AUTHOR'S FOREWORD: This story was originally published on June 23, 1999 to the Fan Fiction Mailing List, or FFML (now hosted, as of 2007, by anifics) back towards the end of the 'silver age' of anime fanfiction. It was written long before Bubblegum Crisis 2040 existed in the US although I never did warm up to that retcon and probably would have ignored it anyway.

Of everything I wrote during the silver age, I think this one stands out as the most cohesive and well written piece of the bunch. Which is not to say it was good compared to the idols of the silver and golden ages (like Richard Lawson, Ken Wolfe, Jeanne Hedge, John Biles, David Tai, rpM, or Chris Davies), but it was by best attempt and certainly my best prose work as I used to write in script format.

Oh, there's some technobabble in here that doesn't exactly hold up to scientific scrutiny. I'd like to ask for your mercy; I was young.

Enjoy!

----

NOTE: This story takes place after Bubblegum Crisis 8: Scoop Chase, and completely ignores/rewrites the events of Bubblegum Crash.

March 11, 2033 - Genom Tower, MegaTokyo

Quincy Masada, chairman of the largest and most powerful multinational corporation on earth, stood before a large monitor, completely powerless to do anything.

Great men had fallen and had been crushed under the boot of Quincy, and always for the same reason: emotion. What made his competitors different, and weak, was that they relied on their emotions to guide them through their businesses, while Quincy had only cold logic with which to forge his empire. Until now, he had never feared competition, because until now, they had always been inferior.

Now, that was all over.

With tightly clenched fists, strong enough to bend steel within, he ordered the video to be replayed one last time, so he could gaze upon his fall, and know that, no matter how delayed, there would be an end, it was only a matter of time.

"Quite an impressive sight, aren't you?" the slightly tinny recreation of Quincy's voice spoke in the darkened room. There weren't many employees of Genom in the room with Quincy, as a rule, there could never be more than six at any time, but they all looked up to face the Chairman as a sort of reflex action. When they noticed it was merely the recording, they returned to their work, ears open for the sound of the chairman's voice.

Quincy, well aware of the habits he made sure his workers had, ignored the nervous shuffling noises they were making and studied the screen before him carefully. Now, the several 55-C boomers that were in the office surrounded the man named Largo, but instead of being afraid, his smug little smile persevered, although his young female companion was obviously terrified. Perhaps if Quincy had noticed that earlier he could have found a way to exploit it, as it was, things continued to get worse as he asked for the large Multivision monitor behind him to display the other branches of the Genom empire.

Raining down judgement with beams from heaven, Largo commanded the Orbital Particle Beam Platform network to destroy the towers Quincy had so foolishly showed him. First Sidney, then Chicago, then Berlin. Millions of people employed by Genom and hundreds of thousands of outsiders dying in the blink of an eye because somebody left the keys in the car and the devil decided to take a ride.

First mistake: Letting Largo take control of the situation.

Then the 55-C's attacked ... futilely. Quicker than the camera could record, Largo had dispatched them, and nearly killed Quincy's Special Assistant Madagan, the only true human in the room, in the process. She was battered and had a concussion, but she would have been alright in the morning, if it wasn't for the particle beam strike that happened several minutes later. As of now she was lying in a special Genom hospital, connected to several machines, barely hanging onto life. Such a devastating blow to such a remarkable career, but Quincy had plans for Madagan, her life wasn't over; it was just beginning.

"A-Are you a superboomer?" Quincy, the one on screen, asked. The live chairman looked up to face the monitor and calmly paused the playback.

Second mistake: Allowing his emotions to emerge.

In Quincy's head, the voice continued to speak, replaying the words he'd spoken in that office over and over again. Analyzing the way it shook to reflect fear, the way it simply offered control over to Largo in the subtlest of ways, the actual terror that he was feeling at the time. It all came cascading down to appear, physically, as single, beaded, drop of sweat, rolling down his cheek, frozen in time by the press of a pause button. It was a catastrophe.

True, that wasn't really him in that office, just one of his many android doubles, but he was directly controlling it from his secret office in the Genom tower. He actually spoke those words and the fear that Largo would destroy the tower, and him in it, was very evident. Despite the fact that he'd gotten the better of Largo in the end, and had gotten to have the last word in a nice smug tone of voice, he still lost in the end. Emotion was his greatest enemy, and it was winning.

The end must be near.

A small flashing light silently alerted him that the crews in the pit were almost done and the man in charge was about to report. He reached down to the console in front of him and tapped the glowing square. The large image of his own face on the monitor disappeared and was replaced with a smaller image of a man in his twenties, with short brown hair and a slight stubble on his chin.

Trene Steger, Quincy's mind registered. He didn't know everyone who worked for Genom, but he certainly knew the ones designated as 'Risk Employment.' Basically, anyone who showed the potential to excel in any useful field but was rough around the edges was put into the Risk Employment category. There were many of them, and many ended up being harmful to Genom, but there were many gems that had been reaped from the Risks.

Brian J. Mason had been part of that lot before showing that he could refine himself and control his somewhat obsessive tendencies. Then he was promoted to Special Assistant and served Genom, or more precisely Quincy himself, for no fewer than fifteen years before his obsessions took over again and he was killed by the white Knight Saber. His end was messy, but looking back on his entire career with Genom he was considered a success.

But Trene Steger was no Brian Mason. In fact, the young boy was quiet the opposite. He was sloppy, even as his appearance suggested, and had shown very little ability to delegate responsibility and direct a team. No, he would never be elevated to the prestigious role of Special Assistant, however his boomer designs and AI skills seemed very promising. Perhaps Genom might provide him with a laboratory of his own, like it did for Doctor Stingray, all those years ago...

"Mr. Chairman," Steger said with a nod. "The excavation team has begun removing the remains of the boomer."

"What is your opinion, Mr. Steger," Quincy said in his low, stern voice, "regarding the ability to recreate the technology?"

The rather thin, lanky, man reached up to his chin and rubbed the fine hairs that had just begun to emerge from it. Quincy decided to ignore the obvious violation in corporate dress code. Risks usually tended not to bother with the rules at first anyway, and Trene's elongated face might look a little healthier with a beard, just like how the young Katsuhito looked older with his mustache.

Quincy silently scolded himself, too many nostalgic feelings for the late doctor, even after all these years. Quincy had had great respect for Doctor Stingray, and it was one of his hardest decisions to terminate his employment with Genom. The man simply refused to listen to reason: morality has no place in a business. Quincy should have known better than to think the man's strong morals would die with him, but then again, his children picked up much more from him than anyone expected.

"For the most part," Steger said, returning Quincy from his reverie, "the body parts are intact and should easily be recreated. But it's not incredibly different than our fusion boomers, just has a few features of the 33-S in it. A rather ingenious combination if I may say so, I'm surprised no one thought of it before."

"What about the brain unit?" Quincy asked. This was the most important part of the excavation, if it was too intact, he might still be alive, if it was too damaged, the technology would be lost.

"The particle beam shot did only superficial damage to the outer layers of the skull interface, it should be easy to fix. But the condition of the actual processing unit is unknown; the damage done by the bullet lodged in the equivalent of the frontal lobe of the brain could be extensive or could be superficial like the skull interface. A more in depth analysis will have to be performed."

Quincy thought upon the issue for several seconds before speaking again. "Very well," he said slowly. "When the unit is fully recovered, have it brought to the main boomer development labs."

"Yes sir," Steger said and turned as if to walk off the range of the camera.

"One more thing," added Quincy before Steger was completely gone. It was an unusual thing to have to do, actually, very rarely do any employees ever even think of walking away from a conversation with him until told to do so. "In your opinion, is he dead?"

Trene was still for a moment, and Quincy could see the muscles in his jaw tightening as his teeth clenched together while he thought. "In everything I've seen and created in Boomer design, the damage to the frontal lobe, as I've seen in this boomer, would totally eradicate any resident personality stored in the brain."

Quincy nodded slowly. "Just my opinion, sir," Trene added. "Largo is dead."


MegaTokyo 2034: The Story of The Knight Sabers

Bubblegum Crisis

His Blood Still Cries

By Adam Leigh

"I'll see you again when the stars fall

from the sky."

-U2 'One Tree Hill'


One Year Later

--bypass the circuits and activate the primary drive, not too fast, bring up the secondary backups—

"Hey Doc!"

--undo the tertiary thruster assembly and change the polarity of the—

"Hey, Raven!"

--flux drive and shunt all power to the buffer, rework circuit assembly—

"Yo! Pops!"

--and test the dri--huh? Pops?

"That's DOCTOR!"

Leaning on the wall by one of the large doors into the garage, looking over at the busy doctor, Mackie Stingray giggled.

"I see I've finally got your attention," he said, righting himself and walking over to Raven.

The doctor rubbed the back of his neck and smiled. "Sorry Mackie, I was a little preoccupied." He glanced at the floor around him and grimaced. "I guess I should be a little more careful with all this sensitive equipment laying around."

The ground was littered with all sorts of mechanical parts, most of which were easily recognized by Mackie as being from one of the team's hardsuits. A scrap of white armor lying by Raven's foot identified the suit as Sylia's, Mackie's sister and leader of the Knight Sabers.

The prospect of his sister's suit in such a state made Mackie nervous. He'd been away for a week or so and wasn't sure if the Sabers had gone on a mission while he was gone. While the parts on the floor didn't look battle damaged, Raven could have removed those parts already if he had been fixing her suit for a while.

"Did something happen while I was away?" Mackie asked, still looking at all the parts on the floor. Normally this would be his job, to fix up the battered hardsuits after a mission, but with him gone, he guessed that his sister had to resort to enlisting the help of Doctor Raven. For a moment, he wondered if it was right to do what he was planning. His sister can be so stern sometimes and so fragile others. But which life was more important, his own or hers?

Raven interrupted his paradoxical thinking. "No, no, Sylia just asked me to work on a few upgrades she's been designing. This is actually her Evolution One suit."

"Oh," Mackie said, still trying to balance his and his sister's life in his mind. Unfortunately, every time he seemed to get both lives on the scale, the balance would break. Both lives were equally important to him, but only one had a true future.

"So, how did it go?" Raven asked, still smiling at the boy.

Mackie looked down at the paper in his hand and managed to push another smile on his face as he held it up for the Doctor. Somehow, both tasks seemed to be heavily weighted. "It was a breeze! The tests were so easy after all the work I've done for my sis and the team. I should be getting the formal acceptance letter in a few days."

Raven slapped the kid on his back and made an even grander smile, if that was possible. "Great going kid! I knew you had the stuff. Someday you'll probably be as great as me."

"Maybe greater," Mackie suggested.

"Well, don't get ahead of yourself, perfection is a hard thing to beat!" He laughed for a bit and Mackie couldn't help but join in. "Ah, your father would have been proud."

"I know," Mackie said, a bit of the cheer draining from his voice.

Raven debated whether or not to ask his next question, because he already knew the answer, but he wanted to stress the point one more time. "What does Sylia think?"

The rest of the cheer made a mad dash for the door as Mackie's smile changed to a frown and he wiggled out from under Raven's arm. He turned to face out of the garage when he spoke. "She ... she doesn't know yet."

"Come on, kid, you've got to tell her," Raven pressed.

"I know!" Mackie said, perhaps a little too loud. He turned to face Raven but ended up simply looking at the parts on the floor. A piece of white armor caught his eye and he found himself unable to look away. "I want to tell her, I really do! But... I know what she's going to say, or what she's NOT going to say."

"You know she only wants the best for you."

"Yes, I know, and that's what she'll say to me too," he found the strength to rip his eyes from the floor and look to Raven. "But I know what she's thinking. She's thinking I'm abandoning the team, she's going to think that I don't want to have anything to do with the Knight Sabers anymore."

"She's not going to think that," Raven said. Then hazarded, "Do you want to have anything to do with the Knight Sabers?"

"YES!" Mackie said with such enthusiasm that it nearly knocked Raven off his heels. "God, all I want to do it help my sister. But, I can't help feeling that there's more for me, that there's something else out there for me to do. Who knows? Maybe when I finish college I'll come right back and pick up where I left off. But... then there's what you said about my father."

"You don't think this is the life he wanted you to have?" Raven asked, but he knew.

"I'm not consumed by my sister's revenge," he said. "Father is dead, and, while it may fulfill Sylia's life to try to avenge him, it doesn't do that for me. I ... I feel like I'm talking in circles."

"Listen, kid," Raven said, putting a hand on the shoulder of the boy. "As much as I want to tell you what I think you should do, it's not my place to say so. Talk to your sister. You know she's smart, and she can be understanding. Let her decide how she feels. You never know, she might surprise you."

"I guess," Mackie sighed. "Then again, she might kill me for trying to secede from the organization."

"That would certainly be a surprise," commented the Doctor.


The Genom Crushers were the closest thing MegaTokyo had to a baseball team after the corporate giant bought out the NeoGiants and disbanded them. Having such a strong hold on almost every other commodity in MegaTokyo, Genom decided that the next step was to domineer the mass entertainment market, namely sports. Beginning with the Genom Rally, now one of the most sought after car racing tournaments, they took over baseball, professional boxing, and had now been host to the last two Olympic Games (Genom stadium is big, REALLY big, and with seat warmers and individual 15" flat-screens even in the nosebleed section, even the Americans said they never had a better time).

Officially, the American Yankees were still the number one team in the world, but they hadn't played the Crushers in at least three years and in that time the team had shown such remarkable progress, that people speculated that they were actually cyborgs, in violation of international play, but such rumors were never proved. Of course, they actually WERE making usage of cyborg parts, but that was a secret known to only a few people within Genom and even fewer outside of the tower.

Fargo was one of those people who knew, and it was that information that had gotten him a reserved skybox for every Crushers game for the next three seasons. Now, he wasn't exactly a fan of the sport, but he also got a substantial monetary sum and as long as the box was reserved, he might as well take advantage of it, once in a while. Besides, it was secluded, very comfortable, and a perfect place to discuss private business.

"I must be paying you too much," Sylia said from the doorway to the skybox.

Fargo stood up from one of the couches and turned to face Sylia. "What, this?" he looked around. "This is just a ... company perk."

"You should trade it in for a couple of new suits," she replied, coolly, walking with a deliberate pace towards one of the unoccupied couches and sitting down.

"It was non-negotiable," Fargo said as he sat down, then ran his hand over the area of the couch next to him. "Why don't you have a seat over here?"

"Why don't you get down to business?" Sylia said with a sigh, placing her briefcase-like bag on the couch beside her, just in case Fargo got any romantic ideas.

Fargo sat back down and tossed a folder onto the glass table between his couch and Sylia's. She opened the folder delicately and flipped through the pages within as Fargo leaned back on his couch and spoke.

"An inside source at Genom has told me that they're developing a new type of boomer, designated NX class for the time being, but the source says it's going to be a combat model."

"More combat boomers," Sylia commented.

"Genom IS a production company, after all, and boomers sell ... big."

"So what's the job?"

"Standard job whenever there's news about Genom's newest potential products. Full specs if possible, but you know that they must have at least three or four prototypes, so one of those gets you the bonus prize."

Sylia simply stared at him. Fargo shrugged.

"All right, the straight line," he sighed. "Two groups are contending for this information, USSD and Gulf & Bradley. I'm not sure how high they will go but you'll get at least fifteen million for the info, and an extra twenty for the prototype. Standard deposit has already been secured."

"Gulf & Bradley?" questioned Sylia. "Weren't they in bed with Genom before?"

"They WERE in bed with them," Fargo agreed. "But following the incident with Doctor MacLaren, Quincy pulled out of their deal. Then the new chairman at G & B made some lousy decisions and they had to overturn their boomer development department. They're quite angry with Genom these days."

"Very well," said Sylia as she closed the folder and slid it into her bag. "How reliable is the source in Genom?"

"Somewhat good," Fargo said, crossing his arms. "This particular informant has been giving me good information for some time now. However, they've never asked for or accepted a fee for the information, so I don't trust it one hundred percent."

"I don't like misinformation," she said and Fargo was almost sure he saw frost forming on her lip. "Never trust a double agent."

"I'm going to do some more checking, but this informant hasn't let me down yet."

"Then it's far past time." She stood up and walked out of the room.

Fargo watched her go with a bit of longing in his eyes. He quickly broke himself of the reverie by shaking his head and looked down at the game going on down just in time to see the Crushers bat one right out of the stadium ... again.


Nash Clancy was a rather plain individual who had not engaged in much athletic activity prior to meeting his latest girlfriend, so he was, to put it frankly, rather weak. Which is why he was on his butt right now, being helped up by an off duty AD Police officer, after being knocked down by the excited greeting his girlfriend had just given him. She was already on her feet, her gymnastics experience heavily showing, but being restrained by her friend, some scarcely known retrotrash singer, from knocking Nash over again.

In the dark recesses of his mind, he wondered if all his dates with Linna Yamazaki would start off this eventful.

When he was standing again, and after Leon had brushed off the dirt from his clothes, Priss let Linna fly and she rushed over to Nash. For a moment, all involved thought that a repeat of the incident was about to happen, but Linna throttled back and managed to gently stop at his side.

"Are you okay?" Linna said in a blur. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to run into that hard! Are you hurt?"

"Woah," Nash said with a smile, putting a hand on Linna's arm. "I'm fine, I don't bruise that easily. I just didn't expect such an ... exuberant welcome."

"It's been so long since I've seen you, I couldn't wait," Linna blabbered. Priss turned away, disgusted, and went to check on their table.

"It's been thirty-six hours," Nash said, glancing at his watch.

"So you've been counting down the hours as well?" asked Linna.

"Umm ... n--" he began before seeing the look on Linna's eyes and internally melted. "Uh, yes, of course, why wouldn't I?"

Linna smiled and reached up to kiss him. After a few moments of their lips touching, the sound of a nearby cough alerted them to Leon's presence. Linna backed down and blushed as she motioned to Leon.

"Uh, Nash," she said. "This is Leon McNichol, he's a Detective for the AD Police. Leon, this is Nash Clancy."

"Pleasure to meet you," Leon said.

"Is it too bright in here, or something?" Nash posed.

Leon let out a short chuckle and pulled his sunglasses off. "No, I just wear my shades so often I forget they're on sometimes." He hung them on the inside pocket of his coat.

"The woman who's storming towards us right now is Priss," Linna said to Nash as the brunette singer approached. "She's the leader of a band called Priss and the Replicants."

"Ah, yes, I knew she looked familiar," said Nash before turning to face Priss as she came to stand in front of him. "I've heard you sing a few times, you're pretty good."

"Oh, really?" Priss said. "You don't look the type to be found in the kind of bars I sing in. I'd definitely notice a pencil-pusher among all the bikers, gang members, and loser cops." She grumbled the last bit towards Leon who merely smiled as if he'd been complimented. Priss shook her head. "Anyway, the table's ready, if you're done groping each other."

"Of course, Ms. Asagiri," Nash said and held his arm out for Linna. "Shall we, milady?"

"I'd be delighted," she replied and hooked her arm around his.

Leon watched the two walk away, then, gathering himself up, trying to look even more suave than he already was, held out his arm and--

"Don't get any crazy ideas, Leon," said Priss as she turned to follow Linna. Leon raised an eyebrow in curiosity, and ran up next to Priss.

"Hey, you're the one who asked me on this date."

"What word did that tiny brain of yours confuse for date? I don't believe I ever mentioned date in my call and I certainly don't plan on upgrading our evening to that level."

"I don't know what you'd call this then," Leon said. "It seems to have all the facets of a date. Look, fancy clothes, nice music, you and me eating dinner together..."

"This is NOT a DATE!" She glanced around, realizing how loud she'd just said that. Thankfully, no one seemed to notice. "This is me not wanting to spend an whole evening alone with those two while they suck face and do all sorts of things that people who ARE on dates do. This is a convenience."

"All right then," Leon said, holding his hands behind his back, still smiling. "Why did you call me for your convenience? I'm you have other 'friends' that you could have called. I'm pretty sure I've seen at least three of them."

Priss grit her teeth. Ever since he found out about her being a Knight Saber, he never misses a chance to remind her that he knows. Although she was glad that's all he ever did. Never once had he pressed her about the identities of the other sabers, and in the year that he's known, he hadn't blurted it out to anyone else. "Quite a guy," she had once said about him to Sylia, and no matter how much she might try to deny it, it was true.

Although at the moment he was being incredibly annoying. "Or am I a little more than a convenience?"

Maybe, Priss thought, if I pop him one right in the kisser, I'll get through enough of his dense head to bruise his ego a bit.

"Come on, you two," Linna was calling from the table. Priss had hardly realized that she'd stopped walking and was now engaged in some staring contest with Leon.

I'll not lower myself to him, Priss thought. "I'm coming," she said, and turned towards the booth. A little voice in the back of her head murmured, "you gave up."

Her collective psyche then battered that voice into dust.


Nene yawned deeply as she approached the door to her apartment. Fumbling with the keys, she managed to unlock her door and slip inside with only the slight delay of trying two wrong keys before she discovered the correct one. Tossing her purse and keys onto her night-stand, she flopped onto her bed with he arms spread out and sighed.

What a day, she thought. The only thing anyone wanted to do was give me paperwork to do as if I'm somebody's secretary. I'm an AD Police officer, not some desk jockey, why do I always get stuck with all the work. Not even Naomi gets so much work and all she ever seems to do is talk and buy concert tickets. Not that I mind the concert tickets, that last concert was way cool and what great seats!

Nene giggled and grabbed her large plushie rabbit, holding it against her chest. Again, she breathed a sigh. The fact that she could spend so much time an effort into her job at the AD Police was because jobs for the Knight Sabers were rather low and had been for some time. Genom had been quiet for a while now, as had the other corporate competitors of the big 'G'. Aside from the random boomer rampage, to which the AD Police had been showing an increasing ability to subdue, there was nothing. Not even an infamous missing persons case, the ones Sylia seemed to hate so much. But who's to blame her, after what happened the last time they took a missing person's case.

A shrill beep ringing from the corner of Nene's apartment alerted her to the presence of a hacker caught in her anti-infiltration program. Pushing the plushie off her chest, she leapt to her feet and dashed over to her PC, clearing the screen of the bunny screen saver she had running.

"Lets see," she muttered as she typed. "Who have I caught in the net this time?"

Her primary monitor displayed a single garbled name and an alphanumeric IP address, both highlighted in blue, both of which were obviously scrambled by an experienced hacker. In her experience there had only been two people with the sort of ability to get as far as blue level before being caught by her net: ViXoR and 8Ball. She wondered which one had been snagged.

ViXoR was some computer engineer, working for a company he wouldn't disclose. He was the first to challenge Nene's computer skills and the only one to almost win. So, suffice to say, he was an excellent programmer, and since his career wasn't in programming (as he often liked to remind) his engineering skills must be even better. But in the programming world, Nene was at the top. No one had ever proven themselves up to her level, except perhaps Sylia, who had designed the puzzle that lead Nene to the Knight Sabers. Nene's greatest wonder was whether her skill compared to Sylia's.

8Ball was a very entertaining guy who also tried to hack through Nene's security, although he did it while distracted and didn't get as far as ViXoR. He's never tried again after Nene's 'Kill' program wiped his hard drive when he failed to get through the defenses, although he claims that if he was really trying, he could top both Nene and ViXoR together. She tended to doubt that.

Ghosting into the Genom net with her own advanced encrypting program, she moved her caught prey into a chat room. At first the name appeared in the 'guest' list as the same garbled mess, but then, after a few seconds, the name cleared then reappeared in a somewhat recognizable order. Nene smiled.

"Caught you again, ViXoR," she said as she typed, an odd habit that seemed to have developed through her persistent viewing of overly dramatic science fiction movies.

// I got blue level this time, you're getting sloppy, NeoKnight. //

"Me? Sloppy?" Nene stifled a laugh. "Never! I let you in."

// I let you catch me. I have a bit of cyber-etiquette in me. //

"Oh yeah, I've never known you to do something uncouth."

// See//

Nene sighed. "Just prodding my walls or do you have a reason for this attempt?"

// Just prodding. 8Ball is out with his g/f, left me with no one to talk to. //

"Don't you have any IRL friends? You know, people who live near your apartment? Perhaps work with you?"

// Oh, you mean that world outside of this computer//

"Something like that."

// I know a few people, but they're all boring.//

// Astrophysicists, cyberengineers, and AI developers. Although, I wouldn't classify the AI developers as
'intelligent' so I wonder what they're using as a
model for their work. //

That got a laugh out of Nene. It was generally assumed in the programming community, that anyone who was egotistical enough to believe they could mimic every facet of the human brain, was probably too dumb to understand exactly how extensive the brain actually is. But you can't make a boomer without a brain, so even Genom is forced to rely on these somewhat crazy individuals. Of course, this was obvious by the hundreds of boomer rampages that happen over the course of a year.

// We should meet in real life someday. //

Nene quelled her laugh enough to sigh again. She'd seen this line about eight times in the last few weeks, ViXoR's desire to meet her was getting annoying. "Now now, we've gone over this before. You could be some terrible man after my amazingly cute body and incredible intelligence."

// Or I could be from Mars. About the same probability. //

"Ooooh! Hmph! You know the NeoKnight doesn't reveal her real life identity, that would be a breach of protocol."

// Whose protocol//

"The awesome hacker protocol, didn't they give you the brochure when you signed up?"

// That must have been the purple thing I threw away//

// Drat, I knew it was important. //

"Serves you right, now run along and play with the other hackers, I've got work to do?"

// Whatever. Maybe I'll try and hack through 8Ball's

computer, erase his critical files just for fun. //

"Good luck, he keeps quite an incredible sentry program up."

// That just makes it even more fun. //


"Good evening, Doctor," Sylia said, strolling into Raven's garage.

"Ah, Sylia," Raven said, standing up from the pile of parts he was fiddling with. "Come down to use the simulator?"

"Yes," she nodded, "and to see what your progress is on the suit. Are the designs descriptive enough to work from?"

"They're fine, I actually just finished work on the arm assembly," he motioned over to a bench against the wall and Sylia walked over to it. "It'll be modular, like you wanted. Right now I have it hardwired for power, but when it's attached to the rest of the suit, it'll draw from the suit's generator like the old systems did."

Sylia slipped her arm into the device and was surprised when the inside padding shrunk to conform to her arm and the fingers responded to hers. It gave off a soft whurr that she could feel more than hear. "This is ... will it need a softsuit anymore?"

"Yes, actually," Raven said moving over to her. "The arm has a built in softsuit so it will better adapt to being modular, but the rest of the suit, the torso and legs, will still need the body softsuit interface. I haven't figured out a way to infuse an interface with the hardsuit that'll remain ... well, clean."

"Oh," she slipped her arm back out of the assembly and it fell silent. Raven hovered just in her peripheral vision, his fidgety motions and stoic expression clearly indicated something was on his mind. She'd seen the look in Priss before, just after Sylvie was ... well, deactivated. But her little pep talk with her merely made her more saddened, so she was hesitant to ask Raven what was troubling him. Perhaps, she thought, given the right environment, he'll tell me himself.

She looked down at the table where the arm was resting now. There were many parts around it, obviously replacements from the previous arm assembly, a few tools, and a group of small pictures in tiny wooden frames. Glancing at the images captured in each of the pictures she paused at one of the three-inch snapshots and picked it up.

"Is this my father?" Sylia asked, showing the picture to Raven. He looked closer then softly ran his finger across the glass surface. It showed two men, a tall, young looking one with long dark hair and a bushy mustache wearing a suit and another, shorter man, with graying hair and wearing a dark blue jumpsuit. They were smiling and holding up an inscribed plaque with lettering too small to be made out by the picture. In the background was a blue sky that was only halfway taken up by a large sky scraping building.

"Yes," he said softly with a solemn tone to his voice. "It was taken a long time ago, before you were born." He smiled. "Your father had just gotten his doctorate at a University in the US called MIT. I was still a professor back then, teaching Cyberengineering at that same university. Your father was my favorite student, and my best friend."

He pulled the picture from Sylia's hands and returned it to his work bench. "We did a lot in those days, some of the early designs for boomer musculature, early AI programming. We came so close to consciousness one time, we thought we'd had it, we called the whole university board to come see it."

"What happened?" Sylia asked.

"Well, it turned out our programming was better than it should have been for AI. You could talk to it for hours, and it even had the programming to know when to tell a story of it's own, but ... it had no personality. It nearly passed the Turing test as well, until we discovered it was giving the same answers to the questions each time. The only thing it proved was that our search algorithms were thorough and we should try computer game programming."

He chuckled, "Katsuhito nearly died of humility. Ah, but the kid got back up on his feet, graduated higher than anyone before him. Offered a position at the University, too, but he knew where he was going, and it wasn't towards a teaching position."

Raven's smile slowly faded. "The good old days," he said with longing.

Sylia swallowed and breathed out slowly. "What's bothering you, Doctor?" she asked.

He seemed to think about it for a few moments before looking at his feet and saying, "Mackie's back." He paused for a moment and looked up at Sylia. "You know?"

"No," replied Sylia. "I haven't been back at the building all day. I had a lot of errands to run."

"I've heard. But I think you should take some time to go see him. Talk to him."

"I will," Sylia said, looking away. "After I use the simulator."

"Perhaps the simulator can wait," Raven said.

"So can Mackie," she replied, turning towards the door in the back of the garage that led to the lower level simulation room.

"Maybe not as long as you would think," Raven called to her. She slowed her pace but did not stop. "He's a lot like his father. He knows where he's going."

The doctor waited for her response but all he heard was the sound of the back door closing.


"Heyo!" said Mackie towards the closed door as the sounds of shuffle inside indicated something akin to last minute cleaning. After a little more than a minute, the door swung open and Nene stood in the doorway, clad in her AD Police uniform, leaning against the frame.

"Mackie!" she said exuberantly, before leaping at him and embracing him. "You're back!" she said.

"You've noticed," he replied through a chuckle. Nene detached herself from around Mackie's neck and backed into her room a few feet.

"Please, come in," she said motioning for the boy to enter.

Mackie strolled in as Nene quietly closed the door behind him. "So, how was Germany?" she inquired as she moved over to him and offered him a chair to sit on from kitchen table.

"Very... German," he replied and Nene giggled a bit. "I know quite a bit of the language, but there are lots of," he motioned with his hands wildly trying to articulate what he wanted to say. "Regional differences which made it a pain to do anything in Munich outside of the university, where everyone spoke Japanese anyway. Kind of strange, actually, so many Japanese speaking people, I would have thought English as a dominant foreign language but, oh well, I won't complain."

"How were the tests?"

"Easy," he made a 'safe' motion with his hands. "It was all simple preliminary boomer design theory, if they only knew I've built and rebuilt hardsuits all my life, they wouldn't have even bothered with the exam. They said there's no doubt that I got in."

"Ooooh, good job!" she energetically said, then tackled him with a hug again. "Wanna go out for some celebratory dinner?"

Mackie glanced at his watch, "I'd love to, but I--"

"Aww... come on?"

Mackie looked up, about to cite some previous obligation to talk with his sister, when he looked into her green eyes and melted. As much as he'd like to think he'd matured beyond his old lecherous ways, every time he looked at Nene, he felt willing to do anything to be near her for just a few moments longer. "Oh, all right."


The dinner, Priss reflected as she pulled her leather jacket over her shoulders, wasn't that bad. The steak she'd ordered was perfectly cooked, tender, and marinated to just the perfect flavor. The environment was acceptable, perhaps a bit fancy for her tastes, but it was nothing that she wasn't expecting, Linna did, after all, tell her where they were going. Even her 'convenience' managed not to make an ass of himself or assert his ego anywhere.

No, the problem with the evening so far was the conversation, or rather, the lack of it with Linna and the presence of excessive amounts with Leon. With Linna totally engrossed in her date, and vice versa, the only person left to talk with was the Macho Man Leon McNichol.

This wouldn't have bothered her so much if it wasn't for the fact that she actually listened to him ramble on about meaningless things like the current trend in boomer crimes, and how the weather has been unusually bad lately, or the occasional comment about how good she looked in the outfit she was wearing, without getting bored! Worse yet, she actually lost track of time listening to him, as if she ... she...

Enjoyed it.

shiver

"You cold, Priss?" Leon said to her as they left the restaurant. He was in the process of taking off the long trench coat he was wearing when Priss waved him off.

"Nah, I'm fine."

"Where to next?" Linna asked, holding tightly onto Nash's arm.

Priss glanced at her wrist, remembered that she'd purposefully left her watch at home so that she couldn't be constantly reminded how long Linna had been talking to her date, then grabbed Leon's wrist and looked at his watch. "It's gettin--"

"I know a place," Nash interrupted her. Priss turned towards him with a venomous look in her eye and locked eyes with her adversary. He was staring right back at her with a smirk on his face, as if he was enjoying making her suffer by hanging around with him and Linna. "If you want to talk over a few drinks for a while, that is."

Linna caught somewhat of what was going on, or at least she decided to impose herself on her date once more (either way it ended Priss' silent war with Nash), and tugged on his arm a bit. "That sounds fine," she said as Nash turned to face her and the evil, somewhat teasing smile he was wearing melted into a compassionate one.

"It's right around here," he motioned down the sidewalk. "Shall we?"

"Of course," Linna smiled and started walking with him. Priss could have sworn she saw Nash take one last look back at her and snicker, but she dismissed the idea, the way he was standing would have prevented it unless he was capable of spinning his head three-hundred-and-sixty degrees.

"Are we joining them?" Leon asked, watching the couple walking away while he and Priss were still standing in front of the restaurant.

"I guess," she sighed. Why was she getting herself worked up like this anyway? It wasn't like she was ... jealous? Over Nash? Impossible. He was a jerk, kinda like Leon, and seemed to be enjoying turning this night into the longest ever. Why would she care about Linna's date? She should simply worry about herself and cope.

She turned to Leon. "Come on," she said with renewed vigor. She was about to hook her arm in his and pull him along, but decided against it. Leon might misconstrue it to be some sort of pass and bring up that whole 'this is a date' topic again. If he would just keep from opening his mouth, he might become bearable to be with.

Might.

Shaking her head, she grabbed his arm (with her hand), and pulled him after Nash and Linna.


"Steger."

The voice boomed as if spoken from the heavens. Trene gripped his console in response then slowly released his hold as the picture of Quincy filtered onto the screen before him, ushering out the schematics he was looking at. Running a hand through his hair, he cleared his throat and prepared to answer.

"Yes, sir."

"How long until we can activate the unit?" the voice came again.

"Activate it, sir? I wasn't aware we were up to that stage of the development."

"An oversight on your part I assume?"

"A—Yes, of course it was, sir." Trene felt hot and pulled at his collar, a three button collared shirt with his project division name written across the left breast, he hated playing these power games.

"I want to see results within the next two hours."

"Two hours?" Steger nearly yelled before he realized who he was talking to.

"Two hours." The screen went blank.

"Oh, god," Trene said to his screen, the schematics having returned, and ran his hands through his hair. Two hours will never be enough time, the Largo AI code hasn't been fully adapted yet, it'll go crazy.

Of course, that would be the point, wouldn't it? The survival instinct portion of the code was completed before everything else and Quincy knows it. He just wants to know how the NX will fare against the Knight Sabers. But the instinct portion of the code won't function without at least a rudimentary AI installed, and the new boomer was so radically different than others that a transplant was impossible. Constructing a new one could take months, not hours, without a design for the robotic assemblers to follow.

Trene looked above his monitor, where a long cylinder filled with a bluish liquid stretched from the octagonal console where he sat to the ceiling high above. Typing in a short command, the lights inside of the cylinder turned on, giving him a good view at what was currently stored inside.

At first glance, it appeared to be a bundle of cables, balled up in the center of the tube and trailing down into the console. If one were to look closer, they would see the vague outline of something, almost human looking. But if you were around when the object was placed in the cylinder, you would never forget it, the image burned in the mind of each scientist that glanced at the beast, each worker that attached the wires, each programmer that had to gaze deeply into the lifeless eye sockets and determine what made the thing turn against it's former god.

Trene shivered. Even deactivated, lifeless, halfway disassembled, and virtually impossible to power, the husk of Largo scared him.

But he continued looking, as he would do every day since he broke the code, since he discovered what the other's didn't, since he peered into the mind that WAS Largo... or Mason, as he shortly after discovered. Rooted in all the fear and utter hatred, was subversive, almost perverted, pleasure.

A small chain of bubble eased their way through the tube, causing some of the wires to sway, which in turn caused the remaining arm unit to wave back and forth in the minute current. Trene forced himself to look away, the figure almost seemed to be beckoning him. He looked down at the monitor, breathed deeply, and activated one of the wires in the tube.

A thin thread of light weaved through the mess of cable and struck Largo's exposed cybernetic brain.

Instantaneously the screen before Steger filled with text, documentation that catalogued everything that ever happened to Largo and Mason. The entire life of the half human, half boomer, man that floated above him. The file was immense, much larger than anything else in the mind of Largo, and much heavier guarded, but Trene broke that guard long ago, and learned everything.

And ever since then, he had been, or rather he felt, different. He hadn't even read the entire file, just breezed through the highlights, but even as it scrolled across his screen, he felt parts of it, unknown parts, enter his mind. When he was done he had suddenly become aware of Quincy, not just as his omnipresent employer, but as a cunning, genius level manipulator. He learned about plans that Mason had begun in an attempt to take over Genom one day, but never completed.

And most of all, he learned about the Knight Sabers. Genom had an incredible file, and Trene suspected that Quincy had an even larger one, kept hidden in his office, but the knowledge Largo had was so extensive, he doubted that even Quincy knew as much. Trene discovered detailed specifications on the two hardsuit designs that had been used against the dual-personality cybergod, a predicted location of the Knight Sabers base of operations, a list of people most likely to be the Green, Pink, and Blue Knight Sabers, and, of course, a file on a woman named Sylia Stingray.

Trene had known that Dr. Stingray had had a daughter, the life of the father of boomers was well known among boomeroid engineers, but he had assumed that she ran that lingerie shop by the fault-line because she had skills that could be used elsewhere. The file indicated otherwise. Sylia was skilled in boomer development as well as over sixteen other scientific fields, all related in some manner to boomer engineering. She had apparently came one step away from getting a degree in each field before leaving the respective university and changing her field of study. With the money Dr. Stingray left behind, she could afford it, not that her lingerie shop ever did poorly.

The last note in the file was a curious one. Not as to it's meaning, that was quite clear, but to it's condition. It was a simple line that read:

'Sylia is also known as Saber Prime of the Knight Sabers.'

When Trene first read it, he blinked and read it again to make sure what he saw was right. Largo had known the identity of the leader of the Knight Sabers. And yet ... the file on the woman mentions almost nothing about it. It was as if her secret identity was trivial compared to the woman herself. Indeed, he knew that Mason had been infatuated with Sylia ever since she was young, but this was ... incredibly inconsistent with the rest of the data. The group of mercenaries that conspired and eventually executed a plan to destroy Largo, and he keeps little more than a footnote as to the identity of their leader?

And therein lies the psychosis, Trene thought.

He turned his attention back towards the matter at hand, pushing aside his reminiscing for later. Quincy wanted a test, and Trene had to deliver, but he had no idea how to fix the problems in the NX series cyberbrain. Scrolling through Largo's brain, he searched for something to help him with the problem, a similar instance, perhaps, where Quincy demanded something of Mason that he wasn't prepared to deliver. Just so much as an idea would...

Ah-ha! Here's something, Trene thought, ignoring the fact that somehow he knew the idea was coming up before the file even reached that point. A time during his early years before he became Special Assistant to the chairman. It might even work well.

He swiveled in his chair and pushed himself towards a different console. Calling up the designs for the remains of Largo that were recovered, he isolated the braincase and extracted the designs. They were grossly incomplete, partly because of the damage from his final battle and partly because a few pieces of the construct were still unidentified, but they would suffice. He punched up the incomplete designs for the NX brain and overlaid the Largo brain over it.

The holes in one almost perfectly matched the completed parts in the other, only a few sub-systems remained incomplete. Trene disposed of the Largo Survival Instinct portion and replaced it with the NX version. Might as well test out what we have to far, he thought. Now to force the other pieces into place.

A few minutes later, the designs were complete. As to say, all the work he was going to do on them were done, the brain itself was far from being able to be marketed, but it would run for a few moments before shorting out and depending on the SI unit to function. That's all he really needed, something flashy to show Quincy, and then a test of the SI unit as he was sure was Quincy's hidden agenda.

He sent the plans over to the robotic assemblers and sent orders for the brain to be installed in the NX prototype and activated at the farthest testing facility from the tower. No sense being too close to the carnage he was about to create.

Very good, a small voice said in Trene's brain, you'll do quite excellently here.

Unable to deal with the origin of this random thought that his brain suddenly sent him, Steger simply ignored the words and forgot them as if they never happened.

Less than a hour and a half later, the first NX Boomer was being shipped away from the Tower.


Nene's hands pulled and twisted at the cloth napkin beneath the table she and Mackie were sitting at. The food hadn't come, in fact, they hadn't even ordered yet, but she was still playing with the napkin nervously. Nothing had gone wrong this evening, her computer was safe, the trip to the restaurant was uneventful, the music was gentle, and the wine was sweet, and yet, with each passing moment, she felt uneasy.

She looked up at Mackie and noticed he was looking back at her so she quickly looked aside and blushed. Undoubtedly, he was still looking at her, trying to figure out why she was so fidgety tonight. If he asked her about it, she wouldn't have an answer, even though she knew exactly what was bothering her, she just didn't want to admit such a thing as possible.

But it was getting harder to ignore the little voice in her head that was telling her it was true. She had missed Mackie while he was away in Germany. A lot. Too much, in fact, to satisfy her boundaries of a working friendship. She had started to depend on his presence, his sometimes lecherous self to remind Nene that no one else could make a police uniform look so good, or that when she put her hair up before getting into her softsuit she looked extra-cute, or her encryption algorithms for protecting the Sabers database were exceptionally brilliant. He was a flatterer, but Nene had liked it.

And now he was going to go away again, possibly for a whole year. The uneasiness in her stomach was getting harder to ignore and it would only get worse. She just wished she knew a way to find out if he felt the same way.

"Will you marry me, Nene?" asked Mackie, holding an enormous diamond ring in his hand.

Nene blinked and shook her head. "What did you say?"

"I said, this is a very nice restaurant, Nene," Mackie replied as he sipped a bit of his glass of wine. Nene sighed. "But, isn't it a bit, expensive, for a police officer?"

"Well, it's not like I have a problem with money, Mackie."

Mackie swallowed his wine and nodded. "Yes, but aren't you supposed to be keeping up the impression that you aren't ... umm, moonlighting?"

"I only come here once or twice a month, at the most. That doesn't look too strange, does it?"

"I don't know." Mackie leaned back in his chair. "I guess it's fine for special occasions. Anything more than that is going to appear suspicious." He sighed. "So how's everyone else been?"

"Who haven't you seen yet?"

"Anybody, really. I've only see you and Dr. Raven since I've gotten back. Everyone else seems to be out, I haven't even seen sis yet."

"Well, Sylia's been brooding around lately, I'm not sure what about, but something is definitely bothering her. She never talks to anyone how she feels though so I can't help her."

"Hmm," pondered Mackie. "I'll have to look into it. Do you think it has anything to do with the work Raven's been doing on her hardsuit?"

"Raven's doing work on her hardsuit?"

"You didn't know?"

"Not at all."

"When I stopped in at Raven's he had sis' old suit taken completely apart and laid out all over the ground. Like he was doing some major redesigning." Mackie sat up straight again. "You're telling me she hasn't mentioned anything?"

"No," said Nene with a shake of her head. "Nothing."

"This is very peculiar. You think it's a job she hasn't told us about yet?"

"I would like to think she would have at least told me if it was, but she has hidden things from me in the past, so I can't be certain."

"Just like things to go to pieces when I leave," Mackie said with a grin.

"Oh, I'm sure you're the glue that holds us all together."

"You said it, not me."


o/ Message keeps getting clearer

Radio's on and I'm moving 'round this place

I check my look in the mirror

I wanna change my hair, my clothes, my face

Man I ain't getting nowhere just living in a dump like this

There's something happening somewhere

Baby I just know that there is... o/

"Not bad."

"Not bad?" Clancy asked. He motioned around, nearly hitting a passing waitress who's own expertise in navigating with wild drunks was the only thing that saved her from certain destruction. "I would think this place is right down your alley. Exactly the sort of atmosphere your music seems to encourage."

Priss took another look around at the bar she, Leon, Linna, and Nash were sitting in. It was a single large room, slightly darkened, with large wooden tables, painted and lacquered a dark color so they better hide the beer stains they were placed to receive, and a long bar along the far wall next to the entrance. It looked pretty much like every other bar she'd been to, with the exception that the paraphernalia on the walls was all from the early eighties, where as most bars tend to embrace the times closer to the turn of the century.

He was right, through. Her music was specifically modeled after this age, the Rock'n'Roll, lone-guitarist-with-a-stubble-and-long-dark-hair age. The rebellious, dirt-of-the-earth feel of the music made her feel ... less alone in her struggle. This whole bar filled of exactly those types of people seemed almost idyllic.

The stage at the other end of the room with the mike and Karaoke machine on it seemed to be calling out to her as well. She stamped out the temptation.

"Okay, it's ... good," she ceded.

"Whatever," Nash said with a shake of his head and a smile.

"So all this music is from the nineteen eighties?" Leon asked.

"Not really," explained Nash. "I think it used to be that way, long before I started coming here, but they got stuck in a rut with the same handful of songs, so they kinda, expanded their horizon." He paused for a second to take a swig of his beer. "These days they play anything that was recorded in the 'spirit' of those days. Stuff from the seventies through early 2010's, some things from these days, now that there's a revival going on."

"Yeah," nodded Priss. "I'd like to go back and laugh in the face of all those people who started callin' Rock an old man's music in the late nineties." She laughed. "Maybe get the sig of the Boss or Steinman while I'm there." Nash joined her in her chuckle.

Linna eyed the two strangely.

Leon ordered another beer.


The orange blob floated before Sylia, almost staring her down if the thing had eyes. At this level of the simulator, there were over twenty threat points on the thing, each of them capable of extending ten feet in order to 'tag' it's target. This was the hardest level anyone had ever played on the simulator and if Sylia could beat it, she would top even her own record.

She rose her hands into defensive position, signaling the program that she was ready to begin. The 'enemy' flared a brighter orange for a moment then flashed each of it's six attack points before moving forward amorphously. Sylia stepped back at first, changing her stance to prepare for the first attack.

The orange blob moved to place Sylia within it's attack radius and hesitated for a moment. Sylia blinked. At this level, the simulator would be displaying almost human fighting mentality but she hardly expected it to disengage it's first attack for defensive reasons, especially when none of the targets were currently flashing.

As Sylia boggled for a moment, the orange blob moved forward again, quicker this time, and thrust out one of it's tentacles towards Sylia's gut. Noticing the advancement just in time, she dodged to the left just as she noticed the blob rotating to swing at her. She remained still for an extra second to find out at what height the attack would come from, then, when she saw that it was going for a head shot, she ducked down and spread her arms out to balance herself. The arm flew over her head.

She looked up to watch for the next advancement and noticed the first target lighting up, informing her of an exposed vulnerable point. The orange mass around the point shifted and Sylia back flipped almost too late to dodge the upwards swing the blob took at her. Regaining her posture, she lowered her shoulder and barreled towards the hologram, dodging to the left and diving to the right she pivoted when her hands hit the ground and kicked the glowing sphere inside of the blob.

Sylia was rolling away already as the light that she tagged faded away and the blob turned towards its enemy again. Sylia breathed deeply and returned her hands to ready position as the blob moved forward again. This time it was quickly, and without same the hesitation at the start. The first tentacle from the thing shot out immediately, followed shortly after by three more, aimed right for Sylia.

She jumped back to dodge the first, then twisted at the waist to slip in between the other two. Without a target exposed, she had no place to attack, so she dropped to her knees and rolled away. The simulation immediately picked up on her movement and flung three more tentacles towards her, obviously giving up on tact and moving, at least momentarily, to brute force to end the program.

The second light appeared, marking the next target as being right behind one of the tentacles. Sylia squinted, staring down the hologram. It moved first, twisting around to swing from the left. Sylia jumped back out of the tentacle's range and it flew past her nose, barely missing her. Swallowing, she stepped back once then leaped forward, diving beneath the next attack, which she already saw coming, then rolling past when the second attack swung down. She crouched right next to the orange, one leg extended for stabilization, and jabbed her hand out, into the image, and striking the glowing target.

The simulation was quick to recover, even as the light was disappearing, it was winding up for another attack. It didn't even come close to Sylia, who was already thinking several moves ahead of the computer. By the time the third light came on, she'd gotten into a rhythm and tagged it quickly, waiting for the next target.

As she moved through the program, getting quicker and quicker with each attack, she kept her mind at ease, thinking only of the possible attack-counterattack combinations to defeat the program. But by the twentieth target, even her rigid mind started to wander. She thought it would be all right to think a bit, her moves were almost instinct by now.

I've never made it this far, it occurred to her. I wonder how many targets there actually are in this level, the computer supposedly begins generating it's own levels at this point, so the number doesn't have to follow the system devised in the earlier levels. If I pass this level, I'll have to begin work on upgrading my hardsuit to compensate. Come to think of it, I haven't had the other Sabers tested in a while, I should call them down to do so. I wonder what's after this...

That was as far as she got before her mind wandered too far and the orange blob smacked her right in the gut, piercing the 'critical area' as designated by the program. The simulation collapsed around her, the blob melting into a goo then evaporating into nothing along with the dojo-style walls and ceiling. By the time Sylia blinked, she was surrounded by holographic emitters.

Tugging at the cloth around her waist, she walked out of the room and into the monitoring station where the computers there were recording her performance and evaluating it. They would analyze her reaction time, her biological conditions, rate of fatigue, and speed and graph it against a set of data that she entered to designate the 'Average Saber.'

Grabbing a towel from a rack by the door, she moved over to the computer and glanced at the monitor as she wiped her brow. Sixty-eight percent above average, a whole percent better than before. The program asked her if she'd been working out lately.

Sylia grimaced. Dr. Raven had a strange sense of humor.

A monitor next to the one displaying the graph jumped to life and faded into a shot of Raven, apparently still out in the garage. Sylia moved to stand in front of it, so the visual sensor would pick her up.

"What is it, Doctor?"

"You've got a phone call on that 'special' line of yours. You know, the one you won't even let ME touch?"

"Yes, I remember." She looked at a clock on the wall. "Fargo's a little early. Thank you, Doctor."

"Yeah, yeah."

The screen cleared to black before displaying the pending call and all the information the tracer could gather about it. As usual, it couldn't identify anything, but that was part of the agreement that Sylia had with Fargo, neither would know more about each other than necessary to conduct their extra-legal deals. The very line he called on was being ghosted from a totally different area of the city just in case he tried to trace her, not that he ever would.

Sylia and Fargo's relationship, while not the intimate, romantic, type that Fargo had so often tried to initiate, was rather close, considering the kind of work they did for each other. Sylia actually trusted Fargo, not as much as her Sabers (a relationship which had improved greatly over the years since she recruited them), but she trusted him all the same. Of course, Fargo was very trustworthy to his clients, but he repaid Sylia's trust by going out of his way several times to help her gather information on potential jobs.

Doubtless, at this moment, he was about to inform Sylia of his success in finding a way to obtain an NX-class boomer, or to tell her of a nice, unguarded database somewhere in the city where she could hack in and get the NX plans.

Putting her towel down, she keyed up the decryption program she used for Fargo's calls and activated it. The screen cleared in an instant, then, slowly, built up an image of Fargo, looking up at her from the screen. Instantly, Sylia feared the worst. Fargo was hardly emotional, and yet, on his face, she could easily read tension, as if he was carrying an awfully heavy weight on his shoulders.

"Sylia," Fargo said, his voice still slightly scrambled from the encryption he was using. "They just let one of them out of the tower."

Sylia raised an eyebrow and picked up her towel once again to wipe her hands. "Where is being shipped to?"

"No, Sylia," Fargo said slowly. "Not shipped, they let one go. They walked it out in front of the building, pointed it towards the heart of the city, turned it on, and walked away."

Sylia's eyes widened and she spoke softly. "What is doing?"

"The same thing every boomer does when they've been released into the city without a primary directive."

"My god." She paused. "How long ago?"

"A few minutes. My 'informant' inside of Genom told me just as they were about to do it." He waited for Sylia's reaction and when he received none, he continued. "He's told me that when the thing is active it emits a signal at a specific high-band frequency that you should be able to trace. I'm sending you the amplitude right now."

"This is the same informant as before?"

"Yes."

"Curious," Sylia mused. "If he's all on our side why doesn't he simply send us the schematics for the boomer?"

"I don't know," admitted Fargo. "He contacts me through such an encrypted channel that he might not even be able to send me data packs large enough to hold the schematics."

"Whatever," Sylia shook her head as the severity of the situation hit her. "Have you at least found out if it's armed?"

"I have no information on that."

"Fine. I'll contact you when I have the situation under control." She didn't even wait for a response before shutting down the communiqué and pressing her palm into the signal button under the console that would alert the rest of the Sabers. Briefly going over her mental checklist, she made sure she'd done everything before heading to her emergency transport that would take her to the Knight Sabers hangar.


"I'll go get another round," Nash said with a smile, picking up a few of the empty glasses and heading over to the bar. As he walked away, he kept looking back at Linna until he nearly walked into a waitress and decided that keeping the glasses in his hand intact was a little higher on the priority list. At least, at little bit.

"Isn't he great?" Linna asked, turning to Leon and Priss, hearts in her eyes so big she probably wasn't able to hear anything bad.

"He certainly is ... different," Priss said, looking over at the rather tall man at the bar. "At least, from the rest of the pencil pushers you've dated in the past. This guy almost seems... alive." She snickered.

She choked on her laugh when she was reminded of her proximity to Leon by a sudden jab from his elbow. "That's hardly fair," he said to Priss but loud enough for Linna to hear. "He seems like a nice gentleman."

"Yeah..." Linna trailed off.

"Oh boy," mutter Priss.

BEEP BEEP

Linna was broken from her trance instantly and reached into her jacket to pull out a small, disc-shaped object. Simultaneously, Priss' hand dove into her jeans pocket to pull out a similarly shaped piece of machinery.

Slowly the two glanced up at each other, then Priss turned to Leon who was already nodding, as if he knew exactly what was going on.

He turned to Linna, "I thought you were one of them," he said. Then he looked back at Priss. "I'll take care of Nash, you go on ahead, I'm sure it won't be long before I get MY call."

"Lets go, Priss," Linna said, grabbing her purse and throwing it over her shoulder. Priss looked at Leon for a few seconds longer, then put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed a bit.

"Thank you," she said to him softly. Then she looked up to Linna and the two started off towards the door.

"Ah, well," Leon said to himself, picking up a nearly empty glass and raising it to his lips. "It was lovely this far, at least." He tipped his glass back—

BEEP

Downing the rest of the glass, Leon wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, slammed the glass back onto the table, and pressed the small button on the side of his, now flashing, watch that signified that he'd received the message. "It doesn't rain, but it pours." Getting up, he started walking towards the phones while fishing in his pocket for his AD Police card.

A few moments later, Nash arrived at the table. Putting all the cups down, he looked around the table and boggled.

"Huh?"


Nene pulled the beeping disc from her purse and examined the tiny message being displayed on it. It was a single word, 'Recall,' but it meant that the Knight Sabers had a job and Sylia was calling them back to headquarters.

"So much for a nice evening," Mackie said, setting down his glass and getting up out of his chair.

"Get the valet to bring the car around," said Nene, stuffing the disc back into her purse and slinging it over her shoulder. "I'll pay for this."

"All right," Mackie nodded and turned and headed for the exit as quick as possible without attracting attention.

"Just like old times," Nene reminisced as she flagged down a waiter.


Most boomers are slow, despite their mechanic agility, they tend to respond slowly when they decide to rampage over half the city. This boomer decided that tactics were stupid when everything that the enemy was throwing at you bounced off harmlessly. Thus, he went from the lower districts to the east side in relatively short time before running into the AD Police and discovering that the sound of a body going splat was more fun than a building going vrrrr-boooom.

This did not bode well for Daley and his squad.

"GET THE HELL DOWN!" Daley yelled at the members of his unit that were advancing towards the berserk boomer. "GABBY! BLAKE! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!" Daley was then pulled back behind the squad car he was by when a barrage of bullets flew past.

As he waited for the bullets to stop, Daley punched the side of the car he was leaning against. "Damn, those two! I don't think they've ever listened to what I've said!" He looked around and several other N-Police and AD Police officers huddled behind cars. "And where on earth is my backup?! Where's Leon when you need him?"

"Headquarters says it'll be five more minutes before backup arrives!" called a man a short distance away who was yelling into the radio in his car.

"We won't last five minutes!"

As if to accentuate the point, the car the radio man was hiding behind exploded in a fiery inferno, incinerating the man and the three other ADP officers around him. Daley cursed again.

"What the hell was that? Where did that thing get a bazooka?"

"That wasn't a bazooka," said one of the officers next to Daley.

"Then what was it?" asked Daley. The man pointed over the top of the car. Daley furrowed his brow, turned to get on his knees and peered over the hood of the car.

The boomer was holding the body of an ADP officer now, one of the ones that died earlier, and was closely examining the belt he was wearing. After confirming something, the blue beast's hand reached out and pulled an egg shaped object from the belt and tossed it at Daley.

Only a second elapsed from when the grenade bounced on the hood of the car and when Daley reacted, but to him it seemed like eternity. The clang of the hood as it hit rung in his ears for half that time, the other half taken up by his head turning, infinitely slowly, to look at the other officers behind the car. Then his jaw opened.

"Shit," he said. Then started running as fast as his legs could carry him. When he heard the explosion and only barely felt the heat, he thought he would be alright, then he felt the rain of shrapnel cut into his body. He stumbled forward into a slight ditch that was created by an earlier explosion, and felt the darkness grab him.


Sylia was already completely suited up by the time Linna and Priss arrived, and they were halfway done when Nene and Mackie showed up. It wasn't the quickest response time, Sylia decided, but none of them even knew they were on a job, so it was acceptable.

"Here's the low down," Sylia started as soon as Nene made her way back to the hanger after getting into her suit. "Genom has been working on a new boomer, it's called the NX Class. A half hour ago, they decided to test it's combat tactics by releasing it into the city and seeing how it fares against the AD Police and, ultimately, us. We don't have plans or schematics on this design yet, so if at all possible, disable, but do not destroy. If we can bring back seventy percent of the boomer we can kill two birds with one stone and complete our job." She paused. "Any questions?"

"Yeah," Mackie said, raising a hand. "What shall I do?"

"Welcome back, Mackie," Sylia replied as a matter of course. "You'll be flying the Knightwing as before and acting as air support."

"All right," Mackie said, slightly annoyed. He'd hoped she'd let him use the support suit like he did during the ADP headquarters takeover. At least that time he felt like he was doing something instead of circling the fight zone in the Knightwing. Besides he got to be close to Nene...

"How should we disable it?" Linna asked.

"Go for the head," said Sylia. "Take out the brain functions."

"Isn't that normally the most critical part of a boomer?" asked Nene. "Wouldn't we want to save it?"

"Not on this boomer. This time the body is the most important part."

"Why's that?" asked Priss.

"I don't know."

"Well, that's vague enough, lets go," Priss said mockingly.

Sylia said nothing for a few seconds, then spoke. "I don't need to remind you to be careful, this is a totally new design of boomer, you never know what to expect. Move out."


Leon arrived at the war zone at what he considered exactly the most dramatic time. As he was stopping his car, something down the street blew up in an incredibly fiery explosion and the boomer walked through the wall of flames like it was nothing. Stepping out of his car, Leon decided something theatrical was necessary, so as a bunch of ADP officers was nearing him, he pulled his gun and turned to face them. "Backup's arrived," he said, the yellow red of the fire reflecting off his visor sunglasses.

"Detective McNichol!" the man in the lead of the group said as he got up to Leon. The man looked around with a quizzical look on his face. "Where's the rest of your unit?"

"They're still on their way," replied Leon, closing the door of his car and walking down closer to the battle zone. "I was in the area. Who's in charge here?"

"Daley was but he's been injured," another man from the group said.

"What?" Leon said suddenly. "Where is he?"

One of the men pointed to a patrol car on it's side with two officers kneeling next to a downed one, "Over there."

Leon didn't hesitate to run over. As he neared the car he heard a few explosions in the distance but ignored them for the time being. He recognized one of the two officers by Daley as Gabriel, one half of a hot headed duo in Daley's unit that tended to ignore the regulations whenever they thought they had a better idea. This one had the tendency to ramble on about things and had gotten the nickname 'Gabby.' The other half of the pair, Blake, was nowhere to be seen.

"How is he?" Leon asked Gabby.

"He keeps coming in and out of consciousness," said Gabby. "He got hit pretty bad by shrapnel and is loosing a lot of blood, but I don't think any of his major organs are damaged. I'm no doctor, though."

Leon nodded and knelt down beside Daley. He tried shaking him slightly to stir him awake but he remained under. After a few seconds he stood defiantly. "All right, everyone, listen up! I'm in charge now, and we're gonna..."

"Sir!" someone yelled suddenly. Leon turned to them angrily for disrupting his speech.

"What is it?" he yelled.

The young man had a smile on his face as he pointed up into the sky. Leon followed his finger to see a large, delta shaped craft hovering over the area. Leon had seen it enough times to recognize what it meant. The officer spoke it aloud for him though.

"The Knight Sabers are here!"


Priss looked down from the Knightwing at the carnage in the street below. The whole block was lit up red and yellow from all the fires that were burning uncontrollably below. Unfortunately the whole area also had a grayish, or sometimes black, haze over it from all the smoke the fires generated.

"I can't see a fucking thing down there," Priss said.

"And infrared scans are being disrupted by all the fires," Nene continued.

"How are we supposed to find this guy?" asked Linna.

"Here," Sylia said from further back in the Knightwing. She pressed a button on a console there and uploaded the frequency data from the computer to each of the Sabers. "The NX emits a signal along this frequency whenever it's in operation, you should be able to track it using this."

"Yes," Nene said almost immediately. "I'm getting a signal, I can see it now."

"How do you know this, Sylia?" asked Linna.

"It came with the job data, now move out!"

The three sabers acknowledged her and leapt out of the Knightwing and down into the war zone below. Sylia hesitated for a second, then followed.


"They're using the frequency!" a technician suddenly turned and said to the ominous figure behind him.

"Good," Quincy said. "Now use it to get a satellite lock on them, I don't want to lose them if the stop using the frequency."

"Yes, sir!" said the technician as he pivoted back to his console.

"Excellent, everything is going according to plan."

"You bastard."

Quincy turned slowly to face the young, thin looking man currently being held by two Genom guards. He was slightly struggling against their grip but more importantly, was staring down Quincy with the evilest look he could muster. Quincy simply smiled.

"Yes, Mr. Steger, I am, though probably not in the meaning you intended."

Trene gave up struggling and simply resorted to staring.

"Don't act so surprised," Quincy continued. "I told you when I promoted you that I watch everyone and everything. You can't do anything in my empire without my knowledge. From the first time you tried to contact the Knight Sabers I have been watching, waiting for when your fascination with them could be put to good use. Now it has."

"I'll take you down for messing with my plans!" yelled Trene.

"Of course you will," Quincy nodded. "But what am I to do with you in the meantime? Perhaps it's time for another great scientist to disappear in an 'accident.' Guards, take him down to floor 20 for preparation. Our relationship is over."

The guards started pulling Trene away but he started resisting again. He wasn't nearly strong enough, however, so the guards were only slightly slowed by his struggle. As they were leaving the room, Trene made a last effort to pull away from the two men, but only managed to stop them for a moment, and the soon resumed their pull.

"You can't get rid of me easily, Quincy!" Trene yelled, his voice somewhat deeper than it was before and more rushed. "I keep coming back like a bad penny." He was almost through the door when he added. "You'll see me again or my name isn't Brian Mason!" The doors closed behind him.

Quincy, who had turned his back on this whole affair, suddenly straightened and turned back towards the door. His eyes were wide with surprise, but he quickly covered it up and tried to return to his original stature so that no one would suspect anything. Couldn't show emotion in front of his employees.

Brian Mason, he had called himself, though. Why? Was it merely to scare him, to trick him into showing emotion again? A thorough scan of his history and genetic code would have turned up any relation to Mason, and yet, he just used his name.

Perhaps this wasn't over.


Linna had circled the area a few times already and determined that visibility was simply too poor to get a good view of the boomer from the air, the only way she was going to be able to see the thing to kill it, was if she was on the ground. Cutting her jets, she landed in a relatively clean area of the street that was only a short distance away from where her sensors were telling her the boomer was. She could hear gunshots and things exploding in the cloud, but still couldn't see into it.

Swallowing, she stepped forward into the black soot and watched her display, telling her where the frequency was coming from. She kept close to the ground, knees bent, in case she would have to make a quick getaway if she got too close. The sounds were getting louder, but her normal sensors weren't picking up anything, only the frequency was reporting back. She pressed forward.

Suddenly something blew away all the smoke and the arena was clear. Standing, not more than ten meters from her, was the boomer. It wasn't at all what she expected. With the exception of the 33-S, all boomers had had an obvious, visible skeletal structure, with a few pieces of armor in the chest and various places along the body to hide and protect critical points. This boomer ... if it had not been for the color of the skin, she would have thought that it was a naked man. Apparently about six foot tall, silvery hair, and large, but not excessively so, muscles.

Then it turned to look straight at the Green Saber before it, and when Linna looked back into those eyes, all thoughts of it being human were erased. Instead of two eyes of perhaps brown, green, red, or blue color, there were two inset spheres in the sockets, one glowing a gold color, the other casting a silvery light. The 'skin' on the face contorted to show rage and the boomer started barreling towards Linna.

Her knucklebomber was charged with a single thought and she brought it around to hit the stampeding boomer right in the gut. She stepped forward, raised her fist, and leapt forward, swinging her arm around, impacting in the center of its chest. It spew more smoke everywhere, but it was soon blown away by the same winds that were tending the fires letting Linna see exact what damaged she had impacted.

She was hoisted into the air by her neck before she even had a chance to look. The boomer had her in its two hands, lifted off the ground, gritting it's teeth at it's enemy.

"Urrkk!" Linna said as she swung her foot around to kick the boomer in the head.

With little effort, the boomer let got of Linna with one hand and grabbed the foot, changing grips, and began to swing her around. She was about to go airborne when something smacked up against the boomer and exploded. Distracted, or perhaps after a reorganization of threats, the boomer let go of Linna and sent her flying. She'd gotten away with minimal damage, she'd almost considered herself lucky, then she looked up just in time to see the building she was about to impact against.

Priss leapt backwards and landed next to Sylia as the charge she planted on the boomer exploded, freeing Linna from it's grasp. Again, smoke filled the area, but the boomer soon emerged from it, heading right towards Priss and Sylia. Despite the size of the blast, it still appeared only marginally damaged.

"Time for a change in tactics," Sylia said to Priss.

"I agree," she replied. The two jumped away in opposite directions, Sylia going into flight mode to circle around behind the boomer.

Priss looked back towards the boomer after her jump to see that it had compensated it's charge and was still heading towards her. "Shall we dance?" she asked in jest. Charging forward, she waited until the boomer was almost on top of her before leaping up over it and slamming both of her fists into the head of the boomer. Scissor kicking over the boomer, she landed on her feet behind it and ran a good distance away before turning back to look.

It seemed to be rubbing it's head for a moment then it turned back around and displayed for Priss how her double knucklebomber had managed to give the thing a nice haircut but had left little damage on the frame. It opened its mouth and the skin around it's jaw tore, revealing a particle cannon inside.

"Shit!" Priss yelled as she jumped to the side, barely missing being blasted by the cannon.

Sylia hovered above the battle, watching Priss' efforts against the NX boomer. The boomer was not reacting as expected, and the reduced size and stature made it much more agile than previous classes, even more maneuverable than the hardsuits. Add to that the fact that it seems undamaged by conventional weaponry, and you've got a neigh-invincible package.

"Sylia..."

A voice squawked over her communications link that she quickly identified as Nene's. "Can you find a weakness?"

"I haven't been able to even thoroughly scan the thing!" Nene whined over the link. "It's got some sort of positional force shielding, it's blocking my scans and making it nearly impossible for you to punch through."

"Isn't there any way to beat it?" Sylia asked, swooping down a bit lower to position herself for an attack. "Some hole in the defense?"

"There seemed to be a momentary flicker in the shielding when it fired its particle cannon. Maybe it's depleting its battery and needs to divert power when using one of its energy weapons. Also, like I said, it's positional, a fully engulfing attack should do something, assuming it's strong enough to get through the shielding when it's fully spread out over it's body."

"An all at once strategy?" asked Sylia.

"Seems like the way to go."

"Acknowledged."


Darvis Blake fingered his pistol nervously as he climbed up the staircase of a building that was overlooking the fight below. He was taking little more than pod shots when he down below, a higher altitude would give him a nice location to sniper from, maybe find a weakness in that indestructible alloy the boomer was coated in. Could make him a hero, he'd make Detective by next week.

He stopped by a window to glance out at the battle below. The boomer was fighting with the Knight Sabers now, while the rest of the ADP offers were off hiding behind their cars and praying for salvation. Now that Daley was taken out, they wouldn't have anyone to rally behind. It was up to Darvis Blake to save the unit again.

Blake continued up the stairs, trying to get the proper height with which to take his shot. When he was a few floors up, however, he started to encounter a lot of rubble, but the stairs still seemed structurally sound so he continued.

When he got another floor up, he discovered the source of the rubble. There was a hole in the exterior wall, shaped almost like a person, and a matching one going through the wall and into a room. Lying just inside that room, covered in large chunks of concrete and a heavy dust, was the Green Knight Saber. Her hardsuit was battered and damaged, but more or less retained the same structure, an image he had been taught to look out for the day he joined the AD Police.

Blake never expected to see one so close before, only to get a view from the sidelines like most of the AD Police except Detectives Wong and McNichols. He suddenly felt privileged.

An explosion from the battle outside returned him to the situation at hand. Darvis held no delusions about his ability to take out a boomer single handedly, the Knight Sabers have always been the most effective and best at destroying them. With a Saber lying before him, the battle going outside would be at an disadvantage, and the last thing Darvis wanted to see was more property being damaged by the mad boomer, let alone more loss of life. He had to help her.

Unsure exactly how to go about doing that, Blake grabbed a hold of one of the chunks of concrete and pushed it off the green figure. It slid off, leaving a gash in the armor of the Saber, and rolled into the stairwell and out of the building. Immediately, he began moving another chunk.

"This will take some time," he said, struggling with the next piece.


Trene Steger let himself be led through the Genom Tower with little resistance. That was because he was busy trying to figure out who the hell said that last line about Mason to Quincy, and why it sounded like his voice saying it. He remembered getting angry at Quincy for turning the help he was giving to the Knight Sabers into a trap to trace them back to their base, then things kind of got hazy and he felt like he was outside of his body, and he heard his voice say something about his name being Brian Mason.

that's because it is, a voice said in Trene's head.

Did I just think that? Trene thought to himself.

no, i did, replied the voice. Trene was certain he was hearing another voice, hearing somebody else's thoughts.

Great, I'm going crazy, thought Trene. Must be all that time I spent reading Largo's brain, I'm starting to think I AM him.

something like that, yes.

Well, as long as I'm having this conversation with myself, thought Trene, how are we doing?

you are doing fine, i'm a little drained from taking control of your body like that.

Oh, so that was YOU who said I was Brian Mason.

i am brian mason, said the voice, then added, or rather, we are now brian mason.

That's nice, I think I'll pay attention to walking now.

just listen and walk slowly, the guards will pace with you.

Whatever, thought Trene. He slowed down anyway and was only a bit surprised when the guards slowed to match his pace.

Hmm...

see?

Oh, you're still in there?

i'm still in here, now keep walking and listen up. The voice paused for a second. quincy is going to have you killed.

I rather figured as much. That's not rather nice of him. Hey, where were you when I needed help on that sociology final in college?

stop fooling around, i'm serious.

Oookay, it's nice to have company during this death march anyway.

If the voice could sigh, it would have, but it wasn't real and had no reason to even take a breath so it just continued. i can save your life if you pay attention.

Not like I have a choice, since you're speaking into my brain and all.

alright, fine, we'll have it your way. by the way, they guards are about to trade when you get to the elevator. quincy's guards aren't allowed to have guns, but these elevator guards will have a pistol hanging on the their right side.

Will they?

just you watch.

Trene just smiled, deciding that he really was going crazy and he might as well have fun with it. He continued walking with a stupid grin on his face while he came up to the elevator and the two guards he was with walked away just as the elevator doors opened and two different guards guided him into the elevator and pressed the button for floor 20.

there, look.

Trene took a dopey look down and noticed the gun on the right side of each guard. He chuckled. Look at that, he thought, good guess.

it wasn't a guess, i know enough about this company to run it, and better than quincy ever will.

Hah, I have a personality with an ego in me.

the guard on your left's name is suki, he's getting old and has been hiding a fear of firing his gun. his wife was killed by a biker gang with automatic weapons a few years back.

Aww, sorry for him, too bad he didn't have an extra personality to console him.

the guard on your right is a good shot and has a pretty quick draw time, but he's not too strong, you could probably overpower him easily.

Possibly.

there's a red button sticking out of the panel by the door, if you press it in it stops the elevator on whatever floor your currently on.

You must have really liked this elevator when you were alive.

if you were to barrel into the guard on your right, he would have enough time to half draw his gun and your impact would probably knock it out of his hand. you could turn and throw him into the panel that would stop the elevator enough to jar the guard on your left. use that time to pick up the gun and hit the guard you just threw in the head with the butt of the gun. by this time, the other guard would have his gun drawn, but he'd never fire it, so you could take your time.

Take my time to do what?

shoot him, of course.

Ahh, well, that's a very nice and complicated plan, but I think I'll just stand here and wait for floor 20 to come up.

you will die if you let the elevator get that far. of this i have no doubt. you know too much about the nx boomer to let go alive. think about it.

Maybe I will, thought Trene, to which he got no response. Hello? Hmph, I guess he left.

He started to whistle. The sound echoed nicely and made it sound richer, so he continued, swaying a bit to the tune. As he waited he let his eyes wander about the elevator. It was plated with polished brass from the waist up, showing an almost perfect reflection on the four walls, then it had wood paneling below that to a hardwood floor that was also polished to perfection. As he looked around he noticed the guard on his left swaying with the music as well, the lack of omnipresent elevator music in the room definitely taking it's toll with these guards.

As the guard swayed, Trene noticed in the reflection the revolver attached to his side and the four visible empty chambers. The gun wasn't loaded, that must have been where the voice conjured that whole story about fear of guns and stuff.

He looked right as saw the other guard very still, sometimes his hand would twitch as well, as if to reach for his gun but deciding against it at the last second. Like he was jumpy, ready to dive into combat, ready to make a mistake...

now you're seeing it...

Perhaps... his mind voice trailed off. Were they really going to kill him? The voice told him they would, but that was just some crazy compilation of the stuff he read in the Largo file, nothing but a symptom of insanity. Then again, he never read about the guards in the elevators, and if a man can recognize his insanity doesn't it mean he's not really crazy?

think about it, the voice repeated.

The elevator was nearing the twentieth floor now, any moment he would walk into, potentially, his doom. He wasn't ready to die, especially not for Genom. He wanted to live.

then free yourself...

He wanted to be free. He NEEDED to be free. There was only one way he really could be free. Only one possibility had been presented to him. Only one option to take.

now, GO!

"Aaarrrgghh!" Trene yelled as he dropped to one knee and slammed right into the gut of the guard on his left. A shot rang out, but he didn't feel any pain, so he ignored it. He raised his fist and slammed it into the stomach of the guard and he heard the clatter of a gun hitting the floor.

"Hold it right there!" the other guard yelled.

Trene pivoted on his foot and threw the smaller guard into the panel on the wall and the elevator screeched to a halt, causing the car to rattle a bit and shake. The guard he was holding hit his head against the wall and passed out, so Trene turned to look at the gun and dove for it.

His hand was around the grip faster than the other, older, guard could even orient himself. "You hold it!" Trene yelled at the man. The guard froze.

shoot him.

"No," Trene unknowingly said aloud.

shoot. him.

"He's unarmed."

"What?" the guard said, but his voice was only in the background of Trene's conversation with himself.

he'll cause trouble, kill him now.

"I'm not like that!"

you'll have to start if you want to live.

"What do you mean?" Trene said, a bit worried.

genom does not let information leak out. if you get away they'll send everyone after you. there is hardly a place in the world where genom does not reach.

"Then what will I do?"

you have to reach them first.

"Revenge?"

they'll follow you eternally if you don't get them first and cut off the hounds.

"Revenge..."

it's too late to turn back anyway, either you run, or they kill you. I for one wouldn't suggest death, it's a rather... annoying experience.

"Revenge," Trene looked down at the man and pointed the gun at him. Somewhere within his head, someone was laughing gleefully. He decided it wasn't a completely terrible voice...

He brought the gun down across the back of the guard's head causing him to pass out. He wasn't that far gone.

we'll never survive

"We'll see about that," said Trene, looking at the panel and pressing the 'Open' button. The doors in the elevator slid open and another set of doors opened halfway of the doorway above where the floor of the elevator was. He shrugged and climbed through, bringing the gun with him.

Trene looked about. "Now what?" he asked aloud.

get to a computer.

"What for?"

you need to open up a path out of the building, nearly everything is controlled through the computer system. and we have to do one other thing.

Trene nodded. Somehow, he knew exactly what Mason was talking about. "We need to help the Knight Sabers."


"I could sure use some help here!" Leon yelled back at Daley's unit. His backup hadn't yet arrived so he was working with a team that he was unfamiliar with, trying to organize a strategic strike. Having the Knight Sabers god-like reputation hanging around wasn't helping things.

"Why don't we just let the Knight Sabers take care of it?" one of the officers asked. "They always seem to pull through in the end."

"Even the Knight Sabers sometimes need help," hollered Leon. "I can recall a few times they needed my assistance to defeat a boomer or two."

"Yeah, sure, Leon," another officer said.

"Alright, if we have to do this the hard way, I will." He cleared his throat. "All of you are hereby ORDERED to assist me in trying to incapacitate the boomer. As your superior officer you are all obligated to obey me or suffer the consequences of insubordination!"

A few of the officers shaped up and snapped off a quick, "Yes, sir!" while several others simply waved him off. "A suspension is preferable to certain death," they yelled back.

"What happened to the good old days?" Leon wondered aloud, then turned his attention to the group of officers that were listening to him now. "Alright, here's the plan," he pulled out a piece of paper and laid it down on the ground. Drawing a simple map of the area, he quickly came up with a plan that involved some sort of hit and fade operation. When he had thoroughly explained the plan he crumpled up the paper and tossed it aside.

"Everyone understand?" he asked afterwards. He looked around slowly to check, then turned and pointed down the street. "All right! Lets move out!"


Linna awoke to the feeling of someone pulling on her head. She opened her eyes sudden and saw almost totally black with the exception of some red light blinking in the corner of her vision. She blinked again and realized that the red light was a small box on her visor that read POWER CONSERVE MODE. She still felt the pull on her head and there were muffled grunts not too far away.

She deactivated the mode and the screen jumped to life with a whir, joining a ritornelle of other buzzes and noises telling her that the secondary systems were coming online. The first thing she saw was the big blue superimposed image that outlined the damage to her hardsuit, and the second thing she saw was the face of a man with his hands on her helmet, apparently trying to wretch it off.

She turned her head to better see the man and he jumped back nearly twenty feet, tripping over a large piece of concrete and falling on his back. He let out a short yelp and started to right himself. As he pushed himself up, she noticed he was wearing the outfit of an ADP officer and sighed.

"What did you think you were doing?" she asked incredulously.

"I—uh, I couldn't tell if you were breathing," he first stammered then slipped into a smooth voice that reminded her eerily like Leon. "I thought you were suffocating in that helmet." He paused, then added, "I suppose you weren't."

"Excellent deduction," Linna said before she heard a nearby explosion and remembered why she was here to begin with. She checked her systems again and noticed only slight damage to her suit exostructure, and a rather large drop in power levels, which probably kicked her into Power Conserve Mode when knocked unconscious. She could still fight for a while on her remaining power though.

Brushing off some of the pebbles and rocks stuck in the joints of her suit, she noticed the piles of rocks to either side of where she was previously laying. She looked up to the officer, who was now on his feet, trying to look as cool as ever (again, just like Leon), and nodded.

"Thanks for your help," she said. "What was your name?"

"Blake," he said. "Darvis Blake."

"Thank you, Blake." She turned away from him and moved to the hole in the wall and then in the staircase. Briefly surveying the area, she leaped out of the hole and dove towards the battlezone.

Blake watched her go and sighed. "Gabe will be so jealous," he noted to himself with a smile and looked around as if he'd just said it to a studio audience. Finding the room devoid of a camera crew and people, his smile faded. Then his brow furrowed when he noticed he was in a laboratory of sorts. In the corner something was smoking, and several chemicals were lying all over the place, some spilled, some in cracked jars, and several shelves of all sorts of unusual materials.

"I thought this was just an office building," Blake said to himself. "What's all this stuff doing here?" He moved over to the counter where the experiment was smoking.

Resting on the counter was a rack of three beakers, one of which had cracked and was now spilling a red liquid. Nothing was labeled, and there was no documentation in the area, hardly the procedure for a scientist. He looked down at the liquid dripping and noticed that wherever the liquid dripped there was a hole in the table. Further examining where the liquid had fallen he noticed that it had not only burned through the table, but the six shelves beneath it, the tile floor beneath that, the metal I-beam that ran through that section of the floor, and then continued to do the same thing to the floor beneath him.

"What the hell is this stuff?" he thought. Then another explosion, this one closer, rocked the building and caused the broken beaker to spill it's remaining contents across the table. It spread over the table like water, quickly, thinning to less than a millimeter thick, then it began to eat away at the table. And the shelves. And the floor.

Then he got to thinking.


"There you are," Priss said, holding her shoulder while staring down the boomer. She had taken a pretty nasty hit when the boomer had found that streetpost and started playing baseball with anyone who came near it. Eventually it hit a fire-hydrant and started spraying water all over the place, creating yet another difficulty in keeping visual contact with the machine.

The boomer had eventually lumbered around the rainfall and came into Priss view. She couldn't move her arm to aim her rail gun, the actuator that operated that arm had been damaged and cutoff from the power supply of the rest of the suit, so she had to rely on her knucklebomber, which up to now, hadn't been too effective.

At least the thing was damaged now. While Priss was bombarding the thing with rails, Sylia had managed to dart in, and, with her vibroblade, chop off one of it's arms. It was a distract/attack tactic and seemed to be working the best against the construct.

Nene still couldn't find a weakness, but she was beginning to piece together a vague image of the thing. Every time shielding would flicker she could get a half-second scan that she would cross reference with her other scans and confirm or deny the location of systems. There still was no way through the positional energy shielding it was using, and whenever Priss attacked it where the shield was up, it would do practically no damage.

Basically, what it came down to was, in a battle between this one boomer and the four Knight Sabers, the odds were tied. At least, it should be against the four Knight Sabers, Linna had disappeared in the beginning and hadn't come back ye—

"Hey guys!" Linna's voice came over Priss' comm link. Speak of the devil, Priss thought. "Sorry I disappeared for a while, I got up close and personal with a building." She landed behind the boomer, the same distance Priss was in front of it. Simultaneously, Sylia landed off to its side and Nene dropped down to ground level, but still remained a distance off from the fight.

"Back together again," said Nene.

"Any plan yet?" asked Linna.

"If we attack it all at once, we have a better chance of getting through," Sylia informed them.

"What do you mean, 'all at once?'"

"The shielding is positional," Nene explained. "A single vectored attack will always be blocked because when the shielding is concentrated at one point it's neigh invincible. But when it's spread out, it's weak enough to take down." She wined for a second. "At least, I hope it is."

"It's worth a shot," Priss said with a shrug.

The boomer looked as if it were 'breathing' heavily, as it looked around and noticed the four Knight Sabers standing around it. It opened it's mouth and the cannon fell into position.

"It looks like now or never, guys," Priss said. "I'm going in, see ya on the other side."

"Acknowledged," Sylia said over the comm.

"BLUE, ATTACK!"

Priss hesitated for a moment and Sylia looked around. "I didn't say that."

"It's the AD Police!" Nene said with a shriek.

The Sabers looked down the street to see Leon standing on top of a car turned on it's side, looking his usual slick backed hair, visor glasses, extra large gun pointed at the boomer. He fired one shot from his gun that impacted at the head of the boomer causing it to stumble backwards.

Even as his shot was echoing down the street, three more ADP officers popped up from behind rubble, but in front of Leon, and fired their automatic weapons at the boomer. It stumbled about under the onslaught.

As Priss was admiring Leon's handy work Sylia suddenly yelled in her ear. "They're providing a distraction, attack now!" Priss nodded to pretty much no one in specific, then started dashing towards the boomer, charging her one knucklebomber and getting ready to do a spin kick afterwards.

"GREEN, ATTACK!" Leon yelled.

The officers in front of Leon stopped firing and ducked behind their rubble again. The boomer, rather annoyed now, would be planning a counter attack. Leon leveled his gun again, and fired a single shot, hitting the upper torso, again, knocking it back a few steps. But that was merely the cue that told the three officers that were behind the running Priss to start firing.

The boomer was being pummeled with bullets by the time Priss reached him, completely distracted from the fist heading straight for the gut.

"Linna, you ready?" Sylia said.

"Ready as ever," replied Linna.

"Go."

Saber green came running from the opposite side as Priss, thankfully managing to find a path to him that was devoid of fire from Leon's men. As Priss jumped for the swing kick to the head, Linna charged her fist and slammed it into the boomers leg, the momentum carrying it head over heels and landing on it's back on the ground.

The gunfire from Leon's team stopped as the boomer landed, and Linna gave it a kick for good measure.

"Nene, fire," Sylia said.

"PINK, ATTACK!" Leon's orders followed shortly after. He fired his one shot again, knocking the boomer, that was about to get up again, back onto the ground. Then the men behind Nene popped up and started firing at the figure on the ground. Nene raised her arm to aim her cannon, and fired as well.

Despite the onslaught, the boomer still seemed to be getting up. Sylia decided that it unacceptable and jumped into the air to dive down on her attack run.

"HALT FIRE!" Leon called out as he was loading his gun again. Nene stopped firing with the rest of the officers out of habit. When she realized her mistake she also noticed Sylia's attack and decided to stay out of the way.

Up above, Sylia circled around one last time, trying to get the perfect angle to attack from to end this conflict now. Meanwhile, Nene began scanning the boomer nervously. She wanted Sylia's attack to succeed as much as she did. Her sensor back extended from the back of her suit and began scanning the boomer thoroughly.

To her surprised, something started to turn up. "Hey, I'm getting something!" Nene said. "It's working! The shielding is flickering, I'm getting scans in between cycles!"

"Get as much as you can, Nene," Sylia said. "I'm going in for my attack now."


hurry up Mason urged.

"I'm trying to," Trene said in a typing frenzy. "It was hard enough putting in these safeguards on the boomer, it's even harder to break them down. I've got the shields on a long cycle modulation, but I'm having trouble actually shutting them down."

we don't have much time, if we linger we'll loose our opportunity to escape.

"I know, I KNOW!"

All around him, lights were flashing, machines were beeping, it was all very distracting. But the only way Trene could get the access he needed was by hacking directly into the core from a unit directly attached to it. So he had to deal with all the noise.

we're running out of time.

"Alright, I think I've got something," Trene said, fidgeting in his chair. "Dammit! The survival code shut down almost everything when it went into activation. I think I can confuse it for a few seconds to think that that things are normal. It would revert back to the primary brain, detect the malfunction and drop back into survival mode, but there would be a few seconds where the defenses would drop and have to cycle back on. If they're watching closely, they'll be able to take advantage of it. It's the best I can give them."

what about the lock quincy has on them?

"We'll have to contact them somehow, there's no way I can help them from here. That's all higher functions that only Quincy can control. There isn't even an access port to them from here."

quickly then, let's move.

Trene pressed a final key and sent the command to the boomer before closing out of the terminal and standing.

"Hold it!" yelled a voice from behind him. "Put your hands up and turn around slowly."

we don't have time for this.

"I agree," Trene said, his face darkening.

"What do you agree with?" the voice asked.

"THIS!" Trene dropped his hands to the console and spun around quickly to look at the guard. As he turned his and brushed over the gun resting on the console and he gripped it, his finger going immediately to the trigger. He leaned back as his hand came around in front of him to point the gun at the guard, and pulled the trigger.

The impact pushed the man backwards, his arms flailing up and firing the gun once into the ceiling, where, a good distance up, some piece of tubing ruptured and began spewing some cloudy gas into the room. Afterwards, the man lay on the floor, unmoving.

you're getting better at this.

"I'm warming up to it," Trene said, turning around and running towards the exit.


"The shield is down!" Nene said, feeling a little melodramatic. "Go for it, Sylia!"

Sylia squinted as she dove towards the boomer. It was starting to stand up, by the time she reached it, it would be fully erect, giving her the perfect place to score a kill. She extended her vibroblade and braced her arm. She was coming down at some speed now, if she missed she would impact the pavement and do serious damage to her suit to say nothing of her own body. But this attack had to succeed, not just because the opportunity was right, but because she had had enough of this boomer. It reminded her too much of Largo.

She was getting closer now, two, maybe three more seconds and she will have impact. The blade sung in the air as she descended and Sylia felt the wind resistance trying to tear her arm from her body, but she held on. Even as her hardsuit sensors tried to tell her to stop, she pressed on.

Staring down, she was nearly touching the boomer, when time suddenly slowed to a crawl. Everything blurred before Sylia's eyes and she could hear a slow distant beating that could only have been her heart. The boomer beneath her turned to look up at the saber raining from the sky, and Sylia looked back at it, into it's eyes, one gold one silver. The boomer's face was easily readable, the short lived intelligence not even given the chance to develop a poker face.

It sneered at her, as if so confidant it would survive it would laugh at the face of death. As it stared at Sylia, bearing down at her with it's eyes, another part of it blurred, the remaining arm, raising up to pluck Sylia from the sky. It was trying to rob her of the killing blow.

But Sylia had already convinced herself she would win, and her discipline was one of titanium, not easily deterred. She simply adjusted the way her legs were positioned to change the flow of air around her body, applying the Bernoulli principle in a microsecond.

Her direction shifted drastically, away from the boomer's arm, but still within range of her blade. Then time resumed it's normal course.

Sylia slammed down into the boomer's shoulder, cutting down along the side of it's body, down to it's knee before hitting the ground with a sickening thud. She felt the suit crack under the stress and could almost hear her own body cry out in pain, but she pushed off with her legs one last time in a thruster powered leap.

To the observer, it looked almost as if she had bounced.

"Sylia!" Priss cried out. She ran and leapt into the air, catching the currently less than graceful Saber Prime out of the air and landed gently on the ground. After she touched down she looked back at the boomer that was currently roaring in that language of anger that all boomers seemed to have been programmed with.

It was missing both it's arms now, a shoulder, part of the torso, and was partially without a leg, standing now, more out of balance than out of support from both it's legs. It screamed in agony but at the same time looked around nervously.

Priss and Sylia were huddled behind a piece of fallen building, merely peering over the wreckage to see the boomer. Linna had leaped away and was standing closer to Leon and the blockade of cars.

Which left Nene.

Standing alone.

Staring at boomer that was now staring right back at her.

Then it's mouth opened, and the cannon fell into place.

"Nene..." Mackie mouthed from above, still circling the area in the Knightwing. On his screen he saw the action going on below, he'd just seen his sister's neigh-kamikaze attack on the boomer and her subsequent retreat and now he was watching the boomer stare across the former street turned battlefield at a frozen with fright Nene.

The slightly enhanced sensor package on the Knightwing over anything any of the Sabers carried in their hardsuits, was continuously scanning the area for, at the least, records. When it detected the buildup of energy associated with the mouth cannon of a boomer it made a soft beep, but in Mackie's somewhat entranced state, it sounded like a sonic boom.

He leaped in chair as the seriousness of the situation reached him and he spun the Knightwing around suddenly, causing several of the gyros to momentarily slip, and activated the multidirectional gun on the belly of the ship. It descended from a small compartment and pointed straight down.

Slipping the Knightwing into station keeping mode, he took control of the gun and pointed it generally at the boomer and opened fire. If he could distract him for a moment, maybe Nene could get away, or someone would do SOMETHING to help her. ANYTHING would do.


Leon gazed past the car he was hiding behind, through the battlefield, at the boomer that was staring at Saber Pink. From his view he could see almost everything that was going on at that time. He could see Priss and Saber Prime off to the left, Saber Green a distance from them, the boomer standing in the middle, and Saber Pink facing it, a short ways away.

He knew a little bit about the Knight Sabers in his years of fighting alongside them, enough to know that Saber Pink was the least combat capable of the team. Even now, she seemed frozen with fright that the boomer was staring down at her, if she didn't get moving soon she would be at the brunt of whatever assault the boomer was going to throw next. And even Leon's respect for the Sabers wouldn't relieve him of the feeling that it would be bad for Pink.

If only to distract the boomer, send it after another target, Leon stepped out from behind the car and leveled his gun, aiming at the boomer's head again. He would smack it upside the head, wave around to get it's attention, and hope for salvation. He aimed his gun precisely.

Then it began to rain bullets, and the ground around the boomer nearly exploded with debris, obscuring Leon's view of the enemy. He glanced up to see the Knightwing laying down cover fire. Whoever it was firing up there, though, she wasn't very good, none of the shots had hit the boomer yet.

A bit of the debris cleared up and Leon tried to aim again, and he saw the characteristic glow of the boomers head that signified it was charging a mouth cannon. Leon wondered if he could even get off the shot in time. He concentrated on his gun and prepared to fire.

In the background of his shot, he saw someone running towards Nene from behind, but he simply shoved it out of his mind and concentrated on the shot. It looked like an AD Police officer, probably an ambitious dope who thought he could make the papers by trying to save Saber Pink.


As Darvis Blake barged out from the ground floor of the building he was in, he saw an unusual scene before him. A boomer was picking itself off the floor and just as it was standing up, it turned just in time to get a blade from the white colored Knight Saber through it's shoulder and out it's knee. Then the saber bounced off the ground and was caught by another saber, the blue one, and was pulled away for safety.

It was quite an amazing stunt, and Blake thought for a moment that he might not even need this red stuff he was carrying with him. Then he noticed that the boomer wasn't dead yet, and just turned it's sights on the pink colored Knight Saber. Nearly a third of it's body detached and the thing was still going. Can anything stop this thing? he thought.

Blake looked at the flask of red liquid in his hand. "I hope this works," he said to himself, and started running towards the boomer and the pink Knight Saber.

As he dashed, he pulled the cork off the flask (not that it would have done much had the beaker tipped over), and dropped his arm to start a pendulum motion to toss the glass like a softball. He was running as fast as he could, and even as he started making some distance suddenly the boomer was surrounded by flying pieces of concrete and twisted metal. It took Blake a moment to realize that someone was firing from above, but he was too occupied to look up, the ground was so uneasy that a misstep could mean his death.

When he was within his own expected range, he stopped, bent back, and lobbed the flask underhand towards the boomer. But even as he was breathing in after letting go of the flask he knew he had miscalculated. His throw was too strong, the beaker was going to go over the head of the boomer. Blake cursed to himself as the boomer's mouth suddenly glowed, charging it's cannon.

Blake squinted, waiting for the blast to come.

Then he heard a single shot, that was louder than the other shots coming from above, and the flask shattered in mid-air. Blake's eyes widened as he watched the liquid spread out like a giant sheet and cover the boomer from it's head to it's feet. Immediately the liquid began to steam and the boomer went into throws of agony.

Blake was about to smile when he felt a sudden rush of heat fly past him, and he saw the boomer, as it was falling backwards, fire it's cannon, nearly missing Blake, and carving a wicked line up through the building he was just in.

The fire from above ended as the boomer hit the ground and began fizzling away, no longer even moving, just melting. Blake grinned and looked around. He expected to see other ADP officers in relief, or also grinning, but they all just looked at Blake with this alarmed look in their eye.

He glanced around suddenly until he realized that they weren't looking at him, but at the figure at his feet.


"No! Nene!" Mackie screamed as he looked at the camera image from inside the Knightwing. Nene was lying on the ground, parts of her suit giving off a black smoke. She hadn't taken the brunt of the blast, just the edge as the boomer was falling, but she still didn't look good.

"Oh my god, ohmygod, ohmygodohmygodohmygod—"

"Mackie! Come in!" Sylia's came from one of the speakers in the cockpit. "MACKIE!"

Mackie shook his head, and pressed a button on the console that activated the comm link. "Yeah, sis," he said emotionless.

"Come down for pickup," Sylia said. "Now."

"Coming down," Mackie said in the same voice.

"Nene?" Priss said. "Nene, do you read me? Come in, Nene."

"Quickly," Sylia's voice interrupted. "To the Knightwing."

"What about..." Priss trailed off.

"Linna," returned Sylia. "Get Nene and bring her to the Knightwing. Come on, Priss, lets get out of here quick."

"Right," Priss said uneasily, then helped Sylia to her feet and quickly moved her to where the Knightwing was landing.


Leon watched the Knightwing pull up into the sky as he walked over to the puddle where the boomer once was. "I'll have to call her tonight," he muttered to himself. Pulling off his shades, he gazed down at what was left of the boomer.

"Hmph."

"Quick working stuff, huh?" a voice said from beside him. Leon looked up to see a man standing beside him with short brown hair and green eyes. He was one of the members of Daley's unit but Leon remembered this guy personally. Darvis Blake, the ego-tripped officer that not only disobeyed any regulation he didn't like, but had the best success record in the unit, not to mention he was good with a gun as well.

"You could say that," Leon replied. "Where the hell did you get it?"

Darvis nodded in a direction. "From inside that building." Leon looked up at the moderate sized building, now featuring a large twisty gouge through it. "I was trying to get a better position for a shot and stumbled across it."

"What is it?" asked Leon as he pushed his shades back onto his face.

"Beat's me," replied Darvis. "It worked though, didn't it."

"Your aim was off," Leon said, turning to head back to his car. "The flask would have gone right over the boomers head."

"Well, thankfully you were there to hit it for me."

Leon chuckled and slapped Blake on the back. "Good thing I missed the boomer, eh?" He walked back to his car with a smile, leaving a bewildered Blake behind.


Trene gripped the wheel of the truck he was driving away from the Tower tightly. He was a little tense for a while, when he was exiting the building and he was stopped by the guard to check his shipment information, but he got out anyway and was now driving away with little trouble.

stop doing that Mason said.

"Doing what?" asked Trene.

that thing with your hands, you're going to hurt yourself.

"Fine, whatever. Now that we're on the run from Genom, self-inflicted damage is the least of my worries."

we're not that bad off, you know, there are eight c-class boomers in the trailer. that's almost an army.

"I'd never have enough time to modify them all," Trene said, trying to force his hands to relax by straightening them periodically. "They've probably figured out I'm missing by now and are tracing me somehow. Speaking of tracing, I hope Sylia gets that message we sent her, I don't know how often her contact calls her."

i'm sure, considering the message, it'll be delivered promptly. hey, feel the back of your neck.

"Huh? Why?"

it just occurred to me that quincy may have put a tracer on you at some time during your stay at genom

Trene let go of the wheel with one hand and reached behind to feel his neck. "I don't know what I'm looking for he--"

you found something

"It's like... a button, attached to my spine."

pull it off A pause. on second thought, pull over first, this'll probably hurt like a bitch.

Trene got off the highway and pulled onto a side road to stop. "How much is this going to hurt?"

a lot

"It won't kill me though?"

i'm not sure, i've never seen one removed.

"Oh joy," mused Trene.


"Plusses and minuses, sir," a non-descript man reported to Quincy, who was currently in his office at the top of Genom tower, peering out through his array of window at the city below.

"As there are with every operation," Quincy commented, turning his head halfway to the side. "Proceed."

"Yes, Mr. Chairman," the man said, adjusting his tie. "The NX test run is being classified as a success." He waited for some comment from the Chairman, when he received none, he continued. "The NX series body design worked on first power-up, the energy shielding technology that Genom has been working on for some time has been thoroughly tested, the survival AI, that has been the key design for the NX, has proven effective in combat, and the body has proven extremely resilient even under the assault of the Knight Sabers as well as the AD Police."

"Very impressive," said Quincy, unmoving. "Now the minuses."

The man took a deep breath and nodded, despite the fact that Quincy couldn't see him. "Even though we were able to get a satellite lock on the Knight Sabers during the conflict, our link was broken shortly after the battle concluded. Our best guess is they activated some form of cloaking device to hide their escape."

Quincy remained still, only his chest signified the fact that he was still breathing and alive. Then his jaw moved, "Go on."

"Yes, sir. While the NX did carry out it final mission objective, the building in the battle area classified as Sigma-Delta-Alpha-Four collapsed on itself shortly after it received the NX's cannon blast, the damage in the area was not large enough for Genom to easily move into the area. The current developmental owner is expected to rebuild quickly with little desire to sell. Of course, this can be changed, but it will require more work than the original projected amount. Evidence of the 'experiments' being conducted in the building were all destroyed in the collapse, the only thing remaining is the memory of the one AD Police officer that went in there during the fight. We don't expect trouble from him, he hardly knew what he saw."

"Keep an eye on him anyway," Quincy said. "This, Officer Darvis Blake."

"Yes sir," the man said. He tried to make it seem like his report was finished, hopefully he wouldn't have to deliver the really bad—

"And Mr. Steger?"

Damn, the man cursed internally. He lowered his voice to tell Quincy the final part "Ah yes. Mr. Steger never arrived for preparation."

Quincy turned slowly around to face the man in the suit before him. "He never arrived."

"No sir," said the man. "Our cameras show that the elevator he was in stopped on floor twenty-six and he exited alone. He visited two other rooms before leaving in one of the company trucks, his office and the computer core."

"What exactly did he do in the computer core," Quincy asked coolly.

"We're still trying to figure that out, sir," the man said. "I'll report back to you as soon as we do, sir."

Quincy nodded. "Dismissed. Report back when you know exactly what he did."

"Yes, sir!" chirped the man and he quickly exited the room.

Quincy turned back to his windows and looked back over the city. Flashes of his encounter with Largo in this very office kept entering his mind.

"Mason," he muttered looking up to the night sky. "Leave me alone."


Mackie walked through the halls of the hospital briskly, carrying a large bouquet of flowers. He'd gotten the message that Nene had recovered consciousness and ran over as quick as he could, stopping only once to get the flowers.

He scanned the numbers on the doors as he walked down the halls until he noticed a figure in sunglasses and a long black coat that wasn't exactly a trench coat but it was longer than a jacket standing in front of one of the doors in the hall. Curious, but somewhat aware of who it probably was, he moved up to the figure.

"Hi, sis," he said to Sylia. She turned to him and nodded. "She's in there?"

"Yes," she replied. Mackie glanced down at the jacket and noticed that she was wearing a brace on one of her legs. "How are you doing?"

"The brace is only temporary," she said. "The doctors say I simply strained my legs a bit and it'll take time to heal, but they aren't broken."

"That's good to hear," said Mackie. He fidgeted a bit, trying to think of something to say. Finally Sylia glanced at her watch and pushed away from the door and leaning on a cane that Mackie apparently hadn't noticed before.

"I've got a meeting to attend, so I'll be going," she said. "If you see Priss, give her my regards. I haven't had a chance to see her yet."

"I'll tell her," Mackie said with a smile, then let it fade as he watched his sister limp away. He sighed and turned the handle on the door.

"Nash and I'll have to be going now," Linna said, holding onto Nash with one arm and Nene with the other. "I'm glad to see you'll be okay, though."

"Thanks," Nene said. "For the flowers and for coming to see me."

Linna smiled and nodded and Nash waved. "Feel better," Nash said as he moved for the door. He reached for the handle but it turned by itself and opened automatically. Nash was about to make some comment about the technology in hospitals these days, when Mackie stuck his head in the room.

"Hi everyone," he said, slipping into the room, trying to keep the large bouquet of flowers behind his back but failing.

"Hey Mackie," Linna said.

"Hi Mackie!" chimed Nene from her bed.

Mackie pulled the flower out from behind his back to show to Nene. "I brought these for you," he said then looked around at the room. Already filled with flowers. "I guess it's been done already, huh?"

"Oh, don't worry about it," Nene said. "Your flowers are special because they're from you." Nene blushed and suddenly felt awkward. "Uh, just like Linna's flowers are special, and Nash's..."

"Okay, I get it," Mackie said, putting his flowers on a table near the bed.

"Well, like I said, we'll be going now," said Linna.

"Bye!" said Mackie and waved to the two leaving. They closed the door after themselves and Mackie slowly turned to Nene.

"So..." Nene said.

"So..." Mackie agreed. "Uh, how are you doing?"

"It's just a little bruising," Nene said, looking to her shoulder that was covered in a large bandage. "Most of the injury was the impact, nothing was really injured."

"Oh, well... um, I'm glad," Mackie said.

Mackie looked at Nene with a slight smile and Nene looked back with a similar look. They simply stared at each other for several minutes before Mackie looked away suddenly to one of the bouquets of flowers. "We never got to finish our dinner," he said.

"Yeah," Nene nodded. "Although I'm hardly in the condition to go out to dinner right now."

"Yeah, I know. But, uh, maybe when you're better we could, um, try it again?"

"Yeah," said Nene. "We should."

"Great, so it's a, uh, date."

"Yeah."

Again, silence.

"So when do you have to go back to Germany?" asked Nene.

"August."

"Oh, so you have some time still."

"A few months. Then it's back to Germany I go for my freshman year."

"Come to think of it, that isn't all that much time."

"I guess not," Mackie mused. "I can't miss the first week of classes or I'll be behind all year. Unless, uh, you could think of a reason I might want to stick around and push it off a semester or two."

"Well, I – I don't know," said Nene. "That is, I'm sure there's a reason, I just don't know if it's important enough for you to push off college for it."

"If you tell me what it is I can tell you if it's worth it," Mackie said quickly. Maybe too quickly, Mackie decided.

"Oh, well, it's just..." Nene started.

"Yes?" asked Mackie.

"Oh ... nothing."

"Oh."

A few more minutes of silence.

Mackie started, "Well, I guess I should get—"

"Don't leave," Nene said so softly that Mackie wasn't even sure she said anything at all.

"What?"

"Um, I mean, can't you stay a bit longer," she looked at him with an almost sad look on her eyes. "For me."

Mackie looked at her and melted. He would do it for her, stay here in MegaTokyo, if only she would tell him to.

"I'll stay forever if you want," Mackie whispered. Nene weakly smiled back at him. He reached back and pulled up a chair to sit right next to Nene's bed.

"I don't know if I'm ready for forever," Nene said. "Just stay tonight, and we'll see."

"Okay," Mackie said. "We'll see."


Fargo glanced around the bar nervously. It wouldn't do to look too suspicious, someone around here might think he was an undercover cop or something. Turning his back to the room again, Fargo picked up his glass and took a small sip. He'd been playing with the beer for a little under an hour now and only had drunken a third of the glass. He never wanted to enter into a meeting with a client while drunk, afterwards he could enjoy himself but for now, he had to remain sober.

And calm. Sylia had never completely deserted him before, and even though she was over half an hour late, he still waited for her. He had too much riding on their relationship to leave because she was a little tardy.

"Nice suit, Fargo," a voice said from behind. He spun in his seat to see Sylia standing behind him, wearing a long black coat and slightly leaning on a cane. He was sure he checked behind him, how did she get there without him noticing.

"Good evening, Sylia," Fargo said motioning to the chair next to him. "Thank you, I picked it out for you."

"I won't be staying long," Sylia said, reaching into her coat with her free hand. She produced a thin datadisc and threw it onto the bar in front of Fargo. "That's everything that could be gathered about the NX."

"The money has already been placed in your account, waiting for withdrawal."

"Very good," Sylia mused with a nod of her head. "What happened to your informant?"

"That's a good question," Fargo sighed. "After delivering to me that message I passed onto you, he hasn't contacted me. Since he no longer works for Genom, I doubt he has a reason to anymore though."

"Oh, I have a feeling," Sylia said, rubbing the back of her neck. "That he'll contact us again."

Fargo frowned. "Why is that?"

"Because a human being is nothing if not predictable," she said. "He's on the run from the largest corporation on earth. He knows their secrets, and Genom knows that he knows. If he isn't already dead, he'll be contacting us again someday."

She turned and headed for the exit of the bar. When she reached the door, she glanced back and said, "After all, we're the only ones who can protect him."

She pushed through the door and out into the street. As she did, she heard the distant rumbling of thunder in the sky. She looked up to see a large grey cloud moving above. She flipped her collar up and started walking back to her car.

// Sylia... //

She nearly jumped. The voice echoed in her head strangely, unnaturally. She looked around for the source but saw only a deserted street and sidewalk.

// Sylia Stingray... //

She looked around again. She knew that voice, it was the same one that had contacted her this way twice before. She felt the need to look up into the sky again.

Peering into the darkness above, she saw a shadowy figure standing at the edge of the building across the street. She strained to get her night vision to focus on it but all the neon lights and bright signs were preventing her.

Suddenly there was a flash of lightning and the figure was silhouetted against the sky. It looked like a man, standing with his one arm slightly extended, hand clenched like a fist. The light quickly faded, followed by the crack of thunder. She couldn't see anything on the roof anymore, the lightning having messed up her night vision again.

Sylia limped across the street and into the building where she saw the figure. She climbed the stairs to the roof but when she got there, she saw nobody. She felt a drip on her hand and when she looked up it started to rain. Glancing around more time, she put her hands in her pockets and descended the stairs again.

// Two of a kind... //

She heard the voice say as she climbed back down the stairs. When she reached the bottom, she scanned the rooftops again but saw nothing.

"Mason..." she said.


"I'm sorry, Leon," Priss explained over the phone in her trailer. She glanced outside to see the pouring rain drench her bike and the grounds around her trailer. "I can't tell you these things, just believe me. She's okay."

"Then how are you?" Leon asked.

Priss sighed and sat down on her bed. "My arm's broken, again, but it'll heal like it did last time, and I'll be fine."

"That's good to hear, but how are you feeling?"

"I'm fine, Leon," Priss said exasperatingly. "We all got battered, but no one is permanently damaged, everything is going to be okay in the end." She struggled for a way to move the conversation away from her or the Knight Sabers, she feared she would slip if he kept prying the way he was. "So how's Daley."

"He's in the hospital right now," Leon said with a sigh. "He got torn up all over and lost a lot of blood. He should regain consciousness tomorrow, though, I'm going to go see him."

"What do the doctors think?"

"They say he didn't lose enough blood to have to worry about brain damage, but they can't be certain. He won't be in for work for a while, though."

"How are things at the AD Police?" Priss pressed on, this line of conversation was good, she didn't have to worry about telling him a secret by accident.

"We lost a lot of men in that battle," he said. "The chief is trying to patch things up. Daley's unit got battered, down to a few men now, so he put them in with my unit. If Daley ever gets back to work, he'll be my partner again. And that one guy, Darvis Blake, he's getting a commendation, maybe even a promotion for his efforts against the boomer. He may become my partner while Daley is out. I can't imagine that being fun."

"But, he's just like you, I'd think you'd bond."

"Yeah, right, I'm not anything like that hot head."

"You're biased."

"Am not!"


"Good evening, Sylia," Doctor Raven said as Sylia walked into his garage from the pouring rain outside. "How are you feeling?"

"Doctor," she nodded to Raven as she walked over to him. "I'm fine."

"No, you're not," he said suddenly. Sylia looked at him strangely.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Sylia," he sighed. "I've known you since you were a little girl. You've been playing in this garage much longer than you've been a mercenary commander, and in that time I've come to know you. I know when you're lying and when you're telling the truth, and I know the look in your eyes when you're in pain. You can't tell me you're feeling all right, I can see that you aren't. And I can just guess it has something to do with that." He motioned behind himself at the black hardsuit hanging on the wall behind him.

"You finished it?" Sylia asked stepping towards the suit as if it had summoned her.

"No," Raven said shortly. "This is just a computer generated concept model. I wanted to know what it would look like when it was done." He paused. "Tell me Sylia, what's wrong?"

She looked up and down the model several times, then turned to Raven. "If it comes out to look just like this, it'll be excellent." She turned towards the garage doors. "I'm a grown girl now, Doctor, I can take care of myself." She started walking away.

"Just ease an old man's heart who was once very important to you," Raven called after her. "When was the last time you've slept?"

Sylia paused at the door for a second, looked back to Raven, and said, "Five days ago." Raven's eyes widened slightly. "I can take care of myself." She walked out the doors and back into the rain.


Quincy stood before a large monitor in a completely dark room. A small panel was lit before him that controlled the monitor. With a clench of his jaw, he reached out and rested his finger on the area marked PLAY on the panel. The screen jumped to life.

It was the surveillance camera for the computer core, recorded from when Trene had decided to visit. At first it showed the room being empty, then, the far door started to fizzle and then fell into the room with a clatter. When the smoke cleared, Trene strode into the room and looked around.

"That's the core," Trene said, seemingly talking to nobody. Then there was a few seconds of silence and Trene nodded his head. "Right, first a way out then we deactivate the NX." He moved over to a computer console and sat down at it to type.

At first he didn't type anything, just nodded his head dumbly. "Yeah, I know. I wasn't his Special Assistant but I know how the core works, Mason."

Quincy closed his eyes for a few moments. "How many times must I have you killed, Brian," he whispered. When he opened his eyes again, Trene typing furiously at the panel.

"I'm glad you've been dead before," Trene said suddenly. "But I can't make this go any faster, just be quiet." A pause. "Fine, fine, lets just get out of here first, then we'll plan your revenge."

The image froze. Quincy had pushed his thumb into the stop button, he didn't need to see any more of this. He learned all he wanted. Whether Steger was crazy or somehow Mason was communicating from the dead was irrelevant. The man believed it, and as long as he believed he was talking to Mason, he would be a threat.

A most serious threat indeed.

"Mr. Chairman?" a voice intruded the monitor room. Quincy pressed a separate button on the small panel and a larger one lit up.

"Yes?" he asked into the darkness.

"The new AI department has those estimates for you."

"Proceed."

"Uh, yes, sir." The sounds of papers shuffling were heard for a moment then the voice returned. "Based on the currently developed subroutines and physical pathways, the department estimates that they'll have a functioning model in three months and will be ready for integration a few weeks after that."

"Very good, tell them to begin their work."

"Yes, sir."

The monitor room fell silent once again.

Only time would tell if the events of today would ultimately be a success or a downfall.

Either way, Quincy planned to be on top.

THE END

(at least, for now...)


Original Author's Notes:

When I began this endeavor, I had hoped to make a stand-alone Bubblegum Crisis story that would be more than just a few pages of thoughts from one of the characters. I wanted to tell a real story, with a setup, a climax, and then a falling action, just like I learned in school. Somehow, I ended up with this incomplete piece of fiction.

Obviously, there must be a sequel.

Of course, that will take time as well, I may be well into my Freshman year in Collage before it's even near completion, but who knows, I may get inspired again.

I feel I must discuss at least one character in the story, because I don't believe I've accurately described his condition. The character is Trene Steger, and boy is he a mess of crossed plotlines. Originally Steger was going to be the Knight Sabers informant in Genom, he would tell them what was going on with the NX and they would respond, eventually to the point of trust, so when Quincy finally found out, he could go to them for help.

Well, that went out the window rather quick, as you can see. The problem was, that when I was writing the scenes with Trene looking up at the husk of Largo, I started getting these twisted visions of him working late night, studying the history of Mason/Largo to find a way to break the security, the finally cracking it and falling even further into dementia. It was twisted, it was very b-movie-ish, it was just the sort of element I was eager to explore. Thus, welcome the return of Mason, a sort of alternate personality that Trene's mind created to deal with all the information he learned about Mason when he was researching, and everything he discovered in the file in Largo's brain. Trene doesn't know it, but his mind remembered everything from that file and that was the source of the Mason alter-ego.

Anyway, I just thought you might want an explanation as to what exactly happened with that character. In the future, expect to see him (to a lesser degree), and the other original characters I created, such as Blake and Gabby, and Nash, as well as much more screen time with the original Sabers. (I noticed they were somewhat lacking in this story, sorry! )

Adam Leigh

June 23, 1999

Repost Author's Notes:

Evidently, there wasn't a sequel. I actually tried many, many times in the three subsequent years after this fic was first published. It would have been called 'Dangerous Dreams' and dealt with a variety of the plot threads started or hinted at here, including my darling original characters Nash Clancy, Trene Steger, and, of course, the tongue-in-cheek action hero 'Darvis Blake.' It's a cardinal rule, I think, that if you name a character 'Blake' he has to be a dashing action hero in the vein of Indiana Jones. Anyway...

BubbleGum Crisis was a favorite of mine for many reasons, not the least of which that it was the first cyberpunk anime I watched. While many of the elder fanfiction gods remembered Macross fondly as the musically-inspired action sci-fi show of the days of yore, I turned to BubbleGum Crisis. Priss is totally my Lynn Minmay. Although less cheesy. And apparently attracted to S-33 female sexroids, which is a double win in my book.

Every few weeks I play with the idea of having Priss show up in one of my Kim Possible fanfics, but so far only Quincy and Brian Mason have had the honor. Time will tell, however. Maybe someday in the future they'll be another author's notes beneath this one.

Adam Leigh

February 21, 2007

---( COPYRIGHT )--

Bubblegum Crisis was created by Kenichi Sonoda and Suzuki Toshimichi and was brought to North America by AnimEigo and Dark Horse Comics. This work, while using characters and settings established in the above copyrighted work, is, itself, Copyright ©1999 Adam Christopher Leigh. All Rights Reserved.