by Dustin Evermore and Alex Fauth

Sandra sat up on her bed, intently studying her toenails while waiting for the guy at the other end of the phone to pick up. After a short eternity of hold music, the man on the other end answered. "Chief Inspector Davies, how can I bilk you?"

"Shut up, Alan" she replied. "It got old long ago"

"I love you too" Alan Davies replied. "So what can I do for you this lovely morning, Sandra?"

"I'm looking for a woman-" she began, but was cut off.

"So you decided to go over to the Dark Side, huh?" Alan interjected. "Hey, I'm an open minded guy. I have no problems with that, just as long as I can watch."

There was a pause. "Alan, I am about to crawl down the phone and throttle you. Any last requests?"

"Sorry" He relied without a hint of sincerity. "So what can I do for you?"

"I'm looking for a girl called Athena Stone. It's for a job I'm doing"

"Athena? Did her parents do drugs?" Alan replied nonchalantly.

Sandra thought about Drake for a second. "Quite possibly"

"Got any details?" Alan asked, trying to show some hint of professionalism, and failing.

"Yeah, she's an IC 1 female, dark brown hair, green eyes, dark complexion, late teens or early twenties." Sandra replied, her description sounding like a police sighting.

"And I take it this girl is somewhere where it's hard to find people?"

"The Zone"

"It can be done" Alan replied. "But it will cost ya a lot"

"I'll address it to the retirement fund" She finished, then hung up. If she could find Athena, it'd be worth putting up with Alan, his jibes, his innuendoes and his dreaded retirement fund. If she could find her. If she wasn't dead or anything like that. If she wanted to be found.

"No point in getting depressed about it" She said to herself. Alan would probably return something, no matter how useless, if it meant a little bit of money. All she had to do now was wait to get a response out of him and plan her next move. Then, much to her surprise, the phone rang again. "Already? Alan must want the retirement bonus" She picked up the phone, ready for Alan's next barb. "Hello?"

"Heh... Help." the voice at the other end of the phone struggled.

"Who is this?" She asked, nervously.

"Sandra... Help me..."

"Drake?" No response. "Drake? Drake?!" Still nothing.

Crap. Something had happened to Drake. Something bad. She leapt off the bed, grabbing her armored combat suit. Something terrible she thought as she hurriedly put it on, then hunted around for her boots, guns and ammo. "Tool." She swore. "I spend a great night with someone and he ends up dead on the street. I should have seen it coming." After checking she had all she needed, hurried from the apartment.

Upon reaching the street, she realized that there was one problem with her plan. She had no idea where Drake was. For all she knew, he could be anywhere. "Tool." A big problem. "Let's think about this..." she muttered. "He called me for help, so he must have figured that I could get to him. That means he's in the zone somewhere." That narrowed it down, but was still no help. "He didn't say anything..." Then she heard a noise overhead.

A Skyrunner buzzed low over several buildings, before disappearing out of sight to the west. "The hell?" A Skyrunner going over the zone would be rare. This one had just left the ground, meaning that it had touched down somewhere in the Zone, which was more unusual still. No one in the Zone could call down one of those, save for some poor corp flunky who had gotten in out of his depth.

"No... This makes no sense" Unless... Could Drake have been doing something, and it had gone Horribly Wrong? Could he have been involved in some corp action (She assumed that like herself, he was a Street Sam from what he had said in the club) and it had backfired, forcing someone to take a hasty retreat?

"It's a start" She muttered. Quickly getting her bearings, Sandra realized one more thing. The Skyhopper had appeared from somewhere near the address Drake had given her. The place where he lived... Tool. Tool tool tool. Tool.

She broke into a quick run, trying to figure out the quickest way over there. She'd thought about going there once or twice, but never bothered thinking it out in full. A part of her had avoided thinking about it from the fear that Something Bad might happen. Well, it had regardless.

Sandra's cybernetically enhanced muscles allowed her to run further and longer than a normal human would have, but she was still tired by the time she reached the right street. Pausing for breath, she scanned the street. It was oddly empty. Some enterprising soul had set up a Soya-Dog stand, only to leave it abandoned on the footpath. People nervously peered out of windows. Something had happened here. Violence. Shooting. Explosions. Bad stuff. Tool. Drake had gotten himself into something bad. However, there was no sign of him.

Then something caught her eyes. It was a strangely innocuous sight, being a relatively intact phone booth. There were a number of intact booths in the Zone; even though they weren't connected to anything, they still served as a handy public shelter and occasionally urinal. Drake could have crawled into it to take cover from whatever was going on.

She sprinted over to the booth. Looking into it from the other side, she was both relived and horrified to see Drake. Relieved because she ahd found him. Horrified because of the state he was in. Covered with blood, his neck bruised, and the side of his head punctured with a bullet wound. "Tool. What have you gotten yourself into?" She looked around. Still no one around besides them. Right. Time to make a mad dash for Drake's place. She picked him up and threw him over her back, hoping that he didn't have any spinal injuries. Giving the street a final furtive once-over, she dashed from the box. Drake was slightly heavier than a normal human, thanks to his cybernetics. However, Sandra's own systems made her significantly stronger than a normal human; it was more then enough to reach Drake's place without tiring. She roughly shoved the door open, arriving in the decrepit foyer of the building.

"Of course he has a room on the upper floor" she sighed. After a brief pause to check that she wasn't being followed, Sandra charged up the stairs. She sighted the room and, after apologizing quietly to Drake, kicked the door in. She quickly walked over to the bed and dumped Drake on it. "Still alive" She muttered. "It's a start".

Of course, the question was what to do now. Sandra had no first aid training. She could bandage some of his wounds, but that was it. With no help, and the bumps he'd taken from being hauled around by her, he'd probably not last too much longer. "Right... doctor. I need a doctor." She knew that calling a hospital was pointless; no hospital would send an Ambulance over to the Zone. "Okay... Streetdoc. There's got to be one handy" She picked up her phone and hammered the number of the nearest Doc she knew. A pause. Dial tone. Answering machine. Damn.

She knew one or two other Street Docs... She could take him to them... But he might not last the trip. And she didn't want to run the risk of bumping into whatever had done this to him in the first place. "Right..." She grabbed his mobile. Maybe he'd have an emergency contact number programmed into it. "Contact number, contact number... OK" There was only a single number programmed in. Desperately, she thumbed it. A second later, her own phone rang. "Never mind" She canceled the call. Her own phone stopped ringing.

"OK... So much for that." She paced across the small apartment. "What now..." She looked at Drake. "I guess he'd take it as an invasion of privacy. On the other hand, Drake might just live to get mad with her. She balanced the consequences, and then reached for Drake's wallet. "There's got to be something in here to help me out..."

She opened the wallet and went straight for the cards. Her eyes bulged out in surprise. A concealed weapons permit for one "Jason Stone," with Drake's picture on it. It was sitting next to an international driver's license, also for Jason Stone and also with his picture on it. Several credit cards, all to Jason Stone, all very expensive looking. And... A SynthTech corporate ID card, also for Jason Stone.

"Who is this guy?" Sandra asked herself. The cards looked genuine. Either Drake knew a very, very good forger, or he was actually an employee of SynthTech. A very well paid employee at that, she noted. "And he conveniently failed to mention it to me. Great"

Evil thoughts briefly crossed through Sandra's mind, then she dismissed them. She was a human being, after all. She tried to think of herself as the kind of person who did at least passably decent things. She picked up her phone, and dialed the number for SynthTech. As much as she felt like hating Drake, er Jason, or whoever for failing to admit everything to her when she'd told him everything, she didn't want to see him expire messily in front of her. And there might yet be a reward for saving his life.

"Good morning, welcome to SynthTech. How can I help you?" came the cheery female voice on the other end of the phone.

"Hi, um... I'm with an employee of yours, a guy called Jason Stone. He's, ah, kind of bleeding to death on the floor here" She replied, kind of thrown as to what to say in this situation.

"Er.... Just one second" the receptionist replied, then put her on hold. There was a pause before the phone was picked up again.

"This is Dr Ogura" a professional-sounding woman's voice on the other end of the phone replied. "What's going on over there?"

"Look... Jason Stone, whoever he is, has gotten himself into some sort of a fight." She carefully eyed Drake's body. "He's suffered multiple severe injuries including a gunshot to the head. He's dying over here"

"I see" she replied. "And where is he?" Sandra gave the address of the apartment. "Good. Stay right there with him. I'll be along shortly" She hung up.

"Thanks" Sandra replied.

A few minutes later, Sandra heard the faint sound of approaching jet engines. A Skyrunner flew in low over the building and set down outside. Sandra went over to the window, and peered out of it. A squad of SynthTech security personnel ran out of the Skyrunner with military precision. They were followed by a pair of EMTs and a woman who Sandra guessed was Dr Ogura. The troops sprinted into the building, followed by the medics. A minute later, the door swung open as the troops filed in.

"Up against the wall!" one of them shouted, gesturing to Sandra with his assault rifle. Sandra complied, knowing not to argue with heavily armed men who traveled in packs. The soldier frisked her, taking her pistol and SMG.

Dr Ogura entered next, followed by the two EMTs. The doctor checked him, then indicated to the EMTs. The two of them carefully loaded Drake onto a stretcher, then quickly bustled him out the door. The doctor then collected his wallet and phone, and left. Finally, after ensuring that the doctor and medics were on the Skyrunner, the Troops left the apartment, leaving Sandra with her confiscated equipment.

"Thanks" She said to herself. Then her phone rang. Swearing quietly, she picked up the phone and answered it. "Hello?"

"Hey Sandra, it's your lovemuffin with some news for you"

"Just tell me, Alan. I'm not in the mood"

"Right" He paused a second, his ego shot down in flames. "Well, I've found out a little tidbit on your missing girl."

"Do tell" She replied, ready for any surprise that Alan may try to throw at her.

"Well, it seems that little Athena Stone is the younger sister of one Jason Stone who just so happens to be the CEO of SynthTech." He paused. "Pretty wild, huh?"

Sandra paused. Yes, this is just perfect. Her one night stand and good friend just happened to be the CEO of a megacorp, just happened to neglect to mention this to her and just happened to get the crap shot out of him. Life was bloody marvelous. Tool. "Yeah. Pretty damned wild"

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