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TRIBUTARY TWO: "No Shirt,
No Shoes,
No Service Revolver"

By Rob Barba

 

Digital River
By Rob Barba

Dirty Pair (any version) copyright Takachiho Haruka/Adam
Warren/Seishinsha/Dark Horse/Studio PROTEUS/Streamline/ADV Films/and so
forth/and so on/ad infinitum/ad nauseum.

TRIBUTARY TWO: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service Revolver

System: Sol
Planet/Location: Earth, Northwestern quadrant, Arizona district
City: Yuma
Site: 1 Carter Park Ln, Warren AZ (Carter Park Visitor's Center)
Date: April 2, 2250 Earth Calendar
Time: 1603 Mountain Standard Time

In space, just clear of Jupiter's gravity well, a miniature star suddenly
flared into being. The small ball of light suddenly became a disc, a
calculated cut in the fabric of space as the opening of the wormhole began
to elongate. It elongated to approximately a diameter of 25 meters, a round
nimbus of swirling violet and blue energy. Finally, as the gate opened, a
small sleek, arrow-shaped gray starcraft emerged from the wormhole, which
immediately collapsed on itself once it left the warp corridor.
The starcraft, a FA-221 StratoMiG, was the primary fighter in a number
of planetary navies' arsenals. About twenty-two meters long, three meters
tall, and with a wingspan of 15 meters, the twin finned, Earth-built fighter
was designed with one purpose in mind: aerospace superiority. The fighter
was carrying the latest in brilliant-class proton missiles, and also sported
a pair of microwave laser--maser, for short--cannons. While most militaries
in the galaxy used the StratoMiGs for all-out assault, the 3WA used them
mainly for recon and support transportation. Easy to handle as well as
nimble and fast, many 3WA operatives used them for solo ops as well as minor
transport between planets.
Kei, of course, was no exception. As she entered realspace, she took a
second to growl at recent Terran regulations. To prevent any problems with
residue warp corridor energies, the Terran Congress passed the Inner Worlds
Astrogation act, which specified that during peacetime, no direct warping
into the inner worlds area was allowed except for emergencies. The closest
a ship could come would be the gravity well of Jupiter, then navigate the
nearest free trail--in this case, Callisto trail--through the belt, then
from there the two-hour move at cruising speed to Earth.
"Mars Control, this is 3WA starcraft registry 34F2J, on approach to
Callisto trail. Requesting clearance to proceed. Flight plan is being
beamed to you at this time," Kei said into her audio pickups on the helmet.
[[3WA starfighter, this is Mars Control, Callisto station. We've got a
freighter that's broken down in the path at the moment, and it's going to
take twenty minutes to free. Sorry about the delay. If you follow the info
we're downloading to you, that'll keep you on a path that will bring you
back to the corridor in time to continue.]]
"Understood, Callisto station. Thanks for the info." In truth, Kei was
rather annoyed about the prospect, but considering there was nothing to do
about it, she banked the fighter and headed onto the holding pattern,
towards the far side of the system, where none of the Inner worlds currently
were.


It was after she passed the first navigation buoy that the defecate hit
the oscillating air conditioner. As she rounded the buoy, there was a
muffled explosion, and a jolt rocked her ship. Without bothering to turn
around, she notched the fighter up to attack speed--she knew a weapon hit
when she felt one. Activating the sensors, she instantly noted that she was
being hunted.
((Shit. Wraiths. And a flight of them, too.)) One of the few
starfighters in the galaxy that was a match for the StratoMiG, the XW-3Y
Wraith was almost point for point a copy of the StratoMiG. And with three
of them on her tail, that meant things were about to get hairy. They raced
towards her with cold, military precision, and it was clear that something
was wrong. Sensors couldn't ID the origin or registry of the fighters, but
they were armed to the teeth and racing at her with their particle cannons
hot.
Fight or flee, fight or flee, were her choices. She already knew trying
to get help from Terran naval or 3WA starcraft would be useless, as either
the comm lines were jammed, or they'd be otherwise unavailable. The flight
moved in precision, so that would mean professional mercenary pilots or the
like. And there was nowhere to flee except into the asteroid belt, but
without a clearly marked path, such as Callisto, it would be suicide.
So, Kei reasoned as she turned and rocketed past the safety perimeter,
why not both? Bringing up the shields to combat settings, she armed and
readied the starfighter, banking and swooping past the debris of the ages,
racing in-between rocks and energy bolts, zigzagging in an attempt to move
away from her attackers. Like sharks on the hunt, they also moved into the
rocky labyrinth, planning to do nothing less than hunt their quarry.
Kei's fighter barreled around a large, unnamed asteroid, then spun and
raced through a second, before heading towards one of the sizable ones out
there, which was immediately identified as Gaspra. Diving towards its
surface, she picked up another set of bandits, which turned out to be three
more Wraiths, also unidentified. Performing a scissors maneuver around a
spire outcropping on the asteroid, Kei grinned as the nearest of her
pursuers wasn't able to perform as close an approach and failed, slamming
into the rock face and detonating. Five down, one to go.
Spinning her fighter on its axis and thankful that the force
compensators were keeping her stomach in line, she raced straight for the
remaining five fighters, who were already pouncing on her, guns blazing.
Her maneuver had bought her some time, as she had already factored in the
microgravity pull of the large asteroid, while the other two hadn't; this
was pulling their shots off to some degree, while she was easily able to
move her fighter out of the worst of the salvos. Some shots bounced
harmlessly off her shields or scored the gray fighter, but she kept on
racing towards them with her own weapons firing, five against one in a game
of celestial chicken. Finally, as the enemy flight broke off as they were
passing her, Kei doubletapped her missile trigger, loosing two proton
missiles from the weapons pod underneath the fighter. The two projectiles
had no problem finding their targets and impacted against them, turning them
into twin balls of flame, two miniature stars amongst the eternal night of
space.
Pared back down to three, the enemy starcraft regrouped, ready to turn
Kei's StratoMiG into so much durinium and plastics, but by then, she'd
already gotten behind them, and into firing position. "Let's see how much
you guys like this!" she screamed as she rapidly hit the guns trigger. A
flurry of violet lances of energy tore away from the starfighter's twin
guns, settling on the rightmost fighter, and turning him into a sphere of
superheated plasma and gas as the fighter exploded.
With two more still on her tail, Kei zipped along the craggy surface of
Gaspra, looking for a way to rid herself of the rest of her opposition. As
she blew by for several more kilometers, she came upon an Achechepe Mining
Corp Minolith Mobile Mining Robobase. The center bay was open, which meant
that it was waiting for a freighter to come by and pickup whatever ore it
had collected. Bringing up the schematic, she did some plotting, and figure
that it couldn't hurt to try under the situation, raced for that bay; if she
planned it right, the others wouldn't know what hit them.
As she barreled towards the open bay, she noted that only one fighter
was really giving a chase; the other having decided to drop behind for
possible support. Well, one is good enough. Punching the fighter to its
fastest capable speed, she aimed for the bay opening, then with the speed of
a valkyrie on adrenaline overload. Turning off the fighter's thrust
compensators, she locked the fighter in a straight path, then spun the
fighter on all of its axes, using gravitic filtering of the cannons just
enough to prevent the base's statis webs from getting a lock on her. As
soon as she was clear, she restored normal flight and blazed out the other
end, back into freespace.
Her opponent, on the other hand, had no chance. The second he entered,
the statis web projectors locked onto him, holding him in place, as they
were programmed to when a freighter docked. As the beams brought his ship
to an abrupt stop, the pilot lurched forward, slamming into the canopy,
crushing helmet and skull alike. As the automated procedures continued, the
autodump protocol went off, as it normally would, discharging the minerals
into the freighter, as it would. Unfortunately, the freighter that would
normally be there would have its own stasis web to catch the mineral, which
tended to be unstable and explosive at heavy jarring.
The result was a massive explosion that ripped apart the Robobase,
sending chunks of metal and rock in 1080-degrees, the burning explosion
being shaped into a spherical blossom by the demands of space and physics.


In light of the fact that six against one odds had failed to bring down
the 3WA starfighter, the remaining fighter must have felt that discretion
was truly the better part of valor, for he immediately turned around and
began a retreat of the area. Unfortunately, he wasn't so lucky as the
fighter met a fiery end when a smaller asteroid twice the size of the
starcraft collided with it. While the planetoid was only scarred
superficially, there would forever be a metallic stain on its surface, the
graveyard for an unlucky pilot.
Kei stayed at combat capability for a few more minutes weaving around
the asteroids at a frenetic pace before deciding that it was safe. Rather
than take chances, she spent another hour weaving through the remainder of
the asteroid belt before entering system innerspace. Admittedly, the more
proper thing to do would have been to return through to the Callisto
corridor and wait for an escort, but there was no guarantee that larger
craft weren't out there, ready to attack her. Furthermore, Kei really didn'
t feel comfortable about talking to military starjocks, anyway.
Around the vicinity of Phobos, she was overtaken by a patrol of Terran
StratoMiGs, who'd been tracking her since her unauthorized entry path into
the inner system. Upon seeing the carbon-scored 3WA logo and the condition
of her craft, the flight leader immediately sent for backup, suspecting
pirate activity. After a quick explanation, Kei was escorted as far as the
Van Allen belt before beginning her approach vector to her landing point.
Although she wasn't too happy about having to be escorted, she did manage to
get a couple of comm numbers for a date or two while she was here, deciding
that maybe starjocks weren't so bad, after all.

~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~

System: Sol
Planet/Location: Earth, Northwestern quadrant, Arizona district
City: Yuma
Site: 387 Powell Ave (Arizona Police Department Aircraft Base)
Date: April 2, 2250 Earth Calendar
Time: 1007 Mountain Standard Time

Kei walked out of the AZPD building with mixed feelings. On one hand,
she'd just spent about an hour filing a report on what the Terran Stellar
Navy was labeling a pirate attack. She really didn't feel that was the
case, and something in the back of her mind said that it was dead wrong, but
with no more data to go on, there was no way of proving or disproving such a
notion. So instead, she gave them the report as well as where they could
find the debris of the Wraiths. Additionally, she had to call the 3WA's
Main HQ in New Manhattan and assure them that she was okay. It really
pissed her off that they were more concerned about the condition of the
StratoMiG than of her, but after some arguing, they would be sending a
couple of techs down to repair the starcraft.
The good news was that in light of the situation, while the local 3WA
didn't show too much concern, the AZPD was more than enthralled once she'd
entered their jurisdiction. Once she'd completed her reports to the TSN and
the local 3WA, she was ushered in to see the station chief, who immediately
issued her the use of an unmarked police vehicle. Anyone though enough to
take on multiple pirates in a 'roid furball and come out alive and on top
had his respect, he'd told her, and was welcome in Arizona anytime. She'd
thanked him kindly for the loaner of the vehicle, and soon was on the road.


The drive to Warren wasn't too far. Nestled on the far side of Yuma, a
short drive down one of the district's major roads, she finally stopped at
the local hotel, a place recommended by the station chief. The Calaveras
Palace was a nice place, highly recommended by several of the officers.
After taking checking into the hotel, decking a bellhop who was getting too
snappy with her and crashing on the bed, she decided to get used to the hot,
arid Arizona weather for a couple of hours. She needed the rest before she
would press on with her investigation in the afternoon. Despite her desire
to do so now, that dogfight took more out of her than she expected, and a
nap for an hour or two would be exactly what she needed. A quick getting
out of her flightsuit and a shower took care of her more immediate needs.
A few minutes after she'd freshened up, she sat down at the room's data
terminal and logged into the system's infocomnet (referred to as the World
Wide Web, named after humanity's first infocom network). Pulling up some
cursory data on the Carter complex just down the road, she found it dry and
uninteresting, and probably filled with info she could get onsite. With
that in mind, she switched to an entertainment sub-node (or URLs, as they
were called here) and called up a recent holomovie to watch for a few hours.
Throwing herself onto the bed, she prepped to do nothing but veg for a few
hours while the movie played.
There was a knock at her door a few minutes later, with a soft call of
"Room service, ma'am, compliments of the hotel staff."
((I think I could get to like this,)) Kei thought as she reached for the
door to open it, allowing a cute young woman dressed in a chef's outfit to
push a hovercart in. Showing a level of elegance, the meal was encased in
chromatic shielding, to keep the food warm, similar to tray covers from old
Earth's past. "So, what's the meal?" Kei asked.
The girl's eyes narrowed as she snarled, "Fried 3WA Agent," and reached
into the chromatic shielding, something that shouldn't be possible.
Withdrawing her hand, she pulled out a pistol of some sort, as she slapped a
button on the side of the cart. The cart began to shudder, knocking the
empty trays, silverware, and a holoprojector from its top as it began to
change shape.
At this time, though, the assailant began to open fire with the particle
rifle, unleashing a barrage of angry golden beams at Kei--
--had she been right where the girl had began to fire. The second the
girl had reached into the holofield, Kei's instincts kicked in as she leapt
backwards onto the bed, rolled backwards and reached for her ever-trusty
gun. As the woman drew a bead on her, Kei leapt off the bed, the energy
beams missing her by inches, the concussion effect of the beams' coronas
slamming against her back, though not strong enough to deter her next move.
Turning with perfect choreography, she triggered thrice, sending three
crimson beams to tear into the girl in her abdomen, heart, and face. The
bloody corpse of her assailant hit the floor, and Kei, wasting no time,
bounced for the rifle.
Meanwhile, the "hovercart" had completed its reconfiguration, and the
warbot stood on its boxy legs, turning its head sensor array left and right,
searching for its target. The boxy, utilitarian-looking 'bot powered up its
twin gun-arms, a pair of nasty looking starcraft-grade laser cannons. It
knew there were two life forms in this room, one of which was its
controller, the other being the target. Fortunately, the controller was
carrying a beacon to identify itself, which the other didn't have.
There was a flash of movement of a body headed towards the window, or to
sneak up on it, and the warbot reacted. Rotating a full 180 on its torso,
it raised its arms and opened fire on its target, the twin orange beams
hitting it squarely. Most of the body was incinerated in the blast, as was
most of the transparent aluminum windows and ferrocrete wall construction.
What bloody chunks were left of the poor soul rained down towards the pool,
as shouts could be heard from below. Sure in its purpose, the 'bot turned
to leave the room?
--only to find itself bored through with several well-placed shots to
its power core. The coronas pushed it back as Kei continued to fire blasts
into it, pushing hard enough that it fell out the window, where it detonated
in a fiery spray, sending shards of metal and plastics in every direction.
Kei headed for the door, silently thanking her would-be assassin for
being dumb enough to have the 'bot's safety transceiver located on the rifle
itself. Passing through the door, a sort of sixth sense called out to her,
forcing her to leap back as a pair of thick energy beams, white as the
daytime sun and thick as poles scorched through the location where she would
have been a split-second later.
There was a shout of voices, accompanied by the thunderous pounding of
an army of people running up the stairs. No doubt the turbolifts were
cordoned off, too. That left only one choice left, and that would, by far,
be the one most covered, seeing how much action just went through it in the
past five seconds.
Without even thinking twice, she leapt out the window for the pool,
seven stories down. As she fell, she fired multiple bursts towards the
ground, scattering dozens of innocent bystanders, but hitting each person
that had a gun trained in her direction. Her blasts also bored through the
poolside bar, setting it ablaze; into one of the fountains, shattering it
and causing a geyser to erupt; and through a couple of server droids,
turning them into so much scrap metal.
She hit the water like a knife, cutting through with ease, then pulling h
erself out of the pool. Soaking wet and still in her flightsuit, she turned
and triggered two more men aiming at her before bolting towards the hotel's
parking lot. Whoever these guys were, they'd have her car under
surveillance or wired to detonators, so that would mean she would have to be
a little more exotic in how she would have to deal with the next part of her
defense.
Racing around the front, she noted that there were more guys headed
towards her, holding their fire if only not to injure the crowd. At the
front was also a doorman, helping a woman take her bags off a
Harley-Davidson-Anderson hovercycle. Kei leapt, gently shoved the woman out
of the way, then gunned the hawg, racing for the open road, or so it seemed.
As her pursuers kicked an elderly couple out of their antique car, readying
to commandeer it, she found a way to deal with the problem at hand.
Tapping a sequence into the small function panel of the rifle, she set
it for overcharge, in effect turning it into an energy grenade. Turning
around, she raced towards the car, whipping out her pistol and firing shot
after shot, suppressing their fire and hoping that reinforcements wouldn't
come to botch up her job. As she passed by the car's side, strafing the top
and missing them intentionally, she threw the overcharging, hyperheating
rifle under the vehicle. That accomplished, she headed for the nearest
window and jumped the bike into it, crashing through the expensive,
actual-glass fa?ade and raced the hawg through the lobby, heading at
lightning-fast speeds for the hotel's second exit. A few seconds later,
she burst through the glass panes on the other entrance, a few meters down,
and barreled towards the road, headed away from the hotel.


In the meanwhile, the group of gunmen, noting that their quarry was
getting away, gunned the motor, ready to chase off after her. This turned
out to be the last mistake they would ever make, as they moved the car
forward. In their haste, they failed to note two vital things: one, which
was that Kei tossed her hypercharged rifle under the car. That in itself
wouldn't have been an issue, except that the car they had hijacked was an
antique model, one of the last ground-effect cars ever made. Ground effect,
of course, meant that it wasn't a hovercar. Not being a hovercar meant that
the car had wheels and tires. Tires that could run over--and trigger--the
weapon.
The resulting explosion, occurring right over the car's fuel cells, not
only obliterated the car and its passengers, but also tore it in three. The
front- and rear-most portions of the car were propelled through the huge
marble pillars that held up the covered driveway, knocking out the support
and bringing it crashing down. Wires, fashionably attached to the top of
the awning, like a cable spider web snapped, flailing in all directions and
cutting through ferrocrete and transparent aluminum alike.
Meanwhile, the middle section of the car, separated into a fiery blossom
of shards, blasting through every direction. One large portion that had at
one time been the lower portion of a door lanced forward, crashing through
and destroying a large holosculpture in front of the hotel. The projector
short-circuited, detonating in a shower of sparks and sending a feedback
along the power conduits back into the hotel and its internal reactors.
Within minutes, hundreds of miniature fires and electrical bursts occurred
throughout the structure of the hotel, eventually combining into a bonfire
that soon engulfed the entire complex. By the time the AZ Fire Department
had arrived on scene, what was left of the Calaveras Palace looked like it
would need some time to rebuild for reopening...assuming it ever did again.

~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~

[[Damn it, Miller!]] the voice screamed on the other end. Though it was
an audio only session, that was probably a blessing. [[I said I wanted that
3WA agent taken out with a minimum of fuss, not to make the holonews!]]
The person spoken to, one Derrick Miller, was visibly nervous. A young
black man, his style of dress and sophistication in another time would have
spoken of extravagant wealth and power, a definite mover and shaker. While
he did have enough to have the finest tailoring available in what he wore,
the mover and shaker part was up for debate. At the moment, he served a
master just as anyone did to one degree or another, and right now that
master was extremely livid.
Gathering his thoughts, he spoke into his audio pickup, "Sir, this agent
must be one of their best. She took out not only that squadron of mercenary
pilots we had on retainer, but two dozen of my best men and a FE-311BN
Warbot. The fact that we had to have two dozen of them to take out one girl
is bad enough, but she vaped them all like they were nothing. This is more
than just a routine agent, sir."
The voice on the other end was silent and contemplative before voicing,
[[I see. It appears that particular agent does live up to her reputation,
after all.]]
"Excuse me, sir?" Miller asked.
[[Her name is Kei Carter. She's listed in her files as a troublemaker,
but very effective at handling her missions,]] the voice explained. [[She
usually operates with her partner, but considering that she's alone means
the 3WA wants to hide the fact that one of them is here. Likely, it may be
what her immigration paperwork states, that she's here for a vacation, but I
doubt it. No one vacations on Earth since the Nanoclysm. More likely, they
may have found our base of operations here, and are attempting to deal with
us in a quiet manner.]]
"So, sir, what do you want me to do about her?"
[[Take her down, of course. I'll be sending you Cosmopulous, Al Nazzir,
and McDaniels. They're three of the best, and should be able to stop her,
easily. Find out where she is and dispose of her. And don't fail me
again.]] The last statement was made in a tone so cold, it would have
brought the world into an Ice Age if the windows were open. After that,
there was nothing, until the disconnex chime sounded a few seconds later.
Miller sat in the sun-bathed glow of his office, in the warm Arizona
sun. By all accounts, Bach, Mitsuhara, & Miller was a well-heeled law firm,
one of the Earth's finest, and the largest one outside of New Manhattan. In
reality, however, the truth was a bit different, quite a bit. For starters,
there were no people named Bach or Mitsuhara. Secondly, only 10% of the
"firm" was actually involved in the cover business of being lawyers.
He paused for a second, looking at the skyline of the city of Warren, as
though he was trying to guess where she could have gone. Somewhere in that
town was a young woman that one should probably not pick a fight with, and
yet, he was assigned the task of killing her. He really didn't know why,
only that she was ordered to be killed. Life was funny like that sometimes.
Pressing the com button again, he gave his words, "Darlene, please
contact Mr. DeWitt. I have a job for his investigation talents."

~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~

Site: 1 Carter Park Ln, Warren AZ (Carter Park Visitor's Center)
Time: 1603 MST

Take a museum and park, center it around the tomb of a local
philanthropist and his family. Take the museum, dedicate it to the memory
of said philanthropist and how his years here improved all for the small
town of Warren. Throw in a few benches, baseball diamonds, soccer/football
fields, picnic tables, and so on, and scatter them throughout the park.
Lastly, take a few old-fashioned rowboat rides and place them on the River
of Orchids, letting couples have a chance for a scenic and romantic ride on
the rather placid tributary.
Serene. Peaceful. Contemplative. Informative.

Boring.

Kei yawned as she stared at the empty park that she'd wandered for the
past two hours. It seemed pretty much that she was the only one here today.
The museum was closed for renovations, or so the sign said; the rowboat
facility was open, but there were no customers and the operator seemed to be
fighting a losing battle to stay awake in the hot Arizona sun. Throughout
the park there were a couple of people here and there, but nothing really
significant.
((What a friggin' waste of time,)) Kei groaned. She'd come out here
because of some wild goose chase that pointed her in the direction of what
she wanted most, and now she'd made an ass of herself for it. There was
nothing here, no THIS WAY, KEI! signs, no person to sit here and say, "I've
been waiting for your arrival, Ms. Carter." There was no indication that
anyone knew she was coming.
((Certainly I've spent all this time walking around the park. I've
checked every nook and cranny, from the rowboat place and that idiot who was
trying to hit on me, to every part of the closed museum--and sneaking in
wasn't that easy, either. 'Bout the only place I hadn't checked were the
vending machines an--))
As though reality had decided to intervene, Kei looked in the distance,
at the marble building that was across the park from her. The tomb was the
only place she hadn't checked. And why should she? No one goes
crypt-crawling during daylight hours. Then again, she also knew, since her
assignment on World's World, that the supernatural was something that
definitely rated high on her Weird-Shit-O-Meter.
But this was, after all, Carter Park. Her last name was Carter. That
tomb could be the link to her family, the one thing that she knew she needed
more than anything in this world. Steeling herself, she walked towards it,
ready for whatever fate might have in store for her.


The building was made completely of, according to the videoplaque
nearby, actual marble and not the cheaper ferromar substitute. That made
the building very expensive and a true monument. The city, utterly
dedicated to the memory of the Carson family, wasted no expense to build the
monument to the final resting place of he and his family.
The plaque continued to drone about the life of the man, and so forth
and so on, showing pictures of a young man who was a definite hunk, and
someone she would have loved to get to know better if they'd met. This
thought was immediately shut down by a reminder that this man was probably
one of her ancestors, and that she should stop acting like Yuri.
The rest of his family wasn't really talked about much, due to an
agreement that he had with the local press. Wanting them to retain their
privacy, Carter had talked to the local media about leaving his family be
and allowing them to give interviews and video shot opportunities when the
chance arose. The press of the time had agreed, but the price of it was
that little information on the wife and child of Carson W. Carter was
available at the time of their murders.
The presentation went on to give details of the trial, and the one
person who was caught and charged with attempted burglary and murder. There
were rumors of a conspiracy to kill Carter, but it turned out to be only
that, merely rumors. Carter and his family were given a statesman's burial
in the tomb, and his old home made into a museum and park. End of story.
Kei blinked a few times, trying to comprehend why she just sat through
something so dull and boring. Meanwhile, the screen sat there, with a lone
button displayed and the words: PLEASE BE CONSIDERATE OF YOUR FELLOW
PARKGOERS, AND PRESS THE RESET BUTTON. Kei looked around for some other
sign that something was up, some hidden nook or cranny that would suddenly
pop up, a magical door suddenly appearing, or any one of a hundred different
permutations of a secret being revealed.

Nothing happened.

After a few minutes of patient (or what passed as patient for Kei,
anyway) waiting, she finally grew dejected at waiting. "Goddamn waste," she
muttered to herself, not in tones of anger, but with an edge of sorrow to it
as a realization of hers set in. She would be like this forever, not
knowing who she was and where she came from, not being able to find a part
of her that should have been hers from the start of life.
Pressing the button to reset the video monitor, she turned to head back
to her "appropriated" bike. She'd have to call the chief and update him on
her situation, and then tomorrow she'd be on the first flight back home. A
solitary, empty ho--


The monitor chimed once, followed by, DNA SCAN PASSED. PREPARE FOR
RETINAL SCAN. Kei blinked in surprise, only to be hit in the face with a
quick burst of a scanning laser, emanating from what she thought was a
routine anti-vandalism security camera. The display on the screen changed
suddenly and enigmatically to PROCESSING SCAN DATA for a second before it
read, SCAN COMPLETE ? ACCESS AUTHORIZED FOR CARTER, KEIKO.
There was a low rumbling joined in duet with the whir of mechanics, and
as a stunned Kei turned her head as the supposedly sealed door on the tomb
slid open with a click, revealing a doorway, and stairs that led down into
the actual place.
She blinked again. This was not happening. No way was this happening.
This could not be happening at all, not in the least. And yet, here was a
mysterious doorway, leading to a possible answer that she could not have
expected or seen, much less known. But what other answer was there?
What other answer, indeed.
Drawing her weapon, she began the trek down the stairs, hoping it would
lead to her fate, and fearing that fate not to be very palatable. Death was
like that.


The better half of eternity seemed to pass, and she still continued down
the stairs for what seemed like hours, even though her wristcomp confirmed a
timespan of five. Maybe six minutes. The air was musty and dank, the only
illumination were inset lighting panels in the wall that gave off a faint,
ghostly light. There was a faint whir of well-kept technology, thought what
would keep this technology in this relatively good condition was beyond
her...as was the fact that a tomb like this had fairly recent technology.
Finally, she reached the bottom, and where the graves were kept. Still
feeling uncomfortable, she turned the corner and stared at the three coffins
of the Carter family. Two large ones, assumedly for an adult, and the
smaller one, for a child that had only been a few weeks old when it had been
killed. Something in Kei's heart reached out for the small child that had
never had a chance to grow up, and so she looked at that grave, first.
Her world was never the same when she did. Sweeping off the aged dust
on the carved letters atop the coffin, she saw something that was
impossible. Something that should not be.
Something that was screaming at her in engraved lettering:

KEIKO CARTER (Mar 15 2251 ? March 27 2251)
Beloved Child, May You Rest in Peace

"No...." Kei took a step back in total horror of what she'd just read.
It was...there was no way...it just couldn't be possible. No way in hell
could it be possible.
((I'm not dead!)) her mind screamed, and it took all of her willpower to
keep her mouth from joining in. ((*I'M NOT DEAD!!!!!*))
No, that was clear enough. One other thing was, too: Luciens lived a
long, long life. She was a Lucien.
*"BUT THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!"* she finally roared as reality caved in on
her, assaulting her with a possibility that was in no way true but that was
also all too true. All it would take would be a DNA scan from the bones of
one of the Carters, and she would find out the truth. And contrary to the
old tale, the truth might not set her free in this instance, but instead
might make her life a total hell.
She turned to bolt from the crypt, from the park, from this planet and
from everything this stood for. Fighting the shivering that her body was
going through at the moment, she was so hasty in her movements, she slammed
against one of two adult coffins.
That in turn set off something, as buttons began to whir and the sounds
of isotronic equipment began to come online. On the side of a wall, a
recessed panel opened, revealing a dusty video screen that began to light up
and tick off information. On the coffin's side, smaller panels and displays
began to click online, as a light turned on in the coffin itself, revealing
its contents: a woman not much older than Kei, lying down on a stasis bed,
covered by a stasis sheet.
Watching the whole display kick in, Kei was so transfixed that she
barely realized that what she was looking at wasn't a corpse in a coffin,
but a woman in a cryogenics chamber. Finally the display settled on the
screen and she could read the data. Much of it wasn't clear--the
videoscreen had obviously not weathered the wear of time well--but at least
the data was fairly clear:

============================================================================
======
!$%IA, WQ%&_A M.
Ethn%$^$y: HL ? His%&_c E^e%: b*&wn Hair: %#% Bl$od typ^&#&
DOB: 2@@@@^#.27 Nationality: Terran (legal resident) Birthplace: New
^%*@)_ ^&#@, N%$^i
Terran ID Number: 1%$#^*& (cross-re%$#*)( with AZPD File Nu%$#&_#$^350 and
^$^&&a%#*&*()*)(*)^%&w$)^$^*$)
============================================================================
======

Kei trained her eyes on the person inside, looking at details. Long red
hair, tan skin, and the computer stated brown eyes. The rest of her body
was covered by a sensor sheet, but from what vague shape was revealed, the
woman apparently worked out, though she wasn't as good looking as Kei was,
obviously. The whole scene had that sort of vague, dreamlike,
fairy-princess quality that Yuri adored so much in those holovids she was
always watching. Well, that wasn't the sort of thing that Kei went for,
under any circumstances.
A new set of data on the screen popped up and caught Kei's attention:

============================================================================
======
INITIAL RESECUTATION CYCLE COMPLETE.
Patient scan: all life signs standard, no anomalies detected. Initiating
final cycle.
============================================================================
======

Kei watched as the system began to complete its final sequence, as a
clear, goopy liquid began to fill the chamber. Suddenly the goop began to
glow with a soft blue-green light as the interior got fuzzier and the entry
hatch recessed into the main unit. Finally the glow stopped, and gases
escaped from the maw of the once complete tube. The light changed hues from
that cold blue-green to a warm, inviting pink, and the nutrient gel began to
drip from the sides of the opening. The room grew silent as the chamber
began to shut down, becoming silent, as though it were a midwife waiting for
the mother to give birth.


A second later, birth occurred.
From the tube, an outward eruption of the nutrient blasted forth as the
woman tore into the air, gasping to breathe her first inhalations for some
long, indeterminate time. The soaked blanket fell away from her, revealing
a body that was better built than Kei; making her somewhat jealous, as the
outline of every curve and muscle could be seen through the woman's
black-and-silver cryogen suit. The woman, still covered in the goo, arched
her back, her fiery long red hair following the dance of her head as she
thrashed forward and vomited, expunging the nutrient gel from her body. In
doing so, she fell forward, over the edge of the tube and onto the floor.
Shivering from the cryogenic shock and eyes screwed shut because of the
lack of sensory input, Kei rushed forward and grabbed the woman. "It's
okay, ma'am. You're safe. I'm with the 3WA. You're okay."
Still disorientated, the woman snapped, "3WA? What the fuck happened?
Are you here to give me a report, or did Chief Imae tell you to come here
and keep me under wraps?" She paused for a second as the words reached her.
"Wait a sec. I'm safe? What the hell do you mean I'm safe? Of course I'm
safe! I'm..." Another pause. "What the fuck? I can't see!"
"Of course not, dummy!" Kei snapped in reply. "You've been in cryo for
apparently the better part of eternity, so...."
"Cryo? What the fuck!?!?" The woman shivered, her face going pale with
as her mind did some sort of equation. "Why would I be in cryo,
unless...wait! What happened to Car? And my baby?"
"I don't know," Kei said, biting back her anger for a change. This
woman needed help, no matter how much this whole scene looked like something
out of a bad holofilm--or worse one of those ancient 2-D "movies" that they
used to watch hundreds of years back. Also, a couple of things occurred to
Kei: one, that she needed to get this woman out of here and to the nearest
hospital; and two, this woman was vital, she might be the lynchpin to Kei
finding out what she needed to know. Once she was okay, then she might be
able to provide details about the woman's life, and in turn that woman might
be able to answer a few important questions for Kei. "C'mon. Let's get you
to a hospital and we'll find out, okay?"
"Aren't we in a hospital now?" the woman asked, her tones changing from
fear to anger. "And I want to know what the hell happened to my husband and
child right now."
"No, this is in...part of your old home. And as to where your husband
and child are, I don't know," Kei answered, though not mentioned was the
comment, ((I would sure as hell like to find out!)) Helping the woman to
her feet, she said, "C'mon--let's go." Not taking no for an answer, she
grabbed the woman and dragged her towards the stairs; thankfully she was
still weakened from the cryo process.
As she neared the entrance of the crypt, Kei cautioned, "You'd best not
try to open your eyes. We're stepping outside." But as they neared the
entrance, she saw the merest flash of a shadow pass by the door.
Considering the problems she'd already had, the least thing she needed now
was a firefight. But, if there was going to be one, there was going to be
one. Telling the other woman, "Hey, stay here for a sec," Kei went out to
deal with the problem at hand.
However, there was no problem at hand. Not one at all. Kei went out,
guns at the ready, and planning to open fire at whoever stood outside, and
generally cause the mayhem and hell that she was known for. But it was kind
of hard to do that in a completely deserted park. Kei looked around one
more time, stepping out of the tomb, gun at the ready, and prepared for a
fight. Instead, she got the cooing of imported pigeons from Mars, a few
cars driving by on the street some several meters away, and the soft sounds
of the River of Orchids passing by in the distance.
((Wonder what that was? It was a little too large for a bird, and there
's no one nearby in the immediate area. Could someone be running around
with cloaking tech? Naaah--that stuff is oversized, and not made for
personal use. Unless there--))


The scream from behind her brought her into action. Spinning like a top
in a gyroscope, she drew a bead on what she thought was the potential
threat, but only found herself pointing a gun at the woman who was now
staring at her, not with fear at having a weapon pointed at her, but with a
look of total disbelief. Kei was about to utter a half-felt apology for
that, but then realized that the woman was not just staring at her, but at
something behind her as well. It only took a second more for the 3WA agent
to realize that something was very, very wrong.
Kei turned around, gun once more at the ready, barking, "Okay, I'm tired
of this shit, do you hear me? You'd better have a damn good reason for
fucking with me!" She completed her turn, saw the same thing that the other
woman had been staring at, and....


Keiko Carter, Trouble Consultant for the 3WA found herself staring at
something even more incomprehensible than the mound of paperwork on her
desk, something even more frightening to her than holographic ghosts.
Her gun, unable to blast this presence away, slipped from her hands onto
the floor with a total and utter clatter. Kei turned back to the woman,
then the first sight, then the woman again, then the first sight again.
"It...it-it-it can't...it can't be true.... No friggin' way can it be
true!" Raising her arms to the skies, she screamed, *"PLEASE TELL ME THIS
IS SOME KIND OF FUCKIN' JOKE!!!!!"* Unable to control herself any more, she
sank to her knees, shivering uncontrollably and fighting off the tears,
trying desperately to ignore the sign that had just shattered her world: a
small holograph unit which displayed a simple poem into the air, the bright
red lettering for all the world to see.

"WHILE TIMES HAVE BEEN HARD,
THIS PROBLEM'S NOW PAST--
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
NOW UNITED AT LAST."

Keiko Carter turned to look at the words one more time, realizing they
were not going to go away. Then frighteningly, she turned to face the one
person in the galaxy she never thought she would meet: her mother.

A woman named Keisha Garcia, former Arizona Police Officer, and one-time
Senior Trouble Consultant for the Worlds Welfare Work Association,
code-named "Lovely Angel."


Next:
Tributary Three: Jump the Fence

Mata ne,
Rob
"I hate robbing banks...."
--Juno Reactor
primary: calicatcafe@megami.net secondary: ashita@cchono.com

AIM: CaliCatCaf ICQ: 45925353
Califonia Cat Cafe Online:
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A Long Strange Webpage: (MOVING SOON)



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