Revised Sept/25/1996 - Story Originally Begun in October 1995

"BubbleGum Cross"
Volume 1 - "Metal Heart"

Prologue - "The Camera Eye"

(c) 1995-8 by Andy Skuse


Based on characters copyrighted by Youmex, AIC, Artmic

Mega Tokyo, 2022

In the dimly lit corridors of the Uizu laboratory, a man's shadow appeared from around a corner, watched closely by a system of electronic eyes that monitored the entire building. The shadow moved slowly, stopping occasionally to look up at a few of the video surveillance cameras to inspect their running status.

"Raven-hakase . . . " the man whispered into a tiny microphone hidden inside his lab coat, "I am at the laboratory. Everything appears to be functioning properly. It is now twelve-thirty a.m. I just spoke with Mason a few hours ago. He has accepted my invitation and will arrive here at one-thirty a.m. I hope everything is functioning at your end, or this will all be for nothing my friend."

Katsuhito Stingray turned away from one of the surveillance cameras and walked toward a large window that opened into what looked like an operating room. A handful of technicians milled about, fussing over a mass of wires and cables connected to a blue metallic torso mounted to a pillar in the center of the room. Watching the activities from the darkness of the dim hallway, Katsuhito cocked his head again to aim his voice into the pocket of his lab coat. "The work is proceeding slowly on the cybernetic labor model, but it is my sincere belief that the project will come to fruition within the next few days. While this new technology will hopefully evolve into endless applications, as you know it is the *other* project that concerns me at the moment."

Dr. Stingray paused for a moment to gather his clouded thoughts and then continued his whispered dictation. "Since Mason seized the prototype cyborg "Largo", I have not been able to divulge its present location. No doubt he intends to use the cyborg to further his own ambitions to undermine the chairman. It now appears that our fore-sightedness has served us well. But I still fear that if Mason gets wind of our deception, that he may retaliate against me in a violent manner. That is why it is imperative that you cut this link as soon as Mason has confessed his plans. He is the most dangerous man I have ever met. We must not underestimate his ability to- "

The door to the laboratory suddenly swung open and a young technician's head poked out, his voice calling down the corridor."Dr. Stingray? We need you in the lab sir."

Katsuhito flushed at being interrupted in his secret dictation and pretended to cough. "I'll be right there," he responded. The young technician nodded, and ducked back into the lab letting the door draw to a close by itself.

Katsuhito watched the door close, and then hastily added a last addendum to his running dictation to his distant accomplice Dr. Raven. "Well my friend, work calls. The next time you hear my voice I will be in my office. It will be tricky to get Mason to talk, but I believe the weeks of preparation have convinced him of my loyalty to his cause. Once he has divulged his plans, store this recording in a safe place until our meeting tomorrow. Then we will decide on our next move."

He paused for a moment to consider his next words, that lay heavily upon his conscience. "In the event I do not show up at our arranged meeting site, please follow the instructions I spoke of earlier very carefully. The backups must be sent anonymously, and the two recipients must never- I repeat, *never* find out about each other's existence. Any contact between them would create a risk to the knowledge they would each be protecting. And please make sure that the video footage that you are recording goes onto the data units as well. If I fail tonight, then someday someone must know the truth. And please take care of my son. I may not be his father by birth, but he is of my blood, and that is enough for me." Katsuhito flicked off the power switch for the microphone's transmitter and moved toward the laboratory doors.

The doctor thought to himself about the events of the last few months while staring through the huge glass panel into the eyes of the blue boomer that waited patiently for its first 'jolt of life'. Because Mason had 'procured' the "Largo" prototype cyborg before its testing was completed, many things were still uncertain about its function and performance. Mason had simply walked in when Katsuhito was not at the lab and took Largo away, with no explanation afterward.

Powerless to recover the stolen prototype, Katsuhito vowed that this 'procurement' would not happen to his second cyborg. Secret testing had recently been completed, and the being was deemed physically and mentally stable. Then, under the cloak of night, the cyborg was moved to a 'safe' location in the industrial section of town, until Katsuhito could plan his strategy to deal with the ambitious Mason.

Now, the plan was reaching its climax, a confrontation between Brian J. Mason and the finest scientific mind that Genom had ever contracted. Katsuhito knew that his research was valuable, and he was betting that Mason understood this fact; and was planning to pass it off as his own somehow. Katsuhito however, would not be cast aside without a fight.

1:00 a.m.

Sylia stared into her father's face on the screen of the vidphone, listening to his words as he explained why he wouldn't be home until later. Again.

She was still just a naive young girl, but she thought she detected an overtone of fear in her father's voice. As he said good-night to her, she wondered why he would be afraid of anything, when he was so smart and so gentle-hearted.

Fear would not introduce itself to her in its most extreme form, until later that morning, stealing her father away from her, and a childhood she had barely begun.

Mega Tokyo, 2036

Deep inside the darkened Genom Tower, a faint pulse of artificial life beat in time to the footsteps of three shadowy invaders. Noiseless and graceful in their movements, they made their way quietly through the lightless corridors and hallways of the empty research complex to arrive at a thick, metal door labelled, 'CHAIRMAN'. Across the door, a wide, yellow tape, coated with dust, with the words, 'AD POLICE CRIME SCENE LINE- DO NOT CROSS' on it, vainly attempted to bar the way.

The trio dropped their black, canvas enclosed burdens on the floor softly and began to remove various small, metal items. Working quickly, the smallest of the three shadows placed a gray, palm-sized, rectangular box at each corner of the door's frame and then stepped back, motioning his companions to do the same. Pressing down on a keypad strapped to his forearm, the leader took another step back and covered his eyes as the door vanished from view in a sharp, silent flash of blue light. The four gray boxes held their position around the three inch strip of door frame that remained visible while the three figures scooped up their duffle bags and slipped through the now open doorway like liquid.

Moving in a straight, unerring line across the outer office's length, the leading figure reached into his canvas bag and produced four more of the gray rectangular boxes. Before him was the energy-locked door to the chairman's main office and the route to their prize. He placed the devices around the door's frame as he had done before and in the space of a few seconds the dark, dusty, inner office beckoned to the three shadows through the open door frame. The intruders passed through as quickly and as gracefully as they had before while the energy lock along the door's edge continued to monitor the door for any attempt to open it by conventional means.

Once inside, the figures shook off their pattern of preparedness and began a frantic, random search of the room's walls. Minutes ticked by as the intruders groped along even the tiniest lines in the walls surface.

The tallest shadow suddenly cried out in triumph as he forced a large, metal panel to slide along the west wall of the office. But before he could turn to his companions and reap their praise he suddenly felt something burning his lungs. His companions watched as he slowly turned to them, his face twisting in agony, and fell to his knees. Instead of rushing forward to aid their fallen accomplice, the two standing shadows calmly reached into their canvas bags and each removed a black gas mask. Once they had them fitted over their faces, they marched over the body of the tall, still shadow and entered the room beyond.

Inside, they found what amounted to a small TV studio. In front of them, a large, ornately carved, wooden desk faced an array of video monitors mounted along the back wall. Amid the bank of screens, mounted at eye level with anyone seated at the desk, a video camera stared lifelessly. An expensive high-back leather chair lay on the floor beside the desk suggesting that the last occupant of the room had either fallen or made a hasty exit from the room. The entire room and its contents lay under a fine layer of dust. The two shadows shrugged at each other and moved deeper into the strange inner sanctum.

The shorter shadow moved slowly around the room as if searching for something that was not readily apparent. The other shadow stood in the center of the room and watched his companion carry out the visual search, waiting for a signal.

The scanning figure suddenly stopped and then smiled behind his gas mask as he spotted a crude metal panel underneath the desk that looked like a power outlet. He dropped to his knees and reached into his canvas bag, producing a chrome-plated cube about the size of a man's fist. He crawled underneath the desk and placed the cube on the plush carpet just below the panel. Touching the cube's topmost face triggered a low cyclic hum that both figures could feel in their feet. They became aware of the minutes passing by again as they waited for the device to perform its task.

The humming stopped abruptly, sending the shorter shadow forward to pry at the panel until it popped open, its energy lock little more than iron filings now. He reached into the magnetically shielded enclosure and grasped the smooth, slender metallic box that lay hidden within. Rising to his feet slowly, he stood with the object outstretched in his hand for his companion to see.

Along the top of the surgical-steel box were the letters 'OMS' finely etched in the otherwise flawless face of the container. The shorter shadow's hand trembled slightly as he worked the mechanical latch of the box. As the lid hinged outward the shorter shadow suddenly began to shake violently until he dropped the box from his flexing grip and fell to the floor in a still heap.

The remaining shadow casually reached under the desk and popped the chrome cube into his canvas bag. Ignoring his dead companion, he pulled out a small set of plastic, non-conductive tweezers and flipped the steel box into an upright position on the carpet so that he could view its contents. Inside the box was a vaguely heart-shaped metallic object bristling with tiny electrodes and connector pins. Its shiny, black finish gleamed briefly in his eye as he pressed down on the lid and then quickly picked the box up and deposited it in his canvas sack. Without a backward glance the shadow passed through the inner office and set about removing the four gray boxes from the door frame. As he removed the last one, the inner section of the door reappeared, looking exactly as it did before he and his companions had entered.

Shifting the boxes in his satchel he quickly crossed the floor of the outer office and through the metal doorway. He removed the last four matter-displacers attached to the metal door's frame and placed them carefully alongside the others in his bag. With a final mocking glare at the surveillance camera that stared lifelessly down at him, the remaining shadow moved off down the dim corridor and passed out of sight around a corner, leaving the now tomb-like Genom Tower as it was, but forever more without a pulse.

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