by Michael Surbrook

I'm a Nexus One, and I want more life, 'cause I ain't done!
More Human Than Human, White Zombie

Chiffon opened the door to the bath and glanced within. Marta was there, going over the details of their upcoming run for the nth time. Something was going to have to be done about this. Quietly, she stepped inside, sliding the door closed with a soft click. Pausing only to remove her short robe, she then stepped down into the hot tub and waded through the knee-deep water to where Marta sat, busily making notes on her data pad.

"Hmm, fuel... oh say, 500 nuyen; food, 100 each; assorted traveling expenses, 500; uhmm... what else... visas, 50 nuyen..."

Marta's musings were abruptly cut off as Chiffon quickly snatched the datapad out of her grasp and casually flipped it onto a pile of towels. She then dropped to her knees, straddling Marta's waist and thighs.

"Chiffon!?" Marta's exclamation of surprise was silenced by an extended kiss.

Breaking contact, Chiffon slid her hands up across Marta's stomach to lightly cup her breasts. "All work and no play makes Marta a dull girl," Chiffon whispered, with a delicate caress.

Marta gave a low moan of pleasure and slowly licked her lips. Reaching up, she gently removed Chiffon's glasses and set them on the deck behind her. "You've got a point," she breathed, pulling Chiffon down onto her and into a passionate embrace.

As with all other members of Force Five, Temple had been given a suite of rooms as her personal residence. Consisting of a living room, office, small kitchen, bath and bedroom, the suite formed a comfortable, if small, living space. Unlike just about everyone else, Temple had never bothered to decorate her quarters, leaving the walls their original flat gray color, while the furnishings could only be described as 'spartan'. Not that this bothered Temple any, for she never really expected that anyone would would ever see, or care to see, her rooms.

Temple opened the door to her quarters and quickly entered the living room, locking the door behind her. The team had been called away on a mission of some sort, this meant she had the rest of the evening to do as she pleased, and Temple was never one to miss such an opportunity. Passing through her outer rooms without so much as a sidewards glance, she approached the door to her bedroom. Here, she paused, glancing over her shoulder as if to assure herself that she was truly alone. Satisfied that this was so, she went in.

The state of Temple's bedroom would have come as a surprise to just about everyone. Gone was the drab gray walls and carpet that marked the rest of the apartment. Here, the walls were painted a deep, almost gloss, black, while the floor sported a thick, plush, white carpet. The ceiling was covered with a immense image of the Matrix, while similar, smaller pictures adorned the walls. A low sleeping futon sat in a far corner, the other corner being dominated by a large steel and glass desk upon which rested an extensive computer system.

Stripping of her usual uniform of boots, jumpsuit and jacket, Temple tossed the clothing into the closet and rapidly changed into a pair of white gi pants and a black tank top. Undoing her normal pony tail, she fluffed her hair out, arranging the waist length fall of electric blue until it suited her. She then turned to regard the computer in the corner.

The system was extensive to say the least, consisting of a main processor, optical drive, scanner, telecommunications link, stasis mesh vidscreen and an highly advanced cyberdeck. Even more amazing, was the fact that Temple had constructed most of the system herself.

Temple approached the system slowly, carefully, almost as if she expected the deck to leap at her. Unaware that she was doing so, Temple's breathing began to accelerate, followed by her heart rate. As she sat down in front of the desk, a faint sheen of sweat appeared on her brow. Picking up the datacable, she stared at the plug as if mesmerized. After what seemed like an eternity, she snapped the cable into the datajack set into the side of her skull. The gasp of pleasure that followed sounded almost orgasmic in nature. Within the SAN that connected the Force Five CPU to the rest of the Matrix, a towering Puma warrior strode forth. Dressed in heavy plate armor and bearing an imposing array of weapons, she presented a most fearsome icon. Stopping at the edge of the SAN, the Puma stopped and scanned the surrounding node. Confident that she was alone, the Puma began a rapid series of transformations; first a featureless chrome sphere, then a silver snake and finally, a gunmetal gray spider. Satisfied with her new icon, Temple moved out into the Neo York Matrix to hunt.

Leaning carefully against the edge of the building, Kitten raised the binoculars to her eyes and checked the rangefinder. Thirty-three meters. She lowered the binocs and looked down, the drop seemed more like three hundred and thirty. Oh well, it wasn't like she hadn't done this sort of thing before. At least it was asphalt she was dropping onto and not some rooftop. She'd misjudged her landing once and had crashed through the ceiling and two floors. Embarrassing to say the least.

Raising the binoculars again, Kitten switched on the UV filters and scanned the narrow alley. It seemed her informant had been right on target. There was a small truck down there, a truck that was loaded with a dozen state-of-the-art cyberdecks belonging to Fuchi Electronics. And Fuchi was more than willing to pay plenty for their return.

Kitten stood and returned the binoculars to their case. Drawing her Earthshaker, she secured her grip on the pistol, took a deep breath and stepped off the edge of the building.

Nagumo leaned against the wheel of the truck. "Man, this sucks." He looked over at his partner, "What time is it?"

Checking the implant readout on his iris, Takeaki responded, "10:48. Relax, we got 12 minutes."

Nagumo shook his head, "Relax? We got six million in hot 'decks in the back and a Mr. Mifune that hasn't showed! You want me to relax?"

Occupied with this minor discussion, neither noticed that blur that passed in front of the front windshield.


"Holy fraggin' drek!" Nagumo yelled, "What the hell was that!"

Takeaki ignored his partners outburst and instead reached for his pistol, frantically scanning the cloud of dust in front of him for any sign of movement, "Start the truck quick!"

There was an almost inaudible hiss as the hydraulic jacks in Kitten's legs reset, allowing her to stand erect. Her impact had stirred up a huge cloud of dust and debris, reducing visibility and her ability to breathe, forcing Kitten to kick in her internal air supply. Taking a step forward, she unloaded two rounds into the front grill of the truck.

Nagumo stared numbly at the now useless key held in his hand. He didn't now what sort of gun their attacker was carrying, but they'd just shattered the truck's engine with two shots. Takeaki had pulled his pistol and was gripping it with both hands, trying to draw a bead on the figure in front of them.

Continuing her forward motion, Kitten drew her assault pistol, pointed the Earthshaker at the empty space between the two shadowy shapes in the truck's cab and fired the pistol's final round. The entire windshield shattered as the slug blew through cab and into the back of the truck.

There was a thump as Takeaki's pistol dropped to the floor of the cab. His expression was one of wide eyed astonishment. He was fairly positive that that last shot had gone clean through the truck, some how he didn't think his 9mm auto was going to be of any use. Nagumo, meanwhile, had raised his hands over his head and was trying to look as non-threatening as possible. Without turning his head, he whispered to his partner, "Oh, I hope she's got orders to take us alive..."

To say that the room looked disused was a bit of an understatement. The walls were heavily patched and marked with numerous bullet holes. The floor was bare wood, dusty and worn, scarred with deep scratches. The ceiling was crisscrossed with open pipes, struts and cables. Cameras hung in several corners, slowly sweeping the room. Scattered about the room were several pieces of old, battered furniture; chairs, a table, something that may have once been a television. There were a number of mannequins within the room as well, most had blindfolds wrapped over their faces, but a few were 'armed' with a variety of weapons.

In a far corner, near one of the windows, Sudo Shihei sat calmly in a chair, reading a magazine. Turning the magazine on it's side, he opened the gatefold, giving the image a thorough examination. He found it rather amusing that the Barrett the woman was attempting to hold towered over her head by at least a foot.

Sudo's silent contemplation of the latest issue of Street Samurai Quarterly was interrupted by a slight creaking from the hallway beyond. Dropping the magazine, he turned to regard a nearby door. There was a second, deeper, creaking noise and the door was torn from it's hinges to land in the middle of the room. A moment later Doc entered, unloading a full burst into one of the armed figures, sending it the floor in a red spray. Chance followed, stitching a burst from his slivergun across two more targets. Finally, with a thunderous crash, Jagger came right through the wall, slamming the last target into a corner with a casual sweep of his arm. For a few moments, all was silent. Turning to Sudo, who still sat in his chair, Jagger raised an eyebrow, "Well?"

Sudo looked at his watch. "Too slow, you can easily shave two seconds off your time."

Chance looked surprised, "What? That was slow?"

Ignoring chance's outburst, Sudo rose from his chair and walked over the Doc's victim. Tapping the paint marks splattered over the mannequin's chest, he turned to Doc. "Don't use such long bursts, set your weapon to fire three rounds. Conserves ammo and reduces the your chances of of hitting a friendly target."

Doc's answer was a noncommittal grunt.

Rising, Sudo walked over to the second set of targets. Turning to Chance, he pointed at one of the hostages, "If you're going to use that slivergun, fire at only one person at a time. Sure, you hit both of the terrorists, but you also put a round into a captive."

Chance opened his mouth to respond, thought better of it and fell silent.

Jagger smiled, "And what did I do wrong?" Sudo gave a slight shrug, "Almost nothing. Next time though, strike downwards instead of across. Once again, you run the risk of injuring a non-combatant by sending someone flying across the room."

Jagger's smile vanished.

Finally, Sudo turned to where Blade stood in the open doorway. "If you're going to force a door, try and slam it open, rather then throwing it. Allows for faster access to the room."

Blade waited for Sudo to turn away before flashing an obscene gesture at his back.

Flipping open his vidphone, Sudo dialed up Ops, "Scorp? Add three more targets and bar two of the doors. Give 'em twenty minutes and run it again."

Putting the phone away, Sudo regarded the team, "Alright! Again! From the top."

As he left the room, Sudo had to smile as he heard Blade pitch her voice deep and repeat, "Again! From the taaahp!"

Loosening his jacket, Billy Leo stepped over the still form that lay sprawled across the alley mouth and moved out into the street. It was still early, but it was already beginning to get crowded. Walking quickly, Billy passed the usual assortment of street trash and gutterpunks. There were junkvendors in their small electric carts, noodle stands offering barely edible nutrisoy and undrinkable sake, gangers in synthleather jackets and bad attitudes, holy men praying in front of a mound tri-vid sets, everyone but cops. No cops, that was the part Billy liked best. Here in Mega-Tokyo 's District 24, a.k.a. Shinjuku, the cops were afraid to appear. It wasn't quite like Neo York's infamous Zero Zone, but it was close enough for Billy's tastes.

Reaching his destination, Billy turned into Club 666. It may not have been 93 Underground, but it had good beer and half-way decent food, and if the music wasn't always that great, at least it was loud. Taking a seat, Billy placed his order and sat back, glancing about at the bar's other patrons.

There was Etsuko, whose genetic upgrade hadn't taken. Although she was at least thirty, her body was that of a girl barely into puberty. Yoshikawa was here as well, useless left leg propped up on a chair, head resting on his arms, passed out as usual. Sitting in a far booth, her expression blank and slack-jawed, was Dayna the Puma. A BTL addict, Dayna spent most of her time lost in some far-off fantasy world. Billy found it rather funny that one of Mitsumi's much vaunted Pumas was slowly wasting away from something as stupid as chip addiction.

Leaning back in his chair, Billy decided that coming to Mega-Tokyo was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Here in District 24, he was beyond the reach of Neo York police, bounty hunters and hopefully, Avatar.

Nude, Jeena Masters sat on the edge of the bed and watched the sun slowly rising over the Bronx rooftops. Finishing her cigarette in one long drag, she ground the stub out on the palm of her cyberhand.


"Yeah," came the groggy answer.

"Why'd you join Nypdink?"

Blinking away sleep and surprise, Leon McNichol sat up an regarded his partner. There was a long moment of silence before he answered.

"I think it was the advertising."

Jeena gave Leon a surprised look, "You have got to be kidding."

"Honest! I really got into that stuff in high school. You know, 'Join the Elite, Join the Adventure, Join the AT Police', all that drek." Leon gave Jeena a weak smile and a shrug. "How about you?" he asked, "Why'd you join?"

Now it was Jeena's turn to look surprised, "Uhmm..., err..., so I could kick ass?"

"Really." Leon said in a deadpan voice.

"Yeah, well I _ ran with a rough crowd back then. Joining Nypdink was like joining the world's biggest street gang. The 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em' bit."

Leon snickered, "Spoken like one of Neo York's finest."

Jeena laughed and then quickly sobered. "Yeah, well look where it got me," she said, waving her cyberarm in front of her face.

Leon quieted as well, as he reflected on the cyberdroid incident that had cost Jeena her arm. It hadn't been the sight of Jeena's arm laying on the ground a few feet away that had gotten to him, it was the fact that she had remained conscious after being hit. People shouldn't be able to scream like that without damaging their vocal cords.

"Oops, look at the time," Jeena got up and made for the bathroom, "we've got to get ready for work."

Rising quickly, Leon followed Jeena into the bath, "A shower sounds like a great idea, I'll join you."

"Great, that'll really make us late."

"Hey, I can think of worse reasons."

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