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 16

Saturday, Lunch Time, Oct. 15th

With the quirk of a grin on her lips, Sylia looked at the two men across the table in the fancy restaurant. “I must say this is a pleasant surprise, Leon. It’s been a while.”

The man in question gave her an acknowledging grunt as he looked at the menu. He was barely containing his horror at the prices, though he realized it shouldn’t have been too surprising since the restaurant was Sylia’s choice. He and Daley had agreed to split the bill, since they were going to ask a favor of her after all.

Daley put down his menu and took a sip of wine. “Now that we’ve had our reunion, we’ll get down to business. We had a meeting with Genom yesterday and it seems the break-in was genuine, but the leads have all dried up.”

“Yes, I heard about the deaths of those employees they thought were part of the conspiracy,” Sylia said. “That is extremely unfortunate and unsurprising.”

The detective merely gave a conceding nod. He also knew better than to be surprised that she knew something that so far had been kept from the press. “Did your sources come up with any leads we could use?”

She shook her head. “Nothing noteworthy has surfaced so far. But we are keeping our virtual eyes and ears open for anything. So how did the meeting with Genom go?”

Sylia showed no distinct reaction to Daley’s recounting of the meeting other than her ever so usual mild smirk. When he concluded, she remarked, “So I assume this is why you wanted to have this emergency lunch?”

The men nodded and Leon said, “We’re going to be at the training camp as of Monday and Genom’s going to send some reps to make an assessment and a pitch on Wednesday. We wanted to meet with you first to see what your take could be on this. Like if there are particular enhancements or hardware we should ask for. Or if there’s anything they might offer that we should stay away from.”

Sylia’s expression turned thoughtful for a moment but was interrupted by the appearance of the waiter. They placed their orders, with Sylia asking for the most expensive entree, much to Leon’s horror, yet he knew better than to be surprised given her pampered upbringing.

After the waiter had walked out of earshot, Sylia asked, “I assume you’re asking to be prepared for a worst case scenario, meaning an army of Sylvie-level boomers?”

“More or less,” Leon answered with a nod. “If the risk is big enough to make Genom offer to do free upgrades under the guise of public service, I want to be able to take advantage of what we can.”

“And I assume that under your and Sergeant Malso’s leadership, the issue of incompetent and irresponsible officers using such increased firepower will be minimized?”

He narrowed his eyes a bit but then answered, “The CU will be undergoing a tactical as well cultural change in the next two weeks. We plan to get rid of the old A.D. Police recklessness.”

“Glad to hear that. And I look forward to seeing such results,” she answered without the slightest change in her expression. “When it comes to most of the crimes the CU is facing these days, your current artillery should actually be very effective if it were only used properly. And that includes your K-suits. But for Sylvie-level boomers, I can already think of several key things you could ask for that should be within Genom’s development capabilities. Would it be suitable for me to have a discussion with Nigel and we’ll email you our list Monday? You should have enough time to look it over and to call me with any questions before your Genom meeting.”

“I have a question,” Daley asked, “is there any way that you or Nigel could check to see if they implant anything ‘funny’ into these new suits, like a kill switch or remote control overrides?”

Leon’s eyes widened at the question, as if this was a new and not pleasant idea for him.

“To do that, we’d need to see the actual detailed schematics or an up-close inspection of the final suit, which would mean taking it apart,” she answered. “Even then, such innovations can be done in two or three ways, usually using the most simple method that could be overlooked or normally used for another function. But an assessment can still be done if you think the risk is strong enough.”

“I’d still like you guys to take a look at them,” Leon said. Then he looked at her curiously and asked, “So are you guys doing any ‘upgrades’ now that there’s this risk of an army of these elite combat boomers?”

“We’ve had some discussions. In fact, I’m glad to hear that Genom themselves don’t think we should be exposed to anything for a few more months since my team has some higher priority projects to work on.”

“You mean Mackey?”

She nodded, apparently not surprised that the two men already knew since they worked with Nene. “I’m committed to taking care of family matters first this time. As for what to do in the future, Nigel and I have already started discussions with Priss about bringing back her motoslav as our next big project. And we’re evaluating the option of similar add-on enhancements to the other suits.”

The two men’s eyes widened at the news, clearly impressed that such an initiative was already being contemplated.

Sylia gave them a smile and said, “As you can imagine, I prefer to be a little prepared.”

* * * * *

That Evening

“Leon, you are the man!” Yuuji declared as he took the case of beer from his recently arrived guest.

“Well, I’ve got a few more cases in my car. If we get a couple more guys, we could carry them up in one trip,” Leon suggested as he looked around at the apartment that was brightly lit and ready for the crowd of guests due to arrive within an hour.

“Gotcha! Wait here,” Yuuji instructed as he carried the box towards the kitchen, where several voices could be heard.

“Leo-peo!” came a cry as a petite blonde tackled the man from behind for a hug.

Biting down a frown, Leon remarked, “You’re not going to be much help, Pipsqueak!”

Nene scowled. “Just for that, I’m going to tell Jee -“

Leon clamped his hand over her mouth at the sudden appearance of a man he hadn’t seen in years. “Billy Fanward? Is that you?”

The tall, broad-shouldered man with the blond crew cut and easy grin gave him a nod as he held his hand out for a shake. “Leon McNichol! Life looks like it’s treating you well!”

“You too!” Leon greeted as they shook hands heartily. “Man, it’s been years! And I didn’t know you were in town!”

Billy gave a nod towards the kitchen and said, “Since Jee’s gonna be gone for two solid weeks, we thought this weekend would be a good time for a visit to Tokyo. And – “

“Hey! Carry the chat on the way to the car!” Daley declared to the men. “The sooner we get the beer on ice, the happier we’ll all be!”

“Nene,” Yuuji said, hooking his arm into hers to take her along, “you can be Door Girl!”

Nene didn’t say anything as she willing walked between the male couple while keeping her eyes on the two men in front of her. She was fascinated to see how they carried on a conversation like two old pals who hadn’t seen each other for a long time.

“Hey, Daley,” she whispered with a tug at his sleeve, “is it just me or do Leon and Billy seem a lot alike personality-wise? Like they could be brothers if they only looked alike?”

Daley squinted through his glasses at the two men and gave a conceding nod. “I never really thought about it but you’re right.”

Nene suddenly broke out into a smug look as she remarked softly, “Hmm, maybe Leon’s more Jeena’s type than she’s willing to admit.”

Daley merely raised his eyebrows as his sign that he wasn’t touching that one.

Yuuji smirked and whispered into Nene’s ear, “Yes, but keep in mind that Jee and Billy are divorcing!”

“Oh yeah,” Nene muttered as that comment sunk in. “Crap.”

— End Chapter 16 —

* * *

Chapter 17

Saturday Night, October 15th

“Well, Uncle Nick?” Lisa asked the image of the man on her computer terminal.

Sitting in his home office, he shook his head and chuckled. “Not that I’m complaining, but you’ve never asked my opinion about something you’ve written before it went press before. Why the change?”

“The guilt of nepotism, perhaps?” Lisa took advantage of the fact that the pressroom was minimally staffed and propped her crossed legs on her desk. “Just wanted some mild assurance that you didn’t feel like choosing me was a mistake.”

Nick smiled as he held up the papers that showed what he had spent the past hour mulling over. “If I had received this from anyone else, yes, I would’ve been pissed. At least with you, I know you didn’t write anything that was wrong. And in fact, that’s what pisses me off even more in that it’s our own fault.”

“I can always change it,” she offered as she sniffed at the cup of cold coffee and decided to take a sip anyway, and then promptly gagged at the realization that was a mistake. “My editor isn’t expecting it for a couple more hours.”

He looked at the papers in his hands for a moment and then shook his head. “No, then it really would look like nepotism if you wrote something warm and glowing. That’s not the current view of the public, and it’s Malso and McNichol’s jobs to give you something to write about that would change it. I trust you to be fair and honest, not a magician.”

Lisa grinned. “Glad we agree. Now, do you think I’ll have difficulty getting cooperation with Malso and McNichol once this goes public?”

“Not from Malso, she’s too professional. But McNichol’s still green that way. I’m trusting you to teach him not to wear his tantrums on his sleeve.”

Lisa shook her head and chuckled, “Mom would skin you alive if she knew I was doing your dirty work when it comes to whipping your officers into shape.”

“Hey, you’re forgetting I’m the one who calmed her down about you and Nathan living together.”

She rolled her eyes. “Well, yes, but Mom totally blew it out of proportion to begin with. I would think given the circumstances she would’ve been happy that I’m not living alone in the big city by myself.”

Her uncle gave her a knowing frown.

She laughed and held her hands up in surrender. “All right! I know that’s not quite the point. And thanks, Uncle Nick!”

“We’ll see if you’ll feel that way when this hits the streets,” he said with a wave of the papers. “Have a fun time at Daley’s party! Just don’t spill the beans before tomorrow, okay? I’d like my officers to have one good night before they have to get down to work.”

“My lips are sealed, for now!” she said with a wink.

* * * * *

Later That Night

“Looks like Mackey’s got some competition!” Leon remarked at the sight of Nene sitting on the couch with the six-year-old son of Jeena and Billy.

B.J. Fanward sat on the young woman’s lap with his head on her shoulder, his eyes shut, apparently deep asleep. He still had his beloved cowboy hat in his lap with his holster and pistol at his waist.

Nene took the nearest cushion and pitched it at Leon with a hiss, “Shut up, Leonardo! He’s asleep!”

Clearly amused at the sight herself, Jeena knelt before them and ran her hand through her son’s hair. “He’s really out if he can sleep with all of this noise.”

“Does this mean you guys are going to leave?” Nene asked. “It’s still early.”

“Oh, I realize that,” Jeena said as she gently took the boy from his human cushion. “Yuuji and I already prepared the guest bed for him to have a private nap until his daddy and I are ready to go.”

Whatever sleepy protest B.J. made was quickly squashed at the sight and feel of his mother as he quickly adjusted to being in her arms.

Leon sat himself down on the couch next to Nene as they watched the woman disappear with her son. The living room was filled with chatting and laughing guests and friends who didn’t seem like they were going to stop any time soon.

“Man, I miss partying with cops,” Leon remarked as he took a swallow from his bottle of beer. “But I didn’t realize there’d be so many reporters here.”

Nene shrugged. “Well, Yuuji is hosting, too. I just can’t wait until I can start showing up at these things with Mackey.”

“Hey, you mentioned your mom’s coming for a visit. What if he isn’t ready by the time she shows up?”

Nene took a sip of her own beer and let out a sigh. “I am totally not going to think about it until I have to. The problem is that my mom pretends she doesn’t see a lot of things but you never know when she’ll call you on something. I know my sisters and I thought we got away with a lot as kids, but I think Mom turned a blind eye most of the time just to keep the peace. I honestly have no idea what I can tell her with this situation. I mean, even if Sylia and Nigel manage to pull off this upgrade, I think I need to tell Mom something. I just don’t know what or how much.”

“I definitely don’t envy you, that’s for sure,” Leon admitted. “As much as I miss not having a normal life, it sure feels weird trying to adjust to one again. I guess once you’ve been affected by — I don’t know what you’d exactly call it, but I guess ‘Sylia’s world’ will do for now – it’s like you’re always going to feel a little different for it.”

Nene nodded. “Yeah, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

Wincing at the twinge of pain in his heart, Leon didn’t say anything as he sighed and looked into his empty beer bottle.

Just then a brisk knock came from the front door.

Leon and Nene exchanged a look, realizing that they were the closest and one of them should answer it.

“Coming!” Yuuji yelled as he forced his way through the crowd to greet his new guest.

The door opened and Lisa Vanette walked in, dressed in a comfortable short dress and armed with two bottles of sake. “Sorry I’m late but these should make up for it!” she declared as she held out her gifts.

“I am surprised!” Yuuji admitted honestly, but still taking the bottles. “I thought you’d be pulling an all-nighter!”

“Last minute inspiration works wonders. Plus, I was not going to miss another one of your parties again! By the way, Nathan isn’t here, is he? I came directly from the office and had to blackmail him over the phone to stay home.”

Yuuji shook his head. “Nope. Flu boy hasn’t made an appearance. At least, not that anyone told me!”

“Good! – Oh, hello, Detective McNichol!” Lisa said, noticing that her arrival had a small audience. “I should have realized you’d be here!”

“Same here,” he answered, mustering up a smile as he stood and gave her a bow. “Please, call me Leon during non-work hours.”

“Then you may call me Lisa under the same conditions.” She noticed Nene and gave her a bow in greeting. “Hello, I’m Lisa Vanette. Are you Leon’s girlfriend?”

Nene and Leon exchanged a look of absolute horror as Yuuji clamped his hand over his mouth to smother a snort of a laugh.

“No, no, no! He’s not my boyfriend! My boyfriend has to work late himself!” Nene declared quickly as she stood and bowed. “Hi! I’m Nene — Nene Romanova! How do you do?”

Lisa bowed in greeting but a clearly quizzical expression was on her face as she sized up the girl even more petite than she was. “This may sound really odd, but would you happen to know Professor Nana Romanova? Apart from the name similarity, you look like her.”

Nene lit up with a proud smile. “That’s my mom! Were you a student of hers?”

“Yes! I was an assistant of hers for a semester!” Lisa declared. “She was also my favorite professor when I was an undergrad!”

“Oh wow! Well, she’s coming to teach a seminar at Tokyo University in November!” Nene said.

“Really?!” Lisa responded with genuine enthusiasm.

Leon quietly watched the two young women merrily chat about school and mothers. Part of him wanted to ask Lisa what kind of article she had submitted for tomorrow’s paper, but then he thought it was probably better to wait to see it in print himself.

— End Chapter 17 —

* * *

Chapter 18

Monday Morning, October 17th

“Morning,” Jeena called out at the appearance of Leon at the door of their office.

“Morning,” he grunted as he stomped over to his desk and dropped his duffle bags on the floor. He projected a considerably dark and sour mood, which was no doubt directly connected to the critical introductory article Lisa Vanette had written about the NTC in yesterday’s edition of the Tokyo Sun.

Jeena continued typing as she said, “Transportation just called. Our buses should be in the parking lot within fifteen minutes. We should head out there in a few minutes to start taking roll call.”

“Okay. I’ll do it.” He logged into his computer to do a check of his virtual inbox before they would be heading out on their trip. “Give me five minutes.”

Jeena watched him out of the corner of her eye. She frowned and opened her mouth to speak, but then was interrupted by the appearance of their supervisor at their office door.

“Good that I caught you two before you took off,” Nick said as he closed the door behind him, giving them maximum privacy. “I can tell by both of your expressions that you read yesterday’s article.”

Leon scowled and grumbled, “Who in this city hasn’t, Nick? Even before I walked through the lobby I felt like one giant laughing stock that no one dared to laugh out loud at. I just love being publicly referred to as the NTC version of an ‘idol singer development project.’”

Nick looked at Jeena and asked, “Do you feel the same, Malso?”

“Of course not, Sir,” she answered with a shake of her head. “Of the three of us cited in the article, I realize I had the least negatives pointed out that I would have to overcome in fulfilling my duty of reshaping the CU. However, I am still the commander, and I care about the welfare and morale for the CU, as well as all of the officers that serve in it.”

“And you should have the same attitude, Leon,” Nick pointed out seriously. “I know it feels like a personal attack, but that’s part of the job of being a public servant like we are. You’ve got to swallow any criticism and focus on doing what’s best for your team. When the entire team succeeds, then you can definitely take the responsibility for that success. Whether the public sees it or not isn’t the point.”

Leon narrowed his eyes at Nick and commented, “It almost sounds like you think this article was a good thing.”

Nick grinned and said, “I’m counting you two to prove my niece wrong. And I’ll make certain she documents everything when that happens.”

Obviously feeling a little better, Leon chuckled and gave him a mock salute. “Yes, Sir!”

* * * * *

That Night

Dressed in sweats and slippers, Leon paused in the hallway at the sight of Jeena’s open dorm room with the light shining through. It might have been only nine o’clock, but everyone was exhausted due to the intense physical warm up exercises the team went through, himself included.

Leon peered into the room to find her sitting at the simple desk and mulling over the data on her laptop. Her concentration was clearly intense as she scanned a spreadsheet of names and figures.

“Hey, aren’t you exhausted? I know I’m wiped!” he remarked in a soft voice that was enough to make his presence known, but not enough to surprise her or wake anyone else in the dorms. “And a tired commander is a poor example for the troops!”

Jeena responded with a smile but she didn’t look up from scanning the data. “I assure you that I will be out like a light once my head hits that pillow. I just wanted to get a head start to our planning session tomorrow morning. Do you realize that apart from you and me, we have no able-bodied officers who are even trained on how to operate a K-Suit?”

Leon’s eyes widened in surprise. “How the hell did that happen?”

She sat back in her chair and rubbed her eyes wearily. “Most of them are still in rehab from that construction boomer incident or that encounter with the KS. And the others have quit. I think we’ve been lucky that things have been so quiet that we haven’t needed that skill set. But that’s no excuse if something happens tomorrow. I’m kicking myself for not noticing it sooner.”

Leon frowned and said, “Go to sleep, Malso. We’ll deal with it tomorrow morning as a team.”

Clearly surprised by his comment, she looked at him with amusement as she reached over and turned off the laptop. “Yes, Sir!”

* * * * *

Wednesday Afternoon, October 19th

“… Your weapons catalog is definitely impressive,” Jeena commented to the Genom guests as the four of them sat in the dorm conference room. Her attention was \ focused on the data pads they had been given listing the currently available arsenal. “What’s the process for acquiring some of these items once we’ve made our choices?”

“Call or email me,” Kate Madigan responded as she sat at the other side of the table and used her stylus to tap in notes into her own datapad. “Some of these items may already be in stock. If we have to assemble an item from the factories, then it would take a month, perhaps less if you wish to expedite the request. We can even arrange special demonstrations or classes for your inexperienced officers if you feel it would be helpful.” She made the last comment with her attention specifically focused on Leon, who sat across the table from her.

Not liking the special attention combined with the last comment, Leon merely narrowed his eyes at her before continuing to read his datapad.

Pretending not to notice the silent exchange, Jeena said, “I notice that there’s no hardsuit technology in this particular catalog. Is that equipment listed somewhere else?”

Prompted by a look from Madigan, Dr. Yuri cleared his throat and explained, “ Hardsuit development has admittedly been one area we’ve not given much focus until the recent reappearance of the Knight Sabers. Even though we’re at a disadvantage by not having one of their hardsuits to study, the basic design elements and capabilities that have been captured on film have already inspired some renovation plans in our own company. Although to be realistic, we don’t think we can match their level of sophistication, but we can certainly upgrade the K-Suits with significant changes in mobility and combat capabilities to be worthy opponents to our elite combat boomers.

“I wasn’t part of the original team that developed the K-Suits you use now. However, Genom originally developed them while partnering with the AD Police. We developed the test and prototype models and select officers would give us feedback on usability and areas for improvement. We’d like to use a similar model for the upgrade of the K-suit.”

“What’s the time commitment for such a project?” Jeena asked.

“Right now we’re still in requirements and design stage, for which we would still like your input,” the scientist answered. “However, we would need a focused week to come up with the final requirements which we don’t think can be done while you are commanding your unit for this ‘boot camp’ excursion. We would have to schedule a dedicated work session when you get back to Tokyo.

“We wouldn’t have use for a volunteer until at least the beginning of next year, when we would need to start development of an actual prototype model. But we wouldn’t be able to produce a fully functional model for street use until the end of the year at the earliest. Compared to other weapons or armor, hardsuits are the most difficult to develop as well as build.”

“And what about the safety of our officers? I want assurances that it will be a top priority if we’re providing the bodies.”

“That’s a legitimate concern, Sergeant Malso,” Madigan interrupted. She gave a pointed glance at Leon before saying, “We realize some officers are more valuable than others, but we intend to make certain the best safeguards are in place for anyone who volunteers.”

Leon openly glared at her at this point. He opened his mouth to comment when Jeena jumped in.

“We appreciate any assurance you can give us, Ms. Madigan,” she said. “Second Commander McNichol and I will look over the catalog and give you a list of items we would like to have as soon as possible. Also, feel free to schedule these requirements work sessions as soon as possible. I will make certain the NTC provides adequate representation to these meetings.”

Madigan gave her a glance as well as one to Leon, “Please make certain you send qualified representatives. It will ensure the best use of time and effort for all involved…. And may I say, I was very interested in that article in the Tokyo Sun about the challenges the NTC CU is facing in recreating yourselves. I look forward to reading positive articles about you and your unit.”

Leon glowered at her but kept quiet.

— End Chapter 18 —

* * *

Chapter 19

Friday Noon, October 21st

Lisa stood at the open door to the office and peered in, surprised to see that it was empty. Figuring that the open door was a sign that at least one of the occupants would be coming back soon, she decided to walk in. She was in the middle of writing a note for Daley when she looked up to see Nene standing in the doorway, staring at her with a scowl.

“Why, hello, Nene,” Lisa offered, realizing that she wasn’t going to receive a warm welcome even though their last face to face conversation at Saturday night’s party had ended on extremely good terms. “I had just stopped by to say hi to Daley.”

“He’s in an all-day meeting,” Nene answered cryptically. She narrowed her gaze at the woman and snarled, “Leon’s a complete laughing stock now because of you!”

Lisa arched her eyebrows and folded her arms. “I assume you really mean because of what I wrote in the article.”

“Same difference!” Nene retorted as she took a few steps forward and closed the door. “The CU was messed up before Leon or Jeena ever became involved! Leon’s a great cop! But you already publicly made fun of him before he had a chance to prove himself!”

The other woman stared at her for a moment before answering, “My job is to be objective and fair, Nene. Leon may be a great cop, and his past record does support that for the most part. But I don’t have any evidence that he’d make a great leader, or that he even has the qualifications to be groomed for leadership. I didn’t cite in my article the eyewitness accounts of unprofessional tantrums and ‘maverick’ type behavior he apparently indulged in during the ADP days. I’m surprised no one has suggested that he take anger management training. As a member of the general public, I would be concerned that such a person has a command position with the most reckless unit of the police force.

“On the other hand, I DO want him and the entire CU to succeed. And I speak as a member of the public as well as personally because of my uncle. But I can’t write an article like that until they give me something to work with,” she concluded matter-of-factly. “I’ll be more than willing to sing their praises when that does happen!”

Nene’s scowl lessened but it still remained as she finally walked over to her desk.

“Look, I’d like us to become friends,” Lisa offered. “Maybe Yuuji and Daley are right to not allow any discussions about work between cops and reporters. So if we stick to fun topics, are you interested in going out to lunch? My treat. I want to hear how your mom, the university professor, allowed a daughter to not go to college.”

The idea of a free lunch obviously got Nene’s attention as a reluctant smile started to appear. “Okay, but no cheap place. I want wait service!”

Lisa laughed. “You’re on!”

* * * * *

“Oh My God!” Nene blurted in mid-sentence as she took a double-take at something on the road ahead of them.

Lisa glanced over to see a figure walking on the side of the street pushing a scooter.

“Lisa, can we stop by? That’s a friend of mine!” Nene said as she rolled down her window.

“Sure,” Lisa said as she slowed down to pull up alongside the person. She even tapped the horn a couple times, which caused the scooter’s owner to jump a feet into the air towards the sidewalk, almost abandoning her bike for safety.

“Hey, Linna!” Nene yelled, practically hanging out the window. “Isn’t Priss going to pick you up? You two live together, you know!”

Paying silent attention to the exchange, Lisa raised her eyebrows at the comment combined with the now up-close sight of the cute woman dressed in jeans, t-shirt and flannel shirt.

Linna shook her head in response. “No, Priss rides a motorcycle! She could pick me up, but what about my scooter?”

Nene looked at her in disbelief and blurted, “You still want to keep that?!”

Linna ignored her and directed a bow to the driver, “Hello? I’m Linna Yamazaki.”

“Hi, I’m Lisa Vanette. Nice to meet you,” she responded with a nod. “Would you like a lift to a garage? We’re only going to lunch and you’re welcome to join us.”

“Yeah, Linna!” Nene declared enthusiastically. “Play hooky with us!”

“Well, I already called my supervisor to let her know I wouldn’t be in for the rest of the afternoon, so I would love to join you. Thank you for the offer, Lisa,” Linna said as she skeptically looked over the little beat-up car before her, “but will my scooter even fit in there?”

Lisa grinned at her and said, “I have a used hatchback for the very reason that I never know when I’ll have to lug around extra equipment! However, you’ll probably think it’s a tight squeeze since you’ll have to ride in the backseat.”

Linna only smiled as she watched the car maneuver against the curb so the occupants could get out.

“I think the three of us can get it in here and I’ve got some cables to make sure it doesn’t fly out,” Lisa opened the trunk.

“Oh no!” Linna suddenly protested when she saw that Lisa was wearing a dress, “Leave it to me and Nene since you’re dressed up the nicest.”

“Hey! And I’m not?!” Nene pointed out since she was also wearing her usual work outfit of a shirt and skirt.

“I honestly don’t mind!” Lisa said, trying to curb a potential disruption between among friends. “I’m a reporter. I’ve literally climbed through garbage bins before!”

Linna’s eyes widened suddenly, but she quickly tried to hide her surprise even though an embarrassed blush lingered.

Lisa blinked at the reaction and then teased, “What? You don’t think reporters can be Samaritans?”

“Um, no! I’m just surprised that you’d, uh, hang around a cop, is all!” Linna blurted, giving Nene a questioning glance.

Nene waved away her concerns, “Lisa’s cool! We have a new rule that we don’t talk about work. She also used to be a student of my mom’s.”

“Oh,” Linna said as the three of them lifted the bike and tried to maneuver it into the vehicle. “Wait a minute? Are you the one who wrote that article about the NTC CU?”

“Yep, that’s me,” Lisa said.

Once the bike was securely strapped down, she then took a double-take at Linna now that they were standing next to each other. Her expression was clearly puzzled. “Excuse me but you look extremely familiar! Have we met somewhere before?”

Linna was clearly bewildered as she looked a little closer at Lisa to see if she could trigger a memory of her own. She shook her head and answered, “I don’t think so. I have a memory for faces, too, and you just don’t look familiar to me.”

“Hmm,” Lisa responded, clearly not completely willing to give up the feeling of recognition. “Maybe I’m mistaking you for someone else then… So which garage do you want me to take you to?”

“It’s called K’s. It’s a little shop near Sodo Ward.”

Lisa did a double-take in disbelief. “That’s practically across town! You were going to push your bike that far?!”

“She’d get there faster if she’d just leave that scooter behind,” Nene grumbled, not quite under her breath.

Linna shot her a narrowed-eyed look and said, “Let’s go, shall we?”

Lisa swallowed a smile as they all got into her vehicle. As she started the car she glanced in the rearview mirror at her new passenger and asked, “So, Linna, what do you do?”

Apparently surprised at the sudden attention, she blushed and answered, “Oh, um, I just started working for Chang Enterprises as a computer programmer. Nene’s been helping me with it.”

The blonde grinned at the reference and compliment.

Lisa was impressed because she hadn’t realize that Nene had a computer programming interest as well. “So is this how –“

A loud bang and rumble suddenly carried through the valley of buildings, shaking the women a bit in the tiny car. Lisa swerved to avoid hitting the car in front of her as other drivers were momentarily distracted. She pulled up against the curb and slammed on her brakes. The entire street seemed to sit in silence as people waited to see if another disruption would occur.

“Are you two okay?” Lisa asked her passengers as she scanned the street for any signs of something else coming.

They both nodded as they too looked around.

“It didn’t feel like an earthquake,” Linna mused.

“It was an explosion,” Nene said. She pointed to her left and said, “It came from a few blocks that way.”

“That’s the shopping district,” Lisa said. Then she gave Nene a flash of an apologetic smile, “Sorry for this, but I am a reporter!”

She reached over and flipped open the glove compartment in front of Nene, revealing a highly sophisticated radio receiver. She pressed the “on” button and the sounds of police communication suddenly filled the car.

An unknown female voice from the radio said, “-unknown cause of explosion. City-cams have pinpointed it as the main branch of the Ichiwa Bank. Pre-revolution boomers spotted on the scene at the entrances. Regular squads clear area of pedestrians. CU being called for. –”

Lisa immediately started the car and said frantically, “I’m TRULY sorry about this, but I HAVE to check this out! I promise I’ll park at a safe distance and if it looks like a standoff, then I’ll drop both of you off at the garage. We’ll do lunch another time! My treat, okay?!”

Hanging on for dear life, Linna and Nene exchanged a wide-eyed look as Lisa now wove her car through traffic, even using the sidewalk on occasion.

Suddenly, the ringing of phones filled the car, causing both Nene and Linna and jump and cry out in surprise.

The reaction startled Lisa so much that she almost ran into a trashcan. Even though she flashed them an exasperatted look, she kept going, focusing on her goal of getting to the scene of the bank robbery.

Linna and Nene now exchanged an even more lost and desperate look, neither one daring to answer her phone with the reporter in the car.

— End Chapter 19 —