7 Jul 2017

Boomers Like Me - Part 2 of 2

(Note: Bubblegum Crisis and related characters copyright and trademark of Artic and Youmex, with North American rights held by AnimEigo and are used here without permission.  "Boomers Like Me" was originally submitted to Anime North's fanfiction contest in 2000, winning the Best Action/Suspense category.)

II -- June, 2032

        It's been six months since, well, since escaping.  Shortly after I arrived in Tokyo, I adopted a new identity.  I found a black marketer in the Yokohama district who was willing to allow me to pay for the identity in part with my hard currency and in part with services rendered.  In exchange for my new identity as Erin Merrick, I became a courier for the black marketer.  I still owe him a favour, and he is waiting to call it in.

        After paying back most of what I owed, I was hired by a legitimate courier company.  I paid for my motorcycle and some protection -- a Member II pistol -- with returns on stock investments.  I made sure that with every side job I took, some of the money was invested in the stock market.  The black marketer allowed me to miss payments several weeks after seeing how well I was doing.

        That brings me to now.  It's late.  I have a package to be delivered.  Business never sleeps in Tokyo, and the lights from street lamps and ads guide me down the street.  The only thing on my mind is to deliver the package as quickly as I can.

        It's not that I just want a job well done.  My friends, coworkers, have invited me out tonight to a nightclub called Hot Legs.  They've been telling me about a band playing there, Priss and the Replicants, and I want to hear them for myself.  I'm already late -- I have to deliver this package from Genom's facility outside the city to its development centre on the other side of Tokyo.

        I use the ring roads to avoid the heavier downtown traffic.  There are also fewer police patrols -- all the better to speed through and avoid tickets.  The boss hates seeing traffic tickets.  The road takes me through the fault line.  The devastation from the Kanto Quake of '25 can still be seen.

        I roar through Kawasaki City, trying to make up for time lost by an accident blocking several lanes of traffic on the highway.  As I pass by a dump, I feel the road shake violently.  I bring my bike to a screeching halt.  Expecting the worst, I dismount and run to the side of the road.  The shaking occurs again -- a short rumbling, nothing like I would expect from an earthquake.

        I turn around slowly -- something is wrong.  I walk back to my bike.  As I reach it, I hear the whine of jets.  There's no time to get on the bike.  I wheel it to the side of the road, then crouch down beside it.

        The first thing I see is one of the AD Police's powered suits. I'm scared -- I've seen these powered suits before, but only on television.  An angry buzz fills the air, drowning out the whine from the suit's jets.  An AD Police mini-helicopter flies overhead.  A beam of light from the ground narrowly misses it.

        The pilot banks his helicopter around.  The aircraft's machinegun roars.  Chunks of pavement are ripped from the road.  The powered suit adds to the destruction, its main gun blowing holes in the retaining walls.  I pull my motorcycle into the ditch with me, and hope I haven't been seen.

        My initial fear -- that the AD Police are after me -- fades when I see their real target.  It's another boomer, an obvious combat model.  The police officers fighting it don't have a hope in Hell in defeating it, yet they keep attacking it.

        The boomer makes short work of the officers, absorbing the helicopter's machinegun into part of itself.  Its red sensors look around, looking for more threats.  Beyond all rational thought, I hope the boomer doesn't see me.  Another whine fills the air.

        Looking up, I see four more armoured figures.  More boomers?  No -- they move too gracefully.  More powered armour, then, worn by women.  The armour is too streamlined to be police powered suits.  Who are these women?

        The battle is fast and brutal.  The women win handily.  I crawl up from the ditch and stare in wonderment.  The woman in the blue-grey suit, the leader I presume, looks around.  Our gazes meet, and I see her brown, penetrating eyes.  Can she tell that I, too, am a boomer?

        Hard as it is, I break away from her gaze.  I pull my motorcycle out from the ditch.  By the time the bike is back on the road, the women are gone.  I hear sirens in the distance coming towards me.  It's too risky for me to stay here.  I gun the engine and roar away.

        I barely pay attention as I deliver my package.  I never even check it for damage.  My boss will hear tomorrow if it was damaged.  Me, I'm too shaken by what happened tonight to care.  Skipping Hot Legs, I go to my apartment in the Ota district.  My friends will understand.

        Home, I kick off my boots and sit on my threadbare couch.  Shaking racks my body.  I am still afraid.  Afraid of the police.  Afraid of the destroyed boomer.  Afraid of that woman.  Afraid that I will be next.

        That's it, isn't it?  I fear for my own existence.  That boomer, the one destroyed tonight, that could have been me.  I know what the AD Police do, what their purpose is.  They've destroyed rogue boomers, boomers that have malfunctioned.

        Boomers like me.

        Did I malfunction?  I am a BU-33S, a sex bot.  My function is -- was -- to pleasure my owner.  Instead, I killed him.

        Wagner -- I'm finally able to refer to him by name -- didn't want just a sex slave.  He didn't want sex; he wanted control.  Control was his aphrodisiac.  I was programmed to resist until I was humiliated, then submit.

        Did my programming cause me to kill him?  Did I resist too much?  Was I programmed to be too human?

        The night before I killed Wagner was the turning point.  Wagner had a rough day at work.  A contract he worked on for months was awarded to the competition.  He took his frustration, his humiliation out on me.  The pain, both physical and emotional, was more than my programming could bear.

        A synapse burned out.

        I'm still not sure why I killed Wagner.  Revenge?  Maybe.  Fear?  Definitely.  Something else?  Yes, but what?

        The boomers the AD Police normally handle exist for menial labour.  Something in either their software or hardware fails and the AD Police shoot the boomer like they would a rabid dog.

        Am I a rabid dog?

        I turned on my owner.  Since then, I haven't been a risk.  Will I become one?  I don't know.  My programming shouldn't let me, but I'm now beyond my program.  I've grown.

        Maybe that's the difference between me and the destroyed boomer, and the other boomers the AD Police have put down.  I'm beyond my original programming.  I think.  I feel.

        I am delusional if I believe that any of that will make a difference if my nature is discovered.  The heart of the matter is that I am still a machine.  A machine that has deluded herself -- itself -- into thinking it is alive.

        What does it mean to be human?  Does it mean anyone born of flesh and blood is human, no matter how they act?  Wagner and his daughter are human, yet they've shown as much compassion as the combat boomer did.

        What is the measure of a man?  Material goods?  Success?  Wagner had both; my friends have neither.  I prefer my friends' company to Wagner's.  Is that what it means to human?  Not what I have, but who I'm with?  To find people I like, maybe even love, and to have them reciprocate?  Am I capable of not just lust, but love?

        I ponder throughout the night, only noticing the time when the sun rises.  I feel no better, no less afraid than I did last night.  The night I killed Wagner, I felt I could trust no one.  I feel that way right now.

        Someone knocks at the door, startling me.  Have I been found?  Did the AD Police find me?  Did that woman?  Can I get away without being seen?

        The knocking becomes hammering.  "C'mon, Erin-san!  We're gonna be late!"

        It's Ariko, another courier where I work and a friend.  I panicked over nothing.  Feeling silly, I answer the door before she wakes my neighbours.

        "Good morning, Ariko-chan," I say as I invite her in.  I notice she has changed her hair colour again, this time to a bright purple.

        "We're late, Erin-san," Ariko says.  She reaches for my hand, grabbing it.  Before she pulls, she looks at me one more time, but this time more closely.  "Geez, you're a mess.  What did you do, sleep in those clothes?"

        I look down.  After everything that happened last night, I forgot to change.  My clothes are still dirty from hiding in the ditch.  I shrug.  "I had a lot on my mind last night."

        "Erin-san, are you okay?  You didn't show up at Hot Legs and now you look like a mud bath.  That's not like you.  Did something happen with your delivery last night?"

        "There was a boomer problem last night," I say, surprising myself.  "I guess I'm still a little shaken."

        "Typical AD Police reaction, then.  I'm surprised you weren't hurt.  Screw work today.  I know how to make you feel better.  Go wash up," Ariko orders.

        I go into my tiny bedroom and change.  I hear Ariko call into work and tell them we won't be in.  She's a good friend, like I said before.  She has had a rough life, but deep down, she cares.

        Washed and dressed, I come out of the bedroom.  We head down to my motorcycle -- Ariko isn't old enough to drive, and how she got into the nightclub last night is beyond me.  She gives me directions, guiding me downtown.  She still hasn't told me where we're going.

        "Stop here!" Ariko suddenly shouts.  I ease the bike to a stop along the curb.  We're in front of the Lady S633 Building.  I've made a few deliveries here before.

        Ariko pulls me into a store on the first floor, called Silky Doll.  "Lingerie?" I ask.

        "After what you went through yesterday, you deserve to pamper yourself," she explains.

        "You don't have to do this for me."

        "Someone has to.  When was the last time you treated yourself?"

        "It's been a while."  Six months.

        "So, c'mon!"  Ariko leads me to a rack of gauzy nightwear.  She starts looking through the rack.  Most of what I see reminds me of what Wagner forced me to wear.  Not interested in the teddies, I walk over to a shelf of underwear.

        All I need, really, is something comfortable.  Ariko would be upset with me if I chose plain white cotton panties, though.  Black satin, that would be nice, and it would keep Ariko happy.  I look through the shelves and racks, trying to find something in my size.

        "Excuse me, may I help you?" a clerk asks me from behind.

        I pick up a bra.  "Do you have this in my size?" I ask as I turn around.  I freeze when I see who I am talking to.  Not a clerk, not dressed like this woman is.  It's not her clothes that make me freeze; it's her eyes.

        Her eyes, penetrating me like they did last night.  It's her, the woman, the leader of the powered suits.

        "Is there a problem?" she asks.

        She must recognize me.  She must know what I am.  "N-no," I stammer.  "No problem."

    "I think I have what you want over here," she says.  She leads me to the back.  She knows.  She knows, and now she's going to . . . to . . .

        To show me a black satin bra and panty set in my size?  She doesn't know what I am?

        "Are you sure this will fit?" she asks.

        "Positive," I say, still confused.  Does she think I was just a bystander?  "Thank you."  I smile warmly, hiding my confusion.

        I take my selection to the checkout counter where Ariko waits.  She insists on paying for me.  After our purchases are wrapped, we return to my bike.  It's still early in the morning, so I suggest breakfast, my treat.  Ariko doesn't argue, and we zoom off to a restaurant I know.

        On the trip, my mind keeps replaying what happened at Silky Doll.  I was so sure last night that that woman knew I'm a boomer.  How could I have been so wrong?  I am relieved, though.  Wagner's people don't know where I am.  The AD Police don't know.  More importantly, that woman doesn't know.

        I can live.

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