Chapter 8 - Sting of the Iron Bee
Justice Knight Justice's left hand hovered over his holstered gun. He gripped his sword tighter with his other hand.
Meanwhile, his partner, Justice Knight Love got into a fighting stance and readied her dagger.
They were surrounded by twenty or so approaching Iron Soldiers - remnants of the army that the two Justice Knights and the police force of the city had whittled down with blood, sweat, and tears.
Back to back, the two exhausted Justice Knights prepared for the assault.
Unexpectedly, the Iron Soldiers halted their advance and started to stare up at something in the sky above the two knights.
Justice and Love looked up as well.
A cyborg woman with long, flowing, black hair beneath her bee-like half-helmet was descending from the skies. She was carrying a stuffed gym bag. The bee cyborg landed in front of the Justice Knights with the huge spike on her back pointed at them.
Love got ready to strike the bee cyborg.
Suddenly, the bee raised her hand up in front of her, as if to tell the Iron Soldiers to back down. To them, she ordered, "Retreat, Iron Soldiers! Head back to the base!"
Shocked, the Iron Soldiers began to mutter amongst themselves.
The cyborg bee raised her voice, "Did you not hear me? The daughter of our great leader gave you a command - retreat!"
Upon hearing the bee's anger, the Iron Soldiers stood at command and answered, "Yes, ma'am!"
Miraculously, the Iron Soldiers began to leave.
The two Justice Knights watched the scene in disbelief, as did those who were watching on the monitors back at the Justice Knight Headquarters.
After all the Iron Soldiers had left, and they were alone, Love angrily demanded, "What's your game here, cyborg?"
The bee cyborg turned around to face them, waving her spike away. "My name is Iron Bee, and I am here to-"
"Don't you dare say it!" A voice yelled out.
The knights turned towards the direction of the voice, while Iron Bee just looked down towards her feet, as if unable to face the owner of the voice. She muttered, "Brother..."
It was Iron Wolf.
Next to Iron Wolf were two other cyborgs, one male and one female, both with sleek, black, form-fitting armour, and both with completely black, featureless helmets.
"Don't you dare say it!" Iron Wolf repeated himself, angrily.
Iron Bee stared at her feet for what felt like an eternity. Finally, she gathered her courage and looked straight at her brother. She declared, "I am here to join the Justice Knights!"
"What?!" Justice Knight Love yelled in disbelief.
Back at the headquarters, Sasha and the Captain looked at their monitors in disbelief as well.
"No..." Iron Wolf muttered. Then, he said, "No, you aren't. This is your last chance, sister. Come back with us, and no one has to know that you were ever even thinking about defecting!"
"I have made my choice, brother."
"They'll interrogate you! They'll never treat you like a human being! They'll treat you like you are a monster!"
"That's because you are monsters," Love said.
Justice gave his partner a look.
"No...," Iron Bee said. Then, she shook her head, "That doesn't matter. I cannot stand by anymore while our so-called 'great leader' goes on his so-called 'cleanse'! Can't you see that he has become... a monster?!"
"That's our father!" Iron Wolf protested.
Iron Bee looked down in shame, "That doesn't make it alright..."
Iron Wolf snarled. Then, he barked out his battle orders, "Four, Nine, we're taking her back, whether she likes it or not."
"Yes, sir," the male one said.
The Captain's voice came through the knights' earbuds, "David, Emma, take Iron Bee back into custody."
"But, Captain!" Love protested, "She is a cyborg! This could just be a trap!"
"This might be a trap, this might not be a trap," the Captain said, "But either way, she has valuable information that we can extract from her, so take her back into custody!"
"Yes, sir," Justice said.
"... Yes, sir." Love reluctantly repeated.
"Four and Nine, huh?" Justice said, addressing his adversaries, "Looks like you two got an upgrade."
"Yes, we did," the female one said, cockily, "Thank you for noticing. We are now using the Iron Ninja models. There is no way you can beat us."
"Enough chitchatting, Nine," Iron Wolf said, "We are going with Formation Wolfstream."
"Yes, sir," the two Iron Ninjas responded.
Smoke began to emit from Four and Nine's bodies.
"Remember, no killing," Iron Wolf said.
"Yes, sir," Four and Nine said.
The Iron Ninjas took out their kunai as the smoke started to thicken. When the smoke had covered all three of the cyborgs, two pillars of smoke shot out and charged at the Justice Knights.
"No killing..." Justice Knight Justice repeated. Then, he rotated the sword in his grip so that the flat side faced the charging smoke pillars. To his partner, he said, "Love, protect Iron Bee and get her back to the headquarters!"
Love protested, "But-"
Angrily, Justice Knight Love turned around and grabbed Iron Bee by the wrist. As the two of them started running, Love muttered to herself, "I should be killing her, not protecting her."
Unbeknownst to Love, Iron Bee had heard her and the cyborg's lips twisted into a frown.
Justice Knight Justice swung the flat side of his sword at the pillar of smoke that had charged right up to him.
The sword went through the smoke... and nothing else.
"What?!" Justice yelled out in surprise as the two pillars sped right past him and surrounded the fleeing Justice Knight Love and Iron Bee.
Suddenly, Four jumped out of the left pillar and slashed at Justice's torso with his kunai, knocking Justice into the right pillar of smoke.
Nine jumped out of that right pillar. She grabbed the staggering Justice by the head and slammed him into the ground.
Love and Iron Bee halted as the smoke surrounded them. Suddenly, Iron Wolf jumped out right in front of them. He lunged at Love with his claws and slashed Love's chest with them.
"Augh!" Love yelled in pain. She was then knocked into the ground by Iron Wolf's kick to her chest.
"You damn cyborgs!" Love yelled as she got up, "I'm going to kill you!"
Justice Knight Love pressed a button on her dagger and it began to superheat the blade. She lunged at the wolf.
Iron Wolf dodged the blade and pounced onto Love, knocking her to the ground. Quickly, he began slashing at her chest with his claws.
Love screamed in pain.
"Stop it, brother!" Iron Bee screamed as she flew at Iron Wolf.
Iron Bee slammed into Iron Wolf, knocking the wolf cyborg off the crimson knight.
Iron Wolf yelled in surprised as he crashed into the ground, with Iron Bee crashing close to him.
The siblings got up and faced each other.
"Are-" Iron Wolf stuttered, "Are you actually going to fight me, sister?!"
"Yes..." Iron Bee responded, "Yes, I am, ... brother."
The two of them stared at each other, uncertain as to what the other was thinking.
Finally, Iron Wolf gave the command, "... Retreat."
Justice Knight Justice punched Four in the face, knocking him back. Upon landing on his feet, Four questioned his commander, "What?!"
Nine jumped back, away from Justice's flat-side sword swing, "But, sir-"
Iron Wolf roared angrily, "I said retreat!"
Four and Nine paused. Finally, they acknowledged the command, "Yes, sir."
Four and Nine jumped over to their commander. Black smoke began to emit from their bodies again.
The Justice Knights and Iron Bee stared at the smoke, waiting for any sudden movements. However, the smoke cleared away and the three cyborgs were gone.
Justice Knight Justice pressed a button on his Knight-Former and commanded, "Sheathe."
His sword scattered into tiny, metallic squares, which flew back into the red orb on his Knight-Former.
Justice Knight Love, however, refused to follow suit, and grip her dagger tightly, ready to strike down Iron Bee if needed.
Pressing a button on his Knight-Fomer again, Justice commanded, "Handcuffs."
Tiny, metallic squares flew from the Knight-Former and formed a pair of handcuffs in Justice's hand.
"I am sorry, but I'm going to have to cuff you," Justice said to Iron Bee. "And before anyone asks - yes, these can withstand a cyborg's strength."
Iron Bee nodded, "I understand. But, could you let me get changed first?"
"Get changed?" asked Justice.
"Yeah," Iron Bee responded, "I don't want to walk in all armoured up."
"Uh, sure," Justice said.
"Thank you," Iron Bee said as she took off her helmet.
Underneath the helmet was what Emma would call a pretty face, perfectly matched up with the long, flowing black hair that Iron Bee was now shaking to loosen up after having been stuck underneath the helmet for so long. Emma blushed a little underneath her own helmet.
However, back at base, Sasha was having a different reaction, "That's Catherine Alber!"
The Captain looked at her in surprise, "You mean Dr. Alber's daughter?"
"That's right, her!"
"Then," the Captain pondered, "Maybe the doctor really is working with the Iron Legion after all..."
Back on the battlefield, Iron Bee put the helmet on top of her gym bag. Then, she said, "I'll just turn around for this, while I put away my armour."
Love snapped back, "No! Whatever you're going to do, you're going to do it so that we can see you."
Iron Bee started, "But-"
Love lifted up her dagger, "You think I'm going to trust you to turn around so that you can hide whatever it is you're going to do?!"
Justice interjected, "Love, don't-"
"It's okay," Iron Bee said, "I understand."
Iron Bee pressed something on her arm. Suddenly, slots opened up all over her body and her armour retreated inside of her, leaving only her naked, human-esque body.
Emma and David both blushed a little.
Back at the base, Sasha was stuttering, "R-Right, yes. Since Dr. Chow's armour came from inside her body, it only stands to reason that the cyborgs can also store their armour back inside their bodies."
"Are you alright, Sasha?" the Captain asked.
"F-fine! I'm fine!" Sasha hurriedly responded.
"Good," the Captain said, "How long until the EMTs and our guys get there?"
"They should be there in about ten minutes, sir."
Back on the battlefield, Iron Bee was reaching down towards her gym bag.
"Hey!" Love yelled.
Iron Bee stopped.
"What do you think you're doing?"
Iron Bee stood back up and looked at Love, "I would like to get a dress from my bag, so that I won't be naked anymore."
Justice Knight Love scoffed, "It's not like your body is real."
Iron Bee's face fell, as if Love had slapped her. She looked like she was about to cry.
"Emma..." David said, sternly.
Emma snarled, "What, sir? It's not like-"
"It's the closest thing to a real body that I have left!" Iron Bee yelled, angrily.
Emma was speechless.
Finally, Justice said, "I'll get the dress out of the bag, alright?"
"No..." Love said, "I'll do it."
Iron Bee stared at Love with furrowed brows.
Love walked over and opened the gym bag. Grabbing the first dress that she saw, she handed it over to the cyborg.
Iron Bee grabbed the dress and continued to stare at Justice Knight Love intensely. Finally, the cyborg relented and just said, "Thank you."
Iron Bee threw the dress over herself and then said, "Could I get some shoes to go along with that?"
Love tsked as she reached inside the gym bag again and pulled out a pair of black flats.
"Thank you," Iron Bee said as she put the shoes on.
"Now can I cuff you?" Justice asked.
"Yes," Iron Bee held out her wrists, "Thank you for waiting."
Justice walked over, "Sorry, but behind your back please."
Iron Bee turned around and Justice cuffed the cyborg's wrists behind her back.
Soon afterwards, a convoy of ambulances and police cars arrived. Police officers, paramedics, and others poured out of the vehicles to help the injured... or to transport the dead.
Instinctively, Iron Bee shrank behind Justice Knight Justice, probably embarrassed by her state of affairs.
Justice Knight Love scoffed at the notion.
A car and a motorcycle pulled up next to the Justice Knights.
The Justice Knight Unit member got off the motorcycle and said to Justice Knight Love, "Your motorcycle, ma'am."
"Er..." Justice Knight Love was not used to people referring to her with respect, "Thank you."
Justice Knight Justice picked up Iron Bee's gym bag. Then, he opened the car's door to the backseats and gestured to Iron Bee, "Get in."
Iron Bee did as she was told. When she was in the seat, Justice buckled up her seat belt and left the gym bag on the seat next to her.
Justice closed the door and turned to Love, "I know it has been a long day, but we're going to have to go back to base first."
Love nodded, "Yes, sir."
Justice pressed a hidden button on his Knight-Former and the exosuit scattered, flying back into the red orb.
"Sir...," Love said, "Are you sure that's a good idea? You're going to be in the car with... it."
David furrowed his brows. "She, Emma. She is still a person. And yeah, I think I'll be alright. If she starts to put her armour back on, I'll activate the exosuit right away. Besides..."
David smirked, "I definitely don't want to sit in a stuffy car in my exosuit."
With that, David gave Love a small wave and got into the car, which drove off soon after.
Love pressed a hidden button on her Knight-Former and her exosuit, as well as the dagger in her hand, scattered and flew back into the red orb.
When the exosuit had finished deactivating, Emma walked over to the motorcycle and started it.
A voice called out to her, "Wait!"
Emma turned to see Officer Jessica Pink walking towards her.
Noticing the bandages all over the officer's body, Emma asked, "Are you going to be alright?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Listen," Pink said, "Thank you for saving me - us - back there. I don't think we would have had a fighting chance if you didn't show up when you did."
Emma smiled a little, "Just doing my job. You guys helped a lot as well."
"Can I at least have your name? Am I allowed to know that?"
Emma chuckled, "Yeah, it's Emma."
The two warriors shook hands. Then, Emma drove off against the setting sun.
The guard opened the cell at the Justice Knight Headquarters as David approached with Iron Bee in tow.
"I'm sorry, but you're going to have to wait in here while I talk to some people," David said to Iron Bee.
Iron Bee nodded as she walked into the cell.
David undid her handcuffs and then closed the cell door behind her.
"By the way, do you have a name that I can call you by? Besides Iron Bee, I mean," David asked.
Iron Bee smiled a little, "Catherine. Most people just call me Cathy though. How about you? Unless if your name really is Justice."
"Nah," David smiled back, "it's David."
"Thank you, David," Cathy said.
"For what?" David asked, puzzled.
"For treating me like I'm still human."
David looked at Cathy in the eyes. Then, he said, "You are."
David turned to leave, "If you need anything, just ask Sam here. I think you two have already met?"
Cathy nodded and smiled at the guard, who nervously looked at her.
"Luckily, the invasion was stopped before they got too far. Not even a quarter of the city was damaged," Sasha said at the debriefing, "It seems like the main advantage that the Justice Knights and the police officers had over the Iron Legion's army was that our guys actually knew how to fight, whereas a lot of the cyborgs didn't."
"However, that being said..." Sasha continued, "There were a lot of casualties. Currently, there have been over a thousand deaths reported so far..."
The room fell dark.
The Captain forced past the sorrow, "Thank you for the report, Sasha."
Sasha nodded and sat down.
Continuing, the Captain said, "Next thing: Catherine Alber, also known as Iron Bee. David and I will go talk to her, the rest of you can listen in."
"Yes, sir," Sasha and Emma said.
David and the Captain walked to the room where the prison cell was. They pulled up two chairs and sat facing the cell which Catherine Alber was locked in.
Gesturing to the Sam the guard, the Captain said, "Open up the channels. Record this and feed it to the Network as well."
"Yes, sir." Sam begun to set everything up.
To Catherine, David said, "Please give us a moment while we get this all set up."
"Of course," Catherine nodded.
After a few minutes, Sam said, "Everything's ready, sir."
"Thank you, Sam," the Captain said.
Then, the interrogation started.
"Please state your full name for the record," the Captain started.
"My name is Catherine Elizabeth Alber."
"You are also Iron Bee of the Iron Legion, is that correct?"
Catherine sighed upon hearing that. She answered, "Yes."
"You are the daughter of Dr. Francis Alber, correct?"
"Yes, I am."
"And from what we have gathered, Iron Wolf is your brother, Neil Alber, correct?"
The Captain nodded. Then he continued, "We have been trying to locate you, your father, and your brother for months. Could you tell us what happened and how the three of you ended up in the Iron Legion?"
Catherine sighed as she started to recall the memories. "You guys know about the accident, right?"
"The one that you, your brother, and your mother were in?" David asked.
"Yes," Catherine continued, "We were all injured in that accident. I only had a broken arm, which was easily fixable, but my brother lost both of his legs and my mother was injured so badly that she was drifting between life and death for several days."
"For those several days, my father begged and begged, calling everyone that he knew, trying to get them to let him use the cybernetics that he had developed to save Mom's life," Catherine said, "However, for one reason or another, - national security, secrecy, politics, etc. - he was denied, and soon, Mom passed away."
"I'm sorry," David said.
"Thank you." Then, Catherine continued her story, "We grieved and mourned. Not only was Mom dead, but Neil had to get used to his new life with a wheelchair. He would get frustrated and angry. Dad, on the other hand, buried himself in his work, and we would barely see him anymore."
"However, one morning, I got up, went downstairs, and there was Neil," Catherine smiled a little, "He had both of his legs back and he was up and about, smiling and laughing with Dad. I found out that, of course, Neil had become a cyborg. I didn't know it at the time, but Dad had also become a cyborg already as well."
"I went to bed that night, happy," Catherine's face started sinking again, "But when I woke up, I found myself naked, secured on a table with mechanical arms all around me, pointing at me. Without even asking my opinion on the matter, my father and brother had turned me into a cyborg."
Catherine's face turned glum as she recalled waking up in the cold, sterile room, surrounded by mechanical arms with needles, scalpels, buzzsaws, and all other types of tools, all pointing at her. For the first few moments, she had not known what to do. She tried to get up, only to find that she had been restrained to the table. Then, she had screamed and screamed.
"So," the Captain's voice snapped Catherine back from her spiralling glum, "your father converts people into cyborgs for the Iron Legion?"
"Oh, he's much more than that. He is Iron Lion... He's the leader of the Iron Legion."
"Dr. Alber is the leader?" David asked, surprised.
"Yeah..." Cathy replied.
"I see...," the Captain said. "So then, what do you want?"
"What do you mean?" Cathy said.
"Why did you defect? What do you hope to gain by joining us?"
"I'm sure you have heard by now," Cathy answered, "My father wants to use his Iron Legion to 'cleanse' the world. He uses the word 'cleanse', but, really, he just wants to kill anyone that doesn't meet his standards, and then rule over the remaining. He thinks he'll make a better world this way... He thinks that by doing this, what happened to Mom won't happen to anyone else again. He think he can avenge Mom this way. But he's wrong, and I want to stop him. To do that, I need your help."
"Our help?" David said.
"Yes. I need you to help me destroy the Iron Legion. I need you to help me stop my father," Catherine said, her voice breaking up a little.
With sorrow in his voice, David said, "You understand that if you help us..., your father and brother might both die?"
Catherine's eyes widened a little. Then, she narrowed them. "If I have to, I will kill them myself."
The Captain hung up the phone in his office. David, Sasha, and Emma waited anxiously for the results.
"The mayor and Police Commissioner Torres agree. We will gather the information that Catherine will be providing us about the Iron Legion's location and forces. Using that information, we will plan an attack that the Justice Knight Unit and the police force will carry out."
Emma protested, "You can't seriously be thinking about trusting her?! She's one of those... monsters! You saw what they did to the city!"
David scowled, "Enough, Emma. Cathy isn't a monster. She is willing to kill her own father and brother to stop them from killing any more innocent people!"
"She could just be saying that to gain our trust!"
"You heard her! Did she sounded like she was lying?"
"Enough!" the Captain said, sternly.
Emma and David stopped their arguing.
"Those are our orders. Whether or not we like it, we will have to trust Catherine Alber."
Reluctantly, Emma said, "Yes, sir."
"We're all exhausted. Emma, go home to your sister. Sasha, you may go home as well," the Captain said, "David, unfortunately..."
David nodded, "I know, I'll stay here, in case we get attacked."
"Thank you, David," the Captain said, "But, at least get some sleep in the infirmary. If there is any trouble, the alarms will alert you."
"Right," said Sasha, "And several of the guards have now been equipped with the prototype short swords as well, so that should help."
"Yes," the Captain continued, "Now, let's all go get some rest."
Emma watched the monitor on her desk in the office that she now shared with David.
Iron Bee was just sitting on the bed in her cell, reading a book that she had brought with her in that overstuffed gym bag of hers. The guard, not Sam, sat outside the cell, looking at his computer, probably surfing the Internet.
She could lure the guard away, Emma thought. Or maybe tell the guard that she needed to take Iron Bee to a safehouse. Then, when the two of them were alone, Emma could take out her dagger and kill that monster before it could lure them into whatever trap the Iron Legion had planned for them.
Emma watched Iron Bee, sitting there, reading a book, pretending to be human. As if Emma would believe that Iron Bee would be willing to kill the cyborg's own father to stop him from carrying out his plans. Emma scoffed at the idea.
But then... Iron Bee did knock Iron Wolf off her when the wolf cyborg was attacking her.
'They're still human.' That's what both David and the Captain had said.
Right, as if Iron Bee could still be considered as a human with that doll-like body of hers.
'It's the closest thing to a real body that I have left!' That's what Iron Bee had said.
Emma felt a pang of guilt after recalling that.
Emma watched as Iron Bee brushed her hair to the side of that beautiful face of hers. Emma blushed a little.
Maybe... Just maybe, Catherine was still human. And maybe... she could be trusted?
Emma stood up. The clock caught her eye. It was already ten o'clock at night.
What was she doing? Emma thought to herself. She was contemplating murder while she had a sister waiting for her back at home.
Emma quickly turned off her computer and packed up her things. Then, she left for home, where her sister was waiting for her.
Iron Lion roared, "Why did you retreat?!"
"I- I couldn't fight her, father!" Iron Wolf argued, "She's still my sister!"
"That doesn't matter!" Iron Lion stood up from his throne, angry. "You were weak to your emotions, my son. You had lost your logic and rationale."
Reluctantly, Iron Wolf apologized, "I am sorry, father."
Then, with a tone that pierced Iron Wolf with fear, Iron Lion warned him, "Do not let it happen again."
Iron Wolf paused for several moments in fear before he managed to say, "Yes, father."
Iron Lion roared, "Next time, you cleanse her!"