BGC Post 2040 File 7 – 1: Web of Lives
Kristen Update Sep. 15 2014: This story is different than my comic book series “Web of Lives”.
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.
Prologue: Compatibility Redux
Sunday, Approximately 2:30 A.M., January 4th
Reika took a deep breath of the crisp night air as she stepped away from the dance club patrons saying their good nights. Still with a little buzz from alcohol and the adrenaline of dancing, she nodded to the ever present Kou that she was ready for him to fetch the limo.
Then a familiar tingle graced her spine. She smiled to herself that even after all of these years, she could always feel when those eyes were on her. She playfully spun on her heels to see that indeed Sylia was watching her from a few feet away.
With her ever present coy smile, Sylia commented, “You seem very energetic given the time and what you’ve been doing the past few hours.”
She shrugged in response. “I think it’s a combination of being in a different time zone and sleeping on the plane. — Oh, did everyone else leave already? I wanted to congratulate Nene and Mackey.” She didn’t bother to add that she had meant to wish them well on their engagement but had been distracted by having the evening start off with an unexpected kiss.
Sylia the kisser nodded. “I think everyone else was either worn out or had other ideas,” she commented with a playful twinkle that could still be seen in the uneven lighting of the surrounding neon and street lamps. “So since you seem very alert, are you open to the idea of coming back to my place for a bit? We haven’t had a chance to see each other in a while.”
Normally, Reika would have immediately accepted the offer but her mind and body immediately flashed on the kiss that wasn’t very serious but enough to be distracting. It was a little disconcerting that the unmistakable arousal she felt was also part of her buzz that evening. She hesitantly allowed herself to indulge in the occasional intense contact on the dance floor with her partner in fun. She told herself that such things were all right as long as that’s where it stayed.
Seeing the hesitation, her ex-girlfriend immediately responded, “I promise I’ll behave myself… Unless you don’t want me to.”
Reika gave her a slight scowl but spotting the approaching limo out of the corner of her eye curbed any verbal retort.
Her limo driver held the door of the vehicle open for her as the rest of her entourage started to appear from the shadows in preparation for her to leave.
Seeing that all eyes were now on her, Reika said to her employees, “I’ll be going home with Sylia. So you can have the rest of the day off.”
Kou glanced between the two women but then nodded and gave a bow to Sylia. “We leave her in your care, Ms. Stingray.” In the uneven night lights, it almost seemed like he had a knowing smirk on his lips but it was a momentary twitch that disappeared beneath his standard, cool exterior.
Not bothering to hide her own smirk, Sylia nodded in return.
Ignoring them, Reika looked at her limo driver and said, “I’ll call you by noon to let you know when I want to be picked up. But I want all of you to plan to have the rest of the day off…”
* * *
“… I still can’t believe your hair is so long,” Sylia commented as she gently worked the brush through the black mane before her.
Both dressed in robes, the women had finished with their separate showers and were winding down on the edge of the bed in the guest bedroom.
“The hard part was initially growing it out. Once I got used to it, it finally felt comfortable.” Reika let out a contented sigh as she allowed herself to relax for the night. “But there are times I do miss the efficiency of short hair. Maybe I’ll cut it off once the wedding’s over.”
“You’re supposed to cut your hair when a relationship ends.”
Reika shrugged. “Well, getting married is certainly going to end my life as I know it.”
“… So, are you really going through with it?”
The engaged woman tensed at the words. This was the one person she couldn’t deflect or ignore. “I thought we already had this conversation.”
“Yes, we did,” Sylia admitted, not ceasing the gentle stroking of the brush. “But that happened five minutes after an eight year reunion. Now that I know a little more of what your life is really like, I want to know if you’re still committed to this.”
“Well, then let’s be specific about this. What is your biggest concern?”
The brush flowing through hair was the only sound in the room for at least a minute.
Finally, Sylia stated, “I don’t like that you’re making yourself into a martyr. You deserve better than that.”
“Thank you for the sentiment,” Reika said softly, genuinely. “But this is the life I would have had even if you and I had never met. I come from a family of deep tradition. You never had to deal with those kinds of expectations. Not everyone can make their own rules for living.”
“You’re the boss. You should be able to.”
“Stop it. Or we’re going to have a fight,” Reika said firmly. “With the Knight Sabers, you should at least be able to understand that you can never make another personal decision without affecting everyone around you.”
Sylia stopped brushing and hugged her from behind, burying her face in the other woman’s neck.
Reika instinctively relaxed in the embrace, indulging in the familiar warmth and fragrance.
“I guess the past few weeks have made me realize that there really is a difference in just living and living happily. At least make some attempt to have something that’s your own,” Sylia whispered. “Your father was just as burdened but I genuinely believe he was a happy man.”
“That’s because my father had my mother… It would be one thing if I had someone like that, but I don’t. Linna didn’t really count. And you and I have had our closure. There’s no need for me to fuss about something that’s not an issue… Besides, I consider our time together my own private reward.”
Sylia lifted her head and looked Reika in the eye, a frown evident on her beautiful features. She clearly wanted to make a comment but only pressed her lips tightly together.
Yet, as the women locked gazes, they were both clearly becoming aware of other effects of their close proximity. Their breathing started to increase as their hearts started to pound furiously.
Reika could see the sudden confusion and alarm in Sylia’s expression, which mirrored her own. The playful flirtation was nowhere to be seen.
Yet neither woman moved for the longest time.
Finally, Reika swallowed and eased out of the embrace. “I’m really tired now. We should call it a night. After all, it’s almost 4 a.m.”
Sylia’s frown returned but it seemed caused by her own thoughts. Without making eye contact, she nodded passively and answered, “Of course.”
After Sylia left, Reika sat down on the bed, clutching her hands to her chest as she tried to stifle the turmoil of emotions within her. The long forgotten pangs of jealousy and pain resurfaced, quickly overwhelming the lingering feelings of tenderness and arousal.
‘Oh damn,’ she thought to herself. ‘I do not need this. And especially not now.’
— End Prologue —
* * *
Chapter 1: Cornered
9 a.m., February 20th, Hou Bang Headquarter Offices, Hong Kong
Reika did not have to pretend to be furious. In fact, she barely held back her rage as she sat at the head of the long conference room table. Her anger made her even more beautiful in her tailored suit and pinned up hair, presenting the powerful picture of a woman in charge.
Remaining back in her seat to emphasize who had the real power in the room, she stated very evenly to the equally glaring man in one of the side seats. She stated in clear, impeccable Mandarin, “I hardly think my refusal to sentence a long time employee to double-amputation for embezzling only 300,000 yen is worth an emergency Clan meeting.”
“It is not just this one time,” the older man retorted. Her cousin Delun Chang remaining firm in his irritation. “You have consistently refused to order punishment fitting with Clan standards.”
She glanced at her grandfather Jae-Hong Chang, who silently watched from the other end of the table. His passive face showed that this was a test he wanted her to pass on her own.
She then said to the group, “As the leader, I have the right to determine what punishment is appropriate. It is not as if I am letting these people wander free without penance.”
She glanced at the other men at the table, who were just as intense and engrossed in the conversation. Assistants and bodyguards stood along the walls, pretending not to pay attention but always ready to respond if their services were needed. She felt like she was surrounded by walls of suits, with the only exceptions being the two female secretaries.
Her cousin sneered, “Your standards of ‘penance’ are laughable even by Western standards! You are a weak leader, and as a result you make the Clan look weak. True fear is not created by losing jobs or money. People can always get those back or at least a suitable substitute. What people fear is pain and loss of life, of their own or someone close to them. That is the foundation of who we are, and why our enemies and allies fear and respect us the way they do. But this isn’t just about you spanking the bottom of a wayward accountant,” her elder cousin said as he motioned to his secretary, Huiqing.
The middle-aged woman stepped forward and opened her portfolio to produce a familiar envelope, placing it on the table for everyone to see.
Recognizing her wedding invitation, Reika curbed the impulse to make a sarcastic comment about using the mail to decline.
Her cousin held up the document as if the very touch of it offended him. “In two months time you are expected to marry the youngest son of the Watanabe Group. We realized your father himself made this arrangement years ago. However, several of us have valid concerns that such a marriage would end up having our Great Chinese Clan absorbed as a minor partner of such a powerful Japanese Yakuza family.”
Reika frowned and commented, “Densuke hardly has the skills or ambition to do a takeover. He was chosen as my husband for that very reason.”
“He may not, but his siblings are more than capable of arranging such a feat. It would not be a concern if all of us had faith that you would not let such a thing happen! If you cannot, or will not, earn the trust that we had placed in your father, then you will leave us no choice but to remove you as leader and ensure that this wedding will not happen! Is that understood?!”
Instead of immediately answering, Reika scanned the faces around the table. These same men, who had been kindly relatives when she was younger, had the seriousness on their faces that showed the true dark nature that had lifted their Clan to its prominent stature in the underworld.
She finally settled her gaze on her cousin but projected her voice to everyone to know she was addressing them collectively. “I assure you that I am my father’s daughter! I will not shame him by allowing such a thing to happen! You are all dismissed!”
Her grandfather remained seated as everyone else stood up to leave. His direct gaze signaled that he wanted a private word with her. She signaled for her secretary and bodyguards to leave with the rest of the meeting attendees so that the two of them would be alone in a matter of minutes.
“Do you agree with them, Grandpa?” she asked softly, her rage giving way to her emotional exhaustion. She looked down at the ebony ring with the tiger’s head on her finger. “Have my actions made us appear weak?”
“Not all of them,” he answered carefully. “But you do not have enough trust and loyalty for unpopular decisions to be ignored or forgiven. And you are right that you are your father’s daughter for many forget he toiled through a similar period of having to prove himself. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if your final proclamation was driven more by a reaction based on pride rather than the proper view of what is truly at stake.”
She frowned. “So you think I should look for a successor? Or at least step down to let the others take care of that?”
He looked at her for a long moment, studying her gaze carefully. The intensity was enough to make her feel uncomfortable but she let him search for whatever he might be looking for.
“I think you did an admirable job stepping in when the Clan needed you. But Reika, I think you need to decide for yourself once and for all if you truly need the Clan. We cannot survive with a leader who does not have that type of commitment. If it turns out that you realize you do need us, I have no doubt that you will be fully embraced with everything the Clan has to offer.”
* * *
Jun, the timid young woman with the glasses and her hair in a braid, signaled that the office bathroom was clear. Despite the fact that it was the Clan headquarters building, the routine was a habit that was the group adhered to even in these facilities.
At the cue from her secretary, Reika entered as her guards remained posted outside. But instead of going to use the facilities, she leaned against the edge of the sink and closed her eyes for a moment as she tried to calm herself down.
“Do you need some aspirin?” Jun asked in Japanese even as she had already started to fish for some in her purse.
“Yes, please… Sorry, you had to witness all of that. I know it was a little too exciting for your first week.” She took the aspirin and downed it with a handful of water from the sink.
She sheepishly shrugged and said, “I felt sorry for you more than anything. Father didn’t warn me that you had such issues with your leadership.”
At the reference of her recently retired secretary, Reika smiled and said, “I suppose he wanted you to find out for yourself. This is hardly new news. Though this is the first time I’ve been openly threatened with deposition.”
The bathroom door suddenly swung open, surprising both women since the bodyguards should have prevented anyone else from entering. They then relaxed at the sight of Huiqing the secretary who was forced to make the dramatic presentation of the wedding invitation in the meeting.
She bowed anxiously as she pointed to the empty stalls and said in Mandarin, “I’m so sorry for disturbing you. But I really, um…”
Reika smiled gently and said, “It’s all right. Go ahead.”
Once the older woman disappeared into a stall, she then turned her attention back to Jun and said, “I want to head back to Tokyo as soon as possible. Please tell the pilot that we’ll be leaving here in about 15 minutes.”
Jun nodded as she pulled out her phone. “Should I arrange for lunch on the plane or would you like to eat before arriving at the airport?”
Reika paused for a moment and then said, “Let’s not waste a trip to Hong Kong. Choose a restaurant and make reservations for the two of us.”
Jun blinked in surprise as she pointed to herself questioningly.
“Of course, I want to get to know a bit more about you since you’ll be my keeper now. But I do want a few minutes alone.”
After the appreciative young woman left the room, Reika sighed and looked at herself in the mirror. Despite her business polish, she looked very tired and felt it. And she had been in non-stop work mode for the past few weeks. She longed to be home and settled for a bit.
Just then she heard a toilet flush and the other secretary hesitantly emerge from the stall.
Realizing that she should take the opportunity to use the facilities herself, Reika walked by her with a reassuring smile to ease the woman’s discomfort.
Suddenly, a blur of movement out of the corner of her eye triggered her pure reflex to dodge. As she fell to the floor, the other woman’s fist slammed into the metal stall door crinkling it like aluminum foil.
Reika stared up in surprised at the hateful glare from the other woman, whose fist now dripped with blood. Her attacker then aimed a swift kick at her, causing her to threw up her arms in defense. At the sharp sensations and sounds of her own bones snapping, she screamed in pain, barely aware of the sudden sounds of gunfire which followed.
— End Chapter 1 —
* * *
Chapter 2: Challenge
4 p.m., February 22nd, Jae-Hong Chang’s Home, Hong Kong
Reika tried to focus despite the muted distraction of the painkillers as she was propped up in the bed. She also tried to ignore the casts, which supported her left arm and right hand.
“… So what became of her?” she asked her grandfather, who sat at her bedside.
The only other persons in the bedroom that had been converted to provide hospital level support were a haggard and worried Kou and Jun.
“We’ve disposed of her in an unmarked location. A would-be assassin does not deserve a proper burial,” he answered simply. “You don’t seem surprised that she wasn’t a boomer but just an augmented human.”
“She had too much of an expression of hatred on her face that I haven’t seen on boomers before,” she answered simply. She then thought of her cousin, whom the woman had worked for. “And what of Delun?”
“As expected, he is keeping quiet, despite the initial tortures we have put him through. His silence is enough to confirm his guilt. However, we have placed his entire household under lock-down until we can confirm if his act of treason included accomplices. If he does have supporters, they won’t make a move until they know for certain of his fate. For that reason, we have kept him in an undisclosed location without contact with anyone who would help him.” The elderly man then paused and gave her a pointed look. “You will have to face him soon. Swift action must be taken to maintain order. While we can keep this from the press, our allies and enemies in the underworld will find out about this shortly, if they don’t already know.”
Reika sighed and nodded. “Bring him before me tonight. I want – “
The buzzing of her cell phone interrupted her. I t was propped up on the side table so she could view the caller display. Seeing Densuke’s name yet again, she frowned and promptly ignored it.
“ – Yes, I’ll be ready to confront him by then.”
Her grandfather and Kou then exchanged a look, which raised Reika’s suspicion.
It was then when she noticed that Kou’s left hand was bandaged in such a way that it seemed like he was missing his pinky.
Before she could make a comment, her grandfather then said, “This brings up the issue of what to do in the future for security. Had Huiqing been a real boomer, she would not have been stopped by mere bullets. Plus, if she had been a real boomer, she could have just stormed into the building and attacked you without having to be planted from the inside.”
Already alarmed, Reika felt the tingles of dread escalate inside of her.
Just then, Jun jumped slightly at the buzz of her own cell phone inside her jacket. Embarrassed at the distraction she caused, she pulled it out and glanced at it. Now bewildered, she glanced at her watching boss and said, “It’s Mr. Watanabe.”
Reika scowled that Densuke was now harassing her secretary.
“Tell him I’ll call him later!” she hissed, though trying to make it clear that she wasn’t angry at the young woman herself.
Once the younger woman stepped out of the room, the elder Chang continued his announcement, “We feel that we cannot ignore the fact you need anti-boomer level protection. Kou had mentioned the boomer demonstration that Genom held last year for their line of personalized bodyguards. Perhaps we need to explore that option for you.”
Reika shook her head and said, “I’m sorry, Grandpa, but I still trust Quincy Rozenkreuz far less than Delun. The last time he and I had crossed paths, he tried to double-cross me. I will not put my safety in a tool that he ultimately controls.”
“Hmmm. I can understand your concerns,” her grandfather said as he stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Still, now that there is a precedent of such an attack, someone connected to Delun or a Clan enemy may be inspired to take similar action. We need to address this as soon as possible.”
“I agree,” she answered truthfully. “However, our options – “
Again, her phone buzzed, which caused her to glare at the offending piece of equipment in fury. But her anger instantly disappeared at the sight of Irene’s name.
She glanced anxiously at her grandfather and the elder man nodded that she should answer the call from her sister.
* * *
“I never thought I’d ever see my gorgeous sister look like complete shit,” Irene remarked through the little video screen. She was in the garden of her London home, starting her brunch.
“You really didn’t need to go there,” Reika retorted in an equally deadpan tone, relaxed at now being alone in the room. “The painkillers make me feel like I’m constantly battling a hangover.”
“How much damage did you suffer?”
“Both bones in my left forearm were completely snapped. And my right hand was crushed. But I’ve already been warned about reconstruction surgeries. I’ve already gone through one in order for them to take care of the more dangerous bone fragments.”
“Will you be able to play the piano again?”
Reika looked completely stunned, more at the realization that the thought never occurred to her with everything that had been going on. “I don’t know. The doctors are so focused on damage control I don’t think they’ve thought that far ahead.”
Irene winced. “So I guess this means the wedding will be delayed? Unless you think you can fully recovered by then?”
“Ugh, I didn’t think about that either,” she admitted. “Grandpa has brought up the point that we have serious security issues to address. No doubt he’ll want a delay until we can come up with some solutions, especially for such a public event… Well, my wedding planners would be thrilled at the delay. Oh, and I suppose I have to tell Densuke… But enough of that, how was your check up?”
Irene leaned back to show that she was gently patting the slight bulge in her abdomen. “Everything’s fine. And no, we still haven’t decided whether or not to find out the gender… Hey, if you delay the wedding until the end of June, I should be able to wear a regular dress by then.”
Reika laughed at the suggestion. “Okay. It’s not like I had any other deadlines to consider. Other than just recovering from this mess…”
“Well, look at this way: You were tired of traveling so much. This is your opportunity to lay low for a bit. And maybe get some t.l.c. from Sylia while you’re at it.”
Reika stiffened at the name and hoped it wasn’t obvious to her eagle-eyed sister. Then a thought occurred to her. “Oh, is Sho around? I need to speak to him about Clan business.”
Irene blinked but then said, “He should be at his office.”
* * *
“… so you have nothing to say in your defense?” Reika said at the man who was pinned by bodyguards to the floor before her.
The bloodied and bruised man kept his mouth clenched shut despite the prompted twist of an arm. He let out a whine of pain but kept from speaking.
“I am disappointed in you, Delun,” her grandfather stated. “No matter the troubles, you must never betray the Clan.”
Delun peered up at the man who was his own grandfather and managed to state, “I have not betrayed the Clan! I have given up my life to prove my devotion.”
Now the elderly man was angry. “You have made our struggles public! That can be exploited by our enemies!”
The prone man gave a pointed look at Reika. But instead of addressing her, he stated to the elder man, “A strong leader would be able to bring unity to our people while keeping our enemies cowering in fear! If the Hou Bang cannot survive this crisis, then it is not the Clan I given my life for.”
Reika exchanged a look with her grandfather, who had an expression of resignation. It was now her turn to do what was needed.
Fighting down her own dread, she swallowed and stated firmly, “Delun Chang, I sentence you to have your tendons cut and have you disposed on the front door of your compound. You will be guarded from receiving any assistance until after you are dead. Your remains will not be given a proper burial or resting place.”
The sentenced man looked at her with a moment of stunned surprised which was followed with a deeply pleased look. However, he remained silent as he was dragged away.
“Please leave me alone,” Reika said softly to the remaining people.
Once by herself, she collapsed back into the bed and stared up into the ceiling as she tried to fight down feelings of despair.
— End Chapter 2 —
* * *
Chapter 3: Intentions
9:37 a.m., February 23rd, Jae-Hong Chang’s Home, Hong Kong
“… Well, of course, we were concerned when we heard the news of the attack,” Largo commented through the videophone screen. “But when Densuke told us that you only suffered recoverable injuries, we were quite relieved. And yes, we expected the wedding to be postponed. If there is anything else we can assist you with, please feel free to let us know, either directly or through our little brother.”
Alone in the bedroom, Reika noted once again that her future brother-in-law was the type of person who would still seem to ooze slimy charm even while being sincere. She glanced at his twin sister, Yoshiko, who sat quietly to the side, always seemingly bored but always taking in every detail.
“Yes, speaking of which, I actually had a business reason for calling you two,” she said to the now mildly curious expressions. “Since our families are going to be united as well, I think this would be a perfect opportunity for us to combine our strengths as a win for both of us. I know that you have a boomer research lab in Rome, with parts stolen from Genom last year. I also know that you’ve encountered some obstacles in developing your own version of Genom’s latest boomer models. My sister’s husband was the top research scientist for that program.
“As a show of true alliance, he is willing to assist your technicians with not only completing that project, but also helping to develop anti-boomer equipment by using his knowledge of the programs weaknesses. My only condition is that the first model you complete becomes my personal bodyguard.”
The twins studied her for a moment and then looked at each other. They whispered to each other for a minute before Largo directed his attention back to Reika.
With a clearly impressed smirk, Largo said, “We’re very interested in forming such a partnership. When would he be able to start?”
“As soon as you’re ready for his assistance. He could be on the first plane to Rome from London once I give the word. We only need to be certain that his activities are well masked from Genom resources. I’m certain they’re keeping tabs on him since he knows so much. If they knew what he was up to, no doubt, they would terminate him as soon as possible.”
“You have our promise that his safety will be guaranteed. And what of your sister? Will she be coming with him?”
“She’ll be moving back to Tokyo temporarily. She wants to give birth in the motherland. Of course, we can work out visiting arrangements for them when the time comes.”
“Of course,” he conceded. “I do look forward to the outcome of this agreement. I think it will take both of our families to levels of greatness never before realized.”
Reika gave him a mild smile and said, “Yes, I hope so.”
* * *
The elderly Japanese woman in a kimono held up the x-rays to the afternoon light from the open window.
“I’ve only seen this kind of damage done in very bad car accidents. Your left forearm is completely shattered. And your right hand…” Mrs. Takeuchi fell silent into a tsk. “When is Dr. Li planning your next reconstructive surgery? I agree that some of your bones need to be replaced.”
“Once he’s able to secure the replacement bones, he’ll let me know. He’s trying to expedite the process as much as possible.”
“At least you’re damage wasn’t as extensive as Linna’s in that you can still move around.”
“Yes, but without my hands, I’m completely helpless. I think this is the longest time I’ve ever been without make-up. I don’t have it in me to force Jun to play beautician – though I think she would.”
The older woman smiled and said, “You never really needed that junk to begin with. So Jun is working out? She always seemed very earnest and sincere.”
“She’s a sweet girl. I’m concerned she may be a little too sheltered. I would have thought her father would have prepped her a bit better. But then, it’s probably the best way to see how well she’ll work out in the long run. She needs to prove she can be prepared for anything.” Reika blinked as her own words sunk in. She then chuckled to herself. “Well, I could have been speaking about me, couldn’t I?”
Mrs. Takeuchi didn’t comment as she poured a cup of healing tea, knowing that Reika wasn’t going to actually ask for a sip of the foul-smelling drink.
After she swallowed several sips, Reika looked at the woman who was her second mother and asked seriously, “If two different people make the same observation about you, yet under completely different circumstances, it would have to be true, wouldn’t it?”
“What observation is it?”
Reika frowned to herself, as if reluctant to speak even though she had brought it up. But then she finally admitted, “Delun called me a weak leader because I wouldn’t make the decisions that were expected of me. And that my weakness reflected on Hou Bang itself… When Sylia and I broke up, she also called me weak. That I didn’t have the strength to be someone she could rely on when things were tough.”
The other woman took a deep breath and sat on the edge of the bed. “I don’t know how to answer that. I can see where you may think there are some similarities. But the point of criticisms is to take what you hear, determine what you think is valid, and use it for improvement… In your current state, you’ll have plenty of time to think this through if it bothers you that much. Don’t rush it. And you look tired. You should get some rest.”
Reika nodded. “I need to make one phone call, so if you could leave me alone, that would be appreciated.”
Once left alone, Reika directed her attention to her phone again and gave the command for it to dial Sylia’s number. In the seconds it took to connect, she felt her heart race madly in her chest. They hadn’t spoken to each other since that night of… awkwardness. But she knew she couldn’t stall the contact further. A part of her hoped that Sylia wouldn’t be available to answer and that she could just leave a message.
“Hello,” Sylia answered expectantly, showing that she had noticed Reika’s name as the caller. She was apparently sitting alone in her private computer room.
Reika swallowed a gulp. “Hi. Sorry, it’s been a while. Things have been busy.”
“Same here.” Despite the simple reply, Sylia’s eyes were clearly taking in every detail of Reika’s haggard appearance.
Reika held up her bandaged hand and said, “I had an unfortunate accident a couple of days ago. I fell down the stairs. Broke my left arm too… So the wedding has been postponed to late June. Since you’re my maid of honor, I thought I should let you know so you can adjust your calendar accordingly. The final date is still being organized and once it’s confirmed I’ll let you know.”
Sylia looked mildly surprised but then quickly recovered. “Of course, I’ll make sure to clear my calendar. Is there anything else?”
“Not right now,” Reika answered, feeling a little relieved yet still emotionally twisted. “I’ll talk to you later then?”
“Of course. Good bye.”
* * *
Once the call ended, Sylia remained frozen in her chair, staring blankly at the lively monitors before her. Her fingers twitched instinctively and she didn’t stop her sudden impulse to type into the keyboard. Her main monitor then displayed the report she had uncovered two days ago that woman with boomer augmentations had made an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the Leader of the Hou Bang Clan.
She reread the report yet again, absorbing every factual detail before finally closing it.
With stiff movements, she stood and left the room.
In the middle of doing maintenance on the hardsuit pumps, Nigel glanced up at the sound of the elevator doors opening. Normally, the sight of Sylia would have been enough to satisfy his curiosity to allow him to return to work. But her downcast frown and stiff strides kept his attention.
“Is something wrong?”
Clearly having been deep in thought, Sylia blinked at him in surprise. “Oh, I just received a call from Reika. She told me the wedding’s been moved to the end of June. Actual date to be determined.”
“Oh, well, that’s no surprise all things considered,” he commented, still keeping his attention on her despite letting his hands continue with tightening bolts. “She look okay?”
“She said she broke her right hand and her left arm. Must be tough for her since I’ve never known her to have to deal with so much as a scab in the years I knew her…”
She drifted into silence, showing that the subject was now closed as far as she was concerned.
Nigel knew to honor the silence as he returned his full attention to his task at hand.
— End Chapter 3 —
* * *
Chapter 4: Stealth
11:26 a.m., March 8th, Tokyo
“You know, you could have brought Nene instead,” Priss muttered as she browsed the menu that didn’t display prices.
She and Sylia sat at the window table of the high-class restaurant, both dressed stylishly to better blend in.
“I did. Three times,” Sylia answered without looking up. The slightly thick glasses she wore and pinned up hair gave her a very different aura though no less sexy. “And I had also brought Linna twice. So I figured it was your turn. Didn’t want you to think I played favorites.”
“I would never accuse you of that,” Priss state flatly as she put down the menu and waited. She tugged slightly at the white noise dampening collar that was now small enough to look like a small blue choker to match her form fitting dress. Noting that Sylia also had one to match her own outfit, Priss couldn’t help but wonder if they looked like a lesbian couple who liked to wear matching outfits, a thought that disturbed her nonconformist self.
“Besides, you do now live under my roof. I think it’s only appropriate that we have a little alone time, even if it’s every six months.”
Priss had to admit that was valid. “Then what do you want to talk about?”
“How are the recording sessions going? I would have thought your band would have finished by now.”
“Are you complaining about the rental bill for the recording studio?” she commented, knowing that the bill had to be enormous since the earthquake had cut down available studios in Tokyo by at least a quarter.
Sylia finally looked up and gave her a mild frown over the rim of the glasses.
“We’re almost finished mixing. We actually did enough material for two albums but with the city still rebuilding, we know we have time to release the material since people have other money priorities right now.”
Sylia then had a thoughtful look. “Would you like a dedicated recording studio at the Silky Doll?”
Priss blinked in amazement.
“It’s not like the money or space is the problem. But I also don’t want you to feel obligated to keep staying there. I know you only moved in because Lisa moved in with Linna.”
“Yeah, about that. It doesn’t bother you that I’m staying there basically rent free?”
Sylia gave her a frown again. “We’re supposed to be friends, Priss. If we can coexist in my home and not see each other more than once a week, then I think it’s working out…” She paused for a moment to put down her menu and give Priss a direct look. “However, I do not want you to feel like you have to be there because of Cynthia. I know you need your space.”
“She’s not an issue,” she answered quickly. “And I admit it helps having my own room. I’m just… taking things one day at a time.”
“That’s perfectly fine.”
At that point, the waiter came and took their orders.
“So how are things with you?” Priss asked, taking advantage of the break to shift the topic. “Now that earthquake recovery crises has completely died down, what are you spending your days with?”
“Reading and tinkering,” she answered simply, punctuating her answer with a sip of wine.
Priss took just as casual of a sip of her beer and commented, “Haven’t seen Reika in a while. Not since you two were practically having sex on the dance floor.”
A slightly shadow passed across Sylia’s face before she answered lightly, “Trust me, that didn’t qualify as sex for us. Foreplay maybe… But she and I talked about a week ago. She had an accident and broke her arm. So her wedding is now being moved to the end of June.”
Priss narrowed her eyes at the other woman for a moment. “So I’m curious, aren’t you concerned that you may be playing with fire with Reika? After all, it’s been very clear you two are still very attracted to each other.”
“We’ve had our closure. And I have Nigel,” she answered with a simple shrug. “Are you concerned that I would actually cheat on him?”
“No. Not even with Reika.”
“So you two are really married without being married… Have you ever been concerned that Nigel would cheat on you?”
She shook her head. “I just know he wouldn’t. He’s not that type of man. Let’s put it this way, even if he managed to fool me by having some sort of other life with five other women, I never sensed any lack of emotional devotion from him when we’re together. — And I must say that this is a surprising line of questions from a lead singer of a rock band.”
Suddenly, Sylia’s cell phone started to blink in its spot on the corner of the table. The name ‘Tsuji Kentarou’ appeared on the name display.
“Finally!” Sylia said almost under her breath. “I’m tired of eating here.” She grabbed the device and flipped it open.
Priss waited as she watched the other woman push buttons as she studied the screen. She had to admit she was curious but she remained quiet.
Sylia then glanced up at the door of the restaurant and pressed some small buttons on the frame of her glasses. A small entourage of men in suits, most of them clearly bodyguards, were gathered in front of the overly friendly host.
“He’s the tall, Caucasian one,” Sylia said softly.
Priss reached into the purse that Sylia lent her. She pulled out the compact mirror and checked out the figure with the slicked back hair and dark sunglasses through the mirror. “Huge and formidable on appearances alone,” she commented. “So what can he – “
Priss immediately did what she was ordered and focused her attention on Sylia.
“He’s looking at us,” Sylia explained behind a sip of her drink. “I wonder if he’s able to see the electrical currents in our dampening collars. It would be an unusual detail in a boomer’s view of things.”
“But he shouldn’t view these a threat, right?” she asked, not liking the idea of facing the latest boomer model without a hardsuit.
“Well, he’s not charging over here. But he keeps looking at us even though they’re moving to the back of the restaurant.”
“So do we need to stick around then?”
Sylia glanced at her phone and said, “He’s sending and receiving burst signals every two minutes. I want to keep recording for as long as possible… Besides, I’m paying too much money to rush our lunch like this.”
Priss rolled her eyes and resigned herself to waiting for her food to arrive.
— End Chapter 4 —