Ben stood outside Boss’s door for five minutes, clenching and unclenching his hands, before he raised his fist and pounded on her door. Boss opened the door, saw the expression on his face, rolled her eyes, and turned away leaving the door open for him to follow.
“Let me guess, if I hit the robot again you’ll be angry?” she said, plopping down in a cushy chair and facing a large screen. The screen displayed schematics. A glance told Ben it was of Arena. He blinked in surprise, but shook his head.
“It was an accident,” said Boss.
“Sure it was,” said Ben. He stood in front of her, blocking her view.
Boss took a swig from a bottle. She craned her neck to see the screen and zoomed in on a section of the schematic, her fingers tapping across an interface tab. “What do you want me to say?”
“Say you’re sorry,” Ben said.
“I already did,” said Boss.
Ben continued to block the view of her screen. “It’s not good enough,” he said.
She sighed. A chain of titanium snaked around his arm and pulled him out of the way of the screen. It wrapped around his torso and arms before he could react and dragged him to the floor. The weight of it compressed his chest. Ben gasped.
“Pathetic as usual,” said Boss. “You didn’t even try to resist. Where’s that crowbar you’ve been practicing?” She shook her head. “I think you’ve got too many distractions. Maybe I should put you in isolation for a few days. It’s been a while.”
The titanium melted and began spreading over his entire body. Ben struggled, but Boss increased the mass of it. He snarled and a heavy piece of tungsten carbide buzzed towards Boss’s head. She swatted it away with a piece of titanium.
His snarl turned to a panicked cry as the titanium completely encased his legs and arms, then abdomen and chest, leeching up towards his head. “No, stop, I’m sorry,” he said, breathlessly. “Please don’t. I’m sorry.”
Boss narrowed her eyes, but the metal retracted reluctantly. She shook her head. “Pathetic. Metal dispersal may be cool, but it doesn’t do you much good, does it? You can barely even fight back. Still just like a pathetic little boy.”
“Right,” Ben gasped, struggling to his knees. “All my methods of fighting back would kill you.” He glared at her, eyes snapping up angrily.
She returned his glare, the metal slowing, and he lowered his gaze. She released him from the titanium. “You need to learn some decent half measures.”
“I’m not the fighter,” Ben said. “That’s Rice’s job.”
She shook her head. “If the Arena wasn’t just violence theater, you could do well there.”
“I don’t want to do well there,” Ben said. “And I don’t want to hurt you. I just want you to stop being an asshole to Zee.”
“I lost my temper,” said Boss. “I’ve been under a lot of stress and she questioned my methods.”
“Your methods are sometimes questionable,” said Ben.
“How long has it been since you’ve had a time out?” Boss asked. Ben fell silent and looked away. She nudged him with her foot. “How long?”
“Three years, five months,” he whispered.
She nodded. “Sounds about right.” She looked back at the schematic of the Arena. “If I asked you to kill someone for me, what would it take to get you to do it?”
Ben stared at her.
“I used to be able to get you to do it for sweets,” she said.
“Why can’t you do it?” Ben asked, a tremble in his voice.
“I’ll be busy, and I want it to be untraceable.”
Through gritted teeth, Ben said, “I thought we were done with the power grabs.”
“This one is fool proof,” Boss said.
Ben glanced at the Arena schematic.
“Tell you what,” said Boss. “If you don’t do it, I’ll send the robot back.”
“I can,” said Boss. “And I will.”
“She does good work,” said Ben quickly. “This whole situation with Jun would not have been possible without her.”
“She’s an analog and replaceable.”
Ben gulped. “What do you want me to do?”
Read the next chapter.
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