Alien Robot Autopsy: Part 1

League HQ—On Sunday afternoon, I made some time to investigate the robots that had attacked us. By investigate, I mean take apart.

We’d brought home two of them—the least damaged ones. Neither of them looked good, but neither of them had surrendered, so there you go.

Because they were both about the size of the van, I’d brought them into HQ’s hangar. Because I kept certain tools in the lab, but not in the hangar, I’d had to lug a pile of tools over.

It took time, and that’s why I had SuperTV playing simultaneously in every room, and that’s why I was watching “Hero Scoop with Baz Wilson.”

It wasn’t that I particularly liked the show. He was more often wrong than right, but when he was right, it could be a disaster. When he’d done a show on Hard Luck, he’d inadvertently revealed the guy’s secret identity. You could argue it was mostly Hard Luck’s own probability powers working against him, but he wasn’t the only hero who’d been outed that way.

The general opinion among supers was that it was better to watch the show than find out what he’d said about you later.

With everything we’d done lately, it hadn’t been a surprise to learn that we were on the show this week.

I stood next to the table, and picked up a power saw. It had a diamond tipped blade, but it wasn’t anything special. I could have used a laser, but experience showed that when I got through the hull, the laser beam would continue burning up whatever happened to be on the other side.

If the saw didn’t work, I had other options, not least of which would be borrowing Cassie’s sword.

I brought the saw down, watching sparks and dust fly. Pushing the saw forward, I felt it sink into the robot’s skin. Then I lifted the saw away, and inspected the results.

The line in the machine’s hull didn’t go all the way through, but the saw could cut it.

Turning it off, I put the saw back on the table. This was going to work. I might go through more saw blades than I wanted, but that was okay. It was better than possibly cutting off my leg with Cassie’s sword.

On the screen near me, the studio audience cheered. Baz Wilson sat in his chair, and held up his hands, lowering them to silence the crowd. He gave the camera a wide smile, evidently enjoying himself.

Blond, tanned, and good looking, he differed from the average talk show host in that he was heavier than most. He’d began covering supers on his YouTube channel, so the weight fit the geek stereotype. The show’s original episodes had been filmed in his dorm room just three or four years ago.

“We’re back from the station break, and now we’re looking at the new Heroes League. You knew they were going to be big, didn’t you? Entered with a bang, defeating the Grey Giant, taking down their mayor while revealing a huge conspiracy? And what do you know? Just a few weeks ago came St. Louis.”

He looked directly into the camera. “Do you know what came after St. Louis? Something you probably don’t know about. You heard about the fight yesterday, and we’ll get to that, but I’m thinking about the other thing. The toy manufacturer that licenses the League’s images are going to start releasing toys based on the current League.

“Now that’s not a big deal. Every big team does toys, right? But here’s the interesting thing—the League’s only been making the old League available—no likenesses of the current crop of kids.

“You know what that means? They just got serious. You want to be a big name hero team? You need money, and now they’re making deals. That might cause some tension. You’ve got the big name Defenders looking worse than a bunch of kids already. What was St. Louis but a gigantic black eye for Defenders units everywhere?”

He went on for a while after that about how we might not get the cooperation we’d like in the future.

Obviously he didn’t know who our board was. It seemed like half of them were, or had been in the Defenders.

I stopped paying attention and went back to cutting up the hull. It took less time than I expected to create a big square on one side that was large enough for me to lean inside.

Whoever put them together hadn’t wasted any space at all—so much so that “leaning in” wasn’t quite right. The machine’s insides were solid, different materials slotted into each other, more like a jigsaw puzzle than any device I’d ever seen.

So far as I could tell, there were no moving parts.

I went to the computer, and opened the file the Xiniti had given me of the design for the machine race unit that had tried to hitch a ride on the jet. The League jet had translated the files into something I could read.

In the background, Baz talked about what we’d done yesterday.

“I’ve got no idea who this chick is.” He pointed at a picture of Izzy. Someone had been shooting video as she flew down, grabbed the machine, and pulled it higher into the sky.

The picture showed her flying downward with the machine self-destructing behind her.

“Yeah,” he said. “No idea, but she’s awesome. Whatever they’re doing with personnel, they’re going for heavy hitters.”

I ignored him. Unless everybody out there used the same style of construction, the machine race unit that had attached itself to the League jet had been constructed the same way as the machines I had in the hangar.

That sucked. Why? Because I had no idea how to find those guys, and thus no way to find out why they’d tried to kill me.

I shook my head. No. Wait. The machines were computers. All I’d have to do is find a way to access their memory. Even if it didn’t tell me the answer, I might learn how to find them.

20 thoughts on “Alien Robot Autopsy: Part 1”

  1. This is why I prefer stupid robot minions. Or, better yet, ones that grow giant after they’ve taken some damage and have to be destroyed by a giant sword-wielding enemy robot.

  2. Nick needs more surgical cutting tools based in the Commando Can Opener attached to a telesurgery device (upgraded/scalable da Vinci Surgical System?) and have the corpse in an underground bunker with himself on another continent (preferably the moon) when doing shit like this just in case.

  3. Thinking the same here, you don`t bring alien robots to your secret base. Even broken alien robots.
    After all, there are lots of places to insert bombs or trackers in these things.

  4. The machines are taking revenge for their lost brother! Since the Xinti are too strong, they are going for the next best target, our young protagonist! I smell an alien robot battle coming over the horizon. Nick should make his own robots that look exactly like his suit and are programmed with advanced AI. They would make for great diversions and extra firepower and allow for a much wider range of strategies that he could employ. They could also be used to secure his secret identity when The Rocket and Nick need to be in separate places at the same time. Hopefully none of them catch the Ultron syndrome.

  5. Something like the remotely operated GT Robos from the Toriko anime would also be really great but probably too difficult to reproduce with any kind of reality-based science to be practical.

  6. I have to agree with some of the other commenters, here. I’m willing to acknowledge that Nick may have taken some precautions, of course, but if the drones (or whatever they are called) could find him and Haley on the road, I wouldn’t bet against them being able to track each other. Not that there’s an easy right answer – examining them on site would have endangered civilians, among other things. But I do hope he’s not unarmored while he’s doing this. Nick may be pretty good about that sort of thing in general, but technological curiosity seems like it could become his Achilles heel if he’s not careful.

  7. That seems somewhat like hubris on Nick’s part. Sure, the fish are down. Destroyed, not fighting back. But what if there’s a redundant power source that runs the surveillance equipment, purposefully isolated from the rest of the power grid, so that the owner can continue to see what it sees even after destruction? There has to be some sort of location device, maybe GPS, maybe something more esoteric like a super detailed gravity map of the entire earth (which would seem to be like a physical fingerprint if the map is detailed enough), so subtle changes in local gravity would enable it to sort of “track” where it’s moving. Maybe throw on a random timer for burst transmission so one would suddenly try to transmit and then be quiescent and then hours or days later another one would suddenly try to transmit. Maybe they’re Trojan horses, you know? He has absolutely no idea of what’s inside and he just casually brought them inside his base.

  8. The bit about the robots being able to find them raises a good point: why aren’t they doing more against the League?

    It opens up the possibility that the machine races aren’t against them. It suggests someone’s using some robots for their own ends and framing the machines.

    Or, if we consider the Discworld book Jingo, there’s even the possibility that machines really are behind it and are trying to make it look like they were framed by a third party.

    Or perhaps an alien race has read Jingo and decided to use that scheme…

  9. I imagine that there’s shielding of some kind covering the base, not least because of all the juicy alien goodies inside that they may or may not be allowed to have. If the robot was actually playing possum and was still functional to a degree, that’d be one thing, but a passive transponder would be no problem.

  10. Oh man, been reading for about a week now and I just caught u. Kinda sucks because I’m excited to see what happens next. Great series thanks for all the awesomeness

  11. I make myself hold off on reading for a couple of weeks so I can play catch-up (no, not the red sauce you put on hamburgers). One thing sticks in my mind. When is Nick going to start thinking of the suit as his, and not his grandfather’s. At this point it seems that he’s pretty much redesigned the entire suit, basing it on the original Rocket’s concepts.

  12. Welcome to the waiting game, Matt. It’s the only downside of reading Legion of Nothing.

    Cleftes makes a good point about the base; there probably are substantial measures hiding it as a whole, and anything inside it. It’s possible those would defeat any transponder or GPS type thing. Depending on how effective they are and how a hypothetical tracker would work, it’s possible that whoever dispatched the drones will only have data indicating one was taken near Grand Lake, which is pretty useless from an operational perspective. Still hope Nick is being careful, though.

    Also wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it – I know I’m jumping the gun a bit, but I expect to be busy with family in the near future.


  13. Hopefully the won’t end like the autopsy on Independence Day. You know, where it comes back to life, puppeteers this dead guy and talks to the President.

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