Barely making out the tap on his pale cheek, the android's eyes opened little by little. Vision blurred, Ace startled momentarily prior to leaning into the warmth the hand was offering. This had become the norm for the last weeks. Not being able to stand on his own two feet for periods longer than an hour at time, being excessively tired, as well as having his higher sense of hearing and smell being dulled dramatically. His reflexes had slowed; a demonstration on the roof from Six just a few days ago had proven that, leaving the raven's morale to fade even faster than before.
"Hey, it's time to go."
Gradually tilting his head to the side, Ace blinked a few times, only to have the bright lights from above continue to blind him. Feeling the hand leave his face in order to rest itself upon his shoulder, lifting him bit by bit, he frowned as he managed to sit up. He fell forward, as usual, only to have another hand press against his chest to help him sit upright.
Feeling his legs being moved to rest over the edge of the bed he had been given, Ace sighed aloud this time before being pulled slowly onto his feet. As the scientist, and his escort, took a small step back, the PDA stumbled even from the minor change in position. His legs buckled beneath him and he sunk down onto the cold floor. He squeezed his eyes shut, balling his hands into fists.
When he opened his eyes, he'd be elsewhere. When he'd open his eyes, he'd be back in Robbie's room with the pinkette sleeping soundly curled up next to him.
"Ace, come on. We have to go."
'It's such a bitch…' he mused dejectedly as he was brought back onto his feet.
Cracking his eyes open once more, he stared at the obscenely white walls. Dropping his gaze to the equally white floor, he managed to take one step forward then another. Head bowed, not bothering to raise it, he walked out of his bedroom-his cell really- and into the corridor. Even after the door had closed behind him and they had begun to walk, dark eyes stayed glued to the tile.
It was almost like death row.
The path they were taking was nothing new. It was something he knew by heart and, frankly, he could walk it with his eyes closed.
He had done so before.
At one point, the hall was lined with men in black, each armed and potentially dangerous. At that time, every morning, Ace had been handcuffed and escorted to the lab by at least four other men in dark suits. Now, however, the corridors were empty, save the occasional scientist or other white-clad personnel. The PDA was no longer chained since he had been deemed unthreatening.
His strength had diminished, leaving a blow by him unworthy of the highest level of physical force. His speed was gone so a chase would not be needed; he couldn't stand for long, yet alone run. His systems had long since stopped running at an optimum level, leaving his duration level at a laughable state, not something a model of his caliber should even have. Furthermore, good chances were that he'd just shut down on himself the before he even got a mile outside of the installation.
Already knowing what the soft saying of his name meant, the PDA slid onto a table. Grabbing the ends of his shirt, he pulled it up and over his head, exposing the incisions along his pale skin. Setting the article of clothing aside, he pulled his legs up slowly prior to lying on his back. A small shiver then ran down his spine as the cold metal of the table pressed against his back.
Despite the countless times he had laid on the thing, it always managed to chill him to the core.
Turning his head to the side, same as always, dull eyes stared at the scientist to see him donning his gloves before picking up a scalpel. When the utensil eased forward, the android grabbed hold of the man's wrist, a tired frown making itself known.
But all he got was another apology before being blinded by a bright white light.
Pain was always evident, the way Ace would jerk or flinch under the knife always made the one working nervous. And usually by that point, he'd strap the teen to the table so he didn't move anymore or risk falling off. By the time that was done, however, the raven would still flinch at the next few incisions before going still completely.
The systems that would normally tell him that whatever was hurting him and he needed to get away had shut down on itself. That was usually the first thing to go as he straightened his head to stare up at the ceiling. He hardly felt any of the needles sticking him in the arms by this point. Another cut would have warm oil running down his side though a chill would steadily cancel out that feeling, even as more continued to pool around him.
His fingers curled every now and then would something was prodded at or disabled. Sometimes his vision would flicker, hiding everything in a colorless void, making him feel just a bit better, like everything would be better.
Reality then hit him as his sight returned, making him sigh despondently, sleepily.
Sleep sounded great to Ace.
He was always so damn tired now.
Before, he was pretty sure of himself that sleep was not necessary.
Now, he only wished for it. The thing holding him back though was the thought of waking up to have another repeat of this.
Another was if he didn't wake up at all.
The latter did seem more pleasing. The downside was not being able to return to a certain someone outside the walls. Then again, the previous wasn't exactly a walk in the park either.
When the scientists had to tend to something else or if Nikolai just wanted company, Ace had the displeasure of sitting in the man's office, chained down to a chair or just sitting on the floor in the furthest corner of the room. The teen believed the man got a sick kick from watching him totter, trying to right his self as red eyes watched the sun move slowly across the dark tile, edging ever so closer to him. At one time, the PDA tried to reach for it, straining himself though only his fingertips managed to touch the warmth before the white-hired male hid the light away behind large curtains.
As the white of the ceiling and light began to disappear behind dark spots, Ace inhaled sharply as he felt fingers graze circuitry, looking for something hidden supposedly. He felt something being taken out, or shifted. He was never sure. Again, dark spots darted along his line of vision making his fingers curl, grabbing nothing but slowly smearing the growing puddle of crimson.
His feeling of touch was starting to fade again; the system in charge of that function was probably shutting down due to the oil shortage.
It was probably for the best though.
Ace didn't need to feel the hands in his chest removing themselves. With his vision fading gradually, he neither caught the shadow of the man's hand nor did he feel the fingers slowly brushing away the thin streams of water running down the PDA's pallid face.
He remembered the first time they met.
The shorter, pink-haired male was so cute, so timid-nervous.
"S-so why are you here?"
A faint smile tried to pull at the corners of his mouth as he tried to remember the blush that dusted the teen's face the moment Ace told him the reason. Of course, Robert didn't quite warm up to him quickly.
"D-don't you know h-how to knock?"The raven remembered how he had walked in on the other as soon as he had gotten out of the shower, wrapped in nothing but a towel. "Get out!"
"There's no need to be embarrassed," he had replied. "Besides, you look cute."
That left Robert speechless.
It took a while but Robert did come around to the idea of having him about.
When he had gotten into that street fight, left to come back with a bullet wound to the head, and other terrible looking injuries, he learned that the shorter male had cried for him. Robert didn't sleep for a while. The teen was a mess until the raven had returned. And, even then, the pinkette nearly had a heart attack when the PDA coughed up bullets as well as the blood-red oil.
They had gotten into an argument just days prior to that; Robbie even threatened to send him back yet the pinkette still cried for him.
"He was worried a lot, ok?"
The purplette had told him that much after the smallest of the three collapsed from relieved exhaustion.
And Kaito sounded sincere when he had said that.
'I'm sorry,' he thought to himself.
His back arched involuntarily as something was pulled away though the PDA couldn't feel it. He didn't even feel the straps rubbing painfully against his skin as they did their job of restraining him.
His voice was gone this time, making him furrow his brow a bit.
He was already miserable and the only bittersweet comfort he could find was when he managed to speak the pinkette's name.
It made him homesick, yes, but it was of nostalgia as well.
But now, what was he to do?
He couldn't speak…or was it that he just couldn't hear his voice anymore?
To think of it, he couldn't hear anything anymore.
Again, his back arched though something had been inserted. It tapped along the metal vertebrae making up his spine. Something had pierced its sheath, making his head throb yet it didn't hurt like it should've. Curling his fingers to form fists, the PDA didn't hear the sound of oil pattering on the floor nor did he hear the whirring come from the machines all around him. The small spots that darted about his line of vision had grown, blocking out most of the light until everything was hidden behind a grey curtain of static.
The last time he had seen the pinkette; his pale face had the expression of worry. The teen looked terrified and all he did was smile.
All he did was give an apologetic smile and said sorry before disappearing.
The last time he had seen Robert, he wasn't planning on that being the last time. He had expected to come back soon after, surprise the teen. He'd deal with the scolding, he'd ignore a hit or two, and just as long as he knew it was Rob's way of showing he had genuine concern.
'I'm not coming back though…'
More water ran down the corners of his eyes and trailed down to drip and mix with the crimson-colored oil that had had to stop spreading along the metal examination table. His fingers curled just a bit more, his nails biting into his oil-slicked palms.
Cracking his eyes open, Ace's sight was greeted by nothing but static. His eyelids felt unbearably heavy with the need of sleep. He didn't sleep but he figured he'd indulge in that luxury at least once. And as more water ran down, streaking his face in the process, the PDA's eyes slid shut slowly.
The android remembered saying he'd clear everything up with Robert when he got back…
…if he got back.
'Sorry…' he thought sadly. '…I'm not coming home…'
"Ace, wake up!"
The faintest trace of a frown pulled the corners of the PDA's mouth downwards before his head slowly tilted to the side.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, the scientist straightened to take a look at the screen. Seeing some unique readings, different from before, he pulled one of the needles from the PDA's arm and held it up in the light. Picking up a petri dish, he ejected the red substance into it before walking over to a nearby table. Placing the object beneath a microscope and heater, the man watched as the oil began to disappear prior to looking up at the computer.
He'd admit he was surprised when he managed to see the Nanites moving around slowly. He had expected the microscopic technology to wreak havoc on the machinery like before.
Sighing his own relief from a job he deemed complete, the scientist turned around to begin replacing a few components he had taken out. Glancing at the clock, he a small smile graced his tired face.
"Looks like you'll get that extra time in the sun after all," he said as he set out to complete his work. "What do you say to that?"
The man worked diligently though he paused to look at the PDA's pale face. Since the teen hadn't answered, the scientist rubbed the pad of his thumb along one of the tear-streaked cheeks before turning the raven's head the other way. Again he asked the same question, removing his hand to simply have the android's head fall to the side.
"Ace." Nothing. "Ace?"
Undoing the straps that had kept him down, the older male picked up one of Ace's arms. It was limp, unmoving. It felt cold beneath his touch and letting go of it, he watched as the thing hit the tabletop prior to sliding off to dangle down. The oil running the length of Ace's arm ran down his fingers to drip onto the floor, adding the red substance that had long since leaked onto the tile.
"Ace, wake up."
This situation shouldn't have been as nerve-wrecking as it was.
The PDA had gone offline countless times before during this process but he would always come around after it had stopped for whatever reason. Ace would open his eyes, whether they were clear or blurred, and he'd answer a few small questions before being sat in an upright position. From there he'd go through a brief physical of sorts just to see if any of his motor skills were out of order after the reassembly. If all was ok from that point, he'd be led out to the roof to enjoy a bit of light.
Now, Ace just lay quietly, unmoving on the table top.
His skin had paled considerably after the amount of time he had been confined within the installation walls but now it was eve whiter than before. The dried tears nearly blended into his pale complexion while the oil seemed to stand out more and more.
"Ace." Tapping the cool cheek, the man slid his fingers up slowly to pull back one of the teen's eyelids. "Hey, wake up," he said softly as he stared at the lifeless red eye.
Removing his hand, a frown pulled at the corners of his mouth. Brushing aside the limp bangs, the scientist stood back before looking at the microscope. His attention then went over to the door as it slid open, showing the head of the facility.
"Hello, sir," he replied. "May I ask why you've decided to…grace me with your presence today?"
Nikolai merely chuckled. "You flatter me, Peterson." Hazel eyes the focused on the growing puddle of oil spreading on the floor. "How's progress?"
The man dubbed Peterson looked down. "Well…"
"Well?" his boss drawled, watching as the other pulled off his gloves. "Did you-"
"Manage to extract the Nanites?" he finished. "Yes but a few…"
"That's a start." Walking past the table, Nikolai hardly spared a glance at the PDA as he made his way over to the microscope. "Why are the Nanites moving so slowly?" he asked as he had a look at them.
"Because…" Peterson said before trailing off. "Sir, may I ask you something?"
"You just did."
Hazel eyes drifted over to the man before Nikolai let out an exasperated sigh. "What is it?" The scientist said nothing as he looked over at the android. "Well?" he asked. "You know I hate waiting and I do have other things to do today."
"Of course you do, sir," he replied, gaze never leaving the raven.
"When…he-Ace was…awake, he used to talk to me."
"How nice. I'm sure you both had great conversation and all," the other replied. "Now, why are these Nanites moving so slowly?"
"Sir, he mentioned a boy constantly." To that, Nikolai stiffened before he continued to observe the bots. "Do you...do you have a son?"
"Why do you ask?"
"He would talk nonstop about him. I believe he said his name was Robbie, if not Robert."
"What's it matter?"
"He always spoke so adamantly about him."
"Once, he had said that this boy looked like the man with white hair and hazel-colored eyes."
"Get back to work," Nikolai ordered as he headed back to the door. "I expect to have the rest of the more active Nanites contained and brought to me personally."
"They're all just going to die," Peterson responded as he watched his employer.
"Excuse me?" The scientist looked in the opposite direction, lowering his gaze this time round. "Repeat what you just said," Nikolai ordered as he circled back around.
Clenching his jaw, the man found the nerve to look up at the taller man. "I said there's no point since they're all just going to die."
"And tell me why, pray tell, is that?"
"Because they were never made to be extracted."
"The Nanites were never made to be extracted. They were configured to link up specifically with Ace's specs."
"Well, I'm telling you to get them active and redesign their blueprints for other uses."
"I can't," he said, watching the now throbbing vein pulsing against the side of his boss's head.
"You can't or you won't."
"As much as I would like to say I won't," Peterson said with trace signs of a hiss, "I can't."
"And why not?!"
"Because what, Peterson?!"
"Ace, he won't come online at all. He's...gone, sir."
Watching the man's vein disappear, Peterson wasn't expecting the other to straighten. He wasn't expecting the deadpan expression either. To be perfectly honest, he was expecting the man to yell. He was expecting to be threatened with something completely ludicrous.
The man anticipated that much.
What he wasn't expecting was a chuckle. He nearly tripped over himself as his employer then went into a laughing fit, his eyes watering at the corners from how hard he had been laughing.
There was nothing funny about it.
To be completely clear, Peterson wanted no dealing in this project when he had been told he had been assigned to it; to dismantle an android that had been nothing but kind, even during his confinement.
The same teen that tried to pull up the misfortunate man that Six had kicked off the side of the building.
And now this man, his boss, was just laughing in his face.
"Peterson, I don't think you heard me quite clearly," Nikolai said once he sobered. "What I had told you wasn't a request. It was an order. So, what you're going to do is extract those Nanites like I said and have them delivered to me personally. Is that understood?" The man just stared at him until the taller of the two narrowed his eyes. "Is that understood, Peterson?"
"Good, now if you would excuse me, I need to be checking up on a certain blonde," the head of the base stated, sliding his hands in his pockets as he left out the door.
Author's Note: Hey, hey! It's been a while. Been a while… So, this chapter kinda wrote itself from like a paragraph I had written as a draft. I did say more things would happen in the previous chapter didn't I? Yeah, yeah I did.
This does complete this chapter!
Onwards to the next!
Thanks for reading and any thoughts on what you think will happen next? Betcha' can't guess XD
Til next time!