written by Michael Surbrook
Shion lay awake, staring at the ceiling of her room. She imagined that she could almost feel the gentle rocking motion of Poseidon Station as it rode the central Pacific swell. A sensation that, to be honest, was quite imaginary. Poseidon was over a mile and a half long, it would take a typhoon, at least, to generate enough wave action to affect the station.
Shion sighed and turned to look at the form lying beside her. Robert deVille slept quietly, a state that seemed to be avoiding her tonight. Slowly, so as not to disturb his rest, she got out of the waterbed and made her way to the window. The view looked out onto the Pacific, at the moment gray in the dimness of pre-morning. Shion pulled up a chair and decided to await the sunrise.
Shion was glad that she had decided to visit Robert here at the station. It made a nice break form the corporate intrigue and infighting of Neo York. Here, she could spend her days relaxing by the pool, visiting the spa or finding some new way to spend her money. In the evenings, there was dinner, movies, dancing and ... Robert. She wondered if he realized, or even cared, about how shallow their relationship really was. Shion really couldn't say if she loved him all that deeply, instead finding him to be an enjoyable companion as well as a highly pleasurable and skilled bedmate. Sometimes, she wondered if Robert's attitude among his fellow pilots and drinking buddies was one of 'Hi, I'm Robert deVille and I bed Shion Nys on a regular basis, top that'.
Staring out at the water, Shion turned her mind to more serious matters, considering the implications of what Doctor Muldowney had said, or, more accurately, hadn't said. Takahasi Shima, a.k.a. Takeda Johnson was most likely a clone of Ran. To make matters worse, Genom still had at least two more of these 'clones' on hand, a third having been 'dealt with'. Finally, Doctor Muldowney reportedly had seen a young girl, about 14 years of age with long, white hair, in the Genom Tower. A girl who went by the name of Kiyoko. She'd contracted with Genom of Mega-Tokyo back in '26. Said contract had gone very bad, leaving her in the hospital for an extended period. She supposed that if Genom had wanted to get a cell sample, that would have been a perfect time. Shion sighed again and shivered slightly in the early morning chill, she really should be wearing something other that her hair. Perhaps, she would try and visit the Genom Tower and see if Muldowney spoke the truth, although that was a task easier said than done. And if he had, then what? Should she kill this Kiyoko, or those responsible? And if she didn't act now, then what? Wait until Kiyoko reached her full potential and was her equal in power?
It was no wonder she couldn't sleep.
Neil Stern popped open another Coke and impatiently waited for the commercials to end. The first half of Lace & Steel had contained one of the best hand-to-hand fights he'd seen in ages, and now the Silver Fox was going to seriously whip up on some poor slitch. The last time he saw her fight, she'd just about gutted her opponent. Neil hoped she'd do as well tonight.
His dreamy contemplation of the Silver Fox's martial prowess was interrupted by a sudden tapping on the armorglass of his sentry booth.
"Hey ... hey, Neil, can you open ... open the door."
Neil turned the television down and took a look though his window. Well, what do you know, it was Marta, that truly gorgeous babe from the top floor and boy, did she look drunk. Maybe he could help her to her room ... wait a minute, who's that with her?
"Good evening Marta. You know the rules, proper ID first."
Marta blinked slowly and then nodded, "S'kay, got it right ... here."
"Thank you, Marta. Who's your friend?"
The woman standing (sort of) next to Marta matched her height and build, and had thick golden hair that fell to her waist. Her skin was that Malibu Beach bronze color and she was wearing a black outfit that was cut enticingly high along the sides. Marta turned to regard her companion as if only now remembering her existence, "Oh yeah... Neil this is... is... is" she paused for a moment, "Chiffon!"
"Hello." Chiffon responded in an unsteady singsong.
"Unhunh," Neil made a note in his logbook, "Need to see her ID as well."
"Oh, err wait, s'right here ... somewhere."
Eventually, Neil was handed a pair of Sincards and ran them though the reader. A moment later the doors slid open and Marta and Chiffon sort of staggered their way to the elevators.
Neil watched them leave with a look of extreme disappointment on his face. Fraggin' hell, two serious babes like that, together? What a waste.
"Hunh?" Kitten awoke with a start, "You say something, Katsumi?"
Katsumi Liqueur sighed and took a sip of her wine, "I said, it's your move."
"Oh." Kitten turned her attention from staring out the window to the shogi board on the table.
"Thinking about Jagger again?"
"Err... Yeah." Kitten looked more than a little embarrassed, "Is it that obvious?"
Katsumi smiled, "Well, frankly, yes. You're mooning over him like some lovesick schoolgirl."
"I'm not mooning over anyone," replied Kitten hastily, "It's just... well... he's the first man I've met that I'm not afraid of, you know, breaking."
"Sure Kitten, sure. Here have some more wine." Katsumi held out a glass.
"Thanks," Kitten took a drink and then asked, "Katsumi, what is this stuff? It's really good."
"My father's family label. They produce it in the south of France, and every year I get sent a case."
"Really? Have you got a bottle to spare? I'd like to give one to Nabiki-san."
"Of course, I've got plenty."
"Thanks, Katsumi," Kitten looked up from the shogi board, "and by the way, checkmate."
Nabiki Tendo leaned back in her chair and adjusted the telephone receiver on her shoulder. She hated it when some new, hotshot dealer tried to tell *her* how to run *her* business.
"Look, maybe I haven't made myself clear. I have a client that has requested delivery of 10 cases by tonight and is willing to pay 75% of market value immediately. Do you understand?"
"I see. " Nabiki sighed silently, "Listen, consider what you are saying. 90% is too high, no one is going to pay that and you're going to have those cases sitting in your warehouse gathering dust for who knows how long. I'm offering to take the whole lot off of your hands now."
"Unhunh, I see, I understand." Nabiki shifted in her chair and called up a new screen on her datapad, "Alright, I won't bother you any more, besides I understand that AVcom is willing to accept my offer."
"What? How's that again?" Nabiki sat up, a smile playing across her face, "You will? Tonight? Good, I'll arrange to have someone there to pick everything up by 6:00 pm."
Nabiki hung up the phone and sat back in her chair. Picking up a glass of wine from her desk, she drank a toast, marking a job well done. Lacing her hands behind her head, she then turned to regard the view of Tokyo harbor from her window.
Ahh... another satisfied client, I do love it when a plan comes together.
Matthew Shirow awoke with a groan, one was supposed to feel refreshed after a good night's sleep, not wrung out like an old dishrag. Slowly he sat up and attempted to get out of bed.
"Shirow-sama, it's almost eight o'clock, you should be getting dressed."
"Hunh," answered Shirow, looking bleary eyed about the room to see who had spoken. His eyes widened considerably when his gaze finally settled on Mei buttoning up her jacket in a far corner of the room.
Wha... what was I drinking last night? Sleeping with a Puma? I must be outta my mind!
"Mei, I ..." started Shirow as he struggled to get out of bed, pain lanced through his side and collapsed rather than sat back down.
"Oh, Shirow-sama, are you all right?" asked a concerned Mei as she hurried over to him.
"Yes, yes, I'll be alright," Shirow hastily responded, "Uh... go tell the rest of the team that briefing is going to be delayed, uhm... have them assemble at eight-thirty, ok?"
"Hai, " nodded Mei as she left the room.
Shirow sat on the edge of his bed and took a few deep breaths, wincing at the pain. His whole body ached, especially his ribs. A Puma could press a ton, what had he been thinking of?
As he got dressed, he remembered an article he had once read, where orgasm had been described as a 'pleasurable epileptic attack' where 'one lost control over one's muscles'. That being the case, he figured he was lucky to still be in one piece. After the briefing, he'd better head over to the infirmary and make sure Mei hadn't broken anything.
Brian J. Mason sat in his office, located at the very top of the Genom Tower, and stared down at the landscape below. From this this height, Neo York looked like a some sort of child's playset.
Mason smiled at the thought and tilted his chair back, things were looking up for Genom Neo York. Ares had lost their contract with Shion, Azumi had that embarrassing little incident with one of their cyberdroids, Renraku was trying to deal with the news that a junior exec had been involved with a slavery ring, Fuchi was still cleaning up after Shion's datasteal and Aztechnology was trying to cover up the loss of something or other. So far, Genom had been able to rise above it all and emerge unscathed. So far, so good.
This pleasant reverie was interrupted by the sound of the intercom.
"Mr. Mason, the Chairman on line one."
Mason sat up and quickly pressed the flashing answer button next to his vidphone. "Mason here," he said.
The stern and forbidding visage of Chairman Quincy filled the screen, "Mason, I _ understand that Ares has down scaled their operations to recover Takahasi Shima."
"That is correct Chairman," Mason replied quickly, "in fact, Shion Nys has canceled her contract. She apparently proved unable to defeat Takahasi in single combat."
"Good, good," Quincy seemed to actually smile at the news, "then the way should be open for us to increase or own efforts in this matter."
"Of course Chairman."
"Then get on it, Mason!" Quincy growled.
Mason killed the pickup and sat back in his chair. One of these days, Quincy, he thought, you can't last forever.
Lector snapped a set of leads in to the back of Beiko's armor and consulted a readout. "Ok, Beiko, give me a strength test."
The readout flashed green then yellow and finally turned red. "Hmm, you're only pressing about 1.2 tons, should be hitting 1.6."
Beiko looked back over her shoulder, "I told you it had been acting funny since that fight with Iris. "
"Alright, alright, I'll look into it." Lector handed Beiko a datapad, "Here, read this while I check your blaster."
"What's this?" Beiko asked.
"Data on your next opponent, some new fighter known as Eaiko."
"No, not echo, Eaiko, 'Aye-ko'." He picked up another meter, "and hold your arm out."
"Lector! What is this drek?" Beiko shook the datapad angrily, "This Eaiko looks like a cross between me and Mian Toris!"
Lector sighed, "Look, Beiko dear..."
"Don't start with that 'dear' drek."
"Look Beiko, DF Productions has been hyping her as the biggest thing since sliced bread, okay? She's absolutely annihilated her first three opponents and the higher-ups are gettin' a little antsy. So they set up this fight between you and her."
"Set up? Lector, she's not any where near my ranking."
"I know that, Beiko," Lector flashed an evil grin, "It's really very simple, you're supposed to teach this Eaiko a lesson in manners."
"You mean kill her?"
"No... just hurt her a bit."
Annapuma and Unipuma were winding down after putting on a most rousing performance that evening at 93 Underground. Anna, cigarette holder in hand, relaxed in a chair, wearing only a thong and a very short, open jacket. Uni was dressed in a loosely belted robe and busily picking her way though a sushi platter.
The door to their dressing room opened and a expensively dressed man entered, pushing a large packing case on a cart. The Cat Sisters lowered their Colt Manhunters and cried "Fixer!" in unison.
Fixer stood up and removed his overcoat. "Hi girls, I've brought your order."
"You mean you got us those amazing rotary machine guns like Blaine had in Predator?" Uni asked breathlessly.
"Uhmm, not quite," Fixer looked a little disconcerted by the request, "The street price of M-134 miniguns is a bit steep. But, I did bring you this."
He opened the packing case, Anna and Uni eagerly looking inside.
"Oohh!! 23 millimeter infantry assault cannons!" cried Anna.
"Grade-A, state-of-the-art, military bang-bangs!" said Uni, stroking the barrel in a disturbingly erotic manner.
"How much?" asked Anna.
Fixer looked at the ceiling thoughtfully, "Ohh, for you, 17,000."
"17,000?" said Uni petulantly, "But, we only have... " She looked over at Anna.
"I see" replied Fixer, "hmmm... well, since you're such good customers, I'll let it slide. You can make up the difference some other way."
Anna and Uni glanced at each other and smiled, turning to then look back at Fixer, "How?"
"Oh, I'm sure I'll think of something..." answered Fixer, slowly removing his jacket and tie and starting to undo his shirt.
"I'M NOT YOUR LOVER!"
"I'M NOT YOUR WHORE!"
"I'M YOUR ANGEL OF DEATH!"
"AND MY MISSION IN LIFE IS TO SEE YOU DIE !!! - - - - baby."
Priss slapped her hand against the strings of her guitar, bring the practice session to a crashing halt. Giving a deep sigh, she looked over at Roy, the Replicant's bassist.
"Well?" she asked.
"Dunno, Priss," Roy looked thoughtful, "I think it needs a deeper note there, a stronger driving backbeat."
"Yeah," added Bryant, the drummer, "A real strong rhythmic percussion stroke, like this." He illustrated his comments with a rapid drum beat.
"Ok," Priss looked from Roy to Bryant and over to Rick, the other guitarist, "we add a stronger percussion and give it a deeper base, agreed?" The three members of the Replicants nodded their assent.
"Sounds good to me," Priss turned back to the front of the stage, "What do you think, Doc?'
"Whazat? What?" Doc muttered incoherently.
"Skip it, Doc, go back to sleep." Priss turned back to her band. "Alright, we'll take 'I'm Not Your Lover' again from the top."
"A one, and a two, and a three..."
In cyberspace, data banks usually appear as immense structures composed of an almost infinite number of small blocks. In turn, each block represented a data file, and the structures themselves indicated the size and nature of the information. Sculpted systems used a number of images to represent files, packets and datalines. WinterRose has seen trees, with each leaf indicating a file; seascapes, where it was the fish; and her favorite, a crystalline cavern, where the data was indicated by rock formations along the walls. The data store she was currently in, though, used Matrix standard imagery, which, although it may not have been very interesting to look at, was much easier to work with.
WinterRose approached the data store slowly, alert for any system ICE that might be lurking in the area. She stepped forward, each movement accompanied by the crystalline tinkling of small bells. Dressed in a ice blue kimono, that was patterned with a never ending snowflake design and trimmed in silver, she presented an impressive Matrix icon. Her hair was snow white with skin a faint blue shade, the entire figure lightly frosted with a silver sheen.
Standing in front of the towering mass of blocks, WinterRose spread her hands, casting a cloud of small icy particles across the wall. Meanwhile, in a small room, a young and rather plan looking woman sat crosslegged on a bed, cradling a large and very expensive cyberdeck in her lap. She possessed neither blue skin or silvered hair and was dressed jeans and a t-shirt. Jacked into the Matrix, she was oblivious to the world around her, her hands racing over the board's keys the only sign of life.
Back in cyberspace, the ice cloud had settled along the wall. Most of the particles melted away immediately, but a small group had formed any icy shell over one of the data blocks.
Ahh, here it is, thought WinterRose, and right out in the open. That was rather foolish of them.
Reaching forward, she carefully removed the block. Passing her hands over it's surface, the block turned translucent, appearing now almost as a large ice cube. Inside, masses of text could be seen, scrolling forward as WinterRose scanned the block for the desired data. Moments later, she returned the block to it's proper place in the wall.
Turning from the databank, WinterRose readied herself to leave the system. She may have gotten in undetected, but now she had to get out.
Return to Kazei 5