The Greyhound bus looked like it had seen better days... far better days. Of course, this bus was also sitting in the Neo York Zero Law Enforcement Zone, so looking like a battered wreck was par for the course. The sides were dented, rusty, and splattered with paint and primer. The tires were solid, but balding, while the windows were covered in wire mesh or sheets of plywood. The back end of the bus had been cut apart and reworked into a home of sorts. The walls were made of scrap wood and sheet metal, while the roof seemed to be mostly canvas. Tacked on to the highest part of the roof, looking almost like an afterthought, wavered a tall whip antenna.
The bus itself sat in a side street between two former office blocks. The side street itself was a sea of cracked asphalt, weeds, and the occasional tree. The offices to either side were gutted structures, home to rats, wild pigs, squirrels, birds, and the occasional vagrant (although how you determined who was a vagrant in the Zero Zone was debatable). The diesel engine rumbled faintly as it idled, and faint lights could be seen at the edges of the covered windows.
Inside, the bus had been stripped clean of all its original seats. The passenger area had been removed, and in place of rows of seats, there was now a kitchen, a set of bunk beds, a tiny dining room, and a radio broadcasting station.
Although it didn't look like it on the outside, the bus was home to Radio Free Zero Zone, a.k.a. WFZZ, a.k.a. "The Fizz." The Fizz wasn't much as pirate radio stations go, but what it lacked in passionate political diatribes, it more than made up for in a willingness to play just about anything musical. On any given broadcast day one could expect to hear the latest live recordings from 93 Underground, interspersed with turn-of-the-century boy band music, and scratchy old recordings of classic jazz and blues.
As the morning sun slowly made its way into the sky, the bus stirred to life. Inside people woke, stretched, and complained about the cold. A few moments later, a thin plume of smoke drifted from the make-shift chimney set into one side of the vehicle. Something resembling breakfast was prepared (probably hot coffee and eggs), and finally, a collapsable satellite dish extended and unfolded, looking like some sort of strange, high-tech flower greeting the first rays of dawn.
*fffzzzzzzzzzzz... sssssssssssss... crackle*
"Good morning Zone residents, this is WFZZ, Radio Free Zero Zone, coming to at 104.9 on the FM dial. You've been listening to a six-hour retrospective of J-pop's influence on Western music and media, entitled All Your Base Are Belong To Us. I'm sure you enjoyed it, I know I did. Now, let's see what we have for you today..."
"It is 5:17 AM, and 32 degrees outside, so bundle up. Weather reports call for brisk winds all day, with a chance of rain and snow showers. Corporate activity should be light, as there isn't much going on in the Zone right now, and besides, spring combat trials are still two months away."
"Giving the news a quick skim, I see that the hunt for the Zone Slayer continues. A body was found over the weekend, and evidence points to it being another victim of our mysterious serial killer. Remember folks, that makes 11 victims at least, so, let's be careful out there."
"On a lighter note, The Fizz is pleased to announce that we have the latest in live bootleg recordings from 93 Underground, so stay tuned later today for about four hours of noise, noise, more noise, and Dawn and the Razor's Edge."
"That said, let me cue up some new music... I think something classical would be nice, so let's start the day with Metallica's excellent power ballad, The Unforgiven."
Ken gave the truck a long look. "No can do," he finally replied.
"C'm'on, Ken!" André shouted, "Whaddya mean? You gotta jack at the garage, I've seen it!"
"Yeah," Ken said with a shrug, "but that one's not mobile."
"Oh..." André paused, "What about Gunner, does he have a jack?"
Sitting on 93 Underground's loading dock, Ayane sighed. Sometime between getting a load of home-brew up north aways, and getting it here, their truck had developed a leak in the front tire—which was now flat. So now they had to find a jack sturdy enough to hoist up the front and let them get the wheel off, no mean feat considering the truck weighted a good six tons or so. Unfortunately, André and Ken seemed to be fresh out of ideas. Which meant it was up to her.
Standing up, and brushing out the thick fountain of black fur that made up her nine fox-like tails, Ayane adjusted her long jacket, and tightened the straps on her boots. It was time for her to get things done.
Walking down a deserted street, Ayane reached for the comforting weight of her pistol. In the middle of the day, even the streets of Darkside were safe... mostly. Still, it didn't hurt to be careful. All was quiet as she reached her destination and hopped down the dozen steps to the battered unmarked iron door that was the public entrance to the Vat.
The Vat was a synthetic-only bar located on the northern fringe of Darkside. Ayane visited there from time to time, usually with André in tow. Nats weren't normally welcome in the Vat, but as Ayane's obviously devoted paramour, an exception was made for André. Her fellow synths may not have cared for him much, but even the most cynical had to admit that he waited on her virtually hand and foot.
Ayane knocked, then waited patiently, her tails flicking slowly back and forth. After a few moments a viewing slot opened high in the door, and soon thereafter Troll opened the heavy portal with a creak and waved her inside silently.
Ayane stepped into a dim room. It was lit by scavenged gas lamps and a scattering of electric lights probably powered by a series of roof-mounted solar panels. She paused on the landing for a moment, letting her eyes adjust, scanning the room until her gaze settled on her goal.
Crusher sat on a bar stool nursing a drink, staring into space. The bar wasn't crowded this time of afternoon, but there was still a noticeable band of empty space around the huge combat replicant. Ayane paused for a moment. She didn't know Crusher very well, but she could tell he looked different somehow. He had always looked brutish and ugly, like a battle-scarred bull elephant in vaguely human shape. But now it looked like he had lost a lot of weight. It gave him a sinister, vicious visage.
Picking her way around the mis-matched furniture, Ayane stopped a few feet from Crusher's stool. She shifted her weight uncomfortably, and finally settled for cleraing her throat.
Crusher lifted his left hand from the bar and finished his drink, setting the drink down carefully. Ayane could see that his hand was shaking slightly. Looking beyond the hand, she realized that he was watching her reflection in the dirty mirror that backed the bar. As her eyes met his he twitched his eyebrows in response to the eye contact.
"Ya." His face showed no expression.
Realizing that she'd come to far to back out now, Ayane took a step forward, and seated herself on a nearby stool. "Mr. Crusher, how'd you like to make a little spare cash?"
Crusher's eyes narrowed. "Who do you need broken?"
"Uhm..." Ayane was positive she'd made a mistake, but couldn't back out now. "No, no, nothing like that. A simple lifting job, Mr. Crusher, nothing more." She tried to still the nervous twitching of her tails.
"Lifting? Lifting what? What security? How much?"
"The front of our truck." Ayane sat up straight and tapped herself on the chest. "My name is Ayane, I'm with Nine-Tails Towing. Our truck has a flat, and... uhm... we don't have a jack. And... we need to change the tire." Her confidence was fleeing quickly, "You think you can help us lever up the front?"
Crusher blinked. Then he blinked again. The pause stretched out until Ayane was almost ready to run, then Crusher's lips started to curve up. He bellowed with laughter, echoing in the bar. Ayane smiled nervously, certain everyone in the bar was looking at them.
Crusher's guffaws dwindled, although a smile lurked in his eyes as he looked directly at Ayane for the first time.
"Sure, Ayane of Nine-Tails Towing. Pay my bar tab and I'll be your jack."
Crusher had never heard of Nine-Tails Towing, but he certainly had heard their truck. A steam-powered flatbed, the truck hissed and crashed loud enough to wake the dead. He'd sometimes seen it going through Bartertown like a rubber-wheeled locomotive, but mostly sitting at the loading dock when Crusher had been working at 93 Underground,
It was at the loading dock now. But this time the engine was quiet, although the thin plume of smoke gave mute evidence to the boiler still running. The truck was a cab-over design, although the original diesel engine had been yanked out and replaced with a boiler, firebox, and crankshaft mounted behind the cab. Currently, two men were lounging on the roof of the cab, sharing what looked and smelled like a bowl of noodles from a street vendor.
The left front tire was obviously flat. The spare was leaning next to the cab amid a pile of tools, but without a jack of some sort, it was useless. And a car jack wasn't going to cut this job. The truck would have been heavy enough even with the diesel engine, and the water, fuel, boiler and firebox of a steam engine must weigh five times what a comparable diesel would have.
Crusher crouched to look under the truck, then looked at Ayane. "Ya, I can do it. What's it worth to ya?"
"Uhh..." Ayane looked puzzled. "I thought you said you'd do it if I paid your bar tab?"
Crusher nodded. "You ain't paid the tab yet, or even ask how much it was. If you can't afford a jack, maybe you can't afford my bar tab."
"Hey!" André's head popped over the top of the cab. "Affording the jack isn't the problem, its getting one here. Anyway whaddya want for the job? I can get you a week's worth of meals at Ken and Bell's place."
"Hey! Leave my wife out of this!" That, apparently would be Ken, since Crusher really doubted his name was "Bell."
Crusher gave a half-grimace. "Dunno if you guys understand how much I eat." He looked around. "I'll need a stack of lumber or something, about three feet high, to stick under the front axle and hold it up while you work. Ya got something that will do? It'll need to take the full weight of the truck."
Ken and André exchanged glances. "I've got some braces back at the garage that'll work," Ken answered. "You wanna wait while we go get them, or come with us?"
Crusher sat in the sun as the three left. The back alley behind 93 Underground was quiet this time of morning; deliveries were usually in the afternoons, prepping for major activity at night.
Sitting quietly in the sunlight wasn't something Crusher had ever done much. It was rather odd, but after a while he decided it wasn't bad. Not bad at all. Although he found it difficult to stop scanning the skyline for possible ambushes.
It was some time later that the trio finally re-appeared, lugging the heavy supports nomally used to support a car while wok was done under it. Crusher noted that Ken and André seemed to be struggling to carry just one of the braces, while Ayane calmly walked along with the other.
With a grunt and a crash, Ken and André dropped their burden, while Ayane set hers down effortlessly. After a few moments of gasping for air, the two men looked up. "Okay, You ready?"
Crusher shrugged. He stood up and took off his beat-up duster, working his enormous shoulders. Then he took off his shirt. His chest was a mass of scar tissue from dozens of wounds, from bullets and shotgun shells and the parallel slashes of cyberspurs to huge gashes that nearly crossed his whole torso.
As one, Ayane, André, and Ken took a step back, their eyes wide.
Crusher looked at Ayane. "Here's how it's gonna work. I'm gonna get under the truck axle at the center, on my knees, and lift it up. Then you slide the braces under the front axle, right beside each front tire. Then I let it down, and you guys can fix the tire. Same thing in reverse to get it down when you're done."
"Okay..." Ayane said, sounding a touch shaken. A moment later she stood by one tire, while André and Ken man-handled their brace into position. "Ready!" they called.
Crusher crawled under the truck and rolled over onto his back under the front axle. The truck's high wheelbase would have provided lots of room for someone smaller; for him it was cramped but manageable. He slapped his hands together once and gripped the front axle with them, shoulder width apart.
"When this goes up, don't get any body parts you want to keep between the blocks and the axle, and don't be slow puttin' those blocks into position." He glanced to each side, where the three of them were crouched looking at him. "One more thing. If I yell, get out from under fast."
"Oh no problem with that," Ken answered, "I've worked on this truck before."
Crusher nodded. "OK, here we go." He glared up at the transaxle above his head, then took a deep breath. With one smooth heave he extended his arms and lifted the whole front of the truck off the ground.
As the truck raised up, Ayane, André, and Ken rolled their respective braces under the axle. "Let 'er down," André called.
With a grunt Crusher lowered the truck front onto the braces. He held it a moment, but the braces were solid, and he crawled out from under the truck.
Dusting off his hopelessly dirty jeans, André looked up at Crusher's towering form and extended a hand. "Thanks, man, yer a lifesaver. Once we get the tire fixed, you need a ride anywhere?"
Crusher took André's hand a little gingerly. André's hand was entirely engulfed in Crusher's huge paw as they shook.
"Dunno. Ya, sure, why not. I could use a lift to the Merc Exchange, I guess. I need a job."
Ken looked up from where Ayane was lifting the new tire in place, "I need some wrecks moved if you don't mind lifting more stuff."
"Yeah," André added, "all you gotta do is get stuff up on the truck and off."
Crusher shook his head. "I make an expensive crane." He looked at them working as he sat back down in the sun. "Maintenance cost on my body runs about 2K a week."
André glanced at Ayane with a sly grin. "And here I thought you were high matinence."
Still holding the tire in place, Ayane was able to do little other than sputter, much to the amusement of everyone else.
"Oh yer gonna pay for that later," Ken laughed as he set another lugnut.
"Yeah, but the look on her face was worth it." André agreed.
Letting go of the tire, Ayane looked over at broad bulk of Crusher resting in the sun. "How much do you charge to pound these two?"
Crusher smiled., "Mild thrashings without broken bones are on the house, but since I'm already under contract you'd have to wait until I finish the current job." He waved towards the truck.
About an hour later the peace and quiet around 93 Underground's loading dock was rent by the hissing roar of Nine-Tails Towing starting their truck. After a few shuddering coughs, the engine finally caught, rumbling loudly as it idled. Andri, Ayane, and Ken crawled into the cab, and then waved to Crusher. "Hop on, we'll take you over to the Exchange!"
Crusher climbed on to the back of the truck and off they went. As the big steam-engine truck went shuddering and roaring through Bartertown Crusher's mind worried over the difficulty of getting a paying job. He needed the cash badly, and dropping out of sight for months wasn't going to do his reputation any good.
"The Fizz would like to send a shout out to their friends Ayane and André, owners and operators of Nine-Tails Towing. Remember, they haul their tails so you don't have to!"
"Now, next up is the classic music hour, with a selection of Mozart, including the Sinfonia Concertante for Obie, Clairinet, Bassonn, Horn, and Orchestra in E flat major. Oh, and for those of you expecting the Cold Fusion, hour? Tough-nookies."
"You want me to what?"
Sandra was sitting in a booth in 93U, facing down a corp suit. Around her, the club's life continued, oblivious to the insane request he'd just made of her.
"It'd only be for the weekend," he replied. "We will pay very handsomely."
"Look..." she began. "I don't know what you think I am. I'm a Street Sam, for god's sake, not a-"
"I understand that, but this is a very special case"
"...Alright. How much did you say it was?"
Sandra and the corp walked out of the back of the club to where a relatively inconspicuous van was waiting. "So he's in there?"
She sighed. "I might as well get this over and done with"
The suit opened the Van's door. There was a brief skittering noise, then a small, brown shape leapt from the van and landed in front of the man.
"That's him?" Sandra asked.
"Yes it is."
"A Welsh Corgi?"
"Is there a problem?"
"Well, no. I was just expecting something a little more... big? Fierce? Imposing? Impressive? Less tubby?"
"Okay, we're here" Sandra said as she kicked open the door to her apartment, dog in hands. She put the dog down, closed the door, and then turned to the dog, a stern look on her face.
"Here are the rules. No chewing Sandra's stuff. No sleeping on the furniture. No eating Sandra's food. If you need to do anything, do it on that pile of newspapers over there. No noise. Got it?"
"I thought as much."
"Ewwww... that's disgusting! Didn't anyone train you?"
Sandra gingerly picked up the pile of used newspapers and walked over to the window. She opened it, looked around furtively and then hurled the papers out. She then hastily slammed the window shut.
"You sure that someone's not just trying to unload you onto me?"
"Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip!"
"Shut up! I'm trying to sleep!"
There was a quiet whimper.
"Sandra! You don't have a dog in there, do you?"
"Why no Mrs. Smegma. Why do you ask?"
"I heard barking! You know that there are no pets allowed in here!'
"Barking, well... That's just... A new CD I bought. It's, uh, soothing sounds of nature. I'm trying to unwind"
"Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip!"
There was a quiet whimper.
"No, you are not having a walk. I was paid to keep you safe. In here there is me. Out there are insane mass-murdering serial-killer puppy-kickers. You are much safer in here"
"Will you... let go of my... leg!"
"No. Whatever is going through that little brain of yours, don't do it. Just no"
"No! End of story."
"Here" Sandra was holding the dog up to the suit, an evil look on her face. "He's all yours. Never, ever ask me to do this again"
"Where's my money?"
Sandra sat at the bar, a depressed look on her face. "How'd I get conned into doing that?"
"It can't be that bad," came a voice from the next seat. A large man, clearly another Sam was sitting at the bar, nursing a drink, a haggard look on his face.
"Okay... what the hell couldn't be that bad?!" Sandra angrily asked. "What in the name of god could you be doing that's so terrible?"
The Sam turned to face her, the red in his eyes showing. "You could be hunting all over the damned zone for a damned lost dog."
"It's ten o'clock at the Fizz and time to... LET THE FUNK OUT! That's right, we're dropping the FUNK BOMB! Get ready to get down and get funky as we unload George Clinton and Parlament Funkadelic!"
"Great place, huh?" Tara yelled at her latest flame over the dint of the band, as the two sauntered back to their booth after their latest dance. The boyfriend du jour, Hideo Irabu, a short, thin Japanese boy with the shoulder-length ponytail that was all the rage these days with the twenty-something offspring of sararimen, nodded, his eyes trying to take in everything.
Raven smiled and lifted her glass in greeting. "Slow night, actually," she dropped casually, earning a sharp glance from Hideo. She chuckled and looked at Tara. "Not necessarily a bad thing."
"Too bad Adam couldn't make it," said Tara. "Where is he, anyway?"
One of Tara's favorite ploys to impress a new boyfriend was to invite them to the 93 Underground—something that was bound to stun the class of people she usually dated. Her only problem is that Tara wasn't quite brave enough to go so deep into the Zone all by herself; the Edge of Night, right across the street from the checkpoint back into the City, was about as far as she dared go. So her usual trick was to exploit Raven's familiarity with the place and invite her and Adam to a double-date.
"The hospital," Raven explained. "Some sort of glitch in his cybernetics. He was all twitchy." Tara frowned at the news, and not only out of concern for the replicant. When Adam was around, she could be sure that her date wouldn't grow too interested in Raven. The teke giggled at her dismay and sat back in her chair, sipping at her beer.
"So... you're a telekinetic" Hideo said hesitantly. At Raven's nod, he added, "so... you can... you can break tanks and stuff?"
Raven laughed. "Forget it. I'm not going to demonstrate."
"But you could?" Hideo pressed on, oblivious to his girlfriend's glare.
Raven shrugged. "I guess. Never tried."
Tara stood and took Hideo's arm, authoritatively leading him to the dance floor. Raven watched them go, giggling inwardly. Poor Tara got so attached to her boyfriends... For all of two months. Then she found another one. She'd gotten better at dropping one boyfriend before she took another, though. That had been the source of a few awkward scenes. Thank God for small blessings.
Raven looked around the legendary club, remembering how, so little time ago, the place had held for her the same mystique it did for Hideo. Before joining up with Shiroko-Tsuhi, Raven had never set foot in 93 Underground. She'd heard of the place, of course, like all Zone denizens, and heard what it was like, when Dave at the Fizz was feeling like taking a break and he did his "Live-from-the-Ninety-Three" show that basically amounted to dropping his mike near the DJ while he went carousing. She'd seen the place once, too—when he'd accompanied the Boss and a few of his inner circle for turf negotiations on neutral grounds. But that had been in the daylight, so the legendary nightclub was closed.
All this had changed since then, of course. She remembered her first visit, accompanied by two trenchcoated Shiroko-Tsuhi chaperones. It was the first nightclub she'd ever gone in. The first thing that struck her had been the music, loud and blaring, that had reminded her of gunfire by the volume. But the rhythm was altogether different, and she'd caught herself nodding in time with the drums. She'd skirted the press of bodies on the dance floor and went for a calm corner table. She'd spent the night gaping, barely touching the drink she'd absently ordered; the chaperones had made sure she wasn't bothered by anyone.
Since that night, Raven had become a regular, if infrequent, visitor to the nightclub. Of course, she still drew attention; but she'd managed to gently indicate that she was only looking for friendly conversation. Most left disappointed, some stayed and hoped, and a precious few had obliged with no second thoughts.
After a few such visits, Raven had been emboldened enough to actually let a man or two coax her to the dancing floor. The results had varied between embarrassing and disastrous—and she'd forever blush when she remember the time when she'd tripped over her partner's foot, knocked three people down on her way to the floor, and ended up sprawled in the middle of the dance area, with everyone staring at her. But that hadn't stopped her from trying, especially when she tested her delicate resistance to alcohol; although that didn't do much to help her dancing, either.
Lately, however, she'd been content to sit at a table, sip slowly at a weak drink, listen to the music, and watch the people. Adam usually came with her, so she was rarely bothered anymore—people knew that someone coming in with an escort synth wouldn't be wanting for company. The replicant engaged her in quiet conversation when she felt talkative, stayed silent when she wanted to reflect or just enjoy the music, invited her to dance when she felt bold—and all without her ever asking for anything. Adam had become a master at reading her moods.
Obviously, that was when she went for pleasure. 93 Underground was such a nexus of Zone activity that it was invariably the first place to look when trying to find someone, or something, It was a favorite hangout for the Zone's best fixers, deckers, and other dealers in information; every piece of knowledge eventually transited through the 93U, and the place had a good memory. Raven often began her searches for people, information, or even the general buzz on the street here.
And then there was another thing: 93 Underground was a tourist attraction.
For some reason the sheltered Cits in Neo York thought having gone to the 93 Underground was some sort of badge of honor, as if the toughness of street samurai and mercenaries somehow rubbed off anyone who hung out a night besides them. Or maybe they thought it was a sign of bravery, which was ironic; well-policed, and enforcing strict rules against weapons and violence, the 93 Underground was one of the safest nightspots in the Zone. Unfortunately, that wasn't saying much.
Watching Tara and Hideo dance on the floor, Raven spotted a pair of Puma replicants, six-foot-six musclebound males, talking among themselves and throwing glances at Tara and Hideo. Not good. They scanned the room for bouncers, but it was a busy night and they were all out of sight. Not good! The pair approached the dancing couple with grins on their faces. Not good at all! Raven stood abruptly and jogged towards Tara and Hideo, knowing she wouldn't reach them before the Pumas.
One of the Pumas abruptly cut in between Hideo and Tara, starting to dance in front of the girl. She stopped immediately, and Hideo started to protest, but the second Puma was besides him, glaring down at the short young man.
"Something wrong, boy?" he taunted. His partner guffawed and took Tara's arm, spinning her roughly into a dance. Hideo glared and closed his fists, looking to either side for help—he wasn't going to be able to take on a combat replicant all by himself...
Then Raven was there, catching the first Puma's arm. Surprised by the beautiful woman's arrival, he offered no real resistance when she untangled his fingers from Tara's arm and sent the girl away, instead looking at her head to toe. "Well, well... that's a pleasant surprise," he said.
The second Puma turned to see what his partner had found and gave a low whistle. Ignoring Hideo, he stepped forward and extended a hand to stroke Raven's face. She let him, gesturing with her chin for Hideo to leave. He slipped in the crowd, sending a plaintive look her way.
"Looking for a date, sweetheart?" the Puma asked, leering at her. Raven looked up at him, shrugged... then turned and walked away.
"HEY!" called the Puma behind her, but she ignored him, smiling inwardly as she made her way to her booth. The replicant made as if to go after her, but the other slapped his hand and pointed at an approaching bouncer. Both swore and went looking for easier prey.
Raven sat at her table in front of a gape-mouthed Hideo and a trembling Tara, took up her beer, and as if nothing had happened, resumed her quiet sipping. Then she met Tara's frightened gaze. "I told you this place could be dangerous," she said.
"I can't believe you just walked away..." said Tara, shuddering.
"What is he going to do?" Raven said. "If he causes trouble the bouncers will be on his ass in a second. They were going to stop them already, I was just making sure there was no trouble in the meantime." She noted that this did little to reassure Tara, and she pointed to the drinks. "Drink up, I think it's time we left."
"You weren't scared at all, weren't you?" Hideo asked. Tara was too shaken to take exception at his awed tone of voice.
Raven shrugged. "I can crush tanks, remember?"
"I know..." Hideo swallowed, and chugged the rest of his lukewarm Kirin. Then he asked, "How does it feel?"
"How do you feel knowing that there's no one, even in 93 Underground, that you couldn't twist like a pretzel if you liked, or if they give you any shit?"
Raven laughed. "That's not quite the way it is, you know."
"Close enough," said Hideo. "I bet you're never scared."
Raven looked to the dance floor pensively. "Oh, I am. It just takes more for me to go in over my head, so when I do it's real messy."
"But in here?" Hideo pressed.
Raven smiled faintly, noting that Tara had recovered enough to glare at Hideo again. "You know... I can't say." She turned to her friends. "I've never been, uh, normal, and I've never really paused to think what it'd be like." She shrugged and added casually, "Except that I'd probably be dead right now if I were, so I don't really try to be."
Tara and Hideo stared at her, bewildered, so she stood and motioned to them. "Let's go. They're having a slows night at the Edge of Night, I think that's right what you two need right now."
"And you're back with the Fizz. We're taking listener calls and requests at the moment. Let's see who we've got on the line. Hello?"
A gruff voice yelled back, over the sound of occasional gunfire. "Hello?"
"Yeah, you're with the Fizz at the moment. Who is that?"
"Hey! This is Ed on the northside!" The voice cut out for a couple of seconds, then came back on. "Sorry 'bout that!" he yelled back.
"Ed, what's going on up there?"
"Just got myself a couple of city guys who've popped over to score my bounty."
"Best of luck to you, Ed. What can we play for you?"
"Well, I just want these punks to know what they're into, so can you give us Welcome to the Jungle?"
"On it's way for you, Ed."
A loud explosion was heard over the other end, then Ed came back on the line. "Love your show!"
Daniel was quickly awoken by the sound of crunching metal. Glancing up through his stupor he could see a Japanese girl, savagely kicking a trash can right by him. He'd seen her recently, whatshername... He took a swig from the bottle he slept with. He couldn't remember what was in the bottle but it left his mouth tasting like a urinal. It got him good and drunk, so it was fine.
Gem, that was it... he thought. Pretty name. He watched her head down to the club. Taking another swig, he craned his ear to hear the argument unfolding.
"So why can't I get in?" she was saying, a bit too loudly.
He could barely see another man in the doorway. Duke, that was it. Had thrown him out more than once. Duke was trying to be calm, but seemed firm. "Let's just say you're bad for business."
"What, because I capped some corp's plaything?" the girl replied. Daniel took another swig and admired her. Yeah, she looked better as he got more drunk.
"How'd you guess," Duke replied wryly.
"So why'd I get banned? I was going after a suit; they should pin a medal on me!" The girl was practically yelling now; Daniel could hear her with ease.
"Because suits pay better," Duke replied. Daniel had to admire how he was keeping his cool.
"Okay, I'm sorry," She said. She paused, then continued slowly and loudly as if talking to an idiot. "I'll try not to shoot any more perverted bastards within a block of here. Alright?"
Daniel laughed out loud, his toothless mouth gaping and reeking of his foul drink. God, he loved her spunk. Another swig, and he loved her more.
Duke just sighed. "See me in a month and I'll think about it." He then turned and headed back into the bar.
Gem stood on the spot for a second, then turned back the way she came. She walked down the street towards Daniel, hands in her jacket pockets, muttering obscenities to herself. Her foot hit the dented garbage can, and she stumbled slightly. Regaining her balance, she took a violent swing at the can, launching it across the street. Gem whipped a pistol out of her pocket and filled the can with holes, sending it dancing away from her.
Daniel raised his bottle and gave a whoop of approval. "Yeah, the man is just puttin' us down!" he cried out to her.
Gem turned to regard Daniel, her expression softening. "You wouldn't believe it," she said, and flipped him a couple of dollar coins. She then turned, and headed back into the darkness she came from.
"Let's check in with our hippy-dippy weather man!!"
*RING* *RING* *CLICK*
"YO!! This is Dave, at WFZZ, The Fizz!! What's the weather like where you are, man?"
"...wha...? Who's callin'?... Is three o'clock in the mornin'..."
"It's Dave!! What's the weather like where you are, man?"
"...Dave's not here...."
"No, no, man, I'M Dave!! What's the weather like?"
"...It's very dark out, man.... is this Dave?"
"Yeah, man! It's Dave, man. You're supposed to have the weather for us."
"....Dave's not here..."
"Okay, so basically, if you need to know what the weather is, open a window. And remember, a day without sunshine is like.... night. Right. Moving right along..."
Return to Kazei 5 PBEM Stories