With the robots disabled, Penelope moved up to scout the upper floor. Sprinklers rained water down on her while cable lashed out with sparking ends. She shook off their assault and crouched behind a far column, looking to avoid as many as possible. From there she could see a third robot suit bashing on a closed hatch in a far column. It did not take long for the relentless machine to rip open the doorway and climb inside.
Inside is a service stairway the Joe had run into and slammed the door. He swiftly climbed the stairs and found they came to an end two flights up. He was listening at the top door when the robot broke through below. It came up the stairs toward him while Penelope raced across the sodden floor to follow.
When it reached the top of the stair, Joe kicked hard and sent it tumbling. It fell before Penelope who it in the power supply, ending its thrashing. By now the others had made it into the stairway, after Crispin had distracted the deadly cables by throwing a chair into floating bar.
They regrouped at the top of the stairs and decided to move on. Joe forced the hatch with one mighty heave, only to be met by four more machines. They fired into the stairwell with heavy slugs that then began to fill the crowded space with gas. Penelope and Dash went down, while Opal raced out, firing her rifle wildly. Joe followed and dropped one of the machines with his meaty fist.
Crispin pulled out his breathing device and tried to disperse the gas. Dash and Percy stumbled out, and Percy dropped one of the robots with his pistol. Joe tore through the others with his bare hands and our heroes found themselves victorious once again.
They looked around at the lobby of this high floor and saw a hallway ringing the central pillar and two black panels on either wall. These flickered into light and resolved into an image of Charlie strapped to a table with several vicious looking implements poised above him. They shouted ‘stop’ in English and Coptic.
A mechanized voice rang out from speakers around there, asking in several languages if “this was the language of your people.” Percy, who understood many of them, answered that they all were in different parts of the world. This seemed to confuse the voice, who asked which of the people were in command. They answered that humans ruled by consensus, which the voice scoffed at as massively inefficient.
Changing the subject, they asked if the voice was in charge here. It answered that it served House Kartogian and was preparing for their return. It added that members left over 3800 years ago to the blue planet, but ‘she’ was keeping things in order for them. ‘She’ asked them if they were sent by her masters. Thy implied that they at least were sent to fight the green martians, which she confirmed were a modified slave race.
This seemed to please her — she called herself Seshat — and she released Charlie and opened chambers for them to spend the night. They separated and were each interviewed at length by the curious computer well into the night.