Overhead, a police patrol chopper flew a patrol route, scanning its spotlight back and forth in the night.
"I don't think that is a good idea, Yoshi..." she was saying as the spot light played over them. The chopper didn't even pause as it continued on, sweeping the city for dangers to its population. She was about to say something else when out of the shadows, some one approached them. Both nearly jumped in surprise as the dark, haggard figure reached out a hand toward them.
"Got any spare change?" the disheveled figure asked, his hand extended. Yoshi was not in the mood for this, and wanted to get this guy to go away as quickly as possible. Besides, something was just not right about this guy. Maybe he was nuts or something. Better to give him a few coins and let him go on his way. Yoshi found a few coins as the man came to a stop in front of him, his hand inches from Yoshi's chest. Suddenly, he felt something prick his chest while he heard the sound of metal sliding over metal. Looking down, Yoshi saw two long metal claws, extending from the back of the tramp's hand, had driven through his jacket. As he stood there silently, blood began to stain the front of his jacket. His eyes rolled back and he collapsed to the ground. The young woman looked at the scene in horror, unable to make a sound. The two claws retracted, and the tramp turned toward her, walking slowly. She let out a piercing scream.
When the patrol chopper came around again, five minutes later, the only sign of anything amiss was a dark stain on the pavement. Leon looked down the firing range over the sights of his magnum revolver. Locking the hammer back with his thumb, he took careful aim. Behind his mirrored shades, he blinked once, slowly bringing the sights on-line. Holding his breath, he carefully squeezed the trigger, drawing it further and further back. The revolver's hammer fell, hitting the primer on the shell, sending the round down range. Opening the cylinder, Leon popped the single empty shell casing out, and then took off his sunglasses. Around him, a group of officers waited impatiently, craning their necks to see down range at the shot he had just made. When he had set both shades and weapon down, Leon reached up and flipped the switch, bringing the target back from the far end of the range. As it got closer, a cheer went up from part of the crowd, while a dull groan went up from the rest. A quick exchange of money was taking place when Leon reached up and pulled down the target. A small microchip had been taped to the center of the target's forehead; a chip that Leon had just destroyed with a single well placed shot. Someone passed him a wad of bills that he quickly shoved into his pocket. Betting was not exactly illegal... but nor was it smiled upon. The man who handed Leon the bills patted Leon on the back.
"I knew you could do it, man. Ha," he bellowed. Leon fed six new shells into his revolver before slipping it back into his shoulder holster under his coat. Picking up his glasses, he was about to leave when someone grabbed his arm.
"Hey, Leon, I got something new for you to take a look at." One of the armorers, the officers in charge of maintaining and servicing the AD Police's weapons pulled him over to the alcove next to the range.
"You like revolvers. We just got this new one down and are suppose to test it out. Why don't you give it a shot?" he asked, laughing at his own bad pun. He picked up an enormous revolver, whose cylinder was at least 10 cm long. Looking a bit weary, Leon took it, hefting the weight.
"So what do you think?"
"Jeez... this thing weighs a ton!" Leon flicked the release, and the pistol broke open, the barrel and cylinder canting downward.
"Hey, this thing only carries three rounds! What good is that?" Leon asked as he looked up at the armorer.
"Yeah, well, take a look at this." He held up a single shell. Leon whistled softly at the size of it.
"Sixty caliber, armor piercing. This thing has better penetration than the M42's," he said, referring to the standard issue assault rifle. The armorer almost sounded like a proud parent.
"They tried putting four rounds in the thing, but it kept splitting open on them. Now they tell me one shot from this will even put down a combat boomer."
Leon snorted, taking out his Ruger. "Yeah, and one shot from this will take out a boomer too. Come one, you know better than to believe all the hype about anything new. Still, let me see that thing." Replacing the revolver, he took the weapon, then the box of shells the armorer offered.
"Give me an armored target on three. What did you call this thing?"
"An Earth Shaker," the armorer replied as he pushed buttons. On the range, a pair of doors opened at the back of the range, and a large, metal boomer shell rolled forward. This part of the range was designed to test weapons against the armor that could be expected on combat boomers, and worse. The metal shell stood still as Leon loaded three rounds into the weapon and snapped it shut. Shaking his head, Leon extended the pistol one handed, taking aim at the boomer's chest plate. He was going to put down the myth of this "Earth Shaker" once and for all. He thumbed back the hammer and took a deep breath, slowly pulling the pistol's trigger. In a split second, everyone had hit the floor, looking for whatever cover there might be. Leon was pressing himself back against the wall, where the recoil of the shot had pushed him. No one had expected the pistol to be that loud. It sounded as if a bomb had gone off in the cement room, the report echoing off the walls. That, along with the recoil, had shoved Leon all the way back to the wall, still holding the smoking weapon. He stared down at it in shock. How could something that small make that much of a bang? Leon laughed self-consciously as he pushed himself away from the wall.
"Maybe we can scare the boomers to death with this thing?" Elsewhere, others laughed at the joke, and themselves, slowly getting up from the floor. The laughter died out a little as they looked down range. Leon was, if nothing else, a great shot. Even though he had jumped when the gun went off and his round had still struck the target in the right shoulder. The area was now blown away, the metal torn away from the underlying frame. Leon took off his glasses and examined the target. Frowning, he dons his shades, and took aim, this time with both hands. The recoil still rocked him back, though nowhere near as badly, now that he knew what to expect. This time, the round struck the target dead center in the head. The armor piercing round tore the entire assembly away, causing almost as much damage as the heavy anti-boomer rifles issued to snipers. Leon fired the last round, putting a huge hole in the center torso of the boomer. Leon opened the breech of the gun, and the three spent shells fell to the floor. Inserting three more rounds, he took the Ruger out of his shoulder rig, tucked it in the back of his jeans, and slid the Earth Shaker into his shoulder holster.
As he passed the armorer, he turned and said, "Thanks. I'll take it." He walked out of the range, leaving the rest of the officers holding their ears and gaping at the power of the handgun, and the armorer sputtering how he couldn't just take it like that.
"Sit down and shut up. We have a lot to go over, and not much time to do it," Dieork snapped, standing behind the podium in the squad room as the AD Police officers filed in. Wearing his usual combat fatigues, he looked suddenly old and tired. Dieork had been a commander in the AD Police since its inception, and before that, when they were still part of the N Police, had championed the idea of splitting the specialized unit into its own force. Lately, all the strain of command had been becoming more evident in him. Last year, he had separated from his wife. More recently, when Billy Fanward, the experimental anti-boomer cyborg, went berserk, rampaging through AD Police headquarters, Deiorick had been shot. While he claimed that he was completely recovered, some of his officers weren't so sure. Slowly, every one settled into their seats. Jeena shouldered her way into the room at the last minute, and took a chair next to Leon. She looked around the room, and sighed deeply. She recognized maybe half of the officers there, and most of them were still fairly new. The fatality rate made for a very high turnover rate in new personnel.
"Alright, to start out with, good job everyone. We are seeing more and more combat class boomers, but we are still getting the job done. But don't get sloppy. These things are designed to kill, and are far more dangerous than the run away domestics we are use to. Investigations are still looking into why we are seeing more combat boomers. Odds are some one set up a production facility to illegally produce them here, and the ones we are seeing are escaping before final control blocks are set in." Jeena snorted and Leon frowned, leaning back in his chair, balancing on two legs. 'Someone' meant Genom, and both they and Dieork knew it, but so far there had been no solid proof. Dieork continued, "Forensics is still looking over the parts left from the last few. Genom has offered any help they can in finding out what went wrong with these boomers." The disgust and sarcasm were evident in his voice. Of course Genom wanted to help. How better to cover any evidence of their involvement?
"On the subject, we got a report of a new type of boomer. So far it hasn't been seen in MegaTokyo. It's a combat model, but as we are seeing more and more of them running loose here, I thought I should give you the heads up. It is a refinement of the standard infiltration model, but with some serious improvements." Dieork nodded, and the lights dimmed, a screen behind him lighting up, displaying the stats for a standard infiltration model.
"You all have seen these diagrams before. The new model has a few modifications." He tapped the head on the diagram. "The new model does not have a head mounted cannon. We believe this was done to increase space for a better brain module. There is also no weapons array in the chest. From the reports we have, there are no integral offensive ranged weapons." A few of the officers snorted in disgust. One stood up, interrupting.
"A boomer that will not shoot back at all, what is so bad about that? I mean, that should make them easier to beat, right?"
Dieork looked back, resigned weariness in his voice. Most of these officers were so young, so inexperienced.
"It doesn't have any integral projectile weapons. That doesn't mean that it can't use other firearms. It is believed that it is programmed with the ability to use most small arms at expert level or above. And, it isn't completely unarmed." Turning back to the diagram, he tapped the forearm of the boomer. "It is armed with two sets of retractable claws, mounted here in the arms. They can be deployed and retracted with nearly no loss of concealment. The only sign would be small holes in the artificial flesh over the knuckles."
This time it was Jeena that spoke up. "Where did we get this information? Don't they have anything solid?"
Dieork was silent for a moment. "I can't disclose the source of this information. Suffice to say it comes from a reliable source." Jeena nudged Leon, who nodded slowly. This came from somewhere important; an industrial spy, or perhaps a foreign intelligence service. One who might be compromised by revealing the source?
"There is one more thing, and this is very important. As you know, most boomers with fusion ability can not fuse with organic material." He spoke slowly, head slightly bowed. "Our sources have stated that this boomer can fuse with human flesh, in a limited manner; by taking a sample of a person's skin, this boomer can clone those cells and alter its outer skin to resemble that individual, to a level of being virtually identical."
There was a soft murmur throughout the room as the officers digested what that meant. Fusion, the ability of a boomer to meld with inorganic material, was nothing new. But this was. An infiltration boomer was built and programmed with one 'disguise'; an outer flesh covering it could 'grow' to appear human. But it was limited to that one appearance. This new boomer could adopt a disguise, attack a victim, and assume that person's identity. Now the increased brain module made sense. The extra processing power could be used to mimic the person's behavior. Dieork let them digest the information for a moment before going on.
"Well, now you know what is out there. Be careful, and keep your guard up. With all these combat models running around, I get the feeling something big is about to happen. Assignments are posted on the board. That's all." He turned and walked out of the briefing room. The assembled officers rose and walked to the board, behind the podium where Dieork had been speaking, and started looking for their names and assignments. Leon got up to look while Jeena remained seated. Why push through the crowd for more bad news?
Elbowing his way through the crowd, Leon forced his way up to the board. Quickly, he scanned the names for his and Jenna's assignment. Usually they were assigned together, but from time to time, he got tagged for liaison assignments with the Normal Police. Like today, Leon sighed, and then shoved his way back through the crowd to where Jeena was sitting. Like any good partner, she knew something was wrong before he even got close; she could read it in his face. Shaking her head, she raised a finger to her lips, indicating for him to wait. The two left the room, leaving the buzz of the crowd behind.
"Okay, what is it? Maintenance again?" she asked in a tired tone. Just what she needed another day of working on the APCs, or worse, the assault armors? It wasn't hard, just dull! "Hey, if it gets to bad we can cut out early..." she trailed off as she saw his eyes.
"What is it?" she asked again.
"They want me over at the N Police. I'm not sure why; I'll get the details when I am there." He waited, knowing what was coming.
"Shit! Jesus, how many times are they going to have you over there? Can't they take care of anything themselves?" Jeena fumed. Leon ducked his head slightly under the verbal assault. Then she hit him with something he really didn't expect. "I bet that little trollop requested you. What was her name? Iris?"
It wasn't the words that shocked him. For a moment, she almost sounded jealous. But if she was, she covered quickly.
"Alright, what the hell do they have me doing, since they are pulling my partner? Paper work again?" Her tone was all business again, especially the way she emphasized "partner".
"No. You are with the third assault squad." He laughed, trying to lighten the mood. "I think Dieork knew you would tear this place apart if he left you here!" They both laughed a little, and then Leon became serious again.
"Look, Jeena. Be careful, huh? That last boomer nearly took my head off..."
She cut him off, slugging his shoulder hard enough to sting. "I told you that damn shotgun wasn't worth a damn! Look, Leon, I'm a big girl, and I took care of myself long before you got here. I'll be fine." Her tone softened almost imperceptibly. "Hey, check in each day, okay?"
Leon wasn't sure how to answer, so he slipped on his sunglasses.
"Why? Afraid they are trying to steal me back?" he managed.
"Nope, I just want to tell you exactly how miserable I am each day."
Down in the parking garage, Leon sighed softly. Shrugging, he climbed onto his motorcycle, and slipped the key into the ignition. His thoughts were still on his conversation with Jeena as he hit the ignition. The gray/blue bike roared to life, the headlight flicking on. What had she meant? Ah well. With Jeena, you could never be sure. Better to just sit back and let things run their course. He would call her, of course. After all, they were partners. Gunning the engine, he fishtailed out of is parking slot and up the ramp, out of the building. The rush of air cleared his head, partially, as he raced through the streets. Weaving in and out of traffic by rout, he let his mind wander. Just what was he needed over at N Police for? Usually it had something to do with boomers, but that still fell into the gray area between the two forces. Smuggling, illegal recycling, black market parts, that sort of thing, he thought. Either force could handle it, but the ADP was moving away from investigations to just dealing with rampaging boomers. It wasn't that they couldn't do the investigations; rampages were simply becoming more and more common, requiring them to be prioritized. Running a red light, he squeezed between two cars and turned left. Something else was nagging him. He had been on exactly one date with Iris Cara. Not only had he shown up late, he had also had to run off in the middle of the date. That's it had been to stop a runaway boomer that had fused with Genom's newest and most powerful AI had been secondary to the fact that he had run off to help Jeena. Some how, Iris didn't seem to buy that they were just "partners". Since that night, Iris hadn't returned his calls, and he was sure she was dodging him. Shaking his head as he jumped a curb and cut right, he decided that he would never understand women. Ever.
Things did not improve when he arrived at N Police headquarters. To start with, he set off the weapons detector when he came through the front door, just like he did every time he came here. Leon noticed that it only took those two minutes to turn off the alarm this time, and only three officers came running with drawn weapons. As soon as they saw him, they holstered their pistols, and walked off, commenting on those "damn ADP assholes." Leon merely snorted derisively. Had he been a boomer, even a low end one, he could have torn through here with no problems. No one had anything better than service revolver, for god's sake. After the shake up was over, he was quickly escorted into the chief's office. He was familiar with Leon's habits, and was only slightly perturbed this time. Nothing like the last time, when Leon was sure he was going to have a stroke right on the spot.
A soft knock broke the silence of the large office, nestled in the upper level of the still growing Genom Tower. The heavy-set man behind the large oak desk looked up from his computer display after checking the time and said simply, "Enter," before returning to the report he was reviewing. An immaculately dressed, dark haired, woman opened the door, entered, and turned to shut it. The entire office was tastefully decorated with wood paneling. Even the doors had a wood overlay on top of their armored, blast resistant centers. In an age where plastic and steel were the norm, this office had the feel of being from another time, a time when wood was not an extravagantly expensive commodity. The man finished reading the last few lines of his report, and hit the key to send it across the network. When he received confirmation, he looked up, leering at the woman. She had no illusions as of how he was picturing her; even these days, women were still viewed by many men as something to be owned and used.
"Yes, Ms. Madigan? You have something to report?" She frowned at him, then nodded. "Everything is proceeding as planned. All systems are on-line and functioning normally."
He smiled again, his eyes drifting from her face to slightly lower. "Excellent. I knew it would go smoothly. That is all," he said, dismissing her. She turned, walking back to the door. As her hand touched the knob, he looked up again, and added, as an after thought. "Oh, and Ms. Madigan, we will be working late again tonight. Wear something blue this time. And remember how this will look on your monthly review." Grinding her teeth, she did her best to keep the anger from her voice.
"Yes sir. Of course, I will inform your wife, sir." Leon's head hit the table with a loud 'thud'. Instantly, he sat up, cursing, rubbing his nose. The entire room was looking at him, some with mouths agape. They couldn't believe that anyone would be so bold as to fall asleep during a briefing. The chief was explaining what this team would be doing; namely trying to find and stop whoever it was that was manufacturing combat class boomers in the city. While the ADP was supposedly in charge of boomer related crime, the N Police were keeping this one simply because it was so high profile. They claimed that it was normal humans making the boomers, so the Normal Police should be the ones to take the case. The old rivalry between the two forces had surfaced again, and once more Leon was caught in the middle. Inter-service cooperation is damned. The only one who wasn't surprised by Leon's scene was Iris Cara. She snorted derisively, and looked back toward the chief. It was exactly the type of thing she expected Leon to do, like running off in the middle of their date. Why did it have to be him that the ADP sent over? He probably pushed to get sent over here, after she had been ignoring him. Tough luck, she wasn't going to even acknowledge his existence! The chief glared at him, tapping his foot, silently counting to ten.
"Officer McNichol, I hope I'm not boring you with this?" he asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He set his notes down, giving Leon his full attention. Leon groaned heavily and sat up in his chair, giving his nose a final rub. "Look, you have been reciting every known fact about combat boomers for the past two hours. We know someone is manufacturing them in MegaTokyo. We all know who it is: Genom. So why not get off your asses and do something, or give this over to us so we can do it for you!" he said, muttering under his breath, "As usual."
There were murmurs of disapproval from the officers. Someone in the back snickered, "What let you raze the entire city to the ground? That's the ADP's usual style..." Leon stood up, walking to his desk, looking down at the officer, his face cold as stone. The officer nervously looked up, noting the large bulge under Leon's left shoulder. He swallowed hard as Leon slowly reached into his pocket, sweat forming on his brow. Leon, on the other hand, was completely impassive as he drew out his sunglasses and slid them on, and then turned, walking out of the room in complete silence. A collective sigh of relief was released as he walked out. That relief was short lived for one unfortunate officer. Sighing, the chief looked down at his notes, searching for the name of the officer he had decided to partner Leon with. His predecessor had noted that she had worked with the ADP and Leon specifically before. Maybe that would ease the process.
"Officer Cara?" he called out. Eyes wide, she stood up, her bottom lip trembling just a little. No, this couldn't be happening. Please no, anything but this. "Chief?"
"You are going to be working with McNichol. You'd better hurry and catch up with him." She was about to protest, to ask that someone else be assigned, that anyone else be assigned to that arrogant son of a bitch, but before she could even form the words, the chief thundered at her.
"Now!" Bobbing her head, she scooped up her notes and ran out of the room. As she turned down the hallway, she caught a glimpse of him heading through the door to the motor pool. She ran down the hallway, nearly colliding with an officer coming out of the locker room, to catch up with him.
Down in the motor pool, she spied him sauntering toward his motorcycle.
"Leon! Wait up!" she yelled at him, darting between the parked patrol cars. He turned, taking his sunglasses off to look at her as she caught to him, panting from exertion, still holding her notes from the briefing. He remained silent, watching her, not really sure of what to say.
Finally when she recovered enough of her breath to speak she said," The Chief has assigned you to me for this investigation."
Leon rolled his eyes, but she continued before he could break in. "You re a consultant on this, here to keep good relations between the ADP and us."
Leon replaced his sunglasses giving her a cold stare. If that was the way she wanted to play it. "Fine." He turned, reaching for his helmet. "Know a few people who might be able to give us some information who's those boomers are being produced. I'll check it out and call you with what I find."
"Where do you think you are going? There is no room on that thing for me," Iris retorted, looked at the racing bike.
"What do you expect me to drive?"
"We'll take a Tokyo Police Department car, of course!" she said, turning away from him and walking toward one of the waiting cars. She didn't even bother to turn and see if he was coming. Leon sat on the bike, watching her go. She had changed a lot. When he had first met her, she was sweet and naive. Now, she was colder, but much more self-confident than and still as stubborn as ever. He wondered if that was a change for the better or not. Something about her attitude reminded him of Jeena. Sighing, he slid off the bike and walked after her, reaching for the driver's side door of the car she was next to. Her glare brought him up short.
"What do you think you are doing? You are here in an advisory position only. I am driving," she declared, pushing toward the driver's door.
"Now wait one fucking..." Leon began, but before he could finish, she slammed the door, nearly taking off two of his fingers as she did.
He stepped back slightly in surprise, holding his hand, making sure his fingers were all right. She glared impatiently at him through the rolled up window. With sagging shoulders, he walked around to the cars left side, opened the door and dropped heavily into the seat. Iris began to say something about buckling in, but a low growl from Leon told her to take her victory over driving and be happy. Turning the wheel, Iris smiled as the car glided softly out of the parking garage. Maybe this wasn't going to be bad after all.
The young woman walked confidently into the main lobby of the AD Police building. The boomer-sentries didn't even give hear a second look as she strode past them. Once inside, she looked around the lobby briefly, and then walked quickly to the receptionists' desk. Her dark hair streamed behind her as she crossed the lobby, then patiently waited in line. Finally, when it was her turn, she stepped up to the open receptionist.
"Welcome to the AD Police building. How can I..." the receptionist began. Before she could finish her little welcome, the woman cut her off.
"I want to see Leon McNichol."