Busted Labs, Book Two
Ten years ago, roboticist Forbes Pohle received a visit from time-traveler Oliver Lennox. “Wait for me,” Oliver said. Now a decade has come and gone, and Oliver has returned. However, Forbes never dreamed Oliver would reappear as the point man for a gang of technology thieves breaking into his lab. He finds the younger Oliver just as sexy and even more annoying; still, he must convince him their happily-ever-after is meant to be—but he only has the time it takes his robotic cat Jeepers to thwart the thieves to do it. After waiting so long, he could lose everything in the span of seconds.
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FORBES HOPED the batteries would run down soon and the robot would stop talking. He should have made its voice more pleasant, maybe with a British accent, instead of the high, squeaky singsong he thought appropriate for a tiny cat.
“I don’t understand why you bothered to get dressed if you won’t even entertain the notion of going out. Canceling your dinner with that nice young man to spend time alone in the lab is pathetic and unnecessary.” The robot’s diatribe wound down, and per the mechanical feline’s realistic subroutine, it mimed licking the white tip of its black paw.
“I’m not alone, Jeepers.” Forbes sighed, checking his watch again. He was now officially late for his blind date. He should change into his sweats. “That’s why I built you. Now be quiet, or I’ll program you to think you have fleas again.”
The robot’s eyes widened with a noisy whirr.READ MORE
Outside, the wind whistled through the trees. Cold, but not snow cold. The heating system turned on with a soft shush, and warm air exhaled from the vent under the desk.
Forbes smelled something burning and realized he’d held the soldering iron too close to the desk again. The stench of burnt wood and varnish made him cough for a moment as he placed the iron in its holder and unplugged it. He ran a hand through his hair, clutching at the strands.
He should have gone on that date.
Jeepers had extrapolated from Forbes’s own fears to form his complaints. The cat robot accessed his journals on the network. Its logic processors made leaps based on Forbes’s actions and the entries he made in his logs—his logs that had become less scientific and more personal as Forbes started to lose hope. He should have made the cat less perceptive. Or at least more tactful.
Forbes stood up and stretched, his arms bracing against his back as the muscles lengthened. Jeepers was right. A normal thirty-three-year-old man wouldn’t hesitate to show up for a nice, companionable dinner at one of the swankier restaurants in town. But he couldn’t go, no matter how much the little robot chided him.
Because today, going out on a date felt like giving up.
A loud crash from outside yanked Forbes out of his thoughts. The echo of squealing metal reverberated through the woods. He crossed to the security console and pulled up the feed from the driveway cameras. A spinning motorcycle wheel attached to an overturned bike filled the screen where the highway joined his driveway. He didn’t see anyone, but motorcycles don’t crash themselves.
Forbes grabbed his phone from the suit jacket folded over his desk chair, and popped the lock on the lab’s door. Thumbing on the phone, he jogged toward the front door.
Forbes pelted down the winding drive to the main road. He pushed the buttons for 911 and was about to hit the call button when he rounded the bend and saw… nothing—no motorcycle, no injured driver.
He stumbled to a stop and stood panting, heart racing, wondering if his brain had hallucinated the wreck to nudge him out of the house. If so, his brain had forgotten the car keys and his suit jacket.
Forbes walked out onto the country highway and into the range of the hidden security camera. His lone mailbox stood out against a dark backdrop of trees.
He erased the emergency number and thumbed off his phone again, then shoved it into his pocket.
Forbes took a deep breath and exhaled a puff of gray condensation. He’d been working hard lately, but could he really have imagined that wreck on the security monitor? The cold burned his sinuses, but he discerned no stench of spilled gasoline or oil, only evergreen and damp woods. He walked to the spot where he’d seen the overturned cycle. Deep gouges plowed up the earth, and a ragged black skid mark stained the road to the right, beyond the range of the camera. He followed it, noting broken underbrush and skinned bushes. The driver must have put his motorcycle in neutral and rolled it through the trees.
With the light fading, Forbes returned to the driveway and started walking back to the house. The wind whistled a chill breeze, and he crossed his arms, picking up his pace to warm himself until he could get back inside.
He spied the teenager as he neared the front door. Helmet dangling from his fingertips, the kid lounged against the side of a slim vintage motorcycle, as if he were waiting to pick up someone’s daughter for a date.
“Dr. Forbes Pohle, I presume?” The kid’s hair—spiky strands, brassy and red under the security light—peeped out of his hoodie. The kid rested the helmet on the seat and then crammed his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket.
“And you are?”
The kid smiled up at Forbes, a crooked eyetooth making his grin lopsided. He pulled a gun from his jacket pocket and leveled it at Forbes’s chest.
“In a hurry.”
Forbes’s mouth went dry, and he tried to swallow. If he’d taken Jeepers’s advice, he’d be out right now with the schoolteacher his former assistant Debra had found. In fact, he’d be in the middle of a tasty, if uninteresting, dinner, hearing all about twelfth graders who didn’t like science. Instead, he remained at home, pathetic, facing down a gun held by a twelfth grader who probably also didn’t like science. Forbes did the logical thing. He held up his empty hands, palms out.
The kid’s smile grew wider, the crooked tooth drawing Forbes’s attention to the red lip beneath it. The lip twisted cruelly.
“What do you want?”
“I’d like you to invite me inside, Dr. Pohle.” The kid had a deep voice for someone so scrawny—with something familiar about the timbre of it.
“No.” Forbes shook his head. Guns and science should never mix. He wouldn’t let the kid inside if he had a choice.
“Then give me your keys, and I’ll unlock your door.” The teenager’s leather jacket creaked as he shifted his hold on the gun, no longer pointing it at Forbes. Why was the kid being so reasonable? Maybe he had a fake gun?
“It’s a biometric lock.” Forbes moved a shade closer to peer under the kid’s hoodie. The gun swung back up to train on him with an ominous click.
“So give me your hand, and don’t try any funny stuff.”
Of course the kid knew about biometric locks. He’d planned this trap to get Forbes outside, to circumvent the biometric security. Forbes wondered what else the kid knew about his house.
“It’s not my hand.” Forbes shrugged, trying not to grin.
“What is it, then? Your eye, your nose, your dick? Show it and let’s go inside before I shoot you.”
“Okay, okay.” Forbes reached to unbuckle his belt.
“Oh shit. It’s not your dick, is it?” The kid’s eyes widened, all pupil and horrified dread.
Forbes stifled a chuckle.
“Relax, tough guy, I need to take my belt off for the scan. The buckle interferes with the reading.” Forbes tugged the belt through the loops of his dress pants, wound it up, and laid it on the doorstep. He turned to the kid, who hadn’t taken his eyes off him. “You’ll need to back up.”
“Nuh-uh.” The kid shook his head and, instead, came to stand on the left side of the door.
There went his brilliant plan of opening the door and closing it again in the kid’s face. Forbes sighed. He punched the button near the knob and took a few steps back. Trying to walk as if he’d come back from a leisurely stroll in the woods, he stepped up to the door and gave the knob a sharp clockwise turn.
The tumblers reacted to the full body scan by the technology embedded in the door, and opened under his hand. Before he could even take a step inside, a shove between the shoulders propelled him into the hall. The door closed with a snick as Forbes caught his balance on the hall table, steadying the lamp that he’d upset.
He twisted to see the youthful intruder trying to get the door back open. The security had kicked in when it closed behind them and only Forbes could open it now. The kid turned around and slumped against the closed door. In the soft hall light, the freckles on the kid’s nose scrunched as he looked around. “What is this? Early cubicle? Put a picture on the wall or something, Doc.”
“Okay, you’re inside. Do you want money? I have quite a bit of it, but not in cash.”
“No cash.” The kid waved the gun again. “I’d like to see your lab, Doctor.”
Crap, he knew it. Forbes knew what the kid wanted the moment he realized the kid had tricked him into venturing outside the protection of his security system.
“I’m not letting you into the lab.” That sounded reasonable, didn’t it?
“Then I’m going to shoot you. And that would be a shame, since you’re pretty hot for an old guy.”
Forbes blinked. An old guy? Wait, was the kid coming on to him?
“I can’t let you in the lab. I’m working on some sensitive projects right now.”
“I’m aware of that.” The kid’s smile dimmed and dropped at the corners. “That’s why I need in there.”
To punctuate his statement, the kid aimed to the right of Forbes and pulled the trigger. The gunshot echoed in the hallway, ringing in his ears. Forbes bumped against the opposite wall, instinctively trying to dodge the bullet. The shot shattered the lamp on the side table.
So the gun wasn’t a fake after all.
The kid pressed his lips together in a thin, ugly line. “Now let’s go, or I’ll aim the next one a bit closer.”
Forbes turned and started walking toward the lab attached to the house. “Who are you working for?” He looked back over his shoulder at the kid.
“That’s none of your business.”
“I’d like to know who’s about to sabotage my work.”
“I’d like to have a loving family to go home to at night. Looks like neither of us is gonna get it.”
The bitterness in the kid’s answer made Forbes turn around. He saw only resolve on the young face. Forbes palmed open the door to the lab.
Jeepers sat on the desk pretending to groom his fake fur. Vain little robot. The mechanical cat lifted its head as they entered, then jumped down from the desk to wind around the kid’s legs.
“Hey, there.” The kid’s harsh expression softened, and he bent to pet the cat. “You’re pretty realistic.”
“You’re late, Oliver.” Jeepers nuzzled into the kid’s hand as he singsonged.
“Oh shit.” The kid fell backward, the gun tumbling as he scrambled away from the robot. Jeepers jumped over him and picked up the gun in his mouth, then walked with it to sit under a table.
The kid scanned the room, eyes wide.
“That’s who you are, right? Oliver Lennox?” Forbes said the words in a rush, and the inclusion of his last name grabbed the kid’s attention. His green eyes narrowed, and the curve of his bottom lip flattened again.
“How do you know my name? Nobody knows my name.”
A dozen explanations rushed through Forbes’s head. He’d rehearsed this moment for the last ten years, but he couldn’t remember any of the explanations or rationales he’d prepared. Should he lie? Should he tell the truth? Why hadn’t his lover prepped him on this?COLLAPSE
Carly on Carly's Book Reviews wrote:
While in the first story, Oliver is the one who knows all about the future for these men, this time Forbes is the one who must take the lead. He knows that he and Oliver are meant to be together, and he also knows that he must convince this young Oliver about time travel, their ultimate relationship, and most of all, to take a chance on Forbes. It is a great way to follow up the first story and I loved how things come full circle here.
Kelley on Smut Book Junkie Book Reviews wrote:
The Break-in is a fun little novella that I gobbled up in about an hour. The characters Aidee Ladnier writes are quirky and engaging. The plot is unique, and I loved the robotic cat!
Pixie on MM Good Book Reviews wrote:
Aidee Ladnier captured my heart with this little novella. The love that Forbes shows for Oliver is breathtakingly beautiful.
I recommend this to those who love slight humor, lovers reuniting and meeting for the first time, a great story and a great ending.