The Rebels make their debut and Taylor finds herself in a new living situation.
|Chapter 3: Collision
Somehow, Taylor had found her way onto the city’s transport line and arrived at Entertainment Mile, where, much to her surprise was filled with people. But it was two o’clock and nobody should’ve been out of work or school, unless there was some special event going on. She went to a food stand and bought a hotdog for lunch.
“So, what’s going on?” she asked the man as he put mustard on her dog.
“A cadet graduation ceremony. It’s always a big deal around here.”
She didn’t see what was so grand about a Force graduation ceremony that it got people out of work and school. It was just another cog in the great propaganda tool. He handed her the hot dog and she laid down her money.
“Keep the change.”
“Have a good day, miss and enjoy the ceremony.”
She waved a bit before heading off with her hotdog. It looked appetizing enough and her stomach growled loudly.
It took her a few minutes to find an empty bench where she could eat her hotdog without being bothered by anybody. As she sat down and took her first bite, she listened to a conversation going on not too far from her.
“Did you hear the rumor about Commander Mordred attending?”
“Yes! Do you think it’s true? He doesn’t come to these very often.”
“I bet it’s because of that Rebel attack earlier today.”
“Thank goodness it was at a time of day that barely anyone was home.”
“Like me,” Taylor muttered to herself, taking another bite. “If the rumors are true, I better get out of here.”
Once she finished the hotdog and tossed the wrapper, she headed toward the transport line. Unfortunately, the Force was already there and no doubt the lines had been shut down.
“Okay, I’ll just hang out somewhere until the lines open back up, away from the ceremony.”
A large crowd had gathered in the middle of the mile, forcing her to maneuver and push through the mob of people as she made her way to the outer edges. This time, she was going to skip hiding in the dumpster and just lurk in the alley ways, out of sight. As long as she didn’t act like she was hiding anything, the Force probably wouldn’t bother her. They would be on the lookout for people who might have been armed. She wasn’t wearing a jacket, so she would have no room to put a laser pistol out of sight.
She was about to enter an alley way when someone grabbed her shoulder. This time, she managed to resist the instinct to grab the wrist and flip the person over. Mordred might’ve understood her reasoning, but she seriously doubted that any other member of the Force would take it that well. She’d be hauled to jail before she could even say sorry. So, she was forced to play nice.
“Where are you going, kid?”
“I don’t like crowds,” she stated, trying to make her voice as small as possible as she turned around. No doubt, the soldier, like many other people, probably thought she was thirteen or fourteen rather than nineteen, “So I was going somewhere less crowded.”
The soldier, who looked to be in his late twenties, removed his hand.
“Sorry kiddo no can do. We’ve had to upgrade security because of possible Rebel attack.”
“Of course. I understand.”
She understood, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. But if the likelihood of a Rebel attack was high, why were they keeping people within a certain area? Wouldn’t they be better off securing escape routes instead?
The soldier stared at her for a bit.
“You don’t sound like you’re from around here.”
“Then where are you from?”
“Kamarra, Gabor.” It slipped off her tongue so easily, naturally before it occurred to her that that was not an acceptable answer.
When Auburn had taken over, all the cities were now called Townships, states no longer existed, and the region name was given instead. While people close to Capital embraced this concept and excelled at it, the further traveled form it, the less the system was used, as was in her case and probably every person in the Southern Sector.
She expected a verbal rebuttal of some kind, but the soldier simply patted her on the head. This confused her greatly. Although she had little experience with the Force, she had never seen any of them make any sort of friendly gesture to a civilian. Maybe they were different in the Capital since there were so many civilians and they probably personally knew some of them. Maybe this one was simply a friendly one. Or this person wasn’t a member of the Force at all.
“A Southerner, huh? Been a while since I’ve met one of those. How are you enjoying the Capital so far?”
Taylor dropped the innocent young girl act and glared at him.
“Good day to you, sir.”
She let a bit of edge into her voice, making the message loud and clear. Whether he was actually a Force member or not, she didn’t want to speak to him and he should go about his business.
They stood there, for a good long while. She was not moving away. If the soldier moved, then he was more than likely an actually soldier who needed to be on his way. If he didn’t, that meant he probably had other things in mind. Seeing how he wasn’t even insisting that she go back and have fun, the latter was looking more and more likely.
He eventually did leave, but only because another soldier started coming around a corner.
“Have fun, kid.”
It didn’t sound like he really meant it.
None the less, she went back into the crowd. Obviously both the Rebels and the Force would be keeping the alleys clear and she didn’t want to encounter either one again. She thought about reporting the soldier to someone, but several problems cropped up.
One, she wasn’t a hundred percent sure that the soldier that she had met was actually a Rebel in disguise. If she reported and they investigated and her claimed turned out false, she would be in hot water for sure.
Secondly, she didn’t want to end up in trouble with the Rebels. Maybe if she had come a year earlier she wouldn’t be so worried, but she had heard rumors painting the Rebels as bad as the Force increase recently. And what Socrates had said about them losing sight of their true objective planted her opinion pretty firmly about them. She wouldn’t do an all-out commendation of them since she didn’t really no and was going by word of mouth, but she would be cautious of them. It never hurt to err on the side of caution when it came to alliances.
Thirdly, she seriously doubted anyone would believe her, claiming that she was simply paranoid or trying to stir up trouble. Ah, such was the life of a social misfit and newbie to the Capital.
She sat at the same bench where she had first heard the rumor of a possible Rebel attack, determined not to move unless lasers starting flying or a bomb went off on the stage, in which she would be fleeing for her life. Hopefully, this event wouldn’t last long so she wouldn’t fall asleep from boredom. If an attack did happen, being asleep would be detrimental to her life.
After waiting what felt like forever, the music finally started. While most people moved to the center of the Mile to get a better view, Taylor remained where she was. If anybody asked, she’d just say that she had a headache and the crowd noise wasn’t doing it any good. However, she couldn’t contain her curiosity at what exactly went on during a military graduation ceremony.
Taylor turned around, still remaining on the bench. She couldn’t see the stage set up, but she could see the giant screen attached to the stage. The cadets were marching onto the stage while inspiring music played. She rolled her eyes. Whoever had composed the National Anthem for Auburn sure wasn’t all that creative. Of course, whoever had wrote the lyrics for said anthem had been even less creative. She hadn’t even bothered to memorize it even though it was not that hard to remember.
Once all the cadets got onto the stage, the ceremony began.
They had arrived at the H’s and nothing had happened. She sighed for the twentieth time and laid her head on her arm. Perhaps the possible Rebel she had run into earlier had simply been spying on the festivities and not planning on some kind of strike. She hadn’t seen Commander Mordred either, so maybe the rumors had just been rumors.
Or at least, that’s what she thought until the podium on the stage blew up and the screen showed a badger. Of course, the crowd went into a panicked frenzy and started running all over the place. Then other things started exploding in the Mile, including the hot dog stand she had gotten lunch from. She silently hoped that the hot dog guy hadn’t been in it.
Taylor looked in the trashcan next to the bench, just to make sure that there wasn’t a bomb in there. It must’ve been odd to see her dig through the trash as things exploded and people screamed, running around all over the place while the cadets tried to get the crowd at least somewhat organized so they could evacuate in an orderly fashion. Once she determined that the trashcan wouldn’t explode, she abandoned it.
Then the screen exploded, sending sparks everywhere, catching the artificial grass on fire. She stomped out a flame that sprouted up near her and decided that now would be a good time to leave the area. It wasn’t hard to blend in with the rushing crowd, and everything went smoothly, until someone grabbed her arm and yanked her back.
“There you are, Southerner. You’re coming with me.”
Of course, she recognized the voice of the soldier from earlier. Without a moment’s hesitation, she yanked her arm so that her hand ended up by her ear, her elbow connecting with his chin. She managed to knock him hard enough to send him stumbling and helmet slipping off. A bit of blood dribbled from his mouth, leaving her to believe that he either had bit his tongue or lip.
“I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“Don’t you understand that we’re trying to help people like you, who don’t really fit into Auburn’s grand plan?”
“By what, kidnapping me? Sorry, but I’m not interested.”
He sighed, wiping some blood off.
“Look, I’m sorry about grabbing you like that, but you can’t defy the system on your own. Everyone who’s tired has failed.”
“I’m aware of that. However, you’re wrong to think that the only options are assimilation or joining a rebel group. There are never only two options.”
“I hope for your sake that you’re right.”
Something smashed into the back of her head and stars danced in her vision. She knew she was on the ground, but nothing else made sense. Colors ran everywhere, people screamed, and a loud bang went off.
“I think you hit her a bit hard there.”
“We can’t dilly dally. The Force is beginning to strike back, so we need to get out of here with the hostages.”
Something grabbed her hands and pulled her up. Taylor’s instincts kicked in and she got herself loose and made a run for it.
“I thought you had her!”
“Apparently she has a very thick skull. Most people are stunned after a blow like that!”
Mordred stood quietly among the cadets as the came in for the ceremony. He was not in his usual uniform and had the standard Force helmet on; looking just like a cadet despite the fact that he had never been one. He looked out over the crowd, sensors identifying at least four explosive devices within the mile.
“Order men to the locations I’ve identified,” he stated, “And have the others begin evacuations at the first sign of trouble. The objective is protecting the crowd and preventing major property damage. If the devices cannot be disarmed, then try to contain the explosion with shields.”
To anybody looking at him, it would look like he was talking to the cadet next to him. Good, let any Rebels who might be watching from the crowds think he was a chatty cadet.
When the bombs went off, he ordered all operations to start. As the cadets rushed off the stage, he pulled his light blade out and yanked the helmet off. It was by chance that he spotted someone in Force uniform attempted to drag someone away. He rammed them and hit them with the hilt, knocking them out. He ripped the sleeve, spying a badger on the sleeve under it.
“All personnel beware; the Rebels are dressed as regular Force members and are attempting to take hostages. Place all weapons on stun mode.”
Right after he made that announcement, the video screen exploded. The sparks rained over the Mile, flames following. Some sparks landed on his jacket, so he ripped it off, and activated his arm canon. It turned to the lowest setting with just a thought.
He ran through the fleeing crowd, pushing some aside so he could get through. A scream nearby attracted his attention.
Yet another Rebel was attempting to take a hostage, this one being a girl no older than fifteen. Odd, seeing as how the last potential hostage had been a middle age business man. But none the less, he blasted the Rebel. The girl looked at him.
“Thank you, Commander Mordred!”
He curtly nodded, but didn’t answer her. It wasn’t often that he was among civilians and even less often that one spoke to him. There wasn’t a set protocol on how to interact with them, so he kept his responses to a minimum.
That’s when he saw her, the red head that had busied his thoughts earlier in the day for some strange, unknown reason. Currently, she was running from not one, but two Rebels in disguise. Despite the fact that Mordred didn’t even know her name, he found himself not at all surprised by how her situation had turned out (not that many things actually “surprised” him). After all, she had thrown him when he had grabbed her. It would only be logical to assume that she would treat those trying to take her hostage against her will the same way as she treated him. One of the Rebels tackled her, using his weight advantage to pin her down. She grunted and growled, attempting to get him off.
“You just had to choose one who could fight,” he grunted to his fellow Rebel.
“How was I supposed to know that? Just keep her still and I’ll give her something to calm her down.”
The red head obviously wasn’t going to let them get her that easily, and bit the one holding her down’s arm.
“She just bit me!”
“Get off!” she exclaimed, using the distraction as an opportunity to lift and shift what weight she had, turning them both over. Her foot landed on his gut, causing him to let go.
Mordred wondered for a second if there was any need for him to step in or if his skills were better suited for saving someone else. She appeared to have the situation well in hand, despite having to deal with two attackers instead of one. That was until the Rebel who hadn’t been holding her struck her neck with a needle and pressed down on the plunger. She elbowed him in the solar-plexus and grabbed the needle, taking it out of her and throwing it onto the ground. It nearly hit the one she had knocked over earlier, but he managed to roll away. It was clear that he needed to step in.
He aimed his cannon at the one standing up and blasted him. He gave a short cry before crashing to the ground. The Rebel on the ground looked up and gulped.
“Surrender,” Mordred ordered, training his cannon on him, “Further resistance would be unwise.”
The Rebel sighed, raising his hands in a sign of surrender. The red head held her hand against the spot where the needle had been and teetered. A small groan escaped her lips.
“What did he give her?” he asked, pointing to her.
“It’s just a basic sedation drug. She’ll be fine unless she’s allergic to something it in, but I think we’d know that by now.”
Keep his cannon aimed at the Rebel, Mordred walked over and picked the needle up. It was only half empty, which would explain how she still stood. She took one step forward, nearing falling over.
“Ugh, why won’t the planet stop rotating? It’s making me dizzy,” she commented, “I want to get off.”
He pressed on his com.
“No reports of deaths and most injuries have been reported as minor,” the Sergeant informed him, “We have medical crews attending to the injured.”
“No. Any possible ones were taken by their fellow Rebels before we could even slap the cuffs on them.”
“I have two right here. One’s unconscious and the other is in my sight. I also have a civilian who has been drugged. Bring a…”
He suddenly found his face hitting dirt and something on top of his back. Why his proximity sensors had not warned him of an approaching object, he did not know. Whatever, or whoever it was, pressed him down in further. He attempted to turn over, but he met great resistance. It couldn’t possibly be a Rebel. No human could match his augmented strength.
“Get going!” a voice commanded. “Forget the girl!”
“Hey, I’m no girl! I’ll have you know I’m-!”
Mordred heard a thunk and concluded that she had either fallen or been knocked over. He could hear the scuffle of a pair of boots walking away from his location. The pressure on his back increased.
“Tell Auburn that this is only the beginning.”
Before he could reply, the presence was gone. He pushed himself up and looked around. The two Rebels were gone and the red head laid on her back, gripping the grass tightly as if she were holding on for dear life.
“Commander,” the Sergeant buzzed in his com, “Are you alright? We lost contact with you.”
“I am unharmed, but the Rebels got away.”
“That’s a shame. What was it that you needed?”
“Belay that order. I will come to you.”
He deactivated his cannon and turned the light blade off. He thought about inquiring the young woman herself about her condition, but he had a feeling that she would either lie or panic, given what she had just been through and the fact that she wasn’t completely coherent at the moment. Mordred approached her.
“Stay away, I’m warning you…”
She attempted to sit up, only to fall limp again.
“I have no intention of harming you,” he stated, kneeling down next to her, “I am going to help you.”
“I already told you no. Go back to your little Rebellion and leave me alone.”
Apparently, she didn’t recognize him and thought he was a Rebel. He was in a cadet’s uniform after all, so he understood her mistake.
“When you wake up, you will be safe.”
Before she could retort, he reached behind her neck and pressed a nerve. Her eyes closed and her body went completely limp. Mordred had not planned on knocking her out, but he couldn’t have her fighting against him. He carefully scooped her into his arms, making sure to be gentle. They left the wrecked Entertainment Mile behind.
Ch 4: Cyborg Commander and Red Head Officially Meet
Mordred ended up not taking the red head to the medics. His sensors told him that all her vitals were steady and that she should regain consciousness within the hour. Instead, he took her to Force HQ and to his quarters. It was an unprecedented move for him, but he needed to find out why her face kept returning to him whenever he had been idle that day. The only way to figure that it was to observe her and find out all he could about her. The last thing he needed to be was distracted, especially with the Rebels stepping up their game.
As he waited for her to regain consciousness, he reviewed the attack. The reports would take a few hours to come in and it would take Intelligence a while to compile the data before it was sent to him. As far as he could tell, it had been the Rebel’s way of announcing to people that they were done, as Lord Auburn had often put it, “playing nice”. As he reviewed what his databanks had recorded, he noticed something.
The hostage taking attempt seemed totally random. There had been no reason for it, so far there had been no reports of any hostages actually taken, and the ones the Rebels had been attempting to take had nothing at all in common. Then he thought back to the red head lying on the bed. The two after her seemed determined to get her, but why? They had mentioned that she was a fighter and wasn’t really worth the trouble, yet they had gone to great lengths to retrieve her. Now he had even more of a reason for bringing her along.
Mordred noticed that his red headed guest began to stir. He remained in place, leaning on the wall. Her hazel eyes opened, obviously bewildered by the sudden change in scenery. She looked around anxiously, rubbing where he had hit her on the neck. Her eyes eventually fell on him.
“Who are you? Where am I? Why am I here?” she demanded to know, “And don’t try to beat around the bush!”
He began to approach her, hands folded behind his back in order to appear less threatening.
“I am Commander Mordred, second only to Lord Auburn himself. You are in the HQ of The Force, more specifically, my quarters. As for why you are here…”
She suddenly got up and seemed to be frantically searching for something. She found the chair and somehow managed to throw it at him. He easily dodged it and it smashed into pieces against the wall. He didn’t realize that it was all a distraction until she had reached his weapon, which he had left on the desk, and pulled it out of the sheath.
The blade hummed in the air, dangerous as always. He slowly took a step toward her. Despite the obvious fact that the young woman had never wielded a bladed weapon (her grip was all wrong), she didn’t hesitate to take a swing at him. Mordred jumped back a little. It barely caught his jacket, tearing a small rip in it. Although the damage was superficial, the strike had been too close for comfort.
“Look, I don’t want to fight you,” she stated, voice unwavering, “Just let me go and you’ll never see me again.”
“So all of the questions you asked earlier were distractions?”
“I’d have to be living under a rock to not know who you were, Commander Mordred. As for the rest, I honestly don’t care.”
“You are quite clever, I will give you that,” he admitted, “But do you think you can take a fully augmented cyborg like me on in a fight? So why do we not stop this unnecessary threatening and you put down my weapon? I do not want you hurting yourself with it.”
In all honesty, he did not desire her to accidentally slice off a limb with the blade as others had done before with the other prototypes until Lord Auburn had decided that only Mordred should wield one.
“How about you escort me outside, I toss you back your weapon, and I go my way and you keep doing your job?”
“I do not negotiate with prisoners.”
“If I’m a prisoner, then why am I not in a prisoner bloc?”
“Well, you technically did not do anything illegal so you are not a criminal. We only put criminals in the prisoner block. I would call you a guest, but you did not come here with your own free will, so the only thing I could think of calling you is a prisoner.”
She headed to the door, still pointing the weapon at him.
“Fine, then I’ll let myself out. If I’m not technically a criminal, then I can leave. I promise I won’t take your precious light blade with me. I’ll leave it at the front.”
As her hand reached for the button that opened the door, Mordred pounced. He easily knocked the light blade from her hand, sending it flying. It sliced through some of the floor, but he didn’t care. She quickly reacted, shifting her body so that they would roll instead of him pinning her on her back. He then tangled one of his legs with hers and pulled out, causing her to lose momentum. He was now on top of her, pinning her to the ground.
She frantically struggled under him while he felt around the pack on the back of his belt for something. Tired of her squirming, he activated his cannon arm and held it to her head.
“If you know who I am, then you should know that I have no problem killing people. Now stop squirming. That’s an order.”
“I’m not one of your soldiers,” she pointed out.
He didn’t really like the fact that she had back talked him, but at least she did stop squirming. He continued his task of feeling around the pack until he found the metallic object. Mordred pulled it out and showed her the pair of handcuffs.
“I was not going to do this, but obviously you having your hands free are only going to result in destruction or possible injury.”
Suddenly, something swung into his head. While he had been looking for the handcuffs, she had grabbed a piece of the smashed chair without him noticing. His sensors hadn’t picked it up since it wasn’t being thrown at him. The wood splintered as it made impact with his head. It stung a little, but he had felt worse pain. He calmly jammed the cannon under her chin.
“If you thought that was going to make me lose my temper and cause me to do something that would help you gain the advantage, then you are sadly mistaken. I do not have emotions to trigger. Now I do recommend that you stay absolutely still this time or I will fire.”
He snapped the handcuffs onto her in a little less than three seconds and put the cannon away. He got off her and lifted her up with him. About that time, three soldiers came in.
“Sir, we heard some loud noises in here.”
He brushed some of the splinters out of his hair. She saw that the door was open and nearly made a run for it. Mordred quickly grabbed the chain of the cuffs, stopping her in her tracks.
“She just threw a chair at me, tried to slash me with my own light blade, and broke some wood on my head. That is what you heard.”
“Are you alright, sir?”
“I am fine as you can see. Please get someone to clean up the broken chair and I need a new one, preferably not wooden and heavier.”
“Do you need us to take her off your hands, sir?”
“No, I can handle her.”
One of the soldiers deactivated the light blade and handed it to him. He slipped it back onto his belt and noticed that his com had begun blinking. Lord Auburn no doubt needed to discuss today’s events.
“Actually, I do need you to watch her for a bit. I just got a call.” He handed her to the nearest soldier. “I should be back soon. Oh, and do not hassle her or you will have to answer to me.”
“Sir yes sir!”
All Taylor could really think of was how much trouble she was now in. Although Mordred hadn’t seemed too upset that she had fought against him and smashed a chair against his head, she wasn’t sure what to expect from him next.
The soldiers he had called in pretty much ignored her, cleaning up all the splinters from the chair she had thrown. Once and a while, one would ask her to lift her feet or move so they could clean the spot, but other than that, they acted like she was just another piece of furniture.
Did Mordred randomly bring people into his room often? She hadn’t heard any rumors of him doing so and he never seemed like the type of person to snatch people off the street and take them into his tower. Well, at least people who weren’t being arrested by him.
One soldier stayed behind while the other two left to go get a new chair. Taylor decided that it would be the right time to ask any questions, if they would answer them.
“Um, does this happen often?”
“I can’t ever say I’ve heard of the Commander ever getting a new chair,” she replied.
For a moment, Taylor felt embarrassed that she had mistaken this soldier for a man, but didn’t feel so bad when she remembered that the uniforms were purposely designed to hide the person’s gender.
“Actually, I meant him taking people to his room? Is that a common occurrence?”
“Nope. It’s never happened before as long as I’ve been here.”
“How long have you’ve been here?”
That left five years that she wouldn’t know about, if Taylor did the math right. It had been seven years since Auburn had taken charge of things in the Capital, but only four that he had “control” of the Southern part of the country.
“So, he’s never done this before. Well, that’s just great,” she muttered to herself, “The week I arrive in town, there’s an attack and the cyborg commander starts doing unpredictable things.”
The two other soldiers came back, carrying a faux leather chair that looked rather heavy. At first, they had trouble fitting it through the door, but after rotating it a bit they eventually got it through. They put it by the desk.
“I think the Commander’s going to like it, don’t you?”
“One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be more comfortable than that old wooden chair he had.”
While they were talking, Taylor climbed onto the bed and settled down. She figured if she was in the way, they’d just wake her up and tell her to move.
It was actually three hours before Mordred made it to Auburn. His Master had seen it fit that he stopped by Intelligence first and learned everything they knew so far. That had taken a while.
This time, Intelligence had actually done their job and gathered useful information. The Rebels, disguised as soldiers from the Force, had blended in with the patrols responsible for set up and security of the graduation. That made it easy for them to plant the bombs. The bombs themselves had been small, meant for distraction and minimal destruction. The shields had contained most of the debris, but some managed to escape, hitting some people. No serious injuries had been reported. However, it was still unclear why or how the screen had exploded.
Intelligence had also managed to quickly gain the accounts and profiles of those who the Rebels had attempted to take hostage. At least all except the red head he had taken custody of. They handed the information over to him on a data stick to give to Lord Auburn. When he entered his Master’s quarters, Lord Auburn had a table spread out for dinner.
“Hello, Commander. Please, sit down and eat something. We have much to discuss.”
Thanks to his augmentations, Mordred did not have to eat more than one meal a day. He usually found that he had more time to eat dinner than any other meal, so he chose that meal to eat. Sometimes, his Master would call him down for dinner, but most of the time he found himself eating alone in his room.
As he piled food onto his plate, he remembered his guest. She would no doubt be hungry too, especially if this meeting went for a long time. He made a note to take some leftovers to her.
“Do you have something for me, Mordred?”
“I do, Master.”
He handed the data stick over to him. Auburn plugged it into the table leg causing a holographic image to pop up in the middle of the table. As they ate, they opened files, discussed things, and reviewed security footage.
“We’ll need to find a way to prevent Rebels as disguising themselves as soldiers again. Next time, they might attack when no Force patrols are around. That would turn public opinion against us,” Auburn commented as they watched yet another angle of the footage.
Suddenly, Auburn squinted at the screen.
“Rewind three seconds back.”
The footage scurried back.
The image froze on his command. He stood up and touched a point on the image.
As it did so, Mordred could make out the face of the person currently in his quarters. He had planned on telling Lord Auburn about her and his plans for her after dinner, but it appeared the questions would come earlier than expected. No matter, Mordred had everything he needed to provide an answer.
The footage resumed. Mordred watched as she reacted by looking around before heading to the nearest trashcan and digging in it. It obviously had happened before he had rescued her from her Rebel pursuers.
An amused smirk played on Auburn’s lips.
“Not the first place I would look for a possible bomb, but I must admit that would be a plausible place for one to be.” He sighed, “Although it does strike me as unusual that she would look for a bomb rather than evacuate the area. She doesn’t seem all that panicked either. Program, show all footage involving this particular person and run an identification program.”
“Master, I have something to tell you.”
“Yes, what is it?”
Mordred looked at the screen, which showed her entering the Mile. Something about her pricked at his memory banks, yet he could not recall any reason why.
“Commander, what is it?” an impatient edge crept into his Master’s voice.
“I met her earlier today, after we were ambushed. I found her hiding in a dumpster.”
“She wasn’t doing anything wrong, so I let her go.”
Suddenly, the program beeped. Auburn opened the file that came up.
“Her name’s Taylor Lockheed, from the South.”
His lip curled in minor disgust. Auburn had never hid his distaste for the Southern part of the country from Mordred, and now was no exception.
“Hm, she’s here with the vocational program, but the case worker hasn’t been able to contact her ever since she got her.” He watched her as she ate the hotdog. “It seems like we have a runner on our hands. Fast-forward a couple of minutes.”
The image zoomed by. It resumed regular speed around the time where she attempted to slip away. She bumped into a soldier and had a short conversation with him. The audio wasn’t clear enough to tell what they were talking about, but Mordred could read their lips. Finally, she left and the Rebel turned toward the camera.
“Pause,” Mordred ordered, freezing the image once again. “I recognize him. He’s a Rebel I prevented from taking her hostage.”
Auburn leaned back in his chair and steepled his hands.
“Commander, are you saying that you met her once again?”
“Yes sir. Two Rebels were attempting to take her hostage, but she was resisting greatly. I almost did not step in, but then one of them injected her with half a needle of sedatives. I knocked one out and managed to have the other one surrender. Then something… happened.”
“Please, go on.”
“I was talking to the Sergeant when my com went offline and someone snuck up on me.”
“Snuck up on you? How? Are your sensors malfunctioning?”
Mordred shook his head.
“I checked them shortly after I returned. They are at maximum efficiency. I… do not know. However, whoever it was also managed to pin me down long enough to allow the Rebels to escape. They said to give you a message.”
“What did they say?”
“This is only the beginning. After that, I attended to the Southerner. I was forced to knock her out when she started resisting me out of her delusional state.”
“If they attempted to take her hostage, why isn’t her account in the files?”
Mordred paused. He could tell that Lord Auburn was already a bit miffed with him. If he didn’t give a good explanation, he might get angry. While Auburn had never beat him, even when he failed or did something wrong, his Master somehow always managed to punish him with mere words. If Mordred was capable of hating something, he hated nothing more than the lectures that managed to somehow affect him despite having no emotions.
“After I knocked her out, I brought her here for questioning. She is currently in my quarters. I found there were just too many strange circumstances around her to be pure coincidence.”
“That’s not all, is it Mordred?”
He shook his head.
“No, Master. After I first met her, her image stayed in my memory banks despite having never met her before. I want to figure out why so I can prevent it from happening to the point of distraction.”
Auburn’s body relaxed.
“I see. All right, Commander, I trust that you know what you are doing with her.”
“Do you want to meet with her?”
“Perhaps in a few days. It would be better if we let her settle first.”
Mordred returned to his quarters with a plate of food. He excused the soldiers only to find Taylor asleep on his bed. For a moment, he thought about waking her, but decided the best thing to do was let her sleep. He set the plate on his desk and sat in his new chair, which was much more comfortable than his old one. He too soon fell asleep.