“My scans confirm that the prisoner left nothing corruptible behind.” Alan 1 said, “According to procedure, we should be able to lift the quarantine on the chamber as soon as the deep-level scans come up clear.”
“Good.” Robert said, “But that’s not why you called me into this office.”
“No.” Alan 1 continued to watch the scan progress, “I am curious as to your decision.”
“An entity of great power, but nonetheless subdued and imprisoned here, is one that’s been out of action for a very long time. I don’t believe that it was what it claimed to be.”
Alex entered the room. “Then what was it, Engineer?”
Robert glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll be better able to answer that question when the scans are complete.”
“Until then,” Alan 1 said, “I would like you to elaborate on your decisions previous.”
Robert sighed. “Entities that are powerful, arrogant, but still subdued and imprisoned mean that there is a serious disparity between the self-image and the reality of the entity’s actual capabilities. If the entity is as lacking as the pattern indicates then there is nothing gained by continued captivity, so elimination is the wisest response. If it isn’t, then its captivity is part of a larger plan, and that makes it wise to eliminate it. I could not be wrong either way.”
“Are you certain?” Alex said.
“The scan will prove it.” Robert said, “Just a few cycles more.”
The automated deep scan protocol completed, and a report appeared on a virtual screen before the three of them.
“It seems that your assessment is correct, Engineer.” Alan 1 said.
“I concur.” Alex said.
Robert looked at the the report data, and his eyes narrowed. Alex moved over by Alan 1, and she whispered into the older construct’s ears. “What is it with him?”
“Let him run his process.” Alan 1 said, whispering, “Engineers, like all users, are constructs of the Outer World originally.”
“I’ve been in the Outer City.” Alex said, still whispering.
“Yes.” Robert said, raising his voice, “You have. Both of you have. Therefore you should know enough to respect non-linear cognitive processes, especially from my brotherhood and I.”
Alan 1 looked over to Alex. Alex just shook her head.
Robert ran his hand over the virtual screen, rearranging the data from a stream of numerical data output into a symbolic form and converting the output into a visual mapping output of energy flows in and out of the prisoner cell-block. The data report flowed until it settled into place, forming a pattern that—at a glance—seemed like a clean map of the prison. A closer examination revealed a hint of dim points of superficial corruption, but arrayed in the pattern of a pentacle.
“DAMN!” Robert said, “Alan 1, everyone out- NOW!”
Alan 1 didn’t hesitate. The klaxon sounded, and all constructs immediately evacuated. Then they followed, sealing things off as they fled. When they arrived at the landing platform, Alan 1 handed Robert and Alex each a forearm-length rod. Then they ran, jumped off and as they fell they activated the rods. Personal lightjets resolved around them, and the trio launched high into the sky. As they flew away, the prison sealed itself in a solid cocoon.
“What’s wrong?” Alex said, pulling alongside Robert.
“It planted a summoning circle.” Robert said, “It used itself as the anchor for others to breech the barrier. Killing weakened the link, and the lockdown will buy us time.”
“For what?” Alex said.
“For a total reformat and re-installation.”
“That bad?” Alan 1 said, “Sending word then.”