Disclaimer and credits will be found after the end of the chapter.
Drunkard's Walk II: Robot's Rules Of Order
by Robert M. Schroeck
0. Prologue: The Mind's I
A clown is a warrior who fights gloom. -- Red Skelton
I am a killer and a clown. I am a hero and a fool.
I dream of music.
Words and notes flow around me, through me, supporting me and running over my skin in a cool stream. For the first time since I was a child, I just hear the music, nothing more, and I revel in it. Mom loved music, and she passed that love on to me. Dad was crazy about old movies and shared them with me; the soundtracks have echoed in my head for decades.
Being able to hear the music, and nothing else, is a joy I thought I'd given up long ago.
Snippets of lyrics flutter about my ears -- a piece of jazz here, a bit of do-wop there. The psychedelic organ of 60s rock drifts past my head, lazily pursued by a synthesized riff from 80s technopop. Voices blend and separate, a chorus that is constantly melding and shattering as a hundred, a thousand different songs all beg for my attention. I choose each one in its turn, listen and love it, before moving to the next. I have eternity; why waste it in haste?
I never thought I'd just listen ever again.
1. Here We Are in MegaTokyo, With All The Clams We Can Eat
The sign that something's wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure. -- Thornton Wilder
MegaTokyo, Japan. June 28, 2036. 8:17 PM Local Time.
Nene Romanova scowled at the glowing monitor in front of her, and blew a lock of her red hair out of her eyes. Although her anger and frustration burned intensely, she still couldn't bring herself to use harsher language.
She stared balefully at the editor window; the jaunty, circus-like combination of the breakpoints' red bands against the editor window's white background seemed to mock her inability to debug the routine. "Why won't this darned thing work?" she shouted at the ceiling as she gestured expressively. "How am I going to crack GENOM's intranet if I can't get one little routine to work right? Aaugh!" she cried, throwing her hands up.
There was a knock at the door of her apartment.
Nene froze, hands above her head, her eyes widening in momentary panic. Then she chuckled and dropped her arms. Nope. GENOM's security division is good, but they're not that good, she smiled to herself. Picking her way carefully through the detritus of her hacking run -- crushed Jolt bottles, empty bakery boxes and crumpled fast food wrappers littered the floor -- she made her way to the apartment door. With one hand on the knob, she put her eye up against the peephole lens, then all but squealed in surprise.
Throwing open the door, she launched herself at her visitor and caught her up in an energetic hug. "Lisa!"
Lisa Vanette returned the hug, then disengaged herself and stepped back. "You're looking good, Nene."
Nene flushed, suddenly painfully conscious of the worn and stained T-shirt and shorts she was wearing and their probable odor. She suppressed a wince and gave Lisa a quick look. "So are you!" In the three years since they'd first met, Lisa had grown up quite a bit, but her fashion sense hadn't changed: her trademark beret still topped off a nicely-coordinated outfit with a vaguely Eurofashion feel to it. And of course, her camera is surgically attached to her, still, mused Nene with an inward smile. "Come on in!" she said aloud, ushering Lisa through the door.
Lisa stepped into the tide of wrappers and looked around, an amused expression on her face. "Been hacking 'round the clock again, Nene?" she asked as she removed her shoes.
Nene frantically began to gather up the wastepaper and shove it into the recycle bin. "Um, yeah," she mumbled. "You know how I get," she added and flashed an embarrassed grin at her guest.
Lisa laughed as she plopped down on the couch. "Relax, Nene, you know I don't care whether the place is spotless or knee-deep. I'm here to see you, not the floor!" In spite of herself Nene chuckled as she forced the last handful of burger wrappers into the overstuffed bin.
"You know, you really shouldn't eat so much junk food," Lisa went on. "You won't be able to fit into your duty uniform."
"Oh, not you, too," Nene mock-pouted as she dropped into a comfortable sprawl on the other end of the couch from Lisa. "I already get enough of that from Priss and Linna!"
"There's a reason for that, Nene!" Lisa waggled her finger at the redhead, and Nene burst into giggles.
When the fit of giggling left her, Nene smiled at her guest. "So what brings you back to MegaTokyo, Lisa? Visiting your uncle again?"
Smiling, Lisa shook her head. "Nope, I'm back for good!"
Nene's eyes widened. "You didn't graduate already, did you?" Frantically, she began counting off fingers. "Freshman, '32-'33, Sophomore, '33-'34, Junior, '34-'35, Senior..." She looked up, "You did! Congratulations!"
Lisa flashed a grin. "Thanks! It was hard work, but I made it."
"And you're moving to MegaTokyo?"
"Already have, actually. I've got a job as a reporter at the 16 Tokyo Day Times, and I've moved into my own place in Ota." She made a face.
"Mou...." Nene was crestfallen. "You're kilometers away! How will we get together?" Lisa rolled her eyes in exasperation as Nene continued. "Hey, Priss's trailer is in Ota, near the bay. Are you going to be close to her?"
She shook her head. "No... I'm a few kilometers inland. It's a dinky little one-room in one of the federal housing projects, but it's mine."
Nene lunged across the small living area to give Lisa another enthusiastic hug. "I'm so happy for you! We've got to go out to celebrate!"
"And you know just the ice cream shop, right?" Lisa chuckled. "Sounds like a plan. But before we go out..."
"What?" Nene's eyebrows rose.
Lisa motioned Nene to come closer, leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially. "I want to know what's new with the Knight Sabers."
Nene jerked back. "I - I don't know what you're talking about. Why would I know anything more than is in the papers?"
Lisa rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on, Nene. I know, and you know that I know. I've kept your secret -- and theirs -- for three years now."
Nene stood and stepping around an empty bucket of chocolate ripple ice cream, made her way to the apartment's one large window. She looked out on the other buildings. Starlight glittered off the solar panels that topped each one, and warm yellow squares of light dotted their sides. A frown skittered across Nene's face as she looked out at the lit windows of the other buildings, and wondered how many secrets might be seen through them, if one only knew when to look. "Lisa," she finally said without turning around, "Up to now, it's been like a game, do you know what I mean? There's this big secret something we don't talk about, but we both know each other knows. As long as we don't talk about it, life is, well, normal. I'm a computer operator for the AD Police, and you're a college student... sorry, a graduate. We're friends. We have been for a long time. But if we decide to talk about this, it will change everything about our friendship. I'm not sure I want that."
Lisa got up from her seat on the couch and stood next to Nene at the window. She put her hand on Nene's shoulder. "I think I know what you mean. But we don't have to let it affect the way we relate."
"Maybe. I'm not sure, though." Nene sighed, and turned to look at her friend, searching Lisa's eyes for something -- she wasn't sure what. "Just tell me one thing. Why?"
"Why?" Lisa's brow wrinkled. "Because I want to know. I'm a reporter, Nene, insane curiosity is in my blood. Or don't you remember me hanging by my teeth off a half-finished building a few years ago?" She grinned again, a blaze of white in her deeply tanned face. "I'm tired of hearing the biased accounts in the papers, and wanted to get it direct from the source." She paused. "And because I thought, maybe a friend might like a sympathetic ear who wasn't too close to the action to tell her adventures to."
Nene snorted. "Adventures aren't what they're cracked up to be."
"At the time they happen, yeah." Lisa shrugged. "I got into one with you, remember? I was scared to death. But afterwards, it was so fun to talk about. 'No shit, there I was', and all that." She smiled at the older woman. "I wouldn't have missed it for the world." For a long moment, Lisa stared out the window. Then she looked back at Nene. "I was hoping I could live yours vicariously," she said sadly. "The thing is, Nene, what I want is another adventure of my own, and I'm afraid I'll never have one again."
* * *
At that moment, almost two kilometers away, in a garbage-strewn alleyway near the base of the Tokyo Tower, a speck of rainbow-colored light suddenly appeared in midair. Almost as soon as it had become visible, it expanded into a ring surrounding a flat black disk, nearly three meters across, floating a less than a meter above the grimy pavement. A moment later, a human figure dressed in gray was dumped unceremoniously out of the disk, and it vanished.
In a laboratory deep within GENOM Tower, a team of researchers clustered in confounded amazement around a bank of sensor readouts, ignoring their half-completed experiment. Without taking his eyes off the display, one reached for a telephone.
Atop Ladys633, Sylia Stingray found herself leaping from her armchair to stand staring tensely out of the great glass windows of her penthouse home.
At AD Police headquarters, an officer named Bochinski felt a brief, vague sense of unease and turmoil. After a moment's puzzlement he shrugged it off.
And in Nene Romanova's apartment, Lisa Vanette felt a delicious chill run up her spine.
* * *
I woke up.
I don't know why it is, but it seems to be a constant that I become unconscious while moving from universe to universe. I arrived in Velgarth dead to the world, too. I'm just lucky I haven't landed anywhere dangerous -- yet.
That is, if you consider a dank alleyway littered with garbage in the middle of the night not dangerous.
It's not always a safe assumption to make.
I was in my uniform and helmet, and thank the Havens, I was still carrying my backpack. I had a fair collection of everyday clothing in it. Everyday for the Collegium, that is; the sight of neon signs in both English and Japanese at the end of the alley suggested that the pseudoMedieval garb in the backpack would get me more attention than I wanted at the moment.
However, my uniform might not. With the familiar rip of velcro, I tugged my emblem off the front of my jacket, swapping it for the Harley-Davidson patch I keep in my inside chest pocket for just such occasions. Then I made sure that my helmet's external speakers were turned off, and retracted the headlamps. It's not like I have a real secret identity at home, but not being immediately identifiable as a Warrior does have its advantages.
Looking up, I realized that I knew, sort of, where I was. Looming over me was the Eiffel-like form of the Tokyo Tower. I was certainly in Japan. But was I back in my own universe, or some parallel? Given that the Tower looked pretty worse for wear, I suspected the latter. Beta Team's various time-travel exploits seemed to indicate our Tokyo Tower remains relatively pristine throughout its entire life, and this one looked like it had gone through a fairly severe earthquake.
So. I thought as I picked my way towards the end of the alley. Working assumption is that I'm in a different universe again. This time it's some kind of parallel or alternate; I think that means I'm getting closer. Velgarth certainly didn't look anything like Earth except for the people and the horses. And the not-horses. I grimaced, remembering some of the shit Sylvath the Horseface had given me when I'd first arrived there. Ah well, that was old news now.
I popped out of my reverie when I realized that I was slowly being surrounded. I didn't see them at first so much as sense them -- that vague "I'm going to be attacked" feeling that almost everyone in the Warriors eventually develops and which the U.N. metabiologists think is some kind of low-grade ESP. I don't know what it is, and I don't care, but it let me know that a small pack of street scum were checking me out. I stopped, maybe six meters short of the end of the alley.
Apparently either I fit their victim profile or they were spoiling for a fight, because three of them stepped out to block the exit, and another two slipped out of the shadows behind me to cut off any possibility of my retreat. I felt others lurking in the half-boarded doors and windows on either side of me.
I did a slow turn in place and did a tactical evaluation of the situation. Three before, two behind. Three on the left, four on the right. Even mix of Japanese and non. A rainbow's worth of hair colors. Leather jackets, torn denims. Knives and pipes. Some minor bionics, which was a surprise -- a limb here, an eye there. I assumed that they were boosted somewhat, but they didn't look like they had the budget for really high powered stuff, unless the local economy were really odd. I would have grinned to myself if it wouldn't have given me away. Despite the bionics, they were just twelve crunchies.
"Whatcha got in the bag, man?" one of the three at the alley entrance slurred in rather slovenly and informal Japanese.
First rule of the crisis situation -- don't move too soon. I very carefully did not change my position or posture. "Just clothes, nothing valuable."
He grinned, a broad and unfriendly grin that was meant to say, "I'm top of the food chain here." He and his companions took a lazy couple steps closer to me. "You know, you're on Outriders turf, 'friend'. You cross our ground, you pay a toll."
I shook my head. "I don't have anything you'd want."
"I think we'll just look and see anyway. Boys?"
They rushed me.
Forty-five seconds later, I strolled out of the alleyway onto a Tokyo street, whistling, with my backpack casually slung over my shoulder. Glancing up at the street sign, I noted the corner, then turned right and made my way down the street. If this were anything like the Tokyo I was familiar with, I was in Minato-ku and I should reach the Ginza before too long.
As I walked, I was a little preoccupied with sorting out my priorities. I had eaten just before the worldjump, so I wasn't hungry. I needed shelter, but before that, I needed cash. Fortunately, I had some gems and jewelry I'd acquired for that very purpose before leaving Velgarth. So then, priority one was a pawnshop or jeweler. Priority two was an inexpensive but acceptable hotel. Then, all I had to do was wait until tomorrow, when I could try again with the song that sent me here, and move on. In the meantime, a few newspapers and magazines and maybe a World Almanac or equivalent would both entertain me and give a sense of this world, which would be vital for the travelogue my fellow team members would demand of me when I got home.
At the first major intersection I crossed, I spotted a public telephone and stopped to use it. "Hello, yes," I said in stilted but polite, almost effeminate, Japanese, using a voice I'd cribbed from the Jerky Boys. "I think there's been some kind of gang fight. Yes, Shiba Koen near the Tokyo Tower. I saw at least a dozen of them, all lying on the ground in an alley. No, I didn't see what happened. No, I didn't see any blood either, but they all looked pretty badly beaten up. My name? Quincy Black. I'm a tourist, just in from the States. What? Oh, certainly, I'll hold." As soon as the Muzak came on I hung up and resumed my measuredly casual pace.
A few minutes later, as sirens wailed in the distance, I spotted the three golden balls of a pawnshop down the block and across the street. Nice to know some things were interuniversal. As I got closer, I saw an old family-owned jewelry store squatting next to it. Even better, it was open. I made sure my tuneplug was firmly inserted in my ear. Then, nodding to myself, I dodged around the near-stalled traffic and stepped into the next phase of my far-too-complicated life.
* * *
It was after midnight when Nene and Lisa parted company at the door of Lisa's apartment. "You really don't want to come in right now -- it's all boxes and mess and nowhere to sit but my futon," Lisa had said, and they'd hugged goodbye.
Nothing further had been said about Lisa's request, which was all the better with Nene. She was troubled both by the request, and by her own reaction to it. She'd found herself wanting desperately to confide in the girl, and that frightened her. Several times over their ice cream, Nene'd barely caught herself just as she'd been about to launch into an anecdote about something that had happened "on the job" with one of the other Sabers.
She needed to talk to someone about this -- and not Lisa.
Thus it was that half an hour after parting ways with Lisa in Ota, Nene arrived at the Ladys633 building. As she made her way into the sub-basement that housed some of the Sabers' support facilities, she felt no small amount of trepidation. While after all these years she was certain Sylia would not enforce the Last Rule, Nene still found herself fidgeting nervously over the prospect of informing her of Lisa's request.
Nene had first gone to Sylia's penthouse, but to her surprise found her out despite the late hour. Already anxious over the matter at hand, she'd almost used it as an excuse to procrastinate; it would have been so easy to put it off until tomorrow, or the day after that, or... but no. Nene had steeled herself; this had to be addressed tonight. On a hunch, she tried the hidden level of the building, in the hopes that Sylia was putting in a late night on Saber business.
Now, making her way through the darkened corridors and rooms of the sub-basement, Nene found herself growing increasingly twitchy. What should have been familiar odors of machine oil, solder, nanobath and other tools of Stingray technology instead seemed alien to her in her nervousness. Stray echoes and shadows nearly panicked her into bolting before she pulled herself together and scolded herself for being silly.
After a harrowing five minutes' search, Nene finally found Sylia bent over a drafting table in the design shop. A sheaf of CAD printouts were spread over the tabletop, held flat against their curl by assorted drafting tools and what appeared to be the head of a Bu-55C boomer. A single fluorescent lamp on an articulated arm and a 55-cm computer monitor illuminated the table, an oasis of light in the otherwise darkened room.
As Nene entered, she called out brightly, "Hi, Sylia. What are you doing working down here so late?"
Sylia looked up. Brushing back a lock of her raven-black hair, she twitched her lips in a slight smile. "Good evening, Nene," she said. "I... was having trouble sleeping, and decided to make the best of it. What brings you out so late?"
Nene found herself staring at the boomer head as she stepped to the table and Sylia's side. "Where'd that come from?" she asked, her curiosity overriding her concerns in spite of herself. "I don't remember us taking any souvenirs recently."
Sylia stood up, chuckling. "It's not a souvenir, Nene. It's something I've come up with from one of Mackie's ideas. Here." With disturbing ease, she scooped up the boomer head with one hand and held it out.
Nene reached for it with both hands, expecting it to be heavy, but was surprised when it turned out to have almost no weight at all. Surprised, she turned it over to discover it was hollow -- in fact, it was no more than a thin plastic shell. Comprehension dawned, and a conspiratorial grin spread across her face. "This isn't..." she began.
Sylia nodded. "A preliminary maquette for a boomer disguise that can be worn over a hardsuit."
"Wow..." She raised her eyebrows as she studied it. "Well, fair's fair -- they did it to us once, so why can't we do it right back?"
One corner of Sylia's lips quirked upwards in a brief half-smile. "It does have a certain appealing symmetry, doesn't it?"
Nene turned the boomer mask over and around, running her hands both inside and out. Despite its thinness, the plastic felt sturdy; its surface was slick and unyielding. "Say, we don't have an infiltration job that you haven't told us about, do we?" she asked suddenly, narrowing her eyes at her sometime employer.
Sylia chuckled softly. "No, not yet. But Mackie pointed out that there may soon come a time when we'll need to be unnoticed -- or at least unidentifiable -- when penetrating a target. The final version will have explosive fasteners so the wearer can shed it easily if needed."
"Huh. Interesting." Nene laid the mask back down on the drafting table. "How is Mackie? I haven't gotten an email from him in weeks."
Sylia ran her fingers through her short hair. "He's in the middle of exams again. I was surprised when we spoke; he seems to be thriving under the stress."
"Sounds like Germany and university life are good for him." Nene grinned. "Now if we can just get him to stop being a perv, he might actually become a real human being."
Sylia barked a short laugh, and picked up a stylus from the drafting table. She looked at it for a moment, then laid it back down with an audible click. "So what brings you over tonight, Nene? It's rather late for a social call."
Nene nodded. "I needed to talk to you, Sylia. Lisa Vanette's back in MegaTokyo, this time for good. And... and she's asking me about the Knight Sabers."
An expressionless veil seemed to settle over Sylia's features, rendering her face no more human than that of the boomer mask on the table before her. "And what have you told her?"
Nene shrank back at the chill tone that had entered Sylia's voice. "Nothing, yet. I didn't even acknowledge that there was anything I could talk to her about." Nene crossed her fingers as she uttered that little white lie, and stepped closer to Sylia, re-entering the pool of bright light around the drafting table. "Sylia, she's not prying or investigating, she's asking. She's not a threat." Sylia wouldn't do anything to hurt Lisa, would she? Nene thought. She didn't last time, and Lisa was much more likely to betray us then.
"We'll see," said Sylia as she turned back to her work. "We'll see."
* * *
I'd left Velgarth around mid-morning, and arrived in the city I'd found out was called MegaTokyo somewhere around 8 or 9 PM. It wasn't surprising that I would be a bit jetlagged -- my internal clock was off by almost 12 hours. So I found myself up and awake for many more hours.
Let me back up. I sold some jewelry to the old fellow who ran the store I'd found. I had fun with the haggling, and it seemed like he did as well. My Japanese wasn't a problem, although as was to be expected there were idioms and slang that were unfamiliar. Some of that might have been because it was a different universe, but I'll bet that most of it was simply the forty-year span between my native here-and-now and this one. I'll have to remember to check in forty years, after I get home.
Anyway... I spent an enjoyable half-hour dickering with Ichikawa-san and came out of it minus a couple gems, but plus an electronic credit chit for what I figured out later must have been about a month's wages for an average sarariman.
I figured, I'm leaving this universe in the morning, I've got money I won't be able to use when I get home, why not spend it and stay in style? So I ensconced myself in a luxury hotel suite in a part of town I learned was called "Tinsel City". It was a damn sight better than a coffin hotel, and despite my earlier intention to find affordable accommodations, it suited me just fine. I did have a little trouble with the hotel staff -- imagine the service a black man in biker leathers and without luggage might get at the front desk of the Waldorf-Astoria, and you'll begin to get the idea -- but the combination of the credit chit plus my perfect, almost obsequious Nihongo won them over, at least a little.
As I was saying, biologically, it was still around early afternoon for me. I had to wait until my internal clock hit midnight before I could try the song again, so I booked the room for two days. And even though I could make the next attempt in less than 12 hours, I wanted to get some sleep first. This way I wouldn't be disturbed until I was ready.
After securing the room, I went shopping. Fortunately, I easily found several all-night newsstands and bookstores, and my happy little credit chit got smaller and smaller...
Going to and from the hotel, I got my first good look at the city as well. Definitely different from homeline -- the artificial mountain imposing its conical silhouette over the entire city made that manifestly clear. It was a far more multicultural city than the Tokyo of my experience, too -- easily half gaijin, which the racial purity fanatics of the Japan from my here-and-now would never have allowed. Two other things I noticed: it was mostly new construction, and there were bots everywhere.
Considering the state of the Tokyo Tower, it was an easy call (and confirmed by my reading) that there had indeed been an earthquake not too long ago. That explained the recent vintage of most buildings. The bots, though, were a curious anomaly. They were universally humanoid. Traditionally, that's the most difficult (and least efficient) bot chassis, and not really practical until you have decent, portable AI. (Or, as an acquaintance of mine would be quick to point out, until you have sufficiently advanced neurosurgery techniques and life support technology.) These bots defied that axiom. The ones I saw were little more than grunt servants, barely enough AI to handle voice recognition and menial tasks, and there were no utility-design bots anywhere, even for police or military use. It was humanoid or nothing. Very odd.
Two hours later I returned to my suite with an armful of newspapers and books. Sprawled out on a sumptuous couch, I studied local history. It didn't take me long to spot the divergence point. The Metahuman Explosion of 1929 never happened here. As a result, their politics had been a bit more placid (although they did have a WWII almost identical to ours), and their scientific progress was considerably retarded compared to where we were. They'd only made the leap to practical mass-production of autonomous robots about ten years before the local date, and sure enough, there'd never been any non-humanoid bots -- it was almost a paradigm here that autonomy meant humanoid. Weird.
The Cone, as I'd started to think of it, turned out to be the headquarters of GENOM, the primary manufacturer of bots. And just about everything else, too -- they were a huge, almost schizophrenically diversified, multinational. A real zaibatsu. Back home, the U.N. would've dismantled them years ago. Here, GENOM and the U.N. were in bed together.
I got a bad feeling from GENOM. It had that "far too slick for its own good" air that usually cloaked someone who was up to something. It didn't help that something like 80% of the manufactured goods within easy reach of me had a GENOM trademark or service mark on them.
I don't like monopolies. Scratch a monopoly and find a conspiracy. What can I say? The worse metapowered criminals the Warriors ever encountered hid behind the facade of commerce and industry. I still go into alternating fits of rage and shivering over the plots of Gideon Manley. But don't get me started on that....
Anyway, it was all academic. After a night's sleep, I'll be out of here and back home, I figured. It's their world -- let them deal with it.
If only it had been that easy. Twenty hours later, I was standing in an abandoned building wondering what I would do next.
I'd checked out of the hotel and found a secluded, private location -- never mind the rats -- where I could open a gate to my next stop on the way home. Suited up and with my backpack slung over my shoulder, I started up the song -- "Point of Know Return" by Kansas -- and waited for the gate to form.
I felt the power flow in response to the song, but nothing happened.
With growing frustration, I realized that interdimensional travel was going to be much harder than I had thought. It'd taken me months of poring through my helmet computer's archives to find the song that would open a gate out of Velgarth. Stupid me -- I'd thought it would be the only song I'd need.
It appeared that each universe was going to require a different song.
I was stranded. Again.
Well, it could be worse. I had money, means for getting more, and it was a high-tech world. Best yet, they had rock'n'roll.
I suddenly felt a little better, and wondered what new and interesting music they had for me to use.
* * *
MegaTokyo, Japan. July 2, 2036. 6:30 PM Local Time.
It didn't take too long to worm myself into MegaTokyo. A little squeeze and little friendly persuasion, and I was directed to a gentleman operating in the Ueno neighborhood of Tinsel City who was able to provide me with the finest in genuine inauthentic identification. I had it done up with my real name -- why not? -- and then I dropped a jelly bean-sized diamond to have a couple of his hackers make sure there was a reasonable electronic trail behind it. I watched over them just to make sure it was done right. The diamond also covered a little paper documentation slipped into the right files in the right offices, but I didn't expect that right away.
Two days later I'd acquired a lease on a shithole one-room apartment in a housing project in the Ota ward and I'd moved my few possessions in. A day's shopping in a few thrift stores gave me most everything else I needed. No purpose in getting fancy, after all. I just needed a place to crash for a few weeks while I figured out what song I had to play to get me out of this universe.
I was shouldering my cot-sized bed into place when there was a knock at my door. Curious, I put down the bed and opened the door.
"Yes?" I intoned.
"Welcome Wagon!" A small whirlwind stormed into my apartment, dropping a tub of what looked like ice cream on my table and chattering a mile a minute. "Hi I just moved in a week ago and I saw you moving in and I thought I'd bring you a little housewarming present because no one got me one and I just know we'll be such good neighbors and..." she took a huge breath and I finally got a good look at her.
She was blonde and ultra-tan, a hair over 150 centimeters tall, with big brown eyes. She was in a coordinated outfit in olive and tan, topped off with a beret. In one hand she held what looked like a digital camera, its strap looped over her wrist. In the other she held bowls and spoons she'd liberated from the box I'd left them in.
"Hi, I'm Lisa Vanette. I live across the hall from you." She smiled with a megawatt of pure white teeth and bowed to me.
"Hi, Lisa," I replied, and bowed back. "I'm Douglas Sangnoir. My friends call me Doug."
END CHAPTER ONE
(Version 1.1, 7 October 1998)
(Version 1.2, 25 September 2001)
(Version 1.3, 22 October 2003)
This work of fiction is copyright © 1998, Robert M. Schroeck.
Bubblegum Crisis and the characters thereof are copyright and a trademark of Artmic Inc. and Youmex Inc., and are used without permission.
"Douglas Q. Sangnoir," "Looney Toons", "The Loon" and any representations thereof are copyright by and trademarks of Robert M. Schroeck.
"Gideon Manley" and any representations thereof are copyright by and trademarks of Helen E. Imre and John L. Freiler, and are used with permission.
"The Warriors", "Warriors' World", "Warriors International" and "Warriors Alpha" are all jointly-held trademarks of The Warriors Group.
For a full explanation of the references and hidden tidbits in this story, see the Drunkard's Walk II Concordance at:
Other chapters of this story can be found at:
The Drunkard's Walk discussion forums are open for those who wish to trade thoughts and comments with other readers, as well as with the author:
Many thanks to my prereaders: Kathleen Avins, Joseph Avins, Barry Cadwgan, Andrew Carr, Helen Imre and Peggy Schroeck. Additional prereaders for future chapters welcome.