Tetsutenshi felt a little strange in the early light that poured over the streets of the Zone. She'd spotted her current target just before dawn, but had already managed to lose sight of him - not once, but twice. Finding him again had been simple enough, since he seemed to be making a beeline directly for Zone City. However, even given his unerring path, somehow he'd managed to slip away twice already.
To tell the truth,, she'd been sure of his identity the moment she saw him. There simply wasn't anyone else out and about the Zone this morning who fit. Not that old one-armed men were all that rare, but any that lived in the Zone had an unmistakable look about them. A look her target certainly didn't have.
Her target was from an an old wanted list, and had apparently evaded capture for several years. *That* was about to change. The R. Scott Foundation was willing to pay quite a sum for his skin, and they considered him armed and dangerous. Tetsutenshi paused in reflection and then grimaced at the pun.
She pulled her composure together and decided that the wait was over. He wasn't really hard to track, and she really should have caught him by now. There is something more to it, though, she thought. Doctor Richard Floyd had had a price on his head for some time, and not only evaded capture over the years, but he'd dropped to be fairly low priority on the list. Most bounties were listed by price or priority by the servers that most hunters used. Either lessening of the priority, or just inflation of later bounties often pushed aged bounties to the bottom over time.
She'd found this guy on the list purely by accident. R. Scott had done an update of their wanted list, and it had reached the servers with all the other updates as part of an extended overwrite and thus was "new" for all of five seconds. She'd been looking for something quick and easy in the files at the time and seen it. By sheer coincidence, a tip had been posted to the list about a suspicious old man coming off the Williamsburg Bridge.
Fortunately for her, and all the other bounty hunters that worked the Zone, the cops that watched the Williamsburg Bridge felt they were underpaid. They often posted info on the folks they let in to the local forum in hopes of getting a few bucks back. Needless to say, she knew within twenty minutes of his arrival that her target was in the Zone. She had fresh cash on the hoof and odds were it was all hers.
It was definitely her lucky day.
Doc was a bit tired now. Walking most of the morning across the Neo York Zero Zone was the sort of exercise he'd recommend to no one. He was just a few blocks short of his goal, but he just didn't care. Looking around for a few seconds, he soon found a large crate to sit on. After using his boot to scrape the majority of the dirt off the top, he sat. He grunted and sighed as he took off his pack and set his bag down.
"What I really need now is a bed," he sighed and then chuckled to himself. "A nice looking woman wouldn't be too bad, while I'm wishing."
Doc glanced around, wondering who on the mostly empty street had called his name. Eventually, he looked up.
Crouched on the edge of a nearby rowhouse was a short, dark-haired woman dressed in a black bodysuit and a long brown duster. Resting on one shoulder was the *biggest* knife Doc had ever seen. She exuded a calm confidence along with a small amount of anticipation. "You are coming with me." She managed to make it a simple statement, not a demand or threat.
"Fuck... got what I wished for," Doc muttered under his breath as he stood up. "Shoulda been more specific." She was a nice looking girl, but he doubted she wanted his company for the fun of it.
"Yeah, that's me!" He raised his voice so it would carry to the rooftop where she was now standing. "If you're after my head or something, just say so." He knew damn well she was, but anything to give him a bit more time to assess the situation would be nice. The main thing that bothered him was that she didn't had a gun out, and didn't seem to be wearing one anywhere. That, combined with the industrial-sized sword-staff-whatever it was, marked her as some one who didn't need firearms.
"You called it right Mr. Floyd, I want your head. Alive is a must, so make it easy on both of us and give up now." Tetsutenshi dropped to the street with a relaxed air, she really doubted he'd resist.
"Well," Doc looked around for a second. There *had* been a few locals coming out for their morning tasks. Now however, the survival instinct was making most of them take cover back inside. He had to admire their good sense, no telling what two strangers would do if a fight broke out.
Of course that was his worry too, since there was no telling what she could or would do either. He gestured to the street around him. "Look, this isn't a good place to dance little lady." He looked at her and adjusted his sunglasses, "What say we take this party a few streets back?"
Tetsutenshi was taken a bit by surprise. Not only was he willing to fight, he seemed to be concerned about collateral damage. That seemed more than a bit odd, and made her a touchy wary. On the other hand, she didn't want to hurt any bystanders either. "Fine, you lead the way." Maybe she could pick up a few clues on the walk over.
Doc said nothing as he picked his gear up and started walking at a hurried pace. He drug his feet a bit, kicking up dirt. Tetsutenshi considered taking him out while he was looking away. Part of her wanted to see what he was up to though, so she refrained. She noticed his shuffling steps and wondered what he was up to. He hadn't done that while previously. Perhaps he was tired or angry. Either way he had serious swirls of dust all over his feet as he walked.
Her thoughts were interrupted when he suddenly stopped, dropped his gear, and turned his head towards her. She had the sense that somehow he had been watching her all along. The turn of the head was just for show.
"There." He pointed toward a blasted ruin that had once been a large store of some kind. He started walking again, still in that shuffling gait. She once again considered cold cocking him right then and there as he turned away. Instead she thrust her nagimaki into the crumbled asphalt and hung her duster on the handle. The old man was worth nothing to her dead, which meant her blade wouldn't be anything more than a financial risk in this fight.
Tetsutenshi wasn't too sure how this was going to go now. At first she wasn't expecting a real fight of any kind, and thought Mr. Floyd would have been more likely to run. Now, it was starting to concern her. Not only didn't he run, he'd been more than willing to fight, and had even gone so far as to ask for some privacy for it. She was mentally kicking herself for not ending this earlier.
The two of them stood about 30 feet apart in the shell of an old grocery store. Most of the interesting bits had been looted long ago. All that remained in the open area between the ruined walls were bits of rubble too small to be of use to anyone and trash. The walls themselves looked like a set of smashed teeth in a brawler's mouth, jagged in outline and marked by the occasional rusted support beam.
"One last chance, old man." She loosened up her joints and dropped into a ready stance, not really expecting a surrender.
"No, that's ok." He adjusted his clothes a bit and put his hand near his gun. "Listen little girl, you aren't going to let me go, and I do not want to go where you're going to take me." He wasn't really sure yet, but she must be really confident in her physical skills. The fact that she was a cyborg had been obvious since she'd ditched the duster. On one hand it made his pistol nearly useless, on the other hand she was sure to be clueless about his powers.
"Then I'll break you in half," she spat.
Doc only nodded and drew his pistol.
A tiny moment passed, and as Doc shuffled his feet quickly to one side, Tetsutenshi lept into the air. As she arced towards him, he raised his gun. Flechettes skimmed past the cyborg but never made contact, and she as dropped into a crouch in front of Doc, where a quick sweep of her leg brought him down hard to the ground.
Doc lost his pistol, and was just about to turn so he could get up, when he caught Tetsutenshi's next move out of the corner of his eye. Through the dust he saw her turn the legsweep into a full turn. Twisting around, she flipped over and brought the same leg down in a fast arc. Doc quickly went into a full roll and got out of the way. Her foot fell thunderously to the cement; so close that Doc could see the brand name on her boot.
Tetsutenshi was impressed, he might be old but he wasn't slow. There was definitely more here than met the eye. Deciding that caution was warranted, she gathered herself in a ready crouch and looked at him. He stood up and moved back a bit, no emotion getting past his mirrorshades.
Now Doc was cursing himself. He had known damn well he couldn't afford to screw around. He wanted to get this done without attracting attention, but now it was out of hand. On the other hand, there was now enough dust and dirt in the air to get the effect he wanted. Small swirls of air wafted about him as he brought his force to bear on the world around him.
Tetsutenshi wasn't sure, but there seemed to be something different about him now. In a flash it came to her. He was now without a gun, but he didn't look the least bit afraid. He actually seemed more resolute now. Either he was crazy or he had a trick up his sleeve. It was time to find out.
She ran forward and faked left, then swiftly delivered a punch with her right. Doc didn't even flinch as her fist came in shattering contact with an invisible barrier. He had been ready for it, but still, the sheer amount of force she had slammed against his sheilds was almost more than they could take. Despite his inward concern, he tried to look unfazed and thereby intimidate her.
Shocked, Tetsutenshi paused, and looked at her opponent with dismay. This wasn't waht she'd expected at all. His return gaze was calm and cold. But she noticed a a small bead of sweat on his brow, and realized that he wasn't all that sure of things - he might even be worried. And if he was worried, then that made her feel more confident, she might be able to clean up after all.
Doc knew he was in trouble now. The little metal girl might have been surprised, but she hadn't gotten scared like he'd hoped. She paused for a moment and he took advantage of it. He'd spotted a likely looking girder when he'd come in here. While it definitely wasn't good and loose - it would have been scavenged long ago if it had - it also wasn't stuck too tighly. Reaching out with his mind, he began to break it clear of its prison.
"So you're a PK are you?" She spoke with renewed confidence. Now she knew what she had on her hands, and was ready for him. "It won't help you any!" Better still, she might get a bonus for bringing in a rogue PK to a corp that wanted him, or maybe even to a higher-bidding competitor.
Doc could run now if he wanted to, but it wouldn't help if this girl lived here. He'd have to look over his shoulder everywhere. That would never do.
"Have it your way Miss." He no longer bothered holding in the side effects of his power field - in fact he let it get worse.
She didn't let him finish speaking before shifting her stance and spinning her foot around and letting Doc have the heel. There was an audible resonation as her foot hit his shield and nearly broke though. This time Doc moved as fast as he could, and let fly with some bolts that were far more flash than force.
Tetsutenshi plowed through his attacks without even breaking stride and rushed him. Doc tried to evade but was too slow. This time, his field was no match for the Iron Angel's strength. Shattering his defenses, she almost fell forward, hurling Doc back into a wall or rubble.
Doc's world swam and pitched. He regained concentration just in time to feel small metal arms slip tight around him.
"Now you're mine, old man!" She squeezed a bit to make sure he got the point. "Give it up!"
Now there were dust clouds everywhere, making Doc's breathing no easier. Despite all of this, he still had his focus on the now very loose steel support beam.
"Ok," Doc grunted. As she began to smile in victory he finished, "One last tango though." Before she fully changed expression he blinked out of existence and vanished into the dust.
"Damnit!!" She looked around franticly. The dust the two of them had kicked up wafted about in the enclosed area, with only a slight breeze threating to break it up. Several uneasy moments dragged into a full minute before she caught site of movement.
Doc stood there in a swirl of dust and waited for her. She was concerned about what he was up to, but devoid of other options she rushed at full speed towards him. This time she had no fist or foot for him. Her arm emitted a low whine as her fingers began to glow. He was shocked at the raw speed she possessed and was almost too late in acting. Just as she reached him with her outstretched fingers, she was buried under a twisted mass of metal.
Doc screamed as her taser arced across his chest, and his defenses were parted like the air around him under the assault. Tetsutenshi gasped and struggled to remain upright, but failed and fell over. Doc, in turn, struggled to remain awake and lost control of himself for a moment. He fell to the earth next to his opponent and gulped for air.
She fought with the twisted girder for a moment, before wrestling her way out of it, just as Doc was saying something to her.
"It's over now!" She spat at the prone man.
"Yes it is." He grinned as she looked puzzled. He looked up and she followed his gaze.
The next thing she knew she had a very close look at her blade and then the world went dark.
Doc pulled himself together as quickly as he could and reached the fallen cyborg, just as she woke. Stretching out with his power, he grabbed his gun and pointed it at her face.
"Hey," he said, pointing the gun at her eye. "Listen, I bet that head of yours is real isn't it?" He'd heard a distinct "thunk" instead of a ringing of metal.
She just nodded and thought better of making a sudden move. He'd probably just teleport.
"I tell you what," he paused and gulped for more air. "I'm tired. Let's call this a draw? If you don't want to, I'll just put as many of these flechettes in your eye as I can before you crush me." He was exhausted and it showed. Honestly he wouldn't really kill her, but she didn't need to know that. All it really would take was a mental assault, but the esper noise he'd made today was enough.
"Fine." Tetsutenshi was pissed as hell, but he was right. Her brain would be a pincushion before she could kill him.
"Good girl. Look, can we just call a truce?" He wasn't just tired, he wanted to be sure she wouldn't come after him later.
"What are you getting at?" Tetsutenshi hadn't thought of a good way out of this yet, and was willing to string him along till she did.
"Ok," he sighed. "I'm really not interested in doing this again. 'cause next time one of us is going to be dead. If I think I have to kill you to keep you off my back for the rest of my visit to New York, I will." He nodded over to the parking lot. "Let's you and me go over there and talk about it, ok?" Before he moved he added," Remember I'll disappear if I have to, and get you when you aren't looking if you try and screw me."
"Okay, fine." Now she was just exasperated and wanted to get out of this mess. She actually believed what he'd said, or at least that he'd try.
Doc got up, but kept a steady eye on her as she stood. Tetsutenshi promptly regretted her haste - the world swam for a moment. Suddenly, Doc had a grip on one of her arms and was leaning away from her trying to keep her upright.
Tetsutenshi straightened herself and looked at Doc's gun floating in the air before her and then at the old man. He slowly let go of her and grabbed the wobbly floating firearm.
"Couldn't have you falling on what's left of your pride, now can we?" he asked.
Something dripped into her left eye and she reached up to feel blood running down her face. She had been hit with the flat of the blade and still had been cut by the sheer force of impact.
"Come over here and I'll look at it." Doc motioned towards his bags. "Must have overestimated how hard your head was." The two of them staggered like a couple of drunks to the pair of satchels.
Tetsutenshi plopped onto the dirty ground and tried to wipe the blood off her face. Doc handed her a towel and looked at her wound.
"Look, I'll make you a deal." He spoke carefully, "Neither of us are in any condition to fight, right?" She nodded. "Good, now lets get this patched up and we can talk."
She wasn't too sure what to say. In the last few minutes, everything had gone downhill.
The old man had bandaged her head and given her a pill for the pain. She wasn't too sure if this was a good idea, trusting him like this, but she wasn't in the mood to think. Thinking hurt just now. He hadn't had much to say while patching her up, but he eventually spoke.
"You know my name, but it's best if you call me Doc Floyd, or just Doc." He sat next to her, propped up against the ruined wall. "What's your handle little lady?"
"Tetsutenshi." She took his extended hand lightly and shook it.
He looked at her for a moment, "Iron Angel?"
"Yeah, feeling a little less than iron though." She smiled. It was almost impossible not to. He was a rough kind of man but her had a odd politeness she was unused to.
"Its been a while since I was wasting time in Japan, but my Nihon is still working." He took his gun out of his lap and put it away. He felt her eyes on him the whole time but ignored it.
"If you want to make a deal that's fine, but what's in it for me?" She said it in an even tone, but there was no mistaking the smolder of anger beneath the surface. "I assume by a truce, you mean we aren't going to reenact this thing again later." Her head still hurt.
"Exactly, and no hard feelings either." He kept talking in spite of an incredulous look from the young woman. "I don't have time for it, and it would only be a pain in the ass for you. More than that, we can't have bad feeling over this or we can't deal."
"What is that supposed to mean? How am I not going to be upset after you tired to cut my head off?"
He smiled a bit, "Because I'm a doctor. If we can't get along at least a bit then your not going to be inclined to let me work on you, are ya?" She said nothing but took it in stride. "So, if we can have trust, then you can get something out of this."
"What makes you think I'll need it? I hardly ever need a doctor, unless you do cybernetic work too." She couldn't see a way to get money out of him, but doctors were expensive and rare in the Zone, so it might not be a total waste.
"Unfortunately, no. I am however a psychiatrist in addition to being an M.D."
"Why would I need a shrink?" She was getting better slowly.
"Hmmph. Believe me when I tell you I'm a specialist in abnormal stress." He saw her frown. "I take an interest in the mental states of people in unusual life circumstances. Normally I work with PKs and artificials, but you're not so different."
"Oh, yeah?" She was as curious as she was disbelieving. "What would those kind of people and I have in common?"
"Humans aren't really made to live with superhuman capabilites. You're in even worse shape I'll bet," he replied, pointing at her metal body. "There may come a day when you'll regret that iron hide."
She looked down and was quiet.
"Look let's go get a drink," he got up slowly and painfully.
"Is that a good idea?"
"Sure," he motioned her up and she followed. "Nothing more therapeutic than a drink in a seedy New York dive." She gathered up her blade and put on her duster. He gathered his bags and they set off.
She nodded. After a bit of walking she turned her head and spoke. "Why do you call it New York, its called Neo York?"
"Habit," he said. "It was once New Amsterdam, but I'm not old enough to call it that."
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