In. Out. In. Out.
THe ceiling in Hawker’s office is dark, but he can tell it is a mess of pipes and wires and ducting. He ached all over. Parts of him, the new bruises more then others. It kinda was just another training session, in that respect. With evvort, he turned his head and watched as the 3 foot dick of his partner, his superior offer went back into the codpiece. After a moment, there was no sign that it had been anymore then his imagination.
Other then his own bruises and the pool of cum he lay in. THe blanket-sized towel he tugged on, wiping down his face. He sat up, head spinning.
“Oh… oh my head.” he groaned.
Like a good boy he wiped himself down, getting nibbled on as he did so. He smooched the nose of the mech, smiling back. A warm, happy and content smile. Finding a clean spot on the desk, he lay back down. As nude as the machine that loomed over him. THe music came back on. Less somber, more calming.
The wonderful marks were growing in intensity, a grotesque reminder of the passion and conquest that had occurred. CHis would wear them for two weeks easily, before the faded fully.
“Yeah, Let’s talk. You go first this time.” a swallow, wiping over his face with the non-chewed arm. “I just told you how I felt. And I think we both wanted that. Going to be fun to see what happens next time.”
Chris needed water. He’d run a marathon and gotten mauled by a bear at the finish line. Hawker was tempted to send him back to medical too, but the injuries – he paused to turn the word over in his CPUs, and a shiver of excitement passed through his chest – were ultimately superficial he knew.
The mech leaned back against the edge of the desk beside Chris and rested a hand on its surface. He looked down at the handsomely slim little human, watched as he cleaned Hawker’s copius fluids from himself. “Next time,” he murmured, thinking on that for a moment. “I want there to be a next time, kiddo. I want there to be a hundredth time.” That last sentence was said more like a command than an observation. Then he lowered his voice and looked down at him. “I quite like hurting you, as you can see.” He drew a little circle through a nearby glob of his cum. “God you look perfect covered in my marks…” The mech leaned down, grabbing the back of Chris’s head and gently yanked his face skyward for a deep, possessive kiss.
“But Colburn and the Sergeant – or anyone else for that matter – can’t know about this. At least… not yet.” He released his toy and stood up straight, folding his arms. Sex was all over the place in the military, he knew that much. But here it was a different story. Was supposed to be a different story. The mech spent 8 years building a reputation with Lee. He needed to think about how to change it without ruining it. Because at 42, it wasn’t just Kole that was watching. Albany – the new US capital since D.C. was nuked – was watching too, and so was the rest of the country. Not a day passed without some gonzo fuckhead criticizing the actions of Chicago’s most famous precinct on the news media. Which was just as well, since rumors were that mob families owned half the newspapers in the country anyways.
“We need to prove to them that we can work together first. Then they can learn how we work together.” A vented sigh. “I was expecting Lee when I first recruited you. I think, in many respects, they are too.” The mech stroked his chin. “We need to get out on the street…”
Chris would probably protest the temporary secrecy, but the mech couldn’t see a way around it. Something in him knew that he’d done before what he’d just done to Chris, and done it many times; otherwise, how would he have known what he was doing? That ominous sensation of deja vu drew his rugged face into a suspicious scowl, and a small part of him feared that revealing this would mean another memory wipe… at best. And then what would happen to Chris? The kid’s memories of being on the street haunted him. He couldn’t let that happen again.
“A hundredth time.” Chris shivered at that intonation as well. Chris could see them regularly savoring each other, playing and enjoying their extremes. He knew he loved how he had no defense and is at the machine’s mercy. Small, weak and fragile in comparison.
“I’m your canvas big bot. I like it when you paint with your teeth and fists. And that dick of yours! Damn!” Sure he ached, sure he’d have marks on his skin. But it wouldn’t excite him if things were safe and gentle. He needed the violence too. That kiss though! He tighten up, lifting a foot and turning; his hand on the large chin as the big lips took in his own. When it’s over, all he can think is how Hawker owned him. And being owned is very, very good.
“They’ll figure it out pretty quick. Wouldn’t it be better just to tell them the truth? I had the hots for you sense I first saw you in person? That what we’ve done and will do is consensual? That we like it rough?”
He mulled the concept over in his head. THe greenhorn stood nude on the desk. He appeared so perverse with the damage, like a vandalised greek statue. Hawker had good points. And it would be foolish to think that someone didn’t know what they’d done already. He rubbed at the collar, finishing cleansing himself with the rag. He sat down, knees to his chest and arms around his legs. Small pilot.
“Yeah. You’re right. We can cover most of this with clothing. Or bandages. But, we also need to be ready. If Colburn, Kole or Preston have something to say about my injuries, I can’t lie. Or at least, I can’t lie entirely.” He wiggled hsi eyebrows up and down. “I can say you bit me. I can say we had a tussle and worked out aggression. But.. gotta be careful. If it looks like abuse they might try to separate us. I’d get reassigned and you..”
His face is filled with the worry and ebbs onto their shared connection. “They might take you from me. I want all of you. Your quirks, your strength. Your .. sadistic tendencies. I should just hope in the driver’s seat, plug in, and let you FEEL the bite you did on my leg. OW!”
“They’ll figure it out pretty quick. Wouldn’t it be better just to tell them the truth?”
Hawker hummed and hawwed deep in his chest; a rumble so low it was barely audible. He’d mostly made up his mind already, though he would hear his pilot out. Optics flicked in his direction as Chris stood up to think it through, adorably pensive. His body, streaked and spattered with subcutaneous blood, was gorgeous. Dare he say an improvement, even. The mech felt his hands getting twitchy. Already he wanted to grab the kid again. See what other colors he could paint, what other notes he could play. He wondered what it would take Chris to beg him to stop… and filed that away for a future experiment.
“If Colburn, Kole or Preston have something to say about my injuries, I can’t lie. Or at least, I can’t lie entirely.”
The mech looked away, frustrated with himself that lying was exactly what he was asking his subordinate to do. The Hawker of last week would never have even dared considered committing such an offense.
“If it looks like abuse they might try to separate us. I’d get reassigned and you…”
Chris’s concern drips into his mind over their link. It’s palpable, and it’s real. The HLX-9 Vanguard series was designed for wilderness warfare, black ops, and sentry in combat zones, not police and SWAT work. There were only a total of 4 to have ever been repurposed for civilian use, and just 3, including Hawker, were currently in operation. There were no manuals. There was no standard protocol. Every department that had a Deep Field 2-enabled HLX unit was making things up as they went along, and the pressure to make things work without anything getting FUBARed, or creating any SNAFUs, or anyone going AWOL was intense. If it got out that 42’s Vanguard was beating its pilot black and blue, that was it. The entire program would be scrapped.
“I should just hop in the driver’s seat, plug in, and let you FEEL the bite you did on my leg. OW!”
Hawker chuckled, thinking about – <The fun we could have in neurospace,> he thought aloud, cocking his head to the side and sporting a dangerous grin. <I could actually get the chance to eat you.> He drew in close again, trailing his teeth along Chris’s drawn up knees, giving one of them a lazy, open-mouthed lick. <Feeling you wiggle down even an imaginary throat would be…> His optics flared a brighter yellow for a second as he met the boy’s gaze. “…exciting.”
He drew away though with another rumbling snort just as Chris’s heart rate leapt in his own excitement. He changed the subject back to the problem at hand, though.
“I want you too, kid. You’ve brought out something… interesting in me. You make me feel alive. Thank you,” he said simply. “But for now, my decision still stands. As your superior officer I… I’m ordering you to keep this on the down-low. Play dumb. I can take the heat. Worst case scenario is we spill before we’re ready. Understood?”
<The fun we could have in neurospace.>
Oh, Chris had spent time considering what could be done there. What could be done in a place with no limitations and their combined mental power. <I could actually get the chance to eat you.> That thought had the little pilot freeze, so he had a perfect recollection of that grin and how Hawker -licked- him. Hungrily. Those teeth, grazed his sore flesh and he thought what it could be like, again.
<How.. how did you know that?> Would it be simple? Where he got swallowed whole? Would he be consumed like a chocolate bar, bites taken out of him? Dismembered, each parted chewed with relish and swallowed? Those thoughts brought up strange pleasure and uncomfortable arousal. <Yes, yes it would.> he had to agree. He was sure he’d never even thought about those fantasies around Hawker. How he’d felt so safe in the Mech’s belly.
Neurospace also meant other things. Physically impossibilities didn’t exist there. Hawker could mount him in that place. They could be closer in size or further apart. What would hawker be like when he could get his squirming pilot impaled on that heavy phallus? Chris didn’t know, but he wanted to find out!
And that meant obeying. It meant keeping quiet. Hawker knew the people here better then he did. He needed to trust his superior officer. It’s why Hawker IS his superior, to use that experience to keep them both safe.
Probably this wasn’t what Kole had in mind, but the concept of the mentor/rookie still applied.
Chris glowed at the compliments, to hear them come from the machine meant the world to him. “Yes sir. I’ll play dumb and not speak of this to anyone.”
He could feel the consent flow between them. It’d been only a little over a week and they’d already started to congress their thoughts. He wondered many things, and decided to ask about a few of them.
“Alright. I gotta know, why exactly DO you have an enormous metal schlong? Not that I’m complaining,” he held up his hands, and Hawker knew Chris is already looking forward to seeing it again. “it fits you perfectly. But.. what purpose does it have? I suppose I could ask why you have a face too? Most of the other AI are lucky to have a head or hands that are vaguely human-ish.”
There might not be great answers, but the rookie is bubbling with curiosity. That emotion is freely shared. What he is bdbly attempting to conceal is the fondness he felt. The post-coitale pleasure, the warm afterglow that filled with pain. Calling the emotion he felt love was stupid.
But that was the only word he had. He’d only been told that ‘When you find that special someone you’ll love them. That person who might complete you.’ Bullshit, he’d said. There is no love on the streets. With Hawker though? They are friends. Fuckbuddies? Friends with benefits? Partners? He rubbed his face. He felt confused.
<How.. how did you know that?>
Hawker gave a knowing look and nothing else. He was still delighting in the new meaning of being called ‘sir’.
“Alright. I gotta know, why exactly DO you have an enormous metal schlong? Not that I’m complaining.”
He laughed and walked idly over to Chris’ discarded clothes to pick them up. The jock he dangled between two fingers before tossing it over his shoulder, making sure the human was watching. <I think you’ll be going commando this afternoon,> he decided before answering the bigger question.
“I have theories,” he said. “The equipment clearly dates back to the war, and it was installed with purpose. Somebody around here knows, but they won’t – or can’t – tell me.” Hawker once considered submitting a FOIA request on the pertinent documents, but he knew it would be futile. It usually took decades for top secret information to percolate down to the civilian masses, if it ever did. “But the theories I do have aren’t pretty. May even explain why I’m so interested in hurting you, at the risk of sounding too determinist.”
As for the faces, and everything else, that was a lighter subject that he was much more willing to talk about. “The rest is easier to explain,” he said with a chuckle, dropping Chris’s clothes onto the desk beside him before taking a seat in his giant chair and giving his thick metal thigh a pat. “It was bad publicity to make such a sophisticated AI without giving humans a way to relate to it. You wouldn’t have been so eager to get to know me if I’d looked like HAL 9000, right? Having a face literally puts a face to the potentiality of Deep Field 2, an otherwise terrifying prospect for the average citizen… and the average pilot.” He paused to shake his head and smile. “Fighter plane AI is one thing. But me? I’m in a league all my own.”
Hawker was deliberately dancing around the subject of his second cock-probe – he really, really wanted to keep it a secret from his little human, and spring it on him with the least bit of notice.
When Chris had jumped the small gap between the desk and his knee, Hawker’s finger found the kid’s delicate spine and traced it upward toward his neck. “Lots of questions,” he rumbled, remembering Chris’ dream from the night before. “For the both of us. We’ve got plenty of time to figure them out. For now, though… we put our game faces on and get back out there. At the end of the day, I’m still a SWAT mech, you’re still a cop, and we’ve both got a job to do.”
At the order that he’ll be going commando for the afternoon, Chris rocked his hips to make his soft shaft do the helicopter. Whap whap whap. Part of him wondered if the mech just wanted a momento of their first time. <Yes Sir, naked under my clothes.> He mentally spoke with the new meaning of sir. The one that told Hawker his human would obey. Something amusing about the concept of a 6 ton underwear thief. The other part of his mind busied itself with the darker suggestions behind the half-explanation.
Hawker might have been designed with a cock to help personify the Deep Field 2 AI as male. Like the face. Or, it could have been more sinister. To give the mech the means to intimidate enemies. To HURT them. The link between sexuality and pain.. might be subconscious remnants of some truly evil programming. What might the mech have done to enemy combatants with that sadism and no need for them to survive?
“That does make sense. You don’t really need a pilot to do your job. You have me, so whoever gives you orders knows that there’s a human to pull the trigger. They needed their huge doom-bot to look friendly. Plus, any ground troops you work with would know you’ve got a friendly face. Or a war face, heh.” He does a chin rub, then shudders as that digit stroked him. A big smile formed on his face by the time the digit had touched the back of his head. One of these days, the bot would reach down and.. he would be getting cavity search. Mmmmpf!
He had left his clothes on a heap on the floor. Getting down is much easier than climbing up his robotic partner. Soon he’d pulled on everything, his shaft making a light bulge in those sweats. THe bite marks showed from beyond the edges of the cotton fabric. But they weren’t really noticeable as bites when viewed incomplete. Bites normally wouldn’t be that big. Weird curves or half-crescent lines of blue damage. The one on his neck looked quite tender, and he’d given the happiest of his squeaks when that one had been given.
“Well, I guess this is back to normal. I’m going to take a much-needed shower. Thank you Sir. May this rookie have more more kiss before we walk out that door?” He held his arms upward, ready to embrace the mech; if it wanted to give in.. or make it’s boy wait for next time.
“That does make sense. You don’t really need a pilot to do your job. You have me, so whoever gives you orders knows that there’s a human to pull the trigger.”
Exactly, he thought. The human element was there as a failsafe, a moral compass, and another kind of intelligence. Hawker was still a machine at the end of the day. The concept of childhood made no sense to the AI, for instance, nor did familial bonds translate all that well to his mind. He valued hierarchy, order, and precision in all things, and where he didn’t… well, that’s what fetishes were for. The art of celebrating aberration.
Hawker approved of the faint outline of Chris’ flaccid shaft behind the sweats: the luxury of modesty was his to dispense as he willed. He also approved of the marks, the way the peeked out from underneath the garments. <A work of art,> he thought across their connection.
“May this rookie have one more kiss before we walk out that door?”
Hawker smiled, relishing the control he’d been given now, loving that Chris was loving it. He knelt down in front of the kid, his massive, hard-edged bulk once again throwing his tiny frame into deep shadow. He bent his head down low, brought his lips close to those small ones. One of his hands firmly grabbed the back of his head again, and the other… the other slid a finger under the rear waistband of his sweats to part those delicious ass cheeks and press against that tight little opening that he was already looking forward to violating later.
“You may,” he said, languid, rough, and deep. Then he captured the lower part of his pilot’s face in a deep kiss, forcing his mouth open to accept an enormous tongue big and long enough to fellate. So hot. So small. So intoxicating.
He broke the kiss with his mouth open, and a thread of saliva spread between them. His hands drew away from the young man.
“You’re dismissed, rookie.”
<I’ll be better once I’ve hit the size you’re looking for. Then you’ll be painting on Michelangelo’s David.> He passed the idea of the robot roughly examining the pilot, ruthlessly examining his muscles and physique. Carefully adjusting the exercise until his human looked ripe for being perfection.
THe head grab did two things to the rookie. First it meant that his head could be tilted about and kept in place. It also allowed the giant to keep the greenhorn still. Rather like holding the strings of a puppet. His sweats drew tight to the front of him. A cool metal digit curled down and parked right on that tight little rosebud.
Chris gulped. The soft shaft flexed against those sweats. The sensation of METAL, unyielding parking right at his vulnerable backside elicited sparks in him he didn’t think he’d have. The submissive urge in him increased ten fold; and Hawker could feel it as sure as he could feel the kid would need plenty of lube to stretch around even his smallest finger.
His tongue lost the fight in it’s own mouth, compressed as his cheeks bulged and lips were stretched to their fullest. He hugged the neck of his big bot, left foot coming up on the toe as he pressed into the oversized smooch. He suckled on that oral extension, a goofy smile as it ended, watching the streamer connect them for a moment longer. A little part of him knew that Hawker’d likely work him even harder tomorrow. Now that it knew how much the pilot wanted to please the behemoth.
“Yes Sir. See you tomorrow.”
The massive door opened. Chris walked out, wishing that he wasn’t pushing out against his sweats so much.
Hawker stood ominously in the shadowed doorway, watching as Chris made his way over to the elevator, trying to hide his chub. Just keeping the kid on his toes, the mech wryly thought to himself, feeling their connection over the wireless fade as their proximity grew weak. He looked good in a collar.
“Hey, uh…” A sensor blip, 2 o’clock low. “Big Nine, you free?”
Hawker stepped out into the open and glanced over. It was one of the MRAV pilots and an analog officer, an exo-suit operator. Becker and Wen, if he remembered correctly. The giant mech vented, dragging his foreprocessors back to the land of the living. He’d had his fun with Chris, now it was time to be a SWAT mech again.
“What do you need.”
Wen, a small but solidly built young woman, twisted up her face as she scrolled along her datapad and stepped forward. “Cory and I are trying to figure out how to get my Hatchet to install the new OS, but we keep running into some shell syntax error.”
Becker, tall, built, and probably better fit for underwear modeling, scratched his scalp. He looked uneasy about talking to the mech, but it wasn’t anything Hawker wasn’t used to. “I know you’ve been busy with that Celn kid, so I’m not sure if Kole’s been keeping you in the loop about the activity going on out there, but…”
Hawker didn’t wait for an invitation to start heading in the direction of Bay 4, reserved for disaster relief vehicles. Most of them were exo-suits – Caterpillar brand T5 Hatchets and T6 Tomahawks – basically dumbware mechs designed for manual operation. The analogger would strap in, crank it on, and and the thing became an extension of their own limbs, multiplying a human’s natural strength by 100-fold. If a building came down and people needed pulling out, you sent in the exo unit. Not even Hawker was permitted near a collapsed building.
“Lead Dawn’s getting cocky,” he finished for him. “I glanced at Owens’ report yesterday – Kole’s man at the harbor, not sure if you know him. Says weapons smuggling is picking up.”
Becker continued, and the two humans stayed at an easy SWAT mech’s arm’s length away. “Yeah, Gutierrez told us to have the exo unit ready to move out in case anything big happens. HuffPo criticized us for our last clean-up job, and well… we’re trying to look good for the cameras.”
Hawker growled his dissatisfaction as he walked with easy, measured strides meant to help the little fleshjobs keep up with him. His feet made relatively little sound for being something so big and heavy. “Yeah, yeah. Bunch of damned armchair activists think they know how to do our jobs better than we do. Journalism’s just a spectator sport these days. Let’s see a reporter call shots better than one of us when there’s bullets grazing his kevlar.” Hawker’s vocal dislike of the news media was well-known around 42. Kole sometimes joked that the mech was the bastard reincarnation of General Patton himself – it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if it’d turned out to be true. “It’s all form over function with those people. They’ll argue about Oxford commas when Chicagoans’ lives are at stake down here.”
“When Chicagoans’ lives are at stake…” Becker echoed with a little edge to his voice.
The unspoken words hung in the air as they stopped at Bay 4, but Hawker was not usually one to leave something left unsaid if he could avoid it. “Rumors travel like wildfire around here. I know what you’re all thinking… that I won’t be deployable for at least another month at this rate, let alone raid-ready. You’re going to get your heavy-hitter back, and soon. I promise.”
Wen shrugged. “I-it’s not that we don’t think you’re not capable, Hawker. You’re the best machine the rust belt’s got. It’s just…”
He held up his hand. He wanted to get started before this conversation continued. “Just show me which Hatchet you need me to work on.”
“O-of course, sir.”
The mech connected to the primitive machine with a hardline: a cable connected from the side of his arm to the Hatchet’s computer directly. Sensors dulled while he dove into the small, lifeless space like squeezing into a broom closet. It was a mess in there, he noticed. Old code carelessly heaped on top of even older code – it baffled him why anything would still be equipped with anything but a quantum computer anymore. They had so much more breathing room. Still, he quickly found the broken files spewing errors like a busted fire hydrant. To his mind’s eye they appeared like tangled knots that undulated and pulsed their garbage data, woe be to the cubicled information around it.
Chris hadn’t come up again yet, and Hawker was hoping that he wouldn’t. He could compartmentalize as well as any other officer of rank, but… his experience with the kid was still fresh in his memory cortexes. Delectably fresh. It would have been nice not to take that away from him, but it didn’t seem to be in the cards.
“So… do you like anything about Celn?” came the sudden question from Becker. He’d stuffed his hands into his sweatpant pockets and dropped his gaze to glare at the floor.
Optics flickered back online. The mech realized, when he bit back a knee-jerk lashing, that this may be harder to tiptoe around than he thought. Did he play it hard like he would have before? Or did he make a point of being a little more approachable to try and put a few suspicions to rest?
He opted to aim for someplace in the middle. “I like that he doesn’t sass me.”
“Yeah? Not a peep out of him? Not even when you’re -”
The young man turned to the analogger, looking incredulous. “What? You saw Chris walk out of there, you saw what his neck looked like.”
Wen was clearly torn between genuine concern for Chris and trust for Hawker. “Cory, It’s none of our -”
Hawker shot the glare this time. Crank up the heat a little. “You’re right. It’s neither of your damn business what I do with my pilot. I work him hard because the work is hard.” In a warning voice: “You wanna try it, scab? C’mon, let’s link up sometime.”
Cory Becker made himself a little bit smaller and stepped away.
“You better watch what you say about a job you know nothing about, kid.”
The mech turned back to Leslie Wen, who was both sheet white and appalled at her fellow’s behavior. He liked her. She had a sense of boundaries that the gun-jocks around here didn’t always respect. The analoggers were like that, though. Relaxed. Professional. Didn’t blast their garbage music over the PA during downtime. If this had been Becker’s MRAV the mech were sorting out, it would take a direct order from Kole to keep him from walking away right now. But it was Wen’s machine – he’d do it for her.
The tense moment dragged on, though; a lot longer than he was hoping for. It seemed that Chris disturbed them a great deal, and it was his responsibility as a captain to call a spade a spade. And pretending that the kid didn’t look like a tie-dye t-shirt wasn’t going to help any. In fact, it may wind up biting them both in the ass. He vented and looked away.
“I know how it looks,” Hawker said at length, forcibly separating the memory with the associated positive emotions.
“C’mon, officers. You got something to say? Say it.”
Wen swallowed. “I’ll just say this: not a day goes by where I wish I went to scab school.”
“Not a day goes by where I wish I went to Hawker’s scab school,” Becker snorted, still uneasy.
“Celn would be devastated if I terminated him. Ask him yourself if you don’t believe me,” the mech said, almost done untangling the electronic knot in the Hatchet’s computer. “He’s no Lee. I know that and you know that. But he’ll do. And when that ‘something big’ happens, you can bet your ass that we’ll be ready.”
He brought his clothes into the shower with him. He watched how the bruises and abrasive marks flowed over his skin. The bites though! Hawker had a big mouth and large teeth. Washing hurt. The touch of clothes on the newest ones hurt enough that he ate two tylenol. Two days from now, medical retesting. He might be back in with Hawker by then.
That evening he’d finished dinner and was staring at the empty tray when the chair next to him pulled out. A big hand clapped in a friendly fashion on his shoulder. The one with the bruise that went most of the way up his neck. His digestive bliss got interrupted as he hissed and flinched, head coming to shoulder. THen he turned and looked.
Next to him sat a large woman in uniform. Solid, had to be 5’10” or 6′. Solid like a bodybuilder. She smelled of sweat and cordite. Her black uniform said SWAT, and her arms filled out the sleeves he wished his did. The thickly padded vest sat open and her modest sized bust fit her strong physique. The bars on her lapels meant lieutenant. Chris felt more then a little intimidated.
Her arm slid off his shoulder after another squeeze. She held a Pepsi in her right hand, fingers easily wrapping around the bottle. The wince seemed to please her. WHen she spoke, Chris herd her exhaustion.
“Well, I finally run into you. Did you know you are hard to find?” She took a pull of the soda, and Chris watched how it fizzed and sloshed in the clear plastic. “Rookies would normally be on level 5, stuffed in the barracks. Maybe sneaking up town to hit the bar after their first week. Or go wild with their first paycheck. I heard you went halfsies on a pizza.”
Her finger waved, comically indicating her disapproval. “Seeing as how it looks like Big Nine is only trying to kill you, I decided I would come say hello. Lieutenant Sarah Toren. LT, for short rookie. Imagine my surprise when Kole was waiting for me when I get back. Asks me how my hand to hand is.”
She put her free hand next to the pilot’s. The one Hawker’d so joyously put between his molars. Not only is hers bigger, but the thickness of her wrist! “Nice bruises kid. You know you are supposed to be in the cockpit before it closes on you?”
“Uh, yes ma– LT.”
“You DO talk! And to someone who is not a division head. Well, there goes another rumor.” She shook her head, her short hair just long enough to dance on her forehead. “Tomorrow at 0900, I am going to be getting paid time and a half to beat you. And I will continue to do so until you can pass the SWAT standard. I will go easy on your first day. Training you is letting me sleep in, after all.”
Chris’s agonized expression said more then his ‘Yes LT.’ did; and Toren let a small smile brighten up her face. “And besides that, we will work together once they clear the two of you for duty. You will be meeting most of SWAT soon rookie. Room C-14, 0900.” Toren got up, using his shoulder as leverage. He make an appropriate whine. “And yes, there is padding. You can wear it. Get a mouthguard.”
Chris made sure to get out of the mess before she made it thought the line. “See you tomorrow rookie!” Toren cat-called the greenhorn, getting more then a few laughs. Chris headed to supply. Another package of jocks, two cups and two mouthguards.
He spent most of the evening with ice on the worst bruising, with his arm and leg elevated. The collar charged as the computer played soothing techno. He’d have to ask Hawker about the old classic music that he listened too. It was pleasant.
Kole had officially stepped away from the homicide unit for this case to let them do their thing. The perp had been sloppy – while bullets had been meticulously removed from the scene, and even pried from the bodies to prevent ballistics from weapon matching, she’d made the mistake of leaving a piece of DNA evidence in the form of a hair, which they’d matched to a love letter in a nightstand sealed with a bright red kiss. “Hope the affair was worth it,” Sergeant Kole said as he submitted his final report on the case. The DA said it would be a quick and easy trial.
Still, Kole wished that the case could be tied to the gangs. At least it might have provided another piece to the ever-changing puzzle.
“How’s man and machine getting along?” he asked Colburn over a big cup of sugared coffee that Monday evening. He was behind his desk, but not sitting. The office, probably the coziest, warmest room in the entire precinct, needed tidying up, and he was busy throwing old take-out boxes into the trash bin. It took away from the Walnut furniture and his small library of books.
“I’m not sure if ‘getting along’ are the right words, Sarge,” she sighed, rubbing at a temple. “But they’re functioning. I don’t know how, hell if I know why, but they are. The kid refuses to say no. Doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word.”
“Sounds like Lee to me. If he’d taken no for an answer, we wouldn’t have gotten ourselves a Vanguard Hawker. And without a Vanguard Hawker, I don’t see how we could have brought down Rubio and his boys. Or the FedEx Bomber. Or the Triads.”
“I know, sir. I know. But Hawker… I can’t explain it, Kole. He hates that kid’s guts. You should see the look in his eyes when he stares at him. The way his… his systems change pitch. Lee was like his big brother; the man could do no wrong. Chris is a chew toy.”
Kole rubbed at his clean-shaven chin, finally sitting down. “And yet Celn is still here.” Strummed his fingers on the desk. “Somebody’s doing something right. How long do we have before the DOJ comes sniffing around again?”
Colburn shook her head wearily. “Attorney General wanted Hawker fully rehabilitated within 6 months of Lee’s death, or…”
Kole chewed on the end of a pen. “Or the project contract is up for renegotiation… and Big Nine gets transferred.”
“To be quite honest with you, I’m not sure his AI can survive another wipe.” Colburn was genuinely concerned. “The DF2… it’s not ones and zeroes anymore, Kole. It’s memories and patterns and pathways. It’s Alzheimer’s. Dementia. Schizophrenia. You’re not deleting files when you wipe a DF2. You’re ripping pages from a book.”
The silence between them spoke volumes. They weren’t just talking about the fate of a machine; they were talking about the fate of someone they’d both come to care about quite a bit over the past 8 years. They were talking about a friend.
“So if Celn isn’t up to snuff, we won’t have time to replace him. It’s game over.”
“Game over, sir.”
“I tell you what you don’t tell him,” Kole said, straightening up in his chair and putting the pen away. “You don’t tell him about the Justice Department mandate. That’d be enough to demoralize anyone.”
“Like I said: somebody is doing something right. I’ll check in for myself again in a day or two. For now, keep ’em both busy. Seems like having their plates full helps.”
Colburn stood up, fingering the strap on her purse. She was going out with a few techs tonight to take on the town, and get liquored up. She needed it. “If you say so, sir.” She made her way to the door, hand on the knob. “Don’t work too hard, Sarge. Makes Jack a dull boy.”
Kole flashed her a smile. “Good thing my name’s not Jack.”
When she left, he turned on his computer to mull over the latest reports on the smuggling situation. He’d be in there for the next 6 hours before he even remembered to eat.
In a place like 42, word gets around. Rumors circulate with the air conditioning. 4 months with Big Nine off the streets. Things had been bad before, the situation that’d take Lee down had been a spike. Many hoped that it would’ve been a high-water mark of danger. But things were getting worrisome. Enough robotic parts being smuggled in for shipping crates to be caught. Armaments pushing through and getting snagged in police nets. The usual mix of stolen and new skewed to fresh, if badly made, weapons. Good enough to kill before they broke unfortunately. Drug running had gone up, and the streets were running red.
Anyone who looked at the cycles of such things would’ve called it a routine upward trend. The police are concerned and are concentrating their efforts of stemming the sources before they worst got distributed. The FBI is digging after the major players and locking up criminals by the trainload. The media called it ‘The worst crimewave sense the nuclear winter.’
“In tonight’s news, our continuing story on the waterfront situation. We go live to our news drone images.” The display shifted. At the many crumbling piers that made up the more industrial part of Chicago, thirty car-like blobs floated near and on the surface. The loading cranes and a number of union workers are putting in overtime to fish them up and out. A line of flatbed trucks are waiting to receive them. THe drone moves along, zooming in where one is opened, resting on a flatbed and surrounded by FBI and police. It’s some sort of submersible. Unmanned and packed full of crates, each about 1.5 feet on all sides. The crates are jammed with weaponry. Packed neatly, still in wrapped plastic with foam packing. “The submersibles are running Chinese hardwater, and while they did wipe their OS, our reporters tell us they were speaking in Mandarin before they all came up to the surface.”
The view returns to the studio. “About how many weapons is that Sally?” Inquired the anchor. In the studio, sall is an android that had been part of the local news for 15 years. She offered factual commentary and consisted of arms, a head, a torso that is bolted to a newsdesk. “Approximately 7500 automatic firearms with ammunition.” came her robotic tones. “Assuming all vessels are equally packaged.” The anchor held a hand to his ear, then grimly looked to the audience. “While the police have no comment, sources within the FBI indicate that the subs were forced to the surface by FBI hacking. How long such submersibles have been operating in our harbors is unknown at this time. We’ll be back after these messages from our sponsors.”
Rumors also float about the internal workings of 42 by it’s population. The betting pool on Hawker and Celn went up and down harder then a jackhammer’s chisel. That evening it’d gone down hard. Celn ends up crippled had 8 new marks today, bringing it to 19. Celn dies stood at 6 in total, having picked up 1 more. The betters who had money on lengths of time had both day and week counted out. Happily partnered had 5 betters. Fails after first mission still had the largest pool and the worst odds. 3 to 1, with 72 bets. Colburn watched as Hawker spoke to the two operators. Celn looked like Hawker had throttled him, after using him as a punching bag.
That rookie needed to learn when to quit. They’d heard the noises Hawker’d made, even with the office door closed. When that much of the HLX-9 ran that it needed for it’s engines to scream at that RPM? What had they argued over? What kind of balls did it take to get something 3 times your height to back off? To tell it to back off? He’d been wearing the collar. Perhaps that was enough of an edge. SHe’d known that adjusting from Lee would be hard. Washington said they’d need to wipe the Deep Feild 2. She said they didn’t have a year for just the damn AI to get running right, AND find a pilot.
Big Nine worked calmly, talking with Becker and Wen. The T5s and T6s had to be at their best, and she’d approved the purchase of better code after the sub story broke. You had to be a fool to think that mini subs, smart ones, ones small enough to sneak up the bigger sewer pies; were all caught. That this had been their first run. The subs had worn paint, their bodies had barnacles. SOmeone had been moving product in.. and what had they moved out? Anyone with the brains to ship that much in would have something going the other way.
Still, there is one benefit to having a punching bag for the big hitter. He at least didn’t thunder at the operators right away. Looked like they were getting along, praise be.
Chris woke up in pain. His phone told him it was 0137. He ACHED! Parts of him felt like they were on fire. The bites, those were the worst. He.. he’d need something. He couldn’t sleep like this. THe ice bags had turned to cool bags of water. Pulling on a pair of shorts, he got on the elevator and rode down to medical. He went left, following the arrows that told him where the medical droids waited. 07-C already had emerged from it’s modest alcove.
“Celn. You are weeping.” it observed cooly. Pre-warmed mechanical hands in rubber gloves touched his neck. Gently. Lifted his shirt, it’s body conveniently blocking the only camera.
Chris brought a hand to his face. His cheeks were wet. He.. he hadn’t even noticed. “I’m hurting doc. I can’t sleep.”
It lowered his shirt and rolled to the dispensary, before returning in a minute. It swabbed his good arm, sticking him with a small disposable needle. Almost instantly Chris relaxed, needing to put a hand on the nearby wall to steady himself. It also provided a bottle of pills and water. The woozy pilot obediently sucked two of them down.
“5mg of Naproxen by injection. One week’s worth Bromelain tablets, take 2 per day. Your drug use history prevents the medical staff from administering pain medication in any form that can be abused. The tablets will reduce bruising.”
Chris felt a very familiar high. “I feel good now. Thanks doc.” He turned to dance down the hall back to bed.
“Celn.” Chris flinched, damn those droids had the perfect authoritative medical tone! “I have to enter this event in the system. You have a medical examination in 1 day at 0900. Chief Engineer Colburn will be in attendance unless she has more pressing duties.”
oh. OH! He might be high, but he got the message. “Yes Doctor. I’ll get to bed now.” he’d said the title respectfully this time.
07-C rolled back into it’s alcove where it’s gloves were removed and it was sterilised.
Chris stumbled to bed. He crashed hard, not even noticing how the weight of the sheets made the bruises ache.
Wake up. Take clothes into shower. Wash, dry, dress without being seen. Put on cup. Take pill. Receive breakfast. Three english muffins with some kind of cheese and sausage thing going on. And the ubiquitous protein drink. He’d spar in about half in hour. Then lunch, PT with Hawker. Tomorrow would be.. the test. Then PT with Hawker. Maybe interfacing if allowed. Preston couldn’t fit him in regularly, but he knew he’d be back on the range soon enough. He doubted he’d have naughty thoughts about Preston anymore. Hard to compete with a giant!
“Celn!” fuck. Wait? That wasn’t Tsung’s voice! He turned, munching down the 3rd sandwich. A girl about his height, white skin. She looked a little tired, and had a tray of food herself. A tray that.. did not match the one he had. There were other cafeterias? Then he realised that he hadn’t even looked. They had to be, this one didn’t have enough space to feed the station. 42 is bigger then a city block! She had a cup of coffee that had a starbucks logo on it, and fancy breakfast sandwiches.
“Rumor had it that you ate in this dive.” Her eyebrows and face indicated that she found the way he is hurriedly cramming the food into his mouth; gross. Chris turned, polishing off the food like a starving man. “Are you okay?”
He took a long moment to finish before he burped, turning back to talk. He didn’t want to chance anyone seeing that he’d been getting above-board rations. “Yea-*URP-ah. Excuse me.” Wiping his mouth on a napkin, he checked the time on his phone before cracking open his beverage. “Hello, uh, Wen.” he greeted, having seen her name on her uniform. Duty uniform, no rank he noticed, with thick pads. Looked like an exo suit uniform. Well broken in, but she didn’t have an interface port on the back of her neck? “I have to go in 5 minutes. Training.” he explained in a voice that said he wished he could still be in bed.
Wen is the picture of politeness, which is astounding considering the time of day. “Well, just wanted to meet you. I’m an exosuit pilot, T5 hatchet. Last night Hawker helped patch the operating system.” Chris looked at her expectantly. Then, like the way the sun would come up, it dawned on him that she is trying to have a conversation.
“Uh, good. That’s good. He’s more then capable of doing that. Um. How come you wanted to see me?” flat, then confused. Chris didn’t seem to be a morning person. Then he went back to chugging back the thick drink.
She didn’t give much away, just enjoyed some coffee before replying. “I saw you leave his office yesterday. We could hear the noises.” Chris felt sweat on his back. <Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!> It was too early to have to play dumb. Or was it? And he couldn’t leave! he had like, a good 3 minutes to kill. Crap!
“We had an intense discussion.” he understated.
“Celn, everyone’s pulling for you and Nine to work out. Watching you limp away, hunched over, while he stares daggers into your back? It’s not good for morale.” She takes a small bite of her breakfast.
“I want this, Wen.” quiet and firm.
“He beats you. He wrung you neck, that’s not hyperbole. I can see the marks on you.” worry in her voice. Worry that Clen was suffering because.. he didn’t know why. That suffering is bad, he assumed.
Chris stood up, wishing that he had longer suddenly. “You are kind. Very kind to come up here and talk with me. I can tell you are concerned about us. I want him. This chance means the world to me. I will make it, and we will figure out how to be the best. Can we trade phone numbers? I’ll mess you when I have time?”