Angry shouts followed after him as he turned from the screaming, slobbering man, but he ignored them. Ben walked past a sputtering Rice and exited the bar. He moved his legs. He didn’t stop until he blinked and realized he was running, lungs burning. His pace slowed and shuffled to a stop.
Breath huffing, Ben turned to see if anyone had followed him. He started, stepping back from Cyntha. She stood right behind him, blue hair electric in the bright lights of the hallway. “What?” he said, voice rough. She tilted her head and stared at him. He gulped. “What?”
“Why did you do that?” she asked.
“You didn’t like it,” he said.
Cyntha blinked. “No, why did you flinch when you saw me?”
“Oh,” said Ben. “Well, you were like,” he flashed open palms at her, “right there. Surprised me a bit.”
“Sorry,” Cyntha said. She stepped back from him and paused. She bit her lip and looked at the floor. “How did you know I didn’t like it?”
Ben shrugged his shoulders. “Instinct,” he said.
“I am a Model Five,” said Cyntha. “We aren’t programmed with one of those.”
“Instinct can be a hassle,” he said.
“Why?” said Cyntha.
“It often provides knowledge, but rarely provides understanding,” said Ben. Cyntha tilted her head, eyes defocusing as she thought about his words. After a moment Ben cleared his throat. “For instance, I know that you didn’t like what he was doing, but I don’t understand why you let him do it if you didn’t like it.”
Cyntha stared at him, a slight frown creasing between her eyes. “I’m a Model Five.” She paused, then nodded and continued, “It’s what we’re made for.”
“If it’s what you were made for, then don’t you think you’d like it?” Ben asked. Cyntha paused again, eyes defocusing as she thought. Movement at the end of the hall drew Ben’s attention. He looked up. Two black clad security officers walked cautiously towards them, impulse guns held at the ready. Ben looked over his shoulder. An additional five security officers waited down the hall.
“Are they here for you or me?” he asked Cyntha.
She glanced at the security officers, then raised an eyebrow at him. “You’re the one who attacked a prominent business partner,” she said. Ben nodded and winced, stepping away from her. Cyntha tilted her head as if listening to someone talking very softly. Her eyes widened. “They’re going to shoot—”
Ben heard the whine of the impulse guns’ energy cells. Metal exploded from the canisters at his hips, flashing and sparking. A shield clenched into existence in front of him. Thin as paper, it rippled when the impulse shot hit it.
“Lower your weapons,” one of the security officers shouted at him. The other murmured into a comm, requesting backup.
“I don’t have any,” Ben said. He did not lower the shield. “So stop shooting at me.” He glanced over his shoulder at the other security officers and at Cyntha. She had safely moved away from him to avoid being shot. The security officers fanned out and pulled her back behind their line. Ben sighed and dispelled the shield. “Please don’t shoot.” He raised his hands above his head. “I won’t resist.”
The security officers rushed him. Ben offered no resistance, but someone smashed a fist into his stomach doubling him. Another officer smashed something hard against the back of his neck, and darkness swallowed his vision.
If you like what you’ve read, you can make a one time donation through PayPal or support me at Patreon. Your patronage gets you additional scenes, sketches, drafts, and notes. Your support will allow me to keep writing. Read the next chapter on Friday, February 26th.