The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

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The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by DukeNukem 2417 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 1:21 pm

“You gonna get this done soon, Holmes? I ain't got all night.”

Britney “Boom-Boom” Delacroix glared at her latest attendant---a rather nervous former clerical manager from a banking chain that had, as of the previous week, been bought out by one Victor Vega. “M..my apologies, Miss Delacroix,” the petite young blonde replied, “but I've, ah....”

“What you done or ain't done,” Brittney snapped, “don't mean a damn thing.” She thrust her left hand forward, allowing her “servant” to get a good look at the servomotor assembly, internal wiring and other mechanisms within. “You want your paycheck, you best fix my damn knuckles so my fingers don't keep curlin' in like I've got some kinda nerve issue....AND WATCH WHERE YOU PUT YOUR DAMN TOOLS!” Her right hand pointed angrily at the girl's power screwdriver, currently resting on the glove-like skin of Brittney's left hand.

“M-m-m-my appologiessssssss,” the blonde stammered, “but I-I-I-I-I-I-----” Her head twitched to the left with each repetition; servos in her neck whirred in protest.

Ever since her failure to knock Sophia Starlet off the pop charts, Brittney had seen less and less of her creator, Victor Vega---not that it bothered her at all. Her attempt to start a “criminal subculture” in Silicon Valley had effectively died out in a matter of days, but she refused to give up the attitude that came with it---everyone in her employ either called her “Miss Delacroix”, “Ma'am” or “boss”---never just “Brittney”. She'd planned on expanding her operations, as well, including buying out a new house in Reseda that had a recording studio added on by its former owner....

….and then everything went to hell.

Hannsen---the guy who'd tried to make Brittney's “Boom-Boom” nickname a bit more...literal---had gone off to the UK and gotten himself beaten half to death by someone. Björn Aaberg, an arms dealer who'd chosen (or been paid) to shelter Hannsen in the UK, had then tried to....do something, possibly avenge Hannsen's incapacitation. Brittney hadn't been told about the specifics.

She had been told, repeatedly, to “lay low and stay low” after those incidents.

“I-I-I-I-I-I----” The blonde attendant's malfunctioning stutter drew the “gangsta” gynoid out of her reverie with a scowl. “Damn pricks can't even get me any good help anymore,” she muttered. She'd read the file that came with the girl regarding her “quirks”---one of which happened to be stress-induced malfunctions---but hadn't expected them to be that big of a problem in day-to-day activities.

With a growl, she grabbed the blonde by the shoulder and practically jammed her little finger into the girl's left ear, feeling for a small bump-like switch inside.

“I....I.....Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.....” The girl's head bowed to her chest as her twitching slowed to a halt.

“Guess I'll have to do this part myself,” Brittney muttered, grabbing the power screwdriver and preparing to get to work on her own hand---but a set of slender, alabaster fingers wrapped around her own wrist from behind, stopping her. “I wouldn't,” a calm, even voice with a vaguely British accent advised. “Self-maintenance can only go so far, and the risk of damaging yourself is far too great....”

Brittney turned to stare at whoever was stupid enough to interfere. “....the hell? Who the---”

Her intended insult died on her tongue as she beheld a strikingly curvy woman with a thin waist, raven hair and a cold but tempting gaze staring down at her. “I've been sent on behalf of Drake Bradford,” she explained.

At the mention of Bradford's name, Brittney groaned. “Him.....what the hell does he want with me?!”

Despite her annoyance with the intrusion, the African-American gynoid's intimacy programming and sexual preferences were firmly set in the “swings both ways” category, allowing her to...appreciate the new arrival with a greater leniency than she might've had in other circumstances. The two strode down the central aisle of what had once been the chapel of Delacroix's mansion---she'd since converted it into a makeshift dance hall (and conference room, for the days when she'd had her fill of partying)---with passed out human females and gynoids in desperate need of a recharge on either side of the aisle. “Mr. Bradford,” the curvy woman explained, “has received an invitation to take part in a lucrative business venture on behalf of....” Her lips twitched in a faint smile. “A mutual former employer.”

Brittney stopped in her tracks. “...mutual former...” The realization hit her like a brick to the face. “No.”

“The Baron is willing to pay handsomely for your participation. You'll choose your own team, set your own pace for the mission...even Mr. Bradford's participation will serve to augment your own”

Her past experiences with the Baron had left Brittney wanting no more of his presence in her life...but the last big payday she'd had was right after she'd said goodbye to Victor Vega and his “fifty-cent dirt farm” operation, as she called his continued mining scams. “You said I'd get....paid handsomely, for doin' this?” she queried.

The pencil skirt of her guest slid up invitingly to show her smooth, bare thigh as the woman turned to smile at Brittney once again. “Very handsomely.”

Subroutines and processes kicked into overdrive to weigh the risk-vs-reward of the offer....not helped along by a mental replay of the blonde attendant's surprisingly arousing malfunction earlier. “Girl,” Brittney finally crooned, “you picked a hell of a day for this offer....my bitches are broken and broke, the power company says I ain't registered to run a 'experimental generator' on my own damn land....I need some new blood in my crew, and a couple extra zeroes in my bank account.”

She gave a sultry---and predatory---smile. “Baby, you tell Drake Bradford that Boom-Boom Delacroix is in.”

“I'm sure he'll be happy to hear the news,” the woman replied with a wan smile of her own. “In fact, I've just transmitted it to him now---”

“So you plug in, too?” Brittney's grin took on a new shade of lasciviousness. “Daaamn....I could use a girl like you, maybe a few girls like you!” She cast a glance back at her blonde attendant; “All the ones Vic keeps sendin' me....they break too damn easy,” she muttered. “An' that's just the day-to-day stuff...try to get 'em in bed, and.....” She gave a derisive snort. “One of 'em blew a fuse just lookin' at my delivery guy last week....aw, hell, where are my damn manners? I ain't even asked your name yet!”

The raven-haired beauty smiled. “K3ND47. My 'human' designation is Kendall.”

“Kendall ....” Brittney nodded. “I think I could get used to workin' with you....”

“Understandable---but most of our work together will be....dangerous,” Kendall admitted. “We'll be assisting in the capture and....removal...of a certain entity....” She handed Brittney an iPhone; “How much do you know about Project Epsilon?” she quietly asked.

Brittney gave her a look. “Epsilon?!” she echoed. “I saw that thing kill a whole room full of people---”

“So you have heard of it,” Kendall murmured. “The Baron was hoping your memory of the incident---”

On the far side of the room, the blonde attendant shuddered; her internal auto-debug systems, having started after Brittney abruptly shut her down, were kicking on and rebooting her. “Error....Error....this unit has been improperly shut down----”

Damn it,” Brittney muttered. “Turn her off five times a day, she turns herself back on every damn time....”

“Then maybe you should get a new one,” a boisterous, male voice called out from the entrance of the former chapel. “Riggs, go make sure I turned the car off---Kendall, I'm surprised to see you haven't fallen for Miss Delacroix's considerable charms already.”

Even as her annoyance built, Brittney couldn't help but admire the wolfish smile, perfectly-coifed hair and $10,000 suit worn by Drake Bradford as he strode up the aisle. “So they got you on Epsilon detail, too?” she inquired. “Your girl here just told me that I'd get paid real nice for helpin' y'all bag that....thing.....” She frowned for a moment, remembering her initial sighting of the man-machine hybrid. “....anyway---”

“Kendall, go tell Riggs to get the other phone out of the car, too,” Drake cut in. “As for our arrangement,” he continued, focusing on Brittney, “I have a feeling that working together will be....mutually beneficial.” Seeing as how his last “mutually beneficial” working relationship had ended with the loss of several fembots based on the designs of the late Dr. Franklin, he decided to not mention the involvement of a certain SJSU student. “And I think we might even---”

“What you think and what you'll get ain't even on the same damn page,” Brittney interrupted, grabbing the head of a gynoid dressed in a vinyl approximation of a schoolgirl outfit and lifting her (by the hair) into a sitting position. “Same chapter, maybe, but.....but.....but......but.....”

Drake arched an eyebrow. “Problem?”

“....but....but....DAMN it!” Brittney kicked at the would-be schoolgirl, sending her crashing to the floor. “You got a lab at your place? All I got here are a buncha old-ass tools, fifteen Dells that don't do a damn bit of good for me other than target practice....” She glared at Drake, her anger slowly giving way that same sensual feeling she'd had towards Kendall. “If we bring both bring down Epsilon,” she mused, “you think the Baron will....give us somethin' other than a big-ass pay raise?” She strode towards Bradford, allowing a seductive sway to punctuate her walk. “You and I.....we might make a damn good team....” Her tongue played over her lips.

“We...we might,” Drake agreed, trying hard not to look at Brittney's skinless left hand. “I think we could both use a change of personnel, a change of scenery....” Brittney circled around him, tracing her finger across his shoulders. “Mmm-hmmm....you ask me, baby, I think we could use a lot of changes....” Despite the inherent sensuality of the gesture, Drake found his thoughts sliding away from how he and “Boom-Boom” Delacroix might make a great team---the Baron had made it clear that delays would not be accepted. “Sure, sure.....so, how soon can you leave for San Jose?”

At once, Brittney's finger-tracing stopped. “San Jose?”

“We're supposed to be there by midnight---the letter specified midnight, by the way---”

“Last time I was in San Jose,” Brittney breathed, “that Starlet bitch was on a mall tour...and some other bitch was the one who stuck her damn nose in my damn business!” She stormed back over to where the blonde attendant was in the middle of her reboot and grabbed the skin-sheath for her left hand. “You got a lab where I can fix my hand?”

“Fix your hand, give you a recharge and take some time to do whatever you feel like doing before we leave for San Jose,” Drake replied. “Riggs can even get my guys to take whatever vehicles you want with us---”

The offer was met with a glare. “Y'all ain't touching my damn cars,” she growled. “I'll get....I'll get.....” Her head snapped to the right with an audible whirr. “DAMN it!”

“I think you may need that lab visit sooner rather than later,” Drake offered. “As for right now....the Baron will send the intel on the way out.” He glanced at the gynoids strewn about the chamber; “And, if you need any of your....crew,” he added, “I can always have Kendall or Riggs drop by later.....”

“Damn straight,” Brittney declared. “This time, Boom-Boom's gonna RULE San Jose, baby!”
-------------------------------------------------
Episode 2 (or Chapter 2, or whatever) is up tomorrow. :mrgreen:
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Re: The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by DukeNukem 2417 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 2:50 pm

Quick update: this story will have a new chapter posted each day until all 80 pages of text (plus the bonus chapter) are up. 8)
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Re: The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by Propman » Wed Jun 24, 2015 12:03 am

I like what I see!

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Re: The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by DukeNukem 2417 » Wed Jun 24, 2015 1:30 pm

Wake-up cycle initiated.
Activating V.I.C.I. ………. ERROR: Subsystems 55964-55972 not responding
RAM: OK ROM: OK
Bubble Memory Processors: Activated
Running full system scan……………………….
Scan complete. WARNING: Multiple subsystems non-responsive.
Reserve Battery charge level: 93.6%
Good morning, V.I.C.I.; today is ERROR: Date and time calculat9353qjl5qj53%#3#$


Brief, fleeting memories flashed through Vicki's mind. ….what....what happened.....why can't I....

DO NOT CALL THAT THING A MIRACLE!

There is no other way.....”

THAT'S NOT THE SODDING POINT!

I...CANNOT....HEAL......

Goodbye, Vicki....for now. Not forever.”

Don't....be......

A veritable flood of sights, sounds and feelings surged through the brunette gynoid's thoughts. I...I need to sort through....to find.... She couldn't feel her limbs; her uplinking ability, which would've connected her to any network or system in the area without even needing to speak, seemed to be offline.

What....what day is it?!

“It's Monday. September 19, 2011. You've been....out, for about seven or eight hours. Sorry about that.”

All at once, the storm of memories seemed to dissolve in on itself, fading out to a very familiar room. “I'm....at home?!” Vicki gasped, her voice sounding rather ethereal to even her own aural sensors. “How---”

“I think I can help with that.”

Vicki turned to see a familiar-looking girl----clad in purple and pink, but with a normal skin tone and dark walnut hair---sitting on the couch (the same couch Ted Lawson still owned), in the living room of the Lawson house. “I should probably explain,” the girl began, “that....what?

“You....look....” Vicki held a hand to her head. “Why do I feel so tired?! And why are you---”

“Why am I....oh, the skin and hair thing.” The girl on the couch rolled her eyes....

….and as Vicki watched, her skin changed to a more familiar silver, as her hair (and lipstick) turned neon-blacklight purple. “Better?” she offered.

“Definitely. So....this is, what, the third time you've been in my head?”

Galatea grinned. “For the record, I don't find it nearly as weird as some might....” Her smile faded. “...but as for why I'm here...well, it's no laughing matter.” She moved to sit next to Vicki; “What can you remember about the last two days?” she quietly asked. “Any specific details....places, names, mission objectives...anything at all from---”

Vicki shuddered, sitting bolt-upright in her chair. “Epsilon!
-------------
“....can she be activating in the middle of the damn repair procedure?!"

Just relax, it's...not as bad as you think. Vicki, sweetheart, just stay calm....

....CPU activity spiking, mental functions starting to redline---we need to---

Vicki....Vicki....
-------------
Instantly, Galatea was at Vicki's side. “Vicki, I'm right here,” she intoned. “Whatever you just saw, anything you may have heard....it's all perfectly normal. Just---”

“I....I can't.....”
-------------
She's spiking again! Ted, we need to–-

GIVE HER A MINUTE! Vicki, honey....can you hear me?

The simulated environment isn't going to keep holding up under the strain, we need to---”

Let me handle that! Vicki, I'm right here.....
-------------
“....everything.....hurts....” The words were an eerie echo of what Epsilon had said, back at the AutoYard, but they were no less poignant now. “I....what's happening to me?!” Tears streamed down Vicki's face with every word. “Why---”

Her body jolted again....
-------------
IT'S NOT WORKING! We're going to lose her---”

NO WE'RE NOT! Vicki, please.....just stay with me, just stay awake---”

The simulated environment is starting to lag---it's crashing, Ted, it can't hold up---”

Then pull her out of it. Let her see what's happening here, and explain it---”

SOMEONE HOLD HER DOWN!
-------------
Galatea steadied Vicki's shuddering form, her silver hands firmly grasping the brunette gynoid's shoulders. “I guess I might as well do a bit of explaining, while I still can,” she admitted. “You remember the last time we 'met', after you'd uplinked to that gynoid and guided her through the microwave emitters?”

“....yes....”

“Well, this was supposed to be another support session like that....but you're crashing. Hard.”

A sob escaped Vicki's lips; all around her, the room was beginning to glitch out into static, patches of nothing and corrupted pixels. “Am I going to die?” she whispered.

“Not today,” Galatea replied, giving her a reassuring smile. “Not if I can help it....”

The dissolving room began to shudder. “Brace yourself,” the silver-skinned gynoid warned. “The enviro-sim is about to crash...things are going to get really weird in a minute...” She smiled again. “Just remember, it's going to be---”

Everything---including Galatea---exploded into a cavalcade of random sounds and blinding lights.
-------------
The enviro-sim's failing...core corruption in all modules. She's crashing hard, Ted---”

She's not crashing. That's just the sim falling apart. Vicki's....stronger. She'll survive.

I sincerely hope you're right. For all our sakes, I hope you're right---

She's moving! Undo the straps and stand back...”

Get to the observation room---Galatea, move! She'll knock your head off if---”

I can handle it. You, go.

“.....if you're staying, then so am I.

Last time I checked, you're still flesh and blood. Her arm will hurt a lot more if it hits you than if it hits me---”

I'm her father, I'm not going to leave her like this---”
-------------
With a gasp, Vicki's world returned.

A sea of faces---six or seven total, slowly swimming into focus as her HUD emerged from a fuzz of pixels in her field of view---hovered just above her, talking animatedly. “...her father, I'm not going to leave her like this---”

“Ted....she's awake.”

All eyes in the room turned towards the brunette gynoid---just as the notification appeared:

Today is Monday, September 19, 2011.

“......where......” Vicki blinked---or, more accurately, winked---for some reason, her left eyelid didn't seem to want to respond. “Where am I?” Her voice sounded more digitized than she would've liked, but at least she could still talk.

Right next to the face of Ted Lawson, her creator---her father---a purple-haired, silver-skinned girl smiled down at Vicki. “Welcome back to the land of the living,” she murmured, smiling. “You scared the hell out of us for a few minutes.....” The sea of faces parted above her as Vicki sat up. “....what happened to me?” she asked, glancing around----in addition to Ted and Galatea, she could recognize Anton Malvineous, Alicia LeHane and Rae Clarke. Two unfamiliar figures---a man who might've been a 20-years-younger Clive DuBraul, and a woman hidden behind the tinted glass window on the far end of the room---rounded out the group.

“You got beaten pretty bad,” Alicia admitted. “Epsilon....lost it. He attacked you and Oberon---”

Vicki's eyes briefly flared red. “Where?!

“He's in lockdown,” Anton informed her. “He's....to be honest, Vicki, Oberon isn't gloating, or being a prig at the moment....he's been screaming for the last hour or so. Spent the entire night crying in his sleep, in Latin....”

“.....oh.” Vicki looked down at herself---and immediately noticed one thing. Or rather, the lack of one thing...“Where the hell are my clothes?!

“You're still wearing underwear,” Rae chimed in. “Ted didn't want to have you go the full Monty on us...and I love the pastels, by the way.” She grinned, ignoring a scathing frown from Alicia. “Even I have more tact than that,” she muttered. “Oh, spack off!” Rae shot back. “I'm trying to lighten the mood---”

Guys,” Vicki interjected. “....I'm fine with the underwear, but.....”

She held up her left arm---which ended below the elbow. “Anyone want to explain this?

“That,” the guy who looked like a younger Clive DuBraul replied, “is a result of the pounding you took back at the Block G facility.” He strode forward, offering his right hand for the gynoid to shake; “I'm the interim Chairman,” he explained. “Call me Collin.”

I guess you already know who I am,” Vicki murmured, even as she shook Collin's hand.

“I do....and I have to commend you for handling things the way you did---”

You mean playing walking punching bag?

Galatea draped an arm around Vicki's shoulders. “You stood up to someone who wanted Epsilon dead,” she reminded the brunette gynoid. “You did the best you could to keep from attacking him and using your own strength against him....and you didn't hurt Epsilon, either---” She paused, frowning, as Vicki tentatively reached for her face. “....you're still silver,” she muttered. “You're....actually silver? I thought that was just how you looked in my head....”

Alicia bit her lip to keep from giggling. “Well,” Galatea admitted, “I have....certain preferences, when it comes to my appearance---Alicia, don't start.....anyway...” She rolled her eyes. “Purple and pink have always been my favorite colors,” she continued, “starting when I was...” She paused again, this time looking a bit worried.

“The point is,” Rae cut in, “we're all here to help.”

“Which we've been doing for the past few hours,” Anton added. “Epsilon really did a number on you back at the Block G factory. The blunt force trauma impacts to your cranial casing---your head, in basic terms---nearly unseated every chipset in you....combined with the damage Oberon inflicted---”

Where's Kirsten?

Everyone in the room tried to find something else to look at.

Where's Kirsten?! Were you able to repair her after the AutoYard incident.....”

Anton coughed slightly. “Vicki,” he quietly informed the brunette gynoid, “Kirsten....she was nearly wiped clean by that magnet. BUT,” he quickly added, trying to stop the gynoid before she sank back to the surface of the table, “we're getting her backups from her dorm room, with Selwyn's help. We can have her restored before the end of the month....she can be repaired, Vicki.”

Slowly, sadly, Vicki nodded. “She can, but Epsilon can't.....”

“.....I don't suppose now would be a good time to mention the....other news, then,” Collin muttered.

“We might as well tell her,” Ted countered. “She's awake....she'll be restored to full functionality once we finish repairing her face and the rest of her left arm. The myogel lines are still being resealed....we're putting in some impact-resistant plating, too---”

Dad.....”

“....oh, right. Sorry....forgot I wasn't playing the pitchman.”

Despite her intensive damage, Vicki nodded. “Fair enough...so, what is the other news you wanted to mention before Dad went into the sales pitch?

Anton sighed. “As it turns out, we're not the only ones looking for Epsilon.”

Collin nodded at a 72-inch plasma screen on one side of the room. “You've heard of the DVS before, am I right?” he asked, as footage from the Block G facility played out on the monitor.

I have...and they're involved, now?

“More than involved, babe,” Rae replied. “Turns out they're splitters---they've left the Coalition in the dust after, what, a few decades of serving as their advisory board?” Alicia rolled her eyes; “We only thought they were the advisory board of the Coalition,” she corrected. “Turns out they're...a bit bigger than that. How big, exactly, we have no idea---”

“Big enough to order Epsilon's capture,” Collin finished. “And 'removal'.”

Vicki frowned (as much as her ruined face would allow, anyway). “Removal?

“It seems that Oberon wasn't the only one who wanted Epsilon dead,” Collin explained. “You remember Ash Wakefield?”

Remember.....” Vicki's remaining eyebrow arched in surprise. “They haven't----”

“No, no, not at all,” Anton assured her. “He's transferred to Reseda to help with the E-Lin relocation---you'll hear more about that later, when this is all over with, probably...anyway, when Ash defected from United Robotronics, for lack of a better term, he brought more than enough notes with him to give us a quite thorough understanding of how Epsilon is meant to function, and what's happening to Tony Sanderson.”

Alicia nodded. “Problem is, those notes were supposed to go straight to the DVS...or to the incinerator.”

“Which means that Epsilon's an endangered species,” Galatea finished, “and Ash Wakefield is now a wanted man...except we've got a team watching out for him in Reseda, and he doesn't even know they're there---he's under protection at all times.” She sighed. “That leaves us with the task of making sure Epsilon doesn't fall into the hands of the DVS.”

Us, as in all of us?” Vicki queried. “Including me?

Ted nodded proudly. “You've already faced Epsilon once, and defended him to the....is 'bitter end' the right way of saying it---” Alicia groaned. “The point is,” she declared, “you're not on the scrap pile yet, Vicki---you're probably the farthest from it that you could possibly be.” She gently hugged the brunette gynoid.

“And we'll all do our best to keep it that way,” Anton added.

Slowly, Vicki nodded. “....good to hear....but I'd appreciate it it I, ah....” She waved her left arm.

“Teddy-Boy said it best earlier,” Rae replied, “the myogel lines in your arm are being re-set...you, meanwhile, are running in what countless computer owners have known and....generally accepted as 'safe-mode'---and it's not a bad thing!” Even as Vicki's right eyelid fluttered closed, with a pained groan on her lips, the crimson-haired gynoid was at her side; “It's just to make sure your systems don't tax themselves past the limit while you're recovering,” she calmly explained. “Your personality files haven't been altered, none of your core settings will be changed...you're still you, sweetie.” She grinned. “Teddy wouldn't have it any other way---”

“And 'Teddy' would greatly appreciate it if you stopped calling him–-er, me---that!” Ted stated, more flustered than angry. “....and, ah....for the record....” He wrung his hands nervously.

I get it,” Vicki assured him, turning so that he could see the smile on the intact half of her face. “And...thanks. For everything....even if I feel like a half-assembled model kit right now.

Ted and Anton exchanged a concerned glance. “You're sure you want to return to Field Agent duty?”

I'd feel like a total sell-out if I didn't, Dad.” Vicki laid back on the worktable, considerably calmer now than she'd been after emerging from the enviro-sim crash. “Do I have to be offline for you to finish my repairs?

Alicia cast an accusatory glance at Rae. “Hey, just because I like it,” the tanned gynoid began, “I wouldn't---”

“It'll feel mildly uncomfortable, at points,” Anton cut in, “but it shouldn't cause any damaging disruptions to your systems. The only steps left in the repair process aren't terribly invasive, either. It's up to you, really.”

Vicki didn't need too much time to think about it: “I'll stay online. No offence, but that enviro-sim....”

“The crash wasn't your fault,” Galatea assured her. “It was a combination of your systems rejecting it---again, not your conscious fault---and the program itself being so bare-bones that it wouldn't have held up unless you were running at 100%, in normal functionality.” She blew a lock of neon-purple hair away from her eyes; “In 'safe mode',” she continued, “you can talk to us like you've been doing, and if you're just on the phone with anyone who doesn't know you're a gynoid, they'll never realize the difference...but a lot of your lower-tier human emulation programs are pretty much shut off.” The metallic-skinned gynoid offered a grin. “Like I said, it wasn't anywhere near being your fault, Vicki.”

After a few seconds of silence, Vicki nodded. “Fair enough. I just....why is half of my face still missing?

“That'll be the last part of you that we repair,” Ted replied. “And not by choice---I wanted to apply a new facial dermal sheath as soon as possible, but Anton insisted---”

Anton cleared his throat. “The point is,” Colin interjected, “you'll be up and running before sunset.”

I hope so...what's my excuse for missing classes this time?

“We'll come up with something,” Rae beamed. “And no, it won't be anything 'obscene',” she added, rolling her eyes. “Did I even say anything?” Alicia muttered. “....anyway, we've all got your back, babe.”

Ted nodded. “It's like that Roy Orbison song---'Anything you want, you got it...anything you need---”

I get it,” Vicki giggled.

Collin gave an approving smile. “Excellent. Now, about finishing your repairs....”

Vicki laid back on the work table, exhaling a deep breath (out of habit, more than anything). “I'm ready.

“Good to hear. Ted, if you'd like to start....” Anton gestured to the rack of tools behind them. “We can---”

Wait.” Vicki sat up slightly; “Jamie and Joan,” she muttered. “Has anyone told them about....well, this? I don't want Mom worrying about me, or anything....and Jamie's been through enough hell this year---”

“I, ah, didn't tell Joan the full extent of your...injuries,” Ted stammered, “and---”

A slightly-filtered voice piped in from the speaker grille built into the window on the far end of the room. “And I should make you sleep on the couch for a month for not telling me,” Joan Lawson declared. “Robot or not, she's still our daughter, Ted!” Despite her surrogate mother's annoyance, Vicki couldn't help but smile. “I'm okay, Mom, really. You don't need to worry---”

It's practically my job to worry, Vicki!

As Ted made his way over to the grille to calm Joan down, Anton sighed. “Ready?”

As ready as I'll ever be, Professor.....”
-------------------------------------------------
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Re: The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by DukeNukem 2417 » Thu Jun 25, 2015 2:19 pm

Mary Robinson watched, more than slightly annoyed, as an Escalade pulled up across the street. “They aren't even trying to be subtle,” she muttered. “Reaver, you have my uplink cable, right?”

“I nearly sat on it five minutes ago...” Reaver grabbed the cable from his gear bag. “I ran their plates,” he added, “and they're not tourists...and this part of town isn't exactly tourist territory.” He scowled as two burly, unshaven men exited the Escalade, looking as if they wanted to be anywhere else at that moment. “She's still got those two on retainer....and will you wait to hook that thing up?!”

His outburst did little to stop Mary from pulling at her shirt and tapping just above her breastbone. “You're here to keep me from getting spotted or shot,” she reminded him. “I don't see any guns aimed at me right now...”

Reaver stared at her. “You always this careless on ops?”

“You call it careless, I call it effici---” Mary froze momentarily as her systems synced with her iPad. “---cient, and.....what?”

“Freezing up for a second isn't what I call efficient,” Reaver muttered. “If you'd have done that in a firefight---”

“Except this isn't a firefight,” Mary sighed. “It's just Delacroix's idiot squad raiding a storage unit...” Her eyes went glossy for a minute as data scrolled through her field of vision. “The place is leased to...ah, Reaver, you might want to see this....” Without looking away from the scene of Brittney “Boom Boom” Delacroix's hired thugs looting the unit, she handed the iPad to Reaver. “What, exactly should I---oh, you are joking.” He lowered the iPad, scowling. “That storage unit belonged to Kirsten Sanderson?!”

Mary retrieved the tablet; “Not only did it belong to her,” she replied, her voice slightly electronic, “she planned to use it to hide Epsilon. I talked to the owner before you got here---he said Kirsten needed enough space for 'something big'----” She gasped as her systems cut the connection to the iPad.

“And now the DVS is sending their goon squad to sift through it,” Reaver finished. “Dumb-ass on them....”

The blonde gynoid almost giggled. “Did you really just say 'dumb ass on them'?!”

“It was better than what I was thinking,” Eric replied, allowing himself a smirk. “Trust me on that---”

Across the street, someone shouted. “I'm guessing that's not part of the plan for those guys,” Mary mused, no longer smiling. “Not part of our plan, either,” Reaver replied. “Nobody said a damn thing about---”

Before he could finish swearing, Mary held a finger to her lips, nodding towards the Escalade. Someone inside the vehicle was pissed. “Oh, joy,” Reaver growled, shaking his head as the profanity from the Escalade's interior got louder. “Delacroix's morons are working with him, now....”

“Him?” Mary echoed.

“Drake Bradford. The idiot who tried to sic a bunch of fembots on SJSU last year....I could've sworn he got hauled off for tax evasion.” Reaver gestured for the iPad again. “I have a feeling we're going to need a few more of ours out here---Bradford's not the type of guy who leaves things to chance.” He keyed in the number for ALPA HQ; “He had the Unmaker working with him last time,” he continued, even as Mary gave him a more than slightly confused look, “and---”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” the blonde gynoid cut in. “'The Unmaker'? Fembots on SJSU campus?! The Ohio office never got any news about this!”

Reaver frowned. “All that happened last year....the Silicon Dynamics mission---”

“Oh, we heard about that. Pretty popular water cooler reading---”

“But you didn't hear about the Unmaker?” Eric prompted. “Or Bradford trying to use fembots based on Dr. Franklin's designs to infiltrate SJSU?”

“Not a word. Your guys might've...forgotten to call about it----”

Her idea only earned her a scowl from Reaver. “Like Hell they did. I filed that report myself---HEY!” His explanation was rather abruptly cut off---Mary was shoving him below the line of sight from the Escalade across the street, just as Bradford turned to glare at the “empty lot” and gesture wildly. “Stay low,” Mary hissed, “and don't attack until---”

Across the street, Bradford gave a rather ominous order: “Light it up. I don't want to see anything but cinders.”

“....okay, maybe we should attack,” Mary began, only to gasp as a pair of flamethrowers hissed into life---their flames engulfing the storage unit formerly owned by Kirsten Sanderson. “Tell me there wasn't anything vital in there,” Reaver groaned. “PLEASE tell me they didn't just destroy something important---”

“The owner of the lot said it was empty,” the blonde gynoid replied. “Kirsten must've moved everything---”

Another burst of the flamethrowers cut her off; the stand-alone storage unit was now beginning to buckle in onto itself as Bradford watched. “Something tells me the owner of this place doesn't allow anyone---clients or no---to torch the storage units,” Reaver frowned. “You think Bradford payed him---” He groaned again as Mary shushed him. “Less speculation, more....what's the opposite of speculation?”

Whatever reply Reaver could've made was cut off by a shout from one of Bradford's men: “We've got somethin' in here! You might want to take a look at it, boss---”

“If it's another damn RealDoll,” Bradford began, “I'm not....”

Mary and Reaver exchanged a worried look. “I'm guessing it's not a RealDoll, then,” Mary whispered.

“.....the hell? What is this thing?!” Bradford was pacing back and forth before the storage unit. “And why does she have a freaking touchscreen where her face should be---KENDALL! Get over here!” Bradford's shout was followed by the clicking of high heels on pavement. “Yes?” a clipped, British-accented female voice politely asked.

“What the hell is this?”

“An E-Lin, sir---Electronic Link-up. She can be used to access---”

“Can she track Epsilon?”

“.....I...suppose she could, sir, but---”

“Good enough for me. Dalton, get her into the truck---the E-Lin, not Kendall! And she'd better not be missing any clothes when we get back....” Bradford moved around the side of the storage unit Dalton was removing the E-Lin from. “Anything else we can use in here?”

Kendall (still out of sight from Reaver and Mary) moved to the far side of the unit. “Nothing we can use, but I believe Miss Delacroix might find a use for some of the dormant units. She has been stating a desire to....'get more for her crew', I believe the phrase was.” Her “clicky-walk” filled the air as she moved into view, allowing Reaver and Mary to get their first good look at her svelte figure. “Augmenting Miss Delacroix's entourage may give us a long-term advantage, after all,” she added, her lips curving into a polite (and possibly seductive) smile. “It would---”

“I just need the one line, not the whole sales pitch,” Bradford cut in. “Tag 'em and bag 'em---we're done here.”

Reaver's hand immediately went to his holstered sidearm. “HQ isn't going to hear about this until they're gone,” he muttered. “I'll be quick---”

“And you'll be dead.” Mary pulled him back before he could vault over the low wall they were hiding behind.

“You think I can't take those two?” Reaver scoffed. “I could drop 'em both----” Mary pulled him away from the wall. “You dropping them isn't the issue,” she quietly informed him. “The issue is you coming up against something else---that Kendall woman's using a LaMarquise chassis with about a dozen after-market add-ons to make her faster and stronger than she looks.” She glanced back over the wall; “One or two solid kidney punches from her,” she quietly added, “and you'll be down for the count before you can even draw your gun.”

“LaMarquise?! They make celebrity replicas, sexbots and high-end companions---”

“You're forgetting the after-market add-ons?” Mary reminded him. “And I hear LaMarquise is branching out into a few more...martial aspects of the robotics industry---at least, they're considering it–-”

“ALL RIGHT,” Bradford shouted across the street, “we're done here!” Sinclair, lock down the trailer---and make sure the damn door is locked, this time!” He strode back towards the Escalade, smirking. “Kendall, be sure to leave the owner a few....reminders of our gratitude,” he stated, “for letting us have the run of the place as long as we have.” The Escalade revved its engine and pulled out of the lot; behind the storage sheds, a truck (more than likely hauling the aforementioned trailer behind it) moved into position to follow the Escalade out. “I'm running the plates now,” Mary informed Reaver. “Think HQ will give us the clearance to follow them?”

“All I'm thinking about is how field notifications reach those new Amigas faster than they reach any other PC in the building,” Reaver admitted. “AND I'm thinking about how we're going to follow them,” he added. “Chasing down an Escalade on foot.....not a great idea, if I'm honest---and my ride isn't exactly, ah.....” He blew out an annoyed sigh as he glanced at the car he'd driven to the stakeout. “Damn thing's gonna need a tune-up before the week ends,” he muttered.

“We could get a few chasers on them,” Mary offered. “I'll call it in---” Reaver shook his head. “Won't do us any good. They'd probably lose 'em, or try to redirect the chase towards high-traffic areas....” He stopped. “High-traffic....Mary, call HQ, but don't ask for chasers.”

“.....okay, but---”

“You were able to detect Kendall's chassis type just from a low-level scan....what else did you pick up?”

“....an IP registered to Bradford's phone but emanating from Kendall,” the blonde gynoid replied, realizing the potential of her colleague's idea. “You're saying we should trace her from her internal IP?”

“It's a lot better than the alternative.” Reaver checked the clip on his gun, nodding in approval. “And it gives us a chance to recoup, head back to base....report the stolen E-Lins.” He scowled. “If this ends without anybody else getting sent to lockup, it'll be a good week,” he muttered, “and---”

A short gasp from Mary cut him off. “There's another IP in the area,” she breathed. “It's...unregistered, linked to a gynoid...possibly an independent A.I of some kind....whatever it was, it was looking for something.” She blinked a few times. “My own IP got pinged, just a few seconds ago---anti-intrusion counter-suite detected it, thankfully....”

“Any idea what the hell it was looking for?” Reaver inquired. “And why the hell would an independent A.I try to ping you---”

“I don't know why an A.I would ping me....but I saved the search query---meaning I know who it was after...”

Her voice dropped to a whisper. “The query it submitted was for all information on Vicki Lawson.”
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Re: The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by DukeNukem 2417 » Fri Jun 26, 2015 1:39 pm

“....and curl your fingers again, if you don't mind.”

Vicki frowned, but flexed the fingers of her left hand inward. “I think we've established that my hand works,” she informed Anton. “And I know why we're doing this...I just don't see the point of doing the same ambulatory tests for a full hour.”

“It's a test of your mental functions as well,” Anton calmly informed her. “Passive scans coming up green....if I'm not mistaken, Agent Lawson, you're fully qualified to return to active Field Agent duty.” He grinned. “And you can stop flexing your hand now,” he added, chuckling at Vicki's relieved sigh. “SO....now that we've come to terms with the fact that you're cleared for field duty, anything you feel like asking---”

“Oberon.”

Anton's smile faded. “...I see you're not wasting any time,” he murmured. “Care to tell me---”

“Where is he, and what's going to happen to him? I'm not going to go....visit him, or anything, if he's in jail---”

“Common jail would be too dangerous,” Collin called out from across the room. “He's secured, for the time being....I can't tell you much more than that without violating about fifteen security protocols.” He strode over to Vicki and Anton, nodding his approval at the gynoid's rapid recovery. “This must feel pretty...typical, for you,” he mused. “The recovery, not the.....”

The brunette gynoid rolled her eyes. “I get it. Though I don't actively set out to get my butt handed to me on a regular basis....” She paused. “While we're on the subject---”

“You want to know why you're on the latest recruitment poster,” Collin sighed. “Not surprising....that decision was made without my consent, long before this latest issue with Epsilon.” He pulled up a chair and sat next to Vicki; “The general consensus,” he informed her, “was that using your image on those posters without your consent was a bad idea---”

“So someone was actually thinking straight,” Vicki muttered.

Collin gave her a look. “You did sign up for a photo shoot, if I recall correctly---”

“Yeah, except nobody said I was going to be on a poster!”

Again, Collin sighed. “I've never been one to believe in the idea of 'star Field Agents',” he admitted, “or turning the focus of a recruitment drive on just one Field Agent instead of the efforts of the ALPA as a whole. That poster is everything we shouldn't be doing, Agent Lawson---”

“You can call me Vicki,” the brunette gynoid cut in. “All my friends do....”

“And you already consider me a friend?” Collin finished.

Vicki grinned. “You already said the poster was a bad idea....and your pulse rate is still normal, so either you're telling the truth, or you're a great liar.”

It was Collin's turn to grin. “Anton will be the first to tell you---I'm a terrible liar, which is why I gave up poker a few months ago.” He chuckled at the memory. “As I was saying....Vicki....that poster is a perfect example of everything we shouldn't be doing.” His smile faded slightly. “Putting the focus on you---on any single Field Agent---undermines the activities of the rest. Calliope, for example, has been our liaison with repair shops in and around Silicon Valley ever since she turned herself over after the Family of Steel incident....Agent Clarke has been helping us reforge our connections with DreamLand and other such establishments....”

“Long story short,” Anton finished, “every Field Agent is the hero or heroine of his or her own story.”

“That.....makes sense,” Vicki reasoned. “But that still doesn't explain---”

“Some of our....political connections,” Collin admitted, “who happen to be in the know about what we do and the scope of our work, thought you'd be an effective poster girl. For some reason, they like the prospect of 'branding' the ALPA......” He shook his head. “There's a reason I left the Hill, all those years ago....”

A door on the far end of the room opened with a hiss, revealing Rae and an unfamiliar blonde girl walking on either side of an auto-drive work cart. A female form, hidden beneath a sheet, lay motionless on the cart's surface. “Not now!” Anton called out, scowling. “I'm in the middle of---”

“Her processors are spiking, Anton,” the blonde replied. “If she's not fixed now---”

“If who's not fixed,” Vicki began, only to stare in silent shock as the sheet was whisked away to reveal Kirsten Sanderson. “We got the backups from her flat,” Rae informed Anton, “but---oh, hi, Vicki.” She flashed a quick grin at the brunette before returning her attention to Anton. “...anyway, we got the backups, but there's a bit of a problem we didn't exactly deal with in her last repair session....”

Still scowling, Anton circled the cart. “What problem would that be?”

“Her drives are borked,” the blonde stated. “They won't even spin up anymore. Flash memory's fine, servos still work, processors are fine....but the drives themselves are gone....” She paused, noticing Vicki staring intently at her. “...and it's déjà vu all over again,” she sighed. “It's the skin tone and the hair colour, isn't it? I keep saying that I like my usual look---”

“Usual look?” Vicki echoed.

The blonde smiled. “Despite some people's reservations, I never get tired of this...” She took two steps back, winked and spoke the word “Galvanize”....which triggered a rather astounding shift in her hair color---which seemed to dye itself neon black-light purple as Vicki watched---while her skin pigmentation seemed to recede into her to reveal a metallic silvery sheen. “Now if only Saban would've answered my fan mail about making the Power Rangers' morphing sequences cooler.....and I know that look, Vicki, so---”

“Another time, Galatea,” Anton interrupted. “You're saying Kirsten's drives were...destroyed, by---”

“What?!” Vicki's astonishment at Galatea's “morphing” evaporated. “She's....broken?!”

Rae was at her side in an instant. “Far from it, sweetie---her personality, memories, and all the good stuff is still intact.” She held up a portable hard drive. “It's just that.....well, until we get new drives in her, she won't exactly be up and about any time soon---”

Galatea took a step back from the cart, followed by Rae and a thoroughly-spooked Vicki; Kirsten's body was twitching violently, as if she was in the grips of a seizure of some kind. “RABIT spikes,” Rae muttered, pulling up a tablet attached to the cart by a metallic arm. “Memory conflicts, driver errors---she's trying to reboot and return to normal function---HELP ME, DAMNIT!” Galatea rushed to her side, pinning one of the malfunctioning gynoid's arms to the cart. “She's trying to resume normal functionality,” Rae continued, “but she can't---”

A half-scream from Galatea cut her off; Kirsten's lips were twitching in what might've been an attempt to speak.

“What's she saying? What is she trying to say?!” Vicki demanded. “She's saying something, what---”

“It's corrupted data in audio form,” Rae hissed, trying to wrest Kirsten's left hand back to the cart. “She's not saying any---” Her anger faded into shock as the words “help me” were briefly, but clearly audible through the otherwise nonsensical babbling.

Vicki stared into the unseeing eyes of her friend, already thinking back to the last time Kirsten had “died”....

On the other side of the cart, Anton was guiding Galatea through the process of halting Kirsten's failing systems by hand. “Isolate the corrupted files,” he instructed, “and try to move them off her drives---”

“Her drives are corrupted,” Galatea replied. “There's no way to get any files on or off of them!”

“Shut her off, then!” Rae shouldered past the two, moving to press the switch behind Kirsten's left ear. “We don't exactly have a choice---” A hand closed around her wrist. “If it were you,” Vicki quietly asked, “would you want someone just shutting you off?”

Rae stared at her for a moment, possibly biting back more than a few scathing replies....

“I'll try to get her systems to cycle-down into standby,” Galatea cut in. “See if that'll do anything to minimize the potential damage to her systems...any chance we could get that portable drive with her core files hooked up to a tablet, Anton?”

“Not a problem.” Anton retrieved the tablet Rae had used earlier, running a splitter cable from the cart to the tablet and hooking up its second lead to the portable hard drive. “It's only fair to warn you, though....given what she's been through, she's going to be very confused, probably more than a bit frightened, and she'll want to know what happened to her father.....” He paused. “You still have the enviro-sim package ready?” Galatea gave him a quizzical stare. “You're suggesting I---”

“Connect the enviro-sim program to the portable drive, instead of trying to sync it up with her body. It'll give her a semblance of reality that she can identify with, and let us talk to her in a setting of her own choice.”

The silver-skinned gynoid thought it over. “It's been a while since I had to use the enviro-sim to counsel a 'bot outside their own body,” she admitted, “but...if it works, and if it helps her cope, I'll do it.” She nodded. “And Vicki....shutting her off at this point won't be as harmful as you might think,” she added. “Her drives are already scrambled---be glad we were able to get the backups---”

“How recent are they?”

Vicki's panicked question didn't phase Galatea in the least. “From two days ago. She'll remember her last encounter with Epsilon from before the AutoYard....after that, I'll help her fill in the gaps if need be.”

“Fair enough,” Vicki replied, nodding. “And Rae.....sorry about---” She tensed as the chestnut-haired gynoid's hands rested on her shoulders....just before pulling the brunette Field Agent in for a hug. “Ah, okay...seeing as how this is a hug and not an attempt to pile-drive me---”

“You have nothing to apologize for,” Rae whispered. “I just....that question brought back some bad memories for me.” She pulled away, wiping her eyes with the back of one hand. “I forget, sometimes, how things were before the ALPA took me in,” she muttered. “Just because the ones who made me were ALPA members, and my first....can't really say 'owner', because he never saw it that way....” She turned away for a moment. “I just didn't think I'd have to remember any of that after the ALPA accepted me as an Agent in training,” she quietly admitted. “Your dad's the reason I'm here now, really---he paid a visit to my makers, all those years ago....”

And a certain someone tried to tell me that Ted's visit to Hreftech instead of visiting Grandpa was a bad thing, Vicki recalled. “You can tell me more about it another time,” she replied. “Right now, we need to find Epsilon before---”

“Hold that thought,” Anton cut in, checking his phone. “Reaver and Agent Robinson just called in again---it looks like Bradford just torched a storage unit....” His expression darkened. “....that belonged to Kirsten.”

Then let's not waste any time,” V.I.C.I replied. “Care to join me, Rae?

Her question earned a grin from the chestnut-haired gynoid. “Sweetheart...it'd be my pleasure.”
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Re: The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by DollSpace » Sat Jun 27, 2015 4:16 am

Continuing to recover from some sort of virus and figure out which one of these stories I've read before the site went down, I know I didn't read this because I helped beta-read it, so on great track so far. I really enjoy it, and I can't wait for further in the story.

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Re: The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by DukeNukem 2417 » Sat Jun 27, 2015 2:26 pm

No updates this weekend---figured I'd let you all catch up on the story so far before it continues. :)
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Re: The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by DukeNukem 2417 » Mon Jun 29, 2015 1:44 pm

Few things in Silicon Valley would've drawn more stares than the hot-pink sedan racing down the roads on a Monday afternoon---which, as Vicki reminded the sedan's owner, was the best possible reason to leave that particular car behind and head out in a royal blue Honda Regency (a car originally intended to run on the same RTG technology that powered Vicki herself, but ended up using a refined hydrogen fuel cell system). Anton had even uploaded SARIA (the Satellite Assisted Route/Informational Aide) from his own car into the Regency, with a request that Vicki not “total it”.

“So,” the brunette gynoid mused, “you said my dad's the reason you joined the ALPA?”

Rae rolled her eyes. “Already back to that, are we? You could chat up SARIA while we drive....”

“No offence to Anton, or to SARIA,” Vicki replied, “but I'd rather hear---”

“Your dad,” Rae replied, “effectively rescued me from the worst situation a girl like me could've been in. My first....companion, shall we say, was nice----he didn't treat me like a thing. Unfortunately, as nice as he was, he had his demons...the biggest of which was gambling. One particular betting partner decided to talk him into putting me up for one particularly stupid game of cards---”

“And he lost you to a bad hand?” Vicki surmised.

The chestnut-haired gynoid wasn't smiling. “More like he lost me to a bloody robbery. Everyone there left in bags....and the sods backing the game decided to collect on everyone's debts....”

Vicki winced; she'd heard similar horror stories from Ted, Anton and others in the ALPA. “Who 'won' you?”

“Someone who didn't deserve me,” Rae muttered. “He only switched me on whenever his ex-wife was around, at first---wanted her to see 'how he was doing now'....” She managed to not miss the turn SARIA pointed out, despite her seeming refusal to look at the road. “Then he sold me back to Hreftech, tried to get a refund on me....and they couldn't take me back. The berks who robbed the card game had torched the place when they left---well, not so much when they left as when they got stuck trying to leave....”

“And your registration papers went up,” Vicki finished, sighing. “So they had no proof of....ownership.”

Rae nodded. “Which was just brilliant for me, seeing as how my second owner never bothered to get a new set of papers....and after that.....” Her eyes were rimmed with tears as she guided the Regency to the side of the road.

Would you like me to drive for you, Miss Clarke?” SARIA's voice inquired, briefly silencing the radio.

“I think that'll be a 'yes',” Vicki replied, as Rae buried her face in her hands. “Engage AutoDrive on course to our destination.”

“....protocol dictates that Miss Clarke herself give that order,” SARIA replied, “but in this case....” Slowly, the car drove back onto the road as Rae's seat slowly moved backwards, giving her room to cry without hitting any vital controls. “I'm here, Rae,” Vicki assured her. “If you don't want to talk about any of it, we can just forget I ever--”

Bollocks,” Rae spat, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “I didn't make it...sniff...this far in the ALPA by 'forgetting' things....” She accepted a paper towel from Vicki, wiping the tears from her face. “...thanks, sweetie,” she murmured, grinning. “Needed that.....anyway...after I tried to go back to Hreftech, they pretty much told me, in very polite terms, that I had to find my own way for a few months until they could get my data on file and figure out what to do with me.....” She sighed. “A few months turned into a few years, thanks to a few....detours....”

“I'm hoping one of those 'detours' didn't involve anyone named Damien Fal---”

“The Family of Steel wasn't in town....not that it would've mattered.” Rae hugged herself, as if even thinking about what she'd endured was enough to send a chill down her spine. “I wound up in a bloody stupid fight club---sentients vs sentients, sentients vs non-sentients, sentients vs humans....it was barbaric. Apparently, they'd just decided to start adding in more sentient 'bots to the roster---they were running out of 'bots, needed a few more fighters...”

Rae's revelation prompted a startled look from Vicki. “You were mixed up in that?!”

“I wasn't just 'mixed up' in it...my first night in the ring, I had to fight in a 'battle royale'. Never thought those Fazbear Entertainment 'bots had that much bite power, after '87....” Again, Rae sighed. “Ted Lawson saved me from that hellhole, Vicki. If he hadn't....I'd have gone down a very, very dark path.”

Dad does tend to have that effect on people.... “Well, the path you're on now is anything but dark,” Vicki replied with a reassuring smile. “And speaking of paths---SARIA, estimated time of arrival?”

Given current traffic conditions: Three minutes and fifteen seconds.

Vicki arched an eyebrow. “That's...surprising, actually,” she murmured. “I thought---”

“The Regency's got more than enough juice to get us where we need to go without stopping at a pump on the way,” Rae proudly declared. “And if I could get one in hot pink, I'd be driving one of these around...then again, SARIA's doing a damn fine job of that for us right now.” Her focus turned to the GPS tracking monitor (right next to the radio on the dashboard); “Can't say the same for that car, though,” she frowned. “Someone's in a hurry to get somewhere, with virtually zero regard for their fellow motorists.”

Then let's not put them in any more danger.” V.I.C.I's eyes glowed an electric blue as she spoke; “We need to get as close as possible to that car,” she stated, “without them noticing us....SARIA, enable Silent Running.

Not a problem, Miss Lawson.”

Despite the inherent seriousness of the moment, V.I.C.I couldn't help but grin a bit.

“....and what's with the smile?” Rae queried. “We're about to go on a chase here---”

“I'm just....it's kind of funny, being called 'Miss Lawson',” the brunette gynoid admitted. “It's like---GAAAH!” Her hands gripped the armrests with enough force to dent them as the Regency skidded into a turn. “Sorry!” the voice of SARIA apologized. “I had to hit the turn tighter than expected....there were pedestrians---”

Rae and V.I.C.I exchanged looks, but nodded. “Not a problem. Just make sure we---”

“There they are!” Rae cut in. “Delacroix's Escalade....with Drake Bradford at the wheel!”

Let me handle this,” V.I.C.I advised, going for her sidearm....and realizing SCEMP rounds would do little (if anything) in a car chase. “You wouldn't happen to have any ordnance that would help in this particular situation, would you?” she asked, her monotone tinged with embarrassment. “I don't want to waste any SCEMPs by just shooting at the tires...and what are you doing?” She frowned as Rae scampered into the backseat. “Just breaking out a few of the toys,” the chestnut-haired gynoid replied, grinning. “I have a feeling you'll like these....”

Even as the Regency pulled in behind the Escalade, the brunette Field Agent could tell that Bradford's men were probably well aware of the other car. “We don't exactly have a time surplus, Rae----” Gunfire raked the windshield. “Now we definitely don't have time to waste!

“All good things in time, young Padawan,” Rae beamed. “You might want to duck....”

This had better be worth it.... V.I.C.I scowled, but decided to comply, unbuckling her seatbelt. “This won't hit either of us, will it?

“What do you think the 'might want to duck' thing was for?”

“Rae---”

“It won't hit us, sweetheart. Just trust me on this.” Rae was putting something together in the backseat, the parts snapping into place with satisfying clicks. “And that goes there...and this goes here....”

A single shot pierced the windshield, narrowly missing V.I.C.I's head. “RAE---”

“ALMOST DONE! And the battery goes.....there.....”

Three rounds grazed the brunette gynoid's cheek. “RAE---”

DUCK!

Even as the shout processed in her aural sensors, V.I.C.I had practically flung herself below the dashboard of the Regency, just as Rae aimed what looked to be a cannon made out of an Erector set. “Howdy, boys!” the gynoid called out, giving her best ear-to-ear grin. “Prepare to meet this girl's best friend!”

Before V.I.C.I could shout at Rae to fire, the chestnut-haired gynoid squeezed the trigger. A bluish-green blast shot out of the gun's barrel, piercing the windshield and smashing into the Escalade's rear door before V.I.C.I could even blink. Swearing erupted from the Escalade as the Regency sped past it; V.I.C.I could hear Drake Bradford in particular shouting threats involving power tools and bodily orifices that sounded more than a bit ludicrous. “That'll let all the horses loose, I think,” Rae giggled, climbing over the armrest to return to the front seat of the car. “Now all we have to focus on is the truck hauling the trailer---”

What truck,” V.I.C.I interjected, “hauling what trailer?

Rae gave her a bemused look. “No offence, but do you really think Bradford would go out looking for Epsilon in an Escalade?” She rolled her eyes at the thought. “The call from Reaver and Agent Robinson mentioned a truck and a trailer...said something about a modified LaMarquise unit working with Bradford---”

And she's riding shotgun in the truck,” V.I.C.I finished. “Not surprising...”

“We need to get the truck off the road,” Rae stated, checking the GPS monitor again. “The cannon's too risky to use for this---they've got stolen E-Lins in the trailer, and if the shot hits it, they'll get bricked.”

The brunette gynoid arched an eyebrow. “Just what exactly is in that 'cannon' of yours?

“Spoilers.” Rae winked, giving a cheeky grin as she did. “Anyway, we'll need to go hands-on with this lot if we're going to get the E-Lins back---” She nearly toppled onto V.I.C.I as the Regency swerved to dodge a burst of shotgun fire from the truck. “...or we could just throw a tracer on them and pick up the trail later,” she added. “Guess which option I'm in favour of at the moment...”

I'll have SARIA paint the target with infrared. It'll last longer than a physical---”

“They'll backtrace it if we use infrared!” Rae groaned. “I've got a better idea...” She stared at the license plate of the trailer, her irises gleaming with minute lines of code. “And...done!” Micro-servos whirred as she blinked a few times. “ALPA HQ just got the full spec of that trailer and the truck hauling it....they're painting it with the long range infrared now.....”

She gave another wink. “....and some of our best and brightest will be on the way to pursue in---”

A shotgun blast tore through the front-left tire of the Regency, sending the car into a skid. “Agent Clarke, Agent Lawson,” SARIA's surprisingly calm voice informed the gynoids, “we seem to have picked up a flat tire...do you want me to pull over and---”

“Like hell I do,” Rae growled. “SARIA, disengage AutoDrive---and queue up some Golden Earring, will you?”

Her last comment earned a scowl from V.I.C.I; “You're thinking about driving music at a time like this?” she queried. “We're in the middle of a chase---”

“Time and a place, sweetie,” the chestnut-haired gynoid countered, smirking as the opening of “Radar Love” filled the Regency's cab. “And SARIA, try to get that tire back up while you're at it,” she added. “I'm not looking forward to giving an explanation of why this beautiful piece of work had to be towed in on a rim....”

I'll do my best, Agent Clarke.”

“Damn right...” Rae cracked her knuckles, grinning as the “AutoDrive deactivated” notice flashed in her HUD.

Ahead of the Regency, the truck swerved to avoid an oncoming car; the LaMarquise unit working with (or for) Bradford was aiming a Cobray Street Sweeper out of the front passenger window. “LaMarquise doesn't sell the software packages that let their dolls pack that kind of heat,” V.I.C.I frowned. “She's probably got a few aftermarket warez in her---” She flinched, feeling a burst of static in her mind; was someone trying to ping me just now?

“Vicki, we've got a problem.”

Rae's words did little to calm the brunette gynoid. “If it's related to that LaMarquise---”

“It's Epsilon. He's inbound---heading towards that trailer.” There was an undertone of horror in Rae's voice as she spoke; “Those E-Lins,” she continued, “contain....you're never gonna believe this, babe, but they've got a few dozen specialized software packages in them---”

For what?

“Decryption, file analysis....all specifically related to countering the procedures used to turn Anthony Sanderson into Project Epsilon.” Something that might've been hope crept into her tone. “And this is even weirder: HQ just ran a check on those E-Lins, and they're all listed as 'cousins' of Kirsten Sanderson!”

That news made V.I.C.I's eyes widen. “....you're saying she---”

Another blast from the Street Sweeper hit the road next to the front right tire.

“If she didn't know about Epsilon's degradation at first,” Rae shouted, “she damn sure had some help---SARIA, engage DDP-090812!”

You've got it, Agent Clarke!

Any attempt by V.I.C.I to ask what DDP-090812 was cut off by Rae belting out the lyrics of the song blasting through the speakers: “When I get lonely and I'm sure I've had enough....she sends a comfort coming in, from above---we don't need a letter at all! WE'VE GOT A THING, AND IT'S CALLED RADAR LOVE!” She spun the Regency into the other lane as the LaMarquise in the truck let loose with a barrage of shots. “WE'VE GOT A LINE IN THE SKY!”

She's tenacious, V.I.C.I mused, I'll give her that... “So, what exactly is DDP-09812?

“Defensive Driving Protocols---DUCK!

That last shouted command wasn't questioned by the brunette gynoid; she dove into the Regency's backseat just as another burst of gunfire shattered the windshield. Rae grabbed a handset from under the dashboard and keyed it on; “ALPA Headquarters, this is Field Agent Rae Clarke,” she declared, wincing as another shot hit the still-smoking left front wheel. “I need plain chasers along the following route...” Her eyelids fluttered for a moment---non-verbal transmission, V.I.C.I reasoned. Good idea, especially with Bradford's newest doll right in front of us...

Rae's eyes snapped open. “Repeat: I need plain chasers along the transmitted route. Currently under fire from hostile entity associated with---” She hissed; another blast from the Street Sweeper tore into the street near the ruined tire. “Under fire from a hostile entity associated with Drake Bradford. Hostile is in possession of several E-Lin gynoids---”

Another blast peppered the headrest of the front passenger seat. “Agents Clarke and Lawson, this car won't be able to take much more damage,” SARIA declared. “I suggest we---”

“Sorry, love,” Rae called out, “but I've got a suggestion of my own---open the front passenger door!”

Rae,” V.I.C.I intoned, “don't do this.....whatever you're about to---”

The chestnut-haired gynoid gave a cheeky grin. “When are you ever gonna learn,” she murmured, “that I like living dangerously---”

Before she could move to dive out of the opened door, a human-shaped blur charged towards the truck in front of them with a distorted, barely-human roar. “Epsilon,” V.I.C.I gasped. “He's already here--” She winced, more out of habit than for any other reason; the man/machine hybrid was leaping towards the truck, a taloned hand extended to rip the front passenger door off its hinges. The LaMarquise gynoid had already turned, her aim re-centering on the approaching figure of Epsilon....

…..just as the Cobray Street Sweeper was simultaneously knocked from her hands and ripped in half by five very long, very sharp talons.

“ALPA Headquarters!” Rae shouted, nearly crushing the handset in her grip. “This is Agent Rae Clarke---this message supersedes the previous notice! Epsilon is active---I need a containment team inbound to my current location! Repeat---”

Wrenching, tearing sounds in front of the Regency cut her off---Epsilon was tearing into the truck and flinging pieces of it into the road. Every human occupant had already fled the vehicle, and the LaMarquise gynoid, now unarmed and powerless against the hybrid's onslaught, had chosen to climb out of the driver's side door and jump for freedom before the truck lost all control---completely ignoring a rather noticeable problem.

The trailer's going to crash with the truck,” V.I.C.I stated. “We need to---”

“Gimme a minute, babe---I've got a plan!” Rae was already preparing to leap from the passenger-side door again. “And this time, let me jump,” she added, a hint of teasing giving the request a slightly playful tone.

V.I.C.I gave her an annoyed look, but nodded. “I didn't actually stop you last time, you know....”

“Arguing semantics now?” Rae chuckled. “Time and a place, Vicki...” She grabbed onto the seatbelt mount inside the Regency, allowing herself to swing out with the opened door. “If Epsilon tries to go for the trailer while I'm doing my thing,” she added, her grin fading, “tell SARIA to initiate RP-1192---it's a Retrieval Protocol, if you're wondering.” Her grin returned. “I'll try not to keep you waiting too long.”

Just be careful out there,” V.I.C.I replied, resigning herself to whatever would come next.

“I”ll do my best.” Rae winked, quickly blowing a kiss before she seemed to fall backwards out of the Regency...

…..only to hit the ground in a strangely-fluid combat roll, which carried her into a sprinter's position that she wasted no time taking off from. In seconds, she'd cleared the gap between the Honda Regency and the now-snaking trailer.

“Okay,” the brunette gynoid admitted, watching through the ruined windshield of the Regency, “that was cool.”

Even as her colleague was complimenting her skills, Rae was having more than a bit of a problem. Grabbing the trailer and working the latches on the doors was easy enough---she actually had to dial down the strength of her grip, to ensure that she didn't crush the handles---but staying out of sight of Epsilon and trying not to let any of the E-Lins fall out was several levels more difficult than she'd anticipated. “Hell of a thing,” she grunted, climbing into the trailer and managing a weary grin. “A few years ago, they'd have called me barking mad for doing this----”

A brutal pounding on the trailer cut off her reverie, serving as a not-so-subtle reminder for why she was there in the first place. “Right, right,” she muttered, brushing off Epsilon's attack on the truck. “I'll do my reminiscing later---none of that 'walking through the park' nonsense, though, if I can help it...”

Carefully, she examined each of the E-Lins---all of them had their faces attached, which made their position inside the enclosed trailer---stacked on top of each other, almost like mannequins---a bit too eerie for Rae to handle. “Someone needs a bit of a lesson on how to store these things,” she frowned, glancing back at the Regency. “Right, time to---”

Another jarring shove to the trailer sent her back-first into the wall. “DAMN....can't afford to waste a second with this one.....” She closed her eyes, establishing a wireless link with V.I.C.I and the Regency. “Here goes...”

[Vicki, can you hear me?]

[Rae?! What are you doing in my head?!]

[Internal WiFi, luv. I need you to pull up alongside the trailer and, ah, catch the E-Lins.]

[…..and you're sure this won't damage them---or you?]

[You're an absolute sweetheart, Vicki---no, it won't damage the E-Lins, and it definitely won't---]

A sizeable chunk of the trailer wall was ripped away by a steel-taloned hand.

[VICKI! PULL UP BEHIND THE TRAILER NOW!]

The Regency shot forward just as another thrown chunk of the trailer scythed into the roof at the perfect angle to cleave it from the rest of the car. SARIA's worried voice could be heard calling out a full report of the “loss of structural integrity within the vehicle”, but V.I.C.I ignored it. [I'm ready. Start throwing the E-Lins to me.]

Hefting one of the motionless gynoids on her shoulders, Rae managed to toss the E-Lin over the head of her fellow Field Agent to land in the Regency's back seat. [One down, about six to---] A fist sheathed in mottled greyish flesh closed around her throat.

“RAE!”

Epsilon's eyes stared into Rae's ocular sensors; his lips, still hidden behind the grating that covered most of his face, parted as a strangled roar escaped his throat. “I'm.....not....your....sodding....enemy!” the gynoid hissed, letting herself go limp in the hybrid's grip. Even as she stared Epsilon down, she hoped the gesture would be seen as proof that she didn't want to hurt him---

----of course, the fact that the trailer smashed into the truck and flipped end over end sort of ruined that.
-------------------------------------------------
“RAE!”

Even as the E-Lin had been tossed into the backseat of the Regency, V.I.C.I had seen the truck hit a piece of its own debris mere seconds before Rae had been grabbed by Epsilon. She knew that Rae hadn't noticed, and her current predicament would more than likely take up far more of her attention. Thus, she watched the trailer fly end-over-end, above the ruined truck, with equal measures of horror---for obvious reasons---and, as strange as it might've seemed....hope.

She'll survive it. She has to...

Oddly enough, none of the E-Lins tumbled out of the trailer as it hurtled over the truck---either they were tied down (or otherwise secured), or Rae had managed to arrange things (however that might work) to keep them from falling out. As for Rae herself....

The Honda Regency carefully slowed to a park as the trailer finally settled in the middle of the road---which, as V.I.C.I realized, was surprisingly empty of pedestrians or anyone else who could've been injured in the ensuing chaos when the LaMarquise gynoid had fired her Street Sweeper. Something about the emptiness of the area didn't sit right with---

“OI, VICKI.....a bit of a hand would be greatly appreciated, if you can spare a tick....”

Rolling her eyes at Rae's colloquial British-isms, V.I.C.I followed the sound of her colleague's voice until she reached the trailer. “Feeling okay?” she called out, using her human voice in case anyone drove past.

“Can't feel anything below the neck, at the moment...but other than that, tops!”

A low groan fought its way past Vicki's lips as she realized what “can't feel anything below the neck” probably meant. “Just....stay where you are and I'll get to you,” she replied. “Is Epsilon---”

“He scarpered. Can't say I blame him....I think he may have lost part of a finger when the trailer landed!”

Which is the last thing I needed to hear, Vicki felt like saying. Seeing as how she wasn't going to find Rae by asking which finger Epsilon had lost part of, she decided instead to continue her inquiry regarding the other gynoid's “health”: “So, how much of yourself can you---”

“Sweetie, I'm not usually one to get crude at times like this, but could you please MOVE YOUR ARSE?!

“I'm trying to find you right now,” Vicki countered, “so---”

“No, I mean, literally---your rear end is blocking the signal! I'm trying to call HQ, get a retrieval team out here!”

Her eyes squeezed shut at the mention of her own rear. “So.....you're.....” She turned, looked down....and stared into the eyes of Rae Clarke. Or rather, the ocular sensors of the disconnected cranial module of Rae Clarke, which was currently frowning up at her. Apart from the fact that she was, at the moment, just a head, Rae looked pretty good---until Vicki noticed the metal connectors, wires and servo relays at the terminal end of her neck stump. “It's not as bad as it looks,” Rae assured her.

“Not as bad as it looks,” Vicki repeated, a toneless, humourless laugh issuing from her lips. “YOU'RE JUST A HEAD, RAE!”

“The rest of me is still intact! Over that way---to the left of where we are! Damn, I already miss my hands...”

Vicki scooped up Rae's head, holding it under the crook of her arm as she approached the wreckage of the trailer. “You're lucky Hreftech had you built according to their modular construction guidelines,” she informed her fellow Field Agent. “If you were a Kumitosu model, you'd have been---”

“One of my flatmates was a Kumitosu,” Rae chimed in. “Lovely girl....hang on, I think I see my hand sticking out from there!” Sure enough, the bright pink nail polish that Rae preferred marked the slim extremity seen through a hole in the trailer's wall as hers. “You should be thanking me for letting my head disconnect from the rest of me, y'know.....if it WAS still on, I'd probably have a nice long shard of metal through my eye right now.”

“So you let your head disconnect,” Vicki muttered. “It wasn't some random accident---”

“Oi, you ever get a big, meaty hand wrapped 'round your throat, and you don't think 'oh, I might want to let my cranial module disconnect from the rest of me to keep my face from getting caved in by this nasty bloke here', let me know,” Rae pouted. “It was spur of the moment---OI, don't set me down on the damn pavement!”

The brunette gynoid rolled her eyes. “I need both hands to drag the rest of you out of the trailer....” Her eyes glowed blue for a moment as she grabbed the edges of the hole Rae's hand was protruding from. “...and I also need to concentrate,” she added, in her robotic monotone, “to make sure I don't collapse the entire trailer assembly on top of you.”

Rae sighed---a remarkable feat, considering her lack of a torso at the moment. “Fair enough....just be careful.”

When haven't I been?” With considerably less strain than a human would've gone through, V.I.C.I managed to pry apart the segments of the trailer on either side of Rae's headless body. “You're in luck,” she called out, turning to regard her fellow gynoid with a grin. “The crash didn't damage your body at all. No tears in the synthetic dermal covering, no fluid leakages....even your clothes are still intact....” Her attention turned to the motionless female forms at the far end of the trailer. “...and the E-Lins look to be in nice shape, as well,” she added.

“Feel like turning me around while you're in there?” Rae called out. “I mean...turn my body around....”

Her request earned her a glare from V.I.C.I; “You're seriously asking me to let you check yourself out?” she muttered.

“Just want to admire a high-quality build!” Rae beamed. “Which is me, in this case, but still...and don't go dragging me out of there just because you're in a mood!” If she'd had the ability to nod as V.I.C.I extricated her body from the trailer, she more than likely would have. “And now the turn,” she called out. “It's not that big of a deal, Vicki.....YES, there it is!” She gave a wolf-whistle at her own shapely figure. “And I am looking good!

“If I hear anything about any part of you being firm enough to bounce quarters off of,” the brunette Field Agent warned, “I'm stowing your head in the trunk of the Regency on the drive back---”

“And I'll have my body slap you silly,” Rae teased. “Hreftech Remote Modular Access....” She winked.

It's times like this I'm glad I know what I am, V.I.C.I reflected, otherwise all of this would be very weird... As Rae continued complimenting her own body, the brunette gynoid half-carried the headless form over to where the chestnut-haired head rested. “Any time you're ready, babe....”

I'd ask if you're ready,” V.I.C.I intoned, “but I have a feeling I already know the answer....” She gently laid the headless gynoid's body down next to her cranial assembly, before moving to the cranial assembly itself. “I just need to know,” she quietly asked, 'are there any special procedures I need to worry about while I'm reattaching your head?

Rae chuckled. “Just turn me so my neck stump is above my neck and let me take care of the rest.”

Again, V.I.C.I frowned. “Please don't tell me you've done this before...at least, not intentionally.” A brief memory of Rae's sultry sighs during her repair session a day or two prior resurfaced.....

….and was dispelled just as quickly. “I'm not crazy,” the gynoid giggled.

Despite her annoyance, V.I.C.I managed to bite back a number of scathing rejoinders and focused on the task at hand---putting Rae's head back on her body. She turned the chestnut-haired gynoid's head until she was staring up at the sky. “Whenever you're ready....”

“I've been ready for a good long while, babe. Just move my head slowly towards the rest of me....”

After a deep breath (out of habit), V.I.C.I moved Rae's head closer to her neck---and watched, feeling a mixture of awe and fear as wires, thin rods and other...extensions, for lack of a better term...emerged from both the neck and the terminal end of Rae's head. “Is that....normal?” the brunette gynoid asked, her monotone doing a fairly decent job of flattening the emotion out of the question.

“Hreftech design,” Rae sighed, as if she was getting her nails done. “Of course it's---”

Her eyes shot open. “Hreftech unit NV-9947128, Designation: Clarke, Rae,” she announced, her own voice going into a digitized monotone. “Cranial module reconnection commencing....”

After a few brief seconds, her face returned to its prior state of animation. “---normal....and I can tell I just did the robot voice thing,” she drawled, rolling her eyes. “You're gonna love this next bit when I----” Her lips curled into a bizarre sneer. “---start getting-ting-ting----DAMN, that's annoying....getting all twitchychychy---” Her eyes blinked a few times, with her mouth locked into an “o” of surprise (or something else, V.I.C.I mused). “Cranial module reattaching. No hardware errors found. Please lift unit and unit's cranial module to an upright position to avoid interference.”

With one hand at Rae's back and the other cupping her head, V.I.C.I did as she was instructed. To her relief, Rae's body seemed to lock into a sitting position of its own accord, allowing the gynoid to plant both hands on her colleague's head as the various connectors from either end of the neck stump reattached. “So far, so good,” Rae declared, her monotone now sporting her British accent---and a hint of snarkiness.

“So what now?” Vicki asked, reverting to her own human voice.

“Now comes the fun part---lowering my head back onto my neck,” Despite the flatness of her voice, Rae gave a saucy wink. “I may not be as vocal about this as my last repair job, but it does feel---”

A low groan from Vicki cut her off. “Can we just get to the part where I reattach your head?”

In three seconds...two.....okay, start lowering it.” Slowly, Vicki lowered Rae's head, surprised to find that the connectors from her neck were already doing their part to pull the cranial module back in slightly. Within a few seconds, only a 2-centimetre seam remained as a reminder....and even that was beginning to fade as Rae turned her head, flexing her neck in every available direction to make sure the connection was holding.

Vicki arched an eyebrow. “Better?”

“So much,” Rae beamed, pulling her in for a quick hug. “The E-Lins are still in one piece, I take it?”

“Surprisingly, yes....probably because Epsilon didn't try to tear them limb from limb....” Vicki reflected on that for a moment. “He only went after you,” she murmured, “but he left the E-Lins alone---”

“Yeah, about that,” the tanned gynoid cut in. “I have no idea why he decided to throttle me...I didn't do a damn thing to provoke him, so....” She rolled her eyes. “Guess we need to get them back to HQ ASAP,” she added, nodding towards the E-Lins. “And....oh, what the hell.....” Her question faded to a groan as she beheld the Regency. “Vicki, what happened?!

The brunette gynoid was already heading back to the car. “Part of the trailer hit it...took the roof clean off.”

She decided to leave out the fact that “part of the trailer” had been thrown by Epsilon.
-------------------------------------------------
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Re: The V.I.C.I. Diaries - The Dragon

Post by DukeNukem 2417 » Tue Jun 30, 2015 2:24 pm

“And you didn't even wound it?”

Bradford's question, though addressed to Kendall, earned a smirk from Brittney. “I told you I was better with hardware than her,” she bragged. “She's lucky that thing didn't rip her damn arms off---”

“Luck had nothing to do with it,” Kendall snapped, turning to glare at Brittney. “I assure you, my beauty is far from my only asset..” Even as she calmed herself, her annoyance at the other gynoid remained---she hadn't agreed to take the gig just so a glorified, would-be “gangsta” could push her around. “It would seem,” she continued, “that someone's methods of gathering intelligence on our target---”

“I KNOW you ain't talkin' about me!” Brittney countered, striding to get in the svelte gynoid's face. “Bitch, you best check your privilege and step off---”

“The only 'privilege' that needs 'checking' is yours,” Kendall replied, her voice as cold as her stare. “You'd do well to remember who we both work for, and what they'll be willing to--” Her threat ended in a slight gasp as Brittney's hands wrapped around her neck. “You don't need to breathe,” the taller gynoid purred, “so I know this don't hurt as much as it could.....” Her lips peeled back in a predatory smile. “....but I bet your head pops off real nice if I just....squeeze hard enough.....”

In an instant, Bradford was beside the two gynoids, trying to keep things from escalating. “Okay, okay, break it up! Both of you, just---”

“Drake, tell your girl to step off and check her damn privilege,” Brittney snarled, “or she's done.”

Kendall never looked away from the African-American gynoid. “Whatever course of action you recommend,” she muttered, “I'll gladly follow it....sir...”

For the most part, Bradford knew that Brittney's threats were all show. It was nothing but posturing, a spur of the moment skritch-fight brought on by tension, stress and boredom. “Kendall,” he stated, “just let Delacroix have her space and try to be a little less...abrasive, I guess.” He returned the gynoid's slight nod. “Brittney, just....stop trying to choke her out, already. It's water under the bridge.”

After five seconds of glowering at Kendall, Brittney nearly threw her to the floor.

“Good, good.....” Bradford grinned. “And both of you, just....relax, okay?”

“I'll relax when Epsilon's in a damn cage,” Brittney muttered. “That thing's a freak---”

“A freak we're being paid to catch,” Bradford reminded her. “You two can have a few rounds in the ring out back after this is all over with, if you want---for now, we're a team. And as a team---”

“As a team,” Brittney spat, “we SUCK. She can't do crap on her own---” She jerked a thumb at Kendall. “---I ain't seen any action since I got here, and all you're doin' is playing the damn referee----the damn referee---the damn referee----” Her face froze in a strange half-sneeze expression; the word “damn” issued through her frozen lips in a tinny echo.

Bradford stared at Kendall, frowning. “Go get the damn cart,” he muttered. “And tell the techs---”

His request was cut off by the audible servo whines that accompanied Brittney's sudden reanimation. “DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN----” A grinding noise from her neck drowned out her repeated utterances of “damn”, and her head snapped to the side before she finally broke out of her program loop. “The damn referee.....” Brittney stopped, noticing the look on Drake's face. “What the hell are you starin' at?!” she hissed. “You think this is all a damn joke?!”

“I don't think your malfunction was funny, if that's what you're asking---”

“Aw, don't tell me I messed up again...” Brittney crossed the room and flopped down face-first onto a couch, groaning into a pillow. “Ever since Vega cut me loose, my damn stupid malfunctions have been....”

“Occurring with a greater frequency?” Kendall offered.

Brittney shot her a “shut the hell up” glare. “You patronizin' me now?”

“She's just asking if they've been happening more often,” Bradford assured her, quickly adding “Not that I think you didn't know that already.” He tried for a reassuring grin. “We're in this together---”

“Indeed you are....and should one of you fail, you all fail.”

The lights on the far end of the room cut out just as the last word spoken by that sonorous, menacing voice faded. “I see your first attempt at capturing Epsilon has failed,” the Baron declared. “And you have wasted significant resources in your efforts....one truck destroyed, one trailer ruined---”

“My damn Escalade got wrecked!” Brittney countered.

“Your Escalade,” the Baron replied, “is the least of my concerns. The Electronic Linkup gynoids you were sent to capture....you failed to secure any of them during your escape, am I correct?”

Bradford let out a slow, quiet sigh. “We....had some problems---”

“Excuses, Mr. Bradford?” the Baron inquired. “I feel it only necessary to inform you that my tolerance for failure has been low, as of late....those responsible for the farce involving the capture of R-528 have already been given exactly what they deserved.” Several rows of lights around Brittney, Kendall and Drake cut out; “I believe,” the Baron continued, his voice getting closer with every light clicking off, “that you have failed on your own before now....”

For the first time in as long as he could remember, Bradford felt more than a bit nervous. He decided to think of anything other than his last mission in San Jose---especially his failure to acquire that last fembot based on Franklin's designs....what was her name? Hart...something or other....

Brittney, meanwhile, regarded the Baron with little more than an indignant sneer. Yes, she'd failed in her efforts to dethrone Sophia Starlet---but in her view, the blame could be pinned squarely on Vicki Lawson AND the decision to intentionally infect her original body with the Stylo virus. “My ride don't come cheap,” she declared, “and I definitely ain't cheap---”

“What you are,” the Baron's voice rumbled, “and what you are not.....means little to nothing in this discussion.”

“I KNOW YOU DIDN'T JUST CALL ME A 'NOTHING'!” Brittney shouted. “I AIN'T SCARED OF---”

Two golden points---directly at eye level---stared into the African-American gynoid's ocular sensors, almost blinding in their intensity. “You will learn to be scared,” the Baron intoned. “You will learn the true meaning of fear...” From the darkness, something moved forward; a face began to form....

….and every bit of Brittney “Boom Boom” Delacroix's attitude and resolve crumbled.

Ecce homo.....behold, the man......”

“BRITTNEY!” Bradford stumbled over something---probably the futon he'd been wanting to prop his feet up on earlier. “WHAT THE HELL'S GOING ON?! BRITTNEY, SAY SOMETHING!” He grabbed at what he thought was a chair, only to realize he was effectively groping Kendall. “Ah, hang on---”

A shrill, terrified scream cut him off.....

…..just as every light in the room---save for those at the far end---kicked back on.

“Miss Delacroix has seen what cannot be unseen,” the Baron declared. “Unlike those who have beheld this revelation in the past, however, I have....generously....decided to let her use this as a time to reflect....to learn. You understand now, Miss Delacroix, why you cannot fail?”

“....yeah,” Brittney murmured, staring at the floor. “I know. I won't screw up.”

She directed her gaze at the far end of the room. “.....you'll get Epsilon. That's a damn promise.”

“I expected no less.” The lights in the room dimmed for a moment.....then brightened, revealing only Riggs standing at the door (and looking rather confused), Kendall adjusting her shirt and Drake delivering a more-than-likely half-hearted apology for grabbing her during his frantic search for something hang onto when the lights had cut off. “...and for the record, I---wait, where the hell did he go?!”

“Nowhere we need to be,” Brittney snapped. “And where we need to be is on the road, catching Epsilon.”

Kendall blinked a few times, trying to come to grips with the “gangsta” gynoid's sudden change of heart. “And why should we follow your lead on this?” she inquired, frowning. “As I recall---”

“I don't give half a damn what you 'recall',” Brittney cut in, glaring at Kendall with unrestrained malice. “All we done so far is sit on our asses and talk about goin' after Epsilon...” She strode across the room, grabbing an unattended pistol off of a granite bar top. “Right now, here's where the talkin' ENDS.”

Bradford, already casting a suspicious glance at Riggs, tried to defuse the situation before it got too far. “I'm all for quoting Halford,” he agreed. “I've been a Priest fan all my life, I'm not gonna lie---and I couldn't agree more that we've been---Kendall, just let me finish....” He shot the gynoid a warning glare before continuing; “I agree,” he admitted, “that we've been doing too much talking and not enough....doing....but the thing is---”

The hammer on the pistol---a Heckler & Koch USP Elite---was pulled back. “Shut up,” Brittney growled.

Immediately, Bradford held both hands up. “Okay, okay, I'm---”

A bullet tore through the chair to his right. “I SAID SHUT UP, DAMNIT!” Brittney kept the gun trained on him, even as she turned away. “I need some damn quiet....” She closed her eyes; “Y'all been goin' at this all wrong,” she muttered. “Tryin' the human way, the only way y'all can.....” Instantly, she opened her eyes, glaring at Kendall. “I need your phone.”

“I beg your pardon---”

“Bitch, don't MAKE me say it again! GIVE ME YOUR DAMN PHONE.” With the gun now aimed at the blonde gynoid, Brittney gestured with her free hand for her phone. “Just hand me the damn stupid---” Her scowl turned to a smirk as Kendall tossed her the phone. “Damn right.....and the cord...” She lowered the gun just as the appropriate cord was thrown to her. “Good. Now both y'all shut up for a damn minute....” With the phone and cord in one hand, she pulled back her hair with the other. “This may take a while....” As Bradford and Kendall watched, she managed to land the free end of the cord in a port on her neck. “...but it'll be---”

Kendall rolled her eyes as the ebony gynoid froze. “I don't know what the Baron did to her,” she murmured, “or what she saw---”

“Something tells me you won't want to know,” Drake replied, striding over to glance at the phone. “And....” He gasped, staring at the screen. “Kendall.....why the hell didn't you mention that Epsilon used to be a freaking human being----and that the storage unit we tossed was owned BY HIS DAUGHTER?!

The blonde gynoid chose to simply scowl at Brittney. “Ask her, when she's done with my phone....”
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"No one steals our chicks.....and lives!"

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