V1K-T0R-1A by Rubberbutton

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Title: V1K-T0R-1A
PG-13 for violence
Vidder's/Author's/Artist's Notes:
So much love for my beta. Thanks, sweetie!

"Detainee Victor-One-Kilo - Tango-Zero-Romeo - One-Alpha. The subject is female and appears to be about thirty standard years of age. Captured on the abandoned frigate Demosthenes outside of the mining settlement Ursa Beta, presumably scavenging for parts and scrap metal. The subject will be shipped to the internment facilities at Jungerson-Miako Station after questioning. She is a person of interest in the disappearance of Deputy Inspector Nathan Delaney, Interterra Security Force."

Agent Vecchio finished the initial report, unusually cheerful as he entered the data. Under normal circumstances, Vecchio would only complete the necessary forms under extreme duress and the task usually fell to Fraser. Today, however, he was in a good mood. Detainee V1K-T0R-1A was a major victory for him. In the two years they'd been partnered, this was the highest profile capture they'd made, and only the third recombinant.

"Wild, isn't it?" Vecchio said, leaning in, his nose almost to the one-way glass. The detainee sat beyond it,  her arms bound behind her back. Her posture was very straight - regal, if he could use such a dated term. "It looks just like one of us. Like, I swear I went to school with a girl who looked just like her. A literature major called, oh, um Dana, Dinah - something like that." Vecchio rubbed the back of his neck in one of his many habitual gestures. "But we're sure she's one of them."
Fraser nodded. "I looked at the lab report myself. It's conclusive."
Vecchio whistled to convey his amazement. "It's a crazy world."

Fraser scrolled through the info tablet; he'd already memorized the information, but it gave him a chance to collect his thoughts. He looked up and met the detainee's eyes and something caught in his gut, just under his sternum. She was beautiful, features strong but delicate, but it wasn't her beauty that undid him. He'd known many attractive women who'd left him unmoved. It was something about her expression - curiosity, vulnerability, intelligence. And, oh yes, hate.
He swallowed and said, "I am Interterra Agent Benton Fraser, and I'll be handling this interrogation. As a non-terrestrial, you don't have any rights. However, if you cooperate, you may earn certain privileges."
"Do any of those privileges include my freedom, Agent Fraser?"
"No," he said. "I was thinking more along the line of better food and clothing - more comfortable quarters."
"Then no thanks," she said, her lip curled. "A cage is a cage is a cage."
"I'd have to agree with you." Fraser laced his fingers together on the smooth stainless steel of the table top. "But I would also add that non-compliance will also have consequences."
She laughed the sound both bitter and sweet. "Consequences. Don't worry, Agent Fraser, I'm well aware of the consequences. My entire family is dead because of those consequences."
He was the first one to look away, glancing down at the file. "According the the Carleton Hotel security feed, you were the last person to see Deputy Inspector Delaney before his disappearance. Do you know where he is?"
She pursed her lips as she considered the question, but then asked, "How long have you been with Interterra?"
"I don't see the relevance..."
She shrugged. "No relevance. I'm curious. I like to get to know my interrogators. Plus, it only seems fair that I get to ask a few questions, since you expect me answer yours. Come on, Fraser, it's a harmless question."
Unbidden, a passage from the Interterra memorandum on the nature of recombinants came to Fraser's mind:
"Sixteen years," Fraser said.
"Joined when you were eighteen?"
He nodded once, reluctantly.
"I have no idea where Delaney is," the recombinant said and Fraser studied her for signs of deception. Her breathing was even, her pupils normal for the light in the room, and she didn't seem to be perspiring. She was telling the truth or she was the best liar he'd ever seen. He supposed that both might be true in this instance.
"What were you doing at the Carleton Hotel?"
"Hey - we're going question for question."
"I answered two: when I joined and how old," Fraser pointed out.
"It was a two-parter." Her eyes narrowed, but he just shook his head.
"That still counts."
"I was traveling to the outpost on Juno, where I'd arranged work. I stayed at the Carleton before the last leg of my journey."
"And how did you find the funds to finance such a stay?" The Carleton was one of the most famous of the luxury hotels.
"Why did you join Interterra?"
"To see the galaxy, why else?"
"I'm guessing they paid for your education; you seem like the type. Why did you really join Interterra?"
"That wasn't my question," Fraser said, the same unhappy feeling settling in his stomach as he used to get at the Academy on the rare occasion when he didn't know the answer to an exam question.
She shrugged and waited.
"...I did get a scholarship, and my father wanted me to follow in his footsteps."
Her hair was loose and fell in her, she shook her head unable to brush it back with her bound hands. She pursed her lips, like that was the answer she'd been expecting.
"You should have waited for me to start the interview," Vecchio said, walking into Fraser office without bothering to knock. He had a cup of coffee in his hand and he took a long swallow before continuing. "Geez, she's a recombinant, Fraser. You've got to take precautions."
"The subject was restrained," Fraser said. "I took every precaution. You've seen the recording."
"Yeah, yeah, Fraser. But you can't be too careful. I know this guy back on Altares, he was a beat cop assisting the agents sent in to transport this recombinant. And the commbie looked like a twelve-year-old kid, not taller than this--" Vecchio held out a hand no higher than 1.4 meters from the ground. "--And this kid is crying so the cop feels really bad for him. Probably the only cop in Altares who gives a crap about people, right? So he give the kid an ice cream bar, hoping to shut him up. Only the kid's hands are bound and it can't eat the ice cream, but it swears up and down it'll be good and this cop - sucker that he is - lets it free. And do you know what happened?" Vecchio didn't wait for an answer. "The commbie's on him like an animal, smashes his fucking head in against a wall."
"I've read the case report, thank you," Fraser said evenly. He was fairly confidant Vecchio had never met the unfortunate cop, and his report was wildly exaggerated. The man had fallen into the wall, dying of a hemorrhage; the recombinant's role in the death was never fully understood, though it was true the boy had escaped afterward. "And I assure you, I was in no danger."
Vecchio threw his hands up and looked skyward, doubtlessly beseeching his god for patience. "All right, all right. You've done your good cop schtick, now it's my turn."
Fraser went down to the cafeteria; he'd no interest in watching Vecchio play the 'bad cop.' He'd seen it often enough. He'd have to review the footage later, but now he allowed himself this small cowardice. He wasn't hungry, though he should have been. He selected a tray of unappetizing, but nutritious dishes and found a seat at an empty table. He ate the nutriloaf, trying to identify the thick sauce pooling around it. It was similar to hollandaise, but far saltier. And gray.
He did not think about the dark-haired recombinant, to whom Vecchio was now applying the -- hopefully metaphorical -- thumbscrews. 

He didn't understand his partner's hatred of the recombinants, how Vecchio could hate a person so viscerally without ever having met them. Fraser had hated, had hated passionately, but it was always personal.
He decided he'd consumed enough to last him the rest of the afternoon and cleared his tray. He then went to the fitness center for a run and finished the last of his remaining paperwork. When he began to reorder his filing system, he was forced to acknowledge the activity for what it was: procrastination.
He gave himself another few moments to collect himself before he headed backdown to the detention center, the ride in the elevator taking an eternity. He reached the row of interview rooms, but the one they'd been using was empty. He found Vecchio in the adjoining observation room. Vecchio was whistling, straightening up with a jaunty little flip of a stylus. Fraser's heart sank.
"You're done with the interview?" Fraser asked.
Vecchio nodded and grinned. "Yep."
"Did you learn anything of interest?"
"Well?" Fraser prodded, failing to keep the edge of irritation from his voice. His annoyance just made Vecchio's grin widen.
"Got an bank account number." He toyed with the cuff of his uniform, the light gray cording that indicated his years of service a sharp contrast against the black uniform. "I already verified it; it belongs to one Deputy Inspector of a particular interest to us. They're going to send over the records - hard copies, can you believe it? Those guys are so paranoid."
"Delaney," Fraser said, surprised that the combinant had given anything useful. She didn't seem the kind to break easily and he again wondered just what kind of techniques Vecchio had used.
Vecchio rolled his eyes. "Yeeeeah, Delaney. Thanks for playing along." He stretched and twisted his head until his neck cracked. "I think I'm going to knock off for the rest of the day. Start again tomorrow 800 hours?"
Fraser nodded. "I'm going to go over the film, I think."
"Sure thing, Fraser," Vecchio said, already ducking out.
It wasn't bad. Fraser watched the film, forcing himself to relax. Really, it wasn't. Vecchio showed what might almost be considered restraint. And all his actions were well within Interterra guidelines for interviewing recombinants. Even in the dull, black-and-white of the footage, the recombinants yes seemed dead and closed off. She rarely looked at Vecchio, or even up from the table. Perhaps she sought to placate Vecchio with her meekness, but Fraser wasn't fooled. He see the tension in her spine. She as tightly wound as a spring, though she had nowhere to go and her hands were still bound.
It wasn't until Vecchio left to verify the account number that Fraser's fears were realized. Two of the security officers came to return the recombinant to her cell. The touch was brief as they pulled her to her feet, but it was clearly inappropriate. The recombinant jerked away and, moving with a speed that the was just a blur on the recording, she caught the first officer with an elbow up under his jaw. He went reeling, but his partner recovered quickly. He caught the recombinant by the back of the neck, fingers tangling in her long hair. He smashed her head into the table, the sharp corner opening a deep cut on her temple. She crumpled and lay on the floor, dazed until they hauled her up and dragged her out of the room and view of the camera, leaving a trail of red droplets.
Fraser stopped the film. He was striding down the hallway, before he even realized he was headed for the cell blocks. His thumb print granted him access to the highest security portion of the base. Or maybe not so secure - the security officer on duty did little more than glance up as he passed. People never noticed anything more than the uniform.
He stopped briefly at one of the supply stations and grabbed a basic aid kit. He found the cell the recombinant was assigned to and pressed his thumb to the keypad. The door slid open. The cell was dim; the station had entered nocturnal period of its cycle. For a moment all he could make out was the outline of the recombinant where she lay on her side, the curve of her waist and rise of her hip. The door slid closed behind him.
He cleared his throat, but couldn't think of anything to say that didn't sound ludicrous. She shifted, tensing as she saw him. Even in the gloom he could see her eyes widen in fear and he realized how bad this probably looked. He held up the aid kit.
"You need medical attention."
"I'm fine," she said. The gash seemed to have stopped bleeding, but her hair and shirt were red with it.
He cleared his throat, but couldn't think of anything to say that didn't sound ludicrous. She shifted, tensing as she saw him. Even in the gloom he could see her eyes widen in fear and he realized how bad this probably looked. He held up the aid kit.
"You need medical attention."
"I'm fine," she said, sharply. The gash seemed to have stopped bleeding, but her hair and shirt were red with it. She sat up, bracing herself with her still-bound hands woozily. "I've a hard head."
"Still, head wounds are tricky. I had better take a look."
"You a doctor?" she asked wryly.
"Well, no. But I did have several emergency response training courses back at the Academy. If you would be more comfortable, I could get a medic to examine you."
She shook her head and then winced. "No. You're fine."
He unpacked the medical supplies and donned a pair of gloves. She tensed as he swabbed the cut with an antiseptic pad, though he guessed it was more from his proximity than the sting of the alcohol. She didn't say anything as he did his best to clean the injury. It wasn't as bad as he'd feared, the cut was shallow, though blow had raised an impressive goose egg. He finished with an adhesive bandage, treated with more antiseptic, though he doubted it was necessary. Recombinants were preternaturally resilient.
"Thanks, doc," she said. Her voice was throaty and surprisingly deep, but sweet, even as she mocked him. "Hey..." she stopped him as he peeled off the gloves and collected the bits of wrapper and used gauze. "Do you think you could take these off?" She held up her wrists, indicating the handcuffs. "I've been wearing them for three days - or four? I can't tell time in this godawful place."
He hesitated. "I don't think that's a good idea."
Something flickered across her face, but his training in reading people, he couldn't tell what it was. She slumped back against the wall, her eyes closing. "You're probably right. They catch me without the cuffs, they'd probably break my arms."
"I'm sorry for the abuse you received-"
"Received? What was it, a gift?" She didn't bother to open her eyes.
"-And I assure you that I will make a formal complaint about the officers in question."
She laughed, a brittle, unhappy sound. "I appreciate that, Agent Fraser. But, as you said, I have no rights. They didn't do anything wrong."
He opened his mouth to protest: he was reasonably sure he could bring disciplinary action against them. They'd risked destroying evidence. They'd damaged Interterra property. None of these points sounded good.
"It was wrong," he said, and she did look at him at that. "And I will make sure it never happens again."
She smiled but it wasn't for him; it was a deeply bitter grimace. "Spare yourself the effort, Agent. It makes little difference what state I'm in when they put me down."
"I'm not familiar with the Interterra protocols for...." She shot him a look that made his objection die on his lips.
"I am." She waved away his next comment, the gesture made clumsy by the cuffs. "What's your given name?"
"Benton," he said, feeling unbelievably stupid.
"You seem like a decent guy, Benton - probably the last one out there."
"Ah. Thank you." The collar of his uniform seemed tighter than normal, and he slipped a finger into it, but the fabric refused to loosen.
"I didn't have anything to do with it," she said.
"With what?"
"With whatever happened to Deputy Inspector Delaney. I know you won't believe me. I'll take a detection test if you want."
"Deception detection doesn't work with recombinants," he said.
"I don't know how to prove it. They're going to blame me and there's nothing I can do, but you've got to believe me."
"I do," he said, while an alarm went of in the back of his mind. He was breaking at least three different protocols just by being here. It was a Councilors job to take her side. He pushed the thought away. She wasn't entitled to Council under Interterra law. He was all she had.
He hesitated and then took the three narrow steps to return to her narrow bed and then sunk down onto it, not quite touching her. 

"I know that your position may seem bleak-" she rubbed her face with her hand in a gesture of quiet resignation, "-but if you cooperate, I'll be able to help you."

She moved and he tensed, ready for an attack. But she didn't try to strike him, although he was woefully unprepared, instead she buried her face in his shoulder. The soft curls of her hair tickled his chin. She didn't seem to be crying; she was perfectly still. It was awkward; she didn't pull back but neither did she try to embrace him. After a few moments, he tried patting her on the back and that seemed break the spell. 

She straightened, looking slightly abashed. He stood and tugged on the hem of his uniform.

"I should go," he said. 

"Agent Fraser," she said, stopping him at the doorway. "Thank you. Benton."

He nodded and left.
Hacking into the database's highest security level was  laughably easy. It wasn't even really hacking. Deputy Inspector Ranier was many things, first and foremost, he was predictable: Fraser guessed his password in three tries.
He pulled up the file he was looking for in a few minutes of desperate searching. There was an IA report; Delaney's body had been found twelve hours ago. This surprised Fraser; he should have been informed immediately of such an important development. That Delaney had been found with compromising documents surprised Fraser considerably less. And then:
Recommendation for Recombinant V1K-T0R-1A: Request for immediate transfer of the Recombinant to Jungerson-Miako Station for final processing and termination once Interterra agents have ascertained that she has no further information of value. Public records will show that she was responsible for the death of Dep. Insp. Delaney.
Fraser sat very still for a moment, then he opened the vehicle log, noting which vehicles were in for service and their condition. One of the smaller transport ships would do nicely, bring capable of longer interstellar flights without being too bulky. And it was fast.
He found Vecchio eating a quick dinner in his office, he'd unbuttoned the collar of his uniform and a game was going on his console screen.
"Hey, Fraser," he said absently. "Can you believe this?" He gestured to the screen with his fork. "Richardson can actually throw pretty good, but you wouldn't know it watching her out there now. She's got to get her head out of her ass or I've just lost sixty units to that jerk, Malas."
"That's unfortunate," Fraser said, trying to keep from shifting his weight from foot to foot. "But I would remind you that betting, even on such trivial matters is-"
"Verboten, yeah, yeah, I know. And I'll remind Malas of that next time I see him." Vecchio's eyes didn't leave the screen.
"I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed working with you," Fraser said, which was awkward, but he was always awkward, so Vecchio just nodded.
"Uh huh, you too."
Fraser hesitated and left.
The recombinant's eyes opened as the door of her cell slid open.
"Agent Fraser, so good of you to come." He didn't answer, instead pulling her to her feet by her elbow. "What's going on?" There was a note of panic in her voice, though she covered it well.
"Play along," he said under his breath. They were already in the corridor, moving as quickly as he could without breaking into a jog. The recombinant no longer resisted, her stride matching his own, though her shoulders were hunched and she hung her head, the very picture of a downtrodden prisoner.
They reached the end of prison block and made it to one of the lifts, he punched in the code for the docking bay. The recombinant started to speak but he cut her off with a shake of his head, glancing to the discreet camera in the lift's ceiling. She nodded once, barely perceptible.
They made it to the landing bay, the cavernous room several stories high. Mechanics worked on ships, and Interterra vehicles, but there was enough bustle to absorb two more people without notice. He forced himself to take an unhurried pace across the huge floor, already spotting the vehicle he'd selected.
Two-hundred meters. One-hundred. Fifty.
They made it, and he punched the verification code into the the shuttle's keypad, holding his breath until CODE ACCEPTED blinked across the screen. The ship hummed to life and the hatch whirred open. He'd set one foot on the steps up to the ship when he heard someone shout "Wait!"
Fraser froze and he could feel the recombinant tense under his grip. He turned to find one of the cadet-mechanics, his coveralls cuffed at the wrist and ankles.
"I'm sorry, Sir.," the kid - and he did seem impossibly young to Fraser's eyes, though he had to be at least eighteen. "This vehicle is already scheduled."
"It wasn't when I checked the vehicle log," Fraser said, adopting his coldest tone.
The kid rubbed the back of his neck, clearly unhappy about crossing an officer but unwilling to back down. "Yeah, maybe there was a system error-"
"Or you forgot to enter the request?" Fraser guessed and color rose on the kid's cheeks. "Either way, this assignment takes precedence."
"Look, I'm sorry, but I really can't..."
"What's this?" They'd attracted the attention of one of the senior mechanics. She came over with a datapad in her hand and an annoyed expression on her face. Fraser actually heard the kid swallow hard.
"I was just informing your mechanic that a prisoner transfer takes priority over whatever errand he forgot to list," Fraser said stiffly. "I'm afraid I'll have to write a formal complaint if I'm delayed any further."
But the woman didn't look concerned. "A prisoner transfer? I didn't get any notice of a prisoner transfer. Which prisoner is this?" She eyed the recombinant suspiciously. "I'm going to have to call this in." But her hand never reached the communicator on her belt.
He barely registered a blur of motion in the corner of his eye before his sidearm was snatched from its holster. The woman collapsed and some small mechanical part of Fraser's brain noted that she'd been fatally shot in the throat. The boy looked down at her, surprise and confusion clouding his face before he, too, fell, blood welling from a gut-shot.
"Don't just stand there." Someone had a hold of the back of his uniform and was yanking him up the stairs and into the ship. He stumbled over the threshold and fell, hard, knocking the breath out of his body. The recombinant was at his belt and he vaguely wondered why - she already had his weapon - but then she produced his keys, and removed her cuffs. She disappeared down the narrow corridor in the direction of the cockpit.
Out of the open hatch, he could see the fallen mechanics, the blood bright on the concrete floor. The boy moved weakly, trying to staunch the wound, but Fraser knew it was bad. People were running now, and they must have been shouting, but Fraser couldn't hear anything above the pounding of his heart. The ship trembled as the engines started, and the hatch closed, leaving him alone with the sound of his own breathing. He felt the ship leave the ground and accelerate sharply.
He wondered if the boy had died.

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Luzula Author Profile Page said:

Eeee, a science fiction AU! So cool.

And this was pretty chilling. It's interesting that she actually seems to be innocent here, and Fraser's trust in the system is broken by what he saw when he hacked into the computer. So yes, I really believe that he'd help her escape under those circumstances.

And then those shots at the end--oof. Even if she was innocent before, she isn't any longer, but OTOH, she's fighting for her life. I wonder what this is going to do to Fraser. The last line really underlines this, and it made me shiver.

I think you might have forgotten a bit here, and I only point it out because I'm kind of curious as to what the passage would say. *g* Unbidden, a passage from the Interterra memorandum on the nature of recombinants came to Fraser's mind:

Oh, and I almost forgot to say: I loved the way you wrote that first conversation between them.

Thank you for my present, o unknown writer!

What an interesting setting/set-up. Fraser is still so recognizably -- and believably -- Fraser in this world. I love both the ambiguity surrounding Victoria and the ending, even as I wonder what happens next. Nicely done!

Oooh, love the scifi universe you've built here.

What I really like is Victoria's feralness - she's very much like a wild animal and Fraser's idealistic enough to try to tame her.

Poor Fraser.

Lovely job.

Sage said:

oh, this was harrowing and awesome and a nice take on Bladerunner. I look forward to more in the 'verse!

Cool story! I really liked it and also hope to see more in this universe.

I think I'm beginning to develop a thing for variants on robot!Victoria. This was awesome.

Chilling and believable! Great story!

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