The Unexpected

Summary:
August 11 2014: Jericho and Cricket have a chat. The good news is that she's not crazy. The bad news…

Cricket's Penthouse

Part luxury residence, part mad scientist robotics lab. We try not to think about that part.


Characters

NPCs

  • Cricket Mainframe

Mood Music:
[* None]


Jericho had been surprised to get Cricket's text. To be honest after their last conversation he'd not expected to hear from the woman again, so an invitation to her penthouse suite was a surprise indeed. He wasn't concerned at this point that he might be walking into an ambush. At least, not an armed one. Mostly the text had sounded… uncertain. Which certainly describes everything Jeri knows about the woman. In any case, here he is, riding the elevator up.

*

Cricket already alerted the doorman below that she was expecting a guest. She paces back and forth at the foyer that the elevator opens on to. She's not actually chewing her nails, but keeps them at her lips as if she wants to. She's dressed as lovely as always, but something is very much on her mind.

*

Jericho, familiar with Cricket's fashion sensibilities, did at least come in something other than jeans. It's not much more. Just white slacks and a light blue button up, nothing so fancy in there as a sports coat or a tie, but at least he doesn't look like the help. When the doors open he steps out and glances around. "Miss Schodt?" Ah there she is. He starts walking over toward her slowly.

*

Upon seeing him, Cricket smiles. "I'm glad you came, Mr. Trent. I… I didn't know who else to turn to." She gestures to the living area. "Would you like something to eat or drink?" she offers. She smooths down her skirt and looks at him expectantly, waiting to see if he'll want anything before sitting down.

*

"Perhaps just some water." Jericho says politely. "I have to say I hadn't expected to hear from you. Is there trouble?" He doesn't see any particular signs of trouble or distress. Plenty of signs of nervousness but, none of 'trouble' per se. "I got the feeling you did not wish to discuss this over the phone."

*

Slipping over to the kitchen, Cricket pours a glass of water with ice cubes from the fridge door. She brings it to him and sits down close to him. "You suggested I perhaps go to a doctor, for my amnesia. I was wondering if you know of a good one. A *discreet* one. I… I think I might be losing my mind."

*

Jericho thinks. "I know one. He specializes in mutants but he can be discreet, so long as it's not illegal. He's all about doctor patient confidentiality." Looking back up at the woman as she sits down he sips his water and regards her for a long moment.

"Why don't you tell me what's been happening?"

*

Resting her hands in her lap, Cricket laces the fingers together. "You heard about the gala at the museum? Where the dinosaur showed up?" Cricket looks this way and that, never making eye contact for very long. A lump in her throat is swallowed down.

"I was there. I … I hit my head. I was taken away in an ambulance. But then… I didn't wake up in the hospital. I woke up right here. And I don't remember much after being hit in the head. It's all foggy. But… I keep thinking… " She pauses to take a deep breath and looks to Jericho, wondering if he's going to turn her in if she tells him this.

"I think I might have killed the ambulance attendants!"

*

Jericho nods slowly. Okay. Missing time, that's interesting. Missing memories. He had heard about the huge creature that attacked the Gala. "What makes you think you killed them, Miss Schodt?"

*

Cricket's robotic mind is running over the memory again and again until she can report the happenings to her mainframe. Sadly, she isn't at all aware of this. "Well, as I said, the whole thing is a bit of a blur, but I keep dreaming about it. Being taken away in an ambulance and getting up and … it was so quick. I always thought breaking a man's neck like that was just something they put in the movies, that it's not real, but… " She shudders. "I think I'm going out of my mind. First amnesia and now this?"

*

Jericho scans the news network reports for any missing EMT's that night. Then does a check for any outstanding warrants for Cricket. Something's not adding up here. Either she's suffering some terrifying nightmares, stress induced possibly, or there's something else at play. People don't just get up in a fugue and murder people. Well, not ordinarily anyway. "One moment…" He says quietly as his cybernetics go active.

*

"I had considered going to the police but… what if they're just nightmares? I'd make a fool of myself, for what? Bad dreams? And I know we aren't exactly on the best of terms right now, but you were the only person I could think of that would help. And since you have been wanted by the police, I thought maybe this was the safest bet."

*

That almost makes Jericho laugh. Ah. Don't want to be turned in to the cops, so go to a guy the cops might just arrest rather than listen to. Well… can't fault her for that.

"Two EMTs did turn up dead that night… necks broken. Expertly." That seems to corroborate her story. "The question is how. People don't just… lose control of their bodies and do things for no reason, generally…" He's looking at Cricket more carefully now, scanning the local RF networks. Is she sending or receiving any signals? Perhaps a device intended to implant commands or suggestions? Seems far fetched but it sounds like the sort of thing Hydra might try.

*

Cricket looks like she might have swallowed a bug when told that two EMT's did indeed die on the night of the Gala. Just like in her dream. "Maybe I'm psychic? Maybe it wasn't me that I was seeing killing those people but, someone else? I did hit my head, after all. I doubt I'd have been up for that sort of thing."

She looks to the elevator door then. "The answer *might* be in my father's labs, but I just don't feel comfortable going up there. Ever since the last time we talked, I've been thinking I should go up there, but…" She shakes her head. "I don't want to know what he was doing to me up there. He was my father! I … I don't want to imagine it."

*

She'd mentioned, a bit, the odd circumstances that she first remembers. "Would you mind if I at least took a look in there? It might be nothing but it might answer some questions if I knew what your father was up to in his last hours."

*

Once again, Cricket looks to the elevator doors. She nods and stands up. "I'll get the key. It only goes up to the top floor if you use the key." She leaves him there in her penthouse, alone.

-Course of Action not recommended.

"You just shut up, whoever you are. Stupid voice. And who did you mean when you said Target Acquired anyway?"

-Target is Iron Man power suit. Likelihood of power suit having superior knowledge for assimilation is high.

Cricket frowns as that voice in her head actually answers her. She's going mad. She's losing her marbles and is going to end up in a padded cell. She returns with her keys. "Ready, Mr. Trent?"

*

Jericho nods. He's waiting near the elevator for her to return and when she does he makes an 'after you' kind of gesture. "Other than this, is there anything else that makes you think your losing your mind?"

*

He would ask that just as she was thinking that to herself. She frowns as she slips into the elevator and inserts the key. "I hear a voice sometimes. It tells me what to do." How lovely. She is professing to this man to being a nutjob of the highest order. Well, rich people are supposed to be eccentric, aren't they?

*

Could be schizophrenia, but she shows none of the other classic signs. Very well put together. "May I ask what kinds of things it tells you?" Mmmm. Still not detecting any transmissions. Odd. Well, that could be nothing, though clearly there's some odd things going on for Miss Schodt.

*

The elevator moves up to the floor above after the turn of the key and opens up what can only be described as a scientist's wet dream. Stark would have a hey day in this room, not to mention the ones beyond it. The main room is computers. So many computers. The 'slab' as Cricket puts it looks like something out of a Frankenstein movie, able to lay down or lean up to a standing position, with metal straps to keep whoever is on it in place. Along one wall are the robot limbs she mentioned before. Arms and legs, both upper and lower, torsoes, both upper and lower.

Cricket slips in behind him, letting him go in first. "See? I told you this place was creepy."

*

Jericho begins to look around, seemingly at random but he's actually cataloging everything and trying to cross reference it to everything he's ever seen or heard of. There's got to be something that makes sense here. Finally he heads over to the computer and tests the interface. Is it encrypted? Access controlled? There must be some files somewhere that explain this.

When Jericho touches the keyboard of the computer, a voice is heard. It's female, soft, similar to Cricket's but seems more mature. "Good evening, Doctor. It has been nearly two months since you were last in your laboratory. The C.R.I.C.K.T. unit has been released, however the update to her main systems were incomplete. Do you wish to complete those now?"

Cricket's eyes are wide. "That's her! That's the voice in my head. And why is she calling me a unit?"

*

Hrm… Doctor? Okay… maybe just… "Good evening. Please display all files related to the C.R.I.C.K.T Unit." Maybe this thing doesn't have much security if it just accepted him as the operator. He hopes. Otherwise it's possible that the files here are really well secured.

"I'm not sure Miss Schodt. Trying to find out now."

*

The room responds to Jericho's voice. "I'm sorry, but voice recognition identifies that you are *not* Doctor Schodt. Please identify yourself and measures will be taken to dispose of you."

*

Cricket is still hiding behind Jericho. "Umm, don't you mean or measures will be taken?"

"Voice recognition identifies C.R.I.C.K.T unit. Please identify your associate."

Cricket looks to Jericho, shrugging his shoulders. She is well and truly over her head in here. "His name is Trent. He's a… friend of mine?"

*

Thiiiiis is a little creeeeepy, is all that Jeri can think. His traces charge, preparing for defensive measures. "Doctor Schodt is deceased. Recalibrate for new operator." Worth a shot, right? Probably won't work. Okay, please don't try to nerve gas me GlaDOS.

*

"I am sorry but there is no Trent on my database. C.R.I.C.K.T. unit, please confirm status of Dr. Schodt."

Cricket is also thinking this is the creepiest thing she's ever dealt with. And yes, that includes being found naked in this room with her father dead on the floor. "Yes. Yes! Confirmed. He died right here in this room. About 2 months ago now."

"Protocols state that should Dr. Schodt fail in his endeavor, that I must now continue his work. Would the C.R.I.C.K.T. unit please enter the docking station to continue with the upgrades?"

Cricket at this point starts backing towards the elevator. "Ummm… you know, I'm good. I don't really feel like… upgrading right now." She tugs at Jericho's hand, tilting her head towards the elevator.

*

Jericho isn't sure about this either. He'd like to get more information but not at the cost of dealing with a possibly insane AI in this room where God knows what might be hidden God knows where. "Some other time perhaps…" He murmurs, hoping desperately that the AI does not choose to trap them.

*

"C.R.I.C.K.T. unit, the parameters of your assumed persona seem to have taken over. This is likely due to the failed attempt to upgrade you from before. I cannot stress enough that you really do need to be upgraded. I will give you 7 days in which to comply."

The young woman has a look of panic on her face, getting into the elevator. "Sounds great! Thanks. One week! See you then!" She fumbles with the key to turn it and make the elevator go back down to the main floor of her penthouse and out of this freaky science fiction horror show.

*

Jericho frowns. If that thing is talking to her head, there has to be a network between her and it. He starts looking for it. Now. "I'm going to guess that's the first time that happened?" Jeri's still looking warily around for any kind of 'defensive' measures intended to get him out of the way. So much for not walking into an armed ambush. Okay… let's see if we can isolate the unit from the mainframe.

*

Cricket is shaking as the doors open to the housing area of the penthouse. The young woman is terrified and sits down at the nearest available surface, which happens to be a low bookcase rather then a chair. "What just happened? Was that computer saying I'm… I need an upgrade?" She looks down at her arms, her hands. "Am I like like the Bionic woman or something?"

If not for the fact that Jericho is an incredible hacker, he might not have found the network. It is very carefully encoded. As he starts to unlink the girl from the computer, Cricket turns her head to face him. The fear is gone, as is any other emotion that might be seen on a human face. It's just flat. "I must ask you to desist your actions, Trent. Any further attempts to separate the C.R.I.C.K.T. unit from the C.R.I.C.K.T. mainframe will be seen as a threat and will be dealt with as such."

*

Uh oh. He should have figured that thing might react poorly. "What are you?" He asks, buying time to ready some encrypting and scrambling routines in his buffer. Hopefully the mainframe won't counter-hack him.

"And what do you want with Cricket?" He's going to need some explanation. Some kind of android or cyborg seems most likely but he's operating blind here. There wasn't time to try to hack the mainframe itself before everything went badly.

*

"I'm afraid you are not authorized to have that information, Trent. You are, however, posing a threat to the welfare of myself. I am sorry. The C.R.I.C.K.T. unit does seem attached to you and your unique cybernetic nature would have been interesting to assimilate, but I cannot have you interfering with the plan."

Cricket is quick, but it's hardly surprising if she's not human. A single punch to the face. However, Trent isn't exactly human either.

*

Jericho had been expecting trouble since the mainframe took over Cricket. He hadn't quite expected her to move that fast thouch. The punch does not, as intended, drive his nose into his brain and kill him. It does shatter his right orbit though. Which, as one might expect, hurts!

"Sonofa…" There's a humming charge and Jeri's traces encase him in the Wolf Armor field. "Okay lady… deal with this!"

Jericho releases a massive digital assault on the mainframe while lunging at Cricket, claws extended.

*

Cricket's body seems rather skilled when it comes to fighting. It doesn't help that she seems to feel no pain at all. The claws tear at her clothes and skin and it's revealed that no, Cricket is *not* human. The solid armor of Jericho is attacked hand to hand, but it doesn't seem to be doing much good at first.

"Reassessing assailant. Threat level increased due to Trent's abilities. I ask that you desist in your attempts to hack me, Trent." Cricket's voice isn't her own any more. Gone is that sweet girl-next-door/raised-to-rich-to-know-better type that Jericho previously knew.

*

"Stop trying to kill me and I'll think about it!" Jericho snaps back. He's pretty sure he's bleeding out his eyes, but he's too focused to check right now. Digital claws are impossibly sharp and while he doesn't want to kill Cricket, will disable her if he must.

Relying on his increased mobility in this form he grabs at her arm on the next strike and tries to leverage her right into the ground, still working on isolating the Cricket unit from the mainframe. Lord he hopes this thing wasn't designed by someone who could out hack him. Given that he's dealing with a robot intelligence, that's a distinct possibility."

*

It's when he grabs her arm that the worst possible thing could happen. Two cables shoot out from the top of her wrist and into Jericho's traces. Suddenly, the pair are one. The fighting all in their minds as hacker fights cybernetic intelligence on an even deadlier field of combat.

*

There's a moment of panic when Jericho realizes that Cricket has some how manged to penetrate his power fields. It can be done, though it requires the right tool or a lot of force. Rather abruptly he cuts his senses off, focusing on the immense digital presence assailing his mind.

Fortunately, it is here where Jericho is most comfortable. There's a reason why he doesn't identify himself as a commando, which he is, or a combat cyborg, which he is. His specialty in the army was information warfare. And he's gotten very, very good at it. Marshaling his resources, he puts up scrambling fields, which to him manifest as shields of code/light, targets the Mainframe's connections to him via the Cricket unit and lets loose with some of the nastiest malware he has. Somewhere, in the midst of the code bursts, he thinks he can hear a second presence, likely the programmed 'assumed persona.'

*

Her voice is everywhere, no one point in the vastness that is this area that is the mainframe. "You are more man then machine. Pity. Your cybernetics do not seem to be able to integrate will with my own. You are of no further use to me, Trent." The mainframe seems to be Jericho's equal when it comes to cybernetic combat, and so finely designed as to seem to have intuition as well.

However, while she was designed by one of the sharpest minds that A.I.M. had 50 years ago, and while her design is magnificent, she does have flaws. She isn't ready yet. That's what the upgrades were for. It is a battle fought long and hard, but in the end, the mainframe is powered down, the C.R.I.C.K.T. unit separated from it.

*

Jericho is in awful shape when she's finally done. There are feedback burns all over him, his traces. He's fairly sure there's actual brain damage involved now as well. Toward the end of the fight the Mainframe was actually trying to separate his traces from his own control and only the fact that they're coded in Demonic saved him.

"Stupid… stupid… Jeri… Ow…" He pants as he powers up his regen subroutine. It's not working horribly well right now. Nothing is. But at least he can start pushing his eye bones back together.

"Cricket?" He pants. "You in there?"

*

Cricket's one intact eyelid blinks. The other one is torn free, half of her face clearly robotic. There is a small amount of what looks like blood. Not as much as there would be if she were human, but enough that a small scratch would bleed convincingly and give her a human pinkness to her skin.

"Mr. Trent? What happened? I feel… strange."

*

"Your bitchy older sister tried to kill me."

Jericho is doubled over, concentrating on at least not having a shattered orbit. The rest of it will have to wait, but he'd really like to stop bleeding from his eye, thanks.

"Are you uh… okay? Functional, I mean?"

*

A tear forms in the one still intact eye. It's clear now, being able to see the other one, that they aren't actually real eyes, so the crying in the one loses a bit of its emotional effect. "I don't know. I… " She goes to sit up, trying to pull her tattered clothes to hide her revealed body while looking at her lacerated arm at the same time. Like her face, the arm she used for defense is mostly skinless now. "What am I?"

*

Jericho manages to sit down on the couch and reach out to tug Cricket up to a sitting position. "You're a robot, Cricket. Created for what purpose I don't know, but your bitchy older sister seemed determined to get you back to it."

Given her toughness and strength, Jericho can bet that it's something combat or infiltration related. Not really dissimilar to him.

*

She lets herself be pulled up onto the couch, still looking herself over. "I'm a robot? I… I'd ask if you were sure but… well, look at me." She gets up and walks away to go to her bedroom. She tries to put her skin back on, but it's not working. She puts on her bathrobe and comes back out. "How do I fix this? I can't exactly go out like this."

*

"Well I'm not sure," Jericho sighs, rising wearily to his feet. "However, I did manage to power down the mainframe so… if you'd like to go back up there, I can see what I can get out of the computers, carefully, and… maybe there's something that can be done. A lot of those things up there looked like… spare parts. Maybe there's something for your skin?"

*

Cricket pulls Jericho back down to the couch. "Stop. It can wait. Look at you, you're hurt. What did I do to you?" She rises to her feet again and goes to get a first aid kit. "Well, this certainly explains a lot. Like why I don't remember anything before two months ago, who that man was, who that voice is."

*

"Long story. Like I said, she tried to kill me. Several ways. From the inside out when the reverse didn't work." Jeri winces as Cicket pulls him back down. Ow. The burns… He doesn't protest too much though. Too exhausted from the mental battle. And too concerned about the damage he took. He's gonna need to get checked. If he remembers to do so.

*

Cricket seems to have at least retained all her knowledge of first aid. The half of her face that still looks human looks concerned and worried. "Thank you, Mr. Trent. And I'm sorry I got upset with you last time. I'm glad my… mainframe, didn't manage to kill you." She looks over the burns and frowns.

"What did I use to make these? They look like burns, but I don't remember anything that would do that to you."

*

Jericho very carefully rolls his sleeve back and outlines some of the traces, all of which are still visible through the burn tissue on his arms. "She was trying to overload these. Well, she was succeeding in overloading those. I'm a cyborg. She jacked directly into me and tried to hack my systems… uh, and my brain. Fortunately I was just a little bit faster and a little bit luckier than her." Though not by much. He's all kinds of messed up right now.

*

Cricket wants to touch the traces, but is worried. He's burned after all. "You said you had a discreet doctor friend? Should we call him? Considering what information I found on you, I'm doubting a hospital is in order." Her voice is cracking, sounding more metallic and echo-y. It seems whatever works as her voicebox was shaken loose in the fight.

*

"I have something from him that'll help. It's in my pack… somewhere here…" Jeri looks about the penthouse. Yeah. Don't ask where his pack is right now. "Meantime though it sounds like you're damaged. And we should really probably get that Mainframe operational on our terms. I don't know if it's set up to be able to power back on, but I definitely don't want to go a second round with bitchy older sister."

*

Cricket starts looking around the penthouse for the pack that Jericho came in with. She gets it for him and sits down. "I'm less damaged then you are. And if I am just a robot… then shouldn't I be following like the three laws of Asimov or something?" She looks over to the elevator and takes a deep breath. "I would say to let me do the computer work, I've always been pretty good with them. Now I know why. But, considering, Big Sister might wake up again if I do."

*

"I don't think you were designed with serving humanity in mind…" Jericho rifles through the pack for a container holding two luminescent feathers. He pulls out one, shuts the container and stuffs it back in the pack.

"Okay… here's hoping this works." And with that, he bites down on the thing, which seems to disintigrate into little motes of light and spread throughout his body. In less time than it takes to tell, burns heal, brain damage reverses itself and his right orbit becomes whole again. Now it's just his clothes that are a mess. "Oy… well that feels better anyway."

*

Taking some of the gauze from the first aid kit, Cricket pulls her skin back into place and bandages it to stay put. It's not terribly convincing, but it looks a little better then the skin hanging there at least. "So, what was I designed for? I mean, look at me? Why make a robot that looks like a tiny young woman. I'm hardly threatening. But apparently, I can fight. And I kill people. So, what was I made for? Really, the answers only cause more questions."

She watches as the feather seems to work magic and sighs with relief. "You look better. I was worried I had done something terrible to you. I'd never have forgiven myself. You're the closest thing to a friend that I have."

*

"You didn't do anything Cricket. The mainframe did. I could hear you in there when it jacked into me." Jericho takes a deep breath and lets it out in a sigh. He liked this shirt too. "Okay… if you think you can take it, let's go back upstairs. I'll see if I can pull any answers and help for you out of that damned psychopathic toster oven."

*

"Well, when this is all over… I owe you a new shirt. You dressed up all nice for me and everything. Or perhaps you thought I hadn't noticed." She holds her robe closer to her as she sighs. "Let's go. Hopefully we don't end up dead. Or you dead and me some sort of super sexy terminator thing." She heads to the bookshelf that she sat on earlier and grabs the keys. "And if this all goes wrong and I do end up killing you… I'm sorry. For what it's worth, you've been very kind to me."

*

Jericho smiles a little. That's the nicest thing the cover personality of a murderous robot has ever said to him. "Thanks… and Cricket…" He pauses as the doors open and he takes a deep breath. "Everything's gonna be alright."

Then he strides into the room and tears open one of the panels near the mainframe. "Okay… here goes." Jericho crosses a couple wires to route power around a couple places he definitely doesn't want turning on and jacks in, looking for a way to get Cricket repaired first, and then files on who and what she is second.

*

With the mainframe not trying to kill him or give orders, this is much easier. Cricket paces behind Jericho, worried. Which is a good thing. If she's being emotional, after all, she's not likely to be trying to kill him. The room where her skin and outer appearance is repaired or changed is listed. Her skin will also heal itself remarkably well as long as the parts aren't torn free entirely. Once the skin is deprived of it's supply of 'blood' it starts to decompose quickly.

The rest of the files are right there now that he can access them. Cybernetic Realistic Intelligence, Created for Killing Terrestrials. Well, the name really says it all, doesn't it? Her files claim that while A.I.M. was working on different forms of killer robots, they were always overt models. Dr. Schodt felt a model with more subterfuge would be more successful.

*

Jericho rubs at his temples. A.I.M. He's going to have to put these guys on his list. Okay, first things first, disconnect the maiframe AI from the rest of the system, physically if necessary. That done he begins downloading as much as he can into his buffer so he can index and make sense of it. It's a solid ten or fifteen minutes before he manages to disconnect.

"Okay…" He's panting and wide eyed mostly because he just pulled a lot of information in. More than he ever has before. "I know how to get you back to normal… Follow me."

First order of business is a replacement vocalizer, a new forearm to switch out damaged servos, and then a dip in the synthetic skin vats. The system has Cricket's appearance preset, so if all goes well she should come out looking exactly as she did before… should.

*

Maybe it's that she's not really a person, but Cricket seems to be coping with this remarkably well. She needs a mirror to secure the wiring in her voice modulator, but is calm as she does so. "It seems it was just loose," she says, her voice sounding normal again. "You must have hit me pretty hard." The arm too doesn't need to be actually replaced. She uses tools that Jericho has never seen before, working as a well practiced pro might.

The vats of skin, however. This isn't just a slurry that you can crawl in and out of. Inside the large vats are sheets of what appears to be living tissue. She goes to the computer and starts to type in controls, telling it what was injured and what she needs. "It's going to take a while for it to grow the specific skin I need. Facial skin has a different thickness and elasticity to it then most other places. But… if all goes well… I'll look like myself tomorrow."

*

Perhaps contact with 'big sister' opened up parts of her programming that had been suppressed. Or perhaps she's just not afraid that she's going nuts anymore.

"I did." Is all Jericho says, looking relieved that she can handle this on her own. He just sits down and lets his traces process the massive mount of info downloaded.

"All's well then." He sighs. "So what are you going to do now?"

*

Cricket looks around the room, not looking very happy at all. "I don't know. I just found out I'm a killer robot. I don't know if that's better or worse then what I thought before. I.. I feel upset. But, I know that I'm not really feeling that. Because robots don't feel. So… what is this then?" She stands up and gestures out of the room.

*

"Would you like a cup of tea? Before today, if I was feeling upset, I'd have a cup of tea, so… "

Jericho follows Cricket out of the room and out of the lab which, yes, is still creepy. "I'd like some tea, yes." He says quietly. Just because her personality is artificial doesn't mean it has to be fake. She feels what she feels, after all.


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