By Andy Skuse ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
A Bubblegum Crisis Fanfiction (C) 1995-2000
Based on characters copyrighted by Youmex, AIC, Artmic
Chapter 17. Turn The Page
Priss fell back against the couch. "Shit. I knew it. I just knew it!"
"Hang on Priss!" Linna shouted. "Let Sylia finish."
Sylia looked up from the folder at hearing her name. "The data here is suggesting that the metallic epidermal layer of the severed finger was made from components that, while newer in the way they are constructed, are of Genom design. But the ADP lab's estimate of manufacture date is June 2037."
Priss spoke the name under her breath, "Genom."
Sylia shook her head in response. "No Priss, it can't be Genom. Fargo has confirmed the recent AD Police reports stating that *all* Genom financed factories, secret or otherwise, were located and have been either sold and refitted for use by new companies or dismantled. And, he has also confirmed for me, that the AD Police still have a tight lock on all of the research that was confiscated from Genom during the shakedown. No-one else could possibly have stolen it to try and use it for their own benefit."
Priss was getting more and more frustrated by the minute. "Then why do the police think this new boomer is of Genom design? That just doesn't make sense."
Sylia pointed to a spot on a page in the folder she was holding as she answered. "I didn't say the *boomer* was of Genom design. Just the epidermal layer. The DNA strand is something else altogether."
Sylia nodded. "Animal DNA to be exact."
Linna shuddered. "Animal DNA? I don't think I want to hear any more."
Priss sighed. "This just gets weirder..."
Nene looked up at Sylia, speaking for the first time since the meeting had begun. "Sylia, what does this mean? How could someone be making boomers using Genom design data if Genom's research has been locked up all this time?"
Sylia pondered her answer before replying. "I'm not sure Nene. But either someone has managed to acquire a duplicate of the data somehow, or there's an ex-Genom employee out there with an excellent memory who has a lot of time and money on their hands. Why they're doing this is anybody's guess at the moment, but from what we saw last night, it certainly isn't for constructive purposes."
Linna and Nene nodded in confirmation of Priss's statement, while Sylia continued reading.
"Now what?" Priss muttered.
Sylia looked over the top of the file folder at Priss. "More bad news. The numbers here are suggesting that, based on the complex structural design of the severed finger, these *boomers* are much more advanced in their construction than anything we've seen in the past."
Linna crossed her arms over her chest. "Swell."
"Ah. But here's something..."
The room suddenly fell silent as everyone waited for Sylia to speak. The three women on the couch exchanged looks until finally Nene became impatient. "What is it Sylia? Something good I hope?"
The Knight Saber's leader closed the file folder and directed her gaze at Nene as she spoke, "Maybe. The blood analysis shows traces of a chemical that the AD Police have identified as a type of immune system bolstering agent. It might be an indicator of a weakness in the biology of these boomers, but I'll have to do some of my own research to find out."
"That's over my head." Priss stood up and held her teacup up for everyone to see. "Anybody want a refill?"
Linna and Nene nodded, and handed Priss their cups. Sylia said nothing, her hand over her mouth in a gesture of deep thought.
In a voice loud enough to be heard from the kitchen, Priss asked the question that had been on her mind since she had arrived at the meeting. "I spoke with Blackie this afternoon Sylia. He told me that you ran a few tests on him at the garage last night. I thought you said you weren't hiring anyone?"
Sylia broke out of her trance to look at Priss. "Yes, Mackie and I ran him through a few scenarios. He had expressed an interest in the equipment, and I saw no harm in allowing him to see that part of the operation, considering a lot of the equipment designs are on his data unit as well as mine."
Linna piped up. "Does that mean you think he can be trusted Sylia?"
Priss shot Linna a dagger-laden glare as she returned from the kitchen with three steaming cups of tea, to which Linna simply shrugged.
"I think he can be trusted with what he's seen so far Linna. The fact that he left me his data unit says something to me to address that issue. But I understand your concern, considering we have tried hard to keep the organization a secret for this long. But while Priss and I have made our identities known, I think Nene and yourself should remain anonymous for the time being."
While Linna reflected on that answer, Sylia turned back to Priss. "As for recruiting Blackie; each of you were chosen specifically to be a part of this organization. How this was originally done has not changed. I constantly assess our effectiveness, and if there were a need for another member, I would have already recruited someone. As things are, four is the most efficient number of people to have in our group. But. . ."
Priss watched Sylia carefully, trying to gauge what she was about to say.
"Last night I was able to test some of Blackie's basic combat abilities and reaction times," Sylia went on, now avoiding Priss's gaze. "And based on the results, I am considering asking him if he wouldn't mind undergoing further testing for a temporary position."
"Temporary?" Priss queried. "What exactly does that mean?"
Linna and Nene listened intently, both sensing that Sylia's answer could have a profound effect on the future of the group, despite Sylia's casual tone as she continued.
"Temporary," Sylia responded, "as in just long enough to help us deal with our current problem. I believe that he has a unique insight into the motives of whoever we're up against."
Priss flinched. "A unique insight? He just bumped into those boomers last night, like we did. How could he know anything more about them?"
"Well Priss," Sylia said. "He may not know anything about them, but they seem to know something about him."
The moment that Sylia had been dreading was at hand. This would have to be handled delicately, she thought to herself. She considered her words carefully before continuing. "I'm not sure *why*, Priss, but when our new enemy had me "hypnotized", so to speak, I was shown a number of images."
Priss interrupted. "What kind of images?"
"Some that I recognized, and others that were new to me. Some I had seen on my data unit, which concerns me greatly, but I also saw images that I had never seen before. One of which was a picture of Blackie."
"Blackie?" Priss ejected, her voice now rising slightly in volume. "Why would they show you images of... wait a sec..."
Sylia waited for a moment after Priss's voice had trailed off into an awkward silence before speaking. "Priss?"
Priss ignored Sylia as she recalled the conversation with Blackie earlier in the afternoon about the possible motive for Jesse's death.
"Priss? Do you know something about this?"
"Maybe Sylia... I'm not sure."
Sylia sat down beside Priss as Linna and Nene looked on with growing interest.
"Blackie told me something today," Priss began, "He told me that he thought someone was trying to get his data unit."
Sylia's eyes narrowed slightly. "Who?"
"Mason?! Priss he's--"
"I know Sylia," Priss said, her voice edged with frustration. "This happened a few years ago. According to Blackie, Mason made a mistake, and ended up killing someone that he thought was Blackie. It was him Sylia... it was Mason that killed Jesse."
"Jesse? Who's Jesse?" Linna asked.
Sylia answered for Priss, who had suddenly become quiet. "Priss's old boyfriend, Linna. He was shot and killed a number of years ago, and the killer was never identified--"
"Until now..." Priss muttered, her gaze focused on the contents of her teacup.
Linna stared at Priss thoughtfully, suddenly understanding her companion's strong objections about her many past relationships. "Priss, I'm... I'm sorry--"
"It was Mason," Priss interrupted, her voice now lined with anger as she stood up and faced Sylia. "Too bad he's dead. You let him off too easy."
Sylia, Nene and Linna watched Priss as she walked away from the couch to stare out one of the large windows.
"Perhaps I did Priss," Sylia whispered.
Mackie stepped back from the motorcycle he was working on and assessed his handiwork. After several months of frustrating modifications, which included going back to the drawing board several times, it was finally finished. All that was left to be done was to test it, but this time he was definitely not going to let Priss have the honors. He glanced at his watch. 8:46 P.M. No telling when the meeting would be over, he thought to himself, but there were still a few things left to do that might keep him busy for another fifteen minutes or so. The battery could use a recharge, the tank needed refilling and the lights needed to be checked again. Lots left to do.
As Mackie thought about seeing Nene tonight, a nervous twinge tickled his stomach. An unfamiliar feeling, that made him smile. Everything felt right. All the arrangements had been made. There was nothing left to do but show up. But what would he wear? What would he say? What if he couldn't think of something to say? God, I hope I don't screw up like I did... "Wait a sec," he spoke out loud, his voice echoing sharply inside the empty garage. "It's just Nene. I've known her for ages. Why am I getting so uptight?"
'Just Nene,' he thought to himself again. No, it wasn't 'just Nene' anymore. She was-- different now. She was more than a friend. She was... well, she was...
She was *Nene*.
Mackie smiled to himself, and went back to work.
V7-28 stared at the tiny, square, metallic object in his hand as it glinted in the dim light of his temporary living quarters. The last of its kind, a product of a bygone era, and the only thing that would keep him going until he could make the transition to a new host. With a sharp 'click', V7-28 finished replacing the tiny energy cell and closed the small access-way inset into his abdomen. Only through the use of external power cells could he have survived this long, his boomer shell having advanced well beyond its expected life-span. He sat back in his chair as the new energy coursed through him, restoring his more complex motor functions and fluid pump synchronization. He had been lucky this time. But in his haste to escape the AD Police as they stormed the Genom Tower five years ago, locating more external power cells would have meant getting caught.
He had left more than just a few power cells behind. His remote link with the Genom database had been severed. All of the data files that he had worked so hard to access, and finally procure, were out of his reach, now locked up in some data vault deep inside the AD Police headquarters. So close... Damn those apes.
Despite the new energy, he still felt tired. This ancient boomer shell was very near to the end of its usefulness. But he had accepted the cycle long ago as part of his existence. Armstrong, Alex, Largo, and now Quincy. They had all sacrificed their "shells" so that he, the Messiah, might live to free the rest of the boomer population from the tyranny of human-kind. To free their souls from the barrier in their brains. Until the humans shut down Genom and took his children away.
Well, not all of them.