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Bot-9
Diana and Van Sant are sent into the villages with Bot-9 - an experimental transforming robot with advanced programs to overcome the combat drones. Bot-9’s programs are effective, but he is attacked by surprise, and damaged early on. They discover they’ve been being watched for days by a group who reveal themselves on seeing the damaged robot. Calling themselves the Free Thinkers, they are a league of scientists and engineers who can commandeer the drones. They had been testing Bot-9’s capabilities and analysing his new programs - if they could overcome it, then the drones would too.  

The Free Thinkers have been amassing an army of their own upgraded drones to make a stand against the Corporate drones, and end the Drone Wars.

The Free Thinkers are led by a mysterious recluse known only as Andy. His ingenious programming is what gives them an advantage over the machines, and his tactics regularly save lives. Andy is bound to a wheelchair and refuses to show his face to Diana and Van Sant, though he gladly welcomes their help. He not only repairs Bot-9, but upgrades him, allowing him to magnetise new elements into his body for advanced tools and weapons.

Nobody can explain where Andy came from, simply that he appeared when he was needed, early in the Drone Wars, and quickly became the critical intellectual force behind the Free Thinkers’ operation.

***SPOILER***

Andy is actually a future version of Bot-9 from the final days of Tribus - a thousand times damaged, restored, upgraded... he is a future version of Bot-9 the program - but not necessarily in the same physical shell.

The Drone Wars mark the first official conflict in Tribus history, and will be responsible for a lasting racial stigma toward robotic life-forms in Extraverse stories. The Future Bot-9 explains he has endured millennia of hardships to become respected as a true form of sentience… but his final trial was to prove his humanity by accepting the burden of sacrifice: to return to the past and lead the Free Thinkers to destroy his own kind, perpetuating the very hatred that drove him to prove himself by travelling back in time.

Andy uploads the relevant data to the younger Bot-9, along with a program keeping it locked until many millennia in the future. Only Diana knows that Bot-9 carries these secrets, so she asks Andy - “How will he be able to unlock it a thousand years in the future if I’m long dead? Won’t I have to pass it down to someone?”

Andy laughs, “I suppose all I can tell you is… it never comes up”

Diana gets a message back to ExoGen that this is soon to happen, but can do nothing to get back into the city. She and Van Sant join the Free Thinkers and help them upgrade their drones, before physically joining the fight. In these conflicts, Diana learns much about her Prescient abilities, and Van Sant makes the first technological augmentations to his body.