by Nestor Rodriguez

Jagger leaned back from the window of the dark apartment he was sitting in, putting down the 'scope he'd been using and rubbing his eyes tiredly.

Surveillance is one of the most tedious, mind-numbingly boring tasks a cop can be assigned to, and definitely not one of the things Jagger (known by those who lived in and from the street as Enforcer) missed about his previous profession.

But sometimes the only way to catch one of the two-legged rats which made their nest in the urban devastation called The Zone was to lie in wait by one of his haunts in hopes he'll pop up.

Freddy the Fink was not among Jagger's usual sources of information, but a week of fruitless searching for a lead in his current case had him grasping at straws. In this case, a straw very good at playing the needle. Enforcer knew that Freddy's current squeeze worked the runway at the Dancing Eyeball and was prone to visit her on a somewhat regular basis.

Which was why Jagger had spent the night in an abandoned apartment across the street from the club, watching the flow of clientele and hoping to catch a glimpse of his target.

Jagger raised his arms to stretch then stopped with a rueful smile. The cybernetic limbs and spine which were a souvenir of his sudden and explosive retirement from police work did not need stretching, but old habits were hard to break.

As he leaned forward to pick the 'scope back up, he noticed movement from further down the street. Making sure the rays of the dawning sun did not reveal him, he craned his neck to see in that direction.

It was just an elderly, frail-looking woman dressed in the standard tattered clothing of a Zoner, pulling a battered shopping cart filled with assorted items; another denizen of the Zone. Heading to the Bazaar, thought Jagger, with scavenged odds and ends to trade for food and such. He marveled how, even in the lawless jungle of the Zone, the everyday aspects of life still continued.

A shadow detached from an alley and intercepted the crone. Jagger narrowed his eyes and brought the 'scope to bear, focusing on the scene. A young ganger and, from the looks of him, a wannabe street sam, was accosting the early-bird shopper, obviously with the intent of relieving her of any worthwhile goods. By a trick of the building walls, their voices carried clearly to Jagger.

"Awright grandma, hand over your stash."

"Leave me alone, guttertrash. I ain't got nothin' for the likes of ya."

Jagger cursed. Going down to deal with the mugger would take him away from his lookout spot, with the risk of losing sight of his quarry. The choice of ignoring the confrontation did not enter his mind. His employer had laid down the rules very clearly on this matter, and Jagger was the least likely to disregard them.

But even as he spent a second deciding whether to take the stairs or just leap out the window, the decision was taken out of his hands.

The young punk grabbed the oldster's carryall bag and proceeded to dig through it, ignoring her squawks of protest. Without hesitation, the beldam turned and reached into her cart, bringing out what looked like a used but serviceable slivergun.

The mugger had just enough time to look up in surprise before the three bursts pulverized his chest into a fine red mist, sending him stumbling to the sidewalk with a wet smack.

Enforcer stood halfway out of the window, struck motionless in his surprise. He heard the old lady mutter in disgust, "Dam' punks. 'S gettin' so an old defenseless woman can't walk on the streets safely."

Jagger returned slowly to his seat, watching in amused wonder as the grandam calmly restored the weapon to its hiding place, picked up her fallen bag, rearranged the contents within, and continued on her way, skirting almost daintily the red stain spreading from the fallen body.

Enforcer silently saluted the woman as she moved down the street, stolidly pulling her cart and looking no different than when he first caught sight of her, except maybe for the set expression on her face.

The Zone don't take no shit.

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