The two get to know each other. Rivalries and tensions become apparent. (Part 3 of 10)
|Ch 5: First Steps
Taylor stirred awake when her stomach growled. She opened her eyes, taking in the plain room that was Commander Mordred’s quarters. He wasn’t around at the moment, but she could hear running water. It had never occurred to her that he would need to take showers for some odd reason. She supposed because she forgot that he still was partly organic. The rumors rarely acknowledged that part of him. All they ever talked about was how cold and mechanical he was in everything he did.
She sighed, having nothing to do, until a plate of food on his desk caught her attention. Her stomach growled once again.
“Maybe he left this for me. I mean, I don’t think he’d get a plate of food and leave it. But what if this is a test?”
Taylor looked around, grabbed the plate, and chowed down.
“Ah well. What’s life without a couple of risks?”
Mordred stepped soon stepped out the bathroom. She choked on the bite she was fixing to take, sending herself into a coughing fit. He just looked at her like nothing was wrong.
“I see you found the plate of food l left for you. I returned later than I meant to last night or I would have given it to you before you fell asleep.”
“Oh, guess I did doze off there accidentally. Sorry, didn’t mean to take your bed.”
“There will be a cot for you coming in today. My chair was acceptable for a night.”
“It’s a nice chair,” she commented, taking her last bite, “Can’t say that I’ll be able to lift it.”
“That is the point, Taylor Lockheed.”
Taylor couldn’t help but gulp when he said her name. That meant that he had found her file, and she could only imagine what it said about her. He handed her a glass of water.
“I have a few questions to ask you. Afterwards, I will let you use the restroom to clean up.”
“What kind of questions? I figured that everything you would need is in my file.”
“Where are you from?” he continued, not even bothering to answer her question.
“That does not mean anything to me.”
She sighed. On the trip here, Ms. Judy had tried to coach her on how they did things in the Capital. One of them included the “proper” names of things. She hadn’t really paid attention, but she could remember what they called the area where she came from.
“Fine, if you want the boring, uncreative name. Township 13, Southern Sector.”
“You prefer using the outdated city, providence format.”
“Outdated? People have been using that system for hundreds if not thousands of years. I’d hardly call one guy deciding to change the way people have been doing it for years just because he can an update. Besides it’s city, state format. They were never called providences.”
He had heard similar statements from Rebels he interrogated in the past, but never a civilian. Of course, he rarely interacted with civilians and there was no documentation in his databanks that he had ever met someone from the fringes of the country like the person before him. Auburn had told him that most people in the Southern region did not agree with him, but he had never seen or heard it from them until now.
“The “one guy” you are referring to is Lord Auburn. It would be to your benefit to refer to him as such, considering that you are in the same building as him and he can access any camera to any room in this building if he wishes.”
He knew his Master would be most likely watching this conversation, since he had expressed interest in gaining more information about Taylor.
“You think I don’t know about the cameras? I’ve been to a government building before. Besides, I’m not scared of him.” She drank some of the water. “Whatever. Next question, please.”
He pulled out his chair and sat in it. In most interrogations, he usual stood, towering over the one being interrogated, but this was not a typical interrogation. Despite not having emotions himself, Mordred understood that other people did and everything always went smoother when he tried to establish some common ground with them in order for them to make an emotional connection of some sort with him. It usually didn’t work with Rebels, as they constantly called him a machine, which was half true, and nothing but a puppet to Auburn’s whims. Perhaps Taylor would be different.
So far, what little she had said had been directed against Auburn and his policies. While the Rebels had done so, usually with much more colorful language, they also condemned the people who would work for him. Taylor’s frustrations seem to come from a different source than most Rebels.
“How old are you?”
So she was older than he had initially concluded. It wasn’t that important of information anyways.
“You came here as part of the Vocational Program, correct?”
“More like I was dragged here with little warning, but I suppose so.”
“Your case worker was unable to get in contact with you after your initial arrival, which was…”
“Four days ago, believe it or not.” Taylor finished her water before setting it down. “It feels like I’ve been here in this dump forever though.”
“You do not like the Capital.”
“No.” She brought her legs up on the bed, tucking her chin over them and circling her arms around them. “Is that illegal or something?”
“I was simply making an observation. How were you able to avoid contact? Records show that according to the com given to you, you stayed in the apartment the whole time, which we both know is untrue.”
“I dumped the com in the trash.”
She rolled her eyes and sighed. One thing rumor about Mordred she concluded was a hundred percent true was that he was very persistent.
“What does it matter anyways? You don’t really care and neither does Auburn. I’m not answering any questions if you keep asking for reason behind everything I do. What are the questions you really have to ask?”
“Very well then. What I mainly want to find out is why those two Rebels were so intent on capturing you. I know you encountered one of them earlier and I would suggest that you not lie.”
“I’m not sure why those two went after me like that.”
Mordred stared at her. According to his sensors, nothing in her changed to indicate that she had lied. So, she either told the truth or she was an expert liar, which seemed less likely as outspoken as she had been previously.
He got up and went over to her, unlocking the cuffs.
“You have fifteen minutes to use the bathroom. If you take longer, I will come in. Clear?”
It only took her ten minutes to get ready once she figured out how to work the shower. When she had gotten dressed again and dried her hair, an idea popped into her head. It might’ve been petty, but she changed all of Mordred’s shower settings.
While she was taking a shower, Mordred found himself faced with a task he was very unfamiliar with: sorting through her items and deciding which things were really necessary in fifteen minutes. He didn’t know anything about clothes, seeing as he only had his uniform, or personal grooming products, only having a toothbrush and comb in his possession. Someone knocked on his door.
The door slid open and the Sergeant stepped in. He eyed the pile of items in the middle of Mordred’s room.
“Are you… busy?”
“I could use some assistance sorting through these and deciding which are necessary and which can be sent back.”
The Sergeant chuckled.
“I heard the rumors that you found yourself a girl, but don’t you think it’s a bit early for her to be moving in with you?”
The cyborg just stared at him, joke not even processed. The Sergeant sighed.
“What was that?”
“Never mind, sir. It was just a joke.”
“Oh. Ha ha ha.”
“Commander, you don’t have to laugh.”
“Is that not a proper reaction to a joke?”
“Let’s start sorting through this stuff.”
A few minutes later, they had everything sorted.
“Are you sure that she needs all of this?” Mordred asked.
“This isn’t all that much, Commander. How old did you say she was?”
The Sergeant cleared his throat.
“Wow, now I feel bad for making that joke. Like I said, it’s not that much stuff, especially considering her age. My sister always took a ton of stuff with her whenever we traveled. This girl packed lightly.”
About that time, the bathroom door opened and Taylor stepped out.
“I kind of need a toothbrush because I don’t think you want me using yours.” She glanced down. “Wait a minute, are you going through my stuff?”
“Yes,” Mordred answered, “Is there anything we missed?”
She sighed before going through the two stacks.
“Nope. Although I recall having a personal data pad…”
“I had that sent to Intelligence for analysis.”
“All right, one more question. What’s going to happen to all the stuff in the not keep pile.”
“It will be put in storage.”
“Oh.” Then she noticed the Sergeant. “Who’s he, besides a soldier?”
“This is the Sergeant who assists me. Sergeant, meet Taylor Lockheed from the Southern Sector.”
“A pleasure to meet you, miss,” he stated, holding out his hand, “I’ve been to the Southern Sector a couple of times. I must admit, it has beautiful landscape.”
Taylor shook his hand.
“I believe that’s the first good thing I’ve heard about it since I got here. Sergeant who? I might not be very familiar with how military rank works, but I know that there’s always more than one Sergeant.”
It had never occurred to Mordred to ask this particular Sergeant’s name. To him, he had always been Sergeant. He knew the other Sergeants’ names, just not the one he had worked with ever since he came online. If he were human, he would probably be blushing from embarrassment.
“Ironically, it’s Sargent.”
“That’s why I just go by Sergeant.”
“What’s your first name? I’m pretty sure you have one, unless you lose it when you join the Force.”
“Sorry kid. Soldiers aren’t allowed to be on first name basis with civilians.” He turned to Mordred. “Sir.”
“What is the order of business today, Sergeant?”
“We have reports of Rebels in Business District Beta. Lord Auburn’s ordered an investigation headed up by you.”
“Get a group together and meet me in the bay. I have something to take care of first.”
Taylor let Mordred lead her to the elevator with little trouble. It wouldn’t do her much good since she didn’t know the layout of the building. Even if by some miracle she managed to slip away from him, she wouldn’t know where the exit was. He pressed a floor and the elevator began its travel.
“Where are we going, Mordred?”
“I do not trust you to leave you alone, so I am leaving you with someone.”
“You mean you’re leaving me with a babysitter.”
“That is one way to see it.”
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. This hall was a lot more crowded than the others had been. Mordred put a hand on her shoulder and steered her to what looked like the med bay. The med bay itself was pretty empty aside from four people lying on the beds in casts.
“It was the explosion you heard yesterday, a thermal grenade. Three were killed.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
He stopped at a desk and pressed the call button.
“I’ll be with you in a minute!” A voice from the back called, before something crashed. “Oh, sizzle spit.”
“This will only take a second, Dr. Preston.”
A man peeked out of the back room. He had glasses, and his hair had white streaks among the brown. He wore a lab coat, looking like an average doctor, not a military one. He looked out of place to Taylor. Dr. Preston smiled when he saw Mordred.
“Oh Mordred, it’s you! Why didn’t you say so?” His eyes fell on Taylor. “And who is this young lady?”
“This is Taylor Lockheed. I need you to watch her for me.”
The cyborg left without another explanation. Taylor turned to the doctor.
“Does he do that all the time?”
“So, you’re a doctor for the Force.”
“I’m Kincaid Preston, leading doctor, as far as medicinal means go. There are others who have the doctor title, like the scientists and brain washers… I mean psychologists.” He pointed to a chair. “Why don’t you take a seat while I clean up my mess? I told them not to put the box on top of the extra data pads…”
She sat on the chair, listening to him banging around in the back room, which she assumed was the supply room.
“It could be worse,” she told herself, “You could’ve been kidnapped or sitting in jail.”
Dr. Preston eventually finished cleaning up and sat in his chair.
“All right, Taylor. Where are you from?”
“Township 13, Southern Sector.”
He took his glasses off and set them aside.
“Look, I’ll be honest with you. I hate that system. Actually, I pretty much hate everything Auburn does.”
“You just called him Auburn.”
“I have other names for him, but they aren’t anything a decent person should hear. Let me guess, Mordred got onto you for not referring to him properly?”
“Don’t worry about it. He did the same thing to me when he first took his position, but eventually gave up. The key with him is persistence… and a bit of stubbornness. Now, where are you from?”
“Kamarra, Gabor. And you?”
“Doc, I think we’re going to get along just fine.”
Several hours later, Auburn stood, watching the sunset in his usual spot. His day had been fairly busy, having to do damage control after the attack. Once and a while, he checked back on the doctor and the Southerner, only to find them usually making fun of him or discussing something interesting to only them. As far as he was concerned, they were of no threat, no matter how annoying they both strove to be.
Someone rang the bell.
This time, he faced the door as Commander Mordred came in. The cyborg saluted him.
“Master, our investigation led us to capturing a Rebel and procuring this.”
He put a pad down.
“It’s addressed to you.”
“Commander, do the usual and tell Intelligence to send me the reports. Dismissed.”
Mordred saluted once more before leaving. Auburn stood for a long time, looking at the pad. The Rebels had left him messages before, but that was when they were merely raiding convoys and vandalizing property, annoying but limited violent actions. He had a feeling something within the group had changed, and it probably was not in his favor. Eventually, he touched the pad.
“Did you like our little gift to those graduating, Auburn? That’s just a taste of what to come. And your pet cyborg? He didn’t really impress me all that much, seeing that I managed to not only sneak up on him but also keep him down. I thought he was supposed to be an incredible meld of man and machine. Looks like you took out a bit too much. Our numbers are growing, old man. You best be ready.”
The voice recording stopped. He knocked it into his mini-incinerator.
“Arthur, you have no idea what you are up against.”
Chapter 6: Tensions Abound
The next morning, Taylor found herself being roused out of sleep by what felt like earthquake. In reality, it was merely Mordred shaking her rather roughly.
“Wake up,” he ordered, “Now.”
It took her a few seconds to comply, not immediately processing his command. She blinked sleepily before sitting up. It was a lot earlier than she had woken up the day before, not that there was a clock or even a window for her to guess the actually time. It definitely felt earlier though. Mordred stared down at her. She noticed that he was dripping wet and only in a towel.
“You changed my settings.”
She yawned, resisting the urge to smile.
“You had it way too cold, so I had to up the temperature a bit.”
“I had it that way for a reason.”
“Well, can’t you change them back easily enough?”
“Yes, but that is not the point.”
Taylor stretched a bit, observing him some more. He had a passive face on, but she could tell that he was displeased that she had messed with his stuff, even though he would deny actually feeling annoyed.
“Let me guess, you got in the shower without checking the settings?”
“Yes and it was not a welcome change.”
“Sorry, next time I’ll remember to change it back. I’m not used to sharing a bathroom.”
“No, you will not change the settings at all anymore. I am locking it so that only I can change it.”
With that, he marched back into the bathroom, leaving a trail of water behind him. Soon the shower started again. Taylor got up, deciding that she probably couldn’t go back to sleep. Often if her sleep was interrupted, she had a difficult time falling back asleep unless she was absolutely exhausted.
“So much for warm showers,” she muttered, looking around for something to clean the water up so she wouldn’t accidentally slip on it, “Would it kill him to keep something to clean up messes in here? Although, it doesn’t look it he ever makes messes. At dinner, he didn’t even have to use a napkin.”
Once Mordred finished his shower and dried off, he put on his uniform, and went over to the sink to brush his teeth. That is when he noticed that she had left the cap on the toothpaste off. He scanned his toothbrush, making sure she hadn’t used it, despite the fact that she had her own toothbrush. The scan came back negative. After that, he moved onto comb his hair, only to find it full of red hair.
Taylor had finally found something to wipe up all the water with, an old shirt of hers she couldn’t wear anymore. She didn’t know why she had packed it, but she was glad she had it right now. The next thing she knew, Mordred hovered over.
“Can I help you?”
He held out the comb.
“I didn’t have a brush with me, so I used your comb. Sorry, forgot to clean it out. I figured you didn’t have lice, so…”
“Refrain from touching my things in the future now that you have your own.” He pointed to the bathroom. “You have fifteen minutes.”
Fifteen minutes later, she had not emerged from the bathroom. The shower had stopped running a while ago, and Mordred knew that it did not take that long for anyone to brush their teeth or hair. He knocked on the door.
“Time is up.”
“Then come out. We have things to do.”
“You mean you have things to do. Why can’t I just stay here today?”
“I told you, I do not trust you to stay by yourself. Now come out and let us go.”
That was when she discovered he was strong enough to pull the door open without having to press the button. He dragged her out of the bathroom.
“I said we are going.”
She firmly planted her feet as she could, shoes leaving streaks on the metal surface. He stopped.
“Fine. You have forced my hand, Taylor.”
With a bit of cyborg added strength, Mordred grabbed her by the waist and hauled her up to his shoulder with little difficulty. This way, he wouldn’t accidentally hurt her by dragging her and she wouldn’t get scuff marks on the floor.
“Hey, I’m not a sack of potatoes!”
“Then you should have cooperated. I do not tolerate insubordination or let it slow me down, be it from a soldier or a civilian. You were much more cooperative yesterday.”
“I was waiting to be arrested all day.”
“I don’t know, I’m sure you can find something I did wrong.”
He had, but Lord Auburn said that since she was staying with him, that was punishment enough for her. His Master had laughed after the statement, and Mordred still didn’t understand why. As far as he could tell, that was not a punishment written in the law. Perhaps Lord Auburn had made a joke and he had missed it. That was most likely the case.
He carried Taylor to the gym. Maybe she would be more cooperative if she didn’t have the energy to resist. After all, he found that most of his soldiers were more compliant after a particularly busy day. He handed her off to the Physical Training Officer.
“Put her through the basic course. Let me know if she causes you any trouble. I will be back in a few hours.”
As he left, Mordred could see Taylor glaring at him. Little did she know that he had looked through her file while she had been with Dr. Preston, seeing what he could glean from it. He had noticed that she had only taken the minimal physical education and since she had no physical difficulties, then he had concluded that she did not enjoy exercise. Maybe next time she would not touch his stuff without his permission. His mind turned to his true task for the day, interrogating the Rebel caught the day before.
When he stepped into the prison bloc, the guards saluted him.
“At ease, soldiers,” he told them, “Has he said anything?”
“He refuses to talk to anyone.”
“Hm, usually they are screaming insults or obscenities by now. I trust Intelligence has sent down some information about him?”
The guard handed him a data pad.
“There wasn’t all that much information on him.”
“I see. Very well, let me in.”
The door slid open. The Rebel was cuffed to the table, stripped out of his uniform, but still in his underform. Mordred looked over the pad before setting it on the table.
“Joseph Moran, former Public Event Coordinator. Originally from Zeta Sector here.”
“Is that supposed to scare me, Commander Mordred?”
His databanks immediately found a voice match.
“I was merely stating a couple of facts, and seeing if you were capable of speaking. The guards tell me you have been quiet, which is usually quiet the opposite of most of the Rebels brought here. And I have noticed that we have seemed to have met before.”
“Yeah, I was at the graduation.”
“You were the one that got bit by the one you attempted to take hostage.”
Moran grumbled to himself, clearly embarrassed that anyone had seen that.
“That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“As you have probably suspected, I am here to ask you a few questions. Answer them or not, it does not matter to me. Why were you attempting to take hostages?”
Taylor was already thinking up a revenge plan to execute on Mordred for putting her through this. It only reminded her of why she hated gym.
“Go on, keep moving!” the PTO yelled at her, “You still have half a mile to go!”
It had not been that bad at first, a few push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, things that weren’t too physically taxing. Then came the chin up bar which she had to be helped up to and things just went down hill from there. In response to the PTO, she just collapsed.
“Fine, you can have a short break. Don’t want you fainting on us or anything. The Commander probably wouldn’t like that.”
“He probably wouldn’t care,” she stated, rolling over, “He’d just swing by the infirmary and pick me back up instead.”
“He takes the health of his soldiers very seriously. He visits those injured ones everyday.”
“Really? He doesn’t strike me as the type.”
“It takes pretty much everybody by surprise, except the Doc of course.”
Dr. Preston didn’t seem like the type to easily surprise. Perhaps all those years working with Mordred had taken away all the surprise. She knew she liked the Doc. He didn’t treat her like she was crazy or some kind of law breaker for having the opinions she had. Though, he had never really made it clear why he was being a medical doctor for the Force when he didn’t agree with many of Auburn’s policies.
“You’re taking my presence here rather well,” she stated, siting up, “I thought I’d be swarmed with questions and accusations.”
“Commander Mordred doesn’t do things without a good reason to. His judgement is mostly respected around here, so people just accept whatever he does.”
Taylor had caught that mostly part. It boggled her mind to think that there were some people in the Force who didn’t like the cyborg commander when it seemed like they had nothing bad to say about him. She wondered if it had been someone who Auburn had passed up in favor of Mordred or maybe someone who was jealous of his position.
The door to the gym slid open and she heard the PTO curse. Judging by the word he used, she guessed that it was not someone he wanted to see. Among the cursing, she heard the phrase, “What does she want this time?”
She came straight over to them. Taylor got the feeling that she was a woman you did not want to push around in any shape or form. Even the PTO, with his barreled chest and bulging muscles seemed to break out in a sweat once she stopped.
“Colonel Lafei, it’s been a while since you’ve been down here. Come to set up a sparing session? I might have trouble finding partners considering you put your last ones in the infirmary…”
“Not today, PTO. I’m here for Mordred’s little pet project.”
“He said he would pick her up. The Commander outranks you, you know.”
She glared at him with steely eyes. He backed up a bit. Taylor would’ve found the sight funny if the subject wasn’t her.
“I, however, outrank you. If Mordred has a problem with it, he’s welcome to take it up with me.” The Colonel turned to her. “Come with me.”
Taylor crossed her arms.
“I won’t go with you unless you explain who you are and why you want me to come with you. I’ve been dragged off once, I don’t want that to happen again.”
The statement probably lost its punch since she was sitting on the floor, but she didn’t care. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the PTO retreat.
“As you heard, I am Colonel Lafei. I am head of Intelligence.”
Taylor couldn’t help but chuckle.
“As in the people who supposed are supposed to stop Rebel attacks? You guys dropped the ball on that one.”
Colonel Lafei smacked her cheek hard enough to leave a red mark.
“I said come with me.”
Mordred was not having any luck with the Rebel. He refused to properly answer any questions or answered with questions. Still, he remained persistent. That was until his main com went off.
“What’s the matter, Mordred?” Moran teased, “Master has another errand for his little pet?”
He left without answering his question and handed the data pad to the next interrogator.
“Commander, about that girl you brought…”
“Is she causing any trouble?”
“She hardly put any effort into the exercises, but that wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. No, Colonel Lafei came down here, asking for her to come with her.”
“I am on my way.”
“Okay, I’ll try to stall… Lafei just hit the kid!”
He picked up the pace.
Taylor had never been slapped on the face before. Most of the time, she got along with people well enough to where they didn’t have the urge to hit her, but she must’ve hit a nerve with this dragon lady, Lafei. She rubbed her sore cheek.
“Ow!” she exclaimed, not really knowing what else to do, “Was that for the remark I made about Intelligence?”
“I won’t tell you again, Ms. Lockheed. Come with me or I will personally drag you myself.”
“At least let me rest a bit first. I’ve been exercising for hours and I can’t feel my legs. If I try to get up now, I’ll get a cramp.”
Lafei grabbed her shirt and hauled her up.
“A cramp is the least of your worries.”
“Listen lady, if you attack me, I will defend myself, Force member or not. So you better let go before we both do something we’ll regret.”
She found herself flying across the room, landing on some exercise equipment.
“Fine. If that’s the way you want it…
Mordred arrived in time just to see Lafei and Taylor lock metaphorical horns. This time, he stepped in as quickly as he could, having seen Lafei’s tendency to injure whomever she fought with, even if it was just a spar.
“Colonel Lafei, desist,” he ordered.
“There are questions that she needs to answer, Commander,” she spat out that last word, “I thought that since you obviously haven’t done anything to get them out of her, that I would take over.”
“If you wanted to speak to her, you should have discussed it with me first.”
“You were busy.”
“You could have waited or called me. Time is not a factor here.”
“Lord Auburn would want results.”
“Lord Auburn put her under my care, Colonel. I am sure he did so for a reason.”
Lafei went straight into his face.
“Only because you’re his little pet! If anybody else had brought her in, she’d be sitting in a cell or the insane asylum!”
“Insane asylum? I’m not insane!”
“This is not the time nor place to discuss this, Colonel. If you have a problem with Lord Auburn’s orders, you can take it up with him.” He backed away from her. “Taylor.”
As they walked away, Taylor couldn’t help but stick her tongue out at Lafei. Mordred looked at her.
“Was that necessary?”
“It annoys her, so that’s all that matters.”
He shook his head.
“I do not understand you, Taylor.”
“I don’t understand myself a lot either. So, what’s for lunch? All that exercise made me hungry!”