Can't Get That Song Outta My Head
(A rather attractive looking red-head appears on a TV screen)
Good Evening, I'm Renee Miller, and this is the Chicagoland Territory Evening Report. Our top story tonight; For the first time since the end of the Second Civil War, the city of Old Chicago is starting to prosper. It bagan last Christmas Eve, when a sudden unexpected influx of much needed food and drink came of, from all places, the GolbalCon corporation. Up until now, this company has only seemed to have concerned itself with the welfare of the "new" domed cities. And add to that the sudden reappearance of reclusive billionaire, Carl Throckhammer. The announcement of his restarting Throckhammer Industries, and basing it here in Old Chicago, sent shockwaves around the world. Long ago bombed out structures, and those still standing but in ruin, are being rebulit and restored. New affordable homes are even going up in the mission distrect where the main city displacement shelter stood, just a mere six months ago. And there's even talk that territory Governor David Saunders is considering replacing the much critizied GCPF (GlobalCon Protection Force) and bringing back the Chicaco Police Department, disbanded five years ago. Harry Lang of The New Hope Detective Agency is being considered to be brought on board, as consultant...
The TV screen was suddenly shut off. The man watching had seen enough. He sat alone in his large office, which sat on the top floor of the GlobalCon buliding in the center of New Chicago. That man was Lanny "The Shark" Roykirk, now simply known as The Chairman. The entire news report, in particular, the mention of the name Harry Lang, made the villian sick to his stomach. Hearing another name might have had him hurling somthing into that plasma screen; Cricket. After that whole Nightingale affair last Christmas, The Chairman felt very lucky to get away with just a severe tongue lashing and a few hundred thousand dollars deleated from his personal account; payment to the Toyko investors for not getiing the party they had been promised. Since then, he had one thing on his mind - revenge! He just wanted to get ahold of that meddelsome sexbot and smash her into a billion tiny parts. If there was just a way to get her....get both of them back to his "territory". His thoughts were interrupted by a loud buzz. He pressed the touch pad on his desk.
A pleasant female voice answered "Dr. Vox to see you sir."
"Send him in."
A hunched over bald-headed man with coke-bottled glasses entered. The Chairman nevered moved from his seat. He didn't even look at the man.
"I trust your're not wasting my time with this intrusioin Dr. Vox."
"Oh no...no sir. It's finished." He held up a fedoa. The kind Harry Lang liked to wear.
"Show it to me:, The Chairman commanded
Dr. Vox shouted out the door, "Bring him in."
A large portly man in a three-piece suit entered. "You weanted to see me boss?" Again, The Chairman never looked up.
"Put the hat on!"
"Ok boss, sure thing." The fat man did as he was told. "Hmmm...a little tight, but nice fit. Now what?"
"Now Benny, you want to go bash your head on that wall over there."
Without batting an eye, the fat man said, "Ya know boss, I'm just gonna go bash my head against this wall over here." And that's exactly what he did, hitting his head against the far wall of the office, until the man knocked himself out.
"There, you see?", Vox said rather nervously. "He was wearing my special headbad inside that hat, and he does whatever you tell him."
The Chairman grinned and looked up for the first time. "Excellant work Dr. I want 5000 of them."
The hunched-over doctor looked shocked. "Fi-fi-f-f-five thou-thousand???"
"Yes Dr. Vox. 5000 Electra Storm headbahds." The Chairman pointed to a poster on the wall where the fat man was before. It said Electra Storm; Worldwide Video Concert; Live Everywhere Friday The young woman on the poster were a glittering low-cut dress, wit a bare mid-riff. Her hair was shocking pink, and she was sporting a head band bearing her name.
The Chairman was grinning from ear to ear now. "This Friday's worldwide concert will be bigger than anyone realizes. It will spell the end of Throckhammer Industries, Old Chicago, and most important, the end of Harry Lang, and a certain little robot!"
Just what is The Chairman's diobolical plan? Electra Storm, the hottest pop diva of 2022 has been reciving death threats. It seems someone donesn't want her performing the biggest gig of her career; A concert to be beamed all over the world. Storm hires Harry and Cricket to find out who's trying to kill her, and give her protection so the show does indeed go on. There's just one hitch; the concert takes place in the dome of New Chicago, a place Cricket swore she would never ever step foot into again. But go she does and adventure and danger follows. Keep your eyes posted to Fembot Central for Harry and Cricket's latest case; Can't Get That Song Outta My Head.
"Can't Get That Song Outta My Head" by ButchyBoy
It was a very hot, late summer afternoon in Old Chicago. Perfect weather for fembots both large and small to stay out of the heat and in nice cilmate controlled rooms, Cricket thought. And that's exactly where she was; in the living room of the large penthouse apartment she shared with her husband, Harry Lang. On this particular afternoon, Cricket was relaxing on the couch, indulging in one of her favorite pastimes; watching old cartoons on one of those retro channels. On the TV screen, a coyote was chasing a road runner in a cartoon desert. Suddenly, the road runner went "beep beep", and stopped dead in his tracks. The coyote however, kept chasing - running right off the edge of a cliff, and onto thin air. When the coyote looked down and saw no land under his feet, he lookled out, then fell to the bottom of the canyon. Cricket just laughed at the silly animal, who never seemed to learn. It reminded her of a certain bad guy, in a certain domed city.
Harry was also there, at his desk, going over the books of his two person agency. Things got kind of slow after they returned from London. They really needed a good paying case soon. He looked over at his robotic partner and friend, blissfully happy on that couch with her cartoons. He never liked to worry her which such things as money being a bit tight. Especially not now. He was very proud of the job she had done on that 'Warlord' adventure, solving the case while he was under that damned hypnotic spell. It had been like watching someone else doing those things like putting the control collar on Cricket. He hated himself for not being able to break out of...whatever it was that madman who called himself Shang did. But, as Cricket reminded him, "That's in the past, Harry. And everything turned out all right." Than she would flash that sweet, simple smile of hers, with both dimples showing, and say to Harry, "I love you." This would make Harry simply melt and give Cricket a long deep kiss and....well....things would happen that would logically follow such a kiss.
Their quiet afternoon was interrupted by a knock at the door. "See who that is, honey", Harry said without looking up from his work. Cricket bounced up from the couch, and looked through the peep hole. There was a yong woman standing there. The first thing Cricket noticed right away was the hair. It was long, strait laced, just over the sholders, and bright shocking pink. She was wearing a faded cut-off t-shirt, equally faded and slightly ripped jeans, and.......green flat heels. Standing behind her was a rather sheepish looking man with round glasses in a three-piece suit. Talk about an odd couple, Cricket thought.
"I've never seen them before Harry", she said. The young robot suddenly gasped. "I think they might be clients." That last word made Harry sit up and take notice.
"Clients??" He raced to clear his desk of all the cluttered work. "Don't just stand there sweetheart, show them in."
Cricket smiled, shouting out, "TV off", before she opened the door, making the cartoons on the screen fade away. Harry stood up, smiling as the couple entered.
"Welcome to New Hope Detective Agency. I'm Harry Lang, how can we help you?"
The young woman walked in the room as if she had thousands of people cheering her on. "Oh, you got that all wrong babe. It's Electra Storm who's going to be helping you. Electra Storm could have gone to that icky GCPF for this, but Electra Storm is bringing it to your.....interesting little outfit. Aren't you lucky??"
Harry looked over at Crick who just shrugged her sholders.
"And just who is...Electra Storm??", Harry asked. The woman gasped and looked at Harry like he was from another planet. That's when the little man behind her moved up to speak to Harry.
"This is Miss Electra Storm, and I'm her manager, Frank King", he said, extending his hand to Harry. "Wellm Mr. King, and Miss Storm, very nice to meet you both. So again, how can we help you?"
King held up a vidphone. "She's been getting distrubing video downloads on her personal number. I've changed it twice, but they still keep coning, and always from an untraceable source."
"Hard trick to pull off, especially these days", Harry observed.
"Here's the latest one", King said, pushing a button. Both Harry and Cricket leaned in to look. The woman calling herself Electra Storm seemed not to want to look. The small screen on the vidphone was showing clips of her in what looked like different concerts. Cricket suddenly recognized her as someone she had seen on the pop music videos. A deep low, almost wispering voice was speaking under the visual.
"Electra Storm.....You think you're hot now? Just wait. If you perform your worldwide concert on Friday, you'll be burning up.....quite litterally. And this is the only place your be doing your encores from."
The last image was a tombstone in a graveyeard saying "Rest in Ashes Electra Storm".
As the message ended, Harry was stroking his chin. "What do you think, Mr. Lang?", King asked.
"Intesting plot, but I don't think it will sell even on MTV 200", Harry answered.
"Yeah, well I'm just worried about who sent, along with all the other messages like it", King said.
Cricket looked over at Electra. "When did you start getting these messages Miss Storm?" The pink-haired women just glanced Cricket over.
"Why is a lowly secratary speaking to Electra Storm. Shouldn't you be doing some....busy work?" Cricket stared right at her. She didn't think much of this 'new client' so far. Harry quickly spoke up before a catfight could even begin to break out.
"Ah, allow me to introduce my wife and partner, Mrs. Cricket Lang." The blond fembot smiled again. She never got tired of hearing that.
Storm raised her eyebrows, "Well, a husband and wife detective team. How adorable. Electra Storm says she's sorry."
"Well.....Cricket Lang accepts", was the reply. Good grief, now she has me doing it, Cricket thought.
"All right then Mr. and Mrs. Lang, here's the deal", King said, rubbing his hands together. "You find out who's threating my star, and you see her concert goes on as scheduled this Friday."
Cricket suddenly became excited. "We get to go to a rock concert? Awsome!" What King said next quickly burst her bubble.
"That's right Mrs. Lang. You two will be VIP guests at Electra Storm's worldwide video concert this Friday at the GolbalCon arena in New Chicago."
Next: Cricket at the Crossroads
Harry was stroking his chin. Going back into the lion's den that was New Chicago wasn't exactly what he had in mind for a case. He was certain Cricket wasn't at all thrilled with that propect.
"Ah, New Chicago huh?", Harry said.
"Is that a problem?", Frank King asked.
"Well, gee, we'd love to go, but were kinda wanted felons there", Cricket answered, half-smiling.
The pink-haired pop diva seemed unfased by this. "Well, you guys are like, great detectives right? Can't you do that....undercover...thingy?
Harry just wanted to roll his eyes. He could tell this...Electra Storm was going to live up to her name. Time to find out just how badly she wants help, Harry thought. "Yeah, we can do undercover work. For this type of job....uncovering death threats....bodyguard work.....$5,000 a day....each... plus expenses, two days pay in advance. And believe me, working in New Chicago is going to be plenty expensive."
Again, Storm seemed very cool. "Oh please. Electra Storm sneezes, and she makes $5,000. Frank, advance them $25,000."
King seemed a bit less than cool about just handing that sort of money, but he complied with his employer. "You have a Blackberry, Lang?", he asked.
"Doesn't everybody?", came the answer as Harry took his off the desk. The two men linked with each other. "There, 25 grand. Hope your both worth it. Come on, Electra. You have a rehersal to make." They both turned to leave when King added, "Tomorrow, GlobalCon Arena 10am sharp!" And with that, they were gone.
Cricket glared at Harry. "Well, I am just so glad WE got to discuss taking this case!" The young android turned her back on Harry, folding her arms.
"Oh now look Cricket, he's already advanced, and their the best prospect we have. I hate to break it to you, but we getting a little cash stapped right now." Harry's voice was beginning to raise. Cricket responded by turning her head and giving her husband a bronx cheer. Harry realized fighting wasn't going to get them anywhere. He put his arms on Cricket's sholders, and his voice softened.
"Cricket, I made a promise to you. As long as we're together. I'll always do everything in my power to protect you. I'm not about to break that promise now. And besides, if our old friend, Lanny "The Shark", is behind any of this...and giving we're supposed to go to New Chicago, odds are he is, and proably wants to get his hands on this town, or one or the older cities...."
"Or us", Cricket simply said, without turning around.
"Isn't stopping him....again.....worth going?? Hmmm??"
Cricket thought a moment. She was still mad at Harry for just speaking for her, but he was right. There were elements of this case that were peaking her interest, and New Chicago or no, it just wasn't in her nature to turn her back on someone who needed help. Even if that person seemed to be a self-absored, always speaking in the third person, spoiled brat. She finally turned to Harry, looking up at him.
"Ok partner. Let's go nab ourselves a villian."
Next: Back to the Dome.
It was well after dark when Harry and Cricket were in the lab of Dr. Betty Stevens. They had been there for a few hours. Harry was standing in front of a full-length mirror, going over his new 'look'; He had his hair cropped, with a few streaks of blonde on the sides. It was slightly spiked at the top. On donned a pair of sunglasses. He was very glad he kept in shape, and not let himself go like some other men his age, who neared middle age. With this look, he hoped to pass as a twenty-something producer of music videos.
Cricket was sitting on a nearby table. She had taken the pigtails out of her hair, and it was now long and flowing almost down to her waist. It made his partner look very mature, Harry thought, looking over. The blonde fembot had wires going into her head, attached to the roots of her hair. The wires ran to a control panel where Betty was standing.
"Ok Cricket, we're all set", Betty said. The android nodded and picked up a face mirror. Betty turned a few dials, and Cricket's blonde hair began to change from blonde to raven black.
"Too gothic", Cricket said. Betty adjusted the dials again, and the fembot's hair turned a fiery red. Cricket thought a moment.
"No.....too sedective", she said, looking over at Harry and giving him a wink that made him blush. Betty chuckled and turned the dial once more. Cricket's hair turned green.
"Oh goody. I'm the jolly green midget!", she said very sarcasticly.
Betty chuckled again. "Sorry.....Ok, this should do it", she said, adjusting the dials once more. The robot's hair became a pure brunette. Cricket beamed.
"Oh yes, it's perfect!", she squealed. "What do you think, Harry?" Mr. Lang looked over at Mrs. Lang.
"Well, it's fine with me honey, but the question is can we fool everyone else." Just then, Betty's four-year old daughter, April, came running in, carrying a hand-drawn picture in her hand.
"Mommy, mommy, wook, wook." The little girl stopped dead in her tracks when Cricket said hello to her. April looked wide-eyed at the girl sitting on the table. Seeing wires in her head, April guessed she was a robot her mother was working on.
"How comes she sound wike Miss Cwicket?", April asked her mom.
"Because that is Miss Cricket", came the answer from Betty.
April pinched her face, walked up the the robotic girl, and stood before her, hands on her hips. "Yous weawy Miss Cwicket?"
Cricket smiled, nodded and gave a simple, "Yep". April still wasn't convinced.
"When me biwthday?", she asked.
Cricket grinned. "Two weeks from today. Your party is at my apartment with all your friends."
"Ten altogether including us."
"Yous Miss Cwicket aw wight", April said with a big smile. "How comes you wook diffwent?" Cricket leaned in and wispered.
"Harry and I are going undercover to New Chicago." April pinched her face again.
"Dat an icky pwace. How comes you go?"
Cricket sighed and smiled. "We have to go help someone."
"You comes back, wight?"
"You bet'cha. And we'll have the best birthday party ever!"
Betty walked up behind her little girl. "April, what did you want to show me honey?" The girl beamed and showed off the drawing she had just made. "Theys you mommy, me, mister Hawy, and miss Cwicket."
"Well, it's actually Misses Cricket now", the android said with a smile to her husband.
"Oh yeahs...So me gets to dwaw a babys Cwicket soon?" Cricket's smile widened. Harry seemed to turn pale. Cricket was about to say something when the rotound Mr. Decker knocked and entered.
"Saved by the Bill", Harry quipped.
Decker wasn't quite sure what the joke was and ignored it. "Ahhh....yeah. Well, I got your new id's right here." He went to Harry first. "There ya go Mr. Derrick Waverider."
Harry nearly choked. "Derrick Waverider??? Are you kidding me???"
"You wanted trendy, I got ya trendy!", was Decker's answer.
"How about me Bill?", Cricket asked. Decker looked over.
"That you Cricket?" The fembot beamed and posed like a model. Decker smiled.
"Well, you have me fooled. Anyway, here you go....Missy Hartford."
"Missy.....Hart......How come she get's the good name????", Harry cried in protest.
"Cause she's the assistant who just blends in. That's what ya wanted wasn't it??", Decker shot back.
Cricket was grinning like the cat who ate three cannaries. She was getting the good end of this deal, to her thinking.
"You have our transport all ready I trust....genius???", Harry said, trying to keep calm.
"Of course. As far as anyone can tell, I'm just making a regular drop-off to New Chicago in my cab. And don't worry, these ID's will fake out those GCPF dimwits easy."
"I should hope so.....old buddy."
Betty helped Cricket undo the plugs in her hair. The robot girl straitned herself out and walked up to Harry with her sweetest smile and her sweetest voice.
"Ready when you are Mr. Waverider."
Next: Witness to a malfunction
The next day was Thrusday, just a day before the big show. Harry and Cricket -- make that Derrick Waverider, and his assistant, Missy Heartford, were making their way to New Chicago. And the closer they got to the dome, the more pale Cricket was becoming. Harry had Bill Decker slow his HoverCab down to a slow gilde for a bit. He took his partner's hand and looked right at her.
"I know this place holds a lot of bad memories for you Cricket", he said softly. "But personally, I'm looking forward to kicking the Chairman's sorry bony ass all the way across that so called 'city' of his, and shatter that dome with his body.....So, ya with me?......Partner?"
Cricket smiled. That man certainly had a way of putting things in perspective, she thought. She hugged him close, then called out to the cab driver. "Ok Bill, let's haul ass", she said with a dimple-showing grin. She wasn't looking so pale anymore.
Decker grinned back. "Yes Ma'am!"
When they got to the New Chicago entry gate, Bill had the sentries scan the id's he had made. The silver-bodied humanoid bots then scanned the passangers. First Bill, then Harry, and finally Cricket. Decker at the drivers seat mutely smiled. Harry had put the sunglasses on trying to look like an un-caring big shot producer. Cricket had her darkened hair up in a bun, and had put on glasses of her own. She was scrbbling on a note pad trying not to show how nervous she was. But, whatever device Carl Throckhammer had left her to attach to her purse worked. The scanner showed her as a human female. The trio breathed a collective sigh of relief as they pulled away from the gateway and pushed forward to the arena.
"See, what did I tell ya?", Decker said. "Smooth sailing from here on."
"Yeah, well just make sure your back here tommow night, before the concert starts. We'll need to make a quick exit once it's over", Harry said as the cab pulled up to its destination.
"Right then, see ya tomorrow", Decker said as the pair got out. They both took a deep breath. "Ok kid, showtime", Harry said.
Mr. Lang contacted Frank King before they had left, advising him of what cover they would be using. King agreed both he and Electra Storm would play along.
It was just before 10am. Everyone was on the arena stage, getting ready for the rehersal show. King was there in the same grey three-piece suit he seemed to have worn the day before in the Langs' office. He was standing next to a much taller, causal dressed, dark-haied man. The taller of the two was wearing a headset. The dancers, and backup singers were all warming in, and in the center of it all was Electra Storm, she was sporting a pink sweatshirt that matched her hair, as well as like colored sweats, socks, and bright white tennies. She was also sporting the headband with her name on it.
Harry called out as he and Cricket made their way to the stage. "Yo, Frankie baby! The starmaker has arrived!!"
King looked out and played his part without skipping a heartbeat. "Oh, Waverider, good, right on time. I like that." He brought the tall man over to Harry and made introductions. "Simon Crawson, this is Derrick Waverider. He's doing a 'personal diary' DVD for Electra's fans." Simon smiled, and shook Harry's hand, speaking with an Autrailian accent.
"G'Day there Derrick mate. Lucky day for you. I mean, usually GCN handels everything on the video and DVD side of things, but since Electra here insisted on having you, well....."
"What can I say, she wants the best", Harry said, cocky and sure of himself.
"Well, guess we'll just see won't we", Simon said passively. Still a hint of jelousy there, Harry thought. Simon turned his attention to Cricket.
"And who's the lovely shelia?", he said with a much slyer smile.
"My assistant, Missy Hartford", Harry answered.
Cricket began her playacting with a blushing smile. Her voice was a pinched, nasal one. Add to that a rather thick New York accent.
"A pleasure Mr. Crawson, I'm sure", she said extenting her hand gracefully to his. "I'm looking forward to this project." The robot girl looked over at Electra, and decided to have a little fun with her.
"Electra Storm!", she gasped. "Oh, this is such a thrill. I can't tell you. Well just slap me in a coffin, I can just die a zip-a-de-doo-dah happy girl now. Are you gonna sing now?? Cause I for one cannot wait to listen. Your voice......like buttah!"
The pop diva just rolled her eyes. "Fine, whatever! If the little chatterbox is all done, Electra Storm would LIKE to get this over with before Armageddon comes!"
Frank clapped his hands, signaling everyone to take their places. "All right, you heard the lady. It's after 10. Let's go, let's go!!"
Harry and Cricket made their way off the stage. "A liitle less thick with the 'buttah' there, princess", Harry said quietly. The little fembot just giggled.
The music began, and the dancers started moving. Electra took her place and began.
IT'S ALL ABOUT ME (Music and lyrics by ButchyBoy)
It's all about me, yeah it's all about me
It's not about you, no it's not about you
I'm too hot, too hot to touch.
What me date you? Don't make me lose my lunch.
I'm the queen diva supreme. Everybody worships me.
Boys like you I use like tissue. Don't even think I wanna kiss you.
It's all about me, it's all about me
It's not about you, no it's not about you<
Suddenly, one of the dancers, a rather well endowed olive-skinned girl, started to loudly stutter and twitch about. "It's.....It's.....It's.....It's......me....me......me.....me" Her upper body was jerking up and down, her arms moving in every direction. Her legs and feet were running in place, like someone in a heavy workout. The other dancers around started to gasp.
"What's happening?" "It's Erin" "Somthing's wrong. Somebody help her." Erin, Erin, are you ok??"
It was clear to Harry and Cricket that "Erin" was a android. And she was in the middle of a seroius meltdown. Erin's head was swinging round and around now, almost coming off her sholders. Smoke was pouring from her ears. Everyone got out of the way when she did a summersalt and landed on her back, twitching and babbling. Then, sparks came from her chest, as if flew off her body. The robot dancer shuddered and struggled to speak.
"Jusssss......Jussssss....Whaaaaaaa....Whaaaaaaaaa" Then she spoke clearly. But it wasn't her voice. It was the voice Harry and Cricket heard threaten Electra the day before. The deep wispering one"
"Take a good look, Electra Storm. This is beauty school compared to what you'll look like tomorrow. This is your final warning!!" Erin then sparked her last and her motars wound down, and the "life" faded from her eyes.
Electra looked down at the melted, smoldering girl.
"Somebody want to clean this mess up so we can get going?"
Cricket just stared down the pop diva. She began to wondrer if she was even worth helping.
Next: How to make diced Cricket.
The Chairman sat quietly in the GlobalCon boardroom. His eyes were fixed on a monitor showing New Chicago High School. The students were all dressed the same; boys in grey suits, and girls in navy blue power suits. All being prepared for a blissful adult life in the dome. In stark contrast, the walls were littered with Electra Storm posters, the pop diva decked out in a shocking pink low-cut squiened dress complete with bare mid-driff. The Chairman's concentration on the monitor was broken by a buzz, and the voice of a secratary. Dr. Vox had returned. The hunched-over, bald headed scientist timidly entered, holding a pink Electra Storm headband in his hand. The Chairman never looked at Vox.
"Report", he simply said.
"They are nearly ready, sir. Might I ask what we will be charging for these?"
The villan grinned at the question. "Oh, you've got it all wrong my dear doctor. These will be free to all who come to the arena Friday night."
Vox seemed stunned. "I-I don't understand....A free concert...free headbands. What about the profits??? The board...."
".....is MY concern, doctor. Not yours!!!!" The Chairman's voice raised and took a definate chill. "As for profits, they will come in spades after the concert. That's where you've come in." For the first time, The Chairman looked right at the doctor with the coke-bottle glasses.
"You see Vox, once Electra Storm's concert is done, those 5,000 kids won't be able to get those songs out of their heads. Neither will anyone else watching the concert who wear their own headbands. The songs will stay in their heads for quite a while. And all that time, lovely subliminal thoughts will fill those heads. Thoughts like.......visit the old cities.....visit Old Chicago.....have fun." His voice got more intense. "Have lots of fun...Destroy! Maim! Kill! Have a great time. And once they do, Old Chicago won't stand a chance. I'll have them wipe out Throckhammer Indrustries, and what's left of the people will need protection. MY protection. And that protection will come at a very hefty price!"
Meanwhile, Harry and Cricket were in the backstage area of the New Chicago Arena, with what was left of the burned-out dancer bot, Erin. Betty Stevens was there too....so to speak. It was enough that the Langs were risking their necks by just being in the domed city where they were wanted for made-up crimes. They couldn't ask a close and trusted friend to do the same. So, Cricket used her recently installed holographic projector. In a sense, it allowed robot and doctor to "share" bodies.
"Definetly sabatoge", Betty said, looking over Erin's body. "All the vital parts are charred, but no sign of any leakage, or any indication any of her systems were faulty. Cricket, reach in and see if you can extract her memory card." Betty cocked her head to one side and her eyes got wide. She 'spoke' in Cricket's voice. "Sure Betty, but it looks just fried as the rest of her. Do you think we'll really be able to discover anything?" Dr. Stevens' face seemed to return to normal. "That's up to you and Harry. I'll tell you this much. Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing. Definetly an inside job if you know what I mean. I have to go before this gets traced, and I give you both away. Good luck."
And with that, Betty melted away, and Cricket was left standing there, herself once more. Harry stroked his chin.
"So", he said, pointing to the lifeless droid. "The one we're looking for was proably very close to Erin. Most likely someone she trusted very much. It all depends on just how self aware she actually was."
"One of the other dancers?", Cricket guessed. "Perhaps even the great Ms. Storm herself?"
"It's certainly not beyond the realm of possibilaties. I think it's about time we got to work on this "Personal Diary" for our client."
Cricket giggled and slipped back into her New York accent. "Oh yes Sir, Mr. Waverider."
More of Part 5 next
When Harry and Cricket got back to the Arena stage, the rehersal had broken up again. Electra Storm had gone to her private room , while the dancers, and back-up singers were having lunch on the stage, and in the seats. The pair of detectives split up to descreetly start questioning people about Erin's untimly demise, and the rather nasty threat toward Ms. Storm that came with it. And that's how 'Derrick Waverider' now found himsel with the diva's two lead dancers; Six-foot tall Bobbie Maxwell, a woman looked like she eat, breathed, and slept working out. She had a tight athletic bulild, and legs that went on forever. Harry thought she could had been a showgirl, if Las Vegas hadn't been buried under all that sand a few years back. She slightly towered over the man next to her, one Mark Davis. He was a rather thin, wiry sort of person with a head of curley hair. With a small video recorder in hard, Harry was asking them both about the events from that morning.
"Poor Erin", Bobbie said with a sad sigh, "Almost everybody here loved her. She was like family. I can't believe she's really gone." She really seemed broken-hearted about the whole thing. Mr. Davis on the other hand felt just the opposite.
"Oh please", he said with a voice full of distain, "Don't tell me you really going to srart boo-hooing over some over-sexed metal-head. I'm glad it's all fried up."
"Oh, just put a sock in it Mark!", Bobbie shot back. "Everyone here knows how much you hated her. And everyone also knows how much better she really is than you!"
Harry just stood back, watched and recorded. This was getting good.
Mark volleyed back. "Better??? Little miss plastic??? At least I've been on Broadway!"
Bobbie just smirked. "Somehow Mark, I don't think being an understudy to a tree from Into The Woods really qualifies." She turneed at looked at Harry. "It's no secert the only reason he got this gig was as a favor to Frank over there", she said, pointing to the diva's manager. He was on the cell phone as usual. Bobbie continued. "We've all had to cover up for this goofball's so-called dance routines. Especially Erin. She showed him up every time. It's never sat too well with you has it, darling?" Mark just scowled at her.
Much as Harry was enjoying this, he had to keep things on track. But he had to be carful not to blow his cover. It looked like Bobbie was pointing the finger to Mark as prime suspect number one. Harry wanted to see what sort of alibi he had.
"Well just cause the guy doesn't like androids, ya know....doesn't mean he would hurt a member of the group and endanger his boss as well right?"
Mark just stared coldly back at him. "Well of course not Captain Obvious. Every one knows I barely spoke two words to it since it joined us."
Bobbie smirked again. "Oh really. Seems I saw you spending quite a while and saying quite a few words with HER last night."
Mark quickly turned away. "That was busniess", he muttered.
Bobbie turned to Harry again. "It's also no secret that Electra was going to have him replaced after this show."
"That's a lie!!!", Davis shouted. Bobbie kept smirking.
"Ask anyone.......even dear "Cousin" Frank."
Meanwhile, Cricket, in her guise of the dark-haired Missy Hartford, was interviewing another member Team Electra; a nice looking blonde-haired blue-eyed kid named Jason Woodcreek.
"So", Cricket asked in her disguised New York accent, "I guess you're pretty bummed out over what happened to Erin."
"Yeah. She was really cool. Of course not as cool as Electra Storm, ya know?"
"Wow, ya really like her huh?", Cricket asked. "Is that why ya have the headband?"
Cricket pointed to his head and Jason looked up, touched it, but didn't take it off. "Oh yeah. Pretty cool huh? Simon gave it to me."
"Simon Crawson? That big-shot type guy?"
"Yeah, he said everyone was wearing them for the show."
Cricket looked around the Arena. "Yeah, but you're the only one wearing it right now."
Jason looked aroud as well. "Yeah, weird huh?"
Frank King suddenly called out, cell phone still in hand. "Hey you......ah...Missy. Ms. Storm wants to see you in her dressing room."
Cricket wondered what she wanted now, but smiled anyway. "Gee, thanks."
About ten minutes later, the pop diva came to the stage by herself. She walked over to Frank who was talking to Harry.
"Well, that was quick", Frank said. "What did you want to see Missy for?"
Electra just looked at her manager with a confused look.
"What are you talking about? Why would Electra Storm want to entertain some little chatterbox before lunch?"
Now Harry was concerned. "You didn't call for her to come to your dressing room just now?"
"Why would Electra Storm do that?"
Cricket knocked on the pop diva's door, but got no answer. "Hello", she called out. "Ms. Storm?" She knocked on the door again and found it unlocked. She carefully entered, and found the room empty. As she called out over and over, still getting no answer, the robot girl was beginning to feel a little strange. She suddenly realized that something was freezing up her motors and system. But she realized it too late.
Next" Cricket's New Peril
When Cricket was aware, and able to move again, she found she wasn't able to move much. The young robot girl found herself strapped tight just below the neck and above the ankles. Her bonds seemed to be a metal of some sort, and she was bound to what looked like a conveyor belt. Cricket recognized the room as a lab, or perhaps a repair room of some sort. But where was she? Was this still part of the New Chicago Arena? She was about to access her systems to deermine how much time had passed when she heard a voice. The same voice from the threats to Electra Storm. It was low, calm and even-timbered.
"Welcome home Model 2QXR3", the voice said.
Cricket's mind raced. Could her cover been blown so soon? And what did the voice mean by 'Welcome home'? She decided to play it cool, and stuck to her nasal New York voice as she struggled to get free.
"Model wha?? What are ya talkin' about? My name is Missy Hartford, now lemme go!"
The voice just continued with an eerie calm. "It's no use, Mrs. Lang, we know who you are. In a few moments, you will cease to exisit, and our plans will continue with no more interference."
Cricket became herself again, and spoke in her normal voice. "Those plans wouldn't have anything to do with killing Electra Storm on stage tomorrow night, would they?", she asked.
"My, you do figure things out quickly, Mrs. Lang. You're as good as I've heard.....or at least, you were. Oh, and don't bother with those restraints. They're pure titainium. Strong enough to hold down the most sophistcated killer droids."
Cricket looked to see just where the voice was coming from. All she found in the room, besides herself, was a shadow of a tall figure in the corner. Her next step was to stall as much as possible and hope Harry would come looking for her soon. "Assuming you work for The Chairman", the fembot began, "how does killing a singer raise GlobalCon's profits?"
"Oh, but you don't see the bigger picture, Mrs. Lang", the voice answered.
"Let me guess. Endless tribute discs, and lots of bad Electra Storm imatators working in the bars?", Cricket asked.
The voice chuckled. "Not quite, Mrs. Lang. Let me show you." The shadowy figure showed himself just enough to reveal his hands holding an Electra Storm headband. "Tomorrow night, everyone wearing this headband with be getting subliminal messages and small electrical currents will be stimulating the emotional part of the brain. As soon as Electra Storm finishes a certain song that.....all about her, she will be killed....right on stage, for everyone to see all over the world. Her death will be what triggers those headbands into high gear. The kids wearing them will have that song in their heads.......over and over. The messages in the song will in turn trigger their most primitive of emotions. They will converge on Old Chicago in mass, destroying everyone and everything they encounter. A special select group will be going to Throckhammer Indrustries to help leval that place. Old Chicago will be gone Mrs. Lang and there isn't a thing you can do about it."
Cricket was expecting the evil laughter that followed up such a monolouge, but it never came, so she just went on with the next line. "You insane madman! You'll never get away with this!" What the voice said next suprised her.
"You're right, I won't. I just make the bomb, I don't drop it. So, once I have my money, I don't care if the plan suceeds or fails. I must admit though, I do take a lot of pleasure in this next task."
"And that would be?", Cricket asker, gluping.
"You might reognize this Mrs. Lang. It's a disassembly belt for obsolote droids. I believe your about a year overdue on it."
Now Cricket was frightened. She struggled even more as the voice continued.
"It's mostly a painless procedure, and the unit isn't even activated for it. But I'm leaving you on and I've taken the safety programs offline. As the belt moves slowly, the mechanical arms down at the end will move faster and faster, beginning to overload. By the time you reach them, they will be ripping away at your clothes, your synthetic flesh, and finally, your curcit boards and main CPU. Oh yes, and your head will be detached form your body to watch it all. And as that magnificent detective brain of yours struggles to work, I'm sure you'll be trying to deduce who the figure in the shadows is. What was it you called me? Insane madman? Perhaps...or perhaps I'm an insane mad.....woman? Think it over but hurry, time is short."
Cricket struggled franticly "You just wait. Harry will save me and kick your ass!"
"Ah, yes. The intrepid Mr. Lang. Yes, he will be looking for you. And he'll be lead right to where The Chairman himself will be waiting.....to kill him." Now the evil laughter came. "Goodbye, Mrs. Lang."
And with that, the belt was started, and Cricket, hair still dyed brunette, made her way down to the mechical arms ready to rip her apart!
OH THE HORROR!!!
IS THIS REALLY THE END FOR OUR BELOVED CRICKET???
WITH THOSE TITAINIUM BONDS MORE IRON-CLAD THAN DONALD TRUMP'S PRE-NUPTIAL'S???
HOW CAN CRICKET POSSIBLY GET OUT OF THIS ONE????
DON'T MISS CHAPTER 6
SAME CRICKET TIME
SAME CRICKET CHANNEL
When we last left Cricket, she had gotten a messgae to come to Electra Storm's private room deep within the New Chicago Arena. But when our fembot hero got there, she found it was a trap -- a trap that led her strapped to an android disassembly belt by a figure lurking in the shadows --- and now.....
Cricket struggled trying to find someway off that belt before those wildy swinging arms began slicing and dicing the little robot. She looked everywhere she could. The mysterious figure in the shadows seemed to be gone. At least he...or she....seemed to be following the villians handbook, leaving the scene of a death trap, and assuming it all went to plan. Or perhaps that person had to get back to the arena before they were missed, Cricket thought. Just then, she spied something that just might get her out of this trap and back to Harry. The robot girl took a deep breath, and rememberd something Betty Stevens told her the day before. "When in doubt, pinky out", Cricket said to herself. Then , she extented her right pinky finger, hoping the microwave transmitter inside was strong enought to activate the laser beam that was suspended in the air about 50 feet away from her. Cricket beamed as the laser came to life and swung around on its own power. But she wasn't out of the woods yet. She had less than 10 seconds to line it up just right, before her head was to be pulled away from the rest of her. And one miscalculation would result in fried Cricket. The android hoped for the best as the laser beam powered up, fired, and hit the left restraining bolt ner her chest. The bolt overheated, popping the restraint open. And just in time too! Her hands now free, Cricket grabbed the mechanical arm that was about to detatch her head! She yanked the arm hard fron its base, sat right up and used that arm like a javelin, throwing it into the conveyor belt's control panel, taking it out in a hail of sparks! Everything stopped cold. Cricket drew a big sigh of relief, them manuvered the laser once more to free her legs.
Now came the question of, "Where was she?". Cricket found the lab door, and peeked out. She recognized the hallway instantly, sutting the door quickly, and gasping, "This IS the GlobalCon bulding!" Cricket peeked out againg, figuring she was just going to have to fight her way out of there. Just then, as luck would have it, a bulky service droid on wheels came by. It was marked "ARENA", in big black letters. Cricket put her pinky out again, and the droid stopped right in front of the door. Hoping not to be seen, she quietly opened the droid's hatch, and tossed out a few boxes to make room for her. Once inside, she got the droid moving again, and was on her way back to Harry......she hoped.
Next: Will The Real Electra Storm Please Stand Up?
"All right King, let's go over it one more time!" Harry was with Frank King in Electra Storm's private dressing room in the arena. Both men had spent the last hour combing the room over, looking for any clues as to where Cricket/Missy could have vanished to. The search so far, had turned up very little. And Harry was becoming more frustrated with each passing moment.
"You're positive it was Electra Storm you talked to telling Cricket to see her here?" King was getting just as frustrated as Harry in giving the answer.
"For the 10th time Lang, yes! It was her, no question" he said.
"Exactly what did she say.....word for word?" Harry asked. King stood and thought a moment. Then he retold what he heard.
"I said hello, and she said, 'Tell the little girl detective that Electra Storm wants to see her in my room yesterday. I have some details to go over with her about tomorrow. And tell her I want to see her now!' And she hung up and I gave the message to your partner."
"And that's.....exactly what she said?" Harry asked, eyeing King who was now getting even more flustered.
"Yes, that's exactly what she saide, why?"
"Just this. Does your client always refer to herself in the thrid person?"
King sighed. "Yeah. It's more than a bit annoying, but I've gotten used to it."
"Funny how she choose just that moment to stop, don't ya think?" Harry observed.
King was pondering that question when Simon Crawson entered.
"Hey Frankie, we putting on a show or not here?" he asked, looking very impatient.
"Yeah, I'll be right out Simon" King answered. Crawson didn't seem to be in a waiting mood, however.
"Well, lets hurry along sunshine. Simon baby's time is far too valuable to be just standing around all day." Harry was getting more than a little fed up with the characters he found himself surrounded with, but Cricket was still missing. He kept his cover as Derrick Waverider...for the moment.
"Ah, has Simon baby by any chance seen my assistant?" Harry asked.
"Oh, the cute little shelia?" Crawson answered. "No, I've haven't seen her since she toddled off. She been missing long?" Harry gave a sly smile and faced Simon.
"I never said she was missing. I just asked if you've seen her." Simon, being just a head taller than Harry, just looked down and smirked.
"No, I haven't seen her. Now if you'll excuse me. I've got a show to put on, and money to make." And he walked out in a bit of a rush. Harry moved him to the top of the suspect list, and decided he beared very careful watching. King started to make his way out when he turned to face Harry.
"I'm sorry she is missing Mr. Lang, beliveve me." His voice was very subdued. "I hope she turns up ok. But right now, I'm very worried. And not just for...Electra. But for all of us."
"Why do you say that?" Harry asked.
"Let's just say the sooner tomorrow night is over with.....the better." And with that, he turned and walked out. And Harry was no closer to finding Cricket than he was an hour ago.
Meanwhile, the lady in question was still hidden away in the belly of the service droid carrying suppiles to the arena for tomorrow's show. It was a bit cramped, and stuffy inside, but she was able to compensate the heat with her own internal cooling system. And she could see and hear everyting. That became an advantage when, while looking for Harry, she spotted Bobbie Maxwell and Mark Davis having a rather heated conversation.
"For the last time Bobbie, I swear I had nothing to do with what happened to Erin today!"
"And what about last night?"
"All right! Yes, I talked to her! That's not a crime!"
"What about Mark? After all this time together on the road, barely speaking two words to her, insulting her, the stupid pranks, after all that what could you possibly have to say to her for more than five minutes??"
"Well if you must know....." His voice suddenly softened. "If you must know, I was apologizing to her." Bobbie just rooled her eyes but Mark assured her, "No, no, its true. I admit it. She's much better than me. She can dance circles around me and it's not because she copying other dancers. I knew she's been coming up with really good routines on her own, and I just got real jelous. But I need this gig. This is my last chance, I'm pushing 40 for God's sake. So last night, I decided to bury the hatchett, and hoped Erin would forgive me and help work with me so I could stay on. Don't you understand Bobbie? I NEED this gig! Getting rid of Erin..of Electra.....It would ruin me. "
Cricket was taking all of this in when Bobbie and Mark suddenly looked over to the service droid that just seemed to be sitting there. The android got the the controls and zipped off before they could suspect something. Cricket made her way through the arena still looking for Harry, when she spied Simon Crawson talking on his phone. She slowed the service droid once more, keeping a safer distance this time, and kept very quiet to hear him.
"What do you mean you didn't actually see her get ripped apart??....Well I don't care where you had to be!.....Is that meddling robot gone or not??"
Cricket gasped when she realized he must be talking about her.
"Somehow got away????!!!!!......Oh that's just bloody perfect!!!!!.....No, don't do ANYTHING else!!!!....I'll take care of this myself.......Yeah, tomorrow night at the show.....Tell the Chairman they'll all be going out with a bang!!!" And with that, Simon slapped his phone closed. He too though he saw a bulky service droid just sitting off in the distance, but when he turned to look again, there was nothing there. Cricket had raced off. Now she just HAD to find Harry.....if they hadn't already gotton to him.
Next: More of Part 7 and a special suprise treat from an FC regular.
Cricket kept guiding the service droid along the seemingly endless corridoors of the arena, looking for Harry. She suddenly stopped when a constant beeping noise went off in her head. It was Dr. Stevens trying to contact her. Cricket tugged on on her right ear lobe twice and the beeping stopped.
"Yes, Betty?" the robot girl asked in a wisper.
"Cricket, it isn't much, but I was able to piece together bits of Erin's memory from her last few hours. Are you able to recieve a download?"
"Yes, Betty but hurry. Someone is sure to trace this."
"I'm transmitting now, then I'll disconnect. Good Luck."
Once she got Betty's download, Cricket played it back. It was mostly audio pops, hisses and crackles, but between all the noise and distortion, she was able to make out bits of conversation.
"Come on everybody, we only have four days to make this work........Yeah, I talked to him......That's nice of you to say Mark but.......Give him a chance.........Jas......you doing?"
And that was all. Didn't seem much to go on, Cricket thought. She reached into her purse, and took out a small screwdriver. She carfully insereted it into her right ear to adjust the gain on her audio receptors. It still was quite a bit of noise but Cricket was able to hear a whole sentance. It was actually a question. And it was asked in a rather flat, un-emotional tome of voice.
"Jason, what are you doing?"
Cricket took that question to be a clue. But just where did this clue fit into the puzzle she was trying to solve? Cricket pondered it when she heard something new. It sounded like....a piano. Making sure the coast was clear, Cricket climbed out of the service droid and sent it on its pre-programmed way. Then she followed the sound of the piano. It seemed to be coming from behind a door marked "Rehersal Hall". Could she hear singing too? The robotic girl carefully swung the door open to a rather dimly lit room. And there at the end of the room was a young girl in long hair of pink, playing the piano, not noticing Cricket enter. The music coming from the piano sounded beautiful and melodic to Cricket's ears. Her eyes widened when she realized who was at that piano. It was Electra Storm.
A CHILD GONE FOREVER
Sky...crystal blue sky
It's not a day you expect to cry
Fly...like a butterfly
Someday soon your wings will dry
But till you open them up to the sun
Your cries of sadness will haunt everyone
One day will come the rain
With its tired old refrain
And soon all that will remain
Is the cry of a child that's gone forever...
Fall...stumble and fall
Into a world where you've seen it all
Call...your lonely call
When you're feeling hurt and small
But till you open your wings to the sun
Your cries of sadness will haunt everyone
Again will come the pain
With its tired old refrain
And soon all that will remain
Is the cry of a child that's gone forever...
A dream of innocence, ripped away
A fragile heart afraid to stay
A urgent plea for love to come
And warm your heart underneath the sun...
Or one day will come the rain
With its tired old refrain
And soon all that will remain
Is the cry of a child...
And again will come the pain
With its tired old refrain
And soon all that will remain
Is the cry of a child that's gone forever...
The cry of a child that's gone forever...
The cry of a child...
© 2004 Taryn Alynn
To be continued....
Cricket just stood there, still not believeing what she had just seen. This was the same "it's all about me" spoiled brat? This was the same self-centered diva who kept referring to herself in the third person? It just didn't seem possible. Yet, there she was, singing a very heart-felt song at the piano. The song was over now, but Electra was still playing a tune on the black and white keys. Not sure what to expect next, Cricket decided to just approach the piano and get the answers right from the source.
"Th-that was beautiful." Cricket said, rather timidly.
On hearing another voice, the pop diva looked stopped cold, and looked up with a gasp. When she saw who it was, Electra gave a simple "oh", and went back to playing.
"They're looking for you." the pink-haired diva said without looking up again.
"What about you?" Cricket said in reply. "What brings you in here?"
Electra sighed, still playing, still not looking at the other girl in the room.
"Oh, I always look for a room, or someplace like this anywhere I perform. It's my only chance to get away from everything. The only chance I ever get to be myself."
Now Cricket was confused. This was no stuck-up pop princess sitting in front was her. Was that all really an act? And for whose benifit? Cricket decided the best way to find out was with one, simple, direct question.
"Who are you?" she asked.
Now the playing stopped again. And now, Elcetra looked up, and spoke to Cricket face-to-face.
"My name is Ruby Summers. And no, you've never heard of me. I'm just another nameless songwriter with a decent voice. Oh, I tried making it as Ruby Summers for quite a while. Or I should say Frank and I tried."
"Yeah. If it weren't for him.....Annyway, he's the one who set me up with Simon Crawson. And it was Simon who suggested I take on the 'Electra Storm' persona. He came up with the songs, the look, he shot all the videos."
"So, if Simon handles everything for you, where does Frank King come in?" Cricket asked. Electra...or Ruby just grinned at hearing the question.
"Dear Simon has a nasty habit of rubbing lots of people the wrong way. People of influence if you know what I mean. "
"And your Frank gets along with everybody."
"That's right. It's always been our ace-in-the hole against him. See, it was ok at first, becaue I was geeting out there, and getting exposed to the public. Even if these songs were.......are...." The singer seemed to be suddenly struggling for the right words. Cricket helped out.
"So sugary, they could give an elephant cavaties?" That brought a laugh from Electra.
"Yeah, that's one way to put it I guess. But when I wanted to do my stuff, even maybe move away from Electra Storm......Simon just kept tighting his grip. It turns out the contract we signed has about a million clauses that would keep us in court the rest of our lives if we even thought about defying the all powerful Simon Crawson." As she talked, the diva's face became more and more sad. "And he's done everything possible to make sure Electra Storm never goes away. Insisting I play the part of a spoiled brat with an attitude so awful, nobody would even think of liking me!"
"Well," Cricket said with a sigh. "I must admit, you really had me fooled."
Electra was on the verge of tears by now, but she composed herself.
"Frank though, he's fought Simon every way he's been able too. Staying on as my manager. Buying Erin for me insisting to Simon that a star of my stature needed a personal bodyguard, and that Erin could be the new wave. You know....cybernetic dancers, that whole thing."
"So......what was Erin to you?" Cricket asked.
"She was the best friend I ever had. At first, behind Simon's back, she was there as a companion for me. And then, she started to convince some of the other dancers that I really wasn't so bad after all. That I was just putting on an act. But she did it real quiet, and not all at once."
"So you really were close to Erin?"
"Yes" Electra said, now unable to fight back the tears of grief any longer.
"Cause of her, I was able to make friends like Bobbie Maxwell and Jason Woodcreek. And even Mark Davis, I wanted him gone long ago, but Erin was always sticking up for him, even though he was super rude, and was always making fun of her."
"Simon had to be aware you were starting to make friends. Did he say anything to you?"
"That's the strangest part to all of this." Electra said, wiping the tears away. "The last month or so, he seems a totally different person. Frank and I still don't trust him"
"Yeah, well, you have good reason not to." Cricket said. "Dear Simon is the one who wants you dead." The diva looked even more sad hearing this.
"Guess I should be shocked and suprised, but I'm not. After all, he'll make millions off poor 'dead' Electra Storm' right??"
"Your not dead yet. And you won't be, I promise you." Cricket said, waith a reassuring smile. The pink-hair pop princess Electra Storm gave a genuine smile back, but it was Ruby Summers who hugged the robot girl tight.
When the embrace broke, Cricket went into full dective mode.
"Did Erin trust Simon at all?"
"Oh no. She went into full unitelligent robot mode when ever he was around."
"That proably kept her from being dismantled. Still, whoever got to her was someone she trusted, I'm sure of it. And that's the person we need to look out for tomorrow night. The question is who. Erin tried to tell us before she died."
"How? I mean, she just made random sounds when she was......dying, right?"
"You have to understand how an android's mind works. At her last moments, Erin was pushing a single thought, a single line of data if you will, right to the top of the list in her mind. The thing she though most important to say as she lay dying. Those random sounds as you put it; 'Jaaaaaaaa.....Jaaaaa......Waaaa.....Waaaaaa' That was Erin trying to tell us something, probably the name of the person who sabataged her."
"So, who was it?"
"I've been thinking about that all afternoon. "Jaaaaa......Jaaaa.....Waaaa.....Waaaaa'. Talk about something you can't get out of your head." That's when the 'little light' in Cricket's head went off.
"Head.....head......headband!!! Wowie Zowie!!! That's why he was the only one!!!" Cricket grabbed the diva by the hand and raced her out of the room. "We have to get back to Harry and the others. Tomorrow is gonna be a night Simon Crawson and The Chairman are never going to forget!!!"
Next: The final chapter, the big show (Any guesses out there who our little Cricket suspects?)
"This is Renee Miller, coming to you live from outside the New Chicago Arena. Well, tonight is the night everyone has been waiting for. We are less then an hour away from Electra Storm's live worldwide concert, and hr first live performance of the hit everyone is talking about, "It's All About Me." Tonight may be all about Electra, but believe it or not, tonight may also be all about GlobalCon. Going in behind me, is the entire student body of New Chicago High School. They'll be filling up the entire 5,000 seat front row section. Normally these are the $100,000 seats. But now get this fans; tonight these lucky kids get to see their idol close up....FOR FREE!! All thanks to the Arena's sponsor, yes, that's right, GlobalCon. First the big free Christmas Dinner in Old Chicago, and now this. This reporter wants to know, is there no end to this company's new found generosity? Only time will tell"
As everyone made their way in the the arena, things were just as hectic backstage. Bobbie Maxwell was shouting orders, getting everyone in place. Electra Storm was making her way from the dressing room to the stage, with a certain robot girl detective close behind.
"Well, Electra Storm certainy hopes everything is all perpared for her" she said to Bobbie as approached the stage. Bobbie gave the pop diva a mock salute.
"Oh yes ma'am. Everything is ship shape and ready to go" she said with a mega-watt smile. The woman deep inside known as Ruby Summers kept to her spoiled brat persona.
"Well, then why is everyone standing here?" she snapped. "Electra Storm is ready to go. This is the biggest night of Electra's life and she will not be embarrased, now DOES EVERYONE UNDERSTAND???" Those last words sent everyone in a blinding flurry to make sure they got to their place pronto. Frank King dashed up to Electra. He looked most nervous of all.
"Simon says he's ready. How about you Ruby?" Hearing that name seemed to tigger something inside the diva. No longer looking smug and confidant, she turned to Cricket who was still in her disguise of Missy Hartford. Her face was full of worry.
"Are you sure about this?" she asked. The android girl gave a small smile, and did her best to assure her new found friend.
"Look, Harry is on his way up to the control booth to deal with Simon. You have to go on and do the show, just as it was planned, as if you've found out nothing. It's the only way we can flush out the killer."
"Ok, I hope you know what you're doing." Cricket took on a little attitude of her own on hearing that.
"Hey, come on. Harry and Cricket Lang have their own reputations to protect here. We always get our man" she said with a big smile, which faded a little. "Or sometimes.....woman......you know." Having someone talk to here as a friend one-on-one like that returned the confidance to the pink-haired pop star. Electra Storm came back and she made her way to the center stage. A booming voice came over the PA system.
"Welcome New Chicago, and everyone around the world. Now, it's the moment you've all been waiting for. Put your hands together for.......ELECTRA STORRRRRRRRRRMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!"
A special effect bolt of lighting flashed onstage, followed by a lot of smoke. The light on the stage were still dim as the music began, then the spotlight hit and Electra stood right in the middle, her hands raised and a big smile on her face. The crowd went wild seeing their idol, and her first number began. It was a very modern cover of an oldie first done by someone people in the crowd barely remember, if at all. Somebody who called herself....Madonna?
While the show went on, and the crowd roard and screamed, Harry was just outside the heavily guarded control booth. He counted out eight GCPFs. They were all dressed in black, with helmets and visors covering most of their face, save the mouths. Eight against one; he could deal with those odds. He took out two of them using the old 'sneaking up, yanking the helmets away, and knocking the heads together' routine. That got the attention of the other six.
"Hey, you, stop right there" the lead one ordered. Harry dashed down the hall, and the GCPFs gave chase as Harry had hoped they would.
He made sure he had a good enough head sart in front of them, then quickly ran around a corner and into a doorway. There, he took a rather hefty looking sack from his raincoat pocket, and emptied the contents onto the floor. When the GCPFs caught up to where Harry was, all six of them failed to see the marbles that had rolled onto the floor until it was too late. They all went tripping, knocking into each other, and falling like dominos. Before they could get up, Harry emerged, holding some sort of mask to his face, and a canister in his hand. He sprayed the contents of said canister down where the GCPFs were all tangled together, and they were snoozing away peaceful childern in no time.
Harry then dragged one one the GCPFs he had first knocked out to the door of the control booth, and raised the man's hand, pressing it against the electronic lock that cracked the door opened. Harry hoped Simon would be too busy with the show to notice. As it turned out, Simon was standing, looking right at Harry with a wicked grin on his face as Lang entered.
"I knew you'd find a way in here. I've been waiting for you" Simon said rather gleefully. Behind him, Harry could see the show going on, and hoped that Cricket was ok. Then he turned hi attention back to Simon.
"That suits me just fine. It's been a long time since I was in a good fight" he said. Simon just smiled.
"Oh, I'm afraid I'm not much of a fighter mate" Simon said, his face poised as if he were looking for the right words. "I'm more what you call....", then he quicky produced a laser pistol. "....a cold blooded killer." And with that, he fired a shot almost point blank at Harry! But the laser went right through him, and ricocheted around the room, finally making its impact on the door, blasting it open. Simon was in shock as he saw Harry just stand there, then disappear just as quickly. And before he could move, Simon felt an arm wrapped his neck, and a voice almost wisper in his ear.
"Holograms" Harry said. "Ain't they a bitch." Simon then realized the pistol was out of his hands, and pointed at his head.
"It doesn't matter if you kill me or not, mate. This whole show is pre-programmed. And your girl will never find the one to do poor Electra in. Once she's dead, the message kicks in. And you lose."
"Don't bet on it pal" Harry said, about to knock Simon out with the gun. Just then, he was judo flipped onto the floor by Simon, the gun flying out of his hands. Nither man was at an advantage to reach it were they stood however.
"Looks like you'll get that fight after all" Simon said, a bit disgusted.
"Like I said, suits me fine" Harry said back.
Meanwhile, on the stage, the show seemed to be going off without a hitch. Cricket had he optic units focused on both Jason Woodcreek and Mark Davis. After three numbers, neither one of them had made one move toward Electra. The same with any of the other dancers. And Cricket hadn't detected any explosive devices hidden on the stage. The fourth number had now just finished and the moment of truth arrived.
"All right" Electra shouted to the crowd. "Who's ready to hear Electra Storm's BIGGEST HIT EVER???" The crowd went wild beyond reason.
"I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!" This brought an even bigger reaction. Electra stared them all down intensely.
"It's.........about me, yeah, it's all about me. It's not about you, no, iy's not about you"
As the number began, Cricket noticed the diva was wearing a jacket she hadn't worn up to this point. I was silver with lines of light that danced with the music in up and down streams. She noticed something else. Bobbie Maxwell wasn't doing the routine Cricket had seen her do yesterday, she was doing Erin's. As she was dancing side by side with Electra. Cricket then examined Bobbie's right hand as close as her enhanced sight would let her. It was small, and almost hidden. It looked like some sort of old style stun gun, the knid that let out an electical charge to subdue an attacker. Certainly not enough to kill someone....but if it came in contact with what the pop diva was wearing....
Next: Version 8.2
By the time Electra Storm began "It's All About Me", Harry and Simon had exchanged more than a few blows up in the control booth, and both looked pretty roughed up. When Simon heard the song in question, he grabbed Harry hard by the throat.
"You hear that?" Crawson said with an evil grin. "When the song ends, Miss Electra Storm will lie dead on stage for all the world to see. And this little black box at the bottom of the console will light up like the bloody war just started again. And when the lights come alive, they'll send a signal to all those kids down there wearing Electra Storm headbands."
It was hard for Harry to talk with Simon's hand gripping his throat, but he tried anyway.
"All those High School kids in the front section?" he asked.
"Right" Simon answered with a smirk. "The song will play over and over in their poor mushy heads. And along with the song, a message telling them them Electra wants them to all fly to Old Chicago to destroy and smash everything in sight, and kill anyone standing in the way."
Harry knew if Simon rambled on long enough, he would find the opening he needed to escape his grip.
"Thanks pal" Harry said with a smirk of his own. "That's all I needed to know!" Harry elbowed Soming hard in the abdomen. They went back and forth for a few seconds before Simon thew Harry to the floor, picking up a blunt object aimed right for Lang's head.
"Simon says it's time to die." But just then, Simon was knocked cold from behind. When Simon fell, Bill Decker was standing there, a laser rifle in his hand.
"And your Uncle Billy says it's nap time" Decker quipped. Harry breathed a sigh of relief.
"What the hell kept you?" he asked. Decker smiled and helped his old friend up.
"Do you have any idea what traffic is like in these blasted domes on a Friday night....or any night for that matter."
"Never mind that" Harry said, and he pointed to the box that Simon had mentioned. "We've gotta crank this thing open before Electra Storm finshes this song!"
Without another word, Decker grabbed some sort of small box out of his shirt pocket, attatching it to the bigger one. All the lights came on at once and a disc popped out. Harry grabbed it and had Bill find a clean disc, which he did.
"Now we send our own message" Harry said with a smile.
While all this was happening, Cricket was still watching Bobbie Maxwall, dancing next to Electra Storm, ready to make her move. The robot girl ran to Frank King.
"Are you in contact with the band?" she asked frantically.
"Yeah of course but --"
Before he could say anything else Cricket told him, "Great, tell the guiter player to keep soloing, keep playing, do anything but do NOT end that song!" And with that, Cricket dashed out onto the stage. She began to dance in time with the music, moving rather stiff and jerky, dancing well...like a robot. The android then went into a cartwheel and backflip combination pulling Bobbie away from Electra. The diva looked a little lost at first but then saw Cricket and kept the number going. What happend next can only be described as theatre of the very bizzare. Cricket and Bobbie were locked into a rocking dance of their own while engaging in verbal banter.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Kepping you from comitting another murder."
"What are you talking about?"
"You killed Erin."
"And why would I do that."
"As dress rehersal for tonight. You were doing a dance just like this. And when you knew no one would notice, you zapped poor Erin in a small exposed panel only you knew was exposed. It overloaded all of her circuts, and destroyed her CPU. Then you tried to put the blame on Mark Davis."
"Electra told me what you said to her. Erin never even tried to mention my name."
"That's becaure she had no idea it was you. You had Jason wear that headband before everybody else, then you had him open Erin's panel, and told him to forget everything afterward. Jason was just a guinea pig for tonight too."
"And why would I do all this."
"Easy. Your Electra's right hand girl. You made friends with her and made sure you were the one she trusted above everybody else. And once she's dead, you take her place, and all the fame and glory is yours...yours and Simon Crawson's. You gave yourself away when you tried to kill me. You went out of your way to tell me it was a woman behind all this. And only one woman here could pull all this off." Cricket supn Bobbie around, getting close to her, looking right up at her. "And that's you." Bobbie glared back at her, bringing the little shock device in full view.
"I don't need to have an exposed panel for you.....Missy. I can mess you up just enough so you can't stop me." She lunged for Cricket's stomach where the robot girl's CPU was located. Cricket had faster reflexes on her side, and kicked the device out of Bobbie's hand, sending it airborne. It landed at Cricket's feet, and she promptly crushed it. Bobbie flew into a rage, grabbed a cable and headed for Electra.
"Die Electra Storm Die!!!!!" she cried out, the cable in hand, intending to choke the life out of the diva. Again, Cricket's lighting reflexes came in handy. The fembot grabbed the slack of the cable, and yanked it back, taking Bobbie with it. She wrapped the cable around Bobbie and danced her off stage. Cricket gave a thumbs up to Electra, and after 10 minutes, "It's All About Me" came to an end. The arena crowd went wild, suddenly chanting, "GlobalCon Sucks! GolbalCon Sucks!" Cricket looked up, using her enhanced vision to spot Harry. He saw Cricket on a moniter, and knew she could see him. He gave his wife an 'ok' sign. Then the crowd began a new chant. "The Chairman is a monkey! The Chairman is a monkey!" they all cried, not knowing exactly why, but it seemed like fun.
Up till this point, the Chairman had been watching the worldwide TV show with gleeful anticipation. But when "All About Me" ended, and Electra Storm was still standing, his mood changed quickly. And when the crowd started chanting what they did, the villian got a familiar sinking feeling that it had all gone wrong. He grabbed a phone.
"Stop the broadcast. Stop it now!!! Simon....do you hear me....Simon???"
A voice answered, but it wasn't Simon Crawson.
"Ah, sorry Lanny old buddy, but Simon...well he just got tuckered out. And I have no clue how to turn any of this stuff off. So I guess the show goes on."
The Chairman's blood boiled and it gritted one name through his teeth. "Harry Lang." The Chairman quickly pushed a button on the phone.
"Division 2....Come in Division 2. Harry Lang is the arena control booth. Stop him, now! Division 2 come in!!!" All he heard were snores. "Division 1...Harry and Cricket Lang are in the New Chicago Arena. Find them, stop them!!!" The reply he got enraged The Chairman even more.
"It's all about me...all about me....yaaa yaaa...mee mee...yaa yaa yaa"
Back on stage, Electra was ready to begin her next number, when she stopped and looked out at everybody. She pulled her headband off.
"You know what? These are really dorky looking, don't you think? Let's take these off." And one by one, they all came off. The crowd was now a bit reatless, wondering what was next. The diva took a large breath, grabbed a non-electric guitar and spoke.
"Ummmmm......my name is Ruby Summers, and this is my music, and I hope you like it."
Next: What Ruby sang, epilouge, and something sinister
A NEW WAY TO SEE ME
Take a step back and tell me what you see
A girl in her own world trying to be free
To let the inner child escape from inside
Take a chance now and let her in your heart
Believe in the song she's been singing from the start
And listen to the voice through the tears she's cried
It's a new way to see me...
A new way to see
It's a new way to see me...
A new way to be...
So let me be free
Close your eyes now and tell me what you dream
A girl with her own voice trying not to scream
To get your attention the best way she can
Open your mind and tell me what you feel
Believe in the chance she has to make her dream real
And listen to the voice she's had since life began
It's a new way to see me...
A new way to see
It's a new way to see me...
A new way to be...
So let me be free
It doesn't mean the end...it doesn't mean goodbye...
It's a new beginning...there's no need to cry
There's hope for the future...we can't stay in the past
It's a new beginning...let's make the feeling last
It's a new way to see me...
A new way to see
It's a new way to see me...
A new way to be...
It's a new way to see me...
A new way to see
It's a new way to see me...
A new way to be...
So let me be free
So let me be free...
© 2004 Taryn Alynn
As the woman on stage sang, a whole new confidence filled her inside. No pre-planned moves or someone else's words coming out of her mouth. The bratty sugary pop diva, Electra Storm was being stripped away, and Ruby Summers was slowly taking her place. The real test came when the song ended, and Ruby passed with flying colors! The arena crowd cheered louder than before and chants of "Ruby, Ruby" started to swell from them. Ruby smiled and thanked them, then began another of her own songs, and another after that. Songs she had kept hidden and locked away for years, and performed only for herself, were now pouring from her lips to a cheering crowd.
The only one who wasn't happy at the moment was The Chairman, still watching from his office. By the time a GCPF squad finally got to the New Chicago Arena, Harry and Cricket were nowhere to be found, not in the arena, or anywhere with in the dome of New Chicago. That damned robot had gotten the better of him again, he thought. That made him more angry than anything. He could not for the life of him, figure out how she did it. As near as he could tell, this 'Cricket' came from an assembly line of 'Daddy's Girls'. What could make this one so different? One way or the other, he would find out.
The next day, a very happy Cricket was looking herself over in the mirror in her apartment. She was her old, blonde, pig-tailed self once more.
"It's soooooo good to be me again" she chirped to Harry, twriling in a circle.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I'd rather be Harry Lang then anybody else any day of the week."
"Well that's good" Cricket said, as she wrapped his arms around him. "Cause I'd rather have Harry Lang then anybody else any day of the week."
They both smiled at each other, and moved closer together, perhaps to share something more intamate, when a knock came at the door.
"Now who can that be?" Cricket said with a sigh.
Harry went to the door, with Cricket in tow. It was Ruby and Frank King.
"Well, come on in" Harry said. King looked the same; three piece suit, glasses, rather sheepish looking. The former Electra Storm however looked much less spectacluar then before. Autumn hair, tied in a simple pony tail, and a non-decript blouse, jeans, and tennies. The biggest change however, was when she spoke.
"Frank and I just wanted to thank you both. Especially you Cricket. Last night was better then I could have ever dreamed."
"Yeah, and you should see the offers we've been getting all day" Frank said, sounding like a kid on Christmas. "Tons of record companies from the UK Japan, California....they all saw the show last night and they want Ruby Summers."
"There's no way this could happen without you Cricket. I can't even dream on how to repay you."
The robot girl was blushing bright red.
"Just be yourself, Ruby" she said with a sweet smile.
"What happend to Simon Crawson and Bobbie Maxwell?" Harry asked.
"Wouldn't you know it" Frank said. "They've been charged with attempted murder and fraud. Electra Strom's contract became null and void."
"But what made you even suspect Bobbie?" Ruby asked.
"Simon was the one who really tipped it off for me. He was so insistant that you have no friends, and everybody think you this rich snob too good for everybody. It was only after Bobbie became friends with you that he stopped objecting. She was the one who called Frank telling me to come to your room, not you. There is one thing I'm still not sure of though."
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"I could have almost sworn I saw two figures in the disassembly room. Someone else besides Bobbie Maxwell."
Cricket didn't know how right she was.
That same day, The Chairman was still brooding in his chair, alone, thinking up ways of getting revenge. Suddenly, a woman in a blue power suit, with dark hair breezed in, making herself right at home in the man office. The Chairman only slightly looked up.
"Well, what do you want?" he sad with a sneer.
"Oh now don't be so cross love. Just because your plan to overrun Old Chicago and take over fell apart....again."
You did no better......love! Your people failed miserably and so did you. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't have you rotting in jail with them."
The woman didn't seem phased. She held up a disc.
"Because then, you'll miss my little show. I hope you brought popcorn."
She put the disc in a player on The Chairman's desk. A screen in front of them suddenly lighted up. It showed the inner workings of a certain female android in a three dimensional view. The Chairman's eyes widened.
"A full technical readout of the little whirlwind. This is NOT your typical Daddy's Girl."
She was right. They both could see her memory had been greatly expanded, the limits on strength, and intelligence compleatly removed.
"How did you get this?" The Chairman asked.
"I simply made a scan of her insides while she was in that little death trap she got out of." The woman pushed a few buttons and a close up of the skull was on the screen.
"See those ports along the chin. Those are the main programming ports. That's the place to strike."
"I take it your operation is all set to go?"
"Just say the word, and by the time I'm done with her, she won't know if she's coming or going."
The Chairman just grinned. The woman punched another button and the skull was replaced with a natural view of Cricket's cheery face. The woman just smirked in disgust.
"Daddy always did want a blonde."