The second of two alternate endings. They are not required reading... They are more like 'What if something different happened?' This one is a more up-beat ending and leaves open for a sequel...


------- Alternate Chapter 5 (2) : Fugitive Hearts -------


"Keep ya pants on!" Shouted Malice as he opened the front door.

"Look Mr. Malice, we have been nothing but patient with you and now I demand that you return her to me now." Said Doctor Sierra.

"Wait, wait. I have an idea. Perhaps I could buy her from you. You can always make more right?" Said Malice.

"She is a prototype!" Said Sierra, almost screaming. "We need her back to analyse the nerve degeneration patterns she's developing."

"Nerve what now?"

While the two of them argued, Mr. Benz noticed the RAcaseal inside cast a furtive glance towards a closed door. He did some quick mental arithmetic.

"She's getting away!" He bellowed and sprinted for the elevators.

Doctor Sierra watched as the two security guards headed rapidly down the corridor before giving chase.

As he ran he turned and shouted to Malice. "If she's damaged in any way you're gonna be in deep shit!"

-------

Sarunakai walked dejectedly in the direction of the hoverbus terminal. The piazza was quite crowded as this time of evening, the shoppers were making their way home and the night-life crowd were just setting out. With each plodding step he took felt like his legs were made of lead and his heart felt so heavy that he thought it might burst. He stared at the ground as he walked, the crowd flowing around him like a stream around a rock.

He had just come from his girlfriend's appartment, Mylina was breaking up with him! Breaking up with him! The words echoed around his head and he felt empty inside. She had told him that it was not working out, he was too needy, obsessive almost. Obsessive? He was passionate! She was just afraid of commitment because he vowed to love her with all his heart, with all his soul! She wanted time apart. For how long he had asked. She said that she needed time to clear her head, but her eyes told him everything that her mouth did not. She no longer loved him, he could see that now and no amount of begging or pleading could change that.

He fought back the tears. What they had was... Special. Now... Now he was alone. Where would he find another girl that was quite as special as her...

The world jolted violently as someone or something collided with him. He just about kept his balance and spun around to see what was responsible. On the ground before him was a young woman looking slightly disorientated. Without a moment's hesitation he crouched beside her and with an arm around her waist carefully lifted her back to her feet. Her eyes were the most beautiful shade of dark green-blue and he could not help staring into them. Once sure that she was able to stand on her own he reluctantly let her go.

"Are you alright miss? I am so sorry, it was totally my fault." He said as sincerely as he could.

A few people had stopped to see what was going on but they quickly went about their business. The girl tugged the jogging bottoms that she was wearing up high around her waist. It was clearly several sizes too large for her, in fact the top she was wearing also hung about her, like she had just stolen the clothes of a large man. She began to glance over his shoulder, past him in the direction of the road. He looked there to see two men running towards them.

"Are you in trouble miss? Are those men after you?" He asked her.

"I must go now." She said, beginning to back away from him.

Sarunakai held on to her wrist lightly. "I can help you... If you'll let me."

She hesitated and looked at his face. He seemed to be genuinely concerned for her predicament, despite having only just met her.

"Help me please." She said, her voice no louder than a whisper.

Hearing the approaching commotion, Sarunakai turned around to put himself between between the girl and the two men. He could see them fully now that the crowd had thinned slightly. They were muscular in build, they would make natural HUnters, yet they were dressed in dark navy uniforms, the badges marking them out as security guards of some kind. They noticed his intent to interfere and slowed their run to a jog, hands hovering close to the holstered side arm that each of them wore.

"Stay out of this kid. It's none of your business." Said the first one, obviously the leader.

Kid? Sarunakai scoffed at the remark. He might had been only eighteen, but he considered himself to be quite wise for his age. He was also glad that he was dressed in casual attire and not his FOrce robes. If there was going to be any trouble, they would be in for a surprise.

"Why should I believe you?" He retorted.

The man raised his left forearm to his mouth and pressed a button upon it.

"Doc? We got her cornered outside southside bus terminal." He lowered his arm and addressed Sarunakai. "I suggest you step aside. She's coming with us."

Sarunakai sniggered. "I'd like to see you try."

He felt the girl put her hands upon his shoulders and press herself into his back. She was afraid of these men, and he would definitely not stand to let her fall into their hands, least not without a damn good reason. As one, they reached for their guns, Sarunakai reacted by instinct, throwing up an out-stretched hand.

"Gibarta!" He commanded.

The air before him turned white in a cone shape starting from his hand as he ripped the entropic energy from it. A layer of ice building up rapidly on the two men as well as on a few bystanders who had stopped to see what was happening. Even with their muscle strength impaired by the numbing cold, it would not be long before they broke free. He had bought them a Beat or two of time at best and they could not afford to linger any further, so he turned around to face her.

"I can help you, but only if you trust me." He said holding out his hand.

She looked at his hand, then into his eyes and his heart skipped a beat. Hesitantly, she placed her hand in his.

"Where are you going?" He asked her.

"I am to find someone in Viridia sector. They can hide me." She replied.

He glanced over his shoulder. The two men had shielded their faces when they were frozen so they would not be able to see which direction they would be heading. They set off running for the hoverbus terminal, but he pulled her to a halt.

"Wait!" He said, looking her up and down. "You'll stick out like a sore thumb dressed like that on a bus. We don't want them to have a trail to follow."

He led them left towards the road and away from the bus terminal, threading through the throng of shoppers, to a rank of hovertaxis lined up. Leaping into the first one available they instructed the driver to get them out of there. The taxi rose from the road and streaked off into the sky.

"Viridia residential block!" Sarunakai commanded the driver as he turned in his seat and peered through the rear window at the sight of the piazza receeding behind them. "I think we're clear now."

He turned back to the girl, she was leaning forward and breathing hoarsely, he rubbed her back gently as she fought to regain control. She must have been through a lot before destiny brought them together.

"Now that we're safe I guess introductions are in order. My name is Sarunakai." He said bowing slightly. "And your's is?"

She looked at him for a few milliBeats before answering. "Matilda."

"Matilda?" He beamed. "A beautiful name for a beautiful girl!"

Matilda blushed at the comment. Stupid! Don't embaress her. Gotta be smooth... They sat there in awkward silence for a while, Sarunakai stopped rubbing her back to allow her to lie back on the seat. He was perfectly content to sit there and stare at her, all of the day's ills vanishing in her presence. And yet... He knew that once they arrived at her destination she might walk out of his life, never to be seen again. He needed an excuse, something... Anything that would keep them together for just a few Beats more.

The taxi dipped down and merged with a stream of slower moving hover vehicles, Sarunakai taking his eyes off Matilda long enough to check where they were. Even with this heavier traffic, they were no more than six or seven Beats away now. He let out a heavy sigh.

"I don't supposed you'd mind me asking why those me..." Sarunakai's voice tailed off as he saw Matilda's expression.

Her eyes were screwed shut, teeth bared as her faced was locked in a grimace. She began to rock backward and forward, arms twisting uncontrollably.

"Are you alright?" He was genuinely concerned now.

Matilda pushed her hips forward and arched her back, sliding towards the floor as she moaned in pain.

"I... Er... What's wrong? Please tell me!" He said desperately.

"Is there a problem?" Called back the driver.

"Just drive!" Replied Sarunakai frustratedly.

He looked down on Matilda as she contorted in silent agony. It was heart-wrenching to see her like this and he knew he should at least try something. He closed his eyes and laid his hands gently on her heaving chest, breathing out slowly as he focused his mind on the task at hand.

The interior of the cab lit up with an eerie green glow as Sarunakai poured his life-energy into the Resta technique. The light condensing out of the air into droplets of pure power that flowed into Matilda's body. He could still feel her moving below his palms, with no idea if it was working or not all he could do was continue.

The strain of maintaining the technique was starting to overwhelm Sarunakai, his hands trembling violently as the nerves in his arms began to tingle and go numb. He gritted his teeth and forced himself to go on, but when his head began to feel light he realised that he had to stop or risk lapsing into unconsciousness. He pulled his hands back and shook them in an attempt to get the feeling back as he looked up his handiwork.

Matilda's movements had slowed down greatly, her eyelids fluttering open and closed as her eyes darted around the cabin, looking, but no longer seeing. Her breathing slowed, her limbs going limp as her face relaxed. She looked almost peaceful...

"No! Don't go to sleep!" Said Sarunakai as he tried to shake her.

His arms felt like they were made of rubber and he was unable to grip with his fingers at all, but he tried to rouse her anyway. As he shook her gently, her head lolled to one side, her eyes closing and her breathing could no longer be heard over the sound of the taxi's thrusters.

"Please don't... Please..." He said quietly, resting his head on her stomach.

--------------

The line of people was moving impossibly slowly, Sarunakai had been to funerals faster than this. He leaned to his left and peered down the line to see what the hold-up was. A fat man dressed in an ill fitting RAnger outfit was arguing with Immigration guards, he was doing so loudly enough for Sarunakai to catch his name: Racton. Racton was sweating profusely, was it fear or perhaps the sunlight streaming down through the dome of Pioneer Two? It no longer mattered, Racton was hauled away by two burly guards, protesting loudly as he went.

Sarunakai turned to his companion and smiled as he gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

"You okay?" He asked.

Matilda nodded. It was the thirty-seventh time he had asked her that since they awoke together this morning, but she did not mind. She had already become used to his idiosyncrasies in the three days they had been together.

The spasm she had had in the hover taxi was the most intense one she had experienced to date, yet when Sarunakai had cast Resta upon Matilda the pain subsided rapidly and calm had flowed through her. Upon the next attack Sarunakai had given her subsequent treatments with his abilities and managed to stop the condition within milliBeats. It appeared that the Resta decreased not only the intensity of the spasms, but their frequency too. With this reasoning came the realisation that she would never be able to leave his side for long periods of time.

Other important factors needed to be taken into consideration too. When they finally reached Gillard Eventide, he informed them that he was engaged in a close personal relationship with a member of the HG Investigation Unit, the Hunter police as it were, hiding a fugative would be next to impossible for him. Gillard had suggested that Sarunakai look after Matilda and so he graciously accepted her into his home.

He is kind.

While they hid in his appartment there was plenty of opportunity for discussion. Sarunakai treated her as an equal even after she had explained the story of her life to him. He told her that she should not be bound by limitations of her 'programming', she had been given a taste of freedom and now she should seek it out. She did not need to serve a master, she was now free to choose what and who she wanted.

Matilda had been confused by this initially, she protested that she was not capable of such choice, her mind still set on the old ways. He reminded her to stop thinking like an android, her destiny now lay before her. She asked him if he was merely saying these things to take her away from her master, Malice. Sarunakai reassured her, saying that he only wished her to be free, to choose what she desired, even if that choice ultimately took Matilda away from him.

Rumours reached them of searches in the Guild for people matching their description. As long as they remained on board Pioneer Two there was always the risk of getting caught. A BEE message from Malice informed them that he was being monitor until she returned. Going back was no longer a choice, so Sarunakai did a deal with a shady organisation called Black Paper, though he kept the details of the deal secret from her.

The line moved forward another metre or so, they would be next soon. She fidgeted with her clothes again. She was wearing the full length robes of the FOmarl class, they were dark blue in colour and quite heavy. Matilda was still uncomfortable with the concept of wearing clothing and would often remove what she wore at the first available opportunity, much to the conflicted disapproval of Sarunakai.

Matilda's hand moved up to touch the ornate triangular head piece that pinned her hair into a bunch on the top of her head, but the sound of Sarunakai tutting caused her to stop. Though she could not see the need for it, he had reassured her that it was necessary to complete the disguise.

"You okay?" Thirty-eight.

"Next!" called the guard behind the desk.

The pair walked up to it and Sarunakai handed the man two data disks.

"Names?" Said the man in a tired voice, not looking up from the monitors.

"Sarunakai Vii Tessak."

There was moment of silence. The man looked up and scowled at Matilda.

"Name." He demanded.

"Juna Sesame." She said meekly.

The man grunted indifferently and then stabbed at the keyboard with his thick fingers.

"Reason for visit to Lesquotia?"

Sarunakai squeezed Mailda's hand once more. "Permanant residence."

"Okay, approved." He said handing back the data disks to Sarunakai and indictating the transporter platform behind him with his thumb.

As they stepped onto the platform Matilda took one last look around. It had been her home for most of her existance, she had lost two masters here. Now she was to start a new life with a third.

Not a master. An equal.

Malice would always have the original Matilda to care for him as she had done, as she still did, but there was no going back now. Only forward. Sarunakai stood directly in front of Matilda and took both her hands in his, their fingers intertwined.

"Are you okay?" He asked.

She only smiled back at him as everything vanished in a brilliant shower of light.

To be concluded in 'More Than Human'