No Way Back – Chapter 10 – 08MAR2010

Well, I did it.  I rolled over the decade mark on my chapters!  I’m kinda happy with myself about it.  I mean, if I hadn’t made it this far, I dunno if I’d ever have finished!  Anyway, enough talky-talky, more story.  🙂

Chapter 10

“Where is he?!”

Chibi stalked her bedroom window, her irritation already having been pushed to its limits. She couldn’t find him anywhere. If this were any ship or any city, she simply would have used her security clearance to access the security cameras throughout the area and find him. But, this planet’s security hadn’t become centralized yet, and there was no easy way to access every device without going to each individual one and tapping it. There were millions of them.

She pulled up her holographic display again and began tracking through her connections. He hadn’t pulled any money from his accounts. He hadn’t accessed any of his usual e-mail or gaming systems since this morning before he left. He hadn’t even called home, meaning he anticipated that his parents knew where he was. That meant leaving a note. The only thing she knew for sure was it was already 6PM, and she hadn’t seen him, and the only communications he’d had that were obvious were when he called his male friend this morning. How was she going to end her time here if he didn’t show? Or worse, what if something happened? If he was injured, dying, something other than just out for a while? What if she never got to hear his voice again? No, if that were the case, the hospital would have called, or the police. And, besides, why would it matter if he never spoke to her again? It’s just a job.

She ran the scans again, trying to find some proof that something had been going on. For the twenty-seventh time today, they came back empty, unchanged. This was absurd! There was no where for him to be this late! Why wasn’t he back yet!

She pounded the wall with the heel of her fist, then stormed down the steps. She was hungry. Again. This was the fourth time she was about to eat something today. She knew that she was hungry now, but the moment she popped something into her mouth, that would be the end of it. But, until she ate, it was going to weigh at her, make her feel faint. She stomped into the kitchen, opening her refrigerator, pulled out a store-bought bag of salad, and slammed it shut. She didn’t care for dressings, seasonings, cheeses, or anything that distracted from the flavors of her natural diet. The salad bag she had in her hand didn’t quite taste the same as what she would have had fresh and available at home, but it was close enough for her to ignore the differences, especially after she’d washed the substances the humans used to keep insects off. Didn’t they realize yet that sometimes those pests removed the less-desirable plants? She shoved the thought aside as she dropped the whole sixteen ounce bag into a bowl, pulled the colander from the cabinet, and began washing each piece of the individual vegetables and leafy greens to purify them. Each piece was then dropped into the colander and left to drain for a moment. Once she had gone through the whole bag, she dumped the entire colander into a larger bowl and took it into the living room. She pulled a chair from the green computer station and angrily slammed it into the wall next to the window. She then sat in it, munching on her food as she watched for the tell-tale sights and sounds of the red car.

“He’d better get here soon.” She didn’t speak to anyone in particular, but felt better at just saying it. “You’re not supposed to keep a lady waiting this long for you.”

A few moments and several leaves of spinach and lettuce later, her request was finally answered as the mid-toned rumbling of his V-6 came rolling up the street. She set the bowl down and moved the curtain aside to make sure that it was the right car. Sure enough, the Cavalier rolled up and into his parking spot. She was about to let go of the curtain and race out to see him, surprised at her own happiness at the his arrival, when a second car, a blue Ford Probe pulled in behind it. She glowered as the doors opened on both cars, and a young, blonde female stepped out of the Ford. She pulled the curtains closer to her face so she wasn’t seen, and watched as Rob and his former girlfriend stepped closer to each other. “Get away from him, he’s mine,” she thought out loud to herself, this time not letting the unusual statement pull her back. I broke you both up for a reason, he’s going to save me from this planet. She watched, willing herself to stay as she watched them stop and start chatting, their body language oozing with an obvious attraction and desire for the other. No, no, no, NO! This can’t be happening! Suddenly, they stopped talking and kissed each other, and she couldn’t bear to watch any longer. An unexpected pain hit her chest hard as she flattened herself against the wall. Was he giving up on her? Was he going back to this untalented, worthless…

Human. She had to accept it. She knew she wasn’t doing enough to keep him specifically interested. Everyone in the school they attended felt that she wasn’t right for him, even though he couldn’t see it. And she knew why. You can only chase something that’s dropping clues to its intentions and whereabouts. And this human, in fact, all them before her, they all made it clear their intentions, but Chi’bi, no, Allessa, had never at least pretended it was part of what she wanted. She was about to lose her years of training him to a lack of planning. No, she told herself, it was a lack of giving.

No, I’m not going to lose it all. I still have time. I can still fix this. He wants to be with Allessa. When he wins tonight, he’ll have it. He’ll surrender to it, and he’ll be taken in by his new handlers, and I can leave. I’m packed, everything is ready to go, I just need him to finish what he’s doing. With this done, I can go back to my love, and be happy in his arms once more.

She angrily steps away from the wall, grabbing a brush she’d left down at her computer station, and pulling it through her dark hair. The tines caught her pulled-back ears, and she ignored the small pains from each one as she brought it all back into the usual ponytail she wore to mask then. It was never comfortable, and she was always worried about losing the strength to keep them up and finding herself lop-eared. It hadn’t happened yet, and she prayed that today wouldn’t be the day it changed. Djarn loved to play with them, and she worried she’d lose that affection from him. As she dropped the brush, she looked in the mirror to ensure her costumed camouflage was still in effect, which it was, and logging into her terminal and ChromeBots for when he inevitably logged in.

— —

“I’m really glad we finally talked, Rob. I really didn’t want to have it end like that.”

She looked and sounded so happy, and it was all because I managed to finally have my thoughts heard out, and my feelings for her were shown. Me, I’m on cloud nine! Finally, I have a chance to do it right. Not only have a girlfriend, but treat her how she deserves!

Her body still tight against mine as we’d not let each other go since I kissed her, standing outside her car, all I could do was look her in the eye and smile. “Danni, all you had to do was tell me how you felt, and I would have told you everything the whole time.”

“I know, and I’m sorry I just ran. I thought you were going to just brush me aside for her, like you did everyone else.” She brought her tender lips forward and brushed them against mine again, what seemed like the millionth time just today, and giggled. “I hope you don’t let me down, Robert. My mind is telling me that you will, but, in my heart, I know you feel the same way I do.”

“Dannielle, I know I’ve screwed up a million times in my life, but this time…” I pause, looking deeply into her eyes, “I won’t let myself make that mistake again.”

She smiles again, then slowly, unwillingly but forcedly begins to back away. “I’m glad to hear that. I really should get home. I’ll call you when I get there, okay?” She turns to start making her way back to her car, then stops, quickly turns around, and quickly pounces on him, knocking him to the grassy yard in front of his house. Once they come to a stop, she passionately kisses him, his hands wrapping around her as she does. They laugh together after she finally lets their lips separate. “I’ve always wanted to do that to you.” She says, giggling, as she begins resting her head on his shoulder for just a moment, letting her hand run along his hair.

He looks up into the cloudless sky, wondering if anything could be more perfect. Granted, landing on the ground was somewhat painful, since he’d landed on a couple stones when she surprised him with her tackling, but he didn’t care. For that moment, nothing was wrong, nothing could be wrong, and the only think in his mind was this warm, loving woman he’d almost let slip away. He gently ran his right hand up and down her side, enjoying the feel of her body through the more form-fitting shirt she’d had tucked under the neon yellow she was wearing earlier. In her faded black boot cut jeans and her much more revealing, almost sheer top and white under-tank, she was an amazing sight, and the fact that she was with him… He didn’t deserve it, and he knew it. But, he was going to make it up to her.

We lay on the grass for a bit, and she pulls him tight, gently kissing my cheek, then went back to laying on my shoulder. Of course couldn’t let it sit without a return, so I would kiss her forehead, and enjoy the scent of her hair as we watched the sky slowly darken. The air was still, save for the rogue bird’s call and car driving past, but nothing disturbed us in their moment of rest together.

After what felt like no time, but was in reality about ten minutes, she carefully rolled off my right side, and propped her head on her left hand, looking at me as I turned to face her. “I really think I should be going,” she said, not sounding as if that was what she was really thinking. “But, Rob… I have to know. What are you going to say to her?”

“To whom?” I ask, not thinking about who she could be referring to. She simply looks at me, and nods in my direction. For a moment, I still can’t think of who she’s referring to. Then, I realize she’s not nodding at me, but behind me, and I realize she means Allessa. “Oh. Well, I’m going to tell her that I’m seeing someone special, and that I want to be with her. I’m going to tell her that I can’t be on as much, because I’m going to be spending my time showing you,” and he touches her nose playfully, “that I really do want to be here with you.”

“And what if she has a problem with it?”

“Then she doesn’t need to be my friend.”

She smiles, her eyes sparkling, and she kisses me once again. “You have no idea how much better that makes me feel!” She sits up, then jumps to her feet, waiting for me to stand once again. “I know you mean it, too, Rob, and that makes me happier.”

I do mean it, I plan to tell her that, since she didn’t take advantage of my wanting to be hers for two years and some-odd months… No, for over 5 years… I’m going to move on, and there’s nothing she can do about it. “Look, Dannielle, you’ve known who I am for years. Before I knew who I was. Your giving me this chance to be that man is more than I can hope for.” I take her hand in mine, and gaze deeply into her lovely golden eyes. “And, I’m grateful that it’s you.” I quickly lean in and steal a kiss from her before she turns to head back towards her vehicle.

“Me, too.” She starts towards her car, and I watch her, her almost 5’7” figure slowly shrinking as she skips the few feet away. She pulls her door open, then looks at me once more, a genuinely happy smile on her lips, before she climbs in and starts the Ford engine. It’s a smile that I hoped I’d give to her every day from this moment on. As she puts the Probe into gear, she waves through her windshield, then quickly pulls off.

I wave back, and wait until I can’t see the car anymore before I begin to head inside. The day’s memories flash through my mind. Her time alone with me, cut shorter than she wanted by Preston’s search for us after his game. The few games we played together before heading out for lunch. Preston’s finally have the courage to call Audrey, who we then pick up and have with us during our lunch. Our drive across town to the park, where we all just played together, Preston and Audrey getting to know each other a little better and Danni and I stealing hidden kisses in the slides and tubes. Getting yelled at by a bunch of young children’s parents for “not acting our age.” Then, a trip to the mall, where we just walked around together. I must admit, Audrey took to Preston so very quickly! I think she always liked him, but was worried what I would think as well. Then, finally parting ways, dropping Preston and Audrey off at his place, then Danni and I coming here. It was such a wonderful day. And there still were a few hours left in it! Oh, it was a wonderful day, indeed!

I entered the house, whistling happily. My mom was there, with my dad, and they ask me how my went. I tell them it went well, and that Danni and I are seeing each other again. They seem so happy for me about it, and I remember that they’d seen me moping around the past few days, and I understand their response. They tell me that dinner is on the oven when I’m hungry, and I head back to my computer to check my messages and hop onto my game, figuring I’d play a few rounds tonight.

I log in, and my comms beacon shows no messages today. It’s not overly unusual, since I had checked it this morning. I go to set up my medium-weight ‘Bot for some lighter games when I get a direct message.

ChiMaschi: So, how was your day?

PandorasBane: It was good. Dannielle and I got back together!

ChiMaschi: Oh? Well, I’m glad to hear that. I’m sure she’ll be good for you.

PandorasBane: Thanks!

ChiMaschi: I was wondering if you were avoiding me, thought. I’d been waiting for our game today.

PandorasBane: Oh. Sorry. About that. I dunno if I’ll be able to play as much anymore. I told her I’ll be with her more, and not let my game ruin it.

ChiMaschi: Well, that doesn’t mean we can’t still play. It doesn’t mean my offer doesn’t still stand.

PandorasBane: If we play, it’s just for fun, Allessa. I mean it, I don’t wanna screw this up again.

ChiMaschi: That’s fine. But, I still hope you’ll win. Because I want you to. I really want you to take me out, Robert.

PandorasBane: If you wanted to go out with me, why the game? We could have gone out, but now I’m with Dannielle.

ChiMaschi: I do want to go out with you, Rob, you’re a great guy. I just don’t want to be some girl you just play with and that’s it. I wanted you to fight for it. Come on. One more time. If you don’t win, I’ll respect what you have now.

PandorasBane: Doesn’t that seem kinda backwards? I’m WITH Dannielle!

ChiMaschi: Just one more. Please? For me?

PandorasBane: I didn’t say I wasn’t going to play. Just that I’m with Dannielle now, so it’s not about going out with you.

ChiMaschi: Okay, but if you win, I want one date. Consider it a consolation prize for me for not just letting it happen for so long.

A few moments pass, because I’m weighing my options. I really meant it when I told Dannielle that I was going to make it serious with her. But, we didn’t exactly say we’re boyfriend and girlfriend now. We’re just seeing each other now.

ChiMaschi: You still there?

I need to give her some kind of answer, so I answer out loud to myself. “Aww, screw it. I’m not going to win, anyway, so might as well.”

PandorasBane: Yeah. Okay. IF I win, then I’ll go out with you on one date. But, I’m with Dannielle now, so it’ll be just that, a simple, one-time date.

ChiMaschi: I’ll only need one to change your mind. 😉

PandorasBane: I’m not playing, Less. I really want to make this work with her.

There’s a short pause as I wait for her response.

ChiMaschi: Okay. Just one. Can we play now?

PandorasBane: You’re on!

Within a few moments, I’ve received a one-on-one match invite, for one of the most densely-covered maps in the game. I was expecting a difficult map, so when I see it, I don’t panic. It’s one I’ve gotten to know very, very well. I accept, and it brings me back to the dropship control screen, but now, it’s changed. The view-port has a heavily-forested planet showing against the black and white-specked background of space. The running lights are no longer a cool, pale blue, but a strobing red alert, showing battle stations are in effect throughout the ship. I pull up my ‘Bot preparation screen, looking over my inventory of usable ‘Bots, weapons, recon units, ammunitions stores, and interchangeable armors. Now it’s time to get this all set.

I decide that I’m going to go with the DarkWolf unit, mostly because, even though it’s the heaviest of the medium-weight ‘Bots and somewhat slow, it’s also rather short and squat, which will make the tree-line help him in his game of cat-and-mouse with Allessa. I swap out the radar-scatter armor, since the trees will interfere with motion, radar, and infrared detection, for the high-energy absorption. It’ll be a little heavier, but I’ll be able to take more hits. I set up with medium and long range lasers on both arm pods, since they’ll be just as effective as short-range, but can burn through the trees, too, with minimal energy loss. I mount a medium-range ballistic weapon on the center of its torso, a straight shot out from the cockpit, not that I’m anticipating needing it. It won’t go through the trees so nicely, but if she uses jump-jets to get above me, it’ll become a perfect round while she’s in the air. I then set up a 12-pack of long-range missiles on my ‘Bot’s left shoulder, with 8 reloads. Again, no good in the trees, but if we get in the clearings, or if she jumps at me, they’ll be perfect.

I look at my ‘Bot’s payout, satisfied by its configuration, until I realize that I have two slots still empty, and enough available capacity to load a second long range missile rack on my Bot’s right shoulder. I go to drag it into the slot when, for no obvious reason, I get a thought: Use the flight probe. A simple, unmanned probe that I can launch into the air, and immediately get an overview of the map, including thermal and radar signatures, plus a massive increase in accuracy on the missile systems. Most of your better players don’t use them. They’d rather have the payout used to do damage. But, in an area like this, it might make the difference, considering the radar jamming the maps has with the trees. And, I think to myself, Allessa will be using the payload for weapons. With the left-over weight, I can hold not one, but two of them. So, I load them on my right shoulder, and save the configuration.

With my Bot finally ready, I return to the control room, and click the green “LAUNCH!” button on the lower panel. The game goes to a cut-scene, showing my ChromeBot leaving the blocky ship, heading down to the planet’s surface.

“Alright,” he says to himself, “Here goes nothing.”

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