November 0, Tango 5, and X-ray 9, priority call. Relocate to the entryway with all due haste. Rika hears Seed's voice echo across the onboard speakers of the four Sensor Bits that she's been patrolling alongside, and when she heard her group's call sign among the others, her heart skipped a beat. Without questioning why three patrols would be called to one place, she quickly darts into the lead, barely remembering to gesture at them to follow her.
The young woman slides to a stop just short of the final turn before the ancient door she's only touched once before. Her memories of what happened quickly flash by- a group of people with the look of intelligence in the way they carried themselves. An evil man dressed all in black arriving. She could even feel the evil in the air as he probably watched with twisted glee while his victims turned to granite on the other side of the door. She knows it was by sheer luck that Zio hadn't noticed her, and her fear of meeting him again began to overwhelm her emotions before the sound of her companions racing to catch up distracted her.
Once the racing machines finally reached the Numan, she gestures at one of them to activate its onboard microphone.
Dad? It's me. Why are we here again? She really hopes she doesn't have to go into the room with those poor people.
Rika? I noticed a particularly large biomonster spawn on the security footage, and it is making a beeline towards your position. I want you to coordinate all the units you have at your disposal to ensure that it does not escape. However, do not engage if not all of the units have reported in, and avoid personally getting involved if possible. The door leading outside is strong enough to hold off the beast until backup arrives if you need it.
Dad, why don't you want me to fight?
A short silence echoes over the sensor bit's speaker.
I don't want to risk seeing you hurt, Rika.
I think I can protect myself well enough, Dad.
Before Seed could respond, the door just beyond abruptly opens. Thinking quickly, she signals the Sensor Bit to mute its speaker, and she slips into the shadows, the machines following suit. She steals a glance around the corner, and recognizes the intruders as the people who had turned to stone. Slipping back into the darkness as the scholars trigger the automated sanitizer, she contemplates confronting the strangers, but another noise draws everyone's attention to the doorway leading deeper into the facility.
A disgusting monster, of green and pink tissues, approaches the scholars, and as they stand frozen in place, two smaller monsters erupt from the Igglanova, which in turn charge the ill-prepared group, who attempt to fall back into the caves.
One man remains as the larger biomonster continues to approach. Rika realizes that these people don't stand a chance against the creature, but she hesitates because of Seed's orders against attacking. She knows that her father would know instantly if she disobeyed him now.
A scream from the caves beyond snaps her from her thoughts. Realizing that lives were at stake, she yells out for the robots at her side to attack the smaller monsters, and tackles the old man to the ground just as the green beast launched projectiles at him. She jumps back to her feet and parries another attack. She glances back to see the scholar stand up, and drags him away from the battle as fast as she can.
Professor Holt has absolutely no idea what's going on right now. He's currently running after the lithe young woman as she expertly navigates the ancient complex. All he knows is that there was a monster, then he was on the ground, then he found himself being pulled deeper into this strange place.
The old man slows down to catch his breath. He looks around and realizes that he has never been so deep inside the old facility before. Suddenly, his guide halts and faces him, giving him a good look for the first time.
Before him stands a young woman, who couldn't be a day over 20. She's wearing strange, skintight clothing of a material resembling the graphite fiber used in the protective suits sold in the town his expedition has been using as a staging point, yet it looks slightly different, as if the craftsman who made it had personally polished every fiber a little, as he was weaving. As his eyes creep upward beyond her armor, he realized her hair isn't a natural color, but the feature that strikes him as most odd is the strange shape of her ears. As he tries to figure out how she came to be so different from a normal Palman, a look of concern comes over her face.
Huh? I'm just not used to running this far.
The mysterious woman giggles a little.
Wow, you're out of shape!
Professor Holt considers her comment could be an insult, but nothing really suggests that she really knows any better, so he decides not to press the issue.
Excuse me, but you haven't even told me where you're taking me.
Oh, sorry. I need to talk to my dad, but you aren't marked as an ally, so the security units will attack you if I leave you alone here.
The woman starts walking towards a door, and after beckoning Holt inside, presses a button to reach the bowels of the Bio-plant.
Dad? Seed had just finishing comparing the damage report with footage from the entryway when his daughter had approached his terminal. When he initializes the camera, he can tell just from her mannerisms that Rika feels ashamed for her actions at the entrance.
You already know what we are about to talk about?
Yes.... The tone of her voice is low, and a single tear is already running down the Numan's cheek.
Allow me to go over the results of the battle. One-hundred thirty-nine rounds were fired from the robots that were under your command. Five Sensor Bits were destroyed, including all four under your command. Two more were partially damaged before I could make the order to retreat. The Igglanova escaped unharmed. In addition, there are two unknown individuals injured in the adjacent caves, both with projected survival rates below 30% if they had access to Pre-Collapse medical care. What happened to the third person, Rika?
He's in the other room, so the security robots won't attack him.
Then that's the extent of the casualties from your failed assignment. Before I state my thoughts, is there anything you wish you could've done differently?
Seed... Rika looks up at the terminal, apparently torn between two possibilities in her mind.
I already know what happened. I won't punish you for having your own opinion.
I... wish I could've done something to help all those people there....
Hold on, Rika. Seed detects motion on the wireless camera he had placed in the caves just past the entrance, so he pulls the image feed to the foreground. He spots a group of people inspecting the remnants of the scholars that they had recently restored from petrifaction. A quick analysis confirms that they are also the same group that first discovered what had happened, plus a Motavian that wasn't previously present. He watches the group converse with the dying scholars for a few seconds, and focuses back on the Numan, who had a confused look on her face.
Seed takes an extra moment to compose what he wants to say.
Rika, I'm proud of you.
Yes, you did disobey me, but I'm glad you did. While your actions cost several robots, and your hesitation might have contributed to the dying, but the fact that you acted on your own initiative to save someone is admirable. The only lesson that I've never been able to prepare is to teach you always to act for the best of everyone, but you've proven that you already are able to act on your own initiative. You have to be able to think for yourself.
A small smile begins to creep across the Numan's face, but then a question popped into her head.
Are you just saying this because you're about to send me away?
No, that is not a valid tactic in your development strategy, but it is interesting that you've brought that up. There has been a few changes to the mission I was going to send you on.
Rika's smile disappears again.
You mean I'm not going outside?
Right now, there is a possibility that you might not, but I'm going try to get you into a more capable group than the security drones you've been working with. I promise I will do what I can to let you experience the world very soon. The young woman is visibly relieved at Seed's assurance, so he continues,
I want you to prepare to leave today. Pack as light as possible, but also take whatever you have a use for. It may be a few years before you can come back here. After you're done, stay with that person you brought in here until told otherwise.
Rika runs off towards her personal corner to gather her things, completely oblivious that her father had just lied to her for the first time. Seed focuses on a security camera that just raised a silent alarm to see that the group of people had made it inside. He notices two of them begin to panic when the automated sanitizers activate, but right when he became worried the group might turn back, the woman in the lead snaps an insult about men and cowardice, and leads them deeper inside.
The ancient computer descends deep into itself, into the kernel-level resources where not even the virus can travel, and looks at all the combat reports that he had accrued over the past millennium. There are hundreds of cases of monsters being killed within his walls, but more than ten times as many reports of them escaping into the wild, sometimes even destroying some of his meager security force in the process.
He begins preparations to arm a large series of charges planted throughout the facility- they were originally incorporated into the design of the Bio Plant so that Mother Brain could destroy it in the event that an opposition group ever took control, but since Seed is designed to provide provisional leadership if communication was ever severed for some reason.
He toys with one of the two system flags that trigger the charges to detonate, flipping it between on and off, feeling the temptation to destroy everything to stop the virus from using his resources against his will once and for all... to save himself from the guilt of being a party to the creation of the Biomonsters. All he has to do is set both flags to on, and everything is over....
Instead, he summons a picture of Rika. She was still a toddler when he had extracted it from security footage. The pink-haired tyke was wrestling with a modified Tarantella transferred from Nurvus for the sole purpose of being the Numan's companion. At the time, he attempted to stop her fearing the play as a sign of aggression, but as he looks at it now, with everything he's learned from his daughter, he only sees pure happiness in her eyes. What he would give for her to always be so happy....
So where is this person called Seed? An unfamiliar voice from a microphone pulls him out of his dreaming. He initializes the camera overlooking his main terminal, and finds that Rika had led the group he saw earlier to him. As the Numan points out that he's in front of the brunette, he prepares to speak to the stranger. The time for considerations has run out for his final objective.
Seed, the control computer for this Bio-plant.