Her arrival back in Gordon's room near Hong Kong broke the bed, and tossed door shards all around. Raven allowed herself to crouch to catch her breath—damn, I should have taken a few seconds' break in Neo York—then, realizing that her arrival had no doubt been heard, she wiped sweaty hair from her brow and ran outside. How am I ever going to find Paula and Marta in this mess? She heard the staccato of gunfire, felt the vaguely painful twinge of PK power being used at high-octane. Scratch that... How am I ever going to find Marta?

Raven's question became a moot point a moment later as Marta stepped out of the shadows. The street samurai's face was pale, and contrasted sharply with her black hair and jumpsuit.

"Marta?" Raven asked, suddenly feeling a sense of dread.

"The damnedest thing..." the other woman whispered right before she fell face first into the grass.

Raven gasped and knelt next to Marta, surrounding them both with a powerful kinetic barrier. The ground ripped and tossed earth and grass up in a circle around them, marking the edges of the hemisphere of force.

Thankfully, Marta was alive, but—Raven leant in to examine her wounds more closely—she had taken several rounds, apparently a full burst of automatic fire, in the back, and her armor had ruptured. There was a lot of blood all over her clothes—however most of it, she figured, was from security guards. Her missing sword and the ammo readout on her SMG—00, and all the pouches where she kept her extra clips were empty—led credence to the theory of a titanic battle.

There was very little Raven could do here, with no equipment and her shields pressed from sustained fire from onrushing security. Raven gingerly picked the samurai up. Gosh, but she's heavy! she thought, trying not to think that some of that extra weight came from embedded lead and not cybernetics. Her telekinetically-enhanced strength, however, handled the weight with ease. Raven stood slowly, then gazed at a point in the distance close to where she heard Paula fighting—and she moved, teleporting herself, the injured samurai, and the force field there.

"Paula!" she screamed, trying to be heard over the din of gunfire and esper destruction. "Paula, dammit, we gotta leave!"

"FUCK!" Paula screamed as Raven appeared. "Where the fuck have you BEEN?" Not willing to wait for a response, Paula continued her tirade. "And where the fuck has that bitch been? Everyone just vanishes and leaves me alone, and then while I'm looking for you two idiots, all hell breaks loose! WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN!?!"

"I went through the fragging door that you fragging pointed to me and grabbed our fragging target and got him the frag out of here. SHE has been fighting pretty much through every fragging security guard on the fragging island to give us some fragging cover because because YOU fucked up. Now can we get the fuck out of here?"

"FINE!" Paula snarled, waving her pistol about as gunfire snapped and popped around them. "Dump her back in HK and let's go home!"

"Give me some cover here," Raven said. "This is harder than it looks."

Not waiting for Paula's reply, Raven pictured the pair's hotel room in Hong Kong, hopefully a short enough jump that would not cause any major disasters. She had a first aid kit there, maybe she could stabilize Marta before they got real medical help. She hoped Ling Ling knew a competent doctor. She gathered her power around the trio and let out a ragged cry when she moved, so much effort in so little time...

When Raven opened her eyes, she was looking at an overturned table and a ripped carpet. She looked around the room at shattered lamps, broken windows, furniture shoved all over, blankets blown off the bed, and other signs of destruction. As she watched, one of the light bulbs on the ceiling broke. Debris still moved slowly across the floor, until Raven made a conscious effort to pull her Power back to her. Looks like her control was slipping from the exhaustion-- and from the hammering in her head, she would be best not to try to reestablish it again for a while. Good thing she wouldn't have to.

"Way to go, Raven," said Paula. "I bet the cleaning maid will be real happy about that."

"I'll let you do it, next time," Raven said sarcastically, a pointed reminder that only she, and not Paula, was able to teleport.

"Fuck you, too," Paula replied.

Raven laid Marta on the damaged bed, face down, and pulled away her ripped jacket. The body armor underneath was was battered and rent, but for the most part the flesh was only bruised. Aside from a few large welts and minor cuts, Marta's armor had kept her safe. Raven sighed in relief and carefully ran her hands along Marta's back, feeling for broken bones, and found none. From the samurai's weight, Raven figured Marta would have to be crushed by a tank or something before one of her bones broke anyway.

"What? First the skinjob and now here? Christ, Raven haven't you had enough?" Pulling off her jacket, Paula shook her head, "I'll be in the shower, if it still works. I'll leave you and your new friend alone... so you can get better aquatinted."

"Twit," Raven muttered under her breath as Paula walked away. She fished her cell phone and dialed Ling Ling's number.

<Ni hao, Li Ling Ling speaking.>

"Ling Ling? This is Raven Clark. Operation completed successfully, but there was a bit of trouble. First, and most important, is that Marta's injured." She quickly added, "It looks relatively minor, but she's unconscious from shock. From what I can tell, there's no hemorrhaging and no fractures, but I'd want a real doctor to check her out anyway."

The fixer's response was immediate. "Don't move her any more than you have to. I'll make a few calls and you should have someone there in the next fifteen to twenty minutes, in not sooner. I'll be there myself within the hour." There was a pause, and then a more concerned tone of voice, "How did it happen?"

"We were discovered during the operation. Let's just say someone used an unsilenced weapon." There was venom in her voice when she said that last; Raven took a deep breath before continuing. "Marta went to provide a diversion. I went for the objective and lost track of her and Paula. When I had secured our objective and returned for extraction Marta pretty much fell into my arms. She's taken multiple firearm hits, mostly handgun rounds from what I can see, but there was no armor penetration, just heavy bruising."

"I see." Somehow those two words seemed to speak volumes. "Please keep her safe."

Raven was sitting in the First Class section of an airliner headed back to Neo York, nursing a rum-and-coke with lots of coke and a dash of rum. Through videoconferencing, Sanato had let the two PKs know that he was satisfied with their performance on their assignment, despite some misgivings. Marta's wounds had turned out to be less serious than they looked, thanks to the staggering amount of chrome hidden in her lithe body, and neither she nor Ling Ling had seemed too angry about the result of the operation. Raven had nonetheless added a small bonus to the agreed-upon fee, to make up for Paula's blunder.

Paula. Even though Raven had decided to fly back rather than teleport so that she could have some time to relax from her mission, she found that her partner's presence in the seat next to her made her nervous. Paula had nearly blown the entire operation, and once she'd done so, she'd done very little to complete their goal, instead charging straight into combat. Perhaps she was just providing a diversion for Raven to retrieve the target, but the young teke doubted that. All in all, Paula had proven more a detriment than a benefit to this operation, at least to Raven's way of thinking.

Paula might be an asset in anything involving loud, noisy battles, but for anything more complex, she was going to be a problem. Raven wondered if Sanato knew that, and had put the two together in an attempt to test Raven's ability to handle her noisome partner, or to try to teach Paula some subtlety. If it was the latter, then Sanato was faced with an unmitigated failure.

Raven glanced to the side to Paula. The other esper had ignored Raven from the start of the trip, and was still doing so, eyes closed and trying to sleep. Raven shrugged, sat back, and tried to do likewise. But the image of Paula walking in on her and Temple came to mind, and she opened her eyes again to banish it, her cheeks warm.

Frowning, she closed her eyes again. Nothing to be done about that now, and Paula seemed to have already reached the limits of her witty comebacks with regards to the incident, though she might just be biding her time. Fencing words with Paula was at the same time frustrating and amusing, but Raven's usual policy of letting insults pass didn't seem to be working too well with her partner. Unfortunately Paula wasn't too good at sustained arguments and lost her temper too quickly. Raven knew she would have to be careful.

As for Temple... Raven gave a mental shrug, reflecting her ignorance. She didn't know what to make of it, and probably didn't need to. It was still best to let the matter of her sexuality stand, to be resolved at a later date, when she'd feel more confident, and not fret about it too much right now. She didn't know what would happen if she was faced with another chance to experiment, and quite frankly, right now, she didn't care. With a megacorporation watching her every move, a hot-tempered, explosively powerful partner, and too many unanswered questions about her new corporate life, she had other matters to think about than her love life, such as it was.

Shrugging complicated thoughts away for the time being, ignoring Paula as Paula ignored her, Raven slowly slipped into a light sleep, lulled by the jet engine's dull, muffled roar.

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