by David Kuijt

"Boy, that Silver sure is something," Crusher said, leaning against the wall beside the bar of 93 Underground.

"You bet, Crusher," Mitch responded, pouring another drink.

It was a Friday night, and Silver was working the crowd into a slather. She wasn't that tall, but up on the stage her height didn't matter, and her stunning body and athleticism more than made up for it.

One of Crusher's jobs as bouncer was to protect the dancers. Crusher knew that Silver didn't need nearly as much protection as you might think, but some of the other dancers couldn't take care of themselves as well. And anyway, the dancers were busy dancing, and Crusher rather enjoyed thumping drunks who got nasty against the dancers, so it all worked out.

The only problem Crusher had with being a bouncer was the dress code. White shirts. Humans didn't come his size, and it had taken a lot of effort (and significant cash) to get some white dress shirts. He had had to borrow a couple from Duke initially, but Duke wouldn't lend them anymore. Two shirts reduced to shreds was more than enough, Duke had said. Crusher had found a source for white shirts, but it seemed that he was lucky to have a shirt last a single night without getting bloody, punctured, or ripped. He had managed to convince some of the dancers to help him repair the ones with minor holes, but damaged shirts were still a major chunk out of his limited salary.

Crusher looked down at his new shirt, then around at the crowd. It wasn't too rough tonight. Sometimes the mix of street samurai, Cits and gangers was explosive, but tonight it wasn't too bad. Seemed to depend upon personalities, mostly. One or two people could set a crowd on fire. And sometimes one person was enough.

"Hey, Crusher."

The voice was female, and nearby, but for a moment he couldn't find the speaker. Then he realized that the voice had come from somewhere near his bellybutton. Looking down he saw the Zone's shortest engine of destruction, Tetsutenshi.

She was slim and less than five feet tall, but Crusher knew that her cybernetic body weighed close to 400 pounds, and her head was her only remaining organic body part. She had a pixie face, pale complexion, dark brown eyes, and thick black hair down to her shoulders.

Tetsutenshi was dressed in her usual—all black; jumpsuit, high boots, duster, and fingerless gloves. She was carrying a plastic storage container of some sort; a sealed bag with handles.

"Duke says you're pretty durable." Her tone was flat and utterly deadpan.

Crusher blinked. "I guess so..."

"I need someone to hold this," she hefted the bag, "for 48 hours. I need it unopened and undamaged. If I don't come for it Monday morning, and you don't see me by Tuesday, pitch it in the East River."

Crusher blinked again. Recovering, he glanced at the bag. "Uh, OK. Hold the bag." He frowned, making a connection. "How durable do I need to be?"

Tetsuteshi raised an eyebrow, "You can take a bullet, can't you?"

Crusher snorted. "Ah. OK, How much?"

Reaching into a pocket of her duster, Tetsutenshi rooted around for a moment before returning with a wrinkled wad of UNA dollars. "Here's something to cover expenses."

Crusher raised his eyebrows. To someone who was having trouble paying for shirts, that was quite a bit of cash. "Ya, I'll be durable for that."

"You'd better. There's more when I see you Monday." She then handed him the bag and the bucks, then vanished into the crowd at the Underground. Crusher pocketed the cash and looked over the bag. It was made of heavy plastic, reinforced with rigid walls. It was sealed, looked airtight and had handles on the top. It looked like something a hospital might use, and there were some faded text and markings on it.

Crusher had spent a lot of time in hospitals, and he'd seen bags like that before. His experience was only as subject, though, and most of the words he could make out were too technical for him. The bag wasn't new, either, but he could make out "Biohaz--" near the seal. The bag was slightly cold.

"I'm startin' to regret this," he muttered to himself. Crusher hefted the bag lightly. 15, maybe 20 pounds, he guessed. Shaking his head, he went back to glancing over the room, looking for trouble.

About five minutes later, a Japanese man in a nice suit walked up to him.

"Excuse me," he asked politely, "the Angel spoke to you?"

Crusher looked down at the man. Getting out of my depth already, he thought. "Yup."

"May I ask what you talked about?"

Crusher frowned. Zone denizens were usually much less direct when asking for information. "Why?"

"Professional curiosity. She talks to very few people."

Crusher's frown deepened and focussed on the shalkujin. "Buzz off," he growled.

The suit shoved off, pulling out a cell phone as he left. Crusher kept an eye on the man; he stood over at the bar for a few moments, talking on his phone, turned and walked out.

"Never even tried to bribe me," Crusher muttered to himself. "That shows a lack of respect." He pulled the bag out from behind him and looked at it again. "I'm really thinkin' I'll regret this," he sighed.

The crowd wasn't too rough this night, but Crusher still had to do more than prop up a corner of the bar. A sudden commotion drew his attention, and he started to make his way through the crowd toward it, only remembering to grab his bag at the last second. The crowd was dense, and as usual Crusher bumped more than his quota of people moving in; Duke seemed to have an ability to move easily through a crowd, but Crusher didn't have anything like it. Crusher's height allowed him to quickly assess the situation, though. He spotted Holger also moving towards the noise and waved him off with a nod. Doesn't look serious enough to require them both, Crusher thought.

The crowd had created a little clearing around the two people involved. Crusher recognized one of them. She was a Street Sam named Jets; pretty well known. Tough; very beautiful in a hard way. Tall and athletic. Her stance spoke of Kung Fu training; she was clearly pissed off, as her knucklespurs were out and shining. Her opponent was flipping a straight razor back and forth in one hand; the other held a large combat knife. His movement seemed to be linked to one of the military styles, perhaps UNA commando. He had a nasty smirk. A bunch of drunk friends behind him. He was big, blonde, and ripped, clearly an upgrade. Fast, by the look of him, but not top-of-the-line.

Jetsemany was dangerous, but the blonde male Cit was less predictable. Crusher's assessment took only a second, not even slowing his steps. He entered the circle and stepped between them, facing the man, with his back towards Jetsemany. "Be smart, Cit," he rumbled. "Fight's over." He held the bag out of the way in his right hand, his left hand open and to the side.

The blonde man snarled at the interruption, then blinked at the size of the apparition before him. "Get the fuck out of the way! This is between me and sweetcheeks over there."

Crusher shook his head. "Not any more, it ain't. Fight in here, you fight _me_." He smiled, balling his left hand slowly into a huge fist. "You got three options. Quiet down, or take it outside, or try something and your friends can drag out whatever I leave unbroken."

"Fuck you! You fucking slag, I got a right! I didn't do nothing—she's fucking asking for it, dressed like that. She's got blades too, what about her?"

"She gets the same choice," Crusher rumbled. "But I ain't talking to her, Cit. I'm talking to you." Behind him, Crusher heard the 'snik' of Jetsemany's knucklespurs retracting back into their sheaths. He felt, more than heard, her straighten up.

Blondie was drunk, and his friends were egging him on, but it was clear he didn't like the situation. Crusher waited, seemingly at ease, while Blondie made his decision. For a moment it looked liked the blonde man was going to back down, but then the crowd behind Blondie roared with laughter and Blondie's eyes bugged out at something behind Crusher. He snarled and rushed, slashing with the razor and stabbing low with his combat knife.

Crusher ignored the razor. His open left hand snapped down on the wrist that held the knife. Blondie barely had time to yelp as Crusher half-spun and snapped a knee up into the man's extended elbow, snapping the joint like a green twig. The knife dropped limply to the ground, but Blondie's scream of agony was cut off as Crusher's left hand closed around his throat. Without visible effort Crusher lifted the heavy man off the ground with one hand as Blondie's face turned purple and he went limp.

Crusher dropped his unconcious opponent. A glare at the man's friends was enough to see that none of them were going to try anything. Crusher checked the bag in his right hand—still OK, no damage. Then he turned around to Jetsemany.

Jetsemany finished pulling up her tight shorts and rezipping them. "Bad waistband," she smiled mischievously, "gotta get that fixed." The crowd was still whistling and hooting at her.

Crusher shook his head, then started to laugh. While his back was turned, Jets had mooned Blondie.

Jetsemany's smile grew even broader. "You're hanging out, too, Crusher." She pointed at his chest. Crusher's shirt was hanging in tatters. The razor hadn't even broken his dermal plated skin, but the white silk shirt now had a huge gaping slash across the chest.

"Shidh! Shidh, shidh, shidh," Crusher examined the ruin of another shirt. Another half-day's pay blown, and he wasn't even through the night!

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