Robot City

Let's see, a friend decided to help give me a kick in the pants idea-wise by making a bit of a request/dare. Take the basic structure of Mega Man X, robot law enforcement busting rouge robots and or mad scientists, and run with it in a legal friendly format. Because i like more plot and characterization than the series has shown, plus don't especially like what HAS been shown I'm pulling from my other favorite cyborg/robot inspirations. Terminator, Bladerunner, Robocop! GO!

Scorched and blackened riot armor wasn't meant to stand up to flames, and humans are combustible. So it would be forgivable if most people considered the man rushing into the burning apartment to be either crazy, or suffering a hero complex. He would describe himself as no hero, and his sanity was only partially debatable as his job mandated psychological evaluations yearly in addition to ones after traumatic events.

The building was empty.

The hidden bunker beneath it was not.

Few people knew of this hidden sanctuary outside of the group that had it (and the apartments above it) built. As a result the man chasing through burning hallways desperately searching for the hidden entryway believed it likely the people he was hunting for were down there.

Imagine if you will being in a hallway, fire and smoke everywhere in addition to smoke, instinctual fear of fire screaming at you to Leave Now and you might have some small idea of how this man must have felt.

Thankfully, for him if not for the people he was perusing, he had found his way in the entryway to this hidden hideaway. Unfortunately for him though the outer door was unlocked the inner foot thick reenforced steel door was.

There was a snap-hiss as he activated his sword. Physics as your average person understands them couldn't explain how what amounted to a shaft of light not only ending a set distance from the hilt it had sprouted from, but that it was both hot enough to cut through the door as if it were nonexistent, yet said heat didn't immediately flash fry the weapon's wielder as well as anything combustible in the immediate area.

No matter, the weapon was real and eventually it had cut a way through. A swift series of kicks later and this black clad avenger strode into what he knew was probably a trap hastily thrown up to deal with him. Cutting through blast doors isn't exactly subtle and they had time to prepare.

Fortunately though his armor was seared and scorched it did an amazing job at keeping the hostile fast moving little bits of metal from making little bitty holes in his body. Nobody facing him was armed with anything larger than a handgun so even as he walked amongst them, slicing through their cover just enough to leave them open and defenseless but not so close that any actually got hurt, he seemed to feel no real worry.

"Your guns are useless. Put them down, place your hands on top of your head and leniency might be shown for your cooperation." The man's voice was calm, almost lecturing even as he was being shot at. Strange that nobody aimed for his face, but then again hitting a head sized target is generally far harder than one at first thinks.

Several did as ordered once it became painfully obvious that nothing they had could touch the intruder.. Others continued firing until armored fist or thick soled boot brought them to the ground. The intruder brought a radio up and listened for a moment before speaking. "Central, any word on that backup?"

"ETA five minutes Unit One."

The man frowned. "What's the holdup here?" His professionalism cracked when he continued. "I'm hip deep in the biggest chop-ring this side of Tokyo and I'm having to try going in alone?"

"Hostage situation in the Heights." Smooth calm professional voice answered.

"Just peachy. Be advised I'm proceeding on foot alone."

"Acknowledged Unit One."

The man grunted and cut his radio. He was actually somewhat surprised it had worked down here but procedure is procedure. Actually if he followed the strict letter of the book he should be arresting everyone on scene that moment, but he neither had enough ties to bind all of them nor was he going to let a few low level flunkies keep him from the main prize.

So onward he went. This was no factory, thankfully 'parts processing' wasn't anywhere near here. Synth bodies in different states of often times untidy dismemberment had made him about as close to ill as he could. This wasn't anything like this gang's fronts. It was their bolt hole to wait out trouble.

This being the case the rooms he searched through were primarily utillitarian, kitchen, pantry, Living area, and so on. Nobody else. It didn't make sense. Those people up front were guarding something. Then he saw the server room. Bingo Wans't as good as an actual arrest, but his bust had been aboveboard and his suit was, if the equipment hadn't failed, recording everything. Useable evidence.

Busy morning, cars skimming along, fliers cruising along thier preordained paths, life Beth appears to move along swimmingly. Naturally this cannot be the case since that would mean no public servants, healthcare, or jobs were needed; and since all these things exist so must problems.

Slender woman, dark pants, matching jacket, watching Beth's morning rush from where she parked her bike. Nice place. She started for the building adjacent to the lot and hummed something The Trooper while she walked.

Inside the station house was the usual controlled chaos of places that seem to never sleep, have to make do with less people than they really need, and those that are there being under high stress. The woman looked around, nodding to a uniformed man at the front desk. "Alexis Murry." She passed a stack of papers across and waited.

The man, well not-quite man since the skin was a pale blue and had three fingers on each of its four hands, briefly glanced at her and muttered something almost musical and nodded at the screen he had been staring at. "You're a bit early. Second floor, hallway to the right, first door on the left. Orientation starts in a half hour."

Alexis nodded and went where she was directed. This brought her to an assembly room, rows of seats with one side of the room dedicated to a podium, several large monitors, and presumably equipment connecting these to the building's info net. Nobody else was there yet, but this is where she had been directed. So Alexis waited, pulling a phone from her jacket so she could run through her morning's online routine; mail check, bills, updating social contacts, and the like.

She was partway through explaining, on her blog, that she was waiting for orientation and how nervous she was about her recent transfer when close to a dozen people shuffled in. One of these, a dark skinned man with more white to his hair than not shot a look at her that made Alexis put her phone away.

When everyone was seated and the door closed the elderly fellow took the podium and practically leaned on it. "I'm sure all of you are aware at just how short-handed we've been, and I appreciate that all of you had voluntary transferred. However work here is different. Don't personally like we're compared to animal control, but it's close enough for beginners to get an idea." He looked tired, almost like he'd been up all night. Maybe it was just his age showing.

"Each of you has training with these," he made a gesture and one of the monitors behind him showed a metal cylinder studded with different buttons which then dissolved into the same, only with a four foot shaft of light coming from one end. "However I expect each of you to drill at least ten hours a week on proper use and care. This is your primary weapon if conventional measures fail. Your lives may depend on it and I expect everyone here to remember that."

Alexis's mind whirred and clicked as this processed. Her old department had a few energy blades and plasma rifles in storage but they were stuck with the tried and true baton/pistol/tazer load out for patrol units. She'd been through training on what to do if a robot or synth went rouge, everyone had as part of their training, but having coherent energy as standard issue? It struck her as somewhat overkill.

"-Your partner and patrol assignments are each in your lockers." She panicked, briefly, wondering what she'd missed but tried not to let it show. Bad impression to look so lost in thought you couldn't keep up with everything. So she followed everyone out guessing, correctly as it would turn out, that they'd lead her where she was supposed to be.

Her uniform was another in what as going to prove to be many changes from what she was used to. Hard dully reflective and looking more like something a sci-fi prop designer would make than a traditional set of Kevlar and armor-jell padding. Once on it was far too lose... for all of two seconds.

"Auto fit Engaged." Chipvoice coming from the suit's helmet intoned. Even though the whole thing looked like it was made of metal and or smoothed composite it flexed, constricted until it hugged her like a body-glove.

Alexis moved, slow and experimentally, and found it was very nonrestrictive. With a frown she started belting her gear on. Energy blade, flashlight, pistol, etc. "No wonder taxes've gone up," She mused, "Stuff has to cost a fortune."

Somebody else in the room snorted, "Sure, but stuff'll save your hide too often to want to skimp on." They filed out. Little banter between people, too much on too many different minds for any of them to feel comfortable.

Outside Aleph loaded the maid in the back of their car while Alexis handled on site questioning. this consisted mostly of what they did, what they touched, took away, the sorts of things one would want to know while combing over a home. She did this though she was still visibly ill and her relief once inside the car was plain to see.

"You OK?"

Alexis nodded and took a sip from her water bottle. "I'll be fine. Just... didn't think it would be that messy."

"Well, it is but you find ways of coping. Where'd they pull you from, Grab, Vehicular?" Turning the conversation away from the cut up and beaten (robot) lady in the back seat. Good Aleph, you have a clue after all.

Alexis tried to look anywhere that wouldn't give her a reflection of who was riding with them. "Patrol. Worst I'd seen was a hit and run that decided to try coming back around to finish the guy off."

This made Aleph wince. "You've been lucky then. Most of your work's been straightforward until now. See perp, bust perp. Tends to get sticky here."

Stop by the station to drop the maid off and file paperwork. Get sent out again.

While they drove Alexis noted the center console flashing directions to where their next call was. "Humanists?"

A moment to focus on traffic. "Not as often as news likes to make out. Mostly interdepartmental cruft. Plus a few hind bound dinosaurs up the ladder that doesn't like Synths in uniform."

Eyeroll. "It's obvious that you're valuable. So what gives?"

"Meh. Maybe they think us getting all the shiny new stuff first means we're taking from them. Maybe they believe we grab too much of their credit." Aleph eased into an elementary school parking lot.

"Areas' clear except for your people me and my partner?" Alexis eyed the man in charge.

He nodded, "They've got classes out on a collective field trip. They don't want a huge fuss. Just go in and bring the canner out."

Aleph snorted but said nothing when he shouldered past the cluster of armed and armored cops guarding the entryway.

"Don't worry," Alexis checked her gear before following her partner in.

Inside was what one would think of from a school full of kids. Posters and art along the hallway walls. Notices and motivational posters here and there. Everyone was gone and they had a few hours. The report said it was a janitor malfunctioning. Ran into the school when it was caught beating a coworker with a broken broom handle. Answered to the name of Scruffy.

It's unfortunate that there was so much ground to cover, but Alexis was confidant enough to split up. They didn't need the hours given to them. As it turned out Scruffy was hiding in the boy's room. Alexis found this out by the shouting Aleph was making. She'd come running in expecting anything \from a mangled Synth held by the scruff of it's neck to Aleph having just cut it to pieces. Instead she saw it attacking Aleph with a pair of chair legs moving with the fluid grace of an experienced fighter.

She whistled, which caught the Synth's attention for a fraction of a moment. That was all the time Aleph needed to reach out with one hand, grab Scruffy by the throat, and twist. This caused the body to fall in a pile where it stood. After he toed it with his foot Aleph motioned for Alexis to come closer.

"Thanks." Alexis nodded and gave Scruffy a closer examination. Standardish build, modeled after an elderly fellow. Broken neck and wild facial expression were non-standard. "I'll go see if anyone else is around. You take laughing boy to the car."

"You sure that's safe?"

"Sure," Aleph helped her get a better hold on the deactivated janitor. "Severed connection. no signals gong from brain to body."

"Yea, but what about you?"

He snorted. "Keep in touch." As it turned out Scruffy was alone and the drive back uneventful. still, another deactivated Synth meant more paperwork in addition to the stuff from the prior call they hadn't yet finished with.

Last call of the day involved a large construction machine. It sat hunkered down looking as sad as a twelve foot tall armored lifting unit possibly could. "I'm sorry to trouble you officers." Polite voice and docile mannerisms.

"It's no trouble Mister Sapphire. Your call said your off-hours shell went missing." The giant nodded slowly, almost on the verge of tears if the crude face it wore was anything to go by. "Can you walk us through the specifics?"

"Well I'd first noticed it was missing during mid-day break when I wanted to go home, check on my cat. Thought a couple friends of mine took it as a joke. Nobody's owned up to it, which is weird since usually they'll fess up. I put it out of mind after break was over, thought maybe I'd just misplaced it or the cleaners took it, forgot to leave a note this time."

"But that's not the case?" Alexis was curious now. She'd have assumed if someone were going to steal an unattended shell it would be the obviously heavy armored and heavily muscled worker-shell instead of the relatively human-comparable shell that had gone missing.

Sapphire shook his head, "No ma'am. Everyone pitched in to look around, make calls. Frank offered to let me borrow a loaner until this gets sorted out."

"That's good to hear. We'll do some looking for ourselves if you don't mind."

"Oh not at all. Please. Just... lemme get changed first alright? Probably would make you feel a little easier if there wasn't some twelve foot tall walking wall following you around." Sapphire laughed a little. "Probably why Frank called you guys, afraid somebody'd take things wrong if they saw me on the way to his place wearing this. I mean c'mon... subtle it ain't."

"Amen to that." Alexis decided she liked the man. "My partner's calling Theft in right now to go over everything here, interviews, and such. When he's dun we'll walk you home and make sure this shell gets back here."

"Sounds good to me." Sapphire sounded genuinely pleased.

"Well that was a refreshing change of pace." Aleph was relieved to find that as their last call of the day. One might think it strange that they only have a handful of runs to make, but there's more paperwork plus interviews and investigations on their already established workload.

Alexis nodded, "Poor guy. why not just go with a dedicated non-sentient construction unit?"

"Because," Aleph's tone had a slight lecturing edge to it, "even though construction is generally predictable it takes the sort of intelligence and mental flexibility a self aware mind has to deal with the inevitable snarls and hiccups."

"But what about all those sites that are completely built by machines. Y'know, that big island off the Australian coast. the new Tesla campus. They don't have thinking minds involved except as overseers."

"Well while you're at it why not ask why a house-cleaner would include self-awareness. Especially if it gives her the ability to be bored, or unproductive if working conditions aren't what she likes." Aleph shrugged. "You want me to swing by somewhere so you can grab some food?"

"Nah. I'll eat later. What's first on our list of Wonderful Things," She eyerolled, "when we get in?"

"Reviewing preliminary evidence on the Robertson case." Alexis winced at these words. "The maid's being patched up and they've got a robopsychologist in talking to her."

"What do you think?"

Aleph glanced at his partner and shrugged.

"No, really. your file says you've been active with the department for a couple years. you've had to have seen stuff like this before. How do you think it's going to turn out for her?"

Silence for the rest of the ride. At first Alexis seemed to want to speak, but then realization of what her partner's quiet meant made her settle, thoughts turning to how unfair the whole situation seemed.

We'll skip the boring paperwork and debriefings and whatnot. Exciting for the characters perhaps, but to us it's just the part of business that is an unavoidable bit that would drag things out if focused on too long. In summary though the Janitor was 'retired', after all he'd beaten somebody nearly to death for no apparent reason and he was transferred over to forensics to see if anything odd turned up. The maid, sadly, had to deal with Human-Rights for Humans types while being transferred, and unless someone took custody and responsibility her status reverted to ward of her parent company... who would likely reuse what parts they could for after-market repairs and recycle the rest instead of dealing with the lengthy and costly process of rehabilitating a physically and psychologically damaged synth.

After their shift ended Alexis went to see her. While she had gotten strange looks she was allowed through with little trouble. Once safely suited up and through the airlock into the clean room she saw the woman lain out on a table being worked on by a pair of white suited technicians.

"Oh...." She looked down at the apparently unconscious woman. "I'm sorry, when do you think she'll be awake?"

One of the techs glanced over at her before returning to the work of rebuilding the woman's face. "Likely tomorrow before we try realspace contact. We've got her mind hooked in for electronica if it's important. Doctor Calvin left orders for her to not be disturbed till she's had more time to heal.

Click. Wirrr. Alexis's eyes narrowed. "Doctor Calvin. As in the Calvin?"

Headshake from the other tech, who never bothered looking up from the remote manipulators he was using, "Nah. Same family. Grand-Niece or something I think. Knows her stuff though so no offense but if it can wait, please go."

Crestfallen, Alexis started to go. "If she's active before I get back mind letting her know I asked after her?"

"Sure, sure."

When she stripped the clean suit off Aleph was waiting on her. "Don't worry. These guys're good. They'll take care of her." Concern clearly visible on his face.

"I know. It's just," Alexis shook her head and gestured, "It hurts we're stuck picking up the pieces and if someone doesn't take her in she's still going to get Retired. how can they throw someone's life away like that?"

Aleph shrugged, "I try not to think about it too much. Afraid of what I'd do if I did. Go home, get some rest. My line's open whenever if you need a shoulder."

"What about you?"

"What about me?" He paused at this.

"Don't you have a home, or do they keep you in a little cubby here at the station?"

This got a chuckle out of Aleph. "Nah, home, neighbor's mutt comes by every now and then. Cards on Thursdays. Few department scheduled things on off hours. Not much but eh."

"Regular social butterfly." Alexis smiled before heading to her bike.

Later that night, after she'd gotten home and cleaned up, Alexis looked in her bathroom mirror and stared at herself as the day's pressures and perils tumbled 'round in her head. "Why did i ever agree to this?"

"Miss." Oldstyle mechanical looking synth knocked against the bathroom door softly. "If I may?"

"Yes," Alexis fought to recompose herself, not wanting to appear too emotional. "What is it Sam?

The Synth's eyes dimmed for a moment, it's approximation of blinking. "You told me when you first enlisted that you knew there were dark and cruel people out there, and you wanted to put them away so they wouldn't hurt the rest of the world. Do you remember this?"

Small nod. "I do."

"You remember when you were told how traumatic it could be for you?"

Another nod. "Yea, s'why mom didn't want me joining."

"you're doing a good thing, and while I'm outmoded and my emotions a crude approximation of yours I'm grateful you transferred."

"Thanks Sam." Alexis turned from the mirror and lightly touched the smooth top of Sam's head and patted it. "I needed that."

Next morning she was called in to interview the maid, let's call her Chell even though she never officially had a name. She was seated on one side of a metal table fidgeting with a pack of cards. When Alexis entered she smiled. It might have been an honest smile except it didn't touch her eyes.

"Hello Officer Murry." Cheerful voice clashing with pain filled eyes. "I was told you came to check on me last night. Your concern is appreciated."

Alexis looked about, not quite sure how to handle her confusion at how to react. "Uh.. I wasn't told your name. Do you have one?"

Chell's head shook. "Mister Robertson never gave me one. Said only humans deserved names." Matter of fact voice wit ha slight bit of upbeat cheer. "Doctor Calvin had that same expression when I told her this as well. Is this not normal between an owned Synth and its human owner?"

Alexis's mind flashed through Sam, Trixie, and the different Synths she and her friends had grown up with. "No. It isn't normal at all."

"Are you alright?" Concerned voice, an emotion that her eyes matched.

"No," Alexis smiled and touched Chell's hand. "I'm fine. I was just thinking about the synths I've grown up around. They weren't nearly as human-like as you, but they were always there."

"I see." Disappointment, more pain. Soft voice, sad. "Then he didn't love me."

The interview got more emotional from there. Details were discussed that made Alexis want to raise Chell's owner from the dead just to kill him again. By the time everything was lain out in the open Chell had started edging away from her.

"Easy there." Aleph touched her shoulder. "Chief wants us in forensics." He smiled at Chell. "I'm sorry but we have to go now."

"Oh that's quite alright." Vacant eyes and an empty smile. "Your network here has a wonderful book collection."

"So you're saying she had a virus?" Alexis was somewhere between angry and RAGE by this point.

Ping, the slender tech now stoically bearing the brunt of Alexis's glare o doom shook his head. "Well we haven't found the actual virus, but comparing the mind map we got off her against factory defaults suggests several major abnormalities and deficiencies where her emotional processing and critical analysis sub-sectors were which." He frowned, "OK fine, short version? She had almost no control of her emotions when the initial attack happened and the lockouts that normally prevents strict defense from becoming deadly were so weak they might as well not have been there. This was made worse because she apparently had a massive amount of emotional investment in her owner."

"Wha?" Blank stare from both Aleph and Alexis.

"She was a time bomb and the attack made her go boom."

"Ah." Aleph was the first one to recover. "So this means... what for us?"

"Unless she gets taken in or impounded as evidence there's not a snowflake's chance on the surface of the sun they'll keep her intact." Ping held up a finger for silence before tapping several long and unintelligible strings into his keyboard. Several lights around the room suddenly blinked twice. "Ah there we go. Can't do that long. So I've got a friend of a friend who might be able to find her a home."

Comprehension dawned on Alexis, "Oooo throw her out with the garbage and have somebody unwrap her once she's declared retired?" She grinned. "What about the chain of evidence? If we don't have the body then someone's going to ask questions."

"Oh you let me worry about that. I just wanted to let you know she'll be in good hands."

Thousands of thoughts swept through Aleph's mind before he spoke. "You just said she's an emotional bomb and her one deep tie ended up turning on her. Are you sure this is safe?"

Ping grinned, "About as sure as I am of you thinking you've got a hot hand whenever you flip your bangs. Don't worry. Good family, new identity papers."

The lights blinked again. Ping's manner became far more professional. "I still can't rule out Virus. It could have been one of the many things done to her, could've been caused by a dissonance between her emotion simulation and self preservation imperatives going squirrelly. Found something similar on the janitor you brought in. Possible causes other than a deliberate hatchet job aren't as easy to pick apart."

The look on Aleph's face said all that needed to be said. Alexis, however, added her own words. "Virus, are we talking Turing?"

Ping's skin paled and his eyes contracted. "Tesla and Edison forbid.... Humanists with an agenda are bad enough. Cross-contamination with a military model..." He suddenly turned away from both of them and hunched over his computer, typing rapidly.

"What?" Alexis exchanged confused glances with her partner.

Ping motioned for quiet, made another motion which caused symphonic music to cue up through the room. "Think I'm on to something here." He fidgeted as he worked then, at some point later when his audience was about to walk out on him he hit one last key which caused a nearby printer to rattle to life.

Aleph scanned the pages as they were printed. "So, this manufacturing plant was a conversion from the last war huh?"

Alexis gave a fierce wolfish smile. "Lets go boot a little corporate head in."ed, and started in on one of my other stories.

"I"m sorry ma'am no visitors." Receptionist was dull and lifeless. Alexis looked at her evenly while trying to decide if she was human or not.

Aleph frowned. "We're just here looking for a little more information on a house service unit that was built here. In and out twenty minutes and we're gone."

"I'm sorry Sir," The receptionist-Drone began before noting the way Alexis held himself and the rectangular piece of fake leather pulled from her back pocket now held out level with her face.

It should be noted neither officer was in uniform at that moment. Alexis smiled tightly as she cracked the leather just far enough to get her finger wedged in. "I am a duly appointed officer of the city of Beth. As of right now we are not officially here ma'am."

A look of horror was frozen on the receptionist's face.

"The moment I open this and show you my badge that changes. My partner calls for backup. Forensics teams get brought in to go over your equipment. You and everyone else here are questioned."

"You can't do that. Not without a warrant."

Alexis tilted her way this way and that. "I have a dead man who had been brutalizing his maid. Judge takes one look at her smashed in face how long do you think it will be before word gets out you condone beating machines that look more than a little like people?" She wobbled her other hand this way and that. "Oh sure we could run into somebody that dislikes synths on principle, but do you think women's rights groups will miss a chance at grabbing a headline or three about beating synths leading into spousal abuse?"

The woman made no more moves to block their progress.

"Thank you for your cooperation." Alexis smiled at her as they walked past.

Once out of ear-shot Aleph gently nudged her with his elbow. "You were feeding her a line and you know it. We don't operate that way."

"We need answers, not get given a runaround. I'd rather see if an official nosing about would net us anything before wasting everyone else's time on this."

Aleph grunted. "You don't trust anyone outside of our people for this?" In his mind that seemed the only reason his partner, fresh and not exposed to the inter-departmental friction he suffered through.

"Not particularly no. I've seen and done enough to know we'll get treated politely, but get given a runaround." They were thankfully nowhere near the assembly area. Offices plain and ordinary lined the hall they walked. "I know it's really not a great idea, and anything we find now isn't admissible, but I want as little whitewash as possible."

Another grunt from her partner. Arguably he could record the whole thing in non-violate memory and it would be under the same legality as bringing a camera into an area. However video evidence clearly showing crimes have been thrown out in the past. He weighed his options and considered the idea of an informal talk with a few different people would probably be helpful. "So. How do you want to play this?"

They were in front of a door marking it as belonging to operations manager. "I dunno. Good cop bad cop is traditional, but it'd get our man antagonistic. Try asking nicely?"

"I can do that." He knocked.

"Minute." Muffled voice on the other side of the door. "With you in a minute Officers."

Both exchanged slightly worried glances.

Door opened. Black haired rail thin man looked down at them. "I understand you're here about Mr. Robertson's maid?"

Aleph nodded but said nothing.

"Then you're aware of the irregularities we found during her last checkup?" Kind voice. Tired, but kind.

"I... wasn't aware you knew."

The man growled, "Not like it did me much good. Complained, tried to halt production. Sent complaints through official channels. Nothing. Threatened to fire me if i went to watchdog groups."

Both officers looked at each other then at the man they were hoping to question. Aleph then spoke. "Sir, we are here unofficially at the moment as our department's mostly tied up with a body snatching ring from Nippon and did not want to draw manpower away on what could have been nothing. If you would be willing to come forward..." He trailed off, hoping the man eh was talking to would get the idea.

"I can't." The man looked about.


"Can't!" Doorslam.

It wasn't until both walked out that Alexis started speaking. "Soo... knew we were there. Knew why we were there. Knows something's going on. If it were all recorded and his bosses were watching he's already strangled himself."

"Point, but maybe since he cut things off they won't bother him." Alexis's frown deepend as she started filling out different forms via her phone. "Give them notice we're coming in the morning?"

"Well since it's likely they already know I can't see what else it could hurt. If they're going to hide something they'll already be scrambling to get it done."

"All available units. Code 409 in progress. Backup requested."

"Acknowledged Central."

Alexis grinned in spite of herself. "Finally. Something we can do something about."

Small two story office was where the disturbance was called in at. When Aleph and Alexis pulled in they saw lots of flashing lights, lots of guns drawn, Cameras, and a whole lot of nothing hinting at anything more than a crowd control problem.

Aleph scowled at the scene and looked to Alexis. "You handle the crowd. I'll go see what all the fuss is over."

"Right. Saddle me with the hard stuff."

They got out and found themselves mobbed by media taking pictures, asking for their opinions and it was almost enough to get both of them angry. After about a minute Aleph grabbed the nearest person in uniform. "Who's in charge here? i want to know who's head I need to stomp in for letting the clowns in."

The man looked back, too terrified to speak.

Alexis gently pulled Aleph's hand away and wrapped an arm 'round the man's shoulder. "C'mon. Partner's had a bad day." In a stage whisper she added, "I think he's due for a recharge." She noted Aleph's grin before watching him disappear into the building. "Now that big bad robo-cop's gone how about we find your boss and see what's going on k?"

Meanwhile Aleph was cautiously padding through half finished hallways looking for what the report labeled as 'a highly erratic and unstable construction drone.' Frustrated with what was likely an exaggerated claim he rapped a knuckle against one of the walls. "Hello, anyone up here?"

A brick flying at his face caused him to quick-draw. Object deflection came easy for him. The first time anyway. More bricks, tools, and other loose bric-a-brak got thrown at him.

"Hey!" Sure none of it would've penetrated his armor but, as Aleph found out, getting pelted even by nonlethal but still heavy objects is painful. "Stop that I just want to talk!"

Another brick aimed at his head was the only answer he got.

"You wanna play that way then? Fine." Aleph had by this point gotten close enough to see a dark outline of somebody more or less human looking duck into a stairwell leading down.

With a sigh and a glance skyward he put a call in to his partner. "Get in here. We've got a runner." With a single chirp as an acknowledgment he switched to a general frequency, one used by the rest of the on-scene officers. "I need everyone not in uniform away from this building. Suspect is headed underground. Somebody get me the building's blueprints. I want ot know if there's a maintenance tunnel he could be headed for."

Alexis had to fight down the urge to sprint after her partner when the cal came for her to go in. It was a powerful impulse, what with the idea she might be saving his tinker-toy hide and or the possibility she might do more than public relations. What helped her keep brewhathing even and movements methodical as she moved through the near light-less building was that if she wasn't careful she'd be used as a human shield.

Ordinarily she'd flip a flashlight on and have a look around, but her suit had light amplification and if she wanted she could switch to infra-red. This was important since even though synths were non-living they had an internal energy source and moved, so would be warmer than their surroundings. Plus, unlike what bollywood liked to portray, synths had a radically different heat-pattern compared to a human.

TL;DR Alexis could spot this runner even if he tried hiding in a crowd of people.

She hadn't radioed her partner except for a brief acknowledgement chirp. No need in tipping any listening ears on what they were doing. Then again, she mused as she glanced about yet another empty room, police in riot gear waving weapons around. Not friendly approachable at all.

"Hey!" She called out when she found a stairwell and, with a grimace, debris on the floor. "Anyone here?" She thumbed her transmitter on. "Aleph what's your position?"

Static, something something. Nothing. More static.

Alexis frowned before switching to the general-use frequency the cops outside were likely monitoring. "Be advised. Lost contact with my partner. Proceeding under assumption of hostile suspect."

"Understood." Calm voice, sounded like one of the people outside rather than dispatch. "Any further actions you want from us?"

What she wanted was about twenty people in full riot gear using their stompy boots to turn whoever was out there gooy. Insteadd she shook her head. "Relay my situation and call for backup. Other than that just do what you've been doing."

"Keep in touch."

Alexis clicked her radio back to Aleph's frequency under the idea that the more she heard from it the closer she was.

"I'm not going back!" Words screamed from the other end of the hallway Alexis had just entered. Contrary to Aeph's last transmission there hadn't seemed to be any sign of anybody headed underground. They were, after all, on the third floor and-

Quick. Something thrown at her head.

She'd already moved out of the object's arc as soon as it was thrown and fired two rounds in the suspect's general direction in an attempt to keep his head down. "Don't make this any uglier than it has to be!"

Sound of something scraping against the floor. "I said I'm not going back!" She heard a snap-hiss. Before she realized what she was doing Aleis drew her own weapon and charged at the man.

Blade met blade there. Alexis's assessment of her opponent went from 'punk' to 'threat' in the space of several heartbeats as he showed at least as much skill as most of the people she's sparred against. Was he alone? Was he just trying to keep her distracted till a partner could shoot her in the back?

"Go back where?" She sidestepped a head-cut and stepped back a pace. For the moment she was letting the man take the offensive, see if he was using any obvious patterns she could exploit. She saw it. Same sort of flourish and twist the non-sentient practice drones used. Granted seeing was different than coming up with an effective counter.

Her attacker cocked his head. "They didn't send you?" Her attacker's voice was a bare whisper when he was run through. His weapon clattered to the floor, safety mechanisms causing the energy blade to wink out.

Only then did Alexis realize the shell she had been fighting matched the one that was reported stolen. She swore under her breath but checked to see how bad the damage was and found that the primary core was unharmed.

Of course that was all fine and important since it meant forensics might be able to tell if this was related to a thought-to-have-been closed down body snatching ring, but her partner was still missing.


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