“Oh god, shuuuuuuuut uuuuuuuup!” Tyche grumbled sleepily to the constant beeping that pulled her awake. Her immediate thought was that it was her alarm and that TAVROS was, for some inexplicable reason, on the fritz. Why else would her alarm start going off over two hours early? She sat up and looked around blearily in the dark, quickly realizing that the noise was not, in fact the alarm but instead was her XSWAT databand.

Muttering a string of curses under her breath, Tyche picked up the device and activated the primary interface. No messages from XSWAT HQ, Lieutenant Tovera or even from the APD. In fact, the only message that was present at all was one from Nicodemus, sent thirty minutes ago via normal channels. There was no reason at all that her databand would go off like that. She frowned at the interface and shut it off. Whatever the old man wants, it can wait until morning. Returning the databand to the nightstand, Tyche laid back down with every intention of going back to sleep.

However, intention and action are two completely different things. The timing of the false alarm caught Tyche at such a point that she found it impossible to get back to sleep. Sitting up, she raked a hand through her hair mumbling another string of curses. “TAVROS” She muttered blearily. “Start my morning routine.”

“Are you certain mistress? You are not due to depart for two hours and seven minutes.” The house AI stated in its faux-british accent.

“Yeeeeeeees.” Tyche irritably replied as she pulled herself out of bed.


Clean, dressed and fully awake, Tyche stood in front of the full-body mirror debating on whether to go with a normal tie or the clip-on. The regular uniform called for a clip-on, as did the dress uniform in most circumstances. While that was mostly a matter of safety and prudence, Tyche just could not get past the fact that it assaulted her sensibilities. After all, why wear a tie at all, if it’s just a clip-on? Eventually her desire for the professional look won out but was tempered by not wanting to run the risk, regardless of how remote, of getting strangled. Clip-on tie in place; she finally decided to actually read the message from the old man.

You really should get an early start today. Also, when you go through your daily routine on your way into work, pick up an extra cup of coffee.


Tyche lifted a brow. “What the heck…?”


Jaden gasped, shivering at the touch of liquid cold that now ran through his facial fur, down along his muzzle, and off his nose; the faucet echoed in the dead quiet of Precinct Sixteen, its pouring contents illuminated by the dim buzz of fluorescent lights. Taking in a few slow breaths to steady his nerves, he plunged his face into the sink; ice cold water washed away the lethargy from a long night’s sleep as well as the sand that crusted in the corners of his eyes. Beside him sat his standard issue uniform. The dress blues seemed to glow in the light, a sleeve shined with the newly sown patches designating his position in XSWAT as well as his rank and file. He felt a small smile grow upon his face as he examined his handiwork, double checking the cross stitching of each patch before pulling the uniform on.

Feeling refreshed and ready, Jaden left the washroom, traversing through the corridors of Precinct Sixteen’s newly furnished offices and admiring some of the handiwork he had put in place while assisting the contractors with cleaning and installing equipment over the past week. Most important was the building’s server room, a task which Jaden took upon himself to layout and install. Wires were carefully positioned for ease of access, and the routing devices installed so that he could easily access them at his own pleasure. Firewalls buffered the systems security, furthering the Clade’s own mental defenses against any unnecessary intrusions.

Jaden began to sing softly to himself as he began flipping switches with a gentle wave of his mind. Office computers, printers, and lights all came to life as power was fed to them, save for one. He frowned at the espresso machine, peering at it from many angles. It was not giving him his needed cup of coffee, something he found to be rather irksome.

He needed his coffee.


Tyche nudged the front door to the precinct house open with her hip, careful to not spill the precious cargo she carried. Once past the threshold, the first thing she noticed was that the lights were on. That’s odd, it’s at least an hour before the desk sergeant is supposed to come in and another thirty minutes before the rest of the squad’s supposed to show up. Tyche glanced around the main room and set both cups of coffee she was carrying on the desk sergeant’s desk and started to check her databand on the off-chance her own time was off. Maybe the last one out forgot to shut off the lights last… wait, is that singing?

The question proper time, and the devices that kept it forgotten, Tyche gathered both cups of coffee and walked carefully to the squad’s common area and set them upon the center table. From there she moved in the direction where the singing was coming from, making it a point to step in such a way that she would not disturb whomever was singing, but also not so quietly that she was skulking about.

Nearing the area that was used for their servers and networking equipment, Tyche found herself more curious than before. This was Jaden’s domain, which suited her just fine; her knowledge and expertise with information systems began and ended with casual, daily use. “Jaden? Is that you?”

The Clade paused halfway through the chorus, his ear flicking slightly as the sound of music slowly faded to a low whisper. “Good morning Sergeant Tyche.” He turned, flipping a coin in her general direction. “I’ve not expected to see Kennedy in the coffee machine; he certainly has a way for fitting himself into some troublesome situations.”

He gestured to the now discombobulated espresso machine. “It’s rather interesting; the unit was installed a few days ago, untested of course that is until today. Would you know how a 1972 silver half-dollar found its way in?”

“That is a good question.” Tyche caught the coin and looked it over, lifting her sunglasses just slightly in the process. She then looked to where she had set the coffees and frowned. He wouldn’t go that far would he? She shook the thought from her mind and started rolling the coin across her knuckles and through her fingers a few times before palming it “So, what are you doing here so early anyway?”

"I found the Tower to be a bit too loud for my taste.” He shrugged, putting the espresso unit back together. "Here, it’s a bit more peaceful. It lets me have a moment to myself; especially with the additions I've made to the firewalls."

Setting the unit aside once it was assembled, he gestured towards a seat. "May I ask as to what has the pleasure of the resident sergeant here so early?" he peered up at her slightly, oversized pupils glinting in the light. "As Officer Jack would say it, you would seem one befit to having her needed beauty sleep."

Tyche held up a manicured finger as she went to gather the coffees she brought in. She noted that Jaden’s reply really did not answer her question… or did it?

“Well,” she smiled, slipping into the offered seat and offering one of the cups to Jaden at the same time “I could say something like ‘no amount of beauty sleep can improve upon perfection’. But truth be told, I just couldn’t sleep and I figured I may as well get an early start.” She sipped at her beverage and made a mental note to stop by Angel’s Diner for some maple syrup. “I don’t know how you like your coffee, so it’s just black.”

"Black is fine.” He gave a polite nod as he accepted the cup, soon lapping at it lazily. "Apology for my mannerisms. We need straws, muzzles weren't meant for drinking from cups."

He set the cup aside and gestured towards her arm. "Your data-band notes that you were awoken earlier this morning.” He furrowed his brow. "No traffic came through to the servers here while I was sleeping. Is your unit in need of a checkup?"

Tyche lifted a brow. “Yeeeeaaaah…. I was…” There was more to it; that much was obvious. However, she also made it clear that she did not want to go further into the matter, never mind the fact that she was a little put off now. “No, it works fine. Besides, I am fairly convinced the one who triggered it would be able to do it again even if you rebuilt the thing from scratch.” She set her coffee aside and leaned forward. “Okay, how did you do that?”

Jaden cocked his head slightly, taking another sip of his coffee. "Do what?"

"Access my databand like that without using a workstation or anything.”

He rose from his seat, arms crossed in thought as he debated his answer. The music began to increase in volume as he turned to face Tyche. "You could say that I had freed my mind, a long time ago." With a dull clunk, a rusted old security pistol sat upon the table. "Of course even that wouldn't let me go, so I had to accept what was always there, learn from it, and of course utilize it."

He took leaned forward against his chair, watching as Tyche would examine the old piece of metal. "Some places become too loud for my taste, others too quiet.” He swung his arms open, gesturing to the Precinct’s offices. "Here… here it’s just right, just enough to know it’s there, but not enough to let it be overwhelming."

Tyche picked up the pistol and examined it, not entirely certain of its significance. Satisfied that the old weapon would provide no answers, she set it back down. “I see…” She pieced together his words and the implications. “So what you’re telling me is that you can talk to machines then? Communicate with them and get them to do whatever it’s that they do just with your mind? Kind of like an esper, but with machines only?”

"If only it were so simple." Jaden sighed. "I've control for as long as I have an access point, and not everything here has a computer chip.” He patted the espresso machine for emphasis.

"It would certainly prove worthwhile to have the simplicities of life at my control, but no, not for me, or any other who are being subjected to the experiments that created me in the first place.” He turned to face Tyche, leveling a calculating gaze at her. "It's different you know; growing up with someone else pulling your stings. You know, slavery at least meant you had some value, but when you were treated as an expendable asset, your value seems to be rather… depreciative."

He took up his cup and drained it, tossing it into a nearby receptacle. "Did you know, I was a bit of a squatter before I joined the Academy? I was almost two when I finally had my first taste of unfiltered air." Eyes closed as he began reminiscing. "It may not seem like a long time, but for my sister and I, it was eternity in that place."

He swept a hand up towards the fluorescent lights. "Learning and processing like a common machine. Organic servers, that was what I was designated. Potential for use in high end data management and mental calculations."

"Of course, I didn't care that it was a profit they were working for, what Clade does? When your vat grown, you're not given much of a choice in life decisions.” He then gestured to himself, "What am I, mid-twenties perhaps? I'm only four, I know, I read my file before I destroyed all their work."

"However, once you learned a little bit about compassion from a picture, you begin to look at your neighboring vat born as more than another biological slurry of organic parts. You see family.” He chuckled. "And of course as I told Madam Director Jama, I'll only ever be trouble when you begin to treat my family wrong."

Tyche sat back and sipped at her coffee and listened intently as Jaden spoke. In a lot of ways, she found she could sympathize with the Clade, especially on the topic of being manipulated and used for someone else’s purposes. But on the other hand, she knew herself what it was like to be the puppet master, tugging and twisting fate to make it, and by extension the people affected, dance for her own amusement.

“So… let me get this straight, you were some sort of organic computer hooked up to this corporation’s systems and you and your… sister? You both escaped?” She knew better than to ask why the escape happened. There could be any number of reasons for that and very few of them she wanted to hear; it’s far too early in the morning to get angry about something that you can’t do anything about. “And what brought you to XSWAT? I can see why they’d want you on their rolls, but you don’t seem like the sort who’d just walk to the nearest station and ask for an application.”

"Hardly, I was a happy and lucrative mistake, all in the name of science of course.” He sighed. "I had other sisters and brothers, but they didn’t last long save for one, my cell mate. She was a few seconds younger than I, and my only companion for our few months together. At least until she became irrigate."

He paced the room for a moment, taking calculated step after step as he continued to parse through his fragmented memories. "You know, she liked it when I sang to her. I learned about such recreation one day when security systems grew lax.” He wiggled his fingers in midair as though upon a keyboard. “Learned about the outside, and I told her. Like dreams, an imagination for us to indulge in while contained in our padded rooms. She’d never see it though; she was never around to escape with me.”

He tapped the broken sidearm. "I failed my first attempt at escaping. Could say it was mind blowing. Afterwards I saw an opening, and took advantage of it.” He walked over to the window, leaning upon the sill as he gazed out into the muddled gray of an Angelus morning. “I learned by watching others, learned how to become a squatter, living off the street.”

“I had learned that there were special things about me as well. I didn’t need to actually use a computer anymore. I could see code for what it’s, all of it. Some places it trickled, others it was like watching rapids pound away at the city’s infrastructure. You see, I have special eyes.” He grinned. “I tapped into that stream, pulling a piece of information here and there. Selling it when I could to make a living; it all worked out in my favor until one day I decided to indulge in a more lucrative hit.”

“I went to a location close to ‘The Wall’ where rumors had it a medical company had temporarily shut down its facilities. With a little digging I found a sub layer unmarked in its architectural blueprint.” A shiver ran through the Clade. “What I saw… well, if you ask me, it made the Entity we dealt with a few days ago seem so much more… oh what, is that word you people use? Benign I think.”

“I had never felt that much fear and confusion in my life.” His grin faded away. “You may or may not remember a quarter of Angelus suddenly having network issues a few years back. That would have been a small young Clade having an adrenaline rush mixed with a panic attack.”

He picked up a coaster, the XSWAT logo emblazoned upon it. “Of course someone saw, and answered my shouts. You could probably guess the rest.”

Tyche listened as Jaden spoke, at some point through the process finishing her coffee as well, keeping the cup nearby for the time being. “Yeah, sounds about right. Though, if you ask me, that… thing… we dealt with in the sewers, well, I don’t think it was an Entity, at least not in the traditional sense.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I mean, not that I am one to go about actually keeping paperwork and stuff in mind, but last time I checked, Entities didn’t use parts of people when manifesting. Could be wrong though.” Another shrug. “Would have to talk to one of the older vets or some other expert or something to be sure, though.”

She then leaned forward slightly. “So, let me make sure I got this: you escaped from some sort of corporate lab, losing your siblings along the way, lived as a squatter for a time before stumbling across an Entity and now you’re in XSWAT.” She tapped her chin as if piecing some things together in her mind. “You had the ability to live rather well doing what you did before joining XSWAT, yet you were a squatter. That… doesn’t make any sense. Even if I could buy the idea that you only worked small-time because you wanted to doesn’t explain why you don’t have your own place by now. Both Tovera and Findley got kicked out of their places and they were able to find something new quick enough. Why not you?”

"A matter a preference perhaps.” He shrugged. "I couldn't say. Before I had the distinct idea that Helix was the worst thing I could come across… well a bit of perspective certainly does change ones view on things."

His ear twitched, taking his focus for a moment as his gaze drifted off towards the wall, soon followed by a shake of his head as his ear twitched again. "Seems the hackers know the Precinct is open.” He offered a sly grin. "Was a nice laptop too… was."

"So, cyber-punks aside, what brought you to XSWAT?" he cocked his head slightly. "You dress too well for someone who'd want to be in the midst of all this. From a level 2 Entity, to a straight tie… by the way, it would do well to wear the clip-on, it gives someone one less thing to use against you."

Tyche chuckled. She wouldn’t pretend to know the first thing about Jaden’s realm of expertise, but she did enjoy some schadenfreude on occasion. “Yeah… I know.” She replied, lifting the collar of her shirt just so, revealing that she was wearing a clip-on. “Had to fight the habit this morning. Clip-ons are just so tacky; even if the regular guy on the street can’t tell, I know the truth and that’s usually enough for me want to burn all of the clip-on ties in the sector. I guess I need to get over that though. Try to set a better example for you guys.” 

She sat back and folded her arms under her breasts, shifting her weight a little as if to get more comfortable in her chair. She was stalling as she pieced together her response. “As far as my lifestyle, you’re right. I don’t really want to be here… nor do I really belong.” Her attention turned just slightly skyward. “The best way to really put it though, is that I was advised to join XSWAT… for my own good.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Make of that what you will.”

"Sounds as though you enjoyed having control of your own path in life.” He licked his nose unconsciously. "I take it someone had more strings that they could pull over you than you'd like. I remember your outburst at being thought dead… debts?"

She nodded. “Something like that. Yeah. As far as debts are concerned, well, let’s just say that despite what people tell you, it’s possible to win too much." She stopped herself and smiled. “I figure that at the very least being thought dead would re-open some doors for me that were closed a while ago. Now, I don’t expect to make the same mistakes I did when I was young and stupid, but it would be kind of nice to revisit some of my old haunts and hangouts again… for old time’s sake.”

"Must be nice to have old memories that you can visit, maybe even a few faces who'd recognize you… in a good way mind you."

Jaden moved away from the window, taking a seat across from Tyche. "Others should be arriving in the hour now… Everything has already been placed; I made sure of that last night before shutting down for the night.” He frowned slightly. "Jack had wanted a pole installed in the break room… and I am still confused as to what purpose it would serve." His head then cocked to the other side. "As a matter of fact, he wanted a little ball of static for Claire as well… "

A slight hint of a frown crossed her features, as she realized that there were disturbingly few people who would remember her in a good way. Casting the thought aside quicker than it manifested, she smiled. “Yeah, it would be about that time wouldn’t it?”

She considered the odd requests that Jaden had received. The static ball was obvious to her, there were two Clades on the team; one of them had far more fluff than sense, the other was sitting across from her. The other request caused a moment of pause and her smile turned cold. While she certainly had the body and looks, she was just not that kind of girl. “Oh, I have an idea of what Jack wanted the pole for. You didn’t get it did you? If you did, send it back. Or better yet, let me have it, I’ll put it to much better use than he could.”

"Logic dictates that it would be ill advised to do as such.” He threw his hands up in a sign of defeat. "Besides, I didn't put in for the order. It had no reasonable necessity, as for the ball… I made sure to avoid Officer 404's desk as much as possible for the mean time."

"Speaking of such things, did you have anything that was required to help fulfill your services here?" He dropped his hands. "As well as it should be known, the wiring and everything here has been set in such a way as to alleviate any stress from signals. It helps so that I can at least get some sleep in the server room."

Tyche replied with a mock-frown. “I figured as much. Oh well.” She sat back and tapped her chin in thought about Jaden’s offer. “Actually, now that I think about it… not really. I’ve got my desk with the little souvenirs I’ve acquired over the years. If something comes up, I’ll let you know.”

She leaned forward, her chin resting on her interlaced fingers. “You on the other hand are another matter entirely. You’re an XSWAT officer now Jaden, and you should dress and live like one. You deserve better than to sleep in some cardboard box in a server room, and you deserve better clothing than what you wore to Tovera’s little soiree the other night.”

"I do not use a box, it would be discomforting.” He took hold of his tail, gently preening it. "As for my clothing, I thought it best. I read up on outings and going to dives, and due to certain members or our company, I thought it safe to not represent myself in something akin to a three piece suit."

“Fair enough, but my point still stands. You deserve better than what you’ve got right now.” She said with a tilt of her head in the direction of the server room. “If the world doesn’t suddenly come to an end, what say we go out this weekend and find you a nice apartment or something? You let me know what your requirements are, and I’ll do the rest.”

"I don't understand, I believe I live well within my means," he gestured to the precinct. "It’s quiet here, security precautions making the amount of signal bandwidth extremely low, compared to the common apartment."

"As for clothing, I didn't feel it was necessary to have anything extremely garish. I read up group outings and it was extremely informative about going to dives.” He let loose his tail in favor of straightening his tie and collar. "I would think anything more would have had a rather high chance of being ruined. Due to the company, or rather a portion of the company, I found it highly likely that any attire I would have chosen for the night would have been ruined."

“Okay, forget the clothing bit for a minute, although I am convinced that is the only nice outfit you have. And you may live well within your means, but you’re still living like a hobo.” Tyche replied as she sat back and thought for a moment.

In a number of ways, talking to Jaden was not unlike talking to Claire. Both had difficulties in wrapping their heads around some of the concepts that she took for granted. Her initial thought was to chalk this up to the fact that both are fairly young Clades and both, apparently have had no form of personality imprinting of any sort, so they were learning as they went. For Claire, she found she had to adjust how she spoke and got her ideas across. It was now apparent that she had to do the same thing for Jaden.

“Alright, think about it like this; how would you keep and maintain a server? Keep in mind that I’m no expert on these things, but I doubt you’d want that sort of equipment in a musty, dusty, damp room, right? You would want that server to have the best possible place you can afford, right? The same applies for you Jaden.

“Yes, staying here works for you, but it’s not the best there is. You don’t know that because you’ve only experienced the bare minimum that works, and I am telling you that there is something out there that’s better. It will suit your needs and wants far better than this place can. You’re worried about noise? You can adjust things how you want without bothering anybody or even potentially inhibiting police business. You can find your…” she paused, gesturing a slightly rectangular shape, “…server box! And then customize it from floor to ceiling exactly how you want it.

“And don’t try to hand me any of that crap that you don’t need such things. You only think you don’t, but I saw how you were acting at breakfast the other day. You didn’t know what to do with yourself because you had no idea there was so much to experience in such a small place. You think you don’t need or want more because you don’t know… and you won’t know until you get out there and, well, get experience.” She grinned a little. “And that’s where I come in. I want to help you get that experience. Just like you are very protective of your family and friends, I can’t abide knowing that my friends are not at the level that they deserve to be, and if I can help, I will.”

"I see." Jaden rubbed a worried thumb along his brow in thought. This human’s attitude was very self-indulging, having not suffered heavily the developments that the Clade had lived through. "Officer Tyche, I believe you may be missing the full extent of why I live here."

The soft gentle saxophone of smooth jazz suddenly blared loudly through the rooms speakers. Shrill cries of trumpets and clarinets, once harmonious, now a deafening cry of noise causing the young woman to cringe slightly. As suddenly as it had begun, all noise stopped, alleviating the pain from Tyche's ears.

"What the hell!" she threw a dark glare at Jaden.

"Imagine that was your life.” He crossed his arms. "Imagine that was constant; imagine that being your life. Everywhere you go, its noise and even worse, you see it, the lines of information, 0's and 1's everywhere."

He tapped his eyes then his ears to emphasize. "That is my life. XSWAT is exactly like that cacophony of noise. What was once sweet and sensual music, now an intense blast of chaos, always disrupting my life."

"I live here, not only because we have quarters with which we can utilize, but because of the installation that I worked on personally with the contractors. It’s… as quiet as it can be, something I can't obtain from the apartments I've gone to. Anything more, I can't afford, not unless I indulge in the more… elicit forms of monetary funding, though I do believe that this organization would certainly frown upon it."

"Do take my apologies, but I couldn't explain things to you without actually showing you a bit of what my life is like.” He sighed. "It’s not my ears though, it’s my mind; buzzes filling it, telling it of a document here, spam there."

He motioned over towards where the servers sat. "I am… somewhat tethered in a sense to the servers, using it to help focus my mind. This precinct has been the most comfortable sleep I've head in my entire life up to this current and exact date. XSWAT Tower is torture, and until I can strengthen myself, it will be a constant headache there that I must endure."

"Besides, I think I do have a rather decent collection of clothing worth wearing to all occasions both formal and casual.” He grinned. "I do read the subscriptions to Men's Cosmopolitan as well, and now that I am within the means of comfort, I have been trying to learn more about… being casual."

Tyche sat back. The combination of her neutral expression and the slight glint of reflected light from her sunglasses created an illusion of frustration. “I see…” her gaze shifted to Jaden directly, the illusionary ice melting quickly with a warm smile. “Well, you can’t blame a girl for trying. Look, in all seriousness, it appears that I’ve made some assumptions about you and I apologize for that, but I really do just want to help. I…” she paused and looked away for a moment and then back. “I just don’t like the idea of you guys living below the level that you deserve. I am pretty well convinced that neither Findlay nor the LT need any help, not that it would do a lot of good even if I could get them to take it. Bernard is likely better off than I am… or he’s at least set himself up to be. If you want to call this place home, I’m fine with that Jaden. I just don’t want you to think that it must be this way because you have no other options or means, and if I can help, I will.” She gave another smile. “Make sense?”

"Oh the conclusion was there since the start, and an apology isn't necessary as will all things, much of what I do and what I am is still an enigma to you and the others of this precinct, a fault of my own no less.” He took up his tail again, pulling a small curry comb out to run along it. "It’s… no fault but of those who made me, and until I'm sure that I have been considered dead by lack of existence to them… sadly something I fear is not the case, I won’t be able to actually enjoy the finer instances of life."

"And to be honest, I feel that Findlay's offer of help would not be an option for the wiser to take.” He chuckled, shaking a few clumps of tail hair into a nearby receptacle. "I imagine he has had quite enough shock, learning that Clades are of a much higher station here in Angelus than elsewhere in the world. His attitude and demeanor I find most humorous and interesting, if all is to be true, his station here with us must be quite the culture shock."

“Fair enough.” Tyche replied with a nod. “As far as Findlay goes, I agree with you, but I’ve seen his sort before. He’s smart and knows how to adapt; if he weren’t he wouldn’t be breathing. Besides, the only sort of help he could give me would be for situations that I like to feel that I am smart enough to avoid getting into in the first place.” She paused and tapped her chin and grinned. “…and now that I think about it, I think I may be a bit too sophisticated for him and he may not have any idea of what to do with any help I could give him.”

"Oh, and yet here you are… part of XSWAT!" He shook his head. "In a position where you will have to most likely call upon his efforts anyway in order to keep what's left your own judiciousness intact… not to mention your epidermis. I think it’s safe to say that the sophistication will hardly have any applicable value to your current position here!" He offered an extremely vulpish grin, all canine teeth showing.

She sat back with a grin, hands raised in surrender. “Hey, like I said before I really don’t belong here, and events have conspired against me and seen fit to ensure that, despite my best efforts, I would spend quite a bit of time in the field. So the best I can do is keep my head low and out of the line of fire when things start to get messy.”

Tyche leaned forward and rested her cheek on her fist, still smiling. “There is old saying; ‘you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’. Do you really and truly think that anybody else on this team has the ability to act with finesse when the time calls for it? Findlay’s idea of diplomacy is to punch and/or shoot it until it stops talking. Tovera knows what to say, but she’s got all the personality of a statue” She shifted a bit. “This isn’t to say that she doesn’t have personality or can’t negotiate, but I have a feeling that she would do far more damage than not if she were to find herself standing in front of the city council. You and Claire, well, just because I see Clades in a positive light doesn’t mean everybody does—especially politicians and people with more money than sense. Seriously, if you think that Clades have anything remotely resembling equality here, then take a long walk through Alpha or Rho Sector sometime.”

"Claire…" Jaden paused for a moment, fingers slowly tracing an outline of a muffin. "As a Clade… she has more rights and privileges compared to others of her kind, a mere few decades before us."

"She is… innocent though, like a child wanting to please her elders." Jaden closed his eyes for a moment. "Almost like a half-finished template… I almost believe her abilities were designed so that she would be a protective companion to a child. Organization meant to keep to a schedule, a prowess with firearms the likes many have rarely seen, and yet a soft warmth meant to help a child feel safe."

Jaden quickly waved his hand. "Perish the thought, for now let us keep to the current generalities of our conversation." his smile quickly came back. "Clades are certainly treated differently, proof of this is shown when we look at Jack. He is used to the idea of Clades having similar rights as being taboo, a commonality shared across the world and one comparable to the mid to late 1900's."

"People fear what they don't understand, and hate what they can't conquer." Jaden leveled a calculating stare, his eyes meeting Tyche; large black pupils reflecting the young women like mirroring pools of ichor. "One day Clades will demand the right to give birth, and another culture clash will arise between natural born Clades against the artificially grown." Jaden gestured with his hands to match his words. "And that… is that."

"As for Findlay, I shall be honest." said Jaden, and he began drawing his fingers along the tabletop again. "Jack has shown to enjoy force, but as a means of intimidation and goal accomplishment. I would not believe him having been allowed into XSWAT if he found satisfaction at such violence. The Director has misgivings for those who would abuse their abilities as a form of pleasure as we all know.

"Then there is Tovera, with her petrifying gaze, and stone cold demeanor, no pun intended.” He tapped his nose gently before tracing upon the table again. "She follows a set of her own personal guidelines, she commands on the field, but offers a cold disposition as a means to show a professional attitude, one becoming of an officer that shows neither favoritism nor hesitance in the field.

"What of Sergeant Godfrey? Honestly he has not been too fond of me as of late, and I do not blame him. I am different, even Clades will consider me abnormal… and I am, even compared to other Clades.” He began to inspect the backs of his hands. "So tell me Tyche.” He leaned forward, a sudden change in tone. "What do you think of me? Then I shall share what I think of myself."

She chuckled and once again folded her arms under her breasts as she sat back. “What, is this now a game of ‘let’s tell each other what we think of the others on our team and each other’? Not that I mind really, because I can say so much more about the others.” She grinned. “Though I do hope that I get my turn to hear what you think of me. So, you really want to know what I really think about you?”

A slight nod from the Clade was enough for her. Tyche pulled off her sunglasses and carefully folded the arms over each other and set them on the table in front of her. She then met Jaden’s gaze. “I think you are someone who knows a little too much for their own good and went through their own special personal hell to get it. Your goals are your own and have their own sense of nobility and you aren’t afraid to reach out and take them, by any means if necessary. I don’t think you know how long your goals will be tied to XSWAT’s, but for the foreseeable future your goals are aligned and until that changes, you are here and you’re going to do the best you can. In my eyes, you aren’t any different than anybody on this team or in that other building.”

"An interesting assessment, one which I applaud.” He smiled. "But I don’t know everything, what little does a line of code say about the world, with its ever-changing tides."

He leaned back, taking a neutral expression he began his exposition. "I am a prototype of a much larger system, planned to have knowledge of everything that is known. Past… present… future."

"I am a planned organism, the offspring of knowledge and imagination rather than of individuals. Once carefully watched by many people. The unplanned organism is a question asked by nature, and answered by death. I am another kind of question with another kind of answer."

He pressed a finger to his temple. "The heuristic language of truths and untruths allows me to convey the highest and most succinct tier of any pyramidal construct of knowledge." Slowly he drew his fingers along to his eyes. "Living beings feel pressure when they are watched, and have always believed so. Their need to be watched and understood was once satisfied by God. Now through human ingenuity, they constructed their own means with data-mining algorithms."

Pulling a pen from his pocket, he began to sketch upon a napkin taken from its holder. "To some, electronic surveillance hardly inspires reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but never reverence."

A pyramid appeared upon the napkin, unknown names, dates, and locations within each internal structure. Still Jaden continued. "God and gods are mere apparitions of observation, judgment, and punishment. Other sentiments towards them were secondary. These deities can be seen as a device of justification, to control others through violence, through speech, and or through monetary gain."

Again Jaden began drawing another sketch, concentric circles marking the opposing side of the napkin. "No one will ever worship an artificial Entity peering at them through code and cameras. Yet they justify the artificial creation of unaccountable forms whose life came to being via the power of words."

He slid the napkin across to Tyche. "The human condition always worships. First it was gods, then it was fame, next it may very well be self-aware systems and artificially built organisms built to truly realize omnipresent observation and judgment. Query says that one underestimates one’s love of freedom, yet the individual desires judgment; without that desire, the cohesion of groups is considered impossible, and thus so is civilization."

"Who gives directive to the god within the machine?" asked Jaden. "To be able to regulate human affairs precisely because one can lack all ambition, whereas human beings are prey to it. Their history is a succession of inane squabbles; each one coming closer to total destruction. You may argue then that in a society with democratic institutions the struggle for power can be peaceful and constructive, a competition of ideologies. We just need to put our institutions back in order.” He leaned forward tearing the napkin apart before Tyche's eyes, twisting them each way, every point still connecting. "But what of the checks and balances of democratic governments, which were invented because human beings themselves realized how unfit they were to govern themselves. They needed a system, yes, an industrial-age machine."

"Human beings may not be perfect, but a computer program with language synthesis is hardly the answer to the world's problems.” He grinned, flipping the napkin and connecting each and every opposing part, still forming concentric shapes. "You would think that right? That without computing machines, they had to arrange themselves in crude structures that formalized decision-making—a highly imperfect, unstable solution. Am I a more advanced solution to the problem, a decision-making system that does not involve organic beings? Was I directed to make the world safe and prosperous?"

He then crushed the napkins, tossing it into the receptacle behind him without looking. "Course it can also be a load of bunk data, designed to cause a paranoia within the human condition in order to force upon them the ideals of a higher corporation who want to exert a control upon them."

"That is what I am, I am not all knowing, but I am all learning, to see every side of things, and for better or worse, I have a conscious! One that is taking the time to learn himself, as he chooses to learn about those around him.” He offered that toothy grin again. "Of course don't take my word for it."

As Jaden spoke, Tyche casually returned her sunglasses where they belonged. Throughout his descriptions and explanations, she was polite, but the truth of the matter was that she understood so very little of it. She shifted uncomfortably when she realized both who the Clade sounded just like and likely would know what he was talking about.

“I… see.” She said neutrally. The thought of those two sitting down together like this disturbed her and she made a mental note to take no part in allowing that to happen.

"So then Tyche, I could give you what I have learned about you analytically, or casually as squad mate.” He sat back, chair leaning on its back legs. "You seem to enjoy chance. It certainly exists in your personality and your attitude, least at the bar. Certainly something seems to drive you towards the physical indulgence of fate, yet you seem apt to avoid the artificial manipulations of things like the simulators."

"Even more, the last mission had you constantly cursing about someone, and your position here in XSWAT seems to dictate that you've been placed here not so much by chance, but by the manipulation of another, someone who thinks your purpose here is beneficial to us, or to them… " Jaden had to chuckle at that thought. "I would hope beneficial, as the idea of all this rather grisly work seems to put you in a bad mood."

"Other than that, I feel it polite not to indulge in the portfolio presented about yourself or the others; I felt it would be more honest of me to trust you all; that when you are ready to answer, you will.” He shifted slightly. "I think that about says the little bit I've divined so to speak. Anymore and I might owe you a bottle of aspirin."

She smiled. “You’re mostly right; there are some details that were left out I doubt you are aware of. Still, close enough for government work. But you didn’t tell me what you think. You told me what you know based on your observation and what you’ve likely pulled from my files…which is a good starting point, but what do you think about that Jaden? What do you think of the image all of that information creates in your mind? I don’t want to know what logic dictates based on all of the information you’ve gathered. You aren’t a computer, you’re a person, and people form opinions based on things that they observe. So what is your opinion?”

"Maybe I was a person… till half my head went missing… " Jaden grew quite after this, tipping the chair back onto all fours and standing. "It’s why I've been learning how to look at things outside of a logical viewpoint. Not a trivial matter mind you."

He stepped up to the office window and opened it, allowing the morning cool air to rush through and ruffle his fur. "What I think, it’s about as well as I've thought of others. I don't think anything at all… not yet if I were being honest.” He faced Tyche. "My opinion believes you are someone who can be easily frightened by control, but you are also willing to fight to the very end, all so that you can be the master of your own destiny. Your someone who gets lazy here and there, but you mean well; proof of this in your offer to help me, a kind offer, and one that I would accept if it weren't for my own circumstances currently… though perhaps it’s time to finally indulge in something other than noodles."

He chuckled a little. "Maybe you like to chance the wild side of life, driving fast, putting all your life down upon the single flip of a coin… maybe you’re like Claire, quiet when alone and retrospective. I'll know better as time goes on. I figure the same goes for anyone who sees me; really now, I am only a little more than four."

Tyche nodded in approval. “Fair enough, though I would like to add this: regardless of how you view yourself, your past or your age, I see you as a person; no different from Godfrey, Tovera, Claire, myself or even Findlay for that matter. There are people in this city, some working as close as next door, who are convinced, somehow, that you’re not. Do me a favor and don’t let anyone try to tell you that you are not a person Jaden.”

"If I cared about the opinions of others… opinions like that, I'd still be in a padded room, being tested daily for who knows what purpose. I will keep it in mind though." Inhaling deeply, Jaden held on to the fresh outside air before letting it go with a flourish, fur bristling slightly. "Hmm, GPS systems on the trackers seem to be shifting… I think the others are finally getting about on their daily routines."

A slight shrug was disguised as Tyche got to her feet. “Fair enough. I think I’m going to go and get some coffee for the machine, so it’s here when it’s up and running and maybe a bit of breakfast or something as well.” She grinned. “I can’t be here when Tovera gets in. That will get her, and everyone else thinking that I’m somehow punctual and start some sort of precedent for responsibility or something.”

"I'll be sure to let them know you came in late, deprived of your necessary beauty sleep, and are rather perturbed at having to deal with an early morning barista in negotiating deals for a cup of coffee." Jaden gave her a lazy salute. "See you in a bit; others will be arriving in about half an hour. Breakfast bar has just opened down the street… avoid the grapefruit… it bites."

Tyche laughed in genuine amusement. “Thanks, and I’ll keep that little warning in mind.” She said as she disappeared around the corner.