'This is messed up.' Terry thought as he made his way into the 93U. There was no way he could get into a club like this in Neo York. He was only 17, but he could usually bribe his way into most lower class clubs. But here they were more worried about whether or not he had a gun, and never even thought about checking his ID. Looking over his shoulder he could see that Brittany was having some trouble with the bouncer.

"Sir I'm licensed bodyguard, and I have a permit for these." Brittany's ears flicked with anger, she obviously did not want to give up her weaponry.

"Ma'm," The bouncer's voice was steely calm, "that permit may be valid in Neo York, but this, if you haven't noticed already is The Zone. You are not going to get in with your weapon." With that Duke uncrossed his cyberarms.

The Puma's orange ears wiggled with frustration at the bouncer's obvious ignorance. "Excuse me! This a corporate license, it's valid outside Neo York."

"Ma'm, check your weapons or leave." Duke was through arguing.

"Do we take this as an opportunity to dump her?"

Terry looked over at Tony, his partner in crime to come check out 93U. "We better help her out, if she get killed my dad will kill us." He smirked, "'sides, she's always good for a blow if we don't get lucky."

"Doood." Tony liked those old expressions they made Terry flinch more than a bad pun.

A hand grabbed Terry's shoulder and spun him around. He found himself looking at the annoyed Asian woman who was standing behind them. "You'd better tell her to hand it over," she said, giving them a foul look. "Duke here isn't noted for his patience."

"Hey, hands off," Tony immediately interjected, but Terry waved him back.

"'sokay," Terry said. He quickly gave Brittany the order, and the Puma reluctantly handed over her firearm. The trio proceeded into the club, gaping at the sights.

"In to cause more trouble, Gem?" Duke asked, folding his arms.

Gem lazily drew her pistol from its holster with one finger and handed it to Duke. "Just thought I'd help out for a change." Duke's expression was carefully neutral as he took the pistol. Gem sighed. "I guess no good deed goes unpunished," she said over her shoulder to Duke as she entered the club proper.

Gem planted herself at the bar, and placed a small tin on it. The bartender glanced at it, then up at Gem. "Bloody Mary again?" he asked.

"That was the deal," Gem replied. As he took the tin, she turned to look around the club. It was packed, as expected, but she could make out a few familiar faces. She immediately spotted the two brats by the small stage, and immediately figured why they were there.

As she turned back to the bar, the orange-haired Puma arrived next to her. It glanced at Gem, it's ears flickering in annoyance, before ordering drinks for its owners. She pointedly ignored it, and glanced back at the brats.

Terry and Tony made their way into the 93U, and Brittany wasn't too far behind them. "Yo, Tony." Terry paused, "I've heard the Empress herself hangs out here."

Tony, showing a little expression for once, "Doood, you've only said that about a million times. Chill." Tony managed to interrupt himself, "Doood" ogling one of the waitresses.

Terry, "Forget her, she's just a synth."

The three made their way through the crowd looking for a place to sit. "Here we go." Terry found what he was looking for, a pair of nice wingback chairs by an empty table with a great view of the small stage.

Terry just had to stop for a moment, "I think I'm in love."

"Doood, I thought you didn't like synthetics."

"Well this one isn't wearing anything, might as well be real, for what I want to do with her." Terry then had to smirk to himself, "She also looks a hell of a lot like that bitch Eve."


"You remember that cute little upgraded freshman who broke Steve's jaw?" Terry, continued, "With one punch that chick put him out for the first half of the season."

"Her?" Tony couldn't believe somebody who even resembled that could do something like that to Steve. Steve was close to two meters tall and well over 100 kg.

"She was an upgrade."

"Doood" Tony knew damn well that there was more to it than that, he figured Steve just had a glass jaw or something. But he wasn't about to tell Terry that, Steve would make a point of demonstrating how glass his own jaw was.

"'sides I still wanna give the chick on stage the ol' in out." Terry just had to use one of Tony's expressions.

Terry and Tony were both hypnotized bye Silver's antics on stage. She had the grace and precision of a ballerina, but this was far from ballet, it was more like intense sex than anything else. On top of that each of them were thoroughly convinced that she was making almost continuous eye contact, and was ready to do just about anything they wanted.

A few minutes after Silver's stage show ended, and they had their drinks. Terry was disappointed that he still hadn't had a chance to use his fake ID. The waitress simply said that if you were old enough to tell her what you wanted you were obviously old enough to drink. Then he remembered, D'oh this is the Zone. And a thought came to his head.

That small idea solidified when Silver came out to do a few lap dances.

Silver looked around, the crowd seemed a bit tense tonight. A few weeks ago this wouldn't an issue, but with Crusher and Jax both gone things seemed a bit short handed to her. She began to make her way around the tables, and just treat life as business as usual.

'O shit' she thought, she saw a couple of yuppie idiots waving wads of bills at her. Even worse, she thought she recognized those two idiots. 'Oh well, might as well get it over with.'

Silver walked over the Terry and Tony, "Hi, I'm Silver." She gently swayed her hips back to tease a little.

"I'm Terry and this is Tony."


"How would you like a dance?" Silver looked at Terry.

"Uhhh, sure." Terry was grinning from ear to ear, he couldn't have planned this better himself.

Silver pulled the nearly transparent shift off exposing her breasts and her almost transparent panties as well. She then had a seat on Terry's lap.

"You've never done this before have you?"

He shook his head no.

"Okay, the rules are simple, I can touch all I want, you can't, and in case you're wondering--the panties stay on."

Terry was more than a little disappointed.

Silver began her routine, as Terry sat back an enjoyed it.

When she was finished she remained sitting in his lap for a couple of minutes.

Terry "How much for a blow?"

"I'm a dancer, not a prostitute, I don't do sex, and neither do any of the other girls here." Silver was not happy with the way things were going. "Listen, I can't stick around much longer, that's 20."

Terry handed her a pair of 20s. "Here's another 20 to stick around for another dance."

Silver was being unusually forgiving, but she figured these kids were just dumb. Unfortunately for her she was underestimating their stupidity.

"Alrighty," Silver seem bright and cheerful, but she was kinda wanting to get away from this idiot as soon as possible. "So Terry," she continued, "is this your first trip into the Zone?"

"Uhh, yeah it is." Terry has things other than conversation on his mind.

Terry went for a grope of Silver's breast, which Silver deftly brushed aside.

"I said no touching, you really don't want to get thrown out of here do you?"

"Oh sorry, I just got carried away." Terry

"Just don't do it again."

Terry gulped, he put both his hands down to his sides.

"Better." Silver said it with a cute authority. She decided that if she could teach these kids some etiquette there might be some hope for them, and rather lucrative for her.

Next thing she knew Terry had his hand around her waist, not only that but he managed to hook his thumb under the string of her panty. "Hey, cut that out!"

Terry just grinned, "Come on Evie, you remember me, we're old friends." Terry motioned for Brittany to come over to them. He then placed that hand on her breast, giving her nipple a tweak.

"One, you need to get your hands off me and my underwear; two my name is not Evie, it's Silver. And no I don't know you." Silver gave the camera the 'oh shit' signal, hoping there was a bouncer really close. Looking around she saw 'her' bouncer carrying some drunken yelling bastard away. Silver was frustrated, she knew she could easily get away, but that would look really bad. She was hoping to procrastinate long enough for another bouncer or somebody to stop this for her.

"Back off!"

Terry was startled as Gem stepped in and pushed him away from Silver.

"Hey, you can't do that," Tony interjected.

"And you can't treat her like that either," Gem replied. Silver quickly stood behind Gem, cowering behind her shoulder.

Terry backed away slightly from her. The girl was far from frightening, being somewhat short and slim, but there was a dangerous look in her eyes. "Hey Brittany! Brit!" he yelled out, spotting the Puma. In seconds, Brittany had barged through the crowd, and was standing before her masters, staring down Gem.

Tony stepped forwards, his face showing a grin of newfound confidence. "Let's see you try something now.

A wicked grin spread across Gem's face as she stepped forwards. She eyed the Puma up and down, and snorted in derision. "Gladly," she said.

The two teenagers were startled by the short woman's boldness towards their Puma. Gem felt the sensual touch of Silver's breath as she whispered "Not here," in her ear. She waited, staring down the two young men, seemingly ignoring their bodyguard.

Terry held Tony back. "Come on, let's find something more interesting than this." The image of the iron angel bouncer came to mind as the two guys shuffled back.

"Gutless," Gem muttered and turned back to the dancer.

"Yeah, but I'm certainly in no position to confront them." Silver looked down and shifted her feet around, somewhat embarrassed.

"I think you're show's over," Gem stated. "Maybe you should put something on?"

"Thanks," Silver replied. She walked over to the chair and picked up and put on her shift. There really wasn't much to it; up close it really didn't hide anything.

"Do you have something put away in the back?" Gem asked.

"Yeah but I'm still working." Silver nodded towards the stage. "After I finish my stage act I come down here give personal dances."

"Right," Gem muttered. "I'll let you get back to it."

"Well, I'm not sure I'm ready to go back to work yet," Silver replied, a bit rattled.

"Then you should probably take the night off. I'll clear it with Duke."

Silver took a deep breath. "I'd just like to sit here for a little while, if you don't mind."

"Sure." Gem glanced around, and spotted a freshly vacated booth. She walked Silver over to it, dumped her jacket on the seat, and offered Silver a drink as she sat. Silver nodded, and Gem headed for the bar, returning a couple of minutes later with two glasses.

"Thanks," Silver said. "I'm Silver."

"Gem." As she sat down, Gem gave her a second look. "Ever thought of giving up this job?"

Silver blushed a little. "Sure, but what else am I gonna do? It pays really well, its honest, and usually pretty safe."

Gem stifled a laugh. "Honest? Safe? Believe me, lap dancing doesn't exactly give one a good name."

"Yeah but this is the Zone," Silver replied. "It pays the bills, and it's a far cry from being a prostitute working for the mob or the yaks." She smiled, "'sides I get to meet lots of nice people and don't have to kill anybody."

"Ouch," Gem said with a smile. "Most of the interesting people I meet are only briefly interesting."

Silver sniggered, "I know what you mean, but everybody has a story or something that makes them special or weird; you just have to know how to find that out." Leaning closer to Gem she added, "And if they aren't interesting, I can always find somebody else."

Gem stared into her drink. "Some people just don't like to talk," she said quietly.

"That's true. But they can sometimes be the most interesting people, once you get to know them." Silver smiled at Gem

"Dunno. I never get a chance to find out."

"Ahhh, I understand. Sorry to hear that."

Gem suddenly turned to Silver. "So what's yours? What are you doing showing off in the Zone?"

Silver smiled, "I was a spoiled brat living in a corporate arcology, who didn't play by the rules much. Eventually I ran away from home and got myself into a hell of a lot of trouble until I ended up here." She looked Gem in the eye, "And that's only the beginning," she added, smiling.

"I guessed it was something like that," Gem replied. "You seem smart and well mannered, so you're not a local. You don't seem to be here by choice, so there had to be some kind of trouble involved." Gem took a drink and thought for a second. "The next part is you hooked up with someone who showed you the good part of Zone life. You enjoyed the freedom, and settled here, one way or another." She drained her glass and replaced it on the table. "Right?"

"That's pretty much it." Silver looked down at her drink, "I've also seen the worst the Zone has to offer," Then downed it in one gulp, and slammed the glass back on the table. "I prefer the good life. Besides I've attracted to dancing for pretty much the same reasons why I left home in the first place. Lack of inhibitions."

"I get the feeling that describes you pretty well," Gem replied quietly.

"You might say that." Silver cocked her head a bit and brushed her long flowing hair out of the way. "What brings you here?"

"Killing time." Gem signaled a passing waitress for another drink. "Got the night off. I'm a bodyguard, you see."

"Really? That's kewl. How did you get to be a bodyguard in the Zone?" Silver seem rather enthused to hear Gem's tale.

"I was born here. Grew up here. Worked all my life here."

Silver leaned back, surprised. "Really? You certainly don't look it."

"No? How come?"

"Well, you're really cute, and if you don't mind my saying so, most girls who grew up here look a lot rougher." Silver smiled. "Take Dawn for example, she's beautiful, but up close you can tell she's had a very hard life."

"Cute?" Gem looked somewhat disgusted. "Cute?"

Silver giggled. "I'm sorry it's just that spark your green eyes... I think cute is an understatement..." Silver looked a rather embarrassed.

"You forgot to mention 'short' and 'flat chested,'" Gem added.

Silver looked at her, "I'm not exactly tall either, and I think you're bustline fits the rest of your figure." Silver took a breath, looking nervous. "And I'll bet you're really fun when things get romantic." She paused, then continued with more confidence. "Besides, I'll bet you prefer to get your contracts based on skill rather than some guy looking down your shirt."

Gem thought for a moment. "Never really considered that. Basically, no-one's ever thought of me as a woman."

"Really?" Silver smiled. "That's their loss." With that Silver slowly reached over to brush some of Gem's hair out of the way.

Gem shrugged, ignoring her gesture. "Hey, it's life. Work first."

"That's true, but we can relax and enjoy ourselves every once in awhile."

Gem's drink arrived, and she sipped it quietly. "Yeah, that's what I'm here for," she eventually replied.

"There you go." Silver looked a bit embarrassed, then finally asked, "Would you mind a dance? It's on the house."

Gem looked startled. "A... A what?"

Silver turned bright red, "You know a lap dance." She put she hand on Gem's. Her skin was milky and soft; her nails were perfectly manicured. "It's alright if you say no."

For a second, Gem was lost for words. Then she smiled and shook her head. "Sorry," was all she said.

"That's okay." Silver removed her hand and leaned back. "There are plenty of straight girls who get them, it's something they can show their boyfriends."

"It's not like that," Gem replied. She looked straight and hard at Silver. "Personally, I don't see people as men or women, Zoners or corps, sams or dancers, or whatever. I see people by how they treat each other. The last thing I want is for someone to degrade themselves for me."

"Wow, thanks!" Silver was a bit stunned by the remark. She wasn't used to Zoners considering dancing degrading; that was reserved for prostitutes. "But I really don't feel like I'm degrading myself, it's not like prostitution or anything. Remember, I am rather uninhibited." With that she gave Gem a wicked smile.

Gem glanced out at the other patrons. "Besides, what do you think happens when everyone sees you in my lap?"

"I'll get twenty or thirty guys lined up behind you to have the bisexual dance in their lap," Silver replied. "And since you're here alone, they might also take an interest in you."

"Lucky me," Gem said with a sneer.

"Sorry," she said. "I'm so used to being hit on I hardly think about it."

"Yeah, rub it in again," Gem said bitterly.

"I'm not trying to rub it in. If you want to see what I mean why don't you go in back and change into what I'm wearing." A huge grin spread across Silver's face. "You'll have guys hitting on you in no time."

Gem seemed ill at ease. "Uh... No thanks."

"I understand your concern." Silver paused. "You are beautiful. I've seen girls come in here who didn't think they had the body do dance and be very successful." She smiled, pointing to the stage. "The girl on stage right now, April, used to think of herself like that."

She turned back to Gem. "You're more than adequate, all you need to do is act like you're attractive." She took a breath, then continued. "I'm not suggesting that you start dancing, I'm sure you'd decline. I just want you to think that people out there can find you attractive."

Gem smiled. "You're good at flattery. But I'm happy to blend in and remain unnoticed."

"Please don't call it flattery, call it a challenge if you ever want to get noticed."

"Someday," Gem said. "I think you're done for the night, if they're rolling out new dancers."

"Are you trying to get rid of me?" Silver asked, jokingly.

"No, I'm just saying you can probably stop freezing your butt off and having to worry about your paycheck."

"Oh, thanks. But I don't mind." Silver leaned back into her seat. "I usually get out of here once I get changed, I'd rather most of the people around here now know what I look like when I'm fully dressed."

"Well I'm about done here as well." Gem drained her drink and smirked. "This place loses its charm without a life-threatening crisis."

"Ah, I see." Silver looked a bit down. "You still sure you don't want to screw what everybody else thinks and give that dance a try?" Silver asked, hopefully.

"It's my business. Nothing's more important to me than my reputation, so it's vital I give the right impression. You understand."

"Ah, I understand." Silver looked quite serious, "That's how you get you contracts, and you don't want to be labeled bisexual, or lesbian, or clients to think they can have their way with you."

Gem shook her head. "No, no, not like that. Basically, if people see a bodyguard perving on someone, anyone, they'll feel like they can't trust me."

"Ohhh, okay." Silver thought for a second. "I really never thought of it as 'perving'. Then again compared to what I do behind closed doors for fun, this is nothing."

"Well in private is obviously a different matter for me."

"Oh really?" Silver said slowly, a wicked grin spreading on her face.

Gem nodded, ignoring her expression. "Hopefully no-one's watching." Gem called for her tab, and picked up her jacket. "I'm going," she said.

Silver looked nervous, but finally asked "You want to hang around some backstage?"

"Why?" Gem cocked her head. "What's on your mind?"

Silver shrugged. "I dunno, relax. Hang out and talk for a little while longer."

"I thought you were done," Gems stated.

"Well, I'm through dancing for the evening."

"Then why hang here?" Gem asked. "I thought you'd get sick of it after a while."

"Usually I stick around in case any of the other girls need me. Believe it or not I'm kind of the senior stripper around here." She looked a little embarrassed.

A small, amused smile began to creep its way across Gem's face. She snorted a brief laugh, then shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"

Silver gave Gem a rather cute smile. "Let's go," Silver said and began to head back to the office area, motioning Gem to follow her. Gem simply shrugged and followed her across the club.

Silver stopped in front of a door, one of the few sturdy internal doors in the 92U. This one even had an electronic key lock on it. She quickly typed in the pass code and opened the door.

Gem peered inside. "So are all the other girls back here? How many are usually on at once, anyway?"

Silver stepped inside. "There are usually about a dozen girls working at any given time with one or two on stage and the others either working the floor or back stage."

Silver flipped the light switch on the wall. The room was actually a broom closet converted into an office. With a sheet covered chair and a small but well stocked vanity. There were a variety of clothes stacked on some shelves above Gem's head.

"Your office?" Gem stepped in, closed the door and glanced around the room. "Kinda cramped, isn't it?"

"I don't use it for much, mostly when I just need some privacy from one reason or another." She said casually. "Normally I use the same dressing room as all the other girls."

"I'm almost glad I didn't get to see that," Gem muttered.

Silver cocked her head quizzically. "Hmmm? Why's that?"

"I'd probably die of envy."

"I wouldn't worry too much about that. Frequently if they're too good to be real they aren't," Silver said with a wink.

Gem glanced down at Silver's own chest. "Really?" she said, completely deadpan.

"I said frequently not always." Silver sighed. "Besides, you at least don't get people asking who you surgeon is."

"That's a new one on me." Gem put an uncharacteristic swagger in her voice. "Hi babe, who does ya tits?"

Silver couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, when you're sitting in some suit's lap a lot of them aren't afraid of asking questions like that." She sighed. "And some girls encourage it, they think they get better tips that way."

Gem leaned back against one of the shelves. "So what's so important to drag me in here?"

"Like I said, talk and what not."

"Fine." Gem stood in silence for a few seconds, then looked up at Silver. "Haven't done that in a while," she said.

"Alright." Silver paused for a few moments looking at Gem's eyes. Their gaze met, and they were silent for moments.

Gem finally broke the silence by muttering, "You have the strangest eyes..."

"Really? How so?" Silver was most interested.

"The color. It's almost mesmerizing."

"Here, I think this will be more comfortable." Without averting her gaze, Silver gently picked Gem up and placed her in the chair.

"Whoah..." Gem looked briefly startled. "You're not just a stripper, are you?" she asked, looking up at Silver with a mix of surprise and fear.

"Let's just say I had a few advantages growing up that make me a bit above average."

"An upgrade," Gem muttered. "That explains a lot."

"Yeah well, I may be an upgrade, but I'm also a stripper in the Zone. Being an upgrade really doesn't count for much unless you're gonna be a street sam."

Gem shook her head, her confidence returning. "In your profession, it counts for a lot. Upgrades always look better than baseline humans, and you look better than a lot of upgrades."

Sliver blushed again. "Um, thanks. I guess I mostly think of upgrades as running around doing lots of physical stuff, and such. You know kinda like what you do."

"Great. Wonderful." Gem intoned, then smiled. "Make me even more jealous."

"Nothing to be jealous about." Silver countered. "You're in incredible shape." With that she began running her hand along Gem's upper arm.

"And you're in even better shape." She glanced up and down, and smiled. "Trust me, I can tell from down here."

"Um... Thanks, but I'm not sure I'd go that far." She blushed a little. "Mind if I have a seat?"

Gem looked at her looked around at the cramped office, then finally looked in her lap. She looked up at Silver once more. "It's your office," she said, her voice carefully neutral. Silver proceed to sit down in the only comfortable place left to sit; Gem's lap. Gem placed an arm around Silver's shoulders, and looked into her eyes. "Do you bring everyone back here?"

Silver shook her head. "I never bring customers back here."

"So why me?"

"Well, you helped me out earlier, and I thought you might be interesting to have as a friend, and you seem a bit shy to get this friendly out there."

"A friend?" Gem asked. "Are all your friends this close?"

"No, not really."

"Just the good ones," Gem added for her.

"And not even all of them."

"I'm honored," Gem replied quietly.

"Hey, it isn't everyday a cute girl comes to my aid."

"So I'm a night in shining armor?" Gem smiled at the thought. "Does that make you the fair maiden?"

"Perhaps." Silver giggled a little.

"Although I would hardly call those jerks a ferocious dragon."

"Yeah. I certainly didn't want to get physical or anything with them, that would have probably been worse for my rep then your getting perverted with another girl would be," Silver replied. "I really don't think most guys would take it well if they thought I could kick their ass or something."

"No-one goes to a club to be scared of a stripper," Gem commented.

"Street sam's on the other hand... Let's just say they're probably gonna tell all their friends about that bad ass street sam they bumped into."

Gem nodded. "That would work. A little exaggeration and I might actually get some respect."

"My guess is that their exaggeration won't hold a candle to the truth." With that she winked at Gem.

"Why? You're yet to see me in action."

"Just a hunch," Silver said and gently squeezed Gem's arm.

Gem glanced at her arm, then back up at Silver. "What?" she asked.

Silver looked a little baffled. "You weigh a lot more than you look, and even if it is cyberware it still takes quite a bit of strength to move quickly, and I'm guessing speed is one of your assets."

"Got it in one," Gem replied. "No inbuilt weapons or gimmicks, though. All I have to rely on is my own skill."

"I like people who rely on skill rather than cheap tricks; the tricks tend to fail."

"Cheap tricks?" Gem cocked an eyebrow. "Like inviting someone into the back room?"

Silver shook her head. "I was actually referring to some of the cheap crap that's out on the streets right now. Besides, inviting you into the back room would only be a cheap trick if I got you drunk first."

"Your intentions are pretty transparent anyway," Gem said in a serious tone.

Silver nodded. "I'll admit to that. But at least they're honest."

"Look..." Gem sighed and was silent, searching for words.

"You're the one who made the comment about being more interesting closed doors. I wanna see how interesting you're willing to get." Silver smiled.

"I said I don't have to worry about what I do behind them. That's not an invitation, you know."

Silver giggled. "True, but do you mind?"

Gem thought for a second. "Yeah." She nodded, then continued. "I think I do." Gem held Sliver by her shoulders, and lifted her onto the floor as she stood.

"I'm sorry, did I say something?" Silver said, concerned.

"It's not you. I just..." Gem sighed, searching for words. "I can't relax any more."

"I'm sorry." Silver looked down. "I understand you're stressed, but please try and relax a little more okay?"

"Thanks for trying," Gem said and turned to leave.

"Want me to change and we can go someplace else?" Silver asked after her. Gem shook her head, and opened the door. Silver reached over to grab Gem's shoulder. "Was it the comment about the cheap cyberwear?"

Gem turned her head to look at Silver. "Like I said, it's not you." She shrugged Silver's hand off and walked out.

"Then why won't you tell me what it is?" Silver called after her. Gem ignored her, and walked out into the club.

Silver quietly followed her out, until Gem stopped and turned around. "You're not giving up, are you?" Silver shook her head. "Fine. Throw something on, okay?"

Silver nodded. "Come on back here and let me change, okay?"

"I'll wait here," Gem replied sternly.

"You better be here when I get back," Silver said with a determined tone.

"Sure," Gem said. Silver was back in less than five minutes wearing a brown trench coat. Gem nodded to her. "C'mon, we're off."

"Alrighty," Silver replied with renewed enthusiasm.

"Your place," Gem said abruptly and lead her out of the club.

"Er, wait!" Silver by the weapon check and retrieved a duffel bag. Gem retrieved her pistol and exited into the cold night's air. Silver followed shortly behind her. "My place!?" she asked, shocked.

"Yeah. Your place. You do have one, right?" Gem said, turning back to Silver.

"Feh! Of course!" Silver said, waving her hand. "I was just surprised, that's all."

"Then lead the way."

"Alrighty." Silver smiled and headed off.

As she trudged up the stairs, Gem was surprised by the good condition of Silver's place. She had an apartment on the second floor of a small apartment block that was still in excellent condition. The place was powered, and she suspected had good water supplies too. From the look of the people downstairs, it was run by some form of organized crime.

Silver opened the door to her apartment, and showed Gem in. It was a small two-bedroom affair, tidy but sparsely furnished. A large couch sat in the living room, and two doors Gem guessed were for bedrooms.

"Do you share this place with someone?" Gem asked as she stepped in the doorway.

"Yeah," Silver replied. "You remember April?"

Gem nodded. "When's she due back?"

"About 2:30sih," Silver replied.

"Fine." Gem indicated to the two bedrooms. "Which one's yours?" Silver pointed out the right door. "Fine," Gem muttered.

She took of her jacket and threw it on the couch. She walked to the room indicated, pulling her shirt off as she went. She dumped the shirt by the door, and walked into the bedroom. She glanced around the room, noting a small arsenal of weaponry around the bed. She ignored it and stepped inside.

Gem tugged off her sports bar and let it fall by the bed. She sat on the side of the bed, yanked off her boots, and finally lay down on the bed, arms spread, waiting for Silver. Silver lost her coat somewhere between the front door and bedroom, revealing a form fitting black one-piece. She had a seat on the bed next to Gem.

Gem looked up at Silver's confused expression. "Isn't this what you wanted?"

"What? You think I just to jump into bed with you?" Silver asked.

"That's certainly the signal you were giving off."

"But it's not just what I wanted."

"Well, you got it anyway. Go ahead," Gem said in a bored tone.

Silver leaned over and kissed Gem on the lips. When she got no response from the bodyguard, Silver rolled over on the bed next to her. "You don't seem to into this."

"Nah, really?" Gem spat at her.

"Like I said, I don't just want sex." An evil grin spread across Silver's face, and she reached down to caress Gem's bare stomach; then began to tickle her.

Gem flinched, and tried to contain herself. Her face twitched into a smile. "I thought you weren't just interested in sex?"

"I'm not just interested in sex. I'm interested in fun. It just so happens that sex is fun," Silver explained, playing her fingers across Gem's stomach. She sniggered, watching Gem trying to control herself.

"Cut that out," Gem said between clenched teeth.

"Okay." With that Silver started tickling, Gem's side.

"I said, cut it out!" Gem gasped, in between giggles.

Silver paused as she sat up, then leant down and began tickling Gem again, this time with both hands.

"Augh!" Gem burst into fits of laughter, gasping "Stop it, stop it!"

"See, and all you thought I wanted was sex," Silver said as she continued her merciless assault. She continued tickling the bodyguard until Gem was out of breath.

"Enough, I give up," Gem gasped as she tried to regain her breath.

"Okay." Silver gave pause to her helpless victim.

Gem covered her breasts with her arms. "So just what is it you do want?"

"Just to have some fun." Silver was grinning from ear to ear. "Like that."

"Then I guess you're winning." Gem couldn't help but smile at her.

"I dunno, looks like you're winning too." Silver reached down and touched Gem on her nose.

"Hardly." Gem's smile vanished. "I stormed in here, trying to make you feel bad, and I wind up having giggling fits."

"Perhaps, but I think you're enjoying this a lot more." Gem just nodded.

Silver looked deeply into Gem's eyes, and smiled, but Gem looked away from her. "I... I'm sorry," she said.

"It's okay," Silver replied.

"No, it's not. I've been rude and mean to you, and all you've done is to want the best for me," Gem said quietly.

"Like I said, I want to have some fun." Silver took a deep breath. "And if the person with me better be having fun too."

"Yeah," Gem looked up, a wry smile on her face. "Yeah, she is."

"You better be," Silver said, as if threatening her.

"Or what?" Gem said, almost daring her.

"Or this!" With that Silver began tickling Gem again. Gem burst into another fit of hysterical laughter, unable to stop until she Silver finally let her catch her breath.

Gem lay down, waiting for Silver who lay down next to Gem, and put her arm around her. Gem looked at Silver, kind of embarrassed. "Thing is... I don't usually..." she trailed off.

Silver pulled Gem in closer to her. Gem muttered briefly, seemingly confused, then was silent. Silver brought Gem in close enough so that their noses were touching. "Um..." Gem blushed heavily.

"It's okay," Silver whispered, "If you don't want to."

"I'm just not sure," Gem whispered.

"That's okay. You don't have to go any further than you want to." Silver just rubbed Gem's nose with her own.

Gem closed her eyes and thought for a second. She then looked up at Silver and smiled. "Yeah... I think I do."

Silver leaned forward a little more and kissed Gem again, who returned the kiss and wrapped her arms around Silver. After a few seconds she quickly rolled over, placing Silver under her.

Silver woke up first, checking her wrists for any chafing. She's had rough nights before, but none this rough for quite awhile. She gave a catlike stretch then wrapped her arms around the petite Japanese girl, who was curled up asleep next to her. The smell of fresh coffee filled the room.

A low moan signaled Gem's awakening. "Morning," Silver said. Gem opened her eyes and slowly looked around. She noticed Silver behind her, and groaned. "You okay?"

"Yeah..." Gem said, as Silver rolled her over onto her back. "Oh god..." she muttered, looking over at Silver. "I got rough, didn't I?"

"Mmmm, you're telling me."

"Sorry. I get... kinda... carried away."

"I noticed."

"Unh..." Gem sat up and looked around. "I need to go... My stuff's still outside, isn't it?"

Silver looked around, "Looks like it's piled in front of the door."

"That means your roommate's here?" Gem asked.


"Oh boy." Gem clambered out of the bed and began gathering her clothes.

Silver sat up and watched her. "What's wrong?" she asked. "No offense," Gem replied, "I just don't really want word to get around."

"Mmmm nice." Silver murmured, looking over Gem's body. She had an impressive physique, with well-defined muscles all over. Silver couldn't see any marks on her body - no scars, no birthmarks; nothing. She could see that Gem was still wearing her single pearl stud, as well as a simple Silver locket.

"I wouldn't worry too much about it, April's really good at keeping secrets. Want to take a shower?"

"I could do with one, thanks." Gem peered out the door, hoping she was in the clear.

Silver walked over to her, "I wouldn't be too worried about her, I'd be more worried if she brought another girl back with her."

Gem paused for a second, speechless. She finally came up with "Oh," then added "Are you two...?"

"Oh yeah." Silver said with a broad grin.

"But then she doesn't mind if you fool around, right?"

"She fools around too."

"Right," Gem muttered. She glanced out the door again, and looked around. Seeing no-one at first, she dashed out into the living room, but didn't see the bathroom. She did however see a teenage girl in a satin robe sitting at the breakfast bar drinking a mug of coffee. "Ah..." Gem bunched her clothes to her chest, turning bright red.

"Morning," the girl said with a smile. "I'm April. Would you like some coffee?"

"I'm, um, looking for the bathroom," Gem muttered.

"It's back in the bedroom, and through the door on your left." April sipped her coffee.

Gem wordlessly walked back into the bedroom, sparing Silver and evil glare. "You could have told me."

"Sorry, you just moved so fast," she said with a smile. Silver headed to the bathroom with Gem. "Question, do you sleep with girls often?"

"Never before," Gem replied.

"So, I'm your first!" Silver exclaimed, very pleased with herself.

"I wouldn't be that happy about it," Gem muttered.

"I just think that it's kinda neat, that's all," Silver explained. "But that would explain why you were nervous about bumping into April."

"No, that was mostly because I was barging into her living room stark naked." Gem dumped her clothes and turned on the shower. The water was cold, but refreshing and very clean. She immediately stepped in.

"Oh, I wouldn't worry too much about it." Silver stepped into the shower with her.

Gem turned around and saw Silver up next to her. "Yeeks!" she stepped back into the shower, pressing her back against the wall.

"You're getting embarrassed after last night?" Silver said, stepping forwards. Gem just blushed, and pressed herself back against the wall, trying to squeeze into the corner. Silver picked up a sponge and started lathering it up. "You first," she said.

"Do you mind?"

"This is fun, you should give it a try." Silver smiled as she menaced Gem with a lathery sponge.

"I've given enough a try today," Gem said.

"Okay," she handed Gem the sponge. Gem breathed a sigh of relief. She took the sponge, looked embarrassed again, and turned her back on Silver.

"Wow," Silver stated, looking at Gem's back. "You have a very impressive build."

"Years of work," Gem commented.

"It's paid off."

"It's not just for looking good," Gem said, passing the sponge over her shoulder to Silver.

Silver began sponging Gems back. "No kidding." The bodyguard shuddered at Silver's touch. "You're still nervous?"

"Very," Gem said in a small voice. "I'm not used to this."

"That's okay, just close your eyes and think about the clean water." Gem nodded, and did so. She relaxed almost immediately. Silver continued washing Gem's back using plenty of lather. "There, all done."

"Thanks," Gem said quietly.

"You're welcome. My turn?" Silver asked, offering Gem the sponge.

"Sure," Gem said, turning around. Silver handed her the sponge, and stepped forward into the spray. "I thought you meant your back."

"I'm over for anything you're willing to try."

"Sure," Gem said nervously, and reached for Silver with the sponge. Silver leaned her head back, and let her arms hang down at her side. Gem started working her way across Silver's body. She was clean shaven from the neck down, and had a seemingly ideal figure. Gem also noticed that she didn't have any marks or scars on her either.

As she worked down Silver's front, Gem's finger lingered over a fresh mark on her breast. "Sorry about that one," Gem said.

Silver looked forward. "That's okay, it'll be gone really soon."

"Sure," she said and continued her way down Silver's front.

"That's nice, see you can be gentle."

"Turn around," Gem ordered. Silver obliged, and Gem started washing Silver's back up and down.

"Mmmmm, That's good," Silver muttered.

"What are you thinking?" Gem asked.

"I'm thinking that you can be really gentle when you want to be."

"Yeah... I'd just forgotten how."

"You learn quickly though." With that Silver turned around and ran her hand through Gem's short hair.

"This is more like... old me," Gem said.

"Really?" Silver kissed Gem on the forehead.

Gem backed away from her again. "I've changed a lot of late, and this feels more like how I used to be."

"You seem a lot more relaxed than you did earlier."

"Yeah. I just haven't really relaxed in a while. I've been awful tense."

"Why don't you relax here for a little while longer?" Silver offered.

"Because I've got a job to do. I've only got so much time off, you know."

"I understand." Silver seemed surprisingly aware of things. "Think you can spare some more of that time here?"

Gem shook her head. "Sorry. I have my own matters to attend to as well."

"Mmm, okay." Silver cut off the water. The two stepped out of the shower, and Silver grabbed a towel and started drying Gem off. "Anything happen you mind talking about?"

"Family matters," was all Gem said.

"Ah okay. I can't say I understand, but remember you're talking to a spoiled brat who left home to live in the Zone." Silver paused. "Got another question, if you don't mind?"

"I do, actually."

"Gotcha. Don't worry about me prying much more."

Silver put the towel back on the rod and began rubbing Gem's shoulders, but Gem shrugged her off, and shook her head. "I have to go."

"Okay." She quickly wrapped a towel around her head, and one around her body. "Anything more you want to ask me?"

"Yes. When you can, are you going to go back to Neo York?"

"Probably after I turn 18." She paused for a moment. "I have been known to sneak in on occasion to do some shopping."

"Somehow I'm not surprised," Gem muttered as she gathered up her clothes, and headed for the bedroom to get dressed.

"Why do you ask?"

"Just wondering." Gem said. "You seem happy enough here, and you ran away from there in the first place."

"Don't get me wrong, I love the city, I just can't deal with the kinds of restrictions my family put on me there." Silver took a deep breath. "For some reason my father though having a lesbian for a daughter would impair his chances of getting promoted."

"His daughter's feelings obviously being unimportant in this matter," Gem muttered as she pulled her clothes on.

"No kidding?" Silver joked. "Could do whatever I wanted, so long as they made him look good, 'cuz he was the one who had to earn a living. My mom spend all her time entertaining or doing charity events. I had to make straight A; be a cheerleader; be first in any charity drives; you get the idea. We had to be the perfect family." She paused again, and smiled. "He really didn't like it when I broke one of the guys on the varsity team's jaw when were at the coffee shop."

"He's an asshole." Gem glanced up at Silver. "You don't need him."

"Exactly." With that Silver began getting dressed.

"So what are you gonna do when you go back?"

"College would be nice." Silver looked like she had something else on her mind.

"By yourself, of course." Gem grabbed her jacket.

"I'm not to sure about that. I might stick around here for an extra year or so and see if I can take April with me, and anybody else I can get to go." She looked at Gem. "Right now, I need the freedom of the Zone, but I don't think I or anybody else should have to life here forever." Gem stayed silent. "Could you hold up for a couple of minutes, I'll walk you down."

"Sure," Gem said quietly.

"Thanks." Silver quickly dried her hair, and put on a black jumpsuit, and a pair of boots. "When are you planning on going back to the city?" She pulled her hair back into a pony tail, making her look very different.

"I'm not."

"Really?" Silver paused. "How about to visit?" she said in a lower, more serious tone.


Silver looked a bit surprised. "I'm not sure I should ask why."

"Don't," was all Gem said.

"M'kay...." Silver walked over to Gem, and put her hands on Gem's shoulders.

"What now?" Gem said, somewhat irritated.

"Nothing, just close your eyes and remember the fun we had together."

"Some other time."

"I'll remember that. "Silver looked into Gem's eyes.

Gem looked away. "Are we going?"

"Sure." Silver put on a pair of black leather gloves and opened the bedroom door. Gem wordlessly followed her out, nodding to April on the way, who waved goodbye as she munched on a piece of toast.

As Silver lead the way, her attitude seemed substantially different; more authoritative and confident, her voice slightly slower and lower. When they reached the front door of the block, she said "If you ever want to talk, or anything else, don't hesitate to call."

Gem simply nodded, and stepped out the door. She hesitated, then looked over her shoulder and said, "Thanks."

"You're welcome," Silver replied. Gem turned and left her.

Gem strolled through the Zone, lost in thought. What did I think I was doing? I can't get involved with someone. Gem shook her head. She hadn't behaved like that in ages; not since... before. She'd never even looked at another woman before, but somehow she was drawn to Silver. It can't have been her body.

Gem stopped in place. "She's like me," she muttered to herself. "Like I used to be," she continued, and set off again.

She felt, rather than saw a sudden flurry of movement as she stepped past an alleyway. Something lashed out and struck her on the side of the head, sending her staggering. A second blow to her back knocked her down to the pavement. Gem felt the side of her head where she was first struck, and her hand came away bloodied. She tried to stand, but a foot struck her back, forcing her down again.

Silver stepped around the corner, and was shocked by what she saw. Standing over Gem was Brittany, the Puma from last night. Her two owners stepped out of the alleyway, goading her on. "Ah, shit" Silver muttered as she picked up her pace. She began walking quickly towards the scene, putting on her trench coat, and sliding her black beret onto her head in one smooth motion. Normally she didn't do this sort of stuff, but she was getting serious with these punks.

Gem struggled to her knees, but the Puma stamped on the small of her back, forcing her to the ground again. Gem shook her head, trying to recover.

Silver strapped on her gunbelt and katana under her jacket as she made her way to the scene, picking up the pace. She could see that while Gem was in pain, her assailants were too busy playing with her and gloating to take notice of Silver - no, Kami.

When she was very close, Kami broke into a sprint, "Pick on somebody your own size!" she yelled, dashing forwards and punching the Puma. It staggered forwards, away from Gem and span around, quickly wiping a speck of blood from its lips. It spotted Kami and set into a closed fighting pose.

"Who the hell is that?" Terry yelled.

Kami ignored the two punks, for now right now she knew she'd make a tactical blunder, and didn't hurt the Puma badly enough. Now was not the time to analyze things. It was time to take her down. "Go on! Get her!" Terry yelled at his Puma.

Brittany stepped forwards and lashed out, sweeping a hand towards Kami who stepped back, catching the Puma's long arm in a wrist lock. It yelped in pain as it tried to struggle free, but was unable to twist its arm out of her iron grasp.

Terry clutched the sides of his head. "No, stop!" he yelled. Kami had the Puma exactly where she wanted her. Twisting the Puma's arm she forced it to the ground and stepped behind it. Keeping the Puma at arm's length, she thrust her foot into its head.

Terry gaped in horror as Kami released the Puma, letting it slump on the ground. He looked around in terror to see Tony had already bolted. Worse still, Gem was staggering to her feet. She reached into her jacket and swung around, drawing a bead on him with her pistol.

Kami thought briefly about stopping Gem from wasting him, but it was a short thought though; he was just another ignorant cit hiding behind a Puma and causing trouble.

Terry turned to run. The pistol in Gem's hand spurted briefly and was silent. Gem lowered it and turned to... "Silver?" No. The woman before her was nothing like Silver.


"Right," Gem muttered. She looked over the carnage before her, at the Puma and its master, both lying sprawled in the street. "Thanks," she added.

"You're welcome." Kami took a bit of a pause. "Are you okay?"

Gem just nodded. "How come you're so different?"

"It's the attitude," She looked at Gem, seemingly unfettered by watching her shoot somebody in the back.

"Congratulations," Gem said as she turned to leave, "Now you're like the new me."

"Now you know why I like you?" Kami paused. "Perhaps we can help each other?" She said, with a hint of regret in her voice.

Gem stopped in her tracks. "Help?" She rolled the word over in her head a few times. Help? Sure, she needed some help with... but surely that wasn't what she meant.

"Sometimes I get home after a particularly rough night, and I wonder why I don't feel anything when I look somebody in the eye right before I kill them." She paused, "Aren't I supposed to?"

"That?" Gem shrugged. "That means you're a professional. Congrats."

"I don't get it." Kami responded. "Pulling the trigger and what not has always been so easy. It's learning when I need to hold back." She sighed. "I wish I held you back a few moments ago."

"So why didn't you?"

"He didn't mean anything to me."

Gem turned to Kami, raising her voice. "Let me guess. He was just some spoiled brat, running into the Zone for some excitement, who didn't know what he was getting himself into."

"He was somebody I went to school with back when I lived in the city." She paused, "His older bother was named Steve, I broke his jaw in a coffee shop. I could tell a lot more if you wanted to know."

"Why bother?"

"He's not the reason why I should have stopped you."

"So why then?"

"Because of you." Kami stepped towards Gem. "Because I'm not sure that you like being a 'professional.' Because you were so happy when you said that 'this feels like the old me.'"

Gem turned away, and hung her head. She stood still for painfully long seconds. Kami walked up next to Gem and put an arm around her. Gem quickly shook her head. "No. No, I'm happy. I'm okay with what I do, and I'm fine with who I am." She sniffed quietly. "I'm okay. You don't need to worry about me."

"It's okay Gem." Kami pulled closer to Gem, and brushed some of Gem's hair out of her face. She could see Gem's eyes closed tight, welling with tears eh was desperately trying to hold back.

"Gem, I know of something that might help you feel better, if you're up for a challenge?" Gem only stood still, fighting back her tears. "See the Puma over there?" Gem looked over at the Puma through reddened eyes. "If she stays there, she's in no position to protect herself, much less seek out some medical attention. I know of a doctor who could probably help her." Gem slowly nodded. "Think you could help her get some medical attention?"

"Yeah." Gem nodded, and wiped her eyes. "Yeah, let's do it."

"Know much first aid?" Silver said as they bent down to the Puma.

"Enough. If we brace her neck, we should be able to carry her."

Kami looked around for something to brace injured Puma's neck with. "Any suggestions?"

"Your sword should do it. Take off your gun belt, too."

"How about this instead?" Kami asked, holding up the belt to her coat. When Gem nodded, Kami tied her sword around the Puma's head with the belt of her duster, and used the Puma's own belt to affix it to her body.

"Right. You take her shoulders, I'll carry her legs. Lead the way." They lifted the injured Puma, and carefully departed the scene.

"Damn I gotta learn to be more careful sometimes," Kami muttered.

"It was you or her. You did the only thing you could," Gem said. She paused and added "But we're doing the right thing now, too."

"Actually I did what I've been trained to do, and that's maximize the physical damage." Kami sighed.

"Trained? Who the hell trained you like that?"

"Her name is Angel. She was a street sam working here a couple of years ago."

"So she's the one who first took you in?"

"Yeah, I arrived in the Zone, and was grabbed by some slavers. They were connected with a corp. in the city, and Angel was working for the corp cleaning up their business."

"That explains a lot," Gem said grimly.

"Hmmm?" Kami was most amused.

"So did she recruit you or buy you?"

"Neither, she liberated me." Kami went on. "Slavers weren't operating with corporate sanction, and were actually interfering with the company's business."

"Sounds strange to say this, but you got lucky."

"I got damn lucky." Kami smiled, "After that Angel took me in as her assistant. I got to be a practice dummy and get some serious training."

"It's certainly paid off."

"True, She said it was something I had a knack for it."

"You're an upgrade, so you're a natural fighter."

"Yeah, but my attitudes tend to be a bit extreme even for an upgrade. I was always seeing shrinks when I was back in the city."

Gem shrugged. "Then you're a born fighter, I guess."

"Maybe. Angel, and this doesn't get out to anybody, once wondered if my upgrade was actually a botched attempt to enhance me as an esper." Silver looked at Gem, who was silent in thought. "It really doesn't matter now, 'cause I certainly don't have the power now. Angel tested me because my reflexes were so fast."

"It does matter," Gem intoned seriously.

"How's that?"

"If nobody told you about it."

"The only people who would have known were my parents, and the people who did the enhancement..." Kami paused, "Hell, if it was true, my father probably didn't even tell my mother. Besides, aren't espers usually allergic to cyberware or something?"

"Not always. Maybe that was the true intention."

Kami shuddered, "It would be just like my father to use me as a guinea pig."

"It makes sense. No wonder he was so concerned about your behavior."

"Yeah, that's kinda what Angel concluded as well." Kami paused. "There was probably something funny going on, maybe one day I'll find out."

"You deserve to know, if nothing else."

"Thanks." Kami looked up from the injured Puma and smiled.

The two of them arrived outside Dr. Lydia's clinic on Clark Street. The doctor was already outside waiting for them. "I'll leave her with you," Gem muttered. Silver nodded her agreement, and helped Lydia manhandle the Puma inside while Gem waited.

A couple of minutes later, Kami emerged from the clinic fastening her belt around her. "Feel better?" she asked as she emerged. Gem nodded her silent agreement.

Silver stepped up to Gem and brushed aside the hair over her wound. "Don't you want to get that cut on your head looked at?"

Gem shrugged. "I'll live. Besides, I've got to go."

"Okay, come 'ere first." Gem gave Silver a quizzical look. She smiled at Gem. "Just come over here."

Gem stepped forwards with a confused look on her face. Kami leant down and kissed her lightly on the lips. She was surprised when Gem swept her up inn her arms and bent her over, kissing her deeply back.

The pair stood still, locked in their embrace for what seemed like hours, until Gem finally released Kami's lips. The other woman didn't say anything, she just leaned back in Gem's arms.

"Thanks," was all Gem said as she straightened Kami up and released her.

"You're welcome." Kami adjusted her beret. Gem simply turned and walked away. "I'll see you soon," Kami called after her; Gem waved over her shoulder and was gone.

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