by Bryan Feir

The bike hummed with controlled power as its rider kicked it into gear and sped out from behind an abandoned building. Its destination was a fire that was currently burning through an old building, recently converted to a small Chinese restaurant. Little of importance to the building itself, but lives were at stake... not to mention the untold damage that could occur if the fire were allowed to spread further.s

The Bronx may not have been a Zero Zone, but parts of it were so close as made little difference. People who couldn't afford fire or police protection tended not to get any, and there weren't any rich people in this part of town. Local gangs offered up their own form of 'protection' often enough, but they weren't in any position to stop a fire like this one. Assuming they hadn't set it to teach people a lesson.

Whatever the cause, the fire was already starting to spread to neighbouring buildings. Some people who had paid their protection were likely to be very upset. Several people had tried to organize a bucket brigade, with little success: most people were more worried about trying to protect their own places.

The brigade scattered as a large motorcycle came at them from out of a nearby alley. The rider was dressed all in dark brown, apparently female, and with a helmet that obscured her face. With little fanfare, the cycle crossed the road, heading straight for the open doorway into the restaurant. People heard the brakes squealing as the cycle began to spray out a thick cloud of some sort, then vanished inside as it started to lean into a spin.

The cycle appeared again shortly thereafter, the rider carrying someone else under her arm, holding a cloth over the nose and mouth of the restaurant's proprietor. Most of the flames on the ground floor were smothered by the cloud from the cycle, though parts of the upper floor were still burning away. The wife of the owner leaned out the upper floor window, calling for help.

With a soft 'pfft' noise, a small ball arced away from the cycle and bounced against the front of the store. It exploded in a huge pile of foam, spilling out over the front of the store under the window. The rider looked up, and yelled "Jump!" The elderly woman threw herself out the window, landing safely in the foam as it slowly sank down to the ground in a puddle around her.

The rest of it was down to mopping up. With the grease in the kitchen put out, there wasn't much left to feed the flames on the upper floor; with some help from the mysterious cyclist, the bucket brigade managed to contain and put out the rest of the flames.

"You this Falcon person, yes?" The old man from the restaurant asked of the rider.

"I am, yes."

"Heard of you. You saved my life. I not forget this."

"Thank you."

Any further reply was cut off by a large explosion to the south, in the Zero Zone. At first it just sounded like thunder, but the night was clear. Off to the south was a glowing cloud that seemed to swirl oddly in the air.

"What the Hell is that?"

The Chinese man looked at Falcon. "Not good."

"What is it?"

"Look like Ran go on rampage again. Very not good."

Falcon turned to look at the dissipating cloud to the south again as she climbed onto her motorcycle; other, smaller explosions worked their way through the no-man's land of the Zone. "Very."

Back under cover, after checking the various news reports, Kristen pulled off her helmet and sighed. It was good to see she could still operate without the backup from Fantoma Vehicles, but it did mean she was going to have to find some other source for supplies. Epoxy foam bombs weren't exactly sold at Macy's, after all. Time to build up a few connections for supplies. Refilling the extinguisher was likely to be the most difficult part.

As she stripped out of her suit and got changed back into something less noticeable, she pondered the explosions earlier. She'd never done any real work in the Zone since being rescued by the people at Fantoma; after all, most of what she'd done then was a PR campaign for the company, and it's not good PR if the prototype goes missing somewhere you can't easily get at it. Getting into the Zone was easy, after all; getting back out was hard without proper ID. Given that her original ID was for someone who was supposed to be dead, and the secondary ID Fantoma had provided her with had never really been used, she wasn't too sure she could get back if she needed to. Not to mention that the Tenth street go-gang finding out she was back would be a bad thing.

Rumours were flying all over the place, as they usually do after something big. About the only thing they all agreed on was that Ran had gone on a rampage. Some said that another esper had challenged him; some said that it was done deliberately by some corps who were trying to trigger off other kinetics from the backwash of the battle. Whatever had happened, there hadn't been a battle like this in years; things were about to get very interesting.

In the mean time, at least, the Mission was still a reasonable place to hide out. They liked her, they owed her, and they were difficult to accuse of wrongdoing. That should give her enough time to get ready for whatever was coming up.

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