[Author's Note:This story started as a part of a thread on the fanfic mailing list. Someone asked "What would happen if your characters could get back at you for what you've done to them?". I thought about it for a while, and this was the result. ^_^ ]
Yawning hugely, I leaned back in my chair, coming dangerously close to tipping it over backwards as I stretched weary muscles. I pulled off my glasses and rubbed at my eyes, which had started feeling like they were nestled in beds of gravel. Too much staring at the computer screen, I surmised, stifling another yawn as I glanced at the clock. Well, that was enough for the night then; the rest of Bubblegum Zone #10 could wait until I had some free time tomorrow.
I replaced my glasses and saved my work to my overburdened harddrive, and started my PC's shutdown procedures. I took another appraising glance at the clock as I killed the power to my machine; just enough time to have a quick snack before bed, and then....
A faint droning whine caught my attention from outside the house, and I glanced out the window of my room from sheer reflex. Unfortunately, all I saw was the reflections of my room lights on the glass.
Muttering at myself for forgetting about the darkness outside, I hesitated a moment, then grabbed my jacket. I could use the fresh air that looking outside would give me; I'd been sitting glued to my computer for far too long today. I flicked off the room lights, closed and locked my door, and went to the stairs leading from my basement apartment. Four long strides up the stairs later, and I was standing outside, gratefully breathing in the crisp Autumn air of the early evening.
As I stood there drinking in the coolness of the air, I heard that distinctive droning whine again. Frowning to myself, I turned towards the direction it had come from. It sure as heck didn't sound like a jetliner, which had been my first assumption.
My curiosity piqued, I started walking towards the back yard of the house. It was an eerily silent night. It was so quiet, you could even hear the humming from the streetlights.
I froze as I suddenly realized that the hum I was hearing was *not* coming from the streetlights, but from behind the gate to the back yard. It was very definitely an electrical humming, like that produced by high voltage circuits. Fear of the unknown surged through me, and I started to back away from the gate; whatever it was back there, I didn't really want to meet it.
I spun around, took two steps preparatory to launching into a sprint for the front door, and stopped dead in my tracks, my jaw dropping almost to the ground. There, silhouetted against the lights of the street, were four armoured shapes with distinctly feminine curves to their plating.
Unmistakable to any anime fan, and even more so to me.
The Knight Sabers.
I stood dumbstruck for a moment or so, my mind somewhere between utter delight at seeing the subjects of some of my most cherished daydreams in front of me 'in the flesh', so to speak, and vague alarm. The alarm stemmed mostly from the fact that this couldn't really be happening; the Knight Sabers didn't exist, not in this universe. Well...one could always hope that they'd exist in the future, but that was beside the point right now.
Once the initial shock of seeing the hardsuited foursome had worn off, I found myself asking why they'd decided to look me up. Somehow I doubted it was a social call. Gathering what I could find of my courage, I cleared my throat.
"Umm, uh...good evening, ladies," I tried tentatively. "Is there something I can do for you?" The helmet on the shortest of the four hardsuits, Nene's I presumed, turned towards the other three.
"That's him," the electronically filtered voice of a young woman confirmed. "He matches the description and my scans perfectly." At her words, the lead hardsuit stepped towards me, and it was all I could do not to step back a pace; in her hardsuit, Sylia was at least as tall as I am, and the white armour did look just a bit menacing....especially now that I was looking at it in person.
"You're Mr. Bert Van Vliet, correct?" Even with the electronic distortion, Sylia's voice sounded cool and calm, almost exactly like I'd imagined. Her visor tilted as she cocked her head at me, awaiting my reply.
Well, I couldn't very well lie to her; that's not my way.
"Um, yes, that's me," I said slowly, my eyes going from her to the rest of the Knight Sabers, who were slowly advancing to stand even with her. "May I ask what this is about?"
"You may ask," Sylia replied equably, and for a moment, silence fell.
"Uh, well?" I said timidly as the silence became oppressive. "What is this about?"
"I said you could ask," the white hardsuited woman replied. "I didn't say I was going to answer you."
I stood uncertainly for a moment, not really sure if that had been a joke or not.
"You're here about my writing, aren't you?" I finally asked.
"Damn straight, buster," Priss snorted, crossing blue-armoured arms across her chest as she presumably glared at me. "I owe you at least a couple of broken arms for what you've put me through."
"Hey, what about me?!" Nene complained. "I'm the one who keeps getting kicked around by uprated boomers and having to be rescued all the time!!" The red-pink hardsuit jabbed an accusatory finger at me. "Do you have any idea how humiliating that is?!"
"And you've been ignoring me most of the time," Linna added, her hands on her hips. She gave an irritated toss of her head, the motion sending ripples through the long monomolecular-edged streamers trailing from her helmet 'ears'. "Although I guess I should be thankful, considering what you've been doing to everyone else," she noted a moment later.
"Well, I...it...I didn't mean anything by it," I tried weakly defending myself. "I was just writing for the fun of it..."
"Fun?!" Sylia interrupted me. "I did *not* find it 'fun' being forced to lose my temper all the time, and swear at SkyKnight. Nor did I find it fun to have to constantly keep an eye on him and keep him under control..."
"Wait a second." Cold sweat started rolling down my face. "SkyKnight isn't real; he's me. You can't have been swearing at him!! I haven't been there!!"
"For someone who's supposed to be an engineer, he isn't too bright, is he?" Priss observed to the rest of her teammates.
"But he's not real!" I started to protest again, missing entirely the fact that I was arguing the merits of reality with supposedly fictional characters, when someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder. Someone with very hard fingers, almost like they were wearing armoured gauntlets.
My stomach plummeted into my shoes like a lead brick into a bucket of water. I knew what it was that I was going to see when I turned around, and I really didn't want to turn around.
"Good evening," a deep-toned electronic voice came from behind me.
Sighing deeply, I turned around, and looked up. Up into a brightly-glowing V-shaped red eyeslot, set into a silver helmet with blue antenna wings. Stray flickers of light glinted off of silvery armour plating as I numbly stood there looking at my armoured alter-ego come to life. Some faint capacity in the back of my mind noted that SkyKnight's hardsuit was every bit as impressive in person as I'd described in my fanfics.
"Hi," I finally replied, suddenly resigned to my apparent imminent demise. "I guess you've got some complaints as well?"
"You might call them that," the silver hardsuited mercenary nodded, almost absently cracking armoured knuckles under my nose. I started backing away from him, then remembered the four hardsuited women behind me. As I tried to sidestep them all, I found myself with my back to the wall of the neighbour's house, ringed by five suits of powered armour.
"I don't suppose we could discuss this reasonably?" I pleaded. "I really didn't mean....I mean I didn't know that...."
"That someone really was going through what you were writing about?" Sylia asked calmly, raising her visor. It was hard to see her face in the dim illumination of the night, but she looked stern. "Well you thought wrong."
"The pain and discomfort were one thing," Priss added, "but was all that angst that went with it really necessary?"
"Well it made for a good story," I said lamely.
"It made for a lot of pointless anguish!" SkyKnight retorted. "It was bad enough when I was doing most of it, but then I had to start listening to it as well! Couldn't you have just kept breaking my ribs and left it at that? At least the agony from that was over reasonably quickly!"
"And you ran me through an emotional wringer, just so you could get your 'good story'," Nene interjected, sounding hurt. "And I thought you liked me!"
"I do!!" I protested again. "I like all of you!! Honest!!"
"Could've fooled me," Priss snorted again. "I'd sure as hell hate to see what you'd have done to us if you hated us."
"So what....what are you going to do to me?" I asked through a suddenly dry mouth.
"Well we're not here to kill you, if that's what was worrying you," Sylia told me. I sighed in relief, relief that vanished when she added cryptically, "That would be letting you off too lightly."
"What do you mean, 'letting me off too lightly'?" I asked warily.
"Well, you've always wanted to get into a hardsuit," SkyKnight answered me, shrugging. "So we brought one along for you to try out."
"Me?! In a hardsuit?!" I was caught between conflicting emotions. On the one hand was screaming elation at the thought of actually being able to wear a functioning hardsuit. On the other hand, fear and caution were urging me to be careful in what I wished for. "What's the catch?"
"Then we're gonna see if you're as good at actually being IN a combat scene as you are at writing them." I didn't need to be able to see Priss's face to tell what her expression was. Based on the tone of her voice, she was sporting a very nasty grin right now.
"I thought you said you weren't going to kill me?" I croaked.
"We're not," Linna spoke up. "Mostly because we're not sure what that would do to us, SkyKnight in particular. But at the same time we figured that if we maybe gave you a REAL idea of what we go through, you'd be less inclined to put us through hell again."
"SkyKnight, you can help him into his suit," Sylia stated, reaching up and closing her visor as she turned towards the taller silver suit. "You've got ten minutes."
"Now wait a minute!!" I tried protesting, as my armoured alter-ego firmly grasped my shoulder. "This isn't fair!! Five against one?!?!"
"We work together, as a team," Sylia answered smoothly. "A fact you very conveniently seem to forget most of the time."
"B-b-but I'll get slaughtered!! I don't know a thing about how the hardsuits work!!"
"That wasn't my impression," Sylia told me. "In fact, I'd say you understand them pretty well."
"You came up with most of the design ideas," SkyKnight reinforced her statement. "The technology curve really took off when you started playing with it."
"But I didn't know what I was doing!!" I burst out. "I made it all up!! I dug out my old physics textbooks to make sure I wasn't lying my ass off on some parts, and I made the rest up!!"
"Precisely," Sylia said simply. "You created it, so you should know how it works better than anyone." She nodded to SkyKnight, and he hauled me off into the back yard.
"Oh boy, this is gonna be great!" I heard Priss gloating as I was dragged off to prepare for my doom.
"But I can't use the suit!!" I raved, thrashing around. "I can't fly!! I'm scared of heights!! I...."
"Would you please shut up?" my alter-ego requested, releasing his grip on my shoulder. "You're not getting out of this, so just put this on," he tossed me a softsuit, "and climb into that," he pointed at another silver hardsuit standing a few feet away from the two of us. The silver armour was open, waiting for the sacrificial victim to be stuck inside of it.
"Look," I tried pleading again. "You can't do this! I'm you!! I mean you're me!! I mean...You wouldn't really hit yourself, would you?!" SkyKnight raised his visor as he sighed. The light spilling from the back windows of the nearby houses illuminated his face, revealing a more weathered version of my face. It was an eerie feeling to be looking at an older and more careworn 'me'.
"Whining isn't going to help you," he told me, not entirely unkindly. "We all have to accept the consequences of our actions, and this just happens to be yours. Now suit up and take it like a knight." He flipped his visor back down, and folded his arms across his chest, waiting.
"I just know I'm going to regret this," I moaned, looking from the softsuit I was holding to the empty hardsuit a few feet away.
TWO HOURS LATER....
I could barely move. Aches and pains shot through every single muscle in my body as I rolled over to lay on my back, gasping and panting for air. I felt like a parcel that had survived Canada Post's tender handling: beaten and mauled.
The nearly dead weight of the battered suit of powered armour I was wearing didn't help any. Wearing a hardsuit sure hadn't proved to be the marvelous experience I'd envisaged. It was heavy, hot, and very sweaty inside, although a lot of the sweat had come from exertion, exertion spurred on by panic.
It certainly hadn't taken the Knight Sabers all that long to demonstrate to me why they were an elite combat team. All of my escape and evasion attempts had been easily thwarted, which of course meant that all I'd done was basically provide them with some cheap target practice for the night. At least they hadn't really been seriously aiming for me...If that had been the case, I'd have had a lot more than just an impressive bruise collection.
"Well, I think that'll do for tonight," Sylia's voice intruded on my exhausted contemplations. Lifting my head with an effort, I directed the gaze of my hardsuit's sensors at her white hardsuited form as she walked up to stand over me. "Make sure you've fixed your suit for next week's session."
"Wait a minute! Next week's session?!" I blurted. "What are you talking about?!"
"You didn't really think this was the end of it, did you?" the leader of the Knight Sabers asked me. "This was just one night out of your life; you've written about us in a fanfic that covers nearly three megabytes, and almost four or five years of our lives. One night isn't going to be adequate recompense for that."
"How....how long am I going to have to look forward to this?" I asked, dreading the answer.
"I'll let you know when I've finally decided," Sylia told me as she walked away. "In the meantime, I'd exercise some more; you need it."
"Welcome to hell, buddy," Priss's mocking voice floated over to me as my helmeted head fell back to the grass. "Hope you enjoy the ride."
I lay there, staring at the sky as I listened to the hissing roar of their hardsuit propulsion systems die off into the distance. The lights of the helmet viewscreen in front of my face flickered fitfully, and a 'LOW POWER' message was the one being repeated the most often. I guessed that I'd have to recharge the suit somehow, and the 'how' was going to be the problem. Jump-start it from my truck battery? Nope, likely wouldn't have enough juice....
I decided to concentrate on getting out of the suit before I started worrying about recharging it. With an immense effort, I managed to roll over to my hands and knees, and then staggered upright. I very nearly fell over backwards; despite my literal 'crash course' (emphasis on the 'crash'), I still was having a difficult time adjusting my balance while wearing the armour.
I started making my way to the entrance of the small park that the night's excursion had ended in, and lurched my way down the street, fighting to master moving the hardsuit the entire way.
I fervently prayed that nobody would see me or call the cops about the strange armoured figure making its way down the street. I still couldn't explain what had happened to myself, so there was no way I was going to make any sense to the local police. They'd lock me up and throw away the key....assuming they could figure out how to open the suit. Hell, I wasn't even sure *I* could open the suit, and I was wearing it!
At long last, I made it back to the house where my basement apartment was located. The door wasn't locked, and I gingerly made my way down the stairs. Every step creaked ominously under me, and I hoped I wasn't going to go crashing through the stairs.
As I neared the bottom step, I realized I could hear the lounge TV playing some late night movie, and I nearly panicked. How on earth was I going to explain this armour I now had?! What ...?!
"There's nobody around except me, Bert," a woman's voice called, interrupting my thoughts. "So don't worry about anyone else seeing your suit."
I stopped on the last step in shock. Whoever it was knew me, and knew what had been happening on this weird night. I slowly stepped down the last step, bringing the lounge area into full view. When I saw who it was, I very nearly passed out.
"Well? Aren't you going to take off your helmet at least?" Sylvie asked from where she was lounging full-length on the couch. She was wearing a very snug, blue and white leather motorcycle suit, slightly open at the neck, and it fit her curvaceous figure perfectly. Her boots had been kicked in a corner, and her sock feet were propped up on an arm of the couch. She had shoulder-length hair that was light brown, and eyes that appeared to be a shifting gold-colour. Regardless of the circumstances, she was very attractive.
She sat up as I started fumbling with the hardsuit helmet, and it took me about ten minutes to figure the damn thing out and get it off. She sat there the entire time, a faint smirk on her face as she watched me struggle with it. It was with a huge sense of relief that I pulled off the helmet, gratefully taking a breath of air that didn't seem stuffy.
"So, did you have fun?" Sylvie inquired brightly. "Sorry I had to miss the party, but I had some other things that had to be done."
"What are you doing here?" I asked, too tired to really be polite. "Weren't you supposed to leave with everyone else?"
"Oh, didn’t they tell you?" she asked, with an impish smile.
"Tell me what?!" My stomach dropped into the boots of my armour.
"I'm here as insurance," she explained, her look clearly indicating that I should know what she was talking about.
"I'm going to be staying here and keeping an eye on you," she explained non-chalantly. "We wouldn't want you trying to write us out of existence, or something like that."
"Staying HERE?" I repeated numbly. Normally, the thought of a fantastically beautiful woman moving into a room near mine wouldn't start alarms ringing in the back of my head. Sylvie, however, was a bit more than just a normal woman. "You can't do that!! There's no room!! I..."
"I've already got the room across the hall rented," she smiled sweetly at me. "So don't worry, I'm not going to evict you or something like that." Reaching out, she patted me gently on the cheek. "All you have to do is let me proofread your writing; I'll make sure you're not stepping over the line."
"What if I refuse?" I asked.
"Go right ahead," Sylvie put her hands on her hips and grinned nastily as a red glint appeared in her eyes. "But one way or the other, you ARE going to let me check your writing." Her grin abruptly turned naughty as she winked at me. "And if you're really nice to me, I won't tell Priss or Nene about those hentai pictures of them that you have on your hard drive."
I felt the colour drain from my face, as I realized that I really was in Hell now....
[Select this link to return to the main BubbleGum Zone page...]
|SkyKnight, KnightWorks, and The Bubblegum Zone are ©1995-2001 Bert Van Vliet. Bubblegum Crisis & related characters are all © Artmic, Inc., Youmex, Inc. Please feel free to email all comments to Bert Van Vliet|