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My hand gripping the machete tightened, but in the end, I couldn’t bring it down on her. I was staring her right in the eyes, and she was staring right back. It was only then I started to notice other details about her. She was a pretty girl. She was a few years younger than me, but I couldn’t put an exact age to her. She was definitely in her teens. Her blonde hair was filthy and didn’t show any signs of being cleaned in ages, as was the rest of her body.

She wasn’t wearing full clothing and makeshift armor like the others. What she was wearing was little more than a sack with a hole in it. There was some kind of device around her neck with a green light shining on the side. The thing that was most notable about her though was her eyes. They were hollow as if all the life had been sucked out of them. She wasn’t looking at me, but through me, as if I wasn’t even really there.

“Hey! Don’t make a racket!” A bandit kicked the back of the cabinet she was sitting in.

She let out a squeak, the only sound she had made so far. A flash of fear appeared on her face and she curled up into the cabinet, not even looking in my direction.

“Hey, I’m talking to-“ The bandit looked over the cabinet, and then his eyes landed on me.

These bandits were called the Bling, and the name was very suiting. He had a nose ring, a lip ring, earrings, a tongue ring, and more. He had necklaces, bracelets, and a ring on each finger. Calling him gaudy would be a bit of an understatement. Each thing he wore glowed with polish silver and diamonds.

“Ahhhhh!” I was shocked to hear the scream rip from my own throat.

I swung down the machete at the guy whose head was leaning over the cabinet. He didn’t even move as it embedded itself three inches into his skull. After my scream and sudden movement, there was another moment of odd silence. Then, he let out a blood-curdling scream and backed up a few steps as blood exploded from his scalp. He fell back to the ground, convulsing.

I had just killed a man. A moment earlier, I had hesitated, but upon seeing her in that shape, something strange came over me and I just attacked without thinking. Maybe there was a double standard at play there. The sound of gunfire struck the cabinet. I grabbed the girl and yanked her out before the bullets piercing the cabinet could hit both of us. With my hand on her wrist, I crouched and ran down the cabinet case while the two remaining bandits fired at us. The one with the machete in his head had seemed to stop moving now.

I reached the security bot, and the two seemed to stop firing for a second. I grabbed the dongle from my watch and pulled. Thankfully, the spot to plug it in was both bare and easily accessible. I plugged my Perco into it as quickly as my hands would move. I was behind the bot now, using it as a shield from their gunfire. Fortunately, they weren’t shooting at it.  

“Did we get him?” One of the guys asked.

A word flashed on my Perco screen. Activate. I pushed it.

The bot in front of me suddenly roared to life. Lights turned on, some kind of buzz came from its interior, and it slowly started to perk up and move.

“Security Bot active. Identifying hostile targets. Hostile targets found.” It said in a very mechanical-sounding voice.

“Oh sh-“

The rest of the sound was lost as the bot began to shoot. The body of the droid was human, but it had two mounted guns for arms. The feet were a set of wheels bit into a strange triangular compartment. It rolled forward and I hastily unplugged my Perco. The triangle feet spun as it went off the cabinet, catching the droid as it fell to the ground with a thud. It was nearly seven feet tall now that it was on the ground.

The two bandits were now in pieces, having been torn apart by a torrent of bullets. I ran forward and began to rip the gun off of one of their bodies.

“What’s going on-“

I only had time to look up and see the sniper from upstairs coming out of the doorway.

“Hostile detected!” The Security droid spun and shot, bullets flying right over my head as I ducked and covered my ears.

The man didn’t even have time to bring up his gun before he was plastered against the wall. On second thought, I had no clue what criteria this thing was using to call something hostile. Maybe I shouldn’t be grabbing at a gun. I had a fear that the second I picked it up, I’d become a hostile and killed. Just then, I remember the girl. I glanced back to see her still behind the cabinet. She had curled up in a corner and didn’t seem to be moving.

I waited for the droid to leave the store and take out the hostiles outside, but it didn’t make a single move from its spot after taking out the sniper. Feeling a bit rushed, I plugged my Perco back in. The activate button reappeared, although the text now read deactivate. I realized there was a list of buttons below it too. I scrolled down to see various other options. There was the factory reset. So, activate just turned it back on, but it was still programmed as the store’s security droid. It naturally wouldn’t care about anything going on outside of this building.

Just as my finger went to factory reset, it occurred to me that this might remove the routine completely. If it was ownerless, any bandit could take control of it, and I wasn’t even sure if I could make it move in the direction I wanted, let alone shoot. I continued to look down the list, only to see options that the mayor hadn’t mentioned. There was Change Ownership, Set Parameters, and something called the Master Code. What was the point of a factory reset if you could just change ownership?

It then occurred to me that either he didn’t know everything the 7000 could do, or the 9000 could do things the 7000 couldn’t.

“What does the Master Code do?” I asked.

The Perco didn’t give me an explanation like it might have for other things. With a sigh, I decided to click it. There was a loading bar that lasted a few seconds, and then it was done. I didn’t know what it did. I decided to go into the parameters and set it to kill all the bandits, but just as I was about to look, the door outside opened and a group of people walked in.

“She’s a pretty one, I’m going to have fun with her toni-“

The bandits hadn’t been paying attention at all when they entered and were already in the room when they realized the bot had moved from its spot on the cabinet all the way to the center. Furthermore, their friends were all dead. I was standing behind the bot, so they didn’t seem to notice me.

There were six people in all, with a seventh being dragged on her knees. She had numerous bruises and cuts, and her face had been beaten to the point where it took me a moment to realize it was Katarina. White-hot rage exploded in me.

“Robot, Kill all of the men!” I growled hatefully.

“Master command accepted.” The security droid began to open fire.

“What th-“

The bandits started running any direction they could, but the droid moved with extreme precision. Those that got off a shot or two could only watch helplessly as it bounced off the metal armor of the security bot. In less than a minute, six more bandits lay dead. It did exactly as I commanded and didn’t touch Katarina. She had collapsed to the floor without anyone holding her up. I was thankful it worked. I had guessed that the Master Code might mean something like that.

Based only on what I knew, since the Perco 7000 was for high-ranked officials, then the Perco 9000 would be for the highest rank official, a CEO or a head of R&D. The Master Code seemed to be a way to circumvent ownership. I wasn’t the droid’s owner, but I could still order it around freely. I’d bet my commands would supersede the commands of the owner as well. This meant that once I gave this droid to the city, even after the mayor took control of it, I could still control it as the master.

Well, that was my guess. I had been right so far, but it needed more testing. Either way, I didn’t even care about that. I ran and grabbed Katarina, helping her back to her feet and leading her into the jeweler. As I kneeled next to her, I noticed a few bandits still outside, but they had heard the gunfire and had seen the bot firing. They had all lived in that building, so they knew what an activated bot meant.

Even if they didn’t, they had already seen it. Six men had died in an instant, and three more had died earlier. Not to mention the number that Katarina had taken care of when they captured her. These guys weren’t suicidal. They knew when they were on a sinking ship, and so they turned and fled back into the city without saying another word.

“Katarina!” I stumbled, struggling to keep her up, and causing both of us to land on the ground with a thud.

“Ah… that hurts, Idiot.” She muttered, although her eyes were closed, or maybe they were swollen shut.

I felt intense relief as soon as she spoke. If she spoke, she’d be okay. At least, that’s how I felt. However, she couldn’t walk well, and she looked like she had been beaten up pretty badly. Her breathing felt ragged, and every motion seemed racked with pain. Seeing her like that, I started to lose my composure.

Everything we had just experienced came flooding back. I had killed people today. That was something that I could never forget. Maybe I could ignore the responsibility for those the security bot killed, but I had attacked one man head on. As for Katarina, she had been beaten up, and all of those wounds had been to help me. It felt difficult to breath, and before I knew it, I couldn’t hold in my anxiety any longer.

“I thought you died!” I let out a sob.

Without even thinking about it, I grabbed her and hugged her, careful not to aggravate any wounds. She let out a noise of surprise, but after a moment, she reached up and patted my head. Her hand moved slowly as if it was difficult, and there was blood on her hand that ended up in my hair. I didn’t care at all. I was openly crying now as I held her tightly.  

“I’m okay…” She responded weakly. “We’re okay.”

I remained like that, holding her for quite some time. Eventually, I started to realize how ridiculous I was being. I was clinging to a woman I barely knew who was filled with injuries while I whined like I was the one who had been hurt. I was surprised she had waited so patiently and indulged me like that, as it couldn’t have been comfortable for her. Only my sister had ever acted so selflessly and indulged me like that before. It was at that point I realized that I wouldn’t be able to see Katarina as just a bodyguard I hired anymore.

I finally pulled away from her, blushing a bit. She had her eyes closed, but I could tell by her disordered breathing she was still awake. I got up and checked out the window, and didn’t see any bandits still lingering nearby. However, the sun was setting. As darkness began to fall, I realized we were going to have to stay the night there.

“Guard the store. Don’t let anyone else enter.” I ordered the bot.

“Master command accepted.”

Hopefully, that was enough. With a sigh, I used my Perco to inject RegenX into Katarina.

“Tsk… you shouldn’t have wasted that.” She winced, one eye opening as she squinted in my direction.  

“Come on, let’s get you upstairs. With the bot guarding, the bandits won’t be back tonight… or anything else for that matter.” I said, still sniffling, as I helped her to her feet again despite her grunts of pain.

We were almost to the stairway when a movement caught my attention. I looked back to see the woman from before. She was still sitting in the spot I had left her, watching us without expression. It looked like I had someone else to worry about as well.

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