TO crept down the stairs of yet another level of the warehouse. Their eyes had quickly adjusted in the darkness, and they could see perfectly. Still, they used their echolocation to double check to see if there was anyone waiting, hidden behind old crates or broken furniture. Three times already there had been such a trick waiting for them - a single hostile in open view, and an enemy hidden away out of sight; obvious traps to stop the careless.
It was all very much like the puzzle-mazes that they completed on their computers. TO activated the communication on their helmet.
“S87.” they said, “Two hostiles. One straight ahead, the other hidden on the left side, behind the old tank.”
“Received. Stay in your position until the enemies are dealt with.”
TO had been right to use their echolocation. If they had simply ran up to attack the enemy, or even if they had continued to employ stealth, they would have been taken off guard and potentially hurt. Because TO was being so careful, they caught the trap the first time. S54 and S87 would split up and take the enemies separately at that point before they went on to the next.
So if TO was right about that when S87 didn’t think about it, why wouldn’t S87 listen to TO’s other plan? They found it irritating. Sure, they could be reconnaissance, and they were good enough at being stealthy, but if S87 had listened to what they had said earlier, they’d have done this much faster, and with far less tedium. It made sense to TO! They had to take out the enemies, and retrieve the weapons. They had to be stealthy because the enemies might use the weapons on them. If they took the weapons away first, then they could proceed without needing to worry about stealth!
TO wasn’t even worried about the combat abilities of the insurgents; They were slower, their hearing wasn’t as good, and their eyesight wasn’t as good. Just from watching them, TO knew all that. Without worrying about stealth TO was certain that the four of them could manage whatever was thrown at them with ease
But no. TO hadn’t even gotten to tell S87 the best parts of their plan because S87 refused to listen! True, their temporary commander wasn’t doing bad, they weren’t being stupid of making careless mistakes, but they weren’t thinking creatively either.
TO could do this faster and better, and that they were working under this other synth irritated them to no end.
“Hostiles eliminated.” S87’s voice said over the communicators in their helmets, “Move on.”
TO gave a sigh, then turned on their communicator, “Confirmed.” They said as they moved on, peering around corners and using their echolocation once more to find targets. They did the same thing, finding the targets, pointing out the enemies and potential traps. They were also letting S87 know where there were weaker looking parts of the floor, trip hazards, or anything that looked like it might cause a problem.
Two more sets of enemies were on that level, two of which were sitting in a corner away from the other; clearly the enemies were placed there to test how thorough they were. As TO watched S54 and S87 take them out, they were grateful at least that they weren’t in S67’s position. They were assigned the rear, but thanks to TO they had very little to do. At least in a real situation, having nothing to do was a good thing. In a real situation, being bored meant that they were safe.
They made their way to the staircase on the other end of the floor once TO was certain that all the enemies were gone, then slowly made their way down before the others followed. There was a single enemy in the stairwell, waiting. TO checked to make sure there were no other enemies waiting in the shadows, and realized that not only were they alone in the stairwell, but the door on the other end was closed so the enemy wouldn’t be able to call for help. TO was right above them, so instead of calling to S87, they jumped down and landed on top of the enemy. They pressed their silenced multigun to the back of their head and pulled the trigger. The enemy shuddered under TO, then seemed to disintegrate into pixels as they disappeared.
“Stairwell clear.” TO said into their communicator
The others came down the stairs after them, S87 in the lead.
“I thought I heard something.” They said, “Did you encounter any enemies?”
TO nearly said yes, hesitating at first only because they knew that S87 would say something like, “You should have called for us.” Even though it took TO less than 5 seconds to deal with the single target.
Then they realized that their ears were hidden.
“Negative.” They said, “The noise seemed to be caused by the degeneration of the floor. Rust and the like. Be cautious while going down.”
“Affirmative.” S87 said as they continued down.
TO had lied. They felt a slight churning in their stomach as they realized that, but really, what did it matter in the long run? The enemy was dealt with, and they were getting through the staircase faster than if TO had called for them and waited.
A new plan formed in their head. They went over the map quickly as they made their way down to the next level, and in minutes they had a better, faster way to finish the simulation.
“So there’s no less than 8 hostiles here?” S87 asked over the communicator.
“Affirmative. Check your map.” TO looked over their own map at the same time. This floor was one wide open space, with a ramp going around the perimeter of the room about halfway up the wall. In truth, there were two enemies up there, circling around at even intervals. “They’re on the balcony, but there’s maintenance hallways up there as well. They’re dodging into them and using them as cover.”
“Understood. Take point-”
“The pathway is far too narrow for you to go up and maneuver around me.” TO said, “I could fly, and -”
“That’s foolishly dangerous.” S87 said, “They’ll see and hear you the moment you take off, and you’ll likely just crash into something no matter how good you are.. No, stay here. We can manage this.”
“Understood.” TO said. They knew of course that flying was a waste in here, and that it was a stupid idea. Still, if S87 thought that they wanted to fly, they’d not consider their actual plans.
“S67, you follow below us. We’ll meet back here after the hostiles are dealt with.”
The other synths took off to do their jobs. TO’s job now was to wait for them to come back, according to S87.
TO backed up as the others went up to the balcony. Once the other synths had put some distance between them, TO slipped back into the stairwell. They checked to make sure that the others hadn’t followed them, then continued down the stairs. There were three more levels they were technically supposed to make their way though, and S87’s plan was to tediously go through each one.
They could run out of time if they ran into any problems.
TO didn’t bother with the other levels. They had taken out the one enemy in the staircase well enough on their own, so they figured they’d be fine. The stairwell was empty up until TO go to the bottom floor where there were two enemies waiting behind a closed door. TO almost went back when they saw two.
Almost. They were certain they could handle two lone insurgents.
They jumped, using their wings not to fly but to aim themself so that they landed feet first on the shoulders of one enemy as they shot the other with their multigun before any scream of fright or call for help could be made. When it was over, they leaned down and used their multigun on the now unconscious enemy that they had landed on. They stopped then, listening carefully for any sign that they had been detected. Water dripped somewhere far away. Something scurried in the walls.
There were no shouts. No sign that anyone had heard anything. They were about to check the door, but as they did they noticed that some of the wall in the back corner of the stairwell had rusted away. They had seen many rusted away bits of wall, but they hadn’t seen one so big yet. It looked big enough for TO to creep through if they needed to. They thought that maybe it was a trap- it seemed rather convenient.
But of course… This was just like their logic puzzles, wasn’t it? Yes, they were hard, but there was always a way though if you looked hard enough. Even the mazes that they worked though had little shortcuts that could be exploited by those that were clever and looked hard enough. Puzzles always had a hard way to do them, and an easy way to do them.
TO loved finding the easy ways, and It seemed like they had just found the easy way to solve this puzzle. They crept up to the hole in the wall and peered inside; the opening was narrow, but they’d be able to make their way though. They double checked their map, and found that there was very little displayed for this floor. Some floors had parts which had empty spaces on them, but this one was mostly empty save for the room with the weapons.
“S97.” came S87’s voice over the communicator, “Two hostiles dealt with. We’re having difficulty finding the others. Can you give us a location.”
TO pulled up their map and let their eyes glance over it. The problem was that they didn’t know where the others were exactly, so they couldn’t give precise locations for where the ‘enemies’ would be.
“They’re out of my sight. The narrow maintenance hallways are affecting my echolocation. I recommend staying in the far corners, or between the entrances. They should come out eventually. Do we have time to wait for them to come to us?”
“We have another hour.” S87 said back, “We do not have time to wait for them. We have to make our way into the halls.”
“I can come and assist, make it easier to-”
“Keep your position.” S87’s voice snapped back, “we’ll deal with these and then move on.”
“Understood.” TO said. The communicator stopped transmitting as the others went back to looking for enemies that didn’t exist .
With a self-satisfied grin, TO crept into the hole in the wall and started to sneak towards the room where the weapons were kept.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell