The Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 Continuation Fanfic Series

by P. Kristen Enos

Most of these stories take place AFTER the TV Series! So DON’T blame me if I ruin the ending for you because you read these stories first!
Lesbian/Yuri/Shoujo Ai Warning! (Non-explicit — at least in the “PG13″/”R” sort of way.) Just not written for children because they probably wouldn’t get half of it. All rights belong to JVC/AIC, ADV Films and the other creative powers that be. I just want credit for writing the story.

Chapter 27: Shelter

“Thank you so much for this, Mrs. Takeuchi,” a casually dressed Reika said as she watched her former nanny check the portable medical monitors.

“Oh, don’t worry about it, Miss Reika,” the good-natured, elderly woman commented as she scanned the read-outs. “It’s not as if we haven’t done something like this before.”

An also casually dressed Sylia stood quietly off to the side, her eyes never leaving the still figure lying in the middle of the fully equipped medical bed in an otherwise elegantly furnished room. Upon looking at her, few people would realize that Sylia had had only three hours of sleep the entire night, and that the sun would be rising in an hour.

“What’s your personal opinion of her status?” Reika asked, her anxiety showing despite her attempt to sound casual. The tension she had been feeling since the fateful phone call from Sylia didn’t seem to be ebbing at all.

“She’s clearly a tough one. You can tell that without even having to look at her records,” the woman honestly assured her mistress. “Her signs are all strong after coming through such extensive and delicate surgery with flying colors. I don’t see why she won’t make a complete recovery if she’s allowed to focus on resting as well as getting physical therapy as soon as she’s able. How long will she be staying?”

“As long as she needs to,” Reika answered immediately.

Sylia arched an eyebrow but said nothing.

“Well then,” Mrs. Takeuchi said with a friendly smile, “I will make certain the staff treats her like family for as long as she’s here. – And speaking of family, Miss Sylia, I’m pleased you’re here. I was afraid I’d never see you again.”

Sylia bowed in acknowledgement and said, “The pleasure is entirely mutual, Mrs. Takeuchi. I’m glad you’ll be personally overseeing Linna’s recovery. Reika is housing her as a personal favor to me.”

Reika looked as if she was going to say something but stopped.

Seeing that her mistress had decided not to comment, Mrs. Takeuchi instead said, “Well, I certainly hope to see more of you, especially under more pleasant circumstances. With you around, and Miss Irene staying here temporarily, we’re hoping that we’ll see Miss Reika genuinely smile again.”

Both women blushed but said nothing.

“Now scoot, both of you, and get some sleep!” the elderly woman ordered. “There’s nothing more you can do for Miss Linna other than wait for her to wake up when she’s ready to.”

“Reika, thank you for this,” Sylia said softly once they were alone in the dimly lit hallway.

“There’s nothing to thank me for,” she said firmly. “Linna is your friend as well as Irene’s.”

Sylia tilted her head curiously and said, “Well, I have a good idea of what you mean to Linna. What does she mean to you, beyond being a friend of a friend?”

Reika lowered her gaze for a moment and then said, “I want her to be happy. I’m just sorry I’m not the one who can do that for her.”

Sylia studied her for a moment and then decided to let it pass. She looked as if she was about to stretch into a yawn, but then winced and stopped herself in mid-motion, pressing her hand gingerly against her side. “I should be heading home.”

“Not just yet, you aren’t,” her friend said with a frown. “I’ve prepared a guest room for you. It would take at least an hour before you would be in your own bed, and you’re in no condition to drive as it is. I don’t even want to know how you managed to drive here to begin with.”

“I’ll be fine!” Sylia insisted even though there was a smirk on her lips.

Reika narrowed her gaze and said, “Try bluffing someone who doesn’t know your version of ‘looks like crap’!”

Sylia opened her mouth to protest but Reika stopped her with a look.

“Just for a couple of hours at least,” her hostess insisted. “I don’t want to set up two hospital beds in my home!”

Sylia hesitated, clearly wanting to argue, but then she saw how Reika firmly put her hands on her hips with the readiness of a determined bulldog. She thought to herself how some things definitely have not changed over time.

Finally, Sylia let out a soft sigh and chuckle as she wearily leaned forward and pressed her head against Reika’s shoulder. “Okay, you win. Lead the way.”

Reika indulged in a yawn of her own as she lead the passive Sylia by the hand down the hallway. “It’s your old guest room. The bathroom is also prepared in case you want to freshen up at some point.”

“Hm mm,” Sylia answered sleepily now that she allowed herself to start shutting down for the night. “By the way, where’s the lucky man?”

“Sleeping off a bottle of champagne in another guest room down the hallway. If he’s true to form, he won’t grace anyone with his presence until sunset. And I’m sure he’ll immediately vacate to his apartment downtown since he knows Irene’s staying here.”

“He doesn’t live here?”

“Of course not. We’re not married yet. I’m an old-fashioned girl after all,” Reika answered with a smirk.

“Oh. Right. I forgot about that.”

Definitely feeling like the clock had turned back years, Reika easily guided the completely pliable Sylia to the room, helped her out of her clothes and tucked her into the bed. Even though it was an old routine when Sylia would overwork herself from late nights of studying or planning, the noticeable difference this time being the lack of any romantic caresses or playfulness which usually led to things other than sleep.

Reika noticed but didn’t comment on the bandages wrapped around Sylia’s rib cage although she allowed herself a grim frown. She was about to turn off the light on the nightstand when Sylia gently snagged her hand.

“Are you honestly okay with everything that happened tonight?” Sylia asked even though she was clearly fighting the urge to fall asleep.

Reika paused and sighed. She sat down on the edge of the bed as their hands remained firmly locked. “I have so many mixed emotions right now, long before the news of Linna’s accident. I admit a part of me wants to strangle you for not giving this up once and for all even though I suppose it couldn’t be helped. But I think my relief about Linna overrides everything else I’m feeling right now.”

Appearing a bit more awake for the moment, Sylia narrowed her eyes at her and said, “You really care about her, don’t you?”

Reika smiled sadly and said, “Well, if I read your expressions correctly, so do you….”

The other woman was quiet for a moment and then returned the sad smile. “She needs someone to take care of her. And apparently neither one of us can be that person.”

Though still fully dressed, Reika wearily stretched out on the covers and said towards the ceiling, “You know, there was a time I was incredibly jealous of the fact that you never asked me to become a Knight Saber.”

“I had my reasons.” Sylia rolled over to snuggle against her, putting her head on the familiar shoulder. She smiled as she felt the slender arm carefully encircle her back. “Knowing what I expected of the team at the time, I didn’t think that you had it in you to kill if push came to shove. If you did, I didn’t want to be the reason why… And there was the fact that you didn’t consider yourself to be much of an athlete. You had no fighting skills. Plus, your fear of heights-“

“I did say it was a momentary jealousy!” Reika growled playfully as she squeezed Sylia’s shoulders to shut her up.

Sylia then lifted her head and looked at her seriously before saying, “The biggest reason that I refused to ask you to become a Knight Saber was that if you couldn’t bear to see me put myself in danger, did you think I could handle it any better if I did that to you? If that was you where Linna is now, I don’t think I could have continued with the Knight Sabers.”

“How ironic given that’s what I wanted all along,” Reika admitted softly as she rubbed Sylia’s arm. “How did Linna become a Knight Saber?”

Letting out a yawn and nuzzling the smooth neck before her, a habit from days gone by, Sylia answered, “She came to Tokyo and sought us ought. I had a hunch that she was a perfect addition to the new team. I would have been stupid to turn her away… Not to say that I haven’t done stupid things before.”

Reika didn’t quite know how to respond to that comment. Then she felt the undeniable relaxation in Sylia’s body as the other woman drifted to sleep while pressed against her. Aware that she was the woman’s pillow, Reika knew that she would wake her up if she tried to move so she could leave. And admittedly, there was a strong part of her that didn’t want to go as she felt a certain peace settle over herself as well.

With a small smile, Reika carefully reached over and turned off the lights before allowing herself to drift off into the best sleep she had in years.

— End Chapter 27 —

Chapter 28: Family Matters

Reika stood by the window and looked out over the grounds of her family home. Tucked away in the country-side, the Chang Compound was a self-contained complex, surrounded by aesthetically pleasing stone walls and a thick forest that were centuries old. This was Reika’s home during her childhood and during breaks in her years at private school.

When she had attended Tokyo University, she had stayed with Sylia up until their break up. She finished out the rest of her college years in a private apartment that then became Irene’s when the elder sister relocated to the U.S.

Reika thought it was interesting that when she moved back home permanently nothing about the place itself felt different even though she now had the perspective of being the new Mistress of the House. Now she knew all of the secrets of the buildings and rooms that had been forbidden and relatively uninteresting as a child. With that knowledge, as well as a continually growing understanding of the true power of the Hou Bang Clan, more and more she knew her only life choice was to be the best leader she could. Failure was not an option.

A soft tapping at the doorframe showed that her late morning appointment was here.

She turned to find an unsure Sho standing in the open doorway. She greeted him with a warm smile and motioned for him to come in. “Welcome, Sho. I’m glad you were able to make it here on such short notice.”

The young man took a step in. “Thank you for arranging this discussion. Irene wanted me to tell you that she’s checking on Linna right now and will be a few minutes late.”

“Oh,” Reika said, knowing that Linna was still unconscious which meant that her sister was actually in discussion with Mrs. Takeuchi, and she had a creeping suspicion that she knew about what. “Well, I’m glad you’re a little early because I wanted to have a private discussion with you. I know if Irene found out I had especially asked for private time, neither of us would be able to survive her curiosity.”

Taking the cue about privacy, Sho closed the door and chuckled. “True, she was never good about being kept out of the loop unless she proactively chose to do so.”

His future sister-in-law smiled and said, “It seems you know my sister quite well. I think that’s an extremely good sign. Please sit down.”

His nervousness quite evident, Sho sat down in one of the two chairs before the desk while Reika sat on the other side. “What do you wish to talk about?”

“The Plaza Slaughter,” she said simply, noticing how he paled and dropped his gaze. “When I first heard about it, I naturally assumed it might have something to do with Hou Bang, or at the very least Chang Enterprises. But the more I think about it, the more that doesn’t seem quite right. If I am convinced of anything at this point, it is definitely that Irene was spared for a very distinct reason, as a message of sorts. I know you work for a top secret division for Genom, which has some dark shadows as far as the boomer technology world is concerned. Was that message meant for you?”

Sho wasn’t able to bring his gaze up from the spot on the carpet. When he spoke though, his voice was surprisingly firm, “Reika, I would never, ever willingly endanger Irene. She means the world to me. If it means that I must choose between my professional passions and her, she would always come first. That’s all my honor will allow me to say. I ask you to be satisfied with that.”

Reika stared at him, studying his composure and absorbing his statements. “I have one more question: do you think this matter has anything to do with my parents’ deaths?”

The man looked up in genuine surprise and shock. “I-I honestly never thought there could be a connection. I truly believe your parents died in a real accident.”

She sighed and said with a sad smile, “I consider this matter closed between us for as long as you stick by your promise that Irene will always come first.”

“I do.”

“Then that’s good enough for me, Sho. Welcome to the family.”

The man looked clearly relieved by the deep breath he let out and the hopeful glance he gave her.

She smiled at him reassuringly.

Just then, a soft knocking came from the closed door.

Sho happily jumped to his feet and let in his fiancée.

Reika noticed how tired and haggard Irene looked as she sat down in the spare chair, as if the younger woman had had very poor sleep the night before. In their extremely brief conversation yesterday to confirm that Irene was indeed moving back home temporarily, Reika had a sense that even though her sister said she was “fine”, she was a lot more shaken up about the events than she was letting on. She had never seen her sister be so unnerved and cautious, something that she was clearly hiding from the public.

She also noticed the momentary sharp look her sister gave her that indicated that they had private matters that needed to be discussed.

“I wanted to have this meeting because even though I am trying to help uncover the madness behind the Plaza Slaughter, I realized that there may be some things you two want to discuss in regards to your safety for the time being,” Reika explained. “Am I wrong?”

“No, that’s true,” Irene said softly. She reached over and gripped Sho’s hand. “Sho and I had a long talk last night about how we felt about everything that’s happened, and what our options are for going forward. We’ve decided that perhaps this would be a good time to move out of the country, at least until things settle down. Although I admit I don’t know if I would ever feel comfortable and safe enough to move back to Tokyo permanently.”

Reika was definitely surprised by the news, given that Irene had always been the self-proclaimed “Tokyo girl.” It was an indication that her sister was extremely shaken up by the near death experience.

“I see. Any idea of where?”

“That’s where we thought you could help us,” Irene answered. She gave Sho a prompting look.

Taking the cue to speak, Sho said, “I am… very disillusioned with my career choice right now and am looking to start over in a new field, related to scientific research, preferably related to electronics. We didn’t know if you were aware of any part of Chang Enterprises, or its subsidiaries, which could offer such a chance for someone like me.”

“Ah. Well, when my father died, he had been in the process of acquiring Perry Electronics,” Reika said. “After I took over, I made certain the deal was secured, but I admit I hadn’t yet given any thought to what we were going to do with the company. I do know my father’s intent was to let you take over its research facilities as a wedding present. Once you were in charge, you could continue to support their current projects or determine a different focus. I don’t see any reason why we can’t go forward with my father’s plan. It would please him if we did. Would you still be interested?”

Sho seemed hopeful at her words. “I would appreciate such an opportunity. But if I remember correctly from what your father had said, they don’t have a headquarters in Tokyo.”

“That is correct. They’re originally a British company, with their international headquarters in London and an Asia-Australian headquarters in Melbourne. I think Father had planned to either relocate the Melbourne headquarters to Tokyo, or just create a new one. If you two decide to relocate to either place, that would save us that final step.”

Sho looked questioningly at Irene, who smiled and nodded.

“I like that idea,” she said to both of them. “I admit I would have a preference for London. It would be a chance to get to know that side of our family, as well as an opportunity to brush up on my English.”

Reika smiled and said, “Make certain you brush up before you call our relatives. Is there anything else I can offer to help with the relocation? I can assign some aides to help with your move, as well as private language tutoring if you feel it’s necessary. We have an extremely good staff for language teaching. I use them myself to pass the time on my plane trips.”

“I could use the help,” Sho admitted.

“I think we could use all of the assistance we can to make this happen as soon as possible,” Irene said, which her fiancé agreed to. “I would rather use my own inheritance since it’s there for a reason.”

Reika nodded. “All I ask though is that you still hold the wedding here in Tokyo, once you’ve settled and this sordid matter is finally put to rest, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later.”

The engaged couple readily agreed.

“Then I will make the phone calls right now, unless there’s something else you wish to discuss?” Reika threw it out as a general statement even though she was looking right at her sister.

“Yes, I would like to talk to you for a moment,” Irene said. “Sho, can you leave us alone for a bit? Let Mrs. Takeuchi know we’re definitely staying for lunch.”

His concerned returned as he looked back and forth between the sisters.

“I promise no yelling this time!” Irene said with a smile, realizing his concern. She gave him a peck on the cheek. “Just need to settle some matters with Reika, that’s all.”

He looked relieved as he bowed and went off on his errand.

Once they were alone, the two sisters looked at each other for a moment.

“Where do you want to start?” Reika asked, having a good idea of the one or two issues that would be of immediate interest to her sister.

Irene’s grim statement returned. “Mrs. Takeuchi assures me that Linna’s going to make a full recovery. Do you believe her?”

“I have no reason not to,” Reika admitted. “I guarantee she will get the best care possible.”

“Mrs. Takeuchi also said that she fell from a third floor building. Was it an assassination attempt?”

“…Yes,” her sister said, knowing better than trying to hide the truth that would come up eventually. “That’s why we’re keeping her here during her recovery. She’s officially under police protection as far as her work and the general public is concerned, Her parents aren’t even allowed to know she’s here, even though they do know the extent of her injuries because I called them myself this morning.”

“Well, once she recovers, what then? Will she still have to hide?”

Reika glanced at her Clan ring, a habit she realized that she picked up from her father. “The positive part of her needing such a lengthy recovery time is that it means I have that much more time to bring this whole matter to closure. By the time she will be ready to resume her regular life, she won’t need to hide anymore. And if Hugh-Geit won’t hold her job for her that long, then I’ll make certain she’ll find employment through Chang Enterprises, if it has to come to that. At least, that’s the plan for now.”

Irene nodded, taking in her sister’s explanation. But it was clear she was trying to figure out how to address another burning question on her mind. She finally took a deep breath and said, “Mrs. Takeuchi also said Linna’s actually here because she’s a friend of Sylia’s. And it was noted that Sylia stayed here for a few hours in one of the guest rooms…. I came by your room early this morning in the hopes to talk to you, but you weren’t there. Were you with Sylia?”

Reika let out a sigh and said, “Yes, I was, and no, we didn’t do anything. She and I decided to try being friends again now that I’ve moved back to Tokyo, and it’s actually working out very well. It’s just an extreme coincidence that she happens to be a good friend of Linna’s as well. Sylia asked me to house Linna only because she knew that we had the equipment and staff to take care of her, and that I wouldn’t personally mind.”

“I see,” Irene said softly, her tone and statement resigned. “Then the only thing I have to say to you is that I’m sorry for doubting your ability to be the Head of the Family. After what happened, I realized there is so much more to our family that Dad probably sheltered us from, which you’re starting to see. And I would personally like to continue to be ignorant. Still, instead of my criticism and doubt, I should have supported you from the beginning. Mrs. Takeuchi tells me that everyone is confident that you’re on the path to success, and they’re all proud of you. And we all believe Dad and Mom are.”

Reika didn’t say anything but she was amazed, since she hadn’t known this perception existed. She was surprised at how pleased she felt and it showed in a shy smile as she said, “Thank you for that.”

Irene then broke out into a smile and said, “I will add one thing though: I will never forgive you, knowing you’ll bring that jerk to my wedding.”

Reika chuckled and said, “Just promise me you won’t knock out his front teeth again. Remember that we’re not kids anymore. These won’t grow back.”

“Only if he behaves himself,” she said with a scowl.

“Kou will be there to ensure it, even if I don’t expressly say anything for him to do so.”

The sisters shared a giggle before Irene looked at her seriously again.

“I do have one final needle I want to poke at you, Reika,” she said softly. “Even though Dad made certain the Clan Life had as little impact to us as possible, I do believe that he truly loved us. And he loved Mom. I never got the feeling he was ever truly unhappy even though he had an incredible burden on his shoulders. I’d hate for you to live a life of less quality.”

Reika gave the words a nod of acknowledgement. “Thank you for your concern, Irene. But Dad wasn’t a woman, nor was he gay.”

“True,” her sister conceded. “I guess I’m just too much of a romantic to think things have to be like this for you.”

Reika took her into a hug and said, “I assure you that I’m learning to take my moments of happiness when I can. The opportunity to take care of Linna is one of those.”

Irene hugged her back fiercely and said, “Then just promise me you’ll get closure on this mess. I don’t care about the details of how it’s done, just do it. I’ll trust you when you tell me the matter is settled.”

“I promise.”

Then a thought passed across Irene’s mind, causing her to stiffen a bit. “There’s also something I think you should know. I don’t know if it’ll make a difference, but I never had the chance to tell Linna about Densuke. And I noticed you weren’t wearing your engagement ring at the hospital. I don’t think she has a clue.”

Reika’s eyes got wide as she froze herself. “…Oh…”

— End Chapter 28 —

Chapter 29: Invisible Chains

“There’s no doubt about it,” Nigel mused as he manually navigated the giant x-ray scanner over the boomer’s torso. “It’s definitely your father’s design. The more sophisticated parts, anyway.”

Standing nearby, Sylia’s frown deepened more as she critically watched the intricate network of wires and components show up on the monitor. She then glanced up at the command booth overlooking the giant pit bay. “Nene, is this recording?”

The blond nodded through the window and said into the speakerphone, “I’ve tested the playback and it’s being captured.”

Mackey meanwhile was sitting next to his girlfriend and watching the monitors over her shoulder.

“You can tell that she started off a lot less sophisticated than where she is now,” Nigel mused as he kept an eye on his scanner readings. “But even her base is pretty sophisticated by standards for pre-Revolution models. Whoever spearheaded her design and implementation knew what he or she was doing.”

“What about the pieces that look they were directly from my father’s design work?” Sylia asked, now looking at the boomer’s body stretched out on the worktable.

In her shutdown state, Sylvie was completely still and staring blankly at the ceiling, looking like a dead body. She was still dressed in her casual outfit, which was dirty and torn in some places, and her hair was still bound in its ponytail although definitely not as neatly as before the fight. Some patches of her skin had been torn and cracked from the fight that early morning but they were minor cosmetic flaws in an otherwise perfect appearing woman. The only other thing which appeared unusual were the cables plugged into the adapter holes in the small, open panel on neck in order to keep her internal bio matter alive.

Sylia looked forward to pulling the plugs permanently once all of the necessary information had been retrieved.

“From what I can see right now,” Nigel remarked, “Whoever implemented your father’s design didn’t completely know what he or she was doing, even though they probably had a good idea. There are some distinct pieces missing that will keep some of the added components from functioning at their full capacity. But they do have a lot of the important parts there; they just need to be tweaked a bit and fully connected.”

“Then you think they were trying to develop a boomer which would match the sophistication level of Galatea?” Sylia asked, more than a little unnerved by the prospect.

“Obviously I can’t tell if they were necessarily using her as the benchmark, but I’d say they’re 75 percent there in terms of basic appearances and functionality, even with embedded components which make up the combat and recreational functionalities. They’d be up to 80 or even 85 percent if everything was hooked up properly.”

Sylia clenched her fist and struggled to keep from slamming it through the monitor. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She felt calmer, barely, but her frustration remained. “Where did they get that information?! I personally swept through their entire network of databases and made sure all references to Galatea and myself were removed!”

Nigel frowned himself as he tried to think of how the information could have been uncovered. “Genom is good at keeping secrets from parts of itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are independent networks to house such information, ones that you wouldn’t have had access to unless you knew exactly where to look, if they’re even externally accessible.”

Sylia didn’t like that answer but it probably had a lot of truth to it. “Nene, have you uncovered anything in your last sweep?”

“Nothing so far,” the blonde’s voice reported through the speaker. “There’s no mention of this boomer or Project: Human Target anywhere. However, I did find something referring to a Data Recovery Project for the Tokyo Databases that were destroyed during the Galatea crisis. And that they found some files a few months ago that were apparently valuable but it wasn’t documented as to exactly what was in them. Genom’s concept of Top Secret puts a lot of governments to shame.”

Sylia shook her head adamantly. “I swept through that data too and made certain the information was unsalvageable. I even went through their back-up databases in Berlin and New York,” Sylia insisted as she hugged herself, taking extra care to gingerly avoid the injured side of her rib cage. “Galatea and I should not exist anymore as far as Genom is concerned.”

Nigel noticed her careful movements out of the corner of his eye but said nothing as he continued to pilot the scanner. “Well, it’s possible they could have found someone who was extremely knowledgeable about the project and is still alive. But I can’t think of anyone who fits that last part – besides me, of course. And if your sweep got rid of all documentation, that person would have to produce the design specs from memory, which would be impossible.”

“Sylia, what about me?” Mackey asked through the microphone. “Did you do a file sweep for references to me?”

Sylia took in his question with a stunned silence that was emphasized by the embarrassed blush on her cheeks. She then leaned wearily against the table as she closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. “Of all things…” she murmured to herself.

Nigel gave her a brief look before returning his attention to scanning, while Mackey let out a deep sigh.

Confused by the pause in the conversation, Nene frowned and looked at everyone. “So are we saying that Sylvie is actually based off of Mackey’s design and not Galatea?”

“Now that I’m looking at it from that angle,” Nigel admitted, “There are some components and wiring specs in her core structure that we had considered to be superficial and unnecessary that we identified in Mackey and therefore purposefully cut from our design of Galatea. We considered them to be ‘too human.’ I am seeing some traces of those in Sylvie.”

Sylia looked wide-eyed and pale, but she kept quiet.

“So there’s a chance she’s really sentient?” Mackey asked into the microphone.

Sylia and Nigel paused and exchanged a look. The man gave a slight shrug.

“Well, we are going to have to turn her on to be able to download all of her programming and data information,” Sylia remarked. “We’ll find out if she’s truly sentient then.”

“Will that change your plans to destroy her after we’re done?” Nigel asked softly to purposefully keep their conversation out of hearing range from the couple in the booth.

A flash of deep anger appeared on Sylia’s face as she regarded the boomer. “She tried to kill Linna! If she had been human, I would have destroyed her on the spot,” Sylia answered firmly. “Being a boomer only saved her life for as long as it takes to get information to help solve this Plaza Slaughter. The bottom line is she’s an accomplice or she’s evidence!”

“But if she was programmed to do it, then it wasn’t her fault!” Mackey’s voice blurted over the speaker, causing them both to jump. His boomer enhanced hearing apparently picked up the part of the conversation that Nene missed. “She can’t be held accountable for obeying orders that were programmed into her! It’s just like when Galatea controlled me and you knew I couldn’t help what I did!”

Sylia slammed her hand on the nearby tabletop, rattling the monitor on top of it as well as leaving a dent in the metal surface. Mackey and Nene jumped as Nigel merely arched his eyebrow.

“Mackey, just because she’s potentially sentient doesn’t mean she’s going to be a good guy!” she shouted, her rage fighting to be completely unleashed. “There are bad boomers in the world, just as there are bad people!”

“Yes, but you don’t know that about her yet, do you?” her brother countered firmly. “If she was human and she operated under a post-hypnotic suggestion, would you still execute her?”

“If she was still a threat and there was no way to cure her, I would!” she declared. “Besides, if we turn Sylvie on and find out she’s truly sentient, what then? Let her walk out the door with a full suitcase and a handful of money to go start a new life and hope she’s not programmed to return to Genom?! I don’t think so!”

“Why don’t we take this one step at a time?” Nigel offered softly. “We’ll make our decisions as we need to.”

Both Stingrays remained quiet, showing their willingness to concede to his suggestion.

Done with his sweep, Nigel flipped off the scanner and said, “Give me and Mackey two hours to make the modifications to get rid of the white noise and replace her blown fuses. Once that’s done, we can turn her on and begin the download.”

“Fine,” Sylia said stiffly as she turned toward the elevator. “I’m going to tell Henderson what to prepare for dinner…”

“… Are the bindings secure?” Sylia asked as she stood and watched Nigel check Sylvie, who was held in place against the now vertical examination table with strategically placed metal braces over her limbs and torso.

Mackey stood besides Sylia, his anxiety evident by his mild fidgeting.

“She’s not going anywhere,” Nigel said as he stood back and wiped off his hands with a rag. “We can begin whenever you’re ready.”

She nodded and signaled to waiting Nene in the command booth.

At the press of a few buttons, a faint hum came from within Sylvie as electricity flooded into her. The hum eventually subsided but it was clear that her electronic processes were becoming active once more, which were most noticeable in the way her gaze suddenly focused and shifted around. She also made shifting movements against her bindings to assess her current surroundings and condition. She finally became passive as she now regarded the three humans before her expectantly.

“Hello, Sylvie!” Mackey greeted enthusiastically, causing a slight frown on his sister’s face, as well as his watching girlfriend. “I’m Mackey. Can you speak?”

She scanned his appearance from head to toe, and then focused on his face for a moment. “Hello, Mackey,” she answered. “Yes, I can. Do you have a request of me?”

“Are you sentient?” he asked anxiously.

She didn’t move for a moment and then said, “I currently do not have enough information to give you an adequate answer. Please define what you mean by sentient.”

“Excuse me,” Sylia interrupted, already losing her patience with the conversation. “Sylvie, do you have any outstanding tasks or commands you have been programmed to do?”

The boomer regarded Sylia for a noticeably longer moment as she scanned in the details of her appearance, and then focusing on her face. Sylvie was silent for a moment before she answered. “You are an unidentified individual,” she answered without infliction. “You do not have the authority to ask for such information. Request denied.”

“Who does have the authority?” Sylia persisted.

“Again, you are an unidentified individual. You do not have the authority to ask for such information. Request denied.”

Seeing where this was going, Sylia narrowed her eyes and took a step back. “Nene, begin the download,” she ordered.

The other woman nodded and started tapping on the keyboard in front of her. To the casual observer, nothing seemed to change with Sylvie but the data on Nene’s monitor screen flew by in a blur of text.

Sylia then turned to her brother and said firmly, “That boomer’s not going anywhere.”

There was dead silence as she grimly walked out of the lab, watched by everyone, including the boomer in question.

— End Chapter 29 —