By Andy Skuse ~ E-Mail
A Bubblegum Crisis Fanfiction (C) 1995-2008
Based on characters copyrighted by Youmex, AIC, Artmic
PREVIEW Chapter 26. Nobody's Hero
Did I have the dream or did the dream have me?
Sylia turned and stared at the blinking console lamp for a moment, unsure of what to do next. As if snapping out of a trance, she sat back in her interface chair and placed the headset over her eyes and ears, blocking out the dim console glow of the room.
The darkness was fleeting, replaced by brightly colored progress bars, scrolling numeric readouts, and terminal windows gliding off to the edges of her peripheral vision . Sylia waited patiently as the display completed its brief initialization process. A familiar cycle of tones and ticking sounds advised her of the progress while her computers completed their interrogation and encryption process with the computer that was trying to connect to her node.
The whispering voice that she had heard in her mind so many times over the years, no more audible than her most fleeting thoughts, suddenly filled her headphones with a disturbing proximity. A faint electronic hiss lingered in the background.
She struggled to resist the urge to rip the headset off.
Sylia snapped her headset to the left and right, searching blindly. She hadn't said a word.
'But I didn't--'
"I know. We have an excellent connection. Your thoughts are coming through quite clearly now."
Could it be Nene and Mackie, playing a trick on her with their new toy? But how could they know?
"Sylia, I need your help. But we don't have a lot of time."
'What's the hurry?'
"He is closer than you think."
Sylia checked the time, displayed in the top right corner of her headset's display, then scanned down to the bottom right corner at a small window showing the address and location of the current connection. The location field was blank which wasn't surprising, but the IP address was... changing. She tapped in the command to start a traceroute, but the shifting address field was scrolling too fast for the traceroute log to be readable. Impressed, she started a packet sniff of the incoming stream, but the encryption was very deep. Too deep.
'You're very good. Whoever you are.'
"Sylia, it is me. Or what's left of me."
Sylia punched in the key combo for her scripting program, eyes constantly scanning the display as a fresh terminal screen popped up and the script commenced.
The voice emitted a sigh. Surprised by the sound, Sylia paused, wondering if she had detected sadness in the sound. Couldn't be Nene or Mackie. This was a little too... dark. But if not, then who?
Sylia raised an eyebrow. Her script had crashed.
"Please stop. You have to trust me."
"Why?' She needed more time. 'Where are you?"
"I am... everywhere, and nowhere. I want it to end, Sylia. I realize now, I don't belong here."
"But where is here?"
"Here is... not there. It is something I have always had trouble understanding even though it is all around me. But here is a lot like there. It is vast and microscopic at the same time."
Sylia launched the next script. It crashed 3.2 seconds later.
"You're wasting your time Sylia."
"Tell me more about there."
"I don't know how to explain..."
The whispering voice hesitated. "Here is... unlike there. I exist but I feel like I am scattered, never in the same place for very long."
Sylia checked the IP address field in her display again. It was just a blur of numbers now.
"Everything is in the open here, but everything is guarded. Like a prison with no walls that is impossible to escape. I cannot have my own thoughts. I have no privacy. I am constantly under attack. Someone always wants my thoughts."
"Who wants your thoughts?"
"I don't know. I can't reach them. They enter though the exit. But I have learned many ways of finding out things here. That's how I found you. That's how I will help you find him."
"Him. The one you are looking for. That is why I have been looking for you."
Sylia held her breath for a moment then slowly released it, her thoughts beginning to scatter as she wrestled with what she was hearing while attempting to come up with a strategy to find out who she was communicating with.
"Wait. I understand now. You're stalling me. You need proof. Just a moment."
Sylia's finger hovered over the key that would launch the next script. She needed something with impact, capital I. Something with a little bit more teeth, something--
"Listen to me Sylia, I... killed your father."
Over and over, Sylia read the words that had just been transcribed in the voice log on her screen, slowly realizing she was reading the confession of a dead man.
'Mason... but... you're dead. I killed you.'
"No. You failed the first time."
Sylia's head was spinning. She could still see the moment clearly, playing out in slow motion, as it had many times since that night. The shock of the cold night air against her exposed face, the shards of her helmet's visor falling in front of her eyes. Her blade arm lunging forward seemingly without being commanded, turning, twisting, then withdrawing, the blood spilling from his chest. His body crumpling, the flesh instinctively knowing that it had been mortally wounded even if his mind was hesitant to follow suit. The blood gathering slowly in a pool under his white armored suit, and the crimson reflection of his dying gaze.
'I don't understand...'
"I wanted you to kill me, Sylia. I wanted to die."
"So I could be reborn as someone stronger. At least, that's what he promised me."
Sylia's voice found its voice, her thoughts too crowded to 'think' the conversation any more.
"I still don't--"
"My body... is gone. And in every sense of the word as you understand it, I am dead. But I am not human anymore, Sylia. I haven't been for some time now."
"Then what are you?" Sylia asked as she watched the third script turn into a runaway process, looping endlessly. The console screen popped up. No errors logged. Blank. Nothing.
"You still don't believe me? You're being very stubborn, but I remember you being quicker than this Sylia. Perhaps you're getting... old."
Sylia's finger lingered over the key for the next script. "I'm having trouble... comprehending all of this. I guess, I've always felt that things were unfinished, but I could never quite put my finger on why."
"Many things are unfinished, and will remain so. But you and I, we need to finish something. Before he does."
"The one who put me here. The one you are looking for."
Sylia withdrew her hands from the keyboard, checked that the voice log was still recording, sat back and tried to relax. "I don't know who you're talking about."
"We don't have much time Sylia," the voice reiterated, sounding a bit frustrated now, "But I will try to explain as much as I can before I lose this connection."
Another glance at the IP address field in her display. Blank. The shifting addresses weren't even registering now. Her computers couldn't keep up anymore.
"Yes, I can hide my location from you," the voice answered Sylia's unspoken question. "But he is here too, and he can find me very quickly. He is preoccupied at the moment, so we have a little time."
Sylia was growing impatient. "Tell me as much as you can then."
"Two zero two five. It started as a routine incursion into the Genom database. Incursions happened quite often actually. Security was not as tight as it is now. I thought I could deal with the situation, but he was far too fast. He managed to get into the database and take control. But he did not have the codes."
"Codes for what?"
"For the Orbital Platform. He was going to use them against us. But the old man stepped in and ordered me to sever the link between databases to disable and trap him."
Sylia searched through her mind, trying to recall what event Mason was talking about.
"We severed the link, and without a link to the outside he was trapped. The old man ordered me to analyze the database and find out what had happened. That's when I first met him."
"Armstrong. Or more correctly, boomer Bu.R.31 ID v728."
"This name means nothing to me."
"I'm disappointed. Because it should. In one night he nearly destroyed Genom. He was very clever. But more importantly to me, he knew something about the old man, and he offered to share the information with me as long as I didn't delete his files."
"The boomer was trying to protect its data? But how was it even aware of itself?"
"It was an accident."
"What kind of accident? What happened?"
The voice paused. "Just a moment. Switching to a different encryption key. Transfer completed. I'll wait for you to re-encrypt."
The faint hiss from the connection disappeared. Sylia tapped in the new key and awaited reconnection. The faint hiss returned, a little louder now.
"The SDPC routinely tested their maintenance boomer staff for tolerance to gamma radiation, the kind that might encountered while working outside the space station. But during the tests, one of the boomers was subjected to what should have been lethal doses, Instead, the boomer survived. The radiation had somehow altered it's brain functions."
"In what way?"
"It became aware of its own existence. It became free to think on its own."
Sylia thought for a moment, then opened a new terminal window and began typing as she continued her questioning. "How is this possible? My own research shows that Genom had developed protective measures against the possibility of free will in labor boomers."
"Your research is theoretically correct. But the dosage levels that this boomer was subjected to were far higher than any previous testing, including Genom's. With exterior radiation level monitors in place, and frequent contamination checks, no one had ever presumed that a boomer would ever be subjected to anything more than the radiation levels associated with the remnants of an occasional solar wind."
"I see. What happened next?"
"The boomer quickly realized the significance of it's situation, arranged an escape with three other boomers, killed two workers and stole a shuttle. Once on earth they disappeared for a while. There were several small special interest groups that might have sheltered them. My database on this period is not complete."
In the back of Sylia's mind, a question lingered, waiting to be asked.
But the voice continued. "V728's next recorded activity occurred a few months later. He and the three boomers he had escaped with tried several times to break into the Genom computer database. At first, we weren't sure what they were looking for, so we let them in on their third attempt to see where they would go."
"Wait... What does this all have to do with me?"
The voice sighed again, longer this time. "Sylia... I need you... I need you to kill me again."
More to come...