Bubblegum Cross

By Andy Skuse ~ askuse7@hotmail.com

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

Chapter 22. Out Of Mind...


Blackie opened his eyes to darkness so complete that he was unsure if he'd opened his eyes at all. He blinked a few times uncertainly, but the darkness remained. As he reached out experimentally to find something to hold on to he began to fall.

Although he could not see where he was the sensation of falling from a great height was unmistakable. His arms and legs began to flail about instinctively, blindly resisting the inevitable as his fear multiplied. Seconds raced by, the fear of certain death now overwhelming any random thoughts of survival.

Falling, falling, falling...

Wait a sec... just wait...

Why couldn't he hear his screams?

Total silence...

Suddenly his fall ended, without the expected bone jarring impact, and he could feel some kind of flat surface beneath him as he caught his breath. The pounding in his heart and the nervous energy in his limbs gradually subsided until he had gathered enough courage to attempt to stand up.

'No,' he thought to himself as he stood. Somehow he knew that he would not fall now.

"Sylia!" he called out, this time hearing his own voice very clearly. But there was no response, nor any kind of echo to gauge the size of the room he was in. If he was in a room at all.

Drifting in from a great distance as if carried on a warm summer wind, Blackie heard the sound of a woman's voice. She was singing but he could not make out the words or where it was coming from.

"I don't... but if I can hear her, why can't I--"

As the last words were spoken, the darkness opened up like a curtain, pulled back and gathered up until Blackie could see the familiar furnishings of his apartment in front of him. The darkness did not leave him completely though. Only enough to leave an indistinct and ever shifting frame of shadow at the outer edges of his eyesight. Directly in front of him he saw a door. And from beyond the door, he could hear the sound of water splashing and a woman singing.


Blackie moved forward towards the door, not feeling his footsteps as he drew closer. His hand suddenly shot into view, reaching for the door handle.

Turning, turning, turning...

The door finally opened, and the cool night wind was whipping at his legs and arms as his bike propelled him down a familiar highway. The street lamps shone down on him, their rhythmically alternating yellow beams delivering him from shadow to light, as if hand over hand. The streetlights arced away into the distance, forming a curving horizon of amber and midnight blue that went on forever.

Riding, riding, riding...

Something suddenly broke the horizon. Something vast. Looming over the lighted city that now stretched out before him like an inverted starry dome. Something dominating, something quietly powerful, something so massive that it could not be hidden. Yet he still could not see it. Raising his eyes from the lights of the city, he saw a shadow rising above the lights, almost obscured by the glow of the city and the deep blue of the evening sky. In the distance, a triangular feature, rising into the night with such grace and gradually sloping sides that Blackie did not think anything of it at first. As his eyes eventually fixed upon the shadow far off in the distance, he felt what his sight could not reveal. A vault of captive emotions, of growing desperation, of incredible faith, of intense hatred, and most strongly, great ambition.

His bike was gone his legs now propelling him forward ever faster towards the shadow. But no matter how fast he ran, the mountain of black maintained its distance from him.

* * * *

The steady stream of numbers coming back from the analyzer cascaded down the monitor screens like a waterfall of cathode green lending a flickering effect to the dim lighting in the data room. Sylia looked up briefly to glance over at the data stream, then turned her attention back to her computer and resumed typing. Reaching the end of the paragraph she was working on, she saved the new document and read back what she had typed.

Monday October 11th 2038 4:15 P.M. - S. Stingray

Having undergone the transfer process myself as a child, and after possibly experiencing some of the side effects described in the original documentation, I have decided to begin researching alternative treatment of the side effects.

Based on self-observations and first-hand observation of another recipient I believe the answer may lie in the transfer process itself. Further testing will be necessary but it is my hope that the side effects can be eliminated or at least decreased in their intensity.

Not completely satisfied, she made a few minor adjustments, read them carefully and then saved the document one more time. As she removed the data cartridge and placed it on her desk, the physio analysis machine in the other room began to beep softly. Sylia took one last look at the numbers that had finally halted their descent, and then left the data room to wake Blackie.

* * * *

Blackie turned away from the shadow in the distance, feeling something grasping at his arms.

A blinding light abruptly surrounded him, causing him to raise his arm instinctively to shield his eyes. Slowly, as if turned down by a dial, the glare subsided until he could lower his arm. The light had now changed hue, dividing into shifting beams of deep emerald green shining down from above. He was standing on the stage at the Hot Legs, the worn wooden stage floorboards feeling strangely familiar under his feet. Loud music pounded the air around him, but his guitar was not in his hands. He looked around the stage for the instrument becoming more and more frantic until the tugging at his arms pulled him away from his search.

Peering through the smoke and light in front of him a silhouette appeared gradually becoming more clearly defined. The silhouette of a woman. It must be Priss, he reasoned, but her back was to him. His missing guitar momentarily forgotten, Blackie smiled and stepped forward to stand beside the silhouette to enjoy the sensation of reliving such a memorable moment.

Just as quickly as it had appeared Blackie's smile vanished as the silhouette turned to face him. It was Sylia. And she was singing to him...

"Blackie, wake up. Blackie..."

Blackie opened his eyes to see Sylia standing over him. "Sylia, it was you."

Sylia blinked as she helped Blackie to sit up. "It was?"

Blackie nodded emphatically. "Yes. And you were singing."



Sylia looked carefully at Blackie's eyes studying the dilation of the pupils. "Me? Singing? Hm. Then you were dreaming I take it?"

Blackie nodded again. "Yeah, but it was so different than any other dream I've had. I was like, in total control. Well, not at first anyway. But after a while I could hear everything and I could see everything, like Priss, and then you. But there was one thing I saw that stayed hidden and--"

"Hidden? What was it?" Sylia interrupted, her curiosity now peaked.

"Well," Blackie continued his voice still full of excitement. "I wasn't really sure. But it looked like a mountain way off in the distance. Really far away. So far away I could never quite reach it."

"I see," Sylia remarked. "Sounds like an interesting dream."

Blackie grinned. "Hell yeah! It was like I was right there too! I'd swear I was right there."

Sylia smiled gently and gestured for Blackie to step down from the analysis chair.

"But there was one really weird thing that happened..." Blackie added, a touch of concern in his words.

"Yes?" Sylia said, as she turned off the power on the instrument panel hovering over the analysis chair.

"My guitar..."

"What about it?"

"I couldn't find it. Anywhere."

"No? Why were you looking for it?"

"I... I guess... well it just should've been there," Blackie replied, the finality of the answer creating a thoughtful silence as Sylia led him back to the rest lounge.

"Dreams are very unpredictable, aren't they?" Sylia eventually asked, taking a seat. "Speaking of which... is the band playing again tonight?"

Blackie shook his head. "Nope. The bar owner just booked us for the one night."

"Hm. That's kind of unusual, isn't it?" Sylia remarked.

"Eh, well," Blackie replied uncomfortably, "The owner wasn't really sure how well we'd do. Considering the changes and all..."

Sylia raised an eyebrow. "I don't think I follow you. The changes were for the better weren't they?"

Blackie tried his best to smile through his response, "Oh yeah, but... Priss... well, she hasn't been doing anything lately ya know? He wasn't sure--I mean the bar owner wasn't sure--that she was still up to it."

Sylia stared down at the piece of black armor still lying on the table in front of them and said nothing.

"But I told him that Priss was still in top shape! I knew she could still do it." Blackie added emphatically.

Sylia nodded gently. "You and Priss... you're getting along well aren't you?"

Blackie smiled and nodded. "She's great. We get along great."

Sylia looked up at Blackie's smiling face. "I'm glad."

The thoughtful silence returned as Sylia contemplated how to ask her next question. She already knew how Priss would react, but without him--

"So how did the analysis go?" Blackie said abruptly. "Am I in shape or do I need to cut back on the burgers?"

Sylia smiled. "No, you're in excellent shape, but--"

Blackie waited for a moment, expecting Sylia to continue. "But?"

Looking up suddenly as if snapping out of a trance, Sylia shook her head and stood up. "Nothing. It's nothing. I think maybe it's time we called it a day don't you?"

Blackie looked down at the armor on the table and then back to Sylia feeling as if there was something more to say. "I guess, uh, sure. Can I come back tomorrow though?"

Sylia turned off the lights in the lounge. "Of course. Three o'clock then?"

Blackie nodded, then headed for the stairway up to the garage.

* * * *

"Isn't it amazing?" Nene asked, her voice echoing off the walls as she walked towards the middle of the immense room.

Mackie stood near the doorway, still in shock.

"Heh, they all do that when they see this room," Oto commented to himself with a grin, locking the door behind them. "Go ahead Fun Boy, take a look. You may never get another chance."

Windowless and devoid of any kind of furnishings, it was typical of most storage buildings in the area. A packed dirt floor, several constantly running humidifiers, and stacks of empty wooden crates nearly completed the picture. What made this room unique were the rows of heavy-duty metal shelving that reached to the ceiling of the twenty foot high room, each holding several hundred rectangular boxes of widely varying sizes, shapes, colors... and functions.

Mackie finally snapped out of his trance as Nene latched onto his arm again. "Look over here! This one is still in mint shape!" Mackie slowly reached out to touch the metal and plastic with trembling fingers. As he wandered through the maze of shelves, he spotted several models that he had only read about on Pri-Net[1]. Machines that were revered as legendary for their unique, almost sentient, capabilities when trying to acquire information. Machines that he had only dreamed about. And here they were, all in one place, real to the touch and mythical to behold.

Occasionally Nene would call out to him from a few rows away excitedly, urging him to come see a particular model that she found utterly irresistible. As their browsing reached a fevered peak, a feeling came over Mackie that the one he was really looking for was here. Somewhere, around the next corner maybe? It was too much to hope...

And then he saw it.

Oto was sitting on a crate against the wall enjoying a cigarette when suddenly he heard Mackie cry out. "Ah, looks like Fun Boy found something," he grinned, extinguishing his half-finished smoke under his heel.

"What is it Mackie? What did you find?" Nene inquired sensing Mackie's excitement.

Oto made his way through the maze until he found the pair both hunched over a large, dusty, black and blue cube. He smirked. "Well Nene your boyfriend gets points for his taste in appliances."

Nene blushed and laughed. "Oto! He's not my boyfriend! We're just--"

"Is this... is this really...?" Mackie interrupted, his excitement causing his hand to tremble as he pointed.

Nene crossed her arms and glared at Mackie, as if she were waiting for him to say something.

Oto chuckled as he watched Nene fume, then turned to Mackie and gave him a nudge with his elbow. "You may have a good eye for the toys F.B. but it's not so sharp when it comes to seeing between the lines."

Mackie's expression quickly changed to utter confusion as he studied Oto's face for the meaning of the cryptic comment. "Huh?"

Nene placed her hands on her hips, looked down at the ground and then sighed.

Oto shook his head and laughed again. "Yeah kid, it's a '33 Kazan SatDriver Cube. All original components, plus a few hard to find upgrades that the military can't even get now. You uh... know how to use one of those things?"

Nene suddenly piped up in Mackie's defense, surprising Oto. "When it comes to satellite linking, Mackie is the best there is."

Mackie looked over at Nene with wide eyes and reddening cheeks. "Nene..."

Oto blinked. "Serious?"

Nene nodded, then added with a sigh, "He may not be very quick when it comes to ground communications, but he knows his satellite stuff."

Oto laughed out loud and winked at Nene. "Roger that. Hmm, you surprise me Fun Boy. I had you pegged as a cowboy but I guess I was wrong."

Mackie looked at Oto, then Nene, and then back to Oto as the two continued to laugh. "Eh, I know I missed something there," he muttered. "But uh, how much is the Kazan anyway?"

Oto's laugh subsided very quickly, his outward boyish appearance suddenly disappearing as he sized up Mackie. "You know how much this thing is worth? Hm?"

Mackie nodded once. "I have an idea."

The computer merchant scratched his chin and took a few steps away, then turned back suddenly to face Mackie with a very serious look. "Then make me an offer kid. And don't insult me."

Mackie smiled confidently for the first time since meeting Oto. "Oh don't worry about that. I think I know someone who can cover the cost and then some. But she'll want to know everything about who she is dealing with. For instance, this stuff isn't hot is it?"

Oto grinned, suddenly sensing a bigger deal in the works. "No. It's all completely legit. I'm a collector, not a thief, right Nene? Now, who is this buyer you're referring to?"

* * * *

Leon took a last drag on the remains of his cigarette as he stared out from the balcony at the city in the distance. An evening train rumbled past the apartment building, packed with commuters heading home late from work. As the familiar roar faded away, he tossed his cigarette into the ashtray under his chair, then picked up the glass of beer at his elbow and drained the last mouthful.

Setting the empty glass back down on the table, he picked up the yellow file folder in his lap and began idly flipping through the contents again. The light spilling out onto the dark balcony from the living room was not nearly enough to read by, but it did not deter the former AD Police officer from instinctively noting other important aspects of the folder. The well thumbed pages, the orderly alignment of the documents, the dried coffee stain on the cover. The tiny details that he was trained to look for. He stared at the folder for a long time and then slammed it down on the table beside him and cursed.

"Hey, you okay?" Linna called from inside the apartment.

"Yeah," Leon lied, lighting another cigarette. "Just great".

Linna slid the balcony screen door aside and poked her head through. "Sure?"

The former AD Police officer rested his head against the back of his chair and closed his eyes.

Linna paused for a moment to gauge Leon's state of mind then quietly closed the screen door behind her.

"Oof!" Leon exclaimed as he opened his eyes in surprise to see Linna now sitting astride his waist.

"Hey, I'm not that heavy," Linna stated with a smirk as she gently pressed into Leon's chest and wrapped her arms around his neck.

Leon smiled, enjoying the comforting feeling of Linna's body against his in the darkness. "I know. But I'm not sure the chair knows."

Linna sat up and glared at Leon, the curves of her face lined with the dim glow from the apartment. She slapped his chest, trying her best to hide a mischievous smile. "Smart ass. Let the chair speak for itself."

The two sat still and waited, hearing only the familiar sounds of the suburbs at dinnertime.

"Smart chair," Leon said with a tired grin.

"Very smart," Linna agreed. "It knows when to keep its mouth shut. You on the other hand..."

Leon's expression clouded over suddenly.

"What?" Linna implored, her hands gently squeezing Leon's shoulders.

Leon shook his head in frustration and took a long drag on his cigarette. "It doesn't matter Hon. I can't do anything about it anyway."

"Ehh? Leon McNichol giving up on something? This sounds serious!" Linna responded firmly. "Is it work?"

Leon just nodded.


Leon looked up into Linna's eyes, then nodded again.

Linna sighed. "How long do you think you can go on like this? You know they can't reinstate the ADP without a serious threat of boomers going crazy in the--"

"They ARE boomers for fuck's sake, and they're still out there!" Leon ejected impulsively. "Damn, I'm sorry Hon," he quickly apologized. "I didn't mean to..."

Linna nodded slowly as she looked into Leon's tired eyes, seeing for the first time just how much this was affecting him. It had been difficult to adjust at first, when the AD Police had been redesigned as a Bio Technical Crimes division of the N-Police. But Leon had taken on the challenge the same way that he dealt with any new problem, and those first few years had kept him busy. But in the past few months the BTC had been idle most of the time as the biological crime rate dropped significantly. A case of doing their jobs too well perhaps. And though Linna felt a little better knowing that Leon wasn't in the line of fire as often as he used to be, she also knew that he did not like to sit on his butt. He was a man who needed something to do with his energy and ambition. Unfortunately the biological criminals of the world weren't obliging him.

"Listen tough guy," Linna began, making sure she had Leon's undivided attention. "If you believe that this city needs the ADP back, then maybe you should push the issue this time."

Leon shook his head. "I've tried, believe me. The chief won't help, and he'd have a real cardiac if I went over his head. I just don't know what to--" Leon stopped talking abruptly, his lips suddenly sealed tight between Linna's fingers.

"Is this really the Leon McNichol I know?" Linna asked, her eyes blazing in the dim light. "Is this the same person that used to jump into a fight with a combat class boomer with nothing but a big gun and dark glasses?"

Leon grinned sheepishly.

"And is this the former ADP officer who took on a battlemover with a K-12?"

Leon twitched at the memory.

"And is this the same Leon McNichol..." Linna paused for effect, "That took down a superboomer with one bullet to the head? Hmm? Is it?"

Linna looked deep into Leon's eyes as he tried to avert her intent gaze. "Look at me Leon."

Leon sighed, then stared into Linna's darkened eyes, held fast by the intensity of her plea as she spoke. "It doesn't matter if the people that died were military personnel or not. They were still human beings hon. We weren't enough to stop those boomers from killing innocent people this time. But maybe someone else could have. Someone like you."

"You don't understand Linna," Leon began to argue, but again he was stopped.

"I think I understand quite well actually," Linna countered, the edge in her voice throwing Leon off guard. "I was there, remember? And I saw what those cyborgs or boomers or whatever the hell they are, did. And they killed those two ambulance drivers as well. Someone... you... has to make sure they don't hurt innocent people again. This city needs you again."

A warm breeze washed over the balcony as Leon silently absorbed what Linna was telling him. But he still wasn't convinced. It had been so long, and there were so many hurdles, so many committees to fight with, and last but not least, one division chief who wanted a rest.

"I believe in you," Linna suddenly whispered, breaking Leon's train of thought. Leaning forward she kissed him gently on the forehead, then broke their cozy embrace and headed inside.

For a long while Leon sat alone on the balcony listening to the nighttime sounds, watching the stars come out. Finally, he stood up and looked towards the glow of the downtown core trying to identify the individual skyscrapers that rose up and got lost in the darkness. "Maybe you believe in me, but will they?"

Footnotes: [1] "Private Internetwork"

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