BGC Post 2040 File 6 – 14: The Real Me
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.
Wednesday Morning, November 23rd
Priss scowled slightly from the video screen on the phone but then assumed a neutral expression. “So, it looks like you’re going to be dealing with both of us.”
Sitting at her work desk, Linna blushed and answered, “For a little while more, at least. She didn’t set a deadline on me making a decision…. Um, do you have one?”
Priss scowled again but then shrugged, “No, I guess not. I’m not planning to be going anywhere else any time soon. And it’s not like I have someone else on the burner…”
Linna let out an inward sigh of relief before she asked cheerfully, “So how are the recording sessions going?”
“Pretty good. We’ve nailed down our first track already,” Priss answered with a satisfied smile. “It feels good to be in the studio again.”
“I’ll bet it’s because you’re in the fanciest recording studio in town,” Linna teased. “Run into anyone famous yet?”
Priss’s face darkened noticeably but she shook it off. “Your typical idol singers, that’s all…. So you want to get together for dinner tonight?”
“Um, I can’t. Lisa and I already have something planned,” Linna admitted sheepishly. “How about tomorrow night instead?”
Priss stared expressionless for a moment. “…Oh. Okay…”
* * * * *
Daley peered into the office and saw that Leon wasn’t at his desk, though Jeena was immersed in her computer work. He asked her, “Have you seen Leon?”
“He’s giving performance reviews,” she answered without looking up. “Is there anything I can help you with instead?”
He paused a moment and then walked over to the empty desk. “No thanks. I’ll just leave him a note. It’s personal stuff anyway.”
Jeena stopped typing and looked up at him curiously. “Is it something bad?”
Daley shook his head as he scribbled something on a piece of paper. “Just that Aya in Records said yes to his offer of a date.”
A slight frown appeared on the woman’s face. “I didn’t realize he decided to give up having standards.”
Pausing at the comment, Daley flashed her a grin and said, “That was certainly a catty remark.”
Jeena stared at him in complete bewilderment for a moment but then her face turned completely red as she blurted, “I was only making a frank observation! Everyone knows that she’s attracted to Leon because she thinks he’s a complete chump so they’ll be on equal terms!”
“Oh? So you think there’s someone else who’s a better match for him,” he asked with teasing innocence.
Seeing where this was leading, she stared at him in disbelief. “Please tell me you’re kidding! Have you been hanging around Nene too much?”
“All I know is that you’re a heck of a lot more lively when you’re arguing with Leon than you’ve ever been with Billy. That’s all.” He gave her a wide grin and a shrug as he walked out, his mission accomplished.
Jeena stared after him with narrowed eyes.
* * * * *
Sylia’s eyebrows arched noticeably at Linna’s blushing image on her phone. “My, I never thought you had such a thing in you.”
Linna turned even redder. “Please, Sylia. I already feel bad enough about this whole thing.”
Her friend studied her expression for a moment. She said sincerely, “Linna, remember, it’s just dating, especially with the ‘no sex’ clause. It’s not like you’re in a committed relationship with either woman. But if you’re already feeling like it’s not going to work, then you shouldn’t continue with it.”
“I know, I know, but…”
“Are you ready to make a choice now?”
She shook her head sadly.
“Well, then. Perhaps it will sort itself out on its own quickly…. Or Priss or Lisa will make the choice for you. Which may not be a bad thing if that’s really what you want…”
Linna kept her gaze lowered but said nothing.
At this reaction, Sylia narrowed her eyes a bit but then said lightly, “We’re planning a farewell dinner for Nana on Friday. Do you think you’ll be up for it?”
She opened her mouth as if to say “yes” but then froze. She asked warily, “Priss will probably be there, right?”
“As my own girlfriend. Probably,” Sylia said with a smirk, not looking at all surprised at Linna’s hesitation.
“And Lisa will probably be invited… I don’t think I’d like that situation.”
“And miss all of the entertainment? I could always provide a hardsuit for you to hide in.”
Linna shot her a death glare and stated sternly, “I’ll let you know tomorrow. Good night!”
Once the conversation was over, Sylia’s smile was replaced by an intense frown as she stared into the water of the pool. The ding of the elevator distracted her attention and she immediately changed her expression to something more pleasantly neutral.
A very glum Nene stepped out, moving with very lackluster steps. “Hey, Sylia, is my mom back yet?”
“I don’t think so.” Sylia asked with a smirk, “How does it feel to only have a couple more days of this charade?”
Nene shot her a very intense glare that would have impressed Priss.
Becoming more serious, Sylia tilted her head and asked, “Are you just tired or are there other issues?”
Nene sat down on the couch and buried her face in her hands. Then she promptly let out a very loud cry of pain.
Sylia arched her eyebrows but kept quiet.
Dropping her hands on her lap, Nene slumped back against the couch. “It won’t end when she leaves. She told me at lunch that she knows we’re hiding something. She didn’t press further but I feel like I was just grounded for life.”
Not looking at all surprised, Sylia walked over to the bar. “I’m having a scotch. Want something?”
“Beer sounds really good right now. In fact a whole keg would do.”
“I can arrange it if you really want me to,” her friend offered as she reached for the drinks.
Nene shook her head, clearly more preoccupied with her dilemma. “Sylia, is it true that you told Linna she was out of the Knight Sabers if Lisa ever found out?”
Her friend was quiet for a moment as she poured the beverages. Finally, she said, “Nene, if you’re asking because you feel you should tell your mother, I think those are two completely different situations.”
A little surprised, Nene looked up curiously. “So does that mean you’re okay with me telling Mom about us? I mean, I trust my mom to keep a secret when it really counts… I just never really had a reason to tell her before.”
Sylia handed her the beer before she took her own seat. After a thoughtful sip, she said, “Nene, I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Linna: I’m going to trust you to tell your mother what you need to about the Knight Sabers and about Mackey…. In fact, since I have a stake as a family member in this matter as well, I’m willing to help if you want me to.”
The younger woman looked incredulous. “Really?”
* * * * *
Nana smiled over her sip of sake as she looked at Nene and Mackey. The three of them were enjoying a long dinner at a nice sushi restaurant.
The mother and daughter pretended as if nothing was wrong despite their conversation at lunch.
Mackey looked a little troubled all evening, as if he was constantly distracted by something unpleasant, but he downplayed it every time they checked on him.
“Mackey, are you sure you don’t want to leave? I agree with Ne-chan that you’re really not looking well,” Nana asked.
“Oh, I feel fine but — ” he stopped his protest as another troubling thought appeared to distract him again. “Um, on second thought, I think I could go for a nice walk to get some fresh air. Do you two mind taking a cab back?”
“Don’t be silly, Mackey!” Nene said as she squeezed his hand. “The Silky Doll is still within walking distance. I don’t mind going for a stroll.”
“Neither do I,” Nana added, causing her daughter to stiffen a bit. “Unless you two would like it to be a romantic time for you two.”
“I’m not feeling romantic,” Mackey said with a sheepish shrug at his fiancée. “Do you mind if your mom walks with us?”
“Of course not!” Nene said through a frozen smile.
Mackey gave her a slightly confused frown at the expression but then said, “I’m going to go take care of the bill so we can leave right away.”
“Okay, we’ll meet you up front,” Nene said as the women started to gather their things.
Once they were alone, Nana said to her daughter, “I really, really like him, Ne-chan. Knowing he’s in your life makes me less worried about you.”
Nene blinked at the genuine comment and then smiled. “Thanks, Mom. Um, actually, about what we kind of talked about yesterday, can we make sure we spend some time tomorrow night to discuss it some more? It’s something Sylia needs to be there for as well.”
Nana looked surprised, confused and then pleased. She nodded as she gave her daughter’s shoulders a squeeze.
Years’ worth of tension suddenly drain from Nene. For the first time in a long time, she felt completely happy.
* * * * *
“ – Damnit! Sorry, guys!” Priss muttered as she took off her headphones and ran her fingers through her hair in aggravation. It was the fifth time in a row she had flubbed a line. And that wasn’t counting her botched attempts in other songs.
Sitting in the room outside of the recording booth, her band mates had been waiting patiently, knowing that any other reaction would not help things.
“Um, Priss,” Jaid cautiously spoke into the microphone as he took off his bandana and ran his fingers through his own hair, “If you want to quit for the night, that’s fine. You’re staying later than usual anyway.”
She shook her head. “No, I just need a breather. We’ll resume in five.”
“If you say so…”
Priss took a long drink from her water bottle and glanced at the clock on the wall. It was almost nine. She frowned to herself as she tried to clear her mind, and to keep unpleasant thoughts from creeping in.
Then she froze, suddenly distracted by a strong sense of something being horribly wrong. She glanced over at the guys and noticed that they chatted as if nothing was the matter. But the men’s easy demeanor disappeared once they noticed the rumble and sway of the building in the unmistakable motions of an earthquake.
Fighting against the frantic beating of her heart, Priss thought grimly to herself, ‘Genom better not have caused this one!’
— End Chapter 52 —
* * *
Wednesday Night, November 23rd
“Quick! Get away from the buildings!” Mackey urged the two women as he glanced up into the darkness, ever aware of the shaking buildings around them and the other pedestrians panicking. As streetlights started to go out, he switched his eyes to infrared in hope of being able to better see any falling debris and avoid any cars in the street in front of them. Soon the only sources of light were from the headlights of the few stopped cars before them.
Trying to keep her own balance on the rocking ground, Nene was already ahead of him, dragging her mother by the hand. “Move, Mom!”
As Mackey had feared, he glimpsed large windows starting to fall from the building behind them. Mackey immediately sprung into action. He grabbed both women and held them tightly against him as he jumped forward, trying his best to shield them.
In the chaos that immediately followed, Mackey was aware of several things happening. He heard the windows shatter on the pavement behind him, followed by the sensation of glass shards and concrete pieces pelting his back. Nana let out a scream of pain.
In the darkness, time seemed to crawl as the three of them huddled on the pavement, ever aware of the sounds of crashing debris and sporadic cries and shouts.
And finally, it seemed to stop.
“Mom, are you all right?!” Nene cried, pushing against Mackey’s embrace.
“Ye-Yes,” her mother answered softly. “You’re very strong, Mackey. You squeezed me too hard. I think my arm is sprained or something.”
Mackey realized in horror that he must have crushed her arm.
“How far are we from the Silky Doll?!” Nene frantically asked him.
“Stay here!” he ordered them. “I’ll come back in a couple of minutes and drive her to the hospital!”
* * * * *
“It’s okay. It’s over,” Jeena said as she embraced her crying son as they huddled in the doorway of their apartment in the dark. Through the window, she could hear the sounds of sirens in the distance, a reminder that she would probably be called to duty soon.
This was not a good time to be a single parent.
Suddenly her phone rang, buried in the piles of fallen moving boxes in the living room.
Grateful that her boomer prosthetic allowed her to easily carry her growing child, she picked him up and tried to follow the sound of her phone in the dark. After a couple of minutes of searching, and repeated attempts by the person calling her, she found her purse and fished out the phone. She wasn’t surprised to see that the caller ID showed that it was a call coming in on the special police frequency.
She hit the receive button and was momentarily surprised to be greeted with a black screen, which showed that the caller didn’t have power either. “Hello?” she said over her son’s soft sobs.
“Jeena?” Leon’s voice came through loud and clear. “Are you and B.J. all right?”
Stunned, she blinked and answered, “Yes, we’re fine. Shaken up but fine. Are you calling me into work?”
“Uh – well…” There was a moment of silence before Leon finally said, “I honestly wanted to make certain you two were all right… I’m going to head in since our equipment might help with the disaster recovery efforts. You don’t have to come in, especially if you can’t get someone to cover for BJ. I, uh, don’t have to worry about taking care of someone so it’s easy for me to respond right away.”
Jeena smiled to herself but kept her tone neutral. “I appreciate it. Once I have a handle on things, I’ll check in with you… And thanks for calling… Cowboy.”
Leon chuckled and said, “It’s what I’m here for, Ma’am… Bye.”
The woman could have sworn there was almost reluctance in his tone as his hung up. She chose not to dwell on it as she turned her attention back to her clinging child.
* * * * *
Standing outside of the movie theater, Lisa pressed the redial button on her cellular phone and once again got a busy signal. She glanced out of the corner of her eye at Linna frantically chatting with the image of Sylia, their conversation too low to be heard over the sounds of the crowds, alarms and other chaotic noises.
Lisa glanced over at the fire that had broken out in the string of department stores down the block. She knew she should be taking pictures and talking to people, but she just didn’t feel like it. In fact, she felt a knot in her stomach, and it wasn’t just from the earthquake.
Seeing Linna hang up, Lisa said cheerfully, “Well, it’s a good thing we arrived late and didn’t park in the parking structure. Otherwise, we’d be stuck here for a long while given everything that’s going on.”
“Um, yeah,” Linna said, clearly distracted by other thoughts. “Lisa, I – uh – have to go. My friends need help. Bye!”
Lisa grabbed the other woman’s arm, stopping her in her tracks. “How are you going to get there? I’m the one who drove and public transportation is in chaos right now… I’ll drive you.”
“Yes, but -“ Linna sputtered, at a loss for what to say as she was led by the forceful woman.
Once they were away from the crowds, Lisa took a deep breath and stated in a low voice, “Linna, you can stop with the charade. I know about the four of you. I know the real reason why you have to get to Sylia’s. And I’m not doing this just because I want another story about the Knight Sabers.”
Speechless, Linna stared at her, but they kept walking to where Lisa had parked a few blocks over.
* * * * *
“Hey! Anyone out there?!” the blonde Fox yelled through the door that was slid open only a couple of inches. Only the emergency sirens continued to whine in the background of the mostly empty building.
After being immersed in complete darkness, the building’s emergency systems had finally kicked in, bathing everyone with the red glow of strategically placed lights. Unfortunately, the building had suffered enough distortion that the electronic sliding door that led out to the hallway jammed itself when they tried to open it.
“Damn! It’s bad enough not having windows to escape, but we don’t even know how things are outside,” Jaid the burly drummer murmured. He gripped his cell phone in frustration, “And all of the lines are busy. This is the worst kind of wait there is.”
The two men then looked into the recording booth at Maxon kneeling by Priss, who was on the floor, curled up against the wall in a fetal position.
Trembling himself, the man knew there wasn’t anything he could say as he sat and placed a comforting hand on the woman’s shoulders.
When the shaking had stopped and the lights had come back on, the men were shocked to find Priss collapsed into her current position. Her eyes were wide open and staring blankly ahead as her breathing came in ragged pants that shook her entire body.
“Priss?” Maxon called to her carefully at first as he sat down. His voice seemed to trigger a reaction in Priss as she blinked and started to get her breathing under control.
After a few minutes of taking some forceful, controlled breaths, Priss swallowed and finally sat up as she solemnly wiped the tears from her eyes.
Suddenly feeling self-conscious about touching her, Maxon pulled his trembling hand into his lap. This was one time he wasn’t going to try to force any conversation.
Wanting to feel more comfortable, Priss carefully tested loosening the black collar at her neck. After waiting a moment, she then took it off completely but held it firmly in her hand.
She stood carefully and walked out into the control room, with Maxon a few steps behind her. She glanced over at the partially opened door and let out a small sigh. She noted the silent cell phone in Jaid’s hand. “Can’t call out?”
He shook his head. “All the lines are apparently jammed. Which isn’t surprising, I guess.”
Just then, the sound of ringing came from Priss’s backpack in the corner. Ignoring the incredulous stares, Priss calmly walked over to it and fished out the phone.
Of course, it was Sylia calling from the Pit.
“Hey,” Priss answered, not bothering to do anything about her haggard appearance in the red light. She was also very aware that their entire conversation could be heard. “We’re stuck in the recording studio. Door’s jammed.”
“Are you all right otherwise?” Sylia asked, her concern clear.
“I’ll manage,” she answered grimly. “How are things there?”
“Luckily, I had some forewarning but it’s still busy. The entire city is in chaos right now. Whenever you can get here, I’m sure there’ll be work to do. I just heard from Linna but I don’t know when she’ll be able to get here.”
“Any chance you can send someone to get us out? We’re on the 18th floor.”
“I can’t make promises but I’ll see what I can do. I’ve got to go.”
Once she hung up the phone, Priss looked at the guys and said with a grim smile, “While we’re waiting, this might be a good time to work on some songs, unplugged.”
“That’s true,” Maxon said, happy for something to do to take his mind off his own anxiety.
The other men nodded as they readied themselves for the impromptu songwriting session.
Suddenly Priss froze as an intense frown appeared on her face. Quickly refastening the collar around her neck, she practically ran for the slightly opened door and yelled out, “We’re in here!”
Priss started to gather her belongings and stared at the door expectantly.
Bewildered, the men said nothing as they waited to see if there was some sort of response.
A dark, slender metallic hand appeared through the opening, gripping the edge of the door. With apparent ease, the door was wrenched the rest of the way open, revealing the tall blond that Maxon remembered being with the idol singer the other night. She looked disheveled and the flesh was missing from her left arm, revealing the sleek, cybernetic limb.
Priss and the boomer stared at each other in silence for a moment as the men started to frantically gather the things they could carry.
Suddenly the beam of a flashlight peered in as a security guards showed up, followed by the frantic looking pop idol who was the boomer’s owner.
“Sara! I said stop right now!” the frustrated young man yelled out.
Standing her ground, she looked at him, as if to concede that she would now listen to his orders.
The guard looked at the musicians and scanned them with his beam. “Good, you guys seem to be okay. Do you know if there are others on this floor?”
Priss didn’t hear any conversation as she watched the boomer silently walk away, focusing on her search and rescue task. The woman felt her hands tremble again as she pressed them against her face and took a deep breath.
Grabbing her bag and guitar case, she walked out without a word.
— End Chapter 53 —
* * *
Wednesday Night, November 23rd
Priss was panting and sweating from having just run down eighteen flights of stairs while loaded with her bag and guitar. She was glad to see that her motorcycle seemed relatively unharmed despite having been turned on its side and moved a few feet from its original parking spot in the underground garage. It didn’t take long for her to get everything ready to go.
She turned on the communicator in her helmet as she drove out of the parking structure. She was glad that the night darkness hid the view of most of the surroundings, knowing that the sight of destruction would unnerve her even more, possibly triggering another panic attack.
“Priss?” Sylia’s voice answered.
“Yeah, I’m leaving the studio. Do you know if it’s safe to take any of the bridges?”
“No, you’ll have to do surface streets. I’m sending you a route to where you’ll rendezvous with Nigel. He’s going to deliver your hardsuit and moto-slave to you. Right now, traffic is your worst enemy – so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for him since he can’t weave through traffic like you can.”
“So was this a real earthquake?” Priss asked hesitantly.
“Yes. It was a Richter Scale rating of 6.1 with the epicenter just north of Tokyo. And there is the possibility of some aftershocks. In the event of an earthquake, I had Nene develop a map of potential areas of destruction based on the state of redevelopment and the quality history and equipment of the construction companies. From preliminary reports, it seems the map was extremely accurate… Priss, you do realize that you’re going to be working in the most catastrophic zones?”
Forcing herself to focus on maneuvering through the stopped cars and to not be distracted by the roadside sights and sounds of injured people, fires and sirens, Priss said through gritted teeth, “I’ll deal. What about Linna and Nene?”
“Nene and Mackey had to rush Nana to the hospital for possibly broken ribs so she may not be available for a while. And I’m assuming Linna is trying to make her way to the park. I’ll patch you through to her so you can pick her up on the way there since she’s on your way.”
“Okay… By the way, were you behind that Sylvie-bot showing up and getting us out of the recording studio?”
Sylia paused before answering, “Based on the readings from your white noise dampening collar, and your behavior in the past few days, I made an educated guess that one was nearby. It was a matter of tapping into her frequency and sending an override command. You can thank Nene for figuring out how to do that.”
“Couldn’t you have gotten rid of her white noise, too?”
There was a definite smile in Sylia’s voice as she answered, “I thought you might want a warning that she was coming. Plus, it would have served as another clue that it wasn’t Sylvie.”
Priss frowned. “Don’t worry. I’m not harboring any expectations of Sylvie ever coming back.”
“Of course. How silly of me.”
* * * * *
“-Everyone seems to be accounted for,” Henderson said from his seat at the Pit’s computer terminal. All of the screens in front of him displayed various views of the city in the earthquake aftermath, from news reports to angles from still functioning surveillance cameras. “Priss and Linna should be meeting up with Nigel shortly.”
“Good,” Sylia said as she finished studying the final diagnostic check. Thanks to the building’s design and well-protected generators, everything was functioning normally.
She glanced carefully at Henderson, knowing that he was trying to hide the signs of stress on his heart. He looked haggard and tried discreetly to wipe the beads of sweat showing up on his forehead.
Frowning to herself, she said, “I’m going to deploy then. Promise me that you’ll relinquish monitor duty and take a rest once Nigel gets back.”
“Of course, Mistress Sylia,” he said with sincerity.
* * * * *
Not able to stand the silence anymore while they waited in traffic, and wanting some way to focus the turmoil of thoughts in her mind, Linna stared straight ahead and asked softly, “So how long have you known?”
“I was one of the people you saved from that rooftop fire. I recognized your voice,” Lisa said, glad that the tension was finally broken. “I figured out the rest when I met everyone at that dinner. I haven’t told anyone… and I don’t plan to. I meant what I said at that dinner.”
“Thank you,” Linna said softly, trying to fight down feelings of anger, betrayal and foolishness. “Was that why you asked me out on a date?”
“I’d like to think I would have asked you out on a date even if I hadn’t known,” she answered carefully. “Everything I told you about having a crush on you in high school was true. I tried to break things off before because even I wasn’t sure if my motives were as… honest as I hoped they were.”
“If the earthquake hadn’t happened, when would you have let me know?” Linna’s tone was noticeably sharper with this question.
“I don’t know. I never said anything because I was waiting for you to trust me enough to tell me.”
Linna was stunned, clearly not having considered that angle before.
After another moment of silence, Lisa finally let out a sad sigh. “Of course, none of this changes the fact that you’re going off to save the world with my romantic rival. And even if you choose me over Priss in the short term, you’re always going to be at her side when it counts the most. I can’t compete against something like that – even if I had confidence that my motives were completely pure.”
Feeling tears swell up in her eyes as her stomach tightened, Linna said softly, “Then maybe it’s for the best that we call it quits now then.”
“Yeah, I guess we should,” Lisa said, biting her lip at her own growing tears.
Just then, Linna sat up, seeing in the rear-view mirror a single headlight approaching between the cars. She felt her heart jump in anticipation since she knew immediately who it was.
She grabbed the door handle but then paused. She looked over at Lisa in the dimly light darkness and said genuinely, “I’m sorry.”
Not trusting her voice to remain steady, Lisa only nodded, not wanting to watch the woman step out of the car to flag down her new ride.
* * * * *
Scanning the datapad, Leon frowned as he stood in the Police Headquarters deployment garage, which was frantic with activity, taking advantage of the fact that their power generators had just fully kicked back in.
Only a quarter of the NTC crew would be arriving as soon as they were able to find a means to get to HQ. Another quarter had been contacted to confirm their safety and therefore put on standby. That left half of the NTC unit unaccounted for, which was a better ratio than the regular police.
“Hey, Leon, do we want to prep these? All of the K-suits are ready to go.”
At the mechanic’s question, Leon glanced over at the collection of sample hardsuits that Genom had provided for the NTC to perform their equipment analysis in their upgrades discussion.
He nodded and said, “Sure, why not? We don’t have anyone proficient in these but we’d be stupid not to deploy them since we need the equipment.”
“It’s the best way to learn,” Jeena said from behind him.
Leon turned around in surprise to see his commander and Daley running up to him, having just arrived in the other man’s car.
“Where’s BJ?” Leon asked in bewilderment.
“Yuuji is being the good godfather right now,” she answered with a wink.
Daley grinned and added, “And I wisely chose to use reporting for duty as an excuse to get out of babysitting.”
Jeena elbowed him in the ribs and said, “You’re going out in the first suit…”
* * * * *
The hospital emergency room was so crowded that the line for injured people had spilled out into the nearby courtyard. Hospital staff and volunteers were running around trying to distribute the most basic aids like bandages and ice in the light of flashlights.
“Mom, do you want a drink?” Nene asked, holding up a water bottle that Mackey had brought from the Silky Doll.
Nana weakly declined as she held the ice-pack to her upper right arm, which was swollen and purple. “I’ll be happy enough when the pain-killer kicks in. Shouldn’t you be going?”
“Wha — ? No!” Nene blurted. Then immediately she calmed down when she realized that her mom was referring to her job as a member of the police rather than the Knight Sabers. “I’m not front line. Besides, they haven’t called me on the police channel so I’d just be in the way if I show up at headquarters.”
Deciding he had been quiet long enough, Mackey pulled Nene off to the side and whispered, “I can wait with your mom. Why don’t you go ahead? Sylia’s already hearing reports on the police frequency that you could help out with. Nigel can head over here after he rendezvous with Priss.”
Nene looked reluctantly at her watching mother and said, “But…”
Guessing at what they were talking about, Nana managed to give her daughter a pointed look and said, “Ne-chan, I don’t want you sitting here hovering over me anymore than you’d want me to do the same to you if the positions were reversed. If you can help out at police headquarters in any way, then please go. I completely understand. I’ll be fine, especially if Mackey’s here.”
Despite clearly wanting to stay, Nene nodded and gave her mother a careful hug, “Thanks, Mom.”
Nana patted her on the back and gently teased, “Prove to me that I’m right to be proud of you.”
* * * * *
Neither woman said anything as Priss turned off the engine once they had pulled into the park. Like before, it was one of the few areas of calm in the otherwise chaotic city. They knew they had to relish the relative peace since the next several hours would be occupied with grueling and messy work.
Linna remained still as she continued to embrace Priss from behind, feeling every ounce of tension in the other woman.
After a moment, Priss finally leaned back a bit, putting her arms over Linna’s in an effort to relax a bit.
“Are you going to be all right?” Linna asked softly.
The other woman took a deep breath. “I keep having flashbacks to when that Genom quake was over and I looked around. There’s nothing like seeing that your entire family is all there, yet you’re alone…. I had a panic attack in the studio. In an instant, I felt like I was once again a helpless little kid who was witnessing a living nightmare.”
Linna gave her a gentle squeeze and said, “It’s not the same this time. You’re an adult who’s able to help others. And you haven’t lost anyone.”
Priss let out a dry chuckle. “Does this mean I’m supposed to brainwash myself with that power of positive thinking bullshit?”
“If it’s what it takes to get you through this,” her friend said with a smile. “And even if we’re working separately, just remember that I’m here to support you.”
Priss was quiet for a moment and said, “Yes, you always are, aren’t you?”
Their peace was disturbed by the sight of the mobile pit’s headlights appearing at the park’s gate.
The women let out a sigh, knowing it was time to get to work.
— End Chapter 54 —
* * *
Sunday Noon, November 27th
Waiting for her lunch date, Lisa stood on the sidewalk and watched the construction activity at the building that had housed several clubs and restaurants prior to the earthquake.
The wrecked building was a hive of activity with human and boomer crews sifting through the remains for survivors. The green and blue Knight Sabers were helping in their own ways, using special sensoring equipment for delicate tasks while moving away large debris when necessary. The Knight Sabers’ participation allowed government and Genom recovery teams to deploy their much-needed equipment at other critical sites.
Under the bright daylight with over four days having passed from the event, Tokyo was already trying to return to as much normalcy as possible.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Yuuji said as he appeared beside her and watched the same view. “Some buildings completely collapsed and others didn’t seem to have any more damage than some displaced furniture and pictures. And they could be right next to each other. There must be a story behind that.”
“Maybe. I’ve personally got more than enough earthquake stories to last me for a while without having to dig up more,” Lisa said with a shrug. She then noticed that the man was without his companion of the past few days. “Where’s the little guy? Did you already take him to the airport?”
He nodded. “Billy was able to get an earlier flight. So now Jeena’s free to completely focus on the recovery and rescue work until it dies down somewhat. That and when her apartment building’s plumbing and electricity is back in working order. Toss up on which one will be sooner.”
He then nudged her with a nod towards the view before them. “Aren’t you going to take some pictures of the Knight Sabers? Even though they’ve been seen everywhere since the quake, people still can’t get enough of them.”
Lisa was quiet for a moment as she continued to stare at the wreckage site. She then shook her head and said, “I’ve had enough of Knight Sabers stories too. Let’s go eat…”
Yuuji frowned briefly to himself as he saw the shadow of sorrow on her face. He wisely kept his mouth shut whenever he saw glimpses of her melancholy mood, knowing that it had started the day she had broken up with Linna.
* * * * *
Now sporting a cast, Nana walked into the dining room and paused when the group of people stopped their conversation upon noticing her.
Dressed in a simple outfit of a tank top and coveralls, Sylia was in her seat at the head of the table, finishing up a simple bowl of soup. Mackey and Nene were also at the table, enjoying a similar meal. The two women looked extremely tired but they seemed alert and tense.
“Hello, Nana,” Sylia greeted cheerfully. “Sleep well?”
“As best I could, dear,” she answered. “Pain killers are nice to have. – Ne-chan, are you finally off work? You look awful, I hope you plan to get a good night’s sleep now.”
“I’m fine, Mom,” she answered as she stood and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “But yes, I do plan to get some shut eye once I wind down a bit.”
“So, Nana,” Sylia said, “Do you need any help in finishing your packing?”
“That’s all right, Dear,” Nana said with a wave of her free hand. “I’m a light traveler. At this point I will be happy enough to be on that plane, providing they don’t cancel the flight again. – Where’s Priss? I haven’t seen her since the quake. Is she all right? Especially with her bad arm and leg.”
“She’s been in and out, but she’s been mostly at her apartment since she needs some peace and quiet. Why don’t you sit down and join us for dinner?” Sylia gave Nene a look. “This may be the last chance we’ll have for a good conversation since you’re leaving tomorrow.”
Nene‘s eyes widened. Then she cleared her throat nervously. “Yeah, Mom, why don’t you sit down? There’s something important we need to tell you.”
Nana frowned at the seriousness of the tone but she smiled and said, “All right…”
* * * * *
Linna was stretched out on the bench in the Pit locker room, having collapsed into a nap after the latest marathon of salvage and reconstruction work. She stirred at the feeling of cold at her cheek. Opening her eyes, she stared up at an amused Sylia, who had been holding a glass of cold orange juice against her face.
Blushing, Linna wearily sat up, noticing that her cheek was quite cold, a sign that Sylia must have held the drink to her face for much longer than she had thought. “How long was I out?”
Sylia sat down on the bench and handed the drink over. “If you collapsed as soon as you came back, then you’ve been asleep for almost two hours.”
Linna immediately straightened in horror. “Oh my god! I’ve been out that long! You should have woken me up!”
Sylia shook her head and rubbed her shoulder. “You need rest. All of us do. Exhausted Knight Sabers are not going to be a help to anyone. There will still be work to do when you’ve rested up.”
Reluctantly forcing herself to relax, Linna took a sip that tasted like the best thing she had ever tasted due to days of minimal meals and snacks. “Even though we’ve all been doing nonstop work assignments and have been keeping in touch over the commlink, I feel like I haven’t really seen anyone. How are you?”
“I’m fine,” she answered. “Just waiting for life to get back to normal in all aspects. Maybe you should take some time off tomorrow and spend it with Lisa?”
Linna winced, realizing that there was something she had managed to avoid discussing with anyone.
Noticing the reaction, Sylia merely arched her eyebrows and waited for the words to come out.
Staring into her glass, Linna took a deep breath and recounted her last conversation with Lisa.
Not looking at all surprised by anything she had just heard, Sylia merely pursed her lips and said, “Have you told Priss any of this?”
Linna shook her head. “No, we haven’t exchanged two real words since the quake work started. Did you know Lisa knew?”
“I had a hunch she did by the things she said at the dinner.”
Absorbing this for a moment, Linna finally said, “I trust her not to tell anyone with the way things are right now. But what if things were to turn ugly between us and we had a bad break up? She’s still a reporter after all. I mean, I’ve heard stories of people doing really vindictive things under such circumstances.”
“I don’t think you would fall in love with such a person. After all, you and I share the same taste in women.”
Linna stared at Sylia incredulously. “So you think Lisa would be trustworthy in the long run?”
“I’m not the one you should be having that conversation with…. But if anything, I’m curious to know if you would have made the same choice if the Knight Sabers were not a factor.”
Linna frowned. “That’s about as fair as me asking you if you would still be with Reika if the Knight Sabers had never been part of your life.”
“True…” Sylia conceded. She was quiet for a moment as she stared up at the ceiling thoughtfully. “Yes, I would… I suppose I’m being selfish. I’m not comfortable with being the ultimate reason behind you not being able to make a fair decision in the matter.”
“Yeah, well, it’s done,” Linna said with a sip of her drink. “And don’t worry about the extended guilt, Sylia. The decision was still ultimately mine.” Tears started to form in her eyes.
Sylia just let out a deep breath and hugged her friend’s shoulders.
Out in hallway, Priss let out a sigh and pressed her forehead against the wall.
* * * * *
Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, Priss sat on the bed and stared at the wall-size view of the aquarium as exotic fish drifted back and forth. Despite her physical and mental exhaustion, she found sleep to be elusive.
A soft knock was heard at her door, a sign that someone didn’t want to wake her up from a much needed rested.
Priss would have ignored the knock but thought better of it. She wearily stood and pressed the button that would automatically open the door.
An equally tired and casually dressed Linna stood sheepishly on the other side. “I couldn’t sleep… But if you don’t want company, I understand.”
Priss stared at her for a moment and then gave her a tired smile. She reached out and clasped Linna’s hand, leading her into the room.
Seconds later, Linna was sitting on the bed Indian-style with Priss wrapped around her from behind. The two women didn’t say anything for a few minutes, enjoying the peace and each other’s company.
“Are you all right?” Priss softly asked, her chin on Linna’s shoulder. “I know you must have seen as many bodies as I have the past few days.”
Linna took a deep breath and gave a shrug. “It’s definitely unforgettable. But we’ve saved and helped enough people that I can feel like it’s been more productive than futile. What about you?”
“I didn’t realize it until now but I think I’m finally getting some closure… And speaking of which, when were going to tell me about you and Lisa breaking it off?”
Linna stiffened. “It didn’t seem like appropriate earthquake talk… So I guess it’s just me and you now.”
Priss then let out a deep sigh.
“You know,” she said after a pause, “If I were you, I’m not sure I’d want to date me. I’d think ‘that’s one fucked-up chick with a lot of baggage’. “
“… Why are you telling me this?” Linna softly asked.
“Because my pride won’t accept a victory based on circumstances and pity. I want the assurance that you’ve really made the best choice for yourself, not a cop-out by default. I know I have major issues I’m still working through…” Priss paused reluctantly but then forced herself to continue, “And it was hammered home the other day that I’m not over Sylvie. Also, I live for the moment. If you stay with me, you won’t have the option of having a family, if it turns out to be something you want down the road.
Priss hugged her even tighter and added, “You have this great chance with someone who seems to have her act really together and could truly love you. That’s why she makes me so damn jealous. You deserve my absolute best but I can’t deliver that right now, if I’m ever able to…
“But we’re best friends, and we’ll always be in each others’ lives no matter what. Hell, I had over three years with Leon and you were still there. So it’s only fair that if I finally get my act together three years from now, and Lisa’s making you miserable, I’ll kill her… Well, I’d kill her anyway even if I wasn’t romantically available.”
Linna sat in stunned silence and then broke out into a giggle. “Priss Asagiri, you’re definitely one of a kind.”
In the next instant, Priss found herself lying on her back with Linna hovering over her.
“Okay, I won’t cop out anymore. I’ll sit down and really make a decision,” Linna said sincerely. “And if I choose you, then you don’t argue with my reasons. Fair?”
Priss grinned. “If you choose me, then you’re stuck with me.”
As if suddenly noticing their positions and nearness, Linna’s smile turned sly. “But I’m not going to make a decision right now.”
“That’s fine with me,” Priss responded as she pulled the other woman down for a kiss.
— End Chapter 55 —