By Andy Skuse ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
A Bubblegum Crisis Fanfiction (C) 1995-2000
Based on characters copyrighted by Youmex, AIC, Artmic
Chapter 12. Fight Or Flight
Mackie sighed and shook his head as he mulled over Nene's hasty departure. "You could have handled that better Stingray," he said to himself, tossing the rag in his hand in disgust at the oil-covered face that stared back at him from the mirror over the sink.
After locking the back door to the garage, the young mechanic looked at the motorcycle frame that waited patiently to be completed. As much as he loved working on motorcycles, he didn't feel like working on this one at the moment. Strangely, he didn't feel much like doing anything constructive. Angry with himself, and feeling a little over whelmed by the night's events, he decided to check on his sister's progress with their "new relative". Who knew who this guy really was. . .
As sudden, horrible thoughts about the stranger's motives swept through his head, he descended the stairs to the basement in 3 quick bounds and landed in front of the thick, steel door that barred the way to the training facilities. After tapping in the key code, Mackie double-stepped down a short flight of stairs and landed in front of the databank room. A quick glance through the window into the room's interior stopped him in his tracks. A second glance revealed his sister, seated in front of one of the computer terminals with her back to him. From his viewpoint it appeared that she was holding her head in her hands, as if she were crying.
"Sis? You alright?"
Sylia turned abruptly to see Mackie standing in the doorway. She paused for a moment to dab under her eyes with the side of her hand, and then replied, a hint of surprise in her voice. "I'm fine . . . now. I thought you'd left already?"
Mackie's expression turned sour. "Yeah, but I kinda lost my ride."
Sylia's own expression turned from one of weariness to mild surprise. "Oh? Did Nene have somewhere else to go tonight?"
Mackie didn't reply. Instead he gazed at the display on the computer's monitor screen, and then at the data unit sticking out of the computer's slot. "Is this... another data unit?" his voice trailed off as he pointed to the computer. Sylia smiled, and nodded slowly.
Mackie entered the room and shut the door behind him. Stepping closer to the computer, he continued reading as Sylia looked on. "This is a journal of some of Dad's research!" he blurted out, his excitement quelled by Sylia's finger on her lips. Sylia pointed at the bank of security camera monitors on the wall in front of them. Mackie looked up to see an image of Blackie in the rest-area lounge, wandering about the room and inspecting the room's furnishing with an idle interest.
"The data unit- it's his? You mean he's really . . . ?" Mackie stammered.
Sylia's only answer was a silent nod.
Mackie echoed her nod, and added an expression of sudden understanding as he seated himself beside Sylia in the room's only other chair. The two sat in silence for a moment as Mackie pondered the implications, while Sylia made some quick decisions on what to tell Mackie about their new relative's "background".
Rubbing her tired eyes again, Sylia began tentatively. "Mackie- you remember how father was always working late when we were younger?"
Mackie nodded and narrowed his eyes, already sensing that his sister was trying to tell him something of a delicate nature. "Yeah. I do."
Sylia smiled sadly at Mackie, and continued. "You might be wondering then just how Blackie could be our brother if we never knew anything about him. . ."
Mackie sat up straight and looked Sylia straight in the eye. "What are you getting at Sis? Is he for real or not?"
Sylia nodded yes again, causing Mackie's brief understanding of the situation to melt away.
Sensing her brother's confusion, Sylia spoke the rest with a firm voice. "He is our brother, but he's not entirely human. He's a cyborg. Father created him."
Sylia watched Mackie's face and waited for a shocked response, but his initial reaction was of fascination. "Ah. I wondered why he didn't seem so freaked out when he realized he was still holding onto that finger in the van. That would have creeped me out."
Sylia smiled at Mackie. "Me too. . . But now that you know this, you mustn't let anyone know what he is, especially Priss."
Mackie's eyebrow raised. "Oh geez!! You mean she doesn't know? How could she not- ?"
"I'm not sure," Sylia replied. "But from what Dr. Raven has told me, father felt pretty strongly about Blackie being perceived as a normal human being. I think we should honor his wishes."
The younger Stingray sat nodding in silence, and then looked back at the computer's display idly. While thoughts of what his sister had just revealed to him swirled around inside his head, words on the screen in front of him began to catch his eye. ...consciousness... download...experimental... research... "Um, Sis? Have you read this whole thing through yet?"
Sylia turned back to the monitor screen and scanned the journal's text,
suddenly seeing what Mackie had just read. "Hmmm," was all she could reply.
Blackie returned to his seat on the couch and sat down, as random streams of thoughts entered his restless mind from somewhere outside him. This time the thoughts were coming from close by. Not like the streams of thoughts that plagued him at night in his dreams. Thoughts of a shapeless entity. Void of any emotion except for distorted anger. His normal dreams would be interrupted abruptly by a clear presence, then the streams of thoughts would begin, moving in a quick but filterable flow. Images of a young boy on an operating table in a crimson hued room. And a voice that repeated two words in an endless loop, "I know... I know... I know... "
Blackie started as the door to the lounge swung open suddenly, revealing Sylia and the man he had seen driving the van he had arrived in.
"Sorry to keep you waiting Blackie," Sylia said as she and the van driver sat down across from him. "I'd like to apologize for doubting your story," she continued. "But you must understand that, after sixteen years, Mackie and I had little reason to believe that we had any other family besides ourselves."
Blackie glanced quickly at Mackie, and grinned. "He's your brother too?"
Sylia flushed slightly with embarrassment and smiled. "I'm sorry- you weren't introduced yet. Yes, this is my younger brother Mackie."
Mackie extended his hand and Blackie took it in his, giving it a firm shake. "Nice to meet you Blackie," the younger man said, taking note of the warmth and "human-feel" of the other's hand. Blackie's eyes narrowed imperceptibly for a fraction of a second at Mackie as they finished shaking hands.
Sylia interrupted Blackie's sudden wave of suspicion with a strange, melodious tone to her voice. "I noticed your interest in the test equipment earlier. Would you like to see how it works?"
Blackie looked from Sylia to Mackie, suddenly feeling as if he were the target of some kind of experiment. Sylia watched the cyborg's eyes as it glanced back and forth between her and Mackie. Blanking her mind of any thought was not as easy as she thought it might be. After skimming through their father's research journal, it was clear to Mackie and herself that she had probably been "infected" with the same weak telepathy that her father had experienced. Somehow, the process of downloading the information on her data unit using the neural headset had given her the ability to "hear" the strong thoughts and emotions that others around her created. It was also prudent to assume that Blackie had this ability as well, and if her father's own words were correct, he would be much more adept at "sensing" the thoughts of others than she. Moments ago, in the databank room, she had hastily warned Mackie to keep his thoughts clear while around Blackie to keep the cyborg from learning about its identity. Straining slightly from the effort it required, she wondered how Mackie was fairing.
"Really?" Blackie replied. Sylia smiled again and nodded. "What about your questions? I have a few myself- and it is getting kinda late..."
"The questions can wait until tomorrow," Sylia responded flatly. "Now that you've found us, we have plenty of time to get acquainted. Maybe I was wrong. I thought I detected a slight gleam in your eye when you first saw the test equipment?"
Blackie grinned. "Well, yeah, but are you sure? The others looked pretty tired when they left. You guys must be pretty bushed too."
"You're not bushed yourself?" Mackie queried. Sylia frowned.
"Nah! I'm a bit of a night-owl anyway. You have to be, to play in a band." Blackie winked at Mackie as the younger Stingray smiled and nodded. "Okay! Why not?" Blackie enthusiastically ejected as he abruptly jumped to his feet. "If you guys are game?"
Sylia looked at Blackie with a cold smile. "Then let's begin."
It was well past 3 a.m. when Sylia began typing in the commands to start the holographic simulator's "dual-opponent" scenario at Level 10. Mackie continued to watch in amazement as the simulation began, and the black-haired figure spun, whirled, punched and kicked his way through the computer-generated onslaught without breaking a serious sweat. Just watching the dark figure work his way methodically through the test scenario was making Mackie tired. Leaning back in his chair for a moment to rest his eyes, he began to drift off into a light sleep when he was awakened by Sylia's hand gently shaking his shoulder. "Don't fall asleep on me now. We're just getting to the good part."
Mackie looked over at his sister's face, her eyes open wide despite her tired appearance. In those eyes he thought he saw a faint trace of fascination as she stared at the "battle" in front of them.
Sylia continued staring through the window that looked into the simulation room. "Yes?" she replied slowly.
"I think I may have screwed things up with Nene tonight."
Sylia turned to look at Mackie with a puzzled look on her face. "What? How do you mean?"
Mackie sat up slowly, and looked down at his hands. "She wanted to go out tonight... with me, and she had this really great outfit on and... I laughed at her."
"Mackie! You didn't!" Sylia exclaimed, as the simulation ended and Blackie stood waiting in the test room. "Hang on Blackie. I'm setting up for the next test!"
Blackie nodded at Sylia through the window, and turned back to face the center of the room as he waited for the next test to begin.
Sylia typed in the commands for the Level 10 "triple-opponent" scenario hurriedly, and then stabbed at the blinking green "START" switch. The test room was suddenly host to three pink-colored translucent blobs, each bearing a vague resemblance to a body mass. Blackie immediately lashed out at the two nearest blobs as their glowing targets appeared, scoring a hit on one and narrowly missing the other. The third blob moved in to take advantage of Blackie's movement but was robbed of an offensive strike when Blackie rolled to the floor and came up behind it.
"Mackie!" Sylia began again as she sat down hard in her chair. "Nene asked you out and you laughed at her? How could you?"
Mackie looked up from his idle study of his hands to be met by Sylia's imploring gaze. "It was stupid, I know. I just couldn't stop it in time. There she was, looking so... so... and I laughed at her! I feel like such a jerk! Before I knew it, she was gone and I was wiping oil out of my mouth."
Sylia's puzzled look evolved into confusion, only to be waved off by Mackie's tired hand gesture. "Long story. But I guess I just hadn't ever thought about Nene like... that. I mean, I've known her for so long she's kinda become a sister to me, ya know?"
Sylia smiled warmly, and nodded silently.
"I guess she's not the Nene I grew up with anymore," Mackie stated soberly, to which Sylia responded with a knowing look.
"You might be able to make it up to her," Sylia offered teasingly, as she adjusted a control on the simulator's function panel.
"How? Tell me!" Mackie said brightly.
Sylia smiled once more, a mischievous glint in her eyes. "Alright. But you'll have to get up early." Sylia laughed as Mackie leaned back into his chair and groaned.
Suddenly the room seemed oddly quiet, drawing Sylia and Mackie's
attention to the test room. The chamber was empty except for a lone, black
hard-suited figure standing in a fighting stance near the center of the wide
room. "I'm ready!" came the reverberant voice through the control panel's
speaker. Sylia stared at the number "10" illuminated under the "LEVEL"
display and sighed. She flicked on the intercom switch and grinned at Mackie.
"Blackie, I think we'd better call it a night."
"Hey gorgeous! How are ya this morning?"
Linna, outfitted in a baggy green and pink sweatsuit, giggled and looked up from the park bench where she was finishing her leg-stretching exercises. A familiar muscular figure, clad in a faded police-blue sweat suit with "AD POLICE" inked in bold white letters on the front of the shirt and along one pant-leg, jogged up to her from the adjacent parking lot. The two joggers embraced warmly, and, after a quick kiss, set off down the pathway under an early-morning drizzle.
The pair progressed along the park's winding asphalt trail silently, each engrossed in their thoughts about the night before. Leon glanced furtively at Linna a few times before he finally broke the silence. "I was really worried about you last night."
Linna looked over at Leon and smiled. "I know. I was worried about you too."
Leon grinned back at her briefly. "It's been a long time since I've worried that much about you."
Linna looked straight ahead without replying.
The light, rhythmic pounding of their feet on the trail suddenly seemed to get louder in their ears, as the two joggers wound their way through a group of small trees. Exiting the tiny forest, Linna wiped the drizzle and sweat from her face with a small towel draped around her neck, and frowned. "It was pretty bad for a while, I admit, but we came out okay."
Leon sighed and shook his head. "Linna, I couldn't see you or hear you in there at all. When the weapons started firing inside the building my heart stopped."
An awkward silence fell between them as Linna and Leon made their way up a gentle slope. To their right the relatively calm waters of Tokyo Bay rippled like molten lead under the grey, sunless sky. Rounding a wide bend, the paved trail turned away from the bay, and began to double back to the path's starting point. The two joggers continued the thirty minute circuit in peace, each of them contemplating the changes that their short conversation might inspire.
As the parking lot came into view, Linna grinned momentarily at Leon, then broke into a sprint. But the police officer had been expecting the move and reacted instantly. A small flock of pigeons took to the air as the sprinters raced past the park bench, and then checked their own flight, their feet making loud clomping noises as they slowly came to a halt.
Circling back to the bench, the couple continued pacing to slow their heartbeats gradually. Leon stopped after a moment and placed his hands on his hips. Linna finally sat down on the bench and took a swig of water from a plastic flask, then set it down on the bench beside her with the top off. Leon paused, looking at Linna as she wiped herself down with her towel. "I know we made an agreement," he began as Linna looked up at him. "About worrying about each other while we're on the job. But I guess I've gotten used to the last few years. No boomers, no worries." Linna nodded and patted the bench with her hand. Leon smiled and picked up the water flask. Taking a short draught, he handed the water back to Linna and sat down beside her.
"I've gotten pretty used to it myself," Linna replied after taking another drink. "But you're still out on the streets chasing bad guys, and I still worry if my phone is going to ring late at night."
Leon glanced at Linna's shadowed face and placed his arm around her. "I know. But those bad guys aren't half as dangerous as an out-of-control boomer my dear."
Linna looked a little indignant for a moment, and then responded slowly, "I still worry though."
Leon looked out over the misty park, trying to think of the best way to say his next words. "Listen Linna," he began, his throat tightening a bit as Linna looked at him with an intense gaze. "I want you to promise me something."
"I want you to promise me you'll tell Sylia you're through with the Knight Sabers after we've dealt with these new boomers."
Linna's blue eyes widened, then blinked a few times as she silently contemplated Leon's request. Her life had never been better up to this point. A successful career in teaching dance and part ownership in a handful of profit-making aerobics centers had made life without "boomer hunting" very fulfilling these past few years. But she had never taken the time to think about what life might be like without a role in the Knight Sabers. Time had just seemed to pass the question by, and perhaps the Knight Sabers themselves.
But there was something inside her that wanted more than a comfortable life. She had joined the Knight Sabers, on Sylia's request, not to use up any excess energy or exact a ripening desire for revenge. She just didn't want anyone to get hurt, and that included the other Knight Sabers. The night that she had cradled Irene Chang's crumpled, lifeless body in her arms, she knew she had made the right choice to join. As a member of the Knight Sabers, she would have the power to prevent a senseless death like that again. The afternoon she had given Irene's ring to her sister Reika, and then stopped the singer from continuing on her road to a revenge that had already resulted in so much death, had only reaffirmed her belief.
For the last five years, few incidents had arisen where her choice to join could be tested. But now her choice to quit was the question. Unless the problems with these new cyborg-boomers were bigger than they thought.
Suddenly, amid all the reasons to quit and not quit, Linna's memory brought forth a single image. The image of the twisted, headless body on the floor at the military base. The limbs had been distorted beyond their normal limits of flexibility, and the severed head itself had been forever etched in a grimace of pain and agony she could never forget. Whoever that person had been, their hurt had been great. And Linna had failed to prevent it. She knew better than to blame herself for something that had happened prior to the Knight Saber's arrival, but that fact did little to console her. The image of pain was still fresh in her mind.
"I can't make that promise to you Leon," Linna finally replied. Leon looked at Linna as if he were about to protest, when Linna placed her hand gently over his open mouth. "But- I will think about your request after we've dealt with these boomers, or whatever they are. The Knight Sabers are all that's left to stand in their way, and I don't want to see anyone else get killed because of them."
The police officer sighed again and looked at Linna resignedly. "Priss made me painfully aware of that last night... Alright. You think about it Lin. Let's just enjoy the rest of the morning together then, shall we?"
Linna smiled brightly, and grasped Leon's hand with her own. "Sounds good to me."
The two huddled together for a few minutes until the drizzle turned to rain, sending them running for the dry interior of their cars. As Linna struggled in the downpour with her mini-van's door lock, Leon grabbed her about the waist and spun her around for a quick kiss good-bye. Laughing childishly at their soaked appearance, Linna wrapped her arms around Leon's neck and met his lips with hers. Suddenly the rain seemed no more than a faint hissing sound in their ears.