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Recovery Failed?

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March 15th, 2014 09:13 AM PST

Whale Gulch, California

                Carefully, Rock climbed up on the kitchen counter and inspected the air vent. If he sucked in his gut, he just might be able to squeeze inside and maybe crawl to freedom. But then Rock noticed that the vent wasn’t screwed into the ceiling but welded on. And after a few tentative tugs, he realized that even if he could get leverage, there was no way he could get it off without possibly flooding the whole place.

                He sighed and hopped back down. “Well, so much for Plan G…”

                It had been weeks since Bubble had gone off with Wave to do some ‘maintenance work’, leaving Rock imprisoned deep beneath the ocean. Granted, Bubble’s little home wasn’t really a bad place to stay, but it was still a prison. He’d found that all the phones had been programmed to prevent outgoing calls without a passcode, his cell service was totally blocked, and all attempts to radio out for help never got an answer. Rock had even broken down and tried to hail Bubble directly but only got a response saying he was offline.  

At first, Rock wrote it off being just paranoia but he soon realized that this was probably all part of Bubble’s or (more likely) Wiley’s plan. It would be easy to keep him cut off down here, far from anyone else and maybe… Well, Rock wasn’t sure what Bubble had really been plotting to do to him, but it seemed all too probable his intentions really weren’t as honorable as he claimed. So Rock decided that, instead of just sitting around waiting for whatever nastiness lay in store, he was going to get out and go home. Besides, wasn’t the last piece of good advice Blues ever gave him was to trust no one?

Rock was just trying to think up Plan H when the airlock door creaked open behind him. Blaster at the ready, he whirled around and took aim.

“Hello to you too, asshole,” said another Rock Light with glowing red eyes.

“Uh… Hi?” Rock slowly lowered his arm cannon. “Ummm, who are you?”

“I’m Copy. Now let’s go!” He turned and stormed back out.

Rock followed him down a short hall to what looked like a loading dock. He watched Copy open the hatch to a fish-shaped submersible. When he didn’t climb with Copy, the other robot turned to glare at him.

“What the hell is your damage, shit for processors? Download a brain tumor for breakfast? Get in!”

Rock just stared, cannon still charged. “You seriously want me to get in that thing with you, no questions asked?”

Copy gaped at him in shock. “Are you fucking kidding me?! You’re the most stupidly trusting jackass in the world! What’s with being paranoid now?”

“Well, let’s see… I have spent that last two weeks or so locked up by someone I thought was my friend on the orders of a man who’d happily murder my father and do worse to the rest of my family,” said Rock coldly. “Before that, my first crush asked me out on Valentine’s Day not only to lead me on for his own sick amusement but then revealed he’s merged himself a deranged space monster just to gain more power. Then I get dragged home by my long lost big brother who I kind of was starting to fall in love with.”

Rock paused, laughing coldly. “Then I find out that in reality Blues not only hates me to the point of wanting me dead, but he made it very clear he’s willing to do other, nastier… things to me both before and after I’m dead. And he doesn’t care if I give my consent or not.  Let’s not forget that my other older brothers’ have all been lying to me and my younger siblings for years about who Blues really was, which makes me wonder what else they’ve been keeping from us ‘for our own good’.”  He went silent, staring off in the distance as the words echoed through the docking bay.

Squirming, Copy started to say something but Rock quickly cut him off.

There was a hollow ring to his voice as he continued. “Now, let us add in a government conspiracy involving deranged robot super-soldiers and there are these ultra-powerful new Robot Masters running around trying to kill my baby brother or something. And I can’t do a goddamn thing about it because they are all keeping me in the dark about everything. For my own good, of course. And, as the (ha-ha) cherry on top of this shirt sundae, if I don’t end up getting raped by some lunatic, I’m probably going to die a virgin. Yeah… Pardon the fuck out of me for being a little paranoid.”

“…shit,” Copy muttered as he leaned on the hatch. “You’ve made a pretty good point, asshole. But let’s look things from my perspective: Lard-ass likely ain’t going to be getting back any time soon, so you’re basically trapped. Now, I would be perfectly happily to leave you to starve and rust, but without lard-ass checking in and re-key the codes, the alarms are going to be triggered. And somebody’s eventually going to come looking…  And then they’re going to find you here, alone, unarmed, and unprotected. And while I’d gladly let you get raped, murdered, and raped again, there’s a chance you might escape. This means that I’m going to have a harder time getting laid because they’ll all be too busy chasing after the real Mega Man. And I have needs, fucktard. So it’s in both our best interests for me to help get you the fuck out of here as fast as possible.”

Rock stared at him a few minutes more then he climbed into the sub. “I don’t seem to have any alternatives, but if you try anything…” He held his auxiliary cannon towards Copy.

“Whatever, shithead.” Sealing the hatch, Copy started up the sub and they started out into the open water.



*** Meanwhile, down in the brig…

“That could’ve gone better…” Fire said as he sat back down on the cot. He frowned angrily at the door. “I just can’t understand it! I’ve been comin’ up here for years to see my cousin and they ain’t never asked for no passports ‘fore. And there sure as hell weren’t no damn patrols either.”

“Well, looks like there are now!” Angrily spearing a soggy bit out of the package the Sniper Joe had given him, Stern reluctantly ate it before gagging. “Oh dear god… I think this crap’s expired. Or they’re trying to starve me to death out of sheer revulsion.”

“I think MRE’s are supposed to taste like shit. And look on the bright side, Gil: at least they’re givin’ you fuel. I ain’t had nuthin’ in days…”

“Don’t call me Gil,” he huffed, sitting aside the questionable food as he took a seat beside Fire. After a long silence, Stern asked, “So, what are you going to do?”


“I was asking what you are going to do to get us out of here,” said Stern, begrudging each word. “I mean, we’ve already tried climbing up to the window and neither of can fit in the ducts. So can’t you, I dunno, melt the door or something?”

“I could do that…” Fire said, digging out a nearly empty pack of cigarettes. “Only the convection caused by melting the door would fry yeh like bucket of chicken. Which defeats the purpose of gettin’ both our asses out of here alive.”

“All right, smartass. Then why don’t you just make a little flame? You know, like a blow-torch?”

Fire stared at the door. “Well, that would take care of the fryin’ yer ass problem, but…”

Stern raised an eyebrow at him. “But…?”

“This looks like one of the older doors,” said Fire as he frowned down at the cigarettes sadly. “See, ‘fore Wiley sicced us on the world at large, he had me and my brothers build a good chunk of this here fort. He even had us make this damn prison. And I remember these doors havin’ all these little bolts holdin’ them shut. So while I could cut through all of ‘em, it’d take maybe a month or two… And that’s presumin’ the guards don’t notice nuthin’ funny goin’ on.”

“I see. And I guess cutting through the door is right out  too.”

“Yup.” Fire paused then added softly, “Even if I could pull it off, I’m runnin’ off the last of my reserves as it is. I ain’t got ‘nuff fuel left to even light a cigarette right now…”

 There was a very long pause, then Stern asked, “So what happens when you run out?”

“Of fuel?”

“Yeah. I mean, you’re starving, right?”

Fire nodded. “Yeah, I suppose yeh can put it that way.”

“So does that mean you can die?” said Stern. “I mean, from being denied fuel.”

“Naw. Once I run out, I’d likely slip offline ‘till I get sum fuel back in me.”

“So, you won’t die, just go into a coma?”

“Eh, not exactly…” Fire squirmed a bit. “It’s more like turnin’ off a computer all of a sudden.”

“Don’t cold reboots screw you up or something?”

Fire blinked at him in shock. “Huh?”

“What?” grumbled Stern. “That’s what those little IT boys keep telling me not to do. Just hitting the off button on a computer can do damage, like making you lose data or some crap like that.”

“That just means I might not recall sum things. It ain’t no big deal or nuthin’.”

“What if one of those things you don’t recall are the Asimov Codes?”

“Naw. That shit’s hard-coded.”

“And that means…”

Pulling out a cigarette, Fire let out a deep sigh. “It means if sumbody wanted to get rid of them, they’d have to go and mess ‘round in my source code. And if they ain’t being very, very careful, whoever’s doin’ the deed might end up changin’ or even erasin’ my personality.”

“You mean like what happened to Lalinde’s girl?” asked Stern as he offered Fire a matchbook.

“No…” The match flared as Fire lit his cigarette and took a deep drag. “Dr. Lalinde knew exactly what she was doin’. What I’m talkin’ ‘bout is more like that thing where sum fella puts an…an icepick through their victim’s eye socket  and scrambles up their brains.”

“A lobotomy?” rasped Stern, accepting the last cigarette. “You mean if someone gets to that source code thing, they can lobotomize you? Accidentally?”

“Pretty much.” Fire thought for a minute, then added suddenly, “But to be honest, it ain’t never an accident…”

“But they keep backups, don’t they? I mean, to prevent this kind of thing.”

“That all depends on whether or not yeh’re important enough,” said Fire with a sad smile. “See, AI’s take up a good chunk of hard-drive space even if they’re compressed down in a zip folder. That means it’s pretty damn expensive to store backups ‘cause yeh gotta have at least 3 petabytes per backup stored, ideally several servers worth of ‘em if yeh got the room. And most people just find it’s easier to erase the brain and scrap yer ass for a shiny new robot rather than go through the hassle of storin’ yer mind and givin’ yeh a new body.”

“You’re talking like Dr. Light doesn’t have backups for you. Which isn’t like him, since he’s delusional enough to consider you his kids.”

                 “Funny yeh should say that, Gil… Dad did once have backups for all of us.”

                “So what happened?(And don’t call me Gil.) ”

                Turning a colder smile to him, Fire said softly, “Yeh should know. Y’all were standin’ right there about three years ago when those Turin’ fellas dragged out all the drives out in the yard and destroyed ‘em all.”

                “Hold on!” snapped Stern angrily. Then his expression darkened as he thought back to that day. “They said those where just a bunch of ‘obsolete databanks’ or some crap like that. That little shit Jobsworth told me it was all legal and had been authorized by some big shit or other.  He even fucking stood there in my face and threatened to have my job for daring to ask for the paperwork!  Told me it was over my head and said I’d have to call my superiors if I wanted to see any documents….”

Horror crept into his tone as the full knowledge of what happened dawned on him. “I kept on asking until he gave in and ended up just waving this piece of paper at me… None of us ever got a good look at it but he said it gave him all the authorization he needed. Jobsworth told us that we all had to stand aside, including the sheriff and that kid from the IRS. That dumb kid kicked up a hell of a fuss, but in the end we did what he told us to. We all just to stood there watching while his flunkies were carting off all those papers and computers to analyze them and said they would be given back to Dr. Light when the Turing guys got done with them.”

                “No, they didn’t.” Calmly, Fire said, “Dad spent months askin’ for his research back ‘fore he finally threatened last April to get his lawyers involved...”

                “So what happened?” asked Stern. “Please, tell me he took the bastards to court!”

                “Nope! When he finally got an answer  back, it was a letter sayin’ if he made any attempt to legally get what Turin’ took from him back, they would have Dad jailed, his company seized, and they would destroy all of his robots.  See, after all that Robofluenza shit, they somehow got you guys… Sorry! The government passed some laws that effective let them do whatever the hell they want. Least, that’s what the letter said. Then they turned around and demanded that he pay a yearly fee for ‘maintainin’ unregistered weapons’,  addin’ that we’d be seized if he didn’t comply. Oh, and they made a point of adding that if he complained or spoke to anyone about it, Roll would be seized and put to use as a ‘pleasure service device’ to ‘recoup’ the price of having the rest of us destroyed.”

                “Now wait just one damn minute!” Stern barked. “THERE AREN’T ANY LAWS LIKE THAT! The Robotic Regulatory Act just says you rusty weirdos have to undergo yearly inspection, have your serial numbers documented, and get your paperwork updated.  And Turing has nothing to do with any of that! All the Turing Regulatory Agency is allowed to do is set guidelines on what robots can be programmed to do, administer those stupid tests for research purposes, and making safety recommendations for robot-human interactions. They haven’t got any power to seize property like that! And they sure as hell don’t have the authority to force little girls to prostitute themselves to pay off blackmail!”

                Fire just laughed, then said sleepily, “Well, what hell can we do about it other than pay up and shut up?”

                “You’ve got the letter showing Turing’s extorting money from Dr. Light! Just go to a lawyer and…”

                “And get told to leave on account that I’m a robot. Then watch ‘em drag my baby sister off to be used…” Eyes drooping, Fire finished off his cigarette and snuffed out the butt. “Ain’t nobody gonna give a shit if a robot tries to tell ‘em that Turin’s a bunch of dirty crooks. I won’t forget watching as even the cops stood by and let them rob my dad and threaten my little siblings. Every damn one of yeh humans just look away whenever bad things happen to robots. But if we get angry and try to do sumthin’ ‘bout it, you all just say we’re malfunctionin’ and we’re attackin’ people ‘unprovoked’.  And guess what happens to robots that are ‘violent’ to humans?”

                Staring down at the floor, Stern said quietly, “They’re seized by a SWAT, quickly destroyed and whatever salvageable parts are sent…to…Turing…”

                “And those are the lucky ones,” said Fire. “It’s worse when yeh’re one of these fellas who goes in for their mandatory yearly Turing Test and never comes back out.”

                “I just told you: Turing has no authority to keep robots. That test is complete voluntary and…”

                “No it ain’t!” snapped Fire. “They say yeh don’t have to take it, but ain’t nobody gonna let a robot work no place honest unless they can show the Turin’ Results. And nobody’s gonna let yeh go get any inspections or have  anythin’ else official done ‘cause they have to have that lil’ piece of paper sayin’ yer just a dumb robot!”

“You’re wrong! That stupid test just shows the pencil-pusher  whether or not you rust buckets can pass as human.”

                “And when did yeh take yer test?”

                Stern blinked. “Excuse me?”

                “When did yeh have to take a test to prove if yeh were human, Gil?” slurred Fire, leaning back against the wall. “Well, Gill? Did they require yeh by court order to be tested every year to ‘prove’ yer not a person all cause yeh had got reprogrammed by a lunatic? Did yeh ever wake up  thinkin’ that yeh deserved it?”  He wrapped his arms tightly around himself and continued in an angry voice. “Did yeh have to be warned by yer brothers to lie on it to avoid being labeled ‘Human’? Did yeh have be scared that if the results ever said ‘Yes’, they’d drag yeh into a back room and take the Icepick to yeh?”

                “Icepick? Fire, I don’t think that’s going to do much to a robot…”

                “No. It ain’t that kind of thing… It’s the tool they use when Turing finds out yeh’re human,” sputtered Fire as he curled up and clenched his knees against his chest. “They have yeh taken back to this…this lil’ room with a table. Then they chain yeh down to the table, open yeh up and get out the Icepick…” Fire grinned strangely, eyes going dull unfocused. “It’s not really an icepick, but a kind of soldering iron that’s small enough to get stuck up in yer IC. They rake it back and forth ‘til whatever yeh had that was human ain’t there no more. Then, maybe, if yeh ain’t too damaged, they might let yeh go back home. The fella that took me back was awful proud of how fast he could do the job… I felt a bit bad he couldn’t prove it ‘fore Blues and his lil’ gal showed up.”

                “They. Cannot. Do. That,” snarled Stern, not sure if he was trying to reassure the robot or himself. “They do not have any legal power to do anything outside of regulating robot and human interactions in the workplace. The Turing Tests are only legally allowed to be used to gather information for demographics research. It cannot be used for anything else, especially not barring people from employment! The U.S. government has never and will never give Turing the ability to do anything more than notify the police when their regulations have been violated. Then it’s up to the courts to decide on what happens next. If someone needs to be fined or punished, then it’s the courts place to make that call. Turing cannot lay a hand on you because, as you pointed out, a robot is the private property of either the person who made them, the company they work for…or (under special circumstances) they are owned by themselves. They’d be committing a shit ton of felonies if they did anything to you.”

                “Don’t matter what the law says, Gil. There ain’t nobody gonna listen to a robot’s side of things.”

                “Then why don’t you go to Dr. Light and tell him?”

                Forcing himself to sit upright, Fire sleepily said, “Won’t work. Ain’t nobody gonna listen to a…how’d yeh put it? A delusional old man. See? Ain’t it just so easy for people to stand aside and ignore a crazy fella, Gil? ‘Sides, they’re still holdin’ the threat of killin’ us boys and doin’ worse to Roll. And that’s considerin’ if Dad even believes me…”

                Before Stern could pry further, there was a loud series of thumps as the door was unlocked. A Sniper Joe pushed it opened to allow a few more Sniper Joe’s and a very shapely robot devil in a nice suit to come walking in.

                “Which one of you is…” The devil looked down at her IPad and frowned. “Agent Gilbert Stern, United States  Federal Bureau of Investigation?”

                “And who wants to know?” Stern got to his feet, meeting her gaze defiantly. And then he suddenly found his eyes drawn straight down to the devil’s more… obvious features.

                The devil’s frown only deepened. “I’m Sinistra and my eyes are up here, thank you very much. You are coming with us to see King. He has some documents that are of interest to your government that, Stern.  They include certain papers requested by the Internal Revenue Service of you country and we wish that you personally turn them over to avoid any… incidents. Also, my father wants an explanation as to why you and the pretty boy decided to act as a two man invasion force.”

                “Pretty boy?!” Lurching to his feet, Fire staggered toward the devil. “Excuse me, son, but I ain’t no sissy little pretty boy!”

                Everyone gave him a very long, hard stare.

                “Um, Fire?” Stern coughed and vaguely waved his hand in the devil’s direction. “Sinistra ain’t… I mean, it’s pretty damn obvious… Ah hell, just look at them!

                Fire gave her chest a brief glance, then shrugged. “Well, I suppose they’re nice. Ain’t really my thing, though.”

                The collective stare continued.

                “Look, we really don’t have time for this shit,” grumbled Fire as he groggily grabbed Stern’s arm. “Me and Gil have to go find my baby brother ‘fore one of y’all try to defile him or sumthing.”

He started to march out the door only that have his legs lock up midstride. Stern’s arm slipped out of his grasp as Fire found himself falling down. A low-power warning flickered briefly in his vision as the room went sideways in slow motion. He didn’t even feel the impact before his system went into forced shut down and he finally blacked out.


Somewhere deep within the base…

                Rock followed Copy up through the winding hallways, keeping his blaster at the ready just in case. They hadn’t spoken since he gotten into the sub, which was fine by Rock but he was beginning to feel nervous. He had no reason to trust Copy’s word about getting him out. And, given that the other robot freely admitted he’d happily let the other Robot Masters do whatever they pleased to him, Rock was starting to think Copy might be leading him into a trap.

                “Here we are!” said Copy as they stopped at a bank of teleporters. He pointed to the closest one. “See this? This platform will take you straight to the front gate and right out of my life!”

                Rock stared long and hard at the platform.

                “Well,” rasped Copy. “What the fuck are you waiting for? Leave.”

                Leveling his left arm at Copy, Rock said softly, “You go first.”

                “Are you fucking kidding me?!”

                “You first,” Rock repeated, engaging his blaster.

                A strange expression crossed Copy’s face, a look that mixed anger, confusion, and a childlike pain. With a huff, he stepped onto the platform and teleported out.

                Rock was about to follow when grinning figure stepped out of the shadows and snatched him up in bear hug. Before he could get free, they teleported out and reappeared in what Rock presumed was a room somewhere else in the base. Then he realized that it wasn’t just any kind of room, it was a very luxurious bedroom. Something snapped inside Rock and he bite down as hard as he could on his captor’s arm.

                “Damn it all!” Terra snarled, tossing Rock onto the bed angrily. He inspected the damages with a frown. “You just put dent in my new arm, you little bastard.”

                “Stay away from me!” Leveling his blaster, Rock began charging up a mega-shot.

                This just made the Stardroid roll his eyes. “Will you please put that away? I’m not thrilled about this situation either, but I was ordered to do something about your problem.”

                “Problem? What problem?”

                Terra frowned down at him, taking on a tone of a frustrated teacher. “I am not going to explain until you put that damn thing away. And take off the armor too.”

                Reluctantly, Rock disengaged his blaster as he shifted to civilian clothes and sat up in the bed. “Okay. Will you please tell me why you’ve locked me up in what looks like a honeymoon suite?”

                “Because to get rid of your problem, it will be easier if we both were in the… the mood, so to speak.”

                “This is about that Virgin Alert thing, isn’t it?” grumbled Rock.

                “Oh good! The lard-ass at least managed to get one thing right,” said Terra as he poured out two stiff drinks. “I ordered Orcus to ensure that he either put a spoofer on you or get the fat idiot to have sex with you. It’s a pity he has failed me yet again.”

                “Wait. You sent that stuff down?” asked Rock, warily taking the glass Terra offered him. “I thought it was Shadow Man.”

                “Yes, it was.” When he noticed the skeptical look on Rock’s face, Terra sighed and gulped down his drink. “His name is Orcus. His entire clan have been in my service since the Third Battle of Pinn-kolo.”

                “Pink cola?”

                Terra poured himself another drink. “Pinn-kolo. It’s a planet.”

                “Okay… So Shadow Man—uh, Orcus really works for you, not Wiley?”

                “No. He serves us both.” Terra finished off his drink in another gulp, then poured yet another one. “Orcus comes from a branch of his clan that holds oaths as sacrosanct. They even went so far as to program themselves to suicide rather than knowingly break their oaths. This wouldn’t be such a problem except the idiot went and swore loyalty to the human scum.”

                “If it’s that much of a problem, why haven’t you attacked Wiley?” asked Rock, putting aside his untasted drink. “You guys are perfectly willing to kill innocent people. Why not do Earth and the rest of the Universe a favor and kill a bastard who deserves it.”

                Terra cocked his head, idly considering his glass as he gave the young robot a thin smile. “Well! That’s oddly cold for such kindly little fool like you! You’re sounding too much like Big Brother Dear…”

                Returning his smile with a mirthless grin of his own, Rock said, “What’s wrong with that? I’m his replacement, you know! I’m sure he’d just love to know I’m stupid enough to get raped and broken by group of space monsters. Blues would be so happy to see me suffer…”

                “Actually, no. He would not be pleased.” Giving up on the glass, Terra took the whole bottle with him as he sat down beside Rocks. “That is a man obsessed, you stupid boy. He is determined to have you as his and his alone, damn the consequences. Blues has gone beyond reason to make sure that you’re purity remains intact until he decides to take it. Even a rumor that you might have an interest in another sets him off on a rampage. Just consider what happened to the lard-ass…eh, to Bubble Man.”

                “What happened to Bubble?” asked Rock, guilt and worry clear in his tone.

                “Bubble Man went missing on the 18th, and Wave Man couldn’t locate him or get him on the radio. Roughly three days ago, the searchers finally found the lard-ass in one of the desalination pipes. It seemed that he  got mangled by what we thought was a malfunctioning gate. We initially thought he’d somehow gotten sucked up into the pipe given how severely damaged he was.”

Terra took a deep drink then offered the bottle to Rock. When he politely refused, Terra shrugged and took another drink before he continued.

 “Well, to make a very long story short, once we reattached his tongue and lower jaw, Bubble kindly notified us that he’d had a little…encounter with your brother. Blues was a little…upset when he learned you were Bubble’s guest for an extended period of time. He was also not pleased to learn that Bubble had orders to…*ahem!* help you out  with your problem.”

                “That’s why he never came back?” said Rock as he started to choke up. “Blues almost murdered him over me?”

                “Yes, little pet.” Gently, Terra reached out and stroked Rock’s hair. “Yes it’s all your fault that your brother came and mauled not only Bubble Man but has also been merrily picking off the others as well. Like poor little Spring Man and Stone Man… both innocent bystanders who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But then again, I guess they don’t really count for you since they’re just more bad guys. I normally wouldn’t give a damn about the follies of you sad little fools but I now have eleven reasons to be very upset about this. And let me repeat that this whole situation is entirely your fault.”

                Rock squirmed as he hugged himself tightly. “But I… I don’t know what to do! I have no control over Blues.”

                “Actually, you do.” Terra slowly wrapped an arm around the young robot and pulled him close. “He’s completely fixated on having you, in every sense of the term. And he also wants to be the first… Well, let me say this gives you a lot of leverage over him if you can keep him guessing whether or not you saved yourself for him.”

                “But you just said I had to lose my virginity to stop the signal…” Rock’s eyes widened. “Which Blues is tracking, isn’t he?”

                “What a good little child you are!” Terra sat the empty bottle down and pinched Rock’s cheek. “Yes, he is following that signal. Which brings us to the discussion of your options in how you can fix this problem.”

                “And those are?”

                Pulling Rock onto his lap, Terra smiled broadly. “First: I deflower you right now. Now, this is certainly to quickest, easiest, and surest way to cut off that silly alarm you have. But this also leads to even bigger problems, the biggest being Big Bad Brother Blues coming after me for daring to defile his lil’ bro.”

                “That’s a good point,” muttered Rock as he did his best to squirm out of Terra’s grasp. “But you forgot that I might not want to sleep with you under any circumstances.”

                “Your consent is not required, child,” came the hiss as Terra’s fingers dug painfully into Rock’s shoulder. Then his grip loosened as he purred, “Though you do bring up a good point. I’m not exactly keen on the idea of having sex with you either, so that could cause some…performance difficulties. So let us consider your second option: Installing a spoofer and pretending that I had my wicked way with you. You do still have the one I sent you, don’t you?”

                Drawing the little box out of his shunt-space, Rock showed it to him. “I… I thought about that, but Bubble said they only last a few weeks.”

                “Plenty of time to get you the hell out of my hair!” chirped Terra as he nuzzled the younger robot’s neck.

                “But what if… What if Blues thinks I’ve been with somebody else?”

                Lightly nipping his ear, Terra said in a pleasant tone, “Why should you care? Don’t Wiley and his minions deserve punishment?”

                “No! Nobody deserves to be punished for something that didn’t do! Not even Wiley!” Rock snapped back, wiggling out of Terra clutches only to fall backwards onto the bed. He tried to sit up but Terra climbed on top and pinned him down.

                “Silly, silly boy!” said Terra with sigh. “You have a golden opportunity to gain vengeance against any who’ve wrong you in the past. I sure there are plenty of people that you’ve wanted to hurt. And all you need do is say a name! You can even take this chance to sic Blues on me.” A nasty smile twisted his face as he leaned in closer to Rock. “Or why not get back at Bass and say he raped you?”

                “No! No-no-no!” Angrily, Rock shook his head and tried to push Terra away. “That’s not right!”

                Rolling his eyes, Terra tightened his grip on the young robot. “Oh, don’t lie there and say you don’t want to hurt Bass like he hurt you.”

                “I don’t!” snarled Rock, but he couldn’t hide the guilt on his face.

                “Well, little pet, if you wish to make denials then so be it.” Terra gently kissed Rock’s forehead and said, “But we have to get rid of your little problem as soon as possible. So what’s it going to be? Am I installing the spoofer on you? Or are we going to—”

                A sudden, very insistent banging on the door interrupted them.

                “I told them I wasn’t to be disturbed tonight.” Terra sat up, growling as he went to answer it. He’d barely opened the door before he went reeling backwards, clutching his bleeding eye.

                “Rock!” Dashing over and scooping him up in a bear-hug, Zero nuzzled the smaller robot’s hair. “Are you all right?”

                “I’m fine,” came the muffled reply as Rock debated on enjoying being cuddled or letting Zero know his torso was starting to cave in from the pressure. “And I’m really happy to see you, but I’ve got one question: How did you find me?”

                “I tracked you up here.”

                Rock frowned up at him. “Let me guess, you used that stupid virgin alarm didn’t you?”

                “What alarm?” asked Zero, looking confused. “I followed your scent from the fat bastard’s quarters to here.”

                “Well, isn’t that just…cute,” rasped Terra, holding a hand over his oozing eye socket as he moved towards them. “But I believe it’s time for to put the dog out for the night...You and I have things to discuss.”

                When Zero let him go and started towards Terra, Rock stepped in between them with a little grin. “Yeah, about that…  While I agree that something needs to be done about my…*ahem!* condition, I’m afraid the solutions you’ve offered just won’t cut it, Terra.” His grin broadened as he gently took the eye from Zero and gave it back to the Stardroid. “But I think I’ve found an answer that is fits my needs much, much better. Now why don’t you go put your eyeball back in so Zero and I can have a long talk about some things. Alone. Without any interruptions. ”

                Terra started to argue, then looked at Zero and back to Rock. Frowning in defeated disgust, he said, “The bar’s fully stocked, there’s a rest room behind the panel on the right and for the love of all things holy, please don’t fuck on my desk. There are papers there that I would prefer not to have soiled.”

                Rock’s face flashed bright red as Terra left them to their devices with a pointed click of the lock.

                “Why would we fuck?” asked Zero, draping an arm over Rock’s shoulders.

                “I…It…Eh, it’s something we really need to talk about, Zero. You know…” Rock lightly elbowed his side, causing the blond to hiss in pain. He turned and glanced at the spot in concern. “Are you alright?”

                “It’s fine,” muttered Zero. “Just a little scratch…”

                Rock reached out and carefully pressed his fingers against the spot, drawing out another hiss from Zero. “That doesn’t feel like a scratch. I think I should take a look at it.”

                “But it’s nothing!” whimpered Zero, trying to pull off puppy eyes but only giving Rock a lifeless stare.

                “Don’t argue. Now, take off your armor while I go see if there’s a tool kit in here,” Rock grumbled as he went over to the panel for the rest room. After a few minutes, he managed to find a very well provisioned emergency repair kit. He took it and a towel back with him as he came out of the rest room. “Okay! Looks like we don’t have to worry about… Whoa!”

                Standing by the bed, Zero just shrugged at him. “What? You told me to take off my armor.”

                “…and you are nude. You are very, very nude,” said Rock as he openly stared right at Zero’s groin. He couldn’t help looking him up and down and even further down. It was only on the sixth pass that he noticed the badly applied patch on Zero’s side, and then the other patches in various colors. “Oh my god… What happened to you?”

                Zero stretched with a casual yawn. “Listen, it’s really nothing you should worry about. I’m fine, okay?”

                Rock only glared at him, ignoring the oddly familiar way he posed and grinned. “Lie down on the bed so I can take a look…and don’t argue with me.”

                He waited till Zero, with a huff and a roll of his eyes, had stretched out before going over to examine him. Rock started by pulling off the patch on Zero’s side, frowning when he saw just how nasty the wound was. There was even what looked like a piece of dark metal wedged in it. It took a few minutes of careful probing with a pair of needle-nose pliers before Rock managed to extract the shrapnel, only to realize it was a broken blade with a serrated back. Rock stared at it for a moment, then sit the blade aside to start cleaning out the damaged wires and other debris. He only stopped when he noticed Zero was playing with his hair.

                “Will you quit that?” chided Rock as he brushed his hand away.

                “Why?” he asked, lightly flicking Rock’s earlobe. “You’re very petable.”

                Rock pinned his hand down with a huff. “I’m being serious! I need to finish repairing you before we can start fooling around.”

                “Fooling around?” Zero repeated with a grin and a strange red gleam in his eyes that Rock had never seen before.

                Blushing brightly, Rock wordlessly went back to the task at hand. He’d barely finished smoothing out the polymer patch when he felt Zero’s fingers sliding through his hair. “Zero…”

                “You are finished, right?” His eyes shone even brighter as he stroked Rock’s cheek. “ Now, what was this about fooling around?”

                Rock pulled away and started cleaning up. “Actually, I need to put these tools away and we need to have a little talk.”

                “And then there’ll be fooling around, yes?” panted Zero, eyes shifting to blue but still hungry and eager.

                “That all depends on how well you behave,” Rock said, closing up the toolkit and tried to ignore the large, very obvious display of the blonde’s excitement. “You will behave, won’t you Zero?”

                “Yes sir,” came the happy little purr. “I’ll be very good for you, Rock.”

                Grinning, Rock went into the bathroom and shut the door behind him as he planned his next move.