[SCENE: A rubble-strewn, second-story room in a run-down apartment block in the Zero Zone. VIC HAGEN, a short, blonde-haired woman with green eyes is sitting in a corner, a large rifle sitting on her lap.]

COREY: So, Vic, how long have you been a mercenary here in the Zone?

VIC: Some time now. Since I died, certainly.

COREY: You died?

VIC: It happens. [Shrugs]

COREY: Right, well, and, uh, and what did you do before that?

VIC: Army. I shot things.

COREY: So why did you decide to become a mercenary?

VIC: So I can shoot more things.

COREY: And right now you're shooting at Jinsei, right?

VIC: They're a handy source of targets.

COREY: So do you normally work alone?

VIC: Some days I work with my buddy Stuart. He's funny. Other days I work with just the voices in my head.

COREY: I see. So how long have you worked with Stuart?

VIC: Seven months. Eight maybe. Probably eight. Worked alone for a while. Only me to keep me company. Boring. I'm a lousy conversationalist.

COREY: So why change the way you work?

VIC: Bigger group, bigger jobs. More things to shoot. More chance of getting into trouble. More chance of getting selected to do a documentary.

COREY: So how did you end up working with him?

VIC: Stuart was working with me before Sandra met him. Sandra was working with me before Stuart met her. At least that's what they claim.

COREY: So who were you working with first?

VIC: All of the above. [She grins]

COREY: And how would you describe they way you fight?

VIC: Usually I snipe. Hide on top of a building or behind some rubble or something. [Forms a "finger gun" with her hand] Then I find a target and line him up. [Points "finger gun at the camera." Then, when he least expects it... [She grins.] BANG! Deeeeeaaaaad. [She sniggers, then laughs.] 'course, I can't always do that. Sometimes I run in close, fight it out at close range. Lots of guns. Teeth, claws too. Messy.

COREY: So how do you feel about this invasion? Why have you chosen to fight it?

VIC: Its fun. Lots of little redshirts come along. Give me stuff to shoot at. Real war this. Not you usual small contract one shot one kill victory stuff.

COREY: ...I see. Do you think you'll be able to win this?

VIC: I dunno. But it's gonna be fun finding out. [She grins again]

[SCENE: An office inside an NYPD Inc. station house. Two officers are sitting in front of a desk. The first, CRAYSE has a beard and short black hair, and is wearing his full uniform, complete with hat. The second, DAVIES has long, blond hair and is also wearing his uniform, but no hat.]

COREY: I heard that you two were on duty the night that Jinsei first entered the zone.

CRAYSE: That is correct. In fact, it was I who received the order to let them in.

COREY: How did you feel about that order?

CRAYSE: Well, at first it did seem kind of wrong to be abandoning our post. But then, when we realized that somebody else would be looking after it, I must say I was quite relived. I was almost certainly expecting trouble that night. New Years brings out the worst in people, it seems.

DAVIES: That and it was very, very cold.

CRAYSE: This is also true. Jolly nice of them to allow us to go back to the station.

COREY: So how do you feel about the actual invasion itself and what Jinsei are doing over there?

CRAYSE: Well, if you ask me, the Zone invasion has been a good thing.

COREY: How so?

CRAYSE: For too long, the Zero Zone has been a problem for us here in the NYPD. If a criminal gets past us and goes into the Zone, well, effectively we can't touch them. It can be incredibly frustrating to learn that somebody has gotten past you and escaped into there. Effectively, they're taunting you. They're saying "what are you going to do to us now?" to our faces. Not very nice.

COREY: It must be frustrating.

CRAYSE: Indeed. Basically, it puts wanted fugitives beyond the reach of the proper authorities. The only people who can really touch them once they're there would be independent outside contractors. Terribly unpleasant, right Alan?

DAVIES: Uh, yes, certainly.

CRAYSE: And it'd be very humiliating to have to turn to such people for help.

DAVIES: Definitely.

CRAYSE: It'd be a smear on our reputation if I found any of my officers talking to such people. It'd effectively be saying "well, we can't do anything about it so can you help us out, please."

DAVIES: Yes, well...

COREY: And how about the people of the Zone. How do you feel about them? They've just had their homes invaded by what amounts to a hostile power.

CRAYSE: The thing that you must remember about the Zone's inhabitants are that they are those individuals who for whatever godforsaken reason have chosen to reject society as we know it. Like the aforesaid criminals that I've mentioned, many of them are people who are just using the Zone as a way to escape the responsibilities of the real world. Besides, they're all squatters. They don't really own their own homes anyway.

DAVIES: Scum. Definitely the scum of the Earth.

CRAYSE: That's right. I'm glad that none of my men associate with such people.

DAVIES: Er... of course not.

CRAYSE: The Zero Zone in essence becomes a magnet for all the undesirables in society. The dropouts, the killers, the hired guns, the rejects, the addicts, the mass-murdering serial puppy kickers. This invasion will serve as a wake up call to those sorts of people and make them see just how wasted their lives are.

COREY: I see.

CRAYSE: Of course, there is one other great benefit from this invasion.

COREY: Which is?

CRAYSE: No more zone border patrol duty. Terribly dull stuff. I can't say I'll miss it at all.

[SCENE: The outside of a prefab warehouse in the zone, near the Jinsei base camp. There is now on the ground and it is cloudy in the air. The sounds of troops and equipment on the move can be heard in the background KARIN [no last name given] is leaning against a wall. She is a compact, muscular woman with pale skin, blue eyes and short brown hair, wearing a Jinsei field uniform. He rifle is by her side]

COREY: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us.

KARIN: Thanks for taking the time to listen to me. It's a rarity.

COREY: So can you tell us a little about yourself, Karin?

KARIN: There's very little really to say. I grew up poor and on the streets in the Midwest. I never had much in the way of formal education or training. I'll freely admit that I spent some of my early years involved with a gang. It was a pretty bad time, but I managed to get by, somehow. Then I tried for a proper job and, well, ended up with Jinsei security.

COREY: So why did you go to Jinsei for a job?

KARIN: They were looking for security staff. After my early years, fighting and staying alive was all I was good at, which limited my opportunities.

COREY: And is your unit normally a field unit?

KARIN: Actually, normally we're just site security for a couple of Jinsei places in the Midwest. We rarely stray too far from a base of operations. This is our first real field experience.

COREY: I suppose that the Zero Zone must remind you of where you grew up.

KARIN: In a way, it does. [She looks over her shoulder for a moment] The conditions are far worse, but at the same time there's a lot of similarities. The people here are poor and desperate, and will do anything to stay alive. [pause] To many of them, it becomes a simple matter of kill or be killed.

COREY: And that's why you joined a gang?

KARIN: Yeah, something like that. Fortunately, I was always something of a tough kid, so I could get by. But in a way, it made sense to be on the wining side.

COREY: So that's why you joined up with Jinsei.


KARIN: I suppose so, yeah. It just made more sense then staying poor, desperate and hungry.

COREY: So how do you feel about what Jinsei's doing here in the Zone?

KARIN: [she looks around] It's hard for me to say it, Corey. Yes, we are the invaders. Yes, we did attack the Zone first. But then you look around and begin to wonder what they're fighting for. They don't really have anything to gain for it.

COREY: How so?

KARIN: What's going to happen to them after it's all over? They're going to go back to the way they were. Poor, hungry, cold and desperate. They'll still be fighting, only against their neighbors rather then Jinsei. It'd be exactly how it was before the invasion.

COREY: There's been something of an alliance between various Zone powers since the invasion; Yakuza, Triads, and Mafia.

KARIN: Yes, but how long do you think it would last without a common enemy? They'd just go back to fighting with each other once it's over. [Pause] It's kind of strange, but it's seeing these people that make me realize how lucky I was to break out of this kind of lifestyle when I did.

COREY: I see.

KARIN: I look at the people in the Zone and think "I could have been like that." Then I'm grateful for everything I have.

[SCENE: The inside of a deserted bar. There is a tattered pool table in the middle of the room, with a large armchair in front of it. SARA, a scarred blonde woman wearing a tight top, baggy pants and a somewhat tattered beret is lounging in the armchair. A large, shirtless, muscular man with short hair is standing behind her]

COREY: So tell us about yourself, Sara.

SARA: I've lived in the zone fro several years, having decided that it was more useful for me to use as a base of operations for my... freelance operations. However, my skills soon caught the attention of others, and I was recruited into their gang as something of a leader. Not in charge per se but in charge of the troops in the field, so to speak.

COREY: And you have since become the leader?

SARA: Sort of. I fell into power after the gang's numbers were somewhat reduced during a fight. The survivors saw me as being leader material, and decided to put me in charge. Twice.

COREY: Twice?

SARA: Well, there was the first battle I mentioned, then some unpleasantness with an esper, but that's behind us now.

COREY: So now you're the leader?

SARA: Certainly. I'm what you call a local power here in the Zone. It's something I'm proud of. I've taken a pair of weak gangs and melded hem into one strong fighting force.

COREY: How did you manage that?

SARA: I negotiated with the leader of the old Red Snakes gang. They agreed to put me in charge.

MAN: She broke his nose. It went crunch.

SARA [muttered]: Thank you Donald.

DONALD: 'sokay.

SARA: But in essence, all they had is ours now. Their bikes, their weapons, their supplies, their neat base of operations- [She gestures around at the room] You like it?

COREY: It's very impressive.

SARA: Great, isn't it?

COREY: So, the Zone invasion has hit you pretty hard.

SARA: You could say that. My original gang suffered somewhat severe losses against Jinsei in the early days of the invasion. Fortunately, as I said, the Red Snakes were... amiable to a regime change.

COREY: So how do you feel about the Zone invasion? I take it you're not a Zone native.

SARA: I was born in Jersey, if that's what you mean. But no, even though I'm not a Zone native, I'm certainly on their side in this little war.

COREY: Go on.

SARA: It's simple. For many people, the Zone represents freedom, It's the freedom to live your life in the way you want to without having someone to tell you what to do. You're free to do what you want where you want. And that's what—[She turns to one side] Harry Nod, don't you dare touch those donuts! Yes, you! I can see you over there! There's only three left and they're all mine, damn it! [Turns back] Where was I?

COREY: The Zone and the idea of freedom.

SARA: It's the freedom to do what you want without anyone telling you what to do that makes it worth fighting fore. [Turns head again] Right! That's it! Bring them over here! Now!

[A bearded man in torn fatigues and a baseball cap shuffles in, carrying a small food box]

SARA: Thank you, Harry. Now piss off.

[He leaves]

SARA: See? Freedom.

COREY: Thank you for your time.

SARA: Not a problem. Donut?

[SCENE: A busy Neo York street, near the Jinsei Tower. Corey aproaches one person amongst the crowd, a Japanese woman in a well-cut business suit]

COREY: Excuse me! Can I just have a word.

WOMAN: Yes? Who are you?

COREY: Corey Emerson, reporter.

[They shake hands]

COREY: I'm doing an article on the recent Zero Zone invasion, and I just want to get some people's opinions and impressions on the matter.

[She looks away]

WOMAN: I'm quite busy...

COREY: This won't take a minute.

[She sighs and nods]

WOMAN: Alright.

COREY: First, can I start off with your name, and ask where you come from?

WOMAN: Aoi. I uhm... I only just moved out of the Zone, actually. At the end of last year.

COREY: Good timing.

AOI: So they say, yeah.

COREY: I know there's still ways in and out of the Zero Zone. Have you been back since?

AOI: Only briefly, on... Well, business.

COREY: So what are your impressions on your old home?

AOI: I don't regret moving out. But really... [She sighs] I feel like I should be there still.

COREY: To fight against Jinsei?

[Aoi nods]

COREY: So obviously you're against their invasion. Can you explain why.

[Aoi thinks for a few seconds]

AOI: There really is no justifying it. I mean... Legally, you can get away with anything over there. So they basically have every right to do what they want from that point. But these are still people who are losing their homes, who are fighting and dying for no reason, other than they live there.

COREY: A lot of people in Neo York say that Zone people are running from the 'real world,' if you like. What's your take on that viewpoint?

AOI: Some I know are. There are a lot of fantasies about the Zero Zone that are simply untrue. But at the same time, there are a lot of good things there too.

COREY: So why were you living there?

[Aoi glares at Corey, then turns and walks away.]

[SCENE: A busy, if run-down nightclub. Shin Yodama, a lean and handsome Japanese man with a long ponytail, leans back in a booth, trying to make himself heard over the partygoers who fill the room with an almost frantic energy.]

COREY: It's hard to believe we're in a Zero Zone club.

SHIN: Such places were not unheard of before the invasion. However, with the Underground and the Edge of Night lost in the first days of the invasion, the more... [He glances at the cracked walls] 'Pedestrian' establishments have to suffice.

COREY: It's also hard to imagine so many people partying during what is essentially a war.

SHIN: Make no mistake, this is a war, Ms. Emerson. And in such times, it is only natural to enjoy oneself to the fullest. Eat, drink and be merry, as the saying goes.

COREY: Indeed. And what do you do?

SHIN: I am an assassin for one of the resident Yakuza families.

[Corey nods cautiously, as if unsure how to proceed]

SHIN: It is far less outrageous a job than it sounds.

COREY: I imagine the invasion has changed your life a lot.

SHIN: I find myself busier, certainly. In addition to my usual work, I'm often posted to deal with stray Jinsei soldiers, or to pick off commanders or squad leaders.

COREY: Your usual work? Does that mean...

SHIN: Oh, yes. I am still operating against Zone inhabitants, particularly members of the other organised crime groups. In fact, with the sizable distraction Jinsei provides, I find my work is easier.

COREY: But why? I thought all the 'families' were allies in the face of the invasion.

SHIN: Only out of convenience. This invasion cannot sustain, Ms. Winters. One way or the other, I feel that it will end soon. Either by Jinsei crushing the Zone resistance, or with their withdrawal.

COREY: And your 'jobs' are to prepare for that day.

SHIN: Of course. If Jinsei retreats and life returns to normal, we want to be on top.

COREY: And if they win?

SHIN: We shall make ourselves useful to them.

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