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Chapter 26

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‘Ger, Ger!!!’

Isla grabbed onto her 'bot duplicate, peering into her own face as Major Anderson pushed into the front door of her home. Are you there?

‘What is taking so long!’ he angered as he pushed Isla away from the 'bot. ‘Do I have to do everything myself?’

Shaking its head, coming back online, the metal duplicate grabbed Isla painfully by her arm and started to drag her outside. <Complying, Father>.

Isla glanced at her clone — knowing full well that Ger was no longer driving the 'bot. Okay, Ger is gone and Lady Terminator is back. Fingering her Hieronymus comm link in her pocket, she snatched her elbow away from Isla 2.0. At least I’ve got my comm link back. I’m just gonna have to wait for my moment. Whenever that is.

 

Isla glared at the 'bot as she pulled at the shackles that held her securely to the van’s floor. Solid metal handcuffs and a long security chain kept her locked solid to the transport vehicle.

The van itself was a windowless transport with two long benches across either side. A sliding metal partition separated the front driving section from the rear area where Isla was locked. Outside, the rain beat down on the van’s roof as her fake Father drove quickly through the darkened streets. Isla sighed. Trying not to worry. It’s Ger that I’m really worried about. I hope nothing happened to him. The van skidded to a stop throwing Isla down to the floor. Across from her, her double smiled sweetly. She pulled herself off the corrugated floor, wincing at her bruised palms as the back doors opened and Ger was thrown inside by a large metal bear. Not the strangest thing I’ve seen.

<NOW WE ARE ALL BACK TOGETHER> laughed Oleg as he slammed the door shut, filling the inside space with his bulk. Isla slid over to Ger who lay unconscious on the floor. A small trickle of blood smeared his nose. Please be alive. Please be alive. She pulled Ger up into her arms as the van started off. Isla cradled him in her lap as he snored softly. Alive. He’s alive. Tears edged out  as she held her friend.

‘Ger, can you hear me,’ Isla whispered as she rocked him in her arms. His eyes flickered briefly as he regained consciousness.

‘Hey, GNGR…. Are you okay?’ Ger groaned as he tried to push himself up.

Isla held Ger, pulling him back down into her arms. ‘Just lie still. You may have a concussion.’

Ger laughed, groaning as he held his ribs, ‘Everything hurts…’ Isla smiled, blinking back the tears, hugging Ger.

‘Dude, less squeezing, please,’ Ger squirmed. I’m squishing him.

Isla nodded, rocking him gently in her arms. ‘He’s taking us back up there, I think…’

Ger nodded. ‘Cool. Another trip to space. We didn’t really get a chance to enjoy it last time.’

Isla lowered her voice, determined for her clone not to hear, ‘He’s going to wipe both of our brains, uploading us into 'bots like this one — or worse.’

Ger sighed. ‘Well, it could be worse.’

Isla started, ‘Worse? Explain to me how this could be worse…?’

Ger smiled, ‘ Well,’ he faltered, ‘If none of this had ever happened — I don’t think I’d be lying here with you hugging me. You gotta admit — this is pretty far-fetched. Who woulda thought, right?’

Isla chuckled, squeezing Ger gently as she nodded.

‘Okay, the chance of a N00b like you even getting me to talk to you is pretty unreal — so this…’.

Isla stroked Ger’s hair, leaning over him, she gently kissed him on the lips. Might as well go for it. Who knows if I’ll ever get another chance? Ger’s eyes shining brightly up at her told Isla all she needed to know. He feels the same way…!

You’d think that at least we’d get window seats or something. Second time going into orbit and we can’t see anything. Ger and Isla found themselves jammed into a small holding cell aboard a military transport for their return trip to the satellite.  A steel retaining door separated them from the command module where Major Anderson, Oleg, now devoid of his scary iron bear unit, and the Isla 2.0 clone strapped in. Back in coach, he had to scramble with Isla into low-tech jump seats that secured them as they rapidly deployed into the outer-atmosphere. Even back in the threadbare transport cell, the pressure from taking off was minimized as they strapped into the canvas-slinged chairs. What they couldn’t escape was the noise of the rockets propelling them ever skyward and beyond. They both clasped their hands over their ears as they struggled to hear each other over the screaming boosters.

‘…have…a…plan…’ Isla enunciated as she tried to make herself heard over the noise. I can’t hear her at all. Ger shook his head, trying to mime that he couldn’t hear her.

‘…can’t hear…..you,’ he sputtered as he looked about the metal cell. Oleg’s got my comm unit and as soon as we get there, they’re gonna frag me and reboot Isla. We’re gonna be overwritten. I finally make my move with her — and I’m not EVEN gonna remember it.

He smiled widely at Isla, trying to make a joke out of things. If in doubt, try and at least laugh. I can’t show her how scared I really am.

‘…could…be…worse,’ he grinned as Isla shook her head at Ger’s forced smile. ‘At least…gotta..KISS’

The retro-boosters shut off as Ger’s last word hung in air.

‘KISS’

Sigh. Embarrassed much. Isla unsnapped her harness and moved directly to the door of the cell. Solid metal, no windows — locked solid. She paced about the small area looking for cameras or recording devices. She didn’t hear?

‘Ger, help me. See if they’re recording us back here.’

He sat, face burning red, as he poked absently at the sealed canisters that shared the space with them. Everyone was locked down tight. I don’t think she heard me.

‘Look properly, Ger. This is important,’ Isla said as she quickly circuited the room. ‘HEY, CAN YOU GUYS HEAR US!,’ she yelled.

Ger glanced about expecting Oleg or even Anderson himself to tell them to be quiet. The only thing they could hear was the sound of the rockets changing pitch as they broke through the outer athmosphere.

<PRESSURIZING> chimed a metallic voice outside their room.

The hiss of oxygen regulating the pressure inside the cabin replaced the whine of the rockets as Isla flopped down next to Ger in his chair. Leaning in, she whispered to him.

‘I still have my comm link and glasses. I stole them back off my clone. I can do something. What can we do, Ger?’

She grabbed his hands, urging him to answer as Ger glanced at her fingers entwined in his.

Isla scoffed, ‘Keep your mind on the game, DD — I don’t code and I haven’t gone Level 3 yet. Is that what I do? Try and take over the rocket systems? Or maybe break out that big bad metal bear of Oleg’s in holding and kick major space butt? Looking for some help here, buddy.’ Buddy? Ger pulled his hands away from Isla and motioned for her to pass him the link.  Isla dug the unit out of her jacket and passed it to him.

‘Are you sure you’re ready to do this? Maybe I can hack it so I can use it? What do you think?’

Ger smiled at Isla. I can do this. Right?

Frakkin’ male piglet! Who does he think he is??? I can do this just as well as he can! Okay, I can’t code… and I’ve never done this ever before…and we’re stuck in space with a crazy robot and two very scary dudes — but, PLEASE!! Give me some credit. Isla glared at Ger, holding her hand out to him for the comm link.

‘Ger, it’s coded for me. Only me. You know that. I don’t need you to save me — I need you to teach me.’

Ger nodded, passing the Hieronymus machine back to her. He stuck his hands into his pockets and tucked in his chin. She could tell he was trying to do the right thing — but the right thing did not mean taking over.

‘My Mom and I were pretty tight…always were. It was just the two of us… and now she’s not here, and you are — and I don’t want you to get hurt, Isla. You mean a lot to me.’

Isla smiled at Ger as he peered at her through his fringe. Maximum cute, right now, Ger. OMG.

‘I can show you how to boot up and slide into Level 3 — that’s easy. The question is what target should we pick? It’s too risky trying something here in transit — and taking over the fighting 'bots could be a major GAME OVER moment, you know. What if you hit a weapons button or discharged a bomb — it could totally trash us all.’

‘The bear has bombs?’ Isla asked. Cool.

‘We don’t know what it’s got,’ Ger said as he got to his feet.

‘Whatever we do has got to be smart. And something they won’t expect.’

‘Okay,’ asked Isla. ‘What do you think might work?’

Ger sighed. Deep in thought, he bounced on the soles of his feet, eyes-half focused as he ran through the options in his head. Go, Ger, Go! You got this. Isla sat back, not wanting to get in the way as she did the math herself on possible outcomes. I could go Level 2 — but where do I go and who do I ask for help? And Level 3 — even if I drop into the clone me, what’s to say that fake Dad and Oleg couldn’t boot me out once they know I’ve taken over?

‘Okay, I got it,’ Ger smiled. He dropped down to Isla, clasping her hands in his. ‘But you gotta promise to be mega-careful.’

Isla smiled.’I’ll be careful.’

‘Okay,’ Ger smiled. ‘I want you to go Level 2 and start fishing around the the Containment area that Anderson talked about. I think I got a good idea where it is — and what I want you to do is see if there’s a way to bust your Mom out of there and see who else they’ve got locked up there. They can help us.’

Isla nodded, understanding the plan. I’m so glad I have Ger.

‘Where do you think this lock up is?’ she asked. If I can get my Mom back, that would be a great start. But then what?

‘Give me your link. Let me see if I can pull up the addy.’

Isla passed Ger her controller as she slipped her glasses on. She watched him navigated her comm link screen via her HUD.

‘I’m accessing your history for both Level 3 and then cross-indexing it with the host units on the satellite. You’ve still got the Beetle 'bot host here, so that’s good, if you need to go physical.’ Ger tapped away at the micro computer, searching for Isla.

‘Okay,’ he stopped, flipping the comm-link back to Isla. ‘Come here,’ he said as he pulled her into his arms. Isla flopped into his lap, a blush rising hot on her cheeks.

‘Ger,’ Isla protested. ‘What are you doing…’

He smiled at her, pulling up her hood, covering her head and computer sunglasses. ‘Snuggle in, pretend to be be asleep and go hunting. This’ll work.’

Isla pointed at her own jump seat next to Ger.

‘Couldn’t I have done this from here?’ she asked.

Ger shook his head slowly, a sly grin kissing his face. ‘No, won’t work at all that way. I gotta be close to protect you.’

Isla relaxed, sliding into Ger’s embrace as she activated her pathway to the satellite Beetle 'bot. ‘Why don’t I believe you?’

Ger tapped her comm-link. ‘I can type instructions here for you to follow onscreen, okay. Just be prepared to move fast.’

Isla nodded. Fast I can do.

Ger wrapped his arms around Isla, breathing in her soft perfume as he kept both eyes on her comm link. He could see her passage through various states of conciousness as she cyber travelled up to the satellite.  As Isla slipped into the transfer state, her body relaxed and melted back into him. Her head lolled to one side, her breath still sweet after everything. He had to work hard to concentrate on her progress and not get lost in her nearness. This would be so mag if we weren’t about to frakkin’ die. Onscreen, Ger saw Isla slide into the Beetle 'bot she had fought as with Oleg.  The industrial robot was small enough to maneuver through the cramped passageways of the station and would at least allow her a fighting chance in case of any problems or was discovered. Ger didn’t anticipate any major interference as nearly all of the personnel on the satellite had been 'bots — but it paid to be prepared.

The door to the locked cell slid open as Isla 2.0 stepped into the room.

‘What are you doing?’ the 'bot growled as she saw Isla slumped on Ger’s lap.

‘She’s sleeping,’ Ger said, smoothing Isla’s hoodie down over her sunglasses so the machine couldn’t see that she had activated her comm link. Be cool, Ger. Just play it natural.

You know, it’s amazing how realistic you look.’ Ger said as he tried to divert the 'bots attention away from paying too much attention to Isla. ‘You look just like her.’

The robot smiled slowly. ‘I’m an exact duplicate based upon her DNA sample — right down to the scar on her knee she got when she was young. The skin suit is remarkably accurate.’

Ger nodded. Keep it talking.

‘Are we going to be there soon?’ he asked as Isla shifted in his arms, snuggling closer to Ger.

‘Soon enough,’ said the clone as it moved back to the door. ‘Father wanted me to let you know that we will arrive in two hours. Do either of you have to use the toilet facilities?’

Ger shook his head. ‘No, we’re good — and she’s asleep. Maybe we could use them before we land?’

‘I shall check with Father and see if that is acceptable.’

Ger stared at the cold plastic robot that mimicked the girl who had become so important to him. While she may be a physical replica of Isla, she was nothing but a cold copy of her. Until they hijack her and use her to drive the AI. There’s no way I’m letting that happen.

<BEEP>

Isla’s comm-link buzzed in Ger’s pocket where he had stashed it when Isla 2.0 came in.

‘What was that?’ the 'bot asked.

‘I didn’t hear anything, ‘ Ger said, shaking his head. ‘Probably some kind of rocket thing. All kinds of noise back here. You should have heard the rockets…’

<BEEP> <BEEP>

Isla 2.0 stormed to Ger, pulling Isla from his lap, holding her up in the air, revealing her Hieronymus glasses. The 'bot seethed in anger as she dumped Isla to the ground, snatching the sunglasses from her face.

‘How did you get these?’ Isla 2.0 angered as she patted down her own jacket pocket. ‘I took this from her…’

Ger pulled Isla’s comm link from his pocket and quick-tapped in a command code line as he crashed the computer. I’m sorry, Isla. I’ll get you back. I promise.

Isla 2.0 snatched the micro unit from Ger, noting its code fluctuations onscreen. A cascading roll of text filled the small viewport, rolling across the screen.

‘FATHER,’ Isla 2.0 howled. ‘Come here, please.’

The comm link dangled in Isla 2.0’s hand, uselessly cycling code as Ger sat back, a smirk fixed on his face. She’s gone. You can’t do anything.

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