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DON'T FEAR THE REAPER
A (rather dark) Virtual Mekton side story

Well, that's actually not the story, but the draft I was able of recover after my computer crashed. I think I could place it there as a reminder, while I rewrite the rest... (L.L.)

(Actually, this is something I /had/ to write. Don't ask why, this way I wont have lo lie at you. And since two VM characters fill perfectly on this plot -and they're characters of mine, so I won't have to pay (c)-, hell, why not?)

All songs mentioned are the property of their respective copyright's owners -obvious but mentioned just for fair play. All characters there are the property of their respective creators -as the lot of them are of VM, that's obvious but mentioned just as a blatant plug. ;)


Episode 1 of 6.
Isami's Birthday
Episode music: You'll be a woman

A Fryday at Geocity.

She was no fool. She knew perfectly they were up to something. Actually, she even had a rather good notion of what it could be.

Jaired and Maki had been exchanging whispers when she was near and stopping them as soon as she closed from at least a week. She couldn't see his faces, but she was positive they were exchanging side glances, too. And Kojiro, good Kojiro, he was the worst liar ever. That he was trying to hide something was transparent to her on every one of his words, on each tremble of his hands whenever he gave her his arm to gide her.

Well, she loved surprises, and the game of pretending not to be aware of that -but, of course, slipping a comment every now and then to pretend she was about to discover it, just to hear his embarrased voices as they tried to cover themselves, was too fun a game not to play... Isami loved games.

She walked out of the bus, testing with her cane, and headed for the mall. Not to her surprise, she heard a shriek of tortured metal overcoming the silence of well-oiled gears as Kojiro's mountain bike (presumably carrying Kojiro) came to a stop near her few seconds later. She stopped.

"Good evening, Chiisai."

"No surprise this time, I know my bike is rather noisy, 'twas too easy... er, I mean, Good evening, Isa", answered him. "Going to the VRcade?"

"Yes, and a little shopping with Jenny later."

"Want me to walk you?", said him, dismounting.

"Of course. That bike of yours' got a backseat, maybe?", she chided.

Very funny, thought Chiisai. His beloved GT-HD mountain bike was built to resemble a road hog, but of course had a single, small seat -much to Chiisai's sorrow. "No, we'll have to walk until I got rich and buy a Electra Glide instead of a Velo Glide". He held his bike's handlebar with his left hand and offered his right arm to Isa. She took it, and they walked to the mall -where Isa had to wait a minute while he chained his bike, apologizing all the time for the inconvenience. Of course she chided him the whole time.


At the VRcade.

"Good evening, Isa, Chiisai", greeted Jenny as the two kids entered the VRcade.

"Good evening, Jenny", Isami greeted her back. "Where are Jaired and Maki?" Kojiro's arm stiffened for a second. She concealed a small smug grin. Sometimes it was SO easy...

"They are at the RED, and they asked me to tell you that the want to talk with them."

"There's anything up with the VRcade staff?"

"No, it's not bussiness, I think." She took Isami's arm, deftly displacing Chiisai, and walked Isami to the RED, with so much effort in not showing she was dragging her that it was plain obvious she was doing that.

"Hi, Isa", said Maki. "Do you have anything planned for the day after tomorrow in the morning?"

"No, Maki, anything at all. Why?"

"Do you want a little private fight? Just you, me, Jenny, Jaired and Kojiro. There's usually nobody there the Sundays mornings, most people are sleeping..."

"...actually a good thing to do Sundays mornings", joked Isami.

"...so we could hire the entire place for a hour or two", finished Maki.

"Are you gonna hire your own place?" Isami's voice was kindda amused.

"Her Dad's, actually", Jaired jumped in from behind his terminal. "This way we wouldn't have to endure somebody else remotely logging in to spoil the fun, like that time Rotten logged into that group of 10-old childs birthday party".

"So that was the surprise you were hidding to me all these time, a 'safe' birthday game?", she said, just to tell them that she knew.

Behind her, Chiisai sighed. "I knew that trying to hide it from you would be dificult..." The other kids assented.

"Just 'cause all of you are my favored bad liars", smiled Isami at them. "And later, by evening, we could go party!"

"Cool!", said Jaired. "Where?"

"Shinzato Corp's main building VIP's lounge, of course. What good would be that silly lounge if the owner of the corp couldn't use it for her fourteen birthday party?".


Two days later.

"Where are the others?", asked Isami.

"I think the boys didn't arrived yet, we're some 10 minutes soon, after all", answered Jenny. "But Maki would probably be on the VRcade."

"Better he does, or we'll have to wait before the door."

They had to.

Fifthteen minutes later, Maki arrived with the door's key. "I'm sorry, I got delayed, Mom dropped a chore on me. Where are the boys?"

"They're late, as always", answered Jenny, more than a hint of mockery on her voice.

"Let's wait for them inside, we may even have time to find something else wrong about them", joked Maki. She unlocked the door and oppened it.

Jenny walked Isami into the place and clossed the door behind them. Then the world exploded.

"SURPRISEEEEEEEE!!!"

A huge cacophony of whistles, blowers and trumpets, and a veritable number of ballons, several scores or so, greeted Isami as everyone tried to make sure Isami knew he or she was ther. Jaired, Kojiro, Austin, Natsumi, Akira, Lei-ming, Kyozo, Rio and the other Knights, "Lost Boy", Keiko, Bernie, Alex, Tami, Mustard... to the last man, all the VRcade usual crowd of Isami's friends was there.

If that was "a little, private fight", it was the most crowded one ever.

Isami recovered from her surprise remarcably well. "Wh... wh... wh...?"

"Nothing to hide a surprise like making you believe you already knew it, right?", greeted her Chiisai's voice.

"Kojiro, you liar! You told me you couldn't hide a surprise from me!"

"Actually, I said that I knew it was gonna be dificult, but when did I say 'impossible'?"

Sure, that time he did got her. She took mental note of this for future reference, though.


Inside the pods.

Jenny hunched her Silent Knight behind a cover. She watched her sensors once more, just to be sure. Mustard's BMBM 350 was bouncing his way towards her, aparently unaware of her presence behind the building. She raised her VM's arm, the hand-held weapon ready to be used. The moose-headed VM cleared the corner, coming dead stop right in front of Jenny's. Before Mike could even start readying his own weapon, Jenny let loose a pointblank.

The pie-cream impacted square center, right into the BMBM's faceplate. The Boogie Machine freezed for a second, his arm raised. Then used the other arm to clean the cream out of the sensors. Jenny was already running towards another cover, but Mike managed to throw his own pie towards her. It failed, but as it impacted right on Kyozo's head servo side, it wasn't a total miss. Kyozo actually screamed; the impact had just made him miss at Alex. A second later, the Black Ghost NinjaMek was leaping at him, throwing at him yet another cream pie. Kyozo activated his AMS, but the sensor screen seemed to explode into almost a dozen identical pies, all of them coming at him; his AMS was unable of tracking them all, and one of the ones that slipped past was the REAL pie. The Excallibur's faceplate dissapeared under the white cream.

Meanwhile, Auzzie tried to take a pie of his own to fire it at Isami. That moment, he realized that something was terribly wrong as his hand ghosted through the pie.

"TREASOOOON!!"

"Everybody pick on Auzzie!", screamed Isami, throwing a pie after another at him, while the original, handless Maginot 1 ("I'll /KILL/ Maki and Jaired for switching me the goods with the game disks!", thougth Auzzie), unable to answer the cream with the cream, scurried about desperately trying to dodge the rain of pies that was falling upon him.

"Don't you like the work we did of pasting the avatar and cockpit layout of the Magi 2 onto the code of the Magi 1, Auzzie?", laughed Maki at him while sending him a pie at the same time.

"I can't see the joke!", protested him, hidding his cream-covered VM behind a huge lump of cream.

"But you can console yourself, you at least do have ARMS", talked him the lump, with the radio signature of Akira's Windwalker.

Then a huge, mecha-sized delivery van stopped beside them, and a 5m high woodpecker stepped out of it, opened its side doors, revealing row after row of cream pies, and shouted: "EVERYBODY GOT AMMMMMMOOOOO!!"

The battle raged on.


Evening.

Jaired pedalled furiously, but Chiisai was still increasing the distance betwen them inch to inch. Then something fell from Chiisai's bike and he squeezed the brakes and leant over his right leg, turning the handlebar around and stopping on a rather noisy skid. Jaired streaked past, certainly looking surprised. He saw Chiisai leaving his bike and running back to retrieve whatever had fell from his bike. When he turned again his head forward, he saw the back of a parked delivery van growing bigger and bigger.

When Chiisai catched with him, it was Jaired's bike's turn of being showily laid on the ground. Jaired wasn't as skilled as his friend when about to stopping dead on his tracks, but he knew how to do it, too -just his way was somewhat less controlled.

"Are you OK?", asked Chiisai.

"Thanks, I'm fine. What was that thing that fell, Kojiro?"

Chiisai heard the music coming from the white van and choose not to make any comment about what kind of delivery van his friend had been about to crash into. "'Twas nothing important", said with an even voice. "Can we go on?"

Also with a straight face, Jaired mounted on his own bike. Both kids pedaled on a much more sedate manner, so they managed to hear a small kid behind them ordering, "A small one of vanillin, please".

Five minutes later, after becoming lost only twice on the maze of identical buildings (black or mirror glass, dull grey concrete, crude or black-painted steel) that was the Geoisland's corporate sector, they came before the slightly larger Shinzato Corp's main building. It was a nice piramydal building, green-tainted glass over brown-dyed concrete and hanging plants on window boxes making a welcomed change over the many squared, unimaginative corporate buildings around.

Jaired and Chiisai chained their bikes to the rack beside the stairs to the main entrance, removed the elastic bands holding their throuser legs away from the bike's chain, then tidied themselves up a bit, shaking off the dust of their falls from their clothes. Both of them were wearing jeans and T-shirts, Chiisai (wearing black from head to toe, as always) also sported a leather jacket, Jaired a school one. Once satisfied they entered the building, where a doorman with an amused smile directed them to the elevator leading to the VIP's lounge and turned the key of the direct access on.

When the doors of the elevator opened, Chiisai was shocked. He barely perceived that some of the other kids were already there. He and his friend were wearing everyday clothing, as most of the other kids at the party... with one notable exception that did catch all of poor Kojiro's atention. Isami.

Instead of her usual school uniform, Isami had choose a black and grey dress, classical cut, square low neck (really not so low), mid-arm sleeves and skirt just below the knee, with matching shoes. For once, her shoulder-long blonde hair was not held with a hairclip, but loose around her shoulders. Evidently, she wanted not to look like a small girl precisely this day; it was her 14th birthday, after all. It really wasn't a stricking dress. Actually, most Geocity's teens used to wear way much more, er, "enhancing" dressing when dating. She wasn't also the most stricking girl around. Jenny or Maki themselves had much more femenine forms than any girl of Isami's age. But Kojiro was freezed down, as if struck dead on by a lightning. A very large one.

He even fumbled his answer when Isami warmly greeted him, forgetting on the spot all the witty comments he had rehearsed on the elevator. He didnt even notice Jenny greeting them, holding Isami's arm -only for a moment, for this time he displaced her even more eficiently that she did to him last time. He almost forgot to answer to the greetings of his friends. Most definitely, Kojiro was impressed.

A few minutes later, Jenny was on the verge of a desperation rage fit. She had just broke with her last boyfriend (rich and handsome but utterly dull-witted) and was chasing; but her intended prey was not only paying her no atention, he was also very definitely ditracted by somebody else. She knew perfectly how to recognice the unmistakable signs of a crush -she had seen them so many times, generally pointed at her, on many boys-, and he was showing all of them, with flags on. She cursed in an undertone.

"Damned dress... I'll never again lend her my clothing... and damned you... how could I suspect that you stupid boy would be so impressed for it?" Jenny was furious. "You'll PAY me dearly for this particular offence, Jaired Grey!"

"Kojiro, what's up?", asked him Isami "You look distracted". "Eh? Oh, no, it's nothing at all"

"Do you see how you're distracted? You even didn't noticed my new dress!", said her, holding the spread of the skirt on her hands.

If you knew... "I was too busy admiring the peg." Isami actually blushed -a graceous blush that almost stopped Kojiro's breath -again. After this, he didn't managed to say anything coherent on a long time... until he noticed the only thing, other than Isami, that could get to his atention on his present situation.

By the end of the party, Chiisai's line of thought about his friend Jaired was very, very similar to Jenny's.


The day after

The situation was unmaintainable. Every time he tried to get close to Isami, Kojiro would literally move to intercept him. And he was all the time making outrageous attentions and courtesys to her. Jaired was starting to get mad.

The situation was unmaintainable. Every time he tried to get close to Isami, Jaired would literally move to intercept him. And he was all the time making outrageous attentions and courtesys to her. Kojiro was starting to get mad, too.

Meanwhile, Isami was really surprised. She was not accustomed to be the center of atention that way. She didn't mint the usual atentions from Kojiro, actually she liked that, but it was the first time that she saw two of her friends acting that way, with her, and with each other. She knew not what to think, or what to do. And gods and goddess, how bad were the two of them at hidding it! She could swear that all their friends knew what was going on.

The tension broke out by the evening of the following day, when Chiisai actually confronted Jaired. He took his friend by the arm and dragged him to a discrete place.

"Jaired, what are you doing?", he said rather sharply.

"What am I doing about what?" Jaired's reply was also rather sharp.

"You know perfectly what I mean".

"Yes, but I wanna hear you saying it".

"As you wish. What do you think are you doing about Isami?"

"Oh, so was /that/ you were talking ab/"

"Stop earning time and answer me!" Kojiro interrupted him.

Jaired's face grew somewhat smug. "What I could be doig about Isami is nothing of your bussines".

"Actually, it is".

"Why?" asked him Jaired with a malicious smile. He knew him too well; he knew where to thrust the dagger.

Kojiro doubted for a second.

"C'mon, Chiisai, I wanna hear your answer".

"You know perfectly why".

"It's the second time today that I have to say you that I wanna hear you saying that". That is a bit cruel, thougth Jaired, he always refuses to acept it, but he deserves it.

Kojiro finally answered. "You know perfectly that I like her".

"Yes, she's a good friend of both of us..."

"Jaired! Don't play me with the words! You know perfectly that I don't like her the same way that I like you all..."

"Hopefully", chided Jaired. Kojiro choose to ignore that.

"...you all, from the moment I saw her, and yes, I know that I'm very bad at hiding it".

"Exactly", pointed Jaired, now on the offencive. "You say you like her, yet you do nothing. And yet you expect nobody else to do nothing, too. You're like the dog in the manger!"

"Hold on! Of course I did nothing! She was just a child when we knew her, after all..."

"Well, it seems she's no more a girl. What if I like her, too?" Now was Jaired's turn to speak sharply.

The conversation went downhill after that.

Both kids spent the whole night furiously coding improvements to their VMs.

The next evening, right after the school, Chiisai ran to the VRcade, holding rather carefully a bag with his new, truly expensive, VR gear. He wanted to get before Isami did. He walked straight to the RED, looking for Jaired.

Jaired was awaiting him. "Random arena. Closed game, two players" he said to Maki without even looking at her. Maki was rather surprised. That was not her friend's usual way. She was about to ask him where had him lost the 'please' when she saw how the two kids stared each other. She started programing two empty pods without a word.

The two rivals paid the game, including the "locked game" (no aditional loggins once game started) extra fee, and boarded their pods without saying anything, at all, each other.

It was not a duel. On a duel there are some formalities, but Kojiro and Jaired simply jumped straight to each other's neck as soon as their screens lit. They attacked savagely, almost not bothering to dodge or move except to close into range, putting every action on firing each other with every available weapon.


Outside

The extra ammount of shouting was the first thing that atracted Isami's atention when she, Jenny and Bernie entered the mall. Almost all of the shouting dying off when they entered the VRcade was the second thing atracting her atention.

"Jenny, what's up?", she asked. She could almost feel the stares on her.

"I dunno", said Jenny. She and Bernie could actually see the stares... and the fact that, espontaneously, the same crowd of the VRcade that a moment ago was shouting at a battle and stopped as if embarrased the moment they entered was now moving out of the way betwen them and two of the pods. She and Bernie exchanged a stare, then looked at the holoscreen.

"I think they're whatching Kojiro and Jaired fighting", said Bernie. "Jaired flies the Pathbreaker with the heavier gun..."

"The one he only uses when 'Rotten' is around?", asked Isami.

Bernie followed, "... Kojiro's flying some version of Cora with two of those huge guns instead of one."

Isami asked nothing. Cora MKII, Kojiro's Über-Übermek, never to be actually used since even he thougth it was too excessive. They were using the units designed for their hated rivals, but against each other. And she could perfectly hear that they weren't exchanging any witty comment, at all.

She added two and two and found it to be four.

She produced her VR glasses and gave her cane to Bernie, saying nothing. She walked directly to Maki.

"Log me in."

"Isa, they paid for a locked game. Nobody's allowed to... ... ...and even so, I can't log anyone, the logging protocol is locked... ... ...I don't know how to... ... ...pod three. That's for the house -but you owe me, Isami." Maki shuddered as Isami walked straigth to the pod, saying nothing. The small girl's stare had scared her to Hell. Last time she saw such a stare, the day Chi-chan joined the Knights, Rio had been short of maiming the stared one -and anyone trying to get in her way.


Inside.

Chiisai rolled around the huge VH singularity railcannon's beam, the huge blast vaporishing a giant chunk of forest behind him. The weapon was very powerful but somewhat clumsy, so he managed to dodge it without changing general flightpath, thanks to the new neuro-link gear he had coded. He centered both crosshairs, caring not that even the blast's huge backwash was testing his external shields, and fired. The twin oversized guns blew almost six acres of forest into splinters, but Jaired managed to dodge, letting loose with his secondary gun while the VHSR recharged -he knew these wouldn't penetrate Cora's shields, but the blinding flashes of the deflected hits on front of the cockpit forced Chiisai to trust on sensors instead of direct sight, giving him the hald-second he needed to avoid another salvo. Then he fired again the cannon, and this time it hit -but at last moment Chiisai linked both energy pools, creating two layered shields big enough to absorb even that beam. Still, the external shield flickered and died, and the internal one went down. One more hit and...

The Gatillo materialited betwen them without warning (a side efect of "hard" -cracked- loggings) and already at full burn, charging Cora at top speed. Her right lightsaber slashed Cora's head, penetrating the armor and knockig off both the sensors and the second E-pool Chiisai had added. He almost felt the damage through his neuro-link gear, and the computer informed him that his "virtual self" was wounded. Then Isami turned back, using the very energy blade stuck into the other VM as a turning anchor, against Jaired. The latter was so surprised that managed not to do nothing for some ten seconds, but his automated beamshield parried the ligth VM's blades -then she hold the VM's weapon mount betwen her VM's arms and ripped it off, holding the huge gun on her arms.

"<Isami, what are you doing there? This is a private figth!>", protested Chiisai.

"<Maki, why did you let her in? Pause this game!>", sent Jaired over the external channel.

"<No, Maki. Don't pause it>", said Isami.

"<Isami, that was betwen Jaired and me. You had not the right to...>"

"<I have not the *what*, please?>" Chiisai's voice died.

"<Maki!>" sent Jaired, "<stop the game! I'm logging off>."

Isami's voice vas deceivingly smooth. "<No, Maki. You better disable the pod's from unlocking. I'm going to have a small chat with the both of them>." Her tone was as slicing as the very cold. Maki *knew* whom to obbey. "<And cut the external holo and sound feed.>" A few moments later, Isami sent again, "<I said you to cut the feed! NOW!!>"


Outside.

This time, Maki did cut the feed. At once.

Jenny and Bernie stood looking at the blank holo-screen. Around them, most people turned to the other games in progress, but some of their friends (Akira, Auzzie, Natsumi...) closed to them, looking at the three closed pods.

None of them said a word, too.

Auzzie broke the awkward silence. "Someone knows what's going on?" He knew it was a stupid question, but he had to say /something/.

Something that maybe would have been my task to do, not hers... "I think she's about to have a few words with these two idiots", said Jenny. And one of them is more idiot than the other... "And I think she wanna it done right now but wanna no withneses, too. Whi don't we go anywhere else?"

Everybody agreed. Nobody moved. Jenny the first one.


Inside

"<I said you to cut the feed! NOW!!>"

Once satisfied they were alone, Isa switched her atention to the two VMs before her Gatillo, or, rather, to the two kids inside them. Hovering betwen them, she switched to the loudspeakers -she wanted them not to simply turn the radio off. Her voice boomed,

"What, what in Hell, do you two think you are doing?"

"<Isami, that was a stupid question. We were fighting. You interrupted us.>" Jaired's thone was almost patronizing. The kid was obviously upset.

Isami fired at him. The shot was so quick, the automated shield managed not to parry it, and it burnt a huge hole on the Pathbreaker's armor, disintegrating its right arm. "Don't try me with these nonsense! You know what I'm talking about perfectly!"

Chiisai stepped in. "<Isa, we were just/>" -another blast from the Gatillo's own guns hit right in front of his viewport, the flash of the screen blinding him for a second. He raised Cora's hands on a surrendering gesture as Isa aimed the stolen heavy gun at him. "<Isa, stop that! How can we talk if you keep shoting at us each time we open our mouths?>"

"Yes, that's what I want. You shutting your mouths up, now that you already did the same with your brains!, if the only thing you two are gonna say are excuses instead of the truth. You know perfectly that you were fighting for me! Come on! Let's see if any of you got the... guts to negate it!" Neither of them had, not to say anything. Even their VMs mimicred their body gesture of looking down, embarrased.

..."Once again. I ask you. Do you know what were you really doing, fighting for me? What did you thougth, that I was some kind of price for the winner or something? No, I fool myself thinking you were thinking that, probably you didn't even think for the whole time!"

..."You two, cavemen brutes... shame on you! You didn't even thougth that I could have something to say on the matter? Ah, yes, I know, that expresion is so clichè... so what!? It's the truth! To say that you were acting as some past-century macho-display show is not an insult -is just what you were actually doing! Kojiro, you always were good for this things, can you please think an insult for me to say at you?" He couldn't. "C'mon, something about 'rights', maybe..." Now that was too much for the kid. He knew every word Isa was saying to be the truth. Defeated, he slumped into his seat, Cora mimicring his move in the air, so the female VM fell to the ground, beside Jaired's Pathbreaker.

Isami moved to hover some ten meters above the groud in front of them. "You, Jaired", she followed, "you are blinder than I am. You failed to see lots of things lately" -her tone was acidic. "It's not my task to make you see all of these. But what put before your eyes the mirage that you could get to me simply by defeating Kojiro in combat? that I would simply look at you, 'oh my hero', with lamb's eyes? Or maybe you only saw the mirage that he would... step out, or whathever you call it, just 'cause you defeated him? Or it's that simply you wanted to impress me with that macho display, or just you right now hate your friend just out of jealously?!" Jaired was trying to open the pod, but it was locked. He tried to eject, or to extract his game disk, but the un-logging procedures were locked off. "You can't escape my words, Jaired. Tell me, what were you actually thinking?" Jaired fumbled some apologies for a few seconds, then Isami left him with the word on the mouth.

..."And you, Kojiro... you... you..." Isami's amplified voice lost many of its hardness, true sorrow substituding for it. It lasted just a second, then her voice was again as a slap on Kojiro's face on every word. "I just can't find words hard enough! In the name of anything you could hold sacred, what were you thinking I was gonna think of that? Who or what do you think you are? my champion? my owner? did you thougth I was your pet?! I'm perfectly able of deciding whom I like without you fighting for me!!!" Only thing keeping Kojiro from crying was the very sheer shame he was feeling. He not even managed to try to apologize.

..."And the two of you... what kind of friends you are suppossed to be? Jumping to each other's throats, picking fights betwen you two... using these monsters you have against each other, and please don't try to lie me saying that was out of fun, we know it was to destroy each other... acting like if the other wer not a friend but a hated foe! I would have understood this particular actitude if you were Braddock and Rotten, BUT YOU TWO!!! Where did that of 'let's ask her who of us she choose' go? outta the window, or down the latrin?! Did you even THINK of asking me, not who of you I liked, but even /IF/ I liked one of you? I think your vaunted friendship wasn't much of a friendship, really..."

Jaired looked at Kojiro. Kojiro looked back at him. Now they were even more ashamed than before. Fortunately, that diverted some of Kojiro's shame on another direction, so he was actually able to talk.

"<Isami... I don't think it would suffice, of course, but you /know/ that I'm sorry -not just an apology, I'm saying how I feel- about you and about Jaired, and that you have every right to be angry at us.>"

"<Real angry. I'm ashamed of myself, too>" said Jaired, his eyes low.

Isami said nothing for a moment. "I know both of you are ashamed and I know both of you are sorry. It's just for this that I'll allow you to ever talk to me again another day. But right now I've got nothing else to talk with you." She switched back to the radio. "<Maki, unlock the pods, please.>"


Outside

Pod three hissed and Isami stepped out of it. She walked straigth towards Bernie anf Jenny, removed furiously her goggles and started walking away, dragging her cousin, even before retrieving her cane.

"Can I ask you how it went?", asked her Jenny.

"No."

"I figured." They walked out, but a moment before exiting Bernie stared over his shoulder towards where the pods were. Chiisai and Jaired had just exited; they were watching them go, saying nothing, unmoving. He directed them a glance of sheer reproach, then moved out.

He, Jenny and Isa exited the mall. Clinging to his arm, his cousin was silently wheeping; she was hard as steel, as stone, but still she was just a little young girl whose hearth could very well just have shattered for the first time. He moved his huge arm from holding her by the arm to hugging her shoulders, and Isami started crying.


Still at the mall

"Berks!" Akira couldn't help but saying it. "Do you realize up to what exent you two just blew it?", asked he -a rethorical question, really- to Chiisai and Jaired.

"How do you know what happened? are you omniscient or what?", asked him Chiisai.

"Actually I'm the PC of the writer". Jaired and Chiisai weren't sure what to think of that Bruce Willis in-joke. Akira left them wondering and walked away to the RED.

"I'm the crown prince of the ass!", finally exclamed Chiisai.

"If you're that, then I'm the prime minister", quoted Jaired from Frank Yerby without shadow of shame. "We two are the same two-headed ass!"

The two rivals stared each other for a moment. Then the two friends embraced each other.

...

"Alex, remember me that I /never/ switch the figth on her if she even interrupt us", whispered Tami. She had to say something, too.

--------------------------------------------------------------

(draft file ends there. On the final version (lost on a system crash), Akira, Kojiro and Jaired's dialog wasn't so silly)

Story writen by LITTLE LOCUS