Act 3 - MALWARE
"I'd like to introduce to you our latest and most advanced line of 'Autonomous Android Combat Units' yet. The eggheads down in R&D have really outdone themselves on this one. Doctor Cossack...this is..."
Kalinka rips the sheet off the concealed robot before the man can finish his introduction.
"...the AACU-3010," he says, completing his train of thought with a little less enthusiasm than when he started. "Damn it, Kalinka. I was literally seconds away from pulling the sheet off. Are you really that impatient?"
"I'm not impatient, Colonel," Kalinka says, circling the AACU-3010 and examining it closely. "I'm just good at my job. If you want me to get anything done today, you should probably spare me the time-wasting theatrics."
"You want ME to spare YOU the theatrics? Didn't you bring a smoke machine to your last AI reveal?"
"I didn't BRING a smoke machine. I installed one in Leon just for the occasion. Same with the light show."
"You WHAT?" the Colonel yells, loud enough to be heard outside the reinforced containment cell that houses the new prototype. Leon, who is waiting just outside the door, turns his head toward the sound.
"Kalinka, you know you aren't authorized to make hardware customizations to our AACUs. That's a huge security violation. We could have you terminated for that."
"Yeah, yeah," Kalinka sighs, leaning over to open the AACU-3010's expansion bay door. "I know the rules. Maybe I'd follow them if Leon actually met the 'C' requirement of the 'AACU' name. You stripped him of all combat functionality before you shipped him down to my lab, so why are you so worried about what I do with him? It's a smoke machine, not a nuke."
"It doesn't matter WHAT you put in him, it matters that you DID it. Don't do it again or your time at this facility is over."
Kalinka stares intently at the innards of the new prototype.
"Man, there's not even an open slot for a smoke machine in this model."
"Are you even listening to me?" the Colonel shouts. Leon's threat detection system perks up for a moment.
"Always, Colonel," Kalinka says, standing up and staring down the robot. "I just don't think it's worth my time to respond to your empty threats. If you want to can me, then go for it, but you'll be losing the most brilliant mind that's ever set foot in this building."
The Colonel looks as though he's about to raise his voice a third time, but instead takes a moment to calm down before speaking again.
"You do some fine work here, Kalinka. I respect everything you've done to automate our troops. Putting bots with your advanced AI in the field has minimized human casualties and given us a significant advantage over them."
"Thank you, Colonel. A little respect is all I ask. Now about this AACU-"
"However," the Colonel interrupts, "you won't always be the best."
She halts her train of thought and glares at the Colonel. "Excuse me?"
"Have you met Thomas Light? He transferred here about six months ago."
Kalinka ponders for a moment.
"Can't say that I have."
"Don't play dumb, Kalinka. You dunked his head in the punch bowl after you got wasted at last year's Christmas party." The Colonel shakes his head in disgust. "He was your biggest fan until you embarrassed him like that. What kind of professional are you, anyway?"
"Get to the point, Colonel. Why am I supposed to care about that kid?"
"He's smart, Kalinka. As smart as you were when you were his age..." the Colonel trails off.
Kalinka continues her glare, waiting for him to finish insulting her. "And?"
He snaps back to reality.
"We're getting old, Kalinka. Just as I'll be stepping down from this position in a few months, someday you'll have to pass the torch to someone younger and brighter as well."
Kalinka whips a screwdriver at the Colonel's head.
"Who are you calling old?! I'm in my fucking prime! Don't bring me down just because you love sponge baths and applesauce more than doing something important with your life! Go ahead and take a nap on your deathbed, but don't expect me to wake you up!"
A small drip of blood trickles out of the Colonel's head. He looks as though he's going to raise his voice again, but instead his face softens and grows tired.
Suddenly, Kalinka hears a sequence of beeps initiate from behind her. She turns around.
The AACU-3010 sparks to life and grabs Kalinka's arm.
"What?!" Kalinka screams. "Colonel?! How is it moving? What's going on?"
The Colonel pulls his gun and aims for the robot. It whips its arm around Kalinka's neck and uses her as a shield.
"Do not interfere," the AACU sputters in a monotone voice, "Threat is being handled."
"AACU-3010, stand down! That is not a threat! Abort!" the Colonel commands, unable to get a clear shot.
"Colonel! What the fuck is happening?!" Kalinka screams once more, much louder this time.
Outside the containment cell, Leon hears the scream and rushes to the control panel. He inputs his credentials but is immediately given an "ACCESS DENIED" message.
"Hostage analysis complete. Hostage is unarmed."
"Oh, thank god..." the Colonel sighs in relief. He lowers his gun.
Kalinka tries to catch her breath as she feels its grip begin to loosen. "Colonel...explain...what-"
"Initiating hostage information download sequence."
The AACU grabs her by the neck and pins her to the wall. She stares into its glowing red eye as she tries desperately to breathe. It raises its free hand into the air.
"Left heating element at 10%...20%...30%..."
The Colonel empties his gun into the robot's back to no avail. He throws the gun and rushes toward it. Before his hand can even reach the AACU's shoulder, it swings its left arm into his stomach, sending him flying backward with a burn mark across his uniform.
Kalinka feels the heat emanating from the robot's arm as it inches closer to her face.
The containment cell's doors fly open to reveal Leon holding a mess of wires and a smashed keypad.
"Miss Kalinka!" Leon drops the busted parts and rushes the AACU.
Kalinka scream echoes throughout the entire facility as the hot metal sears her face.
"The pain you are experiencing will stop once you provide us with new information. Please-"
Leon rips open the AACU's expansion bay and pulls its hard shutdown switch. The hostile bot collapses along with a now unconscious Kalinka.