By Andy Skuse ~ email@example.com
A Bubblegum Crisis Fanfiction (C) 1995-2000
Based on characters copyrighted by Youmex, AIC, Artmic
Chapter 7. Field Test
Nene broke the tense silence that had fallen on the interior of the Knight Saber's van, as they completed their final preparations. "Sylia, I've finished the remote scan of the base. There's something really strange about these boomers, if that's what they are."
Mackie chimed in, "She's right Sis. I'm not seeing anything in Nene's scans that indicate there are boomers inside that building."
Sylia shifted slightly in her hard-suit, its snugness feeling strangely
unfamiliar as she moved to the doorway. " Run another check on the data
and fill me in as we go. We've kept those hostages waiting long enough.
Knight Sabers- it's show time."
Blackie pocketed his keys and stared into the gloom of his darkened kitchen. Upon closing the front door, his hand reached for the light panel beside the door-frame and flicked it on. His heart fell as he entered the front room and spotted the vacant couch. A quick scan of the room revealed that his guest was gone. He stood silently in the middle of the room for a moment, remembering the sound of her voice. His gaze fell on the small wooden chair beside the couch and a scrap of white paper that lay in the center of it. Blackie snatched up the paper and flipped it over.
The words on the paper suddenly began to spin around in his mind, clashing with the vivid images of her face, that would not fade. He sat down heavily on the couch and held his head in his hands, trying to convince himself that she wouldn't lie. Not her! Maybe she was a bit withdrawn sometimes, but she was like him. She wouldn't lie! She was *just* like him. Wasn't she?
He looked up slowly, his ears suddenly picking up a faint noise. The little TV at the foot of the couch had been left on, and the images on the screen slowly drew Blackie's attention from thoughts of his guest's disappearance. A shaky, helicopter-mounted, video camera was transmitting live pictures of a floodlit building, its parking lot filled with AD Police and military vehicles. Blackie reached for the volume and listened intently as the on-scene reporter finished interviewing an important looking police officer, and began a recap of the crisis at the Matsumi Military Base.
As he listened to the reporter's account, his eyes narrowed when he spotted the Knight Saber's armored forms, as they embarked from a dark blue van and approached the building. Their figures cut in front of the floodlights at the building's edge, casting four distended shadows on the buildings front wall.
The helicopter's camera suddenly zoomed out as the Knight Sabers shot into the night sky, disappearing for a moment, and then zoomed in again to show the four figures kneeling around a skylight on the building's roof. The view then switched back to the reporter and then to a slow pan of the jammed parking lot.
Blackie turned off the TV and sat still for a few minutes, staring up at the large, Japanese tapestry that almost completely covered the wall facing him. Every so often, his face would contort and his eyes would narrow to little more than slits, while his thoughts would suddenly voice themselves. Barely rising above a whisper, the words that escaped his lips were sharp, quick and forceful, rising and falling in pitch, as if engaging their creator in some sort of silent debate.
Looking once more at the ancient setting depicted on the tapestry, he focused on the individual figures that dotted the embroidered landscape. A group of colorfully armored samurai warriors on horse-back charged headlong into a phalanx of spear-wielding infantry while samurai on the ground stood toe-to-toe with would-be opponents, their katanas raised behind their heads in an awkward-looking sideways manner. At each end of the tapestry, a shogun sat upon an ornate, wooden throne, perched high above the battle-field on a hill. The shogun's faces were stern and focused, almost robotic in their concentration.
Behind each throne, colorful banners flew in the wind, upon them the symbols of each armies family clan. At the end of the wall-hanging closest to the window, the name Minamoto flew proudly while at the other, the kanji symbols trumpeted the Taira clan's lineage. Blackie stared hard at the figures, speaking softly to himself until his whispers finally diminished to silence.
Abruptly he rose, and crossed the room in a quick even stride. He swung
the tapestry back carefully, and heaved on the inset brass ring attached to
the battered closet door. After pausing to look into the pitch black tunnel
ahead of him, he disappeared into its murk.
In the mountain laboratory, high above the unfolding scenario at the Matsumi military base, Dr. Leomund Sholtan finished his last set of preliminary tests. Staring up at the glowing multi-vision TV screens in the dim confines of the main operations room, Leomund blinked a few times, and then closed his eyes tightly. Slowly, the pain surged in his strained eyes and then ebbed away, a few drops of salty moisture forming at the corners of his eyelids. He wiped them away with the edge of his hand and then looked back up at the screens.
The image of four, tall, human figures standing stoically in a large hall, surrounded on all four sides by military personnel crouched against the four walls, flickered erratically. Static and snowy interference distorted the image, combining with the silence in the control room to create a haunting view. 'Well at least the alias modifiers are functioning stably,' he thought to himself. If those ever failed the whole project would be a disaster.
Leomund quietly urged a frustrated looking technician to boost the amplitude of the video signal coming from the military bases's digital link. The technician threw up his hands and then returned to his work on a wiring panel at the end of a large console. Leomund cursed at the man's back and turned sharply on his heels.
Leaving the control room he crossed the corridor and shoved hard on his office door. The vidphone's console was blinking for attention as he sat down in his chair to rest. He grabbed the handset and stabbed at the illuminated button.
"Leomund, the video signal from the base is not what I had hoped for. You know that the signal is going to have to improve if I am to make my demands clearly."
Leomund listened to the anonymous investor's confident tones and fumbled for a reply. "Sir, we're doing all we can at this end. I assure you that nothing will interfere with your connection to the base. We await your signal for the video lockout."
The voice on the other end of the phone suddenly grew cold. "Leomund, I haven't asked for much, have I? Human error is not acceptable at this stage. Please inspire your people to improve the image clarity or I may be forced to come up there myself. And that's not something that you want to happen at this stage, is it?"
Leomund hesitated, as he digested the implications of the investor's threat.
"No Sir. We'll repair it right away sir."
"Thank you Leomund. Lockout will begin in five minutes."
"Very well sir."
Leomund set the handset back down and settled back into his chair for a
moment, listening to his heart pound in his ears. It was becoming apparent
that the project had a few bugs. He only hoped that they didn't show up
during the field test or he suspected that he might actually meet his unseen
benefactor. And that meeting he felt sure, would not be one that he would
ever get to talk about with any of his colleagues. Ever.
Priss' eyes strained to cut through the blackness for a moment, as she stared down into the dusty skylight to the main hall below her. Suddenly her night-vision display cut in, transforming the view below to a shimmering green arena. She immediately spotted the four boomers, standing stock-still in the center of the room, unmoving, and unaware of their presence. Until someone could prove to her different, she would continue to think of them as boomers. It would make it a lot easier to do her job.
Sylia's whispering voice came through everyone's intercom abruptly, causing the other members to start. "Mackie, have you confirmed Nene's earlier opp status check?"
Mackie's distorted voice replied, "Sis, it's still coming back the same. Everything we send at them bounces back as flesh and blood. I've already run a wide diagnostic of the system and it's telling me everything's fine. The good news is, I've got a video link to the base's security channel. Nothing much to report though. It's not a very strong signal."
Sylia gently sighed, the sound being carried to her companions ears through the intercom.
"What are we waiting for?" Priss hissed, causing her still throbbing
head to pound a little more. "We just drop in and take 'em out! They won't
know what hit 'em!"
In the mountain laboratory's control room, a stony voice emanated from the loud-speaker system, interrupting the silence:
"Video lockout in three minutes."
Leon shifted uneasily inside the cramped interior of the military's video truck, jockeying for a better view of the monitor bank. He didn't think he would feel this helpless. His instincts gnawed at him, telling him he was right about his theory. Linna's questioning tones flashed through his mind, attacking his gut feeling and boosting his self-doubt. 'Damn! If only I had some proof,' he thought.
Glancing at the monitor in the bottom left hand corner of the grid, he spotted a shadow he hadn't noticed before. Inching forward through the hushed group of a dozen or so soldiers, he strained his eyes to pick out details of the shadow. Small, circular in shape with an oblong shadow stemming from its edge. His eyes suddenly widened, as the shadow's source became recognizable.
At the edge of the camera's field of view, lying face up, in full view
of the other hostages, was the severed human head of the dead, thirty-second
Sylia's helmet swung up sharply to face Priss. "It's not that simple! This is a trap if I've ever seen one, and we don't need any crazy stunts right now!"
Nene interjected, "Then what are we going to do? Who know's if they'll get impatient and decide to kill another hostage!"
"Relax Nene. That won't happen. Look- both the military and the police have tried negotiating with them, and from what the general told me, that term isn't even in their vocabulary. They've killed one hostage, but that was some time ago. It's our job to see if we can first get them to release the rest of the hostages, and then we deal with them. Does everyone understand?"
Priss let an exasperated sigh escape. "Oh, right! So we drop down in there and ask them to politely let the hostages go! They'll cut us to pieces!"
"No they won't," Sylia countered. "They've been waiting for us to show up here. It's the Knight Sabers they really want."
Two helmets suddenly swung over to stare at Sylia. Linna kept staring down through the skylight.
Priss spoke first, "How the hell- ?"
Sylia's hand gesture cut her off. "It doesn't matter now. But it would be wise to keep your head up this time Priss. We all know by now that this is not a routine boomer retirement."
As the word 'retirement' rolled off her tongue, the whispers she thought she'd heard earlier came to mind, and then vanished, shoved out by the matter at hand.
"Enough discussion. Remember to use your pitch jets so we don't land on top of them. Ready? We go in on my mark."
The four figures on the rooftop rose to their feet and readied themselves to descend. Sylia took one last look at the positions of the four 'boomers', some fifteen feet below.
Throughout the main hall, a single, short, high-pitched whistle pierced the silence, followed immediately by the ear-splitting din of descending shards of glass.
Sylia hit the ground hard, but her suit absorbed the majority of the impact and she found herself standing on her feet. With a lightning fast maneuver, her right arm swung upwards as she locked her visor's sights on one of the four figures in the center of the room. Tiny crystals of glass continued to descend from the shattered skylight, glittering like emeralds in her visor's green, night-vision display. Amid the shower of glass, the four silhouetted figures remained motionless.
"Targets locked!" came a trio of voices over the intercom. Sylia took a quick breath, visually checked her target's still motionless form, and then switched her intercom over to speaker mode.
"Stay right where you are. We know what you want. Let these people go
first and then we'll talk."
"Video lockout in two minutes."
The figure in Sylia's sights suddenly raised its arm, the motion itself a sharp, almost imperceptible jerk. Her suit systems cried out in alarm, sending commands to its power-core for a build-up. Amazingly, none of her companions fired, but the reason quickly became clear. The figure was pointing at the nearest hallway that connected to the building's front exit. Sylia felt her own heartbeat pound, the strangeness of these cybernetic creations rekindling an almost forgotten, smouldering, hatred inside her. Her opponents were living up to her fears.
Linna watched in surprise from her vantage point across the room as the hostages hesitated to rise, not knowing of their fear of their captor's horrible reprisal, demonstrated earlier that night. Slowly though, they stood, testing even the patience of the Knight Saber's leader. "Let's go, move it!" Sylia commanded through her suit's speaker.
The hostages stared at her with widened eyes and then began to accelerate their flight. Some dared to look back for a glance at their liberators, while most just shuffled out, exhilarating that they would not share the fate of their beheaded co-worker.
Nene cried out suddenly, "Sylia! I'm detecting some kind of power surge. It's definitely coming from the- whatever they are!"
Priss flexed her knees and tensed her right arm ."Let's rock!"
Sylia turned back to face her opponent, just as it finished tapping a few delicate commands into a keypad attached to its arm. "Wait Priss! The hostages aren't all out yet and we're in a cross-fire!"
No sooner had her words left her lips, then the dark room erupted into a
wash of blue light. Each Knight Saber reached up to cover her eyes as their
visor's NV displays suddenly flared into a blinding mask of bright green.
"Video lockout commencing."
Leon suddenly pushed forward through the stunned group of soldiers to reach the control desk."Whaddya mean you've lost the video!!? Get it back pronto, or you'll be back in boot camp!"
The soldier wrestled with the video truck's controls while he wondered how the AD Police detective could make good on his threat. The monitor bank continued to defy his frantic efforts, remaining a grid of static-filled squares.
Leon slammed his fist on the edge of the control desk and then quickly turned to shove his way back to the truck's exit. As soon as he emerged, his eyes locked on the dark, blue utility van on the edge of the parking lot. To his left, a line of soldier's and police officers were helping the emerging hostages to a waiting bus at the back of the lot. To his right the general stood with his arms folded across his chest and a slight smile on his face as he watched the hostages board the bus. 'You won't be smiling for too long,' Leon thought to himself, 'When you remember how much you owe somebody for pulling this off.'
Leon began to walk towards the blue van, picking up his pace as he neared the edge of the parking lot.
Mackie jumped in his seat as several loud thumps woke him from his own intense struggle with the lost video feed. On the monitor screen marked "EXTERNAL - REAR", a figure wearing dark sunglasses stood tapping his foot impatiently on the pavement. He slid the back door open to reveal Leon's smiling face. "Got room for one more?"
Mackie sighed and motioned Leon to enter.
Leon climbed the metal steps and stole a quick glance back at where the smiling general still stood. "This ain't over yet you son-of-a-bitch."
The blue metal door slid shut firmly, followed by a metallic 'click'.