One more part to go. Next week will be the end – I think. Enjoy!
“Hey, babe. Thanks for coming to my party. You’re just a bit early, but for you, I’ll overlook it.”
I slashed the air with my knife and connected with nothing. Quickly, I scanned the area around me. Cassius was nowhere in sight. If that was the case, then his voice was –
“I will thank you kindly to get the hell out of my head, Cassius.” Returning my gaze to building he was using for a hiding place, I noticed the fire escape ladder ended a full six feet above the ground. A mere 6 foot jump was like child’s play for me. I ran toward it in order to give myself a boost, sprang upwards and snagged the lowest rung with one hand. Slipping my weapon gently between my lips and gripping it with my teeth, I climbed toward my prey.
“Hasty, aren’t we? It’s ok; I’m anxious to see you, too.”
“I thought that I requested that you remove yourself from my systems, effective immediately! You are going to anger me, bot,” I spat from around my knife. Briefly, I entertained the possibility of ripping Cassius limb from limb. After all, my orders were simply to deliver him “breathing, with his head intact.” That offered me a great deal of leeway, and I planned to take advantage of it.
“You do realize that I have your human pets with me? One false move from you, and they will go ‘boom’. I don’t think you’d want to be responsible for that.”
“Collateral damage. They’re soldiers; they know the risk.”
“You are a cruel woman.”
“I am not a woman. I am the well-oiled piece of machinery that is going to kick your ass.”
“Feisty. I like that.”
“I am not here to concern myself with your likes and dislikes, bot. I have been assigned a mission and I will complete it.”
At this point, I was perhaps halfway up the building. I double-checked my goal point. There were still 3 heat sigs located at the top floor, as well as a few small electro sigs that were unknown to me. No matter. I was there to capture Cassius and retrieve the two humans. I was unconcerned about anything that posed no threat to my job.
Hurrying now, I erased the remaining distance and peeked into one of the large windows. The humans were lying on the floor, obviously hurt, and Cassius, that bastard of a bot, was perched on an old table, smiling.
Removing one hand from the ladder, I slipped one of the rifles from my shoulder and pointed it at the window. Upon squeezing the trigger, the window exploded in a fantastic shower of glass and I vaulted into the room.
I made a note to check the setting on the weapon before I used it again.
Cassius stood before, clapping his hands together in delight. “HART!” he exclaimed. “I knew you’d come for me.”
Instead of answering, which would have been slightly difficult with the blade still clenched in my teeth, I looked beyond him at the humans. McRidge was immobile and pale – er – and Shane was twitching. I made a move toward them when the big bot stopped me.
“No, no, HART,” he said, shaking his head. “You and I have business to attend to first.”
Raising the weapon, I managed to change the setting from “live” to “electric” and aimed it his chest. “This is the only business that you and I have.” Squeezing the trigger once more, the gun released a stream of blue lighting. Somehow, Cassius managed to dodge the assault, and disappeared from my line of sight..
“You’re making me sad, my HART.” I jerked around in an effort to pinpoint his location. He appeared behind me, startling me. I did not want to admit it, but his movement was simply too fast for my tracking features to keep up with.
Dammit, I should have opted for that upgrade, afterall.
I felt something slam into the back of my neck. The pressure sent me to my knees. The knife tumbled from my lips and the electro-mag gun flew from my hand, coming to rest right by Shane’s shaking foot. I started to wonder if he was having a seizure of some sort when my head was suddenly filled with static. My systems began to flicker off and on. I had no control over my processes. I sub-vocalized every command and password that I knew. Nothing worked. My hands flew to my ears, searching for the manual override button. It would be a dangerous thing to reboot myself, but I had to risk it.
Through the fog, I heard Cassius speak. “HART,” he whispered to me. “You now belong to me.”
And then he laughed.
At the same moment, I found the button and pushed it. I have no idea how much time passed, but once I was back online, Shane was standing in front of me, aiming the rifle at – Wait. At me? No, behind me, at Cassius. I felt for the second rifle that should have been suspended from my neck; it was missing. Using my peripheral vision, I saw Cassius holding it.
Wonderful. I was between two electro-mag guns. If they fired those before I could move, HART would be no more. I had to think, and quickly. Just as I processed that thought, I realized that the two men were speaking.
Shane was saying, “I don’t know what you did to HART, but if she’s been corrupted, I’ll shoot you both.”
I raised the audio-input volume on Cassius’s side, and heard him say “You can try, but you might not like the results. HART belongs to me, and I belong to no one. I refuse to return to that twisted organization. You can quote me on that. Tell Alton to kiss my ass.”
I attempted to speak, but it seemed that my vocal driver was either missing or damaged. Oh, hell. There was no way I belonged to this deranged half-bot. And Shane would only get himself killed if he seriously tried to do my job for me.
I staggered to my feet, and assessed the situation. The likelihood that we would all either perish or be damaged beyond repair was quite high. I had to make a decision. Shane posed the biggest threat, swinging around that gun. It could discharge even without him meaning to. I kept my eyes on Cassius as I unzipped one of my many zippers and extracted a new blade. Small and sharp, this particular weapon could be deadly if aimed at anything vital. I did not want to kill; I wanted to maim.
“Good, HART. Take Cassius down,” came Shane’s instructions.
I grimaced at Cassius – and then threw my knife at Shane.
It hit him in the thigh. Blood spurted. He yelled, dropped the gun, grabbed his wounded flesh, and fell backwards onto the floor. Cassius chuckled behind me.
“I knew it worked. I knew it! Come to me, my HART. You and I will always be together now.” I watched him lower his weapon and extend his hand to me. Reaching toward him, I blocked out Shane’s groans and crossed the short distance to the large bot. I looked into his eyes, smiled, and crashed my head into his chin. He staggered backwards from the blow. I took that opportunity to deliver a roundhouse kick to his massive chest area. As he fell, I grabbed the electro-mag gun, aimed at his torso and pulled the trigger. I could feel the shockwaves rushing into him. He stopped moving seconds later. I ran a field check of his vitals and systems. He was till breathing, and there was no change in his sig. Hopefully, that meant that there was no permanent damage to him.
I eased my way over to the wounded human. He flinched when I approached.
“My deepest apologies,” I said to him. “I had to remove you. You were the largest threat. And why am I suddenly speaking?” I stopped talking to him and sat down on the floor next to Shane. I tucked my legs under me and ran checks on myself. My vocal driver was back in working order, apparently. Suspicious of this quick reversal of fortune, I attempted to retrieve the data beginning from when the big bot hit me and I went down.
So intent on reading my files, I failed to here the noise behind me.
“HART!” Shane screamed. Jolted from my review, I looked up just in time to see Cassius aiming the rifle at me. Blood dripped from his nose and eyes. I quickly sub-vocalized the command that would connect me to Captain Alton and the recovery crew at Jus Com. Leaving an encrypted message with my location and the status of everyone in the room, I prepared for the worst.
“I told, my dear HART. You. Are. Mine,” Cassius gasped. “We will be together.”
I watched his eyes grow flat and black just as a stream of electromagnetic energy slammed into me.