"I believe we have an incoming message."
Samuel looked up, confused, at the uniformed C.A.S.S accompanying him at the night patrol. She had already stopped and turned around, listening to something still beyond his hearing range.
"Man, I'd love to have some bionic ears, too," he mused and looked where Cass was looking, starting to pick up on the familiar echoing taps of nubby, rubber feet galloping throughout the empty halls.
Soon enough they could both see the four-legged silhouette of Caleb as it made its way running towards them.
It stopped just short of the two, tapping its front feet to the floor and extending its neck right up to Samuel's face, shaking it side to side to show off the note stuck in its maw.
"What's that, boy? Something in your teeth?" he laughed, gently pulling the note out to not rip it apart.
Caleb let go and barked happily when Samuel pet his head as he read the note, knowing there are only a handful of people that still bother with hand-written notes and among them only one that could possibly be up at this time of night.
"Something urgent, Samuel?" Cass wondered, peering over his shoulder.
"Nah, just a nightly, secret admirer," he joked, waving the note.
Cass stared for a moment, focused on glimpses of the writing. "Admirer? It looks like Mikhail's handwriting," she pondered, awaiting an explanation.
Samuel laughed and lifted his head up at her again. "Right, I forgot your sense of humor is not the sharpest. No offense."
"Non taken," unsurprisingly, she was unfazed. "Humor was deemed a feature unnecessary for security purposes, thus wasn't considered in the first place."
"Of course," he nodded, scratching the little tuft of hair on his chin. "Yeah, it's from Mike. An estimated schedule of training hours with Abel."
Cass looked between the man and the note, several times. "You're not still trying to take him down in an unarmed fight, are you?"
Samuel huffed in protest. " 'Unarmed'? Ha, not with these guns!" he laughed, patting his left arm.
Right, no sense of humor. He sighed and let his arms drop, clearing his throat with an awkward smile. "Hey, training against Abel is the only challenge I get now. There's no surprising the rest of the team anymore."
"What about the training dummies?"
"I, uh..." Samuel rubbed the back of his neck, rolling his eyes away from Cass. Although his tone came out guilty, his lips curved to a smile showing more than a hint of pride. "I... kinda beat those up...really bad."
Cass looked like she was about to say something but was distracted by Caleb's constant tapping of its feet and moving around, waiting for a command to either do something else or being dismissed of his duty. "Thank you, Caleb. You may go back to your operator now," she made a slight bowing gesture at it. Caleb barked again and turned around, running back in the direction of Mikhail's workshop.
Once looking back, she noticed Samuel already turned around again, stuffing the note into a pocket in his uniform. "Well, let's get a move on this patrol. I'm thinking of taking the morning practice," he looked over his shoulder with the smile of an excited kid on Christmas night.
He could tell that if Cass had more of an emotional range she'd sigh and roll her eyes at that. "You can't be serious."
"You should know how serious I am about training."
Cass went quiet and hurried to catch up to him. "This is not what I meant," she clarified, standing tall next to him to accentuate the slight serious tone in her normally monotonous voice. "You can't allow to compromise the effectiveness of these patrols for the sake of a fight you seem to engage for the sole purpose of proving something."
The head of security twisted his nose at her words, looking up at the sentinel with an offended expression. "That just makes me sounds pretty selfish."
"It is selfish."
"No," he paused, turning just as serious, "it's science."
Once again Cass' only response was anticipated silence, waiting for a reasonable explanation.
"Robots are supposed to be better than humans," he stated, feeling proud for picking up something over the years watching over the place, "so if I can win a robot that's made for combat, I'll be breaking the current limits of what human can do, and helping to improve the robots and keeping them a step ahead of humans."
Cass hummed, a short cryptic sound due to the lack of emotional tone, as she considered his argument. "I guess this is somewhat about science," she agreed. "Well thought, Samuel."
He shrugged, smiling victoriously for a moment before looking ahead again. "I know Abel is taking it easy on me," he admitted, letting out a quick sigh. "The weakest parts of his exterior shell are probably as strong as my own arm, I'm sure he could floor me in under a minute if he wanted to."
"If that's the case," Cass tilted her head slightly as a sign of confusion, "why do you persist on fighting him, knowing he could just dial up on his potential strength?"
Samuel went silent for another moment, rubbing the back of his neck. "Something to strive for, I guess," he smiled, looking around for a bit to make sure everything's in check. "The thrill of a challenge, knowing there's always something to surpass."
They both kept walking in silence while Cass appeared to be having a hard time wrapping her mind around the reasoning this time. "That is...quite ambitious of you," she complimented.
"That's how I go," he let out a quick chuckle and ran his hand over his left shoulder, absent minded, feeling around the connective joint between his body and the robotic arm.
Cass didn't miss it. "Is that how it happened?"
The keen eyed could see the officer's jaws clench behind his smile.
The two soon reached the last area in their patrol route, looking around the I.T Department and making sure nothing's been left turned on or out of place.
As they passed by the workspaces, they noticed a single room where the light was left on, and as they got closer the sound of spinning fans and keyboard taps could also be heard. At that point neither of them had a single doubt as to who was there.
Samuel signed Cass to continue the patrol around the rest of the area without him. Once she left, he approached the open door, leaning against the outer frame and peering in. The unusual amounts of recently emptied coffee cups scattered around and between the various devices on the shaggy programmer's desk suggested he has been planning to stay up all night.
Typical. "Burning the midnight oil, Winterbottom?"
He never imagined the man's voice could escalate to such a high pitch when Adam bolted out of his chair, looking at him wide-eyed for a few seconds of still silence before he calmed down enough to articulate a proper reaction.
"O-oh, Sam. It's just y- Stop laughing!" he huffed at the snickering security guard, running both hands over his face.
"I'm not laughing. Not yet," he cleared his throat, trying his best to contain himself. "Guess I should've knocked first."
Adam nodded and let out a deep sigh, combing his fingers through his beard. "Yes. Yes, you should have," he took another moment to regulate his breathing and to make sure his heart won't burst out of his chest. "I'd ask what you're doing here, but the only reason for you to be in the I.T Department is being on patrol."
Samuel shrugged and nodded, looking around the room. "Alright. So, I'll ask you the same question," he stopped and turned his eyes back at the programmer, "or do you not know it's almost midnight?"
A few jittery, caffeine-fueled blinks later, Adam looked at his watch, just now being aware of the hour. "Ah. I see. Now it all makes sense," he sighed and scratched the bottom of his chin, "and here I thought I had the honor of being the start of this night's patrol."
"Not tonight," Samuel glanced over to the screens. "So, how goes the extermination?"
"Exte-? Oh, ha-ha. Come on," the programmer rolled his eyes and walked back to his desk. "But if you must know, it's...going slow, but smooth. There are just...a lot of things to patch up and update."
"What's wrong with doing this during the day?"
Adam didn't answer and tapped a couple of commands into one of the active screens. Samuel watched him until he turned back around once a green indication blinked on the program's status bar. "The thing is...these problems tend to multiply like actual bugs," he picked up on the question, "so better take care of them as soon as possible. And there's the benefit of the usual silence of the night, too."
" 'Usual silence', huh? Okay, I get the hint," Samuel nodded, voice slightly chocked, and turned to exit the room.
"Not falling for that, Sammy-boy," Adam hummed and turned back to his work, tapping away. "I don't care for you staying, but I fear I might bore you to death. Besides, you got your own job to take care of."
Throwing his head back, laughing mostly at the addressing manner, Samuel wiped a single tear from the corner of his eye and looked over his shoulder at Adam again. "True. Got some training to get to in the morning."
"All the more reason for you to head out and fulfill your duties," Adam nodded without looking back. "You should get a good rest before training if you still have any intention to beat Abel this time."
Samuel smiled quietly this time and lowered his head. "Guess so," he agreed, turning to walk away, "make sure you get some sleep, too."
Adam turned his full attention back to the debugging process, and Samuel headed back to his patrol, walking around the empty department for a little longer before meeting up with Cass. The programmer did make a good point about how nice and quiet this place is at night, with the gentle humming of some permanently active machinery keeping the area from being eerily silent.
It was an oddly serene setting and at the same time almost haunting, just missing a bit of flickering lights and creaking floors, maybe some toppling keyboards. He was almost waiting for something of that sorts to happen, if only for a little bit of non-practice action.
"Bet I scared away all the ghosts, if there were any," he sighed, musing over the thought as he sauntered through the department, soon arriving at the lobby where Cass has been waiting.
She stopped her scanning of the environment once he got closer and turned to face him. "Anything out of the ordinary?"
"Nope. Everything's in check," Samuel shook his head and looked up at Cass. "It was just Adam working late, nothing unusual. Looks like this patrol has concluded without a hitch as well."
The sentinel nodded and they both headed to the living quarters. "I'll add this to the report. Seems there were no more irregularities other than that."
"Indeed, same as last night, and the night before...and before that, too," the security guard laughed and stopped once arriving at his room. "Godspeed, Cass."
"Goodnight, Samuel." Cass answered and kept walking, heading to her charging station at the far end of the living quarters.
[[ Good morning, Mr. Kingston. ]]
Gabriel sat down at his desk, eyeing the digital golden crown floating on the main screen of his workstation. "Good morning, Solomon," he answered the assisting A.I programmed into both his computer and pocket-watch.
The screens came to life in a series of clicks and beeps, and the crown symbol minimized itself to an icon at the side of the main screen.
"Run a system check, please," he asked, leaning back in his chair.
[[ Should I scan through security footage as well? ]]
Gabriel looked to one of the side screens showing integrity status of the complex's surveillance system. "Sure," he agreed, seeing it has been almost two weeks since the last scan, "it's been a while."
[[ Noted. Anything else, Mr. Kingston? ]]
"Any new notices?"
[[ There is a new memo from Sheppard, regarding the schedule for the upcoming days. ]]
"I'll look into it. Thank you, Solomon, you may proceed with the scans."
[[ Very well. You may track the progress of both scans on the designated screen. ]]
Solomon's icon left the main screen and Gabriel tracked it as it moved to an upper side screen, where a real-time data log was constantly being updated as Solomon checked the integrity of the local systems and soon moved to examining the surveillance system and the footage acquired through it.
Knowing this could take a while, he turned his attention to the memo he received containing upcoming events, adding them to his own schedule and typing necessary preparations to each of said events - from calls he'll have to make to equipment he'll have to order - syncing it all up to Solomon's database as well, for backup purposes.
As he went on to organize his various tasks and assignments according to the new schedule, he heard a couple of high notes as something flashed on the main screen. He glanced up to the screen Solomon has been commanding, seeing some lines in the data log have been colored red, with some specific words further emphasized within them.
He fixed his glasses, narrowing his eyes at the flashy lines. An algorithm integrated to the scans that's meant to alert the system about anything deemed as a suspicious activity or exchange has kicked into action, defined by certain key words or phrases. "Solomon, report."
[[ 3 suspicious instances have been found in the audio data so far. ]]
"Import audio files and transcripts."
Within under a minute Gabriel was listening carefully to chatter picked up by Solomon, comparing it to the generated transcripts.
Something felt off about these. "Solomon, issue protocol R-787, to employee ID 204-462." he commanded the A.I.
[[ Issuing Protocol R-787. Confirmed ID : Stanley Shain ]]
Gabriel stared intently at the main screen as the little crown icon flashed on it in short pulses for about a minute.
[[ Access denied. ]]
[[ System files access has been blocked by a foreign program acting as an independent firewall. ]]
Feeling his suspicions growing, Gabriel moved his fingers in an irritated tapping motion on the edge of his desk.
"I'd like to issue protocol C-421."
[[ Protocol C-421 is marked as a highly invasive act, reserved for emergencies only. ]]
"It just might be," Gabriel insisted. "Run it by the management if my position doesn't have the necessary clearance."
[[ Are you sure about your decision, Mr. Kingston? ]]
"Positive," his voice hasn't showed even the slightest hint of doubt. "Make sure to save this data log and the imported excerpts."
[[ Files synced and added to the backup queue. Sending a request to issue emergency protocol to management. ]]
"Let me know as soon as any response comes in."
[[ Very well. Anything else? ]]
"That'll be all. Thank you, Solomon."
[[ Always at your service. ]]
Gabriel looked back at the files, listening to the audio bits again and skimming through the transcripts.
His eyes kept being drawn to one, single phrase despite it no longer being emphasized; one that made his blood rush.
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