"This is so damned typical." Sandra stalked in through the door of her apartment, rainwater still dripping off her bullet-ridden longcoat. "And it was a new coat too" she muttered as she threw the coat casually at a chair. It missed. "Tool."

It had been a simple enough job for her. They always were. She needed to retrieve mystery object X from shifty person Y by big money Z. Shifty person Y, of course, had no interest in letting mystery object X go, so Sandra had to of course, use underhanded means to obtain it. Of course, shifty person Y had prepared for this and had a good supply of gun toting goons to keep people away from it.

So there had been a fight. Sandra was good, the mooks were mediocre. Sandra could out-maneuver, out-shoot and out-think them. On the other hand, they could simply out-number her while shifty person Y took mystery object X and, surprise, surprise, did a runner.

And then things had gotten uglier. There'd been a chase that had turned into a running gunfight. There'd been others getting involved. Things had gotten messy. Then a stray round had sent shifty person Y to the bottom of the water along with mystery object X. What a surprise.

Sandra had explained it all nicely to big money Z. They'd said some condescending words, muttered something about third-rate rubbish and pointed out that under their deal, Sandra didn't get any money unless they got mystery object X.

"So why does it keep on happening to me?" Sandra muttered as she trudged through her apartment, dropping her guns over a chair. She'd burnt a lot of ammo, run around endlessly and got holes all through her new longcoat. And it had rained on her on the way home.

She sat down on her bed, undoing her boots. "Every ferking time I go out and do something, it tools up on me." She casually threw a boot across the room. It was true. Every time she tried to do a job, it ended up going wrong. Her contacts or targets got killed. Her target was a friend. The object of her desires ended up maimed, fried or drenched. The man she was trying to protect got his arse shot off...

She threw the other boot across the room where it landed nowhere near the first. Tool. "Can't even throw damned boots right." A shake of the head, maybe to accept fate. "That's me, Sandra Blackmore, forever the looser in life."

She looked around at the expansive bedroom of her million-dollar Hong Kong condo, before flopping back on the soft king-sized bed. "Forever broke."


"Listen. I've had it up to here," Zenshou swore, making a cutting motion at eye level with her hand, "with your little song and dance. Just give me the info I paid you for."

"Or else what? What are you going to do about it, slit?" The thug leaned back against the car while he and his friends laughed.

Zenshou closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath. "Okay. Why don't you just give me my money back and we go our separate ways."

"I don't think so," the thug said, straightening up. His eye traveled the length of her body with a leer.

"Listen," Zenshou said wearily. "I don't want to hurt you. Keep the money."

"Hurt us? Yeah, you and what army," the thug laughed. "We outnumber you ten to one, and you don't even have so much as a pistol on you."

"Not again," Zenshou mumbled, but before she could say anything else, gunfire broke out. She dove for cover behind a ruined dumpster. When she peeked around the corner she saw the thugs she had been dealing with were shooting back at what turned out to be a rival gang.

Thank heavens for gang politics, she thought. Zenshou crouched down and ran, leaving the way she came in. She kept going until she was several blocks away. Zenshou stopped and looked around, then realized she was just down the street from 93U.

Where the hell are you, Jack. Zenshou fought back the tears she felt rising. I wish there was some way you could contact me, to let me know you're okay. She thought for a moment about going into 93U for a drink, but decided against it. She wasn't in the mood for company. Zenshou took a deep breath and started the trek back to her apartment.


93 Underground. Gem's eyes snapped open, and she looked around in confusion. She found herself sitting at a booth, empty glass in hand. The bar itself was strangely quiet. Looking around, she found the colors were all washed out and pale. She was even more alarmed to find the entire club was empty.

"Heya," a voice called out from nearby. Gem spun in her seat, and her jaw dropped open. Swaggering towards her, her hips swaying seductively, was a buxom blonde. She was dressed in strategically destroyed clothing - torn jeans, scuffed boots, a ripped jacket and a tied-up T-shirt proclaiming "Do It" across the chest; all of which were black. Her hair was long and scruffy, clearly unwashed and uncared for, and tied back into a high ponytail. Unlike the rest of the bar, she was in full color, which merely made her full red lips and blazing green eyes stand out all the more.

She brushed a few strands of hair from her face and grabbed a chair, swung it around, and sat straddling the backrest. Gem couldn't believe her eyes. Rachel was right before her.

"Long time," Rachel said. She drank from a beer bottle which Gem could swear wasn't there before. "So what's the update?" she asked.

Gem opened her mouth, but choked on her words. No matter what, she couldn't speak.

Rachel snorted in derision. "Aw, what's the matter?" she asked in a mocking time, then took another pull from her bottle. "Running out of excuses for not getting the job done?"

Again, Gem desperately tried, but couldn't make a noise.

"Now don't get me wrong," Rachel continued, ignoring Gem's efforts to speak. "Hitching up with the teek was a great move." Zenshou appeared at the end of the bar, fading in and out of focus. Oddly enough, she was in her "wannabe" outfit, and the colors stood out brightly. "I even approve of the makeover you gave her."

Zenshou's image shifted, and she reappeared in the new dress she'd purchased. "But what the hell are you doing getting so damned close with her?" Rachel yelled at Gem. "Don't tell me; she's a nice person," she continued with disgust, then took another pull on her beer. "You're meant to use her to get my work done!"

Gem reeled back, crawling further into the booth, away from Rachel's rage. "So how about Ed then?" Rachel continued. A sultry smile crossed her face, and she liked her lips. "Now there was a real man." Ed - or at least an image of the huge enforcer - appeared on a seat on the floor, watching the show. Rachel leaned closer, one hand squeezing her own breast. "You remember how good he was."

Gem closed her eyes and turned her head away. Almost immediately, her eyes snapped open Rachel drew Gem's gaze back to her. "But so what?" Rachel said, leaning back and shaking out her hair. "He's got a bounty on him, and you had the prefect opportunity. Easy cash," she said. Rachel paused to let this sink in before yelling "So why the hell did you let him go?" at the bodyguard.

Gem shook in fear in her seat. She couldn't even move now, and could only watch Rachel as she listed all manner of claims against her. Rachel glanced over at the stage, and Gem's heart sank as she knew what the next accusation would be.

"And of course..." Rachel trailed off as an image of Silver appeared on stage, gyrating to some unheard music in what looked like bad stop-motion film. Rachel turned back to Gem, her eyes narrowed in anger. "What the hell were you thinking? Don't you care what people think of me anymore?"

Gem's mouth opened, forming a single, simple word. "No?" Rachel hollered back. She brought her hand across Gem's face with a loud smack. Rachel leaned in closer, and glared at Gem. "Have you forgotten why you're even here? Why I made you?" she snarled at Gem. "You even wear my earring," Rachel said, fingering a single pearl stud in her right ear, "and you know what that means."

Gem's mouth opened again, this time soundlessly forming two words. "Oh, come on," Rachel replied. "You're don't believe that little lie I invented? How could I be dead while you're still running around?" Rachel leaned back and thought for a second. "Or is that want you want? To be your own person?"

"I-" Gem finally said.

"Never!" Rachel snarled in rage. The room went black around Gem. She felt enormous pressure around her, pushing in from all sides. "You are not a person!" Rachel's voice pounded in on her from all sides as she reached out in the darkness, trying to find a way out. "You are a creation!" Rachel continued. Gem felt a solid surface ahead of her, and pushed against it with all she had. "MY creation!" Rachel shouted from all sides. Gem pounded on the surface ahead of her with all her might, trying to escape from the horror around her. "And you will do what I say!"

"Please let me out!" Gem yelled, tears streaming down her face. The surface in front of her gave way, and she felt a rushing sensation, both falling and rising at the same time. A light appeared ahead of her, and she desperately reached out for it...

Gem sat up in her bed, screaming again and again in horror. She slowly calmed down, her screams becoming deep sobs. She fell to her side crying, and curled up in a ball - white as a sheet and shaking like a leaf.


Walk in the rain, in the rain, in the rain
I walk in the rain, in the rain

I'm standing next to the water front, looking out over the bay, and I am soaked to the skin.

It's my own fault, really. I should have brought an umbrella. I should have paid attention to the weather reports. But I didn't, and now I'm drenched. Wonderful. This is what I get for trying to get out of the office for a few hours.

Everything had started out well enough. The plan had been to get out of the office, take a walk, get some lunch, some air, see the sights. Leave Mandarin Towers Apartments behind me for a while.

Too bad I didn't look up as I left the lobby. I'd have seen the overcast skies and planned better.

Lunch as okay. Actually, it was excellent. Jumbo-sized aquaculture shrimp stir-fired in lemon and black pepper with chopped green peppers, onions, and lettuce. Spicy enough to make my lips burn. Just the way I like it. And they didn't even sit my blue-skinned self in the back of the dining room.

Afterwards I went for a stroll, and ended up along the water front. It's mostly prettied up, since it's not a working port anymore, and the smell isn't anywhere as bad as over on Kowloon Bay, with all the ships dumping waste in the water. So I was actually enjoying myself, walking along, looking in the various shop windows, debating what to do with my day and then... the skies opened up. Figures.

I ended up at the end of an old pier, looking out across Victoria Harbor watching as the rain beat the ocean flat. My hair quickly soaked through and ended up hanging down in my eyes. My coat helped, but water still ran down my back, making me shiver slightly.

I debated going back to my office, but... You see, I don't get much time to myself, and I get less time to do basically nothing. So I leaned on the railing and did, well, nothing. Well, not quite, actually, I did quite a bit of thinking, which is another luxury I don't often get, unless I want to lay awake half the night.

Things had quieted down at the Towers since the mess with Mr. Brady. Feeling encouraged, I had evicted several other equally troublesome tenants and told them to go live somewhere willing to put up with their amusing quirks and idiosyncrasies. Instant peace and quiet.

And then I got a new resident.

Sandra Blackmore, formerly from not here, and a resident of Apartment 806. She's about my height, my build, and has an interesting scar over one eye. As of a few days ago she had a man and a child in the apartment with her, but ever since returning from somewhere else she's been alone. And unhappy.

Sandra is one of the few people in the Towers who accepted me without question. Hell, she even called me up in the middle of the night to ask my advice. She could be... a friend.

I've never actually had a friend before. I mean not really. I recall old friends, but they aren't real... or, if they are, they aren't people I actually knew. But me? I have employees, coworkers, tenants, acquaintances, and contacts, but no friends.

I wonder what it's like?

Running my hands through my hair combs out what seems to be a gallon of water. Leaving the end of the pier, I fish my cellphone out. Maybe she's home. Maybe she'd like a tour of Hong Kong. Maybe she won't mind having be bitch at her about how stupid her neighbors can be.

I don't feel a thing
and I stopped remembering
The days are just like moments turned to hours

Sandra slumped in one of the large armchairs in the living room, looking around at the large apartment. She had arrived back in Hong Kong, alone, yesterday. She'd gone back to her and Drake's; no her; she corrected herself, her apartment with the intention of moving into there and working out of it. She had been tired and unhappy when she got back here, but put it down to jet lag. Now, a good sleep later, she was still tired and unhappy.

She'd come here to get away from what she'd just been through in the Zone. Drake's little war against the brown-bands had and hadn't been what she'd expected it to be. There'd been fighting, there'd been bloodshed, there'd been death. She had been hurt. She'd expected that. But it had gone wrong in so many ways.

She had decided she couldn't go back to her old life. Now, thanks to her, Marta and Drake's efforts, there were a whole lot of dead people in the Zone. Many of them hadn't had a choice in the matter. They'd been killed because they'd been unlucky enough to fall in with the wrong people and get in somebody else's way. And then there was what had happened after that... she still didn't want to think about it. It was the right thing to do, but... No, the Zone had too many bad memories for her.

Unfortunately, HK didn't hold too much for her. Oh. Sure there were many opportunities for a Street Sam like her to get work in HK. That wasn't the problem. No, the problem was that she didn't know anyone here. No contacts, no associates, no friends. No friendly bartender to whine at. No, she didn't know anyone here save for her landlord, a blue-skinned synthetic.

Her phone rang, surprising her. Who could that be? Nobody knows I'm here. She cautiously picked the phone up. "Hello?"

Mother used to say
if you want, you'll find a way
Bet mother never danced through fire shower

I feel like an idiot. What do I say now? Normally I try to have things under control and never do anything spur of the moment. I have now called one of my tenants up for out of the blue (no pun intended) and for what? To see if they want a tour of Hong Kong?

"Hello?" the voice asks again.

Putting the cellphone up to my ear I take the plunge. "Afternoon Miss Sandra Blackmore, this is your landlord. Enjoying our fine Hong Kong weather?"

"Um." She seems to be as unsure of what to say as I am. "Well, not really. I'm not one for standing around in the wet and being dumped on by nature." There's a pause. "Usually, I get dumped on by other people." She sighs. "So what's up, Sarah? Um, I mean, is this related to the apartment or something?"

"Actually..." I pause and then let spill. "Care to be shown around Hong Kong?"

There's another long pause. She seems to be completely lost for words here, so now I don't sound that bad. "Um, sure. Yeah. I mean, heck. I'm new here. I don't know what the place is like, where everything is or. well, anything, really."

Walk in the rain, in the rain, in the rain
I walk in the rain, in the rain
Is it right or is it wrong
and is it here that I belong

The intercom on the wall beeped just as Sandra left her room, pulling on her newest longcoat. She picked up the receiver and peered into the unit's small screen. The face on the other end was unmistakable. Very few women Sandra knew had blue skin and hair. "Hi" Sarah began. "I'm down in the lobby whenever you're ready."

"Be right there." She grabbed an umbrella from a stand by the door, then left. The ride down in the lift gave her some time to think. What the hell do I say to her? Hi, how are you? No... Damn, she's bound to ask some uncomfortable questions about Moira and Drake. Don't think about it. Be natural.

The lift doors opened. Sandra stepped out to see Sarah standing by the security desk. She'd presumably changed since their conversation, as her clothes were fresh and dry. "Hi" Sandra began, almost nervously as she walked towards the synth. "How are you?"

"Not dripping wet." Sarah replied. "Lucky to be away from the morons who live here. You?"

Sandra smirked at her comments. Sarah had this wonderful view on the world that seemed to nicely match hers. "Pretty crappy. I'm tired, jet lagged, and still trying to get over a nasty arm injury." She was hoping that 'morons who live here' didn't include her.

This invoked a smile from the synth. "At least I'm not suffering alone."

"Good." Sandra looked out the glass front of the tower. "So, where do we start?"

"That depends." Sarah replied. "Do you want to see the touristy stuff that everybody else goes to by the truckload, or do you want to see the shopping, or the restaurants, or something else?"

Sandra paused for thought. "Hmm... Well, is there anywhere you like to go for starters? We can start from there and move on."

Sarah raised an eyebrow and then assumed a thoughtful expression. "Hmm..." she muttered. "How about the open-air market? It's one of my favorite places to go. And you can get anything there." Sarah paused for effect and then repeated, "Anything."

Sandra considered this for a few seconds. "Sounds interesting. Let's go." She handed Sarah the umbrellas, and turned up the collar on her coat. "It looks like a great day to be out."

"Better than staying here," Sarah replied.

I don't hear a sound
Silent faces in the ground
The quiet screams, but I refuse to listen

I like the open-air market. I really do. It's this huge rambling collection of stalls and tables where one can honestly buy just about anything. I've seen everything from bootleg music discs to bulk cartons of instant ramen. I go there for several reasons. One is that I can get bulk cartons of instant ramen. Really good instant ramen. Two is that I can get decent clothes for cheap. Three? No one looks at me twice. Seriously. The people shopping are a mix of HK cits, tourists who are either really lost or in the know, synthetics like myself (well... there are no synthetics exactly like me, but you get the idea), cyborgs, and the cybernetically enhanced. Who is going care about someone with blue skin?

The market, or at least the local version, is tucked back amid the high-rises. You can't see it from the main roads, and have to wind your way through the back alleys and side streets until you come to this area of nonstop stalls and mish-mashed canvas roofing.

As we walk, I try to give Sandra an idea of where we are going and how. I also tell her that in order to get around Hong Kong quickly, one had best either walk or ride a motorcycle. The streets are too cramped for cars, and the buses and taxis are too slow (and expensive). As I don't own a bike, we walk.

Life in HK is pretty much separated into layers. One's social status can be determined by where one works, lives, and plays. Mandarin Towers is a perfect example. The ground floors are all shops and stores, the middle floors are residences, and the top floors are a home to the rich. The more well-off you are, the higher up you can live, work, and even travel. The rich don't use the streets, they have personal VTOL craft to get around in.

Actually, I don't mind. The rich aren't much good for anything beyond a decent tip... provided I wear a low-cut dress and remember to bend from the waist a lot. I swear, corporate execs must think all synths are insatiable for sex and bisexual to boot. Idiots.

So we go down the street, make a left at the end of the block, and then make a left again. As we wind our way back I tell Sandra not to worry, the streets may look a bit rough, but its not as bad as it seems. And HK is nothing like one of those UNA Zero Zones. Sandra sort of looks at me funny in response to that last comment, but says nothing. I shrug and move on.

If there is a hell
I'm sure this is how it smells
Wish this were a dream, but no, it isn't

After the dark dreariness of the Zero Zones and all the killing and death that she had been through, Sandra loved the markets. They were so full of color, movement and life to her, even accounting for the dull sky overhead. She had been hopping from stall to stall, sampling or examining or trying seemingly everything she came across. She'd already picked up several bags of new clothes, just so she'd have something to wear other than her usual shirts, jumpsuits and overcoats.

"Sorry about that," Sandra blurted out to Sarah as she returned from another stall. "I thought I saw a shirt I liked, only it was too small for me and not quite the color I wanted anyway."

"Don't worry about it" the blue-skinned synth replied. "It happens to me on occasion."

"I can tell why you like the place." Sandra looked around at the maze of stalls. "It's different, bright... lively." She turned back, smiling. "Thanks for bringing me out here."

"You know, that's the first time I've seen you smile." Sarah replied. "Either today or since you got back to Hong Kong."

Sandra looked away for a moment. "Things in Neo York... didn't go as well as we'd planned."

"The man and the child who were with you were involved, right?" Sandra nodded. "I see."

Sandra sighed. "Sarah... um..." She looked away from the synth. "About that time I called you up in the middle of the night to ask your advice."

"Oh yes, that." Sarah replied dryly.

"I, uh, just wanted to say that I'm sorry for bothering you, and for waking you up and everything." She seemed to be genuinely embarrassed now, looking at the ground while shuffling one of her feet. "I called you, because, well, I needed someone to talk to. All my friends were in another time zone and, well, most of them don't even have phones so..."

"You called me because I was the only person in Hong Kong that you knew?" Sarah replied.

"That and another reason." Sandra answered. "I think we hit it off on the wrong start with you having to, ah..."

"Fish your chewed swimwear out of a drain?"

"Yeah, that." She rubbed her head. "The thing is that, well, I kind of see you as a friend. You have this wonderful view of the world that I like and seem to agree with a lot."

"A friend?" Sarah paused and looked up at the sky, which was still sprinking the area with a light mist of rain. "I don't think I've ever had a friend before."

Walk in the rain, in the rain, in the rain
I walk in the rain, in the rain
Am I right or am I wrong
and is it here that I belong

We end up at a counter eating a late lunch... or an early dinner, I guess its all in how you look at it. I opt for an old standby, which is a noodle soup with strips of what are supposed to be beef, but I suspect is really flavored tofu. Sandra gets a plate of grilled chicken and soy-stuff that's supposed to be good for you. Since I asked her out, I spring for the food, which I end up think might be a mistake, as Sandra goes back for seconds. Well, its not like I have a lot of needs to spend it on anyway.

"Next time," I tell her, "we'll go over to Kowloon, or across the harbor to Lantau Island."

"Sure," Sandra takes a bite of her chicken. "Hey, this is pretty good."

I nod and give her a smile. "I told you this was a good place to go."

"Y'know," Sandra says thoughtfully. "I think this is the first time I've seen you smile."

I don't know what to say to that. I don't usually have reason to smile, but then... I've never actually have some around that I could talk to, as opposed to talk at. Instead I look out at the market, where the rain has picked up again.

"You in any hurry to get back?" I ask.

"Not really." Sandra seems content to drink tea and go through her bags and bags of purchases.

"Then order another plate and a pot of tea. On me." I sit back and drink my own tea and watch the rain come down. Sort of how I started my day, except I'm dry. And warm. And am drinking tea. With a friend.

Walk in the rain, in the rain, in the rain
I walk in the rain, in the rain
Why do I feel so alone
For some reason I think of home


The Corner Garden billed itself as an "Exclusive Gentlemen's Club" that was "Dedicated to the relaxation and comfort of it's clients." Which added up to a pretty wordy euphemism for "upmarket strip club and brothel". It had a nice location that had to be worth a plentiful amount in rent alone. The staff of tailor-made pleasure synths had to be incredibly expensive as well. Add to that the luxurious furnishings and grandiose dˇcor, and it would be worth a small fortune. It was, however, geared towards a certain type of clientele who tended to spend big and tip generously.

Right now, several of those clientele were trying to answer questions regarding a fight that had broken out in the Garden's large bar. It wasn't easy, as the man who was asking them was a NYPD Inc. officer. The young officer was pressing for details, while several men were standing around umming and ahhing, obviously not wanting to let on who they were and what they were doing here.

Alan Davies watched this from the bar, while inspecting the damage done to the wood panelling. It had clearly been savaged by someone wielding a heavy object. The overweight, nervous-looking manager stood next to him, fidgeting with his fingers.

"You understand that nothing like this has ever happened before, sir." The manager commented. "We run a respectable establishment here and don't go in for this kind of behaviour."

"I see." Alan replied, turning to the manager. "And I suppose you would like it if this was resolved quickly and quietly."

"Well, yes..."

"And I also suppose you'd like it if none of your prestigious clientele were asked too many questions or had to give witness statements, thus putting their names on the record."

"That would be nice." He wiped his brow with a handkerchief.

"It would also be very difficult." Alan replied. "I mean, this is a criminal assault. And there's severe property damage as well." Then something caught his eye. A woman walked past, wearing a brief French maid's outfit. She was stupidly leggy and very generously proportioned with waves of long blonde hair.

"Do you like her?" The manager asked.


"Of course." He replied. "Her name is Barbara. She's... one of our best. Made according to strict specifications."

"I see." Alan replied. "I'm sure that we could come to some sort of arrangement." The manager scurried off. "Ken!" Alan shouted at the other officer. "Get over here!"

Ken ran over. "What's up, sir?"

"I'll look after this one. Tell the station that we have everything in hand." As Ken was about to leave, he added. "I'll need your notes."

"Yes sir!" Ken handed him the book and scampered off. As soon as he was gone, Alan smirked to himself. As he casually tore pages out of the book and dropped them in an empty glass on the bar, he gazed at Barbara's form.

"Synthetic, huh?" He picked up a glass. "Synthetic is fine with me. Daddy does love his plastic."


<<on line (09:13:42/10-06-32)>>









Our earlier assessment that the Fox prototype #7 (Shoko) was in hiding with her friend Hogan, a Nexus-6 combat replicant, appears to have been in error. The Nexus' hiding place, a small unserviced dwelling near Perth, was recently identified by us. Unfortunately, surveillance has indicated that Shoko is not present there, as was originally expected.

It now seems that the replicant, Hogan, represents the most likely source of information regarding the current whereabouts of the missing prototype synthetic, having almost certainly assisted her escape following the initial extraction attempt.

I request permission to engage in a capture and interrogate operation targeted at Hogan. Please authorize within 72 hrs., if possible. A limited window of opportunity currently exists, after which the operation may be more difficult to carry off in a fully covert manner.



Return to Kazei 5 PBEM Stories