CHAPTER ONE:

She had to put a hand over her mouth. There was no way around it. What she was staring at was just too funny. The tiny, five foot two inch frame was curled up into about as small a ball as you can imagine infront of a security outlet with the wires sticking out every which way. Working away, with her back to her, was Mackenzie Sumner; she'd know that tiny person anywhere. She should since that woman pulled her out of more burning buildings and crashing planes than she'd like to ever admit. Except that last one, but that one, she didn't count. Mack hadn't been there.

When Mack bounced to shift her weight, that's when the sound escaped from between her fingers. The smaller woman spun around, jumping to her full height. The two assessed each other. Mack wasn't as pleased to see her as she would have hoped, but she'd take what she could get. Before, the smaller woman hadn't exactly been the picture of happiness anyway. She had to break the ice though. "Hiya, Mack." It was accompanied by a little salute.

"Nice to see they didn't strip away your humour, Blaire." Mack turned away from her and back to the wires and computer chips she was tweaking before Blaire had interrupted her.

So, they were still on rocky ground. Blaire should have guessed as much. She came up behind Mack, kneeling down to look over her shoulder. The whole business looked messy and time consuming. "You know," she began which at least got her a glance in her direction, "I could just plug in and-" Her arm was extended toward the computer chips.

Mack grabbed her arm and tossed it away. "Keep your monstrosity away from me. I don't need your cyber technology clouding up my humanity."

Blaire frowned at the woman's less than veiled attempt as a jab. She knew that Mack had never approved of what was done to her. Even Blaire admitted that if she hadn't fallen from that building, hadn't been lying on her death bed, literally, she would have chosen to keep all her human parts, but that wasn't what had happened. Her body had been broken and Blaire had wanted to live and so, she signed her life away on those papers. She got her cyber-prosthetics. It made her the most heavily reconstructed person in history with the entire left side of her body, her right hand, and left side of her face cybernetic, metallic prosthetics. Blaire was aware she wasn't human anymore, but her mind and heart were still there, didn't that count for something? Not to Mack, apparently.

Backing away, Blaire had to admit defeat. Instead, she just watched her struggle to override the systems she could have overridden in seconds. She even had to resist the urge to whistle a tune while she waited. When the lights dimmed for just a second, Mack stood up. "There. Now move."

"No can do, my friend." Blaire was more chipper than she felt. When she'd been given the order to go and bring in the person attempting to break into their facilities, she half expected a man or a group of thieves, not a good friend. Arresting Mack wasn't going to be fun.

Mack's eyes narrowed as she put together the pieces. "Still working for them, I see."

Blaire didn't answer that. It was none of Mack's business who she was working for these days. Her orders had been clear and if Mack wanted to pretend that they'd never been working for the same team, Blaire could do that. All she had to do was take a step forward. "You're breaking into our facilities. Did you think it would go your way? Honestly?"

"I didn't think you'd be the machine to do it." Mack wasn't moving. Her hands were balling into fists.

Blaire didn't even pretend to be worried. Mack could aim for the more human parts of her anatomy and it wouldn't make a difference. They would just cut her open and replace those too. "Don't make me. You know I can bring you in and honestly? I'd prefer it if you were in one piece."

"I'm not going down without a fight."

And Blaire knew that, so when she closed her eyes, she almost predicted where the first punch was going to land. Mack's fist hit the right side of her face, making her bite her cheek. She tasted blood and spat it down. Wasting no more time, Blaire delivered her own punch, with a robotic arm, into Mack's stomach. The grunt her former friend emitted should have and normally would have given her a sense of pride, but it didn't. Instead, she lowered her own defenses long enough to miss the blade Mack had in her hand. It plunged into the robotic hand, severing several wires that sent a shock up her arm and across her chest.

Blaire let out a strangled scream as she hit the floor with her knees. The shock had played games with her heartbeat and left her open for the punch to the shoulder Mack delivered. Dislocated and not functioning anymore, Blaire had to re-evaluate how she was going to bring Mack in. Three hits and the girl had her on her knees. The boss was going to be rather unhappy if he had to spend more money to put her back together.

"You know you want to let me do this, Blaire. Somewhere in that human heart." Mack had the pleasure of standing over her.

"Yeah. Sure." She was done playing nice. Using a move that Mack had taught her, Blaire swung her legs around from underneath her and into Mack's ankles. She heard a faint crack that she assumed was one of Mack's ankles and a grunt as the short girl hit the ground. Within seconds, Blaire had a metal foot at the other girl's throat. Mack was glaring death at her and with a shake of her head, Blaire knocked her old friend out.

Once Mack was limp, Blaire took her foot off the girl's throat and let herself drop to the ground. She buzzed her comm. link and reported in. Then she settled in until they found her. Her arm, she draped across her lap, useless until she could see Todd.

A few minutes later and a small squad, four people max, squeezed into the small room, all of them armed with machine guns. The Squad leader stepped over to her, one hand placed on her bad shoulder, which made her wince. He retracted it immediately. "Status?"

"Functioning. Dislocated shoulder, some severed wires and one hell of a shock to the heart, but I'll survive." Her voice was a strange mixture of the robot she was and the human she had been. The squad leader nodded and moved over to Mack. As the men hauled her up by her armpits, Blaire grabbed the calf of the man closest to her to draw his attention. "No rough handling, and her splint that ankle, you here? Or I'll send Management after you." The man nodded his head.

Satisfied, she waited until they had shuffled through the door to awkwardly climb to her feet. The squad leader was there to help pick her up, but once on her feet, she was steady. Instead of following the group down the hallway, Blaire turned the opposite direction. She had to go to the Medical Wing to be repaired and see Todd before they sent a squad to come find her.

She was greeted by ABI, the artificial bio intelligence created from the memories and neural patterns of one of the first scientists of the company. The program was everywhere with her cheerful voice. "Good afternoon, Blaire. It's lovely outside today."

"Is it? Hadn't noticed. Can you get Todd for me?" Blaire stopped at the entrance, facing the holographic screen of a blonde haired woman with doe-like eyes. In life, the scientist must have looked like a fairy.

ABI was silent for a moment and then displayed a blue maze of blueprints. "Shall I fetch him for you?"

"No, thanks. I'll find him." Blaire was already walking down the hallway, following the image she'd imprinted into her computerized eye. Todd was working in the auto-shop, probably helping another handler, most likely Rebecca. When she got there, only Todd was in the shop, a blow torch in hand and a visor over his face.

"Todd?" He didn't respond. "Todd!"

The man spun around, pushing up the visor. He was a big man and probably belonged on a football field or jumping off boats with the Navy SEALS, not with the company they worked for. His face was still young, though his nose had been broken a time or two and there was a scar on his left side of his face, near his sideburns. When he saw her, his brown eyes narrowed. Todd took his time turning off the blow torch and setting aside his work, even pulling off his gloves and visor in his own sweet time. Blaire waited. If nothing else had changed when she became a machine, then her ability to stand still had; now she could do it without a moment's thought.

"What did you do?"

"It was Mack's fault." Blaire held up the useless arm, blatantly ignored the shot of pain that burst from her shoulder.

Todd took it, looking first at the severed wires and the damaged done there. "That's not what I meant." He didn't look pleased and to show her it, he insisted on turning her arm one way and another while she whimpered. Next, Todd moved up her arm, feeling for any breaks or other damage until he reached her shoulder. As he probed it, Blaire willed herself still, but one probe nearly sent her careening into the cement floor.

Blaire saw stars. "She… um… stabbed my arm and then punched out my shoulder. You have no idea what a shock like that does to the heart."

"Wires must have needed repair to begin with then. This is going to hurt. One. Two. Thr-" Crack.

"Holy crap!" The only thing keeping Blaire off the ground was Todd's grip on her shoulder. "I hate you."

He dragged her over to a workbench, high enough that she could rest her arm on the table while he went to work on the wires and computer software in her body. "Baby."

"Yes, I am." She settled in to watch him work. For a big man, he was rather delicate with his tools. A few times her hand twitched or an electric shock tingled up her arm, but Blaire could handle that. The alternative was visit the doctors and scientists who liked to poke and prod and probably add a few new gadgets to her. She was good with the system she had and she did not take to anesthetic well.

The silence was deafening. Todd wasn't talkative by nature, but Blaire was; it had always been a problem during her training. "What are you working on."

"You."

She let out a breath. "I mean, before I destroyed my arm."

Todd's face scrunched up as he focused on a bit of wiring. "Rebecca wanted me to look at her agent's motorcycle."

"Ah, Rebecca. I see." Her lips turned up in a smug, knowing smile.

He stopped, setting down the tools and looked at her. "Why do you always say it like that? We discuss this every time. You seem to think there's something between Rebecca and I. Nothing's there. She's a colleague and therefore, nothing happens."

Blaire bit her lip. One day she'd get him to divulge secrets about his life outside of being her handler. "So there's someone outside work."

"No."

"So you live like a monk?"

"No."

"Come on, Todd. We've been working together of three years now; you have to tell me something." Blaire was practically begging, which was usually where this conversation always ended up.

He broke her gaze. "No, I don't. Hold still." His hands went to work, finishing the job before finding a needle, dipping it in alcohol and stitching her up. He found a clean rag and wrapped it around her arm. "Done. Go bother someone else."

Todd left the table and went back over to the bike he was working on. She watched him for a moment before walking over and joining him. Blaire knew a bit about motorcycles, had to when that's what most agents typically rode. She handed him the part he was looking for. He took it without meeting her gaze.

For some time, the two of them worked like that: Blaire handing him what he needed and giving her opinion on what was wrong and Todd doing his work in his usual efficient manner. Now and then she would try to get him to smile, to crack open that hard exterior but Todd was a tough one. He wouldn't even let her inside the handler part of himself.

She opened her mouth to speak, but she was interrupted by a female voice. "Rayne, your detainee woke up. You might want to check on her." It was Rebecca, the Amazon of a woman with fire red hair and cat-like eyes.

Blaire shot a look at Todd who gave her a 'don't' look in return. "Copy that, ma'am." She got to her feet, wiping her hands on her pants as she did so. "You be good, Sailor," she jokingly scolded her handler, "leave ends at oh eight hundred tomorrow. I expect you to be in one piece."

Todd stood, taking a threatening step toward her, but Blaire danced out of his reach. As she left the shop, she gave Rebecca a salute and a wink. Behind her, she heard Todd go back to the bike, but nothing else. When she got to the door, she paused and looked back. The two of them were bent low over the motorcycle. A tiny ping sounded in her chest. The downside of being metal meant that the possibility of human interaction like that was a million to zero and that was when the odds were good.

"Blaire Rayne."

Blaire popped her head into the hallway when a gruff, angry voice called her name. It seemed like everyone was doing that lately. "Yes?" She didn't recognize the man in the military uniform.

"You are being brought in for questioning. I suggest you follow me."

Confusion swept over her face. Slowly she walked into the hallway. "I don't understand. Why am I being questioned?"

"For your involvement with Mackenzie Sumner and the incident at the Mark View Building."

Blaire froze. "That was over three years ago. I practically died. I don't-"

The man held up a hand. "I suggest you wait to comment on anything, Ms. Rayne. Will you come with me?" He stepped aside for her. Reluctantly and with feet fill with lead instead of light weight metal alloy, Blaire started down the hallway.