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 (Cave Story) Scout Story

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Jackalope
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PostSubject: (Cave Story) Scout Story   Sat Jul 18, 2009 4:28 pm

Here I give you a taste of what will be my longest - and I think greatest - story to date. I won't be posting all of it here, for a number of reasons, but you will get to see the first three parts before the story's ready to launch. Here's the first. The next two will be put up whenever I feel like it.

--

Code:
REBOOT

C:\>......

PRIMARY OS: CURLY BR001
01001101110110
0X733455623452
0X314159265358979323846
26433832795028841971693
9937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482534211706798

>A
>HEL
>
>QUO
>
>
>
>

_

MANUAL OS OVERRIDE

"Do y'think they'll be surprised?" Santa asked, peering out the window of the helicopter.

"I know they will," Sue answered. "We haven't seen them in a long time."

Sue Sakamoto tried not to look out the window at the vast blue expanse of ocean beneath them. It filled her with a dread, from the memories of heading to the Island, and all the tragedy that followed. But they weren't going there.

No, they were headed to an obscure, grounded island adrift in the Pacific. That island was the home of their robot friends, Quote and Curly Brace, and the suitcase known as Balrog. They had nearly forgotten about them in putting the Island behind them, until, one year later, they sent a postcard from their location on the world's largest ocean. So they decided to pay the robots (and suitcase) a visit.

They were the Sakamotos and the engineer Itoh, the only researchers left alive after the tragic business on the Island. (There was one more - Professor Booster - but Sue heard that he stayed on the Island with someone named Jenka.) Also with them were two of the lagomorphs known as Mimigas, Santa and Chaco, who chose to leave with them instead of returning to their homes. They too were Quote's friends.

Sue turned away from the windows to face the helicopter's interior. The massive, ancient thing, already ages old before the research team came to the Island on it, seemed close to falling apart. But it was sturdy as anything, so that didn't bother her. It was all the empty space, space that once was filled with tens of chattering scientists, nearly all of them dead. Her mother kept it, she said, in honor of the dead. Sue felt it more respectful to leave it be as a silent tombstone, but it wasn't worth arguing over.

She flicked some of her green hair out of her face, glimpsing her brother Kazuma, Itoh, and Chaco on the seats opposite before it fell back over her eyes. It tickled her nose, and she sneezed. Now she brushed her floppy, white ear out of her line of vision. This was her curse, and Itoh's as well. They'd been turned into Mimigas on the Island, but were restored to human form afterwards - with the caveat that they change every time they sneeze. But it was much better than being unable to leave their houses without having to explain what they were and why... 100% of the time.

"Are we there yet?" she asked.

Sue heard her mother sigh in the pilot's seat. But it was a valid question. They'd been flying for nearly three hours, when they'd estimated that it'd only take one.

"I can't seem to find it," came the reply. "There're a few islands here. But the one in the postcard was lush and green. And these are all barren, except for one that's scorched earth. There's some vegetation, but..."

Barely out of an upright nap, Itoh turned his head a bit too quickly, making his rabbit ear smack his nose. "I just realized, we'll run out of fuel if we keep hovering in circles searching. Maybe this is the right island, but a hurricane struck."

"No, it couldn't be a hurricane. The damage here looks like mercenaries stormed it. And, didn't you say you were bringing enough fuel to refill the tank?"

Itoh hung his head. "I forgot. It's still in the hangar."

There was silence. Then Momorin, who had been tired lately, decided she'd had enough and killed the engines.

Panic flooded the interior as the helicopter plummeted. The Mimigas clawed for handholds. Itoh blubbered apologies and begged for mercy. But Sue and Kazuma remained calm, clutching their seats. They knew their mother.

Sure enough, the engines came back on just in time for the giant metal flyer to land safely. Itoh threw himself onto the ground, kissing it gratefully. Chaco wanted to be upset, but she was too relieved. Santa just stepped out and said nothing. And the Sakamotos were grinning internally, the only ones who got the "joke".

But everyone's mind immediately left the deliberate near-death experience when they saw the island's condition. Palm fronds lay scattered everywhere as if the trees they'd been attached to exploded. Charred planks of wood covered dying grass. And off in the distance, what was clearly once a house had been reduced to its foundation.

"This place... is a dump," Sue announced after glancing around the wreckage.

"It wasn't like this before," Chaco said sadly. "Not at all."

"Mom's right - it's like guerrillas came in and blew the place to hell."

"And most of the shrapnel is still smoking," Momorin added. "This only happened recently - within the last week at most. A real battle took place here."

Kazuma looked worried. "I know we haven't asked the obvious - what happened to Quote and Curly - because we know they can handle anything. But what if they couldn't?"

The group looked over the ruined island again, with a grim connotation tinging their sight.

"We have to find them," Sue said, voicing the command lodged in their minds.
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PostSubject: Re: (Cave Story) Scout Story   Sat Jul 18, 2009 4:29 pm

(Still the first part, because these forums can't easily digest the story whole.)

--

"Quote? Curly Brace? Oh, what's the use."

Sue rested on a fallen tree, close to giving up. The search parties had gone in pairs, but she and Kazuma had managed to get separated. Wherever he was, she hoped he at least was having better luck. As for her, she found no sign of the two robots, or Balrog. And she suspected she'd been going in circles for nearly an hour.

She thought about it, and realized she hadn't even met Curly. None of them had. Most of what they knew about the Island and all that happened there after going home, they knew from a lengthy letter Quote had sent upon reaching this one. That was how they learned his name, something even he didn't know, and that Balrog and the witch Misery were only unwilling pawns, not instigators, even though most of the Island's troubles were entirely Misery's fault.

Quote said he still barely remembered a thing, and most of what he knew came from Curly Brace. That robot girl in the photograph with him - blue-eyed blond, as the cliché goes. And now that Sue pondered it, Quote never actually said she was his girlfriend. Just that he "never could have done it without her".

Then she heard a rustling nearby. She perked up her ears, but ended up sneezing for no reason, thus removing the superior hearing. But she went off after the noise cautiously. She didn't say a word; it could be one of the robots, or her brother, but it could also be who or whatever trashed the island.

There, standing next to the shore, staring at the waves, was Curly. At least Sue figured it was. The robot ears that resembled headphones were unmistakable.

"Hello," Sue began. "Curly Brace?"

The metal girl turned slightly, just enough for Sue to see one of her eyes. It filled Sue with another type of nameless dread. Curly's eyes were a deep blue, and rather human; this robot's eyes were blood red, cold, and visibly unfeeling. But it had to be Curly. Eyes aside, she looked just like she did in the photo.

"I'm Sue. Sue Sakamoto. I'm a friend of Quote's. Has he told you about me?"

Mechanically, Curly turned almost completely around, keeping her right arm out of sight. Sue's dread doubled in weight as she could all but feel the robot staring through her, processing just what to do with her. And there was blood on her chest. Maybe not blood, but definite red. Sue didn't really want to know just what it was. All instinct and logic told her to run away, but on some level she thought if the android wanted to kill her, she would have by now.

"He told me a lot about you. You go way, way back. Do you- What happened here? Is Quote okay?"

Now Curly raised her right arm, leveling a wicked machine gun straight at the center of the scar on Sue's face.

The green-haired girl raised her hands, backing away slowly. "We're just friends. I don't know him as well as you do, and he barely knows me either. I'm not a threat-"

She ran as fast as her legs could carry her before the first bullet left the gun.

More possibilities of what had happened on this island forced their way into Sue's mind. The ground-shaking battle could easily have been between two robots. Did someone else attack them, or did Curly just spontaneously flip her chip? Did she attack Quote? Did she kill him? And where did Balrog go? What was his part in this sordid story?

Something else bothered her as she fled the way she came, ducking beneath the underbrush for cover. Whatever Curly's malfunction was, it reminded Sue of the psychotic rage that claims Mimigas when they eat red flowers. If something similar infected Curly, it more than explained the state of the island. But it just doesn't make any sense, she thought. What could induce that in a robot?

She made her way to the wrecked house, confident that she had lost the killer robot amongst the broken palms. Here, there was a crunch, coming from one of the piles of wood. One of Quote's gloved hands stuck out, reaching for some means to pull himself out.

Sue breathed a quick sigh of relief. Quote was still alive. "Quote, can you hear me?" she asked as she approached the pile and took his hand. "It's Sue. Long time, no see." She strained to dislodge the robot, just barely managing to yank him from the stack. Quote struggled to stand, having to use his blade as a sort of cane.

"What happened? All I know is that Curly went crazy. She nearly killed me back there. Hey, why won't you look at me?"

She immediately regretted asking. Quote lifted his head, just enough for her to see the red color of his eyes.

"Sue! Get away from him!"

Before she had any idea what happened, Kazuma whisked her off, already ten feet away from where a dumbfounded Quote was pulling his sword out of the floor of the house.

"Why did you do that?" her brother scolded. "I almost died, trying to bury him under that wood."

"I- I didn't know..." she replied, confused. Now what happened? Did the two killer robots just go on a spree of destruction? And what got into them? Was it some sap bent on world domination who didn't live to regret it? She rubbed her forehead. None of these thoughts made as much sense as earlier ones.

Sue felt a sharp turn yank her as Kazuma wheeled at the beckoning of a voice. They dived into a sort of storm shelter hidden in the underbrush, tumbling down what few stairs there were.

"You two okay?" Balrog asked as they picked themselves off the ground.

"More or less." She glanced about to see that the rest of the group was also safely inside the nature-worn alcove, away from the crazed metal pair. "What happened?" she found herself asking for the third time.

"Nothing that explains much. They were out around the palm trees, and then Curly just went nuts. They nearly leveled the whole island fighting, and then they patched things up as if nothing happened. And then they just turned on me."

"And you just ran? Why didn't you fight them?"

"Are you insane?!" the toaster bellowed. "Those two are an unstoppable gale force 5 that no entity in heaven or hell can ever hope to face down! I know firsthand, and not from just now!"

"He's right, he is," Santa agreed. "Quote's one beast of a fighter, and that Curly's none too shabby from the looks of it."

Chaco peered out of the underbrush. "It's not their fault. They're being controlled by something. And I think..."

"What?" Sue asked.

The purple Mimiga shook her head. "No. It doesn't make sense."

"I think a better question to ponder," Itoh interrupted, "would be how we'll get off this island with those death machines standing between us and our only mode of transportation. I don't suppose Balrog would be willing to ferry us?"

"Not even," Balrog answered. "You'd be too heavy, unless you wouldn't mind leaving in pairs."

"That wouldn't do. We might compromise our hiding spot, leaving most of us to die while only a few get away. And there's no judging which of us is worth more than the others. You're certain we're too heavy?"

"I'd have to carry my weight plus yours, and I weigh a ton. There's a point where we're too heavy to fly..."

"Well, the issue is moot," Momorin announced.

"Why?" Itoh asked, backing into a corner. "Are we about to die?"

"No, they're gone. They just walked into the ocean..."

At this, the others cautiously peeked out from the alcove. There on the beach were footprints not there before, going straight into the water.

"I guess we'll never know what happened..." Kazuma muttered.

--

It had been a week since the group went home after the inexplicable fiasco on the island, but it never left their heads. The engineers discussed what they knew at length, and though most of the very technical details flew over the Mimigas' heads, Chaco and Santa offered their theories as well. The best anyone could come up with - that some damage was done to the robots' circuits that took a long time to manifest - was unsatisfactory at best. Meanwhile, Balrog had seen no further sign of the two.

By now, everyone was desperate for a distraction. The Sakamotos' refrigerator had just broken a day after the warranty expired, and Momorin and Kazuma readily set to work fixing it. The Mimigas assisted by fetching tools and parts. Sue, however, was not much for engineering, and she merely sat off to the side, flipping randomly through the channels on the compact TV set they had in the lab.

After much cursing, skin-frying electrical surges, and nearly being crushed by the appliance, Kazuma was more than willing to break away from the toil to answer the phone. "It's Itoh. He says we need to turn on channel 5. Now."

Sue flicked to the news channel, which conveniently was next in line. "Apparently someone stole a few toolboxes from a garage. Nothing that's- Oh. Oh no. No no no no. I don't believe it..."

"What is it?"

Sue promptly picked up the tiny set and brought it as close to the work area as its cord would allow. "Just watch," she said, turning the volume up high.

"...thieves appear to be a man and a woman in their late teens, dressed in stereotypical southern American clothes. The astute who remember the Great War will notice that the pair have robot ears and in fact are robots. During the past week, the two have committed similar robberies of auto parts stores, army surplus stores, and ironworks factories. Since the first incident, other robots, not as well-built, have been seen stalking the streets wielding rifles. Residents of the Saron District are advised to buy security bars for their doors and windows, not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary, and to keep pets inside at all times. To those who feared the uprising of robot overlords: Okay, you were right. Happy now?"

Sure enough, during the report, they showed a tape from a security camera capturing none other than Quote and Curly making off with the toolboxes. Toward the end, Curly looked up at the camera and leveled her gun at it. Then static.

Sue turned the set off, leaving silence to choke the area with its consuming presence. Tools, cords, and the phone lay scattered on the floor, most of them dropped during the report.

Eventually Sue picked up the phone. "We have to do something," she addressed the phone and everyone in the room.

"Why us?" Itoh asked. "Can't we let qualified people like, say... the Yakuza handle them?"

"Friends don't leave friends at the mercy of mercenaries. They might destroy them in the mindset that they're just objects, or worse, capture them and use them as weapons. You want the Yakuza to have Quote and Curly?"

"No," Itoh answered after a worrisome pause.

"Let's think about this, Sue," Momorin pitched in, coming to Itoh's defense. "They're built for war, and they're making an army. And us? We're not even the most athletic of people, to say the least. How could we stand up against the scouts?"

"I'm not saying we gotta plow into this overnight like morons," Sue explained. "We'll think this through. We'll plan. We'll need firearms of our own, a little luck, and the help of an old acquaintance. Heck, maybe even all our old acquaintances if push comes to shove."

"We'll be renegades?" Chaco asked.

"We'll be commandos?" Kazuma questioned.

"We'll die young?" Itoh whined.

Sue shook her head. "No," she said for the benefit of the one not present in the room. "We'll save our friends. And we'll do it because they've done the same for us."
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PostSubject: Re: (Cave Story) Scout Story   Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:21 pm

Part two, fina-freakin'-lly.

--

"It's been two months since a robot couple was spotted robbing a warehouse in the Saron District. Since then, all residents were forced to evacuate after ten families were ruthlessly slaughtered in their own homes. The district is now infested with scout robots, and they've begun to encroach on neighboring districts."

The other newscaster looked on in growing disgust as Newscaster Tozikiro began to affect a dramatic tone. He ignored her.

"Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the government refuses to acknowledge, believe, or admit that these robots are present, much less that something needs to be done about them. In these troubled times, we need vigilantes. We need a group who considers it their duty to curb the metallic monsters. We need-"

Sue turned off the set. "The Sakamotos."

"And company," added Balrog.

She glanced at the menagerie behind her with a little grin. "And company."

Sue had every reason to smile; her plans for the motley crew had gone smoothly. She and her family, once "not the most athletic of people", were now at least limber and strong enough to take on a robot one-on-one (she hoped), due to their strict exercise regime. Itoh, while ever reluctant, added his talents to the group, aiding Momorin in engineering electroshock guns to jolt their robot friends back to normal, and magnetic, skintight (for less bulk on the wearers) bodysuits on the basis that robots wouldn't approach them unnoticed. The Mimigas too learned basic mechanics to help Itoh when repairs were needed. And then there was Balrog, who not only would guard their base of operations from assaulting robots, but proved to have medical experience as well.

In all, they were as prepared as any makeshift underground resistance could ever hope to be.

The bunch had gathered in an abandoned house on the outskirts of the Saron District, furnished only with what its owners deemed unnecessary to take along, such as a tiny television set much like the one the Sakamotos have. The living quarters were dinky, but it had a massive workshop that served their purposes well. They planned it so that no one noticed when they arrived, and no one would know they were ever there once they left, aside from the lack of robots anywhere.

Itoh was still determined to find fault with their plan of attack and convince everyone to just go home, but all his complaints were thwarted by the response that they expected major risk to life and limb. So when the others decided it was time to begin their raid, the lanky, blue-haired man sojourned to the designated dressing room after the elder two Sakamotos to don his magnet suit.

Even though she alone had ultimately convinced everyone to go on this dangerous mission, Sue suspected some minor mutiny. Only three bodysuits had been made, all of which were too large to fit her. And at the other end of the mutiny spectrum, another set of guns had been built - not the standard shotguns, which had been purchased, but toy bazooka-looking things filled with pepper. Some nights she'd heard rabid snarling and the sound of things crashing to the floor coming from the workshop before the noises suddenly stopped. There were things her comrades weren't telling her.

So when Itoh and her family went for the door, she was quite vocal in her complaint: "Hey, where ya going without me?"

Momorin stopped with her hand on the handle. "You didn't think you were going, did you?"

"How can I not be going?" Sue pushed her tiny Mimiga body from sitting on an endtable onto the floor. "Don't tell me I'm too little - Okay, maybe I am right now, but I'm the reason we're actually going through with this!"

"Oh, so that's it. And you expect a mother to let her child face off against droves of killer robots?"

"Kazuma gets to go..."

"Kazuma is a grown man."

"Now, now," Itoh interrupted, heading back to the dressing room. "Let's give Sue a chance here. She's a big girl, and surely a better fighter than a cowardly little man like me!" Feeling the sharpness of Momorin's glare in his back, he bolted into the room and shut the door.

Sue glanced to Kazuma for backup. "I guess we shouldn't underestimate Sue," he obliged. "After all, back on the Island, when the Doctor was killing us left and right, she got away unscathed. Well, besides the obvious," he added, referring to her Mimiga form and the scar on her face.

Momorin turned to the remaining members, but the Mimigas and Balrog had decided not to get involved, and thus had left the room. Outnumbered three to one, and now doubting her perception of Sue's capability, she hesitated. In surrender, she asked: "If I still said no, you'd follow us anyway, wouldn't you?"

"Why, it never even crossed my mind," Sue replied with a mock-innocent smile.

"All right, you can come. But only because I'd rather know exactly where you are than worry that you got picked off behind us."

"So, it's settled, then!" Itoh chirped, emerging from the dressing room in plain mechanic's overalls. "Sue gets to go fight, and I get to stay here where it's safe. Everybody wins!" He handed his bodysuit to Sue. "Put this on - it may seem too large, but it shrinks to fit."

Sue stared blankly at the suit, uncomfortable to even be holding it.

Itoh cleared his throat. "It is also the only suit that will shrink or expand to accommodate the change after we sneeze."

Lacking much of a choice, Sue put aside her discomfort and went in the dressing room. It was really no more than a gaudy American-style bathroom, paint peeling off the walls and often chipping into the lidless toilet, which sometimes chose to overflow for no reason. But it was better than nothing.

Sue sneezed from some dust that got stirred up. Now tall enough to reach the sink, she laid the bodysuit on it and proceeded to shed her heavy outer clothing, throwing her sweatsuit into the bathtub with everybody else's clothes. She was debating whether or not her underwear needed to come off too, until she saw a pair of boxer shorts resting over the faucet.

As she prepared to don the bodysuit, conversation started outside. She could make out her mother's voice: "What about 'it'? Wouldn't it pool up in the suit and wreck its circuits?"

"'It'?" Itoh questioned. "Oh, it. It shouldn't be a problem; I weaved the stitching down there to allow fluids to escape in case, say, one of us ended up evacuating his bladder after a harsh blow to the solar plexus. I tried to waterproof them too, so you can probably safely pay it no heed."

"Leave it to you to remember such details..."

"Oh," Sue said to no one in particular. No wonder everyone thought she wasn't going on the raids, even though she'd been doing the same physical training. Despite having turned thirteen the past year, she had yet to start "it", and thus, was still a child. She hadn't been in much of a hurry to start bleeding before, but if this would keep her from being taken seriously...

Sue discarded the thought and put on her suit. In lieu of that, she'd just have to prove she was able to fight alongside the big leagues in other ways.

No sooner had she zipped the baggy thing up than someone knocked on the door. "Are you ready yet, Sue?" Kazuma asked.

"Almost. I thought this thing was supposed to shrink?"

"There's a compression switch on the hip. Hurry up, I really have to go."

Sue felt around for the button, found it, and then all but doubled over as the suit snapped tightly around her. Still reeling from the full-body slap, she picked herself up and glanced in the mirror. White at the extremities and red everywhere else, the suit was like a second skin, following the outline of her body perfectly, stopping at the middle of her neck. Sue was surprised to find she looked rather feminine, seeing as most people confused her for a boy.

The pounding on the door became frantic, so Sue took her cue to come out. A very grateful Kazuma bounded his way into the dilapidated facilities, slamming the door behind him.

"Did you turn the suit on?" Itoh asked, eyes fixed on a crooked painting.

"Did I what?" Sue asked flatly.

"The magnetic field is generated, and that generator runs on a battery." He glanced over his shoulder, decided there was nothing to worry about, and turned around. "Don't bother looking for the switch now, you'll just stick to things. And don't get within a meter of your teammates, either."

Momorin opened the door. "If your brother takes forever in the bathroom like he did last time, it's more practical to leave now. Oh, cookies."

"Cookies?" Kazuma asked, stepping out of the bathroom as if the mere mention was his cue.

"Nearly stepped on them." She set the plate on an endtable. "It appears we weren't completely incognito."

While Kazuma eagerly took a few, Itoh was quick to panic. "Wait, let's not get ahead of ourselves, here. These could be poisoned..."

Sue noticed something that was definitely not a cookie on the plate. "Or whoever gave us these wants us to choke on a tape recorder."

Coated with crumbs but otherwise pristine, the platinum-colored recorder was well-hidden under the cookies. It contained a tape, and the play button was marked in red highlighter.

"Whoever left these was counting on us to eat them and not be paranoid like you."

Itoh snorted indignantly as he started playback. "I'm not paranoid. Just careful."

The tape began with slight static. "Hi there," an androgynous voice said after a few seconds. "I saw you when you moved in. Are you here to fight the robots? That's the only reason anyone would come here."

"Robots?" Kazuma asked. "Why, we came here for the scenery."

Sue elbowed him. "Be quiet."

"It's good that you're doing this, but I think there's something you should know." There was a pause, as if the person was checking that no one else was listening. "The robots didn't come here just because. The Saron District didn't used to house a community. You know about the Great War, right? Well, this used to be a military base. They built robots here and sent them to that island to die.

But the robots that came here two months ago weren't coming home. They weren't built here. I think someone, someone who knew what the Saron District used to be, is controlling them and making more robots. He - she - whoever it is used to work here. Maybe there are two, I don't know. But they want to use an army of robots to take over the world."

Another pause. "So. Like I said, it's good that you're doing this, and I wish you the best of luck. Please enjoy the cookies. Thank you and good night."

"A crazy person," Sue said. "Guess I wouldn't rule out poison."

"Now, that's not fair," Kazuma chided, snarfing a cookie. "Preshumably thish character would do nothing to compromishe our mosht noble misshion."

"Kazuma?" Momorin said.

"Yesh, Mum?"

"Don't talk with your mouth full."

Sheepishly, he swallowed the cookie. "Okay, mommy."

--

The Saron District, as a whole, was in no way dilapidated. Its streets and buildings were orderly and pleasant-looking, unlike the shack the resistance had holed up in. Aside from a shattered window here and there, the robots had disturbed little.

Yet the atmosphere, even by day, was that of a chilling ghost town. In lieu of living things, the risk of a robot ambush lay in every house, alley, and corner. In fact, every seemingly inconspicuous area the Sakamotos had passed thus far had a robot lurking in the shadows. These blank-eyed mechanoids were easily dispatched alone, but in numbers, they were deadly.

"What are we going for, here?" Sue asked, resting on a bench. "Are we leaving once we shock some sense into Quote and Curly, or are we staying until we get rid of all the robots?"

"Don't look at me," Kazuma replied. "It's your plan, we thought you knew."

Sue said nothing and glanced up at an open apartment window. A shadow lurking there had caught her eye. Without a word, she leveled her shotgun at it and fired. Half a second later, a broken robot tumbled out of the building to shatter on the concrete sidewalk below.

"If I were in charge," Kazuma continued, "I'd say we stay until all the robots are gone. The schizophrenic who made those cookies is counting on us."

"The cookies were not that good," Momorin dissented, approaching the bench with a nasty gash that hadn't been there before.

"It's the thought that counts."

Dabbing at her open wound with a torn scrap of fabric, she joined her children on the bench. "We haven't made much progress. So far we've only covered a tenth of the district at the most, and we've downed about fifty robots. That probably isn't even a tenth of the number of scouts here, which we can safely assume is growing by the hour..."

"We're still doing pretty well," Sue said. "I mean, nobody's dead yet."

The irreverent comment did nothing to lift spirits.

At length, Momorin left the bench. "If we want to cover any significant area, we should get going. We're not staying out past nightfall; those robots may not be sentient like ours, but they're still too wily without having the cover of darkness to help them." She pointed out a small, out-of-the-way path under a bush. "I saw some machine gun shells leading through here. None of the scouts has anything with more firepower than a rifle, so Curly or Quote has been through here. The only question is if this was recent."

Sue and Kazuma hesitated as they watched their mother squeeze under the bush, reluctant to have to ooze their way through the small opening. But if she could do it, so could they. At high noon, the Sakamotos followed the inconspicuous path, unaware that it led underground to the lightless remains of the district as it was eleven years ago - where the robots had the upper hand within their element.
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PostSubject: Re: (Cave Story) Scout Story   Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:23 pm

(Cont.)

--

"Put a laboratory underground so you can just build suburbs over it when you're through! It's brilliant! And by brilliant, I mean what the hell were they thinking?!"

Under a heavy barrage of fire, Sue dodged behind a cabinet and pressed her back to the cold metal. She didn't have much of a choice, as she stuck to it fast. Frantically, she fished a walkie-talkie out of her pocket. "Kazuma? Mom? Are you all right? Say something!"

Nothing but static.

"Over!"

"This is your mother," came the prompt reply. "They've got me pinned under a table, moving in from all sides. No clue where your brother is or his status. Over."

Firmly affixed to the cabinet, Sue swapped her shotgun for her shockgun and fired bullets of static wildly behind it. "What was I thinking? We can't handle this! It's a losing battle! Over."

No response. Sue flicked off her magnetic field and stepped out to face her attackers down, but they'd already been felled by her haphazard shooting. She fled immediately; the shots merely rebooted their systems, and they'd be on her again in no time. She didn't turn her suit back on; it hurt more than it helped. All it had earned her before this was an extremely ticked-off scout plastered to her back.

Passing a directory, she tried to visualize everyone's positions. Doubtless they too must be kicking themselves for the idiotic decision to split up. Triage of whom to find first was tough. Should she go assist her mother, whom she knew was highly outnumbered, or go find her brother, whose situation was unknown? A late reply from her mother answered the question: "Situation is all clear on my end. Heading to Kazuma's assumed location. And Sue? Never say never. Over."

Sue nodded out of impulse and headed for the parts storage facility. Shotgun at the ready, she stifled a sneeze; no need to make her situation even worse.

"Fish."

"Kazuma? Is that you? Over."

"See, the pancakes are in the foil and we need to deliver them to the turtles."

Kazuma had obviously suffered a head injury, but he was alive. "The fish want us to deliver the pancakes?" Sue asked, humoring him. "Over."

"No, the fish are hunting us, and we must get the pancakes to the turtles."

Momorin joined in: "Will the turtles help us if we get their pancakes to them? Over."

A few seconds passed. "I think so, but they don't like fighting. Too fast..." The transmission ended with an audible whump.

The impromptu communication alerted more robots to Sue's general direction. Here in the laboratory, they had access to superior firepower from a storage room. Even with the bogeys clamping on her tail, Sue had a better chance losing them in the decrepit maze than taking them on. In the end, Sue did sneeze, and it saved her life; she managed to squeeze into a ventilation duct where the robots couldn't follow.

All through her travels in the airways, her constant ah-choos echoed throughout the lab. Through pure luck, she managed to find her way to Parts Storage. With one last sneeze, changing her back to a human, she came crashing through the ceiling into the room.

The room was silent - almost, that is, except for some inexplicable but human noises coming from somewhere in the box-composed maze. No robots were to be found, for which she thanked her lucky stars. She made her way to the source of the noise, which eventually was clearly Kazuma moaning in pain. She scaled stacks, forced her way through small gaps, and toppled towers from the bottom down to get to him.

"Kazuma? It's Sue. I'm here. Where are the pan-" she stopped mid-sentence, mixed feelings brewing up in her because of what she was seeing. After some deliberation, she decided it was hilarious. "Oh-ho-ho. What's this?"

"This is not what it looks like," was all Momorin had to say for herself, lying on top of her son. "I forgot about the magnets."

"Get the bad minnow off my head," Kazuma slurred.

Desperately holding back so much as a snicker, Sue turned off her mother's magnetic field for her. Still blushing, Momorin helped her son to his feet. He swayed a bit, but seemed able to stand.

"We should get out of here," Momorin said, "and return to the base. It's far too dangerous running around down here without a game plan."

"And how," Sue agreed. "If only that directory were portable..."

"We have the next best thing." She fished a folded-up wad of paper out of her pocket. "A copy of the floor plan. Found it in a bin of documents, among other interesting things. There was a list of personnel as well. I only glanced at it, but guess whose name I saw?"

"Daisuke Amaya?"

"Fuyuhiko Date."

Recognition hit Sue like a brick. "Our 'friend', the Doctor. That explains a lot."

Despite their hushed whispering, Kazuma, still lacking full cognitive capacity, decided it was appropriate to burst into song: "'Son,' she said, 'have I got a little story for you; what you thought was your daddy was nothing but a...'"

Almost instantly, scouts came to investigate the noise. The two women fled, Kazuma attached to his mother's back via magnetism. As they ran, dodging a rain of varied bullet fire, the delirious man continued to warble Pearl Jam. "I'm still alive..."

At this line, Sue snapped, "You won't be if you don't shut your damn piehole!"

"You're just jealous because I sing better than Yoko Ono," he replied indignantly, and kept on.

Unable to silence their loud beacon (they dared not smack him upside the head for fear of furthering any brain damage), the Sakamotos navigated the maze of halls as best they could, glancing at any directories to right them on their mad dash for the surface and safety. They tried not to look back at the swarm of robots chasing them, which grew larger by the second. Possibly the only thing that saved them is that Kazuma wasn't total dead weight, firing at the occasional robot with impeccable aim considering the goopy state of his brain.

Via the universe's favor, the Sakamotos made it to the exit, jamming themselves through the little tunnel via a direct violation of all laws of physics. The robots piled up, unable to stop quickly enough. As they struggled to unclog themselves, the Sakamotos vanished in the burgeoning night.

By now, Kazuma had finished the song, and muttered something about waffles just before fainting.
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PostSubject: Re: (Cave Story) Scout Story   Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:23 pm

(cont.)

--



"Ah! How very interesting..."

The day after the events in the laboratory, the resistance crowded around a long table with the laboratory's floor plan laid out on it. Itoh considered what the Sakamotos reported they'd learned. "So the Doctor worked on scout robots during the war. I'd say it seems out of place, considering he was a medical doctor, but the upkeep of such robots isn't too different from that of humans. In those days, I learned about the construction of scouts as well, but only for academic purposes; I never built one, nor did I work for a base like Saron."

Chaco shifted her small weight as if she had something she wanted to add, but didn't say a word.

"Can you try to walk me through your route again?" he asked the Sakamotos.

Momorin placed a finger on the blueprint to trace it. "When we came in, we split up. I went towards the general area where files and records are kept. I tried not to make a sound, but I ended up toppling a putrid water cooler because, I must admit, I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have. This is where things get hazy, because scouts crawled out of the woodwork with their guns blazing.

I believe I made a right here, wheeled on the next hallway down, and lost them by ducking into a poorly lit room. That was Records Storage, where I found this floor plan and the list of personnel with the Doctor's name on it. I would have liked to stay there and see how much more I could find out, but I backed into a file cabinet, which fell clattering to the ground.

I can't quite tell you my path next, as any room for cognitive thought was being used by panic. But somehow I made my way to an unlabeled room here that I suspect was used for biological experiments. I hid under the table, where Sue called Kazuma and me. I gave her the details of my situation, fending off metal death from all angles."

"Ham," said Chaco.

"I'm still not entirely sure how I survived that," Momorin continued, "but I think it relied heavily on the robots shooting each other trying to hit me.

Once safe for the time being, I told Sue all was well and left for where I suspected Kazuma might be. The route is nondescript," - she demonstrated it on the blueprint - "but I ultimately found him in Parts Storage. Then... things happened that caused me to realize the impracticality of the magnet portions of our suits.

Sue soon arrived, and we agreed we should leave and figure out what to do next at the safety of our base. Kazuma decided it was a good idea to recite Pearl Jam, and did. We ran from the resulting onslaught of scouts, with Kazuma stuck to my back. Now here, I can't at all recall the path we took. We ran to shake the mob off our tail, not to find our way out, and every hallway began to look the same after the first five minutes. Kazuma is all that saved us, bless his jarred mind."

Her testimony finished, Momorin took her hand away and gestured for Sue to tell her story.

Sue put her finger at the same starting point, tracing her path as she spoke. "I was headed to the rooms where they built scouts. This place being untouched for years, I stirred up a ton of dust and kept sneezing most of the time. It helped me keep out of sight.

I picked off a lot of robots incognito, but they caught on to me eventually. Wasn't really keeping it in my head where I was going, but I can trace it... Here. This is where they had me pinned. I called Mom and my brother to see if they were okay. Mom called back, but not Kazuma. I managed to get away, and then I tried to decide who I should find first. Then Mom called to say she was fine and was going after Kazuma. So I left for that spot, and then Kazuma called me and said we had to deliver pancakes to turtles.

That told a whole bunch of robots exactly where I was. They would have caught me if I hadn't sneezed and crammed myself into the air vent. Now I really can't tell you how I got to Parts Storage, because it was all luck. But the last time I sneezed and turned back to normal, I broke part of the vent and fell into Parts Storage.

Nobody bothered to sort the boxes with some degree of common sense, so I had a maze to navigate. Fortunately Kazuma was making noise - not loud enough to attract robots, but enough so I could find where he and Mom were. After that, I don't have anything to add to Mom's recollection."

"We wish that Kazuma could tell you what happened to him, but he's still quite lacking in full cognitive faculties."

"That's not true," Kazuma complained, sitting on top of Balrog. "I've completely recovered from my head wound."

"Oh, really?" Momorin pointed to a digital clock. "Then, what's the time?"

"One-three-five-seven." He blinked. "And an upside down nine."

"The defense rests."

Itoh studied the floor plan. "I see that there are several exits to the surface. Based on your accounts, Sue's path - the robot assembly areas - seemed to be the most robot-infested. We can safely conclude that that's mainly where the robots are coming from. I believe that if you went to the area aboveground there, it would also be the most infested.

This is what I'd do. I'd go back to Records Storage and search every bin thoroughly. I'd gather not just possible reasons for our robots to have gone to this ex-base in particular, but any information on robot construction. I might take some parts from Parts Storage, in case I needed them in, say, repairing Quote or Curly. And this Weapons Storage room, I think it'd be wise to find a way in and gather further weaponry. I wouldn't worry whatsoever right now about clearing the area of robots or covering ground above or below the surface."

The Sakamotos had no objections. Any plan that didn't require them to fight droves of robots sounded ideal.

Itoh watched as Sue prepared to set out, hesitating. At length, he decided it had to be brought up. He addressed Momorin, but spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear: "Isn't there something we're forgetting? A weapon you're forgetting to take with you?"

Sue wasn't sure what he was talking about, but the others' eyes widened at the notion. Trying not to bring more attention to the matter than needed, they all called him insane for even suggesting it in hushed voices.

But the damage had been done. "Is this something to do with those pepper guns?" Sue asked.

Itoh kept his eyes on Momorin, waiting for her final word on it. She pondered it for a good minute, turning the thought over and over; and then hung her head, brushing the air with her hand in a "go on" gesture.

And so he did: "Yes, as a matter of fact. I'm sure you remember when it seemed we had some sort of monster in our laboratory, yes?"

"That racket that kept me up at all hours of the night?"

Still doubting in this course, he nodded. "That savage beast in there, well..." He pulled out a vial, a vial of none other than the dreaded red flowers from the Island. "You're looking at him."

Sue hopped backward by reflex, stunned that Itoh would even get close to the things. Not being Mimigas currently, they were in no danger, but...!

"Mimigas seem to never come out of the rage the flowers induce in them, but we supposed that, if you or I took a dose of the petals, we might be able to get out of it by sneezing, on the basis that the status wouldn't carry over to our human forms. While managing to keep it almost secret from you, we tested our hypothesis on me, something of fifty times. All outcomes were the same; a sneeze returned me to normal.

So what I propose, Sue, is that you carry the flowers on your person. Should you ever be cornered by robots with no other means of coming out alive, eat a petal, and it will save your life. Your family will carry those guns to bring you to your senses, and you'll carry a bit of pepper of your own in case this situation comes up when you're a human."

Wordless, she continued to stare at the tube as if it contained deadly poison.

"Of course, you don't have to, if you think it's a bad idea."

"No," she finally said. "No, it's a good idea." She came forward to take it, her fear of the object diminishing with each step. Time seemed to slow as she closed her fingers around the cylinder, only returning to normal when it left her hand to rest in her pocket. Her pounding heart took a longer time to resume its normal beat. Flowers in pocket, she and her mother left for the Saron Laboratory, the latter taking one of the pepper guns.

When they were gone, Kazuma jumped off Balrog, only to clonk his head on the table. Not at all unconscious, he stood up, giving no sign of injury. "I went towards the kitchen area," he began, tracing the route on the map. "There were no robots here. Lucky, that: I walked smack into a low-hanging doorway, and was in no condition to fight. I remember stumbling past the Freezer here, and peeking into the refrigerator as I otherwise stumbled straight through the kitchen. There was nothing but mold.

From there, I made my way into the Infirmary. I tried to take a nap on one of the tables, but it was hard and cold and made my head hurt worse. So I kept wandering, taking this circular route until I fell in Parts Storage and didn't feel like getting up. Nothing of interest happened until my mother arrived, and nothing happened that she didn't tell you. Nothing."

With that, he took the second pepper gun and ran off before anyone could tell him not to.

"Hams for dinner," Santa said eventually.
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PostSubject: Re: (Cave Story) Scout Story   Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:24 pm

(cont.)

--

While more scouts lurked underground than above, they still were spreading out at a frightening pace. Some of the families who moved miles away and thought they had escaped the beasts were in for a shock when a scout or two loped through the new neighborhood, seeming to do so both of their own volitions and by the will of another. Most of the androids wormed their way into parks mimicking the mannerisms of foreign humans, and were only stopped before they massacred crowds if someone noticed that their headphones were really robot ears. The government continued to pretend there were no robots roaming the country, and no one knew there were people working to eliminate the scourge, aside from one no one would believe if he told them.

The Sakamotos had made their way to Records Storage without encountering a single scout, thanks in part to their new knowledge of multiple entrances to the Saron Lab. Each of them took turns watching for robots while the others scoured the bins in search of relevant information.

What they found about robots was astounding, fascinating, and lengthy; it would take multiple trips to bring all the binders to their base. It was hard not to stop and read through each one then and there, and they took glimpses. They learned that the production of scouts was much closer to the sciences of biology and anthropology than metallurgy or even standard robotics. They read in glimpses about the carbon-metal alloys that formed skeletons, about the amber "blood" that carried electric current through circuits and did not leak but stopped flowing if the "vein" was severed. They found, ever slowly, that scout robots were the closest to human beings ever made in a laboratory.

The information on the staff was equally surprising, but not in a good way. The long list of personnel yielded no other interesting names, but the log of orders issued, the report files, and a few diaries told a very tragic tale. Unlike the robot specs, they stopped to skim these to see if they were relevant.

At the beginning, the scientists were ordered to create a humanesque race of robots but were not given a reason. They first built 50-50 meldings of flesh and metal, which went poorly and never lived for hours at a time. They then experimented with mimicking human biology as closely as possible with the random materials at their disposal. This was successful; they named the first living scout "Akira".

Hideous pressure lay upon the scientists to build superior scouts to those of other countries, whose governments had similar secret operations which built similar robots. Still unknowing of the main purpose of the scouts, they continued improving the scouts' circulatory, skeletal, and muscular systems to be better than the equivalent human systems they were based on. They treated the newest scouts as they would human children, and the oldest, like Akira, were respected colleagues to them. Despite this, they broke away from using human names and began naming the scouts after punctuation marks, as was the convention for all such robots.

Some months into the project, they began experimenting with variants of the malleable substance that formed scout skin. Most of the compositions, different in tone and resilience from the common platinum-colored, were nonsensical as skin excepting those that were red, yellow, brown, and black. It was then they decided to model scouts to better assimilate with the peoples of countries, in mannerism and dress.

It was just after then that they were finally told the purpose of the scouts: They were tools to retrieve an all-powerful artifact, the Demon Crown, from an island floating high above the Earth. They were also ordered to sever any emotional ties to the existing robots, to treat them as objects, and to refrain from giving further scouts human sentience, as it wouldn't do to respect what were supposed to be strong but disposable forces.

They were forced to destroy the four colored scouts made, who had come out as pacifists. This they couldn't bring themselves to do, and so they had the next wave of robots, the unfeeling ones, do it for them. Unable to cope with such cruelty, Akira committed suicide by drowning himself, and many scouts, as well as a few scientists, followed suit. The rest grudgingly followed their orders, and ceased to name scouts.

Eventually the Great War ended, and the scientists were ordered to destroy the Saron Lab and all evidence of the scout project, which they evidently couldn't bring themselves to do either, instead opting to seal the lab off. The saga ended with a stern warning that all those who tried to talk about the details of what went on here would be found and put to death. It spoke volumes, then, that of all the hundreds of scientists who once worked at Saron, the only one ever heard from again was the Doctor.

"And that explains why the high-ups are pretending there are no robots," Sue observed.

"We'll take these too," Momorin said.

Kazuma could already feel his arms ache from transporting the boxes. "Why don't we just save ourselves time and take everything back to the base?"

"Come now, Kazuma. Some of the files here are just highly bureaucratic things like financial reports. It'll save weight on our arms if we perform this triage."

There was little else of great interest; just things like maintenance reports, medical records, and the like. There were a few papers in pairs of originals and translated copies of intel captured from other labs, but there was nothing the scientists hadn't improved on. The only other thing the Sakamotos gathered for transport was a file on a strange virus that struck the lab; no worse than the common cold, but able to pass from humans to scouts and back.

Delivery was grueling and nerve-wracking; they had several close calls with scouts and lost a few files in the process. Most frightening, some of the robots followed them all the way to the drop-off point. Itoh took a few bullets to his leg, as did the Mimigas. But for this, the operation was a relative success.

--

The government could pretend all it wanted that the scouts didn't exist, but the news didn't follow suit. Newscaster Uria Tozikiro of channel 5 made sure Japan knew all about the danger to their lives and limbs. He was risking his own life; he knew it and didn't care, at one point daring the prime minister to silence him. But the government knew better; to silence him would be to admit there was a problem.

In the meantime, he saved lives indirectly. Aware of the threat, the public vigilantly watched for people sporting the telltale headphones with green antennae. And while they waged public war, the Sakamotos worked on quelling the robot numbers at their source.

Sue flicked a piece of lint away from her nose, the wind that had carried it blowing through her fur. Melancholy for several reasons, she paid silent respects to the robot she shot with perfect aim, in front of its body still lying outside the apartment it skulked in. There were too many dead robots to all feel bad about, and these had wholly mechanical minds, not at all sentient like Quote's. But this one... She didn't know if it was manufactured like the others. She'd shot it like that, not knowing or thinking at the time that it might have been there a long time, staring out at her with no murderous intent. For all she knew, it could have been alive. Conscious. Feeling.

From nowhere, someone rested a hand on her shoulder. She readied her gun, but it was only Kazuma. "You know how Quote had pupils in his eyes?"

She nodded silently.

"I saw a photograph of Akira, with some of the other robots in the background. They had pupils too. But these robots that we're fighting, they don't." He knelt next to the lifeless android. "It shouldn't be something that goes away after death. The scientists purposely made the unthinking robots without pupils, so they wouldn't have to look into human eyes as they built and programmed them."

Sue knew what he was getting at. She reached for the scout and pried open one of its eyes. The red iris was blank, lacking a dark spot.

"Feel better now?"

Stifling further tears, she wiped her own eyes. "Yes."

He got up, patted her head, and went off down the path their mother was on. Wondering if the scientists shed the same tears after they learned the awful purpose of their work, she followed.
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