Note from the Author: Meant as part of an ongoing series (I hope). I want to send a special thanks to Colleen Thomas. Her work in both The Run, and Voices, helped inspire me to work on some of my own Cyber Punk genre experiences, having been a gamer for fifteen years now. I hope that all will see my sincere attempt at flattery. I also want to thank my editor, Andrea, for all her help and putting up with my crap.


Daniel stretched out on the oversized bed feeling the deliciously cool satin rub against his naked body. Looking over at the flawless form of his escort, he had nearly forgotten about her presence, her perfect body, a heat generator in his cool apartment. Long supple limbs perfectly toned to that of a professional dancer, skin as smooth and creamy as money could buy, hair and nails perfectly manicured so that even a night of intense physical exertion couldn't tame them.

Her breasts were full, large and fake, with the nipples a perfectly painted rosy pink. He could see her mound with its hair shaped in an x, exactly like a pirate map, matching the coppery blonde of her head. If he had to make a guess he would say about 100k Hong Kong, just for all the externals.

He could handle all of that, 'til her eyes opened, and those Kanobi 1700's stared at him in the non-human blue. A small smile played on her cosmetically full lips as she noticed he had been watching her body, probably thinking she might have just won herself a mark. Hoping maybe that she might be able to wrangle out enough money to pay off some of the debt she owed on her sculpted form.

Suddenly feeling sick with himself, he rolled off the bed grabbing his wallet; he hated his insight at times. The tile floor felt cool to the touch only long enough for his internal sensors to detect then nullify it as warm blood was forced to his feet and his metabolism was kicked into a higher stage.

Pulling out three thousand in Hong Kong cash, he laid it on the dresser as he made his way towards his bathroom.

"Money's on the table," he said without so much as a second glance. He knew she wouldn't take anything that hadn't come with her, and she would be grateful for the tip he had left her. The level of escort service she came from ensured a certain amount of safety, but even that only went so far.

He started the glass-incased shower as he stepped in, muting the shower's noise internally. He paid close attention to her movements as she gathered her things and left with the money. A trick he had picked up over the years as a means of survival, and it had saved him more than once.

As he heard the door click shut with a slight electric hum of the magnetic lock, he finally allowed himself the luxury of fully relaxing. Though he didn't need to use the hot water as means of warming himself, he did enjoy the sensation of stinging heat as it beat on skin. He had always loved a hot shower first thing in the morning. He checked his internal clock and saw the time was 14:37. Make that first thing in the afternoon.

He took a look at himself in the mirror before heading out, his black suit, with a high collared white shirt, simple black tie, and perfectly pressed pants. His trench covered that, giving the illusion of a low to mid level corporate worker, only the slight bulge of the armor and weapons gave any indication that he wasn't what he appeared.

He forced himself to smile as he stared at his reflection; it still amazed him how people would react to it. He had never considered himself pretty or handsome, though he didn't have a hard time finding women to go home with him. His light brown hair was offset by his naturally green eyes it had cost him a near fortune to get the exact same color as his original eyes, but he felt it had been worth it. To him, the eyes were the windows to the soul, if there was such a thing.

He left his reflection with a last look around the room making sure all was secure before picking up his briefcase and heading out, hitting the maid service button before closing the door. He took the elevator down to the main lobby of the complex, always empty; it was the kind of place businessmen had to take his mistress, or to establish her. It is why he chose it to begin with, all part of the illusion.

Noticing the rain he pulled an umbrella out of his brief, as he walked out onto the busy sidewalk of Hong Kong. Entering the cab he closed the umbrella and returned it to the brief were the auto dry started with a muffled hum. He gave an address and watched the people and vehicles pass by as the cab pushed its way into traffic, then bullied its way through the crowded streets towards the destination. He watched with a trained awareness as he traveled, making sure no cars were following as he watched the reflection of the mirrored skyscrapers.

The towering glass giants dwindled as he moved south, to be replaced by older business buildings turned townhouses, then changed to modern apartment complexes, finally to lower rent buildings, where all the "help" stayed.

Calling the cab to halt he got out, paid with a moderate tip, and started walking down the street. He could almost smell the oily machinery and rusted metal of the docks nearly two klicks south. It reminded him of home.

He opened the door to the bottom level of a gray nondescript building whose only sign was a basic wood board with black lettering in English, and Mandarin, saying "Gym". The interior was brightly florescent, as the windows were all covered to allow no external distraction, and the smell of sweat, leather, and bodies assaulted him. The noise of weights clinking, treadmills running, fists hitting bags, and people sparring were a familiar sound that brought a small level of peace to his mind.

Chad glanced at his arrival and just gave a nod of acknowledgment as he walked in, turning back to those sparring even before Daniel could return the nod, business as usual. Chad was an odd character. Of Indonesian decent, he had a thick accent that Daniel couldn't place even after all this time, but he knew the gym and sport fighting business. He was small with darker than average skin, and a quick, bright grin that struck as open honesty, so rare in this day. Now, however, his face was screwed up yelling at the two in the ring, his swearing coming in so many languages that Daniel couldn't recognize them all, and he knew most.

Daniel climbed the stairs towards the right. As he passed the office he saw Katrina absorbed in her terminal, part secretary, part student, and Chad's only daughter. She looked nothing like her father, seeming of strong Norse decent, her naturally blond hair and blue eyes were in sharp contrast with her father. She was a rare unaugmented beauty, who doted on her father and had him wrapped around her finger. There was nothing that Chad wouldn't do for her, and gods help any man who tried to harm her.

The closest thing he had, or allowed, as family and they were precious. Anyone trying to take that away would feel the wrath of hell. He would ensure it.

Up the stairs he opened a small apartment across from the locker rooms. Large enough for a single bed, a tiny desk with tele-view next to it, dresser and weapons locker on the opposite side, with an unblocked view of the shower and toilet. It was more of a home to him than the high priced flat he rented for appearances.

He changed again for his daily workout, anywhere from two to four hours was his normal, he didn't actually watch a clock or count reps anymore. He was beyond that, working his bio enhanced muscles to a comforting strain. He had a preferences towards the bio instead of the hardware that most runners used, it was easier to hide, and left him feeling a little more human. Though the cost was great, the adage, you get what you pay for was true on this account.

He was just finishing his shower and about to turn off the water when the door opened to his room. He knew who it would be, if there was ever a time when he could count on Katrina, it was to come in while he was taking a shower. He couldn't help but feel a little pleased by her obvious enjoyment at watching him; it did however make him keenly aware of her father's protectiveness.

Maybe that's why she never entirely entered his room, just kind of leaned on the doorframe, so that even her father could tell nothing shady was going on. Grabbing a towel he watched, and waited as she got her eye full, scanning him up and down, like she was memorizing everything about him.

"So was there something you wanted or are you just here to ogle me?" he said as he started to dry off. A small smile twitched her lips at the comment, but still the eyes hadn't made it back to his face yet.

"Both actually," she stated as her eyes finally reached his, "besides I can't help it if you are an excellent specimen of the male populace."

"Of course you would use anthropologic terminology to describe nothing more than watching the meat market," he stated with a wry twist of the lips. He started to slip clothing then his form fitted body armor on, and noticed she had the smug look on her face for having gotten away with something.

He dressed quickly under her watchful gaze, feeling a slight something he hadn't in a long time, self-conscious. She let out a small purposeful sigh as the last of his clothing came into place, and he couldn't resist glancing at her. She had her lower lip tucked between her teeth, a bad girl looking innocent routine that she had perfected. It made him want to growl. He didn't because he knew it would only encourage her.

"You got a message from an unknown, stating you are wanted at Grizzly's 22:00," she continued, her face set in a professional secretary manner that would have had executives banging down the doors. He sometimes wondered how it was that she was able to slip roles like that. Enticing nymph to hard ass professional, the switch was like a splash of cold water.

"Unknown?" he restated. It was code for couldn't track the incoming call. He had set up a small terminal with some good, albeit not great, trace programs. Now he understood the change in attitude.

He knew the place, a hangout for local Americans. Not a usual meeting place, no one he knew did Biz out of the place. As he understood, just low-level VR, and chemicals were pushed there. It unsettled him.

"Correct. Are you going?" Worry tinted her voice. He realized he must have given something away, her eyes pinched slightly in concern.

"Biz is Biz," he said flatly, bringing up his best disarming smile, trying to relieve any concern she may have.

"Sure it is" her mouth drawing her thick full lips into a hard thin line of anger.

"By the way you're late on rent," she said in her cold tone as she walked tightly down the stairs towards the office below.

More code for the gym was in trouble financially. He had helped finance the gym to start, knowing that Chad knew the business, but the entire bookkeeping was done by Katrina, and she had come to him secretly for more money when things got tough, so he had made a deal with Chad to rent the room next to the lockers, in exchange for small monthly payments. Chad had an odd sense of honor about money.

He walked down to the office slowly, the noise of the gym having settled some as people were starting to head home. Except for Chad and a couple of hopefuls whom he worked to exhaustion, the place was almost empty.

The noise and humidity dimmed to the point a person almost couldn't hear the rattling air conditioner, and industrial fans that stirred the air on the floor. Katrina was absorbed in the net, when he made a transfer of funds. Checking the time, he knew the money wouldn't be accessible until tomorrow. Though she hadn't asked for an amount she never asked unless it was major so he slipped ten thousand into the business account.

"Happy birthday, Fuckhead," her tone still angry, she pushed a cupcake in front of him. The lone candle at top nearly doused as she dropped it on the desk.

He couldn't help but look at it. He wanted to ask if it was really his birthday, though he knew Katrina wouldn't be wrong on the matter, it was just that he had forgotten he even had a birthday.

He looked up at her in honest surprise, and a little bit of wonder not knowing what to say.

"Thank you," he said. It seemed small and inadequate, but it was all that came out.

"You reached thirty one, congrats," she said, her face softened slightly as she watched him. "Now blow out the fucking thing before it gets wax all over my desk." Her face hardened before it turned back to the console. Her language use was one of her more charming traits, like her father.

"Sixteen years, Katrina, it's been sixteen years since I've had a birthday cake." He said as he licked the wrapper the cupcake, and a small slightly painful smile entered his face. "Thanks kid."

Her face having softened into a pleasant smile changed as the last words exited his mouth.

"Don't you dare call me that Danny," her words a whisper full of venom and acid. "I'm nineteen, and a full grown adult."

It was the way the words escaped her that struck Daniel, as if there was a great well of rage and hate from which she could pull. She was the only one he ever let call him Danny, she was the only one who had never tried to wield it like a weapon; until now.

"I know your age, I've been to your last three birthday parties. It has been a little over a year since you turned eighteen and started walking in on me..." he was going to continue, his own anger seemed to fizzle as she stood in front of him with such force that her chair slammed against the wall.

"This isn't about calendar age, god damn it, and you know it. You know the hells that dad and I have been through. You know that I don't have shitbag fantasies or fluffy ideals about how life is." Her face was a twisted red that seemed to be highlighted with veins that were starting to turn purple and throb.

"You know I am not and haven't been a 'kid' in a fucking long time, Danny. You have never treated me as one before and I will not; will not, have you starting now. Is that understood you bastard?" Her breath was coming in deep angry pulls now, causing her nicely sized chest to rise and fall, nipples hard and straining against her sport bra and t-shirt.

All he could do is give her a nod of agreement. She was right; she had come up hard, and even with a father like Chad there would be challenges and trials. Being a blond haired, blue-eyed female in a mainly Asian area, especially female, meant she must have resisted kidnappings, rapes and seductions. If any of those had occurred he hadn't heard of it. But she would have experienced it, if not first hand, at least witnessed it. He knew that, he merely forgot, he did that from time to time with those he cared for; wanting to lock them away from all harm. He didn't have the right, and he knew it.

"Rent's paid," is all he said as he left the office, allowing the door to close by it's own accord. He saw Chad raise eyebrows at him.

"I'm an idiot," he stated as he walked towards the exit. He could still hear Chad's barking laughter, full and rich as it filled the gym; understanding the underlining truth to those words, having been on the barbed side of Kat's tongue before. When she decided to argue, she always won.

Darkness was starting to settle on the city night as he walked down the block to grab a taxi, the city lights, and cold mist gave a haunted feel. The rain had started again, so he turned up the collar on his trench, nudged his metabolism up a few notches to fight the chill, and headed out. His current clothes were the real him, rusty browns and grays, loose and relaxed, they allowed him perfect freedom of movement, weighted down only by the light ceramic armor, and weapons he carried.

He had almost reached a waiting cab when the sounds and sights down a dead end alley got his attention. His thermals kicked in showing six figures, five against one. The five had low level, but large amounts of chrome showing, dampening heat signatures in strategic positions, mainly light pistols and knives. The sixth, was female by size and weight distribution, lightly modified, but meant to offset biological differences that come from being born female, heavy pistol in left hand a metal pipe in the right.

He knew he should continue on but his curiosity was tweaked, what would five gangers want with one lone woman, besides the obvious. They were circling in on her, cornering like a predator, not a lone victim.

As he switched his cyber eyes to starlight to get more detail, the gangsters were Choppers, a sublet of the Triad known to use butcher's tools to chop and maim instead of kill. The woman was wet from the rain, her short black hair plastered to her head; she had the appearance of a person in one too many fights, her nose having been broken in multiple places. One lip, still scabbed from a recent fight, twisted in a smiling snarl, allowing blood to leak from the crack in the scab. Her stance signaled readiness, her legs coiled loosely, like springs.

It was her eyes that made him stop moving towards the cab. There was an overwhelming glee in them. She was a young lioness fighting a pack of hyenas. He knew she would win the fight, though it may cost her one or more limbs, and he knew he couldn't allow that. Before he realized it, he had closed the twenty meters and had his .357 auto-mag at the back of one ganger's head.

In his amplified state, the red mist caused by the exit hole of the armor piercing round was seen even before his sound dampeners kicked in to protect his hearing, leaving a feeling of silent thunder as the concussion wave from the bullet breaking the sound barrier traveled his body. The next shot was aimed at the low right side of the next Chopper, just below and behind the angled elbow. The high explosive round caused a flowering of blood, tissue, and bone at the lower rib cage as it did its job, blooming like a plasma bag dropped from a skyscraper.

The third was in the process of turning, his Mongol features looking towards the sudden appearance of Daniel and the sounds created. He didn't have time to blink before the next AP round entered his forehead, cocking his head at an odd angle as the body started to tumble like a tossed rag doll. The fourth ganger, Korean most likely, was moving head and gun towards the new threat, smarter than the last but not trained so he fired to soon, missing Daniel completely. Daniel saw the red dot of his SIG on the armpit of the leveled gun arm, and stroked the trigger. The gangster's chest rippled unnaturally, like a tight balloon inflated for the first time, the HE round worked magic on the soft target.

The fifth ganger was simply staring at Daniel, not yet getting the situation. Not understanding how his hunt of a single female prey had suddenly turned into a massacre of the hunters. He stood transfixed as Daniel leveled his gun, the smart-linked weapon leaving a red dot on the forehead of Chopper.

"Run." Daniel said in a voice calm and cool, though he wasn't sure, since the echoes of the gunshots still reverberated through the alley so his sound dampeners hadn't let up. He could only guess at the volume of his voice by the vibration in his own skull.

The Asian/Black ganger didn't have be told twice, he tore through the alley way towards the street knocking down piles of trash and slamming into dumpsters as he slipped on the rainy streets. Daniel hadn't even realized he was smiling till he turned towards the lone female. He smoothed his features as he holstered the weapon and turned to leave, his mind preparing to forget the entire episode. He was looking for the now absent cab, most likely having hauled upon hearing the shots.

"Fuck you!" the scream so powerful and full of rage that it strained with a croak near the end.

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