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Don’t Weep for the Wicked (Book 2)

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Don’t Weep for The Wicked (Book 2)

 

When Hank opened his eyes, he hadn’t been expecting to find another face right before his own. He blinked a few times quickly, thinking that it’d been an odd dream or vision at first, but when the face refused to go away or disappear, he lifted a hand up before it. Suddenly, another hand slammed down roughly over his own, and Hank hissed out in pain.

“Stop that, Endre,” a woman’s gentle voice spoke out softly, “I told you not to harm our guest…”

“Sorry, Mother.”

Hank’s eyes widened upon hearing that soft, effeminate voice. It was the man who’d attacked and abducted them!!

Sitting up quickly, he held a hand over his stomach; the pain hadn’t left him yet. Everything was dizzy, and as his eyes and vision swam, he groaned. His head hurt, too. “Where am I?” he asked as he tried identifying the woman, but he didn’t recognize her…at first…

His eyes were blurry, and everything was so murky. Groaning, he squinted at the woman, but he saw messy shapes, colors, and odd things…

“The hell…” he shook his head, but then felt a hand on his forehead.

“Don’t do that to yourself,” came the woman’s sweet voice, and it was like honey to his ears.

Sighing in defeat, Hank asked, “Where am I?” as his eyes swept around the cloistered room, but he wasn’t able to see anything or anyone he recognized well. Suddenly, he remembered his android friend, and he cried out in a sharp wheeze with wide eyes, “CONNOR!!! Where’s—” a cough had been what interrupted him suddenly, and he plopped down on the small bed he’d been lying down on.

A bed?! Who had placed him there?!

When he glanced up again, he saw the woman, and this time, due to how alert he was and how sharp his senses were, he saw her clearly.

It was the same woman from the injured and now deceased driver’s memories in the microchip!!!

He recognized her immediately, and he gazed at her while she shook her head at the man who was still wearing the dragon mask when he’d abducted Hank and Connor. “I told you,” she hissed at him in an air of disappointment, “that wasn’t Agent Nines.”

The man looked down, as if in shame, “I…I was mistaken then, mother,” he sighed, “please forgive my ignorance.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Hank coughed, clearing his throat as he sat up a little, “what the hell is going on?!”

When neither of the other occupants in the room answered, he pointed at the African American woman, his finger slightly trembling, “You’re… ‘Amanda’?” he couldn’t help but ask it with some doubt painted in the tone of his voice. The African American woman he’d suspected as being ‘Amanda’ was wearing a set of dark robes with the hem hanging down over the floor in a long swoop. The robes themselves were decorated evenly and fancily in gold trims that wove around in strange patterns; some spirals, others in swirls. It made Hank’s head ache and dizzy from staring at it long enough to study it, so he looked back at the man supposedly named ‘Endre’.

Even now, the other man was glaring openly with dark brown eyes at Hank as his mask sat tightly over his face. Hank chuckled, then wished he hadn’t when his ribs hurt, “Nice mask, douche bag.”

Endre stared up at Amanda, and they exchanged shocked glances. In an instant, Endre’s anger got the better of him, and he roared as he withdrew a gun from his coat pocket and aimed it at Hank. Before he could do anything else, however, Amanda stood in his way, and she placed a hand calmly on the nozzle of the gun.

Stopping at once in his tracks, Endre gasped, “Mother, I—”

She shook her head at him, silencing him effectively at once. “Go bring the android named ‘Connor’, please, and have him join us,” she instructed, and the obsequious man bowed his head as he put his gun away. Before he exited the room, however, he gave Hank a foul look. The Lieutenant returned it with one of his own, and then the door clicked shut softly.

Now that he was alone with the woman, Hank peered around and confirmed that this was indeed an odd bedroom of sorts. Old furniture was strewn about messily, and old, ancient Asian artifacts sat piled up on desks, chairs, and tables. The windows had black blinds drawn tightly down, blocking and shielding out the sun. If Hank didn’t know any better, he would’ve assumed that this was done on purpose; this woman named Amanda was hiding…

He was lying down on a rather comfortable bed, and as he stared down at his own body, he found that a bandage binding had been wrapped around his stomach and waist. His shirt was unbuttoned, but he didn’t worry about it as he stared at Amanda. Coughing, he asked again, “You’re Amanda, right?”

Barely managing a nod, she confirmed it.

Great.

“Why did you bring us here?” he asked while trying not to be rude, though all things considering, he considered himself tendentious when faced with strangers.

She sighed, choosing to take a seat on a small chair that was propped up beside the right side of the bed. “I received word from Endre that Agent Nines was seen milling about in the woods with an elderly gentleman,” she explained calmly while folding her hands in her lap, “I thought I was going crazy, because I recalled telling Nines to leave and take the young boy he’d brought along with himself a few days ago…”

Nodding, Hank said, “Gavin…I think his name is Gavin…”

“I met him myself,” she admitted easily, “he’s a charming and interesting young man, to say the least.”

Hank’s jaw fell open, “They were here?!” Just how much more was this woman hiding?! But was she really hiding? Or was she going out of her way to expiate some previous wrongdoing?

Hank didn’t know, but he was already gathering evidence in his mind slowly.

Amanda hummed, “Yes, but they didn’t remain here for too long…they were in a hurry.”

Trying to sit up, Hank winced and exclaimed, “I’m Lieutenant Hank Anderson! I used to work for the Detroit Police Department,” he then winced, knowing how badly this all sounded, and he tossed her an apologetic look, “I mean…I’m not…you’re not under arrest or being investigated, ma’am,” he nodded, as if he’d already convinced himself of that fact more than he had to convince her, “I’m just workin’ on a weird case that seems to involve this Agent Nines you speak of, and things are gonna get hairy if this kid is involved…”

As they stared at each other in silence, Amanda’s eyes turned sullen and sad. The wrinkles in the corners of her eyes seemed more prominent, suddenly, and she merely said, “I see.”

Wait…how did she know Agent Nines exactly again?!

Due to all the strange events, and perhaps the weird inoculation Endre had given him, Hank wasn’t able to remember all the nitty-gritty details he’d witnessed in the memory left by the deceased driver. When he closed his eyes, the image of Agent Nines standing next to Amanda flashed suddenly, as did a burning house…

Oh yes…the memories hadn’t left him at all.

While Amanda’s eyes searched his slowly and measurably, she seemed to be able to read his mind. “I’m his mother,” she explained, and Hank hadn’t heard her out clearly the first time.

Squinting up at her, he pressed out under duress, “His what?!”

“I’m Agent Nines’ mother,” Amanda reiterated, “for many years, I was in charge of raising humans, and then androids, housing them and sheltering them while my employers trained them for ulterior motives and nefarious purposes.”

Nodding, he hissed his snide remark, “Lady, somehow, I figured that out on my own.”

Amanda merely giggled, “You’re brighter than you appear to be, Lieutenant,” she then wagged a finger at him, “that’s not a good thing.”

Connor had told him this before, and it pissed him off hearing someone else repeat it. Choosing to ignore it, however, he declared, “Look, I need you to tell me exactly what’s going on with this Gavin kid, because if your Agent Nines is holding him against his will or hurting him, then I’ll have you know, I’m going after him with the intent not to stop until one of us is dead, do you hear me?” He couldn’t help but make things personal; he’d lost a son, and he wasn’t going to live on with himself if he sat back and allowed someone else to lose a child.

Pressing a finger on her chin, Amanda looked deep in thought. “I must admit,” she began in a worried tone while frowning, “I admire your stance on upholding the law and protecting citizens, but I’m no longer associating with my employers, and I hold no personal responsibility over what my children are doing.”

“Even if your so-called ‘children’ are brutally slaughtering innocent families and their children?!” Hank couldn’t help but regurgitate out heatedly. His patience was running thin, but it seemed that Amanda didn’t hold any qualms over his emotional outburst.

Sitting back, she crossed her arms over her chest as she purred out, “I wonder who fed you that information, Lieutenant…”

Shaking his head, Hank gruffly barked, “Never mind that for now! Your man…err, Endre,” he coughed out the name painfully, not really fond of the man, “he called Connor ‘Agent Nines’!”

A ghost of a smile hung on Amanda’s face. “He did?”

“What does this have to do with Connor?” Hank asked the million dollar question finally, and Amanda smirked. She looked rather pleasant and held an old-age beauty while smiling, but Hank didn’t trust her just yet.

Staring at the door as if Connor and Endre would come into the room exactly when she’d wanted them to, she pushed out, “Consider it a case of ‘mistaken identity’, if you will…” she leaned back, stretching her feet out before herself, “Endre’s not very strong with his memory lately; you’ll have to forgive him in his older age.”

As if that was any excuse.

Not wanting to comment about his own age, Hank mumbled, “Well, apparently that ‘Agent Nines’ of yours does indeed kinda look like Connor, doesn’t he?”

Amanda held a smile in her eyes. “Yes,” she admitted, “they could be twins.”

Leaning further back into his pillow and the mattress, Hank hissed, “He attacked Connor in the DPD parking garage, and he almost killed me.”

It was a fact that rolled off her shoulders, almost as if Hank told her a random fact about nature or animals. With a tiny smile on her lips she said, “Yes, he is an Agent, after all…”

Hank had enough of the games and ‘pleasantries’. Putting on his ‘Lieutenant voice’, he gave Amanda a very serious look, and demanded, “I want you to let Connor and I go. If you’re really sincere about mistaking Connor for your Agent, then let us go, but I also need you to tell me why an injured man who just recently passed away after crashing his car into a tree handed Connor and I this chip containing all the information about your Agent and organization.”

It was pushier than he’d have liked to say, and he knew he was in no position to be demanding anything from someone who’d saved their lives. But he wanted so very badly to get a leg up on the case, and track down this Agent Nines.

Staring at the door of the room, Amanda crossed one leg over the other and sighed softly, “Not everything you witnessed in that memory was the truth, Lieutenant.”

Laughing dryly, he spat, “No offense, lady, but in my line of work, when you’re faced with a man who’s on the brink of death, let’s just say he ain’t got nothing else to lose except telling the truth.”

A strange glint appeared in Amanda’s eyes, and for a moment, Hank froze when he stared at it. Tapping her finger on her chin lightly, she said, “It appears we’re in the same line of work then, Lieutenant…”

Before Hank could ask more about what that statement implied, the door of the bedroom swung open. When Hank peered up to check who the ‘intruders’ were, he let out a small sigh of relief. “Connor!!!” He’d never been so happy to see the RK800 in his entire life.

Connor walked in with Endre closely behind him, and although he held a cautious facial expression and a yellow LED light spinning almost nervously, he soon smiled upon seeing Hank’s delighted face. “Hank!” he raced to his bedside, leaning down over the Lieutenant as he whispered, “are you okay?”

With an air of childish innocence, Hank chuckled gleefully, “Well, that’s nice of you to ask, Connor,” motioning at his body laid out on the mattress, he replied, “I’m fine. How about you?” Pausing, he glared over at Endre, and then asked in a gruff tone, “did he hurt you?”

Candidly, Connor shook his head, “No! Of course not!” gesturing over towards Amanda, he added, “Amanda’s really nice, Hank, and even Endre apologized to me and said he was mistaken!”

Growling, Hank mumbled, “Somehow, I doubt that guy even knows the meaning of the word ‘apology’…”

While Endre was circumspect about Hank and Connor, Amanda seemed far more relaxed and open. She smiled widely, as if greeting old friends, and chose to ignore the calumny Hank had spoken out against Endre. Finally standing up from her seat, she made her way over towards a small food tray Hank hadn’t even seen, and she wheeled it on its cart by his bedside. “There’s no harm here,” she stated warmly as she gripped the handle of a black teapot and began pouring the warm, steaming liquid into a glass made of china, “this is a shelter and a refuge from all that.”

When she handed Hank the tea, Connor helped him sit up, and the android even fluffed an extra pillow for Hank and slid it between his back and the headboard of the bed. Noticing this, Endre snorted, and Hank resisted the urge to flip him off.

Amanda beamed at Connor, “Take for instance, this android,” once Hank took the teacup from her, she poured one cup of tea for herself slowly, eyes on Connor the entire time. “He cares for you a great deal; I can see this a lot, and this is why I do what I do even today…”

Hank sighed, “Which is?”

“Care for others, of course,” Amanda responded while grabbing a tiny, silver spoon and stirring her tea leaves in with a sugar cube. Her spoon clinked and made tiny noises every time it hit the cup, and Hank stared at Connor for validation.

The android smiled with confidence at him, “It was all an honest mistake, Hank.”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, “she explained that, but why would this Agent Nines be wandering about, and why does that concern you?”

Amanda abruptly stopped mixing her tea, and she stared over at Endre. In spite of being rather querulous, he nodded. Amanda then smiled sadly, took her spoon out of her teacup, and set it down. Staring down into it as if it held all the answers they were looking for, Hank thought she hadn’t heard him at first, or that she was simply choosing to ignore him. When he went to ask her about it again, that was the moment when she gazed up at him, worry and fear etching into her dark, round eyes.

She genuinely looked afraid of someone, or something…

After an age, her whisper of a response finally came.

“It concerns me because Agent Nines could put Gavin in danger, and he himself may not even be aware of it.”

 

@@~~@@xx~~@@

 

Gavin waited silently in the car as instructed when Agent Nines pulled up to a large, looming dark hotel simply called ‘Innz and Outz’. He couldn’t believe they were in such a strange part of town where on one side of the street, the impoverished and disadvantaged were wandering about begging for handouts, and yet on their side, more privileged denizens of Detroit who could definitely spare a buck or two were heading inside the fancy hotel.

Shivering, Gavin felt the cool night air blowing over his feverish skin when Agent Nines rolled down the car windows and let in the fresh air for a moment. He supposed it was time for them to head out, but before he even unbuckled his seat belt, he tossed the android a small scowl. “Why are we here?” he asked lightly, trying to keep his voice down when another car parked next to theirs.

Lowering his voice into a tiny hiss matching that of a serpent’s, he spat clearly, “This looks bizarre, Nines—err…I mean…” shit…what was he supposed to call this thing anyway?! He wasn’t Nines, yet he was

Eyeing the look of confusion weaving its way in his eyes and over his face, the android growled impatiently, “Call me Agent Nines.”

“Right…” he nodded his head curtly and stiffly, wishing he could be anywhere in the world except sitting in the middle of the cold night and in the middle of a jam packed parking lot of a hotel with an android he loved, yet hated…

“But why are we here??” he repeated, emphasizing the last word heavily in the hopes that Agent Nines would finally get the damn hint.

Batting his eyelashes playfully while leaning into him, Agent Nines mewled, “Well, I brought you here for a lovely stay in the ‘newlywed’ suite, Gavin!” he purred on, “I hear the service is fantastic here, and legend has it that if you walk around nude while sucking on a lollipop before the full moon in the newlywed suite, you have a higher chance of turning into a raging fucking annoying son of a bitch more so than you already are right now!”

Eyeing him icily, Gavin snapped, “You’re really a fuckin’ prick.”

While a few people walked around their cars, drove around-trying to find better parking spaces, and others had their smoking breaks by the front doors of the hotel, Agent Nines moved towards the backseat of the car, and he grabbed and then handed Gavin his school bag, and his purchases from the Walgreens earlier that day. “Here,” he tossed them crudely over the top of the vehicle seats towards Gavin, and he caught the bags at the last minute.

As he cradled his items to his chest, he rolled his eyes and asked, “So how the fuck are we going to pay for a night’s stay in this place, hmm?” He hadn’t meant to be so emotionally and slightly dramatic about it, but it came out that way regardless. When Agent Nines stared blankly at him for too long, he painfully ground out, “I’m talkin’ about money, dickwad!! Don’t you remember in the Walgreens?! You didn’t pay for my—”

“Stop being a whiny bitch,” the android hissed out in a retort, “if we spent any money and interacted with her longer, we would’ve run out of time and been caught.”

As if that were a logical enough reason pardoning the events that came after the gruesome incident Gavin didn’t want to recall.

Glaring at him, Gavin snapped, “You made me steal! You made me commit a crime…you ass!”

“Live a little, you Goody-Two-Shoes,” the acerbic android jabbed at him in an annoyed tone.

Throwing his hands in the air, Gavin protested, “I could end up having a criminal record!!”

Shrugging, the android then pointed his nose at the front doors of the hotel, “You can nag and moan about it when we’re inside, okay?” With that said, he opened the driver’s door, exited the car, and marched up towards the front doors, while Gavin cried out in anger as he tumbled out of the vehicle as well.

When he made to run ahead, Agent Nines called out at his back, “Close and lock the car doors first, jackass.”

Shit!!!

Obediently, he turned back around and did that. As he held his items close to his chest, he followed closely behind Agent Nines while he waited for the tall android to go through the revolving doors. The moment Gavin tried making his way through as well, Agent Nines suddenly stopped in his tracks, and when he did, the door behind Gavin was still circling and swinging. It slammed against the youth’s back and ass, and he let out a sharp yelp. Grinning at him while peeking over his shoulder, the android flashed him a cold smile.

“You did that on purpose!” Gavin cried out angrily, but Agent Nines wasn’t listening. He walked over towards the front desk to check in. The concierge was another female android, and as she welcomed and greeted the other guests, Gavin leapt ahead and gripped Agent Nines by the elbow. Hissing against him, he said, “Don’t you dare fuckin’ hurt her!” He was worried that this was going to end up resembling the situation in the Walgreens, but Agent Nines seemed to have other things on his mind.

Wrenching his arm out of Gavin’s reach, he spat back at him, “I’m not as stupid as you are; I won’t do anything to her…yet…”

Before Gavin could lash out, Agent Nines moved on ahead, and he leaned against the desk. “Good evening,” he purred down at her, using a voice that was slightly deeper and richer in tone than usual.

She glanced up at him, pushing her short blonde hair over her shoulders, and tucked a stray strand of it behind an ear. “Good evening, sir! How are you tonight?”

In delight, the tall android answered, “Well, I think my night has turned out a lot better now that I’ve met you…”

As he hung back and listened, Gavin knew what Agent Nines was doing; he was trying to charm and seduce his way in here by engaging the female android in garrulous conversation.

Gross.

For some reason, this pissed the young man right off. He didn’t understand why, but as he waited, he observed the two androids closely.

Agent Nines leaned over her desk, eyeing her provocatively. “I don’t suppose you’d happen to have any free on your hands after your work shift?”

She giggled, “I can’t exactly hand out my hours and schedule to customers and guests, sir!!”

He hummed pleasantly, “Ahh, of course…I do apologize for coming on so strongly, but you’re breathtaking, if I must say…”

Oh for fuck’s sake.

Feeling irritation sweep into his system, Gavin glared and scowled with everything he had, and as he stood back and watched them longer, he suddenly realized why he was so angry and emotionally distraught over this.

It was because he had feelings for Nines, and Agent Nines-who was still Nines-happened to be openly flirting with another person. Apparently, Gavin had some difficulty separating the two entities and personalities. He knew that while Agent Nines looked and behaved differently, he still was Nines at the very core, and Gavin wanted Nines to be flirting with and touching him in the same way he was flirting with and touching the female android’s hand…

……….

Wait!

Why was he doing that?!

Before his very eyes, Agent Nines grabbed the female android’s hand in his own, and he kissed the petite, delicate limb right over her knuckles. She swooned, practically, eyes glazed over with affection and lust. Gavin’s stomach churned over in disgust, and as he fought to look away from the sight, he caught a glimpse of Agent Nines working and weaving a tiny, silver object in between his ring and pinky finger…

“Your scent is absolutely divine…” as he held onto her hand with his own, the object worked its way up along the length of his fingers, inching its way towards her hand. While she beamed brightly and wonderfully at him, Gavin saw Agent Nines grinning at her warmly, and with the smallest motion, he held the object between the tips of his pinky and ring finger.

The female android whispered to him, “I think I may have some time after my shift after all…”

“Oh?” he purred ravenously, “do tell…”

Now, the object had been grasped between his fingers, and as he held onto her hand, he leaned into her, closer and closer…just to distract her…

Gavin gasped in horror and shock when Agent Nines brushed his lips over her right cheek, which caused her to squeal in delight, and her LED light beamed yellow. As he’d done this, the silver object he held was resting over her middle and ring finger. In a split second, the revolving doors opened again, and loud voices echoed in the lobby. When she looked up to greet the new customers, Agent Nines moved to the side, and in a flash, he injected her skin with the object. It had a tiny, sharp point, and her eyes widened for half a second before returning to their normal gaze.

Backing away from her, he grinned a sly grin, “I’ll see you later, my dear.”

She was frozen right up until the newest customers approached her, and then, like magic, she smiled brightly at them and welcomed them.

Gaping still at it all, Gavin felt Agent Nines brush against him, already heading for an elevator. “What the—”

“Keep up,” the android barked softly at him, and Gavin spun around, but he kept staring at the female concierge every once in a while until Agent Nines called down an elevator.

Eyeing Gavin playfully, he barked, “Pick a floor number.”

“Wh-what did you d-do to her?” Gavin asked softly, and then Agent Nines rolled his eyes.

“Ten it is, then.”

When the elevator doors opened, Agent Nines pulled Gavin in with himself, and thankfully, they were the only ones inside the elevator. As they rode it up, Gavin stared intently at the android. Suspicion had already seeped inside his mind and heart. “What did you do to her?”

“I can’t discuss these with you when we’re obviously under surveillance,” the android pointed out, nodding towards a round, dark camera with a tiny, red light blinking on and off as they rode up the elevator. Gavin silenced himself at once, though he slammed his hips against the android in minor retaliation. It didn’t seem to matter a lot to Agent Nines, however, and he straightened his clothes and brushed them off coolly.

Sighing wearily, Gavin waited, counting up the numbers until they reached the tenth floor of the hotel. Soon enough, the elevator doors slid smoothly open, and Gavin once again resumed walking.

However, he’d barely taken a tiny step, when he tripped over something.

Agent Nines chuckled out devilishly as he stuck out his leg to make Gavin stumble over, “Have a nice trip, see you next fall!”

Crying out in shock as his arms shot out in order to make his landing softer somehow, his bags and purchased items came crashing down around him as he rammed himself roughly against the bright red carpet on the tenth-floor hallway.

Groaning in pain once he was able to sit up a little, he massaged his kneecaps and glared up at the sadistic android. “Really man?” he chuckled dryly, “you’re wonderful, thanks for that.”

Agent Nines proudly held his head high, and he huffed as he walked away without another word, leaving Gavin to gather his belongings and tread on after him hurriedly so they could find a room.

While still burning in pain and mortification from his fall, Gavin followed Agent Nines, and the android led them both to a room with the number plaque 1018 written on it.

Assuming this was going to be their room, Gavin waited for Agent Nines to use the same silver object he’d stabbed the female android with. Using it on the door, now, he slid it carefully inside the lock of the door, and in a few seconds, the door gave out a light ‘beep’, a ‘squeak’, and then opened ajar.

Interesting.

Agent Nines motioned inside the room, “Hurry up.”

Not wanting to waste another moment lingering in the halls, Gavin nodded, and he pushed on ahead with questions burning and raging in his mind the entire time.

 

@@~~@@xx~~@@

 

Hank stopped drinking his tea the moment Amanda said to him that a young innocent was in danger. He’d seen nothing but red rage after that, and while gripping his teacup so firmly that Connor though it would shatter, he growled out at Amanda, “Where the hell is Agent Nines?”

It came out more like a statement and a demand, to which she only drank out of her cup before sitting back down on her chair next to his bed. She was too silent for too long, and Hank didn’t take kindly to it. He was growing more and more nervous by the minute, and soon, he couldn’t help but obey the order of his emotions.

“WHERE IS HE?!” he screamed out, and even Endre growled as he glared evenly at Hank.

Amanda looked down at her cup sadly, “Please don’t get yourself too excited, Lieutenant; you’re still not fully healed.”

“I don’t give a shit!” Hank screamed out once again, and he kicked aside the bed sheets as he got up with a mild groan. Yes, he still was in a great amount of pain, but thankfully, he had Connor rush to his aid. He helped his work partner sit on the edge of his bed closer to Amanda, and as Hank panted angrily at her, she merely set her teacup on her lap.

Outside, the birds and wind could be heard even louder than her own breathing, but she still remained completely calm before she said, “There’s something wrong with my son…”

Hank laughed, “Yeah, the guy your son likely stabbed and killed said the same thing!”

When she stared up in confusion at them, Connor intervened. “He left us with this,” holding out his hand before her, the microchip sat in the center of his palm. It shined brightly in the room’s lights, and Amanda studied for a moment before she glanced up at Connor.

“May I?”

He nodded, “Of course.”

Without pause, she grabbed the microchip for herself, and she turned it around before herself. Eyeing it and studying it for a moment in silence, she hummed, then frowned, and set it on her lap. “I’m assuming you’ve both witnessed what this item contains?”

Hank answered, “I mentioned that earlier, Lady.”

Nodding, she turned away from them as Connor elbowed Hank for being mildly rude and displaying highly loutish behavior. He threw his work partner a dirty look in return.

As she spun around in her chair, she whispered to herself, “Damn you, Rat!”

“Huh?” Hank stepped closer to her, flying into ‘interrogation mode’, “Who’s Rat?”

Still not turning towards him, she responded, “A member of the Agency…my employers up until a year ago.” When they were silent, she continued, though she stared off at a wall, “They’re horrible monsters, and I am of the opinion that it was the Agency’s hand that played a significant role in how my son changed!!” Angrily, she whipped around, and she frowned at them, as if they were responsible for this mess in the first place.

Taken aback by her hateful facial expression, Hank’s eyebrows rose to his hairline. “The Agency?? We learned a bit about them on the microchip, but—”

“What you learned was specifically what they wanted you to learn,” Amanda interrupted, and she placed a hand on her left temple, slowly rubbing it back and forth as if massaging away a headache. “The Agency wishes to remain a superpower for as long as possible, and it is estimated that by the year 2045, almost 98% of American households will be under their influence and control.”

Hank shook his head, “Again, how can they do all that? And how?!” he looked at Connor, “with your Agent Nines??”

She frowned again, “Agent Nines is a pawn in this, as am I, as are you, Lieutenant…”

“Pawns?” Connor asked softly, and she turned her eyes up to his.

“Yes,” she answered in a light hiss, “as long as we’re ignorant to what the Agency does, as long as we’re trained to dissimulate, and as long as we turn a blind eye, then we may have a chance of surviving and living…but if not…” she trembled, and pinched the bridge of her nose, now, “…then we’re lost, as Agent Nines now is.”

Stepping up closer to her, Hank gently nudged Connor out of his way. Peering down at her, he gently grabbed her hand, and pried it away from her nose. Now that they were at eye-level and making deep eye contact, he demanded, “You tell me everything about this Agency, and you tell me what they did to Agent Nines.” Before she could say anything, he added, “And no bullshit, got it?”

When she stared at Connor, he nodded as well.

Jaw quivering, she held onto Hank’s hands suddenly. Seizing them in a tighter grip than he thought was possible for a woman as small as her in stature and weight, he gasped, but she yanked him towards herself. There was a troubled, pained expression in her eyes, and Hank saw what looked like tears already forming in her dark brown depths.

With a shaky breath, she pressed out, “They c-create monsters, and they turned my son into one…”

As Hank leaned away from her penetrating gaze, he felt Connor’s hand in the center of his back. Tossing his friend a disgruntled look, he could only remain utterly silent as Amanda sniffled.

Reaching into her pocket, she grabbed a red tissue, and she wiped her eyes quickly with it. “There’s s-something evil in Agent Nines; something that yearns to spill blood over and over again and again…” holding onto the tissue for dear life, she reached out for Hank’s left hand, and clasped it tightly. “You h-have to help him, please,” she begged through her tears, and Hank once again had to look back at Connor.

Whatever he’d been searching for there wasn’t available, and he had to cast Amanda a serious glance. “Where is he?”

A worried look crept into her face, and she asked, “If I tell you, can you promise me that you’ll do whatever you can to help end his suffering?”

Hank gasped upon realizing what she was implying, “You mean kill him?!”

Weeping strongly now, Amanda sobbed and wailed like a baby. “I d-didn’t want it to c-come to this, but if he can’t be stopped, you have to stop the Asura before it consumes Agent Nines completely!!”

Was he hearing things correctly??

“What’s Asura—”

“Do you promise me, Lieutenant?!?” her shrill voice slammed into his ears, and he winced, but nodded ever so slowly.

Placing a hand over the back of hers as he held onto it, he said, “I’ll do whatever’s in my power if it comes to that, but ideally, I’d like to talk to him and figure out what the fuck is going on.”

“I understand, Lieutenant,” she whispered, wiping her eyes still, though she’d calmed down significantly. She nodded at Connor, next, “Please only do it as a last resort, because he’s my son, and I love him no matter what he’s becoming.”

Although it was weird listening to this woman spout on about loving a cold machine, Hank had to erase and wipe away that thought when he felt Connor rubbing his back.

Love…

Love for an android? But how could it be after everything he heard regarding this Agent Nines?? At best, he sounded like the apotheosis of Satan!!

But as he stood there judging, he knew there was genuine solace and comfort in the way Connor soothed his wounds, eased away his stress, listened to his sorrows, and never abandoned him when he needed him the most.

Love of a mother and her child?

No…it was the love between humans and machines.