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by Danielle Delaney and Dare Cheung

Jude's body shivered with tremors of convulsions and fits as the tendrils of NAVI's components slid away. Melding was the scariest part of her delve into the Wired. She could never shake the fear of being trapped and unable to move for even the briefest amounts of time. Despite the fact that NAVI protected her with a cocoon of wires and metal.

Jude's fingers twitched uncontrollably but the decreasing spasms meant she was slowly getting control of her body. This was the most dangerous part of going into the Wired. She had nothing to fear while in it, for nothing could harm her. But when she returned to the physical world, she was vulnerable. Incredibly vulnerable as vicious experience had taught her.

The latest attempt to break through Sagawa's security system didn't go too well. She was actually impressed by how well they guarded their company secrets. But that only fueled her desire to hack in and delete the files. That, and the vegeance she needed to exact for the death of her family, the Dragons. Jude knew that after freeing Shiro's mind, it would only be a matter of time before the corporation would do it again on someone else. That could not be allowed to happen. Not that Jude had any sense of moral values. She just didn't want that power in Sagawa's hands. Or anyone's. But Sagawa especially.

Jude flopped her arm out. She had to get up and get herself cleaned up. Sweat rolled off her skin like beads of water. Her vision was a little blurry still and she tossed her head. Someone stared back at her.

Jude tried to react but she was still a little dazed from the meld. The woman grabbed her arm roughly and shackled it against the cold clasp of an open handcuff. A cop!

Moving with energy born of rage and fear Jude jerked backward. Using her other free arm, Jude formed a fist and shot directly towards the woman's face. The woman simply dodged her head to the left, grabbed Jude's arm and wrenched it behind her back painfully. Jude grimaced but managed to snap, "Let me go so I kick the shit outta you!"

"Quiet," the woman said simply. It was hardly harsh or threatening. The woman hauled Jude up to her feet, which was a mistake because Jude kicked her in the midriff and broke free.

Jude let the attached handcuff dangle loosely at her raised fists. She would take it off after she took care of the cop. The woman, being a woman, didn't phase Jude one bit. Cops were all the same and they had to learn not to mess with her ever again.

Jude launched herself at the cop, screaming with full fury. She delivered several quick jabs and punches, all of which were blocked. Feeling the need to vary her attacks a little, Jude ducked and attempted to sweep the woman from her feet. However, the cop anticipated it and jumped over Jude's moving leg. Jude waited for the woman to land and sent a punch to her chest. But the woman's hand shot out at lightning speed and deflected it. Jude slipped free and used the momentum to roundhouse kick the cop. Instead of meeting her foot against the woman's head, the woman leaned her head back and grabbed Jude's leg in midair and spun her off balance. Jude slammed to the floor abruptly. She tried to back away quickly so she could reassess the situation but an open palm smacked against her face.

Jude stumbled back to the floor and felt herself being hauled to the wall. She struggled against her own dizziness but failed. Trying to think after melding was damned hard enough but with this witch of a cop smacking her around it was almost impossible. The woman took the free end of handcuff and latched it against a sturdy metal beam in the warehouse. The clicking of the handcuff's clasp was indication that Jude was stuck.

"Stay," the woman told her like she was a dog. That only made Jude angrier and she lashed at the cop with her nails. The cop backed away and looked at her. "So, you're the one who's been hacking into our computer system?"

"Since when has Sagawa been hiring pigs?" Jude seethed.

"Sagawa?" the woman's eyebrow arched. "I'm talking about Chobetsu mainframe. Breaking into a government computer system is a serious offense."

"Chobetsu?" Jude's mind worked over time to try to remember what in hell the woman was talking about. Then she remembered with vivid scorn and sneered, "That sorry excuse for a collection of microchips? Any five year old can break into that piece of junk you call a system. I did it for fun and I'd do it again. You got a problem with that?" Jude decided it would be funny to spit in the woman's face. She did.

The woman didn't find it very amusing. She wiped her dirtied mouth with the back of her hand. "I really don't give a damn what you like to do."

"Fucking cops!" Jude growled. "Go back to munching on donuts! Damn cops don't even fight fair. I swear, if you had come in any other time I would have seriously kicked the shit out of you."

The woman smirked.

"What the fuck are you smiling at? All that cream filling gone to your brain, what little left you got?"

The woman straightened up. "I just find it amusing how full of yourself you are." She didn't bother to respond to Jude's latest cussings and insults but walked over to NAVI. "Interesting stuff you have here. I have absolutely no clue how you use it but I'm sure the techies would love to have their hands on that."

"Get away from those!" Jude ordered. The mere idea of someone else touching her precious NAVI scared the shit out her. "Not that you braindead cops could even understand a fraction of that technology."

The woman walked backed to Jude. "Look, kid, I'm not a cop. So stop calling me one. My name is Kimiko Souichi." She paused. "Now, we're leaving this place. You can either walk out or I carry you out. I'm not adverse to knocking you unconscious if that's what it takes. Now, which do you prefer?"

Jude's eyes glared back with as much ice and hatred as she could muster, hoping stares alone could vaporize the woman who held her captive.

"I take it your silence means you'd like to stay conscious." Kimiko gazed at the handcuff securely fastened to the wall. "Now, I know what you're thinking. Once the cuffs come off the wall, you're probably going to try and kick me, or punch me or bolt." She pulled out a handgun from behind her back. "Remember, I told you not to call me a cop? That's because I'm not. And that means I don't have to bring the scumbag criminals alive."

Jude watched Kimiko place the key into the handcuff. She looked at the gun and then looked at Kimiko's eyes. She knew the cop was fast. Jude wasn't sure if she was bluffing about killing her. Somehow, she believed it. This was a fine fucking mess she was in, she thought. She had to think of a way to get out.

Suddenly, the ricochet of bullets glanced off the wall. Kimiko ducked her head. Jude took the opportunity to run. She had the advantage of knowing the layout of the warehouse. The nearest door would lead her to a main hallway. Whoever was shooting was probably guarding the exit and that left going deeper into the warehouse. Hopefully the darkness would conceal her long enough to hide her from everybody.

Jude's body slammed to the ground as Kimiko tackled her. "Get off me, you crazy bitch!" Jude hissed and tried to push her off. Instead, Kimiko took Jude's handcuffed arm and secured the free end to her own wrist. Jude stared back in shock. They were handcuffed together.

"What the fuck are you doing?!" Jude screamed with disbelief.

"I'm not letting you escape."

"Are you crazy?" Jude cringed as more bullets shot towards them. "They're going to kill us if we don't run!"

"I know that," Kimiko growled back, showing some emotions for the first time. "But, now I know they're not friends of yours." She hauled Jude to her feet. Jude made a grab for Kimiko's gun and attempted to pull it from her grasp. Kimiko yelped, "What do you think you're doing?"

Two men came into far view with weapons raised. They fired and Kimiko had the sense to pull both her and Jude back to avoid the bullets. However, the gun dropped out of Kimiko's hand. She tried to grab it but Jude was already heading for the darkened hallway, pulling Kimiko along with her. _________

Jude didn't even bother to look back at the woman she was dragging behind her. She listened to the movement of the men in the black warehouse and moved with quiet percision towards the stairs that led to her bike. She kept a running stream of obscenities going in her head as she cursed herself nine ways from sunday. Not only had that SOB Dachend been able to find her but one freakin' cop and Sagawa had tracked her down as well. Fuck, she was getting soft or something.

Jude blew a lock of curling auburn hair out her eyes and peered around the corner, one hand firmly over the cop's mouth. Kimiko removed her hand roughly and barked quietly at her.

"Would you stop that?!"

Jude turned around to glare the cop down and met eyes as determined as her own. She shook her hair out of her face. "Look, you want out of here alive, just trust me for a sec. You're the dumbass that handcuffed us together so live with it." She hissed in an icy voice.

"It was the best way to keep you from escaping," Kimiko hissed back. "Now let's start moving before they find us!"

Jude gave a curt nod and wrapped a hand around the woman's arm and continued to drag her down the hallway towards a set of hidden steps. Swearing in her head the entire way.

Kimiko briefly thought about taking charge of the situation, as she should, but a new barrage of shots firmly displaced that idea. Central had been particularly spotty about the specs of Jude's warehouse and from what she could see it was a bloody labyrinth. It didn't look like she had any choice but to follow. She wish she had brought her commsat uplink glasses.

Kimiko looked over her shoulder when the girl came to a sudden stop at a dead end. She could hear the heavy footsteps coming closer. The girl tugged at the wall and Kimiko stared as a small stair well opened up. She felt herself get tugged down them.

Jude sighed as they reached the bottom of the stair well and flipped the switch that revealed her precious bike. She tugged her Seburo out of its holster on the side of her bike and felt it get jerked out of her hands. She turned to glare at the woman in fury and disbelief.

"What the hell are you doing?!" Jude hissed. She was starting to just tich pressured. Sooner or later the thugs with their endless supply of ammo were going to figure out where they had gone.

Kimiko just smiled. There was no way she was going to let that little punk tug around a weapon. She gave it a brief once over. It wasn't bad all things considered. Not a bad trade at all. Her gun for this one. She still liked her Beretta. She'd go back for it later.

"Weapons like these are illegal for 'ordinary civilians'." Kimiko remarked dryly.

Jude swore with great invention. Trust a cop to go off about shit like that now. "Look we don't have time to play this game. Give me back my Seburo, you don't have a chance in hell of using it correctly!."

Before Kimiko got the chance to respond the were interrupted by the sound of clapping. Both women whipped around only to be brought short by the handcuffs.

A tall distinguished looking man stood leaning against a post with a vaguely amused scornful expression. Kimiko heard Jude start to swear even more furiously.

"Well, thank you so much. You're petty arguing has made it so much easier." He lazily held a slender gun in his hands. "Now ladies, I do believe you want to come with me with the least amount of trouble."

Jude looked at the cop from under her hair and prayed that she knew how to handle the Seburo before shit got more complicated.


"And please drop the gun before someone gets hurt," the man asked in a very sweet tone.

Kimiko stared down at the Seburo. "You mean this gun?"

"Yes. Drop it on the floor and slide it over."

"Um, okay," Kimiko stuttered, slowly holding the gun out.

Jude swore. She knew the dumbass cop had no idea how to use the Seburo. She had a good mind to grab the gun and shoot Kimiko herself. She watched in painful slow motion as Kimiko opened her hand and let the only weapon they had access to fall to the ground. Suddenly, Jude's arm and body were yanked towards the floor as Kimiko quickly slid to the ground, grabbed the gun in midfall and fired it at the man.

The blast was so powerful that it sent the man flying back several feet against the post, blood splattering against it. Two more men came around the corner, weapons firing. Kimiko rolled behind some crates, dragging Jude with her. She bobbed behind cover and exchanged gunfire.

"Seburo J9 handheld assault rifle," Kimiko noted, firing a shot that hit one of the men squarely in the chest. He howled and died instantly.

"Modified to fire HV shells," Kimiko said again, firing once more and taking out the second gunman. "Nasty little toy. Sometimes I get to play with the ones we have in Anti-Terrorist training." Kimiko waggled the gun tauntingly in front of Jude's face. "You might want to check the counterweight. The recoil is a bit off."

Jude made a swipe for her gun but Kimiko pulled it away. She sneered. She didn't need any cop to tell her how to fire her own weapons. First the cop broke into her place, threatened to confiscate NAVI, and was now using her guns. She felt enraged.

The far garage door smashed open as a hummer crashed through. Several more men burst out and opened fire.

"We're pinned down!" Jude screamed above the hail of bullets.

"We're also low on ammo!" Kimiko yelled back.

Jude tugged at the handcuffs. "Let me go to my bike!"

"Can you actually ride that thing?" Kimiko asked, trading back gunfire. Jude gave her an incredulous look, which Kimiko accepted. "Okay, dumb question. But the cuffs stay on!"

"How do you expect me to steer, you idiot?"

Kimiko fired the last bullet in the Seburo and dumped it on the ground. "Your left hand, my right hand. GO!"

The pair of handcuffed women scrambled awkwardly to Jude's motorcycle. Jude climbed on and Kimiko grabbed the right side of the throttle. Jude kicked down on the starter and flipped up the stand as the engine roared to life.

"Get it out of neutral!"

"How do I do that?" Kimiko yelled over Jude's arm. A bullet whizzed by her shoulder.

"Dumbass, fucking idiots," Jude swore and explained. "Press the throttle once and then again!"

Kimiko did so and the bike lurched forward violently. Kimiko did her best to hold on and in doing so, she squeezed the throttle. The bike accelerated extremely quickly.

Jude and Kimiko both screamed as the bike flew towards the closed garage door and smashed right through it. "You idiot!" Jude yelled. "There was an open exit!"

"Sorry!" Kimiko apologized with little indignation.

Jude just shook her head. "First you come barraging into my home. Then you bring Sagawa with you, now you go punching holes in my warehouse!! Some houseguest!"

Kimiko stared at Jude's back incredulously. The girl had nerve, that was for sure. "Hey, I didn't bring your friends along!"

"Are you sure you didn't leave a trail of donut crumbs?" Jude shot back.

"You're the one who hacked into their computer. If Chobetsu could track you, so could they!"

"Don't tell me about hacking!" Jude defended herself, "I'm not a newbie!"

Behind them, the hummer backed out of the broken garage door and gave chase in no time. Kimiko tossed her head back and eyed the vehicle. "Where to?"

"Turn right up there!" Jude nodded to an open alleyway between the warehouse's buildings. Kimiko tilted the steering towards her so the bike moved to the right. "Lean down a little or we're going to lose control!" Jude ordered. Coming out of the turn, they wobbled a little but maintained speed.

"You're good at firing weapons but you absolutely suck ass on bikes!"

"Give me four tires and a steering wheel anyday," Kimiko shot back.


Jude just laughed and jerked the bike around another corner a causing Kimiko to tighten her grip on the handlebar.

"There!!" Jude yelled as they closed in on a narrow patch of black on black.

"Where?!" Kimiko yelped as Jude leaned over so far that their knees were almost scraping along the concrete. Then, she blinked as the bike shot through the opening in the warehouse wall and they skidded back onto the mainfloor.

Jude turned off the bike and breathed a quick sigh of relief. "That should hold them off for a while."

Swinging off the bike Jude tugged a mildly dazed Kimiko along behind her. She stopped next to what looked like a normal side panel. Slaming her hand against it Jude opened up compartment just large enough for another nasty looking weapon. She glared at Kimiko as she took it out and proceeded to reassemble it. Jude found it hard to work with one arm handcuffed. "Move your arm up a little. C'mon, give me some slack here!"

Kimiko glared back.

"Look, I have every right to fight these bastards since they're after my head and not yours. At least let me keep this one."

Kimiko cocked her head and thought about it briefly.

Jude tugged on the handcuffs that kept them bound together. "It's not like I'm going to do nothin' to you anyway." At least, not yet, she added mentally.

Kimiko had to agree to that. She shrugged her shoulders signalling her consent. Then gave into her curiousity. "What is that thing?"

Jude gave her a wicked smile. "Small toy that I'm keeping a hold of for a friend. Its a 7.62 mm rifle. Ominae let me use it for a bit and then never asked for it back. So...." Jude shrugged.

The name Jude tossed out was setting off distint bells of recognition in Kimiko's head but she couldn't quite remember who the guy was. Before she had a chance to ask Jude was tugging her up a set of stairs that led to the intricate web of catwalks in the warehouse ceiling.

"C'mon, we have to pick a spot for attack before they figure out where we've gone to."

"What does Sagawa want with a punk like you anyway?" Kimiko asked as Jude pulled her up the stairs.

Jude blew hair out her eyes and briefly contemplated giving the cop the whole set of gruesome details and blowing her mind, but decided against it.

"I'm an escaped experiment that's blown up in their faces. They'd like to have me back, but dead would work for them just fine."


Jude looked back at Kimiko but in the dark she couldn't see the cop's face. "Yeah, my method of hacking is just a tad unusual. After they discovered that a normal person dies from sensory overload. They started trying to duplicate my 'interface' using telepaths."

Jude viciously suppressed memories of her gangs dying screams and kept her voice at an icy monotone. "They've discovered a way to look a telepath's mind into the wired. But I sort of threw a wrench into their machine and right now they're a little pissed."

Stepping onto the main catwalk drapped in inky darkness, Jude turned her attention back to preparing for Sagawa's return and ignored the cop behind her.


The Sagawa hit-squad entered the dark storage room of the warehouse. They carried modified sub-machine guns and unfamiliar handguns. One man had an automatic rifle with under-side grenade launcher. Four men walked past the entrance and slowly marched to the centre of the room.

Atop the catwalk, Jude crouched low with her weapon pointed. Kimiko watched over her shoulder. With no weapon, she didn't have much to offer. She hoped the girl's abilities with a gun were as good as her supposed hacking skills.

"C'mon, you bastards," whispered Jude. "C'mon, just a little closer. Gotcha!" She popped up on one knee and fired. A hail of bullets shot cleanly out of the barrel of her rifle. They missed the Sagawa men entirely. However, that was not her target.

Several unmarked canisters to the right of the men exploded when the bullets ripped through the outer casing. The blast knocked the four men back, killing three of them instantly. The fourth struggled to get up.

Three more men ran into the room with weapons firing. Another man with a grenade launcher fired it at one end of the catwalk. The explosion rocked Jude and Kimiko off their feet. The creaking sighs of the blasted metal gave way and the entire walkway came down on one end.

Kimiko tried to grab onto the railing but failed. The two slid down the slanted walkway. Jude fired her rifle with one hand, taking out the man with the grenade launcher. The two landed on their feet, remarkably.

The fourth man still alive from the blast was starting to get up but his face met the end of Kimiko's boot. He grunted and fell back unconscious.

Jude pulled Kimiko away as the last two men opened fire. Jude gasped as she realized where they were standing. "Run!" she screamed as the barrels behind them exploded. The blast hurled them over some crates.

When the two didn't appear, the two men raced over to see if they were dead. They eased slowly to each side, hoping to flank the women. They strafed behind the crates. No bodies were seen.

Suddenly, one of the crates from the far side fell over and Jude jumped into view, opening fire. They had caught both men by surprise and neither was prepared to return fire. They slumped to the ground, their bodies rippled with bullets.

Jude glanced all around the room and the exits to make sure there were no more men coming. The explosions had broken all the upper storey windows and the cool breeze coming in blew her hair in front of her eyes. She settled the rifle down by her leg and brushed her hair away. Some canisters were still burning from the blast while debris littered the floor.

"Amateurs," Kimiko remarked as she looked around without much reaction.


They walked back to Jude's living area in silence. They both knew that they had taken care of the Sagawa hit-squad. Their uneasy alliance was over. Kimiko walked over to where she originally had handcuffed Jude and bent over to pick up the key. She twisted the key in the cuffs and released the clasp. Then, she threw the key over to Jude, who did likewise.

Kimiko looked around the room. The computer Jude used to hack into the computer systems were untouched from the gunfire. She rubbed her wrist unattentively. Where did she drop her gun?

The heavy metallic sound behind her told Kimiko exactly where it was. She turned around and found Jude pointing it at her. "After all that, you still want to kill me?"

Jude glared back coldly. "I'd pull the trigger and have no problems sleeping. I hate cops." She spat that last sentence out with much vengeance.

"So you've told me many times," Kimiko replied. "And I keep telling you. I'm no cop."

"You've got cop instincts. You act and think like a cop. Same shit, different pile." Jude paused. "But, I'm not going to kill you. I helped you out so I'm going to tell you to leave my warehouse and don't ever think about coming back."

Kimiko smiled and walked slowly over to Jude so that the gun was almost at point blank range. "You're right. You helped me out so I owe you." She tossed her head back towards NAVI. "The way I see it, you've been compromised. Sagawa found you, I found you. You're not safe here anymore. When I come back in a week with some real cops, I expect you'll have high-tailed it and I won't know where you went."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Jude asked with true confusion. She waggled Kimiko's gun. "I told you. Leave and don't ever come back. That's the deal I'm making. Either you agree or I pull the trigger."

Kimiko slowly and non-threateningly put her hand over the barrel of the gun. "You know I'm right about moving." When she saw Jude's eyes blink, she recognized the momentary mental pause. She carefully lifted the gun from the girl's grasp and put it back in the holster under her arm.

Jude blinked again. What was she doing? She let the cop take the gun right from her! She dropped her hands to her hips and studied the floor. "Just leave." It wasn't an order or her feeling angry. It was simply a request.

Kimiko nodded, understanding a little. She adjusted her jacket and walked towards the exit. Then, she stopped, stared at the floor for a moment and turned back. "Sagawa's on our list."


"Sagawa," Kimiko repeated, "they're on our list of corrupt corporations. Chobetsu's been investigating them for commercial fraud amoung other things. They're damned slippery but we know they're dirty. If you don't take them out, we'll do it, eventually. The only difference between you and me is that I have to deal with the paperwork."

Jude nodded and watched Kimiko walk the rest of the way to the door. Jude rubbed her eyes across her eyes and sighed. Shit, now she had to find a new warehouse. Preferably some place smaller.

"And stay out of our systems," the cop told her. Jude wasn't entirely sure if she was joking or being serious. Fucking cops.


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