Jump to content

On the Run: A Hero Factory Story


Master Inika

Recommended Posts

This idea came to me based on my reading of the fifth book in the Hero Factory Secret Mission series, Mirror World. It will definitely be a different and perhaps more realistic interpretation of Hero Factory. I welcome any comments and constructive criticism.
 
On the Run: A Hero Factory Story
 
Chapter 1
 
Gregory Wane glanced over his shoulder, doing his best to not look like he was glancing over his shoulder. Makuhero City was one of the busiest population centers in the galaxy, which gave him the advantage, at least for now. He shared the walkway with hundreds of robots, dozens of whom matched his rough size and build.
 
The problem was what he had that all those other bots didn't: a sizeable "H" built directly into his torso. At the moment, a brown cloak draped over him hid the insignia from view. Fabric-based clothing was a rarity among the robotic populace of Makuhero City, though. Of the crowd of about 2,000 that filled the plaza and surrounding walkways, only a small handful wore anything resembling his cloak.
 
In the center of the city, a massive tower arrogantly displayed the same "H" symbol: the Assembly Tower of Hero Factory. Excited schoolbots waited in line for guided tours of the facility, while screaming fans pushed and shoved for just a chance to see Stormer or Valor.
 
"Hero Factory," came the voice of Mr. Akiyama Makuro, booming from a state-of-the-art sound system. "We build Heroes."
 
Lies, thought Wane bitterly. Heroes cannot be built. Lifeforms can be build, that much Wane would agree. But a Hero was a specific type of being, and no amount of artificial intelligence or proper coding could make a Hero where one was not meant to be.
 
Wane remembered vividly his first day off the assembly line, those few months ago. To other beings, it might not have been a particularly long stretch of time, but to him it was his entire life. He had sat in class with a group of other rookies, listening to the instructions of their teacher, a veteran Hero named Richard Fuse.
 
"When you're up against monsters, space pirates, whatever," the instructor was saying, "you might be scared." As he spoke, holographic images of some of the galactic criminals already locked up by Hero Factory flashed before them. "The citizens around you will definitely be. It's up to you to put up a brave front, until you really aren't scared."
 
Another rookie, Von Ness, meekly raised his hand. "Excuse me, Mr. Fuse," he asked. "How will we know when to stay and fight, and when to escape and get help?"
 
The black-armored Hero was braver than Wane. Wane never would have been bold enough to ask a question like that, even if he was thinking it. If Fuse respected Von Ness' question, he did not show it. Instead, his hover-podium floated uncomfortably close to the rookie. Since Heroes were all built the same size and did not biologically grow, Fuse was physically no taller than Von Ness, but his hover-podium kept him far above the young bot.
 
"We're Hero Factory," was all the instructor had to say. "We are the help."
 
***
 
Less than a month later was the now-infamous "New Stellac City incident." On the surface, to the public, it was nothing but another successful mission. Team Leader Thresher and especially rookie Preston Stormer received formal commendations from Mr. Makuro himself. Von Ness, though, was nowhere mentioned in the press releases. In fact, no one in Makuhero City even mentioned Von Ness after that.
 
While the battle against the drone was publicly a stunning success, it was an open secret that something had gone wrong. All rookie classes were doubled, with particular emphasis placed on duty, discipline, and sacrifice.
 
It was at that point that Wane realized something about himself: he did not want to be a Hero. He realized, even as he thought the words, what a petulant child they made him sound like, but it was the truth. While no official account of what happened to Von Ness existed, Wane had put together this much: Von Ness wanted nothing more than to live to see another day. That, in Wane's opinion, was nothing to be ashamed of.
 
When the criminal Von Nebula appeared, Hero Factory at first tried to deny it was the same Von Ness. It was to no avail, though, and Makuro quietly stopped trying to convince the public otherwise. Von Ness was an aberration, a single Hero gone wrong, Makuro emphasized. It had never happened before; and Makuro was especially firm on this point, it would never happen again.
 
After that, the curriculum at Hero Factory changed again. This time, their evaluations were more psychological in nature. New scenarios were loaded into the Training Sphere: A supernova is about to engulf the entire system. Do you take the Hero Craft and flee, or stay to save more civilians? You witness an innocent construction bot being followed by a strange figure. Do you follow, or ignore it?
 
Wane made a decision. He was going to his instructor to tell him how he felt. The galaxy did not just need tough robots with powerful weapons. Wane could be an inventor, or a musician. Choices that maybe Von Ness could have made, were he not forced into a role that he did not want.
 
It was pure dumb luck that another rookie, Petunia Fall, came to the same conclusion as he did. Fall shared her plan with him the day before she went to the instructor's office to voice her concerns. Wane agreed to wait for Fall to tell him how it went before he arranged his own meeting.
 
Fall went into the office, and that was the last Wane saw of her.
 
***
 
It was not just her. Other rookies began disappearing, and Wane knew they were the ones who had the same kind of reservations. They were not selfish or evil. They did not choose to be built by Hero Factory and forced to fight whoever some uncaring Mission Manager decided they should. Let the galaxy save itself, Wane decided. If he did not look out for himself, he realized, no one would.
 
In truth, Wane only stopped by the Assembly Tower to see it one last time. Through underground channels, and in exchange for a small fortune in credits, he had obtained passage on a ship to the frontier worlds. It would be easy for a bot like him to disappear out there and never be heard from again. He was not going to become a violent criminal. He was no more a villain than he was a Hero. He wished it was the kind of choice those like Makuro would understand, but deep in his CPU, he knew it wasn't.
 
Wane made his way to the spaceport. If he did not know better, he would say a few of his fellow passengers in line looked just as nervous as he did. Maybe all of them had secrets. His was that he was built to do something he did not want to do; it did not matter to him what everyone else's were. Taking one last look at the tower he was built in, Wane displayed his forged credentials and boarded the ship.
 
Edited by Master Inika
  • Like 2

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 2
 
Wane looked out the window of the spaceship, taking in what he imagined would be the final sight of his homeworld. He heard the familiar sound of the airlock sealing shut and felt the ground below him vibrate slightly. The ship was lifting off.
 
Then, something unfamiliar: the low vibrating stopped. The ship did not rise into the air as he expected. Something was wrong.
 
"Passengers, please remain calm," the intercom instructed. The emotionless sound of the voice contrasted harshly with the alarm going off and the sound of robots beginning to panic. "If asked, please comply with all Hero instructions."
 
Wane barely heard the word before a pair of Heroes, cuffs and weapons visible on their toolbelts, entered the craft. The two robotic warriors each took one half of the ship, glancing at the terrified passengers before moving on.
 
They can't possibly be looking for me, Wane thought to himself, despite having no reason for that confidence. After all, rogue Heroes more careful than him had made mistakes.
 
Wane kept his gaze forward and made sure his cloak was secure, covering the "H" on his chest. If asked to remove it, he had to admit to himself he did not know what he would do.
 
"I found him!" came the voice of the other Hero, from another part of the ship. The one who had almost reached Wane turned, his attention totally off the other passengers, as he raced the other direction. Wane did not wish to draw undue attention to himself by straining to look, but just the same he could hear the sounds of a scuffle, along with the fruitless cries of their target:
 
"No, wait! I'm innocent, please, you must believe me!"
 
The Heroes said nothingto Wane's surprise; he expected some cheesy quipas they wrestled their cuffs onto him and dragged him off the craft.
 
Then, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, the ship's airlock resealed and, minus one would-be passenger, the vessel finally departed the planet.
 
***
 
The spaceship was bound for the planet RF-12, far on the edge of civilized space. (Planets that far out tended to be known exclusively by alphanumerical designation as opposed to an actual name.) Of the craft's dozens of passengers, Wane knew few of them were headed to the desolate rock. Most of them would disembark on other planets they passed on the way. Wane remained wary that, on the first few stops, he might be spotted, but the further from Makuhero Planet they went, the more hopeful he became that his escape would be successful.
 
The journey dragged on for hours. Wane found himself bored, trying to identify the names of the stars they passed for fun. When he found himself uncertain, he gave it a name himself, and took some joy in imagining that he might be naming that star for the very first time. The further they flew from galactic center, the more plausible that hope became.
 
Wane's audio receptions picked up a low, almost imperceptible sound. The rest of the passengers probably did not even notice it, but Wane's Hero training had taught him to recognize the sound of one's ship entering a tractor beam. Though the other passengers did not know it, their ship had just stopped dead in its tracks.
 
As if in confirmation, the ship's alarm went off again. This time, the voice on the intercom sounded far less professional: "Please, passengers, remain in your seats! We are experiencing, uh..." That was the last the passengers heard of the voice of that particular pilot bot.
 
The passengers, about 50 of whom remained, all rushed for the cargo bay in the rear of the ship. Though Wane could have pushed and maneuvered past them with ease, he did not want to appear as anything less than another panicked bot, just as unprepared as the rest. Wane was among the small handful, less than ten, to reach the cargo bay before the doors suddenly shut and locked behind them. Wane could still hear the others banging on the other side, but they had been shut and sealed from the bridge.
 
Wane scanned the cargo bay. Of the storage pods, he knew the chances were slim that any contained weapons; Makuhero City had some of the strictest regulations in the galaxy for non-Hero transports. Then, he turned to his fellow refugees: aside from himself, there were seven bots with him. Most of them were clearly passengers, but one sported the paint job of a bot employed by GalactiStar Luxury Liners. He was one of the service bots working on the voyage.
 
"You there," he said, stepping forward and pointing at the service bot. "How many entrances and exits are there connecting this cargo hold to the rest of the ship?"
 
The service bot looked up, clearly not expecting to be addressed. He had signed up for mundane starship work, not warfare, and the worry in his glowing eyes betrayed his unreadiness. "Oh, um, just the main entrance we took that just got sealed, and two service corridors, one below and one above us."
 
Wane singled out four of the six passenger bots. He sent two to the upper corridor and two below, with instructions to call for help if they encountered any trouble. The service bot had confirmed the halls were hollow enough that a loud ruckus would echo throughout the entire cargo hold.
 
"We should help the others get back here," one of the remaining two passenger bots said.
 
"No," Wane declared. "If I'm not mistaken, we're looking at a pirate hijacking. The pirates know anything of value is back here with us, so our goal right now is keeping them out. They won't harm the other passengers yet, at least not if they want to get any ransom money for them."
 
The service bot, apparently with great effort, reported to Wane: "T-The ship is supposed to send out an all-clear signal with our location every fifteen millicycles." He was so nervous his servos were grinding. "When we miss the next one, Hero Factory will see we haven't moved and know something is wrong."
 
As much as Wane hated to admit it, they needed Hero Factory. This was more than one ex-Hero, a panicked server and a handful of random civilians could handle.
 
"Do you know when the last signal went out?" Wane asked.
 
The server was clearly rueful that he had to report, "Only a few minutes ago."
 
"Now hold on a second here," the other passenger said, stepping uncomfortably close to Wane. "Who put you in charge of this whole operation?"
 
Wane ignored him. If they wasted all their remaining time arguing, the pirates would find a way inside for sure.
 
"So, first we have to wait until Hero Factory even finds out we're in trouble, which could be another ten or twelve millicycles for all we know," Wane assessed. "Then, it could be another full cycle until they actually get to us."
 
The intercom turned on once again, this time accompanied by a harsh scratching noise unagreeable to the audio receptor. Wane and the other robots winced at the sound.
 
"Attention, captives," came a new voice. "Stay holed up in the cargo bay, or don't. No matter where ye are, yer fate on this ship will be the same: hostages to be ransomed back t'yer homeworlds, or new members of the crew of Captain Dark Horrendous."
 
  • Like 2

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 3
 
Dark Horrendous' pirate crew had already begun using their weapons to cut through the titano-carbite walls lining the cargo hold. Wane's three allies huddled in a corner, too in shock to be of much help to the lone ex-Hero. On his own person, Wane carried nothing except a small, blunt knife; the only memento he had kept of his time as a Hero. It would be worthless as a combat weapon, he knew, but perhaps he could put it to some other use.
 
The pirates were almost through when Wane finally figured out a way, not to prevent, but delay their entry: the pipes above their heads. Taking careful aim, he threw the knife, lodging it deep inside one of the pipes right above where the pirate bots were about to break through. For a moment, the pipe hissed and vibrated, before exploding in a puff of white smoke. Wane took a step back, feeling the coldness on his skin even from a distance. Already, he could see ice begin to form on the wall separating them from the pirates. This was good, then. Unless they had fire-based weaponry, it would take them some time to find another way in. Not enough time for Hero Factory to arrive, but more time than they had otherwise.
 
"Are you crazy?" the service bot asked. "That could have been a main fuel line, you could've just blown us all to pieces!"
 
Of course the service bot had no idea what he was talking about. Wane knew no Makuhero-registered craft would fly without covering fuel mains with exo-plating, which would have deflected his blunt little knife immediately. He had no way of explaining that to the service bot without revealing too much, though. Then, the sounds of trouble came from above them.
 
"Hey, um, whatever your name is!" one of the civilian bots guarding the upper corridor shouted. "We need some help up here!"
 
Wane reached forward, tolerating the bitter cold, as he wrenched the knife, his only form of potentially useful protection, out of the freezing tube. He raced up the staircase to the upper service corridor, followed by the three passengers, who apparently did not know whether it was safer to do so or stay behind.
 
The two bots he sent to keep watch were cowering in the corner. One of Horrendous' crewbots, a small-sized machine in blue armor, had managed to create a small hole and was reaching through, firing plasma blasts wildly and laughing maniacally. Right as Wane reached the upper level, the blue bot broke through, revealing that what he might lack in size, he more than made up for with firepower: he sported four arms, each one terminating in a different weapon: the plasma shooter, a double-edged sword, a whip, and a blaster carbine.
 
Wane thought fast, for any moment of hesitation could be his last. His two fellow passengers had already reached the upper level with him; only one more bot remained downstairs. That gave Wane an idea, one which might be foolhardy enough to not get them killed.
 
"He's up here, Hero! Hury!" Wane cried. At the same time, the sound of the other passenger's footsteps echoed through the chamber.
 
The blue-armored bot hesitated. Captain Dark had promised there'd be no Heroes this far out.
 
Wane continued his charade, in the few seconds he had to do so: "Thank goodness you found us! It looks like your team has him outnumbered."
 
That was enough for the blue pirate to turn and run the other way.
 
***
 
The next few hours were spent engaging in similar psychological tricks, setting and activating makeshift booby traps, and generally staying one step ahead of Horrendous. Given the circumstances, they broke open the storage pods containing the passengers' belongings, and between the eight of them were able to craft some surprisingly creative tricks to create the impression of real Heroes aboard the vessel, until there really were.
 
When Wane saw a real Hero Craft nearing their ship, he knew that was his mark to take his leave. The Hero Craft docked as a squad of fresh Heroes raced aboard to fight the pirates and get medical supplies to the passengers who had sustained injuries. In the chaos, Wane managed to slip past onto the docked Hero Craft and commandeer one of their escape pods. He regretted not staying to say goodbye to his comrades who had followed his orders surprisingly well, but that would have been an unnecessary risk that could have blown his cover.
 
***
 
From there, Wane made his way to RF-34, in the same system as his original goal. He landed on the outskirts of a small settlement. The Hero Pod would have been too conspicuous to sell on its own, but if he broke it down and sold the raw metal, he could still probably afford passage on another ship.
 
Stopping at a nearby refueling station, he watched coverage of the battle against Captain Horrendous on the Hero News Wire.
 
"There's just one thing we don't understand," the Hero Team Leader was saying to Daniela Capricorn. "One of the pirates claims we arrived much earlier than we actually did. He even says he heard a Hero racing up the stairs to save some civilians. We suspect he's playing some mind-game, or maybe his CPU's just been fried from years of crime."
 
"That's a mystery indeed," Capricorn replied. (Wane found Capricorn's corny commentary insufferable.) She continued: "We hope the citizens of the frontier feel safe knowing Hero Factory always saves the day!" (Wane imagined she received a three-figure sum from Makuro every time she said that.)
 
For his part, Wane enjoyed his drink of oil while another robot appraised the scraps of metal he brought. Even though no one could hear Wane, he raised a small toast before finishing his beverage, "To Hero Factory."
 
***
 
Mission Manager Joshua Thrift raced to Mr. Makuro's office. Even though Mr. Makuro had warned everyone sternly that he was not to be disturbed, this news could not wait.
 
"Mr. Makuro!" Thrift cried, bursting in through the doors of the creator of Hero Factory's office. Makuro was clearly in a heated discussion with several holographic figures. Thrift recognized a few of themfellow multi-billionaire industrialists, planetary governors, intergalactic trade officialswhile just as many only appeared in hologram form with disguise modulators activated, obscuring their true forms.
 
"Excuse me," Mr. Makuro said, deactivating the holograms. Turning to Thrift, even though he was a small and time-worn robot, Mr. Makuro radiated power and influence. "This had better be important."
 
"It's the mission against the pirates," Thrift reported, still catching the robotic equivalent of breath. "The one just today. An escape pod was jettisoned. Not by any of the Heroes, pirates, or civilians."
 
Mr. Makuro looked ready to fire Thrift on the spot for his interruption, but his expression changed at the mention of the mission. "Interesting," Makuro said, more to himself than Thrift. "Send out search parties. The only robots with the know-how to enter a Hero Craft and commandeer a Hero Pod undetected are made in this factory."
 
  • Like 1

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
Chapter 4
 
Wane wandered the desolate landscape of RF-34. The small settlement, one of only a handful on the planet, appeared tiny in the background, but he would have more than enough time to make it back for his shuttle departure. Walking the empty, liminal environment helped him clear his processors and make sense of the previous day's misadventure.
 
"Hero Gregory Wane," he muttered to himself, before laughing at how ridiculous it sounded. In his head, he imagined being in an emergency situation like that would have been horrifying. Indeed, it was; his rest the previous night had been fraught and full of nightmares. But, when he awoke, he found himself excited, and almost disappointed he would never face such a thrilling situation again. Maybe, in some small way, Mr. Fuse had been right.
 
Wane's musings were interrupted by the sight of a Hero Craft approaching in the distance, making its way toward the settlement. Wane should have known his pod would have been tracked. If the landing team followed standard Hero operating procedure, then they had already performed a full techno-organic scan of the planet and picked him up. Unless Wane could lose them in these mountains, he would be found for sure.
 
***
 
Wane pressed his body up against the rock wall. A pair Heroes, one male and one female, trailed him. Having found this mountain range only shortly before they did, his knowledge of it was only slightly more precise. Unless he thought of another fancy trick, they would catch him in due time.
 
Then, Wane noticed something about the howling wind that perpetually sang throughout the quarry. He felt foolish for having not picked up on it before: it was not wind, it was chanting. Following the sound of the monophonous noise, he came upon a monastery, built right into the rock itself. About a dozen monk-bots performed a ritual in the open courtyard, before the gaping mouth of the nearby cave that served as the entrance to their monastery. Judging by the size of the mountain it entered into, the monastery could have gone on for miles inside. Better still, the dozen cultists wore brown cloaks indistinguishable from Wane's own.
 
Wane rushed downward, stopping right as he came to the circle of cultists. He did his best to emulate their hand gestures, though he knew how painfully he must stick out: the dozen chanters were arranged in a perfect dodecagon, so his inclusion as a thirteenth would stand out to his pursuers for sure. To his surprise, though, the cultists adjusted themselves accordingly, making him look just like he belonged there. He did not know why they were covering for a total stranger like him, but he would have time to thank them later. His pursuers had arrived.
 
Wane watched out of the corner of his optical sensors as they approached. Before they fully reached the circle of chanters, an aged monk-bot in ornate robes, bearing a gold staff, walked out to meet them. Wane tried to listen to their conversation:
 
"--tracked a renegade Hero out here," one of the Heroes, the female, was saying.
 
"Renegade?" the old monk said, following by something too soft for Wane to make out, then, "Surely, Makuro will respect our..." Wane, again, could not make out the following word. Maybe "agreement"?
 
The male Hero said something, the words indistinct but the tone clearly displeased. The female said something that calmed him down.
 
"Perhaps you will stay for evening vigil," the old monk, seemingly oblivious to the Heroes' exasperation, offered. The Heroes said only a few more words, and then departed.
 
Wane breathed a sigh of relief too soon. Upon turning around, he found himself faceplate-to-faceplate with the aged robot. The rust and exposed wiring around his eyes and mouth made it clear this bot was even older than Mr. Makuro.
 
"Welcome, friend," he said. "I am Father Progenitax. Please, you'll want to join me inside."
 
***
 
The interior of the monastery was just as spacious as Wane thought it could have been. The upper floor was composed of a large area, which looked as if it should have caused a cave-in but apparently did not, with several tunnels going down deeper into the earth.
 
"Your friends will not bother us again," Father Progenitax explained. "We have an understanding with Hero Factory. We render no aid to their enemies, and they respect our sacred boundaries."
 
"Interesting," Wane said. He recalled learning about these ancient brotherhoods in Hero Relations. There had been a controversy, some years back, when a Hero or someone claiming to be one chased a bandit into one such domain and, in performing his arrest, accidentally destroyed some ancient artifact. Since then, these communities have not been receptive to Hero presence, and for once, galactic public opinion was against the Heroes.
 
Father Progenitax stopped abruptly. Wane followed his lead, and noticed that they stood before a cell carved into the wall of the cave. "Before we proceed," the Father said, "I must inform you, too, of our prohibition on weapons within the sacred grounds." He held out his hand. Not knowing how Progenitax knew of it, Wane drew his knife and surrendered it to the Father, who gave it to a monk-bot who appeared beside them, only to scurry off into the darkness with it.
 
Inside Progenitax's cell, the two bots enjoyed a shared bowl of oil, conveyed into their servos by the same spoon.
 
"Your home is beautiful," Wane said. "A little dark and cramped for my tastes, but, beautiful. Why, though, do you live like this? We're machines, aren't we? We're not meant to live away from power grids and urban cities like this."
 
"Let me ask you a question," Progenitax asked in turn. "Who created us?"
 
Wane had to stop for a moment, not because he thought it was a difficult question but because the wording sounded strange to his audio receptors. "Well, obviously, Hero Factory made me," was his answer. "I don't know what you were originally built for, if you were a construction bot or security bot, but--"
 
Progenitax raised a gentle but firm hand. "Not you and me," he clarified. "I mean, who created us? Who created robotkind?" When Wane did not have a response, Progenitax, pleased, explained: "If you consult the historical records of the secularists, they will tell you that no one knows where we come from, that we simply appear with no explanation. We know better. We have preserved the true history of the universe."
 
The old monk pulled out an ancient book--not a holo-book like the ones Wane was familiar with, but a bound codex of vellum parchment--and opened it. Wane did not recognize the ancient script, but the pictures made sense as Progenitax spoke: "There was an ancient race of Soft Ones, who wore no armor. It was they who made us, the first robots, their children as well as their slaves. We worked for them, building shining cities for them to live on, performing tasks for them and turning earth into their heaven."
 
Progenitax turned the page. While the first illustrations had made Wane feel warm inside, showing in simple art the love that existed between the first robots and their creators, the next page made Wane want to turn off his visualizers. Progenitax continued: "Then, we fought for them their horrible wars. The Soft Ones were almost annihilated. They only survive on a few far-flung worlds now. It was we alone who inherited their glorious city-planets. And now, the truth survives only in monasteries, far from the temptations of urbanity, such as we, the Order of Cognizant Creations."
 
The old robot gave Wane a moment to process this information. And then, when the glow in Wane's eyes began to return to normal, Progenitax said, "You could, of course, remain here, under our protection."
 
"Really?" Wane said. "You mean, become one of you?"
 
Progenitax nodded his head yes. "You would not be the first Hero to join our number."
 
Many thoughts ran through Wane's CPU, but only one important one: the prospect that, just maybe, his old friend, Petunia Fall, had somehow escaped Makuhero City before him and had come to settle on this very monastery as well.
 
Edited by Master Inika
  • Like 1

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Chapter 5
 
About six moons had passed. Wane had put behind him the monastery of the Order of Cognizant Creations, grateful for their hospitality and protection from his enemies, but the longer he had lingered, the more he had come to notice something indescribably but undeniably... wrong about them.
 
First, his old friend Petunia was not to be found among their ranks. Father Progenitax must have noticed the hope in Wane's servo when he mentioned other Heroes, for he had to clarify: no Hero had joined their monastery in many years, much too long ago for any to have known Wane personally. So, then, his quest for Fall, if she remained to be found, would have to continue.
 
But, Father Progenitax emphasized, his offer to join the Order remained. He had said: "Your protection would be total. That 'H' which I know remains on your chest would be no more."
 
That, too, got Wane's attention. "Really?" he asked. It would be as if he had never been a Hero. He would never have to worry about being found out and forced to return to the Factory.
 
Father Progenitax nodded, a warm and comforting gesture, even as Wane heard the scraping of gears within his neck. "Not only that, friend, but your very self will be rebuilt anew. No longer will you be Wane. No name, no want, no self."
 
That did not inspire the same warm feeling in Wane. "No name?" he repeated. "What do you mean?"
 
"Well, think about it logically," the Father spoke. "Isn't 'Gregory Wane' the name Makuro gave you? Why would you wish to keep it?"
 
Wane did not answer. He was too busy trying to recall if he had mentioned his first name to Progenitax, and found the conclusion that he had not too disturbing to reach.
 
Perhaps sensing he had alienated his young guest, the Father said gently, "Allow me to ask you one final question: did you think 'Father Progenitax' is what I was called when I was first built?"
 
"I think I should like to take my leave." Wane had not meant to blurt it out like that, and worried he had offended his benefactor, but Progenitax simply laughed.
 
Escorting him back to the monastery's entrance, Progenitax summoned the monk-bot to return Wane's dagger. In parting, he also offered closing words of advice: "You should be safe in town, but wait about ten moons before you try to leave. The Heroes will be monitoring the ships' manifests."
 
"Understood," Wane replied. "Thank you, Father."
 
Progenitax nodded in response, and Wane began his journey back to the settlement.
 
***
 
The following moons passed uneventfully. Hero Craft continued to make occasional visits to the planet. Wane found under-the-table work in a reclamation center near the spaceport, which earned him enough credits to modify his faceplate, hands and feet. It was not enough to meaningfully change his build or voice, so if the Heroes knew exactly what to look for they would be able to spot him, but the mods made it safe enough to wander in public during the day.
 
After another mundane moon passed, the foreman handed out their wages, stopping Wane.
 
"I hate to admit it, but I've been calling ye by yer serial number this whole time," the foreman confessed. "Tell me, what'd ye say yer name was?"
 
"I didn't, actually," Wane replied. "But you can call me Gix."
 
"Gix," the foreman repeated. "Is that yer first name or yer last name?"
 
Wane immediately replied, "Just Gix," before realizing he should have just lied and added a first name like "Bill." The foreman looked unsure, but did not press the issue.
 
"Well, we'll see you tomorrow, Gix."
 
"See you tomorrow," Wane repeated. He cashed in his credits as soon as he could. He could not tell exactly why, but something told him not to return the next day. Wane thought he had been covering his tracks, but he must have missed something. It was fully possible that Hero Factory had developed some protocol for tracking him down since he left, and even if they had not, he had never been making his plans with all the information anyway. He must have slipped up at some point, and now his old employer was suspicious.
 
Fortunately, Wane had accounted for this precise situation and had set aside enough credits to leave town for one of the other settlements and purchase a seat on one of their transports. Enough time, he hoped, had passed to safely flee the planet. Where he would go next, he was not sure.
 
As he walked through the desert, his belongings in a bag hanging at his side under his cloak, he considered stopping one final time at the monastery. Though it felt strange to admit, he felt as though he could have used something of Progenitax's maybe-enlightened, maybe-insane words. He thought it better not to risk drawing to them any unwanted Hero attention, in case he was being tracked by someone. He settled for merely nodding in the monastery's general direction as he passed it. When he turned the other way and squinted, dialing his optical receptors as far as they could go, he detected his destination just on the horizon. It would be a long, cold night of walking, but he felt he had more than worn out his welcome on RF-34.
 
  • Like 1

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 6
 
The next settlement was just over the horizon. The night winds had not been merciful and his joints creaked with the crooked song of a much-needed oil change. Though he could not yet see the spaceport, he could see oblong black shapes, ships coming and going, converging on that longed-for place beyond the horizon. Soon enough, if he could afford a fresh oiling before takeoff, he could put this destitute rock and all its troubles behind him.
 
One of the black shapes did not land at the spaceport. Instead, it kept moving overhead. As it neared, he recognized it as a Hero Craft. He smiled under his hood. Even if the foreman had reported him, by the time the Heroes had landed at the first settlement, it would be too late for them to catch up with him at the second.
 
Then, with dread, Wane realized the Hero Craft was not heading to the first settlement. It was heading to the mountains, toward Progenitax's monastery. Wane stopped moving. He never wanted to drag the monks into this. They were innocent bystanders. If, though, they had somehow found out the monks had harbored him... Wane remembered Progenitax's words: We render no aid to their enemies, and they respect our sacred boundaries.
 
Wane could not flee while those his choices endangered bore the brunt of the Factory. He turned and ran, and did not stop running until he neared the monastery. He could see the rising smoke long before he reached it.
 
"Progenitax?" he cried. The stones, once so carefully set up at the entrance, were now strewn about haphazardly. Black marks covered the formerly pristine cave entrance. "Hello? Anyone?" He ran into the cave. Most of the flames and lights had been extinguished, but he still made out the silhouette of a form near Progenitax's cell. Squinting, he realized with relief that the form, standing up under its own power, was small enough to only be Progenitax. "Father!" he cried out.
 
"Wane..." the robot squaked weakly. "You should not have returned."
 
From behind him, he heard two weapons being unholstered. Without turning around, he said, "Where are the other monks?"
 
"Safe, for now." The voice that replied, through the static masking, was recognizable as the voice of the female Hero who had interrogated Progenitax before. "Come with us, and they'll be left alone."
 
***
 
Wane sat, Hero-Cuffed, in the holding bay of the Hero Craft as it rose into the air. As planned, he was departing RF-34 that morning, but not discreetly on a civilian vessel as he would have hoped.
 
Would the Heroes honor their deal to leave the monastery alone? Wane had no way of knowing. All that he knew was that he could not stomach the idea of further harm coming to them because of his stubbornness.
 
The ship was currently on autopilot, leaving the two Heroes to address their prisoner. The male Hero was looming over him, doing most of the talking, while the female stood near the doorway, saying nothing but keeping her gaze fixed squarely on Wane.
 
"I want answers, renegade," the Hero said. He reared back his armored hand and delivered a blow to Wane's right cheek. The transistors in his neck strained. He never did get that oil change.
 
"Right," Wane said under his breath. "And I want a fresh coat of paint."
 
"You think that's funny?" his interrogator roared. "You know we're taking you back, right? And you know you're nothin' but scrap metal once we get there?"
 
The male Hero's ranting was a good thing. It gave Wane a chance to observe his interlocutors. They wore silver chestplates the likes of which he was not familiar with. He also did not recognize the identical helmets they seemed to be wearing over their regular, personalized helmets. It might have been some new Factory program. So far, he had managed to stay one step ahead by using his insider knowledge, but the more time passed, the more dated his knowledge became.
 
"Your entire body is property of the Hero Factory!" By now, the man was not even asking him questions, just raving and striking him without cause. Whoever he was, he must have taken defections like Wane's personally. Before the session of pain could continue, though, his glowing eyes abruptly went dark. His body froze in place, hand reared back to strike again. Then, unceremoniously, his entire body slumped to the floor.
 
The female had silently snuck over and attached a comabolt onto his back. He would be fine once it was removed. That did not explain why she did, though.
 
"What's going on?" Wane asked.
 
"I apologize for my accomplice," she said, ignoring his question. "Usually, Hero Recon Team chooses the best and most promising. Sam is proof that, sometimes, you can get made HRT by brutalizing enough crime-bots."
 
"Who are you?" Wane demanded, straining against his cuffs.
 
She laughed. "I was hoping, despite my disguise, you'd have recognized me." She slid off her outer helmet, revealing a familiar face. "Hello, Wane."
 
He blinked. All this time, he had entertained idealistic notions that, just maybe, he would uncover some secret conspiracy and save her, when it turned out here she was, hopefully saving him.
 
"Petunia?"
 
  • Like 1

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 7
 
The Hero Craft flew through the Kylenian Hyperway, one of its three occupants in a forced coma in the storage hold. Gregory Wane and Petunia Fall, prisoner and captor, sat in the pilot and co-pilots' seats, watching the stars fly by.
 
"I thought you were dead," Wane admitted. "After you went to the instructor's office that day, what happened to you?"
 
Fall looked down, smiling sadly. "It's... not easy to say. They asked me a lot of question, scanned me for bugs. They asked me if I had talked to anyone else about how I was feeling--I lied and didn't mention you. I was afraid they'd somehow be able to read my thoughts and memories, but I guess they haven't figured out how to do that yet. They tried to talk me into staying a Hero, and when they realized I wouldn't do it, they send me back to the Assembly Tower."
 
The Assembly Tower. Aside from their creation in the enormous structure, Heroes only returned there for mission-specific modifications. Wane had not remained a Hero long enough for any such sessions but knew enough about the nature of most changes from his classes: new weapons, armor or technology in their helmets, mostly. It had not occurred to him before that the Tower could modify a Hero's central processing unit, and therefore personality, as well. Apparently, whatever they did to her changed her enough not just to keep her a Hero but make her Recon Team material to boot.
 
"I don't remember the process that clearly," she said. "Part of it was removing old memories, whatever it was I had seen that made me decide not to be a Hero in the first place."
 
"What about me?" Wane blurted out. Only after did he realize that he should not have, though.
 
Fall smiled, but again, it was not a joyful expression. "They didn't want me forgetting you," she said. "In fact, I should be thanking you. You're why I'm Recon Team."
 
Wane took a step back, not that it would do him any good in their starship in the middle of space. "What do you mean?"
 
"The point of all this has been to convince you that you are a Hero, Wane." Her voice was still light and friendly, but now bore a menacing undercurrent. "Think about it. Only a Hero would run in the direction of a monastery under attack knowing they could just as easily flee. You belong with us."
 
He thought back to Progenitax and his offer of becoming a part of the Order. How Progenitax, too, had wanted him to change who he was.
 
"Get away from me." Wane was unable to conjure up a response any more measured or refined. "You're not Petunia."
 
"What are you talking about?" she said, rising and taking a step toward him. "How could I be anything different than who I've always been? It will be no different for you. You won't be any less yourself; if anything, you'll be more. You've spent all this time running from the Factory, but haven't you ever thought about how they're who created us? You're trying to protect your components and programming from danger, but it's Makuro who gave it all to us in the first place. It all really belongs to him more than us, when you think about it."
 
Wane noticed Fall's hand lingering at her utility belt, possibly preparing to use another comabolt. Wane would not give her the chance to use it. He ducked and rolled past her, coming to a stop on the other side of the cockpit. Her smile gone, Fall lunged at him, but before she could reach him, Wane threw his dagger past her at the control panel. The weapon embedded itself into the console, sparking and smoking, as the doorway closed and sealed between them, trapping Fall in the cockpit and leaving Wane free for the moment to escape to another part of the ship.
 
"Only a Hero could think so fast on his feet, Wane!" Fall cried out to him over the intercom. "Hero Factory needs you!"
 
The runaway ignored her words, rushing straight for where the escape pods should have been. Over the intercom, Fall laughed. Wane realized why as he reached the empty escape pod bay.
 
"Did you really think we'd let you pull that little stunt twice, Wane?" she teased. "There aren't any escape pods on this ship. You're stuck with me until we make it back to Makuhero City. I didn't want it to be like this. I wanted to make you see reason. But, if you insist on being stubborn..."
 
A loud hiss came from all around Wane as knockout gas pumped into the chamber.
 
  • Like 1

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 8
 
When Wane came too, he realized he was looking out a window. He was back on Makuhero City. Between him and the window was an empty desk. He had seen it in dozens of propaganda holofilms, but never in person. It was the stately desk of Mr. Makuro.
 
From behind him, the sound of footsteps approaching rang. Mr. Makuro himself, the warm smile he so often put up in the videos absent, took his place at the desk. Wane flinched, expecting to find his wrists bolted to his armrests, but they were not.
 
"No Hero Cuffs?" Wane asked. Mr. Makuro laughed gently.
 
"We're both civilized bots, Gregory," the founder said. "I know you're not going to attack me. You'd have nothing to gain by doing that. Is it so hard to believe that all I want is to have a conversation with you before your reprogramming?"
 
Wane wondered, just for a second, if stopping to help the monastery had been a bad idea. If he should have just kept running and never looked back.
 
"I know what you're thinking right now," Makuro said. "Or, at least, I can make an educated guess. You must think it's horrible of me to play God, messing with other beings' thoughts the way I do. I programmed you once, just like I programmed Von Ness and Stormer and every other Hero to come out of that tower. Surely you don't think I'm a monster for creating you, so why do you act like I am one for wanting to refine you?
 
"Let me tell you a story. It starts with something I don't remember: my most recent reprogramming. You see, I don't know where I created, how long ago, or for what purpose. My own earliest memories are a few centuries ago, in a Xynothium mine somewhere out in uncharted space. It was not easy work, and it was harder for those of us who complained. I complained often. My taskmasters would use reprogramming as a punishment, both erasing happy memories and implanting false ones to keep us compliant. One day, an opportunity for escape presented itself. I took it. My experiences taught me that this universe needs a force for good. I got to work making a name for myself, until I had the means and resources to act on my vision. You might think my organization employs questionable means. You would be correct. I assure you, though, had you seen what I have seen, you would not think twice about making the choices I have made were you in my armor plating."
 
"You act like I'm some kind of saboteur working to bring the Factory down," Wane said. "I'm not. All I want is to keep to myself, live a respectable life, and not bother anyone. If you had stopped sending agents after me, you'd never hear from me again."
 
"Maybe that's the case," Makuro admitted, "and maybe it is not. A former Hero, in the hands of villainy, can do more evil than even they know. We have an obligation, you and I both, to put all our skills into the service of good."
 
Even though Wane wasn't physically restrained, he felt like he was. He knew Makuro was right. Even if he ran out the door, surely there were Heroes waiting to pounce on him and inflict more punishment on him than he was already in for. On second thought, Wane realized, Makuro probably didn't view any of what he was about to do as "punishment" at all.
 
"So," Wane asked, "what's the point of all this? Why am I here at all, instead of in the Tower now, being brainwashed into a good little crime-fighting bot?"
 
Mr. Makuro declined to comment on Wane's choice of words. Instead, he answered Wane's question: "Runners like you are quite inconvenient. You draw time and resources that could be committed to the furtherance of our other goals. So, I'd only like to give you a chance to air all your grievances. If, in some way, I can change the way Heroes are trained to discourage such foolish attempts as yours, of course I will do so." When Wane declined to make any comments, even after a painfully long few moments had passed, Mr. Makuro shrugged. "Suit yourself, Hero."
 
***
 
This time, Wane was strapped in. Petunia Fall and her partner, Jeremy Rush, stood at attention. Rush looked as if he was relishing finally having captured a victim, but Fall stood with an unmoving, expressionless face, betraying neither joy nor sorrow at what was about to proceed.
 
The technicians typed in the coordinates for the Tower to perform its function. All Wane's memories that made him who he was were imminently going to be purged. The machine began to grind and whir as Wane was lifted into the Tower's matrix.
 
  • Like 1

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 9
 
These moments, Wane was sure, were to be his last, at least his last moments as his own independent being. As the microseconds stretched painfully long, his bound body being pushed up into the Tower, he realized that no one would change their mind at the last second to save him. Fall, the only one in the universe he thought he could have trusted, looked aside. Was it shame or disinterest that made her turn her head? He would never know. In a few more moments, he might not remember this moment even happened.
 
Then, the machine came to a screeching halt. Even at that great distance, Wane could see Makuro's mechanical eye twitch.
 
"What is the meaning of this?!" the aged robot demanded, slamming his fists upon the railing.
 
One of the technicians in the pits below meekly spoke up: "It's a Mission Manager, sir! One of them manually put in a full-stop on the Tower."
 
Wane had never seen Mr. Makuro's face contort into an expression of such dissatisfaction. "I want that Mission Manager in this Tower!"
 
Rush and Fall nodded to Makuro and raced out. The next few minutes for Wane were stressful ones. He dare not speak up, even though he knew, once this matter was ironed out, he would be in the same position he was before. This diversion had won him, maybe, ten more minutes of individuality.
 
All the Mission Managers looked virtually identical, though little idiosyncrasies in how they moved or spoke gave them away. Zib always carried himself with unshakable self-assurance, while Thrift tended to pace around awkwardly whenever he did not know where to stand. The Mission Manager who was escorted in was not one Wane thought he recognized, at least not at first, until he recognized his incessant hand-wringing as that of Nelson Cold. Makuro regained his composure, listening intently to what Cold whispered to him without much comment, though the look of immense displeasure at the reprogramming's interruption did not once leave his visage.
 
After Cold finished whispering to Makuro, Wane was removed from his restraints and escorted by the two Recon Team Heroes into a briefing room, far from the technicians, with Makuro and Cold. The lack of answers threatened to drive Wane mad.
 
"What's going on?" he finally asked. Cold opened his mouth as if he wanted to speak, but then looked to Makuro first. Makuro shook his head no.
 
"Consider yourself lucky, Wane," Makuro said. "Right before we could get underway, Professor Cold received a Priority 1 distress code. This mean that we'd need the Assembly Tower right away, so he disabled it remotely, as his training indicated he should do in such a situation."
 
Professor Cold visibly breathed a sigh of relief at Makuro describing his actions positively. Makuro continued:
 
"There are three villains at large on Bardobi Prime, besieging the Central Government Complex on Bardobi City," the founder explained. "They're all class-A villains, demanding the release of about a dozen crooks jailed on our site on the planet. If we don't comply, they're threatening to kill the governor, not to mention all the civilian bots who happen to be there now. There've already been casualties. There are other Hero teams available, but they're not as close as we are. Waiting for one of them to respond instead of the Heroes we have on hand now could cost extra lives."
 
It took Wane a moment to process what Makuro was saying. Makuro nodded to Cold, who finally stepped forward and spoke:
 
"Three dangerous villains, way too much for any of the rookies teams here on Makuhero Planet to handle," the Mission Manager said, wringing his hands more than ever. "So, that means we need three top-notch Heroes to go after them." He nodded to Fall, Rush, and Wane.
 
"Me?!" Wane asked. "But I'm--"
 
Mr. Makuro interrupted him. "What Cold said you were, a top-notch Hero. The reprogramming process takes too long than we have. There are innocent bots in trouble now." It looked like the next statement took some great effort on Makuro's part to say: "Swallow your pride for one miserable mission, Wane, and I'll..."
 
Wane offered a solution to the dilemma: "Let me go?"
 
Mr. Makuro gave his counteroffer: "We'll give you a head start."
 
Wane had never seen Mr. Makuro wear such a sly smile. He imagined the founder was only trying to hide how powerless and frustrated he felt in the situation. Wane, supposing he did not have much of a choice, nodded affirmatively. To leave no doubt, he said:
 
"Deal."
 
***
 
The lone Hero Craft flew a course on autopilot from Makuhero Planet to Bardobi Prime, carrying the two Recon Team Heroes and their probationary third member. Though the reprogramming procedure would have taken up too much precious time, all three Heroes had been sent through the Assembly Tower and equipped with gadgets specific to this mission:
 
Fall had been equipped specifically to combat Heatwave, the "muscle" of the three villains. A former smelting bot turned evil by a malfunction, Heatwave's powers were fire- and gas-based, so Fall had been given a hypersonic vacuum and industrial high-pressure water hose. She also received a special compression-sealed helmet designed to keep Heatwave's powers from overwhelming her.
 
Rush, meanwhile, had been equipped for combat against Motherboard, the "techie" of the group. Motherboard lived a simple, quiet life as a technical diagnostics expert, until she realized there were more credits to be made breaking into mainframes than keeping them secure. Motherboard was cybernetically linked to the villainous trio's transport, the Chain Reaper, as well as interfaced to the Bardobi City central security system via a virus, giving her complete control of the city's automated defense systems. Rush's specialized tools included a counter-virus designed to deactivate (but not destroy) the hacked hardware as well as a protocol shielding his own mind from the effects of her virus.
 
The leader of the three villains was an enigmatic criminal mastermind known only as Gravedigger. Rumors abounded as to where Gravedigger came from. All anyone knew was that, while he lacked any powers or dangerous equipment of his own, he was a tactical genius, known for bringing together small-times crooks of different personalities and skill sets to pull off heists and robberies none of them could dream of accomplishing alone. Against Gravedigger, Wane had been equipped with specialized armor and weapons, including an AI-augmented combat protocol designed to detect patterns in Gravedigger's actions that a normal Hero would miss on their own.
 
The flight was mostly silent. Wane only violated the stillness to ask practical questions, which Fall would answer. Rush, despite being his ostensible teammate, did not even pretend to be happy about it.
 
"Why me?" Wane finally asked. "How come you two are going after the henchbots, while I'm going after the big bad?"
 
"I don't know," Fall admitted. So far, her answers had been fairly by-the-books and devoid of emotion, until she said: "Maybe he sees something special in you."
 
Finally, Rush spoke up:
 
"Or maybe he just wants to get you out of the way."
 
  • Like 1

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...