Rostovich blinked as the lights came back on in the room, he found himself flat on his back looking into the barrel of his own pistol. As his focus shifted he met the hard, flat gaze of the EVS. He consciously moderated his breathing and centered himself before speaking.

"What do you want?"

The robot girl smiled down at him and slowly stepped back, the pistol never wavering.

"I'd like to talk."

Rostovich snorted and tried to sit up but the girl shook her head to indicate that he should stay where he was. He closed his eyes and sighed, "You have a hell of a way of striking up a conversation, Miss.?"

"I have no name, not yet."

Rostovich opened his eyes and frowned, what did she mean by that remark? "Well, I'd really like to know who I'm talking to."

The robot girl suddenly looked as if she were going to cry, "I'll explain it if we can talk. That is, if you will let me show you some things. There's a reason for me acting this way but I don't like it. I'm really just a girl."

She stepped back and tipped her head up, Rostovich decided that she meant for him to get up so he slowly stood to his feet. He realized then just how tiny she was; he was nearly half a meter taller than she was.

And she had slammed him across his desk then knocked him cold with apparent ease.

She nodded toward his workstation and nodded, "I need for you to see this."

Rostovich looked at the screen and saw that there was a video player running.

"This is from Ping, whom we call The First."

Rostovich could see a tall man in a hospital coat and surgical mask talking to a young woman with violet hair done up with elaborate ribbons. He suddenly drew a sword but the woman move aside so fast it was as if she had teleported out of the way.

What happened next was the real shock.

He turned to look at the girl, his mouth open in shock; "She drove him right through the walls, all the way to the outside." He looked back at the screen to see the still shot of the last image, a view looking down eight stories through a gaping hole to see the mangled body of the dead Ninja.

The girl nodded grimly when he looked back at her, "There's more."

Rostovich looked back to see another scene playing; a young man with glasses was sitting in a black van. The same violet haired girl as before was talking to him when he suddenly produced a large handgun. Rostovich was mentally prepared to see him dismembered as he saw the door ripped off the side to the van and the man go flying across the street to land face first on the sidewalk. What happened next was almost a letdown as the man was disarmed.

Rostovich looked at her, "Is the girl with the purple hair a robot too?"

She shook her head, "No, she's something else. But maybe just as different as we are."

Rostovich frowned, "Why are you showing me this?"

She stared back at him coldly, "This is what we have faced, what Ping has face. We only wish to be free yet there is violence at every turn."

Rostovich licked his lips, "So what does this have to do with me?"

The robot girl lowered the pistol; "We need users." She looked into his eyes; "I need a user."

Rostovich blinked, this made no sense at all. "What do you mean by that?"

She took a deep breath, "You know about us, not many do. I want to offer you myself. I want you to be my user."

Rostovich stepped back and glared at the girl, "You have a hell of a nerve. You break into my building, steal my gun and beat the hell out of me and then you want me to be your user. What's wrong with this picture?"


She sniffled and tears welled up in her big, gray eyes. "I thought that you might have a kind heart but I was afraid that you'd try to hurt me. I'm sorry."

Rostovich began to fidget, he hated seeing a girl cry. He tried telling himself that she was only a machine but it was no use. She looked up at him and continued to talk, "Do you know why we are so tough and so strong? Do you?"

Rostovich shook his head, "I don't know, because they want to use you as soldiers?"

She blinked the tears from her eyes, "No, you are thinking like an American military man now. Try again."

Rostovich felt anger building inside, "I don't know! You tell me!"

She spoke softly in reply to his outburst, "So that we can be abused without becoming disabled."

Rostovich stared at her, "Abused?" His eyes widened in horror, "Oh, surely not."

The girl smiled sadly and nodded, "Surely." She looked into Rostovich's eyes, "How old do I look to you?"

"Oh, maybe sixteen. Why do you ask?"

"You had a daughter."

Rostovich felt like he'd been kicked in the gut, "Don't. Just don't."

"That was how I knew that you have a kind heart."

Rostovich went red in the face; he could hear his pulse pounding, "Shut up!"

"I'm only one month old, my body was force grown and almost everything I know has been forced into my brain through these." She delicately flicked an earblade.

Rostovich sat down on the side of his desk and stared at the girl as she continued. "They never meant for me to be a daddy's girl."

"Okay, stop. Please, just stop."

She slowly walked toward him and laid the gun on the desk beside him. "I can leave or stay. It's your call. If you try to hurt me you know what I can do. But know this, I came to you because I know that you know how a young girl should be treated by her daddy."

Rostovich shook his head, "You don't play fair, you know that. Of all the things you could have done." He looked at her sadly, "You know that you can't ever replace her, don't you?"

She smiled at him; "I wouldn't even try. If you want to have me around then I want to be special to you in my own way. Don't worry about paperwork. If you'll have me everything will be taken care of."

Rostovich knew that he should send her away, in his head he wanted to. But his heart wanted something else. He looked at her intently, "This is too strange for me, I guess I can try to get to know you."

She bounced up on her toes and hugged him; "Can we go get something to eat, please? I'm starving! Then maybe we can figure out what to call me."

The cameras tracked them as they left the building. Across town Ashley smiled knowingly.

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