BGC Post 2040 File 6 – 6: 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.
Friday Afternoon, October 21st
“Did they think they could take advantage of us being out of town?!” Leon declared angrily as he, Jeena and two of their lead officers huddled in the dorm office. The four of them were dressed in combat fatigues with either red or white headbands, remnants of their interrupted war games.
Their eyes were on the small screen of Jeena’s laptop showing the live feed of the bank building with the front of its first few floors blown out onto the street. Crowds could be seen in the far background, held back by police lines and emergency vehicles. Other camera shots were showing dazed and injured people being tended to in various offices on the upper floors, unable to leave because of the boomer blocked exits.
The image of Nick standing in his office appeared on another screen in the corner, “I’ve just dispatched four Firebees to pick up your team. Will you guys be ready in half an hour?”
“Count on it, Sir,” Jeena answered back quickly. “However, we also have our only functioning K-suit with us, with the others still in repairs. Will the Firebees have enough room to transport it back? We’ll need it to deal with those boomers, especially if they’re the enhanced versions we dealt with last time.”
“You’ve got a good point. And the other Firebees are needed to keep surveillance on the site,” Nick admitted, clearly not liking where this was going. “It means you might have to sacrifice some of your team to stay behind in order for that thing to fit, if it can! I’ll trust you and McNichol to make the final judgment call. In the meantime, I’m heading out to the command van onsite. The perpetrators haven’t done anything else yet, but those boomers aren’t blocking doorways just to be rude! I’ll see you and your team there within the hour!”
Leon turned to the other officers and ordered, “Kumagami, Shuntaro, get the team ready on the double. When the Firebees arrive, we’ll have to determine then how many can fit once the K-Suit’s loaded.”
“Wait!” Jeena suddenly said, even though she was madly tapping queries into the computer, in another window on the screen. “Shuntaro, you go ahead and alert the troops. Kumagami, I want you here for a moment. I think there’s more to this.
“It looks suspiciously like the boomer robbery gang we can encountered last time. The thing is that we found out after the fact that there were a couple of banks that were hit across town while we were focused on the hostage situation. If this is the same gang, they seemed to have added explosives to their MO. But committing such a blatant act of public destruction serves no purpose other than to be a big red beacon for any peace-keeping personnel.”
“So you think this is a decoy?” Leon asked as he stared at the view of the gutted office building with the two lone boomers standing at the front entrance.
“Why else would those boomers just sit there like bait?” Jeena said. “They’ve radioed in demands, but we haven’t seen any sign of anyone who’s a perpetrator at that site.”
She typed in a final keystroke and then clicked on the phone screen and dialed a new number. Within seconds, the blonde head of Elyse Drake showed up as she sat in the dispatch center.
“Drake, is Detective Wong part of the response team for this boomer crisis?” Jeena asked.
“Yes, Sergeant,” the young woman responded, reading some data elsewhere on the screen. “He’s still in the building, though. I don’t think he went out to the site yet.”
“Good, patch me through to him.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Please hold…”
Suddenly Elyse’s face disappeared and Daley showed up in the computer window, apparently still sitting at his desk while typing away. He grinned at the sudden appearance of Jeena. “You must be reading my mind, Jee! City-cams have already started tracking some interesting activity in the jewelry district, which is of course across town from Ichiwa Bank.”
“Do we think there are boomers involved with the heist?”
Daley shook his head. “They’re obviously humans dressed with a robber’s fashion sense. And there are at least four vans worth. But they’re still armed to the teeth. CU strike team support would be really nice!”
“On our way! Kumagami, you heard the man! Brief your team while they’re getting ready!”
“Yes, Ma’am!” he responded as he turned on his heels to exit.
“But what about the bank?” Leon pointed out. “We’ve still got a hostile situation there that we can’t just ignore.”
“Well,” Daley said from the computer screen as he pushed his glasses in place, “we’ve never been above relying on a little help.”
Leon pointed his finger at his friend’s image and snarled, “Don’t you dare call -“
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jeena staring at him curiously.
“-uh, call Nene! She has a right to time off like everyone else!” he said, serious despite the apparent silliness of what was coming out of his mouth.
Jeena’s expression turned to complete confusion as if she was trying to figure out what she had missed — this part of the conversation was not making any sense to her.
Daley shrugged. “Hey, it’s all over the news. I’m certain Nene has found out about it and is coming in – just like any other dedicated public servant. Call me when you guys are ready to chat again. I’m heading out to the command van, and I’ll tip them on this jewelry heist going on. We can manage both efforts from there.”
After Daley hung up, the two officers looked at each other, and then at the screen showing the bank site.
“Well, this is certainly interesting,” Jeena mused. “No doubt we’re going to have to split the strike team in half. So that means -“
“I’m going to pilot the K-Suit!” Leon declared. “You can manage both efforts from the command van. But with our unit cut in half, we’ll definitely need the K-Suit.”
She narrowed her eyes at him for a moment and said, “What makes you think that you’re right person to pilot the K-Suit?”
He angrily slammed his hand on the desk and yelled, “Come on, Malso! Every other officer we have hasn’t even finished their K-Suit training! To send any of them out there is suicide if those things turn as ugly as the last batch were! This isn’t a time to stick to fucking protocols!”
She leaped to her feet and stared up at him with anger in her eyes. “This is so like you to make a unilateral decision based on your need to be the hero, McNichol! Protocols aren’t just about playing by the rules. It helps you to see the big picture here! Otherwise you jeopardize the entire team and the entire operation!”
“Look, I’m not the one with the baggage in this conversation!” he yelled back. “This is exactly what you said ten years ago but the circumstances are different! I’m speaking in the moment here!”
Back when they were cadets, the two of them had been assigned to the same team during their training period. They were notorious for fighting during every assignment, usually with Leon accusing Jeena of being a walking rulebook, and she accusing him of wanting to be the gun-blazing cowboy. Their arguments usually escalated to the point that their other teammate Billy Fanward would often have to step in and calm them down. It was only chance if he managed to catch them in time so that they could still finish or succeed in whatever task they were assigned to at the moment, since more often than not the other teams would take advantage of this clash.
“And so am I!” Jeena retorted. “For the past week I’ve been watching you and the entire CU approach our exercises like you’ve got to something to prove. While that’s great motivation for practice, your need to salvage your pride can cause you to make stupid mistakes in real life. And with Lisa Vanette and the general public watching our every move now, we don’t have room for any mistakes! There are other options, you just need to think them through!”
Unable to completely deny that perhaps he was more than a little motivated by the need to prove himself to the public, Leon was obviously trying to swallow his temper as he asked stiffly, “Then how the hell do you expect a half trained officer to pilot a K-Suit effectively in a crisis?”
“I don’t! That’s why I’m the one going out in it. You are going to command the entire operation!”
— End Chapter 20 —
* * *
Friday Noon, October 21st
“Are you guys sure about this?” Lisa asked as she turned the car off once they were settled in the underground parking space. “I feel like I’m abandoning you.”
“No, not at all!” her passengers blurted at once.
Then Nene said quickly, “I have to call the office anyway and get a status. I’m not a field officer so I might not be needed. I’m going to call and check when things have died down a bit, and I can just hop on a train if I have to go.”
“And I’m going to call the garage,” Linna added, “to see if they can pick me up. We probably won’t be here when you get back.”
Lisa certainly wasn’t about to argue as she grabbed her purse from the backseat, “Well, okay, but I’m serious about a raincheck on this! It was nice meeting you, Linna.”
“You, too,” she responded, forcing a smile and gripping the edge of her seat with white knuckles.
Lisa hopped out of the car, gave Linna a final curious look, and ran off.
* * * * *
“Still no sign of the perps in the building?” Nick asked as he stared at the many video screens in the command van. The various city-cam shots tried every angle – the only way to get a good view since the building’s internal video security system was offline.
“No, Sir,” answered the officer frantically tapping into the terminal.
“It’s nice to know that the robbers are taking their time,” Daley mused as he looked at the screens showing the robberies taking place in two jewelry stores. “They must be extremely confident that we’re just focused on the boomer building.”
The van door swung open and Lisa Vanette came charging in, panting from an impromptu sprint with her purse clutched to her chest.
“What the hell are you doing here?!” Nick bellowed at his niece.
She held up her NTC clearance badge. “You gave this to me so I used it!”
“It’s not for emergency situations! Your mom would kick my ass if she knew you were here! Get out! We’re in the danger zone if there’s another blast or those boomers go rampant!”
Lisa gave him a determined look and retorted, “Hey! You want the press coverage for your CU or not?!” Dropping her bag, she shifted into a karate pose in case her uncle decided to become physical.
The monitoring officer hunched his head a bit as he tried to pretend this confrontation wasn’t happening while Daley merely smirked and pushed his glasses back in place.
Nick let out a cry of frustration as he furiously shook his head. “Fine! Stay but keep out of the way!”
With a triumphant smirk, she motioned that she was locking her lips and throwing away the key. “I’m eyes and ears only!” she declared as she pulled out her datapad from her purse.
Nick proceeded to ignore her and refocused on the video monitors. “Have the CU become airborne yet?”
“Yes, Sir,” the monitor officer replied. “Two of the Firebees should be arriving at the checkpoint in the Jewelry District in twenty minutes. The other two should be arriving here in fifteen.”
“Patch me through to either Malso or McNichol.”
“Yes, Sir.” He typed furiously and added, “It’ll be audio only though.”
“… McNichol, here,” Leon’s voice blurted over the monitor speakers.
“Leon, it’s Nick. What’s the game plan?”
“Malso and I have talked it over and realize that we need to keep the jewelry heist under remote surveillance until we get the boomers under control,” he answered. “We don’t want them to trigger another explosion if they think we’re on to them.”
“Another explosion?” Nick repeated. “What do you mean?”
“If I may, Sir,” Daley interrupted, signifying that he had the explanation. “We’ve theorized that the explosions were probably caused by a squad of those boomers purposefully positioning themselves on each of those blown-out floors, towards the front of the building. That would explain the emergency call about the squad of boomers entering the building but the security guards not being able to stop them. It also explains how they were able to accomplish such a feat without having to plant bombs beforehand.”
Nick paled as he looked at the two boomers standing quietly at the main entrance. “So all of them could be walking bombs triggered by remote control?”
“That’s the best theory we have,” Leon explained over the audio channel. “So until we find a way to subdue or diffuse them, we can’t run the risk of someone sending them a detonate signal.”
“Yes,” Daley agreed. “And given where those boomers are placed, they could easily cause part if not all of the remaining building to collapse.”
Nick frowned as he scratched his stubbled chin. “Would our K-Suit survive such an explosion during a confrontation?”
“Unknown, Sir,” Leon answered. “But I don’t know if we have many options on how to stop one of them if they decide to take a stroll down the street to another target.”
“Well, it seems we’ve got fifteen minutes to come up with something,” Nick mused unhappily. “We’ll sit tight until you get here.”
“Roger. Over and out,” Leon responded before cutting the channel.
Nick looked over at his quietly watching niece and said, “This is your last chance to get out of here and go to a safety zone.”
She flashed him a wink and a grin while leaning against the back wall, showing that she had every intention on staying.
* * * * *
Leon walked into the command booth and stopped in his tracks at the site of Lisa Vanette chatting with Daley. She paused in her discussion and gave him an acknowledging nod. His face reddened but he swallowed and gave a stiff nod back.
“Everyone should be getting into position to take down the jewelry heist once we give the cue,” Leon told Nick as he came over to see what was currently displayed on the video monitors. “Now if we only knew what we could do.”
“Where’s Malso?” Nick said, noticing her absence.
“Um, she’s in the K-Suit outside,” Leon answered stiffly.
“What?!” Nick’s eyes almost looked as if they were going to pop out of his head.
“She’s the only able-bodied officer in the CU with full training and field experience, Sir,” he responded as if he was giving a report. “And so that means that I’m commanding this entire operation.”
He noted that Lisa now frantically started tapping her stylus into her datapad with this new piece of information.
Nick frowned but didn’t argue. He turned to the monitor officer and ordered, “Get Malso on the line.”
A monitor screen suddenly flipped to what appeared to be the view from inside the K-Suit as it stared out at the parking lot ahead with the other officers and emergency personnel running around.
“Malso? How does it feel in there?” Nick asked into the microphone.
“Just cozy, Sir,” she answered as the view on her screen panned the parking lot. “So did anyone come up with any ideas of how to deal with the boomer-bombs?”
Leon looked at the other two commanding officers and both men shook their heads.
“We don’t know how sensitive these boomers are,” Daley mused. “Nor the frequency of their remote control signals, otherwise we could emit some sort of dampener. But unless we know for certain it’s going to work, I’d hate to take a chance.”
“Me neither,” Leon muttered softly as he scratched his head.
“Excuse me, Officers,” a new female voice suddenly declared over the intercom, “but I’m the Leader of the Knight Sabers. –”
Everyone in the command van jumped at the voice but they weren’t about to cut her off as she continued her speech.
“– We’ve been monitoring your communications and are completely up to speed on the situation. We can do a complete signal shut down of the entire block, but it will also affect your ability to communicate since you’re in the affected zone. However, this would ensure that the boomer-bombs would not receive a detonate signal from any outside source. So if we use this option, then you should explain your strategy now before your communicate channels are cut.”
Despite themselves, the officers grinned at the news.
“How soon could you do this?” Leon asked.
“Just give us the order. We’re also on-site on the surrounding rooftops. If there is any other way we can be of assistance, Commander McNichol, please let us know.”
“Do you think your suits would be able to withstand the explosions should these boomers detonate upon contact?”
“Our suits are extremely durable,” was the confident reply. “Space-worthy, in fact.”
“Okay, Gang,” Leon said, “here’s the plan!”
* * * * *
“– Now!” Leon ordered into the headset microphone as his signal to the Knight Sabers to jam transmissions.
On cue, the monitors went dark, as the radios silent.
The staff stood outside, watching the building scene through binoculars, ready to leap back into the shelter of the van in case something should happen.
“Shit! The boomers are moving!” Leon cried out in horror as the hulking metal golems in the front entrance took a step forward.
Daley frowned and said, “This must be a fallback plan if they’re not receiving a constant signal from their command source. Everyone get back into the van, NOW!”
The four of them jumped back in, just as four Knight Sabers and a K-Suit charged towards the walking bombs.
Daley and Leon secured the door and the group braced themselves in tense silence. A few minutes went by before they could hear the sounds of metal clanging. Then came a series of explosions, shaking the vehicle and tossing its occupants to the floor.
And then silence again.
“Uncle Nick! You’re heavy!” Lisa declared, now that she was able to focus on the fact that he was protectively draped over her.
“Sorry, Lisa,” he said as he helped her to her feet. He looked at the other officers and asked, “Are you men okay?”
They nodded. And suddenly the monitors lit up with various images and sounds.
One set showed the CU strike team and other armed officers apprehending the jewelry heist robbers, according to plan.
The main screen showed the blue Knight Saber standing over the scattered remains of the boomer she had tackled and carried into the parking lot to get it away from the building’s fragile first floor, trying to use her hardsuit to contain the blast as much as possible. The result was the destruction of several nearby cars in the blast zone, which was extremely close to the command van, but far less devastating than it might have been.
Other video shots showed that the other Knight Sabers had used similar tactics and were emerging from their blast zones intact.
“Malso!” Leon cried when he saw the K-Suit sprawled on its back in the plaza in front of the building.
The police battle armor looked like it had been hit with a sledgehammer, its front cracked and flattened noticeably. The monitor screen that should have displayed her video signal was black. Looking at another screen showing a back angle from the first view, it was clear that the right arm had been blown off, leaving a pool of blood and charred skin in its place.
“We’ve got an officer down out front! Get medical out there now!” he yelled into his headset as he rushed out.
He watched with a sick stomach as the blue Knight Saber knelt by the crumpled K-suit and carefully peel off its shell.
— End Chapter 21 —
* * *
Saturday Evening, October 22nd
Yuuji noticed that his approach to the restaurant booth was being missed by his dinner “date” as she stared out the window at the crowded plaza below. “Hey, Lise,” he said as he sat down, “where’s Nathe?”
She jumped a bit at his sudden appearance and then gave him a smile. “Oh, the game went into overtime. So, you know…”
He rolled his eyes and muttered, “Must be tough covering the sports beat.”
“So Daley couldn’t join us after all?”
“Nope, and I really wasn’t expecting him to, which is why I asked you guys to dinner instead,” he responded as he started to skim the menu. “He’s in clean-up duty with that lovely little case you had a front-row seat to yesterday.”
Lisa chuckled as she took a sip of her sake. “That was a little too much excitement for me. I’m perfectly happy having boring research assignments for a while. Any news on Jeena?”
“Billy told me she went through the first surgery with flying colors. She’s in the middle of the second surgery now, but the first was the most critical.”
“Second? Are they prepping her for a boomer prosthetic?” she asked, mildly confused. “But she hasn’t even regained consciousness yet to give them permission, right?”
“Cops have to designate their choice as part of their regular medical coverage in case of an emergency like this,” Yuuji explained.
Lisa shrugged and said, “Well, knowing Jeena, I’m not surprised that she chose the option. I just didn’t know that was procedure.”
They paused their conversation when the waitress stopped by and took their orders.
After she had left, Yuuji asked, “So, any more CU articles in the works, or was this morning’s the last one?”
“I have to talk with our editor but I think ending the coverage on this note is the best option, with the expectation of some minor follow-up articles. They’re heroes now. I think that far surpasses the original goal of why I was asked to do the series in the first place. The added bonuses are that they proved they could work with the Knight Sabers for a change, and that Leon had what it takes to be a commander.” She then gave him a grin and a wink. “It would save me having to sit through the rest of those god-awful ADP archive videos. And I’d rather Leon focus on his duties than worry about a little bitch like me looking over his shoulder all the time!”
Yuuji chuckled as he took a sip of beer. “I often wonder if you project that kind of impression on purpose.”
Lisa then blinked as if the comment triggered a stray thought. “Nene and I were going to have lunch yesterday when we ran into a friend of hers named Linna Yamazaki. I swear I’ve seen this woman somewhere before. Would you happen to know her?”
Responding to what was a regular occurrence with his friend, Yuuji rolled his eyes. “You’re a reporter, Lise! It’s your job to meet new people almost every day.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Humor me! You know I’m never wrong about these things!”
Realizing that she had a point, he mulled it over and said, “I only met her once at a party a couple of months ago. And Daley doesn’t really talk about her that much, apart from the bitchy gossipy stuff. The only thing I know for sure is that she’s cute and a lesbian.”
“Okay, no offense, Yuuji, but I did figure out that much!” Lisa remarked dryly. “I just wanted to know if you knew any more about her background.”
Then he lit up as an apparently devilish thought hit him. “If you want good gossip: Priss, the woman she’s now living with, used to be Leon’s girlfriend of three years. Leon and Priss broke up almost right after they came back to Tokyo a couple of months ago. And they only came back because Priss found out Linna had been in the hospital. And Leon had just proposed to her, too. I think they were engaged for one day.”
Lisa’s eyes widened. “Oh, ouch! No wonder he’s so uptight!”
“I don’t know the details but I got the sense there’s some weird history between Linna and Priss prior to Priss and Leon, so nobody’s really surprised that things ended up where they are now. And when I saw Priss for the first time, I became a believer that she was fooling herself with choosing Leon,” he added with a wiggle of his eyebrows. “She’s more butch than he is!”
Lisa pursed her lips thoughtfully and murmured, “As interesting as that is, it doesn’t get me anywhere near to figuring out where I know this Linna from.”
“Well, she spent three years in Osaka after the revolution. She’s originally from the country. She was the key witness in the Plaza Slaughter — but since her identity was withheld from the public, and we never had a picture of her, I don’t think that’s your connection.”
Lisa frowned, clearly mulling over this additional information.
Yuuji shook his head and said, “Just set it aside and it’ll come to you. And it’ll probably be something so minor that you’ll be disappointed.”
“Thanks for the offer of encouragement,” she remarked. Then she let out a sigh. “You’re right. If I don’t focus on it, it’ll eventually come back to me. But every time I picture her face, I’m convinced more and more that I really know her from somewhere. And it’s going to drive me nuts until I figure it out!”
“If it’s just based on looks, are you sure there’s a connection?” He smirked, “You wear glasses after all.”
She laughed and threw her napkin at him. “I’m nearsighted, you fool! Not blind!”
* * * * *
Tuesday Afternoon, October 25th
Leon peered into the hospital room and gently knocked on the doorframe. “Hello? You up for a visitor?”
Jeena had been propped up in bed so that she could see the drawing B.J. had made for her while he sat on Billy’s lap.
Leon was trying not to stare at her bandaged shoulder underneath the edge of the hospital smock. It was quite strange to see how the absence of a limb made her appear smaller and fragile.
She lit up with a small smile and said, “Of course! Come on in!”
Billy scooped up his son and stood. “Hey, Leon! I’m going to take the little one here for a treat so you two can talk business.”
“Thanks, man,” he said, giving him a pat on the shoulder as they passed by each other. He frowned as he noted that the room was pretty standard with the exception of some scattered toys that were clearly for a six year old’s entertainment. “Hey, where did all of your flowers go?”
Looking quite weary and a little dazed, Jeena smiled and answered, “It was too much like a jungle in here so I told them to send them to the NTC lobby, and that includes any new arrivals. Yours, too, I’m afraid. — By the way, I’m sure those red roses just added more gasoline to the romantic rumors about the two of us.”
Leon’s face was completely red as he sat down in the chair by the bed. “I’m not used to buying flowers for, um, non-date situations, so I kind of did a brain-fade until after I dropped them off. Sorry.”
She stared at him and then chuckled a bit. “You’re actually kind of cute when you’re being sincere. But that could be the drugs talking… Thanks for the thought no matter what form it took.”
He cleared his throat as he tried unsuccessfully to will his blush to subside. “Um, I stopped by a few times before, but you were always asleep.”
Jeena frowned at the comment and asked, “Aren’t you guys still out at boot camp? That’s a bit of a drive just for a stop-by.”
Leon’s blush deepened as he explained, “Well, everyone was worried about you. So I felt like it was my duty to check how you were so I could ease the mind of the other officers… Any word on when you’ll get back on your feet?”
“Not at the moment, no,” she answered. “I’m supposed to talk to some sort of boomer prosthetic specialist that Genom is flying in at the end of the week. They’re planning to give me some sort of top model arm. Madigan left me a message that all medical and rehabilitation fees would be covered by them if the insurance doesn’t do it.”
Leon’s eyes widened in surprise. “Genom? They’re just dripping with charity these days… Then again, you are a hero.”
“We all are. Billy read the newspaper article to me that said so,” she said with a pleased smile. “He also told me that the current favorite replay piece on TV these days is the fight with the boomers, followed by the explosions, and ending with the pieces of my arm flying off the edge of the screen. I can’t wait until I see it myself… So how are things now? Are you feeling less scrutinized?”
He chuckled. “Yeah. It’s funny how subtle it is, but you can tell people recognize our uniforms and regard us with a little more respect now, even within the police force. Word is already going around that they’re going to do a special awards dinner for all of us. I’m sure they’ll schedule it when you can attend… And everyone else sends their best wishes for a speedy recovery.” He gave her a curious look and then asked, “What about you? What are you going to do now?”
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “When I’m not so pumped up full of pain killers, I plan to use this time to actually think about what I want to do with the rest of my life. Especially with the divorce and the custody issues since Billy and I agreed that B.J. would stay with me if I eventually decide to move out of Osaka.”
“Are you still going to be a cop?”
She looked at him and grinned. “I’m a fifth generation police officer! That’s why I’m going with the prosthetic. Can’t be a field officer without all four limbs. And the day I get stuck with a straight desk job is the day I really do quit… By the way, McNichol, after Friday, I’m convinced more than ever you never should have left the front line.”
A little stunned by the compliment, he smiled sheepishly and said, “Thanks. I think it means more to me that you said it than someone else.”
“I’ll let Nick know that I think you should become the permanent commander,” Jeena said, her gaze on the view of the city through the window. “Of course, it’s always up to you on whether or not you really want the job.”
“Actually, the thought had crossed my mind. But now that you’ve said it, maybe I should consider it seriously.” He was quiet for a moment as he stared at his hands in his lap. “However, as long as we’re on the subject, I know you may never consider this option, but in your reevaluation of life choices, I’d like you to consider remaining here, with the CU. I don’t mind having you as my commander since you do have more seniority and experience. And I do think we make a good team after all, even if it took almost ten years to prove it.”
She stared at him for a moment. A gentle smile curved her mouth. “I’ll think about it.”
She then held out her hand for a shake and said, “It’s been a pleasure working with you, and I look forward to a future opportunity, Cowboy.”
Leon blinked at the last word, conditioned to a negative reaction, but then he laughed and shook her hand. “Same here, Ma’am!”
— The End Chapter 22 —
— The end of Part 2 —
Part 3: Square Peg
Friday Night, October 28th
“Oh My God, Sylia!” Linna exclaimed in horror when she looked at herself in the dressing room mirror for the first time. “I can’t wear this to a wedding!”
She was in a light-green strapless dress that hugged every curve she had, and stopped at the top of her thighs. A short, dark green jacket gave the outfit a more formal, stylish look. The matching green pumps that would complete the outfit were still in the box.
Dressed in a pantsuit, Sylia opened the dressing room door and peered in. She arched her eyebrow appreciatively as she scanned down Linna’s form. With an amused look, she commented, “You’ve got a gorgeous body and the scars have all been surgically removed. I don’t see anything wrong.”
With a full blush in her cheeks, Linna frowned at her reflection as she tried to tug down the hem that was not going to go any lower. “Sylia, I have to wear matching underwear if I’m going to bow, much less sit down!”
“Well, I do sell those,” the other woman answered with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “But white underwear would do. And if you’re still concerned, just make certain you face me… relatively speaking.”
Linna narrowed her eyes at Sylia’s reflection in response. “And just what are you going to wear?”
“I was going to wear a tuxedo so we could go as a butch/femme couple,” she answered with a wink.
Linna just stared at her reflection.
Seeing that she was not getting a receptive response, Sylia then let out a dramatic sigh and offered, “If you honestly feel uncomfortable with the outfit, you can wear the only dress I have with a lower hemline, which is the one Priss wore. It’s the kind of style that would fit you even though you have a slightly smaller body frame than hers.”
Linna actually grimaced at the thought. It wasn’t so much the Priss association but the fact that the dress would not be a style she would wear under any circumstances.
Sylia giggled as if she was expecting that reaction.
Linna then returned her attention to her reflection. She couldn’t deny the fact that she liked the way she looked in the new outfit, even if it wasn’t appropriate for the event in question.
She almost jumped at the sudden feeling of Sylia pressing up against her back and wrapping her arms around her stomach. Her face now turned completely red from the sheer nearness of the woman even though they were both fully clothed.
“I will compliment whatever image you want to present. Even if you want to do a kimono, although I will admit I haven’t worn one since I was a teenager,” Sylia whispered into her ear, smiling at the way the other woman remained stiff in her embrace. “But keep in mind that everyone else will be dressed at their best, Reika included.”
The thought actually caused Linna to pause for a moment. Then a quirk of smile curled her lips as she settled into Sylia’s embrace and said, “I’ll think about it.”
Sylia broke out into a triumphant grin. “Keep the outfit even if you don’t wear it to the wedding. You could always wear it to work.”
Linna grimaced at another sore subject. “I am trying to downplay my femininity as much as possible, and it’s still not cutting down the romantic inquiries I’m getting in my email inbox. I have a document of prewritten cut-and-paste answers that I use with frequency.”
“It doesn’t sound like you’re fond of the attention,” the other woman remarked.
Linna shook her head. “They’re all men, Sylia. At first I thought I’m just not attractive to women. But then it dawned on me that perhaps any who are interested probably wouldn’t want an email trail back to her. And then I think, ‘how do I meet someone who might be remotely similar in interests and lifestyles if not at work?’”
Sylia tilted her head curiously and stared at her for a moment. “It sounds like you’re over Reika.”
Linna blushed again, but this time with a little bit of sadness in her expression. “I admit I’m scared of seeing her again. We haven’t talked since I moved out… But I also know I’m not going to get over her unless I make an effort to. The problem is I’m just horrible with this casual dating thing.”
“Hmm. Perhaps you just need to focus on yourself right now. After all, you’ve been through a lot. And sometimes romance happens when you least expect it,” Sylia offered with a half shrug.
She let her go and stepped out of the dressing room. Once she was back outside in the empty shop, she called out, “By the way, how is the roommate situation with Priss going?”
“I’m worried about her, Sylia,” Linna admitted as she started to undress. “I think she’s going through a depression but she won’t admit it. You know how she is about things like that. She started to open up one night, but the next day she started spending less time at the apartment and not coming home until late. I thought it was because she was looking for a new place or practicing with the band, but she’s still coming home after midnight. I don’t know if it’s because she just doesn’t have her own room so I thought I’d wait to see how she is until after we move.”
“And how are the move plans going?”
“Everything’s set for us to start moving in tomorrow. It’ll be pretty easy since Priss’s new furniture is arriving later. So it’s mainly the living room, kitchen and my bedroom stuff.”
“I’m sorry I can’t help. And that we’ve used up Mackey as well.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Linna answered. “We know you have a tight deadline with his upgrade. I’m just glad you can spare Nene.”
“Well, her part of the project is mostly done. It’s just the equipment preparation and actual build work that need to be done. Besides, she’s becoming more and more… nervous the closer we get to her mother’s visit. I think the guys would appreciate not having her in the lab for a day.”
“Oh, so that’s why you’re willing to let her help us!”
Linna emerged from the dressing room, wearing her usual jeans and pullover shirt. She carefully held out the clothes. “So what kind of wedding gift should we bring?”
“I’ll take care of it,” Sylia said rather casually as she proceeded to box up the dress. “You’ve got enough to worry about.”
Linna stared at her friend for a moment and then asked, “By the way, how is Reika doing these days?”
The other woman paused and then said with a sad smile, “She’s getting by.”
* * *
Saturday Evening, October 29th
“I don’t remember you having this much stuff when you moved here in May!” Nene remarked as she sat on the floor and started dumping music discs into the box.
“Nevertheless, thank you for helping us, Nene,” Linna said, tactfully ignoring the dig as she taped up a box of books. “We also haven’t really seen you since you’ve been at the lab so much. How is the conversion going?”
“They’re putting the finishing touches on the stasis chamber. Once it’s done, then Nigel and Sylia have to remove Mackey’s inner organic parts so it can grow into the new shell.”
“That sounds… weird,” Linna said, deciding that she didn’t want to try to picture that. “Are you going to be there to help?”
Nene shook her head. “That’s similar to human surgery, which is totally out of my league. And I don’t really want to see Mackey like that.”
“Bet it’s going to be pretty weird for Sylia,” Priss commented from the kitchen as the noises of her packing dishes continued in the background. “Especially if she’s always seen him as a fifteen year old kid and never really as a boomer, even during the time of Galatea.”
“Well, she doesn’t have a choice since Nigel needs help to do it. But she seems okay with it,” Nene answered with a shrug.
“How long will it take for Mackey to, um, grow into his new shell?” Linna asked.
“Nigel calculates that he won’t be ready by the time Mom arrives. But we’re hoping that he’ll be ready to emerge before she leaves.” A small frown settled on Nene’s face but she didn’t say anything further.
Linna decided it was time to change the subject. “So have you seen that Lisa Vanette again?”
Nene’s impish smile returned with a spark. “Why? Are you interested in her? She is cute!”
“Wha — ? NO!!!” Linna blurted even though her face turned instantly red. She also saw out of the corner of her eye that Priss’s head poke out of the kitchen door with a curious expression on her face.
“I’m kidding, Linna! Chill! She’s got a live-in boyfriend!” Nene declared with a hearty laugh. “Trust me, though, if I thought there was a chance, I wouldn’t hesitate in fixing you two up since you’ve got such a poor romantic track record.”
Seeing that Priss had disappeared back into the kitchen, Linna narrowed her eyes at the younger woman and stated through gritted teeth, “Thanks for the thought. But the reason why I asked is if she ever told you why she thinks she recognizes me.”
“We’re not planning to get together until Mom comes and visits,” Nene said. “I’ve been busy at the lab, and she’s doing some miscellaneous reporting assignments. But I think we can safely rule out the possibility that she recognizes you as a Knight Saber since we wear helmets.”
“True,” Linna said. “Still, I’m skeptical that it’s really me that she’s seen before. Otherwise, I think I would have recognized her, too, and she just doesn’t ring a bell.”
The doorbell chimed on cue.
“I’ve got it,” Linna yelled as she got up. “Well, just let me know if she says something.”
“Of course I will!” Nene promised.
Linna opened the door to see the three other members of Sekiria standing in the hallway, dressed for a few hours of manual labor.
With his trademark bandanna tied around his head, Maxon grinned and declared, “Mousy Country Girl! Your manly help is here to save the day!”
Resisting the urge to slam the door shut, Linna forced a smile and stepped back to let them in. “Come on in, guys!”
She turned to Priss, who had stepped out of the kitchen and muttered, “I’m leaving them to you.” She then walked back to the living room to continue her packing with Nene.
The singer merely smirked and said to the men, “You brought the van with you?”
“Of course,” Fox, the lanky guy with long blonde hair. “What do you want us to load first?”
“Follow me,” Priss said, “The bedroom is ready to go.”
“OOOH! We finally get to see the love nest!” Maxon remarked as they followed her into the room in question.
Priss merely said, “Jaid.”
The burly drummer obviously took his cue as a loud “smack” was immediately heard.
“OW!” Maxon blurted. “Shit, man! That hurt!”
“Would you rather Priss did it?”
Apparently getting the point, Maxon grumbled, “I’ll take the left side.”
The two women in the living room exchanged a gleeful giggle.
— End Chapter 23 —