I posted this to rec.arts.anime.creative back in February 2000.
Another story of the Knight Sabers
based on Bubblegum Crisis, released by Artmic and Youmex
written by Rob Kelk
The Genom head office technician used to think he had a soft job. After all, nothing ever went wrong with the equipment in Chairman Quincy's office.
Then Largo came to visit.
The day after Largo fell to his death from the top of the Genom Tower, that technician was busy sorting through the wreckage that used to be the Chairman's office, looking for anything that had survived. He pulled a safety cover off the wall, saw that the wiring behind it was completely melted, and made another note on his PDA. He removed the next cover and stopped in surprise.
The surveillance camera and microphone behind that cover were still working, and their memory cards appeared to be intact ...
Genom's senior management wasn't happy to hear about the attack on one of the company's research facilities. Was it a mistake to make that alliance with Gulf & Bradley? The idea behind it was to
make enough money to rebuild their Towers, not to run up more reconstruction costs!
They were discussing whether to sever that alliance when Quincy chose to intervene in their meeting. "What is your conclusion?"
The most senior vice-president present cleared his throat. "We believe there is a good chance this attack was aimed at Dr. MacLaern or another of the Gulf & Bradley employees working in our building. What should we do about them?"
"Nothing - they are still important to the project. Send MacLaren to my office if he disagrees."
Quincy reached to sever the connection, then paused. "What of Project Scabbard?"
The senior vice-president consulted his notes. "That project took some slight damage. None of the data was lost, though, so we should only have to add two weeks to the schedule."
"Very well. But you will ensure that there are no other delays." The screens went dark.
Priss was late. Damn that Dr. Yoshida for forcing Nene to call out the Knight Sabers! That had cut into her practice time with the Replicants. Again.
She was starting to wonder whether she could keep up with the pace of both her careers. She half-decided to talk to the Replicants about cutting back on their schedule. But when she opened the stage door to Hot Legs, she discovered that the band had another idea ...
"Look, man, we can't go on the way we've been going! She's costing us some good gigs!"
"But she's our best singer! You don't really think people'll pay to hear me sing Mr. Dandy every night, do you? I'm good, but I'm not that good."
"Already covered, man. I stopped at the Genom surplus outlet and picked us up a 25-B Singer Boomer. They had it on sale - it was 50% off!" He motioned to a figure in the shadows.
"I can't believe you! That's like replacing you with a drum machine! There's no way a Boomer can be as good a singer as a human."
"That's what I thought, too, until I heard her. Be ready for a surprise, man ... Sing for us, Boomer."
The Boomer did as it was told. "Arashi no Highway hashiritsuzuketa ..."
Priss couldn't believe her ears. She wrote that song, and she hadn't licenced it to anyone ... Then she noticed something much, much worse. The Boomer was singing with her voice. She turned and left Hot Legs in a cold fury.
The Replicants hadn't even noticed she was there.
|the next day|
"Thanks for giving me a lift, Linna," Priss said as she got out of her friend's car.
"No problem! But why didn't you just come here yourself?"
"Look at where we are." Priss waved her hand once, gesturing toward the Genom retail building behind her. "Do you think I'd be able to stay calm enough to drive back after I got through here?"
Linna thought for a moment. "Come to think of it, I'm surprised you're as calm as you are now. Let's go in."
The two women walked into the store, causing the receptionist to look up. "May I help you?" it asked Linna.
"Actually, my friend wants to talk to the manager here."
"'Friend'? You are the only human here."
Priss grabbed the Boomer's shirt collar. "What about me, you piece of defective junk?"
The receptionist looked at Priss, then turned to Linna. "Your 25-B is reacting with excessive hostility. Do you wish me to file a maintenance request?"
"Priss! Calm down!" Linna turned to the Boomer. "And what are you talking about? Priss isn't a Boomer!"
"But she is," replied the receptionist. "We have many more of the 25-B model in stock - see?" It pointed at a display case holding three Boomers.
All of them looked exactly like Priss.
"This has gone far enough!" Priss stopped in the doorway of the restaurant she and Linna had chosen to patronize for lunch.
"'What's wrong?' What's wrong???? There's a damned '25-B' in there, that's what's wrong!!!"
"So? Somebody's a fan of yours, then," replied Linna with a smile.
"It's the damned coat-check girl!!! And I never authorized Genom or anybody else to use my likeness!!! Especially NOT on a damned BOOMER!!!!!"
The person behind them spoke up. "Excuse me, miss, but could you please turn the volume down on your Boomer?"
"I AM NOT A BOOMER!!!!!!!!"
"Suuure you aren't," replied the stranger.
Linna looked at her friend, and decided it would be better to back off than to have to pay for the idiot's medical bills. "Priss, let's just leave. We aren't going in there anyway."
"Fine! Whatever!" And Priss stormed off to Linna's car, Linna following closely.
The stranger smiled as he pulled out his celphone and pressed a speed-dial key. "It's me. Yes, I just ran into her. Project Scabbard is working better than we could have hoped. I'll recover the 25-B here and reprogram it for the next stage of the project ..."
"Three restaurants, five bars, and one Genom dealership all have Boomers that look like Priss."
"And the Replicants, too!!!!!"
Linna winced as Priss screamed in her ear, then turned back to her celphone. "The Replicants have one, too. Sylia, Priss isn't taking this very well. What can we do?"
The voice on the other end of the phone replied, "I'll hire a lawyer anonymously and have him look into this. In the meantime, why don't you take her somewhere and get her calmed down?"
"I'll do that. I have to go - there's a traffic cop working her way up the road, and I didn't put my credcard in the meter. Bye!"
(Linna wisely decided to not point out that the traffic Boomer looked like Priss, too.)
"So, where should we go now, Priss?"
"I don't give a damn where we go, as long as there aren't any Boomers there."
Linna thought for a moment. "How about Odaiba Park? Nobody goes there anymore."
"Odaiba Park it is, then." But when they got there, they discovered the bomber on display there was being re-painted. They could tell the work crew were Boomers - two of them looked like Priss.
|the next day|
"Maybe I am a Boomer, after all."
Linna looked at Priss. "That's ridiculous!"
"Is it? How many 25-B's are there? Why shouldn't I be one of them?"
"You're human, Priss." Linna thought for a moment. "How many times have you been in the hospital? The don't put casts on Boomers' arms."
Priss cheered up at that thought. "You're right! Let's go take a look at my medical records!"
Linna sighed. "Priss, I have to go to work ..."
"I'll go by myself, then!"
"I don't think that's a good idea, Priss."
"Why not?" she demanded, as she glared at Linna.
Linna sighed again. "Priss, I'm worried that someone's going to mistake you for a Boomer, and you'll put him in the hospital."
Priss chuckled at that. "I would, wouldn't I? Okay, I'll wait until you get back and you can chaperone me."
"You don't need to wait that long - today's Nene's day off." Linna reached for the phone.
"I hate hospitals."
"You and me both, Nene. I spend too much time in emergency rooms here."
"I spend too much time in the morgue here."
Priss was silent for a moment. "Yeah, I guess being a cop would suck sometimes. What's taking that nurse so long?"
Just then, the nurse on duty walked into the room. "Ms. Asagiri, I'm sorry, but I can't find any record of you ever having been admitted to this or any other hospital."
"What? That's impossible!"
Nene ignored Priss' outburst and turned to the nurse. "Could your databank have been tampered with?"
"I assure you, our medical records are kept behind the finest computer security systems available. Nobody has access to the patient data except for hospital staff. Oh, and the police, of course."
Nene pulled her badge from her pocket. "The you wouldn't mind if I double-checked, would you?"
The nurse looked pensive. "Well, ... I'd have to see a warrant."
"Of course," replied Nene as she pocketed her badge. "Never mind, then. Thank you for your time."
Once the women left, the nurse sighed with relief. Poor girl, she thought. What did she do to get Genom pissed off at her? And why are the AD Police bodyguarding her? Oh well, it's none of my business. At least Genom gave me enough to pay off my student loan ...
|the next day|
"I'm not going anywhere. What's the point? I'll just run into more Priss-bots, won't I?"
Linna leaned over and whispered to Sylia. "She's been like this ever since she got back from the hospital."
"How do I know I'm me???" Priss' voice was filled with anguish.
"Priss!" Sylia's voice was sharper than usual, which shocked everyone else in the room. "You are not a Boomer. I know that. You know that. Linna and Nene know that. I'm sure Mackie knows that too."
"Yeah," added Linna. "Mackie'd know if he was ogling a human or a Boomer ..."
"Watch it, Linna."
"Sorry, Nene. Anyway, Priss, we all know the difference between you and a Boomer. Nene, can you hack into the hospital's computers and see if you can find any traces of Priss' records?"
"That's against the law, you know."
"I'm just making sure you know. It'll take me a while - go away and let me work."
"Hey, everybody! Come and look at this!"
The rest of the Knight Sabers joined Nene in the computer room. The monitor displayed Priss' complete medical history. "Where'd you find this, Nene?"
"In the hospital databank, Priss. The nurse lied to us."
"That bitch ... I'm gonna kill her."
Sylia placed a hand on Priss' shoulder. "Isn't that a bit too harsh, Priss?"
"No! She tried to make me think I was crazy! Or a Boomer! Or both!!! She's gonna pay!!!"
"No solo actions, Priss. Remember the Rules."
"This isn't Saber business, Sylia."
Nene looked up from the computer. "I just got into that nurse's bank records. She received a substantial deposit from a numbered company two days ago."
Sylia leaned over Nene's shoulder. "I recognize that numbered company. It's the same one that payed my father's salary when he was working for Genom." She straightened up and looked straight at Priss. "You're wrong. This is Saber business."
"Are you sure this is a good idea, Sylia?"
"This is the only way to learn who is behind these events, Nene."
"But ... It's Genom! Nobody ever hacks Genom! There's supposed to have some killer I.C.E. on their systems ..."
Linna interrupted. "Killer ice?"
Sylia turned to Linna. "I. C. E. - Intruder Countermeasure Electronics. Systems designed to stop people from doing what we're about to do."
"And 'killer' I.C.E. is designed to stop people permanently," added Nene. "It's highly illegal. Not that Genom cares about the law ..."
Linna looked at Sylia. "You're asking Nene to risk her life."
"If the rumours are true, yes. I'll remind you that I ask you and Priss to risk your lives every time we go into battle. This is no different."
"That's right," whispered Nene. Then she plugged in her data-goggles and logged on to the Genom system.
Fifteen minutes later, Nene broke the connection. "I have a name and a place."
"Here we are, sis - the Genom Corporate Research Centre."
"Thank you, Mackie." Sylia lowered her hardsuit's visor. "Knight Sabers ... Go!"
Mackie watched the motorcycles leave. "Good luck," he whispered.
"Everyone, Nene is in charge until we make contact with hostiles."
"Me? Oh, right, Sylia. We're looking for lab 21 in the first basement. I've programmed a map of the Centre into your hardsuit computers." Their heads-up displays switched to split-screen mode, with the map appearing on the bottom. "We should find a Doctor Leonov there - he's the brains behind their 'Project Scabbard'."
"When we find him, I get to kill him!"
"Nobody kills anyone, Priss! That's an order!"
"Up yours, Sylia! You can't understand what he did to me!"
"What makes you so sure of that?"
After a few moments of silence, Nene spoke again. "The lab has a 10-centimeter thick steel door, so we're going to have to be ready to use a Knuckle Bomber on it if it's closed. Linna, can you do that?"
"Good. Sylia, this will probably be my only chance to ever give you an order. Ram the gate!"
And with that, the Knight Sabers broke into the Genom Corporate Research Centre.
"They're here. Suit up."
"This is too easy." Linna was starting to get worried. "Why haven't we met any more than a token resistance?"
"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," replied Nene. "Let's just concentrate on the mission." They stopped in front of a steel door. "Of course it's locked. Linna?"
"Right." A Knuckle Bomber made short work of the door, and they went in.
Only to face a dozen 25-B "Priss-bots", all apparently wearing Knight Saber hardsuits.
"I'm getting sick and tired of impersonators!" Priss cried as she jumped into the middle of the pack. The 25-Bs immediately closed their visors and went into hand-to-hand combat with Priss and each other.
"Priss, you idiot! Nene, which one's Priss?"
"I don't know, Linna! Sylia, they're jamming our IFF transponders!"
Sylia sighed. "And they all look and sound like Priss inside the suits. Nene, we have no choice."
"What are you talking ... Oh! But that's never been tested!"
"Nene, either use it or watch them kill Priss."
"R- right. Cover me, please!" A set of strange antennae opened on the back of Nene's suit. "Pulse in three. Two. One. Now!"
And everyone stopped moving.
It appears I have to increase the hardsuits' EMP shielding, thought Sylia as she stood trapped in her armour. And I just finished re-designing them ... Oh, well.
Nene was the first to recover. She made her way to the lab's computer terminal, re-started it, and tapped into the manufacturing database. "Hey, everyone! It looks like all but two of the 25-Bs are in this room! It looks like they were built just to drive Priss crazy." She started keying in some commands. "There! I've changed the design so any future 25-Bs won't look exactly like Priss."
"Good," replied Sylia as she started to move. She made her way over to the pile of blue hardsuits, scanning each one for a heartbeat. When she finally found Priss, Sylia pulled her to one side, then used another of Linna's Knuckle Bombers to destroy the Boomers.
Suddenly alarms went off throughout the lab. "They finally noticed we're here. Sabers to Skycarrier - come get us!"
"Right!" replied Mackie over the radio.
|the next day|
"Nene, please tell me we got them all!"
"Do you want me to lie to you, Priss?"
"Damn. How many are still out there?"
"Two. And you said the Replicants have one of them."
Linna looked up from her magazine. "Hey! She can do your singing while you fight Boomers!"
Priss thought for a moment. "I guess that'll work. But where's the other one?"
"Locked door - check. Surveillance cameras off - check. Okay, now it's time to start her up."
The 25-B came to "life". "How can I please you, master?" it asked with Priss' voice.
"Well, you can start by ... No. No, this is just wrong. Switch off." And the Boomer in Mackie's closet shut itself down.
Last update: 20 April 2001