BGC Post 2040 File 7 – 6: 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 21: Boiling Point
10:31 a.m., June 10th, Chang Enterprises Headquarters
Reika stared out at the view from her office window. So many different thoughts and emotions were churning inside her that she needed something external and neutral to focus on.
Dressed in a fashionable dress suit, Sylia remained seated in the guest chair, her eyes downcast on the folded hands on her lap.
Finally, Reika let out a deep breath and said softly, “So if I understand correctly, this may turn out to be nothing but just a… ‘condition’ I’d have to live with?”
“That’s the current theory, yes,” she answered softly. “After all, we could have been like this for years.”
“ ‘We’? Oh yes… ‘We.’…” She finally turned to look at Sylia, who looked up so that they locked gazes. In the most calm and professional tone, she said, “Thank you for letting me know. You were right in that there was no good time to tell me. If I start to feel unusual symptoms, I’ll contact you as soon as possible. If you’ll excuse me, I am quite busy, as you know.”
“Of course. Thank you for this emergency appointment… Take care.”
Once Sylia left, Reika folded her arms on her desk and bowed her head on them.
More and more she realized that she didn’t want to think about this. She didn’t want to think about anything important.
She buzzed Jun’s line on the intercom.
“Yes, Reika?” her assistant immediately answered, concern clear on her face from the video screen.
“What time is the dress fitting tomorrow?”
“… 1 p.m.”
“I’m taking the rest of the day off. Clear all of my appointments until then. Anything important comes up, call my cell.”
Once Reika ended the call, she pulled out her cell phone and pressed Leslie’s number.
* * *
12:14 p.m., The Pit
Tired and weary, the freshly showered Linna drank the full bottle of the sports drink in one long gulp. Glad to be out of the hardsuit for a real break, she entered the command room wearing a tank top and shorts.
She looked around and saw Nigel sitting at the computer. “Did everyone else already leave?”
Without looking up from his computer work, he answered, “Priss is taking a nap. Cynthia opened up the shop. Nene is talking to Leon and Jeena about finalizing the transition of support to the NTC Unit.”
“Oh. So they think the bridge is finally secure?” She glanced into the equipment bay at the sight of Mackey doing final checks on the moto-slaves before putting them back on standby.
“At least enough for them to take it over. Unless you want to offer to help rebuild it and the ship.”
“No thanks. I’ve got enough job work to catch up on. Well, if there’s nothing else, I’m going to grab a bite to eat and take off…” She paused and said, “So no sign of Sylia?”
Just then, the elevator door dinged and the woman in question stepped out, dressed as if she was leaving for a meeting. She looked grim and haggard.
She paused at the look of surprise Linna and Nigel gave at her appearance. “What? The team did a great job. You didn’t need me. I’m just stopping by to let you know that I’m going to the country home for a couple of days.”
“All right,” Nigel said calmly.
“When will you be back?” Linna asked.
“I don’t know. I have research to do and the equipment I need is there.”
Linna frowned and said, “But what if something else comes up?”
Sylia looked unfazed. “I trust that the team will take care of it. Like I said, you didn’t need me.”
Nigel clenched his jaw slightly but said nothing.
* * *
12:03 a.m., Tanaka Towers
“Anri, stay out on the patio and don’t come in until I order you to do so,” Reika instructed the bodyguard.
Without pausing, the boomer did what she was told, which made Reika breathe a slight sigh of relief. As expected, Anri positioned herself to look out at the activity on the buildings and street before her.
“So I guess she really is fixed,” Leslie said as she opened the brand new bottle of wine to pour them drinks. “Did you do some sort of reboot?”
“Something like that,” Reika said as she said down on the couch and stretched out her legs that were a little sore from dancing. The open patio door let a nice warm breeze into the apartment. “I had a lot of fun tonight! Thanks for saying ‘yes’.”
“You make it sound like the night is ending,” Leslie said with a sultry smile. She came over to the couch and passed the spare drink to the other woman. “I certainly hope not.”
Reika grinned and took a sip, “You’re not tired from all of that dancing?”
“Not at all,” she said as she took Reika’s nearest foot and started to massage it. “I thought you wanted to leave the club early for other reasons.”
“Well, the thought did occur to me… Oh, that feels nice… It’s nice just to wind down for a bit.”
“Whatever pace you want. Just let me know.” Then an unpleasant thought suddenly crossed her mind. “Um, I do want to apologize about flipping out over the whole idea of the honeymoon trip. I guess I just didn’t think all of this all the way through. It’s just so weird.”
“Yeah, I know. And apology accepted.”
“Oh!” Leslie said brightly, “I should show you the clothes I bought. I think you’ll like them.”
Before Reika could respond, she jumped from the couch and ran to the bedroom. After some rustling noises, she came back with handfuls of full shopping bags.
Reika’s eyes locked on the Silky Doll logo that appeared on a couple of them. She immediately tensed but kept her mouth shut.
Leslie put most of the bags, including the Silky Doll ones, on the nearby chair. “These have the good stuff but let’s get the boring one over with.”
Now completely confused, Reika settled back and waited.
Leslie pulled out a bag from a store well-known for high class business wear and produced a peach blazer and skirt outfit that looked like she should wear that for a job interview.
She held it up over herself and asked, “What do you think?”
“Nice,” Reika answered honestly. “Where are you going to wear that?”
Now frowning, Leslie looked at Reika incredulously. “To your wedding, of course… Unless you don’t think it’s going to be high-class enough. I’ve never been to this type of event before.”
Reika was now literally speechless and it showed.
Noticing the expression, Leslie narrowed her eyes at her. “What’s wrong?”
Reika carefully took a sip of wine and then sat up. “I’m sorry this wasn’t clear before but you’re not going.”
“Why not?!” Leslie demanded angrily.
“It would be incredibly inappropriate,” Reika stated, trying to keep her own tone calm. “That day is going to be difficult enough for me. I don’t need that kind of social drama as well!”
“I’m your girlfriend!”
“No, you’re not!”Reika said, her own tone rising up sharply as well. “You’re my mistress. You’re not my girlfriend. You’re not my wife. You are the person that I go to when I don’t want to deal with the rest of my life!”
Leslie angrily threw the clothes to the side. “Oh, so I’m just a convenient fuck for you!”
“Did you honestly believe you were something more than that?!”Reika declared incredulously. “You saidyou understood the rules! I don’t need this kind of dyke drama in an already horribly complicated life!”
“No, you just want people who’ll enable the fact that you’re setting yourself to be a whore and a pure-bred bitch out to produce a litter on demand! At least I’m honest about what I do in my life!”
“I don’t need this!” Reika stated as she got up to leave.
“Yes, you do!” Leslie said as she stepped forward to block her. Tears were already forming in her eyes. “You never loved me did you? Not now, not before!”
Reika glared at her and then said firmly, “I never said I did.”
“No, of course not!” she screamed. “You’ve always been obsessed with a stuck up cunt who dumped you for a man! I can’t believe I always thought you had your act together!”
“Thatis going too far!” Reika said as she clenched her fist at her side. “And your dramatics never helped! Right now, even when I’m absolutely furious at Sylia, I know you could never earn a fraction of the love I still feel for her!”
Reika wasn’t surprised to see Leslie lift her hand to strike her. And while she could have dodged it, she let the slap land on her cheek. The blow hit her so hard that she stumbled on to the couch.
After a moment to regain her composure, she stood up again to see Anri standing over Leslie’s body that was crumpled on the floor with her neck broken.
– End Chapter 21 –
* * *
Chapter 22: Self-Created Drama
5:21 a.m., June 11th, Hou Bang Compound, Tokyo
Dressed in a bathrobe, Reika sat on the edge of her bed and stared blankly at the early morning news show on her private TV. She felt numb and exhausted, and her mouth hurt as she pressed the icepack to the growing swell. For a brief moment, she was glad that Leslie hadn’t hit her with a fist or she probably would have lost a tooth or two.
Then she winced at the thought of the other woman, feeling guilty that she ended the night in the far better state of the two.
Just then, a soft tapping came from the other side of the closed bedroom door.
“Come in,” she managed say with minimal slurring.
Opening the door carefully, Jun carefully peered in and looked relieved to see that Reika hadn’t been sound asleep. Clearly haggard and tired herself, she glanced behind her in the hallway before slipping into the room and closing the door to ensure maximum privacy.
Dressed in the baggy sweats she usually slept in, Jun scanned her data pad to ensure the accuracy of her report. “I received word that the police have officially closed the case as a hit and run casualty. They’ve already contacted her agency and her parents. Apparently her agency had considered her off work tonight so they didn’t know who she had been with. And our contacts have made sure that any ties back to you are kept to a minimum.”
“All right,” Reika said with a weary nod. “I agree we need to keep a low profile, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had told her family about me being the reason why she came to Japan. So if anyone tries to call me, send word to patch them through, especially if it’s her mother.”
“Of course, I’ll send the word out… And I’ve left a message to arrange the final wedding dress fitting here, instead of in the shop. Do you have a preference for how long we should wait?”
Reika walked over to her vanity and looked at the swell in the mirror. “Let’s delay it three days. Even if the swelling isn’t completely down by then, it should be enough to cover with make-up. These people are professionals. They should know to keep their mouths shut if they notice anything.”
“Should I also move Irene’s appointment to here as well?”
She thought about it for a moment and nodded. “Let me tell her what happened first. She needs to hear about it from me.”
“All right,” Jun said as she tapped some notes into her pad. Her own curiosity now piqued, she asked, “Has Dr. Yamada given any explanation for Anri’s behavior?”
Reika shook her head and frowned. “He and his team are still researching… Which to me means they’re scratching their heads. I mean, it’s not like humans are flawless. But it just feels so much more unnerving having a machine designed for killing cross a line like that.”
“Are you going to continue to use her?”
Reika sat in a thoughtful silence before finally answering, “I don’t feel like I have a choice. She’s still the best defense I could ever have. Tonight just proved it in an extreme way…” As if she didn’t want to think about it anymore, Reika focused on the TV. and pressed the remote control button so that the channels started to shift.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Reika gave her a look and then smiled softly. “You’ve done a lot, Jun. Now go get some sleep. Have the office secretaries take care of any other rescheduling items that can’t wait until you’ve woken up again.”
Looking a bit reluctant at handing off her responsibilities, the younger woman finally nodded. “Thank you. I view it as necessary experience for my job… And I am sorry about what happened.”
“… So am I. And don’t blame yourself. It was all just… bad circumstances that happened at once.” She fell silent as she came across a channel that had a news broadcast showing recent clips of the Knight Sabers helping with a bridge accident. While she didn’t turn up the volume, she was clearly focused on it.
Jun waited patiently, knowing that it was her job to do so and that her boss wasn’t always this distracted.
Reika pursed her lips thoughtfully for a moment and then said, “I want you to arrange a special appointment for me as the first task you do when you wake up. There should be a man named Nigel Kirkland who owns a mechanics shop in the industrial district. Tell him that I need at least an hour appointment of his time. Make my schedule accommodate his earliest availability, even if it means having to leave right away. I’m willing to pay whatever price he wants for his services. And don’t tell anyone but Kou about this, please.”
“Um, okay,” she answered as she took down the notes. “What should I tell him the appointment is about?”
“… It should be enough to tell him that I’m asking for his help.”
* * *
Once alone in the hallway, Jun indulged in a full yawn and stretch. She had already turned in for the night when she had gotten Reika’s urgent phone call, but instantly had her mind churning at maximum speed to deal with the issue at hand.
Now that she had the permission to go back to sleep, she walked straight to her bedroom in the other side of the wing, which was already starting to have the familiar morning noises that would typically start her day. As soon as she turned the final corner, she stopped abruptly to see Densuke turning down the hallway, dressed in a suit that had previously been worn from the night before.
“Are you just getting in?” Jun asked incredulously, not waiting for him to notice her.
Having been humming to himself, he looked up at her in slight surprise but then gave her a roguish grin. “Well, I could have came home later but I wanted to avoid the usual morning after awkwardness of a fling.”
She felt her heart squeeze and her blood chill. Then she narrowed her eyes at him as he drew near. “Are you sober?”
He chuckled. “I am now. Not so much earlier in the evening. But I’ve learned the lesson that excess prevents one from truly appreciating the events that happened. Can’t have too many fond memories when you’ve blacked out… Now, are you always up at this time?”
“Uh, no,” she said, suddenly feeling very awkward to be seen in her most casual of clothes. “I had work to do so I’m going back to bed.”
“’Work’? Knowing your boss, it can’t just be wedding tasks.” Now that he was practically right in front of her, he narrowed his eyes at her, as if trying to read from her face the details she wasn’t saying.
Despite herself, Jun felt her face blush a bit and she took a step back to get some distance. “I – I’ve got to go. I’m really tired. Good night, er, good morning!”
Densuke silently watched her hurry down the hallway. After a moment, a pleased, sly smile curled his lips.
* * *
1:46 p.m., K’s Garage
Neither Reika nor Nigel spoke as they watched Anri and Cynthia silently interact via visual connection. Mackey sat at the nearby terminal as he watched the live output of the cables hooked up to the base of Anri’s neck. The only other people in the area were Jun, Kou and Reika’s Chauffeur, who were waiting outside.
Though they didn’t speak outside of the issue at hand, the woman and man clearly felt a certain amount of awkwardness with each other. After all, they had never had an actual conversation before.
Reika noticed that even though Nigel was his usual non-verbal self, he would continually glance at her bruise. He had looked at it so many times, that she made a point of including in her story that it was Leslie who had hit her. He clearly relaxed at that piece of information, which made her wonder how much of Sylia’s dark side he’s been exposed to over the years.
After only about five minutes of their non-verbal session, Cynthia turned and walked towards them, her face slightly grim.
Reika ordered Anri to shut down so that they could speak without her presence.
“Well?” Nigel asked the other boomer.
“I think the best human comparison is that she’s upset.”
Reika was genuinely surprised by this. “Really? She understands that what she did was wrong?”
Cynthia paused reluctantly and then answered, “She understands that you are displeased with what had happened. But she is actually upset that she considered it preventable, in that the real error was that she had declassified Leslie as high risk. Her logic is that if she had treated Leslie as the true threat, you would not have been harmed.”
“But she knew that she didn’t need to actually kill her to have dealt with the confrontation. Sho said that’s part of her base program to not use excessive force against unarmed persons.”
“Yes… she knew that. However, she concluded at that moment to make certain she would never underestimate Leslie’s threat potential again.”
His own mental wheels now churning, Nigel asked, “Would you say that she had purposefully stopped considering other options at that point?”
“I would say so,” Cynthia conceded. “What she described felt similar to what I had gone through when my jealousy over Linna had reactivated the command to assassinate her.”
“’Jealousy’?” Reika asked, clearly with a little skepticism. “So you’re saying that Anri could be jealous over me?”
“No, that does not sound correct. I am saying that her logic routines were influenced by her emotions, as mine were, even though our emotions were different.”
Reika was now genuinely baffled. “I thought these models were not supposed to have emotions.”
“In general, boomers aren’t.” Nigel said, his tone showing that he had a firm grasp of what was going on. “Mackey and Galatea were the only boomers who were purposefully designed to be fully human, and that means having emotions. Every model since then had a core that was specifically designed to be the perfect blend of man and machine logic processes. Because modified brain matter is part of a core, every boomer has the capacity to become emotional. However, their software contained routines to mimic planted emotions. Since their software didn’t include routines to handle authentic emotions, they did not have the full capacity to know how to handle or deal with these feelings constructively. The boomer revolution happened because Galatea ‘turned on’ the ability for boomers to tap into the emotional parts of their core.
“At the same time, I’ve been studying cases of people with boomer prosthetics, who are injected with a serum of core matter as part of the grafting process. However, because the core matter used is to cater to a boomer’s limited brain functions, there are cases where the person reacts badly to the core matter, especially with more exposure over time. Some people have shown that they have reacted to extremely stressful and emotional situations to almost life-threatening extremes in a single moment. Anger leads to fatal violence; depression to catatonic states. Unfortunately, I don’t have conclusive evidence of this but it’s a theory that I’ve developed that seems to have a lot of supporting evidence that hadn’t been put together before.
“So I’m thinking that Anri may be very unique state of extreme imbalance between logic and feeling, given what you described of her activation process.”
Seeing what he was getting at, Reika said, “You think my blood was the catalyst for her to develop further than she was supposed to?”
He nodded. “Not just emotionally, but you mentioned her curiosity and her challenging the rules that she’s given. It’s like she’s following the development cycle of a human child, which would not be a problem or risk if she wasn’t first and foremost designed as a killing machine. And her growing pains may come out in the form of extreme and potentially dangerous behavior. Her already advanced intellectual capacity have also expanding well beyond her original design parameters.”
Reika sighed as she stared at her sleeping bodyguard. “So what you’re telling me is that I could end up with Anri becoming as ‘mature’ as Mackey or Cynthia. But I have to risk her having murderous temper tantrums and teenage rebellions until then? Can’t we just make her back to the way she was supposed to be? Like wipe her emotional slate clean?”
“I’m sure it’s possible but do you really want to do that to her?” Nigel asked seriously.
She frowned back at him. “What other options are there? I need her for protection. But she’s also a huge liability in the state that she is in. At the least, I need her to not use fatal force in a situation if it’s not required. I can’t have her thinking that killing is the right solution to a human child going through the terrible two’s. And I don’t trust giving her another command because she might choose to ignore it again.”
Nigel thought for a moment and said, “Let us take a look at her program and see if we can insert a command that won’t allow her to override your orders. You said that her software and data have already been downloaded into the Change Enterprises servers?”
“Yes, I’ll make arrangements for you to be able to access it.” Reika then paused as she glanced at Mackey, and then back to Nigel. “I would consider this a huge favor if Sylia was not… purposefully told about this.”
The men looked at each other and then gave her a nod.
– End Chapter 22 –
* * *
Chapter 23: Plans
3:38 p.m., June 12th, Watanabe Grand Hotel, Tokyo
“I’m very impressed! It would seem that this building is more secure than government complexes.” Jae-Hong Chang declared genuinely to three Watanabe siblings as they stood in the lobby with a dozen bodyguards positioned to keep passersby at a discreet distance.
With Yoshiko and Densuke standing quietly to the side, Largo Watanabe gave a conceding bow to the elderly man and said, “Thank you, Sir. We realize the comfort and safety of our guests is always the priority, no matter who they may be. And especially given that several members of both of our families will be staying here in the next week.”
“Yes, myself included,” Mr. Chang said, as he nodded to his waiting secretary, who then turned to walk towards the registration desk. He turned to Jun and said, “Please tell my granddaughter that I’m sorry to hear she is not feeling well. I hope that her illness will subside by the time of the wedding.”
She gave him a polite smile and said, “She looked a lot better when I saw her this morning, so I’m certain she will be fine in the next day or two.”
Densuke stood right in her eyesight, beyond the elder man. He gave her a wink, which flustered Jun for an instant but she immediately recovered by focusing her attention on the older man.
“Good!” Mr. Chang declared to the group. “Then it would seem we just need to wait for the wedding day itself… Welcome to the family, Densuke! It’s been a long time coming!”
“Thank you, Sir!” he said. “I consider myself a very lucky man indeed!”
Jun narrowed her eyes at him and unexpectedly caught his eye.
He gave her a pointed grin.
Her cheeks reddened slightly, but she dropped her gaze and focused on fiddling with her data pad in the hopes that no one noticed.
* * *
“— here’s the updated security layout,” Jun said to Kou as she sent from her data pad to his.
The two of them stood in the empty suite that would serve to be the room for Bridal party on wedding day.
He scanned a sample floor plan and said, “… It seems they just added more security than changed the original setup, which is good. I’ll have the rest of the team look this over.”
“Is there anything else I can get for you?”
He shook his head. “I think that’s everything. The Watanabes definitely know what they’re doing, which makes my job much easier.”
“Mine too,” she admitted sheepishly. “I feel like I should be doing a lot more than I am.”
He gave her a warm smile and said, “You’re doing a fantastic job, Jun. Your father would be proud. And I’ll tell him myself at the wedding.”
His data pad suddenly lit up that signaled an incoming text message. “… It seems Yoshiko wants to have a security meeting since we’re all on site right now. I’ll see you later.”
Once she was left alone, Jun let out a deep breath and walked out to the balcony. The 22nd floor view was a welcomed distraction. She leaned against the railing and checked the data pad that her appointments and tasks were done for the day.
“It’s a nice view,” Densuke said from behind her.
Surprised, Jun jumped slightly and fumbled with her device in a desperate juggling act. A final bump sent it over the wrong side of the railing.
“SHIT!!!” she screamed as she watched it plummet down twenty-two floors.
Densuke came up to peer over the railing himself. He looked genuinely apologetic about what had just happened. “I’m really sorry about that! I hope you had everything backed up somewhere.”
Accepting that her device would not be in a working state if she were to get it back, Jun stepped back in defeat. “It’s all right. I back it up every morning. I’ll just have to remember everything I added today… Densuke, why are you here?” She tried to fight down the growing dread of what she felt might be an obvious answer.
“… I wanted to be able to talk to you alone.”
“You couldn’t wait until we got back home?” she asked, not being able to look him in the eye with him being so near.
“As you know, home is hardly private.”
“And why would we need privacy?”
He took a step towards her, and she instinctively stepped away. She inwardly groaned as he had just proved his point.
“Look, there’s nothing to discuss,” she said, trying to muster up firmness even though she still couldn’t look up at him. “I don’t want anything from you.”
“I don’t believe that.”
The surprising firmness in his voice caused her to finally look up.
Even though her heart was pounding furiously, she managed to say, “I said ‘we have nothing to talk about.’”
“And I said ‘I don’t believe that.’ It’s in your eyes.” He took a step forward.
She put her hand up to his chest and stopped him. She was now genuinely angry. “Do not give me that bullshit about ‘my eyes saying yes even though my mouth says no.’ I’m a big girl. When I say ‘no’, I mean it. No matter my relationship with Reika, I’m not going to be a married man’s whore. And speaking of Reika, I genuinely like her and have come to think of her as a friend, not just as my boss. And I won’t do this to her.”
“Jun, she won’t care,” Densuke said, his own anger starting to burn. He paused and said seriously, “And you wouldn’t be just a fling to me.”
She was genuinely surprised but was now back to being even angrier than before. “Let me make something very clear: whether you or Reika are okay with this isn’t the point. I’m the one who has to live with myself and the decisions I make. And it’s not okay with me! When I’m ready for a real relationship, I want a man who can be a genuine husband to me and father to my children. And you can’t be.
“Yes, I have feelings for you, because I thought a different side of you than anyone else did. And I thought you actually respected me to some extent, but maybe I was deluding myself into thinking that you really aren’t an asshole after all. But I guarantee you that I will change my mind about that if you persist on acting like what I say isn’t important.”
Densuke’s face churned with so many deep and dark emotions that Jun was momentarily afraid that he was going to do something she wasn’t capable of preventing. Her lack of her data pad also sunk in that she couldn’t send a signal to Kou for help.
After a long moment, the man before her finally dropped his gaze and stepped back. “I’m sorry. I won’t bring this up again.”
* * *
11:06 p.m., June 13th, Yamazaki/Vanette Apartment
Linna sat back from the computer screen and let out a yawn. As fascinating as they were, the letters and numbers on the screen were starting to blur on her. She distracted herself by scratching the head of Fluffy the cat who was curled up on her lap.
“Coming to bed soon?” Lisa asked as she came up behind with a hug.
Linna glanced at the clock and said, “Give me another hour. I’m waiting for the next batch to be decrypted.”
“Okay, then I won’t wait up. But I’m expecting you to make it up to me later!”
“Of course!” she gave her a firm kiss.
She watched her wife go to the bedroom, followed by Fluffy, who apparently decided a human in a bed was more comfortable than one in a chair.
After a few more minutes, the program finished and displayed a ‘unable to decrypt’ status.
Linna frowned at the unexpected response. After double-checking that she had done everything correctly, she checked and saw that Nene was still online.
“ – I tried both decrypting routines and it’s still giving me a bad status,” Linna said to Nene’s image on the monitor.
Nene frowned in bewilderment herself. “That’s weird. Unless Anri created her own encryption routines for some reason.”
“Well, maybe she had thoughts that she didn’t want anyone to know?” Linna suggested, now really feeling like she was invading someone’s privacy.
Of course, that just triggered Nene’s curiosity even more. “Or maybe it’s where she’s storing her override commands.”
“I guess… Look, it’s getting late and I don’t want to start something that I won’t finish tonight.”
“Sure thing. Ear mark it for me and I’ll look at it later. ‘Night!”
“Good night, Nene! Don’t stay up too late!” Linna said even though she knew that would be ignored.
* * *
10:57 a.m., June 14th, Hou Bang Compound
Standing in the large closet, Reika buttoned up her blouse and eyed the slight swell at the corner of her mouth in the full length mirror. She tried to relax now that the final fitting of the dresses were done.
“It’s only noticeable because you know it’s there,” Irene assured her from the doorway. “I don’t think anyone else saw it.”
Reika’s frown deepened. “How long do you think it should have taken to heal? Should three days really be enough?”
“Compared to what?”
“To a normal person.”
“And you’re not normal?” Irene asked genuinely bewildered.
Reika looked at her and opened her mouth to speak but paused.
This now alerted her sharp sister, who frowned back expectantly.
Letting out a defeated sigh, Reika turned to face her directly and said, “There was something else that happened. The reason why I spent an evening with Leslie was because Sylia visited me at the office that morning. She has a… medical condition. She’s had it almost all her life. And it turns out it affected me too. But we only realized it a few days ago.”
“So what does that mean?” she asked, trying to make sense of her sister’s words and actions.
“We don’t know yet. It may be a benign condition… But, it’s making me rethink the option of having children. There’s a good chance I can pass it on to them.”
“… Oh… Then it sounds like a bad thing. Have you gotten another medical opinion on it?”
“It wouldn’t make a difference. And I’m not saying I would never have children. But I want to see how things go for a bit. It may not turn out to be… so glum.”
“How do you feel? Are you all right?”
Reika glanced at her face in the mirror and gingerly touched the slight bump. “Oh, I’m fine now… Physically anyway.”
“Don’t force yourself, Reika, not now or in the future. With Nozomi, we’ve already secured the next heir in the Clan. And Sho and I plan to have at least two more children. Our family is secure.”
She frowned in response. “And that completely defeats why I decided to take responsibility for being the eldest. Your children shouldn’t live our lives of scrutiny and danger. You shouldn’t – “
Stepping forward, Irene held up her hand and embraced her sister with a hug. “We are family. Don’t try to act like there’s some line between us that isn’t there. As you know, our enemies don’t look at it that way. You’ve had a lot happen in recently, and things aren’t going to relent for a while. We’ll deal with everything when the time is right.”
Too mentally and emotionally exhausted to keep her ground, Reika nodded and hugged her sister back.
– End Chapter 23 –
* * *
Chapter 24: Little Surprises
6:07 a.m., June 16th, Watanabe Grand Hotel, Tokyo
Yoshiko woke up to find herself cuddled against Mei, who was stretched out on her back. The gentle squeeze of the arm wrapped around her showed that the other woman was already awake, as usual now that she was in a body that did not require real sleep.
They greeted each other with a silent smile and kiss as an extension of their activities of the evening before.
“When do you plan to go to your mother’s?” Yoshiko asked as she yawned and stretched.
“I should leave by noon in order to arrive before dinner. Though I don’t think she’s fully understood that I don’t eat food anymore. She still looks at me very skeptically in phone calls, like ‘Is this woman really my daughter?’… How is everything for the wedding going?”
“Very smoothly,” Yoshiko admitted, a little surprised by the question from what is usually an avoided topic between the two of them. “I just have some final checks with the staff and in a day and a half my little brother will be a married man… Now that’s definitely something I never thought would happen after all of these years.”
“And to Reika, of all people, I’m sure,” Mei commented darkly to the ceiling. “It’s hard to determine which one of them is more pathetic.”
“True. It’s a farce,” Yoshiko conceded as she sat up and ran her fingers through her hair. “So have you decided if you’re coming back here after the visit, or are you heading straight back to Rome?”
“I think Mom’s lonely so I better stay for as long as possible.”
Yoshiko flashed a wicked smile and leaned over the other woman. “Well, then that means we won’t see each other for at least a week, right?”
Mei looked at her and smiled in return. She pulled the other woman down to her and said, “Right…”
* * *
10:16 a.m., June 16th, Chang Enterprises
“—If your decryption tools didn’t work, Sir, then it might be just bad data,” Sho said, barely able to contain his nervousness of being with the man who had been one of his mentors in the early days of Genom.
He wasn’t surprised that his sister-in-law would have the connections to pull such a man out of retirement for something like this. He also tried not to be distracted by the man’s two assistants, a young man and woman, both of whom who seemed… familiar.
“But we did make out a date, which is tomorrow,” Nigel noted as he casually scanned the state of the art lab, which was temporarily empty of its regular staff to ensure that the five of them would have as much privacy as possible.
Well, six counting Anri, who stood statue still in the charging station.
“My wedding day?” Reika said. “Well, she is my bodyguard. That date would be important to her.”
Nigel nodded at the comment. “And that’s why we’re not that alarmed. It may have been a private note she made to herself. But it’s the first section in her software we haven’t been able to either read directly or decrypt. Yamada, has your team encountered other patches like this?”
He paused to think and then shook his head. “No… at least none of my staff had mentioned it. So it could have been added to her system recently, or it’s part of the data we haven’t gotten to yet with our own analysis… Um, have you noticed any other anomalies?”
Nigel gave him a measured look. “Not yet. She’s a fine specimen.”
Sho’s face lit up with the compliment.
Reika glanced between the men. “So both of you think that Anri will be fine? That it’s all right to take her to the wedding?”
“Unless she has a grudge against Densuke, I think she’ll be fine,” Nigel commented dryly.
Reika had to seriously think for a moment to be sure that there wouldn’t be a reason for Anri to disrupt the ceremony.
“As you’ve pointed out: you’re important to her, so your wedding day would be too. After all, she’s the backbone of your security tomorrow. But I think our two teams should continue with her software and data analysis… Just in case.”
* * *
9:49 p.m., June 16th, Hou Bang Compound
Densuke walked through the mansion hallways, returning every well-meaning smile that was starting to make his face hurt. He knew almost everyone was genuinely happy for him and Reika, it was as if people had assumed the two of them were finally settling into the proper role of husband and wife. He knew people had been very skeptical of him due to his drinking binges and partying but since he seemed to have ‘turned over a new leaf’, they were giving him the benefit of the doubt.
He turned the corner and almost ran into Jun, causing both of them to jump back a step.
“Oh!” She declared, genuinely surprised at seeing him. “I, um, I would think you’d be out celebrating your last day as an official bachelor.”
He shrugged sheepishly and said, “Guess not.”
“Okay, um, good night then!” she said with forced brightness before continuing her way to her room.
He watched her disappear around the hallway corner and then let out a stiff sigh.
True, he could have gone out with some social buddies from school or found a willing female for companionship. And there had been some plans but he cancelled them. He really just wasn’t in the mood for that kind of company.
Remembering what he had planned to do all day but never built up enough nerve for, he turned and walked down the hallway in a different direction. It wasn’t long before he stopped before Reika’s bedroom door, which was closed, a sign that she was inside.
He pressed his ear against the wood and heard the sounds of the television.
He knocked softly and announced, “It’s Densuke. Can we talk for a moment?”
Another minute passed before Reika finally opened the door. Looking a little perplexed, she looked like she had been completely awake even though she was clearly dressed in just her bathrobe. Without make up and her hair down, she was still breathtakingly beautiful.
Seeing her attire, Densuke actually blushed and said, “Ah, I need to discuss something important with you but I didn’t realize you were already turned in. It’ll only take a moment.”
Reika narrowed her eyes at him for a moment, but then backed up to let him in. “What do you want to talk about?” she asked seriously as she glanced outside the room before closing the door.
Careful to maintain as much physical space between them, he walked over to the fireplace and said, “I want to call a truce. A real one.”
“What would be different?” she asked, looking genuinely baffled.
“That we actually try to be friends, nothing more than that. Especially if we’re expecting to raise children together. They would figure out if we’re pretending to like each other, and they deserve better of us as parents.”
Reika was clearly stunned as she stared at him.
Seeing finally that he wasn’t joking, she swallowed and cleared her throat. “That’s a fair proposal… You’re right. Our children do deserve better. It’s true that we should get along better than we do.”
He let out a breath of relief. His feelings of awkwardness quickly started to return. “And that’s all I wanted to say for now. After all, tomorrow’s going to be pretty busy for both of us. Bad luck potential aside.”
Reika gave him a small smile and said, “We’re going to be spending a week together on a honeymoon. So we’ve got time to figure everything out… And thank you for proving me wrong about you.”
“Um, you’re welcome?”
* * *
8:12 a.m., June 17th, The Watanabe Grand Hotel, Tokyo
The helicopters lightly touched down on the roof top.
Once the engines were turned off, Reika undid her seatbelt and glanced at a nervous Jun, “Relax! I’m sure everything’s covered. Remember, that’s why I hired wedding planners, so neither of us had to be bothered with this.”
“I know, I know,” the younger woman admitted with a fluster as she clutched her new data pad like a security blanket.
With Nozomi bundled in her arms, Irene merely chuckled at the display of nerves.
“Anri, let’s go,” Reika ordered as she stood from her seat.
The servants and hotel staff quickly unloaded luggage to take them inside while the three women stepped down from the aircraft.
Kou and three other bodyguards stood protectively by, always scanning the area from behind their sunglasses.
With all of the activity, Reika glanced around and realized Anri was still in the aircraft. She walked back to the helicopter and said, “Anri? Please come.”
Still secure in her seat, the boomer didn’t move at first, as if she hadn’t heard. But then she turned and gave Reika and acknowledging look. With unusually stiff movements, she started to free herself from the seat and stood.
Is she having some sort of glitch? Knowing that this was hardly the first time the boomer had ridden in her helicopter, Reika frowned as she watched Anri slowly step down onto the rooftop, as if unsure of the firmness of the building beneath her.
“Anri? Are you feeling all right?” She wasn’t sure if the boomer would know how to respond but it was the only thing she could think to ask.
Her bodyguard then looked at her, as if in a concentrated stare. In an instant, her pupils suddenly flashed red and she reached out to snag Reika’s forearm.
Pure reflexes and instinct made Reika lurch back and barely avoid the grab. If Anri had not been so jerky in her movements, there would not have been a possibility to dodge.
Suddenly Anri’s eyes went dark and she remained frozen in her awkward position.
“What just happened?!” a bewildered Kou declared, his gun already out.
“I honestly have no idea. She was on alert for a moment before she shut down. But she was looking right at me!” Reika stared hard at the boomer but she felt reluctant to take any step closer in case Anri turned on as quickly as she had turned off.
“What do we do with her?” Jun asked.
“I guess we have to leave her here. Sho can take a look at her when he arrives. Kou, have someone stand watch by her and let me know as soon as she moves again. If she does.”
– End Chapter 24 –