The single word was all that Lilith could come up with in the face of the assault her senses was receiving. The Cave was one of Sydney's trendier nightspots: decorated in dark colors to set off the chrome, colored lighting creating weird-patterns on the tables through the prevalent smoke glass, huge video screens displaying other areas of the huge dance floor. The sound system was top-notch and was currently blazing away some industrial rock theme, the lyrics some boring, carefully-constructed, pseudo-rebel spiel, but the sound was very good, and it was obvious the band knew how to play their instruments.
"This place is amazing," said Lilith.
"I have seen better," Shion replied, looking bored out of her mind. She sipped at her drink and leaned back in her chair nonchalantly. Raven noticed, however, that she was still looking intently at Lilith, filing away her reactions for future use.
Raven nodded her head to the beat. "Yeah... I like the music, and I like being around so many people. It's invigorating."
Lilith's eyes weren't enough for the entire club. "It's all new to me..." Raven grinned and handed her a beer. "Hmm?" The replicant took a sip and her face scrunched up. "Ugh. It's really bitter."
"Give me that, then," Shion said, pulling the glass to her.
"Gladly. Do they serve anything else here?"
Raven sipped at her own beer. "Try raspberry wheat beer," she offered.
"Raspberry wheat beer. It doesn't taste much the same as this." She raised her glass for illustration.
"Okay then, I'll have one."
Raven did the ordering, and the drink was quickly brought to the table. Lilith took the glass from his hands and took an experimental sip. "Hmm... Thanks Raven." She sculled her glass before Raven could stop her.
"You shouldn't do that," chided the black-haired teek.
"Shouldn't? Why not?"
"You'll get drunk really quickly if you do." She took a sip of her drink, noticing that Shion seemed impressed that Lilith could down a beer so quickly.
"Oh, all right. So now what do we do here?"
"We sit and drink," Shion put in. "Usually that is good enough. Or we can talk... about, oh, anything you like. If we drink long enough, the beer will speak for us."
"Beer can talk?" Lilith asked confusedly.
Raven couldn't help laughing aloud. "No, but if you drink it at that pace, it will make you talk."
"Uh... huh. I don't get it, " said Lilith.
"I think you will, "Raved replied, stifling a giggle. She handed Lilith another beer. "Sip it this time," she offered when the replicant looked to her for guidance.
Lilith looked at her beer confusedly. "Well, you said I shouldn't drink... Then you give me a beer."
Raven chuckled at Lilith's bewildered expression. "I just said, 'not so fast'!"
"Oh." Lilith dutifully sipped her beer. "It's really good though."
Shion shook her head in amusement. "How old are you, Lilith?"
"Um... Physically I'm meant to be around twenty-one. They said that was for marketing reasons. I'm actually less than a year from development."
"Wow..." Raven whispered.
"And you two?"
"I'm twenty," Raven replied.
"Twenty-eight," the Empress replied dryly.
"Wow, "Lilith said. "I wonder if I'll live to be that old."
"Are you the only one?" Shion asked the replicant.
"Well... yeah, the only one left."
"What happened to the others?"
"The rest of them just didn't work. Some of them didn't develop esper powers, and other just... Well... Just didn't come out right."
"How many were there?"
"Ten others." Lilith lifted her hair, revealing the number 11 tattooed on the back of her neck. "So they've got the rest of them locked up in tubes, down under the lab. I just don't wanna end up there."
Shion paused to think about a 10% success rate, watching Raven's reactions. The young teek looked thoughtful. "That's awful," she said heartfully.
"Depends on your point of view," Shion replied.
"It doesn't matter. After all, we were all made just to test if we could work." She shrugged and took a pull from her drink. "A few failures should be expected."
"Think they have a viable process now?" Raven asked quickly.
"Well, they can just run off lots of me, can't they? I mean, I work, so should my clones." Lilith drank some more.
"Maybe, maybe not," Shion put in. "A clone of you might work, but a random mutation may affect the output. And every single clone is affected by minor, random mutations."
"So what? It can't happen that often."
"Lilith, everyone has a mutation somewhere in their genetic structure. How do you think Raven and I can do what we do?"
"Yeah, but I'm different. I was put together like this. Jus' built out of spare parts."
"Spare parts?" Shion asked curiously.
"Yep. Heard part of what I was made from came from other psychoknnnets."
Shion and Raven looked at each other in shock and alarm. "Like who?" Raven asked.
"Dunno. could be anyone. I shouldn't even know that. Overheard it once."
"How would they get the samples? Blood tests?" Shion asked aloud, to no one in particular.
"I dunno. Could be anything. Blood, skin bits, hair, anything. I mean, if summon worked for 'em they could just find a bit of hair in the meeting room an'..."
Shion's eyes narrowed as she considered this. "I have never worked for Ishiyama... directly... I suppose I may have worked for a secondary corporation unknowingly..."
"What're you sayin'?" Lilith asked drunkenly.
"I am wondering at the possibility if Ishiyama has any of my DNA on record," Shion explained.
"Huh, nah. I'm not good 'nuff to be a bit of you."
"Genetics isn't everything, I don't think," Raven put in.
"Yes it, is. C'mon, that's all I am, bits an pieces," Lilith slurred.
"It plays a large part... I think," Shion said. "And although I did deny it before... a clone made from our DNA would have a better change of expressing a esper talent than some mundane."
"Nah, I ain't jus' a clone. Can't be. All wrong, y'see."
"No, I don't think you are," Shion said.
"Well, not yours then. Ain't got the hair, see? Or them eyes. An' I ain't tall enough. So I ain't just you. Heh. Not even you. Not even Raven, either. I'm meant to be really something, an I get wasted by anyone."
"I hope not."
Raven sipped at her beer, growing worried by Lilith's obviously intoxicated state. The replicant obviously hadn't been drunk before, and the teek worried where all this would lead. "I think it's practice."
"Yeah... You just keep getting better, and I'm going nowhere."
"When did you start practicing?"
"When they made me. Not really practicing, just seeing what I could do. Din't really use it much, just when they wanted a demo."
"Fairly powerful demo," Shion remarked dryly.
"An' I ain't going anywhere. An' they ain't gonna need me. An' I'm just..." Lilith looked down at her glass.
"Expendable?" Shion supplied.
"Yeah. Jus' gonna be done with. They've got one ready for me. Got my number on it."
"That's awful," Raven said, taking a long, steadying gulp of her beer.
Lilith finished off her beer.
"You wanna get another?" Raven suggested, feeling a bit guilty. Lilith really shouldn't drink more, but she badly needed her lips to keep their looseness right now, to hear about Ishiyama's new replicant.
"Yeah. Makes me feel good."
A fellow in an expensively tailored, if rumpled, suit walked in an approximation of a straight line up to the table. "I was wondering if one of you ladies would let me buy you a drink?"
Shion remained silent, lost in thought.
"Yeah, we need some more," Lilith answered. Slightly alarmed, Raven nudged her. "What?" the replicant asked, turning to the teek.
Raven whispered in her ear: "That means he wants to join our table..."
Lilith whispered back, "So let him."
Raven whispered, "He's cruising us."
Raven giggled, amused by Lilith's apparent naiveté. Even Raven had never been quite so innocent. "Okay..."
The fellow leaned over closer to the table, looking dangerously off-balance. Shion was utterly deadpan as she said, "I think Lilith here needs another drink."
"Yeah, get me another!"
The man smiled, his eyes looking at a spot just slightly to Lilith's left, then stood up and walked back over to the bar. "He's a nice guy," Lilith said.
Shion wore a slight, almost smug smile. Raven whispered to Lilith: "Do you think he's attractive?"
"Unh... Dunno, really. He looks better than Kim."
Shion 's eyes widened as she suddenly had to wonder... had Lilith ever experienced sex? "Kim?" she asked.
"The professor's assistant. You talked to her, and she's kind of round all over."
"Oh, her..." Shion made it sound almost disdainful.
"Yeah, that's the one! That sounds just like something Dr. T would say."
Shortly, the man was back with a large glass of dark beer in each hand, foam starting to leak down the sides onto his hands.
Raven whispered in Lilith's ear, "You do realize he's trying to get in bed with you?"
Lilith whispered back, "Is it big enough?" Raven coughed loudly
The man set down the two glasses, one in front of Lilith, then attempted to scoot in at the table.
"Thanks for these," Lilith said.
Raven rolled her eyes and explained in hushed tones: "Sex, Lilith. He wants to have sex with you."
"What?" Lilith whispered back.
Shion looked at the man. "Will this be cash or charge?"
The man looked around at the group of women. A puzzled frown appeared on his face when he looked at Shion. The frown deepened when she asked her question. "Pardon?"
Raven blushed a bit.
"Don' worry about her. She's all money." Lilith sipped her beer.
The man finally said, "Just a little gift for a pretty young lady."
"Thank you. You're real nice." Lilith said before drinking some more and smiling at him. The man smiled back, and brushed his hair back with one hand. Raven watched with an amused smile, wondering whether to intervene more forcefully. After a pause, Lilith asked, "So what're you doing here?"
The man leaned back in his chair. "Just relaxing. Busy day at the office."
Shion asked suddenly, "Tell me Lilith, do you have to undergo regular checkups?"
Lilith looked puzzledly at Shion. "Huh? Yeah, I have them regularly."
"Full medical exams?"
"Uh... sometimes." Lilith turned to the man. "Sorry about them."
The man was starting to look a little more confused as he tried to follow the conversation. Shion ignored him and turned to Raven. "Perhaps this little charade should end now."
"Um, I guess so," Raven replied.
"It's more important that that. What happens when her next check up reveals she is no longer a virgin?"
Raven digested this for a moment, then stood up abruptly. "I think it's time we leave."
Shion stood. "We have other places to visit."
"We do? I thought we didn't."
Shion and Raven looked at each other, their thought the same—We do now. "There's a place I need to show you," Raven said.
"Well can we bring him too?" Lilith asked
"Um, I don't think that's a good idea," said Raven.
"No." Shion's tone was utterly final.
The man almost knocked his chair back as he stood up with the women. "You going already?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Yes we are..."
Lilith looked angry. "Fine." She turned to the man and muttered, "These two don't let me do anything."
"Correction, Ishiyama doesn't let you do anything."
"Yeah, but that's different. That's 'cause they made me."
The man smiled at Lilith. "I'm very sorry to hear that. Want my card?" He managed to flick a card out from a pocket in his sleeve. It probably would have been more impressive if he didn't drop it right after pulling it out.
Shion intercepted the card. "Thank Mr... Sharp? I am Nys, Shion Nys. You have been very helpful, but I am afraid I must be going."
The man looked a lot more sober suddenly. "Shion Nys...?"
"Yeah," Lilith said. "We're with her."
Shion smiled, not unlike a shark, Raven thought. A friendly shark... but a shark nonetheless. The kind of shark who might say, "Hello, my good Mr. Sharp." and leave you to wonder whether the 'good' was culinary or not. The man just sat back on his chair with a somewhat pole-axed expression on his face, and didn't say anything more until the three were out of the bar.
Raven grinned as they left, and Shion remarked, "What a nice man."
"You know, if you ever do want to meet people, Shion, you might run into trouble," Raven joked.
Lilith was crestfallen. "You two are meanies..."
"A nine percent success rate." Nabiki sipped her tea.
Shion nodded, slowly scanning the sushi platter for the next tasty tidbit. "She say's she's number eleven. Apparently they even have a tube ready for her for when she breaks down."
"When will that be?"
"I have no idea." Shion trapped a piece of eel in her chopsticks and chewed thoughtfully. "She's less than a year old... so I'd give her a few years at least. Unless her PK talents prove unstable, then she could collpase at any time."
Pouring a freash cup of tea, Nabiki studied the rising wisps of steam. "And we still don't know if they have more than one, do we?"
Swallowing a drink of tea, Shion shrugged. "Lilith thinks they can make more by using her pattern. The question is 'have they'?"
It was a postcard perfect day. The sun was shining, the sky was a perfect blue, and a light breeze rustled the trees. From where she was standing, Raven could hear the faint twittering of birds nearby. The park stretched out around her and Lilith, with an old stone arch bridge overhead. Lilith finally finished her stretches and stood, waiting for Raven's instructions.
"Okay, it's very simple. Just follow what I do, and try to keep up," Raven said.
"Just that?" asked Lilith.
"Don't worry, it won't be too easy." With that, Raven glanced up and took off, flying straight up. She stopped in mid-air, hanging just above the bridge. Within seconds, Lilith had joined her.
"Ready?" Raven asked.
"Well-" Before Lilith had finished, Raven took off, soaring above the road leading up the hill from the bridge. "Wait up!" Lilith yelled, seeing Raven's considerable speed. Lilith quickly followed behind her.
The pair tore up the hill, which quickly leveled out. They sped down the main street, above startled drivers and pedestrians. Raven led the way as they flew south, heading towards the harbour and the CBD beyond it. Eventually Lilith caught up with Raven, as they approached some high-rise office towers.
"This isn't hard at all," she called above the whipping wind. Raven just smiled, and suddenly ducked off to the side. Lilith pulled up short to see Raven ducking in to a shopping plaza off to her right. Lilith flew down and landed inside amongst suited businessmen. She looked around, checking the crowd to see where Raven had gone, all the while receiving amazed stares from the shoppers.
A yell of surprise to her left signaled Raven's departure through another exit. Lilith dashed out to the street and took off, once again chasing Raven. The pair flew out over a freeway. Raven led Lilith low, soaring over bumper-to-bumper traffic, heading to the distinctive shape of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Raven pulled in close to Lilith, and called out "You've got to follow me precisely!"
"What?" hollered Lilith.
"Just do what I do!" Raven tore over the tollbooths and pulled up, skimming above the rising arch of the bridge. She glanced back to see Lilith right behind her, and suddenly ducked down, between girders and into the space above the road. Lilith reacted quickly, diving through the same gap. She pulled down to see Raven weaving between the support pillars on one side of the bridge. I'm not sure I can do that, Lilith thought as she watched Raven's flying. She immediately shook her head to dismiss her worries, then proceeded to copy Raven's movements. She came dangerously close to the pillar on one pass, but managed to catch up with Raven who was floating above the southern end of the bridge.
"Not bad at all," Raven said.
"You've been practicing this route, haven't you?" Lilith said accusingly. Raven just laughed and flew up, soaring over the freeway towards the city. Lilith quickly followed her, smiling as the wind whipped her face. It was so good to be up here, simply flying around. Lilith let out a whoop of delight and pulled a quick barrel roll, then immediately felt embarrassed. I hope she didn't see that, Lilith thought. The pair landed amongst the spires of the town hall, an impressive and ancient stone structure. They caught their breath for a few seconds, then Raven addressed Lilith again.
"Okay, this time you're doing tight maneuvering. In between structures."
"Again?" Lilith asked.
"Yep. Just fly around here and the cathedral," Raven indicated to the small cathedral next to the town hall, "And keep close to the roof. Show me what you can do."
Lilith glanced at the cathedral, and took off. She flew straight at one of the spires, dodging at the last instant. She grabbed a hold of its tip and swung around on it, heading back to the town hall. She landed right by one of the hall's spires, then kicked off again, half leaping, half flying to a higher one. Again she kicked off, landing on the roof, and on to the other side.
Raven looked up at her charge, then down to notice a crowd of onlookers gathering around the base of the town hall. She called up to Lilith, who immediately flew down next to her. "We've got fans," Raven said, indicating to the crowd below.
"Is something wrong with that?" Lilith asked.
Raven, shrugged, then waved down tot he crowd below, receiving a few cheers and waves in response. "Let's get going," she said and took off before Lilith could respond. The two flew out and amongst the office buildings, ducking and weaving through the narrow streets and tight turns.
Raven lead the way, skimming low down an open-air shopping plaza. Lilith shook a bit in mid air, her concentration divided between flying and trying to avoid hitting anything. Raven glanced back, noticing Lilith's balance problems. She slowly pulled up, flying just above an overhead walkway. Lilith watched her, and pulled up as well. She realised almost too late that she was going to hit the walkway, and pulled up, stopping suddenly just in front of the glass. An almost imperceptible ripple in the air preceded her, and as she stopped, the glass in the walkway's windows fractured, leaving cracks all along it.
"Are you coming?" Raven yelled from above. Lilith stared at the glass in shock. That was... she thought to herself. "Lilith?" Raven asked again.
"That was nothing," Lilith muttered to herself, and took off to join Raven.
"Hi boss!" Kim called, hanging up her coat.
"You're late," Yuki said over her shoulder.
"Sorry, I was chatting with my cousin in Sydney. She said the funniest thing happened there yesterday," Kim nattered on as she got her equipment ready.
"I don't care, Kim," Yuki said without even looking.
Oblivious, Kim continued. "They had a pair of PKs flying around the city. Apparently having a really fun time."
"I'm not interested," Yuki said, rolling her eyes.
"And she even got a photo when they stopped on the town hall." Kim wandered over and dropped a print-out of the photo on top of the vital report Yuki was studying. The professor went to sweep it aside, but something caught her notice. A short, white shock of hair on one of the PKs resting on the town hall.
"Sydney, you say," Yuki said, almost lost in thought. A smile crossed her face.
Lilith stepped into the hotel's private gym and looked it over. It was small, mostly a collection of different weight machines, with a punching bag at one end and a couple of benches. She took a sip from her glass of water, then set it down on a bench. Time to practice, she thought.
She set the nearest machine to its maximum weight, then stepped back. She then concentrated on the handle for a second, focusing her telekinesis on it. The handle wobbled ever so slightly, then was still. That's odd, she thought. I was being careful to keep it even.
She disregarded such thoughts, then focused again. For the second time, the handle began to wobble; this time she concentrated on straightening it out. The handle quickly stopped, then at her command, began to pull the weights up. Yet it was moving slower than she wanted.
Lilith furrowed her brow. Something wasn't right. She couldn't focus like before. She concentrated harder on the handle, willing it down faster. The handle began shaking again, but was moving faster. Unseen to her, a small ripple swept along the carpet, flattening it around her. This is ridiculous, she thought. I've been measured lifting several tons! This shouldn't be a problem.
She concentrated harder on the handle, willing it to move faster. It swayed back and forth in play. Lilith tried desperately to hold it steady. The effort brought sweat out on her brow. The handle bucked even more violently then was suddenly still. With a horrible wrenching sound, it bent itself in half.
Lilith gasped in shock, letting the handle go. The weights dropped to the ground with a loud clang. She shook her head, trying to deny what she had seen. Once again she focused on the handle, determined to move it faster than before. There was immediate pressure inside her head, resisting her commands. She gritted her teeth with the effort, sweat beading on her brow. The handle began to shake, faster and faster, then with another wrenching noise tore itself free from the machine and clattered on the ground.
Lilith rubbed her aching forehead, wiping the sweat from her brow. What's wrong with me? What happened? Almost unthinking, she telekinetically reached out for her glass. It raised from the bench, wobbled uncertainly in mid-air, then exploded in a shower of glass fragments and water. Lilith could only stand in shock. At her feet the carpet was torn up, as if wrenched out of the floor by invisible hands.
My control... she thought. I've lost it.
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