By Alex Fauth

When she'd first taken this job, Kaelyn Harrison thought that it was a pretty easy and simple deal. "You have to stand around in some facility and guard some stuff. There will be local security forces already present as well as several hired guns; you're only there to supplement them and make sure nobody gets in. Easy job, right?" Is what they'd said to her.

Okay, so her contact hadn't quite said that, but it was the gist of it. A Corp had gotten a tip-off that somebody was making a run on some new product of theirs, specifically through hiring some bigwig Street Sam or similar. Not entirely confident in their own security services to protect them in this case, they had hired Kaelyn and a couple of others to bolster their defenses. It seemed fair to her; a few Sams could often be more capable then a whole army of red-shirted Ensigns, especially in cases where there was another Sam on the other end.

And besides, the money looked very, very nice. She could buy all manner of new toys with that sort of dosh, and had in fact already begun lining up a few sweet items to order—once she had the money, of course. Still, she didn't want to go crazy and start ordering right away. When she had money, well, that would be another matter.

Of course, they hadn't given her all the details. It appeared that this... thing was being held in an industrial complex on the outside of the city—one that at a distance looked like nothing so much as a nightmarish maze of pipes. Once she'd gotten inside, she'd found that it was indeed a nightmarish mess of pipes, and that the loot itself was being held in a small lab in one corner of the facility. Not a good start. It meant that there was a thousand million or so places that an attacker could hide in and use to sneak up on the place, or snipe from and pluck them off one at a time.

And then there were the other hired guns. For various reasons, Kaelyn took an immediate disliking to them, an attitude which was unusual for her. She tried to be nice to people, especially ones she was meeting for the first time (Excluding those she was shooting at, of course.) It was just that this lot were anything but likable.

First amongst them was a darling little sprite who called herself Kage—obstinately the Japanese word for "Shadow" (or something to that effect), even though she was clearly not Japanese. Short and with a build that could be best described as 'two basketballs strapped to an Ethiopian refugee,' she looked to be the end product of a Genetic Upgrade gone very, very bad. With thickly applied makeup and hair badly bleached white, the girl gave the impression of something a kerb-crawler would be picking up just before he was beaten down by undercover police officers. The only thing that offset the image was the large sword, or whatever it was, she carried with her.

Their initial meeting had gone off rather well—which is to say, incredibly badly. It become very clear very quickly that she was incredibly vain and self-absorbed, more interested in, say, talking about herself then listening to a thing that Kaelyn had to say. Of course, since she had produced nothing but streams of unintelligible drivel, this did somewhat limit their conversations.

It didn't help that the other members of the team had decided to lump the girls together. Brock was a big, big man, one of the tallest that Kaelyn had ever seen, as well as being one of the most heavily muscled. His shaved head, small goatee and perpetual black shades complimented that, giving him a 'designer badarse' feel that must have come form many hours of pumping Jungle Juice into his arms. While he didn't wear any body armour, it was clear that he had enough cyberware in him to probably stop anything that hit him dead. As if to show off, he was carrying around a light machine gun as his firearm of choice, held in a way that suggested that it was nothing for him to heft it

The downside was that all that stuff seemed to have cut off the flow of blood to his brain. It wasn't that he was dull witted or dense, it was just that he clearly didn't think at all. Instead, he spent all his time bragging about all the things he'd done and all the stuff he'd killed and so on and so forth. He'd also taken a very patronizing attitude towards Kaelyn, basically suggesting that she'd be his 'backup,' then arrogantly adding that he 'probably wouldn't need her.'

Rounding off the trio was Tommy, a purported local boy. Dressed in a sharp suit and wearing shades, he looked for all the world like a suit's bored son who was off having some fun. True, he was carrying a pair of guns, but she had to wonder if he had knew how to use them. And while he was an arrogant, self-important dick, she didn't have as many problems with him.

What she did have a problem with was his 'pet,' Tiffi. Tiffi was a stock standard Puma; big, blonde and excessively buxom and clearly none to smart. Armed with a huge assault rifle and clad in a flack vest and g-string, it became apparent that his idea was that she'd do all the work for him. Kaelyn had never liked Pumas (she saw them as being "excessive" or "over-designed") and that it was clear that both Tommy and Brock (and, she suspected Kage) were taking it in turns to 'sneak off' with her, which further didn't help matters. It wasn't like they were even disguising the fact; Tommy had 'offered' Tiffi to Kaelyn, and seemed genuinely disappointed when she passed.

"I never sleep with synths," she stated, defiantly. "Especially not female ones."

"Your loss," he added, goosing Tiffi as he did.


"In many cases, it's probably best not to ask 'why' Corp X wants you to steal Thing Y or bump off Person Z. You may just get an answer and, as a result, you'll feel dirty afterwards."


Umpteenth hour on watch and Kaelyn was slowly going out of her tiny little skull. Brock was taking his turn to 'sneak off' with Tiffi while Tommy was doing rounds, which left her with nobody but Kage for company; a prospect that Kaelyn figured would soon have her clawing at the walls.

"Hey, you got pointed ears!" Kage spoke up, as of she'd only just noticed Kaelyn's singular distinctive feature. "Well that's kinda cool, actually. Because its, like, so totally distinct and unique and stuff. I was thinking of having my ears done as well, maybe get them turned all pointy and stuff too. Or else maybe I could get cat ears like a Puma which would also be very cool. Maybe I could get a tail too and be a warrior catgirl like that girl form that show, Warrior Catgirl Aelissa--" (A show that Mitsumi produced which featured an all-female hero team of catgirls that suspiciously resembled the company's most famous product. Kaelyn found it quite inane, which made her wonder why Kage liked it) "--which would also be really cool."

"Yeah," Kaelyn commented, trying to get a word in edgeways. The truth was that she had gotten her ears done on a whim, a matter of 'it seemed like a cool idea at the time.' She hadn't done it to be trendy or popular or to fit in with a given crowd, but because she wanted to. In fact, as far as she could tell, relatively discrete pointed ears like hers were a comparative rarity.

To distract herself from Kage's inane bantering, she wondered what would happen if Tommy and Brock snuck off out the back and left Tiffi behind. It elected a brief snigger of joy, which was cut short when the lights suddenly went off, plunging them into darkness.

"Bugger," she muttered. "Bugger it all." She'd suddenly wished she had some for some low-light enhancement or similar. Of course, that would mean replacing her eyes, a step she wasn't quite up to yet. She prided herself on remaining mostly human still, an idea that didn't seem to have even passed though the heads of her cohorts.

"What was that?" Kage asked.

"Somebody got the lights," Kaelyn replied, then reached for the small communicator that she, along with the other members of the team, had been given by their hosts. "Everyone else losing power where they are?"

"I can't see a focking thing!" Brock snarled over the channel. "Everything's down!"

"Same here," Tommy rather hastily replied. "Tiffi and I are completely cut off--"

"Right, let's keep it all calm," she stated. "Now there's gonna be a backup generator around here."

"Good idea," Brock snapped. "You and Kage head for it. I'll loop back to the main compound and hitch up with Tommy and Tiffi."

"Shouldn't you get it?" Kaelyn asked. "I mean, you're in the field and all, while we're here and--"

"Goddamn it, just do it," He snapped.

"Whoah, okay!" she called back, defensively. "Just let the locals know what we're up to." Turning to Kage, she nodded at the girl. "Right, lets go."

"But I can't see..." she replied, almost at a whine.

"Fine than." Kaelyn pulled out a small torch, holding it in her offhand. "Let's go."


"Katana(1) are very popular amongst Street Samurai, probably due to the name and thematic connections. Cyberazors also are, to the point of begin considered a trademark of the profession. Many learn martial arts, and often will become quite the devastating expert in unarmed combat. Of course, this all means squat when you put a bullet in them from across the room."

"(1) (Note to self, look up plural of 'Katana')"


It took them only a few minutes to get to the controls for the backup. To Kaleyn's surprise, the woman had remained quiet throughout the trip. She had decided that she might have to give the girl some credit; she had managed to keep quiet and stay professional for a few minutes. Or maybe it was just that she was frightened and trying hard not to show it.

Kaleyn looked over the switches with her torch. As near as she could tell, the system was an antique, installed back when this facility was first built, which was probably a million years or so ago. The good thing was that it appeared to be entirely manually operated, which meant that it couldn't be readily accessed by a decker coming into the system. The bad news was that it meant that someone had to go in and switch it on themselves.

"Okay, I'll turn this thing on." Kage called out. "You go and keep an eye out for anyone."

"Why don't you do that?"

"Because..." she paused. "You've got the torch."

"I could give you the torch."

"But then you couldn't watch over us with it." she finished.

Kaelyn wanted to argue with the girl's logic, but couldn't. Instead, she turned away and walked off, keeping her eyes open for any sign of a potential attacker. The place seemed to be dark and still, with no sign of anyone around. For a moment, Kaelyn had to actually wonder if it wasn't just a random equipment failure or similar, rather then the first stage of an attack.

And then she heard the gunfire. A long burst of automatic fire that echoed around the facility in a deafening roar. She couldn't see any sign of the weapon, but at the same time it was impossible to miss the sound. "What's happening?" she shouted into her communicator. "What the bloody hell is going on?"

"I'm coming under fire!" Brock shouted, his voice barely audible over the roar of the machine gun. "They've got me pinned down here! I need backup now!"

Kaleyn wondered for a moment were the security guards were meant to be before replying. "I'm covering Kage at the generators--"

"Get over here!" he yelled out. "Now!"

"Right!" she yelled. "Kage! Stay there!"Kaleyn added as she broke into a run. Several more splutters of automatic gunfire shattered the silence, then went quiet.

Sprinting across the faculty she was caught unawares as, abruptly, the lights came back on. Skidding to a halt, she activated her commentator. "What's happening now?" She asked.

"Looks like they're gone." Brock called out. "But then--"

Several shots echoed through the maze of pipes. "What was that?" she yelled out. "Brock?"

"Nothing here, unless--" he started, but cut himself off as the lights went off again.

"Bloody Hell!" she shouted, turning around and heading back to where she left Kage. "Everyone, get back to the bloody thing right now!" She dashed through the facility, frantically trying to get back to where she had left the other girl.

As she arrived, something immediately caught her attention. The main power switch was in the 'off' position, and had a large swordy-thing wedged into it; more to the point, it was the same one that Kage had been carrying. Glancing around, she could see where the sword had come from; the woman was slumped against a wall, blood splattered across her chest and the wall behind her. A quick check confirmed what Kaelyn suspected, she was dead.

"Bloody hell." she muttered, before another burst of gunfire filled the facility.


"The average Puma has breasts bigger then your head, the strength to tear a car door off its hinges and carries enough ordinance for a small army. They also usually have the IQ of a tennis shoe. They're a pain to fight, but easy to outthink."


As she ran through the facility, Kaelyn shouted into her communicator. "What the bloody hell is going on?" she yelled.

"There's someone coming after me and Tiffi!" Tommy yelled back. Kaelyn wondered if now was the time to mention that together, their names sounded like a lame variety act from Blackpool. Probably not. "At least two of them, fast moving too!"

"Stand your ground!" Brock yelled out. "Don't let them get past you!"

"What about me?" Kaelyn asked. "Kage's down and--"

"Forget her." he snapped. "You go and help the other two, now!"

She dashed through the factory, following the sounds of gunfire. Most of it again sounded like the roar of automatic weaponry, probably Tiffi's heavy battle rifle. From what Kaelyn could make out, the Puma was trying to bring down the sight unseen attacker through the process of simply pouring as many rounds as she could into the area. It was an interesting idea, certainly but one that had a lot of drawbacks.

One of them become obvious when the roar of the rifle suddenly stopped, the Puma having clearly run out of ammunition. Before she could reload, there was the roar of several rounds of pistol fire from the same direction, and then silence. Muttering to herself, Kaleyn continued running, rounding the corner where she was sure that the shots had come from. When she got there, she could see what had happened; Tiffi was down, bleeding profusely from numerous wounds. Tommy had grabbed her rifle, and was trying to ram a fresh clip into it.

"What happened?" She called out as she glanced around.

"We were jumped by at lest three or four of them." He called back. "They got Tiffi, and I'm lucky to be alive. They, uh, must have run off or something."

What, abandon a superior position with superior numbers? Kaelyn thought. That's definitely not right. So what the bloody hell is going on? She glanced around, then turned back to Tommy. "Right... We'll head back to Brock."

"Good. You lead." Tommy finished. It was less a suggestion as it was a command.

Kaelyn rolled her eyes. "Right." She muttered. "Lets get going." She'd figured that arguing was pointless anyway.

No sooner had they set off then she heard something, the sound of someone running nearby. Glancing around, she couldn't see anyone however, but it fit with what she'd gathered. A single attacker or small group, keeling quiet and attacking from cover and -- "DOWN!"

She ducked down behind a pipe as the first shots rang out, echoing through the chamber. Tommy hit the ground next to her, blood staining the back of his suit. A quick glance told her all she needed to know; he was dead, shot in the back. Which meant her attacker was....

She ran.


"The term 'general purpose machine gun' is rather redundant. The purpose of a machine gun is actually well defined."


It wasn't too far a run to the objective. However, with an enemy that could be anywhere around her, it seemed like a short eternity to Kaelyn. She ran with her guns at the ready, frantically glancing at every shadow around her, lest it contain a sight-unseen attacker. She had hoped that she had estimated them correctly, and she was only facing one or two attackers at most; her survival depended on it.

She ran, gasping towards Brock, calling out as she approached. "We're in trouble!" She yelled. "We're the only ones left."

"Damn it." Brock muttered. "So how many are there?"

Stopping to catch her breath, Kaelyn considered matters. "Probably only one or two." She admitted. "I haven't seen them but... I figure that has to be all we're facing."

"Just one or two, then?" He sneered. "This will be easy then."

"They already got the others." She reminded him. "Including that bloody Puma."

"Yeah well..." Brock grinned. "That's 'cause they haven't faced a real man yet."

She shook, her head. "How can you be so dammed dense!" she shouted out. "We need to be careful, not cocky. Whoever they are, they know this place seem to be able to get at us without exposing themselves."

"Lighten up, babe." he continued. "We can handle it. Just stick behind me and watch my back, and you'll be fine."

"Right well..." she waved her hands about. "Sure."

"Now just keep yer eyes open, babe." he continued. "We've got work to do."

"Right...." she muttered, looking around. She couldn't see anything; her surroundings being seemingly as dark and dank as the rest of the place. if the attacker was here, they were doing an excellent job of hiding it. "So where the hell...."

There. Something moved in the shadows, a blob of blackness that was slightly lighter, apparently moving around. It was them, it had to be. "Brock!" She yelled out.

Then the attacker opened fire. She dived for cover as several shots sailed past, several smashing into the walls while at least one grazed Brock's arm. "Down!" he yelled as he spun around, bringing up his gun. It roared as it opened fire, the flash from the muzzle illuminating the room. Kaelyn scurried away as the massive weapon opened up, the only reply being a stream of pistol fire.

Abruptly, the weapon jerked upwards, Brock shouting out in pain as his fist released the weapon. Then, before anyone knew what was happening, his glasses shattered, a spurt of blood coming from his face. The massive man toppled backwards, crashing to the floor.

They got his attention focused on them so they could get a clearer shot, Kaelyn thought as she glanced around. It's risky but.... they've been doing a lot of risky things. They forced me to separate from Kage so they could take her and the generator out. They made Tiffi waste all her ammo before taking her down. They ambushed Tommy as we were running. Its risky, but it works.

Then the realization hit her. And it's exactly what I would do.

Leaping up form where she was, she burst into a run, trying to keep low as she sought out better cover. Several shots sped past her, slamming into a nearby wall and spraying her with concrete dust. Not worrying about that, she kept moving, looking for any way out of the mess she was in.

There! She thought as she dashed around a corner, pressing herself to the wall. Pausing for a moment, she ducked out, both guns at the ready, then opened fire, squeezing off several rounds at where she hoped her attacker was. Without checking to see if she had hit or not, she ducked back under cover. Her answer to what she had achieved came in a moment as several shots gouged into the wall where she had been.

Seeing a chance, she broke into a run, dashing along the length of the wall. Ducking out the other side, she again opened fire, pumping rounds into where she thought her attacker was without stopping moving. Several more shots went past her before she ducked behind a pipe, more rounds bouncing off it with a harsh metallic clang.

Okay, I gotta get to the entrance, find some of the security guys and get them back in here, she thought. No way am I gonna take this one all on my own. The worst part of it was that while she had a pretty good idea of what her opponent would try, they seemed to know exactly what she was doing.

Go! She launched herself into another run, turning and squeezing off another pair of rounds in the same general direction. This time, however, they were not met with a burst of return fire; instead, save for her own fire, the room was silent. This was anything but reassuring. It meant that, wherever her opponent was, they weren't where Kaelyn expected.

There was a burst of fire form across the hall, shots skimming past her before one clipped the gun in her left hand. With a sharp pain, she released the pistol, the weapon skidding down the hall. With no time to get it, she spun around, opening fire with her remaining gun in the rough direction she thought the shots had come from. Another round went by her ear, causing her to jerk and twist around.

But now I have you, she grinned to herself as she turned. Now you're--

She topped as she found herself face to face with a pair of pistols, pointed straight at her head. Behind them was a woman, probably in her mid-thirties, with a scarred face and short black hair. The black coat hid most of her features, but Kaelyn could see that it was torn and battered, probably form all the fire that had been directed towards it tonight.

"Okay, kid." the woman began. "Drop it now. Don't be a tool and try to be a hero."

Kaelyn nodded, slowly kneeling as she placed the pistol on the floor. "There." she managed to about squeak out.

"Right. Now don't be a tool and try something stupid." the woman continued. "I'm going to take the goods then get the frell out of here. You are to stay here and not make a sound, understood."

"Of course, yes." She nodded.

"Good," the woman continued. "And don't think you're gonna get away with trying something stupid. I helped test the security on this joint; I know its weaknesses."

"That's how you got past the guards and got to the others, right?"

"You're a smart kid," she finished. "Makes me think that humanity has hope. Now prove me right, and just stay here."

"I will." Kaelyn nodded as the woman began to back off, keeping her weapons trained on her. "I'm not going to try a thing."

"Right." the woman finished, then ducked around a corner, dashing off.

Kaelyn waited until she was gone before letting out a loud gasp. "She...." She began. "She actually tried to shoot me. Wow...."

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