by Lise Mendel and Michael Surbrook

Blade bowed her "Ja mata" to Kenji as he left the break-room. It had been another thoroughly hopeless Japanese lesson. She just didn't seem able to grasp his language as quickly as Kenji was learning hers, and Blade had no delusions - it was because of the student, not the teacher.

She left the room and turned left down the hall. Up ahead she saw the unmistakable shape of Temple, heading the same way she was. Maybe Temple would be up to more practice.

"Temple-chan," she called, quickening her pace a bit, "wait up..."

As Temple turned around Blade was surprised to see tears streaking down her face.

Blade looked up at the Lynx. "What's wrong, Temple-chan?" She asked.

Temple quickly wiped at her eyes and tried to smile, "N-nothing, Blade-chan."

"I've never seen you cry about nothin'. " Blade answered seriously. "I don't even think I've seen you cry at all, before."

"Blade-chan, d-do you like me?" Temple asked in a querulous voice.

A bit confused at the question, Blade answered, "Y-yes. Of course, why wouldn't I."

Steadying herself, Temple swallowed and looked at Blade directly, "Do you think I'm a person?"

"Yes," this time there was no confusion or hesitation or confusion, "you're a person." Her expression turned to annoyance, "What kind of shidh is that? Did Jagger say somethin' to you? Don't pay any attention to him, or anyone like him. You're just like the rest of us, better'n some, worse than some."

"Oh." Temple, reached up and touched an ear, "Are you sure I'm a person?"

"I just said so, didn't I? What else would you be?"

"But," Temple paused, "am I human?"

"Yes, of course you're human." Blade sighed. "You're as human as I am."

"Look, let's find a place to sit down and talk. Why don't we head back to my room? We can have some privacy there."

Temple slowly wiped at her eyes and nodded in a distracted manner, "Ok, Blade-chan."

Blade put her arm around Temple's shoulders and led her back to her room.

"Can I get you a beer?" she asked as they entered the room.

"Um," Temple seemed to think a minute, "Yes, that would be nice."

Blade gestured to the black synthleather sofa. "Make yourself at home," she said while floating a beer from the mini fridge.

Temple sat down primly on the sofa, her hands folded tightly in her lap, her back perfectly straight. She accepted the floating can with a muted 'Thank you.' Blade noticed that Temple made no attempt to examine her surroundings.

Blade flopped down on the left end of the sofa and popped the top of her can. "What's wrong, Temple-chan? Why would you think you're not human?"

Temple looked at Blade for a moment before replying, "Isn't it obvious? I'm a Lynx. I wasn't born, I was grown in a tank. I'm not a person, I'm a product."

Blade stared at her searchingly. "Are you sure of that?"

Temple shrugged. "I... I guess so."

"If you're so sure, why did you ask me?"

"Because you're a human."

"And if I'm a human who says you are too," Blade asked, "then what? Does that make me right and you wrong?"

Temple made a half-hearted attempt to respond, but Blade continued, cutting her off. "Yes, you are a Lynx. That means you are a genetically designed human. Mitsumi says that means you're not a person." Blade paused and gave Temple a level stare. "Mitsumi sucks shidh," she said with certainty. "You gotta know it in your own way, or you wouldn't bother to ask me, would you?"

Temple seemed to suddenly deflate, looking forlornly at her unopened beer. "I... I don't want to be a product. I want to be a person, to be Temple, not to be Temple the Lynx." She looked up at Blade, "Do you understand what I mean?"

Blade nodded grimly.

"Jagger-san and Kenji-san don't, I can tell. Jagger-san doesn't really look at me when he talks to me. He treats me like I'm a piece of equipment, because, to him, I am a piece of equipment. Jagger-san even called me an 'asset'." Temple's voice began to steadily grower darker as she spoke. Finishing her sentence, she ripped the tab off the can and drained the contents in one continuous swallow. Crushing the thin walled container in an off-hand manner, she tossed the crumpled wad aside and gave Blade a steady glare, "Can I have another, Blade-chan?"

"Sure." The crumpled can flew across the room into the disposal chute, and another wafted out of the fridge and to Temple.

Temple started into the fresh beer almost as fast as she had finished her first one. Gesturing with the can, Temple looked over at Blade, "Kenji-san is polite, but he doesn't really talk to me. He only looks at me if I talk to him, other than that he ignores me." Temple finished her second can. "Uh... may I have another?"

Blade took a long draw from hers and teeked a third beer over to Temple. "I think he's just that way," she said. "He does exactly the same thing to me."

Temple sipped from her beer and then looked over at Blade. "Why?" she asked.

"I dunno," Blade shrugged. "He's nice enough, so why should I care?"

"But..." Temple looked confused, "you're a real person."

"Maybe he's just uncomfortable with women? He's pretty scarred up, and that can do strange things to a guy...

Temple shrugged, "I guess I will never understand. I asked Doc-sama to treat me as a person." Temple paused and then gave Blade a slightly alcohol induced smile, "Actually, I asked him to treat me as a woman. He took me out to dinner and everything..." Temple ended her statement with a dreamy sigh.

"Doc?!" Blade asked incredulously. "You're kidding!"

"I am not!", Temple seemed almost incensed by Blade's accusation, "Doc-sama was very nice!"

"I'm sorry. I just can't picture Doc doin' the shake with anybody, I mean... was he any good?"

"Good?" Temple took another swallow of beer before holding the can up to one ear and shaking it. Having first confirmed the container was empty, Temple crushed it casually before tossing it in the general direction of the disposal chute. "Can I have another?" she asked almost plaintively.

"Um... I'm clean out of beer." Blade got up drained her can and tossed it down the chute, Temple's empties went flying after it. Then she went over to the mini-kitch and opened a cupboard.

"I don't have any sake," she said. "Do you like rum? We could do daqs?"

Temple wandered over to Blade and grabbed a bottle, removing the cap and sniffing suspiciously at the contents, she then took an exploratory drink. "What did you mean by 'good'?"

Blade took down two glasses, reached for the bottle from Temple, and gave her a nod, then poured a stiff shot into each glass. Crushed ice floated out of the fridge and into each glass, followed by soda. Then Blade passed a glass back to Temple.

"I mean, is he good in bed?" Blade asked. "Not that I'm sure I really want to know, somehow I just can't picture him getting it on.... He seems to have all the passion of a dead fish."

Blade heard the glass fall to the carpet behind her. She then felt herself being lifted into the air by her shirt collar. Leaning over her, Temple spoke very slowly, clearly and insistently into her ear, "I said: Doc-sama was very nice."

Blade craned her neck around. Temple felt herself pulled up and back, and heard the ripping of fabric. Blade dropped to the floor and straightened her torn clothing. She looked up at the Lynx. "I'll let that go this time, Temple-chan," she growled as she topped off her spilled drink. "Forget what I said about Doc in bed." She tossed back the drink and put Temple gently back down on the floor. "It's none of my business, anyway."

Blade poured herself another shot and offered the bottle to Temple in a conciliatory manner.

Temple dropped Blade's collar back to the floor. Grabbing the proffered rum bottle, Temple stalked back into the living room.

"No hard feelings?" Blade asked as she grabbed another bottle and filled a bucket of ice and followed Temple in to the living room. Temple was standing in front of the window, bottle in hand, apparently studying the view.

Temple downed a swallow of rum before answering with a shrug. Blade noticed that her hand seemed to be trembling.

"I'd say that proves you're a person," Blade took a deep swig, before continuing. "You frackkin' well weren't programmed to do that."

"But," Temple looked back at Blade, "you were being mean to Doc-sama." Temple took another deep swallow from the bottle before continuing, "It wasn't nice." Temple made a vain attempt to blink away the tears that were forming.

Blade shrugged down another gulp. "You got pissed 'cuz you felt I was dissin' Doc, so you got in my face," she said. She wiped a dribble off her chin and went on, her words slurred very slightly, "that kinda proves my point, duzzn't it?" She pointed with her drink as she spoke, turning the gesture into a little salute before starting another guzzle.

Blade looked up at the teary-eyed Temple and held out her free hand. "Hey, I'm sorry about the crack about Doc. I was outta line." She smiled slightly. "Friends?"

Tilting her head back, Temple emptied the rum bottle. Coughing slightly and wiping her mouth with her free hand, Temple took Blade's hand in her own. "'kay," she responded, "Friends."

Still holding onto Blade's hand, Temple pulled her closer and after giving the room an almost suspicious once over leaned down to whisper in Blade's ear. "Can you keep a secret?" she asked?

"Yeah, sure."

"I uh...," Temple glanced around the room again, "I was mad at Jagger for callin' me names, so I got even with him." Temple stepped back and examined the bottle in her hand. Finding it empty, she tossed it over one shoulder and reached for Blade's bottle.

Blade took a quick gulp and handed the remnants to Temple.

Taking a drink, Temple looked down at Blade again, "I cough, I wiped all his files. Pretty neat, hunh?" Blade threw back her head and laughed heartily. "That's pretty good," she guffawed. "I'da loved to see his face..."

Temple tapped her temple, right below the datajack, "I gotta computer in my brain, lets me run the Net like you wouldn't believe." Taking another hit from the bottle, Temple leaned over to Blade, "Not even Doc-sama knows it's there."

"That so?" Blade peered at her blearily with interest. "That's pretty frakkin' neat."

"You really think so?" Temple asked with surprise. "Ya wanna see my system? I built it myself," she added proudly.

"Yeah, sure." Blade replied. "But first, we need more booze. Let's head to your room by way of the kitch." Keeping one arm around Temple she gestured expansively towards the door.

Chance looked up with a start as the cafeteria door slammed open. Temple staggered more than walked in, supporting an equally inebriated Blade with one arm. Catching sight of him, Temple raised a finger to her lips.

"Shhhhhhhh..." she intoned.

Blade giggled, then gestured towards the main kitchen. "'s in there," she slurred.

As he watched, the pair made their way across the room and through the kitchen door. After a few minutes of bangs and crashes, Blade and Temple returned, arms full of beer cans and liquor bottles. Pausing at the door to the hall, Temple looked back at Chance. "You," she stopped, blinked a few times and then seemed to remember what she was going to say, "you never saw us, 'kay?"

Blade giggled again and waved at him as they went out again.

Trying to hide the grin that was trying to creep onto his face, Chance shook his head and looked back down at the vid pad he was scanning. "Saw who?"

The door to Temple's rooms opened slowly. Temple looked inside and gave everything a careful once over before stepping aside to allow Blade to enter. Dropping her armload of bottles into a nearby chair, she picked one up, removed the cap and held it out in Blade's general direction. "'ere ya go Blade, one fer you an' one fer me."

The bottle floated over to Blade's hand. "Thanx."

Stopping at the door that lead to her bedroom, Temple looked down at Blade, staring at her with alcohol induced intensity. "Ya gotta promise not to tell no one 'bout this. 'kay?"

"I c'n keep a secret."

"'kay." With myopic care, Temple tapped a code into the keypad beside the door. Pushing the door open, Temple stepped to one side and indicated the interior with a flourish.

In startling contrast to the the dull gray walls and plain carpet of the outer rooms, Temple's bedroom was painted a deep black, with plush white carpeting. Computer generated images of the Matrix and Net icons adorned the ceiling and walls, while a low futon was tucked in one corner, and an immense, sprawling computer system dominated the other.

Temple waved at the gleaming mass of system components that sat astride a heavy steel and glass desk. "'s all mine... Waddya think?"

Blade blinked uncomprehendingly at the Matrix and Net icons "'s pretty cool," she said.

"Heh." Temple hiccupped, "Tanks." Struggling for a moment with her jacket fastener, she finally managed to undo her overtunic, tossing it in the general direction of the closet door. Unzipping her bodysuit a healthy distance, Temple took a deep hit from her bottle before sitting down in front of the system. "So," she breathed, "where do ya wanna go?"

"Hey, girl, you're drivin'"

"Well, we could go see wha' Kenji's doin'."

"OK. Less."

After fumbling for the power switch and making several tries to insert the interface cable into her datajack, Temple seemed ready to go. Indicating a monitor with a free hand, Temple turned to Blade, "Watch tha' one. It'll show ya wha' I see."

"Okayfine," Blade sat down heavily on the futon and took a heavy swig.

After all the preparations, Blade found her first introduction into netrunning to be rather anti-climatic. Temple tapped a couple of commands into the keyboard, leaned back and closed her eyes. A moment later she abruptly stood up, hands clenched tightly over her mouth and ran for the bedroom door, the data cable pulling free with a snap. As Blade sat and watched, Temple disappeared out into the living room. After the slamming of a door or two, the faint sounds of someone being violently sick were audible. Blade slowly turned back to her designated monitor, which showed only a vague spiraling mass of lines and colors.

Blade continued to draw on her drink as she collapsed. "I gotta hand it to you, Temple, you sure know how to throw a party."

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