The Cromm Conspiracy – Chapter Four

Sandra looked at the enforcer’s gun.  She did not know why the enforcer was aimed at her.  Having worked with enforcers before, she knew they are programmed to scan peoples’ faces to identify wanted criminals, and then attempt to apprehend them.  She had broken no laws, and could only assume it was a case of mistaken identity or a malfunction.

“You must have me confused with someone else,” Sandra stated.

The elevator continued down to the lobby, with Sandra and the enforcer inside it.

Sandra then reached into her pocket and pulled out her WDA ID, and showed it to the enforcer.  She knew that enforcers were programmed to stop when shown a government ID with a matching face.  However, the enforcer did not relent.  Its guns were still pointing directly at Sandra, and it was ready to fire.

“Identification denied,” the enforcer said, “Determined to be fraudulent.”

“Excuse me,” Sandra said.

“Impersonating a government agent added to list of charges,” enforcer said, “surrender or be fired upon.”

At this point, Sandra knew that the enforcer was malfunctioning.  She tried to stop it.

“Override code,” Sandra said, “1-9-6-2-Bravo-Oscar-Foxtrot-0.  Engage shutdown sequence.”

“Override code not accepted,” the enforcer said, “surrender or be fired upon.”

“Why is the code not accepted,” Sandra asked.

“Override code is invalid,” the enforcer said, “surrender or be fired upon.”

At this point, Sandra noticed that the elevator had arrived on the ground floor, and the elevator door had been opened.  If the enforcer would not accept an override code, it had to have been reprogrammed – those codes were designed to work to prevent enforcers from running amok like this due to a malfunction. There was no negotiating with it, and she did not trust that the enforcer would not fire even if she surrendered.  She felt she had no choice but to try to make an escape.

She took advantage of her advanced WDA training, and quickly jumped past the enforcer and out the elevator.  The enforcer opened fire, and struck the back of the elevator.  The blast struck an electrical panel in the back of the elevator, causing it to catch fire, and the building’s fire alarm started to sound.

Sandra ducked out, and flattened herself against the wall adjacent to the elevator, hoping the enforcer would not notice her.

“Resisting arrest added to list of charges,” the enforcer turned and said, “use of deadly force authorized.”

The enforcer treaded out of the elevator, and started scanning the room.  Sandra noticed people from the upper floors were starting to flood the lobby, evacuating the building due to the fire alarm.  Sandra knew her chance was now.  She ran into the crowd, and started to flee the building with the other agents, hoping to lose the enforcer, and even if she didn’t, the enforcer would not fire into a crowd of innocents.

“Target sighted,” the enforcer said.

The enforcer noticed her, and, despite the large crowd of people, opened fire, but missed.  Through all the frenzy, the enforcer was shooting some innocent people escaping due to the fire alarm.  When the others noticed that a malfunctioning enforcer was running amok in the crowd, they panicked, and began running faster, pushing and shoving each other to escape quicker.

Sandra managed to get out of the building, the enforcer continued to chase her, and picking up speed.  With the chaos inside, not a lot of the evacuees managed to get outside.  She knew she could not outrun the enforcer; they are built for this.

Then, Sandra noticed the man she accidentally ran into earlier that day was standing nearby.  When the enforcer was right next to the man, he swiftly kicked it in the side with one of his legs.  The enforcer turned to face him.  With the enforcer distracted, Sandra ducked behind a tree and continued to watch.

“Scanning face for arrest,” the enforcer said, “searching for information on convict.  Charge is assaulting an enforcer.”

The man coldly stared at the enforcer.  He didn’t seem terribly bothered by this.

“Identity analysis failed,” the enforcer said, “information on face classified top secret.”

“You can call me Ark,” the man said.

Sandra looked back at the man – so he was this Agent Ark she heard so much about.

“Surrender or be fired upon,” the enforcer said to Agent Ark now.

Ark ignored the enforcer’s response.  He silently walked towards the enforcer, and placed his arm on the front of its dome.  He leaned on it very hard, and the enforcer began to tip over.  Sandra was amazed by this display of strength, knowing that enforcers are designed not to be tipped over like that.

“Surrender or be fired upon,” the enforcer said once more.

The enforcer fell on its back.  At this point, it fired up into the air, and then started to spark.   The agents running began to stop to watch.

“System error,” the enforcer said, “emergency shutdown sequence initiated.”

The enforcer deactivated.  As it did, everyone nearby approached, curious as to what happened.

“Alright,” Ark said, “back off, everybody.  This courtyard is a crime scene now.  I’m going to need witness statements from everyone here.”

Ark then turned to Sandra, and pointed at her.

“You,” he said, “come here.”

“Me,” Sandra asked.

“Yes, you,” Ark said, “it’s obvious to me that this enforcer was after you for some reason.”

Sandra approached Ark.

Ark said, “I’m going to need to call Director Caldwell and inform him what just happened.”

“By the way,” Sandra said, “thanks for dealing with that thing.”

“Don’t mention it,” Ark said, “and I mean that.  It was causing a disturbance, and needed to be stopped.  I was just doing my job as a WDA agent.”

He took his headset out of his pocket, and put it on.

“Director Caldwell, please,” Ark said.

There was a pause.  A small holographic frame appeared in front of Ark’s left eye, showing an image of the director, though Sandra could not see it.

He spoke to the director into the headset, explaining what just happened.  He also asked that medical personnel be immediately dispatched to the site.  Sandra stood there waiting.  She looked down at the deactivated enforcer, and began to wonder what happened.  If it was just a malfunction, her override should have worked.  Somebody had to have sent the enforcer after her, and she wondered who.

Before she knew it, Ark finished his conversation, at which point the image disappeared, and he removed his headset.  He then turned to Sandra.

“Alright,” Ark said, “I’m going to need you to tell me exactly what happened.”

“Well,” Sandra said, “the enforcer got on the elevator at the 5th floor, and…”

She went on to explain everything that happened, up to when Ark disabled the enforcer.  Ark listened closely, watching Sandra the whole time.  When Sandra finished, Ark nodded.

“I see,” he said, “did anything unusual happen today prior to the enforcer coming after you?”

“Not that I know of,” Sandra said.

“Alright,” Ark said, “I’ll report all this to Director Caldwell.  You had better stick around until he arrives, just in case he wishes to speak with you.”

“Do you have any idea who might have sent this thing after me?” Sandra asked.

“No,” Ark said, but Sandra suspected that he was not being truthful.

Sandra waited around.  Ark interviewed a few other witnesses.  Medical personnel arrived and was treating anyone who had been injured or shot.  A couple other agents were interviewing other witnesses, including Float and a few Sandra did not recognize.  At one point, she noticed Ark was arguing with Agent King.

After waiting around for a few minutes, she noticed a man walk onto the courtyard.  This man had long gray hair, and was dressed in a silver metallic coat, with gray pants.  He had a long beard.  Sandra also noticed that his right arm was missing, and a robotic limb existed in its place.  He also carried a black cane, though it appeared to be strictly for show, because he did not appear to be crippled in any way.  Four enforcers were treading in with him, two on each side.  Also accompanying him was a large, very muscular man with dark hair, who was wearing an old-fashioned suit.

When he arrived, Ark turned to him.

“Hello, director,” Ark said.

Ark approached him, and the two of them began to have a conversation.  Sandra could not hear what they were talking about, but she suspected it was important.

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Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):

Chapter four. I just couldn’t leave you with that cliffhanger too long, could I? I’m not ending a television season, you know. Regardless, chapter four is about the enforcer attack, and the first real exciting chapter of the story, a taste of things to come…some of which I might actually show in the chapters I upload here.

So, why an enforcer? Well, I knew there had to be something attacking her, and a robot seemed like a good option. I mean, a robot running amok is not an original idea, but it is just one element of a much larger conspiracy. Of course, making the enforcers small robots that assist the police gave it an excuse to be armed, a reason to be in the WDA, and made how its programming led to its actions a bit more logical. The enforcer didn’t just go berserk and start shooting people, it was reprogrammed to treat Sandra as a criminal, and any other injuries are just collateral damage.

And then, Ark shows his face. Ark is one of the most complex and interesting characters I designed in a long time. He appears to be a rather cold and serious person, but clearly has a softer side. He keeps deep secrets, and clearly has an ulterior motive. In the early chapters especially, I loosely based his personality on a variation of tsundere. I really wish I could say more about him, but Ark is somebody I can’t talk too much about without giving away major spoilers. I will say this, though: in case it wasn’t obvious, he was the man in the prologue.

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