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ROBOT DARRYL REACHED across the console and adjusted a row of dials. He tapped the back of his wrist next, and an audible alert rang out. WARNING, COMPUTER NETWORK FAILURE. WARNING, COMPUTER NETWORK FAILURE. WARNING—

Sparks flew from the control panel, and a storm of static broadcasted over the speakers. From left to right, the glass faces of the gauges cracked. One blew apart. Darryl tapped commands into the robot's suit and into the interface, but nothing worked. In a succession of blasts, the tripod lights in the chamber blew apart one-by-one.

The monitors switched off, and then the chamber blinked into darkness.

Lights mounted on machine guns flicked on and swept the chamber. None of Ascension's simulations had predicted what happened next.

The computer monitors and televisions flickered to life, global connections re-establishing. The technicians frantically searched the code frequency for any error. A soft glow rippled across the ceiling, casting a faint but eerie purple light but growing in intensity. Zaps of electricity shot down the avenue between the structures, circuits and relays working as a giant computer chip. The temples blinked bright green and pink while orange and indigo flashes streaked across the motherboard.

Electricity crackled. The lines running down the angles of the pyramids turned brilliant white, razor-thin cracks holding in the light of a hundred suns. Silver tears ran down the faces but failed to fall. The tears formed into trickles, grew to washes of metallic fluid, and soon all the sides oozed with the substance. Yet, still, none of it spilled to the floor. Chamber lit in neon colors, the entire scene reminded Cara of the Led Zeppelin black-light poster from her college dorm—train wrecking into a Salvador Dali masterpiece.

"I told you ... you were reading it wrong." Darryl cocked his hand back and his robotic fingers turned red-hot. He aimed them at the technician cowering on the floor.

"Please, no."

Continuous streams of electricity shot from the fingertips and struck their target. One blast ripped into his chest, searing through his heart, and out the other side. The technician opened his mouth in a silent scream as another burst tore across the abdomen, slicing his stomach open and spilling his intestines to the floor in a sickly splatter. He ran his hand across the bloody organs, vainly attempting to hold them in with his motor skills failing. The remaining three rivulets of electricity converged on his skull. The skin bubbled.

The technician screamed a haunting cry.

His head exploded. Bone, brain matter and pulpy red fluid blew out in all directions. The body twitched and twerked in a reflex spasm before falling limp across the floor.

"Now that's brainpower!" Darryl hooted while taking in the events crackling up the walls and onto the ceiling, hands on gleaming alloy hips. "Now we're making some progress."

The pyramids hummed and sparked, and a heat-shimmer optical illusion phased into existence like a desert oasis mirage, warping the time and space at the inverted pinnacles, rippling between dimensions.

The humming intensified ten-fold.

Neon cherry lightning blasted from the two pyramids, Sun and Moon, and coalesced in the middle of the chamber, swirling light and crackling energy snapping at each other. Energy continued to accumulate within the swirling mass, storm growing stronger by the moment. The room strobed, and then the lightning straightened, focusing into beams of pure energy. The pulsing red lights lasered down, crossing each other on the floor of the chamber, creating a two-dimensional pyramid of light.

Cara regarded the banks of televisions and computer monitors, at the satellite-video-captured-feeds of the various communication towers. This isn't good.

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