Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

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Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel) was created by LadyGrimes

Quick disclaimer: Atlantech is not affiliated with Robotech in any shape or form, so any similarities such as names, themes, or ideas, is either purely coincidental or simply attributed as homage to the series it drew inspiration from. The characters and story are completely original and it all belongs to me.

Rated M for mature as it contains graphic violence, alcoholism, drug use, profanity, and some brief sexual content.
Read at your own risk

Chapter 1

It was a night just like any other in Atlantis City, busy, crowded sidewalks and streets, most of them of your typical thrill seekers looking for their next high either in the form of gambling, alcoholic beverages or even drugs. But around this time of night while most of the major businesses and big casinos were full of activity, smaller establishments, particularly those within the old downtown area, had their own little smattering of patrons. And one such place was a little old dump of a building known as The Card Shack, where the people could have a drink at the bar and socialize or even play card games.

But on this night a young loner named Brian Smith was seated at the bar all by himself. He wore his favorite leather jacket which he left unzipped revealing a long pastel green dress shirt underneath. He was silent as he fumbled with a cigarette between two fingers before popping it into the corner of his mouth and pulling out his lighter to light it. And while he had a rather boyish look about him there were large dark circles under his weary looking blue eyes caused by an obvious lack of sleep, and yet he seemed so calm but unfocused, staring off into space as though he were lost inside his mind.

"What'll it be this time?" The dark haired bartender named Enrique asked him finally breaking the awkward silence between them.

"Water, same as always," Brian answered avoiding any eye contact for the moment.

"Okay, coming up," Enrique replied reaching for a glass.

Brian sat hunched over the counter with his elbows resting on its surface while he waited still lost in thought until he suddenly heard loud yelling erupt from behind him. He quickly turned his head and saw the Card Shack's manager Maxwell Graham dressed in his usual vest and slacks arguing with some poor drunk man who'd apparently spilled his drink right on the carpet in front of him. And not just any drink but the ever popular red vodka Brian had seen others drinking around here, and up until now he'd never seen anyone spill it on the floor, staining that ugly beige carpet.

"You bloody idiot!" Maxwell exclaimed in outrage as he waved his fist at the man. "Look what you've done! You see that mess? That's all because of you! Why, I ought to have your head for this!"

Brian's expression soon dulled and he quickly turned back around and covered his ears with his hands to try and drown out the sound of Maxwell's harping but it wasn't any use.

"It wasn't me," the frightened drunk man suddenly belt out as he staggered around with the empty liquor glass still in hand.

"Oh, so it wasn't you?" Maxwell remarked with sarcasm. "Oh of course it wasn't, it had to have been some other bumbling idiot standing before me, isn't that right?"

He narrowed his eyes and pointed to the door while the man began to run for it. "Get out!" Maxwell chased after him.

Brian shook his head. Maybe it's your fault for having carpeting in a bar in the first place? He thought then noticed the sudden dread in Enrique's eyes as he set the glass of water down in front of him. Brian set his cigarette down in the ashtray beside him and lifted the glass to take a sip.

"You must get tired of that," he couldn't help but comment. "And what I mean is, listening to Maxwell yell like that all day. It must get old, right?"

Enrique sighed. "Well for once it isn't me he's yelling at."

"I guess that's one way of looking at it?" Brian turned and looked over his shoulder and spotted a couple of AMF soldiers heading in his direction.

"You ever get tired of soldiers too?" Brian couldn't resist asking, not even caring if those soldiers heard him.

"Maxwell hates them, but I don't mind," Enrique answered. "They're banned from the city you know? They're confined to the downtown area near the base, so they do come here a lot, and to tell you the truth I kind of feel sorry for them."

Brian furrowed his brow. "Well I don't," he said. "I think they deserve it. They've done nothing but side with the enemy. Not to mention they're the reason we don't live on Earth anymore."

Enrique felt speechless. "That sounds a tad harsh, don't you think?" He remarked as he began wiping the counter down.

Brian said nothing more and took another drag of his cigarette.

"But you too seem to come here often," Enrique continued. "What's your excuse?"

Brian shrugged. "It's close to where I live?"

Enrique shook his head. "No, I think there's more to it. There's another reason you come here all the time, but I don't think you even know the answer to that. Something must draw you here, maybe a past memory? Or even something you refuse to let go of."

Brian suddenly put out his cigarette watching as the tiny embers burned out.

"Like I said, it's close to where I live," Brian repeated. "I don't like to stray too far from home these days. It's not safe."

Enrique still felt skeptical about it but figured it was best not to get into an argument about it.

Then they both froze once Maxwell's yelling unexpectedly started up again followed by the sound of a slamming door. "And stay out!" They heard him shouting at the top of his lungs.

Enrique sighed and went back to tidying up the bar, hoping to finish his shift soon and get home.

Brian looked over his shoulder again and noticed the two AMF soldiers seated at a table playing a game of cards. They were regarded as outcasts and even hated by the general public yet they still looked very content as if they didn't have a care in the universe, Brian noted feeling nothing but hatred for them.

"You mind telling me why you stay here?" Brian had to ask.

Enrique finished putting away the last of the shot glasses. "Because it pays fairly well," he answered. "And because Victoria Thompson hired me."

Brian raised his brow. "The actress?"

Enrique nodded. "Yeah, her. She ran into me about a month ago on the streets and saw that I was looking for work. I told her I'd do anything and that my mother and siblings were starving. So then she pulled me aside and told me her agent owns a bar and lounge and that I would be perfect for the job. She hired me on the spot and told me not to worry about Maxwell. I guess she must have bribed him or something, but either way she was the one who pulled the strings for me and made this happen. For that I am truly grateful to her."

Brian looked surprised. "She hired you even though you've never been a bartender before?"

Enrique nodded. "Well, I've worked as a busboy in the past, but you're right I've never been a bartender before. Although I have to admit it did come quite natural to me. I'm a fast learner, always have been. By the way, can I get you more water?"

"No, that's alright," Brian replied. "I think I'm heading back home anyway."

"You know the streets will never be safe as long as Morane rules this city?" Enrique mentioned hoping to get across to him somehow. "He's the one who allows all these criminals to roam freely, and then turns around and criticizes the military for doing the right thing. Say what you will about them, but the AMF would've never allowed this kind of corruption. Doesn't matter if they sided with the aliens or not. We would've been much better off if they still had control over the city."

All Brian could do now was give him a blank stare without knowing how to respond without coming across like a jerk. The only thing he knew is what he himself believed, and there was no way in hell this young bartender was going to change his mind.

"I'm leaving now," Brian said abruptly as he slid off the bar stool and headed for the exit.

"Well then, have a good rest of your night," Enrique called after him hoping one of these days he'd have a change of heart.

But after Brian walked outside the door he truly felt disgusted. Not only that but he also didn't feel like sticking around any longer just to listen to Maxwell chastise the poor bartender in front of him. He'd already witnessed it a few times already and with the way he was feeling now, he just couldn't bear to listen to it. There was enough to worry about in Atlantis City as it was such as waiting to either be mugged or even killed for no good reason all because you were either at the wrong place at the wrong time or someone just simply didn't like you.

It was for that reason alone that Brian preferred to be by himself or at least keep others at a safe distance. He didn't trust people at all and as far as he was concerned everybody had something to hide and if you didn't find out what it was right away then you would eventually or when you least expected it. However Brian's belief didn't just apply to the strangers of the city but to himself as well for he too had something to hide but as far as he was concerned, no one would ever know.

Chapter 2

Meanwhile at the AMF's airbase, William Sterling was in the locker room putting his flight suit away, when all of a sudden he was startled as his shorter blond comrade Justin church snuck up behind him and grabbed him by the shoulders.

"Surprise!" Justin shouted gleefully as William turned around and shoved him back.

"You know I hate when you do that," William snarled.

Justin laughed as he managed to catch his fall and brushed his shaggy blond bangs out of his eyes while William finished locking up his belongings.

"Have a nice test run out there?" Justin asked leaning himself up against one of the lockers.

"It was only the standard simulation run, but yes it was fun," William answered. "Where have you been? I thought you were scheduled for testing as well?"

Justin shrugged and crossed his arms. "You know me, I don't like following orders. Never did to be honest here."

"Uh-huh," William stared at him blankly. "And you wonder why you're on Commander William's shit list?"

"Truthfully, she loves me!" Justin rambled. "And being that, that spot on her list is reserved just for me, should say it all!"

William shook his head and snickered at him. "You have a broad definition of love, my friend. In fact I think she'd rather put her hands around your neck sometimes."

"Oh-ho-ho, look who's talking," Justin quipped. "At least my girl knows I exist."

"That was too harsh," William frowned at him. "Also, what about Grace Hanes? I thought she was the one you were pining for?"

Justin looked shifty eyed. "What can I say? I'm opportunistic? And besides, Grace has been giving me the cold shoulder lately. I think Lucy finally got inside her head."

"She is half your age," William mentioned as he propped himself up against his locker. "And a gold digger, so you don't stand much of a chance there, my friend."

Justin scowled at him and William smirked right back.

"I'll have you know, that I could even have Victoria if I wanted," Justin grinned slyly.

William's blue eyes widened.

"Yeah, that's right you heard me," Justin taunted. "So it's best you take back what you said about my Grace, or I'm going to pay Victoria a little visit, and I'll even bring her flowers."

William uncrossed his arms and dropped them at his sides. "Okay fine," he groaned. "I take back what I said about Grace being a gold digger."

"And?" Justin's big green eyes lit up as he raised a finger in the air. "You forget to mention the part about her being too old for me?"

William smiled as he saw his best friend Stan Winston walking in. "I'll see about it. Hey there, Stan!"

Justin turned around to see Stan towering over him. "Hey big guy, how's life treatin ya?"

Stan was still wearing his flight suit and seemed to show little to no emotion upon seeing them.

"Hello," he spoke. "Life is treating me fine, thank you for asking."

Justin snorted. "You always look so happy to see us. It's William's blue hair isn't it? When I first saw it I was speechless too.

William rolled his eyes. "Anyway, Stan, it's good to see you. I know I finished the test before you did. So, how'd it go for you?"

"I hardly found it challenging at all," Stan replied listlessly as he began unzipping his flight suit which revealed his standard dark gray uniform underneath.

"However, I'm sure I've passed it just the same. I also heard your quarreling from outside. Something wrong?"

"No, nothing is wrong," William answered. "Justin and I were just giving one another hell like we always do. He's a good sport about it."

"Yeah," Justin said. "We pick on each other all the time. Guess it's something you're not used to yet, Stan."

Stan stared blankly at them. "I'm afraid I don't understand the nature of this thing you call fun. Sounded like conflict to me, but you're right, there are some things I am not used to. I've only been here a short time as it were."

William and Justin quickly exchanged looks.

"Well, it is after midnight now. I don't suppose the two of you would be up for a quick outing before I conk out?" William suggested.

Justin collapsed onto one of the benches against the wall. "Sorry, no can do," he yawned. "I'm afraid I'm beat for the night."

William cocked his head to the side and stared at him. "You've been gone the entire time, how is it that you're more tired than we are?"

"Doing nothing makes you tired," Justin explained as he stared up at the dirty spots on the ceiling. "They should clean those areas up there more often."

William looked at Stan. "Are you up for going out or not?"

"Afraid not, my friend," he answered. "I do have somewhere else I need to be."

"Well then I guess it's just a party of one then." William frowned at them before heading for the exit, then he stopped and turned around.
"But as always, you know where to find me if you change your minds."

Justin watched as William walked out of the building and then got back up and made a beeline for his locker.

"You weren't really that tired were you?" Stan remarked.

"Of course not," Justin replied as he pulled out a large green plaid coat with a matching hat. "I just didn't want to hurt his feelings."

"Then where are you going?" Stan asked.

"Gonna catch the subway into the city," Justin answered as he put the coat on over his light green uniform. "There's a big poker game taking place right now and I wouldn't miss it for the universe!"

"And that's your idea of a disguise?" Stan raised his brow.

"Ive used it before," Justin smirked. " It works like a charm. I'm practically invisible on the streets, or else the civilians would've run me out by now."

"Or the authorities would've taken you into custody," Stan added. "You would spend a night behind bars there only to come back and spend the night in the brig here. Doesn't sound very appealing to me, but I've never understood you to begin with."

"Whatever, I've got to get going," Justin replied. "Please don't say a word to William? I hate guilt, can't stand it at all. So please promise me you won't tell him?"

"Your word is my command," Stan said sarcastically.

"Thanks a bunch!" Justin called after him. "See you on the other side!"

William slumped his shoulders in disappointment as he walked down the streets of the downtown area. There weren't many others out and about at this time, but those who were kept a close watch on him. Their eyes followed his every step and he didn't like it, but he knew the reason why.

It wasn't just because he was a soldier even though some of the people in this part of the city were AMF friendly, but more so over the fact he was an alien hybrid. He couldn't help it though, he'd even contemplated dying his hair a normal color once, but a good friend back at the base was able to talk him out of it.

He told William that it's better to accept who he is and not change anything about himself because it won't impress the civilians, they'd still hate him no matter what.

He stopped once he reached The Card Shack and realized that it was now past closing time, but he was sure Maxwell was still inside the building. William sighed and then turned around and began walking towards a little cafe that was just up the street.

The air was cold and colorful neon lights lit up the sidewalk along the way. He knew this area was heavy with gang activity and that he could possibly end up mugged being out this late on his own, but it was a risk he was willing to take. Then he stopped all of a sudden once he heard the sound of crackling paper just below his feet and looked down.

It was a trashy looking magazine someone had thrown out but he knelt down and picked it up anyway only see an image of Victoria on the cover with a visible foot print that barely missed her face. He couldn't believe his luck even though he already had the same issue at home, and in better condition. However he couldn't help but wonder if perhaps this was a sign, that it could mean they would actually meet like this face to face one of these nights.

"Justin would laugh right now if I told him," William said to himself as he tucked the magazine safely under his arm. "Well now I've got two copies of this issue."

William smiled to himself as he headed into the cafe and took a seat. There weren't many others inside but they were already giving him looks.

"It's late, darlin," a sweet middle aged female waitress said as she poured him a cup of coffee. "Why are you here all by yourself?"

"Just out for a stroll," William replied. "Thanks for the coffee."

"You're welcome, darlin." The waitress smiled as she handed him a menu. "I'll be back in a few, just take your time."

William set the menu aside and pulled out the magazine instead and looked it over. He stared at Victoria's face like a lovesick fool, just wondering how he could get her to notice him, even if it was just once. Every single opportunity he had to talk to her he'd seemed to screw up, either because he was too shy or afraid of being rejected.

Justin and Stan had always given him support though and even other friends of his like Sergeant Chris Dickerson. But like Stan and Justin, Chris never understood why William would pass up on chances to meet other women just because of his obsession with Victoria.

Neither of them understood and they couldn't. In a world of darkness, Victoria's films had always been that guiding light for William, even the one positive thing in his life to help him remain strong. She wasn't just some seductress on the silver screen, but a real inspiration and someone he greatly admired.

"I'm back now, honey, did you decide what you want?" The waitress asked.

William put the magazine away and cleared his throat. "Uh, not yet," he answered. "In fact, I think I'm just fine with coffee for now, if you don't mind?"

"Not at all, dear." The waitress said. "I'll be around if you change your mind."

"Thanks," William smiled.


Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 3

Meanwhile on the other side of town, Justin Church was standing in line waiting to board the subway train when all of a sudden he heard the sound of gun shots in the distance. Dressed in his hat and coat he turned his head to see what all the commotion was about.

There was a blood curdling scream as a woman held a dying man in her arms. He had been shot and the perpetrators had gotten away just as a police officer arrived on the scene. Justin could see that the victim was well dressed and had been carrying some kind of suit case.
He wasn't left with much time to think about it anymore as the train suddenly came to a stop in front of him. He climbed on board and took a seat near the window. An older couple sat across from him dressed in rags.

The old woman had a cross around her neck and curled her fingers around it as if she were praying. It seemed everyone was silent now, as though they were mourning the loss of that man in the street.

Justin couldn't help but feel bad as well, even more so when he realized that man was on his way to board the train with them. Then he remembered that's what life in Atlantis City was like now. More people could get away with murder than they used to since Julius Morane and the city council took over.

Justin sighed and looked out the window. He could see the tall art deco buildings and skyscrapers in the far distance along with the many colorful lights coming from casinos and other fine establishments.

He slouched in his seat resting his hand underneath his chin. For the first time in a while, he actually felt regret for not tagging along with William instead. If he had gone with him, he never would've had to witness that murder and would probably be having a much better time than he is now. He even wondered if this poker game was even worth the trouble now.

The train made a few stops along the way before it got to Justin's destination. He stood up as soon as the train suddenly came to a halt. The old couple that sat across from him got up as well and walked slowly in front of him. Justin was beginning to grow impatient.

"Hey, do you mind speeding it up a little?" He quipped angrily.

The old woman turned around and apologized. Her voice was hoarse and sounded weary. "I'm sorry, young man. It's my hip that causes me to walk so slow these days."

Justin felt like a jerk now. "I'm sorry, I just have somewhere I need to be is all," he replied sheepishly.

The old woman smiled at him and pat him on the shoulder. "You're a good kid," she said before stepping off the train with her husband.

Justin didn't mind the affection but he sure didn't feel like a good kid at all, and neither could he forget the sight of that man who lay dying in that woman's arms. He'd only heard about horrific events such as that in the news, but actually witnessing it with his own eyes was an entirely different feeling.

It left him feeling cold and even afraid. But now that he was here deep in the city, he didn't have anymore time to dwell on that memory, instead he had to make it to the casino before the game started without him.

The streets were packed and heavily crowded as he walked among them in his disguise. There were a lot of new buildings in the area now and it seemed the city would continue to expand as much as it could, which also meant pushing the AMF's base further away.

Justin walked up to the casino's entrance where he was greeted by a haggler who was trying to sell fake tickets to some opening show. Justin ignored the disheveled man and walked right in the building. Just as he expected, it was also packed and there were only ten minutes left before the game started.

"Can I take your coat for you?" A greeter asked Justin.

"No, that won't be necessary," Justin replied. "I'm gonna need it for good luck."

"Your hat too?" The man asked curiously.

Justin nodded. "The hat too."

Back at The Card Shack, Maxwell had Enrique on his hands and knees scrubbing the stain out of the carpet. Maxwell stood over him monitoring his behavior until he suddenly heard the upstairs office phone ringing.

"Keep scrubbing!" Maxwell barked. "I don't want any trace of that stain left, you hear me?"

Enrique sighed as he wrung the cloth out into the bucket in a frustrated manner. "Yes, Mr. Graham."

"Good!" Maxwell replied before rushing down the hall and up the stairs to answer the phone.

Enrique stopped scrubbing the moment Maxwell had vanished and then he tossed the rag into the bucket and sat there on the floor with a scowl on his face.

"I was supposed to be home by now," he sighed as he glanced over at a clock on the wall.

The phone continued to ring off the hook until Maxwell suddenly picked it up.

"Graham speaking," He said in an irritated voice but all he heard was silence.

"Hello?" He spoke again. "Who is this? You better quit playing games with me!"

"Maxwell," He heard a frightened woman's voice say.

"Who is this?" Maxwell repeated himself.

"I think I've done something terrible," the woman said.

Maxwell's eyes widened once he realized who it was.

"Victoria? Is that you?" He asked.

"Yes," she answered back.

"And what is the matter? What have you done?"

"I think I might have killed a man," she replied in a panicked voice.

"What the?" Maxwell exclaimed. "How in the bloody hell did you manage such a thing?"

"It's the producer, Melvin Phillips," Victoria explained. "I came in to meet with him about a possible audition and that's when he started offering me a drink and coming onto me. So I took the wine bottle out of his hand and I smashed it over his head."

Maxwell smacked his forehead. "You're a damned fool, you know that? How do you even know the bloody idiot isn't just unconscious? Did you check for a pulse at least?"

Victoria sounded disgusted. "Are you insane? I'm not touching that repulsive baboon, even if he isn't dead. But I need you to get over here and help me clean up the mess. Now will you or won't you? I need an answer now."

Maxwell rolled his eyes. "And why didn't you just call Morane instead? He handles this kind of thing better than I can."

"Because they're friends, Maxwell," she answered. "Do you think Morane would appreciate the fact that I took out one of his own men? No, I don't think so. That's why I called you instead. And by the way, you still owe me for the time I saved your ass when you were behind on weekly profits, or have you forgotten that?"

Maxwell gripped the phone tightly and clenched his teeth.

"Fine, I'll help you clean up the mess," He sneered. "But I need you to stay put and not touch anything else until I get there, got it?"

"Thanks, Maxwell," she replied.

Maxwell slammed the phone down in disgust and began throwing papers off the desk and onto the floor in a fit of rage.

"That bloody idiot!" He exclaimed in outrage as he stormed back downstairs.

Enrique could hear his foot steps and quickly snatched the rag out of the bucket to resume his scrubbing.

Maxwell didn't even acknowledge him as he stomped right by and headed out of the building.

Without even caring about where Maxwell was going, Enrique stopped scrubbing again and finally got back up on his feet which had become numb and tingly. He shook each foot in attempt to wake them back up so he could make a run for the door and get back home before Maxwell returned. He was extremely exhausted now and knew he would have to return to work in the morning which seemed only hours away. He rubbed his weary green eyes and and ran his fingers through his thick black wavy hair.

"lo que una carga de mierda," Enrique muttered under his breath. "Usted idiota."

In the meantime at the casino, Justin was still wandering about as he waited for the game to start. He kept a close eye on the crescent shaped poker table across the other side of the room as he began playing a few rounds on a slot machine. There was a live jazz orchestra playing in the background on a platform stage near the back as female servers passed out free drinks in order to convince people to stay. The Ritz casino was a fine establishment with wood carved wall paneling and marble floors as artfully crafted glass chandeliers hung high above on the ceilings. There was a bar and even a separate section for dining on the other side of the building.

Justin watched as the owner touted around in his expensive navy blue three piece suit, stopping to shake the hands of his cohorts as well as talk their ears off. His name was Abel Hemsworth, another close associate of Morane's, who had recently done time in the slammer for racketeering. But now that he was back out, it seemed he was back to his same old crooked self.
Justin grabbed a drink off one of the trays and began to chug it down. He knew that if he wanted to pull the wool over their eyes tonight he would have to get himself a little sloshed, but the booze was a little too overpowering and he couldn't help but retch a little. He reached down into one of his coat pockets and felt for some cards he'd stored away for later. There were four of them, all aces, and they would remain there until he could figure out how to get them into his hand at the right moment.

He knew it was right about time now, so he grabbed another drink off a tray and chugged it down too and then headed over to the table and took a seat. The dealer seemed to have a permanent scowl on his face as he didn't even acknowledge Justin until he pulled out a currency note to buy his chips.

"Deal me in," Justin grinned at him.

The dealer said nothing as he counted out the chips. The other players seated didn't appear very friendly either, but again it was poker and the only objective here was to beat the other players and win.

As the dealer shuffled the cards and began passing them out, Justin accepted another drink from one of the female servers. This one was straight whiskey and he scrunched up his face in disgust as it went down.

"Someone's not used to papa's cough syrup," one of the older male players teased Justin. "What are you even doing here, kid? Isn't it way past your bed time?"

Justin rolled his eyes. "Young enough to know better, old enough not to give a damn." He quipped. "Just play the game, Grandpa."

"Why I outta teach you a lesson, son." the man muttered angrily.

"Gentlemen, please." The dealer suddenly interrupted in an irritated voice. "If you're going to sit here and bicker, I'm going to ask you to leave."

Everyone was silent now. Justin looked at the hand he was dealt and realized it was far from a winner, but he still had plans to win, only he knew he couldn't rush it either.

They don't even stand a chance, Justin thought to himself as he sized up the other three players. They won't know what's hit them until it's too late.

Justin listened as they made their calls one after the other, revealing a losing hand each time, but none of them wanted to fold. It seemed they were just as determined to stay in the game as he was.

After several more drinks, Justin began to feel very strange. It seemed the booze was now taking its effect on him and he was smiling like a drunken fool all the while trying to remain focused.
His vision was starting to get a little blurry now and his balance seemed off. He knew it was time to make the switch with the cards before he got even worse, so he looked down at his cards and suddenly jerked his hand back in an awkward motion to drop the cards onto his lap, only to find they missed and went on the floor instead.

"Oh shit!" He panicked as he reached down on the floor to grab them as the dealer and other players just stared at him like an idiot.
Justin looked down and tried picking up the cards only to become very dizzy. Come on, come on, you've almost got it, he thought to himself as he tried to pull the aces out of his sleeve only to find they'd gotten stuck inside. Noooooooooo! he panicked on the inside. But then, right as he was about to pull the cards out, he suddenly sprung out of the chair with his hand covering his mouth and made a dash for the men's restroom to vomit.

Around the time he finally walked back out he saw that someone else had already taken his place in the game and it was too late now. He frowned. It was his own fault for drinking too much in the first place. He'd forgotten how much of a light drinker he was to begin with and had over done it. Now he really wished he would've gone with William or even went home for the night.

Faces stared at him as he walked out of the casino like a dog with its tail between its hind legs. He really felt sick now, but above all else he felt like a complete fool. He also knew that Vice Admiral Lynne Williams would surely give him an earful for skipping out on testing sessions the next morning, but it was something he'd become used to by now.

His head was pounding as he made the long walk back to the subway and he could feel his stomach begin to churn again. "Can you wait until I get home, please?" Justin groaned as he placed a hand over his stomach. "It's not like this night hasn't been bad enough, ya know?"

He took a seat on one of the benches as he waited for the train and started to doze off a bit until he heard the sounds of gunshots. He quickly opened his eyes and looked around, but there was nothing. It seemed it had all been a dream and yet he was still sitting there feeling sick as a dog. He needed to get back home and soon.

That poor bastard, Justin thought about the victim from earlier. I wonder why he was gunned down like that? Couldn't have been just some nobody. He was dressed in a suit and had that briefcase. Someone wanted him dead, but who and why?

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 4

It was nearly 3 AM when Maxwell Graham arrived at the film studio to help Victoria Thompson take care of her mess. He brought along a large black suitcase full of questionable materials he'd packed just in case they would have to take some drastic measures to get rid of the body.

As Maxwell walked inside the office building, he could see that all but a few female workers were still there but instead of working they were standing around conversing with one another and even smiled and greeted him unbeknownst of his true intentions.

"Which way, to Mr. Phillip's office?" Maxwell stopped to ask them while smoothing out the wrinkles of his purple vest. "I'm late, but I've got the materials he requested."

One of the women eyed the large case. "You go down that hall," she pointed out. "He'll be the last door on the right, you can't miss it."

Maxwell faked a smile. "Why thank you so very much. I'll be sure to mention to him, just how courteous and helpful you've been."

Both of the women smiled and giggled.

"What a couple of ninnys," Maxwell muttered under his breath as he made his way down the long carpeted hall.

He stopped in front of door and knocked lightly.

Victoria quickly opened it and pulled him inside.

Maxwell could see the body was still lying face down on the floor next to a sharp looking wooden desk. Victoria herself looked to be in complete disarray. Her wavy blond bob was now a frizzled mess and her makeup was smudged around her eyes as she had rubbed them in attempt to stay awake.

"What took you so long?" She griped while smoothing out her dark purple speakeasy dress.

"Why, I had to get the bloody address of this place, Maxwell snapped. "Do you mind?"

"We need to do this quickly," Victoria sighed as she plopped herself up on top of the man's desk.

Maxwell looked down and saw the remnants of the broken wine bottle scattered on the floor. He opened the suitcase and took out some large black garbage bags and put a pair of rubber gloves on his hands and began picking up the pieces.

Victoria lit a cigarette and watched as Maxwell cleaned up the glass.

"Don't even think about sitting and watching me the entire time, Maxwell said angrily. "This is your mess, so you're going to help me."

Victoria stood up, put the cigarette out and looked down at him with her hands resting on her hips. "Well? What do you want me to do?"

"You can start by putting those gloves on," Maxwell pointed at the contents of the suitcase. "We're going to have to clean up everywhere your prints have been, and I can't have you making any more in the meantime."

"Okay, I've got it," she rolled her eyes. "But what do you suggest we do about him?" She looked down at the body.

"We have to be sure he's really kicked the bucket for one," Maxwell explained. "Or else, things are going to get very messy in here."

Victoria's eyes widened in horror. "You mean?"

"Of bloody course," Maxwell replied as he got back on his feet and lifted up a large sheet of folded plastic to reveal a large saw underneath.

Victoria gasped and backed away.

"Why do you look so surprised?" Maxwell remarked. "You didn't expect this sort of thing, Miss Thompson? Why do you think I brought such a large suitcase, hmmm? Because this is how things get done around here. It's a dirty business of course and I take no pride in my participation of it either."

Victoria felt light headed now and needed to sit back down. "There has to be another way? surely there must?"

"Afraid not, but you have my condolences," Maxwell remarked as he walked over and attempted the turn the body over, when all of a sudden the man let out a groan.

Victoria and Maxwell were startled.

"Well, it appears your cadaver isn't so fresh after all," Maxwell commented as he searched around for a blunt object. "However, now when he wakes up and sees us, we're bloody screwed, and I can't allow that to happen."

Maxwell spotted and grabbed a heavy bookend from off one of the office shelves and then looked at Victoria. "We need a plan now. Either I beat his brains out and finish the job, or you come up with something better. But it's time to think fast, Miss Thompson."

"Maybe we can make it look like a suicide?" Victoria suggested as she began rummaging through the man's desk drawers. "I'll see if he has a pistol anywhere around here."

Maxwell sighed impatiently. "We don't have time! So then I guess we're just going to go with my plan after all."

Victoria was horrified.

Not long after the grisly job was done and over with, Maxwell latched the suitcase closed tightly and looked up at Victoria. She was utterly speechless even though she looked away and covered her ears the entire time. This was not how she wanted to spend her morning, but it seems she was left with no other choice.

"Well it's finished." Maxwell said as he carefully removed the gloves. "We'll have to dispose of all this carefully and quietly. Those office clerks are still here unfortunately."

Victoria looked at him full of disgust.

"Don't give me that look," he snapped. "You brought this on yourself, Miss Thompson."

"But I didn't kill him!" She snapped back. "You did, not me!"

Maxwell sneered. "Well, you came pretty bloody close if I must say. If anything I just finished what you started."

"I didn't want this to happen, Maxwell." She panicked. "I hated the man, but I never wished death on him. I just wanted him to keep his hands to himself, that was all."

Maxwell suddenly stood up and picked up the suitcase in order to get a feel of how much heavier it was now.

"This is disgusting," Victoria turned away. "And you mentioned before that you didn't like doing it, so does this mean that's what you used to do before you started working in the film industry?"

"I might have been part of a clean up crew for Morane, yes." He answered. "But he didn't give me any other choice. It was either I do the dirty work or he'd off me himself."

She looked at him somberly "I just want to go home now and drink until I can't remember any of this."

Then Maxwell suddenly picked up the phone on the desk and dialed for Morane.

"What are you doing now?" She asked him.

"Just be quiet, you hear me?" Maxwell hissed as he waited for someone to pick up on the other end.

"Yes, hello?" Maxwell said cheefully. "Good morning, Mr. Morane, Sir. How are you doing?"

"I was fine until you interrupted me," Morane's voice boomed through the reciever. "What the hell do you want?"

Maxwell felt nervous now. "Well, you see. I'm calling you because I recently discovered that a close partner of yours has been stealing from you."

"Who?" Morane demanded to know.

"Why, I believe that man would be Melvin Phillips," Maxwell explained.

"The producer?" Morane asked in disbelief. "You've got to be fucking kidding me?"

Maxwell swallowed hard. "Afraid not, Sir." He replied. "You see, I'm in his office right now with the lovely Victoria Thompson."

Victoria furrowed her brow. "What are you doing?" She whispered angrily. "I don't want any part of this!"

"We came to see him about a possible audition," Maxwell explained while ignoring her. "But at the same time we arrived, he appeared to be in the midst of hiding something. Kind of an awkward situation, you see?"

"Get to the bottom of it," Morane suddenly snapped. "I don't have time for a god damn story."

Maxwell gritted his teeth. "I caught him trying to steal money from you. Victoria saw him too. And when we questioned him, the bloke denied it, even though the evidence was sitting right on his desk."

"I trusted that man," Morane sighed. "Known him for years. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would have the nerve to ever steal from me."

"Well it appears he did, Sir." Maxwell said in a serious tone. "And I was calling to let you know that we both took care of him for you."

Morane laughed. "What the hell did you do? Bash in his head, dismember him and stuff him into a trunk?"

"Actually, yes," Maxwell replied. "But now we have a problem with the other employees here. I don't think we can get past them without one of them becoming suspicious."

"Well here is what I want you to do." Morane explained. "You walk out of his office and tell them they've been fired. On my order of course. But you tell them to get the hell out now, or I will personally target them and their families."

Maxwell smirked. "Got it, Sir. And thank you ever so kindly for helping us deal with this matter."

"But what about the body?" Morane was curious. "How do you plan on disposing of him?"

Maxwell was clueless. "Uh, well. I was kind of planning to dump the case into the lake. Is that a good idea or not?"

"Fine." Morane answered. "Dispose of him and return my money, please."

"Yes, Sir." Maxwell replied enthusiastically as he suddenly hung up.

"Well, it's all been taken care of." Maxwell told Victoria. "We're officially off the hook now, and those ninnys in the office have been fired."

"Fired?" Victoria gasped. "But why?"

Maxwell shrugged. "Morane was the one who said so. I'm just delivering the message. Anyway, we need to get the bloody hell out of here."

Victoria sighed. "Alright then. Let's get out of here while we still can. I'll be the one to tell the workers they're fired while you sneak out with him."

"Fine by me," Maxwell nodded in agreement.

When 6 AM rolled around, Justin Church awoke with one of the worst hangovers he'd ever experienced. As he opened his eyes and felt the throbbing pain in his head, he realized he never even made it to his bed. He was lying face down on the floor still dressed in his coat, but his hat appeared to have been knocked off his head and now it lay only inches away from his face. He stared at it and then tried to lift himself up off the ground when he suddenly heard someone knocking on his door.

"Justin?" William's voice called. "Are you in there?"

Justin winced as he sat up. His muscles felt very stiff and he could barely move himself.

"I-I'm here!" Justin's voice cracked. "Hang on!"

Justin could hear popping sounds in his back and neck as he stood up, and when he opened door he was greeted by William's worried face.

"Everything okay?" William asked at first and then he noticed Justin was still wearing his green coat. "You were out again, weren't you?" William frowned.

Justin smacked himself on the forehead which only made the migraine hurt worse.

"This was after I left too wasn't it?" William sounded aggravated.

Justin nodded slowly.

"I should've known." He threw his arms up in disgust."Well in that case, thanks for lying to me."

"I know, I'm an asshole," Justin confessed. "But, trust me when I say that I had one of the worst nights of my life."

"Trust you?" William scoffed. "Not even as far as I could throw you."

Justin sighed. "There was a game last night. And I chose to lie and say I was too tired to hang out with you just so I could gamble. Look, I'm not the most reliable friend, I know. But something really scary happened on my way there. It was a shooting and it happened right behind my back. This man who was also on his way to the subway, he was murdered in cold blood. I actually stood there and watched as he died in the arms of some woman. Don't know if she was his wife or girlfriend, but all I know is it really haunted me."

"And how do I know you're not making this up?" William asked.

"Because I wouldn't lie about something like this," Justin said in a serious tone. "I really did see that man die last night and it still hasn't left my mind."

William's face seemed to soften when he realized Justin was telling the truth. "I'm sorry."

"How do you even try to forget something like that?" Justin asked. "I was completely sloshed last night too and I still couldn't forget what happened."

"I wouldn't know," William answered. "I haven't experienced anything like that."

"Anyway, you want to come in for a bit? Justin asked. "I need to ice my head for a while before I even think about leaving."

"No thanks," William shook his head. "I only stopped by to see how you were doing, because you didn't show for the assembly we had earlier in the mess hall."

Justin felt dumbfounded. "Did I say I would?"

"If I recall correctly, you did," William answered. "And it wasn't me you promised either."

Justin smacked himself again, having already forgotten about his brutal hangover. "I'm dead this time for sure," he groaned.

"Do you want a burial or a cremation?" William joked.

"To be honest? I just want to be alive," Justin replied. "Anyway, what was the assembly even about?"

"The new protocol," William answered. "Some of the rules have been changed, no thanks to you." He glared.

Justin blinked. "Seriously? Like what for example here?"

"Well for one, the base now has a curfew," William rolled his eyes. "That one is definitely attributed to you, Church."

"A curfew!?" Justin exclaimed in disbelief. "What, are we ten or something? She's not our mother. And why would you attribute that to me?"

"Do you really have to ask?" William replied. "Everyone knows you stay out all night, and some of the others have apparently started to follow suit, which quickly became a problem."

Justin chuckled. "So that means I'm a trend setter? She can't really blame me for that one, I mean I don't force the others to stay out as late as I do."

William crossed his arms. "No, it just means you're a bad influence on some of us, myself included."

Justin couldn't believe his ears. "You must must be kidding. You?"

"Let's just say I was the one she caught walking home late this morning." William explained. "In other words, I got the earful instead of you this time."

Justin couldn't help but laugh. "Oh man, I never thought I'd see the day when you were the one to get in trouble. I always pegged you for some kind of goody two shoes, no offense."

William frowned. "None taken."

"Was she at least gentle?" Justin inquired. "Or did she go full on bitchy wrath on you?"

"I can see you're enjoying this a little too much," William rolled his eyes. "But yeah, I felt her bitchy wrath if you must know."

Justin started laughing. "I think my hangover is almost cured cause I feel so much better now! Thanks!"

"Well, good for you," William remarked as he started walking away.

"Hey, where are you going now?" Justin called after him.

"Home!" William answered back in a bitter tone without even looking back.

"Was it something I said?" Justin pondered. "Why is he mad at me now?"

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 5

Brian Smith was standing outside The Card Shack smoking a cigarette and watching the people around him. Daytime was the same as night time in Atlantis City, always dark outside as artificial colorful lights lit up the streets and sidewalks. The city was also surrounded by millions of stars and galaxies that Brian sometimes observed in hopes of seeing a shooting star. He remembered being told as a kid that he could make a wish whenever he saw one, but unfortunately he hadn't seen one yet.

Enrique noticed him right away as he was walking up the steps to come into work and wondered how long he'd been waiting around outside.

"You're here early," Enrique announced as he stopped for a quick chat. "You wouldn't happen to know if Maxwell returned yet, would you?"

"I didn't see him yet," Brian answered as he exhaled a stream of smoke. "But I also haven't been here that long. Maybe ten minutes at the most."

Enrique seemed hesitant to go inside now. "I never finished scrubbing out that stain on the carpet," he explained. "I was just too tired and I was being worked way over time."

"Sorry to hear that." Brian sympathized with him.

Enrique slumped his shoulders and lowered his head. "I'd probably be better off finding another job, but I have my own foolish reasons for not doing so."

"Then why don't you?" Brian asked him. "If you hate it here so much, then why don't you just leave?"

"I'd prefer not to talk about it," Enrique replied. "I don't feel very comfortable sharing my personal feelings with someone I barely know."

Brian wasn't even insulted by his words. In fact, Brian even felt the same way when it came to him, but again he hadn't trusted anyone for a long time now.

"The feeling is mutual," Brian mentioned as he took another drag of his cigarette and looked off in the distance.

"Well, I'm opening the bar now if you want to come and have your glass of water." Enrique replied as he threw the door open and headed inside.

Brian ignored him. He didn't want to give the impression that he was anything other than an acquaintance. Brian didn't want or need any kind of friendship with anybody and certainly not some pushover of a bartender. Brian found that to be incredibly weak of him and off putting.

Enrique was a nice guy but it seemed he was too nice for his own good, and that's why it made it so much easier for men like Maxwell Graham to push him around. But Enrique had mentioned he had some foolish reasons for wanting to stick around here, and Brian could only imagine what one of those reasons could be.

Not long after, Brian had walked inside the building and headed right for the bar where he saw Enrique serving up some drinks to a few soldiers. Brian avoided eye contact as he walked to very end of the counter to his usual spot and sat down. He wanted to keep as much distance between them and himself as he could. But it didn't take long for Enrique to notice him.

"Changed your mind, huh?" Enrique mentioned sardonically as he pulled out an empty glass and set it on the counter.

Brian didn't utter a single word as he stared hatefully at the men in their gray uniforms. Enrique couldn't help but notice as well and decided to try figure out what Brian's problem with them was.

"I see the look you're giving those men," Enrique pointed out as he leaned over the counter. "Now what's the deal with that?"

Brian couldn't help but feel rather smug as he opened his mouth to speak. "Let's just say, I have my own reasons for doing so. And it's really none of your business either."

Enrique seemed taken aback by these words as they sounded all too familiar to him.

"You see that?" Brian said with arrogance. "You and I aren't so different after all."

Meanwhile back at the base, William Sterling was relaxing in his living space with a book, when all of a sudden there was a knock on his door. Thinking it was Justin, he uttered a loud groan as he flung open the door to see the not so pleasant face of Vice Admiral Lynne Williams. She was dressed in her burgundy uniform with her long red hair pulled back into a braid and her grey eyes locked on his.

"Uh, hello commander!" William said sheepishly as he raised his right arm to give a salute. "What brings you here?"

"Nothing out of the ordinary, Corporal" Lynne replied. "I just wanted to have a brief little chat with you regarding our little encounter earlier this morning. That is of course, if you don't mind? I know you're off duty for now, so I do apologize for my unexpected arrival."

"It's no trouble at all, Commander," he answered nervously.

"Good then," she nodded. "Anyway, I wanted to apologize for being so hard on you this morning. I know when it comes to bad conduct around here, you're the least of my troubles. But I couldn't help but feel as though I were talking to you the same way I talk to Corporal Church. As you already know, he and I are not on the best of terms lately. We haven't been for quite some time, and it just feels like he always has me on the edge anymore."

William nodded. "I understand, Commander. I really do."

"Are we no longer on a first name basis, Sterling?" Lynne asked. "I had always believed we were closer than most around here. However, I am aware that you do it out of respect for me."

"You're right, I do." William replied. "Would you like to come in? That way we can discuss this a little more privately."

"But of course I would, Sterling." Lynne replied. "I would appreciate it very much."

Lynne took a seat on William's couch while he got up and poured himself a cup of tea.

"Would you care for some?" He asked.

"No thank you, William," She answered politely as she crossed her legs and leaned back into the big thick cushions.

"If only my office chair were this comfortable," she sighed.

"Really?" William raised his brow. "I always thought that chair of yours was the most comfortable looking thing I've ever seen."

She looked at him as though he were insane. "Well, enough about the chair here. Let's get straight to the real issue."

"You mean Corporal Church?" William asked as he carefully picked up his cup of tea and took a seat in the living chair across from her.

"Yes, him," she sighed. "The AMF needs his complete cooperation if we're going to get anywhere with this new project. I've talked to Artis from Atlantech, and he says the new technology is a work in progress."

"Does this project have a name yet?" William asked curiously.

Lynne shook her head. "No, as of now the captain and I are simply calling it the project. We have the concept work of the craft design, but it still needs work. I was hoping Corporal Church could aid us in its development. He's only seventeen, but I've seen his freelance work and it is most impressive. Also dangerous, but that's besides the point."

"He does like to invent things," William mentioned. "He told me he's been taking apart machines since he could walk. He really knows his mechanics."

Lynne nodded. "But of course he's got a brilliant mind, he just isn't as fully dedicated to his work as he should be. And in order for us to get anywhere with this project, he needs to work on his bad habits. And that's why I came to you of all people, because you are the closest friend he has here. Not to mention our own friendship of course, but you understand what I mean, right?"

"I do, Lynne," William smiled. "But you need to know that I can't be the one to change him. That's something he has to do on his own."

"And that, I am aware of," Lynne answered. "But you are his friend, which means you should be able to influence him in some way at least."

"Well, what do you want me to do?" He asked. "Tell him to stop staying out late and start working with Atlantech instead? I don't know how well that would go over with him, especially after this new curfew you've implemented. He's not happy about it, and neither am I for that matter."

"It had to be done," she explained. "And it's only till midnight. That gives each and every one of you plenty of time to fool around and still go to bed at a reasonable hour. I will not tolerate anymore of this tiredness or failure to report for duty. I've said enough is enough and I've put my foot down. It's as simple as that. Captain Grant has agreed to it as well, or else I wouldn't have gone forward with it."

"I understand," he replied as he leaned forward. "But let me ask you something. Don't you think it's strange how we're training and preparing for a war we might never see? The last war happened on planet Earth, nearly a hundred years ago. The humans have moved into deep space, far away from everything and built Atlantis, a city that's been completely untouched. Don't you ever feel like we could be doing something better?"

Lynne seemed almost appalled by his words.

"How could you say something like that?" She frowned. "I find it almost insulting that you don't believe we should prepare ourselves. There's always another race out there, somewhere that would be barbaric enough to destroy what we've built here. You think just because we're no longer on Earth that we're not a threat to them?
You of all people, William. Your very ancestors tried to destroy us the first time and almost succeeded. The humans were unprepared and that's what cost them their beloved planet. And that is why the AMF has stuck around since the founding of Atlantis. We knew we could not risk the chance of being attacked again, so we decided to recruit and continue to train as many as we could, until Morane took power and turned the civilians against us. You say there isn't a war? Well I say there is, Corporal Sterling. We're not at war with any aliens right now, we're at war with our own; with this city. And that is a fight we cannot afford to lose, you understand?"

As William looked back at her, his face was desolate. He knew she was right about them being at war with the city, but he didn't believe it was a battle they could win either. They could continue trying to paint the AMF in a positive light and try to undo the damage from the past, but there would always be the ignorant ones who'd refuse to let go and change their ways.

"I do understand," he said softly. "I just don't think it's a fight we can win, that's all."

"Perhaps not now," Lynne replied. "But I believe we can one of these days. We just can't give up."

Suddenly it all became clear to William now after listening to her speak. Her words were heavy with emotion and passion; the same determination her father used to exhibit.

"You miss him don't you?" William mentioned unexpectedly, catching her off guard.

Then it was as if her heart suddenly stopped and she couldn't breathe. Her eyes were telling though, and he could see that she was trying to hold back her tears.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I forgot how sensitive you are when it comes to talking about him. I should've known better."

"I'm fine," she breathed as she turned her head away to hide the fact she was crying.

William suddenly got up from his chair and offered her a kleenex.

"No need to feel embarrassed," he said. "You've seen me cry plenty of times."

She took the kleenex from his hand and wiped her eyes. "I can't tell you how much I hate this."

"Hate what?" He asked.

"Crying," she answered bitterly. "It makes me feel weak, and I'll be damned to hell if I'll ever let anyone other than you and the captain see me do it."

William smiled at her. "Well, you're not weak. You're very strong but you're also human. And while I'm not completely human myself, I still experience the same feelings and emotions."

"Stop it," She snapped. "The Tjatey have more in common with humans than you know. You are human, William. And certainly more human than the ones who blame you."

He smiled again. "Thanks."

"Don't thank me," she replied as she smiled back. "Just accept it."

Elsewhere in the city Victoria Thompson was seated in a local salon with her hair dampened and combed out in layers as she waited patiently for her favorite hairdresser to come back with a bottle of setting lotion. She picked up one of the magazines sitting beside the station and began flipping through the pages, stopping as soon as she saw a style she liked and quickly folded down the corner of the page in order to bookmark it.

"Sorry to have kept you waiting, Miss Thompson," the hairdresser announced upon her return. "I just had to grab another bottle of this stuff from the back. You know how it is. All the women want their hair waved."

"Well, I can't blame them," Victoria replied as she closed the magazine and set it back down. "But I think I'm just going to go with my usual look this time, Bernice."

The hairdresser rolled on some gloves and poured a glob of setting lotion into her hand and began massaging it through Victoria's hair.

"You know they make irons nowadays," Bernice explained. "A lot of my clients are starting to wave their own hair that way."

"An iron?" Victoria remarked. "Well the day I ever use an iron, is the day I can no longer afford you, Bernice."

They both laughed as Bernice picked up a comb and began forming waves into her hair with it, working her way all around her head and inserting pins to hold them in place.

"You know, when you first walked in, you looked like hell, Miss Thompson," Bernice commented. "What in heavens did you do all night?"

Victoria laughed nervously as she tried hard not to remember what happened. "Oh, it was just one of those crazy nights. You know how that is?"

"Mmhmm," Bernice nodded as she continued shaping the hair around Victoria's round face. "You find yourself a sugar daddy yet?"

Victoria laughed. "I've kicked plenty to the curb. They're all the same to me. They view me as some kind of accessory when they take me out, and then they wonder why I spend the whole time trying to get drunk. It just seems like I never have anything in common with any of them. If I want to talk about my career, they stop me because they'd rather brag about their millions. They're all a bunch of snobs, Bernice. Every last one of them. I may have to jump ship and travel to another planet if I'm ever going to find the right man for myself."

"How about that gentleman I see you around with sometimes, Maxwell is it?"

Victoria froze. "You've got to be kidding me, Bernice" she groaned. "He is horrible! Why, if I was the last woman in Atlantis and he was the last man, the human race would die out. Besides, the only way a woman will ever touch him is after he's kicked the bucket and if she's a mortician. And I do mean that. Besides, I can't believe any of the women who say they are attracted to him. I tell them they all must be crazy or drunk, or both. By the way, how are things coming along?"

Bernice set the comb aside and picked up a hair net and pulled it over her hair. "The waving is done," she announced. "Now we just need to dry it and I'll finish the ends off with the curling iron."

Victoria admired herself in the mirror. "Sounds good to me. After all, I'm looking forward to my next public appearance."

"Where is that going to be?" Bernice asked.

"At the Glamour Theatre," Victoria sighed happily. "I'm going to meet some of my fans and enjoy a screening of my new film. Oh and by the way, you should come too."

"I can't, Miss Thompson," Bernice replied. I'm working late here and then I've got to get dinner on the table for my husband and the kids. Maybe another time?"

Victoria reached up and patted her on the hand. "Sure thing, sweetie," she smiled as she got up and followed her to dryer and sat down.

"This should only take about twenty minutes," Bernice explained as she moved the plastic shaped dome over Victoria's head. "There are more reading materials on the table in front of you, enjoy."

Quite a few hours had passed since Justin's last chat with William and now that he was feeling better, he figured he'd head over to his place and see if he might be interested in going out somewhere.
The housing on the base was composed of small white bungalows which could house either one or two people. Most of the men and women shared units with a roommate of their choice while others were fortunate to get a place of their own.

Justin ended up being one of the lucky ones, while William got stuck sharing his dwelling with his half sister Alley Sterling. The base had always had housing for the men and women, but once the tjatey survivors and hybrids were banished from the city for good, the housing had to be expanded in order to accommodate all of them.

Justin whistled to himself just as he was coming up to William's door when he suddenly heard a woman's voice inside.

"What the?" He commented as he pressed his ear up against the door to try and make out her words.

Meanwhile on the other side of the door, Lynne was thanking William for taking the time to listen to her.

"It means a lot to me," she said looking back at him with a smile as she reached for the door knob.

"You're very welcome," William replied. "I guess all I can say is, don't let him drive you crazy."

She laughed. "I will try not to this time."

Justin suddenly moved away quickly and dove behind the building as the door was opening.

"Well, I'm headed back to the office," Lynne announced as she walked out.

As soon as Justin peered around the corner to see who it was, his eyes widened and his jaw dropped.

"I do plan on taking it easy for the rest of the day though," she said while pulling down on the skirt of her uniform.

"Well, just do what you can," William replied as he stepped out to see her off.

Justin cupped a hand over his mouth while grinning stupidly as he watched Lynne leave.

William waved after her and turned around to head back inside, when Justin suddenly jumped out from behind the building and startled him.

"Surprise!" Justin announced.

"Jesus!" William exclaimed as he jumped back. "I told you I hate it when you pull that crap! And wait a minute? He paused.
Were you out here the whole time!? He shook his fist at Justin.

"No I wasn't," Justin answered. "Nor did I hear what was going on inside either." He smirked. "But I won't tell if you won't."

"What?" William sounded confused. "What are you even insinuating here?"

Justin snickered. "I don't know, but I see her walking out of your home fixing her skirt, what else am I supposed to assume?"

William smacked himself on the forehead. "Okay, I get it now, but that's not what happened between us. She was just here to talk, that's all, oh and about you by the way."

"Me?" Justin sounded flattered. "Well I've always known I was the one she wanted in the first place. So what exactly did she say?"

"She basically told me you drive her up the wall," William smirked. "No, really she did. And she wants you to start being more responsible around here too."

Justin rolled his eyes. "She sounds like my father. Anyway, I was just stopping by to see if you wanted to head out later or not. I won't be drinking any booze for a while, definitely not after last night. So, what say you?"

"Actually I was hoping to make it to the Glamour Theatre later," William replied. "Victoria Thompson is going to be there and I'd like to see her."

Justin shook his head and blew a raspberry. "You're just going there to see her? Why not go there to meet her? Hell, buy her some roses while you're at it too. Sing her a song even. Just do something besides standing in the crowd like a fool."

William stared down at him.

"What's that look for?" Justin remarked. "You know I'm right?"

"It's not that easy," William said. "Do you think she'd even look twice at me? I'm not even her type. She'd probably hate my guts for all I know."

Justin frowned at him. "You and your excuses. You make all these assumptions when you don't even know the truth. You just assume she will reject you or hate your guts. Well then, ask yourself this one, why are you after this woman if you're not going to even try here?"

William felt insulted now. "I'm not after her," he emphasized. "You make it sound like I'm stalking her or something, which I'm not. I just like to admire her...........from afar."

Justin gave him a thumbs down. "You know something? If you were me, you could've had her a long time ago. Maybe she would've rejected me, but maybe she wouldn't. See how that works?"

William laughed at him. "You're too young for her."

"Not the point I'm making!" Justin corrected him. "What I'm saying is, I have more confidence than you do, and you're right I am younger than you. Shorter too, if we're going that route, but I'm a go-get-her, meaning I only give up after I've been rejected. But what I'm saying here is I can help you get her attention if you want me to."

"You serious about this?" William squinted his eyes at him.

"Yeah, for once I am," Justin answered. "You want her attention right? Well I'm just the guy to help you get it."

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 6

After Victoria left the salon and was making her way back home, she passed by a flower shop and stopped to look in the window. The lights inside were dim enough that she could see her own reflection in the glass and she took time to admire her lovely coiffure while also gazing at the colorful assortment of flowers and roses on the inside.

She reached up and gently touched her hair, amazed by how soft it felt and smiled while pulling the fur trim of her coat up against her face and turning to the side as though she were posing for the camera.
But she stopped once she saw a well dressed man walking out of the shop with a beautiful bouquet of roses in hand. He didn't seem to pay her any notice or care as she watched him scurry across the street, while secretly envying whoever his lucky woman was.

She sighed hopelessly and looked at her reflection one last time just to see the sour face and pouty cupid bow lips looking back at her. It was a face she had come to know so well these days; an ugly reminder of the unhappy person she truly was underneath her painted up face. She turned away in disgust and kept walking while clutching her small coin purse at her side.

There weren't too many people out and about in this area, but she still decided she would take a short cut to get to the other side. She turned the corner and started heading down one of the alley ways where she passed by the back door of a restaurant and saw one of the chefs dumping trash into a dumpster then head back inside.

It was quiet now and it didn't take long for her to remember the horrifying experience from last night. She had almost killed that man but didn't. It was Maxwell who killed him and disposed of the body, but she knew she was just as guilty too. I'm an accomplice to murder, she thought to herself. I don't know how I'm ever going to live with such guilt. I don't think I can.

Her eyes were wide and full of worry now. She couldn't help but feel ashamed of herself and scared of this news ever reaching the media. I would be ruined, she panicked. The people would never forgive me, and how could they? I'm a murderer.

She suddenly stopped and took a moment to process everything she was feeling. Her hands were cold and shaking as she looked down at them and her expression grave.

"What am I going to do now?" She asked herself. "What happens when the body is found?"
But before she could even dwell on those thoughts any longer, she suddenly felt an arm around her neck as her body was being dragged backwards by a mysterious man in a long dark trench coat. He pulled out a pocket knife and held it against her throat.

"Now, now, don't scream," he warned her. "Just give me your purse and this will all be over with."

"You want my purse?" Victoria huffed as she struggled to free herself from his grip. "Fine then, you can have it!"

"See? That wasn't so hard was it?" The man taunted as he released her, only to discover it was a bad idea when she suddenly spun around and whipped out a pistol from her purse and aimed it at his head.

"It seems you've made the mistake of bringing a knife to a gun fight," she smirked. "Now drop it or I'll shoot you in the leg."

The man laughed at her jeeringly. "Do you even know how to use that thing?"

Victoria glowered at him and fired a quick warning shot just past his head causing him to jump back in fear.

"Now, what is it you were saying again?" She said condescendingly with a smile.

"Okay, okay," The man replied fearfully as he dropped the knife and kicked it over to her then raised his hands above his head.

"I'm sorry, Miss." he bleated. "I really am."

"Shut up," she snarled, her blue-green eyes wide and fierce. "I'll shoot you dead if I have to. I mean it!"

Suddenly the man got down on his knees before her and began to cry. "I'm just trying to survive," he pleaded. "I need money for food! I have nothing! You can understand that, can't you?"

Victoria stood there and listened to his sob story but she wasn't buying it at all.

"Get the hell out of here," she replied harshly as she lowered her gun. "I don't want to ever see you again, you hear me? Cause if I do, you will be sorry I promise!. Now get the hell out of my sight!"

The man scrambled as he got back on his feet and ran away like a coward as he disappeared into the darkness and fog of the alley.

Victoria put her gun away then picked up the knife and tossed it inside a nearby trash can then turned around and continued on her way.

"He better not have messed up my hair," she muttered angrily to herself.

Back at the military base, Private Stan Winston was wandering about as though he were searching for something or someone. His green eyes shimmered in the dark while he surveyed his surroundings, only to be disrupted by the sounds of giggling women coming from behind him.

He stopped and turned around to see two of the base's flight control officers, Lucy Ann and Mipsy Taylor. They were dressed in their gray uniforms and matching skirts smoking a cigarette while ogling him. Stan was still fairly new around there and must have already made an impression on them, but then again it was well known that they'd ogle anyone, especially the new recruits, but Stan was impervious.

"Hey there, Mr. tall and handsome," Lucy winked at him as she played with her short black bob. "Where are you headed?"

"Don't be shy now," Mipsy added as she puffed on her cigarette and her big blue eyes sparkled. "We won't bite unless you want us to."

Stan stared at them with deadpan eyes. "And why would I want you to bite me?"

Mipsy and Lucy exchanged looks and laughed.

"It's a playful expression," Lucy explained. "Of course you wouldn't want us to bite you, silly nilly."

"Silly nilly?" Stan repeated quizzically.

"She's speaking gibberish," Mipsy interjected as she cupped a hand over Lucy's mouth.

"I'm afraid I'm not familiar with this foreign language you speak of," Stan enunciated. "Now if you don't mind, I'll be on my way."

Mipsy and Lucy exchanged looks again and then resumed finishing their cigarettes.

Stan was feeling like he dodged a bullet just now. He knew exactly why he was there and what Morane expected of him, but he couldn't help but find it very difficult to blend in completely. He possessed a lot of knowledge but even with all that he had, there were still many things he had to learn. After all, his programming wasn't perfect, not by a long shot, and he would still have to find way to gain everyone's trust.

Especially the higher ranking officials. Lynne seemed to be the toughest of them all and the one most likely to suspect something was off with him, but being that he and Corporal Sterling had become close friends seemed to help with keeping him off her radar. She trusted William and if William trusted him, then there was no reason why Lynne shouldn't trust him as well.

However, Stan's main target was Captain Abraham Grant, only he found it difficult to get close to him because the man spent more time alone in his office than anywhere else. But Captain Grant made himself scarce for a reason and only a select few knew, including Lynne and Morane. Still, it didn't stop Stan from trying to get any information he could as some of Grant's messages had been relayed through the other personnel, making eavesdropping a piece of cake.

Still, Stan could've had more of an advantage if he were living on the base like the others, but Morane wouldn't allow it. He said it was far too risky and so he had Stan lie about where he lives, even registering under a false address; which if someone were curious enough, would find that it's the address of an old abandoned warehouse.

Now as Stan made his way inside the main building, he ran into a few other recruits who were gathered around the center of the floor chatting it up. He walked around them as he listened in on their conversation, but it seemed they weren't discussing anything of value.

And while they didn't acknowledge him, he still picked up on their fear. It was a common thing that Stan had grown accustomed to ever since he arrived, but what he didn't know is if it was his silence or his height that scared them the most. After all, he was very tall and broad shouldered compared to a lot of the men there who seemed kind of lanky by comparison.

There was a recreational room and gym which provided the men with the opportunity of working out, but a lot of them were lazy about it and inconsistent with their exercise goals.
Justin Church was especially one of the lazy ones and spent most of his time either lounging or playing table tennis with William or someone else.

Stan never participated in much of anything physical, but he knew he couldn't either so he had to come up with some good excuses to avoid suspicion. However, these excuses didn't always sound the most convincing to the others, but Stan knew they feared him enough not to push the issue. Even William did too, but he would never admit to it even though he was the first person brave enough to talk to him on his first day.

Not even Justin was brave enough to approach him and instead hid himself behind one of the mess hall tables the entire time.Stan remembered that day and rather fondly. He saw a different side of humanity compared to what he was used to with Morane and the council. William's friendliness and willingness to speak to him like a human being allowed Stan to see another side of these so-called enemies Morane warned him about.

Even when Justin finally came around, he treated Stan with respect as well which left the android feeling rather perplexed as to why his own creators treated him so callously. He didn't understand it and often wondered if perhaps they were underestimating his intelligence and also thought about what they would do to him if they no longer found him useful to them.

Stan suddenly stopped when he came to the end of the hall and stared at the door in front of him labeled Restricted Zone. He knew he couldn't risk breaking in at this time, but he knew everything Morane ever wanted to know was behind this door.

Meanwhile on the third floor of the building, Lynne was seated inside her office with her arms resting on the desk's surface. To her right was a medium sized monitor and below it was a small keypad with letters and numbers. Lynne touched the screen with her finger to awaken the machine from its hibernation and pulled up a recent scoring list from the latest simulation tests.

The scores were fairly impressive although there were some poor ones as well. She knew not everyone was cut out for being a fighter pilot and those with the poor testing scores would require a lot more training before they would ever set foot into the real planes.

As she closed out of the screen, she remembered what William said regarding the AMF's purpose and she suddenly felt shame. A framed sepia portrait of her and her father sat on the left hand corner of her desk and she picked it up and looked at his face. He was smiling but she wasn't. For the moment she was feeling very hopeless and unsure of herself, afraid that William might even be right.

"How can you even look at me?" She sighed listlessly. "I've done nothing to be proud of. I'm not as strong as you were. Look at us? We're failing because you're gone. Why did you leave us? How could you!?" She turned the portrait around and set it back on her desk face down as she leaned forward and buried her face into her hands.

"This is all your fault," she sobbed quietly.

In the meantime there wasn't a very large crowd outside the Glamour Theatre when William and Justin arrived. They stood at the end of a short line and Justin turned to the guy in front of him and asked for the time.
"It's now 3PM," the man answered as he looked at his watch.

"Thanks," Justin replied as he glanced over and noticed a white cab pulling up to the curb.
William turned his head and watched too as Victoria Thompson stepped out of the vehicle dressed in a black and gold speakeasy dress with a gaudy looking ornate headband. She heard the sounds of cheering coming from the small crowd gathered around the entrance and she smiled and waved at them in a graceful manner.

William suddenly felt frozen in place but he couldn't take his eyes off her. She smiled at everyone and instantly began signing autographs at the front of the line while hugging and chatting with her fans.

"Did you bring anything to sign?" Justin turned around and asked him.

"No, I didn't," William replied sheepishly as he slouched his shoulders. "Now what?"

"Quiet, I'm thinking," Justin shushed him.

"You better think fast," William urged. "Before you know it, we'll be next."

"I just wanted to tell you how much of an inspiration you are to me," one of the women said to Victoria after hugging her. "You'll always be my favorite of the silents."

Victoria felt flattered by her compliment but also a little offended. "Why thank you, sweetie," she forced a smile. "I'll have you know that soon enough I will be a big star in the talkies too."

"Really?" The woman's eyes lit up with excitement.

"For certain," Victoria boasted proudly. "Just you wait and see."

Justin scratched his chin trying to think of an idea when he soon caught sight of a pen lying on the ground behind them. "You ever do the pen trick?" Justin asked.

"Pen trick?" William replied staring vacantly at him.

"Yeah, the pen trick," Justin repeated as he moved over and knelt down and picked up the pen and handed it to him.

"You see, what you do is say, Miss, I think you dropped your pen," Justin explained. "Then she will thank you and that's when you get to look into her eyes for the first time; show her what a real hunk you are," he laughed.

William held the pen up and looked it over and then shook his head at him. "This is a dumb idea, Church."

Justin scowled at him. "Dumb? Well then, screw you. Look, I'm trying to help here, because you obviously forgot to bring something for her to sign. Well in that case you might as well strip out of your uniform and ask her to sign your chest."

William blinked.

"Too lewd then?" Justin smirked and folded his arms across his chest.

"Fine, I'll do the pen trick," William sighed wearily. "Just, no more talk about me stripping in front of her, please."

"Attaboy," Justin praised him with a pat on the back. "You can do this, I know you can."

Shortly after, a few photographers arrived on the scene and began taking pictures of her for their magazines.

"Now they're taking pictures!?" William panicked as his eyes widened. "There's no way in hell I can pull this off now. I don't want my picture in the media!"

"Relax, "Justin rolled his eyes. "We're in our uniforms, remember? The media isn't going to want that published, I guarantee it."

William uttered a sigh of relief.

"Now's the time to do it," Justin pointed out. "Unless you want to wait in line the entire time?"

William huffed as he held the pen tight. "No, no. I'll do it. I just need to compose myself first."

"Well your song of courage can wait," Justin quipped as he suddenly shoved William forward almost knocking him into someone else standing in line. William leered back at Justin who waved him away with his hand and yawned.

William looked at the pen and shrugged. "What have I got to lose?"

Victoria was laughing and joking with one of her male fans when William suddenly approached her from the side. His eyes were fixated on her lips as she planted a soft kiss on the man's cheek and complimented him. William couldn't help but feel extremely jealous and for the moment, he even pictured himself punching that guy right in the nose just to get him out of the picture.

Get a grip of yourself, he's just another fan, William thought. He means nothing to her, but neither do I for that matter. William suddenly felt very timid and checked to see if Justin was still watching him only to notice he was gone. What the hell? William narrowed his eyes. Did he honestly just ditch me like that? I don't believe this. That little shit!

Before William even had time to react, Victoria noticed him standing there out of the corner of her eye and turned her head to look him over.

"Hello?" She spoke softly as her sleepy looking eyes met his.

"Uh, yes, hi," William rambled nervously as he held out the pen in front of her face. "I think you might have dropped this?"

Victoria smiled sweetly and showed him the pen she already had in her hand. "Thanks, sweetie, but I don't believe that one is mine."

William felt like an idiot right now but he couldn't help but bask in his little victory as he succeeded in getting her to speak to him as well as having a moment to look into her eyes for the first time. He was still angry over the fact that Justin ditched him, but he knew all would be forgiven once he got to share his amazing experience with him and the others.

"My mistake then," William laughed nervously as he turned around and walked away. I am going to kill Justin though, he thought. He has no idea how dead he is.

William hadn't even gotten that far up the street when he stopped and looked back to see if she was watching him, but she was too busy mingling with the crowd.
He sighed hopelessly, suddenly regretting that he didn't say more when he had the chance. Still he couldn't deny that Justin's plan had worked after all even though the blond little heathen was nowhere to be seen.

But William couldn't help but wonder what Victoria's first impression of him must have been like. She seemed friendly and even called him sweetie, but again she did that with everyone. She must think I'm a moron, he thought. I know I looked like a fool, how could I not? God, she'll be joking about me in no time I bet, and forever refer to me as that creepy fan with the pen, or even creepy pen guy.

William suddenly stopped himself before his mind became too cluttered with negativity, and watched as Victoria and all those people suddenly entered the theatre. He wished he was joining them too, but he didn't feel like making an even bigger ass of himself. She had already seen and spoke with him and he doubted she'd care to again.
Well, it was nice while it lasted. He started leaving. I guess I'll either head back home or hunt Stan down. Been a while since we last talked. I'm sure he's dying to know about everything that's happened.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 7

Back at the base, Justin Church was making a beeline for the elevator door just as it was closing and stopped it with his hand.
Once he got inside he fell against the wall clutching his chest and panting loudly as sweat dripped from his brow.

"Corporal Church?" Came a voice from the other side.

Justin exhaled deeply and looked to his right to see Sergeant Dickerson standing there looking perplexed.

Justin's expression quickly changed from weary to cheerful as he stood up straight and brushed off his green uniform.

"Fancy running into you here," he chuckled nervously. "Where you headed?"

"Well, I'm on my way to the recreational room," Chris answered. "I was planning on playing a game of table tennis, what about you? It looks like you're out of breath, have you been running?"

The elevator suddenly came to a stop at the third floor and the door slid open.

"Yeah I have," Justin answered as he hurried out. "But believe me I'll be running even faster once the commander sees me. I have a feeling today is my funeral. And if she doesn't kill me then I'm sure William will."

Chris's eyes widened with curiosity. "What happened with Corporal Sterling? What did you do now?"

"I ditched him," Justin replied. "I left him alone to meet with Victoria, so there's no telling how that went. If it was bad, he's going to kill me. If it was good? Hell, he might still kill me, but you know what I mean. Anyways, I'm off to talk to Miss Dictator." Justin snorted. "See you in the after life!" He gave a quick salute before darting off.

Now he swallowed hard as he stood right outside of Lynne's office door, hesitant to knock. He took a deep breath and stepped back while rubbing the back of his head nervously. He didn't want to admit it but he wasn't at all ready to face her. Even after it was William she chastised earlier, Justin knew she would've reserved some of that anger for him alone. And now she would not only berate him for staying out all night to gamble, but also for missing an important meeting he'd promised to attend. Although thanks to William, he at least had an idea of what it was about.

"Curfew", he mumbled to himself. "And all because of me? I don't believe it."

Then before he could even blink, her office door flew open and she just stood there in the doorway glaring at him.

"You think I couldn't hear you out here talking to yourself?" She scolded. "Then I guess you don't know me as well as you think, Corporal."

Justin felt like a deer caught in headlights. His eyes were large and his mouth agape. He wanted to run at that moment but his feet weren't working.

"Get inside!" Lynne barked. "Have a seat too, cause you're going to be here for a while."

Justin nodded in response and walked right in and sat down in one of the chairs across from her desk. She slammed the door shut behind her and headed back to her chair and sat down with her arms crossed and her angry gaze fixated on him.

"Oh, don't look so surprised, Corporal Church," she remarked. "I know you've been awaiting this moment, haven't you? Why else were you standing outside my office like a fool?"

"You got me," Justin shrugged with a crooked smile. "So what'll my punishment be this time? Because I've really become accustomed to scrubbing the floors with a tooth brush. Perhaps I could start mopping the ceiling? The one in our locker room is really dirty by the wa---"

"Silence!" She interrupted him. "I refuse to listen to any more of your rambling. Now you will listen to me, are we clear?"

"Clear as a crystal," Justin chuckled nervously.

Lynne sighed and shook her head at him disapprovingly. "You know something? I once had high hopes for you, but the more I see of your tom foolery around here, the less it becomes. I don't think you understand the seriousness of why we're even here, do you?"

"I actually do," Justin answered gravely as he glanced up at her face.

"Then why don't you take it more seriously?" She exclaimed in outrage as she slammed her fist down. "We are trying to train and prepare an army for future war, not run a daycare center here! So why can't you make that commitment? What is holding you back?"

Justin slumped down in the chair not knowing what to say.

"Also I must inform you that Corporal Sterling has told me that you're aware of the new curfew, is this correct?"

Justin nodded. "Yeah, I know about it. Way to rub it in."

She narrowed her eyes and wrinkled her nose. "Then I'm sure you must also be aware that this curfew will be strictly enforced too. Anyone caught outside these fences after midnight will now face harsh punishment, no exceptions."

"But what about medical emergencies?" Justin exclaimed angrily. "Or what if someone gets caught in traffic, or the train is late? Are those people going to be punished for something they have no control over? Forgive me for complaining, but these things do happen, ya know?"

"Or what if any of those reasons you listed are used as nothing more than an excuse? She pointed out. "Some of those excuses you've even used yourself, Corporal."

"I know I have," Justin admitted. "But what I'm getting at is, why does everyone else have to suffer because of me? It just doesn't seem fair you know? If you're going to punish someone, then punish me, but leave the others out of this."

"What, do you think you're some kind of martyr, Church?" Lynne mocked. "Please, your act doesn't fool me."

"But it's not an act!" He fired back irritably as he got up from his chair.

"I'm being honest here, Commander. I don't think it's fair of you to punish us all for my defiance."

She narrowed her eyes and stood up as well. Behind her was a large window which overlooked the entire airfield down below. She moved over by the window and looked down at the runway where there were a few jets being worked on by a couple of engineers.

"Get over here, Corporal," she suddenly ordered.

"What is it?" Justin asked curiously as he headed over.

"Look down there and tell me what you see," she pointed at the jets.

Justin squinted his eyes and observed the activity below. "I see fighter planes? One of the older models too."

"Don't you see a future?" Lynne asked. "A chance to really make a difference here?"

Justin frowned. "No, I don't."

Lynne glared at him. "You have a great talent, Corporal Church. But it's one you often choose to neglect, now why is that?"

Justin huffed and bit down on his lip.

"I've seen the things you can do," Lynne explained. "The things you can create and invent. They're remarkable."

"Oh yes, of course," Justin said sarcastically. "I must be some kind of child prodigy right? That's the crap my father always says, and frankly I'm sick of it. Putting things together or taking them apart is just a hobby of mine and nothing more."

"Stop it," she shook her head. "Your father obviously sees what I see, and that's a good thing. Now rather than stand here arguing with you, I'll just get right to the bottom. Corporal Church, the AMF needs you. I need you, as would my father if he were here. I don't know any other way of saying it, but I believe that you can help us correct our mistakes of the past and help us build stronger, faster, more reliable fighter jets this time around. I'm sure you're aware of the tragedy six years ago, right?"

Justin sighed and dropped his head. "Why me?"

"Because you're the one we need," Lynne replied gravely. "I just need you to commit yourself a little more, that's all."

Justin cupped a hand over his face and groaned.

"Now, follow me," Lynne announced as she headed towards the door. "There's something else I want to show you."

"But what about that tragedy you mentioned before?" Justin asked as he followed behind.

"I will explain everything when we get there," Lynne answered.

She led Justin all the way to the AMF's underground hangar and right to an old garage that had been closed off. The door was dirty and banged up looking with some visible burn marks on its surface. Justin watched as Lynne dusted off the digital lock and began punching in a numeric code. At first there was silence and then suddenly the lock's light beeped and turned green and the large door began to rise up revealing a dark room inside. Lynne walked right in and felt around on the wall for a light switch and clicked it on. Justin's eyes were fixated on the unsightly looking charred mass when the room suddenly lit up and he realized he was looking at the remains from some kind of wreckage.

"What is this?" Justin asked as his face became sullen.

"This is a reminder," Lynne answered gravely. "All that remains from that tragic day six years ago. We thought we were ready, we were sure of it, but we were foolish and it cost the life of one of our own."

"Who were they?" Justin asked.

"I didn't know him," Lynne replied. "But my father did. His name was Robert Smith. He was a new recruit and volunteered to be a test pilot for one of the new prototypes. From what I learned, he was a great pilot but had no control over the craft once it malfunctioned. We never saw it coming and then it just crashed right into the airfield, killing him instantly. I was only a little girl at the time, but I can't forget the sadness on my father's face when it happened. He truly felt responsible, and I don't blame him."

Justin stared at the wreckage again. It was such a haunting sight and unlike anything he'd ever seen before, and now he couldn't help but feel scared inside.

"What are you thinking?" Lynne suddenly turned and asked.

Justin lowered his head and stared down at the floor. Any amount of spirit he had left for the day was dead and gone now.

"Why did you bring me here?" Justin asked in a bitter voice. "Are you trying to ruin my day or what?"

Lynne turned out the light and closed the room back up again. "Ruining your day was not my intention at all," she replied. "If anything, Corporal, I was trying to show you where the AMF went wrong."

Justin huffed. "So you could try and guilt me into helping you guys, is that it? Well in that case, well played, Commander Williams."

Lynne curled her lip and wrinkled her nose. "I brought you down here so you could see we need your help. Because we do not want this to happen again, you understand that don't you?"

Justin sighed angrily. "So you want me to risk my life instead? Is that it?" He threw his arms up. "Well you can forget about it. I'm not going to be your test dummy either."

"Corporal Church!" Lynne snapped. "We're not asking you to take on the role of a test pilot here. What we want is your help with perfecting the design, that's all. But if you'd rather run around the city incognito and gamble your life away, that's your choice."

Justin groaned and looked away from her.

"I'll take that as a no then," Lynne commented.

"Wait," Justin spoke up. "How about I think it over instead? Would that be fine with you and the captain?"

"That would be fine," Lynne replied. "But you don't have forever to make up your mind, so do it fast."

"I'll try my best," Justin sighed. "I won't make any promises though."

In the meantime William Sterling had made it back to the base and as he was walking through the main gate, noticed Stan standing up ahead facing the other direction just staring up at the building as if he were watching or waiting for somebody. William looked at him funny and then called out his name.

"Hey, Stan!" He announced as he stopped just a few feet away from him.

Stan instantly recognized his voice but slowly turned his head and peered over his shoulder.

"What are you doing out here?" William asked.

Stan forced a half smile on his face. "Just catching some fresh air. Got tired of being cooped up inside."

"I see," William nodded. "Have you by any chance seen Justin around?"

Stan shook his head. "Sorry I haven't. Why are you looking for him anyway?"

William's expression became tense as he clenched his jaw and made a fist. "Because I'm going beat him senseless," he growled.

"What has he done now?" Stan asked as he turned around to face him.

"He pushed me into talking to Victoria and then bailed on me!" William griped. "He made me look like a complete idiot in front of her and all those people, so yes I am quite pissed about it."

Stan shook his head. "That's too bad. Did she laugh at you?"

"She didn't at the time but I'm sure she is now," William replied bitterly. "It was all Justin's idea to do the stupid pen trick."

"Pen trick?" Stan cocked his head to the side. "What kind of a trick is that?"

William huffed. "He found some pen on the ground and told me to ask her if she dropped it. Of course it made me look like a fool because she already had one in her hand. Why didn't I see that before? For that matter, why didn't he?"

William smacked himself on the forehead and groaned. "It's over, Stan. I will never be able to show my face around her again. And if she ever sees me, she's going to remember me as the idiot who asked if---"

William paused as he suddenly witnessed Justin walking out of the building and once their eyes met, Justin looked like he was about to run off.

"Hey there, William," Justin laughed nervously as he began backing away slowly. "Uh didn't think I'd see you till later."

"You!" William snarled as he pointed a finger at him. "You made me look like a fool!"

"It wasn't on purpose," Justin shrugged. "And besides, I needed to talk to Commander Williams and attempt to get back on her good side. What happened with Victoria anyway?"

William sighed and dropped his arms at his side. "She looked at me like I was a moron."

"Really now?" Justin raised a brow. "How do you figure that?"

"I could see it in her eyes?" William remarked. "She looked like she wanted to run away from me. Did you know that would happen?"

Justin huffed. "Of course I didn't. What do you even take me for? I tried to help you, that's all, and if she thinks you're a loon then now you know you have to move on and forget about her."

William frowned at him. "But that's not what I wanted. I honestly thought you could help me, but it seems you only made things worse."

Justin rolled his eyes. "Gee thanks, you're welcome. See if I ever help you again, jerk. Anyway I was going to see if either of you wanted to hang at The Card Shack tonight, but it seems that ain't gonna happen now."

"You two need to stop this fighting, Stan chimed in. "It's not going to do your friendship any good."

William scoffed. "What friendship?"

Justin glared at him.

"This arguing of yours seems pointless," Stan mentioned. "What do you even have to gain from it?"

William sighed. "Yes, Stan you are right. So what do you propose we do instead?"

"Apologize and let bygones be bygones," he answered.

Justin huffed and Stan turned and looked him in the eye.

"Trust me it's better this way," he said and then he looked at William. "Fighting won't solve your problems. And I'm sure Victoria doesn't think you're a fool either."

William tried to smile. "Thanks, Stan."

Justin crossed his arms and turned his head away. "Look, I am sorry if I messed things up for you. I didn't mean to, I promise."

"It's okay," William replied. "You're right, maybe I am better off just moving on and forgetting about her. There's no way in hell she'd ever want to know someone like me. She's out of my league anyway. So, I'm sorry too."

"Shall we shake on it a call a truce?" Justin held out his hand.

"We shall," William nodded as he shook his hand while Stan looked on.

"Good," Stan nodded. "Now see? That wasn't so difficult was it?"

"And, Will," Justin mentioned earnestly "You don't have to forget about Victoria. I know what she means to you, so don't give up on her just yet, okay?"

William had a look of hopelessness in his eyes but he nodded just the same. "Thanks."

Justin sighed and dropped his shoulders. "That doesn't sound very reassuring to me. Are you really going to give up because of me?"

Even Stan was surprised by William's reaction and tone of voice and had to comment on it. "Doesn't sound like you at all. Why so quick to give up?"

William gave a quick shrug in response. "Maybe because I've had a wake up call for the first time? Look, guys, I get it. You feel sorry for me and that's okay, but I'll be fine. I just don't have what it takes and that's fine."

Justin suddenly rolled his eyes at him. "Stop with the defeatist attitude," he groaned. "Cause it doesn't suit you very well. So you blew your first shot at talking to her? That's fine because there will be many other opportunities. But as for me? I could really use a drink now even though I swore I wasn't going to touch anymore booze after last night. I've just had the guilt trip of a life time and I must find a way to make a decision that will please her majesty."

"Wait?" William suddenly interrupted him. "What happened in there?"

Justin groaned and smacked himself across the face. "Me and my big mouth."

William looked at Justin sympathetically.

"So, you can't share this information?" Stan perked up as his senses were on high alert.

"Get me drunk first and then I'll tell all," Justin answered. "That's the only way I'll talk about it. I don't want to feel it either so numb me up, please."

William patted him on the shoulder. "Don't worry, everything's going to be fine."

Justin shrugged him off. "No it's not. You have no idea what I just saw a while ago. I swear that image is never going to leave my mind, just like the shooting."

"Shooting?" Stan repeated inquisitively.

Justin nodded. "Yeah that's right. There was a shooting last night right by the subway. I saw the man die too. And now before I delve any further I'd like to get plastered some. Is that fine with you two?"

William didn't believe it was such a good idea but he knew he couldn't argue with him about it or he'd lose. "Yeah, it's fine with us," he lied. "I guess we should leave now while it's still early. Are you sure you're not going to regret this?"

Justin shrugged. "I really don't give a damn to be honest. If I regret it, then I regret it. Believe me, anything is better than being inside my head right now."

"I believe you," William replied. "And I know for sure you're going to regret this."

Justin ignored him and started walking off towards the gate. "You coming or what?" He called after them. "Let's go!"

"You two go on without me," Stan insisted. "I've got somewhere else to be."

"Fine, whatever," Justin replied wearily. "Guess it's just me and you, Will."

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 8

As soon as Justin had left Lynne immediately reported to Captain Abraham Grant in order to give him the latest update on things. But right as she walked into his office she could hear the faint sound of a clanging bottle coming from his desk and knew he was trying to hide his alcohol from her. Only, she knew him better than he thought and when she looked upon his face she could see the guilt staring right back at her. She was angry with him over it but knew now wasn't the time to bring up the issue. There were far more important things to discuss and she didn't feel like playing chaperone to a man in his early fifties. He knew better than to drink with his medical condition, but didn't seem to care.

"Nice to see you," he greeted her with an innocent friendly smile as he stood up from his chair. "I trust that you have an update for me regarding the project?"

"I do, Captain," she replied with a salute and a hard stare. "But I'm afraid you won't like the news."

"And why would you believe that?" He stroked his chin.

Lynne pursed her lips and bowed her head. "Because I haven't received a definite answer from Corporal Church yet. However he has informed me that he will think it over."

"I see," Grant replied as his smile faded. "Well you're right, I don't like the news but at the same time we haven't any reason to give up hope yet. He said he will consider the offer, that's better than a flat out no."

As Lynne listened to his words she couldn't help but stare at his features. His small brown eyes with their serious gaze and his smooth dark brown hair flecked with gray, all reminded her of her father. She remembered they had even served together in the past and became close friends. Grant had even been like a god father to her for most of her life and was now the closest thing to a family she had left. But unfortunately he was very sick and this worried her deeply.

"I suppose it is, Captain," she sighed. "But I can't help but worry that he's going to decide not to help us after all. And I'm afraid without him we are lost."

"Oh that's nonsense," Grant disagreed. "The AMF has been around for well over a hundred years, and since then we've come a long way even without the help of some young genius."

"He detests that label, Captain," Lynne mentioned. "And if we're going to get anywhere with him at all, I feel it would be in our best interest not to anger him."

"Understandable," Grant nodded. "And I completely agree. But we can't put all our eggs into one basket here. Atlantech has always been more than reliable regarding any developments, and I'm sure they could pull through for us on this one too."

"I'm not denying Atlantech's importance at all," Lynne replied. "And I also agree that they have come through for us many times in the past. But we can't forget our biggest mistake either. I even took the liberty of showing Corporal Church the remnants from that wreckage even though his reaction wasn't the most favorable. He went as far to accuse me of trying to guilt him into helping us."

"Why are you still obsessed with that mess?" Grant suddenly asked. "You make it sound as though it's bound to happen again if Corporal Church refuses to help."

Lynne looked down at the ground as the image of her father's sorrowful face flashed through her mind.

"This is all about your father isn't it?" Grant spoke as he moved over and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. "And don't tell me it isn't because I know you better than anyone around here."

"I just want to be able to do things right this time," she answered as she looked into his eyes. "So you're right, it is for him and I'm not ashamed to admit it either."

"You should never feel ashamed of that," he replied. "In fact, you--"

He was suddenly interrupted by the ringing of his phone and hurried over and picked it up.

"Hello?" He said as Lynne stood in the background wondering who it could be.

"Good afternoon to you too, Morane."

Lynne furrowed her brow at the sound of that name.

"Why, of course I'm not busy at the moment, what did you want?" Grant continued even though he couldn't ignore the sour look Lynne was giving him now. "A meeting you say? Well, I suppose I could attend it tonight. What's the issue at hand?"

Lynne clenched her fist tightly as she held herself back from disrupting their conversation.

"Well of course I would come alone," Grant mentioned. "Now what time is this meeting? Nine O' Clock?" He jotted down on a pad of paper. "Good then, I shall see you at that time."

The phone clicked as he hung it up and looked up at Lynne apologetically.

"Don't even say it," Lynne snapped. "I don't want to hear how sorry you are, that you continue to see this monster and follow his every command. He has no authority over you!"

"Lynne, please," Grant pleaded. "I'm only doing what he says so nobody here has to get hurt. As long as there is peace between he and I, then the rest of you are safe."

"That is a load of crap, Captain and you know it!" Lynne pointed at him. "He is using you and biding his time until the day you're dead and then he will shut us down for good! The AMF will become his own personal army of killers and he will use us to control the people of this city. How could be so blind as not to see it? It's right in front of you!"

"Lynne, calm down," Grant said sternly. "Don't act like I don't know what I'm doing because I am fully aware."

"The hell you are," she fired back. "And to further prove my point, I'm coming with you tonight."

"No!" Grant shouted at her as he waved his fist. "I am attending alone, and you are to stay here. That's a direct order!"

"Fine then," Lynne replied bitterly as she headed for the door. "You continue playing with fire, Captain. But sooner or later you're going to get burned. And when that happens, none of us will be able to save you. Keep that in mind."

She stormed out and slammed the door behind her. She felt her eyes water but she held back from crying and sulked off back to her office.

Captain Grant collapsed back into his chair and pulled open the drawer where he had stashed his booze, but he was hesitant to drink it now.

In the meantime Justin Church wasted no time at all once he got to The Card Shack and headed straight for the bar. Lucky for him, there weren't many other people around so the seating was plentiful. He plopped down on one of the stools and called over the bartender who was busy hanging clean glasses back up on the rack against the wall.

"Hey you, can I get something to drink?" Justin asked in a demanding tone while he anxiously drummed his fingers on the counter top.

"Just a moment, please" Enrique responded while finishing his cleanup.

"Figures," Justin mumbled under his breath when William suddenly appeared at his side.

"There's obviously something you want to talk about," William mentioned. "Drinking is only going to suppress it until it wears off, and then what?"

"Okay, what can I get for you?" Enrique asked Justin.

Justin dropped a handful of coins onto the counter. "Give me the strongest drink you've got in this joint. I don't care how bad it tastes either, just give it to me."

Enrique blinked. "Well, I've got some straight scotch, but I must warn you it doesn't always go down that easy."

"It will do," Justin replied then he turned his attention back to William. "Have a seat," Justin insisted. "Don't just stand around, get drunk with me. You know you want to."

"Actually I'd rather not," William replied. "But I don't mind sitting."

Enrique brought out an old looking bottle and popped the cork out of it and then poured some into the glass. "I'm going to start you at half a glass," Enrique said. "I can tell you're very young and this probably might be too much for you to handle."

Justin scoffed. "Age has nothing to do with it. Fill her up to the top, please."

Enrique stared at him as though he were insane. "Okay then," he shrugged as he filled the glass completely and then set it down in front of him.

William turned his head away. "I can't watch this. I already know what's coming."

Justin grabbed the glass and began chugging it down only to stop and scrunch up his face. "Oh yeah, this is bad," he winced. "But I think its working too."

William cupped a hand over his mouth and gagged. "Watching you drink like that is making me sick."

Justin took another gulp and slammed his fist down on the counter. "I feel numb already! You should really try this stuff, Will. You're missing out!"

William sighed and rested his elbows on the counter's surface. "You know I hate watching you do this to yourself? And as your friend, I think you should give it up and just come clean with whatever it is you're hiding inside right now."

Justin laughed jeeringly. "Me? I don't talk about my feelings. That's sissy stuff. Better to just drink it all away."

William frowned at him and then snatched the glass from his hands.

"Hey give that back!" Justin growled at him. "What the hell do you think you're doing!?"

"Teaching you a lesson!" William snapped back as he handed the glass back to Enrique. "Don't give him anything more. He's in no shape to handle it."

"Why, y-you, y-you--" Justin stammered. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

William glared at him. "I'm your damn friend, Church. And I won't stand for anymore of this behavior. Now we are going outside and you are going to tell me what's wrong."

Justin balled up his fist and put it up to William's face. "I will kick your ass, so help me!" He warned.

"Then do it," William said stoically as he crossed his arms. "If that's what its going to take to get you to snap out of it, then so be it."

Justin glared back at him, wanting to throw a punch but he just couldn't bring himself to do it.

"Well, I'm waiting?" William provoked. "Are you going to hit me or not?"

Justin groaned and pulled his fist away. "I can't do it."

Then he looked at William apologetically. "You're right I am being stupid right now. It's just with the way things have been lately, I just thought it was better to push it all away, you know? I mean, what the hell has happened? Why does everyone always depend on me so much. I hate it. It's not something I want."

"What are you getting at?" William asked. "I don't exactly follow you here."

"Commander Williams is asking me to be a part of something big, but the thing is, I don't think I'm ready for that."

William nodded. "She mentioned something about it to me earlier."

Justin's head shot up. "She did? Then why didn't you tell me?"

"Because she needed to tell you herself, " William replied. "You can't expect me to play messenger all the time."

Justin closed his eyes tight and made a fist again.

"She means well, Church." William mentioned. "I know she does. You just have to give it a chance."

"I just don't want to be used," Justin admitted. "That's kind of what it feels like, with her pressuring me and all. I feel like they just want to use me."

"They want to use you for a good reason," William explained. "Did she show you what they salvaged from that crash back then?"

Justin nodded. "Oh yes I saw it all right, and I still can't get the damn depressing image out of my head. I don't like seeing that sort of thing, it always strikes a nerve in me. And I feel bad for the pilot too. Talk about a horrible way of going out. Who knows where he could've gone in life? A life like that just wasted because of a stupid technical error."

Then he paused for a moment and thought about what he had just said.

"A life wasted because of an error?" He repeated himself. "Hmmm? Maybe I should help them after all. I suppose I could help a little, at least with preventing something like that from ever happening again."

"I think you should too," William agreed. "It would definitely help to get you back on the right track."

"I suppose," Justin shrugged. "By the way I'm sorry for acting so out of line. I'd never punch my best friend, you know that right?"

William didn't look very convinced.

"I'm just scared, that's all," Justin explained. "We're soldiers of course, but we're not fighting any battles, yet still we still see death all around. It reminds me how unprepared I am to deal with a real war. I don't think I could survive."

"You sound like the commander," William commented. "All this talk about a future war. I just don't see it happening. Atlantis City is isolated from the rest of the universe. No one is ever going to find us. And even if they did? I think they'd just leave us alone."

Not long after, a cab pulled up in front of the building and Victoria stepped out. After the success of her film's premiere party, she was feeling rather proud at the moment. At first she couldn't wait to tell Enrique the good news, but then just as she was about to head inside a small crowd of men and women were passing by and she overheard her name and stopped to listen.

"Did you see that new film?" One of the women asked the others.

"The one with Victoria Thompson?" Replied one of the men.

"Yep, that's one!" The woman laughed. "Talk about about your overacting. If I didn't know any better. I'd say she was drunk, but I think she's just an overrated lousy actress. "At least Natoya Stronghold has a voice for talking pictures, cause Victoria certainly does not. She's better off sticking to silent films where no one can hear her," they all laughed.

Victoria suddenly felt very bitter and agonized inside, not knowing what to think or do. She reached for the door handle and lowered her head. Right now she had felt more crushed than she'd ever been before and began to wonder if what they were saying was true. No, it can't be. They're wrong about me, she frowned. I am a good actress I know I am. Then she calmly reminded herself it was only a few people badmouthing her, and instead she would wait for the official reviews before allowing their harsh criticism to ruin her night, and so with that she flung open the door and marched right in with her head held high passing right by the bar where William and Justin were currently standing with their backs to her.

Only it didn't take long for Justin to notice her out of the corner of his eye and quickly began tapping William on the shoulder.

"Don't look now, Will," Justin announced quietly. "But there she is."

"Huh?" William replied befuddled as he turned his head to look and nearly had a heart attack.

"Oh god, it's her!" He panicked and quickly looked the other way hoping she didn't notice him. "Do you think she saw us?" He whispered.

Justin watched as she turned the corner and headed down the hallway to the game room.

"Doesn't look like it," he answered. "I wonder what she's doing here anyway? I mean, of all the places to go in Atlantis City and she chooses to come here?"

"Maxwell, we need to talk," Victoria announced as she walked into his office unexpectedly to find him rummaging through the desk drawers.

"What the bloody hell do you want?" He looked up from the desk.

She closed the door behind her and locked it then stepped forward with her hands on her hips and her eyes fixated on his.

"You damn well know," she said. "I don't even need to say anything at all."

Maxwell scoffed. "Is that so?"

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Don't you dare pretend nothing happened! You dragged me into this mess and now I can't even think straight. And do you know that I was almost mugged earlier today? And that I wanted to shoot that man dead because I think I'm losing my mind? Well, do you?"

Maxwell uttered a sigh of boredom and continued searching through his desk.

"We need to talk about this, Maxwell!" Victoria snarled as she slammed her hands down on his desk. "I need answers!"

Maxwell blinked. "Answers to what?"

"I want to know why we had to kill that man!" Victoria demanded. "Because now that I recollect, we didn't have to. We could've left the office before he even woke up. But now when I think about it, it's almost as if you wanted to kill him. Am I right or am I wrong?"

Maxwell sighed again and straightened up in his chair. "He would've charged you with assault for smashing that bottle over his head, or have you forgotten about that little detail, Miss Thompson?"

"Wait a minute then," Victoria stopped him. "Are you saying you were protecting me?"

"I was protecting my investment, which is you obviously," Maxwell rolled his eyes. "Couldn't have that man ruining your career, now could I?"

Victoria uttered a sigh of disgust then turned her back to him. "So what happens when the body is discovered?" She asked. "Could they ever find out who did it then?"

"Fat bloody chance of that happening," Maxwell smirked. "Morane will protect us, so you have nothing to worry about."

"Doesn't change the fact that it feels wrong," she sighed as she turned back around and frowned. "I've never been involved in anything like this before. I don't like it, that's for sure."

Maxwell stared at her blankly.

"I don't want to ever have to do something like this again, you hear me?" She exclaimed. "If you want to murder someone, you do it by yourself. After all, you're the one who enjoys it, I don't!

"Fine, whatever" Maxwell groaned. "But in the meantime, I have a favor to ask."

She rolled her eyes. "What is it now?"

"I need you to stick around here and act as my own personal lure." Maxwell explained. "Business has been on the slow side lately so I believe a little sex appeal could liven up the place some, maybe even encourage more participants to play the game."

"Let me get this straight," she interjected. "You want me to parade around here scantily clad just to attract more men to this joint? Especially after what you dragged me into?

"Yes, now that you put it that way, that's what I require of you," he replied.

She started laughing at him.

"You find it that amusing?" He remarked.

"Do I ever?" She chuckled. "But if I'm going to do this little favor for you, then I'd better get a percentage of the profits in exchange or no deal."

"How much then?" He asked.

"Fifty percent," she smirked and crossed her arms. "If you can't do it then we don't have a deal. I think it's only fair given the state of things."

Maxwell groaned. "Fine, then I guess fifty it is, But keep in mind that I also expect you to lure people from the outside as well."

"Done," Victoria nodded. "I suppose I should start now, right? After all the night has just begun. But first I'm going to have myself a little drink."

At that same moment, William was making a dash towards the exit when Justin ran ahead of him and got to the door first and blocked it with his body.

"Out of the way!" William panicked. "I need to get out of here before she sees me."

"Sorry, no can do," Justin shook his head while he leaned up against the door.

"Are you crazy?" William exclaimed as he attempted to shove Justin aside. "Let me through!"

Justin kept his feet anchored down onto the floor as William continued shoving and pushing.

"You're stronger than you look," William grunted. "But I'm still taller than you."

Justin yawned. "Are you going to give it up soon? Cause I'm not budging."

William smirked as he suddenly had an idea. "You have one weakness though," he mentioned.

"Oh yeah, and what's that? Justin crossed his arms.

Then without warning, William reached out and began tickling Justin's sides, watching as the young Corporal squirmed and laughed while trying to swat him away.

"S-s-stop it!" Justin begged as he couldn't stop laughing. "I'm g-g-gonna k-k-kick y-your ass!"

Soon he couldn't take it anymore and quickly moved out of the way as he lost his balance and fell to the floor.

"You cheated," he groaned as he looked up at William. "Y-you cheating bastard."

William smiled down at him. "I didn't cheat, I just happened to know you were ticklish, so I used it to my advantage. Can't blame me for outsmarting you."

Justin lay sprawled out on the carpet staring up at the ceiling. "You're free to go now obviously."

"You look so pathetic right now, soldier," William commented as he reached for the door handle. "Figured I'd admire your defeat before leaving."

Justin groaned and sat up clutching his side. "You made me laugh so hard my side hurts," he winced.

"You have my pity," William smirked before walking out the door.

"Asshole!" Justin called after him as he got back up on his feet, even though he knew he probably couldn't hear him.

He dusted himself off and decided he'd leave as well until he heard the sound of Victoria's husky voice echoing in the hallway.

"And one more thing," Victoria added as she followed Maxwell out into the lobby. "That extra room in there? I want it. It's mine."

Maxwell stopped and looked over his shoulder. "And just what use is that room to you?"

She pulled a cigarette out of her purse along with her cigarette holder and lit it. "I want to convert it to a dressing room," she explained.

Justin carefully peered around the corner and saw the two of them standing near the bar.

"If I'm going to do some dirty work around here, I'm going to need access to my wardrobe you hear?"

Dirty work? Justin thought. Now what's that all about?

"It's not like I can just go cab hopping from my home and back you know?"

Maxwell sighed. "Yes, yes I know. And that's fine. You can have the bloody room, just shut the hell up already."

Then he looked down at the floor and noticed the stain was still there and Enrique was standing behind the bar counter cleaning some glasses nonchalantly.

"You're serious about this, right?" Victoria asked.

"Yes!" Maxwell snapped back. "The room is yours! Now bug off!"

Victoria glared at him. "Temper, temper."

"That stain is still there!" Maxwell shouted and shook his fist. "Enrique!"

"Yes?" Enrique responded with indifference as he headed over.

"Whoa, easy now," Victoria suddenly raised her hands as she intervened. "What's the issue here?"

"I didn't finish cleaning the stain out of the carpet, Miss," Enrique answered. "It was very late and I was tired."

"You poor dear," Victoria cooed as she gently stroked the side of his face. "How dare he keep you here after hours. Now if I were in charge, I'd hire someone to come and clean it. That's not your job, sweetie."

Maxwell sneered at her.

"It's too bad you're not the owner, Miss Thompson," Enrique smiled and blushed. "This place would be a lot more successful, and beautiful."

She chuckled. "Oh stop trying to butter me up now." Then she looked at Maxwell. "If you want my help, then you are to stop with the abuse of this poor kid. And don't act like you haven't, cause he's told me all about your little ego trips."

Maxwell huffed. "Now suddenly I'm taking orders from you?"

She stomped her foot down. "If we are going to work together, then there are going to be some changes, Maxwell. And that requires treating people with decency and kindness. Though, I know it's something you're incapable of doing. But I'm asking you to at least pretend."

Maxwell was extremely irritated now.

"That also means, treating those soldiers with kindness too," Victoria continued. "If you want to succeed in making them lose to your poker games, you'll have to encourage them a little bit."

"Lose?" Justin said to himself quietly as he hid behind the wall.

"I'd rather not have those military scum around at all," Maxwell quipped. "But if we're going to steal from them, might as well play fair."

Victoria puffed on her cigarette and looked around the room. "Something's amiss here."

Justin began to sweat nervously now. He could see her searching around but she didn't seem to be looking for anyone.

"These walls," she griped as Justin uttered a sigh of relief. "We need to remodel the place a bit. It looks very run down."

"Well it is old," Maxwell replied. ""But where are we going to get the funds for that anyhow? You think Morane would fork over some dough just so we can tidy up around here? I don't think so."

"Relax, I'll help you out," Victoria mentioned as she took a seat at the bar. "My latest film is bound to be successful. I'm just waiting on the reviews right now."

Justin suddenly figured he'd heard enough of those two for now and started quietly heading for the exit.

"How was the premiere, Miss Thompson?" Enrique asked as he headed back behind the counter.

"It was nice," Victoria replied. "I met a lot of wonderful fans there, even some handsome ones too."

Justin paused. Could she be talking about William?

"And now Enrique, sweetie. I'd like my usual."

"Dry martini?" He asked.

"That's the one, honey," she answered as she took a seat and kicked off her shoes. " Oh My dogs are howling," she groaned in pain. "I think I could also use a nice foot massage about now."

Justin finally snuck out and closed the door carefully behind him. He wiped the sweat from his brow with his hand and made his way down the steps. There was a visible smile plastered across his face now as he thought about what Victoria had just said.

"So, some of those fans were handsome eh?" He chuckled to himself. "Oh Will is going to love hearing that."

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Last edit: 7 years 11 months ago by LadyGrimes.
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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 9

As Lynne stood in her office now she glanced over at her wall clock and noticed the captain's meeting with Morane was starting soon. She fidgeted a little, wondering if there was still time to stop him, but she knew he wouldn't listen. He was a stubborn man just like her father had been, though she knew if he were here, he probably would've intervened just the same. Her father hated Morane just as much as she did, but if it weren't for the peace treaty things would be a lot worse right now. After all, it was the people of Atlantis City who elected Morane as their ruler not the AMF.

In fact Lynne didn't even know what those people were thinking when they chose him. They were out of their minds as far as she was concerned. The man pretends to care for them when in truth, he's only out for himself but they're too blind to see it. But if there was one thing she had to give Morane credit for, then it was his ability to brainwash all those civilians into believing the AMF were their enemy when it was far from the truth, but because the AMF decided peace between the humans and Tjatey was the best solution, they were suddenly deemed traitors even though a lot of innocent men and women were being murdered in cold blood at Morane's command. Most of them chosen, simply because he doesn't like them or they disagreed with his views.

"The man is a monster," Lynne growled under her breath as she clenched her fist. "And if he hurts Captain Grant in any shape or form, I will not rest until he is dead. I swear it!"

She suddenly turned around and headed over to the view port window and looked out at the stars, knowing her father and his crew were up there somewhere in search of new resources to help keep the AMF and city going.

"It feels like you're dead," she sighed tiredly. "You've been gone for much too long and with no communication either. What did you find? Did someone find you? What happened to you father? She groaned and closed her eyes. "I know you can't hear me, and I must sound like such a fool talking to myself, but you must know that Captain Grant left a while ago to see Morane. And I know you wouldn't approve, but I couldn't stop him. I'm not you. And no matter what you expected of me, I can't ever take your place. I'm not as strong as you are, and I just wish the captain would come to his senses. He knows he can't take your place either, no one can. That's why you need to come back. Forget about the mission, it's not worth it. Atlantech will keep us going, I know it."

She glanced at the clock obsessively again and panicked. "I should be there right now. He needs my support. How could he say no?"

In the meantime it was only about five to nine when Abraham's taxi pulled up in front of the city hall building. It was a fairly new structure, only about ten years old, and it sat on the outskirts of a popular area known as the Gambler's Strip. There were sounds of chaotic shouting nearby and Abraham was suddenly on the lookout for hecklers as he stepped out of the vehicle. He knew if they were indeed hecklers, it wouldn't be the first time he'd been harassed. After all, he was in anti-military territory now, so harassment was bound to happen, but Abraham was not in the mood for any of it. He was still feeling sore over that last argument with Lynne.

She had meant well, he couldn't deny it, but he also knew she wouldn't be able to handle the meeting either. Morane was very sexist towards women and would've of taken pleasure in taunting her position of power, which would've only provoked her anger and caused more problems between them. Abraham couldn't have that, and he certainly couldn't bear to listen to Morane talk down to her in front of him as it would only anger him into doing or saying something as well. She was his god daughter and he'd do anything to keep her safe.

But for the moment he felt very tired, and even more so once he made it to the third floor after climbing the stairs. The conference room doors were wide open when he arrived and he could see the other men of the council walking in and taking their assigned seats. The lighting was dim yet it still illuminated the large rectangular shaped table in the center of the room, and all eyes were on him as soon as he walked inside. Even Morane appeared to be waiting for him as he stood in the shadows at the end of the room with his back facing him dressed in a Maroon colored three piece suit and a fat cigar between his chubby fingers. He turned around almost instantly as though he had eyes in the back of his head and greeted Abraham with a sinister looking smile and a wave of his hand.

"Grant, you look like shit," Morane remarked with a dry laugh. "Have a seat!"

"Nice to see you too, Julius," Abraham nodded as he sat down at the table.

"So tell me, how's life on the other side of the tracks?" Morane asked as he took his seat at the other end while puffing on his cigar.

"Everything is fine, thank you," Abraham replied listlessly as his eyes scanned the other faces around him.

"Well then, this meeting is now in session!" Morane announced. "We'll start off with some whiskey." He pulled out a bottle along with some small glasses. "Grant, I know you can't resist a nice drink these days, can you?"

"Was that meant to be a compliment or an insult?" Abraham sighed. "I can't seem to tell the difference anymore."

Morane laughed at him. "You have no sense of humor, Grant. Look what the AMF has done to you. It's turned you into a weak man. All those aliens you harbor over there. You should just do the right thing and kill them all."

Abraham felt speechless, but then again he remembered just who it was he was talking to.

"And what would give me the right to end their lives?" Abraham was curious to know. "What would give you the right?"

Morane glared at him. "Because they're not human," he snapped. "They don't deserve any rights. Why are you keeping them anyway? What purpose could they possibly serve? All I know is they're wasting precious resources, resources that rightfully belong to the humans."

Abraham sighed and shook his head at him as Morane just stared right back.

"You know I'm right, Grant," he insisted. "Those aliens are draining you and your people."

Meanwhile, Justin Church had just returned home for the night. It was still early for him but at the moment he wasn't feeling up to doing much of anything. He was still rather shaken up over the shooting and the remnants from that wreckage Lynne had shown him. He looked down at the floor as he walked in and saw his plaid cap still lying in the same spot from early this morning where it had fallen off his head. It reminded him of how sickly drunk he had been and also how he didn't even have the strength to make it to his own room. The very thought made him feel pathetic, and if his father had known, he'd never hear the end of it. They barely talked anymore these days because Justin had gotten tired of the criticism and the guilt trips. His father also talked about his mother a lot, but Justin barely knew her as she had died when he was only a toddler.

He really had no memory of her at all, just an old sepia toned photo of her face he kept hidden away along with a bunch of other things. Still there were times where he wondered how different things would be if she were still alive. Maybe his father wouldn't have turned out to be such a jerk and he'd be more supportive of Justin's choices. Truth be told, joining the AMF was not Justin's decision, It was his father's. But over time, Justin became accustomed to it and the other people. He couldn't deny it was a good decision and he'd made a lot of good friends who offered him the support his father couldn't give. Only now a lot more was expected from him, and he didn't know if he could live up to those expectations.

For someone very intellectual and inventive, he was also very disorganized and his place was an absolute mess. His kitchen counter was covered with mechanical parts and he had large boxes stacked against the walls which were also filled with different parts he'd collected from dumping grounds. Even his latest little tweak was a small toaster sitting on his coffee table. He walked over and sat down on the couch and leaned forward to have a look at it. From what he could tell it still needed a lot of work, but he wasn't in the mood to mess with it now. Then he noticed something else sitting on the table. It was an old model fighter jet he'd had since he was a little boy. He picked it up and looked it over in his hands. It was hand painted silver with green striping down the wings.

His eyes glistened as he remembered back when he first painted it and felt so proud of himself. It was a time where he actually wanted to be a pilot and his father had taken him to see the airfield for the first time. Justin was enamored then, but the older he got the more his father kept pushing it on him and telling him that it's what his mother would've wanted. But in the end he enlisted, but not only because his father wanted him to, he did it to get away from him. Here he had more freedom and he could come and go as he pleased, even if it meant breaking a few rules here and there.

But now that a curfew had been set, Justin knew he'd have to figure something out if he ever wanted to stay out late again. Especially after overhearing Maxwell and Victoria's conversation. They were up to no good and were obviously planning something big. He knew about the deceptive poker games they held there ever so often, but he was far more interested in the big fish at the moment, no matter how tempting it all sounded.

But as of now, his focus was on this model plane in his hands and all he could think about is what he could do to modify such a design and make it stronger. The first thing that came to mind was the armor. If he could come up with a way to make it almost impenetrable to any kind of attack, it would better the pilot's chances of survival. Then he thought long and hard about that jet which had taken that man's life. There must be some kind of clue left in the wreckage that could explain why it failed, Justin thought. It must be something they overlooked. Then his eyes suddenly darted over to the video phone sitting on the kitchen counter and he set the model plane down and stood up.

At the same moment, Lynne was still sulking inside her office worrying about Captain Grant and hoping everything was fine. She knew Morane wasn't going to kill him, but she was also aware of how heated some of their arguments became.

"I should've gone with him," she sighed. "Why did I let him stop me?"

Then suddenly she noticed something flashing on her monitor's screen. It was an incoming video call message from Justin Church. She didn't feel like talking to him but she knew it must be important so she quickly wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her uniform and touched the screen to accept the call.

"Evening, Corporal Church," she said.

"Commander," Justin gave a salute.

"May I ask why you're calling now?" Lynne asked even though she knew the answer.

Justin sighed. "I'm in. I've decided I'm going to help you guys after all."

Lynne felt ecstatic. "That's wonderful news, Corporal Church," she smiled. "I can't even begin to tell you how happy that makes me."

"Glad to know," Justin chuckled a little. "But I have a request to make, if you don't mind?"

"A request?" Lynne replied. "No, go right ahead and ask."

"I need to see that wreckage again," Justin explained. "I might even have to take it apart some as well. I want to find out what's responsible for that fatality."

"That's perfectly fine, Corporal," Lynne answered. "However I must inform you that what you saw inside the garage is not all of it. Atlantech has the rest in their facility."

"Could I see that as well?" Justin asked. "I'm going to need to see everything before we even get started. It's kind of crucial that I do."

"Oh, that shouldn't be a problem at all," Lynne explained. "I'll just have to give Artis a call and ask for permission. I'm sure he wouldn't mind. After all, you two will be working together on this design. Now if you don't mind me asking, what is it that changed your mind?"

Justin paused. "I just--I just decided it was the right thing to do. Now if you don't mind me asking, were you crying? Cause it looks like you were."

Lynne suddenly felt very embarrassed. "I was," she admitted shamefully. "Captain Grant has gone over to meet with Morane and I don't like it. We even got into a fight over it as well. So yes, I'm very angry and bitter for the moment, but your good news makes me feel a whole lot better. I'm sure the captain will be thrilled as well."

"Sorry to hear that," Justin replied. "But at least the captain knows what he's doing."

Lynne shook her head. "No, I disagree with you there. But I don't feel like getting into it right now. Anyway, I thank you for taking the time to call me and I'm glad to finally have you on board. We're going to start first thing in the morning, so I suggest you stay in tonight and get some sleep, Corporal."

"Got it," Justin nodded. "I didn't much feel like going out tonight anyway. I've seen too much lately."

"Believe me, Corporal, I know exactly what you mean," Lynne replied. "Anyway, I must cut this call short, because I need to check in with the girls in the tower."

"Not a problem," Justin said. "I've got my own work to attend to right now as well. So, I guess I'll see you dark and early in the morning?"

"Good night, Corporal Church," Lynne responded as his image went black on her screen.

She turned her head and looked at the wall clock again to check and see when the meeting was ending. It was now twenty-five to ten, so she knew it was coming to a close soon.

Back in the conference room at city hall, Abraham Grant was now feeling very agitated and just about ready to get up and leave. The meeting had gone absolutely no where and instead, it seemed like nothing more than a blatant excuse to belittle him and the AMF. Abraham hated to admit it, but Lynne was right and he never should've attended this meeting. In fact he was still offended over the way Morane spoke about the Tjatey survivors. Abraham understood why the people of Atlantis feared and hated them, but it was all in the past. Earth was gone, the humans had moved on and built this city to start over, and yet the grudge was still there.

"Well I'm bored now," Morane announced out of the blue as he kept his eyes on Abraham. "So we're just going to end this thing early. I need to take a piss. Meeting adjourned!"

As everyone else began to stand and head out, Morane kindly asked Abraham to stay behind.

"Close the door," Morane demanded him as he eyed the other members of the council who were still inside. "The rest of you fucks get out of here! I'd like to have a word in private with Captain Grant here."

The rest of the men left as quickly as possible leaving Morane and Abraham alone in the room. And as soon as they were gone the first thing Morane did was pour himself another drink as Abraham looked on.

"You disappoint me, Grant," Morane commented. "I'll be honest here, I expected a lot more from you than what I got." He smirked.

Abraham narrowed his eyes and bared his teeth.

"You didn't even drink the whiskey! Morane remarked in disappointment. "You know how much that shit costs to make? The resources are limited here. Not like it was on Earth you know?"

"What the hell do you want from me, Morane?" Abraham snapped. "Or am I just your own personal scapegoat around here?"

Morane took a swig from his glass. "Friendship, Grant," he replied. "I want your friendship and your trust. I want us to join forces and eliminate all possible threats in the universe. Starting with the Tjatey of course."

"The AMF does not wish to join you," Abraham replied angrily. "You turned the people of Atlantis against us, and you banned our people from ever entering your part of the city, so why don't you just go to hell!"

Morane sighed and shook his head while he poured himself another drink. "I don't like you when you're defensive. It ruins the fun."

"So this is all just a game to you then?" Abraham exclaimed. "Then you wonder why the AMF never had anything to do with you, and why we only coexist because of the peace treaty?"

Morane sneered. "Fuck the peace treaty! Why, if it weren't for my respect for you, Grant, I'd wipe my own ass with it."

"And what respect would that be?" Abraham fired back. "Because I haven't seen such a thing from you since day one of our first encounter."

Morane grinned. "You still remember that day, don't you?"

Abraham glowered at him. "Because you never let me forget."

There was now silence between them as they stood face to face. A corner of Morane's mouth lifted and there was a gleam in his eye as he reached down into his pants pocket and pulled something out. At first Abraham was unsure of what it was but as soon as he heard the click and saw the large curved blade protruding from it, it all came back to him.

"Remember my old combat knife?" Morane grinned as he held it up and gazed admiringly at the blade. "Of course you do, I see it in your eyes."

Abraham started slowly backing away but Morane began to follow him.

"You're still the same scared piece of shit as you were back then, Grant," Morane smirked as he pointed the knife in his face. "Just look at you now. You might be much older, but you haven't changed. You're still afraid of me and afraid of what I might do. And to think, you've kept our dirty little secret all these years."

"Because you didn't leave me with a choice," Abraham replied wearily. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like to leave."

Morane closed the blade up and put it away again. "Then go. Get the fuck out of here," he waved his hand. "But just remember this, Grant. I still own your ass and I will until the day you die."

Abraham didn't have anything more to say to him so he left quietly, but even as he turned his back and grabbed the door handle, he could still feel Morane's eyes on him and the feeling made him sick. Even seeing that blade again brought back the same feelings he endured as a young soldier back then and now the memory wouldn't leave him. He needed to hide away now, he needed to drink and be alone. Lynne wasn't going to be happy with him, but she didn't need to know either. Instead he'd just hide it from her as usual.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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7 years 11 months ago #23366

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 10

It appeared things had gotten a lot busier at The Card Shack at this hour, especially the bar, and all because of Victoria and her charming personality as she gallivanted around in a little black and silver beaded dress which showed off her nice legs while sweet talking the men into sticking around and getting drunk with her. For now it seemed everything was going just as Maxwell planned and he was quite pleased with her contribution while Enrique on the other hand seemed a little envious of these patrons and had to remind himself that she was only doing it to bring them more business. Not only that, but he was definitely making more money now because of her and for that alone he was grateful.

But while he was busy serving customers it didn't take long for him to spot an all too familiar face among the rest. It was that young guy in the leather jacket again standing in the background looking rather annoyed that his usual seat at the end was taken. Enrique realized it too but there wasn't much he could do either, even though the current drunk sitting there kept knocking over his glass every time he gestured with his hands while he spoke. It was irritating as hell and Enrique seemed to be struggling to do all he could in preventing that drink from spilling onto the floor. We don't need another stain, he thought narrowing his eyes at that man. Unless he wants to clean it up. But Enrique's frustration suddenly vanished once Victoria headed over to commend him for his hard work.

"You're doing great, sweetie," she smiled as she gave him a quick peck on the cheek, all while Brian stood watching in the background. "Keep this up, and you won't go unrewarded."

Enrique blushed as he began wiping down the counter after that same man had knocked over his glass again, only this time Victoria noticed it too and decided enough was enough.

"I think you've had enough to drink for one night," she mentioned as she came up behind the man and placed her hands on his shoulders. "Come on now let's get you out of here before you hurt yourself."

He staggered around as he stood up from the stool. "Are you coming home with me?" He asked nearly falling into her.

Victoria rolled her eyes as she started pushing him towards the door. "No I'm not. Now off you go, buddy. This ain't no red light district. You'll have to get your jollies somewhere else."

In the meantime Brian was quick to take his seat back as soon as that man had left and was already beginning to feel much better as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it.

"Back so soon again?" Enrique remarked as soon as he noticed him. "Have you nowhere else to go?"

Brian puffed on his cigarette in silence as he stared back at him.

"Well, can I assume that you want your usual glass of water then?" Enrique asked.

"I think I finally get it," Brian suddenly mentioned catching Enrique off guard. "The reason why you stick around here? It's all too obvious now."

"Huh?" Enrique responded with confusion.

"I saw her kiss you on the cheek," Brian pointed out. "I noticed your reaction too. You like her don't you?"

Enrique sighed and lowered his head sheepishly. "It's the mixed signals I don't like. One minute she's sweet with me, then the next she's ordering me around."

Brian raised a brow. "So, what are you saying? Are you saying she's playing you?"

"Oh, no no no," Enrique shook his head. "I know she's not playing me, but I hate it when she sweet talks me you know? Like she acts like she has a thing for me and then she doesn't. You follow?"

"No," Brian answered. "And it's called manipulation. That's the word you're looking for. She uses her sex appeal to get what she wants, and those kind of women are bad news all around."

Enrique had to disagree with him. "No, not her. She's not like that at all."

"You keep telling yourself that then," Brian replied. "If she didn't manipulate you, then you wouldn't be here. You told me she ran into you and just hired you on the spot? That sort of thing just doesn't happen. She saw you were desperate and she took advantage of that."

Enrique turned and watched as Victoria flirted and teased some men in the lobby, wondering if there was any truth to Brian's words.

"She does protect me from Maxwell though," Enrique mentioned. "If it weren't for her, who knows what he'd have me doing right now?"

Brian frowned at him. "They're both bad news. Why else do you think they own a place like this in slumsville? You need to wake up already."

"I am awake," Enrique scowled back at him. "And I refuse to listen to you any longer. Why, you seem like nothing more than some troubled youth with the way you prowl around here with your leather jacket and sour face. You never have anything nice to say about anyone either. And you know what else I think?"

"No, what else?" Brian quipped with anger.

Enrique huffed. "I think you have no business telling me who is bad or good when you yourself, can't even let go of some kind of grudge against the military. That alone makes you sound like a spiteful person which would also explain why you don't have any friends."

Brian scoffed but he knew Enrique was right. He didn't have any friends at all and he was a very bitter person deep inside, but he had his reasons.

"If you don't let go of that grudge of yours, it's only going to eat you up inside," Enrique warned. "And besides, how bad could it even be?"

Brian couldn't even look him in the eye now, instead he just quietly slid himself off the bar stool and started to walk away. Enrique watched him knowing he struck a nerve but he didn't feel the least bit sorry. Whatever it was that he was harboring inside, he needed to deal with it as far as Enrique was concerned. He was tired of his bitterness anyway, and would rather be surrounded by drunk patrons than listen to any more of Brian's brooding. Though he knew Brian was somewhat right about Victoria and Maxwell, but still it didn't matter to him. He was making decent money right now that would help to put food on the table for his mother and siblings, and that's all that mattered.

Once more Victoria headed back over to Enrique to hug and commend him before making her way upstairs to Maxwell's office to boast about their success.

While at that moment, Maxwell himself was seated in his chair chatting on the phone with a potential colleague when she suddenly came barging in unannounced.

"Your plan worked!" She exclaimed excitedly as she plopped herself down on top of his desk and crossed her legs

"The game is set for tomorrow night," Maxwell explained over the phone as he tried to tune her out by cupping a hand over his other ear.

"Well it seems you're officially back in businizz, Mr. Graham," Victoria proclaimed with a bad French accent.

Maxwell rolled his eyes and resumed his phone call. "Of course you're going to win," he said. "You think I go to all the trouble of arranging the deck for nothing? Just sit where I tell you to, that's all you have to do. The winning hand will be yours, I guarantee it."

"Is that a new vest?" Victoria commented. "I don't believe I've seen you wear that before."

"Well I look forward to working with you as well, Mr. Ramone is it?" Maxwell said. "Just make sure you show up for the game at Six 'O clock. That's six in the evening, not the bloody morning."

Victoria smirked at him.

"If you show up here late tomorrow, you get nothing and I'll have someone else on hand for backup," Maxwell explained. "Fine then, good night to you too." Maxwell hung up.

"So who's the new guy?" Victoria asked.

"First of all, off the desk!" Maxwell ordered as he stood up from his chair. "And second, the guy is off limits to you. He's only coming here to win for us, not to fraternize in any manner, so don't get any ideas, Miss Thompson."

"Fine then," Victoria replied in a haughty manner as she scooted herself off the desk and plopped down into his chair. "But are you going to thank me or not?"

Maxwell nodded. "Yes, yes, fine. Thank you for your help tonight. I'm going to need it again tomorrow night."

"You should be thanking Enrique too, Maxwell," she said slyly. "After all, he has been a busy little bee tonight. Especially after helping me with the order."

Maxwell raised a brow. "What order?"

"Well, since you asked for my help, I went ahead and purchased some high end booze for the joint."

Maxwell's jaw dropped. "You what!? And where in hell did you get the money for that?"

"Oh cool it," she quipped. "I chipped in a little of my own. I figured with the money I'll be making back for my new film, it was something I could afford. You're welcome by the way."

Maxwell smacked himself on the forehead.

"Is that how you show gratitude?" She remarked. "By the way it was Morane's idea, and since he owns the distillery I figured why not? I got a decent deal on it. This isn't prohibition anymore you know? And if you want to run a fine business, you need to be smart about it."

Maxwell blinked. "And how in bloody hell do you know anything about running a business, Miss Thompson? You can't even manage your own career."

"My father was a successful entrepreneur," she smirked. "So it runs in my blood too. Just ask me anything."

Maxwell couldn't help but scoff at her. He believed she was nothing but a fool but she was a fool he still needed at the moment and so he would just continue to play along for now.

"I'll just take your word for it," he grinned. "But right now you need to get back down there and keep them drinking. Get them stupid drunk if you can. The longer they stay here the better off we'll be. The same goes for any of those morons from the AMF. They couldn't stay away before and surely with you here, they won't stay away now."

"On my way," she replied as she headed out the door. "But remember our deal, Maxwell? Fifty percent is mine."

"Yes, but of course," he sneered.

Meanwhile back at the AMF's airbase tower, Lynne Williams had just finished explaining everything about the project to the four flight control officers. They were all young women, a few of them fresh graduates from the AMF Academy, but they had been personally chosen for their skills and attentiveness. Grace Hanes, the oldest of the four was the most loyal of them all. She seemed to be the only one who truly understood their commanding officer, and didn't mind giving her pep talks either once in a while. Lynne felt somewhat drawn to Grace, but not because she was older, but because of her sweet and caring nature.

Whenever Lynne arrived, Grace was always the first to greet her and also the last to leave at the end of her shift. She always seemed so concerned about Lynne's emotional well being and often asked her to join her and the other girls for an outing even though she already knew the answer. She knew Lynne had her guard up as usual, but little by little she managed to tear it down. Even now as defensive and prudent as Lynne behaved, Grace knew there was something going on.

"Now that I've successfully acquired Corporal Church's cooperation on this project, we are moving forward immediately," Lynne announced to the girls.

Lucy snickered as she removed her headset. "What did you have to bribe him with this time?"

"There was no bribery involved," Lynne replied. "He volunteered himself willingly. And I must inform you that Atlantech already has plans to upgrade everything up here including the radar, which all of you will be required to learn. But seeing how you're already familiar with the old system, it shouldn't be much different."

"What about simulation tests?" Mipsy's head perked up. "Are those getting an upgrade as well?"

Lynne nodded. "Yes there are plans for that as well. Atlantech is even working on that as we speak. It is their number one priority because without those tests our pilots could never learn to fly as well as they do now. Anymore questions?"

Grace appeared hesitant as she suddenly spoke up. "What's going on with the captain? Where is he in all of this?"

"Yeah, I haven't seen him in days," Lucy chimed in. "What's going on with him, is he sick?"

"He's, he's-- Lynne paused.

Mipsy's blue eyes were wide and full of worry now.

"He's fine," Lynne sighed. "I just spoke with him personally a few hours ago, but he had a meeting to attend."

Grace shook her head slowly.

"It feels like you've taken over these days," Lucy commented.

"Yeah," Mipsy agreed. "It's almost as if he doesn't want to be here anymore. Is that true? Has he given up on us?"

"No, he hasn't," Lynne suddenly came to his defense. "He's just dealing with some issues, that's all. He's not giving up and neither should we. We're here for a reason, remember that."

Grace eyed Lynne with concern as she quietly got up from her seat and left for the break room. Lucy and Mipsy followed her while Alley Sterling remained in her seat blaring jazz music through her headset as she played a virtual game of blackjack on her station monitor. It seemed as though she didn't hear a word of what Lynne was telling them or that she didn't care.

Lynne scowled at her. "Officer Sterling," she barked. "What do you think you're doing?"

Alley pursed her lips as she removed the headset and looked over her shoulder up at Lynne.

"Now I've been patient with you, Sterling," Lynne said sternly. "Very patient, in fact I even let the few times I've caught you smoking in here, slide. But that ends now. You may not want to be here and that's fine. You're welcome to relinquish your position at any time, but when I'm talking to you, you are to listen to me, understood?"

Alley huffed. "Yeah, understood," she uttered in her deep voice as she brushed her long frizzy blonde hair out of her face. "Think I'm gonna smoke now."

Lynne narrowed her eyes at her. "You're lucky I have a lot of respect for your brother."

Alley scoffed. "The guy is a wimp. But I'm glad somebody has respect for him, cause it sure ain't gonna be me."

Hearing these words only made Lynne realize how bad life at home must be for William, especially living with a half sister who doesn't seem to care for him at all. She knew little about their childhood growing up, but she was aware of the hair pulling and teasing William did to her as a little girl. He was the one who told her about it from the beginning just so she could try to understand Alley's spitefulness towards him.

Even the other girls seemed to give her hell about her hair since they all had bobs and she chose to keep hers long and unkempt. But after all the problems and stress she caused, Lynne didn't feel the least bit sorry for her. As it was, Lynne found it hard to have sympathy for anyone these days, but a select few with whom she were close. The way she saw it, her sympathy was something to be earned and not outright given.

But as of right now she knew it was getting late, and once again she found herself glancing at the clock wondering when Captain Grant was returning so she could tell him the good news. It was now a quarter past ten, so she was hopeful that he was already back in his office safe and sound, but just to be sure she would have to check and see for herself. Now as she started leaving the control room she wondered just how the conversation between Grant and Morane must have gone. She knew it couldn't be good, it never was, but she also wondered if the captain would even tell her about it in the first place. Their last argument told her otherwise, and now she would have to brace herself for another one because she would refuse to leave his office until he came clean with her and told her exactly everything that was said.

But a few moments later Mipsy was standing in the doorway of the break room munching on a cookie as Lynne suddenly passed right by without even acknowledging her. Mipsy watched her with curiosity for a few seconds before turning and heading back into the room with the other two women. Grace was seated at the table drinking a cup of coffee while Lucy was fawning over some dresses in a clothing catalog. And as soon as Mipsy finished her cookie she headed straight for the round tin sitting on the table and helped herself to another.

"Grace these cookies are to die for," Mipsy commented. "I should've stopped at one but I just can't help myself."

"Thank you, dearie," Grace smiled. "It's an old family recipe."

"You should try these, Lucy," Mipsy said. "You don't know what you're missing."

"Thanks but no thanks," she replied. "I've got to watch my figure if I want to squeeze into one of these dresses."

"Let me see?" Mipsy asked as she wandered over to look at the catalog. "Oh I like that one with the bows," she pointed out right away.

"I do too," Lucy nodded then looked over at Grace. "Some of these would even look good on you. It's a good thing they don't make them all one size only."

Grace scoffed. "You're not taking jabs at my weight now are ya, dearie?"

Lucy gasped. "Goodness no. You're perfect just the way you are. Why, sometimes Mipsy and I are jealous of your curves."

"I'm flattered," Grace batted her lashes.

"Well, you do have Justin Church pining after you," Lucy couldn't resist mentioning. "That boy is so desperate I tell you."

Grace groaned and covered her ears. "Don't even mention his name to me. Why, it's bad enough I have to go out of my way to avoid him all the time."

Mipsy giggled. "Do you think Stan Winston is a cuddler?"

"He's an odd one," Lucy replied. "I don't even think he's into women to be honest."

Mipsy and Grace gasped. "No," they both uttered in unison.

"I call it as I see it," Lucy shrugged. "He didn't even react to our flirting earlier, so what does that tell you?"

Grace sipped her coffee nonchalantly.

"Well if he's a homo, then that would explain why he's always around William," Mipsy suggested. "But we all know for sure that William isn' know what."

"People do have their secrets around here," Lucy added while she poured herself a cup of coffee. "Personally I think William and Lynne have something going on."

"Say what?" Grace remarked as her olive green eyes widened. "You can't be serious?"

"I saw them walking together the other night," Lucy explained. "Not hand in hand or anything, but they walked side by side the way some couples do."

Grace had to disagree with her because she knew Lynne better than they did.

"She doesn't let anyone get close to her," Grace explained. "I've seen Artis even try to flirt with her, she's indifferent to it. So whatever it is you think she's got with William? It's not romantic by any means."

"Well maybe it should be?" Lucy suggested. "She needs somebody for crying out loud. She's always so moody around us. It's like she has no sense of humor either."

Grace sighed. "She misses her father too much. I've tried to tell her not to give up hope but, it's been a long time now. Long enough that it's possible he won't be coming back anytime soon. And that is something she has got to accept."

Lucy nodded. "Well I still say she should find herself a decent man."

Grace rolled her eyes. "Having a man in her life isn't going to make her happy. Only she can make herself happy. It's a choice, dearie."

"So is eating these cookies," Mipsy chimed in as she suddenly put the lid back on the tin. "I can't eat anymore or I'm going to make myself sick."

Grace pulled the tin away from her. "Guess I'll just have to hide these then."

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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7 years 11 months ago #23373

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 11

It was just after midnight when Justin Church had awoken from a bad dream and realized he'd fallen asleep on the couch in his uniform. It was dark inside the room and he felt rather disoriented and startled as he sat up. "Come on, it was only a dream," he told himself as he rubbed his eyes then spotted the toy model jet still sitting on the table where he left it. A bad dream but still a dream nonetheless. He still felt tired but also completely restless and even hungry since he skipped out on eating dinner last night. But tried as he could he just couldn't fall back asleep, especially once his stomach started to ache and growl forcing him to get up and head into the kitchen to find something to silence it.

First he checked the small fridge but was disappointed to find it was practically empty. He pulled a face and groaned as he closed the door and then checked the little pantry beside it. There were still some canned goods left and a box of rice crackers but it was still very much slim pickings. "No more carbs, please," Justin muttered to himself as he suddenly decided on a can of applesauce.

"This will have to do," he sighed with disappointment. "The mess hall won't have anything till morning."

He then grabbed a spoon and ate right out of the can while looking out his window. In the distance he could see the bright and colorful lights of the city. It was a beautiful sight for sure and it made him wonder about what he was probably missing out on right now, only he knew he couldn't risk venturing out tonight even if he wanted to because of his commitment to the new project and also because of that lame curfew. Still he couldn't deny the mixed emotions he felt about getting involved in something big like this. He knew he was doing it for the greater good but at the same time he didn't know if it was something he was even ready for.

Of course he would have to start off by dismantling that mass of a wreckage and the thought of even touching those remains scared him deeply, but he knew it had to be done. Still he couldn't help but wonder what the condition of the pilot's body must have been in when he was pulled from it all. Must have been burnt to a cinder, Justin thought as he finished eating and set the empty can down then headed back over to the couch to try and sleep again. I wonder if he had any family left behind? He wondered as he tucked one of the cushions behind his head and attempted to doze off. Maybe a brother, or a sister even?

But right at that very same moment, Brian Smith was standing outside the gates of the Atlantis City mausoleum. His expression was sullen as he clutched the charred looking dog tags around his neck tightly before walking through and heading inside the building. It was dark and quiet inside with no one else around. The walls on both sides were lined with grave markers and Brian walked down the hall until he found the one he was looking for. It was the grave of his older brother Robert Smith and he knelt down before it and bowed his head still clutching the dog tags as he closed his eyes. He could feel the tears as they began to flood his eyes now but he quickly wiped them away with the sleeve of his jacket.

"Happy twenty-fourth birthday, brother," Brian spoke somberly. as he stared at the epitaph on the grave. "I still miss you and wish you were still here." He sighed. "I still haven't forgotten either. I can't. And every time I see them it's all I can think about. I'll never forgive them for letting you die. Never."

Meanwhile as the night went on, William Sterling was just as restless as Justin, if not worse. But instead of sitting around and doing nothing he decided to go for a walk. He knew it was now past curfew at the base, but he didn't care. He had something he needed to do before he lost the motivation and courage to do it. There was a hand written letter sealed away in an envelope addressed to Victoria in one hand and a single rose in the other as he made his way back to The Card Shack. He wasn't even sure if she was still there at this hour, but still it was a chance he was willing to take. But once he arrived there was little to no activity around but he knew he wouldn't stay long.

At first he stood across the street peering from around the corner of a building to see if anyone was coming out. He worried that once he made his move that would be the exact moment she'd walk right out and see him. The thought of that alone was enough to cause him panic, but enough was enough, he had to do this. He sighed deeply as he looked down at the letter, knowing he'd signed it as her secret admirer. The letter itself was short but sweet, praising her for her work while also telling her how much she means to him without trying to come across like some kind of creep. It had also been something he'd been meaning to do for a long time now but just never had the courage. But after seeing her face to face at the premiere party even as he held that stupid pen, something clicked inside him. It was the moment where he finally met her in person for the first time and it was amazing, but he wanted more.

Time felt frozen as he continued watching the building now, fearful of making his move, but he knew it was now or never. He exhaled deeply before he quickly darted across the empty street and walked up the steps to the front of the entrance and set the letter and rose down in front of it. His heart was pounding even faster now as he realized that at any second someone could come walking out that door and see him, so he after he carefully arranged it he took off back across the street again to wait. After a few moments a couple cars passed by and every now and then a person would walk by as well, but no one seemed to be coming out of the building.

"What am I even doing?" William sighed. "This is stupid. I'm obviously just wasting my time." Then he paused for a moment.

"What would Justin do or even say in this situation?" He tried to think but the only thought that came to mind disgusted him.

"He'd tell me I should stand right outside the door waiting like a fool and ask her out. Well that's not going to happen. I'm doing things my way."

He huffed as he began pacing back and forth anxiously, wishing she would just come outside already and see what he'd left her.

"Please, I'm begging you," he looked heavenward. "I've never asked for anything in my entire life." He sighed as he shifted his gaze towards the door again.

"I'll never ask you for anything again, just give me this one thing, please?"

He suddenly felt a slight chill coming from the cold air around him since it was the month of February in Atlantis City and the temperature had been adjusted in a manner that simulated the winter season of Earth. William began rubbing the palms of his hands together to keep them warm.

"It's getting too cold now," he sighed. "I should probably just head back. If she finds it, great, if not, then I guess that's fine too."

Everything seemed hopeless now as he turned to leave but then the moment he'd been waiting for finally happened.

He heard the door open and quickly ducked behind the building to wait and see who it was. His heart was pounding anxiously now as he noticed someone walk out and look down.
And much to his dismay, it was none other than Maxwell Graham.

"What in bloody hell is this?" Maxwell muttered as he picked up the letter and rose.

William's heart sunk now. Of all the people in Atlantis to find it, and it had to be him? Why god, why?

But just as William felt like everything was hopeless now, Maxwell suddenly opened the door and called to Victoria.

"Miss Thompson I believe this garbage is for you," he retched.

And then she finally walked out and William could hardly believe it.

"It looks like a letter to me," Victoria commented as she snatched it out of Maxwell's hand. "Oh and a rose too. How lovely. Wonder who it's from?"

"Beats the hell out of me," Maxwell remarked. "Now can we resume closing up for the night or not?"

William watched blithely from behind the building as Victoria looked around suspiciously. Right at this moment he was feeling very accomplished and enamored. It was a feeling he hadn't felt before in his life and it was great.

"I'll have to read this later," Victoria mentioned as Maxwell locked the door. "Still I wonder who it's from? And why do I have the sneaking suspicion they're still around here?"

William could feel his heart pounding even faster now.

"Because they most certainly are," Maxwell remarked. "And if I run into that clown, you bet your ass I'm going to shoot them."

"Shoot me?" William whispered fearfully to himself. "What is wrong with this guy?"

Then without warning Victoria suddenly stomped on Maxwell's foot. "You're not shooting anyone you damn fool! The man who left this for me is clearly a sweetheart and a good person, unlike someone else I know."

William blushed and smiled.

"Or a pervert," Maxwell winced in pain as he grabbed his foot.

"Well, whatever. I'm calling it a night," Victoria announced as she started heading off leaving Maxwell behind.

Maxwell muttered something to himself as he finished locking up and then he left as well, heading in the opposite direction.

William looked heavenward again. "Thank you, whoever or whatever you are. You've truly made me the happiest guy alive."

In the meantime Stan Winston had finally arrived to see Morane for a regular debriefing session in his office before it got too late. Morane was seated at his desk still drinking the same bottle of whiskey from his meeting with Abraham earlier as he waited. He sat in the dark as he held the bottle and stared briefly at the wedding band on his finger when Stan suddenly walked in and closed the door behind him.

"You know something?" Morane spoke in an irate tone of voice as he glowered at the android. "I almost suspected you wouldn't show up."

Stan didn't even respond as he stood in front of Morane's desk, but his eyes were focused on him and he immediately picked up on the man's stress levels.

"You are loyal to me, are you not?" Morane asked him as he put the bottle down.

"Yes, I am," Stan answered.

"And I know that if I ask you to do anything, you'll do it without question, correct?" Morane continued.

Stan eyed the bottle of whiskey, fully aware that Morane was drunk.

"Yes," Stan answered.

"Good," Morane smirked as he suddenly pulled out a list with a bunch of names on it. "Because in that case, I need you to start doing more for me than just spying on the AMF. It's not enough these days. People are speaking up and quickly turning against me, and I can't have that you see?"

"Yes, I understand completely," Stan replied.

"I need you to kill for me, Stan," Morane blurted out as he handed him the list. "These names, I need to you to scan them into your database right now so I can destroy it. But those are the names of people who will be the first to go."

Stan studied the list while recording each into his memory, but then he noticed one of the names had already been crossed out.

"Why is the name Melvin Phillips crossed off?" Stan inquired.

The corners of Morane's mouth lifted to reveal a sinister smile. "Because he's already dead. And to think I had plans of doing it myself? But you know how that shit is."

Stan made an internal note of that and continued scanning the rest of the list.

"Do you know why I'm asking you to do this and not just hiring some top notch hit man?" Morane asked him.

Stan's expression was impassive as he listened and recorded these words. "No, I do not know."

"Because you're the only one who can get away with it," Morane explained. "You're not human, you've got nothing you can leave behind as far as evidence goes. Not only that, but you're strong as fuck on top of it all. A single struggle with you and it's all over for the victim. No one stands a chance against you, Stan. You're perfect."

"I am aware of my capabilities," Stan replied. "Was I built for murder?"

Morane nodded. "Absol-fucking-lutely. Now hurry up and finish with that list. We need to hook you up to the computer so I can catch up on the latest dirt. I'm sure your friends in the military had plenty to say about me. Speaking of which, they don't suspect a thing at all do they?"

"They suspect nothing," Stan answered him. "They trust me completely."

"Well for your sake, I hope you're right," Morane replied. "But I think in order to gain their complete trust, you're gonna have to do a little more bonding with these people. You see, the more you disappear on them the more suspicious they become, and I can't have that so you're going to have to spend more time with them, which means if they ask you to go with them someplace? You fucking go and don't ask questions. Understood?"

"Yes," Stan answered.

"But do try to avoid those women," Morane warned. "Cause I'm sure those harlots would just love to stick their hands where they don't belong, and then your cover would definitely be blown. In fact better to avoid any fucks that come onto you, period. Got it?"

"Got it," Stan answered.

"Good," Morane nodded. "Now get over here so we can get this over with so I can get the fuck to bed already."

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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7 years 11 months ago #23382

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