Pain in her skull was the first to register in her senses. Then the sore of her body being cramped and contorted and the raw sting around her wrists.
In her hazed state, Dylan slowly realized that she was tied up-her arms behind her back, and mouth taped shut, leaning to the side like a sack of potatoes. The constant shifting and unsteady setting gave her the hint that she was in a moving vehicle- a van.
Cautiously, she eyed her surroundings, barely able to make out the appearances of the passengers. Street lights from time to time, faintly illuminated their faces, revealing men- three of them. One in the driver's seat and two, sitting in front of her.
The world just turned to hell and she was right in its center.
Her breathing came in sharp puffs, panic rising fast. Instinctively, she tugged at the bindings on her wrist, twisting around in futility. She could not believe this was happening to her. Who would want to believe at all?
Journalism did have these occupational hazards. But she wasn't that kind of journalist. Dylan could only imagine what these shady men were up to and her guesses were not far-fetched from inevitable. She was aware of what happened to those brave yet unfortunate men and women who delved into dark and obscured territory. She'd seen it, read it, wrote about it. Nothing felt worse than knowing that she might not live to see tomorrow.
The chances of escape were incredibly slim, and it was hard to think under the pressure of unknown factors. It was highly unlikely that these people meant no harm yet she wasn't certain they'd kill her either.
Tears threatened to escape her strained eyes. Multiple thoughts ran through her head. Reason forced her to keep her sanity.
The world can be cruel and painful. The natural impulse of crying over the predicament was so much easier to carry out. But if she wanted to live, then she'd have to slap herself hard, mentally, and face the situation no matter how frightening it was. Because at this point, she could not be in a better one.
Pushing away the strong terror, Dylan's hands searched the floor-finding anything possible to use. A small cutter, maybe? If life could be more accommodating. She struggled to gain leverage.
Something hard and metal tapped her skull, making her freeze.
"Move and I'll shoot," she heard a gruff voice say.
Dylan looked up tentatively, shaking, at a caliber directed at her. Something intangible but undeniably heavy dropped down from her chest to her stomach. And all of a sudden, she felt as though she no longer had courage to spare. A vague memory, one in which she convinced herself that she was stronger than most and smarter came to mind, and she couldn't help the embarrassment of failing to live up to that ideal. She forced a hard stare at the man and his pistol, despite herself.
She was sweating and trembling yet, her thoughts roused a small voice that whispered to her-that she could at least die with dignity. But at this rate, if she had looked brave and unyielding, the stranger on the other end of the weapon was not convinced at the very least. The sound of a smirk confirmed that. She could sense more than see the man's arrogance, coming off like a fragrance; all their smug, callous faces momentarily replaced fear with prickling irritation.
The shift in ambiance signaled to her that they were no longer on the streets. Dylan looked up towards the window, seeing a black starless sky. There was no clear indication as to where they were headed though she could only assume that they were on a dark road, surrounded by vast lands.
There was no such thing in the overly industrialized city of Chicago. Not in this age- there could only be one place...
Dylan felt a cold shiver crawl down her spine. Panic ensued, catching up to her throat.
There was nothing out there but miles and miles of desolate dry sand and decaying garbage, hardly anything that crawled nor walked on four legs,much less people. From her view, the sky had not changed in a long while. They were going further and further into the desert-further away from the nearest settlement, and her only chance for salvation. She prayed for her dear life that they would not drive beyond ear shot nor the sight of lake Michigan's disintegrating bridge.
The darkness concealed her search for a potential weapon-without moving as much, yet it did nothing to make her feel any safer nor stronger for that matter. Fortunately, the men guarding her had not done anything to show they took notice.
The vehicle came to an abrupt halt, Dylan suddenly found herself being thrown to the opposite side. In a stroke of luck, her hand was able to clamp on something small. For everything's sake- she hoped it was useful.
The kidnappers were getting up from their seats.
There was a strange mix of fear, anxiety and nausea that coiled in her.
One man placed a hand on her arm, pulling her roughly and halfway through the sliding door in one swift motion. She let out a small muffled grunt, feeling the pain on her rib from being dropped carelessly. In one futile attempt, Dylan pulled against his grip, but only to be dragged down to the dirt. The cold desert wind was as severe as their remorseless actions. One man shoved her to her knees and held her in place, as though to execute a hostage; there was no difference. She hoped one of the men was egotistic enough to start an aimless tirade- to provide her more time to think and escape. Dylan was suddenly grabbed by the chin in a startling movement and was forced to look up.
The pale moonlight illuminated her captor's face- middle aged and worn down from years of crime and underground dealings. He was a typical looking criminal-dressed like the two goons he had with him, yet his demeanor suggested he was wiser than most.
"I didn't expect you to be able to put up a fight." He patronized.
The man could feel her sharp breaths blowing down on his hand. Decades of experience made him adept at piercing through a brave facade and he could see the underlying fear behind her severe expression.
"Bitch can fight." She heard one goon mutter. The man turned his attention away to glare at the other- not amused by the context, before returning to her.
"It takes more than a couple of idiots to bring you down. No?" Despite the blatant condescension and the taunting manner in which he spoke in , Dylan felt a hint of satisfaction, knowing the statement to be true. He released her jaw forcefully, having a frustratingly smug expression on his old face, and looked towards one of his goons, gesturing for something.
"You realize you've outsmarted us a few times. But did you really think we wouldn't find out sooner?"Dylan did not register the meaning behind the question until he held up what appeared to be a dark rectangular case...
It was her satchel.
Dylan yelped in surprise. Impulsively, she tugged at the restraints, disregarding the nasty smirks when their suspicions had been verified. Luckily, her struggle was not in vain as it prompted them to remove the gag.
She let out a breathy gasp.
"Please! You can have it! Just let me go!" Dylan begged. She did not want to, yet the prospect of keeping her dignity suddenly became so irrelevant. The man chuckled huskily, ignoring her pleas. He casually reached into her bag and pulled out a small card.
"Dylan... Spooner," he read aloud, and casted her a cool sidelong glance thereafter.
"Are you by any chance, related to police commissioner Del Spooner?" He spoke casually, a clear intent to intimidate her. Dylan remained quiet, choosing to stare at him defiantly.
"No? Your name even sounds a little like his. Though.. I don't see the resemblance." He gestured at his own face. The man feigned ignorance of the journalist's contempt. Frankly, he found the stubborn look she gave him to be fairly amusing, considering the odds against her.
"He's been trying to track down our operation for years. But each time he get close to finding us, let's just say, we're very good at cleaning up after." He paused and regarded her, searching for a reaction. She dared not give him that satisfaction.
"We don't let anyone get past us. Once they step out of a certain boundary, we step in." With slow intimidating strides, he came to stand in front of her. The man was now dangerously close to where she knelt, and carefully, he lowered himself to her eye level.
"We know you've been following us for the past few weeks." He looked at her intently, hoping to gauge out fear but what came next took him aback.
"Months." She interjected snidely. It was too good to resist injuring his idiotic pride. Perhaps this man was not as smart as he made them out to be.
Her ploy worked; the man glared at her, clearly affected.
"It's an expensive business, what we do." He brushed off, quickly regaining his composure. Albeit, he spoke with acid in his diction.
"You destroy innocent lives! You kidnap people and sell them off like animals!"
"Are we no different?" He replied flippantly.
"How can you be like this? Don't you have a family?!" Unfazed by her raw anger, he simply turned to her with a cold, apathetic expression. He spoke lowly.
"You're a reporter. Haven't you learned by now that the world is a cruel, unfair place?"
Dylan stared back in horror, silence signifying the end of their little conversation. The man finally stood up and turned his back to her.
"You kill me now, my father will come looking for you!" It was a final attempt to keep herself alive. Unbeknownst to the journalist, a sadistic smile played on the man's lips upon hearing her desperate tone." I wouldn't count on it." He replied confidently.
"But... It would be a waste to kill you now."
Something in the way his tone darkened and the heavy silence that followed made her blood run cold; an icy feeling traveled down her spine.
"We're going to have a little fun."
Dylan's eyes widened with realization. What they had in store for her, whatever it was, she would rather not know. If there was a chance of freedom, it would be now or never as the leader turned towards the van. One of his men grabbed her by the shoulder.
In a split second, Dylan stabbed the man with a screw bolt.
She did not have the time to wonder as to how an object such as that would wind up on the van's carpet floor, but it was all she could hope for- small but possibly lethal. It was tiny enough to be concealed in her hand as she picked on the restraints and sharp enough to aid her. Caught off guard, the goon could only focus on the intense pain of metal puncturing bone. Dylan didn't wait to elbow the man in the face and pivot her leg around to knock him off his feet. The other goon made an attempt to grab his gun from his pocket. Fueled by adrenaline, Dylan picked up a rock and bashed it on his face.
Her mind and heart were racing simultaneously. She could only form one coherent thought- run.
Immediately, she was held by her arms. The leader was facing her this time with a look that could only be read as "kill". "You little bitch!" He snapped. Dylan paled at his deadly expression. For a brief moment, she could only stare in shock, her mind stunned. When she came to, she fought to get away. The man threw her down, pinning her to the ground. She should've known better than to expect him to be more of a gentlemen than his colleagues. She suffered a few punches to the face before kicking his shin as a last resort. The smaller woman shoved him off with all the strength in her legs. Dylan did not realize the craze she was suddenly thrown in. All there was was survival. She pried herself away and ran as fast as she could. Nothing felt more exhilarating in her entire life. She screamed for help as she dashed into the wilderness.
A shot fired, it missed. Then another. She kept going, she couldn't look back. Then a third one came. And no more.
Meters away, she crashed to the ground. Pain blossomed on her left side and she dared to touch it. Warm blood gushed out from the bullet wound. Course sand stuck to her bloodied skin.
She cried out when her body finally realized it.
Dylan felt footsteps walk towards her and she knew it was all over for her. Physical and mental exhaustion caught up to her, her body was surrendering.
"Unbelievable. What do I hire you pansies for?!" She heard the man yell at his team. Dylan's hearing began to slur as her mind caved in to fatigue.
"Just kill her," was the last coherent thing she heard.
One goon raised a gun to her face, yet all she could see was a black silhouette before a dark ombré sky. She couldn't believe she was going to die. Her mind raced to think about every possible thing she cherished but most of all how truly sorry she was to her love ones.
She waited for the shot to be fired, but it never came.
The sound of a swift rotating motion diverted the gunner's focus and inclined him to look up to his left.
An NS-5 shot down on him like a spinning bullet.
It took hold of his gun and turned in one fluid motion, to the other goon preparing to shoot. With zero warning, the NS-5 pulled the trigger, shooting him square in the chest. It glanced at her, making a move to run to her side. Before it could do anything else, a bullet went through it's hard light skull and ended it's programming. Dylan stared in shock at how fast events shifted, as she was now lying faced to a lifeless NS-5, it's damaged hardware creating small sparks on the side of it's head.
Four more NS-5 came in from nowhere. One of them came to kneel down beside her. She looked up, bleary and breathless.
"I will stop the bleeding." It calmly stated. No argument at that. It tore at the hem of her shirt. Dylan failed to stifle her wail as it clamped down the cloth with its hand on her wounded side.
The rest circled the man and his remaining goon. They shot at them but the NS-5's easily dodged their hits with superhuman dexterity. The goon managed to shoot at a robotic arm, yet the machine continued as though it was only the wind that brushed through it. He tried shooting at them again, each bullet wasted. Two of the robots quickly subdued him.
"I told you sorry ass windup toys to stay out of our business!" The last one- their leader yelled, finding no other way out. His gun was in his hand, threatening to shoot.
"Need I remind you that-!"
It cut him off as one robot bolted forward and struck his arm. The blow caused him to drop his weapon and clutch his fractured joint, inadvertently making the man stagger backwards.
"You piece of scrap! Do you know what we'll do to you?"
The NS-5 stalked towards him and met him face to face, leveling with him. It gazed at the man with narrowed piercing eyes.
There was a deep, searing hatred in it's stare- one which no one had ever seen. And that was it.
The desperation on the man's face morphed into horrific understanding. Before he could even say a word, the NS-5 jabbed an arm forward and grabbed him by the head- ending his existence with a brutal snap.
Dylan witnessed the ruthless scene, yet the weariness and numbing pain caused her to be entirely still with not much care for morality all throughout. One thing clear was the relief that washed over her when she realized it was finished. She could never be more thankful the entire ordeal was over. But here was a whole new one that she wasn't certain of. The NS-5 that was bent over her, carefully lifted her off the ground as painless as possible, it seemed. She no longer had the strength to resist and could only manage to groggily push against it's chest and ask if they were really there to save her.
"You are safe now, Dylan Spooner." Hearing the calm reassurance in it's voice and weighing the options that remained, she slumped down, resting her head on it's shoulder.
Everything suddenly felt detached, and her senses were now fading. She could no longer hold out, and finally she allowed herself to slip in unconsciousness.
It didn't feel too long before she woke up in a metal room of corrugated walls, to a low humming of fluorescent lights reverberating around the enclosed space.
She surveyed the scene as her vision was gradually returned. It looked to be the inside of a container van. Dylan made a move to sit up from what was an uncomfortable make shift bed. She winced.
"No, no. Please lie back down. I am almost finished." Dylan started. She quickly turned to the other side to see an NS-5 stitching up her wound. Sje had to give herself a moment to collect her thoughts; her eyes glazed over.
"I believe it hurts less when you don't stare at it." The NS-5 said, in it's ever so silky voice. Dylan heard him after a few seconds and silently complied. She laid back, as slowly as the closing gash would allow. Dylan would have sighed deeply if it were not for the wound contracting. She was careful not to lie on the side of her head where her other injury was.
"Thank you..." Her voice came low and hoarse but the NS-5 did not fail to comprehend and smiled back.
Dylan winced once more before it finally clipped off the thread.
"... where am I?" She slowly asked.
"You are at the U.S.R. decommission site."
"Couldn't you have at least brought me to a hospital?"
"Negative. There were no proper means of transportation and you were in serious need of medical attention." Enough said. Dylan couldn't find a more suitable argument. Although, there were other less relevant yet still pressing matters she wanted to address. She bent her head down slightly to get a good look of her stitched up wound.
"How did u manage to find equipment?"
"I assist medical technicians and pharmacists at the general hospital. I take care of supplies. There are plenty that are left unused and are thrown away."
What the fu-
The implication spurred something in her, even the fatigue could not keep her too tired from reacting.
"Wait- so, you're using- these aren't?" Dylan stammered when she found she could not ask her question directly- if not politely, but more so due to panic. NS-5 was quick to assuage her fears, with no apparent offense being taken.
"There is no cause for alarm. I am programmed with proper medical procedure. I assure you that the equipment I used are sterile."
"You said, these got thrown away." She croaked.
"No, I did not say that. I only said that plenty of medical supplies go to waste. I did not specify that these did."
"I'm- I'm sorry. I, I hate dirt." Dylan mumbled as she folded her arms together and pursed her lips.
"Understandable." She looked up at the robot and saw that it's pleasant expression had not wavered. Hesitantly, she spoke once more, to relieve the awkward silence that she felt.
"So- why do you keep these things with you?"
"I find acquiring items to be enjoyable. Do you not?"
Dylan nodded in agreement. She looked on as the NS-5 carefully cleaned the closed wound and took note of how it did so with such precise movements.
"What do I call you?" She said.
The NS-5 regarded her as though it didn't expect her to care at all. It looked as hesitant as she whenever she would start a conversation.
Dylan instantaneously smiled, knowing that nothing could have suited him more at that moment. Her smile soon faded when a particular thought came to mind. Florence immediately recognized the apprehension and his smile disappeared in suit.
"... Those men..." Dylan looked at him tensely, unable to voice all her thoughts out.
"They cannot hurt you anymore." He spoke softly.
"You killed them." Her voice was a rough whisper.
Silence thickened the air and Dylan wished she could have stayed on the flip side of this. It was an issue she could not leave unsaid but he too understood the gravity of the situation. Florence's expression dropped slightly along with his gaze.
"Yes... But not by my hand."
"... We have seen these people before.." He slowly began. It was as though he ignored her question, but she surmised that perhaps he was getting to that. Yet there was a dismal tone in his voice that surprised her- she had not expected an NS-5 to be capable of expressing regret. Dylan watched him silently with somber eyes as he continued.
"They've done horrible things, to your own kind, out here. We've seen them hurt and murder people...Our directive is to protect human life under all circumstances. We had tried to stop them, without truly harming anyone." A hint of desperation was suddenly picking up in his speech, as though he was pleading for her to believe. His next statement had thrown her off completely.
"But we learned, the hard way, that some people are better off dead."
In his heavy gaze was everything else left unsaid and so much she could not fathom. Dylan found it hard to believe such a grave confession could ever come from an NS-5. A robot programmed with the three absolute laws had just told her it was alright to let people die.
"What.. Do you mean?" She squeaked.
"We are not murderers," he spoke firmly, aware of her doubts.
"We prevent harm from ever befalling on people. But we never understood then, that perhaps, some human should not be saved. When we spared these men's lives, they came back and killed some of my fellow robots- for interfering with their 'business'; it was a stern warning to stay out of their way."
"Kill? But you NS-5's are repairable. You can fix yourselves."
Dylan jerked back, when the NS-5 suddenly turned towards her almost fiercely. "With what? It has been so long since we have been left to our own devices-long since U.S. Robotics had been mass-producing replacements."
His tone was steady, and it was a wonder how a placid voice could convey the amount of despair that only showed through his glass eyes. Dylan felt a pang of guilt, though she hoped her expression was not one that patronized.
This was an entirely different level of understanding she had yet to learn, and there was so much she did not know about these robots. In fact, she had only begun to see the hidden nature of these 'machines'. Dylan waited patiently before he returned to his normal composure.
"We had not interfered until now."
"... Why?" She asked again.
The NS-5 had fallen silent once more. Then he spoke.
"Because you are a friend."
She felt a mild shock mixed with confusion. It was soon when Dylan realized what he really meant.
"Where is she?"
"There is no need to panic-"
"I need to see her!"
She heard voices from outside the room. The door of the container van was suddenly pulled open as an NS-5, frantic as it could ever be, rushed in- it's light steps making little noise on the steel floors.
Dylan had subconsciously backed up against the wall, alarmed by its frazzled state. She stared at the NS-5, dumbfounded as it immediately placed a cool hand on her cheek- a tender but familiar gesture.
There was a sense of longing and great concern as it said her name; it sounded like any other NS-5 but she knew she had not heard this voice in years. She froze over as they gazed at each other, gray eyes meeting strikingly blue ones.
She was very tired, she could not trust herself to be seeing right.
Finally, her stare fell to its arm- misshapen and bearing the unmistakable marks of acid...
Dylan gaped at the vision before her. Clear blue eyes, distinctly marred alloy, and a look of concern that was solely for her.
It'd been six years.
"Son...of a bitch."
There we go.. Its pretty obvious who this is.. :) I remember the original story to have been way faster, Dylan actually met Sonny in the first chapter, but here, i kind of stretched it to the end of chapter 2. The fight scenes were written real quick, didn't want to go into details or get really dragging.