This story begins some time in 2030, before Bubblegum Crisis (2032-33) or Bubblegum Crisis: Grand Mal (2031). It contains violence and some harsh language. Please do not read it if this offends you.

Bubblegum Crisis, in its various anime incarnations to date, is property of and copyright Artmic (R.I.P.), Youmex (R.I.P.), AIC, and AnimEigo. Bubblegum Crisis: Grand Mal is property of and copyright Dark Horse Comics.

Into the Shadows was written November 1997 - February 1998

--Jeanne Hedge and Andy Skuse


Firelight.

Warming. Comforting.

Consuming. Destroying.

Obscuring.

The truth does not live in the light. Light is not truth. Light can be manipulated to conceal the truth. To blind us. To trick us. To divert our eyes away from what is really going on.

For me, the truth lives in the shadows.

To expose the truth, I must place my trembling hands into dark corners, and step into the blackness wearing armor made from knowledge, and a helm to shade my eyes from the light.

Like an unpolished sword still blackened by the forge, I will fight the sun, and not shine.

Come what may...


INTO THE SHADOWS

by Jeanne Hedge and Andy Skuse


1. DYING WISHES

The garage was almost silent, except for the low hum of slumbering machinery. The light in my office spilled out through the doorway into the darkened service bays, washing dimly over vehicles that waited patiently to be whole again. Tiny red and blue power indicator lights pierced the shadows along the back wall. In the distance, I could hear the monotonous sounds of the factories that surrounded the garage, as they continued to grind, rumble and churn through the night. For me, the day was finally over, and all I wanted to do now was rest my tired old bones. But I had a visitor, and she needed my advice. My tired bones would have to wait.

"Sylia, why must you do this?" I finally replied. "Do you really think your father would have approved?"

The young woman before me faltered for a moment. The pleading look on her face quickly changed to one of seriousness as she considered my question.

"Doctor Raven," she replied, her voice now reflecting her stern gaze, "if my father would not have approved, then why did he provide me with the information and tools to deal with the problem?"

Damn. That razor-sharp ability to reason that I had instilled in her was coming back to haunt me.

As I stared out the doorway into the darkness to consider her words, my aged eyes struggled to make out the discarded pieces of rusting metal that lay strewn about the garage floor. And as I thought hard about what I was going to say, my vision began to deceive me. The twisted metal pieces and their shadows had somehow altered their shapes, combining in the dim light to look a bit like severed metallic limbs. A bright red fluid was seeping out of the torn appendages, flowing out upon the garage floor towards me...

"Can't you see what they've done with his work?" she continued, her anger now rising uncharacteristically to the surface.

She paused, and I could see the frustration in her eyes as she struggled with her words.

"I can't wait any longer, Doctor. They've turned his grand designs into schemes of greed, and I can't let it continue."

"Sylia..." I looked into her eyes again, wishing that she had never received that damned data unit. But it was too late to change that. My friend -- her father -- was gone, and the wisdom of his wishes was getting harder to see each time that Sylia came to visit me. She wasn't going to drop it.

I closed my eyes for a moment, then turned back to render my anticipated reply, but my words were stolen from me. She was standing beside my computer, her arms still folded across her chest in a gesture of contained patience, her eyes still burning with defiance. Schematic readouts and technical blueprints displayed themselves on the computer's screen in a hypnotic sequence. Images that I had seen many years ago. Abandoned by my reply, I looked away again, back into the darkness of the garage. The severed robotic limbs I had seen moments before were once again cold, rusted, lifeless, metal pieces, the "blood" simply a dried oil stain.

Foolish old man. If only Katsuhito were here...

Fine. There was no way I was going to let her do this by herself. She was bright -- very bright -- but they would not hesitate for even a second to silence anyone who opposed them. How many others had died because of their ruthless determination? Someone had to do something, but I did not want to lose her to them. I had already lost one close friend...

I smiled bravely and took her hands in mine. "Sylia, if you must do this, then I will not stop you..."

Her hard gaze altered slightly, but the determination in her eyes remained. "But?"

"But," I continued, "you must do this right. Preparation, planning, and teamwork will keep you from getting killed. You must--"

"Teamwork?" she blurted out, taking her hands from mine and stepping away, turning her back to me. The tone of her voice went cold. "This is my fight. I see no reason to--"

"Sylia, please listen to me. I know the young think they know everything, but someone as bright as you are should know better. You can't do this yourself. I want to help you. And I am sure that your brother will not just sit by and watch. He will want to help too. You know what he is like."

She nodded. Perhaps she was listening after all.

"And while you have inherited your father's research, as well as his talent for making those ideas a reality, don't ever forget what happened to him." I paused, trying to gauge her reaction. "He was alone, Sylia, and he thought that he, too, could deal with the problem himself. He was a great man, but great men, and great women, can make mistakes. Please, don't make the same mistake that he did."

I wish I could have seen her face, but she remained turned away.

"Sylia, will you let me help you?"

After a few moments, she slowly nodded again.

"Good. Now, if you still believe that this is important to you..."

She suddenly turned back, then crossed the room to embrace me, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "Thank you," she whispered softly, and then kissed me on the cheek. "I think I needed to hear that." She broke the embrace and stepped back slightly, taking my hands in hers. "And yes," she said, in a more normal voice, "it is still very important to me."

I smiled. "Okay then, you will need to make some plans. I suggest that the first thing you do is find someone to help you."

She looked up at me with a quizzical expression on her face. "But you just said that you and Mackie would--"

"Yes," I replied, cutting her off, "We will help you. But I am an old man, and Mackie is still a young boy. We can help you build anything you need, but I think you might need more help than that. What will you do when you are outnumbered? And believe me, they will outnumber you. That has been their strategy in business, and I have no doubt it will be their strategy outside of business."

Sylia slipped her hands out of mine, and took a few steps away from me again, her right hand covering her mouth as she considered my suggestion carefully.

Finally she faced me again, her eyes burning fiercely now. "I think, Doctor, that you may have a point."