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i'Lahm: Glimpse

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(Continued from i'Lahm: Siege)

The dull metal of the ventilation ducts blurred beneath Jek's legs as it followed the latest instructions received. It turned left, then right, and right again. Chirps and bells echoed through the path as more machines awoke in the corridors without and joined in the alarm.

At one intersection, Jek stopped and burrowed through a crack in the shaft's wall. In the space beyond, pipes and wires led up through the structure, and the spider followed these toward their source. Several seconds later, a dull thud echoed through the ventilation duct bellow, followed by several more in quick succession as portions of the system were destroyed wholesale.

The wires curled around ancient metal beams in the darkness and Jek paused to take its bearings. Communication was more difficult here; the thick walls hampered the voice recreating the Plan, though it still filtered through in waves. Jek took several careful steps along the corroded metal, stopping to listen with each one.

Though the din about it shook the walls, Jek could just make out the voice. The spider listened for a moment, and then hurried on through the dark.

--

i'Lahm furrowed his brow. Something was horribly wrong- why was the floating city filled with what seemed to be agents of Nhukk? He sought out the voice of the city above.

Where are you? What are the machines of war doing up there? he asked.

The reply came- ABOVE; KNOW OF NO MACHINES OF WAR HERE.

But, the spider found-

SPIDER: MOBILE INFANTRY UNIT EQUIPPED FOR EXPLORATION, HUMAN BIO-ENGINEERING, COLLECTIVE COMPUTATION, AND ELECTRONIC DISRUPTION. FOR EXAMPLE- YOU.

Wha- me? What do you-

YOU ARE SPI-314AX8B; MED-TRIAGE CLASS. PRESENTLY, YOU ARE COUPLED WITH A BIOLOGICAL AUXILIARY WHICH IS LIKELY THE CAUSE OF YOUR ERRATIC DATA PATTERN.

Wait a moment- who are you? What's going on?

An interminable silence followed. i'Lahm felt sweat beginning to ooze its way onto his forehead. Suddenly, he felt as though his whole body were being squeezed empty like an ant crushed underfoot. Everything inside him was being channeled upwards, processed, and spread thin. The pain was excruciating, burning from the inside out.

Then, as quickly as it had started, the sensation ceased.

ANALYSIS: SPI-314AX8B HAS ENGAGED INVASIVE TRIAGE MODE. BIOLOGICAL AUXILIARY IS TEMPORARILY SUSTAINED BY CHEMICAL ADDITIVES, BUT WILL BE UNABLE TO REPAIR ITSELF WITHOUT ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE. TRAUMA SUSTAINED IN -- CONFLICT WITH COMBAT ENTITY.

i'Lahm's breath came in short gasps. There was nothing to say- what the spider either couldn't or wouldn't tell him was now clear. His body was dying, and it was simply doing what it could to sustain his mind as long as possible. i'Lahm's thoughts raced, and he decided he needed more information.

Identify yourself. Are you Ksopaac?

PLEASE SPECIFY A CONTEXT.

Well, from the tales-

Sweat began to condense on his face again and i'Lahm said, Slowly...

UNDERSTOOD

When the wave of anguish crashed over him this time, it was more muted, distant. He could watch the information emptying from his mind, flowing through the spider clamped to his spine and up into the aether. It was like watching the dance of sparks from a cooking fire flit their way toward their burning brethren in the heavens. When the flow ceased, a dull throbbing headache pulsed at the back of i'Lahm's head.

I AM KSOPAAC, WITHIN REASONABLE MARGIN OF ERROR. YOUR DATA IS PARTIALLY CORRUPTED, THOUGH RECOVERABLE.

And the war machines up there?

UNKNOWN ORIGIN, THOUGH HOSTILE. THE CITY IS LOST.

--

Jek reached a branch in the metal scaffolding, and followed the wires as they turned sharply to the left. A small portal opened into a room housing countless control panels and displays. Here, as in the control room of the missile silo, all that remained of the former inhabitants were their frail, yellow bones.
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