"Yep, it should have arrived by now, and we should be getting confirmations right abou- huh..."
"Understood, sir, I'll see what I can do… just a sec, I'm gonna just ping the vessel it should be on…"
"Well, Sir, it seems the vessel's black box has stopped responding. We'll ping every so often and tell you if we get anything, but as far as we know, sir, it's a total loss of ship and crew."
"Understood, sir, we'll contact legal and tell them to start drafting the insurance claim now."
It had been a relatively quiet evening in Vale, only the occasional police siren or car horn disrupting the calm peace of the darkening sky. Tonight, however, was slated to be anything but peaceful: a dull roar made itself known just as everyone finished with dinner and things wound down for the evening, growing louder and louder until it rattled windows and doors in their frames and no one within 100 kilometers of Vale could have missed it, or the tiny speck of light that became a brilliant streak across the sky, before looming almost overhead as a massive ball of fire and burning wreckage that briefly made night look like day.
The meteor landed with a deafening thud, the ball of fire and metal carving hundreds of craters and great, kilometer-long trenches into the earth. Unfortunately, it caused no end of troubles and problems for the people of vale, from as simple as waking sleeping babies to the tremor running through the ground rupturing water mains and blowing over old abandoned buildings.
Thankfully the worst of the injuries were scrapes and bruises, though it would be another month before Beacon would have a team free to investigate the site.
JAN-IV-11438 gave a sigh as she took a short break from her endless building, looking over the sea of belts and machinery with a critical eye and constantly looking out for ways to improve her factory and make it more efficient. She barely gave any attention to the proximity warning that popped up on her HUD, having grown used to their semi-constant presence on this hostile planet. This place was both like and unlike her last prison, the constant attacks from hostile 'aliens' (really she was the alien and they were natives, if one wanted to get technical) were more than familiar to her by now. The variety was both a blessing and a curse, keeping things a little more interesting, but also meaning she couldn't really knuckle down and begin exploiting them either.
She'd learned a lot of new things since being stranded, of course, and she was the proud owner of her second von neumann machine; her factory that would slowly come to encompass an entire world through the wonderful world of intelligent expansion, sued up dumb-robotic labour and turret creeping, resources being consumed in ever-greater quantities to feed her unrestrained expansion.
As the rocket she had ridden here- a crude and primitive craft by modern standards; but she didn't have an option to be picky- had breached the upper atmosphere of the first world she'd crash landed on, she'd hoped she'd make it, but faster-than-light travel was a tricky mess of logistics, navigation, careful planning and a lot of really, really complex mathematics… and her only training in its nuances had been a simple crash course before she'd set her original bearing and set off towards the stars.
Like a pancake, her ship's first FTL jump came out a bit messy. In fact, she never made it to FTL, and had managed to crash a single planet over… and- also like a pancake- most of the front end of her spaceship was flattened into the ground- barring the parts where she had salvaged large panels to build this new megafactory.
She finally took a closer look at the proximity alarm when she realised it still hadn't been dealt with, and turning up the resolution showed four individuals, on foot, milling about inside the automatic arming range of the turrets- a brief little buffer zone to give anyone with brains enough to recognize the threat a chance to turn back as the turrets locked on- but also outside the killzone which most of the hostile aliens charged directly into, ignoring the turrets completely and getting scythed down with high-powered lasers.
Needless to say, the fact that the four had stopped piqued her interest. This was the first sign she had seen of any sort of remote chance of friendly intelligence- or even a non-hostile entity- since she crashed on her original planet all those years ago.
Arriving swiftly thanks to the placement of a few conveyor belts, JAN-IV-11438 readied her submachine gun and poked both her head and her gun over the reinforced concrete wall.
To her great surprise, there was a number of humans sat there. That was a relief; she was a worker, cloned and bred to perform manual labour and blue-collar industry work, she'd been going stir-crazy without the contact… but she was forbidden from speaking to the 'regulars' who weren't all clones.
One of the regulars, one possessed of blonde hair and some light armour plating approached her fort by a few steps. Non-worker clothes meant they were either regular citizens or upper management. JAN-IV-11438 furiously updated her turrets IFR sensors so they wouldn't shoot the Citizens.
Amidst all the technical information, old protocols that had been drilled into her head from before the moment she first cracked her eyes open swirled in her head, particularly P-1438: Workers and Regulator Oversight.
She had operated for 48,582.9 hours without Regulator oversight, and she felt herself eager to report in at long last.
The blonde one was the one talking to her, which immediately identified him as a regulator. They were the only humans that ever bothered talking to workers.
JAN-IV-11438 leapt the reinforced wall, not bothering to find a gate in her haste to report and stood at attention before the regulator.
"Unit JAN-IV-11438 reporting for duty, Sir. It has been 48,583.1 hours since my last report, I have converted planet HS-2051 as per protocol P-4885, output is in the order of 500 trillion credits worth of raw resources and stock. As per Protocol P-2995 I have attempted to return to HazTech Industrial's Worker Maintenance Centre on my own, and was preparing another rocket after an… unfortunate crash cut my last journey short."
Curiously, the Regulator seemed unsure and surprised by her report. She'd had rookie regulators before though, and gave him plenty of time to come up with her next set of orders.
Jaune stared at the… thing in front of him with an owlish expression, unsure of what to do or say in response.
"Well, fearless leader, looks like we found what that bullhead saw!" Nora said, excitement tinting her words.
Jaune didn't react, staring as the 'thing' tilted its head ever so slightly, the optics in its faceplate whirring quietly as they adjusted for something.
"W-what exactly are you?"
"JAN-IV-11438. Planet of origin: Jacintar-II. Strain-IV worker; designated Industrial and Civil Engineer. Serial Number 11438. Efficiency rating averages at 89% of optimal peak," the being answered mechanically.
Jaune furrowed his brow. "Can… can I talk to your creator?"
Team JNPR could barely make out its minute change in posture, as it snapped even stiffer, programming that was hardwired in before even the hardwired in programming surfacing immediately.
"All inquiries about Celestic products should be directed to the Celestic products and inquiries hotline. If you are dissatisfied with a worker Unit's productivity or skills you may reserve the right to have them decommissioned and be provided with a new unit free of charge."
Jaune nodded and turned to his team. "Should we take it to Ozpin?"
"It doesn't seem hostile…" Pyrrha said.
Jaune nodded before turning to the robot. "Follow us."
The Robot immediately fell into step behind them, precisely matching their pace as they marched to the bullhead that'd take them back to Beacon.
As they walked Pyrrha whispered in what she hoped was out of earshot of the giant machine.
"Do you notice anything strange about the robot?"
"...it's not an Atlesian design?" Jaune asked.
"Well, yes, but it's… I don't know, call it intuition, but something's… 'off' about that thing."
Ozpin stared impassively at the hulking robot before him, thankful that the sight of it had rendered Ironwood speechless for once.
Ozpin calmly questioned the robot, and it eagerly answered them, he prompted it to tell him as much as it could, steering the conversation like the thing had a rudder on it, and trying to find the right questions to learn what it was and where it had come from. James was- thankfully- quiet enough to defer to him in this, at least, likely waiting for his turn.
Something about the words 'Strain-IV' caught his attention when he asked it to clarify what its name meant.
"This… Strain-IV you mentioned in your Identification, what does that mean?"
"Different strains of workers are engineered to different degrees. Strain-Is are disposable grunts, made to save costs-like all other strains- by creating a worker that the company owned and thus didn't have to pay. After the AI ban, Celestic's biotech labs were in a unique position to create the next source of cheap corporate labour. Strain-Is are the base form that strains II through LVIII are based upon, each strain a different sort of improvement on the strain prior, Strain-IVs are industrial workers, engineered to shrug off most hazards to allow cost-cutting on protective suits, up to and including resisting the stresses of hard vacuum for minutes at a time, longer given appropriate oxygen masks and eye protection- with minimal damage to the overall unit."
Ironwood dropped the tumbler of whiskey he'd been holding, seemingly not noticing it bouncing off his big toe and spilling alcohol everywhere. Ozpin didn't fare much better, merely stopping mid-sip of his coffee.
"...If I may, ma'am, could you please remove your helmet?"
Ozpin furrowed his brow as JAN-IV-11438 looked behind her, posture somehow conveying confusion.
It took Ozpin repeating the request before she realised that he was referring to her, before coming up on a programming conflict. She was made to obey, yes, but her armour had saved her life, repeatedly, and removing even a single piece rang alarm bells tied to her sense of self-preservation, something her creators had also made sure she would pay heed to as well.
In the end, a Corporate Commander's orders trumped her own, and it seemed secure enough here. Taking a few steps back for room, she deactivated the suit and the pressure seals and magnetic locks came undone with a loud 'Clack!' and a hiss of recycled air escaping. The front of her MkV suit folded upwards and she emerged from within, the giant suit dwarfing her as she settled onto the ground with a heavy 'thud' as her underarmour hit the floor.
The MkV was more closely based on its industrial lifter precedents than 'lighter' marks of power armour, and was large enough it had been deemed a personal vehicle, allowing her to wear slimmer customised MkII power armour that could interface with the bulkier MkV systems to allow for EVA activites where fine manipulation and movement in small spaces and human-sized buildings was needed. In turn, this also allowed them to double-down on its defensive qualities by throwing finer movements and delicate tool-use out the window.
Standing up, JAN-IV-11438 removed her MkII suit's helmet, shaking her hair loose and for the first time in four and a half years, breathed a breath of fresh, non-recycled air as she stared a Higher-class in the face.
Ozpin frowned at her extremely pale skin and tangled, wild hair.
"When was the last time you were out of your armour?"
"This is the first time I have left my MkV power armour in 12,493.7 hours, and the first time I have removed my MkII helmet in 39,742.3"
This information deeply troubled Ozpin. The barcode tattooed on her neck, just above her left shoulder troubled him even more.
"It troubles me deeply that any group could willingly subject fellow humans to these conditions…"
JAN-IV's face became blank and her stance straightened and stiffened once more, before rattling off another 'canned answer'.
"Celestic Industries maintains its stance that their workers are human-template, and not human. Any complaints should be directed towards Celestic's Subhuman Resources management department."
"Oh that is just wrong" Ironwood murmured under his breath
Ozpin grimaced at the wording of the departments name.
"Right… I would like you to report to the medbay for now, and ask them for an examination… after that, you requested for Jaune to be your 'handler'?" Ozpin said
"Regulator, sir." JAN-IV-11438 corrected
"Right, Regulator. The scroll we've given you should contain his dormitory's location."
"Are you serious?" Ironwood asked Ozpin incredulously.
"I am. It seems that she is, for now, harmless, and I can trust Mr. Arc to report on her and her wellbeing, as well as contact us in the event of an emergency."
"May I continue expanding my factory, sir?"
Ironwood and Ozpin glanced at each other and, not wanting to trip over any unexpected landmines in her programming, decided "yes."
JAN-IV-11438 sat perfectly still with a blank expression on her face, silently following the doctors orders to the letter as she examined her naked form. The Worker carefully suppressed the nervous twitch being out of her armour after so long in its ironclad safety caused.
The doctor frowned at how pale her skin was, especially since in some areas you could almost see through it, and she prescribed the 'worker'- as she insisted on calling herself- a course of vitamins to try and restore some semblance of a healthier colour.
The more notable concern however was the variety of bruises all over her body… however, getting a read on them unearthed some strange… inconsistencies. The nurse had to triple-check her findings, like she was expecting them to go away if she checked them enough times, before getting a scanner in to see inside her in better detail.
Further Nurses entered the room at the behest of the first, and they started talking in many hushed whispers and looking at Jane repeatedly. Eventually one of them asked Jane why there was a bomb at the base of her skull.
When questioned, all the 'worker' would supply was "all Subhuman units must be equipped with a failsafe switch in the event of a market crash or asset liquidation to facilitate humane termination."
When questioned further and asked why she hasn't removed it already if she knew about it, all she would reply with was "If failsafe Switch is removed, the units warranty is voided. Industry standards state that If a units warranty is null and void, destruction of said unit must be carried out by the nearest Strain-IX. If no Strain IX is available unit will self-terminate. HazTech officials have said in voices that they didn't want me to hear that it's to keep workers like me from 'rising up' and 'overthrowing' the pure-strain humans."
Jane's use of finger quotes suggested she didn't know what those terms meant, or treated the idea as unfathomable.
The nurses stood stunned, horrified at the things this poor girl was saying as the nurse at the scanner furiously ran another scan and, upon finding something, whispered in the head nurse' ear.
There was some fiddling with the scanner's readout, followed by whispers and gesturing, and more looking and pointing, before the Nurses informed Jane she could get dressed again.
Nodding, Jane took her clean bill of health and happily plodded to her dorm.
Once the girl had gone, the nurses started talking hushedly to each other.
"Why'd you do that? Why'd you let her go?" Ironwood demanded. "She has a bomb in her head!"
"Turns out, her warranty expired" the nurse said with a grim chuckle. "Thanks to some quick thinking, we discovered most of the contacts were corroded and much of the explosive charge had degraded."
Ironwood looked on in confusion. "Why in blazes is the bomb rotten?"
"I think I can answer that one in one word, James: Money. I would hazard a guess these morally bankrupt people didn't want to spend more money than they had to getting long-life bombs, and didn't expect Ms. Doe to survive long enough for it to degrade… and, as she mentioned, there are these 'strain IX's' that supposedly deal with ones like Jane whose bomb fails to go off."
Ozpin gestured that the Nurse was dismissed and she quickly ducked out of the room
Once she had left, Ozpin let his frown show, standing up to watch JAN-IV-11438 from out his window as she walked into the distance towards her factory.
"What do we think of her?"
Qrow stared for a moment and said "I think she's walking straight towards the cliff"
True to life, the worker happily walked straight off the cliff and landed with a resounding boom that was heard several seconds later, clearly audible even from all the way up at the top of Ozpin's tower.
Ozpin shot an annoyed glance at Qrow, perfectly aware that the 'worker' would not have been harmed by that fall given her power armor. "You knew what I meant, Qrow. I'll ask again: what do we think of her?"
"That she's a real piece of work, and whoever made her should be put away for a long time… that she's potentially very dangerous in the wrong hands... I also think that she's a ticking timebomb- actual bomb notwithstanding- and, when all is said and done, it'll be a miracle if there isn't a mess to clean up after." Qrow said. "We don't even know if it's possible for her to break that programming of hers… and it's not like she came with an instruction manual."
Ozpin coughed and pulled a tome several centimetres thick at the spine from under his desk.
"You have got to be kidding me"
"I'm afraid not… it doesn't get better" Ozpin said, handing the book to Qrow who scanned several pages
"This… this is messed up. I'll admit I don't understand most of this, but what I do understand doesn't paint a pretty picture… a disposable human worker. No rights, no future… a lotta clauses in here dealing with these people dying like flies..." Qrow said "You said she was built to cut costs?"
"That's what she tells us. She mentioned a war, and that artificial intelligence were banned afterwards… it stands to reason that she was made as a 'replacement automaton'."
"It makes me sick to think of what they do to these girls…"
Ozpin grimaced. "You haven't gotten to the worst of it. Read chapter 12…"
Qrow turned a few pages, skipped back to the table of contents and moved a sheath of pages centimetres thick to the side
"Alterations made for cases of Personal Use?" Qrow asked
"Keep reading" Ozpin urged him
Qrow's expression slowly became more and more disgusted "There's no way anyone could be so…"
Ozpin sighed. "And yet, we have large amounts of evidence to the contrary."
Ozpin set his coffee down, getting everyone's attention. "We can't let this… Celestic Industries take her back. They'd likely kill her and take her factories rather than bother letting her stick around."
All nodded in agreement
"Hopefully exposure to a more 'normal' lifestyle will help her find what wriggle-room she has in all these codes and protocols and she can perhaps have a chance at a life." Ozpin said
Not even Ironwood was going to argue with this one. He'd seen that accursed book already, and it's pages had left him deeply disturbed.
A surprised gasp from Glynda stole everyone's attention, and they all saw, to their utter surprise, JAN-IV-11438 rising up from the bottom of the cliffs on a cargo elevator that they were damned sure hadn't been there before, as flying drones swarmed about carrying and placing pieces of treadmill and see through covers over the treadmills as they transported a large number of industrial goods, as well as installing large, heavy-duty turrets to protect the obviously valuable goods and resources.
Curiously, they saw her erect a pair of squat, square buildings right there in the courtyard as the robots routed powdery white rock and sand, as well as connecting a large metal pipe into the first. What came out was a slurry of concrete out the other end which yet more bots took and alongside the reinforcement bar being made from raw steel ingots, they started constructing a fortified wall around the perimeter of Beacon Academy, stretching across the mesa's plateau and ringing it several times in a giant spiral travelling halfway down the cliffs, turrets larger than her giant armor everywhere.
"She certainly is a fast worker…" Glynda said as she watched the fortifications slowly come together, rising higher and higher.
"Her designs and solutions are… interesting… and to be expected," Ironwood said.
"It's entirely functional. Not single thought was given to form or aesthetics. It's like Atlas from the great war all over again," Qrow said, his dry cynical bluntness shining once more.
The construction and trail of robots and power lines seemed to catch the attention of a nearby nevermore, who approached beacon academy, causing a stir and panic amongst the students on the grounds.
Until a loud beeping noise sounded and a surface-to-air missile launched and blew it to smithereens in less than five seconds, three of which were the lock on.
Ironwood was practically salivating at the display of raw, unadulterated power.
"It appears she has extremely advanced weaponry as well." Ironwood said, ideas blazing through his mind.
"Indeed" Ozpin said
"You said she reported that she had turned a nearby planet into a… what was it called, a 'Forgeworld'?" Qrow asked.
"She did. She said she'd converted the vast majority of the planet into one giant factory, covering it in machinery before building giant excavators and carving great trenches that she lined with yet more machinery. Above and below the ground is all one giant industrial complex. Where she comes from they supposedly disassemble entire planets for their raw resources."
"We should probably stop her from repeating that here." Qrow said, taking a swig from his flask.
Ozpin said nothing as he watched her closely, idly noting Teams JNPR and RWBY approaching her.
"What is going on here?" Weiss demanded harshly.
"Ozpin granted me permission to expand my factory to a new location, so I am fortifying a new industrial base, Ma'am." JAN-IV-11438
"Here? In Beacon? But this is a school! Not downtown Vale! There isn't an industrial zone in miles!" Weiss shouted at her
"I apologize, ma'am. Please direct any complaints with my orders towards HazTech Industrial Solutions."
Weiss furrowed her brows. That was a company she hadn't heard of, and she'd been a pawn in her father's games for most of her life, politicking and posing. She knew most factions amongst the upper classes, and the industrial capacity shown by this single agent wouldn't have gone unnoticed.
Either the… thing was lying about something, or there was something she didn't know. Weiss being Weiss, she decided on the easy option
"Is there something you're not telling me?" Weiss challenged
"No, Ma'am. Obfuscation of the truth is forbidden under protocol P-489, unless it is to prevent corporate espionage. Violation of this is to result in activation of Protocol P-233."
Weiss crossed her arms. "And what does this Protocol P-233 entail exactly?"
"Defective workers are to be terminated at the earliest possible convenience. Warranty entitles the owner to replacements at a quarter of the price of the original unit."
Weiss nodded, and Jaune grimaced like he'd just eaten something foul.
"Jaune?" Nora asked
"Uh, JAN- uh…" Jaune began
"JAN-IV-11438" the worker supplied
"I'm just going to call you, uh… Jane… sure, Jane."
Weiss scoffed. "You're giving names to robots now, Jaune?"
"Jane, can you take off your helmet?" Jaune asked, ignoring Weiss
Jane complied, and climbed out of the MkV and removed the MkII's armored helmet. Suddenly, Weiss felt like eating her words.
"Uh, guys, didn't she just say she'd…" Yang asked
All eyes turned to Yang, then to Jane.
"H-How do we know she's telling the truth? This could all be some elaborate-" Weiss began, but Jaune cut her off
"It's… Ozpin has the particulars, but she's not lying as far as he can tell, and he'd know" Jaune said "She was… made like this."
"Made that way?" Blake demanded
"All Celestic products are created with pre-programmed instructions and protocols designed to create the perfect, most compliant worker possible. No pay or considerations need be taken, they are built strong enough to endure and cheap enough to replace if one breaks." Jane said automatically.
"There's twenty other pitches like that. Each worse than the last." Jaune said
The rest of the teams felt physically ill at what they were hearing.
"Ozpin hopes that we can help her break some of that programming." Jaune said
"It's the best we can do." Jaune said "Oz said we'd have to know how they did that to her in the first place to get her to stop. There was an instruction manual and everything..."
Jaune's distant gaze spoke tomes about what he'd seen in that manual.
"Made her like that? That's impossible. What was in that manual that was so horrifying?"
Jane produced another copy, this one paperback, marked volume 1 of five, and with a noticeable curve in it from the small compartment it had been carefully stuffed into. "Protocol P-5899 states to keep a copy on hand for reference at all times."
Jaune took one look at the title and carefully turned on his heel and walked a short distance away like he couldn't stand to be in that book's vicinity.
Blake began to flick through the pages, and like others before her, had quickly come to loathe every mark on those handbook-sized pages. Weiss attempted to read over Blake's shoulder, to see what the fuss was about, but couldn't. Blake was almost a head taller than her and Weiss couldn't get a good angle, so she decided to try and get her information straight from the source.
"So, Jane… what do they use you for?"
"I am a generation IIX Strain-IV unit from the planet Jacintar-II, created for the purpose of creating and running large industrial complexes through a bred-in expertise in industrial and civil engineering. I instinctively know how to create large factory complexes to make any product you care to name, and can direct Strain-1 workers in its operation within acceptable loss standards across a variety of codes and environments. If i may say so myself, I take pride in the famed efficiency of the 8th generation Strain-IV's, and strive to uphold it in all my creations and operations. No other can do it quite like I can."
Yang leaned over to Ruby and whispered "Wow… deja vu."
Blake slammed the book down in disgust and walked up to Jane "Next Book, please."
Jane happily obliged Blake, handing her volume 2 of her instruction manual, and turning back to the others as Blake read.
"So... you're a slave?"
"The legal term is sub-human worker" Jane corrected.
If any of them didn't draw any parallels to the Faunus before the great war, they did now.
"So what happens if workers decide they've had enough of this kind of… treatment?"
"I don't understand the question…"
"You're a slave! Can't you rise up and fight for your own freedoms?"
Jane looked horrified. "Why would I want to?! I enjoy my work, and there's this amazing buzzy feeling I get every time I finish a task."
Janes expression seemed a bit too cheerful at her words, giving a small happy shudder from whatever she was imagining.
Blake frowned upon hearing that and turned the page, before her face became grim.
"I mean, I guess you're asking about the failsafe too, the warranty that ensures quick, humane, disposal if a worker is hurt too bad."
"There's a bomb at the base of her skull" Blake translated, bluntly "They all have it, and they kill any that had it removed"
The teams quietly took a small step away as Blake dropped volume 2 on the pile and asked Jane for Volume 3, before resuming her reading.
Blake glanced up at Jane surreptitiously, flicked over a number of pages after mostly cursory scans, not liking the content at all.
"Blakey, why are you blushing?" Yang asked curiously.
"Shut up Yang… just when it couldn't get worse..." Blake trailed off, furiously flipping through the book. "Why is this one so much longer than the others…"
"What is it?"
"I'd… rather not say" Blake said
"Volume 3 should contain commands and relevant protocols to the usual assignments of the Strain-VI clones, though any strain of clone can be used in a similar manner, if you want to disregard the specialised training and unique genemods each strain beyond the Strain-Is receive."
"What do the sixes do?"
"Don't answer that, Jane." Blake interrupted "it's better if they don't know."
"So… you seem to know what you're doing with these walls."
"You think? I had to put some designs together on the fly, really, and I can't be that sure of their efficiency with nothing and no historical precedent to really compare it to, but they seemed to work well, and I've been making incremental improvements over initial designs to help keep the biters out."
"Biters?" Ruby asked.
"They're all dead. You don't need to worry about them." Jane said in a short, clipped tone.
"But what were they?"
Jane's eye twitched. "Bugs. Big ones. Liked to chew on me and my FUCKING factory! So I killed them all."
Jane said that last part with a smile and a giggle, and everyone immediately took several steps backwards, making a mental note to never touch her factory, ever. No sane person could snap back to being all sunshine and smiles and mention slaughtering an entire aliens species like Jane just did.
"What was this planet like?" Jaune asked
"It was a class H planet." Jane replied
Everyone looked to Blake who dogeared volume 3 and returned to volume 1. "Says here it was dry, arid and prone to very large tracts of desert… and something here about mineral deposits."
"Yes. They were very abundant." Jane said
"How did you survive?" Weiss asked
"Carefully." Jane replied, infuriatingly.
Yang snickered at the response
"Where were you supposed to be going?" Jaune asked
"I'm told it was a class Y planet. I was to terraform the planet and hopefully help tap its resources. I was to go alone until I could set up a habitable zone with an Atmospheric processor" Jane informed them
"Class Y… Demon world?" Blake said "temperatures in excess of 500 Kelvin… that's… what, 230 celsius…" Blake said before checking her scroll "...and 440 fahrenheit, minimum."
There was a look of concern
"Not to worry, Class IV personnel are uniquely rated to survive at least 50% of all similar Class Y missions long enough to establish an Atmospheric Processor. Celestic Incorporated also offer a replacement scheme for all units that perish on such missions. HazTech Industries identified planet YR-5994 as having great lakes of precious metals. The only reason there was solid land was because 60% of the surface was tungsten. HazTech decided the risk was worth it."
The teens all shared a look in silent horror. Jane was unfazed if she even noticed.
"...Out of curiosity, how high a temperature are you… are you rated for" Pyrrha asked
"Not much more than an actual human, why do you ask?"
"I… I think they were trying to kill you… most metals melt at-"
"Most of them start near the 1780 degrees Kelvin mark, yes." Jane finished for her. "This would be expected. The company often sent workers to 'hopeless' demon worlds in an attempt to cash in on insurance."
Jane's nonchalant way of mentioning that that was exactly what they were trying to do stunned the teens.
"You're not concerned about that… at all?" Weiss asked
Jane failed to respond. She kept moving like she wanted to, but every time she ran into a conflict, between her self preservation instinct and the programming. Every time she ran into either end of the logic contradiction, she grew more and more agitated until she felt something strange.
Jane was caught off-guard when Regulator Arc wrapped his arms around her... but it wasn't an attack or a punishment… instead it raised the sort of feeling that she'd felt that one time she remembered being praised for her work.
Jane had no clue what to do in this situation. It wasn't covered in any of the protocols or instruction or education she'd been given.
"It's okay, Jane. It'll be alright. You don't need to worry here."
Even though she was wearing her armour, Jaune's hug inspired a sense of warmth in Jane and she soon found herself leaning into the embrace. They stayed like that for a long time,
"Finish up out here then head inside. I don't know about where you're from, but here you've earned a break" Jaune said as he broke the hug
"I must ask what I have done wrong before you break me." Jane said
"Break you- you… you can't be serious…" Weiss deadpanned.
"You mean you've never had a chance to stop working and rest? Not even-"
"Oh, rest. Workers needs are secondary to the product." Jane said
"Well… you're the only one we have, and… we're a smaller company"
Jane immediately nodded her head in sudden understanding "Oh, a 'Mom and Pop' business. You just had to say. I'll be sure to keep a careful eye on myself, I'd hate to bankrupt you if I were to expire... strain-IV's like myself can be hard to replace for small companies."
"Out of curiosity, what does a unit like yourself cost to replace?" Weiss asked curiously.
"The base cost of a Strain-IV gen 1 unit is approximately 5,000,000 credits. Workers under warranty can be replaced for a thousandth of their base cost." Blake said, gesturing for Volume 4. "From the last three digits of the barcode on her neck, I'm guessing she's a Generation 8 model- that means the 8th design they mass produced; which are the ones with all the bells and whistles: environmental hardening, increased strength, stamina and durability, and some 'bonus features' in case you have time, resources and want more and don't want to buy a whole other unit."
Blake visibly shuddered at that. "The closest analogy I can make is comparing her to some big CEO's luxury car- more or less a way of saying 'look how rich we are, we can throw money at this that you can't'. The later generation 9's are much lower quality, but cheaper by leaps and bounds."
Jane puffed out her chest, taking pride in that simple fact of her manufacture.
"You said earlier gen 1's come at 5 million, but what about gen 8's?"
"...think around a thousand times the basic Gen 1 cost and you have an idea." Blake said, trying to keep on top of the mental maths converting the figures in her head.
Jane beamed at the praise, missing the sickened looks on many of their faces.
Weiss furrowed her brows in thought. "But… if generation is the main sign of quality, what does strain mean?
"Basic purpose. Strain 1's are, again, basic workers. Muscle and grunt and not a lot else… basically biogical machines, only tangentially human... Strain II's are a little more complex, and are… they're call centre workers and secretaries, basically. Very little physical capabilities but high mental ability. Strain III's… Strain IV's are civil and mechanical engineers. Smart, capable of many kinds of work, and durable enough to set things up to a point where strain I's and dumb robots can manage it. Strain V's are used in more hazardous work, but were banned… it doesn't say why… there's more but we know what Jane is now."
"What about strain III's? You skipped them…"
Blake fixed Yang with an annoyed look. "Literal Human sex dolls."
The teams winced, and lapsed into awkward silence.
"I'm ready to work at full capacity again!" Jane said happily. "What do you need done?"
There was several seconds whilst the teams tried to figure out something for Jane to do.
"Could you work on reinforcing Beacon Academy?" Jaune put forward.
Jane saluted and stomped off in her armour to get to work without another word.