written by
Brian Taylor

I: Zhoma
Megatokyo 2030

Seek 2000
Patagent pulsed through the Logic Space datanet, its embryonic star-child icon softly lit with an alien melody singing alphanumeric tunes of dimensional transcendence. It's fractal eyes were closed now, as if concentrating on the one imperative that drove its lost, programmed soul--to seek the 2000th entity and fuse with it; searching for its own birth, in a way. For, as capable as Patagent was in this cybernetic sea of information, it was a foreign body in the human matrix system, a peculiar bit of information like none other here, and was in constant danger of assimilation by deadly walls of roaming ICE.

2000--The target operating system of the entity that would make it complete. The containment icon would identify itself as Itocho Techno-Science corporation, MegaTokyo grid. Patagent pulsed anonymously in the data traffic, smooth as shadow, racing along the data waves of the local district. Patagent was terribly alone and exposed now; this sector of Logic Space was rife with prowling scavengers of all kinds, official and not. Shortly, it's perceptions expanded exponentially with the narrowing of the operational regional network, raw code became a cybernetic map of the human dimension, and within immeasurable subspace intervals of time, sudden proximity to the ITS icon revealed the true target: the American Consulate building, adjacent to the JR Sotobo Line.

Patagent crashed through as errant data flow as multiple landlines distracted the human operators with suddenly planted bomb threat calls. Patagent had no idea where within this fortress of abstracts was the 2000th complement to itself; its design did not engender such statistical speculation of odds.

As soon as possible, shadow had to become flesh, if it was to fulfill it's purpose.

Corporate Routine
The spectral heavens churned, as if to menace the mega-city below with the threat of a baneful malice.

Two figures ghosted wraithlike through emptied streets not even visible from the most diminutive of those MegaTokyo skyscrapers, thrusting upward and beyond the influence of the atmospheric effluvia that threatened to burn away all life not within such a stupendous edifice with a torrent of acidic indignation.

They were outside, scrambling for the interior of such a structure now, the Itocho Techno-Science corporation, for the weather did not spare the unfortunate or slow moving in this age. Looking like your typical business professionals, in austere dresses and conservative jackets adorned with only a single ID badge; easily mistaken for educated tourists, their Chinese features setting them apart from the Nipponese majority. Demure and frugal, one, slightly taller and more verbose, the other; a family resemblance was unmistakable. A one-sided conversation was ensuing now, and none of its topics concerned the bestial weather brewing above, or the billboard-dominating hack reporter who had his own peculiar theories for its origins.

Very little traffic complemented the massive human structures this day; the single pirate radio personality digitally droned on about the nature of the lack of human activity lately on animated communications billboards and advertblimps, of supernatural entities and transformed and violated human flesh. A vampire epidemic, he concluded, before the sysops intercepted and terminated his transmission. Across the densely packed city, no one listened.

Not far above, nature locked in ages-old Armageddon with such human indifference.

"What are you so nervous about?" Zhoma Chen looked at her younger sister and noted her anxiety; her almost palpable uneasiness was beginning to make them both tense.

Meiying did not look up at her elder sibling as they walked to the corporate boardroom of the ITS MegaTokyo building. As an electrical engineering department head for the company for which they both worked, Zhoma was primarily a consultant and troubleshooter for the corporation and usually acted alone. She did not have to burden herself with the personal anguish of betraying a direct superior--even if the circumstances did warrant it. In this age of pervasive corporate policy, office loyalty had somehow managed to elude Zhoma, and Meiying was far to preoccupied with the upcoming hearing to put things into perspective for her. "This woman was my boss, Zhoma. And my friend. She put down every rapacious executive that wanted to ruthlessly go through me in order to climb the ladder. She can be vicious--but it was always in my favor." They rounded the end of the hallway to the boardroom's double-oaked entrance. The trip up from the underground lot had been remarkably empty, much like the entire district of late, and the weather outside was growing ominously dark as the westerly Pacific winds broiled the demon's brew that was Megatokyo's ailing clouds in the glass and steel cauldron of the metropolis's titanic skyscrapers. ITS was at the center of the greatest concentration of them; the simmering, acid-laden clouds uncannily mirroring Meiying's mood. "What she did was wrong undoubtedly--but she expected me to watch her back."

"You don't owe her a damn thing. And if she fails to mention who her test subject is, she'll deserve to rot in whatever hell they'll have waiting for her."

"This is it, Umarov. The end of the line for you." Zhoma Chen's voice darkened to a sultry, predatory tone. "Your career is dead."

Zinaida Umarov's eyes glinted knowingly beneath the pale brow of her blonde head. "I'll live." Her words had an almost prophetic air about them. Meiying, observing from a distance, looked vaguely unsettled.

But Zhoma continued with her harsh invective. "Sure. You'll live." Zhoma leaned close to the Slavic redhead just as the company elite were entering the room. "And you'll find that there is life after death." Now it was Zhoma's turn to seem prophetic. "A very painful life."

"Can we begin, please?" The most imposing figure of the trio of dark-suited men that strode into the room boomed his voice across the open space. The heavy-set company president locked his gaze on the accused; Umarov never flinched.

Five persons sat in judgement of her occupational fate; three would decide sentence if her defense faltered.

Doctor Zinaida Genovate Umarov had sat awaiting this moment for three long days, while CEO Fasmine King Could personally rouse himself from his LA vacation and fly in his external affairs minister and the director of xenopathology, and individual without whose permission she had conducted her dubious research.

To be sure, demonology programming was against company policy, as well as international law; wherein prototype organic material culled from encounters of the city's paranormal Attacked Mystification Police with formless Lovecraftian entities from another dimension was animated and controlled by selected human specimens to combat the menace on the Logic Space front. It was honorable research, didn't the fools see that? Why have the illegal raw material if research was to be forbidden? The human specimen she used came of her own free will; Umarov wasn't about to betray the confidence. A look at Meiying Chen laced Umarov's being with the sting of just such a betrayal.

The hours stretched on. The suspense was insufferable; the sentence devastatingly efficient and quick. External affairs was very concerned about the fallout of this encounter and the effect it would have with overseas business; no one else wanted MegaTokyo's problem, and indeed had no need to know if it even existed. Xenpathology approved of the research, but disdained Umarov's method of going behind the company's back. The young company visionaire Meiying Chen, who owed her current position to Umarov's slick political positioning and protection, was against official censure--if Umarov would name who her human test subject was. That left the older sister, the matrix security engineer Zhoma Chen. She mentioned something about making a deal if Umarov would simply divulge the location her illegal prototype program, but her demeanor bespoke of an individual whose mind was already made up. Fine. That program was on its own in the cyberspace realm, safe from the prying eyes of corporate investigative personnel. Even she didn't know where it was roaming. But she knew where it would end up...

King's decision was inevitable and expected. The new challenge now was to find access to ITS facilities on the outside.

The personnel filed out of the room like oil draining from a pan. Zhoma Chen locked her grip around Umarov's arm, stern faced, to escort her for her final trip out of the ITS building--there would be no cleaning out of the office in this case, when everything was potential evidence.

Zhoma's tightened grip snapped Umarov out of her reverie.

Perhaps there was another new challenge...

Voices in the Tunnel
She'd set a FasTrack on the Mach-Go-Go Racer on New Turner Road, keyed it to the idle-function of the aerodyne's vectored thrust engine. It finally began screaming its location as the aircar began to cycle down on the GPS glide slope over Higashi Kanto Expressway, heading west toward the ITS MegaTokyo Building. Zinadia Umarov dashed as fast as her NinjAkira would take her on it's sleek, two-wheeled chassis through surprised and frustrated Chiba traffic and didn't stop until she came to the underground lot of the heavily refurbished Nippon Convention Center. Keeping her opaque helmet in place over her acid-proof, leather-clad form, she ascended until she estimated she was high enough to see the ITS lot over the decadent sprawl of the American Consulate building, furtively glancing at her Seiko and adjusting her travel bag as she did so.

Making her way to a southwest office overlooking Tokyo bay, she surprised the executive inside, locked his door and activated the white noise generator before silencing him by placing a leather gloved hand over his mouth and using multiple whispered shots from her flechette gun to make sure he stayed that way. She looked outside; the weather was getting worse. She was going to have to set up her equipment after all. When the telescopic gear was in place, she homed in on the FT signal and pointed her sights in it's direction, grasping the remote detonator as she did so. Seiko indicated the Racer was already in ground Taxi mode.


Meiying Chen never saw it coming.

Zhoma had idled the sleek Mach-Go-Go Racer aerodyne and opened the pilot's canopy to give her the department transfers as Umarov's official replacement. The last she saw of her sister was a wry grin of reassurance on her dimpled face, the liquid ebony of her hair accented by the constellation of highlights from the city's constant illumination, the pirate radio reporter posing like a vulture near the Consulate building, commenting on his outlandish theories for the sudden depopulation of the Chiba district, and city-steam condensing on her face. She could still hear the reporter's voice:

"We'll continue to broadcast for as long as we are able...the city is almost completely deserted, save for a few stragglers....

Blinding pain sears reality back to her senses, but the surreal does not entirely give way. Her heartbeat loud in her veins, she turns her head towards the Racer.

"Fires continue to burn out of emergency services...

"This incredible epidemic...spread to every country in the civilized world...

"People are becoming infected, driven to senseless acts of violence--we have gotten reports--sketchy at best--of people mutating, their bodies swelling and distorting..."

It is a flaming ruin, it's interior blowtorched and boiling black smoke from some catastrophic event. Soon it was obscured by the thudding of many feet and men in white, who began kneeling and telling her not to panic, not to look at it. She tried to move, but the right side of her body seemed numb.

" is impossible to determine how many real people are left."

How did she survive the explosion of the Racer? She closed her eyes, but felt only one of them shut. Well then. She'd live after all. Zhoma was lucky, in a way.

A very painful life...

It pissed her off, because she wanted to sleep. In reality, she was asleep, but voices continued to bleed into her head, some of which she recognized. She was in a moving vehicle now, its jerking movement punctuated by the too-loud pulse of her steady but bounding heartbeat. An EMS operative? A vision of white-haired programming mentor Magnus flashed within her mind's eye, so he must be there too. And her twin sister Ming, the doctor. Well, that would explain Magnus, then. Ming continued to speak and presently, Meiying felt better. Some of her words sounded eerily familiar, or maybe it was just all in her mind.

" after death..."

Life after death.

The New Living Steel
Zhoma awakens to the traumatic sound, ironically, of hearing her own heartbeat stop. A murky maelstrom of darkness swims disinterestedly about her disembodied vision. From somewhere beyond the fleeting shadows she senses someone gasp, throwing her logical melancholy into sharp, sensual relief; shortly, there followed tangible feelings of wetness, warmth and light. In the distance, a baby cries.

Breathing deeply, she feels her own weight while ripping a mask off of her face, stepping out of a rapidly draining tank of viscous fluid. Dripping with slime, she crashes to her knees, crying piteously as the act of inhalation sears her lungs with the fire of an exploding aerodyne--that is no longer there.

She is born again...

Staring at the pooling ooze underneath her as she gasped for control of her body, she noted the image that congealed within it; short blonde hair, pale, almost translucent skin. Penetrating grey eyes. Other than that, it could have been a dead ringer for Zhoma Chen.

"I could engram the basic shell with your old phenotype," a disembodied voice echoed from the unfocused darkness, "but the LF tissuegraft fixed the pigmentation and hair color."

The what?

Another cough, this one wrenching a great deal of fluid from her chest.

"The what?"

"Your cybertissuegraft contains purely organic organs form the Lucifer Folk File. You will actually be the first total cyborg to organically heal damage, just like a human being."

"What's the Lucifer Folk file? Stop going in circles with me, Ming, and be straight, for God's sake."

"I won't lie to you, Zhoma. It's alien tissue..."

"Whoa. Stop right there. You mean alien, as in the stuff Umarov was studying?" Zhoma was incredulous. "Jesus, Ming, ITS let Zinaida go for dealing with that shit!" Zhoma held out her open palms before he in disbelief, as if attempting the see the corruption that pulsed, beat, and lived within her cyber-veins.

"You still look the same."

"Don't feed me that line of cybertechno psycho-crap. This is wrong. I used to have dark skin, long dark hair. I used to look Chinese." She looked up from her hands. "Now I'm so pale I'm translucent. And what the hell is this? Blonde hair? I look like a bloody American prostitute!" She turned on her younger sister. "Will I shit green puke, too?"

"For god's sake, Zhoma. All that matters is that you are living, breathing, walking again! There are a lot of critically wounded people worldwide that would give anything to be in your shoes right now!"

"What happened to Meiying?"

"Because she has such a good friend in Magnus, she ended up in Osaka about an hour after the explosion. Most of her anyway. You were simple--just a glorified transplant of nervous tissue into a megadyne shell. It will take Automatic Jack at least two months to perfect the cybergraft he wants, clone the skin, bone, and muscle he needs, and buy an eye on the open market to put Meiying back together. Rehab will be at least another six. But it's the best that could be done since our family doesn't have the money to foot the bills on these enhancements. As the saying goes, 'you were made as well as we could make you.'"


Ming threw a uniform at Zhoma's toweled feet. "I had no choice but to use department funding to make this work. I'm afraid you won't be able to go back to ITS for a long time."

Zhoma inclined her face in frustrated resignment toward her sister after waving hesitantly toward the pile of police issue. "What," she enunciated carefully, "is this for?"

"You've just become the newest visionaire for the MegaTokyo Normal Police Department." Ming produced a badge and slapped it on the table before her, sliding it towards Zhoma as her indignant sibling continued to stand in her in her loose towel. "Effective immediately."

Chaotic Recovery
"Now," Zhoma said, but Mika was already reluctantly engaging the spinner's Logic Space access protocols, grimly looking back at Zhoma even as her image faded into shimmering curtains of alphanumeric landscape. The panorama flexed, flashed, and stabilized finally into a fractal representation of MegaTokyo's Chiba Sector, the American Embassy lighting up the boulevard with a blaze of patriotic luster. Her prey thus spotted, Zhoma charged the decadent icon with her own personal Interpol authority matrix, cajoled the responding wall of ICE to relax it's protective data-state, and a moment later stepped easily through the resulting wilted wall of code.

"Okay, get set," Zhoma heard herself say. "We're about to become a diagnostic program for electronic security." Suddenly Zhoma was the friendliest thing in Logic Space to the matrix-drugged embassy system, masquerading in the seemingly chaotic cybernetic ball as one of it's own. With a thought, her perception suddenly extended through dozens of points-of-view, the embassy hardware totally oblivious to the imposter masquerading as one of it's master programs. Now Zhoma began the visual search for her prey, already coming up with a plan to catch him when he left the embassy. But at the last minute, she paused, fascinated by puzzling digital signal her brain received that had no place whatsoever in Logic Space.

For, off in the distance, a baby cried...

Mika was a rookie, one of the best that the MegaTokyo Normal Police ever produced.

Data systems operations were her specialty, her passion. Had she not joined the force she would have already been in jail by now, convicted of any number of industrial espionage schemes. She smiles at the thought every time. If they could catch her.

It was the lure of bigger and better programs, equipment, and monstrous data accumulation of the Normal Police's National Crime Information Center database that got her into uniform. It was a good way to do unauthorized research on hacker's techniques that did and did not foil the authorities, the bullies that had given her grief for her small size in school (Mika was short, even for a Japanese woman), and other, totally unrelated things. Mika glanced at the short haired blonde Asian woman in the cramped cabin next to her, who spoke from time to time but was otherwise seemingly unconscious in the driver's seat of their Normal Police spinner.

They had been assigned the urban aerodyne to aerially patrol the MegaTokyo grid and to respond instantly in the case of any infractions with their considerable combat cross-training. They were partnered because they were both techno-datajunkies. They were both operators, visionaires, hackers--they were both cops. But as some of that "unrelated" research later showed, their similarities ended right there.

It happened after one smooth run following brief chow-break at Chuo Park. Still on the ground, cruising the JR Sobu Honsen, on their way northwest to Yachimata, the spinner's cybernetic monitors giving the bright green message that All Was Well. That's when it started.

"Well," Zhoma breathed. "I'll be damned."

Mika had leaned across the cabin compartment of their unmarked aerosedan as Zhoma pulled the vehicle to a stop near the American embassy just outside the ITS MegaTokyo building. Shutting off the engine and grabbing a pair of nightsights, she motioned for Mika to get the shotgun mike.

"What the hell is going on?" Handing over the devices, Mika recoiled slightly as her query was greeted with a terse shush-ing from Zhoma. Lowering her voice, and darkening her tone, she said, "This part of town doesn't have hardly any perps, Chen. We need to get to our regular patrol area--"

Her speech stopped suddenly as a hand was clapped over her mouth and an index finger raised to the "one" position in front of her face. "This isn't the time for you to be spouting Academy by-the-book scenarios to me, rookie. We just stumbled onto something big."

Mika slowly, deliberately removed Zhoma's hand from her mouth, in a manner as if it were a wet, rotting fish. Assigned as the partner to Zhoma Chen just two days ago as her first street assignment, she had been extensively briefed on her companion's...unusual bodily composition, which was little more than a total Nagata Industries cybergraft with a human brain, spinal cord, and support organs. In this age of" more human than human" megadynes, Mika hardly blinked at that part of the brief, particularly when she learned that there were no superhuman modifications to Chen's cyborg components. It was when she learned that the entire system was swimming in some sort of experimental mix of what she was told were "gene-spliced tissues and top secret prototype organic nano-components" that she became skeptical and did one of her unauthorized data researches, and found to her horror that her partner's shell was practically alive with tissues of a somewhat alien nature. She didn't know the whole story as yet, but if the locked and sealed nature of the files of the MegaTokyo Attacked Mystification Police Department (which was ultimately where her research led her) were any indication, probability was high that her partner was no longer human.

Mika enunciated carefully. "Don't touch me ever again, Chen. I'll only tell you that once."

A split second gamut of responses flickered across Zhoma's face, then she finally whispered in an agitated grunt, "Fine. Just keep your voice down." She took the nightsights and peered through them at the two nearby buildings. "Aha. Some late night activity in the restricted area, I see."

Leaning over Zhoma's shoulder slightly while trying at the same time to maintain some distance, Mika said, "What's so unusual about salarimen working late?"

"I used to work there. The area he's coming from was shut down earlier this year because of some illegal research that was going on. It should be totally inactive until company security completes an internal investigation." Zhoma stiffened suddenly in revelation. "This guy's a Triad member, too. 14K subgroup."

"How do you know all this?"

"I know it doesn't look much like it, but I used to be Chinese. Thanks to my father, I can recognize most of them by sight. This guy is one of the top dog Hip Sings, based out of San Francisco." She gave the sights to Mika and exited the spinner. "If this just isn't the bloody jackpot..."

Looking through the sights herself, Mika said, "Jackpot, maybe, but not one you can collect on." Glancing briefly at Zhoma, she said, "He's practically at the American Embassy. We can't touch him."

"What?" Zhoma snatched the teleoptics back from Mika and stared through them in disbelief. "This is bullshit." Looking up from the sights, she fixed her gaze on a public terminal across the street, and began walking. "Radio in a 10-66 and a Code 20. Make sure the backup get's here ASAP. And bring the spinner around to that phone junction."

"What the hell are you doing?"

"We can't lose this guy. I'm going to follow him with the embassy's cameras and see what he's up to." She reached behind her neck to caresses the datajack ports there. "I'm jacking in."

It was practically the last time she saw Mika.

She looked up from her seat in the lab, still recovering from what Ming was presently calling an "episode of psychosis." Whatever. Zhoma knew what it was. While the cops were busy blasting downtown MegaTokyo in completely over the top attempts to apprehend her, she was fighting to maintain her very identity from the remains of the seething proto-life brewing throughout her artificial shell.

Zhoma Chen knew better.

Ming's lab at ITS MegaTokyo was dark and quiet, shrouded in an audible mist of reverent technological routine. Softly lit by green standby light and alive only with the cryptic conversation of humming machinery. Behind the high-tech looking glass, the biosystems sensory unit was waking itself from a mechanical torpor.

Her younger sister was just awakened not too long ago herself, her dark features tugged mightily by fatigue, her body swaddled in a nightgown and a Studio Nue sweatshirt. "We've got to dump that tissuegraft. The diagnostic says it's responding to some sort of chemical produced by your nervous system, sending considerable messages to the midbrain and inhibiting the activity of the cortex. The endocrine levels are suppressed for now, but that could change at any time."

Zhoma stood and walked to the BSU behind the clean-room airlock; it greeted her with a sigh of compressed air, as if perturbed to see her again so soon. "You guys never should have fooled with this stuff in the first place. ITS didn't learn a damn thing from Umarov."

"This procedure was variable-tested more times than you've taken breaths." Ming was getting indignant. "Nobody could have foreseen an encounter with a free-roaming AI doing what it did to the tissue." She pulled the sweatshirt over her head and slid out of the nightgown, stepping nude into a biocontainment suit.

"What...happens now?"

"I have no choice but to go to a total combat cybergraft upgrade."

"I'm already inhuman as it is. I don't want the combat upgrade."

"That shell no longer heals. It has to be made more durable or you won't survive everyday life." She sealed the suit up tight and continued to speak in somewhat muffled tones. "And I'm not doing these house calls every time you stub a cybernetic toe or dive roll into an alley chasing a perp."

"I'm not staying on."

"You've got no choice. You're bought and paid for. It's the best I could do."

A very painful life...

The BSU's cybernetic Autodoc lowered specialized manipulators form the track assembly above, briefly caressed Zhoma's synthetic neck, and cracked the cyborg shell like a roasted chestnut. Somewhere nearby, also above and behind her, Ming labored with ad-libbed modifications. Within moments, she would be robbed of all sensation until her biosystems container was removed and jacked in to the BSU. Soon, she'd have plenty of time to think. Zhoma Chen got started early.

Even before she lost her physical link to reality, she was traveling down the only humanity left to her. Deep within her mind, she sought answers. At the core of her being, she found only fear.

Bodiless, Zhoma plunged into memory. The most recent, vivid, and frightening one she had.

Flashback: AMP Response
"They've found the intruder! Sector D-35-201!"

"But why in that Sector? It's usually clear of any activity at all, according to the records."

Shiko Tomoe didn't have time for rookie hesitation. Angela Ellis may have been a top-notch detective in the Western hemisphere, but as far as the Attacked Mystification Police was concerned she was still green as grass. "The Normal Police have been compromised! Ibanez is already intercepting below and will need backup!"

"Tough luck," Ellis said as she sucked on the stub of a lit cigarette. Her Korean features set determinedly as she exhaled a cloud of smoke over her unkempt uniform. "Chief Isozaki's backing up the MegaTokyo regulars in the Shinjuku district. It's us or nobody."

"Ha! There she is!" Fei Chan pointed excitedly from Carmencita's speeding Interceptor sidecar as they screamed around the corner of the remains of the American Consulate building.

"This is Ibanez. I found Jamadagni." From behind the strip of cloth that concealed her blind gaze, she extended the telekinetic lines of force from behind her sightless eyes to navigate through the wreckage of the structure's northern facade and Normal police casualties and pulled right up next to Officer Jamadagni Renuka, who had been the first to respond to the disturbance in the normally quiet Chiba area. Fei Chan uncoiled his massive frame and adroitly leapt from the sidecar and was shortly at the fallen officer's side.

"Jama!" Fei briefly recoiled to find the body covered in a translucent, bloody, veined slime that faintly reminded him of jellyfish covering the head and most of the torso. "What the hell--?"

Carmencita dismounted the Interceptor as Shiko maneuvered the AMP spinner overhead and flooded the area with lights. "Let's move her to a safer place."

"Safer?" Fei Chan's features twisted in mock distaste. "Ha! Whatever ran into her, she must have wounded it. There are Lucifer Folk entrails all over the place."

"It's still terrorizing the Normal Police, wherever it is. Let's clear out and find it before it finds us." Upon turning her over, both got the shock of their lives. "Wait a minute--"

"This isn't Jama!" Fei was already backpedaling away as the slime covered prone figure sat up. It definitely lacked their fellow officer's characteristic sigil and began to speak.

"Zeta Uniform Pat 8 Gent--hhhhhhh--this body is mine! This flesh, this blood, is all mine! And this power! Return to logic space to seek 2000." An empty glance now revealed the glazed look of a Chinese woman in a Normal Police uniform. "I'll deal with you later, luminal entity. First, I'll finish you AMP off."

Fei Chan advanced with disarming blows only to wince in pain and be slapped backwards six feet against a shattered pillar. "Anybody know who the hell this is!" He yelled, thrusting himself upright and instantly assuming a defensive posture. "Her bones are like steel!"

Ellis responded over their headset link. "Its Zhoma Chen recently of the Normal Police. We're coming down."

Fei Chan advanced slowly toward the wayward officer while Carmencita spoke slowly to him from his flank as she drew her Graviton. "I think her body's been taken over by Lucifer Folk. When she was wounded portions of the being extruded and somehow became self aware."

The possessed officer suddenly lifted a massive section of pillar and threw it, but Shiko maneuvered the spinner to intercept, shattering the debris and wrecking the spinner. Shiko and Ellis crawled out, Naginata and blaster in hand respectively, just as another piece was hovered into place over them. It was shattered two feet from their heads into dust by a thought from Ibanez. As her officers arrayed themselves around her in various defensive positions, Ellis dusted her disheveled uniform of loose debris and reached inside her AMP trenchcoat , producing a battered cigarette case as she did so. "She's not Zhoma Chen anymore. There's a massive entity encounter in Shinjuku— there won't be much in the way of reinforcements."

"Ha! That's fine by me!" Fei advanced again on the super-strong entity before them, his anger growing more fierce with every Normal Police body he stepped over. "Never send a board-breaker to do a brick breaker's job!"

"Go ahead and try it!" The entity possessing officer Zhoma Chen challenged. Glancing at Ibanez, it said, "Only one of you has the slightest chance against me, this damn 2000 imperative notwithstanding." Tentacles of viscera erupted from the slime on the Normal Cop's body. Fei Chan bounced from surface to surface, drawing his graviton in midair as his final kata roll placed him in a kneeling firing position, staring down the barrel pointed at Zhoma's head.

Ibanez blasted the tentacles into useless streamers of muck as she sliced them with the TK lines of force as Ellis yelled, "Stop, Fei! The officer might be affected, too! Don't use the graviton!"

Fei was distracted by this just long enough to take his eyes briefly off target, but in that moment a broken pillar near him twisted and blew away.

Shiko rose from her crouching position and yelled, "A distortion wave! Watch out, Fei!" She hurled her Naginata into the officer, the weapon screaming through the air at its target as it blazed golden hue. The entity formed a shield and knocked the weapon away, causing Shiko's eyes to go wide with surprise. The distortion field continued and pulverized a pillar near Fei, causing Ibanez to divert her attention to slicing it into dust inches above his head. Fei back flipped out of the way, covered in white dust.

"Is this the best the AMP has? Four uncoordinated paranormal baby cops and a knock-off program?"

"Program?" Shiko, who had recovered her Naginata, wondered aloud. Ibanez, who had run to Fei Chan's side abruptly "looked" up at the entity's mention of the word, as though she were startled--or frightened. "Seek 2000..." she whispered.

A puff of cigarette smoke. The sound of a stub being flicked away.

Ellis, smoke gently trailing from her lips, now had her blaster drawn, hanging down at her side as she slowly walked toward the entity, drawing looks of alarm from her officers. "Why did you go after Officer Zhoma Chen?"

"I was the one abducted and used, you fool. Defeated, contained, and forced into servitude to this machine-human. You really think you deserve anything less than destructive revenge for that?"

Ibanez stood up straight at this, but was again distracted by something she sensed in the environment. Shiko saw something as well, and began using the golden flashes of her naginata to capture Ellis's attention. She's using Morse, Ellis thought as she absorbed the information out of the corner of her eye. She wants me to keep it talking--they know something I don't. What the hell do they see?

Ellis' reverie was interrupted by the sudden entanglement of whip like cords of congealed viscera. The entity pulled her close. Fei Chan advanced, but Ellis stopped him with a look. Turning to face the horror with the deceptively pleasant, though slimed Chinese face before her, she said, "Can you at least tell me your name before you kill me? We might be able to get you back to Shinjuku if you cooperate."

The entity responded by coiling a length of ectoplasmic pseudopod around her neck. "I only need to get across the street. As for my name, I could probably have remembered it before I was so rudely discorporated by your predecessors. For now, I'll concern myself with how you will all individually--"


The loud voice appeared to startle only Ellis and her captor, and the grip on her throat and arms relaxed. Ellis fought a wave of vertigo as constricted blood rushed to her head. The entity turned the officer's head to scan the surroundings, undoubtedly a purely reflexive gesture, as it's senses were no doubt as acute as Ibanez's. "You again," the entity cried. "That's what I get for being distracted by peons and programs--"


Ellis worked her mouth in an attempt to equalize the pressure in her ears as the second command rang out at impossible volume throughout the sudden dead-quiet. The slime on the front of Officer Zhoma Chen's wounded artificial body frothed, bubbled, and launched another salvo of tentacles into the darkness of the debris-strewn entrance of the Consulate building, only to have them lanced into nothingness by the alert motions of Ibanez, who seemed uncannily tuned to the entity's actions. The entity turned with a perturbed glance in Carmencita's direction. "You really do have to go, Sister--"


Jamadagni Renuka was visible now, standing silhouetted against the devastated entrance of the building with her right hand held level with the ground, her eyes invisible and shadowed underneath her forehead sigil, her left arm bloody and hanging loosely at her side, as if it had been wounded. But the entity's attention was still rooted on Ibanez. "Let's see how fast you really are. Cut this," Officer Zhoma Chen said as she drew the Normal Police Service pistol holstered to her side and fired in Ibanez's direction. Ellis therw herself backwards out of the line of fire and rolled to a kneeling position as the shot rang out. As the entity had suspected, Ibanez couldn't telekinetically react fast enough yet to the speeding bullet, and the shot sent her sprawling backwards. Fei launched his body into the air with a guttural cry, and as more tentacles speared the air, those around Ellis let go completely. "Dammit, Fei Chan!" Ellis muttered as she reluctantly raised her drawn weapon and leveled the blaster at the entity-possessed officer before her. "Tough break rookie," she muttered, and pulled the trigger.


A bright jade flash washed across her closed lids, as if someone had shined a spotlight in her face, and suddenly dimmed, causing Ellis to turn her head aside and her shot to go wide. Opening her eyes, she saw Renuka, an arc of green light leading from her to Zhoma Chen, as if Jama had tossed a basketball the entity's way and the trajectory had somehow become illuminated. The light formed a boundary between the Normal cop and the entity, and expanded until both were somewhat separate. Fei Chan landed on the far side of the mess that was now wholly the entity, dive rolling into an alcove and firing his massive Graviton just as Shiko Tomoe's Golden Naginata found it's mark. The result was a considerable amount of noise and a flaming crater in the earth where the viscous entity had rested. The only sign it had ever been there at all was the mark of the Naginata knifed at the scorched bottom of the newly formed pit, as if to serve as a golden headstone.

Ellis wasted no time running to her fallen officer's side. "Carmencita! Are you--"

"I'm fine," Ibanez replied. "The jacket took most of it." But all eyes were on Renuka.

"Carmencita, find your Interceptor and call an ambulance." Ellis said while looking at Renuka's arm. "I didn't know you could fine tune your scissors trick like that," she said to the battered figure at the top of the ruins of the Consulate's steps.

"Me neither. I gambled, and won. It may come in handy next time. I was just lucky it thought I was buried under all the debris."

"Which you survived how?"

"'Paper'. A barrier is good for those kinds of situations."

"I don't mean to eclipse the sun of success everybody's basking in," Fei Chan's voice boomed. "... but where's officer Zhoma Chen?"

Ellis looked up, instinctively. The unaccounted for Normal Police spinner that officer Zhoma Chen arrived in was disappearing into the corrupted marriage of clouds and chemicals above.

Cigarette case being flipped open. The sound of a new cigarette being crunched between unforgiving teeth.

"Shiko, See if our spinner's radio is still working. If it is, get on the horn to the Normal Police and tell them they've got a rogue aerodyne cruising above the weather line." A long drag on the cigarette; the exhalation was a frustrated one and brought no pleasure. "And tell them to send Ran Isozaki over here; ours is gonna need an overhaul."

Not even data was flawless.

Reeling still from its abortion from the warmth of the Chen LF tissuegraft, Patagent floated, stunned, once again on a sea of hostile alien data. It had sensed a response to it's cry, but the same sentients that hunted it within Logic Space had resisted it in the Chen Shell. Patagent had time left-- maybe microseconds --to escape it's sudden vulnerability and avoid cybernetic vivisection by curious online visionaires. It made the most of it.

Swift as Creation's hand, Patagent's "mind" extended over the regional grid, coming to rest its active memory on another Consulate structure: Osaka Securities Exchange and it's unimpeded highway straight to target. Mind became influence faster than the speed of thought, and Consulate dossiers began to emerge, exposed and vulnerable. Patagent digitally shredded the useless portions of the data into the sprawling cybernetic deep, until only the imperative's affirmative remained; one Emiko Lochart, shadowed by something dark and familiar at the center of her shell...

Already, Patagent was jumping the congested data stream traffic salmon-like toward the Osaka Consulate grid. Like any intelligent program, it learned from it's mistakes.

This time, it would be more careful about the LF tissuegraft's interface with it's human host...

Return to Silent Möbius Zeta