BGC Post 2040 File 7 – 4: 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.
Chapter 13: Unburied Secrets
1:37 p.m., May 16th, Takeuchi Family Grave, Yokohama
The would-be assassin was absolutely baffled. He knew from experience that he had the power to rip doors off of cars. So how was it possible that this slender, though tall, woman would be able to keep his arms pinned to his sides with just her bare hands? Even if she had the same boomer enhancements, he should still be able to break free instead of being steered around the crowd of mourners like some child that needed discipline.
As panic started to rise in him, he wanted to cry out for help, which would be easily heard by the surrounding people. However, given why he was there, no doubt, that would be an instant death wish for him. While he had fully expected to sacrifice his life for his cause, he wasn’t prepared to die with the absolute shame of failure. He realized if he kept quiet and did what he was being led to do, he might have a chance that his elder might barter for his life. Might.
* * *
“Wow! That’s the fourth one so far,” Nene reported from her seat at the terminal in the mobile pit. She listened carefully into her headset and then said to her companions, “But, the funeral is still going without a hitch as far as the attendees are concerned.”
“Good,” Priss muttered grimly as she watched the monitor that showed the video feed from Cynthia’s eyes, where every person was depicted as a blob of body temperatures.
Linna shook her head to herself as she stared wide-eyed at the various monitors. “I had no idea that things were this bad for Reika. Even if we don’t have to go out in the hardsuits, I’m glad I chose to be here to help instead of attending.”
Sitting at the other terminal, Nigel scratched his stubbled chin. “I think the assassins are out in full force because this is the last real public event for the Clan before the wedding.”
Now Linna was really alarmed. “Do you think we’d have a swarm of assassins to deal with then too?”
“Well, I don’t know if it would be ‘we’. We’re only involved because Reika asked Cynthia for help. She wanted some boomer ‘muscle’ to be on stand by. Turns out it was a good call.”
“Wouldn’t she need the same thing for her wedding? It’s only next month. And I can’t imagine Sylia would let that go.”
Nigel clenched his jaw and kept quiet.
With the headset pressed to her ear, Nene suddenly sat bolt upright, “Mackey just said that he and Cynthia are picking up the sounds of at least two helicopters to the west even though they can’t see anything yet.”
“On it,” Nigel said as his fingers flew over the keyboard. The screen in front of him showed the satellite reading of the vicinity and sure enough, there were two blips heading towards their direction. “They’re on super stealth. And heading here fast! Priss –!“
“Yep! Linna, come on!”
* * *
The faint sound of rumbling momentarily distracted the mourners into a listening, pensive silence. But when nothing else happened in the next few minutes, they went back to the ceremony.
The bodyguard clenched his fist anxiously at this side. Things weren’t supposed to happen like this. Someone should have succeeded in their mission by now. He was made nervous by the mysterious woman in the black suit that seemed to be escorting out people he knew were there for more devious reasons.
He glanced over at the Chang sisters, who were stricken with grief. If there had only been a real distraction, he could take advantage of the chaos without blowing his cover.
Then an idea crossed his mind.
“Sir,” he said to Kou, “I’m going to go and make sure that disturbance is really nothing.”
The head bodyguard nodded as he seemed focused on scanning the rest of the graveyard and started to step in the opposite direction.
With confident strides, he walked through the rows of graves on his way north, apparently to the parking lot. It was his job to be an expert on long shots with a pistol. He just had to find a place that offered some cover as well as a clear view. Even if he would be spotted, he should be far enough away to make an escape. He knew the security plan that the other Clan bodyguards were mostly gathered in the south entrance, where would-be assassins were being gathered.
Pulling his gun from its holster and slipping on its silencer, he slipped behind the trunk of an ancient tree and checked that he indeed had the clear shot that he needed. He knew Reika would be wearing bullet-proof protection under clothes, so he needed to aim for her head. He tsked at the thought of damaging such a natural beauty, but he knew his options were limited.
He held up the gun and took aim.
He started to squeeze the trigger but then a powerful, silent force knocked the gun from his hand as well as his thumb. He barely had a moment to register the pain of being shot when another bullet silently ripped through his throat.
With a grim frown, Kou stood over the slumped figure of his former comrade to make certain the man was indeed dead. Satisfied, he glanced around to make certain none of the mourners noticed before he radioed for assistance to carry the body out.
Standing in the nearby rows of graves, Sylia saw that she hadn’t been needed so she slipped her own gun back into her holster. Though she was still tense from being on standby, she sighed to herself and made her way back to the main crowd of mourners.
* * *
“ – You don’t want me to research those copters?” Nene asked incredulously from the monitor screen.
“I’m certain Reika already knows everything about them,” Sylia replied coolly from her private computer room. “No need to waste our time and resources on it.”
Though clearly reluctant, Nene had to admit she couldn’t really argue with that. Even her usually rampant curiosity was convinced that there were other things far more interesting to do instead. “Okay then. Talk to you later!”
Once the screen went dark, Sylia took a sip of her waiting tea and thought she really needed something stronger instead.
When she was about to stand to address the craving, the terminal buzzed to signal an incoming call. Reika’s name appeared on the screen.
Sylia’s felt her heart skip a beat as a mixture of emotions, good and bad started to twist her insides. She thought about letting the call going unanswered but her curiosity got the better of her. After all, even though she attended the entire funeral service, she and Reika had said nothing to each other outside of basic pleasantries.
A very haggard Reika appeared on the screen. “Did I call at a bad time?”
“Not at all,” Sylia replied coolly, trying not to show any of the frenzied emotions she was feeling. “How are you?”
After giving a sheepish shrug, Reika cleared her throat and said more formally, “I wanted to call you to thank you for everything you did today.”
“Cynthia and the others did all of the real work. I was there just in case. You should be thanking them instead.”
“I’ve already called her,” Reika admitted. “I told her to arrange a dinner for everyone at a nice restaurant as my treat.”
Sylia felt the pang of disappointment in knowing she had been called second. “All right, then I’ll make sure she does that… By the way, as long we’re talking, I want to let you know that I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to participate in the wedding. At all.”
“Oh. All right. I’ll let my staff know.” Reika looked momentarily hurt, but then realized it was inevitable.
”Anything else?” she added brusquely.
“Not really. Just… thank you. I mean it. Good night, Sylia.”
“Good night, Reika.”
Sylia remained seated long after the computer screen went black.
The buzz of someone calling on an internal line caught her attention. She glanced at the phone monitor and saw Cynthia’s name.
She pressed the button to receive the call.
Now out of her disguise and alone in her room, the other woman’s face appeared on the screen with a clear look of reluctance in her eyes.
“Is there something wrong, Cynthia?” Sylia asked with genuine concern.
“I—I’m not certain if there is. I would like to speak with you about what I’ve noticed with my new vision.”
“Are you suffering after effects? I will have Nigel and Mackey undo the optic upgrade immediately.” The team had originally planned for the enhancements to be removed only if Cynthia reported any bad symptoms to the thermal and electrical vision. Otherwise, it was felt to be a good capability for her to have since it could be turned on and off at her discretion.
“No, it’s not… bad. That’s why I want to talk to you. In private. When we had come back from the funeral, I’ve realized that the Knight Sabers also… glow. Especially, you and Priss.”
Sylia frowned for a moment. “Well, I suppose that would make sense given the connection she and I had with Galatea.”
“That’s not really what troubles me,” Cynthia gently but firmly insisted. “And that’s why I wish to talk to you. I’ve also noticed a glow, though very faint, in people who aren’t Knight Sabers. At first I thought I was not in full control of my new optic program. But then I tested it out on the customers who came into the shop and I don’t see the same aura about them. I’m wondering if my vision has become faulty in some way or perhaps there is another explanation.”
Sylia felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. “All right, let’s talk. Meet me in the Pit as soon as possible.”
– End Chapter 13 –
* * *
Chapter 14: Beginnings
10:06 a.m., May 17th, Chang Enterprises HQ, Tokyo
When the transport capsule was opened and Reika saw Anri’s sleeping face, she had to admit she liked what she saw. Her new bodyguard’s features were slightly round and soft, like a face that could be comforting, a kind presence rather than distractingly beautiful and sexy. With her black hair styled in a bob cut and pale skin, she could easily blend into a crowd. Of course, the boomer’s frame was statuesque and ready for any physical task that could buckle a human with three times her mass.
She glanced at the anxious faces of Sho and his team and gave them a nod.
Their relief was evident as they immediately finished unpacking the boomer who had been shipped from Rome. Having overseen the delivery herself, Yoshiko waited and watched in the back of the room.
Sho directed Reika to the array of glass and metal tubes and beakers that he had arranged on the nearby table. “In order to initiate her activation process for you, I’ll need a sample of your blood.”
“Why?” Reika asked even though she reluctantly pulled off her blazer to hand it to the ever ready Jun.
“When we give her a fresh sample of your DNA, it will encode your ‘scent’ into her. It makes it far more difficult for someone to supersede her programmed loyalty to you. Consider it the ultimate form of customization,” he explained as he checked that the solution was mixed right. “For example, Arnold is completely shut down until my team can completely remove traces of Kentarou Tsuji from all of his programming – which we calculate could take weeks, at the minimum. And that’s not counting any back-up routines or other safety measures Genom may have added to my original designs that we may not have discovered yet.”
As she rolled up her sleeve, Reika eyed the beaker of the thick blue liquid cautiously. “What is that solution made of?”
“Its base is the standard prep solution people drink when they’re going to have boomer prosthetics. It causes the person’s immune system to accept the foreign matter rather than reject it. For this solution, we’ve added a very trace amount of special boomer core material and activation nanobots that will break down your blood into readable data for the boomer. We’ve found that using this solution is far more efficient and precise than to involve lab work that could introduce contaminants or human error.” He dabbed her forearm with a cotton swab before picking up an empty syringe.
Reika sighed inside as she watched the needle enter her skin and watched the blood come out. It must be a sign that her recent medical experiences have made her a little jaded compared to when she used to be queasy of needles.
Sho carefully emptied the syringe’s contents into the beaker. Upon contact, the two solutions immediately started to churn and swirl, slight vapors started to rise from the surface.
“That’s… odd,” he muttered under his breath.
Reika saw that he was genuinely perplexed, but not alarmed.
Realizing that her eyes were on him, he shrugged. “I’ve just never seen this reaction before. But it has been a while since I’ve dealt with this solution. Genom could have made modifications to the formula since the versions I’ve used.”
“So does that mean we can’t activate her?”
“Give me and my team a few minutes to double-check some things,” Sho said before turning to his assistants and had them validate that the contents were correct and pure.
Now that she had to wait, Reika looked over and saw Yoshiko reading her cellphone. She took a deep breath and walked over. She had only taken a couple of steps before the other woman looked up expectantly.
“I want to thank you for arranging all of this,” Reika said with a wave to the activity in the lab. “And for helping out with the funeral security.”
“We’re family,” she answered simply.
Reika blinked at the realization that the world of the Watanabes was as absolute as she had always known. The formality of a wedding wasn’t necessary to represent reality.
“Yes, I guess we are… And speaking of family, how is Mei?”
This time Yoshiko seemed a little mildly surprised at the question. “She’s doing as well as can be expected. One more surgery and she should be back to normal.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear it… By the way, Jun told me that Mei wasn’t on the wedding guest list even before her… injuries. And that you’re planning to attend alone. I understand if you wish to forego attendance because of other priorities.”
Yoshiko’s reserve returned at she regarded her evenly. “Thank you for the offer. However, just as you must do certain things because of who you are, I must do the same.”
Feeling that this was as far as this conversation would go, Reika gave a nod and returned to waiting by her secretary.
A couple more minutes later, Sho approached her and said, “Everything seemed to check out. We even looked at a sample of mixture under the microscope and it seems to look okay. The particles are just moving faster than expected. It’s perhaps a more efficient formula that Genom created.”
“So you’re confident that we should proceed?”
He nodded. “At worse, we just can’t fully activate her until we can get the formula right. It might take us having to hunt down an older version, or creating it ourselves. It’s your judgment on whether to move forward.”
Not seeing any other options that didn’t involve a delay, Reika nodded. “I suppose it doesn’t hurt to try it.”
Sho emptied the contents of the beaker into a special needle gun, which he used to inject the contents into Anri’s right ear canal. Once he was done, he took a step back and nodded for his assistant to turn her on.
A small hum could be heard from Anri as the electricity from the special generator pumped through her. Though her eyes were closed, people could see the physical responses of her system as she started to mildly flex and twitch her muscles. When she finally took in her first full lung full of air, the humming stopped and her eyes opened.
Though she was expressionless, her brown eyes immediately started to take in all of the details of her surroundings. She scanned everyone and everything once before going back into standby mode of staring straight ahead.
“Anri,” Sho ordered to get her attention again, “Initiate genesis program one.”
“Program started,” she answered in a soft but firm voice.
The sigh of relief from Sho was audible. He then motioned to his sister-in-law and said, “Anri, this is Reika Chang. She will be your master.”
Reika stood patiently as the boomer’s eyes locked on hers before doing a far more detailed scan from top to bottom. She remembered Sho’s instructions to remain absolutely still as the boomer then took careful steps to circle her, taking in every visible detail.
The boomer finally stopped right in front of her and locked eyes. Anri’s pupils glowed red for a brief moment before she bowed deeply and said, “I am honored to be in your service, Reika Chang.”
On instinct, Reika returned the bow and said, “I know you will do an excellent job, Anri.”
Just then a buzzing sound came from Sho’s phone at his belt, indicating a text message. He glanced at it and his face went white. He looked at Reika and said, “Irene’s in labor!”
* * *
7:12 a.m., May 18th, Chang Compound, Tokyo
“She’s beautiful!” Reika declared of the sleeping newborn that she cradled in her arms. She smiled at the parents, who were the only other persons in the bedroom.
Collapsed in her bed, Irene gave a tired smile and squeezed Sho’s hand as he said beside her. “If the labor is a sign, she’s going to be a fighter.”
Beaming with pride through his exhaustion, Sho nodded happily. “Dr. Kamei said that she’s perfectly healthy despite being a couple of weeks early.”
Reika held up the baby and said, “Welcome to the family, Mitsune!”
Both Irene and Sho immediately reacted in a way that showed the name wasn’t correct.
“You didn’t name her after Mom?”
Irene shrugged slightly, “He and I just discussed it the night of the funeral that it felt more appropriate to name her after Mrs. Takeuchi. Sorry, we didn’t have a chance to tell you yet. The next one can be named Mitsune… even if it’s a boy.”
Reika nodded in understanding. “Okay, then, I’ve been corrected. Welcome to the family, Nozomi.” She then paused as an unpleasant thought crossed her mind and carefully handed the baby over to the father. “Well, speaking of things we haven’t discussed yet, I suppose this is the right time to tell both of you that after the wedding, I want all three of you to go underground, indefinitely.”
Now charged up, Irene opened her mouth to protest but then stopped and looked at the infant. She gave a pointed look at her sister. “You think things are that bad?”
“When one of my own bodyguards turns out to be a potential assassin, yes,” Reika answered in an authoritative tone. “I can’t take chances with your safety anymore. And that means all three of you. Sho, you can continue to work virtually, but I can’t continue to risk you being seen on any Chang or Watanabe affiliated properties until I know things are settled within the Clan and with Genom.”
Even though Sho nodded in understanding, Irene muttered, “Well, then we might as well consider it a permanent arrangement.”
“Something might change where we’re no longer so vulnerable. But until we get there, I can’t risk anymore harm to my loved ones… Also, I need to speak with you for a moment, Irene, about the wedding. In private.”
Taking his cue, Sho carried the infant out of the room and left the sisters alone.
“So what other bombshell do you have for me?” Irene asked, not bothering to curb her sarcasm. “I hope it’s good news, like you’re not going to marry that asshole.”
“Not quite,” Reika said, her tone turning a more vulnerable seriousness. “Sylia has backed out of the wedding. So I’m without a maid of honor. Would you be interested?”
Irene narrowed her eyes at her. “Okay, I didn’t fight the witness protection idea. So you owe me a full explanation on this one.”
So Reika finally did it. She told her sister everything about the kiss and the dancing at the club. The near kiss at Sylia’s. And the awkwardness since then.
And Irene listened to it all, keeping her expression and comments free of judgment as each piece of information was finally revealed.
“… I feel like we’ve broken up again, only we weren’t really together this time around,” Reika admitted as she sat on the edge of the bed. “But I always felt like circumstances were to blame more than each other the first time around. And that we were younger and… well, just had different needs in life. Now, we’re older but it feels like we’ve finally proven that we can’t be in each other’s lives.”
“Maybe you were never meant to be just friends. Once you had crossed that line, I mean.”
“And that’s what I’m afraid of. That we really have to be out of each other’s lives for good.”
“Well, you’re not going to get over her unless you force yourself to find some sort of closure,” Irene stated. “Maybe another Linna will be around the corner. Just don’t shut yourself off or look for easy excuses out of the next one… But even I have to admit that Sylia Stingray is a hard act to follow.”
“… So does that mean you don’t want to be my maid of honor?”
“Make sure that I’m going to wear a dress fitted for my figure and not hers and you’ve got a replacement.”
“And no calling the groom an ‘asshole’ during the ceremony.”
“… You drive a hard bargain but all right.”
– End Chapter 14 –
* * *
Chapter 15: Ghosts
2:37 p.m., May 26th, Chang Enterprises HQ, Tokyo
Jun knew she must have spent at least an hour staring blankly at the computer screen. She was frustrated by the lack of ideas to her current problem. When it’s your job to make your boss happy, how do you handle her when she’s clearly going through a very understandable depression?
It’s not as if Reika was behaving at all unreasonable. If one didn’t know that her constant pleasantness was a façade, they would never realize that the smiles immediately fade when everyone leaves the room. Jun only saw those moments when Reika didn’t realize she was there.
The young woman reflected on the other night, when a craving for chocolate sent her on a rare midnight trip to the kitchen. It was then when she neared the main living room that she heard the sounds of the piano. As she neared, she realized she wasn’t hearing a real song but snippets of a melody over and over again that always ended on a bad note or two. Her curiosity piqued, she walked over to see who was playing and saw that it was Reika, in her pajamas and a bathrobe.
Jun had heard stories of Reika’s prodigy-level playing and had seen her perform at some Chang family parties through the years. She sighed sadly as she watched Reika end the song yet again with a bad key and resorting to roughly flexing her right hand in frustration.
Knowing that it was better to not make her presence known, Jun went back on her chocolate-mission but resolved to discuss the matter with her father.
Needless to say, her father was very concerned, especially when Jun revealed that Sylia had not only bowed out of being the maid of honor but from the wedding completely. He emphasized to her to be very careful around matters that may make things worse for Ms. Chang, as well as to keep a sharp eye out for any opportunity that may make things better.
Just then, Jun’s office phone buzzed, showing a call from Reika’s head office secretary.
She pressed the button to make the woman’s face appear on the computer monitor. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry to bother you, Ms. Xing, but there’s an American woman in the lobby who wishes to see President Chang. She admits she doesn’t have an appointment but she claims she knows her personally. Then she mentioned your name so the Receptionists think she might be credible.”
Already guessing who it was, Jun still asked, “Is there a picture of her that you can show me?”
“Here’s one from the central lobby camera.”
When the image that appeared, she didn’t know what to think other than this might be a possible solution to her current problem. “Yes, I recognize her. Tell the Receptionists to have her wait. I need to discuss this with President Chang.”
* * *
Reika was clearly dumbfounded when she saw Leslie’s picture on her computer terminal.
Since she didn’t react with immediate dread, Jun interpreted that as a positive sign.
“I took the liberty of having Security run a quick check on her,” Jun said as she handed over her data pad. “According to customs, she arrived only yesterday. She’s here on a 6 month work visa that was arranged by her escort agency. Apparently the process was initiated shortly after you had seen her in Los Angeles. Otherwise, she’s clean.”
As Reika scanned the data pad a bit more, Jun glanced over at Anri, who was in her usual place by the window so she could look out at the view. Dressed in her standard attire of a black pantsuit and blouse, the bodyguard was watching the interaction curiously but otherwise kept quiet and still.
Reika once commented that having Anri around was like having a cat that thankfully didn’t want to sit in your lap. The bodyguard always watched and moved around in the background to check out any mild noise or movement. You could always tell when she felt everything was as secure as possible when she finally settled by a window or the door if none was available.
“Send her up but have a more thorough search done on her,” Reika finally said. “Anri, please wait outside.”
* * *
“Wow! That is a gorgeous view!” Leslie declared as she looked out the Tokyo cityscape.
“Yes, it is,” Reika said as she leaned against her desk, realizing that she had taken such a sight for granted. “It’s also pretty spectacular at night when the city is lit up.”
The other woman then gave her a smirk. “So you work all hours, hunh? Imagine my surprise that an internet search showed you weren’t just a trophy fiancée but a big and powerful CEO. Not quite the same woman that used to share budget Chinese take-out food.”
Reika raised her eyebrows curiously. “So you googled me?”
She blushed a bit. “I was so blown away by seeing you in L.A. that my curiosity got the better of me. It was a slow night and the script I had to memorize was pretty bad.”
“And so now you’re here in Tokyo. Not much English-based entertainment work here. You were lucky that my receptionists speak English.”
“Yeah, well I had Yuko write the letter in Japanese for me,” she said as she held up her own data pad. “I just didn’t anticipate additional questions.”
“Still, that’s quite a gamble. So why are you here?”
She shrugged. “It just felt like the right time. My agency always offered me work in Tokyo or Hong Kong, promising a much bigger pay than what I get back home. The acting and modeling offers weren’t that great. And being with you again was the biggest thrill I’ve had in a while.”
Reika had to admit that last comment gave her heart a little bit of a zing. It was a very welcomed feeling after the past couple of weeks of horrible events and news. Still, her natural caution kept her composure reserved. “You’re hoping to start things up again? With a woman who’s going to be married in a month?”
Leslie’s smile then turned sly as she stepped towards Reika and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. “Hey, we already talked about the rules of the game. I have no problems with that if you don’t.”
Reika didn’t say anything as she was distracted by the lips that were so near hers.
Seeing this, Leslie’s smile turned triumphant before closing the gap completely.
* * *
6:05 a.m., May 28th, La Bella Rosa Villa, Rome
Standing naked in the master bedroom massive walk-in closet, Mei looked into the mirror at her new face that was beautiful, Japanese and unscarred. Her gaze then drifted down the lithe body that moved and turned as naturally as if it had been her own from the beginning.
Yoshiko walked by but paused when she saw her. “Everything still all right?”
Mei nodded. “It’s perfect as long as I take things slowly. Dr. Raven was right in warning me that my brain is so attuned to my original proportions that this wouldn’t be as simple as driving a new car. I’m still not able to walk ten steps without stumbling a bit.”
“You’ll conquer it eventually,” Yoshiko said confidently. “Have you decided on the plastic surgery?”
“I think I’m going to forego it. No need to cling to the old face that I’d rather just as soon forget… Unless you want me to.”
She shook her head. “Not if it’s going to make you unhappy. I know it’s you inside… Still it would cause quite a stir to make a public appearance with you. People who didn’t know would definitely think I have some new flame on my arm.”
Mei chuckled and said, “Then maybe I should attend Reika’s wedding after all. Nothing like shocking everyone all at once.”
“Well, too bad that Sylia bowed out last week. Or else your debut would be absolute.”
Mei’s face clearly fell at the name. She looked at her partner seriously and said, “Sylia was going to attend the wedding?”
Yoshiko’s face now turned a little pale. “I’m sorry. I thought you knew she was going to be the maid of honor. I assumed it was the reason why you didn’t want to go.”
“I didn’t want to go because…” She drifted into silence for a moment but then shrugged it off. “That doesn’t change anything. I still don’t want to attend. Let’s just enjoy this secret for a while.”
Yoshiko studied at her for a moment but then decided to let the matter drop as she had. She couldn’t help but feel a small sense of relief at the disappearance of the sudden dread that had squeezed her heart.
– End Chapter 15 –
* * *
Chapter 16: Fire in the Veins
11:10 p.m., May 30th, Sylia’s Private Computer Room, Tokyo
Sylia and Nigel both studied the videos of the separate blood samples shown on the side by side computer screens. She sat in her chair while he leaned against its back.
The sample that was hers showed extremely active white blood cells that occasionally expanded and turned white for a second before returning to normal. His sample had white blood cells that had similar behavior but at a far less amount. Both samples also showed occasional streaks of something moving so fast it couldn’t even be caught on the video. Again, her sample showed more streaks than his.
Nigel scratched his stubble thoughtfully as he frowned. “That pulsing must be emitting the glow that Cynthia is able to see. But even with that small sample, I’ve noticed that the same cells don’t pulse. It’s like they all pulse, but at different intervals.”
“So that would mean you’re fully infected,” Sylia commented grimly. “And Reika too. Cynthia didn’t notice anyone else glowing, and she’s been checking everyone she’s seen since the funeral. And she said Henderson doesn’t glow either.”
“Well, there’s only so many ways something like that can spread. But even if it could be spread via casual contact or in the air, it may be very contained, to a point that the infection level is so low that Cynthia can’t see it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, let’s assume it’s like a virus. Even a virus can only thrive in a host that provides a good environment for it. Reika and I must have that compatibility to make us carriers. But other people may not be good hosts, where the virus would die or remain dormant and harmless. Like how some people are naturally immune to certain cold or flu strains.”
“Or like how the first Knight Sabers didn’t work out but the second set did… Are you worried about this?”
“You mean for my own health?” He shook his head. “I haven’t felt better. If something happens that it suddenly makes my health turn for the worse, then I just view it like a cancer that could strike anyone at any time. There’s no blame or fault…”
He then frowned curiously at a thought that suddenly crossed his mind. “You know, I don’t think this is so recent after all. Those are white blood cells, which is your immune system. I don’t think I’ve been sick since the Galatea incident.”
Sylia thought about it herself and remarked, “Now that you’ve mentioned it, I don’t think any of us have been sick since then. That I know of anyway. So maybe this is a good thing… It may also explain how Priss’s arm healed so quickly. Perhaps the intensity of the glow determines how strong a person’s regenerative capabilities are.”
“If that were the case, then you should be the same, based on Cynthia stating that your glow is as strong as Priss’s.”
“But my fractured ribs took a while to heal.” She didn’t bother to add that her slow healing rate could have been caused by her own neglect of her health.
“Unless you were a lot more injured than we realized but healed enough to look only fractured when you had yourself checked.”
Sylia thought about it and gave a conceding nod.
“Still, it doesn’t hurt to see how far this has spread. It’ll help us to determine the cause. But to do that, we’d need to do other blood tests to be sure. It should be anyone who’s had a lot of exposure to us or the hardsuits. And we can’t assume it’s been in our systems only recently. Mackey might even be the source given that he’s also spent a lot of time with Reika in the past. The obvious people like Leon, Daley and Lisa should be checked… And in case it’s sexually transmitted, I haven’t had any other lovers since we’ve been together.”
“Neither have I,” Sylia stated, answering an unspoken question. “So that leaves having to check Reika’s past. I can get an investigator to see if he can find out who her former girlfriends were. The only challenge then will be to get blood samples from them… I’m going to the spa with Linna and Lisa tomorrow night so I can ask them then. I’ll ask Leon and Daley. We should also test Henderson just to be sure.”
Nigel let the silence settle for a moment before asking, “So, are you going to tell Reika?”
Sylia typed into her keyboard, as if she hadn’t heard him. Finally, she said, “I want to have all of my facts first. The last thing I want to do is give her more bad news right now.”
* * *
8:10 p.m., May 31st, The Satin Spa, Tokyo
“I can never get enough of this place!” Linna declared, stretching her arms in relaxation, as the three of them emerged from the locker room.
“Thank you for treating, Sylia,” Lisa said.
“My pleasure,” she answered as she started to open her purse as they neared the reception area, which had only one guest talking to the spa personnel. “Especially since I had to taint the evening with the little bit of potentially unpleasant news.”
“Well, from what you described, it doesn’t sound too bad. Just let me know how you want to conduct the test.”
“We can — “ Sylia stopped when she thought she overheard an intriguing snippet of the conversation that was already in progress.
“ — and President Chang will have one guest but a female bodyguard will escort her though the facilities,” Jun explained to the receptionist.
“That’s perfectly fine, Ms. Xing. Will you confirm her treatment routine or will she?”
“She should be coming – “
Just then, the elevator dinged and opened its doors to reveal Reika and Leslie with Kou and Anri standing behind them.
Reika looked clearly startled when she saw the three other women but she quickly regained her composure as she stepped forward.
“Hello,” she greeted them collectively. “Small world, hm?”
“Very,” Sylia said, her eyes scanning over Leslie and Anri, and then back to Leslie, who stood right beside Reika.
“I suppose I should do introductions: this is Jun Xing, Leslie Bishop and Anri. You already know Kou, of course. This is Linna Yamazaki, Lisa Vanette and Sylia Stingray.” For Leslie’s benefit, Reika repeated the introductions in English.
Both Jun and Leslie’s eyes widened slightly at Sylia’s name at the first mention.
Leslie grinned from ear to ear as she stepped forwarded and offered her hand for a shake. She said in English, “I’m glad to finally meet you after all of these years, Sylia.”
Expressionless, Sylia stared at the offered hand. Then presenting her most superficial smile, she reached for the hand and declared in the same language, “It’s a pleasure to meet you too!”
* * *
“That was interesting!” Lisa declared once she and Linna were alone in their car.
“It really was, wasn’t it?” Linna said thoughtfully. “I wonder what made her eyes glow like that.”
Lisa chuckled and said, “Well, I guess that’s another way to describe a jealous rage.”
“Why would she be jealous?”
“… We’re not talking about the same woman are we? I’m talking about Sylia. Who are you talking about?”
Linna was now bewildered. “I’m talking about that bodyguard. Her eyes glowed white for a moment when she looked at me. But then she kept staring at Sylia. I think her eyes were glowing white at her too. Did you notice if her eyes glowed at you?”
“No, I don’t think so. Maybe she’s a boomer that somehow saw something in the two of you? You said Reika needed heavy-duty protection.”
“True… But what do you mean by ‘jealous rage’?”
“Come on! Don’t tell me you didn’t notice!” The glee in Lisa’s tone was undeniable. “Sylia may have been cool but she clearly wanted to do more than shake Leslie’s hand, and not in a good way. And even though Reika tried to hide it, I think she was a little bit thrilled by it all. Can’t pay for better entertainment than that!”
“Oh, my gosh, you’re such a little gossip-monger!” Linna declared in playful exasperation. “No wonder you and Nene get along so well!”
Hardly phased by the teasing insult, Lisa retorted, “I’m a journalist. Of course, I notice things like that! And besides, you’re just embarrassed because you missed out on the really good stuff because you were busy checking out the bodyguard! And yes, I’m going to call Nene as soon as we get home!”
The two women then exchanged a look and a giggle.
Linna suddenly thought about the conversation and said, “If what you saw between Sylia and Reika was accurate, then that means there’s something going on between them. Or maybe it was in the past tense if this Leslie is now in the picture.”
“I always assumed that they were lovers on the side,” Lisa admitted as she continued to drive. “Especially after that night at the club. Even now, I barely know Sylia but she seems like a completely different person when she was with Reika.”
“I guess she does. Well, I wouldn’t say ‘different’. Just a lot more… happy.”
“You don’t think she’s happy with Nigel?”
“That’s what I can’t figure out. Her interactions with Nigel are so different than with Reika. I honestly think she’s content with Nigel. But maybe Reika meets needs that Nigel doesn’t. And even though I think she and I are really good friends, I always feel like she is very careful when we talk about Reika. Like she’s always holding back. Of course, it could be because of my own romance with Reika. Maybe she thinks she’s still a sensitive subject with me.”
Lisa pursed her lips thoughtfully before saying, “Well, maybe things got blurry between them and they realized a choice had to be made. And what we saw tonight was a repercussion of it.”
“Maybe… I just hope Reika is all right otherwise. If this Leslie works out, then it might be some good news with everything that seems to be happening in her life.” Then Linna asked seriously, “So you’re not upset about this blood test?”
She shrugged. “I just consider it part of the package of being in love in Linna Yamazaki. Still, it would be great to spend the rest of my life cold-free.”
Linna looked at her with a deeply pleased smile. Then she leaned over and kissed the driver on the cheek. “I do love you!”
Lisa had a pleased smile of her own on the rest of the trip home.
* * *
10:43 p.m., Sylia’s Private Computer Room
Leslie’s preliminary profile data displayed on computer screen as Sylia’s sat in the chair like a statue.
The internal phone line from Henderson then buzzed.
Sylia pressed the button with the blur of a hand. “Yes?”
“Miss Sylia, I’m just checking if there’s anything you wish from me before I turn in for the night.”
“… Can you bring me a cup of strong coffee? I plan to be working late tonight.” She gripped the arms of her chair so hard that small creaks could be heard as the metal frame started to bend slightly in protest.
– End Chapter 16 –