By Alex Fauth

"You're hiring me for...what?" Sandra asked, not believing what she was hearing.

"Ms Blackmore." The suit sitting opposite her explained. "I formerly worked in my company's Neo York Branch. I had the benefit of watching you in action, and learning of your reputation. I feel that you would be well suited for this role."

He'd seen her in action in NY and he wanted to hire her? Sandra wondered. Ok, this tool is either messing me around or he's as dumb as a sack of bricks. Still, there may be something in this. "May I ask why?"

"In light of what's happening in the Zero Zone, we feel that the capabilities of our own security force is somewhat lacking." He explained. "We want somebody with your degree of experience to help improve their capabilities."

"Right." So, in other words, he wanted Sandra to train people how to fight. That made no sense whatsoever. Still, money was money. "So when do I begin?"

In Hong Kong, space was usually at a premium. That being said, Sandra wanted to give the company the credit for the training facilities that they'd arranged for their security forces. It made rather inventive use of space, to say the least.

The training grounds had been spread across several warehouses, each modified to serve as a part of the training facility. Sandra had been especially impressed with the one that had been broken up into numerous smaller rooms for simulating the sort of house-to-house, room-to room fighting that had become common in the Zone.

There was also an obstacle course that had been spread across a pair of buildings. The insides of them had been extensively landscaped with real dirt, mud and grass, as well as the more traditional obstacles. Sandra was looking forwards to putting her trainees through their paces on the course. Or maybe she was just feeling excessively cruel, she thought.

In theory, this sounded like a sweet assignment. It offered decent pay for what was a rather low risk job. About the worst that could happen is some inept clod accidentally shooting at her while on the target range, and even then she figured that was unlikely. To her mind, it should all go smoothly. Of course, that was all dependent on the poor saps she had been left in charge of.

Her trainees would have access to all the normal gear they would have in the field. For the most part, paintball guns would be used for training, but there was going to be some live target shooting. Sandra mentally wondered if she should keep the live-fire content to a minimum, as to reduce the risks of her getting accidentally shot.

Oh, she'd been given a course manual with the full curriculum and the expectations of what she was to teach them. She'd then gone and forgotten about it until the morning before the course was meant to start. So she'd decided to wing it. Besides, she figured that her practical experience and perpetual foul moods could teach them more then a book ever could.

The first morning had gotten off to a bad start when she'd overslept. It wasn't her fault, she thought. She just wasn't a morning person. Hell, some nights she was getting back from work by now. Despite that, she'd managed to crash her way through the Hong Kong traffic and arrive on time.

She'd been greeted by two dozen men and women, neatly lined up in pale gray uniforms, all waiting for something to happen. A quick glance up and down the line revealed a surprising mix, not quite what she'd expected. While some of them were the usual young, poor street rats that tended to make up corp security forces worldwide, there were a number of standouts.

"Okay then." She muttered to herself. "Lets meet this bunch of tools." She walked along the row of recruits, inspecting each one of them as she went. To their credit, the recruits remained quiet and orderly throughout. Having reached the end, she turned back, walking to roughly the middle of the line before turning to face them.

"Good morning." She began. "I'm going to get straight to the point. You all know why you're here. My name is Sandra. My job is to teach you all the finer points of urban combat within your roles as corporate security guards. My hope is that you will take on board which will enable you to perform better in your jobs, not to mention stay alive longer."

Silence. Good start. She had their attention.

"Now, I've had many years of experience in urban combat. I've been involved in more fights then I care to imagine. I've fought Corp Troopers, Synths, Borgs, ESPers and even Jinsei Wolf Brigade Soldiers. Yes, I fought in the Neo York Zero Zone and I made it out alive. My aim will be to pass on all that I've learned in that time to you so you will be able to do your jobs better."

Dead silence. Was that a good thing or a bad thing, she wondered. Probably both.

"So, any questions before we begin?"

"Yeah." One man, the tallest of the bunch spoke up. He had tanned skin and long black hair, tied into a ponytail. "Why has someone like you been given this job instead of a professional?"

There was always one tool who had to shoot his big mouth off, wasn't there? "Thank you for that mister..."


"Well, Steve." Sandra began. "I've got experience. Hands on, practical, hard experience. I've spent the last... four years or so being constantly chased and shot at. And yet I'm still alive. Does that help?"

"Huh. So what do you think you're gonna teach me?" He sneered. "I've been fighting for years. I've lived the hard life on the streets to. I reckon I could take you easily."

Sandra quietly considered all the options here. Right. Maybe it was time for a simple object lesson. "Oh, right, is that so?" She began as she slowly backed off. "Well, then, you big tool, let's give it a shot."

"Right..." Steve sneered, while the other recruits cleared a space around him. Glaring straight at Sandra, he dropped back onto one leg, raising his arms in front of his chest. "You ready?"

"Sure." She replied. Pulling a pistol out form her coat, she fired straight at Steve. There was a popping noise as bright pink dye spread across his chest. Surprised, Steve staggered back and nearly lost his footing.

"You... you cheated!" He shouted.

"No, I fought how you should expect the enemy to fight." She replied. "Now kids, that was our first lesson. Have we learned anything yet?"

"Um... don't get into a fight when you don't know what your opponent will do?" A blonde girl asked.

"Very good." She looked over at the group, focusing on Steve who was trying to shrink into the background. "It doesn't matter if you're the world's greatest uberninja or the like. If he has a gun, you shoot him with yours."

"But what if you can't tell if he's got a gun?" Another man asked. He was a touch on the short side, with a rather long neck and a prominent Adam's apple. Sandra wondered where they found these people.

"Assume that, for your own safety, he does." She replied. "If you have the chance to warn them, do it. Then, if they don't respond, give 'em the works."

"And if it turns out they were unarmed?" He asked.

"That's why your company has a legal department." She replied. "Okay, you bunch of tools, lets start with the obstacle course. I figure that there's no better way to get to know each other."

Aside from being indoors, there wasn't much that was too exciting about the obstacle course. It had all the standard tricks of the trade; the tire run, the rope swing over mudpit, the crawling under barbed wire, the wall climb... Sandra had seen it all before. Still, she figured that seeing how her trainees took it would be a great measure of what they were capable of.

And, so far, the answer to that apparently was 'not much.'

She was happily strolling alongside the obstacle course, watching the way the trainees took it. She'd occasionally pause by a section when a particularly promising recruit was going through it. This mainly resulted in watching people fall of ropes, splash into mud, trip over tires or slide down the wall.

Hopeless, she thought. They might almost be amusing, given how badly they're doing. Sandra wasn't normally someone who delighted on other people's misery. But the fact that stuff like this was happening to this bunch of tools did make her smirk. Or it could have been the fact that it wasn't happening to her.

She casually strolled up to the far end of the course, where the first few to have made it through were waiting. They were all coated in mud, with several of them sporting bruises form falling off equipment, or torn uniforms from the barbed wire. Nice work so far, she thought.

Quietly watching them, she waited for the rest of the group to arrive. As soon as the last body had collapsed over the line, she turned her attention to the group. "Well that was a good time." She began, delicately. "For a bunch of grannies on Zimmer frames!" She quietly wondered if anyone knew what she was talking about with that one. Probably not. "So what we're all going to do now is go back to the other end."

There was a hail of 'awws' and a few louder protests. "Now!" She shouted. "Move it! Move it!" The squad got up and began running back to the other end, Sandra jogging alongside them. "I'm not being paid to mother you all! I'm being paid to turn you all into professional killers, or at least what will pass for it on this kind of budget!"

When they reached the start line, the squads arrayed themselves into nice, neat rows without her having to shout at them. "Now we're going to try this again." Sandra began. "And hopefully this time you bunch of tools will finish the course in the same day you started it in! Now go! Go, go, go!"

The trainees sprinted off into the course, all but tripping over each other to get there. Sandra felt optimistic, right up until they hit the tires. Then the stumbling, tripping and falling over began anew. Sandra shook her head as she watched them go. Hopeless.

At the rate they were going, she relied as the stumbled their way through the course, Sandra figured, they should have a chance of getting a decent time by Christmas. Next year. Maybe. She shook her head. Maybe a little motivation would help.

Fossicking through her coat pockets, she found a battered box of matches. She had no idea how long those had been there, but she was glad she had them. Returning to her desk, she ripped a page out of a notebook and returned to the obstacle course with it. Waiting by the door, while watching the course, she struck the match then lit the paper with it, then held t up to the ceiling.

Then the fire alarms went off, just as she planned.

"Lets see what a little motivation does for their times." Sandra commented, smiling to herself.

The target range looked like any other target range Sandra had seen, and she had seen a fair number of them in her time. Right now, a row of her trainees were lined up and happily blazing away at the paper men at the far end. Sandra was walking along the row, watching each of them as she went, while observing their performance.

"Crappy." She began as she passed a trainee. "Terrible, complete bollocks, worthless, phenomenally worthless, spectacularly bad, halfway decent..." She paused at one where a local girl with badly colored hair was blazing away without much success. "Well done." She began, putting her hand on the young woman's shoulder. "You certainly taught that wall a thing or two."

She'd quietly wondered why she was doing this. After all, she'd probably end up shooting at these people sooner or later, so it probably wouldn't help to teach them how to shoot back. At the same time, she felt that maybe they should have a sporting chance. After all, most of these guys were poor young local tools who wanted to earn a bit of cash, and were at least trying to do it legitimately. She felt that, at the very least, she should give them a sporting chance against the next tool who tried to pump them full of lead.

At least they were all following the basic safety rules; ear protection, goggles, bullet-resistant vest (Sandra missed the term "bulletproof") and holding their guns two handed and keeping them inside the confines of the range. Or, at least, most of them were.

There was one tool who had decided not to. Some smart Alex who thought he was cool. Actually, Sandra didn't want to use that term as his name was Alec, so it would probably just go to his head. So she was just going to call him a tool instead. Maybe Alec Toole. Yeah, she could live with that.

Right now he'd stripped off his vest and half his uniform, leaving himself standing there in a tight, sleeveless tee. Likewise, he'd forsaken the safety goggles and ear-wear in favor of his own small, ovoid sunglasses. And instead of standing with both feet facing the range, both hands inside the range, he was side-on to the range one arm outstretched, his gun held sideways.

Sandra shook her head. There was always one tool who had seen enough movies to think that doing this was cool without considering what it was actually doing to their accuracy. Never mind that the way he was posing would make him a big, dumb target in a gunfight. Peering into the range, she could see that his shots, while generally hitting the target, were usually on the very outside.

"Mr. Toole." She began, using the new name she had arbitrarily given him. "Not having much luck, are you?"

"Its this crappy pistol you've given me." He replied. "If you gave me a real piece, not this crappy little toy. How do they expect us to hit anything with this crap?"

The man really liked his crap, Sandra thought. "Right. So you reckon it's the pistol that's at fault."

"Must be."

"Well, a poor workman blames his tools." She replied, considering all the implications of what she said. Looking over at a another pair of recruits, she spoke up. "You two, give me your guns."

The two recruits blinked, looking at her. "Our guns?" One asked.

"Yes, your guns. The things that you hold which make bang noises and put bits of lead into the wall." She held out her hands, the two trainees nervously giving her their weapons.

Turning back to Mr. Toole, she glared at him. "Now get out of the way." He stepped aside as Sandra walked up to the booth. Spinning around, both arms outstretched, she opened fire on the target with both guns at once. The end result was a rather close grouping of shots around the head and chest of the target.

"There." She said as she turned back to him. "Now I was able to pull that off with two guns firing at once. And these, Mr. Toole, are the same crappy guns that you can't hit anything with, even when you stand and pose dramatically. Do you know why that is, Mr. Toole?"


"That is because you are firing your gun sideways like a congenial moron who thinks he's cool because he saw it in a movie once!" She snapped, the other trainees turning to look at her. "Have you ever wondered why guns are designed to be held upright rather then sideways? Well?"

"No, I-"

"Right." Sandra pulled a marker pen out of her pocket. "There is a whiteboard in the classroom. I want you to go in there and write out 'I will not hold my gun sideways, it makes me look like a tool' on the board one hundred times." She glared at him, holding out the pen. "Do you understand?"

There was an uneasy silence as the two stared at each other. Then he reluctantly took the marker, and sulked out of the room. As soon as he left, Sandra turned around to look at the other trainees. "What are you glaring at? Get back to shooting!" Under her breath she added. "Maybe now you'll hit something."

Following the spectacular success that had been the target range and the obstacle course, Sandra had decided to personally step in to aid with some of the unarmed combat training. After all, she figured that a little bit of expert advise couldn't hurt them. Well, metaphorically speaking, that was.

Sandra had long held the philosophy that one of the best ways to teach someone something, especially someone who was particularly impervious to thought, was to beat it into them. And unarmed combat training provided ample opportunities for beating.

"The second thing you must learn about unarmed combat is this." She began. "You'll get a lot more with a kind word and a four-by-two then you will with a kind word alone." She looked around the assembled trainees, hoping for some sort of a reaction. Nothing. Damn. "Okay, lets put it another way. If you have no option but to engage your opponent in hand to hand combat, it is always a good idea to have a weapon handy." She eyed the team. "Especially if your opponent is carrying one."

There was a stunning round of silence. "But what if we don't have a weapon?" Some bright spark spoke up.

"Improvise." Sandra replied. "What you want in a weapon is something that does two things. The first is to extend your reach. The second is to hit people with it. It's far more efficient and painful for the opponent to beat someone with a block of wood then your own hand. Now if you'll excuse me..."

She ducked out the door for a moment, then returned with a length of timber in her hand. "For the benefit of the hard of thinking, this is a plank of wood." She began. "It is what we call an improvised weapon. Notice how when I wield it one or two handed, it extends my reach." She gave the plank a few swings to demonstrate. "There are other benefits too. With a plank of wood, I can feel a lot happier about hitting solid objects then I would with my hands."

She singled out a member of her class. "You there, mister..."

"Uh, Chow." He hastily replied.

"Well, mister Um Chow, will you please assist me with a demonstration."


"Step forwards please." She replied. The rest of the class helped him by taking a step back. Sandra threw him a shorter length of wood, which he clumsily caught. "Now, as you can see, Mister Um Chow here has a weapon in his hand. His reach is a lot longer then it was before." She looked straight at him. "Now, come at me, Mister Um Chow."


"You have a weapon, use it." She stood back, waving her plank behind her.

He ran forwards, waving the plank around. Sandra swung hers out, striking him on his right arm. He yelled in pain, and then dropped his plank. "Now that is the third thing you need to know. It's easier to get rid of a weapon if you have one yourself. Hit the opponent on his weapon arm with something solid, and you have a good chance of knocking out his weapon. Its also easier to block an attack with a weapon of your own. And I know I'd much rather bash a katana with a lump of wood then with my hands."

Um Chow was hopping around clutching his arm, his plank of wood all but forgotten. "As you can see, a single blow with a lump of wood was enough to disarm him. This should work for a lot of improvised weapons. An Iron bar, a frying pan, a rolling pin, a cleaver, a glass bottle, all have their uses."

"So what's the first rule?" Steve asked. "You told us number two and number three, but I want to know what's the big secret. What do you think is so important that you haven't told us so far."

"It's simple." Sandra said. "Catch." She threw the plank of wood at Steve, who caught it in one hand. "You got that plank of wood there?"


"You think you can take me with it?"

"Easy." He replied.

"Right." Sandra drew a pistol and shot him again, another bright pink blotch appearing on his chest. He staggered a bit and dropped the plank, blinking in surprise.

"And there you have it, people." Sandra said, addressing the whole group. "The first and most important rule of hand to hand combat. Never bring a plank to a gunfight."

Today had proven to be an interesting exercise. She'd decided to arbitrarily divide the trainees into two groups and pit them against each other in the simulated urban combat range, just to see how they did. The results had been illuminating, to say the least. She just wondered what she should say about it on her official report.

"Well, I must say that I was impressed by the results of the urban combat exercise." She began, glaring at the two groups of trainees. Virtually everyone present was covered in mud or ink splatters from the training rounds. Many had both, which made for an interesting combination of colors. She might recommend it as a new uniform.

"Despite an initial slow start, which included having their leader taken out in the opening seconds of the fight, the Alpha team were successful in their objectives of taking the enemy base and defeating their opposition, Moon Unit Zappa." The trainees had provided the names of the teams. She was definitely putting that on the report, probably under 'potential psychological issues'.

There was a round of weak cheers from the Alpha Team. "I will give them extra credit for their enthusiasm, especially with regards to assigning themselves code-names for the exercise. Also, extra credit goes to 'Agent Dash', for his amazing ability to run in a straight line, which may have been instrumental to their victory."

There was another round of cheers, stronger this time, accompanied by much backslapping. A lot of it was directed to one young man with what Sandra could only describe as pie crust-like hair. Okay, she'd built them up. Now to tear them down.

"What is especially surprising about Alpha Team's victory was that they only suffered eighty-five percent casualties while doing such." She paused to let that sink in. "So the three of you that are still alive, I'm assuming that's you, Dash and, uh..." She looked at the two least filthy of the team's members. "Agents Flex and Cam, can have an early mark."

She then turned towards Moon Unit Zappa, which just happened to have both Steve and Alex Toole in amongst its ranks. It was funny the way things turned out, she thought, especially the way those two had been splattered. "Now I'd like to say that Alpha Team's victory was due to superior tactics, better planning or better leadership. Instead, it was simply because less of them died, while one of them learned to run very fast."

The members of the team shuffled their feet and looked around. "Ninety five percent casualties!" Sandra shouted. "Ninety five. And that only survivor was the guy who accidentally shot two other members of his team, one of which was oh so close to hitting the fast mover there."

"Well done, people. You are this close to an indoor recreation of the battle of frelling Stalingrad!" She snapped. "All you need is for a few of you to freeze to death and be eaten by the others and it'd be perfect!"

There was a stunned silence as everyone nervously watched Sandra, lest she explode. "Right. Here is what we are going to do. You are going to redivide into your teams. Archer, Reed?" She picked out two random members of Moon Unit Zappa. "You two are now members of Alpha team to make up numbers. Now what I want you to do is to get back into those houses and keep at killing each other until one team achieves something while having a few people left alive!"

There was a stunned silence form the two groups, especially the two rather confused looking members of the Moon Units. "Now!" Sandra shouted at them. "Move it, move it!" As one they broke into a sprint, heading back into the urban combat range, presumably figuring that charging back into action was better then facing Sandra.

Danny Wong had been nominated as the leader of his squad, despite his protests. He didn't want to be a squad leader. Squad leaders usually were the first to be taken out. He wanted to hide in the back and maybe slip away when the fighting got too severe.

No, instead the new commander of Moon Unit Zappa had decided that the whole team needed an overhaul. A part of that overhaul, he had decided, was to replace everyone who had previously been in a leadership position. When nobody had stepped forwards to be new squad leaders, he'd been 'volunteered' for the position. Just his luck.

Sadly, nobody had decided to change the team's name in the process.

His squad had been tasked with conducting a flanking operation into Alpha Team's territory. They were to sweep around the outside, then cut into the rear of where Alpha were supposedly operating from. That way, Moon Unit Zappa could take them by surprise, and hopefully score a victory. Or at least, that's how the theory went.

So far, things had been quiet. To Danny, that was both a good thing and a bad thing. It was good, because it meant that the Alpha Team probably didn't know where his squad were, which meant that they may be able to achieve their objective unharmed. It was bad because he was getting nervous, and was convinced that a member of the other team would leap out and attack him at any moment.

They quietly entered another building at the far edge of the course. He'd figured that cutting through here would save them a lot of time and hassle, as well as reducing the odds of them being spotted. He figured that the enemy team may have left a scout or two in here to keep an eye on the place, but that was about it. They could take them out easily, he thought. Nine on one were pretty good odds.

There was a sudden plik plik of paint rounds hitting something, followed by someone shouting. As a man, the squad turned around to see the last man in their squad rubbing his neck, muttering something about it stinging.

"Turn around!" Danny shouted. The soldier shrugged, and turned, showing several fresh splotches on his back and his neck. He'd been shot from behind. "Lie down! You're dead!" He shouted. "Everyone! We're under attack!"

The soldier next to him was hit in the side, fresh blotches blossoming across his flank and chest. "Over there!" Danny shouted, pointing into an empty doorway where the shots had come form. "They're over there!"

Several members of his squad opened fire on the empty doorway, splattering the door frame and the next wall with paint splotches. A figure ducked through a hallway ahead of them, Danny catching only a brief glimpse of them as they ran. "We're surrounded!" He shouted as he opened fire into the hallway, his shots just missing the fleeing figure.

"What do we do?" A trooper called out.

"Retreat!" He yelled back. "We withdraw! Keep your eyes peeled and-"

A shot hit him square in the chest, almost knocking him off his feet. "Over-" He shouted, then remembered that he was dead. Several members of his squad opened fire, however, shooting wherever they thought their opponent may be.

At least one of them hit him in the back.

Sandra slumped against the wall of the house, giving herself a moment to catch her breath. Well that had been exhilarating, she thought. She figured that randomly attacking a squad with her usual shoot and run tactics would make for an interesting learning experience for them in what a hostile force that was familiar with the territory could do.

Or, at the very least, it'd allow her to blow off some steam.

She quietly wished that Vic was here. She'd have enjoyed instilling terror into these hapless young recruits. But then again, Sandra did want them to live.

Steve slumped into the locker room, rubbing one of his shoulders as he went. Today had been a hard one, he thought. He and everyone else had gone through enough mock assaults to last them a lifetime, and he'd lost track of how many times he'd gotten killed so far. What he did know was that those damned paint pellets stung like hell when they hit. Her suspected that he was going to be a mess of bruises.

"Hey." He muttered to Alec who was already there. "How are you doing, bro?"

"I hurt all over." He replied. "I got shot in the back by a couple of guys. One even put a round into my arse."

"Nice." Steve whistled. "Real nice."

"That woman's insane." He continued. "She's been drilling us relentlessly. What's she trying to do, get us all killed?"

"'scuse..." Jackie 'Um' Chow, another member of their team stepped between them to get to his locker.

"Sure." Steve moved out of the way. "How are you doing there, Donny?"

"Hurt." He replied. "My own fault too."

"Wha?" Alec asked. "How's it your fault?"

"I wasn't paying attention and got shot." He explained. "I was thinking about other stuff and got myself hit while I should have been watching out for attackers." He rubbed his shoulder. "I guess it's a good thing she's driving me so herd, though."

"Why's that?" Steve asked. "She's insane! You've seen what she's doing to all of us."

"Yes, but if I hadn't been paying attention in a real gunfight, then I would have been killed." Jackie continued. "If anything, I'm thankful that she's pushing us so much so we know what to expect when we get out onto our real jobs."

"What, you think that what she's doing is good for us?" Alec began, glaring at him.

"Oh yes." He nodded. "I mean, if we screw up here, the worst that can happen is that she shouts at us and makes us do the exercise again. But if we screw up in a real fight, then we're dead." She sighed. "You've heard about her experiences in the Zone. I figure that if she lived through all that, then there's a lot we could learn from her."

Alec and Steve looked at each other and then back at Jackie. All of a sudden, he was making a lot of sense.

Sandra had long ago decided that there were very few things that could surprise her. She figured that life was always ready to dump on her, and that she could expect it to keep on doing such. That way, when it happened, she'd be ready for it. That being said, every now and then, something would happen that would surprise her. Meeting David was one of the best of them.

Right now, she was looking at another one. Her trainees were running the obstacle course as they had done on numerous occasions. What surprised her was that they were actually doing well. They were running faster, leaping further, crawling lower and climbing easier then they had before, while spending a lot less time falling over, tripping up, crashing into each other or suffering other disasters.

And she hadn't even set off the fire alarm yet today.

On the target range, the results were equally impressive. Everyone was hitting their targets with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Nobody was shooting at the walls or the floor or the ceiling. Nobody was holding their gun sideways because they thought it looked cool.

As the day wore on, she saw the same improvement across the board. The simulated assaults were swift and precise, with well-ordered formations following well-thought out orders. Unarmed training saw swift disarms and quick takedowns of opponents. And they could even form a neat and orderly line.

It was like she was watching a completely different group of people in action, as if somebody had taken her entire trainee group and replaced them with a completely different lot who knew what they were doing. Yet she could recognize the same faces as they ran past. As she observed them, she reached a single conclusion.

Her training had paid off. She had managed to beat them into shape, turning a bunch of street trash and would be tough guys into a well-ordered and capable fighting force. And all it had taken was a lot of shouting, prodding, random beatings, simulated shootings and blows to the head.

She'd have to take all this into account when she prepared her final report for her employers.

Sandra stood, staring at the three suits in the office as they picked through her report. It had taken her all night to compile it, having reviewed what seemed to be endless hours of assessments, target shoots, course times and footage from the exercises. It was probably the longest document she'd put together in her life. Certainly it was bigger then anything she'd written since she left the NYPD.

Of course, in the Zone, one didn't need to write much.

"Ms Blackmore." One of the suits finally spoke, closing the report and putting it down on the desk. "Your report on the training exercise and the performance of our recruits was certainly both comprehensive and illuminating. Certainly you seem to have been very thorough in your training of our recruits. However, I do have a question for you."

"Certainly." She replied. She knew this was coming.

"May I ask why you decided to fail everyone on the course?"

She had considered a number of reasons why. But in the end, it had come down to a single reason. "Because, frankly, most of them were a bunch of inept tools who wouldn't have lasted a minute in a serious fight." She began. "In a live-fire situation, most of them would wind up dead in very short order, through a combination of enemy fire and their own ineptitude. Probably a few of them would shoot themselves or each other by accident to boot."

"In training, they proved to be a inept, incapable and clumsy." She continued. "As you would have noted from my report, it was only after I began physically bullying them that they became capable of performing at even a minimal level of competence. In the field, these people would quickly become a liability."

"But failing all of them?" He asked again.

"If you read my report, you'll note that I recommended giving Max "Dash" Liao some cushy job if only to put him on your company's track and field team. That guy's really, really good at running in a straight line."

"Thank you Ms. Blackmore." The suit replied, trying to sound as impassive as possible. "We will be sure to take all of that under consideration." He continued without flinching.

"And my payment?"

"Has been forwarded already." He replied.

"And thank you." She finished as she left. She strode through the building, pausing only to examine the security arrangements as she left. The whole exercise had gone rather well for her, she thought. Not only had she made a lot of money for a lot less risk then normal, but she'd also gained a valuable insight into the company's security training. She was pretty sure that it would come in handy one of these days.

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