(A/N: To Tallulah: Love? You mean in that chapter? It's really hard to find, and it's kinda too messed-up to actually be love, and you can't tell till you've read this chapter, and I think I'll just shut up because I'm not making sense…)
Gum looked up at the sound of skates. "Find anything?"
"Nothing." Garam shook his head dejectedly. "Nothing at all."
Mew sighed and collapsed onto the couch next to Gum. A few feet away, the other couch was empty. Tab's spot.
"Where are they?" Gum rested her face in her hands. "They've gotta be somewhere!"
Garam gazed at the floor. Mew didn't say anything, but she looked ready to cry.
Standing, Gum paced back and forth. "Where're Beat and Combo?"
"Beat went through Dogenzaka," Garam informed her. "Combo's checking the Terminal." He nodded at Mew. "We just looked in 99th Street."
Gum kicked at nothing, almost losing her balance. "And I just went through Rokkaku-Dai! How is it possible?!"
Garam shrugged. "They're most likely in the Rokkaku-Dai area. Maybe we should see if we can find the PGs."
"No! We're not talking to any PGs!" Gum took a deep breath. "We have to find them!"
"Gum," Mew said in her quiet voice, "we need to stay calm."
The brown-haired girl sighed and let herself fall back down to the couch, dropping her face into her hands. "I know. But they're two of my best friends… where are they?"
Garam patted her on the shoulder, something she would never let him do under normal circumstances. "Come on, Gum. They'll show up."
Mew tried to look cheerful. "It's only been, what, two days since Yoyo left?"
"And three more since Tab went missing," Gum reminded her. "Five days, guys. Five days Tab's been gone. He's our leader!"
A new voice chuckled. "Not a very good one, apparently."
Gum's hands drew into fists and she glared at the boy who had come in while the three were talking. "And I suppose you think you'd make a better one, Beat."
He snorted. "Exactly. So I take it you guys haven't seen 'em?"
Gum turned her back on him. Garam said nothing, just sat on the couch next to Mew.
"Yo!" Combo skated over to the group, looking grim. "No trace of them in the Terminal. I say they probably went through the sewers. Or tried."
"Yeah." Mew nodded. "Yoyo said he thought Tab tried to go through."
Garam looked thoughtful. "Well, the obvious question is, are we still gonna go look for 'em? There are more gangs through the sewers, ya know… they might be even more dangerous than Poison Jam." He bit his lower lip, then added, "I'm goin'."
"I'm obviously coming too," Gum agreed. "Mew, Combo, Beat?"
The blue-haired girl nodded, as did Combo. Beat sighed. "You guys are lost without me. I'm in."
Gum seemed to soften a bit toward him. "All right, then let's go. We'd better stick together. Tab and Yoyo each went alone, and whatever happened to them, I don't think we want to share that fate…"
* * *
(A/N: These characters here are Nellie's, not mine, and that's pretty much the only reason they're here ^_^. They won't appear again, so don't bother remembering their names for this story.)
The brown-haired, pink-clad girl stood up, tossing her pigtails over her shoulders. "Is he gonna wake up or what?"
"Like, give him some time, Candi," a young blonde reprimanded. Her outfit was identical to the other's, as well as that of every one of the Prissy Girls: pink capris and a white tank top with a daisy on the front. She glanced down at Hand. "He looks like he took some pretty hard hits. Maybe he's got a concussion."
"Totally, Lucki," a third girl agreed. "That guy was, like, smashing him!"
"Quiet," a girl with bleached-blonde pigtail-braids snapped. "He's waking up."
Hand opened his eyes, then closed them as if doing so could make the sight cease to exist. A string of slurred expletives came from his lips.
"That's not very polite," Candi scolded him. "And you should be polite, considering the position you're in."
Hand's eyes remained shut. "What do ya want with me?" Please don't say you're gonna give me a makeover or beat me up or toss me in the water or any of that stuff Snap mentioned… please, not now…
"Well," Candi began, "we could start with you tellin' us what just happened, and who ya were fighting with."
The PGs exchanged glances. The name did not appear to be familiar with any of them. "Who's Wax?" asked a brown-haired girl named Panzi.
Hand gave up trying to think of a plausible lie. "My girlfriend's half-brother."
His audience tittered. "Oh," Candi giggled. "I get it."
"It's not hard to get," Hand muttered. At last he opened his eyes, looking into the inquisitive faces of the PGs.
There were seven of them, all wearing the exact same outfit. Each was recognizable mostly by the color and style of their hair. Candi, the brown-pigtailed leader, addressed Hand. "So, then, the main question: why did you and… Wax… pick Rokkaku-Dai as your fighting arena?"
"I met him here," Hand explained. "When I was…" His voice trailed off. "Oh, no… Blue Flame and the others…" He looked up at Candi, hoping she could see the urgency in his eyes… or, I don't know, something like that. "Please, you've gotta let me go. I have to make sure my friends are okay."
Candi stared at him for a moment, then reached down. Hand blinked, trying to push his suspicions away, before taking the hand she offered and pulling himself up with a soft groan.
"Does this mean I can go?" he asked.
She smiled. "And don't show your face here again. I'm sure you've heard what we do to the guys we catch. This is a warning, I guess."
Hand smiled back at her. "Thanks."
"Ya sure you'll be okay?"
He forced a laugh as he skated off, one hand pressed against the gash on his chest. "It'll take more than Wax to get me down and out…"
The PGs watched him go, then Candi turned to her fellow gang members. "Come on, girls. I got the feeling something big's goin' on, something we don't want to be a part of. I think we'd better lay low for awhile; hope this all blows over…"
* * *
Cube's muscles were no longer responding to her frantic orders. Her skates slid along the half-pipe, then stopped as she collapsed to her knees, drenched in sweat from her long but useless dash. She could hear the boy behind her, getting closer…
Looking up, Cube's mouth opened as if she intended to speak, but it was a moment before anything came out. "B-blue Flame? What are you… doing…?"
Blue Flame skated over to Poison Jam's leader. Snap and Star hung back, confused as usual. Star kept glancing behind them, afraid the strange gang would be back.
"What happened to you?!" Blue Flame asked. Cube's skin was sweaty and slippery under her fingers as she tried to get the breathless girl upright.
Cube was about to answer when the sound of skates reached Blue Flame's ears. "Who…? Cube?"
A boy skated into view, sliding to a halt when he saw Blue Flame. He grinned and wiped sweat from his forehead, and Blue Flame realized that he had been chasing her unfortunate friend. "Who are you?" she demanded, skating in front of Cube.
"I could ask you the same thing, and I will," the boy replied. "My name's Ellipse. So who're you, and what do ya want? And why didn't my brother take care of you?"
So that's who those people were, Blue Flame mused, but she didn't have time to linger on the thought. Keeping her eyes on Ellipse, she moved backward, making sure Cube stayed behind her. "Get out," she said, her voice not nearly as strong as she intended it to be. "Get out of Bottom Point. I don't know what you're doing here, or who you are, but—"
Ellipse's hand slipped into the pocket of his jeans, then reappeared holding a small handgun, which he aimed at Blue Flame. "No, I think the three of you should be leaving."
Blue Flame didn't know much about guns, but Ellipse obviously knew what he was doing. She glanced behind her. Star was keeping Cube standing; Snap was backing away. "All right, the three of us'll go," she agreed, "but we're takin' her with us."
He grinned and shook his head. "I don't think so." He motioned with the gun toward an exit. "Ya got twenty seconds to be outta my sight. Twenty… nineteen…"
Blue Flame stared at him, then turned and moved toward Cube.
"Eighteen… seventeen… six—"
He did not finish the word. Blue Flame looked back just in time to see Ellipse stagger forward and drop the gun. A vaguely familiar boy stood behind him, holding a twisted mass of metal that had been an empty spray can.
Speed glared down at Ellipse, who was rubbing the back of his head. Ellipse reached for his gun, but Speed kicked it toward Blue Flame. The blue-clad Romantic Energy snatched it up and skated backward, watching the two carefully.
Ellipse winced as he stood, his gaze meeting Speed's. "Speed? What're you doing here?"
Speed's amber eyes widened when he recognized the boy in front of him. "Stride?"
Ellipse answered with a grin. "Actually, it's Ellipse now… I changed my name when Slow changed his." He laughed and swung a fist into Speed's chest. Speed stumbled back as though hurt, but he caught Ellipse's next punch and jerked hard, pulling him forward.
"What did you think you were doing?" Speed demanded. He gave Ellipse less than a second to answer before he smashed the battered paint can into the boy's nose, sending him to the ground. Again the metallic mess made contact with Ellipse's head, and he rolled onto his back as blood formed a small puddle at the bottom of the half-pipe.
Blue Flame fumbled with the gun, then held it straight up. Squeezing her eyes shut and hoping she wouldn't hurt anyone, she pulled the trigger.
Speed froze, then stared at Blue Flame. "Dude, girl, you don't have the faintest clue what you're doing, do ya?"
Spark had skated up to Blue Flame, and she held her hand out. Blue Flame hesitated only a moment before giving up the gun. Spark raised it and aimed it at Ellipse, who was trying to stand. "Don't move," she commanded.
Ellipse obeyed for the most part, but raised a hand to his forehead, groaning. He tossed a hateful look at Speed, who skated backward a few feet, watching his sister.
"Stride, or Ellipse, or whatever," Spark addressed the member of Bloody Murder, "you have the rest of those twenty seconds to get out of here. I believe you were at sixteen." She smiled and motioned with the gun. "Fifteen… fourteen… thirteen… twelve… eleven…"
Ellipse fled, slowing as he passed Cube and the three Romantic Energies, but moving on until he was out of Bottom Point.
Spark turned to Cube and Blue Flame. "What happened?" Her eyes grew wide as she saw Cube. "Is she okay?"
Speed had already skated up to Cube and was helping her stand, as Star was having trouble. Cube took one look at him and, with a spirit she should not have had at that moment, punched him in the stomach.
Speed took a step back, looking offended but unhurt. Had Cube been in her normal state of health, she probably would have at least knocked him down. "That wasn't nice," he said mildly.
Cube was glaring at him. "You… you were that kid," she growled. "In Kibogaoka." Her gaze moved to Spark. "And you…"
"Yes, me," Spark confirmed. "What happened?"
Blue Flame stepped in. "That kid… Ellipse… was chasing Cube, I guess. But if I may ask, who are you guys?"
Speed was staring at her. "Blue Flame, wasn't it?"
"Y-yes," she replied, recalling then where she had seen him before. "And you're… Speed?"
He seemed as surprised as she was that they remembered each other's names. "Yeah. This's my sister Spark."
"We're part of the gang Dark Storm," Spark interjected. "Who are you guys? And Speed, how do you know her?"
Blue Flame sighed. "We're the Romantic Energies."
"They saved me from the Love Shockers," Speed explained. "When I was in Hikage Street. I, uh, hadn't gotten around to telling you." His attention returned to Blue Flame. "Where're the other two? Black Rose and Hand, or something like that."
Blue Flame looked at the ground. "I don't know where Black Rose is. Hand is…" Her head jerked up, a frightened expression on her face. "Oh, no… Hand! We left him in Rokkaku-Dai with—"
"Uh, guys," Star called. The three turned to her to see that Cube had lost consciousness, and her dead weight was difficult for Star to hold.
With little effort Speed picked Cube up, heaving her over one shoulder in a casual manner that, had she been awake, would probably have cost him his life. "We should take her back to Kibogaoka," he decided.
Spark nodded. "We'll have to tell Tip and Cat about all this, too," she noted.
"Wh-who?" Blue Flame was confused. "What?"
Spark and Speed glanced at each other. "I'll go with you," Spark told Blue Flame. "Speed can take Cube to Kibogaoka."
Speed opened his mouth to protest, but an apparently meaningful stare from his younger sister made him shut it and nod, then skate off toward the Tokyo Underground and Kibogaoka Hill.
Spark turned to Blue Flame, Snap and Star. "So…" She fell silent as she realized that she had nothing to say; her undeveloped leadership skills were failing her. "Um… let's go…"
* * *
Quip shuddered. "I think it's safe to say we've found 'em." She held up one finger, smeared with a mixture of red and black paint. "This must've been like a minute ago."
Quo made a face at the giant graffiti near her. "This is nasty. I never liked drawings of dead people… or dying ones…" There was a pause. "Quip?"
Her friend turned, concerned at the frightened tone to Quo's voice. "What?"
Quo pointed at another graffiti tag, one of the larger ones. "That… that girl looks like you…"
"Oh…" Quip stared at the wall, her mouth falling open. "Oh…"
It was her. Same long black hair with the single white streak that formed her half-ponytail. Same black eyes. Same short-sleeved white shirt with the dark grey 'Q' on it, only it was torn up at the top; the picture cut off before one could see if the bottom was as well.
And wearing an expression of terror that she could have only worn once. Only that one night, five years ago, that night when he had caught her alone… alone in that abandoned house at the end of Ayame's busy street, alone in the dark, and… oh… not again…
There were tiny, crooked white letters along the side of the painting: Takin' it Slow.
Slow… She closed her eyes and shivered. Oh, please don't let him be back… Glitch said he was, but I was sure he was wrong… he can't be back, no, it's a mistake…
"Quip? Are you…?"
"It's a mistake." Quo's voice was louder than it should have been, attempting to cover up whatever emotion was buried inside. "It's a mistake. Let's go. There might be people here we need to help."
"Are you sure you're—"
Quip swallowed hard. "Quo, why don't we split up? You go around to the right, and I'll go around to the left. Okay?" I can't handle her questions, not now. I can't tell her…
Quo bit her lip. "Quip, with Bloody Murder somewhere in the area, it'd be best—"
"Quo, please!" The urgency in her voice couldn't be missed.
There was silence, then a soft whisper: "Okay. Be careful."
Quip dashed off to the left, desperate to get away. Even she wasn't sure what she was fleeing from, but whatever it was, it was terrifying.
She had to get away…
* * *
Blade grinned and poked Ellipse, motioning with his head at something behind them. "Looks like some fun."
Ellipse continued with his painting; the words made him feel sick. Fun to Blade meant girls, hurting people, and vandalism, in that order. He could only hope it was the third option.
It wasn't. "Those kids are here, the ones Professor K's always babbling about on Jet Set Radio. The GGs."
"Blade, please, let's just go… they'll have enough trouble covering up all this graffiti. You don't need to—"
"Of course I don't need to. I want to. Besides, they're asking for it anyway…"
A brief conversation between Pulse and a brown-haired girl with a helmet ended with Pulse on the ground, followed by his attacker. A few feet away, Petal was cat-fighting with a girl in blue. Wax hit the wall hard and fell, courtesy of a big, dark-skinned boy.
"It's already started," Blade pointed out. "Let's go before they kill our little friends. We've already seen how well they can defend themselves."
Ellipse forced the voice in his head to be silent. "All right…"
"On second thought, you go…"
He's refusing one of his types of fun. Which can only mean there's one he likes better. Which means…
A girl hurried past them, long hair flying. Blade tossed a grin at his brother, then took off after her.
Wait a second… that girl… nah, couldn't be. Ellipse blinked. I'm hallucinating. It can't be…
He watched as Pulse sent a smaller boy to the concrete, blood staining his bright yellow shirt. The noise of a shot hung in the air, and another boy stumbled back, holding one arm.
They're fine. But that girl… could she…?
There's one way I know of to find out.
Those thoughts sticking in his mind, Ellipse skated after his brother.
* * *
Blue Flame shook her head to herself as she skated after Spark. What am I doing, following someone I don't even know? she wondered. For that matter, what was I doing leaving Hand alone with Wax?
Spark and the three Romantic Energies froze. The voice was female, though not high-pitched, and familiar to three of the four skaters.
"Black Rose!" Blue Flame turned and dashed in the opposite direction
"Blue Flame, wait!" Snap cried, following her.
Spark stared after them, then glanced at Star. Both girls shrugged and went after the others.
Blue Flame had her arms wrapped around her gang's leader. "Black Rose! I was worried about you!" She pulled away, looking embarrassed at her own reaction. "What did Wax want? Did he hurt you? Are you okay? What happened? Who's your friend?"
Black Rose looked somewhat hysterical. Spark's gaze, however, was attracted to the black-clad girl's companion: a tall, pale-skinned boy dressed in dark grey. His eyes were blocked by sunglasses, but he looked pleased at the turn of events. Spark swallowed. How did my mouth get so dry?
"This's Glitch…" Black Rose was more concerned with the one member still missing from her gang. "Hand… where is he? Why isn't he with you?"
Blue Flame's relieved expression died, its successor one of fear. "He's in Rokkaku-Dai. Wax was there, and he—"
"Wax? Hand?! No! Where are they? What—"
A loud clatter of metal against the sewer wall silenced the two girls. Spark was glaring at them; her now-misshapen spray can lying on the ground near the wall. "Shut… up. You are being so… so cliché. Stop it. If you want to find your friend, shut up and let's move!" And with those words, she did a 180 and skated toward Rokkaku-Dai.
Star was first after her, Black Rose and Blue Flame a few feet behind. Glitch was just after Black Rose, but he was faster than either of the girls and was ahead of them within seconds.
"Guys! Wait for me!" Snap hurried after them.
All six skaters froze, then Black Rose shoved past those in her way so she could see better. "Hand?"
A dark form stumbled out of the pipe. Black Rose gasped. "Hand! What…?"
"What do you think?" He stopped in front of her, one arm crossed over his chest. His shirt displayed a large patch of brown, the blood having mixed with the original green.
Black Rose made a move forward as if to embrace him, then thought better of it. "How did you… get away…?"
Crimson spread over Hand's cheeks, adding to the much less pleasant color of blood. "The PGs saved me," he answered, cutting the words off so as to not think on them too long. "Wax and his gang… went on to Ayame. I doubt… it'll take 'em long to…" He blinked several times, staggered forward, and fell. Black Rose caught him and managed to keep him upright.
Glitch skated over to the two, helping Black Rose hold her boyfriend up as he spoke for the first time since entering the sewers. "We'd better stay here awhile…"
Spark nodded, glad that she wasn't in charge anymore. "My gang should be here soon. From Kibogaoka."
Glitch shot her a look. "Really. How many?"
"Two other than me." No…that's not right… you forgot your brother! "I mean, three."
"Good." He looked her up and down. "Wait a minute… you're… her…"
Taking a nervous step back, Spark stared at him. "'Her'?" The title did not sound like one she desired.
"The girl Blade's after. One of them, that is. Spark, right?"
Her head moved up, then down of its own accord. "B-blade? Who…" Her voice failed. You know who. Stride—Ellipse—said it: "I changed my name when Slow changed his." If someone named 'Blade' is after me, he can only be…
"You probably know him as Slow." Glitch's voice sounded too hollow, too distant as it bounced off the sewer walls.
No. It's not true. Spark took another step back, then another. There was something cool against her back. "I… I think I'll wait here… for my gang…"
"I'd say that's a good idea."
"Well, I'm not sticking around here! Hand is hurt!" Black Rose sounded near tears.
Glitch turned to her. "I'll go with you and your gang to the hospital in Ayame. Spark, you wait for your gang here, then wait for us to get back or for Bloody Murder to come. Hopefully you guys can handle them okay." Of course they can't. What are you doing? "Can ya do that?" …It's this girl… she's… strange. I have to get away from her…
Spark was glaring at him. "I'm not a little child," she snapped. "Of course I can." One question: who's Bloody Murder?
He shrugged. "Whatever. Let's go, guys…" Let's get outta here… away from her…
Spark turned in the direction of Kibogaoka Hill to wait as the others skated off. A hand rested on her shoulder and there was a soft male voice in her ear: Glitch. "You may not be a little child," he whispered as the Romantic Energies exited the sewers, "but if Blade gets his hands on you, you'll wish you were anything but the pretty girl you are."
Then his touch was gone and it was silent in the sewers.
* * *
Tip and Tab were still talking when Cat came grinding in, Yoyo close behind her. Tip looked up and grinned; Tab looked up and erupted into hysterical laughter.
"Yoyo," he tried to say, "you've got… you…" He began to laugh even harder.
"Yoyo," Tip said as calmly as she could, "I believe Tab is trying to inform you that you have black lipstick on your cheek."
Yoyo brushed at his cheek with the back of a half-gloved hand and grinned sheepishly, his face reddening. Cat's face was redder, but she also was smiling.
"Your point would be?" Yoyo asked.
Tip giggled. "Nothing at all."
Tab composed himself somewhat. "So, uh, where are Spark and Speed?" He took another look at Yoyo and Cat and broke once more into audible mirth.
"They weren't where I last saw them," Cat answered over the noise, speaking more to Tip than to Tab. "Have you seen 'em?"
Tip shook her head, ignoring Tab. "No… that's odd. Spark usually comes back here around now, then goes out tagging."
"Maybe she and Speed went somewhere."
"I don't think so. Don't you think Spark's been kinda… you know… quiet?"
Cat frowned. "She's always quiet."
Tab choked down his snickering. "Um, yeah. So where—"
The four teenagers looked up at the ladder. A dark figure dropped down from the rooftop above, a girl in his arms.
"Speed, what—Cube?!" Tip skated forward and stared at Poison Jam's fallen leader. "What happened? Speed?"
Speed was breathing hard. "Spark—Poison Jam—Slow…" He shook his head and started over. "Poison Jam was attacked. With weapons."
Tip paled. "Weapons? You're kidding, right? You mean, like… by kids? Not the police?"
Speed shook his head. "No police. A gang. I left Spark with the Romantic Energies. I can explain everything on the way. Look, can we get Cube down somewhere? She's not exactly all that light."
"So I'm easier to carry than she is?" Tab asked.
Tip laughed in spite of the situation. "You weigh like twenty pounds."
"Thanks. I feel real special."
"Whatever. Let's go, guys."
Tab started to sit up, but was halted when Tip demanded, "What are you doing?"
He gave her a quizzical look. "Coming with you."
"I don't think so. You're still hurt, remember? A lot of help you'll be if it comes down to fighting."
Tab's eyes narrowed. "I can handle it. I'll be fine."
Tip sighed. "Tab, look, I just don't want you to hurt yourself, okay? It'll be better for you to stay here."
He stared at her for a moment. "No. I'm not letting you… and your gang… go out there without me. You saved my life. If any of you got hurt, I'd never forgive myself."
Cat rolled her eyes. "Come on, Tip, let him come. He won't be a problem, and he's not necessarily any safer here. Besides, Cube can stay on the couch."
"Fine," Tip conceded, heaving another sigh. "Let's see how well you can stand. And skate." She took Tab's arm and helped him to his feet.
He grinned and stretched. "Hey, that's not too bad." He found his skates and put them on. "Okay, I'm ready."
Speed laid Cube on the couch. "Okay, we'd better go…"
"I hope this isn't a mistake," Tip muttered. "All right, guys, let's go see about this gang… and about Spark…"