Chapter Four
Protection mechanism

Piro looked around, but seeing nothing, he refocused his gaze on the silver-haired EDS.

Ping still looked panicked for some reason. She started to get up from sitting on the floor, but stopped before she had stood up, keeping her in a kneeling position. She continued to look around as though expecting someone to burst through the door at any moment.

Piro couldn't see why she was having this reaction to a power outage. He tried to comfort her as best he could. <It's just a power outage, Ping. No big deal. I'm sure the apartment manager will take care of it shortly.> He stood up and subconsciously put his hand on her shoulder. <Calm down.>

Ping looked up at her comforter. Piro was surprised to see a look of legitimate fear on the robot's face. He was more surprised when she told him frankly, <No, this was intentional.>

<H-h-how would you know that?> Piro started to feel a bit panicked as well. How can a robot feel fear? he wondered. What kind of a thing is this?

<I…I don't know,> the robot admitted. <I just have a feeling…a premonition.>

<What kind of a robot are you?> Piro blurted out.

Ping blushed, but quickly got over it. <That's not of importance at the moment, Piro-kun. We have to get out of here.> She looked over her shoulder, where Largo was still drinking his beer. <Largo-san! You come too!>

Largo looked up and over at the robot with a confused look on his face. Piro realized that Largo had no idea anything was said other than his name. "Largo, we have to leave. Ping says there's something here."

"Funny," Largo said as he came over, still holding his beer can, "this apartment seems to be less safe than the prison we were in."

<What did he say? Never mind, we have to go,> Ping said as she grabbed Piro's arm and led him towards the door.

Ping threw open the apartment door. The hall was silent and pitch-black due to the lights being out. It was an odd sight, with a teenage-looking girl in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt practically dragging a similarly-dressed Piro into the silent hall, followed by a shirtless Largo.

The EDS grabbed Largo's arm now and led both of them down the hallway. The doors were all closed as the three ran past them. Ping all of a sudden stopped, finding one door that was blown open.

Piro got a glance at the robot's face and saw she wore a new look now. This wasn't just fear anymore, but pure terror on the EDS' face. He looked inside the open door to see what had scared Ping so badly and quickly became terrified himself.

The door didn't seem to be forcibly open, but inside there were the clear signs of a struggle. The table in the middle of the room was broken in two. Two bodies were torn asunder, with the blood covering much of the room in a deep shade of crimson. Ping stood still for a second more, and then slowly started to walk inside, leaving Piro and Largo in the hallway alone.

Largo stared at Piro for a minute before asking him, "What t3h hell is that robot ch1x0rz doing?"

"I have no idea," was Piro's reply. "But I know I'm not going in there for any – "
He was cut off by the sound of someone coming up the nearby stairwell. Piro could hear voices.

<Yes, I understand. Subject termination has been authorized by Director Sonoda. We're moving in now.>

"Termination?" Piro asked himself if he correctly understood what he just heard. "Oh…shit…Largo, I really don't like this. I really don't like this at all."

<Hey, I hear a voice up there,> said the voice in the stairwell.

Piro felt his pants become warm. He tackled Largo into the blood-stained room, hoping, praying that he would live to see the next day.

Piro stayed on the ground for a while, holding Largo's mouth shut while moving his head so he could see the doorway. He saw three armed men walk past the opening. Piro felt Largo bite his hand, but the fear of being caught kept him from screaming or relinquishing his grip.

A few minutes later, Piro felt it was safe to move. He got up and put his finger to his mouth keeping Largo silent before he had the chance to protest his rough treatment.

Piro crept slowly to the other room where Ping had walked, with Largo following and showing signs of fear himself as they passed the two corpses. One of the two was cut cleanly in half, as if by a sword. The other was missing his head and an arm. The stench made Piro want to throw up, but he managed to keep it together as they got to the other room. Piro saw Ping standing still over what seemed to be a third body and a broken, blood-stained window. He moved towards her slowly, not wanting to startle her.

<Get down,> Ping ordered in a dull, monotone version of her voice. <They know you're here. Get down if you want to get out of here alive.>

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