By Andy Skuse ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
A Bubblegum Crisis Fanfiction (C) 1995-2000
Based on characters copyrighted by Youmex, AIC, Artmic
Chapter 9. The Enemy Within
"That's odd," Sylia replied. "I don't think Sylia has a half-brother, that I am aware of."
Blackie looked at where he thought the hard-suited woman's eyes would be behind her visor, and smiled grimly. "That's probably because she doesn't even know that I exist. But I can prove it to her, if you could take me to see her."
Sylia glanced at Mackie noting his confused expression, and then paused for a moment to consider the cyborg's possible intentions with this charade. Perhaps it was another part of this whole evening's elaborate 'test' that they had just survived. The phony hostage-taking, the video cameras, and the "vision-test'. All of it, she was sure, was part of someone's attempt to find out if the Knight Sabers were still active, and if so, to find out if they were still capable. Sylia thought wishfully that the jury would still be out on that count, but one thing was for sure; if this cyborg had not shown up when it did, they would not be having this conversation. Perhaps a look at this 'proof' that it said it had would be in order.
Sylia's thoughts were interrupted by a trio of thumps on the back door and the sound of Priss' voice in her intercom. "Sylia, the news cameras are headed this way. I think it's time we split. Are you done questioning our 'hero' yet?"
"For the moment Priss. You and Linna load your motoroids into the van. Nene, I need you in here now to see if you can locate our boomers. And keep your hard-suit and helmet on. All of you keep them on. Got it?"
"That's an affirmative boss!"
Suddenly Priss' voice took on a disconnected tone that directed her next statement to her companions with her outside the van. "I'm calling shotgun on the couch! My back is killing me!"
Sylia listened to the good-natured bickering that followed for a moment, and then switched her intercom off. The muffled sounds of the mini-cranes loading the motoroids reached her ears- and her guests. "Uh, are we going somewhere?" Blackie started with a nervous look on his face. "I gotta get my bike!"
Sylia smiled briefly to herself, thinking about how much this cyborg reminded her of Priss. Then the smile faded. "Your bike will be fine. One of my companions will ride it for you. Keys?"
Blackie balked at the request. "I'm sorry, but no-one rides my bike but me. I'll follow you."
Sylia responded negatively. "That is not an option. I can't have you knowing where we are going, so you will ride with us- that is, if you're still interested in meeting Ms. Stingray?"
Blackie's face showed a genuine trace of anxiety. The first real display of human emotion that Sylia had seen, and a signal to her better judgement that maybe the cyborg wasn't quite as dangerous as she had initially thought. Sylia decided to use this situation as a test of her own. "She's an excellent driver," she began,"and she'll treat your bike with the same respect that you would. You'll just have to trust us if you want to meet Ms. Stingray and show her this proof of who you say you are. You can't leave your bike here. Someone will trace the license plate, and I can tell you that if they caught you on the road like you are now, the police will want to talk to you about that weapon of yours."
Blackie looked down at his laser-katana, and then back up at the white hard-suit in defeat. He had no choice. He had come this far, farther than he'd ever dared in the past. He held his keys out slowly to her. Sylia took the keys and signalled Priss on the intercom.
"We're just about done Sylia- HEY! Get that camera out of my face asshole!!"
Priss' voice calmed down again after a persistent camera man had backed away from her, "Sorry Sylia. What is it?"
"Priss, I need you to ride our friend's motorcycle for him. He'll be riding with us in the van. Use the shortcut, and please- avoid the THP at all costs."
"What?! The shortcut? But I called the couch! Sylia my back is really killing me and my head is still a little sore. What about security and-"
"I'm sorry Priss. But I need *you* to do this for me."
The back door swung open suddenly, flooding the dim confines of the van's 'rest area' with light from a street lamp at the edge of the parking lot. Priss poked her head and an arm inside to receive the keys when she saw the face of the man in the black hard-suit. The keys fell from Sylia's grasp into the center of Priss' open palm, but then slipped through the outstretched gloved fingers onto the floor with a soft clinking sound.
For just a few seconds, Priss could neither move nor speak as she stared wide-eyed with shock into Blackie's worried eyes. "Please be careful with it," Blackie begged the blue hard-suited woman, "It's a customized bike and if anything ever happened-"
Sylia raised a hand into the air in front of her in a calming gesture. "I assure you- Blackie was it?" Blackie nodded while Priss remained immobile, "I assure you that nothing will happen to your bike. She will treat it just like it was her own.
Sylia waited for Priss to snap back at her for the sarcastic remark, or at least respond, but to her surprise neither occurred.
Blackie and Sylia stared at the blue hard-suited figure still standing at the edge of the doorway with its hand outstretched like a statue. Suddenly Priss remembered where she was, and more importantly, *who* she was. Her first instinct had been to climb into the van and grab Blackie by the throat, and ask him what the hell he thought he was doing. But that would also mean revealing her identity to him. And there was no way she was prepared to do that at this time. She would have to wait and see what Sylia was up to by bringing him along to Raven's Garage, otherwise known as "The Shortcut".
Slowly, she picked up the set of keys from the floor and turned away from the van. Inside her, confusion and anger were sparring for supremacy, as the shock began to release her. In a daze she walked to the black motorcycle that had been hidden from her sight behind the Knight Saber's van, and straddled the seat. As she settled onto the bike something about it seemed familiar, almost comforting. The gauges and panels were laid out almost identically to her own bike, with a few minor differences in the tach and speedometer. A few unlabelled indicator lights threw the comparison off for a moment, but the feeling she got as she reached for the handlebars brought on the distinct feeling she'd ridden this bike before.
Looking down at the keys in her gloved hand, Priss saw the name "Blackie" written on the fob in gold script. The puzzle pieces that had tumbled over and over in her mind earlier began to spin more furiously now. Where the hell had he found a hard-suit anyway? And what did he want to talk to Sylia for? He didn't seem to want a job with the Knight Sabers so what was he trying to prove by getting into the fight back at the military base? Someone had a lot of explaining to do; that much was for sure.
She inserted a key into the ignition and thumbed the starter. The bike roared to life, the sound itself having a familiar calming effect. After a few tests of the throttle, Priss swung the bike away from the utility van, and shot up the driveway into the darkness.
Sylia watched as Nene closed the rear door to the van from inside and
locked it, and then signaled to Mackie to drive. The heavy utility van pulled
away from the edge of crowded parking lot, forcing the news-media crews to
scramble to their vehicles to give chase. Unfortunately their exit was
blocked by the many AD Police and military vehicles that were attempting
to leave as well.
A few miles along Bay Road Number One, Mackie slowed to a stop as he
caught sight of an AD Police cruiser's lights in the middle of the road. A
little further in front of the cruiser was the burning frame of an ambulance
lying on its side. Linna turned her head to gawk at the scene, wondering a
little anxiously as to who the driver of the cruiser was, while Sylia stared
at their cyborg passenger, watching its face for any sign of emotion. At the
far left edge of Linna's vision, just at the side of the road, she spotted
Leon talking to Priss as the two watched the roaring inferno on the road
before them. She wondered what they could be talking about after three years
of a mutually agreed upon silence.
"What happened?" Priss asked from the seat of Blackie's idling motorcycle. She was looking away from Leon into the hypnotic orange flames that continued to consume the ambulance.
Leon's gaze was focused on the fire as well when he finally replied. "Looks like the boomers got away . . . again. Killed the two attendants and vanished without so much as a footprint. I'd really like to know who's behind all of this."
Priss studied Leon's stern thoughtful look. She'd seen the look a few times before when they'd dated. "Thinking of resurrecting the Boomer Crimes division are you? What good would it do? You saw all those soldiers and cops sitting on their butts back there. That's the way the world is now Leon. We almost got snuffed because we fell into the same trap. Now some asshole's out there who is taking advantage of the situation. By the time the ADP gets its act together it'll be too late anyway."
Leon's head turned sharply to look at Priss, but his response was cut short as he caught sight of his reflection in her mirrored blue visor. The years had changed them all. Five years ago he would have defended the AD Police to the death, but now he wasn't sure. After Genom's downfall, the Boomer Crimes division remained in place for a year to deal with the odd construction boomer that got out of hand, but was then restructured to meet aggressive budget cuts. Leon had argued for the division's survival in a standby reserve status, but the brass didn't bite. Boomer crimes had dropped to almost non-existent.
Shortly thereafter he was assigned to the relatively new Bio-Technical Crimes division to deal with a surge in DNA and genetic fraud crimes. There was also a fear that clone trading was becoming a black-market priority, and MegaTokyo was in the center of the spotlight as the leader in genetically engineered species as well as a major gateway port to the fast-growing European markets. Mechanical human replicas were passe. Human replicas that could equal the old mechanical boomers in speed and productivity were on the horizon. A horizon that Leon wasn't sure he wanted to see.
"Maybe you're right Priss," Leon finally replied with a grim smile. "But I'm not going to sit around while these boomers make us all look bad. Somebody has to take them down."
Priss was about to reply when Sylia's voice in her intercom cut her off. "Priss- we don't have time for this. If you've found out all you can about the boomers then get going, and we'll meet you later."
"Okay Sylia. See you there."
Priss looked into Leon's eyes, reflections of flames from the ambulance fire flickering in them along with anger and traces of guilt. She knew him well enough to know that he was blaming himself for the boomer's escape. But she also knew it wasn't his fault. She turned away shaking her head, and put Blackie's motorcycle into gear.
Leon's anger still boiled inside him as he watched the blue hard-suit and
black motorcycle disappear into the distance. For a moment his feelings of
powerlessness were forgotten as he wondered why Priss wasn't riding her
Sylia continued watching her guest, and for the first time noticed a trickle of blood running down the side of its left hand, still clenched tightly into a fist. "You're bleeding," Sylia said as she got up to dig out the first aid kit. Blackie looked at where Sylia had pointed, and grinned. The tightly clenched fist opened up to reveal a severed metallic finger lying in the center of his palm. Nene and Linna gasped in horror, while Sylia stared hard at the digit.
"Mackie! Don't go anywhere just yet!" Sylia cried. Mackie had begun to maneuver the truck around Leon's cruiser and the burning ambulance, but suddenly hit the brakes.
"May I?" Sylia said, as she gestured to Blackie that she wanted to pick the finger up.
"Oh- uh, well I was hoping to give it to the police, but I guess I forgot about it."
Sylia studied the cyborg's face as it spoke the words without revulsion or disgust. Now it was acting the way she expected it to behave. "That's exactly what we're going to do," she said with a knowing smile, feeling for the first time that night that she might have found an answer to one of her questions.
The still perturbed police officer looked over at the side window of the Knight Saber's van to see Mackie waving in his direction. "Huh?" He pushed his sunglasses up onto his forehead and walked over to the van.
"I think we've got a clue for you," Mackie said excitedly while waving something in his hand. Leon approached the window and looked at the object Mackie was holding. It was a small, clear, plastic bag with a reddish fluid in it. Leon peered closer at the bag and saw the outline of a metallic finger lying amongst the smear of blood. Leon smiled up at Mackie and took the grisly evidence. "Thanks kid! Nice work! A little calling card eh? We may just figure this one out yet."
Mackie smiled back. "Don't thank me. It was a friend who found it. Sis needs you to run a check on it and let us know what you find. See ya!"
"Wait!" Leon yelled vainly after the rapidly disappearing vehicle. 'Who's the friend?' he wondered to nobody but himself.
Linna looked over at Sylia, as an uncharacteristic snicker entered her headset intercom. "Sylia?" Linna inquired over the intercom, "Did I just hear you . . . ?"
"I was just thinking," Sylia replied hesitantly, a sly tone evident in her voice."I've never given the finger to a police officer before."
For a second there was utter silence, and then an eruption of laughter from Nene's intercom. Linna stewed angrily by herself, slightly offended at Sylia's mocking of her boyfriend, a habit that had somehow survived the years, despite the fact that her present boyfriend was a cop.
The drive to Raven's Garage was a solemn one despite Sylia's joke. Aside from their fatigue, each of the Knight Sabers were acutely aware of their 'guest', and their inability to discuss anything in his presence regardless of the privacy of their helmet intercom system. Sylia had sequestered Blackie to the back of the van's rest area to prevent him from seeing out the front windows. The cyborg's finding of the metallic finger had eased her anxiety a little, but now she was mentally preparing for any possible trickery on its part when she would call its bluff , and ask to see its proof.
After a twenty-minute ride that had seemed to last forever, Blackie began to detect the smell of industrial waste, and the sounds of air-powered tools, drifting in through the driver's open window. The utility van slowed to a halt, and a gloved hand reached out to help him to his feet. One of the hard-suited figures produced some cloth and blind-folded him. He was then led out of the vehicle, through a door, across a smooth, cement-like surface, and then guided to a set of steps leading down. At the edge of the first step his nose registered the smell of gasoline, a unique mixture of which he instantly recognized.
While Mackie hurriedly closed the metal garage doors, Sylia watched the cyborg's face as he was guided down the steps to the Knight Saber's underground training facility by Nene and Linna. Strangely, she thought she saw a knowing grin emerge, just before the cyborg disappeared down the stairs.
From across the garage, Priss, still in her hard-suit, and a gray-haired Dr.Raven, exited from his office. Priss headed straight for the stairs with a can of soda in her hand, intent on questioning Blackie before Sylia, but smiled mischievously and turned to call out across the work-bays, "Thanks for the soda Pops!"
The doctor clenched his teeth in annoyance, and was about to correct the stair-skipping brunette when he noticed Sylia standing near the back door, still in her hard-suit. "Sylia! It's good to-" the doctor began, only to be cut off by a finger placed on Sylia's visor just above where her lips were. The two stood quietly, while Mackie locked the last bay door. Sylia's eyes followed her brother's trek across the silent garage to where the frame of a motorcycle awaited his attention. The doctor's expression turned to mild concern as Sylia grasped him gently by the arm, and began to explain their unexpected arrival.
Dr. Raven's expressions ranged from concern to disbelief as Sylia relayed the night's events, beginning with their battle with the strange boomers at the military base. But as she began to relate the Knight Saber's encounter with the cyborg who had foolishly jumped into their midst during the fight, the doctor's face suddenly went pale.
Lifting her visor, Sylia halted her story to ask the rapidly whitening mechanic if he was alright, but was answered by a blank stare. She reached out to grab the doctor's arms, as his legs suddenly buckled beneath him. Helping him to a chair in his windowed office, Sylia closed the door, and that's when the stunned doctor saw the bike that Priss had rode in on.
Dr. Raven stared out the office window at the shiny black motorcycle parked just inside the back door of the garage. He studied the fairing's contours and the layout of the engine, recognizing instantly his own handi- work. He turned to Sylia, who's worried look made the surging memories even harder to keep from overwhelming him. While Mackie had inherited his father's smile, Sylia had her father's eyes. He gathered his composure, and then sadly smiled at his dead friend's daughter. "Sylia . . . I swore to your father that I wouldn't-"
Sylia's worried expression shifted quickly to an angry glare. "You mean to tell me you know something about this cyborg?"
The doctor sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair, letting his tensed muscles attempt to relax, as he pondered the best way to say the words. "Yes . . . Sylia. I do know something about this man," he said, stressing the word 'man', "I've known something about him since he was conceived."
The doctor waited for his statement to register, but Sylia was already ahead of him. "My father created him, didn't he?"
Dr. Raven simply nodded as Sylia's mind raced to understand. "How? When? Why didn't you tell me about this before?"
"I suppose it's too far gone now," the doctor said resignedly after a slight pause to consider his approach. Choosing the direct one, the doctor continued. "Blackie was created at about the same time as your father was completing the first boomer prototypes. I could not tell you about him because your father forbid it Sylia. If either of you had known of each other's existence, then the security of the data that each of you were protecting would be compromised, and everything that your father had worked so hard for could then be taken away by someone with less than your father's ideals."
"So it has a copy of the contents of my data unit too? And you've known about this all along?"
Dr. Raven nodded again. "Yes. But your father never revealed to me what was on the 'backups' as he called them. If he had, then *I* would be a risk as well. But he did tell me a bit about his research, and about Blackie of course. When he brought him here, he had no choice."
Sylia looked up from her mindless study of the lightly oil-stained floor, struggling for the first time in many years with a deep-rooted pain that she had successfully battled into submission since her father's meaningless death. "Is it really my half-brother like it . . . I mean *he*- says?"
The doctor leaned forward to look directly into Sylia's glistening eyes,
causing her to sit back a bit. "Let's go find out."
Still blind-folded, Blackie sat patiently on a couch of some kind in a room that resonated with a low humming, suggesting the presence of heavy electrical equipment. He could hear the muffled voices of his captors outside the door, but couldn't make out any of their conversation. As he strained his ears to listen, he noticed his blindfold had worked loose to the point that he could see a little light sneaking in under the bottom of the material.
Tilting his head back, he was able to see a bit of the room around him , but not much before he was startled by the blue hard-suited woman crouching only a foot away, and staring him directly in the face. His acute vision could not pierce the tinted visor however, so the unnerving scrutiny continued with the blue hard-suited figure at a distinct advantage. "Are you Sylia Stingray?" he finally queried.
Priss snickered. "Unh uh. But the big question is- who the hell are you- really?"
Blackie tilted his head further to get a better look at his questioner. "My name is Blackie Stingray. I'm looking for-"
Priss whipped Blackie's blindfold off. "WHAT?! Whaddya mean your name is- !"
Priss was interrupted in her interrogation as the door swung open. Dr.Raven and Sylia, now with her helmet off, entered the room. Dr.Raven took a seat to the left of Blackie while Sylia remained standing.
"Hiya Pops," Blackie suddenly ejected with a tone of mischief in his voice. Priss gaped at Dr. Raven, waiting instinctively for him to explode, but the doctor's face registered only a warm smile. "Hello Blackie. Getting your bike chopped somewhere else these days?"
Blackie smiled back at the doctor sheepishly, and shook his head. "Nah. There's only one place in town that can touch my bike."
Priss was about to cut in to the nostalgic exchange to get her own answers when Blackie turned to look up at Sylia. The smile on his face grew even wider as he recognized her face from the old newspaper clipping he'd dug up about the explosion at Uizu laboratories sixteen years ago. One of the yellowing newsprint photos depicted his father standing with a little girl, maybe eleven or twelve years old, but the clear brown eyes that stared back at him now were unmistakably the very same.
"Sylia," he said, his long blue-black hair shaking from side to side, "I should have known. You're as clever as Dad ever was."
Sylia flushed visibly at hearing her father spoken of out loud. She was about to reply, her heart suddenly full of questions about her father when Priss placed her hand on Blackie's chest and pushed him back into the couch. "Alright! That's it! I want some answers now! What the hell are you doing in a hard-suit, how come the doc doesn't get mad when you call him "Pops", and why the hell didn't you tell me who you were this afternoon at your apartment?"
Nene and Linna, who had been observing the unfolding events from the open doorway with growing amazement, swung around to regard each other with looks of surprise, hidden from one another by their helmets.
Blackie stared up at the dark blue mirrored visor, his own distorted reflection staring back at him. "This afternoon? I'm sorry. I don't think I-"
Priss let go of Blackie, and ripped her helmet off before Sylia could stop her. "Do I look familiar now *Mr. Stingray*?"
Stunned, Blackie looked at the faces of the assembled group, wondering if this was some elaborate joke. "Pri . . . Priss!" What are you doing here?"
Sylia watched the two wrestle with their questions and answers as it dawned on her that they had already met somehow. Before she could calm them down, a second, more ominous thought occurred to her. Priss didn't know what Blackie *was*, and as she watched her friend interact with the cyborg, it was soon apparent that Priss was attracted to it. The way her face had flushed and her intense glare had softened as she continued to press the cyborg for answers were convincing enough. But Sylia watched with a mixture of fascination and mild revulsion, as Priss sat down in mock annoyance beside the cyborg, her elbow pressing softly into its ribs. Priss never allowed anyone to sit that close to her, and now she was sitting *that* close to it.
Sylia watched for a moment longer, until a slight smile flashed across Priss' face in response to Blackie's nervous laughter. In that instant, Sylia's decision was made for her; she wouldn't tell her. Considering all the friends that Priss had lost over the years, it was the least Sylia could do to help her keep this one. No-one had to know besides herself and Dr. Raven, who as far as she could tell, considered Blackie to be as human as any of them. Maybe fate was smiling on Priss this time, in its own twisted way.