Elsie walked into the room beside Jack and cataloged the seven AI and three Terran guards from most threatening to least, allowing her evaluation subroutines to do their work as they were designed.

“Who the devil are you?” a low voice echoed off the walls as another man walked confidently out into his field of vision, holding a gun carefully.  She could tell at a glance he wasn’t a simple guard.  He was the one they were guarding.

“I’m dead,” Jack muttered and tapped his right shoulder carefully as Elsie prepared to move if she needed to.  She didn’t like standoffs like this, but considering the amount of damage all around, she might even get lucky.

“You don’t look…” the man trailed off as he examined Jack slowly, trying to recognize his altered facial structure.  A quick scan of his eyes showed he was drawing a blank.  “Who are you?”

“I go by the name of Jack now,” Jack whispered slowly and the other man scowled.

“That tells me nothing,” he responded and Jack shrugged.

“Well, Erik,” Jack noted in a very quiet voice that the other man had to concentrate to listen to.  “Maybe you’ll recognize the name Shane then,” he continued, staring at the man intently and Elsie frowned, wondering what it meant but assuming it was simply another part of the riddle that was Jack’s history.  She was really going to need to get him to tell her more.  She hated not knowing what she was walking into.

That was when Jack brought his gun up to fire on the man.  She gripped her own pistols tighter and brought them up to cover him, but Erik was too fast.  The gun fired, ripping into Jack’s shoulder and he flew back through the door, his right arm flying from his body in a bloody mess.  But Jack had gotten off a shot as well, and Erik’s gun dropped to the floor as he held his arm in pain.  She looked around at the other guards and reacted with all the combat modules she’d installed over the years.

She moved.  Faster than any Terran could match, her arms locked on target at the two most dangerous AIs and she pulled the triggers, smiling as they flew backwards, their power cores disintegrating inside them.  Then she reached the closest of the three surviving Terran guards, and smashed him across the face hard enough to shatter his skull.

The limp form began falling to the ground as the nearest AI reached for her, but her right leg cocked up and struck out in a kick hard enough to collapse its internal armor and breach its power core.  The AI stopped and began to fall as she smashed the other two Terrans aside, feeling their bones shatter under her assault.  Finally her pistols began to vibrate, telling her they were nearly ready to fire again, and she brought them up to target the next two most dangerous targets.

The twin shots sent the AI’s crashing backwards with holes in their chests and Elsie kept running as she locked her aim on the last two AIs.  Their shots came first though, their guns ready to fire while hers were still reloading.  She felt their salvos smash into her legs, shredding her black pants and scouring the armor underneath.  Then one of their heavier weapons fired and smashed through the weakened armor over her left knee, causing the leg to falter.  A second heavy blast smashed through her right hip and her legs could no longer support her.

Her body collapsed to the ground as the rifles kept shooting, covering her body with automatic fire, shredding her clothing and sending her pistols flying into the air behind her.  She snarled as she bounced and felt another heavy weapons blast smash her right shoulder into uselessness.  By the time her left shoulder failed, she knew to expect it.  They didn’t want her destroyed.  They wanted her a prisoner.

“Excellent,” Erik whispered painfully and walked up to her, using his boot to roll her over onto her back.  Blood ran down his right arm, dripping onto the floor and he winced painful.  He took one look at her intact left hip, and pointed it out to the AIs.  One of them nodded, aimed a gun at it, and smashed the hip into uselessness.  Contrary to popular opinion, AIs actually did feel pain.  Admittedly, it was more electronic protests and information about parts of their bodies no longer working.  That and energy burns from blasts that leaked past the blast point and continue destroying circuits.  But to an AI, that was pain, and they did feel it.  She winced again, but returned her expression to normal, not wanting to show it to him.  Erik knelt down to put one knee on her torso.  “Now we get to talk about what we’ll do together.”

“Keep dreaming,” Elsie snarled back and the Terran laughed in amusement.

“I wasn’t just thinking about that,” he muttered and reached forward to rip the remains of her shirt off the front of her torso to reveal the battered armor underneath.

“I’ll never give you the satisfaction,” she swore helplessly as his left hand flashed to the neckline of her armor, tapping the pressure points there in a set pattern, leaving behind a bloody stain.  Nothing happened and he frowned before trying another pattern.  On the third try he finally got the response he wanted and smiled as the seal on the front of her armor from waist to neck unlocked.

“Resist if you can,” Erik snorted derisively as he peeled the armor away from her torso, revealing the Terran-style skin, and everything else, beneath it, and brought his hand up to the pressure point on right side of her neck.  He tapped out a pattern there and frowned.  Nothing happened.  He tapped out another and still he received no response.  Again and again he tried patterns, running through every code he knew on each side of her neck before sighing and looking her straight in the eye.  “Open wide,” he ordered and she shook her determinedly.  “Very well,” he noted as he stood up and turned to one of his last surviving AIs.

“Open her up,” he ordered and the AI nodded, kneeling down to her side as he raised one fist high above her.  It smashed down into her stomach, ripping through the outer skin that maintained her illusion of being a Terran, and smashed into her primary armor layer.  It buckled and she grunted in pain, her eyes filling with tears.

Then the AI’s hands turned, grabbed the buckled plating, and ripped her chest open.  The skin separated from her belly button to her neck as the twin armored covers that protected her internal systems ground open against her will.  Servos fought the AI’s pull, trying to close the covers back, but he kept straining and they finally burned out, allowing him to finish his task.





“Now then, lets get started shall we?” Erik whispered with a smile as he kneeled back down to look into her torso after the AI stood up.  He glanced at her two datacores, one organic and the other electronic, and smiled happily.  He’d hoped to pick up a special ops AI but had never expected to get his hands on an honest-to-God ship AI.  This was a major upgrade.

“You’ll regret this,” Elsie snarled angrily and Erik snickered back as his fingers started running over her electronics and up towards the power core in the center of her chest.

“Actually, when you wake up you’ll be willing to do anything for me,” he whispered with satisfaction and his fingers slid down the side of the powercore.  Her eyes opened wide in shock and fear as he finally found the switch he was looking for and simply cut her power.  Her head rolled to the side, and Erik stood up slowly.  “Close her up again and take her to my ship,” he ordered the same AI and then stepped away from Elsie’s inert avatar.

That was when the two avatars spun to their right to face the doorway, their weapons rising to meet some threat.  Two shots rang out and both AIs flew backwards, their powercores blown away, and Erik turned to see what was going on.  His cheek twitched as he saw a man holding two guns and then sighed slowly.

“Ah, James,” he noted carefully.  “So nice to see you.”

“Ah do hope yah didn’t say that ta Shane before yah shot him,” James snarled as he brought both guns around to aim at Erik.

“I didn’t have a choice,” Erik responded.  “He was going to kill me.”

“So that’s why yah shot him twelve years ago too?” James muttered angrily and Erik swallowed nervously.

“I didn’t shoot him,” Erik whispered urgently.  “It was one of their guards that did it.”

“Nah,” James drawled back.  “I don’t think so.  You shot Shane.  Why else would he be lying on the floor out there right now?”

“It wasn’t me,” Erik whispered back.  “It was the AIs.”

“Yeah.  Just like it was the guards last time,” James muttered angrily.  “I ain’t bahying i’ ahgain,” he started to drawl and Erik’s eyes opened wide.  When James’ slow drawl really started going, that meant he was getting well and truly pissed.  This was going really badly.  “Say nahty naght,” James drawled on and his trigger fingers twitched.

“No!” Erik yelled back desperately.  “We can work together!  This AI will be worth billions!  We can share the money!”

“Nah,” James responded and lowered his guns.  “Ah go’ anotha’ ‘rrangement,” he finished with a lazy smile that didn’t even attempt to touch his eyes and a woman with long blonde hair walked into view.

“This is for Face you sorry fucker,” she snarled and brought a gun up to aim it directly at his face.  The last thing he would ever see was the flash of energy as the gun hurled a slug at supersonic speeds directly between his eyes.





Jack’s eyes opened slowly and he groaned as he slowly flexed his hands.  Hand.  He couldn’t feel his right hand.  He tried to bring it up so he could see it but nothing happened.

“Careful there,” a soft voice said and he turned to look at a woman with long blonde hair uncurl herself from a chair.

“Cat,” he whispered hoarsely and then cleared his throat.  He looked around the room, recognizing it as a hospital recovery room from previous, usually painful, experiences, and then returned his gaze to Cat questioningly.

“You’ve been asleep for two days,” she whispered with a sad smile as she stepped around the end of his bed to walk up to his right side.  “You lost your arm in there,” she added and Jack laid his head back against the pillow as he remembered his arm lying against the wall.  “The doctors say it’ll be a month before they can complete the regrowing process.”

“Erik?” he whispered tiredly.

“I killed him,” Cat responded as she kneeled down beside him.  “He’ll never hurt anyone again,” she added and Jack turned his head to look deep into the eyes that told him everything he needed to know, and more than he wanted to.

“I’m sorry.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Cat whispered as she put a hand on his armless shoulder.  “James told me what happened,” she added as Jack began to shake his head.  “It really wasn’t your fault.”

“If I’d taken him out earlier,” Jack whispered and Cat shrugged.

“We can’t do anything about if onlys.  Are you going back?” Cat asked and Jack looked confused.  “To her,” she added and Jack nodded in understanding.

“Yes,” he muttered casually, his voice starting to come back.

“Good,” Cat whispered sadly.  “She’s a very lucky woman,” she added and stood up.  “Somehow I wish…” She trailed off and swallowed slowly, just looking at Jack.  “If things could have been different,” she finally added and leaned over to kiss Jack lightly on the lips.  Then she stood up and walked towards the door to leave the room as Jack lay speechlessly in the bed.  “Thanks for caring,” Cat whispered and opened the door, leaving Jack alone with his thoughts.