Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

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

I'm optimistic for the most part but I'm not going to lie or sugar coat the situation either. I have breast cancer so I'm probably not going to live very long. One or two years depending on how fast it spreads to all my organs. My liver and colon are already in bad shape because of other issues.

So moving on in my case simply means I need to make my own burial arrangements so everything is taken care of when the inevitable comes. And since I've opted to be cremated like my husband, I need to get my own urn and arrange to have both of us interred in either the ground or a mausoleum. There wasn't a funeral for my husband so I'm not planning one for myself either. Just lay us to rest and be done with it lol.

I have to laugh or else I would just cry and I'm sick of tears. I just hope the afterlife is kinder to me than this one has been. With all the tragic shit I've endured, you would think I was cursed or something, good lord.

But enough of that, I'm not trying to be a debbie downer here, just being realistic, given the way things are. There have been good things too in my life, I just wish they had the power to outweigh the bad, but sadly they don't. Oh well lol.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
1 year 6 months ago #27299

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Replied by ds55 on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Good to hear from u
Macross forever :D

#Biden not my President!
1 year 6 months ago #27300

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

Damn that sux. The breast cancer, not the next bit of your story. I continue to send the healing vibes and the hugs. Use them as you see fit. BTW, the story continues to be good!
The following user(s) said Thank You: LadyGrimes
1 year 6 months ago #27341

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

Thank you very much <3 I'm also glad you're enjoying the story.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
1 year 6 months ago #27344

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

I've been busy working on the new character profile images, that I also hope to make a trading card set with. So here's a preview of a couple that are nearing completion.
This just shows William and Victoria so far, but Justin is getting there too, I didn't screenshot him because hes stuck between unfinished Brian and Stan. Kind of scary to look at if you ask me.

Chapter 10 is also 88% complete. Wish I didn't feel so sick or else I could be making a lot more progress. I'm just glad I have something to keep me going these days.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
1 year 5 months ago #27368

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

Chapter 10

William and Rehema had searched all over the base for what seemed like hours, and still no sign of little Safiya. William began to dread the idea that she had probably escaped the base and was running loose in that god forsaken city somewhere. He also knew she wouldn’t last long if that were the case, especially with the current climate of things and the people’s ongoing hatred for the Tjatey. It was indeed a recipe for disaster, and now he was faced with another problem; he would have to mention it to an already frantic and fearful mother, but what other choice did he have? They needed to find that little girl and fast.

“Do you know of any place she might have run off to?” William asked, while he and Rehema did a quick sweep of the recreational room in the academy building. “Was there any place in particular where she felt safe?”

Rehema didn’t appear to have an answer, and William could see it on her face, causing him to sigh wearily. “Could she have gone into the city?” He asked next, knowing that question was the last thing the worried mother wanted to hear.

“What?” No!” Rehema was quick to shoot down the very idea, although something in her voice said otherwise. “She wouldn’t dare leave this base, I’ve told her many times of the consequences she would face for it.”

Despite the heavy feeling in his chest, William finally had his answer. “If she was angry with you then that’s exactly the kind of thing she would do, Rehema.” He frowned, knowing full and well that wasn’t what the angry mother wanted to hear.

“But she can’t! Rehema exclaimed with outrage. “She could be harmed by the humans! They’d waste no time, and use her death as an act of revenge against us!” She clenched her fists tightly, shaking from fear.

For a moment, William thought the woman might be right, but then again Safiya was just a little girl, the only thing that made her different from the other children was her teal colored shoulder length hair and her pale grey skin tone. Other than that she looked just like any other child lost in the city.
“Despite what you might believe there are still good humans left.” William mentioned then, hoping his words would bring her some form of comfort. “One of them would find her and take her into their home an—“

“Stop it!” Rehema cut him off abruptly, the anger evident in her voice. “I don’t trust them, and there is nothing you can say that will change my mind!”

William felt frozen inside. He should have known it was hopeless trying to convince the former warrior that she was wrong. For whatever reason she held onto this grudge, and if it weren’t for him being part Tjatey, she would have never even bothered to come to him and ask for his help. He had known all along that’s why she attacked him in the first place, because she was too afraid to approach him and ask him to help her find her missing child.

If there was one thing William had noticed about Tjatey women, it would be their aggressive and unconventional nature. From what he had seen of both Rehema and Dendera so far, was an inability to formally approach someone. He wondered if this behavior was something they learned during their days as fierce warriors, and somehow they just never grew out of it when they left that world behind.

“I’ll notify the others here and tell them she’s missing.” William then announced as he headed for the elevator and pressed the call button. “This way we’ll have the entire base searching for her while we continue our search outside the fences.”

Rehema looked back at him with concern. “Are you sure they will help us?”

“Yes I am.” William insisted as his brow furrowed. “She’s just a child, Rehema, and there isn’t a soul on this base who would stand by and not do anything to help. And if I remember correctly, the AMF also swore an oath to protect you and your people, so that is an oath we’re going to honor no matter what our personal feelings may be. Stay here and wait for me, I’ll be back as soon as possible.”

“All right.” Rehema agreed as she watched him leave, still feeling anxious and even longing to hold her daughter in her arms again. “Wi sat.” (“My daughter”) She murmured sadly as she pictured little Safiya looking back up at her.

Still angered over his last confrontation with the medium Madame La Rouge, Brian had wandered aimlessly down the street, trying to get as far away from that woman’s place of business as he could. He breathed a sigh of relief as he came to a stop just outside the little café on the corner, where he often spied a lot of military personnel going in and out of from time to time.

But now he wasn’t in the mood to fret over how many soldiers might be seated inside. He would just walk in and go about his business as usual, but then right as he turned around and made a grab for the door, he caught sight of something out of the corner of his right eye and quickly jerked his head in that direction.

There he noticed a little girl out in the street, attempting to cross in front of an oncoming motor car, with a driver that might as well have been blind since it seemed apparent that they couldn’t see what was ahead of them. And since Brian wasn’t more than five feet away from the road, he quickly made a dash for the kid, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her out of harm’s way in the nick of time as the black motor car sped on by.

Once the little girl was pulled to safety, standing on the sidewalk beneath the light of a street lamp, that’s when Brian realized she wasn’t human.

“Y-you’re one of them.” Brian gasped with both shock and awe at the same time as he looked down at her.

The girl only responded with a look of confusion in her wide green eyes as she stared up at this complete stranger who had just saved her life.

Brian looked at her just as confused now. “Don’t you understand a word I’m saying?”

The little girl shook her head at him.

“You understood that at least.” Brian remarked as he began to light a cigarette. “You came from the base didn’t you?”

She nodded.

“Why?” Brian asked taking a drag from his cigarette. “You know your kind isn’t allowed out here, so what are you doing wandering around like that? Don’t you have a mother or father to look after you?”

The girl’s eyes began to tear up then and she nodded. “My mother is mad at me and won’t allow me to see my friend. But my father is up there.” She pointed to the stars and then looked back at Brian.

“I’m sorry.” Brian apologized to her then as he began to understand the circumstances she was in, mostly because it reminded him of the time he’d run away from his foster mother, after she had scolded him about his horrible grades from school. Twelve year old Brian had run far away from home that day, and even spent a few days in a lonely alley until he was later found by the authorities and dragged back home against his will. It was then that he learned he would only be free of that witch on the day he turned eighteen, and it was the only joyous day in his life without his brother that he could remember now.

“Here, let’s go inside and get out of this cold.” Brian suggested as he flicked his cigarette butt over his shoulder and then held the café door open so she could walk inside. The girl seemed nervous at first but something seemed to tell her she could trust Brian, and so she did as he offered and even sat down across from him at one of the booths.

She looked around curiously, eyes darting in every direction, taking in everything she could see. Brian couldn’t help but notice that wondrous gaze in her eyes. He could tell she was in awe over everything the old downtown part of the city had to offer. He almost felt sorry she wouldn’t be able to see the other half.

“Cute girl, is she yours?” A female waitress with a curly brown bob suddenly asked as she stopped at their booth. Apparently she didn’t seem to notice the obvious distinction between his hair color and the child’s.

“No I just found her wandering around by herself.” Brian answered truthfully, hoping the woman wouldn’t take him for some kind of creep. “So I decided to help her and bring her in here where it’s warmer, and hopefully wait for her mother to show up.”

Panic immediately set in the child’s face and Brian recognized it right away.

“My mother will be angry.” The girl mentioned fearfully. “Binew,binew.” She muttered in her alien tongue, shaking her head frantically while Brian began to worry himself.

“Oh honey I’m sure she will be happy to know you’re safe once she finds you.” The cheerful waitress reached over and pinched her on the cheek, leaving Brian utterly flabbergasted.

He just couldn’t believe how unfazed this woman was reacting, almost as if she knew the child was an alien and didn’t care.

“You know what? I’ve got just the thing to cheer you up too.” The waitress smiled as she turned and walked towards a spring seasonal display at the front and picked up a small white teddy bear holding a red heart in its hands, then walked back over and handed it to the girl.
“This was left over from Saint Valentine’s day.” The waitress said smiling at her. “Now he’s got a new home with you.”

The alien girl cuddled the toy bear in her arms and smiled joyously, as though her fears of being punished by her mother were the least of her worries now. And as Brian watched the girl hug that teddy bear, an unsettling feeling had come over him, almost forcing him to acknowledge how human this alien was behaving.

“Now I’m going to get this one a cup of hot chocolate on the house.” The waitress said and then looked at Brian. “But in the meantime what are you going to have?”

Brian glanced down at the menu and then back up at her. “I’ll have the ginger spice cappuccino and two apple pie sweet rolls.” He answered.

“Sure thing, sweetheart.” The waitress replied as she wrote it down on her note pad and then walked off.

“What is hot chocolate?” The little girl asked now.

Brian gave her a puzzled look. “You mean to tell me you’ve never had hot chocolate before? What the hell do you guys even eat or drink inside of that base anyway? I guess I would say hot chocolate is a sweet, warm drink. You’ve had chocolate before, haven’t you?”

The girl shook her head.

“Have you ever had anything sweet at all?” Brian had to ask now, almost beginning to understand why the soldiers were so desperate to leave that base as often as they did.

“My mother doesn’t allow it.” The girl answered. “She says it’s only for humans.”

Wow, sounds like a mother of the year, Brian thought sarcastically.
“Well then I guess this might be your only chance to experience what us humans like to eat.” Brian responded, when the waitress soon returned with their hot drinks and a plate with two honey glazed pastries.

“Careful dear, it’s hot.” The waitress warned the little girl before walking off again to serve another customer; an elder gentleman who had just walked in and took a seat at the booth across from them.

“My name is Safiya.” The girl said to Brian as she picked up her mug with both hands and attempted to sip it, practically mirroring Brian’s actions as he sipped his cappuccino. Brian could already see the strange looks the old man was giving both of them.

“Brian is my name.” Brian replied as he ignored the man’s dirty looks and reached for one of the pastries, breaking it in half while offering to share a piece with the girl, just like he and his brother used to do in their glory days.

“This is good.” Safiya smiled as she took another sip from her drink. “I like this hot chocolate very much. And this too.” She took a bite out of the pastry, talking with her mouth full. “What’s this called?”

“Apple pie sweet rolls.” Brian answered taking a bite from of his own half. “They were my brother’s favorite.”

“Where is he?” She asked then.

“Up there too.” Brian pointed up with the index finger of his free hand.

“Sorry.” She apologized. “I wonder why they go up there. Can’t they come back if they want to?”

Looking back into those sad curious eyes, Brian soon found himself wondering the same thing, only he did his best to refrain from tearing up as the sorrow began to eat away at him.

“Nobody knows.” Brian said sullenly as he sipped from his mug. “Sometimes it just happens, and sadly they can’t come back, even if they wanted to. Believe me I wish I had those answers. I seem to search for them every day of my life.”

Safiya frowned, but as her eyes met Brian’s, there seemed to be a silent understanding between them. This alien child was a lot smarter than he thought, maybe even smarter than the average human child of her age, whatever it was. She looked about five or six from what Brian could gather, and she kept that bear toy in her lap as though she were protective of it.

In the meantime, Justin was still hanging around at Atlantech with Jayce in the main lab. He wanted a moment to look over all the data that Dendera and Sebak had gathered before they left. But while Justin was preoccupied with reading data in a folder, Jayce appeared to be bored out of his mind. The young private with a shaggy mop of short orange-red colored hair sat down on one of the computer chairs, swiveling himself from side to side as he waited on his new friend to finish up.

“Does Dendera like chocolates or flowers?” Jayce suddenly asked while Justin continued looking through notes, appearing to be adding some of his own in the process when he picked up a pen.

“I wouldn’t know honestly.” Justin responded as he jotted down his ideas, refusing to look away from his work. “Why do you ask?”

Jayce sounded a little sheepish now. “Well I thought maybe I could do something nice for her, you know since she’s not feeling well?”

But then as Justin listened to the young soldier, something began to remind him of himself and he had to pause. “It’s a nice gesture, Jayce, but she’s not going to be interested, she has Sebak.”

Justin’s eyes were still glued to his notes when he heard Jayce utter a deep sigh. He knew all too well what that had meant and he couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

“I know you like her.” Justin said then, finally looking away from his work, looking Jayce in the eyes. “But trust me when I say it’s not going to happen. She already has someone and as you saw, he means the universe to her.”

Jayce’s expression sank and he looked really bummed out, but Justin was sorry. He truly hated being the bearer of bad news, but it seemed that’s what he was cursed with these days.

“Anyways if you can keep it a secret, I’m going to head back home to retrieve this sample I scooped up from the day of the attack. You can stay here and mope around, but you’re more than welcome to tag along with me.”

Jayce let out another disappointed sigh before he agreed to tag along instead of being left behind. “Yeah I’ll come with you, no problem.”

Justin was already beginning to feel annoyed with him. Great I’m dealing with another Will here.
“Look, if you really want to you can get her flowers or chocolates, or both, but don’t expect anything to come from it. It’s fine if you do something nice for her. I’m sure she would appreciate it a lot. But I’m just saying don’t get your hopes up, got it?”

“Got it.” Jayce nodded. “What kind of sample is it anyway?”

Justin tried to think of how exactly to describe what he’d seen. “I don’t know, it’s like some kind of neon green liquid. It’s something I’ve never seen before, but there was a puddle of the stuff on the ground afterwards, and I just want to check it out under a microscope and have a look at its properties.”

“Do you think it might be Tjatey blood?” Jayce asked next as he got up from the chair and walked over.

“No, Tjatey blood is black like tar, this stuff was neon green. It was practically glowing if you ask me. Like a florescent light.”

“Well that’s odd.” Jayce commented as he stroked his chin while Justin finished jotting down a few more notes and then set the pen and folder back down on the table.

“Well that’s enough for now, you ready?” Justin asked his new found comrade, who nodded in return.
“Yep, let’s blow this popsicle stand.”

Just as planned, William had informed Admiral Grant of the missing Tjatey girl. The admiral was more than understanding and immediately alerted the rest of the base over the loud speaker. Everyone that had heard the message began their search immediately; human and Tjatey alike. Afterwards, William returned to the lobby, and then he and Rehema began heading for the gate to begin their search within the city limits.

William just happened to pass by a single guard who wasn’t anywhere near the gate, and dared to ask him if he’d seen Safiya around there. The guard denied seeing the child, causing William to shake his head with disappointment then continue on.

Then as they exited the gate and began walking down the sidewalk, Rehema finally admitted just how grateful she was for William’s help.

“I want to thank you for your help.” She said. “I never expected her to run away like this. It almost makes me feel like I have failed as a mother.”

William couldn’t believe how much those words reminded him of his own mother. In fact he remembered her saying pretty much the same thing once or twice.

“I don’t think you’ve failed as a mother.” William disagreed. “If anything you might have been a little too overbearing. But that’s fine because it happens, and I understand why.”

Rehema could only sigh hopelessly. “The life she would like to have is one I cannot give to her. Many times she has asked me what is outside the fence, and many times I have told her it is nothing but danger. I wanted her to be afraid of coming out here, but now I see I have only encouraged her to rebel against me. My own little Ammon.”

“I’ve been compared to Ammon more times than I can count.” William mentioned. “So what exactly is it that makes someone like Ammon? I’m genuinely curious here. What is it about the guy that makes him stand apart from all the rest?”

Rehema appeared to find humor in such a question as her mouth curved into a slight smile. “He would not follow the rules of others. He made his own and followed them.”

“So he was nothing more than a rebel? Is that it?” William remarked. Sounds like Justin is more of an Ammon than I am.

“Ammon was a rebel yes.” She replied, appearing to recollect her own encounters with the alien leader. “But he also believed in freedom. He wanted to be free of tyranny. He wanted to love and to feel, all the things that were forbidden in our past.”

“I see now.” William noted when he noticed she’d suddenly grown quiet. “Bad trip down memory lane?” He asked next.

“Ammon was loved by many.” She responded then. “Even myself.”

William could tell by the tone of her voice and her mannerisms, that her mention of love for Ammon was more than she was letting on. But now that, that little detail had been revealed, he wondered if maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to reopen those old wounds of hers. After all, she still wasn’t over the loss of her partner, and now she was desperately trying to find her only child that had wandered out into the dangers of this city.

“I get it.” William acknowledged with a nod of his head. “Some things are better left unspoken.”

“The Tjatey are tired of doing the same things.” She said next, which took him by surprise.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“We are former warriors but we are only used to repair, clean, guard, and cook for the humans. We have never been asked to serve in your war. Why is that? Why aren’t we called upon to train like the rest of you?”

William wasn’t sure how to answer her, but he wondered about that just the same. He was part Tjatey, so what was it that made him so special?
“Maybe it’s trust issues?” He surmised, even though he didn’t like that answer himself. “There aren’t any wars to fight either. Maybe they don’t think it’s a good idea, I don’t know honestly. Do you ask because that’s what you would rather be doing?”

“If I could be allowed someday then yes.” Rehema answered. “I’m nothing more than a worker.” She gestured down at her dark grey jumpsuit. “I am tired of moving boxes from place to place. I would like to do more, become something more. I am a warrior and feel my talents are wasted.”

She then cursed in her alien tongue, which only seemed to amuse William. But he also knew the woman was right. The Tjatey were a race of ancient warriors, and some of them probably even longed to fight again, yet they were denied by this new way of life. And for a moment there, the reason for Naeem’s attack began to make a lot more sense.

“I won’t be able to make any promises, but I can mention it to the higher ups and see if it goes anywhere.” He suggested. “But after what happened, I fear they might be afraid to take that chance.”
Rehema frowned. “Yes I am aware. They might never trust any of us again.”

After finishing their drinks and pastries, Brian and Safiya left the café, getting ready to head in the direction of the base, when the little girl soon spotted her mother across the street walking in the opposite direction along with William.

“That’s my mother right there.” Safiya pointed out to Brian as she squeezed his hand tightly. “But I’m afraid to call for her.” She then looked up at him with worry in her eyes.

Brian sympathized with the child, but he also knew it was more important that she be returned to her mother than anything, especially to keep her safe.

“I’ll walk you to her then.” Brian offered as he held onto her tight and began looking both ways before they crossed the empty street together.

With the teddy bear tucked under her other arm, she watched her mother, beginning to worry they might not catch up to her fast enough, when Brian suddenly knelt down beside her on the side walk.
“Listen to me, you need to call out to her.” He pressed. “It’s your voice she needs to hear, not mine, understand?”

Safiya nodded.

“Good, now call her.” Brian instructed.

“Mother I’m here!” Safiya then shouted as loud as she could waving her free arm. “I’m here!”

Rehema froze in place once she heard a familiar angelic sound; her daughter’s voice. William had also recognized it as well.

“Safiya!” Rehema gasped and then whirled herself around, and began running towards her daughter, crying with relief once she scooped her up into her arms and embraced her tightly. She also couldn’t help notice that she was all alone, and began to wonder where she had been all this time.

“I am shocked to see you are alone.” Rehema said then as she set Safiya back down and then knelt down before her.

“I am?” Safiya replied with confusion as she looked behind her and noticed Brian was nowhere to be seen. “But I wasn’t alone mother. A nice man helped me.”

Rehema’s eyes widened. “But where is he then? I don’t see him?”

Safiya frowned. “He must have left. His name was Brian. He took me inside that place.” She pointed out the café. “I got to have hot chocolate and apple pie rolls, they were very good. And see?” She showed the bear to her mother. “The nice lady inside gave me this. She said he has a new home with me.” Safiya cuddled the bear in her arms as her mother looked on with utter shock and confusion as William soon arrived on the scene.

“It’s you.” Safiya smiled up at him.

He smiled back but words escaped him for the moment. He was just relieved that she had been found.

“I guess it’s time to go home now, huh?”

Rehema nodded. “It’s where we belong, my child.”

“I know mother.” Safiya sighed sadly. “But it was nice to see what things are like out here. I always wanted to know.”

Rehema then grabbed her daughter by the arm and shook her roughly. “You will not betray me again, you understand?” She practically seethed, ripping the teddy bear from her daughter’s clutches. “Once we are home you are to stay in your room. You must think about what you have done!”

William remained silent. But he acknowledged Safiya with a look of sympathy. He knew she needed to be scolded for what she had done, even if he didn’t agree with the harshness of it.

Then as Rehema walked off, pulling her daughter by the arm, William knelt down and collected the white bear and wiped off the dirt using the sleeve of his uniform. In time he would return it to the poor girl, but for now he had other plans to attend to.

“So is your father always passed out on the couch like that?” Jayce asked while he stood outside Justin’s bedroom waiting.

Justin couldn’t help but feel complete embarrassment over that, yet he was relieved his dad was out cold instead of pestering them.

“Yeah he is.” Justin remarked irritably, fetching the vial from the top of his dresser and then stuffing it inside his left pants pocket. “Okay I’ve got it, we can leave now.”

Both Justin and Jayce were heading out the front door, when all of sudden, Justin’s father sat up while in a drunken haze and said; “Make sure you lock the door, son.”

Justin scowled at his father, watching as the man collapsed back onto the sofa like the pathetic loser he was. “Oh I’ll lock it alright.” Justin muttered angrily, slamming the door as hard as he could behind him, hoping that would at least sober his father up.

Jayce looked utterly shocked by what he had just witnessed. “You two don’t get along do you?”

“Nope.” Justin replied curtly as they headed down the staircase of the apartment building. “He’s a piece of shit. My real father died after the loss of my mom, go figure.”

“Sorry to hear that.” Jayce apologized. “It was kind of the same for Eric. Only it was his mother that he had a problem with. She apparently wanted a daughter and ended up resenting him because of it.”

Justin was a bit surprised to learn about some of the history behind his former bully. No wonder Eric Mathis was such an asshole all the time, Justin thought to himself.

“Of course it doesn’t justify the way he treated you and others.” Jayce made a point to mention, just to remind Justin that he was on his side no matter what. “To be honest I think he might have even been jealous of you.”

Justin cackled. “Yeah right! What the hell was there to be jealous of? Most of you guys couldn’t stand being around me. Why else do you think I spent all my time in the lab or with Will and Stan?”

“He was jealous of your talent.” Jayce explained. “Because in all honesty he was kind of a dumbass himself. That was something Mick and I agreed on. He also had the biggest crush on Mipsy, and asked her out once, making a huge fool of himself.”

Justin couldn’t help but smirk. “Those girls are nothing but trouble. I’ve tried asking out officer Hanes numerous times myself. Will once called her a gold digger, and by god I think he was right.”

“You see, that’s why I like Dendera.” Jayce blushed then as they headed out the lobby entrance. “She isn’t like those girls at all. She just seems really, oh I don’t know, unique. Can’t really explain it.”

“I understand completely.” Justin nodded. “Just whatever you do don’t start sending her anonymous letters, claiming to be her secret admirer.”

Jayce had a look of utmost disgust on his face. “Dear god I would never do such a crazy thing. Who the hell does that anyway? I would just tell her how I feel. No reason to hide the truth.”

Justin couldn’t have agreed more with him. “Yep.”

After Stan had made it back to City Hall, he was flooded with all kinds of different emotions ;practically driving him mad until he reached Morane’s office, where he staggered inside. The leader of the city council was already waiting for the android, standing next to one of the large windows gazing out at the city life below.

“Took you a while to get back here.” Morane commented with a hint of suspicion in his voice. “Almost as if you took your time. You didn’t let that kid get away now did you?”

Stan narrowed his eyes as he stopped in front of his master’s desk. “No I took care of him.”

“Good.” Morane replied without bothering to turn around and face his own creation. “Cause lately I’ve been sensing some betrayal on your behalf. Tell me I’m wrong.”

Startled by such an accusation, the android began to wonder what it was that he had done to give himself away. It had been a while since Morane last retrieved his data, so it must have been something else, but what?

“I have not betrayed you.” Stan responded accordingly “My only purpose is to serve and do your bidding. Since I am not human I am incapable of failure. Remember? You said so yourself.”

The android gave a half smirk, savoring the fact he’d just thrown Morane’s own words back at him. It was something no real man had ever gotten away with.

“Oh yes I know.” Morane acknowledged then as he turned towards him. “But I’m beginning to wonder about that myself.”

Stan glowered at his master. “Recently I have experienced memories that are not my own. And I know for a fact that I was never born, never had a childhood, nor have I ever had any parents, so you might want to tell me where they are coming from and why they’re in my archives. Are they yours?”

Morane appeared stunned at first, and for a moment he even looked as though he would go off on him at any moment. “No, they’re yours.” He answered plainly.

“But how?” Stan asked next. “You said I’m not human, that I’m just a machine. Were you lying?”

“No they’re my son’s memories.”Morane replied then, leaving the android even more stunned.
“He couldn’t be saved. His body was dying.” Morane continued to explain. “And there was nothing anybody could do to revive him. There was no cure.” Morane then moved over to his desk, pulled open the top drawer, and took out a small sepia toned portrait of a young man in uniform, and looked down at it sullenly. “In the end I couldn’t let go of him. After losing my wife, I couldn’t bear another loss, so I held on to what I could of him.”

“What do you mean?” Stan asked.

“I wanted to keep my son alive no matter the cost, Stan.” Morane explained as he set the portrait down on top of his desk. “The team of scientists I worked with said only parts of his brain could be saved from the illness, and so those are the parts they used to create you.”

Stan couldn’t believe what he’d just been told, and wondered if it was if it was those parts of him that had been somehow activated after the murder of that teenager.
“But why?” Stan continued. “If your son meant that much to you, why would you use him to create something like me? You’ve used me as a spy for you. You’ve used me to kill others because you couldn’t do it yourself. If your son had survived, would you have asked the same of him?”

Morane felt completely outraged by such a question, though judging from his reaction, Stan had to wonder if he was right on the money with that one.

“You forced me to murder a child.” Stan continued then, and without a care that he was only angering his master further. “He was innocent and had done nothing wrong, yet you used me to dispose of him. Why?”

Morane clenched his jaw in response. “Because I’ve had my suspicions about you lately and I needed to know you were still fucking loyal to me! Loyalty means everything, that’s why my associates are always learning the hard way. But you, you’re not supposed to fuck up. That’s not what you were programmed for. But it seems as though I’ve underestimated things. I mean those scientists who helped put you together told me that his memories couldn’t be accessed as long as they were inside of you. Turns out they were wrong. Oh well I’ll get you fixed up first and then I’ll have them all killed as punishment.”

“So you would end their lives over a single mistake?” Stan asked with disbelief. “And what if I refuse to be fixed? Are you going to force it on me? Because if you haven’t been paying attention lately, I’m the stronger one here and I could kill you before you have a chance to blink.”

“No you fucking won’t!” Morane snarled back as he quickly snatched up a pistol looking device, aimed it at Stan’s head, and pulled the trigger.

Firing the weapon, a single red laser shot out, blasting right through the android’s head, immediately causing it to shut down and fall to the floor lifeless as could be.

Morane grit his teeth as he lowered the weapon and then reached for his phone and quickly dialed the number of someone important.

“Artis Frederic speaking.” The voice answered.

“Long time no chat, old friend of mine.” Morane remarked. “I’m afraid we’ve got a problem.”

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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Chapter 11

Artis Nathaniel Frederic was nervous as hell now. It had been over a month since he’d last seen or spoken with the tyrannical leader of the city, and yet he already had the feeling he knew what this particular call was about. “And what seems to be the problem, Mr. Morane? You know how busy I am these days.”

“Oh fuck you!” Morane replied in a belligerent tone. “Don’t sit there and tell me you’re too busy for me, you impotent prick! I’m the one secretly funding that shit company of yours these days, since your daddy’s inheritance dried up. So you owe me, asshole!”

There was a brief pause and then a deep sigh on Artis’s end.

“That’s what I thought.” Morane huffed. “Now listen here. I had to put that fucking android out of his misery because he threatened to kill me. But that’s not all, the stupid fuck somehow gained access to Bryan’s memories, and he came here bitching to me about them. Now you told me that once we locked those memories inside of the android, nothing could touch them, so you mind explaining to me how in the fuck that android figured out how to access them?”

There was another moment of silence before Artis finally responded.
“I’m honestly not sure. The only thing I could theorize is that the memories have somehow formed a bond with the android’s artificial brain. If that be the case then this is quite a remarkable discovery. By the way where it is it now?”

“On the fucking floor of my office.” Morane answered. “So are you going to fix this mess or not? Cause I ain’t got all night!”

Artis paused again. He glanced over his shoulder at the clock on the wall behind him. It was only a quarter past six now. “I suppose I could send somebody out soon.”

“No!” Morane was quick to disagree. “You come and you come alone, got it?”
“But what if I require assistance?” Artis asked then, sounding more anxious about Morane’s probable intentions.
“You fucked this up, you fix it!” Morane chastised before hanging up.

Artis was at a complete loss for words as he hung up his phone. He figured by now he should have gotten used to that man’s hostility, but in truth he wasn’t. Even worse that he’d been secretly working with him all this time, going behind the backs of the very people who trusted him the most; the AMF. And all because he had been irresponsible with his father’s inheritance, blowing it all on drugs and gambling in his younger days before he finally decided to clean up his act, but by then it was too late. The money was gone.

And with nobody else to turn to, it was only natural that he came before Morane, begging for his assistance. Although he knew the man would not give him anything without getting something in return; and in so doing Artis had pledged his allegiance, and promised to create the ultimate henchman; the android who would be known as Stan Winston.

Lost in deep thought, Artis suddenly heard a knock on his office door and promptly walked over and opened it just to find Sebak standing there. “Yes?”

“I just wanted to inform you that Dendera is feeling much better.” Sebak stated. “She is still resting but should be awake later so we can continue our work.”

Artis shook his head in response. “No, she can take all the time she needs to recover. I won’t be needing any assistance this time.”

Sebak couldn’t help but pick up on the anxiousness in the man’s voice as well as his body language. “Everything all right?”

Artis gave a nod. “Oh absolutely. I’ve just got a lot on my plate, that’s all. I just spoke with the manager of the arcade. He said one of those machines was acting up and that I need to head over and fix it right away. So I’ll be gathering up my tools and leaving soon to go take care of that.”

“And you don’t require any help?” Sebak questioned him, looking rather confused.

Artis laughed nervously, knowing there was a strong chance he might not make it back alive. “Nah, after all it’s a one person job. I can handle it.”

“All right, Sir.” Sebak bowed his head. “And good luck.”

By now, William couldn’t believe the force of rage that had come over him as he slammed that AMF guard from earlier, right into the chain-link fence with all his might, demanding to know why he had deliberately let a child wander out into that dangerous city.

“Of all the rotten things in this universe, and you chose to put an innocent child in harm’s way!?” William seethed through clenched teeth as he searched that man’s eyes for a soul, just to come up empty.

“Yes I did!” The guard admitted, shouting back with just as much ferocity. “Those savages turned against us, killed our own! It’s only fair!”

William felt nothing but utter disgust for this man. He even thought about breaking his jaw for good measure, until he remembered that Safiya and her mother were standing nearby, watching him. He knew the last thing that child needed to see was an example of violence; especially from him.

“She’s a child.” William reminded the guard, backing away. “I hope you know I’m going to report this to the admiral, and there will be dire consequences.”

The guard then raised his fists and stepped forward. “Don’t pretend to be some kind of fucking martyr, Corporal Sterling! We haven’t forgotten that you and that blonde shithead were responsible for what happened here in the first place! Our comrades, my brother, is dead because of you! And you have the audacity to tell me what’s right and wrong!? Fuck you, Sterling!”

William saw pain in those dark eyes now as they were locked on his, but no matter what there was still no justifying putting a child in harm’s way. Revenge was the Tjatey way of handling things, not them.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” William said looking him dead in the eye. “But I’m still going to have to report this to the admiral. You can’t go unpunished, not for this.”

Then not a second later after William had turned his back to leave, the guard rushed him, slamming his body against the pavement as hard as he could. He wasn’t about to let this hybrid cost him his job.

William fell, landing head first on the concrete, practically knocking him out as his vision had suddenly become a blur. There was a brief ringing in his ears while the rest of the outside noise, such as the sounds of shouting and screaming were inaudible. He blinked, knowing that guard now had his hands around his throat, trying to choke the life out of him. And from what he could discern, Rehema and some others were trying their best to pull the guard off of him. But if they were failing or succeeding he didn’t know.

Once the ringing in his ears faded, his vision became much clearer, and now standing over him was a tall Tjatey warrior with long wavy hair as blue as the sky of planet earth itself. The warrior’s piercing eyes were also blue and they were staring right at William, as though looking through him. But what surprised William was the fact this warrior wasn’t dressed in the typical Tjatey attire as seen on the base, but rather a very ancient looking uniform with a scarf like cloak, and an ancient golden amulet hanging around his neck.

William gazed up at the warrior, until the man suddenly offered him his hand.

“Rise with me.” The warrior smirked.

At first, William felt unsure if he could trust this warrior, especially after everything that had happened. Yet something inside him was telling him it was okay to do so, and so he accepted.

“You may not know who I am but I know you.” The warrior said as he helped William off the ground.
“Who are you?” William asked then.

“Ammon.” The warrior answered.

And then it hit William like a ton of bricks. “Am I dead?” He began to panic, just to feel relief as Ammon shook his head.

“You’re unconscious.” He explained, gesturing towards William’s sleeping body with his hand, as it lay on the ground. He could also see that guard being escorted away by the others as well as Rehema and Safiya knelt down beside him, trying to wake him up.

That was also when William noticed the blood running down the right side of the head of his body
and then reached up to touch his own, and found there was no blood at all. Could it be that his soul had been knocked right out of his own body? He’d always believed in something after death, but experiencing whatever this was, seemed to be enough to make him wonder if he wasn’t just going crazy.

“So what happens now?” William asked. “And are you just a ghost haunting me?”

Ammon shook his head. “I have come to you because my people have lost their way. You have already seen the effects of this with Naeem and those who followed him. He was never meant to lead my people, only you were.”

Hearing this only seemed to anger William. He had become so sick and tired of being told that he was their only hope for a new leader, when all he wanted to do was have a normal life. But now that he had actually come face to face with Ammon himself, he knew there was no escape.

“But why me?” William asked. “Isn’t there anybody else worthy? Why not Justin? I know he’s full blood human, but he’s more of a leader than I could ever be. I honestly believe you’re all making a mistake in choosing me. I can’t stand violence as it is. I only fought back against Naeem because I had no other choice. So please, pick somebody else. I don’t want this it’s just too much.”

Ammon appeared to sympathize with him from the looks of it, and also by his silence as he listened.
“Please choose anybody else but me.” William pled, bringing both his hands together in a form of prayer as though Ammon were god himself. “I don’t want it."

William’s eyes were still locked on Ammon’s as the former warrior moved closer, stopping once he was close enough to reach out and place his left hand on William’s right shoulder.

“Because you are my blood.” He explained. “I am not asking you to be their leader, but just to lead them on a different path. They need guidance, and that of a noble warrior such as yourself.”

“Please don’t call me that.” William shook his head shamefully. “I’m not a warrior and I never want to be one either.”

Ammon nodded his understanding and removed his hand, stepping back in order to give William more room to breathe.

“Sometimes our paths are chosen for us.” Ammon sighed, his steel blue eyes reflecting something of a memory in that moment as William noticed the light fade in them.

“What do you mean?” He asked next, wanting to know how Ammon came to be such a leader in the first place.

Ammon met William’s gaze once again, as that look of serenity suddenly turned into something else; regret.
“I know you have many questions, but you must know that I can only answer a few of them. Others I wish to keep myself, because it is something you must learn on your own.”

William’s brow furrowed. “Just tell me.”

“I only became their leader because nobody else had the courage to face him.” Ammon explained. “He was leading us all down a path of destruction, of his own doing. I knew we would never be free until we revolted. We became the Tjatey, the defectors of our own ancestors. I never chose to be their new leader, the Tjatey chose me.”

William was suddenly reminded of what his own mother had warned him about a month ago.
"What is this about, mother?" William spoke softly as he knelt down before her now. "Why has he turned against us?"
"For an old prophecy," she answered ashamed to look him in the face. "He believes that through your deaths it will be fulfilled, but he doesn't understand that death won't matter. He awaits our former leader. He wishes to rejoin him."

“Why don’t you just speak his name?” William argued, clenching a fist. “I keep hearing about this mysterious former leader, but none of you dare to even say his name, why is that?”

“Because he is a curse.” Ammon replied. “The Tjatey wanted to forget, and in order to do that we vowed never to speak his name again.”

William could feel his chest tightening over the next thought that crossed his mind. “He is still out there somewhere, isn’t he?”

Ammon only nodded, causing William to bow his head and sigh with disappointment.

“Please tell me he doesn’t know where we are. He doesn’t, does he?” William frowned.

Ammon turned away from him, looking as though he were uncertain himself. “That I cannot answer, because I do not know.”

“Great.” William remarked sarcastically.

“But should he return, those who are still lost may join him in battle.” Ammon stated. “That is why I’m asking for your help, William. As I said before, you are my blood, therefore you are me.”

William had to shake his head over the ridiculousness of those words. “We may be related by blood but that doesn’t make us the same. I’m not you, alright? I am me, and I’ll do what I feel is right no matter what.”

Ammon said nothing more as he smiled at him, when all of a sudden William’s vision became blurry once again and Ammon seemed to disappear within a blinding white light. William then opened his eyes and realized he was back inside his own body, and there looking down at him, was Rehema, Safiya, Justin, and somebody else he didn’t recognize at first.

“Hey man, you okay?” Justin asked as William sat up, gasping.

William blinked and then searched around him, noticing there were others standing nearby watching him. “Where’d he go? I wasn’t finished talking.”

Confused by these words, Justin immediately assumed that William was talking about the guard that had just been taken away.

“He’s in the brig where he belongs.” Justin answered. “I was on my way back to Atlantech with Jayce here.” Justin angled his thumb at the red haired soldier standing behind him.

“Nice to meet you.” Jayce gave a friendly wave.

“Like I was saying.” Justin continued. “We were on our way back when we heard shouting and screaming in the distance. So we rushed over to see what was wrong, and that’s when we saw you on the ground with that guard on top, choking the life out of you.”

Stunned, William then placed a hand around his own throat, surprised to notice he didn’t feel any pain or discomfort at all. “I don’t even feel like I’ve been choked.” He replied. “And I wasn’t talking about that guard either, screw him. I was talking about Ammon. I saw him face to face while I was out.”

Justin’s eyes widened as well as Rehema’s.

“Really?” Justin marveled. “What did he say?”

“Not a lot.” William answered as reached up and touched the right side of his head, and then brought it back down and looked at the blood.

“Are you going to be okay?” Safiya asked worriedly, seeing that the right side of William’s face was scratched up and bruised.

“I think so.” William winced. “My head definitely hurts a lot. How long was I out?”

“Maybe ten minutes at the most.” Justin answered rising back up to a standing position, before offering his hand to William to help him off the ground. “Easy now.” Justin said as William gripped his hand tight, and then lifted himself up.

Even though he was back on his feet, William still felt incredibly dizzy and off balance, but he was determined to report to the admiral.

“We should probably get you to the infirmary for a checkup.” Justin suggested then.

“No, I’ve got to report this to the admiral.” William disagreed curtly, causing Justin to roll his eyes.

“Don’t be stupid, Will. You just got the shit kicked out of you and you’re bleeding. And besides, there were other servicemen around when it happened. I’m sure they’re reporting it now on your behalf.”

Jayce chimed in. “Yeah I spotted one of our second lieutenants who also witnessed the fight. I’ll bet he’s reporting it this instant.”

“See?” Justin pointed out. “Everything’s fine, now go get yourself looked at pronto, before you keel over again.”

“Okay fine.” William huffed in annoyance, when he suddenly felt Safiya grab a hold of his left hand.

“Safiya, what are you doing?” Her mother demanded to know.

“Helping my friend.” The little girl answered smiling up at him.

William smiled back down at her, knowing she was already on a good path despite her mother’s prejudice antics. It also reminded him of Ammon’s words when he talked about how he doesn’t need William to take his place, but rather lead his people down a better path. And there for a moment, William began to wonder if maybe Safiya was kind of leader the Tjatey truly needed.

“All right, Safiya you can lead the way.” William nodded at her.

Elsewhere, Victoria sat in silence in the backseat of the beat up jalopy as she and Maxwell were headed towards their next target. It was another local bank in the downtown area of the city. But unlike their first heist, this location was a lot closer to the main business district which ran all the way through Gambler’s Strip. So there was an even higher chance of them getting caught this time around.

Yet despite Victoria’s conflicting emotions, Maxwell had managed to convince her that she was ready, but she knew that was only his greed talking. He’d gotten a taste of that power and he wanted more of it, and surprisingly so did she. But it was something she hated to admit to herself and had tried her best to deny. Not only the thrill of robbing that first bank, but also the excitement she felt when she threatened that poor bank teller’s life. She couldn’t kill the woman, but there was something extraordinarily exciting about having that kind of power over someone. For it felt as though she were taking back her own power and control she had lost.

Oh wouldn’t daddy be proud of his little girl? She wondered then as Maxwell parked the vehicle behind an abandoned building and killed the engine. Victoria looked out the window and noticed some old rundown apartment buildings across the street to her right. There were some lights on inside the building but not enough to cause her to worry.
For now her only concern was the amount of people inside the bank. It was evening time now, and while most of the citizens were probably on their way to gamble, she knew there was going to be some kind of activity around here, so she braced herself.

Maxwell then interrupted her thoughts as he tossed an empty knapsack at her from the front seat, smacking her in the head again for the second time.
She groaned with aggravation as she picked it up and then set it on the seat beside her while she fixed her hair.

“You think you can handle this one?” Maxwell asked callously, refusing to even make eye contact with her.

She ignored him as she placed her hat on her head, straightening out the black veil, letting it fall over her face.

“You said I was ready, so why are you asking?” she quipped then. “The first heist was easy because it was the early morning and there were hardly any people around. But now that we’re in a more prominent location it’s going to be much harder avoiding witnesses. Are you entirely sure that we’ve thought this one through? I mean it’s only been a single day since the last one. The authorities could already be on the lookout for us, especially in this heap of junk.”

Maxwell scoffed. “Oh please, the police don’t give a horse’s arse about a single robbery. They’re after the bloody serial thieves. As for more witnesses, you’ve already handled one of them, Miss Thompson. I’m sure you can handle another. Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts about this already. Remember we need that money, especially you.”

“Yes I know.” She huffed, and then opened the door and stepped out. “But I’m going to make one thing clear to you, Mr. Graham. You are not to steal from me again, you got that? Or I’ll personally shoot you myself. So are we clear?”

Maxwell couldn’t believe she had just threatened him, but seeing as there was no time for an argument now, he decided to agree. “Fine, we are clear, now get your arse moving already. The longer you stand around lollygagging in the street, the better our chances of being seen!"

“On my way.” She remarked contemptuously, grabbing the knapsack and tucking it underneath her left arm, and then lifting up the hem of her green floral print dress to check and make sure the pistol in the holster around her right thigh was secure. She knew she couldn’t be seen carrying around her purse any longer; especially since it was the one thing that could truly identify her now.

A sudden wave of anxiousness came over her as she closed the car door and then began walking down the street. There were a few men out and about, standing outside the doors of a small Italian restaurant smoking their cigars and chatting. But of course it was only a matter of time before one of them spotted an attractive woman walking by her lonesome on the other side of the street, unaware of what this woman was about to do.

He whistled and catcalled her, along with the other two joining in. “Hey dollface, why don’t ya come over here and let me buy yous a drink!”

Victoria rolled her eyes as she carried on her way. Thankfully the distance between the bank and the getaway car wasn’t too far, but she knew she would still have to huff it in her heels or take them off. There weren’t any stairs to climb either, which was also a relief. The only downside however, was that the building was much larger, which meant there were probably more than a few tellers at the windows, as well as clients. But it didn’t matter how many or how less, she was mentally prepared either way, or so she believed.

Looking a tad overconfident, she walked up to the main entrance, a large pair of glass automatic doors trimmed with a brass frame. There was a censor at the top which activated the moment she stepped under it, causing the doors to slide wide open.

She walked inside the bank lobby and stopped to have a quick look around. She could see a large brown and white marbled floor, with four sets of wooden benches on either side of the room. There weren’t too many people inside, only a mother with her young daughter who were seated on one of the benches, and a man in a dark long coat standing in the far corner reading a paper.

None of these people even paid her any attention as she walked on by, her heels clacking on the slick floor’s surface as she walked up to the window of a male teller, a man who looked somewhere in between his 30’s and 40’s with brown hair, eyes, and a notable receding hairline.
She sized him up as she approached the window, noting the pleasant smile on his face as he greeted her.

“Welcome to Gambler’s Strip Universal bank, how may I assist you this fine evening?” The man asked kindly.

In turn, Victoria also gave a pleasant smile, but on the inside she could feel her adrenaline begin to rush. “Why yes, I would like to open a new account here.

“Will that be checking or savings?” The teller asked next.

Victoria whipped out her pistol and aimed it at his head. “Savings, please.” She smirked.

The man’s eyes widened with fear and he raised his hands. Victoria was already becoming quite familiar with this routine. Then all of a sudden, she spotted the female teller behind the window next to him, on the phone trying to reach the police. Angered, Victoria fired a quick warning shot into the air and yelled at that woman to drop the phone. The man standing in the corner, as well as the mother and child were suddenly cowering on the ground, covering their heads with their hands. Victoria had a feeling these people were used to this by now.

“If I see any one of you so much as touch a phone, I will put a bullet in this man’s head, you hear me? Now fill the bag!” Victoria then handed the knapsack over to the man. “I know your clients are loaded too. Just look at this place. Why, I’d bank here myself if I weren’t a crook.”

The man nodded and headed for the vault behind him while she waited impatiently. He entered a code in the digital padlock on the door and it swung open. Then he began picking up stacks of Atlantis dollars and dropping them into the sack, when he heard another gunshot and began to panic.

“Hurry it up!” Victoria barked. “Or I’ll lay waste to one of your co-workers here!” She eyed the other three tellers, watching as they too feared for their lives.

The man’s heart was racing and he began to work faster, until he couldn’t fit anything more into the bag and then brought it back and handed it over.

“If you must kill someone then kill me.” The man begged, raising his hands.

Victoria smirked and laughed at him as she picked up the sack and turned to leave. “No need for that, I got what I came for. Now y’all have a good night.” She blew a kiss.

She then headed for the entrance and walked out, ready to remove her heels and make a beeline for the getaway car, when all of a sudden one of those men from earlier approached her and began blocking her path.

“Hey there sweet stuff, what ya got in that big sack of yours?” He dared to ask.

“None of your damned business!” Victoria sneered.

But the moment that man had heard her voice, his face seemed to contort into that of a look of utter surprise. “Hey, I know that voice, you’re that actress aren’t you? You’re Vic—“

Her eyes widened in panic and she quickly aimed her pistol at his head and fired. The man fell to the ground at her feet dead, causing onlookers to gape in horror as they now stared at her.

It felt like the universe was moving in slow motion as Victoria took a moment to look around her. She then heard a scream, which made her glance to her left where she saw a young traumatized woman with their hands cupped over their mouth in utter fright as she looked down at the body of that man and then up at Victoria.

For that moment, Victoria could hear the loud thumping of her own heart, especially when she looked across the street where the two friends of the man she’d just killed were standing and gaping in shock.
She couldn’t believe it, but she’d attracted quite the audience, and she knew things would only get worse once she heard the sound of a blaring siren in the distance, knowing the police were on their way to the crime scene. But she’d wasted enough time basking in the spotlight of it all. Now it was time to get back to Maxwell so they could get the hell out of there.

But by the time she had made it back and threw herself into the backseat of the vehicle, Maxwell was already in panic mode himself, demanding to know what happened out there.

“I heard that bloody shot, what happened?” He asked worriedly.

“I killed a man.” Victoria answered plainly, feeling no shock or remorse at all much to her own surprise. “He found out who I was so I had to.”

Maxwell then fired up the engine and began to peel out of there as fast as he could. “What about the money? Did you get it?”

“Of course I did.” She groaned, removing her hat. “But we’d better not blow through it in a couple days, because we’re going to have to get a lot smarter with how things are done.”

Maxwell looked surprised to hear these words coming from her of all people.

“And another thing.” She added next. “This broken down piece of trash has got to go. Sooner or later somebody is going to connect this thing with all our robberies. And now that we’ve got the money we can afford a different car. So I don’t want any excuses! We’ll dump this thing in the junkyard. Same with my dress. Too many witnesses have seen it now. It’s also got to go.”

“So when did you become so smart about covering your tracks?” Maxwell remarked with disdain.

She smirked in response. “About the same time I realized that I’m much better at being a criminal than an actress. Now find a secluded alleyway so I can begin transferring this money to the briefcase.” She instructed. “I also need to change out of these clothes, so you’d better make sure there isn’t another soul around.”

“If there is you could just kill the bloke.” Maxwell quipped rolling his eyes.

“There!” Victoria pointed out a familiar alleyway she spotted just ahead of them. “Turn down here!” She ordered.

Maxwell listened and made the turn into the alley, suddenly bringing the motor car to a complete stop.
Victoria then grabbed her purse and pulled out a sleeveless silver and pink dress that had been rolled up and stuffed inside. Her eyes glared at Maxwell in the mirror.

“Don’t you dare watch me! She warned him as she began unzipping the back of her green floral dress and then pulling it up over her head, revealing a cream silk slip underneath.

“Don’t worry yourself, Miss Thompson. I have absolutely no interest in you beyond our professional matters.” He scoffed, turning his head away. “But please do hurry the bloody hell up!”

Victoria slipped the new dress over her head and pulled it down over the slip, smoothing out the wrinkles in the sequined fabric with her hands. Then she opened the door, grabbed her old dress and walked over to a nearby dumpster and promptly disposed of it like a piece of trash.

Feeling a bit of relief, she walked back to the car and climbed inside, shutting the door before she set to work transferring the stacks of cash into the open briefcase beside her.
Maxwell drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, growing impatient with each minute that it took her to finish the job.

“Uh-oh.” She suddenly stated, causing Maxwell to look over the seat at her. “What do you mean uh-oh, what the bloody hell is it now?”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there’s actually too much money.” She replied nervously. “It won’t all fit inside here. What do we do now?”

“Stuff it in it!” Maxwell growled with frustration. “It will fit you just have to force it!”

Victoria tossed the last of the stacks on top of the pile, and began pushing down on the lid of the case, trying to force it down, but it wouldn’t close all the way.

“Bright idea, Mr. Graham!” She huffed irritably, still trying her best to snap the case shut, only to have it keep popping back open. “Now what!?”

Maxwell slapped a hand on his forehead and groaned. “I don’t know, you’re the criminal mastermind here, remember?”

Victoria pulled a face, knowing he was only mocking her with that response, and then she looked down at her purse sitting on the floor next to her feet. She sighed.

“Oh you can’t be serious!” Maxwell exclaimed, throwing his hands up in disbelief.

“What other choice do we have?” She snapped at him as she picked up her purse and began stuffing the rest of the cash inside. “See? It fits, and I can easily sneak right by Enrique or anyone else without them knowing the difference. They’d assume it was all cosmetics in here anyway.”

“What the bloody hell ever, just hurry so we can leave!” Maxwell griped impatiently.

“Mr. Morane? I’m here.” Artis announced himself as he pushed open one of the doors to the council leader’s office and walked inside. It was mostly dark aside from a single wall light that had been turned down all the way. “I’ve also come alone as instructed, now if you could just show me wh—“

“You stupid son of a bitch!” Morane greeted him with a fist in the face, emerging from the shadows just to grab and throw him to the floor, knocking his glasses off his face.

“Get up!” Morane barked coldly, while a stunned Artis lifted himself back up and then looked over his shoulder to face his attacker.

“So is this it?” Artis asked now, reaching for his glasses. “Are you going to kill me?”

Morane clenched his teeth and furrowed his brow. “No. But I am going to make you regret this fuckup of yours.” He then pulled out his hunting knife and flipped the blade open. “Get up!” He ordered again. “On your fucking feet. Then I want you to march your ass over to my desk and decide which hand of yours you’re going to place on top of it. And you better fucking decide or else I’ll decide for you!”

Artis grunted as he put his glasses back on and rose back up to his feet, and then made his way over to Morane’s desk. He could see the lifeless body of the android lying on its side near the front of it, along with a visible head wound where the laser gun had struck it.

“Better make a wise choice as well.” Morane taunted as he followed behind like a cat creeping up on a mouse. “I’m sure you don’t want me to damage your good hand. Because we both know you ain’t been laid in a long fucking time.”

Artis felt insulted but he didn’t dare let it show, especially since he knew Morane would only take pleasure in his suffering. Yet he couldn’t help but feel like the same pathetic young man he’d been when he first came to the man. Everything in this office was exactly as he remembered it too, nothing had seemed to change. Not even his demeanor.

“Is this how it has to be? Isn’t there some other way I could pay for my crimes?” Artis began to plead, turning himself around to look Morane into his icy blue eyes. “Please, I’ll do anything you ask?”

Morane sneered at his pathetic attempts to save his own skin. “Pick a fucking hand and place it on top of my desk!”

Artis frowned and then glanced down at both of his hands. He was mostly right-handed but he did use his left hand just as much for certain things, so he knew this wouldn’t be easy. But neither did he have any idea what Morane planned on doing with that chosen hand, whether it meant he would only lop off a single finger or the whole hand itself. Either way this was something Artis wished deeply he could get out, but Morane didn’t seem to be up for negotiations anymore.

Then with a heavy sigh, Artis leaned over Morane’s desk with the palm of his left hand pressed against its smooth wooden surface. He closed his eyes and looked away as Morane walked up with the knife in hand. Artis tried not to show any fear but his whole body was trembling now.

“Sorry it’s come to this.” Morane gave a sincere apology, before bringing the knife down and slicing off the index finger of Artis’s hand.

The shock from the pain was the only thing Artis felt in that moment, but he still refused to open his eyes and look at the mess of blood on Morane’s desk.

“Now we have to stop the bleeding of course.” Morane mentioned next as he flicked open a zippo lighter and held the flame against the stump of finger Artis had left, cauterizing it.

Artis clenched his teeth and grimaced, feeling as though he could faint any moment.

“There now.” Morane commented smirking at his morbid work as he put the lighter away. “Was that really so bad now? You can open your eyes. Consider yourself lucky I didn’t force you to watch.”

Artis’s eyes shot open and looked down at the puddle of blood smeared across the desk like a crude painting. He felt immediate disgust. And then he looked down at the burnt flesh on his hand and felt like fainting again. His face was pale as a ghost now from the loss of blood.

“And what lesson was this supposed to teach me?” He asked then.

“No more fuck ups.” Morane looked him dead in the eye, and then tossed him a roll of bandage tape. “Wrap it up and then you can set to work on him.” Morane gestured at Stan.

Without hesitation, Artis wrapped the tape around his stump of a finger and then knelt down beside the android to examine the damage more closely. He pressed a finger to its face to check for any neural response at all but it was still unresponsive.

“I’m going to need a lot more light in here to do this.” He looked over at Morane, who walked over to the wall lamp and slightly turned the small knob beside it counter clockwise, causing the light to brighten the room.

“That better?” Morane asked, before heading back to his desk to clean up the blood and properly dispose of the severed finger.

Artis nodded, still feeling a bit faint as he pulled out his toolkit. “Yeah it will do, thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.” Morane replied almost jovially as he wrapped the severed finger into a bloodstained handkerchief and then tossed it inside the trash can beside his desk.

Artis still couldn’t believe the predicament he was in, but he also knew he didn’t want to lose anymore fingers or his life for that matter. For now he would cooperate with the man until he was asked to leave. But when that would be he didn’t know.

“Not that I’m trying to sound bothersome, but what exactly do you want me to fix here?” Artis asked, looking up at Morane. “I mean aside from the obvious damage to his faceplate, that is.”

Without saying a word, Morane rose from his chair and walked around the side of his desk, stopping just to pull a cigar out of his front pocket and light it.

Artis could feel shivers run up and down his spine. He really hoped he hadn’t angered the man this time. But he desperately needed to know what his instructions were so he could set to work already.

“I don’t want him to have any memory of what happened in here.” Morane finally answered, followed by a puff of smoke from his mouth. “And I want him meaner, more aggressive if you will. I want every sad son of a bitch in this city to fear the very sight of him.”

Artis duly noted all of this and nodded. “All right, so memory erasure and more aggression. I’ve got that down so far. Anything else? What about his relationships with those at the AMF base? If I erase too much he could end up forgetting everything, but again it’s up to you. You’re the one calling all the shots here and I’m just following orders.”

Morane seemed to be thinking it over as Artis watched him. And while the room may have been a lot brighter, it still had no effect on the darkness in the man’s eyes. Those soulless eyes stared him down as though he were vermin.

“Don’t erase those.” Morane replied. “I still need him as a spy. I just want him to be a lot more dangerous. Not to me of course.” A snide smirk spread across his mouth then. “But to everyone else, even you.”

Artis complied and began working, first by removing the faceplate, exposing the android’s artificial brain within its cavity. But all the while Artis was trying to keep busy, he was very much afraid of the horrible outcome such an upgrade would have. Especially to those around him; the people he cared for. What if Stan does in fact become the ultimate weapon? Artis shuddered to think what it would capable of after he was done. But there was no backing out now. It was too late.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
1 year 4 months ago #27482

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

I want him to program Stan to remember all of it, hide it, and then rip Morane's guts out through his nose!
The following user(s) said Thank You: LadyGrimes
1 year 4 months ago #27511

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