by Michael Surbrook

Rain. Kitten hated it when it rained. Rain made her joints hurt. A symptom that her doctor said was 'all in her head', since the neural endings in her limbs weren't supposed to react to atmospheric changes. Which was fine and dandy, but it still meant that Kitten's joints ached when ever it rained. To make matters worse, it was acidic rain. Contaminated by numerous high-altitude pollutants, the water falling from the sky could prove damaging to unprotected skin, and if the concentration was high enough, it could even be fatal.

Kitten sighed and adjusted her overcoat and hood. Standing in her apartment building's rather spacious lobby, Kitten fiddled with her jacket, trying to ignore the fact that, like it or not, she had to go outside. As with most every large apartment complex the world over, Kitten's building, which was a full 60 stories tall, contained several floors of tenant 'services'. Such services including grocery store, restaurant, gymnasium, tennis courts, pool, shopping center... Just about everything one could need. As long as one didn't need anything too unusual, like, say... a cyberdoctor.

Pulling the hood firmly over her head, Kitten stepped out onto the relatively deserted Mega-Tokyo sidewalk. Normally, she would have driven, but her last job had ended with her Isuzu Warrior getting it's windows blown out. So she was forced to walk, which normally wasn't that bad, Mega-Tokyo being notorious for it's awful traffic conditions. On the other hand, driving kept one out of the rain...

Pausing at a street corner, Kitten looked at her watch, trying to ensure that she wasn't going to be late for her appointment. Today's doctor visit was an important one, for she was getting a much needed full-body stress scan to look for possible joint wear.

Stress scan. It sounded like something you did to a machine, not a person. Trips to the cyberdoc always left her feeling cold, doubtful of her humanity. Certainly, being a cyborg (she hated the term 'boomer') had it's advantages. She was strong enough to lift well over 8 tons, and her armor plating was sufficient to stop most small arms fire. But she weighed in excess of 400 pounds, and due to certain requirements of her 'reconstruction' she could never have children. Kitten still hadn't fully made up her mind regarding that last fact. The world being what it was, she wasn't certain she'd want to bring a child into it; she also didn't have to deal with major hormonal imbalances. Still, she was 70% cybergraft upgrade, her body certainly wasn't feminine anymore.

Coming out of her reverie, Kitten was pleased to note that the rain had stopped and the skies had started to clear. Removing her heavy overcoat and hood, Kitten folded the garment over one arm and continued on her way, her spirits brightening with the sky.

Passing a narrow alley opening, Kitten's pleasant mood was rudely interrupted by the appearance of a thin, gangly youth sporting several days growth of beard. Keeping one arm back, he stuck the other in Kitten's face, snapping his fingers impatiently.

"Your wallet, now!" he demanded.

Kitten blinked with surprise, "What?"

"I said, 'your wallet'", the punk repeated.

Kitten gave the punk a sour look. "I don't need this."

The punk blinked in surprise and then snapped his right hand forward, producing a long tanto from his sleeve, and with a cry of "No! You need this!" he buried it into Kitten's side. Kitten looked down at the knife blade protruding from her abdomen, noticing a faint scraping noise as the punk twisted his hand and the point ground against her cyberplating. Staring at the knife in sick fascination, the punk continued to turn his arm back and forth, accomplishing little beyond slicing Kitten's jacket to shreds.

"oh my," he stated in a small voice.

Grabbing the punk's knife hand with her left, Kitten pulled the knife out of her side. Pausing to give the terrified punk a polite smile, Kitten tightened her hand into a fist, ignoring the man's screams of pain as the bones shattered under the pressure. Keeping a firm grip on her former attacker's now ruined hand, Kitten slowly lifted him into the air, bringing his face level with hers. "Do you know how much this jacket cost me!!!" Kitten yelled furiously, shaking the punk to further emphasize her point.

Growling with anger, Kitten drew back her right arm, hand balling into a fist. Abruptly, she paused. What was she doing! This wasn't a chromed street sam with a price on his head, this was just some young tough armed with only a knife! Taking a deep breath, Kitten opened her hand and released the punk, allowing him to drop into a retching heap on the sidewalk. Stepping back from his prone form, Kitten silently stared at her bloodspattered hand. Not only had she crushed his hand into a shapeless mass, but she'd almost struck him as well. A blow that would have certainly killed him. He was no threat to her, even with the knife, but she'd been ready to strike him down.

Kitten looked down at the moaning figure curled up on the sidewalk. With a deep sigh, she bent over and hooked a hand under his arm, picking him up with ease. "Come on," she said, "Let's get you to a doctor."

As the pair slowly moved down the street, Kitten pulled a portion of her coat over the young man's head. It had started raining. Again.

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