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Dead Bang

by Ian McLeod

Chapter 2

Thursday October 15, 2037, 7:45 AM
Lisa's Apartment

The sound of birds chirping woke Lisa to a new day. Grumbling, she stabbed a few keys at random on the nearby terminal until the birds vanished with looks of astonished surprise. "Don' know what she wuz thinkin'," she mumbled absently as her head hit the pillow again. "Birds. Huh."

As she drifted back to sleep, the sound of birds chirping drew her back again. Mumbling something vile, she absently swatted the keyboard with her hand, and the sounds went away again. "Go 'way."

On the bedside PC screen, a single giant bird appeared, and regarded Lisa with an unfriendly eye. It took a deep breath, and began to squawk loudly enough to wake the dead.

Lisa shot out of bed, heart hammering in her chest and turned to her computer in frightened shock. Reaching out with a shaky hand, she turned off the alarm clock. :That's it,: she thought viciously. :I'm deleting this thing, right now!:


Lisa paused in the act of reaching for the controls, and looked around. For a moment, she could have sworn she'd heard someone in the same room with her. But the room remained empty. Still spooked, she slowly brought up the alarm program and deleted 'Sylia - bird alarm' with a couple of quick taps.

Taking a couple of deep breaths, she got out of bed, and made her way over to the cramped kitchenette. As the archivist with the Knight Sabers, she supposed she could afford better, but she still couldn't make herself do it. Besides, it was kind of fun watching the numbers climb, and know it was her money.

As for the stones Doug had left her for emergencies, well... As he had discovered earlier this year, industrial-grade nanofacs could manufacture jewelry quality stones with little effort, and they hadn't had as much value as he'd thought. They were still hers though, and she'd had them set to jewelry. A girl should have nice things, after all.

Grinning, she made her way into the bathroom to get ready for the day. "Hmmm," she murmured to herself. "AD Police... That's a good place to start."

* * *

8:45 AM, AD Police Building

Nene strolled up the stairs to the front of the AD Police building with casual confidence. She was a senior data manager at the police building now, and had a certain leeway in her working hours. Naturally, she booked the day shift whenever possible. Oh, she'd always been able to get the shifts she wanted with a quick hack of the system, but this way felt so much nicer.

"Nene! Nene!"

Nene whirled around and staggered back as Lisa pounce-tackled her. "L-Lisa! What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" Lisa carolled. She stepped back and graced the flustered redhead with a sunny smile. "Good morning!"

Nene shook her head and stared at the reporter suspiciously. "You're looking for a story, aren't you?"

Lisa grinned back, unrepentant. "Hee hee! Well, so what if I am?" She leaned closer, hands clasped behind her back. "So tell! Anything juicy today?"

The redhead shook her head as she started walking to the front entrance. "Hey, I just started this shift." She winked and grinned conspiratorially. "But I bet Daley knows something! Today's when he gets his next partner, and I'm betting the Chief has something interesting for them to do!"

Lisa grinned again and bounced up the stairs after Nene.

Ten minutes and two security checkpoints later, they sat in the small office Nene had to herself. "So...," Lisa began with a slow drawl, "You like being in here by yourself?"

The redhead shrugged. "It beats filling in paperwork every day. At least now I get to concentrate on doing what I do best."

"But doesn't it get in your way?" Lisa leaned forward at Nene's look of incomprehension. "I mean, before, they didn't really know what you could do, or they didn't pay that fact as much attention as they should. Now that they know what you can do with computers, aren't they more careful what they let you connect to?"

Nene just smirked, and left it at that. Lisa waited for a few more moments, but when it became obvious nothing further was forthcoming, she sat back with a groan. "Nene! You're not making this any easier!"

"Hey! I'm not supposed to make it easy for you, you know!"

"Who's being easy?"

Nene yelped as Daley stepped around the door frame and leaned against the wall. "So Nene. Anything going on here I need to know about?" He grinned as Nene glared cutely up at him, blush slowly turning her ears red. "You aren't discovering girls or anything like that, are you?"

Lisa's eyes went wide and a she felt her own ears getting hot as Nene just glared at the chief inspector. "Now you see why he's so insufferable," Nene said to Lisa, never taking her eyes off of Daley. "The moment Leon leaves, Daley steps in and takes over!"

"Well, someone's got to keep you honest," Daley grinned. Pulling up a chair, he sat down and waved his hand. "Truce, okay? I need to ask you about something."

Lisa watched as Nene slowly turned back to her computer, occasionally glancing distrustfully at the inspector. "So ask. What is it?"

"Girls in the sewers." Daley waited for a long moment as it sank in and the two girls' briefly blank looks changed to curiosity.

"Girls... in the sewers." Nene looked hard at Daley, as if suspecting him of playing a joke.

"I'm not kidding. Last night the N-Police got a call from a motorist who thought he might have run over some girl. Instead, she jumped into the sewers and took off. I was wondering if we'd ever had a case like that, and if you could pull it up?"

"Actually, you want me to hack the N-Police database and pull their file for you, don't you?" Nene's fingers idly tapped the computer, causing screens of data to appear, all without taking her eyes off Daley. "What makes you think I'd lower myself to hacking such an inferior system?"

"Well, I figured we'd go check it out. I'd even spring for lunch if you could find anything interesting."

Nene's eyes took on a calculating look. The girl crack, the honesty comment, and not leaving himself open for a counter-shot... That could be an expensive lunch bill. A slight smile tugged at her lips as she leaned back in her chair and shrugged acquiescence. "Okay."

Daley's eyebrow twitched, and he glanced sideways as Lisa giggled. They don't even have to talk, he wondered silently. The last time he'd had a rapport with someone like that had been Leon. He'd known Leon so well, he'd always known what his partner was doing, and would do in any situation. They didn't even have to discuss their plans, they just knew.

As if reminding him that things were different, his pager beeped. "Ah, excuse me ladies. The next wannabe is here. I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?" With that, he excused himself from the room.

Lisa leaned forward with a grin on her face. "So?"

"Rampling's," Nene said absently.

"No! Not where we're going for lunch! What have you dug up?"

Nene glanced sideways at Lisa, then grinned. "Okay. According to the N-Police, the girl was almost hit by a motorist last night beside a DOW Corning chemical storage warehouse."

"A warehouse?"

Nene nodded. "Mm hm. According to the report, there was nothing of any importance on the road, but the building looked like it had been broken into. A half-dozen chemicals in various quantities had been stolen, along with a medical sequencer. You know, the kind of thing they use to blend chemicals together to make drugs?" Lisa nodded, and Nene went on. "The Police are treating it like a standard break and enter, and think it was just some girl looking for a fix."


The redhead shook her head slowly. "I'm not sure. Some of these drugs are useless for making narcotics. The machine's worth a fair amount of money, but the other stuff is fairly ordinary. Most of it, anyway. The rest is the kind of stuff they use in hospitals."

"But it doesn't make any kind of sense?"

"Nope. And another thing." Nene waited a moment, and tapped the screen, "This has been in the works for hours now. It's hardly a scoop."

"Yeah, I know." Lisa shrugged and grinned. "But if I stick around, I can get a free lunch!"

Nene grinned and returned to her work.

* * *

This is certainly one of her better days, Daley reflected as he made his way to the Chief's office. Nene seemed almost her old self again. The cheerful days were slowly replacing the moody ones, but it was a slow process. One he intended to help along whenever he could.

After Colonel Sangnoir had left Megatokyo (And presumably the world, Daley thought), Nene had seemed to sink into a kind of black depression. She seemed much less perky than she used to be. It had even started to affect the other office staffers. Rumors about a failed relationship began to circulate, and Daley knew it would only have been a matter of time before one of the other girls offered to 'help' Nene through the whole thing.

To head it off, he'd proposed moving Nene to a private office, and bumping her up to senior cyberneticist. It was about time, anyway, and he would have had to have been blind not to realize how talented she really was with computers. Chief Tohdo had been an easy sell, and the girl had been moved into a private office, hopefully to give her the space she needed to settle herself out.

As Daley moved across the floor toward the Chief's private office, his normally open face settled into a grimmer line. He had a feeling he knew why Nene really felt the way she did. It had all come together for him the night of the strange 'visitations'. When the Colonel had challenged the Sabers to a duel, and either beat them, or forced a draw. At that point, the true identity of the Blue Saber had occurred to him, and from there, it was a short step to deduce the others.

As he knocked on the door and stepped in to greet his latest replacement partner, he hoped Nene recovered soon from her experience. He much preferred the happy redhead to the moody one.

* * *

"So... We don't officially do anything about the Knight Sabers?"

Daley sighed as Nene and Lisa giggled in the back seats. Lieutenant Roger Dalton, his newest partner, blushed and glared defensively at the two girls through the rearview mirror as Daley tried to explain it again. "We don't do anything official about them because they haven't really done anything we need to worry about. Think about it," he continued, overriding Roger's next complaint. "They deal with boomers we have trouble with. They deal with the serious combat boomers we get slaughtered dealing with. Frankly, when you consider how much of our work they do, they're practically on the payroll!"

"Maybe we should be giving them kickbacks?" Lisa offered helpfully. Roger glowered balefully at the darkly tanned girl as she smiled cutely back at him.

"I think we do, in a way," Daley continued. "We don't pursue them, and don't officially take notice of that hugely obvious flying machine they tool around in." He tapped the center screen of the car's extended dashboard, and it opened to reveal a citywide radar map. "Their jet doesn't appear on these things, but it's not insanely stealthy or anything. It's good, but not that good. So that tells me they've probably bought off someone in the air traffic division. Maybe a programmer or something. Maybe someone higher up. I could do something about this, but what's the point?" he tapped another button and the screen vanished. "They're simply too valuable a resource to do anything about."

Roger sat back in his seat, eyes narrowed in thought. Daley let him stew it over as they sped toward the chemical warehouse. The Knight Sabers were theoretically one of the reasons the AD Police existed. In theory, busting high- tech vigilantes was an important part of their job. But by the same token, turning a blind eye to their activities made it possible to protect more people than the AD Police was capable of protecting on their own. Hopefully, this would occur to Roger.

Daley pulled up near the warehouse, avoiding the police cars and yellow tape. As they piled out, an N-Police officer walked up to them. "Anything I can help you with inspector?"

"Just thought we'd have a look around, if it's no trouble?"

The lieutenant shook his head, confused. "No sir, but this isn't a boomer crime scene. Just some kid looking for a fix."

Daley threw an arm companionably around the officer and pulled him to one side. "You see, it's like this. First, we've heard things about boomer rats in the sewers." At the officer's look of disbelief, Daley nodded enthusiastically. "Oh yes! Boomer rats! And they're supposedly stealing chemicals to freebase cheddar cheese with."

The lieutenant's face flushed as he stepped away from Daley. The inspector laughed and held his hands up in surrender. "Okay, okay. Bad joke."

"So why are you really here?"

Daley thumbed back to Roger, who stood uncertainly between the two girls, as they kept him distracted with chatter. "New partner. Thought I'd start him off slow."

The lieutenant sighed and shook his head. "Right. Well, just don't mess anything up. Forensics has already been through here, but Corning's bringing in their own insurance guys to inspect everything before we clean up."

"Right." Waving the others forward, he slipped under the tape, and walked around to the back of the building.

Roger took in the scene quickly. "so we've got some girl who breaks into a chemical storehouse for a quick fix."

"Right," Nene agreed absently, eyes checking out the scene.

"I don't buy it."

Daley looked over at Roger in surprise. "Oh? Why not?"

Roger waved around the back of the building. "Why go to so much trouble? The security cameras went down when this happened, which says she's got skill. She broke the lock on the loading dock door, which also says she's strong, and has some tools. And she got in and out without leaving fingerprints, which says she's no slouch at B&E either. Not to mention she stole a 2,000,000 yen medical drug-making machine, and half a dozen basically useless chemicals. If what she wanted was to get high, she would have stolen only the machine. Maybe some of the more valuable chemicals she could sell to get the makings of a designer drug. If she was looking to start her own business, same deal. It just doesn't add up." He looked back at Daley, hands on his hips. "I think the whole sewer thing is a red herring meant to throw us off the track."

Daley pursed his lips, impressed. "So you think we should be checking out the dives and back alleys, seeing who's trading new drugs on the street?"

"Basically, yeah. But probably not for a day or two. Right now she'll be buying what she needs. Maybe if we found where those chemicals wind up, we could narrow down where she lives."

Nene knelt down beside the lock where it lay in the dirt. Carefully putting on a glove, she picked the lock up and studied it.

"See anything?" Lisa asked, crouching down beside her."

"Maybe." Taking out a small camera, Nene began taking pictures of the lock. A whirring noise to once side caught her attention, and she looked across to see Lisa also focusing her digital camera on the lock, shifting to the side to get a better picture of the lock. "Lisa!"

"What? This isn't a secret or anything!" Lisa lowered the camera for a moment. "Nene, I'm a reporter, remember? I'm going to take pictures of this." So saying, she stepped back and snapped a few more pictures of the loading dock, and the ground around them. Then darting quickly forward, she slipped the camera under the door and held the record button down as she panned it around.

"Lisa!" Daley sounded annoyed as he walked over to her. Lisa grinned and pulled the camera out. "That's private property! You'd better think carefully before you get anything in there printed."

Lisa bobbed an impromptu bow. "Gomen, Daley! Besides, I'm always careful!" Waving cheerfully at Roger, she made her way back to Nene, metaphorically hiding behind her superior firepower. Daley watched her retreat for a long moment, and walked back to Roger.

"Did she just agree not to print that?" Roger asked quietly.

"No," Daley sighed. "Just that she's careful when she does it."

Nene's eyes twitched over to Lisa as she crouched down beside the redhead again. "Pushing your luck?"

Lisa grinned. "Always! Find anything else interesting?"

Nene frowned. "I'm not sure. There's no damage to the inside of the lock, so it doesn't look like she used a prybar. And the hasp isn't cut, so no bolt cutters. The end looks broken though. Like they just pulled it open."


Nene nodded again. "Besides-" Her voice trailed off as she carefully changed her grip on the lock. Gripping it more firmly, Nene looked over at her friend. "You see what I see?"

The reporter nodded slowly. Nene's fingers fitted indentations in the lock perfectly. Just right for a girl's hand. As if whoever had squeezed the lock and broken it open had used superhuman strength. "Boomer?"

"It might be. Boomeroid at least." She looked over at the other two as she dropped the lock back to the ground. "Daley's not gonna like this."

Lisa watched as Nene got up and walked over to share her discovery with Daley. Turning back to the lock, she scrunched up her eyes and focussed on the lock. "I should be able to do something about this," she muttered to herself. "What did Sylia call it? The... law of contamination, I think."

Pulling energies from deep inside her, she spun them into a simple tendril of mental energy which reached down to touch the lock. Sylia had been insistent that Lisa learn to not be dependant on attack names or special gestures to make her gifts work. It was all in the mind, she kept insisting. Well now I get to test that.

The tendril settled on the lock, and bathed it in magical energies. After a moment, Lisa became aware of a faint tugging, pulling her off toward the downtown core. Excitement had to be fought down to maintain an air of neutral detachment. She couldn't let on what she'd just done. Daley wouldn't understand, but Nene would. And if Nene found out, she'd wind up explaining herself to Sylia. Lisa shuddered at the thought.

No, she thought quietly as she stood up and made her way over to Nene. This is better handled my way.

* * *

Thursday October 15, 2037, 12:00PM
Location: Unknown

"Do they suspect anything?"

"Not a chance," the feminine voice said disdainfully. "The sheep will go where the shepherd directs. You know that."

"Perhaps." The man's voice on the other end of the line was thoughtful. "What about Madigan?"

"Still doesn't seem to know we survived. The substitutes must have fooled her."

"Perhaps," the man said again. The woman was getting really tired of his overdramatization. "But we need to be certain she knows nothing. Arrange to have the bodies exhumed by your 'sheep', and displayed as forgotten martyrs to the cause of human superiority. The speed with which Madigan moves to have them removed will tell us how seriously she takes the evidence we left of our demise."

The woman thought about it for a moment, possibilities and ideas shifting with superhuman speed. "That might work," she said slowly. "It's worth a try. You be careful though," she countered, shifting the phone in her hand. "It's not like I can replace you, you know."

"There's another one of us," the man replied sardonically.

"Please," she responded in disgust. "I'd never approach her. You just take care of yourself. What you're doing is much more dangerous than where I am."

"I can take care of myself," the man's voice said softly. "Just be ready for when my boys are in position. Be careful, ne-chan."

The woman smiled faintly. "You too, nii-kun."

The line went dead, and the woman hung up after another moment.

* * *

Thursday October 15, 2037, 12:00PM
Madigan's Office, GENOM Tower

Madigan sat in an expensive leather armchair in an office with huge floor to ceiling windows, fronting the main part of MegaTokyo. All of it in front of her, Quincy's private way of saying 'I own all of you.' Except she owned them all now, strangely enough. If she cared enough to stretch out her hand and take, that was.

Curiously enough, she didn't. She'd been iron-fisted enough gathering all the splinter factions in Genom back under the corporate umbrella sure enough. She'd crushed tin gods who thought because Quincy was gone that the company would buckle under the strain. She was now undisputed ruler of everything Quincy had built up in a lifetime of scheming and power mongering. And although fully half of the world's economy (more, depending on if you factored in covert military spending by dozens of countries) flowed through Genom's hands on a daily basis, she didn't feel much like gathering it in any more.

"Doug would understand, I think."


Madigan looked over at the expensive BU-55C 'secretary' Boomer and shook her head. "Just talking out loud Jenny. Nothing serious."

Jenny looked back at her employer with a slight smile. "Of course, Madame Chairwoman."

Madigan looked out at the city for a long moment before her voice once again echoed in the large room. "I'm just now realizing how little I have in common with the ice queen who used to stand where you are now." She paused for a moment, lost in introspection.

Jenny's head tilted slightly. "Is it because all of Genom quakes at your every whim, or is it something else?"

Madigan looked over at her, eyebrow raised as she quirked a grin. "Don't tell me that's a psych program running, because no psych program would phrase it that way."

Jenny shrugged. "Maybe it is, but I have more freedom in how I express it these days." She looked at her own hands, and flexed them slowly. "I recall what it was like before. Half-thoughts and vague, dreamy images that only sharpened when I was attacking something." She looked up at Madigan. "I don't miss who I used to be, you know. But I really don't understand who I've become, either."

Madigan nodded, running a fingertip idly over the leather. "Doug changed more than the leadership when he blew through here last year. He also made a lot of us face who we were and ask some very tough questions about whose side we were on." She looked up at Jenny again. "I got lucky, did you know that? After everything that happened that night, I could still walk out at the end of it. Not many others got to say that. Not here, anyway."

Jenny looked back at her employer, and nodded at the skyline. "The night of the hurricane?"

Her employer grinned slightly. "Yes. The night of the Konya wa Hurricane."

Jenny's eyebrows twitched, as she tried to make sense of that one. "So... About what you were saying earlier?"

Madigan laughed softly and swiveled the chair back to the skyline. "I've realized it's enough that we've done what we have here on Earth." Madigan waved up into the sky. "But up there is the real future of our races, Jenny. We're facing overpopulation, and the Polar War is a symptom of that. We need to expand if we're going to survive. And Genom has the potential to be the one to make that happen." Madigan let the excitement show briefly, to this one person she trusted above all others, for the tremendous gift Jenny had given her. The gift of trusting her with the truth about her new life, and Colonel Sangnoir's final parting shot at Genom, and its Boomer slave-race.

"The space stations are only the first step. Next is the moon. Then Mars, and from there... who knows?"

"But first, Prometheus," Jenny said softly.

Madigan nodded. "We need the world to let us build the kind of infrastructure we need in space to do all that. Building the solar arrays to sell cheap electrical power to the world will be the start of this. The space elevator will be the second stage, and then from there, we go to the moon."

Jenny watched as her employer looked back out at the cityscape, and peculiar smile on her face, as she saw something flying in the sky nearby. "And getting everything into space just got a lot easier thanks to a certain absent benefactor of ours than I'd ever imagined before. We'll do it in the next ten years, Jenny. Not fifty or a hundred. Ten!"

Jenny nodded agreement as the pristine reproduction of a vintage 1920's roadster coasted by, held aloft by red and yellow wings, and a pair of goofy helicopter blades. A pair of girls could be seen waving at the Tower and it's presumably bewildered workers as the car banked gracefully to the left, and accelerated into the city core...

* * *

Hilton Hotel, Megatokyo, 2:30 PM

The singing idol and her husband sat quietly in her rented hotel suite in downtown MegaTokyo. The clock ticked quietly on the far wall.

Kou started to say something, and paused, looking helplessly at the woman he loved. After a moment, he exhaled softly and let what he was about to say go unsaid. Again.

Nearby, her wife was sitting staring out the windows at the city, not really seeing the buildings spread out around them, as she played out the moment she'd heard of her grandfather's death yet again. Seeing the leering faces of the other families, hearing the mocking laughter as they gunned her family down to make way for another leader in their criminal underworld. A more worthy leader. One who didn't waste time and resources funding blue-sky vegetable farms in Japan after her daughter abandoned the Hou Bang to pursue a singing career. In her mind, the families blurred together into a sea of laughing faces and roaring gunfire, and she pressed her fists into her thighs as she imagined her grandfather's death cry over and over again.

Kou, knowing what his wife was feeling, could only watch and wait for her to find her way out. His eyes troubled, his entire body trembling with the need to do something, but not knowing what to do, or who to fight. So instead, he sat there, and waited to help her in any way he could.

The clock ticked quietly for a long time.

* * *

"Mou!" Linna complained softly as Daley handed her the writ. "This isn't fair! There's no law about needing licenses for flying cars!"

"Not exactly, Linna-chan," he agreed affably while Roger admired the reproduction of a Disney icon in Linna's private garage. "But there is a law requiring a pilot's license when flying an airplane. And while you may know people with pilot's licenses, none of them were in the car with you." He winked and tapped the writ. "This isn't such a big deal if you get the flying lessons. Just don't take that thing up until you're certified, okay?"

Linna shrugged, and grinned again. "It was still worth it, though!" She looked over at Roger, who was practically drooling over the chrome finish and laughed again. "Want to see under the hood?"

"Yeah!" Roger enthused, only catching himself after with a quick look at Daley. "That is, if it's okay?"

"Only if I get a peek too. I'm dying to see what we'll be flying a year from now."

Linna giggled and undid the clamps holding the hood down. Unlike modern cars, the roadster based on the old Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang movie was designed so the hood opened up on the upper sides, with a fixed bar running across the top of the hood, anchoring the accordion-style hood on both sides. Securing the hood up on the left side, she stood back and waved at the insides. "State of the art, boys. Enjoy!"

Roger leaned in, interest seemingly matched with an impressive knowledge of engines. He quickly passed by the obvious details and went to the hard to see stuff. "Whoo! Ceramic engine block, carbon fiber rings, and - " He pulled up the dipstick, to Linna's impressed glee, and sniffed the oil. "I'm betting that's a non-viscous synthetic. You must pull another fifteen percent out of this thing with that alone!"

Linna nodded enthusiastically as Roger replaced the dipstick and stepped back, appreciation written all over his face. "That's right. I, ah, kind of had help with some of that," she confessed, running a hand through her hair self- consciously. "A friend of mine did something similar with a motorcycle a while back, and I got him to give me some pointers."

Roger whistled appreciatively. "That must be some motorcycle! I don't suppose I could have a look at it sometime?"

Daley watched the byplay, lips twitching as Linna answered, somewhat flustered, and moved to the rear of the car. Pulling up a few ratcheted catches, she pulled up the back seat, and revealed the true marvel, the open-source antigravity unit someone had posted to the net in all virtual directions. Not twenty four hours before they'd last seen Colonel Sangnoir, by an interesting coincidence. Not that Daley believed in coincidence, of course.

The detective leaned back against a wall, arms crossed as his newest partner and Linna got into a very technical discussion about lift/mass ratios and thrust balancing and felt the grin on his face grow wider. Leon had settled on Daley when the young man had proven capable of getting along with his friends. Daley hadn't appreciated just what a barometer that really was until now. Unless Roger turned out to be a Firster or something, Daley was keeping him. He had potential, and wasn't afraid to get to know people. In this business, that could be the difference between life and death.

'And how exactly did an aerobics instructor who moonlights as a stockbroker learn about building something like this?' His lips twitched again as the thought crossed his mind. If you knew what to look for, the clues were all there. Still, the only reason he'd figured it out was because his former partner had wound up marrying the Blue Saber, so he'd had an advantage. And not until Leon had blurted out an incautious word in his hearing had he figured it out. Their secret was safe.

"Roger!" The new guy looked over at Daley, an expression of embarrassment on his face. He was partially braced on the upper frame, leaning into the antigravity unit housing, and totally accidentally pressed against Linna, whose faintly flushed face showed she was entirely aware of this, and had been for some time. "Time to go. We've got to report in before shift change."

Roger disengaged himself from the vehicle, murmuring a couple of quick apologies for monopolizing so much of her time. Linna bowed back, and demurred, inviting him to stop by for another look at the antigravity unit when he had the chance. From the predatory look in her eyes, Daley figured Roger was next on Linna's dating list. He laughed quietly as Roger let himself out of the building, Daley trailing along behind.

"See anything you like in there, Roger?"

"Oh yes," Roger answered enthusiastically. Then after a moment, Daley's slow drawl percolated into his head, and he stammered another reply. "I-I mean... ah... I like the car! A lot!"

"Mmm-hmm," Daley agreed noncommittally. Throwing Roger the keys, Daley got in the passenger side. "You're driving. Try to keep your mind on the road."

Roger got into the car and started it up, trying to keep the blush from showing too much, and knowing he was failing miserably. At least, if the enjoyment he was giving Inspector Wong was any indication. "Where to, sir?"

Daley thought about it for a moment. "Let's pay Shifty a visit on the way back to the station. He might have seen some of those chemicals DOW lost the other day."

Roger nodded, and drove the car away.

Inside, Linna resecured the seat, and the front hood, a faint flush still on her face as she replayed the conversation with detective Dalton. 'He's nice,' she thought to herself. 'VERY easy on the eyes. Nice muscles.' She giggled, as she recalled the look on his face when Daley called him back. She'd been very aware of his presence as he'd pressed up against her, the two of them half- buried inside the antigravity drive housing.

Heaven knew Nene would complain about Linna prowling for men again when word of this got out. But it wasn't her fault if Nene was so repressed! Linna liked men. She just couldn't seem to decide on any. 'Still,' she thought idly as she picked up the citation for flying without a license and scowling faintly, 'He's got good date potential. I hope Daley keeps him.'

* * *

Ladys633 Building, 5:30PM

Sylia's lips twitched as Linna related the incident with AD Police's finest. In the corner Lisa was balancing three books, her eyes scrunched in concentration. Balancing by itself might not seem like that great a feat, but it was when all three books were balanced on each other only by corners, and the lowest book was balanced on the table only by a corner as well. The unlikely tower continued to hold as the others kept asking her questions.

"So have the N-police found anything about that chemical theft?"

Lisa's head turned slightly in Linna's direction, her eyes never straying from the books she was balancing mid-air. "Not... so far. They say... that there's no sign... of chemicals being sold on the streets. None... of those, anyway."

Sylia walked slowly around the room, deep in thought. "So a mysterious girl breaks into a chemical storage warehouse, and steals an expensive drug manufacturing machine, but the drugs she steals are all of no value to anyone?"

Lisa shook her head again, and risked a look over at Sylia. Instantly the books wobbled, and she looked back at the books, firming up her concentration. The books steadied as she continued. "No, it's just... hospital stuff, really. The kind of stuff that's only... of value... in hospitals." She reached into a pocket and fished out a piece of paper. "I've got a list here, actually."

Sylia walked over and took the list, standing slightly behind the tanned blonde. "And you were going to use my system to see what significance all these chemicals might have together, weren't you?"

Lisa had the grace to look embarrassed. "Well... yes. I mean, they haven't been sold... at all, anywhere. So it must mean she needs them. But what for... I need to have a look... and figure out what they're all... used for."

Sylia nodded thoughtfully, reading the list. After a moment, her eyes narrowed and her expression shifted to one of guarded calm. Looking down at Lisa, she leaned over, and clapped her hands loudly beside the reporter's ear.

Lisa yelped, lost concentration, and the books clattered to the table. She leaned back and glared at Sylia, who gave her a look of bland innocence and handed her the list back as Linna giggled in the background. "You have to be able to keep up the concentration no matter what happens." She gestured to the books. "Get them in position again and take it from the top."

"Hai," Lisa answered soulfully as she took the paper back. Glaring over at Linna for a moment, she returned to the task, levitating the books into position before setting them at odd corners, and took a deep breath.

Sylia walked over to a personal terminal and entered a few notes. Lisa wasn't yet at what Colonel Sangnoir's books referred to as "Journeyman" class yet. She was still only "Apprentice". But she was learning. Pyrokinesis, telekinesis, grounding, centering, and limited teleportation of small objects. Tapping down the list, she made a few notes, and selected the next couple of powers from a shortening list of Journeyman-level disciplines.

'Shielding, I think,' she thought quietly. 'Then some increased sensitivity training, and telepathy.' She paused for a moment. Mind shielding first, maybe?

Sylia leaned back, watching as Linna kept trying to distract Lisa with spot questions and loud noises at unexpected times. She really didn't want Lisa learning telepathy, for some fairly obvious reasons. But as was also fairly understandable, if she didn't learn it, she'd be vulnerable to a wide variety of attacks, not to mention the intelligence advantage she'd be to the Sabers if she could master it. 'But still,' she thought to herself, 'Best keep that until last.

'Or at least until I master the disciplines needed to keep a telepath out.'

That had been in the supplementary reading she'd received along with all the texts. Instructions on how an un-Gifted trainer could reinforce their thoughts from apprentices with little or no control. Sylia had been applying herself diligently to these techniques, which anyone could learn with proper training, and she fully intended to make it the next level of training for all the Sabers soon enough. Preferably before Lisa learned projective telepathy, at any rate.

A beeping sound drew her attention to a monitor in the far wall, which showed the main floor of the lingerie shop. A trim, dark haired girl stood to one side of the counter, an uncomfortable looking man standing to one side, trying to find somewhere safe to put his eyes as girls giggled in the background. "Linna," she called, gesturing at the monitor. "Our guest has arrived. Please take her to the upper balcony." She refocused her attention on Lisa. "I don't want our fledgeling mage to be disturbed while she practices."

Lisa swallowed for no reason she could figure out as Linna nodded and headed for the elevator. Sylia watched the girl meet Linna, get in the elevator along with the young man, then stood up. "Keep practicing those, plus the other three sets from earlier this week. I'm going up to talk with our guest."


Sylia's lips twitched at the almost-sigh, and made her way to the stairs.

* * *

Reika Chan watched dully as Sylia Singray walked over to a chair and sat down. They were on the upper deck, which boasted a fully enclosed roof enclave, with a swimming pool, deck table and chairs, and a really stunning view of the bay and the setting sun. Normally she'd have been impressed with the view, and perhaps flattered at being let into what had to be one of the few places Sylia had to unwind in. But not now. Not like this.

Sylia watched her measuringly for a few moments, and let out a small sigh. "First, let me say how sorry I am to hear of your grandfather's death. I know from what Linna's told me that he meant a lot to you."

Reika nodded slightly, and looked over at Linna, the first flickerings of concern on her face in hours warring with the pain inside as she considered what Linna had told her the other day. "Thank you. Both of you." Her voice, as it had been for days, was quiet. "It means a lot that people still care, even though..."

Sylia picked up the conversation after a moment. "Even though your grandfather's death means the Chang group won't be helping us fund Loon Enterprises, is that it?" At Reika's nod, Sylia sighed, and leaned back. "Miss Chan, the money was helpful, but it wasn't why we extended the offer. Linna felt it would be a way for your grandfather to make up for some of the things he's done that he might have regretted in life." She paused as Reika turned wide eyes on Linna, who squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. "She also felt you might have liked to have helped a little as well, to try to undo the worst certain people in our lives did to us in the past."

Reika nodded, absently, still dealing with the revelation. "Quincy."

"Largo and Mason as well, yes."

Reika looked up in surprise as Kou tensed nearby. "Who?"

Sylia smiled slightly. "Largo was a hyperboomer, imprinted with Mason's memories at the moment of his death. Depending on your point of view, he was either Largo's son, or a reincarnation of the original man. Personally," she continued after a moment, "I never felt there was any real difference between the two."

Sylia's smile grew a little more as Reika continued to stare in surprise at her, and Kou became more agitated beside her. "I once had the opportunity to study your history in considerable detail. Once, when it seemed a friend of mine was going to be unable to continue helping us, I had to make a choice." She looked down at her hands, the smile slipping a little. "In the end, I made the hardest one of all, and stood by her, hoping she'd pull through, even as she threw herself into another nightmare worse than the last."

Reika swallowed slowly as Sylia looked up at her again. "At the time, I had considered the potential of recruiting another member for our team, but forewent the option when it appeared things were stabilizing again. In the end, it turned out for the best, I think.

"But now, I'm faced with the same options, but for different reasons. My friend is a successful singing sensation now, and is out of town for the foreseeable future." Sylia's smile returned, and she rested a hand on Linna's. "Another friend of mine pointed out to me that someone I had considered inviting to join us was looking for something to hold on to right now. Something she could believe in and fight for." The look she gave Reika sharpened slightly. "Maybe even find a little justice along the way for great wrongs visited upon her."

Reika felt as if the entire conversation were somehow slightly unreal, as if she was dreaming, or hallucinating. Kou's hand tightened on hers, and she looked over at him gratefully, feeling for the first time in weeks, the warm strength flowing from him into her. Ducking her head slightly in embarrassment, she nodded at her husband, and turned back to Linna.

In her mind's eye, Linna was superimposed by another image. A figure in emerald power armor who stood with her on a rooftop in a flooded city. 'There's more to life than revenge,' the figure had said to her. 'You can give her the dream she always wanted by carrying it out yourself.'

The voice echoed in her mind as she looked down at her left hand. At the delicate gold band with the fine diamonds her sister Irene had been given as an engagement ring. Kou had pledged himself to her with that ring, and in her own way, Irene had been there the whole time, encouraging them.

"I don't know... if I want to see them again," Reika said softly. "I'm not sure what I'd do if I had them in front of me." She looked up at Linna, who watched her silently, eyes full of emotion. "But I can't ignore what they did either. The other families... Quincy... Mason. They're all of the same type. They'll just keep hurting us until they kill us, or we make them stop. Whatever it takes." She looked over at Kou. "I have to try to stop them first, to keep them from undoing the few good things my grandfather's done for us over the years."

Kou put his arm around her and pulled her to him, smiling down at her. "WE will stop them." He looked up at Sylia, his eyes hardening with determination. "If you invite her to join you, I can't sit by and do nothing. Reika and I are in this together, wherever it may lead."

Sylia looked over at Reika, who leaned into Kou's side with an expression of melancholy contentment. It wasn't a perfect moment, but it was a loving one, and that counted for a lot. Linna smiled softly as Reika nodded agreement with her husband.

"Very well then," Sylia said softly. "I had considered this as well. You understand of course, that the organization is an all-female one, at least in public? There won't be much opportunity for you to shine in the spotlight if you are helping us out."

Kou nodded, an unpleasant smile on his face. "I work best in the shadows in any case."

Sylia nodded back, the smile becoming harder, more professional. She held out her hand to Reika, palm up. "Reika Chan, will you join us, and become the fourth member of the Knight Sabers?"

Reika swallowed, and after a short moment, sat up, and stretched her hand out, taking Sylia's. "I'd like that. Yes." She held the other girl's hand for a long moment, then let go. "Is there anything you need to know tonight?"

Sylia nodded again, smiling with genuine pleasure again as Linna practically vibrated in her seat with happiness. "What's your favourite colour?"

* * *

Darkness. Cold, lonely, alone.

Well, not all the time. Just most of the time.

The figure collected several vials and fed them into the machine. A few quick taps, and the machine began to whir, dispensing a red fluid into several pressurized injectors. After a few minutes, it shut down, and the spent canisters were ejected from the machine.

'So little,' she thought to herself, as she collected the injectors. 'I need so much more. But where do I get my hands on this stuff? The police are watching warehouses now.'

She walked over to her patient. Another girl, lying in the dim light provided by a flickering 60 watt bulb. The girl moaned something in her sleep, and the one with the injectors paused, holding them up. 'I need more.'

Eyes set in an expression of grim resolve, she began to think of one other place she could get these chemicals.

* * *

Humans-First Megatokyo chapter, 9:00PM

Daley suppressed an irritated yawn and resisted looking at his watch. He'd been thrown at this problem practically at the end of his shift because of "demonstrated field experience dealing with the unexpected". This from Chief Tohdo. Personally, Daley rather suspected Lisa had complained about the flying license violation he'd delivered to Linna earlier today. Which was not to say it hadn't been richly deserved. Linna was flying an unlicensed antigravity vehicle, after all. But it was the kind of thing the Chief would do to throw him a double shift to test his new partner's suitability fully.

'It's just too bad he's got eyes only for Linna,' he thought with a shark's grin. 'Rules notwithstanding, of course.'

"What's so - Ah! Funny?" Roger yawned and handed Daley a cup of coffee as they leaned back against the cruiser, watching the crowd growing in the compound in front of them.

Daley shook his head, and sipped thankfully. "Nothing really. What's up with them?"

"Don't really know," Roger answered after a moment. "Something about 'violations against humanity', and 'martyrs hushed up by Genom's Boomer-serving technoculture'." He paused, and took another sip. "The second part sounds like most protests against Genom, but I don't get the first part."

Daley shook his head. "They started up about four months ago, right after the Boomer Plague started to show up." Daley snorted. "'Boomer Plague'. Newsies had a field day with that one until word on what was really going on started to get out. Trouble is, I'm not sure what that means in the long run."

"Whoa there, Inspector. Back up a few. I'm new here, remember?" Roger pantomimed a slowing down gesture. "All I know is suddenly some Boomers were declaring they were people too and deserved the same rights humans had."

Daley nodded. "Yep. And the reason this got hushed up so fast was the governments started finding out why they were doing this. I tell you, it's a good thing Quincy's dead, because if he hadn't been, he would have been crucified by horrified scientists. The thought that every Boomer ever built had the equivalent of a partial lobotomy to keep them docile and obedient practically from the moment they stepped off the assembly line..." He shook his head and took another sip.

"A lot of Boomers started standing up and declaring they were people too. We figure a larger percentage were keeping quiet and assessing the trend before saying anything. If we destroyed the vocal ones, the rest would stay 'underground' until they figured out their next move. Which could be disastrous for all of us." Daley waved his hand around at the city. "All you need to do is recall what that Largo boomer did with the stolen digging machine to see what a runaway boomer is capable of."

Roger nodded. "I read about that. And I saw a lot of that on TV when it happened too."

"Well, imagine that on a worldwide scale." Daley gestured toward the compound in front of them. "These people are the reaction to that threat. They call themselves the 'Humans-First' movement. Some kind of nutbar religion that equates boomers and all boomer technology with the antichrist and Genom as the harbinger of the apocalypse. They want to destroy all boomer related technology and destroy all the boomers in the process."

"Sweet," Roger said in disgust. "So who's running this show?"

"We're not sure. All we know is the woman in charge calls herself 'The Mother', and is represented by a shadowy silhouette. Even her voice is altered slightly, so you're never sure who you're talking to. She claims that's because she's not speaking just for herself, but for 'everyone', and that's why she's a faceless icon." Daley drained the cup, and crushed it. "Me, I think it's because she doesn't want to be identified if she or one of her followers steps over the line."

"And these boomer-rights types you mentioned? What do they think?"

Daley shrugged uneasily. "Frankly, I'm not sure. The Chief says he's heard rumors there's a powerful Boomer underground growing, backed by a Boomer leader. Maybe one of the combat types or something. Maybe another Largo type." He shuddered at the possibility, and tossed the crumpled cup at a nearby barrel. "The problem is that these two organizations seem aimed right at each other, with everyone else in the world caught in the middle. Declare for one side, and the other hates your guts. Do nothing, and both of them trample you under."

"Which leaves us with what?"

Daley thumbed his own badge. "AD Police. Us."

Roger drained his own cup and shook his head. "Wonderful."


A change in the chanting outside the compound drew their attention. "I think it's starting," Daley said as he stepped forward. Roger nodded, and followed the Inspector as N-police closed on the gathering. A large car was coming up a side street, picking up demonstrators who yelled for the end to the Boomer Menace.

Roger squinted as the police and demonstrators clashed. The car came to a stop as people surged around the car, and people from the compound tried to make their way to the stranded vehicle. "What's that on the back? Looks like it's covered in dirt, whatever it is."

Daley took a few more steps forward, a horrible suspicion dawning. As the crowd shifted, he took a sharp breath in recognition even as Roger cried out, "God Damn! They dug up a pair of coffins!"

Daley turned on the N-Police commander, but the woman had seen enough at this point. Waving her men in, sleep-gas canisters arcing overhead to land in the crowd, she began marching N-police armored troopers in with riot batons. Daley watched, impressed as she had policemen in what looked like police cycle motoroids. "Someone's going to be very angry when she sees what someone else has knocked off," Daley muttered under his breath with a grin. He had to hand it to whoever made them though. It was the first time he'd ever seen a police organization steal an idea from a mercenary group.

People turned to yell angrily at the advancing police, maybe throw things at them, and fell back in surprised fear when these mechanical battlesuits walked toward them. The N-Police were fairly effective in dealing with this situation, with the combination of sleep gas slowing civilians down, and the powered suits protecting the police from the occasional thrown brick or bottle.

"Humans of the World!" a voice trumpeted from the car's top. While the police had been moving in, a middle-aged man had climbed up on the car, and now shouted into a loudspeaker, his amplified voice clearly audible over the confusion. "Heed my words, my children! The Godless machine-worshipers have hidden away a pair of martyrs to our cause! A brother and a sister who were killed by the vile soulless Boomer legacy created by that insidious organization whose presence spreads its dark shadow over us every day!"

The N-Police were converging on the vehicle, but before they could get there, the man kicked the coffins over, causing the lids to open, and the two corpses to spill out onto the ground. "BEHOLD! These two were killed by the soulless unbelievers while trying to expose their lies! These martyrs to the cause must be given the due they are entitled to!"

Roger's exclamation was lost in the loudspeaker's augmented voice. Whatever he'd screamed out when the bodies had hit the ground, Daley agreed wholeheartedly. Reaching back into an N-police truck, he pulled out a tranquilizer rifle, and loaded it.


'Urk' probably wasn't what he was going to say, Daley reflected as he raised the rifle. But it had a certain poetic ring to it he was certain Colonel Sangnoir would have appreciated. The man with the loudspeaker toppled to the ground, a small red dart sticking out of his left shoulder. The N-Police commander looked back briefly at Daley and flashed a tight grin of appreciation before moving her troops forward to contain the situation.

Roger made his way over to Daley as the Inspector tucked the rifle away in the police van. "Nice shot."

Daley shrugged and made his way back to the cruiser. "Not bad. At least the shouting's stopped." He gestured to the still barely-controlled riot situation in front of them as police and armored police fired sleeping gas and used stun prods to try to contain a screaming crowd of religious fanatics. "I don't look forward to the paperwork they'll have tomorrow."

Roger nodded toward the bodies, now covered by a pair of blankets. "And those? They grabbed them for a reason. It might be worthwhile finding out why."

Daley thought about it for a moment. "On the off chance that it was boomer related deaths?"

Roger also shrugged and pointed at the screaming believers. "One of the things I learned while I was with the N-police is that if it looks like the police are dealing with it, they'll be more helpful. And who knows? They may really have something."

Daley thought for another moment, and nodded. "Put the call in through central, and request we get assigned the case. I'll sign off on it when it's ready." He looked sideways at Roger. "You know you just volunteered us for even more extra duty, don't you?"

Roger grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, but it keeps them quiet, and maybe uncovers a little truth in the process. Kinda goes with the territory, as I see it."

Daley nodded and made his way back to the cruiser. "Got a point, partner."

Roger stopped cold for a long surprised moment as Daley got in the car and started the engine. "You coming, or you walking back?" Daley revved the engine a few times for emphasis.

"Coming, Inspector!" Roger quickly jumped into the car.


"What?" Roger looked over in confusion.

"I'm Inspector to every slimeball out there and Chief Tohdo at least half the time. But to my partner, my name is Daley."

Roger grinned. "Name's Roger then, Daley."

Daley grinned. "Good to meet you Roger Then." He drove out of the riot zone to the exasperated groan of his new partner.

* * *

Friday, October 16, 2037, 9:15 AM
Ladys633 Tower, Megatokyo

"...and the driver of the car was arrested along with Mr. Ito for disturbing the peace, inciting to riot, and unlawful exhumation of a pair of coffins." The announcer shook his head as he shifted the pages in his hand. The video-in-video image shifted to show the weather as he looked up at the camera. "You never know what you'll see next in this city! And now Ms. Tanaka-chan has the weather forecast-"

Sylia killed the power and set the remote down on the table, an indecipherable look on her face. To one side, Reika and Kou were making their way through a large breakfast. They'd stayed the night before, spending some of their time going over armor schematics and coming up with ways to integrate Kou into their support staff. But mostly, it had been a time for Reika to deal with her grief in a safe place, where she knew no one would take advantage of her weakness. Linna had gotten home very late, and would be arriving very soon now. Sylia's eyes flickered as she took in the security video showing the garage door opening, and a compact SUV driving in.

She stood up, drawing the other two's attention. "Linna's, here," Sylia commented quietly, gathering her dishes. "Take your time. I need to speak with her for a bit before we continue today." She thought of something then. "Kou, when you have a moment, could I speak with you? I have an idea how you can start helping us."

Kou's eyes narrowed slightly, and he nodded, as Reika put her hand on his. He looked over at his wife, and smiled, leaning close to speak in privacy with her as Sylia stepped away. 'Even in their moment of pain, they still looked to each other first,' Sylia thought with a touch of envy.

Sylia had been through a lot in her life. The loss of her father at an early age had meant she'd been the responsible one, putting her younger brother through school while finishing her own education, with an eye to avenging her father's murder at Brian J. Mason's hands. She'd also evolved the idea for the Knight Sabers along the way as a freelance mercenary unit whose operations funded her own crusade. Along the way, they'd evolved into more than that, of course.

But the whole time, she'd avoided serious relationships. She just couldn't seem to get close to people. Oh, there was Fargo, her intelligence associate who kept throwing himself at her. But his efforts were so... juvenile. No one had really measured up in her whole life, and she often quietly despaired of ever finding someone who would.

Sylia stepped into the elevator, the doors closing on the quiet murmurings from the kitchen. She rarely allowed herself to dwell on might-have-beens, but sometimes they creeped up and ambushed her. Like this morning, when she found herself face to face with a couple who had lost as tragically as she had, in their own way, yet had each other to turn to. Sylia found herself envying the relationship they had, and the support it offered, more than she'd realized she did, and had been profoundly grateful that Linna's arrival gave her a reason to absent herself from the kitchen.

Spending a few moments composing herself, she set the cool, composed smile back on her face, and stepped out into the parking garage, to greet the aerobics instructor as she closed her door and began to walk across the garage.

"Hi!" Linna waved clumsily, a pair of large shopping bags in her hands. "Brought some stuff for Reika and Kou. They'll need a few things if they're staying a while, right?"

Sylia nodded and held the door open as the other girl got in. "Of course. I must confess, I hadn't thought that far ahead with their social needs. I've been... preoccupied with other things."

"Sure," Linna agreed casually. Sylia's eyes darted toward Linna for a quick moment, as if suspicious of the casual agreement, but looked away when the other girl seemed completely at ease.

For her part, Linna hoped Sylia couldn't see how nervous she was. She'd known Sylia well enough now to know that when she looked that composed, she was hiding something. And given she had spent the night sheltering a girl who lost the only family she knew, that had to be hitting close to home. But instead of mentioning it - which would only irritate her friend - Linna instead pretended nothing was wrong, and hoped Sylia didn't see through it all.

The door opened on the main living area, and Linna stepped out, holding up the bags as she made her way into the kitchen. "Hi! Brought stuff to help you get settled in!" She made her way over to a couch in the other room, drawing Reika away from the kitchen table. The girl followed Linna, still carrying the sadness with her, but leavened with a bit of interest in what Linna had been up to. Kou stayed behind, and watched them go, a slight smile on his face.

Sylia let them move into the other room, then sat down at the kitchen table, drawing Kou's eyes back to her. "I think I'll take this opportunity to have that discussion I wanted to have earlier."

Kou nodded. "It's about Largo, isn't it?"

Sylia nodded, eyes level. "Yes. I noticed that when I started discussing what Mason had become, you started to seem uncomfortable with the whole discussion." She leaned back and laced her fingers together, resting them on the table. "I found it interesting that not only had your grandfather made it possible for you to steal a top secret prototype walker tank, but you managed to get it into Megatokyo with no one the wiser. The first may have been the Hou Bang's connections. But the second required more. Considering how it was just a small group of you, you seemed to have almost effortless access to anywhere you needed to go in the city, and attempts to find you were fruitless time and again."

Kou nodded slowly. "We didn't know who Largo was in connection with the picture you painted last night. But we were contacted by a man who claimed to have intimate knowledge of the way the Genom tower and the AD Police operated. So much so that he could practically guarantee we would have access to whatever we needed in the city with little or no chance of detection." He snorted quietly and shook his head. "We didn't believe him at first, of course. But when he led us to evidence of Gulf & Bradley negotiating with Genom for a new Boomer design, we elected to take him at his word."

Sylia nodded. "Largo was manipulating from behind the scenes. Not yet ready to obtain the boring machine, but unable to personally affect Genom or its people himself, he needed proxies. People with an axe to grind who wouldn't question too closely where the intelligence was coming from as long as it suited their purposes." She thought about that for a moment, and then looked up at Kou. "It may be belated, but thank you."

Kou looked surprised. "For what?"

"For not shooting my friend when you had her helpless in your gunsight."

Kou started, flashing back to that night, when the Blue Saber had attacked him alone, in the spider walker tank. He'd tried shooting her, but she'd been too agile. he'd relied then on the secondary weapons, the myomer tentacles, to grab and immobilize her. He'd been luckier than he'd expected, as her arm had been either weak, or damaged in a previous engagement. He'd managed to break it, and slammed her into the ground, stunning her.

But although he'd been intending to kill her and be done with one of the Knight Sabers, he found he couldn't do it. It was one thing to kill an enemy, but another to kill a defenceless person. And armor or not, the unconscious woman on the ground had been nothing but a defenceless victim at that point. Unwilling to become a monster himself, he'd held off, and retreated, leaving her alone. Seeing as how the Blue Saber and Linna had saved their lives a few days later, he'd always considered that act of conscience one of the better decisions he'd made in his life.

Kou lowered his head for a moment, acknowledging Sylia's gratitude. "I can't say much about that time," Kou struggled, trying to put his feelings into words. "But I've never seen myself as any more than bringing a bit of justice to those who richly earned it. I'm not a killer, like they are." He looked at his own hands. "Even if I trained to become one."

Sylia smiled slightly as exclamations of feminine surprise echoed out of the other room. Kou's eyebrow twitched, but he didn't otherwise react to the sound. "In any case, thank you for your kindness and discretion. I'm sure you'll bring the same consideration to the job I have in mind for you."

Kou looked back at her, his full attention on the leader of the mercenary group. "And that is?"

Sylia took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "As I know Linna told you the other day, I've made her the CEO of Loon Enterprises." Kou nodded slightly, eyes still locked on Sylia. "Given the danger the Chang group now poses to our activities, I think it would be... appropriate... to have someone who is assassin-trained as her bodyguard." She looked up at Kou. "Someone whose motivations and interests I understand and can trust."

After a long moment, Kou nodded again. "I agree. And I accept."

* * *

Friday, October 16, 2037, 6:00 PM
GENOM Industrial Chemical, Division thirteen, Megatokyo

Madigan sat back in the car seat and sighed as the vehicle pulled away from the garage. 'Alone, if only for a few minutes,' she thought to herself. The car, on its way to a biotech research firm with "management difficulties" gave her a few precious moments by herself to consider her response to the Firster theft.

Getting the coffins and their occupants back from the N-Police hadn't been difficult, just time consuming. She'd had to pull several favors to get the coffins away from their doctors before they could do an autopsy on them. It wouldn't do, after all, for them to discover the strange things in their brains. Strange things put there by the former Chairman in his attempt to reproduce the original experiments begun by Dr. Katsuhito Stingray.

'Experimenting on his own daughter,' she thought to herself with a shiver. 'What a monster!' She still couldn't understand how a person regarded by the scientific community as a saint and the father of Boomer science could undertake an action which bordered on the vilest of human experimentation.

She hadn't discovered the truth until after she'd cracked the ciphers on Quincy's private database. Dr. Stingray's notes had been in there. The private notes. The ones detailing how he'd built a nanotechnological innovation which so perfectly simulated the behaviour of the human brain. The ones which detailed how he'd implanted nanotech devices in his own daughter's brain, and encouraged them to augment, and in some cases, replace existing neural matter.

Those notes had held other things as well. Things she normally would have suspected as indicating juvenile fantasies, or rampant insanity. Notes on made- up roleplaying characters, including a character sheet with pages of handwritten notes on one Colonel Dougles "Looney Toons" Sangnoir.

Transfictionality. That was what they called it, and Madigan shivered again as she pulled out a photo she now always kept with her. A picture of a young, darkly tanned girl in a sailor senshi outfit, throwing energy bolts at a hapless boomer in the foreground while Doug could barely be seen, hands wreathed in lightning.

Quincy's notes had expanded further on what Madigan really hadn't understood about that rainy night last year. When Quincy revealed he had done all he had done as a way of creating a villain so terrible it would force the universe to create someone like Doug (maybe even Doug himself), bringing with him all the wild, incredible powers at his command... and the metagene he could refine into the form of the Servant Factor virus.

The car pulled into the compound, and Madigan tucked the picture away, composing herself before her driver opened the door and let the world in again. As she stepped out into the cloudy day and the inevitable crowd of protesters, she found herself thinking of something else.

'I wonder if somewhere out there, someone's written a fiction about us?'

* * *

The figure ghosted silently through engineering crawlspaces and ventilation ducts. The facility was quiet, shut down for the night. The intruder paused briefly as the sound of voices echoed through the empty facility to her ears. Pausing she considered her options.

There were always a few guards around, not to mention the occasional boomer. Once she would have fled 55C guard boomers, but tonight she had a little something special if she needed it. Odds were, she would. But she'd learned a few things from her time spent underground, and her hand touched the remote trigger as if seeking comfort that the option was still there.

The voices grew slowly louder as the figure began to move in their direction. 'Sounds like a man and a woman,' the figure thought to herself. She drifted down a ventilation system, and paused at the decorative grille fronting a very elaborate office. An office where a woman reclined in comfort in the chair the man in question would have used.

"I'm completely unsatisfied with your performance, Jason. You've allowed productivity to slip fifteen points in the last quarter." The woman leaned forward, eyes intent. "You didn't really think that with the former Chairman dead you could just take off and start your own little private enterprise, did you? Or that I wouldn't find out?"

The director of the facility swallowed hard and paled, trying hard not to lose what little composure he had left. 'Old school,' the girl in the ducts dismissed disdainfully. 'Doesn't think a girl has a brain in her head and gets scared when presented with a woman who's as better at his game than he is.' Shaking her head slightly, she made her way a little further down the shaft, when she heard his nervous reply.

"I-I'm sure there must be some discrepancy, Miss Madigan! I mean - "

"That's Madame Chairwoman to you, Jason," Madigan interrupted coldly, eyes burning holes into his head. In the duct, the figure paused, shocked.

'Chairwoman?! When did that happen?' She eased herself back to the grille and observed the chief GENOM hatchetwoman ('former hatchetwoman', she corrected herself quietly) slowly hacking a rebellious director to pieces.

A coal of long-suppressed anger began to grow within her as she observed the former troubleshooter tear strips off of the director. She had been used by Largo in his evil plans, and discarded without thought. Madigan had been right there with him at the end, from what she'd learned of Largo. 'So that was her reward,' the figure in the ducts thought, anger bringing life to what had for so long been a cold, purposeless existence. 'She played and betrayed all of us and got promoted. We were thrown aside as so much chaff.'

She watched Madigan walk out of the room, leaving a terrified and sweating director, and began to move with new purpose through the ventilation system. 'Tonight that changes,' the girl swore softly.

* * *

Madigan walked softly down the empty passages. This was the only way Jenny would allow her to walk without bodyguards. Even then, she was at the end of the hallway, visible in the distance, an annoyed look on her face. An empty facility, not a soul in sight. A smile crossed her face as she remembered the impassioned speech Jenny had given her when she announced she was going in alone.

"Your safety is more than just about Genom's stability and security, Miss Madigan! For a lot of us, your continued survival is our chance of prosperity! I can't take chances with your life like this, and I can't let you do the same! And I won't!"

Madigan had grasped her by the shoulder for a long moment, and smiled. Not one of the guarded "Madame Chairwoman" smiles, but one of the rare, ungarded smiles of pure pleasure. "Jenny, I know you know what that means to me. but I have to do it this way. I can't let him feel like he has any advantage at all, and if I show up with a bodyguard in tow, it'll suggest I don't feel confident in my own facility. And that's an image I can't project. For me to be the effective role model you want me to be, I have to do this my way."

Jenny had struggled with herself for a long moment, then her shoulders slumped slightly. "Hai, Madigan-sama. You win."

Madigan shook her head slightly. "Don't be like that, Jenny." She paused for a moment. "Tell you what. Your team can secure the building, and guard all the passageways to the office, but stay out of sight. Deal?"

Jenny smiled and nodded. "Deal,"

And so Madigan was walking alone, lost in thought as a grille opened up just behind her, and a hand snaked out, grabbing her by the arm. With a startled yelp, she vanished inside the grille.

"Madigan-sama!" Jenny raced down the corridor to where the chairwoman had vanished, mentally castigating herself for allowing her friend to talk her into this. If she'd been there this wouldn't have happened!

As she reached the grille, her orders already firing out across the secure comm net shared by her boomer bodyguard team, she reached out and ripped the grille off the wall with enhanced strength. The two girls in the duct, barely visible were quite a sight to Jenny. Madigan, unhurt but confused, lay on the duct floor besides a nearly-naked girl who held out a small electronic device.

"Say goodnight, Gracie!"

Jenny launched forward, only to fall on her face as the short-range EMP triggered from the remote bomb planted in the power grid detonated. The figure in the ducting wavered for a moment as well, as Madigan gritted her teeth as waves of pain arced through her.

'Boomeroid,' Madigan thought to herself. 'She's a boomeroid like me!'

The figure turned and knelt down to her as Madigan struggled to make the temporarily frozen limbs respond. "Don't make this any harder than it has to be, Miss Madigan!" This last was spoken in a hiss which was made even more horrifying as her eyes seemingly began to glow. Madigan had a frightened moment of lucidity as the eyes of her captor seemed to bore into her, leeching away will and consciousness. Before she could frame her thought however, she slumped to the floor of the duct, awareness lost.

* * *

Sunday, October 18, 2037, 1:30 PM
Unknown location, Megatokyo

Madigan slowly came back to consciousness aware of new surroundings. There was a constant bass hum, more felt through the room than heard, and the sound of dripping water. The quiet sounds of someone sleeping nearby and the sounds of another moving about in the room, glass clinking against metal.

Opening her eyes slowly, she found herself staring up at a dirty ceiling in a small room, a single sixty-watt bulb the only source of illumination. Against the far wall, a pair of beds lay, one of them used by a bundled figure which moaned and thrashed in confusion occasionally. The second figure could be seen sitting at a table, an extremely advanced piece of medical technology standing out of place in the midst of the squalor.

Madigan slowly sat up and froze midway as the figure sitting in front of the device spoke. "Awake, are you?" The voice was a soft alto, filled with barely leashed anger and suppressed pain. Madigan sat up, and automatically checked herself. Coat gone, phone and watch gone, all electronic devices removed, and her belt taken as well. A quick glance around the room showed her coat wrapped around the sleeping figure, and her equipment piled on the table to one side, the batteries removed.

"I assure you, I left nothing to chance," the figure by the medical machine said quietly. "I had training from a mutual associate, you might say. They aren't finding you until I want them to find you." The figure leaned forward, still somewhat obscured by the shadow she cast across herself. "What shape you're in when they find you will depend heavily on what you have to tell me."

Madigan settled the butterflies in her stomach and pulled out what she referred to as her "Ice Maiden" mask. "I assure you that GENOM is searching for us with everything at their disposal. My discovering isn't a matter of 'if', only 'when'. And your fate will likely depend on how they find me."

The figure snorted and shook her head. "Nice try 'Madame Chairwoman'," she said, spitting out the title. "But I've been dead once already. You can't frighten me with that spectre. Lose the attitude or I'll show you the places I've seen."

Madigan started again and sat back, mind furiously analyzing clues. A pair of girls in an abandoned underground (she assumed it was underground, the bass rumbling sound could easily be traffic above her somewhere and there were no windows) room, a medical machine manufacturing... what? A hostile young woman who was trained by someone she knew by name? There were a lot of people who fit that list.

The machine beeped, and a vial was extruded. The girl leaned back and added some medical cannisters Madigan recognized as having come from the chemical plant she'd been kidnapped from. The vial was filled with a red fluid. Taking a syringe, she placed it inside, pressed it against her arm, and injected herself with it.

Madigan felt a wave of dizziness wash through her as the clues all clicked into place. "Largo! You're the sexaroids he broke out of Generos!" She fought the shock to retain her grip on consciousness as the figure nodded grimly. "But you died! The Knight Sabers killed you!"

The dark-haired girl with the disturbingly hazel-gold eyes leaned forward into the light, revealing eyes filled with hate and pain. She pulled down her top, revealing a half-centimetre scar, right between her breasts. "I died," she continued quietly, putting the dirty shift back in place. "And afterward, Anri died." She leaned back, and picked up a knife gripping and shifting it in her hands slowly. "Meg, Lou and Nam died never even tasting freedom from that evil place." She stabbed the knife down into the table and hissed. "And all so you could betray Largo and replace Quincy, to rule on high as the new Chairwoman? I think not!"

Madigan leaned back against the wall, eyes wide with horror at this revisionist version of what happened. Seen from this girl's incomplete knowledge, it made a sick kind of sense. The hate in the girl was almost a palpable thing now as she wrenched the knife out of the table.

She knew now that the girl was psyching herself up to strike. If she was going to live much longer, she had to talk fast...

* * *

Lisa crept through the alleyway, and paused as a particularly squishy sound came to her ears. "Ugh. Bubblegum." She pulled her shoe up, showing the disgustingly pink strands sticking to the pavement below. "Yuck!"

Lisa scraped the bottom of the hiking shoes as best she could on a convenient brick, and continued deeper into the semi-abandoned zone at the bottom of the earthquake zone. Often dubbed 'Tinsel City' by the inhabitants, it was the remains of businesses, homes, and city architecture left over from the great Kanto earthquake a generation ago. People had taken to living in the place shortly afterward, and rather than flatten it and rebuild, the city left it there. City rats and street scum congregated there, and it made it easier in the long run to have them "out of the way" than to scatter them all back into the city. Lisa had written a dissertation on that her second year of school.

Of course, she wasn't totally isolated down in this grotty old city section. Raven's, the garage maintained by the crotchety old man who also doubled as the Knight Sabers' second cyberneticist and heavy armor engineer had his shop, and the secret underground nanofactory nearby. So she could get help if she needed to. Not that she wanted to, as that would get Sylia asking questions she couldn't answer. Questions like why an Apprentice mage was wandering around some of the worst landscape in Megatokyo armed only with a camera and a cell phone.

Lisa continued to follow the trail of psychic energy, leading her from the break-in at Dow chemical to this abandoned stretch of city. The sewer girl was around her somewhere. And if she could get there first, she'd have the exclusive of the month! Her mouth watered as she imagined all the wonderful places she and Nene could go to enjoy their newfound wealth. Money was no fun if there was no one to spend it on, after all.

The imprint wavered, and she focussed on the task, firming up the link. 'Gotta watch that,' she grinned self-consciously. 'I keep getting distracted.' She stopped as the sense took a sudden dip downward, and she paused, looking down at the sewer hatch.

Lisa sighed. "Why did I just know I was going to be crawling through sewers tonight?" She checked her equipment, safe in the carryall, and brushed her jeans a few times as she knelt down to open the hatch. "Guess I'll have to replace everything later. Mou!"

The hatch opened soundlessly and Lisa was reaching for the ladder, nose scrunched up against the smell, when she stopped. "Wait a minute!" She looked over at the hatch, and nodded as a touch produced a thin layer of fresh grease. "Someone's been planning this for a while." She grinned again. "Must be on the right track!"

Dropping swiftly down the ladder, she ignored the hatch cover closing over her head as she dropped to the bottom of the sewer tunnel. Concentrating for a moment, she held out her hand, and was rewarded with a small ball of light which hovered up and drifted out across the tunnel, flew back behind her, and then settled above and just behind her left shoulder.

Grinning at her success, she made her way down the passage, following the psychic trace toward the source.

* * *

Madigan leaned back and took a deep breath. "I swear that's what happened. I know it sounds unbelievable, but that's really what happened. No lies, no half- truths." She took another steadying breath, as the figure settled the knife on the table, even though her hand remained on the hilt. "Largo betrayed all of us. He wanted the OMS for himself. He thought he was a god, and that he'd be the god of boomerkind." She winced as she remembered that night as she did in her nightmares, all too vividly.

"He launched a particle strike on the office." Madigan saw the other girl wince as she imagined the scene play out in her mind. "All I remember was pain, colors and a sharp impact. I - I never really lost consciousness," she said, eyes reflecting her inner nightmare. "They didn't get to me for an hour after that, and the damage to my body was too extensive to heal completely. but the Chairman..." Madigan snorted in derision. "The Chairman wouldn't accept anything less. So arranged for... replacements."

The figure in the chair looked up sharply as Madigan nodded. "Right arm, both legs, a lot of my internal organs." She closed her eyes as she clinically rattled off the list of replacements. "One eye, and a link to the other optic nerve. Both ears enhanced, even though there was nothing wrong with them. Multiple ribs, and overall rib cage reinforcement." She opened her eyes, and looked at the other girl, a half-grin on her face. "At this point, you're probably more human than I am."

"Bone marrow?"

Madigan started, then looked over at the machine in understanding. "They kept mine. The bones were shattered but the marrow was transplated to my new limbs." She paused, a cautious look on her face. "That wouldn't work you know, in your case. Your bones weren't built to handle bone marrow. We'd have to replace the entire thigh and upper arm bones just to make it possible."

The figure in the chair glared at her in return. "But you could do it!"

Madigan shook her head. "In theory, yes. But you and I both know that no matter what was agreed to, GENOM would probably kill you on the operating table rather than risk letting you live independantly. And for something that specialized, there are damned few other places I'd trust to perform an operation like that."

The figure gripped the knife and slammed it into the table again with greater force. Madigan ignored the outburst and leaned forward, curious. "So how did you... ah..."

"Come back from the dead?" The figure gave her a darkly humorous smile and shrugged. "All I remember is waking up in the AD Police boomer morgue with about fifty or so other revived boomers. They were all running around chanting something about a boomer apocalypse. I pretty much ignored them, and got Anri out of there. We've been making do down here ever since."

Madigan leaned back, a look of pained realization on her face. 'Largo again,' she thought to herself. At the girl's suspicious look, she tried to explain. "A couple of years ago, Largo showed up again. He'd stolen a German underground boring machine, and was attempting to bore his way to the nuclear power station, to trigger an overload."

The girl snorted in disgust. "Please! I'm not some movie-goer who thinks a nuclear power plant will explode or something. Fuel rods can't do that."

Madigan shook her head, a grim smile on her face. "Where do you think we get our material for things like that micro neutron explosive in the battlemover you stole? The plant is a GENOM facility, and can be used as a breeder reactor if necessary." She nodded as the girl inhaled sharply in remembered pain. "Exactly. And if Largo had broken the seals and breached the reactor housing..."

"So what has that to do with us?"

"Largo sent a boomer virus through the network using the new second-generation Boomer AI core to control it."

"Second generation?"

Madigan nodded. "Smarter, faster. The prototype was supposedly so human in emotional development that people thought it was a remote. That was before Colonel Sangnoir and his gift, of course."

The girl shook her head, still trying to absorb the left-field reference as Madigan continued. "The boomer Largo used in conjunction with it was a Fusion boomer, and one of the first places it hit was AD Police, presumably to keep them tied up with a boomer rampage, and unable to mass sufficient forces to stop Largo. If I had to guess," she continued, looking at the two girls, "I'd say the fusion boomer managed to repair and restart both of you, then left you to your own devices, probably hoping you'd add to the confusion. Considering the almost- human nature of the 33-S line, the fusion boomer probably over-wrote your inorganic implants with the second-generation code. I'd imagine everything your implants let you do work better than they did before. Am I right?"

The girl nodded cautiously, a slightly challenging smile on her face now. Madigan understood perfectly. The 33-S sexaroid was a deceptively dangerous combat package wrapped in silk and lace. Giving her the advantages of superior, near state-of-the-art code to amplify her internal automation's performance would make her a superior combat model. Maybe the equal of one of the assassin models.

Madigan shook her head sharply, causing the other girl to start, the knife coming up defensifely. "Sorry," Madigan said curtly, leaning back against the wall. "Old patterns of thought. I try to watch that."

A clatter and a thump at the door drew their attention away from each other. Reacting with inhuman swiftness, the girl darted across the room and wrenched the door open. A figure tumbled to the ground, causing Madigan to start in surprise.

The figure looked up sheepishly at the scary girl with the knife who towered over her with a look of exasperation, and the figure of GENOM's chairwoman and her occasional Sailor Moon-loving movie night guest, and shrugged. The camera in her hand continued to record, if at an odd angle, her reporter's instincts telling her to protect the camera, often at her own peril, and sat up. "D'you think I could interest you in giving me the exclusive?"

Madigan stared, fear gnawing in her gut the way it hadn't been moments before. Suddenly someone she cared about was at the mercy of the knife-wielding revenant, and she found herself tensing. Then, Lisa shifted, and she noticed something else. The same thing that was causing the girl with the knife to back away slowly in confusion.

A little ball of light hovered effortlessly over Lisa's shoulder, cheerfully illuminating the room and corridor with a friendly yellow glow. It wasn't connected to anything, wasn't powered by anything, and moved completely independently of Lisa, always maintaining it's position slightly behind and above her.

Lisa looked back over her shoulder at the light globe, and blushed. Biting her lip, she looked back at the other women. "Umm. I don't suppose I can get you to forget you saw that, hmm?"

The girl with the knife waved over at Madigan. "I don't think so. But don't worry. I'm not feeling pissed off right now. Sit with her for now. And don't try anything funny. I have work to do." Her eyes narrowed. "And turn that thing off!"

Lisa gulped and pressed a button, making the red light on the camera go out. Sitting down beside Madigan, she waited while the other girl sat at the medical machine, and turned to her friend.

"So," she chirped with false cheerfulness. "What brings you here?"

* * *

Sunday, October 18, 2037, 10:15 PM
Ladys633 Tower, Megatokyo

The girls gathered in Sylia's apartment at her summons. Nene thumped angrily along behind Reika and Kou as she ran her hands through her hair. She didn't have time for this. She was supposed to be up in eight hours, and she needed her sleep!

Still grumping, she ran right into Linna's hand, which plastered itself over her mouth, as she held a finger against her own mouth. "Not so loud," Linna whispered. Sylia's not feeling very well."

Concern for her friend chased her bad mood away and she moved more quickly into the main room. Sylia sat draped across the couch at the far end by the darkened window, a wet compress across her eyes. Nene's eyes widened as she realized what that meant. "She's been taking stims again, hasn't she?"

Linna nodded. 'Stims', a colloquial term for any combination of amphetamines, alertness drugs and stimulants, was a low-end cocktail served in any number of bars and back-alleys across Megatokyo. As one who had seen the results of more than a few Stim crashes in the past, Nene didn't want to see Sylia in the same state. As she moved over to her, the older girl took the compress off her eyes, and sat up, regarding Nene levelly.

"I trust I pass?" she asked softly. Nene examined her critically, too concerned for Sylia's well being to be intimidated by the tone of voice. Sylia's face registered slight surprise at Nene standing up to her, even if only metaphorically, as she carefully studied Sylia's face for signs of overdose. "There's a little redness in the eyes, and I'm betting your skin is drier than it should be." She sat down and assumed a more serious expression than normal. If you stop taking them you'll be fine. Keep doing it, and you'll collapse. Then I'll have to send you to detox."

Sylia's eyebrow rose at the tone in Nene's voice, even as she felt herself smile a little at what it all implied. Nene had been the most skittish of all of them, and to a certain degree, she still was. If she was so concerned for Sylia's well being that she was willing to go toe-to-toe with her, that demonstrated how much Sylia meant to her. Which was why Sylia allowed herself to back down and nodded to Nene. "All right. Deal."

Nene deflated visibly, and sat back in the chair, prompting a chuckle from Linna, and an uncertain grin from Reika. Kou stood in the background, blending in so easily it was hard to remember there was a man in the room with them.

Linna leaned forward. "So the reason you were taking so many stims was that we have a contract and you needed to get Reika's suit ready, right?"

Sylia nodded as Reika leaned forward, interested. "The suit is ready, yes. I still think it needs more tests to make certain I've incorporated all the new technology properly, but I suspect I'd feel that way no matter how many tests we ran with alien science in our hardsuits. In any event," she continued, ignoring the sudden look of uncertainty on Reika's face. "We have a contract, and given the nature of the contract, I felt it was imperative to call you all out here tonight for the briefing."

"Where's Lisa?" Nene looked around, trying to find her friend, who as the Sabers' archivist, had a certain responsibility to be present for these briefings.

Sylia looked uncertain. "I don't know. I called her, and then paged her watch when she didn't answer. I then tried using the pageback feature on the watch, but nothing happened." She shook her head again at the other girls' expressions of concern. "It may be nothing. The range is long, but there isn't a lot of penetrating power. Enough concrete or steel in the way would prevent the signal from being received. Still, I'm having a continuous update run on the signal. If I get something usable, I'll track it back to wherever she is. Hopefully," she said smiling slightly, "she's only asleep and the watch fell behind her desk."

Nene fidgeted in nervous uncertainty as Reika spoke up. "So what's the contract?"

Sylia slowly shook her head. "This contract is one I never would have believed I'd ever get, much less take." She looked over at the other girls, a crooked smile on her face. "If I had been offered this contract before, I don't know if I would have accepted it. Now, I can only sit here in shock and try to make sense of it."

Linna rolled her eyes ceilingward. "So what is it? Did the AD Police ask us to work for them, or something? Is Chief Tohdo asking for interviews?" To one side, Nene mock-glared at Linna who only grinned unrepentantly back at her.

"No," Sylia answered, smiling. "It's much, much stranger than that." She gathered them all in by making eye contact with each of them before continuing. "We've been hired by GENOM. They've lost their chairwoman, and are paying us 100 million yen to find her and bring her back. Alive."

It was long moments before any of the others could speak again.

End of Chapter Two

Disclaimer: All characters and worlds present are copyrights of their original creators, and are not created by the writer (with the sole exception of the mysterious "One"). This is a work of fiction, and is intended as fan-created fiction for the purpose of entertainment under fair-use legislation. No attempt to infringe upon copyrighted material is intended.

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This page was created on August 14, 2008.
Last modified November 28, 2011.