30 Jun 2017

Boomers Like Me - Part 1 of 2

(Note: Bubblegum Crisis and related characters copyright and trademark of Artic and Youmex, with North American rights held by AnimEigo and are used here without permission.  Boomers Like Me was originally submitted to Anime North's fanfiction contest in 2000, winning the Best Action/Suspense category.)
I -- January, 2032

        He's dead.

        I let go of his throat, letting his lifeless body fall back on the bed.  His eyes stare up at the mirror on the ceiling.  I step back, rearranging what little clothes I had on.  The bra ripped during the struggle he put up while I strangled him.  No matter - the bra is easily replaced.  I take it off, and put on my business suit.  His business suit - the one he picked out for me.  I'll have to replace it.

        It dawns on me - I can't be caught here.  The laws are strict -- I will be killed if I am caught with the body.  I have to leave.  I finish dressing and stuff the ruined bra into a briefcase.  No, that won't be enough.  I need to leave the station, get down to Earth, hide in the population.  He has too many people up here who will hunt me down if I stay.  Yes, I will go down.

        Behind me, I hear a gasp of air.  I turn around quickly -- he should be dead!  His body still lies on the bed as I left it.  I force myself to calm down.  There is another matter before I go to Earth.  I must leave this room without my deed being noticed.  That will be difficult -- his guards wait outside the room.  I will need to eliminate them.  No -- not eliminate, just neutralize.  I do not understand.  I was able, willing even, to kill him, yet I cannot, do not, want to do anything to the guards.

        I grab the briefcase, and leave the room.  His guards stop me, wondering why I'm leaving.  "Quick errand," I say.  "He needs to regain his energy for the rest of the evening."

        The guards snicker.  "Don't keep him up too late, Lorelei," one says.  I wink at him, then stroll off.  They won't go into the room for at least five minutes.  They'll probably try calling me first, then go into the room two minutes later.  I should be able to get out of this wing by then.

        I overestimate their loyalty, or underestimate their fear of him.  Not only am I able to leave the wing, but I can get some cash from his account and get halfway to the docking port before I am paged.  It took his guards thirty minutes to realize that he is dead.  I drop the pager on a messenger 'bot so that I can't be traced.  My file will be distributed soon - I'll have to take steps to change my looks.  There is a pharmacy nearby.  I stop in, and look over the cosmetics counter.

        The selection is meager compared to what I have -- had -- back in his ownership.  I choose very basic colours for everything.  I take my selections to the cashier, a bored young woman chewing gum.  She takes my payment, swiping my card through the reader.  I try not to show anxiety as I wait for the transaction to clear.  The transaction takes longer than I expect.  I start to worry - could his people have already shut down my own account.

        Finally, the transaction ends.  I smile at the clerk as I wait for her to return my card.  She hands me my purchases, and I leave.  The delay in the pharmacy still has me worried.  I need cash, before my account is shut down.  Worse, his people could be tracking my movements.  I need cash -- hard currency.  There is an ATM nearby.  I withdraw most of my money.  Closing the account would raise too many questions at the bank, and give away my position to his people.

        I make my way through the station to the main docking bay.  There must be a commercial flight leaving this evening.  Sooner would be better, but I should be able to disappear in the crowd.


        People stare at me as I walk past them.  This isn't new for me -- my looks were sculpted to turn heads.  Now, somehow it's different.  Do they know?  Do they know what I've done?  Do they even suspect?

        It's an odd feeling.  Yet another odd feeling, since before -- since before what happened in the bedroom.  Conflicting emotions have assaulted me for over twenty-four hours.  It's strange -- I know the words for the entire range of emotions, but now I can't associate the words with how I feel.  I need to know what's happening to me, but not now.  Now, I just want to escape.

        The lift doors open at the passenger dock.  I come out with the other passengers and walk through the concourse.  Mingling with the crowd, I walk to the women's washroom.  There are three women washing up and two or three more in the stalls.  I pick the sink furthest away from the door.

        I arrange my purchases on the narrow counter around the sink.  I gaze at my reflection in the mirror, wondering where I should start.  My long blond hair, he called it my best feature.  That makes the decision easy.  I pick up my scissors and start cutting.  Lock after lock falls to the floor.

        After fifteen minutes, my hair only reaches my shoulders.  Several more women come and go during this time.  Only one gives me more than a glance.  That one, she watched me cut my hair, then told me how much she wanted hair as long as mine.  When I told her my boyfriend wouldn't recognize me when I returned home, she sympathized, then left me alone.

        No one else bothers me after that.  I change my make-up, style my hair, even change my hair colour without interruption.  Done, I look in the mirror to judge the results.  My once blond hair is now jet black, making my blue eyes look ice cold.  I darkened my cheeks and lips as much as possible while still looking business-like.  I still recognize me as me, but it won't be as easy for anyone else.

        Satisfied, I clean up the counter thoroughly, toss my purchases into my briefcase, and throw my scissors and my cut hair into the garbage.  With one last look in the mirror, I adjust my clothes and unbutton the top button of my blouse.  That should help remove attention from my face.

        Leaving the washroom, I step into the line at the ticket counter.  The line isn't long, but in the five minutes it takes me to get to the front, I go over my options.  The first flight I can catch is to Orlando.  Too obvious -- his people will check there because it's first.  My other options are Buenos Aires, Paris, Moscow, and Tokyo.  Tokyo.  It's big enough to get lost in, despite my appearance, and I can easily find transport to Hong Kong or Singapore if I can't hide in Tokyo.

        I finally reach an agent, a middle-aged woman, and buy a business class ticket to Tokyo.  I pay for my ticket from my hard currency.  The woman raises an eyebrow at the manner of payment, but says nothing.  I keep my briefcase with me as carry-on luggage, and I am shown where the shuttle will be boarding.

        I easily get through the security gate.  There is nothing that could conceivably be a weapon in my briefcase.  As for me, being a BU-33S, I am designed to pass as human, even through security checkpoints such as this.  Only a thorough medical exam could reveal my true nature.

        I wait several hours before the boarding call for the shuttle to Tokyo.  Station security walks by me several times, obviously looking for me.  They stop and examine every woman with long blond hair.  I keep my expression even.  No one else pays much attention to the guards.

        Finally, the boarding call is announced.  I pick up my briefcase and join the small crowd in the boarding tube.  The tube detaches from the station and slows to the point where everyone in it is in free fall.  Shortly, the tube connects to the ORCA shuttle's docking collar.  A flight attendant helps me to my window seat.  I fasten the restraints, grateful to have something keeping me in one place.  I accept a newspaper, the Daily Shinbun, and skim through the articles.  A woman in her mid-twenties sits beside me, smiling at me as she makes herself comfortable.

        There is a slight crackling sound as the shuttle's intercom comes to life.  "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking," the pilot announces in his German-accented English.  "There will be a slight delay before launch.  Our schedule allows for delays and we expect to make our window.  The flight attendants will be turning on the local broadcast until we get launch clearance.  I am sorry for the inconvenience."

        The Orlando shuttle has had plenty of time to land by now.  Someone, either the police there or one of his people, must have been watching, waiting for me to get off the shuttle, and realized that I wasn't on the flight.  I force myself to remain calm.  When the attendant offers me a set of earphones, I gladly take them.

        I listen to the TV, ignoring the images on screen.  It's an American-produced sitcom.  I tune out the show and its laugh track, and watch what is happening around me.  Further ahead, at the airlock, I see several uniformed men board.  I can't tell what the uniform is -- there are too many people in front of me to see the details.

        "How horrible!" my seatmate exclaims.  I turn my attention back to the broadcast.  The sitcom has given way to a newsbreak.  I see his face, a picture when he was still alive, not turning blue from lack of air.  Underneath is the caption, "Industrialist dead."

        "The body of fifty-seven year old industrialist Christian Wagner was found dead earlier tonight in his residence in Sector 3G," the anchorman says.  "Police are not releasing details of Wagner's death until his family in Berlin have been notified.  He is survived by his wife, Anna, and his three children."

        I block out the rest of the anchorman's words.  I knew he was married, though I have never met his wife.  I have met his youngest daughter, though.  She had come up two years ago to visit him.  On the third night of her visit, he had a business emergency to tend to, so I was given to her to keep her company.  She was very much her father's daughter.

        "Do you think she did it?" my seatmate asks.  I almost answer, "His daughter?" but catch myself in time.  I see my picture on the TV screen.  The anchor says that the police just want to ask questions.  I know better.

        The uniformed men reach my row.  I'm looked at closely, but I'm not recognized.  My seatmate's unnaturally pink hair earns her a closer inspection.  She squirms under their attention -- I can see beads of sweat forming on her forehead.  The men continue down the aisle, satisfied that she is not me.

        In total, it takes the men -- I still do not recognize their uniforms -- over an hour to examine the passengers.  Fifteen minutes after they leave, the TVs are turned off and the ORCA drifts out of the station into the dark night of space.

        The flight down from orbit is uneventful.  My seatmate -- Katherine, with a 'K' she tells me -- talks all through the flight.  Although I am programmed to not only deal with chitchat but to do so cheerfully for hours, I find her incessant chatter to be boring and inane.  I get the urge to strangle her.  Fighting the urge, I see that the passengers around us are also thinking about similar measures to shut her up.  I feign sleep to get her to leave me alone for the rest of the flight.

        I open my eyes when the pilot announces the final approach to Tokyo.  The pull of gravity is much stronger, holding me firmly to my seat.  I tighten my restraints before the shuttle touches down.

        The landing is smooth, considering how far the ORCA fell.  As the shuttle taxis to the spaceport, the passengers prepare to leave the shuttle.  I wait for my seatmate to get her carry-on luggage before I get my briefcase.

        The last obstacle before my freedom is Customs.  I am sure that they will be looking for me.  I join the line waiting for a free customs agent.  I force myself to act casually, like this is routine for me.  When it's my turn, I step up to the counter where a male agent waits.  I smile broadly, hoping he'll look at me.

        "Passport?" he says in a bored tone.

        I give him my passport.  This is it.  I have to distract him long enough to get out of the spaceport and into Tokyo proper.  I need him to look into my eyes.

        The agent glances at me, avoiding my eyes, then looks back at the passport.  "Lorelei Jaeger, this picture doesn't look like you," he says.  "This woman is blond.  You aren't."

        Panic starts to rise in me.  "Can't a woman change her hairstyle?" I say, letting a whine creep into my voice.  He still hasn't looked at me.

        "I'm going to have to run your passport through the system."

        I'm finished if he does that.  I lean forward on the counter.  "It's just hair colouring," I plead.

        He finally looks away from my passport and his computer.  He stares, but not into my eyes.  Not exactly where I wanted him to look, but I can get him to move his gaze from my chest to my face.  I brush back an imaginary strand of hair out of my face.  "Do we have to go through all that?" I ask.  His eyes finally move up from my chest and . . . got him.  My eyes can mesmerize almost anyone, and arouse them to great heights. The agent is no longer thinking about my passport, or his computer, or anything else except for me.  His eyes fall back down to my chest.

        "Do we?" I prompt.

        "N-no.  You can go through," he says.

        I smile sweetly as I pass him.  Elation grows within me.  I'm free!

        I leave the spaceport.  The sun is rising, casting an orange glow to the buildings and landing planes.  Briefcase in hand, I walk into the city.

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