Well, I decided to wipe and re-post this is anyone is wondering. This time I'm going to throw it out a chapter at a time and see what the reaction is. Based on how that goes I may do the same with some of my other stories so please take a minute or two to review.
Disclaimer: I own nothing that has anything to do with either The Crow or BGC; I'm dabling in both worlds purely for amusement's sake so I hope no one get it in mind to sue me or anything silly.
A Tale of Dark Justice in the World of Bubblegum Crisis
By SSG Michael B. Jackson
People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it, and the soul can't rest. Then, sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.
Blood, misery and pain. Those were her last memories and the first things to register upon her suddenly re-kindled awareness.
She screamed in white-hot agony as her lungs were seared by the first gasping breath she'd taken in almost a year, and the air tasted foul and flat on her tongue. Her eyes snapped open to pitch blackness, and panic clutched her as her spasmodically outstretched hands met solid resistance mere inches from her body.
Howling and moaning in abject animal terror, she pushed upward with all her might, and, astonishingly, felt something shift. Almost mindlessly, she continued to push and claw and tear, savaging her hands and nails in the process, but making progress. First there was the dry crackling of splintering wood, then the shifting of a heavy concrete slab, and finally a shower of earth.
Frantically, she dug her way upward, scraping, tearing and pulling inch by agonizing inch, until, finally, she emerged into sweet, open air. Exhausted, she dragged herself from the stinking, muddy hole and lay prostrate on the earth, eyes clenched shut, gasping in lungfuls of clean, fresh air.
Eventually, she opened her eyes again, and looked down at her hands, dreading what she'd find. They were every bit as bad as she'd feared.
Nails, skin and muscle had been stripped away in her frantic efforts to free herself, and she found herself staring at white nubs of bone at the tips, stained with blood and earth. Her stomach clenched, and she was sure she was about to be sick, but then, as she watched, the impossible occurred.
Like a time-lapse movie, flesh began to creep up over exposed bone, and then skin crept up over that. Finally, from her restored nail beds, new nails sprouted like buds from a tree in spring, and within seconds her hands were as good as new.
Marveling at this, unable to even begin to fathom what was happening to her, her gaze slowly wandered from her hands to a slab of hard, gray, stone in front of her. Eyes wide with disbelief, she read the inscription there.
'Nene Romanova, Beloved Daughter, Devoted Public Servant, and Our Angel Heaven-Sent. Taken From Us Too Soon, But Never Forgotten. Born August 31, 2014. Died December 25, 2033.'
As the sense of the words penetrated her consciousness, she tilted her head back and screamed her pain into the night. As if in answer, there was a flash of movement in the darkling sky, and a great black bird swooped to perch on the headstone in front of her.
Suddenly fascinated, Nene stared at the creature, and it seemed to stare back at her, ruffling it's feathers restlessly as though it were waiting for something. Wordlessly, she extended her arm, and without hesitation the crow hopped to her wrist.
Straightening slowly, Nene stood, the crow still perched on her arm, and turned to look down hill toward the sea of lights that was Mega Tokyo.
Features compressed in thinly controlled rage, she said in a tight whisper, "I don't know where you are, but I know you're down there somewhere. You murdered my friends, you murdered me, and now nothing is going to stop me from making you pay!"
Tirelessly, she ran through the night. Though she sprinted at a breakneck pace, her breathing remained steady and even throughout the journey to the city's edge.
As she ran, she reflected that it might have been nice if the funeral home had bothered to include the boots that went with the full dress ADP uniform she'd been interred in. As it was, small, sharp things occasionally poked and gouged the soles of her feet, but she didn't really care. There were weightier matters on her mind.
Above and in front of her, the crow flew, it's high-flying gaze taking in all below it. And, somewhere in the back of her mind's eye, Nene saw all that it saw. Heard all that it heard. In some ways, she realized at an almost instinctive level, she and it were one.
Once she reached the suburbs, she headed for the nearest maglev station. She knew that, new abilities or no, she needed to get around a lot faster than her feet alone could carry her, and she figured the maglevs were one of the few modes of transit she could take in her present state without attracting too much unwanted attention. For the most part, she was right.
Out in the suburbs in the dead of night, the maglevs were virtually deserted. Even ticket purchases were automated, and though she had no money, credit, or ID, she still had her brain.
"Police emergency, officer needs immediate transportation. Code 1A93-ADP287," she intoned to the ticketing boomer, a new, shiny, overly-mechanistic looking model that she was unfamiliar with. It paused for a second, processing, and then said, "Code accepted. Emergency fund site accessed. Vending ticket. Do you require further assistance, officer?"
She smiled ruefully, and said, "More than you could guess, metal-head."
Confused, the simple-minded boomer said, "Excuse me? Could you please rephrase your answer, officer?"
She sighed, and said, "Never mind. There's nothing else you can help me with."
The boomer, again pausing to process, replied, "Understood. Have a good evening, officer," and then trundled away on it's programmed circuit of the station.
"A good evening," Nene mused as she swiped her ticket through the platform gate's reader. "Somehow, I don't think there are going to be very many of those in my future."
Everything was quiet on the mostly empty train until they reached the city proper. The few other passengers studiously avoided Nene, due no doubt to her disheveled appearance and to the uniform she wore, as well as the great, dark bird that perched on her shoulder. In fact, under other circumstances, she would have found it humorous how her fellow passengers managed to find the seats and corners farthest away from her. How they glanced furtively at her, and immediately looked away as soon as she met their gaze. But just at that moment, Nene had a hard time imagining anything being funny ever again.
The trouble started after the train stopped at a particularly dilapidated station, somewhere near the Kanto region. She hadn't particularly wanted to go in that direction, not yet at least, but the vagaries of the subway system took her there anyway.
A rambunctious, loud, unruly group of young punks, five strong, boarded the train there, and proceeded to make themselves known at once by bullying, cajoling and harassing the legitimate passengers. Obviously, they were drunk, or high, or maybe both, and from where Nene stood at the back of the passenger car, she could see that all of them were armed with various improvised and illegal weapons, mostly of the bladed and blunt variety. Nene sniffed with distaste, but continued to stand impassively. These riff-raff weren't the reason she was there.
Unfortunately, they didn't necessarily see it that way. Eventually, her presence registered on one of the young gangers, finally seeping through his drug-dulled awareness.
"Hey," he said to his fellows, "Take a look at that! It's the fuzz!" And then, laughing, he said, "Look out! I think she's got us surrounded!"
The other gangers laughed at this, and the five of them started toward Nene.
"Whoa! Check out the bird!" One of them exclaimed. "Is that for real, or am I trippin'?"
Another replied, "Yer probably trippin', man, but I see it too. Cool!"
As the five of them advanced and surrounded Nene, she simply stared straight ahead, ignoring them, which didn't sit well with the five young toughs.
"Hey! Cop lady!" One of them said, thrusting his face close to hers. "Yo! I'm talkin' to you! You deaf, or just stupid?"
Tilting her head slightly, her usually warm blue eyes ice cold and piercing the punk with a withering stare, Nene said, "Not half as stupid as you five, I guess. In case you're blind too, let me spell it out for you. Do I look like I'm in the mood to be messed with right now?"
Non-plused for a moment, the punk just stared. And then, as the sense of Nene's words seeped in, an expression that was equal parts disbelief and indignation spread across his face.
"Wha-! Who the hell do you think you are, bitch? You think that shiny little badge is gonna do something for you? Well, I don't see no gun to back it up, little miss Advanced Po-lice!" And, nodding to his friends, he added, "Do you?"
A chorus of mean laughter met his witticism, and, encouraged by this, he continued.
"Fact is, things could get real ugly here. An' that'd be too bad, as fine as you are." Moving even closer, he reached up suddenly to caress her cheek with thumb and forefinger, and said, "Get what I mean?"
Nene's expression went even colder if possible, and, hand darting up to take hold of his wrist in an inverted grip, she said, "Yeah, I get it. And now so do you." With that, she twisted sharply, and was rewarded with a satisfyingly loud snap as his wrist fractured. From there, all hell broke loose.
The injured punk howled in pain, grasping his oddly bent wrist and staggering back. The other punks just stared for a moment, shocked, and then pounced almost as one. Lacking skill, they all made a grab for her, hoping to bear her down by weight and numbers and then work their will on her. But it didn't work out that way at all.
Inside her head, it was as if every fighting technique she'd ever been taught or had seen used, either by her teammates, or in the media, suddenly gelled and crystallized to form an art all her own. Like Neo in 'The Matrix', it was as if she awoke suddenly realizing 'I know Kung-Fu!' But in her case, Kung-Fu was only the tip of the iceberg.
As the punks grabbed for her, she found the world around her slowing down as she sped up. So rapid were her reflexes now, that the gangers seemed almost to move in slow motion, giving her ample time to act.
As the crow launched itself from her shoulder, cawing raucously, she dropped down under their clumsy grasp, tucked and rolled between the legs of one of the punks, and, spinning on her back as she did so, delivered a vicious side-kick to the inside of his knee. Once again there was an audible snap, and the punk collapsed, screaming and wrapping himself around his shattered joint.
But Nene didn't slow down to savor her victory. Rolling to her left, she scissored another of the punks' legs with her own and brought him crashing to the floor. Still moving, she rolled over him, driving in an elbow strike as she passed that plastered his nose across his face.
Rolling off the bleeding, semi-conscious ganger, she moved into a spinning kip-up, and landed lightly on her feet, already squared off with the two remaining punks.
Grinning wickedly, enjoying both her new-found combat prowess and the opportunity to unleash and unload some of the black emotions poisoning her soul on a deserving target, she said in a mocking tone, "Aw, come on, guys! Is that the best you've got? That was pretty pathetic, you know."
One of the remaining gangers, possibly slightly more intelligent than his fellows, started to back away, eyes darting left and right, seeking an avenue of escape like a trapped animal. His companion, however, displayed no such common sense. Instead, with a growl he reached into his jacket and whipped out a poly-ceramic switch-blade, which opened with a snap as he brought it into an on-guard position.
Nene was familiar with such weapons, having had her share of officer survival classes, and knew that the razor sharp ceramic-composite blade was capable of slicing through most types of soft body armor like construction paper. But, seeing as how she wore no armor at all, she didn't think it made much difference. And she was sure that it wouldn't help her adversary in the slightest.
She just stood, still and ready, as he warily approached, and made no move to stop him from attacking. Instead, she gazed at him curiously, as though to say, "Do you really want to do this?" But obviously he did.
With a growl, the young punk slashed at Nene, a move with just enough skill behind it to show that he'd survived a few knife fights. She wasn't impressed.
Sidestepping, she batted his strike aside contemptuously with a slap block and immediately retaliated with a sharp smack to the side of his head, mere insult rather than injury. Fully enraged now, the ganger roared and began to swing and jab wildly, trying to overwhelm her by sheer force. She still wasn't impressed.
Nene blocked, parried and sidestepped each and every strike, occasionally reaching in with harrying slaps and jabs to keep the punk at the peak of rage. Finally, able to bear no more, the young tough bellowed at the top of his lungs and raised the knife over his head two-fisted, bringing it down on Nene with all his might. This proved to be a grievous error on his part.
Sidestepping again, Nene reached simultaneously to take control of the punk's wrist and elbow and redirected the momentum of the overhead stab in an arc that ended in the meaty part of the his own right thigh. With such force behind it, the poly-ceramic blade gouged through the muscle as if it were Jell-O and lodged deep in the bone, narrowly missing the femoral artery.
With a high whistling scream, the punk collapsed, hands still clutched around the knife's hilt, and lay moaning in a slowly growing pool of his own blood. Still smiling thinly, Nene leaned close and in a low voice, hardly more than a whisper, said, "No, don't pull on it, silly. Right now, it's probably the only thing keeping you from bleeding to death. If you pull it out, you'll probably start gushing, and then I doubt you'll last five minutes." Then, cocking her head disdainfully, she added, "You really should have that looked at, you know."
Standing, she turned to face the last uninjured ganger who, by now, had backed to the furthest corner of the train. Advancing slowly on him, she said, "Still having a good time, hmm? Still think it's fun to push around people who aren't as tough as you are? Problem is, these days, you're never really sure who's tough and who's not, are you?"
"Oh God," the young punk said in a shaky voice, "You're a boomer, aren't you? Shit, we didn't know!"
Reaching him, Nene came very close, causing the terrified ganger to cringe, and said, "Oh, I'm not a boomer. I'm just somebody you shouldn't have picked on, that's all. Now what are we going to do to set this right? I know! Since you've cost me all this trouble, it's only fair that you make it up to me, hmm?"
Gulping, the young punk said, "Sure! Anything! Wha- What do you want?"
Smiling sweetly in a manner that chilled the ganger's blood, Nene replied, "That's an easy one. You see, I'm a little down on my luck right now, and I think I can use pretty much everything you guys have. Cash, weapons, some of your clothes, stuff like that. Oh, and you can throw away any dope you might have. That's just not my style." And, seeing the incredulous look on the punk's face, she added, "Or, I guess I could just take out a little more frustration on you, and then pick out what I want afterwards. Which would you rather?"
Gulping again, the young punk said hastily, "Shit! Just point out what you want, lady! It's yours!"
Still smiling, Nene said mockingly, "Now that's what I like to see. Respect for the authorities. Keep this up, and you'll be a model citizen in no time. Now get moving."
With little choice, the defeated ganger did just that.
Nene exited at the next stop, figuring that she'd probably worn out her welcome on the maglev. In fact, she thought it likely that the train's AI had, by now, put out an emergency call, and given what had occurred, it wasn't entirely unlikely that the ADP would be alerted. After all, how else could it interpret the incident? She was pretty certain that whatever kind of brain was built into the maglev was much more apt to classify her as a rogue boomer than as a revenant from beyond the grave. Or whatever she really was now. At any rate, it really didn't matter to her. She didn't plan on sticking around to talk to any of her old colleagues just then.
Dressed now in black fatigue pants (too big, but that's how they were supposed to fit anyway), a black t-shirt with the ever-familiar smiley face logo, this one with a bleeding bullet hole in it's forehead and the caption 'Have a Nice Day, Asshole!' scrawled in red beneath, a black leather long-coat and black military jungle boots, Nene figured that she was pretty effectively camouflaged for this part of town. Timex City wasn't far away, but neither was the dark heart of the Outer District, and Nene had no wish to draw further attention to herself. Not yet, anyway.
In addition to the new wardrobe, she had picked up a few other useful items as well. A couple of hundred yen, pocket change really, but handy nonetheless, a couple of knives of various makes, and even an ancient .380 automatic that had been shoved down one of the punk's waistband. Not the greatest haul to be sure, but worlds better than what she'd had.
Under her arm, she carried her dress uniform, ruined as it was now, intending to dump it at the first opportunity. It wouldn't have paid, she knew, to have left it behind on the train. She was determined to leave as little trail for any potential investigators as possible at this point.
Finding a convenient dumpster, overflowing of course in this neighborhood, she rid herself of one more link to her past. But, pushing the uniform down into the trash, she found that there was one thing she just couldn't throw away. Carefully, she un-pinned her dress badge, golden and highly reflective with a permanent gloss finish, and just stared at it for a moment. She'd been so proud the day she'd earned the right to wear that badge, number 718269. Her number! Almost as proud as the first time Sylia had let her don a hardsuit and proclaimed her a fully trained member of the Knight Sabers. Both of those events had marked turning points in her life, and both were achievements she had earned on her own merits. And, she realized darkly, both were just another part of everything that had been taken from her so unfairly.
Sighing, she pinned the badge to an inside pocket of the long coat where it would remain safely unseen. Even if she couldn't bear to part with it, she much preferred that it stayed out of sight in this part of town, lest the events on the train should repeat themselves.
Leaving the dumpster behind, she turned in the direction of the place she both dreaded to revisit, and felt drawn to like a moth to a flame. The place where, almost exactly a year ago, it had all happened. Raven's Garage.
The call reached Assistant Chief of Police Leon McNichol at home at around three A.M., rousing him from a restless slumber. Not that he'd really had any other kind of slumber over the last year.
Jerking to reluctant wakefulness, he slapped the 'acknowledge' key on his phone, and, as the display came to life, showing him only the caption, "Cellular Phone Call, No Video", he croaked, "McNichol. And it better be good this early."
"Weird would be a better way to put it, McNichol." Said a husky feminine voice on the other end. "Why don't you drag your ass out of bed and come down here so I can go over this with you?"
Frowning, and fully awake now, Leon said, "Takashi? What the hell are you doing down here? I thought they were keeping you chained down at the academy up in Kobe."
The other laughed humorlessly, and said, "Yeah, God forbid a loose canon like ol' Sergeant Major Takashi should be prowling around the streets in Mega Tokyo. Hell only knows what she might do to ruin one of the new chief's precious PR projects, right?"
Leon snorted, and said, "Yeah, something like that. Let me guess. You came down here and put yourself on the Christmas schedule so some of the line troopers could have it off. Do you think you could've bothered telling somebody?"
Takashi sighed, and said, "Ah, hell, Leon. It's not that big a deal. You know I do this every year. Most of them have families, and I've got nobody but Yoshi. Granted, I'm pretty attached to the mutt, but he doesn't give a damn if it's Christmas, and I'm sure those families do. Anyway, I didn't call you at home to debate holiday schedules."
"Ok," Leon said, "Then just what the hell did you call for? What've you got, and why is it so weird that you need me down there? Shit, you're carrying just as much ass on your collar as I am. What's the deal?"
The Sergeant Major hesitated a moment, unusual for her, and then said, "Well, it's like this. We got an automated call from the Transit Authority about some kind of incident on one of the maglevs down near Timex City. The call came to us instead of the rail cops because the damn AI had marked it as possibly boomer related."
"Alright," Leon said, "And?"
"And," the other continued, "When we got down here, of course the shit was long over. Pretty much everybody had scattered, but we were able to snag a couple of the perps and get at least a half-assed story out of them. Seems a few wanna-be gang bangers started harassing some chick on the train, and she proceeded to hand them their asses on a silver platter. Moved like greased lightening, broke bones with her bare hands, all the usual shit you'd expect."
Frowning again, Leon said, "Yeah, sounds pretty typical for a screw-loose android, or maybe a cybered up freakazoid. So, again, why the hell did you wake me up in the middle of the friggin' night for this?"
"Well," Takashi said mildly, "Take a look at this image we down-loaded from the security system and then you tell me."
As the image came in, line by line, Leon's expression slowly changed from annoyance to disbelief.
On the phone's screen, clearly captured by the train's nearly invisible micro-cam, was a shot of a young, red-haired woman wearing a soiled and torn ADP dress uniform, a fierce expression on her too-familiar face as she assisted some young punk in stabbing himself in the thigh.
"Oh, my God." Leon said in an almost inaudible voice. "Nene?"
"So, McNichol," Takashi said in a lilting voice, "You still wondering why I woke your ass up?"