"A Few Small Problems"
Murphy stood beside the fairly fresh grave, his mind replaying his memories of his partner, Ann Lewis. He had been unable to attend her funeral, under reconstruction at the time by the underground forces, so he was visiting her now, reflecting on how he could have done more to save her. He should not have allowed her to come with him on his search for the truth, a search that had led him to subversive forces supposedly operating on orders from the head of Omni Consumer Products.
The truth had turned out to be nothing of the kind. MacDaggit, the one in charge of the Reclamation Forces, was exposed to be working for a Japanese firm that was trying to force OCP to default on its business holdings. The tangled web had led to more good people dying, the Detroit Police Force finally turning on its masters at OCP to side with the real victims; the citizens of Old Detroit.
Now, nearly three weeks after the destruction of the top ten floors of OCP Tower, things were beginning to return to normal. The reconstruction of Old Detroit was proceeding, but now it was going as originally planned. People were being peacefully moved to new, temporary housing, many of them employed by OCP in the rebuilding effort. The new CEO of OCP, Maria McBride, was leading the company in new directions, attempting to return it to its roots as a company for the people.
Robocop had benefited greatly from the turn in OCP's operating methods. He had been fully upgraded, many of his systems replaced with the latest versions of their technologies. His chassis had been streamlined, giving him a thinner and more maneuverable form, constructed out of new alloy that gave him resistance to anything less than anti-tank weaponry.
If only Lewis could be here to share the future with him. The battles they had fought, the justice they had longed to bring to OCP, everything was finally falling into place, and Murphy had no one to share it with. No one that knew him like Ann had. No one that he could completely trust in.
"Rest in peace, Officer Lewis," he whispered. "You will be missed."
SIX MONTHS LATER…
"This is unacceptable, gentlemen," spoke Maria McBride, dropping the report she had been reading down onto the large, oval meeting table. "Our profits are at an all time high. Our work force is at an all time high. Our returns on investments are at an all time high. And yet we are once again falling behind on the Delta City Project."
"It's sabotage, pure and simple," said Johnson, still trying to regain the favored grace he once carted with previous CEOs. "We're losing one day of progress for every three that we gain. Equipment failures, product and material contaminations. Someone is trying very hard to see that this project fails."
"Which leads to my next question. Why aren't we able to do something about this? We operate the police force, for God's sake. Why haven't they been able to find out whose behind these acts of sabotage?"
"We've been investigating, but so far the person that is committing these acts has failed to oblige us with any clues," offered Captain Reed, now the DPD liaison to OCP. "We haven't been able to find so much as a hair to identify the culprit, and even twenty-four hour surveillance has failed us."
"I want your best man on this, Reed," instructed McBride.
"My best team of detectives is on it, Ms. McBride."
"No. I want Robocop on it."
"Murphy? He's patrolling half the city for us. If we pull him off of patrol duty, you're going to have to okay at least a dozen more officers."
"Which will cost less than the delays are costing us. I want Robocop on the case as soon as possible. We spent a sizable fortune upgrading his systems, it's time we put them to use on something other than street punks."
"Don't make any assumptions, people," started McBride, looking about at all of the members of the board. "OCP may be gaining back the public trust, but we all know how fleeting that can be. The government will not allow any more disasters in this matter. We are shaping the future of business with this project, and I will not see it fail once again."
"Senator Albright assures me that we are being given a wide berth in dealing with any threats to this project," stressed Johnson. "She insists that we have the full backing of both the Senate and Congress."
"Senator Albright does not have to worry about the US government being involved in a hostile takeover by a foreign company. We do. If the government pulls its support, for any reason, you can rest assure that OCP will not be able to stay off another acquisition attempt."
Johnson, nor any other members of the board, had anything to say in response to McBride's last statement, they all knew it was true. OCP had barely managed to avert the last attempted takeover, surviving only because of government intervention when McBride had threatened to expose the truth of McDaggit's involvement. Considering McDaggit's military background, the government had been more than happy to intercede on OCP's behalf. It had been McBride's swift thinking that had saved OCP and led to her being elected the new CEO.
"Captain Reed, if you'll see to the matter, the board has private business to discuss now."
Reed nodded and left the board room, still amazed at how things had changed. Six months ago he had led the walk out that turned into a confrontation with OCP Reclamation Forces that nearly destroyed the company. Thanks to Robocop, of course. And now, half a year later, he was one of the elite of the police command, answering directly to the OCP board of directors.
He would gladly put Murphy on the case, he knew that Murphy was capable of far more than patrol duty. He had had good investigative skills as just a police officer, and the specs on OCP's upgrades showed he would be capable of far much more now. He had built in equipment that was more sophisticated than some of what the police force had at their disposal.
If anyone would be able to make headway on this case, it would be Murphy. Reed just hoped that a dozen officers would be able to make up for taking Robocop out of the field. The crime rate might be plummeting but it was still similar to a war zone in some sections of Old Detroit, and only Robocop could handle some of the altercations that arose.
"Open the damn safe now!" screamed Clancy, shoving the barrel of his shotgun into the back of the bank president's head.
"It's a time lock," pleaded Henson, terrified that the crook was going to kill him there and then. "It takes ten minutes to open!"
"What's the problem?" asked Ralph. The leader of the gang had stuck his head around the partition that kept the safe out of view of the main lobby.
"This shit says it takes ten minutes for the safe to open," answered Clancy. He pushed Henson's head against the wall, the barrel pressing hard into the man's cheek. "Are you lying to us, shit?"
"No!" squeezed out Henson, hardly able to move his mouth.
"The guys are emptying out the drawers, but I don't think we got time to waste on this crap," said Ralph. "If it ain't open by the time they're done, dust 'em and let's get out of here."
"No problem, boss man," smiled Clancy. "Hear that, shit? I get to splatter your brains."
"No, please, no," whimpered Henson.
The small light on the safe's control lock switched from red to green, a series of loud clicks and clangs reverberating from within the heavy door. There was a slight hiss as the seal on the vault door was broken, the thick lining on the door reluctantly letting go of the lining on the frame.
"That wasn't ten minutes, ya lying shit!" spat Clancy, pushing Henson to the floor. He grabbed the handle of the vault door and pulled, the heavy door opening easier than he would have thought.
Clancy's eyes lit up as he spotted the heaping piles of money bags lining the sides of the vault, all of it brought in for the expected cashing of OCP employee checks the next day. All thoughts of the money were pushed aside as he spied the massive hole at the rear of the safe, chunks of concrete and steel piled on the floor as if something had smashed into the vault from the other side.
And what the hell was that humming noise?
Robocop stepped around from the end of a row of safety deposit boxes, his frame slightly dusted from shattered concrete, and leveled his gun at Clancy. His metallic blue armor glinted softly, the black bits contrasting it and giving the vision of a warrior ready to battle.
"Surrender or die," ordered Robocop.
Clancy slowly pointed his shotgun away from him, lining it up with the cowering form of Henson, still on the floor. He thumbed back the hammer, the click sending a craven whimper from Henson's lips.
"Drop it or the bank president gets it," countered Henson.
The burp of the autogun was thunderous in the confines of the vault, the high-velocity shells separating the shotgun from Clancy just above his elbow. The weapon, and forearm, fell to the floor, useless. Clancy started screaming, grabbing at the stump that was now his right arm, trying to staunch the flow of blood as he dropped to his knees.
Two more men appeared from around the partition, both armed with machineguns, and opened fire on Robocop. The shots ricocheted around the vault, all of them bouncing harmlessly off of Robo as he targeted the two new attackers.
A short burst dropped one man, then the other, both of them blasted backward from the force of the autogun's powerful bullets. Their lifeless bodies smashed over plants and furniture as they were propelled back into the main lobby of the bank, panicked screams coming from the patrons being held there.
Robo glided out of the vault, his new, sleek form allowing him to do so more gracefully than before. Still hidden from view by the partition, his scanners swept over the bank to assess the situation. There were still three robbers left, huddled behind the teller counter, one of them holding a hostage. A dozen people were laying about the floor of the lobby, five more spread out behind the teller area.
Locking the configurations of the crooks into his targeting system, Robo stepped from behind the partition and took aim on the one holding the hostage. The woman was struggling franticly, Ralph holding a gun up to her head as he kept yelling at her to stop resisting him.
"Let her go," ordered Robo.
"Or what, tin man?" yelled Ralph back at him.
One shot was all Robo fired, a small, neat hole appearing in Ralph's forehead as it was snapped back by the impact, a small bit of blood splashing on the side of the woman's face. The former hostage started screaming, wiping at the crimson liquid on her face, as Ralph's dead body slowly slid from her side.
"Surrender or die," said Robo, turning to face the last two.
One of the men bolted, ducking as he ran along the rear of the teller's area, hoping to find an exit. Robo followed his progression, his sensors picking out the perp's heat signature through the wooden counters. With his targeting system locked on, Robo let loose with a burst from his autogun that tore through the counter and capped the fleeing man in his legs.
Screaming out in agony, the man went down, his knees shattered and useless. He slammed to floor, sliding into a desk and knocking himself out. Robo turned back to the last crook, sighting his weapon on the man's face.
"Well?" asked Robo.
The man tossed his gun aside and threw his hands into the air.
"Smarter than the others," said Robo, sending out a signal for backup.
"Is the new batch ready?" asked the mechanical voice.
Doddson had grown use to the eerie quality of the voice, having been contacted by the man's 'representatives' a month ago, but he still cringed when it spoke. There was an anger to the voice that was full of rage and hatred, and was not fully contained by the speaker. Doddson was thankful for the opportunities that the Mystery Man had brought to him, the funding pushing Doddson's experiments from theory to reality in a matter of days. Once this business was done, which the Mystery Man assured Doddson would not be long, then he would be able to reveal his discovery to the world.
That had been Doddson's goal all along, to share his vision with the world. His achievements would revolutionize all fields of science. Medical, computers, research and development, even food production. Nothing would be left unaffected by his creation. He didn't know what the Mystery Man was using it for right now, though he suspected, but keeping it secret for a while was a small price to pay for the decades that had been cut off of its creation by receiving direct funding.
"Yes, sir," answered Doddson.
"Good. Milton will be by shortly to retrieve them."
Doddson hated that man. Milton was six and a half feet of silent bulk, his steroid built form topped by a bald head that bore several scars. A bionic implant allowed the man to see out of his left eye, an injury supposedly received in the Brazil War of a few years ago. Doddson had run a few of his own scans on the towering Milton, amazed at the amount of cybernetics within his hulking form.
"Uh, sir, I was wondering…" started Doddson.
"Yes, what?" invited the Mystery Man, his voice sounding agitated.
"This next group that you want me to make, I don't think it's a good idea to remove their Life Limiter program."
"Do not worry yourself with the matter, Doddson."
"Trust me, Doddson. I have everything under control."
Doddson knew it was pointless to argue further, when the Mystery Man had his mind set there was no changing it. He was starting to wonder if this arrangement was such a good idea, he was losing more and more control over his creations, and he didn't like to think about how they could be misused.
"Okay," agreed Doddson, reluctantly.
OCP Tower stood like a shinning beacon in the night, its many floors lit up as crews worked within to finish the project yet again. Three times the building the had been complete, and three times the rebuilt top ten floors had crumbled away to dust and debris. The Tower was to once again be home to the powers that controlled OCP, a symbol that the company would not bow to any acts of terrorism, but it had yet come to be a realized dream.
Investigation teams had only been able to determine that the materials had somehow been sabotaged on a molecular level. Every bit of material had been tested and approved before use, guaranteed to be free of any contaminates. Then, only hours after completion, the rebuilt ten floors would begin to crumble away, soon crashing down on itself once again. Other sites had been infected by the same mysterious deterioration, but the OCP Tower had been targeted every time its reconstruction was complete, and all agreed that it was the primary target. The other attacks were nothing more than distractions, irritations that were setting Delta City back constantly.
Sonic attack had been ruled out, as had chemical and nuclear, no signatures of any type of those weapons found at all. The teams were completely stumped as to what could be doing it, and OCP was becoming furious. They had access to the latest scientific equipment available and still they could come no closer to finding a cause than the police.
McBride had decided that maybe they needed a new perspective on the case, one that was not entirely human nor entirely machine. If Robocop could solve this problem, then his future would be fully secured, McBride would see to that. He would never again have to fear being discontinued or declared obsolete, his systems would be fully upgraded annually.
That was a bonus that he could not afford to lose.
In the five hours since he had come to the roof of the OCP Tower, Robo had been busy analyzing ever bit of data on the investigation gathered so far. He had gone over every report, every photograph, and every inch of recorded information. Assimilating that data, he had moved on to the surveillance video from the Tower's security systems, finding what he finally hoped to be a clue.
Air traffic over the area was fairly frequent, not a surprise considering the closeness of OCP's Delta Airport. Murphy had correlated passing aircraft with flight path data on file with the FAA log system at OCP-DA, and had found no records connected to a helicopter that had made several passes over the Tower. Resolution enhancement had revealed the copter to have no markings, its design similar to the military's AH-98 Mark II stealth/assault copter.
The craft was different enough that Murphy doubted it was actually a military unit, more likely one that was purchased privately and then modified. His built-in satellite link-up was currently connected to the Federal Data Base, his subsystem running a search on any recent sales of the AH-98 Mark II by the US Army.
So far his search had turned up zilch, but there were thousands of files to sort through, and the government was not renowned for its records organization. Since the Tower had already been targeted three times, Murphy had no doubt that its recent completion would invoke yet another assault on its structure. He would either find the recorded information that he sought, or he would encounter the aircraft it self.
Another new feature of Robo's armor was its ability to alter its color scheme. His entire mechanical being was coated with an alloy-enamel that would shift color when its surface temperature was changed. Using an internal regulator, Murphy could raise or lower his armor temperature, changing the armor's color to one of six different choices. He was currently running in his own stealth mode, his armor cooled to color it black and hide his heat signature.
Murphy paused in his processing of possibilities as his sensors detected a nearly nonexistent sound in the night sky. Filtering out the distant, everyday sounds of the city at night, Murphy isolated a hushed whooping noise. His recognition program activated, and the noise was quickly identified as that of the AH-98 Mark II. Even with the optical enhancements built into his helmet, Murphy had a difficult time spotting the helicopter, hovering nearly ten meters above the Tower, and in full stealth mode.
Something was falling from the copter, something like a mist, but it was not wet. Murphy began running scans on the substance, trying to get readings before it was gone. After only a few seconds, the mist was no more, and the copter banked away from the Tower at a high speed.
Knowing that he did not have much time, Murphy grabbed a tracking unit from the recessed compartment on his left leg and threw it with all of his considerable might. The tracker, about the size of a standard compact disc, soared through the air on a direct course for the retreating helicopter. The tracker struck the rear of the copter, its circuitry sealing it to the hull instantly and morphing its color to match that of the AH-98 Mark II.
With the tracker in place and transmitting a signal, Murphy turned his attention back to analyzing the strange substance that had been dropped on the Tower. His scans had detected a substance, but he was unable to identify it. As he continued running one test program after another on it, he was suddenly aware that the roof of the Tower was becoming unstable.
Murphy spun around as a rumbling rang out from behind him, the antenna assembly crashing over as the section of roof surrounding it collapsed. Other areas began following suit, crumbling as if they had aged years in just seconds. Machinery rusted and fell apart, air vents wasted away, and concrete began flaking away like dust.
The rumbling became thunderous as the recently finished sections once again caved in, ruined as mysteriously as before. Murphy fought to maintain his balance as the roof began to buckle, a flashing message on the inside of his visor telling him what he already knew, that there was a proximity threat due to structural stress.
Clouds of dust and smoke rose up as everything began to implode, small explosions and showers of sparks emanating from within the building. Murphy leapt desperately for his jet pack at the side of the collapsing roof. His hand latched onto the device and he was lifting it to clamp onto his back when he suddenly found himself in empty space, falling with the rest of the building.
His vision began flashing on and off as his view of the world kept going black, his emergency systems coming on-line as he was buffeted about within the collapsing building. Tons of ruined metal and concrete plummeted down on the rest of the Tower, a percentage of it flowing down the sides like an obscene waterfall.
Robo was aware of his own descent, his systems nearly over-loading with the turmoil that he was experiencing. Murphy connected with sold flooring, but his bulk was falling at sufficient speed to let him crash through to the next level. He continued as such, smashing through two more solid floors before finally stopping, his systems shutting down to keep his matrix from blowing out.
The last thing Murphy saw before his vision went black was another warning message flashing on his visor, stating that his system efficiency was down to nine percent. It was as close to death as he could get, being a cyborg, and Murphy hoped that McBride would see fit to have him repaired one more time.
Milton strode through the twisted shambles that was home to his employer, his heavy steps sending up puffs of dust from the dirt that had gathered over the years. The structure had long been abandoned, part of the depression that had seen most of Old Detroit fall into chaos. In his hand he carried the latest batch of Doddson's toys, the ones that had had their Life Limiters deactivated. Milton knew what his employer intended to use them for, and he could not imagine a more gruesome way to die.
Not that it mattered to him. Milton was reputed to be one of the most heartless mercenaries currently in operation, the reason he had been hired by his employer, and he really didn't care how any of their marks died.
The sprawling complex had once been a research center, its owners going bankrupt and having to shut it down after OCP won most of the weapon development contracts issued by the Pentagon. A section of it had been reclaimed, fully active and hidden from the outside world by sophisticated shielding systems. It was here that Milton's employer thought out his plans and carried on his own research, developing what Milton hoped would someday be his new, indestructible form.
Placing his hand on a section of rusted wall that appeared as aged as the rest of the building, Milton waited paitently as his palm was scanned to confirm his identity. There was a loud clank, the section of wall before him swinging in slightly as its lock was undone. Milton entered the hidden room and closed the door behind him, the massive titanium bar that was the lock sliding back into place.
The room was a stark contrast to the rest of the complex, its interior filled with the latest research equipment in the field of cybernetics. At the far end of the room was a tank filled with a bluish fluid, a glob of organic material floating in it, attached to dozens of wires.
The round glob inside of the tank was a human brain, complete with spinal column and eyes. It floated in the thick fluid, energy sparkling through the liquid as tiny jolts of electricity were run through it to keep the grey matter alive. The eyes watched Milton as he approached the tank, following the large man as he stepped up to the small counter that projected from the side of the tank.
Milton sat the case down on the counter and popped the clasps open, turning the case so that the eyes of the brain could see clearly. He opened the case, revealing it to be filled with four containers, each about the size of a cassette case.
"You verified that the Limiters were deactivated?" asked the brain, its synthetic voice sounding very mechanical.
Milton nodded in confirmation.
"And you are certain that you know how to operate all of his equipment now? That you can complete every step in the process?"
Again Milton nodded.
"Very good, then," said the voice, sounding pleased even though it was generated artificially. "Place one of the containers in the programming chamber."
Milton lifted one of the glass containers out of the case and carried it over to a computer terminal. The side of the terminal had a slot, into which Milton inserted the container. He then activated the system, the screen coming to life and flashing a message that the unit was ready to begin programming.
"Retrogram Omega," spoke the brain. "Target is James Doddson."
Code began running down the screen of the programming system, files of human anatomy flashing by faster than a normal human would be able to follow. Milton was able to keep up with the information, his bionic implant capturing the data and allowing his mind to access it, and he smiled slightly.
He no longer had to imagine how the death would be, he could see it explained in the retrogram. He had been right, it would be totally gruesome. His smile grew broader as he thought of how he would get to watch it happen.
"The new armor held up amazingly well," stated Doctor McNamara as he examined the bulk that was Robocop.
Search teams had located the downed officer quickly and had called in a cargo helicopter to lift him from the debris. McNamara had been on the scene and had immediately set about stabilizing Robo's systems. The ruined remains of Robo's flight pack had proven to still be fully charged, a quick field adaptation to its broken connectors allowing the Doctor to hook it up to Robo so that he could draw power from it for his nearly depleted batteries.
"It's his wetware that I'm worried about, Doctor," said McBride. "No other person has survived the conversion process, Murphy's our only working model."
"Well, actually, Cain did survive the process," stated McNamara, glancing up from his work station to see the angry look on McBride's face. "But, of course, he was rather dependent on Nuke at the time."
"Is he salvageable?" asked McBride. She wanted Robo back up as quickly as possible, she had to know if he had learned anything about their current problem.
"Oh, yes, no problem. His main data base is intact, it's just that a number of his sub processors have been damaged. I can have them replaced within an hour and have him fully functional."
"Then do it," she barked, heading towards the exit door. "We need him back in operation."
Satisfied that the hallway was free of busybodies, McBride pulled out her cell phone and punched in a secure code. A woman answered on the first ring, her tone curt and professional.
"Verhoven," identified the voice.
"How soon until you're ready for a field test, Doctor?" asked McBride, already having a back-up plan to their current situation.
"Technically, right now. All systems have checked out perfect, we just haven't awakened the subject."
"Get her ready, Doctor. I think Murphy may need some back up on this."
Doddson turned off the vid unit, he was now certain that he knew what his creation was being used for. He had only gotten bits and pieces of the news for the past few weeks, but today's report on the destruction of the renovation of OCP Tower confirmed what he had suspected. Morals were something that he had not had to previously deal with, most of his past research not involving such issues, but he was having a full blown moral dilemma now. The news reports may have been slightly vague, stating that the police were still working on the matter, but he knew, and it was causing him an enormous amount of conflict.
He knew he should contact the authorities, report what he believed to be happening, but then what would come of him? He would most certainly be arrested as an accomplice, he was the one creating the devices for the Mystery Man to carry out his acts of terrorism. Besides that, what could he tell them? He knew nothing of the Mystery Man, having only delt with him through a secure communications line, and had no clue as to where the Mystery Man might be located.
There was Milton, though. Surely the police could subdue the walking demolition crew, make him reveal the secrets of the Mystery Man. No, Milton was more than the police could handle, he had seen that in the passive scans he had run on the giant. Milton would make short work of the police, then vanish, probably seeking revenge on Doddson for turning them in.
The only thing that could possibly stand up to Doddson would be one of those ED-211 combat systems, and the police certainly didn't have one of those. At the most, the only thing the police would be able to come up with would be…Robocop!
Of course, Robocop! Why hadn't he thought of that before? He would contact Robocop directly, certain that his credentials as a scientist would allow him to at least talk to the cyborg. He could tell Robocop everything he knew, and suspected, and let the cyborg cop deal with it. He activated his vid-phone and pulled up the number for the local police station, trusting that they would be able to connect him to where ever Robocop was stationed.
One hour and five re-directs later, Doddson was staring at the face of Doctor McNamara, trying to explain that he needed to talk to Robocop directly. He had spent the last five minutes arguing with McNamara, trying to appeal to the fellow scientist within the man to no avail.
"I'm sorry, but it's out of the question," said McNamara, ready to break the connection. "He's not fully charged yet, and pulling him off the system could be damaging until he is so."
"This is very important," stressed Doddson. "I have information about the troubles that OCP has been having."
"Then leave your number and in a half hour, when he's fully recharged, I'll have him contact you." McNamara really had no idea what Doddson was talking about, he was too involved in his own work to know about the troubles that Delta City had been having lately.
"Okay, okay, okay! Listen, just tell him to come to the warehouse on Bender Avenue. Tell him that my lab is in the rear half of the building, and it's very important that he get here as soon as possible."
"Are you sure you don't want me to connect you to Captain Reed?" asked McNamara. "He's Robocop's superior, and the police liaison to OCP."
"No. Just give Robocop the message," replied Doddson, breaking the connection himself.
Doddson turned from his vid-phone to his computer terminal and began calling up all of the files on his creation. He did not want to hand over all of the data, in case it would fall into the wrong hands, so he selectively went through the information, copying only what he thought Robocop would need. Telling someone how to stop his devices was a far cry from telling them how to manufacture them.
Finishing the disc, Doddson looked about his lab, trying to decide on someplace to hide it. His eyes landed on the picture of him and his wife, his heart suddenly missing her, and he knew where to put the disc. He stared at the picture longingly, the old anger rising up him at the drunk driver that had taken her away from him, and his eyes became moist. It had been a double blow the day she died, Doddson later finding out that she had been on her way home from the doctor's to tell him that she was pregnant. He had buried himself in his research after that, rarely socializing even with those he relied on to support his work.
Doddson slipped the disc in-between the picture and its backing, starring at it a few moments longer. He finally sat the picture back down, rubbing the tears from his eyes, and turned around to find Milton standing quietly on the other side of his desk.
"Good God!" exclaimed Doddson. He knew that the man was silent, rarely ever speaking, but he didn't know he was stealthy.
Milton reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the containers that Doddson had given to him just a few hours ago. He carefully pulled the top off of the container, holding it before him as if trying to show off what was inside. The container appeared to be empty, its surface marred by several back spots, but Doddson knew better.
"What's wrong?" asked Doddson, his nervousness creeping into his voice. "I double checked them, everything was done as you boss requested."
Milton snapped his wrist, the black spots vanishing from the container, and Doddson emitted a short cry.
"What the hell are you doing?" screamed Doddson, feeling the tiny bits hit him. He began brushing at his clothes and face, franticly trying to remove the devices from himself. "Why did you…"
Doddson stopped in mid-sentence, his head suddenly feeling as if it were on fire. Pain lanced through his body as his senses were overwhelmed, his entire being feeling like it was being taken apart from the inside. His mind registered his clothing, crumbling from him as if it had aged a hundred years in an instant. He saw his hands, stretched out before him, withering away as if he were a corpse exposed to time.
Collapsing into a heap of desiccated skin and bones, Doddson's mind lost its ability to comprehend as it shut down, dying with the rest of his body. In less than a couple of minutes there was nothing left of Doddson but a pile of ash-like substance, even his bones affected by the force that killed him.
Milton laid the container down on the floor, next to the pile of ashes, and waited. Black spots began forming within the container, his bionic implant allowing him to see when it was once again as full as when he had started. He picked up the empty appearing case, placed it back in his pocket, then contacted his waiting crew to have them begin gathering up what material they would need to continue Doddson's project back at their employer's facilities.
Images flowed through Murphy's mind as his organic half slept, recovering in its own way while his cybernetic half was recharging. He saw images of his wife and son, long since gone from his life, moving away from Old Detroit when they had thought him slain in the line of duty. Several times he had thought of contacting them, of telling them about his continued existence, but he always managed to refrain from doing so. He doubted that they would welcome him back into their lives the way he was now, more machine than human.
And even if they did, what would he be able to offer them in return? When he was awake, performing his duty as a police officer, he had no problem rationalizing his decision. It was during the dark times, while he slept, that Murphy was tormented by his choice to remain unknown to them. Their love for each other had been strong, and he had no doubt that she would sacrifice all to remain at his side, even now. But in return, his love for her was so strong that he would not ask that of her.
The face of his wife faded away, soon replaced with that of Ann, a nightmare that he hated even more. He had had no choice when it came to being Robocop, OCP had seen to that, but he could have done something to have kept Ann alive. He could have told her to stay behind, that he was on a personal mission when he had gone to search for the truth behind the Reclamation Project.
MacDaggit had killed her, an event that he had not foreseen considering that the Colonel was suppose have been on their side. He saw her going down, the shot tearing through her chest since she had not been wearing her body armor. Body armor she had left behind because she had been going off duty when she hooked up with Murphy. Murphy, who had led her to her death.
Why hadn't he insisted that she stay behind?
Why hadn't he?
Murphy woke up to find himself seated in the repair shop, as the crew responsible for him refereed to it, and looked over to see Doctor McNamara approaching him. The Doctor had been part of the original team behind the ED-209 project, later switching over to the Robocop 2 development team, and now head of the support crew that existed merely to keep Robocop functional.
Establishing a satellite link-up, Murphy immediately ran a scan for the signal of the tracking unit he had tagged the copter with. There was no signal. After running a diagnostic to ensure that all of his systems were functioning correctly, Murphy surmised that the pilots of the copter must have found the tracker and deactivated it, or that its signal was somehow being blocked.
Another dead end.
"How you feeling, Murphy?" asked McNamara, disconnecting the power cable from Robo's frame.
"Much better, thank you," replied Murphy, rising from his chair. "Please have Captain Reed and Maria McBride meet me in briefing room three."
"Okay, Murphy," said McNamara, placing a call for Captain Reed. "Oh, there's a message for you from a Doctor Doddson."
Murphy read the scribbled not as McNamara told Reed of Robo's request, the Captain saying that he would get in touch with McBride.
"Who is this Doctor Doddson?" asked Robo.
"He was a real hot shot with miniaturized robotics a few years back," replied McNamara. "Said he was close to developing nanotechnology."
"Nanites," whispered Robo.
The puzzle became nearly complete in Murphy's mind. The materials rendered useless on a molecular level. The building collapsing only moments after being dusted by some invisible substance. Once the nanites finished destroying the building from within, they could simply leave undetected, or possibly even self destruct.
Extending his interface-adapter, a six inch long spike that plugged into compatible computer systems, Murphy connected to the main computer and began running his scans of the destruction of OCP Tower. He locked in on a frame from when he first felt the invisible substance pelting him, and began magnifying it. The computer was able to achieve a much greater degree of enhancement than his systems, the screen soon showing a shower of microscopic dots. Zeroing in on one, Murphy continued increasing the magnification, a black, eight-legged square quickly becoming visible.
"What is that?" asked McNamara.
"Our saboteur," replied Robo. "Tell Captain Reed that I will be detained, I think I should pay a visit to Doctor Doddson first."
"You have done excellent work, Milton," said the grey matter. "Now it is time to carry my revenge on OCP to the next level."
Milton was beginning to respect his new employer, an emotion he had not experienced since his first year of boot camp. This bodiless entity operated purely on anger, something Milton could fully relate to, and was ruthlessly efficient. When the full plan had been carried out, grey matter would have a new, human body, and Milton would become the ultimate mercenary Oh, he could have also had a human body once again, but he was looking forward to being a living weapon instead, finally able to carry out his own plans of revenge.
"Place batch one in the program chamber."
Removing the container of nanites, that had killed Doddson, from his jacket pocket, Milton slid them into the access slot. The screen flashed to life as soon as Milton activated it, the message stating that the system was ready.
"Retrogram Omega," stated the grey matter. "Target is Anna McBride."
Data began streaming down the screen, giving the nanites all of the information they would need to carry out their mission. The scrolling suddenly came to a stop, another window popping up with a flashing message in bold letters.
UNABLE TO COMPLETE REPROGRAMMING
CURRENT NANITE PARAMETERS CAN
NOT BE OVERWRITTEN.
THIS IN AN UNRECOVERABLE ERROR.
FOR MORE INFORMATION REFER TO
DODDSON CODE OF ETHICS #0012A-2.
NANITES HAVE HAD LIMITERS
SELF-TERMINATION IN 30 SECONDS.
"What's happening?" demanded the grey matter.
Milton began trying to over-ride the system settings, growing more and more agitated as his keystrokes failed to produce any results. The counter reached zero, a miniscule flash emanating from the slot containing the nanites. Milton removed the plastic container, and he did not need his bionic implant to tell him that the container was now empty. The neutron cells of the nanites had overloaded, resulting in their complete and utter destruction.
"That bastard," screamed the grey matter. "He made them so that we could only program them once! What good are they if we can't reprogram them!"
Milton turned to face the grey matter, his head hung low in shame.
"Don't fret, Milton. It's not your fault. Doddson was just a little more resourceful than I thought. And, apparently, not too trusting of us."
Opening the black case, Milton removed the second container of nanites that had had their Limiters deactivated, and inserted it into the programming chamber. Once he activated the device, grey matter issued the commands to insure that the nanites would destroy only the intended target, the new CEO of OCP.
Murphy's fears were confirmed as his scans revealed the pile of dust to have formerly been human, and he fully believed it to be the remains of Dr. Doddson. The lab had recently been stripped of almost everything, disturbed dust and indentations indicating that a great deal of equipment had been removed. The only things left behind was a desk that the pile of ashes was hidden behind, and some personal items.
Activating his full range of sensors, Murphy conducted a sweep of the vast, nearly empty room, and he quickly detected the hidden data CD. Retrieving the CD from behind the picture of Doddson's wife, Murphy headed back out to his cruiser to use its portable terminal.
The CD contained many files on the nanites, which would undoubtedly prove useful, but it also contained a MPG file. Murphy played the file, the image of Dr. Doddson, in his formerly equipped laboratory, springing up.
"I'll assume that you're watching this, Robocop, and that can only mean that I am dead," started the Doctor. "A few weeks ago I was sought out by an unknown person that wanted to fully back my proposed construction of nanite prototypes, with the condition that he got full, private use of them for three months after completion."
Murphy did not like where this was going.
"The data on this disc will tell you how to stop the nanites, and how to reprogram any of them that you may come across. I have built into them, a fail-safe device, a self destruct that destroys them once their initial programmed mission is complete. This Mystery Man, as I call him, requested a number of batches of nanites with the feature deactivated in them."
No, this was not good at all.
"However, I have recently begun to suspect that he is not as interested in advancing my science as he claimed. I gave him the nanites he requested, but if he tries to program them for a second mission, they will then self destruct."
At least the nanites weren't as unlimited as this Mystery Man thought.
"Of course he will realize this the first time he tries to reprogram a batch, but then it will be too late. My only fear is that once he does realize this, he will become even more aggressive in his plans. I have no idea what they could be, but they will undoubtedly be ruthless."
Doddson hung his head in shame, his last statement barely picked up by Robo's audio sensors.
"I'm sorry, Robocop. I only wanted to help."
The picture went blank, and Robo closed the file, thinking of what his next step should be. He had to report his findings to OCP, there might be a clue in the data files that would help them guard against a new attack by this Mystery Man. Robo had to place his contemplation on hold, a signal from one of his internal systems calling for his attention, and he smiled as he picked up the signal from the tracker he had placed on the renegade stealth copter.
It was on a direct course for the Welsh Complex, the temporary offices of OCP.
Milton rather enjoyed the abilities of the AH-98 Mark II Assault copter, and wished that his company had had access to such a craft back during the war. Maybe then he wouldn't have been the sole survivor, nearly three-fourths of his internal structure replaced with cybernetic enhancements. He was currently piloting the craft in its day stealth mode, its armor a swirling mixture of blue and white, nearly invisible to any one on the ground, and its dampener system absorbing any radar or sensor signals.
Circling the Welsh Complex, running scans to ensure that no one was currently occupying the heli-pad station, Milton banked the craft in for a landing. Concentrating on the area that he had to set the copter down in, Milton failed to notice the rapidly approaching police cruiser, trailed by SWAT vans and other, unmarked vehicles.
Shutting the copter down, Milton waited as its armor uncloaked, well aware of the damage the electric field could do to his internal systems. Twenty seconds later, the copter now fully visible in all of its technological glory, Milton stepped down onto the roof, carrying with him, the small container of nanites. He started walking towards the roof access door, his stride powerful and determined, and froze as the door crashed open, Robocop standing there with his gun at the ready.
"Identify yourself," commanded Robo.
"Milton Hargrove," rumbled the cybernetic mercenary. "I am here to see Maria McBride."
"You are wanted for questioning in the death of James Doddson, and in the acts of willful destruction of property belonging to Omni Consumer Products."
"Then I guess I had better go with you," replied Milton, releasing the nanites with a subtle flick of his wrist.
The action had not gone unnoticed.
Robo's tracking system locked in on the section of roof next to Milton, magnifying and enhancing the image until the nanites were visible. There were two hundred of them, scurrying along the tiled roof, heading for the open door behind Robocop. Robo's head tilted down, following the movement of the nanites, and Milton seized his opportunity.
Milton's fist lashed out with force that would have shattered a concrete pillar, striking Robo squarely in the face with a resounding clang. Robo didn't budge an inch, tilting his head back up to look the surprised Milton in the eye, and returned the punch with one of his own.
The roof shuddered with the impact of Milton's body, the decorative tile cracking in a spider-web pattern away from him, the mercenary knocked out cold. Lieutenant Hitchcock and his SWAT team emerged from the stairwell, surrounding the downed suspect, and securing the copter.
"Be careful, Lieutenant," said Robo. "He is far more than he seems."
"Where are you going?" demanded Hitchcock.
"McBride is in danger," replied Robo, running for the entrance way. "I have to get to her quickly."
Robo had appreciated his new form, but never like he did now, the streamlined armor allowing him to move with greater speed than his previous bulky incarnation. He bounded down three flights, smashing through the exit door in his haste, and bolted for Maria McBride's office. As he rounded the last corner before her office, his sensors picked out the swarm of nanites scurrying along the edge of the hall, only meters from their intended target.
Based on the information he had learned from Doddson's files, Robo had formed a plausible theory on how he could stop the nanites, he had just hoped for a less critical situation in which to test it. Tapping into his reserves, Robo put on a burst of speed that let him overtake, and pass, the nanites. Pleasantries not even being considered, in light of the circumstances, Robo smashed through the door to the receptionist's area, enticing a cry of surprise from the woman, and ran on towards the door to McBride's office.
Retrieving a tracking disc from his side compartment, Robo extended his CPU interface spike and punched it through the center of the disc. Coming to an abrupt stop, Robo spun around and locked his targeting sensor on the approaching nanites. Extending his hand, with the tracking disc skewered on the CPU spike, Robo directed an electrical charge into the disc, activating its magnetic clamp and enhancing its power by several degrees of output.
The nanites literally flew from the ground, caught in the pull of the improvised electro-magnet, and were all quickly captured on the disc. A moment later, a few trinkets flew off of the startled secretary's desk, also caught in the magnetic field. A stapler, a letter opener, a couple of pens, and a handful of paper-clips joined the nanites on the charged surface of the disc.
"What in the hell is going on out here?" demanded McBride, throwing open her door to see what the commotion had been. "Robocop? What are you doing here?"
"Saving your life," replied Robo.
An hour later, after transporting the nanites to a unit that attempted to reprogram them and, in turn, activated their self-destruct, Robo was leading a contingent of police officers to where the tracking signal from the helicopter originated. A quick inspection of the tracking unit revealed that it had been working properly, hence Robo deduced that the helicopter had been stored somewhere that shielded its signal. When the copter emerged from that location, the signal was again picked up by Robo's internal equipment, and pin pointed the place of origin.
Trailing Robo's Police Interceptor, were three SWAT vans, six other cruisers, a command unit manned by Captain Reed and Doctor McNamara, and an unmarked van from OCP that McBride had insisted come along. The convoy was hell bent for a distant section of Old Detroit that was months away from being targeted for demolition, and was home to dozens of closed, long abandoned factories.
It reminded Murphy of the area where he had lost his humanity.
The point of origin turned out to be the dilapidated complex of Parker-Macomb Data Link, as desolate a looking structure as the other buildings that surrounded it, and Robo's scanners confirmed that it was shielded from sensors. Robo did not like the way things were stacking up, he wanted to know what was inside before he, and the other officers, went inside.
"I'll let it be your call, Murph," replied Harris, after listening to Robo's assessment of the situation. "I think you have a better grasp on all of this than we do."
"Thank you, Captain. I'll go in the main entrance while you secure the building."
"You got it."
When Robo had said that he would go in the main entrance, he had ment it. He floored the Interceptor, crashing the cruiser through the boarded up doors of the complex, and plowed on through the tiny partitions that had served to separate the reception area from the main floor of the warehouse. The Interceptor screeched to a halt, and Robo climbed out to see that this was where the helicopter had been hangared, two large sections of the ceiling open, paitently awaiting the return of the craft.
Robo carefully treaded through the open warehouse, gun in hand, scanning the area for any clues. Doorways at the rear of the warehouse led to factory areas, Robo quickly finding the correct one by the signs of recent passing in the dust, and called for the others to enter. The SWAT teams moved in first, making sure the way was clear for their fellow officers, and they soon had the front half of the complex secure.
"Any signs of activity?" asked Reed, meeting up with Robo as he exited the factory part of the building. "Is anyone here?"
"There are tracks that lead to a collapsed wall, but I believe that it is a deception," replied Robo. "I am unable to move it."
"What's going on?" demanded McBride, walking into the warehouse. "Why isn't there anything here? I thought you said this was the base of those attacking OCP?"
"Miss McBride, you really shouldn't be here," said Reed, trying to turn the woman around and direct her back out of the building.
"Oh, no, you're not going to brush me off on this, Reed. He said this was the base of those attacking my company, and I want to know what's going on."
A distinct hum filled the air, one that sent a chill through those that had heard it before, years ago, and several of the police officers began backing up in fear. Reed spun around, looking for the source of the hum, his brow furrowed with confusion, and began waving his hand for McBride to shut up.
"Get out of here, now," directed Robo at McBride, the woman looking shocked.
"I might support you, but I will not…" the rest of her sentence was lost in the roar of a chain-gun, heavy caliber slugs ripping apart the far wall of the warehouse.
The wall blew apart in a cloud of metal and dust, the humming getting louder, and large bulky shadow could be seen moving through the cloud, stepping out into the warehouse. Emerging from the waves of dust, causing several gasps and screams, was the bluish, metal form of Robocop 2.
"Oh, my God," said McBride, seeing the reborn abomination from OPC's past.
"Shit, shit, shit, shit," started prattling Reed, spinning McBride around and pushing her towards the exit.
"I really didn't want use this," boomed a voice from the Robocop 2 unit, "It was suppose to be for Milton, but when he failed to return, I knew that it wouldn't be long before you showed up."
Reed was yelling for everyone to fall back, as he finally got McBride to the exit, though it wasn't necessary. Most of the cops were already scurrying for cover, most of them remembering their devastating encounter with the previous Robocop 2 unit, and none of them wanting to be another pointless statistic.
"I hope you find my modifications interesting," said Robocop 2. "I designed them with you in mind."
"Who are you?" asked Robo.
"It hurts so, that you don't remember my voice," whined Robocop 2, its front chest shimmering to reveal that it was also a video screen.
The face that materialized on the screen was a familiar one, even in its blue, green, and red hues, and Robo recognized it immediately. It was the face of his ultimate father, of the man that had authorized his creation, of the man that had at one time supported Robocop to the extent of calling him Murphy.
It was the face of The Old Man.
"One little mistake and they took my company from me," said The Old Man. "Omni Consumer Products was my life. It was my sole reason for being. Now, I'm going to take it back."
"You are under arrest," replied Murphy, targeting on the view screen. "Resistance is not recommended."
The Old Man laughed maniacally, then opened up on Robo with his chain-gun, the weapon far more powerful than that of the previous Robocop 2. The slugs blasted into Murphy, propelling him backward with such force that his systems went into emergency mode, numerous warnings flashing across his view.
The few officers that had stayed behind, finding shelter behind scattered crates and bulky machines, opened fire with their weapons. Robocop 2 turned his attention to them briefly, his chain-gun making short work of them, the heavy slugs tearing through whatever they had thought would give them cover.
Outside, the sounds of battle could be heard, and officers scrambled to retrieve more fire power, the limited number of machine guns and grenade launchers woefully inadequate in the eyes of all involved.
"Activate her!" screamed McBride, running for the van that she had arrived in. "Activate her now!"
Reed turned to see what in the hell the woman the was yelling about, his mouth dropping open in response to the sight that greeted his eyes.
Murphy didn't even give thought to retrieving his pistol, instead activating the machinegun implanted in his left arm, and returned fire on The Old Man. Though more powerful than his auto-pistol, the machinegun still failed to penetrate the armor plating of the Robocop 2 unit, the shots pinging off of it ineffectively.
Seeking shelter behind his Interceptor, Murphy was knocked to the ground as the vehicle exploded, The Old Man's shots ripping it apart and igniting the gas tank. Dazed from the explosion, his systems nearly overloaded, Murphy was caught by surprise as The Old Man swiftly advanced on him, jerking him to his feet with a metal claw.
"It's your fault, you know," said The Old Man. "We tried to improve on you and we couldn't."
Murphy was slammed into the hard concrete floor as The Old Man continued ranting.
"You didn't want to be our property."
Another slam into the floor, and Murphy's system was warning him that shut down was nearly imminent.
"You wanted to be an individual."
His vision was blurred with static and shifting lines, SYSTEM OVERLOAD flashing before his eyes.
There was a cha-chunk sound, and an explosion ripped through the side of Robocop 2, knocking it to the ground and causing it to release Murphy. A second explosion ripped up the floor next to the fallen unit, propelling it further back, and Murphy rolled onto his back to see who his savior was.
"Murphy, it is you," said the image of Ann Lewis that flashed through Robo's mind. The image that matched the face of the Robocop unit now standing in the doorway to the warehouse, brandishing a Mark III Assault Rifle.
Matching Murphy's new armor exactly, though tinted red in color, Ann Lewis was now a Robocop.
"Surrender or die," commanded Ann, training her weapon on the downed Robocop 2 unit.
Murphy staggered to his feet, his system stabilizing during his respite, and he looked towards Ann with mixed emotions. Images began flooding through his mind, all of them accompanied with feelings of anger that OPC could do this to another person, and he wanted to scream out in rage.
The Old Man replied to Ann's challenge, his chain-gun decimating her weapon in a volley of slugs that then ripped into her, and she was knocked to the ground by the unexpected assault.
Righting himself, The Old Man made a bee line for Murphy, stopping short of the swaying Robocop and scanning him.
"You're almost finished," said The Old Man, gleefully. "I think I'll deal with your friend first, since she seems more full of fight."
The Old Man charged Ann, slamming into her with such force that they both crashed through the outer wall of the building, and tumbled outside to continue the battle. Watching them exchange blows, Murphy tried to think of a way to get to The Old Man, his sensors showing him that the former vulnerability had been corrected. There was no way to get to the brain housed within the unit, he had to come up with something else.
Scanning the warehouse, searching for anything that he could use, Murphy noted the hole in the far wall that The Old Man had made upon his entrance. He also noted the vast array of equipment beyond the opening, and a plan blossomed in his mind.
Ann rolled with the attack, her mind still new to all of the data that was streaming though it, and calculated numerous counter-moves that she could initiate. Her years of law enforcement experience, mixed with the raw data that had been downloaded to her system, was still pausing as it merged, slowing her reflexes slightly, and giving The Old Man the advantage.
An occasional shot would ring out, taken by one of the dozens of officers watching the battle, and having no affect what so ever. The shots quickly ceased as, in response, the Robocop 2 unit would effortlessly dispatch who ever had fired on it, not loosing a single stride in the battle.
Her systems nearing the same level of depletion that Murphy's had recently been at, Ann stumbled back from The Old Man's latest assault, his massive claw delivering a punch that caused several shorts within her subsystems. Her organic mind was awakening more to what was going on, and Ann was beginning to experience feelings of doubt, wondering how long she was going to be able to stand up to this machine of destruction that she was combating.
The Old Man delivered another mighty blow, knocking Ann to her knees, and followed up with a strike that slammed her on her back. Her efficiency level down to twenty-seven percent, multiple warning messages flashing before her eyes, Ann could only look up as The Old Man placed the tip of his chain-gun against her head.
"It was so nice meeting you again, Officer Lewis," said The Old Man. "It's a shame that it has to end this way."
"I warned you not to resist," yelled Robocop, drawing The Old Man's attention.
Robo tossed three small containers at The Old Man, each of the plastic cases breaking apart as they struck his armor, and he knew instantly what they had contained. His scanners picked up the hundreds of tiny nanites, his armor already showing signs of the desiccation they were doing, and he staggered about, shocked.
"Damn you!" he screamed, bringing his gun to bare on Robo.
One shot fired off, ricocheting off of Robo's shoulder, the chain-gun crumbling away as the nanites did their work. The Old Man's face began screaming out in pain, his image flashing on and off as one system after another was ruined, and his shell began falling rapidly apart.
Ann crawled backwards away from the machine, uncertain of what was going on, and watched in fascination as the Robocop 2 unit dissolved to dust in a matter of minutes. Her sensors picked up dozens of tiny, white flashes, as the nanites self destructed, their mission accomplished.
"Officer Lewis," said Murphy, walked up to Ann and offering her a hand up.
"I am designated Robocop Unit 002," replied Ann, rising up with Murphy's help.
"Great job, Murphy," said Maria McBride, joining the two of them. "Our deal is still good. You've got it in writing, and you're set. From now on, only the best for you."
"And what about her?" asked Murphy, watching sadly as techs began walking Ann back towards the van she had been transported in.
"I was hoping that you would help with her," said McBride. "She's going to need someone to guide her, someone that's been through this."
"To make it easier for her," replied McBride, sounding as if it was the most obvious thing. "You've been…"
"No," interrupted Murphy, "that's not what I ment. Why did you do this to her?"
"I didn't. The project was started immediately after her death. She was placed in cryogenic-storage when OCP almost went under. I merely had her reactivated and brought on-line."
Murphy stared at her silently for a few minutes, then turned and began walking towards one of the parked police cars, ignoring her questioning pleas to know what was going on, what was wrong.
"What the hell's his problem?" asked McBride of Captain Reed.
"If you don't know," started Reed, watching Murphy drive off after the van, "then I suggest you start looking for where ever it is you left your heart."
"What the hell does that mean?" demanded McBride.
Reed just shook his head and went to see which of his people hadn't survived the encounter.