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Chapter Four

Tom came back and gently woke Mary in the pre-dawn darkness. He had been a busy boy while she slept the warm fuzzy sleep of a satisfied woman.

"There's a twist coming," he told her after they were dressed and ready to sally forth, "The yacht security is state-of-the-art. This means I'm going to have to shut down most of my external access and some of my metabolism so that I profile as human, not android."

"Ouch!" Mary said quietly.

"And that means you may have to take up some of the heavy lifting, dear." he kissed her tenderly.

"Double ouch!" she said, "Just keep in mind that I don't do this front line stuff for a living. I'm a back room, do it in a cubicle, girl!"

"I will... I will..." he kissed her again to assure her and they headed for the dock.

They were guests, just ordinary guests, they took a simple launch to the yacht, not a helicopter or a hydrofoil. On board they headed to the main deck and mingled for breakfast. There were about thirty other guests there. Mary was eating this up with a spoon. She met the president of Google Maps, a governor from interior China, and a VP of Ferrari Clienti. As breakfast ended she continued her mingling and exploring upper decks while Tom slipped away to see what he could discover about the lower decks.

About 10AM all the guests were on board and the yacht slipped her moorings to head for Hong Kong. They were in no rush so they would sail by various local islands for some sight seeing.

At 10:20 Tom caught up with Mary and invited her into a nearby men's room. She was expecting some ambush sex, but instead Tom talked seriously, "There is something going on here."

"What?"

"I asked around with the crew and found that the lowest two decks are off-limits except to members of 'Chou Special Security'. I couldn't external research because I'm so shut down, but I worked up an opportunity to look through their surveillance system. They're running a cloning lab down there... looks more like a factory than a lab."

"You think that's where the Macau clones are coming from?"

"Quite likely, and quite likely those are prototypes for something more ambitious, and not nearly so innocent."

Mary was speechless. This was certainly not on her Wild Weekend playlist. And it was a lot more threatening than that. If this became more than yet another dry run, she could get pilloried. "Oh Christ! I don't need this!" was her first thought. Her second was panic, she really, really, wanted to say to Tom, "What do we do now?" but she was Mission Control! "Umm... umm... What's your assessment of mission possibilities?" she finally came out with.

Tom thought a bit, "I suggest we wreck the ship, and let conventional authorities investigate and discover the shenanigans."

"As in sink it?"

"No, not so dramatic. We'll have it run aground, some damage, but no casualties needed. The ship can then be rescued by conventional authorities. They will investigate what happened and in the process search the ship."

"Can we call in the cavalry? Let some other branch of ERU take over from here?"

"Well... we're in Macau. Do you think US emergency agencies will be welcomed to rescue something here? Especially considering this is not any kind of emergency yet?" Mary cringed at that. She now knew first hand what being between the devil and the deep blue sea felt like.

"Give me twenty to think about this." she finally said, "Meet me back at the room."

They parted ways. As she walked back Mary had a whole lot to think about now.

She remembered when she first got the idea for this wild weekend project. She was sitting over lunch with Ellen...

"You know, it's such a shame, such a waste, the way these androids are handled. We spend tons of money creating them, and then 95% go to waste, they are just recycled."

"Well, you can only store them a year, and they only live for at most seven days when they are animated."

"Yeah, but they can do so much. You'd think they could animate the stale ones and send them to do seven days of charity work, or something."

"You'd think." sympathized Ellen, "But then again, we are a secret project."

"And those dry runs," Mary facepalms, then growls like some male colonel mission giver in a cheesy WWII war movie, "Your mission, android, is to bring back a toothpick from the dining table of Xi Jinping.... Sheesh! Even more waste!"

"It's the life we live." said Ellen, and she changed the subject. But Mary's brain now had a seed in it. "Let's waste a tiny, tiny bit less," she thought.

Mary was real good at visual image programming. She hacked the games she played so she was in control of what the player saw. It got her around the boredom of a constant stream of scantily clad heroines and hulky heroes. She'd have Mickey Mouse leading samurai charges.

"Hmm... If I'm going to have a wild weekend, I can look like whoever I want in my hero's eyes, and I will! This is something I'm going to treasure for a long time. I may as well look my best in it." and thus "Mary Mayking" was conceived.

But now... but now... Things were out of hand! This was supposed to be an under-the-radar dry run. A weekend run of a stale android with next-to-no staff resource involved... just something to show that an android could be animated and missioned by skeletal staff... and this Mary Mayking, Mission Controller, was clearly an alias... pfft! Who would care?

But now this mission was threatening to transition from dry to live. This would change everything! There was a crack under Mary's feet that was about to open into a yawning pit!

Tom came back to the room, "Yes, this damage the boat plan should work nicely. It will flood the lower decks, so the factory will be disabled and discovered. It's effective."

"Damn!" thought Mary, "If he'd only found some reason for us to slip out at this point."

She asked out loud, "Is this cloning business really of our concern? Can we ignore it? Are we making waves where we don't need to?"

Tom looked at her just a little strangely, "Good question: Yes, it is of our concern. My further research, watching through the surveillance system, indicated this group is under the supervision of Dr. Albert Angstrom."

"Dr. Albert "Mad Scientist" Angstrom? Of the Interpol Top Ten list?"

"One and the same. He is an object of interest on Deck Two." Tom said this is a most satisfied way. He had completed his main mission most decisively.

Mary screamed inwardly as she calmly said outwardly, "Sounds like you have an appropriate plan for the situation. How do we do it?"

Tom explained, "The captain is touring islands. We can help him get off course and run aground on some local rocks. The Hong Kong Port Authority rescuers can make the discovery of skullduggery."

"OK how do we get this competent captain to be so idiotic?"

Tom smiled, "Well... it's the pilot manning the steering wheel, actually, and that's were you, a beautiful woman, come in, my dear. What makes men go crazier than beauty? You distract the pilot... seriously distract him... on the bridge. I'll be meddling with stuff below deck to flood some more ballast compartments. That will increase the ship's draft and it will scrape across rocks that would normally be too deep to be a problem. Viola! Ship hits rocks, rips the bottom of several compartments out, starts sinking, and the pilot, or whomever takes command in the bridge, runs it aground on the rocks or a nearby beach to save it. The Chou Special Security people are caught flat-footed and the Port Authority people get to be heroes."

"Sounds brilliant... except I'm no Mata Hari."

"You're part of this business, have been for years, you've got eighty percent of the knowledge part," he admired her and kissed her, "and a hundred percent of the physical attraction part."

Mary almost goes to tears as she hears this, "Tom... Tom... I'm not who you think I am."

Mary pulls her phone out, and takes a picture of herself. She shows it to Tom. Tom looks, "Who's this?"

Mary sighs, "This is what I look like to everyone but you. I programmed you to see me... in a different light."

Tom looks back and forth a couple times, which is a whole lot for a super android, "Hmm... this explains why the dress sizes you bought were 12's. I didn't think much of it at the time." He thinks some more, but not long, "I... I... I still say we stick with Plan A. Beauty is in the heart as much as the eye. You don't have to convince this guy to marry you, just pay attention for a few minutes while the ship heads into some rocks."

Mary, "You... you... You really think I can do this?"

Tom smiles and kisses her, kisses her hard and long, until she melts in his arms, sincerely melts in his arms again. Even with what he now knows, he still loves her, and she's loving that, "I think so."

<<<*>>>

When the moment was right, Tom got Mary to the bridge. Only the pilot was there. Mary walked in and moved around like a young, curious miss.

"Sorry ma'am, guests are allowed here only with an escort." said the pilot.

Mary smiled at him, and started reading him: Will he be attracted to a straight forward approach, a coy approach? She went for sincere flattery.

"What a wonderful view you have up here! You really steer this ship from way up here? It's so big!" She came over and brushed his arm with her hand. The pilot did not brush her off, instead he stood tall at the wheel.

The pilot asked, "Are you some kind of rich heiress?"

Mary smiled and blinked knowingly in response, then said, "Would I be up here unescorted if I wasn't? My departed husband was a man of authority. I like men who are take charge and in control."

She had found his hot button. When Tom saw this he headed below. He had some deeply delicate hacking to accomplish to both get the ship to crash and make it look like someone else's accident.

Mary stood happily beside the pilot. She was channeling her inner child proudly standing next to her poppa. With that warm feeling in mind she asked, "How come the captain isn't doing this? It's his ship, right?"

The pilot looked at her, and explained things as if she was a child, and didn't mind doing so, "Oh, the captain runs the ship. He doesn't pilot the ship. That's what us pilots do. We decide where it goes.

"For instance, you see those rocks over there? They're called the 'Twin Angels' in Cantonese Chinese."

Mary looked, "But I see only one rock?"

"The 'twin' is just to the right, under water, and it's caught more than its share of ships with unwary... captains... at the wheel," he grinned at that, "That's why you have a pilot when you sail in these waters."

She took a half step closer, then looked around the bridge, "I've seen bridges in movies... Where's the thingy that is a post with a big handle on it that you push around to indicate Full Speed Ahead!"

The pilot thought for a moment, confused, and then laughed. He was getting into the mood, "That's called the ship's telegraph. It was a way to signal the engine room from the bridge. You only find it on old steam ships... in movies. Nowadays we have..."

Mary was hitting it off with the pilot, and much more successfully and faster than she thought possible. She got him away from the wheel, and then not facing the wheel as she convinced him that bringing her lips to his would enliven his afternoon considerably. She noticed, but he didn't, that the main control panel went through some kind of reset -- Tom's work, for sure. She melted in the pilot's embrace as he got more and more excited. It wouldn't be long now...

And it wasn't. There wasn't much deceleration, but for many seconds there was an ominous ripping sound coming from the bowels of the ship. The pilot stiffened and almost threw Mary off of him.

"Oh shit!" he said in Cantonese, then in English, "Get out of here, FAST!" then more mumbling in Cantonese. He paid no more attention to Mary as he started looking over the main console to assess what had happened. Mary didn't need to be told twice!