Priorities
rating: +33+x

Researcher Rose Labelle gave a heavy sigh as she entered one of many Site-19 interview rooms, slowly closing the door behind her. She waited a few seconds, then turned. Already sitting at the table therein was a skeletal, pale skinned cyborg. His cybernetic eyes reflected the light of the room, Labelle catching her reflection in their lenses as she sat down and quickly looked over the report she had been given. Eventually she looked up and frowned at the cyborg. He gave a smug smile in return.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of this interview, Miss Labelle?" Anderson asked in his deep, metallic voice.

Labelle remained silent and pulled out a series of photographs of a humanoid containment cell, barren and undecorated. In the first, Anderson was visibly coughing up several tiny scraps of metal onto the floor. In the next, the cyborg hastily set about assembling the pieces into something. The third image showed Anderson kissing a small spider-like drone made from the scrap parts, the drone glowing briefly at the contact. In the fourth, he set the drone down and let the creature crawl away. In the fifth, the tiny drone had vanished from the camera's view, and the thaumatological countermeasures in the cell began to glow, the walls of the room alight with bright runes and symbols. In the final shot, Anderson could be seen shaking in pain as the anti-magic field wracked his body.

"We've been doing so well," Labelle sighed. "Years of good behavior. Years of cooperation, and in exchange we let you make repairs to your systems. Should have known you'd have used your components to pull some stunt like this."

"What can I say," Anderson said with a shrug, "I'm an inventor. I invent."

Labelle rubbed her temple in frustration.

"I guess… I just don't see the point, Vincent," she finally said with another sigh. "Your commercially-made Amur drones can't get very far on their own, let alone one that's made out of paperclips and gum. I'm assuming the thaumatological effect you casted on it is weaker too, which means even if it gets to where you wanted it to go, it might fail upon arrival. There's going to be serious repercussions for this. They're moving you to a tighter security cell, with stronger thaumatological blocks. You're not getting any more components for yourself ever again."

"Oh, I'm well aware of how hard you're set to crack down," Anderson chuckled. "I'll take that as it comes. This needed to be done. A message needed to be sent."

"To who?"

"Trade secret," Anderson grinned. "Sorry, Miss Labelle, but this is one ace that's staying up my sleeve."

"We'll see, Vince." Labelle sighed and stood up. "You've got strange priorities. I hope that whoever is on the other end of the line for that Amur can appreciate all it cost you."

"I can guarantee you they won't," Anderson's grin shrunk into a melancholy smile. "But, hey, what can you do?"

Labelle shook her head, and took her leave.


Erica Herring, now Erica Lister, stood on a hotel balcony, overlooking the central Oregon Coast. The last few days had been filled with so much excitement, that she was now finding it difficult to sleep. Behind her, in the darkness of the hotel room, her husband of three days could be heard snoring. She smiled to herself, and continued to listen to the waves crashing on the shore in the darkness. She closed her eyes, and took in a deep breath.

When she opened them again, a small, ramshackle drone sat on the railing in front of her.

She froze, her smile turning into a sad frown. It had been a while since the father who had abandoned her all those years ago had sent one of his little messengers. She eyed the drone cautiously.

"You're a shoddy little thing, aren't you?" she said, and poked at the droid. The tiny robot sputtered and gave a little jerk.

"Pzzzwrd?" The droid buzzed.

Erica rolled her eyes.

"My little inventor…" she sighed.

The droid exploded into a fine silver mist. Erica coughed, attempting to catch her breath. As she wheezed, a voice entered the back of her mind.

Hello, my little inventor…

Erica froze. Her father's deep metallic voice sounded clear as day.

I learned, through some distant sources, that you and Luke finally tied the knot. Congratulations.

Erica closed her eyes, tuning in on the voice. She was tempted to bang on something around her to drown it out.

This is going to be the last time I'm going to be able to contact you, Erica. My chickens have finally come home to roost, and there is no getting out of it. I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am. When I left you and your mother, I always justified it that it would keep you two safe. The world I entered was dangerous, and you two would likely get hurt. That was a lie.

Truth be told, I couldn't chase the dream I wanted with you two tied to me, so naturally I cut the weight. And it worked. I soared so very high before it all came crashing down. I've had so much time to myself to think over these last few years, and in the end, I can tell you it wasn't worth it. You deserved so much better than me. Glad your mom found Tom, and he could be there for you.

Erica tightly gripped the nearby railing. Her face turned into a scowl. Still, she kept listening.

I'm not going to ask for your forgiveness. And you shouldn't give it. I just wanted to use this last chance to reach out and tell you how proud of you I am, and to provide one last gift. In your memories, once this message finishes, you'll have knowledge of a few bank accounts I set up under a dozen or so aliases. All in all, there should be over a few million in there by now. Drain them, and do anything you want.

I love you, Erica.

Have a great life.

As suddenly as it had started the voice stopped. Sure enough, in the back of Erica's mind, several memories popped up out of the ether.

  • Pin Numbers
  • Names
  • Bank Account Numbers
  • Security Questions
  • Branch Locations
  • Her name as a joint member on all the accounts.

Erica's scowl vanished. She opened her eyes and looked back out over the ocean.

"I fucking hate you…" Erica mumbled to herself. "You manipulative bastard…"

Tears ran down her cheek.

"You can't buy me…"

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