“What the hell did you do?”
Gypsy turned around slowly, fighting the urge not to swallow when she caught sight of Jaxom’s furious face. He didn’t look good at all, his skin a pasty shade of white with sweat beading his brow. Perhaps she had gone a little too far this time? The memory of him kissing someone else rushed into her mind and any repentance she might have been feeling evaporated in an instant. He deserved everything that he got.
“I have no idea what you mean, Sinclair. If you’re talking about the race, then I guess I won that.”
“No shit? And why would that be, Gypsy? Would it have anything to do with the fact that I had to pull out of the race because I mysteriously became violently ill?”
His sarcasm wasn’t lost on her, but she managed to keep her expression neutral. “Did you eat something bad? Perhaps your new lady friend isn’t as good a cook as she thinks she is.” Gypsy put as much false sincerity into her words as she could stomach, which wasn’t very much.
Jaxom’s eyes narrowed, fury blazing from them. “I know you’re responsible, Delansky, though how you managed to get anything into me when we haven’t spoken for days is beyond me.” He stopped, his expression shifting to one of dawning realisation. “It was Tinman wasn’t it? He’s the only person I spoke to before the race. What did you make him do, Gypsy? Was it more of your nanotechnology?”
Damn, The Dragon was way too sharp for her. How he was able to put the pieces together so quickly was frightening but Gypsy maintained her faux innocence. “Do you really think I would stoop that low? When I win the championship, it will be because I’m the superior pilot, Sinclair, not because of any of the underhand tricks we’ve been playing this year. Now why don’t you toddle off to your girlfriend so she can make you feel all better?”
Dismissing him, she turned and hurried away, losing herself in the crowd. She hadn’t been expecting Jaxom to be waiting for her at the end of the race so was unprepared to face him. His anger she could understand because she would have been livid if he’d done something similar, however she also hadn’t expected him to realise so quickly that she was responsible for his malaise.
He really hadn’t looked well at all. She had wanted to teach him a lesson for toying with her but she hadn’t meant to make him so ill he would look like death warmed up. Perhaps she would send Tinman over to check on him later, just to make sure he was okay. The instant the thought entered her mind she wanted to kick herself. How could she be so freaking weak when it came to that man?
He had deliberately tried to romance her to gain her friendship and trust just so she would drop her guard and he could win the championship. If she hadn’t realised Jaxom had left his gloves in her apartment and stepped out to give them back, she would never have caught him with his floosy and realised what he was up to. She shouldn’t be feeling sorry for the ass. She should be crowing that he’d be up half the night being violently ill. She should be...but she wasn’t.
Gypsy was so intent on reaching her workshop she didn’t notice the figure just behind her. It wasn’t until she felt strong arms wrapping around her from behind and a gloved hand covering her mouth that she realised something was wrong.
Trying to scream, she kicked out backwards but whoever had her was clearly used to assaulting someone and her foot connected with air instead of a shin. Dread filled her soul, a fear so dark it stunned her with its ferocity. Who was he? Was he going to kill her? Was he kidnapping her? Had Jaxom set this up as some kind of payback? The thoughts collided in her mind as her fear escalated and she tried to break free.
Gypsy struggled with all her might but it was to no avail. The man who had her was way stronger than she was. Her struggles were ineffective and only served to drive the breath from her body. Breathing was hard enough as it was with the hand muffling her screams, she couldn’t afford to overexert herself to the point she passed out. Forcing herself to go limp, she feigned unconsciousness, hoping her assailant would be fooled. His grip never lessened as he carried her into the darkness of her workshop.
“She could be faking. Tie her tight and gag her mouth.”
Liquid ice filled her veins as it became apparent there was more than one assailant. She could maybe try to fight one but two...? The hand moved from her mouth and she tried to scream but a dirty rag was stuffed inside, making her gag. The man who had her was unbelievably strong, and as she struggled not to vomit from the cloth in her mouth, he expertly bound her to one of her worktables.
“Leave her alone!”
Tinman! She’d forgotten about Tinman! Hope flared and Gypsy tried to scream at him to get out and find some help. Her words were muffled though, unintelligible.
Gypsy strained to see what the man meant, the table scraping as it moved a bare inch to give her a better vantage point. Two dark shapes were bearing down on Tinman, their faces covered by black balaclavas.
‘Run, Tinman! Run!!!!!’
The words reverberated in her head, the sounds she made muffled grunts. Even as she tried to tell him to leave, she knew he wouldn’t. Tinman wasn’t equipped to deal with an attack by one man let alone two, however he wouldn’t leave her to whatever they had planned. He would try to help.
The second man swung a hammer and it connected with Tinman’s skull. The sound of the hammer hitting metal was like a death knell. The android staggered under the blow and then one leg seemed to collapse in on itself. Tinman sank to one knee before the hammer came down again.
‘NO!’ Gypsy screamed. ‘NO!’
The blows reigned down, both men attacking the android in concert. Tinman’s metallic body dented with each mark, his hands trying to raise up to ward of each attack.
“Mistress! Help me! What do I do?”
Tears poured down Gypsy’s face and she was choking on sobs, her horrified eyes taking in the wanton destruction before her. She struggled harder, tried to get free so she could stop the attack, so she could save her Tinman, but she was bound too tightly.
‘NO!’ she sobbed, the horrendous crunching noise breaking her heart as it echoed throughout the workshop. ‘Not Tinman! Not my Tinman!”
Gypsy screamed and screamed and screamed, flailing wildly, her skin tearing against the rope binding her. ‘Tinman!’ She didn’t notice the comm panel lying to her right until it was too late, but she managed to scramble her fingers towards it. She hit the button and prayed...sobbing as she watched Tinman die.
Jaxom rinsed his mouth again, running a damp cloth over his sweaty face and bare chest to try to cool down. He didn’t know what Gypsy had given him but it had been virulent in the extreme. The effects were starting to subside a bit, the time between vomiting was lengthening which appeared to indicate whatever was in his system was passing. Or perhaps he’d just expelled the majority of the nanobots the little hellcat had infected him with.
When he was back to full health and got his hands on her...well Gypsy Delansky would have her sensibilities shocked when she saw just what he was capable of doing when crossed. He would...he would...he would do nothing. He knew it and she probably did too. The little spitfire was so firmly under his skin that he could never do anything to hurt her. He would do as well as to face up to that and be done with it.
Striding out of his bathroom, Jaxom reached for a clean shirt. It felt reasonably safe to get dressed again. The chime of his comm panel drew his eyes. When he saw the caller he just stood there for a moment, the shirt forgotten in his hands. What did Gypsy want now? Did she want to crow some more?
He ignored it and went to put on his shirt, halting again as it chimed incessantly. What the fuck was so important she couldn’t take the bloody hint? Tossing the shirt down, he grabbed the comm panel. “What do you w...”
The sounds that came from the communication device chilled his blood. Something was being destroyed...loud ringing sounds of metal hitting metal. Mixed in with that noise was muffled sobbing, the sounds so desperate it brought tears unbidden to his eyes.
Gypsy! Something was wrong with Gypsy! Fury exploded deep within, so hot his skin felt on fire. Jaxom ran from his apartment, knocking down Chiandra who was about to enter.
Ignoring her, he ran at full speed towards Gypsy’s workshop, fear suffusing his soul to mix with the raw fury already overwhelming him. If Gypsy was hurt...if anyone had dared lay a hand on her...he would rip them apart with his bare hands! He would make them beg for death!
It rose deep within him...the essence...the beast. Someone had harmed was belonged to it, to them. Blood and carnage would bathe the world. Jaxom’s dark eyes glowed deep ochre, the pupils morphing to vertical slits. His body appeared to thicken, to grow a few inches taller as he ran into the workshop.
“Oh fuck! Run!” Yakof yelled, dropping the hammer and sprinting towards the back exit he’d cased earlier. Burnan didn’t move quick enough, he was still standing there with the hammer in his hand when The Dragon leapt down the steps into the heart of the workshop.
Jaxom blinked in confusion for the barest second, trying to decipher what he was seeing. Before him was a heap of metal, so tangled and mangled that at first he couldn’t understand what it was. To his left he could hear muffled sobbing but he couldn’t drag his gaze from the metal in front of him.
“Chiandra told us to do it,” Burnan babbled, hysteria in his voice as he saw The Dragon at the killing edge. He was no match for the other male. He never had been.
Jaxom was out of control, all semblance of rationality obscured by the horror he was witnessing. Turning his head, he saw Gypsy bound to the worktable, her horrified gaze riveted to what was left of Tinman, her face dirty and streaked with tears. Her bound wrists were bleeding badly, as if she had struggled to reach her companion. She was incoherent, unable to speak from the gag in her mouth.
They had demolished Tinman in front of her. They had laid their filthy hands on her and destroyed the only family his gypsy girl had. They would die for their actions! They would all die!
‘Tinman...Tinman,’ Gypsy wept inconsolably, grief flooding her tired body as she looked at the remains of her only friend. Why had they done this? What had Tinman ever done to anybody? Had they guessed he was sentient? Was that why they had destroyed him?
The sound of voices seeped through her grief, and her blurry gaze turned to look up to see Jaxom in the workshop. His back was to her and he wasn’t wearing a shirt. His dragon tattoo...the tattoo...it appeared to slither and move, rippling under his skin as he advanced on the sole male still in the room.
“Jaxom...Jaxom...we were just doing what Chiandra ordered. We couldn’t refuse her. You know that. You know!”
The unknown male appeared to know the Dragon...the Dragon that was moving to flow over Jaxom’s shoulder, inching its way onto his chest. That couldn’t be possible! It couldn’t be real! Tattoos didn’t move by themselves. They just didn’t!
But Jaxom’s did! The forked black tail wrapped around his bicep, the only part of the dragon she could see with his back to her. Had she lost her mind? Had Tinman’s demise been that last straw to send her over the edge into insanity?
Gypsy wept, her vision blurring, her mind numbing as her grief became unbearable and she began to lose consciousness. She could let go now. Jaxom was here. Jaxom would save her. She could close her eyes and pretend everything was okay, that Tinman would be there waiting for her when she opened them again. Gypsy sank down into darkness, her mind shutting down to protect itself.
“Get out! Now!” The words were cold as ice, a whiplash against the other man’s skin.
Burnan didn’t need to be told twice, he bolted from the workshop, counting his lucky stars that he was still breathing. He’d never seen anyone come back from the killing edge when they were so far gone before. The fact that Jaxom had managed to hold onto some semblance of reason was a testament to how powerful he was.
If Chiandra knew what was good for her, she’d better start running now. Jaxom had spared the messengers...but the look in his eyes had been clear; someone would pay and that someone would be Chiandra. If she had any sense she would do what he and Yakof were about to do...get the hell out of town before Jaxom Sinclair came looking for them.
“Gypsy...Gypsy, wake up sweetheart. You’re safe. Please open your eyes.”
The plea in the voice was hard to ignore, and her eyes fluttered open to see Jaxom looking down at her. There was something wrong with his face though, something not right. Oh the Gods, his eyes...his eyes were yellow! Terror filled her soul and she tried to get away but he was cradling her in his arms and there was nowhere to go.
Gypsy screamed, closing her eyes to try to escape what she was seeing. Yellow eyes...his tattoo moving...Tinman! Oh Gods, Tinman was gone! She started to cry again, loud, wracking sobs that shook her entire body. Tinman was gone and she was all alone. She didn’t know what she was going to do about it. She didn’t know why this had happened or how she was going to cope with it all. She had never felt so alone in her entire life.
“Please don’t cry, Gypsy. Please! I’m so sorry about Tinman. I know how much he meant to you. I wish I could have done something more. I wish I could have been here sooner.”
“Let me go! Take your hands off me!” The vehemence of her rejection appeared to stun Jaxom as he released his hold and moved away from her. He stayed kneeling on the floor but gave her the space she needed.
Opening her eyes again, Gypsy blinked at him, searching his face intently. His eyes were normal, his chest bare as it should be. But his eyes had been yellow...hadn’t they? The tattoo had moved from his back...hadn’t it?
She was so confused. Her mind was telling her she’d seen these things and yet Jaxom was just...Jaxom. He looked completely normal. Had she imagined it? Had her grief been so overwhelming she’d hallucinated? She had passed out. She had been choking on the gag in her mouth, struggling to get breath. Lack of oxygen could have resulted in her imagining what she’d seen. It was the only rational explanation.
She had been so distraught at Tinman’s loss she’d imagined things in her grief. Just the thought of Tinman was enough to bring fresh tears to her eyes and she crawled across the dirty floor to the mangled metal parts that had once been her constant companion.
“You can build him again,” Jaxom said, his voice soft as she started weeping again.
“He...he...won’t be Tinman,” she stuttered through her sobs. “You know that, Jaxom. He won’t be sentient. He will just be another automaton, a useless hunk of junk. I made him by accident. I don’t even know how I did it.”
Gypsy wept a bit longer, before she straightened her back and scrubbed dirty hands across her already streaked face. “Thank you for coming. I can take care of things from here.”
“Let me help, Gypsy. Your wrists need to be taken care of. Let me help clean you up and then fix this mess.”
“You’ve done enough, Jaxom.” Gypsy rose, turning to find him also on his feet, concern etched into his face. “I was happy before I let you get close to me. Tinman and I were doing just fine on our own. Then you inserted yourself into our lives and look what has happened. Whatever friendship was between us is over. Thank you for coming to my aid. I do appreciate that very much, but I don’t want to see you again, Jaxom. Please leave now.”
“Don’t do this, Gypsy. Don’t shut me out when you need a friend more than ever.”
The plea in his voice tore at her heart but she kept her expression resolute. It wasn’t hard to do, inside she felt numb and empty. “I’ve been alone most of my life,” she answered. “That’s how it will always be. Relying on others brings you nothing but heartache, and my heart can’t take another blow. Goodbye, Jaxom.”
Gypsy walked passed him, heading out of the workshop towards her rented apartment. She couldn’t bear to look at Tinman’s remains. She couldn’t bear to be in the workshop where all her hopes and dreams had died. She just wanted to be alone, to grieve for a stupid hunk of metal who had meant the world to her.
Jaxom watched her go, fury filling his soul. The loss of Tinman had broken his beautiful gypsy girl. It didn’t matter that she had rejected him. He could live with that if he believed it was what she truly wanted. What he couldn’t live with was the wounding to her soul that the loss of Tinman had caused. Chiandra would pay for that. He would make her pay if it was the last thing he ever did.
Striding from the workshop Jaxom sprinted back to his apartment, looking for Chiandra. It was empty as he expected it would be and he took enough time to pull on a shirt and padded jacket, hurrying back outside. He spotted Yakof and Burnan in the distance, sprinting after them as they ran towards the underground garage.
“Where is she?!” he bellowed, catching the two men easily.
“She took off five minutes ago. She was heading north.”
Jaxom’s enraged gaze pinned Yakof to the spot. “If you are lying to me I will find you and I will gut you like a pig.”
The venom on the other male’s face told him that he was speaking the truth, though he let him answer. “It’s no lie, Jaxom. She used us, forced us to come here and track you down. We didn’t want to help her but we couldn’t refuse her.”
“I want you both gone by the time I get back,” he answered, his voice flat and emotionless. “If you’re still here...I will kill you.”
Jaxom jumped into a nearby hire vehicle, pressing his thumb to the handle to start it up. He took off without a backward glance, hunting down the woman who had hurt his Gypsy.
Chiandra had always been a crap driver, it was one of the reasons she kept a male around at all times. She had become so accustomed to dominating everyone around her she had failed to see how weak that made her. It didn’t take Jaxom long to catch up with her, she had almost rounded the lake he’d gone sledding with Gypsy on a few days before.
He didn’t even pause to consider his actions, he rammed her open topped vehicle, sending her spinning into the snow. Leaping from his own vehicle, he strode over to her as she was struggling to get to her feet.
“Jaxom...it was only a stupid automaton...it was nothing...I don’t know what you’re so upset about.” Chiandra backed away as she spoke, fear dancing in her eyes as he continued to stalk her.
“He was something to Gypsy!” he bellowed, his fury unleashed at her dismissal of Tinman. “He mattered to her and he mattered to me too.”
“It was a heap of junk! It wasn’t a person.”
“He was sentient, Chiandra. He had a personality and he had a purpose. That purpose was to be Gypsy’s companion, to be the only family she has ever truly known and you took that from her!”
“So what? The stupid girl is nothing to me!” she yelled back, her own anger rising to overcome her fear. “Is it my fault she’s so weird no one wants to be seen with her? She’s a freak! She is nothing to us, nothing to our people!”
Jaxom stopped walking, his expression turning frigid. “I want to be seen with her,” he answered with deceptive calm. “She means something to me. I thought if I stayed away from her it would keep her out of your firing line but I erred in that assumption. I should have killed you the moment you came back into my life but I didn’t want any more blood on my hands. For that hesitation, Tinman is gone and Gypsy may never recover from that. I won’t ever make that mistake again.”
“Are you listening to yourself? Just who do you think you are, Jaxom Sinclair? Do you think you can abandon your people? Do you think you can just walk away and we’ll let you? I was sent here to bring you home. The Chief ordered it and I was to do what was necessary to make it happen. Separating you from that girl was the only way to do that.”
“I will never go back, Chiandra. Yakof and Burnan will be letting my father know that very soon when they return to the Badlands.”
Chiandra’s fear returned as what he was saying began to sink in. “They destroyed the robot,” she ground out, desperation in her voice.
“They had no choice. They followed your orders.”
“And I was following your father’s!” she screamed, terror crossing her face as she backed away further.
“Like I said, I don’t intend to go back but then, I don’t need to do I, Chiandra? I can send a message, one so loud and clear that even my father will heed it.” Jaxom reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a thin metal rod.
“Jaxom, please! You said you don’t want any more blood on your hands. Put that laser scalpel down. You don’t want to cut me.”
For a brief second, her begging for her life made him pause but then he remembered the sound of Gypsy sobs, the grief and misery on her face. “Oh, I have no intention of cutting you, Chiandra.”
He activated the scalpel, aiming it at the frozen lake now beneath Chiandra’s feet. His eyes turned yellow, long vertical slits boring into her terrified gaze. “You never did like the cold, did you? Jaxom’s smile was pure ice as the ground gave way beneath her and with a shrill scream, Chiandra fell into the sub-zero water.
She did as he expected, she tried to make her way back up to the surface and the neat circular hole he’d cut in the ice. Her movements only forced her further away from the opening, until she was fully under the ice, banging at the hard surface above her.
He followed her, walking along the ice, watching her fight to get passed the impenetrable barrier, smiling as the frigidity of the water numbed her movements and the ice water filled her lungs. Jaxom hunkered down on his haunches, brushing the cold barrier where her face was. “No, I didn’t need to cut you, Chiandra, but I did need you to stop breathing.”
When he was sure she had breathed her last, he turned and climbed back onto his waiting vehicle. Inside he felt numb, the familiar coldness that always pervaded his soul when he took a life. It was an awful feeling. It was the reason he had left the Badlands. Tinman was avenged; Gypsy’s suffering had been punished, but deep inside he knew that in doing so, he had lost another part of his soul.
Gypsy’s head hurt. It didn’t just hurt, it felt as if a thousand hot needles were being forced into her skull. The pain was so intense she could barely see. In her peripheral vision, tiny amber flecks danced, like fireflies in a night sky.
She had cried for what felt like forever. Every time she tried to imagine what it would be like to be alone, another bout of tears had come until she had finally fallen into a fitful sleep. Now she was awake, and she wished she wasn’t. She wanted to forget what had happened but the headache wouldn’t let her.
Dragging herself from the sofa, Gypsy forced her legs to take her back to the workshop. Dread filled her soul but her need to be there was something tangible. The pain in her head subsided the closer she came until she was almost running into the room, running towards the pieces that had made up her companion.
“Oh, Tinman, I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you,” she whispered forlornly as she knelt down and reached a hesitant hand out to what was left of his head. A solo orb was left intact, the light dulled from it forever. “I wish...I wish I could have done something...anything.”
Feeling tears close to the surface again, she swallowed them back, her hands moving as if of their own accord. Gypsy’s head pounded as she gathered the pieces to her but she couldn’t stop her movements, it was as if she was compelled to touch every inch that had been Tinman.
An hour passed, then another. She was lost in a fugue state, her hands working the metal, pounding and screwing, wiring and joining. She couldn’t stop, she had to keep going, the need to work was paramount above all else.
Her eyes felt gritty and sore when she blinked a long time later, her hands had scores and nicks covering them as she stared down at the floor. Gypsy’s entire body ached, her legs felt numb from where she had been kneeling for so long. An astonished glance at the timepiece on the wall told her nearly eighteen hours had passed since she had come back into the workshop.
Gypsy swallowed hard, fought down the bubble of sound that threatened to erupt from her mouth. Lying on the floor was Tinman, his body in one piece though badly dented in some places.
“Tinman,” she whispered, afraid to hope. There was no response, no light in his eyes, just an empty shell looking back at her.
Something caught her eye, something so innocuous she had forgotten about it. It was the round temperature gauge she had laughingly called his heart when she’d first assembled him, long before he had ever become sentient. It has no purpose; it was merely a decoration she had pinned on his chest because she had liked it. He didn’t seem like Tinman without it so she brushed off the glass face and fitted it to his chest.
“There you go, Tinman. Now you’re complete.”
As the words whispered out, agony blazed through Gypsy’s head and she screamed and curled up on her side, holding her head in her hands. The pain was excruciating, causing her to roll about on the floor in agony. The thousand needles were back but now they were a hundred thousand, a million. Gypsy’s eyes rolled back in her head as her body arched in a rictus of pain, and oblivion overwhelmed her.
She didn’t know how long she had been unconscious for, she wasn’t even sure she was coming back to the waking world. She had to be asleep or dreaming because Tinman was calling her name repeatedly, only his voice was different somehow.
“Gypsy, wake up. You need to wake up now. If you don’t I’ll have to go and get some help. You’re hypothermic, Gypsy. Please wake up.”
She laughed, a loud bellowing laugh that contained no mirth. She was dreaming, she knew she was because Tinman was using contractions and calling her by her name. He never did that. She wanted to go back to sleep but his voice was insistent in her ear. It was irritating the hell out of her and she would have kicked him if he wasn’t already dead.
“Gypsy, I’m going to get Jaxom if you don’t wake up right now.”
Gypsy sat bolt upright, the sudden movement causing a dizzy rush to her head and making her sway. Metal arms surrounded her and she stiffened as shock rocked through her. It wasn’t possible! It couldn’t be and yet...turning her head she looked into Tinman’s face...no, not Tinman...he had never been Tinman! She looked into Hadrian’s face and she remembered everything.
“Hades! Oh, Hades!” Throwing her arms around the android, she held on for dear life as her memory returned and everything she had known for the last seven years turned upside down and inside out.
“I almost lost you!” Gypsy wasn’t even aware she was shivering from the cold she was so lost in the moment. It was only as he helped her up and her legs buckled that she realised how dangerously close she’d come to never waking up.
“I was thinking the same thing,” he remarked, a droll inflection in his speech pattern. “Here wrap yourself in these blankets while I make you something warm to drink. Then it’s back to your apartment and some proper heat.”
She allowed him to settle her onto the old sofa she slept on when she worked too late in the workshop. He piled the thick blankets laying on it around her to keep her warm. Gypsy huddled shivering in the blankets, her thoughts chaotic, confusion filling her as she tried to reconcile what she was remembering with the life she had been leading.
Seven years had passed already? It seemed like only yesterday they had sat together, discussing what name they would give Hadrian this cycle. It was he who had come up with the name Tinman. Each cycle was always different. She would be on a different continent, doing something entirely dissimilar to the last life she had led.
The only constant each cycle had was having Hadrian at her side, sometimes in the guise of Tinman, other times Rusty or Steele, Bolt and once Emfur. She remembered laughing when they had picked that moniker; Emfur Metal or M for Metal. They always picked a new name for him...just before they began their new cycle. It was their tradition.
“What went wrong, Hades? How did we end up in this mess?”
The android handed her a hot drink tilting his head to the side as she drank. “You formed an attachment this time, with Jaxom Sinclair. I think there may have been a breakdown in some of the nanobots within me too, as I came into sentience later than usual. By the time I did, you already had the attachment to the Dragon. Things appear to have spiralled negatively from that point.”
Gypsy shivered, replaying the negativity Hadrian mentioned. Her nanobots weren’t supposed to break down so abruptly. Usually, she transitioned slowly with Hadrian to guide her through the recall period. The failsafe trigger must have kicked in on Tinman’s destruction. It had caused the overload to her mind and almost taken her life. She shivered at the thought, and trembled at the memory of being with Jaxom.
Putting down her drink, she buried her head in her hands. “How could I be so stupid?”
“You’ve been absent human company for so long, Gypsy. Possibly some of your nanobots malfunctioned or maybe you just craved a connection with your own kind?”
She sighed and rubbed a tired hand over her face. If Hadrian’s bots had malfunctioned then there was a chance hers had too. It was something she would need to triple check before the next cycle. She couldn’t bear the thought they could go through something similar, that she could connect with someone only to learn that she would have to leave them.
She ruthlessly pushed Jaxom’s face from her mind, replaying the scene of him kissing the other woman to dull the ache that threatened to overwhelm her. There was no future with Jaxom, even if there was no other woman in the picture. She had learned after the first few cycles that having her heart broken repeatedly was not something she could live with. That was why she had built the nanobots to steer her away from any entanglements.
Feeling a bit stronger, and needing to try to take some control of the situation, Gypsy got to her feet. “Can you run a diagnostic on the software for the bots? I need a hot bath and some sleep. Try to keep out of Jaxom’s sight. It would be better if he didn’t see you’ve been repaired. He would ask too many questions I just can’t answer.”
“And what do you intend to do about The Dragon?”
“What I’ve always done, Hades,” she sighed, heading up the steps towards the workshop exit. “A new continent and a new life. Jaxom changes nothing...I can’t allow him to. We have a week to get everything in place and then Gypsy Delansky will vanish from this continent. By the time she comes back, everyone who has ever heard of her will be long dead. It’s how it has to be.”
Gypsy closed the door quietly behind her, setting in place the complicated security system she had employed to keep Jaxom out. He couldn’t know that Tinman was alive, and he couldn’t know that the Gypsy Delansky who would be at the final race was not the Gypsy he had come to know. For that, she would have to stay out of his way as much as possible.
To be continued...