Theresa placed the tip of the long, thin pipe between her lips and inhaled deeply. She held it for a few moments before breathing out a plume of sweet-smelling oily smoke. A gentle buzz worked its way up from her chest and washed over her face. Theresa sighed contentedly and folded her legs underneath her, lotus style.
"There comes a time in every man's life when he must ask himself the great question," Theresa addressed the empty room. With great solemnity, she took another hit from her pipe before continuing, "Where are my pants?" Theresa snickered.
She looked down: Black tie, white dress shirt, the pale flesh of her long, bare legs and her toenails, which she'd painted pink. Her frock coat and suspenders were on the sofa behind her, shoes were safely in the closet. The pants... the pants were something of a mystery. Theresa blinked bloodshot eyes; the pipe had not been her first. The air in the apartment was thick with fumes. "How mysterious. I'm pretty sure I had them when I came home." Theresa swayed a little as she began to piece together the events of the previous night.
Her reverie was interrupted as an urgent bit of knowledge made itself known.
There's someone in the building.
The swaying stopped. "Really?"
When Theresa had opted to get her hearing cybernetically enhanced, the decision had been on a whim, like most of hers. It had since proven itself to be very useful in ways she had not been expecting. "And big brother said I never listened," she murmured.
You still never listen. But at least you can hear now.
Theresa stretched herself out on a bare patch of the floor. She closed her eyes, pressed her palms flat on the soot covered floorboards and listened. She liked to imagine herself as the spider in the center of her web. Every creak of every board, the squeak of protesting door hinges and the rustle of footfalls below all felt like an extension of her senses. After a minute of quietly trying to figure just who or what had invaded what she considered her very personal territory, she opened her eyes again to look at the fire blackened ceiling.
"They don't sound like Jinsei. But they don't sound like the usual squatters either." Theresa pulled out her knife, held it in front of her face and tried to work up some good old-fashioned murderous intent. A few moments later, she sighed, "No good. I'm just not in the mood right now."
How many did we kill last night?
"Three, I think." Jill the Ripper had had a banner evening. Jinsei's renewed (and devastating) offensive had sparked a panic in the Zone. Nobody had been paying attention to the more mundane hazards of simply passing a dark alley. She'd killed her fill early on and with surprising ease.
Theresa replaced her dagger and sat up. "Maybe they'll just go away."
A resounding crash echoed up from the lower floors.
You really ought to look into this.
Theresa took the very last pull from the pipe. She spun the kiseru through her fingers and brought it down on the edge of the ashtray with a gentle thwack to dislodge the spent ember. She pushed both under the edge of the sofa behind her and when she withdrew her hand, she was holding a smallish pistol. Theresa held it at eye level and squinted a bit.
Beretta M1934... It's a little on the light side, isn't it?
Theresa padded across the room in her bare feet, "How tough could they possibly be?"
"Quiet," Anna stage-whispered to Uni.
"Very quiet?" she responded in the same tone of voice.
"Sneaky quiet," Anna answered.
"Super sneaky quiet!" Uni exclaimed in anything but a whisper.
"I said QUIET!!!" Anna punctuated her command with a buffet to Uni's shoulder. Since the two of them were dressed in full combat armor, the blow did little but stagger the Puma. It didn't stop her from retaliating, however.
"I was being quiet!" Dropping an armload of ammunition with a deafening crash sure to wake the dead (or attract the notice of any nearby Jinsei patrols), Uni jumped at her twin.
Burdened with the long bulk of a heavy machinegun that had been pried from a wrecked Jinsei APC, Anna wasn't able to duck as fast as she'd like. She did, however, manage to drop the weapon directly on her foot—and Uni's.
"AAAHHHhhh!!!" Armor-plated boots or not, that still hurt, as their yell (which certainly would have would have woken up any of the dead not already roused) proved.
For a moment the two combined hopping around on one foot with assorted insults, slaps, and forearm bashes. Finally, they sort of crashed together and into one rotten wall, denting the sheetrock and bringing down a cloud of dust.
"Smart move, long ears," Uni finally muttered from under her mane of hair.
"Shut up," Anna replied crossly.
For a long moment the two simply sat there in the stairwell of the old and partially burned-out apartment building they'd found. Belts of ammunition lay in a tangle at their feet, while the machinegun rested heavily between them. Dressed in complete ballistic armor, the Twins looked more than ready for whatever trouble the Zone might choose to throw at them. And these days there was no end to it. Their scratched and dented armor was proof of that.
Using one hand push back her own thick fall of hair, Anna fixed Uni with a steady eye. "Wanna start over?"
"Okay," Anna nodded. "We'll both put the gun up on the fourth floor, then come back for everything else, okay?
"Yeah..." Uni pushed a belt of 7.62 ammunition aside with one foot. "I wish Shoko was here to help..."
Pausing from lifting the machinegun up off the floor, Anna's shoulders sagged. "Why'd you have to say that? Now I'm gonna be all depressed..."
"Well..." Uni said defensively, "I do miss her. The Triple Puma Threat would've kicked Jinsei's ass across the bridge by now."
Dropping back down to sit against one wall of the stairwell, Anna smiled, "Speaking of asses... she had a great one."
"Yeah..." Uni replied dreamily, fingers caressing a dark-skinned Puma only she could see. "And she sure was stacked."
"Just like us," Anna ran her own hands up her armor-plated front, trying (and failing) to cup her own breasts.
"Makin' me horny just thinking about it."
For a moment, silence reigned. Then Uni hit one of the catches on her back-and-breast armor. Anna pulled one gauntlet free and then another. They hit the floor, followed by Uni's torso armor. The rest followed in a sudden rush as each of the two tried to be the first down to their skintight undersuits. Bits of armor, belts of ammunition and even the rigidly phallic machinegun was pushed aside to make room on the dusty, ash-streaked floor as Anna pressed herself to Uni, bearing her twin to the floor, the two locked together in an apparently unbreakable kiss.
The two heads turned in one motion to look up at the woman standing at the top of the stairs. Still wearing only her dress shirt and tie and effectively half the size of either of the Pumas, Theresa managed to radiate scornful disdain.
"Stop. Right. There." Theresa hesitated briefly as she actually took in the scene in front of her, "No... wait... I've gone and changed my mind. You can finish up." She paused again. "If you want to," she added.
"Uhm..." Still lying together in a tangled heap, the Puma Sisters were at something of a loss over this development.
Theresa chuckled and leaned heavily against the wall. Her eyes were still noticeably bloodshot. "There are two half-naked Pumas in my stairwell. Surrounded by heavy weaponry and military grade hardware." Theresa wore a dreamy expression. "I think this was a fantasy of mine... Or a B-movie. I can't remember which."
With a flurry of motion, the Twins struggled to their feet. "Uni, you told me this building was empty!" Anna yelped accusingly.
"It was! It was!"
Still resting on the wall for support, Theresa sounded distant, "Well, I'm the only person who lives here. I sort of stabbed the previous occupants." She shook her head as if she was remembering something. "Anyway, it's chilly down here; my feet are cold. Wanna come up?"
"Huh? Uhm. Well..." Both of them looked hesitant, but Theresa couldn't tell who was talking. The two seemed absolutely identical.
"Don' worry." Theresa raised her empty hands, "It's okay. I am way too stoned for a fight right now."
"Stoned?" Anna looked briefly puzzled.
Uni cocked her head. "Oh yeah; she's way stoned."
Theresa closed her eyes and seemed to slump against the wall. "Even as I stand here, crippled, hobbled, sickened—I am a greater ruler than any man who has ever lived," she breathed in her dreamy tone, "Now, watch me become what I can become..." Theresa trailed off before blinking hard a few times and fixed the Puma Sisters with a wan smile. "I read that somewhere," she explained.
Anna leaned over and whispered into Uni's ear, "Let's just kill her. Who'll know?"
Abruptly, Theresa's eyes flashed back into focus. She snap-drew the pistol fast enough that the pair didn't see where she'd been holding it and sent a single gunshot within a hair's breadth of grazing Anna's ear.
"Well, I'll know, for one," Theresa observed. She inhaled slowly and visibly relaxed again. Unheeded, the gun slipped out of her outstretched hand and clattered to the floor. "And I think my opinion is the one that matters here," she added languidly. Yawning, she pushed herself off the wall and began to walk back upstairs. Before she disappeared, Theresa glanced behind her, "Well? Are you coming or not?"
The Twins were wide-eyed as they watched her retreating back. Anna was the first one to find her voice, "Gah!!"
"She's so fucked up, I think she's scaring me!" Uni squeaked.
A second later, Theresa's head popped back into view. "How do you take your coffee?"
"Um... In a cup?" Anna offered, earning her an elbow from Uni.
"Creamer? Sugar?" Theresa paused, her wan smile back in place, "Vodka?" She disappeared again.
The two Pumas stared at each other briefly. Uni broke the silence, "C'mon... let's get dressed."
Several minutes later, the Puma Sisters had struggled back into their combat armor and staggered up to Theresa's room on the fourth floor. Each deposited an armful of gear just inside the doorway before taking stock of their surroundings. Theresa's apartment was well kept for a Zone residence. Discounting the obvious fire damage that spread across more than half of it, things were more or less neatly in place. The room held a sofa, a coffee table and set of drawers. All were new enough looking to show they'd been brought there by Theresa herself. Blankets had been spread out over most of the floor. Theresa was sitting cross-legged on one of them behind the low table next to a small portable heater. She was quietly refilling her coffee mug. The blankets on the far side of the room were completely covered with guns in various stages of disassembly. In the very corner was a huge belt-fed automatic weapon that looked like it was supposed to be mounted instead of carried.
The Twins interest was immediately captured. "Ooohhhhh," they breathed in one voice.
Theresa turned, "Oh, those? Yeah, this place is sort of a black hole for invasion patrols."
"Yeah?" Anna warmed rapidly as she sat down next to her, "We were planning on hittin' a few from here."
"That's why we brought the big guns." Uni interjected, joining her sister on the floor.
"Everything goes better on full auto." Anna finished.
Theresa busied herself with pouring coffee into two more matching mugs, "Hmmm?" She idly wondered if she couldn't tell them apart because she was stoned or if they really did look that much alike.
"So is it okay if we borrow one of the spare rooms?"
"So we can set up the machinegun?"
Briefly mesmerized at their ability to finish each other's sentences, Theresa stared at the two for a moment. Her eyes began to dim again before she shook her head and blinked repeatedly. "It's not that I mind, it's just that..." Theresa looked around for a second before picking up a Sharpie from the floor. Then she looked around for something to write on. Finding nothing within immediate reach, she shrugged and began to draw directly on the top of the coffee table. She sketched a rough map. "We are here," Theresa drew a circle. "The main push looks like it's here. And Jinsei headquarters is here." Theresa drew in a few more lines. "Now, they were coming down this road a while ago while there was heavy fighting over here." She took a moment to sketch in several stick figures shooting dashes at each other from sideways letter "F's." Theresa grinned at her handiwork before continuing. "But, like I said, this place is a black hole. After the second division met with... tragic misfortune, they finished mopping up there," Theresa pointed to her earlier doodle, "and that's were most of them go now, bypassing this place entirely."
Theresa leaned back against the sofa. She reached under it, pulled her pipe back out and began to pack it. "You can set up if you really want to, but I don't think you'll have much interesting to shoot at. Just one's and two's. A waste of the big guns, if you ask me."
The Puma Sisters looked absolutely crestfallen. "Damn... that's no fair..." Anna sounded close to tears.
"And we hauled all this stuff over." Uni put in.
"And all our ammo." Anna added.
"And grenades." Uni finished, depressed.
Theresa flicked a match on her thumbnail. She lit the pipe and serenely settled back against the sofa again. "It's just the way life goes," she said comfortingly. "Everybody draws a bad hand sometimes." She paused and thought a moment. "Except me," she continued. She took another puff and offered the pipe to the closer one, "Go on; it'll calm you down."
"Damn... first we lose Dark Meat." Anna began.
"Then the Underground." Uni sulked.
"And they bomb our place." Anna sounded irritated.
"And Bell's burned."
"And we can't waste some Jinsei troopers for it?" Anna snatched the pipe almost vindictively and took a long pull, her ears flattening against her head. Theresa began to watch with appreciation.
"Hey! Stop hogging!" Anna had almost completely exhausted the pipe by the time she exhaled.
"It's alright," Theresa gently took the pipe back. "That's just the way this kind works." She spun it again and thwacked the ash out of it. "The kiseru, or Japanese pipe, while making very for efficient use in smoking marijuana, has a very shallow bowl, enough for only a few puffs. It is best utilized by those who enjoy the ritual of taking small puffs while repeatedly emptying and refilling," Theresa recited in a sing-song tone of voice, sounding as though she was reading directly from a textbook. She refilled the bowl, lit it and took a little starting puff before passing it to Uni, "Gently this time."
Determined not to fall behind her sister, Uni completely disregarded her and took an equally long, deep drag before handing it back. Theresa smiled faintly, "Or not." She began to fill the pipe a third time, "Feel better?"
"Ahhhhhhhhh..." was the affirmative reply.
Theresa spared a glance at the mound of armaments the Sisters had haphazardly piled at the edge of her living room. Normally, that would probably bug her, but she was in "mellow" mode and largely beyond irritation. A thought occurred to her and she giggled, "My what big guns you have, my dear."
Uni got the joke and ran a hand across her breastplate.
Theresa, I'm not sure if you got that. You might want to take it easy. Don't we know these two from somewhere?
Anna grinned and proudly thrust forward her pulse rifle, "One hundred rounds of 10mm caseless!"
Theresa looked appraisingly. "It's certainly a nice gun. And spendy too. It just doesn't enter much into my line of work."
Uni cocked an eye and one of her ears flattened, "What's that?"
Theresa grinned with all her teeth, "I'm a killer."
Anna spoke up, "We do that." Her eyes were a little crossed.
Theresa was slightly perturbed at the lack of response. "Killer. Cloak and dagger stuff. Highly paid eliminator of important people." She blew a long stream of smoke and tried to look both stylish and sinister.
You're still not wearing any pants.
Uni nodded, "We do that."
"Yeah. Gangs and stuff, mostly." Anna nodded as well.
"And we strip too." Uni noted.
"For spending money."
"And 'cause getting naked is fun." Theresa wondered if perhaps there was just one Puma.
"On stage!" And she was simply seeing double.
"Yeah! And we'd get to handcuff Shoko and go down on her!" The two seemed to have brightened considerably.
Theresa puffed again and passed the pipe as she wondered how to explain the subtle difference between her chosen profession and 'mercenary.' She was interrupted as her brain finished parsing through the rest of the statements, "Wait a minute... I thought I recognized you." She grinned, "You're the infamous Puma Sisters."
Like mirror images, the two simultaneously broke into wide smiles and waved. "That's us! The best in the business!" they spoke in unison.
AnnaPuma and UniPuma. This could be trouble. On the up side, at least they have names now.
"Well, I'm glad I didn't shoot you," Theresa remarked, "I've seen your act."
"We were the Triple Puma Threat," Anna added.
"Until Jinsei scragged Shoko."
"Damn I miss her." The Twins' ping-pong style of speech was nothing short of fascinating.
Theresa tried to stay focused on what the two were saying instead of the way they were saying it. "Shoko? Who's Shoko?"
"Puma like us." Was that Uni this time?
"Not quite like us." Or Anna?
"This tall." Uni (?) put her hand a few inches above her own head. Which, since she was still sitting on the floor, would have made Shoko quite short for a Puma.
Theresa nodded and closed her eyes, "I think I've heard of her. I went to the Pit one of the nights you were supposed to perform. But the place was a wreck." Theresa paused thoughtfully, "More so than usual," she added. "The bartender said there'd been a brawl." She paused again, "More so than usual."
The one closer to her nodded, "We hear that a lot."
This was getting irritating. "Anna?" Theresa picked one.
"Uni," she automatically corrected.
"Yeah. That's what I was going to mention. Will you do me a favor?"
"Close your eyes." Theresa shifted where she was sitting.
Uni looked suspicious, "...Why?"
"Because," Theresa said reasonably.
"Go ahead and close 'em," Anna spoke up. "Maybe she wants to kiss 'ya."
Theresa raised her empty hands again, "I did promise no violence. Besides, I dropped my gun in the stairwell and she's sitting between me and the rest of them," she pointed to Anna, who turned around to see.
"Well... okay then," hesitantly, Uni complied.
"Ooooh..." Anna reached over and picked up one of the guns, seemingly at random.
Theresa crawled over to Uni on her hands and knees and put her face very close to the nervous Puma's. "Now," she breathed softly, "hold very still." Uni's eyelashes fluttered a little as she felt the smaller woman's breath on her face.
Theresa uncapped the Sharpie and drew a tiny letter "U" just outside and below Uni's left eye. Then she rocked back onto her hands. "There," she said triumphantly, "That's better."
Uni opened her eyes and looked confused, "Err... what was that?"
There was an echoing boom in the quiet of the apartment and the sound of tinkling glass as Anna aimed the gun at the window and pulled the trigger.
".44 magnum," she announced cheerfully.
Theresa put her hands and the marker behind her back, "A kiss." She grinned, "A little one." She looked over at Anna, "Those are souvenirs from Jinsei. Lots of them are, anyway; I just keep picking them up. I haven't gotten around to sorting through them all yet." Theresa looked up and sighed, "Well... there goes the last glass window in the building." The idea struck Theresa as intensely funny and she giggled.
"Cool!" Uni crawled over to her sister, "Lemme see!"
Anna looked over the multitude of guns spread across the floor, "Any M-100's?"
Theresa shrugged, "I honestly have no idea. I wasn't exactly thinking clearly at the time. After I was done with them, I just sort of gathered up everything lying around. Did you want any of them?" She waved a dismissive hand at the lot of them, "Knock yourselves out."
The Twins piled in enthusiastically.
"Ooh! I like this one."
"Then I get... this one."
Theresa retrieved the pipe and relit it as she watched the two. "It's kind of like... kids at Christmas," she said out loud in a wistful tone. She spared a glance at the closet. Her own personal guns were there, neatly cleaned and oiled, so she didn't really mind whatever they ended up taking. She had more weapons than she would ever use anyway.
Shortly, both of the sisters had accumulated decent sized piles. Theresa noticed with satisfaction that they had taken most of the larger, heavier guns that she hadn't felt like dealing with. She smiled indulgently, "Did you find anything you liked?"
She received a pair of eager nods in return.
"Show me." Theresa grinned.
Anna hefted an oddly organic looking rifle, all rounded edges and dangerous looking, "This is a Fabrique Nationale HAR. It uses a 7.62 millimeter round. It puts nice holes in things."
Uni lifted a different gun from her own collection, "Seburo C-25A, bottom-mounted helical feed magazine..."
An odd sort of show and tell ensued with the Puma Sisters taking turns displaying their acquisitions and rattling off numerous specifications concerning rate of fire, magazine size, penetrating ability and general destructive capacity. Theresa only half paid attention and began to let her mind wander. She liked using guns well enough, but the minute details of them didn't really interest her. As far as Theresa was concerned, guns all did pretty much the same thing, after all. You pointed them at someone, and then pulled the trigger until they fell down. End of story.
"Atchisson Assault Shotgun."
"With automatic fire."
Theresa nodded, but she wasn't sure at what. Her pupils were threatening to push her irises out of existence again. She wondered how their bubbly blonde heads could possibly hold such encyclopedic knowledge of firearms.
The same way you remember bits of poetry you read two decades ago.
Theresa's eyes unclouded briefly. "I suppose you're right," she acknowledged under her breath.
You're all idiot savants, of course.
"Hey!!" Theresa sputtered. The pair looked up in alarm. Uni took a hesitant step back. Theresa looked embarrassed for a moment, then waved her hand in front of her face. "Sorry. I was just... really impressed, that's all." Both of them still looked nervous. "Um. Now, you were telling me that one only uses specialized ammo?"
Uni's confusion melted away into delight. "Yeah! It's pretty expensive, but soooooo worth it..." And she continued where she'd left off.
Theresa smiled politely as she ground her teeth together.
Eventually, Anna and Uni had showed off and lovingly described all their new toys. As the last gun was laid back onto the pile, a silence fell on the room. Theresa was aware of herself getting downright fidgety. "So," she began, chewing on the end of the now empty pipe, "what to do now? We're all loaded up with nowhere to go." She pushed the pipe and ashtray back under the sofa. "Unless..."
"Unless... what?" It was, Theresa glanced, Uni who asked.
"Well, we could go outside and play."
"Play... how?" Now it was Anna.
"Go out and look for trouble," Theresa clarified.
No. Absolutely not. You are not going out with these two loons for the privilege of being shot at for free.
"Oohh..." Uni's ears twitched as she nodded to her partner. "We can test-fire everything."
"Yeah, yeah!" Anna nodded in return, her impressive mane of hair rippling with the effort. "And we'll get more gear from all the Jinsei troopers we whack!"
"Bonus!" Uni practically squealed, arms held tightly together before her as she shook back and forth. Theresa found the image to be both surreal and distracting at the same time.
Theresa smiled, "Annie, get your gun." She got up and walked to her closet, briefly lamenting the waste of a fresh suit just for a pair of pants. Hm. She might as well change completely, if only to keep each outfit "whole." Theresa stripped unselfconsciously, paying the Puma Sisters no mind as she dressed. Behind her, she heard the sounds of them readying an impressive amount of firepower.
You realize that being this stoned is going to play havoc with your aim.
"One step ahead of you." Theresa did a quick hit of speed, resolved to do another on the way, knotted her tie and turned to face the two, "Ready girls?"
They looked excited enough to jump into her lap.
Theresa knelt and picked up a pistol and a compact submachine gun from the floor. She caught a look of slight disdain from the pair and shrugged, "It's all I need."
She leaned over the coffee table where she'd drawn the rough map and tapped a place next to where she'd plotted the main drag. "Somebody should be passing by here sooner or later. Let's go and say 'hello.'"
"One Jinsei patrol," Theresa murmured quietly. "Twenty. One officer. All green. All cold, scared and miserable. Wanting nothing more than to make it through one more day so they can do it all again tomorrow."
Theresa looked on either side of her where the Puma Sisters were crouched. The three of them were hunkered down behind a large pile of rubble. Previous defenders had erected it as a makeshift barricade to one of the side streets. The Jinsei forces had never gotten around to tearing it down; this area was supposed to be cleared of hostiles after all.
"Not gonna happen," she continued. "Remember what I said about everyone drawing a bad hand?" Two more pairs of eyes joined hers looking over the wall.
Theresa slowly pulled out her pistol and carefully drew a bead on the man she figured was in charge. "Okay," she whispered, "listen carefully. I've been doing this sort of thing for a while now. There's a certain way to handle--,"
She was interrupted by a prolonged burst of gunfire from her left. Several men fell. All of the rest scrambled for weapons while looking around frantically.
"Or we could do it this way..." Theresa sighed, shrugged her other gun off her shoulder and flicked to full auto.
"Grenade!!" Anna crowed cheerfully. Jinsei soldiers dived for cover.
"That's not really the sort of thing you want to tell them, is it?" Theresa shot her a dark look, ignoring a bullet as it whistled in front of her face. She turned back in time to see the grenade roll under the troop transport.
"Oops... my bad." There was a deafening boom.
"Don't worry about it." Theresa sighted, and then decided not to shoot, a man who was actually on fire as he ran across her field of vision screaming. "I'm sure they would have figured it out on their own sooner or later."
"First one to an empty clip wins!" Uni proclaimed.
Anything else Theresa might have had to say was drowned out by the roar of gunfire.
A short time later, the three surveyed the damage they'd caused. "Well that was fun," Theresa nudged a discarded helmet with her toe.
The Twins looked quite pleased with themselves. "I won." Uni declared proudly.
"Big deal," Anna snorted, "I got more of them."
"You didn't shoot them. You got lucky with that grenade."
"Dead's dead, isn't it?"
Theresa, sensing the start of an argument, began to quietly wander off, her eyes scanning the ground. She gathered up a pair of handguns, the odd grenade and began to fill her numerous pockets with spare clips. Suddenly, she made an excited noise and knelt on the ground to pry something out of a dead man's hand.
The sisters turned away from each other. "What?" Theresa decided that their speaking at the same time was more unsettling then when they finished each other's sentences. But that really wasn't important now. She held up an old looking, ivory handled gun.
"So?" Anna was unimpressed, "It's just a pistol."
"And you've got lots of those," Uni continued.
"Yes, but I don't have one exactly like this one, though." Theresa sounded delighted. "It was probably someone's family heirloom or something, since it's definitely not any corp's idea of a standard issue sidearm. It looks old, too." She inspected it, and found it had been kept in very good repair. "It probably has a lot of history attached to it," Theresa paused, "that we just ended." She grinned.
"Feh." Anna turned and picked up a much larger, much more modern assault rifle. "This is a gun."
"Philistine." Theresa cradled the pistol to her chest and made happy noises.
"Never mind." Theresa pulled out her datapad.
"So what is it?" Uni was mildly curious.
"No clue," replied Theresa absently. She punched up a menu listing: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Firearms. She was about to look up the information before she changed her mind. Later. She wanted to spend some quality time alone with her new gun and savor the experience. Despite a lack of interest in gun specifications, Theresa was a big fan of gun aesthetics.
"Then why do you want it? It's not good for anything." Anna sounded like she was explaining the obvious.
Theresa shrugged. "I normally like to take something off the people I kill; it's just something I do. Usually, it's their guns. But I've got so many these days, finding anything new is a treat."
"Weird." Uni hefted a new rifle of her own.
Theresa shrugged again. "Everybody needs a hobby. Think of it like stamp collecting, but way more violent."
Theresa opened her mouth to explain,
And tell her what? That in this day and age, there are still sad, sad people who forsake email, videoconferencing and cyberspace meetings to write letters to each other on pieces of paper? And other, still sadder people, who make it their entertainment to collect the tokens of payment for the delivery of said pieces of paper because they like the pretty pictures on them?
...and shut it again. She shook her head. "Never mind. Anyway, grab whatever else you want and let's blow this joint. This is still Jinsei territory and someone's eventually going to wonder where these guys went."
Anna and Uni each deposited a fresh armload of junk onto the rapidly growing pile just inside the door to Theresa's apartment.
"We should have brought the cart," Uni observed.
"There was lots of stuff there," her sister agreed.
Theresa settled back onto the floor in front of her sofa. "It can't be helped." She yawned and stretched, sending a string of popping noises down her back. "Still... we had fun, didn't we?" She closed her eyes and felt... well one of them flop down next to her. Exactly which one didn't really matter much; a moment later the other followed.
"And we still got lots of new things too."
"Hmmmmmmm," Theresa nodded drowsily. A comfortable lassitude was spreading over her. She fished out her silver pillbox and hesitated before opening it. Up or down? What to take to prolong the pleasant feeling?
One of Theresa's eyes flicked open. Lady? Where on earth had that come from? She suddenly realized that although the three of them had spent most of the day together, nobody had actually gotten around to introducing themselves. While she knew their names by reputation, they probably had no idea what to call her. Theresa smiled.
Anna sounded hesitant, "Can we really just have all this stuff?" She was referring the other two piles of armaments cluttering up Theresa's floor at the moment.
"It's okay. I don't want them anymore," she said breezily. "I like to take things with me, but I don't have to keep them afterward." Theresa gestured to encompass the lot of it, "As long as you get it all out of here, along with the rest of your crap, you're welcome to it."
"Ooooh! Warm food and hot baths for pretty Anna!"
"Share and share alike!"
Well these two are easy enough to please. "One other thing," Theresa pointed to the massive machinegun occupying the corner, "Could you take that thing with you too?"
"Neat!" was Uni's one word assessment.
"What is it?"
"I dunno. It was attached to one of the transports I hit before," Theresa paused. "It's funny; once I saw it, I just had to have it. And once I had it, I didn't know what to do with it. It's too big to carry around with me and I'm too lazy to drag it to Bartertown." She sighed, "It took forever to pry off too." Then she shrugged, "Really big guns just aren't my thing, y'know?"
"No." The Twins replied in flat stereo. They looked at her like she'd sprouted a flower from the top of her head.
"We like big guns," Anna clarified. "Big guns for big girls."
Uni giggled and ran her hands over her breastplate again. "And we're big girls."
"'side's, their fun," Anna continued without missing a beat. "Almost as much fun as stripping."
Uni nodded in agreement, "Getting naked is way fun. Especially for money."
"Especially since most of the idiots throwing money at us could never satisfy us in bed."
Theresa said nothing. She seemed to be staring through the two of them and at the opposite wall. On some level, she apparently noticed that they'd finished talking because abruptly, Theresa changed the subject, "Hey Uni, will you do me another favor?"
Uni fingered the place under her eye where Theresa had written her initial and looked at her warily. "Ask her this time," she pointed to her sister.
"Anna will you do me a favor?"
"Well..." Anna took a brief look at the gun in the corner and then closed her eyes without being asked, "Alright."
Theresa crawled over to where she sat and reached her hand up, very slowly, to her face...
She's going to break your arm.
...past her face, around her head and began to scratch behind her ear.
The result was instantaneous. Anna seemed to melt where she was sitting and began to purr.
"I was wondering." Theresa scratched a bit longer as Anna's purring increased in volume. She opened her eyes and looked disappointed when Theresa stopped. "I've got another idea. Wait here," Theresa got up and went to her dresser and began rooting through the drawers. She returned with a wooden hairbrush and knelt behind Anna.
"I never use this thing," Theresa hesitated as a thought occurred to her, "Well, not on my hair anyway." She fingered the bristles, "It's too stiff for my liking. But you hair's so thick, so maybe..." Theresa began to brush Anna's hair, eliciting a happy shudder.
Uni watched enviously and sulked. "She gets all the luck."
"Aww. Poor thing; I'll get to you in a bit." Theresa had to tug for a moment to get through a snarl, "Does that hurt?"
"Nooooooo..." Anna shuddered again as Theresa continued working her way through her impressive mane of hair.
After a few minutes, Theresa gestured to Uni and tapped the floor next to herself with the wooden handle of the brush, "Sit down."
She scrambled into place almost immediately. "Clean hair for pretty Uni!" she bubbled.
Theresa wrapped her arm around Anna's front and gently pulled her head back into her lap. "Hold still for a bit." Then she half turned and began to brush Uni's hair, getting the same noises of satisfaction.
"Can we keep her?" Anna asked from her place on Theresa's lap.
Theresa looked down at her face and smiled in surprisingly affectionate fashion, without the usual 'I'm going to bite you' appearance of her normal grin. "Nobody 'keeps' me, Pretty-kitty." She stopped to remove a snag; the Sisters' hair was unkempt, but cleaner than she expected. Theresa wondered what sort of shampoo they used. "But you can drop by every now and then, if you'd like."
"She called me a pretty-kitty!" Anna was delighted.
"She can call me any time," Uni squirmed happily under Theresa's ministrations.
Theresa began to scratch behind Anna's ears again. "Does that bother you, Pretty-kitty?" she asked, not explaining whether she meant the scratching or her pet name. "Should I stop?"
Anna gasped as Theresa fingers ran across the outside tips of her ears, "Oh hell no."
"Hmph... I wish I could get mine scratched too..." Uni leaned back a bit in a not so subtle hint.
Theresa laid the brush on the floor. "You mean," as she scratched both of them, one with each hand, "like this?"
Back in Hong Kong, she'd had a housecat. The effect was similar, but writ much larger. The Twins purring in stereo nearly vibrated Theresa dizzy. She enjoyed the comfortable warmth for a while. Until she finally tugged Uni back too, so that her lap was occupied by a pair of Puma heads. She sighed contentedly.
Still reclining, Anna reached over and picked up the brush from where Theresa had laid it. "Can we have this?"
"No." Theresa gently relieved it from her. "It's mine."
"But you said you never used it." Uni spoke from the other side of her lap.
"I said," Theresa smacked the wooden back of the brush into the back of her other hand authoritively, "I never used it on my hair. It's good for other things."
"Ooohh..." Anna responded in a wise tone of voice. "Like handcuffs."
Theresa raised a bemused eyebrow at the thought of how the Puma Sisters had picked up a rudimentary knowledge of kink. She mentally shrugged and resumed her scratching while she daydreamed. It was at least half an hour later that Theresa yawned loudly and wondered where all the time had went.
"This wasn't really how I was planning to spend today, y'know?" she was rubbing behind their ears very slowly now.
"So?" Uni's voice was a mix of petulance and drowsiness.
"We're much funner." Anna agreed in an identical tone.
"I suppose you are, Pretty-kitty." Theresa closed her eyes and nodded.
"Maybe I'll keep you."
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