Bubblegum Cross

By Andy Skuse ~ askuse7@hotmail.com

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

Note: Contains harsh language. You have been warned.

Chapter 21. Dreamlines

Long after Priss had fallen asleep, Blackie lay with his eyes open, staring at the gray ceiling. With all of his thoughts threatening to spin out of control, sleep seemed far away.

Suddenly his life was very different from just a few hours ago. The band was finally ready to take the next step. Just one show and he could see the difference so clearly. All the pieces were in place; the right people with the right attitudes, all with one goal, one dream, in mind. The sky was the limit. It was difficult not to smile now.

As if that weren't enough to keep him from ever falling asleep again, Blackie's scattered thoughts returned time after time to her. She was... he still couldn't really find the words to describe how much she had changed his life, and how important she had become to him. The more he thought about her, the more he wanted to wake her up just so he could hear her say his name one more time. To know that it was real, and not just a dream.

Turning his head slightly, Blackie looked at Priss's shadowed face while she slept. As he watched, her nose twitched a bit, and he smiled again. She looked so content, without a care in the world. He wondered if she was dreaming, and what her dreams were about.

Blackie sighed, and then turned his gaze back to the ceiling, hesitant to admit that there was still something wrong with the picture. He closed his eyes and guessed the time, then checked the clock on the table beside him. 2:37 a.m. exactly. Perhaps the voice had finally given up in its plea for help, he thought to himself. As he thought about Priss again, the smile still unwilling to leave his lips, he thought that anything was possible.

The sound of a train crossing a bridge in the distance came to his ears through the open window. The horn sounded long and clear then faded away as the train moved on to its destination. He continued to listen for a while, the nighttime silence broken faintly every so often by a cool breeze or a car driving by. Just as Blackie's eyes started to close, the voice came to him again.

"Help me..."


"It's not my time yet... won't you help me?"

No. I can't.

"You are the only one who can help me... I know you can hear me."

I can't hear you. I don't want to hear you.

"Please, I know you're listening. I don't have much time."

I don't care anymore. I can't care.

"I can guide you to me. You just have to listen..."

Leave me alone. Just stop...

"You're my only hope... please..."

I'm sorry. You'll just have to--

"Help me please! I need you!"

I'm sorry. I'm sorry!

"I need you... don't be scared..."

Isn't there someone else who can help you?

"You're the only one. Help me... please..."

Why me?

The voice faded away, and Blackie opened his eyes wide, suddenly realizing he was still awake.

The voice felt stronger this time. Definitely stronger. And closer. The sentences were more complete now.

"...not my time yet... won't you... me?"

But just out of reach. Always just out of reach.

"You are the ... one who can help... I know ... can hear me."

Trying, trying, but the words still won't come.

"... I know you're listening... I don't have much ..."

I am listening! But why can't you ever hear me?

"I can guide you ... you just ... to listen..."

I speak the words but they never hear me.

"You're my ... hope... please..."

I'm here.

"Help me please! I need ..."


"I need you... scared..."

Right... here...

She slowly opened her eyes to darkness and took a long breath, the last echoes of the voice still lingering in her head. She rested her forearm against her brow for a moment and stretched her legs, rolling the words over in her mind. The voice felt closer now than ever before. For years she had heard the voice as a whisper, the words never making much sense, but now it was almost crystal clear. But why now?

She stared up at the ceiling, studying the varying degrees of light that seeped in from the city glow. The voice was crying out for help, but help with what?

She recalled the words. 'Not my time yet...'. It was dying perhaps? Dying soon? How long? But what could she do about it? The voice had never mentioned places or names. How could she ever find the source of the voice?

She sighed and closed her eyes again. But her thoughts would not let go of her. She turned over on her side and pulled the covers close. How could she ever find the voice? It had to be close by.

Did she even want to find the source?

Sylia sighed again, closed her eyes tightly, and waited for sleep to reclaim her.


The cyborg's eyes did not open, but its mind was instantly awake. The conversation was short and to the point. And silent. The cyborg's companions remained motionless, coiled up in their various hiding spots "asleep", and electronically camouflaged from the eyes of the outside world.

Far from the roof of the Hot Legs bar, V7-28 remotely accessed the wakened cyborg's memories of the previous evening, then smiled to himself.

The target was proving to be more elusive than he had anticipated. And though a prolonged capture would eat up precious time, V7-28 knew he would have been a little disappointed if the target had been captured on the first attempt.

V7-28 sent a final message, 'Stay where you are. He will return.'

The wakened cyborg said nothing in response, made no indication that it had even received the message. As the presence in its mind vanished it flexed one of its metallic fingers experimentally, then pulled its legs closer in to its body as the first warming rays of dawn washed over it, and immediately went back to sleep.

Priss drained the last little bit of her tea from her cup and then set it down on the table beside her. Raising her arms over her head, she yawned and stretched, savoring the feeling of the bed sheets against her bare legs. Sounds of mid-day traffic outside and the chatter from the portable TV at her feet mingled with the muffled sounds of water splashing and Blackie singing.

As she recalled the night before, a smile slowly formed on her lips. It wasn't the night she had imagined it would be. But it was a night she would never forget.

Priss threw the covers aside, swung her legs out of the bed, and stretched again. Grabbing the empty teacup, she rose and made her away to the kitchen. She set the cup down into the sink, then leaned against the counter and stared out the large window at the front of the tiny apartment. Wearing nothing but one of Blackie's old, oversized, concert t-shirts, Priss shielded her eyes from the bright sunlight, its rich rays warming the room to an almost uncomfortable level. Streaming down at a high angle the sunlight filled the front of the room making the rest of the apartment gloomy by comparison. Priss looked down at her toes where the line of light and shadow met sharply, and wiggled them experimentally.

Blackie's singing crept into her idle thoughts, and as she contemplated sharing the bath with him, the phone rang. Without thinking she picked it up.

"Uh, hello?"

"Oh... Priss, is that you?"

"Sylia..." Priss said slowly, suddenly feeling out of sorts. "Yeah. It's me."

"Oh, I see," Sylia said, pausing briefly before continuing. "So how did the show go last night then?"

"Great," Priss replied nonchalantly.

"Oh good, I'm glad to hear that."

Priss waited for Sylia to continue, but there was only silence on the other end. "Did you want to speak with Blackie?" Priss finally offered.

"Yes, if he's available."

Priss glanced at the bathroom door. The singing had subsided but the splashing continued. "Um, well..."

"I understand Priss," Sylia quickly interjected. "Can you give him a message for me then?"

Priss was silent for a moment as she considered Sylia's request and their "discussion" two nights ago. She had hoped that maybe Sylia would have changed her mind by now after seeing how strongly she had opposed the idea of Blackie joining the Knight Sabers. But the tone of Sylia's voice now alluded to the contrary. Priss looked out the window into the sunlight and sighed. "What's the message?"

There was a pause on the other end of the line, then Sylia spoke, her voice as assured as ever. "Please tell Blackie I'd like to see him sometime this afternoon, around 3 p.m., if he isn't busy."

"Sure," Priss responded, "Can I tell him what about?"

This time there wasn't a pause, but the tone of Sylia's voice had changed, a very slight hint of mild irritation seeping in, "Yes. I'd like to discuss his involvement in our current situation."

"I'll tell him."

Just as Sylia was saying thank you, Priss gently hung up the phone.

With both hands behind her on the kitchen counter Priss stared down at her feet again, noting the sunlight's slow but tenacious progress as it moved up from her toes to her ankles. Shaking the depressing thoughts from her mind, she left the kitchen and tossed her T-shirt on the floor, then slipped inside the bathroom and locked the door behind her.

"Chief, are you FUCKING BLIND?!"

Leon slammed his fist down on to the desk in front of him, the force of the blow harmlessly absorbed by a yellow file folder thickly padded with documents bearing the letterhead BIO-TECHNICAL CRIMES DIVISON.

"WHAT DID YOU SAY?!" Chief Todo barked back, adjusting his glasses instinctively.

Leon leaned over the desk a little further. "What, are you deaf too?! Cyborgs or not, these things killed more than a dozen people, then got away right under everyone's noses, and they're still out there somewhere! Are you just gonna sit on your fat ass and--"

"WHAT DO YOU EXPECT ME TO DO ABOUT IT? I don't care how much goddamn research you bring me, my hands are tied!" the Chief responded, getting up out of his chair to more effectively confront the angry officer.

Leon reached out as if to grasp the chief by the collar, then suddenly stopped and withdrew his outstretched hands, his frustration at his inability to do anything reaching its peak. A moment of tense silence fell between them as each man considered the other's situation.

"We've been over this before a hundred times. There's nothing I can do McNichol," the chief finally said, easing back into his chair with a sigh. You of all people should know that. The ADP is ancient history. And there's no way it will ever be reinstated. Not now, not ever."

Leon stared down at the yellow file folder, as the familiar feeling of resignation attempted to take hold again. Filled with all the late night hours that he and Daley had put in to researching the four escaped cyborgs and the severed finger left behind at the Matsumi Military Base, the file folder had seemed like his last chance to resurrect the ADP. To bring back something that he had been missing for a long time. To bring back his sense of purpose. To bring back better times.

But he still wasn't ready to give up. Not yet. He picked up the folder and turned to leave.


Leon stopped at the door, but did not turn to face the chief.

"I know you. Don't even think of pushing this any further with the higher-ups Leon," the chief gently warned. "It's better for everyone to let the military handle this. Besides, I think all of us here deserve the peace and quiet after all the crap we've been through over the years."

Leon stared through the glass at the subdued atmosphere of the office space in front of him. People milled about, some seated casually on the corner of another officer's desk talking about last night's baseball game, while others sipped coffee and idly tapped their pens on their vidphone handsets. Was this what his life had amounted to? Was this really all there would ever be? Was this all that Jeena's death had helped achieve?

"That..." Leon finally replied, his words now fighting to escape between his clenched teeth, "is the biggest load of bullshit, and you know it."

Before the chief could even muster a response, Leon swung the glass door open in front of him, stepped through, and then slammed it shut. Hard. The ear-splitting sound of breaking glass filled the entire office, startling some of the junior officers to the point of drawing their weapons.

Leon shook his head and glared. "Put those away you idiots! AND STOP SLACKING OFF AND GET BACK TO WORK!"

Chief Todo watched the officers scramble for their desks while Leon sat down at his own desk and opened the yellow file folder again. The Chief picked up his vidphone and pressed a single button. "Yeah, get me maintenance up here. I need another door." He set the handset down and stole another glance out at Leon. After a long moment to think, tempered with the occasional curse under his breath, the Chief picked up the handset again and dialed 7 digits.

Sylia set her afternoon cup of tea on her desk, tapped at the keyboard twice, then leaned forward again to continue reading.


After 3 months of pre-testing of the mind-transfer procedure, I have compiled a list of recorded side-effects. Although our initial results with the human test subjects have proven to be very positive, and the side effects seem to only occur in a small group of subjects, these side effects are either minor or severe. There appears to be no middle ground between the two extremes.

The recorded minor side effects include grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and bouts of depression. While these side effects can be controlled and eventually avoided altogether, as of this writing the more severe side effects appear to be unpredictable, and so far unavoidable.

Perhaps related to the minor side effects listed above, some test subjects are exhibiting behavior often observed in schizophrenia patients. They complain of delusions and hallucinations, and in severe cases, claim that there are voices commenting on their thoughts, sometimes even taking part in running conversations within their thoughts.

Early investigation has produced little in the way of answers as to why this is occurring. Further tests will be required.

As for the mind transfer experiments using cybernetic brain models, no side-effects have been reported as of this writing. This is to be expected though, as the cybernetic models were designed from the beginning with this functionality in kind.

Sylia thought about the voice she had heard in her dream the night before. It had been more one-sided than a conversation, the voice always ignoring her. But it was a voice nonetheless, and it was apparently speaking to her. She hadn't experienced any hallucinations or delusions either. Well... just what constituted a delusion or a hallucination anyway?

Sylia continued to read on, hoping that her father had lived long enough to continue his research until they had found a cure for the side effects. But the notes ended a little further down the page, rather abruptly, as if something had happened. She looked at the date on the document. It was time stamped well before his death. What had stopped him from continuing? Had he switched to a new document? But why? The document she was reading had plenty of space left before reaching its storage limit. Strange.

A few more deft keyboard strokes caused the screen to flicker and finally go black. Sylia pushed her chair away from the desk and then walked out of the data room to the training console. As she started pre-loading the various test programs, her thoughts wandered back to her father's notes. Side effects. Hallucinations. Delusions. Voices.

As the hol-opponent flickered to life in the large training room before her, she stared through the glass at the hologram, its pink translucent arms reaching out to attack an opponent that didn't exist. Sylia's thoughtful stare dissolved, until she was staring through the hologram at nothing. Had he ever found a way to avoid the side effects? Had he ever actually perfected the process?

The hologram turned and headed towards the glass barrier, as if sensing her there, but its illuminated "arms" were reflected by the angled glass, and its punches were being directed back upon itself.

Sylia's eyes slowly re-focused in time to witness the hol-opponent attempting to attack itself.

Suddenly she was running back to the data room.

"Computer shopping?" Mackie repeated, his eyebrows rising up in confusion. "That's what you want to do now?"

"Sure! It'll be fun," Nene replied, grabbing Mackie's arm despite the throng of people surrounding them as they left the movie theatre and merged with the flow of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk. "Don't you just love looking at new computer stuff?"

Mackie couldn't believe his ears. He knew she was a computer junkie, but was this what Nene really wanted to do while they were on their second date? Not like he wasn't interested in computers, he thought to himself, but it still seemed... weird. But as they continued walking along with no particular place to go, and the excitement of being downtown all around them, Mackie began to warm up to the idea of checking out the latest in computer stuff. He didn't have much money left after the movie and lunch, but it would still be fun to look.

"So where did you want to go Nene? Maybe Crazy Kenzi's has some new stuff," Mackie offered.

"Crazy Kenzi's?" Nene said, practically spitting out the name. "You *cannot* be serious! Mackie, you don't really buy stuff from that scammer do you?"

"Uh, well, uh, not really , but I--"

"MACKIE!" Nene exclaimed, grasping his arm tighter as she chided him. "He charges at least thirty percent markup! He's a total rip off artist!"

Mackie said nothing, cowering a bit in an effort to hide his embarrassment at being berated so publicly. "Yeah well, where do you buy stuff from then?" he finally shot back.

Nene grinned and pointed to a small shop a few blocks up the street. "See that place?"

Mackie nodded as he struggled to make out the shop's sign, wondering why he had never noticed this computer store before. "Yeah?"

Nene giggled. "Not there."


"See the little alley next to the shop?"

Mackie looked again. Beside the shop was thin sliver of shadow that marked an alley. "Yeah I see it. Sooooo... eh, you mean--"

"Let's go!" was all Nene said in reply as she began dragging Mackie towards the shop by his arm.

The contrasting afternoon shadows of the alley gave way to a small doorway along the right hand wall, the entrance unmarked and rather old looking. Nene looked back towards the street before knocking, the light taps on the door rapped out in an odd pattern. A moment later the door opened and a young boy, maybe thirteen years old, with dark, short, spiked hair stood in the doorway. The boy said nothing in greeting, gesturing for the two visitors to enter as quickly as possible.

Once inside, the boy shut the door and locked it securely with an array of latches and padlocks.


Mackie jumped as the boy yelled excitedly and hugged Nene.

Nene just turned to Mackie with a sheepish grin. "They kind of look up to me here."

Mackie put his hand behind his head and tried his best to smile. What had she gotten him into now?

Nene introduced the two to each other as if she were introducing a prospective member to the president of a prestigious country club. "Oto, this is Mackie. Mackie, Oto."

Oto's eyes slowly widened in awe. "Ohhh! So this is Mackie!"

Mackie flushed at the recognition, wondering just what Nene had told this person about him. "Eh, Hi," was all he could think of to say.

"Hmm," Oto said suddenly, as if scrutinizing Mackie. "He seems a bit dull Nene. Are you sure you want him to--"

"Eh heh! Oto you're such a kidder!" Nene interjected, her hand quickly covering Oto's mouth. "Why don't you show us what you have today eh?"

Oto raised an eyebrow as Nene took her hand back, then grinned. "Okay, fine. This way please!"

Immediately beyond the doorway there was another door. Once beyond the second door, which was well secured like the first with myriad padlocks and latches, a staircase descended into a dark hallway. As they walked along Mackie caught sight of tiny security cameras dotting the corners of the ceiling. Glowing energy locks on several solid steel doors lining the hallway were all that illuminated their path, making Mackie a little uneasy. He stole a glance at Nene in the dim light, her face showing no signs of any anxiety. Facing forward into the darkness, he spotted a square of light in the distance and relaxed a bit, now that their destination seemed to be in sight.

Oto suddenly stopped at one of the solid steel doors, the square of light still in the distance but tantalizing Mackie now with its slightly increased luminescence.

"Hey, Fun boy."

Mackie looked down at Oto in surprise.

"You don't want to find out what that light is," Oto warned, then grinned. "Trust me."

Mackie looked at the light again, then back to Oto.

Oto flipped through a ring of keys until he had unlocked all of the padlocks on the door before them.

The door swung open into darkness. Then, as if sensing their presence, the lights came on one by one as Nene grasped Mackie by the arm and pulled him gently into the room.

Mackie took three steps then stopped dead in his tracks, as the contents of the room were revealed by the slow waking lights.

"Oh... my... god."

"Wow!" Blackie exclaimed, as he wiped the sweat from his brow and fell into one of the lounge chairs. "Now that was a workout!"

Sylia smiled. "How do you feel?"

Blackie took a long swig of water and then set the bottle down beside him. "Like I just got my ass kicked."

Sylia laughed politely, studying Blackie's state of fatigue as he spoke. Once he had completed level 10 in the simulator he had managed to sustain level 11 for twenty-three minutes solid. Priss had barely managed to stay "alive" for more than a minute. She had contemplated introducing him to level 12, since she had never seen level 12 herself, but decided against it for now. There were more pressing matters to attend to. "Well, you did very well considering the complexity of the sequences. I'm impressed."

"Me too," Blackie replied. "I thought I was gonna pass out a couple of times!"

"Well, you're more then welcome to keep training here."

"Really?" Blackie said, his renewed enthusiasm surprising Sylia after the workout he'd just endured.

Sylia nodded, then walked over to the lockers where the hardsuits were kept whenever the Knight Sabers returned to Raven's Garage at the end of the night. From one of the lockers she pulled out the top portion of Blackie's makeshift hardsuit and then closed the locker door. Taking a seat across from Blackie, she placed the black chest plate armor on the table between them and sat back in her chair. "It's a good design," she finally said after a long silence, "but a bit primitive."

Blackie took another drink of water and nodded. "Yeah, but I didn't have a ton of money to put into it. And I really didn't think I'd ever use it either."

"Then why did you build it?" Sylia asked.

Blackie sat still for a moment as if thinking carefully, then finally responded, "I don't know really. I kinda felt compelled to make it ya know? Almost like I wasn't really in control. After watching Dad's data cartridge, I just wanted to make it. No other reason."

"You didn't want revenge for... his death?"

"Maybe a little, at first, yeah."


"But... you beat me to it. It just didn't seem to be important after that."

Sylia thought back to how she had killed Mason, how he had shocked her by guessing her identity, how he had seen her face. Instinct had taken over then. Instinct, fear, and an overwhelming feeling that she knew there was no other course of action. And she had never once questioned her actions since that time. "I see," Sylia finally returned. "Well, that is all in the past thankfully. But we do have another problem on our hands currently."

Blackie nodded. "Yeah. We do."

Sylia said nothing but Blackie still understood her questioning expression. "Well, I mean you. The Knight Sabers."

"You said 'we'."

Blackie stared at the black armor on the table in front of him. "Yeah, well, I meant you actually, and besides, you said you're not hiring so..."

"Yes, I did, didn't I?" Sylia said, her voice sounding odd to Blackie, as if there might be some secondary meaning to her words. He was about to respond when Sylia abruptly stood up and left the room.

Blackie watched curiously through the glass as Sylia began switching on a console situated next to what looked vaguely like a large reclining chair. The chair was overshadowed by a complex looking apparatus attached to a movable hydraulic arm that hung directly above.

"Blackie, could you come here please?" Sylia's voice came clearly from the other room. "I'd like you to try a different test."

Blackie set his water down on the table beside his armor and made his way to where Sylia was waiting.

"Have a seat." Sylia offered, gesturing to the comfortable looking but still somehow intimidating chair.

Blackie paused for a moment, then leapt up into the chair, and immediately remarked on how incredibly comfortable the chair was.

Sylia smiled. "I've spared no expense. This test takes a while so it made sense to make the test subject as comfortable as possible."

Blackie raised an eyebrow. "What kind of test?"

Sylia stopped what she was working on and faced Blackie. "Just lie back and relax. This test is used to compile a database of information about your physiology. I use the collected data to make the hardsuits as comfortable and form fitting as possible, so the wearer will feel like the suit is an extension of themselves, instead of a clumsy shell."

Blackie nodded and grasped the arms of the chair with his hands measuringly. "Ah, I getcha now. Cool."

Sylia continued. "As I mentioned, the test does take a while, about an hour and a half. Would you like to continue?"


"I thought you might. One last thing."


Sylia paused for just a second. "The test does require that the subject be asleep the entire time. This is so the results will not be affected by extremes in your respiratory or cardio systems and I can get a consistent result."

"Oh," Blackie said thoughtfully . "Okay. I'm kinda tired anyway after that workout. Sure, put me under."

Sylia grasped two handles on the side of the hydraulic arm above the chair and gently lowered it over Blackie's head so that only his neck was visible "Actually, you'll fall asleep normally. Anesthesia won't be necessary. This is just a simple test to get an idea of how your body works and its dimensions. Are you ready?"



Blackie hesitated before asking the question. "I'll be asleep the whole time?"


"Will I dream?"

"I don't know," Sylia replied, a little confused by the intent of the question. "I've never had any dreams myself while being tested, and the others have never mentioned anything."

"Okay," Blackie said, with a slight tremor to his reply.

As Sylia tapped in the last few key commands on the console, she watched the monitor that displayed the view from inside the testing module now covering Blackie's head. His eyes were closed already, the hypnotic light's powerful trance inducing pulses going to work immediately. She checked the rest of the readouts. Heart rate, BP, respiratory... all normal.

After a few last checks, Sylia left the steady hum of the testing machinery behind and sat down at her desk in the Data Room. Touching a single key on her computer's console, the darkened monitor came back to life, displaying the document she had been studying before Blackie's arrival.

"Do you understand Leomund? If you don't then I will explain it again. It's important that we--"

"No," Leomund finally responded, trying his best to hide his growing fears. "I understand. Perfectly."

Quincy nodded. "Good. Then when can we begin the procedure?"

Leomund hesitated before answering, his thoughts whirling as he tried to find an escape. But it was too late for that now. He had been lured in with the promise of unlimited funding and a secure environment within which he could pursue his life's dream. Now that dream was no longer his, not even the same dream he had originally conceived.

"I still need to review the data you've provided, but pending that, as soon as you're ready sir."

Quincy nodded again. "I am ready. This shell has outlived its usefulness."

As Leomund looked on, his employer released the wooden box under his arm and pushed it gently across the desk towards Leomund. "I am entrusting this with you now Leomund. This is no less important than any other part of the procedure and should not be considered secondary. If anything should happen to this, then everything we have achieved up to this point will have been for nothing. I need you Leomund. Only you can help me now." Quincy capped the statement with a steady gaze that was intended to impress upon Leomund the significance of the item in the box. But Leomund needed no such assurance. From his employer's detailed description of the device, its deployment would be crucial to maintaining absolute control over the next phase of the project.

Leomund nodded, and dismissed himself.

As Leomund made his way back to his own room, the strange wooden box under his arm, his thoughts became more and more anxious as he reconsidered the options available to him. With the four prototype cyborgs away, escape was now an option he could seriously entertain. But there was something about Quincy that unnerved him, something that ultimately deterred him from thinking about leaving. As illogical as it seemed, he could not help but think that Quincy, even if he was an old man and obviously very ill, could still stop him from leaving somehow. Much like the device he was carrying, it was like some unseen force that could reach across vast distances to control his thoughts, his fears, his memories, and his dreams. With that kind of power, he did not want to be on the outside when it was unleashed.

Leomund set the box down on his desk and fell into his chair with a sigh. After resting his eyes for a moment, he turned to face his computer and activated the terminal. To his right, lying on his desk where Quincy had left it, was a data cartridge labeled "MASTER - 707 HIGH". Leomund shrugged and inserted the data cartridge into a loading slot. There was no turning back now.

V7-28 sat motionless in his office chair, trying to conserve every ounce of energy until required. His boomer shell was rapidly approaching the end of its lifespan. The cyborgs had failed to capture the subject. And Leomund's confidence in the new project seemed to be waning, if he had ever had confidence in the first place.

No matter, he thought to himself. It won't be long now. And when the procedure is completed, his mission would finally be within his grasp again. All of the time spent waiting and depending on humans could be finally reclaimed. His god would finally be proud, and his own ambitions could be pursued to their fullest extent, with no one to stand in his way this time.

V7-28 closed his eyes, his non-essential processes shutting down one by one until he was left in a state not unlike what humans refer to as sleep. But as the last processes finished closing out, his thoughts were emptied completely. Unable to worry, and unable to dream, V7-28 slept without a care in the world.

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