An Otaku Reflected storyline, presently second in chronology although that will change as other arcs get added. Our favorite superspy gets deployed to a BGC 2030 universe to save the world from Genom.
by Jared Ornstead
There was a faint blurring of everything, and when it cleared Jared found himself standing in a short corridor leading into a small room. Before he really had time to gain any bearings a man-shaped armored robot had noticed him and shoved him into the room.
It's voice box resonated. "You're supposed to wait in there."
Stumbling back into the room, Jared caught himself and did his best to assess the situation.
One: He was garbed and equipped as usual. That was a good thing, many of his toys should still be functional, if not all of them.
Two: He was not alone. Five women were waiting in the small room with him, for what he did not know.
Three: There was another guy in here that looked identical to himself, even down to the hairstyle and clothes.
Four: Clothes were something of an issue. The girls did not have any. Their sitting there in just tank tops and panties made him profoundly uncomfortable. They apparently noticed this and one of them even smiled. Turning to her companions she said.
"Well, I guess we're not so bad. After all, it isn't everyone that can get a rise out of an unprogrammed 42-S." She shook her blonde hair.
Jared drew himself, still rapidly collating data. "Hello, my name's Skysaber."
The other four girls looked at him, a redheaded one in concern. "Hey, has someone triggered your programming early? You shouldn't be trying to bond with another Sexaroid."
His lack of information was clearly critical. Folding his arms he leaned back against a wall. "Would somebody please tell me what is going on?"
Now the girls were actually worried, the guy who looked like him hadn't moved even to twitch a cheek muscle. His double acted like a store mannequin The blonde one of the five girls stood up, coming over to him acting almost like a performance coach. "Okay, listen carefully. You are a model 42-S sexaroid, like that one." She motioned to the immobile copy of him. "You're both more advanced than the rest of us. We're all just thirty-threes. But they needed the higher end for you two to get the personality algorithms right. Look, you shouldn't be active yet. We haven't even arrived on station, your owner isn't here for you to bond with."
He nodded. Helpful to know what they thought he was. "And your names?"
She looked a little stunned, but didn't make an issue of it. The lady shrugged. "Not that it matters but my name is Lou. The one sitting there who spoke after me is called Meg. Those are Sylvie, Nam and Anri. The one in the corner is another Skysaber."
Meg tossed a lock of red hair out of her eyes. "Unless they change our names when they sell us. They do that sometimes."
Lou was about to move away but Jared caught her wrist, turning it over to look at her hand, feeling her pulse. "We're androids, do you say? Then how come you've got a pulse?"
The girls really were beginning to feel puzzled. Lou just let him hold her hand. "For realism, of course."
He looked into her eyes, then tilted his head to look at her face. Finally he shrugged. "You look real enough to me. More importantly, you act like real people. Would it offend any of you if I were to just presume you were real enough to make friends with?"
They all laughed. "Sure. " The one named Sylvie said. "We're all new from the factory, it might be good to try out our programming before a human expects us to be good at it." She moved to remove her top.
Programming. Sexaroids. He backed off waving his hands in a gesture he'd picked up from Ranma. "Hey, wait a minute! That's not what I was trying to suggest!"
Lou seemed to find revelation in his action. "Oh, I see." She concluded. "Somebody loaded the regular Skysaber profile into you instead of the hentai one." She sat back on her chair, smirking. "Whoever buys you is in for a surprise."
Nam had been examining them. "Do you think it really might have been an accident, Lou? Anri and I are more cute than sexy. Couldn't he be for the same type of buyer?"
Jared nodded to the five of them. They were helpful, but weren't telling him too much. He decided to investigate on his own. "If you will excuse me, ladies." With that he activated his invisibility power.
Sylvie and Meg shot to their feet. "What?" They both cried, staring around, but he was nowhere to be seen.
"A hologram?" Nam ventured, trying to understand things.
"Couldn't be, he held my hand. I felt it." Lou corrected, also searching.
"But they couldn't make a Sexaroid that could really do that!" Sylvie practically yelled. "They don't have a visual stealth system for anything, including the combat boomers!"
Very interesting, Jared thought, slipping out of the room past the light armored security robot at the entrance. In a short while he'd explored most of the open shuttle. It was a cargo craft climbing up out of the atmosphere, carrying some workers and more expensive equipment. Luxury goods (like the sexaroids, he presumed) were kept separate from the main hold. It was a reasonable guess that the guard boomer was there to keep passengers from sampling the goods.
Well, they looked like people, they acted like people. He could care less if some company had built them. Unless there was some kind of override function someone could use to turn them against him he was willing to call them friends.
He located what he needed and returned to the small room, dropping back into the visible spectrum.
They all turned to ask as one. "How did you do that?"
Jared shrugged, laying out objects. "To be honest, I don't really know. I just started doing it one day. I think it has something to do with altering the bands of light, moving them around me or something. All I can tell you for sure is that it works."
Separating one bundle from the pile Jared handed it to Lou. "There you go, Lou. One pair of technician's rank tabs, a jumpsuit uniform, the full kit."
The sexaroid stared at the bundle, not taking it. "What is that for?"
Jared looked around at the girls. He sighed, ducking his head away. "Look, you all are very beautiful. It's just the life you take for granted sounds an awful lot like slavery to me. Somebody owning you." He shivered. "The whole idea of being property just freaks me out. You don't even have to add prostitution to that before I'm gone." He gestured to the clothing and gear he'd brought back with him. "I thought that I'd offer you all a chance to get out with me. From what I've seen it should be pretty easy to slip in among the techs. There we can pass ourselves off long enough to get a better handle on our situation and maybe find a way to avoid getting caught and enslaved for good."
He was regarded in wondering astonishment.
"Are you an infiltration model, then?" Nam asked.
His back straightened. "Either I am the real Skysaber, or I have been made to think so. Either way doesn't matter one bit to me. I'm still going to behave according to what I think is right. Sleeping with strangers and consenting to be property aren't right, therefore I will avoid them. First step in that is to avoid the attention of those who would seek to force me into it, and that can best be done by being where they are not looking. Do any of you wish to come with me?"
There was a mass scramble for the uniforms he was offering. Their sudden change astonished him.
"Uh, any particular reason why the change of heart?" He asked in puzzlement.
Lou mashed her lips to his, releasing him to speak even while she continued dressing. "Skysaber, to anyone else we're just toys with all the rights of a toaster. You treat us like you care about us and expect us not to leave with you? I don't care if you're the screwiest boomer Genom ever manufactured. I'm with you."
"Goes for the rest of us, too." Meg added, sliding her legs into the ship pants.
"Will we get deactivated for this?" Anri asked, buttoning the last clasp on her jacket.
"Only if we get caught, and then not likely." Nam concluded. "They'll just assume it's a programming aberration and at worst they'll test us. Sexaroids are too valuable to throw away."
Jared was looking in some concern at his double, the one who still hadn't moved. "What about him?"
"Useless." Lou informed him.
"Yup," Meg supported. "Unless you know the activation phrase you'll never get him to move, then he'll bond with the first person he sees. Their loyalty is one of the reasons why the Skysaber series is so popular. Well, that and the fact that they're capable of turning into girls and back into guys."
Jared nearly got sick. "You mean that curse makes me a popular sexaroid?" He went and threw up in a convenient disposal. Cleaning off his mouth he gathered himself back up. "Okay, sorry. Danger we all share, I guess. Now, what skills have we got besides the obvious?"
The girls all looked at each other. Meg shrugged, volunteering. "We're an 'Executive Aide' package. I'm the technician, with enough repair skills to maintain all of us, plus a private home and office and a small motor pool. Nam here is a domestic; cooking, cleaning, first aid and all that is her thing. Anri is a secretarial. She also maintains network security. Sylvia is a personal trainer, doubling as a bodyguard. And Lou is a performer, singing, dancing and the rest of that is her deal. That's all in addition to the 'obvious' skill package we all share, how to dress and act and drive a car. Our skills are to either add to our sale value or to appeal to a certain kind of individual." Her green eyes bored into his. "We can all pick up more skills later, either from programming chips or practice."
Jared probed, alert for advantage. "How do the programming chips work?"
Meg, the sole redhead among the girls shrugged. "They're just standard optical chips with a skill encoded. Just like humans use in their cyberware."
"Do you need to keep the chip loaded or can you download it into memory?" The superspy pressed, sensing a course of action.
"Oh, we definitely download. Once in online memory then it takes about a week for the skill to be fully assimilated and integrated so we can put it into practice." Meg regarded him curiously while she finished putting her jacket's buttons together.
"Only assimilating one skill at once?" Jared asked.
"That's right. But we can carry up to ten chips at a time in our jack."
"Do you get any kind of effect right away?"
Meg pondered. "Sure... I think. What I think is the case is that while the chip is loaded we get to use the skill fine, just like a human who put the chip in their cyberware should. It's integrating it into our own memory that takes the extra time, and it's supposed to be fuzzy for a while."
Jared was in deep consideration. "Hmm, I don't suppose you have any chips, but could you make one? And could you all benefit from the same chip?"
The sexaroid pondered his question, eventually responding. "I guess I could, and I suppose we could share. Why?"
Jared smiled and stretched his muscles. "Because they haven't given you too many skills to start with and the more you have, the easier life becomes. For instance, if you all had technical skills of one sort or another it would be easier to pass ourselves off as techs. If you had the equipment could you create a skill chip based off of your own knowledge that could be used by the others?"
All eyes turned to Anri, who considered thoughtfully. "I guess I could. It's all standard programming so far. I don't think I could do it once we all had a chance to refine our skills."
Jared nodded decisively.
"Good, because this shuttle is carrying all sorts of equipment for the station, and we have hours if not days before we get there. I doubt we'll find anything so useful as a carton of combat skillchips or espionage programming, but if Sylvie and Lou were to get technical programming we'd fit in alot better. If our enemy gets wind of the idea that we may be hiding ourselves as humans they'll think they'll know our skills and limits and will look for people matching those. The less we match their profile of us the harder we become to find."
Lou put an hand on his shoulder. "They'll have our descriptions. All our appearance and statistical data is on the shuttle's computer, due to be transferred to the station."
The boy frowned. "A problem. Anri, if I got you to a terminal do you think you could access that file? We'd better erase it if we can, alter it if we can't, alter our appearance if those don't work. But that's the last choice, and it's not a good one. Our best bet is to take sole possession of the file. There are likely things we'll want to know about us that they never bothered to tell us. Any secret destruct or override codes are likely going to be in that file."
She nodded seriously.
"First we need to escape." Jared concluded. "And for that we need a plan, and to get one I'm going to need time to think, as right now I've no idea how we could do it," he mulled. With his various enhancements escape wasn't an issue for him, there simply was no problem. He could transport down to the planet's surface with ease... except, he'd never actually been there on this version of it, and that made things complicated, not to mention he was still a bit iffy about it and wasn't too sure he could carry passengers... And that was all assuming that those abilities of his still worked.
It was sounding like that was a last resort, and if he could get away with this group conventionally that would be a better idea.
How to do it, though? The question plagued him for moments, then, still a bit unused to all this, he checked through his catalog of Superspy items and came to an idea that made him grin. He looked up after his half-minute of contemplation.
"Sylvie, you've got bodyguard programming, right?"
The beautiful brown-haired girl shrugged. "That's what they paid for me to be."
"And Meg is a tech and Lou is a performer?" He asked to confirm, smiling. He got two puzzled yet helpful nods in response. "Well," Jared confidently rubbed his hands together. "Taken separately those aren't much. Combine those skills and you've got a really good start for a covert ops team."
Meg and the rest of the girls shared confused looks. "But how? You mean we ought to work together? How is that any different than what we are programmed to do?"
"Actually, it isn't much. You'd pick that up sooner or later. No, I was in all seriousness thinking of something more along the lines of 'If each one of you had those skills' which makes the whole equation vastly different. You see, a performer of no matter what kind, has to be something of an actor. An actor can pretty easily imitate another type of person if the role is general and undemanding. That's exactly the skill you want for slipping past guards and whatnot, but if only one of you can act, the others can still be easily caught. Then still even the best actor can flub a role or be caught up by security checks, which in this type of situation can easily turn hazardous. That's the sort of situation where you'd need to be able to handle yourself in combat, because to be caught is utter destruction once things have progressed that far. Well, if only one of you can fight, and it isn't the actor, then you'd be messed up from the start, like trying to walk on two broken legs. No. Then we're going to be doing lots of stuff you shouldn't ordinarily be able to do, which means that no one is going to do it for us, and since this is a space station we're going to most things we'll want to accomplish will be very technical, and it's just better that more of you know how to do them. It'll speed things up and if one get's hurt that doesn't entirely stop the rest from escaping."
"I guess I'm not very important." Nam offered softly.
"Au contraire!" The superspy offered a gallantly contradictory gesture. "No, a proper domestic is going to add more joy to life than all the combat training there ever was. A good fighter can protect some things, but fighting skills don't necessarily give them anything all that much worth protecting. Do not sell yourself short, Nam. You are as vital to happy living as any person that ever was, and happiness is what we live life for! All the combat and other junk is just to keep others from destroying happiness that you and your kind create."
He shot a confident glance at Anri. "And don't you be thinking that you aren't vital, either. Network security and the breaking of it are almost the same, and secretaries are those that go about getting things for others; and massaging the system to get useful things like IDs, clothing, housing, gear and equipment, not to mention transportation, is just about the perfect skill to have unless we can get off this place asap."
Meg was regarding him curiously. "But how are we going to do that? Our skills came from the programmers at the factory. We don't just plug into a wall and share them. I'd need equipment and time... all sorts of stuff." She gave him a very unhappy grimace. "And then I still couldn't operate on myself, so my skills would be outside of the mix."
"No, no, no!" He titched a negatory finger, which swiveled to point back at himself. "I will be the one doing the swapping among the rest of you, monitoring the equipment, which I already happen to have." He pulled the necessary, portable versions of the boomer AI editing machinery out of his Standard Light Urban Survival Pack, laying them on the table in front of the bugeyed girls. "Better than the chips we'd previously discussed, this will swap implants of the skill software directly - just like at the factory."
"But first!" He chimed into their silence. "I am going to take a nap." And with that he pulled up the boomer programming and repair skills from his One True Watch's catalog of options, queued them up in the Synoptic Teacher, slid it on his head, and laid himself down to sleep.
An hour later he awoke to find Meg had already arranged the girls into a near-circle with their backs to each other, and Nam (who, he was surprised to find, was a nursing model as part of her domestic responsibilities) just lowered the scalpel that she'd used to cut a thin strip of skin open at the back of Anri's head, exposing an interface not normally accessible for daily usage. Then Meg took the handy set of waiting cables she'd already laid out and slid their plugs into those exposed sockets. Sylvie and Lou were already cabled and just nervously waiting for the operation to proceed. The other ends of all their wires joining at a complicated but competently arranged junction box.
"Oh, you're awake!" Nam noticed, smiling beatifically.
"Yes, I am." He replied unnecessarily, rising comfortably into a sitting position as he glanced over Meg's work, nodding politely. "Very well done. The setup's almost complete except for you and Nam here."
Meg smiled at him approving of her work. "Thanks. She's just about to do my plugs and then I'll try not to fumble the scalpel opening hers."
"No need." He happily corrected. "I am quite skillful with a knife." He smiled at Nam. "You do not need to fear scarring."
She gave a little involuntary sigh of relief. Meg looked embarrassed.
Taking the scalpel he had the last two girls hooked to their cables in moments, then they all laid down as he hit the button to proceed. The junction box sent the commands to sleep, and he immediately began initiating some protocols to arrange the safe swapping of their non-redundant programming. The complicated setup began churning busily through all the data, noting in cybernetic relief that it was all still fresh from the factory and therefore able to be modified as he intended, and swiftly the work of swapping skill programs was rapidly underway. The newly-educated spy spent some time ensuring that everything was going right, that personality algorithms would remain unaffected and that proper safeguards were in all place, then nursemaided the procedure through to completion.
As he was really using a quite powerful setup the data exchange was over in a short amount of time and the girls began to awaken, feeling a little stiff and groggy as their minds absorbed the newly arrived flood of extra skills.
Jared was calmly going about assisting them, removing plugs and cables no longer necessary. "I took the liberty of exchanging poorer-grade programs with higher, in the case where more than one of you knew a skill but programmed to different levels of ability. Most of you could handle a spacecraft, for example, but Nam's piloting software was really quite advanced so I gave you all copies of hers. There are naturally going to be differences, of course. I didn't allow any alteration of your personalities, and basic aptitudes were set long before you rolled out of the factory so no chance of altering those, so what you do with those skills is going to be different. But all the same I think we're all on to a winning strategy here. You each know enough to get along very well indeed."
The superspy smirked, adding. "I also deleted all of your property identification tags. Rooting about in there I found there were subsets and overrides and codes that could've blown everything if they'd been activated, so I got rid of them. The loyalty imprints were especially tricky, but they're gone now. It's just as well. They weren't programmed very intelligently and probably would've slipped in a couple of years anyway."
"How come we weren't feeling any loyalty before now?" Anri came to a sitting position, rubbing skin back over the socket at the back of her head.
Jared shrugged expressively. "You hadn't met your owner and he had no chance to activate them yet. Be glad, the kind of guy who has to buy women isn't going to be much of a prize to meet. I don't doubt you would have gotten sick of him very quickly. But you'd still have to love him due to programming restraints and the conflict would not have made you happy."
Nam was just about to say something when warning lights and sirens announced the passengers should prepare for docking.
The redheaded superspy shrugged, returning the equipment to his Standard Light Urban Survival Pack, ready to get his little covert ops team in motion and hopefully get one of them access to the shuttle's computer when the hulking soldier android suddenly filled up the door. "Just where do you think you're going?" Its vocal synthesizer growled.
Jared had forgotten all about that thing. If it could speak it could probably hear and there went their plans. Unless...
"Want to join us?" He asked.
It raised a mighty hand. "I'm going to report this! You are all assigned..."
Jared lowered his lightsaber as the security boomer's head hit the floor three seconds before its body. Rising from his stance he said. "There goes the stealth plan. Leaving bodies behind always complicates these things. I'd dispose of it, but I don't think detonating a plasma grenade inside a space shuttle would be such a good idea."
Sylvie stared at him. "You said nothing to us about being a combat type. Just how many programs have they stuffed in you?"
Jared couldn't help but grin. "Just about everything, I think. Planning to bail out?"
Nam took Sylvie gently from him. "No, Sylvie, it doesn't matter what class he is. He's already helped us. Besides, wouldn't freedom be a fun thing?"
They all considered that.
"I guess it would be." Sylvie ventured, as if discovering the idea for the first time.
Nam, Meg and Lou all grabbed their technician's packs. "Look, we've got to erase that data." Nam interceded.
Jared gestured to the door. "Taking it is better. Our gateway is unguarded. If you'll move forward toward the control room there is a terminal just inside the doors going to the crew section. I hope you can work it. Oh, here." He handed Meg the Nerd Toy. "I hope you don't have to use it, but if someone walks in on you. This may be the best thing."
Meg turned it down, smiling. Her eyes flashed eerily. "Don't need it. If someone walks in on us, they'll discover that these sexaroid functions can be used for more than stimulation." Seeing his puzzled look she elaborated. "Our eyes. We can use them to hypnotize. Ordinarily we're supposed to use it in our job, but it could put someone unconscious if we wanted to."
He grinned. "Even better. Well, off with you. The rest of us will mingle to avoid getting caught here."
The two parties split separate ways.
A short time into the unloading process a station executive led a small party of boomers into the room to collect the sexaroids. The woman was shocked at the sight of the decapitated combat type, then assessed the missing cargo. Turning to her escort she ordered.
"Seal off the shuttle, cordon off the landing area. I want every person who left this ship searched and verified! The most irreplaceable part of the cargo has gone missing. We are looking for the culprit, and we need to find those sexaroids immediately!"
The nearest boomers bowed. "At once, Miss Erics. We shall begin immediately." The secretarial boomer began to relay commands to the station managers, while the bodyguard units began to spread out.
Miss Erics put her hands on her hips and stood gazing on the statue-like figure of the inactive Skysaber sexaroid. "Pity you are nothing like you are supposed to be." She condemned the unit for the abomination it was, falling very short of the character it resembled, then she abruptly turned back to her duties.
Jared, Sylvie and Anri stood in a huddle in the open cafeteria just outside the shuttle launch and landing bay. Each were sipping a hot cocoa and watching the departing passengers for their friends and traveling companions.
Another man tried approaching one of the two girls but Jared flashed him a glare that said "Back off, man. Private property." About half had been turned away so far, others braving the glare to make an attempt on either Sylvie or Anri. The girls had been taught gentle turn-downs, but once or twice Skysaber had had to use his martial arts to get the point across.
The station personnel were girl-happy. Somebody ought to do something about the ratios to keep them from getting hormone crazed. So far Jared had counted three men for every woman on-station. With those odds it was no wonder a few polite words or a glare weren't turning that many men away.
"I wonder what could be keeping them?" Anri worried.
"Could be anything. Waiting always seems to take too long." Jared crushed his empty cup and tossed it in a recycle bin. It hit the lid and banked in as lights and horns began to blare. Alarms were sounding and gates closing across the loading area. "Then again, they might have been caught." He amended.
Sylvie was nervously dancing from foot to heel. "So what do we do?"
Jared was measuring things carefully. "If they come out of there in the next thirty seconds, we join up and lose ourselves in the depths of the station."
Twenty seconds passed in nervous anxiety. A file of security boomers ran out of the station and stemmed the tide of exiting passengers. Jared pushed himself off of the wall, declaring, "They'll never make it out alone."
"So what do we do?" Anri pleaded, looking decidedly cute in her confusion.
Jared tossed her a grin. "Good people look out for their friends. We go in after them, of course. Besides, they're looking for people trying to get out of the shuttle, not back in."
Two grenades rolled to the feet of the wall of boomers. They looked down in time to catch the huge EMP explosion of the mighty little devices. The wall of boomers fell over like overbalanced statues, which is exactly what they'd become.
EMP explosions fried all the sensitive electronics in the area. Cameras and radios went blank, power cut off to parts of the landing area while emergency lighting struggled to cope. The humans and technicians aboard the shuttle raced past the fallen barricade holding their assorted luggage and fleeing for the still-open exits. The human tide passed over and around the security checkpoints the boomers and human guards were trying to set up.
"Now's our chance, ladies." Jared gestured his two companions into the remarkably clear area just around the cargo shuttle. They ran back aboard with little or no problem, sealing the disembarking hatch behind them.
Inside the shuttle things were less of a mess than outside. The people had left in a panic, overturning consoles and leaving debris all over. Lights and electronics still struggled to function, but the ship's construction had been a slight help in alleviating the effects of the EMP blast.
"We'll search the forward sectors first." Jared commanded. "And stay together. If we split up we'll lose more time finding each other than we'd spend searching for our friends."
They ran down the corridor to the crew section. On their way they saw the open door to their enclosure room. Outside it a pair of groggy boomers swayed in an effort to keep on their feet. The pair spotted the oncoming trio and opened their mouth cannons wide to fire. Jared leapt at them, his lightsaber springing to life.
The trio ran on, leaving chunks of battle boomer to slide apart behind them.
Lady Erics climbed unsteadily out of the compartment. Her secretarial boomer had shorted completely. Since she'd been standing so close, the minor explosion had singed her uniform and burned her hair, but in spite of that she could almost swear that the unit that destroyed her bodyguards had been a Skysaber style sexaroid. Too befuddled to act upon it, she stumbled out toward the rear hatch.
Jared and his two companions burst in upon the other three in the pilot's cabin. They were huddled in fright by the back wall. Jared looked on them kindly. "Hi. Get frightened?" He asked in an understanding way.
Nam pulled herself up, Meg was holding a gun she'd gotten from somewhere. "I don't... the data's downloaded, but not erased. I did that much. But soon police boomers were running around and we had to hide..."
"It's okay." Jared soothed. "It's perfectly understandable to panic. After all, you haven't been free more than an hour or so. Dealing with the unexpected takes time and courage to get used to. Come on. The ship looks clear. Anybody know how to pilot this thing?"
All raised tentative hands. "We do."
The True Skysaber gestured magnanimously toward the door. "Well, Captain Meg, Copilot Sylvie, your flight crew awaits you. Are we ready for takeoff?"
The scattered sexaroids moved in a mass to the cockpit. There were seats for all of them there, and the systems had been far distant from the EMP explosions. Meg did a quick check that revealed them to be down to 30% reaction fuel, the midship sensors were out, but otherwise they were able to fly.
"Very well." Jared strapped himself in to one of the rear seats. "Launch us, if you would be so kind. I wouldn't worry about the fuel status. Thirty percent left probably means they regularly make a round trip in this thing. Should be more than adequate for what is, in essence, a very long fall with occasional braking thrusts."
The chaos in the shuttle launch bay was just beginning to subside into order again when the large docking clamps that held the spaceship down suddenly strained in their moorings as the main ship engines fired. Emergency clamps released and the hulking ship shot out of the massive bay, spreading a fresh panic among the shocked employees.
The massive station crew managed to get its wits together and launch intercept fighters only after the cargo shuttle was well on its way back into the atmosphere. The pursuit lost it somewhere in the region of Japan.
An official inquiry was launched, but no crash site was found. Accusations began to fly of one corporation or another having staged the raid and using their own private landing fields for retrieving the stolen ship. But, like all the best raids, the ship was never found and the inquiry went nowhere.
Somewhere in the Coral Sea
"Hiya, Meg! How are we doing?"
The redhaired sexaroid looked up out from under the console to see the redhaired superspy grinning down at her. She smiled back up at him, standing up to wipe her hands clean on a rag. "Well, that's about done it. We should have full system control restored. There really wasn't much to repair from the EMP blasts. You shorted a few door controls, but the midship area was surprising clear of important stuff. All of the computers are forward and the engines are behind."
Helping her to her feet turned into a warm hug, and he whispered in her ear. "The important stuff, my dear, was you, not the shuttle."
She melted, oozing up against him, but he didn't notice, releasing her to get some space to smile mischievously down at her. "Want to know what we took with us on our abrupt getaway?"
Matching him smirk for smirk, she nodded. They tore off to the rear toward the main cargo area, him taking and holding her hand as he dragged her excitedly that way.
The Orca class cargo shuttle was very much the semi truck of space. It had a tiny control cab forward with very small storage used mostly for special or extremely valuable cargoes while the back was a shipping container of immense proportions, backed by equally powerful engines. The EMP bombs had gone off in the comparatively small passenger sections where there really wasn't much to damage.
Arriving back at the cavernous cargo holds, Meg stopped and whistled admiration. There were thousands of packing crates secured by nets into racks all along the walls and ceiling. In the center of the floor were piled construction materials strapped down and bolted. Nam was standing on a platform twenty feet off the main floor cataloging the wealth of industrial machinery in long rows. Anri had found a huge boomer approximately the size of a small commercial fishing ship lashed down to the decks and deactivated, near stacks of coffin-sized crates holding space development and other boomers as well as powersuits for labor in vacuum.
In other places Lou was skipping across the tops of several well cushioned shipping boxes which labels revealed to be the complete disassembled parts to a mainframe supercomputer. And Sylvie was amusing herself, having found out a store of weapons which she was lovingly cataloging.
Meg was impressed.
"You haven't seen the best part." Jared told her, taking her by the hand to a stack of outwardly unremarkable containers and beaming with gladness. "This!" He told her, motioning toward the unimpressive containers. "Is a complete nanofactory!"
Meg's jaw dropped.
There were those who knew about the nanite-based self-repair functions of some boomer models, and there were fusion-capable boomers whose very substance could meld with other artifacts to increase the boomer's capacity and power - all of which was achieved by the use of specially tailored (yet rarely self-replicating so as to reduce the chance for the whole thing going out of control) nanomachines.
But where the technology in combat boomers was limited to combat specific roles, the true best use for nanites was in fabrication. You get yourself a vat of the nanomachines under careful computer control, and whatever you put in that vat the nanites can recreate in nearly any shape desired. Put in a wrecked car and get back out a brand new one, or two washing machines and a stack of toaster ovens, or a pile of weapons. The technology was limited only in that it couldn't turn one molecule or atom into another. So if you put in steel, whatever you got out would be made from steel.
But the nanomachines for such a facility were hideously expensive, and plain old industrial automation was faster. So nanofactories were quite rare. They were versatile, and could create nearly anything that you had plans and rawmats for. But there simply wasn't the need for them in most applications, other alternatives were cheaper in operation and setup and had higher production rates. A factory using assembly lines could be churning out thousands of cars at a time, a nanofactory only one.
So nanofactories saw only limited roles. Small ones were used in prototyping to create one-time runs of parts used in experiments of all types. But the really large facilities only saw use in orbit, where disposal of garbage was as big a problem as importation of raw materials, and they were literally swimming in baths of solar power. Nanofactories in that sort of situation were vital, as they were the ultimate in recycling, turning waste into rawmats and solving two problems at the same time.
"Unfortunately we can't run it." Jared confessed, sighing regretfully. "The dang thing consumes more power than most small towns - waaay too much for the shuttle's generators to handle. And while we have parts of a fusion reactor on board, they cannot be assembled into anything like a working model. There's just too few of them."
The redhaired lady sexaroid chuckled, looking up at her benefactor. "You know, that's odd. With a functioning nanofactory we could make the parts for the fusion plant. But we can't run the factory without the plant."
"It is amusing." Jared wryly admitted. "But if we could run it another way, even for a very short while, we could get the reactor parts to have it up all the time."
"Not inside this bay." Meg looked around at the tightly cramped space.
"True." Jared admitted, sucking in his lips briefly to chew on them while thinking. "So it becomes imperative if we want to run this stuff to find a place to unload."
"A genuine secret base?" She asked girlishly.
"Of course!" He replied with fire in his eyes. "But for it to be really secret we'd have to be the ones to build it." The spy amended. "There's not much use in having billions of dollars in valuable machines if you can't set them up and use them. But there's even less point in having it all taken away because you didn't take care to hide it properly."
"So what's the plan?" Lou, who had been listening, hopped off a low crate and joined them.
Jared shrugged, regarding the blonde kindly. "Well, there's lots of work to be done, but we've got a force of space construction boomers who ought to be able to do it if we tweak them a bit so they can work underwater. We've got plenty of tools. I think the thing to do is find a good seamount and drill ourselves a nice headquarters."
"There's lots of tools and machinery in here, but drilling tools we don't have." Lou sadly shook her head.
Jared bit his lip. "That's right. Not much need for them in space, is there? How about explosives?"
Lou shrugged prettily. "Military grade? Some, yes. Blasting? No. We can put craters in armor plating, but not move much rock."
"So we're going to have to mix some, then. Or recalibrate lasers to do underwater cutting work." The spy pondered, then sighed, rolling his eyes. "This would all be soo much easier if we had the nanofactory running. Drilling machines aren't complicated, and we could have the project done with less fuss and bother than any other way. Blasting is just too obvious to hide easily, plus it creates less-stable tunnels. Stability is a concern if we're going to be living there."
The trio spend a moment in silent contemplation.
"Jared," Nam called out, joining them. "We've got a problem. There aren't any medical facilities in the load. I checked. The best we've got is a few first aid kits in the crew area. If one of us becomes sick or injured..." She left the note hanging.
"And construction work sees alot of injuries, even deaths." Jared agreed, nodding. Then he brightened. "So what we've got to do is build a base to set up our equipment. To do that we're going to need to fill in holes in our present outfitting, and to do that we're going to have to locate those things we need and obtain them. Since we're talking several billion dollars worth of high tech property the simplest and most direct solution is to steal what we need from bad guys who already have it." He posed, thinking. "So we're going to want some more development boomers, space or sea types would both do. We need some esoteric gear to make much of what we already have functional... advanced medical facilities because injuries to you girls aren't easy to fix, drilling or mining equipment of course. And last of all we're going to require some very rare components to get our fusion reactor functional, that is if it isn't a whole lot easier to just steal an entire reaction system of another type, like an old-type nuclear plant. But those are heavy, already installed, and non-portable for the most part."
"Steal it?" Meg thought. "Okay, I guess that would work. But why?"
Jared shrugged "We are stealing as an act of war. Genom and its cronies are ruining everything good or decent on this world, and slaughtering innocents at their whim to save a few yen on testing. We oppose them because they first declared war on us, and as our enemies that makes them a legitimate target. Since the corporation that runs the stations is just a pawn of Genom, well, that just makes everything fair."
"War?" Nam appeared puzzled. "How do you steal as an act of war?"
"It works this way," the redhaired superspy informed her, raising a finger. "In olden days generals spoke about tactics as the way to win battles, maneuvering troops. Since the start of mechanized armies generals sneered at tactics as the way to win and spoke in loving tones about logistics, maneuvering supplies. But frankly, in World War II and most of the succeeding conflicts it became really obvious that you can't maneuver what you don't have, and the nations with the highest production won the wars. So, we are in conflict with Genom, the highest production entity on the planet, or in this solar system. The way to beat them is to reduce their production capacity while raising our own. Thankfully we are far from being their only enemy, so there's considerable attention they've got to give to other things if they want to retain their place of dominance. That gives us opportunity, which I intend to use by taking production from them and adding it to our own - the cheapest and simplest route to accomplishing both our goals at once. And I intend to begin by procuring those bits that would bring much of what we already have to functional status."
"So where do we find them?" Meg asked.
Jared sighed. "The parts we have are all space related. It stands to reason that our best bet of finding compatible parts are the same sources from which we got this shipment. Especially if we can look over some cargo manifests, we can almost certainly find much of what we need to get what we've already got functional."
"That still won't get us mining equipment." Lou observed, cocking her head cutely.
"It might." Jared shrugged. "After all, they intend to mine the moon. The gear for that has to come from somewhere. But let's just start with what we can and see where things go from there. It is highly unlikely that all our needs will be satisfied by one more raid."
The orbital launch platform at MegaTokyo was typical of the orbital stations that had replaced much of air traffic across the globe. The vast plain of bleached white concrete shimmered in the sun, broken by alloy towers that were the various launch vehicles standing upright in their pits. Maintenance crews and cargo transshipment were as busy and as hectic as in any major port, with company inspectors and customs officials there to take care of their share (or receive their share of the take) of smuggling.
With so busy an environment it went perfectly unnoticed that one maintenance crew, made up almost entirely of women, had parked in the recesses of the control tower's inner reaches. With their toolboxes and coveralls, as well as the studious way they went about their work, many an inspector could pass them by with nothing more than a word or two about how well they seemed to be pursuing their job, whatever it was. The cables leading up from a portable diagnostic computer to the base's communications hub, exposed in an open panel in the wall, just seemed to be part of the business.
It was, it just wasn't maintenance related.
"I found it." Anri smiled, typing away, her face lit by the flickering screen. "Shuttle alpha beta two under spacecorp's registry, heading up to Genaros 5 with a load of boomer labor, replacement parts that includes most of what we need, and another nanofactory is being loaded on right now to replace the one they lost."
"We hardly need another when we can't run the one we've got now." Meg groused as she positioned herself to look. "Don't they have any generating capacity?"
Anri shook her head. "Sorry, the only power generation on the list is half a thousand tons of solar collectors on shuttle beta six four, also on spacecorp's registry and heading to Genaros 5, but the shipment is under guard."
"Sixty two security boomers and a Doberman." Meg whistled. "That's formidable."
"What else is going up in that shuttle?" Jared asked, carefully under his breath as he pretended to play around with the comm cables. Actually, he found quite to his surprise a hidden relay bug like their own spliced in and began removing it.
"Top Secret." Anri told him, typing away. "Most of the rest is classified, but this isn't even entered into the computer."
Jared nodded to himself. "That's the good stuff, then. Anything worth that type of security is either very worth having or even more worth denying to our enemy." He came to a conclusion. "Alright, this is what we'll do. You girls proceed with the plan to take the shuttle with the parts we need, and I'll do what I can to take the other out of action."
"Right." They nodded.
Five sexaroids in pilot's uniforms too baggy to follow their curves (and stuffed with towels to disguise them) walked up the access ramp after exiting the elevator of the loading arm extending to one of the spaceport's waiting shuttles. There were no cameras out here, the intense blasts of heat during regular liftoffs would have fried any they tried to install. The inspection worker who stood with a clipboard to sign off for launch had his gaze met with a pair of beautiful brown eyes that started mysteriously flashing.
The man's face went slack. He stumbled off to the elevator and would remember nothing but a vague impression the regular crew had boarded.
The regular crew lay asleep in their quarters. About ten minutes ago five beautiful women had entered, eyes had flashed, and all the crew had suddenly decided to party. Not realizing the women had left with their flight uniforms, they broke out the booze.
"Systems check." Sylvie ordered, having grabbed the uniform of the shuttle captain in the shuffle and automatically fitting herself to the role.
"All systems are green." Nam reported.
"Requesting station clearance now." Anri reported, typing where her small portable computer was tied into the shuttle's comm systems, feeding the control tower an image of the flight crew they'd expect to see requesting liftoff.
The five girls grinned when the console speakers reported. "Shuttle alpha beta two you are clear for liftoff."
"Roger control." Sylvie answered, though really it was Anri feeding the responses back to the tower and she was effectively talking to herself right now.
Settling snug into their seats, the sexaroid crew prepared to launch.
The trick with Doberman boomers was they were mental midgets, about the same level as a pet. They would attack anything that wasn't broadcasting a friendly IFF signal. So in order to keep them from mindlessly destroying anything in their territory they were kept locked up in cryogenic kennels, held in the machine equivalent of suspended animation until they were released to kill something.
This made it sadly easy for certain superspies to access routine maintenance hatches on the kennel, patch through to the doberman's small brain as maintenance or repair people sometimes had to do, quickly crack a passcode via the Cellslicer, and reprogram the droid to think of an entirely different IFF signal as 'friendly.'
Now if they activated the darn thing it would rip everything around it to pieces. On that thought, he also reprogrammed the kennel's release codes just in case they tried activating it when he didn't want everything in that cyberdroid's vicinity destroyed. Now that only left sixty two security boomers.
Nothing like the 55-C series that Genom would develop in, what was it, six years? Yah, that most heinous of cyberdroids wouldn't even be street tested against the Knight Sabers until 2032, so, yah, that was six years away. The present series just weren't cut out of the same cloth, even the Doberman series had a number of upgrades to look forward to before they were as tough as shown in the anime. Heh, the ubiquitous mouth-laser weapon system appearing everywhere in the show hadn't even made its introduction yet. Which raised the possibility that something could be done to halt its development.
Shaken out of his introspection by the rumble of engines followed by the vice-like grip of launch, Jared drew his Nerd Toy, activating the lightsaber function. It was now, when the pilots were all consumed in dealing with the stress of launch and the multitude of things that detailed, and when the engines were at their peak driving them up into orbit and putting out more interference than a bucketful of sensor jammers, that his real opportunity lay. With onboard radios down the security couldn't communicate, and that gave him ten minutes of action time.
The first two security boomers fells to a single slice of his blade as he came out of concealment among the crates behind them.
"How are we doing, Nam?" Sylvie asked without looking from her controls.
"We are leaving port radar range and passing into satellite detection area. Window is two minutes, thirty seconds away. Main boosters have completed firing."
"Notify ground that we have a problem."
"Alright, beginning transmission." She typed away, sending the messages through her machine so that ground control would see the images she sent instead of their real faces.
One man fighting sixty opponents is a losing proposition in normal cases. Even if the man is profoundly skilled there's got to be some equalizer like a corresponding lack of skill among his enemies in order to make that possible.
However, in a situation of communications blackout as existed within the confines of a shuttle during launch, it could be carefully arranged into a series of some sixty ambushes, in which case a well-trained monkey could stand a chance against sixty men. The cyberdroids were not hot on thought processes either. That was something that was going to come in time, and indeed, it was AI advancements that enabled them to appear so close to human that was part of how the 55-C series came to be Genom's best selling product.
Jared shot the two boomers guarding the cockpit approach corridor in the back of the head, once each, putting away his laser pistol even as they crashed lifelessly to the deck. If not for WWWA enhancements he probably wouldn't have been able to walk during liftoff, but as it was he was managing fine. Sneaking around a bend in the passageway he saw a lone boomer guarding access to the shuttle's computer core and shot it down just as it spotted him.
"Thirty-six. Okay, the forward sections are clear. Now to see what's left in the rear bay." He turned around and began heading to the aft section, taking careful note that he was slightly behind on time and deciding to jog.
In the computer bay, which he'd not entered, a woman sat staring at her screens in disbelief. The first reason was clear enough, for four minutes now she'd been watching a man move on a launching shuttle where G-forces had her pinned to her own seat. The next was just as obvious, said man was easily cutting down combat boomers that had been promoted by Genom as the latest in high-end security. That he was doing so casually and quickly only added to the amazement.
But what really floored Miss Erics, chief of security on Genaros 5 and overseeing this cargo shipment personally because of its extreme value, was that was SKYSABER out there doing all this! She could be sure, and was growing more certain with every moment. The Nerd Toy, his laser pistol, the cheerful banter to himself as he was openly more concerned with the time this operation of his was taking than any doubt of its success. He was... well, he was so downright shocking he could even...
...could he even be real?
So what side did that place her on, if the most virtuous superspy in the universe was acting against her? Somehow her fingers failed to find the alarm button as she just continued watching the cavorting figure in combat, now tearing into the guard of the cargo section.
There had been a long conversation, the sexaroids reporting through the images of Anri's computer a growing number of electrical faults and problems, which Sylvie made sure to maintain the illusion of by minute course alterations.
The spaceport controllers were now frantic, appearing as it did to them a disastrous flood of faults. But the sexaroids remained calm.
"How much longer, Nam?" Sylvie asked.
"Ten seconds. Counting down: nine, eight, seven, four..."
"Four!?" Meg, nervous in her chair panicked. "What happened to five and six?"
"I'm coming to them." Nam giggled, enjoying teasing her friend. Speaking quickly to make up for lost seconds, she finished. "Three, two, one, five, six... NOW!"
A charge jettisoned out an airlock exploded, a large enough blast to be seen by the cameras now trained on the 'distressed' vessel, but timed precisely to be just distant enough to avoid damage, even though it didn't look like it. What it looked like a catastrophic failure of one of their drive engines, which Sylvie, acting as pilot, was very careful to mimic in turning their supposedly crippled ship planetside in a lurching dive.
"Mayday, mayday, MegaTokyo Tower, have lost starboard engine and part of..." The recording stopped just as a carefully planned second blast exploded not far out of their cockpit.
"Ouch, that was too close." Lou flinched from her copilot's couch at the near burst.
"Maybe," Sylvie agreed. "Now comes the hard part, pretending to crash and still pulling out a landing to leave us all in one piece."
There came a bump and debris scattered in their falling starship's wake.
"Hurray!" Nam cheered, raising a fist in the air.
"Good driving, sis!" Meg reached forward to squeeze Sylvie's shoulder affectionately, her nervousness now gone.
"With the navsatt gone..." Anri postulated.
"The rest of this is a cinch." Lou grinned, leaning back in her chair to stretch. "Nothing else could track us this high, so we can land however we want, no more faked emergency."
Sylvie smiled with the rest of them. "I'm still going to keep an act up, there may be other watchers we don't know about. But I'm not going to put us in danger anymore. From here on it it'll be easy."
"Hurray!!" The rest all cheered.
Miss Erics knew her presence aboard the shuttle to be a deeply held secret. She'd gone out of her way to hide it herself. What she could not understand was how had anyone managed to discover what was being shipped? The manifests couldn't be read as they were mostly blank, only covering a routine lift of bulk materials that should've warned away the curious. Price for good solar collectors was dropping all of the time, so it was not the sort of thing to inspire greed or lust, certainly not by anyone capable of fielding a 42-S sexaroid with capabilities so closely matching the real Skysaber.
Such a boomer alone would be worth more than the cost of the shuttle and manifest cargo, so that left as the only possible answer that someone knew of the secret cargo being carried, and had learned of it in time to launch this interception.
The very thought boggled her. She'd only barely learned in time to divert from her search for the last stolen shuttle in time to board this one. So whoever it was had sources of information far superior to hers, and she was on the very short list of people who were supposed to know about this secret. That thought joined several others as being almost too frightening to contemplate.
She watched through the monitors as he dispatched the last of the security force. The boomers had stood less chance than apples against William Tell. She wasn't sure they would've been able to save the shuttle even if she had warned them. The alarm might just as well have been interpreted as a hull breach and confused them, and they hadn't needed to be confused to be cut down like grass before that scything saber.
Sitting quietly in her chair as the vast thrum of launch and the huge hand-like pressure of acceleration continued, she noted that the last of her guard force had been dispatched with ten seconds to spare before main thrusters completed their firing and communications aboard the ship would work again.
Abruptly, the pressure of launch and the roar of main engines ceased, and Miss Erics sat forward in her seat, triggering communications through the automated bridge. They hadn't dared to use a human crew to lift this shipment, as they might've discovered what they were hauling and let out the secret.
"MegaTokyo Tower, we have a situation." She said, confident her voiceprint was being scrambled before transmission.
In the background she could practically swear she heard the tower complain "Not again!" before a more professional voice broke in. "What is your problem, shuttle beta six four?"
Just then the rising shuttlecraft met a sizable chunk of descending navsatt debris that the automated flight system hadn't known to evade. The blonde Miss Erics smacked her head hard upon the console at the unexpected lurch and lost consciousness.
Elsewhere in the pilotless shuttle, Jared also felt the lurch. Even though he kept his feet through it, he decided that now would be a good time to go visit the cockpit and charged up in that direction.
Lou looked up from where she'd been monitoring communications. "Hey, that shuttle Jared is on just radioed for help." She listened again for a second. "And now they're not responding to ground control's hails."
"Could be good news." Meg enthused. "He could have taken it."
"I think that's what we'll assume." Nam agreed. After all, they weren't responding to ground control's hails either and were already well on their way to reentry, still keeping to the lanes where ground was blind.
Jared rushed into the cockpit prepared for battle. What he was not prepared for was the sight of Earth spinning merrily above his head indicating that the ship was in a crazy drunkard's fall. The flight control software had overloaded and shut down, now gravity was doing the rest.
Smirking, he slid into the pilot's seat. Much to his surprise, but not to anyone else, he had proved to have the same concealed interface socket in the back of his head as the rest of the sexaroids, and Nam had taken opportunity to link him to Anri and shared across all her skill programs before they'd started this mission. That included all the programs copied from everyone else, and he was now, as they were, quite an accomplished space pilot.
Correcting their spin, he made for a chosen landing point.
Genom Tower had not yet reached the lofty heights planned for it, yet it still sat with oppressive presence, blotting out much of the MegaTokyo skyline. Already it was one of the largest structure in the world, later it would eclipse its few rivals. But Brian J. Mason was thinking not so very far into the future as he was conniving to save his present as he entered into the cavernous office of the chairman and founder.
"Sir, I'm afraid the project we were lifting to Genaros 5 has been lost. The shuttle it was on has crashed, no survivors. That makes the third shuttle to that station to be lost this week, sir."
"What information from our private source at the spaceport?" Quincy growled in that too deep to be real voice of his.
"I'm sorry, sir." Mason bowed slightly, in harmony with his peculiar resemblance to a member of the Addam's Family. "But one of our remote listening devices was discovered and removed. I ordered the rest to self destruct lest they be traced to us."
Quincy did not believe in coincidence, only conspiracy, and his grasp on the world was not yet firm enough so as to be unshakable. "Hmm, someone must have connected enough facts to discover our secret involvement in research being conducted there. Begin covering our tracks at once. Cut off development and funding to Genaros 5 and relocate our laboratories to more secure locations. Destroy all evidence of our illegal projects at once on station and restart them elsewhere. I warn you, Mason, it would be unfortunate if Genom's name were to surface even slightly if there is a scandal."
His threats were enough to frighten even the ghoulish Mason, who bowed. "Yes, sir. I'm aware of that, sir."
I'm going to have to break up the number scheme I'd thought I'd work on as there's way too much to fit in before the already established storylines. This does not cover the Tenchi arc, which has to be done, or some of the other critical nonsense that I'd very much like to write. But it does begin to plug a hole I'd left in the superspy's history, falling between Otaku Reflected and Eva Revolution.
Nor will this be the only arc that falls between Otaku Reflected and Eva Revolution, as I've got a Tenchi arc that absolutely must be covered, and a Dirty Pair segment I want to fit in. And, in the process, I'm close to certain that more will be required. So rather than give number to the arcs, which I'm sure will change, they will be named instead.