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Title: Of Machines and Men
Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: Death Machine
Pairing: Jack Dante/Warbeast
Rating: NC-17
Status: complete
Archive: yes
Feedback: juxiantang@hotmail.com
URL: http://juxian.slashcity.net
Disclaimer: The movie belongs to... whoever it belongs - and no copyrights are infringed here.
Comments I: Skip it if you saw the movie. It is just some info you might want to know if for some reason you decided to read the story without seeing the movie.
Jack Dante is the character played by Brad Dourif - a mad scientist who constructed and controlled the robot programmed for killing (the "death machine"). The machine is called the Warbeast. How does it look like? Mean :-) CHAANK is a bad nasty corporation where Dante worked. Hardman is another project he worked on - the creation of a cyber-soldier.
Cole was the obligatory woman who ran away from/fought the Warbeast (think Ellen Ripley); she also was an unsuccessful love interest of Jack Dante. In the end of the movie Cole locks the Warbeast together with Dante in the safe vault full of flammable materials and an explosive device on the verge of going boom - and she also gets the control panel of the Warbeast and switches it on (can you see Dante got on her nerves? :-))
Comments II: The story is the beginning of Death Machine II: Resurrection :-) Just joking. It is set after some days after the end of the movie. I just had to think of some way to get these two beautiful creatures - Jack Dante and the Warbeast - back.
What else? Alec Riverside is mine but I don't think I should bother with copyrighting him :-)
Summary: Another bad nasty corporation is taking interest in Jack Dante's project.

OF MACHINES AND MEN

I caressed the small pieces of metal in the pocket of the white coat while the policeman at the ward checked my identity and authorization. The points and edges were surprisingly sharp, leaving tiny vicious nicks on the tips of my fingers - but I secretly enjoyed the sensation. I stood still for a few moments as the lines of my iris where scanned and compared - and then the policeman turned to the panel at the door.

"One moment, sir."

The security system was dazzling: all these passwords, access cards and eye-identifications. I hid a smile - let them have fun while they could; while they believed they did the society a favor keeping him there. I couldn't resist thinking that, given a chance, he would make their security disintegrate in a matter of minutes.

The heavy door clicked opening and I entered. No, he was not given a chance. Just smooth solid walls without windows. Nothing he could use to free himself. Nothing he could use to kill himself. Only the floor-fixed bed there.

He lay on his side, facing the door, curled around his in-cast and thickly bandaged wrists, his skinny form seeming almost fleshless under the thin blanket. His face was half-hidden, curtained with the absurdly long, raven, smooth strands. He looked at me when I came in - but the gaze of his wide, unthinkably blue eyes didn't change as the door locked behind me and I walked to his bed.

"Mr. Dante. My name is Alec Riverside."

His look was so unblinking - disturbingly still - that I could have thought he didn't understand me. I knew he did; his mental abilities didn't suffer. I waited patiently, looking down at him. There was no chair in the room for me to sit.

His throat moved a moment before he spoke - a flash of white through the tangle of dark shiny hair. Then his voice - still hoarse and only a shade of his old animated one - saying:

"I know you. You... were there... then."

I nodded. I had held the control panel when the door of the vault slid down. We had to open the door - the device was in such a bad state that the signal didn't go through the metal - and it fell apart in my hands a moment after I had pushed the button and we saw the Warbeast stop moving. Ecstatic, we flooded the thrashed room with the walls smoked almost black. And then, in the corner, we saw him. Curled in a tight ball in the black leather of his coat, his face under the black fall of his hair. I thought he was dead when I squatted at him and pulled at his shoulder to uncurl him.

A few moments before, I had been shocked seeing the steel machine that moved on us from behind the sliding-down safe door, flailing the shiny knives of its fingers, chattering the implacable jaws of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But I couldn't say I was much less shocked now when the motionless body under my hand thrashed wildly, the long plaits of hair falling back, revealing a ghostly face, white and red - and these wild, night-blue eyes stared at me while a soft keening sound reverberated in his throat.

I remembered pulling off the helmet and hitting the button on my wrist-com:

"Emergency here. Need medical help."

He kept staring at me while he was taken away on the stretchers - until the sedative worked and his eyes closed.

I didn't know he would remember that.

"I want to talk to you about your projects, Mr. Dante."

All of a sudden even the shade of interest was gone from his stare - just a dull, bored expression stayed. He huddled under the blanket inefficiently; the pale fingers of his mutilated hand, only the tips of them visible under the cast and the bandages, pulled the edge of the blanket higher.

"I told your people everything."

As if. Being honest, I doubted Jack Dante told them a tenth part of what he knew. But they apparently were too dumb or too scared to demand more.

"There is no 'my people' in this business," I said sitting down on the bed at his side. The heat of his body was stunning, reaching my through the blanket and through my clothes. "I don't trust anyone to deal with it."

He kept silent. It seemed to me that his mouth quivered - but I couldn't see it under the screen of his hair. His fingers shifted minutely, catching one of his strands and pulling it mechanically. Like a shy kid trying to occupy his hands.

"I worked with the Hardman project from the side of the Army," I added.

Now something twitched in his eyes. Thoughtful - or ironic. I followed the movement of his pupils to the tiny opening of glass under the ceiling.

"Entering my authorization code switches the cameras into re-play mode. There is a tape of our 'official' conversation."

Did he smile? I looked at him so intently, trying to read every tiny change in his eyes - and probably there was a wee bit of satisfaction in them now, indeed.

"So, what do you want to ask me?"

He still didn't trust me. He had no reason, too - actually, in his situation it was a safe guess to trust nobody. Everybody was a danger; he couldn't resist or fight back, all he could do was to minimize the damage.

"No, Mr. Dante," I said softly. "I don't want to ask you anything. I am here to answer your questions."

He shifted uneasily. With his face burrowed into the pillow and his abundant hair, it was only one blue eye I saw now - and it stared at me as if trying to elicit whether I meant it or took him in.

"Ugh... well," he coughed painfully - his throat must have been still sore - of all that screaming - or he probably was giving himself a little more time. "What's with Cole?"

I knew he would ask it. The first question just the one I expected - I mentally patted myself. So far so good.

"She resigned, of course. Not that it mattered, anyway, with the way the thing went. She left the city, too. I assume she must have left the country. Her nerves were in a bad state, indeed."

I rolled the tape in my memory: the beautiful strong-faced woman with inanimate eyes, repeating her story in a steady voice to the police and then FBI - and only her hands couldn't stop dancing - shaking so badly that she couldn't light a match, crashed a half-smoked cigarette in her fingers.

She begged the building to be bombed and razed to the ground immediately - and she was so convincing that the authorities were prone to agree with her. It took our intervention and a careful mixture of drugs in her coffee to make her tell where she had locked the Warbeast. To find out where she had thrown the control panel was even a bigger problem. She resisted remarkably. She really believed she was saving the world.

"For children," she continued to say. "For our children."

She thought she had broken the panel so that it would be useless - or she wouldn't tell us anything, no matter what. And she practically had ruined it, true. But with Dante's toys it was extremely difficult to destroy something irrevocably. He was obsessed with durability, one can say.

So, our technical people managed to wire the panel together enough for one last command - and even then we were not sure it would work. It was a madness to open the vault without truly believing that we could stop the machine - but we took our chances. And we had won.

Funny - Cole didn't mention Dante even once in her story; she must have thought he was long dead by then. It was a bonus for us - to find the constructor together with his machine.

"Cole was the biggest mistake of CHAANK," I said shrugging casually, watching his reaction. Just a slight narrowing of his eyes. "She is the past now," I added gently. If he didn't think it now, he would think it with time, I knew. I would take care of it.

"And what is the future of CHAANK?" there was a mere trace of sarcasm in his voice. I liked to hear it. And I liked the question.

"There is no CHAANK any more. Do you think it could survive such a scandal?"

"Ah," no regret.

"There is MOTRIS now. Another stupid abbreviation, you see. And I am its Chief Executive."

I didn't hope to impress him; he didn't say anything. I went on.

"We had to surrender the Hardman project to the authorities. But you must admit it was not a very successful one, after all. All these seizures and constant re-charging - they made the soldiers practically useless. A dead end, don't you think?"

My eyes never left his face as I spoke, absorbing his reaction, the tiny sparkles in the blue. He pulled the strand of his hair again, tucking it into his mouth. Keeping silent.

"We managed to keep safe the projects Mole (elimination of power networks) and Lizardman II (cloning with enhancing of certain abilities)."

I looked at him intently as I pronounced the names of the projects. I bet he had no idea how much we knew. He had fed CHAANK what he considered necessary - but in fact we had information about everything he was doing.

Everything but what was in his head, that is.

"As for the Warbeast..."

He drew in a short breath. A tiny sound that I wouldn't hear if I didn't listen so intently. For the first time as we talked his voice trembled a little:

"How... how is it?"

"Switched off. The control panel is unsalvageable," I didn't try to be delicate, no matter what I supposed he could feel. "The metal parts and joints are practically intact."

They must have been. Explosions, falling, going through the walls left barely a dent on its surface and the bullets harmed it no more than a heavy rain would. For a moment, involuntarily, it appeared in my memory - the huge machine that we had stopped almost by a miracle, clouded with smoke and heavily dusted - and the coating of blood on its parts dark and dry and crusty: on its jaws, its blade-fingers, its feet, its...

Oh God. Dante was a lunatic, no argument. I didn't know what perverted pictures he must have had in mind when equipping his creature with this abomination, plus to its crushing jaws and claw-fingers.

Its organ, shiny steel, sticking at 45o angle to its body, its size beyond comparison to anything human but matching its whole enormous frame... The software commanding it contained thousands of sequences, from hard-core pornography to the passionate love scenes from classic movies.

"But it malfunctioned. Its interface was damaged," I added mercilessly. I saw him shiver. He must have wanted to repress his reaction but he couldn't.

He knew the Warbeast malfunctioned. Who knew about that better than he did?

Dante was not an idiot. Cole must have thought it was the matter of the control panel that the machine chased them, never threatening him. But there was a directive in the Warbeast's memory - in what of its memory we managed to scan - defining Dante as its master and ordering to 'love and protect' him.

The machine would have never turned on him. When the door of the vault slid shut, it assessed the explosive in his hands - while he was so messed up with his childish fear of darkness and what he considered Cole's betrayal that he just held it, not doing anything. The directive to protect kicked in. There were all these boxes of flammable materials in there - and the Warbeast snatched the explosive out of his hands, throwing him to the corner, stepping on the explosive itself. It blew up under its feet - and its metal construction was the only thing that could prevent the whole room go hell fire, as Cole hoped it would.

The explosion... It was spectacular. I watched the tape again and again, the sound so low that it seemed to reverberate through your body. The room shuddered, the roar of the falling machine huge and distressing. For a while it seemed there was no chance, the fire would start - and then nothing would stay whole there.

Then silence. Just the clouds of dust settling slowly. And Dante on his knees at the wall, coughing his lungs out, pale and wild-eyed with shell-shock, his hair seeming grey with the layer of dust on it.

It was pitch-dark in the vault but the tape was done in the infrared light. The personal indicators switched it on automatically. Jack Dante's own personal indicator. He must have forgotten about it, nobody had ever had the access to it. I bet I was the first one who had ever used it.

The data indicated the Warbeast had been slightly off-centered already before the explosion - a bullet must have hit its control center. But the blow-up shifted the things even worse.

With a holy shiver I remembered how the machine moved in the scattered room, away from Dante, its size so overwhelming that I could only pray God I didn't have to face it fully functioning and for longer time.

It moved almost as a man in confusion.

The explosion destroyed all its inhibitors. The program demanded to kill. Yet the directive to love and protect was valid and powerful. The conflict threatened to overload it when at last it found the way out; the outlet both for its wish to destroy and necessity to love.

"In fact, the authorities were made believe it was a heap of metal now," I continued calmly. "Or they wouldn't be so careless with it. But, to be perfectly sincere, we both know there is nothing in it that is impossible to resurrect..."

He was silent. I didn't expect an immediate response, too. His stare was focused on me, as detached as it could be - but the tiny tremble of his black shadow-like eyelashes gave him out. He reminded me an exhausted animal, cornered and watching the hand reaching to it, equally expecting a strike or a caress.

"...Especially for someone who knows how these things work," I finished the phrase.

My hand moved smoothly, slowly enough for him not to startle away, gathered the mass of his hair and pulled it away from his face. I wanted to see him. I was tired of guessing his subtle reactions - but more than just that, I wanted to see his face. I had seen enough of it, wild-expression, animated, on the tapes where he advertised his projects and negotiated with Cole. But it was not enough. I missed seeing it now. I needed to see it.

There were three deep gashes going over his cheekbone almost to his mouth, stitched and bright-red, barely healing, not even the scars yet. Then, in the vault, his face had been so smeared in blood that I couldn't see them.

It would take months for them to start looking less than appalling - and for sure they would never be invisible. He was marred for life. But the strange thing was that I didn't mind it.

He didn't turn away. His mouth was pale and thin, its line wildly ironic even though his face seemed haggard and withdrawn. His eyes absorbed me - with the intensity I couldn't and didn't want to resist.

I wanted to touch the scars with the tips of my fingers and see him flinch in pain. I wanted to run my fingers on his mouth, to feel the warmth and dryness of his cracked lips. I wanted to caress the pale column of his throat and the sharp curve of his Adam's apple. I realized I still held a thick strand of his hair in my hand, so smooth and heavy and irresistibly silky - and I let it go.

"So..." he said suddenly, his voice small, almost reluctant, as if he didn't quite decide what he wanted to say. "My baby is safe."

"Yes, it is."

I answered without a pause, grateful to himself that my voice sounded so simple, just a confirmation. Baby... he had called it that.

He had laughed, after the explosion. He kept saying: "That's my baby!" when he understood the Warbeast saved his life. He cried, too, groping with his hands around blindly, sobbing and shivering in his fear of darkness.

He couldn't see the machine move - and he was deafened by the explosion, he didn't hear it, too. Not that it would somehow help him if he did.

"We can keep it if we want to," I said softly. "Money and equipment are not a problem for us. The problem is someone who can make it work. Nobody knows the Warbeast better than you, Mr. Dante."

Again, for the second time during our conversation, it seemed to me that he didn't hear. Well, didn't I know what he could say? For a moment my mind switched off and I heard again the agonized, harrowing screams, going on and on, and the sharp, even hiss of well-working mechanism.

"Nobody *knows* the Warbeast," he said almost haughtily, the flash of startling blue on the flawed face - and I felt my breath caught in my throat.

How well he knew it, indeed. Enough for night after night dreams that made him wake up trying to crawl away from himself - so that they had to tie him to prevent him from harming himself.

I looked at him - he lay, turned slightly so that he was half on his side, half on his back now, his arms in the thick wrapping of white curled protectively at his chest. His baby...

It had broken both his wrists. It didn't intend to do it - but he was desperate trying to get free - and it held his wrists with its palms too tightly. It didn't want to harm him - or it would use its fingers. But it was careful with the blades. After the touch on his cheek that was undoubtedly intended as a caress and slashed his flesh to the bone, it didn't try any more.

I wish I could say I would like to forget it all. But it was not what I watched the tape for days, over and over. I remembered every sound, every sequence of it now. It was enough for me to close my eyes and it was with me again.

It had him on his back on the boxes of the flammables, his arms stretched up and apart, pinned to the wood by the creature's steel paws, his legs wide open and his ankles fixed. It had sliced the fly of his pants and the material down there, between his legs. His belly was sucking air feverishly and his face frantic, huge eyes almost black with pain and terror.

It didn't need its hands to guide itself. Its organ - another part of its body that was intended to be a weapon of destruction - had its bullet-like tip pressed between his legs, as it applied its force for the penetration.

His eyes were wild, his face stoned with agony. The Warbeast might have had an idea of what it was doing but it didn't aim right. The head of its organ was directed too high - right under his balls, to his perineum. The opening was not there. But with its incalculable force the Warbeast could do it there, eventually.

It must have been blood that made the steel slick and let it slip a fraction down at last. His anal muscle was no match for the machine's strength - even if he did try to resist. The Warbeast slammed in - and it was when he got enough breath to start screaming.

As soon as the Warbeast's organ was embedded in his body, it never left it again fully - emerging, thickly coated in blood, almost for a foot length - and sent again smoothly, the rhythm never changing, the only difference from the human analogue of the action. But then nobody expected the machine to take pleasure in it.

On the colorless tape of what happened in the pitch darkness I saw the Warbeast's muzzle hovering over Dante's face, blank with agony, as if it wanted to touch him but didn't dare.

Half an hour later he was still conscious and screaming, even though there was no sound in it any more, he lost his voice. Later he couldn't scream, just whimpered softly, rolling his head from side to side in the circle of his spilled black hair.

It was an hour and a half later when he lost consciousness - and an hour more before the machine stopped moving.

Forget it? I would never want to forget it. It was the eeriest, the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. And even if I had never cared for the Warbeast before - I would have fallen in love with it now. But what did happen to me - and I knew it absolutely clearly - and it was one more reason why I was there, not only because of my professional interests... I fell in love with Jack Dante.

Seeing the smooth surface of his hollow belly raised by the piercing shaft of the death machine on every merciless thrust made me want him more than I wanted anything else in my life.

And I intended to have him.

"There is the only question I want to ask," I said quietly. "Can you do it, Mr. Dante? Can you be the man who will bring the Warbeast back to life?"

His nostrils flared. His lips were stark white, so tightly he pressed them. The blueness of his eyes was blazing madness.

Then he nodded.

God. The tension of the last days drained out of me in a huge flow. It was done. Everything else didn't matter do much. Technicalities.

"Welcome to the team, Jack," I said warmly. "And call me Alec, will you? No necessity in these formalities. We are the one now."

For a moment his face had a confused, almost lost expression - as if I said something startlingly strange to him. The black eyelashes fluttered over the eyes staring at me with painful intensity.

"The one?" there was some almost desperate sound in his voice and I nodded seriously:

"Of course. Partners. Friends. Help each other. Do things together. Take care of each other."

His face was fiercely concentrated while his lips moved quietly, repeating my words.

I kept smiling tranquilly, shifting on the bed slightly, then saying casually:

"By the way, Jack, there are some things that we would like you to change in the Warbeast."

"What is wrong with it?" his voice became sharp, his eyes the slits of blue steel. How I liked to see him like that - caring. Watching the tapes of his interrogations - I had thought he would never be the same again.

"First of all, it is inflexible," I couldn't keep enjoyment away from my voice. "I saw the records - it tried to squeeze itself into the opening where it surely had to get stuck. It must not lose its time like that but find another way."

I could see the sparkle of animosity in his eyes fade, replaced with the easily recognizable interest of the creator when you talk to him about his creation.

"Then its control center - it proved to be its weak place. The construction itself sustained - but the software snapped. It must not happen. The protection must be doubled, tripled."

"What else?" his eyes were shining.

"Weapons," I smiled. "Weapons, Jack. Jaws and blades are good for making impression - but what will it do against modern arms? The Hardman project had the weapons that the Warbeast didn't have. How about taking the best of them?"

"But I want to keep the blades," he said like a small boy, pouting. I smiled again.

"You can give it an additional hand - or a pair of hands, right?"

He asked something else and I told more - and then I asked and he told - and all the way something sang in me in triumph. I had him. I had Jack Dante with me.

"How about the charges put against me?"

"They will be forgotten. Trust me, Jack. CHAANK was nothing in comparison with the power we have."

He smiled. For the first time since everything happened, I really saw his mouth curving in the crooked, sick smile of his that I got to love so much on the tapes I watched.

The tapes... Jack Dante, excited, wonderfully unmoved, over the agonizing body of the Hardman soldier - gesticulating wildly, submerged in his new ideas. Kneeling in front of Cole, exultant, guiding the gun in her hand to his forehead with both his palms. Cold and concentrated, programming the Warbeast for its death raid... And later, in the darkness, lost, unhappy, pressing the explosive to his chest as his favorite toy.

Then more later, in the same room, crawling to the corner, away from his beloved steel pet, leaving the trail of blood on the floor behind himself.

I didn't know how he was going to forget it, how he was going to work with the Warbeast again, to touch it, to make it move again. Perhaps it was the all-forgiving, unreasonable love of a parent to his child - although Cole would find this comparison an anathema.

Whatever it was, I knew I would be with him at it.

"I have something for you," I said pulling my hand out of the pocket. It was his fingernails. The blades, the Warbeast claws in miniature, that I had pulled off of his torn and broken hand when he had been put to the helicopter.

His expression of wary, childish curiosity flashed up with delight when he saw what it was. I took his hand carefully, putting the small rings on the tips of his fingers. His fingers were so cold, I felt like taking them to my mouth to warm them up.

I felt so good, it was smothering me. For the first time since I had seen the tape of what happened between him and his machine in the closed dark vault and it became my madness, I felt almost satisfied.

He stirred his fingers experimentally when I finished - some ligaments in his hand had been cut when he had pulled his hand from that knife - but it worked okay now.

"Don't do anything silly, Jack," I said seriously looking at the little shiny blades. "I'll take you out of here as soon as I can."

He nodded and I got up. God, how I wanted to touch him. I saw him looking at me - up from his pillow, the angular face so white and vulnerable between two raven wings of his hair, his eyes open wide and as if expecting something.

"You said... we are the one now, Alec?" he asked, his voice faltering unexpectedly as it had been in the beginning of our conversation.

And suddenly I understood. For a moment the exhilaration took too much of me, I needed a few heartbeats to get back to myself. Then I leaned towards him, whispering on my way hastily:

"Yes, Jack, we are the one - you and me," and pressed my lips to the corner of his mouth.

I felt him shifting minutely so that his lips were placed against mine - and he kept pressing them, insistently, blindly, for seconds, until I straightened again.

I waved my hand, leaving, trying to hide the crazy smile on my lips that still felt his touch. I had known it before - he could be a genius in whatever he was doing - but there was a thing his life didn't teach him to do. Jack Dante couldn't kiss.

Well, it could be taken care of.

THE END

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