Mercham 2.0

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Poludnica, Jan 19, 2016.

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    • Cyberpunk at its finest!

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    • Anita Prasko: 26
      Zion: ?


    The wake was in her father’s penthouse. She didn’t want it any other way. Anita Prasko belonged to this type of women who always get what they desire. Draped in all black, the pale diva moved through the crowd that gathered in the living room. Only the closest ones and family members had been invited that day, but hundreds of people said good bye to Antoni Prasko. The Mechatrix CEO died few days ago when still in his primes. In what was impossible accident. Anita knew her father - a very good driver, who loved cars but knew how to handle them. Or the wet road. The cops quickly proclaimed an unfortunate accident without a foul play, but she just didn’t believe Antoni would drive off a cliff like a reckless teenager. Some speculated suicide, the rumour infuriated Anita to no end and brought crimson flush to ghosty complexion.

    We are so sorry, dear.

    I simply can’t believe this.

    How are you holding up?


    To every condolences Anita nodded and thanked with a detached smile. The last days had been a hazy mixture of xanax and adrenaline. Now it was all wearing off, leaving nothing but vast emptiness. The guests talked in respectful, hushed voice. Anita’s pale green eyes, shade of an ancient glacier, glanced around, taking in the grim scenery. The bright penthouse, filled with the most exquisite furniture, lost its radiant aura. Anita could no longer smell the lingering scent of the cuban cigars and Lorent cologne her father was fond of. She grew up in this place, surrounded by old fashion books. The young heiress hated this place for years: the constant arguments, her drunk mother throwing things in blind rage. Now this resentment felt like bitter ash on her tongue. The feeling of loss overwhelmed the woman’s senses and for a moment she couldn’t catch a breath. She was dizzy.

    Anita pressed her back to the cold wall. The woman’s head throbbed with stress induced headache. Her mind knew Antoni was dead, just heart didn’t want to follow it. She shooed away someone trying to help and quickly regained impeccable, lady like composure. Just in time to observe her mother - Maria - coming to the room. Anita’s mother was a gaze drawing, lither creature with a storm of blonde curls. Despite her forty six years, she looked stunning. Her daughter was heavier, dark haired with golden ration in features ruined by too wide cheekbones. Anita had always feel inadequate next to Maria, who would rival even with a stick when it came to beauty. She had put Anita in the best dresses and had taught many secrets of a good make up, only to shadow it all by her own glamour.

    Aside from physical allure, Maria had nothing to offer. She was a vapid, poorly educated woman who had once aspired to be an actress. Those dreams had been quickly reduced to over the counter drug abusing wife of a rich businessman. Now, a drunk, drugged widow to one. Anita saw it in her mother’s theatrical sadness, the imminent hysteria. Maria, already drunk and high, knelt by the urn and began to sob. The gatherers tried to politely look away, but some already pointed fingers at the emotionally broken woman. When Maria broke into violent spasms, Anita had it. The entire room went silent, only an unrelieved cry and a rushed pit pat of heels could be heard.

    Anita grabbed her mother by the elbow and forcefully pulled Maria into the kitchen. She closed the sleek, ebony doors behind them. ”The fuck are you doing?!” The dark haired woman asked firmly, trying to break through the wall of hysteria. ”What? I can’t mourn my husband now? What kind of monster are you?” Her mother spew. It hurt, it hurt every time. ”It always has to be about you, even when he is dead, it’s still about you!” Anita reciprocated with equal venom. ”Little, heartless bitch!” Maria screeched, not a single tear left from previous sadness. Just ugly anger that betrayed her true age.

    ”Attention whore!” Anita added before her mother added a hearty slap to the next remark. ”I am the attention whore? Look at yourself.” Maria’s features turned from fury to cold anger. Anita pressed hand to her flaming cheek. Her mother tugged at Anita’s dress, trying to force it to show less cleavage. ”Seeing flaws only in other people. Just like your father.” Maria spat and stepped away. Anita inhaled deeply, humiliated and shocked. Only when her mother had left she felt the anger, flooding her like an unstoppable tide. Anita let out a cry of fury; she grabbed a half filled wine glass that stood neglected near by and threw it. The overpriced stemware hit the wall and shattered into tiny pieces just after the doors had closed. Spotless, white wall was now freckled with burgundy wine. It looked ugly, like dried blood. Anita felt her knees growing weak, she would fall if not for the marble counter. Sniffling quietly, she began to gather broken pieces of glass.
     
    #1 Poludnica, Jan 19, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 29, 2016
    • Love Love x 1
  1. Antoni Prasko was far and above the greatest human that Zion had ever known. The closest thing he had ever had to family, or even to a friend, Antoni was the first one that had even allowed him a name. He was given autonomy and choice that most of his kind did not even dare to dream of. H3-764, a military designation, Zion was allowed the freedom to see himself as much more than a weapon, an expendable drone to throw at the enemies with no thoughts of casualty. As an Artificial Man, Zion was not afforded by law the rights that most Homo sapiens thought trifling, if they thought of them at all. Yet some of them, the grand ones like Antoni, they appreciated everything the AM’s did for Humanity, realised their potential and saw them as more than just tools.

    Which was why today was perhaps the saddest day in Zion’s long life. At least, it felt long to him. The bio-mechanical being did not know how old he was, he did not measure his age like humans did. He never had a birthday to celebrate. Originally his model was designing for military warfare, and the years were measured then. Once he existed for a certain amount of years, he was decommissioned and sold on into the private sector. He himself was not told this amount of years, and he had long since given up counting the days. Antoni was only ever given an estimate when he purchased the Hermes class type three peacekeeping unit. This was the third thing he ever said to Zion. The first was hello, the second was granting freedom. Antoni Prasko was far and above the greatest human that Zion had ever known.

    Yet now here he was at some ceremony for his death. The AM did not understand the custom, when his kind were decommissioned there was no party, it was just a fact of nature. He felt sad at his friends passing, and he wished he had someone to share it with. Yet the humans seemed happier to drink themselves into a stupor. Alcohol was not something that Zion even thought of dabbling with, he had no idea of the effects it would have on his system. He was to be focused at all times, and alcohol would surely prove to inhibit that aim. If there ever needed to be an example to prove this point, then the arrival of the widow Prasko was timed very well. Her abuse of both alcohol and recreational drugs were well documented, keeping Maria under control was one of many duties that fell under his purview as a hired employee of Antoni Prasko. He was not the only one who had concerns for the woman’s actions, however. Her daughter Anita, hardly a bastion of healthy living herself, had intercepted Maria before the issue could develop into a full scene. Zion emitted a modicum of surprise, but on further reflection it was clear Anita had been expecting such an episode. Maria Prasko was nothing if not predictable. She and her late husband were clear examples of the theory that opposites attract. Whilst Antoni Prasko was the greatest human Zion had ever known, Maria was definitely one of the worst. Not down to the way she treated him, no. That was expected from most of her kind, even if she did think he was a toaster more than once. Maria was just terrible at humanity, she more than anyone H3-764 had interacted with treated her human rights with such indignity. She deserved far less than the hand she was given.

    Such opinions were not for him to voice, however. With the passing of his ‘owner’, Zion would become the property of either his daughter or wife – dependant on how his will dictated. Whilst Antoni had treated Zion as an equal, or near enough, even paying him a fair wage, the law was yet to fully recognise such a thing. He was property, and he belonged to one of the two women he followed into the kitchen. They fought and they argued, ugly emotions reigning in a day which should be free of such pettiness. Zion waited in silence as the two women allowed their heightened passions to dictate the proceedings, knowing full well how this would end. It was far from the first time the Prasko females had come to odds. Always it ended in tears, and always it ended in the matriarch walking away. She had very little strength in character, Zion had previously reflected that she seemed far more artificial than he did. The amount of plastic upon her face, it was much more likely that it was she that were made in China.

    Once the echo of the slammed door had quietly drifted into nothing, Zion walked over to Anita, gently moving to take the broken glass from her. He gathered up the shards and disposed of them, only then putting a comforting arm over the young woman’s shoulders and turning to face her.
    “This is a day that we all mourn, Miss Prasko.” In reality, a model of his kind was not permitted to touch a human without permission, but the Prasko family had always given Zion much more leeway than most of his kind. He was a security model, but Antoni at least considered him an employee rather than a glorified blender. “Your mother mourns in the wrong way, but eventually she will see the right. I am here for whatever you deem necessary, Miss Prasko.” An Artificial Man designed for military use, Zion was hired for by PraCy as a security consultant. Yet it was hardly the only thing the Prasko family commissioned him to do.
     
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  2. They were silent like prowling cats. Anita didn’t notice Zion until he knelt beside her. The young woman felt her cheeks burning with embarrassment as she wiped tears away with the back of her hand. The carefully put make up now trickled down Anita’s cheeks in dark droplets. After a moment, the young woman finally found Zion’s gaze. Most people felt discomfort when looking into quadrochromatic, reflective eyes Am’s possessed. It scared humans whom evolution wired to be afraid of them. Homo anthropophagous and homo sapiens were natural enemies - when Zion first came to work for PryCy, Anita could feel this primal call as well. The long forgotten echo of the ancestral phobia almost forced her to pull away, even this time. His species and hers were never on the best terms. Not now, not then. How effectively could sentience erase instincts like this? Slowly, Anita rose to her feet and let Zion to take away the larger chunks of glass. Breath caught in the woman’s throat when his fingertips brushed exposed skin on her hand. How many years had passed? Four, five…”Yeah. That’s life for you.” She said quietly, wondering if his words were honest. It wasn’t in the nature of the lion to mourn the sheep. Anita almost voiced this thought, but held herself back, realising it was still anger stirred by Maria. Zion showed nothing but unfaltering loyalty so far.

    ”The only thing my mother mourns is money the company lost.” Anita said with venomous spite. Zion somehow possessed both: a savant level of pattern matching intelligence and barely any comprehension of social games. For him things were simple, obvious even. Ams weren’t a thoughtful, mediative species. Then again, what evolutional advantage contemplating the sunset had? Zion showed Anita how self obsessed humans were. ”Help me with this.” She asked, but there was no warmth in her voice that would hint on a request. The heiress felt tension still coiling her muscles. She looked at the tall, deceivingly lithe creature - his longer mandible bones, canines that were clicking together when he was thinking. When someone didn’t know where to look and neglected the eyes, there weren’t many differences between them. At least on skeletal and superficial level. It was the neurobiology that tore the vast space between the two. At one hand a species that valued team work and empathy above all else. On the other one that turned psychopathy into a survival tool. ”You’ve never called me.” Anita suddenly said, finally sharing what was gnawing at her heart.

    Antoni never learned what had occurred between Zion and his daughter. No one did. Despite his sympathy toward Ams, Prasko was an old fashion traditionalist and catholic. He envisioned Anita to find a proper young man who conducted himself like a respectable gentleman. Zion was…Zion. A good employee, polite creature, but still something human society didn’t recognise as a citizen. Anita had left soon after to Milan - became a model, later an artist and photographer herself. The time consuming gallery openings, parties and night life swallowed Anita. From time to time she thought about Zion, even tried to have a proper, human conversation that involved a figment of emotion. The Am wasn't receptive. It angered her and only added to distance she strove to built between her and family of origin. Constant arguments, drunk mother, absent father and expectations so high she could never reach them.

    When Zion was cleaning up the glass, she walked toward one of the cupboards. ”My father left you in my care, the lawyers opened his will yesterday.” She sniffled for the last time and opened the stark white kitchen doors. A small vial rested there along with a syringe. The thin needle was covered in pen like opening. Anita fetched it before offering the set to Zion. ”Here, so you won’t foam at mouth at a sight of a ladder.” A part of her felt disgusted by the way it always looked like a charity, but the government strictly controlled the cruc medication. Only a human could pick it up and only few weekly dosages. Anita gave Zion all that she managed to weasel out - a two month worth of supply. The evolution truly screwed the Am’s over. If not for the trait that was a pure accident and a result of a neutral genetic drift, maybe homo sapiens wouldn’t rule the world. ”You look good in this suit.” She noted, trying to wash her voice of all emotions but it wasn't possible. Not for someone who wasn’t a biological thinking machine, like Zion. Anita and all of her kin were biological emotional machines that happened to think.

    Before any more words could be exchanged, the doors opened again and Maria strutted into the kitchen. Calm, elegant and composed. She glanced at the two with a growing suspicion. That night few years ago wasn’t entirely a drunk accident - even before there was subtle flirting, Anita’s enigmatic smiles and flushed cheeks. Her father never noticed it, but Maria was a hawk when it came to sniffing such things on other people. Back in the days her favourite pass time had been to befriend a young, aspiring socialite and ruin her within a year. ”We are out of wine, tell your new toy to fetch some more from the garage.” She ordered coldly.
     
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  3. Zion dealt with the broken glass with exaggerated care, taking his time in completing the small task whilst Anita spoke. He knew the young woman well, she was just allowing her frustration to vent, and it was a conversation that needed only one speaking part. It had taken him a while to pick up on some of the things the Prasko family said, often double meanings wrapped up in ambiguity. He still did not understand the reason for such things, and often missed such social subtleties. The implication behind Anita’s comment was not lost on him this time, however. He presumed it was the emotion dictating the young woman’s words, but it did not mean the statement was entirely without merit. Maria and Antoni’s relationship did not really reflect other ones he had witnessed, which in truth were mostly on television. “The share drop is only a temporary matter, once the board appoint a new Chief Executive, the markets are projected to stabilise again. Perhaps get a small increase.” The statistical analysis was stated with little to no trace of irony, he was merely relaying facts that he thought were relevant.

    He had taken as much time clearing up the damage as he could, and now merely stood waiting for instruction. The one that came was vague and unclear, even for this family. Perhaps the young woman was confused and thought he was someone else. “I am afraid I do not understand, Miss Prasko. The facilitation of communication between family members is not one of my responsibilities. I believe your father had a human assistant for such things.” It was a strange thing for her to say, whilst she was in Italy often she would have spoken to her father through the aforementioned human assistant. Samuel was a quiet young human, but seemed competent at his job and never caused any trouble, giving Zion little cause to interact. Of course, the Artificial Man recalled the dalliance between himself and his employer’s daughter. It was fun, and his memories were fond. But it was a mistake on his part, he had betrayed the loyalties of a man who had given him more than any other. As such, Zion chose not to broach the subject, not even with the woman herself. He believed that she thought the same thing, it was logical to do so, and she had yet to mention it herself in their interactions since. Since Zion had no idea this was what she actually meant, and was not aware of the protocol regarding such encounters at any rate, he was still content knowing this was the correct course of action.

    He watched the young human with interest as she moved to a kitchen cupboard. His eyesight and observational capacity being much higher than most of her kind, it was difficult not to note the attractiveness of her form, even on such a day. The incident several years ago had been a moment of weakness, but it came only after many stands of resistance. His surveillance and his thoughts were drawn away however as he realised what it was Anita searched for. He recognised the needle, it was the true symbol of human dominance over his kind. He did not understand the Crucifix glitch, it was never deemed necessary for any AM to truly understand it. It was supposedly an error in the base code, although Zion was fairly certain it was included by design. It allowed the humans to keep them fully under lock and key, without regular doses they would die. The humans controlled the drug, and thus they controlled the AM. He reached out hesitantly to take the drug that was offered to him, fully confident that the momentousness of this act was lost on Anita. Even Antoni had someone administer the cure on a regular basis for him, never was he trusted to have propriety of it himself. It was not even technically illegal, as it was an act that none in the human government deemed possible. Machines needed servicing, but never should they be their own mechanic.

    “I-“ He began, but was soon cut off as the older Prasko woman returned. Not that the visit was in anyway lengthy, the order was given and she soon swanned away. Zion’s first thought was to comply with the command, but his second was that Anita had claimed ownership of him. Antoni allowed him a small level of autonomy, as an employee not property, but such an agreement had yet to be struck with Anita. He looked on at his new owner with a bland expression that failed to project his anticipation. “The suit is of a range tailored to a domestic model that is similar in design, at least externally, to my own. I am glad that you approve.” Her voice was strange as she spoke to him, but he could not place why. He assumed it was the sadness of her father or the anger to her mother creeping in again. “The request from the secondary Prasko must be confirmed by the primary. What would you have me do, registered owner Anita Prasko?” Whilst Antoni had allowed for certain liberties, Zion was wise enough to know when to take them, and when to do things by the book. When an AM did it by the book, it was exacting to the letter.
     
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  4. His movements were always so precise, so graceful. The efficiency humans lacked - every gesture and step had a purpose. Everything else was a waste of precious energy. They were so difficult to read, rarely a human could hide their emotions so well. As a species, humans liked their social games, absurd rules and convoluted ways to convey intentions. Especially Prasko family mastered this art; they used words to mask and sweep under the rug their issues. Stuffing skeletons into a closet was this household favourite pass time. Anita wasn’t even ashamed no more - Zion witnessed Maria’s fall from grace on as intimate level as the rest of Prasko’s. He was the one that drove her drunk ass back from parties and watched puking on the side of the road. Yes, Zion knew all those skeletons, even helped to stuff some back into the closet. Being slapped like that in front of him did hurt her pride to the point it was difficult to look him in the eye. Anita’s cheek still bore the sign of her mother’s ire. She gently touched it, before opening the freezer and taking a bag of frozen broccoli. Gingerly, the woman pressed the cold material to the flushed palm imprint. Anita shook her head when Zion assured her the share price won’t collapse. He was clueless - probably because his upbringing in the facility didn’t include social skills grooming. Autistic construction of AM brain didn’t help. Anita began to understand why his kind had gone extinct. They missed point of every conversation. ”My comment wasn’t about company losing money, it was about my mother being a selfish bitch.” She corrected him with a tired sigh.

    It took a while for her to decide whether Zion was purposefully avoidant or failed to read between lines. Probably the latter. Regardless, it sparked anger in the young woman who put down the frozen vegetable with a bit more theatricality than necessarily. She spent a lot of time being angry with Zion, whose reply to her messages were terse, short and never astray from the specific issue. Anita wasn’t without own fault in this entire situation. During her brief visits, she made no effort to push the issue. After all, it would be Zion in bigger trouble. ”What I wanted to talk about, wasn’t for Samuel’s ears.” Anita replied with defeated expression. She should have known for someone like Zion, bonds like that didn’t matter - he could have simply forgotten about it. Samuel was a nice guy, absolutely smitten with her father. Senior Prasko never confirmed it, nor denied it when she asked about peculiar bond between them, but whatever it was, left Maria livid. So much degenerate decadence ate away the upper class: addictions, adultery, love for violence. More and more their society was akin to that of ancient Rome just before it had fallen. Even gladiator’s fights were back, of course without humans but AM’s fighting. Her parents might have been cheating, abusive, hot tempered people, but they drew a line in their pleasures. Prosko always boycotted the fights, to the point her father had acquired Zion - the top horse of any fight. He had cost the family an equivalent of small island, but he always claimed it was worth it. Anita…Anita’s feeling toward Zion were complicated. Trapped between anger for being put aside after just one night and fondness.

    The mask of polite indifference broke when she offered Zion the anticonvulsants. His face now showed reverence as he reached for the syringe and few vials. Anita never fully understood how deeply handicapping the glitch was. The atavism from times before recorded history. The scientists claimed it was impossible to remove without losing neurological advantaged of AM’s brains. Anita and many others believed that if they had managed to get rid off need for this species to consume human meat, they should have been able to fix that as well. No one agreed to fund this research in fear of losing the tight leash put on AM’s. Zion wanted to say something, maybe even show a flicker of human emotion. Anita realised how much she had missed that night, not because physical pleasure but seeing Zion vulnerable. If humans more often saw this side to their resurrected project, they wouldn’t have been so eager to treat them like domestic animals.

    The moment had been stolen by her mother who barraged into the kitchen. Anita showed a finger to closing doors behind Maria who spewed aloof instructions before vanishing. Still tanked like a battleship. It didn’t seem to phase Zion who only glanced at her mother - no emotion conveyed in his look. ”Secondary. I like that.” Anita snorted, not sure if to share with Zion the fact she didn’t really want a servant. However, turning him down meant certain termination for battle worn man like him. Too much time had passed for the arena masters to take him in. Maria would give him Hell on Earth before throwing into trash compactor - that was the most horrible part of every Am life. Any owner had a right to treat their property as they saw fit. Sexual relations with one was more frowned upon than killing them. ”Bring some wine, the party will be over soon, thank God.” She sighed, still unsure what to do with the poor bastard. Selling him wasn’t an option, termination made her sick. Abandoning would kill her instead. Nothing left but to keep Zion around for a while.
     
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  5. “I misunderstood your words. I apologise, Miss Prasko.” Zion had to be careful, whilst he was allowed a certain amount of leeway with Antoni, his daughter could well be different. The gesture with the serum was a grand one, but he could not be certain that by tomorrow she would change her mind. Humans were heavily influenced by their emotion, and the Prasko women seemed especially conductive in this case. Today she gave him the closest thing an AM could know to independence, tomorrow he could be on the shuttle back to the arena. Whilst it had been many years since H3-764 spilt the blood of his fellow artificial man for the pleasure of their more enlightened cousins, he was more than aware that there would still be interest now. Antoni had spoken of offers to purchase Zion several times since he became part of the Prasko household, all were ignored. Back then, Zion enjoyed the fights – it gave him purpose and he felt as if the humans were finally recognising him as something worth noticing. He was celebrated, his stage name Hodúr ringing from the rafters. Yet it was not him they were cheering, it was the sport – the bloodshed. They relished that the silly little unevolveds killed one another at the drop of a hat. One day, the old soldier knew, it would be the AM that had the last laugh.

    The servant watched as Anita placed foodstuffs against her face, occasionally blinking being the only other notable reaction. Placing the cold produce against the fresh impact was a logical thing to do, and Zion saw no need to comment further on that matter. “Your father trusted Samuel as much as he did me, more so I would imagine.” His level tone cracked with just a hint of emotion. As much as he knew Antoni cared for him more so than any human ever had, he also knew that such concern was limited. The human assistant would always be the preferred choice, no matter what. Should an Artificial Man come across a road collision, with a human and AM injured – there being only enough time to save one. The AM would take a few moments to consider which was more likely survive, and would take the most logical course of action. The human would not need a second thought. “Now that you have full ownership, I am happy to discuss with you whatever it is you may desire, Miss Prasko.” Be polite, be useful, have worth. This was how to be a productive member of society, many humans did not need an excuse to have an AM decommissioned. Zion was privately owned, but still had a government registration – so at least in his case the Prasko family could not go at him with a hammer without the fear of being charged with property damage. Apparently the fine was rather large.

    Without realising he had done it in the first place, Zion moved his hands containing the needle and vials from behind his back as soon as Maria Prasko had vanished. He knew he was not supposed to have the items, and it was an automatic response as soon as he saw another person enter. Deception to an owner was forbidden. He was not sure though if he did what he did to protect himself, or to protect the Prasko primary whom herself had broken the key directive. His lips turned upwards slightly at the open defiance from Anita Prasko to her mother, Zion enjoyed such acts of rebellion, however small. “I will do as is asked, Miss Prasko.”

    Zion left without another word, exiting the kitchen as silently as he had entered. He did not deviate from the course as he headed down to the garage, and as soon as he located the crate of wine, he returned with it. He placed the crate on the counter top, unboxing it and removing one of twelve bottles. He walked over to Anita, presenting the bottle of wine as if it were some reward. “Is this to your satisfaction, Miss Prasko?” Zion’s duties were normally of a different sort, he was no kitchen staff or sommelier, but he was versatile enough to know how to act in many different walks of life as was required. He would show worth, no matter what.
     
  6. Something changed between them. Before Zion was more relaxed, more playful - at least by his species standard. Now he was a servant and Anita couldn’t get over how off putting it became. She shook her head with sad expression when realised today wasn’t only her father’s funeral, but the possible, comforting relationship as well. ”I don’t want you to be like this.” Anita stated, her voice firm and unwavering. ”We dragged you back from your ancient graves and for what? To have cheap slaves.” Anger began to boil in her veins as hot temper resurfaced once more. ”I don’t want you to be a slave.” Anita shouted out, angrily pushing the bag of peas on the floor. It burst open and green dots peppered the floor. It was frustrating, as it seemed she was more concerned about AM’s situation than Zion himself. Like a caged animal that accepted the fact it would never be free again. She looked more closely at the tall, ghastly pale creature. At the glance they could pass for normal humans - the major differences showed statistically when you gathered one hundred individuals. While virtually identical to modern humans in terms of gross physical morphology, homo sapiens carnivora was radically divergent from sapiens on the biochemical, neurological, and soft-tissue levels.

    The kitchen was dim lit and Anita couldn’t look away from reflective eyes, like cat caught in the moonlight. Even as a soldier with no formal education, like any of his kind, Zion was an omnisavants able to see situations and patterns in every single angle at once. That made him a tactician and lone hunter all at once. Nowadays conflicts didn’t relay on how much firepower you had, but how smart AM you could fish out from the bunch. If not for the ridiculous aversion to right angles, maybe humans would have been their slaves. They were back now, raised from the undead state with the voodooo of paleogenetics - stitched together from junk genes and fossil marrow steeped in the blood of sociopaths and high -functioning autistics. Not many baselines felt comfortable locking gaze with an AM and most of them, ever courteous, avoided eye contact or wore dark glasses. Anita had had this fear before their fateful night, but not anymore. She found them fascinating - like lit up headlights.

    ”Oh, you have no idea.” Anita smirked, noticing subtle change in Zion’s voice and features. Despite their difference, his face was just as mammalian and just as readable. If not for their night together, Anita could have sworn it was more than simple jealousy. Zion dragged after her father like a puppy. Or more like a tamed lion. They all have forgotten what he really was - a murderer. A mass murder even. Killing of hundred would leave no more stain on Zion’s surface than swatting of an insect. Guilt beaded and rolled off this creature like water on glass. A self-destructive little girl like her found that more appealing than anything else. ”I don’t want a slave, Zion.” She confessed helplessly, poking at few peas grains that fell near her overpriced Jimmy Choo’s pumps. ”I can’t really sell you, can I?” The guilt would eat Anita alive and she wanted him around. She even wanted him in her bed, yet this made everything awkward and disgusting. To force Zion into such demeaning position. A tired, sorrowful sigh escaped her. ”Just continue on duties my father gave you.” Anita said. ”Until I figure out what to do with you.” She licked her lips nervously. Watching Zion hiding the vials was a sad, pathetic sight.

    ”Now go get wine.” It didn’t escape Anita, how pleased Zion was when her mother got told off. Maybe the AM didn’t show it, but he hated bitch all the same. When the servant was gone, Anita crouched to pick up the green dots. When Zion came back, almost all peas had been shoved under the cupboard to give a deceitful impression of neat order. Anita couldn’t have hold back a radiant smile when Zion presented the bottles: with reverence and care. Her smile quickly faded upon realisation it wasn’t her pleasure that dictated his eagerness but survival instinct. ”Yes, thank you.” Anita’s gaze drifted to Zion. She stood on tiptoes, frozen peas cracking under her shoes. The woman placed a soft kiss on the Am’s cheek, enjoying the musky, masculine scent. ”I missed you.” Anita whispered. He could have push her away of course, his brain possessed the abundant of axons and motor neurones. Before a human could blink, they were already dead. When you were on top of the food chain, you have to be smarter and faster than the prey. Lions were smarter than gazelles after all.
     
    • Thank Thank x 1
  7. The AM’s movements were almost unnoticeable as his new owner violently discarded the frozen produce, the explosion of pale green diamonds all but ignored by Zion. There was a reaction, however. His muscles tensed and his cheek rose ever so slightly, just the hint of bared teeth. It was demanded of his kind that such things would not happen, and Zion was in complete control of his almost inhuman nature. Yet today was an emotional time, even for a ‘thing’ like an Artificial Man. His only real friend had passed on, his ownership had crossed hands, and his new master would take some getting used to. Antoni would on occasion have such outbursts, but Zion grew accustomed to the man and see them coming. Anita was a fiery hellion, for the time being he could not be sure of her actions. Hence his slight surprise and slipping into old instinctual ways as a result.

    “Assuming the correct legal procedures were followed, which I expect they were given the prestige of this families lawyers, then I am yours to do with as you please, Miss Prasko.” By prestige he meant wage demands, but the indentured servant had long ago learnt when not to voice certain things. Antoni admired a certain amount of independent thought, but there were limits to all freedoms. Such was the life of an Artificial Man. Zion stooped down to help clean up the mess created by Anita’s outburst, and as he did so they registered eye contact. Whilst it was not strictly forbidden, it was considered bad form for an AM to maintain eye contact with a human, he never quite understood why. He often deferred to this however, so as not to cause any more trouble. He never had to do such with the late Antoni, and in the last few years Anita had started to get past the stigma too. Ever since the incident between them, which he thought odd. He fulfilled a duty as required of him, although in truth it was that rare thing of a duty he so very much enjoyed fulfilling. Twice. She was different with him though, the few times they had interacted since, less cold. Zion was unsure as to the reasoning for this, human emotions were often far too complicated to understand.

    Once more the Prasko primary reiterated her desire not to own him, for him not to be a slave. Antoni had often discussed this concept, but the key intricacies were often lost on the AM. He had known nothing else than a life of captivity. There was the military, the frontlines, and then the arena. His service to the Prasko family was like soaring through the stars in comparison. “I would advise you discuss your options with the legal team, Miss Prasko. I am sorry to say that my monetary value will have sharply declined since original purchase.” With that rather callous view on the rest of his life, the servant left to carry out his duties as ordered. When he returned he found the young woman hiding the mess she created under household furniture. There were floor robots that could deal with that later.

    She seemed pleased with the wine selection, this was a good thing – although much a moot point, her mother would drink anti-freeze if it had an expensive label and claimed alcoholic content. This thought was what passed for humour in Zion’s brain, but whilst focusing on that he did not fail to notice Anita moving towards him. Her movements not far from haphazard and more than a little clumsy, it was fortunate she had removed all the peas. The likelihood of her falling and breaking her neck were vastly reduced. She came closer than social convention dictated, and Zion’s memories drifted back to that night years before. Perhaps she had found a use for him, after all.

    “What is required of me, Miss Prasko?” He did not move away from the gentle kiss on his cheek, merely keeping his eyes locked onto hers. She was now the only human alive that he knew was comfortable maintaining eye contact with him. It was actually rather nice. Having her this close was rather nice, more memories and emotions were being activated, necessitating in a slight tilt of the pelvis. Zion may not be human, but there were still enough similarities for him to react as one would when approached by an attractive young woman. “Your absence has also been noted, Miss Pras- Anita.” His voice was softer now, he was having a real conversation, not obeying commands. His world usually consisted of juggling complex human social-political games that he did not understand. Right now however, it consisted only of Anita Prasko.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  8. For a brief moment Anita thought she saw Zion’s features changing and part of her brain, the atavistic ancient part told her to run. A subtle shift in his muscle tension, barely visible teeth behind thin lips. Instinctively Anita moved away, without even registering it. They were scary, after all thousand of years ago they had evolved to hunt humans. Some people, those who craved to put even tighter leash on Ams, hated the fact homo sapiens sapiens hadn’t been once king of all creation. That there were others higher in the food chain. Especially religious nuts had problem with it. Surpassingly, the recent years strengthened he cults all over the world. Technology and new discoveries brought doubt and uncertainty some couldn’t bear. Religion gave them stiff values, offended by heinous, ungodly and sinful AM’s. ”You mean those overpaid hacks?” Anita snickered, her anger slowly faded. It was another thing that drew Anita to Zion - he stabilised her. No matter what heights her emotions reached, Zion stayed unmoved.

    They cleaned up the mess together, like equals. If only Zion knew her views weren’t so crystal clear and tolerant. She made an exception for this particular AM, but in truth, Anita expected the worst from them. Empathy was something she, as an artist and patron, valued above everything. Those levels of sensitivity were far above Am’s reach. They never understood human self-obsession and need to overthink every little detail of their sad existence. You could place a turd in front of an Am and claim it was art and the damn hominid would only nod his head, taking this for a good coin. They saw no difference between that and Warhol. Zion was…like the rest, but Anita saw through fear that clouded judgement and took notice of an attractive, athletic male whose awkward social graces were adorable. After all AM’s were resurrected from the junk DNA found him humans, someone had to be fucked up enough to like them and Anita certainly wasn’t right in the head.

    ”Mone…?” Anita’s eyes widened as she put the last of peas into the kitchen sink. ”Who the fuck do you think I am?” She asked, as if the Am had slapped her. ”I have enough money to keep you.” Anita sneered, clearly agitated. That was disturbing, how easily Zion wrote off his life, knowing that he would certainly die in the arena or get terminated for spare parts. Am’s protein which gave them so long life span held particular value for vain, old CEO’s. Many cheap Am’s had their spinal fluid drained, just to satisfy low desires. The thought of bestowing this fate on Zion made her sick. Slowly, Anita began to accept the thought the Am simply had to stay.

    They shouldn’t have done it, before and now. Anita felt it was pushing the boundaries, that put her among those considered to have an off-putting fetish. If that was true, then world’s number of ugly fetishists had grown exponentially in the past few decades. His scent, the cold touch of his skin - everything brought back memories of wistful pleasure. A smile graced her features when Zion admitted something AM’s felt very rarely. He did in the reserved way, but Anita wouldn’t expect much more from a being so detached from own emotionality. ”I don’t need anything right now.” Anita said and her body, led by an ancient call, followed Zion’s subtle movement. They stood close now, to the point Anita was leaning against Zion, now assured he had missed her. At least in the most basic, carnal way. His voice became a bit softer, at least quieter. The Am’s often clicked their tongue and teeth, recalling ancient language they had used. One that was a reminiscence of rustling savanna grass. Useful when you hunted humans who dwelled in primitive, African huts.

    Anita was about to move away when the doors opened and a judgemental, cold voice could be heard. ”For fuck’s sake.” The tone and lilt hid utter disgust. Anita cringed, knowing it without even looking. ”Hi, Dominic, I didn’t know you were coming over.” She said through clenched teeth and looked at her sociopathic cousin. Their fathers were twins, but Anita and him had nothing in common. Like her, Dominic was a significant shareholder. The older cousin couldn’t forgive Anita for stealing CEO seat from under him. The board decided someone with PhD was much better qualified to do this job than a West Point officer. Yes, Dominic was a soldier - a captain by then, but still, not someone good enough for upper echelons of society. Even in physical looks they were like day compared to night. Anita was voluptuous, if not a bit round where Dominic was lean and slender. His hair was of straw blonde and eyes piercingly blue. Anita belonged among fair skinned, dark haired beauties with green orbs, shade of ancient glacier.

    ”Really, Anita. You could wait with enjoying your new fucktoy till the funeral has ended.” Dominic stated and grabbed two bottles of wine. ”That’s rich for someone who caught a dick itch not so long ago.” Anita bit back, but Dominic’s attention was already focused on Zion. He was an easier, safer target for her cousin’s anger. ”You, bloodsucker. Stop licking my cousin and do something productive, check the premise. Someone reported paparazzi snooping around.” He demanded, reminding everyone he was Prasko’s enterprise security chief. Zion might have served Antoni, but it was Dominic who oversaw the Am’s work.
     
    • Bucket of Rainbows Bucket of Rainbows x 1
  9. The Prasko primary seemed upset, more do than she already was. This whole day was one of sorrow, yet more emotions were being stirred in the fatherless daughter, directed towards him. The barely restrained anger was something he recognised well, it was a trait shared by all Prasko family members. Immediate and otherwise. Antoli was by far the most well equipped to deal with such emotional outburst, yet even the volatile Anita was learning to control her temper. In part. “The shares you have taken over from your father’s estate, in concert with those already in your name, give you a more than controlling share in a multi-billion euro corporation. I have no doubt of your financial capabilities, Miss Prasko.”

    The Artificial Man stopped here, pausing briefly as he wrestled with another thought. Zion was not entirely certain why his new owner seemed upset at his comments, and on reflection could still see no cause for concern. Thus, he pressed on. “I merely meant to state that the financial recompense of my sale would be limited, and much less than the inflated value I was purchased for.” The former gladiator was aware of the price paid for him, for a commodity in his state. With many years of service in heavy duty industries, there were more than a few too many noughts attached tohe estimated as an accurate market value. Not that he voiced any of this to his new owner, however. There were some details about his previous service that, unless directly asked, he would not reveal. Zion, and his species as a whole, struggled with the social-political games that the ruling classes gleefully fought over. Yet they worked well with rules, logical structure. The Artificial Man was well equipped to following orders to the letter, even if that was not the actual intent.

    She had closed the gap between them even more so now, and he could feel the warmth of her breath on his neck. It was an interesting feeling, a familiar one. Thoughts drifted into memories, and there was a near-involuntary movement of his arms behind her. The closeness was as welcomed as it was missed, it was seldom how often Zion realised just how lonely his existence could be He worked well alone, preferred it even, but these fleeting moments made everything else feel different. Less important. Dozens of battles and hundreds of deaths lived in the dark crevices behind his eyes, and yet each and every moment was overshadowed by this one. With one notable exception. Zion opened his mouth to speak about the evening they spent together when there was movement behind him and his muscles tightened. The door swished open and a voice entered, the subservient Artificial Man automatically stepping away from the slight embrace with his emotional owner.

    As he turned his face was carefully passive, as all of his kind were meant to be, but there was an internal battle with his primitive roots The calling to bare teeth and rend flesh was always harder to ignore when this particular human was in the vicinity. “Captain Prasko. You receive my solemn condolences for your loss your Uncle was no doubt a great man.” The robotic delivery had returned, Zion’s words level and very carefully measured. Not that this would matter greatly with a creature such as Dominic, such a man was near opposite of his now deceased Uncle, and was much more the kind of human Zion was used to dealing with. It would be no great surprise to the resident slave if Dominic twisted his patient and polite phrasings for something entirely different. It was almost second nature for him to present himself in the most inoffensive manner possible, yet Dominic was somehow always immune to it.

    “I assure you Captain Prasko, there has been no instruction for licking for me to follow. I will however do as instructed. Security is paramount.” Zion was not entirely sure what the foul embodiment of human disaster meant by licking, especially as he was doing nothing close to the sort. Certainly though it was meant as some kind of complex insult, perhaps Anita could explain it to him at a later date. For now, though, he had to follow the commands of the fourth senior in the Prasko household. “If there is anything else you require, Miss Prasko, you are aware of how to contact me. I shall carry out my duties.” Primal anger still not completely subsided, the Artificial man strode past Dominic Prasko and left Anita alone with her abhorrent cousin. In Zion’s mind there was no other course of action.
     
    #10 Jazavaq, Mar 24, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2016
    • You Need a Hug You Need a Hug x 1
  10. So much was lost in translation. Humans that came from different cultures had more in common than AM and humans, even if they spoke the same language. Some anthropologists claimed homo carnivora wasn't a separate species in homo genus as much as an anomaly in human population. They had died out not only due to crucifix glitch, but also genetic absorption. Some claimed the AM's became an original source of what human recognized as autism and sociopathy in their society. Especially the last hypothesis cast a very long shadow, not only on AM's but also those unlucky enough to carry ancient AM genetic material. Anita never pondered on those questions, she was happy in her little, glamorous world filled with art, fancy cocktail parties and pretentious critics. In this social niche AM's were hardly seen, maybe as bodyguards, but Anita had never seen one. Suddenly it downed on her why – the AM's were simply too...offensive and crude to be around so fragile creations. Omnisavants, yet narrow minded. Even Zion, hard as he tried, couldn't fully take other beings perception.

    ”It's not about money.” Anita snapped. He didn't understand, he would never understand that his life mattered. She grabbed a piece of frozen broccoli which still littered the counter. ”I swear, I will throw it at you.” The threat remained empty and the tired woman discarded the mushy green vegetable into the sink. Her features were pale and despite careful make up, Anita's eyes betrayed weariness. She hadn't slept well for a while now. Even faithful xanax couldn't help this time around. Anita had no strength to argue with him, especially since there wouldn't be any argument. Zion was painfully logical, he had a habit of ignoring any emotional elements of the conversation. Facts, observations and more facts. That was how his mind worked – with a terrifying simplicity. ”I am not selling you.” She shook her head. Tears swelled in her eyes, but Anita fought them away to maintain at least a shred of dignity.

    When Zion quickly moved away, Anita did the same but not fast enough for Dominic to miss it. Her face was now blushed from both: embarrassment and excitement. There was something that infuriated her in the way Zion bowed at the feet of such squirming worm. Dominic had no respect for his peers, let alone an AM serf. The man's dismissive gaze measured Zion, then moved back to Anita. ”Why haven't you taught little bloodsucker to speak only when spoken to?” He stated with a theatrical sigh. Anita snorted. ”They haven't taught that to you, have they?” She asked and Dominic's features turned dangerously crimson. He looked as if getting a stroke – no such luck. ”Shame your wit didn't let you anywhere important. Are you following in your mother's footsteps?” Dominic returned the favor. They could go on like this for some time. ”Go Zion, at least you won't have to suffer my cousin's presence.” She snipped, hoping the AM would be given a breather.

    When the doors opened and Zion left, Anita could briefly see Roy who reached his hand and kept the doors from closing. At this sight Dominic held his tongue, not keen to make a scene in front of another human being. Zion...Zion could might as well be a piece of furniture. ”Hi doll.” Roy winked at her and Anita smiled radiantly. One of the very few people around Dominic she genuinely liked. He was head of security, till recently Zion's direct superior. This boyish smile hid darker undertones. Roy used to work in Department of AM Control. Or DamC, for short. His body hid massive amount of augments and upgrades, to the point only his DNA could peg him as human. This and outward look. Only small changes: darker veins under his skin, HUD optics, scars along the body were a tell tale. AM's were natural hunters, Roy was made to hunt the hunters.

    Such massive changes came at the cost though. Physical and mental. Roy had more drugs in his system than Zion would ever need – even anti-Euclideans. Former lieutenant Hardetsky's body literally swam in painkillers, steroids and immunosupresants. Anita never thought about it this way, she just saw a nice, average looking guy who spread a boyish charm around. ”Hi Roy.” The young woman waved delicately, before returning to the heated argument.

    ”Come on, buddy.” Roy said as the doors closed after Zion. He shook his head when Anita raised her voice again. ”Sometimes I am glad my ex left my sorry ass.” A joke would probably be lost on Zion, but Roy didn't mind. Despite years of hunting and killing rogue AM's, he harbored no grudge against them. It made the respect their strength and resourcefulness. ”We will check the roof gardens and let them have their family reunion.” The former soldier gestured at Zion to follow.





     
    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 1
  11. Anita Prasko appeared upset once again, something different had triggered it. Zion was able to identify such emotions quite accurately, even if he did not remotely understand the most of them. He did not think he was for sale, it would make little sense considering his drop in value – a fact he thought he had explained. It seemed perhaps not, or at least not adequately enough. Before he could press on with the issue further, they were interrupted.

    The Artificial Man remained silent as Dominic spouted more foul and inaccurate insults. Over his years in service to the Prasko family, he had learnt that this one used invectives and criticisms to make himself feel better about his own glaringly obvious lack of intelligence. Twice he was called a bloodsucker now, clearly the unfavoured son of the unfavoured sibling thought it was a clever insult. It was not. Even without a full understanding of human social games, Zion was sure he could think of something better. Relating to their shared origins perhaps, or ancestral diversity. Now that would be really nasty. Nevertheless, he was given his orders by the primary, and he left the room without another words. Although not without a hint of relief.

    Or at least, he attempted to – as he approached the exit he found it blocked, and with another person he was not all that pleased to see. Whilst not nearly as bad as his master, Roy Hardetsky was no doubt a vicious dog. Put down many of Zion’s own kind, even though he did not really talk about it. He had adoring fans within the families security forces to brag about it for him. Although a logical thought occurred to Zion, he himself had probably killed more of his own kind that Hardetsky had. At least, it would be a close run thing. It was a thought that, along with many, he forced himself to ignore.

    There was a strange swell of emotion somewhere around his ribcage as Zion noticed Anita’s reaction to the newest newcomer in his peripheral vision. He did not understand it, but for some reason his usual tactic was not quite working. He focused instead on paying attention to other things. “Greetings and pardons, Chief Hardetsky.” It was a phrase often used by the more domestic model of AM’s, and Zion would sometimes utilise it when unsure of anything better. Whilst Dominic had made it clear that the former gladiator should speak only when spoken to, said gladiator was of the opinion that Dominic should die in a fire. It was an issue that he no longer had to worry about, the hunter was of more concerns. As a person, Hardetsky was not all this bad, certainly Zion had experienced worse. Patient zero was upstairs either puking up her guts or being overly friendly with a stranger. Exhibit B was currently trying to pretend he was more important than he was by challenging the Primary.

    As they walked down the hallway, the human (sort of) decided to speak up. It was another of those little quirks that Zion did not, and would not, ever fully understand. Whenever there was silence certain humans felt the need to fill it, as if their ears would bleed and their tongues would dry up without conversation. Often what they said was meaningless nonsense to the AM, as evidenced here. “I do not understand, Chief Hardetsky. What has your posterior done so wrong that it needs to apologise, and what connection does that have to your former paramour?” Again, experience came into play here. Whilst Hardetsky had merely muttered a letter of the alphabet, from historical context he took it to mean a female he used to have glorious sex with. At least, that was how it had been better phrased in the past.

    Whatever Hardetsky’s riddle meant, the greater concern for Zion was the mission at hand. He highly doubted there was any kind of security breach here, this was the funeral of a great man. No one would want to harm those that came to mourn, and as for the paparazzi(a term Zion was proud to understand), then surely they had enough class to let the family have a few days for their grief. He learnt the definition of paparazzi in a book, he had never actually met one in the flesh.
     
    #12 Jazavaq, Mar 30, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2016
  12. Anita stormed out of the kitchen, leaving Dominic gloating with his verbal and emotional victory. That was always a problem in mental skirmishes like this one - her cousin almost always won. Not because of sharp wits, which he certainly possessed but not honed like Anita’s. It was about something else. The young woman quickly lost her cool, giving people like Dominic sick satisfaction. She walked pass the silent crowd - even if they didn’t hear all of it, she certainly made her point when yelled out ‘son of a bitch’ loud enough for the guests to catch. Anita suspected most of them showed up to witness the family drama Prasko’s were so famous of. Every family had skeletons in their closets, just didn’t like to flaunt them like her namesakes did.

    She climbed up the stairs, refusing to talk to anyone. A small crowd was circling her mother; people tried to consolate her and it just fuelled the artificial hysteria. Maria sobbed uncontrollably which disgusted Anita. Leaving the abhorring scene behind, the dark haired woman found herself in a hallway that led toward three rooms. She chose the nearest one, her old bedroom. It hadn’t changed in years, filled with trinkets from late teenage years and young adulthood. Everything was neatly arranged and bed carefully made. Anita suddenly realised that the last night she had spent in it wasn’t solitary. The young woman leaned against the wall and watched the bed silently as fresh tears ran down her cheeks. Terrible pangs of loneliness crept under her skin leaving a cold trail. Anita believed anger would force those memories out, memories of his touch and scent, but they only grew stronger.

    Above the grieving attendants Roy and Zion stepped out of the sleek elevator that opened into amazing gardens spread on top of the building. The heaters created artificial warmth that fought off chilly winds. Antoni loved those flowers and bushes, all neatly trimmed. The dominating color was red but one could also find pink roses and yellow tulips. Begonias, lilies, even a patch of sunflowers. The scent was overbearing, even for human senses. For someone like Zion it had to be confusing. More so than subtleties of social interaction. ”My ex had the finest backside, that was part of the problem.” Roy commented, just to see what Zion would make of this random answer. ”To be fair, Anita’s ain’t bad either.” He added after a moment. Just like Zion, Roy was someone that belonged in the family, rather than a sheer employee. He came from a respected family and was also a West Point graduate, just like Dominic which made the augmented officer more of a friend than anything else. Such position granted him a right to make comments like this, especially to someone who wouldn’t pass them on. That was nice about having the AM’s around - they were discrete.

    Roy walked over to the edge of the roof and immediately noticed silently hovering bikes. It was a model used by couriers to move around city without the getting stuck in a traffic below. Only some people had license to fly around instead of driving, sadly papers were hiring many of them. Roy knew one of them very well - chubby and ugly, Derek Pinston was a paparazzi that stalked Prasko family for a while now. With a tired sigh, Roy walked toward a tall, translucent glass wall. He put few number into a keyboard and few panels lowered. ”Get lost fellas, party is inside this time around.” The former soldier said and purposefully made room for Zion. Sometimes it was enough an AM walked over to a human and they scrammed. Especially of the said creature stood on the other side of the barricade. This time, literally. ”It’s a free country Roy.” Derek proclaimed. Shutter clicked and for a moment he was basked in a blinding light. A flash. Roy blinked, but didn't move away. ”You lack any sense of human decency, you fucking vulture. Don’t make me turn your life into a living Hell.” Roy threatened calmly. Few reporters already flew away, probably growing uncomfortable around Zion. Not Derek though, this slimy idiot had as little preservation instinct as self-respect.
     
  13. The two men rode in silence to the sky gardens at the top of the expansive family home, the only sound between them the buzz from the heaters and the faintest of noise from the lift as it hummed to a stop. At least that was what the apparently inferior Zion could hear, Chief Hardetsky would have to make due with silence. As they stepped out onto the roof itself, a number of things happened at once for the Artificial Man. The miasma that rose from the apparent random collection of flowers here had always been overwhelming, but in recent years the gladiator had built up a resistance. Now his only reaction was a wrinkling of the nose and a quiet snarl of dissent. Eyes danced across the gardens, the bright colours unmistakable and unmissable. Attractive and near-mesmerising, designed purely to attract and enthrall. There was more than one type of flower here, several in fact – many of them beautiful, all of them peaceful. In some ways it was an intriguing metaphor, different species living in perfect harmony. It was not like the lilies would wait on the roses hand and foot. That’s what they had bees for.

    Realising that Hardetsky was speaking, the AM focused a little more on the human apparent. The words when analysed prompted another involuntary reaction, eyes snapped back to bring Roy in full view and a barely suppressed growl caught in Zion’s throat. Whilst relatively domesticated by Antoni Prasko, there was no doubt that H3-764 was bred for warfare, for violence. It was decades before he was purchased from the Jendrzejczyk Entertainment Franchise and given a new life with the Prasko household. That part of him still existed, and clearly there were triggers to break down the carefully designed mask of domesticated bliss. With any luck, Hardetsky would not notice, for a fortuitous distraction in the form of a rather unfortunate looking human appeared, floating in the sky.

    Zion read the signal from the Chief, and stood upon the roof’s edge along with Hardetsky, remaining impassive as he looked down at the tiny flotilla of hovering paparazzi. They reminded Zion of flies buzzing around shit that he saw in a documentary. He enjoyed documentaries; they were like stories without all the lies. Remaining quiet whilst Roy dealt with the majority of the pests, the AM knew he was not just there purely for show. Whilst he was a despised killer, the security Chief recognised the value of Zion more than others in the household, and knew he was more than ornamentation. “Mr. Derek Pinston, resident of 627B Zannadar drive, along with Mrs. Geraldine Pinston, an elderly female. You are requested to leave this private residence immediately and without question.” Zion spoke in a calm, level tone – but loud enough so that he could be clearly heard. “I am bound by law to inform you that you are trespassing on private airspace in order to circumvent privacy arrangements. This is in direct contradiction to the Privilege of Society Act, sections 12b(ii) and 76.”

    Much of Zion’s security requirements involved press attempted to gain access to a high profile family, and whilst often his mere presence was enough to dissuade the less hardened paparazzi, sometimes more was required. AM’s were forbidden from harming humans, but there was nothing about threats. “You have violated this law on no less than seven occasions, all of which small transgressions that have been overlooked. Now, however, you step beyond what is afforded. This household is obligated by law to remove you from their premises by use of necessary force. You are allowed a warning of ten seconds.”

    So far everything Zion had said was true, although technically he could not order the households defences to fire upon anyone, even a little trout like Pinston. Roy could, however. Regardless of that, the hover bike was close enough that any decent military AM could make the jump and remove the pilot – likely leading to the death of said pilot. This was a fact well known, especially those that had seen Hodúr in the arena. Pinston had been here before, Zion had done his research. Even followed the tit home a few times. He had been to the arena before, he knew what this model was capable of.

    “Ten…”


    [-]

    The noise from the kitchens was unmistakable, and not wholly unexpected. Sat in a far corner, several notable members of society were offering condolences to a woman whose thoughts were clearly elsewhere. These people spoke reverence of her late brother-in-law, yet she was fairly certain none of them had ever met him. The conversation was soon expertly steered to the reason why these loathsome little rodents were speaking to the woman, but she had no reason to care about their needs or desires. It would however be impolite to voice such a thing aloud, so alas she was stuck here until a better opportunity did so. And so it did, her predictably unpredictable niece offering just the escape. “If you would excuse me, I am afraid I am needed elsewhere. Her mother… you know.” There was a sad little smile, practised to a perfect execution, before the woman glided away from her unwanted entourage.

    Ascending the stairs at a near glacial pace, she knew well enough not to chase Anita – she had been at this game longer than the girl had been alive, and that was exactly what this was. Antoni was dead, which unfortunately made his heir the controlling power in the Prasko family. This was the wrong way of things, and this would need to change. Magdalena was a Prasko by marriage only, and more than once was convinced she married the wrong brother, but it was a convenient relationship and her company only grew as a result. Her son was a fine military officer, and on paper was surely better than the damaged, spoilt little princess Anita. Unfortunately he was about as likeable as a fart. As was often the case, it was down to mummy dearest to sort everything out.

    The door was left slightly ajar, and that was enough invitation the woman needed, walking in after her niece and was unsurprised to find the tears running freely. Of course, her father had recently passed, this was a time where it was both allowed and expected. However Magdalena felt that the young woman showed too much emotional weakness to succeed in the cut throat world of high level corporate politics. Only after entering the room did she announce her presence, an over exaggerated cough and a stern glare down towards her niece. A tall woman, Magdalena rarely had to look up to anyone, and this was certainly not the case here. In more ways than one. Despite her personal thoughts, however, Anita was now the key player in the company, and in the family fortune. This would have to be dealt with delicately.

    “My son is a fool, you should not allow his petty jealousy to reduce you to such a state.” Magdalena was an ambitious woman, building her own company from nothing before joining with her husband and setting sight on a much bigger prize. No cost was too much for her to get what she wanted, throwing Dominic under the bus barely merited a second thought.
     
    #14 Jazavaq, Apr 11, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2016
  14. Another human would miss the tell tales of anger. The sharp turn of gaze, the subtle movement of Adam's apple. AM's were a resurrected subspecies, not artificial humans as the name suggested and many mistakenly believed it to be true. Their body language was something else entirely. Although Zion's features remained blank and impassive, facial expressions weren't how AM's conveyed intentions. At least in less capacity than their homo sapiens counterpart. Roy had been taught this language with great care. Something set off this predator. Even tamed, a lion is still a lion. He recalled one of Dominic's drunk rants about his cousin, right after testament had been revealed. The gossip whispered in societe corners. Whispers about how Anita Prasko liked her men savage and cold blooded. Roy smiled cheekily, keeping those musings to himself. Fortunately for Zion, they had other matters to deal with.

    Quite frankly, Roy had enough of those little hovering pricks. He would love to just give them and Zion some alone time. Most people saw flesh eaters in arenas, when their skirmishes had been transmitted throughout the entire web. Roy...Roy saw them up close and had personally earned few scars when fighting them. The little cannibals couldn't understand a joke if it kicked them on the ass, but AM's certainly knew how to kill. Half of his crew nearly pissed themselves when one, rabid carnivora leaped twelve meters and took down an armored soldier. Zion jumping on a hovering bike...That would be something to watch. Ah, dreams. Roy couldn't do anything, but politely telling them to fuck off. Freedom of speech or some other bullshit. For him it was better to put a muzzle on than talk crap.

    He remained silent when Zion greeted Derek the Douchebag - as he was called among peers. A part of him, the one that had been trained to put AM's in place wanted to react when Zion tried to scare the reporter. Another part, the more sadistic one, thoroughly enjoyed it as the abhorring man blanched slightly before his features became clouded by anger. "You allow an AM to talk to humans like that?" The journalist snapped as Zion went on with the law and regulation. His knowledge was rather impressive when it came to such things. He probably knew the entire constitution and codex by heart, if only to know for what AM's are being terminated for.

    "Don't be a dick Derek." Roy drawled when another flash disturbed the night. "What kind of hunter are you, Roy?" The reporter asked, just to rile the chief up. Roy just sighed and let Zion finish the talking.

    Ten...

    "What the fuck, Hardetsky?" Derek shouted, the others had already left and only one, lone vulture remained. Roy just shrugged. "It's not like he is wrong." The chief offered with the same, boyish smile. "You are going to sic a biter on me? Fuck you Roy, people will know." Derek proclaimed, but before Zion reached three, he was already gone. "Yeah, tell them how you stalked a grieving family, you sad piece of shit!" Roy yelled after him and let the windows to close. "Lovely." He added with glee, enjoying the fact he could resume more pleasant duties.
    Roy looked at Zion, his enhanced optics trailing the AM's face. "Don't talk about people mothers like they are the next meal, it's rude." He said with an enigmatic smile. Zion threaded a thin line as his interactions with humans were many and varied. Most AM's weren't given such positions, not officially. Antoni was a...liberal man who was very invested in equal rights. A change in leadership must have come as a shock to Zion. If Dominic had gotten bigger chunk of the empire, the AM's days would have been counted. Fortunately for him, it was Anita who inherited the majority of shares. "Say, Zion." Hardetsky started, not really sure how to discretely pry on the carnivora. "What do you think about Anita and Dominic? Do you like them?" He asked, carefully watching the creature. "I heard Anita likes you more than she does her cousin." Roy finished, wondering if Zion was even aware how humans like to talk behind one's back. Gossips kept together any social network and what buzzed in the bush was that Anita often found herself close to Zion whilst Dominic far, far away from both of them.


    (_!_)

    The doors opened and a tall, lean woman appeared. Anita quickly wiped away tears. It didn't help though and she ended up with smudged mascara. She stiffened immediately, trying to regain some shreds of dignity and composure. Magdalena was a strict woman who painted herself as a benevolent spirit. Antoni disliked the woman's hungry ambition - a trait she had passed on Dominic. Anita didn't really share the judgmental view her father had on Magdalena. As much as Antoni had been liberal when it came to AM's rights, he had always been morally superior and conservative which meant women who jumped from a husband to husband to further their careers were his lesser.

    'A gold digger' Antoni used to call Magdalena and their mutual dislike and animosity drew apart brothers. Anita felt sorry for anyone who had to be Dominic's mother. She had very neutral attitude toward her aunt, but instinctively picked on aura of impossibly high standards she used to whip people into shape. Shame it never worked on Dominic, at least when it came to treating people with decency. "I am fine." Anita said quickly, embarrassed by her own reactions. There was something prickly in the phrase 'reducing' and 'state'. As if it was her fault Dominic's words hurt, as if Magda chastised her for this outburst.

    Anita pulled a tissue and mirror out of her purse and began to wipe the mascara away. Only then did the young woman realize how ugly this evening made her: puffy, red eyes, flushed cheeks. Behind her stood much older, but immaculately looking woman that would never let herself to be...reduced into a sobbing mess. Anita tried to remember if she had seen Magdalena crying when Dominic's father died. No...No one had. Cruelty or strenght of character? The girl closed the mirror rapidly. "He isn't a fool, he is a dick." Anita commented. One thing she couldn't deny Dominic was intelligence. Like all Prasko, he possessed sharp wit and fast mind of socially skilled dancers they all were.
     
  15. Magdalena watched her niece with interest as the younger woman tried to put herself back together, with slightly more dignity than was expected. Anita was still a wreck, but at least she had the sense to sort her appearance out herself rather than ask for help. It was pathetic, even if it was from family. Especially if it was from family. Allies were important, but in the end no one was to be trusted. This was a lesson she taught to Domenic from birth, only with a simple alteration. No one was to be trusted, except of course for mummy dearest.

    It was unfortunate that Magdalena had not managed to have the same kind of influence on Anita, likely due to Antoni’s interference. The man was clever, and he had clearly never fully trusted her. Whilst she would never shed a tear over his passing, it truly was a loss – and not just to the family. Her husband’s funeral was attended by family and a small handful of very close friends. This one today however, very powerful people were refused entry purely due to a lack of capacity. There would be a public memorial so others could pay their respects, a luxury not afforded to her late husband. Something that she doubted her son would get either, when the little toe rag finally pissed off the wrong person. Magdalena had no doubt she would outlive her son. Either by accident, or design.

    “Oh you are not wrong, dear.” This was met with a short, overly high-pitched, chuckle as the tall woman stepped over to stand beside her grieving niece. “But do remember we must always stick by family . Even if Dominic does not see it. Be better than him, do not drop to his level.” The words were soft, and her smile was soft. The casual observer would have no doubt that this was a loving aunt taking care of a distraught young woman. The eyes were the only distinction between this being a reality and pure fantasy. Dark and calculating, there was no love to be found in those brown eyes.

    [-]
    “Four.”

    The hovering vulture soon slunk away, back to the hole from whence it came. Zion appreciated a rare smile at the thought, watching the retreating human with vague interest. Over the last few weeks, the AM had been noticing things more, thinking different thoughts. Most humans treated AM’s like property, like servants. As they were want to, it was all perfectly legal and social accepted. Yet sometimes there was these fleeting moments where there was a truer kind of human. Zion made no violent act, spoke of no specific actions he may take – yet all these paparazzi fled from a slave speaking calm words. There was an underlying fear here, one that the gladiator had yet to understand. Roy commanded their respect through terror, but because he was a dangerous, shady sort. He used Zion as a weapon, a veiled threat – the AM himself had no issue with this, but he did find it curious.

    With the situation seemingly dealt with, Zion turned back to the Chief, remaining silent for a time whilst awaiting further instructions. He hoped that he would be released back into Anita’s custody, he was not sure how long she could be alone with Dominic without something unfortunate happening. Judging by the questions that came, Chief Hardetsky must have had a similar train of thought. “Miss Anita Prasko is the Primary, and now my registered owner. I am bound by law to follow whatever commands she sees fit.” Whilst not always recognising the inherent social delicacies seemingly required by human interaction, he picked up on a few here. Hardetsky was not nearly as good at this as the family he worked for. But then he was a hunter, a killer – he was as far out of his depth as Zion himself. “Captain Prasko is a decorated military officer, receiving many commendations for his exceptional skill in simulated battles. He belongs to a very prestigious family, and carries a name that bears weight in all social circles.”

    AM’s were not permitted to speak in derogatory terms about their owners, or immediate relationships of their owners. Of anyone, really, but there were always loopholes. Zion would never reveal his true feelings of the little tit, certainly not to Hardetsky. Even the Am knew that the hunter was known as Dominic’s Pitbull. Although not completely understanding the metaphor, he recognised enough of the words to take its meaning. His kind were not the only ones kept as pets, but at least they knew it.
     
  16. Despite amazing progress humans achieved in genetic engineering, nanotechnology and medicine, some things never changed. Women were still being seen as less capable in leading large companies. Less innovative, weaker and emotional. Old stereotypes prevailed, making women like Magdalena a rare breed. Now, Anita was part of this world, whether she liked it or not. The young woman never expected her father would leave her the entire company. It was still a mystery how the late Antoni had convinced the board of directors. Did Magdalena voted for or against? Next to the tall matron, Dominic looked like a moody wuss.

    Anita glanced at her aunt, her gaze wary and incisive. She may not have any experience in running a company but certainly had the same gift in reading people her father was known for. The chuckle seemed a bit forced, theatrical. It didn’t match the concerned, warm look on Magdalena’s features. Sometimes Magda reminded Anita a witch from Snow White, other times she seemed a shrewd but caring mother and aunt. It was strange such successful woman stayed with the…lesser brother. Everyone knew younger Prasko had been always overshadowed by the older brother. It always hurt Dominic and put in a foul mood, it was one of the things Anita used to get back on him for all the painful words. “Maybe he should hear it from you, not me.” The heiress remained cautious. After all, Magdalena was Dominic’s mother which meant, she would never be on her side.

    With searing awareness , Anita realised there was no one now to be on her side. Her mother had been drinking herself into oblivion for years now, her father was dead and the cousin had been an enemy. That left…that left Zion. The sociopathic , second class citizen who knew about running the company less than her. “Maybe getting into real military rather than playing a toy soldier would teach him some humility.” She added with a cold look on her oval, normally pleasant features.

    (_!_)

    Even their smile was terrifying. It exposed their elongated canines, sharp teeth. Zion looked as if an open wound appeared where lips should have been. After years of hunting them, after many terminated cannibals, Roy still felt cold shudder at this grimace. The augmented soldier didn’t show the pang of fear, but the damn creatures could always sense it. Their mirror neurones were barely existing, but the sense of smell was acute. Everything changed in human scent when they were scared and vamps recognised it with unnatural skill. That was why one of his implants regulated emotional responses, dulling fear when turned on. It confused the predators. Just like the questions with social context.

    Ams were poor liars, they had impassive features but often felt compulsive need to state facts rather than tip toe around the truth. Zion, to survive among humans, had learned this skill, using simple facts to muddle any opinions. Still, Roy picked up on a little detail the bloodsucker weaselled in; simulated battles. Dominic never took part in any operation, his courage hadn’t been tested. Some even believed he was a coward and in fairness, Roy agreed with that opinion. The spoiled heir was too self-centered to give his life for any ideals. The augment had no idea why Dominic had joined the military, probably only to impress his mother which would never happen.

    “Aha, I forgot you aren’t a real boy.” Roy commented on Zion’s plain facts. He measured the creature with a careful, amused look.”I have no idea what she sees in you.” The soldier shook his head and gestured at Zion to follow him. “Come on Pinocchio, we are done here. I bet you are being missed downstairs.” Roy said, before slowly moving toward the elevator. His communicator beeped and the security chief pressed a small button engraved into his palate with the tongue. The HUD in Roy’s optics showed the familiar, round face of John Masters, one of the security personnel. “We have movement in the garage, the visual feed malfunctioned.” The man sent the message and the chief’s heart skipped the beat. He knew what that meant. Roy reached his hand and stopped Zion in his track, very sure the vamp let him do that. A hunter was maybe one of the very few people in the company who didn’t mind touching the creature. Him and Anita, if you believed the rumours.

    “We have an intrusion.” Roy stated flatly and rushed toward the elevator.
     
  17. Magdalena had many regrets, but through a long life of living in a world she was insistently told she did not belong to, she learnt how to turn them into an advantage. One such was the limited interactions with her niece, there were periods spanning years where there wasn’t even a word between them. Of course, there was the compulsory cards for birthdays and holidays, but Magdalena’s assistant dealt with all of that. Her human assistant. She abhorred having to deal with the AM’s more than she had to. They were a business arrangement, nothing more. Although this philosophy was not shared by said niece, if the rumours were true. Which came to the regrets, Magdalena had spent too much time trying to mould her son into a worthy successor. It was not just about living vicariously, her life was rather splendid thanks to her own herculean efforts as a younger woman. Yet she felt the need to leave something lasting, a legacy of sorts. It was now perfectly clear that Dominic would not live up to this tall order. Like his father and her late husband, he would always be in the shadow of a brighter star.

    Anita saw her cousin as the enemy, he was rarely anything else. Unfortunately this meant Magdalena fell under the same bracket by worthy as association. Whilst this was certainly in part true, the younger woman did not need to know it so soon. Work needed to be done on her, and tonight was when it started. Father dead, huge responsibility on her shoulders - Anita was now at her most vulnerable. Always the best time to strike. Antoni had died too soon, but not in the way others thought as they gushed over his memory. He died too soon for Magdalena to strong arm the board to do things her way. Dominic had alienated too people to get the majority vote now, and they hadn’t enough time to sway popular opinion. Which was why Magdalena used her voting rights in favour of Anita instead of trying to take the company by coup herself. She could not be sure she had the votes, but she knew she could still control the company without controlling the company.

    “Anita,” she began, crossing the distance between them in a few long strides. “Today is the worst day in your life, but you have to make sure every day after this is a better one.” Squatting down next to her niece and leaning against the wall, a dress worth more than some countries crinkled after so slightly as Magdalena pulled her knees towards her chin. “When my father died, years ago, I was much like you. I locked myself away and I cried for days, weeks even. It felt like a part of me had been ripped out and set alight in front of me. I was distraught, and broken. I vowed never to be broken again.” As she told this story, she did not look directly at her niece, instead at a point several inches to the left of Anita’s face. Her eyes were glazed with a soft layer of insincere teardrops, but her voice never trembled and her words never faltered.

    The story was, of course, a work of complete fiction. Her father had drank himself into a gutter a few years after Magdalena had ran from home, in truth she seldom thought of the man. After moving on from her first husband, however, she paid very handsomely to have a new family invented for her. It was easy to buy an upbringing when you had the money to pay for it. “When your uncle died, the loss was severe and it rocked me to my very soul. But I did not lock myself away, I did not allow it to destroy me.” The manipulative Aunt stopped now, took a long pause, before turning directly to the younger woman. “I spoke to my guests, I thanked than all for paying their respects, and I shown the world what kind of woman I am. Our lives do not begin and end with our Fathers or lovers, Anita.”

    With unerring elegance, the widow unfolded and rose to her full height. The dark curls of her hair were trapped in a stern bun atop her head, held together by an antique silver needle. There were rumours that she had used that very needle to murder her second husband. Magdalena was happy to fan these flames, the truth was far more damaging. The heavy carpet of the bedroom muffled the clip clack of her heels as Magdalena slowly walked away, which was disappointing. Whilst not as dramatic as the rest of the Prasko’s proper, she still enjoyed a little bit of emphasis from time to time. Turning back to her niece one last time before returning to the gathering flies downstairs, a genuine smile danced across her lips. “The first board meeting was scheduled for tomorrow, but I moved it until Wednesday. Tonight you should grieve. Your father was an amazing man, and he deserves this honour. When you are ready, come and find me. Know that my favourite niece always has an ally in her aunt.”

    With that, she walked out of the door, the smile still fresh on her face. Not of word of that was false, although Magdalena had learnt decades ago how to play with the truth. For one thing, she only had the one niece.

    [-]​

    Roy Hardetsky was an incredible difficult human for Zion to understand. The fact he despised this one with every fibre of his being did not help, albeit it was a different kind of hatred than for Dominic. The dislike for the lesser Prasko was due to the runt’s personality and general being. Feelings towards the security chief were more of an evolutionary prerogative. This was a man that was designed to hunt him, to kill his kind. His modifications gave him an unnatural advantage, and there were probably only a handful of humans on the planet with more AM kills to their name then Hardetsky. Zion knew that few of his kind had killed more humans than he had. It had been a long time since the last real war, and he knew that most AM’s that survived it were either destroyed or passed regardless.

    Yet he was still here, and had freedom of a sort. He recalled the feeling of those wars. It was horrible and remarkable at the same time. To feel an enemy – a true enemy – die at his own hands, it was exemplary. There were times he longed to feel the warm blood of Hardetsky or the lesser Prasko pool beneath his fingers. Such impulses were promptly ignored, however, and he instead was forced to focus on the social games humans played. Execution was simpler.

    “I assure you, Chief Hardetsky, that I am a male of my species. Artificial Men are routinely inspected, as I am sure you are aware. I have been informed that I am in fine health, and that my genitalia are in working operation.” Zion would never truly understand oversharing. At any case, he was repeating almost verbatim what he was told at his last inspection. Although if one were to ask his owner, the function of his genitalia would not be in question.” He did not understand the Pinocchio reference, this was not something he had learnt so far. It sounded like an instrument. Further speculation was not allowed, however, as the Chief suddenly turned serious. The AM recognised that look of far offed ness, the augmented human was making use of those expensive cybernetics. An arm came out to stop Zion in his tracks, and once again instinct was overruled. Muscles tensed, but the lesser creature reacted no further, it was game time.

    He made no verbal affirmative to the Chief, simply stared the human down and waited for an order. This was all that was required of an AM, they were machines designed for servitude. Right now, Hardetsky required him to respond to an intrusion – although he knew it was more serious than press vultures. They rode down the elevator together in a familiar silence. Although this time it had a steel edge.
     
    #18 Jazavaq, May 17, 2016
    Last edited: May 31, 2016
  18. PopeYe, or Pop, for friends hadn't attended many funerals. His neutral attitude toward death, even dismissal, was a trait useful for someone like him. When you were hooked to the net, your nerves synched with the great matrix, only one step separated from death. One careless step, one poorly opened data pack or a clever firewall could send brain into an epileptic craze. His even more so. Pop wasn't scared of that, he had suffered worse. It wasn't death that scared the jockey, it was something in between. A state were brain, scarred and fragile, could be called more of a worn sock than the vital organ but stubbornly refused to give up. For this reason many jockeys went big or they didn't go at all. Outside of brief data bursts Pop felt out of place - the real world bore him. Heroin helped with that. On the joyrides around the global net, he preferred stimulants. Cocaine was good, but it also cost. A drug of higher classes after all.

    Sometimes, he had to be sober. Like now, waiting in the lobby for his employer to appear in the custom designed elevator. Only through such people, those who hired him Pop could lick the sole of the echelon. There were periods when he had money, enough to be considered well off but neither yens nor dollars never stayed with him long. Few years ago Pop was an ambitious teenager who had quickly learned his place. In front of his contact lenses danced vids, various streams of date, in the background played recent soap comedy. To a bystander, the tall, spindly man would look rather funny with his head resting on an exquisite sofa and eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. It was a common practice, instead of waiting idly, anyone with proper, cheap lenses could look through recent news, read a book, watch a movie. Some still preferred raw eye contact, human interaction. Pop liked it this way.

    He didn't shift attention, instead simultaneously observed every background process, without losing focus. It gave an edge any jockey dreamed to have, only a handful had. Pop never thought about, it was just something natural. Another icon came to life on the lenses - a simple memo. With a yawn, Pop reached to an inner pocket of his leather jacket and fished out a small injector. The vial was already installed on the device and without pulling his gaze away from the HUD, he pressed the tiny needle against his pale neck. Soundlessly, the injector administered a proper dosage of AntiE's. If he had any friends, Pop would hear words of comfort and pity, but the hacker never attached. Such things only slowed down, after a while becoming a burden.

    Pop blinked, as another icon flashed. This time with the highest priority. There were only three letters displayed in an instant messenger.

    ((8:45)) Tearex: RUN

    There was an attachment , an image. Pop quickly scanned for malware and spyware, before opening. It was a picture of armed men, blurry and lacking details. Taken moments ago by CCTV. He couldn't make out any faces, only professional rifles and SMG's. Pop wasn't a soldier. The man avoided it, although the government tried to draft him. Just like his father before him and the father of his father who had been forced on this path since birth. He despised such crude methods but someone who spent his entire childhood in a gutter had no know when to run. Pop put together the pieces in matter of milliseconds. He pressed tongue against a small chip placed in in his palate. "Boss, you better get your ass out of there." Pop said quietly, knowing his words will come through Magdalena's private comm channel.

    The hacker didn't lose time himself. He dived behind the couch and darted toward the elevators. Whoever the armed men were, they would probably have all the exits covered. Pop knew professionals when saw them. The hacker sent an anonymous tip to the cops but the men weren't careful if CCTV caught their movement, which meant they don't expect to stay long, nor leave many alive.

    Pop threw himself into the lift, just in time before a gunfire exploded near by. The bodyguards outside went down, just after them the doorman.

    xxx

    "I am sure Anita knows all about it." Roy concluded with a wry smile. It was Dominic who sold him the news. Walls had eyes and ears, something the reckless Prasko's girl ignored. The chief didn't really listen to rumours, but old impulses stayed with him. He just liked to wind up AM's, see them cower in fear. Nothing felt better than killing the apex predator. It must have been the rush ancient humans felt after winning with a lion. Roy knew he played dirty, his upgrades gave him unfair advantage but it didn't pain him. Evolution was never fair and in that game, humans were the fittest.

    They were on the same team, at least for now and today Roy Hardetsky needed all the help he could get. "Talk to me." Chief demanded over the comm. "Contact! Conta..." The gunfire swallowed the rest of the man's last words. Roy spat an ugly cuss. He opened the wide channel. "Code red, I repeat, code red. Reisz group, evacuate the guests. Rest secure the entrances. Call the dogs." Roy ordered, despite tension in his body, the chief's voice was steady. Cold and calm. He glanced at the stoic AM - the resurrected monster from childhood legends. His greatest enemy and at the same time the amazing asset. Roy red his files few times: Saudi war veteran, Greek civil war, countless antiterrorist operations. Old, even for their species. Homo sapiens seemed like kittens in comparison. Weak, mewling kittens albeit they were much older kind.

    "Weapons free, kill those fuckers." Roy added, still gazing at Zion, as the gunfire rose. "This includes you, Pinocchio." The chief added, his optic's ever shifting irises assessing AM. The creature had no weapons, he wasn't allowed when around humans, unless situation demanded. The chief removed gun strapped to his chest and offered it to Zion. "Take a rifle when you get a chance, judging by what's going on downstairs, you won't have a problem in looting the dead.

    When the elevator stopped at the ground floor, Roy raised his rifle and pointed it at the doors. They are scrambling the comm's, watch who you shoot. A distinct 'ding' echoed in the small space and Roy put his finger at the trigger. Safety off. He only hoped the evacuation went smoothly. They had choppers readied at the roof for the emergencies. And that was an emergency as fuck.

    The moment the doors opened, Roy immediately knew those weren't his men nor the dogs. He ducked, just in time. Quick reflexes saved his life, which couldn't be said about the man before them. They were moving in the dark, comms were scrambled, it also meant the attackers didn't use theirs. The only difference was, they were prepared for this.
     
  19. As soon as she left her niece to grieve, Magdalena returned to the guests who had come to pay their respects. As it was, with Anita in tears and Maria too high on her own drama to function properly, Magdalena was the de facto figurehead of this family. An opportunity she did not plan to let go to waste. Whilst many had already bored her with their poorly veiled agenda’s, this did not mean the woman was against playing politics here. Even her brother in law’s funeral was not above exploitation, and certain things were already set in motion before Anita’s abrupt exist.

    Gliding back through her guests, she inserted herself into a conversation between several prominent local politicians. Magdalena knew them all by name, despite meeting only one of them before – she knew everyone at this party, and she knew more than they would ever realise. She was successful in a field that was rife with corruption and rule breaking, and she certainly wasn’t above either. One of her little pet projects should be here today, she knew. It was a mild risk having him come here, but one that she felt was worth taking. The boy was talented, and not all that difficult to manipulate. With some it took little more the right kind of smile, but this one understood the true language of the world. And when money wasn’t enough, status was very easy to manufacture.

    There was a buzz in her ear, and quiet words were whispered from the comm device discreetly nestled away. The woman did not skip a beat in her conversation, and was sure to laugh on queue to the expertly poor joke from the older of the politicians. “Gentlemen, if you would excuse me. I’m afraid I cannot allow you to monopolise all of my time.” There was a high pitched giggle and that certain kind of smile, then she was gone. She was careful not to hurry, not to rush or panic – not until she was out of sight. Despite his lower station, and sometimes crass manner of address, Magdalena trusted the instincts of her little cyber jockey. As soon as the last guest was behind her, her pace increased noticeably and she was in the elevator with time to spare.

    Riding down in contemplative silence, she reached for her personal communicator and sent a few urgent mail blasts. Whilst most in these modern times relied on cybernetics or temporary augmentations, Magdalena would not stoop so well. Technology was a tool to be used, bent to one’s own will. She would not sully herself for such a minor advantage, her mind and body would always be her own. When the audible ding rang out that the elevator had reached the lobby floor, Magdalena did not look up from her communicator. When the boy flung himself in next to her, the sound of weapons fire not far behind, she closed the doors and pressed the button to take them further down, to basement level. There would be a vehicle waiting for them there, she was certain of that now. With no longer need for the communicator, she slipped the device back into her bag and took note of the young man sprawled across the floor. As if for the first time.


    “There appears to be a few uninvited guests. My car will take us to a safe house, and your payment is withheld until this situation has blown over.” The woman looked down at the boy with well masked disdain. She was like this once, a bottom feeder that suckled on the teat of the greater. Yet she scrapped and she fought and she climbed and climbed – now she was the upper echelon. This boy was a talent, perhaps a genius in his own way, but he had no ambition, no drive to be more than just a hired lackey. Disappointing. She fully intended to reward the boy for his efforts, perhaps with more than the agreed amount. Magdalena knew full well how to properly compensate a job well done, and the fact that he may have just saved her life did not go without notice. That being said, she couldn’t exactly go around thanking the grunts for every little thing, that was just wrong.

    “I need to make sense as to what has happened. Report.”

    [-]
    Whilst technically tasked as a security consultant, Zion found that many of his duties in the Prasko household were more of a domestic nature. Especially when called upon by the less important family members. Antoni would often have called for his advice, or simply for a friend. His wife, however, would have him clean up her sick-stained bed sheets – and relish watching him do it. The AM would never grumble, never complain – and always do his duties to an exemplary level. There were times however, that he thought such chores would soften him up. They were beneath him, his skill set was far more useful in other situations, situations that rarely aroused in a luxury household. The humans thought him housebroken, a tame pet to do with as they wished. They were right, but what they did not realise is that the beast was never truly gone. Simply caged, held back until it was time to call. Zion could hear the gunshots, the primal call of war leaking out from Hardetsky’s comm piece.

    The weapon was a surprise, but it register in a split second and then was forgotten. No matter what was thought of his kind, Zion especially was a huge tactical advantage in many military situations. Perhaps the Hunter knew that better than anyone. He wondered if Hardetsky realised how hard it was to block out the thoughts of turning the weapon on the sort of human, taking just the smallest drop of revenge for the dozens of his kind this one had slaughtered. Probably not, and before Zion could contemplate it further, the elevator came to a stop and the excrement quickly hit the windmill.

    The elevator was not a stealthy method of transportation, there was an obtuse ding as it arrived, not to mention the fact it was a tiny room with only one exit. There was one assailant waiting for them, his weapon held out at head height. He quickly found that there were no targets for him to find, belatedly realising in the split second before his death that both elevator passengers had dropped to the ground. Two bullets roared from two separate weapons, and the enemy’s head redecorated the atrium. There was no time for sentiment here, both AM and human stepped over the newly made corpse and moved slowly deeper into the room.

    It was dark, the power had been cut by the code red alert. There were screams and sounds of distant gunfire. Panic and disorientation, yet none of it coming from the two man strike force fresh from their little box of elevation. Zion’s inherent tactical advantage came into play, his eyes much better in this low light than that of a regular human. No doubt Hardetsky had similar, artificial enhancements. The AM knew that the Chief was next to him, could feel him – smell him almost. He did not need orders to know what needed to be done, but he could hardly wander through the complex, armed. One of their own security would likely put him down. Accidentally or otherwise.

    Engaging the safety on Hardetsky’s borrowed pistol, Zion reached behind and tucked the weapon into the back of his trousers. It was uncomfortable, but the best he could do at the moment. Sidling back to the dead bad guy, the AM stripped the attacker of his rifle and any excess ammunition. He held the weapon with a familiarity, despite this model being much more advanced than those he trained with. The now fully armed gladiator looked over at the Chief expectantly, knowing full well that the presence of most human’s would merely be a hindrance to his operations. Hardetsky, however, was no ordinary human. He may look the part, but he was different. Better. And universally feared. Almost like an Artificial Man.
     
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