Brave New World

The door slammed, the windows rattling as Jay’s running footsteps pounded down the corridor outside. Eodora leant her head back against the truck and waited until the steps died away and the base was silent and empty apart from her.

She’d had to say it. Jay couldn’t keep punishing him forever. Charlie had only been trying to do what he thought was right in running to Nem’hain. He was just trying to protect his kid sister, even if he had made a mess of it in the end.

Like Michael.

Not like Mick. Leaving oily streaks in her white hair, Dora smoothed her hands over her bandana and pushed herself upright, thrusting her hands into her pockets and striding towards the cot beside her workbench, the blanket rumpled and stained with grease. Nothing like Mick. Mick was… a hero, for fuck’s sake. Another one of the corrupt crowd playing at virtue, using their strength to keep people weak, using fear to keep everyone in line. Row after row of children bent into good behaviour, little girls with their ankles crossed, boys in sailor suits without a speck of mud. A brave new world.

Except that wasn’t him. He was good to the heart, good like no one should be, like no one could be. When he looked at you, you were the only person in the world, a strong and shining light, a beacon. He saw you through and through – good and bad – and loved every part. He had such faith that his was enough to make everyone he came into contact believe in a better world, that they could be better themselves.

He just wanted to protect you.

The thought made her stop short. She gritted her teeth. She didn’t need protecting. She’d shown him she could take care of herself, that she wasn’t some princess to be kept in a tower, pampered and pristine. She’d… shown him.

It was the name. That was what had done it, what had made her realise how he thought of her. She had fallen for him when he’d looked at her the first time his sister, Isabella, brought her home with her. It was like he really saw her, his eyes warm and accepting. No one but Bella had ever looked at her like that before. She’d thought he’d understood her, that he wanted someone real, not a prim and petite pet who could chat politely in high society and keep a white dress clean. She thought that he was different from his father.

Guess she was wrong.

He loves you.

“He doesn’t know me!” She kicked the workbench savagely, the whole structure shaking and tools spilling onto the floor. Leaning back against the bench, she looked across the workshop to where Torque stood, powered down. She and Mick had designed and built him together, his gift to her when the Longbow contract came in. He knew that was her passion: he and Bella were the only people she’d ever told. She’d relished those late nights working together when the lab was empty, right under his father’s nose. She played idly with the ring on her finger. He’d asked her to marry him right there, with her at his workbench and their fingers covered in grease.

Then Bella worked her mojo and did a bunk, disappearing into the Rogue Isles, home to all things villainous. And Mick told her his secret. He said that he could manipulate people and create things from nothing and he was scared, scared that he was wrong somehow, bad. He came to her for help and she thought he wanted an equal. A partner. But then he got involved with the heroes of the Freedom Corps and… that name, the one he chose for himself. The Sanctuary of Aya. That’s what he’d called her, what everyone had called her. Aya.

She’d never wanted a protector.

So she left. She left without a word, turning up on Bella’s doorstep in Sharkhead with the half-finished robot and a box of schematics. Everything she and Mick had done together. Everything he’d made meaningless. Pursing her lips, she gave a soft modulated whistle and there was a hum as Torque woke, his eyes a blue glow as he turned to look at her. She whistled again and he lumbered towards her.

He still loves you. And you still love him.

She reached up to touch the ‘bot’s chest plate lightly as it stopped in front of her, towering over her diminutive frame, waiting, endlessly patient. If he loved her, he’d stop coming after her. She left. That wasn’t a clear enough message? Bella had helped her hide, burying her deep in the Isles with Daddy’s money.

But he searched for her. Two years. Two damn years and no matter where she hid, no matter how often Bella told him she didn’t know where Dora was and to leave it alone, he kept on looking. It didn’t help that both Nem’hain and the Freedom Corps had a vested interest in finding her. Torque was supposed to belong to them so he had the funding and the freedom and it seemed he’d never give up.

Except she’d thought she was safe. It had been so long since he was really close to finding her, months and months. She’d thought that she could stop running for a bit, that she could settle in and just… live, tinker with the ‘bots, join Bella in her on-going campaign to make her father’s life miserable. Just live.

But now this.

He’d found her through good intentions and a series of slip-ups and sent a doppelgänger in the middle of the night to let her know he knew where he was. She’d woken to find Torque’s breastplate open and his wiring in disarray. Intelligent disarray. She’d assumed it was Jay, that she’d been playing with him and tried to set it right, though the girl had denied it fervently. It was Wrecking Belle who suggested that maybe it was someone sent by Nem’hain and when she’d looked closer at the other ‘bots…. Gravity had recorded the whole thing: his double had rewired Torque, then turned to the others and mouthed, “I miss you.”

Shaking her head, she hit Torque’s chest sharply with the side of her fist, then rested her head against him. Why wouldn’t he just leave her alone?

You really want him to?

Dora caught her breath in her throat. Of course she…. Didn’t she? That’s why Belle had gone out to talk to him, to do what she and Bella couldn’t. To make him let her be. But she knew she could have made him stop at anytime if she’d just talked to him and told him herself. She sank onto the cot, closing her eyes and rubbing her forehead. “Torque,” she said softly.

The robot turned towards her, thrumming softly. “Aya.”

Her head snapped upright. What the hell?! She stared at him, then spoke his name again, her tone cautious. “Torque?”

“Aya.” The ‘bot’s voice was warm and carefully modulated. “Look inside.” He settled on his haunches in front of her, patient, unmoving, silent. Shit shit shit! She studied him for a long moment, her heart pounding. Whistling a soft command, she paused but there was no response, just his unblinking eyes watching her, waiting. She took a screwdriver from her pocket and opened his breastplate. Nothing. It was just as it had when she’d rewired it a week ago.

She whistled again. Still nothing. What the hell had Mick done to him? Clenching her teeth, she grabbed the laptop from the workbench and connected it to the robot, her fingers light and fast on the keys as she went through line after line of code. Everything was right, as it should be. Was normal.

Another keystroke and the screen froze, went blank. “Fuck!” Her fingers stayed poised in the air above the laptop for a moment, then she reached to reset the computer.

“Aya.” Mick’s voice suddenly sounded soft and clear and she stopped short. Oh gods…. Before she could hit the power button, Torque’s great hand closed over her wrist, holding her gently but firmly. Her whistle echoed around the workshop as she tugged against him but his grip was steady. “Goddamnit. Torque!”

Mick’s voice continued unimpeded as she struggled against the ‘bot. “Aya, I need to speak with you.” He sighed. “I miss you, love, more than I can say. I’m sure you had a good reason for going but you didn’t say anything and… I wish…. Aya, I want to know why. Why you left as you did. Was it… what I am? You were so supportive when I told you. You helped me and I thought you understood. I never meant to scare you. I’d never do anything to hurt you.”

He loves you.

“Fuck…,” she muttered and tugged against the robot’s hold again as the voice went on.

“Aya, the robots, our research. Since you took it with you, I thought that you wanted me to follow you and find you. But I guess not. What we did meant so much to me. That we did it together meant everything. And I thought that was important to you too but….” He stopped abruptly and sighed again. “You have to return them, love, the designs, the ‘bots, all of it. They never belonged to either of us. I don’t know why you did this and if…. Were you coerced? Did someone make you take them? I… Aya, If you return them, they’ll leave you alone. Father will leave you alone. I can… make him leave you alone.

“And we could be together again.” Dora stopped struggling, frozen in place, only listening. “I think…. You kept Torque. We built him together and you never dismantled him or even changed him much. He still knows me. Love, I want us to be together forever. I love you and… I think you still love me. Whatever the reasons you had for leaving, we can work things out.

“I love you, Aya. I always will. Please, please, contact me.”

Mick…. The laptop’s screen returned to life in a sudden blooming of colour, a curser blinking at her as she stared at it blankly, her heart pounding.

And you still love him.

Another hand closed around her wrist and she yelped, her head jerking up to look at Belle as the other girl reached her strong fingers in under the ‘bot’s.

“Dora, what the fuck happened?” Belle began to peel Torque’s finger from around Dora’s wrist, the muscles in her arm rippling as they flexed.

“Stop that!” Dora slapped at the girl’s fingers and Belle let her go abruptly, running a hand through her short-cropped hair. “You’ll break him,” the smaller girl said and whistled softly. Torque slowly uncurled his hand from around her wrist. “See? It’s all okay.” Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, leaning back against the wall behind her and rubbing her wrist. It’s all okay.

How is it okay? What do you do now?

It will be okay. It will. Dora pinched the bridge of her nose and Belle raised an eyebrow. “That doesn’t answer my question,” she said. “What happened?”

Shaking her head, Dora said, “It was nothing.” It was nothing, really. She opened her eyes to look at her and forced herself to smile. “Just a minor malfunction. All fixed now.”

Watching her for long moment, Belle shrugged and balanced herself against the edge of the workbench. “Bella told you where I went?”

“Yeah. She said.” Dora chewed her lip, heart in her throat. She unplugged the laptop and closed Torque’s breastplate, her fingers lingering against his chest. “Did you…. Is he okay?”

Belle growled and nodded. “He’s fine. I promised Bella I wouldn’t hurt him, didn’t I? We just talked.” She picked up a pair of pliers from the workbench, turning them over in her hands, absently bending the tip with slow ease. “Short version? He wants to know why, he misses you, he wants to talk to you. And since I said that wasn’t going to happen unless you wanted it to, he said he’s willing to back off and give you some space.”

Reaching to remove the pliers from Belle’s hands, Dora stopped short and stared at her. “He said he’d… stop?” No…. She swallowed hard. He’d stop looking for her? But he said….


Dora huffed a laugh. “Great.” Shit. She collapsed against the wall, staring at her hands. “He left me a message. On Torque. It’s what Mick’s… tinkering was for. And Torque’s….” She hooked her hand, grabbing an imaginary wrist in the air, then let it fall to the bed beside her. “He wants me to come back to him. Return the ‘bots. Still wants to get married, I think.” She bit at her bottom lip, suppressing tears. Mick…. “But I can’t go back to Paragon. I’d have to give back the ‘bots and… I don’t want to go back, not to that.” Raising her head, she looked at Belle, her eyes pleading. “It’d never work, right?” Please, please god, let there be a way.

Oh yeah, you’re not in love with him at all.

“I know I’m not going back.” Belle stretched. “Any way to convince him to come here?”

Dora’s laugh held a desperate edge. “I don’t….” Her crystal blue eyes met Belle’s as she spoke, earnest. “He’s Michael Nem’hain. He’s everything his father’s not. Virtuous and good-hearted and never had an unfair or unkind thought in his life. He's a goddamned hero, a real hero!” She frowned, sighed. “He'd never want to be here.” Gods, he’d never survive in the Isles. She shook her head. “Besides he’d never leave his family.”

Belle shrugged. “Then I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Nothing to be done. Staring into space, Dora shook her head. “I should talk to him, I guess. Sort it out, once and for all. Show him its….” Gods…. “Impossible.” She snapped close the laptop and set it aside. “Gotta get it over with some time.” At the sound of her whistle, Torque powered up again and lumbered smoothly back to his place. She watched him go. “What made you go to see him anyway?”

“You.” Belle bent the pliers back into shape. “No more running. No more hiding. No more being afraid of getting in someone’s way. I’m tired of that life.” She handed them to Dora and shrugged again. “If you do go to talk to him,” she offered, “then I can be there to back you up. Just in case.”

Dora watched Torque as the robot settled on his haunches, his eyes glowing blue, sat patiently, waiting, always waiting. No more hiding. No more fear.

Either he can accept me as I am or he can’t.

So she’d talk to him. Maybe not today but someday soon. He’d wait for a while. There was time enough. And, in the meantime, friends and fun and life moving forward. A brave new world. Half-smiling, she stretched and pushed herself upright, standing on her toes to kiss Belle’s cheek. “So, Bella mention Daddy Dearest replaced the Porsche you wrecked?”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License