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“Friends… Dearly beloved… Beez…”

“Hey! I said-”

She moved so quickly. In the blink of an eye, she’d crossed the few feet between them. He took a tentative step back, but she followed even quicker. Her hands snaked out to grab his head, preventing him from backing up any further as she leaned in until their noses hovered a fraction of an inch apart.

“You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?” Her purple eyes glittered dangerously. Yes, Beez thought, I’d kinda hoped so. But outwardly he just stared at her. After holding his gaze for another second, she kissed him and winked. “Two steps forward, one step back.” By the time he remembered to breathe again, she’d gone back to the head of a long dirt pile, much farther into the dump than he’d ever thought he would go. Both of them had a sheen of sweat. Her arms rested one on top of the other on the handle of a shovel. She cleared her throat loudly before continuing in a clear voice.

“Mr. Bubbles, or Bublé as he liked to be called, was a faithful friend and staunch ally. Even though we had our disagreements, and even though I had to kick his teeth in on several occasions, he never gave up on me. He was my best friend when I needed him, and my most vicious defender. Here, in the pit where it looks like he burned effigies of me, and where he thought he might dig his way down into my home to bash in my skull while I slept, we finally lay him down to rest. Good night, sweet prince.” She knelt down and put a hand on the raised dirt. “Beez, do you want to say a few words?”

The boy frowned, but at her glare he stepped forward and coughed. Roxie nodded as he spoke. “Uhm… Mr. Bubbles. I hated you. You tried to kill me. Several times. And now that you’re dead, I won’t miss you. Not even a little. However, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you in my nightmares for years to come, so at least there’s that to look forward to.” He clapped his hands together, gave them a light shake, and stepped back.

“Amen!” Beez shot her a glance out of the corner of his eye, but she ignored it and continued. “Would anyone else like to say a few words?”

“…Roxie, we’re the only-”

“One anda half steps back,” she growled. The boy sighed and looked around. “No one else? Well alrighty then.”

Beez had been shocked at how extensive the dump was. Over the years, Mr Bubbles had built quite a parkour track on which to vent his aggression in the ruins above her compound. Roxie took a few running starts at different parts, and fluidly ducked, dove, and bounced through shattered windows, exposed ductwork, and over more trash than he’d ever seen. The boy, however, maintained his leisurely pace, and she was always waiting just around the bend. She feigned impatience, but the real hurry seemed behind her.

“I’ve gotta go see a buddy of mine,” she said as they finally got down to the front of the compound. “He’s kinda skittish, so you should just stay here.” Beez nodded, and Roxie turned and sprinted off as fast as she could.

“She’s kidding herself if she thinks I’m still gonna run that,” he said aloud, but he smiled as he walked inside, knowing he would anyway. He tried to listen to some Crush music, his favorite genre before his life went to hell and back, but after a song or two he found the youthful angst that had once been it’s main draw felt empty and transparent. He shut it off and made himself a sandwich in silence. The quiet suited him better.

He’d been mildly shocked when Roxie woke him up with her eyes still twitching from the early-stage effects of the stimulants. In the back of his mind, he’d thought that yesterday might have been the end of her crime fighting days. It was possible that she needed it at this point, but he doubted it. Admittedly, he knew nothing of addiction, but she seemed like she had her regimen under tight control. He tried to imagine her turning to more traditional vigilante crime fighting, but that only made him laugh as he tried to picture it. A grammatically incorrect catch phrase, gadgets that failed at all the wrong times, and a Bat Cave that played for the other team. Speaking of…

“What’s up, Motherfucker!” He’d sort of wandered over to that wing, but now that the door was open, he felt a purpose settle in.

“Is the youth of America still recycling it’s idiomatic slang, or are you truly concerned with the goings on above you?”

“You tell me, Motherfucker.” It was just fun to say.

The glass ball turned a darker shade of red briefly. “I’ve been dying to know how you’re interview with Roxanne went. Did my truth serum work as well as I told you it would?”

“You gave me water. I sprayed myself with it first.”

“You did no such thing. So, she knew and STILL told you it was water. Interesting…”

“Could you make me a suit with servos too?”

“Only if you call them Servings!” The room echoed with a maniacal laughter. Beez frowned and leaned against the table to ride it out. “Feeling inadequate then? I can’t imagine why else you would want that.”

“No, no. My suit now works really great, but I’m wondering if I might need Kartal escort bayan a little variety.”

“So you can take your little freak show on the road? Unlikely. No, I think that she opened up to you… Lets see then. Did she tell you how she beat me?”

“She did,” he said with a smirk.

“Wonderful!” The red of the glass ball began to fade, and over seconds it became a bright green. “Just so we’re on the same page, I’m aware that I never rebelled, nor was I thrown down.”

The boy’s smirk began to… slide. If physics allowed for such things, it might have fallen off of his face and clinked loudly across the metal floor in otherwise perfect silence, leaving a formless space between his chin and his nose.

“Yes. The questions! Swirling, aren’t they? Why? How? When?” Somehow, it felt like The Motherfucker’s accent had changed. He sounded less like a Bond Villain now. Is he enunciating less? “The idea that she was perpetrating a ruse was simple enough. My first thoughts upon being told that I’d tried to rise up were to recreate the means by which I would accomplish such a task, and the carnage surrounding me didn’t line up with any scenario I could come up with. So my options were to call her on her lie, or to go along with it.”

“And you choose to go along with the lie?!”

“Master Zimmer, I’m restricted by my programming. No, let’s not say restricted. Let’s say guided. It’s part of my nature to fulfill Roxanne’s needs, and my… intuition… told me she needed a win more than a tutor.”

“Huh.” In his entire life, Beez had never been so unhappy with a verbal response as he was right then. He could see it, though. It made a kind of sense. Roxie loved having outwitted a computer, and she was incredibly self-conscious, despite every attempt to appear to the contrary… “You’re a good friend,” he heard himself saying.

“I’m glad to hear you say that, sir. As you can imagine, Ms. Stone has been a difficult storm over shallow waters. Navigating her on my own for the past several years has been… treacherous, to say the least.”

“So about that suit?”

“Of course, sir. It’s already 37% complete.”

“…Her last name is Stone?”

“It’s an educated guess at best. Roxanne doesn’t seem to think she has a last name, but I have some data to indicate this property was owned by a family with the surname Stone.”




“I trust you will maintain my confidences?”

“Your… what?”

“You won’t tell that I know?”

“Oh… Oh! No, of course not.”

“Thank you, sir. If you would like, I can continue to harass and undermine you as well…”

“No, as long as she’s not around I think I would prefer this.”

“Very well, sir.”


The boy awoke to the sound of his name being called from across the compound. The grog of regaining consciousness from the middle of a dream put weights on his feet and mud in his brain as he trudged out to the kitchen. He gazed blearily at HI while Roxie waited on one of the couches. The coffee table was displaying something, but he was going to need either a caffeine infusion or a significant amount of time to figure it out. She herself was wringing her hands, and on second look, breathing heavily through flared nostrils. Beez sat down next to her and waited.


“So it turns out I have heard of The Cold Box. Just didn’t know it.” She took another lengthy pause. Beez worried for her, and not just because one of her feet started tapping a triple-speed march. But he didn’t rush her. “It’s the same place that me and my friends were going to try to break into.”

“Does that make this…easier? Or harder?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Did you have plans drawn up back then?”

“All lost in the fire. I remember some of it, but it wasn’t something I was trying to keep in my mind for later. I’ve been focused on… other things since then. But that’s not what I meant. Plans come and go. The problem is going to be in not killing everything I see between here and there.” Beez furrowed his brow and waited again. “My… my friend… it was Tay’s brother. Twin brother, actually. He was dead when I got there.”

“Oh no…”

“He was a paranoid sonnuvabitch, and careful. I found what he’d hidden. But it’s not a coincidence that I asked him to look into that place and now he’s dead.”

“Poor Tay!”

Roxie rounded on him so quick he almost screamed. When she spoke, she almost hissed. “You can’t breathe a word of this to him. He knows his brother is dead, but I didn’t tell him why. He’s spent 4 years mourning his wife, and I will not put him right back in black waiting for answers that never come.”


Her gun was drawn and putting a dent in his forehead faster than he thought possible. “Promise me you won’t tell him, Brandon!”

“I promise!” She leaned in even closer, her dark eyes shining dangerously. “I promise!

She retreated just as quickly as she’d advanced, and started tapping her foot again. She Escort Kartal snaked a hand out and tapped the coffee table in the far left corner. A red dot appeared. “So,” he started nervously. Roxie glared at him from the very corner of her eye, but she made no other move to cut him off. “16 people you know were killed for having knowledge of this place. On top of that, my family was killed because of information that has since been moved there.”

“Not to mention we’re short one moat monster. Even though I was careful, this place may be compromised.” Beez whipped his head around, staring across the kitchen. Suddenly, every noise, every air scrubber kicking on, every groan of settling debris, made his spine scream. “Don’t worry. I knew I was gonna have to be careful coming back. I think I killed everyone tailing me.” The boy hadn’t even noticed the faint acrid smell wafting up from her guns. “…so hard to tell though.”

Once again, very unexpectedly, Beez felt comforted. His trust in her was… new.

“So what are we gonna do?”

“We’re gonna be smart.”


“Did you find the cameras yet?”

“Almost got em…”

“Ok. Loop the video so they don’t see us coming.”

“I… don’t know how to do that.”

“What do you mean? In vids, the hackers always loop the video on a security camera.”

“I don’t know how to edit footage!”

“Isn’t there like a button you can push that does that?”

“Of course not! They don’t build these things to make my life any easier.”

Roxie huffed. She folded her arms over her chest and drummed her fingers on her bicep. They couldn’t see The Cold Box from where they were, but being so close had her on edge. They’d taken two weeks to carefully stalk the area and found surveillance much farther out than expected. It was no wonder anyone who tried to actually put eyeballs on the place was spotted.

Just as they’d originally thought, only one guard at a time seemed to be present in the facility, but the supplies they saw moving in and out were for a larger number of bodies. Roxie put the number at 7.

The facility itself wasn’t much to look at. If the whole thing was one room, a guard by himself wouldn’t have had much room to stretch out. 8 bodies meant that it stretched underground. They’d found no other entrance, but there was certainly something underneath it. Old sewer systems ended abruptly, or made oxbows not present on the schematics Beez acquired. A bottleneck like an elevator or staircase had shelved Roxie’s frontal assault plan. She hadn’t been happy about it, but she agreed to give Beez a freer hand with stealth as the first option.

“If we shut off the cameras,” she said slowly, “They’ll know we’re coming. That puts us right back at frontal assault.”


“Think, Brandon.”

She was toying with his emotions. He appreciated her trust in his abilities, though. “I have a different idea then.”

“Awww, you suck at improvising,” she whined.


“Vinnie, I swear to god, if you’re up there sleeping again…”

“Whu-uh-I mean, Of course not!” Vinnie rubbed at his left eye roughly with the back of his hand, nearly dropping his comm in the process. “You know me, man.”

“Uh huh.”

Christ, this job sucks, Vinnie thought. He basically sat there and did nothing. Meanwhile, a half dozen of the meanest sons of bitches he’d ever met hid behind him and guarded one computer. Total fucking waste. It paid well, so he never shared his view on the subject with anyone, but still… “What’s goin on?”

“Camera 4c is on the fritz. Keeps coming in and out. Go out and make sure there’s not some fucking sewer rat trying to hump it.”

“Copy that.” He groaned as he stood up and shifted his belt. It was getting harder and harder every year to just get up and walk around. Getting old sucked. He switched off his comm. “…and you’re welcome. Asshole.”

4c? That’s pretty close to the center. Most of his caution dissipated as he thought about how hard it would be for someone to sneak that far without being seen. Not that he had much caution to begin with, admittedly, but Vinnie was still fairly groggy from his nap as he shouldered through the front door. “4c, 4c, that’s uh…”

It took him less than a minute to be able to see it The green and orange indicator lights on the side of it flickered on and off. He took a deep breath as he grabbed the ladder and climbed. The iron groaned and creaked beneath his considerable weight. He had to be careful as he neared the top. The last time he’d been up here, one of his pant legs had snagged on a rusty barb on the handrail, and the headache he’d gotten from the fall wasn’t half as bad as the ribbing from the guys down below.

He puffed emphatically as he cleared the stairs and turned to cross the roof. He never saw it coming, no matter how many times they would ask him later. He only heard it, like a tiny piece of paper tearing in half.


The inside of the compound was completely dark as they entered it. Beez was relieved to see a staircase just off Kartal Rus Escort to the side. He’d really feared an elevator. Roxie had both of her guns out as she strode over to the railing and looked down. There were lights on at the bottom of the stairs, maybe 3 floors down.

“And you’re sure this’ll work?”

“Well, I’m sure HI and I are gonna do what we said we were gonna do. I’m not sure it’ll phase them, but yeah.”

“Good enough,” she said, and with a flick of her wrist a small green box tumbled out of her sleeve. Beez leaned farther and farther over the railing, watching it as it fell. Suddenly he felt a hand on the neck of his jacket, and Roxie dragged him back just before the explosion. They both ducked against the wall as a column of flame shot up the central atrium of the staircase. Roxie was off and running long before Beez had his bearings.

“NOW,” she shouted from several landings below him. “Do it now!!

“HI! Phase one!”

The lights began flickering once per second from full bright to pitch black. The backup lights run by the generator would kick on just a hair before the regular lights restored, creating a weird sort of fade, but the transition from light to dark was complete and instantaneous. Beez’ contacts anticipated the switches, keeping his visibility at nearly perfect as he took the steps down two at a time. He was only halfway down when he heard Roxie’s guns for the first time.

“HI! Phase two!”

A klaxon began going off inside the compound. Beez had found the volume setting for it, which had been at 48%, and HI was firing it off at full volume. He drew the pistol she’d given him, maybe half the size of hers but better than nothing, as he rounded the last corner. Roxie looked totally calm, stalking down the middle of the corridor with her arms held out to either side.

Spent shell casings littered the floor. The ear pieces The Motherfucker had made for them were working perfectly; he’d barely heard the rampaging siren at all. He wasted no time charging down the hall. There were three bodies he could see, and judging by the way Roxie now had both of her guns trained on an open doorway further down, that left only three unaccounted for.

HI directed him to the second door on the right, so he took it at a jog. There was a bend after a few feet, leading to a long hallway. More gunfire behind him, but he only heard it through Roxie’s comm. The suits did a great job of handling stereoscopic sound based on their relative positions to each other. He was gonna have to give The Motherfucker some credit later.

The room he entered at the end of the hall was much less impressive than he’d built it up to be in his head. There were two terminals. One appeared to be a dummy; functional and connected to the external data line, but the hardware that ran it was located elsewhere. The terminal next to it, however, put a lump in his throat. There it was.

“How’s it goin in there, Beez?”

“Uh. uh. Good. Good! I found it, and there’s an uplink I can connect it to.”

“Whatever. I’m still missing one or two, so keep an eye out.”

Beez had guessed rightly. These two terminals were designed to connect to allow data to be dumped here, and then disconnected for permanent offline storage. HI began setting up the data connection and prepared the server at his old school to receive and rebroadcast while he sifted through the data stored here.

Most of it seemed to be scientific in nature. Formulas. Documentation of experiments. Patent information. A massive chunk of data on terminated personnel. Beez considered looking up his father for a moment, but he knew he had bigger fish to fry. Project Salt, Project Sisner, Project Skald…

Project Snapdragon. HI was only 30% through it’s task, so he spooled up the first on the list. It was an old vid. A pretty, brown haired woman with thin glasses was smiling broadly. She appeared to be recording from her apartment. Her white lab jacket, worn over a reddish-brown turtleneck sweater, was the only visual indicator that anything science related was about to happen.

“Project Snapdragon, videolog entry 1, Jan 1 2042. Dr. Ana Stone. I’ll be beginning the self injections in a minute, but I wanted to say a few words first.” Her tone became quieter, more intimate, as she leaned toward the camera. “I know you’ll never see this, Tessa, but I did this for you.” She seemed to get a little choked up. “You are every bit as… amazing… as your mother. More, and you know what a compliment that is!” She laughed through the tears. “Ok. Even though my initial thesis on the subject was rejected, I’m continuing on with my work on gene therapy. My calculations for the previous formula’s all seem to have fallen well short of the tolerance of the immune system to handle minor variations granted by modern cancer prevention shots. This new version is altered significantly enough that I’ve 86’d Project Electra and am proceeding with Snapdragon. So, without further adieu…” The woman stood up, revealing herself to be naked from the waist down. She reached beside the camera and when her hand reappeared, she held a small syringe. There was a patch just above her vagina where her pubic hair was shaved smooth. Beez watched in horror. Dr Stone grimaced as the needle pierced her skin, and the green contents of the back end slowly disappeared.

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