Title: The Flesh Element

Author: Sybil Rowan

Pairing(s)/Characters: 004+002, (Albert/ Jet), -004 will be in this one as well.

Rating: M

Summary: This is a what-if twist from the "Man or Machine?" episode. What if Robot -004 is resurrected and 'improved.' There's a glitch which makes him obsessed with Jet and on a rampage to confront and kill Albert. This is all after a bad 'first date' between Albert and Jet.

Warnings: Language, some violence, some making out.

Author's Notes: Sorry if this is overdone, but I haven't found any stories like this. Shoot me a PM and let me know if you've seen any because I'd love to read more with the same feel. A slight twist in cannon from the Episode # 32 in the 2001 anime; the -004 story isn't in the manga, which I'm more used to. So... forgive any mistakes I make according to the 2001 anime. I always pictured Jet and Albert's relationship as being rocky at first so it's a little different from my other story. I also made up some of Albert and Jet's past. This story is named after a great Jet Black Berries song from the 'Desperate Fires' album. The lyrics inspired me for this piece along with Mik Links drawing 'Under Investigation.' I adore the Absolute 002 web site. Go, if you haven't been yet.

Disclaimer: Cyborg 009 is owned by Shotaro Ishinomori.

Beta Reader: My husband, WingedPanter73, was generous enough to edit this one even though it wasn't his cup of tea. Thanks so much, sweetie!

Date: April 22, 2009 (8:06am)/ rewrite May 1, 2009 (6:23am)

Word Count: 9,247

Albert polished an over-sized apple on his sleeve as he wandered out into the woods surrounding the small compound. It had been a cool, crisp morning that had led into a cloudy afternoon. He leaned against a thick oak tree and started to indulge his glum mood.

Albert held up the apple to his lips when a gust of wind passed before him. He no longer held his apple, but leaves rained down on his head. He looked up, predicting what he'd see. Jet Link was draped across a tree limb with the apple.

"That's my lunch."

"This is not lunch. It's a snack."

"Well, it's mine and I would like it back," Albert said, keeping testiness out of his voice.

Jet tossed it back down to Albert. "You're no fun today. What's bothering you?"

"Currently? You are." Albert tossed the apple in the air, sliced it in two with the edge of his left hand, and caught both parts. He tossed one back up to Jet and took a bite of his half.

"Here we all are in Germany and all you want to do is hide in that room of yours and sulk. I mean... Junior is more fun than you are right now and that's saying a lot." Jet took a bite of his apple half and gave Albert a smirk. "What you need to do is to take me out for a real lunch and show me around. It'll cheer you right up."

Albert scowled at the apparent teenager. "So spending my money on you will lift my spirits?"

"I'll pay, all you have to do is tell me what's good." Jet's face was nothing but the picture of pure mischief. Albert sighed and shook his head; he was trying his best not to smile back. He knew it would only encouraged Jet towards more outrageous behavior. "Come on, we've never been on an official date yet."

"Fine! Get down here and we'll go."

"You won't make me eat any of that sauerkraut stuff, right?"

Albert only sighed and shook his head. He had a feeling it was going to be a long afternoon.

"This plan won't fail like last time. I've got it under control."

"You had better. We're getting impatient with all these failures, Doctor Mallard."

"Colonel Wolfe, I promise results," the young doctor declared. He started nervously clicking an ink pen as he turned to the tall, gaunt man in a black suit. "The flaw with the Robot -004 project was that a blank robot was used. Yes, he had been loaded with the data from the original 004's battle strategies, but he was not loaded with his actual brain waves. Utilizing satellite fifty-three, I've been able to pick up his particular brain waves here in Dresden."

"Why haven't you honed in so we can catch them at their hideout?"

"Because the double zero cyborgs have been able to defeat every show of force that's come against them. We need to lure them out or trick them into letting us slip a Trojan Horse into their compound. This is the way, I tell you. Besides, you have to do as I say because I have permission to try."

Both men looked over to the steel table that rested in the middle of the cramped semitrailer. On that table was -004, repaired. The exact duplicate of 004 had a small cone-shaped receiver hovering over his forehead.

"I still don't think your plan will work."

"It will. Once I've imprinted robot -004 with that cyborg's personality... his hopes... fears... dreams... it will all come together. -004 is a pure machine. He will analyze all those things that make Heinrich human and then act on them with pure machine logic."

"Your computer," the colonel said, flinging his hand at the beeping red dot on the monitor.

"Ah! Great! He's moved from the countryside to the city. I'll take the sample. Hopefully, he'll be out all afternoon and I can get a good sample size." The doctor typed while the colonel crowded behind him. The trailer was small, stifling, and dim, but Mallard ignored his discomfort as he typed in the command for the imprint.

"Now we wait." Mallard glanced over at the receiver above -004. It had a blinking green LED on top of the cone that indicated the imprint had started.

"But I don't understand how this is working."

"The satellite has found a match from 004's original brain wave pattern. I've locked on to that pattern and I'm scanning it from the electromagnetic device implanted in his brain. It's the same one the cyborgs use to communicate with each other. We can't crack the actual words or feelings, but the raw data is there and can be imprinted on a blank slate."

"We'll see." Wolfe flopped down in the chair beside Mallard. The pair of Black Ghost agents started playing cards after the first hour had passed. During the third hour a yellow LED on the cone receiver started rapidly flashing.

"What's that?"

"I don't know," Mallard said, bringing up -004's vitals on the monitor. "There was some flux during the reading. Something... a spike in Heinrich's brain activity? Emotions? Hard to say."

As quick as it started the yellow LED stopped and the green one started blinking again. "Good. It worked out."

"Are things are okay?"

"Yes. Just an irrelevant bump. We should get ready soon. He'll be headed back to the compound and then we can set -004 loose tonight."

Albert was wrong about the length of the afternoon; it flew by too rapidly. He admitted Jet was too much of a distraction for his brooding thoughts to overcome. Jet's abrasive personality was channeled into wonderment over historic Dresden. Albert acted as a tour guide while he drove them towards the downtown area. He had his own sense of wonderment over Dresden's restorations from the ravages of the Second World War.

Once they had parked, Jet immediately demanded food. Albert teased Jet over his latest run-in with assisting Chang in the kitchen. Jet had ruined three of Chang's good cooking woks. The New Yorker cyborg was chased from the kitchen by large plumes of fire and Chinese profanity. Albert pointed out that Jet should try to improve his cooking skills since he had such a large appetite.

Jet just scowled and followed Albert to an outdoor café. Albert helped Jet with the menu. Jet could understand spoken German as he could many other languages, but the Black Ghost scientists hadn't given the cyborgs the ability to read languages outside their own. Albert's explanation of veal cutlets horrified Jet; other than that, he was open to try anything.

Jet seemed to enjoy all the new food in front of him. Albert let him talk through the meal and just listened to the elaborate, wild tales of gang life in New York. Albert finally laughed over Jet's story of trying to steal a car that belonged to a police officer.

Albert waved his gloved hand, shook his head, and said, "I don't know who has the better imagination: you or GB. Maybe the two of you should write a book together."

"Wait a minute! My stories are all true. Besides, did you read that latest turkey he came up with. Man, it was horrible. Frances almost scratched his eyes out."

"Well, he'd do better to make up original characters than copy us."

"I know. Hey, I meant to ask you if this was the town you grew up in? You know a lot about it."

"No. I grew up in Berlin. Shortly after World War Two came, my mother and I moved here so she could get a job as a tour guide. She grew up here so it was an easy way for her to support us. My father was killed when the war started so we were very poor, very quickly. I moved back to Berlin when it was finished so I wouldn't have to remember the horrible destruction. My mother was killed in the fire bombings that damaged most of Dresden. It was ironic how I ran from the memories of war just when the Soviets started claiming their portion of Berlin. I never have escaped war, even to this day."

"You know, it's funny hearing you talk about parents. I never pictured you as having them," Jet said with a smirk.

Albert raised his eyebrow and dryly said, "I wasn't just built in a lab. I had wonderful parents that I lost too early due to war. I loved them both very much."

"I just meant you just seem so sophisticated. It's hard for me to imagine you being a kid."

"I was a very well-behaved child, unlike you. Your parents must have had a handful with you." Albert noticed a flash a pain cross Jet's face. "Sorry, did I say something wrong?"

"I don't like talking about my parents. I guess it's what I get for being nosy."

"I could tell you must not have had the best relationship with them. What was wrong with your home that you went running to a street gang for acceptance?"

Jet slowly relaxed his tense posture. "My dad left when I was seven. My mom was gone a lot... working... and seeing guys... I don't even know. Both of them were lousy drunks. That's all there is too it."

Albert nodded, accepting the clipped explanation. He sensed there was so much more to Jet's story, but he knew that it was a large show of trust for Jet to even confess this much.

"Listen, Heinrich, we can go back to the hideout if you're feeling sad over your folks."

"No, I appreciate your concern, but I've finished grieving over my parents a long time ago. I would like to walk to the Carola Bridge. Would you mind?"

"Not at all. I want to see more." His enthusiasm made Albert smile.

Albert waved the waitress over and Jet was true to his word. He paid for their meal. Afterwards, he led Jet to the grassy bank of the river that faced a picturesque scene.

"Wow! Now that's really beautiful. It looks medieval."

Albert sat on the well-manicured lawn, Jet laid flat on his back on the ground beside him. He could tell Jet was slipping into deep thoughts by the way the bridge of his nose was crinkled. Albert smirked and turned back to the dazzling scenery before him.

"That's the Semperoper over there next to the Augustus Bridge. That dome is for the Frauenkirche, which is the highest building."

"What river is this?"

"The Elbe." There was a comfortable silence for several long minutes, the sound of the flowing river was the only thing Albert was aware of.

"I never thought I would ever see things like this. The world is so much larger than I ever imagined."

"I know. I guess it's a small bit of comfort, to have new experiences and see things you would have never known about."

Jet turned a sour face towards him. "My body wasn't a fair payment for this. There is nothing that can ever make up for what I've lost."

"I'm talking about making the most of what you do have."

"I'm trying, but it's hard to do." Jet sat upright and faced Albert. The German cyborg wasn't sure what was on Jet's mind, he had never seen such earnestness in those brandy-colored eyes. "Lately I have been thinking about what will happen to me after we get rid of the Black Ghost."

"I never figured Jet Link as someone who planned his future. I always pictured you as the type to react as life happened."

"I used to, but things have happened lately that made me think. Just listen to me, will ya? I've got something serious to say."

"Fine. Go ahead.."

"Well, I really wanted to get you alone to talk to you. That's why I hit you up for lunch. You've been really somber lately and I wondered if it had anything to do with Joe and Frances."

"Now I'm confused. We were talking about you one minute, then me, now Joe and Frances?"

"Quit pissing me off. It all comes together. It's just a little difficult for me to spit it all out. I guess that seeing Joe and Frances date has made me think about our situation."

"I see." Albert feared where this was heading, but at the same time he knew he should let Jet have his say. If he stopped Jet, things wouldn't get spoken and it could lead to a huge misunderstanding. "Go ahead."

"I'm not sure where things stand with us. You've told me that you have feelings for me, but you haven't told me what your plans are after the Black Ghost is gone."

"I have none."

"Over the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about being exclusive with you. I've never felt like this for anyone before and going all the way with you has been far out." Jet paused and gave a lopsided smile; Albert could tell the redhead was nervous because of the reversion back to American Sixties' slang. "That's why I'd like to start living together. I'm not talking about anything elaborate, you know. Just an understanding that we're steady."

"It's still too soon for what you have in mind."

"Too soon? You mean... her?" Jet looked absolutely shocked.

"It's not just Hilde. There are a lot of other reasons. I don't want to make any commitments I can't fulfill. We're in the middle of an uncertain fight with the Black Ghost. When I was with Biina..."

"Oh, her too." Jet's voice sounded thick with bitterness; his expression grew vexed.

"Yes. My experience with Biina made me realize how tenuous our lives are. At any moment, either of us could be caught or worse. I do have very strong feelings for you, but I just won't commit to a full relationship with you until the Black Ghost is gone."

"You're so damn smug and logical about it. You've been all hot and heavy with me for the last several weeks and now you want to slam on the brakes?"

"Right now things are beyond my control. You're a good deal younger than me so you probably don't understand why I want to keep things as they are. One day, you'll see it's for the best. I promise when it's all settled with the Black Ghost, we can talk about having a deeper relationship."

"Don't worry about it!" Jet jumped to his feet. "I've changed my mind. If you're a coward, I don't want be with you any more."

"Be sensible about this! It's just that I can't promise to come home to you every time we face the Black Ghost."

"You can't have it both ways, Heinrich! Have you got cold feet 'cause things have been rough with the Black Ghost lately?"

"Every time I've committed to someone they end up dead. You need to try to understand where I'm coming from."

"I said forget it! I don't give a damn!" Jet turned and marched back the way they had come. Albert sprang up and caught up to Jet; he gave the German cyborg a dirty look. Albert was at loss for words at that bitter expression. He also remained silent because it was important for Albert to allow Jet his dignity.

His stomach suddenly felt as though he had eaten stones, which gave him pause. Albert realized Jet was getting a raw deal from his recent anxieties that had surfaced when the cyborgs had taken up residence in Dresden. Albert shook his head and fixated his belief that he and Jet were better off leaving things as they were. After all, Albert couldn't loose what he refused to embrace in totality.

Jet had never felt so humiliated and angry. He sat in the passenger's seat while Albert drove. Thankfully, Albert hadn't said a word. The German cyborg seemed wrapped up in his own thoughts, which suited Jet just fine.

He leaned on his elbow, slightly hanging his head out the window. The wind on his skin made him want to bolt from the car and take flight to the sky. It was almost dusk so he wouldn't be seen. Instead he shot Albert another dirty look and then watched the trees go by.

He consoled himself with how much worse it could have been. At least Albert didn't try to smother him with pity. Jet wouldn't have accepted it. Besides, Jet had Albert Heinrich figured out. Albert was terrified of losing again; instead the man would rather deny himself a little happiness than take any more risks. It was all too logical and tragic for Jet's taste.

Finally, they pulled up in front of the walled compound. Jet didn't wait for Albert to turn off the motor before he bolted from the car and through the gate. He ignored Albert's pleas for him to sit and talk more. All Jet wanted to do was show Albert the same aplomb he had received.

He jogged to the front door and was greeted with the one thing he didn't want to see. Joe was helping Frances into her pink jacket. The Japanese cyborg gave her a small kiss on the cheek and then stepped for the front door. Both started at Jet's sudden appearance.

"Hello, how was site seeing?" Joe asked, flashing a huge smile. Jet glared at him and sighed.

"It sucked. I despise Germany and want get the heck out of this country."

"Wow, that's bad," Joe said, sounding a little awkward. "Sorry. Can we bring you anything? We're going to the movies."

"No go have a good time," Jet snapped and went to the living room. He heard the click of the front door after they left.

"Hope ya' choke on your popcorn..." Jet muttered, flopping on the sofa. He regretted his frustration the minute it came out of his mouth. It wasn't Joe's fault he was in a successful relationship, but Jet sure did envy it.

The one thing that really irritated Jet was Albert's reference to their age gap. So what if Albert was twelve years older than him? That didn't entitle him to take such a know-it-all attitude. Jet was far from being that same rash teenager on the streets. He felt as though he lived a lifetime and deserved some respect for what he'd been through.

"Dinner, 002! Go get washed!" Chang bellowed at him from kitchen.

"I'm not hungry!" Jet screamed at him. Chang poked his head out of the doorway and gave him a scrutinizing look.

"You look pale. Do you need some hot herbal tea?"

"No! I just want to be left alone!"

"As you wish. I'll leave your dinner in the refrigerator. You'll be hungry when you stop sulking." Chang disappeared before Jet could try to pick a fight. He clenched his jaw and laid flat on the sofa. He deliberately put his sneakers on the arm of the sofa in a show of rebellion against Gilmore.

He listened to the others gather in the dinning room and counted them off: Gilmore, GB, Chang, Junior, and Pyunma. He gritted his teeth when he overheard the words 'moody teenager,' 'bad attitude,' 'hormones,' 'touchy,' and 'emotional' tossed around. He knew they were talking about him, but if he went into the dinning room to confront them it would only reinforce their opinions of his behavior. He jolted upright and scowled towards the dinning room when he heard the words 'puppy crush,' 'to old for him,' and 'Albert' also spoken.

He figured Albert was still out parking the car from the group's conversation. He quickly jumped up and walked down a side hall towards a small den. He couldn't stand overhearing any more gossip about himself. He'd hide out until he was sure everyone was asleep and then sneak to his bedroom.

"Alright, -004. You have all the thoughts and memories of Heinrich. You also have your mission. Get to it and bring all of them to us," Mallard said. He, Wolfe, and -004 stood in the middle of the woods around the silent compound.

The two men watched the compound with binoculars while the robot used his enhanced vision. -004 slipped a small bottle of spiked cognac in his suit coat after nodding to the doctor.

"Wait! What about 001?" Wolfe asked.

"That's right. Avoid contact with 001 at all cost. He'll sense two of the same brain patterns if you're not careful."

-004 nodded again and walked towards the compound just as night settled across the countryside. He quickly made his way to the front gate where the cyborg he was molded after sat in a parked car.

The doppleganger ducked behind a tree as another car left the compound. He accessed his memories and identified 009 and 003 in the departing car. -004 decided it would be best to first subdue his original.

-004 saw that the car was now driving into the compound. He surreptitiously followed the car inside the walled off compound before the gate closed. He made it to garage as the automatic door shut.

Albert was too distracted to realize he wasn't alone. -004 took advantage and quickly darted out of the shadows. He brought the flat of his left hand across the back of Albert's neck and threw him down to the cold concrete.

Heinrich turned on his side with gritted teeth, his hand reached for the cut on his neck that leaked artificial blood. His face went from anger, to shock, then to unmitigated contempt. The robot doppleganger had no problem identifying Albert's emotions, they were the same ones he would process.

"You! I'll get rid of you again!" Albert leaped to his feet and aimed his right hand at -004. The robot crossed his arms and adopted a smug expression as the German cyborg started to sway back and forth. Albert crumpled back to the floor.

-004 held up the flat of his left hand and gave it a devious smile. Instead of a laser blade, Doctor Mallard had installed a blade laced with a potent sedative.

He glanced at Albert on the garage floor before moving towards the door leading to the rest of the compound. His mission was to take each cyborg one-by-one to Mallard after they were subdued. -004 overrode those directives; he had his own plans forged from desires independent of the Black Ghost.

He reached in his suit jacket and tossed the gleaming bottle of cognac up in the air. He caught it and gave it a leer. His current plans only involved two cyborgs: one of them he would possess, the other he would destroy.

-004 walked into the dinning room just as the four cyborgs and one doctor had finished their meal. They all leaned back in their chairs, patted their stomachs, and complimented the Chinese chef. Doctor Gilmore lofted a box of Cuban cigars just as -004 walked in.

"Hey, Albert. You missed dinner, but Gilmore brought dessert," GB said, taking a cigar and waving it.

-004 held up the cognac. "I brought something back from town that'll help sweeten those."

"Now that's some high class stuff, mate. Pour me a spot and I won't turn you down," GB said. -004 smiled as he opened the bottle and poured a small amount in six liqueur glasses.

He passed them around, they took the cognac with mumbled gratitude as they puffed on their cigars. Except for Junior, who held up his hand and said, "No, thank you."

-004 fought a scowl and slid the glass toward the brawny cyborg. "But it's a German tradition. Just one sip for politeness and I won't be insulted."

"Well, thank you, Heinrich. Just one sip. I'm not a drinker."

"Thank you." -004 sat at the table and held his glass up. The others held their glasses up as well and looked to him. "To friendship." He swallowed the drink with out fear, it only worked on organic creatures.

"Here, here!" GB swallowed his drink. The others took large sips. -004 refilled GB's glass and leaned back in his chair, watching for signs of fatigue. "Hey! You got this in town?"

"Yes, 002 and I went for lunch today."

"002? He'll kill you if he hears you call him that. He's in one of those moods," Pyunma said. The others chuckled. "He bit Chang's head off and now he's moping in the den."

"He's a petulant child that needs to be whipped and put in his place." -004 watched the cyborgs and Gilmore's faces all go shocked, their cigars drooped from their mouths. They all glanced at each other and then back at -004.

GB drained his glass and fixed a harsh look on -004. "Not that I go around prying, but aren't you being a little hard on the lad? Jet has his fair share of faults, but he has a good heart."

"He needs to be taught gratitude. After all, he's really no more than a trashy street brat."

"What! Now you've gone too far! I mean... I didn't want to say anything... but I that boy is more fond of you than you realize. You shouldn't be saying things that would hurt him!" GB ground his cigar out. The other cyborgs and the doctor were all glaring at -004.

"Why did you say such a nasty thing? We're all critical of him from time to time, but I've never heard you be so cruel towards Jet." Pyunma asked.

"That was a very wicked thing to say," Chang agreed before taking another puff off his cigar.

-004 remained silent as he watched the cyborgs and the doctor start to rock back and forth. They were all having trouble sitting upright. The doctor was the first one who sprang out of his chair and fell to the carpet. GB fell from his chair and rested beside the doctor on the floor.

Pyunma and Chang each slumped forward on the table. It was Junior that made it to his feet and staggered towards -004 with a hateful look. -004 shoved the brawny cyborg back onto the floor, he was unconscious as soon as he hit.

"You fools. I'll deal with you all after I've had my fun." -004 turned the lights off in the dinning room and locked the door after he left.

He walked down the hallways until he found the small den. Flashes of light came from the darkened den; -004 peeked at Jet. The lanky redhead was slouched on a couch in front of a television as an old black and white movie played.

Albert walked into the den; it startled Jet because he had been so engrossed in the movie.

"What are you watching?"

"Night of the Living Dead. What's it to you?"

"Mind if I join you?"

"Beat it!" Jet got offended when Albert had the audacity to sit next to him. He turned back to the movie and tried hard to ignore Albert.

"I wanted to apologize and tell you I was wrong."

"Fine," Jet mumbled and slouched lower. Part of him wanted to leave before he got disappointed again, another part fervently hoped Albert had changed his mind.

"I hate to see you so upset." Albert's eyes were glued to the television and not Jet. The emptiness of his voice made Jet slightly shiver.

"That doesn't sound like you at all. I thought you lived to piss me off."

"Let's put aside this afternoon. I've changed my mind." Albert took off his suit jacket, moved closer, and put his metal arm around Jet's shoulders. Albert's other hand move to Jet's thigh and gripped it.

He felt the cold, hard metal of Albert's hand through his jeans; he was used to it, but something about the touch was too firm. He was too stunned to move or do anything except look at the German cyborg. Albert's expression seemed as cool and unyielding as his hands.

"Come on. You still aren't angry with me, are you?"

"No, it's just that you usually move slower."

"Just relax and enjoy yourself." Albert leaned over and pressed an ardent kiss on Jet that he wasn't prepared for. Jet reluctantly relaxed and reciprocated. He had been a fast mover in his gang days, but with Albert it had been different. Suddenly, he remembered several of those rough, heavy petting sessions before he was kidnapped by the Black Ghost. A sense of shame washed through him as Albert's grip on his leg tightened.

Jet let Albert lay him back on couch as he shoved away his misgivings. Maybe this was how mature relationships went and he was just nervous. Maybe this was what make-up sex was like. What ever it was, he wasn't going to back down and let Albert think he was a coward or just a dumb kid.

Jet closed his eyes and threw back his head as Albert's cold hand pushed under Jet's black shirt. Rough kisses, more akin to bites, were pressed on his neck. The organic parts of Jet started responding, rushing hormones took over.

Albert started to undo Jet's jeans and tried pushing them down over his hips. Jet caught Albert's wrist and looked over to the open door.

"We really should go some where else before someone walks in on us."

"Don't worry about it," Albert growled before pressing another kiss.

Jet's mind clicked back to a cooler state. It wasn't like Albert to do something so disrespectful and base as heavy groping in a public room. Jet pushed against Albert's chest and avoided his kisses. Albert grabbed Jet's wrists and crushed them in a bruising grip.

"Stop it! You're hurting me!"

"Shut your mouth. I'll take whatever I want!"

"Let me go!"

Albert grabbed Jet's hair in a flash and yanked it back. Albert's metal fist slammed into Jet's jaw, stunning the redhead. He held up Jet's right wrist and quickly slice it with the blade on the flat of his left hand. Jet felt hands around his throat as he came to. Albert choked him with a chilling leer.

Jet moved his tongue to his right-molar-turned-acceleration-switch. The movie in the background appeared to pause and all sound was gone in Jet's perception. He pushed Albert's heavy, frozen frame onto the floor. He then jumped up and grabbed the switchblade out of his pocket before his prototype acceleration device quit.

Sound came rushing back to Jet's ears as Albert suddenly stood up in normal time. The movie resumed play. Jet held his knife out and shook his head.

"What the hell has gotten in to you!"

"How quaint. It's just like a petty, two-bit thug to bring a knife to a gun fight." Albert waved his metal hand while a smirk appeared. "Really, 002, be a well-behaved child and I won't hurt you... much."

"Who do you think you are?" Jet was disturbed as a wave of nausea washed over him. His hand couldn't hold the switchblade steady any longer.

"You'll find out soon, but for now it's time for you sleep. You've been poisoned."

"What? Help! Someone..." Jet murmured as he looked at his slit wrist. He sank towards the floor, but Albert caught him. Before he totally blacked out, Jet saw Albert's eyes glow a bright green.

-004 saw Mallard and Wolfe waiting for him beside a small truck in the woods. He entered the clearing and dumped Jet on the ground. Mallard and Wolfe made noises of congratulation towards each other.

"Now, -004, drive the truck and get the others. We'll radio the Black Ghost."

"There's been a change of plans, gentlemen," -004 said, bringing his gun hand to bear on the Black Ghost agents. Two short burst killed them. -004 marveled at the surprised expressions on their faces. After all, Albert Heinrich rebelled against the Black Ghost organization once, why not twice.

-004 turned towards Jet, grabbed his upper arm, and dragged the unconscious cyborg towards the truck. He shoved him in the bed of the truck and locked it. At Kleinsorge Castle -004 would have more ways to subdue Jet and convince him to take part in the wonderful plans he'd crafted from the framework of Albert's brain.

Albert Heinrich gasped suddenly and staggered to his feet. He brought his right hand up as he looked around the dim garage for -004. He gritted his teeth when he noticed the door to the rest of the house was open.

He hastily went into the darkened house. All was quiet. Albert flattened himself against the wall when a faint blue glow started at the other end of the hallway. :It's me, 004.:

:Ivan! Watch out! There's a dangerous robot on the loose!:

:I know. He is gone.:

Albert relaxed and jogged over to the floating cradle where the baby cyborg was. "Are you okay, Ivan?"

:Yes, but I'm so sorry. I was asleep when it happened. 009 and 003 are almost here.: Ivan thought. Albert turned towards a window and saw Joe park his car by the front porch. :I summoned them when I sensed what was going on.:

"Ivan!" Frances called out as soon as the door slammed open.

"Here!" Albert called out. Joe and Frances joined them. "We've been attacked by a robot."

"But how?" Frances asked.

"Let's find the others," Joe suggested. The four of them went towards the main part of the house when they heard a crashing noise. They hurried towards the dinning room where the noise emanated.

"Junior! Are you okay?" Frances ran over to where Junior had broken through the dinning room door and leaned against the door jamb.

"The others," Junior said, flinging his hand towards the dinning room. Frances and Ivan went into the room, turned on the lights, and started tending the unconscious group.

"What happened?" Joe asked. Junior suddenly lunged at Albert and tackled him to the ground.

"He drugged us," Junior said, keeping Albert penned. Albert was careful not to struggle lest Junior twist his head off.

"Explain yourself." Joe knelt by Albert, giving him a baffled look. Groans were coming from the dinning room.

"It wasn't me. I have a doppleganger. He attacked me in the garage."

:004 is telling the truth. He has no memories of the events.: Ivan's cradle hovered above the trio on the floor.

Junior eased up and back off; Albert sat up and shook his head. "A while ago the Black Ghost made a robot with my appearance and abilities to lure me out and test me. He slipped in and knocked me out in the garage."

:I couldn't have sensed the difference between the robot and 004 because I was scanning on the surface. I apologize; this was my fault for not using a deeper monitoring method.:

"What woke you?" Joe asked. Pyunma and Gilmore came out of the dinning room, each holding their heads and looking ill.

:002 suddenly became distressed and afraid for his life. I woke up to find him, but he's nowhere in the compound.:

Albert's stomach fell as his heart pounded. He jumped to his feet and ran upstairs to Jet's room. He opened the door, but didn't see any signs of struggle among the mess. He slammed the door and ran back downstairs.

"He was in the den," Chang yelled as Frances helped him out of the dinning room. Albert ran to the den and felt himself start to shake when he saw a switchblade laying on the ground next to splatters of artificial cyborg blood. He slowly walked to the television when he saw a piece of paper taped to it; his name was on it.

He turned off the television and took the note. 'Herr Heinrich, it's time to finally bring our struggles to a conclusion. The superiority of machine over flesh will be proven tonight. I've taken something very precious to you as insurance you will comply with my plan. Come and reclaim him at Kleinsorge Castle. If you don't show by yourself before morning, I will hand him over to the Black Ghost and their tender mercies. Yours, Herr Doppleganger.'

Albert walked over to Jet's knife, put it in his pocket, and walked back to the group. Joe and Frances were both trying to shake GB awake from a deep sleep. Joe leaped up, wearing an intense expression.

"Where's Jet? Do you know?"

"Yes, but I'm the one who has to go get him."

"Damn it, Heinrich, we work together. There's strength in our numbers."

"Not this time, Joe. This is a struggle with the machine inside of me. Unfortunately, mine is a walking weapon that is hellbent on proving he's superior. It's also between me and Jet. I've kept him at a distance because I feared loss. I still can feel the pain of loss, even after denying him."

"We'll go with you. We all care about both you and Jet," Frances said, placing her hand on Albert's shoulder. Her face was full of concern.

"If I don't go alone, my doppleganger will give Jet to the Black Ghost. I just can't risk that. Jet would do something drastic to himself before going back to them." Albert handed the note to Frances, she nodded.

Large tears welled up in her eyes. Albert knew she was thinking back to those harsh times when it was just her, him, Jet, and Ivan in the Black Ghost's possession. Albert looked over to the rest of the cyborgs and Gilmore. All of them looked concerned and he was grateful for that.

"I promise that Jet will be home by morning."

He turned to the front door, got in Joe's car, and took off towards Kleinsorge Castle. He focused his mind on the tasks ahead and put his emotions aside. His first priority would be to free Jet, then it was to destroy -004. Above all else, he had to stop -004 from giving Jet to the Black Ghost.

He ground his teeth together as the though of Jet being forced to serve the Black Ghost struck him. Albert pushed the gas peddle down; an iron determination to change fate came over him. He was not going to loose Jet like the others to death or anything worse.

"Wake up, 002."

Jet jerked awake and stilled his rapid breathing. His eyes adjusted to the dark surroundings. He noticed he was in a large stone room with a lot of old equipment that reminded him of Frankenstein movies.

Jet looked over to his throbbing wrist and realized he was chained against a wall. His bare feet were in a pan of frosty, liquid with a haze over it. His thighs each had painful, three inch gouges that the liquid was leaking from.

"That's the special rocket fuel used and produced within your body. If you try to activate your flight mode, you'll only blow yourself up. The fluid is almost all drained from you."

There were two green, glowing eyes and a shadowy figure. It turned into Albert as he moved closer. He smiled up at Jet. The German man lofted a white bit of plastic, tiny wires dangled from it. "I also took the liberty of yanking out your acceleration switch. You probably didn't notice because that punch to your jaw has swollen up the side of your face. Caused a few cuts too. You do look in bad shape, 002."

Jet lunged forward, feeling a surge of murderous rage. "Who the hell are you? Albert would never do this to me!"

"You're right. Albert Heinrich, the one you know, would never do this. I am a robot doppleganger created by the Black Ghost. I'm -004, a superior model of Albert Heinrich."

"What? What do you mean by that?" Jet's face began to throb in time with the contusions on his wrists.

"I am devoid of the conscious that keeps Heinrich from claiming his desires. His morals, which I don't possess, also keep him from his goals. I am Heinrich only without those bothersome things that keep men from achieving greatness."

"You're insane!"

"Robot's can't go insane. We process the situations we are given and act upon them. There is no flesh element to hold us back."

"What do you want then? To catch us and take us back to the Black Ghost?"

"Not at all. I have my own agenda. I want to destroy Heinrich. He'll come to rescue you and I will eliminate him."

"Albert's too smart for you. So are the others. They'll rescue me and kick your ass!"

"I plan on taking over part of the Black Ghost organization before that happens."

"Pretty ambitious. My money is on them chewing you up."

"All I need is one facility in Panama. Once I have that, and their scientists, I can begin to build up a place for robots. We will be the future race that will dominate this planet."

"Figures they would make something as demented as you." Jet leaned back against the wall to keep the cut on his wrist from reopening. He suddenly felt clammy from the loss of fluids. "So why am I here? Why not just duke it out with Albert and go on your way?"

"Because he wants you, therefore, I want you. I was cursed with all of Heinrich's desires including his impulse for love. The only way I understand and act on love is to subjugate the object and put it under my influence. You will be my most obedient servant."

-004 brushed his metallic fingertips across Jet's bruised cheek. A shudder of revulsion ran through the redhead. "You don't understand love at all. Love lets people make their own choice. Even thought you love someone, they may not want to be with you. If you really loved them, you'd accept what they tell you and let them do what they wanted."

Jet felt a jolt to his stomach as he realized he had been hypocritical in the moment. He hadn't accepted what Albert had told him; instead he had rejected Albert before trying to come to a compromise. A sense of regret settled on him as he desperately hoped for another chance to sort things out with Albert.

"You'll go to Panama with me where I'll have scientists finish mechanizing you."

"No way! No one is ever forcing me to have surgery again!"

-004 leaned close to Jet. The icy expression startled the redhead unlike anything before. "You share no kinship with humans any more and you will never be accepted back into their society. They would only hate you and envy what you've become. You are living a half life of pain and misery. Submit to me and I will eliminate the ambiguity within you."

"You ditz robot! I'll never trade my humanity for acceptance into some robot cult. Besides... if you really have Albert's brain, you know how bad I am at following authority."

"Then you'll suffer until you agree to obey me." -004 held up a yellow gun-like device with two prongs on the end. He ripped open Jet's black, button-down shirt and pushed the prongs against Jet's stomach. -004 pulled the triggered. White, hot lightening surged through Jet's body; he thrashed and bit his lower lip until it bled.

Jet slumped forward when -004 removed the prongs. The doppleganger grabbed Jet's crimson hair and yanked his head back. Jet steadied his breath enough to spit in the leering robot's face. The green, glowing eyes narrowed.

"I'll make you curse your remaining flesh! You'll beg me to release you from the burden of flesh and I'll be merciful. I will have my way and I will change you into mechanical perfection like me." A deep, full-mouthed kiss was forced on Jet before another surge of agony hit his stomach.

Albert looked at the rundown Kleinsorge Castle. -004 made no secret of his location. There was faint light coming from the top west tower. Albert cautiously walked up the marble staircase to the ornate door that hung on its hinges.

He proceeded through the large, formal rooms. He clung to the shadows, even though he knew -004 could spot him. Albert headed directly to the west tower located up several winding, crumbling staircases.

The door at the top of the staircase was wide open. He could see Jet dangling from the opposite wall. Lots of artificial blood stained his bruised face and Albert could smell pungent fluid from Jet's flight system. Albert clenched his fists in anger and carefully walked into the room.

Jet's head snapped back as Albert approached, those brandy colored eyes went wide in worry. "It's a trap! Run!"

A rain of bullets came from the rafters. Albert dodged to his left and aimed his hand at -004. The doppleganger dodged and leaped in front of Jet. Albert growled and jerked his hand low.

"Let him go."

"Never. When I finish you, he'll be fully mechanized."

"There was never a reason for you to involve him. This is between you and me."

"There was every reason to involve him. I will take everything from you, make it mine, and then destroy you." -004 and Albert slowly circled the room. Albert kept his eyes on the doppleganger, but was aware of Jet close to his right.

-004 jumped forward and dodged Albert's left. They traded rapid punches, trying to drive each other backwards. Albert grabbed -004's wrist and pulled. The robot pitched forward in anticipation. Albert lost his balance and fell backwards.

"Die already!" -004 swiped his left hand towards Albert's face. Jet's foot lashed out and connected with -004's head; the robot rolled off of Albert and glared at Jet.

"Brat! You'll suffer for that!"

"Take him down, Albert!"

The German cyborg got to his feet and locked hands with -004. They pushed, tugged, and struggled; they kept slamming into the old, rusty equipment scattered around the room. Albert brought his knee up towards -004's stomach, the robot dodged and parted from Albert.

-004 made a left jab to Albert's right side. An explosive pain crippled Albert; he staggered back and fell to the ground. Panic hit Albert as he realized there was something wrong within his body. He swiped at the dark liquid tricking from the corner of his mouth. -004 advanced on him.

"Your flesh has made you too weak to wield the gifts the Black Ghost has given you. Cyborgs and humans are about to be subjugated to a mechanized race. Now you'll pay for stubbornly clinging to your humanity."

Albert rolled to his side and reached in his pocket while -004 marched over. The robot grabbed Albert by the arm and yanked upwards. Albert let the momentum carry his hand, now gripping Jet's switchblade, into his doppleganger's throat.

-004 jerked back, dropping Albert back to the floor. Surprised, the doppleganger groped for the hilt of the blade lodged in his throat. Albert brought his right hand up and concentrated his bullets on -004's throat. A cloud of smoke and sparks engulfed -004's head. Albert halted his fire when the robot sunk to his knees and toppled forward, now headless.

Albert slowly got to his feet; he was dismayed he wasn't able to stand upright due to the pain. He turned towards Jet. The redhead slumped back against the wall. Albert was alarmed at all of Jet's wounds and electric burns; he was too pale and shaky for Albert's liking.

"If you wanted to do more site seeing, you should have waited until tomorrow," Albert said, hobbling over towards Jet.

"Well, I wasn't given much choice."

Albert used the laser blade on his left hand and cut the chains holding Jet. They both slumped against each other for a moment. Albert tugged Jet towards the staircase; Jet paused and pointed to -004's mutilated head.

"What about him?"

"Give me your lighter."

Jet fished in his jeans and handed it to Albert. They both ducked behind the door after Albert lit it and tossed it towards the flight chemical drained from Jet earlier. Albert put his arm around Jet's waist and guided him down the staircases while the fire grew.

He had conquered the machine once again, but Albert knew this was never going to be a decisive battle. Jet collapsed against Albert; he was quick enough to catch the redhead. He gazed into Jet's unconscious face and thought about how easy it was for him.

There was no ambiguity within Jet; he loved life and embraced his humanity with abandon. That was the moment Albert realized he needed Jet to show him how to be alive again.

He turned back to Joe's car and put Jet in the back seat. He shut the door and stumbled to his knees. Sweat broke out over Albert's forehead. He gritted his teeth against a slight cough. He pulled himself towards the driver's seat and focused on guiding the car home. He had promised the others to have Jet home by morning and he refused to break it.

Albert jolted awake; his hand flew to his throbbing right side. Gilmore walked up to Albert and looked into his eyes.

"It's gone."

"What's gone?" Albert asked. Gilmore pulled the sheets back, revealing a large seam under Albert's rib cage.

"Your liver. The Black Ghost only replaced part of it. The organic portion had failed and had over strained the mechanical portion. That punch from -004 pulverized what was left. Good thing too, because it gave me an excuse to poke around and make sure you wouldn't run into any other problems."

Albert raised his head and realized he was in his bedroom and it was already dusk. His eyes caught sight of Jet curled up in a chair beside his dresser. Jet stood up and stumbled over to the edge of Albert's bed. Albert didn't like Jet's pale, haggard appearance, but he was grateful the redhead was alive.

"Are you okay?"

"Thanks to your lousy driving. Joe is being pretty good about you running his car up on the front porch."

Albert's face squinched as he groaned. "I don't even remember the last part of the drive. I'm glad to see you're okay, but I'm not feeling so good."

"You'll feel worse after you see the estimate for his car."

"Now that you've seen him, you need to get to bed, 002. He won't listen to me and stay in bed. He insisted on being here even though I'm not finished with repairing him."

"I told you I had something to tell him!"

"Calm down, my boy. Just five minutes and then you must rest!" Gilmore said, giving Jet a glare. The doctor sauntered out of Albert's room and slammed the door.

Jet sat on the edge of Albert's bed. Albert slightly moved over with gritted teeth and another groan. Jet slumped down on his side and settled his head on the pillows. "Why won't you let yourself be happy?"

"It's you I was trying to protect. One day, I may get killed by the Black Ghost and leave you in a world of pain and confusion. I don't want that kind of sorrow inflicted on anyone I care about. I'm afraid that if we live together, you'll get too attached."

"Damn, Heinrich, you shouldn't have slept with me in the first place! You want to be happy again, but you can't just make a half-hearted effort. Either you're going to be with me or not. I'm not accepting you as a part-time boyfriend, but I will respect your decision. I now understand why you are worried about everything and I'm sorry for blowing up at you yesterday." Albert was startled by the impassioned declaration. He locked eyes with the younger man.

"I know you deserve better than half a relationship." Albert reached out and took Jet's hand. Jet looked down at their clasped hands and smiled.

"Your hand doesn't feel like -004's did. It's cool and hard, but your touch is lighter." Jet's eyes started to droop as he yawned. "I'm not going to make it back to my room so I'm going to crash here."

"Sure. That way I can keep an eye on you... keep you from causing any more trouble." Albert felt drowsy yet again. He shut his eyes as he gave Jet's hand soft squeeze before he drifted off to sleep.