few minutes ago.”

Alicia typed in a new set of commands and waited for a new batch of data.

* * *

Kit was kicking the door while Mary and Rob cut it. Vivian and Oliver were overseeing everything and everyone. Unfortunately, at this point there wasn't a lot of hope left, and there weren't many things to do to pass the time. Everything had been checked and double checked. Cutting through the door and looking over the results from the outside line were the only things left to do.

Mary Rob and Kit worked on the first, Alicia and Peter had the second taken care of, Vivian and Oliver supervised, and the five other people just sat, stood, and walked in circles doing nothing.

Finally the door gave.

So much attention was paid to that event that no one save Peter noticed Alicia say, “Oh my God!” a heartbeat later.

In a moment everyone recognized the person on the other side.

Vivian said, “Hey, Larry!” as Oliver said, “Greetings, Imperial Senator Bernilus.”

“Do you know what's going on?” Mary asked him.

“We've been cut off since we lost power,” Vivian explained.

“Alien invasion,” Larry said.

For a moment there was silence, then cacophony. Rob's “Your kidding,” was the only statement it was possible to make out.

“He's not,” Alicia shouted. “You all better take a look at this.”

Soon everyone was crowded around her at the computer terminal. “It took forever to find a satellite that was still online, but once I did I found videos from all over the world.” She punched a few keys and brought up video of the alien war machines defeating a battalion of tanks with ease. “People are reconstructing a global communications network using the handful of satellites and ground stations that are still active, but so far the only messages seem to be people comparing notes on how the alien machines are unbeatable.”

“My cousin Kim was abducted from her graduation just before the invasion started,” Larry said.

“That's right,” Vivian said as a memory came to mind. “Middleton High School Graduation tonight, it's why Justine was a no-show.”

“Justine and some others are trying to make defenses for the people who took shelter in the high school,” Larry said, “I was sent here to see if we could make some robots of our own to fight those things.”

“Those things?” Mary's voice was an ode to incredulity.

“I've always wanted to work with bigger things,” Rob said.

“I know where a construction company stores their equipment,” Kit said.

“Hydraulics are fun,” Mary conceded.

“The space center is set up for large scale construction,” Vivian told everyone. “If you can get it there, we can assemble whatever you find however you want it.”

“The power would be down at the Space Center too,” Alicia said. “The blackout is global. The attack took out everything that was generating power along with most active transmission lines.”

Vivian smiled, “The Space Center can make its own power, and the system would have been safely shut down when the attack started.”

Alicia shrugged. “So, away we go to build giant robots?”

“Not you,” Vivian said.


“You know the tunnels better than anyone. I want you to get as many people underground as possible,” Vivian said. “It's not safe up there.”

“Nice plan,” Alicia said, “but there's only one of me. How am I supposed to reach more than a handful of people?”

“The robots from the rumble might be too small to fight the things out there,” Vivian said, “but they're far from useless.” Addressing the whole group she said, “Everyone give your command codes to Alicia,” then addressing only Alicia she said, “They'll be your messengers, just get the message out that it's safe here, and let people know how to get into the tunnels and caverns.”

“That's a nice plan,” Peter said, “but we can't get to the robots.”

“I can,” Alicia said. “There's a back way into the storage room from a spur path half a mile down that tunnel,” she said pointing through the door they'd cut open.

Vivian smiled. “I said no one knew the tunnels like her.”

“Ok, good,” Peter said. “Can we turn off the generator before the carbon monoxide kills us all?”

“Yes,” Alicia sighed, “we can turn off the generator.”

They split into four groups. Alicia went on her own to where they stored the robots so she could start her “Search and Tell to Hide” operation. Vivian and Oliver went to the space center to get the fabrication equipment ready. Kit led Rob and Mary to construction equipment they hoped to use in building their own giant robots. Peter led the rest in a mission that was one part reconnaissance to see if the alien robots had any exploitable weaknesses, one part scavenging anything that seemed like it might be useful in fighting them, and three parts keeping heads down and hoping to live through the night.



  1. I like Peter's commentary on the ventilation issue. :)

  2. You don't want to mess with the Tri-City Skate Park Accords. Might find yourself... run over.