by Mathieu Roy and Michael Surbrook

Deep within her dimly-lit office, Nabiki Tendo stared impassively at the monitor screen. Adjusting a control, she listed carefully to the audio as the images recorded by the security camera played. Occasionally she made notes, and her expression remained unchanged as the dialogue ceased and the black-haired esper cried out in pleasure from the attentions of the blue-maned Lynx.

"Interesting..." was the only comment.

"I'll get it," Marvin called out from the other end of the room. His three partners, slumped on the couch and watching TV, grunted in response, like they always did when the phone or doorbell rang. Marvin stepped quietly behind the couch, not wanting to block their view of the TV, but the delay seemed to irritate whoever was at the door, and they rang again, more insistently this time. "I'm coming!" Marvin called out, though the soundproof door wouldn't let the others hear. He flicked the switch to the external vidphone.

The person ringing at the door was a tallish blonde woman, wearing a dark man suit and, incongruously, leather cowboy boots. She was looking to her right with an irritated expression on her face, glaring at the person next to her, who was talking in a hushed, reproachful voice.

"...should have waited more, Paula. Don't be so impatient."

'Paula' rolled her eyes and sighed in exasperation, then turned to the vidphone. Marvin turned on the speakers. "May I help you?" he asked politely.

"Well, I've got my friend here..." Paula reached aside, off the angle of the camera, and pulled, almost dragging her companion to stand in front of the camera. She was a shorter young woman with a beautiful face and a cascade of black hair that gleamed even in the corridor's dim lighting. Surprised by the sudden move, she almost lost her balance but managed to get her high heels under her at the last moment. She stood there a bit, hesitating, until Paula tugged meaningfully on her long coat. The black-haired girl took the coat off, revealing a tight, low-cut black halter top that clung to a figure right out of a magazine, a short miniskirt that barely hid the top of a pair of long, sleek legs, and lots of creamy, flawless skin.

"What do you think, buddy?" Paula gently pressed the girl in the back, and she obligingly bent forward, showing the camera (and Marvin) enough cleavage to rouse a dead man. "Care to let my little friend in? She's eager for some fun."

"Uh...." Marvin said. "Look, I don't want to sound unpleasant, but I'm not sure it's a good idea..."

"Aw, come on," Paula interrupted. She slapped the hooker's rump, making her start, and grinned wolfishly. "You can't say no to this! Who's to know, anyway? Discretion's guaranteed."


"Hey, check out the hottie!" said Cesco from behind Marvin. The small, flamboyant Hispanic was the de facto leader of the little gang. Immediately the two other samurai pulled themselves out of the couch to join him and look. "You're not going to leave THAT outside are you?"

"Um, Cesco..."

"Oh, come on, what difference's it gonna make? And we've got cred to burn!" Cesco thumbed the lock and opened the door wide. "Come in, come in!"

*In da house*, Raven thought as she stepped inside the apartment. She wondered where the odd thought had come from, but shoved it away, needing all of her concentration to achieve the rump-wiggling strut Paula had coached her in without tripping on her high heels. * I pray to God they don't try to grope me...* The costume was sexy, in a loose kind of way, but Raven, especially after her recent embarrassment, really didn't like to be seen wearing this, especially by four sex-starved male samurai. *Four? Olympus said five. Maybe he's in the washroom or something.* If Paula hadn't called her a wimp when she'd tried to back out of the stupid plan they'd concocted in the plane...

The Hispanic guy did try to embrace her, but she danced away from his grasp, miraculously staying standing—or maybe the telekinetic nudge she used to prop herself up had something to do with it. "Not before you show me the cred, toreador," she said in what she hoped was a husky, seductive tone. "Paula here doesn't like..."

Her next words were lost in a crashing explosion as Paula manifested a PK blast, hurling pieces of the floor, the couch, and two samurai all about. With a smug, confident grin on her face, Paula turned to face Cesco.

The Hispanic man was surprised, but his wired reflexes kicked in, and he lashed out with an elbow strike at Paula. The blow smacked her shield with a sharp crunch. Paula riposted with a spin kick, but Cesco, faster and more agile, dodged with a spinning sidestep.

"I'm sorry, miss," Marvin said politely as he shouldered past Raven, her submachine gun trained on the blonde telekinetic. The handsome young man was so incongruously considerate that Raven actually felt guilty when she knocked him across the room with a blast of her own. "You sprung it way too early!" she called out to Paula.

"Screw it, Raven!" Paula shot back. "We can take'em!" She punctuated her words with a broad hook to Cesco's face, but the thunder was stolen when the man agilely cartwheeled away.

"Having trouble keeping up?" he taunted Paula, striking her with a lightning fast punch-knee-foot combination that knocked Paula back a step. "You may be strong, little girl, but you shouldn't mess with the real thing."

"Little girl?" Paula replied, outraged.

Raven didn't wait for the reply. She forced her power into a new pattern (dull headache—hold tight, hold tight—yes, it will hold, now go) and fired three bolts, two at the samurai already picking themselves up from Paula's first blast, and one at the door that led to the adjoining bedroom, a trick that had made Shion raise an eyebrow when she'd displayed it. The door open as the two samurai stumbled back into the wall, carpeting sheared by the bolts' aftereffects smacking on their armored vests. Raven paid them no heed and rushed into the next room.

"NOBODY calls me a little girl," Paula growled, glaring.

She hurled all she had at Cesco. The man tried to leap aside, like quicksilver—but the blast took him, the TV, the wall beyond it, and a wide swath of floor and carpeting, too much for the Hispanic to get out of the way. He whirled in the air before crashing through the wall and coming to a skidding stop when he hit the couch in the next room, much to the dismay of the current occupants, a pair of overweight businessmen.

Paula snorted and turned back to the fight. One of the samurai had recovered enough to stand and had a large-bore shotgun trained on her. She muttered.

Kicking her high heels off, Raven stormed into the bedroom, running headlong into a tall, burly black man rushing the other way. The man stumbled back, more because of Raven's shield than anything else; Raven herself was knocked back on her rump. The black man looked down at her and hesitated, no doubt taken aback by her clothing. Raven forced her power in yet another pattern, earning a short lance of sharp pain for her trouble, and slammed her fist in the man's midsection, sending him hurtling across the room. He slammed in the wall and slid down the ground, his eyes wide as if puzzled how such a slight girl could hit like a freight train. Then they closed as his mind gave up on consciousness.

Paula tapped her chest. "Come on, little guy. Gimme your best shot." The man trembled, apparently less than willing to battle the esper, especially when she was standing in the large crater she'd created with her last blast. But his smartlink and wired nerves kept the gun steady as he fired the large slugs whistling past scant inches from Paula's chest as she dodged at the last moment. "Close, but no cigar" Paula taunted as she leaped at him for a flying side kick. She heard bone crunch under her foot and the man fell, knocked out.

The rapid stacatto of a submachine gun fired at close range deafened Raven, and she felt hard impacts on her shield, just short of her left shoulder. She used their momentum to spin around, coming face to face with one of the samurai she'd blasted in the other room. She cursed herself for underestimating the man's cybernetically-enhanced resilience, but wasted no time in rearranging her power yet again. A harsh pain that slowly dulled away warned her that she was pushing her limits, but she kept her control of it and crossed her arms before her scantily-clad chest, manifesting her reflection shield. The returned bullets hit the samurai's vest with dull smacks, and the man crumpled.

Raven stepped over the fallen samurai to find Paula picking up a dazed Marvin off the ground. Raven's blindside, full-force blast had left him blinking for the duration of the short battle. The blonde turned on Raven. "Where is he?"

"He's not there." Raven tittered. "Where's my coat?"

"What?" Paula taunted. "Feeling chilly?"

Raven glowered and telekinetically lifted the coat from where Paula had left it, then quickly put it on, hiding her skimpy outfit under its concealing folds. She gingerly picked her way around the destroyed floor, wary of wooden shards that might cut her bare feet, and glanced at the hole in the wall. The fat businessmen had hastily left the room, leaving Cesco alone crumpled behind the couch. "So much for quiet," she muttered.

Paula shook Marvin. "Where is Lugard? The man you were supposed to be guarding in here?"

"I don't think I should tell you...," Marvin said almost apologetically. Paula shook him harder.

Raven approached and put a hand on Paula's arm to stop her. "Look. We're going to find out one way or the other, but I don't think Paula's going to have the patience."

Marvin frowned, then said, in his usual, polite tone, "I suppose it doesn't matter. They sent an helicopter to pick him up a few days back. I think they were going to take him to Hong Kong."

"Hong Kong?!?" Paula hurled Marvin at the wall as if he was responsible for this turn of event. Raven winced as the man slammed through the plaster, but Paula paid him no further heed. "Why the hell did they move him to fucking Hong Kong?!"

"Calm down, Paula." Raven buttoned her coat closed as she spoke. "First, we need to go back to our safe house. Then we'll call... our employer and see what they want. I know people over there if we need to go there." Raven stepped forward. "Give me your hand."

"Fucking Hong Kong..." Paula muttered just before they popped out of the room.

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