Tbe thief shrugged, who was he to judge art? He just knew what he liked. What he liked most was treasure, and the less well guarded the better. He turned and resumed his reconiter of the hallway. Soon he paused at an open doorway to allow his companions to catch up. When they did their leader spoke up:
"Well, let's see what go can do with this lot." Beloq said quietly. He shook back the hood of his dark blue robe and surveyed the small room that was open to them. After some of the things that he'd seen in this place he was prepared for just about anything. This was an L shaped room with an old cannon taking up a lot of space on the right and one nasty looking rifle hanging on the left wall, looking like a cross between a bazooka and some kind of energy weapon. Tbe thing looked as if it could take out city blocks while set on stun. Next to it stood a funny-looking set of armor. What he could see inside of the armor looked to be filled with clockwork and lights. He wondered what it was even as he looked at the other two weapons in the room. One semed to be a small motorized cannon and the other to be a sled of some sort. A sled with weapons, if the ports and tubing on it's body were any indication. They spent half an hour trying to activate any of the mechanisms in the room. It was Gryphon that found the power cell that fit nothing else in the room. It figured, normally Gryphon wouldn't notice anything but how long that it's been since the last fight. That or how much he's looking forward to the next one. Nothing had been going right since they wandered into this nightmare.
Beloq thought Gryphon was mad when he began to search the armor for a slot that fit the small, heavy block of dull gray metal. Everything else had been tried, however, so Beloq allowed him to proceed. With Selene's help, Gryphon managed to fit the peculiar copper contacts on the box to similar contacts on the back of the armor. They were in a hand sized slot that exactly fit the power cell. When he shoved the small box home and the armor straightened up taller, Gryphon came the closest ever to soiling his own armor. As it so happened, he did fall down. Beloq had merely frowned and put his hands on his favorite magic wand. It was a long inlaid tube of some silvery metal with an ivory handle, stuck through his belt sash. He made a mental note to himself to the effect that he must seek out an apothicary sometime soon, for he was running low on the magic powder that propelled the wand's lead projectiles. When the armor made no other moves whatsoever, Beloq relaxed and recomended that his followers do the same.
" Chill!" he said.
"What are you?" Beloq said loudly.
"PXR5 PXR5 PXR5 " came the reply. As the thief looked into the room from a safe position out in the hallway, there were several grinding, thumping noises from the robot. It seemed to vibrate slightly. Then it shuddered and lurched forward. It stoped and spoke as the grinding got louder.
"I...await your... orders..."
"What...?" said Gryphon. Selene kicked him in the shin and told him to be quiet.
"Are you trying to get us all killed?"she hissed. "Shut up and let Beloq do the talking!"
Beloq stood his ground, staring at the PXR5 robot with an intensity that would burn holes in things, the theif noticed.
"It's a mechanical man..." the thief began.
"Obviously!" Beloq interrupted.
"He'll get us cought with all that noise! Put it back, we don't need it." said the thief.
"Resthal," Beloq said menacingly, "thankfully you don't make the decisions for me. I do! And my decision is to find out more about this Thing... and find a way to use it. What can you do, Oh Mecanichal Man?"
"PXR5...PXR5. I can...can..." spoke the machine.
"Do nothing, it seems." muttered Resthal the thief under his breath. Beloq shot him a look which clearly meant that be would like to be shooting something more deadly at the little thief.
The robot continued to speak.
"I can... Systems...check in...progress. PXR5 can serve...you soon. Peliminary scan...shows no major faults. Offensive Weaponry... ponry disabled. Defensive systems intact. It has been... some time since I was... last serviced. Extended deactivation has caused internal... damage to some circutry. Repairs are in progress. PXR5 is now at 65.425% effecency. Awaiting orders."
"Do you know where we are?" asked Beloq. "We seem to be lost."
"Sensor net operating," said PXP5, "Sweeping the area..."
"We want to get out of here!"
"Shut up, Resthal!"
"What?!" Beloq looked up sharply from his former tboughtfull pose. "Explain, what are you talking about?"
"PXR5 sensor scan has been detected by a security device. It is rapidly approaching." The robot's flat voice seemed all the more menacing now that it had some bad news to report.
"How can we escape?" Beloq asked.
"PXR5 can render you invisable to the device."
"How? No, never mind, don't explain, just do it! Do it now!" Beloq ordered. Giving orders seemed to come easy to Beloq.
The PXR5 backed into it's former position. It moved much more easily now, Beloq noticed. "Do not move!" the PXR5 said. "It will detect any movement. If you move, it will kill you. PXR5 will be able to scramble the device's sensors to conceal you, if you do not move." As the four of them stood still, they heard a shrill whine. A sonic boom sounded, like a cannon shot, in the hallway that Resthal had just vacated. Something small zoomed past the doorway and could be heard decelerating in the hall. Suddenly it snapped into sight and hovered in the doorway.
Something the size of one of Gryphon's fists, or a small pail, floated lazily in front of them. It twisted and turned as it bobbed in the air. The gemlike glitter of lenses dotted the sphere's surface. A quiet hum filled the room as the device studied it. Then the device swooped into the center of the room and unexpectedly whirled in a small circle.
"It is not imobilized. Do not yet move." said the PXR5. "It will shortly withdraw. Do not move!"
As if waiting for a signal, the small grey sphere spun about in the center of the room. Suddenly it swooped toward the door and accelerated back the way that Beloq and the others had come. There was a crash like thunder from the security device breaking the sound barrier as it fled away.
"What was that thing?" Seliene asked.
"A highly manouverable, lightly armored remote sensor scanner. It is one unit of a versatile household security system. There is little time, the device has alerted a supervisor drone which is approaching."
"How much time do we have?" Beloq snapped.
"Yeah," added Resthal, "and Where is the nearest getaway car?"
"The drone will arrive in 12.825 minutes. It will take 9.896 minutes to navigate to the nearest unguarded vehicle. The Drone will take aproximatly 4.7 minutes to calculate our most probable path and follow. There is a 78.425% chance that the Drone will choose the wrong destination.
"Too many numbers," said Gryphon saddly, "What do they all mean?"
"I thought that we were invisible!" complained Seliene.
"The Drone does not know what it is looking for. The Remote only reported the detecting of PXR5's sensor sweep in this area. That is included in probability calculation."
"What and where is this vehicle?" Resthal asked.
"Do you want to escape or debate?" Beloq snapped. "Let's move out!"
The Collector knew that something was going on as soon as he recieved a garbled report from a Security Scanner. That meant that the system had been tampered with. That, in turn, meant visitors in the Museum. Powerfull visitors, it appeared. Something must be done. They must be found.
"Security Control." the Collector spoke quietly into the air.
"Responding!" said a sharp voice.
"We seem to have visitors."
"Sir!" The sharp voice was shocked sounding. "I was unaware! There have been no reports..."
"Relax, they aren't in the central complex. They are way out on the rim of the Museum on a different planet, out of your sensor range. Not your fault, but I want it under your control. My instruments may be better than yours, but security is your area."
"Your orders, sir?!" said sharp-voice sounding relieved.
"Sector 5, Museum level 47, quarentene that area to everyone except for myself. Call off the Drones and the mobile sensors. These people may be here accidentally and I don't see any reason to kill them outright. I want to take a look at them myself... from a reasonable distance."
"As you wish, Sir. However, I harbor resevervations concerning your proposed course of action."
"So do I." said the Collector. "So do I..." He signed off quietly.
Copyright 1996 by Dan L. Hollifield
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