Yours Truly, 2032

Yet another BubbleGum Crisis SI.

A few quick edits and typo-nukings… yes, the original version was *worse* than this even. Fixed formatting, cleaned up a few things and general wiped the dirt off. Next few episodes will get the same treatment soon… it's badly needed.

Anyway, time to Rock and Roll...

Bubblegum Crisis...(c) Artmic/Youmix.

I'm just borrowing this for a while, for some Fair Deal fun.

Mmmkay?

1: Caught Somewhere in Time

-I...I

I gave up on being somebody special a long time ago. I think it was when I was 15, watching Treasure Planet, that I first realised that I'd never be a starship captain, a sky-sailor, the pilot of some mecha, or a criminal. I watched some animated kid, otherwise the same age as me, living more in an hour and a half of film, than i was sure I would in my entire life.

And I accepted that.

I'd turn into just another sheep in the herd. I'd finish school, go to college. I'd get a job, get a wife. I'd have kids and in 20-odd years time I'd look into a mirror and see my father staring back at me, and wonder where the fuck those twenty years had gone. And the hell of it was, I sort of accepted it.

Because mediocrity was safe. Mediocrity wouldn't get me shot by a Garda, or some gangster with a bullet for a brain. Mediocrity wouldn't have me in prison, or on the front page spread of a newspaper. I was happy with that, because being anything other than mediocre began to seem like too much hard work to be worth it. I staffed conventions, but never sat on a committee... I'd seen some of the politicking going on behind and decided I just didn't want to get involved in that.

If you met me, I never looked like anyone special. Tall-ish... unfit-ish... a little bit more booksmart than average, but not socially smart. I could run if I had to, but I tried not to. I never really bothered getting into fights, except when drinking. I had a beard which I always liked. It differentiated me from my father. Not that I hated him mind... I just didn't like being told I was like him. He was Fifty, I was twenty-odd at the time and there was something oddly horrifying about old-age. I was an engineering student... but nothing special. I liked technology. I liked ripping things apart and figuring out how they worked. I could code, but nothing in anyway complex, just a few basic functions.

Sure, as the next few years since that film rolled over I faced hardships, but nothing outright serious. I repeated a year in college because I failed some exams, was slowly managing to grind through my final year and was steadily finding myself feeling like I was perched on a giant expanding bubblegum bubble of work. But compared to the problems other people had mine weren't anything but...mediocre. I didn't have many 'high points' but I was never sure if that wasn't because most of my life was what some people would consider a high point. It just felt... dull. It wasn't anything I could complain about, because I knew there were people worse off than me though it still never seemed right.

But I was *content* with that even if I wasn't sure how happy I truly was. The other options on the nightly news seemed worse than just carrying on the same as everyone else did. It still left a bit of a hole that needed to be filled.

Animé, and a K100 BMW motorcycle seemed to do just fine

The thing with animé…and to a lesser extent fanfiction…was that it allowed me to experience the thrills and spills of an 'interesting' life, without the actual risk. It was a vicarious fulfilment, but a fulfilment nonetheless. We could all picture ourselves as Shinji in Unit 01, or Kyon frustrated with Haruhi...

Oh, and the K100? It's not a car. BMW don't only produce 4-wheeled vehicles. Instead of picking up a license to drive, I had a provisional license to ride. And a 1000cc 4-cylinder bike with a blue touring fairing. It was older than I was, probably putting out about 70-80 bhp, and had been nicknamed 'Exxon Valdez' thanks to a tanker-like approach to accelerating, taking corners, and a tendency to leak oil when left standing. It was a little more than I was allowed by the law, to tell the truth, but the old thing was so heavy anyway no Garda gave a damn. And it was fun to ride.

But how exactly was this relevant?

Well, I'm pretty sure it was my 'unique' combination of skills and interests that first attracted whatever infernal attention kicked this whole shebang off. It was the BMW itself, and the contents of its panniers one November night that finally sealed the deal with 'them'.

And so setting off from university for the last time that week... I stuffed my laptop in one pannier, and some BGC DvD's. The Animé and Manga Society at my college had been holding a Classic Animé night, and I'd snarflled the lot. It had been months since I'd actually watched the series, in ten-minute snippets on a video-sharing website, so watching it without compression errors and washing sound was a tantalising prospect. Why else would I be humming 'Tonight a Hurricane' as I packed the other pannier with some textbooks, and a few notebooks ? That and a lego robot that made up the guts of my final year project.

With a flick of a switch, the engine shuddered to life, settling quickly into a fast idle on the choke. Just leave that to warm itself while I get my heated jacket plugged in. Nothing beat a cold November night like an amp or two of electric current through heated kevlar and cheap body armour. Headphone in, Mp3 docked, charging off the battery and set to shuffle. Winter gloves snug as a bug, black gortex furnaces to keep the cold off sensitive fingers. Helmet on and secure, visor down. Throw a leg over the saddle and settle in, hands on the bars and clutch in. Crunch into first gear, sidestand up with a metallic crack. Choke off, little bit of power, clutch out until she bites, roll slowly away, bit of go and let the machine take over. With God's blessing, I'd be home in a half hour.

It wasn't even that cold.

Out onto the main road... a bit of a wobble... I'd only been riding for about two months, and join the flow of traffic. The bike was old, and a bit underpowered but, truth be told, any more power and I'dve killed myself with it. A motorcyclist has two bags, I'd been told when I got the thing... one full of luck, and another full of experience. The trick was to fill the second, before the first one emptied. What I didn't know, was that 'something' had taken upon itself to cut a hole in the one marked 'luck'. Bustling along at 40-odd mph, the last few grains of fortune were metaphorically fluttering to the wind behind me.

Right turn onto a narrow sidestreet, pick up some speed, parked car... open door? Watch the pedestrians incase they bolt. Fuck this is tiring. Clear junction ahead? Drop some speed, cover the brakes. Look left, look right, seems clear and carry on. Get the speed back, steel manhole no grip. Another T-junction ahead. Junction with minor road ahead, no traffic, I have right of way. I wonder if I can get home in time for Galactica? 22:30 according to the bike's clock, I might make it.

A truck rumbled towards me on the right, headlights full ablaze. Too bright! Blinded in a whiteout, the heat of the light soaking through my entire body, I screwed my eyes shut seeing Scania shaped spots. Son of a Polish bitch! He didn't even bother setting his headlights up right. Vision clearing, I threw a glance over my shoulder, maybe to get an idea of what company the git worked for.

"Extra Dimensions Moving"

"Helping you get to where you belong."

What an odd name for a company, I commented mentally. Especially on a Polish truck. Dismissing it with a shrug, I dropped my gaze back to the road ahead. For a moment, the roadside buildings seemed to rise up to the sky. Damn truck. I shook it off. Something stranger flashed up ahead of me. Where moments before, the junction ahead had been clear, the sleek shape of a black sports car sat waiting.

Looked like a chopped Aston Martin Lagonda. Now where did that come from?

Still half dazzled, I passed by not giving it a second thought. Whatever it was doing was its own business. The ghost of that truck's lights still flared in my eyes as I tried to pick my way through the night. Was it just me, or did the streetlights change colour? I paused to think... probably not the best idea at about 40, and slowly began to notice that the world around me was very... very wrong.

Where once, there had been nothing but red brick houses, now, there were looming grey apartments. Where once, there had been a row of parked cars, now a strange looking payphone, and a pile of trash being picked at by crows. The footpaths were empty, as you'd expect for a late evening.

A dread feeling of unease boiled in my stomach. Something was *very* wrong. I pulled up sharply at the side of the road, letting the bike sit idling for a moment. Grimy, grey buildings loomed high above me, shopefronts shuttered against a cold November night. 22:35, the digital clock read on the binnacle in front of me.

I glanced to my right, then to my left. The signage on the buildings, it wasn't in English. The shop beside me, what was maybe some sort of fasion store. Painted on the sign over the steel shuttered shopfront, were Kanji. Blue ideograms printed on top of pink panelling, dotted with dancing animé characters, and the words "Makinami Illustrious dance shop". Opposite, another shop, closed down and broken into, the sign was rain worn and sun-bleached. "B om r B tz" it read. Inside, the faint glow of a fire sputtered through the cracks in the shutter.

I swallowed a lump building in my throat. This was wrong... this was all wrong. My riding gear, my kevlar jacket, boots and armoured trousers hung heavy and loose off my body, my helmet slipping on my head. I flexed my hands in my gloves, also loose. The bike seemed suddenly heavier, or maybe my legs somehow shorter...

I looked around again… noticing things I hadn't seen before… little details that I'd missed at first glance. My eyesight seemed sharper somehow… the colours around me more vibrant and alive, like somebody's tweaked the saturation setting of the world. It wasn't just my eyesight, my sense of smell, my hearing…. I could hear the bike's injectors firing, clear as a bell. Touch…I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck… each single one.

Deep breath, it's probably just something in my head, some real life form of RPG-time or something. Nothing stood out as feeling outright wrong….. All systems within normal parameters.

Just my head.

Yeah, just in my head that I'm nowhere near where I was ten minutes ago. Not within a hundred miles. And the elastic suspenders off my trousers were digging into my chest. Goddamn that was getting annoying. Great for stopping them being pulled off in an accident, horrendously irritating when you're already spooked as hell.

I better backtrack and catch up with that truck, I thought. Maybe that'd get me home. Setting off again, I hauled the hefty BM around one-eighty, setting off at a speed that was probably a bit higher than sane. Streetlights strobed past, fast and faster, the green-lit needle on the speedometer quickly showing over 60.

No truck... just a few startled pedestrians. Where's that truck? Where did I come in here? Did I go past it? Turn around again. Full throttle, hard acceleration, the blue machine shuddering as it crunched out of, then back into gear beneath the stress. I shot passed the same shopfronts as before, doing near 70 this time. Brake. Stop. Turn. Go back for one last try.

Third time roaring down the same road. Full throttle, engine buzzing and grumbling up through my crotch, panic flaring through my body.

"Where the fuck am I?"

My voice, though muffled by the chin-guard, seemed strangely off pitch, but I didn't care. It seemed like little more than the little red cherry, on top of a rapidly growing sundae of trouble.

"Where the fuck am I?" I mumbled. "Where the fuck am I? Where the fuck am I?"

A few people on the footpaths hooted and waved, cheering at the speeding biker buzzing past. I didn't care what the hell they were thinking, I had more important things to worry about. I glanced down at the speedometer... Too fast! The sensible part of my mind screamed.

I jammed on hard, pulling the big German machine up to an ungraceful, underwear filling halt. I took another frantic look around, my loose fitting helmet sliding against my hair. Ten minutes ago, it had been as snug as a bug in a rug, now it was about to fall off.

"Where the fuck am I?" I repeated, for the final time.

Somewhere, where the signs were written in Japanese with English names beneath them. Somewhere that was strangely quiet for near 11 o'clock at night. Somewhere dirty, somewhere grimy and on the verge of being run down. I pulled one last u-turn and rode off, slowly this time, looking for any sign, any information at all.

Passing the same junction as before, I glanced around looking for that Lagonda-like car I'd seen earlier. Or any car for that matter. The registration would give a hint if I got lucky.

Or not. Wherever I was, people didn't seem to want to park in the street. Or drive for the matter. I took a left turn on a random whim...it seemed the right thing to do somehow, into some sort of shopping district. The hulk of a distant mountain was silhouetted against the night sky in front of me, a glitter of lights tracing a spiral path up its flanks. Compared to where I'd just been, this place was quickly turning into a real neon jungle. It looked a little like Tokyo, come to think of it. But... not Japanese.

Chang's Tiger Chinese restaurant... again, bilingual. And people. Finally, people. Chatting to each other, walking, shopping. All dressed like refugees from Back to the Future. Leg warmers, pastel colours and big hair. I rode on, watching the pedestrians as I did. Civilisation, of some sort, had done wonders for my fears.

If I could figure out where I was... then I'd only have to worry about getting home again. Without a passport. Isn't that what embassies are for? Heh, problem almost solved. I might be home within the week. with a story for the interwebs. And if I could keep telling myself that until the fuel ran out, I'd at least have another hour or two cruising around before I have to start worrying again. Fuel? Money? Not a problem right now.

I took a left turn, passing a heavyweight, retrofuture-styled tow truck hitching itself up to an unlucky green car. What a strange looking thing. The whole cabin of the thing was a glass cage, the wheels blocky, the hucabs flat and metallic and flush with the tyres. The body was a perfectly defined box, with almost no consideration to aerodynamics, save for the near flat sloped windscreen. On the passenger's seat, I glimpsed a set of shopping bags, and some dancing leotards.

Odd...

I craned my head over the shoulder, trying to get a look at the vehicle registration.

Again, Japanese characters.

Well, that settles that then. Somehow, I'm halfway across the world. Deep breath... okay... I am so fucking screwed.

Instantly, I was snapped out of it. A woman, darting across the road, chasing after the van, screaming curses at the tow-truck. Another odd denim jeans and pastel-green top refugee from the 1980's, her jet black hair held up by a headband and brushed to one side. Something about her seemed familiar but I couldn't place her right away.

Her brunette friend waved from the opposite path, he arms loaded with two women's worth of shopping.

I shrugged. I had more important things to worry about. Was this Tokyo? I'd never been to Japan myself, but I knew people who had. A left turn at the next junction... because the traffic lights directed me that way more than any idea of where I wanted to end up...and I came head-on with the blazing headlights of the black Lagonda.

Another Japanese registration.

The driver, a severe red-dressed femme-fatale, with one hell of a fair-haired perm, stared through me as I passed, eyes hidden behind a pair of sunglasses. The sort who's tongue would be sharper than her fingernails, I thought to myself.

I forgot all about her.

Those 'more important' things again.

I carried on, hoping to find a main road of some sort, or a petrol station, somewhere I could get directions, or find out where exactly I am. Find the nearest embassy. Wander in with a surprised look on my face. Get a free flight home. Seemed like a plan. I found an on-ramp to some sort of elevated motorway and a deep-green bilingual roadsign:

"Yokohama Local 12 Northbound:

City Centre District 3.

City Centre GENOM CHQ.

City Centre Timex City

Joins West Link Coast Road."

City Centre seemed to be it. That's where embassies would be. I still had about forty kilometres of fuel in the tank between my legs... at a guess... I can get there. Find the right flag, and all will be well. I joined the road, figuring that since I didn't know what the speed limit was, I'd just try match whatever the traffic was doing.

The thing was... What traffic?

For a four lane road, it was eerily deserted. Not a saint nor sinner on the road. The speedo read forty, slow for the road, but I didn't want to push it in case I binned it stupidly, or missed something else important. The dark mountain loomed ahead...almost growing from the middle of the city... How strange.

And then I saw it, a billboard hanging off the side of some anonymous apartment building. Terror gripped my chest, as I jammed the brakes hard on. The bike juddered roughly to a halt, ABS doing well to make up for my terrified hand. Still staring up at this board, my breathing hot and heavy inside my helmet, I kicked the sidestand down, resting the BM' down on it. Leaving it idling, I stepped off, walking towards the sign...

"No way," I muttered to myself. "No fucking way... THIS CAN'T BE REAL!"

My scream was muffled by the chin-bar.

"Megatokyo Economic and Tourism Council welcomes all New Visitors.

Worlds' highest standard of living, 2031.

Sponsored by GENOM corp(R). Building a better tomorrow, today."

The mountain... the mountain... That was no mountain. This was... this was... this was Megatokyo. Bubblegum Crisis Megatokyo. Was there any other, besides the webcomic? Any other that would be sponsored by GENOM Corporation? I staggered across the road, still staring at the sign in bewilderment, three smiling children, a boy and two little blonde girls, being hugged by a metallic robot. A boomer.

This isn't possible.

Propping myself up against the concrete roadside barrier... Jesus I'm going to get sick, or faint... or something. I took my helmet off, dropping it to the tarmac with a hollow plastic crack. The city air chilled my neck, a soft breeze rustling through my hair.

Somehow... God knows how... I was in Megatokyo, in the year 2031.

Either that or somebody was taking the right royal piss out of things and had gone to a lot of effort to make me think I was in MegaTokyo.

A single white envelope had been taped to the guardrail beside me. It had my name printed on the front, and nothing but my name.

"What the hell?"

Naturally, I opened it. I was probably dreaming anyway... I hoped... it wouldn't do any harm now to play along, would it? On crisp white paper was printed the following.

Dear Sir/Madam

Let me be the first to welcome you to Megatokyo and the year 2032. You may rest assured that the world around you is very much a real one. Real life, and real death. This is the real MegaTokyo that you may know from the animated series, BubbleGum Crisis. GENOM is a real corporation. The Knight Sabers are real vigilantés. Irene Can is a real young woman in real danger.

This letter will be somewhat brief, as time should indeed be of the essence. Any moment now, a young woman will stumble up the stairs beside you before collapsing on the roadway. You will then have a very simple choice to make. Please Feel free to do what is right by you, but choose quickly.

Long Days, Pleasant nights.

Toren Smith.

CVP Tet Corporation.

Irene Can.

Born to Kill.

I threw a glance to a grey concrete stairway beside me, leading down to another street below. Around me, the anonymous towers rose above me, looming large and sinister as they seemed to close in around.

Irene Can.

Born to Kill.

"Irene!" I heard a woman call out, her voice rising through the buildings

"Bloody Hell," I muttered.

Irene Can.

Born to Kill.

"Irene!"

I glanced around, no traffic on the road. The Blue BM was still idling away to itself, a few blue tufts of oilsmoke puffing from the exhaust. Looking down over the concrete railings, a flash of movement grabbed my eye. I saw her come running around the corner of some darkened shop, the only person on the footpath below. A brunette, wearing a white blouse, shopping bags clutched to her chest as she ran.

Irene Can.

The same black Lagonda from before pulled up at the corner, its driver considering either a quick squash under the wheels, or something more visceral. With a squeal of tortured tyres, it bolted off, following the same road up I had. Any moment now, it would be pulling up along the on-ramp.

I heard Irene scream for help. I might not've spoken Japanese, but I knew what she was saying. In that desperate tone of voice, you're not going to be announcing that everything is alright, are you? My gaze darted between the young woman, and the on-ramp. She yelped in pain as she stumbled on the steps, her baggage tumbling down to the footpath behind. I watched, stunned as Irene pulled herself up onto the roadway, her elbows red and raw.

I was aware of a car squealing up the on-ramp seconds away at most, and the wail of a distant motorcycle engine drawing near.

Irene Can was about to die. There she was, exhausted and panting on the road.

"Irene!" I heard again and she looked up, seeing me standing there dumbfounded.

"Tassu...Katay" she wheezed, her eyes pleading. I didn't know the word exactly, but I knew what it meant

My mouth moved wordlessly. I still held the letter shaking loosely in one hand. The boomer lady in her car was drawing nearer by the second. RUN! my mind screamed. Get away before she skewers you too!. But what about Irene? I can't fight some battle robot. Real danger, right? I don't want to die.

"Tassu...Katay" Irene wheezed again, trying to pick herself up off the ground.

"Bloody Hell," I muttered.

Christ she was in bits, there no way she could run away. If I got out of here, she'd be dead for sure. And then that boomer... that boomer might track me down as a witness. Oh Fuck I'm going to die... The fan cut in on the idling bike beside me, snapping me out of it. The kernel of a really stupid idea formed in my mind

Fuck me... damned if I do, damned if I don't. Jamming the letter in my pocket, I picket the helmet up.

"Irene!" I yelled, and she looked up at me, maybe wondering how I knew here name. "Put it on,"

I tossed the helmet to her and she caught it in shaking hands, giving me a strange, surprised look as if she couldn't quite believe I was there, or that I was helping her. You and me both, I thought.

I settled down onto my bike, hauling it upright off it's stand. Water temperature was over 110, but it was liveable. Irene slipped the helmet over her head, struggling to tie the strap under her chin with shaking hands.

"Get on," I ordered... my voice shaking. I'd lose my license if caught with a pillion passenger... or on a 1000cc motorcycle with more than 25kW.

A blur of headlights sparked off the mirrors, the roar of an engine drawing up behind me. Oh My God... boomer bitch is going to ram us. Irene staggered towards me, her thin legs threatening to give out altogether. I felt the bikes suspension squat down as she pulled herself up onto the pillion seat. Her arms were shaking as she placed them around my waist..

"Arigato..." I heard her whimper through the helmet.

Okay... what now... what the fuck do I do know? Supporting characters have a habit of dying horribly in this Animé, don't they?

"Don't thank me yet," I told myself.

What now? I could hear the Lagonda bearing down, accelerating hard. No way I could outrun it from a standing start. We wouldn't get fifty yards before being mown down like rats. The stairs! I noticed. Well, it's somewhere the car can't go? And didn't some stunt rider ride one of these yokes down a flight of stairs in The Bourne Identity? Yeah... an experienced stunt rider.

Fuck... Gas it and Go.

The engine growled, the bike lurching forward. Oh Lord, please don't let me fuck this up. My stomach rose up the back of my throat as the front end pitched down juddering forward as gravity took hold. Brake!... Hold it. Don't fall down.

Behind, the Lagonda ploughed through the empty space which, moments before had been occupied by myself and my passenger. The cars brakes squealed on, but 2 tonnes travelling at near 60mph wouldn't stop that easily. The car smashed into the barrier with a hollow crump, and a shatter of glass, before spinning off down the road. I glanced over the shoulder, watching for the driver to jump out and bound after us, terminator style. The car's engine was still running.

Irene whimpered behind me, muttering the same words over and over to herself. I felt her pull herself into my back, resting herself against me. It was strangely comforting. Even if I wasn't sure if it was the buzzing of the engine, or sheer abject terror that was causing my hands to shake on the bars.

Now how do I push the bike back up onto the road? It was hard enough just trying to paddle the jallopy back from a kerb. Simple... I don't. Creep forward, hold the bike back with the front brake, and keep the clutch in. Maybe that'll get us down. Tunk...thunk...thunk.. each step sending judders through the suspension. I heard the car rev up behind once more... Miss Terminator wouldn't try and jump it off the bridge, would she? No... Nobody would be that daft, not even a machine. A jump like that would smash the suspension of even a large truck, and leave it dead in the water. Just concentrate on getting down. Keep it stable.

We made it to the bottom of the steps... easier than I thought it would be actually... I stopped at the bottom, not knowing what else to do, or where to go. I thought about the ADP... but I had no idea how to explain who I was. I thought about the Knight Sabers... but I had no idea how to find them. I thought about just riding off into the sunset and happiness with Irene... but I had no idea what the hell to do about that other than head in a general westerly direction.

I thought about asking her to get off and make her own way before the terminatrix got down here... I gave her a fighting chance, the Sabers can take over.

But Linna Yamazaki...she could only have been Linna Yamazaki put a stop to that idea. Half out of breath, the dark haired woman came running around the corner, the same one Irene had moments earlier. She saw me first, parked up on the footpath, Frozen solid and about to throw up. My quivering passenger peered out from behind.

"Irene," smiled Linna, relief written across her features.

"Linna..." And that's about the only thing I understood. She was screaming, she was hysterical, she sounded like she was doing her best not to throw up inside another persons helmet. And fair fucks to her, I wasn't sure I'd have had the same restraint.

I didn't know what the pair of them where saying to, they might've been talking about me, I didn't know. I'd left most of my mind up on that bridge. the Boomer and her car? Would she get out and get after us? How long would it take her to get back down off the motorway, it can't have been more than thirty seconds since the car hit the barrier, and it'd take what... a minute to get down here if it got moving right away?

Linna turned to me, she asked me a question but I had no idea what it was.

"Speak English?" I tried. "No Japanese.."

"Yie," she shook her head, before looking around.

"Boomer... Boomer Attack," I tried... as if shouting might make me easier to understand.

My voice really was off pitch somehow. It didn't seem important though, maybe it was just stress. Another biker pulled up alongside Linna, her face hidden inside a red sports helmet. Her red leather jacket clung tightly to her figure, a pair of blue denim jeans giving strong definition to her legs. Printed in Roman Characters along the Kawasaki-green flank of her forkless sportsbike were the words "Woman From Tokyo".

"Prissu!" Linna started off into another rapid fire explanation that I had no hope of following.

The Priss?

"Priss?" wondered Irene.

"What now?" I barked.

"Follow!" Asagiri ordered, pointing back in the direction she'd come from.

One single English word. Follow Priss... alright. I nodded, but really, there was no way I could keep up with herself and her turbocharged road-burning racebike. Linna jumped onto what passed for a pillion seat, moments before Priss nailed it hard enough to spin the whole bike around in a wail of rev's and tyre smoke. Meekly, I paddled my monster BMW around, pushing the beast off the footpath with a clatter.

Priss, and her Kawasaki where a hundred yards down the road, and I was still feet on the floor paddling around.

"Oh Lord, please don't let me fuck this up." I offered up once more.

I'd never been a good Catholic. And God seemed to have decided that since I'd never been a good Catholic, he wasn't going to help me the one time I asked for help and meant it.

There was another squawl of tyres behind me, and the deep bellow of a V8 engine spooling itself up. I glanced back to see... to my horror... that same black Lagonda drifting waywardly around the corner, blue smoke billowing from it's wheels. The headlights might've been smashed, and the bonnet was left in the road somewhere behind it, but that things engine was still running, and it's driver was going to push it to the limit to catch up. The drift though, had robbed the black coupé of whatever momentum it might've had, giving me some chance to get away from it.

Clutch in, First gear, give it some revs and Go!...

Sheer bloody mass fought against torque in a war of physics as the whole machine tried to pivot about it's back axle. Irene squealed in fright, scrabbling to grip onto my back as the saddle tried to slip out from under her.

"Sorry," I yelled back, above the din of the engine.

8500RPM.. change to second...Clutch in, power off...Crunch with the gears, Whack! as a helmet connects painfully with the back of my skull, Clutch out, power on. Full throttle. The BM protesting like a fat man being forced to run a marathon at gunpoint. It wasn't built for this sort of racing action. It was built to cross continents, not set lap records around the Isle of Man.

Crunch into Third... another headbutt. I'd only be riding for a couple of months for Chirst sakes! Priss was holding about 200 yards ahead, the wail of her engine having given way to a flat waiting burr. How shameful... she was waiting for me.

I glanced over my shoulder, checking Irene was still there. Yup... and so was the smashed Lagonda, gaining yards. There weren't many cars that could outrun even this old thing from a standing start, but that car was getting one hell of a runnup.

5 Seconds and I was doing 60mph. Wow... I'd never accelerated this hard before. My arms were locked straight holding me on, and I still felt like I could fall off.

4th gear, and the speedo-needle kept going, the big 4 cylinder engine growling in protest. It grumbled, it buzzed, it sent electric shock vibrations up through my crotch. Damned if my whole body didn't feel weird somehow... nothing wrong as such, just weird. Yeah, must be stress... definitely stress.

80MPH down a three lane city street, and I was pushing this thing faster than I'd ever deliberately gone before. Priss was still pulling away. I gave another hurried glance over my shoulder... the Lagonda was there, less than twenty yards back... but holding. I wasn't going to get skittled off this thing just yet.

I looked to Priss ahead, probably looking back at me and wondering why the hell I was being so slow. Well, I'm so very sorry for being crap at this, alright, it's my first goddamned car chase. And hopefully my last, thank you very much.

90MPH and Fifth Gear... there was no sixth. Full throttle racing forward through crossroads, praying nobody was crossing through. No way I'd stop before the inevitable impact, and no way I'd get back up to speed to avoid a horrific and fatal smash against the front of a black Lagonda if I did.

Irene was urging me forward.

I was staring at a rapidly narrowing point some way beyond Priss' bike, the strobing streetlights and gaunt grey buildings merging into a riotous blur of neon and concrete. I couldn't tell streetlight from roadsign from shopfront. The only constant was a single red dot just ahead, slowly getting nearer.

Priss was letting me catch up.

Another quick glance over my shoulder... Thank God... I was pulling yards on the Boomer.

100 Mh went past in a buzzing blur, the machinery rattling and vibrating beneath me furiously. The silencer shield was rattling behind me, sounding like somebody had thrown a handful of bolts into a washing machine in the middle of a spin cycle.

110MPH, and it fell off, scraping along the roadway before clattering loose. In the mirror, I saw the Lagonda run right over it, mangling the stamped steel under its wheels. That could be me...

Fuck me... Fuck me... Oh Fuck me.

120 and the Lagonda seemed to slow. Right! Japanese cars are limited to 112 Mph, or whatever that is in Kph. I think I could do 130, maybe 140 if I was lucky. Too fast... much too fast... I'd never gone this fast before in my life...never. I'd never been on an airplane, or a high speed train. And now I was in the middle of a high speed pursuit.

Well, this was one bloody life experience I could do without, alright! Priss and her friends can do all their heroics and shit and leave me out of it. I don't want to be a hero... heroes live short lives then die brutal deaths. I want to be mediocre, I want to be normal. I don't want to die screaming with a boomers claws through my chest!

Thank Christ the traffic was non-existant. 22:42. The roads were empty. Small miracles indeed.

Just passed 130 and the BM called it a day, it could go no faster. Aerodynamics would always beat horsepower. But it didn't have to. 50 yards behind Priss, I was pulling 60 yards ahead of the battered Lagonda. This was good... this was surprisingly easy. If I can keep this speed, might just make this As if to taunt me, Priss began to indicate left, the little flashing orange light signalling doom in a left turn. The road ended at a T-junction, with a shopping mall in front.

"Fuck!" I swore. "Fuckit.. Fuckit..."

This just couldn't be that easy, could it?

Brake!... Brake HARD. Irene whimpered as she slid forward, crushing my crotch against the tank. Okay... that should've hurt more than it did... Not Important! The needle swung back down the speedo, the bike juddering hard once more as the ABS took over. I had the front brake back against the throttle, and I was still doing over 70...

Priss swept around the corner, her taillights tracing one smooth arc, Knee down on the tarmac.

50...40...

"Slow Down!" I roared.

Please..

Brake off... can't brake while cornering. The bike bounced back up as the suspension rebounded. Neutral throttle. 3rd gear. Lean it over as far is I dare. Go where you look, go where you look, ignore the beltsander tarmac, and the parked car. Don't fixate on the parked car! If I fall off now I'll burst my head open... Drive it through, driver it through. Not to far... Irene whimpered behind... she was terrified, I was terrified. The V8 Lagonda roared up, it black form looming dangerously large in my peripheral vision. Pull it upright!

"Haiyaku, haiyaku," Begged Irene.

"I am Hurrying!"

Let the bike settle, straight and level. Full throttle again and away, the Lagonda spearing the air behind us. A fraction of a second later and we'dve been dead. "Oh my God... Oh my God..." I mumbled. I saw the car in my mirrors, skidding to a halt in a cloud of tyre smoke, sideways into the front window of the shopping centre. Some mannequin stumbled out across the engine bay, tumbling under the wheels as the car roared after us.

I was already passing 70 again, and up into 4th gear by the time the car was even off the footpath.

Relief soothed my veins. We might just make this. Linna glanced back to check on us. Yeah, still here... barely. Priss signalled a right turn. Thanks for that... really.

"I can't take corners!" I roared after her.

Priss and Linna swooped out of view, the howl of their exhaust hanging in the air.

Right turn, same as before. Enough distance ahead of the Lagonda that it couldn't try ram us, but still close enough that one fuckup and we'd be dead. Get it stopped, get it turned, get back up to speed again.. I could do this. This bike was so heavy, my arms were killing me. Three minutes in and I just wanted to stop.

Power down a side street, barely wide enough for a car, the buzzing drone of my engine mingling with the banshee yowl of Priss' and the sinister growling of the V8 Lagonda. Roaring engines echoed off of concrete towers, backfires like gunshots in the confined alleyway. Concrete walls roared passed on either side, the battered form of the Lagonda still looming dangerously in my mirrors.

My heart was racing harder than my engine. My breath, rapid and panicked. Terror fired through my veins. I might be able to keep ahead of that car as long as my fuel held out...emphasis on might... But I knew I'd run out of fuel long before that car, and when that happened, dead in the water wouldn't just be a figure of speech. The fuel light wasn't on, so I had more than 5 litres left, enough for maybe thirty minutes or so at this sort of pace. No warning lights, other than high-beam being on. Engine temperature still holding at 110, oil pressure seemed fine. The bike was doing better than I was.

Another tight left, followed quickly by a right, and the distance to the Lagonda spread quickly.

We were doing it... My God we were pulling away. The BM clattered and shook its bars over bumps I watched Priss bounce over without breaking stride. The Lagonda was still there, but the distance was getting wider and safer.

Another left turn, and we were out into city traffic. A blast of an airhorn and a delivery truck rose up beside me, swerving violently as I shot like a bullet out of a side-road into its path. I stared at the stunned driver as I passed. Another near miss... Third one so far. I didn't know it then , but my bag of luck was fluttering empty behind me.

The traffic was heavier, the lights were brighter, but the speeds were still in triple digits. The blare of horns mingled with the roar of engines and the squeal of tyres as I chased Priss through the city. Watch the car, watch the pedestrians. Red light! Should I Stop? Don't be silly, it's a car chase. High speed pursuits have right of way on TV. There's no traffic. Power.. Power through. Don't close your eyes. Don't hit the kid. I don't want to die. 120MPH... Too fast! my mind screamed. I released the throttle, bleeding speed off. I couldn't keep up... I just couldn't go at those speeds. It was too fast... too fast for the city.

The gap ahead to Priss opened, until she threw a look over her shoulder and braked down to match.

"I can't do this... I just can't do this."

Grit teeth and go. Dead when I smash into some turning car, or dead when the boomer runs me down? Dead was dead, but at least I had a choice how I'd go. Again, I glanced over my right shoulder, looking for that black car. Nothing. Gone?

Did the boomer give up? Where was it?

Over my left shoulder?

Nothing but a lumbering delivery van. Where did it go?

Right shoulder? Nothing but a line of traffic in the opposite lane.

Left Shoulder again.

There it was! swinging around the inside of the van. It was a queer relief to see it there again. Barely slowed by the traffic, it might've even have gained slightly. Okay, look ahead. Looking backwards at 80mph is really dumb. Look ahead, where's Priss?

Indicating right and halfway through another turn.

"Shite" I swore, grabbing at my front brakes once more.

I bolted up the up the outside of a line of traffic, patiently waiting to make the same turn. Ahead, Priss and Linna where already accelerating away. The traffic lights switched to green as I released the brake, setting the bike up to make another turn. Same as before, follow Priss' lead.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the orange flash of a car's indicator and something moving beside me. I barely had a moment to register this, before the impact. A single, solid, hollow bang. It felt as if the hand of God had reached down and given the tail a good hard whallop with the palm of his hand, throwing the back end up around into the air. The handlebars wrenched over in my arms, my right hand pushing under, dragging the throttle wide open. Hold it! my mind screamed, as the engine revved right up, spinning up the rear wheel while it hung in mid-air. I thought I might still save it... maybe dumb luck would bring it back.

Irene gave a yelp of terror.

The handlebars went light in my hands as the crash bars protecting the engine casings touched down first, the machine pirouetting around on a piece of stainless steel tubing. With a metallic crash the tail finally slammed back down, the bike kicking hard over as the madly spinning rear tyre bit the tarmac momentarily, throwing the machine into a flat spin on its side. DvD cases, lego bricks and notebooks went flickering past mixed with the shattered black plastic remains of the left-hand pannier and translucent orange shards of some car's indicator.

Irene was screaming, I felt her grip on my back tighten momentarily, before releasing as the force of the spin launched her tumbling across the road. The full weight of the bike, over 280 kilograms, came down hard on my leg. I heard the snap of my shin bone letting go inside my boot and had enough time to wonder just where the pain might be, before a great weal of agony exploded inside my leg. The engine was still racing at top speed, almost screaming in pain with me as the wrecking bike dragged me along the road. The hollow scratch of scraping plastic mixed with the tinny ring of abrading metal and my own agonised scream. Sparks showered across the road, a burning friction fire began to scorch the whole left side of my body through my armour, the road tugging hard at the kevlar fabric. I glanced at the speedometer and saw it still reading 40... Oh Christ when will this stop? Brake! My panicked mind implored... Stop it... stop... stop... For the love of God please Stop!.

Eventually, it did.

Silence reigned, except for my own terrified, shaking breathing, and the slow tsk...tsk...tsk of the already stalled engine cooling, quietly berating me for thinking I might actually be able to save someone's life. Dizzily, I looked over the clocks, red lights announcing low oil pressure and low fuel then craned my head upwards to look for Irene.

She was lying on her side with her face towards me, her right arm snapped over at an unnatural angle. Her clothes were torn and bloodied, the skin on her arms, legs and in strips across her body abraded clean off… in places down to the bones. Blood was already starting to soak into her ripped blouse, pooling on the road underneath her.

Her eyes were wide open, staring through the cracked visor at me. Dead?

She blinked… tried to move… then started to scream. You don't come off a motorcycle at sixty wearing only light summer clothes and walk away.

I tried to crawl out from under the wreck, tugging at my injured leg. Another volcano of pain erupted inside my shin, agony surging up through my body, a hundred little aches and pains announcing themselves in turn. It was at that moment that my brain decided it had finally had enough and I promptly fainted into darkness.

Game over.

-I...I

Just a dream...

Tak Tak. Takka-tak-tak. Tak tak-takka.

The first thing I became aware of was the clatter of somebody typing at a keyboard, and the gentle whirr of a computers fan. Cracking my eyes open, I was expecting darkness... Instead, the room was filled with a dim blue light, casting long shadows across the ceiling.

"Who's using my computer?" I slurred groggily.

The typing stopped.

I rolled my head over on a sweat and fabric-softener smelling pillow. Silhouetted against the blue glow of a computer monitor was the frame of a teenage boy, a reflection of the harsh light from the screen. I blinked, not quite sure what I was seeing for a moment. What happened to my own bedroom?

Nervously, I looked around, seeing the outlines of shelving and other knick-knaks lining the walls, all picked out among a forest of long, inky black shadows. The my right, the computer and the boy, almost to bright to look at. In front of me, what might've been the outline of a door, with a glint of light coming back off the handle, and the hunched forms of a dresser and closet, and the reflection of the boy's silhoette in a mirror.

I could see the rough outline of my own shadow staring back at me from the bed beside him. My body... I felt fine. A few aches and pains that could be expected, and an odd tingly numbness down me left leg more like a hundred maggots nibbling away happily than pins and needles. I did not need that sort of mental image after such a nightmare...

To my left, a wall made up entirely of panelled windows, through which I could see the sparkling city beneath, glittering like Christmas tinsel sparking off of the neon lights. And that same dark mountain looming over the city, a black stain on dull orange night-sky.

The boy spoke briefly into a headset. Japanese language.

I looked up at him, feeling a sudden knot of fear twisting in my gut.

"It was just a dream?" I asked him.

He turned his head and smiled back at me, a sort of "I have no idea what you're saying so I'll just smile and hope you shut-up until I can find someone who does" kind of smile. It just unsettled me more.

It...was...a dream...?

I sat up in bed, grunting as shooting pains bolted across my chest and down my spine. Purple bedsheets pooled lazily around my waist.

Please... somebody tell me it was just a dream.

I placed my left hand down gently on top of my left leg, barely sensing it through the thick duvet cover. Alright, time for the acid test. Brace yourself and push...

There really was nothing else I could do but scream, hot needles of fire stabbing through the bone.

The boy launched himself out of his chair with fright. "Yammatay, Yammatay!" he begged, launching into a list of rapid fire demands.

I could only answer with blank and bloody terrified incomprehension, the pain in my leg dying down into a manageable ache. So long as I didn't move anyway. Each shift, each jerk, sent new sparks of agony shooting up through my thigh. I could grunt, I could grimace, in between terrified breaths I could add more swear words to the English language in a minute than a shipful of sailors in a decade.

He tapped something rapidfire out onto his keyboard.

::"Be Calm".

An idea of the word, rather than the word itself, flashed through my mind. The shock of it stopped me dead. Where had that come from? I felt something gently tugging at my arm, just beneath my wrist. There was what looked like an RJ-45 cable connected to a small port protruding from the bottom of my arm, just before my wrist.

"Bloody hell," I mumbled.

I tugged at it gently.

::"Do not touch!"

My hand froze. I stared at the little silver port, watching green and orange LED's flicker, exactly activity lights on an ethernet port. Strange...nothing seemed wrong with the concept of an ethernet port hanging off the bottom of my wrist at all, despite the obvious fact that by rights, the only thing that should've been there was bare skin and the faint outline of tendons.

I gripped my right hand gently into a fist, muscles in my now oddly hairless arm contracting and bulging slightly. Since when did I have such good muscle tone? I wondered. Since when did I have such slender fingers? Nothing seemed outright wrong with them, they just weren't my fingers.

And yet at the same time they where.

I could feel my pulse in my neck, running down my arms and across my chest. I could feel cold air flowing through my lungs with each breath I took, I could feel my stomach tying itself in loops as my brain tried to process what my eyes were telling it. I felt normal, well as normal as possible with a broken leg, except my right arm wasn't my own, and had an ethernet port in it.

And it wasn't like the 'It's all a dream' excuse would work this time now, would it. The pain of a broken leg should've woken me up if it was. What in the name of God was going on? Is my mind playing tricks on me? Am I doped up on morphine or something? I must be, why else would I have an ethernet port in my right arm

The boy... in his mid teens it seemed, knew what he was doing with that computer. His hair was cut short, but he still managed to have his fringe turned up with a calves lick. He glanced back at me, away from his screen, a mixture of curiosity and concern written across his features as I sat there on the bed, staring in absolute bewilderment at the arm that wasn't my arm, but at the same time was.

God knows how insane he thought I was. I didn't have to think, I was bloody certain I'd gone off the deep end. Maybe I'd hit my head when I crashed? What did they call bikers in the States who chose not to wear a helmet?... Organ Donors? Did I split my brainpan open on the tarmac and leak the whole of my sanity out across the road?

Try as I might, the harder I stared at my right arm, the more it seemed determined to stay exactly as it was.

The boy returned to his typing. I tried to get a look at his screen, but I could see much past his slight frame, not much more than what looked like a BASH terminal, and a woman's figure with a bunch of green indicators across it. Except for the left leg, a cluster of reds gathering around the centre of the shin.

A terrible realisation began to form in my mind. I shook it off... that can't be right. No... No way in hell. No way in hell? I was already there by the looks of things. I cast a quick glance across to the hulking GENOM tower, thousands of lights flickering in bands across its surface like the devils Christmas tree.

And then down at my left arm.

A perfect mirror of the right. Slim, hairless and toned. On a whim I wondered if maybe it had its own ethernet port, or something like that. The answer was given by a quick touch by two fingers to the centre of my palm, a little like Spiderman shooting his web. I didn't have to think about doing it, instinct seemed to do it for me.

An electric tingle traced a deep red slit across my wrist, which popped open to reveal what seemed to be a cross between RS232 a USB port and a ten-pronged block connector staring me in face.

:: cat /proc/prod_info :: /dev/vox1 && cat /proc/rd_data :: /SYL22/media/THUMB_DISK

"Model number B-U-3-3-S." I intoned, my voice flat and inhuman "GENOM corporation. Production Identification: 3-3-D-B-2-6-D-H-3-0-W-F-4-2-K-Z-1-0-D-9-7-X-4-9-A-K-R-D-1-0-8. Chassis type: ACSX -MEG-DECKARD," I couldn't stop it, how do I stop it? How do I cancel it"AI type: 11 MMX-NE-"

By just cancelling the command, of course. More typing from the boy.

::"Test only. Please cooperate,"

"Like I have a choice," I said to myself.

::"Use please network message talk."
::"Can machine translate text simpler,"

How?

::"This?" I answered.

::"Yes"

The boy turned and smiled at me. It felt better to be able to communicate, even if it was through the most inhuman method imaginable.

::"What are you doing?"

I watched as the boy typed his answer out in Japanese character, before translating them with a quick key combination, and sending them onto my with a quick enter.

::"Taking system information."
::"No root modify access to control files,"
::"Read only mode,"

I held both my wrists in front of my face, reflections dancing across the stainless steel I/0 ports.

IEEE 8223.4d on the left. 10TBASE-T Ethernet on the right.

"Alright," I said aloud, taking a deep breath. At least I could control it if I had to.

::cat /proc/rd_data : /SYL22/media/THUMB_DISK

I let him do it, watching the flickering activity lights pulse with each packet of data. Data from inside me. Again, I touched the palm of my left hand with two fingers, and the port snapped back in, the same electric tingle announcing itself as the small slash in the skin that marked its presence healed over.

"Bloody Hell,"

The boy typed one more message into his terminal before setting it to shutdown, popping a disk out of the machines drive:

::"Thank you, wait"

He stood up, gave me an almost sorrowful smile, then left the room. I watched him walk out, for some reason analysing his stride. He favoured his right leg; he never put his full weight down on his left. Light flooded the bedroom for a moment as he opened the door the entire room coming into sharp focus for a second. I saw the figure of a woman looking in at me for a second, silhouetted against the light. I had enough time to wonder who she was for a second, before the door was pulled shut with a hollow brass click.

Darkness reigned once more, save for the cold glow of the computer.

A CRT screen, fitted into a blocky plastic frame with an integrated keyboard. A microcomputer terminal squatting on top of a wooden cabinet. I wasn't sure, but I thought I could just about make out the words Digital Equipment Corporation printed under the screen in wine-coloured font.

And then it went dark, leaving me with only the ruddy orange afterglow from the city of Megatokyo for company.

I unplugged the CAT-5 from my wrist with a gentle tug, being careful that I didn't pull the whole lot of whatever was inside out with it, leaving only the bare metal port dimly highlighted in the gloom. A tap with my finger against my palm, and it was gone, disappearing back inside my arm with the same electric tingle as before.

Part of me noted that it felt strangely similar to the tingle running through my left leg, when I let it settle still.

I lay back down on the bed, despair flooding through my body as another hot crucible of pain was poured up through from the forge inside my leg. I could feel hot tears slowly beginning to flow down my cheeks.

"I want to go home," I whimpered, feeling a sob rising up the back of my throat. I tried to swallow, tried to force it back down, but no joy. I just lay their, quietly sobbing into an alien pillow.

Why?

Why did this have to happen to me?

I knew people who *wanted* this, who'd give their left arms and then some to be lying in the same bed as me. Why not one of them?

Why did it have to be me?

I didn't cry myself to sleep, or bawl my eyes out until someone came running in with some tranquilisers or a gun to shoot me up, shut me up and get some peace and quiet for themselves. I did nothing at all as dramatic. Eventually, I just sort of stopped on my own, lying there on my back, staring up into the high ceiling.

I wasn't in my own universe.
I wasn't in my own body.
I wasn't even human anymore.

Well, no amount of crying would solve that, would it?

I knew what I was. I knew what a BU-33-S was. One quick glance inside a silken nightdress confirmed it. A pair of firm breasts, rising and falling with every breath. There was no real curiosity about what they were, or what they felt like, no urge to squeeze or fiddle around like a schoolboy. I knew what the answers would be, so what was the point?

I knew what I could've done with myself...I definitely knew how to do it. I knew what was secretly expected even of anyone who should happen to be 'lucky' enough to find themselves somehow in a body of the opposite gender, but I just didn't really want to. It seemed pointless, a waste of time and energy on some frivolous self service that wouldn't actually tell me anything about myself I didn't already know.

I was a sexaroid. The thoughts of it and what that entailed should've made me shudder, should've made me sick, but it didn't. The snarky, more cynical part of my mind that found humour in such horrors as the holocaust and 9/11 was happily pointing out that I was really nothing more than a walking, talking fleshlight. The truly terrifying thing was, I was perfectly okay with having two large breasts. I was perfectly comfortable with having a vagina. I was perfectly content with being a goddamned glorified sex-toy.

It was expected. It was what I was *supposed* to be, my subconsciousness soothed. There was nothing wrong, it assuaged at every turn.

You know what that meant? There was a real juicy looking peach of a realisation hanging off of the tree of knowledge. Whoever'd done this to me, hadn't just been messing with my body, they'd been inside my head too. They'd tweaked my mind to suit their own sinister ends. I wasn't myself physically, and I probably wasn't myself mentally anymore.

I should've been going mad the moment... I should've bolted into a dark corner and huddled up, rocking myself back and forward while muttering "There's no place like home" insanely to myself over and over again in the forlorn hope that just because it worked for Dorothy in Oz, it'd have to work for me too. And maybe I should just do that anyway? Prove to myself that I'm not this thing every circuit or synapse in whatever you're supposed to call a bloody boomers brain is telling me I am.

Or I could just lay there brooding over it, hatred and anger towards this Tower Smith, or Toren Smith, or whoever it was that had signed their name at the bottom of that letter boiling in the pit of my stomach. I had no idea who the bloody hell they were, but I knew they were responsible, and God how I hoped that somehow, someday I'd find a way to get them back for it.

Wasn't revenge a theme in Bubblegum Crisis after all?

My leg still throbbed, my body still ached occasionally. A real pain. There was something perversely reassuring about it. Real iron and steel machines couldn't feel pain after all. That didn't mean it wasn't bloody uncomfortable either any time I tried to shift around in the bed either, now, but at least I could feel. For some reason I found myself thinking about Robocop, or that episode of ADPolice files…

I tapped open the ethernet port in my wrist again, catching the light on the polished metal and sighed.

I was too worn out for this sort of self analysis. Maybe I should just leave it all until the morning. Well rested, maybe with a good breakfast in me... I'd have plenty of energy to be pissed off then, and maybe enough left over to do something about it.

At least the bed was comfortable... and so were my boobs. Soft enough so that I could curl up into myself, and maybe pretend for a moment that they weren't my own at all. I could've nodded off right then and there, had fate not decided to get in the way, again.

I heard footsteps outside, a different stride to the boy's I realised.

I never gave much thought to who he'd been... I had much more important things on my mind at the time. I had the sinking feeling that maybe I should've been paying attention to where I was, as opposed to what I was.

The door opened slowly, a shaft of light spearing across the room.

I screwed my eyes shut. Pretend I'm asleep, then they might leave my alone. I gently tapped my network port closed again.

"I know you're awake," said a woman's voice. Cool, cultured, with the barest hint of a Japanese accent. "Your breathing is too fast,"

She stepped into the room, her body throwing a long black shadow across the bed. I grimaced into my pillow, swearing inside my own mind. Okay, deep breath. Whoever they were, they didn't sound evil. I sighed to myself, then pulled myself over onto my back and sat up, grunting as a hundred new pains sparked off inside my shin.

Squinting, I could see the dark outline of a woman's figure standing inside the door, the harsh light from outside stabbing at my eyes.

"Who are you?"

"That was my question," the voice thawed a little.

This woman, she seemed to be wearing some sort of business dress. A long, pencil skirt coupled with a formal jacket. Her hair was short, I thought, with a few stray curls making a bid for freedom, maybe a symptom of a late night.

"I am Sylia," she said clearly. "Sylia Stingray,"

For the life of me, I wasn't sure whether to be relieved, or terrified. I just sat there, looking up at her, then down at a dark spot somewhere then back up at her again.

"I take it by your silence, that you recognise that name, and probably where you are aswell,"

Slowly, a few stray pieces began to join together, forming the top corner of a very large and complex jigsaw puzzle. It was a certainty, but not a very helpful one in truth.

"Yes, I do," I answered her with a gentle nod, my voice small, and strangely meek.

"Then maybe you might tell me who you are?"

"Well..." I started, with no real idea just how I was going to finish that. "This isn't my real body," I said nervously, forcing a rueful grin.

I'm from another dimension. One where this is just an animé series, and you're all fictional characters and... Well, if somebody said that to me, I'd think they were gone off the deep-end. I wonder, maybe Sylia already thought I was going haywire as it was, why reinforce the impression?

It was then I noticed she was holding something in her hand, what looked like a folded piece of paper. Sylia glanced down at it for a moment, before looking right back up at me,

"And your real name and date of birth then?"

I answered truthfully, and confidently. I realised that, if Sylia had picked me up after the crash, not only did she have my wrecked bike, she had my clothes, all my identification, my computer, and whatever else I might've stowed in the panniers.

Including the Bubblegum Crisis DvD's themselves.

"Did you find them?" I asked, quietly, a nervous quiver entering my voice.

"Yes," she said simply. "Born to Kill. It was...an interesting experience,"

Her voice chilled, and my heart froze. Well, another part of my mind noted, at least there was proof.

"I don't think I can explain it, I don't really understand what happened myself," my mouth started. "I was just riding along home same as usual and then this truck went passed, and I was here, in Megatokyo and there was this letter in an envelope, and then there was that Boomer in her car and..."

I felt sick as the nights events hit back hard again.

Sylia sighed.

"I'm not sure whether to believe this..." she started.

"Neither am I," I cut her off sourly

Sylia was a black silhouette against the light, but I could still feel her glaring at me… concerned, not angry.

"But I do think that you may also be a victim of whatever kind of strange joke this might be," she continued calmly, "I found the letter in your pocket, the one from Toren Smith. He's sent another one, addressed to the both of us,"

Her voice flattened. She was as unsure about this as I was... I didn't know how I could tell exactly, but I could. She placed the paper she'd been holding at the end of the bed, close enough so that I could reach with only a little difficulty, but still keeping herself safely distant from me.

"What..." I glanced down at the white paper, another crinkled sheet taped crudely to it. "What happens now?"

"Depending on how the rest of the night goes, either we will have a proper conversation in the morning or..." she paused, considering her words "Or you won't have to worry about it,"

The implication being that if I never woke up in the morning, I'd never even get the chance worry at all about it.

"Whatever happens, get some rest. The repairs to your leg will complete themselves faster if you do,"

As she turned to leave, I reached forward, ignoring the discomfort in my leg as best I could, and grabbed the paper. The taped on sheet, was the same letter I'd found at the side of the road, crumpled from having been stuffed in my pocket, torn a bit in the crash, then carefully sellotaped back together.

It reminded me of the real reason I was lying there. A horrible image of Irene's staring eyes and bloodied body flashed before my eyes, sending chilling shudders down my spine.

"One more thing," I said...

Do I really want to know this now? I asked myself. I was at the frayed end of a very long tether as it was. Another final blow to my psyche and I might let go if it completely.

"Yes?" Sylia Paused in the doorway, looking back at me.

"Irene. Did she?...um... Did she..." out with it! "Did she live?"

"Yes," answered Sylia. "That old helmet probably saved her life, and that's the important thing for now."

I sensed a dreadful 'but' hanging in the air, but mercifully, Sylia decided to spare me from whatever it had been.

"Goodnight," she said, before leaving me in the darkness once more.

Irene was alive. Thank you God. Thank you Jesus. Thank you dumb blind fucking luck. I drifted back down onto my pillow, drawing a deep, satisfying breath. Something good. Something actually *good*.

But no, that pessimistic part of my brain just wouldn't let me sleep on that. It was too warm, to fuzzy, to happy an ending for a shit day. It insisted on reminding me of the last time I'd seen someone come off a motorbike with only a t-shirt and jeans on, of the mess that had to be shoveled up off of the road. It was why I *never* rode a motorcycle without armour on... never. Only an idiot would, only an idiot would take a passenger at high speed without giving them something.

In my minds eye, I could still see Irene laying there in front of me, her clothes all torn and soaked with blood.

She was alive, but after a crash like that what was left to actually live?

I let the question hang for a moment, trying to picture it floating in middair somewhere between myself and the ceiling, like a WW1 Zeppellin with a nasty bombshell aboard, poised for release.

I took a breath, feeling my chest tickle as it rose and fell, pushing against the inside of my nightdress. It was late. I was tired... or had a low battery...or whatever it was supposed to be for a boomer. It was a question that could be answered in the morning, if I felt up to it. Sylia was right. Irene was alive, and that was the important thing.

If she was alive, she could recover.

-I...I

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick once asked?

I don't know... but they do dream. I did.

I didn't dream of KnightSaber heroics, or high-speed shenanigans through the Megatokyo. I dreamt of riding home and pulling into the drive, same way I always had. And of my black Jack Russel dog, running out the door to meet me, as he always did.

He still recognised me inside a Boomers body. Dogs are awesome that way. Even inside this manmade cybernetic skin, a good dog can see through to the heart of the person inside, see who they really are.

-I...I

Morning came and I woke up, before I realised I'd even gone to sleep. I slowly rolled over in the bed, not really wanting to wake up, not in this bed at any rate. The pain in my leg had dimmed to a dull, omnipresent throb, pulsing with my heartbeat. And still, that ever present tingle. I tapped my LAN port open then closed again, telling me everything I needed to know.

Nothing had changed...

Outside and far below, I could hear the bustle of a morning's rush hour traffic.

Lethargically, I rolled over onto my back, trying to get my face out of the hot sunlight. It burned through sleep, searing it away until I had no choice but to open my eyes, and stare up at that harsh white ceiling. The beige-box terminal still sat idle on it's wood veenered cabinet, a blue CAT-5 dangling off it's back.

GENOM tower cast a possessive black shadow across the city outside, the sun rising behind the sinister ziggurat.

I was still a boomer. I was still in a bedroom somewhere in Megatokyo. I was still alive,

Curiosity demanded that I look at the remains of my leg. Lifting the white bedsheets to one side, I saw it braced with two sheets of firm plastic, and a number of bandages. A dark purple bruise spread across the centre of the throbbing pain. I braced myself, before poking a finger right into the centre of it. Pain almost like weight seemed to spread up through my leg... not starting and shooting agony... more like a pressure trying to crush the bone. Gently running my fingers along the bone, I could feel where it had been broken, and where it was now knitting itself back together.

On the dresser beside me, somebody had left a small card with a picture of some unfortunate manga character in traction. Inside was printed in deliberate letters:

"Thank You for trying.
-Linna Yamazaki"

I placed it back down, shifting back in the bed so I could sit back against a cool concrete wall. Thank you for trying, it had read. Trying. It should've made me feel better than it it did. Instead, it just reminded me of that first horrible crunching impact and then a red-raw Irene. I shook it out of my head.

It was too nice a morning,

The sun was warm but not too hot. My cream coloured nightdress hung loose and cool off the body, and leg aside, I felt fit as a horse, and hungry as one too. A few strands of rust-coloured hair littered the pillow. Hmm... I was a redhead. A quick glance at the reflection in the mirror at the opposite end of the room confirmed as much. Not too long, and hanging down to my neck

It was just right. Not to long, not to short. Just enough to be attractive without overwhelming the face.

I could hear people moving around outside, Sylia's voice in Japanese, the boy... who could only be Mackie answering her. Mackie was the one who came through the door, wearing oil-stained mechanics overalls, some clothes under one arm, a steaming bowl of what looked like porridge in his other hand.

"Ahhoyo Gozzaimus," he greeted cheerfully, a bright smile on his face.

I just smiled back. A cheerful face was a nice thing to see in the morning, especially after the night from hell. Even if, the whole time he was in the room with me, he never once looked away from a spot a couple of inches below my neck. What could I expect from a teenage boy though? I asked myself while eating breakfast

It was edible. Sweet, starchy, with a strong metallic aftertaste. It was like somebody had mixed iron filings or something in. If I looked closely, I thought I could even see them twinkling back at me, little specs of glitter sparkling back at me. Odd, I thought, poking at it with a spoon. It didn't make the food any less appetising. It was exactly what I needed.

A night's rest and a belly full of hot porridge had done a power of good for my spirits. A new energy began to surge through my veins, my body recharging like a battery. I got my head straightened out to the point where I could begin to at least think about where to go from here. Okay, so that still depends on whatever Sylia decides to do with me...somehow escaping from an armoured building, being chased by four specialised anti-boomer vigilantés, with a broken leg for company, didn't seem like a going proposition.

If I had to be a boomer, why couldn't I have been one of the ones with the big guns?... Okay, the deadlier 'blow a decent sized tank up' sort of big guns... But the powers that be probably thought that would make thing's too bloody easy for me, now wouldn't they? It would be so much more entertaining for them to watch me scream in terror through a Tokyo street at 100mph, than to just turn around and blow the car up.

Speaking of which, now, where did I put that paper Sylia left last night?

I'd fallen asleep on it.

It was crinkled, sweat-blurred and torn nearly in half, but was still just about legible. Maybe it might have more of an explanation, I hoped. It was probably a false hope, but false hope was batter than nothing.

Dear Sir/Madam

Congratulations on Making it this far. I see we made a good choice in you, and that you made a good choice with Irene. Had you left Irene to die, it is likely that her assailant would have tracked you down aswell, and it would be unlikely that the Knight Sabers would have come to your aid as effectively as they were able to, after you passed out. While Irene's survival beyond this point is by no means guaranteed, the important thing is that you have made an effort and proved yourself capable.


The information above in Japanese is not for your digestion, especially not at this time. We also understand that as Sylia is bilingual, she will no doubt read this. Be advised that she will know everything that is written here, so there is no point trying to hide it, or be coy about it. There is nothing to gain, and a lot to loose. If she asks you about who you are and what you were doing at that overpass, do not lie to her. No matter how ridiculous the truth may seem, it is imperative that you tell it.


The Truth is you are indeed in what would seem to you to be another world. Do not concern yourself with the mechanisms through which this was performed, they are curr
ently beyond your understanding. Regardless of what happens you are here for the long run. Accept this quickly, and you will save yourself and Sylia a lot of trouble.

Secondly, you may have noticed that you are no longer 'yourself'.
It can also not have escaped your attention that you are no longer human. At the same time, you may have realised that you are comfortable with the change, or that you feel on a subconscious level that your body is the correct one. This is intentional. It is difficult to bring organic matter between universes using the technology we have available to us. Also, it is clear to us that Sylia would be less-willing to accept a male member into the Knight Sabers, than an apparently female one. You need not be concerned about the effect this will have on your sanity, or your personality. We have performed alterations to your psyche which will cause you to accept your body, as if it had been your own. It will be a non-issue to you.

The full capabilities of your body are available to you, should you wish to use them. There are also some technical drawbacks, be aware of them as they can be potentially deadly. You should be able to call up your full technical information for your own digestion at will. It will not be repeated here.


Although you are a boomer, you are not registered to an owner. This is technically illegal. If intercepted by the ADP you can legally be destroyed for this. Sylia may choose to rectify this at her discretion. If she chooses to do so, you must remember that you are then technically her property. Whether she chooses to make an issue of this or not, is up to her. Whether she chooses to offer you a position as a Knight Saber or not, is up to her. Sylia will choose what is best for the Knight Sabers, not what is best fo
r you.

Finally, if you are ever unsure of what to do, think of your fathers face. Would you feel you would be able to look him in the eye, and tell him of your actions? If not, perhaps consider that you may be making a mistake. We wish you luck in your endeavours, and hope that our next correspondence will see you in good spirits and good health.


Long Days, Pleasant nights.

Toren Smith.

CVP Tet Corporation.


And, handwritten on the bottom in crystal clear cursive script

P.S Because those who wish for this, are usually the worst for the job.

I sat in stunned silence for a moment, the sweat moist printer paper drooping in my hand. It boiled in my mind, stewing and festering into a ball of frustrated anger. They didn't even tell me why they took me. My fist closed around the paper sheet, squeezing it together into one solid mass.

"God Fucking damn them!" I screamed, flinging it against the reflection in the mirror.

I missed, the ball thudding against the wall just above, before dropping limply to the floor.

"Good morning to you too," a surprised Sylia answered, standing in the doorway. How anybody managed to look so demure and elegant at 9:35:47 am, especially after such a busy night. The navy business suit, knee-length pencil skirt, underarm laptop computer, and short, clean cut hair served to project the ideal impression of the modern self-supporting young businesswoman...And made her look about ten years more 'mature' than she actually was, but I challenge anyone to say that out loud.

"Sorry about that," I said shamefully. "It's just...stressful,"

"I can imagine," she said conversationally.

I took a deep breath,

"I read the letter from last night,"

"And,..." she pushed.

I was comfortable... I was happy... my life was just going tickety fucking boo...

"They never told me why I'm here… they just come down like their God on fucking high and pull me away from everything I hold dear… for no reason other than because it amuses them? Then they tell me I've free will to make my own choice, when everything to get me here was scripted and set up… so that the only choice I make is the one they wanted."

"Oh...how so?"

"Irene... They brought me here right beside her. They wanted me to park there. They wanted me to see her and rescue her. They said I could make my own choice and do what I wanted to but... well..." I wasn't sure how to put it.

"When someone begs for your help, you just have to try anyway," finished Sylia for me.

I nodded, as she sat down beside me.

"Rescuing Irene, or trying anyway..." Oh how I hated that trying part. Deep and painful, guilt stung me in the throat, "They knew it would attract our attention, and maybe our friendship. It's why we can have a civilised conversation here now,"

I didn't want to think about the alternative. Sylia took a breath.

"They sent you to me, with the expectation that I would be impressed enough to make you a Knight Saber. They want you to be a Knight Saber. On its own, that's a good enough reason not to go along with them." she told me, straight out. "I won't be lead into accepting a new member who I don't think I can trust,"

I sighed,

"I'm not sure I want to be a hero anyway myself. Heroes die and..."

Part of me was disappointed, truth be told. Most of me was relieved. No, I wasn't some knight in shining armour. I was ordinary. I wanted to be ordinary. Ordinary in this town is safe. Ordinary won't get me blown to pieces by the ADP, or shot by GENOM.

"Then why did you try help Irene?" Sylia asked neutrally.

"I don't know?" I shrugged, hoping she might know the answer herself."I was dead anyway, the least I could do was try." the important word being 'try'. "For all the good it did," I added sourly.

"If that DvD is as right as you say it is, Irene should be dead," Sylia reminded me, "She might have been injured in the crash, but she will survive. A body can be rebuilt, a life can't. If you'd just ridden off wouldn't the same thing have happened again?"

I nodded. I knew it was the truth. But there's a difference between knowing and feeling, isn't there? I did save Irene's life. And I could keep telling myself I wasn't feeling guilty for ruining the rest of it in the process. The real heroes, they'd've pulled it off easy. A rubbish bin over the head... I'd read that fanfiction... it never even occurred to me to do anything but run away. But then, this wasn't words on a page, was it? Words didn't chase you through the streets at psychotic speeds.

I forced a gallows smile, desperate to change the subject.

"Is this when you retire me now? After I've made my expo' speech"

"No, not here," said Sylia with ominous coolness, "It would ruin some expensive bedsheets,"

For a moment, I wasn't sure if she was joking or not, but I still gave a gentle laugh. She smiled demurely back.

"Alright then, Miss Deckard, I have some questions I'd like to ask you," she said, sitting herself down onto a chair beside the terminal computer.

"Miss Deckard... Meg Deckard," I repeated.

"Yes, your production code,"

"I know," I sighed, "I guess I'd better get used to it being my name is all,"

"Well, the name on your I.D. would not be appropriate anymore, would it?" She placed the laptop on my lap. My own Dell. "Now, we need your Harddisk password."

Right back to business.

"Alright," I assented calmly, opening the lid. Computer on, BIOS password. Harddisk Password. Boot to Linux, and wait. "I bet Nené would get a kick out of something this old," I tried to joke, but it just fell flat in the air. Sylia shot me a chilling look, and I shrunk back down into the bed.

"I didn't show it to her." Sylia said, all warmth draining from her voice. "And neither will you, or show to any of the other Sabers. Understand?"

I nodded. She was deadly serious.

The pair of us just sat there in freezing quiet, waiting for it to boot up.

When it did, we talked about myself, running through my backstory, who I was and where I came from. Why I claimed to be from 2009, but my bike's tax disk and insurance papers still read valid 'until July '03' and had someone else's name on them, sort of questions. I never thought not paying my road tax would be that important.

Next, we discussed what I knew about the Sabers themselves. I talked Sylia through each episode, as I remembered it off the top of my head. Character backgrounds on each of the Sabers and Mackie, then Mason and Quincy of GENOM, LeonMcNichol, and Doctor Stingray himself. It was the only time during our entire conversation where I saw Sylia shudder. I told her about Priss' boyfriend, about Nené's hacking of the hidden code and Linna's dancing skills.

When she asked what I knew about the hardsuits, and how they worked. All I could tell her was what they were, what a measuring suit was, and what the innerwear did. The fact that I didn't know any of the technical details about how the cybersuits actually operated mechanically, seemed to put her at ease somewhat, and the more at ease the leader of the Sabers was, the more at ease I was.

She trialled my engineering knowledge. I guess she'd found my coursenotes in the other pannier then. Despite being twenty years out of date, or more, I think I did alright. And she did admit to being impressed by some of the "creative" bodges I'd done to get that old K100 even running in the first place. If there was one thing I could do well, it was the one-shot McGyver solution, mostly from my absolute love of keeping old junk going as long as physically possible, and then some.

I got dressed, not really too bothered that I was naked in the same room as another woman... well, definitely not as bothered as I should've been. Denim Jeans, a yellow t-shirt, cheap polyester underwear, and some socks and trainers. Nothing with more than three digits in its price tag, but what could I really expect? Silk and sequins? The clothes fit fine, that's what mattered.

After that, I told Sylia about Largo, and the existence of Bubblegum Crash, despite the fact that I hadn't seen it. I quietly mentioned some fan theories about herself and what she herself might be. Sylia the prototype boomer, to Sylia the augmented human, I told her everything I'd heard around the internet and then some. I even pointed her to the old BGC RPG sourcebook I happened to have on my Laptop as a pirated .pdf.

She told me in no uncertain terms to erase it and it's theories and information. Along with the directory named 'Fanfiction' and anything else that could possibly relate to the Sabers. I didn't even try to argue with the person with access to a railgun.

We ran through some details about myself, or my body anyway. The do's and don'ts of being a Boomer. Don't get caught by the ADP. Don't get shot or stabbed because artificial blood isn't in anyway cheap, and going for a quick ramble in the moonlight wouldn't be the most helpful way to solve that problem either. She reminded me just what my body was... and just what effects I could have on real humans if I wanted to, before suggesting that it would be a very good idea to wear a decent pare of shades in public, especially around Mackie.

"The thoughts of spending the rest of my life with the entire world staring at my chest." I commented offhand.

"Welcome to our world," Remarked Sylia. "That is, if you really used to be who you said you are"

No... really... I don't think your problem is going to be of the same scale as mine.

It was a long talk alright, lasting well into the early afternoon. As the shadow of the Dark Tower swept across the cityscape outside, Sylia seemed to switch between best friend and police interrogater. I couldn't tell if she truly believed everything I told her was the truth, or if she was secretely holding onto the idea that I was just some corporate pawn sent by a company interested in acquiring some superweapon technology. One moment she believed everything I'd told her, the next she was poking holes while slipping in gentle veiled threats. Any information I gave that I thought was true she didn't confirm. If I was wrong, she didn't tell me either, only giving the slightest of nods, and moving onto the next subject. I didn't know whether I was right, or wrong about things, it'd been long enough since I'd seen the series that I couldn't remember it perfectly. What I wouldn't have given to have the DvD's to hand, but Sylia had put both of them away, along with the wreck of my bike.

"Both of them?" I asked. Because I'd had four of them in the Pannier when I left.

"We have Tinsel City, Born To Kill, Moonlight Rambler and Red Eyes," Sylia eventually revealed. "The Boomer assassin escaped with the other disks. By now GENOM will have them,"

Well now, that little bombshell just made this more fucked up, didn't it? Sylia didn't seem to thrilled about it either. These episodes gave away the Sabers identity, their base at Raven's, their jobs. How long before GENOM just rolled over and squashed them? I wonder what Mason's reaction to seeing himself staring down into a pool of his own blood was?

"This," Sylia finally told me, "Is why I am going to be keeping you within arms reach,"

"Because I am familiar with the information on the other DvD's"

"Exactly,"

Well, at least I'm not going to be shot... that's always a plus.

"Now then," the white Knight continued, "Here's what we're going to do. I can arrange a job, an apartment and an identity. It won't be too comfortable, but it will be enough to live by. There will be some rules."

"I can guess." I told my feet.

"Outside this building, you do not know any member of this organisation. You do not know our clients. You do not know where we are based or who our contacts are. You will not contact any member of this organisation, except for myself, directly and finally," her expression hardened into one of solid iron, "if you betray this organisation, it will be the last thing you do, understand?"

I nodded limply, shrinking down onto the bed like a scolded puppy. Sylia was dangling the Sword of Damocles over my head. Do anything we don't like and it'll drop in a shot.

"I understand," I meekly stated. "Does this..." I swallowed a small lump, "Does this mean you believe what I'm saying?"

"No," stated Sylia, "Whether I do or don't is irrelevant. It means I believe you can be harmful to this organisation."

"Then why not just shoot me?" I blurted out another bad attempt at humour. And the Turkey wonders aloud why he hasn't been axed yet, three days before Christmas. Sylia blinked owlishly, almost offended by the suggestion.

"Because, that would make us little better than our enemies," Sylia said flatly.

Did I really have a choice in this? I had no way home. I had no identity, no qualifications anymore. Technically, I didn't even have human rights anymore. I could do this, and I could live out the rest of my days here, in Megatokyo. Nobody shooting at me, nobody hunting me, no enemies, maybe a few friends. Just a normal background life, an indistinguishable member of the herd. Safety in numbers, I could do that.

Afterwards, we worked up a few personal details, a quick cover story that would hold water and account for a few of my quirky mannerisms. I didn't behave much like a Lady. My cover also needed to account for the fact that my broken leg would be healed within a day. Sylia told me it wouldn't be more than a couple of hours before I could walk on it again.

I found I could call up the exact same estimate from my own systems.

We ran through a few potential jobs... never too far away from where one of the Sabers themselves worked... to keep an eye on me just in case, I was reassured. After all The Tower was looking for the rider who picked up Irene too. I glanced out the window at the black pyramid, the afternoon sun sparkling off the roadway spiralling up the flanks of the oppressive arcology and was suddenly struck by the most horrible sensation of being watched, like a hundred eyeballs crawling up my back like cockroaches. I shrugged it off. We went through some apartments too after that, all pretty basic 6-mat affairs. They were liveable, with cheap enough rent.

I was glad for at least having a choice, of having some semblance of control. I could choose where to make my home for the foreseeable future, where I could work, who I would be. I could choose my own lifepath here again, and for that, I was thankful.

And then, that was that.

With the sun moving towards the early evening, we were done. The ache in my leg had dulled to a gentle tingle and an empty rumble growled in my stomach. It hadn't really felt like it'd taken most of the day, but it had. 3:34:38 in the afternoon, I made it, when Sylia finally left me alone. Dinner would be at six, and by then, my leg should be healed enough that I could at least walk on it.

And tomorrow, I'd be given a city map with my chosen residence marked and directions to the nearest Maglev station.

Sylia was right about one thing, an hour or so later and I was up and walking. A little stiff but otherwise alright. 18 hours to heal a broken leg. That's kind of...well...cool actually. My stride was the most efficient for my frame, and probably pretty bloody efficient at giving passers-by nosebleeds too. The way I walked, the way I moved, all programmed to be as sexually attractive and stimulating as possible.

And boy wasn't I painfully aware of it. When I asked myself, I could see just how each little movement concatenated into one sexual whole. The way I balanced each stride with my arms, to the relaxed way I held my shoulders. I could stop, if I thought about it, but it was too much bother to do. I walked over to the window, with, watching the reflection hovering over the evening city draw near.

Red hair, brown eyes, softly tanned skin drawn over an athletically toned body. I leant forward against the double glazing, staring into those hazel brown eyes. I used to have blue eyes, I thought, taking a deep breath. They didn't seem dull and mechanical, doll-like and lifeless. Instead, they shimmered with a strange, mesmerising depth such that if you weren't careful you might fall in.

They seemed alive, the same as any other persons. It was so reassuring.

And, truth be told... it was a nice reflection to see in the mirror.

I said nothing at all during dinner, Mackie's eyes spending the whole time alternating between my chest and his plate. I found it kind of funny, even if Sylia wasn't too pleased. The food would be the best thing I'd eat for a long time though, and I knew it, what with where I'd be working and living and all. I just ducked under whatever conversation was going on between the pair. It wasn't in my language, and wasn't any of my business either... even if it sounded like it might be funny as hell.

Oh well, enjoy it while it lasts I say. Nice, well cooked food. Clean bedsheets that night too. And a proper bathroom with a hot shower. With a security camera just inside the door... Well, I shrugged, if it's there, it's there for a reason.

A good night's sleep, recharge the batteries. Tomorrow would be a long day.

-I...I

It was Mackie who showed me downstairs, to the front door, Sylia being busy elsewhere. With a quick Sayonara, and a direction to travel, I was free. Standing at the residential entrance to Lady633, out in the hot morning sun deep in Tinsel City. A set of keys in my pocket, some directions to a place halfway across town and a 100k Yen back balance for any necessities. I guess Sylia felt she'd be better off keeping me reasonably happy. The less money I outright needed, the less likely I'd try sell information to GENOM.

A quick guess in my head put that at somewhere between 700 and 1k Euro... which'd be enough to get by until I got paid.

I had my slightly worse for wear backpack with my laptop, my college course notes, a digital MT tourist board supplied map with autonavigator and a bottle of water. In my other pocket, a wallet with some I.D. in it, which gave my name as Megan Deckard, aged 23 along with an old mass card I'd been carrying when I crashed, and 3000 yen in cash. Enough to get where I need to go.

I stepped out on the mainstreet, standing in front of the SilkyDoll itself with my back to a lace chemise in the window that cost more than I had to my name. Well, here goes, one foot in front of the other, onto the footpath and away...

The tallest building I'd even been in in my life... before Lady633 I mean... had been the Gravity Bar back home, and that topped out at about 7 floors. On the walk to the underground station, I didn't see a single building under half that. Hundreds of people thronged around in the early morning, snatching their quick consumer fix before heading to work.

Everyone stole a glance at me as I passed. Every single pair of eyes. And I wasn't even wearing anything especially revealing, nothing but No-brand Blue jeans, a loose-fitting red t-shirt and a cheap pair of trainers. No plunging necklines or bare midriffs.

I stopped outside some clothes shop, about half a mile on, looking at my reflection in the glass. A few pale-skinned mannequins inside stared out lifelessly, dressed in sharp business suits with 5-figure pricetags. I didn't look especially noticeable, really. There were women walking passed behind me who should be attracting a damn sight more attention than I was.

To illustrate the point, there was a sharp crack from behind, of some poor hen-pecked husband being rewarded with a slap by his wife for taking too long of a look at my back. Poor guy, it was almost funny.

I looked up at the lifeless face of the mannequin, staring out at the sky. I didn't really have time for all that sci-fi, 'difference between me and a solid plastic figure' philosophising. I knew what I was. If anything, the vapid stare of the mannequin only confirmed that I was alive... My eyes had that spark in them. The Mannequin's were nothing more than glass orbs.

And on that thought, it shifted its gaze right down to me, meeting me eye to eye with that dull, lifeless stare. I yelped in fright, jumping backwards into the crowd. Shop-front dummies don't move!

Some heavy hands clamped around my body, a man's voice barking out what seemed to be a warning. I snapped around, a bolt of terror running through my body, coming face to face with a man in a dark N-Police uniform, and a rather surprised look on his face.

His first question was in Japanese... I could just blink quizzically at him. Then watch as his eyes inevitably tracked down to that same place, before snapping back up to my face.

"English?" I ventured.

"New in town?" he smiled. I placed his accent as US Boston, at a guess.

"Could say that," I sighed, trying to act as nonchalant and completely and naturally unbothered as possible. It'd be damned funny to get all of half a mile before some random copper figured out what exactly I was... and then a case of how much further before the ADP splattered what was left across the side of some building.

"Well, they're mannequins. Dumb as a plank and programmed to do nothing but stand there. They're completely harmless," the copper reassured me.

I nodded, looking back up at them. They didn't look much like Boomers at all... they still had moulding seams and everything on them. They looked like they were made of solid plastic. And then they moved again.

It was bone chillingly creepy... like staring into the depths of the uncanny valley.

"Anyway Miss," continued the cop, "Would you have any identification on you I could check?",

Shit!... Okay, I could try stun him. That'd be easy enough. I knew I could do that, but I wasn't quite sure how. And it wouldn't work with the sunglasses the copper was wearing anyway. Alright... Sylia set me up with a fake I.D... it should pass.

"Resident I.D?"

That's what I had...I think.

"You got resident without learning Japanese?" asked the cop, "I guess that's the way this town is going these days," he shrugged, "When I moved here, you couldn't even get a job without being fluent,"

The name on his uniform read Murphy. I pulled the card out of my wallet, wondering just when that picture had been taken for a moment, before handing it to the copper.

"Meg Deckard, Aged 23. D.O.B 18/05/09. Place of Residence, Taro Apartments, Yokohama City. Cybernetics: 98.2%... wow." he read the card a second time to be sure, before scanning it through some reader. " Well, you're a real ghost in the shell, aren't you? Anyway, no outstanding warrants... but that doesn't matter anyway since boomeroids ain't our problem. Drivers license shows 2 violations for speeding, otherwise no convictions."

He gave me a curious look.

"How does anybody living in Taro afford such high grade cybernetics?"

"That's why I'm living in Taro," I blurted out. "Boomer nearly killed me. Doctor's assumed consent to it. Now the payments are killing me...and maintenance,"

I gave such a fake laugh, he had to see through it.

Murphy snorted. "Well, Mk1 Homo Sapiens still has its advantages then," he smiled warmly at me, "Now be safe, and Good day to you ma'am,"

"Same to you," I returned as brightly as I could, the officer placing my ID card back in my hand.

Watching him walk off on patrol, I gave the most almighty sigh of relief. The mannequins looked down on me, as if sensing I might not be the same as the other humans filing past. Their vacant expressions staring down at me, glassy, vapid and utterly lifeless. There was no soul behind them.

Automata.

I felt so superior.

I could think, I could guess, I could comprehend, I could feel, the same as any human being. You are a machine, my subconscious reminded gently. Yeah, well I'm a bloody well built one, the rest of me huffed.

"CaCaCatch the Wave!" a jumbo-sized television hanging on the building across the street announced to the world. The square jawed and plastic-faced Cokeologist himself grinning right back at me with three foot tall teeth. I looked up at him for a moment, plastic and artificial on a computer generated background. Black shades, Fiberglass suit., rubber blond hair.

An ADP fire-bee buzzed overhead, heading somewhere in a hurry, followed quickly by a thundering 6-wheel truck, sirens ullulating off of glass, steel and concrete.

"It began as Genius, and Grew to be legend," A new ad started on the jumbo-vision, swooping wireframe graphics diving towards the sleek shape of a turbine-wheeled sportscar, "There's never been...anything... like this before."

Oh wow...

Even in the day time, neon signs flickered over shop fronts, offering everything from electronics repair, to clothes, manga and foreign literature. Cybernetic repair shops shared a building with traditional craftsmen selling wooden furniture, and a classic computer collector's store. They had my laptop in the window, or a similar one anyway, selling for ten-times what I'd paid for it in 2008, if I made the exchange rate right. 1.50M Yen...15K Euro's.

Electric K-cars whirred past, vying for space with Bloodrunner-style bikes, a gaggle of scooters, a whining turbine powered delivery truck, and a growling gasohol Griffin sportscar. Somebody, a businesswoman in a neat grey suit hurried past with a briefcase in one hand, receiving a portable fax from her wristwatch.

Wire-headed Cyberpunks rubbed shoulders with Kimono wearing Geisha, and a hundred other cultures in one massive multi-coloured neon salad bowl. There were probably more people living in these few square kilometres, than maybe in my entire home country. The whole world was rushing past, buying, selling, living, maybe dying... and catching quick eyefuls of me if they had the goddamned time.

"GENOM Automotive, Taking Charge.." the Jumbovision finished, cycling forward to an ad for Green Foods.

There was more energy here, more movement than I had ever experienced in my life. It was stunning, it was thrilling... it was the future and I was in it. I was a part of it. Mingling with the smoke and the dust and the sound of it all, feeling it flow through me. Sights, sounds, smells… even the feel of the concrete walls.

My God what a city.

A heaving mass of bright colours, big hair and boxy-technology. That 1980's aesthetic was in vogue and it showed. Bright, vibrant and moving forward on a new wave. It was so different to my home. Crowded, pulsating with the essence of life and progress.

Here I am, in Megatokyo, 2032.

Y'know, I think I might enjoy living here.

-I...I.

-Dartz