Here is part 3, the one with the infamous Boomer summit (well, people seem to enjoy that battle, at least...). Written between January and December of 2000.
As I look back at the five months since I first found out about Mom, Nene, Linna, and Sylia being the Knight Sabers, I look with total awe. How could I have not picked it up sooner? Nene was a genius when it came to computers; Linna loved athletics with a passion, and looked like she should have been in the Olympics years ago; Mom liked to pick fights; and Sylia, with her cool and calm matter, looked to be the perfect leader for a vigilante group. Perhaps I was just too busy with everything else to pay much attention, what with trying to fend off Masahiro, the press, and not to mention tons of homework.
I recall a time when me and the kids that lived nearby used to play war games. Some would pretend to be Boomers, stomping on their toy cars and trucks, 'shooting' people down with their toy guns. Others would play the AD Police, and quite well, actually -- when the 'Boomers' would shoot at them, they would fall 'dead'. And then, of course, a few of us played the Sabers, coming in when the 'ADP' were all dead and 'kill' the 'Boomers'. What I think is ironic now is that, whenever I had a chance to play as one of the famous vigilantes, I would always choose to play as the blue one, who happened to be my own mother, I found out. The other kids would always ask why I always HAD to be the blue one, and I would say, "because the blue one's the coolest one, that's why."
And now, years after we stopped playing those games, here I was again, playing the role of a Knight Saber. Except, this time, it wasn't a game. It was real now, and so were the Boomers, the things that almost killed me several times. I was lucky to have escaped serious injury those few times when the tables turned on me, but there was no telling when those same tables would turn completely upside-down...
"It looks like you're finally getting the hang of it, Yumeko," Nene remarked as I waited for my turn to fight the holographic simulator.
"Getting the hang of what?" I asked.
"Fighting Boomers. You haven't gotten badly hurt for a good six weeks now. And yet...you still can't beat Level Seven." She laughed.
"Gee, I wonder if not even BEING in battle for the past six weeks would have anything to do with that," I said dryly as I watched Mom fight the holograms on Level Nine. She didn't look like she was having an easy time, barely dodging the tentacles as they lashed out at her. I envied her for being able to react so fast. Must have been from all those years of training, I was guessing. Well soon, I'll be up there on Level Nine, then I'll be able to kick Boomer's asses with no problem, I thought.
"How's your shoulder been?"
"Fine. There's just a scar there now. It healed up just great."
"That's good. I don't like seeing you get hurt; you're still so young and all."
"I'll be fine. If Mom could spring back from worse than what happened to me, then there'll be nothing to worry about."
Linna sighed. "Yes, but she should have still been more careful. Have you seen all the scars she has?"
"Yeah, she showed me," I replied. "I didn't know she could go through all that and still move around now as if nothing ever happened."
"She's resilient, and so are you. I'd say if scars were considered badges of honor, then she'd have more pride than the rest of Tokyo combined," Nene joked. I frowned at her. She threw up her hands as if surrendering. "It was a joke!"
"Thirty seconds left," Sylia said to Mom over the intercom as Mom dodged more of those holographic tentacles.
"Think Mom'll make it?" I asked just as Mom yelled.
"Shit!!" she hollered as a tentacle stabbed her when she attempted to dodge it.
"Spoke too soon," I mumbled.
Mom was cursing up a storm when she came out of the fighting room, her face wet with perspiration, fire in her eyes. "Son of a bitch hologram. God damn thing, I'm gonna break the bastard one of these days..."
"You'll beat it someday, Mom," I said.
She grinned evilly. "All right then, let's see YOU beat that thing for once. And if you don't, let's see if YOU don't wanna rip the thing to pieces too."
"You're on," I grinned. "I don't think even holograms would pull the same cheap tricks twice."
"It's not being cheap, Yumeko," Linna spoke up. "The object is to make you anticipate any moves that the enemy makes, you know that."
"Yeah, yeah, sure."
"Yumeko, your turn," Sylia said, turning to me. I nodded acknowledgment and walked into the fighting room, Mom closing the door behind me. "All right, this is your fourth try on Level Seven. Just try to concentrate on the hologram and the hologram alone. Don't let any outside events disturb you. Just concentrate on hitting the middle."
What does she think I've BEEN doing each time? I wondered.
"You can do it!" Nene cheered. Linna shushed her.
"Three minutes, Yumeko," Sylia said.
"I know," I said.
The first hologram popped up in front of me and headed for me in familiar fashion, going for my chest. I did a backwards aerial flip to dodge them and jump-kicked it in the middle. It dissolved into thin air and another one took its place. Maybe I can finally beat Level Seven after all, I thought as I dodged some more tentacles. I managed to take out the second hologram easily enough; I managed to get through all those tentacles and deliver a swift punch to its torso.
As the third hologram appeared, I noticed my shoulder was starting to feel a little stiff, but it didn't bother me too much. It hadn't really been exercised this much since before I'd been shot by that Boomer. Then, as the hologram approached me, I began to picture it as that same Boomer, and decided to channel all my anger deriving from that event into defeating the hologram. As the tentacles lashed out at me with blinding speed, I did a few back-handsprings to dodge them, then barely jumped over another right after I landed.
"Fifteen seconds, Yumeko," Sylia warned.
My eyes widened. "That's it?!" I yelled. I had to take this thing out quick; nobody would like failing at the same level four times, and I certainly didn't want to fail again. Running towards the hologram, dodging tentacles all the while, I was about to throw a punch to defeat it when my shoulder went stiff again.
"Damn, not now!" I muttered, instinctively grabbing my shoulder. The hologram, of course, took the opportunity to lash out at me again. I tried to jump-kick it, but the tentacle 'stabbed' me through the stomach before I could.
"Eliminated, again," Sylia said. I stormed out of the fighting room, rubbing my shoulder, and muttering curses under my breath.
"Is your shoulder ok?" Nene asked. "What happened?"
I glared towards the controls of the holographic simulator. The damn thing, it deserved to be turned to scrap metal. I ran towards it, ready to pound it in. Linna and Nene both rushed to hold me back.
"Lemme at it, lemme at it!" I yelled, struggling to get out of their grip. "That thing's gonna get it now!!"
"It's just a hologram, Yumeko!" Linna said, still holding me back.
"I'm still gonna kill it!! Leggo!!"
As Nene and Linna still held me back, Sylia just stood there with her arms crossed while Mom snickered. So much for holding back when losing, I'm sure she was thinking gleefully.
The next day, at school, while the English teacher was lecturing us about the proper way to use verbs -- which I didn't have to listen to at all, considering I'd long been fluent in English -- Michiko whispered something to me.
"Hey, Yumeko," she said. "Are you going to be able to come to the play tonight?"
"Romeo and Juliet? I dunno. I have an appointment with the doctor about my shoulder," I said. "He's gonna try and figure out why it's still bothering me." I had tried out for that play six or so weeks ago, and soon afterwards, I saw the results; while Michiko had landed the role of Nurse, I hadn't landed the role I wanted. Disappointing, yes, but relieving at the same time; who had time to rehearse for plays while at the same time having to be on call 24-7 to fight Boomers?
"That's too bad. You'd really have fun."
"I know. But you'll bring the house down, I'm sure of it. I saw you during rehearsal several times, and honestly, you're better than the actors for Romeo and Juliet themselves."
"You're playing with me again, aren't you?" Michiko asked, laughing. The teacher heard her laugh and turned around.
"Something funny, Michiko?" he asked in his not-so-great English.
Michiko blinked as she tried to understand what he was saying; English wasn't exactly what you'd call her best subject. "Uh...no, Mr. Tamaka," she answered back in English. "Nothing...funny."
As the bell rang, he said to the rest of the class in English, "To tomorrow, read page 249 to 255." I slapped my hand against my face; how could he call himself an English teacher when he himself messed up the words all the time?
"You meant 'FOR tomorrow,' yes?" I asked him in English. I admit my English wasn't perfect either, but better than the teacher's, that's for sure.
"Um, yes," Mr. Tamaka said. I smiled; maybe I should've been the teacher instead of him. "See you tomorrow, Yumeko."
"G'bye," I said, walking out of the class and heading to gym.
"How do you know English so well?" Michiko asked in the usual Japanese. "Must've been those years on tour with your mom."
"You could say that," I grinned. "You learn a lot of stuff traveling all over the world." Indeed, I must've been pretty good at my English; it was the only class that I had an A in, not that I cared about my grades or anything. I just loved correcting the teacher's mistakes, which was more often than not. It was my way of teasing him. Plus, it made the other kids totally envious of me. Who wouldn't get a kick out of that?
"Maybe you could come over to my house and help me with my English homework," she said, flushing with embarrassment. "You know I'm not very good at English."
"No problem." I reached my gym class. "I'll be able to come over after my doctor's appointment, ok?"
"Ok," she said, brightening. "I have to go to history now."
"See you tonight."
"You too," she said, turning to walk to her history class. "Bye."
"Bye," I said, walking into the locker room to change.
The moment I walked in there, I sensed something was different. Girls were chatting with each other as usual, but the topic was something unexpected.
"Hey, did you hear about Masahiro?" one girl said to another.
"No, what happened?"
"I heard he hasn't been to school lately because his dad's been beating him up."
"He doesn't like the fact that he's 'seeing' a bunch of girls."
I ran to the girls. "What about Masahiro?" I asked to the girl that had mentioned it first.
"There's a wild rumor going around that he's getting beat up by his dad because he won't stop doing so many girls."
"Whatever he gets, he deserves," I said, crossing my arms over my chest.
"It's really serious though," she said. "I heard Masahiro's almost landed in the hospital a few times."
"Like I said, who cares what happens to him?"
"Have you seen him lately? He looks like shit, all beaten up and stuff."
"Haven't seen him for about a week. I wouldn't know."
"You'll see when you meet up with him. I almost feel sorry for the poor bastard." She went to her locker to change into her uniform, and I did likewise. Who cared if Masahiro was beaten up anyway, the way he'd been? He deserved it. I gladly would've joined in the beating myself if I could.
In gym, we were going outside to play softball. I figured it would be a nice change from playing -- ick -- basketball. That hurt my shoulder almost more than anything, what with all that dribbling the ball, throwing it, catching it... It drove me nuts.
"Yumeko, you can play center field, right?" the teacher asked.
"Yes," I said, despite the fact that I knew all that stretching of my arm wouldn't exactly be good for my still-aching shoulder.
"Ok. Grab a mitt and go." I did so, and ran out to center field to wait.
As it turned out, I didn't have much to worry about after all. The other team, to put it bluntly, sucked. They couldn't even hit the ball past infield. Pretty much all I did for most of the game was just sit down in the grass, yawning. At one point, I even laid back and stretched out, the game was going so slow. I closed my eyes and daydreamed a little, mostly about when I'd be able to go back into battle and help Mom and the others fight Boomers. The six or seven weeks since I'd last been in a hardsuit seemed like an eternity. I sighed and imagined my favorite moment in a battle: being able to pump some of my discs into the Boomer and watching it slump to the floor, orange fluids gushing out of its torso...
And then, I was jarred back into reality, a little too suddenly.
I barely heard the other kids yelling, but I didn't think they were yelling to me. That is, until I felt something slam into my forehead. I yelled in pain and sat up immediately, seeing what it was that had hit me; the softball, now lying in the grass next to me. I immediately realized what was going on, grabbed the ball, and threw it to third base, where the batter was now headed.
"Out!" the umpire declared as the third baseman tagged the batter. The other kids in outfield ran to me.
"Weren't you paying attention?!" the boy playing left field yelled at me.
"You ok?" the other one asked.
"I'm fine," I said, rubbing my forehead. "I've had worse than this before. And besides, I got the runner out, right?"
"Yeah, but the other two on base got to score because of you!" the left fielder scolded.
"We're still ahead by eight. Nothing to worry about."
"Ok, time's up!" the teacher yelled. "Time to go!"
"You're lucky we still won," he said.
"Gee, someone's in a cranky mood," I said dryly. "We still won, be happy for that."
Just before I went inside, the teacher walked up to me and spoke. "Asagiri, what was wrong with you out there? You should've been paying attention."
"Sorry, just spaced out a little," I grinned.
"Well next time, get your head outta the clouds and back in the game."
After school, I went home and looked in the mirror to see how bad the injury was. It wasn't as bad as I thought; the ball had just left a small bruise and a little scrape on my forehead. Guessing from how much it'd hurt, I was thinking I'd have a concussion at the least, but I didn't. After doing my homework, I grabbed a bucket of soapy water and a rag, and went out to wash my motorcycle.
"Damn, when did it get this dirty?" I wondered aloud; I hadn't really looked at how dirty my bike was until now; it looked like it had ran through a huge puddle of mud. I sat down, wet the rag, and started scrubbing. It took a good forty-five minutes just to get one side looking halfway decent. And just for that one side, I had to change the water in the bucket four times. It was frustrating, but it had to be done.
"You look like you could use some help," I heard Mom say from behind me. I looked up and saw her leaning over my shoulder. She leaned a little closer and ran her finger over the body of my bike. "You should be a little more gentle when you clean it. You'll ruin the paint job."
"Feel free to help anytime," I said, dunking the rag in the water and scrubbing the bike down some more.
"Actually, I didn't come out here to help you, as much as you look like you could use some. I came out to say it's time for your appointment."
"When are we leaving?"
"Five minutes. You better go up and get cleaned up before you go. You're completely streaked in dirt," Mom said, grinning.
"Alright, stretch your arm out in front of you," the doctor instructed. I held it out straight in front of me while he felt around my shoulder with his fingers. After a few seconds, he told me to relax it and put it to my side. He then felt my shoulder some more.
"Tell me, Yumeko," he asked, "when does your shoulder tighten up? All the time, or just when you do certain things with it?"
"It only goes stiff when I'm doing gymnastics, like back-handsprings and stuff, basically just when I exert myself. When I'm throwing a ball or little stuff, it doesn't bother me at all."
"You were told to exercise your shoulder a little bit to regain strength in it after you were shot, right?"
"How much have you been exercising it?"
I grinned shyly. "Probably more than he recommended. I suppose I exercise it about half an hour a day."
Mom blinked her eyes in surprise while the doctor just laughed. "Well, no wonder you're having trouble! Just cut down on the exercises and the shoulder will be just fine!"
I laughed. "Just like that, huh? Ok."
As Mom and I walked outside to our motorcycles, she said, "I didn't know you were working it out that much."
"I just wanted to make sure it got its strength back, that's all."
"You have to let it heal first, duh. Otherwise you'll just hamper your recovery."
"After all those injuries you had in battle, didn't YOU try to work out right away? Sounds like something you'd do, after all."
"After getting stabbed through the legs and arm? It hurt just to walk around, let alone work out!" Mom said, laughing.
While we were walking along and talking, I accidentally bumped into someone. I pardoned myself and looked up to see who I'd bumped into. Lo and behold, it was Masahiro, of all people.
"Uh, hi," he said sheepishly. His face was covered in bruises, and it looked like he'd cut his lip, too.
"Looks like the rumors are true, after all," I said, folding my arms over my chest.
"What happened, Masahiro?" Mom asked.
"My dad's been beatin' me up."
"Over 'going out' with girls, I heard," I grumbled.
"Sorta. He's saying for me to stop bugging you and the other girls at school."
"He doesn't need to use physical force to get his point across though," Mom said.
"MASAHIRO!!" we heard a man yell suddenly. "Get your ass over here NOW!!"
"Oh shit, he followed me," Masahiro said, turning stark white. How strange it was to see him like that, scared out of his mind. I looked around to see where the man had been yelling from, but I didn't need to look very hard; I saw him running across the street towards us.
"Out of my way," he said, shoving me to the side and cornering a terrified Masahiro against the wall.
"Gee, nice to see you too, Tsubasa," I said sarcastically. Masahiro's dad's real name was Jacob, but everyone called him Tsubasa -- literally meaning "wings" -- because he was so fast on his feet when he ran that he might as well have had wings instead of feet. After I'd first met him, I had a saying: Hell hath no fury like a Tsubasa pissed off to the max. Even I stayed out of his way.
"What the hell are you following me around town for?!" Masahiro yelled.
"'Cuz I still need to teach you a lesson about your sleeping around!" Tsubasa yelled back, punching him in the face and sending him to the ground.
"I hope you know that there's better ways to tell him that's wrong," Mom said.
"Priss, you stay out of this," he growled, spinning around on her and shaking his finger at her. "This ain't none of your business."
Mom walked up to him, not scared at all. "Well it's my business now, and I say that you shouldn't slap him around like that, bastard. And you shouldn't have shoved my daughter around like that, either."
I walked up between her and Tsubasa. "Mom, he didn't hurt me too much."
"Yeah, what the kid said," Tsubasa said, shoving me out of the way again, this time so hard I almost lost my footing.
"Kid?!" Boy, was I getting tired of people (and Boomers) calling me that.
"Leave Yume alone," Mom ordered.
Masahiro started to get up again, but his father turned on him immediately and kicked him down again. "Which reminds me," Tsubasa said, suddenly looking at me, "why were you here? Getting a cold treated?" he asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"No," I retorted. "I had to get my shoulder looked at."
"What, you fell from the uneven bars in gymnast class and hurt it or what?"
"I was shot a month and a half ago during that Boomer rampage."
"You liar. Anyone that's shot by one o' them walking tanks would be Swiss cheese."
I pulled at the neck of my shirt, revealing to him the prominent scar on my shoulder. "That enough proof for you?"
He looked closer at it, then stood back. "So you think you're a tough little bitch just because you survived a bullet wound from a Boomer?" He walked closer to me, making me have to take a step back; I didn't like him getting so close. "Think you could take me on?"
In my hardsuit, no problem, I thought. Too bad I can't use it to waste this jerk.
Mom strided up behind Tsubasa, getting steamed. "I said leave her alone!" Tsubasa spun around on her, and in a move I certainly had not been anticipating, made his large hand into a fist and swung at my mom. As she fell to the ground, almost by reflex, I pulled my gun out of my coat pocket and put the barrel to the back of Tsubasa's head.
"I've never had to use my gun on anybody," I said, my arms as well as my voice shaking, "but if you're the first, then so be it."
Tsubasa froze where he was, Masahiro just staring at me; he'd never seen me with a gun before. "You wouldn't have the guts to fire anyway, Yumeko."
"You wanna bet?!" I threatened, my finger on the trigger tightening.
Mom picked herself off of the ground, her hand to her cheek. She turned and looked at me, then to Tsubasa, her eyes wild.
"See? Your mom's ok," Tsubasa said. I slowly lowered the gun from his head, then once I saw he wasn't going to suddenly attack me or anything, put it away in my coat. He turned to Masahiro and grabbed him. "Don't think that I'm not done with you yet, c'mon." He dragged him away.
Mom walked up to me. "You ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Are YOU ok?"
"Oh, dandy," she said, rubbing her cheek and looking down the street at Masahiro and Tsubasa. "I still say there's better ways to teach that poor kid some manners other than using violence."
"I can't believe you let him shove you around like that! That's not like you at all! I wouldn't have taken that kind of shit from him, that's for damn sure."
"Well, let me put it this way; Tsubasa is one of those people that're so nasty that you'd sooner pick a fight with a Combat Boomer than him."
As the two of us drove back home, I couldn't help but wonder why even Mom would take crap from a bastard like that Tsubasa. I wonder if Mom's ran into trouble with him before, I thought, my eyes narrowing at the suggestion. Even after getting beat up by Boomers ten times, she'd still jump into a fight without thinking twice. Must've been something real bad that I must not have been told yet. God knows she has yet to tell me everything from her early Knight Saber days, let alone confrontations like this...
"Yumeko!" I heard someone yell as I was taking some books out of my locker. I turned around and saw it was Michiko.
"Hi, Michiko! How was the play last night?"
"It went great! At the end, we all went out on stage and we got a standing ovation from the audience. We perform again tonight."
"I'm sorry I wasn't able to come over to your apartment after the play to help you study."
"Oh, that's ok. Mom, Dad, and I didn't get home till late anyway."
"Yeah," she said, looking at her watch. "We're gonna be late for calculus! Hurry up!" She grabbed my hand and yanked me away from my locker, almost before I had a chance to close it, and we both ran to class just as the tardy bell rang.
Throughout the day, kids were talking about the play and how great it was, and how they were going to go see it again that night. I was looking forward to seeing it, too, although I knew that Maru, of all people, was playing the role of Juliet. The thought of seeing her in those medieval clothes made me laugh; there'd be no way she was actually comfortable in those things.
"Maru did a great job as Juliet," one kid said. "Even with your acting experience, Yumeko, you wouldn't be able to pull it off as well as she did. That's obvious just from the fact that you didn't land the role." I ignored him, though the words stung. This was the first play that I'd have to watch as merely a spectator and not part of the cast.
"Ignore them, Yumeko," Michiko said. "I don't think Maru was that good either, personally."
Easier said than done; people were teasing me about it all day long. I almost beat a few of those kids up, I was so tired of hearing about it, and even Michiko almost got into a few fights for me. I told her not to stick up for me, that I could do it, but she insisted; "Friends are there to stick up for one another," she said.
In Japanese history class, the teasing continued, but I tried to just blow it off; I figured that their immaturity gave them nothing better to do.
"Say, aren't we supposed to be taking notes during this lecture?" I told them with heavy sarcasm in my voice as I tried to pay attention.
"Why would it matter to you, Yumeko? You have one of the lowest grades in the class. You couldn't catch up to everybody else if you wanted to," one of the boys snickered.
"And if you don't want to have a lower grade than mine, you better start paying attention," I hissed.
"I don't need to pay attention to learn the stuff, unlike you. You couldn't even get that part in Romeo and Juliet even with you studying those lines for hours and hours."
I just about broke the pencil I was holding, my hand was so tight in a fist. I didn't know how much longer I could put up with all the teasing, and was about to lose my temper when the teacher suddenly called me up to the front of the class.
Great, what did I do now?, I thought.
"Yumeko, you have an office referral." She handed it to me and I looked it over. It said for me to go to the attendance office, and to bring my stuff with me. I wondered what had happened now.
"Guess I should go, huh?" I said.
"Yes, and take these too," she said, handing me some worksheets. "It's tonight's homework."
"Great," I said dryly, taking them.
After I put everything in my backpack, I picked it up, swung it onto my back, and headed for the attendance office. What's going on now?, I thought as I walked down the hallway. If it's Sylia, she could've just paged me. When I arrived at the office, it wasn't Sylia that was waiting, after all. Instead, there stood Mom.
"Mom? What's up?"
"Yume, did you forget about your doctor's appointment again?" she asked.
"Wha?!" I asked dumbfoundedly. "Didn't we just—" Before I could finish, Mom dragged me out of the office and to her motorcycle outside.
"Sylia's called a meeting," she said in a low voice. "You didn't think I could come and say that to the school officials, could you?"
"I thought something was wrong when you said I forgot a doctor's appointment," I said, laughing.
"I had to think of an excuse to pull you out. So go get your bike and let's go."
"All right, all right," I said, smiling as I went to the student parking lot. So that's why she hadn't paged me; it would have looked conspicuous and the teachers wouldn't have let me go if the pager had went off and I said there was an emergency…