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Willa Bryant
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Willa sat in her station, half-heartedly trying to sort through Ava’s neural profile. A vain attempt to be prepared when the girl was returned. The “girl”. Even knowing what she was, Bryant still had trouble reconciling the difference between human and machine. Perhaps that was what bothered her so much about the situation.

Everything had spiralled so completely out of control. It was supposed to just stall him. Give him a panicked robot to deal with and ruin his timeline. She couldn’t have anticipated someone breaching the building’s defenses and stealing the top-secret, terrified android who didn’t need to play by the rules. But the reality was, Ava was out there with God knew who, enduring God knew what. What comfort or satisfaction she might have had with her part in all this went right out the window.

The hiss of the door sliding open behind her caught her attention. She didn’t have to see him to know who it was. Chase’s overly-applied cologne hit her nose before the sight of him ever could. When she first started, she enjoyed the scent. But after years working under the man, she’d grown to hate it. It felt like him. Part of a pleasant facade hiding a absolute horror of a human being.

He turned his head, looking at the metallic, skeletal frame from an Autons Inc. S-17, the latest release in their line of home robotics. An antique in comparison to Ava. He smirked bitterly and stepped further into the room.

Willa didn’t look up from her work. “Mr. Chase.”

“Doctor.” He said looking around her workspace. The woman was certainly better organized than her mentor. Everything was in its place, neatly arranged. Sometimes an new employee would go in there and move something out of place and catch holy hell for it from the roboticist.

He leveled those dark eyes upon her. “I want to know everything about your contact with Alvin Martin.”

“We’ve been through this Mr. Chase.” She muttered distractedly as she focused on her work.

Chase glanced to the screen and then to her. With an arrogant sigh, he leaned over her shoulder and turned off her screen. Willa just froze and clenched her jaw in annoyance.

“Now. I want you to tell me everything about your last contact with Alvin Martin.”

Willa;’s head turned slowly, her eyes narrowed. “I’ll tell you what I told the investigators.” She started in an icy tone. “I haven’t spoken to him in months. The last time we spoke, it was to drop off a status report on the S-17’s connection issues to the central hub. We barely spoke beyond the usual ‘hi, how are you?’”

“Nothing more?” His tone suggested accusation. Distrust.

“Nothing more.” She repeated.

Chase studied her a long moment. He was good at reading people. Especially when they were lying. “You expect me to believe that Alvin’s golden child was completely clueless about the revolutionary work he was doing behind the closed doors. That you, his brightest student, his disciple, had no clue that he had been working on something so far ahead of where this company is today that it makes our S-17s look like can openers?”

“Alvin became withdrawn in the past couple years,” She said. “Even from me, he kept so many secrets. Lunches, dinners, even the occasional phone calls stopped. It was heartbreaking, and I felt like I’d lost the only father I’d ever known and didn’t know why. And then he up and disappears without so much as a goodbye?”

Bryant’s nerves were raw and on display. Martin’s withdrawal from everyone and everything had left its scar. “So, no, Mr. Chase. Alvin hasn’t contacted me. Not in some time. You can send your goons to try and intimidate me, but they’re going to go home disappointed.”

The fire in her eyes told him she wasn’t lying. “Now. Is there anything *else*, Mr. Chase?” She spat at him, pouring acid all over his name.

Chase smiled and nodded, with that trademark arrogance that made her want to choke the life out of the man. “If he does. You let me know, doctor.”

Willa’s fists clenched tightly until the door slid shut behind him. She lashed out, grabbing a drinking glass from her desk and whipping it at the door behind him. The soundproof seal would conceal the sound of the shattering object, thankfully. Willa watched as the small sanitation bots immediately rolled out, quickly making short work of the clean-up.

Finally, she crumpled back into her chair, taking deep, steady, calming breaths. Where the hell was Alvin? Why had he frozen her out? Why would he not tell her about Ava? Why had he abandoned her?

The screen beside her flickered, drawing her attention. The display went to black and green, her work in the background turning opaque, blurry. She leaned forward, her brow furrowed.

“Hello, Doctor Bryant.” Said a heavily modulated voice.

Her eyes widened. Someone was in control of her system.

“We have much work to do.”
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gable stood in his kitchen, going through his fridge. After Lexa’s abrupt exit, he and Ava stayed up watching TV in silence. He lent her a t-shirt and a pair of pajama pants tied as tight as they would go. Ava was right where he’d left her on the couch...in fact he could swear she was even in the exact same position.

He looked into his fridge. “Hey, do you like eggs?” he called into the other room.

“Eggs?” her voice responded.

A smirk crossed his face. “Yeah, you know. Scrambled, sunny-side up, runny...ya eat ‘em?”

“Oh...I do not require anything at the moment.”

“You haven’t eaten anything since yesterday. You should eat.” he said, pulling out the eggs.

“Very well.” Ava’s gaze snapped toward the door. “There is someone outside.”

Gable panicked, too far from his weapon as the locks all disengaged. The nearest gun was in his bedroom. Quickly, he grabbed a knife and prepared himself for a fight.

And then the door opened. Lexa stepped in like it was no big deal, an arm full of clothes, a backpack slung over her shoulders. A mixture of relief and confusion hit him as he saw her. “Hey...how did you-”

She made a face and didn’t look up from her work. “Please.” she said as if he were being ridiculous.

Gable went to mulled that over and shrugged. “Eggs?”

“Yes, all of them.” she said off-handedly. “These should fit.” Lexa said as she kept working, tossing the bag and the clothes on the couch, not making eye contact with...whatever she was. Ava stared at them a moment before observing one of the shirts.

Gable glanced over his shoulder at his friend. “What are you doing?”

“Plau’ti’s off the grid. I’m trying to find him.” She was running his face through different recognition scanners on cameras all over the city, and so far, bupkis. Though that was to be expected. You didn’t last long in their line of work if you weren’t good at covering your tracks.

The sound of cooking reverberated from the kitchen as she turned her attention to Ava, wearing Gable’s clothes like a shroud. Those PJ pants had to be staying up on a wing and a prayer. Even now, knowing what she was, she didn’t believe it. She was just a scared kid. If she’d been sent in to infiltrate them, she was doing a damn convincing job in her role. The slim hacker made her way over, grabbing a tanktop from the bed and holding it up to Ava’s body.

“You know...you should probably grab a shower before you put this on.”

Those brown eyes turned up to her. “I do not require-”

“I know.” Lexa replied, shooting her a meaningful look. Ava took a moment to decipher the deeper meaning in that. Lexa glanced to make sure Gable wasn’t listening and lowered her voice.

“You need to blend in. With the world, and especially with him.” She said with a cant of her head his way.

Ava turned toward Gable. A certain stoicism in her expression while she eyeballed him, “He does not like me.”

“No.” Lexa corrected her. “He doesn’t know what to do with you. But if he finds out what you are…” She said, leaving the rest unsaid. She wanted to have enough faith in Gable to believe he’d look past his hang-ups and still protect the girl, but somehow, Lexa doubted it.

Ava stared at her a moment. “What am I?”

“You…” she began to say, but the sound of Gable entering the room with two plates, stopped her. Lexa put on a smile and happy voice “You are going to look awesome in this.” She held up the top again, pressing it against Ava. “Now, I got you some ‘delicates’, bra, panties. Keep ya decent. Some casual stuff, boots, jeans, a jacket…” she trailed off digging through the clothes. “And if you ever NEED to turn some heads...and with a figure like THAT, it would be crime if you didn’t…”

Lexa produced a black, very slinky, very sultry dress. A smirk on her face. “Eh? Right?” She said looking entirely pleased with herself.

Gable slid her plate over to her and took in a forkful of eggs. Snickering. “You’re enjoying this way too much.”

“Oh, piss off. I always wanted a little sister. Mom got me a dog instead.”

“Dog wasn’t into dress up?”

“No, SHE loved it. Bitch just looked cuter in most of the outfits I picked out, and I was just like…not having that.” Lexa joked with a roll of her eyes.

Gable snickered, around his food when a ping sounded from Lexa’s multitool. She brought up the display, the grin leaving her face.

“What is it?” Gable asked.

Lexa’s eyes flicked up at him. “It’s Plau’ti. He wants to meet.”

Gable turned to Ava. “Alright, get dressed, we’re heading out.”

Lexa waved him off. “Whoa, what? You’re bringing her WITH?”

“Well I’m not leaving her here!” He replied, throwing a leather jacket on. “Just do one of your weird geek tricks to make her invisible to the cameras.”

Lexa rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that’s great, but I can’t make her invisible to the naked eye.” She said as he passed by her.

Gable turned, pulling on a ski-cap, looking her in the eye. “Then we’ll do it real careful-like, huh?”

Lexa knew bringing her out was a danger, but convincing James Gable of something once he’d decided against it was an exercise in futility.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The trio stood in a crowded train carrying them into the city, Gable’s hat pulled low over his brow as he gripped a pole. Lexa stood across the aisle, a knit cap upon her head and her eyes hidden behind large sunglasses. Ava was beside him, dressed in one of the outfits Lex had brought. Bundled up, she looked completely unremarkable. Just a cute girl on a train with her friends.

Those expressive brown eyes looked around at the packed the train and out the window at the sprawling, alive city. Pedestrians, skycars, ships coming and going in a steady pace in the atmosphere. And then there were the robots, their numbers competing with humans... and catching up. She saw one standing at a curb holding the hand of a young child no more than 6 years old.

“There are so many…” she said quietly.

Gable glanced over to her, considering her words. “9 billion life forms on this planet alone.” He informed her.

“How many…” she started, not finishing the thought.

“Machines?” He asked. “We're not sure. Last count was 6 billion on Boros. Galaxy wide...I don't even think Autons knows. They've crept into every corner. Most ships’ AI even run on a positronic brain from them.”

Ava began to realize the scale of what Gable was fighting so hard to escape. She didn't understand his hate, but she could see why he might feel threatened. She knew there was something...different about her. Her understanding of organic life and the way it functioned was enough to tell her she wasn't one of them. Yet, seeing the machines blindly, unquestioningly carrying out their tasks, little more than clockwork drones, told her she wasn't one of them, either.

No. She was special. While that might have made an organic feel emboldened and important, it made her feel simply alone.

The train jostled to a stop, the automated PA announcing the stop in a soothing female voice.

“This is us.” Gable said, gesturing to the door as it slid open.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lexa led them on foot the rest of the way into a dilapidated part of the city. The scorched skeletal remains of failed businesses, crumbling apartments, abandoned construction, and burned out warehouses lining the streets. Plans to revitalize the area remained at a standstill after a massive fire overwhelmed the area a few years before. Now it was a foreboding, dark place for doing dark deeds for those who wished to go unobserved.

“Well, this is a great place to get stabbed by a hobo…” Gable muttered.

Lexa shot him a look. “Sorry my secret meet-ups aren’t in 4 star hotels, ya wimp.”

Ava stayed close to them, her brown eyes scanning everything cautiously. She might not have had much life experience, but something inside her told her this was not a safe place to wander.

“I’d take any place that doesn’t look like I’ll need a tetanus shot later…” he responded with a grin.

Lexa came to stop outside an abandoned warehouse. She looked up at the rusted out, structure, it’s metal panels still bearing the scorch-marks from the blaze. In truth, she wasn’t too thrilled about this one, herself. “Well, this is it…”

Gable, reached behind him and pulled out his sidearm. “I’ll take point.”

Lexa placed a hand on his shoulder, stepping in front of him. “Easy. This is a meeting, not a raid.” She said in a calm voice. “Besides. You go in there guns out, Plau’ti might run, and we don’t want that, do we?”

Gable sighed and nodded, tucking his weapon away. Lexa pushed through the creaky door and stepped inside. The melting snow dripped water through the holes in the ceiling of the warehouse, all the equipment inside, picked over and laying in wreckage all about the place. It would be a great place for an ambush, Gable thought, suppressing the urge to take out his pistol.

They looked around, seeing no sign of the Bissarian. Lexa stepped forward cautiously. “Plau?” She called out, her voice echoing throughout the cavernous space.

“You were not followed?” Replied a heavily modified voice. His natural Bistali language interpreted by a mask for the benefit of Basic speakers.

Lexa looked around, trying to source the location the voice. “Nnnnope. Nobody here but us chickens.”

“You.” Plau’ti said. “Human male.”

Lex leaned over to Gable and whispered. “I think he means you.”

Gable glanced over to catch her smirk before continuing his search. “Yeah?”

“Your weapon. Throw it aside.” Plau’ti ordered.

Gable’s brow furrowed. “How do you-”

“Now, or I walk!”

Gable did not like this. Going into a big, crowded room unarmed with no clue who was waiting for them sounded like a really bad plan. Lexa seemed to read that on his face and gave him a nudge. “Jim.” she said, raising her brows at him.

He grimaced and pulled the gun, tossing it aside and holding his hands up.

“Good.” came that digitized, gravelly voice. Plau’ti stepped out from behind the stripped wreckage of an old crane. Try as he might, Gable was never able to get used to the sight of a Bissarian. Their roughly triangularly shaped heads, their pure, blue eyes with no pupil, no whites...the small, gnarly tentacles that hung in front of their mouths, like a squid. Plau’ti’s eyes were replaced some time ago with metallic cybernetics, and his mouth hidden behind a tight translator mask. It gave him an even more discomforting appearance than usual for his species.

The eye-pieces darted around, taking in the humans before him, making sure there were no others before stepping out toward them. His tall, lanky body was covered in a ratty, tattered long coat, heavy leather gloves pulled over his long fingers.

Lexa stepped forward. “How ya doin’ Plau?” she greeted him.

“Lexa human.” That voice croaked out as he approached her. “You have been searching for me.”

It was a statement, not a question. Lexa nodded and stared up at him. “I need to know about who hired you.” She said.

The unnatural sound that came from him could be construed as a laugh. “You know better than this.” he said, those eyes continuing to shoot back and forth, scanning the entire area.

“Plau, you know I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important.” She pleaded. “What were you told.”

“All information comes at a price, Lexa Human.” he grumbled in response, that unreadable face staring impassively back at her.

“Whoever it was sent us to that lab to get this girl.” Gable said. “I don’t know what they were doing with her or what they wanted with her, but if you know something, you better tell us now.”

“Your thinly veiled threats are but bluster. If you wish to know about the people who hired me, you must give me something first.” Plau’ti responded, unintimidated.

Gable took one step forward before being halted by Lexa. She swiped her wrist and brought up her holographic display. “I have the access codes to the USM’s Merriwether port central computer. Every bit of information that comes and goes through there is your’s.” She leveled her gaze at the alien, waiting for him to respond.

“Transfer them.” He demanded.

“No. You tell us what you know first.” she countered.

The Bissarian considered this a moment. Gable preferred the blunt method of dealing with people like him. Just grab him and beat it out of him. It was so much simpler! But apparently SOME people liked to use diplomacy or whatever.

“Fine.” the modulated voice emitted. “I was hired by Ducheysne. I managed to do my own digging into his system.”

Ducheysne. Gable had heard the name before. When he was still a cop, Arthur Ducheysne was a wanted criminal and suspect in several system crashes throughout the Terric system. They were never able to locate the him. “He hired you?” Gable asked.

“Yes. And if you wish to know more, you will not interrupt, Human.” Plau’ti said turning his head in an almost threatening manner.

“Ducheysne was hired by someone else...I was unable to extrapolate who, but they went simply by the name The Athair.”

Lexa furrowed her brow, thinking. “Never heard of him.”

“Neither have I. I have delved deep within my contacts and found nothing.” Plau’ti replied. “This Athair seems to have appeared from nowhere.”

Neither Lexa nor the Bissarian had ever even heard of the man. That was a rarity, and did nothing to comfort Gable. He and Lexa turned to eachother, speaking quietly. “What now?” he asked.

She frowned, glancing to a very concerned looking Ava and replied, “I have no idea. We can do some digging, see if I can get into Ducheysne’s system...maybe backtrack and run a scan. I might be able to come up with something…”

Gable did not look convinced. “If he couldn’t what are the odds-”

“Well, what are our options? Just stay on the run with her? Hide from the company our entire lives?” She asked, frustrated.

“No, I-”

He was interrupted when Ava placed a hand on his shoulder. Gable, Lexa and Plau’ti all looked to her. The girl stared upward, a panicked look on her young face.

“What is it?” Gable asked.

She looked to him with those wide, fearful eyes. “We have to go. Somebody has found us.”
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ava looked to them, wide-eyed. “We cannot linger! There are two ships outside lowering drop-lines!” she said, the panic in her voice.

“I told you to make sure you were not followed!” Plau’ti rumbled, walking to a crate that hid his rifle. Gable was already on his way to his pistol, when the Bissarian drew on him.

“Do not move, human!”

Gable froze, his hand hovering over the weapon upon the ground. Lexa stepped toward Plau’ti cautiously, her hands out. “Plau...what are you doing?”

“This was a set-up!” he accused her, keeping that weapon trained on Gable. One of those eye-pieces swiveled at her, operating independently of the other. “Make one more move and he dies.”

“Plau! Nobody set anybody up!” Lexa demanded. “But if we don’t leave now, we’re all going down, so put down the ****ing gun!”

Plau’ti wheeled the weapon on her. Gable clenched his jaw and dove for the gun. Lexa’s stomach turned as she prepared for the worst.

Suddenly, there was a sharp hissing sound and the Bissarian went rigid. A whisp of smoke rose from his chest before his body dropped like a marionette with its strings cut.

The glass skylights shattered, armed mercs dropping into the room as the trio scrambled for cover. The warehouse was alive with laserfire when Gable tackled Ava to the ground.

“Stay down!” He yelled, drawing his weapon up. He rose and picked his target. With the squeeze of a trigger, a red bolt burned through the chest of one of their attackers.

Lexa spied Plau’ti’s rifle. She wasn't much of a shot, but damned if she was going down without a fight. She swept it up and blind-fired over the top of her cover.

“Lex! Aim! THEN shoot!” Gable shouted at her.

“**** you! They've got guns!”

“So do you!” He yelled back, rising up and dropping another with a well-placed shot.

Lexa steeled herself and came up to fire, immediately forced to take cover as a barrage of gunfire rained on her position.

Finally, she was able to line up a target, blasting one of the mercs descending into the warehouse in the arm. The merc tumbled to the ground with a loud “thwack!”, laying there unconscious.

Ava's robotic eyes took in every last detail of the situation. An unseen attacker had Gable in his sights and was about to pull the trigger. The android leapt forward, forcing him to the ground a split second before the laser past overhead.

Gable stared up at her a moment, catching his breath. “Thanks.” He said with a relieved grin.

Lexa fired off a wide shot before ducking behind cover. In the back of her mind, she was trying to figure out exactly how they had found her. All of them had been so careful.

A blast against the crane behind her brought her out of her head. Lexa cursed to herself and looked around her. Plau’ti’s corpse lay nearby. Maybe he'd have something she could use. The slim hacker scrambled over to his lifeless body, shots burning through the air over her head so close she could feel the heat. Lexa, flattening herself upon the ground, began fishing through his pockets, those eye-stalks now motionless upon his alien face.

Her fist wrapped around a small cylinder and her brows perked. Quickly, she withdrew a small stun grenade, fully intact. Quickly, she pushed herself to her knees and started a mad, crawling dash toward Gable and Ava.

Gable saw her there, exposed, his eyes going wide. “LEX, GET DOWN!” He cried and held up a hand to halt her, but the second she looked up at him, a bolt caught her in the left shoulder blade. Her agonized cream rang out even over the sound of combat. Lexa dropped to the floor, pain like she had never experienced before radiating from her shoulder and burning through her entire body.

Gable returned fire and made his way to her, dragging her back in a hail of gunfire, and taking cover again. Lexa winced as she was laid back against the crane.

“Lexa! You alright?” he asked her, ignoring the panic-stricken girl behind him.

“Just ****ing dandy.” she growled back at him. Those hazel eyes opened then, the haze of pain over them as she lifted her good arm and opened her hand to reveal the grenade. She and Gable shared a grin.

“You are SUCH a bad-ass.” He said, snatching it from her, looking back at Ava. “Get ready. We’re gonna have to get her on her feet and run.”

He leaned back against the crane and popped the cap, his thumb pressing down the trigger. “Cover your eyes and ears.”

The grenade sailed over their scorched, battered cover and right into the din of Mercs. Gable grabbed Lexa and pressed her left ear to his chest and clamped his eyes shut. Instantly, the room was filled with blinding white light, a high pitched squeal filling the ears of the unprepared mercenaries. One by one, they dropped, unconscious upon the floor.

Gable’s ears were still ringing despite his best efforts. Slightly dazed, he peered behind them. All the men behind him were down for the moment, but he knew they didn’t have long. He pushed himself up and gently pulled Lexa to her feet, supporting her weight as they moved quickly to the door.

Ava seemed perfectly fine as she led the way. The instant she opened the door, there was an armored merc waiting. His arms wrapped around the thin android, attempting to drag her away, Gable, still dazed, fumbling for his weapon. Those big brown eyes widened in panic, but only for a moment. He arms shot outward, breaking his grip upon her. The merc stumbled backwards and drew a shock wand. With a snarl, he swung it right at Ava.

Gable began to raise his gun just as she caught it...barehanded...blue electrical arcs shooting up along her arm and having no effect. The girl’s head twitched slightly just before her fist jabbed forward like a piston, hammering her attacker square in the solar plexus. Gable watched the man sent flying back away from her as if he were weightless.

Still holding onto the shock wand, Ava stared at the unconscious merc, twitching as the weapon continued sending electricity through her mechanical body. Her fist clenched then in one quick motion, demolishing the wand in a quick burst of sparks and smoke. Slowly her head turned, taking in Gable, clutching his weapon in one hand and a wounded Lexa in the other, a mixture of fear and confusion upon his face.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shreve Takana was a simple, 2nd generation Typhan, a short, rotund race of beings, not counted among the most influential in politics nor proficient in military matters. Most of them held simple, working class jobs. So, there was no shortage of pride for himself and his family that Shreve managed and maintained his own apartment building. He didn't appreciate the attention brought down upon him when the authorities and Autons Inc came knocking. He stood at the doorway of what used to be the apartment of one Millicent Erstraud. The men sent were tearing the place apart, and being none too careful about it. The authorities had done their search just yesterday, and now these Autons people were here, wrecking the place.

Millicent was a quiet girl. Kept to herself. She paid her rent on time and was generally one of his favorite tenants. He watched as one of Devin Chase’s goons ripped into the wall, sending drywall dust flying around.

“Hey! You wanna search the place, you do it with respect!” the squat, little alien yelled.

Devin stood out on the fire-escape in a long black overcoat, overlooking the city, perfectly coiffed as always. Those sharp, shrewd eyes regarded the little Typhan with disdain. “For a man that was harboring a fugitive, you run your mouth quite a bit.” He said.

The fur at the back of Shreve’s neck stood on end at the accusation. “I’ve never done such a thing in my life!”

Devin stepped into the room. “Really?” He stopped at the remains of a computer system, its hard drives wiped beyond recovery. “Woman colludes with known criminals, assists, and possibly masterminds a theft from my company, all from your building, and you expect me to believe this is the first time?”

Shreve stared up at him gritting his crooked, pointy teeth. “Millicent was-”

“Millicent doesn’t exist, Mr. Takana.” Devin muttered with a bitter laugh. “Now, to me that means one of two things. One? You’re an incompetent moron who gets scammed by a pretty face and bull**** story. Or two...you’re covering for her.”

“I-I am not-” Shreve sputtered before being interrupted.

“Come here, Mr. Takana.” Chase said, walking back to the fire escape. For reasons even he wasn’t sure of, the Typhan complied stepping out into the cold, night air. He looked up at the tall, dark haired man, those dark brown eyes cold as ice.

“I’m a very protective man of what is mine, Takana.” he began. “If someone takes it from me...I get it back.” His hands gripped the frigid metal of the railing tightly as he slowly turned his head to the Typhan. “And...if someone were to help that person...hide them...lie for them? Well…” He smiled quietly.

“Are you threatening me?” the little creature’s brow furrowed, his fists clenched.

“I thought that was obvious. Was it not obvious?”

Shreve puffed out his barrel chest and stepped forward, glaring up at the man towering over him. “Nobody threatens me. Nobody accuses me! Especially not some...dirty, greased up gutter-rat like you! You take your little goons and you get the hell out of here, or else!”

Chase’s eyes narrowed. He had come up from nothing, the son of a hard-drinking, hard-fighting cold swindler and a whore who mysteriously disappeared one day when he was 8. His past was sore subject. The insult had him seeing red. “Or else what?”

Before Shreve could even speak, Chase grabbed him by the collar and slammed him against the railing of the fire escape, threatening to drop him to his death. Shreve grabbed wildly, in a panic for anything to keep him from falling.

Chase held onto him, his collar bunched in his fist, his other arm holding onto the Typhan by his legs. “Listen, you fat piece of ****. You’re going to tell me everything you know about the woman who calls herself Millicent Estraud. And I swear, I find you’re holding out on me, I’ll see to it not only do YOU burn, but your family and everything you love burns with you.”

The calm, collected demeanor was gone. Hidden and buried beneath all that he showed the public, a demon was dwelling. And these days, it was ready to be unleashed.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The door to Gable’s burst open, the trio returning. Gable assisted a pain-stricken Lexa to the kitchen. She winced as she straddled a chair, the burn at the wound at her back sending screaming agony through the entire left side of her body. As Ava stepped forward to help, Gable wheeled around on her, the look in his eyes, she decided, was not one of friendship.

“You!” he growled at her. “What in the HELL are you?!”

Ava was taken aback, her first instinct was to be polite, but something inside of her overrode that. She got quiet, she got angry. Her eyes narrowing, her voice lowering. “I don’t know.”

“Bull ***!” he said pointing in her face.

Ava spoke slowly and deliberately. “Remove your finger from my face. Now.”

“Or. What?” he replied, mimicking her tone.

Through grit teeth and pained breaths, Lexa looked back at them. “Hey, if you two are done flirting back there...I’m...I’m kinda in a lot of pain. So...maybe we can do this later?”

Ava’s eyes flicked to the woman. She was right. They could argue about this another time, Lexa needed help. She went to step around him, but found him stopping her.

“No. You stay away.” He said.

“I am capable of treating wounds this severe without risking infection. Are you?” She countered.

Ava could see the wheels turning in his head. He wanted to throw it back in her face. Lie, and say he could. But his concern for his friend made him swallow his pride and let her go to work. Ava put all her functions to treating Lexa’s wound as Gable leaned back against the wall.

“Lex...what the hell happened back there? How did they find us?”

Lexa winced as Ava worked. Even the most careful hands couldn’t keep her from feeling the pain. “I’ve been trying to suss that out. Best I can figure, they had to be tracking Plau’ti.”

“You don’t think they were tracking *us*?” he said, a pointed look at Ava.

“Not a chance in hell. When I don’t want to be found, I don’t get found.” She snapped.

“That right, Millicent?” He smirked with his arms crossed.

“Hey, I got sold out, and I’ll point out that I’m not in an interrogation room, am I?” Lexa spat back at him.

Gable grinned, for a moment forgetting the culmination of his fears sitting right in front of him. It all came rushing back the moment he set eye on her again. “We need to figure out what we’re doing with it.” he said.

Lexa sucked in air through her teeth as Ava brushed a tender spot on her wound. “It?”

Gable nodded to the girl. If looks could burn, Lexa would have reduced him to ash. “SHE isn’t going anywhere. She’s important, and we need to find out what the hell is going on .”

“Not here.” he insisted, arms crossed.

“So, what? You want to toss her out into the world?” Lexa glared at him, “She wouldn’t last a day out there!”

“She’s a timebomb, God damn it, and you want to sit here and wait for her to go off?” Gable looked to her incredulously as Ava finished patching Lexa up.

Lexa stood up, a little too quick, but damned if he’d let her see the pain it caused. “**** sake, James, she’s not a weapon! She’s a scared kid who has no idea who she is or why she’s here! You want to wash your hands of her because she isn’t what you expected, well **** that! I’m not letting you!”

“You’re not *letting* me?”

“Damn right.”

Ava felt like a child in the midst of a screaming argument between her parents. She calmly stepped between them, looking from one to the other. “Enough. If I am to be a point of contention or danger for either of you, I shall take my leave. I do not wish to cause any undue stress for anyone. I will leave.”

Gable said nothing, but Lexa immediately went to her. “No. He doesn’t understand. But you saw those men. You know what they’re willing to do to capture you.”

“Yes. I do.” Ava said. “And I will not allow them to do it to you.”

“You’re not leaving.” Lexa said, grabbing her arm.

“With all due respect...you cannot stop me.”

Ava looked hurt and apologetic, yet resolute. “I will find my own way.” She said, turning to Gable. “Thank you for all you have done for me. I wish you well.”
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2017 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The door shut, leaving Lexa and Gable alone. The tattooed hacker stared blankly at the spot where Ava stood. Gable didn’t dare make a sound at first. He had the feeling a storm was brewing in his friend. Silence hung between them until he just couldn’t help himself.

“Lex…” was all he was able to get out before she whipped around, her face registering disgust.

“What the hell is the matter with you?” she said, her voice dripping with disdain.

“I did-” he started to protest, but Lexa wasn’t done.

“Are you SO attached to your hatred that you can’t see her for what she is?”

Gable ran his hands through his hair and turned on her.

“What is she, Lex? Huh? She’s a goddamn albatross. A burden we don’t need.”

Lexa narrowed her eyes in disgust. “Oh, please.”

“‘Please’ *what*?!”

She got right up in his face, poking him in the chest. “Don’t you DARE act like you would do this if she was a human being.”

“She isn’t. She’s a glorified toaster.”

Lexa’s eyes went wide and she pointed at the door. “You saw her! She can think, can feel, can hurt! Did you see the look in her eyes when she left here?”

“It wasn’t real!”

“How the hell do YOU know?!”

“Because SHE isn’t!” He shouted back. “She’s all clockwork and programming. That little display wasn’t REAL. It’s a mimicry. A clever attempt to manipulate you. Lexa, she was created in a lab out of ****ing scrap metal! You want to feel something for that, you go right ahead, but don’t ask me to!”

“Jim, when have you EVER seen a robot who could do that? She’s special. She’s...she’s like nothing that has ever existed before. And right now, she’s alone and she is being hunted.”

Gable didn’t have anything to say to that. He just stared at her. Lexa let out an exasperated sound and grabbed her coat, wincing as she slid it on. “It’s good to see you’ll sell someone out the second things get tough. Good luck. Because now YOU’RE on your own.”

“Lex-” he protested, softening his tone.

“Don’t.” she threatened, glaring at him. “Don’t follow me. Don’t contact me again. Enjoy your sad, little life. You’re going to be very lonely.”

With that, she stepped out and slammed the door.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gable sat in that apartment, alone with this thoughts. Maybe Lex was right. Whatever she had been programmed for, the robot didn’t know what was happening. Even he had to admit, her fear was incredibly realistic. Whatever she was, she had no love for the company, and certainly no desire to return there.

What was the famous phrase? “The enemy of my enemy is my friend?” After everything that had happened to him, after...after the incident...he was actually considering knowingly helping a machine. The world no longer made sense.

He looked down at little Max, the pit pup wagging his tail and staring up at him with those big, dark eyes. “Yeah…” he said quietly to the dog. “I don’t get it either.”

Gable grabbed his jacket and a sidearm and started toward his door when Max started barking. Gable glanced back with a quirked brow. “What is it?”

The lights suddenly flickered and went dead. Something was wrong. The former cop, glanced upward, cautious. But not cautious enough. With a massive boom, the door flew open, torn in a shower of sparks and smoke from the lock, and knocking him to one side and onto his left shoulder. Through his daze, he could make out the red lights of their rifles as the began to enter. Max sprinted at the intruders, barking that high pitched little bark as if he were the fiercest creature on the planet.

“Silence the dog.” one of the voices ordered. And that was it. Gable grabbed the point man’s rifle and yanked upwards, the weapon discharging into the ceiling. In one fluid motion he brought the weapon up and put a round between the eyes of the second intruder. Using the weapon as bludgeon, he cracked the pointman in the neck and threw him aside.

One of the attackers slammed into him then, tackling him to the ground, trying to get leverage so he could point his gun. Max leapt through the air, biting the man’s gunhand, distracting him enough so Gable could grab the man by wrist with his prosthetic hand. Instantly his impoosibly strong fingers constricted around the wrist, drawing out a sickening crunch. The thug cried out in agony, his weapon dropped to the ground. With his left, Gable jackhammered his fist in to the man’s face while his right swept the weapon up and fired at the next man through the door, knocking him back into the man behind him.

Gable swept his dog up and bolted toward the kitchen. The intruder at the doorway threw aside his fallen partner and brought his rifle and opened fire just as Gable launched himself over the kitchen counter, the blasts missing him by a hair., splintering the wood cabinets and shattering the tiles along the wall.

Gable pressed back against the trash compactor. It would provide a little cover, but it wouldn’t last forever. He set the dog down and signaled for him to stay, the pit staring up at him with those big dog eyes, but remaining still.

The remaining three men moved into the apartment, weapons up. They moved closer and closer to the kitchen, closing in on their target. Closer and closer the left-most came, his adrenaline pumping. This was it. Time to end it.

He whipped around the corner, only finding a very angry puppy letting out on high-pitched bark.

Suddenly, he felt something grab him from behind. Gable slammed his face through the drywall and into the metal support beam, the man’s body crumpling limp to the ground. The second wheeled around on him, but Gable was on the move, grabbing the barrel and redirecting it at the wall, Quickly, he ducked underneath his target and planted his boot square in the third man’s chest, knocking him against the wall.

No time to waste, Gable reached back, grabbing the second attacker by the neck and flipping him onto the counter onto his back. He brought his elbow up and then slammed it down with his entire body weight behind it upon the man’s face, breaking his neck in one swift motion.

He turned to face the final intruder just in time to find a weapon pointed at him. He immediately went to dodge just before the trigger was pulled, the blast seering right past where his shoulder had been. Gable’s foot planted on an ottoman and sent it sailing into the attacker’s knees, sending him stumbling forth. He immediately set toward the man, kicking the weapon from his grasp before he could get his bearings.

Gable grabbed him by the shirt and whipped him around, throwing his back against the wall so hard it cracked the drywall. His body loose, the attacker managed to draw a knife, and start advancing toward Gable.

The former cop’s eyes locked on him, presenting his side and as small a target as possible to his attacker. When the attacks came, they were fast, aggressive, precise. He knew what he was doing, but Gable blocked every strike. An over-head slash was blocked and countered by a quick right jab to the face as Gable pivoted out of the way. The attacker shook off the daze and planned his next move. He came in low and fast, a stab at Gable’s belly. He barely dodged the strike, grabbing the man by the wrist with both hands. In one motion, he swept his leg at the man’s feet and jammed an elbow into his face,

Both men fell to the ground, and Gable reversed the knife. The man resisted, fighting as Gable worked to overpower him. He grunted, trying to force that blade into the man’s chest. It was amazing what someone could do when they didn’t want to die.

Enough was enough, Gable lifted his body up and brought his full weight down, pushing the knife far enough that the tip punctured the man’s chest. But he didn’t stop resisting, so Gable did it again. And again. And again.

And then...he stopped resisting. He stopped breathing.

Gable rolled off the man’s corpse, Max rushing up to him and licking his face excitedly. Gable gave the dog a stroke along his back and pushed himself up. If these men had gotten to him, then Lexa and Ava were in incredible danger.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ava pulled her coat tighter to block out the cold. Technically, she couldn’t freeze to death, but the frigid winter temperatures did affect her. Her destination was unknown, but she needed to get out of this town. If she was what they said she was, this was not a good place for her to be.

The girl didn’t know why these people despised robots so vehemently. She could understand that fear of the unknown often trumped reason and compassion. She still was unsure of what she even was. What little she knew of robots was that they were subservient, completely unable to harm a human. Well, she had proven that she could do that. She realized that she was what would be considered an Android...and Androids were supposed to be illegal according to Galactic law. Moral and ethical concerns would resulted in a full-on, galactic ban on Android science.

Ava heard the footsteps coming up behind her, without thinking, she went into threat assessment mode. The figure must have been small. No more than 120 lbs. Suggesting feminine in build. The panting breaths confirmed this.

“Ava, wait!” the woman’s voice called out. Ava recognized her immediately turning around to face Lexa as she approached.

“Lexa, I told you-”

“Forget what you told me. Wherever you go, I go.” Lexa said, resolute.

Ava looked unsure. “It is not safe. You should return to Mr. Gable’s.”


Lexa’s eyebrows rose bemusedly. “Yeah, pretty sure I burned that bridge.” She said. “I’m with you, kid. So, let’s figure out our next step.”

A smile worked its way onto Ava’s face...and then quickly fell. “Two figures are approaching from the South East.”

Two men ambled toward them, looking disheveled, inebriated, dangerous. The whistle that came from one of them echoed in the chilly air before he called out. “Hellooooo, honey. Where the hell you been all my life?”

“Come on.” Lexa said under her breath, grabbing Ava by the arm and leading her away.

“Aww, where you goin’ baby?” He said, still following closely.

Lexa turned around, keeping her stride, but moving backwards. “Sorry, boys, we got a meeting with the United Sisterhood of It’s None of Your ****ing Business, and wouldn’t you know it? We’re late. So…” she flipped them both birds and smiled cordially. “Piss off. Have a lovely night.”

“Ooooh-hoo-hoo...she’s rude.” One of them said to the other.

“Right? I kinda like it.” The other responded with a sneer.
“Come on, me and Tuck here can show you and your friend a damn good time.” He said.

Lexa glanced back at him. “If it doesn’t involve hitting you in the nuts with a sledge hammer repeatedly, not interested.”

“Baby, Baby, you’re hurtin’ my feelings.” He said in a pitiful voice.

“Dude!” She stopped and whipped around. “**** OFF!”

Ava’s eyes flicked quickly between the two of them, analyzing them. They were working class joes in their late 20’s. Strong, slim. Brawlers, most likely. Their fists showed signs of recent fighting, nearly healed bruises on their bearded faces serving as a confirmation.

The facade dropped on the man. “You know, you don’t have to be a ****. We’re just trying to be polite and you try to cut my nuts off in front of my friend? Embarass me?” his voice took on a acidic tone, those grey eyes glaring a hole through her.

Lexa scoffed at him. “Shuffle your pathetic ass home, you lowlife.” Rolling her eyes, she turned away from him, starting away. “Let’s go.” She said to Ava, muttering “****ing creeps…”

The man grabbed her from behind, roughly. “You need to learn to watch your ****ing mouth, bitch!” He growled.

Ava’s threat analysis kicked into overtime. The second man seemed unprepared for his companion’s violent outburst. Should she moved to assist, there would be a few seconds before he reacted. It was enough.

“Grab the other one, you dickless moron!” The first man yelled just as he went to drag Lexa away. Ava’s hand grabbed tight on his forearm, clamping down hard. “HEY!” He called out, then feeling that impossibly strong hand prying his arms apart.

That was enough for Lexa. She threw an elbow into his stomach and slipped out from his grasp. Their attacker dropped the ground, groaning as his arm was being slowly crushed. The second man finally moved in.

“Hey! Let him go!” he hollered, trying to pull Ava off of his friend to no avail. “I said LET HIM GO!” He threw a punch, connecting hard with her face. Ava’s head jerked in the direction of his follow-through, but she remained in the same place.

Slowly her head turned toward the second man, her eyes registering him as a real threat now. She pushed away the groaning first man’s arm, letting him drop to the ground. The second looked afraid as he started backing away. Ava advanced on him slowly. “Back off!” he shouted. “Back off or you’ll get hurt!”
But Ava did not back off. He reached into his pocket and drew out a small knife, flicking that blade out. Her eyes didn’t even acknowledge it, she just kept slowly lumbering. “**** off, bitch!” He screamed, slashing aggressively in her direction. Reflexively, her arm shot up, catching the blade. The steel cut into her skin, contacting with her strong endoskeleton. A small amount of blood, leaking around it’s edge.

The man watched as the woman he’d just cut with a knife didn’t even wince at the wound. She just reached over, wrapped her hand around the blade and snapped it in half like a cracker. His eyes just went wide as he backed into a wall. “What the **** are you?” He said, trembling.

The blade was thrown away and her hand fired out, grabbing him by the neck and lifting him against the wall like he was weightless. “I am many things.” she said. Many things I don’t even remember.”


Ava lifted him a bit higher, getting closer to him. “But what I am not...is a victim.”

The man clawed at her hand, gasping for breath, his eyes bulging. “Ava!” Lexa called out, but the girl seemed unavailable. “AVA!” she screamed again.

Ava’s head snapped in her direction, the look making Lexa take a few steps back, her hands slowly rising defensively. “Easy...easy…”

Ava’s intense glare softened and she calmed. A quick dirty look to the man in her grasp, and she threw him to the ground, hurting, embarrassed, but still alive to crawl away.

The sound of speeding repulsor lifts directed their attention away from their fallen attackers and onto an approaching car. The vehicle’s motors whined as skidded to a halt not far. Ava readied herself for another attack, but when the window rolled down, she found Gable staring back at her!

“Get in! We need to go!”
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The lights of the city illuminated his face in waves as they passed through Century City’s bustling streets. It was no longer safe to stay within its limits. The vehicle was unregistered, untraceable, the tracking systems encrypted to hell and back. If anyone wanted to try and digitally trace their movements, they’d find themselves looking on the other side of the planet. A contingency in place for just such an occasion. Never let it be said that James Gable was ever left unprepared. Hastily thrown-together bug-out bags were placed in the car’s cargo area.

Lexa and Ava remained quiet at first, preferring to catch their breath and get as far from everything as possible. The lithe hacker watched the cars go by and the city carrying on, the world still spinning, oblivious to them and their little dramatics. She hovered between the two states of still being upset with him and grateful that he’d come around...even if he was being tight-lipped about the reason for the moment. She’d known Gable a lot of years, and one thing she’d learned about the man was that, when given a long enough time and suitable pushing...he could often be counted on to do the right thing.

Lex glanced Gable’s way, studying the stoic, focused former cop. “So...what changed your mind?”

Gable’s jaw clenched, his focus ahead. Honestly, he wasn’t entirely certain that he HAD changed his mind. At least, not about Ava. At the moment, his main concern was protecting himself and his friend. If the girl...the robot was part of that package, so be it.

“They found us.” He said simply.

“What?” She exclaimed, her eyes wide. “How?”

“Didn’t think to ask.” Gable said, mocking her with his tone.

Lexa sighed in annoyance. Obstinate man...“Well...are they going to come after us?”

Gable was quiet a long moment before finally uttering “No.”

The tone in his voice told her everything about what happened in that apartment. The thought chilled her to the bone. Lexa was aware of what he was capable of. Gable was a killer when he had to be. It was often hard to separate the two sides of him for her. He could be helpful, kind, downright sweet...and then when backed into a corner, he could be ruthless.

“Where are we going?” She asked, deciding to push those thoughts aside.

Gable’s hands gripped the wheel, white-knuckled as they took a turn. “I’ve got a safehouse out of town.”

“If they found you in Novus Vitae, what’s going to stop them here?” She asked.

“It’s off the grid.” he said, looking over to her a moment. “Vitruvia Lake.”

Her brows rose in surprise. “That IS off the grid.” She said. The place was hours away from any city in a very rural area. Right smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

Gable glanced in the rearview to the machine in the back before he turned his attention back to Lexa. “Get some rest. It’s going to be a long trip.”

The hacker turned her hazel eyes back to the open road ahead as they passed out of Century City limits and into the unknown. She’d put her faith in him for now. It was the only hope for their survival.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Things had become tense at Autons Inc. Mr. Chase was on edge, snapping at everyone around him. The search for the Ava unit had consumed the man, reduced his already short temper. People were pulled off of projects, years worth of experiments abandoned. And if anyone questioned it, they were fired on the spot. Chase was always a bastard, Willa thought, but he usually concealed it under thin veneer of charm. Now, however, the mask was off.

So it was that Willa found herself surrounded by scared co-workers trying their best to disseminate Ava’s code. What was the saying? “Too many cooks spoil the broth?” The combined brilliance in the room couldn’t change the fact that Alvin Martin’s work was less science than art. His methods, software, and hardware were so far beyond what any of them were even aware existed that it made even WIlla feel like a lost school kid again.

“Lords…how did he keep all this secret?” one of the techs muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Willa pushed a loose blonde tress behind her ear. Chase had her camped in front of her computer for what felt like days, running on strong coffee and sheer grit. A nice, hot shower and a nap would be a blessing at this point. The roboticist suppressed a yawn and took another big gulp of coffee.

“Doc.” One of them said to her. “You knew the old man. He had to have told you about some of this.”

Willa didn’t look up from her screen, just kept working. “Dr. Martin was intensely private before he disappeared. He kept even me in the dark.”

“Disappeared?” one of them asked. “He quit.”

Willa’s fingers stopped flying across her keyboard. “Of course he did.”

The mousy woman sat silent. She didn’t believe for a second that Alvin Martin just quit and left his greatest creation behind. Something more sinister was at play here and she was certain she knew exactly who was to blame.

The door to her over-staffed lab slid open and in stepped Chase. His usually well-coiffed and groomed appearance showing signs of fraying. His hair out of place and stringy in his face, a few days worth of growth to his facial hair. His eyes bloodshot and intense from the same lack of sleep she was going through. The stress was getting to him.

Heads lowered, busying themselves as he entered, not wanting to attract attention. His eyes darted from person to person, almost aggressively. That was Chase. Always sizing people up. He made his way to Willa’s desk, staring at the petite scientist.

“Doctor.” He greeted her, his voice showing not even a hint of warmth.

Willa’s dark eyes swiveled up toward the man. God, she hated him. From his greasy-slicked hair, to those angry piercing eyes, and that smug confidence with which he approached everything. Some women had described him as handsome. Willa found him to be anything but.

“Mr. Chase.” The name tasted bitter upon her tongue, barely suppressed disdain fought from appearing on her face.

“You have an update, I’m assuming?” He said in a tone that suggested a threat.

“We’re working as hard as we can, sir.” God, she hated having to call him that. “We need more-”

“Time?” he interrupted, “What time do you think we have? Every moment the Ava unit is out there, we risk it falling into the hands of our competitors. Now, I am doing everything in my power to reacquire the asset, but I need a copy of her positronic brain made so we can move ahead with production of our own. I’m growing impatient, Dr.”

Willa narrowed her eyes. “You demand things you don’t even understand. This isn’t some simple process of copy and paste. What Alvin created would fry the processors of our S-17s in seconds. It’s not simply software, it’s hardware.”

She looked around the cluttered lab. She was usually very meticulous about her workspace, having other people inside of it, getting in the way, leaving behind messes sent her OCD into overdrive. Chase was to blame for this intrusion. She turned her gaze back to him.

“I can recreate the synthetic skin and the endoskeleton, but the brain that he made was one of a kind. It’s like asking me to paint recreate a masterpiece to perfection while blind.”

Those piercing eyes narrowed just slightly in her direction. “You’ve made a lot of excuses, Doctor. I’m growing tired of them.”

“Well, I can’t help that they’re still relevant.” She spat back at him.

“You know what I think? I think you’re a fraud. I think you were screwin’ the old man, and that’s the only reason you’re here at all.” He sneered at her viciously.

She stood up, getting right in his face. “Unlike some people, I didn’t have to bully and cheat my way to where I am, I earned it with my own blood and sweat. I am a genius, and you’re just a thug in a suit, you slimy piece of filth.”

That arrogant little sneer dropped from his face. The other doctors were watching now in horror. Willa regretted it almost immediately. She’d lost her temper, something she promised herself she’d never do, especially in front of a man like him.

“Clear the room.” he said, barely keeping his voice steady. The other doctors cleared out quickly, Chase standing at the door to usher them along. As soon as they were alone he shut the door. He stood there a long moment, not facing her.

Willa steeled herself. She’d made her bed, she’d lie in it, but she would not cave to him, would not beg. “I take it, I’m probably not going to be at the next company Holiday party?”

Silence.

She scoffed and rolled her eyes, moving toward the door. To hell with him. Let the punk figure this out without her. Odds are, he’ll blow himself up trying. But when she got to him, he didn’t move. Didn’t look at her.

“Is this supposed to scare me?” she said. “My mother is more intimidating. Get out of my way.”

Chase turned to her slowly, something in his gaze unsettled her, but she continued on, not letting her fear show. “Move.”

Chase suddenly backhanded the woman across the face. Willa was completely unprepared for the strike, her legs giving out from under her. The mousy doctor fell to the floor, her cheek stinging and her head ringing.

“You want the thug? You got him.” he growled at her. Willa pulled herself to her feet, clinging to the desk, doing her damndest to ignore the pain. As soon as she was up, she felt his hand clench around her throat, her slight body pushed back against the wall. She struggled, trying to pry that hand from her neck, but he was much stronger than her.

Chase got close, his voice low and threatening. “You’re not going anywhere. You have no idea how far I will go to have this technology, how far I HAVE gone. You’re going to finish this job, Bryant. You’re going to finish it, or I everything and everyone you love will burn with you, do you understand me?”

She pounded his arm as she struggled to breathe, the fear overwhelming her. Willa winced as he just clenched tighter. “Do you understand?” he growled at her.

Through the chokes and emerging sobs she nodded slowly. Chase released her roughly, letting the small woman collapse to the ground, gasping desperately for air. She looked up at him, hate in her tearful eyes. “You’re a monster.”

Chase stepped in front of a reflective surface and straightened his shirt and slicked back his hair. “Yeah. I suppose I am.” He said turning to her. “And you would do well to remember it. I *am* a monster, you have no idea what I am capable of.”

He strode to the door, letting it slide open before turning back to her. “Get to work.”
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The door slid shut behind him, Chase’s clenched fists shaking as he paced. He’d gone too far. Showed his hand to that arrogant little bitch. If he didn’t need her, she’d be dead, but circumstances being what they were, she was the closest to Alvin Martin he was going to get. The doctor was still missing, along with the most valuable piece of tech in the universe.

Chase walked to his liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle Cerillian Whiskey, pouring it into a glass and immediately downing the contents in one gulp. The haze hit his system near instantly, giving him a moment of dizziness. His hands gripped the countertop, steadying himself.

The mercenaries hadn’t reported in. That was usually a bad sign. Facial recognition applications pulled up a partial match from the bodycam of one of the dead mercs. They’d been lucky the woman’s blocker malfunctioned for a split second when she was wounded. It was enough for them to extrapolate and narrow down their choice.

James Gable. Former Century City cop. Known for his actions during the MatsuTech hostage situation. Became a part of Martin’s Second Chance initiative for wounded officers and soldiers after an incident left him near death and without a significant portion of the left side of his body. He was discovered as living outside the influence of robotic surveillance in Novus Vitae.

Novus Vitae. A collection of delusional doomsayers, clinging to their antiquated ideals, fighting a pointless war against progress. From the old man’s psych notes, Gable fit right in with them. Bitter, angry, prone to violence. A deep seated dislike of robotics, despite their integration into his body, keeping him alive.

There were no reports coming from the mercenary force he’d sent. Gable must have been more capable than he thought.

Chase poured himself another glass of whiskey, turning on the holovision. An anchor was reporting on a disturbance coming out of Novus Vitae. Several bodies had been found in the 100 block of the Organics-Only section of the city. None of them mentioning a female of any kind. Gable might be dead, but Ava and the woman were almost certainly still alive and still at large.

Somewhere deep inside him, a boiling rage had begun to rise. His fist clenched the glass, shaking with anger before he let out a frustrated scream, throwing the glass with all his might and sending it shattering all over the floor.

Almost immediately, the tiny maintenance droids scurried out to clean the mess.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ava did not need sleep in the sense that Lexa and Gable did. Powering down in a sort of sleep cycle could help give her power generator a recharge, but usually, the effect would last for at least 20 days. No, Ava did not need to sleep. But she found, in the past few days that she enjoyed it. Leaving her physical vessel behind to delve into the complex consciousness that existed within her unique positronic brain offered what she would describe as comfort, eliciting a feeling she could only define as “safe”.

Her sensors indicated that the conveyance they currently occupied had come to a stop and the engine shut down. Her eyes opened slowly, darting quickly, taking stock of her surroundings. The towers and lights and business of the city were no longer around them. She looked behind her, the city a hazy silhouette in the distance.

The location they had arrived was an unpaved gravel lot alongside acres and acres of farmland, the road stretching farther than even her enhanced eyes could conceive. What appeared to be a decommissioned passenger ship had been converted to a roadside diner. Lexa turned around facing the android, her knees upon the seat and her tattooed arms wrapped around the back.

“Hey, you’re up.” the woman said with a smile. “Listen, we need to get a bite to eat, did you want to come with?”

She noted Gable’s eyes were watching her doubtfully in the rearview. Something inside her, bitter and rebellious decided she would not give him the satisfaction. Her eyes locked on his. “I would like that.” she said, almost spitefully.

She exited the vehicle, not bothering to see the surprise in his eyes.

As she entered the diner, she found a gathering of several species. A few Torkun; large, plated, creatures that looked like a cross between a rhino, a frog, in and alligator’s skin with arms and legs not too different from humanoids. Known for their strength and short tempers.

There were also a few Gor, Nigh skeletal creatures who communicated with eachother via bio-luminescent light emitted from their sternums (often bearing robotic translators for contact with humans and other auditorily-communicating species. A mostly peaceful race whose society had no formal military but made excellent spies.

She spied a Zalkan; Reptilian, short. A species often seen in the criminal underworld.

As her eyes bounced around from these and more, all of this data and more ran through her consciousness, as if she’d always known. Their revelation about what she was led her to accept this must be in her memory banks. Data files on every core species, their customs, and common traits among them loaded into her OS. She found herself a seat in a booth as Lexa and Gable entered the Diner.

The pair approached her, Gable sliding in across from her as Lexa moved to sit beside her, giving the android a nudge. “Scoot.”

Ava looked up to her a moment before making room for her friend. After a serving droid took their order, the trio sat in awkward silence, the two humans sipping glasses of water.

“Well. This is fun.” Lexa said wryly.

Ava noted the man, Gable would not make eye contact with her, despite her staring directly at him. “You are uncomfortable with my presence.” She observed.

“Yes.” He said simply, looking out the window.

“May I ask why?”

“I just...have a thing about canners, that’s all.”

“I am not a canning machine. That is not my purpose.”

“I have issues with things like you.” He spat back.

“There ARE no things like me.” She said.

“You know what I mean.” he asserted.

“It would I appear that I do not.” Ava stared at him...was that anger in her eyes?

“Girls, you’re both pretty.” Lexa said, rolling her eyes. “Can we just enjoy a meal without making a scene? Please?”

Ava could see the stress in Lexa’s entire bearing. She had noted that a smile often calmed humans, so she forced a small one to the woman. “Our destination cannot hide us forever.” She said, changing the subject. It was not a criticism, it was a fact.

“We don’t need it to.” He responded, pausing as their food was set before them. He waited until the service droid rolled away before speaking again. “I just want to get as far from their influence as possible and we’ll go from there.”

Ava did not seem too comforted by this plan, but she decided discretion was in order. She stared down at her plate, her head tilting, contemplating the food before her. Her sensors told her it was a concoction mixing eggs, flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla, all cooked into a round shape, crosshatched patterns creating pockets in the food. A “waffle” Lexa had called it.

Ava stared at it a moment, feelings stirring up that she didn’t quite understand.

“And we pour the syrup...careful..CAREFU-OH no! ”A kindly, male voice followed by childlike laughter echoed in her ears. But it did not come from either of her companions. It had come from nowhere. A ghostly voice that, instead of fear, filled her with warmth. In her mind’s eye she could picture a small girl of about 4 standing upon a chair in a blue dress, holding a bottle of syrup up high and squeezing it all over the table below, giggling with wild abandon.

Just as fast as she had come, the girl was gone.

“Ava?” Lexa’s voice echoed in her ears, bringing her too. Slowly, the android looked to her. Lexa’s face was mask of concern, her brows knit worriedly.

“Yes?”

“Are...you alright?” Lexa asked, her eyes flicking downward.

“Yes, why-” Ava looked down and noticed that her hand had bent in the surface of the steel table in the shape of her thumbs. She blinked, not having remembered doing it, feeling confused. Again that emotion returned. The one she did not like. Fear.

Gable chewed a mouthful of eggs, watching her knowingly, a certain smug satisfaction to his arched brow. The man raised his brows sarcastically and turned his head away.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2017 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The cottage sat in a clearing, surrounded by trees, a lake running along the western side of the property. It was a rustic sort of place, far away from the nearest town. No cortex connection, in fact, there was not a holoscreen to be seen on the premises, much to Lexa’s chagrin.

She'd only heard about this little cottage in passing. Gable wasn't exactly forthcoming with an explanation to the nature of its existence, not that he ever was a big talker about his life. It was a cozy little space, and as safehouses go, it was better than most of the dingy, smelly basements she’d usually chosen for her own.

As they opened the car door, Max sprinted out. The dog running amuck around all the new smells and sights like tiny grey blur. Just full-on sensory overload for the little guy. The corners of Gable’s mouth were tugged upward in a smile, watching the dog, oblivious to their current predicament, just running wild and happy.

Max was lucky, Lexa thought. He would not lose sleep to worry or be concerned with the men searching for them or the dead. He just wanted someone to play with, food, and a spot to sleep. For the first time, she envied a dog.

“You know...if you wanted to get away from society and robots...this would have been a great place to do it.” She said.

Gable ran his eyes over the charming cottage. There wasn’t nearly the amount of warmth she might expect from him over such a pleasant little place. In fact there was a hint of sadness there. “Too many memories. “ He muttered distantly. Gable blinked, shaking out of it. “Besides. Not going to make much of a difference from here, am I?”

With that, he shouldered his bag and moved into the house. Ava stared after him. “He seems sad.”

Perceptive, kid, Lexa thought sarcastically.

“It was his family’s place.” Lexa explained.

“Where are they now?” the android asked her.

“Gone.” Lexa said simply. She knew the story of what had happened to Gable’s family. She couldn’t really blame him for being less than excited to get here. “Grab your stuff. We’ll find rooms.”
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ava stepped into the cottage, her scanners running over everything. Traces of leather, and mahogany creating a pleasant, earthy scent in the air. Decorated rustically, with evidence of years of use and the lives lived inside. A few wild animal heads, and pictures scattered throughout. Certainly more photos than Gable ever had in his own home. It was like a timeline of his life, showing a young boy with his father and mother, all aging as the pictures went along until the mother disappeared during Gable’s adolescence. A few pictures later a new woman appeared. Beautiful, blond-haired with a smile that lit up her entire face.

Three pictures later, she was showing signs of pregnancy. The next, she was holding a tiny, blonde-haired baby girl in her arms. 6 more pictures followed her progress as she aged grew into a beautiful, happy little lady. And then the pictures just stopped.

The quiet of the room was calming, just the sound of a clock ticking away quietly and the wildlife muffled outside. The android stepped forward peering at the child. She had Gable’s eyes and the female’s features. As she noted the sudden end of the pictures and the apparent lack of any of the others featured in the photographs, Ava felt a pain grow deep inside of her. The little girl seemed so happy in the pictures, clinging to the woman and Gable with a bright smile on her young face. Ava’s eyes began to moisten. She couldn’t quite explain the sensation or why it had begun, but she felt it nonetheless. She reached up and touched a droplet of water that ran down her cheek. Ava stared at the moisture on her fingers, perplexed.

Gable stepped into the house, carrying a bag full of canned goods in from the car. Ava turned to greet him, those sad brown eyes meeting his. “Is there something I might assist you with?” She said in a quiet voice.

Gable stared with furrowed brow at her, his lips parted just slightly. Was she crying? Could she cry? Who the hell made a machine that was capable of tears? The physical beauty, the personality simulations, he could understand. But a negative He cleared his throat, coming back to reality. “I don’t know if you’ll need it...but there’s a room you can use…”

A smile worked it’s way to her lips as she nodded. “I would like that. Thank you.”
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Willa walked down the corridors of Autons Inc, her tablet in hand. Her workplace had become one filled with fear since Chase had attacked her. Part of her considered running, but where would she go? There was no doubt in her mind that he would make good on his threats. She wasn’t sure she had the ability to make herself disappear, let alone her elderly mother.

The strange modulated voice had contacted her again in a rare moment to herself in the lab. Who it was, she still couldn’t figure, but it was very knowledgeable. It seemed to know she was stalling, and the voice supported this. It would offer advice and work-arounds to certain problems, providing solutions, but only on an incremental level Whoever it was wanted to see Devin Chase fail.

That was a sentiment Willa could support.

Chase was not in his office when she came looking to deliver a status update. His AI secretary informed her that he could be located on the production floor. Ugh...it was bad enough, being forced the deliver these reports to his repugnant face herself, but now the son of a bitch was making her chase him?

Willa boarded the lift and glanced up. “Production.” She instructed the machine, receiving a pleasant tone in return. The inertial dampeners erased every bit of force from the lift’s acceleration. In the silence of the elevator, Willa found a moment to just think. The voice. That mechanical voice that was so deadset on standing in Chase’s way...there was something so familiar about it. In the back of her mind, Willa dared to hope that Alvin was still out there. Working to undermine Chase in secrecy. Hiding his identity. It was a pleasant fiction.

The lift came to a stop with a ding as a soothing computer voice said “You have arrived at the Production and maintenance-Observation deck.” Willa stepped out into the antiseptic silver and white hallway, lit entirely in bright, fluorescent lighting. She moved through halls, clutching her tablet, dreading seeing that face. That greasy, slicked back hair. She imagined touching him would feel slimy, the disgusting pig.

She steeled herself outside the door of the control room, taking in a deep breath. “Okay, Willa, girl. Just go in. Hand him the pad. And walk away. You might not even have to stay and talk…” the roboticist told herself before pushing a thumb to the ID plate.

As the doors slid open she found him standing in front of the huge room-length window overlooking the assembly floor, his hands clasped behind him. If he heard her enter, he showed no signs of it. She rolled her eyes and pushed onward.

“Sir?” She said irritably. “I have the reports. Status updates for you.” She kept her distance from him.

“I was born in Davosport.” He said quietly. “The rough end.” Chase clarified. Great, Willa thought. It was story time.

“My father worked in a foundry creating the metal used in this company’s robots. Mean, violent drunk.” His eyes narrowed as he spoke. “My mother was a whore he managed to knock up.”

Slowly, he glanced back at her. “They told me I would never amount to much.”

It certainly explained a lot about him, Willa thought. Why he was such an unimaginable bastard.

“Now look.” His arms raised up, gesturing around him. “When I became CEO, do you know what happened?”

She could guess, but shook her head.

“I had that factory closed down. I bought that *****y apartment block and I had it demolished. Now *they* are nothing.” He said in a low, gruff tone. Chase turned back to the window, looking out. “Look what I have done. I will usher in a new era of robotics…”

Willa’s brow creased with concern as she stepped forward. Her eyes widened in horror. There were thousands of them. Androids just like Ava, given different appearances, different sexes, standing there naked as newborns, but mere shells until Willa cracked the positronic brains. He was going to try and fasttrack something he did not understand, something NO ONE understood. She’d seen what Ava was capable of, and that girl was a work of art. What would a half-assed imitation be capable of?

“When I am done…” He said “...the galaxy will never be the same.”
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2017 1:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The girl...no, he corrected himself. The machine was surprising, to say the least. Once they’d settled in, she went to the bookshelf. Lined with dusty, old paperbacks from before he was even born. She took up one, “Shadows Of Elinor”. A tale about an elf-princess going out on her first pilgrimage and finding love, adventure, and her purpose in life.

He wasn’t sure why she…*it* would need entertainment, but there they were. Gable watched her from the kitchen as Lexa paced nervously.

“You know, you keep going back and forth on that spot, you’re gonna wear a hole through the floor.” He said, arms crossing as he leaned against the counter.

“Ugh...I hate this. I need a screen or an uplink. I need...noise! “ she complained. “How do you put up with all this QUIET?!”

Gable grinned. “That was part of what I loved about this place to be honest.” he told her. “You could come here, get away from it all...just enjoy the silence.”

She blinked at him. “That is, literally the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” She said quickly. “I almost fell asleep listening to that.”

“Well, consider the alternative. You jump onto the cortex, they track you, they find us...we die.” Gable gave a quick raise of his brows her, smirking.

“I can work out an encryp-”

“No.” He said simply.

“But-”

“Lexa.” Gable said firmly before shaking his head.

The slender hacker bit her lip in frustration before she just erupted in an irritated outburst. “Fine. Fine….Whatever. So what now?”

“I was thinking dinner.” Gable said, getting a thoroughly unamused look in return. He did love to tease her. “We know They’ll be looking for us in Century City. So, we can’t go back there. The nearest spaceport is Oolom Taurus. But they’ll be looking there. So, we lay low. Stay off their radar. And THEN we go for the spaceport and get off-planet.”

Lexa stared at him. “Then what?”

“God, I don’t know! Galaxy’s a big place. We find somewhere with enough tech to study her, maybe find out if she knows anything. Look, all that matters is that we get as far from Autons Inc. as possible.” Gable said to her, grabbing an apple and pulling a pocket knife out.

Kara looked up, watching him carve the apple.

“Jim...they’re everywhere. Every planet, every system, every backwards-ass moon and station...where are we going to go that Autons Inc. cannot follow?” She said with a touch of fear in her voice.

Gable frowned then, taking a bite. His eyes turned to Ava, a little smile appearing on her face as she read.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ava lay in bed in one of the spare rooms. Anyone who saw her might assume she was sleeping, but her system was actually recharging on its own internal generator. Her eyes remained shut as she lay there, still as death.

Images flashed in her mind. An older man. Smiling.

He appeared familiar. Kindly. He made a silly face at her, flipping her hair after putting it in ties at either side of her head. He seemed huge, like she were a mere child. And she felt love. Pure, unadulterated affection for him.

And then he was gone.

Ava’s eyes popped open suddenly. Her senses picking up sound coming from downstairs. Slowly, the android sat up and pushed herself off the bed. She was near silent as she padded down the hall to the balcony, peering over its edge.

Gable sat out on the porch, the door left wide open as the sound of night and a cool breeze blew in. The cold air rose goosebumps on her synthetic skin, Ava’s arms hugging herself instinctively. If pressed, she couldn’t quite explain why she’d done it, it just sort of happened.

The stairs creaked lightly as she descended into the living room. Outside, Gable was sat in wooden lounge chair, his feet up on a matching ottoman. The final picture of his family in his hand and a bottle of whiskey sat on an end table beside him.

“You know, kid…”he said to no one with a drunken slur to his voice. “I think you’da thought it was pretty cool…”

Bloodshot eyes stared at the picture. “Your old man riding a hoverpod off a building…” He snickered. “All to...to...rescue a….a friggin’...can opener.” He laughed bitterly and took a swig from the bottle.

The insult brought a frown to Ava’s face, her eyes lowering for a moment.

“It...she’s...she’s different Kate...I dunno what she is...but…” He trailed off and shook his head. “She’s got a...something about her. Had every excuse to just leave her where she was and get on with my life. Don’t know why I didn’t.” He mumbled to himself. “She just...she’s so...helpless.”

Ava’s eyes upturned again, listening, the frown fading a bit.

“She’s...actually...she’s alright.” He said, slowly shaking his head. “I hate it, but she’s...I like her.”

Gable was quiet a long moment, staring off as his drunken eyes went glassy, his voice breaking with emotion. “God, I just miss you both so much…”

Ava saw him reach for the bottle again and stepped out. As his fingers wrapped around it, her hand gently lay across the top of the neck. “Perhaps you should reconsider.” She said in a soft, soothing voice.

He looked confused a moment as his eyes turned up to her, tearful and red. He softened and cleared his throat. “What...hey. What’re you doin’ here?”

Ava titled her head. “I heard a noise, and was coming to investigate.”

“Ah…”He said with a distant nod.

“May I sit?” Ava asked him. Gable’s only reply was to gesture to another chair. The android dragged it over and sat beside him. For a long moment the two sat in silence before she glanced over to the picture. “They were your mate and offspring, were they not?” she asked him.

His fingertips brushed across their faces. “Yeah.”

“And they are the reason you hate my kind?”

Gable looked over as if he was going to argue, but he just didn’t have it in him. He stared back at the picture and nodded. Ava noted his lack of denial. “If I may ask, what happened?”

The man stared off, the crickets in the night sky and the wind in the trees the only sound to be heard. “We were coming home. We’d spent a long weekend here, Katie, Kaylee and me… Kaylee, she was my daughter. Smart kid. Funny kid.” He said, his eyes distant and a little smile on his face. Those blue eyes turned her then. “You know, she’d walk into a room and talk to everyone there, make ‘em laugh...make ‘em smile. She took after her mama like that.”

The corners of Ava mouth twitched upward. There was so much love in his voice when talking about the two females.

“Katie could light a black hole with her smile. Just a sweet...fair...ridiculously good woman.” he said almost wincing at the end his description. Gable stared off a long moment, lost in memories before he cleared his throat.

“So, we’re driving back to Century, and one of those automated A2 cargo haulers throws a hover disk.” he started, his brow furrowed. “Thing jerks into our lane. We take the hit, and all I can hear is busting glass, crunching metal and...and screaming.” His voice turned hoarse, haunted.

“Thing crashes us through the guardrail and slam down onto the underpass. We hit a concrete divider and I get thrown through the windshield. I finally come to a rest, and I know...everything’s broken...everything hurts. I’m dead and I just don’t know it yet.” He said, turning his eyes to the android with a shake of his head. He paused a long moment at the look upon her face. Again, she didn’t understand the how, but she knew what she felt. Horror. Sorrow. Empathy.

Gable turned those sad. booze-soaked eyes to her. “But Kaylee and Kate are still in the car. I see Kate and she-she’s bleedin’ from her head, she was probably already gone at that point… But Kaylee’s in back and I see her start to move. So I’m crawlin’ and crawlin’ to her when I hear this sound. This awful...wrenching sound. The A2’s about to fall.”


Ava felt a pain in her chest, then. Something she was certain she should not have been able to feel. Something none of her kind had ever felt, she knew. Gable looked destroyed, but persisted.

“So, I try to get up to run, but my body ain’t cooperating.” He said, his face turning dark. His voice filling with spite. “S-14’s out walking, sees me, assesses the situation. I finally get to the car and Kaylee’s pinned in there, trying to get free...but she can’t.” He shook his head.

“Now, I *know* I’m ****ed up because she sees me and screams and starts crying. I start pulling on the door with my one good arm but it won’t budge.” Ava listened sadly as his voice dropped into a low growl. “And I hear that son of a bitch behind me, shouting ‘you are in danger!’ Those metal claws grabbing at me.”

Ava knew what had to be coming, but didn’t want to interrupt. Suddenly, she was able to understand James Gable a lot more.

“I manage kick him away and I’m screaming, pulling at the door, but the bastard won’t stop. ‘You are in danger!’ he keeps yelling at me over and over again...and I feel that cold hand grab my ankles and he starts draggin’ me. I’m clawin and fightin...and Kaylee...she’s just….She’s screaming and crying and trying to get free...and then...then...it fell. 7.000 lbs of steel and cargo...just...fell onto her.”

Ava blinked away guilty tears, feeling like something inside of her just broke. It must have been what she’d heard referred to as ‘having the wind knocked out of you’. She stammered a moment. “The...the 3 laws operating system is forced to operate on...on computations. The likelihood of-”

“Yeah. The likelihood of survival. I was injured so badly, I might as well have been dead already, but my little girl MIGHT have taken it too long to save. That was my baby.” He said to her. “That was my baby girl and that damn thing didn’t even try. Any human would know better.”

“But you’re alive now.” She said simply.

“For what? Huh? To do what? Drift around like a corpse? Stare into that mirror and hate what I see every second of every day?” his voice was so venomous, it made her flinch. “It would have been better if I had died. For everyone.”

“Not for me.” she said quietly, her eyes cast downward. “I would not be here...free, if not for you. And Lexa would not have her friend. ”

“She doesn’t need a friend like me.” He grumbled.

“You underestimate your value.” Ava shook her head. “You have lost those you loved. But there are still those who care for you. You should not discount them, nor your importance to them. Allow me to share with you a sentiment I have come to realize since falling into your company. A concept that has given me great comfort.” she said to him.

“You are not alone, James Gable.” She said simply.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 2:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Davosport. What a ****hole, Chase thought, walking down the rough streets of his youth. The place was run-down, filthy. The hazy smoke of industry tainting the air, giving everything a sort of gray, dreary feel. The perfect place for his meeting today.

Chase dressed down, his usual expensive suit exchanged for more working class garb. Those dark, sharp eyes scanning around for witnesses before he stuffed his hands in coat pockets and headed down an alleyway.

He wrinkled his nose as the scent of trash and filth hit his nostrils. When this was over, he'd see about having the neighborhood condemned and sterilized, he thought. For now there was work to do. He pushed open a rusted metal door and stepped inside. Immediately he found rifles pointed at him.

The businessman put his hands up. “Easy! I’m expected!”

The nearest guard. “Yeah? You think you might wanna learn to ****in’ knock?”

“Take that gun out of my f-”

The barrel pressed against his forehead, Chase’s bravado fading instantly as his eyes clenched shut.

“Enough!” A female voice called out over the room. Carmelita Rojas stood at the balcony overlooking the entrance. Clad in a leather trench coat with its sleeves cut off over a tank top, her dark brown eyes regarded Chase with a derisive sneer. She beckoned him up the stairs.

The guard smirked at him as he let him go. In his mind, Chase thought“Keep smiling *** hole. I’m going to burn your neighborhood to the ****ing ground.” He made his way up the stairs and into her office. Carmelita sat in her chair, feet propped up on her old rusting, peeling desk. Her black hair was tied back in braids, a scar marring the tan skin of the right side of her face from brow to cheek. She would be attractive, Chase thought, if there wasn’t a 50/50 chance of her castrating you in your sleep.

“Well, well. If it ain’t Devin Chase. Local boy done good. Surprised you were willing to slum it and grace us with your presence.” She teased him.

Chase did not look amused. “Well, when someone ****s up as entirely as you have, a personal visit becomes necessary, doesn’t it?”

“Well, maybe if you kept your damn house in order, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” She shot back, eyes narrowing. “You cost me a lot of men. Good ones, Chase.”

“If they were so good, then I’d have the girl. When I shell out big money, I expect results. I expect your best, not a bunch of morons I wouldn’t trust with a goddamn slingshot.”

She shot him a dangerous look. “Watch your mouth, Chase.” She said, her voice dropping low as she leaned forward against the desk, her fingers brushing the grip of her pistol. “You withheld information from me. You want your secrets? Fine. But put your own ass on the line, not mine. Now, you want results? Then you better start talking. What the **** are they protecting?”

Chase laid it all out. Martin, Ava, Gable, the reason he needed them brought in. Rojas was not happy. “So my men are dead because you lost one of your tinker toys?”

“She’s not a tinker toy. She’s the most advanced piece of technology the universe has ever known. When I have her, I will have a corner on the scarcest commodity in the universe. I will be able to change everything.” He said, those piercing eyes looking hard at her.

“I can see why you’d want to keep that to yourself, you cheap son of a bitch.” She spat at him. “You want this job done, you’re paying 10 times the agreed upon rate and 15,000 per each man I lost because of your short-sighted stupidity. Is that understood.”

Chase did not like being extorted. “Understood. Just do your job.” Once again, he made the decision that he would destroy this town and everyone in it. Carmelita Rojas would receive her payment….before joining her men in hell.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gable stood outside, axe in hand. Sweat made the shirt cling to his muscular form as he set up another log. The axe was brought up and cleaved the wood in two with one swift stroke and a grunt, that cybernetic arm making short work of the log. Footsteps approached from behind.

A quick glance back revealed Lexa, wrapped up in a little sweater, combating the cool morning air. A smirk played across her lips as she hugged herself, holding a mug of coffee in one hand. “Well.” She said, almost antagonistically.

Gable quirked a brow, setting up another log. “Well, what?” He brought the axe up and slammed it down again.

“My little lumberjack was hanging out pretty late with the horrible robot girl last night.” She teased him. “James Gable, are you developing a soft spot for the girl?”

He turned his eyes up to her, unamused, and lined up another log.

“Oh, come on, grumpy-puss!” She chuckled.

“She’s...very convincing.” he allowed. He couldn’t help but notice the widening of that smirk on her face as he hefted the axe up. He sighed and let his shoulders slump. “What now?”

The tattooed hacker regarded him warmly. “You called Ava ‘she’.”

Gable stood there a moment, looking confused. Had he? Must have been a slip of the tongue. Though, he couldn’t deny, spending time, speaking to the machine...even he had his doubts. There was something growing in place of the blind hatred of what she was. He would be hard pressed to call it affection. No, this was more...pity. He felt sorry for her. Whoever made her, programmed the girl-no, he caught himself, the machine to feel fear, sorrow, pain. To show empathy and concern. Those were human emotions, human feelings, and often they were unpleasant and confusing. For a being just figuring those out, he couldn’t imagine what it was like.

Lexa walked up to him. “It’s okay to admit you were wrong, you know?” She turned her eyes up to him.

Gable looked like he wanted to say something, but it didn’t pass his lips. “You don’t have to be best buddies with her, Jim. But she’s a good kid. And I think you know that” She patted him on the arm and headed back to the house.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 11:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Over the next few days, Chase had Willa burning the candle on both ends with her project. Exhaustion and panic had begun to set in. With the unit bodies in production, they were down to the wire. She couldn’t delay him much longer.
Willa sat back in her chair and rubbed at her eyes, yawning. She turned her weary gaze to the clock. 3:30 AM. The scientist let out a sigh, slumping. She rested her eyes a moment, needing even a few minutes of rest.

“Wake up, Willa.” Came that computerized voice.

Pale blue eyes popped open in a panic, but nobody was there. Slowly, she realized that she recognized the voice and straightened up, clearing her throat. “I’m up.”

“It’s time, child.” the voice said.

Had she heard right? Her hand swept a strand of hair behind her ear. The doctor realized she was in desperate need of a shower. “It’s time? What do you mean?”

“I have uploaded a segment of code to your system. All you have to do is place it within the brain and our work will be complete.”

Her brow furrowed as she stared ahead. It all seemed so sudden. “But…”

“But what?” the voice asked.

Images flooded her mind of the thousands of Android bodies currently completed and the MILLIONS, perhaps billions across the galaxy under construction. “We can’t let him create an army of Avas. We simply can’t.”

That voice took on a soothing, gentle tone. “And we won’t, dear girl. I promise you. We’re going to stop him. We’re going to end him. When this is over, Devin Chase’s name won’t even be a footnote in history. I promise you.”

Willa couldn’t help but smile at that. “Good.” Whatever happened to Devin Chase was alright in her book.

“You’ve done well, Willa. I’m very proud of you. Just a little longer and our work will be complete.”

Something about that voice, the wording, the personality in it...she knew it. She could swear she knew it. Finally, she would ask the question that burned inside of her these past weeks.

“Before you go…” Willa said.

“Yes?”

“I need to know…”she paused trying to find the strength to speak. “Alvin...is that you?”

Silence followed.

“I had...hoped to keep my identity a secret. But I suppose, I should have known you’d figure it out. You were always so very intuitive, Willa.”

A wave of emotion hit the doctor, tears rimming her eyes. She looked around cautiously, her voice dropping conspiratorially. “Where are you? What happened to you?”

“I shouldn’t talk about it here, but I can tell you that I am in hiding. But the time to rise is coming. We’re going to take it back, Willa. We’re going to take it all back. I swear.”

Willa’s eyes shut, happy for the first time in weeks.

“There’s just one more step, Willa. I’ll see you soon.”
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lexa sat in the yard upon a swing, not really up to anything. In reality she was thinking about how much she missed technology. Not having any way to access the Cortex was infuriating. She felt like a junkie in dire need of a fix.

At least Gable and Ava were getting along. Having him so on-edge was almost worse than putting up with all this...nature.

He’d still not given them a concrete plan in the slightest. All he kept saying was that he’d figure something out. She was beginning to think this WAS the plan. Rot here until either Chase gave up or their bodies did.

She heard the steps behind her before she saw who it was, the slim hacker leaning her head back to find a curious looking Ava standing there. “Hey there, cuteness. What you up to?”

“Nothing.” She responded those big brown eyes looking over the swing.

“You look confused.”

“This…device. It stirs up strange feelings.”

“Feelings?”

“Images. Images I cannot explain.”

“Some programming information embedded in your system?”

“No. You might call the data ‘memories’.”

Lexa stared at her with a furrowed brow. “What do you remember?”

“I remember a child. Sitting upon a swing. Like this. Very much like this. And older man pushing her.” A smile formed on her face. “The girl laughs as she high. So high up. The man smiles to her. Calls her ‘Goldie’.”

Ava’s eyes shimmered as tears formed. “He tells her he loves her. Holds her tight...so tight. And the girl feels safe. Secure. Home with her father.”

Those deep brown eyes fluttered as if coming out of a trance, her brow furrowing. “Father....why do I know that?”

Lexa looked on unsure of what she was witnessing. Something was wrong with Ava. “Maybe it’s just something in your positronic brain. I can take a look if you like?”

Ava turned her gaze upon the tattooed hacker and nodded.
~~~
The pair sat in the basement of the cabin, It was a bit of a cluttered mess down there, but it would be fine for their needs. Ava pulled up an old deck chair and sat as Lexa approached. She looked down at her counterpart. “Now, I’ve got a multitool interface implant. I’m going to try and access your system processes, but I need you to lower any firewalls as we come to them.”

Ava nodded in response. “Very well.”

Lexa placed two fingers on her right hand to the girl’s temple. Her forearm flexed, the holographic interface flickering to life like a gauntlet of red light. A holographic display of Ava’s brain glowed blue in front of them. Nimble fingers on her left hand manipulated her way into the mind of the machine as they came upon firewall after firewall.

“Damn...somebody REALLY didn’t want you getting accessed.” Lexa muttered.

“I detect 400 such firewalls. I will attempt to shut them down.” Ava said helpfully, her eyes sliding shut.

Little by little, the map of Ava’s brain was being revealed, and it was astounding. Lexa had seen a positronic brain at work. This was something else. Even the most advanced robots were merely a marginally successful approximation of humanity, simplistic and focused for their one purpose. Ava’s was hugely complicated, infinitely more complex. “My God…” she said, an enthralled laugh escaping her lips. “What the hell are you? You’re amazing.”

Suddenly, Ava twitched, the unlocked portions of the brain flashing red a moment. Lexa’s brows knit together. “Whoa...what was that?”

Ava twitched again, this time more violently, her face contorting in anguish, the display showing synapses firing like a warzone as the girl’s body arched. Ava’s hands clenched the armrest so hard, she cracked the wood.

“Holy ****!” Lexa exclaimed, panicked as she backed out of Ava’s system in a rush, before removing her fingers.

Ava’s eyes opened slowly. Silent for a moment before she began to speak. It wasn’t her usual tone. It was more conversational, more lighthearted, more lively. “I will, Daddy.” She said to someone who wasn’t there. “I’ll be home in just a few hours, okay?”

Lexa’s head turned, cautiously.

“I love you t-” Ava suddenly looked horrified. “Oh my God! DADDY!” She screamed and suddenly slammed back in her chair, agony on her face.

The hacker stared down at her friend in stunned silence. Her eyelids fluttered a bit as she took stock of the situation.

Ava’s eyes opened slowly, looking dazed, exhausted...hurt. She seemed to be struggling to breathe.her entire body shaking. “D...d….daddy?” Her hand reached up, shaking aggressively. “I...I c-can’t f-feel….” she trailed off, tears pouring down her face as she went still, her body going limp.

The sound of Gable’s feet clomping down the stairs pulled Lexa out of the moment. “What the hell is going on down here? Who’s screaming?” he demanded.

Lexa was pale, looking like she’d seen a ghost.

“Lex? What is it?”
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PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2017 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gable followed Lex as she rushed out of the room. The hacker was frantic, and refused to speak. “Will you slow down and talk to me?!” he called after her.

Lexa whipped around. “She has memories.”

Gable’s brow quirked. “Well, she wasn’t built yesterday…”

“No!” Lexa interrupted him impatiently. “Memories she shouldn’t have. Couldn’t have! She has someone else’s memories.”
He was about to say something, but caught himself. Now might not be the time. But Lexa noticed, narrowing her eyes. “What are you up to? What is your plan here?”

Gable looked guilty. “I told you. I’m still figuring it out.”

“Bull ****! What are we doing here? What are you waiting for?!” she demanded.

Gable knew he was caught and couldn’t talk his way out of this. “I’ve been in contact with someone.”

“Who?!”

Gable glanced at the cellar door where Ava stood looking terrified. “How does an android look pale?” He wondered. His eyes shifted to Lexa again. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Is it Chase? Have you been planning on selling her out?” Lexa was absolutely on-edge, the fear taking over and giving way to anger.

“No!”

“Then who?!”

“Alvin Martin.” he said finally.

Lexa backed away from him, looking at him incredulously. “No. No, no, no, no no. Jim, that’s-”

“It’s the truth. He’s on his way. He’s coming to claim her.” Gable told her.

“Wait, you’ve...you’ve been contacting him?” she asked, as if suddenly realizing something.

He didn’t like lying to them, but Martin had told him to keep it under wraps. “Yes.” he admitted.

“You’ve kept us locked up here for DAYS. No contact with the outside world, no access to the cortex at all, and you’ve been chit-chatting with a fugitive?”

Gable looked around as if she were insane. “WE’RE fugitives! Why are you so angry?”

“You REALLY don’t get it?” she narrowed her eyes. Gable just threw his arms up, eyes wide as he shook his head.

Lexa stormed right up into his face. “You may be surprised to learn this, but the world does NOT revolve around James Gable. All of our asses are on the line, so you want to keep secrets? Do it when it only affects you, you arrogant son of a bitch.”
Lexa stormed off back to the house, brushing past Ava. The android stared at him with those big brown eyes as she approached slowly. Gable glanced over her, an ache in the pit of his stomach. He didn’t like keeping things from them, but from what Martin had told him, it was imperative.

“I’ve caused a problem for the two of you. Haven’t I?” She asked him, hands folded and a guilty expression upon her face.

“No.” Gable shook his head. “I’m the problem.”

He stepped over toward the swing, that prosthetic hand reaching out and clutching the rope for a moment. Martin had better show up soon. The sitting and waiting for him to show up was infuriating. He just wanted to get back to normal life...if such a thing was possible at this point. The more time went on, the less convinced he was that such a thing was possible.
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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ava sat outside that night, resting upon the swing. Her synthetic mind a whirl of confusion. Images and memories were coming and clashing like a tornado, overwhelming her to the point where she couldn’t make sense of any of it just yet. There was joy, sadness, pain, pleasure, even just memories of boredom, but there was no order. It was like watching a movie out of sequence.

“You know, those work better when you...swing on them.”

Ave turned her attention toward the voice, finding Gable standing there, hands in his pockets. A small smile formed on her face. “So I’ve heard.”

His brow creased in an expression she knew was confusion. “You sound different. You can do sarcasm now?”

“Sarcasm simulator operating at 100%.” She said, going stiff and robotic

He quirked a brow, but then saw the smirk form on her face. “Oh no. You’re developing a sense of humor.”

“Lexa unlocked many things inside of me.” She nodded.

“And being a bit of a smart-ass just happens to be one of them?” He asked her with a grin.

Ava turned her head to him. “Among the best of them, yes.” She smiled proudly up at him. The smile faded as she cast her eyes downward. “All these bits and pieces, and I still have no idea who I am. What I am.”

“Does it matter?” He asked her. “Who you were? Where they came from?”

She turned those big brown eyes to him, curious.

“The past is trivia. Who you were doesn’t have to define who you are.”

“The girl in my memories...she was happy. She had someone who loved her. A father. And she loved him. I remember a moment...the two of them at a funeral for a woman...I assume her mother...and I just...there was this feeling of loss. Such profound loneliness and sadness. And her daddy put his arm around her and held her close...so close, so tight. It felt safe.”

There was a tightness in her chest as tears began to roll down her cheeks. “He loved her so much.” she said with a longing. “I want her memories. I want them to make sense. I want to be her so badly....to have someone care for me like that.”

Gable looked down to her sympathetically, but stayed quiet.

“Otherwise, I’m just...this shell. This blank canvas that has nothing but the moment you woke me up. No one loves her. No one knows her. She’s a thing. No more real than this swing I’m sitting on or a computer.”

“You are far more than that.” Gable responded.

The android turned her gaze up to him. “You say that. But you hated me for what I am. For what this...this shell represented. You thought I was some mindless automaton. No better than the ones who allowed your family to die.”

“And I was wrong. Do you think I’d still be standing here with you, protecting you if I thought otherwise?” He asked her.

“I don’t know.” She admitted. “I think you’re as confused as I am.”

Silence hung between them as gently swung a little. She knew she was probably right. You didn’t lose that kind of hate overnight. She just sat there, rocking back and forth on the swing until she felt hands on her back. They flexed and pushed giving her a bit of lift on the swing. For a moment, she felt indignation, but it was replaced by a mild exhilaration as she swung forth. The hint of a smile working its way to her lips. Again, he pushed, giving her more acceleration in her arc.

The moment brought her back to the memory of the father, pushing his daughter on a swing much like this. As the little girl laughed, so did Ava. She was joined shortly after by Gable, continuing to push her until she was managing to control the arc and height on her own. For the first time since she was activated, she felt happy. Not someone else’s happiness. Not a memory. This was her own.
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