Yokai Hunter Shirotori stood atop the narrow spire of an abandoned church and let her gaze wander over the urban wasteland spread out below her. Amid the desolation and ruins were occasional points of brightness; unfortunately, most of them were from burning piles of trash or buildings. Meanwhile, in the shadows lurked the dregs of humanity, who spent most of their time preying on the more innocent around them, when they weren't preying on each other. And in turn, they served as prey for...

"Demons." Shirotori turned slightly, letting the wind blow out her long white hair, and ignored the cold cutting through her thin (and very tight) silk dress. Folding her arms under her breasts, she stared down into the murky darkness, trying to point out the source of the intrusion. There was a demon down there. She could feel it.

Stepping off the spire, she dropped into the night, kicking out at one point to propel herself away from the church and over a nearby building. A moment later she made a perfect 3-point landing in an otherwise empty street, her long fall of hair falling about her body like a blanket. Rising, she sniffed the winter air. The demon was close. It's taint was unmistakable.

Passing the sort of debris that was all to common in the wasteland; wrecked vehicles, dead bodies, and broken buildings, she paused for a moment to listen. Faintly came the crackle of gunfire, the muted whomp of explosions, and the hissing roars of demon magic. The wasteland was infested with them, and humanity was locked in an never-ending struggle to rid the world of their evil.

It was her sworn duty as a yokai hunter to destroy any and all demons she found, which was why she was here in the wastes. It was time to hunt, and she would not be denied. So she leapt to the roof peak of a nearby building and then nimbly ran down its length. Reaching the far end she crouched down again. The demon was right below her, a nightmarish parody of the human shape covered in dark armored plates. It stood motionless, head slowly turning from left to right as it scanned the street for something to hunt. Something like her.

With a loud cry she lumped from the rooftop, her arm drawn back into a cocked fist, holy fire trailing in her wake. The demon turned instantly, its maw opening to breathe out a gout of white-hot flame. Twisting aside, Shirotori felt more than saw the singeing of her silken dress, before unleashing a punch that staggered the demon and sent it stumbling back. Not pausing, she then leapt into a kick, then twisted into a second, before backhanding the monster into a wall. The demon roared in rage and unleashed a second blast of fire. This time she wasn't quite quick enough and was fully engulfed, her dress virtually vaporizing off of her body. But she was Yokai Hunter Shirotori, and it would take more than that to stop her!

Pointing her fist at the demon, she unleashed some holy fire of her own, the spell once again hurling the armor-plated monster into the building wall. Black blood flew as it choked and gasped. Taking advantage of the demon's state, Shirotori cleared the street in a bound, burying her arm up to the shoulder in the demon's gut. Wrenching her arm free, she turned to leap away to safety... just as the demon exploded, hurling across the avenue to land amid a pile of debris.

Groaning with pain, Shion wiped her hair out of her face and tried to push herself upright. For some unfathomable reason, she seemed to be lying in a dirty snowbank, in what looked like the middle of the Zone, in what seemed to be the middle of the night. Strange circumstances to be sure, especially since she had been asleep in her bedroom only a few hours before. Worse yet, her nightgown, a gossamer garment at the best of times, was now little more than shredded tatters, leaving her virtually naked. Definitely not a good state of affairs in late winter. Struggling to her feet, Shion closed her eyes and tried to clear her head. She knew exactly what she was going to do: she was going to get back home, take a long hot bath, and get back in bed for some much needed-rest. Oh, and she was also going to stop watching certain movies (not to mention avoiding an excess of drink) right before going to sleep—dreams like this she didn't need...


"Torn to pieces?" Peter North glanced at the wrecked remains of the BU-55C combat cyberdroid scattered across the street.

"Basically." Ron Jeremy scratched at his beard and gave his squad mate a shrug. "Damnedest thing, y'know?"

"Anyone see anything?"

Ron gave another shrug. "Had some reports of a ghost."

"A ghost?" Peter gave Ron a sharp glance. Normally he'd have thought the big machine gunner was pulling his leg, but recent events had shown him the Zone was filled with stuff far weirder than he'd imagined.

"Something pale and kinda white in color was seen bouncing around. You tell me what it could have been."

Peter sighed and poked at a chunk of what had formally been a autonomous combat machine with his boot. "I don't get it. We've got cyberdroids, armor, computerized targeting systems, satellite GPS, pulserifles, grenades, and the friggin' Wolf Brigade! How the hell do they manage to do this?!"


The word was left floating in the air, silencing Ron's comment in an instant. The two troopers turned to see one of the aforementioned Wolf Brigade standing there, his Ares light machine-gun slung from its carrying strap to rest against the belly plate of his armor.

"Bannen..." The name was uttered by Peter and Ron virtually simultaneously. He was one of only a few Brigade members who actually mixed with the regular troopers, and the only one who seemed to genuinely respect them. The fact he fought out in the streets and didn't just hang back guarding the TOC didn't hurt his rep either.

"Espers?" Peter asked.

"Espers." Bannen repeated. He took a few steps and then pointed out to the rest of the Zone. "The Zone is loaded with them. There are more esper weapons hiding out there then the high command suspected and now we're paying the price."

Ron glanced at the ruined cyberdroid. "Yeah, but c'mon... we killed some of those esper weapons early on. They can't be the only reason."

"It's not." Bannen scanned the skyline as they talked. They all did, it was force of habit. You looked sharp, or you died. "We've got the manpower, the training, and the equipment. They have terrain."

"That's it?" Ron didn't sound convinced.

"It can be enough." Bannen pointed out at the Zone ruins. "Look, they've been living here for years. In some cases they've been gutting a block or two to serve as a refuge from gangs—walling off streets, tearing down buildings, setting escape routes. They've had a long time to perfect this. So if they don't want to be seen, then they just vanish. So we have to go house-to-house to find them. And when we do, we discover something else."

"And that is?" Peter asked.

"They have better weapons then they should."

Ron and Peter digested that one. It was very true. The people left in the Zone had been getting better armed as of late. It could be that the ones with the crappy weapons were getting killed off, but that didn't explain the rockets, the mines, the far-to-new-looking submachine guns.

"This isn't a police action anymore," Bannen continued. "It's turning into a corporate war. A field test for all sorts of miltech... both Jinsei's and just about every other corporation in Neo York."

"So the other corps are dumping all sorts of stuff into the Zone just to see what'll happen?" Ron cried out.

"Basically." Bannen spread his arms. "You've got Jinsei one side, the corps on the other, and...

"...and we're caught in the middle." Peter kicked a chunk of wrecked out into the street. "That's just fuckin' great."

"It gets worse."

"Worse?" Ron exclaimed.

Bannen nodded. "Jinsei is now too committed to back out without losing face. But... they can't over commit, or they will make it look like they underestimated the mission requirements and will then look vulnerable. So they supply us piecemeal, with the minimal reinforcements."

Peter shook his head. "That explains all the BU-55Cs, when what we really need is a squad if BU-12Bs and a Doberman or two."

"Or a good carpet bombing..." Ron muttered.

"Exactly. So no MBTs, no LTA gunships, no airstrikes."

"And no way out of this mess..." Peter looked over at Bannen. "Any suggestions?"

"Keep your head down."


For once, the night was quiet. No gunfire, no explosions, no ripping ion cannon blasts, no screams of the wounded and dying. Apparently Jinsei had decided to take the night off, while the Zone was doing its best to recover and rebuild in time for the next big push. Business as usual for the Neo York Zero Zone these days.

Atop a deserted rooftop, a slight-framed figure crouched motionless. It moved not an inch, but instead seemed locked in place, head cocked as if listening. Then, ever so slowly, it reached over and grasped the long handle of the nagamaki sitting next to it, slowly, ever so slowly, drawing the blade out.

Rising with equal slowness, the figure revealed itself. Short of stature and slight of frame, its shape seemed to bespeak a female form, although the ankle length coat made the issue unclear. The face, however, was most certainly a woman's, the the almost delicate features framed by short black hair and the bright red lines of war paint drawn along each cheek. The nagamaki, as long as she was tall, with half its length blade and the other hilt, was gripped in one gloved hand. She was, in fact, dressed entirely in black, from neck to toe. Only her fingers were uncovered, and those were cybernetic.

Taking a few cautious steps forward, Tetsutenshi, better known to some as "Iron Angel," sniffed the air and listened to the roof under her creak. She may have scarcely topped five foot two inches, but her armored frame weighed nigh on to four hundred pounds. Buildings in the Zone had been known to collapse from less. This one, however, seemed to be sturdy enough to take her weight.

Reaching the edge of the roof she resumed her initial crouch, brushing her hair impatiently out of her face as she scanned the street below. Since the Jinsei invasion, the Zone, never the most ordered place at the best of times, had become utterly chaotic. For the most part the gangs, thugs, street sams, and assorted riffraff had joined against a common foe, using the ages-old philosophy of "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." For the most part it worked. However...

The building below had been the haunted by the so-called "Lords of Flatbush" for time-immemorial, which in the Zone probably meant they'd lived in the place for more than a year. Truth be told, Tetsutenshi suspected it was the better part of the last decade, as the Lords had been around since she'd come to the Zone. They weren't the biggest gang, not by far, but unlike most of the Zone's gangs, violence came second to profit. For the Lords, living well was far more important than kicking heads in. They were known to deal with the Mafia and the Yak equally, and rumor had it they'd dealt in slaves, capturing hapless Zone residents and selling them either to other Zoners, to the Mafia, who dealt in replacement organs, or to the Yak, who always had a market for pretty blondes (and brunettes) overseas. Funny that in a world where one could special order a synth to look exactly like what you wanted, some people would still refuse anything but the "real thing."

With the Jinsei invasion, the Lords had proved their adaptability once again. The word on the street was the Lords had turned bounty hunters, tracking down and lost corporate assets for Jinsei. And getting paid handsomely for it.

Tetsutenshi had mixed feelings about the Jinsei invasion. On one hand it looked to be a chance to provide a little order to the Zone, something it desperately needed. On the other hand Jinsei's policy of "kill first-burn later" rubbed her the wrong way. The Zone wasn't the most perfect place in the world, but it was her home, and there were some good people living here. Good people Jinsei looked upon as disposable obstacles.

The Lords were another thing that rubbed her wrong. It was bad enough they preyed on their neighbors, but now there were doing in as a way of getting good with Jinsei... probably hoping to be first in line for any special "security details" once Jinsei finished "pacifying" everything. And the Lords seemed to have started the pacifying a bit early.

Earlier she'd been told they'd captured two City runaways and were getting ready to ship them back. That had been enough. She'd decided to give the Lord's a closer look, and see what they were really up to. So now she crouched on the roof of a building across from the Lord's headquarters. She could leap the distance with ease, but odds were she'd go through the roof, or make so much noise upon landing as to alert every Lord in a block's radius. Climbing down would require her to cross the street and thus run the risk of discovery. No, she'd rather stay up here, away from prying eyes.

Uncoiling a length of line, Tetsutenshi looked at the grapnel tied to one end. It was made from the finest modern alloys and certainly would support her weight, provided she found some place decent to secure it to. Twirling it over her head, she let fly, to send it vanishing into the night. The line played out with a hiss, finally going slack as a faint clunk reached her ears.

Freezing for a moment, Tetsutenshi scanned the street below, her eyes the only thing moving. Nothing. Truth be told, the sound of music coming from the building's first floor was more than loud enough to cover just about any noise she might make, but Tetsutenshi liked to err on the side of caution. It helped one live longer.

Pulling on the rope to make sure it was secure, she then tied it off on a projecting bit of steel reinforcement, finally ending up kneeling on the edge of the roof and testing the tension on the line. It looked like it would hold, and if it didn't? Well, she did have her nagamaki.

The edge of the roof of the Lords of Flatbush lair was exactly what she expected. A tangled mess of barbed wire, sharpened pipes, and crude spikes. More then enough to discourage casual intruders, but only a nuisance at best to a cyborg like herself. Besides, she was more interested in the window below her than the rooftop above. Twisting around so she was now hanging head down over the street below (and making sure the carbiners were securely locked), she reached out and gently tapped on the window. Amazingly the glass was intact, although a few moments with her glass cutter took care of that problem. Trying the window itself was pointless, twenty years of neglect had ensured it wasn't opening anytime soon. Not that she cared.

Cutting the glass was a time consuming process, and each pane was sent spinning out into the night. Finally she'd removed enough panes to let her try breaking the sash, the age-rotted wood snapping easy, with nary a sound. Twisting around again, she dropped into the space the window had occupied, unsnapping the carbiner with one hand and readying the nagamaki with the other. At some time in the distant past a curtain of sorts had been fastened over the window. It hung to the floor and effectively obscured her view of anything inside the room. Of course, it also meant she as virtually impossible to spot as well. Freezing in place she simply listened, picking up the not-so-faint sounds of the party below her. Good, let them have their fun. Made her job that much easier.

Producing a small knife, Tetsutenshi made a slit in the curtain and then peeked through. A sharp intake of breath was her only visible reaction.

Several lengths of chain dangled from a roofbeam, each ending in a cluster of handcuffs. The chain in the center of the room was occupied by two young women. They had been stripped naked and were now kneeling upright together on a small mattress, their arms secured up above their heads. One presumed these were the two City cits she'd been told about. They looked to be virtually identical, with straight blonde hair cut short at the shoulder, slender, well-toned figures (Actually, they looked a bit thin, but then, everyone in the Zone looked a bit thin.), and breasts so large as to make one suspect either surgery or genetic tinkering.

Tetsutenshi sniffed the air again. It didn't take a genius to figure out what had been happening in this room just a short while ago. Apparently the Lords had decided to take their pay a bit early. Well, she wasn't sure if the two women were real or vat grown flesh, but she wasn't going to leave them like this. Not if she could help it.

Making her way across the floor she noticed ragged scraps of clothing on the floor. It looked to have been either torn (or cut) from the girls. Reaching down, she picked up part of a shirt. It had the words "Deviant Boy" written across it. Shaking her head, she tossed it aside and knelt down next to the two captives.

A military surplus glow lamp provided the only light, while a pair of micro-sized space heaters kept the two from freezing, even if it was February. One had to wonder were the power was coming from. Tetsutenshi suspected either a hydrogen fuel cell or a cold-fusion generator. More gifts from Jinsei.

In the pale blue glow of the lamp she could see the black smudges of bruises. The Lords had either beaten them into submission or for the fun of it. Or both. Their heads hung slow, so she couldn't see their faces, couldn't see what kind of damage had been done. Couching down, Tetsutenshi reached out with one hand, noting with some surprise one of the girls was Asian, her hair bleached to its current blonde state. She also noted the two had been gagged with quite a bit of tape. Brushing back some strands of hair, she was relieved to see that was the worst the Lords had done. No broken noses or blackened eyes.

The Asian flinched and whimpered at her touch, her Caucasian companion reacting the same way, their eyes rolling wildly as they twisted in their chains.

"Ssshhhhh..." Tetsutenshi raised a finger to her lips. "Stay still. I'm here to get you out." A few seconds with a lockpick later and the two were free from the handcuffs. A few tugs on the tape and they could breathe a little easier as well as answer questions.

"There." Tetsutenshi tossed the last of the tape away. "That's better. Now, are you two all right?" Aside from the obvious, anyway.

"Oh thank you thank you thank you..." the Caucasian cried as she wrapped her arms around the Asian, who did the same to the blonde before replying with, "We're okay."

"That's good. My name's Tetsutenshi and I'm going to get you out of here and to somewhere safe."

"Tets..." The Asian looked puzzled as the Caucasian finished with "..tenshe?"

"Tetsutenshi," she repeated patiently only to be greeted by equally blank looks. She didn't care if they knew her name or not, but apparently even trying to pronounce it was beyond them. "Iron Angel," she said after a moment.

"Angel." the Asian stated, sounding as if even that was too much for her.

"Good enough."

"If you're an angel why are you all in black?" the Caucasian asked.

Tetsutenshi found her control over the situation slipping away. And it hadn't been more than thirty seconds. "Look, just stay here while I find something to cover you with. Okay?"

"Okay!" they cried in unison.

A moment later Tetsutenshi found her self poking through the boxes piled haphazardly along the far wall. There wasn't a much to pick from, to be honest, as most of the boxes held a variety of straps, buckles, clips, chains, and other bits of fetish gear. Even with metal fingers Tetsutenshi didn't want to touch the stuff. One box, however, had some scattered Jinsei military castoffs, such as light sticks, water bottles, and thermal blankets. The thin foil sheets may not have looked like much but they'd keep protect the two from the wind and even help retain a fair bit of heat.

"Okay it's not much, but it's better than nothing," she started as she turned around. And then stopped dead. The pair were right where she'd left them, kneeling in the middle of the floor, but now they were entwined in a passionate embrace, moaning around repeated kisses. For a moment she just stood there, the thermal blankets forgotten, wondering when, or even if, the two planned to come up for air.

"What do you two think you're doing?" she finally hissed. "We don't have time for this!"

"Aaahhhh!" they cried in unison. "We're sorry Angel, it just felt so good to be free!"

"We're in love," the Caucasian stated, as if that explained everything.


"Yeah," the Asian continued. "I'm Wendi and this is Tiffani. We came to the Zone to escape our parents."

Tiffani nodded. "They didn't want us seeing each other."

"And we were happy..."

"Until the soldiers came."

Tetsutenshi closed her eyes and wished for strength. It was like trying to talk to the Puma Sisters, what with each one completing the other's sentences. And just about as useful.

"And then we were captured."

"And chained up."

"And..." Wendi started.

"Enough!" Tetsutenshi snapped. "I get the picture." And a headache at this rate.

"Please don't leave us," Tiffani pleaded, to which Wendi nodded. "We're in love and just want to be free together."

Taking a deep breath, Tetsutenshi calmed herself. The Lords of Flatbush were still two floors down, whooping it up, and who knew if someone was going to come up the stairs for a second helping? She had neither the time nor the inclination to discuss the philosophy of freedom. What she wanted was to get out of here, and get these two "lovebirds" safe. Safe being a relative term in the Zone, of course.

"Here," she tossed over the thermal blanket packs. "Open those and get wrapped up, we're getting out of here."


How to leave? That was the question. Not the way she came in. And not by leaping out to the street. She could take it, but not two naked girls so hopelessly in love they couldn't recognize danger when it was right in their faces. The roof? It still left the question of getting down.

She paused and glanced at the door. Why not down? Why should she leave and let the Lords continue to fight another day? Let them continue to traffic in human flesh? Besides, the resistance could use what the Lords had gained from Jinsei. Call it payment for all the pain and suffering they'd caused.

Turning back to the pair she caught them pulling apart out of the corner of her eye. Inwardly she sighed but kept her face carefully neutral. No longer was she a guardian angel, she was a battle angel, and two naked and oversexed girls wasn't going to change that.

"You two stay up here. And whatever you decide to do, don't go anywhere until I come back to get you. Understand?"


Hefting her nagamaki, Tetsutenshi grinned. "Good, because I have work to do."


Stewart Finaly ran like he had never run before. He didn't even bother to glance back to see where the Jinsei troops were or even if they were still after him. He just assumed and figured that if he kept running then it would be for the best. One hand held the strap that kept his rocket launcher on his back, clutching it tightly so he wouldn't risk loosing his most valuable possession in the whole wide world. (Well, except for his axe, but he didn't need that right now. Later, when for when he quit the mercenary business and became the greatest metal guitarist in the history of ever, however, would be a different matter)

In retrospect, he figured, he probably shouldn't have gone after that truck alone. He probably should have had some backup. Actually, he probably should have spread the news around that there was a Jinsei supply column on their way just so a more coordinated, large-scale attack could be mounted on what had to be a valuable target.

But it was just such a great target, he thought. It was so big and exposed and vulnerable and shiny and so much like easy bait for a trap that he should have spotted. Oh wait. Maybe it was a trap. Yeah, actually, that would make an awful lot of sense. Well he was sure dumb not to spot that. Boy, I wonder what Vic would say about that, he mentally asked himself.

Probably something about lemurs or something. Well that didn't help.

He ducked inside a ruined store for a moment to catch his breath. Looking out through a shattered front window, he spied Jinsei troopers advancing across the wastes. Maybe they thought he was the vanguard of a bigger attack or something. Or maybe they just didn't like him. Either way, he figured, he had to get out of here.

Time for a little distraction, he thought. Maybe get a few of those twerps off his back. A lot of the buildings in this part of the zone had suffered badly during the civil war and had never been rebuilt. That meant a number of them were very unstable.

He pulled out the rocket launcher and loaded his last round. Looking around, he could see a rather loose-hanging section of wall near where the troops were advancing. Right. A plan formed in the back of his head. If he blew up that chunk of wall, then it could fall down on the Jinsei troops and squash 'em all or scare 'em off or something like that.


He pointed the rocket launcher at the wall, dropping the targeting sight over the particular chunk of wall that was the focus of his attention. "Yeah, that looks right. Come to papa!" He shouted as he squeezed the trigger. The rocket leaped form the launcher, streaking across the gap before slamming into the wall and exploding.

"BANG!" Stuart shouted. "Boom! Pow! Kablam! Yeah, baby, yeah!"

It had more or less the desired effect. The wall collapsed down to the street, sending Jinsei troops scurrying for cover. None of them were squashed or maimed, but at least they were off his case! "All righty! Who's the man? Who's the man?"

It was at that point that he realized that he was standing up in front of the Jinsei force. And they could all see him. Oh.

There was a popping sound. As Stuart watched, something shot up from behind a pile of rubble and sailed through the empty store window, landing behind him with a metallic clanging noise. Something like a grenade.

"Hey! That's unfair!" He shouted as he leaped out through the window. The grenade seemed to agree and exploded behind him, sending him tumbling headlong onto the street. Looking up, he could see the rocket launcher was lying further down the street well out of his reach. Oh, and there were Jinsei troopers standing over him. Oops.

"Well hi!" He began, grinning like an idiot. "Nice day, isn't it? How you guys going?" No response. Maybe they're all Japanese, he thought. I know Japanese. I can bluff my way through this. "Konichiwa Jinsei-sama! Domo Arigato! Kamikaze sushi mitsubishi!"

Still nothing. Damn.

The head of one of the troopers suddenly jerked back, the man suddenly keeling over. The others suddenly started looking frantically around. Looking up, Stuart could see a small shape squatting on top of a chunk of wall, pointing a rifle in the direction of the Jinsei troops.

Hey!" A familiar female voice called out as the figure opened fire, flattening another trooper. "Leave my monkey alone!"


"You can't do this to me!"

"Well, it looks like I am. So what are you going to do about it?"

Sandra was having a fun night. She had gotten a small, quick job, which should be enough to keep her and David in food for a little while. It had been relatively easy too. Get target person, bring him to people and get money. Simple?

It wasn't like the target himself was particularly well protected or capable of fighting back. One cheap thug in a cheap suit who had met with a swift beat down was the limit of it. Now her target was kneeling before her, a gun pointed vaguely in his direction, about to start blubbering.

"I have friends! I can make you sorry for this!" He shouted, his halting English slightly accented. That often made angry threats kind of loose their edge, she thought. Life in Hong Kong certainly had its small advantages.

"I'm sure you do." Sandra replied. "And I'm sure that I will be. Now will you please stop carrying on and get moving before I have to get violent with you. I'm sure neither of us want that, regardless of how cathartic it may be."

The man looked around. Clearly he was desperate. "I'll sue! I take every cent you own! You won't get away with this!"

Oh dear gord, Sandra thought. This guy was desperate. "Well, sure. That's just great. Who are you going to address it to? That scary looking woman in the coat with the big gun? Yeah, right. You don't have anything to go on here, you stupid tool. So why don't you just give it up and come along quietly?" She smirked. "I haven't got any reason to be violent towards you, but I will if you want me to."

That should do it.

He glanced around nervously, as if he was looking for a way out. He can't be that stupid, can he? Sandra asked herself. It should have been obvious that he didn't stand a chance. She was bigger, tougher, stronger and, above all else, armed. So what is he thinking he's going to do?

"Look, I give you money, you go away, right?" He stammered out. "I pay, you leave me go. We both forget about this, right?"

Sandra shook her head. That was enough for her. "Look, mate, I'm getting paid to bring you in. Ergo, if I don't let you go, I get money anyway." Probably more then you have on hand, she mentally added. "And it's my best interest to bring you in anyway. If I let you go, that gives me a reputation for being unreliable or unable to finish a job. And that means that I'd have a hard time finding future employment, which means that I don't get to eat. Thus if I was a stupid tool and took a bribe form you to leave you alone, it would be bad for me in the long term."

There was a long pause.

"So that's no, then?" he asked.

"Come on, let's get going." Sandra said as she grabbed him by the collar. "I'm a busy woman and I don't have time to waste."


Corporal Sasuke had to admit that he'd seen a lot here in the Zone. He'd seen people with hair and skin of every color imaginable, and even then some. He'd seen gangers fight to the bitter end over worthless piles of rubble. He'd seen heavily armed escort synths. He'd seen cyberdroids rebuilt with parts that looked like they were scavenged from wrecked cars, and cyborgs that looked like they'd stolen parts form the cyberdroids. He'd even seen a couple run at his squad, giggling insanely as they went while chasing a puppy. Freaks.

But nothing had prepared him for this.

The cyborg had come out of seemingly nowhere and charged at his squad, a submachine gun in each hand. He was a massive affair of metal and flesh, clad in rags that resembled a mid-20th century army uniform. His face, however, was completely obscured by a head, goggles and scarf. He'd thrown away subtlety, opening fire on the entire squad at once.

Those who had survived the initial volley had run for cover, desperate to avoid the insane cyborg's headlong rush. Sasuke had been one of the first to recover, using a wall to shelter behind while opening fire. Even with several of them firing at once, it seemed to make little difference to their attacker. Their shots seemed to be good at ripping up his already ragged clothing and what little skin he had left, but didn't seem to do him much immediate harm.

Then Sasuke got lucky. A bust struck their attacker, literally knocking his head off his shoulders. It clattered to the ground behind him and lay there. Oddly enough, there was no blood, no spasms from the cyborg or anything. Instead it kept coming.

<What is that thing?> One of his men shouted.

<I have no idea!> He replied as he slammed a fresh clip into his rifle. <Use the grenades! Maybe we can blast it apart!>

The... thing must have heard him, as it turned to face him. Sasuke ran for cover as it opened fire, tearing chunks out of the wall near where he had been standing just before. A pair of soldiers opened fire on it form behind, their rounds seemingly ineffectual. But it was enough for Sasuke to get a chance.

He shot a round form the underbarrel-mounted grenade launcher at the back of the creature. It went better then he'd expected, the grenade exploding between its legs. It stumbled forwards, its right leg a tangled mess of cybernetics. A second grenade hit it in the back, knocking it to the ground, unmoving.

For thirty seconds, there was silence. Sasuke and several others watched it nervously, in case it made any sudden movements. Nothing. Curiosity getting the better of him, he advanced out into the street where the creature lay. A couple of his troopers also approached, nervously looking down at it.

<What do you think it is?> one of them asked. <Some sort of cyberdroid?>

<Flip it over> He replied. <I want to see this thing for myself.>

The two of them turned over the creature's body. It was incredibly heavy, being far more machine then flesh. He suspected what little skin he was seeing was probably synthetic too. The clothing over the creature's chest had been ripped apart by gunfire, exposing something odd.

The machine had a pair of cybernetic eyes built into its chest. They had been carefully shielded, but still able to see out from their shielded location. There was more to it, he noticed. Artificial respiratory system, cybernetic hearing...

<It's a cyborg> He muttered. <The head... the head was a decoy. The brain and everything else were in the chest>

<A headless cyborg?> A soldier asked. <Amazing>

<Seems that way> Sasuke replied. Damn, this place got weirder every day. And he thought he'd seen it all.


The first thing Sandra heard was opera. It always seemed that way, she thought as she switched the clock radio off. Why did they always play opera at six thirty in the morning? Still, it was enough to rouse her from sleep every day, so she couldn't argue with the results. And there were far worse things one could hear first thing in the morning.

Sandra had her mourning routine well planned. Wake up, quick shower, get dressed and then plenty of time to have breakfast and read the newspaper before going to work. This morning's headlines looked good. The latest on the so-called SynTech saga was occupying much of the front page, with spillover into the financial pages.

It had been an interesting one to watch, she thought as she munched on an apple while reading. Two years ago, SynTech's CEO and the son of the company's father had gone missing, along with his sister. His other sister had been apparently murdered, just to make things even better. Then, two months ago, a prototype combat cyberdroid had gone nuts at its public unveiling and slaughtered half the crowd. Now there were investigations and reports of massive mismanagement.

At least it's got us out of the headlines, she thought as she got up to leave.

Eight o'clock sharp and she was in the office. Five past and she'd already had her first call. Somebody from the sales department had come in early to get some work done ahead of a big meeting today, and now wasn't able to get any 'net access on their computer other then the company's own Intranet. Sandra sighed as she got up to look after the poor sap.

When she'd gotten the job of computer technician, she'd joked to her friends and family that inside a company that made computer hardware, it was almost unnecessary. That's before she realized that she was looking after both the sales and marketing departments, people to whom technology was nothing more then a collection of buzzwords to put on expensive-looking flyers.

Somehow she figured that this would be a long day.

* * * * *

Alan Davies hated bridge duty. That's all there was to it. At first it had seemed like a good deal to him. It was easy to make some money on the side by allowing suits to enter the Zone and then billing them when they tried to return. He knew he could pretty much charge them what he wanted. After all, what kind of corp suit would want to remain in there? No, to them the Zone consisted of a few blocks of strip clubs and brothels that were little more then an alternative nightclub venue.

They weren't the problem. Instead it was the Zone residents who wanted to get out. Lacking any form of identity, and usually lacking in the cash to pay the officers off, those who wanted to get out of the Zone would have to resort to attacking the bridge checkpoints. It happened on occasion. A suicidal charge on the police positions on the bridge by a few crazed gangers that resulted in a short, but messy battle. Desperate crazies versus heavily armed and armored troops in entrenched positions. It was usually pretty one-sided.

Davies had been in one combat situation and had no desire to see any more. A raid had gone wrong, and an ESPer had ended up blowing up three other officers. Alan considered himself lucky to have escaped that one, but didn't want to rely on luck to keep him alive.

"Check out the end of the bridge." The officer next to him muttered, and handed him a pair of binoculars. Peering through them, Alan could see a large group of bikes forming up at the end of the bridge. Their riders looked like the usual array of bums, dropouts, gangers and mass-murdering serial puppy kickers that one got out of the Zone. However, they were in far larger numbers then normal.

"Can't be crazies." He muttered. "It's too early in the morning for them, and it's far too cold."

"Think we should call it in?"

"Probably a good idea." Alan finished. Damn it, he thought. I really, really don't need this right now.

For several minutes he stood there, nervously watching the assembled group and quietly hoping that nothing happened. The last thing he wanted was for someone on his end to provoke them into giving them the bum steer.

"HQ says they're sending backup." A policeman reported. "They say that we should remain here and not do anything to provoke them."

"Provoke them?" He muttered. "That's the last thing I want to do."

* * * * *

For the millionth time today, Sandra asked herself what it was about these people that meant that they were unable to figure out how their own computers worked. Nine times out of ten, she changed a few options and jiggled some plugs, and they were fine. How they'd gotten into their current mess in the first place was a different matter that defied all attempts at explanation.

As she headed back to the lift, something caught her eye. A group of people were gathered around a TV set in one of the offices that had been made vacant by a recent round of downsizing. Curious to see what was going on and what could be holding everyone's attention, she barged her way into the crowd.

"What's on? "She asked the first person she could find.

"Big riot on the Williamsburg bridge." They replied. "It looks like every crazy in the Zone is trying to get over at once."

"I can't imagine the cops are happy about that." Sandra said, trying to get a look at the screen.

"I think they got blown up or something."

Looking at the screen, Sandra understood what they'd said. Smoke was pouring out from what Sandra imagined had once been the police checkpoint. Several police cars were on the bridge, all flipped over and burning. Most of the bridge, however was covered with a seething mass of people who were surging across the bridge, surrounding what she guessed was the police's mobile command center.

"Wow." She muttered. "That's the worst I've ever seen it." She'd never been to the Zone herself, and had no intention of doing such.

"I'd hate to be a cop on the bridge right now."

Sandra nodded. Several years ago, she'd gotten the stupid notion of wanting to join the force. Her parents talked her out of it, and she went to university, got a degree and a proper job as a result. She'd never once regretted her decision, especially after seeing what was happening there. "Me too." She muttered. "Me too."

* * * * *

Alan was hiding under the desk in the command center, the radio in one hand, his pistol in the other. While he was bleeding in several places, he figured that he should count himself lucky that he was still alive.

The kamikazes had come first. A wave of lunatics on bikes that had been rigged to explode who simply slammed into the barricades. That had taken out most of the defenses and a good number of officers. After that, it had been wave after wave of rabble. They weren't just gangers or crazies, though. They were anyone who could pick up a weapon and charge at him.

He grabbed the radio. "This is Davies on the bridge. We're under attack by a crazed mob. There's got to be hundreds of them... they blew up the defenses, they've overrun our positions..." He gasped. "We can't hold them back. They'll be all over the city."

He looked around. All around him, the command center was under attack. Fortunately for him, those outside didn't have anything that could break through and get him inside here. "We need help immediately!" He shouted. "Someone... anyone!"

An explosion rocked the command center. What was that, he asked himself. Missile? Rocket? Bomb? Do these nuts have antitank weapons? He grasped his gun nervously. It was his only chance, he realized.

The door swung open, a trio of figures barging into the room, pointing various guns at him. They were basically the same, big muscular unwashed men clad in the rags of what had once been their gang colors. The only thing he could see that connected them was that they each wore a single brown armband. "Don't move, mate." One of them snarled in a broad Australian accent. "Or else I'll blow your flippin' head off."

"No." Came a female voice form outside. For a moment, Alan felt relived. Maybe he had a chance to get out of this alive. Then he saw the owner of the voice as she entered the room, and his face dropped.

She was a tall, blonde-haired, blue eyed. Under other circumstances, she would have been attractive. However. This wasn't one of them. The stylized samurai armor she wore and the nasty looking polearm she carried detracted somewhat from the good aspects of her appearance.

"The master wants one of them alive." She commanded. "He'll do."

Alan began to wonder if he was better off after all.

* * * * *

Sandra stormed back into her office, an angry look on her face. Brad, another member of the support team was at his desk, watching a portable TV. "Bad day?" He casually asked.

"Sales wanted a dozen computers networked for a meeting that was going to start in fifteen minutes. They were a little upset that I hadn't done it already." She explained. "That is, until I pointed out that I'm not psychic and need to be told these things before they happen."

"Sounds like them." He said, smirking. "Hear about what happened on the bridge?"

"No." She replied. "I was too busy crawling around under a table, looking at the mess that once was the network cables." She glared at him. "So what happened?"

"Jinsei, apparently." He replied. "Several APCs and a whole load of troops rolled onto the bridge to contain the crowd, which they did far better then the cops ever did." He explained. 'Now the story goes that they're sending troops, tanks, aerodynes... you name it, they sent it over there."

Sandra looked genuinely surprised. "Amazing. Looks like someone's finally getting around to doing something about it. I knew something like this was going to happen sooner or later."


April wandered the arcology mall. She had one thing on her mind, Silver. Ever since Gem showed up Silver pretty much disappeared. She had hoped that her relationship with Keiko would have brought out Silver again, and they could get back together again, like the old days. So much for those ideas.

What did Gem, no Aoi have that she didn't? Other than Silver. She was a self-reliant bad ass. "Fine" she finally said to herself. "I'm an upgrade just like Silver is, I can learn that stuff too." Kami had taught her basic self defense, and shooting as survival skills in the zone. But she had also warned her to stay away from the street samurai's and not try to become one, it was much more dangerous than simple living in the zone and working at the 92U.

For a moment she wondered how Sylvie, Gordon and the others were doing. She hoped they were okay. Silver would have certainly said something, but Kami kept feelings like that buried.

She stopped, to gather her thoughts. She had to concentrate on the subject at hand. Looking up she saw a sign: Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai. Must be fate she thought. Compared to Aoi she was a weak, so she had to change that. She walked into the school.

"Hi, I'd like to sign up for lessons." she bubbled to the man at the desk.

"Okay," Usually prospective students wanted a tour of the school and facilities first. "Would you like to have a tour of our facilities and meet some of our instructors?"

"I'd love to." She smiled. She knew none of there were even close to Kami or Aoi, she she needed a starting place.

A little while later she was enrolled in Muay Thai. It took a little browbeating but after she told them she was an upgrade they let her right in. Perhaps they wanted to make her the next Metal and Lace star. Fine with her, let them believe that. It just means that I'll get better training.


Heart pounding, body shaking, she ran through the streets of Neo York. She wasn't crying. She had been, and would again soon, but for now she couldn't cry. She didn't understand her feelings, or what had just happened. It had been a sudden, chaotic argument, accusations flying left and right. Finally, she had grabbed her wallet and gun, and left despite pleas to stay.

She came to a slow halt, shaking her head. What was she going to do now? All she had thought about was leaving, about getting away from the woman who'd hurt her so badly. And now here she was, out on the streets with nowhere to go. The bleakness of the situation sank in, and she sank down to her knees. Where was she now? A park, it seemed. Eyes downcast, she dropped herself on a bench and sat, staring out into space.

"Disappointed?" Ask her blonde companion. She was dressed in 'stylishly shredded' black clothes and, awkwardly enough, had a lollipop sticking out of her mouth. "Let me guess," the blonde continued, grinning. "Oh how, how could she have betrayed me?" she said, hands clasped across her chest, staring up at the clear blue sky with an expression of vacant idiocy. "C'mon girl," the blonde finished, turning back to her, "You knew she would."

She turned away from the blonde, trying to ignore her continuing tirade. "C'mon. She's a stripper and a killer. She lived with a pair of girlfriends. Everyone knew what she was like, but not you!" The blonde chuckled derisively. "You're different. You're special to her. You're not just another pair of tits for her to squeeze and pass on."

"She promised!" the girl yelled back turning on her blonde companion.

"And that's supposed to mean anything?" The blonde paused for a second to take a long pull on her lolly, as if it were a cigarette. "C'mon, you know how many times we blew our promises. How many guys we turned on. Heck, if she hadn't sweet talked us into the sack, you just know we'd still be doing it."

Try as she might, the girl knew the blonde spoke the truth. She used to be just like that, trading partners endlessly, never settling with one man. Then slowly, she shook her head. "No, it was different. We understood each other."

That gave the blonde pause to think. At last she replied "For once, you're right."

"For once?"

"Still, that's not all you think." The blonde leaned back, and chewed on her lolly for a moment. "Okay, so you both understand that you're schitzo nutbars," she said, her voice muffled by the sweet. "So what? You're still different people, and you'll never work it out."

The girl sat back, nodding solemnly. Maybe there was some truth in her words. "We can work it out. I just know it."

The blonde shook her head. "No way. You're too much the prude, and she's to wild for you. Of course, if it were me and her..."

"Shut up!" The girl yelled back. Her companion was gone, as if she was never there.

Aoi stood, shaking her head. This was getting her nowhere. She needed to talk it over with someone else, rather than just running it back and forth through her head. Straightening up, she said out to find a friend.


Even after four weeks, Aoi was having some trouble getting used to the sheer size of Shion's penthouse. It was just so big. Fortunately it was also fairly open, so it wasn't like she could get lost wandering around from room to room... unlike Jason Stone's family mansion. But it was still big enough to make her feel like she was rattling around like the last peanut in the can. Even worse, Shion (i.e. "the boss") had gone to bed early. Funny, Aoi had also thought the tall esper to be more of a night owl. But then, Shion did keep fairly odd hours, and they had to catch up to her sometime.

So now she was all alone in the (for all intents and purposes) empty apartment. The Empress was shut up in her bedroom, presumably fast asleep, and Aoi had been left to her own devices. Currently she was sitting in the living room, staring out at the city lights. She wasn't tired, but she also had no desire to do much of anything. Read a book? Shion actually had some, but most were large photo collections and the like. Not exactly what she was looking for. The pool? Maybe, but that would require a change of clothing. Besides, she was too heavy to swim, and just sitting in the water didn't appeal to her right now.

Rising, Aoi made her way out to the central foyer. The pool to her left, the kitchen to her right, and behind her... the entertainment room. Inside was Shion's collection of audio and video equipment. Not to mention a staggering collection of music and...

"Movies." Aoi smiled. Shion had a huge library of movies (or so she had said), and she'd even shown Aoi how to access them. Perfect.

The entertainment room was dominated by the large high-definition video screen on the far wall. Surrounding it was a selection of speakers, a video player, and a digital music system. Cases holding music and movies were on the racked on the walls, while a very comfortable couch sat in the center of the floor. Picking up the remote, Aoi began turning on the various systems while making her way over to the rows of movie discs. The sheer size of the selection was daunting, enough such that after a few minutes of staring at case after case, she gave up on picking something out and decided the best way would be to simply start at the top and work her way down.

Naturally the films stored alphabetically... Aoi would have been surprised to discover it was any other way. So she put a finger up and rested it against one plastic case. What sounded good and started with "A"? Hmmm... Not anything that started with "Adventures" thank you very much. That sounded too much like a bad tri-vid about life in the Zone. Let's see... oohh.... this looked good. Nice, short, 5-letter title. Direct and to the point. That would do.

Setting the small silver disc into the player, Aoi made herself comfortable on the couch and then hit the command for the lights, leave the room mostly in shadow. Pressing "play" she then sat back to enjoy the show.

* * * * *

Shion went from a deep sleep to total awareness in a matter of moments, one of the more useful benefits of being an esper she'd discovered years ago. She lay still for a moment, listening quietly and trying to decide what exactly had awoken her. She was in her own bed, in her own room, in her own apartment... so...

"Aoi?" Rolling over, she found the short and slender form of her new roommate curled up on a section of bed, clutching a pillow tight. Shion digested this sight for a few moments, trying to sort out what she knew about Aoi with what she was sure Aoi knew about her. Then she gave up.

"Aoi? What are you doing?"

Not bothering to turn around Aoi, gave a slight shudder. "I... well...." The woman took a deep breath and started over. "If you expect me to get any sleep tonight you'll let me stay, okay?"

"What?" Shion wasn't sure if she'd heard that correctly.


Okay, this was utterly unexpected. Resting her head on one hand, Shion cocked an eye at her new house guest. "What happened?"

Aoi turned her head to look at Shion. "Let's just say I'm glad you don't have a cat, and I don't have to go looking for it."

Okay now she was utterly lost. Aoi was making no sense. "You are making no sense, do you know that?" Shion paused and glanced around the room. "And the only person who normally is allowed to sleep with me in this bed is my sister."

Glancing up at the ceiling, Aoi sighed and tried a new tactic. "Look, I made the mistake of going into your movie collection."

Okay, that admission was helping. "And?"

"I watched one."

Ahhh.... so ka.... "Which one?"

"Some ancient 2-D flick called Alien."

There was a moment of silence as Shion simply stared at Aoi. Then she started to laugh. "I understand completely. Don't worry, you can stay."


The telephone at Korey Winters home begins to ring. After four rings, it is answered.


"Hello, you have reached Korey Winters and Ray's residence, but we are not in at the moment. Please leave your name and number after the beep."


"Uh...hey Korey. It's Shoko. I, um...I have a little problem. Well, more like I got into a little trouble. Do you remember the money you loaned me to buy some clothes with? Well, I went out to spend it today. I probably should've just ordered off the Net, but nothing I ever get that way quite fits right. Besides, I was getting a little stir-crazy. I just had to get out of the house and stretch my legs. So anyway, I took the bus down to the mall, and I found this perfect place for me to get clothes, a Big & Tall shop.

Well, I was just about the only customer at the time, and this yabbo of a clerk starts pestering me as soon as I walk in, trying to sell me stuff I don't want, like sexy lingerie. And he's not making suggesting so much as just telling me, almost ordering me, what to try on. Even so, I managed to find some shirts and jeans I thought I'd like, and I go to the ladies dressing room to try them on. Well, guess-


Less than a minute later, Korey's phone starts to ring again.


"Hello, you have reached Korey Winters and Ray's residence, but we are not in at the moment. Please leave your name and number after the beep."


"Uh, me again. I guess your system doesn't like long messages. Anyway, where was I? Oh right, so I go to the dressing room, and damned if perv-boy doesn't follow me in. And then he acts surprised when I object! He doesn't even try to make an excuse, he just says he can watch me change if he wants to. Which I guess explains his lingerie obsession. Well, I firmly escorted him out of my changing room and to him in no uncertain terms to stay out. He got upset, but he didn't try to come in again, so I figured I got my message across.

So, I try on the clothes—most of which fit great by the way—and go on out to buy them. But when I got out there...well, to make a long story short...can you please come and bail me out of jail?

That is, I don't mean bail in the money sense of the word. I didn't commit a crime or anything, so I'm not actually under arrest. I'm just being held until I can be released into someone's custody. I said that the company you work for assigned me to you as a perk, so they won't need any proof of ownership or anything. But I'm told they'll want you to sign a form that says that you're 'in responsible charge' of me. I guess that so that if I go apeshit or something, they'll have someone to hold liable. Oh, and Korey, I just wanted to say--"


Soon, Korey's phone once again begins to ring.


"Hello, you have reached Korey Winters and Ray's residence, but we are not in at the moment. Please leave your name and number after the beep."


" anyway, I just wanted to, say that I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make another problem for you. I thought I'd be safe enough just going shopping, but I didn't count on the fact that Neo York sucks. I guess living in Australia and the Zone has spoiled me, got me used to being treated like a person instead object. Anyways, if you could come get me after you get home, I'd sure appreciate it. I'm at, um...actually, I don't have any clue where I am right now. Just call the NYPD Inc. number. Or check your caller ID and dial this number back. I'm sure someone can tell you where to go to...claim me. Thanks. Um...bye."



The house was silent, dead silent, all except for the clink of glasses as Korey Winters, still dressed in warm weather apparel, poured herself yet another drink of whiskey, only partially mixed with soda, and began to sip it. It was her fifth this night, or morning, she wasn't sure which, and by the look of the three quarters full bottle, it looked as though this would not be her last.

In front of her on the bar top, was a picture; it was a rather simple one, a bit bigger then wallet sized, and showed two people on it embraced in a friendly hug while starring into the camera. It was two women, the taller of which had long black hair and the shorter with short blue hair. The background was of some nicely furbished apartment, although little of it could be seen as the two women took up most of the picture.

Korey sighed, sipped her drink, and sighed again. It was silly, really, the thought of it all. From what she had learned, Raven was gone from S-T now, having virtually disappeared right from underneath their noses to gods knows where.

But Korey did know. Or at least had a strong hunch, one well founded on information she had come to know about Raven, back when she...

No, not she, Karin... Karin Nys, Raven'S friend who was now dead and buried... a necessity for Korey Winters to survive.

Raven wouldn't know Korey Winters, and she believed Karin Nys to be dead. So if Korey showed up at Doctor Lydia's clinic asking for Raven, it would be no good... because Karin was dead and there was only Korey.

God, this was getting depressing. Time for more liquor...

.. and more...

.. and even more still...

It was around three in the afternoon when Ray, returning from a much needed grocery shopping trip, found Korey passed out on the basement floor, the bottle of whiskey empty save but for a few drops. Her eyes were red, as though she had been drinking, and in her other hand she held the photo in a tight grip, crinkling one corner of it.

He floated her up into the air, where she curled into a ball about the photo, murmuring words he could not quite catch. Floating her up a little higher, he glanced at the back of the picture, and saw some writing there in a hand not unlike that of Korey's....

"Karin and Raven," it read.


With apologies to Hunter S. Thompson

12:04 PM: Ruckus outside my window. Woke up. Too damn early. Back to sleep.

1:47 PM: No. Absolutely not. Back to sleep.

3:00 PM: Gave careful and intense study to the back of my eyelids. Back to sleep.

4:10 PM: Rise and shine. A bright new day. Hello weekend. I don't have anything like a regular workweek, but I like to make the usual observations. Made coffee. With vodka. Morning cigarettes. Inhaled a cubic centimeter of methamphetamine.

4:15 PM: Got dressed.

4:20 PM: Methamphetamine. Cigarette.

4:45 PM: Methamphetamine. Cigarette.

4:50 PM: Feeling a bit jittery from all that speed. Toked up to take the edge off.

5:10 PM: What the hell, let's roll another one.

5:30 PM: What to do with the day?

5:32 PM: Got out all of the guns I took off the Jinsei goons the other day and laid them out on a blanket. Began the immensely entertaining task of dissembling and cleaning them all while stoned off my ass.

6:00 PM: Another joint. Jack Daniels.

6:15 PM: Jack Daniels. Cigarettes.

6:45 PM: Cigarettes. I wish I had some ice. Goddamn Zone.

7:00 PM: Stopped playing with the guns. Bored. More speed to put the edge back on.

7:30 PM: No calls. It's unlikely anyone's going to hire me tonight. I'm going outside to play.

7:32 PM: Dug out my play clothes.

7:40 PM: Look out world; the Ripper is on the prowl.

8:00 PM: Found an alley to hide in.

8:20 PM: Still waiting.

8:33 PM: Streetwalker passed by. She had such beautiful blonde hair. Dragged her into the alley and stabbed her. A buncha times. The joke's on me, though. It was a wig! I kept it; maybe later I'll see if blondes really do have more fun.

8:40 PM: Post kill cigarette. Yeah, it was good for me.

8:45 PM: Worked up an appetite. Went looking for food. More cigarettes.

9:10 PM: Found a bar that was actually open. God I love the Zone. Fattening food. Cheap booze. Cigarette.

9:20 PM: Cheap booze. Cigarette.

9:25 PM: Cheap booze. Cigarette.

9:30 PM: Cheap booze. Cigarette.

9:35 PM: Cheap booze. Cigarette.

9:40 PM: Cheap booze. Cigarette.

9:50 PM: Methamphetamine. Cheap booze. Cigarette.

10:00 PM: Cheap booze Cigarette. Feel like dancin'. No band tonight. Goddamn Zone. Goddamn Jinsei.

10:05 PM: Anonymous, unprotected sex in the back room. Clean-shaven youngster, twenty, tops; unskilled, but enthusiastic. Cigarettes.

10:45 PM: Left the bar earlier than usual. Feeling on top of the world.

10:50 PM: Jumped a ganger dumb enough to be walking alone and out of his turf. That's two in one night now. Feeling... satiated. Should be set for a few more days.

12:00 AM: Must have taken the long way home. I don't really remember.

12:10 AM: Methamphetamine. Cigarette.

12:25 AM: Dropped acid. Put Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" on repeat. Stretched out and stared at the ceiling for a few hours.

2:00 AM: I totally get it!

4:00 AM: Trip is officially over. Feeling a little sleepy.

4:05 AM: Methamphetamine. Cigarettes.

4:30 AM: Vodka. Cigarettes.

4:40 AM: Second wind!

4:41 AM—8:20 AM: Methamphetamine, cigarettes, cocaine (for variety), vodka, Jack Daniels, clove cigarettes, Mysterious Pink Pills ô, pot, mushrooms of dubious origin, and more speed to get the creative juices flowing. I read a book, the title of which I've already forgotten. I wrote a play (three acts). Assembled a sniper rifle.

8:30 AM: Laid out fresh clothes and ammo for tomorrow. I have a "date" with Ritz. The mob wants me to engage in "harassment" of Jinsei forces while they're smuggling across town. He will make his usual heroic effort to get in my pants. He's handsome, in an oily sort of way; maybe if I'm feeling generous.

9:00 AM: Time to turn in. Still feeling sort of jumpy. Took a barb with a little cherry brandy to help me sleep. Technically, that's supposed to stop your heart, but it puts me out like you wouldn't believe.

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