"Awaken, E-100 Alpha! Awaken!"
The red eyes blazed to life in my invention, the first of my thinking robot line. The largest of my purchased rabbits serving as his generator. I considered going to Rachel for another dog, but it seemed too soon to encroach on her hospitality so soon after I took one of her dogs away.
Besides, it was more than enough. The first of my E-Series robots looked around, before attempting to speak.
"Hello Robotnik." it said in an even, emotionless tone. I really would like to make a proper voicebox, give them a way to show real personality, but just the recording process alone would take a long time! And if what Kid Win told me was right, my edge on other Tinkers is how fast I work!
"Hello Alpha! Welcome to the world! What do you think?"
"I am ready to serve. What are your orders?"
"No, no, no! Get a bit philosophical, you're the first of my creations able to talk back to me! I want a proper conversation!"
The robot was silent for a short time, before finally saying "I would prefer to be called Zero."
"Zero it is! Any reason why?"
"The other Badniks have made me aware that when designing me you hit upon inspiration for better robots. I am a hardy tool, they will be precision instruments." they continued, "My designation number reflects this. I am not E-1. But rather, E-100."
"It sounds nicer."
"Correct." they agreed, "Will the unit that follows me be E-200 or E-101?"
"Then we are both aware that I am the Zeroth iteration of the E-Series. I feel that the name 'Zero' is more reflective of that identity than 'Alpha' which would signify that I am both first and greatest among my future siblings."
I have to wipe a tear from my eye, "You do Momma proud!" I announce, "I bet when it comes to AI's, I'm better than Dragon as well! Very well, Zero! Let's get things underway!" I grin, pointing towards the downed ship around us, "As you can see, our current base of operations is a crappy rusted ship! I want to build something better, something bigger! The heart upon which Robotnikland is constructed around!" I turn my eyes upon the expanse of the boat graveyard, "And we've got all this raw material, and now, thank to you, Zero, I have someone to do the very necessary heavy lifting!"
"Okay, and now... lift!"
Zero takes hold of the massive metal wall, pulling it upwards from the frame of the ship. Crabmeats Three and Four are crawling around inside it, taking out support pieces. Zero holds the section in place, and I use the Egg Mobile's laser to make cuts, then Zero lifts it off.
We went through the insides of the ship, and gathered anything that looked useful. I had pipes and boilers disconnected and lugged outside, massive amounts of electrical wiring strung away from the walls. Iron bars that used to make up shelves and support structures. Levers, locks, hinges, pistons. The metal sheets that made up walls and floors were peeled away to be put to use elsewhere. The kitchen was more-or-less cleaned out, and what's left rusted to shit, but I'm sure there's stuff to salvage from it! There are literally hundreds of metal cargo containers, big bus-sized ones, that I'm sure will come in handy.
The process was fun, but quite time-consuming. The disassembly was a mix of robots holding things in place, blasting away obstacles, and then me going in to do the more delicate disconnecting of parts and pieces. We spent hours and hours doing it already, and the only thing telling me I should stop was the sad and furious growling of my empty stomach. Stupid organic body.
Right now, Zero is peeling the ship of part of its outer wall in a section we've more-or-less cleared out of anything we wanted. We'll be using the giant curved sheets of steel on top of each other as a giant sled, with which to pull closer to our own current base. I had us start with a ship that was farther away, as I wasn't sure yet whether it would be better to start inward and work outwards, or the opposite, when it came to disassembling and scavenging all the ships here.
So, starting with one not too far away, but not too close either, and one that wasn't partially submerged in the bay.
This was interrupted however, by the Police.
"Attention Robotnik." shouted a man through the megaphone.
"Attention received!" I shout down, "Um, Zero, just- can you hold that in place, or should we finish up cutting it before...?"
"Capable of holding in place."
"Alright then, let me know if the situation changes." I have the Egg Mobile turn around and approach the police, "Yes?" Now that I'm level with the ground, I can see that there's a few PRT people staying near the back, with containment foam launchers at the ready, and following me as I drift down with my vehicle.
"We received a report of someone using tinker-made heavy machinery to damage the boats moored here. This is both trespassing, and the destruction of private property."
"Ugh!" I complain, "Seriously? How come you haven't come to arrest the other squatters around here, hm? As for the whole 'private property' thing, come on! No one was ever going to use it, whatever company owned it has taken the merchandise inside elsewhere, I'm just... recycling it! Honestly, I'm doing this city a service!"
"Be that as it may, it's still against the law."
"Am I under arrest?"
"...We'd like you to stop, and vacate Lord's Port. Seeing as how this is all Cape-related stuff... any damages will probably-"
"Well I'm not going to stop. And I'm also not hurting anyone." I say, crossing my arms, "And either you all are going to enforce your will with those foam guns- which will not work, and I will consider an attack, or you're going to walk away and let me make Brockton Bay a better place, one eye-sore rusted ship no one's touched in a decade at a time."
The policeman in charge seemed to look at a nearby PRT man, "Just... one second."
"I don't have all day you know? I haven't even eaten yet today!"
The policeman and the PRT agent discuss some things quietly, while the rest of the people watch me nervously, honestly, this took some balls. I'm surprised regular police were even willing to come in, but I suppose the PRT doesn't want to interfere unless I'm doing something genuinely heinous.
"Let sleeping dogs lie, is what the director says. If she's not hurting anyone, it's best not to instigate a fight with a Parahuman." the PRT agent says, intentionally, I believe, to be loud enough for me to hear.
I grin, before shrugging, "Well, thank you for stopping by! Come back in, oh, I don't know, a few months time? I'll give everyone here a free ticket to Robotnikland. The Lord's Port Amazing Mechanical Amusement Park!"
"We can't just... ignore this." the officer in charge said. I sighed.
"...Fine! I promise I'll look into the ship I've dismantled, and this ship, and figure out who owns them, and then buy them, happy?" I ask, "In fact, I'll be doing much the same for all the ships here."
"Then you'll stop until you have the proper paperwork?"
"I need a lunch break anyway." I allowed.
I ended up eating at Fugly Bob's. It was more-or-less uneventful. I rode Motobug there, and the staff didn't feel like making an issue of it. I filled my belly, ordered a few more meals to-go for later, and then headed back to my new base.
I suppose I'll look into the legal stuff tonight via the internet. Honestly, the owners, whoever they are, have let the boats just rust into nothing here. How much can they really want for them? And if they're too expensive, well, let's just see the police try to stop me.
I won't start a fight with the city if they city doesn't want to fight me, but if they're a nuisance... well, I'll make it known the Boat Graveyard is Robotnik's, one way or another.
Kaiser honestly didn't know much about the newcomer in town, but his people had eyes everywhere, and filled in the details.
Robotnik was apparently a girl, about Rune's age. That had its own set of benefits and drawbacks. For one, girls tended to be easier for him to control, and it would do for Rune to have friends her own age who worked on both sides of her identity. On the other side, teenagers were inherently frustrating and unpredictable, and were prone to occasional meaningless rebellion.
He could deal such things, easily, but they were still irritating.
She lived alone, homeless, at first in the shithole part of town, squatting in a condemned building, and now in the Boat Graveyard, squatting in an abandoned ship. She was described as almost constantly giddy, loud, and prone to bragging. Irritating character traits, especially in a rookie. She created a flying device, and a single-wheeled vehicle, but others had seen robotic animals occasionally in the poorer part of town and areas near the Boat Graveyard.
He was a bit, only slightly, nervous to be in this part of town. Not much real business happened in the Boat Graveyard, and graffiti of every kind, including tags from every gang in the city, decorated many of the junkyard's features, but most agreed that if the territory belonged to anyone, it was the ABB. He tended to stay out of their territory, unless he wanted a fight.
But it would be worth it, to secure a Tinker for their cause.
The car stopped nearby, and he and his men climbed out. "Alabaster, make sure no nearby trash get any ideas about my car. Krieg, Rune, you're with me."
"Yes sir." all three subordinates replied.
He had created his helmet before getting out, and now, completed the rest of his set. "Which ship has she been sleeping in?" he asked.
"Further in, near the middle of the junkyard." Krieg supplied, turning his nose at the area. Beach turned to swamp, really. It was difficult to look regal walking around here.
Kaiser sliced his way through police tape without a thought, continuing forwards into the Boat Graveyard. Eventually, both could see that one ship had power, and rumbled quietly in place. Seeing the makeshift door that had been cut into one side, and the massive pile of salvaged junk laid around its base, he could tell that this was the place.
"Robotnik!" he shouted. No reply.
"Is she even here?" Rune asked.
"She was an hour ago." Krieg said, "The police were trying to get her to stop tearing up a different ship, but the PRT eventually decided it was more trouble than it was worth, for now."
"Hm." Kaiser walked forwards, "We'll wait for her. This might be a blessing in disguise. When she returns, and finds us standing proud within her own sanctum, it'll put her on the back-foot."
"Normally," Krieg said, "But she's not our usual fare, she's a Tinker. Who knows what kinds of traps and security system she has set up?"
"I could send a boulder in first, roll it around, trigger everything first before we head in?" Rune offered.
"Hopefully that would also send her a message to return home faster." Kaiser said, "Very well."
Rune picked up one of the larger bits of scrap metal from her pile, and moved it in front of the group. Kaiser did a few tricks, evening out the metal, increasing its mass, making it more of a ball and less of a sheet.
The metal boulder rumbled into the ship, and the three villains followed in afterwards.
"What the fuck." Rune said, jumping, despite herself, at the sudden monotone voice. The sound of devices activating filling the echoing halls of the rusted ship. There was a sudden clattering of clicking sounds, and Kaiser turned on his heel.
The inside of the ship, as connected to the walk-in entrance, was a kind of looping, somewhat skinny tunnel. Their ball of metal would of course trigger any traps first, but it also meant they couldn't enter in that way.
Kaiser saw the two red crab robots appear suddenly on the other side of the hall, blocking the way to the entrance- and their exit. The other direction, from which the robotic voice had come, was blocked by the ball.
However, Kaiser wasn't worried. The crabs moved closer, snapping their claws threateningly. He lifted a hand, intending to spear them both, when an explosion behind him caught his attention.
The giant metal ball that Rune had been controlling had apparently hit a trap- and was gone, so much slag, splattered across the floor, ceiling, and wall around it.
Floating at the other end of the hall was the vehicle, with no driver, floating on its own, the jewel on its front steaming slightly.
"You have been warned. Robotnik is not here at the moment, but this place is defended. Leave, or we will resort to lethal force."
"I am Kaiser, of the Empire Eighty-Eight. I wish to meet with Robotnik."
"Kaiser does not 'wait outside'." he challenged.
The crabs moved back, allowing them access to the exit. "You have been warned. Exit the ship-" it stopped, suddenly, the voice changed, "If you could hand me over, Zero? I have begun broadcasting. Oh! Wonderful!" the voice was definitely feminine, now. "Am I addressing Kaiser?"
"You are." Kaiser said, "Where are you?"
"I was having a late lunch, but I'm heading back now. You haven't hurt any of my babies, have you?"
"Babies?" Kaiser asked, glancing at the robots, "Your tinkertech robots?"
"Yes! My babies! No. Okay, you haven't, that's good. We'd have a problem, if you did. I'll be outside in ten seconds." the broadcast cut out with a muffling sound, and the robot's voice returned, speaking from somewhere behind the vehicle. "She is outside."
Kaiser narrowed his eyes, before turning and marching outside, "Follow." he stepped out into the sunlight, as majestically as he could, and beheld the somewhat filthy, tall, terribly skinny girl in a pirate's outfit and a fake nose and mustache.
Rune let out a small giggle, that was silenced from a glare from her two superiors. "Robotnik, I presume?" Kaiser asked.
"You presume correctly!" I say, grinning wide, but inside, I'm freaking out a bit. Honestly, Rune and Krieg, from what I know of their powers, would be easy pickings. But Kaiser in particular...
He could make spikes and such grow from metal, reshape it.
There would be nothing to stop him from killing my babies with a thought, twisting them from the inside and forcing them to self-destruct.
I had no real idea of his range, or his limitations. So! Baby gloves with this guy. And if I saw my opportunity- well, my first instinct is to simply blow him up. He was a bad guy. A Capital-E Evil dickbag. A freaking Nazi. I wouldn't feel the least bit guilty, really. But he was also in charge of a bunch of other Nazis, and that might bring them all on top of me at once.
But could I blow them all up?
Or maybe I should just try to cooperate, see if there's some way I can just make them leave me alone, for now.
What to do, what to do?
"I can see you're quite the skilled Tinker, you've done quite well with the resources available to you." he said, praising me, his voice smarmy and thick with condescension. Oh, he sounded charming enough, but everything about his body language just exuded 'I'm better than everyone and I know it'.
"Why thank you!" I say, "But I just bet that you Neo-Nazis have so many more resources at their disposal, eh?" I snap my fingers, and all three jump as the Egg Mobile and Zero, who had been quietly making their way to the top of the boat, off the deck, and into the air, suddenly drop almost to the ground, kicking up a sudden whoomph of sound and sand from the beach. "Why, I managed to create Zero and Egg Mobile here with some scraps and a few stolen tools!" I threw my hands up in the air, grinning widely, "Oh ho ho ho ho!"
All three look a bit unnerved, but Kaiser continues, unabashed, "You've gotten it in one. I'd like to recruit you. The Empire is the last bastion of order in this city, we have money, tools, connections-"
"An infinite supply of metal." I gesture to him.
"Yes." he almost growls out, annoyed at the interruption, "That too. As you can see, the Empire can provide you with opportunity to do some real tinkering. You'd have to be foolish, to turn down this offer."