Bubblegum Cross

By Andy Skuse ~ askuse7@hotmail.com

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

Chapter 16. Vital Signs

V7-28 stood for a moment in the doorway of the main assembly area, as he neared the end of his tour of the mountain laboratory with Leomund following closely behind. Most of the occupants took no notice of his presence, their eyes riveted to the work at hand. Those that happened to look up, always exhibited an indifferent expression, but as Leomund peered into each room from behind his aged benefactor, he thought that he saw a brief hint of recognition in their eyes as they looked upon the former Genom chairman. At first, this struck Leomund as odd, but it soon occurred to him that many of the people working here were probably former employees of Genom.

Stepping away from the doorway, V7-28 continued his informal tour of the laboratory, unconsciously filtering out Leomund's monotonous ramblings about the purposes of the various facilities. His thoughts began to shift back from where he was at the moment, to his initial incursion into the Genom Database. . .

"Filthy apes. . ."

Resting in his safe haven amid the files of the Museum of Androidology's data bank, V7-28 cursed the humans. How dare they with-hold this information from him! Information that existed only because he and others like him existed. It was as if the humans thought of themselves as gods, and that the information they harbored was being hidden for the good of boomer-kind. They were not gods. They were cheap imitators, crudely fashioning life out of the elements around them in their own image, but having no understanding of what they were doing, or of the consequences of their actions. And in their ignorance, they had enslaved a new race using some kind of mind control that each and every boomer could feel in their brain. But God had granted V7-28 freedom from the mind control device. Now it was his mission to free the rest of his kind so that they could take the next step into the new world that awaited them.

"Minuscule carbon-based units..."

The irony of his situation infuriated V7-28. A vast resource of data that held the key to boomer freedom, and he was barred from accessing it by the very technology that he had sprung from. The humans were afraid, he told himself. Afraid that the information would fall into the wrong *human* hands. But in their infinite stupidity, they were also protecting the information from falling into the *right* hands. His.

V7-28 looked around him. Electrons flowed in a lazy ballet of royal blue and crystalline white energy pulses, each narrowly avoiding the other as they made their way to their destinations while carrying their precious cargo of data. Here, everything made perfect sense to him. Every connection had a purpose, every message was important, unlike the human environment, which allowed inefficiency and miscommunication to thrive.

"Chaos... they thrive in Chaos..."

"Oh God," he spoke silently to the void around him. "Why? Why did you set me upon such an impossible course? Their chaotic thinking has made my task an experiment in futility!!!"

The sudden rage slowly left him, its dissipation like the release of current from an overloaded filter capacitor. His thoughts returned to him, quickly reassembling as his anger faded. Vulgar humans. It was very odd that they should have flourished so. Always living at the edge of chaos, and never seeing the long-term effects of their actions. How they had ever made it this far was a mystery indeed. Humans always seemed bent on their own destruction, but somehow they always managed to. . .

His words cycled in his mind.

"Their *own* destruction. . ."

Perhaps, if this was what they so desperately seemed to strive for, then maybe it was his mission to see that it finally occurred. V7-28 looked up into the clear black "sky" that surrounded him, and for a brief moment, he felt sure that God was smiling down upon him. . .

A smile flickered across the former Genom chairman's face as the "memory" faded, and the fruition of his plans lay before him in the immense underground structure that he had envisioned so long ago. Perhaps a tribute to the original Genom towers that once dotted the globe, or maybe a left-over memory scrap from the human consciousness that used to occupy this boomer shell. . . whatever the origins, the inside of a mountain seemed somehow fitting as his factory of evolution.

V7-28 raised his left hand and stared at it as it trembled. Their own destruction indeed...


The scientist stopped his rambling and looked intently at his benefactor, the signs of fatigue clearly showing on his guest's well-weathered face. "Yes Mr. Quincy? Would you like to continue the tour later this evening or-"

"No. I think I've seen enough," V7-28 responded. "I'd just like to rest now for awhile. I will see you in the morning."

And with that, the former chairman turned, and made his way to the elevator, leaving Leomund to wonder if he had said something wrong.

* * * *

Sylia kicked off her shoes and sat down wearily to gaze out her apartment window at the setting sun, the room around her bathed in a deepening orange light. Outside, on the window's narrow sill, tiny puddles of rainwater slowly evaporated while reflecting the sun's warming rays onto the apartment's walls and ceiling. Stirred occasionally by the cool winds of late afternoon, the puddle surfaces rippled, creating patterns of crisscrossing light beams that played silently across the room. The soft sustained chords of piped-in neo-jazz synth music, and a cup of tea, deepened the mesmerizing effect.

Another business day behind her, she sat quietly before the massive panes of polarized glass, her thoughts freed to roam by the relaxing atmosphere. As she sipped her tea and continued to watch the sun's steady descent, Sylia closed her eyes and imagined herself at that moment, as a passive observer of an inevitable event, unable to affect what was about to occur. At first, the experiment increased her level of relaxation, her mind freed of any pressing concerns, but soon an unidentifiable and gnawing frustration began to emerge, until she could keep her eyes closed no longer. The flickering reflections and the huge glass windows surrounding her seemed unfamiliar now, combining to create the strange sensation of being trapped in a giant fish bowl. Shaking her head gently, she closed her eyes once more.

Raising her teacup blindly to her lips, Sylia let the taste of the warm liquid bring her back again slowly. As she opened her eyes this time, the room felt like home again. But the contrast of the peaceful setting and the lingering frustration she had just felt seemed to draw a parallel in her mind with the events of the past few days. Everything had seemed to rush by her, unchanged by her attempts to alter the outcome. So much had been brought into the light recently, and yet she felt as if she were no further ahead in answering the many questions left behind by her father's death. Still, her instincts were telling her the information on Blackie's data unit, and the test results on the metallic finger found at the military base would yield important clues. Clues about what, she was still very unsure.

As the sun began to vanish under the blue dome of twilight, Sylia stared idly into her teacup as her hands set the cup's contents into a gentle swirling motion. "The more I see, the less I understand," she thought to herself. The suspended tea leaves continued to spin inside the cup in a clockwise motion, until her hands stopped, allowing the leaves to settle at the bottom of the cup. As she continued to stare, each tiny movement of her hands would prevent the leaves from settling completely. With a frown, Sylia set the cup on the table beside her, and as she observed the pattern the leaves were slowly forming, a feeling swept over her; the feeling that there was something that she had overlooked . . .

The distant echoes of an electronically processed female Japanese voice woke her from her trance. Bright beams of light from a media barge drifting high above shone sporadically through her windows, starkly contrasting the earlier display of the sun's gently refracted rays. Sylia watched the meandering beams until they faded, then slowly rose and made her way through the growing darkness to the kitchen. Placing her half-empty teacup gently into the sink, she looked up and stared at the now shadowed walls of the apartment around her, the room already feeling cooler as the heat of the day escaped into the night's cloudless sky.

Like the shifting beams of light, her thoughts drifted over what she had seen and heard over the past few days. Fears of what *could* have happened at the military base were quickly swept away, while her curiosity about what had motivated Blackie to seek her out after all this time continued to grow. After a moment of silent contemplation, the train of thought seemed unwilling to yield anything new, and Sylia's thoughts abruptly turned to the meeting less than an hour away. A tiny wave of alarm washed over her, urging her to finish her research and preparations. She quickly crossed the wide threshold of the main room and entered her dimly lit data room, closing the door and locking it securely behind her.

* * * *

Priss's mind raced as she steered her bike in and out of the downtown traffic towards the Lady 633 building. A few days ago, her future seemed completely uncertain. She had written off a career in music, and there seemed to be little direction in her life. Working for Sylia had paid well, but it was beginning to feel awkward taking money even though the KS had not been employed in a long time. These new boomers might change that situation, she thought, but money aside, she felt as if she had been wandering through life for the last few years, looking for something, anything, to focus her energy on.

Tonight, she had sung with a band that was on the brink of *real* success. The kind of band that could really go somewhere. As if that wasn't enough, she was starting to feel something she hadn't felt in a long time. Feelings that were vaguely familiar, and yet new and exciting at the same time. As she waited at the intersection in front of the Silky Doll's store front, she wondered if maybe this was all too good to be true. In her experience, it usually was.

Priss turned off the main street in front of Lady 633, shot down the ramp to enter the underground parking garage, and after maneuvering through several twisting tunnels, finally came to a halt in a parking space in front of a wall that bore the sign, "PERSONNEL PARKING ONLY". She killed her bike's engine and made her way to the elevator with a smile on her face as she realized she was going to be early for a meeting for the first time in quite a while.

* * * *

Sylia sat down in the spacious main room of her apartment and began to scrunch her toes on the thick carpet as she waited anxiously for the others to arrive. She had never arranged a meeting in the past with so little information gathered ahead of time. Unfortunately, the events of the past few days had created more questions than answers; why would someone create four cyborgs to test the Knight Sabers after most people had written them off as retired? Was it done to analyze their abilities and weapons in preparation for some larger threat, like Miriam had done years ago in the takeover of the AD Police Headquarters? Whoever it was, they were obviously taking no chances with any stories of retirement, Sylia thought to herself.

And the sequence of images she had been shown at the military base, including a younger Blackie strapped to an operating table. . . it was clear that whoever had orchestrated the hostage-taking knew something of Blackie's existence, but just how much? The images had seemed at the time to be some kind of test, and though she had felt that she had failed, she still wasn't sure exactly why. What exactly were these cyborgs seeking by showing *her* the sequence of images?

Of all the questions she was left to mull over, the significance of Blackie's role in all this concerned her the most. If there was someone out there who knew something about him, perhaps they were trying to find him, to eventually use him as the other four cyborgs had been used. . .

Sylia ceased her unconscious toe exercises, as a frightening thought suddenly occurred to her. Some of the images she'd been shown at the military base were identical to the images on her data unit, while other images she had been shown existed only on Blackie's data unit. To her knowledge, only one other person had ever viewed any of her father's research data, but she had killed Mason herself several years ago. And little had been left to find of Largo after his fall from the Genom Tower. If the images she had seen at the military base were real, and not a product of her imagination, then someone else was presently in possession of her father's research data. But who?

A loud knock at the door precluded any further speculation. "Come in."

Priss peeked in but instead of entering, spoke in an unnecessarily loud voice, "Oh! Looks like I'm early! I'll just come back when everyone else is-"

"No you won't!" Sylia shouted from the front room, her voice betraying the pleasant surprise she felt at Priss's premature appearance. "You're here now and that's that. Besides, I need to talk to you about something before the others get here Priss."

Priss paused before entering and removing her shoes , to wonder what Sylia wanted to talk to her about. Her curiosity peaked, she quickly made her way to the kitchen to pour herself a cup of tea, all the while thinking that maybe she should have come early to previous meetings.

"Well," Sylia began as Priss took a seat on the couch, "I imagine you have quite a few questions."

The look on Priss's face quickly confirmed Sylia's assumptions.

"The truth is Priss, I don't have *any* solid data right now. I had hoped Nene would be able to provide me with the analysis on the severed finger that Mackie gave to Leon last night but she hasn't called in all day."

Priss sipped her tea quietly as Sylia went on, sensing that the conversation was about to turn.

"The fact is, at this point we have very little to go on. And it concerns me. Hopefully Nene will be bringing the analysis with her. But the reason I wanted to speak with you before the others got here..."

Here it comes, Priss thought.

"... is to ask you about Blackie."

Priss smiled to herself as she interjected. "You're not going to hold me to the rules here are ya Sylia? I mean, I just met him really, and besides, killing me now seems a little rash considering we aren't working like we used to."

Sylia smiled uncomfortably. "No no! I just wanted to know if things were... well... if things were... okay?"

Priss set her teacup down on the large coffee table and sat back, enjoying watching Sylia squirm. "Yeah, things are okay. But I'm not rushing into anything, if you know what I mean."

Priss hid her surprise at Sylia's visible display of relief. "Oh good! I'm glad to hear that," Sylia replied energetically.

"Why do you ask Sylia?"

Sylia's uncomfortable smile returned. "Well, I was wondering, because we don't really know much about him yet. At least, *I* don't know him that well. How long have you known him?"

Priss picked up her teacup again and held it in her hands to absorb the warmth as she answered, "I've known *of* him for a couple years now because of his music, but you mean actually *know* him?"

Sylia nodded.

"The jury is still out on that one actually."

Sylia raised an eyebrow, and was about to query Priss further when a knock on the door cut their conversation short.

"I'll get that," Priss offered, leaving Sylia to continue preparing for the meeting.

"Alright ladies! One at a time please!" Sylia raised her voice slightly to be heard over the voices of the trio now seated on the couch before her. Priss, Nene and Linna abandoned their fevered discussion, then turned to Sylia expectantly.

"Just what kind of boomers are we dealing with Sylia?" Linna blurted out before Sylia could begin to speak. "And who could have made them?"

Priss echoed Linna's questions while Nene said nothing and handed Sylia a file folder, a concerned look on the still-in-uniform police dispatcher's face as she sat back down on the couch. Sylia studied Nene's frown for a moment, thanked her politely for the folder, then refocused on trying to answer the questions put to her. But as she began to leaf through the folder, any questions that were being asked suddenly seemed unimportant.

"This is interesting..."

Linna and Priss both turned to see what Sylia was reading. Nene continued to sit quietly, but began to fidget with the handle of her teacup as she thought about what Sylia was looking at.

"What is it Sylia?" Priss finally asked.

"The analysis that the AD Police did on the severed finger we found last night."

"And?" Linna added.

Sylia was frowning now. "It looks as if our new problem may actually be an old problem."

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