By Alex Fauth and Michael Surbrook

"Hi Dave, can't talk, gotta go to find work love you lots bye."

Sandra walked straight past David who had just entered the room, clad in a pair of filthy overalls. He had been working in the garden all day, as he had been since he moved in here with Sandra. For her part, Sandra pent a lot of time going out to look for work, and usually coming back angry and hogging their single bed to herself.

"You're always looking for work," David commented.

"Don't worry, I'll find some." She smiled, and left.

Sandra trudged angrily into the Entertainment district. Just her luck for work to be slow when she needed it and had a mouth to feed. Damn. Now I feel rotten, she thought. I'm the breadwinner and I'm just not providing. Now if there were only a whole bunch of jobs going for a geeky yet buff programmer.

She headed into 93 Underground, leaving her guns at the door and going straight to the bar. Armed with a drink, she fell into her routine of scanning the club for potential clients, noting all the little things. The stupidly-proportioned white-haired stripper on the stage caught her attention for some reason that she couldn't think of at the moment. Maybe she recognized her from somewhere... ahh... it didn't matter now.

In the back of her head, a small idea formed. Note to self, see if Dave is any good at dancing. Maybe I can get him a job here. She smiled at the thought of David dancing badly while throwing his clothes to the crowd. Yeah, I'd pay to see that.

New entry to the club. A sharp-faced woman in a suit, followed by a dark-skinned mountain of a man with sunglasses, also in a suit. He seemed reluctant at first to hand over his gun, but eventually agreed after the woman gave him a Stern Glare. The two of them headed for a booth without giving the club's occupants a second glance.


She went over to the booth and sat down.

Ten minutes later, she was all but leaping in the air and hollering for joy as she left the club.

"I'm home!" Sandra called out as she all but kicked open the door to the apartment.

"Um, hi," David said. He was enjoying his evening. It was nice. It was quiet.

"What's up with you?" Sandra asked. "You look like you've been buried up to your neck in crap all day."

"I was working on the garden," he replied, shooting her an angry look.

"Same thing," Sandra shrugged. "Anyway, I got us some work!"

"That's good..." David said, then stopped. "Wait a minute, what do you mean "us?""

"Us." Sandra replied. "As in "you and me." As in "the two of us." As in "the oh so daring and beautiful and amazing street sam and her computer programmer sidekick." Us." She smiled.

David was quiet for a long moment. "Doing what?" he asked.

"Extracting information." Sandra replied. "I've been tasked with stealing some information from a computer. I'm gonna need someone to get me past any encryption or protection or stuff like that they might have."

"And how often will we be shot at this time?"

"Don't worry, Dave. It'll be safe." Sandra smiled. "Its an easy job."

The two of them trudged through the Zone. It was drizzling lightly, leaving them both damp and miserable. After a while, they arrived at another seemingly anonymous patch of ground, opposite a partially destroyed building. Sandra ducked behind a patch of rubble, and signed for David to join her.

"Okay, Dave,


"What?" Sandra was a bit taken back.

"It's David, Sandra. Not "Dave," or "Davey," or "D-man" or anything else. Just "David.""

"Right... David. Look, the people I'm after are over there." She pointed over at the partially collapsed building. "I'm going to go over there, engage in some hostile negotiating and get the computer we're after."

"So what do you want me to do?" David asked, warily.

"You got a gun?"

David nodded and produced a Ares Slivergun. "This was the first thing I put on... the second was my armored jacket."

"Good thinking." Sandra smiled. "If anyone comes out after you, or chasing me, shoot them."


"Don't worry. It happens to me all the time."

"So when we met was pretty normal for you?"

Sandra grinned, "Regrettably so."

Leaving Dave... David to look after himself, Sandra set off to have a look around the site. The building was an old-fashioned apartment block, complete with a below-street apartment. The top few floors were burnt out, and probably not safe any more. That ruled out her usual "in through the roof" planning. Besides, she didn't want to put too much faith in clinging to those walls anyway.

That left the below-street apartment to hold her fascination. Crouching, she ran as fast as possible across the debris-choked street before pressing herself up against the wall of the apartment. She peered over at the entry stairwell. The railing was long gone and nothing seemed to be blocking the doorway. Perfect. She quickly jumped down into the stairwell, then ducked in through the open doorway.

The apartment had long since been abandoned and stripped of most anything of value, with only a few moldering scraps of cloth lying on the floor alongside plaster flakes from the ceiling. An empty doorway led off to a stairwell, while another one lead to what she presumed was the bathroom. Then something on the ceiling caught her attention.

It was a hole. Or more correctly, a hole that had gone through the ceiling and then through the floor of the next level above. And it was covered by something. She glanced at the floor. Smaller holes marked the wood planks. Someone had secured a wood-burning stove here. She paused to think how nice it would to have found it still sitting here and then froze at the sound of voices.

She paused, listening for a moment, trying to make out what they were saying. After a minute, she realized why she couldn't make head or tail of it; they weren't speaking English. It was something European, probably German. Damn foreigners. It wouldn't be so bad, except that it ruined the chances of her overhearing anything important. A few more minutes passed. The voices stopped, then came the sound of someone walking. Someone either carrying a lot of gear, a lot of muscle or just very heavy boots. She hoped it was the latter.

Silence for a few minutes. Right. Time to try something stupid.

Leaping up, she grabbed a hold of the structure between the floor and ceiling. Pulling herself up, she swung one of her legs up, pushing it against the floorboard. The board creaked, then cracked, lifting up. Swinging her foot down, she examined the wood. It was surprisingly dry, and not that flexible. Perfect. She swung her feet up again, loudly smashing them into the boards. They splintered with a satisfying crash. Somebody shouted something in German. Sandra dropped from the roof, landing on her feet just as she heard the sound of boots running into the kitchen above her.

Ducking into the stairwell, she heard someone shouting in German, followed by a burst of automatic gunfire. As the shots rang out, she dashed up the stairs. Reaching the top, she opened the door slightly, peering into the room. It was unlit, but her low-light was able to compensate. Peering through the darkness, she examined the rooms contents. A few chairs, a single worn table... ah. There, on the table, in plain sight, was the laptop. The distraction would only last so long, she thought. She dashed into the room and grabbed the laptop, slamming the lid shut. Gotcha sucker.

Then the door slammed behind her. Tool.

She turned around. There was a man behind her, wearing some sort of heavy coat that effectively covered him, save for his hands and a small eye-slit. He was holding a nasty looking submachine gun, and had it pointed straight at her. How did I miss him? she thought.

"Put it down!" he shouted at her. Sandra slowly knelt down, slowly lowering the laptop, looking the man in the eyes. Suddenly, she thrust it forward, right into his crotch. The man doubled over in pain, fumbling with his gun. Feeling almost ashamed of pulling such a cheap stunt, Sandra barged into him, knocking him back into the open doorway. He hit the wall, then stumbled back down the stairs, firing as he went. Sandra leapt back from the doorway, landing roughly on the floor.

There goes that way out.

She turned to the other doorway, back into the kitchen with the other guy. Or, as it turned out, guys. Two of them. Tool. One of them shouted something, while the other one swung around. She ducked a burst of automatic gunfire that ripped though the wall, then barged straight into the gunman, knocking him to the floor. His gun flew from his hand and skidded across the floor, balancing precariously on the edge of the hole.

Wrapping one arm around his neck, Sandra fumbled around, looking for something heavy to hit him with, possibly the gun. Unfortunately, his friend was right behind her, leveling the gun at the pair of them.

Sandra turned, still struggling with the other guy, and noticed the gunman out of the corner of her artificial eye. Tool. She kicked up, hitting the underside of the gun. The man jerked his arm up, squeezing the trigger as he went. The gun spat bullets at the roof, sending chunks of plaster and dust flying. Taking advantage of his momentary confusion, Sandra kicked him again.

The man stumbled back, emptying more of his clip into the roof. He tripped on the second SMG, sending it plunging down the hole (and accompanied by a loud "OW!") before falling, butt-first into the hole.

Sandra stopped for a second to snigger, which earned her an elbow in the ribs. The man she was trying to strangle had grabbed her right arm and continued to vigorously elbow her with his other arm. Sandra loosened her grip, which enabled him to throw her off, sending her sprawling onto the floor.

The man leapt to his feet, clearly angry at being nearly choked to death. He angrily stomped down, aiming to crush Sandra's head. She rolled away from a stomp to one side, then another, then rolled over to one side. Reaching over, she grabbed for something she'd seen earlier, and swung.

Somebody, presumably one of the thugs form earlier, had dropped a high-grade, retractable and above all else, metal, police-issue nightstick. Sandra had used one during her police days. It was a good weapon. It certainly seemed to hurt the guy when Sandra hit him in the leg with it. He fell over, clutching his ankle and shouting.

Wasting no time, she leapt to her feet, only to be confronted by the other guy she'd kicked back into the hole. He was now back on his feet and looking to avenge his hurt pride. He caught Sandra in the midsection with a hard punch, followed by an elbow to the face that send her reeling back into the doorway, dropping the nightstick.

Wasting no time, the man ran at her. With no place to go, Sandra responded by simply grabbing him and dropping backwards, sending him flying over her and into the next room with a crash. She grabbed the nightstick as she leapt to her feet. Unfortunately, her opponent was also up.

He sneered at her, and then flicked out a nightstick of his own. She stared him down for a second, doing her best to be intimidating. Leather coat, scars, pale skin, and height have to count for something, right? She thought. Nope.

He slowly advanced towards her, and then lunged at her. Sandra sidestepped the attack, then grabbed his arm and twisted it with her free hand, while hitting his hand with the nightstick as she had done to a few suspects and several instructors. He dropped the nightstick, shouting in pain. Sandra twisted his arm around some more, then spun, hitting him in the side several times. He dropped to the ground, Sandra still holding his arm.

Before she could let him go, the stairwell door slammed open. The thug Sandra had dropped down there earlier barged into the room, looking a little beaten up and a lot angry. He leveled his gun at Sandra, and fired. Or rather, he tried to. The gun gave a mocking hollow "click" noise as he squeezed the trigger.

Wasting no time, Sandra let go of the first man, and ran at this new arrival. He swung the gun wildly at her. Ducking, she swung at his midsection, doubling him over. Confident that she'd gotten him, she was surprised by the sudden blow to her midsection that sent her reeling. The man picked himself up, sneering at her.

Anticipating his next move, she ducked sideways to avoid a badly-aimed swipe with the butt of his gun. Clearly angry, he swung at her again, the gun passing too close to her head for comfort. Then, abruptly, somebody grabbed her ankle.

Looking down, she saw it was the guy she'd just been hitting. Just great. The thug swung his gun again. Unable to effectively move, Sandra did the only thing she could think to do; she dropped backwards onto the other man. He gave a satisfying "Orf" as she landed on him, and released her ankle. She then rolled away as the man swung his gun again.

Kicking upwards, she put her foot straight into his weapon arm. He dropped, the gun, giving Sandra the break she needed. Leaping to her feet, she whacked him again in the side with the nightstick, followed by a pair of blows to the right arm. He clutched his arm in pain, opening himself up to a blow to the side of the head, sending him down.

Grunting in satisfaction, Sandra turned to the other guy who was still lying on the ground, trying to prop himself up. "Sorry, mate." She sighed. "It just isn't your lucky day."

A couple of blows later, she stopped. Pausing for breath, she scooped up the near forgotten laptop. "I was sloppy there" she muttered. "Too slow, not thinking... Must be out of practice. Then something came to her. "Talk about getting sloppy..."

Pulling out her pistol, she cautiously peered around the corner of the kitchen door, ready for the thug she'd left butt-first in the hole. Nothing. He wasn't there. She swung her head back around the side of the doorway, trying to stay calm. Where was he... had he gone down the hole? Or was he somewhere else?

Then she heard the shots outside.


David peered over the edge of the ruined wall. The line of rowhouses Sandra had entered into now echoed with the sound of occasional shots, and in the unnatural quiet of the Zone, clearly discernible shouts and screams. The crashes of heavy things falling only added to the din.

Holding his Silvergun, David kept a close watch on the door Sandra had entered, fully expecting her to exit it soon, and at high speed. He'd fired the gun before, at the range, and even if he wasn't sure he could actually shoot someone point blank, he also knew that most of the time, people fired their guns in order to keep the other guy from getting the chance to fire his. Hopefully, he could do the same.

Another shot. A crash. The sound of someone pounding loudly down a set of stairs. A figure exiting the doorway at a run.

David stood up and waved his arm. "Sandra! Over her!"

Then the man in the long coat aimed the compact shape of a sub-machinegun at him.

David was never sure exactly who fired first, just that the moment the man in the coat had aimed at him, he'd pulled the trigger on his Slivergun. For the next few seconds there was the loud chattering of the SMG, and the whistling buzz of the Slivergun emptying itself. Then silence, except for the faint rattle of spent shells.

Surprised to find himself still alive, not to mention unharmed, David spared a glance over to where his assailant had been. The man was somewhat sprawled in the street, his weapon at his shoulder. Spent shells and holes surrounded him. Come to think of it, David noticed that far too many bullet holes now scarred the rubble about himself.

This was not good.

A quick glance at the Slivergun's LED showed it double zeroes. He'd managed to fire the entire clip and not hit a damn thing. Granted the other guy had apparently done the same, but that was besides the point, David wasn't rooting for the other guy to win.

Speaking of which.

David looked up just in time to see his attacker coming at him at a dead run, growling something in accented English. At a loss, David did the only thing that came to mind. He hurled the Slivergun right at the man. It arced end over end and made an interesting sound as it impacted the man's forehead—right between the eyes. He made a noise that wasn't quite a grunt, and then went face first into the trash and litter of the street, sounding very much like a deflating gasbag as he tumbled into a heap.

Sandra stared at the scene in disbelief. There was Mr. Thug-formerly-left-butt-first-in-a-hole-in-the-floor lying sprawled in the street. His eyes were opened, but crossed, and he was bleeding from a gash in his forehead. A HK MP2030 lay next to one hand, the ammo count blinking "00" plaintively. David's Slivergun was also laying in the street, but David was nowhere in sight.

Glancing around quickly, Sandra confirmed no more thugs-with-accents were waiting to jump her and gave the man-in-the-street (literally in this case) a goo swift boot to the head to make sure he wasn't going to be getting up anytime soon. Then she collected his MP2030 and David's pistol. She'd left the lanky programmer over near that ruined wall, so...


"yeah?" The voice sounded tiny.

Sandra leaned over the wall. "You okay?"

"I'm alive, if that's what you mean. How was your day?"

That made Sandra grin despite everything. "People tired to shoot me. You know, the usual." Climbing over the well, she looked at David. "Okay, give me a minute, and you can do your thing."

Sitting down on a patch of fragmented pavement, she pulled out the laptop, undamaged despite all the excitement. "Let's see..." She pulled at the laptop's cover. "Just going to get it open..." Nothing. Pull, tug... still not opening. Great. "Tool." She pulled at it a little harder. "Won't be a minute... I think it may be stuck or something..." She pulled at the two halves of the cover, grunting. "Stupid laptop..."

"Excuse me." David leaned over her shoulder. "Do you mind If I take a look at it?"

"Can't do much good. The thing's totally tooled. It's stuck." She sighed, and handed it to him.

"Thanks." David pressed a button on the side. The top opened.

Sandra glared at him. "...I knew that."

"I'm sure you did."

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