An hour passed, as they sat there, huddled in the basement of a man they’d only just met that they couldn’t speak to. Maria found the situation uncomfortable, but there wasn’t exactly anywhere else to go. The TV was still showing the local news, coverage of the storm was beginning to die off as it weakened. Now there were local stories about Auto-Maton prices, Livestock, general farming things. Niarith had fallen asleep on Maria’s shoulder sometime within the past 20 minutes. Lolanene, however, was utterly engrossed in the small rural news. Maria couldn’t imagine why, but if it kept her occupied it was fine by her. Eventually, she fell asleep.
Maria woke up to a loud booming siren. She leapt up from the couch, ready for combat. She heard Niarith startle awake as she fell onto the cushion Maria had occupied. Borisorov held his up in a placatory gesture “Privet! Ey, vse v poryadke. Vse bylo yasno. Burya proshla.” He shook his head and tried to speak Maria’s language. It sounded like “Oll cleer. Oll. Cleer. Iz done.”
Maria got the gist, and nodded. She took a second to calm down, and turned to Niarith behind her. She was laying on the couch on her side, glaring up at Maria. “Thanks for the wakeup, honey.”
Maria smiled at her. “Anything for you, dear.” She gave her a hand up off the couch.
“Hey Lola, c’mon, we’re getting out of here.” Niarith moved to tap her on the shoulder, but she wasn't there.
Lolanene wasn’t in the room. Niarith began to panic, but Borisorov cleared his throat. “Devushka nakhoditsya v drugoy komnate. Skazala, chto budet rabotat' nad perevodchikom.” He gestured over his shoulder to the door near the stairs.
Maria followed Niarith across the basement to the door. Loud hammering and drilling emanated from within, as well as the telltale crackling whoosh of a Nanite Fabricator. Niarith opened the door. The room was made of concrete, Shelving units lined the walls of the small room, with a workbench on the left of the door. Lolanene stood at the workbench, her brow furrowed, working feverishly on the small box that had spoken in the haunting voice of the Units. Multiple robotic arms worked with her, picking up small screws and metal pieces that were being constructed as needed by the fabricator. Within the small box were many layers of strange holographic material, as well as circuit boards, and a myriad of wires. Lolanene was wearing some kind of electronic goggles, AR, Maria assumed. She hadn’t seemed to notice them opening the door.
Lolanene continued working, after a few seconds giving the pair a slight nod. As she took her attention off her work, one of the robotic arms abruptly swung up and hit her in the face. Her instinctual reaction to that resulted in the arms flailing wildly and Lolanene stumbled backwards, the goggles flying off. Only then did Maria notice the small wires that seemed to be very lightly embedded in Lolanene’s eyes, near the outer edge. They were pulled out as she fell, and the robotic arms ceased movement. She laid there on the floor for a moment, as the clattering of the arms stopped. She blew her hair out of her face, and rubbed at her eyes, groaning. “Don’t y’all know not to interrupt somebody when they’re workin’ with a Neura-Tool?”
Maria smirked. “No, I don’t know that. I’m a primitive, remember?”
Lolanene shot her a glare “Oh shut up with that already. You’ve been around long enough by now.”
Niarith interjected “Anyway. The storm is over, we can see about getting those supplies now. Somehow.”
Lolanene slowly stood up, saying as she did “Yeah, if only we had a device that could translate languages two ways and didn’t have the voice of th’ damned.” She gestured to the workbench.
“I take it that’s what you were doing in here then?” Niarith stepped closer to the workbench to get a better look at the device.
Lolanene began putting the casing back on manually “Obviously. It should work both ways now. And the voice will approximate the voice of the speaker as closely as possible.”
Maria’s eyebrows raised “How did you just know how to do that?”
“It ain’t like it’s magic, Lu- Maria. Sorry.”
Maria nodded, it’d been a month, but mistakes happen. “It’s alright, Lolanene.”
Lolanene continued working as she spoke “Anyway, it ain’t like it’s magic. It’s just engineerin’. Turns out livin’ yer whole life in an underground trash heap lends itself well to learnin’ how to fix things and make ‘em work.”
Borisorov arrived in the doorway. “Barrikady razrusheny. Pozhaluysta, zakonchi vse, chto ty delayesh', i ubiraysya iz moyego doma. Spasibo.”
A moment later, the device beeped and said <Barricades are down. Please finish up whatever it is you're doing and get out of my house. Thank you.>
The man stared at the device for a moment in confusion, then simply said “Vy menya slyshali. Pozhaluysta.” <Well, you heard me. Out please.>
Lolanene grinned as she held down the button on the side of the device. “Damn, I”m good.” <Blin ya khorosho>