Ling Ling lay on her side on the wide bed, dressed in a high-collared nightgown, and calmly lit a fresh cigarette. Aside from her, the bedroom—and the rest of the apartment for that matter—was empty. Marta was out at the moment, away on a job. It was a job Ling Ling had arraigned; it was, in fact, a job that needed to be completed, if Ling Ling was keep her reputation as an efficient and effective fixer intact. However, that didn't make the waiting any easier, so she smoked her cigarettes, listened to the soft music playing over the speakers, drank her wine, and tried to not watch the clock.

The sudden sound of the front door opening made Ling Ling start slightly. She glanced quickly at the bedroom door, and then carefully resumed her relaxed manner. There was no need to add to any of Marta's conceivable stress by looking and acting worried. Instead she took another sip of wine, and waited.

Boots clicked across the inlaid floor, the sound getting louder as the owner approached the bedroom door. A moment later Marta stepped into the bedroom, her boots muffled by the soft carpet. She was dressed, as usual, all in black, with an ankle-length black coat over everything else. At the moment the coat was fastened up to the neck, making Marta look both less, and more, dangerous than normal. It depended on if you knew who she was.

Raising one eyebrow, Ling Ling blew out a cloud of smoke, feigning calm and serenity. She wanted to know how everything went, but didn't want to sound as if she was nagging or prying. "Rough day at the office?" she asked calmly, with the slight hint of a smile.

"Good God, you don't know the half of it." Marta stopped by the chair in the corner and started to undo her coat. To Ling Ling she looked a touch tired, or, at least, exasperated. But then, dealing with some of the local toughs tended to do that.

"Care to tell me about it?" Another sip of wine.

Pulling the coat off of her shoulders, Marta revealed the formfitting jumpsuit she wore, as well as the gunbelts slung low on her hips. The coat was tossed on to the back of the chair, at which point Marta started to unbuckle her guns, talking all the while.

"Well before you ask, I did get the case back. And delivered it to where it was supposed to go in the first place. So, Mr. Wallace should be happy." Marta paused and hung her guns over the back of the chair as well, before turning to look at Ling Ling over her shoulder. "You really need to get some new business partners."

Ling Ling sighed. "They weren't mine by choice. They were assigned to me, so to speak."

"Yeah? Well, now there's a few less to get assigned to someone else." Marta unfastened her jumpsuit's collar and then unzipped the top as far as it would go.

"I see." Ling Ling paused and considered the implications of what Marta had just said. "How many did you kill?"

"Three." Having wriggled out of the jumpsuit's top, Marta sat on the edge of the chair and started to undo her boots and pull them off. "One to make a point, one as a lesson not to fuck with Ms Li Ling Ling, and one because he was stupid enough to pull a gun on me."

Ling Ling had to chuckle at that. Normally she wasn't so blasˇ about people being killed, but this bunch had been especially annoying.

"Next time I'm taking a shotgun." Marta dropped one boot on top of the other and sighed. "Honestly. You need shotguns for that kind of work. People don't respect automatics, even big ones like a Zeta. Big-assed revolvers? Sure, but I ain't hauling around no .454 or a Stormbreaker—those things are a bitch to control. But shotguns? Everyone respects shotguns. Especially nice big and black pump-action ones, like the SPAS series."

Ling Ling blinked at her lover's little tirade. She'd never exactly heard anything like that out of Marta before. "Really?" she asked in an offhand manner.

"Yeah," Marta waved her arms enthusiastically, pantomiming her words. "Pump the action nice and loud and people pay attention."

"Is there something you're not telling me Marta?"

"What?" Marta asked, sounding distracted.

"Never mind."

Having removed her boots, Marta then peeled off the rest of the jumpsuit, revealing the flexible armor underneath. Made from resin bonded armor cloth, the material conformed closely to the wearer's body, allowing for full protection with no loss of mobility. An asset for a woman (or anyone, actually) in Marta's line of work.

As Marta turned to pull of the last of her clothing, Ling Ling gave the underlying armor a critical eye. The armor cloth was smooth and undamaged, which meant no one had managed to hit Marta tonight. Taking a shot at her was a totally different matter. A moment later Marta was undoing the fasteners and sliding herself out of the body amor. It hit the floor with an audible thump.

Down to her black sports briefs and bra, Marta turned to look at Ling Ling laying on the bed. The low lighting played across the sharp definition of her arms and stomach, the skin glistening with a slight sheen of sweat. Ling Ling felt a sudden surge of desire run through her body, a desire to hold her lover close, to make love to her for the rest of the night, to forget about lost cases and idiot business partners for a while. Sliding off of the bed, she took Marta in her arms, kissing her shoulder and neck before working her way up to nibble gently on one ear.

"Mmmm..." Marta closed her eyes and sighed. "Ling Ling what are you doing?"

Ling Ling paused and looked at Marta directly, "You, of all people, should know the answer to that question."

"Well... yeah," Marta said with a smile. "But I'm all sweaty. Let me take a shower first."

"Why? You'll only get all sweaty again." Ling ling flashed a mischievous smile.

"Yeah... but that will be a clean sweaty. Right now I'm a dirty sweaty." Pulling free of Ling Ling's arms Marta headed for the bathroom. "I won't be long, trust me."

With a frustrated sigh, Ling Ling turned back to the bed. She carefully pulled the bedcovers down, put the wine away, dimmed the lights, and removed her nightgown before reclining on the bed to wait.

It didn't take long for the sound of the shower to shut off and for Marta to return with a towel wrapped around her waist and another around her head. Rubbing her hair dry, she gave Ling Ling a smile. "Now I feel better." She paused and looked at Ling Ling's nude form for a long moment. "I guess my hair doesn't have to be that dry does it?"

Ling Ling's response was to give a slight smile and crook one finger in a "come-here" gesture. Marta dropped the towel from her hair and pulled free the one around her waist, returning Ling Ling's smile. "As you wish, Adorable."

Once Marta had settled herself in the bed, Ling Ling leaned over her, pressing her lips first to the muscular expanse of Marta's stomach, then the valley between her breasts, then a nipple, the hollow of her throat, and then her lips. Finally breaking the kiss, Ling Ling leaned back, brushing her hair out of her face. Returning for another session, she paused, and cocked her head, listening to Marta's breathing.

"I see. It was a rough day at the office." Ling Ling pulled the bedcovers over herself and Marta and settled herself down. Perhaps she'd wait until Marta woke up before trying to continue.

"Hi my name's Silver, I hear you're looking for a little company." Silver said as she slowly approached the corper. He was young with blue eyes and short dark hair. That wasn't all that special, but something about the way he was put together made him rather handsome. Silver didn't think he looked to bad, for a guy.

The Puma moved forward a bit.

"Down Athena." The man replied. "There's no place she could possibly hide a weapon." He had to smile the the beauty standing before him. She was wearing a translucent white shift and equally translucent panties. "I'd be happy to have some company."

Silver slowly walked over to him, she knew he'd been here before, but she had to confirm the rules anyway. "Before we start I have to go over the rules. I can grope, but you can't."

"Okay." He nodded. He was a bit confused why strippers here would have the same rules as girls back in the city did.

With that Silver removed her shift and handed it to the unhappy Puma. She then sat down in his lap and put an arm around him. "How's this?"

He grinning from ear to hear he nodded.

Silver looked deeply into his eyes. "So, what's your name?"

"Eric" He swallowed.

"Eric." She nodded, "What do you do?"

"I'm an account rep for Mitsumi Technologies." He replied.

"Sounds important." Silver played coy with him. It was probably the best part of her job. Other than running around the 92U in the buff if she so desired.

"Well it is. I have to make sure that the other companies have all the necessary equipment to maintain their synthetics. In addition orders for new synthetics go through me as well."

"Ohhh." was all Silver could say. She understood the ramifications of talking with this guy. He could probably rattle of the numbers of each model of synthetic possessed by a given company.

"Honestly though, its really a pretty boring job." He sighed. "People here in the Zone seem so much more alive."

"Really, how so?" Silver replied.

"Well for one nobody here gets stuck filling out forms and other bureaucratic nonsense."

"So you hate being chained to a cube." Silver snickered.

"That and attending what seems like the same meeting over and over again." he sighed. "I would much rather be out doing things."

"Me too!" Silver piped up. "What do you like to do?"

"Well I've spend a huge amount of time learning martial arts and gunfighting. And I can use the old getting to know the product line as an excuse."

"That's neat!" Silver rubbed his chest feeling he pecs. "I can tell, you're very athletic."

"I've been doing it for several years now. I even have some cyberware I got the company to pitch for. A mean I am working with Pumas and Lynxes." He neglected to mention that he also made a habit of frequently testing the sexaroids and escort synthetics. "But enough about me tell me about yourself."

"Well, my name is Silver and I'm 17." She replied.

"17? That seems a bit young. I take it you're a corporate runaway and a genetic upgrade."

"Most people think I'm a Sexroid. How did you guess that?" She looked rather bemused. Silver knew it was an idiotic question, but she had to ask.

"Remember I work for Mitsumi, I'm familiar with all but the custom synthetics and I can usually identify the manufacturer of a custom within a few moments."

"But how did you guess I'm an upgrade?" Silver was now curious.

"Your eyes." He put his arm around her waist and pulled her in closer. "Human eyes don't naturally come in that color and I can tell that they're real."

Silver had to laugh, "The secret to my good looks is out. Promise you wont tell anybody?" Deep inside she was worried though. She was certain that this guy would notice that she and Kami were the same person faster than Gem.

"I promise, but only if you tell me why an upgrade of your caliber is stripping in the Zone, and not preparing for the Ivy League?"

Silver looked down, it wasn't that she was hiding it per se, but telling customers that she was a dike was bad for business and a definite no. "I had a really bad home life."

He assumed as much. Kids leaving for the Zone replaced the kids committing suicide. He guessed it was better, but it was also potentially a much slower death. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a business card. "I'll tell you what, if you ever decide you want to leave the Zone, just drop me a message. You'll be taken care of."

"Thanks." It was a line she'd hear many times before, but this was one of the few times it seemed sincere.

"And now the most beautiful girl to ever grace our stage, Silver!" The voice echoed over the intercom.

Keiko was there waiting to take over for Silver. "I'll cover for you while you're up there."

Silver gave Eric a quick peck on the cheek. "I'll be back."

"I'll be waiting." Something about the amber pools of her eyes attracted him. He would have to do some research on genetic upgrades when he got back.

It had been a long time since Sandra had been to 92U. During what she now called her "bad" years (Which had become "Everything between when I became a stupid Street Sam and when I met Drake who while he messed me up the sex was great and I got the cool-ass apartment in HK.") she had spent many evenings in here drowning herself in booze as she tried not to think about how much her life sucked. Now she was here for a different reason.

She had been reflecting on this while sitting at the bar, carefully nursing a single drink while watching the club, scanning each and every visible face, carefully noting each one of them. It wasn't easy; the loud music, loud conversation, dim lighting and crowds provided for plenty of distractions. Still, this was her best bet.

Something caught her eye, a silver-haired girl going past. Could that have been the young girl she had worked with so long ago? Damn... no time for that now. Keep looking.

There. Sandra focused on one particular figure sitting right next to the stage. An impressively overweight middle-aged woman with short brown hair and brown eyes, wearing the sort of clothes that one would normally associate with someone twenty years younger and a lot slimmer. She currently had a stripper dancing over her lap, clad in only a silver thong. Sandra also noted that she was sweating profusely. Something struck her... had she seen this person before? Not just a picture, but as a person. Not important.

She sighed and signed to the bartender. "Another one, please." This was going to take some time.

An hour later (and a huge amount of cash going to the stripper), the fat woman got up and left the club. Sandra emptied her drink and followed, collecting her guns from the check at the door. Outside, the air was warm despite the late hour. Sandra looked around, and then spotted the woman. She was further down the road, talking to a (blatantly obvious) prostitute.

Someone here has no survival instincts whatsoever. Sandra set off down the street, calmly walking up behind the woman, who she had decided was now called 'Fatty'. "Doctor Tracy Langford?" she asked.

"Not now," the woman said.

"No, this is important," Sandra insisted, pressing her gun into Fatty's back. "I'd like it if you could come with me."

"I'm sorry, but I can't do that," she said. Before Sandra could respond, something big and heavy plowed into her, sending her sprawling across the pavement, her gun skittering from her hand. Grunting, she looked up. There was a big, blond man wearing the sort of cheap suit preferred by corporate thugs.

"Stupid," Sandra grunted to herself. Ambushed by a minder, how could she have been so dumb. She sprang to her feet as the minder got up, pulling his gun from his jacket. Tool. A pair of shots whizzed past her as she pulled out her second pistol and fired. The thug suddenly reeled backwards, a red stain spreading across his suit.

Pausing for a quick breath, Sandra scooped up her gun. Minder was lying on the ground, bleeding profusely. Fatty herself was trying to crawl away, her too-short pants and too-short shirt having conspired against her to leave a massive amount of massive posterior visible to the world. The prostitute was nowhere to be seen and had probably got while the getting was good. She must have been the smart one. Sandra strode over to Fatty, who rolled over to face her.

That was it. Looking at Fatty's face, she remembered where she had seen her before. Years ago... a homicide investigation in a Neo York hotel. Fatty and the hotel manager had covered it up by passing Alan a lot of cash. She hated that moment, but also knew that there was nothing she could do about it. However this time was different. She pointed her gun at Fatty.

"Don't do it!" the woman shouted. "I'll give you money!" I've got lots of it!" She was almost crying.

Sandra continued to advance. "Do you remember what happened last time we met? Four years ago, you killed a girl, like the one you were trying to pick up. Nothing ever came of it, because you paid off the right people. This time, it's different." She placed her gun to Fatty's forehead.

"Please, for the love of God, don't!" Fatty shouted.

"Bang." Sandra said, then grinned as she pulled the gun back. "I wouldn't kill you. Somebody wants you alive, and I'm damned if I'm missing out on getting paid this time."

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