by Jared Ornstead
Cops don't forgive easily.
Oh, no. In fact, they have whole rooms to store in minute detail
every fact that can be rendered out of copious searches and lab reports
on the minutest fragments of wreckage. Oh, for two-bit thieves or
government sponsored syndicates they can be remarkably blind, but get
their attention without that protection and they could get pretty
obsessive about finding you.
That obsession could take two forms: the department or the
individual crusade. Now departments typically get so involved only when
truly motivated, like for example a rash of really offensive crimes or
pressure from above in uncomfortable quantities. But an individual cop
usually had a pet peeve or two. Stroke one in just the wrong light and
you had a bitter enemy.
And cops do not forgive easily. They consider it an occupational
Motorcycles crimes in a gang-tough city like MegaTokyo were bound
to be a rough spot for some officers just out of association with the
numbers of bikers and their assorted gang raids. But posers were
another rough spot with some cops. You could get a perp on iron-clad
evidence except for one thing - half the time some lousy attorney would
get all the charges dropped and the other half some nitwit jury
couldn't help but get all confused over how they were supposed to tell
this Humphrey Bogart from some other Humphrey Bogart who dressed the
same and spoke with that same outdated accent and lived in much the
Some cops just can't stand to lose.
So when the case of one 'Midnight Exploder' crossed the desk of one
harried cop, he knew right from the start what a pill he'd been handed.
Fortunately, he'd the experience to appreciate that right off the bat.
Watching the news feeds' recordings of the chase scene did not make it
any better, and the officers' reports and lab findings confirmed that.
Not one shred of usable evidence on a high-profile escape from a
heavy weapons violation. Here was some perp determined that the laws of
MegaTokyo did not apply to him, and he had to do his getaway over live
national feed, no less. The press and the boys up in city hall would be
after this like sharks during a feeding frenzy. An officer unable to
land results could get cashiered over such a case. About the only
mitigating factor was this was not his job alone, as a half dozen
people from various departments were being hauled in to look at this
from different angles, consulting dealerships where that brand of bike
was sold, tracing serial numbers (if those could be reconstructed from
the bits), and so on.
Grabbing his coat, the police detective went out his door toward
the chief's office. If he got lucky, this cycle wizard with the
full-auto pop-gun was a boastful sort and wouldn't be able to restrain
the urge to claim credit for his deeds among his seedy friends. Or
maybe this could've been some bizarre initiation ritual gone extreme,
too. Either way meant sniffing streets and finding out what the local
underworld knew, and that meant undercover time.
Lucky they paid hazard pay for that duty, the cop sighed,
resigned. Ever since the Quake the gangs owned the streets by right of
"It feels weird to be singing in front of people."
Sylvie fought to
put her costume on the right way up. With these outfits it was
sometimes hard to tell.
"You mean, knowing we're to be singing in front of people." Nam
put in edgewise as she tried to discover which direction the spangles
went on her own costume.
"It's not so bad." Lou stepped over and guided them both into the
rock star outfits she'd designed. "I mean, it's better than the job
Jay-chan saved us from."
"True." echoed the word from every corner of the ladies dressing
"No," Meg changed the subject, staring at the profusion of tight
bits she was to slip into, along with the wig. "I am NOT wearing that!"
"Then I guess you'll be alot more popular with the fans." Anri
"No, I mean, look at us! We're dressing up as some eighties rocker
trash! I don't want that. Think! These wigs and tight outfits that
barely qualify as decent aren't me! They aren't any of us! Our fans
have seen us up until now as we are, in the ways we wanted to dress.
Why should we make a big production out of that and change it now?"
"You didn't appear on a major album cover in your pajamas, which
was what I'd been wearing when we shot that lead song." Lou's reply was
"Most women don't look so good in their pajamas." Nam teased.
"Yah, a major clothing retailer came out with street pajamas based
on that shot. You set a whole new business fashion all by yourself."
Nam looked over at Meg, took off her own wig and tossed it down on
the cluttered makeup table. "Okay, if Lou doesn't want the sleepy-sexy
look then I am definitely not going in for the slutty-sexy look. That's
just way too close to what Jay-chan saved us from."
Dressing stopped in the dressing room.
"Thank God!" Sylvie slipped out of her clingy-tight outfit. Off was
so much easier than on, which was how it was supposed to look, she
supposed. "I'm glad somebody has some sense around here."
"Well, if not these, then what?" Anri questioned her sisters. "We
go on stage in less than an hour."
"Yes, but you can't dance in these unless you want your panties
visible from the moon." Meg outlined her concerns. "And you can't wear
a bra without the straps hanging out all over, so that means bouncing,
and that means we just might, conceivably, bounce our way straight out
of our costumes."
General reaction to that was quite bad. Even Lou picked up her rock
star outfit and threw it from her in distaste at that concept.
"I'm not going back to that job Jay-chan saved us from. Not to
mention how horrible it was, can you consider the ingratitude? Here,
he's gone to great personal risk to pull us out of that profession and
we go waltzing right back in? It ain't gunna happen." Sylvie put her
Lou signed that she admitted defeat.
"So what do we wear?" Anri repeated.
"We'll have to think of a theme." Lou sighed, sitting with her arms
on her knees. "And I don't know where we're going to get anything
special on such short notice."
"Not really." Nam corrected. "Think of the Village People. Each one
had their own separate costume. We could do that."
"Or, better yet, think of those dance costumes we were getting
ready for our play. I could wear those on stage and not feel a bit out
of place." Sylvie offered. "They're fancy and pretty, yet loose enough
to move in and preserve modesty. And if nudity is required to be a
music star then I, for one, am not going to be one!"
"Agreed," several of the girls chirped in, with Lou hanging back
only a moment before she contributed her assent as well. She'd just
been trying to do what she felt the job expected. But on consideration,
found she agreed with her sisters.
"So how do we tell Jared about that change?" Nam asked.
There came a rapping on the door. "Uh, girls? I don't think there's
any way that I can convince myself to don that costume you set out for
me. Is it alright if I just throw on the one we had planned for the
musical play instead?"
Immediately the five girls burst out into giggles.
Poindexter wore a bunny suit to the concert. Not
the fuzzy one with
ears, the plastic clothing worn by clean room professionals to avoid
getting lint or dust from their apparel into sensitive microcircuitry
or experiments. Apparently, he hadn't liked his rock star outfit
Paradoxically, he was an instant hit.
Caroline had booked a very small appointment for their first public
appearance. That way they could afford to get used to an audience in
small stages and not have so great a shock. Plus, there was the very
small matter that any mistakes could not be so terrible they couldn't
be ironed out in a more informal arrangement. A mix up in front of a
Hot Legs sized crowd wasn't nearly as serious an embarrassment as it
would be in front of fifty thousand screaming fans.
Interestingly enough, Caroline held a lottery as to who got
invitations to this little get together, and, just as interestingly,
some of the scalping that went on got dangerous. But one of the rabid
fans who'd shelled out a million yen for a scalped ticket came in
dressed quite fashionably, her wealth and style apparent in every
graceful gesture, and about the only other thing that stood out about
her was she was the daughter of a Doctor Katsuhito Stingray and owned a
very upscale lingerie store.
But what could she say? She liked their music, and it was important
to get out once in a while, especially at her age. So Sylia went, only
slightly regretting that she did not have a date.
Jared was out wandering the crowds before the act and got the shock
of his life when he saw the proto-Knight Saber out in the audience.
Suddenly getting an awful, evil, wicked idea that so often got him into
trouble in amusing ways, he plastered a wonderfully playful grin upon
his face and scooted over to the elegant lady's lonely table,
announcing at the top of his voice. "Sylia Stingray! Congratulations!
You've won our door prize!" At this point it was generally realized
that he was THAT Skysaber, and actually a member of the band instead of
some random poser, of which there were several in attendance. Picking
the off-balance genius by the hand he directed her to rise. "Come on
down to the stage. You get to sing with the band!"
"No, really..." it was amusing what colors she blushed, really. But
Jared wasn't taking 'No' for an answer, and with the help of rabidly
enthusiastic (and envious) fans, the mecha and hardsuit genius in
fashionable and elegant attire was escorted up front to be a part of
Jared was struggling hard not to laugh outside. He was chortling
fit to break ribs on the inside. Sylia was trying to take it all in
stride and not doing very well to hide how much she had become
flustered. "I don't know how to sing!" She whispered to the superspy
once they twain were on the raised dias that served this private club
"Didn't think you did." He returned happily, amusement creeping out
all over his voice.
"So I just get to embarrass myself?" Was Sylia's answer.
"No, of course not. You get to learn, and very quickly."
"And you are going to teach me? This is amusing, but to be of your
caliber it would take me weeks, if not months or even years to learn.
Or is there something else planned?" Jared handed her a business card
out of the Standard Light Urban Survival Pack. She read, "Jared
Saotome, superspy adventurer - Sixteen year old mecha design and
hardsuit geniuses taught how to sing."
Instantly her gaze snapped up to him and she paled visibly.
The interdimensional adventurer had been playing around with those
concepts and limitations inherent in the skill programming they'd
devised for the sexaroids. Bending close to look behind her flustered
ear he discovered the expected interface socket. This was still the
twenties, when these things were popular, before the explosion of
killer programs out on the net caused the practice of interfacing
directly with one's computer to be abandoned generally. However, for
the moment, interface plugs were the almost universal mark of the
techno-conscious. And, being in on all sorts of things, naturally Sylia
had a socket, and a rack. Good.
He palmed a chip from his pouch and showed it to her. "I've been
working on these. It's a Tutorial Chip, basically an instructor in your
brain. Rather than override your own skills and grant you whatever is
on the chip, this floats calmly in the background advising you. The
process does not have the same limitations and whatever skill you get
out of it becomes your own, over time." He slid it into her chip rack
and snapped it in place.
Sylia was quivering with fear, an unaccustomed emotion for her. Had
she been older and more experienced she probably would have shoved him
away and stalked off stage before he'd implanted the instruction
software. But teenagers are more vulnerable to the opinions of others
than they like to think, and the eyes of nearly a hundred fans held her
hostage as he inserted the optical chip, then began pulling cables from
out of his pouch.
"These," he showed the springy blue high-end interface cables. "Are
to show you what the chip can't." He slid one end into his own
interface plug and began sorting out the opposing ends. "Since this
will be your very first time and we can't have you embarrassing
yourself, I'll just plug you in and you can ride piggyback on my own
The other end was inserted before the stunned lady could do much to
reply. He was very good at taking advantage of moments like that.
Happosai had taught him.
Suddenly, between the chip and the flow of information from her
unaccustomed linkage, Miss Stingray realized that she not only knew the
music, dance steps, and whole production from the point of view of a
performer, but there was this tiny voice at the back of her head
whispering how to do each step as she thought about it. How to hold a
leg or her body, the way to hold her throat, everything.
It wasn't what it could be with a little conditioning, but she was,
she realized, actually capable of putting forth a competent attempt at
this. With Jared, she gave a bow to the audience, and they twain began
a shot musical number, prelude to the main event.
That was when Miss Stingray discovered something - However much fun
it could be to listen to music, and it could be quite enjoyable, it was
always better to participate. That simple fact astonished her. Yet it
just got truer and truer as the pair did their warm-up to the main act.
The Sexaroids followed with a smash performance.
They celebrated having survived the experience of
their first live
performance (that Caroline had naturally recorded and would soon be
available for distribution) by going out to an amusement park.
Since there were none left in Japan (the destruction of the Quake
having still been so recent) they went overseas to do so. Disneyland
was just as Jared remembered it (which, seeing as how that was 50
years ago for this timeline that was pretty sad). But he still got some
fun out of the others and nostalgia out of that one, while the girls
The shocking thing, to him, was memories about old friends not seen
in, oh, very long indeed, evoked by the power of that old familiar
site. He'd not thought of some of those people in years, which brought
him up with a start, as the interdimensional superspy realized that he
no longer had any idea how old he was. Time travel and dimension hops
between them had erased any meaningful sense of chronological age, and
his physical age was whatever the Agency set for each appearance.
It was both shocking and humbling to realize that one of the
principle methods for self measuring among humans now no longer seemed
to apply to him. It was as if he'd lost one of the major underpinnings
of life in an instant. He didn't know how old he was, and he might
never learn again - and if he did it might not mean anything.
Luckily, the girls and the trip both managed to cheer him up almost
immediately and they had a very good time together, the six of them.
Caroline was in corporate heaven.
She had the hottest act on the hemisphere... in the world! And the
money was pouring in. Green Corp was a food company, but this was
steadily eclipsing even that tremendous income.
Hey, the world was a dreary place. Folks didn't need reminding of
that. Bleak, dark music had been in for decades and gradually displaced
everything else to the fringes, but now the world was darker than the
music and people were ready to lighten up. Being on the forefront of
that gave her group a share of the pie they never could have dreamed of
Also, they were very, very good.
Sylia was dealing with something fairly foreign to
Sure, she was the daughter of a genius, but that did not, in
itself, grant glory (only money). Yes, she was beautiful and
sophisticated, but so were many other women in MegaTokyo. Her
intelligence she hid deeply, and there were quite a few private store
owners. No, none of that gave her any attention whatsoever.
But she had been a star.
What was better was that she'd lived out every fans' most excellent
dream. She'd become a performer in her own favorite band. True, it was
only for a night, and only doing a warmup act at that, but somehow that
even made it better. That didn't change her forever.
She was still a fan.
What this meant to all of the other fans was simply outrageous in
significance. Posers and groupies worshiped the bands they followed,
acquiring the attitudes and sometimes faces. Their one true love was
being their heroes, either by listening to them perform or by surgical
methods. But all that got pretty hollow compared to being up on stage
with them, live, during a real performance.
Sylia found herself enormously popular because she'd done what half
their fan base now wished they could do. That popularity would fade
over time as other got that same experience, but for right now she was
She found herself sitting in her study contemplating her new-found
popularity. In her hands she toyed with the optical chip he'd forgotten
after the dance.
As much as he loved his girls (and they were all
as close as kid
sisters to him) they had some real differences. Lou was the smartest.
Meg was the best with tools. Sylvie had the others beat with reflexes
and combat technique. Nam was the most stable, and Anri fell to second
place on both brains and technical know-how. Lou and Sylvie tied on who
could pour on the charm, and could positively melt your socks off when
they tried (though none of the girls were slackers in that department).
However, increasingly he discovered there were uniting factors. For
example, they all liked to shop, and having the income of musical
sensations they were now able to do that to a downright astonishing
On one of their binges, Jared slipped out to go check on their
The secret base in the undersea mountaintop was completed as far as
rough cutting operations soon after the team finished beauty school and
Jared's hairy ride. They visited with new instructions for the
autonomous equipment as well as replacement parts for the gear that
needed it, and moved certain materials inside. The space was shaping up
nicely, and with the Brum Bar having a nuclear plant, once they no
longer needed it for rough cutting they were able to park it and hook
up a nanofactory to that source of power.
It wasn't enough. It wasn't nearly enough for full power, but
linking together the three shuttles' generator capacity (now moved
indoors to rough-cut hangar bays) and the Brum Bar's plant they were
able to coax enough energy into the nanofactory's systems to getting it
running. Slow and at minimal capacity, but running.
So they immediately set it on fabricating the remaining parts for
finishing the station-quality fusion reactor. Their underground
hidey-hole would be dark and dank, without lights or power for most
systems beyond running base construction (and that only from the fact
that work would continue off the efforts of largely self-contained
boomers, recharging off of separate portable generators the team
brought back with them), but eventually the work would get done and
they'd have all the electricity they'd need, and to spare.
Since the power lathes and other tools for fast construction work
were beyond their present energy capacity, they'd purchased hydraulic
machinery for smoothing off walls and corridors. It wasn't the most
important task, but it should be best to have it done before the
important installation work to follow. Besides, the power rams and
other equipment needed to haul the other devices safely in by draining
the shuttle docks required good seals if they were to function
properly. A proper mounting point for their upcoming fusion plant was
only slightly more important.
Besides, they wanted the boomers to keep busy while the nanofactory
worked. It was a waste of resources otherwise. Their labor to make a
finished housing for the soon-to-be reactor and enabling docks to seal
and drain would serve to make the rest of the build process go swiftly
once they had power. A few minutes with their power tools plugged into
the Brum Bar's plant after the nanofactory was done fabricating parts
and they'd have those areas finished to the tightest tolerances,
avoiding future maintenance problems for equipment they installed
So, from rough cutting, they moved on to fine shaping, with a
fusion plant being built as a background task separate from most of
their boomer labor force. That was going so slow as to be largely
ignorable on a daily basis, only needing a few parts moved now and then
as they were completed, an occasional restock of raw material in the
nanobath, and a place to stock the finished pieces until they required
assembly. Still, it could be ages before this makeshift arrangement
produced a functioning core for a fusion plant so they could run their
Putting all that in motion, the sexaroids then returned to find
Poindexter had been crossing his fingers with that oath not to pull
enlistment tricks anymore.
His name was Pavel, and he was an instructor for
Operations Forces, the Spetsnaz. And Poindexter had somehow diverted
enough of Green Corp's funds without Caroline being aware of it to
start his own special forces training base in the Urals, where the
sexaroids were immediately whisked after debarking the island plane.
Standing fresh from the South Seas in the freezing Ural mountains,
they stood in a ragged line before the eighty-some year old instructor
(who looked closer to forty) while he exclaimed. "I am Pavel. I have
trained Soviet commandos to DO THE SPLITS IN THREE TO SIX MONTHS -
whether they liked it, or not."
Nam's light purple hair had sprayed straight back as the man
shouted in her face, now it settled, but her equally purple eyes were
Pavel stalked on, smirking as he looked over them. "Soviet Spetsnaz
were combat ready 24 hours a day and did not have the luxury of a warm
up and stretch before going into action. I have trained my men to
DISPLAY MAXIMAL FLEXIBILITY COLD."
Now it was Sylvie's turn for brown hair to settle while the Russian
spun on his heel executing a high kick that made the girls wince, then
held it an impossibly long time before he relaxed, using that to
punctuate his following statement. "The storm troopers of the Evil
Empire knew a muscle that can easily relax into an extreme stretch is a
muscle that can do things: Hit hard and fast, lift heavy, never quit,
never hurt, blast into action without a warm-up, and recover from it
overnight. Deprived of food and sleep, exhausted from every exertion
known to man, bloodied in full contact hand-to-hand combat, we still
did things like one arm chins and ten foot standing broad jumps all in
a day's work."
His grin was nasty. "And you will too."
Stalking around, he was he only eighty-year old man the girls had
ever felt frightened of. Jared had experienced Happosai and Cologne, so
had a more polished perspective of ancient geezers who got more
dangerous over time.
Pavel's polished back was to them, but still they had no difficulty
hearing his strong voice. "The commies were not motivated by vitamin
sales. They wanted one thing: Athletic supremacy. If a method did not
work - it was discarded, no matter how attractive it sounded. We will
be using a straightforward formula for strength that has been distilled
from the mix of sophisticated research, plain trial and error, and
unscrupulous espionage. Machine's are the wusses' way out. Modern
neuroscience offers us a host of very simple techniques that make an
immediate, positive impact on your strength performance. Today's
soldier has to carry as much gear as an ancient Roman, or more. How you
hit in close combat and the gear you carry for ranged is determined by
strength and technique. Sending you into combat without either
advantage is worthless."
The Evil Russian (as he liked to be called) whirled to face them.
"Don't judge a book by its cover. Don't judge a man's strength by the
size of his biceps. Things are often not what they appear to be. When
it is said that a muscle's strength is proportional to its
cross-section, that statement must be qualified: everything else being
equal. 'Everything Else' is largely the level of activation of the
muscles by the nervous system. It is estimated that an average person
can contract only 20-30% of his muscles when trying his hardest. Your
muscles are i>already/i> capable of lifting a car. They just do not
know it yet. Desperate grandmothers wrestling leopards and mothers
lifting cars to save their progeny have done something to keep the
natural feedback loop inhibitors from kicking in. Insane people bend
metal bars in the windows of their cells because their neural circuitry
is goofed up." Pointing a commanding finger at their noses, the Russian
smirked. "And those superhuman feats do not injure the ones doing them
in most cases." He dropped the point and stood up straighter, clicking
his heels together arrogantly. "So of course the KGB trained fashion
models to have the power of burly strongmen."
The man stalked on, suddenly turning to smile at them. "Now that I
have turned into a capitalist running dog, I will teach you too. You
will also learn Plyometric Flexibility Training - just the opposite of
what you do." He poked Jared in the chest. Pavel stalked on, telling
them what they'd learn and how much it would hurt to learn it,
finishing with a thin grin and pointing at them. "When I am done with
you, you'll have the flexibility of a mutant and lift 40 to 50 tons
every workout. Or else."
And what was worse, he was right on all counts.
Caroline was of a mind to shut down that institute
the moment she
got her band back from it, but the Sexaroids insisted that Poindexter,
who had spent so much time setting this up, ought to enjoy it himself.
So the prankster was sent off packaged with instructions not to come
back until he could jump to kick with one leg straight up while
reaching an arm behind his head over his back to touch the toes of his
other leg while still midair.
It was only fair. They all could now.
Nam especially wanted him to learn how to stand with his knees
locked and bend forward until his head touched his shins. She'd hated
learning that one. Sylvie insisted that Poindexter not be allowed to
breed, but that he also must learn the suspended Chinese splits - her
own favorite nightmare of a training experience. Anri went purple and
had fits about never letting him off that mountain until he could lift
it - she had particularly hated all that strength training, especially
Pavel's parting shot that first day, "And ladies, strength training
does not mean having a figure like Charles Atlas. You can pack a lot of
muscle fibers, dense and strong ones, under those sweet feminine
She despised having her curves mocked. She was fond of them.
Lou kept her mouth shut. She hadn't exactly enjoyed training, but
liked being able to do all of those stunts.
After they'd sent the prankster off to become a flexibility mutant,
Jared had a look at the books and told Caroline the bad news.
Poindexter had, in ignorance or deliberately, set up the training camp
as a more or less permanent operation. It would actually be cheaper to
operate the camp than to shut it down.
After some wrangling over possibilities, Anri arranged to implement
the consensus opinion, which was that Green Corp should switch from
contracting out its private security to training and operating its own
security force. Which, after discounting all that Poindexter had
embezzled for his prank and already lost, was actually the cheaper
option, especially in the long run.
It was Jared who came up with the bright idea to extend this
security training as a corporate option to their blue collar workers
and mid level management; partly as a perk, some part of that to make
use of their now extensive training holdings, but also offering a
slight pay raise to any employee to take that course. Duties of
security types are by and large very boring until some emergency should
arise, then they are frantic and nerves dulled by boredom don't often
deal so well with them.
This option actually came in very handy. The regular work force, or
some portion of it, was armed at their desks. Should some emergency
arise there was a small army on hand to deal with it. A couple at each
site rotating out as guards (something that both gave them a break from
regular routines, a chance to relax, but also stay far more alert than
regular guards as this was an occasional thing rather than an
interminable duty) to stay on watch and warn the rest if there
developed any trouble, and somehow things just worked much better.
Guard duty soon came to be viewed as an in-office vacation.
That meant that the optional training became very popular, even
more than the pay raise could alone warrant. Very quickly they had
offices where even upper management was seeking this training and guard
duty was treated almost as a perk.
It was also rediscovered something known in the American Old West
but forgotten by most movies - an armed society is a polite society.
One guy with a gun was a bully. All of them having guns were very
careful and courteous. It was too dangerous not to be, and flaring
tempers were dreaded by all. So casual insults and slights almost
disappeared overnight, making everybody happier.
Even other corporate representatives treaded softly in
negotiations. And as their rep for security grew, gangs learned to
trouble other targets when they wanted a shake down or squeeze. After
very few years, Green Corp's entire employee base had been through this
training and had the licenses and permits to carry arms wherever they
went. Then, after being picked on in ones or twos by gangs after their
guns, the employees went in groups practically everywhere, lived in
close proximity, and commuted together.
Employee morale had never been so high, nor retention so easy. Site
insurance costs also plummeted. But Caroline didn't want a rep as a
'Muscle Corp' so she tried to sell the training bases, but of course
Jared stopped her. A good thing, as her own corp almost rebelled over
the concept of losing their special trait and uniqueness.
The boomer rampage on board Genaros 3 did horrific
to make the papers planetside, which brought up the now weeks old story
told by a station controller's report of a similar rampage on Genaros
5. Between the pair of them, the costs of damages and the loss of
Genaros 5 as a useful commercial and industrial entity (which was
blamed largely on that rampage) and some shuttle losses (which had
drawn considerable attention on their own) investors of all sorts were
beginning to think of space as far more high a risk than advertised.
Consequently, they began pulling their money out to put in safer
ventures and the space race began to peter out for lack of funds to
So for that part, Mason's idea to use another boomer rampage to
clear enough construction space for labs on Genaros 3 was poorly chosen
indeed. Quincy wasn't the only stockholder in Genom, and when the
shareholders began to insist he take action to reduce their risky space
ventures he had to at least pretend to go along.
And it was costly. Each of the five Genaros stations cost as much
to build, and more to maintain, than the great Genom tower itself
(still in the earliest phases of construction this close to the Quake
that made it's foundation possible), and they were similar in size.
As always, Quincy plotted to use this apparent downturn to his own
benefit. With proper planning he could get other competitors to reduce
their space holdings and sell their assets there, buying them all up
himself once their price had dropped sufficiently low. That would give
Genom a virtual monopoly in lunar orbit, much as they had with boomers.
Except for one thing.
"Where are you going?" Caroline came up, looking
"Out to scout the streets." Jared replied, pausing in the act of
putting on his cycle helmet in the corporate lobby on his way out. He
still had to complete the upgrade of those maps to current before he
could progress on another project - assuming Poindexter didn't ship
them all off to Africa or something before then.
"Oh, no you're not!" Caroline replied, taking his hand and leading
him back into the Green Corp Headquarters building. "Tina has just
returned from orbit with some interesting news, which you are going to
hear, and then we have some planning to do!"
She'd only just broken the news they were a recording hit
sensation, and it seemed a bit early to spring any new surprises. Were
they models as well? What? For all he knew they were a political party
partway through a campaign. That she grabbed the sexaroids from a
waiting room, where they'd been waiting for him, only heightened the
But then they learned how and why Caroline became so anxious. Tina
was waiting for them in a briefing room, one without windows, which
meant it was secure, soundproofed, and probably swept for bugs weekly.
Tina was sitting there in a style of dress that made her look like
a teenager. Her usual style before (when she'd been wearing ANYTHING!
Brrr!) was a corporate cut that made her look mid-thirties at least,
with a severe hairstyle that guaranteed no one would ever date her.
Non-prescription eyeglasses had once completed the librarian look, but
Instead, the lady appeared for all the world like a teen. Her hair
bounced in a fluffy style filled with ringlets, make up had appeared,
and the whole corporate image washed away in a flood of renewed vigor.
"Kate's been trying to get her to change her look for years."
Caroline explained before she could be flooded under by questions,
walking behind the woman to put her hands on the back of Tina's chair.
"I only just now learned they'd been friends."
Tina herself was acting apologetic. "I'm on the run from Genom. I
faked my death and adopted this disguise. Now I'm wondering what to do
with myself. You got any ideas?" The way she asked it was a request
brimming with hope.
Whatever request for further info was partway out of Jared's mouth
stilled when Caroline's executive assistant opened the door and leaned
in. "Caroline, Amarok is on the line about an acquisition deal. They
want 30% of our stock and in exchange they're offering..." she noticed
how Jared was looking at her and trailed off.
The redhaired superspy had risen from his seat, staring at the
purple haired woman leaning in the door. Softly, he asked. "Caroline,
what is this woman doing in this company?"
Caroline looked back and forth between the interdimensional agent
and her best friend. "Kate's been with me forever, Jared. Why?"
"Kate Madigan," he recited, woodenly. "As of mid-2033 was Genom's
executive officer in charge of information and security. After the
death of Brian J. Mason became the Chairman's right hand. A powerful,
intelligent but short lived villain."
Kate quirked her lips. "Okaaaay, I'll admit I'd had the offer to
join their internal security department. But I won't take it.
Caroline's my best friend, I'd never leave her."
Green Corp's CEO fell into her chair like a marionette with the
strings cut, looking strangely between her best friend and Jared. "But
if I were to die like he said next year..."
Nam's eyes locked with those of the other purple haired lady in the
room. "Then she could accept and have six years to climb Genom's
corporate ladder. She's very talented, it would work. The death of her
best friend could certainly embitter her."
"I'm never getting cyberware again." Caroline declared firmly. "And
if that man who got promoted over me comes back or proposes, I'll sic
security on him!"
Lou got a smug smirk. "You know, we're got three women in this room
able to be chief executives of powerful corporations. It's a pity we've
only got one slot for them." She smiled at her budding friend Caroline.
Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
"Actually," broke in Tina. "That's part of what I wanted to
discuss." She leaned across the table, welcoming the fact that Madigan
stepped into the room, closing the door behind her. "The space
development corp is losing funding fast. After closing station 5 and
now the problems on 3 and the shuttle 'crashes', public confidence is
gone. They may even begin offering Genaros 5 or 3 or both for sale on
the public market."
"Why should we care?" Anri quipped. "I don't ever want to go back
"Not even to get a functioning fusion plant?" Sylvie grinned as she
saw where this was going.
"Right." Tina nodded eagerly. "As their most recent security chief
I have maps and all their security information the director is cleared
"So that's all of it, right?" Meg chirped smugly.
"No, there's data not even the station director is cleared for."
Tina corrected. "Most of that is self-destruct codes, special secrets
all companies try with their facilities, and of course major stuff like
Genom's top-of-the-line secret production labs."
"What was that my ears did hear?" Jared asked sweetly.
Tina smiled triumphantly. "Oh, well, nothing special, just that
Genom was moving most of their prototyping off planet into space,
building super-secret labs on Genaros 5 and now duplicating those labs
on Genaros 3. You ought to know, you stole the primary data modules and
all of the computer gear that was going to be the heart of the Genaros
"We haven't unpacked those shuttles yet," he reminded, with a
predatory grin. "All a concern over where to unpack them without
destroying their contents or blowing secrets, you see. We're only about
two months away from having a suitable place."
"I know," she sang sweetly.
"You mean we could raid one of those stations and get the medical
facilities we've been needing?" Nam pressed forward interestedly,
leaning over the table.
"More than that," Meg speculated, leaning back in her chair and
crossing her arms under both breasts. "I think she's saying that if we
conduct more operations against Genaros 3 then spacecorp could lose
more investors and begin selling off those stations. Maybe we could
even acquire one and make use of those secret labs ourselves."
"That's what I'm saying," Tina confirmed with a predatory grin.
"I think we have an operation to plan," Sylvie bubbled happily.
"Green Corp doesn't have the funds." Caroline sorrowed, shaking her
head. "Even if they offered those stations at cost or somewhat below,
we'd have to sell assets on the ground that we couldn't afford to
Kate nodded. "Yes, we've got stockbrokers yapping at our heels
right now after all the funds we've sunk into expanding our South Seas
fish farms. If the market for seafood holds steady we can rake in a
profit in four years, but..."
"Genom's been trying to drive the prices down so they can drive us
out of a great big chunk of the market with their processed algae
products." The CEO shrugged. Such was the state of the world.
"Kibble, named both for its taste and its resemblance to the pet
food of the same name." Nam made a face.
"Even if we can't buy the stations, we could make great use of some
equipment stored there." Jared reminded. "All we have to do is steal
it. And if space shuts down some operations, that's less profit flowing
into Genom's coffers. That weakens them a bit, and every little bit
"Genom doesn't own everything in space. More like 60%." Caroline
informed him. "Gulf and Bradley owns Genaros 4 and do most of their
medical and biotechnological experiments there, as well as regulating
some traffic to the moon. Which means, as the regulators, they can
squeeze out all competition for the drug markets among the workers
moving in there. There's also talk of the energy transmission
possibilities, but for right now they don't want to infringe on their
own petrochem market."
"So that's 3, 4 and 5," Anri observed, sitting pertly. "Who owns 1
"Genom owns 1," Kate offered. "Though they disguise their trail
through puppet companies. 2 is the only one without direct line of
sight to Earth, it's on the dark side of the moon. That reduces its
value considerably, as you have to pay to relay communications and
shipping there takes longer and is more expensive. Genom wouldn't touch
it, which left it to some private consortium." She looked to Caroline
for confirmation. "I don't think it has one owner, just lots of little
Caroline nodded. "That's true, only I think the Russians are now
Jared was tapping his fingertips together concentration. "So Genom
owns the odd numbers of the five, but two of those are in dire
straights right now. I think this screams of opportunity, don't you?"
He was met with startled stares.
The boy explained. "We strike now when investors are already shaky
and we can undermine their confidence in the remaining ventures. We
might even go so far as to cause Genom to close Genaros 3 as they did
5, leaving them with a grand total of one station operational and
reducing their functional space holdings to one-third."
"You don't like them much, do you?" Caroline asked, wonderingly.
"Left undisturbed they lead to the end of all human life in this
timeline. What do you think I should be doing?" The redhaired spy asked
in return. "My mission, or partying?"
"Partying," Lou answered quickly, tossing a glance to the
executive. "After all, it makes her money."
Caroline winced. "Will you ever forgive me for popularizing your
"Sure," Sylvie quipped, doing her nails. "But it's a lot tougher
forgiving you for not telling us about it until the news crews were
descending upon us."
"Point," Tina agreed for their behalf. "But think on this: If you
continue on in the music business you might be able to buy a space
"Not until we're old and dreary," Sylvie complained. "Even as big
as we are, those stations are huge. The whole entertainment industry
She got some nods.
"So what do we do?" Nam asked.
"Could our profits and Green Corp combined..?" Meg ventured.
"No." Kate corrected herself, "well, it would take five years."
"So we've got to either reduce their cost, increase our funds, both
by a vast amount, or find some way to do this that doesn't involve
money." Jared pondered. "All three can be done. What troubles me is how
much competition we're going to face in the acquisition. I'd like to
have those stations. There's stuff I can do with them that could help
us greatly. But I don't see us in a bidding war with the entire planet.
It can't be won."
Genom was the only outfit big enough to measure their profits
meaningfully in terms of percentage of the Gross Planetary Product,
even at this early stage. They'd be bigger, tougher and meaner in each
passing year. Their present so soon after the quake that made them
virtually own Japan was just a tiny, but very ugly, baby compared the
conglomerate's far more gigantic (and ugly) future.
Jared sat up taller in his seat. "How big is spacecorp?"
"Big," Anri answered.
"Hard to say how big they will become, the present crisis drains
them badly." Tina was speculative. "They're vulnerable, if that's what
Jared's smirk had turned confident and wry. "So this is what you do
if you're a superspy. You take a look at what owns your target, if it's
too difficult to hit directly, and see if there are any weaknesses
there. How much spacecorp stock is on the market?"
"For sale right now? Roughly thirty percent. Like I said, investor
confidence is badly shaken." Madigan was back in her element with
"Then, say, if they were hit another couple of times?" He asked
with a growing smile.
"It would be worse," Caroline offered.
"The more sellers, the lower their stock price. It's a good
direction, but incomplete." He thought aloud. "What we need is a great
big load of cash. Then we can offer to shore up their stock value by
buying a great chunk of it, in return taking control of non-paying
assets, like, for example, Genaros 5."
"That's a load of dough." Lou whistled along with her friends, the
"Stock trades wouldn't cut it. Green Corp is not big enough,"
"No, better if we can keep Green Corp out of it entirely," Jared
mused. Rising, he snatched up his helmet and began to head for the
door. "Hang on, I've got to think. There's tons of places to get the
money, but they're all difficult targets. I need to ruminate for a
while on this one."
"Don't forget development." Kate Madigan warned him. "Acquisition
isn't enough, you've got to make it profitable, and that means money
after control is acquired. Spacecorp already owns them and is
struggling to keep their doors open."
"Agreed. I'm going to drive around while I think about it." Jared
pulled on his helmet, intending to head out for his new bike, one with
a custom-built engine to it.
"Jared," Caroline whispered. "We may not be able to buy either
space station right now, but we still gain if we can force Genom to
"Again, agreed. The way I think we're going is in Smoky and the
Bandit style. One obvious mission as our smoke to draw pursuit and
attention to itself, while our bandit side goes off to perform a quick
snatch and grab under cover of the confusion. Because, even if we could
pull the whole thing off sneakily we wouldn't want to. Maximum
disruption is part of why we are doing this. We want that stock
devalued, and Genom out of space as much as possible."
He went roaring out of the Green Corp garage moments later.
Detective Mark Petrovich was a weary Russian, but
deceit was in his
blood. He had no accent, no identifying features, being average height,
average weight, and unremarkable in practically every aspect. When he
put on Goth attire, you believed he was a Goth. If it was a leather
clad biker a job required he could be that too.
Practically anything he wanted to be, he was. And he maintained
several street IDs for nosing around in. He wasn't exactly easy to find
as any of them, but he cropped up from time to time, as did many
For ferreting out information on the street the MegaTokyo police
had few better, and most of them were street creatures in actual fact.
So when he turned up nothing, that was because there was nothing to
find, or at least those who knew weren't talking.
Submitting his report, the detective had the misfortune to be
turning in his total lack of findings just as the news copters got to
their man first.
Lights flashed along the roadway, streetlights racing
houselights flicking. It had been close to four hours he'd been riding,
chewing on this issue. The closer he looked at it, the more complicated
that made it. Spacecorp was not going to be an easy pushover. Still,
every problem that came up he had developed answers for.
Jared had checked and apparently his mission advantage in this
universe was genius, the sheer, unstoppable, future-changing kind as
attributed to Katsuhito Stingray, Sylia's father. Thoughts came easier
and concepts form more completely, though science was the obvious core
of this new ability.
They had a good plan. Trouble was, disruption meant opposition.
Sigh. Time to build the hardsuits.
Okay, this was a Bubblegum Crisis universe. It should have been
obvious before this that some hardsuits could be a very good idea. It's
just he'd resisted implementing the idea without access to Sylia's
database inherited from her father. Hers were the best, and he'd wanted
that for his team. There were a number of ways he could pursue to get
it from her, but some innate sense warned him off. He didn't know why,
but he trusted it.
So that meant non-Stingray hardsuit designs.
Suddenly realizing he felt weak, and recalling that he hadn't eaten
anything in three days, the superspy nudged his vehicle toward a nearby
diner where he could hopefully find something bland and preferably
Unfortunately, he happened to be wearing the same driving suit and
helmet as he had the other day when he'd been blowing apart goons who'd
tried to mug him. That suit was distinctive in a town as grungy as
MegaTokyo, bright colors standing out so it was a wonder that he wasn't
accosted before now.
Now would suffice.
The superspy had gotten his bag full of burgers (five, for those
who were interested he did eat them cold and having them around made
him that much less likely to forget to eat next time) when he noticed a
number of toughs had circled in around his motorcycle.
"Ya got yerself some fancy new wheels, don'cha maggot?"
Hmm, he sighed, shifting his burgers to be out of the way of this
fight. This is bound to get interesting.
Some people are just out for blood.
Vaulting off the top of a parking structure into the glass side of
an office building and racing down the halls of a cube farm amidst a
sea of raining glass, Jared reflected that your average thug wasn't
Maybe it was something he'd said?
Thirty or so thugs on bikes took the same jump from the parking
garage in through the now busted winder, scattering papers and officer
ladies as they made their landings in the corporate office.
Jared slewed his bike to a stop in the open elevator and hit the
down key, smiling saucily at the lead biker's outraged face as the
doors closed, cutting them off from view.
Considering that the lobby was guaranteed to be full of security
guards, the boy adventurer got off on the second floor above ground and
raced out a plate glass window, scattering shards of falling,
glittering substance over the police cars that had pulled up outside.
His bike landed roughly on the roof of a semi and it was all he
could do to adjust the vectors to account for both moving vehicles so
he didn't spin off from the side in a crash that could only end if he
woke up in a prison ward on an IV tube, already having been sentenced
in a coma.
More rough gangers with rage in their eyes burst out of the third
story windows and began raging down the sides of a sloped hill toward
him, the landscaping having afforded them a short fall.
Swallowing his chagrin, the redhead gunned his engine and jumped
off the roof of his semi to the top of a nearby ten-wheeler. From there
he rode onto the landing of a second floor restaurant, down the steps,
through a floor show, and out of the front door, replacing the glass of
water he'd snatched and guzzled onto the tray of a waiter on the way
out, along with a generous tip.
He was barely out of the door when he was surrounding by speeding
forms of hostile bikers in leather and chains, intermixed with police
cars pulling up to respond to the alert at the corp building just
Didn't we just leave this party?
Vaulting off the sloped front of a police interceptor, using it as
a ramp, he flew over the worst of the barricade and poured on the
speed, trying for distance to evade his pursuit. Howling, the angry
bikers roared after him, the police only moments behind.
The news chopper pulling overhead made this scene awfully familiar.
Fewer cops, more bad guys. Spying an open storm drain the superspy
headed toward it, toggling off his lights and going over to sight
enhancements, bringing up his official maps of the sewers and
He didn't slow down. They did. He lost 'em.
The superspy's thoughts followed him back into the private vehicle
bay of Green Corp HQ, where he turned off the engine and left the bike,
pulling off his helmet to walk in for a midnight bath - about the only
time he could trust to be alone in the tub was when the girls were all
asleep. Cute, but persistent, and he didn't find the 'walking in' joke
as funny as he did back when he was watching Ranma 1/2 from the outside
of the TV screen.
The door to Jared's room in the Green Corp arcology
noiselessly in the dead of night while the superspy lay sleeping.
Silhouetted in the hall lights was Caroline Evers, Green Corp's
president. She stepped inside and the door shut behind her, leaving her
in darkness. Only ready lights from a half dozen appliances provided
In darkness and silence, the corporate officer stepped carefully
down the rooms until she came to the superspy's bedchamber, where the
door opened once again to her silent override. She stepped in once
again, this time leaving the door open behind her for a quick escape.
At this point she could hardly claim to have gotten up for a glass of
water and gotten lost.
Actually, this had been Christina's idea. But both were agreed
Caroline was the better choice to do it. Standing just inside of the
door, the woman whispered. "Registered Ally, Caroline Evers, requesting
access to training modules for superspy Jared Saotome."
On the table he used as a nightstand, the face of Jared's One True
Watch blinked once in acknowledgement. Caroline crossed over to it and
began typing on the small key panel. Jared stirred once, cuddling more
deeply into his mound of pillows, and she flinched. But the redhead
soon quieted and the corporate president resumed entering her request
into the catalog. Soon the appropriate option came up, dredged from
Tongue slipping out between tight lips in her uneasy nervousness,
Caroline queued the program and slipped a finely formed hand into the
open Standard Light Urban Survival Pack also on the same side table,
her slender fingers coming out of the zippered pouch with a jeweled
headband that was familiar to any fan of his series.
A deep breath to steady herself, and Caroline fitted the headband
of the Synoptic Teacher over the recumbent Saotome's head, and with
reactions true to his brother Ranma, the superspy just went on
Practically dying with relief and anticipation both mingled up
together as one, the lady touched the face of the watch, triggering the
program to begin. Then she quickly queued up another program to follow,
she didn't care which one, so long as the skill now being taught to the
sleeping agent wasn't the last one on the list once he woke up. That
did nothing to erase the record of this training from the catalog, but
it was both Caroline and Tina's hopes that he wouldn't think to look.
Caroline settled herself into a soft, thick, plush chair in the
darkness to wait. Two hours for them to finish, then she'd remove the
headband and replace it in the pouch before she left again the way she
Pavel Tsatsouline is a real person, former spetsnaz,
and most of
his dialog was taken as quotes directly from his exercise books.