Based on stuff that's not mine...

Written by Cyclone...

Whirlwind Productions presents...


Episode Four--Puzzles


An elaborate testing facility lay silent. Various boomers linked to the project stood dormant and unmoving. Among them was one destined to rise again, reborn like the phoenix it was.

Deep within the bowels of Alex-02, GENOM's central computer, another phoenix stirred. Twice it had died, and its second rebirth was nearing. Even now, its followers gathered together and prepared for its return. This time, no one, not even the Knight Sabers or that irritating ADP officer, would stop it from achieving its destiny.

Raven's Garage...

Dr. Raven shook his head. "The KnightWing's vertical thrusters have been severely compromised. It's a miracle Mackie could even get it here in one piece. The damages will take days to assess, probably weeks to repair."

Sylia nodded, "I see. What about the other damages we've taken?"

"Bah! I don't see why you waste my time looking at minor things like that. You and Mackie are more than capable of handling the damages to the hardsuits."

ADP Headquarters...

Leon sighed as the battered DD replica was hauled into the repair bay. He had the distinct feeling it was going to be scrapped to rebuild the lost choppers and Armored Troopers. However, that was not what was currently nagging at his mind. Earlier that day, GENOM Special Assistant Smith had arrived, wanting the three stolen "boomer vehicle control link-ups" returned.

Two of the battlemovers at N-Police Central, a midnight blue one and a black one, were controlled by a boomer brain directly connected to them, much like the red one that had attacked the bank and ADP Headquarters. The other three battlemovers, grey and identical in design to each other, had normal cockpit control systems and cyborg pilots.

That was part of the peculiarity. They still didn't know anything about the CLA's goals or even what CLA stood for, but every member of the CLA they had found, dead or alive, had at least some cybernetics.

That fact nagged at his mind, as though he were missing something very important, but he couldn't figure out what.

*Well, Daley'll be back tomorrow. Maybe he can figure it out.*


Cirrus was getting impatient. From the fiasco at N-Police Central, it was evident that the CLA's standard battlemovers weren't capable of handling the Knight Sabers. This meant they needed an upgrade, and now this _worm_ had the gall to tell him it would take a _month_?!

He grabbed the front of the technician's shirt and lifted the terrified man up until the toes of his boots dangled just above the floor, "I want at least half the battlemovers completely upgraded and _all_ the battlemovers and pilots upgraded to the DNI control system by next week. Do I make myself clear?"

"Y-y-yes, sir. C-crystal clear, sir."

"Excellent," he grinned as he let go of the technician. He watched disgustedly as the technician scurried off in fear. *Humans. How... flawed.*

Three days later...

Quincy frowned. The development of the newest line of boomers was going slowly, too slowly for his tastes. With Project NERIMA a seeming disaster, he was forced to accelerate the development of more typical boomer systems.

He was mildly disappointed with the staff of CCI. The small company had shown promise when GENOM first bought them out, but without the rogue, much of their work would all be for nought.

Still, he wasn't about to write it off just yet. Even without the rogue, they had made some impressive advances which could prove very profitable. Perhaps it would be best to reactivate the Project.

The Tendo Dojo...

"Where _is_ that jerk?!" Akane snarled. "We're gonna be late!"

Kasumi smiled radiantly, "Oh, I'm sorry. I almost forgot. He said something last night about a training trip."

Genma puffed out his chest, "Hahaha! That's m'boy! Always willing to do anything for the Art."

Soun yelled at Genma, forming his Demon Head, "And he left Akane behind?!?"

Genma blanched, "Now, now, Tendo. D-don't overreact. I'm sure he did it to keep your daughter safe from the perils of being a martial artist."

Akane fumed, "Are you saying I'm not a martial artist?!"

Mayhem and futile excuses ensued.

MegaTokyo, four days after the battle at N-Police Central...

Ranma headed for the Canyons dejectedly. He had followed up on yet another lead on the nanban but came up empty-handed. Again.

Given his mood and the jostling crowd of District 7, it was quite understandable when he bumped into someone. He reacted before he realized it. He caught the woman with his right arm before she could hit the pavement and snagged her briefcase with his left hand. He helped her to her feet and handed her her briefcase.

"Are you okay?"

She blinked and began backing away frantically, as if she had seen a ghost. He gaped. She didn't stop. She stumbled back away from him, muttering under her breath fearfully, and disappeared into the crowd, despite Ranma's attempts to follow her.

He frowned thoughtfully, *What the hell just happened? I know that was her, even if she did look a bit older. Why did she freak out like that? She looked like she'd seen... a ghost?*

Realization hit him like one of Ryouga's Full Shishi Houkou Dans.


Nabiki Tendo leaned against the side of a building in a mixture of relief and worry. She had no doubt that it was Ranma she had run into, but she didn't know what to do. It was obvious what any of her colleagues would do in this situation, but she wasn't sure if she could do it.

The Tower wanted him, but did she want to give him to them?

One morning...

Mackie left after his daily morning intrusion into Sylia's private suite. She sipped her coffee as she paged through the Kenzai VPE. The terrorist takeover of N-Police Central was still making headlines as various journalists speculated on how the N-Police intended to prevent a repeat incident.

Something caught her eye, and she paused. It was the horoscope for Gemini.

"GEMINI--The Twins

You will encounter an old acquaintance you thought you would never see again. This person will change your outlook on life forever. Learn all you can and remember: Not all is as it appears."

She frowned. There was something very suspicious about the prediction, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. *Very strange...*

She finished her coffee and put her cup and printed periodical down. As she gazed on the city waking up to a new day, she pondered the peculiar prediction.

A small red light on the security control box next to her door began blinking as a high-pitched whine began. She turned and bolted past the small coffee table, her robe knocking the cup over, as she made her way to the door.

She glanced at the light, determining the site of the disruption, and headed for the workshop. Inside, she worried. This could be her worst nightmare come true. Outside, she was cool and calm as ice.

Unnoticed within her computer's hard drive, something changed the text of the Gemini horoscope back to its original prediction of hardship and danger.

Moments later...

As she entered the workshop, Sylia came across a sheepish-looking Mackie, who spun to face her. He stood scratching the back of his head with one hand and carrying a spent fire extinguisher in the other.

"Ah, sorry, sis. False alarm. I, uh, kinda fried one of my projects."

"What happened?"

"I was trying to create a better fuel formula for Priss's bike when it... sorta blew up in my face."

She shook her head and chuckled. "Oh, Mackie."

That night...

Madigan nodded approvingly. It was complete. All that remained was for its biosystems to recover from the neural installation. It was a tricky process neither she nor the biotechnicians wanted to rush if they could help it. They had lost eleven potential "donors" to failed attempts before perfecting the process.

Moments later, a biotechnician gave her the okay. She followed him to the room in which it stood, jet black and imposing.

"State your designation and function," she said calmly.

The boomer came to life and spoke with a deep, smooth voice that seemed to echo off the titanium steel walls, "I am the Bu-666-M Marauder. My function is to serve the interests of GENOM Company Limited and its Chairman."

"And your first priority?"

She thought that, had it been possible, the Bu-666-M would have grinned, "The elimination of the Knight Sabers."

Two days later...

Sylia cocked an eyebrow. "I thought you were going underground?"

Fargo shrugged, "Heat's died down a bit in the past couple of weeks. Now everyone's curious about this new player in town, the CLA."

The leader of the Knight Sabers nodded, "Indeed. Do _you_ have information regarding them?"

"Nothin' much. Just the name, their purported goals, and a little info on their leader."

Sylia motioned for him to continue.

"He's a fruitcake boomeroid named Cirrus Clayborne. Extensive cybernetics, most of it custom-designed. He was one of the forerunners in cybertech before he disappeared six years ago."

Sylia nodded thoughtfully.

Fargo frowned, "But that's not why I contacted you."


"Someone's been poking around, trying to offer up a job for you specifically. When she was assured I could contact you directly, she gave me this," he handed a datadisc to Sylia and continued, "and said to give it to you unaccessed and that it explained everything. She kept looking over her shoulder as though she thought she was being followed or watched."

Sylia held up the datadisc speculatively. "Could it be a setup?"

"If it is, it's not GENOM. She's one of GENOM's researchers, but there wasn't anything fishy about her background. Nothing was covered up once I started digging. She used to work for a smaller company, CCI, before it went under. GENOM bought them out. I'd say she's probably looking for some protection from GENOM."

"I see."

Later that night...

Sylia accessed the datadisc on an isolated computer. The data on the potential client that popped up was familiar. The client was the head of GENOM's Project NERIMA and wanted a friend of hers protected for an indefinite period.

It seemed she was going to have to arrange a meeting.

Much later...

She shivered and pulled her coat closer around her. The park was cold this late at night, but this was where the Knight Sabers had insisted on meeting.

"Ms. Tendo?"

She whirled around, a scream trying to escape her throat. A moment later, she realized that the person who spoke was a woman in a white and blue suit of powered armor. Saber Prime.


"You wanted to hire us?"

She nodded.


"A... friend of mine needs protection. The Tower wants him, and... and I don't want anything to happen to him. I don't want him to know he's being looked after." She shook her head as though frustrated with her own ignorance, "Oh, I don't even know where he is. I... I can pay with information. I know about the latest projects... in particular, what's being planned against you. It's all in here." She handed the Knight Saber a datadisc.

Saber Prime nodded. "I see."

Under her helmet, Sylia frowned. So far as any of her or Fargo's contacts knew, GENOM considered the Knight Sabers an insignificant thorn not worth eliminating. If this woman was telling the truth, then she needed to know when that had changed. The client here was also acting borderline hysterical, which didn't match her psych profile at all.

The leader of the Knight Sabers spoke again, "We'll find and protect your friend. He won't even know we're there. That is, we will so long as you tell us everything about this project against us... and about Project NERIMA."

Nabiki paled. She backed away, "No. No, I can't. I... I _can't_! That's my life's work! I can't!" She spun and ran.

Sylia frowned as she watched the woman disappear into the shadows of the park. She held up and contemplated the datadisc. The woman was very, very nervous. Everything in Ms. Tendo's history suggested a very sharp and collected mind, one that didn't scare easily...

Several days later...

The eight boomers, an antiquated mix of five 43-Cs, two 19-Fs, and a single 10-B, were proving to be much more difficult than they had any right to be. Theoretically, the AD Police should have been able to handle the outdated biomechanoids fairly easily with only some token difficulty with the Bu-10-B.

Instead, they were finding themselves hard-pressed to even hit them. When the AD Police had arrived, the boomers regrouped and arranged themselves in an easily defendable position.

They had backed themselves into an alleyway and knocked down a building behind them. The 10-B stood with its back to the collapsed rubble, providing cover fire. In front were the 43-Cs, and the Skyhunters hovered above, never leaving the area covered by the 10-B's firepower.

"Damnit!" Leon swore. "Get some Hornets over here!" The setup the boomers had made turned the front of the alleyway into a murderously effective free fire zone that made any ground assault futile. The hulks of two of the older K-11s (most of the K-12s had been destroyed in the attack on the ADP Headquarters or the subsequent battle at N-Police Central) lay motionless in front of the alley.

Sylia frowned. The boomers were showing a level of tactical planning typically beyond the capabilities of even the more advanced boomers they usually fought.

"Knight Sabers, GO!"

The four hardsuited women leaped from the Sky Carrier to land behind the two downed K-11s. Bullets shrieked past as the 10-B fired at them futilely, inferior hardware preventing it from taking advantage of such an excellent tactical position.

The K-11 shielding Priss and Linna exploded, raining molten shrapnel on them. A stream of bullets cut through the air and fire, searching out the two Knight Sabers who leaped away. Priss returned fire with her railgun.

The railgun spikes ventilated the 10-B, one slicing into the elbow of its cannon arm, another skewering the opposite shoulder, a third tore into its left sensor boom, and the last two penetrated the torso. The older armor was far from up to standards.

Linna fired her jumpjets and spun in midair. She struck one of the Skyhunters in the face, caving its head in and blasting it off with her knuckle bomber. The other Skyhunter was shredded by a heavy crossfire from a pair of Firebees.

On the ground, Sylia and Nene each destroyed a 43-C, while K-11s easily mopped up the remaining three.

Unseen by anyone, a shadowy figure observed the battle with great interest, cataloging everything it saw.

GENOM Tower...

"I do not recall authorizing the release of any boomers recently."

The two Special Assistants looked at each other and frowned. Smith spoke first, "Mr. Chairman, I have not ordered the release of any boomers in the past month."

Madigan shook her head, "Nor have I, Mr. Chairman."

"Then explain this," Quincy depressed a button, and the Multivision flared to life, displaying a news channel stretched over all its screens.

//...and the AD Police has yet to make any comments on the outdated combat boomers that appeared on a rampage earlier this evening. In other news...// The news anchor was cut off as Quincy deactivated the Multivision.


The room went silent for a long moment. Quincy nodded, "I see. Madigan, investigate this matter and deal with it."

"Yes, Mr. Chairman."

Several days later...

"This is the third baffling incident in the past week," the reporter said, "and the AD Police has reportedly made no headway in uncovering the cause of the recent spate of berserk boomers. What makes these rampages unusual is that the boomers in question are older production models, makes previously known for stability and reliability, including the popular model 77-L construction boomer, two of which were involved in this latest incident. Thankfully, there were no casualties, and the property damage is at a minimum."

Leon sighed as the salvage truck lugged away the remains of two 77-Ls, "I dunno _what's_ goin' on, but I kinda hope it stays this way."

"What are you talking about, Leon-chan?" Daley stared incredulously. His partner shrugged.

"At least then we wouldn't have to worry about top-of-the-line combat boomers, now would we?"

The redhead rolled his eyes, "I suppose you have a point, Leon-chan. While we're at it, maybe we can convince the terrorists to take a vacation too."

Leon chuckled, "Sarcasm doesn't suit you, Daley." He turned to the foreman who was responsible for overlooking the boomers as they worked. "So, any idea why the boomers went berserk?"

The man shook his head, "Not a one. I just fired 'em up this morning an' they went nuts. They've been off work for maintenance for the past two days."

"Maintenance? Any particular reason?"

The foreman shrugged, "They were acting kinda quirky all last week, right after their regular check up." He groaned and buried his face in his hands, "My boss is gonna _kill_ me!"

Late one evening...

Nabiki yawned as she flung her coat on a chair. It had been a long day, and even her anxiety over Ranma was dulled by the research they'd been working on lately. She _really_ hated overtime, even with the extra pay. As she nuked something vaguely resembling dinner, the shrill shriek of her vidphone rang out. She yawned again and picked it up.


"Nabiki, it's me."

"Oh, hi, Kasumi. What's up?"

"Well, I'm just checking up on you. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

"Oh, nevermind. So, have you heard anything about the search for Ranma?"

Nabiki shook her head, "Not a word." She sighed, more at lying to Kasumi than at not hearing about Ranma. Still, she didn't want to get anyone else entangled in the web of lies, let alone Kasumi.

Minutes later...

Kasumi hung up and frowned. Whatever she said, something was wrong with Nabiki. It was also clear that the mention of Ranma's name triggered... something.

"What's wrong, Kasumi?"

"It's nothing, Ono."

Her fiancee leaned over her and wrapped his arms around her, "Oh, come on, Kasumi-chan, I know you too well. What is it?"

She sighed. He was right. "It's Nabiki. Something's wrong, but she won't tell me!" She turned in his arms and looked into his eyes, "Do you have any idea how frustrating that is?"

He let go and stood, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "I can't say I know how you feel, but I do know how much this must be bothering you. Maybe I should poke around a little, see what might be up?" He leaned forward and kissed her gently on the lips.

"Mmm... thanks," she mumbled out the side of her mouth.

The Tendo Dojo...

Akane snuck through the house. Ranma had been gone for weeks, and no one had heard a word from him. She was worried. She wasn't the only one worried either, but no one had any idea where he was or how to go about finding him.

Until now.

She slipped into Happosai's room. The old lecher was out on his nightly panty raid, so there wasn't much chance of being caught.


She quickly found what she was looking for. She held up the nanban. It was pretty clear that Happosai had tried to glue it back together again. She really hoped this worked.

"Take me to where Ranma went."

The room was bathed in a brilliant flash of light.


Akane groaned as she regained consciousness. She found herself strapped to a metal table.

*What the heck?*

She strained for a moment and ripped free of the restraints. She grinned with pride as she contemplated the sore bands where the restraints had bitten in. She may not be as strong as Shampoo or Ranma, but she was still pretty strong.

She saw no sign of the nanban, but she doubted whoever had tied her up would be obliged to let her have it. *I'd better find Ranma first,* she decided.

Several minutes later...

Akane stared, gaping in awe at the sheer size of the metropolis she saw. Tokyo was a big city, but it was nothing compared to this city, wherever it was. Given that many of the signs were in roomaji or the familiar blend of hiragana and katakana, she felt confident that language would not be a problem, for which she was eternally grateful.

She needed to find some way to find Ranma, but how? Going to the police or a private detective was out of the question. There was no way they'd believe any of her story. That meant she'd have to track him down herself, something she wasn't exactly skilled at.

It was going to be a long journey.

Author's Postscript:

At last! It took me long enough to get this part out, but its finally here! Any suggestions on who or what I should focus the next episode on? Send 'em in!

This is Cyclone, signing off.