Machine Girl: A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing – Chapter 20

Eugene

Victoria faded from Eugene’s view, he wasn’t even sure if she had seen him.  Why the fuck was she here anyway?  He didn’t have time to worry about her, he had to look for cover.  The monster who shared the room with him was moving now, picking up the battery packs from their cradles and attaching them to its body.  It turned to face the three remaining men in the room who were all frozen in place just as Eugene was.

“Now for the rest of you bastards who helped her do this to me.  You will all pay.  EVERYONE WILL PAY!”  It crossed the room in the blink of an eye, feet tearing into the steel flooring like it was tissue paper and grabbed the technician next to Eugene.  Holding him around the waist it tore one arm off with dreadful slowness and dropped the mewling scientist to the ruptured floor.

The door burst in with a deafening explosion followed immediately by gunfire and Eugene dove behind a steel table that held lab equipment as the bullets ricochet off the thing like flies hitting a windshield.

The machine roared and tore towards the airlock.  Black clad figures scattered left and right down the corridor, but one was too slow.  The thing picked up the soldier and flung her across the room to slam into a will with sundering force.  With a guttural growl, it gave chase to the other soldiers.

As the sounds of pursuit faded, interspersed with sporadic gunfire and Eugene bent to tie a tourniquet on the arm of the scientist even though he was pretty sure the man was done for.  He glanced fearfully towards the door just in time to see a lithe figure drop from some unseen hiding place in the ceiling of the hallway.

“Victoria?  What are you doing here?”  She was wearing Kevlar battle armor and armed to the teeth, he almost didn’t recognize her.

“We are here to extract you.  Secure anything you require and follow me.  There is a Scimitar gunship waiting for us outside.  The team will keep that construct busy while we make good our escape.”  She sounded focused and precise, Eugene had heard this tone before.

“Adam?  That’s you isn’t it?” He asked.

“Affirmative, Victoria is not equipped to handle this type of situation.” Came the swift and calm reply.

“Look, that’s not just a construct.  It has a human brain and an AI much like yours.  I think the brain has become unbalanced though, he killed his own wife!”  Eugene shuddered.

“No time for idle speech Doctor, let’s move out before that thing destroys this ship.”  Victoria turned and slipped noiselessly out of the room.

Eugene followed her down the hallway.  She turned towards the cabins instead of the exit, glancing down the corridor briefly before drawing her pistol and firing two quick shots followed by the sound of bodies falling.  She motioned for him to continue following and slipped around the corner and he saw the two men she had taken down.  The shots had been placed precisely in each of their right eyes.

“We can get to the roof through here, then Dace can bring the chopper around for evac.”  Adam said with Victoria’s voice.  She opened the door, revealing a narrow staircase and paused to clear it before stealthily moving up it.  Sounds of gunfire, a helicopter and the tortured shriek of twisting metal could clearly be heard from the top of the stairs.

“Watch it, this is going to get dangerous when we get up there.  It sounds like my little brother is still causing trouble.”  They carefully looked over the edge of the roof just in time to see the cyborg throwing a large chunk of steel railing into the rotor blades of the hovering gunship.  The Scimitar was designed to take some abuse so although it spun out of control and plunged to a splash landing it did not explode.

Victoria snuck onto the roof like a cat and got behind the machine.  Eugene could see her holster the sidearm and crouch down, making ready.  The two remaining soldiers recovered from the shock of seeing their craft disabled and opened fire on the creature that was stalking them once more.

“Noooo-!”  Victoria’s voice screamed in panic for a moment before it cut off but her body moved in perfect precision, leaping onto the thing’s shoulders while its attention was on the figures in black that were peppering it with lead.  It reached behind itself and grabbed her by the legs with a sickening crunch just as she pressed her thumbs on the immobilizing switches.

The beast swayed, gyros no longer able to compensate for the lack of muscle control and fell on its side with Victoria still encased in its metal embrace.  The machine was screaming, its vocal circuits had not been shut down yet but Eugene could still hear Victoria’s sobs beneath the roar.  What the fuck had just happened?

One of the soldiers motioned ran to Victoria’s side and the other approached him.  Eugene was surprised to see a young looking female face looking down the barrel of a submachine gun at him.

“You’re Eugene Arlington correct?”  All he could do was nod in shock, “You’re coming with us.”

“Wait, what about Victoria?”  He stammered, trying to regain control of his scattered senses.

“We may be able to get the Scimitar airborne again in an hour or so, then we will only be another hour out from the finest medical facility.”  She replied, her face a focused mask.

“No, she will almost certainly bleed to death before then.”  Eugene said, looking at Victoria’s mangled form and shuddering as he fought to keep himself calm.  “Listen, I’m a doctor and there is an operating room just below us, albeit a completely destroyed one.  I can save her.”

“Doc, her legs are thrashed.  She knew the risk.  I have to hand it to her, Vic’s made of some pretty stern stuff.  Without her actions we’d prolly all be dead.”  She looked over at the floating form of the Scimitar and grimaced.  “The faster we get her out of here the less likely she is to get an infection.”

The mechanical screaming had stopped; the other soldier had yanked the battery packs out of it.  Once it lost power, the hands also relaxed and Victoria fell to the deck limply.

“Eugene?  Are you still alive?”  Her voice was weak but steady.

“Yes, I’m here.”  He moved to her side, tears leaking from his eyes at the amount of blood pooling beneath her.

“That’s some consolation I suppose.”  She wasn’t looking at him.  “Fuck.  After all that he turns out to be a traitor.”

“What are you talking about?  I would never betray you Victoria.”  He took her hand and she didn’t pull away.  When she finally did meet his eyes there was fear burning in them.

“Not you Eugene.  Adam.  I know it was the only way to stop that thing but I didn’t want to go.”  She grabbed his hand so tightly he could feel the joints creak and whispered, “I didn’t want to do it but he made me anyway.  What have you done?  I want to pass out but I can’t because he knows shock victims have a much worse chance of survival if they lose consciousness, Eugene I can’t stop him.  He’s in there and I can’t stop him.”

“Shhhh, it’s going to be OK.”  He patted her hand, not knowing what else to do, “Are you in pain Victoria?”

“No.  I can’t feel anything below my waist.  How bad is it?”

“Pretty bad.”  He saw some parachute cord in a tidy bundle strapped to her vest with Velcro.  “I’m going to put tourniquets on your legs so you won’t bleed too much and we’ll get you out of here as fast as we can.”

The muffled sound of a powerful boat motor caused everyone on the deck to look around.  The soldier who had been talking to Eugene started talking, apparently to someone on the chopper.

“Damn it Sky why didn’t you or Link let us know about the incoming?  What do you mean it’s not showing on radar?”

“Members of the Special Forces squad seventeen, please hold your fire.  We are friendlies, repeat please hold your fire.”  A voice reverberated off the ship through a megaphone and another craft leaped into view as its running lights were switched on.  It had gotten within a hundred feet and been completely invisible until the crew had turned on the lights.  Standing on the deck was Dmitri Nikitin.

Dmitri’s boat was a long narrow affair, obviously built for speed.  Her angular hull, deck and cabin were all made of fibrous black material that looked like it was military grade.  She was approximately thirty feet from bow to aft.  Once he was close enough, Dmitri threw a grapnel onto the Misery and pulled his boat up tight to the side.

“Speed is of the essence, I believe the enclave on that island over there is probably in communication with this ship.”  He bowed slightly towards the apparent leader of the unit, “Well met Chelsea Daceiron, I have heard of your team but did not expect you to be so young.  Your reputation precedes you.”

“No need to worry about com, that metal monster crushed Kim with the radio array.  I dunno know who the hell you are, but we’re gonna to have to commandeer your ship.  I have wounded that need immediate evac.”

“My name is Dmitri Nikitin and I place myself at your disposal, commandeering is completely unnecessary.  Besides, I can pilot this craft much faster than any of your team.  Let us load your survivors and make haste back to civilization.”

Eugene had finished tying the second tourniquet and shuddered at the damage that had been done to Victoria’s legs.  Adam must have shut off the nerves on her lower body because he could feel the bones grinding against each other when he lifted them to slide the cords underneath.  Dmitri approached with a concerned frown on his face.

“Eugene, what on Earth have you allowed to happen to Victoria?  Had I known she was in this much danger I would not have stayed as far out as I did.”

“It wasn’t his fault Dmitri, I did this to myself.”  Victoria’s voice was bitter, “Thanks for coming like I asked.”

“Of course my dear.”  Dmitri gently picked her up, her mangled legs dangling disturbingly, and began walking towards his slim craft.  “I apologize for not coming sooner or having more appropriate emergency equipment, Dark Star is not designed for this type of extraction.”

“Wait a fucking second here.  You TOLD him?”  Dace was irate, “I lost half my team on this mission and you compromised us by leaking intel to a civilian third party?”

“Do not act as though my actions contributed to the demise of your underlings.” Dmitri said, “You cannot face a monster and expect to get away without a few scratches.  Please modify your tone if you wish my assistance, Victoria is dear to me and I will not have you casting dispersions on her character aboard my craft.”

He stepped aboard his boat without looking back, leaving Dace gaping like a landed fish.  In the distance an alarm began sounding from the direction of the island.  She looked back towards the downed Scimitar and then at Dmitri’s Dark Star.

“OK, let’s collect what we can and get the hell otta here.  Something’s squawkin on that island and I don’t wanna be here when they scramble. ” Dace said, “Sky, Link, set the destruct on that thing and get over here.  We ain’t leavin a cinder for them to find.  Hey!  Mr. Nikitin!  How much room you got on that boat?”

Eugene finally pulled himself out of the daze he was stuck in and stood up, walking toward a crumple of metal he assumed was the destroyed communications array.  He could see a pair of black clad legs sticking out from under a large piece of it and attempted to see if their owner still lived.

Dmitri was climbing out of the cabin of Dark Star presumably after getting Victoria settled. “She will comfortably seat six, more than enough room for your remaining comrades.”

As he made his way around the mangled mess trying to find a place to check for a pulse Eugene saw it wasn’t necessary.  A large portion of the array had caved the girl’s head in.

“Good, then we can take our dead back too.”  Said Dace.

“I fear time is of the essence Miss Daceiron, I do not wish to give Victoria the chance to bleed to death while you gather fallen troops.”  Dmitri said mildly, lighting a cigarette.

“By the time you finish that coffin nail I’ll be out with whoever I can find.”  Dace drew a pistol from its holster on her left hip and went back into the Misery through the door Eugene and Victoria had exited.  After a moment, Eugene followed.

“Dace, I will help if I can.  I would also like to get my laptop if it survived.”  He said.

“Just don’t slow me down.”  Dace replied, “You get Fats from the operating room then, I’ll see if I can find Shai.  Forty-five seconds Doc.”  She handed him a pistol.

“What am I supposed to do with this?”  He looked at the weapon like it was a week old fish.

“Shoot anything that moves.  I dunno if we downed all the hostiles or not.”

Eugene ran to the room where his laptop hopefully still sat in one piece.  He glanced in the door before moving inside, it was a mess of wiring, torn steel and corpses.  His laptop was sitting on the floor, its fractured screen flickering but apparently still functional.  When he entered the room to retrieve it Eugene could hear someone moaning.  The girl who had been thrown across the room was still alive.  He closed his machine and set it down on a twisted piece of lab equipment without bothering to shut it down.

“Dace?  That you?” She said, “Oh Christ I’m tore up pretty bad.”

“It’s Eugene, I’m here to get you out.”  He said.  “The chopper is down but we have a boat waiting.”  He awkwardly grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder in a Fireman’s carry, then picked up his laptop and staggered to the door.  This girl was a lot heavier than she looked.

“Thanks Doc.”  She was muttering almost too quiet to hear, “Fucking demons, we weren’t ready for fucking demons.”

When they got back topside Eugene saw they were the last two.  Dace ran up to help him out.
“Careful, she’s not dead.”

“Shit Fats, you lucky bitch.”  Dace wiped some tears from her cheek, “Good to see your eyes open, now keep ‘em that way until we get you a medic.”

“Don’ feel lucky.  Hurts.  Tired.”

Together they managed to get her aboard and strapped into a chair.  The Dark Star had begun to set out as soon as they had boarded, but now that Fats was belted in Dmitri opened up the throttle and the boat leaped forward.  Eugene drew a shaky sigh of relief, it was finally over.

“It’s all over Eugene.”  Victoria didn’t sound relieved, hers was a voice of despair.

“Thank you for coming to get me Victoria, there’s no way the team would have been able to rescue me.”

She talked in a monotone, “We tried to get through its WIFI and Bluetooth but it didn’t appear to have the proper software installed.  We were going to pull the power plug but it saw through that little ruse and killed our proxy.  Ripped him in half like a piece of paper.  After he fitted those Lithium Fusion batteries the game changed.  There was no other choice but to intervene directly, push the buttons, take him out manually.  Didn’t count on him having shoulders that could articulate like that.  Thought we’d be safe.”

“Don’t try to speak Victoria, you’re in shock.”  Eugene said, “I’m sure we will be able to repair the damage.  You’ll live, I swear it.”

“Sure I will probably live.”  She said, a tear leaking from the corner of her eye, “But I’m trapped in this body with an enemy.  How am I supposed to want to live with Him still in my head?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  Eugene asked, already knowing the answer.  “Who is in your head?  Why is he an enemy?”

Victoria’s head slumped to the side, she had lost consciousness.  Eugene looked at her helplessly, checking her vitals to make sure she hadn’t actually died on him.  To his surprise she actually seemed stable.

“She will not fail me Mr. Arlington.”  Eugene jumped at the voice behind him.

“What do you mean fail YOU?”  Eugene demanded, “She isn’t doing a goddamn thing for you Dmitri!”

“Oh Mr. Arlington, how little you truly know.”  Dmitri said, the icy cool of his voice frightening Eugene enough to snap him out of his state of shock.  “It matters not what she thinks she is doing, everything she does is for me.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”  He demanded.

“Exactly what it sounds like Doctor.”  Was Dmitri’s calm, collected reply.  “The longer she lives, the more potent her technology will become.  The more dramatic her death, the more the military will want it for themselves.  All this will make my father’s investment pay, therefore all she does is for me.”

With that, Dmitri turned back to the controls of his boat as it lanced through the night.

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Machine Girl: A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing – Chapter 19

Victoria

Victoria was strapped into a hard plastic seat in the back of the smallest personnel transport helicopter she had ever seen.  It was all hard angles, flat black and had multiple hatches that would allow the passengers to jump out of it individually.  The chopper didn’t have any tail rotor, instead there were two rotor blades on the top that rotated in opposing directions which she supposed kept it stable in the air.

The team she was with was also a surprise.  They wore the same flat black Kevlar body armor she had been equipped with and each had their own set of weaponry and tools strapped in convenient locations or stowed in handy pockets.  That wasn’t too surprising; she’d seen her share of movies after all.  What really was interesting was that they were all female.

When she had arrived at the recon point with the Lieutenant, she had been directed into the back of this tiny helicopter and given her gear, then told to put it on.  This involved stripping to the skin and while she was only half dressed she heard a vehicle approaching.  A group of soldiers in full dress emerged from a Humvee and began unloading equipment.  Victoria couldn’t quite reach one of the straps that tightened the Kevlar armor but one of the soldiers approached carrying an awkward case of ammunition and pulled it tight for her.  She looked like she was in her late twenties or early thirties, slightly taller with a tad more muscle mass though, and her gear had seen some serious use.

“Damn, you put this on like a pro ‘cept for this bit here.  It’s a real pain in the ass to reach unless you don’t quite follow the regs and do it second to last instead of last then it don’t get away from ya.”  The girls’ voice sounded rough, like she’d been shouting for hours or smoking for years.

“Thanks.  I’m Victoria, all this is pretty new to me.”

The girl offered her hand and Victoria shook it, “Dace.  It don’t seem like any of this is new to you at all.  Shit I’ve seen veterans with years’ experience who don’t know how to gird themselves the way you’ve done.  You even have the quick release done right.  How’d you learn to do that bein’ as you’re a civi and all?”

“Civi?  Oh, civilian.  It comes with a manual; all you need to do is read right?”  Victoria was pretty sure Adam was to blame but wasn’t about to reveal that particular bit of insight.

“You must be the quickest fuckin reader I’ve ever met; you’ve only been in here for about five minutes.” Dace shrugged, “Anyway, come on out here and meet the team.  We’re gonna get you in and out and get that doctor of yours while we’re at it.”

They walked out into the small parking lot where five other women were loading weapons, testing equipment and double checking the fit of their gear.  Dace raised her voice.

“Listen up!”  The others stopped what they were doing immediately and turned to look at her, “This is our cargo.  Goes by Victoria for this exercise she’s Vic.  Vic, meet the team, Shai on recon, Sky on sniper, Kim on demo, Link on com, then there’s me and Fats on point.”  The young women all nodded in turn as they were introduced, “I’m captain of this mission and also flying this rocket.  Any questions?”

“Do you know anything about the layout of the boat?”  Victoria asked.

“Negative, she’s a custom job and the shipyard where she was constructed suffered an unfortunate fire right after her maiden voyage.”  Dace gave her an appraising look, “You sure you ain’t done this before?”

Victoria opened her mouth to respond and then stopped.  She could see a line drawing in her mind’s eye and those ghostly orange letters floated across her vision telling her this was a blueprint of the Misery.  “OK, I’ll see what I can do for us then.  I need paper and a pen.”

Dace raised an eyebrow but handed her a small notepad and pencil. “Whacha gonna do?  Draw me a floor plan?”

“Yes, let me concentrate.”  Her head throbbed the way it always did when Adam was forcing data on her conscious mind.  She tried to relax and let the information flow from her brain to the paper.  In a matter of minutes she had sketched a rough outline of the ship, the doors, windows and rooms as well as quick notations about each one.

“I heard about this.  I heard about it but I didn’t believe it.”  Fats was staring at her, “You’re Project Sixteen aren’t you?”

“Cut the chatter Fats, we got work to do.”  Dace looked at the sheets of paper Victoria had handed her, “These accurate?  It’s all our asses if you give me shitty intel.”

“Yes, they aren’t to scale I don’t think but the layout should be good.”  She rubbed her temples, “I’m not sure where we got that from but I don’t think that’s the final draft.  There may have been some minor changes to what room is where but the general layout is definitely accurate.”

“Let’s move out people, I want to be bustin into that boat by 0430!”  They all ran into the chopper and strapped in.  Dace flicked a few switches and as the rear hatch closed the engines began to wind up.

Fats was sitting next to Victoria and staring hard at her.  “So why do they call you Fats?”

“I play trumpet.  Fats Domino is my inspiration.” She said, still staring. “Is it true?  Are you Project Sixteen?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what that means.”  Victoria said.

“Hey, that shit’s classified.”  Said Shai, looking up from the drawings Victoria had made.  “You say these aren’t to scale but they look pretty precise to me.  Where’d you get this intel from?”

They were all looking at her now.  “I have a friend who is a serious hacker.  We were looking into this before Kate called me in and he pulled them for me.  If I’d had more warning I could have just printed them, lucky for us I have a photographic memory.”

“Ready to depart, you bitches better be strapped in if you have time for idle chatter!”  Dace shouted over her shoulder.

“Ready for takeoff Captain!”  The unit replied in unison.

The chopper felt like it was launched from a catapult; Victoria felt the G forces press her into the molded plastic chair.  Without being belted in she would surely have slid out of the chair and onto the floor but the straps on her thighs kept her firmly in place.  There were no windows to see out of, but she knew the ground was falling away quickly.  After a couple seconds, the craft stopped rising and shot forward with astonishing speed.

“So rumor has it you’re proficient with a pistol is that accurate Vic?”  Sky looked at her from across the cabin.  “What model do you favor?”

“Oh, uh I guess I’ve only ever fired a Smith and Wesson nine millimeter Sigma SW9VE.  I found it to be accurate but a little on the heavy side and I didn’t like the trigger action.”  Victoria stopped for a moment, “I don’t really know much about guns.”

“Well we don’t use nines here.  Lightest I’ve got is a forty four.”  She opened one of the steel cases that had been brought onboard, took out a holstered black pistol with a silencer affixed to the barrel and a half dozen loaded magazines.  “Here, this should do.”

Victoria unclasped the chest harness of her chair and took the holstered weapon, holding it gingerly.  Leaning forward, she carefully put the tactical harness on, shifting the holster so it sat comfortably just above her left hip.  Finding a few handy pockets she slid the magazines into balanced positions, then put her harness back on.  She looked up to see Sky watching her intently.

“Yeah.  I can tell you’ve never handled a weapon before.”  Sarcasm dripped from her voice, “Look, why don’t you drop the ‘little Miss innocent’ act all right?  We know you’ve had tactical training and a lot of it.  The only question you’ve asked was related to the mission, you haven’t had any problems gearing up; shit I still have trouble with these fucking Kevlar suits.  You didn’t even need to be told which seat was yours and you haven’t made one single mistake.”

“Project sixteen.”  Fats said, “I knew it.”

“What the hell is project sixteen?” Sky asked, “I don’t remember that briefing.”

“Sleepers, like in the ‘Bourne’ series.  You know, civies who get brainwashed to do specific tasks without knowing about it, then someone gives them a string of words or a key or something and they flip a switch and become cold decisive killers or whatever right?”  Said Link.

“Naw I heard it was some brain implant that they can control with microwaves or by radio.”  Said Kim, “You been captured by aliens lately Vic?”

“Are you referring to Adam?”  Victoria lifted her hair, showing the prosthetic where it bolted to her skull.  “He’s not brainwashing me or anything, he’s my artificial spine and he might have military funding but he’s not some military project.  Before they gave me some software that let me see wireless Ethernet communication, but it went slightly wrong and crashed us.”

“That’s some heavy shit.” Said Fats, looking closely at her head.  “Why’d you let them do that to you?  Christ you must have a screw loose.”

“It was either that or spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.  I got cancer and there was pretty much either chemo and being paralyzed and sick until I died or this.  I chose to retain my mobility.  It was a big risk but it played out pretty well for me in the end.”  Victoria let her hair back down.

“What’re those plugs?  Do you jack in like ‘The Matrix’?” Asked Link.

“Link’s obsessed with that movie, she thinks it’s going to be the next big plague or something.”  Said Fats, rolling her eyes.

“Wait, you called it Adam right?  Does that mean it has personality or something?”  Link’s eyes widened, “It’s not an AI is it?”

“Oh shit, here we go, now she’s not gonna leave you alone.” Said Sky, “You got her started and now we’ve gotta deal with this shit for the whole flight.”

“Button up back there, we’re making our approach.”  Dace yelled.  Everyone put radio earbuds in their ears, leaned back and grabbed the handles on the sides of their seats.  Victoria had already fitted hers into her ears and just relaxed; knowing that fighting the G forces was pointless.  The chopper banked in a hard circle.

“Something’s up Dace, the boat’s dead out there.” Link said quietly, coming in loud and clear in Victoria’s ear, “No power signature coming from anywhere.  They can’t be jamming us, maybe there’s some mechanical failure of some sort.”

“No, they have something on there that is masking their emissions or confusing our equipment.” Said Sky, “I can’t see anything through my scope except for infrared and there’s a lot of heat coming from it.  The main source is from the very center, the spot Vic marked as the operating theater.”

“I’m setting us down here; this thing’s supposed to float.  We’ll use the water jets to get in closer.”  Dace said and in moments had put the chopper down on the water.  “Sky, you’ll stay here to cover our asses from unseen threats.  Link you set up com and make sure we stay connected.”

The side doors opened and the team all grabbed what looked like torpedoes from a rack on the wall.  Victoria saw them pull handles from the sides and followed suit.  They all slid into the water and activated the jets which pulled them through the water.

Damn, this was like a Bond movie!  Despite the tension of the moment Victoria couldn’t help but enjoy herself.  The water was cold but calm, their movement was swift and effortless.  As they reached the edge of the craft, the sound of metal crashing against metal reverberated through the water and the dim lights they could see now that they were closer flickered.

“Now’s our chance, let’s move.  Sky, clear our entry”  Dace said, and they affixed magnetic tethers to the side of the boat in order to keep the tiny jets from floating away before quietly making their way over the railing.  Two clanking noises, like the sound of someone dropping a bolt on the steel deck were quickly followed by the sound of two bodies falling with a clatter.

“All clear Dace.”  Sky said, “I’ll keep your exit route open.”

Once on board, Fats tossed the bodies overboard after taking the radios off their belts.  She handed one to Dace and kept one herself.  With hand signals they coordinated their movements into the ship.  Quickly and efficiently, Fats and Dace dispatched anyone they came across.  Armed guards took a bullet in the eye; anyone unarmed took a fist or rifle butt to the chin or the back of the head.

They passed by a room with an airlock door that had a small but very thick window.  Victoria glanced through and clearly saw Eugene’s face look up from a computer screen.  The recognition and shock on his face confirmed that it was him.  She stopped in her tracks, throwing the signal to the rest of the team as though she was the leader and that’s when she realized blood and pieces of bone and brain were dripping down the window.  Then Adam took over.

Machine Girl: A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing – Chapter 18

Eugene leaped for the door as the thing that had once been Lawrence McKenna tore the room apart.  Its jerky movements were wickedly fast but totally out of control, he could tell it was only standing because of the gyros that it was equipped with.  Something had gone wrong with the data routing or else their audio and visual inputs weren’t coded properly.  Either that or he was simply insane or brain damaged from his time in the coma.

“Shut him down, SHUT HIM DOWN!”  Seraphim was yelling.  “Take the whole room down!”  The lights all cut out and Eugene felt as well as heard the titanium chassis hit the floor.  For a moment all was dark and the silence after the mayhem was deafening.

Emergency lighting flickered on and Eugene could see the chaos again.  Pieces of equipment had been smashed, half of the halogen lights were broken, the reinforced stainless steel table was bent into a pretzel and the black metal body of the monster that had wrought such destruction lay face down on the floor, its hand mere inches from Seraphim’s foot.

“What happened to him?  Why couldn’t he hear me?”  Seraphim was looking at one of her technicians who was cowering in a corner.  She moved to an intercom on the wall and jumped back as it emitted a crackle of electricity that arced to her hand.  Shaking her hand she pulled a radio from her belt, “Give me a damage report and someone tell me what the FUCK happened in here!”

Eugene saw his laptop sitting on the floor where it had fallen when the monster tore free.  He cautiously approached, keeping a wary eye on the machine.  “If I can pull data from the prosthetic’s AI maybe I can figure out why he went berserk.  I hope my laptop isn’t thrashed.”  He picked it up and saw the screen was fractured in the upper right corner, bleeding liquid crystals into the surrounding area but otherwise whole.

“You do that Eugene.  You do that while I watch.  My poor baby is sitting down there blind, deaf and dumb he must be panicking!”  Seraphim said as that nasty looking knife appeared in her hand again.  Eugene was pretty sure she had it up her sleeve.

He plugged into the diagnostics port and looked at the output.  “Look here, this is very strange.”  He was pointing to a portion of the log file, “I’m not seeing any input on the audio or visual devices.  Here you can see the audio output but something’s not right with the inputs.  It makes sense that he wouldn’t have any control over the body, most of that control is based on your senses right?”

Seraphim nodded slowly and he continued, “I’m not sure what kind of sensory devices are hooked up for a sense of touch but I don’t see those as having any data to transfer either.  It’s possible something’s not hooked up properly or else the designers didn’t isolate the frequencies.  A.D.A.M. performs data routing based on the specific nerve frequency each nerve emits.  It can easily find the endings in the brain stem and trace those signals back to their destination because every nerve pulse is a two way street.  If the designers of this device didn’t ensure they had the frequencies the brain was already using for data routing there’s no way my AI can properly route the data.”

“We can’t risk turning him on again to troubleshoot.  He almost destroyed the Misery with his growing pains.”  In spite of the distress Eugene could hear pride in her voice.  She was fucking nuts.

“I can activate the immobilizer on the prosthetic.  It’s intended to lock down a person’s movements so they don’t injure themselves when the grafts are still young.  I didn’t think it would be necessary because his body isn’t flesh but I didn’t take into account him going berserk.”  Eugene carefully approached the machine and removed two rubber plugs, one on either side of the base of the skull.  He pushed the two buttons underneath and held them for fifteen seconds.  The immobilizer moved into place with a satisfying pair of clicks.

“OK you can turn him back on.  He will be able to do everything except for move.”  He stepped back from the machine and noticed for the first time the backs of the legs were hollow as were two very large sections on the back.  “What are these for?”

“Those are for his autonomous power packs.  It’s a relief we didn’t have time to fully charge him, right now he’s on cabled power.  If he hadn’t been plugged in still we wouldn’t have been able to stop his rampage.”  One of the technicians indicated a thick umbilicus that was running from the right leg back to one of the few pieces of equipment that had avoided being crushed.

“Can you get me the frequencies his brain is using for the sensory devices?”  The tech was now moving back to the machine the cable was attached to.  “If this thing hasn’t been damaged too badly I should be able to modify the output and we can get him up and running.”

“Yeah, sure.”  Eugene saved the log file locally and brought his laptop over the tech.

“Well Dr. Arlington, if you’re correct this should do it.”  The tech clicked a couple of keys and the metal monster on the floor hummed to life.

“Shit, are you sure that’s a good idea?”  One of the other techs took a couple of steps back from it.

“Don’t worry, he can’t move right now.  The prosthetic’s safety override has been engaged.”  Eugene said, the scientist in him was now curious as to what would happen.

“Darling, can you hear me?”  Seraphim approached the monstrosity that had been her husband.

“Angel?  Is that really you?  This isn’t another delusion?  I can’t move my love, I’m paralyzed.”  His voice sounded different from before, more calm.

“Let me fix that for you my sweet.  You have been immobilized for your and ours but I can see that you are no threat.”  She leaned down and pressed on the switches she had seen Eugene touch.  The construct twitched, then rolled over to a sitting position.

“What have you done to me Seraphim?  Why am I like this?”  He held up a metal hand.

“For revenge my love.” She purred, “There isn’t a force on the Earth who can stand against us now.”

“Revenge?  As I seem to recall, a dish best served cold.”  His hand reached out towards her and she leaned in for his caress.  He cupped her face in his hand gently.  “That’s not like you at all; you were always so full of fire and temper.”

“Oh, there’s plenty of time for that.”  Her voice dropped low and husky, “More than enough time for death and destruction, the plans have been made and the groundwork is all finished.  All we are waiting for is your command and we shall rain fire down upon our enemies.”  Seraphim ran her hand down his mechanical arm and closed her eyes.

“My Angel, how could I survive without you?”  Her head still rested in his massive titanium palm, “We will CRUSH them.”  His hands tightened into fists reflexively, smashing Seraphim’s head like a grape.

“Angel?” Farlan’s voice trembled, “My darling?”  He looked down at the broken form at his feet.  “What is this?  No no no no no it’s happening again, it’s the dream again the dream it must be the dream.”  His head turned, seeming to take in the room for the first time.  His gaze fell upon Eugene, “Is this a dream?”

One of the technicians in the room managed to recover from the shock of the situation and carefully reached towards the thick umbilicus that connected the machine to its power source.  Just before his hand touched the plug the machine’s head cocked to one side as though listening, and then sprang on the unfortunate man, crushing him underfoot.

“He says you are the enemy.  He says you are trying to turn us off.  I don’t understand this dream; I am letting CAS handle it.”  A flash on the screen in front of him caused Eugene to look down.  The readout on the monitor next to his laptop had a warning in red.

‘Warning, emergency self-defense protocol engaged.  Manual override failed.’

The man next to him looked into Eugene’s eyes, fear plain on his face.  “We built a copy of your AI into the chassis to help control it, a Chassis Automation System.  It has changed the access codes on its own.  I’m locked out.”

A blur of motion passed between the two men and the tech exploded.  Farlan raised his gore-covered hand, looking at it curiously.

Eugene’s legs failed him and he crumpled to the floor, accidentally saving his life as the thing’s hand seemed to materialize in the space he had just vacated.  All he could do was gape in horror until a flickering motion caught his eye.  When he glanced at it his heart almost stopped.  He was certain he had just caught a glimpse of Victoria through the thick glass that looked out into the hallway.

Machine Girl: A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing – Chapter 17

A.D.A.M.

Adam’s systems kicked into high alert mode.  He was getting better at receiving messages from Victoria directly and now that he had made the T.R.A.P. program he had a way of talking back.  First he let her know she was not alone and he was ready, then he sent Kai Yuen-Ja a message relaying the situation and requesting her assistance in any capacity.  This was not a situation in which he wanted to be underprepared.

He tested all of the Host’s systems, making sure there were no issues that needed to be addressed before they departed, and then threw himself into finding out everything he could about the mission at hand.  Data about the individuals involved was sparse and unreliable so instead he pulled data about similar groups, their mode of operating and general information about their projected armaments.

Using what he was able to get from the Department of Defense’s archives and various terrorist recruiting websites and manifestos he fashioned a few basic reaction protocol.  He was able to find a real prize; the blueprints of the ship known as Misery and made sure to route this information to a readily available schema for Victoria to access.

While he was injecting the proper attack and defense protocol into various parts of his Host’s brain, Adam came across an entry about her father.  The term ‘absolute defense’ was connected to him and out of curiosity he did a search for it online with ‘Scott’ as a search parameter.  A few thousand relevant hits were returned, including a few hundred videos.

Adam opened the first page and found it to be a martial arts expert dissecting the technique used by “Richard Scott” who apparently was the Lightweight mixed martial arts fighting national champion from 1990 to 1995.  He was the only title holder in the history of the sport to have stepped down without suffering one single loss.

When he opened one of the video files he saw it was a recording of a fight.  Based on the body type and facial patterns he recognized Victoria’s father as one of the men in a room with a raised center. (Ring or fighting arena according to the Host’s memory banks).  It was apparently some sort of fighting contest.  Richard’s opponent ran across the ring and unleashed a flurry of blows, each one deftly deflected with an efficient motion of his arms or dodged by a slight movement of his body.

Richard Scott fought like a machine.  His motions were perfect, he was able to analyze his opponent’s motions and use what he saw to his advantage.  After defending for seventy five seconds he struck one blow, a snap kick to the jaw, and felled his adversary.  It was pure systematic beauty.

Adam worked on injecting her father’s fighting style into her subconscious.  He had figured this out while teaching Victoria how to speak Mandarin.  At first he had been awkwardly translating for her, overlaying the meanings of the words directly into her conscious mind as she was hearing them but then he started to see how to link an English word to a Mandarin one based on what her processing and storage protocol behaved.

Of course now he had created new schema with better retrieval algorithms.  After all, learning something mostly distilled down to remembering it and data storage and retrieval was what Adam did best.  It was a little more difficult to change muscle memory but after she used what he was teaching her a once or twice it would come to her easily.  The Host’s chassis (body) was remarkably adaptable.

Eugene

Eugene and Shinji had been talking for about five or six hours.  The man was a genius, a mechanical engineer who had quickly tired of designing bridges although he still had a passion for the mechanics of the ones he had designed.

“It’s steel spring torsion Eugene.  Once you exceed the metal fatigue strength of cable, it is useless but if you can constantly keep it just below that point and then bombard it with microwave radiation the molecules align and the strength of the cable increases dramatically.”  Shinji was sketching directly on the table top with a marker from his shirt pocket.

“After I discovered this phenomenon it was a paradigm shift for bridge design.  High-tension suspension bridges became a totally different animal, spans were longer and the shapes became works of art.”  He smiled.

“How have you applied your bridge design experience to your robotic engineering projects?  I’m not quite seeing the connection between the two.”  Eugene was fishing for whatever information he could get about the ‘chassis’ that Shinji had helped build.

“Ahh, that’s where it gets interesting, when you put the same stress and pressure on titanium instead of getting stronger it gets elastic.”  Shinji’s eyes were bright with excitement, “The most durable metal on the planet suddenly becomes as a piece of shock cord with a thousand fold strength increase.  Instead of using nano-muscle fibers like you have in your prosthetic spinal column we have used elasticized titanium cables.

“The entire system is always under enormous tension and in order to move the components we use cams with sharp lobes.  The amount of pressure we can release is astronomical and since it is all potential energy it can be released in an instant.  That’s where we kept running into problems, the entire thing had to be made from materials built to withstand those forces and that meant we had to eliminate as much organic material as possible.”

Here Shinji paused and blew out a long breath, “Unfortunately Seraphim took it a step further and removed all of it except for the brain.  I’m just not sure how he will handle it; the man was supposedly mentally unstable before the accident and I shudder to think what waking up as a titanium monster will do to him.”

The door slammed open without warning and a pair of guards entered in front of an enraged Seraphim.

“What did you do to him Eugene?  What did you do?”  She demanded, “When we connected everything and turned it on nothing happened.  Nothing at all.  Why isn’t he waking up?”

“I tried to tell you this device is intended to maintain existing function, not introduce new ones.  He was in a natural coma and it’s difficult to know what an organic brain will do when connected to an inorganic one.”  Eugene said, trying to speak calmly. “Do you have the log files?  If not get them for me and I will see what is happening.”

“No, you are coming with me right now.  You have exactly one hour to bring him back to consciousness or else I will resort to drastic measures.”  A knife with a wicked edge seemed to appear in her hand, “Do we have an understanding?”

Eugene swallowed hard, “Yeah, I read you loud and clear.”  Shit the protocols he had tested must not be working as designed.

“Your laptop has already been brought to the operating theater.”  She turned to go and the two men with her gestured for him to go first.

“Good luck Eugene.”  Shinji said as he followed Seraphim’s trail of lilac perfume.

“Thanks Shinji, we’ll have another drink when I get the details ironed out.”  Eugene said, trying to sound more confident than he felt.

It only took a couple of minutes to get to another airlock that gave access to a brightly lit high tech operating room.  A figure was splayed out on a heavy duty table, and while it was the size and general shape of a human being it was constructed completely of black anodized titanium.  Eugene could see his prosthetic had been attached to the unit, the titanium vertebra welded directly to what amounted to a metal ribcage.  The unit was half sleeved in a layer of Kevlar that must contain the Neurosynth fluid required for its operation.

He powered his laptop on and plugged it into the diagnostic port.  The stream of data was massive; failures of multiple systems ran rampant throughout his code.  He downloaded the latest copy of the firmware and looked at it in astonishment.

“Who modified the OS of this device?  Someone input foreign code and it has completely hosed the system!”  He pulled up Windiff and compared the two pieces of software, “See here, here and here, someone has changed the base operating system.  The power up commands are jacked, the response protocol have been cranked to unsafe levels and the data routing system is riddled with bugs!  You can’t pin this shit on me; one of your techs must have decided to have some fun.”

“Do not change that.”  A man in a lab coat had come up from behind him and was looking over his shoulder.  “We had to make some changes due to this body not being a human one.  It reacts much faster than a flesh and blood body and without those modifications he would move as though stuck in a vat of molasses.”

“Hey, I don’t give a shit if he moves slowly or not.  Seraphim ordered me to wake him up or she will remove pieces of my anatomy that I would prefer remain intact.  You can fuck with the code all you want after that jackass.”  Eugene moved to upload his version of the OS and the other man pulled a gun on him.

“Stand down Phillip; if Eugene is wrong about this I will let you shoot him.  If he’s correct you can change things later.”  Seraphim was standing across the room with her arms folded.

“My AI is truly an artificial intelligence.  It learns and adapts.  You shouldn’t have any problems after it has been running for an hour or so.”  Eugene clicked a few keys and watched the status bar on the upload.  After a few tense minutes, he checked the install, found it to be stable and sent the power up command.

A high-pitched whine emanated from the metal body; gyroscopic stabilizers if Eugene’s guess was correct and the chassis began to move.  A series of harsh metallic clicks came from the machine’s joints and then the head moved.

“Angel?  Are you there Angel?”  The voice of the machine was a rich deep bass, amplified by the shape of the thing’s head.  “I can’t see anything.  Where am I?”

“Darling!”  Seraphim was beside the metal monster in an instant, “I’m here and you’re alive again!  I thought I’d lost you forever.  Be careful my love, you have been reborn into something more beautiful and terrible than you were before.”

“ANGEEELLLLL!” The machine screamed, thrashing on the table.  The restraints did not tear, but the table buckled and the bolts holding the cuffs to the table snapped with a sound like gunshots.  Seraphim jumped back from the table, fear in her eyes.