By Uriel

The New York Zero Zone, now reduced to a huge sprawl of destroyed masonry. Through the rubble a troop of zoners move, slipping from one patch of cover to another. The haul had been good tonight, with the arms carrying truck falling into their hands with ease, just as Josh had said it would.

They were nearing the 'headquarters', and where just beginning to relax when the sky suddenly lit up with the rapid flashes of heavy weapon batteries. As the sounds of the battle reached them the group looked up to see the distant silhouette of one of the Night Sky Dragons, outlined in bursts of flame. A moment later they were running through the rubble heedlessly in their rush to get back and report.

The room had once been part of a small casino where the Zone's few rich visitors could stop by and "slum it". Now the large tables where covered over with maps and diagrams detailing the Zone and Jinsei's position within it. On a raised platform overlooking the room Isaac stood by a small plastic table covered with crudely written reports on the gangs activities. He had been slowly turning the ragtag band into a something almost military, but it was hard going getting them to grasp the importance of such records. Joshua sighed and dropped a report that had been written on a page torn from some kind of magazine. It really was time to be going. If it weren't for his interest in seeing how long the group could last he would have been gone weeks ago.

This report might well change all that of course. Runners had been dispatched as soon as the raiding party had returned, but he still wished he had access to a computer, acquiring information was frustratingly slow. From the looks of it several high powered espers were in the process of attacking the Night Sky Dragon, and were doing a fair job of destroying it too. Such a good job in fact that he suspected the whole situation would be over before any useful information came in.

The real question was why. To be doing this, those involved would have to be very potent esper weapons. For individuals of that calibre to be involved would imply some substantial external funding. Which meant that Jinsei's rivals were finally trying to bring this all to a close. Soon it would be time to go.

The quiet buzz of activity was interrupted by the explosive arrival of a ganger, bursting through the door red faced and out of breath.

"We have confirmation! The Night Sky Dragon is down! The espers did it!"

As cheers erupted around the room, Joshua faded away, leaving Isaac's empty expression.

Drawn by a rapid tapping, Isaac glanced down at the table where his left hand rested still and steady. The metallic fingers of his right hand however, where beating out a rapid tattoo on the table. To still the tapping he gripped the table top, which creaked alarmingly.

Abruptly his head rose and Joshua added animation to his face.

"Listen!" the men quieted, looking up at him, smiles fading under his serious expression.

"This is a blow Jinsei cannot help but feel. The destruction of a Night Sky Dragon is a blow to them financially and to their moral. But it is not the end."

"But the espers" he overrode the interruption.

"The espers are back in their high security mansions and penthouses, spending the cash they just made. They aren't going to end this war for us. When the last Jinsei trooper is driven from the Zone! When all the tanks and combat androids are being striped down for spare parts! When Jinsei has been so completely crushed that they never think of trying something like this again! Then we celebrate! Then we can cheer and drink and fuck and lord it over everyone!"

Another cheer swept the room, though he quieted it with a wave of his left hand.

"But right now we have a war to win, and wounded friends to tend to. Lets get back to work."

Slowly the bustle of the war room picked up once more. The noise concealing the crack of plastic, as Isaac right hand snapped of a chunk of the table top.

It was definitely time to be going.

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