Daria's Dilemma

Daria stood and tested her wrist. Satisfied, she began to move towards Elizabeth.

"Now, let's finish what we started, shall we?"

Elizabeth began to back away from her. "I'm not going to let you suck my brain dry."

Daria snorted. "I don't want your whole brain, child. I only want you to give back what you took. It doesn't belong to you."

"If you think I'm going to let a bunch of machines tell me what to do, you've got another thing coming."

Daria shook her head. "Lovely bravado, dear. But it's a bit cliché. Who writes your dialogue, George Lucas?"

"Well, I guess a droid would know."

Elizabeth stopped her retreat as she found herself impeded by one of the room's walls.

Daria smiled. "Gotcha."

As Daria took another step towards Elizabeth, her hands extended, a strange thing happened.

Her head disappeared.

Elizabeth blinked.

She didn't recall hearing a sound, but there must have been one. Daria was still standing in front of her, her hands raised, but her head was missing, and wisps of white smoke were wafting from her neck.

A glance at the floor told Elizabeth that Daria's head still existed. It just wasn't where it was supposed to be. A glance to her left told the rest of the tale. Murali was standing in the doorway, a strange looking rifle in his hands.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

Elizabeth blinked again. "That's a loaded question," she replied.

Murali let out a breath and lowered the weapon. "Well, I'll take your attempt at wry humor as a yes."

He stepped into the room and looked around.

"What is that?" Elizabeth asked, nodding towards the rifle.

"Hmmm?" Murali looked at her for a second. "Oh. This. It's a directed energy weapon."

Elizabeth put her hand to her head. "Great. We've moved from Star Wars into Star Trek."

Murali looked at the rifle. "Well, not quite, but almost. I'm just glad it worked."

"What does that mean?"

"Well, it's a prototype. It's been tested in the lab, but not... um... in the field, as it were."

Elizabeth's knees could handle no more. She slid down the wall, plunked into a sitting position, and put her head in her hands.

"So you could have blown us all up, is what you're saying."

Murali let out a puff of air. "Well, hardly. It just might not have worked, that's all."

Elizabeth just shook her head and continued breathing into her hands.

The sound of hurried footsteps outside brought her head up again. Murali turned towards the door, rifle at the ready.

Anya appeared in the doorway, her normally pale skin flush with the exertion of running. She stopped dead at the sight of Murali and his energy weapon.

"Chill, Rambo," Elizabeth said.

Murali hesitated a moment, then lowered the rifle. "Right. Of course. I'm sorry. It's Anya, isn't it?"

Anya nodded, relief rippling across her features. She put a hand against the doorway to steady herself, then stepped fully into the room.

"What on earth is--" Anya began, but her movement had brought Daria--or what was left of Daria--into her line of sight. Anya's hand shot up to her mouth, and her flush all but disappeared as the blood drained out of her face.

"Oh my God," Anya gasped. She grabbed the nearest chair to steady herself again. "You've killed Daria."

"Killed is kind of a strong word in this case," Elizabeth said.

Anya shot her a glare. "What did you say?"

Elizabeth put her hands up. "Whoa. Anya. Robo-Prof here was going to fry my brain cells until Murali here showed up. " She glanced up at Murali. "By the way, Rambo... sorry I overreacted. Thanks for... uh... intervening."

Murali smiled. "Don't mention it."

Anya looked back and forth between them, confused. "What are you two...?" She moved towards Daria's motionless, and still upright, body. The wisps of smoke had dissipated, and the wires and circuits were now visible in the stump of her neck.

Anya's eyes widened. "She's a ... a ..." With a shudder, she sank to the floor.

It was Elizabeth's turn to stare. "You mean you didn't know?"

Anya shook her head.

Elizabeth looked at Murali. "So this android has been here all this time? And these people didn't even know about it?"

Murali looked grim. "Evidently." He looked at the now-defunct Daria. "And somehow, Swapna managed to connect to her and reprogram her."

Elizabeth sighed and returned her head to her hands. "This is... the most... " She looked up at Murali with heat in her gaze. "screwed up place I've ever seen!"

"Elizabeth, get hold of yourself." Murali stepped towards her.

All the fury and outrage that had been building up in her since she'd first learned of this place was now boiling over.

"Let me out of here!" she screamed.

Murali crouched beside her. "Look," he said. "There's nothing I can do about that right now. Jason's got this place locked up tighter than Fort Knox."

Elizabeth slumped. "Daria would call that a cliché," she said quietly.

Murali put a hand on her shoulder. "Listen to me. " He glanced back at Anya. "Both of you."

Elizabeth nodded. "All right."

Murali's gaze bored into her. "Swapna's not just sulking. She's blazing mad. And we're all in a lot of trouble." 

The End

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