ACT V, Scene 1


            Whirring sounds of the mainframe room sent out waves of white noise that muted other sounds.  The ivory floors were pinpricked with holes for aeration.  It seemed like a hospital for technology with its absurdly absolute sanitation.  Janus and Duplex, tucked in the corner behind some machines, waited for the clock to hit its target.  The colon separating hours from minutes blinked its last and the digits flickered to 02:00.  Janus distinctly heard the sound of the supercomputer next to him switch to a higher pitch, indicating the log backup was beginning.

            "All right, go ahead."  Janus forcefully pulled out Duplex's hand and fed a disk into it. "The security cameras have already been taken care of.  Just hurry up."  Duplex curled his chubby fingers around it and pulled out the keyboard from the terminal with his other hand as he inserted the disk into the black wooden cabinet.  Janus stepped out to the side.

            "Don't go too far," Duplex whined.

            "I'll watch out for security."

            Duplex accessed the program on the file system that stopped the logging process. The program gave no confirmation that it had worked or was hanging or still in the process or caused an error. It was an illegal hacking program, so all the niceties of commercial software were gone.  Duplex had to assume it had worked and accessed the file system. He dived into the personnel records and searched for his own name.

            He opened it up and the profile program displayed all his vital stats at their less than gleaming stature.

            But the file was in read-only.  He looked on the toolbar for something to edit his information with.  He found the edit command, but an error dialog popped up, telling him he needed Level 3 clearance to edit personnel.

            "Janus," Duplex whispered, inaudible in the noise.  "Janus?... Janus!"

            Janus whipped around angrily.  "What?"

            "The program says I need Level 3 clearance to edit my profile."

            Janus turned to him "Just enter the password I told you to."

            "There's no place to put it."

            Janus frustratedly came over the console to look at the monitor. "Bah, click OK first."
            Duplex did so.  A box prompting for a password came up.  "Oh."

            Janus shifted his eyes to Duplex, glaring at him hatefully.  "Work faster.  We don't have great time."

            The records screen now allowed him to edit the various text boxes dotted around the window.  Quickly, he replaced the blank or nearly blank information boxes with the data he and Janus went over earlier, adding in three commendations for valor, increasing the number of kills, and a different set of system specs that made him a more battle-ready robot than he was.  He saved the changes and exited the program.

            "Done," Duplex declared.

            Janus came over to check the monitor.  "You idiot, were you going to show everyone where you've been?" Janus snapped, returning to the file system screen, where the cursor was obviously highlighting Duplex's record and date of modification.  Janus worked fast to clean up the mess, using techniques too fast for Duplex to study. He finished up, returned the monitor to an idle state, and shoved the keyboard back on the sliding tray.

            "Done- wha?"  The keyboard tray sprung back out, as it often did if it was caught on a cord.  He dug his fingers back into the cabinet and found a ribbon-like IDE cable jamming the works.  Curious as to why a hardware cable would be outside the casing he trailed his fingers along it and traced it to under the keyboard.  Fearfully, he tilted the peripheral up and saw a small circuit board taped onto it.

            "Damn it all to hell!" Janus exclaimed.

            "What?  What is it?"

            "Do you know what this is?" he asked, ignoring the question just made.  He shook the keyboard to show the green board.  "This is a key stroke logger.  It keeps an external log of what keys were typed.  Now they can trace back our steps and find out what we did."

            "Aah!" Duplex exclaimed.  He ripped the circuit board off from the scotch tape, threw it on the floor, and smashed it with his heavy gold boot.

            Janus held his hands to his head.  "Aagh!  You moron. Now what are they gonna do when they have the log AND look for that thing!  The log's not in that!  It's on a different server.  It's wireless!  You just sealed our fate with an extra coat!"

            Duplex looked down at the ground sheepishly.  He lifted his foot and looked at the crumbs of green plastic littering the floor with a finger nervously touching his mouth like a kid.

            "You've just condemned us more than you'll ever know."  Janus pulled out a saber sword from his hip, a different, less-developed model than Zero's with a purple blade. As he raised it over his head, no sooner did he ignite it than he cleaved it diagonally through the data machine.  Sparks burst out like fireworks as cooling fluid hissed out in geysers.  Smoke swirled in wisps into the air from the neat crosswise gash.

            "What did you do?"  Duplex asked astonishedly.  Red klaxons began sounding throughout and flaming emergency red light flooded the room.

            "Destroying the evidence of your blunder."  Janus screamed, towering over him.  "Do you ha-"

            He stopped suddenly as he picked up the sound of the main doors opening.  The gray reploid peeked around the corner of the box and saw two security personnel running towards them.

            "Shit!" Duplex uttered much too loudly.  "What're we gonna do now?  What're we gonna do now?  What're we gonna do?"  He began to panic.

            Janus leveled his arm cannon at Duplex's face.  "Die."

            Duplex's moment of still surprise let the fully charged blast into his face do the maximum damage.  As if in slow motion, the burst propelled him backwards like a gold wrecking ball, smashing the partition behind him in concentric circles.  His face billowed out smoke, half torn away like a grotesque freak, unveiling his face mold and the wiring held within.  He slumped down and flopped to the side, deactivated.

            "What's this?"  One of the security reploids declared, coming upon the scene.

            "I've come here just in time," Janus exclaimed exasperatedly. "Duplex was attempting to access important records but I put an end to him swiftly."

            The other reploid guard knelt next to Duplex's corpse.  "This was Duplex?"

            "Aye.  Emphasis on was."

            "Looks like you sure did a number on him," the other commented.

            "What the devil?"  Dr. Cain suddenly appeared, hobbling rapidly over to the fray.  "What's going on here?  Janus?"

            "Duplex, in truth, was a Maverick, sir.  I caught him trying to access vital information from the server, and retired him."

            "What were you doing down here?  You don't do machine work."

            "Uh, I was asked to run an errand down here by... Zero."

            Dr. Cain eyed him curiously.  "So why does the server have an obvious beam saber cut in it?"

            "That was mine, sir.  In my struggle with Duplex, I missed and accidentally sliced through box."

            "You attacked him with your sword."

            "Defended, more like."

            "Whatever.  And yet, Duplex was clearly killed by a plasma blast.  A powerful one at that."  Cain offered his hand to Duplex, as if Janus needed to be directed to the evidence.

            "Well, I had to divert to secondary tactics then, of course.  Desperate men act desperately."

            Cain paused in thought.  Janus' confident exterior would never betray the terror he felt inside as Cain's own mental computer processed the facts with his deceitful explanation of them.

            Janus offered, "Once I damaged the server I knew the quarters were too close for a melee duel, so I took the quick and clean route.  I knew none of the other systems would be damaged by a point-blank blast."

            "We'll figure all this out later.  Take Duplex and have him analyzed," he said to the security guards. "Get a disaster recovery team down here to salvage what we can, and where the devil is Zero?  And X?  Someone find them!"