Bubblegum Cross

By Andy Skuse ~ askuse7@hotmail.com

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

Note 1: Contains harsh language, and romantic moments. You have been warned.

Note 2: Lyrics for "Everything To Me" by Hardline. If you'd like to hear this song that Priss sings in the middle of this chapter, click here to download the 3.7 MB MP3 file.

Chapter 20. The Body Electric

The mid-morning sun flooded the service bay with bright light, but the glare did not completely obscure Dr. Raven's view of the street before him. From down the road leading out of the industrial section of Timex City, he watched a small dark speck grow quickly in detail to become a motorcycle ridden by a figure clad entirely in black leather. The relative quiet was interrupted sharply by the loud rhythmic pounding of the motorcycle's engine as the rider slowed, then steered his bike in a tight circle in front of the garage. With a quick fluid motion, the rider killed the power and kicked down the stand with his toe.

Dr. Raven took a long look over the machine before him as it shone in the sunlight, admiring his own handiwork. The graceful curves, the mathematical precision of each line, and the painstaking attention to detail and use of space. It was certainly some of his finest work, but it was still his second favorite bike. Of course, he could never admit that to either rider.

Dr. Raven tried not to smile as he spoke, "Well, your second visit in as many days. I am indeed honored."

Blackie looked up and down the street for a moment before removing his helmet. Brushing his long dark hair back with a gloved hand, he slowly turned, but the grin that Dr. Raven had expected to see was not there. Instead, his familiar sarcasm was met with a look of indifference, almost as if the rider had never heard the greeting. Dark sunglasses did little to conceal the look of a man who was clearly tired and irritated.

"Hmm. This looks serious," Dr. Raven said thoughtfully. "Better step into my office then."

The rider took another step into the shadows of the garage, glanced over his shoulder at the street again, then nodded slowly and followed the doctor to the cramped room at the back of the garage.

Slumping into a well-worn chair, Blackie stared at the calendar on the wall behind Dr. Raven's desk, noting that the month showing was not the current one. He was about to ask why, when he noticed the year at the top of the calendar and held his question in check. He suddenly found himself thinking that the time had gone by so fast the last few years. And it seemed to be flying by even faster every day.

Dr. Raven stood in the open doorway for a moment studying his preoccupied guest before finally taking a seat on the edge of his desk. "So, what brings you all the way out here so early in the day to see an old man when you obviously would rather be at home sleeping?"

Blackie slowly sat up in the chair. His hand went to his hair again, stroking it back several times before resting both elbows on his knees with an exhausted sigh.

"I'm an old man koohai," Dr. Raven urged gently. "So if you need to ask me something..."

Blackie rubbed his eyes as he finally spoke "Sempai, what do dreams really mean?"

Dr. Raven raised an eyebrow. "Dreams? You came all the way out here to ask me--"

Blackie's stern look cut the sentence short, and the doctor's question faded off into the monotonous churning noises of the factories all around the garage.

"Okay," Dr. Raven began tentatively, scratching his chin. "Dreams. Well, for some people, dreams are wonderful and yet mysterious, and there is a temptation to believe that dreams are roadmaps to a possible destiny, while others believe that dreams are actually images from another life we are living in some other reality. And there are still others that believe that dreams are simply moments of our lives replayed subconsciously and then rearranged or combined with other experiences randomly."

"And what do you believe Sempai?"

Dr. Raven laughed. "Me? Ha! When the dreams of an old man are interesting to the young... well..."

Blackie studied the doctor's face carefully as he waited for the answer.

"For me, dreams are nothing more than scrambled moments in time that play about in our heads when we have nothing else to do but think."

Blackie sat back a bit, the fresh look of confusion on his face telling the doctor that the answer was not what his guest had wanted to hear. Blackie began to reply, but the words did not come right away. "Really... You don't think they mean anything... at all?"

Dr. Raven stepped away from the corner of his desk and returned to the open doorway of the office before speaking. He did not look at Blackie as he spoke. He could not, because he now knew why he was asking and he was concerned. "No. Not really."

There was silence for a moment in the office, as the two men wondered what the other was thinking. Blackie was first to speak again, his voice now clearly betraying his best efforts to appear unconcerned.

"Well, the dreams I am having lately do seem to be kinda messed up, but... "


Blackie hesitated before continuing. "It's still the same dream each time. Over and over."

Dr. Raven stared out into the sunlit garage, trying to hide his frown. "I see. And what happens in this dream?"

Blackie was silent for a moment as he pondered his dream. It was the same, night after night, only more intense and more real with each passing day. He didn't really want to discuss the dream with anyone, but it was getting to the point where he was wondering if there was something more to them. "It's a voice," he began. "I hear a voice calling me."

Dr. Raven's hidden frown was replaced with a look of surprise as he turned to look at Blackie. "Eh, really?"

Blackie nodded. "Yeah. Well, kinda. It changes. It usually starts off as the voice of a little kid, then it gradually changes into an old man's voice."

"I see. And what does this voice say?"

Blackie shook his head slowly. "He keeps asking me to help him. He says he is running out of time."

"Help him how?"

"I'm not sure," Blackie responded, sounding more and more frustrated as he related the strange dream. "The voice never actually tells me why it needs my help, but it says it's in pain. It just keeps going on and on and on. Sometimes I think it can hear me, but most of the time it just ignores me."

Blackie paused, brushing his hair out of his eyes again with a sigh. "The voice sounds so real, so... so..."

"Sincere?" Dr. Raven offered.

"Yes!" Blackie said, suddenly wondering if he had helped the Doctor to fully understand. But the elderly mechanic simply turned back to the open doorway to stare out into the sunshine.

Forcing himself to chuckle, Dr. Raven finally turned back to his guest and then sat down at his desk again. "I don't think I'd lose any sleep over such a dream. There's too much work to be done! Sleep is important and shouldn't be wasted! Although, when I was your age I can remember staying out very late almost every night! We'd go out drinking and singing, and I remember the girls--" Dr. Raven's voice trailed off as he realized his guest wasn't listening. The doctor's frown returned. He got up from his desk and stood in front of Blackie, then placed a hand gently on a leather-clad shoulder. "What do you think koohai? Why does a dream trouble you so much?"

Blackie did not answer immediately, the hand on his shoulder lending some comfort but not enough to make him forget the voices he had heard or their emotional pleas. He looked up at the old man before him, and seeing the worry in his eyes, forced a smile. "Too many late nights I guess Pops. Too many late nights and loud music, right?" He winked playfully, then glanced at the clock on the wall. "Ah, Speaking of which, I gotta get to practice. Thanks for the chat sempai."

"Ah yes!" Dr. Raven shifted gears. "Sylia mentioned that you hired Priss to sing. How's that working out?"

Blackie looked out at the sunlight for a moment, the strange dream slipping away from his thoughts for the moment at the mention of her name. As he began thinking of her again he felt his entire body wake up. "She's great Pops. She's got an amazing voice! And she can kick ass, ya know? She's really, really..."

"Great. Right?" Dr. Raven responded smiling.

Blackie nodded slowly, his darkened features unable to hide an embarrassed grin.

"Well, let me give you a little advice about that one, young Stingray," Dr. Raven began with a fatherly tone to his voice, "If you are truly as smitten as you seem to be, then be careful, because--"

"Yes?" Blackie asked a little over-enthusiastically, wondering if he might actually get some useful insight into why Priss seemed so hard to get to know.

"Because koohai," the doctor continued, aware that what he was saying could be valuable to the young man that he looked upon like a son, "she will make you want to protect her, and knowing you, you would try very hard. But you'd be wasting your time."

"Eh? Why?"

"Because she can take care of herself."

Blackie nodded, a little disappointed. "Yeah, that much I already know."

"What she really needs..."


"...is someone to take care of."

Blackie said nothing in reply, the words fixing themselves in his mind without being fully understood yet. Perhaps he would never understand. Women always seemed to get more complicated the more he got to know them. But he knew one thing. His sempai was a good judge of character, and his advice was always worth listening to. With a smile, he rose from his seat and headed out the door. "Thanks sempai. I'll keep that in mind."

Dr. Raven nodded, but as he watched Blackie leave, he wondered if the young man could keep any advice in his mind with all the other things that were trying to enter it.

"Alright, let's go again. Count us in."

click, click, click, click

Priss closed her eyes as a wall of sound immediately surrounded her in the tiny rehearsal room. She could hear the snap of the snare drum echoing back through her monitors, the low rumble of the bass guitar reaching through the floor to her feet, and the animal-like growl of Blackie's guitar as he quickly drove down on the whammy bar, the strings suddenly losing all of their tension. Counting silently in her head she waited impatiently for her cue, trying not to get lost in the music.

The words came to her easily, having listened to them more times than she could count on her disc player. But it was always uncomfortable at first when she actually had to sing someone else's songs at full volume. Nothing that a few practices wouldn't fix. But their first gig was tonight.

The song rose and fell, verse to bridge, bridge to chorus, and back through again. Then Blackie launched into the guitar solo. Priss had been staring straight ahead as she sang, but now she turned her head a little to watch Blackie out of the corner of her eye. She smiled, thinking to herself that just a few nights ago she had been standing out in the darkness watching from a distance, and now she was standing right next to him. Her gaze fell to watch his strong hands working their way around the fretboard of his guitar, and suddenly she found herself remembering the moment she had taken his hands in hers a few nights ago. She had embarrassed herself by being so forward, and she was sure he would misunderstand her, but something about his hands had compelled her to reach out to touch them. To know for sure. And in that moment she had felt him tremble.

The notes continued to arc and soar, their wordless acrobatics singing to her in a different way. She closed her eyes and listened, and quickly lost herself in the vibe.

Suddenly she realized that the solo was over and that the last verse had started without her. Shaking her head in annoyance, she jumped back in, the slip up not likely to be noticed by an audience, but another quick glance sideways caught Blackie grinning knowingly.

The song ended, and though Blackie said nothing, she could feel his eyes upon her. "I know, I screwed up," she muttered. "It won't happen again."

Blackie nodded with a gentle smile, his long hair shaking slightly. He casually reached out a hand to grasp Priss's arm as if to reassure her, but then he drew it back slowly. "I know," he said, his voice very soft despite the volume level that they had been getting used to. "You'll be fine."

As Blackie turned away to discuss the next song's arrangement with the drummer and bass player, Priss stared at his back for a moment. Without thinking, her hand went to her arm where Blackie had intended to touch her, and squeezed.

The glow from the main monitor in front of her flickered dimly as Sylia cycled through the various files on Blackie's data unit. Circuit diagrams, detailed schematics, programming instructions and scanned-in notes were presented one by one in a smooth rhythmic sequence. But the rhythmic advance from the last screen to the next was halted as she stared at one of the scans of her father's notes:

"Mind Bank" Project & Research Diary

Uizu Labs
BioEscape Corporation
Information copyright protected under the Information Act of 2005
Last Entry: 01.24.2021
File: FG/8572560188-1
Project: "Mind Bank"
Contractor: N/A
Project Director: Katsuhito Stingray
Project Coordinator: Katsuhito Stingray

Project Overview & Goals

I have often wondered at the boundaries of the human mind. And while emotions and behavior have traditionally been a tempting area of the human mind to explore, my own curiosity has delved outside of the traditional into the processes of the human mind itself and its ability to generate such varying forms of output. Specifically, our thoughts and our dreams, and how they are manufactured. But as I have progressed in my private research into the human mind, I have also often wondered where all of the information that we take in each day is stored, and how it is stored.

My early trial experiments some years ago with test subjects has rendered some valuable clues as to how humans organize data input and how we can save or retrieve it. But the exact process has remained a mystery, up until now.

With this breakthrough, I believe that further investigation will also yield the clues necessary to create a process by which the entire contents of the human mind could be transferred outside of itself. The benefits of this process should be obvious; people whose bodies were once young and healthy that have become terminally ill or diseased can now have their minds transferred to an artificially manufactured body that would allow them to live out their lives to its intended span, much the same way artificial limbs and organs have helped others live out their intended life spans.

But while this solution may someday provide the ability for disabled people to continue to pursue their ambitions, the current shortage of artificially manufactured bodies would present a hurdle in the initial stages of the project's creation. That is why it is my strong recommendation that "Mind Bank" storage facilities be explored, funded, and fully functioning before the transfer process has been refined for public use in clinics and hospitals.

Sylia's finger remained frozen above the advance key, as she read the words over and over. She still couldn't believe it, even though she had accessed this particular file many times since Blackie's arrival. The thought of being able to transfer someone's mind to another body horrified her at first, as she considered the problems and complications that might arise. But the more she read the words in front of her, the more they intrigued her. And they also helped to answer some of her own questions about what happened to her shortly after her father's death.

Her data unit had looked like any other data cartridge available at the local computer store. But somehow, the contents of the data unit had been transferred directly to her. Up until now she had blamed the pain and blackout that had resulted from her first viewing of her data unit on some kind of epileptic seizure created by the erratic visual input. But she had never been able to guess at how the information had made the instantaneous leap to her brain. Now she didn't need to guess any more.

Sylia sat back, closed her eyes, and turned in on her thoughts. 'Was I just a test subject to him? His smile and his words were always so sincere. But, I was just a child then..."

She rubbed her eyes and glanced at the clock. It was getting late.

As her finger slowly resumed its descent towards the "advance" key, one string of words in the open document stuck out.

"...transferred to an artificially manufactured body".

Sylia pulled her hands away from the keyboard and stared at them. They were trembling slightly. But as she focused on trying to steady them, the trembling stopped and both hands hovered before her face unmoving.

She calmly lowered her hands to her lap, and stared blankly at the screen for a moment, considering other possible answers, when a long forgotten name suddenly came back to her without warning.


As the last encore song started, Priss took a moment to gaze out through the smoky light at the packed house before her. People were jumping and waving at her, as she wiped the sweat from her brow and took a quick swig from the water bottle in her hand. She smiled slyly at one particularly enthusiastic patron in the front row, then tossed the open bottle end over end into the crowd, and grabbed her microphone from it's stand. A follow spot tracked Priss as she ran to the other side of the stage and jumped up on one of the monitors. With a confident motion she brought the microphone to her mouth and sang the first few lines of the verse.

Blackie smiled to himself as he watched Priss work the crowd. A glance back at the faces of the drummer and bass player confirmed his own feelings of awe at how well the night had gone. With a wink to the drummer he stepped forward to stand side-by-side with Priss, and cranked out the beginning chords of the chorus.

Priss turned in surprise to find Blackie facing her, and without skipping a beat began singing the chorus to him. The two stood near the edge of the stage, while shifting blue and green beams of light played over them from above. Priss couldn't hear herself anymore, drowned out by the crowd screaming out the words along with her, but she didn't mind. She had drowned out everything but the man standing in front of her as she sang.

Cause you're everything I want
You've got everything I need
I can't get over you
No matter what I do
You're everything to me

A leather-clad arm suddenly swung around Blackie's neck as Priss moved in close and looked directly into his eyes, never missing a word as she sang to him. His hands instinctively kept playing his guitar, but the shock that had run through him at her touch had frozen the rest of his body to the spot. For a brief moment the two stood gazing into each other's eyes, as the crowd continued to sing the chorus through without Priss.

There's a message in your eyes
That keeps telling me you're mine
I know you wanna stay
Can't let you slip away
You're everything to me

Then the moment was gone and Blackie felt Priss's arm slide away. He watched her take a few quick strides to the other side of the stage and then lean down with her microphone, just out of reach of a dozen out-stretched arms. As the sudden electricity of the moment continued to surge through him, Blackie fought to focus on his playing. He closed his eyes tightly, but the feeling would not go away.

A nudge to his shoulder snapped his eyes open, and he suddenly realized the solo section had started without him. With an embarrassed grin to the bass player now standing beside him, Blackie quickly stopped strumming, and deftly picked out the lead notes he was supposed to be playing.

The last few notes of the solo eventually trailed away, and Blackie could finally look up from the fretboard, the mistake now ancient history. But instead of looking out into a crowd he saw Priss now standing in front of him at center stage. Singing the last verse, her back was to him, but the bright smoke-filtered light streaming down around her created a blinding corona effect. The resulting silhouette shifted hypnotically to one side, and then suddenly he could see her eyes through the haze looking back at him knowingly. Blackie shook his head in reply and laughed, the energy of the moment rushing in to sweep him along to the end of the song.

As the very last guitar chord rang out, signaling the end of the show, the crowd renewed its appreciation of the band by filling the room with its own ability to make noise. Fists shot into the air near the front of the stage while patrons near the back began pounding empty beer bottles and ashtrays on their tables. Blackie ended the sustaining chord with an exaggerated arm motion, then quickly tore his guitar off his shoulder and held it in the air above his head. With the music gone the crowd took over completely with loud cheers and whistles, until the chanting began and Priss found herself being called by name by the entire room.

She stood motionless at the edge of center stage, ignoring her sweat-soaked clothes and exhausted limbs to absorb every bit of their worship. Leaning on the mic stand for support she slowly raised the mic to her lips, but said nothing. The crowd roared anew, goading her on to say something. Anything. Priss just closed her eyes and lowered the microphone to her side as if she were in some kind of trance, which just made the crowd scream even louder for her to address them. Their patience was finally rewarded when the singer suddenly opened her eyes and screamed at the top of her lungs, her free hand pointing straight out at the crowd.


The reply was deafening.

The three instrumentalists quickly converged with Priss at the edge of center stage, each grasping the arm of the band member next to them and raising their arms over their heads in a symbol of triumph. The bright lights dimmed slowly. Bottles banged on tables even louder, and the cheering followed the band as they headed back stage.

Near the back of the room four figures sat huddled at a dark corner table, their eyes all focused on the darkening stage, but not one of them was cheering. As if synchronized, the four patrons suddenly stood up at the same time, and made their way purposefully through the cheering crowd to the front door.

"Damn!" the drummer exclaimed as he and the other members of the band flopped down exhausted onto a couple of old couches in the dressing room. Blackie plucked four cans of beer out of a nearby cooler and tossed them to his bandmates. A chorus of pull tabs being ripped was followed quickly by a brief silence, and then a round of satisfied sighs. "Fuck me, that was just awesome!" the drummer continued to rave, guzzling the rest of his beer as the others nodded and laughed.

Blackie put his beer down on the floor at his feet, then grabbed a cloth out of his guitar case. As he listened to the others talking excitedly about the many fine points of their first live performance with their new singer, he carefully wiped down the black guitar in his lap.

"Priss, I gotta say," the bass player interjected as he staggered to his feet and grabbed a microphone out of an equipment trunk, then held the mic to his mouth, "YOU fuckin' rocked!"

Priss grinned as the drummer spit a mouthful of beer in the process of laughing. She then stood up and high-fived the bass-player with a resounding smack, then replied loudly that they had all "fuckin' rocked".

While the laughter echoed about the room, Blackie put his guitar away in its case and then picked up his unfinished beer and took another sip. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and glanced over at Priss. He laughed out loud as he watched her playfully snapping a towel at the drummer's arms in an attempt to interrupt his efforts to finish his second beer. Meanwhile the bass player was offering support by chanting "GUZZLE GUZZLE GUZZLE!"

The night had been magic, Blackie thought to himself as he lay back against the couch exhausted. The band had played many gigs in their relatively short career, but this was undoubtedly the best night he could ever remember. If this was just the beginning, then the sky was the limit as far as the future was concerned. And he had one person to thank for this fact.

He looked up suddenly to see Priss watching him very intently.

"What?" was all he could say nervously, the intensity of her gaze somehow returning him to that moment when she had put her arm around him on stage.

The room went suddenly silent as the drummer and bass player looked up from their beverages to see Priss and Blackie locked in a meaningful gaze.

The drummer nudged his drinking companion and the two exchanged knowing grins.

"Uh, Chaz man," the drummer suddenly said in a too-loud voice, breaking the silence, "How about we go back out and round up some babes for a private party, eh?"

"Ah, now there's a fuckin' plan Benji my man!" the bass player responded and jumped to his feet.

The door was about to close, when the bass player poked his head back through. "Oh, Priss?"

Priss turned back toward the door and nodded. "Yah?"

"You did great tonight. Really great."

Priss smiled back and nodded again. "Thanks Chaz."

Chaz grinned and closed the door slowly. But before the room could get quiet, two voices outside the door began singing, badly off-key and way too loud.


The voices slowly drifted down the hall until the singing turned to laughter. The room then went silent.

Blackie and Priss exchanged furtive glances, the new quiet in the room a bit uncomfortable after listening to amplified guitars and drums all night.

"Uh, so..." Blackie spoke first.

Priss studied him, watching his hands as he spoke.

"So! Um, well, that went really well eh?"

Priss stared at Blackie for a moment, nodded, then closed her eyes and took a long sip of her beer.

"Uh, I thought you sang great tonight Priss. Really, great."

"Ah, thanks."

Priss took another long sip of her beer, her eyes still closed, and began humming the chorus of the last song they had played.

As the humming filled the room with a strange new tension, Blackie suddenly felt the dampness of his sweat-soaked clothes against his skin as it cooled. His hands clenched a little at the arms of his chair. His eyes drifted around the room, as he desperately tried to think of something to say. His gaze finally returned to rest on the woman sitting on the arm of the couch across from him. Her hair was streaked with sweat, sticking a little against her cheeks, but her long bangs were already dry, framing her already dark eyes with shadow. Red lips shone reflectively. The sweat was drying on her red leather top and skirt, but her bare legs still glistened in the dim light. As if sensing his appraisal, Priss absent-mindedly slid a hand under her long mane and then shook her head, her hair falling about her shoulders in a dark cascade. Blackie's mind started a long slow spin as any thoughts of saying something vanished.

Just when Blackie thought he couldn't stand the silence anymore, Priss suddenly stood up and tossed her empty beer can into a dented garbage can by the door. Her hand reached out to the door handle, then stopped.

Blackie quickly looked away from the woman standing at the door, unable to watch her walk out. 'Damn it! Say something you idiot! She's going to walk out! Oh man, ANYTHING! JUST SAY-'

A hand on his arm stopped his futile search cold.

Surprised, he slowly turned to see Priss kneeling beside his chair, her hand on his forearm. As the two locked eyes, Priss gently squeezed his hand. Blackie could not move, the surge of electricity from her touch returning like a flash flood.

"My turn." Priss finally said, her lips betraying a very slight smile.

"Uh?" was all Blackie could reply.

Priss slid her hand down Blackie's arm to take his hand in hers. "My turn to take care of *you*."

Blackie nodded numbly and somehow pushed his body to stand. Guitar case in hand, and Priss's hand in the other, Blackie followed Priss through the door, and the room fell silent again.

The door to the back alley behind the Hot Legs swung out abruptly, banging sharply against the brick wall. The noise echoed briefly in the tight confines of the alley, then faded as several people exited the building and began walking towards the main street.

Above them, lost in the glare of the street lamps, a glowing pair of eyes carefully studied the appearance of each of the patrons in detail. Drunken laughter and yelling followed the small group out to the street, until they turned the corner. The cyborg's eyes slowly dimmed to a soft blue, as it silently turned to make the fifteen-foot leap across the shadows to the next roof. It was greeted there by a second of its kind, a hulking shadow gazing intently at the other exit from the alley. The two briefly exchanged reports with a series of clicks and soft whistles. The first nodded, and then returned to its post, the thrill of the chase filling its every nerve with current.

"Did you bring your bike?" Blackie asked as he and Priss made their way through the half-empty bar towards the exit.

"No, I took a cab," Priss replied. Blackie turned to look at her, a look of mild surprise on his face.

"Well, I had a feeling we'd do well tonight, and I didn't want to..."

Blackie smiled knowingly but said nothing.

"Cya Clarence!" Priss yelled to the tired looking bouncer who was engaged in helping the more stubborn patrons to their feet.

Clarence stopped yelling at the trio of drunken patrons in his grip long enough to wave and offer a thumbs up. As he released his grip, one of the drunks attempted to sit back down at the nearest table and demand more beer. Clarence let go of the other two and suddenly there were three tables occupied by demanding customers. Clarence slapped his hand on his forehead, then started to yell again.

Priss smirked, and turned back to the door, her hand squeezing Blackie's hand again as they felt the chill night air hit their faces from the open doorway in front of them.

Two more vaguely human-shaped shadows waited patiently at the back of the alley behind a trash dumpster, their ears picking up every single click of a high heel and squeak of the door hinge. The cyborg closest to the exit blinked, the glow from its eyes flicking out for a fraction of a second. With a nudge from its companion, the cyborg leaned out slowly to scan the alley. Data raced through its neuro-circuitry, as it retrieved the template image over and over and compared the visible subjects to it.


"Are you cold?"

Priss nodded, then pulled her coat tighter about her shoulders as she stepped out into the street.

Blackie faltered for a moment, then placed his arm tentatively around Priss's shoulders fully expecting her to shrug it off. To his surprise, the singer calmly looked into his eyes and then gestured towards the sidewalk.

Discard. Discard. Discard. Discard.
Discard. Discard. Discard. Discard.
Possible match found... verifying...

Two sharp whistles suddenly echoed from the rooftop, as the cyborg's companion nudged him a little further forward, the anticipation of the chase reaching its peak.

"You didn't bring your bike either?" Priss asked, puzzled by Blackie's move away from the alley behind the Hot Legs.

"Nah, I just live around the corner, remember?" Blackie grinned.

Priss laughed. "How could I forget."

Possible match could not be verified.

Search resumed.





No further subjects visible.

A soft chirping from the back of the alley was the only unusual sound, as a quiet calm eventually descended around the Hot Legs bar. A car raced by. In the distance a train clack-clacked over a bridge, its familiar whistle fading with its passing. A few drunken stragglers sat on the front step to share one last cigarette as the lights surrounding the bar winked out one by one. But as the last patron finally shuffled off into the shadows of the street lamps, the shadows slowly came alive, until they met in the middle of the alley.

The hunt would have to wait.

The dim gray light from the street filtered in through the dusty windows of Blackie's apartment, barely illuminating two bodies on the bed locked in the act of making love.

Priss slowly closed her fingers about Blackie's outstretched hand, and sighed.

The sheets on the bed moved sinuously as the two lovers drew closer together. The motions became more and more aggressive, until Blackie suddenly threw the sheets aside and sat up on the bed. He drew his knees to his chest and closed his hands about his face in disgust, while Priss peered through the gloom in shock.

"What... what's wrong? Did I?"

"It's not you." Blackie muttered.

The nighttime silence surrounded them for a moment.

"Are you sure? But... then what's wrong?"

Blackie listened to Priss's soft voice behind him in the darkness, and he knew he had to answer.



Blackie paused to think through what he was trying to say. To somehow find the words to describe the shadowed face he could not wrench free from his mind.

"It's... him. I can see him in my mind."

Priss strained to stare at Blackie's face through the darkness.

"Who? Who are you talking about?"

"Him, Priss. Him."

Priss searched her mind over and over, unable to begin to comprehend what he was saying, her mind already filled with doubt. "Who, Blackie? You have to tell me who or I can't--"

Blackie finally turned to look at Priss, and the look of confusion in her eyes that greeted him through the shadows shook him momentarily. "Him, Priss. The man you once loved."

Priss's eyes widened. 'What the hell was he talking abou... oh.'

Again the silence surrounded them, but this time Priss broke it, her voice now full of understanding and the promise of reassurance. "Blackie, don't think of him. He's gone."

"I know, but--"

"But what?"

Long black hair now obscured Blackie's face as he stared down into the bed. "I can't help worrying... that you still think of him sometimes."

Priss looked towards the light coming in from the window, then propped herself up on her elbow and drew the sheets around her tightly. "Blackie, don't do this to yourself."

"I... I just can't..."

Priss sighed. This was not how she had wanted the night to go. But if she couldn't convince him that her thoughts were only on him, then where would that leave them?

"Blackie," she began, "it's true, I can't ever forget him, but you're not him. You are you, and that's who I--"

She paused.

Blackie looked up. "Yes?"

The voice from the shadows was almost too faint to hear as Priss said the words she never thought she'd say again.

"That's who I want to be with now. You, and just you."

Blackie flinched, the sincerity of her words like a sudden slap across his face.


Priss let the sheets slowly fall away from her as she sat up to embrace Blackie in her arms. The dim gray light from the city glow was like a muted spotlight now, and the look of understanding in his eyes now said everything she wanted to hear.

Priss gently pushed Blackie back on to the bed. "Just think of me."

"I'm sorry."

Priss nodded gently and smiled.

As the nighttime silence surrounded them again, Blackie reached up and delicately placed his hand against Priss's lips, then softly grazed her cheek with the back of his hand. Priss closed her eyes for a moment, enjoying the feeling of his skin against hers.

Outside, a gentle rain began to fall, making a soft hypnotic tapping against the window. Little by little the cool rain splashed against the glass, gradually washing away the dust and grime.

Inside, the two lovers stared intently into each other's eyes for a long time, until all thoughts of anyone else in the world were gone.

An approaching car sent the four cyborgs back into the shadows of the rain-slicked alley behind the bar. Scratching noises like claws on cement followed the four quickly up the wall and onto the roof. Like liquid darkness the four cyborgs escaped the rain to find their individual hiding spots, and dissolved into the night.

The hunt was over... for now.

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