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There's No Place Like Home
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There's No Place Like Home
 
By "Sapphire Rose"
 
(Editor's Note: This is a "lost" fic from ff.n, which I begged the author to allow us to archive here on this site. "Sapphire Rose" is a clever writer with an angsty but witty style. Enjoy!)

Title: There's No Place Like Home
 
Author: Sapphire Rose
 
Rating: R
 
Disclaimer: Riley is purely my own creation, and I'm so proud of her! The rest (including Joe *sniff sniff*) belongs to their creators. Duh.

Distribution: CHV, anyone else ask first please.
 
Summary: The sequel to "Flash Before Your Eyes". Riley is now 17 years old. I lost chapter 1 and chapter 4 of the original FanFiction.net version so I'm rewriting them. All revised and whatnot.
 
A/N: I had to change the events of the movie in order to make this fic work.
 
A/N#2: I'm actually a bit thankful for being given to really revise this story. I want it to be the best it can be. So not only am I rewriting the prologue and chap. 4, I'm touching up the other chapters a little bit. No big changes, just trying to make it better. Also, I've added song lyrics I think fit the chapter at the beginning of each chapter. Just for fun. The ones below are from SR-71's "Truth".

Chapter 1: Stream of Consciousness

***********
Blood and dust have changed all the colors in my mind
Black has made me see the truth but the truth has made me blind
To the fears, to the lies
They were here
All the time
***********

 One year, three months, and 15 days.
 
 That's how long it's been since I last saw him. One year, three months, and 15 days. I've been keeping track. I bought a calendar down at the local drugstore. It has a picture of a small house in a suburb somewhere. It looks a little bit like my old house. The house that I lived for 15 years of my life until I decided to go to the Flesh Faire with my boyfriend Slice and ruin my already somewhat miserable life.
 
 So here I am. Harry Collins, the owner of the hotel I live in, changed the name from "Sam's" to "Ralia". He thought Ralia was more dramatic. Turns out I stayed a lot longer than one or two months. One year, three months, and 15 days, actually.
 
 I changed my name. I wanted to leave my old life behind. From the day I walked into Sam's/Ralia, I was a different person. I discarded the pain of the last 16 years and started anew. My new name is Christina Bartlett. Christina is my mom's name. Bartlett was the last name of my neighbor Josh, who listened to Anti-flag, wore T-shirts with anarchy A's, and ran around screaming about how the establishment was telling us lies. I liked the music he listened to. Sometimes I would go over there and hang out with him. My parents would freak out.
 
 But that's all in the past. I'm not Riley Bracket anymore.
 
 Harry is now my boyfriend. Why? I'm not really sure. I was lonely, he was there, I suppose that's how it goes, isn't it? Harry's a good guy. Decent, hard-working, humanalthough he does positively reek. A specialty of our hotel's 10x11 ft. restaurant is some kind of onion thing. Harry makes it every day. Thus, he smells like onions. Not pretty.
 
 I co-manage the hotel with him. I do most of the administrative stuff; he does most of the manual labor and whatnot. Living in the slums as we do, the hotel is ALWAYS empty. The most we ever had in here was 7 people. Someone'll come in once a day looking for a room, but it's about Easter time, so no one has been here for a while.
 
 Meanwhile, I grapple with my discarded emotions pretty much every single day. I try to tell myself I'm not that person anymore, that I shouldn't even be thinking abouthim. He invades my thoughts. He plagues my dreams. He's here when he shouldn't be. He's gone when he should. Behold, Riley's contradictory life.
 
 So, once again, here I am. Surrounded by people, completely alone.
 
********
 
 "Christina! Christina! Here, come see this, it's hilarious!"
 
 I stumbled groggily down the stairs. Why, oh why does Harry always want me to see things so early in the morning? I glanced over at a clock on the wall. 11:30 AM. Ugh, much too early for me.
 "Wha-? Whazzat?" I said, apparently unable to form a coharent word.
 
 "Look at this, in the paper." Harry held up a damp newspaper. "A mecha got arrested! Here, look: 'On April 10, 2031, a JL-1229 Palasade lover mecha was arrested in the South Side, outside a Dr. Know information kiosk. This is in fact the same mecha who alledgedly killed a Miss Samantha Bevins. New alligations have come up as well, as the police arrested him while he was in the company of a young child. Police believe the mecha kidnapped the child for reasons unknown.'" This for some reason made Harry snicker."'The child, who goes by the name of David, was taken into custody as well for the purpose of finding his parents. The lover mecha was taken to Northern Police Station on the North Side. His bail is set at 100 newbucks."
 
 I snatched the paper away as Harry started to laugh. My eyes scanned over the page for a picture. When I finally, I froze where in horror.
 
 It was Joe. Of course it was.
 
 "Oh my God, isn't that hilarious? I mean, they're supposed to program those things so they don't do bad stuff like that, but-"
 
 "Harry, shut up."
 
 I tried searching the article for any more information, but it was not to be.
 
 "I, um, need to make a call," I said.
 
 "Why? You know something about this?"
 
 "Um, a little. Just-I need to just call someone."
 
 Harry looked at me suspiciously, but he complied. He handed me the cordless phone and I walked to the dining room to call the police station.
 
 "Hello, Northern Police Station, how may I help you?" asked a pleasant female voice on the other line.
 
 "Yeah, um, my name's Riley Bracket. I'm calling about the arrest of a love mecha? A-" I glanced at the paper. "-JL-1229?"
 
 "Riley Bracket? Oh, we were just about to call you! The mecha you're talking about has been requesting that we do."
 
 I froze again.
 
 "He does?" I said when I regained use of my motor skills.
 
 "Oh yes. He's asking to post bail for him."
 
 Post bail? *Post bail*?! What was he, insane? How did he even know I still existed?! Why does he expect me to solve all his problems?! He's not my friend!
 
 I tried to control my anger and shock as I spoke to the pleasant-sounding woman.
 
 "Two police officers are on their way to your residence. They'll tell you everything you need to know," she said.
 
 "Okay."
 
 I hung up. This was going to take a lot of contemplation.
 
 
(There you go. A nice revised chapter for you. By the way, don't ask me how the receptionist knows Riley's address. Figure it out for yourself. )

Title: There's No Place Like Home
 
Author: Sapphire Rose
 
Rating: R
 
Disclaimer: A.I. belongs to Dreamworks and Warner Bros. and whatnot.
 
Distribution: Want it, it's yours.
 
Spoilers: Not for the movie, but for "Flash Before Your Eyes". Duh, it's a sequel.
Summary: Riley is torn. Again, much revised. Lyrics are from "Crashing Down" by Sugarcult.

Chapter 2: Riley's Realization

***************
I've got something up my sleeve that I don't want to show you
'Cause every time I bleed you make a fool of me
I've got shaky little fingers, that hold on to your grip
You've got wrapped around my world
So tight I can't breathe
I'm suffocating
**************

 I lay belly-up in my bed, staring intently at the ceiling. So Joe was a kidnapper now? Maybe I could've stopped him. Was it me who influenced him? I was lost in my thoughts. Somehow I wanted to be a reason for this. I didn't know why. Was it because I wanted to be a part of his world?
 
 Hell no!
 
 I'm just being paranoid.
 
 But why do I keep thinking about him?
 
 Do I miss him?
 
 God, no! I don't! What the fuck am I thinking? Riley, Riley, Riley, you really need to be slapped.
 I don't miss him.
 
 Do I?
 
 Oh God, please, no, don't make me miss him.
 
 "Christina?"
 
 I sat up with a jolt. Harry, in all his onion glory, was leaning over me.
 
 "Yeah?"
 
 "There's some police officers here. They're looking for a Riley Bracket. Do you know who that is?" he said warily.
 
 "Uhyeahsorta", I mumbled as I jumped out of bed and sauntered downstairs to find the police standing in front of Harry's desk.
 
 "Riley Bracket?" one asked.
 
 I looked to Harry, whose nose was bleeding. I gestured for him to go clean up. He looked at me, his eyes larger than ping-pong balls, and then walked off to wipe himself up.
 
 "I'm Riley," I said when he'd gone.
 
 "Riley, I'm Officer Denton, this is Officer Gordon," the tall officer said, pointing to the shorter one, who waved.
 
 "Hi," Gordon said.
 
 I glared at Officer Gordon.
 
 "We have a few questions for you."
 
 "What did you want to talk to me about?"
 
 "We recently received a call about a JL-1229 love mecha that was arrested up north. Hopefully our receptionist Lauren informed you that this mecha wants you to post bail."
 
 I ran my fingers through my hair as I often do when I'm nervous.
 
 "Yeah."
 
 "Do you think you would be able to do that?"
 
 Inside, I was nervous and terrified. Suddenly the life of this mecha I had once known was in my hands. But I sighed in exasperation, trying to keep a tough demenor.
 
 "I don't know."
 
 "He wants to see you."
 
 This took me by surprise.
 
 "S-see me?"
 
 "Apparently he wants to talk to you."
 
 My breathing started coming out in short, raspy breaths. Jeez, I have a lot of physical symptoms when I'm nervous.
 
 "Would you like to come down to the station?"
 
 "We'd drive you," Officer Gordon chimed in.
 
 I sighed again. I didn't know what to do. I had just been contemplating a second ago. Why does all this shit have to find me? Maybe Joe just wanted to see me again. Does he care about me that much? Buthe can't
 
 I might as well go down. Maybe I can taunt him. Or maybe he's changed and doesn't talk. If only he kept his mouth shut! Then who knows what would happen
 
 "Fine, I'll go down, but I'm not posting bail."
 
 Officer Denton nodded and he and Officer Gordon walked back outside. I started to follow them, but Harry grabbed my arm and swung me around.
 
 "Christy? What's going on?" he asked.
 
 I looked deep into his ice-blue eyes. They were filled with uncertainty. And it scared me. Harry had always been completely sure of everything. I didn't want to hurt him.
 
 "HarryI'll bring you up to speed later, okay? II just can't do this now." I softly pried his hand off my arm.
 
 I stepped out onto the dirty street, trying not to inhale the smoky air. Prostitutes roamed the street, hunting for customers. I crawled into the police car and we headed downtown.
 
****

 Inside the station, there was a wide array of people. There was a man wearing a dress and makeup, an extremely skinny punk rocker type guy with a lime green mohawk, and lots of tattoos and piercings, and a woman wearing very slutty clothes, among others. At first glance you would assume she was a prostitute (which she probably was), but there was no chance she would be arrested for it. After years of trying in vain to arrest all the hookers in Rouge, the police finally realized there was too many in this city, and they gave up.
 
 I followed Officer Denton down the hall. One the left side, there were cells. They were dark, cramped, and all in all not too pleasant. After the 5th cell, I saw him.
 
 My heart jumped out of my chest when I saw him again. He hadn't changed a bit. His eyes were still that lovely jade, his skin still pale and shiny, his hair still slick and black. He was even dressed in the same clothes as when I last saw him. It was so weird seeing him again. It wasindescribable.
 
 "Joe", I said, trying to get more than one word out.
 
 "Hello, Riley. I assumed you remember me," he said, his voice bringing back every memory of him.
 
 I looked at the floor.
 
 "How could I forget?"
 
 "Will you post bail for me?" he questioned.
 
 "Why do you need it?" I asked. "I mean, you're a mecha. Does it matter?"
 
 "Not particularly," he replied. "But I dislike it here. It's cramped and actually quite uncomfortable. I'd much rather be out doing my job."
 
 I nodded, swallowing hard.
 
 "Will you post bail for me?" he repeated, a little less cold this time.
 
 I swallowed again, staring intently at the floor. I didn't know what to do. I mean, I really, really didn't like himbut seeing him again was so strangeand strangely pleasant. I didn't know what to do.
 
 "I-let me think about it," I said, turning towards the way out to the lobby thing. "II'll come back tomorrow."
 
 I walked briskly back out into the lobby and out the door.
 
 As I hailed a cab, I grew uneasy with this whole situation. I was at a loss.
 
 The taxi rolled up to the curb and I climbed in.
 
     ****
 
 Later, I paced my room talking to myself and trying to figure out what to do. It wasn't Joe's captivity as much as my feelings towards said mecha. I was torn between the fact that he was an annoying, talkative question machine, and the fact that he was most likely the most beautiful creature who ever walked this planet. And as hard as it might seem to believe, I was torn between these feelings.
 
 You probably think I'm so shallow. But I'm not, really. Oh fuck, what am I saying? Of course I am. But it's so hard. I don't know what to do.
 
 Maybe I can sleep on it. Nah, I'll probably be awake all night thinking about it anyway. So I have to decide now.
 
 Joe's bail is 100 newbucks. I have more than that now that I've worked here for so long. But money isn't that problem here.
 
 He doesn't seem as bad as he used to. He doesn't seem as vexatious, or sarcastic.
 
 I might as well.
 
 
(And that was the end of Chapter 2!)

Title: There's No Place Like Home
 
Author: Sapphire Rose
 
Rating: R
 
Disclaimer: Not mine. Just like Jude Law. :(
 
Distribution: Laurie E. Smith, anyone else, just ask.
 
Summary: Chapter 3. Riley goes down to pay Joe's bail. This is dedicated to my cousin Rachel for being such a great cousin. Aww. ;) It's brought to you by trash cans, in which I threw up in after going on the Demon roller coaster at Six Flags Great America. Lyrics are from Flogging Molly "Devil's Dance Floor" which currently happens to be my favorite song.

Chapter 3: Fast Changes
 
***************
Her breath began to speak as she stood right in front of me
The colour of her eyes were the colour of insanity
Crushed beneath her waves
Like a ship, I could not reach the store
We're all just dancers on the devil's dance floor
**************

 Her name was Nikki, I think. She came up to me and said, "Hey, babe, you ever go down south?"
 
 I glared at her when she said it. I was in a pissy mood. She says that to me everyday. I think she's attracted to me. She must be a lesbian.
 
 I glared.
 
 It wasn't like I was homophobic. I'm just under a lot of stress, is all. What with thiscreature just bursting back into my life. I feel like I'm in a movie. This is unreal. I mean, truly, this is seems so easy. It's an easy question of yes or no. Do I want to be around Joe again?
 
 The answer isI don't know.
 
 That's the thing. It's much harder than it seems.
 
 "Hey, babe, you ever go down south?" Nikki asked me.
 
 I glared.
 
 I walked past her and down the dirty street. I stick out like a sore thumb. A sweet, innocent looking teenager amongst the hookers and the pimps and the hustlers and the drug dealers. The smoke rises up from the street. It's not as neon here. Mostly all that's here is brothels, cheap strip clubs, and nightclubs.
 
 These are the slums of Rouge City.
 
 Yep, there are actually slums in Rouge.
 
 It's easy to tell where they are. Instead of hoity-toity clubs, we have dingy strip clubs. Instead of sensual "escort services", we have seedy brothels. Instead of bright red and pink neon lights overhead, we have dim, sputtering neon signs. Instead of a serene aura, we have smoke. Instead of brightly lit streets teaming with tourists and all kinds of people, we have dark, dank alleyways where the drug dealers hang out.
 
 And of course, this is where I live. Little, innocent me, managing Ralia Hotel with Harry King of Onions. No other kids my age live in this part of Rouge. It's too dangerous. I mean, the good part of Rouge isn't exactly a walk in the park to begin with, but this is a lot more seedy. And dangerous.
 
 It's the ultimate bad place for young kids. The talk about Rouge City is like, you know, "The Talk".
 
 I remember when I turned 10 my mom had "The Talk" with me about, you know, how babies are made. When I turned 12, my mom gave me "The Other Talk", about Rouge City. They told me that it's not a place for teens, girls especially. She told me about the hookers, about the love mechas that roam the streets, about the drug dealers. She told me about the slums.
 
 I never expected I would be living there.
 
              *****
 
 "Riley?"
 
 I turned my eyes towards him. I could hardly bare to look at him, he was that beautiful. He seemed happy to see me, probably because he was expecting me to post bail. Of course, I was going to post bail.
 
 I felt strange. Helpless, somehow. I hated the feeling. I shook my head to erase it.
 
 Joe was sitting on a small cot. His posture was perfect. He was staring straight ahead, focusing on the wall. I gripped the bars of his cell and peered in.
 
 "Joe?" I said hoarsly.
 
 Joe turned his head towards me and looked me straight in the eye. His gaze was piercing. Truly eyes through the soul. I'll have to write a note to whatever scientist built his eyes and praise him for his fine worksmanship.
 
 "Hello Riley!" he said cheerily. "Come to bail me out?"
 
 There was no turning back now.
 
 "Yes."
 
 "Ah. Good. You must talk to that man over there," Joe said, pointing to Officer Denton.
 I nodded. "Okay."
 
 I twiddled my thumbs, not knowing what else to do with them as I stumbled over to the tall police officer.
 
 "I'm here to post bail," I said.
 
 "For?"
 
 "Gigolo Joe. The love mecha."
 
 "100 newbucks."
 
 I fished the bills out of my pocket.
 
 "Here."
 
 "His trial is in 4 months," Officer Denton said in a matter-of-factly way. I nodded again. Officer Denton stepped up to the cell and turned the key in the lock.
 
 Joe stepped out. The lamp hanging from above reflected off his waxy face. I was almost as tall as him now.
 
 "Hey," I said softly, not knowing what else to say.
 
 "Hello, Riley."
 
 We said nothing to each other when we walked out to the street. This part of Rouge City wasn't as bad as where I lived. It well lighted and mostly housing developments.
 
 "Why did you come back?" he quipped.
 
 Here we go again.

 

Title: There's No Place Like Home
 
Author: Sapphire Rose
 
Rating: PG-13
 
Disclaimer: Hey, I dont own A.I., Im just borrowing it for a while. Shh, dont tell Steven Speilberg.
 
Distribution: To Laurie E. Smith, or to anyone else who wants it.
 
Summary: Chapter 4. The beginning of this is rewritten, but not the end. Lyrics are to "Otherside" by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Chapter 4: Clarity
 
***************
Turn me on take me for a hard ride
Burn me out leave me on the otherside
I yell and tell it that it's not my friend
I tear it down I tear it down
And then it's born again
***************
 
 I gazed up towards the flickering street lamps, with dust caught in their rays. I was trying to do anything to avoid Joe's gaze.
 
 "Why did you come back?" he asked again.
 
 
 "Idon't know," I mumbled, not knowing what else to say.
 
 "Do you care about me, Riley?" he asked.
 
 I suddenly began to regret posting his bail. I felt like I wanted to cry. What was it about him that made me feel like this? I inhaled thickly, trying to choke back my irrational tears.
 
 "I'm not sure," I choked.
 
 "Well, there has to be a reason you let me out. The fact that you care about me would probably be the most logical explanation, don't you think?"
 
 "Joe, I really dont want to discuss this."
 
 "I expect it to be worthy of discussion, as I care about you."
 
 I stumbled a bit at his words. It was expected, since the minute I heard it, my mind seemed to be incapable of forming a coharent thought.
 
 "W-what?"
 
 "I care about you. I do."
 
 I stopped in my tracks.
 
 "B-but you're a mecha."
 
 "Yes, but mechas still feel emotions. Select ones, anyway. My programming has allowed me to feel emotion. I suppose it's an asset in my 'career', don't you think?"
 
 My eyes grew wide. My mouth hung open. This was so completely new to me. Deep down inside, though, I felt like I had always knew it. His remark had taken me so by surprise, and yet, I wasn't shocked. I think I had just wanted to push that possibility to the back of my mind so I wouldn't have to think about it.
 
 "Butbut you're a mecha."
 
 "I'm glad you noticed," he chortled.
 
 And then something weird happened. Joe looked into my eyes, and he stopped prodding me. Somehow, I think, he understood how irrationally upset I was.
 
 We walked in silence for a while, but I guess the feeling that had overcome Joe had passed.
 
 "How has your life been going since we parted ways?"
 
 I shrugged. I might as well talk to him. To tell you the truth, I was kind of relieved to talk to somebody. Harry was a typical teenager. He thought about sex every 7 seconds, and laughed at immature humor, and thought the word "poop" was hilarious. Joe was sophisticated and mature. He could carry on a conversation. Boy, did he.
 
 "Um, I help run a hotel with myfriend Harry." For some reason, I didn't want to tell Joe that Harry was my boyfriend.
 
 Joe nodded. "You must be happy."
 
 "I guess," I said quietly.
 
 We walked in silence a little more. But it didn't last long.
 
 "Why did you rescue me?"
 
 I took a deep breath. I didn't know what to say. Maybe I did care about him. I desperately didn't want to, but I think I did. So of course, the only way to make this a complete secret was to yell at him. Which made sense, because I was kind of mad at him for making me care about him. And I was overcome with
 
 I know, I suck.
 
 "I don't know what I rescued you, Joe! Maybe because I'm a philanthropist! Maybe because I just plain felt like it! But I sure as hell don't care about you!" I exclaimed storing off. When I was about 3 yards ahead of him, I smiled to myself. There. I did it. I had successfully gotten him out of my life.
 
 But of course, I jinxed it. I heard the plodding of shoes on the concrete behind me. I stole a glance behind me, and sure enough, it was my pet mecha. I zipped around.
     "You're still here?" I asked coldly.
 
 "Do have any suggestions to a place I should go?"
 
 Hmm. Where would he go? I hadn't put any thought into where he would go following my heroic rescue. I think I just bailed him out so I wouldn't feel so guilty. Now that he was out, I wanted him to go away again. He hadn't changed a bit.
 
 "You couldgo work in nightclubs. Mecha aren't supposed to live in houses, are they?" I suggested.
 
 "Not usually. But I would like to have someplace to live, Riley."
 
 I digested what he said. As I realized what he was suggestion, a giant neon sign flashed in my brain that said "NO! NO! NO!".
 
 "No! No! No! You are not living with me!"
 
 "I have to live somewhere."
 
 "No you don't! Besides, we have plenty of real hookers around my hotel. We don't need mechanical ones."
 
 "Please?"
 
 "No! I'm not gonna put up with you again!"
 
 "I'm beginning to think you're having second thoughts about releasing me."
 
 "You think?" I said, shaking my head.
 
 We walked in silence (gasp!) for about 15 minutes until we ventured into the slums of Rouge City.
 
 I pointed out the garbage cluttering the street, the hookers the crowded it, the seedy brothels, the trashy topless bars, the nasty Triple-X theaters, and the homeless bums. Joe actually seemed a bit taken aback. Instead of the pink and purple neon he was used to, dim yellow and red shone down on the smoky street.
 
 "You wanna live in a neighborhood like this?" I asked. "I'm pretty damn sure you wouldn't be happy."
 
 Joe's jade eyes surveyed the scene in front of him.
 
 "It's not the type of neighborhood I'd normally reside in, but I could get used to it in a while."
 
 "Whatever," I scoffed, trudging towards the direction of the hotel. "Go to your home, Joe. I'll go to mine."
 
 And with that, I went inside, leaving him in the smoke.
 
********
 
 As I was eating my burrito dinner that night, Joe kept pushing himself back into my mind. Maybe I shouldnt have just left him there.
 
 I slapped my head. This is the problem! Whenever I'm alone, I always ponder whether or not I did the right thing in terms of Joe. I always wonder if I should've been nicer, if I should've been more hospitable. Everything about him is just so fucking irresistible, from his beautiful jade eyes to his slick moves, irresistible.
 
 And then when I'm with him, I remember why I hate him so. His personality is vexatious and irritating. His remarks are mean and stupid. His attitude is overwhelming and unnecessary. And now I feel like a teacher explaining a child's behavior to his parent.
 
     I'm torn.
 
********
 
     I took a little nap to see if that gave me anymore insight on my current enigma. When I woke up, I aimlessly sauntered over to the window and to my surprise, there was Joe. Still standing there, still waiting for me to come out and let him in. He has a lot of determination; I'll give him that. But why does he want to be with *me*? Isn't there some other person he likes?
 
 I don't know what I've done to deserve this. Maybe I'm just cursed.
 
 Maybe I could let him stay with me for just one dayno, Riley, no no no! You are not letting him live with you! You could hardly stand staying in a hotel with him for just one night. There's no reason why he should stay with you.
 
    . . . . . . . . . .
 
     But I can't just leave him there.
 
     "I'm an idiot," I grumbled as I trudged down the stairs.

Title: There's No Place Like Home
 
Author: Sapphire Rose
 
Rating: R
 
Disclaimer: How many disclaimers does a story need? You know I don't own it already. I mean, honestly.
 
Summary: Chapter 5. Joe and Riley build some much needed trust. Lyrics are from Green Day's "She".

Chapter 5: Just Scared
 
************************
She screams in silence
A sullen riot penetrating through her mind
Waiting for a sign to smash the silence with the brick of self-control
Are you locked up in a world that's been planned out for you?
Are you feeling like a social tool without a use?
Scream at me until my ears bleed
I'm taking heed for you
*************************
 
           I can't believe what I'm doing. This is so wrong, so wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Stop yourself Riley. This is madness.
 
         Despite what my head is telling me, I found myself gliding down the stairs to the lobby of my hotel. What is wrong with me? I'm so stupid. Tasteful, maybe, but stupid.
 
            I could see Joe through the screen door. His face made my heart beat faster, and my mind go on overdrive.
 
         I was just about to open the door to Joe but I felt a hand clasp onto my arm. This is a sign, isn't it?
 
        "Christina"
 
        I turned around to see Harry. He was looking at my quizzically, his eyes full of confusion. I guess I owe him an explanation.
 
       "HarryI owe you an explanation."
 
        "Uh, yeah, you do."
 
        "Okay," I said, taking a deep breath. "My real name is Riley Bracket. I'm from Haddonfield, not Baltimore. I came here to run away from home. I drove over New Jersey with Gigolo Joe out there-" I pointed outside. "to get here. I've given up on trying to get home. Also, I'm not 20. I'm 17. How's that?"
 
        Harry was silent. His expression was one of surprise and disbelief.
 
        "Good," I said, twisting out of his arm. "Oh, also? We're breaking up. And you smell."
 
       Hey, if I was gonna be honest, might as well go all the way.
 
        I walked outside onto the slimy street, my eyes shifting from the bright lights to Joe. They reflected of his waxy face, his eyes barring into me.
 
       "You're back," he said. I couldn't say whether he sounded surprised, disappointed, or happy.
 
       "Yeah, I'm back," I said, looking at the ground. I seemed to be enthralled in a cigarette butt laying in a puddle.
 
       "You seem awfully interested in that cigarette," Joe observed.
 
       "Yeah"
 
      "I may be wrong, but I believe you staring at that cigarette to avoid looking at me."
 
       Lucky guess.
 
       "What's it to you?" I snapped. Inside my head, I smacked myself. Contain yourself, girl!
 
      "There's no need to get snippy," Joe said, mocking me.
 
       "Sorry, sorry," I quickly apologized. "I-I'm under stress."
 
       "Stress?"
 
      "Yeahlisten," I said, breathing deeply. "Do you wanna stay with me?or something."
 
       Joe looked at me quizically, like Harry did earlier. He stood, apparently deep in thought.
 
        "Yes," he said finally. It felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I nodded.
 
      "Only for a few days though," I said. I wasn't gonna get too in over my head.
 
        Joe walked inside, and I followed. When we got in, Joe surveyed the lobby, taking in his surroundings like a cat. I strolled past him and to the stairs. Harry stood washing a dish from the back room, but I could see him glaring. Evidently, he wasn't happy with my decision.
 
       This place is quite dilapidated. I'm surprised it hasn't been condemned. Harry and I have been deep in debt for a couple months. Maybe that's why this whole Joe situation is getting to me more.
 
       "C'mon, Joe," I said, beckoning him to follow. He did so, following me up the stainless steel staircase and to the row of rooms. It was seedy, yes, but respectable, and not a brothel, which was a rarity in my neighborhood.
 
       "Uh, which room do you want?" I asked, scratching the back of my neck.
 
       Joe opened a door and peered inside. He did this to every room, but seemed disgusted with each. Finally, he settled on a room near the back of the hotel. The bedspread had a design on it that looked like what would happen if an asparagus melted.
 
        "I'll take this one," he said, walking inside.
 
       "'Kay," I said, walking back to my room.
 
        When I got there, I flopped down on the bed, stomach down. I know I'm making mistake, I just know it.
 
       "I am so stupid," I said aloud.
 
       "No you're not."
 
        I zipped around to see who spoke. Needless to say, I was not shocked that the speaker was wearing a vinyl jacket, had jade eyes, and a British accent.
 
      "What do you want?" I asked, running my fingers through my hair.
 
      "I just wanted to thank you, is all," he said.
 
       "Y-you're welcome."
 
         Joe walked closer, to the bed. He sat down, the vinyl in his clothing squeaking.
 
      "What do you want?" I asked again, hoping for more of a straight answer.
 
       Joe brushed a lock of hair from my face, his fingers brushing my cheek as he did. I blushed a lovely shade of scarlet, hoping to God that he didn't notice.
 
      "You have beautiful eyes," he said softly, seductively. I gulped, not knowing what to make of thisflirtation? I don't know what he was trying to do. But instinctively moved away.
 
     "Thanks," I said, moving so that the lock of hair fell down over my eyes again.
 
      "Riley" Joe said, trailing off.
 
      "What?" I said.
 
      "Are you all right?"
 
      "Im fine," I said, getting up.
 
      "No, no you're not," he said.
 
       I was tired. Dammit, I was tired. I was tired and I needed to tell someone everything that was troubling me. So I did.
 
      "I'm tired. I'm tired of all of this. I was tired of all of this shit that was handed to me. I wanted nothing more than to be back in my room on Coralee Road, rocking out to heavy metal, planning my next big rebellion. But no, I get to hang out here, managing this hotel with my asshole boyfriend, and having to put up with you"-and my raging libido, I added in my mind "-and having to deal with all this shit I never asked for. This is stupid and I wanna go home but I can't because my family would never accept me back and I wanna live a normal life and I want to be anywhere but here, in this shithole hotel, in this shithole street, in this shithole god-damn city!"
 
      I started to pour out all my fears to the robot who was sitting in front of me, his smooth hands clasping the underside of my forearms to steady me. It felt good to let my fears and secrets gush out like that, to someone who wouldn't judge, to someone who would still be by my side. If I expressed this stuff to Slice, he'd break up with me in an instant.
 
      I poured and poured and poured from my heart into Joe's understanding eyes. He understood me, he understood my fears. I can't imagine why; he is an android after all.
 
     After about a few minutes of discussing my fears, I found myself sprawled out across the bed. Joe sat in a chair, listening intently.
 
      "Thanks Joe," I said, wiping my eye.
 
      "For what?"
 
      "For, you know, listening."
 
      "Ah. In that case, you're welcome."

Title: There's No Place Like Home
 
Author: Sapphire Rose
 
Rating: R
 
Disclaimer: I do not own A.I. or anyone of the characters. Except the ones I made up. Are you shocked?
 
Distribution: Consider it my gift to you for reading this fic. Please ask first, though.
 
Summary: Joe hasn't been well received by Riley's smelly boyfriend, Harry. And it's not gonna get any better for Riley, since Joe is making her question all kinds of stuff.
 
A/N: Blarg! I'm sorry that this is so late. I've been really busy! The teachers are loading up projects en masse before the school year is out. That combined with the fact that FF.net actually removed this fic because apparently I didn't obey certain criteria that I suppose didn't exist until now because it's been up for months and no one has noticed. Thanks for your patience! Lyrics are for "Platinum Blonde Life" by No Doubt.
 

Chapter 6: Over the Line

**************
I'm closing all the curtains
So don't you even bother
And they're calling out murder
But I'm underneath the covers
And who's fooling who with this mood like a train
Watch me roll over, get out of my way
**************

 I'm going to kill myself.
 
     It was the biggest mistake of my life inviting Joe back into my life. He does nothing but complain and ask questions. I admit it, sometimes he's great, but usually no. And the fact that Harry loathes him doesn't make it much better
 
  Harry has shown much abhorrence for Joe and his attitude. Not only for Joe, but to me too. I can't say I blame him; after all, I did lie to him about my identity and then I invited a mechanical hooker into my "home". So Harry isn't too big on the idea.
 
     Harry and I have decided to get back together. We sorta still dig each other, and we might as well since we're working in the same place. It's kind of awkward, but he deals.
 
     Truth be told, I am slowly deteriorating. I'm breaking. And it's all Joe's fault! Dammit, I dunno how long I'm gonna be able to put up with this. He's worse than before. I've kicked him out multiple times, only to have my hormones turn on me again and invite him back in. Oy.
 
     Harry's even more spiteful, however. He'll be sitting at the front desk, and if Joe will walk past to go to "work", Harry gives him the Evil Glare of Death. It ain't pretty. Joe really gets under his skin. Harry decided to put Joe to good use, adding to the two members of Ralia Hotel faculty (me and Harry). Now Joe cleans dishes or whatever odd jobs Harry has for him. No one ever likes being the receptionist. It's so boring, honestly. Joe, Harry, and I rotate shifts.
 
     Overall, Joe and Harry have a strong dislike for each other.
 
  And when they get into a row, you better hide. That's what I do.
 
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     The day started out normal. I was Windex-ing the windows, and Joe was at the front desk. Harry was in the kitchen doing something, but suddenly he stormed out, his nostrils flaring, his hair wild, his eyes ablaze.
 
     "JOE!" he bellowed, veins popping in his forehead.
 
     "Yes?" Joe said nonchalantly.
 
     At this point, I hid behind the potted plant. Harry's been known to throw things when he was mad, and I wasn't going to take risks with that very sharp knife he had in his hand.
 
     "What the hell is wrong inside your wiry little brain?"
 
     "I'm afraid I dont understand."
 
     Harry's seething became less as his breath grew slower. I crouched down. That meant nothing good could come of this.
 
     "A man called earlier today. Jesse Norwell. He was calling me so we could get a business meeting. He was planning to merge Ralia with his hotel chain, Helvetica. Did he call?"
 
     "Yes he did."
 
     "Did you take a message?"
 
     "Yes I did."
 
     "THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU GIVE IT TO ME?!?!?!?!?"
 
     Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no, I thought. Death was coming.
 
     "It seemed to have slipped my mind. I apologize."
 
     "YOU APOLOGIZE?! THIS WAS THE BIGGEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO ME! I COULD'VE GOTTEN OUT OF THIS DUMP AND BEEN PART OF A REAL HOTEL CHAIN! I'LL NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE AT THIS, YOU DISRESPECTFUL, TIME-WASTING ASSHOLE!!!"
 
     Seven minutes later, several vases had been broken (some from Harry's incessant screeching, some from his violent fury). I had managed to slink out from behind the plant and scurry up the stairs. Harry stomped out of the hotel, foaming at the mouth.Minutes later, the police came by, wondering what all the ruckus was. I told him nothing was wrong, and he left quickly. But I had to talk to both Joe and Harry about this feud.
 
     "Hoo boy, you really did it now, Joe" I said, sauntering over.
 
     "I dont understand why your friend lost his temper like that. It was simply a misunderstanding."
 
     "You just don't get it, do you? Misunderstandings like those are very important in the orga world, Joe. This was a big deal for Harry." And it was. I knew Harry would never get the deal, and deep down, so did he, but he kept his hopes up. Now it was all shattered. I didn't know who's side I should be on. Joe didn't understand; he was mecha, he couldn't. But Harry was my boyfriend, andit was just hard.
 
     "Harry coulda killed you, you know. Behind that scrawny exterior lies vocal cords of death. His scream shatters glass, I swear. You're talking to someone who knows."
 
     Joe looked positively spiteful. His gaze pierced my skin. I could almost feel it burning into me.
     "I'm sorry," he said, regardless of his evil glare. "I wont do it again."
 
     "Yeah, okay," I said, shuffling my feet. "Harry's kinda weird like that. Just stay out of his way and you'll be okay."
 
     "Riley?" he said, his eyes suddenly becoming soft and inviting.
 
     "What?" I bit my lip.
 
     "Do you love Harry?"
 
     "I-I don't know," I said, shocked by the question. "I-I guess so."
 
     Joe nodded slowly. "Oh."
 
     I bit my lip again. Joe was starting to scare me, big time. He seemed almost jealous of my affections for Harry. Huh, "affections". If you could call it that. Harry wasmy boyfriend. I guessI love Harry. But I don't like him. I don't know what the hell is going up in my life. But now, for some reason, I didn't feel like hanging around in Ralia anymore. I needed to get out. Go somewhere. The South Side would be good. That's the big center of hubbub in Rouge City. The place where most people enter. With all the glitzy clubs and stuff. I didn't know if I could leave Joe alone here for a day, but I decided to take the risk.
 
     "Joe? I think I'm gonna go downtown for, like, a day."
 
     "I understand."
 
     I sauntered to the door and stepped outside.
 
     "Be careful," Joe called after me as I trotted onto the muddy street.
 
 
(For Chapter 7 read on.)

Title: There's No Place Like Home

Author: Sapphire Rose

Rating: R

Disclaimer: No, no, Im not Steven Spielberg. Are any of you surprised?

Distribution: CHV, anyone else ask first.

Summary: Riley goes to clear her head, but she meets someone who might change everything. *cue scary music*. Lyrics are from "Science" by System of a Down. This chapter's mood fluctuates from beginning to end. Whee, it's a roller-coaster ride.

A/N: Im aware how horribly late this is. Im so sorry! *sob* Its really tough getting Joes character voice down. You have to strike a perfect balance between mecha and orga, and honestly, I dont know how the other authors do it. *sigh*

A/N #2: I don't know how far into the future A.I. takes place. Hobby mentioned that it was a very long time ago when man built "primitive monsters that could play chess". Can we do that now? I'm so behind on technology. Dont hurt me. *sob* Anywho, for this story's purposes', I'm gonna say about 2015, 2016.
 
Chapter 7: Synthetic Future
 
******************

Making two possibilities a reality
Predicting the future of things we all know
Fighting off the diseased programming
Of centuries, centuries, centuries, centuries
Science fails to recognize the single most potent element of existence

******************
 
 I stormed out onto the street and managed to flag down a bus to the South Side. I was upset and confused, and I needed to go someplace to clear my mind. Maybe visit some clubs, go to some partiesstuff normal teenagers do. I knew I couldn't stay long though. Some people get caught up in the fray of sex and drugs that the South Side's so famous for, and stay for days, sometimes never returning. Trust me, it's not a place where a young girl like me should be walking around. But I'm tough. I'm hardcore. I'm a rebel without a cause.

  As soon as I got to the South Side I called Ralia. Joe picked up. He told me Harry had not yet returned, and I silently thanked God. I wasn't keen on Harry coming home to find me gone and Joe running the place. I would probably come home to find a pile of wires on the ground.

 As I ventured into the South Side, the first thing that struck me was the immense amount of people clogging the streets. There were never this many people in the slums.  The sight of neon almost blinded me. I had forgotten how bright it was here. My retinas burned with the sight of purple and pink. I coughed as smoke hit my mouth. It was hard to see through the throng of people, but I didn't care. I just wanted to get inside somewhere. Maybe a club or something.

 I traipsed through the crowd, looking for a place to go. I looked around, but it was hard to see through the thin layer of smoke. But I managed to claw my way through to the entrance of a seedy looking club called "Metal Desire".

     When I walked inside, the first thing I saw was a huge statue of Kenneth Iscalay. He was the founder of Pretty Things, one of the biggest love mecha companies, next to Palasade and Mechardor (very clever play on words there). Metal Desire, I inferred, was a subsidiary of Pretty Things. Now, I myself was not fond of mechas from PT. They tended to be kinda pretentious. All the companies' mechas have their flaws. PTs are pretentious, Mechardors are rude, and Palasade...well, Palasades are snooty loudmouths. Like the one I had at home.

    I sauntered inside the club, which was very, very industrial. It looked a little like the inside of a washing machine. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, all made of metal. Blue strobe lights flashed from the ceiling as the patrons below danced the night away. But despite the industrial look, the whole vibe of this club was very mellow. The people were dancing slowly and sensually as weird drum noises emitted from the turn-tables. My guess? They were all totally on drugs.

  A tall, young-looking guy with black hair glided up to me, his head bobbing from side to side.

  "Heeeeeeeeey, what's up?" he slurred.

  "I-I was just leaving," I said quickly, heading towards the door.

  "No way, sweet thing, come on back. You'll totally not regret it."

  But I was already out the door. If this place was populated by people like that, I was glad to be greeting by the glaring neon. I passed a few other clubs, but they were all either really, really loud, or really, really nasty.

     My next stop was a smaller club nestled between a bail bonds place and a wig shop. It had a big red neon sign that read, "Human Nature." I couldn't hear any pounding music from outside, so that was at least a good sign. I went inside.

 The club itself was...grimy? I'm not really sure if that's the right word. No, wait, seedy. Or maybe just cheap. The walls were painted a dark red, as were the ceilings and floors. There was a small bar in the next room, all aglow with lights that were embedded in the floor. People were schmoozing and dancing and making out and doing what hip young 20-somethings do. A bored-looking bartender washed a glass as he stared aimlessly into space, mouthing words to himself. There was litter all over the floor: cups, cigarette butts, wrappers of various products, foil that condoms are wrapped ineverywhere you looked. Loud techno music was playing in the background.

 "How pleasant," I said softly to myself as I ventured into the bar. 

 The music had suddenly switched to a hard rock tune. I sauntered over to the bar and sat down on a sticky blue barstool.

 "Hey, you," I said, directed towards the bartender. He just kept staring and washed his cup.

 "Hey, you!" I said again, louder. This time he turned to me, but he kept watching.

 "Have you ever wanted to live your life over?" he said solemnly.

 "Um...no?"

 "Have you ever wanted to do something different?"

 "Er, I don't know what you're talking about."

 "Lots of people have. But I'm the only one who actually got a second chance."

 He looked deep into my eyes.

 "I'm Brandon Keller. And this is my story."

 I raised my eyebrow. What is up with this guy?

 "Um...okay. Can I actually just have a beer? Miller Lite, please."

 "Was that believable?"

 "What?"

 "If I was a young man full of remorse who died in a bus accident and was given a second chance at life, would you believe what I just said?"

 "UhI think I need to go," I said, starting to ride from my seat.

 "No, no, no, no, no! Stay, please."

 I don't know what made me sit back down. Maybe it was the yearning in his eyes. Or maybe it was because I really wanted that beer.

 "Listen to me," the bartender said. "My name is Leo Weber. But I was thinking about changing it to Tom Lockheart."

 "Tom Lockheart?"

 "Yeah, see, all the big Hollywood players? Their name is Tom. You know, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Tom Arnold. And Lockheart? That is an exotic last name. The kind you'd see on marquees. Just think-" he sighed wistfully. "Tom Lockheart."

 "I'm afraid I'm confused." Oh God. I'm starting to talk like Joe.

 "Well, you see-" Leo puffed up his chest. "-I am an actor."

 Ohhh. An actor. Great. Remember how I was talking about pretentiousness earlier?

 "Oh." I peered down into the bar to see if there was perhaps a beer within close proximity. Maybe I could grab one real quick and say, "Wow, that's great, bye", but unfortunately, there was none to be found.

 "Yeah. Impressed, right? That monologue about remorse was from the TV movie I'm trying out for. I know I'm gonna get in it." Leo nodded in a very self-satisfactory way. He waved the script in my face. I looked at the scribbling on it.

 "'Possible candidate for Skinny Guy #5'?" I read off of it.

 "Yup," Leo said, a smile crossing his face. "Apparently, they think I'm Skinny Guy #5 material. Isn't that awesome? I know I was just reading the opening monologue for the main character, but just in case they don't pick me for Skinny Guy #5."

 I had the sudden urge to scream at him, "SKINNY GUY #5 ISN'T EXACTLY A STEP UP, DUMBASS!" but somehow I managed to restrain myself. Focus on the beer, Riley.

  "Say, you're very pretty. How'd you like to be my arm candy?"

 "Um, thanks but no thanks."

 "Come on!" Leo whined. "You'd be perfect! You're pretty, but not like, model pretty. You're sorta makeup artist pretty. Whenever you show up somewhere with a mysterious beauty on your arm, it always stirs up talk."

 All throughout this conversation, I desperately wanted to insert my own comments. For example, after this little nitpicking of my looks, I wanted to say, "You'd need somewhere important to go first". But, being the polite person I am, I bit my tongue.

 "I'm not really into the whole Hollywood thing," I said cautiously.

 "You don't even have to do anything! You just have to show up for premieres and stuff!"

 I started to get up. I was *not* gonna sit around and listen to this wacko blab on and on about whatever.

 "Listen, I really need to go."

 "No! Please! I need someone to talk to. Here! Here. Here's your beer."

 Leo held up a bottle.

 "It's on the house if you stay. And I won't even card you."

 I sighed. I am faced with an enigma. Do I stay here, get a free beer without even being carded, listening to this starving artist yak on and on about the crippling Hollywood elite, or do I leave thirsty, but my mind free of boredom?

 Beer won.

 I sat down, sighing, and snatched the beer from his hand.

 "So, uhwhat's your name?" Leo said.

 "Riley."

 "Riley. Pretty name. oh, I suppose I should be honest. Leo's not my real name."

 I could've never guessed.

 "It's actually Simon Collier. But I thought Leo Weber sounded more exotic, don't you?"

 Simon Collier, Simon Collier--where have I heard that name before? I combed my mind for the name of Simon Collier. Oh wait! This was Nick's friend! The one he lost in Rouge City!

 "Um, Simon," I started slowly, trying to contain my anticipation. "do you happen to know a Nick Bracket?"

 "Nick Bracket? Uhyeah, actually, I do. Did. He was my best pal back in high schoolwho's asking?"

 "Simon, it's me, Riley Bracket!"

  Simon's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates.

"HOLY CRAP, RILEY?!"

"Shh, shh!" I hissed.

 Simon waved his arms around in pure shock.

 "Oh my God, Riley!" He flung his arms around my neck. "It's so good to see a familiar face!"

 "Well", I said, trying to pry him off. "not really familiar, since you didn't recognize me before.

 "That's all in the past now!" Simon exclaimed. "C'mon! We gotta go someplace where we can catch up on everything!"

********

 At the current moment, I was trying to prop up my head on my hand, but boredom was starting win me over. I swear, I almost nodded off.

 Simon and I were in a little café about a block away from Metal Desire. He was droning on about his life story, but despite his claims, it was not particularly fascinating.

 I tried hard to block out most of Simon's words, as he had sort of a high-pitched nasal voice I found annoying, but some slipped through the cracks, mostly the most important stuff. Apparently, while in Rouge with Nick, Simon had gotten swallowed up by the crowd and lost sight of Nick. Ever since then, he had been getting small jobs here and there. But he "knew acting was my true calling." His words, I swear. Anyway, Simon's kinda low on funds so he has to take jobs like being a bartender at Metal Desire.

 "And so then she ran out on me, because she thought I was gay, but I told her that one guy was for publicity purposes, and-are you bored?" Simon asked.

 "Hmm? What"

 "Oh, good! So anyway, I've decided my own past was too normal to make it in show biz. My showbiz past: I was a plucky young kid bitten by the acting bug at age 5. No, 6. Anyway, I was raised by a determined single mother and an abusive stepfather who drank all the time. After my mom and I ran away, my mom, who used be a junkie but was now on the straight and narrow, decided to feed the flames of my passion and enrolled me in all the acting classes. Money was tight, but somehow we got through."

 "What's your real past?"

 "I was raised by a mom and a dad who wanted me to be a doctor. But the one before sounded so much cooler, didn't it?"

 "I suppose."

 It was good to find someone I knew. Just because I had gotten more accustomed to Rogue didnt mean I was any less alone. Who was Harry? Nobody. Who was Joe? Nobody, though he does plague my dreams. Now I have Simon. Simon from Haddonfield who was my brother's best friend and who used to spray me with the hose. And I was willing to put up with his absolute dullness if it meant I had someone to relate with.

 "So how's Nick doin'?"

 I snapped awake.

 "Uh, Nick? Oh, well, he's doing good. I guess. I don't really know. He's working at a grocery store."
 
 "College didnt work out, huh?"

 "Yeah, they kicked him out the first week because he brought beer to class."

 "That doesnt sound like that bad of an offense."

 "Well, a couple days before that the dean caught him making his friend Patrick to eat a live goldfish. I guess the beer thing was the straw that broke the camel's back."

 "Ohhh"

 Simon nodded.

 "So, uh, you're working at the Ralia Hotel, I've heard of that place" (I had told him where I worked) "how'd you come to be in Rouge City?"

 I laughed ruefully.

 "Ho, well, that's a long and complicated story."

 "I've got time."

 I sighed, shaking my head. I guess it was my turn to do the boring.

 "I, uh, met this mecha, and well, we traveled here together. It's a bit more complicated than it sounds."

 Simon looked at his muffin and shook his head. The color had drained from his face, leaving it chalk white.

 "I hate them," he said abruptly.

 "Who, mechas?"

 "I just cannot stand them. They're taking away all our rights. Them and their creators are creating a synthetic future for all of us orgas. I don't want to live in a synthetic future, Riley. At least tell me you dumped this mecha once you got here."

 "Hehe, funny story. He's kinda living with me right now, but I did dump him once I got here. But then I had to post bail because he got arrested, and" I trailed off when I saw Simon's face. It had transformed from white to a grassy shade of green. He kept shaking his head, mouthing words to himself.

 I stared at him for a little bit. He was one of those Bloods - mecha haters. Bloods hated mechas with every fiber of their being. They were the ones that started Flesh Faires. They were the ones who would pace around the street in front of a mecha company with big signs saying, "Down with Artificial Intelligence" and whatnot.

 I cringed. I had been one.

 Before I met Joe, before all of this. Everyone in my family was a Blood. I was raised to believe mechas were a plague upon the world. My dad would always say, "God created this world for humans to live in. Not machines". When I was little, Nicholas made me watch The Terminator and said, "That's what the world will be like if we let mechas win - populated by killer robots." It would scare the hell out of me. Mom and Dad's idea of a family outing was a trip to the Flesh Faire.

 When I became an adolescent, I started to question the destruction of artificial intelligence, and this freaked my parents out. One day they I asked them, "But isn't destroying innocent mechas kinda cruel?" and they totally went insane. They even brought me to a shrink. My relationship with my parents has always been estranged since then. Heh, I'm a disgrace to my family.

 The entrance of Joe into my life had contributed to my non-Blood ways, but from the beginning I always knew I wasn't like the rest of my family. I would put on a disguise whenever they were around, a disguise that showed my supposed disdain for all of mecha-kind. My parents thought I had gone through a phase.

  Looking back on it now, I feel sick. How could I have ever been that way?

  I kept staring at Simon. His slate-gray eyes bore into me, looking at me with a look of pure disgust.

 "Don't tell me you're one of those MechaHuggers," Simon said, his voice getting shaky.

 My eyes darted to the ground. I was scared to look at him. Simon's breathing got heavier as he shook his head.

 "No....don't tell me...oh God, Riley"

 "Simon, please, I-"

 "How could you?! Your whole family are Bloods! What happened to you?! How could you?!"

 By now, he was standing up. He was shaking his head, perhaps trying to make himself believe he couldn't be hearing what I was saying. His hands were trembling. His eyes were starting to brim with tears. The café had turned their eyes toward us. A few people got up cautiously and walked away.

 "Simon, please, just calm down," I pleaded.

 "No! I won't calm down! You don't have the right to tell me what to do! You're one of the ones who want us to live in a false, conformist world! How could you betray us like this, Riley?! How could you?!" he cried.

 I was unable to choke any kind of response out of my mouth. All I could do was whisper, "Simon, please". The other people were whispering to themselves.

 "All of you!" Simon exclaimed. "Mechas are the downfall of society! They were created to wipe out the human race and make us unaware of all the shady operations that go on inside Mechardor and Cybertronics and all those other companies. You let them get away with it, you too will be stuck living in a synthetic future."

 "Hey, man, what did mechas ever do to you?" piped one middle-aged man in a corner. This seemed to really strike a chord with Simon, because he suddenly regained his composure and his voice went softer.

 "What did they do to me?" he said, in that creepy soft voice. "It's what they did to society that makes me so determined to wipe them out!" Oh, there goes the yelling voice again. I covered up my face.

 "Listen, all of you," he said. "If you wanna live in an emotionless, polymerized society that mechas will bring, you go ahead, but I will not be living in a synthetic future!" Simon said, grabbing his coat. "And you-" he pointed to me, "you disgust me, Riley. How could you?" And with that, he stormed out the door, leaving me in the wake of the whispers.

 I sat there in that chair for a little while, just staring out into space. It shocked me how passionate he was on this subject. I had absolutely no idea why this was affecting me so much. I just didnt want to get up.

 So I sat there.

Chapter 8 coming soon...