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[RFC]Jusenkyou Cat Hunt - Printable Version

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[RFC]Jusenkyou Cat Hunt - Dartz - 08-27-2015

Again, probably needs a better title, and a bit more of a risky thing. But one of a couple of things that came out of my week long holiday. I've a definite 3-part structure in mind


Operation Time: 36 Hours.

36 hours into a 12 hour mission, Jet crouched in a darkened corridor, taking the time to listen. Radio chatter flowed through her mind, sensor arrays picking up the sparks in the corridors around her. Two squad of five each. Heavy weapon troopers, armoured, augmented, almost a fair match.

The walls killed her long range radio. Maximum range, 100 metres. Usually much less. Beyound that, the rock absorbed everything. Something in the asteroid's metallicity. She didn't dare switch to active sensors. Better to keep the element of surprise.

Dozens of kilometres away, the second flank, supposedly pincering in their direction. The rest of the Engel Gruppe had scattered through the intervening kilometres, trying to make contact. Jet knew GJ had probably already written them off as dead, not worth rescuing.

Far behind, a half-kilometre's worth of collapsed tunnel. Only the fact that the Gruppe had outrun its support by so much had saved their lives. Since then, By her own order, they ran alone in radio silence. Escape. Evade. Stay Alive.

It occured to her that the Boskone might've pulled the same stunt on the other flank. Attim was quick... but that quick?

Jet banished the thought. Best not to worry about things she couldn't control. Focus on survival. Focus on the now. The pattern formed in her mind of the surroundings, tracking their squad and platoon interlinks. Without the codes, she couldn't listen in to scrambled transmissions directly. Still, she had options. THe Link offered far more information than just words for those who knew how to tease it out.

She'd watched and learned.

The more they talked, the more likely they'd drawn a bead on her, or another member of the Gruppe. Jet could watch them coordinate themselves, watch units act and respond to messages. She picked the leaders out - the ones that seemed to give the orders, and flagged them in her software for automatic monitoring.

Two more squads entered her range, closing in, sweeping towards her. A clear gap offered a way out.

Time to move?


She waited, analysing, ignoring instincts. Her heart pulsed in her ears, blood roaring in her veins. Every muscle fizzed, ready to run. She mastered herself, letting training and experience take over.

Route map. Overlay with hunter squad movements. Plot previous hour's positions. Estimate direction.

Not hunters. Drivers. Beating the grass. Driving her somewhere.

A quick plan coalesced, a chance to get active, rather than reactive. Fighting Nach was the slow death. Max had taught her as much. Jet took a moment to check herself, running quick self-diagnostics. All systems still showed green. Her blades had gained a patina of dried blood. A bright slash cut across the shoulder where she'd been less than quick about getting out of the way of a bullet.

Voices chased down a nearby tunnel, shouting after her.

Fight, or Flight.

Jet flew, accelerating down the tunnel at sonic speeds, shockwaves peeling from her fingertips. One, two, three heartbeats and she reached the end of the tunnel. She flipped in midair, coasting feet-first with her drives in neutral.

An effective mass of micrograms hit the wall at Mach 1, richoteting off in a new direction down a side passage, trailing a solid shockwave in her wake. Overhead lights erupted in shower of glass shards, plunging the tunnels behind into darkness.

Another richochet, another tunnel, passed some form of trainsport rail, then down a side passage barely wide enough for her wingtips, crossing into another corridor before reaching a small atrium that looked to have been torn to pieces by an entire machinegun platoon. The distant rattle of gunfire mingled with the decaying reverberations of her own shockwaves. She took stock. Some of the platoon still lay on the ground - few in one piece. It brought a smile to her face - a friend still lived.

In each corner of the room, Four doors, three shattered, one riddled and hanging from its hinges. Craters pock-marked a mural that seemed to have been painted recently. Schoolchildren on a mountain, wearing dark uniforms. On one of them, a clearly painted crest.

Jet recognised it, even without the aid of the interwave.


Slashes of blood had sprayed across sky-blue of the ceiling. On the ground, burnt-brown pools had begun to seep into the concrete. Another body lay on the ground, different from the others - bulkier. Every single cell in her body went cold as she recognised who it belonged to.

At the centre of the mayhem.


Face down.

She ran over, one, two, three steps, hoping. Jet crouched beside him, leaning in to hear his breath.


Silver-iris'd eyes stared sightlessly back at her.

She checked how. A bullet to the neck. Worse, the luckiest of lucky shots. A richochet of the shoulder armour had gone up under the jaw. It would've been instantaneous. She placed two steel fingers on the polymer synthskin of his cheek, brushing slowly.

"I'm sorry," she said, swallowing. The first words she'd spoken in hours grated from her throat. In the back of her mind, the thought thrummed. 'My fault'.

Practicality won out over sentimentality. His body still held useful ammunition, a balisword she strapped to her back, two concussion grenades and one chocolate bomb.

No sense in letting them go to waste.

Jet took a moment to master her feelings, closing her eyes, taking long, conscious breaths. Inside a void of darkness, her mind stood alone, distinct, seperate. She grabbed the feeling at crushed it away, forcing it out of herself and into the void beyond. A hot, vicious anger ignited, filling the gap. She grabbed hold of it, channeing through the tips of her fingers and down to her heels. It reached out through her wings and thrummed through her drives.

First step. Scavange. Maybe something had been left in one of the rooms. She tossed one of the doors out of her way. Inside, she saw the room had been fitted out as a barracks, two rows of triple bunks along each wall, each with a footlocker at the base. All of it had been abandoned in a hurry, bedclothes and uniforms thrown around the floor.

Child Sizes.


Jet understood.

More fuel.

Each room, the same. Segregated by House. Long gone. Nothing could be done for them. Not right now. She grabbed a spare pistol that'd been left behind and some cable that looked like it might be useful. Helmet cameras recorded everything.

An alert from her sensors sparked in the back of her mind - one of the tagged enemy fire-teams had entered range again. Followed by another, then another. They'd been running for hours - far longer than any human could have. Jet's own muscles complained. The cyber ignored them.

Again, they left a clear opening. Still herding.

Jet took it, pushing further and further into the maze of tunnels, entering a chamber filled by a tangle of steaming, stainless steel pipework. A factory. A brewery. Thionite. It'd been abandoned in a hurry, tools dropped as technicians ran for their lives. She found them a few minutes later.

Torn to pieces, ragged remains of clothes, lab coats and human being, scattered like a rag doll collection that'd been torn apart by a dog.

"Wha?" she whispered to herself. Why not just shoot them?

Shouts chased after her, racing behind her. Again, the fire-teams closed in. She checked her scanners. Two came from the black area - parts she hadn't mapped. Three came from behind. She watched them coordinate, bursts of data bouncing between teams.

An obvious opening guided her towards another black area.

The final destination

Jet decided to remind them that she wasn't just simple prey. They were hunting big cats. She ducked into the shadows, listening, sensing, watching, vanes on her back tasting the air. A team entered the brewery, sweeping through with active sensors.

A mirror the size of a one-cent coin allowed her to watch them spread through.

She stepped back inside her mind, taking the auto-scanned sensor map of the room and superimposing her own guess of their positions on top of it. Software estimated their progress through, based on the easiest paths. Jet traced her attack, picking targets, plotting routes, then triggering her data recorders.

Jet waited.

She waited until they'd committed.

With a turbine scream, she roared into the chamber. Bio-augmented reflexes tracked her as she pounced, Browning rounds crackling and fizzling around her, smashing through vats of half-brewed thionite. Puffballs of purple dust chased her, huffs of steam and jets of fluid bursting from ruptured pipes. A hallucinogenic rain chaised after her as she boosted towards the ceiling.

One of them held an RPG, slewing it after her.

She ricocheted off the roof, diving right towards the trooper, gaining energy. Power armour - black, ferrite paint. Taller than an average human. Curls of dark hair spilled from underneath a grotesque deaths-head helmet.

All of them made the same mistake.

She felt the missile lock. She saw it's motor trigger, grey smoke bursting through the back of the launcher. Cybernetic reflexes angled her down towards the ground, palms touching concrete. The shock of impact rattled her arms as she pirhouetted, turning her momentum into naked striking force. Vibration charged her joints, her mind and will charging to her fingertips.

The Hertza Haon destroyed both armour and the person inside it, shockwaves rippling through steel and flesh, interfering, reinforcing, exploding. The armour's backpack spalled free, seams cracking open. The body inside dropped, chest jellied. The missile launched over her shoulder, bursting through a vat filled with golden liquid. Boiling torrents spilled on the floor, filling the air with thick yellow vapour.

She carried her energy through the attack, pirhouetting on a heel to change direction. One, two, three steps, and a palm-first vault over a steel pipe then anouther pirhouette to rive the tip of a damascus blade through the armour of a pointman, before turning free.

A dance of death.

Then she ran, using her momentum to carry her back through the door she'd first entered, before diving into a side-room. Shockwaves of gunfire echoed through the tunnels, stray bullets rattling off rockwalls, flakes spalling off.

Another little victory. Another few minutes of life bought. Another radio burst announced the attack. It followed the same pattern as every other one she'd launched. Drop the heavy weapon user and pointman, then run.

She could already hear them squabbling behind her, arguing over who would get the dubious honour of picking up the launcher. Jet waited until someone made the mistake of picking up the bazooka, before putting an armour-piercing bullet through the back of their helmet. A fleeting smirk crossed her face, amused at her own little piece of havoc.

Jet didn't play the game, Jet played the metagame.

Just killing them all got dangerous quick. The less shots they took, the less chances they had. Hit, then run. Maintain momentum. Maximise the force of each blow. The Panzer Kunst, not just in body, but in mind. Max had taught her. The same effect on people, as it had on armour. She sent shockwaves through their mind.

She moved, taking momentary cover in a distressingly ordinary apartment. Television. Couch. Computer. Kitchen. Bedroom. Rega RP6 still playing the runout groove of Frank Sinatra. A child's pictures on the wall. The sheer human simplicity of it staggered her - a person's home, rather than an enemy's. A statue of Santa Muerte jeered from a small altar, surrounded by incense.

Remember, even you can die.

A stack of ledgers sat on a coffee table. One lay spread opened, chemical formulae sketched in meticulous handwriting. She saved a snapshot for someone else to worry about. She paced around, dragged out of the war by the unashamed banality of it all. Anyone's living room, complete with cozy couches, vistamatic windows and nik-naks from a dozen exotic holidays, transported deep into the middle of a Boskone hellhole.

She took a few steps inside, solid heals sinking into plush carpet before meeting polished marble tile.

A luxury kitchen, outfitted with the latest in modern appliances in stainless steel. A fridge, well stocked with the latest wholefoods, fresh from Earth. She'd only carried snacks for 12 hours. Her visor popped open. Insense tickled her nostrils, mingling with the scents of coffee, spice, blood and gunsmoke. Jet grabbed whatever wouldn't mush through her fingers, wolfing mouthfuls down. Blood tainted the food, but hunger made her forget.

A few protein bars found a home in her hip-pack, along with a pack of crackers and a quick dessert that took far too much willpower to save for later.

Jet tore through the other drawers, grabbing anything which lookied like it might be useful. Ceramic Sushi Knife. Batteries. Flashlight with Strobe. 'Onboarding' orientation map.

The map made the entire search worthwhile.

It merged with her own inertial data, coalescing into a solid picture that placed her deep inside the rock.

She turned around, coming face to face with herself in a mirror. The image stopped her dead; blood spattered, scorched, blades shining and lethal, glacier eyes gazing a thousand kilometres into the distance. A part of her mind refused to believe that he had become something like that. Somewhere in there, he remembered blasting across England in a black Mazda to catch a ferry, with the first sample of wave in the boot, two exits ahead of Barnstorm and the North Wales Constabulary.

And now it'd carried him all the way out here.

The thought echoed wordlessly in the back of the cyber's mind, more an impulse than something given voice.

Jet stood and stared. An armoured body, more like a living weapon than anything that'd once been human, supporting a soft-featured face formed from sweat-sheened biopolymer skin, framed by stray tresses of scarlet hair leaking from the helmet foam.

A warning sparked in the back of her mind. The hunters closed in.

The map loaded into her mind, offering a clear picture of their approach. One clear way out. At least, at first glance. Three teams could turn the passage into a killzone in a heartbeat. No way out?

She looked up.

The thermal camera on her helmet offered her an escape.

Jet pressed a ceiling tile out of her way, took a featherlight hold of the mounting rail, and used her own drives to vault herself through the gap, into the machine spaces beyond. Ductworks and cabling closed in, steam hissing from gunbarrel pipes running to the apartment's hot water tanks. Carefully, she slid the tile back into place, sealing herself in darkness.

The cyber's eyes adjusted to the gloom, hard edges shining up. Her whole body fizzed, muscles screaming to break out, to run, to burst free of this rock and steel Fixed rigid on the steel grate of the ceiling, wordlessly praying that it'd take her weight.

Footsteps from below. Her body stretch taught. Voices

"She was in here...."

A man.

"Bloody white devil."

Woman. Australian?

"I'm not going in. No fucking way..."

Another man.

"Do it or I cut you off..."

Woman again. Right below her.

"I'm not going in there to die."

Man again. He gave a gasp of pain, like he'd sat on a sparkplug. She registered a burst of data from the team leader. One of them, the pointman, went dark.

"How does that feel.... you go in there and I turn them back on."

"Jaret.... please."

"Do it. Or die."

"It hurts.... my mind."

"Do it man... just do it."

Jet waited. Footsteps shuffled beneath. Another burst of data and a sigh of heroin satisfaction. They kicked over tables, tore through couches, shattered glasses in the kitchen. Jet waited, mind locked, watching them with her sensors.


Gunfire burst around her, shafts of light pentrating the soft foam tiles. Bullet rattled off the ceiling and steel pipework around her.

Then Silence.

She waited. The idea occured to her to just drop in an take them out, but it seemed to risky, too much like a trap. Eyes stared, rigid.

More gunfire, sweeping closer.

Fragments of bullet pattered off her back, her chest, her helmet. One solid impact to the shoulder sent a hard shock through her body, stabbing deep. Her body shook, the urge to scream rising in her through. Every single nerve fired at once, begging for her to crouch down and cover her head. Jet's nerves frayed, fingers gripping tight on the aluminium track.

Three behind. One below. One in front. Wait until they move.

Another burst, pecking at her legs. Rattling against the metal.

With a crash, she felt herself drop prematurely. A moment's panic shocked through her mind as she tumbled, snagged on metal. Instinct took over, firing her engines, driving through the wreckage. Gunfire boomed around her, bullets shrieking and snapping through the space she'd occupied moments before. She landed palm first, cartwheeling herself over to put one of them between her and the rest of the team.

He stopped a splash of bullets that probably would've killed her, toppling slowly backwards. Fratricide. Something clipped her wing, disabling a tip-jet. Sparks fizzed in her body as wires shorted, before finally fusing themselves.

Chaos rolled around her, blades strobing as they picked out each and every muzzle flash. She danced through the storm, moving one step ahead of their aim. A missile shrieked past, exploding inside the apartment behind her, collapsing the ceiling and bursting the water mains. Streams of tracers chased as she carthweeled into the pointman, driving a blade through the neck of his armour, turning herself free, dragging a crimson slash behind. Jet thought she could hear screaming, she realised it was herself.

One, two, three steps ahead and accelerating, riding a wave of naked, burning terror. She could see where they were aimed, tracking, tracing, avoiding. They all made the same mistake - they all tried to shoot at her, leaving her an entire corridor to use. Humans thought in human terms, up and down, left and right. She went high, then low, using all three dimensions. Rock walls shattered around her, pelting her with pebbles. Something clipped her neck, slapping off the chin-guard of her helmet. Even so, on a confimed space they could almost be fast enough to pull it off.


One, two, strokes with her blades dropped two, finishing the team leader with a driving Hertz Nadel that shattered her armour. Wreckage dropped to ground, bleeding.

The final one ran, throwing his rifle away. Jet didn't chase. She stood, panting, dripping, struggling to catch up with herself. More warnings sounded in her mind, more teams accelerating towards her, pinning her in place.

Her mind understood one thing.


Just Run.

Jet bulletted towards the opening, tearing through corridors at full speed. Steel heels hammered on concret floors, shards spalling off as she ran. A left, a right, another garden-like atrium, guided her towards what seemed to be a storeroom. She crashed through the door in a bland panic, still trying to grab hold of herself. Something bit at her neck, hot and stinging. Cold steel fingers touched at it.

Blood, bright, scarlet. A long trail had already started to run down her chest.

Her body went cold.

Too close.

Far too close.

She stood there shaking, surrounded by shelves stacked with labelled crates, trying to grab hold of her mind. It squeezed through her fingers, leaving her standing thoughtless, mindless and terrified. Noise and screaming whirled around, a haze of colour mingling with the digital precision of her instruments.

"Jet," a voice whispered. Her mind locked up

"Max?" She spun around.

Nothing but empty corridor. A hand settled on her shoulder, heavy and metal. It pressed down through her armour, weighing cool on what felt like bare skin. She recognised it for what it was, sensing the energy of his geist flowing through its fingertips.

"Are you alright, Jet?"

She turned. Even though she knew it couldn't be him, she still hoped. Emptiness. The hand dissapeared. She stood, taking a shaking breath, not sure if her mind'd finally popped off the deep end or not. A warm haze passed through her body, caressing each fibre of her being before leaving her.

Alone again. She knew. She'd never tell a living soul, but she knew.

"I'm sorry Max," she breathed, closing her eyes.







Mind and body found harmony once more, elevating herself above the chaos around. Data flowed through her mind, software still dutifully reporting its information, rebuilding its maps. Her mind grasped hold of her body, awareness filtering through synaptic gates and out into the thrumming metal. Power filled her joints, energy rolling through linear actuators, charging from her core to her fingertips.

She listened through her sensors. Emptiness. The enemy hung back. Only a single contact..

"Be careful, Jet"

It thrilled up her spine and whispered in her ear.

She stopped dead, listening.

In a moment's blind panic, she'd jumped right into their trap.

If she'd had hair, it might've stood on end. She glanced around, rapidly orienting herself. An atrium, set in the centre of a cluster darkened labs. Dead heaps of torn rags lay scattered on a sterile green floor. Red standby-lights picked out the outlines of machinery beyond her comprehension. A compressor-motor whined to life.

Massacring their researchers. Why?

She felt it through her feet first, rising up from the floor, the whole asteroid moving. Explosions? Too regular. More like footsteps. One single radio contact moved towards her. She braced, turning to face a concrete partition door, ready to meet it.

The door crumbled, a grey blanket of dust swirling in the coriolis forces towards her. The silhouette of something vaguely humanoid, but far larger than human, lurched forwards. Each footstep send a hard, thumping shock up through the ground.

Lenses zoomed. At least six, analysing her.

"What the fuck?"

Machine. Motoroid-sized. Fast. The trap sprang towards her, bloodied claws shrieking. It howled as it charged, propelled by mindless fury, steel feet thudding on the floor. Two deep slashes gouged its armour, bright and fresh where someone had gone at it with a panzer kunst blade - Jet recognised the moves. Jet recognised the fighting style of a friend, cutting at the hydraulic lines.

It'd killed Lena.


Two dead friends.

Her decision to split up, had killed at least two friends.

She dodged on instinct, spinning out of the way. Faster than anything human, it reached out with a drilling blow. She caught it, using the kinetic energy to propel herself across the room, touching the far wall. Tiles shattered under her feet, springing her back toward the monster. Its camera-eyes sparked, both mishapen arms reaching for her. She aborted with a blast from her engines, using the ceiling to put metres between herself. The low ceiling pinned her down, keeping her for using her strengths.

It chased, propelled by thumping fury. Again, she dodged. It lashed out. She vaulted back. It bellowed, struggling to stop, crashing into a wall, before staggering drunkenly.

Standing for a heartbeat, Jet struggled to get a read on it. Not entirely machine. It had an energy to it, a flow that definitely had the shadow of some sort of mind behind it.Kinesthetic senses honed by years of training analysed and identitifed, reading the flow of it's body, building mental maps of it's capabilities, of the energy flow through it's frame. It lurched on its feet. Imprecise, unmechanical. A ragged breath inhaled through harmonica gills made a chilling siren sound.

Razor-claws licked out from stubby fingers, rust-stained. Glass lenses focused on her image, standing there with one blade up in a guard. It rushed, accelerating far faster than anything that heavy had a right to. She dodged, boosting clear. It turned, she reversed, driving both her heels through its shoulder.

It's arm broke clean off in a spray of blood-red oil. The second followed up far faster than mechanically possible with a driving punch to her back, propelling her forward with the breath knocked from her lungs. A hand to the floor allowed her to recover, pirhouetting in the air to land on her feet. Already, it'd turned, accelerating again.

How, she wondered.

Coils on the arm. Hot on thermals. Charged with power.

A risky ping from active sensors confirmed it. Active drives. The thing used a speed drive.

Worse. It had the mind to lure her into a trap.

She dodged with a jet-pulse from both all three drives. It turned, moving like something half it's weight. Again, it reached, claws on its remaining hand flickering. Jet stepped under it, staying in the shadow of it's body. A cut with a blade severed a hydraulic line. An open-palmed strike send a shackwave reverberating through it's body, another, then another. It kicked, lunged. A blade strike through the shoulder severed power cables to one of the drive coils. It thrashed out, stumbling off balance as the mind struggled to compensate for the shifting inertias. She found her rhythm, staying in it's shadow, picking her moment, watching the waves of energy she pushed into its frame build towards a single core point.

A hard-knuckled Hertz-Fahrer punched straight through the armour of its chest, into the mechanisms and meat beyond.

Its armoured body shattered, bursting apart as if the taught elastic bands holding it together had suddenly snapped free. What was left behind slumped to the floor, wheezing, dying, moaning through an electronic voicebox.

Jet stood, mouth hinging open. It took only moments for her to understand what she was looking it. It would take years for the nightmares to go away.

She staggered on her feet, overwhelmed, aching through her body. Anger boiled, impotent fury leaving her shaking. Alone. Barely able to do much more than survive, and these things were out there along with the people who made them.

To hell with them.

Jet called up the map she'd found, overlaying it with her own records.

Change of plan.

--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?

- Dartz - 08-31-2015

Probably nudging the genre directive - or not so much crossing the line as the Universe. But, Jusenkyou was supposed to be hellish. And I have an angle.

First scene comes courtesy of Cobalt Greywalker.

A.C. hated this fucking rock cloud. Hated it with the fury of a million burning suns. Sure, the whole operation for Boskone Four sucked balls harder than Space. An asteroid family brought together as a flight school, more than half of the rocks were big enough to hold facilities. All of them had to be checked, while the main fleet had to englobe it from outside as the other less-than-half made navigation so hard and sensors so confused the enemy could have completely left and they wouldn’t have known a thing.

She still smarted from the deep strike on Alpha rock in the middle of this swarm of Nargles. If she hadn’t had some of the EOD teams up front they’d have suffered the same as the other team.

The Engel’s probably made it, but that meant they’d been cut off for near two days now. She’d be in line to kill them again if they hadn’t.

Still, here she was again. Armed to the eye teeth as the sapper teams carved a new way in. Most of her frustration had been burned off in Beta rock, two and a half berserkers, one and a third squads of chaos marines, and a fucking warbeast (plus sundry others) ago.

A quick check of her weapons showed she’d have to go shopping after this was all over, plus there was the fact she’d been tapped as clean up commander once the fighting was done. Honestly? Helping fix people up would be like playing with kittens after all this.

The sappers finished their drilling and moved the rush-built laser drill back as the EOD guys moved forward. The boys with the bang wanted payback as much as the Gruppe heavies waiting behind her.

Sergeant Marrs of the EOD team.

A.C. smiled grimly, switching to the strike force net. A quick check of her Tacorder showed the squads tagging in.

Kasumi put a hand on A.C.’s shoulder momentarily. The armoured pauldron prevented actual touch, but the gesture was welcome. A.C. tagged into the tac-net and switched to the command net.

Command replied.

The expression on A.C.’s face wasn’t a smile that anyone would like directed at them.

She switched back to the strike force net.

10 more hours. Another dead friend, pinned between two fire-teams and an isolation door. One cracked blade, the other scratched where it'd cut a burst of .50bmg in half. A visor that'd gone the way of Captain Kirk's shirt. Three more dead berserker-things - one already destroyed before she found it. The smell of blood and gunsmoke clung to the inside of her nostrils, intruding on her mind. Fatigue hung from her limbs, bruised muscles being dragged painfully by creaking cybernetics.

Wrecked remnants of another pair of autocannon turrets hung from the ceiling, filling out the smouldering remnants of a drone-mob that'd chased her for four hours.

Her conscious mind had gone to sleep, rational thought taking a rest-break while the body adopted the routine it'd learnt. Escape. Evade. Ambush. Raw speed kept her ahead of foot soldiers. They could track, but they just couldn't keep up to close the circle. Aviator goggles covered her eyes, stolen from an equipment locker. Her respirator had once belonged to Marine, strapped tight to her helmet using lengths of surgical tubing. Chunks of another cyber's armour padded out her own, strapped on by stolen belts and hastily tied webbing. An extra pistol, some ammunition, food, a brick of explosives and two grenades finished the picture.

Covered in soot, dirt, dried blood, and a dozen or more cuts and scrapes, she could almost be mistaken for her own Mad Max twin. It kept her alive. That's what mattered.

Her goal remained. Closer now. Only a few kilometres of warren left.

A sweep of a blade disarmed a boskone trooper. Thionite kept the poor bastard running, screaming like a demented Black-Knight after her with both stumps trailing blood. His friends had learned not to chase. They'd learned to squabble with the squad leader as he tried to hand off the bloodied heavy weapon to a new target, or force a new redshirt onto point. It took a cortex bomb going off to make an example. Given the choice between certain death and probable death, they came into line.

Tactics kept her alive.

Divert down a side tunnel. Avoid a signal that looked too much like a Berserker. Trap. Five in knockoff Marine armour running in radio silence, decked up in ghoulish skulls and demon horns. More intimidating than useful against the Kunst.

She aimed for the pointman. A storm of bullets erupted, tracers whipping through the space she'd occupied an instant before, shells crackling across cut-stone walls. One shell through the armour would finish her. Jet drove on anyway.

Her blade caught him in the throat. She didn't even hit the ground, aiming both heels straight through the stomach of the one with the rpg. He broke in half in a shower of gore and metal. Jet's heels hit the ground in unison, springing her back airborn. She flipped, looking back at the rest of the fireteam. Three still tried to aim at her, jaws hanging wide open. She looked right through one - who might once had been a woman before getting her augmentations. Glass eyes stared back.

The leader's head hung in mid air, his body still trying to raise its rifle.

Jet left the other three alive, daring them to shoot at her back as she boosted away. Shells chased. None caught. An isolation door began to close, dropping shut ahead of her, trying to pin her in. Boltgun shells burst across the steel surface of the door, spalling metal off. Snap decision. Dive under, or turn and fight.

Jet dived under it, trailing hot sparks behind her.

Hit. Run. Hit. Run. Keep moving. Keep ahead. Speed meant life. Getting pinned down meant death. They may have been able to see her on their sensors, but that didn't mean they could catch her.

Another lab complex. Another horror. Powered. Sterile. Two scientists, engineers maybe. Man and woman. One reached for something on a tray in a flurry of panic. She shot both rather than take the risk. Mads in their own lab could be dangerous. More scavenging. Another pistol, some more ammunition. Booklets of notes that looked to be some sort of mechanism for an arm, then a lifesupport system. It looked like things she'd seen on the tech side of the cyber's list - familiar, but not intimately so. Maybe Daisuke would know them better. Nothing useful to her now.

Maybe useful to someone else. It took a few moments to snaffle them to a jumpdrive. Her sensors remained clear - she had a minute, maybe two at most.

Time enough to look around.Time enough to recognise more of the hardware that surrounded her. Somebody's cybernetics lab. Nobody became a Kunstler without being touched by at least some of this equipment. The next room beyond. freaky Frankenstein biotech shit. Bubbling glass jars. Shards of meat supported by cables. Things that looked vaguely like they'd once been a part of someone. All arranged neatly more like a cheap horrorshow than a laboratory.

In the centre, something that looked like a surgical bed, surrounded by monitors, equipment trays and instruments still in sterile wrappings.

Fucking spare parts?

She moved forward, pushing into the back room. Benches. Restraints. Sedatives. The eye-watering sent of chlorine in the air. Another door. Maglocked shut. Someone had hacked it to be powered from the inside only, but hadn't thought it through enough. She pulled the cable. The door opened with a wild spray of bullets, rattling through glassware, raining shards of pyrex onto the floor chased by a terrified scream.

She jumped back, waiting for the charge.



Wary, she stepped forward, readying a concussion grenade in case whatever in there decided to object again. Something in the back of her mind discouraged her from just tossing it in and letting whoever shot at her worry about it, a feeling that she'd regret it.

More gunfire. A bullet split on the edge of her blade. Then silence.

Children. Teenagers, most of them. Some in uniforms. One racking the slide of a rifle, furiously trying the clear a jam caused by an empty magazine. One, two, three steps, marching towards him. He raised it and squeezed the trigger anyway, getting only the sound of the bolt snapping home as a reward. Jet grabbed it in one hand, jerking it out of his grip with irresistible force. The boy fell flat on his face with a slap of flesh on tile floor and a grunt of pain.

Whispers raced through the crowd, terrified murmurs reaching her ears. They might try and mob her.

"I'm one of the good guys," she managed to say, her voice coming out as a smoker's croak.

"You look like one of them," a girl said.

"I've marked your position on my map. Barricade the door. Help'll be on its way."

She hoped. She took the rifle, stepped back, then slid the door shut before reconnecting the power. A coil of cable jammed in the mechanism and some blue lightning across the backup battery made sure not even love or money could open it. So long as the ventilation held out, they'd probably be safe.

A locker behind her held some spare ammo for the rifle. Jet wasted four full magazines of ammunition banishing the lab from existence. The gun-barrel glowed cherry-red, plastic furniture smouldering. The only thing that kept her from just burning it all were the children taking shelter in the back.

The subconscious knew. The subconscious understood. It sat there, guarding the realisation from her conscious mind, letting it get on with the business of staying alive. It'd hit later, and hard. Only a lack of tear ducts kept her eyes dry, her whole body shaking as she grabbed the drive from the laptop, then smashed the computer against a wall. Jet left, mind still churning with thoughtless fury.

"Are you alright, Jet?" the voice came back, stopping her dead in her tracks. Her mind locked, more like a circuit breaker tripping under load. It slammed shut, leaving her standing there panting on stale air.

Silence echoed in the tunnel around her

Push past. Worry about it tomorrow. What now?

Vacant of thought her mind grabbed hold of the map. Finally, she saw it for what it was.

It looked more like an obstacle course, then anything designed to be a laboratory. One giant videogame level, funneling invaders through harder and harder challenges to the boss right at the centre.

What the hell?

Looking it like that, She'd skimmed the edge of level one for most of a day, dropped to the second, third, then fourth about an hour ago. It explained a lot.

The thought vanished as a sensor burst sparked through Jet's systems, announcing itself for a brief flaring instant in the picture in the back of her mind before vanishing, leaving only an afterglow that made pinpointing it all the harder, like a flashbulb in a dark room.

Jet switched to internal life support, feeling her own systems spin to life, pressurising her body. Distant gunfire resonated, miles away.

Another radio burst. High information content. Short duration. She recognised it immediately. LPI data transmission. Too quick to pinpoint it. Another one. Only a microsecond - too fast to pinpoint, but near.

Jet edged forward down the corridor, trying to listen.

Another pulse, closer, more energetic. More LPI transmissions. Something nearby. Something she couldn't detect. Jet radiated a sensor pulse. No echo. Nothing.

More bursts. Almost frantic. They seemed to scream THERE! THERE! THERE! Closer, closer each time. But still invisible. A rat crawled up her spine as she crept forward, aware of being hunted, but unaware of the hunter. Jet rotated the thermal camera mounted to her helmet to face backwards. Her mind adapted, software agents reforming her picture of the world around her to account for the 360 degree vision.

The world behind her shone in lurid multicoloured hues of black, purple, blue, orange red and white, heat traces of conduits, cables and framing behind bulkhead walls shining bright.

On the floor. A faint heat-trace trail. Only a degree or two above background, for only a moment. Slow footsteps fading fast down to background.

Jet stopped. So did the footsteps, gauging whether they'd been spotted or not.

Options? Chocolate bomb? Concussion Grenade? Charge and fight? Fighting an enemy she couldn't see would be stupid. Quick plan, time to turn things on their head. Jet pinged another sensor pulse, then listened. Nothing come back. She took three more steps, watching behind her for the heat-trace.

There, 20 meters behind. Hotter than the last. Her hunter'd stood still, gauging whether Jet'd spotted her or not. Her hunter still thought she had the advantage of surprise. Another LPI burst radiated from a point barely a meter in front of the fading footprint.

Jet didn't need to crack the encryption to know it said 'Got her'.

Jet used the nine-millimetre pistol she'd scavenged to blow the heads off a sprinkler run, drenching the corridor in rain.

The image appeared, flickering into view as its thermoptics overloaded, already running.

Sleekly armoured, with a stealth-grey finish around the curve of the chest, invisible on sensors. Gynoid. No, definitely former human, her stride gave her away. Moving quieter than a ghost's whisper as she darted forward, drawing a black-carbon sword. Beyond-human augmentations, hair-trigger reflexes and machine precision formed a whirlwind of razor-edge'd death, a true Razorgirl in every sensor of the world, face hidden by a visor of opaque glass.

She made the same mistake they all made.

Cybernetic body. Human fighting style. For all the shiny chrome she'd fitted herself with, she lacked the harmony, the integration. Her body jerked from form to form, always outrunning her own mind, fighting against it's own turbulent energy.

Jet's first blow severed the razorgirl's sword-arm mid strike, sending the blade whirling free. The razorgirl stumbled forward, off-balance, finding herself falling past Jet's followup. Jet caught herself, pivoting the energy through her toes into a whirling open palmed strike that send a hard shockwave through the razorgirl's body. She spasmed, then dropped lifelessly onto the ground, landing with a rattle like a collection of parts, rather than a solid thump.

Pink blood seeped through a crack in the mask.

All the gear. No idea. Probably technical a match on paper, at least. But straight-Kendo forms and cybernetics just didn't work together.

Thrumming vibrations rolled through the floor and up through her body. Jet glanced around, scanning for the source. Overhead lights rattled in their cradles. The whole rock seemed to ring like a bell, as if it'd been struck by the fist of the gods. Another ring, then a third, shaking the dust loose from the cracks in the ceiling.

The lights flickered once, twice, three times, then died for good, leaving only a dim grey glow from the emergency systems.

Something made it to the power grid. Something big.

Jet set a software watch for any other footprint traces, before checking the body on the floor. Microcharges. Some sort of medical or nutrient pack with a proprietary fitting matching a socket in the side of her chest. Strapped to her back, wired through a standard access interface - her thermoptic camouflage pack. Jet removed it, putting practicality ahead of squeamishness.

Jet had a data cable in her pack. It slotted neatly home, bridging her mind with the body.

Join Pin 1 and 5 and it'd allow a root diagnostic check of the hunter's systems, jumping them into afterlife. Jet interrogated her hardware. No signal through synaptic gateways. SP Alarm. No feedback signal through pin 10. A dozen system failures associated with the right arm being missing. Gyrostabilisers out of limit. Multiple major component failures, but her core systems were still there. Her radio systems still pinged.

Hardware type? Sirius Cybernetic Corporation. Probably from the stolen shipment. Good. Jet knew a little about it. She knew where to look for the encryption keys. They loaded into her own system.

"... Izrall. Respond."

Jet waited. It smacked her in the face.

"Izrall. Status?"

They couldn't see her anymore. It took a moment to reconfigure her own systems for LPI mode. Only one way to test.

"I got the bitch. She's dead."

"About bloody time. Redeploy to Rally Point Bravo 2. Code Nemesis Red."

"Copy. Rally Point Bravo 2."

Jet cut the channel, wearing a vulpine smirk. Text comms could be so impersonal.

Something had changed. Something big. The radio traffic had shifted. A change in timbre. Scrambling. More urgent What had been barely ordered chaos had started to descend into outright panic. More rapid fire messsage. Chaotic responses. Something the looked like a full blown argument. Staccato excitement. A full squad of marines thumped by, completely ignoring her, running full pelt.

They couldn't see her.

Their entire sensor grid had to be down.

They must've bought her half-assed ruse.

An electric thrill shot through her body, charged by the idea that, for the first time in nearly two days, she might just have a chance of getting the upper hand. Things might have a chance of ending. She allowed herself three clear breaths, re-centering the mind. Time to act again.

She tested the thermoptics. They worked. The whole world cloaked around her, hidden by a shimmering veil. Shite thermoptics. The enemy couldn't see in. She couldn't see out. That explained the sensor bursts.

She deactivated them, grabbed the sword from where it'd embedded itself to the hilt in concrete, then strapped it to her back.

Jet pushed on, driving deeper in, picking up speed. Another fire-team. This one she evaded. Faster again, picking up speed. Finding her stride. Another residential block, this one evacuated. A body lay in the centre, burned beyond recognition. Another example. The Boskone loved example. This is what happens when you fight back, when you don't do as you're told. This is the price you pay. You die screaming or worse.

Jet helped herself to food, batteries and JB-Weld.

Another cross-passage. An arboretum. A rail transfer tunnel that'd been demolished. She ricocheted around another corner, accelerating towards something marked X13 on the map. Signals flared on her sensors, the same low humm of data exchange that accompanied all the Boskone teams.

Dead still.


The corridor in front of them made a perfect kill zone. Marine kill-team. Probably more autoturrets. Challenging her to attack. Guarding the next level. One more gauntlet run.

No other way forward.

Charging into the teeth of that seemed like a good way to die quickly. Too far for a grenade - too easy for them to shoot. Too risky to try walk past with shite thermoptics. A vent might give a human being a route around, but nothing her size. Ping them, lure them into an ambush? Too dangerous.

Jet listened.

Control signal for gun turrets. Comm links. 1. 2. 3. 4. Armaflex wireless smartgun system. Jet chose to trust her own sensor map. In her hand, a block of semtex and a grenade detonator.

No choice. Time to try something.

The pin dropped, along with the handle. The thermoptic veil closed around her as she launched herself to the ceiling, accelerating towards them. Of course they heard her. Staccato orders flashed through her mind, bursts of radio energy pinpointing each target in turn. APEX rounds popped behind her, thudding autocannon tracking the thermal signature of her exhaust. Shrapnel pattered off her armour, the remains of nearby shellbursts. Danger close and then some.

2 seconds.

Jet dived. Catching herself on her palms, she pivoted towards one wall, then the other. Spalling rock told them where to aim. It still bought her time. The sprinklers triggered. Her heart raced. Jet dropped the bomb.

1 second

She passed them, killing the camo. They took deadly aim at her. They never realised. The blastwave chased her to the other end of the passage, slamming her to the ground as she tried to change directions. Dizzy, ears ringing, she picked herself up, staggering drunk against the wall as accelerometers came back within limits. Even the emergency lights had died. Blue lighting arc'd between dangling cables. Dust rolled through the air around her, chased by the smell of burning plastic and ozone, and the taste of blood in her mouth.

If 2 kilograms of semtex didn't kill them, the entire tunnel roof coming down probably did.

Her comm system sparked to life, catching her by surprise.

"Izrall. Redeploy X13 Emergency Expedite. Unknown target. "

"Copy. Redeploy X13."

Shit. They could track the origin of the broadcast.

Jet edged forward. Something new. Something different. Cables ran in tracks hung from the ceiling. She followed them. That team had to be guarding something. What? Another complex of doors. One open to something that looked like a server room. One a small canteen. One a toilet. One labelled Master Exercise Control. Locked, barricaded and steel-reinforced.

Jet shattered it.

Panic. Screams. Shouts. One single voice.

"Don't shoot."

More like a request, than a plea. a woman pushed back from her console, her colleagues doing the same. Fire-red eyes stared up at Jet's pistol, rusty hair framing a pale-skinned face glistening with sweat. Both hands raised in surrender, exposing a faded DefCON t-shirt. 6 more operators sat and watched. None of them armed. All dressed more like an IT helpdesk than a Boskone trooper. What were they doing?

A single attack drone on a workbench gave her an answer.

Each one sat at the controls to a mob of war machines. Each one ready to be taken prisoner after 2 days without sleep.

Every natural instinct told her to turn and walk. If she turned and left, they'd keep fighting. She couldn't take prisoners. She couldn't leave them. Destroy the equipment. They might repair it. Tech staff would find away. Each console told her a little about its operator - their fandoms, their hobbies, their loved ones. Calanders. Motivators. A copy of The Far Side[i]. A window into a life. A hint that these weren't prisoners, but willing part of all this hell-spawned shit around her, just as important as that Marine, or bio-augment or whatever. And just as dangerous if given the chance.

That made her decision.

"Please. You don't have to do this."

Jet's blood ran cold. She squeezed the trigger.

Gunshots. Screams. Silence.

Only the humm of the electric monitors remained, dutifully reporting the status of automated units. Yeah, I did, she thought, moving one of the bodies out of the way. All systems on Lockdown. Type 666 Firewall. Local Control only. She tapped through the various screens not sure what she was looking at. A map. Green dots. Red dots penetrating through. A readout in green text of active drones. Red text, dead drones. She tried another; Target Nemesis Red(Active). Target Alphonse Black(Active). Target Devil White(Dead). Target Mirror Blue(Dead). Target Gypsy Green(Dead).

A single screen caught her eye.

IFF Codes. She had full access. They'd died before logging off. Motherload.



She tried to imagine how whatever remained of GJ must've felt, when every single drone defected as one. Destroying the keyboards and monitors made the change permanent. Someone had to be cheering, somewhere. Friends might live because of what she'd done. That's what mattered.

Jet stood in a small, darkened room surrounded by 7 bodies and smouldering electronics. Despite appearance, they were still enemy combatants. Not prisoners. Not coerced. Not an execution. Not a murder. Just a necessity. She couldn't leave them alive. It still felt like crossing a line. Different somehow. Some small thing had broken inside, for good.

She drew a long, slow breath, pushing it to the back of her mind. No time to worry about it.

Three teams entered her range, barreling towards her.

Somebody must've realised what'd happened.

They left her only one way to go.

Deeper. Towards the final level.

--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?

- Dartz - 09-03-2015

Not the most populsr of fenfics. But finished, nonetheless.

Again with thanks to Cobalt for the contributions.

Another lab. More things that didn't bare thinking about. That fuse had long since blown. Jet slipped between nightmares, searching for anything useful now. Maps. Equipment. Food. Ammunition. Medication. JB-Weld. Around her, the usual psychotic mess. Madness without obligation or restraint. Her mission timer clocked over to 48.

48 hours.

It felt longer.

Felt like a lifetime.

A haze of a world drifted by, battle blending into battle, her mind not really present. Once she'd wondered if she'd died and gone to hell. Maybe got killed a day or two before and her punishment was to never leave. Not until she drowned in blood. And then start over. Another gauntlet. Another challenge. Passed in flying colours. She survived. The warbeast didn't. Himmel zur Holle. Whether it'd once been human or not, she couldn't tell. It didn't matter. Whatever person it'd been had died long before she killed it.

Trapped between a fire-team and a locked door, she blitzed her way out in a hail of bullets and a whirl of blades. Just another fire-team. They fought in bling panic. Jet fought with numb precision, dancing between forms, always trying to stay inside their guard, too close for them to shoot. No more hit and run. Just Hit, Hit, Hit. Only the last few fanatics still held on.

Terrified into blind fighting? Desperate for revenge? Making one last fuck you stand? All three?

In the back of her mind, the first splinters of friendly transmissions, reaching out, reminding her that rescue approached. All she had to do was turn back to survive, to end the game. It'd stopped being about survival the moment she squeezed the trigger and became about something else, beyond even the original mission. The justification was logical, but it didn't feel like the reason.

Jet pushed on, finishing the game, driving deeper.

Around her. Boskone Four began to fall apart.

Some tried to put up a fight. Some ran. A deathtrap misfired, taking three unfortunates with it. Someone screamed, running passed her. Nobody dangerous. More of them. Jet ignored them until one of them took a pot-shot with a hidden weapon. They all became too dangerous to let live. That one bastard ruined it for the rest of them. A rabid gun turret had taken six lives to put down when it turned on its masters. Other drones lay wrecked. She found more - troopers shot by friendly fire. A Marine Champion had been shot to hell by his own squad, taking two with him before going down. Thionite vials had been ripped off their armour. Not far away, someone drooling in the depths of an overdose, so far gone from the world they weren't ever coming back.

Dog-eat-dog had turned to bloody cannibalism. Whatever elastic had held the place together had snapped. All that energy, all that pent up anger, rage and frustration unleashed and turned back on itself in convulsing violence. The mad scramble to escape the downfall had begun.

Gunfire. Screams. A nearby blast blew out the emergency lights. A smothering blanket of black smoke rolled out, riding a draught of superheated air. Thermal imaging washed out to a brilliant white. More screams. A catgirl who'd died quick when her slaver triggered her collar. Her slaveholder, who'd died slow when her friend took revenge. The smashed remains of a trigger box sat beside his fingers. A woman dragging three stuffed suitcases. One burst open, spilling dozens of vials of purple thionite. She pounced on them. Another vulture pounced on her. Guns were drawn.

Jet left them to it.

On her map, only a short distance remained. Endgame approached. The final boss. Land on the rock. Evade the trap. Dodge the hunters. Find the labs. Spot the hostages. Disable the drones. The only thing she lacked was the golden key but explosives were their own kind of universal key. She had enough left.

Another Berserker. It broke off one of her comm-vanes and disabled one of her thrusters before it could be put down. Limping, she stumbled into some sort of workshop, trailing blood. A heavy bench barricaded the door. Her medkit had a single wave-shot, a custom strain grown from her armour to help her body heal. It hit like raw power going in, a live wire driving through her neck, sparking through her body.

Drifting on the edge of consciousness, her memory slurred into a dream, drifting through the cool waters of a familiar swimming pool. She felt it flow through her fingertips and toes, enveloping her body. She heard her name being called - at least, it was her name in here. Something urgent. She saw painted toenails on her feet as she padded towards her room, throwing a silken nightdress over her shoulders to keep the night air out. She felt her swimsuit slip from her body, leaving her standing naked in front of the mirror, staring at her own reflection, both hands on her breasts.

Reality crashed home a moment later, the image replaced by The Knight Saber from hell. Burned. Battered. Bloodied. But still alive. Already, it'd begun to fade, her own self re-crystallising as the effect wore off. An echo from the 'wave. A reminder of where it came from, what'd gone into making it and the risks of overdoing it.

Three seconds, according to her onboard timer. It'd felt like minutes.

Jet rifled through parts bins, looking for anything useful. Success. Two capacitors. They'd replace the igniter on her damaged engine. An ion collimator. Flow regulator. Master control board. It took time. It took care. It took a little firmware piracy from her good thruster, bypassing her surge protectors and a few tweaks. But, in the end, it worked. With three thrusters running again, Jet felt just that little bit safer.

The armour panel still had to be duct-taped into place. Both locater lugs had been fractured. It rattled as she moved.

Beyond hell and into madness, she mused. Compelled, she moved forward. To make it to the end. To finish. To see what waited. To put a fucking end to whoever caused all this, once and for all.

She found offices. Some sort of living area. Something that might once have been a food court. In the gloom of the emergency lights, she found what looked to be a tournament bracket. Rank. Challenger. Incumbent. At the Centre, someone named Horace.

Scrawled in the Challenger field, 'BITCHES' in rough, red letters, obscuring another name.

Jet moved on. The final lab. Abandoned. Darkened. Tense. Another horror. Another reminder of the price of failure. Another reason to drive forward. A contactor slammed shut, driving a bolt of naked terror through her body. A nearby compressor rattled to life. More beds. More equipment. Cables thicker than her arm hung from racks of servers, split out into a hundred and eight individual lines wrapped around a thin helmet shell. The wires looked like the folds of a human brain, the way they'd been run.

Brain-fuck gear.

Jet marked it on her map and moved on. A body slumped over a terminal. Sharp face. Dark hair. Bottle of whiskey.

Another door. Another passage. The last challenge. The final gauntlet. Abandoned. Idle. All she had to do was walk to the door. The label; Station Director. Armoured. Locked. She readied her last charge of explosives.

The door opened before she could knock, pushed by a hissing gas strut.

She saw the monitors first. A wall of them. Boskone Four's death throes played out live and in living colour. Consoles sat empty, abandoned in a hurry. Cold cups of coffee still waited, half-finished. Server banks whirred on battery power, overhead lights still bright and strong, even as the whole station went dark.

"Jaguar is it?" a voice said. Her gaze snapped to the source. "Damn. I'd been hoping for the Scarlet Angel..."

Armour. Standing at the opposite end of the room. Male. Pristine.

"I get that a lot," she answered.

Human. Definitely wearing armour, but still augmented underneath. Horace? It had to be. She waited, gauging the threat. No use going off half cocked, no matter how much her body burned to tear him to pieces.

"Well, I'm surprised you're still alive. We killed all your friends, you know. Every last one of them hunted down." His grin broadened."Maybe you'll do for a quick test of my augmentations, a warmup, before the main event."

Jet shot him. APEX round.

He caught the bullet, whirling it around. She heard it snap past her ear, even as she dived out of the way.

Fuck, Jet thought. She launched herself, not giving him the chance to think. The last thing she saw was a single black controller in his hand.

Every single nerve in her body erupted at once. Naked lightning screaming through her body, burning her to the core. Numbness. Emptiness. Silence. Not even an error message. Her heart spasmed in her chest. Half-formed thoughts arced in her mind, electronics failing to answer. In some way, she knew she had a problem but couldn't conceptualise it. Her thoughts seemed to fall away into a void, passing to the darkness behind her mind. She felt hands grip her body, turning her over in the air.

Impact. Explosion. A rain of sparks lighting up her vision.


A shadow loomed over her. Impact. Pain. Something snapped inside her. She felt herself fly, unable to breath, unable to think. Unable to do anything but scream. Her body crashed into the wall. Something pulled her to her feet, wrenching her left arm. Metal groaned as something in her shoulder popped. A burning hot poker of pain drove through her to the core. Her mind locked, trying to comprehend what'd happened. She was aware of him, looking at her, speaking to her, but couldn't hear. He wanted to see. Mental fingers grasped. An idea sparked.







Fingers closed around her neck. Cold. Steel. Squeezing. Muscles strained. He stared into her goggles, grinning. She had one thing on her side. Muscle. Her fingers found the grip of her pistol. She felt the gunshot. She felt herself drop, landing in a heap on the ground. Wheezing. Inert. Dying. A race between her body shutting down, and her hardware rebooting.

Sparks flared in the back of her mind, lightning in her eyes as her software bootstrapped. She felt her mind reform, electronics refilling the holes. Clarity returned. The familiar flow of data bridging the gap. Sensors, accelerometers, thrusters, powercells, life-support, bioreactors, cardiac stabilisers, autofilters, she felt them all rejoin her self, slowly becoming whole.

Just enough to manage a second shot. She aimed. She fired. The pistol answered with a hard metal click.

Fuck. She dropped her Eagle.

She watched him, staggering. Still alive in spite of an APEX hit. Staggering. Grunting. Clutching at his armour where the shell had gone in. More blood than any human had a right to contain spilled on the floor. Beside her, his inhibitor. Dropped. It shattered under her heel. Good riddance.

"We're the same, you know," he grunted. "We do what it takes to win. To survive. To play the game. I became faster. Stronger. More than a match for her. "

Jet forced herself to breath, inspite of the pain. "The only part of your life story I give two wet shites about is The End."

Both of them stalled. Gauging each other. Planning. Thinking.

"But your forgot one thing," he smiled at her, shaking his head. "I can't die. I made sure. And only one of us will survive." He breathed. She heard bones grind and snap. "That's all it is in the end. The ones who'll do anything to survive, and the ones unworthy of life."

Systems Online.

Jet waited, feigning weakness, staggering on her feet. One thruster refused to trigger, but it could be fixed. He gathered himself. She stepped back, raising one elbow-blade in her standard guard. Her free hand moved close to the handle of her balisword.

Both of them circled each other. Reading. Readying.

He wouldn't make the first move.

"What're you waiting for?"

He glared.


Psychological war was not her strong point.

"You sure you're not afraid of me?"

"No," he shook his head. "Oh, I've watched you fight. Precise. Brutal. Lethal. Beautiful in your own way. But no match." The grin warned her. "And I watched you kill." Jet stopped. "They begged for their lives and you still killed them. It was magnificent."

Something inside her snapped. She heard it break. "Are you alright Jet?" Max's voice broke through her mind, stopping her thoughts dead. Breathless. Clear. She saw Horace ready for her. Katar blade in the gauntlet of his armour.

"Shut the fuck up."

"Strike a nerve?"


"No," she shook her head. Jet scrambled for a mental footed. What'd he want? A.C., one on one. What'd he believe? Survival. Okay. Work with that. "But. You know. You might be able to take me by yourself. But me and A.C?. Me and A.C. and half of Great Justice?" She saw it. That pause. That was the weak point. The nerve. She felt herself smirk. "I hope you can't die. Because that just means a life sentence will be just that little bit longer." He stopped, glaring at her. "No final battle. No darwin shit. Just a cold rock cell far from anywhere warm for the rest of eternity."

No human being could move that fast. Clear across the room in the time it took to blink No human being could've reacted fast enough.

Jet still caught his blade on her balisword, re-directing his energy to herself. He passed, hitting the wall, ricocheting and coming back at her, bellowing in blind fury. Again, she parried, leeching energy. It charged the blade as she swung it around her body. Splitting the handle to spin it, before catching in her spare hand to intercept the next attack.

Another attack, another parry. She traded energy with the blade, pulling herself out of the way, before dumping back. Attack. Parry. Attack. Parry. She stayed in is Shadow, slipping into the Schaten Folgen, gliding around his body, reading, understanding. The first skill she'd learned was reading an opponent.

Full of energy. Turbulent. Chaotic. At war with itself. Fighting against his own momentum the whole time.

He made the same mistake they all did.

Another kick caught her hard in the chest. She rolled into a backflip, letting the blade spin in the air before catching it again. One fluid movement primed her trap and pulled the pin.

He landed opposite her, ten meters away, charging for another attack.

All that energy launched the sword with a sonic crack, leaving her standing on both legs, inert.

Jet heard it slam into his armour, followed by the crash as both sword and body impacted on the concrete wall. Horace gasped, jaw hanging open. Jet stood, panting.

He looked down at the balisword, driven straight through his body, up to the hilt, pinning him to the wall. His body spasmed, nerves re-routing around the damage. He grimaced, twitched, then smiled at her as she backed away. Jet said nothing, panting, a trickle of blood seeping from the edge of her lips.

"You honestly thought that'd kill me?" He pulled himself forward, broken bone grinding against battlesteel. Inhuman quantities of thick, metallic blood trailed behind him, pooling at his feet. Each footstep slurped up blood on the floor. "You made one mis..."

The grenade she'd hidden in the balisword's handle interrupted him, detonating itself inside his body. Both halves of the handle burst open, hinging up and down at supersonic speed before snapping off, bisecting his body from head to toe. The blast did the rest of the dirty work, shredding the remains in a shower of blood, machinery and gore that painted the walls, floor and Jet in a thick, meaty coat.

Slowly, she became aware of the dripping. From the tips of her blades, from the walls, from the ceiling, pooling in thick, sticky puddles on the floor. She stood panting, feeling his remains crawl across her body, draining down to her feet.

The balisword's blade stood scorched but unharmed, embedded in seared concrete, the buckled remains of one handle hanging from the ceiling, the other drilled into the far wall.

Remnants of muscle twitched on the ground, jerking at shards of bone still riveted to twisted pieces of shrapnel. Fingertips rolled across the floor, scorched and smoking, trailing cables from what looked like drive coils. A smashed glass eyeball glared up at her. His heart thumped useless on the ground, spurting air. Sheer force of wave kept the remains alive in spite of themselves. Jet wondered if spattered slugs of brain matter still held the shattered remains of his mind, thoughtless and senseless, but unable to die. She hoped they could still scream.

Good riddance.

A terrible idea entered her mind, an awful possibility.

A single gunshot to an overhead water main made certain it wouldn't happen. A hard, high-pressure rain blasted free, sending thinning rivers of red running towards the drains. It cleansed her face and cooled her skin, running in chilling rivers along the joints in her armoured body. The lights in the room sparked and died, monitors turning dark. Blue electric smoke drifted up from dead computers.

She breathed. Cold, moist air.

Silence. Only the background white noise of failling rain intruded. She waited. And waited. For the other shoe to drop. For the next attack. For anything.


Game over. She paced around, aware of every single bind and creak in her armour, not sure what to do next. Aimless. Thoughtless. Tired. Her mind locked. There was nowhere left to go.

Only the office.

Three steps up. She tore the door open. Probably an intelligence motherload. More monitors. A bookcase. Figurines. The object of his obsession clear. She marched to his desk, mahogany, heavy, ancient. Papers in the drawer. Letters home. A photograph of someone who looked vaguely the same as Horace. But much fatter. A pistol, which she helped herself to, just in case. CZ-75, with a short slide.

Finally, his terminal. Still online. Still linked into he station's comm. What was left of it.

"This is Jet Jaguar. Panzer Kunst Gruppe Engel Zero One transmitting in the clear through an enemy relay. Ident, Echo 2032 Bubblegum. My position is 821.47, 405.28." Jet breathed. "I'm still alive."

No answer.

Nothing left for it but to wait for whatever came to meet her.

She sat on the wrecked remains of a console she'd been launched into, staring at the door. The blade still stood upright, embedded in rock.

She heard footsteps.

A figure. Female. Matte Black. Glass Visor. Another one? Every nerve in her body sparked to life.


For one moment, A.C. feared the worst. She saw it in Jet's eyes, the other cyber ready to fight. She felt herself slip naturally into a defensive form.




Jet visibly relaxed, her expression changing to something somewhere between relief and disbelief. A.C. matched, moving slowly across the floor.

It took a moment to read the situation. The damage patterns. The bloodied wreckage on the floor. Desert Eagle, slide-locked back. The sword-blade embedded in the wall. The blast pattern. The cracks in Jet's armour.The whole flow of the battle formed in her mind, ending in shards of mangled armour, and a cyber standing in the centre of it all with staring, glacier eyes.

A piece of something burst under her heel as she stepped forward.

She tisked lightly, carefully sweeping the chamber Satisfying herself with the situation after a secondary look at the tacorder screen she slung the M4A1 back and took a good look at the damage.

And a mess it was, given the damage and kludging she saw. There was a couple of days work there just from the bodywork, and A.C. was more worried about the internals and the psychological scars.

Jet tried to smile wanly, seeing the cyberdoc trying to keep things light even as she looked him over. Focusing on A.C., Jet got a hint of what else had been going on.

The matte-black bodysuit looked undamaged, but that could be just from the colouring. The space grey over-armour was scratched, gauged, and dinged (and was that a scorch mark?) all over, the right pauldron had a deep dent in it, the armour-glass of the helmet had a hefty crack on the left-hand side. The rifle hadn’t looked too good before the woman had slung it back, and Jet was a bit startled to realise the right armoured holster was empty of the Whistler Custom Glock-18 that A.C. had become nigh-famous for duel-wielding with its twin in her left. Even as smoothly as the other cyber moved, there was the tell-tail hitch of an overstressed hip joint. Jet idly wondered where the Super had found enough room to get that much speed up for that sort of kick.

Then there was the coded stripe indicating A.C. as senior officer Investigations. That at least meant this whole sorry mess was nearly over if they were handing that position out already.

The brief rattle as A.C. typed a note into the tacorder attached to her left vambrace brought Jet out of her fugue.

"My team?" Jet spoke aloud, voice painfully hoarse.

"Five survivors. 1 Missing. 2 Confirmed."

That drew a faint smile to the other cyber's lips. "So, what kept you?" Not an accusation. An attempt at humour.

"Someone," A.C. purred. "Collapsed a tunnel and we had to take the long way around. You wouldn't know anything about who did that?"

"Must've been the Boskone," said Jet. "The wreckage..." she began.

"Horace Rosebottom," A.C. finished.

"You knew him?"

"Unfortunately." A.C. sighed. "Bit of a collector. Wondered if he'd go to pieces on meeting me, but that thought flew apart."

"James Bond has a lot to answer for,"

"It comes with the territory."

Jet forced a smile as A.C. approached. "Big headed bollox. Caused something of a blow up between us."

It came out strained, hollow.

"Shocking." A.C. murmured. "Speaking of..."

"Inhibitor." Jet ground out as her companion gingerly examined her shoulder.

"Surge protectors should've caught that." A.C. moved her attention to the neck damage.

"Bypassed them."

A.C. responded to that with a 'Really Jet?' look for a few seconds before getting back to checking the Knight Saber's head.

"It was either that, or walk. He was hoping to use it on you." The exhausted cyborg noted.

"Given the description of his ego, he'd have been rather disappointed that it'd go to waste." A.C. commented lightly, pulling off the medkit on her right hip as she looked at Jet's torso and hips.

A.C.'s tacorder blurted, and over her back Jet saw someone with a raised gun at the door.

With a crack, the figure’s helmet snapped back taking them over.

“Sit back down Jet, you need a bit of patching before we get you clear.” A.C. hadn’t even moved from Jet’s angle.

"You'll have to show me how to do that."

A.C. smiled at her. "A lady has to have her secrets."

Jet shot her a sour look, and a hoarse laugh. A.C. matched.

"Come on, Jet. Lets get you out of here."


It felt a dream, drifting through the cool waters of a familiar swimming pool. Especially today. She closed her eyes for a moment. She opened them, half expecting to find herself back on that rock. Fortunately not. Still, she drifted.

The water made for a comfortable refuge from all things memorial related. She felt it flow through her fingertips and toes, enveloping that body. A voice called her name. Something urgent. She saw painted toenails on her feet as she padded towards her room, throwing a light nightdress over her shoulders to keep the night air out. She felt her swimsuit slip from her body, leaving her standing naked in front of the mirror, staring at her own reflection, both hands on her breasts.

Just a puppet with a strange sense of deja-vu.

The interface hardware slammed into place, her mind splitting across bodies as she stood in two rooms at once. A beautiful young woman, in her Megatokyo apartment, and a combat cyborg, docked with her 'bed' in an old unreal estate house. She stepped down, feeling the interface cables withdraw from her body. Refreshed, flexible. The puppet slipped between silken bedsheets. Naked silk on bare skin made Jet wish she'd taken up that ShockSkin offer after she broke the link.

But the price'd be too high.

Gel foam on her heels allowed Jet to move around her home with ghostly silence. Her hope that Ford might be in the mood was dashed on arrival at her bedroom door. Ford snored in her bed, sprawled on her back, dead to the world, still in her oil-stained kandorcon t-shirt and jeans.

Today was a day to be Sylia for a while. Before the anniversary ceremony tomorrow anyway.

"Sis. A shuttle's inbound,"

Mackie, through her comm-link. He had to ruin it.


Nothing scheduled. The alarm bells in the back of her mind began to sound.

"3 Passengers. They asked to speak with you."

Me? "I'll meet them down there."

She suspected the worst.

"We're still waiting on the landing bay to depressurise."

The advantage of living on a desolate asteroid was, nobody complained if you broke the sound barrier indoors. The advantage of cybernetics meant being able to stand in naked vacuum. The thought occurred to her, watching the old banger of a shuttle finally touch down, that maybe somebody might pick today for a little vengeance. She pushed it to the back of her mind, squelching down hard. One long deep breath. Not now Jet, got to get on with this.

Through her wave-link, she requested its ident.

IFF: W.V. Evenstar
Registry: Hogsmeade March 2023. Current.

Confirmed by her muse without being asked. Owners name. History. Nothing crazy. Not reported missing or stolen.

Just a visitor. Still strange.

Her ears and sinus popped as the whole bay reflooded, an artificial gale ripping up dust around her. She stared at the shuttle's battered hatch, wondering just what took so long.

The hatch hinged down, oil-starved actuators squealing in protest. Two people.

A woman. Blonde, thin, waist-length hair, carrying a baby wrapped in plain white blankets. A man followed, looking behind him to make sure the shuttle's ramp had locked. Jet felt herself relax. Her sensors showed nothing on them but standard wrist-coms and a baby monitor.

Both of them carefully made their way down the ramp, taking a moment to catch their breath and look around. They shared a look, unsure of where to go next. The air in the bay went still, filled only by the cracks and groans of a cooling spacecraft and a a baby's babbles.

"I'm Jet," said Jet.

"Lindsey Evans," the woman smiled.

"Simon Fuller," said the man offering a handshake.

Jet carefully took his hand. Something about him sparked in her mind, an echo that sent a bloody chill through her body. Dark hair, cut short. Soft cheeks. Still just a little bit boyish, despite being in his mid twenties. He wore a smile, but the eyes had a glare to them. She caught it immediately. A veteran?

No, too young.

In Lindsey's eyes as well, even as she cooed at her own baby as it gurgled for it's mother's attention.

"We don't get many guests out here," Jet said, filling dead air before anyone got suspicious.

"I know," said Lindsey "But we had to come today."


"We met today," said Simon. "Ten years ago. You rescued us."

Jet stopped. There it was. There she stood, face to face with the boy with the rifle. He had a scar, right where his head would've hit ground. She stood in that moment, snapped back a decade to when they'd first met. The sterile smell clung to the inside of her nostrils. The anger. The incendiary hatred. The look in his eyes still the exact same as they had been, Sunken. Anger. Terror.

Both of them stepped back in time. She breathed, mastering it, pushing it aside. She'd had years to practice.

Lindsey broke the silence. "We came here because we thought you'd like to meet our daughter. We named her Jet.."

Jet stood. Eyes wide. Unable to cry. Unable to speak. Unable to do anything but watch a baby pat at its mother's face.

"..thanks," was all she managed to say.

Watching the child, she couldn't help but smile.

It had all been worth it, in the end.
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?