Dexter let out a soft sigh as the hologram's image dispersed, leaving him alone with the small robotic gnomish projector.
PHAM's eyes, small projection beams a moment before, switched from a blue-white hue to a yellow and oriented towards the green-haired gnome with anticipation. There was a different light to them than Dexter was familiar with. His own creations reflecting a green similar to their maker's typical hair.
"Let us begin."
Dexter gestured for the robot to approach a computational work station. It was a large machine, especially to a gnome. Wires, screens, and buttons adorned its cold metallic structure. It had been built-in to the workshop's stone wall and hardlined to an electrical generator safely located deep beneath the keep.
PHAM approached the machine dutifully, though perhaps not willingly. Hal appeared to be resolute in his request for independence from his controlling creators at BASIC, but Dexter wondered if the robot shared the same desire, or if it even had the capacity to desire.
Robots were not the same as holograms by nature, but the programming could be similar. Dexter's own robots possessed an empathy program designed to imitate feeling in order to better familiarize themselves with living counterparts, and anticipate decision-making. Dexter did not know if PHAM was as sophisticated, but the robot complied with his requests nonetheless.
Surely he desires the same as Hal. The two operate so closely that they must be alike in their thinking.
Dexter situated PHAM beside the station and opened a panel on the robot's back near it's neck revealing several charging ports of which he became familiar with after his last mission with the pair. He inserted a chord from the work station into the robot, his eyes freezing open and his movement locked up as he synchronized with the station.
Even if he does not, he will comply. And he will learn to live with Hal's decision. Better for a robot to be functional than to be in storage.
Dexter began inputting a series of commands into the workstation, diving into the program log of the robot and it's holographic resident. A maze of code and gnomish numerals raced across the screen as he typed.
I wonder what Mindspanner will think when she finds out? Likely she will be upset for a risk of upsetting our new relation with High Command.
The gnome began the laborous but careful process of unlocking and overriding system controls put in place by the robot and hologram's owners, BASIC.
She will understand, I think. She knows the value that he has provided to us in surveying the area around our home, and helping us locate supplies and contraband from the Horde.
Dexter was cruising through the coding now, his experience with Gnomish Military logistics proving useful.
Six years separated from their service and little has changed. It should not be this easy to hack their systems. No wonder we have not reclaimed our city.
The gnome paused, surveying the screen momentarily and inhaling deeply. He looked down at the robot plugged into the station.
This is it. One more click and BASIC will lose its control of the robot and Hal.
The program ran a code entry and the screen was a waterfall of numbers and symbols as it ran, finally stopping with the single word COMPLETE, resting on the screen.
Dexter nodded his satisfaction before reaching down to unplug PHAM from the station. The robot was still in sleep mode and Dexter carefully carried him over to a nearby workbench.
Now to remove the GPS transmitter.
The gnome lay the unconscious robot on the work table with the care of a parent laying a child to sleep. He turned PHAM over and opened a control panel with his micro-adjuster and searched for a transmitter.
Deftly and skillfully, Dexter extracted the existing transmitter with his needle-nose and rested it on a cloth. He considered the small electrical component for a moment, the letters B.A.S.I.C. engraved into its exterior.
Dexter left the work table and approached a large storage locker, spray-painted a garish lime-green indicative of its owner. Void of any apparent locking mechanism or handle for that matter, Dexter placed the palm of his hand against the front of the locker. He spoke a spell and the front of the locker vanished, revealing a neatly organized locker of strange and wonderful contraptions, tools, and parts.
The gnome carefully surveyed his storage to retrieve another transmitter from a parts bin. He then scoured another set of shelves containing incomplete models of robots, likely prototypes or older models.
Which one shall I use?
He reached deep into the shelf and removed a small and quite dusty model before magically sealing off his locker and returning to the table.
Dexter set to work quickly inserting the new transmitter back into PHAM, snapping it in place and closing the control panel.
Hal may disagree with the new transmitter and remove it himself, but for now it will keep him on our radar should he change his plans.
Before re-activating the robot, Dexter turned his focus on the dusty one he pulled from his locker. Wiping it clean with a cloth, he unfolded the small robot's limbs. A head and neck - a foot - then another - and a... wing?
A mischievous grin crossed the gnomish inventor's face before he opened the simpler robot's control panel.
Just in case BASIC decides to come looking for their missing unit.
Dexter snapped the BASIC transmitter into his dummy robot before activating it with a switch. Its eyes lit up in green and it tested its mechanical limbs.
"00X-09/HL, activate and respond." The robot oriented to its standing position and responded in a mechanical "Cluck!" Dexter grinned in his own amusement. The mechanical chicken bobbed its head in a mechanical imitation of its living counterpart.
This should throw them off the trail for a while.
Later that night, after traveling via portal, Dexter sneaked to the outskirts of a small Westfall farm. Quietly entering the chicken coop, Dexter placed his 00X-09 robot, leaving it to rest in sleep mode before quietly sneaking out and disappearing into the night.
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