by Jamie Jeans & Jeff Skagen

(This occurs the morning after "The Party")

With a yawn, Korey opened her eyes, her head buzzing slightly from the aftereffects of the previous night's partying. She sighed as, when she rolled over, she discovered that no one's arm was around her waist and that her room was empty of everyone but herself. The last of her conscious memories from last night resurfaced, and she distinctly remember dancing the night away with Angel. A slightly blush came to her cheeks as she recalled other things that happened with Angel, and she reminded herself to check more into the corporate woman's past and personality. How she could be a business partner one day and entirely intimate the day after was a mystery to her.

Requiring an effort she really didn't like to put into it, Korey sat up and rolled off the bed, managing to land on her feet and getting into an upright position. Clothes came next, which was amazing considering that she hadn't taken off her clothes the previous night... at least, so far as she could remember. She glanced back to the bed, and in the murky light of the bedroom saw Angel's sleeping form turn over in bed. Korey blinked, blushed, and then resolved to never attend another party with Angel.

Slipping on her housecoat over her under clothing, Korey slipped silently downstairs, mindful of the other people sleeping off last night's party. No sooner did she reach the kitchen did the videophone ring. Making sure her clothes was as straightened out as much as possible, she approached the video and pressed the receive button. Strangely, no face came up, but rather an address and a time. She sat down in front of the videophone and quickly typed up the commands to trace the call. Nothing.

Frowning, she quickly saved the data to her PC, and none too soon for the connection cut off and the words "SIGNAL CUT" appeared on the videophone's screen. Making sure the data was safely stored away; Korey got up and walked into the living room, taking a seat on the couch.

A moment later, Korey heard the muted sound of the toilet flushing in the guest bathroom, followed by the sound of the sink running, and realized someone besides herself was up.

"Hello?" she called out.

The bathroom door open and Shoko stepped out, looking somewhat disheveled and shaking her still damp hands. "Oh, hi there. Sorry, I didn't wake you, did I?"

Korey shook her head and motioned for the Puma to join her on the couch. "I was already up, despite the late night I kept. A stubborn morning riser, you could call me."

Shoko slid onto the other half of the couch and settled herself in. "I know what you mean. I can rarely sleep past sunrise myself, no matter how much I want to."

Korey nodded slowly. "And did you enjoy yourself last night?"

"I sure did," said Shoko, smiling. "Though not as much as most of the other guests here, I imagine. I think I might be the only one here who didn't end up in bed with someone else."

Coughing politely into a fist, Korey nodded, deciding that it was best to remain silent. "Well, since you and I are up, shall I prepare us some breakfast?"

Shoko ears immediately pricked up. "You bet! Uh, I mean...if it wouldn't be too much trouble..."

Smiling, Korey got up and went back into the kitchen, motioning for the Puma to follow her. "Hot home cooked meals are something of a rarity in the Zone, I assume? And what would you like?"

"Actually," said Shoko as she followed along, "You'd be surprised. We keep both livestock and a garden where I live. Not much processed food, but fruit, eggs and potatoes are pretty common breakfast fair, and even ham and bacon sometimes."

"Ah yes, human ingenuity and hard work and whatnot." Opening the fridge, Korey brought out a package of eggs and bacon. "So then, if you do not mind my asking, what else do you do in the Zone for employment?"

Shoko paused a moment, ears twitching. "Well, I work days at Bell's Garage, helping out however I can. Given my strength and endurance, there's usually some sort of labor I can make myself useful at. And sometimes I strip with a pair of twin Puma's that live in the Zone. That's mostly to pay off a debt I owe them, but I get to keep some of the money."

Korey almost stumbled a little as she dropped an egg onto the frying pan, cursing softly at the cracked eggshell. "They wouldn't happen to be the Puma Sisters, would they?" she asked, scooping out the cracked bits of shells as carefully as she could.

Shoko's eyes widened. "Yeah! You've heard of them?"

With a shaky nod, Korey quickly got herself under control and added a second and third egg to the first, turning on the stove. "I've heard of them. They've got a certain reputation that's quite wide spread."

Shoko leaned against the center island, watching Korey work. "I guess so, but I didn't think they were that well known outside the Zone."

"Oh, they are, they are." With the pan heated up, Korey began to flip and fry the eggs. "Bacon?"

Shoko's mouth moistened at the thought. "Yes, please. I love crispy bacon."

"And you say you strip with the Puma Sisters? Is that not a tad dangerous?" Korey pointed out, tossing on a few strips of bacon along with the eggs. "The reputation they have is one born of extreme violence, you know."

"Yeah, but they don't usually attack the audience," answered Shoko, not quite suppressing a smile. "Even they know that's bad for business."

Korey offered her a look that spoke of considerable doubt of that particular fact, and flipped the eggs and bacon over. She hissed as a few drops of fat splashed onto her bare skin. "Nonetheless you must be of a hardy build to spend time with them."

Shoko shrugged. "I'm as tough as they are, anyway. Of course, there are the two of them to just one me..."

"Which is why you should exercise caution," Korey advised, taking out a plate and placing the almost cooked eggs and bacon on it. "And breakfast is served."

"Thank you," said Shoko, collecting her breakfast. "Mmmm. Smells delicious." She moved over to the small dining table and took a seat.

A few minutes later, Korey joined her with some fried eggs and bacon as well. "So what is this strip act you do with the Puma Sisters?"

"You've heard of the Twins, but you haven't heard of their act?" Shoko asked, sounding surprised, a forkful of eggs halfway to her mouth. "Well, the first half of the act is pretty much what it sounds like...we get out on stage, and do a sexy striptease. Then once we're naked...well, things get kinda wild then."

"... sex with the Puma Sisters?" Korey ventured. "You must be a durable model."

"Hey, I was made to be better than the average Puma. In all ways..."

Korey chuckled. "Yes, true. I assume... but sex with those two?"

Shoko shrugged, and attacked her bacon. "Well, it's part of the act. You see, they handcuff me to the pole, and then they...well, you'll just have to see it, I guess. And of course, we sometimes "practice" the act back at their place... "

Korey shook her head. "So...your entire strip show consists of them having hot naked sex with you atop the stage while you're chained down."

"Heck no!" objected Shoko. "First we dance around taking our clothes off, just like any other strippers. Then they handcuff me to the pole, and lick varies, honey, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and so me, and the licking continues until, well..."

Korey sighed and handed Shoko a cold beer from the fridge. "Really, and you could not find nothing more suited then stripping?"

"Well, actually, I have to do it with them until I make enough money to replace Uni's pulse rifle. Ayane and Aoi really want me to quit, and I've promised I will as soon as that's done." Finishing her breakfast, Shoko popped open the can and took a swallow. "Besides, I have two other jobs, and I'm kinda feeling overworked lately...

"Done? C'mon, lets head back into the living room. Have a seat." Korey pondered what Shoko had said and she sat her down on her living room couch. She put her hands on Shoko's shoulders and began rubbing them. "You are indeed tense."

Shoko arched her back in response. "Oh, that feels great. I didn't even realize I was so tense..."

"Puma or not, you have muscles modeled after human muscles, thus you'll encounter the same problems as we," Korey explained as she dug her thumbs into the back of the shoulders, working it along the lines of the deltoids.

"I guess so. I really should have recognized how tight my back was, especially since I have some training as a masseuse myself." Shoko's tail lashed in pleasure as Korey's hands continue their work. "You're good. Do you have formal training too?"

Korey smiled a little to herself. "You could say that, I suppose." She dug her fingers in a little more, working harder on the Puma's body to get out the tougher of the knots from her shoulder muscles. "And oftentimes we do not take the time to listen to our bodies."

Shoko chuckled. "Well, I'm listening to mine now, and it's saying 'Damn, that feels good!'"

Korey laughed lightly as she begins to work her hands inward, fingers digging into the muscles between the two shoulder blades. "Now what was that you said earlier about being over worked?"

Shoko sighed in contentment at Korey's ministrations, then answered, "Oh...just that I work at Bell's in the day, I'm doorman at...a Zone club every other evening, and then on my off nights I'm often dancing—if you can call it that—with the Twins. I don't often get a night off like this..."

"And it is about time you did, your body is telling me," Korey said, working her thumbs firmly up the back of Shoko's neck and gently rolling the Puma's head forward. "And all of that to make ends meet, hmmm?"

Shoko moaned appreciatively as Korey worked on her neck, where her muscles were knotted most tightly "Mmmm...yeah. Well, I get room and board for working afternoons at Bell's. Ayane pushed me into the job as doorman, though I kinda like it now. I'd let the stripping go, if I hadn't promised the Twins I'd work off my debt that way. Otherwise I'd be fine with the first two jobs."

Korey nodded as she continued to work on Shoko's strained and sore neck, although she had to sit up on her knees to do so, considering the Puma's height. "Perhaps you would like a job with me once or twice? To help you with your debt with the Puma Sisters?"

Shoko ears pricked up. "Well...maybe. What sort of job? What do you do anyway?"

"First off, lay down on the floor and relax. You can take that pillow with you to lay your head upon. Else I'll never give your neck the good treatment it needs," Korey said.

Shoko smiled, and obediently grabbed the pillow off the couch and stretched out on the floor, hands tucked under the pillow. "How's that?"

Sitting down on the Puma, and straddling her lower back lightly, Korey resumed her massage of Shoko's neck. "A friend and I are currently in search of an image to make ourselves appear more then the small group we really are. You would be perfect in completing that image."

Shoko turns her head slightly, so the pillow wouldn't muffle her voice. "Small group? Of what? What do you do, and how would having a Puma help?"

"I cannot really say what I do... aside from that I am a problem solver. People come to me to have certain dilemmas taken care of, and I do my best to fulfill their order." Korey slid her hands up though Shoko's hair, scratching the scalp lightly before gently rubbing the base of her ears. "However, because my company is so duly understaffed, the appearance of a Puma such as yourself would do much to bolster my image."

Shoko's tail sprang upright, brushing against Korey's back as she scratched around Shoko's ears. "Mmmmm, that's nice.'re a kind of a fixer then, basically. You just need to show clients a Puma then, or would you actually need me in the field sometimes?"

"A little of both, if you have the time for it," Korey replied, ignoring Shoko's tail as she gently caressed her ears. "The main problem is that my company may not have the credibility needed when it comes time to deal with more critical clients, of which you would be a great help in alleviating."

"Hmmm...sounds okay, I guess. I'll do fieldwork if necessary, but unlike some Puma's I know, I'm not crazy about combat. I'm good at it, mind you, but I don't like it, and if I get shot at I expect a bonus, y'know?"

Korey nodded and brought her hands back down, working the muscles along the middle of Shoko's back. "You need not worry about payment. I always pay my business partners fairly."

Shoko flicked her ears in place of a nod. "I believe you. Besides, it sounds like what you mostly need me for right now is just to be seen by the client."

"Exactly." Korey moved back down over Shoko's rear and rested on her upper legs as she dug into the Puma's back, just above her lower portion.

"Okay then, when do you need me?"

"In two days was when the meeting was scheduled for." Korey slowly dug her thumbs into Shoko's lower back, pressing in very gently.

"No problem. When you have an exact time, let me know. Say, you can dig in harder there, you won't hurt me."

Korey nodded, rocked forward on her hands and dug her fingers a little more into the knotted up muscles of Shoko's lower back, her persistent work slowly paying off as waves of relief flow through the Puma.

"Oh yeah, that feels great!" Pinned under her butt, Korey felt Shoko's tail trying to involuntarily lash side to side. She shivered a little and wriggled, but continued to wear away the resistance of the knots, bit by bit.

Under the hands, Shoko almost seemed to melt into the floor as her muscles slowly relaxed. Continuing on in that spot, Korey actually began to work up a sweat digging her fingers into the Puma's tough muscles, the tail lashing between her legs not helping her concentration.

Shoko continued to make soft sighs of contentment as Korey worked. Reaching down, she pulled up the bottom of her T-shirt, so Korey could work directly on her back.

Sliding her hands in under Shoko's shirt, Korey stroked the smooth skin tenderly, working he way back up briefly before moving back down again. "So, how was it you and Aoi came to meet?"

Shoko rolled her head fully to one side. "Well, we bumped into each other on the street one night. Nearly started fighting. Might have, if a sniper—part of a corporate assault team or something, out on a 'game hunt'—hadn't started shooting at me. Of course, we didn't know which of us was the target at the time, so we ran away together. Eventually turned the tables on them. By the time that was done, well, we'd come to like each other."

Korey nodded, her hands moving up and over the smooth curve of Shoko's rear and around to where her tail came out, Korey herself having moved down to straddle Shoko's legs.

Shoko lifted her butt slightly in response. Her tail laid almost still, her muscles too relaxed to even thrash it around. "Of course, that's the Reader Digest version of the story. I'll have to tell you the whole thing someday. And of course, the next time we met, she started a riot at the Pit where I was performing, and we ended up having to run away into the Zone, with me still stark naked, no less. Boy, that was a night."

Korey laughed a little, her hands running over Shoko's rear, stroking and caressing the muscles at first before beginning to work firmly into them. "That sounds like a night out with Aoi. Ask her about some of the times we've worked together."

"I will, then." Shoko flicked her tail to one side to get it out of Korey's way, impressed at how effective the girl's massage was.

"I'd ask you to remove your pants, but we've only just meet," Korey added in playfully, digging gently at the base of the Puma's tail.

Shoko's hips twitched and her tail involuntarily sprang upright at this treatment. "I understand. Though truthfully, what you're doing to my tail right now is more suggestive to me than asking me take my pants off would be. The base of my tail is, um, one of my erogenous zones."

Korey arched an eyebrow and continued to stroke and caress the base of Shoko's tail. "Ah... do you wish me to stop then?"

Shoko chuckled. "No, I didn't say that. It feels good. I just wanted you to know that if you keep doing it, you might start giving me ideas. And like you say, we've only just met, and I haven't quite been sure of your intentions, so far."

"My intentions are quite honorable... I am helping a friend of a friend to relax," replied Korey as she deepened the massage, working her fingers firmly through the pants.

Shoko propped her front half up on her elbows and looked back at Korey over her shoulder. "Fair enough. And I'm sorry that I might have suspected otherwise, but as a synthetic I encounter too many people who just assume they can just take me to bed any time they want. I tend to doubt others until I find out for myself."

"You are an unusual model... it's probably part of the reason why," Korey said, moving down Shoko's legs and digging her fingers into her upper legs.

Shoko cocked her head to one side in thought. "Y'know, I don't think it has much to do with my model, as with the fact that I spent two years living free in Australia, learning to think for myself."

"An opportunity not afforded to many synthetics," commented Korey as she worked her way down to Shoko's feet, taking one up in her hands and working the soles firmly.

Shoko nodded, and lay flat again. "Yeah, I was lucky to get there myself. Pretty unhappy when I had to leave, too, though now I think I may have been really lucky. I've met some of the greatest people since I came to the Zone."

Korey nodded, digging her fingers in firmly to work the knots free. "Hmmphh... I'm going to need a massage myself once I'm done with you. Your entire body feels like knotted steel."

"I'll give you a massage when you're done with me, if you want. My, uh... companion... when I was in Australia had me take massage classes, so I could give him massages."

Korey nodded, finishing up on Shoko's right foot and beginning work on the left. "I see."

With a sigh of relief, Korey finished with Shoko's left foot. "And done..."

Shoko climbed upright, onto her knees, and stretched her hands over her head. "Oh, yeah, that feels great! Well, wanna trade places?"

Korey smiled a little wearily. "Yes, please... I hate to ask it of you, but I could use one myself."

Shoko smiled, and moved to one side. "No problem. Just lay yourself down and I'll get started."

Korey stretched out with a groan of contentment, nestling her head in the pillow. "Hmmm...I appreciate this very much, Shoko."

Shoko moved to straddle Korey back, and began working her fingertips in rhythmic circular motions along the back of Korey's neck. "No problem," she answered. "I need the practice anyway."

Korey gasped aloud, her head moving slightly from side to side with the movement of Shoko's hands, a tingle working down her sore neck muscles. "Hmmm... hmmm... ohhh, but this feels good."

Shoko smiled, and shifted her hands to work more on the sides of Korey's neck. "Well then, I'm glad to know I haven't lost my touch yet."

Korey's only response was another moan of delight as Shoko's fingers began to ease out the weeks and weeks of built up tension in her neck muscles. She stretched out a little more below her, giving the occasional groan whenever the Puma encountered a difficult knot.

Shoko began slowly working her way down the length of Korey's back, fingertips digging in on each side of her spine. "Hmmm...I just thought of something I should have mentioned sooner, Korey. If you want me to work for you, we need to arrange some way to get me out of the Zone. They don't just let Puma's come and go as they please, y'know?"

With a groan, Korey arched her back as Shoko's fingers encountered a rather difficult knot. "Hmmph... ohhh... well, hmmphh... I have a friend whom can remedy that easily enough. He has a way of getting in and out of the Zone without... ohhh... being detected. Either that... ohhh... or we could forge some documents claiming you as my own Puma."

Shoko slowed, giving extra attention to the troublesome spot she was working. "We got by without a registration card last night when Aoi took me through, but if I tried to come out as your Puma and we happened to get any of the same guards again, there'd be questions. I think you're friend might be the best bet, if he can really bypass the guards entirely. Or we could just ask Aoi to keep bringing me in and out."

Whimpering a little, Korey managed a nod as she began to take deep, calming breaths, relaxing her body and making it easier for the Puma to work. "Very well then... ohhmphh.."

Shoko smiled. "Enjoying that? Good." She continued to work her fingers down Korey's spine, feeling her slowly go limp. "Of course, in that case it might be a good idea to give Aoi a forged registration for me..."

"A... hmmph... good idea, yes... ohhh..." Hiking her shirt up a little for the Puma, Korey sighed and continues her slow deep breathing, like a mantra. Her back looked to be a crisscross of various scars spattered here and there, speaking of battles long ago.

"Wow..." said Shoko, sliding her hands under Korey's shirt and working her way back up the sides of her back. "You've got quiet a collection of scars here. Did you used to make your living as a street sam or something?"

The fixer was silent for a moment before replying. "Let us just say that a corporate upbringing was not as easy as most people would think." She squirmed a little as Shoko's fingers come across a rather long scar running diagonally across her lower back.

"Corporate upbringing?" Shoko blurted, surprised. "You're a...I mean, sorry, but nothing about you makes me think corper."

Korey craned her head to look back and up at Shoko, smiling. "A good many years away from home on my own, no doubt... hmmphhh... ohhh." She squirmed as Shoko's hands remain kneading her lower back.

Shoko nodded slowly, smiling. "Fair enough. Y'know, I could say the exact same thing...I've had a few years on my own, and I don't bear much resemblance to your typical security synth anymore, either."

Groaning, Korey laid her head back down. "Considering the tail, I had mistaken you for an earlier Panther model when I first saw you... hmmm... hmmmm..."

Shoko moved to Korey's side, and began working her way down the length of her left arm. "Wow. Not that many people remember the old Panther model anymore. Yeah, they had a tail, but it was like their namesake's...long and thin. I have a bushy one, like a fox's."

"Hmm... yes... ohhhh..." Korey relaxed herself as much as possible, her arm limp in Shoko's grip as she worked on it. "Hmmphh... hmmm... so then... ohhmphh... what model would you be? Hmmmph... perhaps a Kitsune?"

"No," chuckled Shoko, avoiding the real question as she began working on Korey's left hand and fingers. "But my friend Ayane is a Kitsune! Well, she's a customized Lynx, actually, but someone with a fetish must have wanted a Kitsune. She lost the ears and got nine fox tails. And I thought my one was hard to keep groomed!"

Korey chuckled as well, and decided to let the subject drop, for now. "Hmmmm... you must go through an extraordinary amount of shampoo to keep it clean in the Zone."

"Yep," said Shoko as she shifted to work on Korey's right arm. "And shampoo isn't the easiest thing to come by in the Zone. Luckily, the Puma Sisters introduced me to Hyperwisk shampoo. They prefer the Strawberry. They have a whole caseload of it, and they let me have a bottle whenever I need it. I convinced them it was a 'business expense'—that I need to be well groomed for the act."

"A smart decision," Korey murmured, just barely able to suppress a yawn. "Hmmm... ohhh... and here I thought you were bad off for a massage."

"Oh, I was," answered Shoko as she continued to work her way down Korey's arm. "Say, are you right handed?"

Korey nodded. "Of course. Please spend a little more time there... ohhh, this is so good, I should be paying you for it."

Shoko smiled. "Well, thank you. Yeah, I thought you might be right-handed; you're left arm has more scars on it. That's pretty typical for a right-hand fighter. You block with the left and let it take the damage, to open up a chance to punch, stab, or shoot with the right."

"Hmmm... hmmm, ohhh... yes, I have been in my fair share of fights... corporate takeovers are quite violent, especially when one side has taken a poison pill." She moans a little louder, melting under Shoko's steadily working hands.

"Poison pill?" Shoko asked. Finishing with Korey's arms and hands, she positioned herself to work on her legs, careful to never fully break contact with her body. One of the first things a masseuse learns is that, ideally, once you've laid hands on the client you should never stop touching them until the massage is finished.

"A poison pill is a corporate term for when a corporation has made itself as unappealing as possible in a fiscal sense," Korey explained, her voice low and full of content. "It is a defense to keep it from being bought out or taken over by a rival corporation... ohhh... hmmm hmmmm... although it does not often work."

Shoko nodded, as she began to work her way down Korey's legs. "Okay, now I understand. Sorry, I'm not real familiar with corporate terminology."

A comfortable silence fell between them as Shoko continued to work her way down Korey's legs, paying extra attention to her tense calves along the way. She was just finishing up her work on Korey's feet when they heard a door open and at least two pairs of footsteps coming down the hall, sharing a whispered conversation.

Shoko sat back on her heels. "Whoops...good timing. I think maybe you need to start work on some more breakfasts, Korey."

Korey sighed and started to stand. "I guess so. Thank you again for the massage, Shoko. I feel great now. Even my hangover is gone."

Shoko stood up as well and smiled. "You're welcome; I enjoyed the chance to practice my skills. And my thanks as well, for my massage. I haven't felt this relaxed in a long time."

Korey smiled at her, then turned and walked into the kitchen, just as Aoi and Kami entered the living room from the hall, both looking rather bleary-eyed. "G'morning!" said Shoko brightly. "Have a seat; your breakfast'll be up in just a minute. Boy, you two sure slept in late, didn't you..."

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