SCENE: A posh and ritzy Neo York restaurant. The exact POV changes as we are obviously seeing this from some sort of head- or eye-mounted video recording device.

VO: My name is Corey Emerson. I'm a reporter for Rolling Stone videozine. I cover the city of Neo York; it's people, places, events, anything and everything that makes for worthy news. Sometimes I go into the Zone and cover life there, and sometimes I stay in the city. I'm not sure which is better. My editors have given me free reign to report on most anything I want, which makes for a very popular column.

This month I've struck gold, having gained an interview with the legendary Lace and Steel competitor Beiko. Several months ago she was severely injured in a battle with the present champion Mian Toris, and sports fans have been wondering when and if she will ever be returning. I hope to find out tonight.

SCENE: A table with Lace and Steel star Beiko already seated at it. She is dressed in a conservatively cut gray suit, with a knee-length skirt. She stands as Corey approaches, smiling and extending a hand. Behind stands an attractive blonde-haired woman in a more utilitarian dark-colored business pantsuit. She remains standing through the interview with a neutral expression on her face.

COREY VO [takes hand, shakes it]: Beiko is, as usual, perfectly appointed. As a star of Lace and Steel, she is beautiful, although the same can be said for nearly any woman on that show. Even if she wasn't before she'd joined, surgery would have made her so by the time of her initial debut.

SCENE: Corey sits down. Beiko resumes her seat, sipping at a tall glass of water and lemon.

COREY: Let me start off with the question that is on everyone's minds: Will you return?

BEIKO [sips at water, looks around restaurant]: Yes, I think I will. To be honest, I don't have much choice, I still have about a year left on my contract.

COREY: I'm sure your fans will be pleased to hear that. Tell me, how do you feel right now?

BEIKO: Well... I can walk around on my own. [laughs] And I don't have fainting spells anymore if I climb a set of stairs too fast. The medical team has assured me that I'm healing and will be ready to return in a few more weeks.

COREY: How do you feel about that? Returning I mean? Does it hold any fear for you?

BEIKO: Fear? I... No, no fear. I knew what I was getting into when I first started in the league, and to tell the truth, I've hospitalized my fair share of opponents. It seems that it was my turn this time.

COREY: So, do you feel ready to face Mian Toris again?

BEIKO: Right now? No. [laughs] Let me finish my therapy, get a few practice bouts under by belt, then we'll see. But I can tell you this, if I do have a rematch with Mian Toris, I will not make the mistakes I made in our last fight, I can assure you of that.

COREY: Oh? How will you fight her differently?

BEIKO: I'll stay at range, use my blaster to wear her down. I will *not* try to get into hand-to-hand range while she still has that sword of hers.

COREY: Speaking of swords, do you have any opinions about the use of edged weapons in the league? Do you think such use should be more regulated? Or that the armor standards should be improved?

BEIKO: Ahhh... [glances a the woman behind her] Well... as I don't use an edged weapon when I fight so I can't really comment. I mean, the armor we wear is very sturdy, and normally can take even a strong hit without breaking. Mian was lucky, she used the point, and managed to get her blade between two plates. If she had used the edge, I'm sure it wouldn't have turned out the way it did.

COREY: Of course. Tell me, Beiko, how did you get into this business? I mean, did you wake up one day and decide 'I'm going to star in Lace and Steel'?

BEIKO: No... [laughs] Not exactly. Actually, my participation in the league is due to my parents. You see, I was an excellent athlete in the corporate school program, and in addition was considered fairly attractive, so the company made a deal with my parents. If I signed a contact, they would receive certain financial incentives.

COREY: Such as?

BEIKO: Ahh... uhm.. the usual. A new apartment, a promotion, pay raises.

COREY: And this was?

BEIKO: Well, I was 16 when the contract signed, but I had to finish school first, and train for the league. So that was about eight years ago. I've been fighting for four years.

COREY: And you have a year left to go?

BEIKO: Actually two years. My contract was extended to cover my medical expenses.

COREY: Oh, I see. What do your parents think of that?

BEIKO: I... I don't see them much anymore.

COREY: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.

BEIKO: Don't be. I've been doing quite well for myself actually. I don't mind.

COREY: Speaking of doing well, I have to ask: How does it feel to have been immortalized in plastic?

BEIKO: Pardon?

COREY: [Produces an Beiko action figure from her pocket and lays it on the table. Behind Beiko, the blonde woman gives an obvious look of surprise.] I picked this up at a local store. They had an entire line of figures from Lace and Steel, actually.

BEIKO: [picks up figure looks at it for a moment] Oh, these. [laughs softly] It... it's a very surreal experience. I mean, to see yourself on shirts, wall hanging, posters... it's like your not real, that you're looking at someone else. If I see one of my fights on the trivid, I think "That's me!" but when I see some of these designs the art department puts on clothing, I have to shake my head. That's not me, that's someone else. And don't get me started on the figures.

COREY: Oh? Why?

BEIKO: Just let me say that I've seen some very... [blushes slightly] ...odd things done with them on the net.

[The woman in the background looks away, obviously trying to keep a straight face.]

COREY: Ah... I see.

BEIKO: I find it rather, uhm, embarrassing.

COREY: I can understand that. But that does remind me of another question that I'm sure our readers would find interesting—Do you date? I mean, do you have a significant other?

BEIKO: Uhm... [takes a sip of her water] No, I'm still single, and I don't have a boyfriend if that's what you mean. I don't have time for it really, and anyone who is that close to me has been carefully screened by the company. Uhm... [glances at the woman behind her] to be honest, normally I get very nice and very polite escorts who bore me to death. Lora here is an exception.

COREY: Oh? Why is that?

BEIKO: She doesn't bore me to death.

COREY: So, are you looking then? Or is that impossible?

BEIKO: Impossible really. I mean, uhm... how do I put this? [pauses and thinks] The company keeps several synthetics on hand for the sole purpose of keeping their stable of fighter's happy. In addition we are under contract, and not allowed to go out unescorted, so we have no chance of finding someone who isn't company approved to, well, 'date.'

COREY: Too bad, but I'm sure there are plenty of men out there more than willing to rectify the situation if given the chance.

BEIKO: I'm sure there are... I've seen the net shrines.

[The woman in the background looks away again.]

COREY: Beiko, it has been a pleasure talking to you. [stands and extends her hand] I hope we get a chance to talk like this again, after your return to the ring.

BEIKO: [shakes Corey's hand] Certainly, it will be my pleasure.

SCENE: Corey steps back and walks away.

VO: And there you have it. The glamor and glitz of Lace and Steel removed, if only for a brief moment, allowing us just a glimpse of its dirty underbelly. This has been Corey Emerson for Rolling Stone, signing off.

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