Of Metal and Men


Lawndale 2000.

Jane Lane and Jessie Moreno walk through the flea market.

"You see, my theory is that our primitive hunting instinct has no outlet in modern society." Jane informs him.

"Cool." Jessie says drinking a soda and not paying attention.

"So, rather than stalking animals, we substitute it with the shopping experience, and hunt for objects." Jane said as she begins to notice he isn't paying attention.

"Cool." Jessie says again.

"And then, Jesse, while we're asleep, those objects come to life and plot their secret take over our civilization. April 1st, 2007. That's the day they make their move!" Jane says completely annoyed.

"Cool." The clueless one responds.

2007 December.

:Why did I have to be right?: Jane thought bitterly. The sound of metal legs tapped against the wreckage nearby.


Part 1

Jane leaned against the wall as she quickly reloaded a new power cell into her Sandisk automatic. She waited until the insect like footsteps were almost on top of her before moving around and aiming her weapon. Nothing was there, she heard the sound again and looked down and almost laughed.

It had been a camera, one of the ones with enough metal in them to allow the change. She raised her booted foot and brought it down crushing the creature.

Her ear piece started talking.

“We got troubles, I’m pinned down and there’s a microwave trying to merge with a satellite dish.” The voice called to her and it was like a lighting strike.

Jane broke into a run, traveling across the wreckage of the old power plant heading to where the rest of her team was.

“Hold on, I’m taking the high ground.” Jane yelled, knowing it would be carried to her partner. She dashed past the various killing machines that had once been the everyday house hold items you would find in any home.

She made it to the top of what had been a building when she saw her team pinned down by some tossers. The machines didn’t use any kind of weapon except their own bodies with the rare exception of ones that liked to toss debris at people.
:And of course the transmitters.: Jane grumbled internally as she spotted the mentioned microwave.

A few well placed shots managed to shred the dish, thus preventing a microwave death ray from being brought into the fray.

She dodged an incoming chunk of concrete and ducked behind a dead air conditioner and peeked around the side. One of the tossers, a motorized scooter of some kind was starting to climb up after her.

“Scratch the dish, it’s getting heavy in here. Might be time to vade.” Jane said, her earpiece was voice activated keeping the entire team in touch during the job.

“Did you find the power source?” Her partner asked.

“And laced it with another C-4 to put it into orbit.” Jane responded and rolled away as the machine hopped on top of her cover and moved to swing its appendages at her.

“Let’s go.” The ear piece replied as Jane fired up and blasted the machine with a few kinetic bursts that sent it rolling down the wreckage struggling to gain enough function to right itself.

Jane watched as other machines hopped on it and started stripping parts away, even as it struggled to maintain its life. Soon every useable part had been removed and it was dead.

:Like sharks, attacking the wounded.: Jane thought as she climbed down to join her team.

She made it to her team and saw her partner. Both women wore the skin tight body suits made of leather and heavy canvas but it wasn’t appearance that drove them. Baggy clothes had become an unacceptable risk when dealing with the machines.

“We got a problem.” One of the men in the small unit said.

“When don’t we?” Jane’s partner said with a scowl.

“It’s a car.” The man said and pointed to a crawler that was making its way over the ruins.

How he could tell it had been a car was beyond her but it didn’t matter, all that mattered was another kind of death was creeping toward them.

“Screw it, lets go.” Jane said and pointed away from the oncoming machine.

“I hear that.” Another of the men said and the unit started its withdraw and Jane pulled out the radio detonator and squeezed the trigger with relish.

The explosion rose into the sky and shook the earth they were running across and the few evidences of electricity that had brought them here were gone.

They skidded to a stop as a wave of machines moved in front of them and Jane didn’t need to look behind to see the ones still chasing them.

“Damn.” Her partner said and pulled off her helmet releasing the mane of red hair that matched her personality.

“We’re blocked on all sides.” One of the soldiers spoke up as if maybe she couldn’t see.

“Command this is Red and Black we have completed mission but are under heavy attack. Requesting extraction or assistance.” Jane said calmly. She didn’t have to wait long for an answer.

“Area is hot, there is a hover convoy not far from you, I’ll see if they can over assistance.” The controller said sounding grim.

“On our own again.” Her partner said as she pulled her second weapon and fired both pulse pistols at the incoming horde.

“Would you have it any other way?” Jane laughed.

“What are we chopped liver?” The highest ranking soldier said as his men opened up on the advancing machines.

“Meal for the grinder.” Jane answered and pulled out her good luck charm and showed it.

Grenades hadn’t been made since the machines had taken over but she had found a case of them in the remains of a supply truck that after changing into one of the enemy had attacked in the first month of what had become known as the machine civil war.

She pulled the pin and tossed it into the closest batch of machines and smiled as the resounding thump blew them apart.

She drew both her pistols and started blasting away anything metal that moved.

Her mind flashed back on the first real battle for her and Quinn.

“We can’t leave Daria.” Quinn said pulling against her arm.

“Look that’s my best friend back there and she made me promised to get you away, to keep you safe and that’s what I’m going to do.” Jane said as she tightened her grip on the younger girl.

“She’ll die.” Quinn cried and fell to the ground.

She wanted to respond but a stereo leapt from the roof and smashed her to the ground. She managed to roll onto her back and hold back its single appendage and cried out.

“Quinn help me.”

She thought she was done for but the weight pulled off her chest and she saw Quinn now struggling with the almost robot like machine.

She scooped up the shotgun she had been carrying and kicked the machine off Quinn and blasted it with a single shot that completely destroyed the former home entertainment system.

“Thank you.” Quinn said as she rubbed her neck.

“Thank you.” Jane smirked back.

Jane returned to the present when she found herself back to back with Quinn shooting at the encircling numbers around them.

“It’s been a hell of a ride.” Jane joked.

“It’s a good day.” Quinn said calmly.

“And the best of company.” Jane replied honestly.

She turned around and Quinn did the same, both woman now facing each other as the stood chest to chest arms outstretched never stopping the explosions erupting from their hands.

:How did this happen.: Jane smirked as she looked down on her partner, her friend and in the end her lover. :Maybe we just needed someone who wouldn’t die on us or run away.: She thought with a smile.

“Maybe it was destiny.” Quinn answered and leaned in and kissed her.

Jane felt the wave of energy pass through her body and combined with the kiss almost knocked her off her feet.

She lowered her guns and wrapped her arms protectively around Quinn and returned the kiss.

“Maybe you two should get a room. Or better yet a couple of boyfriends.” A familiar voice called out from above them.

Both woman turned their heads and looked at the hover platform and its single occupant.

“Been a long time since you been out this way.” Jane said to the figure.

“One second.” The figure said and Jane turned to the crashing sound of another car moving toward them.

It still carried the BMW symbol but it looked more like a giant ant now, it moved faster than the first one and was when striking distance in a matter of seconds.

Another way passed through them and Jane watched with glee as it passed through the machine shutting it down completely.

“I think that’s the last of them.” The figure said as the platform lowered and the figure stepped onto the ground with them.

She wore flowing robes that hid the shape of her body but that was just like her.

Quinn released Jane and hugged her sister.

“It’s been so long.” Quinn said trying not to cry.

“It’s been a long war.” Daria sighed.

:Ya but at least you don’t have to get your hands dirty.: Jane thought bitterly and she struggled to push the jealously back down.

“What brings you back to this state?” Jane asked, carefully controlling the tone of her voice.

“Later.” Daria Morgendorffer said forcefully.

She waved for the remaining solders and the two women to step up onto the hover platform and as Jane did she felt it start to rise. There were no controls anywhere but that didn’t matter.

:She doesn’t even need to pretend anymore.: Jane thought awed by the sheer power her one time friend displayed.

Quinn was happier than she had been in a long time and she pushed away the tension that was in the air between Daria and Jane.
:It doesn’t matter. I have both my girls and that’s good enough.: She thought as she hugged Jane hoping for the smile and she got it.

Daria watched her sister with Jane and sighed inwardly, it hadn’t been what she had in mind almost eight months ago but disaster and tragedy made strange bedfellows. It had been almost three months since she had seen them and even then they were almost legendary in both their work and personal battles.

She felt machines moving around on the ground under them as they flew above and fought the urge to stop long enough to kill each and every one.

The machines may rule the ground but air travel was beyond them, even planes and helicopters that had changed seemed incapable of flight. She could have killed them without ever letting them get close but not today.

:This mission is to important and Jane may never forgive me but Quinn may have to step into a bigger role. I tried to keep you out little sister, I swear I did but it’s getting to the endgame.: Daria thought and felt the turmoil strike against her heart.

Quinn sighed against Jane and knew a storm was coming and she only wished that it’s outcome wasn’t so clear.

Jane narrowed her eyes at Daria felling the mistrust and remembered.

“I have to do my part Jane.” Daria said calmly.

“Quinn needs you, I need you. Why can’t we do whatever you’re going to do together.” Jane demanded.

“Because you’re normal and I’m not.” Daria answered.

:And that was that, Daria went off to glory as the most powerful technopath on the planet and me and Quinn ended up as punching bags for whatever got left behind.: Jane thought bitterly.

:I won’t let you hurt her or use her.: Jane tried to will the thoughts as Daria.

:It’s going to be a long day.: Quinn thought as the city came into view and the distortion in the air caused by a constant EMP being generated could be seen.

“Shut everything down.” Jane called out and powered down all the electronics the team used. Everything was made of plastic but the electronics still would be shut down by the field.

Daria watched as the soldiers followed the command and felt a tinge of guilt. Her sled was shielded against the pulse, an expense the rank and file were not deemed worthy of.


Part 2

Daria brought the sled down inside the protective dome on energy and sighed as she looked at the wreckage of what had been her home town.

There were signs of rebuilding and cleanup that were far in advance of what most of the protective cities had managed but then Lawndale had been one of the first. She glided along several inches above the ground moving to the town square and came to rest once they had entered the memorial park.

She sighed loudly when she saw the statue. Her own face, grim and determined looked out over the park, holding the make shift EMP generator that had saved the town. Kevin Thompson stood in front of her. Almost as she remembered him that day so long ago, keeping the machines back long enough for her to finish, it had cost him his life but he paid the price without hesitation.
The generator had been the first of its kind and now was used in every outpost of humanity. It created an expanding dome that shut down all the machines but once established allowed electrical devices to function within it.

A greeting party moved toward them quickly and Daria guessed the convoy had radioed ahead to let the town know she would be coming.

“The city of Lawndale welcomes the technopath.” The tall dark skinned woman said coldly as she stared at Daria with hateful eyes.

“I am greeted well.” Daria responded. :Who came up with this crap.: She thought. :It must have been Tom.: She felt the sorrow at that thought.

“Hey Jodie, we got the power source, it was an old solar powered generator that the metalers must have turned on.” Jane said as she stepped off the platform and addressed the woman.

“Good, just the level of excellence we have come to rely on.” Jodie Landon said and various techs moved forward to accept the weapons and equipment from the soldiers. Only Jane and Quinn’s pistols were left unclaimed.

“I have a personal matter to address with you, Mayor.” Daria said and knelt as a storage compartment opened in the sled and an urn raised itself into her hands.

Jodie didn’t see the urn but she stepped forward and swung her fist.

“I don’t think we’ll ever have any personal business again.” Jodie almost screamed at Daria.

Daria was knocked to the ground by the force of the swing and the urn fell to the ground, its lid opening and some of its powdery contents spilling.

“NO!” Daria cried out and moved to try to gather the ashes that had spilled.

Jodie looked shocked at the emotional outcry and knelt to examine the urn as Daria tried to carefully collect what had spilled.

“Oh my god.” Jodie said after reading the engraved label and her hands joined Daria’s in trying to reclaim every single ash.

Jane stood staring at the two woman carefully pinching up every last spot of the ashes. She felt Quinn moved closer then whisper quietly. “Mack.”

“Damn.” Jane cursed.

“How?” Jodie said as Daria resealed the lid on the urn and started to rise.

“Florida.” Daria answered sadly then reached into her robes and brought out a folded piece of paper.

“He wanted you to have this.” She said and Jane saw her fight the tears from falling.

Jodie took the paper in a shaking hand and unfolded it, reading it carefully.

“He considered you the only family he had left, he wanted to rest here.” Daria offered the urn.

“One day I’ll make you pay for everything.” Jodie promised as she took the urn gently before turning and walking away.

“But not today.” Daria whispered at her back.

Jane watched as Daria composed her self before speaking.
“We have to go debrief, you know where the house is.” She said casually.

“It shouldn’t take us long.” Quinn said nicely as Daria nodded.

She stepped back onto the hover platform then made it rise into the air and started toward their home.

:It used to be mine to.: Daria thought as she approached the red bricked house and landed on the lawn. Her parent’s cars were still sitting where she had left them after discovering her gift. Piles of rusting metal that had crashed in on them selves, tattered ruins of a long ago day.

She opened the door; not having a key didn’t matter to her. She did not want to hear the ghosts just yet, so she stripped out of her robes and other clothing and finished the walk to the bathroom nude, her stomach already showing. She turned the water on and smiled when she discovered the hot water still worked. Cradling her stomach, she stepped into the tub and washed away the dust and grime stuck to her skin from the trip from Florida to Lawndale.
:I’ll have to tell them.: She thought as the water calmed her, then made her remember.

It was raining but she could barely feel it, she was just so tired.

“I can’t focus, I need time to catch my breath.” She gasped as he held her up. It had been 26 hours of nonstop attack as every machine in Florida converged on them.

“We’ll hold them back.” Mack assured her and brought up the powerful kinetic rifle she had made him and blasted a machine that had gotten past the defensive line.

“I don’t care about me anymore.” Daria whispered and dug deep inside herself and tried to drag another mental burst from her exhausted mind and body.

“Just hang on, there aren’t enough of you technopaths for us to lose one.” Mack said and moved his hand from the support grip to one more personal one that did the same job.

“I never seen them so determined.” Daria said as she looked out on the ocean of functional machines that were crawling over the wreckage of the hundred thousands she had already put down.

“I guess you pissed them off. It’s not everyone that can take out a nuke power station all by their lonesome.” Mack said as he blasted another of the machines.

Daria saw the soldiers falling one by one and knew it was the end, there were just to many of them and she was so tired.

“I’ll protect you.” Mack promised as the line started to pull back until the soldiers were almost within reach.

It had been a TV the one the approached them, but it had merged with a mulcher and was a whirl of spinning blades.

“Damn.” Mack said and ran toward the monstrosity and tossed in the satchel charge right as he was surrounded by other machines.

She saw him go down and it was as if something exploded inside her.

The reports of the wave came from as far away as the coast. They said it was 200 hundred miles across but that didn’t matter to her.

It was to late, that was all she cared about, she held her husband as he died.

She stood in the shower leaning against the wall and let the tears come.

Jane peeled off the skin tight suit and watched as Quinn did the same, she smirked down at her lover who tossed a sweat soaked bra at her when she noticed.

“God, don’t I keep you satisfied enough you don’t need to leer at me.” Quinn laughed.

“I don’t think that’s possible but if you want to take a month or so off and spend it in bed I’m game.” Jane joked.

“That would be nice but I don’t think it’s going to happen, not now.” Quinn admitted.

“Daria coming back to town isn’t a good sign.” Jane agreed.

“Please be a little nicer, she really loved Mack.” Quinn pleaded.

“I’ll try but she plays to many games and doesn’t like to share what she knows.” Jane said and noticed that Quinn didn’t argue.

“She was the first of the technopaths and she was forced to find the others and draft them into a war. 16 days, that’s the life expectancy of an active combat technopath like Daria.” Quinn cried and Jane dropped the clothes she was about to change into and pulled her tight against her.

“Maybe that’s the way it is for the others but Daria is different, she’s on a whole other level.” Jane promised as Quinn cried against her.

They walked to the house, stopping only for Quinn to knell in the same spot she always did after they left the town and returned.

“I found these, I thought you would like them.” Quinn said as she took a pair of earrings and laid them on the ground next to the various other items that had built up in the months since the war began.

“I think Tiffany would really like them.” Jane said resting her hand on Quinn’s shoulder.

“I can never find anything I think Sandi would like.” Quinn said as she stood, three narrow markers stood in the spot that her friends had died, Daria and Jane had barely managed to save Quinn before a collection of machines attacked and killed the three girls.

“I think she likes the fact that you remember her, I think she likes that more than any trinket you might find.” Jane said honestly.

“I wish.” Quinn started then sighed.

“We all wish for a lot of things.” Jane said and put her arm around Quinn and continued. “Except for one thing, I got something better than anything I might have ever wished for.”

“You’re just trying to get in my pants.” Quinn giggled as they turned onto their block.

“Of course but trust me I really do mean it.” Jane laughed outright.

Quinn spotted the platform sitting on the dead grass and her mood dipped.

“Do you think it’s true that she doesn’t know what happened to Mom and Dad?” Quinn asked.

“As true as me telling my mother that I don’t know what happen to Trent.” Jane replied and Quinn wrapped her arm around Jane’s waist.

“He was very brave.” Quinn said, understanding that pain very well.

“I just don’t want to take away the memory people might have of him and replace it with a corpse.” Jane sighed.

They walked inside and the smells of cooking food and burning wood hit their noses.

Electricity was rare and hot water and limited lighting were the only legal uses so a fireplace and wood stove had been added to the home. They found Daria in the kitchen cooking up something and Jane felt her mouth start to water.

It was a meal, meat, potatoes, vegetables even bread and she was sure that was coffee brewing in the pot but all the smells were over loading her.

“I see technopaths are still getting the really good grub.” Quinn smirked and stole a handful of lettuce and started eating it.

“I know, it’s not fair but I can’t bring myself to not except it, besides I need to eat healthier now. On the way here I saw a herd of cows that wandered to close to a group of machines and got themselves all nice and dead, I wiped the machines and we managed to save a few of the cows and get them to Georgia and I decided to bring the rest of the meat here.” Daria shrugged and pulled out several cups, her fingers lingering on the one that said world’s greatest DAD.

“Now?” Jane asked.

“Can we save that for dinner please?” Daria asked shaking her head.

“Well you brought the food so I guess you can pick the topic of conversation.” Jane agreed.

“She’s pregnant.” Quinn said before grabbing another handful of lettuce as Daria poured out three cups of coffee.

Daria almost dropped the pot but she recovered quickly and handed Jane a cup of steaming coffee.

“I’m REALLY sorry about Mack then.” Jane said honestly.

“Thank you.” Daria accepted.

They didn’t speak much until the were sitting at the table eating and Jane couldn’t take it anymore.

“Why are you here?” Jane asked.

Daria smiled and patted her stomach.
“I can’t be active anymore, and we’re losing the war so I thought I would open a school to train other technopaths to we don’t lose so many. I thought I would start with Quinn.” Daria said and waited.

Daria felt the knife at her neck and dropped her hands to her stomach and cleared her throat.

“Do what ever you want to me but please don’t hurt my baby.” Daria said terrified for her unborn child. Her voice shook but she didn’t care, nothing was more important to her.

Jane growled and stabbed the knife into the tabletop.

No one spoke for several moments as Quinn sat and Daria cried in relief and Jane paced.

“I won’t let you take her way from me.” Jane said after awhile.

“We’re losing Jane, there are too many of them and now their building factories and making more. You haven’t seen some of the nightmares that are coming out of those factories, sometimes you can’t even process all of it when you do. It’s just so inhuman.” Daria replied.

“I’m not like you, I don’t have the gift.” Quinn spoke up and Jane had to admit it trumped her not my girlfriend argument.

“I can feel it in you, just like all the others, it just hasn’t come out.” Daria said, no doubt in her tone.

“Can’t you just leave her alone. Don't you remember what happened to Tom?” Jane demanded.

“I have all this time, do you think if I hadn’t told them she was normal they wouldn’t have been testing her since day one. I lied to keep you out of everything I’ve seen. But it’s to late now and we really are losing.” Daria said and the pain in her voice was clear.

“I’m not going to stand by and let them drag her off and get her killed.” Jane snarled.

“I don’t want it either but I don’t have a choice anymore.” Daria cried out.

“Daria, I’m not a technopath.” Quinn sighed and held out her hand for Jane.

“I can feel it within you.” Daria said wiping at her eyes.

“I didn’t say I wasn’t special, I’m just not what you are.” Quinn replied looking down.

“What?” Daria pushed. She looked at Jane and saw knowledge resting there, knowledge that had been kept from her.

“Tell me.” Daria said.


Part 3

Daria stood in her old room and stared at the stain that she knew would never come out of the floor. She knew what she needed to do so she started down the stairs and out into the yard.
The ghosts followed her.

She had been sitting at the computer writing when it started. Quinn had just left with the former fashion club and Daria was home for weekend.

She heard the sounds of a struggle and moved to her door, opening it. Her mother fell into the room with what appeared to be kitchen appliances attacking her. Daria started knocking them away and within seconds she had her mother on her feet. The injuries on her hands and legs seemed to be the worst of it. Nevertheless, a puddle of blood formed around her feet.

“Daria what’s happening?” Her mother asked out of breath.

“I don’t know.” Daria said then she heard the door slam downstairs and both of them ran down the stairs.

It was Jane.

“Amiga this is going to sound crazy but my phone just attacked me.” Jane said leaning against the door.

Jane saw Helen’s blood covered legs and arms and added. “Then again maybe you might believe me.”

The screams from outside got louder and Daria heard Quinn’s voice among several others and she shoved Jane out of the way and ran outside and down the street toward the screams. Jane and Helen both followed quickly behind her.

A household of electronics were chasing the four girls and Daria grabbed Quinn and kicked at a TV that was moving about on four metal legs and swinging another appendage like a hammer.

She pulled Quinn back toward the house and Jane caught up and they turned back calling for the other fashion clubbers to follow them but the girls had stopped and tried to hide in some bushes. It wasn’t screams of terror they heard now, it was of pain.

“There’s to many.” Jane said as Daria tried to go back for the three girls.

She knew Jane was right but it didn’t help leaving them as they died.

A blue Lexus pulled into the driveway just as they arrived and Jake got out carrying a shotgun and grabbed his daughters and wife and screamed at the nightmare that was unleashed on the world.

They didn’t see the Lexus or the SUV start to change until it was to late.

Daria shoved Quinn at Jane and begged her to protect her, to get her away. She shoved her father’s shotgun into Jane’s hands and screamed for them to run.

They did and were spared the sight of what happened next.

Jake was screaming up at his spider like car when it tossed him against the garage wall and Daria heard bones break. Her mother raced to his side and tried to drag him away but it was to late. The SUV knocked both of her parents into the side yard and followed after them.
Both cars seem to crash into them selves where her parents were struggling to get up. Daria watched as their bodies were destroyed.

A fire lit inside her and she screamed, the power burst from her body. She could see it move away from her and strike every machine in the area and like puppets with their strings cut; they fell and moved no more.

The two cars fell over and she walked to where her parents were, shoved broken and torn into the gouged dirt.

Both were lifeless and she pushed a mound of dirt on top of them, covering them from sight.

She turned away from the makeshift grave and felt the fire burning through every part of her being. She went hunting.

Jane watched Daria knell and touch a spot of ground and somehow she knew what lay beneath her friend’s hand.

She moved up behind her and started talking.

“It was right before you showed up with a bag full of electronics and a plan to save the town. I managed to get Quinn to Nick’s, that’s where the band was that weekend. Trent was still alive then, he had broken all the band’s equipment before it had a chance to finish changing.
We started looking for other people who could help us or ones we could help. That’s how we ended up finding Kevin, Mack and Jodie.
I don’t know what it had been but it came out of the school. We were all to tired to run anymore, we were dead and Trent knew it. He pulled out this small bottle of whiskey and shoved a rag in it. He ran straight at the thing, trying to light the rag.
Well he must have managed it because when it grabbed him, it … ate him. …Pulled him into it’s body and then it exploded. That’s how I lost Trent.” Jane said as Daria stroked the earth that covered her parents.

“I didn’t know. I never asked did I?” Daria said gently.

“You’ve been a little busy.” Jane admitted.

“How long have you known about Quinn?” Daria asked.

“Can’t say I really did, I knew she could read my mind but we’ve been together for a while.” Jane shrugged.

“I thought I was protecting her from becoming me but her ability won’t help at all.” Daria chuckled.

“It makes sense really, I’ve always understood machines and science and Quinn’s always understood people. Well anyone except me.” Daria continued.

“That’s why you dumped us, isn’t it. For once don’t go with the half truths and lies just tell me the truth.” Jane fumed pulling Daria from the ground.

“YES, is that what you need to hear, I didn’t want her to have to feel what I feel, to see what I see. Right at the beginning I could fell the others and the military and government wanted soldiers and I didn’t want my sister dragged into that or my best friend. Not after Tom.” Daria answered and pushed Jane back.

“I’m not special.” Jane said confused.

“But you would have followed, first me and now Quinn right into hell itself.” Daria replied.

Jane chuckled and shook her head.

“Are you two done making up or do I need to leave you alone a little while longer.” Quinn called from the back yard.

“Get over here princess.” Jane laughed and Quinn came around the corner.

She was dressed in khakis and a heavy button up flannel shirt and Daria realized for the first time it was cold. Her robes were well designed and interlaced with various machines that she had developed to maintain a comfortable temperature for the technopaths, wherever they might be.

“What’s going on?” Jane asked.

“Big wigs just hit town, apparently Jodie is ready to start a revolution if they make any more demands on her.” Quinn sighed and handed Jane the letter that had been delivered only a few moments ago. She pressed against her trying to share some of her warmth with Jane who hadn’t bothered to bring a jacket out with her.

“Anything else you want to share with us?” Jane said calmly looking at Daria.

“I told you why I’m here. I’m already showing and before long I’ll need help getting out of a chair. I went inactive at least until the baby is born.” Daria said confused and took the paper from Jane.

Military Command has arrived and is planning a major operation and they went our strike force to provide cover for a technopath.

“I don’t know anything about it. I’m not going back outside the barrier until after my baby is born.” Daria said forcefully.

“I think we need to talk to Jodie.” Jane sighed clearly not looking forward to discussing the mayor’s favorite subject.

Jodie sat in her office and stared at the urn and read the letter a hundred times.

She could still remember every second she spent with him and why it all came to an end.

“Jodie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to happen but it did. I think I’m in love with her.” He said to her.

“You cheated on me with Daria, c’mon does that even make sense.” She said smacking him on the chest as the tears rolled down her face.

“I thought you loved me.” Jodie said grabbing his shoulders.

“I do but it’s not the same, we’ve known each other since grade school and been dating almost as long. You’re like my sister now and I think you know it.” Mack said gently.

“Don’t leave me, I can’t do it without you.” She cried, knowing what was coming.

“I have to, even if we weren’t having these feelings I would have to. She needs someone she can trust to watch her back.” Mack sighed.

“I’ll go with you then, even if you two are together it would be better than not seeing you ever again.” Jodie offered.

“You’re needed here.” Mack said firmly. “I swear I’ll come back and hopefully we can be friends.”

Jodie opened her eyes and saw the three women standing in front of her desk; she noticed Quinn was crying again. :She’s always is crying.: Jodie thought.

Jodie stood and cracked her neck before speaking.
“Technopath I offer my apology for my assault on you, I offer no excuse for my actions.” Jodie said formally.

“Don’t start, Jodie what do you know about the reason why the military is here?” Jane asked.

“Nothing, just what they tell me. Big mission that involves a technopath saving us all again.” Jodie answered.

“Did they say which technopath?” Quinn asked.

“No, I assumed it would be …” Jodie said pointing at Daria who shook her head no.

“Daria has gone inactive.” Jane spoke.

“Getting tired of watching people die protecting you or did you just run out of warm bodies.” Jodie said rudely.

“That’s not fair.” Quinn said moving forward, her fist clenched.

“She’s entitled.” Daria whispered.

“Oh thank you, for understanding how much it might hurt to have a friend sleep with my boyfriend and then drag him off to get killed.” Jodie snarled and stepped forward raising her hands. She saw Daria step back quickly as her hands moved to cover her stomach.

Jodie saw the scene and replayed it in her mind a few times before stepping back and sitting on the edge of her desk.

“Did he know?” She asked resting her hand on the urn. Her face was a storm of emotions.

Daria nodded “yes”

“We’re worried that the military might plan on trying to force a pregnant woman into combat.” Jane said hoping to use Jodie’s beliefs against her.

It worked and the Mayor’s eyes flashed and then narrowed cruelly.

Daria stood in the town square looking up at the statue and wished she could remove herself from it.
:Kevin was the hero that day, single handily keeping off hundreds of those things while I used my ability to make a machine that would do what I needed it to do. If I knew then what I know now I could have sent out burst to keep them thinned out enough and he would still be here.: Daria thought.

“Do you remember him?” A squeaky voice said to her. Someone had joined her at the statue.

“He was my hero.” Daria said and turned around and looked at Brittany.

“Daria!” Brittany said and pulled her into a hug.

“How are you?” Daria asked as the not so blond girl smiled and pulled her coat tight.

“I work at the school, we make clothes for the soldiers.” Brittany said proudly.

Daria saw Quinn wave to her from across the way and Daria sighed and turned back to Brittany and said.
“I have to go but I’ll be in town for a while, please come see me.”

Brittany nodded then returned to staring up at the statue.

Daria was in Jodie’s office again but this time there were a few more people crowding the room. Jane and Quinn stayed off to the side, trying to attract as little attention as possible.

She knew most of the high ranking officers that stood calmly waiting for the meeting to begin.

“Gentleman, it has been brought to my attention that the mission being planned is going to involve elements that I can not allow to happen.” Jodie said as discreetly as possible.

The officers looked amongst them selves and then one Daria knew far to well stepped forward.
“How did you find out?” He demanded, Daria remembered Mack once shoving a gun in his face offering to help the man find balance.

“That is something for you to worry about later. Now answer my question.” Jodie said.

“As we are WITHOUT an active technopath in this part of the U.S, it’s our only alternative. Unless a technopath became available, one that doesn’t have medical limitations.” The man said turning toward Daria, his gaze stayed on her stomach the entire time.

Quinn was holding Jane’s arm firmly and Jodie’s hands were shaking on the desk.

“You expect her ….” Jodie tried but her face darkened considerably.

“No, we would never ask her to do that, but without her we had to go with a backup plan.” The man smiled at her.

“No.” Quinn whispered and stared at the man as if he was the devil himself.

“As I said we don’t have a choice, our strongest technopath has sidelined herself so that leaves us with only one alternative.” The man said.

“Tom.” Jane said understanding now. “But he’s dead.”

“Brain dead or mostly. Follow us and we can show you.” He said coldly.

He lay on the bed, but he couldn’t feel it. Tubes ran into his body and wires monitored all his functions.

His body was pale and wasted and the right side of his face had little resemblance to the once vibrant man he had been.
The machine that was on and in the left side of his head has unidentifiable. He had been the first technopath she had found and together they had destroyed millions of the machine armies.
Not as lovers or even friends anymore but there was a bond between them that was indescribable and it made them strong. It had been just a matter of weeks that they swept across states leaving only rusting metal in their path when it had happened. A machine lying dormant had leapt on him and tried to burrow into his head.

“His power merged with the machine and forced it to stop and even repair some of the damage, it keeps him alive but it can’t replace the damaged portions of the brain. Now all he does is lay there, right until a living machine gets within his area of influence. He sets off a wave that effects an area almost a half mile across.” One of the doctors said as the women gathered near the foot of the bed.

“You’re keeping him alive to use him as a flesh bomb.” Daria said looking disgusted.

“Yes we are.” The officer said without guilt.

Daria walked outside the mobile medical unit and turned off her warming machines and let the cold air reach through her ribs.

She didn’t realize Jodie had joined her until she spoke.

“What ever you’re thinking, it’s no. I will not allow it. I hate you for what you did with Mack. He wanted to be family and that would have been enough for me. That makes that baby my family, Mack’s baby and that means I’m not allowed to hate you anymore. Because you are his child’s mother. I don’t care what they do to Tom but you are not going outside risking it’s or your life.” Jodie said and Daria shivered from the cold. She mentally turned on the machines to warm herself.

“Do you understand me?” Jodie said and Daria nodded.

Jane and Quinn joined them and Quinn look stricken; Jane had to help hold her up.

“There’s no one there.” Quinn whispered. “Just an empty shell.”

“Tom died 7 months ago.” Daria said and made her choice.

“My legs are starting to hurt, I think I need to lay down.” Daria said sadly.

“Wait until the mission is over.” Jane told her firmly.

Daria nodded.

“He deserves to rest.” Quinn cried as they made their way toward the house with Jodie going with them.

:I can’t risk the baby but as soon as I feel Tom’s power go active, I’ll turn off the machines keeping him alive, even the one in his face.: Daria thought knowing that there would be hell to pay for what she was going to do.

:But only if they find out.: Daria heard Quinn’s voice in her head. She saw her sister looking at her and knew what had just happened.

Daria nodded her understanding.