"Whoa, whoa." Brad said, now knowing who this man was. "What does Skyway have to do with Nate?"
"Didn't Dr. Wakemen tell you?" Pride asked.
"I was getting around to it, Samuel." She interjected.
"Well then you'll have time once we get to the Station." He said turning back to the ship.
"Station?" Sheldon asked. "You mean the actual Skyway Patrol Sky station?" he sounded more and more eager as he talked.
"The very same." He said looking back. "I think you'll all want to come if you want to know what's really going on." Jenny and her friends looked at each other before she nodded, indicating that she was going. Brad nodded as did Sheldon. "You too." He said, looking now to Vega and Vexus.
"What?" Jenny said in surprise. "You're letting Vexus come to your station?"
"She may be Cluster," Pride began "but this situation calls for a necessary cooperation. Besides, I'm sure both the former and current Queens of Cluster Prime realize that they're planet is at stake as well."
Vega looked to her mother before nodding to join.
"Good to have you with us, Vega." Jenny said
"Hey," she began "this is just me making up for all the times you haven't visited yet."
The two shared a chuckle before looking to Vexus.
Vexus narrowed her eyes before saying "Very well. If it means the safety of my planet, so be it. But don't expect any long terms relations when this is over, Pride."
Nora, seeing this, sighed before saying. "If you'll give me a moment. I need to get something. And I'll need to put this one back to sleep." She finished by tickling XJ1, making her laugh.
"Still acting motherly towards your projects, Nora?" Pride asked, in a somewhat down casted tone
She didn't answer, but merely frowned before walking into the house while Jenny Brad and Sheldon walked to the ship. Vega ordered her remaining Drones to aid the ones dealing with Nate and so they left. She and Vexus managed to reach the ship first and walk in. There was a moment she accidentally bumped into Sheldon and the two looked at each other for the first time. They blushed before Sheldon recovered and allowed her to go first.
Tuck began to follow but was stopped by Director Pride.
"Sorry, champ." He said, still standing in front of him "But only you brother's going."
"Wait, what?" he said in confusion. "Why can't I go. I've had just as much experience taking on baddies."
"Not like this one." Pride began. " But your brother is still a former Skyway Patrol Cadet. And his experience with extraterrestrial threats outside of Skyway jurisdiction makes him qualified for this task. And Mr. Lee's expertise in robotics is ideal for what we have planned."
"But...but..." Tuck began to protest
"I'm sorry, son. But this is something the grown-ups need to handle." He finished before walking off.
Tuck casted his head down and Brad and Jenny couldn't help but look in pity.
"Hey don't worry, Tuck." Brad said, as he walked over kneeled down in front of his little brother. "It'll be fine."
"But it's not fair." Tuck said, still down casted "I've helped out before. Why can't I help now?"
"Tuck," Jenny began "I know this might not seem fair, but think about it: do you really want to waste your time on some dumb flying station in the sky, when you could be here, helping the people of Tremorton?" Tuck only raised his eyebrow, indicating that that seemed like a dumb question. "Your right. Stupid question."
"Look, Tuck." Brad said "Whatever this Pride guy has in mind, it's obviously something important. I'd like for you to come, but if he says you can't then you need to stay here. Keep an eye on mom and dad."
Tuck was about to protest before he cast his head down again. "Alright. But you'd better bring me back something nice from Skyway."
"I promise." Brad said before the two ended up hugging each other. "Good luck, little buddy."
Tuck waved by to Jenny before running back to his house.
"That was kind of sweet of you, Brad." Jenny pointed out with a smirk.
"Yeah." Brad said with a sigh. "I give him five minutes before he starts using water balloons as land mines around the house."
"Ok." Nora said as she walked back out of the house. "I'm ready."
She was wearing her old Skyway patrol uniform again, only this time she was carrying the helmet instead of wearing it.
"Back in uniform, mom?" Jenny asked
"Sometimes I think I never took it off." She said back with a wink.
Jenny noticed that, along with her helmet, her mother had the same old black-box she'd seen before in her other hand.
"Do you think she ever washes that thing?" Brad asked as they walked onto the ship.
In a moment the aircraft took off and Tucked watched from his window as it did. He turned back and walked down to the outside of the living room where his parents were watching reports of Nate now making his way towards the city area of Tremorton.
Within an hour, the aircraft brought the group to the Skyway Sky Station. Once they landed all, with the exception of Brad, Nora and Director Pride, looked in amazement at the monolithic-like station. Large buildings were scattered here and there, aircrafts from large plane-like vehicles to sky-bikes swarmed in the air, troops marched and trained while giving their "hup-hups" as they did.
"Wow." Jenny said still looking. "Given what Brad told me, I half expected this place to be nothing but paperwork."
"If you'll all follow me to the control tower." Pride said as he lead them towards the center of the station.
As they walked, some of the troops had glanced or stopped to look at the group; particularly Jenny, Vega and Vexus.
Nora, walking closer to Pride looked about and said. " A lot's changed since I was last here. They've really cleaned this place up, last time I was hear."
"That was back when Hardache was in charge." Pride said with a slight smirk
"Oh yes." Nora said rolling her eyes. "Stern. Well I hope they at least put in more toilets over the years."
As they walked, all began to see the largest tower standing above the rest in the center of the station. It was cylinder-shaped and has a red top on it, similar to the design of the helmets the troops wore. However, it had a circular-like shape at the top that was obviously where the "control" took place. They all made their way inside and passed through a gateway that seemed to scan them as they passed with a red light.
The computer's alarms went off as Jenny walked through.
[Non-biological presence detected.] the computer's masculine voice sounded.
Suddenly a dozen troops pooped out from every possible corner, crack and space with rifles aimed at Jenny.
The commanding officer, a man with a less decorated uniform than Pride's, called out "Freeze it, robo-menace!"
"Stand down, Stickowski." Pride said, in an annoyed tone. "She's cleared."
"Uh...yes director." He saluted before he and his men went back to their places.
Vega walked through next and suddenly the alarm went off again and Stickowski and his men reappeared, all with their rifles aimed.
"Freeze it, robo..."
"Stickowski!" Pride said in a more annoyed tone.
"Sorry, director." He said, saluting again. "We've, uh, just never had an emergency like this before and...well the men get very anxious."
"Just get back to work, Sickowski." Pride said, sending him and his men away again.
Vexus raised an eyebrow, cautions about stepping through. Pride nodded to her, indicating it should be safe. She slowly put her leg though the gateway as she stepped through. No alarmed sound. However as she put the rest of herself through...
The alarm was stopped when Pride shot the machine to pieces with a hidden blaster in his coat.
"Lousy piece of junk anyway." He said as he put the blaster back in his holster.
They walked further until they were at the base of an elevator that lead up to the very top. They were all half-crapped inside as they rode up together. Jenny and Brad were squeezed close to each other, she blushing and him smiling a bit at this, Nora was pressed between Pride and Jenny, and Sheldon was stuck between Vegan and Vexus. He and Vega exchanged shy glances while Vexus gave a disapproving look.
"You...humans...can't even make large enough...elevators?" Vexus said, struggling while being cramped.
"This is nothing." Pride said, as if it didn't bother him. "Should've seen how the first on was. Could barely fit in it on my own. Felt like torture when I had an itch."
"Now let me get this straight," Vega began "you're plan to stop a highly advanced war-machine involves to teenage boys, three robots and an old lady?"
"That was the initial plan." Pride said, bluntly. "But to be on the safe side," he began to smirk "I called in for extra help."
"Extra help?" Brad said in confusion
They were all silent until the doors finally opened. All, but Pride, nearly fell out as they piled out. He simply brushed off his sleeves, indicating he'd been used to this. The room they were in seemed like a large hallway, with many Skyway offices sitting at desks. All were engaged in either paperwork, talking with someone over a communicator, or looking at the schematics of some new weapon or vehicle. It was all colored in a mix of grey and sliver, with the desk sticking out as brown.
"Right this way." Pride said as he kept walking.
The others either looked in confusion or shrugged before following. They eventually reached a large, almost oversized, iron door. Pride put his finger inside a slot on the side and for a few moments, the computer-mechanism around the slot began to ping and zip. In a moment there was a final "ding".
[Welcome, Director Pride.] the feminine voice of this computer said.
The doors slid open to the side and all looked in to see what was the main hall of the Control tower. It was a large, meeting room-like area. A large rectangular table sat in the middle, with a least twelve chairs set around it. At the very front was a large window that took up nearly all of what would've been the back wall. It looked out to the rest of the station as well as the sky.
Sitting in a few of the chairs were faces that Jenny, among some others like Brad, Sheldon and Nora, recognized. One had actually jumped from his chair and ran to her...on all fours.
"Jenny!" Kenny, XK9, the part-dog robot-boy yelped as he ran over.
Once he reached her, he stood up on his two back legs and kicked her face.
"Kenny?" Jenny said, trying to push him back. "what are you doing here?"
Before she could get an answer, Nora noticed a familiar face as well.
"Mogg?" she said in a mixed tone of surprise and annoyance "Is Skyway becoming desperate for scientific minds, now?"
"Don't be absurd." He began to protest as the little, bearded, glasses wearing man hopped out of his chair. "YK9 and I were requested to come here under a special order, same as the rest of these people."
After fully pushing Kenny off, Jenny caught a glimpse of someone peaking their head over their chair, which had its back turned. Jenny could see this person had pale-like skin...and violet hair.
"Misty?" Jenny said, suddenly realizing who it was
"High...Jen." Misty, awkwardly said, fully showing herself by turning her chair around.
"You're here?" Jenny asked walking over to her. "I thought you'd have left earth."
"Well I was but..." she began to say, rubbing the back of her head awkwardly
Before Brad could hear the answer, he was taken aback by another familiar face.
"Doctor Locus!?!" he said, pointing out the doctor sitting in his seat.
This caught the attention of both Jenny and Nora.
Jenny, turning her arms into two missile launchers, aimed at him and said. "What are you doing out of prison, Locus? Did Skyway just pick you up so I could bring you down again?"
"He was released under our custody." Pride said, stopping her.
"Yes, XJ9." Locus said in a smug tone. "Apparently they needed my expertise in order to deal with this Nate character."
"Ha." Nora said. "What can you offer? Another idiotic remote to try and control him?"
"Well the idea came to mind," Locus said in protest "but the good director here wouldn't hear of it. Worried what I could do with a powerful robot like him under my control."
"You couldn't control a robotic fly." Nora said. "Even Mogg, here, had a better chance then you."
Suddenly the three scientists were in an argument. Jenny, Brad, Director Pride and Kenny face palmed themselves at this. Eventually Vega, who was getting more and more annoyed by this, took a deep breath before shouting at the top of her lungs.
"CAN YOU ALL JUST SHUT IT UNTIL THIS IS OVER?"
She took deep breathes after this, and the whole room was silent.
"Sorry." She said. "I just get a bit peeved when people shout over nothing."
"That's my girl." Vexus said.
"Thank you, Vega." Pride said. "If all of you would take a seat. All will be explained."
With that al began to sit back down. Pride took the head seat, with the window to his back. TO his right, in the following order, was Nora, Jenny, Brad, Sheldon, and Misty. To his left sat Dr. Mogg, Kenny, Vega, Vexus and Dr. Locus.
"You've all been brought here," Pride began to say, looking to all of them "because you each contribute a certain advantage to helping us defeat the machine know as Nate. Expertise in robotics and engineering," he was referring to Nora, Mogg, Locus and even Sheldon "experience in dealing with threats, from extraterrestrial to otherworldly," this meant Jenny, Brad and Misty "and even an understanding of advanced, sentient, artificial life." This meant Vega and Vexus. "All of these traits are necessary in what we have planned."
"Whatever it is, I hope involves flying a giant bomb or something right down that jerks throat." Jenny said.
"If only it were that simple." Pride said. "But unfortunately, Nate, or as he used to be referred to as N.A.T.E., is far too advanced for that."
"Uh, I'm sorry." Sheldon said, raising his hand "But aside from the acronym, what's the difference?"
"Allow me to explain." Pride said.
Pride pulled out a small controller from his pocket and clicked a button. A large T.V. screen dropped down above him and stopped just above his head. He clicked another button and a film reel, a very old one at that, began to play.
"N.A.T.E," Pride began "stands for Nano-bot, Automaton, Tactical, Enforcer." As he spoke the film real showed what he was saying. "He was created under the NIL project. Subjects 1-7 were failures. Nate was number 8. Using advanced Nano-technology, subject NIL-8, or N.A.T.E., became one of the most highly developed combative robot ever. However, before we could fully deploy him...complications arose. Within five days after his full completion, N.A.T.E. went on a destructive rampage. At least six days later, we managed to trap him and send him off into space, use a rocket with an experimental dampener field inside....we lost a lot of men in the process."
"Hey wait, Brad said taking a closer look at the weapons the men in the film were carrying. "I've seen one of those blasters before."
Sheldon looked closer too and said "Yeah. Looks like the one Killgore had. I guess Nate did give it to him."
"So wait." Brad began "Skyway helped to build him too?"
"Yes, we did." Pride said, closing his eyes for a moment. "I was just a captain at the time. I wasn't fully aware of what had been going on in project NIL's development."
"Oh great." Jenny said "Just like Armagedroid. What, did you guys not learn after you made THAT monstrosity?"
"Actually..." Nora began to say in a somber tone "...we made Nate first."
"What?" Sheldon said in surprise, basically everyone who cared has the same reaction. "You made him first and THEN Armagedroid?"
"Don't blame Doctor Wakemen." Pride said. "We were all under orders for the former Director Hardache. After Nate's defection, he still wanted a strong defense against the enemy."
"This was during the First Galactic war, right?" Brad asked
"Exactly." Nora said in answer. "At that time, almost everyone wanted some kind of protection. And all were still scarred from the last alien attack on Earth."
"So you built him because you wanted protection?" Jenny asked "From who or what?"
"From them." Pride said as he pointed to Vega and Vexus. "Or more specifically, her." He pointed only to Vexus.
Vexus gave a humph before crossing her arms and saying "Should have known you humans would be so afraid, you'd turn to anything for help."
"Well after you little excursion on Earth," Nora began to say to her "we were becoming desperate. I don't blame us for wanting something like Nate or Armagedroid, I only regret that we couldn't make them right."
"You might as well have strapped big enough bomb to an earth monkey and shot it to Cluster Prime instead." Vexus said. "Might have had a batter outcome."
"Mother, please." Vega said trying to calm her down.
Jenny did the same thing with Nora, making both of them relax a bit more.
"As 'invigorating' as this is," Mogg began "one question is still on my mind: if this Nate was as advanced as you said, what exactly drove him over the edge?"
"Yeah." Jenny said. "When I was fighting him, he talked about being the greatest and how much he hated me because people liked me even though I was a robot."
"Well I didn't really know." Pride said "I wasn't fully involved in the project. I was just in charge of its security. I think if you want the whole answer, ask the one who was in charge of Nate to begin with."
Jenny, Brad and Sheldon began to turn, followed by everyone else, towards Nora.
She looked around before sighing "I guess I can't keep hiding it." She said. "I think I know why Nate went over the edge."
"Then why don't you tell us, mom." Jenny said. "No more secrets, please."
In answer, Nora put the black box she'd been carrying up on the table. She took a moment to wipe of more of the dust and scratch away some of the material that had locked away some of the letters. Once she was done, everyone could see the still wore out letters spelling out NIL-8; underneath was the letters N.A.T.E.
She began to open it as she said "It all began twenty two years ago..."