Ghost in the Machine

Part 2

by Mere (mbmincey at

Dwayne sat at the comm station, still decked in his flightsuit, frowning slightly as Slate reported on the probe that Rusty had found buzzing around outside the Dark Horse last night. It was relatively small, spherical, and single-eyed. Stealthy enough not to have caught attention unless you had boy robots flying about the ship, and controlled by a remote link somewhere. It was enough to get all the little hairs on his neck to stand on end.

"I can't tell you anything you don't already know. It has parts manufactured by both Quark and Itsubishi, but all the serial numbers have been scratched out. They could have bought the material from anywhere."

"What about its CPU?"

"That's going to take time. It has some very complicated firewalls."

Dwayne's frown deepened and he sunk further into his chair. "You sure you don't want me to come down there? I'm no super genius but I'm good for a few other things."

Slate grinned at him. "So I've noticed. No need, though. Just give me some more time."

He sighed, for a moment allowing his exhaustion to show. That was five days in a row he'd been sent on a call; each one was just as long and grueling, and now this. Just great. "Thanks, Doc. We appreciate it."

"Take care, Lieutenant. Be careful."

He smiled ruefully. "Careful? What's that?"

Slate rolled her eyes. "I don't know which of you is worse."

She ended the transmission and Dwayne, being too lazy to get up, rolled his chair over to the Comm station and closed the line. Wisecracks and towel snapping aside, this was very serious business. For the time being though it was watch and wait and he positively hated that. Better to act than react.

"Aw, don't worry, Lieutenant," Mack said, coming up behind and smirking down at him. "I still think you're cute."

"Thanks so much. Don't you have a plasma distributor to recalibrate?"

Mack clicked his heels and saluted. "All done fer the day, sir. Recommend a Miller Time, sir."


Mack became serious for a moment, leaning against one of the consoles as he studied the diagram on screen. "Any guesses who sent the droid? Looks a lot like Legion hardware."

"The Legion was destroyed."

"Still one out there, Chief."

Like it could possibly slip his mind. Number Seven was still unaccounted for, but One had been certain he was the last of them, so it was possible Seven wasn't even operational. Yeah, assuming his luck changed. "Maybe, but it could be anybody who can put a robot together."

He stretched, joints popping audibly and bruised muscle starting to ache. The adrenaline had finally worn off. *All I need is a shower, three weeks of sleep, and a blood transfusion. Then I'll be right as rain again.*

"They just keep right on comin', don't they?"

Mack quirked an eyebrow at him. "_They?_"

"The bad guys." Whoever it was, he wasn't going to be happy until that little mystery was solved. Well, if you could call that happiness....

"Well, I say bring it on!" Jo crowed, walking up to the station. "We can handle anything they can dish out!"

"Whaddya mean 'we'? I didn't see your tuckus get charbroiled today."

"With all due respect, sir?" The sir was dripping with sarcasm and she blew a big raspberry at him. That's what he got for spoiling her too much. "You'd be nothin' without us, Spit Curl Lad, so don't start getting too big for your britches."

He grinned. "You're right, Jo. Where would I be with out my loyal crew?"

"Dead..." Mack said.

"Burnt to a crisp..." Jo added.


"Blown to bits..."

"And that's just today!"

Dwayne buried his face in his hand. "For chrissakes guys, I didn't need a list." He sighed, looking up at them again. "But seriously, I think at this point it's too soon to conveniently file it under Legion Ex Machina."

Mack thumbed at the diagram. "Think they'll beef up security?"

"Anymore than they already have?" Jo asked. "Place is tighter than Fort Knox, thanks to RoboDwayne." Lord, she just had to go and mention that. "Quit being abducted, Lieutenant."


Dwayne heaved himself up with a grunt, reluctant to get out of his chair. It was inevitable, though. He had to give Big Guy a shakedown flight and make sure everything was in working order. "How's about we do a few laps around the ship, then close shop for the day?"

"Sounds good to me." Mack said.

Dwayne retrieved his helmet off the console, making his way back to Big Guy's maintenance chair, when Jo caught up with him as they walked. "You sure you don't want me to do that?"

"Why?" He was genuinely surprised by the question. Sure she complained about not getting any seat time since she was the third in Command, but she suddenly seemed concerned.

"You know you don't have to pull that macho stuff with me, Dwayne."

"I don't follow you."

She grinned at him, lowering her voice like it was some big conspiracy. "I know you like to impress Dr. Slate and all, but you just got blown up, beat down, and shot at a mere five hours ago."

"So? Someone's trying to whack me all the time. And I'm not trying to 'impress' anybody."

"Suuuurrreee. Whatever ya say, stud."

He reached the steps of the maintenance chair, pushing his head through the thick padding of his helmet, and clasping the chinstrap so that it stayed snuggly in place. Why was everyone picking on him today? Jo, Mack, bloodthirsty aliens.... He gave Jo his most charming, frisky smile. "Always trying to pair me off. Don't you know you're the only girl for me? Look at you," He looked her up and down, knowing somewhere under all that grunge and oil was Jo. "All greasy in your cute little overalls. I mean woof!"

"You're such a weirdo."

"Oh c'mon, spin for Daddy."

She snorted and pointed authoritatively at Big Guy. "Back in the can, hambone." Dwayne chuckled to himself as he went up the steps to Big Guy's hatch.

"Whatever the lady says. No need to twist my arm about it...."

He entered the pass code, Big Guy's cockpit opened, and Dwayne looked back towards Mack at the Command Station with his headset on, ready to receive communications. Mack gave him the thumbs up to let him know everything was set and he climbed in, sliding into the pilot's seat. It still smelled of burnt wire from when the systems overloaded. Yes, very, very lucky today. He strapped himself in and pushed the seat forward, the hatch doors closing shut behind him.

Maybe he shouldn't have brushed the Doc off like he had. She had seemed kind of pissed when she signed off. He sometimes forgot she didn't share their gallows humor. After all, joking about it was better than thinking about it. Dwayne pushed it aside, remembering that he had a job to do.

*Quit thinking about her too much.*


*It! Quit thinking about IT too much. Oh hell, you know what you mean, ya idiot. You're talking to yourself! Damn, blankity blank Pit Crew, puttin' ideas in your head. Now pay attention.*

Power core back on-line, navigational systems. After all these years he could go through his checklist without even thinking about it as Big Guy came to life again. Propulsion.... Of course it was better to pay attention to such things, but being in such a big hurry didn't allow much for that. He opened his comm link to Mack. "All systems back online. How am I doing?"

"Everything's good from where I'm sittin'. Green lights across the board. Power core levels at eighty-two and climbing."

"Roger." Dwayne pulled the cyclic control stick forward, the sound of Big Guy's massive hind and knee servos making the exo-suit stand all ten feet high. The familiar vibration felt beneath his feet even through the thick leather soles of his boots. That was pure, raw power right there. Too bad the same feeling didn't translate outside of the suit. "Command grid's at...." Now that couldn't be right. "Huh. I need a confirma--"

He stopped when a silvery substance dripped down on to his forearm and instinctively he pulled his arm back. "What the,,,?" It rolled down the side of his arm, leaving a fluorescent glow where it had touched him, and he looked up at the top of the cockpit. The same stuff was starting to seep through the panels and fall to the floor. And it was oozing out of the floor panels to double his pleasure. "Oh hell."

First came a swell of panic, then the realization he didn't have time for that. Dwayne quickly undid his restraints as this metal ooze began to fill the cockpit, from both above and below. "I think I'm in trouble here!" Mack didn't respond. Or couldn't.

He reached for the ejection handle, but a tendril shot up instantly and grabbed his wrist. Dwayne let out a yelp both in surprise and because the thing was squeezing his wrist hard enough to make something pop. It looked like mercury, metallic, shiny, and fluid. It gripped his arms and legs, and the more he fought it the tighter it held onto him, wrapping around his waist and rib cage, squeezing him until he could hardly breathe. Now was the time to panic.

"Dwayne?" Jo! He could hear her on Big Guy's audio system. "You all right in there?"

"No!" Dwayne gasped. He was jerked back into the pilot's seat, the liquid metal binding him to it.

"Shut up."

That was Big Guy. That was Big Guy speaking and he wasn't doing it.

"Relax and be replaced."

Well, crap. I'll probably never be happy with it but I figured I'd show it to you guys anyway. If you want more there is more.

-- Mere

On to Part 3!

Back to part 1

Back to the fanfic index