by Dustin Evermore, Max Fauth, Lisa Hartjes and Rob Rutherford

[The setting: Midday, two days after the Big Date]

Gem led the way into 93 Underground, with Zenshou following close behind her. The bar had only just opened, and there were only a few patrons inside. It was easy enough to make out Silver, sitting by the stage, talking with a wiry man who Gem knew as Zinger, who handled much of the "behind the scenes" work at the Underground - security, monitoring and the like. Gem nodded in their direction, saying "That's her," over her shoulder to Zenshou.

As Zinger left the table, Silver glanced around and immediately spotted Gem. She watched as Gem looked over her shoulder, addressing a woman with her. She was quite a sight. She had shoulder-length curly blonde hair, streaked with neon green. Her lipstick, microskirt and tiny blazer all matched in a colour that could only be described as 'fuck me red.' As she pulled her sunglasses down her nose with a single fingernail, Silver got a glimpse of piercing blue eyes.

~Well, Gem,~ Zenshou sent. ~I can certainly understand why you'd be having a hard time saying no to her. She is certainly quite a package.~

~Sis, that's not fair!~ Gem sent back, blushing.

Silver was dressed to kill, white synth-leather micro-skirt with laces up the sides, with matching bustier with a large shiny zipper in front, and matching stiletto heals.

"I wonder why Gem's blushing so much? " Silver thought to herself. She stood up and brushed her bangs from out of her eyes and glanced around the club to make sure that she had some spare time. Then straightening what little there was of her skirt and walked over to where the to girls were sitting.

"Hello," she smiled.

Zenshou pushed the sunglasses back into place with her fingernail, but not before she gave Silver an appraising look. "Hello, Silver. Gem's told me a lot about you. I've been hoping that we might have a chance to... meet." Zenshou's lips curved into a slow smile and she lounged back in her chair.

Silver felt like she was being checked out by a jealous girlfriend or something. "Okay," she replied. Silver then gave Gem a quick glance and turned back to Zenshou. "I hope they were good things."

Gem nodded. "Of course," she said. She indicated to Zenshou, and began the introductions. "Silver, this is Zenshou Shinju, my employer. Zenshou, this is Silver, my- Er..." She stopped half-way, at a loss for words.

"That's an interesting way of putting it," Zenshou said, sending Gem an unreadable glance. "It's a distinct pleasure to the meet you, Silver." She paused. "The two of you need to talk. Shall I go get myself a drink," Zenshou asked Gem.

Silver smiled and nodded to Zenshou. "Its a pleasure to meet you too."

Gem nodded. "If you wouldn't mind," she said. She watched as Zenshou left the table, then turned her attention to Silver.

Silver nodded to Zenshou as she left, then had a seat at the table and started off. "I'm really sorry about the trouble I got you into the other night."

Gem shrugged. "I don't think it was exactly your fault." She glanced nervously at Zenshou, then back to Silver.

Zenshou winked at Gem, hoping it would give her the encouragement she needed to talk to Silver and get what was bothering her out into the open.

"Thanks, but I do feel kinda responsible." Silver glanced down at the table.

"The thing I really wanted to ask you about is that night." Gem scratched the back of her head, looking rather embarrassed. "You see, between the tranquilizers and all the booze, I really can't remember what happened." She wound up giving Silver a sheepish smile. "Can you fill me in?"

"You don't remember anything?" Silver looked up from the table. She looked like she was going to choke of something.

Gem shrugged. "Bits here and there. I know Korey shot me, and I'm pretty sure I embarrassed myself." Gem stopped, and thought for a second. "Although," she continued, "I imagine that was fairly easy to do."

Silver sighed, "We talked, we danced, it was fun". She looked Gem in the eyes, "I wouldn't worry about anything overly embarrassing if I were you."

Gem shook her head. "Look, I need to know. You know how important my rep is to me. I've gotta know just what I did..." Gem grimaced. "And just who saw me."

"Gem," Zenshou said from near the bar, an untouched drink beside her. "We're leaving. Now."

~There's trouble,~ she added mentally. ~We need to get to Drake's ASAP.~

"What?" Gem exclaimed out loud. "But-" she began, indicating to Silver.

Silver seeing Gem's concern and gesturing glanced around, "Don't worry about it. I didn't recognize anybody there."

"Now," Zenshou said sternly as she tossed cash onto the bar to pay for her drink. ~I can sum the trouble up with two letters: B.C.~ She stood up and headed for the door. "We can come back and play with Silver another day."

Gem nodded apparently in relief. She stood up, turning to the door, then suddenly stopped. She glanced back at Silver, a sheepish expression on her face, and simply said "Sorry about this."

Zenshou was glad that Gem was with her when she watched the cab that dropped them off a block away from the Stone estate. The man was a lech, and worse than that, he was a mouthy one, and his comments about Zen's attire could not have come at a worse time. Normally, she would have just blown them off, but this time she had to suppress the desire to give the man a migraine that would last a month. However, she could feel Gem's anger at the situation and she had no desire to make things worse than they already were.

After buzzing the gate, Jason let the two women in, and they proceeded directly to the front door. Gem didn't wait for the door to open fully, she barged right in and made a beeline for Jason. With obviously enhanced reflexes, her hand shot out and hit him on the face with a resounding slap.

"You idiot! What where you thinking, if at all?"

Jason looked back calmly at Gem even as his cheek stung from the slap. He chose to be obtuse. "I was just thinking Zenshou might be a lot better off in some armor." He followed the statement up with a wink as he turned to the closet.

Zenshou bit her lip to keep from smiling, and kept a calm, emotionless mask in place.

"I meant that stunt at the restaurant! Didn't you think someone might spot her? You've blown her cover!" Gem yelled, almost incoherent.

"That wasn't a stunt, that was minor bad luck. There wasn't a cover to be blown. No one knows Zenshou is Midori, and the bad guys knew Midori was still alive. What's lost? Now we've forced the enemy's hand and probably saved me billions of dollars and Zenshou a hell of a lot of time in doing so." Jason looked calm and collected as he faced Gem. In fact, he even seemed to be in pretty good spirits, considering he was about to get his hereditary family home pulverized.

"You've signed our death warrants!" Gem shook with anger as she leaned in to face Dustin. "There's no way in hell we can fight them. They're probably on the lawn right now, watching us!"

Jason shook his head. "Look, do you really want to argue about this now? If you think you are going to die, then leave right now, and move fast, because we don't have much time to waste."

"Gem, calm down," Zenshou said, stepping between her bodyguard and Jason. "What's done is done, and we can't change the past. We have to think about what we're going to do about it now. What we can..."

Anything further she was going to say was drowned out by the sound of the estate security system going into hyperdrive.

Gem nodded silently, she leaned back, and faced Jason again. "I want you to get her out of here," she said calmly, indicating Zenshou with a nod of her head. "I'll distract them while you two get away."

Jason shouted to be heard over the alarm. "I have stashed a motorcycle in the kitchen in case we get cut off. There are more bikes and cars in the garage. They're gassed up, open and ready to go. Extra pistols and clips are in the flowerpots." Jason killed the audible alarm and in another moment he had grabbed the armored long coat out of the closet. He slid the two swords out of the sheaths built into the coat, stuffing the shorter one behind him in his belt and moving the longer one to his off-hand. He had on only his black armored bodysuit with no extra clothing catch on things or slow him down.

He was in too much of a hurry to ask if she would wear it, so he held out the coat for Zenshou to slide into. "I know it's heavy and hot, but button up beautiful." As she did so, he glanced quickly about his home one last time as sadness touched his eyes. "Damn."

"I'm sorry," Zenshou said, sending him a feeling of regret and sorrow over what was about to happen, then she headed towards Gem. "I need to see at least one of them," she explained. "Just for a few seconds. If I can see them, then I can grab the info I need about of their mind. Just a few seconds, I promise. As soon as I've got the info, we're gone."

Gem shook her head. "You're crazy. All they need is a second if they spot you. There's no way you can watch while I fight them, unless..." Gem stopped, then looked Zenshou in the eyes. "Unless you can see through my eyes."

Zenshou bit her lip. "I don't know. I've never done it before, and I don't know what effect it'd have on you..."

Jason shook his head. "Zenshou will be safe. You've got my word."

Zen looked between Gem and Jason, then jumped at the sound of a muffled explosion.

"It's the only safe way," Gem said. They were interrupted by the sound of heavy footsteps coming from nearby. Gem grimaced and drew her pistol. "Use the mind link, and give it a try. And Jason?" Gem said, turning to the man. "Get her out as soon as she's done."

Gem headed for the door, but stopped before she opened it. She turned to Zenshou and simply said "I trust you." Then she was gone.

Zen looked between Gem's retreating back and Jason, then jumped at the sound of a muffled explosion.

Jason turned to Zenshou and took her hand in his. He lead her at a run through the house to the study. "We can keep an eye on Gem for a moment, and I can access the security system from here to see where they might be." He gestured with his hand to stay low, and ducked low himself, to be beneath any of the windows.

Zenshou nodded and closed her eyes and tried to see through Gem's, but encountered a barrier. ~I can't do it,~ she sent to both of them. ~There's something stopping me, and I'm not going to risk hurting you, Gem.~ Zenshou began to make her way towards the doorway Gem had left through.

The sounds of an engaged battle could be heard as Zenshou peered around the corner. The instant her eyes fell on the figure in the exoskeleton, she sent a piercing mental probe into the person's mind and extracted the information she needed. Zenshou ducked back behind cover just in time to be showered by splinters of wood from where her head would have been.

"I've got what I need," Zenshou said, her voice strangled in her throat. "Oh Jason, they're killing her...."

"Tell her to pull out now. Head for the garage, that's closest," Jason advised.

~Gem! Jason says head for the garage!~ Zenshou hoped the mental intrusion wouldn't cost Gem her life.

~I think this is going to be faster than speaking right now,~ he sent. Jason peeked out the window. ~Shit! You weren't kidding about them killing her! Tell her to hold on, I'm bringing in the air cavalry.~ Jason paused a moment while he dialed Hobbs over his coded link and arranged for an evac. This time he gave them a detailed description of Gem instead of himself. ~They'll be here as soon as they physically can make it.~

He hated the fact Gem was out there by herself, but there was no way he was going to abandon Zenshou's security to save the bodyguard. "Damn. We gotta get out of here." He stabbed a finger at several monitors sitting on a bookcase shelf. "They're inside."

Leading Zenshou by the hand, Jason dashed through the house toward the kitchen, but as soon as he made it to the hallway, he stopped dead, causing Zenshou to collide with him from behind.

Zenshou saw Jason raise his hand and empty his pistol at a target she couldn't see, her view deliberately blocked by Jason, protecting her. Seconds later, his body shook and twisted as his body was hit by gunfire, piercing through the armor like it was paper. Blood spattered the armored trench coat as the bullet that entered Jason low, glanced of the pelvic bone and exited.

"Jason," Zenshou cried out, and then the air began to whirl around her, debris and spent shell casing streaking through the air like shooting starts. Another barrage of bullets came at them, but they bounced off an invisible wall of force.

With a flick of her hand, the floor suddenly tore up as a huge bolt of force shots down the hallway and sent their attacker flying through the wall.

~There's no time,~ she sents to Jason, not knowing if he can hear her. ~I'm going to heal you, then get us out of here. I swear that the Black Company is going to pay for this, along with whoever hired them.~

~No,~ Jason replied, although he well knew Zenshou wouldn't listen. ~Don't worry about it. I'll be fine. Let's just get you out of here.~ He wondered why the wound didn't hurt and he still felt pumped and ready for action, except his legs weren't working right. Crap. I'm in shock, he thought.

~You can't protect me if you're bleeding to death,~ Midori said in a tone that brooked no reply. Her mind quickly worked on a plan to get them away from the battle to a place of safety. This is going to hurt like hell. Hopefully I'll be conscious enough to tell him not to worry.

"Come on," she said, "this way." Zenshou helped Jason down the hall and through a doorway, caring only that they got somewhere they couldn't be seen. "I'm going to get us out of here! Can you stand up?" She wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. Clenching her jaw to keep from crying out, she healed Jason the only way she could think of. The pain was excruciating, but she tightened her grip.

"Now don't..." The debris suddenly began to whip up into the air like a tornado was forming, and Zenshou felt the familiar sensation of being sucked into that other space. They reappeared in an alleyway that Jason recognized was near the Edge of the Night.

"... let..." They were sucked into that space a second time and spat out into an abandoned building Jason knew was over four miles away, near 93U.

"...go." The world receded a third time, and they found themselves in Midori's apartment in the Zone.

Midori's brain felt like it was on fire. She struggled to stay conscious, to tell Jason not to worry, that she was going to be okay, but what came out was the sound of a wounded animal as the world suddenly went black. Midori's arms released their death grip around Jason's waist as she sagged bonelessly in his embrace, head lolling back to reveal twin trails of blood coming out of her nose.

"Zenshou!" exclaimed Jason as he laid her gently on the couch. He saw a blood trail seeping from under the longcoat, so he unbuttoned it to take a look. There he saw the ugly, crimson wound low on her body, puncturing her abdomen and a matching wound on her side where it seemed a bullet exited.

What the hell? Jason wondered. The wound was identical to his own. He double checked that and discovered his own had disappeared completely. What the hell? he repeated in his mind.

"Shit!" Jason ran through the apartment to the bathroom and grabbed a towel. He tore it to strips as he dashed back to Zenshou's side. With a bit of warm water to aid, he cleaned up around the wound and noticed that somehow the bleeding had already stopped. In fact, after the cleaning, it looked a lot better. He tied a long strip around her waist and packed the injury carefully with a bit of extra cloth.

He carefully cleaned up her face and was glad to see that the nose bleed was beginning to slow, too. He raise her head with a pillow to be certain she wouldn't choke on blood, and that she would end up with a nasty sore throat. Finally, he checked her pulse. He wasn't an expert but it seemed regular and strong. He sighed with relief.

"Jesus, Zenshou. Why did you do that?" he asked her sleeping form. "What if that had been a fatal shot I took? Or what if it was just more than your body could handle? You could have died." She could have died for me, he thought silently. This wasn't the way he thought it should work. Wasn't I supposed to be the one helping her?

He guessed that if Zenshou had strained herself enough to cause a nose bleed, it might be accompanied with a mother of a headache, so sleeping was probably a good idea. If he could help it, she would not be disturbed. With all the care he could muster, he sat on the couch and slid his thigh under her head, replacing the pillow, and took her hand in his. Stuffing the pillow behind his neck, he settled back to rest and wait for her to awaken on her own.

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