by Bryan Feir

Kristen had been close to death more often than she could really keep track of. Between the accident that killed her parents and left her badly burned, to the time in the Zone where it was a constant companion, to her work for Fantoma diving into fires... death was almost a close friend by this point.

She needed more friends, she thought as she drove away from the Jinsai Expo. At least Raven had been something of a kindred spirit in some ways, even if she couldn't help directly with the supplies problems. But to live in a world filled with enemies, you needed some friends and allies. The priests at the mission, friendly as they were, wouldn't protect her from any serious corporate assault.

Not that much could, except for another corporation. And she wasn't willing to sign her life away again just yet.

She was still ruminating on possibilities, keeping only just enough attention on the road to drive, when a soft 'ping' brought her attention back to the task at hand, and the motorcycle's computer. Obviously there was something up. She sent a couple of mental commands through the link, and an image popped up on the inside of the helmet, drawing her focus to the rear view mirror, and then to one particular car in the mirror. It was a small grey car, a Japanese import; hardly a corporate limo, but something which would be easily missed on the street. Apparently, she was being followed. She hadn't even known there was a program to check for her being followed in the computer, but obviously there was.

She pondered briefly what else might be in there she hadn't been told about, then decided to focus on the matter at hand. She took a casual right turn at the next major intersection, keeping track of the vehicle behind her. Sure enough, the grey car pulled around the corner behind her. With another mental command she turned on the radio scanner: while they probably hadn't put a bug of any sort on the motorcycle, best to check to see if she was broadcasting anyway.

Spotting her most likely means of escape, she pulled onto one of the newer elevated expressways that crossed the city. Accelerating well past the posted speed limit, Kristen started weaving quickly through the traffic, using the narrower form of the bike to get through spaces she knew her pursuers would have trouble following. She got several people blaring their horns at her, but that she could deal with. It was actually fun - the adrenaline rush, the tight reaction times, the blur of speed passing by her - moments like this when she really felt alive.

It didn't take long before the grey car was well out of sight behind her, even with the visual enhancements from the helmet. Kristen quickly pulled off at the next exit and dropped back down to city traffic speeds. No sense risking a speeding ticket if she could avoid it.

After a somewhat less eventful drive back to the mission, Kristen tucked the motorcycle out of sight in the garage, and thought back on it as she walked inside. She couldn't be sure that the car after her had anything to do with the destruction of Fantoma, of course, but it was a possibility. The fact that it showed up right after the Expo probably wasn't a coincidence in any case. Well, just one more thing to add to the list of things to worry about.

Which she could worry about later. Right now, she had dinner to help prepare.

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