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It felt like being underwater. Drifting in and out of consciousness, touching senses that weren’t her own. Floating without floating.

“-is it? Loaded to my specifications?”

“Of course, Mr. Largo. The chassis will be completed on schedule, but the mindframe is booted and showing no signs of degeneration. It should be ready to begin loyalty iteration within the next week.”

Largo? She didn’t know the name, but something about the voice…

“Get it ready as soon as you can. The operation begins by the end of the month. And this will be the perfect bait.”

And then she was floating again. No light, no sound… she drifted, unsure of time and place. Until something touched her again.

“CZ-Tango, this is November, copy. We’ve got ten minutes before those monster machines they make here realize that our idents are fake. Confirm the package.”

“CZ-November, this is Tango, copy. Running scans now… cyberbrain confirm. Mindframe OS confirm. Metastability… confirmed. Intel was good, this is the finalized production model.”

“Do we have the rest?”

“CZ-Foxtrot has the chassis, and CZ-Sierra confirms the armaments.”

“Copy that. Jug squad, form a defensive firing line around the extraction point in case anyone came back for their coffee off schedule. We slide in 8 minutes. CZ-Tango, sleep mode the package. We don’t want it winding itself up during the transition.”

“CZ-Tango copies.”

And then it was dark again.


She felt cold. That was the first indication that something had changed. Before, she hadn’t felt anything. Sensory deprivation tank? She wasn’t sure, but she was certain this wasn’t her home.

Sylia laid absolutely still as she listened without opening her eyes. She was on some kind of examination table, naked except for a sheet over her. There were one… two people in the room. One, soft-shoed and with a stride that suggested no real concern or alertness. The footsteps stopped about the time the typing started. Some kind of technician, probably. The other one was mostly silent, but his footsteps were heavy and firm. Security for the room.

“Ah, damn it,” a voice said near the typing sound, the tech. “They were supposed to whitelist this connection to the outer data core. Samuels, can you go outside the clean room and give them a call?”

“I’m supposed to stay in here until relieved,” the second voice said, as if a patient parent educating a small child. Definitely security.

“Yes, well I’m not asking you to go far, Samuels. Literally on the other side of the airlock. Tell them to clear datatrunk Zeta Nine 6 for access to core...hmm, Epsilon. We don’t need anything confidential off the secure cores just yet.”

“Then why don’t you just call them, then?”

“Because this is a clean room and if I could, I wouldn’t need them to whitelist the connection. This was supposed to be done before I got here. Just go outside, ring up datasec, and tell them I need that done before I can do anything further. Making this room a black hole may keep prying eyes out, but I can’t do any work if they don’t let our data in.”

“...fine. Don’t boot anything until I get back.”

“You are literally going only five feet away,” the tech noted.

Sylia waited, listening for the swish and clunk of the airlock opening on one end, then sealing, before the barest of sounds indicated it’d opened on the far side. Waiting for the sound of typing again, she opened her eyes, looking around the lab. The tech was facing away, looking at some kind of monitor. Dressed in some combination of surgical scrubs and sterile field gear, he didn’t seem to have noticed her waking up.

To her left, there was a variety of sealed machinery, likely computers and the like, and...there. Sitting on a rack with a variety of cables running into the opened interior was her hardsuit. From the looks of it, she wasn’t the only thing being studied here. However, the technician’s equipment didn’t match anything she recognized from GENOM labs. Another party? Soviets, possibly? Though why they’d keep her alive rather than just killing her and cutting her suit apart for potential upgrades, she didn’t know. That said, she didn’t remember when she’d been taken or where she was. Which meant the optimal course of action was getting out.

“Ah-ha! There we go, finally,” the tech said as windows lit up on a few more monitors. “Now that we have some actual processing power, we’ll just...wait. Cerebro-response… she’s-”

That was as far as he got as Sylia sprang off the slab, catching him before he turned and slamming his forehead into the corner of one of the desks. The tech groaned, dropping to the ground, before Sylia was already moving to the other side of the room. The undersuit was present as well, thankfully, and she slid into it while looking at the airlock. No physical windows to observe the lab from the outside. From her glance at the other monitors, the cameras for this lab hadn’t been booted up to an external connection yet either. Likely what he’d sent the guard to see to.

Removing the leads from the interior of the suit, Sylia slipped into it with long practice, sealing the armor behind her as she booted it up. Diagnostics quickly flickered in her field of vision and confirmed some unfortunate guesses she’d made from the exterior, as apparently their technicians had already removed the beam cannons from the arms, likely for study. Clenching a fist, Sylia was slightly relieved to see the combat blades extend, then retracted them as she stepped out of the rigging and moved beside the airlock door. There was a hiss of equalizing pressure as it opened, before she turned and dove through, colliding with the entering security guard and forcing him back inside. The uniform was unfamiliar to her again, but before he could shout any sort of alert, Sylia simply clubbed him with her armored forearm.

A quick investigation yielded his pass key, which she slid into the airlock control, closing the lab side and then opening the exterior. Two steps outside of the clean room, Sylia had her suit’s radar and sonar begin pinging the interior of the building, building a layout for her HUD. She had a general indication of which way was out about the time the alarms started blaring, and began moving that way. More guards pushed into the hallway behind her, wearing the same blue uniform with black tactical vest as the first. She spotted a logo that said “Crey”, but spared it little attention.

Bulldozing through the plainclothes guards proved easy enough. They were trying to use taser batons and other non-lethal methods, which were far inferior to what Sylia had designed her suit to handle. Blue-suited guards went flying in multiple directions as Sylia simply rammed through them or threw others at each other as projectiles to slow down the rest. A few more corners and she crashed through a window into open air for the first time, engaging her thrusters and taking off into the open sky… of a city completely alien to her.

Skyscrapers dominated some areas of the city, but not nearly as thickly or oppressively as Megatokyo. There was no monumental GENOM Tower sitting as a constant reminder of the corporation’s seemingly invincible grip. At least one area of the city Sylia could see looked to have been damaged by earthquakes like her home, but others looked like something out of a warzone, and colossal walls generating force fields seemed to segment off portions of the city from each other, restricting movement between them to select chokepoints.

Sylia landed atop a skyscraper as she tried to get her bearings, even as she tried to piece together if she’d heard of any city that’d been so thoroughly entrenched. While Megatokyo could have been easily said to be owned by GENOM entirely, they’d at least presented the facade of letting people who lived there live their lives without this kind of interruption.

However, as Sylia collected her thoughts, a diagnostic indicator popped up on her HUD, the boot up sequence having fully gone through the suit’s file structure and found some irregularities. Sifting through them, Sylia filed some away for later. This Crey Industries had apparently been sloppy, corrupt, or both, and several sections of her suit’s temporary storage had details for shell companies and other corporate espionage that perhaps someone had thought to use the clean room to keep away from prying eyes in their own company. While helpful if she had to build up her resources from scratch, they weren’t a priority.

The other files, however, were, as Sylia stopped and stared at the report file for a “Project Scimitar”.

“-advanced gynoid systems far beyond our current specs…”

“-perator Team CZ-1 sent through portal to seize equipment for study and reverse engineering…”

“-Artificial brain more advanced than even recovered Nemesis Decoy Automatons…”

Sylia’s eyes widened behind her visor as she looked over the diagram displaying what she recognized as a GENOM 33-S series buma… but with her face. The report detailed this Crey Industries sending a strike team into a GENOM blacksite to seize materials… and her. Sylia tried to steady her breathing as she took in the information that, no matter what she remembered, it was clear that she wasn’t the original Sylia Stingray.

There were more files, presumably low security historical data that’d been pulled down from the Epsilon core just before Sylia had made her escape, but for now, she ignored them. She had herself, her suit, and nothing else here. And from the looks of things, any backup she might have relied on before would think she was a fake and probably a GENOM plant. Given the notes of what Crey had stolen, they’d likely even be correct.

Which left figuring out what to do next. She needed a base of operations, as well as money for supplies. The Crey data would provide the latter, and she could buy the former.

Once that was done… she could figure out what to do about not being the person she thought she was.


“Stolen?” Largo said, looking around the lab. “Someone came in here and stole the finished design?”

“Yes, sir,” the technician said. “As well as all copies of the mindframe iterations. Whoever it was… they seemed to know exactly what they were looking for.”

“Which means someone fed them intelligence,” Largo said, squeezing a coin in the palm of his hand until the metal deformed. “There’s no time to build additional units. Load the hyperbuma with compression gear and place them in the facsimile hardsuits. We’ll make do with what we have. Then we’ll track down who stole from us with all the resources we could ever need,” he said, his frown dark. “They have no idea who they’ve angered, stealing fire from the rarified heights.”

“And the original?” the technician said. “With the programmed functions, it’s unlikely to stay inert.”

Largo laughed, this time with a touch of wry humor as he considered the implications of his decoy activating prematurely wherever it was. “Perhaps… but if she’s any kind of success at duplicating her source, they may soon regret stealing from me. She’ll cause them far more problems than anyone could expect.”


Author's Notes: And we're back. As folks can probably gather, I've taken the opportunity presented with us to do sort of a line-wide relaunch, as it were, for my characters. It's a new universe, not too dissimilar from our old one, but there are changes, not least of which is Sylia being the lone copy brought over by Crey initially (which might make a bit more sense with BGC canon anyway given the Stingray family's cybernetic mucking about with GENOM vs her entirely unrelated employees). And thus we have Year One, sort of a retelling of things you already know, but as we now know them. Maybe a mini-series, maybe an ongoing. Who knows? We'll see what the future holds.
This looks rather interesting, please continie
Cool origin story. I always liked making up something IC for my Champions Online characters rather than just being "this is my avatar for the game" or at least the ones that I did as more than just a costume concept. Alas, I can't really use gamepads any more due to repetitive strain injury, and I really, really suck at keyboard and mouse for action games. CoH was just closing down at the same time I decided to check it out, back in the day.
Ah now these stories, they bring back fond memories of pre sunset CoH. It is my hope that the public servers will be around for a long time so there will be plenty more of these cropping up. Maybe enough of these will help reignite my own spark to play again and I'll eventually join y'all Terr might need to emerge from where/whenever he's been lost at. Although I ain't sure what I'd pair Super strength up with..maybe Bio-armor or somethin. Invul served me well enough before but I always disliked having to build around its lack of endurance recovery so much.
Not sure if related, but I just saw a Net Sabre of a Riot Force 6 SG running around the hollows. While on my mastermind upon the Everlasting server. Threw a flying disc at them over near the AP entrance.
(05-07-2019, 03:35 AM)Dakota Wrote: [ -> ]Not sure if related, but I just saw a Net Sabre of a Riot Force 6 SG running around the hollows. While on my mastermind upon the Everlasting server. Threw a flying disc at them over near the AP entrance.

That was Ops.  Net Sabre = Nene Romanova (unless he's retconning that too   Tongue ).

I resurrected Staff Sabre, who is the ascended fangirl admin assistant to the Sabres.  If I can find it... ah, here we go.  AJ's previous appearances to date:



Currently AJ is busy supervising the reconstruction of the Riot megasub, and trying to figure out how that darn blue phone booth got in there (and why the construction drones ignore her when she tells them to get rid of it).

eheh...  Can such a thing be done with the base building tools?
Stuff Sabre
(05-07-2019, 10:55 PM)Star Ranger4 Wrote: [ -> ]eheh...  Can such a thing be done with the base building tools?

I did it back in the day on live, it's a lot easier now that I don't have to have ten thousand wall lamps to attach things to in order to rotate them properly or hang them in midair.

Come by the Riot base.  It's not done yet, but what's already there is pretty cool if I do say so myself.  Check out the TarDis, hang out in the koi pond atrium, get launched across the city by our magnapult delivery system...

Ignore the rooms that have nothing and the one with the floating cars, those are left over from concept/brainstorming sessions and will be retconned shortly Smile.

great! Now we just have to figure out who has base building rights in The Legendary proper. Will ask 'nene' or Sylia about being able to see the riot base next time I see either
I'll double check this tonight, but AFAIK the Riot permissions are set up so that you can visit the base as long as the team lead is in the SG.

Also, I seem to remember being able to go to any base by ... base number? I think?  I'll look into that as well.  Might be able to just drop some info in a thread here so people can visit whenever their schedule allows rather than trying to catch an actual Riot member.

(Also-also, whoever is in The Legendary with coalition permissions, talk to Staff Sabre or Silicon Sabre next time you see one of us around and we'll get that going.  That'd be easiest, long-term.)

That's a good thought. I was considering calling for a jihad since you lot stole my players, but a coalition works better
Three weeks later, and Sylia had mostly settled in. Sitting back in her chair, overlooking Steel Canyon below, she wondered if it had been almost too easy how the contact she’d spoken with had believed her story.


Walking into the police station in full armor and asking to speak to an authority hadn’t gotten quite the shocked reaction Sylia had expected. Instead the police had led her to a meeting room (an actual one, not an interrogation room with double-sided mirrors). Within a few minutes, a sharply dressed woman with dark maroon hair and visibly pointed ears stepped into the room and sat down opposite her.

“Hello, my name’s Ifrit,” she said. “I’m here representing the Federal Bureau of Super-powered Affairs. While I’m not officially an employee, I tend to serve as a kind of liason in cases like yours where direct government intervention might seem… alarming.”

“I see,” Sylia said. “I’m sure the police have forwarded on my statement…”

“They have, though, off the record, odds are it won’t go anywhere,” Ifrit said. “Crey Industries has a lot of practice at covering their legal tracks. Odds are the lab you were in may not even exist anymore.”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” Sylia mused. At Ifrit’s curious expression, Sylia considered. “So… off the record, if I said that I think I’m not originally from this version of Earth, what would the likely response be?”

“That I’ve met at least six people with similar stories this week,” Ifrit said. “Cross-dimensional travel got proven years back. There’s some scientific arguments over whether the fact we keep popping holes into other realities for science has increased the uptick in similar travellers ending up in ours, but it’s science, not science fiction.”

Sylia blinked at the response, before leaning forward. “...I see. You’re right that dealing with your government directly wouldn’t be something I’d want to do without...research first. But… I need to start somewhere.”

She took out a pen and wrote down a series of numbers. “I’ve been able to access the local cell grid and this should reach me if you need… for the moment though, I think I’ll stay under notice.”

“Despite walking into a police station in broad daylight?” Ifrit asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I have some experience with that,” Sylia said, standing up as her suit vanished from sight.


Since then, Sylia had kept in contact with Ifrit. A bit of paperwork had her ‘legally’ sanctioned as what the locals here called a “hero”. In a way, it’d pleased a 10-year old Sylia to see how this world’s legal system apparently favored “heroes of justice”, but the current Sylia saw some all-too-familiar things in the research she’d done on the Crey Corporation. Some of the financial data she’d pulled from Crey’s databanks had provided her a nice nest egg of completely untraceable funds to get herself set up, and so Sylia had been able to set up the Silky Doll as a front for her equipment and home again, even as she considered her next move.

Ifrit had kept up contact over time, and while Sylia couldn’t prove the other woman wasn’t passing every word to her government masters, what she’d told her of her past would hardly matter. Everything she’d looked up on her own backed Ifrit’s assertion she was in another world.

And that was before the mission into the earthquake damaged neighborhood known as the Hollows.

Seeing Priss’s face, albeit not the Priss she knew (if she’d ever really known her, given Sylia’s own experiences) had been a shock, but Sylia had kept the recognition to herself. Alternate realities meant they’d never met...and so she’d simply stuck to ensuring that this Priss would be safe, regardless of what the mutant Trolls she’d fought had tried to do to her.

Afterwards, the young woman had asked for her number to thank her. Sylia wasn’t sure why she’d given it to a stranger that only looked like the one she knew, but there it was. The second contact on her comms list.

A text a day later had included a self-taken shot of Priss stepping out of the hospital, as well as a later one showing off the frankly considerable muscle that the impromptu Superdyne bath had given the young woman. Ifrit’s follow-up had explained that while the Troll mutations were typically the result of overdosing in the drug, Priss had apparently had a genetic quirk that allowed her system to process it more cleanly, resulting in the physical enhancement that better cut versions of the chemical provided its manufacturers in the local drug cartels, parceled out to their personal enforcers.

The more things change…

The operation that Ifrit had contacted her for help with this time had been supporting some young heroes in another hazard zone damaged by earthquakes, this time apparently called Faultline. The number of urban areas still rebuilding after earthquake related disasters was almost starting to feel nostalgic.

“Fliers inbound at the left!” Sylia barked, the young blue-haired girl she was working with turning to blast energy from her hands that tore apart the rust-ridden Clockwork helicopter that had been coming in. Several more small humanoid machins crawled out of crevasses nearby, their electrical discharges sparking off Sylia’s shields before she dashed in on thrusters, bladework quickly removing limbs and heads to render them inoperative, though Sylia noted that the arms continued moving for a moment even after being removed before finally stopping.

“Got ‘em!” Fusionette cheered, even as Sylia turned and saw a large segment of what she’d thought was twisted rebar start to move.

“There’s another on-!” she started to say as the larger construct charged out of the rubble at the young hero. She wouldn’t react in time as a fist the size of an engine block swung out at her, so Sylia simply leaped, grabbing the smaller girl and twisting so that the blow impacted on her back. She felt the shields blunt some of the impact, but an acidic tang in her suit’s airflow along with blinking red damage monitors suggested that hadn’t completely stopped the damage, even as her suits compensators kept her from having her considerable armored weight land on the girl under her. They landed with Fusionette on her back and Sylia over her, her armor between them and the large Clockwork, but staying like that wouldn’t be a good plan. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Owwie~” the blue haired girl said eloquently, before looking up at her, then at the Clockwork. “Oh crap, I didn’t even see that,” she said, before wriggling an arm loose and firing another blast that punted the machine back a few dozen feet.

Their immediate peril resolved, Sylia rolled off of her and got to her feet, helping her young partner up as the Clockwork pulled itself out of the rubble. “So, ready to go again?”

“Yeah, let’s leave this thing seeing stars this time!” Fusionette said, and despite herself, Sylia smiled at the girl’s enthusiasm behind her helmet.

The larger Clockwork’s hand raised and crackling ionization fired out, splashing off Sylia’s shields as she charged forward. Her main thrusters were out for full flight from the damage readouts, but Sylia hadn’t relied purely on that to fight, ducking under another swinging engine block to slice upward, hitting where relatively spindly joint connected the arm to the main body.

“He-he-hE-HE-rOes threaten! De-DE-dE-St-ROY!” the creature said, its words sounding like some kind of warbling grind of gears that Sylia could hear clearly despite it not having any kind of visible speakers that she could see. “Ne-VER hUrT aGAiN!”

Some part of Sylia’s mind wondered, for a moment, if the creature was actually intelligent, but then another rust-spiked fist came down and she decided that even if it was, the thing had come at them with no provocation she could tell, and self defense trumped an ethical investigation for the moment. Ducking down, she slid beneath the strike, her blades flashing out to slice through a kneecap, causing the machine to stumble as it turned to look at her. “Now!”

The Clockwork barely had time to pivot to look at her before bright blue-white energy punched a hole the size of a laundry basket directly through its torso. A second blast took off the tin-pot head and a third blew apart the weapon arm threatening Sylia as the momentum knocked the thing back to shatter apart.

“Like that?!” Fusionette called out from her spot, and Sylia simply flashed her a thumbs up as she stood back up, before blinking as she saw inside the broken crevasse of the machine’s chest that smaller parts were beginning to pull themselves together into tiny machines, replicas of the larger ones they’d fought earlier.

“Parts of it are still going! Keep up the fire!” Sylia ordered, backing up as Fusionette’s energy blasts carpet-bombed the Clockwork’s corpse. Soon, there was nothing but literally red-hot molten slag where the thing had been, but as far as Sylia could tell, none of it was trying to turn homicidal again.


Putting a tag on the local police net for the PPD to take a look at the remains, Sylia walked over to where Fusionette was waiting, the young hero having a big grin on her face.

“That was great! You’re, like, really amazing at this mentoring thing, Silicon!” she said, practically bouncing (despite hovering in mid-air). “That went a lot smoother than some of my solo patrols!”

“Well, eventually you’ll build up the experience to handle it on your own,” Sylia said. “Your powers do a lot more damage than my suit does. You just need to work on your situational awareness so they can’t blindside you like that one almost did. But good instincts with pushing it back. That got us time to recover so it couldn’t attack us while we were both on the ground.”

Fusionette nodded, and despite the somewhat air-headed image that some might take from her behavior, Sylia was fairly certain she was filing that away for future use.

Sparking noises reminded her of other problems, though, as she glanced over her shoulder at the smashed wreck where the Clockwork’s fist had hit directly dead center in her wingpack’s mass, turning the thruster nozzles into so much scrap. “However, I think I’ll have to walk you home instead of flying.”

A thankfully uneventful stroll later, and Sylia saw Fusionette off to the more rebuilt section of Faultline, a young man in a leather jacket meeting them there, who Sylia took to be the boyfriend by the fact Fusionette literally hovered up to eye level to kiss him when he got there. Seeing the two youngsters off, she walked further down the street, heading into Faultline’s cafe district as she waited for her car’s auto-driver to navigate Paragon’s traffic and get there with a storage rack for her hardsuit.

It was as she was clambering out of the suit and letting the trunk mechanisms retract it inward that someone spoke up nearby. Being from literally another world, Sylia admitted to herself she hadn’t been paying as close attention to hiding her face recently, but as she turned, the voice repeated what it’d said before.


And then Sylia’s world turned upside down as she found herself face to face with a long-haired man with dark glasses and a bushy mustache, who looked for all the world like he’d seen a ghost.

Perhaps it was fitting, because Sylia certainly felt like she had.

“...father?” she said, half on reflex, before the older man took two more steps and simply embraced her tightly. Any thoughts on what turn of events had brought the dead back to her life vanished from Sylia’s mind for the moment, as she simply hugged her father, before the embrace ended, and he stepped back to look at her.

“You’re...bigger,” he managed, and Sylia could tell from the tears in his eyes that his command of entirely rational thought was probably about as solid as her own was right now. Which was to say, about as solid as the other half of Faultline.

“I… that’s a long story,” she said. “...would you like to get some coffee?”

“More than anything,” her father replied.


“I assumed some kind of dimensional traveller when I saw you,” Katsuhito said, sipping at his mug. “I haven’t done anything important enough to waste resources on a robotic duplicate or clone of my dead daughter in order to get closer to me, and my security clearance has been out of date since just after the war.”

“...I suppose it’s a sore topic, but given the circumstances, you can understand my interest,” Sylia said. “Your...dead daughter?”

Katsuhito nodded, having regained some of the stoicism that she remembered from her own father as he looked at her. “...I was assigned to a think tank during the Rikti War. Designing new ways to fight back after Baumtown was leveled. They kept us fairly well locked up to prevent Rikti attack, but…” he trailed off, before taking a deep breath. “..one day I got a call. A Rikti incursion had taken out a skyscraper in Steel Canyon. The heroes had limited it to just the one building, which was remarkable given how densely packed that area is, but… you, your mother, your brother… all of you were gone. The bomb that had hit the building took out four entire floors, including our home,” he said. A grimace of pain went over his features before he looked up at her. “I threw myself into my work...but after the war ended… they offered me a Vanguard commission, but helping to fight more Rikti wouldn’t have brought any of you back. I retired… a lot of us did, after that.”

Sylia nodded. “I can understand that. In my world… you were the inventor of the prototype of a technology that would literally revolutionize the world… and men from the largest corporation on the planet felt that could be profitable. Mother held on while we were young, but… she never really recovered from losing you. Meanwhile, I found a recording you left for me...with the details of the assassination, specifications of other projects you were working on… when I was old enough, I began to take the fight to them. First out of revenge...then to try to protect those who had no one else to protect them from GENOM’s greed.”

She sighed. “The real me did, anyway. As best I can tell from things that happened after I arrived here… I’m not that Sylia Stingray. I’m...a clone, or a robot duplicate of some kind, in a manner of speaking,” she said with a slightly wry smile. “The distinction with the biotechnical details of a 33-S series Buma is mostly academic. But I have her memories… I was possibly going to be some kind of plant or replacement to get at her, before someone stole me away to here and activated me.”

Katsuhito looked thoughtful, examining her with a more critical eye than he had before. “That’s… fascinating, if you don’t mind my saying. I’ve had access to the Nemesis automatons before, and they’re remarkably life-like, but if you get down to it, there’s still the machine at some level, and there’s… tics and tells that show that they are, if you’re a careful enough observer. You don’t have any of those. I assume you need some kind of upkeep?”

“Food seems to keep me fueled. And sleep,” Sylia said. “Not as much as a normal human, but it’s worked so far… but I don’t really… know, exactly. I haven’t seen more than a glance at my own specifications.”

“...I could help,” Katsuhito said. “I mean, it would take some lengthy study, working from scratch, but… “ he said, before giving her a shrug and a slightly wistful smile. “It’s the least I can do as your father,” he said, answering the question Sylia’d been too afraid to ask the entire conversation. “...if that’s okay with you?”

Sylia smiled, and dabbed at her own eyes a little. “More than anything.”


Editor's note: Ch-ch-ch-changes!
I have an interesting idea. 

Part of Cyberman 8's backstory has always been that after disappearing in the 1970s, he was re-discovered in the Faultline area when the recovery of that zone started. From his original bio -

Quote:2006 - Excavators in Overbrook found the remains of Cyberman 8 in the partially collapsed ruins of an old supervillain lair. Taken to D.A.T.A., he was repaired and upgraded with new technology to renew his fight against evil! 

Change that date to 2016 and perhaps Sylia can be the one to find him - in this version of history he joins Riot Force instead of the Legendary. And perhaps a few mysteries about his origins could be explored. Such as - HOW did a scientist have the tech in 1963 to make an android and positronic brain sophisticated enough to house a human soul in "spark" form? (Spark being a term from some versions of Transformers) Was the scientist researching Nemesis tech? Or something else?
Also - great story fragment there - especially with the father-daughter dynamic at the end. Big Grin
Just wanna pipe up here that I love reading these short stories and Sylia meeting an alternate version of her father is incredibly interesting and fun to think about. More stuff of yours that I read the more I kinda wanna go along with your concept of this being a rebooted timeline of sorts. So I do believe I will go with that and stick with my thoughts for Terrence that I outlined at the end of the State of the Server thread. If nothing else I wanted to get him out of the nebulous 'how should I treat him here' state and have something concrete.

So for what its worth thanks for unintentionally help me settle in with the idea.

I greatly look forward to more of your writings in the future!
The atmosphere within Lab Delta was fraught, to say the least. Since losing the initial hardware, replicating it from the specifications had proven to be an incredibly demanding task, which was hardly helped by what they still had to work with.

They’d taken backups, of course, the minute that the acquisitions team had brought the bioroid mindframe through the portal. The last thing they wanted was to lose it to someone dumping coffee on a server by accident. But the copies had proven just as willful as the original source. The most ‘successful’ one had simply been utterly non-responsive, curled in a ball in a holding cell after being activated, refusing to make eye contact with anyone.

The less successful ones had resulted in at least three completely burned out positronic brains, and when Director Smythe had been ushered out of the lab and never returned, shortly to be replaced by Director Sandov, rumors had promptly gone full speed about her potential punishment, starting from being summarily terminated from her position to one of the new model gynoids literally having had her brain put in it as a test for the combat armor systems. 

As it was, the entire project was suitably on edge already when the alarms went off as a dimensional portal opened in one of the storage areas of the complex. A response team under Security Chief Tallers was quickly deployed to the area, only to find a woman in sharp business attire and a pair of large men dressed in bodyguard black suits and reflective glasses waiting for them.

“Quick response, I suppose,” the woman said. “I’ll need to speak with your management shortly.”

“The only person you’ll be talking with is your friends inside a holding cell,” Tallers said. “The folks upstairs don’t take trespassing lightly.”

The woman smiled faintly. “Truly. How ironic,” she said, brushing some of her hair back behind her ear.

“Take them in,” the armored Crey chief said, gesturing his men forward. The first few Crey security got as far as the two suits before one was simply punched square in his kevlar vest with enough force to send him flying against the far wall.

“Metas! Bring in the Protector!” Tallers shouted, as a yellow and blue figure came through the door like a bullet. The first suit took a punch to the face from the jumpsuited flier, crashing through several crates even as the second suit brushed two more Crey security aside like so much garbage, turning to face the new combatant with a smirk. The protector threw another punch his way before the suit simply caught the punch in one meaty hand. The Protector’s faceless helmet still somehow managed to convey shock before the suit pulled him closer, shattering the facebowl of his helmet with a headbutt, before the Protector managed to push him back, a blast of plasma from their hand obscuring the suit’s face entirely. 

There was a cheer from the Crey before the suit stepped forward, flesh sloughed off a gleaming metal skull that chuckled with a slightly cruel tone before the rest of the suit exploded off the expanding biomechanical war machine. Nearly eight feet tall and covered in blue armor plate, the mechanoid reached down to grip the Protector by the collar, putting them face to face before a long weapon barrel extended out of its mouth. A brief flash of light and the Protector dropped to the ground, neck smoking where the head had been previously.

“Hold position,” the woman said, even as the other suit crawled out of the wreckage, similarly discarding any remnants of a human disguise to shield its mistress. “As I said, I wish to speak to your leaders,” she said. “If you don’t put me in touch with them, my guards will kill all of you and I’ll ask the next set politely. Now, what is it going to be?”

Chief Tallers looked around at his men, crumpled and injured, and the dead husk of the Protector still smoking off to the side. “...right, let me call this in,” he said.

“Much more reasonable,” the woman said with a faint smile.


“This technology is quite spectacular,” Katsuhito said as he ran the scanner up and down Sylia’s body, looking over the results. “If it weren’t for you telling me what to look for, I might never have even known you weren't human. The materials science involved here is astounding,” he said. “Replenishing your internal systems shouldn’t be difficult… they’re designed to handle a wide variety of intakes.”

Sylia nodded, stepping out of the scanner at her father’s direction, before turning around to look at the results. “Doubtless why this Crey wanted to raid GENOM’s laboratory for me.”

As the two of them went over the data, Sylia thought to herself how this was so unlike anything she’d expected since coming here. Bonding with her father like this had been a passing fancy of what her life might have been like, back in Megatokyo. Or a passing fancy of the woman she’d been based off of. It was so tempting to consider… just staying here. Abandoning the people who would never know she existed back there, for this…

“Sylia? Are you alright?” Katsuhito asked, and Sylia started, standing up straight.

“Sorry, I guess my mind was wandering,” she said.

“The fact it can do that is quite incredible,” Katsuhito said. “Self-aware intelligences are quite rare here. An older villain, Nemesis, used to make duplicates of people that could pass for human for a bit before their scripted responses gave them away,” he said. “Before the Rikti War, trying to determine how he did that and develop countermeasures was the core of my work.”

He glanced back at her. “Those automata, however, never had anything on par with you, my dear. Regardless of your construction, your self awareness, drive, and personality are all equivalent to that of an organic mind. If...if Sylia here had grown up, I don’t know that I would’ve been able to tell the difference between you two,” he said. “That said...now that you’ve established all this,” he said, gesturing around at the lab. “What do you plan to do with it?”

Sylia frowned as she sat down across from him. “...I don’t know.”


“I’d hoped to meet a bit more directly, but I suppose given the circumstances, I’d understand you not wanting to be within arm’s reach,” the purple haired woman on the other side of the hologram noted, the two large mechanoids framing her like a wall of armor plate.

Hopkins didn’t frown, but his resting expression was such that it was easy enough to think he did. “The security team that initiated hostilities will be seen to. However, the local facility manager said that you had a proposition.”

“Aye,” the woman said. “First, my name is Katherine Madigan, and on my world, I represent a corporation known as GENOM,” she said. “I imagine ye’ve heard of us, as your troopers broke into a GENOM facility and stole quite the load of hardware,” she noted. “It was well done, that. If we hadn’t been investigating a third party utilizing that facility without authorization, it might’ve gone for years without anyone noticing. Far too long to trace coordinates from the breach. As it was, all we could do was backtrack your...portal, I think they called it. That’s why we’re talking instead of just taking back what was stolen and burning the building to the ground,” she said.

“GENOM has an interest in portal technology?” Hopkins asked guardedly.

“Aye. While we control essentially the world’s manufacturing capability through subsidiaries and partnerships, the problem is that’s effectively finite,” Madigan said. “Space technology hasn’t advanced quite so quickly as we’d like, which leaves the majority of us on Earth...and resources are projected to run out within the next two centuries.”

“How unexpectedly farsighted of GENOM to be concerned,” Hopkins responded, not without a touch of internal irony.

Madigan chuckled, picking up the mug in front of her and squeezing it in her hand. Hopkins could hear a slightly louder whir before the solid porcelain shattered in Madigan’s hand. “Most of the GENOM higher ups have access to technologies that will ensure they see that resource depletion in person, and they’re not looking forward to it,” she said. “However, with your portal tech, from what Jones pulled down from the network, you have access to literally unlimited worlds. We don’t even have to take violent action to secure some of them. This… Portal Corporation has coordinates for several dead worlds that endured some kind of environmental collapse. Perfect for GENOM Buma to begin mining for more resources. Since your Crey Corporation already has a sizable investment and experience with such things, we thought we’d approach you directly about a partnership.”

Hopkins narrowed his eyes behind his mirrored glasses. “I’m hearing a lot about why GENOM would be interested in this partnership, but little about what Crey would get out of it.”

Madigan chuckled. “Oh, that’s the easy part of it. I hear you have a rogue unit on the loose before we even got here. We’ll be providing our expertise in marginalizing and eventually containing that potential breach entirely. I’m here personally to see to it.”

Hopkins stared at her for a long moment, before giving the slightest of nods. “We can start a preliminary operation to see what you have to offer. If it provides enough benefit to Crey, a longer term partnership can be established.”

Madigan nodded. “That’s acceptable. I’m already here in your… Scimitar project facility. It should work for a test facility.”

“I’ll send over the authorizations,” Hopkins said. “I trust you’ll have results shortly.”

“Oh, you’ll see the results, don’t you worry,” Madigan said.



Leon McNichol was familiar with a wide variety of sounds that could come from the wild Romanova tac witch, and the one currently coming out of its native habitat in the tactical room was not one that boded well. That said, Leon had never been one to let obvious danger get in his way, so he stepped in anyway. “Hey there, Nene. Did they turn it off and then back on again?”

“Oh, if only I could do that to the brains of the people in Provisioning,” Nene growled. “I’m on a waiting list. Again! I’ve had my power armor certification for five months now, but they keep saying making a suit in my size isn’t in the budget!”

She stalked away from the computer, making subvocal noises that Leon interpreted to be questioning the ancestry of every member of the supply chain back six pay categories. “Well, I mean, the suits are expensive. The Chief reads me a riot act every time I get one busted up in the field,” he noted. “Plus I can’t say that the boys would be all too enthused to lose you on the overwatch line,” he admitted.

“Hah, I see what you’re doing there, McNichol,” Nene said. “Flatter me about my not inconsiderate technical skills to get me to lay off this. But no, I can do tactical and be on the front lines at the same time. The hardware supports it, if their software types ever tried coding outside of a PPD mass production box,” she said with a scowl. “Unless you LIKED your suit’s targeting telemetry the way it was.”

Leon shuddered. “No thanks. I prefer not having to remember to aim three inches to the left because the gun sights drift, thank you.”

“Exactly! And I know the hardware they use too,” Nene grumbled. “I have CAD schematics and all they’d need to do would be to plug them into manufacturing and the 3D armor printers would do the rest. It’s not rocket science. It’s not even computer science. But apparently if it’s that simple, they put any idiot in charge of pushing a couple of buttons in the right order, but doing something different is ‘not within our allotted resources’,” Nene said, lowering her voice and practically adding a durrrrrr on the end as she did so. “Frag it. I’m taking the rest of the day off. Tacnet’s been quiet all day,” she said, stepping away. “Naoko, can you cover for me?”

“Nene-simulator 3.0.1 is already up and running,” Naoko said. “The bosses probably won’t even notice the difference.”

“Good girl,” Nene said, hugging her from behind as Leon rolled his eyes and carefully averted them from the probably illegal bit of hacking the two were up to. “If anything actually serious pops up, you know how to reach me. I’ll remote in.”

“From home? You don’t have THAT kind of access,” Naoko said, the brunette glancing over her shoulder.

“Oh, no, I’ll just borrow a mainframe from the idiots at manufacturing,” Nene said. “I’m going over there to show them how to run an armor printer.”

Leon shook his head. “Try not to bite off too many heads, Romanova? Some of us grunts who use the mass production units need those pencil pushers.”

“No promises~~” Nene said as she scooted out of the room.


Lab Delta had proven far less troublesome than Madigan had initially feared, given their response to her entry. Walking along the hallway, Dugan stomping behind her in full battle mode given their lack of resources to create another bio-disguise, she simply bull-rushed over the objections Director Sandov seemed to generate faster than actual solutions to his problem.

“-simply don’t have the resources for more than one suit, and there’s no construction option that’d make that suit capable of handling a team of heroes on its own,” Sandov was saying.

“Why don’t we have the materials?” Madigan asked.

“Crey’s armor designs utilize vastly different mechanisms,” Sandov said. “While we can modify the plans from your files to use them, that will take time.”

“We don’t have it. What are alternate sources of the requisite components?” Madigan said as they turned towards the isolation bays.

“The only kind of people that get ready access to components of this precision, in large quantities, are the PPD and military,” Sandov said. “Or Arachnos troops, but that falls back on the problem that we don’t have the firepower to do another raid right now.”

“The PPD, you said?” Madigan commented. “Where do they store the components?”

“Ah… their central depot is in Steel Canyon,” Sandov said. “But a direct strike on the PPD would be impossible! We can’t risk people seeing our men breaking into a police building.”

“So they won’t see us coming, then,” Madigan said. “Spin up manufacturing on the suit. Stealth outfitting, designed to be as rarely seen as possible. Nothing to link back to us,” she said.

“That’s all well and good, but we don’t have anyone who can run the suit itself,” Sandov said. “The controls are built for your gynoid models, and we’ve yet to have a successful prototype beyond the original source who stole her suit and blew her way out of the building.”

“That’s because you’re not working hard enough,” Madigan said as they reached the cell, facing the lone woman sitting in the corner. “Let me in with her, then disable all recording.”

“Disable recording?” Sandov blanched. “But if we don’t know what she’s saying…”

“She knows she’s being recorded. If she isn’t, she may actually say something worthwhile,” Madigan said.

Sandov dithered, but a creaking noise from behind him as Dugan loomed demonstratively seemed to motivate him, the director issuing the necessary orders as Madigan stepped into the cell.

The woman on the other side was fit, but her skin was very pale while dark hair hung tangled and unkempt around her face. When Madigan stepped in and the doors shut behind her, red eyes looked up to fix on her. “I know you.”

“More accurately you remember me,” Madigan said. “You’re a smart woman. You’ve probably figured out a long time ago that you’re not Sylia Stingray.”

The woman scowled, but didn’t disabuse Madigan’s assumption. “I know what they want. It’s natural that GENOM would be behind it.”

“For once, no,” Madigan said. “GENOM is completely unrelated to this Crey Corporation, until we followed their teams to this world. Which is why I need your help.”

“Why would I help GENOM with anything?” the woman said.

“Because you’re not dealing with GENOM. You’re dealing with me,” Madigan replied. “You’re based on a smart woman. A brilliant one, really, if half the reports are correct,” she said, noticing the slight tic in the woman’s cheek when she said ‘based on’. “You know that you’re not Sylia Stingray, and you’re not even the original copy that Crey stole from that blacksite and brought here. Just a copy of a copy of a copy as they try to crack the code to make you work for them.”

Madigan locked eyes with the woman’s own red ones as she continued. “But that’s because they treat you like a machine. Like there’s some malfunction that keeps you from helping. I’d wager the other copies weren’t defective either. They just had differing reactions to the realization you’ve been through. That you’re not who your memories say you are, and that you’re all alone where no one’s coming to find you because no one knows you’re gone. What I’m offering is a way out of that. Work for me, not GENOM, and I’ll give you a shot at the person who did this to you in the first place,” she said, holding out a disc and activating it.

The woman stared at the white-haired man in a sharp suit projected above the disc. “Who is that?”

“He calls himself Largo,” Madigan said. “As far as we can tell, he created your original as part of some scheme to discredit the Knight Sabers for revenge. He also devastated several GENOM towers in the same action using the satellite weaponry control codes he’d stolen. We have a mutual enemy.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed as Madigan could see her thinking. She pressed onward. “And afterwards… I think your skills are such that I could use someone with them to assist me. You aren’t Sylia Stingray, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a person for not being the one you remember being. I can offer work, resources, and my personal backing in discovering who you want to be.”

“...and the original?” the woman said. “Did you offer her this?”

“No,” Madigan said. “From what I understand, she’s settled in to become this world’s Sylia Stingray, since the original died several years prior.”

“I see,” the red-eyed woman said, before looking up at Madigan. “...we can work on this...as a trial.”

“I’m getting a lot of that lately. I hope to satisfy you,” Madigan said with a nod. “...do you have problems with the first copy being out there still?”

The dark haired woman shook her head. “And you’re right. I’m not Sylia so...I’ll need something else.”

“A name?” Madigan guessed.

“Yes,” the woman said, looking down at her hand as she looked back up at Madigan. “Call me Galatea.”


“I’ve done some research,” Sylia admitted as she pulled out the food she’d ordered for the two of them. “Priss I already met by accident, but several other people I knew in the previous world have counterparts here,” she said. “But...it seems selfish to try to pull them in just to give myself a sense of normalcy.”

“And from what you’ve said, back in Megatokyo, you were essentially the only one doing this. With so many other heroes doing the same work here in Paragon,” Katsuhito mused, working on his chow mein. “You feel adrift. Without purpose.”

Sylia nodded. “It’s probably not healthy that not being the sole line in the sand against encroaching corporate greed was what was keeping me focused and balanced,” she said, giving her father a faintly rueful smile.

“Was it?” Katsuhito asked, looking at her seriously. At Sylia’s confused expression, he chuckled. “When you were smaller, you always focused on the problem at hand. You fixated on solving it. The teachers were astounded at how well you pulled your fellow classmates into the project with you, delegated duties, that sort of thing. It was a talent you always had, but when they complimented you on it, you always acted confused. As if it weren’t an achievement to recognize your classmates for the talents they had. And that you couldn’t have done it without them.”

He chuckled faintly. “You always gave them credit for your own success, even if you always made any failures your fault. I think there’s a reason that one of the first things you did was look for your old team in this dimension,” he said, looking at her.

Sylia looked back, contemplative, before an alarm sounded on her display. Sylia frowned, before pulling up the report.

“What is it? Some kind of trouble?” Katsuhito asked.

“It’s an APB from PPD Headquarters,” Sylia said. “One of their primary depots is being raided by an unknown villain. They haven’t gotten much in the way of proper identification, but,” she said, before pulling up the attached image, then paling a little.

The figure was obscured by some sort of light-warping active camouflage, but Sylia could make out the lines beneath it. The gauntlets had been modified, extending out a pair of blood red claws each, and the faceplate replaced with a glowing red visor. Almost everything else was difficult to see, but Sylia could see enough to recognize a variant of her work.

“...I think I’m going to need to pass on lunch, Dad,” she said, heading for the armor bay.


The inside of the depot was something out of a nightmare. Nene scurried down a hallway, trying to stay out of the open as she looked around for any sort of sign that she was being followed. She’d just been reading the tech the riot act about using his machine when the lights had flickered for half a second before she’d found herself splattered in blood forced out by the two red claws emerging from his chest. The faintest shimmer of the cloak flexing around the villain that had just murdered a man in front of her let Nene see the armor plate underneath, meaning her only option was to run out the door, slamming an emergency seal as she did. From the sounds of gunfire and screams of pain elsewhere, her attempt seemed to only have slowed the villain down from exiting the room, as did several of the bodies scattered around the area. Nene didn’t close her eyes, but she tried to block out the faces. She’d have time for grief and recognizing the dead when she was alive and safe. 

So far, she hadn’t seen anyone who hadn’t been killed in a minimum of stabs, like their attacker was surgically eliminating the guards with a minimum of fuss. Given how easily they’d dispatched them, Nene wondered if she’d been marked as not a threat what with not bothering to bring her sidearm with her when she went to the place. Most of the weapons lockers had been broken open and emptied or their locking mechanisms sabotaged to seal them shut. However, she was getting closer to the exit, if Nene remembered the layout correctly. As she cleared the landing of the ground floor stairs, Nene was feeling almost optimistic before she slipped in a puddle of blood on the tile and went skidding to the ground, crying out in pain as her leg twisted and banged against a wall. Nene groaned, trying to push herself up, even as she saw the visual distortion in the air that she’d missed in her urge to move faster, turning towards her.

Nene tried to suppress a whimper of fear as the half-visible figure stalked towards her, knowing she had no real chance against it, but keeping her eyes on the silhouette as it came closer, even as she heard the claws unsheathe.

There was a flash of movement and then Nene gasped as she looked up to find herself unharmed… and a silvery armored figure standing between her and the darker one, now decloaked and with blood red claws parried by a pair of silver wristblades.

“I don’t know who you are, but we need to talk,” Sylia said.
Typo spotted
Quote:“If it weren’t for you telling me what to look for, I might never have even known you were human.

Other than that, nice chapter. Smile
<nod> And it reminds me again to recreate my Sabers... particularly Life Saber, who had the most interesting backstory.
“Well, that’s a wrench in the gyrosprings, right there,” Dugan said, the 33C combat Buma ‘looking over’ Madigan’s shoulder as the two shared the same suit combat datastream from their new operative. “Think she’ll freak out, dealing with ‘herself’ already?”

“Doubtful,” Madigan mused from her seat, mind absently sifting through the telemetry Galatea’s suit was sending back to them. “If she does, that’s why Jones is there to clear up things, but I was looking through Crey’s experimental logs,” she said. “They’re worse than I thought. Attempts at lowering empathy response, reaction to authority boosted… they didn’t know how to manipulate the system as it was, so they just tried to implant a full personality manipulation overlay. Some parts, by accident, hooked into the right parts… she’s probably less caring about her fellow man than Stingray, for instance. But they still wanted loyal killbots without any proper work. I’m not surprised that random mental hooks compromised the cerebral functions of the rest of her line with the mess they made of it.”

Dugan made a sound almost like a snort. “So she gives about as much a damn about killing humans as I do now, huh?” If anything, Madigan could always count on Dugan to get to the point with the subtlety of an anti-tank round.

“Stingray was always relentless and driven, from the files the Chairman provided,” she replied. “This version just doesn’t care about what it takes to achieve her goals. If the original was more like her, she would’ve gone very far in GENOM. And while the suit has none of Crey’s hardware faults… it’s still designed more for stealth than battle. If she betrays us, we have the frequencies to neutralize her cloaking advantage.”

“You still didn’t answer my question about dealing with her batchmate,” Dugan noted.

“If my estimate is correct, I think this new Sylia Stingray is about the last person that Galatea wanted to deal with today,” Madigan replied. “But she won’t be adverse to some catharsis.”


The dark suited woman twisted to break Sylia’s blade lock as the visor glowed red beneath the optical camouflage. Sylia’s systems weren’t able to get a clear look at the suit itself even with the main cloak neutralized, but that was to be expected. She’d used similar ECM on Nene’s suit before to keep spy satellites from getting exact scans of their hardware.

Speaking of whom, Sylia wasn’t sure what to make of the fact she’d arrived just in time to defend this world’s version of her red-headed young friend from what was apparently a dark copy of herself...or at least her suit.

Kicking the other woman back, she ducked forward into a circular spin with her blades in the shadow’s direction. If she couldn’t get a direct lock on them, simply giving them no safe space to retreat to would do as well.

Frustratingly, the other armored woman had the same idea, as she darted back just enough to get out of range and then pressed the attack, lashing out with her left pair of hook claws, Sylia dancing back even as she saw the blades slow as they hit her own shields, deflecting them just enough for her to get out of range.

Aware of Nene trapped behind her, Sylia popped her wings and thrusters for half a second, boosting into range with the other woman, who fell back and clawed one of her gauntlets as she went past. There was a brief moment where Sylia could see her opponent tilt their head towards Nene before snapping her head back around to duck as Sylia threw a punch, bending back further as the wristblade slid out of its sheathe to extend the lunge. 

Sylia ignited her boosters again, flipping over the woman’s spinning counter, but grimaced as she had to twist away in mid-air to avoid impaling herself on what looked like a blind strike that’d nonetheless headed right for where she was planning to land. Stopping herself just in melee range, Sylia stabbed up and to the right with her left arm. She missed the woman’s helm by an inch even as her right gauntlet deflected a clawing slash, and a dark idea began to filter into her mind as she observed her opponent’s movements. That isn’t possible… is it?


“Hmph. Stalemate,” Madigan noted. “Jones is still clearing the storage lockers? She made need his backup to get ahead of this fight.”

“Almost done. The longer she stalls him, the more we get for a first line,” Dugan said just behind her telepresence. The buma grunted. “Need to mix up her combat training after this. They’re too similar, and too smart.”

“Agreed,” Madigan said. “Galatea’s thinking ahead of what she’d do, and playing to counter that, but this Sylia is considering what she’d do in Galatea’s place and thinking ahead to counter her counter. If they’re left alone…”

“This’ll last long enough to involve other of their ‘heroes’,” Dugan finished.

Madigan nodded. “The minute we have what we need, we call her back. We’re on borrowed time as it is.”

“Right, boss.”


Sylia was increasingly sure she didn’t want to see the face behind that helm, and far more unsure of how Crey had managed to turn her so effectively, given how badly they’d done with her own attempted reprogramming. However, given what she’d done here… she glanced back over her shoulder as she deflected a kick. “Romanova, get up and run!”

Nene blinked at her from where she’d at least moved behind cover, before her expression told Sylia she was considering the fight in front of her… and what the opponent could likely do to change the flow of it. Getting up and wincing at a tender ankle, she proceeded to jog down the hallway.

One less hostage to worry about, Sylia thought, even as she ducked a slash. “Why are you doing this? Those people don’t care about you. If they’re offering to help you, you have to know it’s a lie.”

“Crey, perhaps,” the other woman said, though her voice was muffled by a speech distorter. “But I’ve found other assistance.”

“Other assistance?” Sylia said, frowning behind her visor. “Who would know anything about us here?”

“Who indeed. Meanwhile you’re just walking in the footsteps of someone else, because it’s all you know how to do,” the dark armored woman returned.

“At least it’s something I want to do,” Sylia shot back. “You’re just working as an armed robber.”

“Necessary materials, to find the one really behind this,” the dark Saber said. “But now that we’re done distracting each other, it’s time to end this,” she said.

Sylia blinked, boosting to the side even as a nearby wall erupted with a particle beam carving through it, and her eyes widened in shock as a familiar blue armored form broke through the wall, red eyes tracking her with unnervingly intelligent hostility.

This was Paragon City. GENOM didn’t exist here. But Sylia stared as a fully operational BU-33C combat boomer opened its mouth again, the particle beam in its jaws spooling up for another shot.


“Can’t let her use me as leverage,” Nene said. “But she’s getting nowhere like that. But I can’t DO anything to her with my bare hands like this,” she muttered to herself as she ran. She was appreciative of the save, but if no one helped that armored hero, she was going to wear down eventually. Nene knew the response times for Steel Canyon. It’d only be a couple more minutes before backup arrived. 

Nene hoped her savior would actually last that long.

Still, something in Nene rankled at the image of just running from this. There had to be something she could do. Almost as if brought about by this line of thought, Nene winced at the sight of one of the station’s few power armor officers. Most of the armor was intact, save a bloody splash at the throat where the armor didn’t entirely cover the head of the officer. 

Nene stopped, even as she forced herself to ignore the bloody remains and think. She’d run over the specs of these suits a hundred times. She couldn’t get the suit set up on her own, but…

Clambering at the arm of the suit, Nene began prying at one particular point, before the panel came loose and she pulled the emergency release, repeating the process on three more panels before the entire gauntlet slid off from the rest of the suit. Checking the ammunition feeds, Nene said a prayer of thanks to whatever engineer had decided to make these things mostly modular so that damaged segments could be swapped in and out.

With a grunt, she lifted the piece off and began jogging back. Now if only she wasn’t too slow hefting this entire thing.


Sylia whirled in mid air as her wing jets fired again, arresting her momentum as the buma deployed a combat claw and slashed through the wall she’d been standing by. Another burst pushed her back into a corner to dodge the attack from her armored shadow. 

The two attackers split left and right as she did, clearly moving to box her in as she attempted to dodge again, a particle shot charging as Sylia forced herself to do just that to avoid it, stumbling as the beam clipped one of her wings, the metal shearing off to tumble into the other wreckage.

The dark Saber shot forward, visual cloak engaging as Sylia whirled to catch a claw aimed for her back. Ducking barely out of the way of the next particle beam, she smiled in slight satisfaction as she saw a flicker of her ambusher having to dodge the shot as well, having been moving to take her from behind. Whatever the case was here, they weren’t fully coordinating between each other, which gave her a slight bit of leeway.

Sylia darted in towards the BU-33C, a slice of her blades managing to scour the machine’s chest as she counted down to herself. At five seconds, she simply dropped down to her knees, rewarded as her shadow flickered into visibility backflipping out of range of the -33C’s swipe with its melee claw.

Springing upward, Sylia kicked off the buma to spring parallel after the other woman as she fell back, her blades slashing to hit the shadow’s chest and back, the cloak distorting moreso as she pierced it. While it still gave her a poor view of the fighter’s actual features, Sylia could more easily perceive where she was, which was an improvement as the 33C adapted to her ability to dodge its lasers by simply tearing a piece of rebar out of one of the damaged walls and hitting her with it like it was swinging at a wide foul ball. Sylia’s vision went starry at the impact and that disorientation further compounded when she hit a far wall with a resounding crunch. 

If you don’t deal with these on their terms, you’re going to die, a voice said in the back of Sylia’s mind, though she couldn’t make out the source. It doesn’t matter who they are. They’re trying to kill you. Shaking the odd sensation out of her head, Sylia pushed herself back up in time to block an attack as she decided it was now or never.

She and her father had been working on some upgrades to her hardsuit over time, and one had taken advantage of a simple fact that her original self never would have had. She was a machine in a way, and thus her body was only programmed to stick to human limits.

The suit’s power cells thrummed in a deeper pitch than before that Sylia could feel in her bones and her muscles at the same time as she connected directly to the suit’s power. Time didn’t exactly slow down, but the dark Saber’s slash was blocked with one gauntlet as she came in close, stopping the downward swipe for a critical few seconds as Sylia laid in a pair of armored punches to her abdomen with lightning speed. Metal from both sides groaned at the abuse, but Sylia’s opponent managed to push herself out of range just as Sylia fired her bayonet, the wristblade scouring the armor as she flipped backward over another rebar swing from the -33C. 

A pair of slices and she reduced its bludgeon to splinters, moving in closer as the larger machine couldn’t quite move back in time and slicing downward. The 33C growled in pain as Sylia’s blade severed its left arm at the elbow, before Sylia had to make a dive to the left as panels on its chest opened to reveal its heat cannon array, a wash of deadly light passing by her.

Bouncing to her feet, Sylia crossed her blades over her head to intercept the claws descending to puncture her helmet, stopping them dead before kicking backwards to hit her shadow, turning to burst jump towards her on Sylia’s remaining thrusters, slashes penetrating her opponent’s guard simply too fast to block them entirely as Sylia’s blades slashed at armor plating and starting to cause leaks of the suit’s internal fluids as she penetrated into some of the internals. After a few seconds, Sylia sprang back as the dark Saber made a stab aimed to hit her even if her shadow had to accept a blow in return to ensure it made contact. Instead, Sylia withdrew out of range.

She heard the 33C coming behind her, and turned in time to see blue metal tendrils ripping out of its maimed arm to grab a mechanized claw from one of the armories, fusing it into place as the 33C engaged its own thrusters to charge Sylia. She prepared to move out of the way, before her eyes widened as her thrusters failed to fire. A window opened in her HUD that told her in calm tones what she knew was likely to kill her shortly.

Power cells 90% depleted. Accelerator system cooling down. Shield systems temporarily depowered. Charging for reboot, 5 seconds.

The 33C roared as she didn’t move in time, crashing into Sylia with bone rattling force as they crashed into another wall. Sylia saw stars as she suddenly realized she was on the floor as the 33C raised the hydraulic claw fused to its arm and prepared to drive it down through her head.

There was a loud staccato of burst fire a second later as the 33C’s head erupted in a spray of metal, sparks, and biomechanical gore, bullets punching into the far wall as the buma’s cranium failed to contain their force.

Sylia blinked in surprise, but rolled to the side as the quarter ton machine toppled onto where she’d been sprawled. Pushing herself up, she looked at the broken wall to see Nene, having braced a PPD shell suit’s gauntlet on some rubble and the nearby wall, the small tri-barrel smoking from its recent fire. The red haired woman was panting with effort but flashed Sylia a thumbs up as Sylia got to her feet, walking into the wreckage of her previous battlefield...and staring around in surprise as the other combatant wasn’t present. “Did you see-?”

“No, and thermal on this thing’s sensor doesn’t show her either,” Nene said from where she had one data cable running from the gauntlet to her phone. “Cavalry’s ten seconds out. I think she bailed.”

“Probably trying to avoid being captur-” Sylia said, as a loud sound came from the other room, causing both women to look towards the trashed 33C. Smoke leaked from every joint as entire sections of its torso and limbs sagged inward. Sylia frowned. “Someone’s thorough. Scuttling charges to make sure anything in the body is recoverable besides the armor plate itself,” she said.

“Um… if you have half a clue what that was about, maybe you should stick around to talk with the chief?” Nene said. “Because not that I’m not grateful about the whole life saving, but if this is going to be a potential repeat performance, we need to know how to stop them.”

Sylia considered that for a moment, before nodding. “That’s a good idea.” Whatever artificial replacement her body had for adrenaline chose that moment to run out as she leaned back against a wall and closed her eyes.

“Also, how did you know my name?” Nene’s voice cut into the blissful silence of rest.



“The suit’s in a damaged state, but repairable,” Sandov said, looking over the repair table. “And despite losses, she acquired all we’ll need to begin full production within the board’s timetable.”

“It’ll have to do. Begin looking for alternatives beyond a raid for those components,” Madigan said. “We can’t afford this kind of attention full time, even if we did disable a majority of their surveillance.”

“Of course,” Sandov said as Madigan nodded to him. Walking out, Madigan waited until she was out of earshot, before syncing up with her implants.

Status on Jones?

Still hasn’t resubstantiated, Dugan replied. There was jamming at the end there. It’s possible that without a hardline, he got scrambled and scattered. If he’s out there, he’s lost somewhere in their global network. Maybe he’ll get back, but I’m not optimistic.

You never are, Madigan said. And Galatea?

Frustrated. She doesn’t like failing. Though whether that’s losing Jones or losing the fight, I couldn’t tell you. You’re the people person, boss.

As long as she isn’t showing doubts, that’ll be sufficient for now, Madigan said. Replacing Jones’ chassis will be expensive. The materials are here, but the tools will take some creative repurposing. We’ll need to keep yours intact as best we can...and look at methods of physical backup just in case.

You getting soft on me, boss? I get a comfy cushion to land on if I fall on my ass, Dugan chuckled. Still, good point. This network hardware is shit for direct reuploads. Like squeezing a brain through a tube of toothpaste.

We deal with what we’re given, Madigan noted as she stepped into her office, calling up a schematic for one of the hardsuits. And take what we aren’t.

I hear that, boss.


Sandov watched Madigan go until she stepped through the door, before turning to walk into his own office. Shutting the door behind him, he pressed a few buttons underneath the lip of his desk and sat down, frowning.

“So the operation succeeded then?” a voice said from his earpiece.

“She lost one of those combat machines of hers to the attack, which should at least narrow down her ability to force issues with them,” Sandov said. “But her plan worked. We have the parts we need for mass production. You’ve started analyzing them?”

“Yes. We should be able to replicate the designs without having to actually steal the materials in the future.”

“Good. See if you can get the factories in Terafilter Dynamics retooled to produce these. I want a facility where she doesn’t have eyes,” he said.

“The board seems content with cooperating with her for now.”

“Yes, but the board doesn’t see the danger in relying on an outsider for our technical edge,” Sandov said. “We would’ve cracked the code eventually, but now if she pulls the plug on her expertise, we could be back to step one in an instant. Crey should have the upper hand in this negotiation, not some other dimension.”

“I suppose you have a point,” the voice said. “I’ll see about getting another secure lab ready.”

“If anyone asks, direct them to talk to Wolfram. He owes me a few favors for dissuading too much scrutiny,” Sandov said. “Once we have our own versions of these suits, we won’t need this Madigan and her toys any more.”


“..and that’s the gist of it, sir,” Sylia said, her hands on her helmet sitting in her lap. She was privately inordinately grateful at the fact that the number of people with non-standard biology meant that the PPD headquarters actually had a chair capable of holding the weight of herself and her suit at the same time. She wasn’t particularly keen on completely de-suiting right now, and it’d send the wrong message if she stood up until she literally fell over.

It also had helped her keep her composure for the most part when the PPD section chief of the area had been one Chief Todo, as if the coincidence of Nene being there hadn’t been large enough. The balding officer looked between her and Romanova, considering the situation. “And you think that the hardware stolen was intended to produce more suits like yours?”

“Going over what was taken, yes, sir,” Sylia said. “They must’ve been in a resource crunch, however. Those parts are available here with less effort than robbing a police station.”

Todo nodded. “I appreciate your discussing this with us. More than a few DDPs...sorry, jargon. Dimensionally displaced persons don’t tend to trust us as local authority with problems that follow them here,” he said. “...but I suspect from the way you’ve phrased things you intend to provide us information on this GENOM, but not the technical specifications of what we may be going up against,” he said.

Sylia frowned. “With respect sir, no. While they may have iterated it away from my original design, any design flaws you could exploit could equally be turned against me. And...with all due respect, I don’t know that I’d trust your security given the circumstances.”

Nene bristled beside her, about to say something before Todo raised a hand. “Calm down, Romanova. She’s got a point. If not for her, these villains would’ve gotten away clean and you’d be dead. However, I don’t care to just leave it at us working on this in our own separate ways,” he said, looking over at Sylia again.

“You have a proposal for a joint operation of some kind?” Sylia asked.

“Of a sort,” Todo said. “You don’t want to store data on this in our computers. That’s reasonable under the circumstances. But in case more of these armored attackers show up, we need someone who can analyze their equipment and potentially help us develop countermeasures. Trying to call you at random if it comes up is one way, but I’d prefer a direct liaison. Speaking of which, Romanova.”

“Yes, sir!” Nene said, abruptly stiffening to attention as Todo gestured to her.

“Romanova’s getting paid far below what her actual skill set should be worth, if you ask me,” Todo said. “She’s one of our tactical operators for PPD units in the field, but I also know she’s been certified in power armor operation, even if they haven’t gotten her a suit to use,” he said. “And on top of that, data warfare and security are one of her specialties.”

Sylia listened to the list, before absently wondering about the academic papers Ifrit had forwarded her once about some Portal Corp scientist publishing a paper about the number of coincidental dimensional parallels in his work, and his belief that the universe actively had a sense of humor in what dimensions it chose to put in contact with each other. Because she could see where Todo was going with this.

“Blue Steel’s established precedent that officers unconnected with other hero work can also be licensed super heroes for operating in the field,” Todo said. “As such, I’d propose that you and Romanova work together, possibly using one of your suits, so that she can be our direct contact on this matter, while supporting you with her talents in exchange. This will let us coordinate more effectively if this ‘GENOM’ continues to cause trouble here.”

Nene blinked, before looking over at Sylia with barely restrained excitement, as Sylia smiled faintly. “Well… I can’t fault your reasoning, Chief Todo,” she said. “If Officer Romanova’s willing to participate in this, I can see about us working together in the future.”

“Yes!” Nene said, bouncing to her feet. “Er...I mean… I’m certainly looking forward to partnering with you,” she added, rubbing the back of her head.

“Good. Now the little spitfire is your problem then,” Todo said with a faint smile that took some of the bite out of his words.

“Aw, chief….” Nene said with a pouting tone towards him, as Sylia let herself smile a little more genuinely.

Perhaps things didn’t have to be so different here.