Bubblegum Crisis Fan Fiction / Urusei Yatsura Fan Fiction / Sister Princess Fan Fiction / Tokimeki Memorial Fan Fiction ❯ Illusions (vignette) - The Dark Side of Kawaii ❯ Prologue

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Genom Tower, 22 June 2034, late afternoon...

"So ADP's not gonna hassle us over using B-12s...?"

"Nah, not this time," Steve Ryan, the chief of operations for the Fourth Boomer Repair Centre, shakes his head, looking at his senior systems programmer, Kent Stewart. "It's kinda fuzzy. Since the ABLS finally bit the big one today, ADP's willing to let some things slide. 'Sides, the 12s never strayed off Tower property to beat up those pukes, so laying charges against Genom for havin' combat boomers in the city..." he wryly shrugs, winking.

"Yeah, gotcha!" Kent rolls his eyes. Being involved in one of the "blacker" elements of the company, even by proxy, guaranteed him the chance to learn all sorts of interesting stories that never made the six o'clock news. "So what goodies've you got for me?"

"Brains of four 12-Bs that got wrecked when the ABLS came," Steve walks over to a trolley, lifting off four boxes, each containing a Mark 9 brain normally fitted into a Bu-12B combat boomer. "Do your magic on them, m'man."

"Okay," Kent nods, taking the boxes and setting them on his desk.

With a wave, Steve heads off to his own work area as the programmer sits at his computer, tapping controls to call up the wetware diagnostic routines. One of the brains is extracted from its box, then plugged into the machine as he begins the scan. "Okay, we have Unit Bee-Two-three-four-Gee-Two...hmm, doesn't look bad..." he mutters, moving to begin the cleansing routine. His videophone shrills. "Moshi-moshi, Four-Bee-Are-Sea, Stewart desu," he taps controls, then blinks on recognizing the caller. "Tamura-san?!"

"Yo, Kent, glad I caught ya in time," Koji Tamura, looking somewhat haggard, gazes at him from the computer core. "Did Steve deliver the brains of the wrecked 12-Bs from this morning's fun?"

"Um...yeah, I was starting to go through them right now," Kent reports. "Is there something wrong?"

"I need the brain of Unit B234G-2 saved from cleansing," Koji reports. "Minori's on her way over to pick it up."

Kent blinks, glancing briefly at his computer screen, then he grins. "You're lucky, Tamura-san. I was about to do the usual cleansing routines on that one, then put it in storage. Why d'you need that brain saved?"

"Oh, something a pal o'mine in Nerima wants to do," Koji winks conspiratorially at the technician. "Don't worry; I'll get the unit back to you tomorrow morning, all cleaned up and everything."

Kent blinks, then smirks. "It's sitting here waiting."

"Thanks, dude," Koji cuts the link...

* * *

Kawaguchi, north of Megatokyo...

"So this is where they were based, huh?!"

"Yeah, looks like it," the patrol officer of the Kawaguchi City Police nods, standing beside Leon McNichol. "Fuck, if we knew, we would've done something, Kichou-san (Captain). Saved you guys and Genom all the trouble."

"Ah, it wasn't too bad in the end," Leon smirks, waving Veronica along with him into the abandoned factory that had, not twenty-four hours before, served as the base for the Anti-Boomer Lobbyist's Society. A society that was now hors du combat thanks to Samguk. "Any Samguk weapons you find, make sure you give them to Robertson-buchou (Sergeant Robertson)."

"Hai!" the Kawaguchi officers nod.

Once inside the factory, Veronica draws her SBG-257G, her body tensing automatically as she begins to scan the warehouse for booby traps using her eyes, ears and MFS. Leon gazes at his fiancee, then squares his shoulder, his hand ready to snap for his Earth Shaker. After a minute, Veronica stops, then glances towards the door leading to what might have been the foreman's office.

Leon notices where she's staring at, then hums, "Anything?"

"Something," she approaches the door, 253-G aimed and charged.

Leon sides up to the doorframe, hand falling to the knob. Veronica steadies herself, finger cocked on the trigger, then nods. He turns the knob, then flings the door open, yanking his hand clear to prevent it from being shot off. She looks in, then lowers her weapon, approaching the doorway. Sensing it was safe, Leon looks around the frame, then sighs, shuddering. Seeing something like THAT would sicken even the most simophobic cop.


"Twenty-nine-Seas," Veronica shakes her head, gazing at the dozen female corpses lying on the floor. Nude, patched wounds on their chests indicating how the cyberdroid hookers had died, then found use after their deaths. Their eyes are open, gazing at the ceiling. Holstering her pistol, Veronica walks inside, kneeling beside one, a pretty blonde. Reaching down, she respectfully closes the dead 29-C's eyes. "Rest in peace, sister. You've earned it."

Leon stares at her, then blinks on hearing footsteps from behind. "What is it, Kaname?" he looks at Kaname Shoono.

"Rest of the place checks out clean, Boss...! Oh, fuck!!" her jaw drops on seeing the 29-Cs before she gazes at Veronica. "You knew them, Veronica?"

"Iie...fortunately," Veronica shakes her head, her eyes misty.

Leon and Kaname gaze at her, then the former turns to the latter. "Call the recyclers. We'll need 'em here right away."

"What about evidence, Boss?" the ex-TMD internal affairs investigator wonders, her eyebrow arching.

"No need. It's obvious what they were used for after they died," Leon shakes his head. "'Sides, the pukes who did that're all dead, so nothing's going to trial. Don't worry about it, Kaname. The recycler we deal with is one smart fellow. He'll lift off things like serial numbers from them."

"Right," Kaname nods, heading off.

Leon watches her go, then notices Veronica still standing beside the dead 29-C whose eyes she closed. Walking over, he reaches over to gently caress her shoulders. "You okay?"

"No," she exhales, her jaw tensing before she spits out, "Hypocrites! They say they hate people like me, yet they do this to them?!"

"Well, they won't do it to anyone anymore," Leon turns her around, allowing Veronica to sink into his embrace. "Don't worry about it, love. I was in your shoes long ago. Thinkin' I could save everyone. Thinkin' I was invincible. You'll get past it soon, Ronnie. Don't worry about it."

"It's hard," Veronica admits.

"Always is..."

* * *

IllusionsVignette - The Dark Side of Kawaii
a fanfic of the Bubblegum Crisis - Megatokyo 2034
by Fred Herriot <fherriot@yahoo.com>
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Edited by E.B. Kushnir. C&C by Robert Geiger <robertgeiger@prodigy.net> and Shawn Hagen <hagen@brant.net>
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Based on characters and situations from Bubblegum Crisis, created by ARTMIC and Youmex; Urusei Yatsura, created by Rumiko Takahashi; Tokimeki Memorial, created by Konami; the Little Lovers series, created by NTT Shuppan; and Sister Princess - Onii-chan Daisuki, created by Mediaworks
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This story is also based on my UY fanfic series The Senior Year (co-created by Mike Smith) and The Ishinomaki Years, as well as the BGC fanfic series No Armour Against Fate by Shawn Hagen
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NOTE: The writer's notes are located at the end of the story text.

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Nerima, the Tower, 22 June 2034, evening...

"Here you go, m'man!"

Yoshio looks up from his computer, then smirks. "Bless your devilish heart, m'son!" he stands, afflicting a Newfoundlander accent as he takes the boxes from Koji. "Any problems getting them away from where you found them?"

"Nah. The one from B234G-6 was due to get scrubbed and reprogrammed soon, so I thought 'What the fuck' and volunteered to do it now for the guys in TSSD (Tower Special Security Department). They owe me a few ones," Koji indicates one of the boxes, marked with the deactivated B-12s body code. "The other one was about to go through recycle. I'm glad I caught Kent in time."

"Bellissimo, mio compadre!" Yoshio takes the boxes over to one of his work tables, then unloads them.

The brains are placed in sterile programming tanks fitted with a soul-scanner on the lid. They are then run through a sonic cleansing shower to remove things like dust and microbes (not to mention plastic and rubber fragments from Yoshio's sterile gloves) from the biomechanical filaments. Once that is done, Yoshio slips in a pair of unprogrammed Mark 97 CBWS reserve memory crystals, then taps controls to begin the soul-transference process.

"So what're these two gonna become?" Koji wonders.

"One'll be the adopted daughter of the retired chief of Sakura Bank here in town. He lost his daughter in Second Kantou and made the cut for the first group of adopted parents for KMs. Pity I couldn't build Ai-chan then but Oba-chan wouldn't allow more than twenty KMs to be built then. As for Kaneko's pal from January, she would've been the daughter of an intelligence officer and his wife we had working in Shikoku. They made the cut, too. Unfortunately, they died a year ago, but since I got the side memory scans for Miyuki-chan, I decided it wasn't right to let them go to waste."

"Pity," Koji hums. "Well, at least their family name'll live on, so that's a good thing." He then remembers what Yoshio had said about where the souls of these two boomers were going. "You gonna use Gee-Six for Miyuki?"

"Hai. I think this'll make Kaneko one very happy lady."

Koji laughs. "Still like being the matchmaker, huh?"

Yoshio takes a haughty look. "Naturally..."

* * *


"Bless you, Kaneko!" Asako Yamano looks up from her books.

"Oooh!!" Kaneko rubs her nose, then looks around the kitchen of the apartment she now shared with the chief of ADP's Tactical Squad Three. "There's nothing in the air..." she hums, blinking confusedly.

"Someone must be talking about you, then," Asako notes.

"Hmmm...maybe," Kaneko nods, then blinks as the door opens.

"Tadaima (We're here)!!" two teenage voices call out.

"Okaeri ne (Welcome back)!" Asako looks over, smiling.

Stepping into the apartment are two teenagers dressed in stylish unisex coveralls and T-shirts. One, now calling herself Mayumi Yamano, was a tall redhead with auburn eyes, her hair styled in a shaggy ponytail with a green tie. The other, Ayano Yamano, was shorter than her adopted sister, possessing long pink hair and mauve eyes. How the DNA techs who created the genome codes for 33-S's and 33-Ms created eyes of THAT shade, Asako didn't know.

Still, she muses as she rises, drawing Mayumi and Ayano into her arms for a motherly embrace, it didn't matter what these girls looked like. They were HER girls. That mattered more. "Did you get the chance to talk to Jeena about what happened to you in the Loop?" Asako wonders as Mayumi and Ayano sit on the couch near the captain's work desk.

"Hai," Mayumi curtly nods. Even with behavioural programming which was part and parcel of the 33-S CC basic personality generator, the former Bu-12A labour boomer's every action was regimented. "Malso-kichou told us that they could not do much concerning the Movement since the full size and scope of the threat they present to society as a whole remains to be properly deduced."

"That's to be expected," Asako sighs. "Oh, got news from the registrar. Both of you'll be allowed to go to school finally."

"I haven't been to school in years," Ayano blinks, a wary flash deep in her eyes. When her soul was mixed with the CC series personality generator, her basic IQ and educational levels shot up the equivalent of six years of maturing in an instant. "Will people have problems?"

"Iie. Ever since Doc Saotome got the government to see the light, the Education Ministry's bent itself backwards to allow CCs a chance to interact with normal kids at their emotional level," Asako shakes her head. "To make things easier for both of you, I'm sending you to Ayase Girl's Junior High School. Kiki Sheffield goes there."

Mayumi blinks. "Why Ayase, Okaa-san? It is located in Adachi Ward. That is a considerable distance from here."

"Kiki's one of the few CCs who goes to public school in the Megatokyo area and I don't want to pay for private tutorials. My salary might be nice, but it's not THAT nice!" Asako smirks, her eyes rolling. "Of all the schools that have CCs going to them in town, Ayase's the closest one to ADP HQ. I think you'll both be able to better adjust to your new lives if you have an experienced sister close by to help you. Kiki's the best one that I know of."

"That's true. Pity Kiki's already got a girlfriend," Ayano hums, then leers. "Are the girls there cute?!"

Laughter fills the apartment...

* * *

Watching the Yamanos chat from the kitchen, Kaneko smiles, a twinge of regret and longing flashing deep in her eyes. When Asako became a GP, Kaneko wound up playing musical apartments again, shifting over to help the chief of Tac Three adjust to her new life. Arwen Sakaki griped her ear off about it, but Kaneko wanted to give her best friend the chance to enjoy her budding relationship with Leslie Kosuke. Atop that, Kaneko saw Asako's becoming a 33-S as a chance in a million to finally win the captain's heart.

One would assume that the coming of children (in the form of Mayumi and Ayano) would "seal the deal." To the surprise of all who knew of Kaneko's private crush on Asako, it didn't work out that way. Yes, Asako was more than pleased to take the two girls under her wing, officially adopting them three days after that incident near Meijidai (Meiji University).

But she, though willing to allow Kaneko a chance to babysit them when conflicting work schedules forced the captain away, seemed uninterested in finding a potential life-partner to help raise Mayumi and Ayano to adulthood.

That attitude, frankly, mystified Kaneko. Even if Mayumi and Ayano were at the equivalent of an emotional age where constant parental supervision wasn't truly necessary, taking care of two girls would still be a lot for just one person to handle, especially an ADP field squad captain.


* * *


"Such a pity..."

The lone man gazes on the unmoving forms before him. The bodies were intact despite the penetrating trauma that ended their lives. Fortunately for his business, demand for Bu-29C parts had been on the upswing over the last year. Genom halted 29-C production in January, gearing up for the upcoming Bu-33C Mark Twos. The recycler doubted Genom would again create an "intimate" companion like the 29-C. The 33-C2 was a "dual-use" unit, ready to serve as both companion and guardian. And Toratotaka was in solid control over anything concerning the 33-S's, the only other boomer model that could easily fit into the 29-C's primary role as a prostitute.

He draws up a scalpel, then turns to one of the 29-Cs brought in from Kawaguchi. The blade is applied over the eyebrows, an orbital cut made to sever the scalp from the ceramic skull. The biomechanical ligaments holding the skull together are parted, then the top plate is taken off to reveal a Mark 11 brain. The recycler cuts the leads from the brain to the body, then extracts the unit. The brain is placed aside as he gets to work dismantling the corpse. The process takes under a half-hour.

Parts from boomers who were sent to private recyclers usually went to three places. Severely damaged, non-repairable parts (in these girls' cases, their central fuel pumps) were incinerated. It just didn't do to put potential customers at risk by selling them boomers fitted with faulty parts. Like Genom, most recyclers believed in putting out a first-class product, even if it was nothing more than a scrubbed and cleansed used AI chip.

Intact parts which could not be reused (on the 29-C, that normally meant custom-made elements like skin tissue and the ceramic skeleton) were sent to a municipal recycler where they would be broken down to their basic molecular components before being sent out to the manufacturers for reconstruction and reuse. "Waste not, want not" was the watchword of such people.

Intact parts which could be reused (brains, AI chips, power cells and other mundane things) were sent to recycle specialists who would scour them a second time before they were sent to reconstruction specialists. There, parts would be put into damaged units to make them whole; a process no different than when dead organics allowed body parts to be used for organ transplants.

If these hookers knew of that, the recycler muses as he gets to work on the second corpse, they might approve...

* * *

Within five hours, all twelve 29-Cs are a memory. Their unit numbers are recorded, then passed on to AD Police so that they would be stricken from the record books. The parts are placed in respective bins for distribution. With that, the recycler cleans up, then heads into his office for tea and a snack before calling it a day. A knock at the door. "Konban wa?"

The recycler looks up, then smiles. "You're coming in late."

"I wasn't too busy," the visitor was a second-stage recycler who specialized in AI chips and brains. "Got anything for me?"

"Twelve Mark 11s from a group of 29-Cs that were shot down by the ABLS and left to rot in Kawaguchi."

Surprise registers on the newcomer's face. "Really?! Thank the gods those idiots are finally done away with!"

"Amen to that, my friend. C'mon, I'll get 'em for you."

The two head into the work area, the host recycler guiding his visitor to a storage bin now holding twelve dormant Mark 11 brains in clear plastic wrap to keep their delicate circuits relatively clean. "Any damage?" the visitor hums, drawing one out to do a close inspection.

"Nothing topside. Just shot-out fuel pumps. I noticed the ABLS pukes were using them as love dolls after they died."

The visitor shakes his head in disgust. "Idiots. Boomer necrophilia. What will they think of next?!"

"Got that right."

The visitor then looks over the other brains. "Okay, I'll take them all off your hands. What's your asking price?"

* * *

Nerima, the Tower, 23 June, morning...

"Well, you look pretty ship-shape now!"

Mayumi and Ayano blush as they stand before a floor-length mirror modelling their new school uniforms. Standard summer dress for students at Ayase Jouchuukou (Ayase Girl's Junior High School) was a beige knit vest over a white shirt closed by a red necktie, topping a green plaid skirt. When it came to "dressy" occasions, a green plaid button vest was substituted. Winter dress was the same as summer, but topped with a green plaid blazer, the school crest over the left breast. Asako stands behind them, looking like every proud mother would whenever her daughters were about to begin a new, exciting part of their lives. "It's nice," Ayano hums, then feels her rump. "Thank the gods we can wear sports bras and panties. I'd hate to be forced to wear bloomers like you did when you were a teenager, Kaa-chan," she gazes at Asako.

"Yeah, things have improved a lot these last twenty years or so," Asako smirks. "C'mon, let's hit the cafeteria, then I'll drive you over to school so we can get you two registered."

"Hai!" both chime as they follow her out of the apartment, Asako locking the door. Even if this WAS the Toratotaka Tower, whose security force was backed by VERY nasty internal and external defensive hardpoints throughout the structure, one never took chances, Asako muses, glad she had instructed Ayano and Mayumi on self-defensive procedures.

Heading down to the cafeteria, the Yamanos file into line, then pick out a table for themselves. A grey-eyed brunette in Shin-Kirameki Kookou (Shin-Kirameki High School) uniform then comes up to join them. "Ohayou, Asako-neechan, minna," Aoi Hatano smiles. "First day at school?!"

"Hai!" Mayumi and Ayano quickly chime, grinning.

"Where's Ikuko, Aoi? She come back from Kyoto yet?" Asako wonders, waving Aoi over to join them.

"She'll be back tonight," Aoi sits down, then digs in. "She hates the fact that her family's down in Kyoto and she's going to school here, but there's no way now that we'll be parted."

Eyes lock on the ring wrapped around Aoi's finger. She had proposed to Ikuko Gardner at the Sexaroid reunion. "Would it not be more logical for you to live in Kyoto with Ikuko if she misses her family, Aoi?" Mayumi wonders.

Aoi rolls her eyes. "I tried that, but Yuina-mama won't hear of it even if Auntie Rei is close by. Besides, if we were closer to Ikuko's mom, she'd be all over us to make sure we behave. Word of advice, Mayumi-chan; DON'T live close to your lover's mother when you finally settle down."

"I have to better adjust to being human before considering seeking a future soul-mate," Mayumi warns.

"Relax, you'll make it. I guess it was loads easier for earlier MT (mental transference) cases like the KMs. Since they all came from S-77s and E-28s, their previous lives didn't influence 'em as much as yours did you."

"I like Mayumi the way she is now and I won't have her any other way!" Ayano pouts, leaning into her sister's side.

Everyone smiles. Even Mayumi's lips curl slightly as she leans over to tenderly kiss Ayano's forehead. "Does Kiki-chan know they're coming in?" Aoi wonders, turning to Asako.

"Hai, I told her and her mother about it at the reunion," Asako sips her juice. "Kiki doesn't mind. She's always felt pretty alone going to Ayase."

"Don't the other CCs go to the same school?" Ayano asks.

"No because they live in different parts of the city," Asako reports. "Most of the CCs in town're like Kiki; ex-33-S Mark Tws who crossed over when their old bodies gave out back in early 'Thirty-two. Their parents still work for Genom. Outside Kiki and her sisters, you have Aya Tougetsu, Chikage Hirosaki, Cynthia Asagiri and Miriya Kishimoto. I know Chikage's privately tutored, but I don't know about the others..."

"People're still making arrangements for Cynthia and Miriya since they were activated recently. Cynthia's got her problems with USSD. Miriya is Diedre-neechan's daughter, so there's no way that she'll be anything else other than a Tower Brat," Aoi reports, leaning on her palms. "Aya's just having enough trouble getting back into the groove after losing her mother like she did, then getting adopted by a 33-M replica of her mom."

"I guess we're the lucky ones," Ayano hums...

* * *


The recycler sighs, stifling a yawn as he takes the last of the brains from its cleansing tank, then places it in preservation storage: a walk-in refrigerator located in his private workshop. Damn, he always lost track of time whenever he got parts from his supplier, then got to work getting them scrubbed and prepared for resale. Still, the man who requested new brains for whatever project he was involved in now wanted them as soon as possible.

"Knowing him, he'll probably be in..." the man muses, then jolts on hearing his front doorbell peal. "Speak of the devil!"

He walks out of his lab into a general reception area, which doubled as the living room. Opening the door, he smiles on seeing a frequent customer. "About time you came by, Follett-san," he waves the newcomer inside.

"Another all-nighter, Michelson-san?" the younger man, looking like your atypical nerd in his reading glasses, utilitarian jumpsuit with carrying pocket for his NAVI and work overcoat, hums.

"Hai, another all-nighter. Maybe I should charge overtime for the hours I put in," the older man waves the newcomer in, then guides him into the work area. "Twelve Mark 11 brains, once fitted into 29-C hookers. Interested?"

Surprise crosses the other man's face, then he smiles, a flash of relief in his eyes. "Definitely! Any damage?"

"Nope. Cleansed and scrubbed completely."

"I'll double-check just in case," the newcomer winks, a smile crossing his face to assure the recycler that he wasn't at all angry over the older man putting in so much time for him.

"You better..."

* * *

Adachi Ward, Ayase Girl's Junior High School...

"Ohayo, Kiki-chan! Ogenki desu ka (How are you)?!"

Kiki Sheffield looks over her shoulder, then grins. "Ohayo, Yayoi-chan! Hai, genki desu (I'm okay). What about you?"

"Hai, genki desu." Approaching the freckled blonde 33-S was a girl with dark hair in girlish side pigtails and blue-grey eyes. Yayoi Sakazaki was one of the first real friends Kiki made when the latter began to attend Ayase two years ago. Both were junior students now. "Um...what're you doing standing on the curb, Kiki-chan?" Yayoi notes their location. "Waiting for someone?"

"Hai. Two new sisters; their mom works in ADP," Kiki reports.

"Eh?!" Yayoi's eyes shoot out of their skull. "No way!"

"Way...! Oh, there they are!" Kiki tenses, then looks over.

A car comes to a halt, the passenger doors opening to reveal two girls dressed in school fuku, briefcases in hand. Out of the driver's door comes a tall woman with braided brown hair in the dark blue-and-grey combat suit ADP's Sexaroids now donned as field uniforms. Yayoi's jaw drops in shock as Kiki waves. "Oi, Asako-neechama, Mayumi-chan, Ayano-chan, chotto (over here)!"

"Ohayou, Kiki!" Asako smiles, guiding her daughters with her, then notices the blonde's companion. "Who's your friend?"

Introductions are made as the group files into the school grounds proper, heading for the administration entrance. Ayase Girl's Junior High is a small school due to it being a girls-only institution, plus being located in one of Megatokyo's suburbs. Already, young women were filing in, many quickly noting the two newcomers accompanying their school's most famous student and an ADP officer who seemed awfully like a Sexaroid herself.

Awaiting them at the front doors is a slender, middle-aged woman dressed demurely. "Ohayou gozaimasu, Yamano-kichou (Captain Yamano). Welcome to Ayase Girl's Junior High School. Are these your daughters?"

"Hai, they are," Asako nods.

The older woman turns her attention to Mayumi and Ayano. "I'm Kimiko Shinohara, the chief of administration, not to mention your homeroom teacher. C'mon inside and we'll get you settled in."

"Hai, Shinohara-sensei!" Asako's daughters respond as they follow the teacher inside, Asako, Kiki and Yayoi in their wake.

Once in Kimiko's office (Kiki and Yayoi being asked to stay with them), entrance forms are produced, not to mention the dozens of other forms needed to ensure a proper paper trail was made for the Education Ministry to track Mayumi and Ayano. Signatures and stamps are applied in the right places, then the girls are given the welcoming speech typical for new students being brought in from elsewhere. With that, Mayumi and Ayano are partnered with Kiki and Yayoi respectively before being sent off to class.

Once alone, Kimiko relaxes, then stares at Asako. "So what made you adopt those two girls in the first place?"

Asako stares at her, then shrugs. "Ayano was abandoned in the Loop before she met Mayumi. In a funny way, Mayumi was abandoned too when Genom stopped work on the Geo-City project. I was practically abandoned by my own relatives when I quit university and joined ADP. Even if they would've been well taken care of by someone else, I decided I wanted to be their mother."

"That's very good of you to do that," Kimiko nods. "Yet from what I heard from people in Nerima, you weren't one who really cared too much for boomers before you became a GP."

"Well, finding out about Kaneko Akamura changed my mind about that, not to mention watching Arwen Sakaki adjust to being a GP for a half-month before it happened to me," Asako admits, then stares intently at the teacher. "Who told you all that, anyway? Himoo-sempai?!" she demands.

Both laugh. "In all honesty, it's Genom that I don't really like, not boomers in particular," Asako admits. "But you gotta admit, since boomers are the most well-known product Genom puts out, it's easy to turn one's hate of Genom into hating all boomers. I..." she sighs. "I guess I'm sorta evolving away from the 'all boomers are bad, so shoot 'em all dead' mode of thinking."

"Especially since you can now take on the worst combat boomers and make their lives real hell," Kimiko smirks.

"Yeah, true. Pity my first real fight as a Guard Police 33-S was with those pricks in the ABLS," Asako admits, then stares at the teacher. "Have you any problems with those types because Kiki comes here?"

"Not really, admittedly," Kimiko admits. "What Kiki did last year pretty much washed away any simophobia the girls here might've felt for her. I think Mayumi and Ayano'll have an easy time. Atop that, the CCs, from what I've seen and heard about many of Kiki's sisters, are naturally quite open, so making friends shouldn't be difficult. Mayumi's naivete might be a problem since as a 12-A, she never had to deal with intensive social situations."

"Kiki warned me about that. I asked both her and Ayano to keep an eye out for Mayumi," Asako rises. "Well, if that's all you need from me, Sensei, I better get going. I've got the day shift and it's gonna be a long one."

"Alright, fair enough..."

* * *


"Good morning, class. As you can see, we have two new students joining us today, both of whom are two of Kiki-kun's CC series 33-S sisters. Ladies, why don't you introduce yourselves."

Kimiko waves to the Yamano sisters, who introduce themselves. The fifteen students in Kimiko Shinohara's class (like all classes at Ayase, the student-teacher ratio is small) quickly notice the former's curt manner. Ayano explains her sister's origins. Hearing THAT, jaws drop to the desks.

"You mean you were actually a labour boomer?!" Rio Kondo, the class representative, exclaims.

"Hai, Rio-san, I was," Mayumi nods.

"Great! We can use her to help move the heavy stuff around when we clean up at nights," Marina Niijima snickers.

"You always were a lazy idiot, Marina," Kiki chides.

The lavender-haired girl spins around, her brown eyes flashing angrily. "Gee, A-...ki-...ko-...san, I haven't seen you do much work over the last year!" she crosses her arms, eyebrow arching.

Kiki ignores her look, exchanging a glance with Yayoi. "I am enjoying my more-than-well-earned retirement from being a Genom special field officer, Marina-chan. Can I help it if I want to lounge around?"

"You don't lounge around too much when that girlfriend of yours from Kyoto shows up," Rio clicks her tongue.

The other girls laugh, Kiki's cheeks flaming. Whenever Kurumi Matsuura visited from Kyoto and she spared time to see her lover at school, Kiki's classmates could normally catch them in some private corner, exchanging warm lip-to-lip messages. Fortunately for Kiki, none of the teachers bothered her about being so openly expressive with Kurumi. Much to Kiki's annoyance, she heard that most of the teachers believed that her being so warm in public was a byproduct of being a Sexaroid. It made things even more grating when her friends and classmates decided to rib Kiki about Kurumi.

"Excuse me, Marina-san, but that is not her proper name," Mayumi interrupts the laughter, holding up a helpful finger. "Her proper designation is 'Kiki Sheffield,' not 'Akiko Sheffield.'"

That declaration provokes another round of laughter, eliciting a confused blink from Mayumi. "I'll explain it later, Mayumi-chan!" Kiki quickly cuts in to ensure her new sister's feelings didn't get hurt.

"Never mind!" Kimiko taps the lectern with her pointer. "Mayumi-kun, Ayano-kun, why don't you take your seats so we can start class."

"Hai," the Yamano sisters head to their designated spots.

Kimiko takes attendance, then does the morning announcements. The students pay attention; Kimiko Shinohara was a popular teacher. Mayumi opens her notebook and jots down important points, especially when it came to school clubs. Watching her from all sides, some of her neighbours blink in surprise on seeing a 33-S, someone blessed with an eidetic memory, acting like a normal teenage girl. Watching her from her chair, Kiki smothers a grin, mentally reminding herself to tutor Mayumi to act more like herself in the future...

* * *

The school bell rings minutes later, heralding the ten minute break between homeroom class and first period, which was English class. As Kimiko steps out of the room, the students shift almost as one to crowd around the two newcomers. "You know, you don't have to make notes, Mayumi-chan," Rio smiles. "With your memory, you don't need them."

"What happens if I suffer from brain damage and memory loss, Rio-san?" Mayumi returns, eyebrow arching. "I endured that once, when Ayano was wounded and we were forced to fuse together as one to survive. While I realize that, given the operational capabilities of my present mental wetware, such would be nearly impossible, why take the risk?"

The others blink in stunned shock at Mayumi's verbosity. "Oi, what'd you do to this girl, Ayano-chan?!" Yayoi stares at Ayano. "Sit her down and make her watch 'Star Trek' reruns all night long or what?!"

"I did," Ayano smirks, eliciting snickers from the others. "I figured if Mayumi-chan was going to have problems adjusting to being human, not to mention interacting with them from now on, she should learn from those who had to do it. Who better to teach her about that than Spock-taisa (Captain Spock) and Data-shousa (Lieutenant-Commander Data)?!"

More laughter. "It was a most intriguing television series to watch, admittedly," Mayumi adds. "It is good that those such as I have such icons, even fictional ones, to turn to for inspiration."

"Kinda odd, ain't it?" Yayoi muses.

"Not necessarily, Yayoi-san," Mayumi gazes on her. "You pure-organics have your own myths and legends, which I believe originated from the active elements of one person's imagination. Why should we be deprived of the same?"

"This, minna-chan, is a sign of someone who's spent too much time disembodied in the LoopNet," a strange voice then hails.

Eyes spin to see a slender tomboy with wavy brown hair and twinkling eyes standing at the doorway, now in shirt, slacks and a cardigan sweater. "Kurumi, what are you doing here?!" Kiki yelps, surprised by her lover's presence, then she races over to bowl the elder sister of the CCs over with a glomp worthy of a Chinese Amazon. "I thought you went back to Kyoto!!"

The others whoop as they share a warm embrace, then gaze into their beloved's eyes. "Oi, I've seen a freckled blonde sex-doll like you somewhere before," Kurumi mischievously hums.

Kiki's eyebrow arches knowingly. "Oh?! I bet that other freckled blonde sex-doll never did THIS!" she growls.

Lip-to-lip begins.

Mayumi notices that Orie Sudo, a willowy girl with pink hair and brown eyes, has drawn a stopwatch from her pocket, hitting the start button as soon as Kiki and Kurumi began reacquainting their lips to the other's. Students remain silent as the lovers continue their passionate embrace, then as they part, Orie snaps STOP. "Forty-three-point-nine seconds," she calls out.

"Banzai!!" Rio whoops, then thrusts her hand out. "Pay up!"

The others grumble, drawing out single nuyen coins to place in the class rep's hand. "What's this about?!" Ayano wonders, staring at Kiki and Kurumi.

"Oh, it's something these dorks run every time Kiki and I meet up at school," Kurumi winks, then offers a hand, winking. "Didn't get the chance to meetcha at the reunion. I'll make up for it now. Kurumi Matsuura. Put 'er there, sis, and welcome to the family!"

Ayano jolts, then warmly grasps Kurumi's hand. "It's really good to be here, Kurumi-neechan," she blushes.

The others whoop...

* * *

"She's back?!"

"What do you expect?" the history teacher chuckles as the staff relax in the teacher's lounge. "I doubt that even a thermonuclear bomb could separate Sheffield-kun and Matsuura-kun for long. Besides, the other kids like her."

"Someone should have a talk with Matsuura-san's parents to ensure the girl's still doing well at school," the science teacher hums. "Even if she is a 33-S, she still has to be educated."

"She's already graduated from junior high," the vice-principal warns. "But so far, no one's tried to help her and her sister Yui get into high school. It seems certain parts of the Kyoto school board aren't prepared to deal with a CC series 33-S at that level."

"Will they have to come to Megatokyo?" one of the gym teachers wonders, sipping her iced tea.

The vice-principal shrugs. "Hard to say."

Nearby, Kimiko glances at her co-workers, then turns to her notes. Many of the staff at Ayase Girl's Junior High didn't mind Kurumi Matsuura's frequent visits. In the wake of last summer's chaos, where Kiki lost her boyfriend Chris Torizawa (then attending Ayase Junior High School), her best friend Debra Kikuchi -- not to mention being forced to kill another friend, Lauren Goldburg (one of those whose cyberpsychosis attack instigated what happened) with a Shishi Houkoudan -- the poor girl had sunk to a suicidal low. No one had any idea what might have happened if Kurumi, not to mention Kiki's classmates, hadn't come along to draw her out of her shell.

Kimiko's NAVI then rings. Blinking surprisedly, she notes the address, then rises. "Excuse me. Private call."

"Your boyfriend?" the history teacher chuckles.

Kimiko glares at her, refusing to dignify that question with an answer, then heads out of the room, to her private office. Stepping inside, she closes and locks the door, then draws out the NAVI. Her face loses all emotion as she draws a privacy datajack cable, then inserts it into a port barely visible under her long French braid. Her whole body locks up, her eyes staring nowhere in particular. "Yes, Master?" she whispers in a curt monotone, gazing on the dark screen before her.

<<We have a new customer, Kimiko. Bring Orie Sudo to my place tonight when you get the chance.>>


<<Who are the two new girls in your homeroom class?>>

"Mayumi and Ayano Yamano. Both are CC series 33-S's like Kiki Sheffield. They were just admitted today."

<<Fair enough. Carry on, Kimiko.>>

"Hai, Master, wakarimashita (I understand)..."

* * *


"Bless you, Orie-chan. Daijoubu?!"

Orie blinks, rubbing her nose, then she stares at Rio. "Search me, Rio-chan!" she mutters under the cloth. "I think someone's talking to me."

"Let's hope it's good," the class rep clicks her tongue.

"Got that right..."

* * *

Nerima, the Tower, after lunch...

"Where am I?"

Eyes as blue as pure sapphite crystal snap open, the woman glancing at the unfamiliar ceiling before her. Sitting up, she jolts as thoughts seep into her mind, confusion and panic churning through her heart. "What's happened?!" she demands, closing her eyes. Who am I?!

<You are Miyuki Iijima,> her mind silently states.

Negative. I am Bee-you-Twelve-Bee-Two-three-four-Gee-Six.

<That is what you were. You are not a Bu-12B cyberdroid.>

More panic. Eh?! Not a...?! What AM I?!!

<You are a BuTT-33S fifth generation KM series cyber-bioroid, Unit Kay-Em-Forty-one-Aye-Em. You were designated as a Directive Five-level sentient at the start of the year, then to ensure you would remain alive and well, you were reborn as a Sexaroid.>

But...?! Miyuki's brow furrows, then she finds herself sinking back into bed. Why THIS?!! Why ME?!!

<You must ask the person responsible for your conversion.>

Miyuki flings the covers aside as she gets up, marching to the door. Opening it, she steps out, then pauses, turning to stare quizzically at the door. How did I know how to do all that?! she wonders, gazing at her hands.

"Um...! Miyuki-san?"

She turns to see a security guard (a Mark 97 CBWS modified Bu-55C according to her MFS) staring at her. "Yes?"

"Would you prefer to wear a housecoat and slippers?" the guard asks. "You normally shouldn't parade around in just your pyjamas."

Miyuki then stares down at her pyjamas, her mind taking note of what she was wearing. Fortunately, the floor is carpeted and warm. "Er...! If you believe that is the prudent thing to do, of course," she muses, allowing the guard to return her to her guest room to obtain the clothing in question.

A minute later, she is guided to the executive elevator, the guard pressing the button for Floor 212 before heading back on his rounds. Miyuki remains still, her mind swirling. A glance at a mirrored surface causes her jaw to drop. Green hair now worn loose past her shoulders, blue eyes, a person in her teens. Shaking her head, she takes another glance (in case her new optical sensors were malfunctioning). Same girl. No such luck.

The elevator stops at the floor in question. Miyuki steps out, glancing around. A jolt shakes her as her ears detect a familiar voice. "...can't understand why Otou-sama wanted me to come here anyway, Arwen...! Eh?!"

Miyuki turns to see Kaneko standing nearby, a curious look on the older Sexaroid's face as she takes her viewer's measure. Now beside her is a woman with close-cropped strawberry blonde hair and green eyes. "Yo, you okay?" the other woman wonders, moving to steady Miyuki if something happens.

Miyuki blinks, staring at Kaneko. "Kaneko."

Kaneko returns her stare. "Excuse me, do we know each other?"

Miyuki blinks, then her mouth twitches into a smile. How nice that she could express herself in more ways than before. "Bee-you-Three-three-Es unit in Sector 52, identify yourself," she winks.


"N-n-nani...?" Kaneko stammers, her eyes widening.

"Identify yourself," Miyuki winks again.

More silence.

Kaneko's jaw drops. "B-B-B-kun...?!" she stammers.

"Eh?!" Arwen gapes at her, then the just-woken Kuromoroboshi, then her own eyes go wide. "No fuckin' way!! You're the...?!" she points at Miyuki.

"The very same. I think!" Miyuki admits, then takes a step closer to Kaneko, her mind automatically forcing out a shroud of pheromones to gently embrace the latter. Wait! How did she know how to do THAT?!

Kaneko jolts, her housekeeping computer quickly detecting the surge of red clover-scented particles in the air around her, then a sly smile crosses her face. "Why, B-kun...!" she moves up to stare intently into Miyuki's eyes. "Are you going to be one of those aggressive types?!" her eyebrow arches.

Arwen chortles, covering her mouth as she slaps her thigh. "I..." Miyuki falters. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you, Kaneko..."

Kaneko gently kisses Miyuki's nose. "Baka!" she reaches over to draw the latter into her embrace, lowering her voice to a knowing whisper. "Nice of you to join the party," she repeats what she told Miyuki in January.

Miyuki feels a content smile cross her face. "My pleasure, Ay-Ay-Seventy-nine-Ay-Kay. Are you damaged?"

"Not this time. But it would only be prudent for you to make sure, ne?" Kaneko stares into the other woman's eyes.

"I will require a lot of guidance if I am to give you a proper examination, Kaneko," Miyuki reminds her.

"I best give you your first tutorial. Iko (Let's go), B-kun," Kaneko turns, beckoning Miyuki to follow with her index finger.

Miyuki follows her to the nearby elevator. The look of anticipation and curiosity is evident for all to see. Arwen watches the two leave, then she crosses her arms. "Man, every day, this place gets weirder and weirder!"

She then jolts on hearing someone whistling the Wedding March. Turning, she sees Yoshio standing at the doorway to his private lab, looking like the cat that just swallowed the canary and got away with it. "Yo, Doc, for fuck's sake, we GOTTA talk!!" Arwen squares her shoulder, marching over to him...

* * *

Ayase Girl's Junior High...

"So it was your template that was named 'Akiko?'"

"Hai. 'Kiki' was her nickname," Kiki sits in the cafeteria, Yayoi and Kurumi to both sides of her, the Yamano sisters across from them. "At first, I was called 'Akiko' by Tou-san. He never knew the other me, but he hoped that would make things easier. But then Kaa-san started calling me 'Kiki' all the time. It stuck, then when I crossed over, that became my legal name."

"She hates being called 'Akiko,'" Yayoi augments, shaking her head. "Marina can be such a bitch on occasion."

"She's even more lazier than what they say about me!"

"Amen about that," Yayoi rolls her eyes.

"You ever date her?" Ayano wonders.

"Not a chance. She's as cold as a damned fish!" Kiki snorts, then leans against Kurumi. "'Sides, why should I think of dating someone else when I've got THIS work of art with me, ne?" she finishes with a kiss to Kurumi's cheek.

"Lucky!" Ayano swoons enviously.

"Oh, relax," Kurumi draws an arm around Kiki. "You'll find yours soon enough, Ayano-chan. Don't fret about it."

"Yeah, that's true. Even though we're as busy as all hell at this time of our lives, we won't be teenagers forever, not even you," Yayoi whoops. "We're all baby seals, so let's party!"

"'Baby seals?'" Mayumi's eyebrow arches.

"SEAL is the name for the American naval special forces," Yayoi sighs. "It means SEa, Air, Land. From the few I've ever met (my dad's in the Maritime Self-Defence Forces), they say their name actually means Sleep, Eat And Live it up! Can't argue with that philosophy even at our age!"

"Amen to that!!" Kurumi raises her hand.

Yayoi gives her a high-five. "Confusing," Mayumi sighs.

"It's alright," Ayano places a reassuring hand on her sister's shoulder. "You'll get it right sooner or later, Mayumi-chan."

"Yeah, don't get frustrated," Kurumi adds.

"I will try not to," Mayumi assures them, then rises. "If you will excuse me, I want to go for a walk around the campus."

"Don't get lost," Kiki calls out.

Mayumi waves reassuringly at her, then heads over to drop off her lunch tray at the dishwasher. With that, she finds the nearest exit to place herself in the back yard. Some students are chatting with friends or are involved in an outdoor volleyball game. Gazing at the sea of content faces, Mayumi feels a smile cross hers. With that, she heads towards the fence line to begin a casual circuit of the property before returning to her sister's side, then proceeding indoors for afternoon classes.

As she walks around the school, Mayumi quickly notes the groundskeeper's shed, located in a shaded part of the lot. As she passes by the door, her sharp hearing picks up a woman's voice from within. Tensing, she glances at the closed door, then leans close to better interpret what is happening. The mutter becomes a clear voice. "...meet me near Kita-ayase Station, down from the west entrance. Stay out of sight of people at the police station. Tell your parents than you're going out to meet with friends. You'll be with me for three hours, then I'll have you taken home. Understood?"

"Hai, Ojou-sama (Mistress)," another voice slurs.

Shinohara-sensei and Orie-san? Mayumi blinks.

"Now, relax yourself. When you emerge from hypnosis, you will not remember what has happened here. Understood?"

"Hai, Ojou-sama."

"Very well, then. Begin countdown."

"Thirty. Twenty-nine. Twenty-eight..."

Footsteps. Mayumi falters, then ducks behind the corner of the shed as the door opens, revealing Kimiko Shinohara. The new student watches as the teacher glances around, then confirming that no one spotted her emerging from the shed (she didn't see Mayumi), she heads for the school building. Mayumi watches her step inside, then walks around to gaze into the shed. Orie stands at attention by the gardening equipment, rock still, her mouth fluttering the countdown. Mayumi remains still as Orie counts past ten, then ducks clear as normal lucidity returns to her classmate's eyes. Reaching one, Orie stops, then blinks before looking around. "What am I doing here?" she wonders aloud, then shrugging, she heads out of the shed towards the school building.

Mayumi watches her go. Hypnosis? But, why?! she mentally demands, running through the events she just witnessed. It was a good thing that she understood the basics of not getting caught eavesdropping on something which might cause her trouble in the future. That was one of several things Mayumi inherited from Ayano during their brief time fused. Hopefully, Kimiko wasn't alert enough to detect Mayumi by her breathing, footsteps or the tincture of cherry in the air around her. A good thing that Mayumi remembered to keep her pheromones in check when she hid herself; who knew WHAT Kimiko or Orie would have done if they came in close range of Mayumi in that circumstance.

Yet that still didn't answer the basic question Mayumi had.

Perhaps a talk with her mother might help...

* * *

Kirameki Memorial Park, early afternoon...

"Thank you for agreeing to come out with me."

"I would have done no less for you, Kaneko," Miyuki smiles as she and Kaneko step through the torii into the park proper, heading towards the Tree of Legend. Both could sense the gathering by the Memorial. Dozens of 33-S's waiting for a chance to go in to spend some time with their lost relatives. For those making their way to this place for the first time (the girls from Pukkeuksoung, for example), it was a very special occasion even if they were saying a tearful good-bye to those who mattered so much for them before their lives were torn apart by the recall. Kaneko had donned her gold kimono for the occasion; she would change into her duty uniform before heading to work for the night shift. Beside her, Miyuki, her hair now done in a ponytail, wore a hakama, white top and black skirt with a red-brown sash around her waist to indicate her particular series. The white-over-black colouring indicated she was a genin (junior ninja), possessing only the basic combat programs inserted during on construction. Those programs were considerable, Kaneko knew, having talked about it with other KMs in the past. Even now, Miyuki could, if forced into the field before getting the chance to train properly in Saikoo Jinseijitsu-ryuu, handle herself pretty well against most opponents, organic, boomer or otherwise. She'd probably have an easier time tackling a Flex Boomer than she did back in January, Kaneko muses.


Miyuki stops, then turns to see three women dressed as she now by the "Y" junction parting the walkway around the Tree of Legend. One was a brown-eyed version of Rei McErie, headband and all. The second, a waifish woman with purple eyes, wore her greenish-black hair in thick side French braids to her collarbones. The third was a woman with long auburn hair (some of it wrapped around the mass to tie off at the back, like Shinto shrine maidens often styled their hair) and eyes the same shade as Priss Asagiri's. Miyuki blinks, then relaxes as her housekeeping wetware calls up names and general data. "Mizuho, Miko, Ai. Konnichi wa. Ogenki desu ka?"

"Hai, Miyuki, genki desu," Rei's near-lookalike smiles, then turns to Kaneko. "Konnichi wa, Kaneko-neechan."

"Konnichi wa. Er...! Um, no disrespect, but I was told that new KMs weren't going to be prepared for a couple more months!"

"According to Saotome-hakase, we were reawakened in these bodies now to allow Sensei the chance to begin training some of the new generation of KMs before our older sisters would be given the chance to finally retire from field service," the auburn-haired woman explains. "This news hasn't been even passed to our older sisters yet. We were hoping to meet some of them here today, but I don't seem to sense any of them here," she looks around.

"Most likely, they're with their families or on call," Kaneko smirks. "For as long as I've known them, it often seemed to me as if the Kuromoroboshi NEVER slept. Er...are all of you mental transference cases like Miyuki-chan?"

"Hai," the auburn-haired woman nods. "In fact, I was with Miyuki back in January helping you and your co-workers," she adds with a wink.

Kaneko and Miyuki jolt. "But you said...!!" the former spins on the latter, pointing to the other woman.

"So I believed!" Miyuki stammers, then turns on her sister. "Ai, how is it you survived in the end?!"

"My brain didn't suffer much in the way of damage from the 203-E used against me," Ai smiles. "It felt as if I was about to be put into storage, then I woke up this morning like this," she points to herself in emphasis.

"Where were you this morning, then? In the Tower?"

"Iie. My adopted parents' home; they live in Toshima near the Spiral. The same with Mizuho and Miko here (they live elsewhere in the city)," Ai indicates her companions. "Saotome-hakase felt it was only right that we meet our families first before meeting our sisters and dealing with other matters."

The slight colouring in Ai's cheek clearly informs Kaneko what "other" matters worried the newly-woken Kuromoroboshi genin this day. "Well, it's good that you survived in the end. Ai-chan, was it? Are you two former B-12s, too?" she stares at Mizuho and Miko.

"Iie, Nee-chan, we used to be C-99s based at GPCC. We nearly got killed in the big fight in May," Rei's near-double smiles, then catches herself. "Oh, sumimasen. We didn't meant to be rude. I'm Mizuho Yuuki. These are Miko Kamiyama and Ai Minamizato," she indicates her companions.

"Yoroshiku, minna-chan. I hope you'll all have an easy time of it when Sensei gets her hands on you," Kaneko winks.

"You've trained in the Art, Nee-chan?" Miko's eyes widen.

"Hai, Miko-chan. I'm still rated a genin, but I've had little cause to make use of the Art in police work. For the longest time, I've had to act like a meek little kitten to keep fooling the dorks at Genom who thought they were in control. Atop that, I don't have the ruby meson crystals, so I can't really make use of the geo-thermal chi attacks you can do even now."

"Soo desu ka. Can you be upgraded?" Mizuho wonders.

"I could, but I don't see the use in it now," Kaneko shrugs, then blinks on hearing footsteps approach from the front gate, her MFS and nose confirming who it might be. "Asako, what are you doing here?" she looks over.

Unlike Kaneko, Asako was in duty uniform. "It's probably going to be a quiet day today at work -- it normally is after a big fight, don't you think? -- so I decided to come down even for a bit and see how everyone's doing. Who're your friends?" she notices the four newborn Kuromoroboshi.

Introductions and explanations quickly follow. Asako blinks surprisedly on hearing Miyuki's and Ai's origins, then she smiles. "Even if I always bitch and complain a lot about Genom, I've always wanted to thank you guys for helping out back in January, so I guess I can do it now," she reaches over to draw Ai in for a friendly embrace, kissing her cheek. "Thanks."

"It was our pleasure (as we told Kaneko-neechan then), Asako-neechan," Ai beams as Asako and Miyuki share an embrace, then she glances at the Memorial, noting that the crowd had thinned. "Um. Minna, the crowd seems to be dispersing a bit. Kaneko-neechan, do you want to go in now?"

"Yeah, I might as well," Kaneko sighs, then walks over.

The others follow. Awaiting them at the Memorial gates are several of the prototypes, including Megumi Mikihara, now chatting with Ayaka Kurusugawa. The ex-SFIO tenses, then turns, smiling. "Konnichi wa, Kaneko. I see you've met some of the new girls soon to go forth and do dastardly deeds for us!"

"Did you have something to do with this, Nee-san?" Kaneko hums, her eyebrow arching knowingly.

"Iie. For once, I can profess total innocence. Yoshio-kun was SOLELY responsible for this," Megumi holds up a hand, then guides Kaneko towards the Memorial. "Ikumashou (Shall we)?"

"Hai," Kaneko nods, following her elder sister inside.

Asako and the four KMs remain in place. "Don't you have someone you'd want to visit, Asako-neechan?" Ai wonders.

"Me?!" Asako jolts, then smirks, shaking her head. "Nah, I'm okay, Ai-chan. Got few relatives as is and the only ones who matter are both at school right now. Thanks, anyway...! Eh?!"

A shuffling noise from one of the side gates leading into the park. For today's ceremony, the Guardsmen had come out in a considerable show of force (five teams) to block all the entrances, thus ensuring not-so-innocent eavesdroppers couldn't sneak in and cause mischief. Presently, a group of men were trying to push past two of the muscular women guarding the gate nearest to the Memorial. Seeing the interlopers' dress -- white-trimmed black samurai hakamas with decorative symbols -- Asako pales. "Oh, fuck me, no...!"

"Old friends, Asako?" Ayaka knowingly wonders.

Asako jolts, then sends a lethal glare at the new SFIO. "I'd hardly call any of 'em 'friends,' Sempai," her voice drips ice.

"Are they your enemies?" Ai tenses.

"You could say that," Asako crosses her arms.

Ai blinks, then exchanges determined nods with her companions. The fledgling Kuromoroboshi break away, marching determinedly towards the gate to help their older sisters keep the riffraff away. Asako sees them, then pales. "Oi, oi, what the fuck're you guys doin'...?!" she moves to stop them.

Ayaka's hand lands on the captain's shoulder. "Relax, Asako. I think those dorks'd need something like this done to them."

"But what if...?!" Asako spins on the SFIO.

"They won't. Elinor and Edith'll keep it calm."

Asako blinks, then relaxes. Ai's group have, by then, placed themselves close to the fourth gen members of GMT-1 to clearly interpret the argument between them and the "visitors." "Stand aside!! We have business with Asako Yamano and it will not wait!" their leader snaps.

"Sir, I said several times that this is a private ceremony and those who aren't immediate relatives of those now visiting the Memorial aren't allowed inside," Elinor Wylie evenly states.

To no effect. "Damned machine, either move aside or...!!"

Black-and-white blurs melt into four women behind them, then fingers lash out to touch various places on the visitors' bodies. Seeing this, Elinor and Edith Hamilton relax; both had been around their ninjitsu counterparts long enough to recognize an attack using the enemy's shiatsu points against them. The men suddenly find themselves frozen, their voices taken away, unable to move a thing outside their basic breathing, hearing and sight. Ai and her friends pass them to stand beside the Guardsmen. "Elinor-neechan, are these men causing you and Edith-neechan problems?" Mizuho sweetly inquires.

"Not anymore," Elinor chuckles, crossing her arms.

"Soo desu ka," Mizuho nods, then stares at them. "If you gentlemen," THAT wasn't the word she actually used concerning these men, "...want to know what just happened to you, we simply used some shiatsu pressure points to deprive you of any control over your bodies. Oh, we decided to take your voices away as well so that you wouldn't interrupt what we have to say to you. Your bodies'll unlock in about ten minutes time. But you won't get your voices back for a week at the most," she winks, grinning.

Footsteps. Eyes fall on Asako, who now stands, arms crossed, a metre behind Edith. "Problems?" the captain wonders.

"They wanted to talk to you, Asako-chan," Elinor reports.

"That so?" Asako clicks her tongue, then locks eyes with the visitors' leader. "You tell that fuckin' gutless asshole who calls herself my mother that if she doesn't have the guts to meet me on MY terms, shit-for-brains, then I won't have anythin' to do with her or you pukes anymore. Got me?!"

The men tremble indignantly, their eyes flashing many ugly responses to the ADP captain. "I thought as much. By the way, if she thinks she can do anything to my girls, she better remember that there're a lot of people who'd LOVE to learn all they can about the Sakuko," Asako adds, turning away. "Ja."

She heads back to the Memorial. Gazing at their visitors, the Guardsmen and the Kuromoroboshi note the horrorstruck looks on the men's faces. "Gee, I wonder what Asako-neechan meant by all that," Miko hums confusedly.

"Maybe we should ask these gentlemen," Elinor hums; like Mizuho, the commander of GMT-1 doesn't use that EXACT term, "...to come to the Tower with us to answer questions. A LOT of them."

The horrorstruck looks turn to wide-eyed fear. "I see, then," Elinor icily smiles. "I expect you to be as far away from this place as possible when the body lock wears off. If you aren't, we've got some C-99s close by who'd LOVE to persuade you to talk about anything we'd want. Got me?!"

Defeated looks shine from the visitors. "You go on back up," Edith waves the KMs to the Memorial. "We'll take it from here."

"You sure, Edith-neechan?" Miyuki wonders.

"We'll be fine."

"Okay," Miyuki nods as they head back up...

* * *

"What was THAT all about, Onee-san?!" Kaneko demands.

She and Megumi now stand by the main doors leading into the Memorial. Both had spent a brief time inside; Kaneko visited the Memorial once a week to talk to Seiji's spirit, so she didn't see the need to spend too much time there today. "A very ugly part of Asako's past which seems to not understand that it is not welcome in her present, much less her future," Megumi takes a deep breath. "What do you know of the Sakuko, Kaneko?"

"'Sakuko?!'" Kaneko blinks, then hums as they head towards the Tree of Legend. "Weren't those the laws the Tokugawas passed back in the 1600s to keep Western ideas and thought out of Japan?"

"The same," Megumi nods. "These days, the name also applies to a 'secret' society dedicated to eliminating 'corrupting' foreign influences on Japanese society and restoring the country's soul. How ironic that Michelle Danielson spoke of the loss of a country's very soul back in April. The Sakuko are convinced that with so much happening to turn Japan 'away' from its 'proper' heritage, they'll have to pull out all the stops to swing things back to a more 'proper' state of mind for a lot of people in the country."

"I take it they're not as 'secret' as they'd like," Kaneko grins, sensing the irony in Megumi's voice.

"Hai. We've always known about them, as do leaders in Genom and Samguk. The Sakuko's central viewpoints have always been seen by the Moroboshi Clan as worthless ever since Nokoko's ancestors gave support to Emperor Meiji after Commodore Perry's visit. They're not powerful when you get down to it, but they can be as nettlesome as the ABLS and Prometheus Bound."

"Cute. Was Asako a member?"

"Iie, but her mother is a leader of the group. She tried to force Asako to join the Sakuko, but she refused; this was about the time she quit the university and joined ADP."

"Soo ka," Kaneko hums, her eyes falling on Asako, now standing under the Tree. The lieutenant takes a deep breath, then heads to join the captain. Watching her go, Megumi smiles, then turns to join the other prototypes.

"Ganbatte (Good luck), Kaneko-chan," she whispers...

* * *

Asako blinks, then looks up as Kaneko approaches. "Yo."

"You okay?" Kaneko gently inquires.

Asako gazes at her, then sighs. "I take it Megumi-sempai told you some things about what my mom's a part of?"

"Hai, she did. Is your mom really that bad?!"

A snort escapes the captain's nose. "She's the high queen of bakayaros, that one," she crosses her arms, leaning on the Tree. "I got it non-stop since I was old enough to walk," she wags her finger, altering the pitch of her voice. "'Gaijin and sankokujin (people of third-world nations) are nothing more than filth, Asako-chan! Don't listen to ANYTHING they say!' and all that shit!! Fuck!" she spits out. "Sent me to university, one the family and her friends sponsor and all that, just to make sure I'd continue to get force-fed all that crap. That's why I quit and joined the force."

"Soo ka," Kaneko whistles. "She must've driven you mad!"

"Came close. Ever since, she's been doing her best to get me booted off the force so she could slam me back into university," Asako twirls her finger. "The reason I wanted to get back into the tac squads after the Flex thing was that Baka Kaa-san was trying to make me lose it in Investigations."

"Did you ever explain it to Jeena-san?"

"Nah! 'Sides, what could she do?! I've dreamt of ways of putting those loons out of business, but every plan I come up with usually results in a lotta people getting hurt for no reason. Like Megumi-sempai probably said, they're a pack of loons, but they're a fuckin' pack of dangerous ones."

"Do you think they might try to hurt Mayumi-chan and Ayano-chan?"

Asako blinks. "Well, they could, I guess, even if they were in a safe place like the Tower," she scratches the curve of her jaw, then sighs. "I dunno. I've been threatening them with going public about the Sakuko for years (not that I think it'd matter in the long term), but I think doing it for so long's immunized them. They probably think that I really won't do it."

Kaneko sighs. "Sad."

"Yeah, I guess it is. Look, I gotta trip back to the station before the dorks burn the place down. I'll see ya later."

Asako turns to leave, then jolts on feeling a soft hand fill hers. She stops, looks down to see Kaneko's hand on her own, then glaces up to see the lieutenant staring tranquilly at her. Silence falls, then Asako bows her eyes. "It's not a smart thing, Kaneko."


"Wantin' someone like me."

"What if I don't want anyone else?"

Asako blinks, then sighs, pulling her hand away. "You'll get hurt," she closes her eyes. "Ja ne."

She leaves. Kaneko watches her go, then sighs, turning away. "You've no concept of what I've endured, Asako," she whispers, then jolts on feeling a familiar presence close by.

"If you go all the way with her, she'll have to learn a few things about you, Kaneko," a warm voice warns.

Kaneko blinks, then stares at Diana Mason. "I don't think she'd be ready for THAT particular titbit, Dee," the lieutenant laments.

"As long as Iso-san remains out there, it'll continue to haunt you," Dee laments, gazing at the branches overhead.

"Hai. But the instant he comes into town -- and he will, I don't doubt that -- he belongs to me, Dee."

"I don't doubt THAT, either," Dee muses, grinning...

* * *

Nerima, the Tower, that evening...


"Okaeri ne!" Asako looks up from her books, then rises to draw her daughters into her arms. "How was your first day at school?"

"Confusing, Okaa-san," Mayumi reports as she and Ayano sit down beside the living room table. Asako is quick to notice the concern in the ex-labour boomer's eyes. "I witnessed a curious event around lunchtime, something I know is not normally considered acceptable at a place of education, but..."

"Okay, first of all, tell me what you saw and I'll decide if it's acceptable or not," Asako holds up a hand in caution.

Mayumi pauses, then begins. It takes three minutes. Beside her, Ayano's eyes widen in shock on hearing what Orie had endured. Listening to her daughter, Asako's eyes widen, then she sighs, shaking her head. When Mayumi falls silent, the ADP captain exhales. "Like Leon said, 'The more I work in this place, the weirder things get,'" she mutters, then straightens. "You confront Orie-chan or Shinohara-sensei anytime after this, Mayumi?"

"Negative. I believed consulting with you before doing something like that to be more prudent."

"Smart thinking," Asako nods. "Good girl. Alright, something strange is going on around here. I don't know if it's some ecchi nonsense Shinohara's pulling with your classmates (like it or not, that sort of shit DOES happen, even these days!) or it's something else. You girls go do your homework; Kaneko made dinner before she went off to work. I'm gonna call upstairs and see what I can get from Kurusugawa-sempai about this."

"Hai," Mayumi nods, rising to head into her bedroom.

Ayano rises, then stops, staring at Asako. "Kaa-chan, do you think Shinohara-sensei might try something with us?"

"She'd be stupid to try it, but let's not take chances, 'kay?" Asako winks at her, holding up a cautionary finger.


Ayano heads off. Asako shakes her head, her hand reaching for her videophone. Dialling a number, she sits, then brightens on seeing Ayaka's face on her screen. "Hai, Kurusugawa desu. What's the problem, Asako?"

"I got something interestin' I'd hope you could track for me, Ayaka-sempai," Asako sighs. "Can I come up and see you?"

"No problem..."

* * *

Adachi, near Kita-ayase (North Ayase) Station...

Orie Sudo whistles happily as she walks down the street toward the train station, located on one of dozens of branch lines serving Megatokyo's many suburbs. Her mother had been a pain about her heading out on a school night, but Orie nailed her with a doe-eyed stare and a syrupy moan which stated that she needed the chance to get away from the house and the homework even for just one night beyond the weekend. Besides, it was a nice evening and she needed a chance to get some fresh air like everyone else.


Orie blinks, then turns as a familiar person steps out from a side road. "Oh, Shinohara-sensei, konban wa!" she bows, smiling at Kimiko Shinohara. "What're you doing out here tonight?"

"Oh, nothing much, just getting some fresh air like you are, I suspect," Kimiko clicks her tongue, her eyes glancing around to ensure no eavesdroppers, then she gently calls out, "Sleep."

Orie jolts, then a blank look crosses her face. "Hai, Ojou-sama?" her voice lowers to a timid whisper.

"Go to my car. Get inside. Usual procedure."

"Hai, Ojou-sama, wakarimashita (I understand)," Orie whispers, then her face brightens. The animated look does not travel to her eyes. "Well, I have to go meet friends! See you tomorrow."

"Hai, oyasumi nasai (good night)," Kimiko waves as Orie runs off down the side street, then the teacher turns, heading toward the station.

Orie turns a corner into another side street, then slows, noting the presence of a Nissan sports coupe. She opens the passenger side door, then slips into the back, laying down and closing her eyes as if asleep. A few minutes later, Kimiko walks up to the car from behind, having circled around the block. She slips in, then turns the motor over. "Remain still."

"Hai, Ojou-sama," Orie replies.

Kimiko flips a switch, which darkens the windows from outside viewers. With that, she guides the vehicle out, then drives to the Kannana-doori, the main street connecting Ayase with Kasai far to the south, then circling west, then south around the central part of Megatokyo.

In minutes, she guides her vehicle into Umejima district, located roughly in the middle of Adachi close to the Nikan Towers construction site. Turning off on a side street, she parks the car near a modest family home located near Umejima Station. Kimiko disembarks from the car, then takes a quick scan around before calling out, "Come with me, Orie."

"Hai, Ojou-sama," Orie replies, stepping out of the vehicle.

The two women proceed through the front gate, stopping by the main door. Kimiko rings the doorbell. A moment later, the door opens, revealing a young man with glasses. "Inside," he beckons.

"Hai, Master," Kimiko and Orie reply together as they step inside, the door closing behind them...

* * *

Nerima, the Tower, that moment...

"Tracked them as far as Umejima. The car's parked in an alley, but the observers didn't get into position on time before seeing which house they went into," Ayaka hums, staring at the readout before her. Asako stands behind the SFIO, gazing at the image of a sports coupe parked in a nondescript alleyway.

"Anyone important live around that area?" the captain asks.

"Hard to tell. New apartments'll be going up soon to quarter people who might end up working at the Nikan Towers, but they'll be in Rokugatsu, Hirano and Rokuchou, not Umejima." With that, Ayaka taps controls to keep a detailed watch. "Okay, all we can do now is wait and see what happens next."

"That's the most fun part of police work," Asako snorts...

* * *


Orie lays on the diagnostic table as a lattice mind-scanning unit is placed on her head. Kimiko stands in one corner, totally still as the scientist goes to work. "We're starting to attract some foreign customers now," he muses, adjusting his glasses.

Kimiko makes no reply. Staring at her, Peter Follett fights down a smirk, then he powers up the memory scanner. When he had worked in Genom years ago, he learned all he wanted to learn about memory recording devices from Yoshio Saotome. He, a specialist in software programming who worked on all three generations of 33-S's Genom produced, had been assigned to the department responsible for FS (family services) boomer development when Yoshio and Quincy terminated the Sexaroid project in late 2030. Peter took his retirement next year, deciding he wanted to work in less stifling conditions. Since he had been seen as a minor assistant in the 33-S project, Genom's wide-reaching internal security apparatus hardly took notice.

The experience he gained working under the "Bumaa Puroguramaa no Kami-sama" hadn't been wasted. Peter learned how to craft the type of cyber-bioroid body that would ensure whatever tricks Brian Mason and Yoshiro Andrews pulled against Yoshio would eventually be made useless. Mixing human DNA with genome-neutral biomechanical tissue to craft a body that couldn't be really distinguished from a pure-organic's even with detailed medical scans. Atop that, how to code the gigabytes of software programming which guaranteed that 33-S's would become fully sentient and sapient on awakening.

Armed with that, Peter decided to go into business for himself and make his own 33-S's. Having seen how the Sexaroids were sold, he could list dozens of errors Yoshio and the Genom executive staff made towards exploiting various potential markets. He wasn't trying to compete against Genom or Toratotaka. To do so against the former was stupid if not suicidal. Against the latter, it wasn't as risky, but given the markets Peter had come in contact with, he knew the moral fools in Nerima would LOUDLY disapprove.

Then again, what was so wrong with what he did now? In the end, when one washed away all the moral platitudes, ignored the bombastic verbal garbage spouted by those who believed they were "right" about things, he was doing a public service. As society evolved from the Confucian-influenced precepts that had dominated Japan for so long, more and more people, especially the young, fell victim to those who gave vent to the "darker" elements of their dreams and psyches. Cases of child abuse, child rape, teenage pregnancies and other such matters had been on the upswing over the last fifty years. Try as social groups and governments alike could to stop that trend, there was no end in sight. So why not do something that would protect children in the long term, not to mention save the justice system money at the same time? And if there were those people willing to PAY to have their perverted fantasies come to life, why not make a profit along the way?

Of course, things had to be kept secret. Peter didn't doubt that if this became public, it would be stopped, a heavy toll being extracted from him along the way. Hypnosis was used to entice those who would make templates for Peter's child Sexaroids to comply. The girls weren't harmed outside that; once the memory copy was made of Orie, she would be returned to where Kimiko had found her, then let go, made to forget what she had endured. Kimiko was a boomer, Peter's personal creation, so she wouldn't spill the beans about it. Even better, Kimiko had been constructed to avoid detection by any means, even the magnetic field scan system fitted into those like Kiki Sheffield.

Sighing, Peter turns his attention to the machine hooked to the scanner now making a meticulous copy of Orie's memories. The customer wanting a replica of the girl desired someone who was as human as possible, though programmed to fulfil a panorama of sexual urges. She would be done soon, then Kimiko would take Orie back to where she was picked up. Once that was done, the replica Orie would be finished and activated over the next day or so...

* * *

Nerima, the Tower, an hour later...

"Anything?" Asako places a cup of tea on Ayaka's desk.

"Nothing yet...! Wait!" the SFIO tenses as a new report filters into her mind. "Shinohara-sensei and Sudo-san just emerged from a house, heading...yes, back to the teacher's car."

"From where?!" the captain tenses.

"Wait..." Ayaka taps controls, then hums, her eyebrow arching. "Peter Follett?" she hums aloud. "Interesting..."

"Who's he?"

"One of Yoshio-kun's co-workers on the Genom 33-S project," Ayaka taps controls, drawing up a file. "He wasn't very important in the whole scheme of things, but he was one of the smarter ones of the whole lot. Worked for Genom a year after the 33-S project was shut down, then went to work on his own..."

"Doing what?"

"Unknown. According to what we got on him, he does transactions in millions of nuyen, but as to what he makes and why, we don't know. Atop that, we've had no prior report on him which would make us keep a closer watch."

"Well, now we've got something," Asako's jaw hardens.

"Hai. Hypnotizing a teenage girl, forcing her to do whatever Shinohara-sensei and Follett-san'd want of her, is wrong and should be addressed. But is Sudo-san the only victim?"

The captain blinks, then sighs. "Good point..."

* * *

Ayase Girls' Junior High, 24 June, morning...

"So you have no idea as to what happened to Orie-san?"

"Not really," Asako shakes her head as she guides the car into the front parking lot. "Look, girls, act like nothing happened, alright. I don't want to get you two into trouble."

"What happens if we see something, Kaa-chan?" Ayano wonders.

"Tell me about it, but don't DO anything, okay," Asako holds up a finger. "First of all, you girls aren't built for any sort of combat. Secondly, what happens if Shinohara decides to take it out on some of your classmates. Think about them, too, okay?"

"Hai," both nod as they disembark, bidding Asako a good day.

Mayumi and Ayano run over to join Kiki and Yayoi as they stream into the school. Watching them, Asako sighs, then guides her car out of the lot. As she heads back towards AD Police headquarters, Asako hums, then draws up her CVP from the coffee holder behind the stick shift. She speed-dials a number, then nods as Kaneko's image appears. "Moshi-moshi, Kaneko desu."

"Kaneko, Asako desu. Do you know if any of those new KMs we met yesterday are around?" Asako hums.

"What do you need them for, Asako?" Kaneko blinks...

* * *


<<So you're saying that Shinohara-sensei took Orie-chan out somewhere and did something with her?!>> Kiki stares quizzically at Mayumi, the two and Ayano sitting at a cafeteria table.

It is the morning recess break. Students nearby are quick to recognize the furrowed brows on the Sexaroids and understand what it meant; the 33-S's were communicating using their special mental link. When asked about this, Kiki had been sufficiently vague describing how the link worked. After all, it wouldn't do to let some junior high school students learn about the OMS, even if the Toratotaka version of the Omniversal Mind-transmitter System had nothing to do with Genom's boomer control system. Though she was forced to "retire" in all respects from Genom's service, Kiki still respected the company which gave her mother the ability to create her.

<<Hai. Okaa-san had Aunt Ayaka track Orie-san and Sensei to a different part of Adachi Ward, where they met someone Yoshio-papa knew when he worked on Genom's 33-S project,>> Mayumi sips her spring water. <<As to what they did there, no one knows, but Aunt Ayaka is presently investigating the matter.>>

<<Strange,>> Kiki hums, her eyes narrowing as she focuses on Orie, now seated with Rio and several of their classmates at a nearby table. Odd. Orie seemed okay from here. <<Are you sure it was some sort of hypnosis, Mayumi?>>

<<Affirmative,>> Mayumi nods.

Kiki sits back in her chair. <<Soo ka,>> she sighs, then straightens. <<Okay, let's see what we can do to shed some light on the subject.>>

<<Kiki, Kaa-chan said...!!>> Ayano exclaims.

<<I know what your mother said, Ayano-chan!>> Kiki stares at her. <<But remember, she's a cop. I used to work black ops and just because I'm living as a normal girl now doesn't mean that the skills I had as a Mark Two haven't gone rusty. Relax, I know what to do. Leave Orie-chan to me, 'kay?>>

<<If you say so...>>

* * *



Orie turns, smiling as Kiki comes up. Most of the class were now filing outside to spend time under trees having their lunches before getting sports equipment and playing around. "Oh, Kiki-chan, what is it?"

"You want to have lunch with me?" Kiki beckons Orie with her. "I was going to snack down by the high jump pits."

"Sure! Um...! What about Mayumi and Ayano?"

"Oh, they're okay. Yayoi's with them now. Besides, I can't nursemaid them all the time, y'know."

"Hai, true, true."

They head out of the building, walking over to the northeast corner, where a beautiful maple tree was in bloom. Sitting in the shade, they break out their bento boxes and begin to chow down. "So how were things with you and Kurumi yesterday?" Orie asks.

Kiki blinks, then sighs. "Crazy. Kurumi's 'itch' hit her just after supper. She was all over me for the rest of the night; Kaa-san complained that she couldn't get any sleep."

Orie laughs, then gazes intently at her. Kiki blinks, her eyebrow arching quizzically. "Nani?"

"Oh, I dunno. I guess there're times I sorta wonder what type of life you live, Kiki-chan. I mean, you're so much like us yet even if people didn't realize right away you were a 33-S, there's this control you project. You know, when I first met you, being around you, it was so unnerving at times."

Kiki blinks, then bows her eyes. "I'm sorry..."

"Oh, don't apologize!!" Orie laughs, then sighs. "I mean, that's the way you are, Kiki! And..." she shrugs, smiling. "I wouldn't want you any other way. None of us would. You're a great person, Kiki," she winks, "...even if you are a cybernetically-enhanced bioroid."

"Thanks," Kiki's cheeks heat, then she kisses Orie's cheek. "You're a great person, too," she winks back, "...even if you are a pure-organic," she adds, then sighs. "So, what do you think of Mayumi and Ayano, Orie-chan?"

"They're okay. It shocked me to see Mayumi-chan take notes and all that in yesterday's classes. Then when she explained about what happened to her and Ayano-chan, I..." Orie sighs. "It was sad, what happened to them."

"Yeah, it was. There are times I think about all the other Ayanos and Mayumis out there. In the Loop and the Fault, in all the forgotten places around the world," Kiki bites her lip. "It makes me cry at times, y'know. I sometimes wish I was Major Raeburn, ready to sweep away the problems because I had the power to do it. But I'm nowhere close to her or Obaa-sama..."

"Kiki-chan, worrying about things you can't change'll do you no good," Orie sips her drink. "After last summer, you moped and moped about losing Debra-chan and Chris, being forced to kill Lauren-chan and the others, I..." she pauses, then. "We -- all of us in class -- we were so afraid of losing you, Kiki-chan. Please, please, don't even slip that low again, 'kay?"

Kiki smiles. "Arigatou, Orie-chan. I'll try not to get too deep into a funk the next time. And I hope to the gods it'll NEVER happen again!"

"Amen to that, even though this town sure seems to attract crazies like those jokers in the ABLS!"

"Ugh!! Got that right! I'm SO glad those creeps are gone!!"

"Yeah, but watch! There'll be a new group of whackos coming out of the woodwork sooner or later!! Count on it!" Orie snorts.

"True," Kiki nods, then mentally kicks herself. Get your mind back on business, Sheffield!! she admonishes herself. "Anyway, enough of them! So what did you do last night, anyway?"

"Oh, went out for a walk. Kaa-san got upset that I wasn't hitting the books, but I just needed a break!" Orie grunts. "You're lucky you got such a good memory, Kiki-chan, even if Ijuuin-hakase put in that 'learning inhibitor' in your brain to make sure you didn't go totally brainy like Rinrin-san."

"Yeah, true," Kiki nods.

The "learning inhibitor" fitted into CC series 33-S's was a very special touch Rei Ijuuin placed into her creations so that they could act even more like normal teens. It is a RAM block program inserted in the biomechanical elements of a CC's mind. On unpredictable occasions, the inhibitor would activate and make Kiki temporarily forget things for brief periods of time (even though thanks to her reserve memory unit and her personal ability to draw data from the RMU, she couldn't theoretically forget what she learned).

At first considered an annoying addition to her mind she saw no use for, Kiki came to accept the learning inhibitor as something that would keep her humble. Besides, trying to stay a step ahead of the inhibitor's surprise intrusions on her thoughts was a very demanding mental exercise. All the CCs, regardless if they were production models like Kurumi or mental transference cases like Kiki, at times engaged in meditative exercises (taught to them by the Kuromoroboshi) to find a way to keep the inhibitor under some semblance of conscious control. Such exercises did work: one only had to look at geniuses like Rinrin Hatoyama or a skilled magi like Chikage Hirosaki to understand.

"Besides, Kaa-san spends time teaching me extra-curricular stuff when I don't have to do my homework," Kiki adds. "I guess she wants me to become a scientist like she is."

"Would you want to?" Orie wonders.

"I dunno. I mean, watching her, especially at the beginning...! I guess it taught me that if you're going to dive into things like science, especially anything to do with boomers, you gotta keep your emotions in check," Kiki hums. "Yoshio-papa's the same. Heck, he's worse than Kaa-san, I suppose. I dunno what I'd want to do to be honest with you. 'Sides, I've got lots of time to choose my life's path, so why worry about it now."

"Has Kurumi decided on anything?"

"Nah, she's undecided," Kiki shakes her head. "I mean, she likes sports a lot, but I don't think she could ever go to the Olympics or something like that. Maybe she'll become a coach or phys. ed. teacher."

"That'll be cool, but she'll have to look a lot more mature than she is now before she could teach kids," Orie notes, then sighs. "I guess compared to Sexaroids, Cyber-Nurses've got it really easy. You said once that even if they did their time for Toratotaka, they don't consider doing anything other than be doctors and nurses. There's no limits in medicine."

"Yeah, they're pretty lucky," Kiki nods, then blinks as her MFS scan picks up two 33-S's approaching her from the direction of a clump of trees nearby. <<Who's there?!>> she concentrates.

<<Miyuki Iijima and Ai Minamizato, Kiki-chan,>> a controlled woman's voice replies. <<Listen; don't reply in case Orie-san notices. Asako-neechan asked us to examine Orie-san to determine what Shinohara-sensei did to her last night that caught Mayumi-chan's attention.>>

Kiki slightly nods, hoping the fledgling Kuromoroboshi, who were skilled enough to stay somewhat invisible, especially from her schoolmates, would notice and understand her acknowledgement. With that, she turns to her lunch. Orie is already eating the rest of her food. Kiki senses Miyuki and Ai doing a "dodge-freeze-dodge" approach to place themselves in the tree overhead. That manoeuvre would ensure no one spotted two nearly-invisible flashes of black slipping from one place of cover to another.

Within a moment, both KMs were in the tree over Kiki's head. The blonde 33-S does not react, moving to pack up her bento box. Orie is still working on her lunch. Overhead, Miyuki's eyes narrow as she keys in her housekeeping wetware, drawing on a vast database of knowledge concerning shiatsu points and reading a person's chi aura to better understand what had happened to Orie. Realization is quick to come, then both KMs gaze on Kiki. <<We have to talk later. After school, Kiki-chan,>> Miyuki warns.

<<Wakata (Gotcha),>> Kiki replies, then stares at Orie. "C'mon, we better get back to class."

"Right," Orie nods as both rise, heading off.

Miyuki and Ai remain in the tree, watching them go. As soon as the students were back in classes, they'd move to a more safer place, then dress in normal civilians before meeting Kiki...

* * *

After school...


"See you tomorrow!"


Kiki waves as children file through the gates, splitting into groups and individuals as they file either home or to night classes at nearby private institutions. Asako had already picked up Mayumi and Ayano, the ADP captain having come from the follow-on reunion celebrations at Heartbeat. With that, Kiki heads up the street towards the elevated tram station.

She didn't go to private tutorials like her classmates. That was for three reasons. First, she wasn't interested in wasting several hours learning things in some room when she could teach herself those things at home. Second, she had to spend an hour getting to and from school every day since she and her mother currently lived in the Red Castle condominiums in Kootou Ward. Third, she had in the past run into institution directors who didn't want to court business from a sentient boomer, especially one who was in as much control over her life and destiny as Kiki Sheffield was.

A scowl turns her lips as she remembers one particular creep who ran a piano school some blocks from her old home here in Ayase, whom Kiki met a little over a year ago. She'd always been interested in playing music and with Sayako, went straight to register for the courses.

When said director learned she was a 33-S, he had (right in front of Kiki's mother!) tried to molest her. Naturally, neither Sayako or Kiki saw anything amusing about that, so Kiki let the creep go with some dislocated fingers. Also, Sayako threatened to have the creep's establishment shut down. After all, if he was willing to do that to Kiki, what was to stop him from molesting other students? The director had actually LAUGHED at her threat, stating that because Kiki was a boomer, she had no rights a human was bound to respect. Besides, he wondered, what the hell was Sayako doing with a Sexaroid who looked like a teenager in the first place? The allusions he then made concerning what went on in the Sheffield household were so insensitive that Kiki didn't blame her mother for later contemplating programming a couple C-55s to run amuck at that institute and permanently shut the creep down.

Kiki then smirks. What Sayako DID do afterward hurt just as bad. She got the help of a private hacker who did side jobs for Genom, then had him run down a list of the institute's students. With the list in hand, she had a stack of anonymous fliers spread around the Sheffields' neighbourhood. In those flyers, a warning was sent to parents stating there might be a piano school director out there who was molesting his students in private.

The reaction was instant and quite gratifying: said piano school director was promptly accused and investigated by TMD. He was eventually found innocent, but the damage to his business was lasting. He shut down his school around Christmas, moving to another city.

Even more, he had NO idea to this day that it was the adopted mother of a would-be boomer student that did him in!

Turning a corner, Kiki tenses lightly on sensing two familiar blips in her MFS scan now at an okonomiyaki yatai beside a small playground. Walking across the street, she slips under the plastic walls which shielded customers from inclement weather, then sits down on one of the folding stools. "Konban wa, Eiji-san. Ogenki desu ka (How are you)?" she smiles at the proprietor.

"Irasshaimase, Kiki-chan. Hai, genki desu," Eiji Yamada smiles, then proceeds to prepare a new okonomiyaki.

A fixture of the Megatokyo mobile eatery scene for the last decade, Kiki knew the middle-aged man was also seen by Toratotaka as a VFIO (volunteer field intelligence officer). Unlike full-time FIOs like Jack Hunter, VFIOs were paid on a "per-use" basis by the financial conglomerate. In other words, if they found something of import which could be missed by Toratotaka's intelligence-gathering apparatus, they were paid for passing it on to others in the company, both for their information and their silence.

Eiji had served Toratotaka in such a way for years, shifting to various parts of the city when a "casual" observer was required. His latest move into Ayase district had happened last summer, Kiki knew. She also knew that it was because of her and what happened at Ayase Jouchuukou last summer that prompted Eiji's latest move. Kiki resented it at first; it seemed like Megumi Mikihara and the FIO staff at the Toratotaka Tower were nursemaiding her. Eventually as Eiji and Kiki became friends, that changed.

Besides, he was the best okonomiyaki maker Kiki had EVER met!

"So what did you find out?" Kiki stares at Miyuki.

"Orie-san had a memory copy taken of her," the Kuromoroboshi replies. "No sign of sexual or other forms of assault."

Kiki blinks. "Memory copy?! Doshite (Why)?!"

"We can't answer that examining Orie-san's chi signature," Ai finishes her shrimp okonomiyaki, nodding for seconds. "The logical alternative would be for someone to examine Follett-san's residence to obtain further clues."

"Follett?" Eiji wonders. "As in Peter Follett?"

"You know of him, Yamada-san?" Miyuki wonders.

"He gets something to eat here every once in a while," Eiji reports, glad he was able to help out. One of the primary qualifications of a VFIO was a photographic memory and a strong faculty for names. "Normally shows up with a small delivery truck, one equipped with coolant units in the cargo bay."

"Coolant units?" Ai blinks surprisedly.

"Hai. Similar to what recyclers use when transporting fragile boomer parts, I think," Eiji hums as he begins to make Ai's second okonomiyaki, keeping one eye on Kiki's serving. "Can't add much more than that, but I can tell he does work on boomers these days."

"How?" Miyuki wonders.

"The way he talks and acts, Miyuki-san," Eiji flips Kiki's okonomiyaki, then begins to add shrimp, ground beef, chopped fresh vegetables and cheese. "Similar to the way Kiki-chan's mother and her co-workers talk at times when they come have something to eat. It's as distinctive as a fingerprint or retina scan, Miyuki-san. And he dresses like a scientist or someone that does a lot of work in a lab, even a private one. Always wearing a smock with a NAVI in a pocket." He chuckles as he cuts the gas feed to the part of the stove to allow Kiki's okonomiyaki to fry nicely before turning his attention to Ai's second serving. "Some people are so damned obvious at times."

"Soo ka," Kiki takes a bottle of spring water and pours a glass. "And if this guy is dealing with boomer parts and making memory copies of my friends, what the heck is he mak-...?" she pauses, her eyes widening as her eyes fall on a mirror hanging off one wall facing her. "Memory copies...?"

"Kiki-chan, daijoubu desu ka?" Miyuki gently inquires.

Kiki blinks, then sighs. "Where did Follett-san work?"

"In Genom? First as a programmer for Saotome-hakase on the 33-S project, then in the department concerned with FS boomers," Miyuki reports, then blinks, eyes widening. "That could mean..."

Kiki's jaw drops. "He's making his own 33-S's...?"

* * *

Umejima, later...

<<There he is,>> Ai transmits.

Kiki blinks, then glances over. She was sucking on a lollipop while relaxing at a park bench across from a twenty-four hour convenience store. She had ditched her school uniform, switching to casual civilians and donning a hat to cover her head of golden hair. She even braided her hair (Kiki HATED doing that!) to add to the disguise, slipping on a pair of glasses to break up her facial features. If Peter Follett knew of her, it was just being smart.

<<What's he scan out as, Ai-chan?>> she wonders.

<<A lot of confusing readings,>> Ai furrows her brow. <<Yes, he does build boomers. Actually rebuilds them in a way.>>

<<Recycled parts?>> Kiki blinks.

<<Hai. Mostly mental wetware. The traces of what those units were once fitted into are minuscule; we'd have to consult with one of our older sisters to further unravel this part of the puzzle,>> Miyuki muses. Both newborn Kuromoroboshi were watching Peter from a nearby rooftop across the street from Kiki's position. <<I don't sense something dangerous about him, though.>>

Kiki hums. <<This gets weirder by...! Chotto (Wait)!!>> she jolts as a familiar face enters her field of vision. <<There's Shinohara-sensei!!>>

<<Wait...>> Ai turns to look, then her eyes widen as she takes in the new arrival's measure. <<Oh, my.>>

<<What is it?!>> Kiki demands.

<<Your teacher is a boomer, Kiki-chan.>>

Kiki blinks, her jaw dropping. <<Oh, shit...>>

<<They're proceeding to Follett-san's home,>> Miyuki reports as Peter and Kimiko duck out of Kiki's line of sight. <<We'll remain with them.>>

<<I'm coming with you,>> Kiki rises.

<<Is that advisable, Kiki-chan?>> Ai wonders.

<<I've done it before.>>

With that, Kiki jogs across the street, then slips around the corner, finding herself a dozen metres behind Peter and Kimiko...


A boomer?!


How was that possible?!

If Kimiko was a boomer, Kiki should've picked her up using her MFS scan; she admitted wasn't with her homeroom teacher long enough for any unique mannerisms to have rung alarm bells inside her.

Yet if Kimiko raised a blank on MFS, then that had to mean...

She's probably as organic as Miyuki-chan or Ai-chan! Kiki's eyes widen behind her glasses, then she pauses, slipping out of sight to ensure Peter or Kimiko couldn't sense someone following them.

If that was so and if Kimiko was constructed with a type of brain that was sufficiently shielded from the MFS scan, then she (and Peter) could get away with their charade. MFS scans seeking people like Kiki always locked in on the unique energy signature of a Mark 97's reserve memory unit. There was not enough metallic substances in a 33-S's or 33-M's biomechanical tissue to detect one like Kiki in a more standard fashion. Looks like he learned a lot about us from Yoshio-papa! Kiki scowls, continuing her pacing of Peter and Kimiko, both now turning into the former's private lot. <<Miyuki-chan, Ai-chan, are you close to them now?>>

<<We're almost on top of them...! Chotto!>> Ai replies.

Kiki falls silent as she continues to make her approach, then slips once more into a shaded cubbyhole along the fence line, using surrounding trees and power transmitter poles to mask herself in the growing darkness. A minute later, Miyuki calls up, <<They're now in a storage shed behind Follett-san's house, Kiki-chan. Both seem to be moving two dormant boomers of Kimiko-san's model into Follett-san's truck. We can't tell where they're going.>>

<<Oh, shit!!>> Kiki tenses. <<Can you key me in so I can listen to their conversation, Miyuki-chan?>>

<<Chotto,>> Miyuki pauses. <<Okay, now...>>

Kiki relaxes:

Peter: ...sad to let these two go finally, isn't it, Kimi-chan?

Kimiko: You have memory copies of them still, Master. If someone requests a replica of Lauren and Debra, they can be created...

Peter: I won't offer replicas of those two anymore.

Kimiko: Doshite?

Peter: Call it 'keeping the spirits happy.' Besides, Kimi-chan, you've often told me of how Lauren's mother reacted when she heard what happened to her child. I don't want to risk having another Lauren or Debra running around out there where any of their relatives could spot them. Why risk it?

Kiki jolts, her face paling. Lauren...? Debra...? Masaka!! she shudders as images run through her mind, then she concentrates:

Kimiko: These units should be destroyed, then.

Peter: No need to take THAT solution even with these two, Kimi-chan. The purchaser will make sure they stay out of sight.

Kimiko: As you wish, Master. I am to deliver these two units to Toshima Storehouse Fifteen?

Peter: Hai. Usual locker...

Kiki blinks, then nods. Yoshi (Okay)!!

<<Kiki-chan, we can intercept Kimiko-san ahead of time and appropriate the two units,>> Miyuki muses.

<<Even better, wait for the delivery to be made, then remove the two units prior to their pick-up by the customer,>> Ai adds.

Kiki hums, then nods. <<Alright. Let's beat tracks for Toshima. I know where Storehouse Fifteen is; it's right next door to the Spiral. I think I've got an idea what this creep's building these units for. Better call Chikage while I'm at it; we can use her help getting these things.>>

<<Hai,>> both Kuromoroboshi reply...

* * *

Toshima, west of the Spiral, an hour later...

Almost a half-kilometre from the gate leading into the grounds around the "incomplete" tower, stood a series of warehouses, each with the physical area of an airliner hangar, each 200 metres tall. They were divided into ten tall floors divided by frames to allow bulky cargoes to be kept within undisturbed. The cavernous chambers within the warehouses was big enough to hold an average five-floor apartment block. The city owned the property, renting out each of the spaces to whomever would desire them. Genom had gobbled up most of ten of the fifteen warehouse buildings here.

Warehouse Fifteen was the closest one to the Spiral, in a part of the lot which was hard to discern from the nearby main streets and train lines. Behind and off to the side of Fifteen were thirty-floor apartment blocks which obscured the grey mass from observation points elsewhere, even Genom Tower and the Toratotaka Tower. Of course, the Spiral was much closer, but due to its "incomplete" nature (not to mention the ten-metre high walls which shielded its grounds from intruders), it wouldn't be considered a threat by those who'd want to hide something within Warehouse Fifteen's carnivorous chambers.

More fool them.

<<She came here, Chikage.>>

<<Yes, I can sense that,>> Chikage Hirosaki hums as she, Kiki, Miyuki and Ai make their way through Level Nine. They teleported in from the Spiral as soon as the magi's sisters could come from Ayase, then rest up inside the Spiral to catch her breath and amass enough energy to make the short hop to Warehouse Fifteen. <<There. Storage Bay Nine-Kay. That's where she went.>>

<<Yokatta,>> Kiki walks up to the wide doors leading into Bay 9-K, then stares at the combination lock. Since Warehouse Fifteen was a "public" storage area, security was minimal; one C-Class boomer guard per level. Easy meat for a 33-S welding the Kawaii Effect. <<Okay, let's get in here.>>

She touches the pad, her mind reaching out as the datajacks in her fingertips link into the lock's computer chip. The door unlocks. <<Yoshi!!>> Kiki swings the maintenance door open, then looks in, switching to IR/low thermographic sight as she scans the vast chamber inside.

It is very cool in here, Kiki quickly notes the hot breath steaming from her mouth and nose. A glance around reveals several portable refrigeration generators lining the wall. The chamber itself is almost empty save for the generator units and several tables. Two of them were now topped with tubular storage units, similar to what endoskeletal boomers were oft preserved in. Seeing those units, Kiki shudders. When she was a 33-S Mark Two, she had spent most of her time frozen inside one of the damned things.

<<Enough with the reminiscing,>> Chikage's brow furrows as she mentally reaches out to ensure they weren't being eavesdropped on. <<Get them and let's go. I can't keep this up forever, Kiki!>>

<<Yoshi!!>> Kiki walks in, stopping before one of the two chambers located there. Linking into the environmental controls, she relaxes as she notes no security lock to the system. No doubt, whenever Kimiko makes a drop in this place, she didn't do anything more than store the boomers inside, then leave. Then again, with all she and Peter Follett did to keep matters obscured from general scrutiny, using extra security measures would create an atmosphere of growing paranoia. That, as Kiki knew well, could easily spell the death of any clandestine operation, regardless of stripe.

Opening the chamber, she shudders on seeing a body wrapped in opaque plastic within. Clearly female, about her height and build, a mass of long hair held down by the wrapping. Reaching in, she lifts the body out, forcing herself to keep calm. Hands appear from off to her side as Miyuki takes the body from her, Ai taking a detailed look inside the chamber to see if anything else was located there before shutting it and moving on to the next chamber.

A minute later, both Kuromoroboshi have unmoving female boomers in hand as they exit Storage Bay 9-K. Outside, they wait for Kiki to close the door, then Chikage makes a "disappearing" motion with her long white cape.

Kiki jolts as a surge of renewed nausea floods her. She remembered from her several previous experiences in Chikage's company, especially the quick hop into the warehouse just moments ago, how much she HATED teleporting someplace whenever something weird happened...

* * *

The Spiral, minutes later...

"Konban wa, minna-chan. Ara?! What are these, Chikage?"

"Konban wa, Hally," Kiki nods to Hally Mason as Miyuki and Ai place the bundles on two meditation beds in Chikage's divination/examination room.

"Do you need us for anything else, Kiki-chan?" Miyuki wonders.

"No," Kiki shakes her head. "Why don't you head to the Tower and tell Asako-neechama about what we found tonight? If Follett-san hid some surprises inside these girls, it'll be smarter to waken them here than in Nerima, ne?"

"True. Excuse us, please," Miyuki nods as she and Ai head for the glass elevator to return to street level.

Once they are alone, Kiki takes a deep breath, then stares at the two bundled boomers she and her sisters just obtained from Warehouse Fifteen. Kneeling beside one, she reaches over to undo the plastic.

She pauses as memories flood her, making tears spring in Kiki's eyes...

The nauseating stench of blood and charred flesh...

The piercing screams of wounded friends...

The heartbreaking scene of her boyfriend and her best friend, their faces and bodies shattered by automatic weapon fire...

The chilling sight of Chris' and Debra's killer disintegrating from a full-power Shishi Houkoudan at point-blank range...

The horrid feeling resulting from a terse report from Kaneko Akamura concerning the identity of one of the assailants...



"These aren't them, Kiki."

A hand falls on her shoulder. Kiki blinks, then stares at Chikage. The magi has a sympathetic smile on her face. Kiki takes that in, then reaches up to give her hand a reassuring squeeze. "Thanks for helping out, Chikage."

"My pleasure," Chikage pats Kiki's shoulder.

Kiki takes a deep breath, then yanks the plastic away from the unmoving form. Her eyes widen as a mass of lavender hair appears, partially held down by a hairband. Eyes the colour of royalty shine from a face possessing some child fat. As the plastic is torn fully off the body, Kiki quickly notes the standard one-piece swimsuit Ayase Jouchuukou students wore when attending gym class. A shudder rips through her as tears stream down her cheeks.

Oh, gods, that man got everything right on the first try.

Or was this the FIRST try?

"Debra?" Chikage wonders.

"Hai, it's her. Or rather, her doppelganger. A little late for something like that to show up, ne?" Kiki wipes her cheeks, then gently caresses the replica's cheek. "Kawaii so..."

"Then clearly, this other boomer..." Chikage waves to the still-unopened package on the other examination bed.

Kiki looks over, then sighs as she attacks the packaging. What emerges is a brown-eyed blonde, clearly European in descent. Like Debra Kikuchi's replica, the double of Lauren Goldberg is dressed in a simple swimsuit. Once the plastic is cleared away, Kiki moves to sit down in a nearby chair, gazing at them. Chikage and Hally gaze on her. "So what now?" the former wonders.

Kiki blinks, then sighs. "Wake them up, I guess."

Chikage nods, then summons a scrying sphere in her hand as she passes it over Lauren's replica. Her eyebrow arches, then she does a pass over Debra. BOTH eyebrows are now in the bangs of her hair as she turns back to Kiki. "You're not going to believe this," she smirks.

"What?" Kiki tenses, her heart thudding in her head.

Chikage tells her.

Silence falls, then Kiki's scream shakes the Spiral from tip to base. "I HAVE TO WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!"

"Afraid so," Chikage nods, smirking at Kiki's discomfort.

Kiki shudders. This -- Creep -- Will -- DIE!! her mind rumbles as dark images of her eviscerating Peter Follett flash through. Slowly, VERY painfully, but he will DIE! she sighs, rising.

Chikage politely coughs. "You know, you don't have to do it yourself. After all, Mayumi and Ayano are close by. Neither are...bonded at this time. Since they were in on the discovery of this little affair, they should, shall we say, get their hands (and other body parts) dirty?" her eyebrow arches.

Kiki stops, then glances knowingly at the magi. "Chikage, did anyone ever tell you you've got a really twisted sense of humour?"

"As someone back at Hogwarts once reminded me, 'Shake a viper's nest, you get bit,'" Chikage returns her look. "I'll go call them."

"You better call Asako-neechama as well," Kiki sighs...

* * *

The Spiral, 25 June, after midnight...

"They're sex dolls?" Asako's jaw drops.

"Hai," Kiki nods as they, Chikage and Hally sit in a reception room.

It was the ADP captain's first visit to the Spiral. Chikage and Hally took a half-hour to impress on Asako the reasons behind the misconceptions surrounding this place, much less its vital purpose. Overwhelmed by concepts she couldn't even BEGIN to understand, Asako had given them a begrudging nod and muttered, "It's above my pay grade!" to spare herself a Doberman-sized headache. Still, she had to privately admit, the view from Chikage's residence was spectacular, even more so than from Yuina Himoo's office in Nerima or what she imagined Diedre Mathan could enjoy in Chuuou.

"Internally, they're not so different from a K-Class 33-S, but since Follett can't get his hands on Mark 97 brains, he has to use recycled brains. Fortunately, he knows the tricks about prepping them before installing them inside; he probably learned that from Yoshio-papa working on the 33-S's, then the FS's." A pause, then, "Both have their templates' memories, but they've been interwoven with loads of sexual knowledge, WAY more than what's normal for the average Sexaroid. To ensure they stay loyal to their 'master,' one has to get in flagrante delicto with them, then entice them into an orgasm so they mentally 'lock' themselves on whoever they were created for."

"And you sicked both of them on MY little girls?!" Asako wonders, her eyebrow arching as she projects a displeased look.

Kiki at least has the courtesy to look humble. "If I did it, Kurumi'd draw, quarter and keelhaul me!" she whimpers.

"She would, too," Chikage adds. "Besides, Asako-anekun, as you'll recall, we did ask them before sending them inside."

Asako sighs. "Yeah, you did..."

A door opens. Eyes turn as Mayumi and Ayano walk out. Lauren and Debra respectfully are unashamedly draped over the Yamano sisters' shoulders, cooing playfully into their ears as they did good imitations of barnacles clinging to the hulls of ships. While both her daughters looked exercised from what the replicas put them through, Asako is quick to tell that neither Mayumi or Ayano had been expecting ALL Lauren and Debra were gladly willing to offer.

"You two okay?" Asako looks sympathetic.

"We are..." a pause, "...quite sufficient, Okaa-san," Mayumi flusters, then shudders as Lauren's nose tickles her ear.

"Ojou-sama, is this beautiful woman your mother?" Lauren coos, then takes a quick lick of the former labour boomer's earlobe.

Mayumi yelps, then tries to pry Lauren off her. "Yes, she is, Lauren. Please, remove yourself from me. I am not comfortable with you behaving in a such a blatantly aggressive manner."

Lauren is pushed off, she falling on her rump. "Itai (Ouch)!" she yelps, then stares doe-eyed at Mayumi. "You don't like me?"

"No," Mayumi responds, not noticing Hally, Kiki and Ayano waving frantically at her to not give THAT answer.

Instant Niagara Falls. "WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" Lauren wails, covering her eyes. "She hates me!!!"

Mayumi blinks, surprised by such an emotional response, then turns to Asako. "Okaa-san, did I do something wrong?"

Everyone falls flat on her face, even Chikage! Asako fights down the urge to scream at Mayumi for making such a useless question, then she takes several deep breaths. Man, that housekeeping computer of hers REALLY came in hand at times like this, she wipes her face, then sighs. "Alright, alright. OI, YOU, KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE CATERWAULING!!!!" she bellows at Lauren to get her to cut out the tears, causing the poor boomer to scramble back fearfully from the ADP officer, then she crosses her arms. "We've got enough evidence in these two, plus what Mayumi witnessed yesterday with Shinohara and Orie, to get an arrest warrant. I better give Tylor a call!"

"Um, Kaa-san, what about them...! Oi, Debra-chan, cut it out!! That tickles!" Ayano yelps as Debra's hand playfully skirts under her shirt to get at far more sensitive areas.

Asako stares at Debra (who seems willing to totally ignore Ayano's request to keep her hands to herself), then to Lauren (still on her knees, a fretful look on her face as she projects a pleading glance at Mayumi), then turns to Chikage. "You think you can fix these two girls up so that they don't keep crawling up my girls' skirts?"

"They'll need to have their bodies modified, not to mention someone attempting to filter their personalities of whatever overt sexual programming Follett-san put in them," the magi muses, then she shrugs. "Well, I best give Rinrin a call. She's much better versed at these matters than I'll ever be."

"Pity you don't know a spell that could just zap them back to normal, ne?" Kiki gives Chikage a knowing look.

"I could learn it, but will Mayumi and Ayano survive long enough so I can properly apply it to Lauren and Debra?" Chikage counters, then her eyebrow arches. "Or would you propose cryosuspension for them?"

Kiki jolts. Ever since she became a CC, the former Mark Two Sexaroid personally vowed to NEVER support putting any sentient boomer into cryostorage just to get him/her out of another's hair. Still, seeing what sort of ecchi sex toys Follett created in the replicas of Debra and Lauren...! She sighs, turning to Chikage. "I'd actually be seriously tempted THIS time."

"I don't blame you," Hally shakes her head...

* * *

Umejima, sometime after dawn...

"Just a minute..."

The door opens, revealing a dishevelled Peter Follett. He stares at the small group of armed people standing at his doorway, then his eyes widen on recognizing the woman in the dark jumpsuit now leading the crowd. "Why, hello there, Keibuho-san (Lieutenant)," he mutters, acting as if he was still half-asleep. "What brings you about so early in the damned morning?"

"I'm sorry to wake you so early, Follett-san, but you're under arrest," Kaneko holds up a folded sheet of paper, then turns to her companions. "Sakaki-buchou (Sergeant Sakaki), put this creep into cuffs, then take him to the APC. Cara-buchou, will you be so kind as to help me search the place?" she gently seizes Peter by the arm and guides him through the doorway.

"My pleasure, Akamura-keibuho (Lieutenant Akamura)," Arwen smirks, then glares at Peter. "Let's go, jerk! We got a nice cell waiting for you!"

Peter is yanked along as Kaneko and Iris Cara step in. Typical single family dwelling though public records state that the man they just took into custody lived alone. "I couldn't believe it when Asako-san told us about those boomers Kiki-san found," Iris muses as both slip on protective gloves.

"Believe it," Kaneko sighs, then notices the stairwell leading to the basement. She proceeds down, drawing a tricorder to begin a scan. A beeping noise echoes as she reaches the bottom of the stairs, then she flicks on a light. Gazing at what lies about her, Kaneko sighs. "Down here, Iris-san! We hit the motherlode!" she calls for the investigations sergeant.

Iris jogs down, then looks. Peter Follett's basement had two diagnostic beds and computer banks, not to mention a man-sized gestation chamber. One of the beds contained what appeared to Kaneko to be a brain scanner unit, though she doubted the unit had been appropriated (much less stolen) from Genom. The other bed had the necessary programming modules to serve as the place where a just-completed boomer would receive final touch-up coding before awakening.

It was now occupied by an unmoving young girl draped in a blanket, wires connected to her neck datajacks. Gazing at that scene, Kaneko shudders, remembering her first day of existence. Sitting up from a bed like that, greeting the first person she saw -- Yoshio Saotome -- then glancing around a much bigger workshop than this. Across the way from her was another bed which, the day she was born, contained 33-S first generation Unit AA89D.

Her twin, the woman now called Sylvie Yoshiko Asagiri.

The lieutenant jolts on feeling a comforting hand squeeze her shoulder, then she turns to Iris before shaking her head clear. "Oh, g-gomen ne..."

"You okay, Kaneko-san?" Iris asks.

"I..." Kaneko pauses, then sighs. "Old memories."

"Soo ka," Iris nods. "Okay, let me handle it. Why don't you go on upstairs and relax? It'll be okay."

"I...! Yeah. I'll call Tayami-san and get her over here."

"Right," Iris smiles as Kaneko heads up.

Once back in the living room, Kaneko watches the other investigators begin their examination. A commotion from outside draws her to the door, where Asako was now guiding a dazed Kimiko Shinohara towards the home, Kiki behind them. "Ohayo, minna-chan," Kaneko hums, then gazes on the boomer teacher. "Any problems getting her to play along for the ride?"

"Nah, not really," Asako smirks. "Since she's been working at Ayase, she developed an immunity to an aerosol-dispersed dose of the Kawaii Effect thanks to her being close to Kiki at least once a day. So I had to pop a capsule full of the pure stuff in my mouth, then give her mouth-to-mouth. Right, kid?" she then glances at Kimiko as they draw her inside.

"I...! H-hai, Ojou-sama...! Oh, what pretty walls..." Kimiko slurs drunkenly as Kaneko guides her to a nearby chair.

"Yeah, she's out of it alright," Kaneko clicks her tongue, then notices an apprehensive look on Kiki's face. "Daijoubu?"

Kiki blinks, then sighs. "Don't kill her, Nee-chama. Please."

"I...! We'll see," Kaneko lightly smiles, then gently rubs the fleshy parts of Kimiko's cheeks. "Oi, Sensei, you there?"

"Yeah, Shinohara-sensei, snap outta it, huh!!" Asako adds.

Kimiko stares in bewilderment at the captain, then she jolts as elements of her mind click back on-line. "Eh...! What am I...? Oh, gods...!" she pales as information flows in from various elements of your mind. "Gods, no, no, no, no...!" she grasps her mouth as she bolts up, racing to the bathroom.

Kaneko follows her as the door slams shut, then the sound of someone vomiting echoes through the wood. The lieutenant remains in place, then lightly smiles on hearing a toilet flush, followed by the door opening to reveal a pale-faced Kimiko Shinohara. Silence falls as the teacher takes in what has happened since the day she was activated two years ago, then she stares at the ADP field officer, her eyes pleading. "I couldn't help..."

"I know," Kaneko pats her shoulder, then guides her towards the living room. "C'mon, let's talk about it."

"What'll happen to me?"

"We'll see..."

* * *

Nerima, the Tower, before lunch...

"I'm sorry about this, man," Leon shakes his head.

Yoshio gazes at the ADP captain, then wryly grins. "Don't apologize, amigo. This doesn't surprise me one bit." Sighing, the scientist rises, walking to the window to gaze on the city. "USSD and SDPC, as far as I know, have built girls based on my work. Two of them were designer-made for the DD Battlemover Sylvie had to use in her blood-hunt. This..." he waves to the pile of printout Leon brought with him, shaking his head. "Typical."

"You're pretty laid back about it," Leon muses. "Shit, if I was in your boots, I'd be spitting up nails."

"Deep down, I'm not happy," Yoshio stares tranquilly at him. "I suppose I was immunized when everything I did for Genom unravelled. Besides, try as I might, I can't protect my girls from every asshole out there," he thumbs the city beyond, then sighs, crossing his arms. "So what's the plan for Peter?"

"We've got him up on several charges. He created ten 'recruiters,' including Kimiko Shinohara. All of them, from what Sonia-san can tell, are memory copies of real people. I'm having the others rounded up and brought to the station now. From what Kaneko and Asako've sweated out of him so far, the recruiters' templates were killed by Yakuza hitmen. Most likely, all Follett did in the long term was ask for 'openings' in public registration lists so his recruiters could have legitimate lives. As you can surmise, the victims were all dusted in such a way to allow the replicas to slip in unnoticed. So we have unregistered boomers, conspiracy in ten counts of first-degree murder, coercion of public authority, then tack on the psychological damage to who knows how many kids they've hypnotized over the last two years."

"Any approximate numbers?"

"Kimiko confessed that she was forced to hypnotize her whole homeroom class except Kiki, plus selected students in other classes. Forty girls altogether. She's volunteered to help break them of their conditioning. Sonia-san's recommended that she and the other recruiters be remade as ML series 33-Ms so they can handle the fall-out better," Leon takes a breath.

"What do you think?" Yoshio gazes on the captain.

"Personally? I...! Well, the law's really vague about this, isn't it? Unregistered boomers have to be registered, then fully examined to ensure they're no threat to society, THEN if they're deemed safe (and you can bet Follett made sure they were safe in the long term) they'd be mentally scrubbed and put up for re-sale at a second-hand store. That, according to our SOPs, has to be done quickly so we can clear decks for new caseloads." A wry smile crosses Leon's face. "I've always thought the dorks upstairs arranged that because idiots in Genom'd want to make sure incriminating evidence within a boomer locked up in the VDER at Station One didn't pop up on them when they'd least want it. After all, we've got people in Investigations and working with Tayami-san who can pick apart all aspects of boomer programming, even all the 'black box' stuff, and do it really quick, too. We're trying to get the book rewritten to better help us do our jobs, but who knows WHEN that'll properly take effect. Until then, we have to always guard ourselves whenever some dork from TMD or the Ministry comes to make sure we're doing things 'by the book.'"

"Well, as much as that was a strong advantage to Genom, that was also an advantage to me. Not to mention Allia and Sylvie," Yoshio chuckles. "Well, I guess you better clear the decks, ne?"

Leon stares at him, then his eyebrow arches. No doubt, Yoshio would soon make a phone call to Yukari Koshiki (who, atop being the local CMCO, was the local coordinator for the 33-M Project) to get ML 33-M bodies prepared for Kimiko Shinohara and Follett's other recruiters. "You know, you can nail him with a massive lawsuit, Yoshio. Even if he was forced to use recycled brains of other models, he DID infringe on your own copyrighted material."

"I know. But if I do that to Peter and if the whole damned thing was blown wide open on the newsnets, then I'd have to try to do that against SDPC and USSD. And that can raise a whole new can of worms, too," Yoshio shakes his head. "Over the last five years, I've learned that sometimes, it's best to do NOTHING if I want to ultimately help those I want to help, especially if they're 33-S's. And no matter how much that I've been proven right every time, knowing one of MY girls may be suffering out there needlessly...! That HURTS, Leon. You know, if I tried to go after Est and Found, the two DD pilots, I have to keep in mind what could happen to the other 33-S's that were created on the sly by USSD. Do my actions end up seeing an innocent person killed in reprisal, just to make sure 'incriminating' evidence disappears?"

"It's the same in police work," Leon muses.

"Yeah, I know. You'd want now to lay some sort of trap to try to trace down Follett's customers so you can round up all the other stray girls. That is, of course, IF the Ministry decides that what Peter created, while illegal on the question of registry, was actually a bad thing," Yoshio nods. "Why do you think Peter wiped and scrubbed his computers frequently?" he points to the report Leon brought in. "Yeah, he'll say he did it to protect his customers, to ensure they remained anonymous, but we know that he was covering his ass! And if you do try to trace the others, what happens if their owners decide to wipe out the evidence? You can bet your fuckin' bottom nuyen those owners're willing to do ANYTHING to make sure their private habits stay private."

"That's true."

"And do you want to know the sickest part of it all is, Leon?" Yoshio clicks his tongue. "The sickest part is the fact that in a perverted way, Peter WAS doing society as a whole a favour. Every 'love doll' he made, that was one less potential child molester to prey on normal girls. What happens if those perverts have their toys taken away from them? I have to think about that, too, y'know." He breathes out. "Oh, fuck, this is so sick..."

"Damned if we do, damned if we don't."

"Got that right, amigo. You know, we live in a society that WORSHIPS death, WORSHIPS the ideal of slavery, WORSHIPS covering one's ass, WORSHIPS the dark side of human nature," Yoshio bites his tongue, then a wry smile twists his lips. "You want a loyal servant? Just build one, program him or her right and you're off. And you don't learn a damned thing in the end."

The smile fades. "I believe in everything Katsuhito taught me, Leon. He worshipped LIFE, not death. He abhorred any form of slavery. He loved honesty and believed so much in the better angels of human nature. And so do I. Yet I have to live every day with the knowledge that the more I strive to make things better, there's always some asshole out there willing to shoot me down because they can't stand people dreaming of better things..."

His voice fades as he turns his attention to the city. Leon stares at him, then rises, slipping on his glasses. "Right..."

* * *

Nerima, the Tower, 26 June, early morning...

"Kikuchi-san, Mrs. Kikuchi, it's good to see you again!"

Rei Ijuuin rises, shaking the hands of Debra's parents. Kazuyoshi Kikuchi was director-in-chief of the Genom Production Control Centre near the Tower. A far more likable successor to Wayne Flint, Kazuyoshi is a man in his late forties who had gained his post when GPCC went back into operation. His wife, Shandal, served as the president of GERSA (Genom Employees Relatives Support Association), the group which aided bereaved wives, husbands and children who lost their breadwinning employees regardless of the cause. GERSA was one of the most humane things about Genom, which earned it much support from Toratotaka through generous loans authorized by the Education, Health and Welfare directorate (Ayako Katagiri's department) at the Nerima Tower.

Gazing on Debra's parents, Yoshio winces. Both Kazuyoshi and Shandal looked as if they'd aged ten years in the last ten months. Debra, according to Kiki and Sayako, had been the Kikuchis' pride and joy. Her senseless death robbed her parents of much of their dreams and hopes for the future.

Well, maybe now they could do something good about it, the former House Patriarch muses as he stands from his couch, hand out. "How are you?" he shakes Kazuyoshi's hand, then nods pleasantly to Shandal.

"We survive, Saotome-hakase," Kazuyoshi smiles, then they proceed to a nearby couch. "Though we are curious as to why you asked us to come see you and Ijuuin-hakase today."

"That will be explained momentarily," Rei muses, then sighs. "But we need to wait for another couple to arrive first."

"Who?" Shandal wonders, then blinks as the executive elevator dings, the doors opening to reveal Hannah Miller escorting another couple. Seeing the new arrivals, Shandal cries out in rage as she bolts up, accusing finger pointing. "WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE?!?!"

The new arrivals wince. Hannah remains behind them, ready to intercept either Patrick or Yukiko Goldberg if they attempted to flee. Staring at Lauren's parents, Yoshio rises. "I invited them here because this involves them as well, Mrs. Kikuchi," he evenly declares.

Shandal looks wide-eyed at him, then her eyes rake Lauren's mother with enough accusations to see Yukiko damned to the lowest pit of Hell. Sensing Shandal's stare, Yukiko ducks, trying not to do anything to arouse the other's wrath even more than she already has. She wouldn't have to do much, Yoshio realizes. Yukiko's driving Lauren into getting neural plugs, in effect, provoked that bloody day a year ago which deprived both the Kikuchis and the Goldbergs, not to mention several others, of their children. No words Yoshio could say could do anything save add more to Yukiko's sufferings; the woman had already tried to kill herself three times. As for Patrick, currently a senior stockbroker at Amaroc, he couldn't be suffering any worse.

Still, Lauren's father knew how to keep things civil. "It's good to see you again, Kazuyoshi-san," Patrick walks over, hand out. "You seem quite well. How are things at the Centre?"

"I'm surviving, Patrick-san. Things are alright," Kazuyoshi shakes the offered hand, then nods to Yukiko before sitting down, everyone relaxing though Shandal remains tense.

Yoshio sighs. "Before we begin, I'm going to ask Yamano-kichou from ADP to brief you on what her force just discovered concerning some strange goings-on at Ayase Jouchuukou over the last two years. Asako-san?"

Asako steps down from the upper floor of Yoshio's apartment, then after greeting the Kikuchis and the Goldbergs, begins. The explanation takes ten minutes. At the end, both sets of bereaved parents are pale. "My God, you mean...? This animal decided to make boomer copies of my little girl just so some other animal could get his damned rocks off?!!" Patrick exclaims.

"Hai, sir, that's true," Asako nods. "We've no real idea how many copies of Lauren, much less Debra, were made. Though I add that the ones we found were the final ones Follett was going to sell of them. We're trying to determine that now. We can hopefully find them all, but this will take time and it depends on your support with your silence. I'm sure given your present places of work, both of you," her eyes fall on Kazuyoshi, "...can understand the need for total confidentiality so we can bag this whole mess?"

"Of course, Yamano-kichou," the director of GPCC nods, then turns to Rei. "Ijuuin-hakase, do you mean that...?"

"The doubles of Lauren and Debra captured by Kiki Sheffield with the help of Chikage Hirosaki early yesterday morning were remade as CC series 33-S's last night," Rei nods. "Now, as I explained to you and the other parents who lost their loved ones last year, Toratoaka would be more than willing (as long as you fit our standard criteria for such a purchase) to create 33-S and now 34-S replicas of your children (either CC series or a fifth generation A-Class if that would be desired later on) if you so asked. So far, I've received only two requests for such in the last year and I'm currently making preparations to vet them before accepting or rejecting them. However, since ADP requires the bodies for evidence when Follett goes to trial, we decided to prepare the replicas of your daughters now."

Footsteps are heard. Eyes turn as Kiki descends from the upper floor, in her sakura-embossed red kimono. Sayako is beside her. "Sheffield-hakase," Kazuyoshi rises, nodding pleasantly as the scientist comes up, then he gives her a curious look. "Forgive me, but how...?"

"Do I look so young?" Sayako blushes, then stares at Kiki. "Consider it a birthday present that went very awry, then never ask again, PLEASE!!"

Laughter fills the room; even Yukiko manages a smile. Despite Kiki being the one who killed Lauren in the end, Yukiko didn't bear either the blonde 33-S teen or her mother any malice.

Kiki coughs, then looks up. "Minna-chan, c'mon down!"

Yoshio and Rei watch as four sets of faces morph from deeply-burned pain to total shock, then wide-eyed delight as Debra Kikuchi and Lauren Goldberg step down, followed by Mayumi and Ayano Yamano. As screams of joy, sobs of love and relief echo through his apartment, Yoshio nods contently, feeling Rei's hand fill his own. They exchange a look, then share a gentle kiss.

Both understood well. Yes, there were other Peter Folletts out there willing to feed the dark beasts that gnawed at humanity's soul. But as long as there were those like the Kikuchis and the Goldbergs, people who deserved a new chance of happiness, then there was hope for humanity in the long run. Further, it was proper in Yoshio's and Rei's eyes to give the Kikuchis and the Goldbergs a renewed sense of their own destiny. In effect, guaranteeing their ultimate immortality as passed on in the DNA of their adopted 33-S daughters.

And yes, there were dozens, no HUNDREDS, of others worldwide who deserved the same chance. And if luck and good work continued, they would get it. Those couples who lost their beloved children due to tragedies like what struck Ayase Jouchuukou last year or Second Kantou a decade ago. Couples who couldn't conceive their own offspring, yet didn't want to (or couldn't for whatever reason) use the adoption track, become parents of needy orphans. Gay and lesbian couples and would-be single parents who couldn't overcome social prejudices to offer a warm home for a needy child.

All of them needing a renewed sense of hope for their futures.

And giving such hope, as Rei Ijuuin had conceived back in 2031, was the true core of the Child Companion 33-S Project.

The opinions of simophobic "moral authorities" be damned!

* * *

Ayase Girl's Junior High School, 27 June, morning...

"D-d-d-Debra?!! L-l-l-Lauren?!!"

Yayoi Sakazaki stammers in disbelief as two literal ghosts walk up, having rode with the Yamano sisters from Nerima to begin the registration process. Mayumi and Ayano stay close to their newly-woken sisters as they come up, gently embracing the stammering Yayoi. "We're not who you think we are even if we have their names now, Yayoi-san," Lauren bows her head.

"We have their memories, but that's all," Debra adds.

Yayoi blinks, then sighs. "So your..." she pauses, "Your other-selves' parents decided to go to Ijuuin-hakase to get you built, huh?!"

"Yeah, you can say that," Debra nods, then smiles. "It is good to, well, 'see' you again, Yayoi-san."

Yayoi jolts, then scowls. "Oi, you can be a more friendly than that, you know!!" she play-punches Debra's shoulder.

Debra yelps, then laughter rocks them as the ice is broken. At that time, Kiki comes through the gate with Miyuki Iijima and Ai Minamizato following her. "Ohayou, minna-chan!!" she waves.

"Ohayou, Kiki...! Who are they?!" Yayoi waves back, then points to the two Kuromoroboshi genin.

Introductions are made. Staring at the older-looking women, Yayoi's jaw hits the ground. "You're both KM series Sexaroids?! That's just TOO cool!!" she shudders eith delight; Kiki had regaled her friend with edited tales of the Kuromoroboshi's many missions in the past.

"It's a pleasure to meet you as well, Yayoi-san," Miyuki bows her head. "Kiki-chan's told us so much about you."

Yayoi jolts, then her cheeks flame. "Soo ka...!"

"Ohayou, minna-san!"

"Oh, Shinohara-sensei, ohayou!!" Yayoi calls back as Kimiko walks up, the others bowing to their teacher, then she waves to Debra and Lauren. "Look who's 'back,' so to speak!" she giggles.

Kimiko looks, does a perfect double-take, then she smiles. "Well, welcome 'back,' girls. We missed you here."

"I just hope we don't drive someone over the deep end with our being here," Lauren muses, then glances around. "I know there're still some people who got wounded when my other-self went nuts; they'll have MORE than enough reasons to be scared to see me 'alive' again."

"Give them a chance, Lauren-chan. I think they'll surprise you in the long term," Ai chuckles, patting the other girl's shoulder.

Everyone streams inside. Kimiko beckons Lauren and Debra into her office, asking Kiki and Yayoi to come along. Mayumi and Ayano head to their class while Miyuki and Ai slip in silently to join the teacher and four of her students. Once the door is closed and the Kuromoroboshi nod in assurance, Kimiko takes a deep breath, then stares at Yayoi. "Sleep."

Yayoi jolts, then her eyes dull, her head bowing low. "Hai, Ojou-sama?"

Staring at the helpless girl, Kimiko feels bile rise up her throat, then she firmly places hands on Yayoi's shoulders. She had to do this. She HAD to do this, no matter the consequences.

"Yayoi, listen carefully," Kimiko begins...

* * *

Minutes later, a young woman's sobbing flutters from Kimiko's office, loud enough to attract the vice-principal's attention. The older woman peeks into the teacher's office, then blinks on seeing Yayoi now being comforted by Kiki, the former bawling her heart out. "Shinohara-sensei, what's wrong?"

Kimiko blinks, then sighs, gazing at the older woman. "It's alright, Sensei. Yayoi-kun's having a bad day, that's all."

"Alright, then," the vice-principal nods, then departs.

Ai secures the door, then gazes at the sobbing teen. "All her conditioning's been removed, Kimiko-san. She's free."

"Not all the way free, Ai-san," Kimiko shakes her head, then kneels beside Yayoi. "Daijoubu desu ka, Yayoi-chan?"

Yayoi shudders, then pulls away from Kiki as she wipes her eyes before looking at the teacher. "I...! Damn, I feel so unclean. So USED because of that creep!" she tries to regain some self-control, then she stares at Kimiko. "And he used you just to make all those replicas of me? How many...?!"

"As I recall, eight," Kimiko sighs.

Yayoi gags. "EIGHT?!!" she clutches her chest, then rises, shaking her head. "Gods, that's SO sick...!!" she spits, then gazes anew at Kimiko. "And you...? You had no choice about it?"

"None," Kimiko rises, her eyes bowed ashamedly. "I was built to make sure that no one could possibly clue into what Peter was doing with you and the others. I..." she squeezes her eyes shut. "I had no choice in the matter, Yayoi-chan. Oh, please believe me. I'm so sorry..."

"Don't hate her for what happened, Yayoi-chan," Lauren adds. "As she was built, her 'boomer' self was always in control. If Follett snapped his fingers, she jumped. She's not that way now, but she's gotta live with what she was made to do, just like I've gotta live with what my other-self did."

Yayoi gazes at Kimiko before grasping the teacher's hand. "Are we gonna be okay?" she asks. "When you free the others and all that? Are things gonna be okay when it's all finally over?"

"I...! I hope so," Kimiko smiles. "I really do..."

Watching them, Kiki closes her eyes as she offers a prayer to whatever deity was listening, hoping her classmates and friends would gain the strength to overcome what had been done to them. It would take a while and things would have to be kept under cover until such time as the full extent of what Peter Follett did to these girls and others elsewhere was unveiled.

Scenes like what she just witnessed with Yayoi would repeat themselves again with the others like Rio and Orie. And Kiki would be there every step of the way, as would Debra, Lauren, Mayumi and Ayano. They had no choice, for these girls were THEIR friends and classmates. In a way as much a part of the five teens' extended family as their adopted parents and sisters across Japan.

Any response less than what was demanded was unacceptable...

The End


1) This story, which begins after Remembrance Day, is inspired by two notes sent by Robert Geiger and by the anonymously-written ASSTR story Deprogramming (available at the Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive at www.mcstories.com). One of Robert's notes wondered what could happen if someone decided to "borrow" the 33-S idea for something more ecchi than what Yoshio's concept allowed. As for the other...? Well, you can see for yourself. This story is also written in answer to a comment Shawn Hagen once made in a note in alt.fan.bgcrisis concerning the CC series 33-S's.

2) Mizuho, Ai, Miyuki and Miko are named after characters in the Elf/Pink Pineapple lemon video game/OVA/TV series Kakyuusei, following my naming several other KMs after Dookyuusei/Dookyuusei 2 characters.

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