As I suspected drones communicate primarily through vocalizations. There is a fair amount of body language and pheromones used as well, but the sounds they make take precedence.
"What the hell happened!?"
Like that one for instance.
Indication of anger, shock, request...
Designation of 'hell' unknown.
Some translation was still required, but I was learning a lot. The drone that often stayed late was yelling at the others in the room while the white-furred drone simply stood in silence. Next to it a soldier, who I think is the leader, was relaying a report of the events, and I was matching its words to my memory of the actual event to help translate.
About an 'hour' after the soldiers had killed the yellow-fur, the white-coats had started to filter into the lab. It was currently 'in the middle of the damn night' and most of the white-coats looked shocked and lost while they drifted around the room, only becoming productive when the white-fur gave them direction.
The soldier finished its report and the white-fur, er, Doctor Mason as the soldier called him, addressed the rest of the drones. Some of them it sent away, others to check over devices the yellow-fur had damaged in its mad dash, and itself went to one of the devices with a light display and started working.
More hours passed, and finally the drones started to grow weary, one by one being sent away by Doctor Mason. The late-worker was still going strong when Doctor Mason tapped it and convinced it to stop. Both of them left.
The soldiers stayed longer, talking about topics that didn't seem related to their current task. They talked until a large soldier drone, much larger than the others, entered the room. Speaking with the others briefly, the large soldier huffed and moved to the dead yellow-fur. It kicked the corpse once, then bent to grab a foreleg and pulled it over its shoulder.
Then it dragged the dead yellow-fur, easily five times as big, back into the test chamber.
Observable bone/muscle enhancements.
Estimated strength within possible known limits.
Stealth. Stealth was the only reasonable plan of escape.
"Alright, janitors can clean up the rest of this mess. Let's get out of here, this place give me the heebie-jeebies." spoke one of the small soldiers.
"Ha, give it a few months. The freak-show grows on you after a while." said the large soldier.
They chattered as they left, and I was finally alone again. By my calculation it was four hours before the drones normally came in, and none had come back after being dismissed so far. I needed to get going while I had this opportunity.
I opened the front of the container and slid out. I still needed to decompress, but my core was reassembled, and I had been preparing the necessary organs while I waited. In a few short 'minutes' I resembled one of the drones.
This was going to be risky. I would need stealth in order to leave this place, but I couldn't simply go from one hiding place to another. All it would take was one drone seeing me and alerting soldiers to doom me. If I imitated a drone, however, I would hopefully be able to pass by the normal drones without too much scrutiny and actively find an escape route. The main risk was running into the drone I was imitating, but a randomly designed facade wouldn't do. Drones had excellent identification skills, and each had its own identifier phrase such as Doctor Mason. Probably some kind of security measure.
I chose the image of one of the drones that stayed later, but got sent away. I didn't want a drone who left early and had no excuse to be here, but also one that wouldn't actually still be here.
Most of my effort was on the face and movements. The drone I chose had brown fur, blue eyes, and dark patches below the eyes. As for mannerisms this one tended to converse rarely and appeared somewhat physically inept, as a disguise it was the perfect option. I made a few final checks and movement exercises to assure myself that my fake coverings looked correct before deciding it was time to leave. I would have loved to stay long enough to eat the yellow-fur, but I doubted I had time, and the disappearance of the large corpse would be noticed rather quickly.
I approached the doorway and paused. This would be the first time seeing beyond my little world of den chamber, test chamber, drone chamber. Here's hoping that it wouldn't get me killed.
I pressed my limb against the door and pushed, revealing a narrow, long corridor, with other doors that I assumed led to other rooms like the one I came from.
"Jacobson, you're still here? Didn't I send you home hours ago?"
Coming down the corridor was the white-fur, Doctor Mason. Of course it had to be this one.
Recorded response 23;
"I, um, forgot something." I replied in Jacobson's timid voice.
Stopping next to me the white-fur scanned me from top to bottom. I thought for sure my disguise was compromised until he said:
"You look like hell Jacobson. Come on, I was just about to get some coffee, I'll treat you to one." he said, and casually waved its limb down the corridor in the direction it had been heading.
Command to follow recognized.
Some of its sounds I understood, but the limb wave was what allowed me to know what I should do. I began walking to the side and slightly behind Doctor Mason as he led me down the corridor.
We traveled in silence. I noted that each door was labeled with its own little symbol; B4E, B4D, B4C, and so on. We reached the end and there was a new door, slightly stronger looking than the others. Doctor Mason pulled out a small, flat, rectangular object from a pouch in his coat and pressed it against a device mounted on the wall next to the door. A small light on the device turned green, and I could hear a loud 'clunk' as something between the device and the door moved. I was suddenly very glad that Doctor Mason had found me, it seemed there were additional security measures in this place, and Doctor Mason was unknowingly bringing me right through them.
On the other side of the door was... a small room with another door. Admittedly more impressive than the first, this door was set into a shiny frame and had no visible handle with which to pull or push. Instead there was only another pad with two symbols next to the door, and Doctor Mason pressed the top one before waiting. A few seconds later an odd 'ding' noise sounded and the door slid aside to reveal... another tiny room? As strange as this was Doctor Mason entered casually before facing the door and I followed his example. Inside Doctor Mason clicked another symbol on a pad (this one laden with many symbols that were similar to the signs posted by doors) and the door slid closed.
My balance was momentarily thrown when the room suddenly started to move upwards! Now it made sense, it wasn't a room so much as a giant device for moving to higher or lower levels. I was impressed with the amount of ingenuity it would take to build an entire moving room just to go up or down.
The moving room came to a stop and opened when the symbol labeled '2' lit up. We exited into another security room and left without using the flat rectangle this time (I noted it would take another security check to get back into the room however).
This section of the structure was a lot different than the lower area. The floor was covered in a soft material and there was more color used in the design. There were a few drones about. Some wore the recognized white coats, others had similar coverings but without the coat, and still others wore shear black coverings that made them seem important. Perhaps this was a leader caste? Or maybe an organizer, or catalyst caste. Drones seemed to appoint a leader from each group from what I'd seen.
Doctor Mason led me to a large alcove in which were multiple chairs and two large devices with lots of press-able symbols. He approached one and swiped his security rectangle over a convenient panel. A few symbols clicks later the device dispensed a black liquid into a flimsy white holder, when the device was done the white-fur handed the container of liquid to me and repeated the process for himself.
The liquid... smelled good? I was detecting several different chemical compounds coming from the liquid, the blend of them making it seem rather appetizing. Was it drone nutrition?
It must have been because Doctor Mason took his liquid container and swallowed some of the liquid. I copied him, burning my tongue a bit on the hot liquid until I adjusted for it.
It was good. Not the most nutritious thing I'd ever eaten (that placement went to the yellow-fur), but the taste created by the chemical blend was... satisfactory. Definitely better than the nutrient slurry that I used to receive from testing.
We stood there drinking the liquid until Doctor Mason sighed and spoke:
"Don't beat yourself up too much about this Jacobson, none of us could have predicted this. Setbacks happen sometimes. They might be disasters when they happen... but you can turn them into setbacks. Just keep a steady pace on it." He drained the rest of his liquid before crumpling the container and throwing it into a large receptacle. Then he patted me twice on the shoulder before saying, "Don't overwork yourself Jacobson, but definitely don't give up."
Then he left me there to drink my liquid alone.
I really need to get my translations puzzled out.
I'd been exploring this structure for thirty minutes when I found it.
My plan until now had been to steal one of the flat rectangles. The security doors were quite prevalent and if you wanted to move between the different sections of the structure you needed one of the 'key-cards'. Stealing one proved harder than expected since the drones kept them either concealed or attached to themselves securely. I had been walking down a corridor wondering if I should start checking rooms when one of the doors attracted my attention. This one was labeled 'Conference Room' and had translucent material as part of the door allowing you to see inside. It was empty, and so I decided to risk exploring it.
When I entered I almost thought it was a testing chamber, one whole wall was made of translucent material, though when I touched it I found it was far more brittle than the material in the test chambers.
And on the other side was so much... room. I had always known that with the drones' incredible ability to make things they could undoubtedly make rooms larger than what I had seen. But I didn't expect them to make a room so large that you could barely see the ceiling lights far overhead, twinkling against a dark ceiling too vast to be illuminated.
Recalculating environment predictions...
This, no, I had to be mistaken. This couldn't be a drone made room. I could see hundreds of other drone-made structures from here, and by comparison I knew that I must be in a similar structure. The size of this area as a whole was incomparable with even the largest of the structures I saw.
Five minutes went by as I just stared out into the expanse before me.
Back in the test chambers I had been starting to get overconfident. With my natural ability to change my form to suit my needs, and the problem solving ability granted by Human.exe, I had passed dozens of combat tests with ease, and began to think of myself as an apex predator.
The shear brute strength of the yellow-fur, the overwhelming technical ability of the drones, and now this incomprehensible hive structure outside the wall had convinced me I was mistaken. I was now part of a much larger predator/prey network than I had realized, and I was not even remotely near the top.
At least a space this large would be easy to hide in. I just had to get to it.
The wall I was looking through was brittle, I could easily carve a hole through or even shatter it if necessary. The drop to the ground was negligible with a little preparation, and once I made it to the ground it was an easy walk over flat terrain to a wall that likely marked the perimeter of the white-coat drones' territory. Most of the flat area was taken up by large devices that had large rotating cylinders for locomotion. How they propelled themselves I couldn't guess, but I saw one device carrying drones out of the facility. I noted three soldiers as well, two at the opening in the wall which the transport device left through, and one patrolling around the area. The only dangerous part was the guards, if they spotted me and became suspicious I would be out in the open with no cover.
I spent twenty minutes watching the drones' actions. The two soldiers stayed by the wall exit inside small alcoves, but I noted about three drones on a regular patrol around the structure. New plan: I would attempt to sneak out physically rather than attempt subterfuge in the structure itself. There were simply too many security checks inside the structure, and the drones added another layer of complication. If I had a firm grasp of the language maybe I would stick with subterfuge, but until I learned to communicate freely I had more confidence in my physical skills.
I checked out into the corridor, and then went to the corner of the room that avoided line of sight. There I began shifting into an approximation of a soldier. It's fortunate that all drones share a similar skeletal shape, it made this a lot easier. The soldiers outside wore a slightly different uniform than the ones I had seen so far, but I adjusted as best I could. I didn't plan on being close enough for them to identify me anyways.
Once done I approached the translucent wall and carved a tiny hole, through which I poked a tendril. At the end of the tendril was a small eye organ which I used to get a better field of view while I carved myself an exit. I didn't think I would be able to repair the damage on my way out, but I should be long gone by the time it was found.
I completed the carve and now held the section of wall in place myself. With the tendril I made sure that all the patrols were out of sight, and a quick glance at the two drones near the wall opening showed they were busy conversing with each other. Now was the best time. I pulled the section of wall in and dumped it onto the floor, then I leaped out the opening.
The air out here was crisp, and cool.
My augmented limbs took the impact with the ground easily, then I snapped the bones back into a drone-like configuration and stood upright. Quickly I fell into the steady pace I had seen the patrolling soldiers use and walked away, scanning to see if I had been spotted. Neither of the two drones at the opening were acting different, and as far as I could tell they were the only drones within sight.
I began following the patrol route I had seen the other soldiers use, but ever so slowly I began edging closer and closer to the barrier wall. Once I was out of sight of both the soldiers guarding the entrance and any patrols I abandoned the patrol route and walked right up to the wall. It was made of the same hard gray material that parts of the test chambers had been made from, and about twice the height of an average drone. Not a problem for me however. I bent my limbs and my muscles coiled before I leapt for the top of the wall, grabbing it with a forelimb and pulling myself up, then jumping down on the other side.
It was thankfully empty on this side of the wall as well. The ground next to the wall was molded to provide an obvious walkway for drones, and the space beyond the walkway was inscribed with colorful white and yellow markings, most likely used as movement guidelines for the transport devices. Drones really seemed to favor rectangular architecture, all of the structures I saw were divided into blocks, and the transport lanes cut everything into nice even distances.
I strolled along the walkway until I came to the corner of the block. One direction was as good as any other, so I crossed to another corner and kept walking. Before I got out of sight I turned back and looked at the structure I had come from. It was slightly taller than the other structures around it, and near the top was a collection of glowing symbols reading 'New Dawn Inc.'
I turned away and kept walking.