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They haven’t traveled long together, but Sergeant Aleksandra Zaryanova is an easy soldier to read: too proud for sentiment. Too distrusting of any affection not borne through shared hardship. But after she saved their life, Lynx Seventeen will still wait for a better farewell than “Пока”.

“You did not have to escort me,” Aleksandra’s mouth thins, adjusting the heavy weight of the duffel bag over her shoulder. In the quiet offices of the refurbished Benito Juárez International Airport, she and Lynx watch the Russian government officials carry away Aleksandra’s plasma cannon in its secure, reinforced case. Not the standard baggage check-in. “What will you do?” she asks Lynx, “Now our work is complete?”

“I have some leads of my own to follow,” Lynx tilts their head, gauging the merits of subtlety on the tentative middle ground they’ve found. “Other omnics behaving badly.”

That earns her attention. Aleksandra brightens at the prospect of omnic-on-omnic violence. “Do you require assistance?”

Lynx pretends to consider it, a low hum of warmth in their voice synth. “Not from you.”

Her pout is charming, twisting into the scowl Lynx has grown accustomed over the past fortnight. Aleksandra’s green eyes search their face, hesitating, and that does not seem like her at all. “Then… perhaps you can benefit from the help of one of your own? I have heard of a warrior monk. One of the Shambali. Hard to find. Maybe you know him.”

Not for the first time, her resourcefulness is surprising. That Aleksandra would even attempt to help them is noteworthy, but Lynx recovers quickly.

“You think we omnics all know each other?”

Aleksandra stiffens at the rebuff. She rolls her eyes with a snort of disgust, turning on the heavy heel of her boot for the doors, and Lynx's ears twitch in amusement, “Forget my words.”

“His name is Zenyatta,” Lynx calls after her. Aleksandra stops, turning back, raising a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. Lynx respects that she cultivates the neat arch of her brow with the same dedication of her biceps. It is too easy and too enjoyable to tease this proud warrior who fumbles to be sensitive. “Tekhartha Zenyatta. He is another you can trust.”

Aleksandra’s eyes narrow but Lynx catches her concession: the barest incline of her head, the strongest hint of respect she has deigned for them in their time together.

“Thank you,” she says with sincerity. “You have helped me.”

“Thank you,” Lynx returns, for saving my life, for trying to be a decent person, “Until next time, Aleksandra Zaryanova.”

///

“This seems… overkill,” Lyn’s voice glitches as their vision washes with static, and amber warnings gleam in their periphery.

Above them, Zenyatta tilts his head, forehelm bathing Lynx in a soft, teal glow. Tranquil and unaffected as ever beneath the regal poise of his Sanzang disguise. “Overkill… an excess for what is necessary or appropriate. I thought you wished to survive this mission, my friend. While you vocalise, you have resources to spare.”

“It’s easier,” Lynx pushes, more malfunction of voice synth than conscious choice.

Zenyatta sees right through them, fondly teases, “No, it isn’t.”

Two weeks have passed since Lynx and Aleksandra parted ways in Mexico.

Maybe you know him.

'Intimately', Lynx should have said, if just to watch her face warm with the blush of horror, even embarrassment. Or would she have taken it in stride, asking how two robots even achieved such a thing (“What is interface?”, they could hear it even now)? But then, Lynx would have to remind her again of manners.

“I question the wisdom of this plan,” Zenyatta says, even as he draws Lynx’s hips higher in his lap.

Spread on the narrow bed of the Venetian hotel room, Lynx shivers, a minute tremor through the core of their chassis, groaning through the push of Zenyatta's orb against the lips of their valve, the sweet glide of metal warming beneath synthetic flesh, slippery wet with slick.

Hands fisted in the sheets, it’s a struggle to force the words out evenly. “Once it carries my imprint, it will be indistinguishable from the rest of me.”

“Hackers,” Zenyatta admonishes (is he buying it?), warm metal fingers tickling where they stroke and slide between Lynx’s thighs.

Jumpsuit tugged low to their elbows, down to their knees, Lynx wishes they had the foresight to pull it off before Zenyatta twisted it to keep their hands bound back and away. Now it will wrinkle. And Lynx can't reach down to stop their friend's teasing, push that orb inside --

Zenyatta grinds down with the heel of his hand, intricate whorls of steel sliding against Lynx’s anterior sensory node. The feedback makes them writhe, circuits alighting at the sensations. They pant, intake shuddering in gasps of air that pitch to a sharp whine as the orb finally slips, settling halfway and holding their lips wide and gaping to Zenyatta’s appreciative gaze. The monk's free hand curls around Lynx’s knee, holding them open.

“I question, but I do not complain for the view,” Zenyatta says, a smile warming through the soothing resonance of his voice.

“Keep going,” Lynx pleads, hitching on a grunt when Zenyatta curls his hand, a smooth flex of those fine, deadly fingers, and the orb drives in hard. “Ahn!” They lurch upright to brace on their elbows.

It’s bigger than Lynx’s valve is designed to take -- and they weren’t designed for this, but Lynx can almost feel the shift of synthetic flesh relaxing as the orb thrusts deep in slow, slick nudges. Electrical charge races up and down their frame, valve throbbing around the delicious intrusion. Lynx lets their optics offline, sparks dancing in the afterimage as an advisory warning pings and is dismissed before fully forming. They override automated expel commands from their frame, returning open, take, take it ; their body bows, hips rising to Zenyatta’s will, and they groan, falling back on the bed.

“I’ll return it, I promise,” Lynx’s voice clips out.

“That is not necessary, my friend.”

Lynx’s hips jolt when the orb swirls and grinds against a particularly deep nerve cluster. When it begins to pulse, Lynx mewls, hands wrenching free from behind their back.

Zenyatta has definitely abused his instruments on others before.

“Zen… Zenzenzen--” Strong hands catch their wrists, gently easing their death grip on the loose collar of the monk’s clothes to hold their hands out of the way.

“How many processes are you running?” Zenyatta's soft voice lulls them deep within themself to a place that is soothing and ordered chaos of nested command lines.

Decryption running…

Sector defragment rescheduled…

Monaco and Numbani reporting in…

Valve mesh integrity holding….

“Two hundred twelve,” Lynx answers tightly, the feeling so deep, molten warm, each throb rushing through their frame in a shudder, threatening to overpower their sensors. When this is over, Lynx has to study the energy source of those orbs because the way it makes them feel ….

“Can we focus you to less than fifty, I wonder…. “

Lynx’s processor clouds with warnings: internal temperature, charge regulation and amber-hued queries about mesh integrity as the swirling orb within them thrusts (Lynx arches with it, drinks down the feeling) and… swells?

Open comms disconnect, sub processes slam to a halt, and their whole frame lurches with the flare of pleasure, energy rerouting to focus, focus, too much, too--

“Ngh… ah-- ah !” Lynx’s optics online, startled, ears perking as the sensors on their helm instinctively light up, scanning between their legs. “Is it... growing ?”

It takes Zenyatta a moment to answer, dark, unblinking eyes roving their face. “No.”

Lynx’s ears flick at that mischievously innocent tone. “Zen!” Then buckling, weaker, “Zen…. ” It trembles from them like a plea, because that orb is building a rhythm now, picking up the charge of Lynx’s frame and amplifying it with every slick push back and forth within their valve, no resistance, it feels so good, Lynx mews with it, ears flattened against their helm, neck arching, feet planted on the bed, their hips rising into every thrust.

“He may not be so kind,” Zenyatta is warning, his voice distorted through the rising hum of Lynx's processor, gears turning over like a rabbit race in their chest core.

He… he?

Oh, they're talking about the mark now.

“He may not be gentle or patient,” Zenyatta continues, “Be prepared.”

Vents at their shoulders and lower torso shudder with a blast of steam, Lynx can't vocalize. Their reply ripples through their internal comm link. (“You think he would force me?”)

A bloom of warmth pings back from Zenyatta's end of the link, pleased that Lynx opts to use it. Silly sentimentality. (“He may not wish to touch you at all. But if you get close enough, you can deploy the orb, and he won't have to.”)

Lynx's frame curls with a gasp as the orb abruptly withdraws, slow and throbbing, forcing open the valve that had started to tighten closed behind it. Lynx whimpers when it breaches the lips of their entrance, threatening removal.

Their optics online in a blink of static. “What–?”

Zenyatta’s attention is wholly focused between their legs, the bold lines of his Sanzang disguise imperious. He reaches down, thumbs pulling the lips of Lynx’s valve wide for his inspection.

“Humans have interesting designs, don’t they? Is it not curious how we have mimicked our makers, even here…. ”

The pulsing orb spins on a slow, maddening axis against Lynx’s lips, swirling one way, then the other through the tide of wet slick that squelches so loud in the quiet room, Lynx’s fans whirl faster in embarrassment.

As though sensing their discomfort, Zenyatta’s optics tear from their rapt focus to Lynx’s face. A warm hand strokes up the reinforced barrel of Lynx’s bared torso, reaches up to smooth across the helm of their head, soothing the base of restless, twitching ears. They sense fluid smear where Zenyatta touches, but Lynx doesn’t mind, turning their face to nuzzle into that open palm, and humming in pleasure.

“You are beautiful, my friend,” Zenyatta murmurs. That resonant praise so close to their own chassis makes Lynx shudder in pleasure. “And very brave for agreeing to help.”

“I don't think another hacker in the world can harness your Iris,” Lynx says, forcing the words into open air, though they tremble for the effort. “How could I resist?”

Gentle fingers cup their jaw. “I am with you.” That hand curls behind Lynx’s neck, bracing. The one down low leaves Lynx’s knee to close hard around their hip. “That warmth you feel--are you prepared?”

“Yes,” Lynx shudders, already rolling their hips trying to swallow that orb back inside.

“You will feel weak, maybe afraid,” Zenyatta warns them for the tenth time, trying to steer their attention back but Lynx has been briefed. “You must not fight it, do not doubt yourself. Let it move through you. If you can do this, you'll be immune to his common attack.”

“Why can he use this?” Lynx grinds out, squirming with the frustration of pent up charge on the verge of release. They were so close.

“We do not have monopoly on the Iris.” Is that reluctance in Zenyatta's tone?

“I'm warned!” Lynx doesn't mean to snap, but their entire frame is trembling. They lower their voice in apology, slip into pleading too easily. “I'm ready, I can take it, I can--”

Their vision goes dark, sound thinning to a thin whine in their ears.

The moment the shadow of discord washes over them, the entire tier of higher processes shuts down, subcommands grinding to a halt, and Lynx flounders in the sudden sensation of vertigo that grips them. The hush of silence in their own mind is disorienting and they feel cast adrift.

There's something at their back. A vast emptiness gapes open with light tendrils creeping over Lynx's shoulders to swallow them and everything they are, if only they will lean back--

Terror has Lynx scrambling, hands flailing.

A firm grip catches their wrists.

(“It can't hurt you.”)

It doesn't want to hurt Lynx, it wants to delete them from the record.

(“It will not, unless you allow it. It is only the shadow of our own doubts. The void of our being and becoming. You are anchored here, with me.”)

They won't fall.

(“You will not fall,”) Zenyatta's reassurance resonates through them like a rousing charge, lifting the weight of the tendrils on their shoulders.

And then from down below: molten warmth pulses between their thighs. Lynx groans, feeling without seeing, thighs falling open again as that warmth shudders and throbs, reigniting base commands and sparks along their frame as Zenyatta pushes his orb back inside.

He immediately resumes thrusting and Lynx whines, bowed back against the darkness, bared open, valve hungry and wet. Sound is starting to trickle back in - the whir of their fans, the slick, rhythmic sounds of the orb picking up speed, the soft chimes of Zenyatta's remaining orbs pulsing in sympathy.

But those tendrils are still at their back.

(“Discord reduces us, making us vulnerable. Do not give yourself to the void,”) Zenyatta reminds them. (“You are safe. You are powerful. In this moment, you are pleasure. Only pleasure, Lynx. Embrace the dark and neutralize it.”)

They keen, frame tightening as the charge within their valve ripples outwards, golden bliss rushing towards their core.

(“Neutralize it.”)

Mewling, they clamber back, reaching behind them and, at the barest concession, the dark lashes around their frame, surging down the exposed plates of their chassis, and Lynx cries out when those thick tendrils drive in between their thighs, seeking their opposite.

It burns with cold. Discord has weakened Lynx to feel nothing, nothing but this, sensors drowned, overclocking as clusters of nerves are assaulted beneath the push. They are mute as the tendrils coil around each other, squelching in their battle for space as they stretch Lynx almost painfully wide. The moment those tendrils curl around Zenyatta's pulsing orb, they shudder in delight, that golden bliss eclipses to white, and a resonance within Lynx's core pings a perfect, clear and devastating note.

Pulled taut between the thrall of discord and harmony, Lynx almost offlines with the power of their release.

Later, they might remember the weight of hands on their knees holding them open. The whine of their frame, vertebrae complaining at the force of their arch. They will be grateful they deactivated their voice synth, because Zenyatta did not need more recordings of them twisted in rapture, slick pouring from between their thighs, and gaping wide.

When static fades from their vision and color pixelates back into focus, Lynx finds themself arranged in a shallow nest of sheets and pillows.

An instinctive scan of the room registers the friendly signature of Zenyatta on the bed beside them. A soft request is pinging in Lynx's comms.

Lynx sends back a wordless confirmation of receipt, they're fine, and burrows down into the nest of pillows with a tired groan. Between their legs, their valve aches. But their whole frame is weak with satisfaction. They have never, never felt overload like that before.

Do all of the Shambali have to go through that? Lynx wouldn't be surprised if that technique was unique to their friend.

“Did it work?” Lynx asks.

Zenyatta takes one of the orbs from his collar, and Lynx watches it darken to a viscous, rippling purple. He places it in Lynx's hand. A tug of misgiving chimes from a memory, but something else surges forth from Lynx's core: calm, a strange and unfamiliar peace. Time feels like it slows, and Lynx has to check their internal clock but no, it's only an undocumented glitch of perception.

Before their eyes, the orb of discord pales and resolves itself back to an ordinary orb. Idle. Neutral.

Lynx exchanges a ping of smugness with their friend, pleased with Zenyatta's feeling of pride that pulses back at them.

“And the ID?” Zenyatta asks, raising the orb still glistening with slick.

Lynx doesn't even feel embarrassed as they hold Zenyatta's wrist to remain steady for the scan. No foreign objects detected. The orb registers as another extension of themself. “Told you it'd work.” Their ears twitch in pleasure at Zenyatta's soft chuckle. “So, when do we leave?”

///

Three days and one hijacked contract later, Lynx Seventeen is waiting outside the main offices of their mark.

Their senses are wild scanning all the hidden devices and surveillance, security and intelligence programs woven into the fabric of this building. Within their valve, the hidden orb pulses in interest, and Lynx stiffens. Still getting used to that. This entire casino is like a playground for the hacker, and it's a little too easy to get excited.

“Lynx Seventeen?” They turn back to the petite omnic attendant rising to stand behind the security desk.

“Yes?”

They usher Lynx towards the austere heavy doors of oak, inlaid with brass and scan resistant iron. “Monsieur Milien will see you now.”