"The hair goes. It's too neat for a zone resident," Gem said, then she thought for a moment.
"Can't we just... Dye it or something," Zenshou asked. "If I'm supposed to be a Zoner pretending to be a corp, wouldn't I have spent money on a good haircut?"
"Yeah..." Gem grumbles. "Why don't I get to look like a model?"
"What's so great about looking like a model?"
"I look like a man next to you," Gem complained.
Zenshou blinks. "No you don't. What makes you think that?"
"You're right. I look like a kid."
"Believe me, Gem, you don't look like a child. You're just not very tall. And trust me, looks aren't everything. "
"Only when you're trying to hide. So about that hair of yours..."
"What about it," Zenshou replies defensively.
"Look around you. No-one here looks that good. Zone residents generally don't have access to brand-name hair care products or salons, you know."
Zenshou looks pained. "Do I have to get rid of it?"
"That or dye it, or *really* mess it up. I'd say cut it."
Zenshou grimaces, and hems and haws a bit, then sighs. "Guess I really ought to do something. This hair really is something that can identify me. We don't have to cut it *all* off, do we? Maybe about half, and dye it?"
Gem rubs her forehead in frustration. "It can't be THAT big a deal."
Zenshou looked embarrassed. "Oh, I guess you're right. It's just that, well, I've had hair like this since I was a child. It's hard to let go of the past." Gem favored her with an ugly look. She took a deep breath. "Okay, let's do it. But is it okay if I ask that the person doing it doesn't completely butcher my hair?"
"I'll trim it myself," Gem replied. "I'm used to this kind of thing."
Zenshou nodded with a sigh of relief. "What about dying it? Should we go with a natural color, or go... different?"
"You're going for the "corp wannabe" look, right?" Zenshou nodded. "Then dye a bright streak or two. That's what's "in" these days. Probably only last a week, but it's something."
"Okay. I'll let you pick the colors, since you know a heck of a lot more about it than I do."
"Got any objections to green? It's pretty common."
"Green? No, not really. Or are you talking about puky neon glow in the dark green?"
"Bingo. All the brainless fashion victims are wearing it these days."
Zenshou grimaces in pain. "Well... Maybe not quite so puky? Please?"
"So what do you suggest?"
"Neon, glow in the dark green is fine - as long as it's not puke green."
"Not puke green, I promise. It's generally Lime Green."
"That's fine then." Zenshou paused. "Do the dress so their hair matches their clothes, or so that it clashes?"
"Clashes. They want to make noise."
Zenshou sighed. "Clashes. How badly? Puce and lilac? Oh god..."
"Generally not *that* badly. We're trying to blend in." Gem pauses to think about it for a second. "By being as loud as possible." She shrugs
Zenshou nodded. "Okay. Loud. I can handle loud. Bright colors, gaudy jewelry, and what, a briefcase?" Zenshou almost grinned
"Yeah, while trying to look professional. Yes, I know, it makes no sense, but..."
Zenshou shakes her head. "No, it makes perfect sense. People try to emulate what they don't really understand - or what they think they understand. Being a corp means being rich, which means wearing stuff that makes you look rich, so you wear everything that you can get your hands on, and flaunt your "wealth"."
"We can arrange the outfit down at bartertown," Gem said. "But I can handle the hair here. I got some bad dyes on the way back."
"Bad dyes," Zenshou asked. "Bad as in bad, or bad as in good?"
"Bad as in good."
Zenshou nodded. "It's going to take me a while to get used to the slang."
"That wasn't slang. Hold still." Gem scratched around in a tattered shopping bag and pulled out a pair of scissors. "Bad here means "It's cheap rubbish, but that fits, so it's okay." You're going to have to get used to that."
Zenshou nodded. "Gotcha. Is that the right thing to say?" Gem nodded. She took a handful of Zenshou's hair, then seemed to stop. "What? What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Just... You look so much like someone I knew."
"A... friend. We used to look after each other. Trim our hair together."
"My younger sister and I were like that too, sometimes. Of course Mother - and the hairdresser - would throw a fit if we even considered touching a pair of scissors... I'm sorry."
"What for? It's all ancient history." Gem began trimming Zenshou's hair, making careful cuts around her shoulders. "She taught me all I knew about looking like a fashion reject."
Zenshou chuckled. "I guess then that we both have something to thank her for?"
Gem seemingly choked, startled. She made an awkward move with the scissors, then screamed out. "Aack! Fuck," Gem swore. "I slashed my finger!" Gem muttered a few more choice words, and let the scissors fall to the ground.
"You're kidding, right? Geez, Gem, how could you do that? Let me get something for your finger!" Zenshou stood and ran to the bathroom, scattering cut hair all over the apartment. She came back out with a first aid kit and a handful of towels.
"I'm never that clumsy. You just startled me.
Zenshou looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry, What did I do?"
"Long story. Some other time, maybe when I'm not bleeding."
Zenshou silently handed Gem one of the towels as she began to open the first aid kit. "You know the drill - apply pressure..." She paused. "Do you think you're going to need stitches or something?"
"I'll live. I've had worse."
"That's not the point." She smiled slightly. "Here. do you want me to deal with your finger, or do you want to do it yourself?"
"Can you? I'm all thumbs today."
Zenshou chuckled. "Sure." She looked at Gem's finger. "Doesn't look too bad. Just lots of blood. You going to be able to finish my hair, or do I get to go around half done?" She smiled.
"I'll finish you up. We want you to look bad, but not *that* bad."
Zenshou chuckled. "Thanks. Will the clothes I have now be okay until we get my new wardrobe, or should I try and borrow some from Alice?"
"Nah, you can go shopping in them. They're not 'bad' enough, but they'll do." Gem picked up the scissors. "Now let me get back to it."
It was a couple of hours later, and Gem was feeling somewhat proud of herself. Before her were the fruits of her recent efforts; a completely transformed, totally unrecognizable Zenshou. Her hair was trimmed to her middle back, and dyed with occasional streaks of neon green. She was wearing sunglasses and bright green lipstick. As for the clothes...
"How do I look," Zenshou said, almost cringing.
"Pretty bad," Gem responded.
Zenshou's brow furrowed. "Is that bad as in good?"
Gem nodded. Zenshou was dressed in a bright red jacket, which rustled and crinkled as she shifted uncomfortably. It was to short and small for her, staying open at the front to let her plain white t-shirt (a lonely tribute to common sense) show underneath. The skirt was also bright red, and split at the back. This was topped off with an oversized belt and high heels, while the look was completed with a pair of tacky bracelets and a cheap necklace.
"You look terrible," Gem said. "It's perfect. Now we need to get you seen."
Zenshou tugged a bit at the hemline of her microskirt then sighed. "And the object of that exercise is to..."
"Basically, to establish your new persona. The Edge of Night would be the best place to go. You'll also need to hook up with a fixer if you want to start investigating, and the kind that frequent the Edge know a lot about Neo York proper."
Zenshou nods. "Should I flash a lot of cash around, or should I have a glitzy credit stick and be willing to use it?"
"Credit stick. Act important, like you know everything." Gem took another look at her. "Remember, you're going to impress people. I'll be hanging in the background, just out of sight."
"Okay," Zenshou replied. "Should I be bossing people around imperiously or spreading the money out thick? Should I be obnoxious? Holier-than-thou? I mean, I have no idea how these people would act."
"Obnoxious, definitely." Gem couldn't help but smile. "Heck, If I was trying to embarrass you, I couldn't think of a better way. But still, it's 'in character,' so to speak."
"You're so kind," Zenshou replied. "This is going to be tough. Years of being polite drilled into my head. And no displays of powers either, as that'd completely ruin the disguise."
"You feel up to it?" Gem asked.
"It's gotta be done," Zenshou replied. With that, they prepared for the night ahead.
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