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As Blacklight and Tangle released their embrace, Silverthorn was still frozen in her "guard" stance. Blacklight immediately recognized Silverthorn's complete unfamiliarity with physical affection, but kept her amusement to herself, greeting her informally but neutrally. [So, hail.]

[Hail.] Silverthorn replied, loosening her stance a bit.

[You're the amnesiac defector?]

[Um, apparently.]

Blacklight spread her upper arms a bit in welcome, but not enough to suggest that a hug was required. [Well hey, welcome to our home, and if you're joining, then welcome to the Resistance.]

[Thanks. I currently expect to join, since it looks like the Third Spark's minions fragged me and left me for dead.]

Tangle whipped around, one hand on the console she'd been looking at. Silverthorn had sounded so… matter-of-fact about it.

Blackthorn wasn't surprised, but was just as creeped out by it. [Ouch. Well, I've got something you might be able to shed a little light on…] she swept a hand toward one of the consoles behind her, […That might shed a little light on you in turn.]

Silverthorn trotted over to the indicated console - just to the right of the one with the screen removed and "CURSED" written inside, she noted - as Blacklight typed a short command.

[This was sent via long-range radio while you three were in the tunnels. The sender was near you at the time.] A final keystroke -

- and a coded message played over the console's short-range radio. To any code-bot who didn't know how to decrypt it, it was garbage. Silverthorn didn't know how to decrypt it… but her spark, infinitely parallel, caught fleeting snatches of a pattern. Less than a single concept altogether, but she recognized the pattern via object memory, even if she couldn't find the message buried inside.

[That code's Fanfader - I don't know it, only Black Mist and the Third Spark do. It's for, um… in case one of the elites… goes rogue.] There. She'd said it. The Third Spark betraying her, that was one thing. But betraying her back, that was something else entirely. Silverthorn was increasingly certain those were exactly the things that had happened.

Blacklight's stance was low, her tone sympathetic. [And… do you know of any plans ready in case of such an event?]

[No, she… she doesn't give us plans. She gives us orders, and usually those orders require us to do some planning. She's got some plans going on inside, but she doesn't let a hint of those leave her spark before she gives the orders.]

Blacklight nodded. Same old Third Spark. [I'm sorry, I had to ask.]

Silverthorn gestured expansively. [I know. Sorry I couldn't be more help.]

[No worries.]

The device jury-rigged onto the console just to the right chose that moment to emit a series of audible beeps. Blacklight darted to it on six powerful legs, then her hands flew over the keys. The console showed a conversation in some text language Silverthorn didn't know. The large glyph displayed on the device's face, which she'd originally taken to be some kind of mode indicator, flickered though a few others, all of which seemed to be in the same language. Some kind of parallel channel, analogous to body language? The device sure didn't have any obvious sensors.

She was wondering why Blacklight didn't just jack in and talk to it several orders of magnitude faster, when the screen snapped to the words "EMERGENCY LOCKDOWN". Blacklight's hands went wide, then she swiped the device off with both left hands. Tangle jumped at the screech of tearing metal. Blacklight chuckled audibly as she spoke via short-range radio. [It's not as smart as it thinks it is.] She hung the device by its mangled jury-rigging on the barrel of a nearby gun.

[You know what I think.] Tangle's tone was of personal concern, and she stepped forward as if brazenly, to show she was not concerned for herself.

[It's alright, these things are isolated, unless I physically connect them to something.]

Tangle pointed an accusing finger at the console to the far left. [And how did that one get cursed?]

Blacklight stared hard at the console in question, the rest of her body at rest. [I connected it to something… bad.] She shrugged a double shrug. [But I didn't get cursed, and the base didn't get cursed. Nothing got cursed but the one isolated console.]

Tangle turned her back to Blacklight, then after a moment, glanced at Silverthorn, who shrugged. When she turned back to Blacklight, her tone was deliberately careless. [So, as a shaman, I was looking at our new friend…] She gestured vaguely toward Silverthorn.

[Ah. Rectilinear and trans-trajectory arcs?]

Tangle nodded vigorously.

[That's a sign of recent manufacture by the Third Spark's techniques. It'll go away as she grows and develops independence.]

[So, she doesn't…] Tangle gestured vaguely to the center of her torso subassembly, where her own spark was stored. Silverthorn cringed away from this gesture, horrified.

[No, she manufactures, hon.] Blacklight locked her main gaze onto Tangle's, visor array to lens. [She has code-bots do it. By preference.]

[How the fromming frag do you people make new sparks?]

Tangle locked both her gazes onto Silverthorn. That her second lens was on a compression gun didn't escape anyone's notice. [I'm going to go change out of this fromming armor.] She pointed an accusing finger at Blacklight, without otherwise moving. [Blacklight, you can have the conversation I'm trying not to think about. You know where she's coming from.] After a beat, she wheeled around and left at a walk, her compression gun lowered to avoid looking at either of them.

[…So, let's get you basic codes, too. I can't give you the front door yet, but the bar dispenser and such.]

[Um,] she pointed to the center of her body subassembly, [I have an NPU.]

[Right, right… Well, equipment needs power, too.] Blacklight turned to the second console from the right, clearing the purple view and browsing through menus.

Silverthorn shrugged. [This is true.]





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