BGC Post 2040 File 7 – 5: 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 17: Vindication
9:00 a.m., June 2nd, Chang Enterprises HQ, Tokyo
With her expression cool and composed, Reika took her seat at the head of the conference room table. She noted that while not all of the Clan elders were there, most notably the one who had replaced Delun, there were enough of a quorum if an official action needed to be taken. Their expressions were also different this time, less grim and more amicable.
She glanced at her grandfather, who sat on the other end. She could tell by the twinkle in his eyes that this meeting would be good rather than bad.
“What do you wish to discuss?” she asked of her guests. “Does it have anything to do with the wedding?”
Her great uncle Wencheng answered on behalf of the others by stating, “Reika, we wish to clarify our stance regarding what was discussed at the last Clan meeting. While none of us here whole-heartedly agreed with Delun’s points, we felt you had not given us proof that our support was warranted. But we have since discussed matters among the group you see here and we admit there have been admirable feats you’ve accomplished on behalf of the Clan. Mostly in the area of business deals and other alliances. And that is specifically why we’re here today to speak with you. There is a very strong rumor that you have formed a business venture with the Watanabe Group that would create products that would rival even Genom. Is this true?”
Seeing where this was headed, Reika finally relaxed a bit and nodded. “We have created our own version of the boomer bodyguard, with some differences based on studying Genom’s design and our own unique needs. Anri over there is the first fully functional model in use.”
There were some looks and murmurs of surprise when the guests looked at the unassuming woman who stood against the wall with the other bodyguards.
“She looks so real!” another elder declared. “But what differences in functionality are there between her and a model from Genom?”
“Well, for example, Genoms’ are all satellite linked. As a standard, Anri does not emit radio signals, and therefore can’t be tracked or discovered by those means. She also has a body that is more durable to projectile weapons and explosions based on our team’s study of weaknesses in the Genom models.”
“But can she truly perform the combat functions that Genom’s boomers can?”
Reika gave a very pleased smile. “We can do a demonstration right now if you wish. Don’t anyone draw firearms or she will kill you. But if anyone can lay a finger on me in the next ten minutes, then I will determine that Anri needs to be enhanced even further.”
There was a stunned silence at the challenge, as if no one was sure if this was a serious offer.
Reika’s Grandfather then rose from his chair and stood by the window, as if to make sure he would be out of harm’s way from the impromptu demonstration. Seeing him do this, the other elders also did the same so that Reika was the only one remaining seated at the table.
Then, without warning, the ten bodyguards that had been standing to the side suddenly rushed at Reika, like a rugby team in business suits.
True to expectations, Anri was a blur to intercept the rush.
Reika watched in amazement as these physically fit and imposing men were knocked down or tossed aside like dolls, most taken down with the long conference table that Anri used like a bat. The demonstration quickly turned into a panicked frenzy of injured and bleeding men trying to keep from being hurt further as they stumbled over each other and tossed chairs to get out of the way. They weren’t about to risk their lives for something that shouldn’t have been that serious to begin with.
“Anri, stop!” Reika ordered.
The bodyguard immediately froze, still commandeering the table threateningly at her targets. Her eyes glowed red with warning.
“Bravo!” Wencheng declared as he applauded, which was then joined in by the others. “She’s magnificent! And perfect symbol of the Hou Bang’s future. Reika, this is proof that you are the visionary the Clan needs in her leader. You have my allegiance!
“Now, of course, the other elders refused to attend this meeting because they still consider Delun’s matters to be more important,” Wencheng conceded. “While we here will negotiate with them on your behalf to reunite the Clan, you have at least the majority approval for your wedding, and any other matters that you may consider suitable for the Hou Bang.”
As the other elders also echoed their support, Reika exchanged a smile with her grandfather.
* * *
7:32 p.m., Hou Bang Compound, Tokyo
Because Reika ended the work day with what seemed to be a genuine smile, Jun decided to use that as an excuse to treat herself for a job well-done. Sitting alone in her office, she took a large bite of the sinfully rich chocolate cake and savored the taste.
A soft knock came from the closed door.
Mortified at being caught in her most private moment, she hurriedly chewed and swallowed with the assistance of a gulp of water.
“Come in!” she announced as she slid the plate in front of the computer monitor so that the person at the doorway couldn’t see it.
The door opened and Densuke peered inside. “Oh, so you are here! Have you seen Reika? I’ve looked around for her and the staff told me that she wasn’t here for dinner.”
“Oh.” Just then, Jun realized that not everything may be so great after all. “She’s out tonight.”
Now with the door fully open, he leaned against the doorway and arched his eyebrows curiously. “And you’re here. And so is Kou. So does that mean she’s at Sylia’s?”
More and more Jun realized that this was not information that would be her place to clear up with him. So she took the best option of not answering the question.
“I will be seeing her for a lunch appointment tomorrow. Is there a message you want me to give her?”
“Well, it’s probably more appropriate for me to tell you anyway. I’ve almost completely moved in. So my apartment will be available by the weekend for whatever it is that the Clan may want to do with it. If anything.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks for letting me know.”
She tried to hide her surprise that she had forgotten about him moving into the compound. Partially because it was her first project to arrange when she had taken over the job from her father so it was a matter of waiting for everything to happen, which was apparently now.
“Sorry for interrupting you,” he said as he started to close the door. He added with a wink, “You can go back to eating that chocolate thing. Remember to wipe your mouth next time.”
With her face flushed red, Jun sat alone at her desk and wondered how life was going to be now that she would be living under the same roof with that man.
* * *
2:17 a.m., June 3rd, Tanaka Towers, Tokyo
Reika turned over in the bed and felt her arm brush against the other occupant. Surprised, she abruptly woke up and groggily started to peer around the unfamiliar darkness. Then she quickly remembered that she was in Leslie’s apartment, or more specifically, in Leslie’s bed with Leslie. She chuckled to herself and stretched down in the comfort of the sheets as she noted the soft snoring from the woman next to her.
Sleep momentarily eluded her as she wondered when was the last time she really shared a bed with someone.
Then she remembered that night Sylia had delivered the injured Linna for Clan protection and shelter. Seeing that Sylia herself was in no condition for a drive back to Tokyo in the middle of the night, Reika took the opportunity to force her ex-girlfriend to stay in a guest room. What she hadn’t planned on, but admittedly enjoyed, was sharing a night of platonic sleep with the woman she knew since they were ten years old. She also indulged in the rare opportunity to watch Sylia sleep in the morning light, and fighting the temptation to kiss her. So she relented and stole a quick kiss on the forehead, which caused Sylia to stir but not wake up.
Reika then frowned at herself for thinking such thoughts while she was in bed with someone else.
While she already knew that she could never have the same relationship with Leslie, the circumstances were so different, and so were the needs. But she told herself that she just needed to take one thing at a time.
Having Anri as protection also made her feel more comfortable, as well as more free to do things she felt she never could with a huge entourage of her standard male bodyguards. She found that it gave her a little more flexibility to coordinate private time with Leslie. For example, going to the spa was a treat that she hadn’t been able to enjoy in a long time.
Though seeing Sylia be clearly jealous was something Reika knew she shouldn’t have enjoyed but did on some level that she didn’t care to analyze further. Nothing was going to change between them given how their lives were. They both just had to accept that.
And since the Clan meeting yesterday, Reika felt a huge weight lift from her shoulders. It must have been more distracting and stressful than she had realized because she suddenly started to look forward to the other challenges in her life. That if this could be resolved, then all of her other problems could end up with positive results too.
As a positive clue to her shift in her mindset, she no longer had a problem orgasming, which she and Leslie took full advantage of.
Reika smiled to herself and relaxed into the bed. She was soon limp with sleep.
Standing next to Leslie’s side of the bed, Anri stood guard. Her eyes glowed red as she stared down at the sleeping figure in front of her.
– End Chapter 17 –
– End Part 2 –
Chapter 18: Warning Signs
8:31 a.m., June 3rd, Tanaka Towers, Tokyo
Reika bolted upright in bed at the sudden scream of surprise from Leslie, who was staring up at Anri, who stood over her side of the bed.
“What the hell the are you doing here?!” the bewildered and barely awake American demanded in English. She pointed to the open bedroom door. “Get out!”
Rubbing her eyes, Reika realized that she should point out that Anri speaks only Japanese.
But the expressionless boomer answered in flawless American English, “No. You are not my master. I do not take orders from you.”
There was moment of dead silence as the stunned women stared up at her.
Reika then cleared her throat and said carefully, “Anri, please leave.”
The even gaze shifted to her as the red glow dimmed. She gave a bow of acknowledgement and left the room.
The boomer’s departure didn’t lessen Leslie’s irritation. “Can’t we you just turn her off the next time?!”
Reika’s mind immediately flashed to Kentarou Tsuji.
“I’ll make certain I give her clearer instructions next time,” she answered with a reassuring smile.
* * *
Dressed in a robe, Reika was in the middle of brushing her hair when Leslie emerged from the shower.
As she dried herself off, the other woman asked, “What would you like to do for lunch?”
Reika suddenly felt a pang of hesitancy. She answered carefully, “I actually have a meeting to attend.”
“… Oh… Well, what about for dinner?”
“I want to spend some time with my sister and my niece before I leave for Hong Kong for a few days.”
“Oh! Then I can come with you!” Leslie said brightly.
“It’s a business trip.”
There was a another moment of dead silence that moment.
“… Guess I’ll see you when you get back,” Leslie comment brusquely as she walked to the door.
Reika was about to let out a deep sigh when Leslie’s scream of surprise ripped through the air for a second time that morning.
She turned to find the irate woman staring at the boomer who stood squarely in the middle of the doorway.
Leslie glared at Reika and pointed at the unexpected obstacle. “Do something about her before the next time!”
At that moment, Reika couldn’t help but wonder if she had encountered another Sylvie.
* * *
1:57 p.m., June 3rd, Silky Doll
The video of the bloody carnage of the subway car’s security camera finally came to an end, to the relief of the three viewers. The tangled remains of four young men were strewn all over the floor and the seats.
“How was she stopped?” Nigel asked.
“The police shot her when the subway car came to the next stop,” Nene answered with a wince. “Since she’s dead, and witnesses say that she had been harassed by those men for months before losing her temper, the police are willing to consider it a simple case to close. But since she caused so much damage because of both arms being boomer prosthetics, Daley wanted me to run it by you guys for your blessing first.”
Looking grim, Sylia stated simply, “I agree that it seems a very simple case of someone reaching a breaking point, who just happened to be a little more dangerous than your average person. Given the odds of how common prosthetics are and that this is the first such case, I hardly see a reason to dig into this further. Nigel, what do you think?”
He paused for a moment and then said, “Nene, can you make sure that file is downloaded to my directory? I want to study it a bit more… Just to be sure.”
Sylia shrugged and said, “Do what you want. I’ve given my input. Now, if you’ll both excuse me, I have an appointment with a shop supplier.”
Without waiting for any response, she turned on her heels and strode towards the Pit’s elevator.
Once she had disappeared behind the steel doors, Nigel and Nene were left behind in a very awkward silence caused by her abrupt departure.
“Um, are there any results for the blood test yet?” the young woman asked.
He shook his head. “They’re still processing. But we should start to get some results in the next day or so….” Suddenly a thought apparently occurred to him. “Is it possible for you to take that list of people who had prosthetics and see if any of them have been treated for any mental or psychological issues?”
She thought about it for a moment and said, “I can see if they have any files with psychologists or psychiatrists.”
“That would be good start,” he said as he stared at the frozen video clip.
“Sure, I can get it for you tonight,” she said. She noticed where his attention was focused and asked, “I’ll triple check if that woman shows up… Is Sylia allowed to know about this?”
He looked surprised by the question but then answered, “I see no reason to keep it from her. But just let me know if you do tell her about this.”
Nene frowned at she glanced at the video screen. “What about that video made you suspicious?”
He stated simply, “Just being the thorough scientist.”
* * *
5:08 p.m., June 3rd, Chang Enterprises Headquarters
Standing next to the waiting Anri, Sho studied the readings on his datapad and said, “All of her initial readings are within normal limits.”
Reika leaned against her desk and frowned at the boomer, who now stared back at her. “Well, red eyes mean she’s on alert, right? So why would she target Leslie?”
Sho opened his mouth to reply when Anri answered in Japanese, “Master Unit has categorized her as a threat.”
Both Sho and Reika were both surprised and confused by the answer.
Jun, the only other person in the room, curiously watched the interactions.
“See, she starting to do things like that,”Reika pointed out. “Like answering without being directly asked. Arnold didn’t act like that.”
“Master, I answered because you asked a question that I know the answer to,” the boomer explained.
Sho was clearly very perplexed himself as his mind was clearly spinning to come up with some sort of explanation. But then he was distracted by something. “Wait a minute, Anri, who’s the master unit? Have you come in contact with another boomer?”
“Wait, that is nota master unit, Anri!” Reika interrupted. She seemed equally surprised and nervous. “As your master, I order you to reclassify Leslie as not a threat.”
The boomer stared at her for such a long time that Reika almost expected her to answer ‘no.’
“Master, as you wish.”
Sho, however, was now very confused. “Why would she have a reference to Dr. Stingray? It’s not possible unless there’s some sort of base reference in her programming that we didn’t realize was there.”
“I have no idea,” Reika answered simply. “Like I said, she’s acting a little weird.”
Sho scratched his head. “Well, I can have my team do special analysis on her program, to see if something was somehow corrupted or modified. I’ll have them compare it against Arnold’s code and see if there any differences that aren’t part of the expected learn and adapt routines. It could also be due to the software enhancements we made as part of our counter-Genom measures.”
“Then have them work on it as a priority,” Reika ordered. “I’d rather do it now when she’s our only active unit before we release more to the Clan Elders.”
Jun frowned curiously at the exchange as her mind processed what was unfolding before her. Her intuition told her that all of the details should be remembered for future reference.
– End Chapter 18 –
* * *
Chapter 19: Decisions
8:17 p.m., June 3rd, Chang Compound
While sitting on the couch, Reika watched with supreme happiness at the sight of Irene nursing the newborn. The Chang sisters were enjoying a quiet time in front of the fireplace as the rest of the household knew to leave them be for time being. Even Anri was in the special lab where Sho’s team was performing a check-up on her.
“Mom was right,” Irene commented as she stared down at her daughter, “I feel like a cow.”
Her sister laughed and added, “But a happy one, nevertheless.”
Irene broke out into a wide grin and nodded. “Too true. And if things go as scheduled, this could be you in a year from now.”
Reika’s eyebrows arched at the thought. “One thing at a time, okay? How is the relocation going?”
“I would have thought Jun would have given you a status?”
“She did. But I want to hear your version.”
“Well, Sho and I talked about the idea of moving to America instead. Though English isn’t a problem for either of us, I just don’t know about the culture.”
“I think you’ll like it,” her sister commented. “You’ve got a more American woman’s style than you may think.”
Irene paused and tried to think if that was a compliment. “Still, even if this is short term relocation, I’m glad we’re going with minimal household staff. I look forward to the opportunity to really raise Nozomi instead of relying on nannies.”
“But your cooking sucks.”
“I didn’t say we were foregoing cooks. Just nannies! Anyway, have you done the final fitting for the dress yet?”
“It’s the first appointment I have when I get back from Hong Kong. You’re supposed to be there too, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah… So is the Hong Kong trip going to be a good one?”
She nodded. “It’s really Chang Enterprises business this time. Grandfather should be the only Clan Elder that I should be running into, and that’s for a dinner. And once I’m back, I don’t have to travel for a while.”
“Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be home all the time, if last night was any clue.”
Picking up on the hint, Reika let out a sigh. “Yes, I was with Leslie.”
“Okay, now tell me something I don’t know. You two serious?”
“Oh, please no. I mean, not in the way ‘serious’ would have meant in my non-betrothed days. She knows I’ve got obligations. It’s just something on the side, as a stress relief.”
“Are you going planning to continue even after Densuke becomes Mr. Chang?”
Reika shrugged. “I haven’t really thought that much about it. But I don’t see why not. After all, he has his dalliances and I certainly don’t expect them to stop.”
“But are you going to tell him about her? A fling of the moment is one thing. Someone with staying power is something else.”
A dark look passed over Reika’s eyes. “Densuke didn’t react too favorably to Leslie when we were in L.A. I don’t know how he’d react to her now, even though things were… cleared up. And it’s not like I’m planning to bring her around to introduce her to everybody and have our children call her ‘Auntie’. Their paths shouldn’t cross… If a reason comes up that I have to tell him, I guess I will. But no rush. There are other things to worry about right now.”
* * *
9:36 p.m., In another building in the Chang Compound
Sho frowned at the readings that one of his assistants had shown him.
“I’ve triple checked the logs, sir,” she answered his unspoken question. “Even in the ten minute intervals between validating the data, Anri’s logs showed more updates and revisions. Even though she should be on standby mode, she has hyperactive processing for both data file updates and software revisions.”
He glanced over at the waiting boomer, who was watching them quietly as she stood with the patchwork of cables connecting her and chest to the nearby computer terminal. Something about her staring made them actually speak in whispers. “Do you think she’s at risk of running out of space?”
“She’s already at 5 percent storage capacity and she shouldn’t be that high given her short activation period. I’m also worried that if her software processing maintains at this rate, she may also have performance problems.”
“Is anyone able to figure out which routines she’s using and why?”
She shook her head. “It’s almost like her learn and adapt routines have become so incredibly customized that we’re only able to recognize a couple of original code snippets. She’s also creating these excessive data files that seem to be random and filled with undecipherable garbage. We weren’t sure if you wanted us to clear them out.”
Sho narrowed his eyes at Anri for a moment. “No, let’s leave her be with that and just monitor it. I do want priority devoted to figuring out what her software revisions are about, as well as determining if those data files are truly garbage or if there’s some encrypted data in them. Continue the full download and timestamp when you’re complete. I may want to have another comparison check in twenty four hours to see how much of her program and data has changed during that time period.”
Once the assistant was dismissed, Sho walked over to the terminal hooked up to Anri to see the latest status of the download. That was when he noticed another window was open in the background. He clicked on it and saw that it was filled with zeros and ones that were populating so fast that it almost seemed like a solid blur.
He glanced over at Anri, who had been watching him. On a hunch, he asked her, “Is this open session yours?”
“What are you doing in it?”
“Downloading content and analyzing it.”
While he could have easily stopped the process with a couple of keyboard taps, his curiosity drove him to check where the content was coming from. Since the boomer was hooked into the Chang Enterprises main servers, Anri had established a link to various databases, including a couple with the highest security access.
“Anri, what is the purpose of doing this?”
“I have no other task to do at this time.”
Sho blinked at the answer.
“Didn’t Reika give you the order to be on standby?”
“I am at level 0 alert mode as ordered by my master.”
Okay, well, he couldn’t argue with that technically correct answer. Was she doing this because she was bored?
Still, he had to admit this was intriguing him. He loved it when his boomers would exceed expectations. He made a note to tell Reika about this but he realized that he had to emphasize that this should be behavior to monitor and see how it evolves.
* * *
10:02 a.m., June 4th, Silky Doll
With the two of them in Sylia’s private computer room, Nigel tapped a couple of keys on the keyboard to display the grid on the computer monitor.
“So there seems to be three levels. Not surprisingly, you and Priss have the highest concentration in your blood samples so let’s use you two as the benchmark since your levels are comparable. Nene and Linna have about the same level of concentration though I’d estimate probably about a thirty to forty percent compared to you and Priss. And then there’s me, Reika and Leon, with about a ten percent comparison to you two.”
Sitting in her chair, Sylia’s only response was to clench her jaw, showing the line of tension in her cheeks.
As Nigel stood over her, he was trying not to be too distracted by her nearness. Foregoing make-up and keeping her hair simply pinned up, she was dressed in her tank top and t-shirt at her most casual. It was a look he noticed that she had been sporting every time he’d seen her for the past couple of days. While he did like it, he couldn’t also help but notice distinct circles under her eyes that seemed to darken with each visit. She also radiated physical tension in the way she carried herself.
Wordlessly, Sylia reached over and tapped a couple of keys herself, showing data grids on another monitor. “So, given that someone like Henderson or Lisa aren’t even shown as being immune carriers, we can assume that to be infected, there had to be significant exposure to a substantial source, like Galatea, Priss or me… While I have to admit I’m relieved that the list seems to be limited, it does leave the question of what now?”
Nigel scratched his stubble thoughtfully as he leaned against the computer console. “Well, we either leave ourselves be and do regular check ups to monitor for changes for the worse. Or we actively pursue a ‘cure’ or something – though I have to admit I’m not even sure where to begin. We’re only a base of seven total people. And that’s not counting the unknown of potential lovers Reika and Leon have in case they’re able to pass it on. It took decades for AIDS to be dealt and there was a substantially larger support for resources and genetics testing.”
“… There’s also the issue of children,” Sylia said with surprising softness. “Reika wants children. And I would think the others would too eventually. Perhaps not all of them, but…”
Nigel waited for her to finish. When it was clear that she was just being silent in her thoughts, he said, “Well, I reiterate I still think this is a good thing. This may be one of the few good by-products of this technology and I’ll take on that value alone… But I say this knowing everything that I know…”
“I know I need to tell Reika. She has a right to know,” she said in response to his subtle hint. They were only able to get Reika’s blood sample by using connections to the hospital where Reika had been treated for her arms. “I just feel like there’s something we’re overlooking or just don’t know yet.”
Sylia thought about it for a moment as she tried to put her finger on her concern. Finally, she said, “It’s like how we Knight Sabers have mental and emotional connections. At the very least the white noise issue. I would think you, Reika and Leon could have some of those symptoms, if at least to the lesser degree.”
“I definitely can’t read your thoughts, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
She gave him a pointed glance but then said, “Well, we Knight Sabers didn’t really know how connected we were until the Boomer Revolution. Like that was the trigger we needed. Perhaps the three of you are in that pre-trigger state that if something comes along, your glow concentration will substantially increase as well as the symptoms associated with it.”
Nigel thought about it and conceded with a nod. “All right, I can see where you’re going with that. But again, that’s a risk and an unknown to accept and deal with it when – or if – it happens.”
Sylia fell into silence as she stared at the grid that showed the results of Reika’s blood work.
– End Chapter 19 –
* * *
Chapter 20: Simmer
3:14 p.m., June 5th, Silky Doll
Cynthia took the arm full of clothes from the woman in the dressing room. “Would you like to see anything else, Miss?” she asked in English.
The curvaceous Caucasian woman with bright red hair peered out and said, “Oh and I’ll take these. I think that’s it.”
With a pleasant nod, the shopworker took the extra clothes and made her way to the counter. She paused to suddenly see Sylia standing by the register with a noticeably dark look on her face and her arms crossed.
Since it had been literally weeks since Sylia had set foot in the shop, on top of being dressed in only a t-shirt and jeans, Cynthia was a little concerned.
“Sylia, is something wrong?”
Her eyes were focused on the dressing room that was occupied by the shop’s only customer. “How long has that woman been here?” she asked through grit teeth.
“She came in at 2:07 p.m. I’m going to ring up these items for her.” She paused, unsure if she should continue.
“All right. Check her out.” Sylia merely planted herself at the rack in front of the aquarium and apparently watched the fish drift by.
Just then, Leslie emerged from the dressing room even though she was still straightening her dress. She immediately spied Sylia and broke out into a pleased grin.
Seeing where the customer’s attention was, Cynthia knew it was very inappropriate to eavesdrop but her curiosity got the better of herself since it was such a simple thing to do while she prepared the chosen clothes for checkout.
“So this is your shop!” she declared as she came up to the other woman.
After a pause, Sylia responded without turning, “Then you came here on purpose?”
“I needed some dresses for a couple of upcoming parties and this place was recommended to me by my agency.”
“I’ll have to thank them for the referrals then. What agency is this?”
“Phillips and Associates. You’ve probably never heard of them.”
“I have. They specialize in high class whores.”
Leslie frowned for a moment but then said brightly, “Well, I guess that’s one way of looking at it. And it also says what kind of clothes you sell. And wear… Though admittedly not today.”
Though she didn’t quite understand why, Cynthia was suddenly concerned if she should be on alert for something to happen of a physical nature.
Sylia took a deep breath and then looked the other woman squarely in the eye. “As the owner of this shop, I do want to tell you that I appreciate your business and hope that are you satisfied enough with your purchases that you return. But as Sylia Stingray, I really could not give a damn if I don’t see you again.”
Leslie grinned and said, “No wonder Reika dumped you… And to think I had been jealous of you for years.”
Sylia narrowed her eyes at her, and then said, “I’d love to stay and chat further but I’m a busy woman. But just a word of advice: if you’re feeling insecure in your relationship with Reika, you should be addressing it with her. It makes for a much healthier relationship… Plus, I am not someone to mess with. Good day!”
Since Sylia had to pass by the checkout counter to get to the elevator, she paused and whispered to Cynthia, “Does she have a glow?”
Her boss frowned even more but then walked towards the private elevator.
Seeing Sylia leave without shedding any blood, Cynthia felt her need to be on alert disappear. She wondered if this is similar to humans breathing a sigh of relief.
* * *
7:51 p.m., June 7th, The Hanworth Hotel, Hong Kong
” — I would call her directly,” Sho said from Jun’s video phone screen, “But I didn’t think it was important enough to interrupt the event.”
“That’s all right,” Jun assured him. “I’ll tell her everything. You said it would be a week delay?”
“At the most. Not everyone on the team is going to fly back to Rome for the funeral. And since they’re doing computer analysis work, they’ve promised to still work virtually… But Anri looks like she’s behaving all right?”
Jun glanced across the crowd of black tie dinner attendees to the boomer who stood a few steps behind Reika as she chatted with some dignitaries. “She looks fine. And Reika hasn’t mentioned any other weird behavior about her.”
“Okay. Not to alarm you, but let me know if you notice anything different. I would think this will be the first time she might encounter other boomer bodyguards. So I want to know if they’ll trigger anything in her.”
“Oh. Good point. Well, I’ll definitely let you know. But she looks fine so far… Anything else?”
“No, that’s it. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Something come up?” Densuke asked suddenly from behind as she hung up the phone.
Jun jumped slightly at his sudden presence. She quickly recovered herself and answered, “One of the lead programmers for Anri’s software was killed in a car accident in Rome. They were doing a research project for Reika and it just might delay things a bit.”
“Ah,” he responded with clearly minimal interest. His eyes scanned the crowd as he kept one hand buried in his pocket and carried a drink in the other.
“… You seem bored.”
He shrugged. “These events were a lot more interesting when I attended them drunk.”
Jun couldn’t resist commenting, “So you gave up alcohol, but did you give up women too?”
“Just not in the mood. I guess alcohol contributed to that too.”
“Oh,” she answered. She couldn’t deny that a certain part of her felt a little bit of a thrill at that. And it disturbed her but she shook it off.
* * *
Reika ended her conversation with the French CEO and his wife only to have another Chinese dignitary try to grab her attention. Her pleasant smile suddenly froze at the sight of Leslie perched on his arm.
Trying to ignore the other woman, Reika kept the conversation pleasant and light as she received more congratulations on her upcoming wedding.
Leslie kept quiet as she had to witness yet one more conversation in a language she didn’t understand. She knew she was just a trophy date that would have all the expectations and perks of hanging out with such an elite crowd. Still, she loved the look of surprise on Reika’s face. However, she also noticed that Anri was staring at her from the background.
About a half an hour later, Leslie noticed Reika make her way to the restroom with Jun and an entourage of bodyguards. Wanting to take this opportunity for a private chat, she excused herself from her date to follow them.
Jun and three male bodyguards were planted outside the restroom entrance, preventing other attendees from entering.
Leslie was about to walk through when a bodyguard moved to stop her.
“It’s all right,” Jun said, “She can go through.” Since she tracked everyone Reika spoke with, she had already noticed Leslie when Reika did.
Leslie walked into the restroom to find Reika checking her make-up in the mirror.
Anri stood to the side and watched her.
“Well, this is a small world,” Reika said to the reflection of the approaching woman.
“My agency called me with a job offer and I took it. It doesn’t mean that I knew you were going to be at this event. Though you did say it was a business trip.”
Seeing that Reika wasn’t going to pursue that subject further, Leslie then gave a nod to the staring boomer. “I see she hasn’t been fixed yet.”
“Actually, her eyes aren’t glowing red, so that is an improvement.”
“Then why is she still staring at me?”
Reika opened her mouth to respond but paused, as if waiting for something.
The boomer then stated, “You are the only one to watch in here.”
Leslie tried to shake off her unease with the boomer and directed her attention back to Reika. “So I assume that you won’t be free to spend any time together since we’re both in the same city?”
Reika took a deep breath and said with a little more sincerity. “I promise I’ll free up an evening when I get back to Tokyo. You just have to understand that with my wedding coming up, I am and will be extremely busy in the weeks before and after it.”
Something unpleasant suddenly occurred to Leslie. “Are you actually going on a honeymoon with him?”
“… It would look very unusual if we didn’t go on a trip of some sort…” Reika looked a little embarrassed by the statement. “And I’m sorry but it has nothing to do with you.”
Leslie was now angry. “Look, you –!”
She stopped when she noticed Anri take a step forward.
She swallowed her anger and turned on her heels and left. She walked out of the restroom, past the other bodyguards and gave Jun an acknowledging nod.
She then noticed Densuke standing next to the other woman. She also gave him an acknowledging nod, which the man looked clearly too stunned to return.
* * *
5:16 a.m., June 9th, The Pit of the Silky Doll
“So what’s the status?” Nigel said as he rushed into the control room.
“Priss and Cynthia are already at the bridge. They took their moto-slaves,” Mackey reported as he kept focused on the images on the monitors of the cargo ship that was wedged into the base of one of its support towers. “They’re trying to keep it from collapsing. Nene and Linna should be arriving here in a few minutes.”
Nigel glanced around at the otherwise empty room. “… And Sylia?”
Her little brother shifted uncomfortably as he responded, “Um… She’s not responding to her cell phone. I left her a message with all of the details. I even called all of her other private lines just in case but she’s not answering.”
Nigel looked grim for a moment but then he rolled up his sleeves to focus on the matter at hand. “I’m going to get the other moto-slaves ready for when the others arrive.”
– End Chapter 20 –