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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To thedatajunkie[at]gmail.com
SERIES: Part 1 of BGC Blues.
By The Datajunkie
PART 1: SECRETS OF SELF
The motorcycle throbbed powerfully between her legs as she increased the speed and passed a slow-moving truck. Lights from an oncoming car reflected off her helmet and she swerved back into her lane just as it reached her. The driver leaned on his horn in protest, but Priss was long gone. She let the speed drop from ludicrous down to reckless. God, she loved the streets at night!
Street lamps lit patches of road every fifty feet, like great stepping-stones in the night and she flew across them. Priss felt the speed tear at her clothes, screaming in frustration when it failed to shred her leathers. She laughed and began to play a game of 'dodge the lights' swerving around the bright circles, always staying in the shadows. A shrill beep halted her game and she reluctantly began to slow, bringing her faithful steed to a halt beside the road.
She touched a small switch on the side of her helmet, mentally cursing herself for letting Sylia install a radio inside. "What?!" A burst of static answered her and she cursed aloud this time, as she turned the volume down. "Damn it! What do you want Sylia?"
The laugh that replied was silk. "I seem to have caught you at a bad time."
Priss ignored a little shiver at the sound. "Yeah, well you wouldn't use this thing unless you had a good reason. What's up?"
"A boomer, what else? It's tearing up district seven. AD police units haven't been effective in stopping it." She ignored Priss' derisive snort. "Mackie is in route to you with your suit." A large truck pulled off the road beside Priss as she spoke.
"Do you guys plan this timing thing? He just pulled up."
"It comes from being organized." Sylia watched the picture that the video link in Priss' helmet was sending back. Priss would be furious if she knew, but then Sylia had no intention of her ever finding out. The one problem with the link was that although she'd seen Priss' reckless stunt with the truck, she couldn't say anything. She saw Mackie wave at Priss and continued, "Get suited up and meet us there. ETA ten minutes."
Priss drove her bike into the back of the truck and began to undress. She pulled her jacket off and threw it over a stack of electronic equipment. She could just hear the faint groan of disappointment from Mackie in the front. "You wish, sport."
The seals of her hard suit hissed as they pressurized and she slipped her helmet on with a sigh. "Another night in the can." The visor locked into position and she climbed onto her armored motorcycle. The engine roared to life like a wounded bull and Priss smiled in delight. "Well, if I've got to chase defective Genom toys all night, at least I get to do it in style."
"Okay Mackie, open her up." The side door of the truck opened and the arm that the bike was attached to swung her and it outside. It slowly lowered her to street level and she hit the release switch. The wheels screamed in protest as they met the rushing asphalt, but a burst of speed matched the pace. Priss twisted the accelerator and shot past the truck. She gave a jaunty wave and steered straight for the center of chaos.
The streets were deserted except for AD police units, who did nothing to stop her as she zoomed past. A rookie saw the armored figure racing towards them and reached for his gun, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. He turned to find Lt. McNichol standing beside him. They both watched in silence as the Knight Saber flew past them. "You have a lot to learn. Remember that armor. That was one of the good guys. The bad guys are a little harder to identify, but at least we can shoot them." He walked away, leaving the rookie more confused than ever.
Linna executed a series of back flips away from the boomer as it tried to crush her with a police car. She landed neatly, the air shocks absorbing the impact with a metallic 'ching'. Sylia fired a shot through the car's gas tank and it exploded, engulfing the boomer. As the fire died down they saw it still standing there in the rubble, unharmed. Linna turned to Sylia.
"And that accomplished what?"
"Well, it can't throw it at you now."
Nene spoke up. "I think it's tired of waiting for us." Indeed, the boomer had started to move toward them.
"I can't leave you three alone for a second, can I?" Priss' voice was sarcastic as she opened fire on the boomer. She had shifted the motorcycle into battle armor and the heavy impulse cannon left a sizable hole in the side of the boomer. It staggered back, but didn't fall and Priss smiled grimly as she fired again. The boomer's upper body disappeared with the next shot. Priss lowered her gun and watched, amazed as the lower portion began to walk in circles. "Damn. I'd shoot it again Sylia, but that would be adding insult to injury."
Nene burst out laughing, then Linna started and so on. It was the return of the AD police that finally brought a halt to their merriment. They reluctantly departed and left the headless boomer for them to deal with.
Silky Doll, Inc.
Sylia leaned back against the wall of the sauna and considered her team. They had done well tonight. Linna had been in top form and Nene had been on target with her scan of the boomer. Priss had even followed orders for once.
Priss stretched out face down on one of the benches and let her muscles melt in the heat. Adding this sauna had been the best idea Sylia had ever come up with, well, besides the new rail gun design. The tension began to flow out of her and she was soon asleep.
Linna rolled her head, stretching the tight muscles in her neck and mentally ran over a list of her appointments tomorrow. She propped her feet up on the bench in front of her and began reviewing her investment knowledge of each client.
Nene yawned and wondered if Sylia had anything to eat.
Hot Legs, the next night....
Priss let the wave of applause wash over her as she drew out the last note. The crowd was wild tonight and she had poured everything into her performance. As the accolades continued, she let herself draw from the high of the audience, taking back a mere fraction of what she'd given. She tossed her mike to the lead guitarist and headed back stage, carefully weaving her way through the tangled web of cables that covered the floor.
She pushed her way into her dressing room and began the tiresome process of removing her heavy stage makeup. The title of 'dressing room' may have been stretching a point. She did dress and undress in the room, but when she wasn't it served as the stock room for the bar. She wiggled out of the tight black leather mini skirt and tossed it into the empty liquor box that served as her closet. Her heavy wig followed and she reached for her street clothes. A sigh of pure pleasure escaped her as she pulled on her red leather motorcycle pants and the irony of the two garments hit her. "Leather for pleasure and leather for pay. I should probably expand my wardrobe a little." However, the feel of leather was one vice that she would not give up. Not that she had any intention of giving up her others.
Fire flared as she struck a match, illuminating her face in an eerie glow. For a brief moment the flame revealed a side of her that no one saw. It was the awareness of the power in the tiny spark she cradled in her hands, as she brought it to the tip of her cigarette. The awareness of the destruction that the little piece of burning wood could do if not controlled. Priss watched the fire creep hungrily towards her fingers.
Deep within the confines of her hard suit she could let herself burn in a controlled inferno, purging her anger and fear. She could embrace the darkest side of her nature and use it for something other than senseless destruction. The other team members would be surprised to find that she didn't really enjoy the rages that she flew into. She had, in fact, spent her life trying to rein in her temper. But she felt everything deeply and that made it difficult to remain balanced. The flame licked at her fingers and a sharp breath extinguished it. Another life ends.
Priss mounted her motorcycle and pulled on her helmet. The engine woke with a growl and she tried to shake off her somber mood. "Damn. I'm getting as morbid as Sylia." She raised the kickstand and started down the street.
Sylia looked up from her study of the team's last performance rating and frowned at her comment. Did she really think she was morbid? A sound caught her attention and she listened as Priss began to hum. Time passed, but still she listened to her friend, knowing that Priss would be beyond angry and well into blind rage if she knew that the mike was always left open now.
It had been an accident the first time. Sylia had been surprised when Priss' voice came over the small transceiver on her desk. She realized that she had forgotten to shut it off, but as she reached for the switch Priss had spoken again and she found herself listening, caught by the sound of her voice. "God Damn traffic! Why do people ride in those sardine cans, anyway? They ought to climb out of their cages and try the real world sometime, not their climate controlled, fully filtered and fully insulated little bubbles." She had continued her tirade and Sylia had listened as she learned more about Priss. She had continued to listen all night, as Priss took her on a journey of her life.
"Urrghh! Why did they close it down?! The last place in this crummy town where I could get a decent meal and they condemn it!"
"Watch it, you asshole! Stupid boomer street cleaners!"
"What the...? Hey you! Yeah you, you big moron! Why don't you try picking on someone your own size? Or at least your own species." There were a couple of muted thumps and then she had laughed. "You'll have to do better than that, jerk!" Sylia had then been amazed to hear Priss speaking softly to a crying woman. "Hey, it's all right now. Here, let me see that. Looks like your going to need stitches, do you want me to call an ambulance or can you hang on to me while I drive you?"
The woman had rode to the hospital with Priss and Sylia listened as she drew her out and got her to talk about the abusive bastard she'd just left. Priss had made her promise to go to one of the security shelters for battered women, then had left her at the hospital.
"Oh good, you're still here. Let's discuss your manners or lack there of." An odd crunching sound and a strangled scream. "Now that I've gotten your attention, let's begin with today's lesson." Another scream and Priss began to apply the old method of 'beating some sense' into someone.
As the night wore on Sylia's respect for her friend grew. Pimps were leaned on for abusing their girls. Several derelicts were sent off to shelters and chided for not taking better care of themselves. Despite herself Sylia laughed when Priss ran a drug dealer over with her bike. She had then relieved him of his cash, much to his howling complaint. There was only the sound of Priss' bike for a while, then it was shut off. A strange creaking sound and the echo of booted feet. Something made a scraping noise and a voice spoke. "Oh, hello again!" A brief pause and paper rustled. "Thank you and God bless you!"
Priss was on the streets once more and Sylia was there with her. "One person at a time." Sylia heard her whispered comment and remembered telling Priss when she'd hired her that sometimes you could help everyone, but helping one person could be just as important. Priss was patrolling her city, trying to turn the tide of misery that was overlooked by frightened eyes.
Sylia shared her nights on the street now. A protective feeling driving her as well as a strange desire to be near Priss, even in this unseen way. The irregular detours Sylia's mind had started to take lately were beginning to concern her.
A squeal of tires and Priss' sudden curse brought Sylia back to the present. The sound of brakes screaming and the horrifyingly loud sound of crunching metal had Sylia on her feet. Metal scraping asphalt has a rather peculiar sound and Sylia had a theory that it was the same sound a banshee makes when it comes for the dying. Static burst over the transceiver and a painful cry filled the room. Sylia grabbed the unit and switched on the mike. "Priss!" No response. "Priss! Can you hear me?" A low moan answered her, then Priss spoke. "S-ylia?" She sounded groggy.
"Where are you? Priss?" There was no reply. "Answer me! That's an order!" Sylia's tone was hard.
"Uh....oh...ow. Damn Sylia......you hav'ta yell? Got a bit....of a headache." Priss raised her head with difficulty and spotted the thing she had crashed into. "Shit! It's coming this way. Uh, Sylia? I think I might need some help here. There's this boomer...." Sylia interrupted her.
"Where are you?" Priss told her and Sylia rapidly calculated how long it would take to reach her. "Priss, I want you to lie very still and play dead, understand? If you don't give it a reason it may leave you alone." Priss' tried to laugh, but it turned into a gasp. "I'm on my way. Stay still." Sylia raced for her suit.
Priss lay quietly and watched the boomer as it continued to smash its way down the street toward her. A car landed somewhere behind her and exploded, raining down pieces of debris around her. As the boomer continued its destruction, Priss began to assess her condition. Legs were still moving, but a little bruised. A cool wet feeling around her right knee let her know that she had injured it again and would need to replace her leather pants. Damn, those things were expensive. She drew a deep breath; no broken ribs. Her shoulder felt numb and her head was pounding, but she would live.
The boomer screamed as it tore a lamppost out of the ground and began to smash the windows in a department store.
Unless of course, the boomer decided to grind her into mush first. The faint sound of sirens in the distance alerted her to the imminent arrival of the ADP. Oh joy. Priss only hoped that they would check the area for civilians before they opened fire.
They did. Unfortunately they decided to evacuate the civilians, rather than trying to draw the boomer away. Two officers made their way to Priss and did a wonderful job of calling attention to themselves and her. She pointed this out to them as they tried to lift her. "Now that it's seen us, there's no point in me playing dead anymore. I think you guys should concentrate on running like hell, because that thing's headed this way in a hurry." With that, she shook them off and began an unsteady lope away from them and the boomer. They scrambled after her. The three of them cleared the police line and the others opened fire.
Priss watched them struggle to bring the boomer down and tried not to laugh out loud at their ineptness. It really wasn't their fault that the unit didn't have the budget for heavy weapons, but that didn't make it all right either. A tap on her shoulder had her turning to find Nene grinning up at her.
"Fancy meeting you in a place like this! Your ride is waiting for you around the corner."
Priss nodded and slipped past the barricades. As promised a Silky Doll delivery truck was waiting in an alley. Priss climbed in back and found Sylia waiting for her.
"Injuries?" She didn't look up from her preparation of Priss' suit. She had donned her own suit and needed only her helmet. Priss began to pull her ruined clothes off as she answered.
"Minor. A couple of scratches and a few bruises." She fingered the hole in her pants. "One casualty though. Any chance of claiming this as on duty damage?" Sylia's reply was to toss Priss' inner soft suit at her.
"Didn't think so."
Minutes later she was walking calmly past the police barricades again. She towered over the officers and the impulse cannon that the motoslave carried drew some rather panicked exclamations. Over ten feet in length, it weighed close to three hundred pounds and was a self-targeting thing of beauty. The police gave her a wide berth as she went past, causing Priss to smile smugly.
Sylia watched Priss from her position on the roof and sighed at her antics. She really needed to exercise a little more discretion.
Five minutes later the boomer had been reduced to a molten state. Priss stared at the smoldering metal with a sense of satisfaction. Sylia had to spoil it, of course. She landed beside Priss and pointed to the mass of twisted and melting metal just behind the boomer. "Isn't that your bike?" Priss' cry of anguish turned into a frustrated roar and she fired at the boomer again. The street underneath it finally surrendered and the boomer's remains fell into the sewers below.
The Knight Sabers departed and left the police to clean up once again.
Priss was tired of waiting. She slouched in her chair and stared blankly at the ceiling, wondering if Sylia was ever coming back. The door opened and Sylia came in, "It's ready. But promise me that you'll take better care of this one? It's rather expensive to customize you a new motorcycle every time you destroy the old one." Priss followed her to the garage eagerly, but protested all the way. "I don't do it on purpose, you know! I wasn't exactly out trying to find a place to wreck it. The boomer found me!"
Priss stopped speaking as they entered the garage. Her eyes grew wide.
It did not move, but still seemed to be in motion. The sleek lines curved and stretched like a huge metal cat waiting for its moment to spring to life. Light danced across its polished surface, seeming to vibrate with life and Priss felt it whispering to her. Urging her to climb on and chase the wind. Black steel and silver chrome twisted around the frame in twin rivers of muscle. Priss let her fingers slide over a gleaming flank and knew that she would catch it this time.
She lifted awed eyes to Sylia's. "Thank you." Her tone was reverent, but her mind was in turmoil. Priss couldn't believe what she was feeling. A long forgotten emotion was spreading through her that she hadn't felt since... She slammed the door on the thought. It couldn't be.
Sylia felt an odd rush of pleasure at her reaction. Mackie grinned and started running down a list of the improvements he'd made. Priss listened intently, asking questions and exclaiming over his genius. Mackie blushed and turned to Sylia. "Sis, you explain the rest. It's your design, after all."
Sylia frowned at him slightly, and then approached the bike. She touched a small depression on one side of the control panel and a crack appeared at the back of the panel, near the windscreen. She flipped open the small hatch and pulled out what appeared to be a scaled down version of an impact cannon. "This should help in the event of another boomer emergency. It's not as powerful as the full sized version, so you'll need to be more accurate with your shots. Also because of the reduction it can only fire three times before the energy cells are drained." Priss handled the weapon carefully, testing the weight and feel.
"It's perfect." Once again Sylia felt a little tingle at her words and tried to ignore it. Priss replaced the gun back into its holder and secured the hatch. She froze as Sylia's arm reached around her to the control panel and she felt her pressed along her length for a brief moment. Sylia hit a switch and pulled back, amazed to find herself blushing slightly. The smell of Priss' hair caught her attention and she forced herself to focus on the explanation. What was wrong with her?
"This switch opens gun ports on the front of the bike, here, above the head lamp. Like your armored bike, they fire armor-piercing rounds. Ten rounds per chamber only." She raised the seat and showed Priss the pistol and extra rounds stored there. "More useful against humans than boomers, I'm afraid, but you can never be too careful." She said nothing about the small tracking device that she had installed. Even Mackie knew nothing about it. Call it overprotective, but Sylia never wanted to go through another night like that again. She was already designing tracers for Nene and Linna, but Priss had been her primary concern. Now she realized why.
She watched Priss fuss over the motorcycle for a few minutes, knowing that she was dying to try it out and then finally suggested, "Priss. I think it would be a good idea if you test drove the bike, see if anything is out of balance or needs adjusting."
Priss shot her a grateful look and eagerly accepted the new black helmet Sylia handed her. Man, I don't think I could have stood it another minute! Mackie opened the garage doors and stood back. The engine fired to life with a low roar and she revved the motor a little. Snarling in impatience, the bike surged forward at a ground-consuming pace when she released the brake. Priss hit the highway and claimed it as her own.
Sylia watched her young friend disappear and felt a twinge of something that was almost like envy. A part of her long buried urged her to join Priss and she shook her head, trying to shake it off. Sylia returned to her office and started work on the tracer designs, but the voice had woken and it was not going away.
You could have gone with her.
Sylia frowned at its persistency and found herself replying. No. I have work to do.
Oh yeah, like it's really going to take you all afternoon to build those components.
I have no desire to spend my day riding aimlessly.
Lie to yourself Sylia, but you can't lie to me. I know you. I know what you want. It continued softly. Who you want.
Sylia slapped her desk and said out loud, "Stop it!"
Mackie spoke, startling her. "What's wrong?" He stood in the doorway and searched the room for the target of her anger. He looked back at her with concern.
"Nothing's wrong, Mackie. Have you finished running the stress test on the new armor compound?" They discussed the performance of the new metal and she tried to ignore that tiny voice.
Nene sat amid several intimidating stacks of forms and reports. She sighed as she placed a completed report into the out tray to join the three others. "Four down, five hundred and thirty-two to go." She groaned loudly and let her head hit the desk in front of her with a thump. Why did everyone have to get sick this week? At the same time?
The wave of flu that had run through the AD police headquarters and several other precincts had been particularly virulent. More than half of the officers were out and that meant that everyone who was able was pulling double duty. Needless to say, criminals on the streets were having a field day. Nene hadn't been near her beloved computers all week and she was greatly concerned about the side effects of withdrawal.
A loud sneeze startled her out of her funk and she turned to see Lt. Leon McNichol coming toward her. She held out both hands and yelled, "Stop right there, Lieutenant! You are sick. And I don't want to be, so stay as far away from me as possible, if you please."
Leon stared at her fuzzily and stepped back a few steps. "I just wanted to tell you that I've been sent home. Damn doctor's say that I'm too sick to work! Show's you what they know." Nene watched him weave unsteadily and silently agreed that indeed, the doctors did know a great deal. "Anyway, I want you to let me know if something breaks on the case I'm working on, Okay?"
Nene had no idea of what case he was talking about, but then she strongly suspected that neither did he. She smiled and nodded and watched him stumble out the door.
Priss slowed the cat to a halt in front of a fast food place and removed her helmet. The feline grace of the machine had struck her deeply and the motorcycle would be 'Cat' forever. She sat there for a few moments, reluctant to dismount. The warm feel of the engine beneath her was comforting somehow. With a small sigh she climbed off the bike and went to get some lunch.
She returned half an hour later to find several young teenagers crowded around it. They were studying the cat with the same expression of wonder that she had. Since they were observing the rules (i.e. no touching) she only growled at them a little. They jumped away from the bike like they'd been shot at and watched in surprise as she strode swiftly toward the bike. Priss climbed on and replaced her helmet, noticing for the first time a small word that had been inlaid with silver at the back: Priss. The engine caught and she nodded at the boys, resisting the urge to peel out as she left.
The road fell away on either side of her in a dizzying rush, but Priss didn't notice. The monogram was a thoughtful thing to have done, just like Mackie. But it wasn't him. Somehow she knew that Sylia had added this special touch. Priss wondered at her motive, but could find none other than wanting to do it. The idea of Sylia doing something so, well, frivolous was rather disconcerting. She paid no attention whatsoever to the warm tendril that curled through her. After Sylvie had died, Priss had consciously and deliberately, closed down that side of herself. She firmly slammed the door again against a little voice that was trying to catch her attention. She was getting good at that.
Sylia was not. The voice had continued to harass her and she was becoming very annoyed. She finally retreated to the training room to work out. She changed into her soft suit and programmed the computer for level eight. As the program began, she threw herself into the fight with more enthusiasm than normal. The odd shaped blob of light that was hovering in front of her was a tough opponent. It 'grew' arms at random, trying to slip through her defenses and strike the vulnerable points on her body. She was managing to hold her own when she heard a familiar sound.
Isn't this the level Priss just mastered?
She blocked a two-punch combo and kicked at the lower portion of the body. It blocked easily and she moved away slightly. Don't start. I have to stay focused.
She makes it look so easy, doesn't she?
A buzzer went off when a blow slipped through and connected with her side. The program continued, but she had lost ground. Why can't I make you go away?
Because you know that I'm right.
I'll stop when you admit what's happening to you. Until then I'll just keep nagging you. Rather like a sore tooth, don't you think?
The buzzer sounded again, louder this time, and Sylia looked down to see the end of one of the arms pointed at her heart.
Linna browsed through the displays at Silky Doll waiting patiently for Nene to arrive. She never really expected anyone but Sylia to be on time so she was never disappointed. She studied a red silk teddy and considered adding it to the selections already draped over her arm. It really wasn't fair that Sylia owned a lingerie shop. It provided Linna with a ready supply of her favorite addiction and rapidly consumed her hard-earned funds. She sighed and took her purchases, along with the teddy, up to the counter. Nene arrived as she finished the transaction and they rode together up to Sylia's office.
The building looked like any other in the city, but held many secrets. The top four floors were restricted, comprising Sylia and Mackie's living quarters, a large computer lab, the training room and the hanger for the Knight Sabers plane. There was even a separate garage exit. Incredible security measures had been taken and Linna sometimes suspected that Sylia had even installed booby traps for the unwary.
The private elevator delivered them to Sylia's office and they were surprised to find that they were alone.
Linna looked around in confusion. "Where's Sylia?"
Nene dropped onto the couch and sighed, "Who knows? Though I have to admit, it is odd that she's not here yet. Maybe we were supposed to meet her upstairs?"
They headed up to the next floor, assuming she was in the lab. As they went past the training room they heard the sounds of someone working out. Sylia was covered with sweat and looked like she was going to dismantle the training holo with her bare hands. They watched in amazement, as she struck out in an exhausting flurry of punches and kicks. She stopped only when the bell chimed, signaling her successful completion of the level. A computerized voice spoke, "Level eight completed. Beginning level nine." Sylia caught sight of Linna and Nene and halted the program.
She picked up a towel and walked over to them, wiping at the sweat that ran down her face. "I'm sorry. I was distracted. I'll join you in a minute, all right?"
They nodded dumbly and watched her leave. As the door closed behind her Nene let her breath escape in a sudden rush. "Whoooo! Did you see that? I've never seen her fight like that. And level eight? Only Priss has been able to finish that level and only when she got so angry that time."
Linna, who had considered her own mastery of level seven to be something of an accomplishment, sighed when she realized that she would have to increase her training even more to be able to compete with Sylia. "Let's go. I could use a drink."
Nene followed her back down to the office, chattering all the way. Her own completion of level six had been, in her opinion, the best she could ever hope to achieve and she was happy with that.
They had just settled down with a couple of sodas when Priss came in. She spied her friends and smiled widely at them. "Hey guys! How's it going'?" Her jovial manner immediately put them on guard. Sylia entered the office and seated herself behind her desk, her hair still damp from a quick shower. Priss gave her a thumbs up signal and Nene groaned.
"Oh no! What is it this time, Sylia?" Sylia stared at her in confusion.
Linna elaborated. "Anytime Priss acts this happy, something is going on. Are we planning a raid on the Genom corporate office? Or are we going to run another simulated combat session?"
Nene moaned loudly at that. The last time they had done that, she had wound up being Sylia's stalking horse and had been shot to 'death' with paint balls. Sylia had then caught Priss and Linna off guard with a smoke grenade. "I want to be partners with Priss this time!"
Sylia laughed. "No, we're not doing another session nor are we raiding Genom. I think Priss is just happy with her new motorcycle. Priss?"
"Happy is an understatement. Let's get this meeting over with so I can get back out on the road." She grinned and sat in the chair next to Sylia's desk. "Anything special, or just same old, same old?"
The meeting was more or less standard and didn't last long. Sylia handed Linna and Nene their "radios". The small pendants were made of gold, each one a different design. She showed them how to activate the microphone and explained that the pendent would vibrate slightly when activated.
Sylia tossed Priss a small box. "I thought you might like this better." She watched Priss remove the large ring and study the design that had been engraved on its face. A strange expression flickered over Priss' face and Sylia wondered if she hadn't made a mistake.
Priss felt a tug somewhere in the region of her chest and knew that was impossible. You can't feel something that doesn't exist anymore. She had cut out most of her heart by killing Sylvie and Anri had sliced out the rest. But something was trying to come to life again and she didn't want to think about what that meant. She slipped it on the ring finger of her right hand and looked up at Sylia. "Thanks." Priss tried to smile, but it fell short as she was trying to cope with the wild emotions she 'wasn't' feeling clogging her throat. Sylia forced herself to nod brusquely and returned to her desk. Nene ended the silence that followed by complaining loudly that she was hungry and were they going to get something to eat or were they trying to starve her to death?
Sylia ended the meeting and declined the offer of dinner. She spent the rest of the evening trying to shake off a strong sense of disappointment.
Priss accelerated down the highway and felt the weight of the ring on her hand. Despite herself, she was pleased with it. She just refused to look too closely at why.
Three days later, the control circuits of an experimental military boomer failed and it began to run an emergency sub-routine program. The program was designed so that once the boomer had been dropped behind enemy lines it would kill anyone its scanners detected. Unfortunately, due to the destruction of several key logic circuits, it now believed that it was behind enemy lines.
A young technician was the first to discover this malfunction, but he didn't live long enough to tell anyone. Or to scream. The boomer began to work its way through the facility, slaughtering indiscriminately. It was nothing personal, just doing its job. When its scanners no longer detected any life signs, it initiated another program protocol. It destroyed the building.
AD police units, which were still greatly understaffed, rolled onto the scene in time to watch the building explode. The fireball rose into the night sky over five hundred feet and turned darkness into day for a twenty-block radius. As the flames died down slightly, a shadow moved from within the heart of the blaze.
Leon saw the boomer emerge and began to swear. "Radio for reinforcements. Tell'em we've got a military boomer on the loose and would they please send some military forces to help out." He ran to the weapons truck and climbed into a bulky, heavily armored suit. He chose one of the five impulse cannons that had just been issued to the unit and joined four other armored officers. Then they headed out to meet the devil for dinner.
It was a testament to the quality of workmanship that the boomer was still functioning. It was glowing, almost white hot and the asphalt melted slightly under its feet as it advanced on the new life signs. Scanners located weapons and rated their effectiveness, deciding which ones should be taken out first. Nothing appeared to be dangerous to its systems until another life sign moved into range. The weapon it carried was a possible threat, if it targeted any week spots in the boomer's armor. The rating of dangerous moved the human from KILL to KILL IMMEDIATELY.
Leon braced the gun against his metallic hip and targeted the glowing boomer as it advanced on him. The blast from the cannon almost knocked him down, but he managed to stay on his feet. The boomer had been knocked backward about ten yards, but was getting up again. There didn't seem to be any damage. He cursed and prepared to fire again. Four other officers joined him and they opened fire. The boomer was driven back into the fire by the combined blasts. Two officers had been knocked down, but were all right. They were cheering, but Leon just kept staring at the firewall.
It staggered out and he saw that it had been damaged this time, but it was still moving. He yelled at the men to resume firing positions. As they prepared to attack again the boomer launch two small missiles. Leon saw them coming and screamed out a warning. They scattered, but the missiles were more powerful than their size would indicate. Leon felt the blast catch him and the last thing he saw was the white lettering on the side of the ADP van as he crashed into it.
Sylia briefed the Knight Sabers as they flew to the scene of the battle. "Apparently five impulse cannons only succeeded in scuffing the armor a little."
"Nothing a wash and wax wouldn't cure, huh?" Priss checked the seals on her suit and picked up her helmet. She tossed her cigarette away and secured her helmet.
"Right. It's obviously well protected against energy attacks, but projectile weapons might pierce it. We're going to try the magnetic grenades. It's risky, but it may be our only choice." Sylia looked at Priss and Linna. "Linna. Priss. You'll place the grenades. Nene, concentrate on finding a weak spot that we can hit and try to keep the police out of the way. We're coming in. Let's get ready." She reached for her own helmet as Priss spoke.
"And where will you be while Linna and I are trying to play 'pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey' with that thing?" Her tone wasn't snide, wasn't mocking. She knew before Sylia answered, where she would be. And she didn't like it.
"I'm sure I'll find some way to get its attention." The helmet went on. She picked up her impulse rifle and checked it.
The aircraft landed behind police lines and the cargo doors opened. Sylia stepped out and called back, "Knight Sabers......It's show time!"
Priss swore and darted out of the way just as the boomer opened fire. The armored rounds tore up the pavement as the spray followed her. She fired a rail bolt into the boomer's arm and the gun stopped. Sylia ran right up to the boomer and fired into its face, point blank. It howled and charged after her. Linna shot past and slapped a grenade onto its back. It exploded and opened a large hole in the armor. However, the blast gave it the extra boost it needed to catch Sylia. The boomer caught her around the neck, jerking her to a halt.
Priss picked up Sylia's gun from where she'd dropped it and aimed for the boomer's back. "Sylia! Brace yourself!" The shot was true and the boomer dropped Sylia as it tried to deal with the destruction of its chest. It staggered wildly and Priss raced to Sylia, who wasn't moving. "Nene! Get over here and give me a ha-" She was cut off as the boomer grabbed her from behind and lifted her into the air. She saw Nene pull Sylia away and heard Linna attacking it from the right.
The boomer dropped her suddenly and she reached for a grenade. Pushing herself up with her right hand she shoved the grenade at the boomer with her left. The boomer caught her hand in his and she felt the magnetic trigger activate. She yanked hard, but she and the boomer were locked together. Linna was screaming at her to move when the grenade exploded.
Linna and Nene watched in horror as the explosion destroyed the boomer and sent Priss flying towards them. She landed in a crumpled heap a few feet away and they were with her instantly. Linna was calling her over the radio, but there was no reply. She rolled Priss over and stifled a scream. Nene gasped and started to cry.
"She's dead," Linna's whispered words brought Sylia.
"No." Sylia shoved Linna out of the way and knelt beside Priss. "No. She isn't dead." She can't be dead.
Nene tearfully called Mackie for an emergency pickup and then began to pray.
The left side of her hard suit was a twisted mass of metal and burned flesh. Linna stared numbly at Priss and realized that her arm was gone. She looked back at the rubble that was left from the boomer and couldn't see it. It had been burned away.
Leon watched the Knight Sabers kneel around their fallen member and pressed a bandage to his head. He looked up as the unidentified aircraft landed next to them and wondered if she was dead. Two of the Sabers ran on board and brought out a stretcher. They carefully lifted her onto it and hurried back on board. A military truck pulled up as they departed. Soldiers poured out and began to take over. He looked at the destruction around him and climbed into the back of an ambulance. Let the soldier boys clean up this time. He had the flu.
Nene sat in the waiting room chair and drew lines with her fingernail in the rim of her cup. Linna got up and walked to the door and looked out. She then turned and walked over to the window and watched the night for a few minutes. She turned again and moved in front of a large seascape that hung on the wall. After staring at the painting, she returned to her seat. She had done this every thirty minutes for the last four hours and Nene decided that if she got up again she was going to tackle her. If they were still here. She pushed her nail into the edge of the empty cup and watched the side crumble.
Sylia had disappeared into the bowels of the hospital the moment they'd arrived. She had come back briefly to let them know that a specialist was being flown in and Priss would go into surgery when he arrived. She had not come back again and Nene was surprised to find herself angry with Sylia. "She should let us know something. Anything! Not leave us sitting here for goodness sake!"
Linna frowned at her outburst and got up to pace again. Nene jumped to her feet and stomped toward her, fists clenched.
"She's going to make it."
Nene halted and spun around to find Sylia standing in the doorway. "Sylia?"
Sylia pushed a hand through her hair in a betraying gesture and ignored the fine tremors. She had come so close to losing her. "She came through the surgery well. There were no heavy internal injuries. The cosmetic surgery to repair her breast and side is scheduled for tomorrow."
Linna felt herself cringe at the thought of it happening to her and mentally admonished herself. Priss was lucky to be alive, that was all that mattered.
Nene began to cry and Linna went to her, putting her arms around her and guiding her to a chair. Sylia sat down across from them and wondered how to explain that the hardest battle was yet to be fought. She remembered the sight of Priss lying there so pale as they had operated and felt a burning behind her eyes. Since she was something of an expert in robotics and cybernetics, she had insisted on overseeing the installation of the new joint. She had made a decision and accepted the possible consequences.
"Her arm was lost, of course. The doctor had to replace her shoulder and part of her collarbone with cybernetics. The synthetic arm is being built and will be ready by the end of this week." Sylia was already planning the limb in her mind, considering and discarding several alloys and she made a mental note to add several 'extras' to Priss' new arm. Sylia laughed at herself as she realized that she was assuming that Priss would let her install it. Priss hated cybernetics with the same fierceness she reserved for boomers. "We have a problem though. Priss is going to need us a great deal in the next few weeks."
Linna looked up and nodded. "When she wakes up and finds out what happened, she'll go nuts." She stared at Sylia, wondering how she could seem so unaffected by all of this. "She isn't going to accept a cyber arm right off the bat. Priss will fight it every step of the way."
"I've arranged for her to be kept sedated until the reconstructive surgery is over." Sylia continued to speak calmly, knowing that she was riding the edge of her control. "I think it would be best if we all went home and got some rest." Linna scowled at her, but she reminded her that Priss wouldn't awaken for several days. "There's no point in you wearing yourselves out now. We'll need all of the strength we can get for the days ahead." She got up and quickly left the waiting room, feeling the tight grip of her control slipping away.
Linna shook her head and tried not to hate Sylia for being Sylia. Nene touched her arm and Linna turned to face her. Her eyes were still filled with unshed tears and as she looked up at her one fell. Linna brushed it away and wrapped her arms around Nene, holding her tightly. Nene sighed and Linna felt her heart lurch unsteadily when she asked in a small voice, "Can I stay with you tonight?"
Sylia ran the polishing cloth over the metal, wiping away the dull film of wax and leaving only the gleaming chrome. She had brought Priss' bike up from the garage and into her lab. She continued to polish the bike in firm rhythmic motions and ignored the stray tears that would occasionally run down her face.
So you've finally admitted it, have you?
So what are you going to do about it?
The best that I can.
Linna switched off the light and slid under the covers. Nene waited for her to get settled and then curled up beside her, resting her head on Linna's shoulder. She slipped her arm around Nene's waist and pulled her close. The soft brush of Linna's lips against hers was the last thing Nene remembered.
The clock on the wall of Sylia's lab read six a.m. Not that Sylia was looking. She was instead, tapping into several research facilities for information and not all of it was done legally. She was gathering data on cybernetic implants and weaponry. On the screen next to her was a digital recreation of an arm.
Sylia made a small sound of discovery and downloaded several files to her computer. Never mind that they were top-secret military documents. She was going to create the ultimate limb for Priss. She extracted the required data from the files and incorporated it into the digital display. The arm rotated and split in half to reveal a retractable energy saber. The blade would slip out above the wrist, forcing the hand into a locked position out of the way. The power cells would be a problem, but she thought she knew a way to get around them.
Part of her was uncertain about the design she was building, but the rest of her knew that Priss would never accept a cyber 'arm'. Maybe she could accept a cyber weapon. Maybe she would be able to forgive her. Eventually.
She typed instructions into the display and watched as the arm shifted again. A series of black swirls worked their way up the arm like flames. They ended in a ring of fire on the upper arm, just below the curve of the shoulder. Sylia called up another file and imported the image into the circle. She then changed the design of the knuckle joints across the back of the hand. By increasing the size slightly, she could conceal four impact caps and give Priss a truly incredible left hook. The studs had a slightly punk appearance and Sylia nodded to herself as she moved on to study the release catch for the one-inch long, retractable titanium claws.
PART 2: CROSSING A HEART
It was a sound that first started to pull her out of the darkness. Priss felt herself floating up through the layers of consciousness and listened to the sound as it continued. Annoyance was her first reaction. The sound was high-pitched and rhythmic, irritatingly close. Gradually she heard other sounds and she focused on those. Low voices nearby, but she couldn't understand what they were saying. She heard the rustle of fabric as someone moved past. Priss realized then that she was cold. Quickly on the heels of that thought came another; her arm was colder than the rest of her. Why was her arm so cold? The smell of sheets caught her attention and she realized that she was in a bed.
Priss opened her eyes at that, and then wished she hadn't. White. All she could see at first was the color white. Her eyes began to adjust and she stared at the face bending over hers. It peered down at her and turned away to speak. This time Priss understood the voice.
"She's coming around. She might be a little disoriented at first, but it should pass quickly."
"I understand." That was Sylia! Priss turned her head towards her and blinked as the room spun. The spinning stopped and Sylia swam into view. She stood beside the bed and smiled down at her. Uh oh. Sylia was smiling, something had gone wrong.
Two more faces popped into her sight and she grew even more concerned. Nene grinned at her and waved, but her eyes were strange. Linna was looking pensive and Priss knew that the shit had really hit the fan. The pieces of the puzzle snapped into place.
"I'm in a hospital."
It was a statement, not a question, but Sylia answered it anyway. "Yes. It's a private hospital, owned by me through one of my other companies." As interesting as that was, Priss was more concerned with 'why' she was in a hospital. She felt no pain, but then that's what drugs were for.
"What happened?" Priss watched Linna glance at Nene, and then Nene glanced at Sylia. Sylia didn't answer immediately and Priss really began to worry.
"What do you remember?" Priss thought about it. She remembered parking her bike at the office and then later climbing into the plane behind Nene. Images came faster. The boomer. Sylia falling to the ground. The feel of the boomer's grip as it tightened around her throat. She remembered reaching for a grenade.
Priss went as white as the sheets she was laying against. Terror flashed over her features and she looked down at herself. She lifted her right arm and saw the IV secured to the back of her hand. That explains the cold, she thought absently. Priss pushed the covers down to her waist, watching her hand complete the motion. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the white bandages that spread across the left side of her body. She moved her left arm and froze when it didn't come into view. Nene was crying and Priss made herself face the unknown. She turned her head and every thought fled from her. A knot lodged in her throat and she made no sound as her mouth worked.
The white bandages covered her side and came up over her left breast, but it was where the bandages ended that caused the huge wave of horror, grief and fear to engulf her. The white material stretched up over her shoulder and she could feel it wrap around her back. Priss looked at her friends and begged them with her eyes to tell her that this was a mistake, that this wasn't real. Linna had her arm around Nene who was watching her with such a look of pity that she wanted to scream at her that it wasn't true. It couldn't be.
Linna tried to smile reassuringly, but Priss knew better. She sought the one person who would tell her the truth. Sylia met her wild eyes calmly and spoke the same way. "There was nothing that could be done." Priss flinched and clenched her teeth against the storm of tears that threatened. "The grenade destroyed the boomer, but the hard suit couldn't withstand the blast. Your shoulder and arm were lost. Your left breast was severely injured, but the surgery to repair it has already been done. It should heal completely."
Sylia paused, then revealed the rest. "A synthetic collar bone and cybernetic shoulder joint have been installed to replace the old ones. Neural implants have been centered within your brain to allow for maximum performance and control." Sylia ignored Linna's gasp at her terminology and watched Priss carefully as she began to shake. "A cybernetic arm is being constructed for you. It should be ready tomorrow and can be installed then."
"You let them do this?" Priss' voice was low and incredulous. She had made Sylia promise her that she would never receive cybernetic implants of any kind, regardless of how badly she may be hurt. Priss had trusted Sylia to keep that promise.
Sylia straightened and lifted her chin slightly. She would face the consequences of her decision head on and pray that Priss would forgive her one day.
"I instructed the doctors to perform the operation." Sylia watched Priss close in on herself. "I was there during the surgery, to insure proper installation of the components." The words fell on Priss like hammer blows and she struggled to deal with the images they invoked. Linna and Nene stood frozen bewildered and confused by the incredible tension between their friends. They knew nothing of the promise.
Sylia nodded in acceptance and turned to leave. An ache began somewhere deep inside her; it blossomed into the cold chill of pain, as she realized that no matter what her reasoning she had hurt Priss in the most horrible way possible. Determination shoved her doubts aside and she continued to walk the path that she had chosen. She spoke over her shoulder, taking another step on that lonely road. "I'll be back with the arm when it's ready."
"Don't bother." Priss' tone was surly, but the underlying grief almost undid Sylia. She drew a deep breath and faced Priss.
"Don't toss away an opportunity for revenge, Priss." Sylia forced herself to smile in challenge. "You'll need two hands to kill me." Having thrown down the gauntlet, she left.
Nene glanced nervously at Linna, then smiled weakly at Priss. She ignored them both and stared blindly at the ceiling.
Light flared as the torch hit the welding compound. The dark glasses reflected the image of the red-hot seam as the torch passed over it. Mackie watched Sylia finish the seam and set the next piece into place. Not since their father had died had he seen her so upset. It wasn't obvious to someone who didn't know her, but the signs were there. She held herself stiffly, tension outlining her body. The cold mask of her face did little to hide the pain in her eyes if you knew what you were looking for. She switched the torch off and exchanged it for a circuit board without stopping.
Mackie cleared his throat. Sylia jerked off her welding goggles with an impatient gesture and her eyes glared at him. "Sorry to interrupt, but you said you needed the power cells?" He set them on the table and cast an experienced eye over her work. A slight twinge of envy was pushed away as he acknowledged her mastery of cybernetics. He smiled at his older sister. "Great work. I don't know why you don't do more in this field."
Sylia shrugged and began to wire in the board. "Needs must." She paused as the full impact of her comment struck her. Needs must. It was need that had driven her to create the hard suits. Need to topple Genom and need to avenge their father. Need caused her to recruit the others, to use them as tools in her battle. Sylia dropped the screwdriver and buried her face in her hands.
Mackie touch her arm in concern. "Sis?"
Sylia raised her head and met her father's eyes. "Oh Lord, Mackie. What have I done?" He frowned in confusion as she started to pace the length of the lab. Her arms were wrapped tightly around herself and she shook her head in denial of her thoughts.
"I thought I was doing this for Priss' own good, that she would have to accept this sooner or later and it might as well be sooner. God! How could I have been so blind! I need Priss on the team. Without her I can never bring Genom down. If I had obeyed her wishes then she would never be able to fight again. But no, I have to have her so I played God. She could kill me now and I think maybe I should let her." She turned to Mackie and he was there. He hugged her to him and began to speak.
"Maybe part of that's true. However, your motives aren't as selfish as you think. You do need Priss, but not just to defeat Genom." Sylia stiffened, his meaning clear. "Think for a minute. If Priss doesn't accept this then what will she do? Her singing may not suffer, but her singing is only a small part of her. The other, larger part is what compels her to climb onto a motorcycle and defy fate. She risks it all in everything she does. Without the ability to do that, Priss will die. Do you really believe that she wants to give up her freedom? Priss made you promise about the implants, but she didn't understand what it would mean. Or what it would cost you. She might as well have told you to kill her."
The sense of his comments was persuasive. She realized that he was becoming more like their father every day. He blushed when she told him this and offered to help finish the arm. Sylia touched the cool metal and refused. "It's......between me and Priss."
He left her to work. Sylia picked up the screwdriver and finished securing the circuit board.
Priss was not happy. The dull ache from her shoulder wasn't the problem. That was something she could stand. What she couldn't deal with was Nene. She watched in silence as her friend tried once again to cheer her up.
"Hey Priss? Do you want to play checkers?" She asked this in a singsong voice and shook the box in an inviting manner. Priss scowled at her in reply. Nene's eager expression crumpled and she sagged in her chair. Priss felt like she'd just kicked a puppy. A twinge of guilt caused her to shift uncomfortably and Nene rushed in to adjust the pillows behind her. Priss bit her tongue and allowed her to fuss. Nene sat back down with a satisfied smile, which started to droop at Priss' forbidding expression.
God, the things I do for my friends! Priss waved her hand at the game. "Set it up." Nene beamed at her and happily began to set up the game. Priss forced herself not to wince as she began to hum and even managed a slight smile when she offered to let her go first.
Linna noted the smile and the effort it took as she entered the room. "Try not to pull a muscle when you do that, Priss." Nene was oblivious and studying the board with the concentration of a chess master. Priss moved a piece without really looking and watched Linna pull items out of a large plastic bag. Toothbrush. Hairbrush. Toothpaste. Deodorant. Nene moved again and Priss distractedly countered. A couple of changes of clothes came out of the bag and a half a dozen paperback novels. Linna set the books on the table beside the bed and watched Priss casually take three of Nene's pieces. Her distressed moan filled the room and they didn't notice Sylia come in. At first.
Priss glanced up and froze. Sylia stood quietly in the doorway, watching. She carried what looked like a long instrument case. Nene saw Priss' expression and turned. "Hey Sylia!" She saw the black case and got up quickly. "We'll just give you two some space." She grabbed Linna's hand and pulled her from the room.
"I told you not to bother." Priss ignored Sylia and began to stack the plastic game pieces in towers. Red, black. Red, black.
Sylia set the case on the foot of the bed and snapped open the latches. Priss jerked at the sound, but continued her task. Red, black. Red, black.
Sylia raised the lid and removed the wrapped arm. Priss tried not to look at the ominous bundle. Red, black. Red, black.
A hand swept across the board and sent the pieces and the table flying. Priss started and swung around to find Sylia in her face.
"Curse me, attack me, but don't ignore me!" She gripped Priss' face in her hand and forced her to look her in the eyes. "I'm not going away, Priss and you're not strong enough to stop me. Now we can do this the hard way or the easy way, I don't care which." She saw the anger flare in Priss, but it was gone quickly as indifference returned. Sylia cursed her silently. Anger she could work with, but apathy.... Sylia wanted her to get angry; to care about what was happening. She watched Priss retreat further into herself and knew that it would not be today.
She let go of her face and slid an arm under Priss. She pushed her onto her right side and began to undo the ties of the hospital gown. Priss lay motionless, but Sylia saw her flinch when she pulled the side of the gown away. Sylia began to remove the bandages and Priss came to life. "What are you doing?"
"These can be removed now." Sylia tossed the cloth away and inspected the implants. Priss' fear was tangible and Sylia knew that she had not even tried to look beneath the dressings. She focused on the metal fibers where they entered the flesh. No sign of infection. She rose and unwrapped the arm. She turned back and found Priss staring at her in horror. Sylia forced herself to continue. She held the weapon up and began to explain the mechanics.
Priss didn't hear her beyond the part about how it attached to her body. She hadn't looked at the shoulder joint, but she kept catching glimpses from the corner of her eye. She began to shake as terror drowned her. The fear would have overwhelmed her completely if Sylia had not chosen that moment to demonstrate the energy saber. The blade hissed as it slid out and began to hum. Priss watched the blade glow and began to notice other things about what Sylia was holding. It was silver and she could see some kind of black pattern along the surface. Sylia retracted the blade, saw that she had her attention, and described the effect that the impact caps in the knuckles would have in a fight. Despite herself Priss was interested. Sylia brought it closer and Priss watched silently as the claws shot out. She turned the weapon again and Priss stared at the design, identical to her ring. She met Sylia's gaze and spoke, "Pretty toy, Sylia. Sure you don't want to keep it for yourself?" Her voice was derisive.
Sylia brought the arm down and placed it against the joint. Priss' hand came up to stop her and Sylia caught her wrist, pushing it down onto the bed. Sylia met her pleading look with one of determination, ignoring the frantic pulse beneath her fingers. Priss tried to jerk away, but Sylia had already slipped it into the socket. A metallic click and Priss felt the tingle of energy. She felt the circuits in her head activate and wanted to scream in protest, but it was too late. The metal hand clenched into a fist and Sylia waited patiently to be struck down.
Priss didn't attack. She felt the ripple of flesh along her arm and wept because it was a lie. She curled into a ball and cried, the cause of her anguish lying unused beside her. Sylia reached out to touch her but found herself drawing back. She had no right. Sylia straightened and turned to leave. Nene and Linna were standing in the doorway.
They had come back when they had heard the crash. They had stayed because this was their family. Nene was crying and Sylia met her accusing stare calmly. Linna was looking at her like she had never seen her before. Sylia reached for her mask and once again stepped behind its facade. She brushed past them, saying nothing and walked away with the sound of Priss' grief echoing through her.
One month later...
Sylia adjusted the settings on the hardsuit's left elbow seal. The added space would allow more room for Priss' cyber arm and still maintain the proper flexibility. She began to adjust the seals around the wrist and fingers. The spacer slipped and scratched a deep furrow across her hand. She swore loudly and hurled the hapless tool away. Blood flowed freely from the cut, but Sylia made no move to stop it.
It was no use. Sylia knew that she was wasting her time with the suit. Priss had not even begun to accept the implants. Linna and Nene kept her up to date on her condition, but there hadn't been much of a change. She had been released from the hospital and had gone straight to her trailer, where she'd stayed. No one could budge her and nothing could induce her to use her new arm. Nene and Linna were doing errands for her and generally making it unnecessary for her to adapt to the situation. Sylia had said nothing when they'd told her about the 'help' that they were giving Priss. They would see the error of this soon enough.
They had kept in contact and had even gone out with her on the jobs that had come up, but they acted differently around her. Sylia couldn't blame them, really. She had made a mistake and pushed Priss before she was ready. Now they were all paying for it.
So, do something about it.
You can't let Priss rot in that trailer.
It was listening to you that got me into this mess in the first place.
No. It was falling in love that got you into this mess. I just helped.
Temper, temper. What would the team say if they could hear you? Oh that's right. They can't hear you because you've pushed them away.
Sylia didn't respond. This tiny nagging part of her was right. She had pushed the others away when she should have been trying to pull them together.
Okay, Know-it-all. What do I do now?
Give Priss a reason to need that hand.
Sylia looked at the motorcycle that was parked in the back of her lab. Yes. It might work.
Priss sat on the couch and flipped through the channels of her TV. They clicked past in quick succession as they had the first ten times she'd done this. Part of her protested this waste of time, but Priss firmly shoved it down and continued to channel surf, never stopping, never listening. Just wandering aimlessly through the channels, her mind elsewhere. It was a little after four and Priss had just gotten out of bed. She knew she should get something to eat, but she didn't seem to care. The nightmare had found her daytime hiding place.
Before it had come only in the night, catching her unaware and leaving her defenseless. Since she could no longer sleep during the night, she had retreated into the day. She had been able to claim her much needed rest, but that was over now. She shifted restlessly and felt the brush of metal against her leg. She had gotten remarkably good at ignoring it and had not tried to move it at all. It had become something of a game. She went about the tasks she had set for her self each day, cleaning the trailer, fixing meals, folding laundry and washing dishes all with her human hand. She was very pleased with her mastery of folding sheets one-handed.
Priss was startled by the sound of a motorcycle in the distance. It was coming closer. She listened to the purr of the engine and suddenly longed to be out on the road. She looked down at her nemesis and scowled. To ride again she would have to use this thing. She wouldn't admit this to anyone but she was afraid of this mass of metal. Priss knew that if she used this arm she would lose a piece of herself. She would no longer be human.
The bike roared to a halt in front of her trailer and Priss went to the window. It was the cat. She watched Linna climb off and head for the door. Priss was already there. "Why did you bring that here?"
Linna studied her friend and realized that Sylia had been right. Priss was letting go. She took in her haggard face and too bright eyes and was glad she'd agreed to help Sylia with her plan. Linna didn't like what had happened in the hospital, but Sylia had apologized and tried to explain what she been hoping to accomplish. She wasn't sure what had surprised her more, Sylia apologizing or the fact that she admitted she'd made a mistake. Priss' furious scowl drew her back to the situation at hand.
"Sylia said to bring it here. It was in the way at the office." Linna kept her expression calm, her voice even. "She said she didn't care what you did with it, as long as it was out of her way." Priss stared at the bike and Linna could have sworn she saw a look of hurt cross her features. Priss went back into the trailer. Linna followed. The trailer was neat and clean and that in itself was a very strong indicator of Priss' level of boredom.
"Take it away, I don't care where. Just get it out of here." Priss spoke quickly, rushing to finish before she stopped herself. "Give it someone, sell it, junk it, just get it away from me."
Linna felt her patience slipping away. "So you're just going to throw away one of the biggest parts of your life?"
Priss whirled and faced her. "What life?! I can't ride anymore! That's over!" She ran her hand through her hair and Linna stared at its metal counterpart. Such a waste.
She had snooped around Sylia's lab one night and found the designs for the arm. Sylia had poured every bit of her skill into that hunk of metal and Priss wouldn't even use it. She watched Priss trying to destroy another part of herself and finally understood that she and Nene had done her no favors by pandering to her self-pity. Sylia had said nothing to them about what they'd done and now she knew why. Sylia had sent Linna to discover the truth for herself. Ashamed at her mistake she turned on Priss.
"Why don't you try using what you have and stop whining about what you don't!" The edge in Linna's voice lit Priss' anger.
"Why don't you mind your own God Damn business?" Priss sneered at her and unleashed some of her anger at this new target. "I don't need you preaching at me. Why don't you go curl up with your account books and mother the-"
The sound of Linna's slap echoed dully through the room. Priss felt the pain in her face and automatically raised her hand to return the blow. She halted the blow suddenly, a breath away from Linna's face.
Linna exhaled softly and watched the tangled swirl of emotions play across Priss' face. She turned her head and let her hand cup her face. The warmth surprised her. Linna had thought the metal would be cold.
Priss stiffened as the sensors in the metal hand began to send information to the relay in her head. The soft feel of Linna's skin, seen through the microscopic sensors, shook Priss like nothing else had. She watched the metallic fingers move up and touch her hair and the heightened sensations flooded her again. Horrified at herself for what she had almost done, the damage she had almost caused, Priss began to cry.
Linna felt the fingers slide through her hair and watched Priss' defenses crumble. When Priss fell to her knees, Linna was there with her. She held on while her friend's life shattered all over again and she held on when she started to pick up the pieces.
Priss raised her arm forced herself to look at it. She studied the fingers and watched them curl at her command, and then straighten again. The wrist flexed and rotated, mimicking the actions of her human wrist. Priss extended the arm straight out in front of her and twisted it, watching the light play across the metal. The intricate design was pleasing, but Priss would rather have it on her bike than on her. Which brought her back to why she was doing this. It had been a week since the incident with Linna. Priss let her fingers tighten into a fist and bent her arm back, touching her shoulder.
Linna had stayed with her that night and they had talked until dawn. Priss had told her about the nightmares and confessed her fears of losing her humanity. Linna had listened, and then calmly pointed out that a boomer wouldn't have stopped from hitting her. It would have struck Linna down and thought nothing of it.
"Priss, this arm is nothing more than a tool. It's like wrench or a screwdriver. It isn't you." Linna touched the metal fingers and felt them curl around hers. "Your heart drives you and it was your heart that caught yourself in time. But you do have to accept that you have this. What you choose to do with it is up to you."
Priss had said nothing and Linna continued. "If you let this piece of metal stop you, control how you live your life, then the boomers have won." Priss' head snapped up at that and her scowl was fierce.
"If you don't take back what you've lost and start living again, then you might as well have been killed that night. Because you're dying now." Encouraged by Priss' reaction she risked bringing the other problem out in the open. "When we saw the explosion I thought you were dead. I rolled you over and knew that you couldn't have lived through that. I froze. I remember saying that you were dead and hearing Sylia yelling at me. "No! She's not dead!" She knocked me out of the way and knelt beside you. She stayed with you from that point on, never leaving your side. She forced her way into the operating room and dared anyone to try and remove her." She had dragged that admission from a reluctant Sylia.
"Sylia made a split second decision and went against your wishes. She knew you'd be furious, but she also knew that you would never be able to live your life the way you needed to without help. I know you're angry, but just remember why she did what she did."
Priss let the arm straighten out again picked up the glass in front of her. The sensors relayed the composition and thickness of the material and thermal scanners registered the temperature of its contents at thirty-seven degrees fahrenheight. She knew that if she touched the liquid inside, that the sensors would analyze the chemical structure of the soda and she would know exactly what it was made off. Priss drank from the glass and decided that there were some things she didn't want to know.
The last week had been full of learning and surprises. She had explored her trailer with new 'eyes' and discovered things that had astounded her. The rough texture of smooth wood. The itchy feeling of the couch. She had spent an hour studying the microscopic structure of an apple. After a detailed search into the contents of a cigarette and its smoke, she'd thrown them away. The amount of warning sensors it had set off had been a shock. Priss knew that the sensors installed in her cybernetic limb were not standard. She could feel the slightest of breezes brush over it as if it were covered with flesh and blood instead of metal and fiber-optic cables. Sylia had outdone herself.
Priss waited for the pain to come at the thought of her and wasn't surprised when it didn't. She was slowly coming to realize that Sylia was not the monster she had thought. She was also dying to get back out on the road. To do that she needed to know exactly what this thing was capable of. So she had forced herself to use it and learn. She set the glass back down and stood up. It was time. She pulled out her red leather jacket and tossed it on the bed. Her tall motorcycle boots followed and she added a thin black T-shirt.
Priss reached for the box on the top shelf of her closet and removed the new black leather pants. Nene and Linna had given her this gift a few days ago after she'd told them what she was planning. They were stiff and needed to be broken in, but Priss loved them. The sensors were working overtime as she dressed and it was difficult not to get distracted by the rush of data. She fastened the last hook on her boots and picked up the black helmet. Priss ran her hand over the silver inlay and listened to the scanners.
There was some kind of circuit relay hidden under the lettering. She probed deeper and discovered the presence of a tracking device. It was like the one Priss had discovered in her ring yesterday. She shook her head at the thought of Sylia's subterfuge. Had she found this last week she would have been furious, but now she only wondered if Nene and Linna knew that they were probably bugged as well.
She was beginning to understand Sylia.
Priss locked the front door and walked over to stand beside the motorcycle. Her silver hand touched the gleaming metal and she had to force herself to pull away. She slipped the helmet on and mounted, feeling the texture of the handle grip like she never had before. The engine growled awake and thrummed steadily. Priss took a deep breath and released the brake.
Sylia waited patiently. She had gotten rather good at waiting over the years and she used this ability now. The sun was warm, but she didn't remove the helmet she wore. Sylia sat on her bike and watched the street that led from Priss' trailer. She had positioned herself at the side of a parked truck, where she hoped she'd be overlooked.
Linna had come to her over a week ago and told her what had happened that night. Part of her was elated that Priss had begun to heal, but she was also afraid that Priss would not be able to forgive. She had gone ahead and finished the modifications on Priss' suit. It may be wishful thinking on her part, but she wanted to be ready, just in case.
The motorcycle was a deep midnight blue and Sylia had built every piece of it herself. She had never told Priss of their shared interest, not wanting to reveal this part of herself. But now she wanted this, possibly the last, meeting between them to be on equal ground. She watched the street and wondered if today would be the day that Priss broke out of her self-imposed prison. Sylia had waited here everyday since she talked to Linna. The sound of another motorcycle had her leaning forward in anticipation. Priss shot around the corner and accelerated down the street. Sylia cranked her bike and sped off after her, keeping well back.
She watched Priss weave in and out of traffic and smiled at her obvious pleasure. She moved like she had been born on a motorcycle and Sylia had to work hard to keep up. It's been too long since I've done this, I'm out of practice. She swerved around a car and narrowly avoided colliding with another. Sylia felt the remembered rush of adrenaline and laughed. She had forgotten.
Priss wasn't sure when she became aware of the other rider. When she had first hit the road it had taken all of her concentration to keep from wrecking. The data stream from her hand was incredible. The sensors had gone wild as the wind had crashed over her and tried to assimilate the huge influx of information. Car exhaust and air content. Stray scent particles told of food and sweat and animals, combining with grease and oil and other airborne chemicals. Wind velocity, temperature and pressure. Microwaves, radio waves and a dozen different kinds of radiation. Priss had thought that her head was going to explode. She fought to narrow the sensor field and had barely succeeded. The data had gradually lowered from a scream down to a dull roar and she could think again.
As she had settled down and began to enjoy the feeling of freedom again, she caught a glimpse of another motorcycle behind her, several cars back. She didn't think about it again until later, when she saw it swerve wildly to avoid a car. The rider was bent down low over the dark bike and wouldn't move any closer. Priss frowned at the other driver's actions. She turned off the highway and wasn't too surprised when the motorcycle followed. She began to make rapid, quick turns through the tangle of streets and had soon lost her shadow. Priss laughed. "You'll have to do better than that."
She had traveled several miles when the sensors in her arm began to detect a radio impulse directed at her. She raised her hand to the helmet and felt the circuit relay responding to the signal. Priss pulled off of the road and waited. A familiar bike appeared a few minutes later.
Sylia rounded the curve and saw Priss up ahead. She slowed down, but continued to cruise toward her. Priss hadn't removed her helmet and Sylia couldn't see her face through the tinted visor. She brought the motorcycle to a halt in front of her and left her own helmet on.
Priss studied the rider, taking in the dark blue leathers and the incredible bike. She wondered how long Sylia had been planning this. The motorcycle was similar to an older model, but extensive alterations had been performed. She stared at the dark helmet and tried to decide on a course of action.
They sat there, unmoving. Cars raced past and so did time.
Sylia was waiting patiently again. Everything depended on Priss. She told herself that she was prepared for her rejection, but it was a lie. She hoped that she hadn't made another mistake. The sound of Priss' motorcycle coming to life caused her heart to jump. She felt something cold clench inside her as Priss circled around her and rode back to the edge of the road. Sylia stared the ground, unable to watch Priss ride out of her life.
Priss stared at the asphalt and wondered at her reluctance to sever this tie. She couldn't seem to make herself go and leave Sylia behind. She looked back over her metal shoulder and saw the down bent helmet. She revved the engine and Sylia looked up. Priss jerked her head toward the road and waited as Sylia scrambled to start her motorcycle.
Sylia steered the bike with trembling hands and moved up alongside Priss. Relief had coursed through her when she saw that gesture and she vowed to never forget how close she'd come to losing everything. The engine next to hers roared and she followed Priss out onto the highway.
They rode together in silence, each wondering what the other was thinking. Priss watched the wheel spin beside hers, but didn't look at the rider. Why wasn't she angrier with Sylia? She should be furious. Sylia had gone against her wishes and betrayed her trust, hadn't she? The memory of Sylia's face when she'd attached the arm came back to her again. It nagged at her, that flash of what had looked like remorse in her otherwise stern features. Priss hadn't considered what it must have cost Sylia to do what she had, knowing what her reaction would be. Priss didn't think she could have done it if the tables had been reversed.
The orange ball of the sun fell below the horizon and still they rode on. Dusk became night and they found themselves nearing the remains of what had once been Aqua City. A boomer had taken over the site and the Knight Sabers had destroyed it. Sylia remembered the sight of Priss driving fearlessly down into the bowels of the monster and longed to have the old Priss returned to her. There was nothing left of the city now, but the remains of a long bridge that went nowhere. Priss turned onto the bridge and maneuvered the bike through the barricades. Sylia followed.
As they neared the edge, Sylia wondered if Priss was going to stop or would she let herself race past and fall to her death in the waters below. She moved up beside Priss and matched her speed. This time she would yield to Priss' wishes.
Priss saw Sylia keeping pace with her and realized what she was thinking. The end of the bridge was rapidly approaching. As they got closer, she also realized that she wasn't going to stop unless Priss did.
Sylia saw the bike next to hers begin to slow and breathed a sigh of relief. They brought the machines to halt inches from the edge and shut them down. Sylia pulled off her helmet, but didn't look at Priss. The night was beautiful. The moon cast shimmering rays over the water, but she could see dark clouds in the distance. Sylia tasted rain as she felt the breeze sweep in over the ocean and decided that as long as she knew Priss was alive, she would be happy with that.
Priss removed her helmet and watched Sylia watch the sea. If Sylia noticed, she said nothing. Priss struggled to find the words to tell her what she was feeling.
Sylia spoke softly. "I'm sorry."
Silence followed her words and she wished she could recall them. They were poor offerings considering the magnitude of suffering she'd caused and she didn't blame Priss for ignoring them.
Priss didn't know what to say. She had been prepared to hear Sylia list all of the reasons why she was right and Priss was wrong. The whispered apology floored her. Sylia never apologized and Priss was startled to find that it made her uncomfortable. She wasn't sure she wanted an apology.
"You...you were doing what you do best." She halted, unsure of how to continue. Priss sighed and decided to wing it, what she did best. "If it had been anyone else, I would have killed them. You took the decision out of my hands and robbed me of the right to choose."
Sylia said nothing and waited, knowing that the worst was coming.
"I woke up and found out that one of the three people that I trust in this world had betrayed me. You dropped this bomb on me and walked away like it didn't concern you one way or another. Then you came back and managed to make my worst nightmare a reality. Do you know how much it hurt when you forced this on me?" Priss drew ragged gulps of air and continued. "Do you know what I dream now? I'm on stage and the crowd is screaming. I'm singing better than I've ever sung before and then I see Sylvie in the audience. Suddenly the music stops and she's on the stage with me. She smiles and says welcome to the club. I don't understand what she's talking about until her face begins to split and fall away. I try to scream, but I can't speak and she comes at me and I can feel her pulling the flesh away from my face. Sylvie disappears and I'm standing in front of a huge mirror. I am a boomer. Every night I dream and every day I wake up to find that it's true." She grabbed Sylia's arm and jerked her around to face her. "I should kill you for that!"
Sylia pulled away and got off of her bike. She walked over to the edge and stared at the dark, swirling water, hundreds of feet below. She turned around and watched Priss come towards her. "Go ahead."
Priss stopped at her words and realized that she meant it. The wind had picked up and she felt it pushing at her, pushing at Sylia. She moved closer and Sylia stood still, waiting for whatever may come. Priss saw the shiny tracks of tears in the moonlight and couldn't believe it. Sylia didn't cry. She was made of ice, wasn't she? Priss knew that the next few moments would affect her life forever. A choice had to be made. She raised her hand to Sylia's face. Sylia pulled away and Priss saw a flash of fear. It hurt, that small moment of doubt, and Priss realized that despite everything, she still cared about her.
The wind gusted suddenly and Sylia was caught off balance. She swayed back over the precipice, her arms wind-milling. As she went over the edge she saw a flash of silver and felt herself jerked to a stop. She looked up to see the metal hand that she'd created. Priss had hooked her foot against a metal rail and was hanging half way off of the bridge. She felt her shoulder screaming protest as it took the full force of Sylia's weight. Priss grabbed the edge with her human hand, struggling to keep them both from going over. She began to inch herself further back onto the bridge.
"I guess I made it easy for you, didn't I?" Sylia's voice was filled with irony as she reached up with her other hand and started to pull Priss' fingers away from her wrist. "Let me go, Priss. Get on with your life."
Priss scowled at her and tightened her grip, though in truth there was no way Sylia could remove her hand. "Are you crazy? Hold still while I pull you up." Priss was on her knees now and she began to ease Sylia up over the side of the bridge.
"You don't want me to live, Priss. I don't blame you, I'd want me dead too." She began to hammer her fist against the metal hand and Priss lost her temper.
"Will you shut up?!" She yanked hard and Sylia came flying over the edge, knocking Priss back and landing on top off her. Priss' arms came around her and held her tightly. She told herself that it was to keep Sylia from doing anything stupid, but she was lying to herself and she knew it. She buried her face in Sylia's hair and tried to think of some reason she shouldn't. Hot tears splashed onto her neck and she pulled away to look at Sylia. Despair was the only word to describe what she saw there and Priss reacted without thinking. She caught Sylia's face in her hands and kissed her.
Sylia felt the touch of her lips and froze. She began to shake and Priss pulled her closer, deepening the kiss. Blood roared through her head making her dizzy and causing her heart to pound furiously.
They lay there on the bridge and explored each other's mouths, because they could do nothing else. Priss lost herself in the taste of Sylia and let her anger fall away. She tore her mouth from hers and began to rain kisses across Sylia's face, tasting the tears and licking them away. Priss moved down to her neck and Sylia gasped as she nuzzled the soft flesh there. Sylia found herself holding Priss' head to her body and moaned when her hands slipped down her back and beyond, gripping her tightly. Priss sucked at the flesh just above Sylia's collar and swore because her jacket was in the way. She reached to unzip it and stopped.
She looked up at Sylia and spoke softly. "I don't want this to happen for the wrong reasons. If you want this to continue then we can go somewhere private. It's your choice. If you want to stop that's okay, too. But we're leaving this place either way." Sylia got up awkwardly and Priss followed, still not quite sure she wouldn't try a swan dive.
Sylia touched Priss' face and spoke as honestly as she had. "I don't want to stop and if being in love with you is a wrong reason, then I'm guilty. I just don't want to do this with anger between us. I don't expect you to forgive me, but I need to know if you're still angry."
Priss caught her hand and brought it to her lips. "I stopped being angry the second I saw you fall. Of all the emotions I'm feeling right now, anger is not one of them. I won't lie to you. I'm still dealing with the rest," she paused and her voice grew faint, "but I figure you can help me with that." Sylia felt the touch of the smooth metal around her fingers and knew that it was a start.
The storm raged outside, unnoticed by the lovers. There was only the sound of soft sighs and urgent moans. Priss watched Sylia's face as she touched her. Her eyes were closed, head thrown back and small sounds of pleasure escaped her as Priss continued to tease her soft flesh. She pulled her hand away and let damp fingers glide up her body, ignoring Sylia's cry of dismay. She touched the firm tip of one breast and bent her lips to the other. Sylia's ragged moan filled the room.
A husky laugh and soft lips descended Sylia's body, searching. The wind blew across the bed, mixing the scent of cool rain with sweet spice and creating an intoxicating blend. Priss breathed deeply and continued to play the exquisite instrument before her. Agile fingers drew forth a melody of sighs and a chorus of moans that combined into the most ancient harmony. She changed the tempo and the beat increased, faster and faster, swelling into a crescendo, surging into the final clear note of Sylia's cry of release.
Priss heard the roar of success in her ears and she cradled her beloved instrument as the last echoes of music faded, leaving only the sound of rain.
The storm had long passed and the concert was over, but the instrument had other ideas. Sylia moved over Priss and whispered softly, just before she bit her neck.
Priss kissed Sylia's shoulder and slipped an arm around her waist, pulling her back against her. Sylia reached up and laid her hand on the warm metal. Priss felt her fingers trace her upper arm, following the pattern.
"Because it's what you are."
Priss smiled as she felt sleep overtake her. Sylia fell asleep soon after, her hand resting over the hawk.
PART 3: IN THE SHADOW IF DOUBTS
Nene brought her scooter to a halt outside of Priss' trailer. She pulled off her pink helmet and unzipped the jacket she'd worn to protect her from the cool chill of morning. The sun was gaining height and the dew was rapidly disappearing into wisps of steam. Nene stared at the trailer and dreaded what she had to do. It had been exactly nine days since Priss had decided to use her arm. Linna and Nene had decided that if she hadn't left the trailer within eight days, they would help her 'out'.
She climbed off the small bike and wished that Linna hadn't had an emergency meeting today. Why do I have to do this by myself? We should both be here. Couldn't we just wait till tomorrow? The plaintive questions only delayed the inevitable and Nene forced herself to knock on the trailer door.
After a few minutes of silence, she knocked again. Again only silence answered her. Nene frowned and peered in the window, trying to see around the curtain. She pulled back and looked around outside, finally noticing what she'd missed before. Priss' bike was gone.
Nene hurried through the lobby of Silky Doll, making a beeline for the elevator. She keyed in her personal code and the doors opened. Moments later she slipped through the opening doors and began to jog toward Sylia's apartment. Nene rang the bell, but when she didn't get an immediate response she opened the door herself. There was no one in the living room so she headed to the bedroom, calling, "Sylia!"
"Sylia! Priss is gone! I went to-" Nene broke off as her brain finally comprehended what she was seeing. Priss glared at Nene as she drew the blankets up to cover herself and Sylia. Nene stood frozen until Priss' growled "Nene!" jolted her into action. She pulled the bedroom door closed and turned to leave. She had her hand on the front door when she asked herself why she was leaving. She had a right to know what was going on, didn't she? She remembered the sight of Sylia's head lying on Priss' shoulder and blushed. Maybe not. She turned the knob, only to hear Sylia's voice behind her.
"Nene, wait. Please stay, I think we should all have a talk, don't you?" Nene released her death grip on the doorknob and turned to face Sylia, who was tugging the belt tight on her robe.
"Uh, sure! Why not?" Sylia smiled and Nene saw Priss come out of the bedroom. There was an awkward silence as each tried to find something to say. Finally Nene spoke up, "Got anything to eat?"
Nene swallowed the last bite of toast and leaned back in her chair, happily full. Priss poured more coffee for everyone and returned to her seat. Nene had noticed that she was using her artificial arm and asked the question that had been on the tip of her tongue since she'd arrived. "Are you staying with the Knight Sabers?"
Priss laughed and continued to twirl a butter knife through her human fingers. She had been doing that off and on since the beginning of breakfast and Nene wondered what was going on. Nervous gestures weren't Priss' style.
"Yeah. I'm not going anywhere. Sylia and I have called a truce, of sorts." Priss winked at Sylia, who had also noticed the knife and was growing concerned. Maybe Priss was regretting what happened last night. She looked at Nene and saw her questioning glance at the knife.
Priss caught the exchange. "All right, what's wrong? You two are looking at me like I'm a bug on a pin."
Sylia pointed to the flashing sliver between Priss' fingers. "We're just wondering what's making you so nervous." Priss looked down at her own hand as if she'd never seen it before. The knife stopped and she laughed.
"Well, that's actually your fault, Sylia." Priss' tone was hard and Sylia tensed at her words. "The sensors in this damned arm kept going off like fireworks every time I lit a cigarette. Then I made the mistake of analyzing the damn things. Needless to say I'm not smoking anymore." Priss watched the slight shift of Sylia's features and realized that she'd been worried. Why did that please her?
Nene was dying to ask about the new development in their relationship, but restrained herself admirably. Never mind the fact that her face was a dead give away. Sylia was wondering what to tell her when Priss spoke up.
"Nene, I don't want you to get the wrong idea here. Sylia and I aren't a 'couple'." Her tone was harsh again and Priss was all too aware of the stiffening of Sylia's body next to hers. She continued, "At least, not yet. We've got a lot to work through, so just let us handle this. In other words, Don't Help!" Priss drained her coffee cup and got up to refill it. She didn't want the coffee, but she needed a moment to sort out what she was feeling. Where had this desire to hurt Sylia come from? Last night had been wonderful and she'd never felt so close to anyone, not even Sylvie. What had happened this morning? Priss stared at the coffeepot and didn't hear Nene leave.
Sylia watched Priss and knew she was wrestling with something. The tension was evident in her stance and Sylia was surprised to find herself at a loss for what to do next. The most complex of mathematical problems was a snap compared to human emotions and she wished that she faced one of those problems now. She stood there and tried to think of something to say. Words were chosen and discarded, either too bland or too intense. Nothing seemed right and Sylia was afraid that she was failing Priss once again in some vague way she couldn't identify.
Memories of the night before played through her mind in short clips and Sylia realized part of what was wrong. She was trying to talk to Priss as if she was Nene or Linna, but Priss was no longer just her teammate, no longer just a friend. Priss had become her lover last night and Sylia had to start looking at her as such. With that discovery she opened her eyes to the profound effect this would have on her life. Sylia pushed a hand through her hair and realized something else; she had no more idea of how to reach Priss as a lover than she did as a friend. Priss needed something from her now, but she had no idea of what. It occurred to her then that thinking might be the whole problem. She focused on what she was feeling and knew that was the answer. She let her emotions guide her and acted.
Priss knew Sylia was waiting for her to say something, but a strange desire to make Sylia come to her was keeping her still. Priss felt a wave of self-loathing roll over her and she made herself turn. But Sylia was already there, slipping her arms around Priss' waist. She rested her chin on her shoulder and held her, saying nothing. Priss touched Sylia's hands and then threaded her fingers with hers. She leaned back into Sylia and closed her eyes, letting the warmth of the other woman seep into her. The soft gusts of Sylia's breathing brushed over Priss' neck and she felt her heart beat unsteadily.
Sylia could also feel Priss' heart and turned her head, letting her lips touch her neck. The quick breath pleased her and she continued the caress. Priss arched her neck back, giving Sylia complete access to her vulnerable throat. Sylia caught her earlobe in her teeth and smiled when she heard Priss gasp. As her hands moved up and cupped Priss' breasts, Sylia realized that sometimes words were highly overrated.
Linna stared at Nene in disbelief. "You're kidding!"
Nene shook her head, watching the wet strands fling drops of water onto Linna's breasts. "I wish I was. I walked in on them. Priss looked like she was going to kill me!" She reached for the washcloth and began to run it over Linna's shoulders and down her chest. Linna sighed in pleasure and leaned back against the edge of the tub. The bathtub wasn't made for two, but then you didn't need much room if you were close enough to the person you were with. Nene was kneeling between Linna's legs as she spoke. "Sylia was curled up beside her and Priss' metal arm was wrapped around her. It was so strange, seeing them like that, I mean. They just don't seem to fit, you know?" Nene dropped the cloth, letting her hands wander and Linna's eyes snapped open.
Linna caught her hands and pulled Nene on top of her. "Oh really? And do we seem to 'fit'?"
Nene sighed against her lips, "Perfectly."
Priss rolled over and frowned when her outstretched arm encountered nothing but empty sheets. She pushed herself up and sighed when she realized Sylia was gone. A vague recollection of Sylia waking her surfaced. Something about a meeting. Priss laid back down and stared at the ceiling., trying to shake a nagging sense of anxiety. She should be happy. Or at least okay. Instead she was confused and on edge. Priss tossed the covers aside and padded into the bathroom.
As the hot water swept the last of the cobwebs from her mind she replayed the events of the last few months in her mind. It was strange to realize that they had been heading towards this change long before her accident. She remembered swearing that she wouldn't allow herself to feel like this again and laughed at her arrogance. She hadn't felt this way before. Sylvie's face flashed across her mind and Priss felt no pain at the image. What was surprising was the fact that Sylvie had looked a great deal like Sylia and Priss wondered if that hadn't been part of her appeal. Could she have been that blind?
Priss shut the water off and reached for a towel. She got dressed, deciding to go down to the garage and see if Mackie could do a small job for her.
Mackie tossed the wrench back into the toolbox and slipped the cover back over the engine of Sylia's bike. He turned to Priss. "That should do it. Sylia won't like it, though."
Priss watched the steady blip register on the scanner and smiled. "Then it's a good thing she won't know about it, right?" Her tone brooked no argument and Mackie gave her none.
Priss stood backstage and tried to quiet her jangled nerves. She'd never had a problem with stage fright in the past and she was annoyed that it chose now to hit her. The crowd was chanting her name, thrilled that she was returning to the music scene after her long absence. Yeah, now they cheer. Let's see if they keep cheering when they see why. She wore her usual outfit and the red tube top did nothing to conceal her arm. The band had shrugged off her worries and had pointed out that most people had some kind of implant these days. The music started and she drew a deep breath and stepped on stage. The crowd roared and she screamed into the microphone. Lights flashed over them and reflected off of her arm, but few noticed and those that did, didn't care. Priss was back and they were happy.
As the last note faded from the last song, Priss let her head drop and willed tears away as the crowd's approval swept over her. She felt the energy fill her and realized how much she needed it, this rush of life. Priss raised her head, tossed her hair back and waved to the crowd as she left the stage.
Sylia watched her face carefully and was pleased at what she found. Priss was back and there would be no stopping her. She stood and quickly left the building, not wanting Priss to see her. She had thought to keep her return a secret, but Sylia had known it would only be a matter of time. She had made sure that Priss was re-hired at Hot Legs, an easy thing to do since she owned the club. Priss would blow up if she ever discovered that little secret, Sylia thought to herself as she unlocked her car door. She was caught up in her thoughts and didn't see the two punks come up beside her. Rough hands grabbed her and dragged her toward the alley behind the club. Sylia struggled and one of them struck her across the face. She let herself slump, as if unconscious and waited for her chance.
Priss stepped out into the alley and stared at the scene before her. A woman was lying on the ground and two men were standing over her. They were talking about what they intended to do as one of them unfastened his pants. Priss started forward, intending to beat them senseless and run them off, when she saw whom the woman was. Sylia. She wasn't moving. A gray fog clouded her mind and Priss heard a loud snap, as her control vanished in a storm of rage.
An inhuman sound echoed through the alley and the thugs turned to find that hell itself was bearing down on them.
Sylia had rolled away at the sound and she straightened in time to see the energy saber decapitate one of her attackers. Priss was blind with rage, but she didn't need to see to block the other man's attack. He screamed in pain as his hand struck her arm with a flat 'thunk' and the scream ended with a gurgle as her human fist caught him in the groin. Priss retracted the saber and punched him in the stomach. A low popping sound was the only indication of what had happened as the man fell at her feet, dead. Sylia knew that the impact caps had liquefied the man's internal organs.
Priss stood over the bodies and felt a strangled cry tear at her throat because they had died too soon. Sylia got to her feet slowly. Priss whirled at the slight movement and Sylia froze. Priss stared at her and then screamed, striking the wall beside her. The fist connected and the caps fired, blowing a huge hole in the brick. Dust filled the alley and Sylia lost sight of Priss.
She jumped when a human hand touched her face and she realized that Priss was behind her. Her hand encircled her throat and pulled Sylia back against her body. As her blood-splattered arm came around her waist, Sylia realized that Priss was shaking with unspent rage. Priss' fingers tightened slightly and Sylia was afraid. She spoke softly, "Priss. It's all right now. They're dead." She kept her voice calm, even as she fought the urge to run. She was very afraid that Priss would kill her if she did. "You saved me. I'm all right, but you're frightening me. Please."
Priss held on to Sylia and began to pull the shredded pieces of her control back together. She knew she was scaring her, but she couldn't help that. She had come so close to the edge this time and Sylia was the only thing standing between her and madness.
Sylia felt Priss pull her down to the ground and tried not to panic. Priss leaned back against the wall and buried her faced in Sylia's neck, letting her scent soothe her. How long they sat like that Sylia didn't know, but she was very aware of Priss and little by little felt her control returning. She forced herself to relax against her and Priss eased her grip at this. Sylia felt a shudder go through Priss and knew she was crying. She slowly tried to turn and Priss let her.
Priss curled her hands into fists to keep from grabbing Sylia again; so afraid she would leave her. Sylia noted the fear and reached up to cup Priss' face in her hands. She kissed her cheeks, catching the tears and Priss made a small sound.
"Shhh, it's all right. We need to get out of here before someone finds us." Sylia slid her arms around her and pulled her to her feet. Priss faltered, weak from reaction and Sylia supported her as they made their way to her car. Luckily, or unluckily depending on how you looked at it, the street was deserted.
Sylia propped her against the car and opened the door. She got Priss inside and then got behind the wheel. As they drove away, she called Mackie. He agreed to pick up Priss' bike and would call the police with an anonymous tip. Sylia promised to fill him in later and hung up. Priss leaned against the door and tried to fight the strong pull of exhaustion. Her mind was clouded and all she knew for certain was that Sylia was with her. Flashes of memory teased her, telling her that she had done something wrong. The images faded as she slipped into a deep slumber.
Sylia saw the slump of her shoulders and knew that sleep was the best thing for her now. There would be time enough later to deal with the repercussions of this night. However, it did leave her the problem of moving Priss. She sighed and reluctantly called Linna.
Sylia pulled into the garage and frowned when she saw Nene with Linna. She got out and went around the car to Priss' door. "I don't remember asking you to call Nene." Her censure was clear and Linna winced.
"I was at Linna's when you called. There was no way I was going to let her go alone." Nene spoke firmly, defending Linna and Sylia saw the look that passed between them. The undercurrent of desire caught her by surprise.
She wondered how she could have missed all of the signs. Because you've been to busy falling in love yourself? Sylia opened the car door and caught Priss as she started to fall. Linna came forward and they each took one arm. Nene ran ahead to summon the elevator as they half-carried, half-dragged Priss. Linna saw the blood on Sylia and looked down at Priss. Sylia hadn't told her what had happened, but Priss' bloody hands spoke volumes.
"My God Sylia! What happened?" Sylia shook her head and wouldn't answer her expression grim. Linna wasn't sure she wanted to know and they rode up in silence. With some careful maneuvering they managed to get Priss into Sylia's bedroom. After they settled her on the bed, Sylia thanked Nene and Linna for their help. It was clearly a dismissal, but they were having none of it.
"Priss is our friend. We want to know what's going on." Nene was firm and Sylia sighed, knowing that she wouldn't leave until she had at least part of the story. She nodded and waved a hand toward the door.
"Let me get Priss settled, then I'll explain." They agreed and left the room, leaving her alone with Priss.
Sylia slipped into the bathroom and returned with a bowl of warm water. She sat on the bed next to Priss and began to wash the away the blood. The water was soon crimson and she tried not to think about the two men who had been killed by her weapon. Because that was what Priss had become, a weapon created by Sylia's own hands. She was wild before, giving in to her rages and hurting herself as much as anyone else, but now she could focus her anger through the arm. Sylia thought about all of the 'extras' she'd built into the arm and winced. She had designed the arm so that it would work without thinking, mimicking the natural impulses of a real arm. Priss didn't have to be rational to use it and Sylia realized that it was the perfect extension of her rage.
Priss had wanted to kill tonight and the arm had obliged her. Her body's natural reaction to danger and fear would be to use the strongest weapons at its disposal. She should have realized that, compensated for it, somehow. Sylia set the bloody cloth aside and began to tug Priss' ruined clothes off. They landed in the corner, the stains they left on the wall unnoticed. She pulled the covers over her, bending over Priss and brushing her forehead with a kiss. Sylia snapped off the lamp beside the bed as she planned what to tell the others.
Nene and Linna were in the living room. A few recessed lights poorly lighted the room and Sylia switched on the overhead tracks, trying to banish the morbid atmosphere. Nene jumped at the sudden brightness and gave a nervous laugh.
Sylia sat down in the chair across from them and gratefully accepted the cup Linna handed her. She sipped the hot coffee and looked at her friends, wondering where to start. "Priss went back to Hot Legs tonight. It was her return show and she didn't want any of us to know about it. I suppose she felt she had to do this on her own." Sylia smiled slightly. "I found out and went anyway."
"How did it go?" Nene shushed Linna for interrupting. Sylia wondered how to describe what she'd seen.
"She was Priss." The simple statement explained everything. "I left right after the show, not wanting her to see me. I wasn't paying attention to my surroundings and I was accosted by two men." Nene gasped and Linna noticed the slight swelling around Sylia's eye. She'd missed it before in the dim lighting. "They dragged me into the alley behind the club. I was pretending to be unconscious when I heard Priss yell." She paused, the memory of that sound causing her to shiver. Sylia wrapped her hands around her cup more firmly and continued.
"I got out of the way in time to see Priss take care of my attackers." She didn't go into details. There were some things that they wouldn't understand, couldn't accept. "I have never seen Priss in such a rage before and I pray I never do again. I don't think she recognized me at first, but then she collapsed. I managed to get her into the car and you know the rest."
Nene looked at Linna. If that was the whole story then she'd give up chocolate for life. Linna's expression indicated that she agreed with her. But Nene knew that this would be all they were told.
"Bullshit." Linna's quiet statement brought Sylia's head up with a snap. "I suspect you've left out everything you think we don't need to know, but it would have been a little more believable if you'd come up with a reason for the blood on you."
Sylia opened her mouth to answer, but Linna cut her off. "And don't tell me it happened while you were getting her to the car. You should have looked in the mirror, Sylia. There's a rather interesting bloodstain on your throat. Kind of looks like a hand, don't you agree Nene?" Nene was silent, wishing the floor would open and swallow her. She couldn't believe Linna was pushing Sylia on this. She stared at the floor as Linna continued.
"How close did Priss come to killing you? Did you really think we didn't know how bad her rages could become? Come on, Sylia! Enough is enough, stop treating us like children. You and Priss are obviously in love with each other, so it stands to reason that if she thought you'd been hurt she'd go ballistic." Linna stopped her irate tirade and waited for Sylia to speak.
Sylia's face was carved in stone. She stared at Linna and tried to decide whether she was angry or surprised. Trust Linna to look beyond the obvious. "Remind me never to underestimate you again." Her voice was flat and Nene sank further down in the couch cushions. "You're right. Priss was out of control for a while after she killed them," She ignored their shocked exclamations, "but she didn't hurt me. She startled me when she grabbed me, but it just seemed like...she just needed to reassure herself that I was all right. Priss began to calm down after that." She fell silent as Linna and Nene began to realize just how bad things had gotten tonight. Priss' rages had always been something of a joke, but no one had considered the possibility her actually 'killing' someone.
Linna studied Sylia carefully. Now a myriad of emotions was playing over Sylia's face. It was the guilt that confused her. "You're blaming yourself for this, aren't you?" Sylia didn't reply. "Sylia, that's crazy! You couldn't have stopped this. Priss' temper is like a force of nature, it'd be like trying to stop a hurricane."
"Yes, she would have beat them to within an inch of their lives, but they would still be alive. I placed the power in her grasp and in an instant she decapitated one of those men. Now I have to ask myself, was I trying to help Priss? Or was I building myself a new weapon? Maybe I've fooled myself into believing that it was love that motivated me when it was really a desire to keep her on the team. The lines are so fine between the choices I made, that I can't tell anymore."
Linna didn't know what to say. How could she argue when she wasn't sure herself? In the end it was Nene who spoke up. "I can't believe I'm hearing this! I'm surprised at you Sylia. I thought you were smarter than this. Ask yourself one question; is that really what you believe or are you afraid of loving Priss?" Forcing herself to face Sylia was difficult and she was determined to finish what she'd started. "Don't let 'your' fear drive her away, Sylia. You need each other too much and if you can't or won't see that then you're a fool! Come on, Linna. Let's go home." Nene sailed out of the apartment and Linna followed, stopping at the door. She turned back and looked at Sylia.
"It's rather startling when she does that, isn't it?" Then she was gone and Sylia was left alone with her thoughts. Poor company indeed.
Priss woke to the touch of something soft against her lips. She opened her eyes and forced them to focus. Bright sunlight streamed in through the windows, causing her to squint in pain. Her head felt muzzy, like she'd drunk too much alcohol, but not enough to become 'really' drunk. The sight of the dark hair in front of her didn't compute at first and she stared at the back of Sylia's head in confusion. Gradually she became aware of her metal arm, which was wrapped tightly around Sylia's waist. She had pulled her back against her and Priss frowned when she realized just how tight she was holding her.
Priss eased the pressure around Sylia's ribs and scanned the soft flesh. Data flowed back through her neural relay and she was appalled at the readings. She had bruised Sylia. Priss' dismay grew as memories of the previous evening began to surface. The scanners helpfully registered the lingering microscopic traces of blood on her arm, verifying the truth. Nausea swelled and Priss pulled away from Sylia and staggered into the bathroom.
Sylia vaguely heard the bathroom door shut and forced herself to waken. Priss' sleep had been restless and she had calmed only when Sylia had held her. She wasn't beside her now and she recalled how desperately Priss had gripped her the night before. Sylia rubbed her hand over her ribs and was pleased to find no pain. She heard the sound of someone being sick and then Priss' cough. Sylia sat up quickly, swinging her legs onto the floor. Her robe lay beside the bed, but she ignored it as she crossed the room. Sylia pushed open the bathroom door and found Priss sitting naked on the edge of the tub, her face buried in her hands. Priss looked up as she entered, not speaking as Sylia joined her. They sat in silence, each not knowing what to say. What did you say to someone who's just killed two men on your behalf? Sylia clasped her hands in her lap, wondering what she should do.
What did you say to someone you've shocked, frightened and injured? Priss glanced at Sylia and a gasp escaped her when she saw the dark smudges on the side of her throat. Sylia turned at the sound and saw Priss' horrified gaze. Hesitant fingers touched her neck, lightly brushing the bruises. Sylia reach up and took her hand, drawing it down against her heart. Priss met her steady look and knew what had to be done.
"I want you to remove the arm."
Sylia's hand tightened around hers. "Priss. You're not thinking clear-"
"Oh, but I am! I can't have something this dangerous, Sylia. You know that." Priss focused on Sylia's dark eyes and hoped she wouldn't hate her for what she was about to confess. " I killed them, Sylia. I took their lives and I...I enjoyed it. I felt their blood spill and it wasn't enough! I wanted more!" Tears rolled down her face and there was an unsteady gleam in her eyes. " I want you to remove this arm before...before I can feel that way again. Please. I don't want to hurt you again." Her eyes dropped to the bruises and she cringed at the memory of causing them.
"These are nothing. You and I both know that you wouldn't hurt me. Last night proved that." Priss didn't answer, staring at their joined hands. How can she stand to touch me after what I-? Her thoughts were scattered as Sylia slipped her arm around Priss, pulling her close. Priss breathed in the scent of Sylia's hair and welcomed the warm press of her body against hers. Words suddenly crowded her tongue and she tried to apologize.
"I'm sorry. I didn-" Sylia's fingers halted her.
"You saved my life." Priss tried to speak again, but Sylia wasn't finished. She'd had most of the night to think about this and she knew what needed to be said. "Regardless of how, I don't want you to forget that. I know you're feeling guilty and you think that this is all you're fault, but it isn't. I was aware of you're temper when I built the arm and I did nothing to prevent something like this from occurring. I could have installed a fail-safe or a cut off to react when your anger got out of control, but I didn't. That makes me just as responsible for last night. Don't worry, Priss. I'll install a shut off unit so this can never happen again."
Priss didn't know how to respond to this, even though she disagreed. Sylia wasn't to blame, but one look at her face told Priss that she was determined. She pulled her hand away and cupped her cheek. "How can you stand to be near me after what I did? After I hurt you?" Sylia raised a brow and shot Priss stern look. Priss shook her head and continued. "I know what I did last night. I remember the fear in your eyes. I don't want you to be afraid of me, Sylia. Half of me says I should leave before I hurt you again. The other half wants to hang onto you and never let go."
Sylia's smile was slow and just a little playful. "I vote for choice number two. All in favor?"
Priss laughed, exasperated and hugged her. She whispered softly, "What happens now?"
Sylia knew that she was worried about the bodies, the police and all of the millions of other things that could go wrong now. She didn't have any easy answers, so they would just have to tackle each problem as it arose. "Well, I can get dressed and go to work or we can go back to bed and make love for the rest of the day. Your choice."
Priss tilted her head and appeared to consider. "Wanna toss a coin?"
Priss laughed in delight as the boomer shot past her and slammed into the wall behind her. She had darted aside at the last possible instant and its momentum had been too great to turn. The boomer crawled out of the hole and roared at her. Priss raised an armored hand and gestured for him to try again. "Come on, don't give up now. The fun's just started." It sprang forward and again Priss nimbly dodged, letting it fly past.
Sylia smiled as Priss continued to tease the machine and turned to Linna. She was perched on top of a wrecked car and was resting her helmet-covered chin against her hand. Nene was leaning back beside her with her arms crossed. Sylia was impressed by their ability to look bored in full body armor.
Linna shook her head at Priss' game. "I never thought I'd be happy to see her do that."
Nene sighed and agreed. "Yeah. Kind of gives you a warm fuzzy feeling right here, don't it?" As she spoke she smacked her armored chest, causing it ring hollowly. Linna broke up at this and began to pound the car under her as she laughed.
Priss turned at the sound and frowned at the sight of her teammates. "Nice to see you enjoying yourselves. No, no, I'll finish, it's no trouble, really." The boomer tried to catch her arm and she ducked under it as she spoke. Priss shoved the rail gun into its face and fired point blank. The head exploded and she drove her fist into the boomer's chest. Her arm made a slurping sound as she pulled it out, covered with a yellow greasy substance. Priss backed away as the rest of the body fell apart and held up her arm in disgust. "Ugh, boomer guts! Hey Sylia! Did you want any pieces of this thing?"
Sylia examined the remains, removing several components for future study. The ADP units had arrived and were approaching them cautiously. Sylia stood up and waved cheerfully as she ordered her team to disperse.
Leon felt himself waving back and dropped his hand, feeling silly. The Knight Sabers may destroy boomers, but they were still vigilantes and mercenaries. He watched the armored group depart and wondered again what they were 'really' trying to do.
Leon crumpled the wrapper from his hamburger and tossed it into a nearby trashcan. It bounced off the rim and dropped inside. "And he scores!" Leon smiled as he leaned back against the police car and finished his soda. Except for the boomer incident this morning, it had been quiet and he was enjoying the rest. Things had been hopping lately, boomer rampages becoming more frequent and Leon wondered if the day would soon come when they lost the battle altogether. A black and silver motorcycle pulled in to the parking lot and Leon admired the strong, lean lines. The bike was pretty cool too. He watched the driver bring the motorcycle to a halt and was pleasantly surprised when she removed her helmet. "Priss!"
Priss heard the familiar voice and tried not to groan. Just what she needed. Leon jogged over to her and smiled what he assumed to be his most charming smile. Priss did groan then at the sight of his foolish grin. "Hi Leon." He was beginning his standard pick up line when another motorcycle parked next to Priss'.
Sylia smiled at Priss' expression and at Leon's hopeful face. Leon ignored her and leaned over the front of Priss' bike, bringing his face close to hers. Sylia was surprised by the sudden surge of emotion that hit her. She frowned as she realized that it was jealousy. Sylia tugged off her helmet and dismounted, walking over to Priss. Priss smiled at her and sent her desperate 'help' signals with her eyes. Leon had straightened at her approach and he stared as Sylia slipped her hand around Priss' neck. She pulled Priss to her and kissed her, taking her time and making sure that Leon got the message.
Priss let her arms slide around Sylia and tried not to smile at Leon's startled gasp. Part of her was amazed at Sylia's behavior. THIS was calm, reserved Sylia? Sylia ended the kiss and turned to Leon.
"Who's your friend?" Priss introduced them and Leon felt himself blush, as Priss' hand remained low on Sylia's hip.
"Nice to meet you. We were about to have lunch. Would you care to join us?" Leon's blood pressure shot up as a totally different interpretation of her question flashed through his mind. He gulped and reluctantly declined, having to return to work. Priss watched Sylia continue to torture Leon and wondered if she hadn't created a monster. She sighed and began to take off her jacket, the warm sun making her hot. Leon had been fixed on Sylia's face, but the sight of Priss undressing now had his full attention. The silly grin was back as he watched her reveal the snug blue T-shirt underneath. His smile was wiped away as the sunlight reflected off her metal arm.
Priss looked up in time to see Leon go pale and step back. She frowned at him in confusion. What was wrong? She realized that he was staring at her arm with what could only be described as horror. Priss felt a wave of cold sweep over her. She had grown so comfortable with her arm in the past months that it never occurred to her that someone would react like this. Leon was terrified and Priss was surprised at how much it hurt.
Sylia witnessed the silent exchange and wished Leon would disappear. Priss had been doing so well and now this. She scowled at Leon and he realized what he was doing.
"I'm sorry...it...it just took me by surprise. What happened?" His voice cracked several times, but he forced himself to look at her, trying to hide his fear and revulsion. It didn't work.
Priss saw through his mask, but answered anyway. Her reply was clipped. "Motorcycle accident."
"Uh, that's too bad.....uh I mean about the accident. I...uh.." His beeper went off and Priss watched the relief flood his face. Leon gripped his wrist and started for his car, calling his apologies over his shoulder. "I've got to go. Police business. Uh, nice meeting you Sylia. See you around Priss." He climbed into his car and sped away as if being chased by demons.
Priss felt Sylia's hand on her shoulder and shrugged it off. "Don't." Her voice was harsh.
"Priss." Sylia was concerned, but Priss ignored her as she put her jacket back on.
"I'll see you later." Priss started to put on her helmet, but Sylia jerked it out of her hands.
"Don't do this Priss."
"I don't need a mother, Sylia." Priss stared at her, her expression cold. "Leave me alone."
Sylia couldn't read anything in her eyes, she had completely closed her out. She tossed the helmet at Priss and blanked her own features. "Fine. Have it your way. If you don't need me, then I sure as hell don't need you." She climbed onto her bike and donned her helmet. Sylia didn't wait for Priss to peel out in a burst of speed. She did it first.
Priss watched her ride away and felt her heart shatter. Warnings began to fire off in her mind and she realized what she'd just done. And to whom.
Are you out of your mind! What were you trying to prove with that stunt? The voice was incredulous and Priss didn't blame it. So was she.
You've just driven away the one person you've ever truly loved and you're just sitting here. A pause and then it exploded. What the hell are you waiting for! Go after her! Apologize! Get down on your knees if you have to, but don't let her leave us! The voice was loud and urgent, and Priss found herself obeying automatically. She hit the activate button on the tracking device on Sylia's bike, mentally thanked Mackie again and took off. The needle of the speedometer climbed higher as she urged the cat to go faster. The high-pitched scream grew louder and more annoyed. Priss felt her heart hammering away in her chest. "What am I going to say? Sylia, I'm sorry I'm an asshole?"
There's a start.
Priss ignored the comment and tried to think. "I can't lose her. Not now. Not when I've finally found someone who gives a damn. Oh man, could I have possibly done anything worse? I can't let her think that I don't....oh man. I love her...so much. Damn it! I never told her! I should've known I'd fuck this up. Why didn't I tell her?" She skidded as she went around a sharp turn, but held the bike on the road. Cars blared at her, but she didn't hear. The red blip was getting closer. "Should have told her. Should have trusted her and should have told her. I love you. There, I can say the words. Why can't I say them to her?" Priss' monologue continued and as she tore wildly down the street. She swerved to avoid a collision and looked up in time to see Sylia parked on the side of the road.
Priss shot past her and had to turn around and come back. She didn't see the patrol car flash its lights at her illegal U-turn. She raced back to Sylia and pulled to a screeching halt beside her, almost pitching herself over the front of the bike. Sylia was sitting motionless, her helmet covering her features.
Priss remembered the last time they'd done this and was not about to go through it again. She climbed off the motorcycle, caught her boot on the seat and almost fell in her hurry. Priss hopped awkwardly and freed her leg. She strode quickly to Sylia, tearing her helmet off and tossing it aside. Priss lifted Sylia's helmet off and it hit the ground as she cupped her face in her hands. Priss saw the pain in her eyes and began to scattered kisses over Sylia's face, whispering urgently. "I love you. I love you. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. Please." She found Sylia's lips and tried to put every drop of what she felt into the kiss.
The sound of Priss' conversation with herself had been the sweetest music to her ears and she was glad she'd thought to link the microphone in Priss' helmet with her own. Sylia thought her heart would burst from what she was feeling. She wrapped her arms around Priss and felt her grip tighten. Time stopped as they silently tried to heal the hurts on both sides. Priss lost herself in the taste of Sylia, her attention completely focused on her.
So it took a few minutes for the other presence to penetrate. Sylia vaguely noticed the person standing beside them and it slowly occurred to her where they were. Priss didn't really care where they were as long as Sylia didn't leave her. Sylia broke the kiss gently, pulling away, but returning again and again. Priss sighed and finally let her forehead drop to Sylia's shoulder. Sylia buried her face in Priss' hair, her voice soft. "I love you."
Priss raised her head and smiled warmly at her lover. "I love you, too."
The sound of a clearing throat caused them to turn and they both froze. Priss stared in disbelief at the intruder. Sylia laughed as Nene asked to see Priss driver's license. Priss growled at her, but Nene was undaunted.
"Are you aware of the illegal U-turn you committed, Miss?" Her tone was serious and firm. Priss faltered at it. She looked uncertain and she found herself searching for an excuse. "I, uh..."
Nene couldn't stand it any longer and burst out laughing. "Had you going there, didn't I? You should have seen your face! Uh, wait a minute. Now Priss, it was funny, just a little joke! Sylia! Help me!"
Nene was doing a backwards run to her car and Sylia leaned back against the motorcycle and laughed as Priss chased her.
The moon was full and it turned the sea into a blanket of sparkling diamonds. The wind blew lightly over the bridge, but there was no storm in the distance this time. The motorcycles were parked well away from the edge and their riders sat watching the sea. Priss turned to watch the breeze ruffle Sylia's hair, finding the sight more beautiful than nature's display before them. They never planned to come here, but sometimes something would lead them back.
Sylia felt Priss' gaze and turned to smile at her. It had been a year since the night she'd fallen here. She and Priss were still together, but lived apart. Which confused Linna and Nene who'd moved in together months ago. It must seem like a strange arrangement, especially since Priss spent so much time at Sylia's any way. Maybe it was odd, but she and Priss were solitary people by nature and sometimes they each had to be alone. It worked for them. They still had the occasional arguments, but she guessed that was normal.
Priss let her hand reach out and hold Sylia's. The data stream began to send back information, but to Priss it was just another sense now. She still had the nightmares, but they were becoming more sporadic with her acceptance of what she could not change. Priss glanced at her watched and realized that it was getting late. As nice as this was, she had other plans for the evening and for Sylia. She squeezed Sylia's fingers and let go, picking up her helmet. The moonlight bounced off of the silver letters and Priss ran her fingers over them.
"Let's go home."
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