by Michael Surbrook and Nestor Rodriguez

The infirmary room was silent and dark. Its three occupants were motionless, one by his own volition, one because of sleep, and one who hadn't moved for more than a week. The only signs of life were the winking lights of the monitors, the sighing of the respirator and the glowing dot of Jagger's cigarette.

Exhaling slowly, Jagger regarded the room with an imperceptible turning of his head. Katsumi, Kitten's friend from Mega-Tokyo, lay sprawled across a far cot, sound asleep. Kitten herself still hadn't moved since he'd first seen her a week ago. She lay there, silent, apparently lifeless, alive only because the machines made it so. Carefully, Jagger took a slow draw on his cigarette, breathing a cloud of smoke towards the exhaust fan set near his head.

His impassive face did not make any sign of the dull anger which smoldered inside. Before coming to the room, he'd had a shouting argument with Avatar (although he would admit he had been the only one doing the shouting).

The mysterious benefactor of the group had seen fit to assign Doc to some task which required the cyber surgeon to be away. This did not sit well with Jagger.

Considering Kitten would need the best care if she woke up (no, dammit, when!), having Doc disappear right now was, as Jagger had said in less delicate terms, a less than wise move. Avatar's calm demeanor through the whole outburst just made Jagger seethe even more.

Jagger's mental wanderings were abruptly interrupted by a faint groaning sound, followed by a rusty creak. He quickly sat up, glancing over at Kitten's still form. Had she moved, or was that only his imagination?

He moved closer to the bed, intently studying the still form for any sign.

There! Kitten's arm, what was left of it anyway, twitched and jumped. Jagger tried to restrain the flailing arm. He felt a cold hollow burn in his chest as he recognized her motions. She was trying to reach the pistol that she would have normally kept in a shoulder holster.

He glanced wildly around, looking for the call button which would alert Temple. Seeing it by the head of the bed, he reached for it, and, in his haste, crushed it while trying to press it.

With a rising shriek that startled Katsumi out of her deep sleep, Kitten surged up, panting heavily, eyes wide with fear. She glanced wildly about the room, not seeing her surroundings.

Jagger grabbed her shoulders to steady her, placing his face close to hers, and calling softly and soothingly, "It's all right, Kitten. It's me, Jagger. You're safe. Take it easy. Everything's all right." He gently tried to lie Kitten back down.

There was a brief struggle as Kitten tried to resist Jagger, but in a few short moments it was over. The respirator torn from her face, Kitten sat gasping, inhaling deep ragged breaths as she calmed herself and stopped shaking. Turning her head with almost painful slowness, she looked at Jagger. "Cowboy?" she rasped in a barely audible tone.

Jagger forced a smile as he looked at her ravaged face. "Hey there, Beautiful. How're you feeling?"

"Wha-water," Kitten voice was a hoarse croak.

"Here, Kitty-kun," Katsumi held a glass up to Kitten's lips, allowing a few short sips before pulling it away. "Not too much now, you might get sick."

"Domo." Kitten breathed, before again reaching for the glass. Her thirst temporarily abated, she turned back to Jagger. "Where am I?"

"You're at our base, in the infirmary." He looked straight into Kitten's eyes. "Do you remember what happened?"

Both Jagger and Katsumi held their breath as Kitten fell silent. When she finally spoke, her words came slowly and with great hesitation. "I... I remember leaving the Glass Onion... Taking a side street back to the hotel... There was two people... I... I..." Abruptly Kitten started to shake, her shuddering becoming even more pronounced as she looked down and discovered her missing hand and the naked surface of her cyberplating.

"J-Jagger? Katsumi? What happened to me?" Kitten leaned against Jagger's shoulder crying softly.

"Shhh. It's all right now. You're safe." Jagger spoke soothingly as he held her sobbing body, rocking and gently stroking her hair. Katsumi could not help but notice the fixed, expressionless look on his face, so inconsistent with this actions. There was no life in the eyes which stared over Kitten's head.

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