Scott couldn't believe it. He and Kurt were at the Underground. The 93 Underground! They had come across the bridge to celebrate Scott's twenty-first birthday with a trip to the Zone. The Neo York Zero Law Enforcement Zone! Him!

It was, he had to admit, a bit like a dream. First they had taken a cab to the bridge, and then had simply walked through the checkpoint. Scott had heard the NipDinks would hassle anyone going in, hitting them up for bribes and stuff, but the cops on guard simply waved them on through and didn't say a word.

Once through the two had then found a bunch of cabs waiting to take people onto the Zone. It was almost like back in the real world, except Scott had never seen a Manhattan cab with a smokestack in the back. Anyway, they'd picked one that looked okay and told the driver they wanted to go to 93 Underground. The cabbie pushed his hat up, took a puff on his cigar, and drove on in without saying another word.

In the fading light, the Zone hadn't looked like much; mostly dark buildings and the occasional bonfire. Scott hadn't been sure what to expect, although stories from the other corp kids had made it sound like the Zone was nonstop gang fights with kill-crazy replicants and cyborgs on every corner just waiting to get their hands on some normal. Although he checked every corner, Scott was pretty sure he didn't see any cyborgs, although he was pretty sure the tall woman with cat's ears and a long tail was a replicant. At least, he hoped she was a replicant. Kurt hadn't seen her, as he was too busy staring at the hookers on his side of the street. He swore one was a sexdoll with a rack out to there, but then Kurt tended to think any woman who looked better than average was a sexdoll...

93 Underground hadn't exactly been what he and Kurt were expecting. It was a low building, and looked suspiciously like a used supermarket or something. On the other hand, there was a lot of chopped bikes and stuff out front, and the big cybered doorman was freaky enough. The guy had even asked if they were carrying guns, which made Scott wonder if they should've.

Once in, they'd taken a seat in a booth along one wall, and got ready to watch the show. They'd heard there was strippers and stuff who'd go full nude, and Kevin had said that sometimes there were two female Puma's who'd strip and then do each other right on stage! Scott was all for that, as his dad's corp didn't use Pumas, and he'd never really seen one up close, but he'd heard they were all pretty damn stacked with legs that went on forever. Well, the ones in the trivids were anyway.

Sitting down, Scott and Kurt had noted the show had already started, although at the moment it consisted of a tall blond woman sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage and playing guitar. She was pretty hot, if you liked them athletic, with tight black jeans, green boots, and a green bustier that gave her loads of cleavage. Kurt was all for that, although Scott had to admit he liked women with darker hair. On the other hand, she sure could sing, even if it was some story about "the house-huntin' blues" as she put it. The crowd, at any rate, loved it, and when the waitress came by (who wasn't naked like Lou has said she would be), Kurt and Scott had taken the singer up on her suggestion and had ordered beer, bourbon, and scotch.

Well, a couple of those later, and both Scott and Kurt were feeling pretty good. Actually, Scott was feeling good. Mellow in fact—but Kurt was a bit surly. See, the rest of the band had come out in the meantime, and had really started to jam. That was cool. Spotting what looked like a Puma in the crowd was cool. The waitress that looked like a sexdoll (and even Scott had to admit, she looked like a sexdoll!), was cool. But Kurt was feeling restless.

The problem, as Kurt saw it, was the band. Or more to the point, the lead guitarist. Lead guitar was the woman who had been on stage when they had come in, and she tended to drag out any song they band played with seemingly interminable guitar solos. Oh, the band was good, in fact, the band was rocking, but they'd been playing the same damn song for the last twenty minutes!

Scott wasn't sure what to say. To tell the truth, he felt in tune with the song the woman had been singing—he too felt comfortably numb. But, that had been about fifteen minutes ago, and now the woman was just playing her guitar—which was okay, don't get him wrong, but it got a bit boring. But then, it did give him time to sit back and look at the band.

There were four people in the band—whose name Scott couldn't remember, although he was pretty sure it was posted out front. There was lead guitar and vocals, who was the tall blonde woman in black and green. The bassist was even taller, with broad shoulders, ragged blue jeans and a white t-shirt. The guy looked like a wall of muscle, with thick black hair held back with a red headband. The drummer was much shorter. He was a Japanese dude with long hair, and came out wearing just a pair of black pants, white socks, and slippers. The ladies seemed to love him, probably because he didn't wear a shirt and was muscled like Bruce Lee. It was the keyboardist that Scott was digging, though. She was shortest of the four, with glasses, and long dark hair that even braided came past her waist. She wore a white long-sleeved shirt, a tie, an ankle-length dress, and did have a rack out to there!

Well, anyway, the band wasn't doing much right now, but watching the woman play and providing back up. Scott was pretty sure the woman was off in her own world, as her eyes were closed and she was playing her guitar for all it was worth, which was pretty good, but not as good as that guy with Steel Dreams, which Scott thought was simply the best band there had ever been, bar none.

But back to the point. Kurt was drunk, which was to be expected after multiple helpings of bourbon, scotch, and beer (Scott found you drank the scotch first, it helped hide the taste of the beer). He was also not impressed with the woman's long solo, and wanted to tell her so. Scott thought this over. The Underground was pretty packed, and some of these guys (and girls) looked really big. But...

"Hey man," Scott said to his friend. "Go for it."


Putting down his drink, Kurt stood up and made his way over to the stage. Scott gave him a salute with is mug and then drained off what was left, looking for the waitress. Meanwhile Kurt staggered out in front of the woman on guitar and loudly announced she should give it up and play something else.

There was a moment's pause. Well, not from the band, they didn't even seem to have heard Kurt, but two guys next to him did. One of them backhanded Kurt to the floor, while the other drilled him in the ribs with what looked like a chrome-plated fist. Then three other people all stood up, cracking their knuckles in the universal ritual of one getting ready to administer a savage beating. Scott stared wide-eyed at what was happening and then shrank back into this booth. Obviously, no one, but no one interrupted this woman's guitar solos!

His mind muddled by a bit too much to drink, Scott tried to figure out what to do next. Run? Call the cops? (Wait, no cops...) Call the waitress? The bouncer?

The decision-making process was cut off by the sudden appearance of someone sliding into the seat across from Scott's. For a moment, he thought it was Kurt, except he was pretty sure Kurt was a bloody mess on the dance floor and the person opposite him was...



She was tall, even sitting down he could tell that, with incredibly long flowing white hair that framed a beautiful thin-featured face with gorgeous gray eyes. The rest of her was hidden by a long gray cloak, but Scott was willing to bet it was just as perfect as the face.


Or her voice. Slightly husky, it just dripped with the promise of mind-blowing sex, and all she'd said was one friggin' word!

Uhm... Scott swallowed, all thoughts of Kurt gone, and answered. "Hello."

"Is this seat taken?"

"Oh, no!" The hell with it, if Kurt was stupid enough to shoot off his mouth, then he deserved what he got.

"Good." She pushed her virtual mane of hair back over one shoulder and placed gloved hands on the table. Scott caught a glimpse of white body armor underneath the cloak and wondered what sort of sexdoll he was talking to. Probably a very expensive one.

"Uhm..." Scott tried to get mouth in gear, but was having trouble thinking straight. Even the sexdolls in the trivids didn't look quite like this!

"Yes?" she purred, looking as if she new what he was going to ask.

"Are you a sexdoll?"

There was a long moment of silence in which Scott swore he felt the temperate drop twenty degrees. The woman, amazingly enough seemed to be at a loss for words. Finally she leaned across the table and put her mouth near his ear. "Why?" she whispered.

"Well..." Cool temperatures or not, Scott was sweating. "I mean, if you are... uhm... well... I've never, y'know..."

"Experienced a sexdoll?"

Oh god. "Yeah, that."

"Would you like to?"

Oooohhh that voice! "Y-yeah." Scott swallowed. "Damn straight I would." At this rate he'd pop one right here with ever getting his pants off.

"Then come with me." She stood, and Scott blinked. Good god she was tall! He was a good five-nine or so, but she topped that easily. And her hair! Okay, he was willing to admit with her, the white hair looked cool, and it went on for miles! Standing himself, he stumbled slightly and then winced as she took his hand and pulled him upright. Either he was drunk or she was a very special sexdoll, because she had a grip like a friggin' vice. He wiggled his fingers and then turned to follow the woman out, glad to see she'd left a scattering of bills on the table.

Tailing after the woman, Scott decided to stick close. The rest of the people in the Underground where giving him strange looks, and practically ducking out of the woman's way. He figured they were jealous or something, since he doubted any of them could afford a sexdoll like her.

Once outside he took a breath of the humid summer air and regretted immediately. It was a lot hotter here than in the Underground, and he hoped wherever the woman was going it was air-conditioned. Speaking of which...

"Say..." he managed before he was cut off by a tight embrace. Okay, drunk or not, the woman was damn strong.

"Shhhh..." The kiss that followed more than made up for the feeling he was being crushed, that was for sure. "Now, if you want more of the same, just be silent and come with me."

"Su--." Scott stopped and nodded, not wanting to say anything and ruin his chances.


Still holding him in her arms, she turned around and...

...the universe turned inside out.

It was daylight. Cooler. There was a breeze. The smell of salt water. Scott fell to his hands and knees and proceeded to vomit up his beer, bourbon, and scotch. It had tasted far better going down. He was distantly aware of voices, the sounds of a helicopter, of people walking on sand. Then a shadow fell over his body.

"Scott Plantagenet?"

"Yeah?" Scott had to wonder how the sexdoll knew his name. He was pretty sure he still had his wallet.

"Did you know you're worth one hundred thousand nuyen?"

"Wha...?" He glanced up to see the woman talking to some man in a uniform he didn't recognize. There were other uniformed men behind him, and they all looked exactly like the corp security guys back at the arc. Except they weren't from his arc... hell, they weren't from his corp!

"What's going on?" he called to the tall woman's back as she started to walk away.

The woman stopped and then glanced back over one shoulder, her expression far colder, but her face still beautiful. "You've been extracted, Scott." She paused and then gave him a small smile and a wave. "Sayanora."


"Look sharp," Leona Ozaki commanded. "Here they come."

The short and feisty NYPD officer unslung her issue sub-machinegun and drew back the cocking handle. Taking a step back, she assumed a wide-legged stance, facing down an approaching cargo hauler.

The hauler was painted dark blue, and had "Neo York Police Department, Inc." on the side in brilliant white. The cab and cargo box were both armored, and the tires were made to withstand punctures, bullets, and energy weapons. Inside the cab was a driver and his gunner, while the box in the back held a good two dozen of Neo York's worst: dealers, murderers, rapists, and thieves, all convicted of capital offenses. In the old days, before the Zones, the people in the cargo box might have been given the death penalty, or, if they were lucky, life in prison. But in the new, modern United North America, it had been decided it was too expensive to house—or even execute --such prisoners. Instead, they were given a new sort of "death penalty:" exile to a Zero Law Enforcement Zone.

Every month, the worst offenders in the City of Neo York were rounded up and shipped to the Zero Zone. The rational was simple People sentenced to the Zero Zone were those who had chosen to live outside the law, so their punishment was to live outside the law. The plan worked well enough, but didn't quite empty the prisons the way planners had hoped. However, it did send a fresh influx of forty to sixty people into the Zone every month. People most Zone residents would rather not see.

Getting the prisoners into the Zone was the tricky part. The solution was to back the cargo hauler up to the gates and then take the prisoners off one by one. As they were shackled together, managing them was a fairly easy matter. Then, once the shackles were removed, the prisoners were given their belongings and they were escorted through the gate reserved for foot traffic.

With her finger carefully beside the trigger, Leona waved the truck into position. Around her, other troopers readied their own weapons or prepared to receive the newest group of Zone transfers. The ones who would be herding the convicts off the back of the truck carried stunsticks, highly useful for motivating reluctant prisoners.

The doors opened with a groan, followed by a loud crash as the rear gate fell. Several troopers, dressed in full combat kit, tromped up the gate and hauled the first few transfers out into the sun. They stood blinking in the bright sun or stared sullenly at their captors.

Boots crunching on the asphalt, Leona walked to the front of the line. The eyes of the prisoners followed her along with a few faint mutterings. "Listen up!" she commanded. "You have been sentenced to life imprisonment in the Neo York Zero Law Enforcement Zone. You will be released one at a time, given your belongings, and escorted through the gate into the Zero Law Enforcement Zone. Any trouble or resistance will be met with the appropriate level or response, at which point you will be escorted through the gate to the Zero Law Enforcement Zone." Leona grinned at that announcement, as it basically translated to "Give us any trouble and we'll beat you within an inch of your life and dump you in the Zone."

"Oh," she added. "Have a nice day."

One by one the convicts stepped forward. One trooper undid their shackles, while a second stood by with their personal effects. Two other troopers held stunsticks at the ready, and further out, armed officers kept a steady hand on their issue sidearms.

Upon being herded through the access tunnel and into the Zone (often with one last shove to make sure they went), most of the former convicts stood almost dazed, as if expecting for a ravaging horde of gangers and organleggers to swoop down on them instantly. But the access road was clear, and the only sign of life was a faint plume of smoke coming from the Edge of Night across the way. A few, however, took one look at the armament pointed their way and started running, quickly vanishing amid the wrecked vehicles and ruined buildings that made up this section of the Zone.

With the processing of the last prisoner, the cargo hauler/paddy wagon drove away with a rumbling of its diesel engine and a hissing of airbrakes. Most of the troopers returned to their duties, but Leona and a few others stayed by the gate—just in case.

For a few moments, all looked like it was going to go off without a hitch, until one prisoner, and elderly man with longish white hair, gave a loud cry and ran at the fence. He crawled up a few feet of wire mesh, yelling and screaming all the time, until Leona, with a look of disgust, pointed her submachine gun at him. One short burst later and his corpse flopped bonelessly to the ground. The rest of the prisoners, getting the hint, fled. Leona settled for reslinging her weapon and going inside for something to drink. The body she'd ignore, it would be gone once night fell.


If a week ago, you'd told Alan Davies that his life was going to get worse, he'd have laughed. He had been permanently partnered with a maniac and placed under the command of another maniac. These two maniacs had seemingly decided to go out of their way to drive Alan out of his mind. Crayse, the lead maniac persisted in giving him insane orders while carrying on conversations with the voices in his head. And he still had that damned dog. Karen, the other maniac persisted in her pedantic citing of regulations and shouting them out at him at every opportunity. And she still hadn't forgiven him for the way he'd lied about Sandra.

But now they'd put another person on his team at an equal rank to him. Lt. Tatsuna Yokozana, just transferred in from another precinct. When he'd first saw her, he thought his luck had changed. Tall, leggy, with long brown hair, deep brown eyes and a great figure. In fact, she was just about all he could want in a coworker. If only.

The sound of loud music drew him back to his senses. He, Karen, Crayse and Tatsuna were in a hallway in one of the seediest apartment complexes he'd ever seen. It was filthy, decrepit, poorly lit and smelt. Alan would have avoided it at all costs if he'd had the option. But he didn't. They were here because some Corp bigwig's kid had blown his brains out on illegal substances. An investigation, aided by may greased palms, had lead them here.

The four of them stopped outside the door. According to their sources, this was the apartment they were after. It was also the source of the music that was shaking this building to its foundations. "Are we ready?" Crayse shouted. He might have alerted the room's occupants with his shout. Then again, they may not have been able to hear him over the racket inside. They all nodded. "Go!"

Karen hit the door with the Enforcer, smashing it in. Alan had been assigned point and had the dubious honor of going in first and thus taking any return fire. He rushed through the small hallway and into the main room, expecting the worst. Instead, he was surprised by what he found.

Three things caught his attention. The first was the enormous stereo system that seemed to occupy a whole wall on its own. The second was the naked couple, a man and a woman on the couch, staring at them him while still intertwined. The third was the three young men collapsed on another couch with a collection of needles lying on the table.

"Freeze! Nobody move and you wont get-" Karen began but suddenly stopped, having just seen the naked couple.

"Cover your eyes, Karen!" Crayse shouted. Surprisingly, she did. He glared at the trio on the couch. "You are under arrest for the possession, use, and sale of a controlled..." He paused. "Could someone please turn that down? I can't hear my self think."

Three shots rang out, followed by the stereo erupting into a hail of parts. Tatsuna stepped out from behind the three of them, grinning, her gun smoking. "Can I take these ones? It's my first time out with this team."

"Be my guest" Crayse replied, "You don't have a problem with that, do you, Alan?"

"Uh, no, sir," he replied.

"Excellent," Crayse responded, then smiled.

Tatsuna walked over to the terrified looking couple and grabbed the man. "Okay, filth, let's go," she shouted as she threw him off the woman and to the floor, then pressed her pistol against his head. "It's people like you who make me sick. It's people like you who make me wish I could just put bullets in your brains and be done with it. You're nothing, understand. What are you?"

"Nothing," he whimpered, on the verge of tears.

"Good!" She shouted. Now put your hands up!" He nodded, then stuck his hands in the air. Behind him, the woman tried to get up off the couch. Tatsuna turned around, snarling. "Don't you get any ideas, girl." She nodded, a look of pure terror on her face. "And somebody do something about the sacks of crap on the couch over there!"

She was insane, that was the problem. Overzealous. Trigger happy. Possibly psychotic. Just what Alan needed, another insane partner. And Crayse only seemed to encourage her. Karen didn't seem to mind, after all, the people she did it to were criminals.

At least Sandra was still in Hong Kong, he thought as he cuffed the first of the three drooling druggies. At least the biggest pain in his life was on the other side of the world and away from him.


"I forgot how much I hated the Zone."

Sandra muttered to herself as she sat in the club, nursing a drink while staring at the band on stage. Calling themselves the "Class of '82," they claimed to specialize in "Retro '80's metal." To Sandra, that seemed to come over as "Shouting into the microphone accompanied by stupidly loud guitars and drums." Still, the lead guitarist, a huge, blond guy with a beard who looked like a Californian beach bum was attractive, in a "big guy" kind of a way.

She chugged down the last of her drink, swung around on her stool and slammed the glass back on the bar. She'd been back in the Zone for a few hours now and had decided that she hated every single bit of it. Stuff all that Jason had said about people being more "real" out here. Stuff the romantic ideal of escaping the system and being "free." Stuff everything. The Zone stank. The Zone sucked. The Zone blew goats. The Zone smelt like a pile of dead donkey's bottoms. Tool. "Give me another one," she said without looking at the bartender.

"Allow me to get that." Came a voice from her left. Turning towards its source, Sandra saw a man leaning over her. He had a vaguely handsome face and a cocky grin that made her hate him instantly. He looked vaguely like a mercenary, wearing khaki fatigues and a tattered red beret. "Two of the same." He said to the bartender who merely grunted in response. "The name's Ron, but you can call me Hammer."

"How wonderful for you." Sandra replied, taking her drink as soon as it arrived.

"This here's my pal, Billy." He continued, indicating to her right. Sandra turned towards a man wearing a slouch hat, sleeveless fatigues and what she immediately called a Porn Star mustache.

"G'day." Billy began. "How's it going, mate?"

Good gods. Sandra had been told that she had an Australian accent, and that she used Australian slang She'd never noticed. Sarah did as well, but it was even less noticeable than hers. The two of them, put together, would have had nothing on these two. "Well, it was fine up until thirty seconds ago. Now its totally tooled up beyond all recognition."

The two of them laughed. Well, at least she thought they laughed. With how loud the music was, they could have been choking. "Strewth, that's a beauty." Billy commented. Sandra rolled her eyes. Where'd this guy pick up his accent, a tourist video.

"Billy and me were casing the joint when you caught our eye." Hammer continued. "You looked like a woman of action to our eyes."

Well, this was possibly the worst pick up she'd ever heard. So she decided to let them run with it. "Go on."

"Well, me and Hammer got to thinkin'" Billy continued. "Y'see, the two of us are mercs, workin' here in the Zone."

"Fascinating." Sandra replied, clearly bored. "And your point is?" She was paying more attention to the band's latest number, "Screaming into the mike with drums and guitar solo."

"Well, we thought that you'd be interested in joining the two of us." Hammer continued. "We're looking for a bit of action here in the Zone, so we thought that a tough girl like you would be the perfect partner for our team."

"So instead of a duo, you want to be a trio." Sandra commented. "I don't know, I think you two would be great together." She had to smirk. If they missed that, they were clearly dumber then a bag of Hammer's namesakes.

"Well, we think we'd work better with you." Hammer continued. Okay, so they were stupid, and this was the world's worst pick up. "I mean, we're pretty experienced."

"Know our stuff." Billy added.

"Have been around." Hammer continued.

"And we think that thing's be great with you working with us." He finished.

"Well, you've convinced me." Sandra turned around to look at the pair of them, both of whom were grinning like idiots. "If you guys want to go on ahead, I've got to take a short break and then I'll meet you outside."

"The two of them gave a brief and none too subtle "Yes!" then grinned. "Cool! We'll see ya outside. I can't wait to work with ya!" Billy shouted.

"Likewise." Sandra replied as the two of them scooted out of the club. She mentally figured how long it'd take them to get through the weapons check, then turned back to face the band who had just finished their screaming incoherent mockery of music for the moment.

"I'm Craig McConnel, we're The Class Of '82 and we'll be here all night." The big blond guy shouted to the crowd.

Sandra glanced at the exit and then turned back to the bar. "Me too, mate. Me too."

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