By Alex Fauth, David Kuijt, and Rob Rutherford

It was Sunday, and Kami & Sandra were walking into Darkside, following a lead about where they could find Crusher. They had heard he was heading towards this Yak garage over in Darkside, and were looking for him there.

A few blocks before they reached Hollister Street, Kami and Sandra saw a huge figure ahead of them. He was wrapped in blankets and cut-up clothing, with limbs covered in muck and mud. Very unlike Crusher's usual appearance. But there could be little mistake about who it was—the long stride, broad shoulders, and seven-and-a-half foot frame wouldn't match many people.

With a smile Kami looked over at Sandra and quietly said, "I do believe we've found what we're looking for." Kami seemed to be rather relaxed about the situation.

"I haven't seen too many seven-footers around here besides our guy" Sandra replied, quietly. "It's probably him". She stood back a bit to allow Kami to advance while slowly reaching for her gun - just in case.

Crusher's feet were cold. Just a few weeks with nice boots had spoiled him; he had forgotten how much he hated cold feet. He was in a bad mood, too. Nothing could spoil his mood as easily as a good fight ruined. He was mulling over his options. Attacking the Yak wasn't a good idea—Crusher was big and tough, but he knew damn well that there was a limit on how many bullets he could stop and still keep breathing, and the Yak had many more bullets than that available. Further, it looked like the Yak were seeking out him, and sending thugs after him as well, so he didn't have to attack them; they'd come to him. That thought cheered him up a bit. Well, time to get underground—no reason to let some Yak sniper get a free bonus.

As the two women approached him, the large replicant reached a manhole in the street. He crouched down and glanced around, but Kami and Sandra were approaching from behind him, and he didn't spot them. Looping a finger into one of the holes, he easily lifted the hundred-pound cover and slid it open with a grating sound.

Kami called softly to the figure, "Crusher?"

Sandra just waited to see what happened. The last thing she wanted to do was provoke a fight with someone the size and shape of Crusher. But then, she didn't want to be unprepared if something bad happened... Which seemed to happen to her a lot.

Crusher snarled and spun, picking up the manhole cover and holding it curled in his left arm like a discus, blocking his body like a round shield.

Then he recognized the two women. "Silver?" His snarl dropped, although his eyes were still a bit wary. "Sandra? What are you two doing here?" He glanced around, as if wondering who else he had missed spotting.

"Of course it's me. Now come over here so we can talk."

Crusher glanced around the street, and then at the two women again. The dancer he knew as Silver looked different, somehow. Maybe it was the clothing; what she wore in the bar was always skimpy. But there was something else, too.

Crusher shook his head. "In the open street? Maybe you haven't heard, but I'm a bullet magnet right now. More privacy down here," he gestured to the open storm drain.

Suiting action to words, Crusher slid into the open manhole, although for a moment it looked like his huge shoulders wouldn't fit. Only his head stuck out, and a huge hand that beckoned to the two women.


"Lets go," Kami followed Crusher down the drain.

Sandra paused for a second. The thought of going down there didn't appeal to her. On the other hand, the thought of letting her job slip away from her appealed even less. "Oh well" she muttered. "Self-esteem is way ovverated anyway" and slipped down the hole after Kami.

The two women had to squeeze past Crusher on the ladder, even though he swung to the side to give them room. He smelled strongly of alcohol. Inside the storm drain smelled mostly just damp. The only light came down from the round hole above, and to eyes adjusted to daylight it was very dark. The walls were damp brickwork.

Then with a grating sound the light cut off, and it was pitch black. Crusher had slid the manhole cover back into place above them.

There was a huge thump in the darkness as Crusher jumped down beside them. "Much better, neh?" the ex-gladiator rumbled. "Let's walk as we talk, in case someone saw us enter."

In the tunnel there was no light at all. Sandra's cybereye's visual interface switched smoothly and automatically to the infrared range, but she could see that Kami was as blind as a bat down here.

Kami fiddled around in the pockets of her jumpsuit, "Damn, left the shades at home."

"Ah. Just a sec," Crusher said, realizing that the smaller woman was utterly blind in the pitch darkness. There was a snapping sound, and then a brilliant burning red light lit up the sewer. Crusher was holding a magnesium road flare. The eerie lighting cast strange shadows. They stood in a brick recess, a wide spot in the large stormdrain which led off to either side through a huge squatty oval pipe. A half-dozen holes in the walls marked the entrances of smaller drains. Rusty iron rungs led up to the closed manhole.

"This'll do, neh? Here," he handed the road flare to Kami. "C'mon." He gestured to the tunnel and led out. The pipe was quite large and nearly flat-bottomed, with only a small creek of water running in the center. Crusher didn't have to duck if he stood near the center; the women had no problem.

Kami spoke up "Oh, by the way, call me Kami, I only dance under the name Silver. Normally I'm really picky about that, but I didn't want to aggrevate the situation. I prefer for my clients to not get the wrong idea about what kind of service I offer."

Crusher glanced back at her. "Kami. Gotcha. Didn't realize that Silver was a stage name." He looked for a longer moment, taking in the small woman's more serious appearance and demeanour. "That'd explain why you look diff, neh?" He nodded.

"Exactly" Kami replied.

"So, what's up?" Crusher asked, glancing back at both women.

Sandra trudged along behind Crusher and Kami. "Oh, just the same old stuff with me." She sighed. "Drinks, trying to find work, trying to ignore the bleak misery of existance. That sort of stuff"

"Cool. Me too," Crusher laughed. "But I really meant, why were you two looking for me?"

"Well, I was wondering what you had gotten yourself into that would cause the Yakuza to go looking for you. And I don't think that its a coincidence that the Zone has turned into one massive gang war as well." Kami stated flatly. "So what's up?"

"Tetsutenshi hired me to hold a bag for her. The Yak want it. They asked politely, but I didn't give it to them, so they've been shooting and stabbing me ever since." Crusher glanced back at the two women. "Most fun I've had in weeks," he grinned.

"Glad you're enjoying it, but in case you haven't noticed, between the Yaks and the gangs, there's a small war going on. More so than usual." Kami then smirked, "I want to stop this. Any idea why the Yaks are interested in your little package?"

"They haven't said. But I doubt the package would stop the fighting anyway—I've heard that the Oyabun and a couple of his little brothers disappeared; when that happens there's always a fight."

Sandra had been facinated by the surroundings, but her ears picked up on that last comment. "Say, what's with this thing anyway? The way I hear it, half the zone's chasing it up. And the other half is busy shooting each other for it" She sighed. "It's like that damned car..."


"Ah... Nothing really" Sandra replied. "A job I did a while back. I spent ages chasing around a car... Which turned out to be down the street from where I Live"

"Ah. Well, you aren't chasing the bag, at least. Nobody but the Yak and some punk they hired has come after it, which ain't half the Zone by any means."

"So far it's just punks, what happens when some real muscle comes looking for it?" With out waiting for much of a response, "What are we gonna do about it?" Kami looked right at Crusher.

"We?" Crusher laughed and slapped her shoulder, a friendly whack that nearly knocked her over and would probably leave a bruise for a week. "It's me getting paid to carry the bag, Kami. A real street-sam job, for some real money. I ain't got a lot of that. The chance of gettin' into a real fight is just a bonus!"

"Yeah...," Sandra replied. "I'd hate to be the poor gullible sap who tries to take the bag off you" she added, looking at Crusher's imposing bulk. "Say.. Are we there yet? Wading in effluent is far from my idea of fun"

Effluent? This is a storm drain, not a sewer. It's just water. A creek under the city. Some parts of the Zone people drink and wash in it." He looked backed and grinned, "those that wash, that is."

"Yeah... but you seen what people leave lying around to get washed into the drains nowadays?" Sandra asked, not expecting an answer.

Kami wrinkled her nose "Crusher, you don't need to tell me about people not bathing, remember what I do on weekends?" Kami said with a smirk.

"Ha! Ya, the bar gets pretty rank around 3am," Crusher agreed. "But you're up on stage, it shouldn't be so bad up there."

"But Crusher, the closer I get to them, the better they tip." She said with a wink, "And I sometimes get close enough to smell their breath."

Crusher shook his head wryly without responding.

Crusher's footsteps slapped wetly as he climbed up a short stair to a landing; the two women could see they were another junction. Similar wide tunnels ran off at slight angles on both sides, and slow-moving water had replaced mud in the bottom of the tunnels.

"We're here," he said. He reached into the folds of his voluminous clothing and pulled out a Colt MkVI 10mm automatic pistol, NYPD Inc. standard-issue firearm. He waved the automatic at the iron rungs leading up into the ceiling. "Wanna get a drink?"

Kami looked at the pistol, "I see you got yourself a new toy, congrats". She turned to the wall, "Getting a drink sounds like a plan to me." Then she said with a wink, "Think they'll ID me?"

"They might," Crusher guffawed, "But it wouldn't be your age they'd be checking! But with me, they'll let you both in. C'mon."

He led the way up the iron rungs, which creaked under his weight. "Be careful where you stick that flare, Kami," he half-whispered as he disappeared into the tube above.

The street above was pitch dark and quiet. The manhole cover lifted slowly, almost silently, with a slight grating of gravel. Rather than sliding it across the pavement Crusher lifted it up from below and carefully placed it beside the hole. He scanned the street, turning to look at all angles, keeping his head low.

"Looks clear," he said in a low voice. "C'mon"

The manhole was three feet in diameter, but Crusher had to scrunch his shoulders as he popped out like a burly half-ton eel.

A quick glance above ground and it seemed safe enough. A short distance away two figures - one tall and skinny, the other short and wide, were carrying some large bundle between them. Crusher popped out of the manhole into a crouch, heavy pistol ready.

The two mismatched figures stopped and stared, jaws gaping and eyes wide at the unexpected sight of an enormous humanoid popping out of an empty street.

The two looked at the apparition and then at each other. There was a moment of silence, then they both spoke at once.

"Utmost apologies for our inadvertent transgression, just taking the night air" the tall one said.

At the same time the short and wide one was saying "Please excuse us for any discommodation or tresspass; urgent carpet delivery."

They immediately started to scurry off. Before they had gotten two paces the bundle between them twitched, and the short one smacked it soundly with a length of wood he was carrying.

Sandra had followed Crusher up the ladder and her head watched from the manhole warily. "Ummm" Sandra ummed to Kami, below her. "There appears to be a pair of very articulate men talking to our boy"

Kami looked up, then with a wicked little smile nodded, "ummm hmmm".

Crusher blinked, then snarled. Pocketing his automatic, he started to lope towards the pair. The two glanced back at him, then at each other.

"Encumbered as we are, Mr. Muttley, a confrontation with yon large fellow is imminent," the thin one panted.

"We are of one mind, Mr. Spratt. And I cannot avoid the suspicion that we would be ill-served to attempt fisticuffs against such a gargantuan specimen."

"Discretion, Mr. Muttley?"

"Exactly, Mr. Spratt."

With one motion the two dropped the bundle and ran like the wind.

The bundle thudded to the ground and unrolled slightly.

Sandra stood there, blinking, unable to believe what she had heard. "Just when I thought humanity couldn't get any stupider"

Crusher stopped at the bundle. He watched the two run off for a second, but they showed no sign of turning around, and in fact were putting on a pretty astonishing turn of speed.

Sandra popped out of the hole, watching the two leave. She didn't care much for chasing them right now; they seemed harmless enough. Besides, they were kind of funny. "Any idea who those two were?" She asked Crusher. Crusher shook his head.

"That's Mutt and Jeff," Kami said. She had followed Sandra up the ladder and now she replaced the manhole cover, showing unexpected strength. She had recognized Muttley and Spratt, even running away full-tilt. "I wouldn't say they were that stupid, I've found a lot of people here in the zone aren't quite as stupid as they appear to be."

There was a low thunk as the manhole cover slipped into place. "Those two, never turn your back on either of them." A sly grin came over Kami's face as she muttered ,"need to check and see if there's a contract out on them. Hell of course there's a contract, how much does it pay". She shook her head. "On them, probably not enough to be worth the effort."

Crusher unrolled the carpet. It was soaked with fresh blood. Inside was a young Japanese man wearing nice clothing, now soaked with blood. He had been shot several times, tearing the clothing and exposing a light armoured vest that hadn't been enough to stop the bullets, and was now badly holed.

"Still breathin'," Crusher said. "Not for long, though. He's running a couple'a quarts low." He glanced up, but the mismatched pair who had been carrying the carpet were out of sight.

"Yakuza," Sandra said, pointing to the lapel pin on his expensive suit and the tattoos visible under his ripped shirt.

Crusher shrugged, not contesting the identification. "Ain't gonna matter long," he said. He picked up the carpet-wrapped body carefully and took it to the side of a building, where the raised concrete stairs blocked the chill wind. There Crusher put him down gently and crouched down beside him.

Crusher glanced up, then his eyes swept the street, but all was quiet. "Don't care so much who he was," Crusher said gruffly. "Nobody ought'a have ta die alone."

Kami replied "No problem Crusher. You take care of him and I'll keep an eye out. Sandra?"

"Yeah... Sure" Sandra replied, still unnerved.

"You OK?" Kami asked curiously. She seemed to be quite calm about the situation, a relaxed indifference to the man who lay dying only a few feet from her.

"I'm fine. Really" Sandra replied. "OK... no I'm not."

"It's okay." Kami reached out to put her arm around Sandra.

"Damn..." Sandra muttered. "It's not like I haven't seen someone die in front of me before.."

Kami gently pulled Sandra next to her.

Crusher looked up at Sandra from his deathwatch, but he didn't ask anything.

It wasn't more than a few minutes before the thin wisp of breath coming from the young man's lips faded and disappeared. Crusher waited a few moments, then closed the man's eyes with strangely gentle fingers.

"Let's get going before some of his bodies come by and blame us for perforating him," Crusher said.

"Exactly." "So Crusher, ready for those drinks." Kami beamed.

Crusher stood up and gave her a half-smile, although he was still watching the alleys and rooflines. "Not far, Kami. Couple'a blocks."

Some distance away, Muttley and Spratt leaned against a rusty telephone pole, panting.

"Do you discern any evidence our peripatetic effort has failed of its aim, Mr. Spratt?" Muttley panted.

"None at all, Mr. Muttley," Spratt gasped in reply. "Our athletic endeavour appears to have discouraged any pursuit."

"That is just as well, Mr. Spratt; for as doughty as we are, I expect a violent interaction with that extraordinarily large individual would have yielded no good result."

"You are perspicacious as ever, Mr. Muttley. In fact, I believe that selfsame individual is the one rumoured to have but recently retired from televised gladiatorial combat. Even our significant combat skills might have been insufficient against such as he!"

"Then our decision in favour of caution is entirely to the positive," Muttley responded. "Although I'm sure we could have rendered him hors-du-combat, likely minor injury would have resulted to ourselves."

"That is so, Mr. Muttley," Spratt said gloomily. "And we would have no significant chance of monetary gain thereby."

"Say not so, Mr. Spratt," Muttley said, his voice turning cheerful. "Did we not hear just yester-eve that information regarding a certain large combat-model replicant was greatly desired by a certain Oriental business association? A business association currently undergoing a little internal upheaval?"

Spratt perked up. "Your cogitation manifests itself to me, Mr. Muttley! Perhaps we can garner fiduciary advantage as recompense for providing spatial location information on the very same pugnacious replicant!

"Exactly, Mr. Spratt! We can overcome the little contretemps of our loss of a certain laden carpet by serving as an information source for the Yakuza; giving them a little tip..."

"Said tip worthy of substantive renumeration..."

Crusher, Kami, and Sandra walked a few blocks. This part of the Zone was largely unpopulated, sort of a border zone between the wealth and bright lights of the Entertainment District (or at least, what passed for wealth and bright lights in the Zone), and the grim squalour of Darkside, where getting mugged in an alley meant more than losing a wallet; you could as easily have a couple of organleggers steal your kidney without anesthesia.

The two women followed Crusher as he turned down a street. It had once been residential, with two facing lines of three-story row houses. Now it looked entirely abandoned. It was in worse shape than many streets, in fact—to the women's experienced eyes it had clearly been involved in some major streetfighting some time ago. Not a window survived, and heavy caliber bullet holes pockmarked the stone facades. Some larger holes gaped as well. But the street certainly seemed quiet now.

Kami looked up at the bullet marked building, she then looked up at Crusher, "Crusher, you wouldn't happen to be taking us to the Vat would you?" She knew that most if not all bars and clubs in the zone had seem a fair amount of action, few if any had seen the violence the Vat had, and none if any that were still around were in darkside.

Crusher's teeth flashed. "Yup." He glanced down at the petite young woman. "No Yak there, and Duke wouldn't like it if I brought trouble to '93 Underground, and there's no weapons-check either." Then he smiled even wider. "Besides, the Vat's got good beer."

"Good beer?" Kami eyed Crusher suspiciously.

Crusher nodded with a smile. "Really good homebrew."

"Great. I could use one" Sandra flatly stated as she trudged along behind him.

"We're here," Crusher said, making his way down a front stair to a basement door. The door had been repainted many times, and looked old, beat-up, and very, very solid. The building itself was boarded up. There were no lights, even though it was now past dusk.

"Stick close to me," Crusher said, "at least until everyone knows you're with me." He knocked on the door. After a moment a metal slot high in the door slid open. A pair of eyes looked down on them, glancing at Crusher and the two women. Then the slot slid shut and there was a metallic thud behind the door.

Crusher opened the door for the two women.

Inside the door was the most enormous, ugliest humanoid either woman had ever seen. His face and body were distorted and ugly, with thick brows and protruding jaw, a battered face. His skin was pallid and jaundiced, yellowish and liver-spotted, covered with a network of varicose veins. He smelled bad. He stood a head taller than Crusher. His arms were like gnarled tree-trunks; his wrists were probably larger than Kami's waist. As huge as Crusher was, this neckless gargantuan made Crusher seem petite.

Crusher spoke to the leviathan. "Troll, this is Kami and Sandra," he said. "They're friends of mine." The huge man looked down at the two for a long moment. His eyes were yellowish, unhealthy looking; they seemed tiny and sunken inside the huge skull. Troll nodded without speaking.

"Um... Hi" Sandra replied, quietly. She was a bit put off by the sight of Troll. Next to him, Crusher (by far the least "Normal" looking replicant she'd ever seen) looked like another face in the crowd.

Kami smiled and nodded to Troll. Troll nodded; it was hard to guess what was going on behind those huge yellowish eyes.

Crusher led them past Troll into the large room beyond the tight entryway. The walls were cinderblock and concrete; there was a small raised area that served for a stage, a bunch of booths, some tables, and a bar. Even though the place looked seriously used, it also looked much cleaner than the women might have expected.

Crusher led them to the bar, where he slapped wrists with the bartender.


"Hoi, Crusher. I hear you're hot right now." Roy was a big man too, about six and a half feet or a bit more, strongly muscled. He had white-blond hair and was very handsome in a rugged way. His pale eyes and whitish hair made it hard to tell his age, but something indefinable made him seem a little old, like a movie-star or athlete just slightly past his prime.

"I'm having fun with it, too," Crusher laughed. "Roy, these are two nat friends of mine, Kami and Sandra. Kami, Sandra, this is Roy."

Kami smiled, "Pleased to meet you Roy."

"Hey" Sandra replied, taking a seat, trying not to think about the whole situation.

Roy glanced over the two women, taking in Sandra's scars and Kami's confident air. "Pleased to meet both of you ladies," he smiled, charming, but clearly not hitting on them.

"Is Cook in, Roy?" Crusher asked. Roy nodded. "Good. Then lemme have about a dozen burgers, some fried chicken, and a bucket of fries. Plus a fifth of vodka, a fifth of whiskey, and a couple of pitchers of beer." He slapped a roll of creds on the bar. "I'm flush, so let me get even on my tab, while I've got the dough."

Roy nodded. "Sure, Crusher." His eyes switched to the two women and he smiled warmly. "And what would you ladies like?"

Kami piped up, "I'd like a beer"

"I'll have a burger and a beer" Sandra replied, trying hard to relax.

"Actually count me in for a burger too." Kami then hopped up on a seat next to Sandra.

"I'm buyin', Roy," Crusher said to Roy's back as the barkeep went through a door into the back. Roy waved in response.

Crusher turned around, surveying the regulars. There were some stares, both curious and hostile, directed at the two women, but the hostile eyes quickly dropped under the weight of Crusher's glare.

"Don't mind them," Crusher said as Roy came back out and started pouring the beers. "Not a lot of nats come in here. Some of the guys sorta think that there shouldn't be any at all."

Roy passed the two women large mugs of beer, and put two pitchers in front of Crusher. Crusher drank half of one pitcher in one long, sustained gulp, then chased it with some vodka from one of the bottles Roy put down. The bottle was unlabelled, clearly homebrew.

"This is good," Kami said, downing half the mug before it hit the table.

The bar was in the stage half-way between full and empty, where there are still seats at booths, but it isn't quiet; too loud for quiet talk, but not too loud for talk. Kami and Sandra had never seen so many replicants in one place before. Half the people in the bar looked no different from most on the street; the other half varied from stunning to bizarre.

A purple-haired Lynx wiped the counter, moving deftly in spite of missing her left arm above the elbow. She smiled warmly at Kami and Sandra before moving off.

"Kami, Crusher!" The unexpected voice game from behind them. They turned to see Sylvie, senior waitress (and major attraction) of 93 Underground. She was wearing a bulky overcoat with hood, although the hood was thrown back right now. "Can't talk, gotta go—I'm on shift soon." She gave Kami and Crusher each a quick peck on the cheek and smiled at Sandra.

Kami responded with a soft smile and said "Hiya Silvie, take care" as Sylvie headed for the door, flipping up her hood as she left. As Sylvie was leaving a wicked little grin came over Kami.

"OK, I'll bite. What's up with you?" Sandra asked, noting Kami's reaction.

"What's up with moi?" Kami gave a rather unbelievable innocent look. "Nothing serious, but perhaps interesting. We can discuss it later, if you're curious." Kami as if she was trying to hold back a giggle, "Or I might just surprise you sooner if the mood strikes me."

The food was quite good when it arrived. The Soyburgers weren't bad at all, and the fries and pickles were excellent. For a while the sound of munching replaced that of conversation.

"Umm... Kami?" Sandra quietly asked. "There's something I think I need to mention to you... But not right here. It's to do with our boy."

Crusher raised an eyebrow as he ate his fourth burger in two large bites, but didn't ask anything.

It took Crusher more than an hour to eat his way through the huge pile of food he had amassed. The two women had never seen so much food disappear into one mouth before.

"Youch, that was a lot of food," Kami said. "I eat about that much in a week, and I have a healthy appetite for someone my size."

Crusher shrugged, slightly abashed. "I just get hungry sometimes, ya know?"

"Uhh yeah"

"Ah, that hit the spot," Crusher said contentedly as he finished picking over the last plate of barbeque ribs. He rolled the the empty pitcher in his huge hands for a moment, then glanced over at the two women. They had finished their beers long since; it was several hours since they had arrived. "Well, you two ready to leave?"

"Mind I, get a little cleaned up a little before we leave?" Kami asked.

Crusher shrugged and raised his eyebrows, as if a litte uncertain how to respond, but Roy gestured to a passage at the side of the room. "Washrooms are down that way, Kami."

"Thanks." Kami stood up and looked over at Sandra.

Sandra stood up. "Thanks, Roy." The two women headed off towards the restrooms.

Once in the restroom, "Ok Sandra, what's up?" She had a very soft smile.

"Okay... It's confessional time" Sandra guiltily said as she stared at the wall. "I was hired by someone to retrieve Crusher's bag from him. But I've kinda gone back on that... So I'm likely to get shot at. A lot"

"Looks like you might be in a bit of trouble." Kami noted "If it's not too personal a question, who hired you, and how much money did they front?"

"The Yaks and not enough" She replied quietly.

"Yeah, well we're going to have to do something about that." Kami sighed "I don't want my friends to get a bad rep for going back on deals." She then looked in Sandra's eyes and smiled.

"Thanks," Sandra replied. "I just couldn't go through with it whan I found out who was carrying the bag... And not just out of concern for my own health."

"Good for you." Kami reached out and put her hand on Sandra's shoulder, "You just need to be more careful about the contracts you take from now on."

When the two women returned, Crusher nodded and glanced over at Roy.

"Hey Roy, we'll go out by the cans, OK?"

"Gotcha, Crusher," Roy said. "Wave when you get there, I'll hit the lock." Roy smiled at Kami and Sandra. "Nice meeting you ladies."

"Nice to meet you too Roy," Kami said

"Yeah... See ya" Sandra added, still a bit distracted.

Crusher took them down a hall past the washrooms to another heavy door. There was a video pickup above the door. Crusher waved at it and a moment later there was a loud "thunk" sound from the door. Crusher pulled out his pistol as pushed on the door and went out.

The door was another basement exit into a protected stairwell. Crusher stayed low and in the shadows, looking up and down the street.

"Looks safe enough," he said. The street was to the side of the one they had entered on, and all was quiet.

"So where too now, Kami, Sandra?" Crusher put away his heavy automatic as they climbed up the stairs to the street and walked away. "We could go bug Duke for a bit, or ..."

Half a block away a well-dressed oriental man flipped open his cellphone.


*** spotted him! He's come out some other way, and he's walking down 135th. ***

<Crap!> the man cursed, but that was why he had put out the spotters in the first place. <Keep under cover! We'll be there in three minutes...>

*** there are two women with him, too ***

The man shook his head. <Makes no difference.> He stepped out into the street and whistled. From a dozen hiding places in front of the bar more Yak soldiers appeared, listening intently as he gave curt orders. Then they ran for their bikes.

The trio had barely gotten fifty yards when Sandra tilted her head to the side, her expression suddenly intent. "Shush!"

Kami did the same, and her eyes widened. "I would recomend making ourselves scarce," she said, looking at Crusher and Sandra.

"That... that sounds like the best plan at the moment" Sandra replied.

Crusher frowned, straining to hear, but then he too heard the sound. Motorbikes. Lots of them. "Shidh! Ain't likely that's coincidence, neh?" He started jogging down the street, looking around. "Fast decision time, ladies—run, fight, or hide?"

At that point the noise redoubled as the first bikes came gunning around the corner a block behind them. More followed; nearly a dozen in all, some carrying tandem. They zoomed straight for the trio.

"OK, forget hide," Crusher yelled. "Run!"

Sandra was no slouch running, but Crusher's long legs quickly outpaced her. Kami was even faster still, although taking three strides to his one! Crusher glanced back over his shoulder and saw Sandra falling behind. Before she could say anything a huge hand had scooped her up and she was facing backward over his shoulder. She wasn't a small girl, but her weight didn't seem to affect Crusher in the least.

Crusher's shoulder was about as soft and comfortable as a boulder. A boulder, in this case, that was galloping along at full tilt, slamming into her abdomen with every stride, nearly knocking the breath out of her. And worst of all, she had a really good view of the bikes chasing them.

Her professional glance immediately identified them as Yakuza. They were waving some nasty weapons, hooting and hollering. A couple were whipping chains with something nasty at the end; one had a katana. One in the back even had some sort of a lance or a spear. Only a moment was enough to show Sandra that there was absolutely no way they were going to get to cover before the bikes were on them.

"CRUSHER!" Sandra shouted, trying to get his attention. "Those guys are gonna be on us REEEEEL soon. I suggest you put me down and we do something about them"

Crusher slid to a stop, hefting Sandra off his shoulder with a push that landed her on her feet a few paces farther on. Then he turned and took a few paces towards the bikes, getting some room to operate. He stood crouched, knees bent, arms up and hands spread, like a tiger ready to spring.

Sandra quickly looked around for anything that might provide her with some cover as she drew her SMG.

It was a typical Zone street. Medium width, rowhouses down each side. Trees and overgrowth in the small front yards. A few widely scattered car wrecks, stripped down to their frames. The street was cracked and battered from the weather. Buildings are missing windows, and doors, a few have collapsed or are simple shells.

But basically, they were out in the open. "Why do we always seem to get into situations like this?" she asked no-one in particular.

The flood of bikers swept down on Crusher, splitting to pass him on both sides. A katana swept at his neck in a flash of moonsilver, but missed as he ducked smoothly under it, eyes fixed on the second biker. The second biker, coming in on the other side, was whipping some nasty ninja chain weapon through the air. Crusher's dermal-plated forearm blocked the chain's path and it instantly snapped around, winding tight, the bladed weight at the end drawing a spurt of blood as it hit. The next instant the biker was screaming in horror—the chain weapon hadn't been loose, but was hooked to his belt somehow. The Yak was yanked off his bike in a circle as the chain drew taut. Crusher braced himself like a man doing a hammer-throw, swinging his human pendulum around... into the path of the next bike passing him on the other side. The chain nearly cut the second rider in half; the impact at the end of the chain yanked Crusher off his feet.

A pair of bikers that had passed Crusher zoomed for Sandra. She leaped to one side, firing as she went. The smartgun link gave her phenomenal accuracy even firing on the run, allowing her to land several hits on the the first biker. He dropped off his bike, dropping his Katana as he went. The bike skidded further on its side and then flipped and crashed.

Sandra picked herself up as the second one went past, firing at the rider from behind. He swerved, turned at a sharp angle, and went full-speed into a brick wall.

Two more bikes zoomed past her and continued onwards towards Kami.

Crusher regained his feet in time for the last bike. This was a tandem rig, with a raised back seat. The guy in the back seat had a naginata; a Japanese polearm with a vicious blade on the end of a long handle. Nasty, at the speed the bike was going it could chop a man in two, and badly hurt Crusher even with his dermal plating. Crusher's arm was still wrapped in the chain, and the stainless steel links hadn't snapped. He was chained to the mess of bodies and bike he had created. As the tandem bike came zooming in he pulled on the chain, trying to see how much slack he had.

The Yak laughed as they saw he was chained, and swerved closer. Crusher dove under the slice of the naginata, rolling in front of the bike to its other side. The chain yanked taut again, flipping the bike, too fast for the Yakuza to scream.

This time the impact snapped the chain. Crusher stood, working his abused shoulder. Neither Yak was moving where they had landed. The driver might still be alive, but the one with the naginata hadn't been wearing a helmet, and he'd left his brains across five yards of street.

The ones who made it past Crusher and Sandra received a shock. Two of them closed in on Kami, their fleeing victim. Suddenly the hunters became the hunted, as she swung around to face them. She drew both her Zeta and her Desert Eagle and rapid-fired two shots from each pistol into the chests of her flanking attackers, causing their chests to explode out their back. Bodies and bikes skidded past Kami leaving a smear of oil and blood on the asphalt.

With a smoking pistol in each hand she began to walk back to Crusher and Sandra. Her face was almost expressionless except for the gleam in her eye that marked her as a true street sam. It was obvious the young street sam had simply decided to start killing yaks.

"You know, we could start a good little used bike buisiness off this" Sandra muttered.

Crusher laughed as he unwrapped the chain from his arm. "Used bikes; slightly bloodstained!"

The street was a tangle of wrecked bikes and dead or dying bikers. Another half-dozen Yak sat on their bikes up the street in stunned silence. A full dozen more zoomed around the corner at the other end of the street and coasted to a stop, stunned at the carnage. There was a moment of silence.

Then one man stood up on his bike and yelled "Gun them!" Every Yak pulled out a gun and started firing.

"Woooooah-SHIT!!!" Crusher scooped up Sandra and dove for the cover of one of the fallen bikes, putting his body between her and the onslaught at their end of the street. SMGs, shotguns, and automatic rifles opened up indiscriminately, hosing down the street with lead.

Bullets hit the bikes, the fallen soldiers, the street, everything.

Sandra squawked as she was picked up like a toy and pulled down behind Crusher. He landed on his side, taking the brunt of the impact on his shoulder as they hit the pavement together. They were face to face lying down.

"Use me as cover," Crusher bellowed, pulling out his heavy pistol with his right hand and curling his left arm around his head as the hail of gunfire spattered around him. As big as he was, his body started jerking as bullets hit his back. Sandra knew that Crusher's armourcloth duster was piss-poor protection against that many bullets, but it was better than anything _she_ had. Crusher remained on his side and started firing up the street at the dozen or so Yak closer to Kami, leaving the ones at their end of the street for Sandra. He was cursing a blue streak, every jerk of impact drawing another curse from him.

Sandra stuck her head and gun around Crusher's protective bulk. She didn't quite yet know what to make of this, but she was at least thankful for the cover. There were six guys down their end of the street, armed and dangerous and firing as fast as they could pull the triggers. Sandra's gun spat a burst at two of them. With her cyberlink she had the huge advantage in a gunfight like this, and both her targets dropped.

Unlike the dozen or Yaks at the other end of the street these Yaks were facing a prefessional gunfighter. She wasn't fighting so much for her own life, but fighting to take theirs. It was an odd mind set, but one that let her act out of training rather than react from fear or panic. Most people they would have thought Kami was simply evading the Yakuza gunfire. But in reality she was taking time to change the clip in her Desert Eagle, and more importantly watch the Yakuza blaze away, and get their timing down. She then stood up and opend fire with both pistols. Her shots sounded like a magnum machine gun, this time firing 2 shots from each pistol, and killing or wounding all 4 targets. She then cut loose with another volley at the ones who were trying to bring their guns to bear on her, where she succeed in dropping another 4 yakuza. Eight Yaks were dead, and the standing ones had yet to react. Sure there were plenty of Sams who could do exactly the same thing, but Kami did it in a way that made her exceptional, she didn't use a smart gun!

Crusher was facing Kami's end of the street, blasting away. His accuracy was nowhere near up to the standard of the two women, but the hail of bullets from his Colt took out one Yak, then another. Facing the other way, using Crusher for cover, Sandra ducked back under a fresh spate of fire then popped out again dropping another pair of Yakuza soldiers with another short burst. Her gun clattered on empty as the last bullets left the magazine.

"Fornicate" she swore, loudly.

"You out?" Crusher roared. Sandra nodded, thinking she was going to end up deaf if Crusher kept yelling in her ear like that.

"Here, take this," he handed her his pistol. It was a Colt MkVI 10mm automatic, 16 round magazine. Standard issue sidearm for NYPD Inc, it was as familiar to her as the back of her hand. "Gotta be a handful of bullets left in it," he yelled. "I'll distract them. Cover me!"

With that Crusher staggered to his feet and let loose an amazing bellow of fury. He started towards the two remaining Yak. Trotting at first, he grabbed up a fallen bike and swung it over his head as he broke into an earth-shaking run straight towards them.

Sandra drew a bead on the first guy and fired... and promptly missed. Crusher's pistol had no Cyberlink interface. "Crap" she swore. "I didn't realize I'd be so useless without it"

With a huge replicant running at them swinging a quarter-ton motorbike two-handed like it was a foam pillow, the two Yak had stopped firing at Sandra. One squeezed off a burst from his AK-97, too early, then the magazine was empty. He cursed, fumbling for more ammo or another gun.

The other Yak was the one who had commanded the attack, and he was a cool customer. He had some huge pistol, a S&W AP perhaps, and he knew he was only going to get one shot. He drew a bead on the oncoming replicant, waited, waited, ... then squeezed off his shot.

He'd waited too long, as he fired just after Crusher launched the motorbike two-handed with all his running momentum, like a side-out in soccer. The Yak barely had time to scream before the flying motorbike smashed him back and down in ruin.

But the motorbike had barely left Crusher's hands when the Yak's well-aimed bullet hit. Crusher's head rocked back on his shoulders; Sandra saw the spray of blood from his forehead. The huge replicant staggered back and fell to one knee.

The last Yak had dropped his empty AK-97; now he pulled out a rather large combat shotgun. As he raised it to blast Crusher, Sandra took aim more carefully and hit him with a single round from the 10mm. The Yak soldier dropped to the ground in a rather bloody mess.

Crusher collapsed to the pavement.

Only two Yakuza were standing of the twelve that started at Kami's end of the street. Even with her exceptional speed and skill she decided to avoid the remaining two yakuza, she had been in one place far too long. She gracefully avoided the fire from the remaining two targets, almost as if they were in slow motion. They probably hadn't realized what happened to their friends. When she got her timing back she attacked again, firing four more times, hitting the last two standing targets squarely in the chest. And punching holes in the chests of two other Yakuza who weren't quite motionless enough for her taste. Another wounded Yak tried to get up and she put the last .50 slug in her Desert Eagle through the side of his head, splattering it across the body of one of his dead comrades. She casually changed the clips in both her pistols and turned to see how Crusher and Sandra were doing, just in time to see Crusher fall. Kami holstered her pistols as she bolted over to Crusher and Sandra.

Sandra ran over to Crusher's collapsed bulk. He looked terrible. His head was a mass of blood; he was lyting in a pool of it. His hands were twitching, but Sandra had seen enough wounds to know that didn't necessarily mean anything. She desperately checked the big guy for injuries, scared stiff about what might have just happened to him. "Not now... not now..." She muttered.

His back was shiny and wet. Her hand came away red with sticky blood. There was no way to tell how many hits he had taken acting as her cover. Sandra tried to roll him over on his back. "Crap, he weighs a TON!" She nearly gave herself a hernia, but she managed to roll him over.

Kami came running up just a Sandra was getting Crusher rolled over. "How is he?"

Crusher's eyes twitched; they rolled in separate directions for a moment.

"Shit," he said in a blurry voice, "Godda headache."

"Damn you're lucky! Think you're gonna be okay?" She was standing peering over the two of them.

"A'm fine," Crusher said blearily, trying to get up. He nearly knocked over Sandra with one flailing arm before finding where the ground was. "'S'nuttin. Concush... concosh, concussion." His head was a bloody mess. "Wassup? Fight, wassup wit' fight?" He tried to stand up, but couldn't get his arm underneath him correctly. When he finally stood he staggered like a drunken man for a moment.

Kami watched Crusher stumble for a whole only a second before grabbing his arm in a vise-like grip and steadying him. She might not have been able to carry him, but it was also quickly became apparent that he wasn't going to be to fall over and crush her either. "Come on big guy, let's at least get you out of Darkside, and some medical attention."

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