Expanding outward as if reaching for her face, several spider-legged flashes danced before her eyes before dissipating.
Priyanka blinked away the afterflashes.
There was an airy pop followed by a small, isolated whipcrack explosion. And then rage swelled up from the grave.
"FOOL! I REFUSE TO WAIT ANY LONGER! RAISE ME!" followed by different voice and a scream, "Help! Please! Don't leave me trapped down here!"
Priyanka shifted her weight with caution, turning, searching through the dark gaps in the junked heaps.
"Who—is there someone there?"
From deeper in the refuse, the glow that Deshel had detected earlier grew in intensity until its source was so clear it was undeniable.
"Is there someone in there? Come out!"
No answer. Then a pattern of machine trills and the flashing beacon slowly died.
Momentary panic gripped Priyanka's chest. She edged back from the fissure where the light resided.
It was definitely time to leave.
Priyanka checked her line, her eyes locked on the pinpoint where the throbbing light had been.
A cacophony of noise rose from the machinery like a live thing, pulsating through the dark realm around her.
Throaty and deep, it resembled a long intake of breath and the grinding of teeth.
Small whispers and inhuman cries mixed with soft beeps. Squirts of machine language bled in.
Oozing forward through the cracks and holes of the junk, it pressed in on her, rising in immediacy and deafening levels.
Both fascinated and frightened, Priyanka stared, as if possessed, as if somehow it might crush her if she was not still enough.
Frozen, her eyes never left the flashing light. It grew brighter, bringing tears to her eyes, forcing her to close them and turn away.
Was she really looking at a functioning Metal, this... mess of strange transmissions and barrage of light-play?
There was no doubt in her mind that she wanted this to be Il'on, if only to be able to fulfill her contract.
But the earlier conflict on the bridge and the oddity of the transmissions left her conflicted. Was this part of some elaborate hoax?
Priyanka stared at the blinking light, trying to commit this moment and place to memory as if that might solidify her desire for it to be the truth.
She shook her head and admonished herself out loud…
"Don't be stupid, Pree. The only way to resolve this situation is to dig into the Metal and pull its braincore."
She knew that the only way she be certain was to dig into the mess of wiring and metal. If they discovered a braincore, they would have their answer.
But if they uncovered the source and revealed someone's idea of a joke, well, then she'd have a lot to consider.
Her biggest concern would be whether to continue this dig or not.
In any case, nothing was happening until tomorrow when they could get the proper tools down here.
She gave the troublesome machine a last look and looked up, ready to make her ascent.
As if anticipating this moment, a storm of transmission noise broke the silence once more.
Static and the distinct echo-distance in the voices reminiscent of old radio transmissions. Just as Deshel had stated.
"Gitta load more out-ta Longhor–"
"Repair shouldn't take more than a week. Harve–"
"–ford nothing but buy everything he can put his hands on. Including that wo–"
Human voices. Every one of them. But not live. No, these were recordi–
The idea hit her like a lightning strike.
No, not live and not recordings either. Mimicry. The machine was mimicking the voices it had heard.