Unable to ignore the obvious need to avoid the blade threatening her, the brown haired warrior ducked. The iridescent broadsword in her hands came down to disarm her opponent.
"Now," she started, "are you willing to leave, or must I repeat my demonstration here with the both of you?" A convincing snarl hung on her lip.
The three exchanged yellow pupiled glances, and decided that this village was not worth the effort.
"N-no," the tallest stammered, "we'll go."
She said nothing, just made a gesture with her transparent blade. The gesture told them to leave, and that if they were to ever return, she would kill them. They scrambled away, giving no hint of rebellion in their retreat. She let the psi-sword disappear into the nothingness from which it had come.
A small group of cheering towns-people approached the tall woman, as she merely regarded them, apparently indifferent.
"Saviour!" one of them said, the self-evident elder of the small village.
"This once," she noted evenly, almost in reflection, "there will be others, senpai."
"Feh," the old man quipped, "what does it matter with the likes of your kind about? I prefer you 'nights to the technocrats of the Coalition and the D-bees any day."
She seemed to study him for a moment, and his confidence froze in mid-motion. He tried to dislodge the wedge by asking a question of the valiant stranger. "Have you a name there?"
She remained silent for a moment, but said, as if adding to an unspoken thought; "I am known as Sliver."
He paled, "the Sliver, in our humble town! Why are you not off fighting the Coalition now? This town means nothing," he muttered, "not a one will miss us."
She regarded him with a sudden warmth that set him at ease. "I go were I am needed," she said, "to defend the good people from evil is my life." Her gaze hardened again. "There is always another evil waiting to be defeated."
"Well, you've done enough for one day, my dear," the old man slapped her shoulder heartily, and in good humour. "Come, we've not much here, but the food is plentiful, and hot. You shall have some rest after that. You look as though your search has only started."
Her gaze, having drifted into the crowd of people who watched the conversation, seeming too scared to move any closer to the legend at hand, snapped back to him. It was steady, probing, curious. She began to wonder how much he really knew.
The old fellow merely smiled.
The hut he accompanied her to was small, and looked well kept. The crowd that had gathered about them earlier seemed to disperse, leaving them alone by the time they reached their destination. Dinner, it seemed, had already been prepared. It consisted of a steaming spice soup, cheese, and bread.
"So what brings you to Quebec?" He asked, setting his empty bowl aside.
Sliver watched him carefully, as she had since dropping what she suspected to be a hint about her origin. Nonsense, she thought, how could he know?
"Rumors," she said easily. She measured him again with her eyes, attempting to perceive the knowledge which he might be hiding. As some moments passed, she decided to risk a psychic probe. Reaching forth with her mind, she felt some measure of apprehension within him. He did not react.
"Sliver, if something happens, don't blame this old fool," he said, looking over her shoulder.
She dropped to the floor and rolled away. As she did, she heard the easy smashing of wood. Getting to her feet and turning around, she noticed the splintered chair she had been sitting in. The voice behind the black skull motif helmet cursed and approached her. She snarled and leapt at him, catching him by the throat and knocking him to the floor. She clenched her fist, and three slim blades extended outward from the back of her hand.
"You won't kill me," he said, still defiant. "You're only a cyber nut."
"Maybe you're right," she agreed. She then pulled back, and decked him. In one motion, she turned and stood up from the unconscious form, and froze. The old man gazed at her, straining against the neck hold of the second grunt, watching the energy pistol held to his head.
"Sliver IŠ" he coughed as the grunt tightened his grip.
"You'll co-operate, or the old man dies," he threatened.
She glared at the grunt, and muttered, "Jupiter Thunderbolt," under her breath. A bolt of what seemed to be lightning struck the man, knocked him over, and causing him to release his grip on the older man's throat.
With a violent cough, the elder called out; "Sliver, run!"
She did that, before she had time to second guess herself. As it turned out, as she bolted out of the door, the Coalition had expected the possibility of her running. She was deafened by the sound of a sonic boom as a violent explosion vaporized the front door and most of the adjoining wall, and also threw her aside.
Scrambling to her feet with a dull ringing in her ears, she had barely enough time to notice what had fired at her before it took another shot. She recognized the laser resistant glint of the armour immediately. A Glitter Boy!
Just as the thought surfaced in her mind, Sliver was caught by the second Power Armour's attempt at subduing it's target. She screamed, thrown backward by the force of the rail gun blast. Her chance for action arose. Swift to her feet, she turned, and sought nearest exit, if one existed. A curse rose to her lips. No such luck, the Coalition had anticipated that tact as well, apparently. She turned again, and ran at the eight foot tall glittering Power Armour. The man inside the armour gave with a gasp as the half ton of armour fell over with the impact of this comparatively small humanoid woman.
"Halt!" A voice demanded coldly. "Or there will be more corpses like this one around here."
The charred remnants of the old man landed at her feet, smoking, and smelling of freshly warmed death. She said nothing, replying as much cold hatred her face would allow.
"Bloody bitch," a voice cursed from within the glitter armour. "Here, have some back!" She felt a dull thud as something knocked her the cool earth. Then she remembered nothing.
She awoke with a groan. Silence greeted her as she glanced about the white walled room. There were no windows, which did not surprise her. What did, however, was the apparent lack of any door.
Getting up, she felt a wash of pain move down from the back of her head to her neck. Strangely enough, they hadn't bothered to bind her. On that mental note, she realized that she wasn't clothed! The only article of clothing she seemed to be wearing was a metal collar.
Horrified, she sat down with her knees drawn to her chest.
"Getting comfortable, are we?" Came a voice in clearly mocking tones.
She said nothing, looking around for the source.
"Good. You're going to be here for some time."
"Where am I?" She demanded.
"Supposing I told you, what would you do with that information? No, I don't think so. You'll know what we want you to know, and answer the questions we ask of you."
"Bloody hell I will!" She retorted angrily.
"No? Well, you might not agree immediately, but given time, and a little persuasion, I'm sure you'll become all too agreeable."
"I'd sooner die!" She stood, anger pushing aside her modesty as she got to her feet.
"My my, you are a pretty thing, aren't you?"
Clenching her fists, the six vibro blades failed to extend. She looked at the back of her hands. Steel plates had been affixed to her hands via small slips of synthetic material wrapped around the palms.
"The cat gets de-clawed," the voice laughed. "Little good they would do you anyway. You're ours now."
She bowed her head and started to mutter something under her breath.
"Magic? We took that as well," the voice continued. "Along with everything else, including your psychic powers."
"Everything?" She asked, a slight smile spreading on her face.
"Good to hear you're starting to see things our way."
"You might say that." She said as she walked towards one of the walls. She raised as fist and put it through the wall in one violent motion.
The voice cursed it's error.
She began pulling out sections of the wall. It seemed as though the wall had been built next to aŠ sewer? They were underground! She punched the black piping. It gave a little, and also hurt a bit. She clenched her fists together, and hit it again. The pipe gave completely and her hands sank in. She reached into the hole and began widening it.
Just as the opening started to become large enough for her to fit into, she heard a hiss. Turning, she saw a square section of the wall opposite her open.
"Halt!" A power armour demanded.
Makoto cursed. She had just enough time to duck the first blast as it struck the opening she had been prying at. Glancing at it as she scrambled to her feet, she noticed that the rest of her work had been finished for her. She jumped into the opening, and fled.
The inside of the sewers turned out to be just as bright as the outside of the piping. It was damp, cold, and she was shivering. Her awareness of that brought her to think ahead.
Where will I go? I can't go above ground with this collar!
Emotions welled inside her as her feet carried her on.
"Hey you!" A deep voice called. "Stop!"
A backwards glance told her that she was no longer alone. They had caught up to her. At the speed they were running, she had time to - maybe - find a place to hide, but no more than that.
Lights flashed ahead of her.
She stopped, eyes darting, furious.
"Hey!" A rustic voice said quietly. So quietly that she didn't hear it at first. "Hey!"
Makoto's eyes snapped to the source. There was a space between where two of the sewer pipes joined. To her right she could see a very masculine face trying not to stare at her. "Come on!"
She hesitated for a moment, and realized that there just wasn't time. The fellow offered his hand. She took it, and slipped into the crevasse with him.
They ran for what felt like some distance. Finally the man started to slow.
"We're probably safe now. They can't follow us." Makoto was silent. He gazed at her and shook his head. "You're too pretty to be a D-Bee," he remarked.
"I'm not a D-Bee," she protested.
"Wait," he eyed her. "You are a D-Bee. You're that lady cyber-knight, right?"
She nodded. "Glad you noticed," she replied sarcastically.
He did not seem to notice her tone. "The rumours didn't do you justice," he smiled. "Let's get you some clothes."
She glared at him. He shrugged. He took off the leather coat he was wearing and offered it to her. She refused it, shivering.
"Gettin' cold, eh? Come on, I'm not gonna hurt you. I mean, we're far enough away from the sewers that you couldn't find your way back if you ran," he said, looking calm.
Makoto took the coat and wrapped it about her shoulders. He had a point. As they continued on, she noticed a dramatic change in the climax. From cool and muggy to warm and stale.
"Where are we?" Makoto asked.
"We're near a power plant." He stated seriously. "In this heat you almost don't need clothes," he grinned, glancing backwards at her for a moment. When he realized she was aware his gaze, he quickly averted his eyes. "I'll take you somewhere you can get that collar and the blade restraints off."
He gaze her a look that told her he would not mind forgetting that, but had not. "Here." He stopped and gestured towards a small closet. She stepped towards it, and opened the door. Inside were several sets of pants, shirts, blouses, and other accessories of varying types. "I set this up a long time ago, just 'cause you never know."
She started towards them, but hesitated.
"Do you mind?" She asked.
"What?" A stern glance made him concede. He turned around. "It's not like you got anything to hide. Er, I meanŠ"
"Keep talking," she said, "you've already made a lasting impression. You can just keep on acting stupid if it suits you."
"Stupid? Hey babe, I saved your life."
"You don't think I couldn't have handled those creeps?"
"No. Psi-Freak or not, you would've been nailed."
She frowned, and slipped on a shirt.
"Psi-Freak. Boy, you must think you're pretty hot stuff."
"Yeah, actually, I do. You got a problem with that?"
No, only that I owe you my life. "I could've managed."
"Sure, and I'm Uncle Sam."
"Ok, you can turn around now."
He did, and froze, gazing appreciatively over her. "They weren't lyin' when they said you wereŠ"
"Quit drooling, will you?" She said, eyebrows knitted, glare sharp. "The name's Makoto. You want the jacket back?" She started pulling it off.
"No, you can keep it. Uh, you can call me Hanlan, er Han." He reached into the closet and pulled out another leather jacket.
In turn, they shared a brief fascination with each other.
She regarded him for a moment. As he put on the jacket, she realized that there was something she found vaguelyŠ attractive about him. He was well built, not heavily muscled, but too stocky to be lanky. His brown shoulder length hair looked it could use a good combing, and washing. Still, it appropriately framed his roughly chiselled face. Even that looked stocky, edgy, and tough. He had blue eyes. Makoto thought they were almost inappropriate for such a bruiser.
In her nudity, at first glance, she had seemed to him like a pretty-girl. Further unabashed study indicated that she had more muscle than any pageant girl might have. Her body was too well toned. She looked to have seen a lot of adventure, and enjoyed it. Despite the muscle, she didn't lack a figure. As a matter of fact, she had enough of one to rival alot of the fragile beauty queens he had known in the past. In clothes, particularly in the style she had chosen, she looked tough, in a strange, female kind of way. She had chosen a blue shirt, black pants, shades, and black biker gloves, which he saw hanging out of one pocket. He decided his jacket looked very nice on her as well. With those clothes, she had a somewhat husky look to her that seemed strange. All the women he had known had run at the first sign of trouble. She looked like the type of girl who would not only face the trouble, but look for more. But then, trouble was just another factor in his life. He enjoyed it.
The moment he realized he was attracted to her, he distracted from it by turning to the task at hand.
"Uh, why don't we get you do that doc."
"Doc? Who?" She asked, suddenly on her toes.
"A friend of mine. Come on Makoto, you can trust me."
"Like hell," she replied. "Let's go."
"Are you sure it's safe?"
He looked back at her. "You tell me. You're the Psych."
"I don't have radar," she snapped back. "Just because I canŠ" she fell silent.
"Look over my shoulder," she said, "someone behind us is very nervous for some reason. I don't know why. It could be a false alarm."
"We're almost thereŠ" Han's unshaven face tensed in consideration. "Damnit, I'm not taking any chances with you here." He grabbed her arm and pulled her into the nearest alleyway.
"What the hell are you doing, Han? You think I couldn't handle a fight?"
"No, I don't. I'm not gonna to let you get hurt. We're going to take the back door," he said.
"Hai," she frowned, "I really need the protection." Still, glancing over her shoulder, Makoto could see no one behind her.
"I don't care who trained you," Han said plainly, not looking at her. "You're a woman. Do you really think I'm gonna to let you fight?"
"And I suppose you're going to stop me?"
He looked at her, chagrined. "If it comes to it, babe."
She stopped. "The hell you will," she snapped, hands on hips. "I've fought more dangerous D-Bees than anything you might have encountered."
"Do I look like I really care what you fought? You're wit' me. The last thing I wanna do isŠ" is voice trailed off as he noticed a cloaked figure approach them. "Damn."
"Welcome to my parlour," said a voice, accompanied by the click of a rifle. "Said the spider the fly."
"I was hoping to avoid a fight, this once," Han admitted.
Makoto grinned. "I can live with it."
"Yeah, right babe. You just stay put while I clean his clock. That okay with you?" Not waiting for an answer, Han leapt at the man before him. There was a gunshot, then a dull thwack! Han got to his feet. "Geez, I wish they'd make thugs a little tougher. I almost had to hurt him."
"Not that we have any qualms about hurting you," a voice sustained. Three dark figures appeared seemingly from nowhere. They did not appear to be armed. Han picked up the rifle from the unconscious man. One man with a gun against three. Yep, Han thought, that makes it about even.
He shot the nearest of the three, who fell to the ground, motionless. Just as he turned to aim for the next, hands reached out and wrenched Han's rifle away. A fist hit him, hard, and he tasted blood. He staggered backwards, landing on his butt.
Makoto cursed as she approach Han's assailant. Han wasn't sure if she even moved when she attacked the two figures. No, her hands and arms did blur as she struck them. They came back twice, and Makoto delivered, almost seeming to enjoy the fight. Finally, they lay on the ground, unmoving. Han managed to get to his feet by the end of the fight, cursing is inability to defeat the three attackers.
"So I can't fight eh?" She asked, stepping up to him, hands on hips.
Han said nothing, he just looked at her. His eyes fell to hers, and locked. Before he knew what happened, she was in his arms, and their lips pressed. A moment flickered, and dropped. She stepped back, flustered. "IŠ"
"Sssh. Let's just go, ok?" Han said. She nodded, emotionally aflutter.
"Where'd you say you was from again?" A slightly overweight man asked as he carefully lasered the vibro-restraints.
"Tokyo," she said, watching his cigar stained fingers carefully.
He snickered. "Don't you worry none, I ain't hurt a'one yet."
"Yet," she observed.
"Tokyo? Can't say much about th' place, 'cept they got some nice Tech," he paused to expel a cloud of smoke through his mouth. "And nice women."
Makoto sighed internally, and coughed aloud. What a shack, she thought. Bits and pieces of what Laray called "tech" lay strewn everywhere, in no particular order.
How could he live like this? Then it occurred to her. He really doesn't have any alternative. Her mind wandered to a place she missed. I want to go back home. I wantŠ She bowed her head slightly, hoping to hide her tears. Suddenly Han was there, asking Laray if he was done. The balding man nodded deftly. "If ya don't mind, I'm gonna keep your collar. I guess you don't want it?"
She merely shook her head.
"Okay. I gotta check out some supplies in the back roomŠ"
"Just go," Han said. Without further supposition, he did.
"Why're you crying? What'd they do to you?" He swore. "I hate to see you hurtin' like thisŠ"
She smiled faintly, then broke into bitter tears again. She felt eighteen again, and didn't like it. Why am I crying now? Why in front of Han?
The bruiser took Makoto in his arms, and was quiet for a while.