Note: This takes place immediately after Two of Kind 1 and immediately before Where do we go From Here?
Steve was pissed. First that bitch had killed Terry, then she somehow managed to not only beat the extraction team but had also gotten his dad into too much trouble to be believed. Now he was going to finish the job the old fashioned way: hire a real Street Sam to do it. So he dropped by the store picked up a pistol, a shotgun, and an armored trench-coat.
Now he was in the Zone. Getting in was easy; the guards just let him through the checkpoint, no questions. As he looked around he was surprised at the vegetation. He was expecting The Zone to be all burned out buildings and cars, and street sams who were walking killing machines. But instead of being black and dead there was grass and other vegetation growing out of almost every crack possible.
"Where do I go first?" he asked himself. According to Tony, he first ran into the girls at 93 Underground. That would probably be a good place to start, except he didn't want to be recognized and tip Eve off. Nor did he believe that he actually stood a chance against somebody who could take down a Puma as fast as Tony described.
Now that he thought about it, he was really confused. Sure Eve was an upgrade. Sure she knocked him out and broke his jaw with one punch. But a Puma? Man if the strippers were that tough, he could only imagine how tough the street sams were. That little whore is toast, he thought.
But where to find a somebody like that? He thought back to all the vids he'd seen. A bar, but the only one he knew about was the Underground, and he had already ruled that out. But where? Then he saw exactly what he was looking for - "The Edge of Night." Awesome, he thought to himself, any bar called The Edge of Night had to be the kinda of place he was looking for. Steve gathered his bravado and headed for the club.
After checking his weaponry at the door he made his way into the club. He was rather surprised; he had figured everybody in these places would be armed to the teeth. It was the first place he'd been to where they didn't check his ID. Then he had a brief flash of brilliance. Of course, Zoner's didn't have IDs. Those were reserved for real people.
He began looking around the club for a suitable street sam. Wow this place must be tough, he thought, they even have a Puma serving drinks. The waitress in question wandered over to him. "Sir would you like a drink?" she asked, but stopped and hesitated.
"Brittany?" It took Steve a few moments to recognize his brother's former bodyguard. She was in a short skirt and a small tight t-shirt and carrying a rack of shots.
"Master!" Brittany immediately got down on her knees and started sobbing. "I'm so sorry! I tried to go home but they stopped me at the gate and I didn't know what to do."
"I thought you were dead along with Terry!" Steve was outraged that the bodyguard was still alive and his bother was dead.
"T-T-T-Terry's dead?" She looked up at him and let her rack fall to the ground.
"You didn't know?" Steve yelled in anger.
"N-N-No," She sobbed.
"How could you have not known?"
"S-S-She came out of no where, I tried to fight back but she was so strong, I-I-I didn't have a chance." The Puma was stuttering in fear.
Steve raised his hand to strike her, but someone grabbed his wrist and hoisted him off the ground. "Nobody hits the staff around here, even if they are just a skinjob," the bouncer breathed in his ear. Looking down and seeing the sobbing Puma with spilled shots, he narrowed his eyes and said "You're outta here." The bouncer then grabbed Steve's free hand, pulled it behind his back and carried him out of the bar.
Steve was too paralyzed with fear to even struggle. This was exactly the kind of person he wanted to hire to off that bitch Eve. Before he could start to make the offer he found himself being tossed bodily onto the ground outside the club. Almost as he landed he felt the pain of being kicked in the ribs by the bouncer.
Brittany ran up behind the bouncer, yelling "Wait!"
The bouncer stopped in confusion and turned to look at the waitress. "Why don't you want me to beat the crap outta this punk?"
"B-B-Because its my duty to protect him." Brittany raised herself up to full height.
The bouncer looked down at him. "I see," he muttered. He had no intention of fighting a Puma, even if it was just Brittany. Ever since he met her she was just a timid waitress, now she was starting to act differently; she was staring to act like a real Puma. With that he walked back in the club.
"Master, are you OK?" she asked, running to his side.
"Yeah, I'm fine." He began to stand up and Brittany helped him to his feet.
He started back to the club, but Brittany held him back. "Wait, you can't go back there. You just got thrown out." Brittany was worried for Steve. She had just prevented the bouncer from killing him, and now he wanted to go back for more.
"Two things, I need my guns, and I want to hire that bad-ass bouncer to kill somebody," he replied in a stern tone that Brittany knew all too well.
Brittany had seen incidents like this before. "Sir! If you give me your tickets I can retrieve your weapons. Because if you try, he might kill you."
Steve stopped. For some reason the Puma made sense. "OK, but I still want to hire that bastard to kill somebody," he said, and handed his tickets to Brittany. She dashed back into the club.
A few minutes later Brittany came back with Steve's weaponry. She couldn't help but notice that the shotgun still had the price tag on it. "Mace says no dice. If you want somebody killed go to the Half Tanked, or any place but here."
Steve looked around and asked, "So where is the Half Tanked?"
Brittany brightened up a little. "I've been by there a few times, but never actually gone in."
"Lead the way!" Steve was anxious to get going.
Steve looked over inhabitants of the bar and realized exactly how much he didn't fit in. Well worn would be the polite way of putting things, beaten to hell and back was more appropriate. Not just the customers, but building itself was awful. The walls were tobacco stained yellow, the paint was flaking off, and the wallboard itself was chipped and cracked. Steve wondered what kind of self-respecting assassin would hand out in a place like this.
He started in cautiously, checking over his shoulder that Brittany was still there. Seeing the Puma bodyguard renewed his confidence and he strode into the bar. A pair of unpleasant characters sat in one corner, watching him enter.
"I say, Mr. Muttley," said the tall one, returning to his companion.
"Yes, Mr. Spratt?" replied his rotund companion.
"It does appear that we have a newcomer to our particular public house by yonder door," the tall one said, nodding towards Steve.
"Curious that he would bring such a notable accessory with him," the wide one added, carefully observing Brittany's features.
"Shall we investigate the matter further?"
Steve stood at the bar doing his best to look tough, or at least pretend he knew what he was doing. He kept glancing up at Brittany, as if to ask for advice, but every time he held off. He wrongly believed that asking the Puma for advice was less conspicuous than his constant glancing up at her.
The bartender pointed at him, waiting for an order. "Oh sorry, I'd like a Heffeweisen," he respond.
The bartender almost laughed. "Right up." Moments later he slammed mug of beer in front of the young man. "Here's yer beer."
Steve glanced into his mug. The beer was cloudy as it should be but it just didn't look quite right. "This is not a Heffeweisen," he said slowly.
"You asked for a beef, here's a beer. And that'll be five for the import," the bartender replied.
"Five for this?" Steve was almost shocked.
"This is the special house brew, and don't think you can just go pushing be around because you have pew-ma either." The bartender snorted in derision. "I serve the drinks here, and nobody messes with the man controlling the booze."
Steve reluctantly pulled out a roll of twenties and handed him one. After a quick exchange of currency, Steve was still not happy, even less so after tasting the beer.
"I say good sir, might I intrude for a bit of confabulation?" Steve turned around quickly to see the who had spoken. Approaching him were an odd looking duo, one tall and gaunt, the other something like a punk sumo wrestler. Brittany's hair stood up on the back of her neck. She wasn't sure why, but she knew she did not like the looks of the two men approaching.
"Mr. Muttley, the present doublet appear flabbergasted by our advent," the taller man commented.
His broad companion nodded. "Precisely Mr. Spratt, perhaps prolegomenon is required. My compatriot is Jeffery Spratt and I am Randall Muttley. Might we inquire as to your cognomen?"
Steve looked at the two in confusion. They were easily the sleaziest looking men in the bar, yet incomprehensibly articulate. He finally replied, "I'm Steve." Then thinking quickly, he added "Say you wouldn't happen to know of anybody I could hire to do a small favor?"
The pair nodded to each other, knowing that their intuition was correct. "Shall we continue to parley?" Jeff asked.
Steve assumed that meant yes and continued on. "Well, ya see..." He swallowed as he fiddled through his pockets locating picture of Eve he had printed out. "My brother was in the zone awhile back, an this girl got him killed."
Mutt stared at the picture. "Her ravishing personage is without bounds."
"Yeah right, she is cutie, but she's also a bitch." Steve rubbed his jaw.
"I perceive the animosity for her involvement in the death of your sibling," Jeff stated.
Steve looked between the two of them. He wasn't sure quite what to make of this duo, but he had a hunch that they were precisely the people he was after. "Just a sec," he said, and quickly turned to the bartender. "Hey, are these guys on the level?" he asked.
The bartender glanced between Steve, Jeff, and the top of Mutt's head. "What, you wanna have somebody killed or something?"
"Yeah, I do," Steve replied.
"They'll do it," he said, carefully stopping himself from adding anything else. He moved away, having decided that he really didn't want to have anything to do with the young patron. The other patrons moved away to give Steve some room; they also wanted to have nothing to do with Mutt and Jeff.
Steve turned back to the duo, and simply said, "You're hired."
Mutt immediately spoke up. "Our retainers fee is 50% preceding the project, and the residual due upon confirmation."
Steve glanced up at Brittany, who was watching the pair carefully, ready to pounce. "I don't like these two," she said quietly.
"It's OK. We need them to get the job done, then we'll leave." Steve handed her a roll of bills. "Give this to the gentleman and see if it's satisfactory." Brittany cautiously handed the shorter man the roll of hundreds.
"This is certainly a fair price," Mutt said, handing the roll to Jeff.
"When can you get it done?" Steve asked.
"The promptness of our execution is proportional to the ease of locating the objective," Jeff said calmly.
Steve grinned. "That's easy, she's a stripper at 93U."
Mutt nodded. "The courtesans at that establishment are well protected, but rest assured that the afore mentioned target will meet her demise before the dawn." With that, Mutt and Jeff headed out of the bar.
Silver carefully watched the floor as she continued her routine. It had been a slow night so far, so it was easy enough to pick out customers. What was worrying her was that she hadn't caught sight of Gem yet. Usually she would be in by now, sitting in a corner and keeping an eye on her, Keiko and April. Just as she started to worry about her friend's absence, there she was at the door. Gem quickly picked up a drink and made her way to her usual corner spot.
A few minutes later, Silver made her way over to Gem. Her brow furrowed in concern seeing her friend close up. She looked ruffled, as if she had been in a fight, and there was a small bruise on her cheek. She quietly sat down with Gem, and asked "What happened to you?"
"Nothing to worry about. Small job," Gem required.
"Small job? Why are you doing small jobs?" Silver became more worried for her friend. She must have plenty of cash stashed away, given how much she blew on last night's date. Unless...
Gem rubbed the small bruise on her cheek and straightened out her hair, seemingly ignoring Kami's question. Silver leaned over, saying "Let me get you something for that, okay?"
Gem nodded her thanks, watching Silver as she hopped over to the bar, picked up a towel with some ice in it and then dashed back. She nodded her thanks as she took the towel from Silver.
Silver sat down next to Gem, asking "You okay?"
Gem shrugged off her question. "Just got into a bit of a scrap, that's all." Silver nodded, thinking that it must have been one hell of a scrap. Gem shook her head. "Nothing I couldn't handle."
"That's good." Silver smiled softly.
"Just needed a bit of cash, that's all," Gem said offhand, and instantly regretted it.
"Cash?" Silver muttered quietly. Maybe she didn't have that much to spare after all.
"Uh, yeah... It's nothing to worry about."
Silver preferred to not argue. "You didn't do what I think you did?" she asked her friend, concern showing on her face.
"What are you going on about?" Gem replied.
"Just thinking one night in that room must have been around fifteen K," she said.
"Uhm, something like that..." Gem trailed off, then looked Kami square in the eye. "What are you getting at?" she asked.
Silver looked deeply into Gem's eyes and was really teary eyed. You spent it all, she thought. You spent everything you had for me. Gem sighed. "C'mon, don't look at me like that," she said with a smile.
"Makes me just want to kiss you." Silver said softly.
"You..." Gem muttered quietly. Silver reached up and gently touched the unbruised side of Gem's face. "Look... I did it for you, okay?" Gem added, feeling more than a touch embarrassed.
"Thanks," Silver said with a gulp.
"D'you think it was worth it?" Gem asked.
"It was the most wonderful gift I could have imagined." Silver was trying to hold back the tears.
"Stop it," Gem said. She shook her head and leaned forwards, wrapping Silver up in a huge hug. Silver just put her arms around Gem and rested her head on her shoulder.
After a few minutes, Gem quietly asked "Hey... Don't you need to get to work?"
"Mmmmm," Was all Silver replied.
"Not that I mind this," Gem added.
"Mmmm hmmmm" Silver muttered in Gem's ear.
"C'mon... No good in us both being broke."
With that Silver finally allowed Gem to break the embrace. "I'll see you after work," she said as she stood. Gem nodded her reply.
"I say Mr. Spratt, I may have fixated on the evening's contract."
"Mr. Muttley, I believe stronger confirmation is required."
"Let us verify the objective."
The mismatched hitmen casually strolled towards the underground's entrance, their eyes on the group of girls who had just emerged.
As they left the Underground, Kami was on the verge of tears. "Gem, I still can't believe that you did that. Thank you," she said, leaning on her friend's shoulder.
"Alright, leave it out." Gem cringed, almost embarrassed by Kami's display. She looked to April and Keiko for support.
April stepped up and whispered into Gem's ear. "She's used to taking care of everybody else, she's not really used to this kind of treatment." April couldn't help but look a bit embarrassed.
"Stop it already," Gem said quietly, standing Kami up.
"I'm fine," Kami acknowledged.
"Umm, hello..." Keiko said to the approaching goons. She knew them by reputation, and that more than enough to make her cautious.
Gem glanced in the direction Keiko was looking. She quietly cursed, and nodded for April and Keiko to stand back. Kami nodded to her, as April pulled Keiko back. She knew the routine with Kami very well and could guess Gem's presence here wouldn't change much.
"What do you two want?" Gem called out to the approaching goons.
Jeff spoke up first. "We merely wish to parley with yon fair damsel!"
Gem blinked in surprise. "What did they say?" She asked Kami quietly.
"The want to talk with us." Kami's voice was seething with disgust remembering a previous encounter with them.
"Right..." Gem muttered.
"Translation, they're up to no good," Kami said, standing her ground.
"I guessed that." Gem stepped forwards, standing in front of Kami, waiting for them to continue.
"What do you want?" Kami's voice cracked a little, her throat still wet from the previous conversation.
"We are questing for a fair maiden, with hair of spun silver and eyes of gold," Jeff replied.
"Hair of... What?" Gem glanced at Kami in confusion. She shook her head out. "Never mind. What do you want with her?"
"She has been missing and we are the humble agents of her safe return," Mutt stated.
Gem raised an eyebrow at the pair. "Somehow I don't believe you."
Jeff stepped forwards, sparing them a gappy smile. "Alas my lady we seek to avoid a confrontation, only a brief instant to converse." Kami took even more cover behind Gem, tucking her hair under her beret.
"And uh..." Gem looked nervously at Kami. Hair of spun silver and eyes of gold, as far as she understood it, pretty much matched her friend's description. What were they in for now? She turned back to Mutt and narrow her eyes. "Who exactly hired you for this?"
Jeff looked down at his stocky partner. "Their belligerence befuddles me," he muttered.
"Our client wishes to surprise you with his identity." Mutt responded.
Gem glanced to Kami, looking for her reaction. Her friend adjusted her beret and stepped out from behind Gem, her hands resting on the butts of her twin magnums. Gem nodded her agreement and reached inside her jacket.
"I say you're lying and looking for trouble," Kami said in a cool tone. She slowly drew out her pistol, keeping it close, but not drawing a bead on the two stooges.
Mutt and Jeff now realized the identity of their target. This was bad; some of the Yakuza called her death goddess, and now she had an ally known for trouble. One of them risky at best, both together we certain death.
"Well? Who hired you?" Gem asked again.
Mutt stepped back. "Our patron did not wish to reveal his identity, only his desire to meet with Ms. Eve," he quickly replied.
As Gem leveled her pistol at the duo, she noticed that Kami's breathing had become very slow and calculated.
Both Mutt and Jeff raised their hands. "As you can see we have yet to produce our weapons! Please we intend no malice," Jeff hastily added. Gem said nothing, but glanced worriedly at her friend.
Kami said nothing either; she was deciding whether or not to gun the two down where they stood. Yet she was curious as to who could be dumb enough to hire those two to come after her.
Gem silently stepped towards them, and they both shuffled back. "I think I want to know who sent you," Kami replied almost in a monotone.
"We both do." Gem continued to advance slowly on them, her eyes occasionally flicking back to Kami.
"Mr. Muttley?" The tall one nervously asked.
"Yes Mr. Spratt," his broad companion replied.
"This is the time for discretion."
"Affirmative." The pair immediately turned tail and ran from the girls.
Gem cursed under her breath. She turned to Kami, and saw she was ready to take off after the articulate hitmen. She placed a hand on Kami's shoulder and shook her head.
"We've got to go after them," Kami insisted.
"First, we get the girls back home," Gem replied, nodding to Keiko and April.
The trip back to Kami's apartment was fortunately uneventful. Kami had been deathly quiet all the way, and Gem was more than a touch worried about her friend. They had made sure that April and Keiko were secure at home, then set out again, looking for Mutt and Jeff, hoping to find out who had hired them.
They had set off for the Half-Tanked, where the two hitmen were known to operate. It wasn't long before they saw someone approaching, running at full tilt down the street. He seemed to be more concerned about what was following him than the pair in front.
As he approached the two girls a pair of men rounded the corner after him. One was tall and lanky the other was squat, pudgy and taking two steps for every one of the tall man's. Their identities were all too clear to the girls.
"Not them again," Gem muttered. She and Kami both stepped forwards, drawing their pistols and leveling them at the approaching goons.
The panicked young man came to a halt upon seeing the girls with drawn weapons. The stooges behind him slowed to a brisk walk upon seeing their prey stop running.
"You!" Kami suddenly yelled out.
"Who's that?" Gem asked her, keeping her pistol trained on the stooges.
"Steve." Kami replied icily. She then trained both pistols on Mutt. "Leave!" She called to the two stooges, still approaching.
"I don't care what you two are up to, scram," Gem added.
Mutt, still winded from the chase, looked at up at his tall partner and wheezed, "Mr. Spratt, the fair maidens' brandishing of firearms speaks immensely of the sobriety of their words."
"I concur Mr. Muttley, the mood does not seem to be one to parley," Jeff replied between gasps. The two men then began backing slowly back down the street.
"Now who's this guy?" Gem asked, lowering her pistol.
Kami kept her guns leveled, training them both on the young man. "Steve 'Glassjaw' Harris. The brother of a certain punk who came into the zone a while back and got himself killed"
Gem shook her head, her eyes closed. "Oh god..." she muttered. She looked up again, carefully watching Kami's expression.
Her friend's expression was unmoved. Gem could barely see her chest move at her breathing slowed. "I can guess what happened, after your dad failed. You came into the zone to get some local help in killing me didn't you?" Her voice was calm, almost casual.
"Kami, don't..." Gem said softly to her friend.
"Ummm..." was all Steve could say. He was completely unprepared to run into little Eve this way.
"And let him run back and possibly hire somebody competent?" Kami replied.
"I think he's learned his lesson."
Steve was in shock. He would have expected a normal person's voice to be cracking with anger, or something. Yet Eve's was cold and casual, as she would have ordered a cup of coffee.
"I'm not convinced yet." Kami replied. "Steve, Why shouldn't I just bury the hatchet between your eyes?"
"Because this isn't your argument," Gem said sternly. She stepped in front of Kami, right between the two of them with her arms spread wide. "Steve, it wasn't her. I killed your brother."
Steve looked confused. He had heard that there was another girl involved, but he didn't have any details. "Gem," Kami said calmly, "He just hired Mutt and Jeff to kill me."
"Yes, and he should have been after me instead." Gem slowly stepped forwards, carefully watching Steve's face.
"You?" Steve said. "But nobody even knows you?"
"So what? That doesn't mean it wasn't me." She stopped still, standing right in front of him. "Now you've got your chance."
Steve looked Gem. He also saw Eve, who was more than willing to kill him and thought about Mutt and Jeff who wanted him dead. "Right now I just want to get out of the Zone, alive." He was scared to to death. A little while earlier he had just seen the two stooges take down Brittany, now they were after him.
Gem scowled at him. "Then swear to us right here and now that you'll never come back, or I'll let her loose on you."
"I swear!" Steve replied without hesitation.
Gem glanced back to her friend, eyebrow raised questioningly. "First he drops his jacket and any weaponry he might be carrying," Kami replied.
"Deal?" Gem asked Steve. Steve had shrugged out of his jacket even as Gem replied to him.
"Good. Now run," Kami said.
Steve looked behind him. "What about them?" he asked, clearly nervous.
Gem glanced at Kami, then said "I'll escort you to the bridge."
"Thanks..." He seemed a bit relieved.
Kami quietly asked "What kind of a corpie idiot comes into the zone without a gun or bodyguard?"
"One who's lucky to be leaving," Gem replied softly.
"I did have gun!" Steve suddenly blurted out.
"Well, what happened to it?" Kami asked.
"I bumped into Brittany and gave it to her," Steve said proudly.
"That worked," Gem muttered.
"Really?" Kami eyed him suspiciously. "And where is she now?"
"We'd best be going," Gem interrupted, taking Steve by the arm.
"They got her while I made my get away," Steve answered as Gem began dragging him along.
"Mutt and Jeff? How did those idiots take her out?" Kami asked, looking a little surprised.
"I dunno, I was too busy running away." He hesitated, and added, "Just like Tony."
"So where's Brittany?" Kami called out.
"I left her in an alley by the Half Tanked." He said nervously.
"Go find her," Gem said to Kami.
"Right." Kami sighed as she finally holstered her pistols. She then picked up steve's jacked and handed it to Gem. "Steve, if anything happens to her, I will hold you responsible."
Steve gulped. Kami watched as Gem lead him out of sight.
The pair leaned back in bed, each silent, each staring uncomfortably at the ceiling. It had been an odd week to say the least. All night, Kami could tell Gem was still tense as if there was something bothering her. Finally, she spoke up.
"I have to go back, you know," Gem abruptly said.
Kami sighed. "I was afraid something like this would happen."
"I'm sorry, but..." she trailed off, uncertain how to continue.
Kami wrapped herself around Gem and swallowed. "I understand, your a professional."
"I will be back for you, though," she said, looking Kami in the eye.
"Thanks," Kami replied looking deeply into Gem's eyes. There was something disturbing in Kami's eye though, something she was trying to hide.
Gem raised her eyebrows. "What's the matter?"
"Just wondering for how long, and what I'm going to do."
"That's not it," Gem replied, shaking her head. "What's really bothering you?"
"Well I'm still living with April and dancing at the club..." Kami's voice trailed off.
Gem nodded. "I get it." She rolled away from Kami.
Kami apologized, "Its just I'm just not used to monogamous relationships, and if you're not here, I just don't know what I'm going to do."
"Wait for me," Gem replied. "If this means to you what it does to me, that is. If not, just tell me."
"I want to wait for you, and I'm going to think about you everyday you're gone." Kami put her arms around Gem and rested her head against Gem's muscular back.
Gem nodded slowly, and rolled back towards her.
"I just don't want to see you go," Kami added.
"I have to. But I promise you, I will be back for you." Kami sighed as Gem told her. "Hey, don't look so sad. It won't be for long."
"Thanks," Kami said, smiling again.
"In the meantime," Gem said with a broad grin and rolled over on top of Kami.
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