Okay, so it's been a while, but I'm (somewhat) back again! I'm done with high school (hurrah!), and I've got a relaxing summer with an included trip to New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and San Diego ahead of me. The reason for me not writing so much after school…well, I guess I should just say that I made the big mistake of getting a job. A warehouse job. It leaves me completely exhausted after the day is done, and I spend most of the evening either zoning out or sleeping. In other words, no creative activity whatsoever. Anyway, I think I'm getting a bit revved up on writing now, since I did this in a matter of hours. Who knows, maybe I'll be churning out chapters in a couple of weeks…

In other news, Norway finally legalised gay marriage (hurrah!)

Anyway, here's the latest chapter to Robotics. I hope you'll enjoy it.


If anything, at least they didn't scream. Andy wondered if that was a positive thing or not, especially when he saw how Ken's face had completely frozen solid compared to Tina's, which was rapidly going through dozens of expressions. He dared giving his two friends a smile, but found himself unable to. The muscles, or whatever it was he had in there, weren't moving. And he knew why. He was trying not to scare them. Having someone they had cared for and trusted through thick and thin and deadly injuries suddenly smile when he has just told them that he was not human would seem like a bad idea. Apparently, his logic said so as well, and dictated that the facial muscles were not to move. At all.

"I can't believe it," said Tina suddenly and looked at Andy, her eyes glistening. "I thought…we thought you were…" She didn't seem to be able to word it correctly and settled with giving him a shocked expression and accusing eyes.

"I didn't know myself until…" Andy didn't get any further, for Ken had suddenly stormed out of the room. "Ken!" Andy called and hurried after him, leaving Tina and Silman alone.

Ken had almost reached the front door by the time Andy managed to grab onto one of his sleeves and pulled him back with strength that surprised Ken and made him stop.

"What's wrong with you?" asked Andy, feeling anger – was it really anger, or just something programmed? – rising. "I thought you said that—"

"I thought it all was a joke!" said Ken. "How can you be a robot? How is it possible? They don't feel, they can't fall in love, I…" He backed up to the wall next to the door and sank to the floor, resting his head on his knees.

Andy felt like doing the same, but also felt like punching the living daylights out of his friend. "What about what you said last night?" he asked quietly.

Ken looked up. Andy could see moisture in his eyes, the tears threatening to spill over. "What?"

Andy could feel tears of his own. Am I really that advanced, or is it all bullshit? he asked himself. He crouched down to look Ken directly in the eyes. Tears ran down from Andy's eyes. "You said you couldn't fall in love with anything that's not human…yet you kissed me and told me you loved me. And now you're telling me I can't feel, that I'm not capable of emotion. Then why is it that I felt happier when you kissed me than I've ever felt before?"

Ken looked bitter. "Because you're programmed to. You can't do anything spontaneous, anything that's—"This time it was Andy who cut him off with his lips.

The kiss lasted for several seconds before Andy drew his head back, looking worried at Ken. "If that wasn't spontaneous, then I don't know what is," he finally said. Ken looked angry, making Andy move a bit away, worried that his friend was going to go berserk and tear him apart or something equally cruel and horrible. "Listen, I didn't know what else to—"

He was slammed against the wall behind him. He started to struggle, but quickly found something eagerly touching his lips, begging to be let in. Realising what was going on, Andy smiled inwardly and granted Ken's tongue entrance to his mouth. And there they were, back in the pouring rain in the streets, oblivious to all that went on around them. Andy became faintly aware of a hand that was snaking its way around his chest under his shirt.

A loud cough made them both tear away from each other – but Ken's hand was still under Andy's shirt, causing it to tear. They were both panting and their faces were red of embarrassment. They looked to their left, into the small antechamber, and saw Dr. Silman and Tina standing there. Silman looked indifferent while Tina appeared to be holding back squeals of joy. Andy could imagine her inner self desperately waving around posters saying various raunchy and, quite frankly, inappropriate slogans.

"Gentlemen, as happy as I am about your reconciliation, I highly doubt that you two engaging in intercourse just past my front door would be beneficial to our current predicament," Silman said, doing his best to hide a grin that was trying to form on one side of his mouth.

"Have we located the renegade yet?" said the familiar voice from the chair. The back was turned to him, concealing the person sitting in it. The large panoramic window behind the chair and desk provided a spectacular view of the city, even in the weak morning light. In the distance, across the harbour, a gigantic freighter was coming in to dock, undoubtedly loaded with exotic goods from halfway over the world.

The trench coat-clad man stood in front of the desk, on top of a large monogram on the floor depicting the letters S and C overlapping each other over a circle with two hands shaking, one organic and the other mechanical. He coughed slightly and ran a hand through his dirty, black hair which was getting a bit on the long side in his opinion. "Erm, I'm afraid not. Apparently, the cops got pulled over and gunned down by those…people."

"Those…people?" asked the one in the chair. His voice was trembling, signifying the rage that was growing.

"The same people who have intercepted our shipments and destroyed our research labs over in the states," elaborated trench coat man. "They seem to have established a base of operations here on the islands now. We raided one of them last night, but the key members were already gone by the time we could get into their base. They retaliated by executing the scientists they captured from our labs last month."

A small bang was heard. The sitting man had just punched an armrest in frustration. "Damn them all! They are ruining everything!" He suddenly stood up and walked around the chair, choosing not to swivel it around. He walked over to the man with the trench coat. He was not an impressive man, thin and scrawny with a balding head and small, beady eyes. He barely reached to the other man's chest. He wore a suit that was stuffed with padding to seem a bit more impressive in his physique, but it never fooled anyone. He jabbed the other man in the chest with a sharp and pointy finger. "I want you to find the renegade and bring him here this instant. He is the key to everything. I don't want to see you again until you have succeeded in this. And then I want you to eradicate those damn people impeding our progress. Take the entire police force if you have to!"

Trenchcoat cleared his throat in obvious disagreement. "Isn't that a bit drastic? Taking the whole police force out on a raid of complete destruction might make the general public raise an eyebrow or two…"

"Then have the mayor proclaim some bullshit about liberty or whatever. That's the exact reason why we pay these people to shut up. I don't care how you do it, just do it, Ray!" The suited man walked away from Ray and sat in his chair, indicating that the conversation was over.

Ray stayed for a couple of minutes, just in case the suited man decided to add something to his order, as he had a tendency to do. When three minutes passed and the suited man remained silent, Ray took his cue and left the enormous office. He was always relieved to see the black marble disappear behind the heavy oak doors. He remained outside for a couple of seconds, still dreading to hear the shrieking voice of the suited man calling him back inside. Ray didn't hear anything and walked away, past the automated secretary, past the heavily armed security guards, who he gave a nod and received several back. He'd always had an understanding with those guys.

Across from the entrance to the CEO's office, a large glass elevator stood waiting. He went inside and pressed the button to reach the ground floor, doing his best not to look down. He focused his sight on an office landscape to his left, which teemed with life. Ray both envied them and pitied them. Envied because they didn't place their lives on the line every day for that miserable bastard in his fancy office, and pitied because they would never get to experience the things Ray had, such as his frequent travels across the world, the exciting adventures he went on, willing or not…but then there also was the laying his life on the line thing…

He shook his head and noticed that the elevator had started to move while he was thinking and the office landscape had disappeared from view. Instead, he was treated to the sight of floor after floor whizzing by at great speed. The SyntCorp building was tall, true, but it always amazed Ray at just how high the elevators went. Another thing he hadn't noticed was the thin gentleman that had gotten on the elevator with him. A quick glance at him revealed him to be one of the archive droids, the ones who rarely – if ever – interacted with humans. They were sometimes called up from the archives when someone was having problems accessing the digital library. The physical archive was obsolete these days, with everything transferred to computers, but the former CEO had insisted that there should always be made physical copies of critical information. A wise decision, in Ray's opinion.

The elevator came to a slow halt in the lobby of the SyntCorp building. Unlike most of the upper floors, where activity was constant since the company was too large to be left alone at all times, it was mostly empty save for a receptionist sitting behind a transparent desk, probably made out of the same material as the elevator. She gave Ray a smile as he went past, which he returned although it gave him a bitter taste in his mouth. There was nothing to smile about the job he was going to have to do. What bothered him the most was the fact that he had nothing to start with, nothing to work with. Unless a clue magically appeared in from the skies, he would be unable to do anything.

Suddenly, a faint song started playing from somewhere within Ray's trench coat. He stuck his hand in one of the numerous pockets and fished out his cell phone. He had set the ring tone to play one of the songs that came with the phone. It was by some artist called General BullShit or something he couldn't remember. It really wasn't too bad. He looked at the caller ID and saw that it was one of the people he'd hired to do a bit of a background check on the renegade's creator. He flipped open the phone and put the receiver to his ear.

"Ray," he said with a neutral voice, like he always did when speaking with someone he didn't trust.

"Boss, we've got something for ya," said the voice on the other end. "It's huge, it'll blow the case right open!"

Ray had to suppress a smile. This was the one he'd tricked into believing that Ray was a private detective working on a kidnapping case. Ray had always preferred to use a set of different stories and excuses to feed to those he hired. The P.I. one was his favourite.

"What is it, Richards?" he asked. Richards had been nothing but a small-time criminal when Ray had first met him, but now he was developing into something resembling a true P.I. himself. Ray had to get rid of him if he decided to do a bit of checking up on his employer. But not yet, only when he became a threat.

"The man you're looking for…it turns out he died a few months back, and his son's disappeared into the night, as you'd say…"

"Get to the point, Richards, I already know this," Ray said calmly, with a hint of impatience.

"Well, since his son is gone, perhaps we should go after his brother, then."

Ray almost chuckled. They had already hauled in the Donahue couple. They were awaiting interrogation in an undisclosed location. Of course, Richards had no way of knowing that.

"Good work, Richards. I didn't think of that. You'll make a great detective someday," he said and hung up, not bothering to entertain the underling anymore. Ray was sure that the Donahues knew where the renegade was, but their resistance to the interrogation was proving to be…troublesome to the experts. They were the best bet Ray had to uncovering the renegade's trail. Unless they were able to crack the couple…well, Ray was literally left with empty hands. He climbed into his car, a banged up old 2001-model of some brand he'd never bothered to see what was. He'd just needed discreet transportation at the time.

He put the key in the ignition and turned the engine on and pulled out on the street, almost crashing into a car that had parked on the curb. Ray cursed loudly and finally managed to stabilise the car. "I hate this city," he grumbled. He turned onto one of the main streets and saw that the morning rush was already congesting it. He'd hoped to escape it. He hit his forehead against the steering wheel in frustration. "I hate this world," he grumbled. Realising he would be stuck there for a while, he decided to check out the dossier on the renegade again. The pictures inside made him want to throw the damn thing out of the window. "I hate my job," he grumbled.

To be continued…

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