Bubblegum Cross

By Andy Skuse ~ askuse7@hotmail.com

A Bubblegum Crisis Fanfiction (C) 1995-2000
Based on characters copyrighted by Youmex, AIC, Artmic

Prologue - The Camera Eye

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.

Chapter 1. Artificial Instinct

Mega Tokyo - 2038

Dr. Leomund Sholtan pushed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose and guided the robot-mounted, stainless steel probe deeper into the exposed cerebrum of his conscious patient. The doctor turned and stared at a display screen watching for the results of the probe. Adhesive sensors placed on the patient's limbs and spine relayed a continuous stream of data through multi-colored cables connected to the computer terminal. As the numbers flicked down the screen's length the man's wrinkled face remained void of emotion.

He turned back to the inert form and coaxed the robot probe a few millimeters lower and this time the patient's shoulder shifted ever so slightly. The doctor released the probe and the contracted shoulder relaxed. As the numbers came back he wiped the sweat from his brow and a smile began to form on his thin lips. The doctor probed again and this time a black, metallic arm shot out to the side in a lightning reflex that sent an instrument table crashing into the wall narrowly missing the scientist's legs. Ignoring the instruments as they clattered onto the floor, the doctor smiled again and switched off the robot probe. In a swift, fluid motion the metallic arm returned to its owners side without a sound. The prone figure stared impassively through softly glowing, blue lenses at the laboratory ceiling.

Calling to an assistant to clean up the mess, Leomund removed his lab coat and hung it up on a hook near the door. Speaking again to the crouching assistant, he advised her that he would return shortly.

Leomund walked the length of the windowed hallway to his office in anxious silence. Outside the mountain research complex a clear evening sky was beginning to darken prematurely. Leaden clouds hovered threateningly on the northwest horizon of the city. Hues of royal blue, violet and amber mixed like vaporous paint streams underneath the cloud bank.

The doctor turned to his left and glanced through the doorways as he passed by the various research labs that lined the corridor. Inside the make-shift departments, scientists peered through welding goggles at thick plates of steel as blue beams of energy pierced through the metal in a fraction of a second. In an operating room, a cheetah lay motionless on a steel table as surgeons gathered around it stared up at a micro-camera view of the animal's brain. Behind them along the wall, several refrigerator cabinets held hundreds of labelled vials containing blood, spinal fluid and DNA samples.

Other sealed rooms sheltered technicians who labored over laser welding equipment and gleaming, alloy body parts. The hollow limbs were graceful and curving, not bulky or heavy. The metallic-black, epidermal layer was smooth and sleek with no protruding joints. The technicians hurried about in hygienic uniforms, attempting to assemble the completed sections.

The doctor reflected on the last ten years as he walked the unlit corridor. Started primarily as a military contract, "Project Darkmatter" began as a naive exploration into DNA mixing. While corporations like Genom focused on the commercial market and the possibilities of social control, the military's goal remained true to its name. Animals, insects, reptiles and fish were all used for research into the possibilities of a superior human- animal soldier. Many strange and horrifying abominations were born inside secluded laboratories. All of them died there as well due to mishandling by amateur geneticists who failed to understand what it was they were tampering with.

Leomund had been doing his own privately funded research on genetic blending when the military approached him. They were desperate to produce results. Too much government funding was at stake. Leomund had been a pioneer in the field of genetic research for twenty years until Genom set up for business. Leomund's private investor's lost interest in the benefits of genetic abominations. They wanted results now. And that meant Boomers. Genom cashed in quick and fast but their short-lived success was based on that very principle. The Boomer style cyborg had become a volatile investment to say the least, and now they were all but extinct. The rare domestic model still entertained patrons at nostalgia-theme bars and the odd robotics convention, though they were few and far between. Since Genom's demise, few places could service the surviving Boomer population. Like the cold-ware superconductor computer chip introduced at the turn of the century they became obsolete.

But a military contract was no guarantee of steady work. With preliminary research complete, the brass pulled the plug on Sholtan when information about Project Darkmatter leaked out to the public. Journalists were willing to die to cover a story these days and a few did while attempting to flee the military bases with their laser disc evidence. Dr. Sholtan was publicly chastised by his respected colleagues who for years had thought he had retired. Public outrage over human and animal rights ascended to all time heights, and with his notes in hand Leomund hid himself away among the mountains to retire in obscurity.

After a year of inactivity he was contacted by an anonymous investor. Through a simple phone call that he would never forget, Leomund accepted a contractual agreement from an unknown but wealthy and persuasive benefactor that allowed him to continue his research with whatever supplies, machinery or human assistance he required. There were no clues given as to what was to be done with the results of the doctors work. Only the verbal agreement that upon completion the new cyborgs would be tested in a fashion of the benefactors choosing.

The work was slow but breakthroughs were made and over the years he had perfected techniques for DNA mixing that could create a cybergenetic being that rivalled humankind in its will to survive. It surpassed the most agile animals in speed and reflexivity tests and established strategy and reasoning results that challenged human capability. Its alloy enforced 'skin' and skeleton made it nearly indestructible; if you managed to hit it in the first place.

By the end of 2038 the only remaining hurdle in Leomund's research was to instill an instinct into the being. The sixth sense that all other creatures possessed. Somehow the process of DNA blending suppressed the instinct characteristics of the donor strands, rendering the cyborg a dependant slave. Tonight had seen the final hurdle struck down in the form of a stainless steel instrument table under a black, metallic fist.

Leomund entered his office and flicked on his desk lamp, dimly illuminating the rooms meager furnishings. Picking up the phone he inserted his telnet card, pressed a single unmarked button and sank back into the leather padding of his high back chair, waiting for the other end to pick up. a man's clear, steady voice responded, "Hello."

Leomund sat up, "It's Sholtan."

"Well? Are the modifications complete?"

"Yes Sir. I have a few more minor tests to run but I think we've done it."

"Hah! Well done! And what about the alias modifiers?"

The doctor sat back, "Final testing was completed this afternoon."

"Excellent. When will the prototypes be ready for their field test?"

"If all goes well tonight then I think we should be ready by tomorrow evening."

"Incredible. Well done Leo. I'll contact you tomorrow. Good night."

"Good night, Sir."

Leomund gently placed the hand-unit back down into its cradle and pushed his glasses back up on to the bridge of his hooked nose. He swiveled the chair slowly to gaze out the tinted glass at the flickering lights of Mega Tokyo's downtown core in the distance. Smiling, he looked out further at the horizon and the grey clouds that had now devoured the setting sun. Soon he would know. Soon . . .

Chapter 2. Black Rain

The rain came down suddenly with a pounding force onto the pavement and awnings as vendors and pedestrians alike scattered for shelter from the tumult. The warm water slowly collected in dark pools and eventually overflowed to be captured in the teeth of a rusting sewer grate somewhere around the corner. The once clamorous street market quickly emptied of activity except for the odd car moving quickly past the row of grimy shops and nightclubs. As the downpour subsided into a steady shower the vendors stood on the doorsteps of their packed shops and waited for the soaked customers to make their way to the checkouts. The rain was good sometimes.

But the rain that had fallen on Mega Tokyo for many years now was also spurious. All you had to do was hold your hand out in the rain for awhile and you came back with a hand covered in wet, black grit; evidence of the city's violent geological past. Buildings had been demolished and resurrected. New buildings had been commissioned. Sewers had been rerouted. Houses were rebuilt. Mega Tokyo had risen once more from the ashes to await the next earthquake. No-one disagreed that it could happen again.

Outside the 'Hot Legs' nightclub, a crowd was beginning to shove forward through the single door entrance to avoid the rain. Among the shifting throng, an annoyed brunette dressed in worn, red, biker's leathers, and still wearing her helmet, began to regret this excursion. Standing on her tiptoes, she caught a glimpse of the door and its intimidating attendant. Large crossed arms perched on a barrel chest were usually enough visual warning for most patrons not to get unruly. This night was different. A new band was playing their first show at 'The Legs' and their music was doing well with the underground crowd. A sure indicator that the band would probably not play here many more times before some big-time record company snatched them away. That meant that everyone wanted to see them now, before it was too late.

The brunette was about to yell some motivating words at the attendant but reconsidered. No sense pissing the guy off just yet. Might as well wait until I'm closer to the door, she thought. The lineup continued filing in without incident until the still helmeted brunette arrived at the door.

"Let's see some ID," spat the attendant casually.

The brunette replied in an equally casual tone, "Uh, well . . . hmm. It seems I've left it in my other suit."

The experienced bouncer had heard all the lines before and the look on his face said that this lame line was not going to work either. Chick or no chick. "No ID, no show. Beat it."

As the bouncer reached for the woman's arm to remove her from the line, he was interrupted by an elbow, deep in the stomach. The bouncer expelled the contents of his lungs and doubled over in pain. He had not seen the brunette's quick movement but he was definitely feeling its result. The woman removed her helmet and shook her long brown mane as the bouncer sat down on the rain-soaked steps trying to reestablish his breathing pattern. He looked up and gasped his words as he recognized his assailant. "Pr . . . Pris . . . Priss. I shoulda . . . known. Gawd . . . damn bitch."

Priss bent her knees and extended a hand to the bouncer who was beginning to recover. "C'mon Clarence, get up ya big baby."

The bouncer's face flushed red at hearing his real name out loud. Giggles and snickers reverberated throughout the front of the line. Clarence's massive fist closed gently around Priss' hand as she helped him to his feet.

Clarence spoke, still having problems breathing, "Where . . . the hell . . . have you been? Things . . . haven't been the same without The Replicants playin' here. This is the first band to draw a crowd . . . since you disappeared."

People in the back of the line began to push forward. Clarence sensed the surge and turned to the crowd, "Fuck off you assholes in the back! Don't make me come up there!"

Priss could not help but grin, "You haven't changed a bit Clarence."

The bouncer smiled sarcastically at Priss while massaging his sore stomach and shoved her gently through the doorway, "Get in there, you . . ."


'The Legs' was not one of Mega Tokyo's fanciest night spots but that was its charm. Worn wooden chairs and tables exuded a comforting warmth that reminded new patrons of a friend's basement at a party that people still talk about. The air inside was about ten degrees higher than outside. Leather and denim clad patrons milled about the bar area shouting their orders to the barkeep, trying to be heard over a disc of The Replicant's first album as it pummeled the smoke-filled interior. Priss entered and made a beeline for the bathroom to deal with her hair.

The helmet had provided protection from the rain until Clarence got in the way. She could forgive him though. How many times had he rescued her from some overzealous fan in the front row when The Reps used to play here? He wasn't the smartest guy she'd ever met but she'd learned to trust him with her life. As she entered the restroom she wondered where she'd be if he hadn't been there that night. Everybody needed someone to trust.

The band had taken the stage when Priss left the perfume-filled confines of the women's restrooms to find a spot somewhere among the now packed house. The first guitar chords shot violently from the P.A. like gunfire but to Priss they were intoxicating. Wiping her hand on her sleeve, she raised a condensation coated glass of ale to her dry lips and drank in the combination of bitter fluid and distortion laden melody. Closing her eyes for a moment, she was drawn instinctively to the primal growls of the guitar. Each note and chord were executed with conviction and honesty. Although distorted, each note of each chord could be heard clearly. Here was someone who cared about their tone. About their music. About their sound.

Song after song embraced her until the set neared its end. Priss closed her eyes again as the final tune wound down to a crescendo of guitar, bass and drums. The singer thanked the audience for their support and their cheering rose above the instruments. Suddenly the bassist and drummer checked their attack and the guitar cut through the space like a knife. The guitar player struck a string with the edge of his pick producing an artificial harmonic that soared high and clear. A deft wrist movement produced a soulful vibrato that gave the dying note new life.

When Priss opened her eyes, she found her sight-line to the stage was clear. A dark silhouette stood in front of the spotlight shaking his guitar fluidly in an effort to wring out its last ounces of feedback. For a moment the sound of a single, sustained note penetrated the thick air.

Priss stared hard at the backlit guitar player, in awe of the power he commanded over her at that moment. Finally the note fell and died and the band erupted in a synchronized fit of power chords and cymbal crashes. Priss began to push past the applauding patrons to get closer to the stage. The guitar player was on his knees now, with his axe held high like an offering to the gods of cacophony. His dark eyes were tightly closed forcing his ears to become the only source of sensory input. With one last slashing motion across the fretboard the song ended and the guitar player slowly rose to his feet.

Priss continued to press forward through the crowd. She could see the band members wave to the audience, and then make their way to the backstage door. Mild panic began to set in. She had to reach that door. She had to . . .

What was wrong with her? Why did she feel so anxious? Between her desire to talk to the guitar player and her struggle to reach the door she hadn't really thought about why she was doing this. She just felt drawn . . .

Upon reaching the door she was met by a bouncer who had a better memory than Clarence and was let through to the backstage area. The door slammed shut behind her, and suddenly memories flooded back to her of after-show parties and friends long gone. Why had she quit the music scene anyway? Oh yeah. The record company. Manipulative bastards. If it hadn't been for that one A & R guy maybe . . . Sure, that's what they all say. The Reps had a good run but their time was up. Someone else had come up the charts hot on their asses. The record company slowly pushed The Replicants aside giving them less and less of their time and money. The hard part wasn't getting there. It was staying there once you'd made it.

Priss surveyed the surprisingly smoke-free room and spotted the drummer and bass player talking to two over-madeup groupies in tight leather skirts and matching, red leather jackets. In a darkened corner the singer sat on an old, beat-up couch, hunched over a giggling blonde perched on his lap. Other band-leeches wandered the hallways looking for a fix while suited industry types congratulated each other for another great show. Priss peered through the murk to see a black leather-clad figure with wet, black hair and a guitar case under his arm push on the exit door.

Street light flooded into the back of the room for a moment revealing the guitar player's face as he stepped into the rear alley. Priss edged past the partiers, stopping only to untangle herself from the overly friendly arms of amorous roadies. As her hand touched the metal exit door, she heard a familiar sound. A muffled thrumming as a bike roared to life in the alley beyond. She pushed the lock bar and heaved on the door.

Exhaust fumes met her first as she stepped into the rain soaked alley. A light drizzle descended from the night sky making the cool outside air a little thick to breathe. Ten feet away a gleaming, black motorcycle idled patiently while its rider adjusted his helmet. Priss stood just inside the doorway still holding the open door, wondering what to do next. The guitar player was busy tightening a strap that held his guitar case in place when he finally noticed Priss.

They regarded each other silently, neither one sure who would speak first. Priss fought within herself, 'Say something stupid. He's gonna think you're some silly tramp.'

The guitar player stared at the woman holding the door and thought for a moment that he recognized her. He was about to speak when he saw her face darken from her internal struggle. It was a look that he had seen many times recently. He shook his head and pulled down his visor. 'Just another annoying groupie.' Reaching the throttle, he released the brake and pushed off down the alley.

Priss watched helplessly as the bike bore its rider to the end of the alley and then around the corner, leaving her standing alone amid the evaporating exhaust fumes that rose slowly and vanished into the dark above. Anger seeped into her brain and took control for a moment. The heavy metal door slammed shut. Garbage cans went sprawling across the alley's span. Card-board and plastic flew aimlessly into the air accompanied by cursing and grunts.

As the unfeeling objects came to rest and the anger let go, all that it left behind were tears. How long had she lived like this? Why did she hesitate? She could stand on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers but she couldn't just walk up and . . . Priss' shoulders felt heavy as she began to walk down the alley to find her own bike. It was getting harder to face each day by herself. She had her friends Nene, Sylia and Linna but they couldn't fill the emptiness. She tried to define what she needed as she ambled through the dark passageway. Her heels clicked and echoed off the high brick walls making her suddenly aware of her own feet. And someone else's.

She turned sharply and scanned the alley's shadows for the intruder. At the moment she was more annoyed at having her thoughts interrupted than the path to her bike, that stood waiting not twenty feet away. Seeing no-one, she faced forward again and picked up her pace. Straddling the bike she sighed and chided herself for being so emotional. As the excuses emerged for her behavior so did the intruders. With her key half inserted into the ignition the attack came without warning from behind.

The first attacker came at her with arms extended, knocking her off the bike onto the hard, wet pavement. The impact jarred her spine sending her right hand to awkwardly rub the source of the pain. The attackers accomplice stepped around the bike and looked down at Priss with an evil grin. As she pretended to rest for a moment the accomplice began to speak, "Sorry babe, we need yer bike. Russell and I need a ride home. You don't mind do ya?"

Russell grinned from his perch on the seat of her bike. Anger gripped her brain again at the sight of the piece of shit on her precious motoslave.

She was about to reply when the roar of an approaching motorcycle reached their ears. The attackers turned toward the sound, and Priss seized the opening. Closing her eyes, she stabbed out with her left hand and grabbed the standing man's wet leather boot. The leg came forward as Priss yanked hard, sending the man onto his back. She scrambled stiffly to her feet as her opponent rolled on the ground, holding the back of his head and moaning. Before Russell could react he was sent backwards over the bike by a boot heel in the face.

Priss glanced at Russell's slow, swaying movements as he picked himself up off the pavement and shook his head. To Russell's right, she suddenly saw a figure in black leather stealing up behind the recovering bike thief. She watched Russell turn slowly to meet the figure with a drunken right cross that merely pushed air. The figure reacted quickly with two hard blows to Russell's head that dropped him back to the ground.

With a faint grin, Priss turned back to her opponent. Her hand absent-mindedly reached into her jacket to locate her gun but found it missing. Frantically scanning the ground below her for the firearm, she found it in the fumbling hands of the attacker who she'd dealt with first. Before she could react the man's arm came down at her head. The metal butt of the gun made brief contact, but hard enough to make her head spin and send her to her knees. Priss fought the surging dizziness for a moment, and then gave in, falling to the pavement on to her stomach.

For a moment her view was clouded with a barrage of blurred images until finally, the images cleared. She saw four boot-clad feet shuffling in front of her as the gunman fought with the figure in black. Seconds later the gunman dropped to the ground beside her, blood trickling from his nose and upper lip. She closed her eyes as a sudden surge of pain swept through her head. As the waves subsided she reopened her eyes. A dark form was kneeling over her speaking softly, "Hey, you all right? Ouch, you're gonna feel that in the morning. Okay, don't move. Blackie's gonna take care of you."

She lay there for a few moments and relaxed, concentrating on the sound of the soothing voice. Fatigue swept over her as the pain in her head began to pound. She rolled her eyes and for a moment her vision clouded over again. When it eventually cleared, her wandering sight revealed a black motorcycle parked at the corner of the alley. The soft voice continued to relax her until her eyes closed once more and darkness took hold.

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