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by Daneille Delaney and Keon Christensen

Jude pulled a left turn and twisted the gas handle. It was somewhere down this road that the bartender at the Lurker's Retreat had said the only mechanic lived. 'Lurker's Retreat what kind of name is that for a bar anyway- Jude wondered to herself, not to mention what the heck this place. She'd been here for almost four hours and she was still not a jot wiser about how she got here or how she was gonna get out again. For that matter she didn't know exactly where 'here' was to start with. Everyone she'd asked, even slightly politely had just answered that she was in CAPOW which she had know idea of WHERE THE IT HELL WAS. And when she asked how she got out of this place and back to Tokyo. The same people would just answer with an air that made Jude fell like the question was a quite idiotic one "just go outta town and head for the hills and you'll get there." Good big fat lot of help that was and to make matters worse her bike had started to act up again. Damnit she'd just gotten it back from the repair shop. Jude sighed to herself, well let's get to this mechanic and see if the guy was any help.

As she rode into the lot before the big garage. She looked briefly at the big sign proclaiming [KATT'S GARAGE] and in smaller letters below that [if we can't fix it, it ain't broke] The she reached the really big sliding doors in the front of the garage. What the heck was this Katt repairing here, Hercules aircraft's? Then she stopped and turned of the engine and finally got a good look about her. Jude's jaw dropped as she slowly climbed off her bike. Cars, trucks, tanks, aircraft, all sorts of mechanical gadgets, huge humanoid robot things littered the lot, Jude even thought she saw a plane like craft that could only be a spacecraft. Some of the machines were restored to perfection as if they'd just rolled of the assembly line. Others were just gutted hulks, having been pillaged for part. All in all, a pretty normal view for a workshop. Well minus the tanks, aircraft and other stuff.

"Say, that's a nice bike"

The voice was so ominous that it would have turned the 1000 from terminator2 green with envy. Jude jumped almost a foot into the air. She'd been lost in her fascination with all the machines, but most of this lot was covered with gravel. So who the hell could be able to sneak up on her like that. Spinning around with a scowl on her face she trusted a finger at the man's face.

"Hey! what's the big idea shitwit. Sneaking up on me like that. I shou-"

The rest died in her throat. The guy was a good couple of inches taller than she was. Clad in a pair of worn jeans and a black T-shirt and the densely muscled body under the cloth was trim as a panther. Every muscle horned to perfection. But that was not what took the words from her throat. The guy had jet black eyes. Black in black. No pupils, no iris, just black, and then that tribal sort of tattoo on his forehead. He had a sly smile on his face. Jude hated to admit it, but this guy looked somewhat scary.

Bending forward, the dark-eyed man leveled his face with Jude's and then said with the same dry voice as before, "boo."

Jude narrowed her eyes. "Very funny you dolt. You the mechanic?"

The other just cocked an eyebrow and then smiled that 'I'm a mean son 'of' bitch and no one can touch me' sly smile and said completely unfazed "Nope. But I'm the guy who's gonna give you the ass whopping of you life in about five seconds"

"That's not a very nice way to treat a girl!" ranted a considerably lighter and cheerful voice. What worried Jude was that it was coming from the guy in front of her. And he hadn't moved his lips when he spoke and he looked down right irritated at the stuff he just said. What the heck was going on here? Was this freak a schizo or something.

"I mean. She just complained about you scaring the bejesus out of her and then your already set on pound her silly. That's not nice you nut" the same voice said.

The guy still wasn't moving his lips and now he was shaking is head in what could only be resignation.

"Would you give me a fucking break!!"

Okay, now he talked with his mouth and the normal voice. But who was he talking too wondered Jude. Backing off a few steps watching in dumbfound silence the man ague with himself.

"Listen you twit, I'm sick and tired of you playing my conscience" the man snarled.

"What's the matter Dachend. Afraid my constant nourishment, might provoke you into developing one of your own" the lighter voice countered.

"I don't need to hear that shit from you, you god damn parasite"

"Parasite! Hey that's unfair, just because I have to live inside you. A freaking loon!!" squalled the light voice.

"Who are you calling a loon you lousy excuse for a butter knife"


"Mind crippled retard!"







"Damn brat!"

"Old geezer!"

"Fucking snothead!"

"Brainblown limpdick!"

In astonishment Jude looked at the man who had engaged in a yelling match with the second voice. Jude quietly agreed with herself that this dude was quite insane.

"Don't worry about him, they've been working that up all day" light feminine voice proclaimed. For the second time that day, Jude spun about and looked at the speaker. She was short girl, with long fire red hair and sparkling green eyes, she was wearing a cap with the words [don't hit it, fix it] And out from under her cap and red hair stuck a pair of pointy ears.

"Hi I'm Kattarina, but everyone calls me Katt"

Jude rubbed the back of her head and tried to decide which question to ask first. Her bike had the highest priority since psycho-boy seemed to have figured out a way to entertain himself. Jude looked down at the girl. She was tiny. This little wisp was supposed to be the mechanic?

"You're the mechanic?" Jude's voice reeked of doubt.

The mild hostility in Jude's voice didn't seem to phase the girl at all. She just nodded her head and smiled. Craning her head a little, she looked around Jude and caught sight of the black beast of a bike behind her. Katt's eyes went huge with awe.

Jude backed up another step and put a territorial hand on her bike. She wasn't sure if she liked the look that had crept into Katt's clear green eyes.

Katt gave a slow whistle and walked around Jude, completely oblivious to the dangerous look she was getting and the protective stance that the other girl had taken. "That bike... not a factory make is it? Average rpm must be, um, 50,000, at least. Capable of going from 0 to 60 in, what, 3seconds?"

Despite herself Jude started to loosen up. "1.5"

"Hmm?" Katt looked up at Jude, broken out her reverie.

"It can go from 0 to 60 in 1.5 seconds. Not 3."

Katt grinned. The girl looked mildly uncomfortable and very tense. Her eyes were a swirling sea of colors and doubt. They didn't look particularly friendly either. Katt stuck her hands in her pockets. "So, whatchya need? Or did you come out here for the ride?"

Jude scowled. "Bike's acting up. I just got it back from the shop and they _said_ that it should be fine now. But every time I drop below 50,000 rpms it starts making nasty sounds. Nothing loud. But I know that it isn't right. And...." Jude waved a hand as she searched for words to describe the problems.

Katt just nodded her head as Jude listed off the 'symptoms'. She suppressed a grin. The girl sounded like an anxious mother of a sick three-year-old. Worried, tense, and a little defensive. Katt waited as the slender girl tried to find the words to express her thoughts.


Katt groaned as Dachend yelled at the top of his lungs.

Jude's head snapped up and she spun on her heel at Dachend's bellow. Her hand edged towards the delicate, handgun-sized submachine gun hidden in her jacket. If psycho-boy decided to get violent she could always cap his knees and run like hell. He really didn't look like the type of person that she wanted to tangle with right now. She sneaked a look at the mechanic. If the girl was any good, she'd have to protect her. Mechanics were a _very_ precious commodity to her.

But the tiny redheaded mechanic didn't look particularly worried. Just mildly annoyed. Jude raked a hand through her mop of wildly tangled curls. "Hey, do you keep this guy around for laughs, or what?"

Katt looked over taller woman. She looked braced for a fight. Although Katt wasn't particularly violent (unlike some she could think of -_-;) she could tell a fighting stance when she saw one. Katt deliberately kept her voice as calm as possible. "Well, noooo.... Actually, he's my boyfriend."

Jude looked at her in disbelief. Lovely, only available mechanic was dating a guy with MPS, and she had had so much hope.... Jude growled in frustration. All she wanted was to get her bike fixed. Really, it was all very simple. But no. In this weird place she had to find the one mechanic with a complete nut case for a boyfriend. One that looked distinctly violent at that. Just freakin' lovely.

Dachend grinned as Dracho'xian actually, for once, did shut up. He turned back to regard the slender girl with the wicked looking bike. She regarded him the same way you would a potentially violent psychopath. Her body was tensed and ready to strike. He gave her a wicked grin and was rewarded with an evil glare.

"Now where was I?" the guy said, through his face told Jude that he knew _exactly _ where he had been when he had been cut off. Again her hand inched for her hidden gun.

"Dachend, stop that right now!" Katt moved past Jude, to stand in front of her towering boyfriend. Poking a finger at his chest.

"She just came by to get her bike fixed, not pick a fight!"

Jude's eyebrows rose as the guy just shrugged "so, never stopped me from picking one"

Katt sighed, "yeah I know."

As Dachend made move to walk past her, she hooked an arm around his, halting his step a little. "Listen. I put the sparing master back together this morning. Why don't you go 'roadtest' it" she asked.

Dachend made a pouting expression that looked completely awkward on his hard features "awww Katt. That heap of junk is no more fun jumping around with than a punching bag. it only took me about five minutes to break it down to bolts and circuitry last time."

Katt blew a some of her red hair out from her eyes and smiled sweetly "I know you big jerk, so that's why I installed a learning program. Gave it some servo upgrades and neural linking. Even gave it a simple self repair subroutine."

Jude cocked an eyebrow, what was she talking about??

Dachend just smiled widely. "In just two days?"

Katt flashed a mischievous grin "I have other things to do and even geniuses like me have to sleep sometime. Now go have some fun and stop bothering my customers."

Dachend smiled and gave Katt a deep kiss "I'll try" then stalked off. Katt casting a blushing look Jude's way. Jude just pretended she hadn't seen anything.

"Hey look after Drac so long will'ya. If I know him right, he's dying to talk to the punk there."

Jude narrowed her gaze at the guy as he turned in mid stride, then her eyes flew wide open as a metal... liquid, she could find no better word for it, began to float from the guys right palm and took the shape of a vicious looking, yet elegant sword. With a seemingly nonchalant twist Dachend flung the blade in a spinning arc through the air. Jude began to move aside, but as Katt just kept her place, she halted. As if by magic the spinning sword stopped it's flight and came to a gentle landing in Katt's outstretched palm.

Jude blinked several times "That was amazing, I've never seen anything like it?!"

"Thank you," Came that mysterious third voice again. Katt giggled "oh you'll get use to it pretty quickly. Stuff like this pretty normal here in CAPOW."

"Oh, I beg to differ. I am the original one timer," came the voice. Katt smiled. Now Jude noticed that cat eye like jewel on the sword... no wait that was a real eye and it was looking at her.

Jude sank something "don't tell me, the sword is actually talking to me" Katt nodded with a smile.

The eye on the sword blinked in what Jude had to guess was a smile "Yep it is. I'm Dracho'xian: magical soulsword, slayer of evil extra ordinary and all around nice guy. Please to meet'cha, and who might you be miss?" the sword replied in it's pleasant crisp voice.

Jude hesitated. She wasn't dreaming was she? "Well you've already met Katt. Dear friend and beloved of my soulmate Dachend"

"The loon with the black eyes" Jude asked incredulously the sword blinked again.

"Yep. I'm sorry for the way he acted. He usually isn't THAT eager to get into a fight with newcomers, but he's been bored out of his mind this morning."

Katt nodded "It's been pretty quiet lately. So he's been bored out of his skull."

"After all there are only so many positions one can use before they get trivial."

"Dracho'xian!" that one sent Katt blushing to the root of her hair.

"Ups I _thought_ I was joking" chuckled the sword.

"Dracho'xian!" hissed Katt, her eyes darting at Jude. "He's just teasing."

"Taking it awful serious if I'm just teasing" giggled the sword.

"Dracho'xian stop it" squealed Katt, shaking the sword

Jude tried to hide her smile, unsuccessfully.

Dracho'xian noticed the grin that was playing around the corners of the slender girl's mouth. Dachend was right. She did look like a punk with her big ass bike, cocky stance, and fuck off attitude, but there was an aching sadness in her eyes that made him feel a little bit sorry for her. At one point in time she had taken a serious mental beating. He wanted to see if he could make her smile.

Katt stood huffing with both hands wrapped around the hilt of Dracho'xian's sword form. "Knock it off, Drac!" She shook him vigorously to emphasize her words.

"I.....thought.....tha....t....yo....ou...and.......Dach......end' kno...oo...ocking." Dracho'xian's voice sounded well shaken as he issued the latest sly insinuation.

Jude couldn't help but finally cave into laughter as Katt turned the same vivid red as her hair and stuttered in frustration. Jude wrapped her arms around her ribs and leaned against her bike as she laughed out loud. A sentient, wisecracking, insinuating sword. Not only what he said was amusing but the entire situation was hysterical. She leaned back against her bike and sighed as the laughter ebbed away. Pushing her dark auburn hair out of her eyes she continued to watch the antics of the tiny mechanic and the very bizarre life-form.

"AH! I thought you could smile. A very pretty one at that." Dracho'xian crowed in triumph as he caught sight of Jude leaning against her bike laughing at him and Katt. He did notice that even when she was laughing the pain in her deep hazel eyes didn't completely go away. What the hell had happened to this girl? "Ups there it goes again." he almost mourned when she turned serious again. "Hey! You haven't told us who you are!"

Jude raked a hand through her tangled curls. "Demanding thing aren't you? My name's Jude. Are you guys like this to _all_ your customers?"

Katt shook her head. Her color had finally turned back to its normal smooth alabaster. "No.. Normally they aren't this bad. It's just like what I said before. They've been bored. Most of the time they don't really hassle my clients too much."

"Feh. Dachend does the harassing. I'm always sweet and lovable." Dracho'xian piped up. "Hey, your name is the same as a saint, isn't it?"

Jude blinked. There weren't a lot of people who picked up on that. "Yeah, St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, which I hope my bike isn't.' Jude tactfully brought the issue back to her precious motorcycle.

Katt nodded and grinned. Pointing towards the large sliding doors she said, 'Just take it through those and I'll have a look at it and we'll see what's the matter."

Jude just started to push the bike along side Katt, who was startled to find that not only was Jude able to easily push the monster bike along but her stride was so long that Katt had to sort of trot to keep up.

"Hey, Jude" Dracho'xian angled for her attention. Once she turned to regard him with big hazel eyes, he continued. "Were you part of a gang or something? No normal person rides a bike like that."

Jude hissed as the question hit her like a fist to the gut. Three years and she still hadn't come to terms with it.

"I don't want to talk about it." Her voice was as dead and barren as the glaciers in the Brooks Range.

Katt blinked and Dracho'xian gave a low hum. Jude's icy reply told him quite a bit. "Okay, not a problem." He kept his voice quiet and gentle.

Katt racked her brain for something to talk about as they walked towards the bay doors to relieve the tension that hung in the air. Fortunately she didn't have to think long. "Jude, ummm." She squirmed a little bit as Jude looked at her, "How long have you had your bike?'

Jude sighed in relief as the topic moved away from her sensitive spot. "I've had this bike for about 6 years. I had a couple others before that. But, this one has been through a few.... modifications. Hey what's that?" Jude pointed at a mass of circuitry and wires as they passed through the main doors and headed back towards Katt's workbench.

Katt looked over. "That? I'm not really sure. I found it sometime ago. Computers aren't exactly my forte unless they're part of machine." She shrugged her shoulders and turned to study Jude's bike. Dropping Dracho'xian on the table she popped her knuckles and grinned. She was looking forward to getting to know this bike.

Jude squirmed as a distinct gleam came into Katt's eyes. She had the feeling that she had best find something to distract herself before too long. She wandered over to the mass of wires and started to sort through them. It looked like some type of primitive NAVI.

"Hey, Jude!" Jude looked back over her shoulder as Dracho'xian called her name. "Don't leave me just sitten' here. Trust me you're not gonna get much conversation out of Katt for a while." Jude looked at the tiny red headed mechanic who was busily inspecting her bike. "So, talk to me."

Jude sighed and shook her head. A pushy sentient sword. Lovely. She turned around and looked at the mess of wiring again. Humming in thought she wandered over and picked up Dracho'xian. It was the first time that she had ever held a sword but she really doubted that most swords had pulses. She could feel something of beat as she held onto the hilt. Absent-mindly listening to Dracho'xian she wandered back to the circuitry and leaned Dracho'xian against the gutted frame. She sat down in the middle of the wires and started to sort through them again.

"Jude! Jude?! JUDE!!!"

The voice called her back to reality, there had been a streak of anxiety in Dracho'xian's voice. "What is it?" She asked absently minded.

"Uhmmm what is it." the sword said with a somewhat sarcastic voice "well for starters I've been talking almost ten minutes here and apparently you haven't heard a bit of it."

Jude cocked a eyebrow and the left edge of her mouth lifted in what could have been smile. "Well you talk so much that I figured you didn't need anyone to talk back to complete the conversation."

The sword blinked and stared her down; Jude almost smiled at the good-natured scowl it sent her. "Touché!" it replied crisply then cleared its nonexistent throat. "But that aside, I was just wondering if it didn't strike you a little odd that the cables of the computer you're playing around with is more or less starting to crawl up your arms?"

Jude looked down at her arms. Dracho'xian was right, the wiring had indeed begun to crawl up her arms. "Don't worry about it, it's not dangerous"

Dracho'xian winked at her "I figured that part out. If it had been you'd have bigger brass balls than I'd given you credit for even taking into account that you women have no balls... well none below waist level. But that's beside the matter--"

Jude shook her head. For a non-biological being with no vocal cords, lungs or mouth whatsoever, this fella sure talked a lot. "Dracho'xian you are a lecher."

"Sorry got carried away, but there is nothing wrong with admiring the female attributes." Jude rolled her eyes; why her of all people? "But anyway--" the sword continued "how do you do that!"

Jude shrugged "it can't be helped--"

"How come? Swallowed a bag of mini magnets when you were little?" chuckled the sword Jude smiled slightly, did he never shut up?

"No... It's just that computers love me" she answered.

A ridge above the eye moved. Must be the equivalent of Dracho'xian his eyebrow, thought Jude.

"In love with you? Must be that charming interface of yours or that nice set of subroutines"

"Hey, shut up! I'm serious computers are in fact really in love with me. They wrap themselves around me if I let them and I can practically have them do anything I want."

Dracho'xian looked at her for a long moment "Computers in love... like having feelings. That's absurd."

Jude cocked an eyebrow "And a talking sword, that can shape shift and lives in a symbiotic relationship with a human host isn't?"

"...Good point" Dracho'xian said at length and resumed what ever he had been talking about before he noticed the wire crawling up her arm. Jude looked at the sword. He'd accepted her explanation just like that. Accepted her just like that, even after her icy reply to an innocent question about her past. She had a hard time believing it, but then again maybe being a sword gave you a far wider look at life than normal people. Jude flashed one of her rare true smiles.

Dracho'xian stuttered for a moment as he caught the flash of Jude's smile. It felt like the sun had opened up and he had gotten caught in a sudden flash. "What did I do to deserve that?" His voice was just a little suspicious. Jude didn't look like the type of person who smiled like that for no reason, Falora maybe, but not this little punk.

Jude just shrugged her shoulders and went back to sorting the wires, memory, and assorted bits into piles that only made sense to her. Occasionally she would stop and gently unwind one of the wires that wrapped around her arm and place it back in its respective pile. It didn't seem to bother her one jot that wiring had a tendency to sneak out their piles to attach themselves to her.

Dracho'xian, if he had had a head, would have been shaking it. He sighed and tried to remember where he had been before she had flashed that giga-watt smile at him. Oh, yeah. "Jude, have you been to Lurker's Retreat?" She gave an idle shrug. "Yes, no, maybe so?"

"I passed through but didn't stay there, why?" Jude was almost completely lost in her activity.

"Well, Miyuki is a hacker and you two could talk, and she might be.....What?' Jude was laughing at him, again.

Jude just shook her head. A hacker who could relate to her? Yeah, right. "I really doubt that we would have much to talk about Dracho'xian. Thanks for the thought." She could almost feel the confusion radiating of the sword. Even though he didn't have a mouth she could picture it in her mind's eye as he started to ask another question. "I just wouldn't, trust me."

Dracho'xian sighed. If she was determined to be anti-social then fine. She was laughing at him, _again_

Jude looked up and leaned back on her elbows. "Dracho'xian, I'm not being a hermit or anything, I just wouldn't be able to relate to this Miyuki as a hacker. She uses an interface. I don't need to. I really doubt that there would be anyone in the hacker 'community' that I understand. I don't get the psychology."

Dracho'xian did a mental shrug, which Jude considered a neat trick, and went back to whatever it was he was talking about in the first place. Something about that bar again, something about meeting people, and something about someone named Kokutan and really good food. Jude tuned out.

Jude stood up and stretched her arms up over her head. Ignoring Dracho'xian's comments about her body she stripped out of her jacket and tossed it in the general direction of the sword. She stood in front of the gutted frame of the computer. Studying one of the panels she gave an abrupt nod. She placed one foot at the bottom of the panel and reached up to grab the top. With one swift jerk she yanked off the panel with a loud boom.

Dracho'xian yelped in surprise and Katt screamed at the sudden sound. Jude stood with the panel in her hands peering into the depths of the frame with intense interest.

"KATT!!!" Dachend bellowed as he came tearing into the garage. He jerked to a halt in front of Katt looked her up and down, checking for any sign of damage. Then he spun to glare at Jude who wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to him.

"Okay kid, I want an answer and I want it right god fucking damn now" he pointing a battered wooden practice sword at Jude.

Jude turned her eyes to Dachend, not quite getting the reason for his harsh tone or where he'd suddenly had appeared from to start with. Then something came through the opening Dachend had used, it was raising a sword like Dachend's for a blow. Jude raised her hand to point and her lips where forming the words of a warning. But before she could say anything the sword had lashed down taking Dachend hard across the shoulder. Jude was sure that if he hadn't jerked aside in time he'd have had his skull split like a melon. Groaning, Dachend lurched forward, but managed to find his balance and lash out with a backward kick, he sent the humanoid behind him reeling back.

Jude blinked "what the--"

The attacker looked like someone had take a couple of androids from various sci-fi movies, taken them apart, and picked various pieces together to form this thing. It was the size of a human and had a pretty average, if somewhat uneven body build. It was metal skeleton with muscles made of mixture of pistons and metallic muscle fibers. It was covered with some lose armor plating and it had featureless white mask on covering it's face.

Then it charged Dachend and Jude jumped for cover as the two combatants crashed towards her, Smashing computer, cabinet and table aside. Parts were flying everywhere. Jude dived for her jacket, but then froze. Kneeling with her hands on her jacket, one hand on her gun, she stared in awe. She'd never learned anything about sword fighting besides from what she'd seen in the movies and what she had heard from friends with martial arts training, but this display of skill took her breath away.

The robot and the man moved about in perfect unity. Their weapons dancing back and forth so perfectly that it could have been a Kabuki Drama they had rehearsed until their hands bleed blood and oil.

Then Dachend dodged a wide slash reversed the grip on his weapon and thrust forward with the pummel. That connecting solidly with the robot's head, sending the machine reeling back. "Time to finish this little game" he grinned. "Gotta have the right tool for the job. Dracho'xian!"

Wide-eyed Jude looked on as the sword flew through the room as if an invisible cord had been tied to it and someone had jerked it violently. "Coming your ugliness!!" snickered the sword landing perfectly in Dachend's outstretched hand. Then the robot charged.

In one swift slice Dachend cut its weapon in two. As it tried to stab it him the gut with the remaining part of the weapon, he grasped its wrist and made an upward slash, severing its arm at the shoulder. Sparks and hydraulic fluid sprayed from the 'wound' then Dachend proceeded to thoroughly beat the robot with it's own arm and Dracho'xian. Giving it a powerful kick, he sending it flying. Dachend, with whooping shout, jumped after and seemed to run amok.

Jude just blinked. She'd meet a lot of psyced people, but none like this one. None she had ever seen quite so caught up in the brutality of the fight. Pounding away with a almost childish look of glee on his face. Jude shuddered in what could have been fright. It looked like he'd lose complete control, and yet he looked like he couldn't be any more joyous.

After a few minutes, it was over. The robot had been reduced to shrapnel. Slowly Dachend rose, the oil and hydraulic fluid smeared over him and dripping from his face. "That was fun. Is there any particular reason you shouldn't be next?" he said with unnerving calm, narrowing his black in black eyes on Jude.

"It's okay Dachend. It's okay," injected Katt before Jude could answer, "I got lost in my thought working on the bike and I just got startled when she pulled the plate of the frame. That's all" Katt gestured to the smashed computer. Dachend looked for a moment on the bits.

"It's true," added Dracho'xian, Dachend seemed to but that, lowering the sword.

"Why the hell would you try and fix a broken computer anyway?" he asked.

"I wanted to. Gotta problem with that?!" answered Jude, trying hard not to snarl.

"It's an emotional thing" Dracho'xian quickly added, trying to deflect Dachend's attention as he felt his friends grip tighten on the handle. "She's has an sort of love relation with computers."

"Say what!!" spat Dachend, cocking an eyebrow.

"Computers are crazy for her," said the sword warming up to one of his usual one-man conversations. "They actually wrap themselves around it. It's that fare out... sorta like you and Katt." Katt blushed, a smile tugged at Dachend's mouth. Dracho'xian made a mental smile, glad that the danger had passed and turned to Jude.

"Well, as I was saying...."

Jude stifled a groan, did he _never_ shut-up?

Dachend stretched and scratched the back of his head "Damn there's something you don't see everyday" Katt nodded "amazing, you're as good with computers as I'm with mechanics"

Jude glanced at the two. It wasn't like she had done much in reassembling the computer, Katt had faster then you could say it, reconstructed the frame and gotten the power core up and running. Jude then put in all the hardware in place, only slightly hindered by loving wires and cables and installed the software and in the first try the computer worked.

"Well I don't know about you two, but I'm hungry from all that freaking exercise. Order some food will'ya kitten? My treat."

"Okay" smiled Katt

"Where you going then?" asked Dracho'xian as Dachend headed out of the garage.

"Taking a fucking shower, Einstein!" snapped Dachend.

Again the sword made the mental shrug, "hey, I just thought Katt liked when you were all oiled up or is that the other way around"

"DRACHO'XIAN!!!!!" shouted Katt and Dachend as one. "Okay, okay, I'll behave" pouted the sword.

Jude chuckled behind the screen. The sword was a loon. Utterly lovable, but a loon.

Jude, as silently as she could, pushed her bike out of the garage. Dachend had just left, with a sleeping Katt in his arms. Dracho'xian, amazingly enough, had refrained from making any comments as he went off to tuck her into bed. Jude had decided to leave there and then. She liked the company of Katt and especially Dracho'xian, and Dachend wasn't that bad being around. She'd truly enjoyed the evening she'd shared with the three. But she didn't relish the thought of being around alone with Dachend, she didn't trust him. There was something 'wrong' in his eyes when he looked at her.

She swung a leg over the bike and was seated. Reaching for the ignition key. When a dark form landed in front of her bike and like the strike of a snake, reached over the handle bar and grabbed her hand. "Leaving so soon kiddo" came Dachend's calm voice. Jude looked up and locked stares with him.

"Yeah and what are you gonna do about it" Dachend's face broke into a sly smile.

"Not a damn thing. I just wanted to make sure."

"Make sure of what?" she said with disdain pulling her hand free.

"That you once were a member of the Dragons." Jude froze.

"What?" The question was cold and sharp, like a stabbing knife that had been dipped in liquid nitrogen.

"So I was right, hm" came the replied as if Jude had answered -yep sure was, anything else I can help with-

"what's it to you?" she hissed, trying not to let the emotional turmoil inside her show.

"I was offered a handsome bag off money for eliminating the Dragons."

In a flash, so fast that Jude didn't actually register the movement herself. Her gun's nozzle was at Dachend's brow, tears rimming her eyes.

"Struck a nerve, did I?" smile Dachend "but don't blow a fuse. I didn't take the job. I was tempted, though. But an old friend called in a favor, grandchild of his was in your gang, asked me to make sure she wasn't hurt." Dachend's face hardened. "I kept half the bargain. I didn't do the Dragons. But I couldn't protect Lotus."

Jude remembered the spunky young girl and then remembered something more about her that brought hot tears to her eyes and a churning to her stomach. Anger began to boil up in her "Why bother telling me this!"

Dachend shrugged "Don't know. Half a year ago I wouldn't have given a shit. Must be Katt and Dracho'xian getting to me."

Jude lowered her gun a little. "huh?"

"Listen. You're an okay kid. I thought you should know"

"I'm so glad that I'm an 'okay kid'. But you know nothing." Jude focused on her breathing. Just letting the breath come in and out as she struggled to control her emotions. She remembered Lotus, she remembered Takeo, and Neon, and everyone else. They had died because of her. Knowing that made her want to curl into a little ball inside of herself. Instead she looked up at the black-eyed man. When she did her eyes were cold and hard.

"Do you know what they did to Lotus? To the Dragons? Do you know what they would do when the found one of us? You don't, do you? Let me tell you." Dachend was a little startled at the harsh tone her voice had taken one. The bitter hatred. He started to raise a hand, to tell her he wasn't interested. But she smacked his hand down and glared into his eyes. Whatever fear she had of him was gone.

"Three years ago Sagawa Industries discovered that my 'power'." Jude inhaled as she suppressed vicious memories, "How they got a hold of me is a long story, let it be sufficient to say that I got betrayed. Once they figured out what I could do with a computer they started to try to find a way to replicate it. Lotus was one of their first test subjects." Jude sneered at him, "You have no idea the type of hell they put her through. She couldn't handle the stimuli bombardment, she went into sensory overload and died."

Jude stood up and walked away from her bike. She started to pace as she remembered everything in vivid detail. Wrapping her arms around her ribs she looked up at the stars. "I survived Sagawa's 'testing' because Takeo and Neon, the leaders of my gang, decided to come get me and Lotus. They got me out. Lotus was already dead." Jude looked down at her hands and clenched her fists. Lotus had died trying to divert Sagawa's attention from Jude. She would never forget that.

Turn back to Dachend she continued in a voice that had gone dead, "The Dragons always protect their own, always even their lives. Takeo and Neon got me back, but in doing so they incurred the wrath of Sagawa Industries, that corp. holds the drawstrings of most of the Tokyo that I know. They put a price on all of our heads. They preferred that we come back alive so they continue 'development' but if we died, they didn't particularly care."

Dachend leaned back and watched Jude pace back and forth; her nervous energy pretty much flowed off of her. The tension in her body seemed so tight that if you tapped her she would snap. Her feelings of guilt were obvious. Dachend just watched her as continued to explain a story he had only been a minor part of.

Jude looked back at him and laughed a cold mirthless laugh. "You may have generously decided not to 'do' the Dragons but plenty of other people were quite willing to do so. We got betrayed on all sides. When a corp that powerful puts a price on your head, you have no friends left, none. Takeo was killed, murdered before my own eyes by a rival gang. No way in hell they would have pulled it off if they hadn't had backing. Neon vanished into thin air. Others died protecting me or just trying to survive." Jude hugged herself and fought back tears as she remembered Takeo standing in front of her, yelling at her to run and not look back. She seemed to be forever looking back.

Dachend just waited, the girl seemed to have quite a talkative streak once you got her going. She didn't say anything else. Just stood with her arms wrapped around her ribs looking up at the stars. "You survived didn't you? You're alive?"

Jude looked back at him. Alive? Hardly, without the Dragons she was nothing. She had no one left. Jude looked down at her hands again and saw, for a half second, the blood of her gang smeared across them. She clenched her eyes shut and tried to block it out. Looking back at Dachend she gave him an answer, "I'm alive, but not by choice. If you had come then and told me you were going to kill me I would have asked you to do it quick. I would have wanted you to do it. But now.... What am I to do? I can't die, what a way to repay the gift they gave me. They gave me their lives for mine, their deaths are on my head, but they _chose_ to die for me. Some of them just wanted to give Sagawa the finger before they died" At that she grinned as she remembered the almost gleeful suicide attack some of the gang had launched trying to get her to Argentyne's safe house. "But they still gave me a chance to live."

Jude shook her head. Why the hell was she telling this asshole anything about her life? As if he cared or was even capable of caring. She was still the little fool Neon had called her all those years ago. She still trusted to easily and talked to much. She was an idiot for telling Dachend anything. Drawing herself up she walked back to her bike, her back ram-rod straight. She swung a leg over her bike and reached to turn the ignition key. Looking up at Dachend she simply said


For a long moment Jude and Dachend locked stares. Jude could see the anger boil in him, but at the moment she didn't really care if he exploded in a killing frenzy. Then, without a word, he stepped aside and Jude twisted the gas handle savagely and the bike bolted off. When she was well away from the garage, Jude felt her hot tears run freely down her face.

Back in front of the garage stood Dachend, trembling with anger. The bastards, they had lied to him, him of all people. Well, they'd have to learn the hard, painful, and generally fatal way that you don't screw around with Dachend Yayin. With a spin on his heel, Dachend went into motion and strode back to the garage. "This ain't over, not by a long shot," hissed out between his teeth. If anyone who knew Dachend had been around they'd dived for cover, preferably in another part of CAPOW.

"That's all I know man. Just stop hitting me!" with a snarl Dachend threw the fat informant into his expensive office leather chair.

"Listen up, asshole. You lied to me. You told me that Lotus had died under the initial meeting between Sagawa and the Dragons and that had spelled the end of it. You never fucking mentioned that she had been used as a guinea pig or that the rest of the Dragons where wiped out!!!" with that Dachend jarred a knife into the guy's hand, pinning it to the armrest.

The man screamed "arrrrh Christ.....What did you expect, it's the Sagawa corp. You don't mess with them!"

"Me neither, you fat idiot" growled Dachend and slammed a second knife through the fat informant's other hand. Pinning that one to its armrest as well. The fat man shrieked and began to sob, "please Dachend don't do this."

"Shut up!" snarled Dachend and sat down on his victim's desk, facing the terrified man, "listen up fatso. I know you must have sold out some of the Dragons back then, you knew plenty about them when I came to you. I bet Sagawa paid handsomely to find out where some of their hideouts where. RIGHT!!!!"

"No, no man. I didn't"

"oh yes you did!" replied Dachend coldly, slowly pulling out a third knife, starting to study it absently.

"No, no, no please man I didn't I swear I didn't" sobbed the man.

"oh yes you did...but don't worry Jack, I ain't mad. It's a tough world every man for himself, right?"

Jack nodded frantically, his extra chins bouncing.

"Lotus was in the care of a doctor of Sagawa when she died, I want to know who. Who killed Lotus, Jack?"

"Dachend please, they'll kill me"

"Then imagine what I'll do Jack. The name."

"Come on man, give me a break."

"I am, Jack. The name"


"the name"

".......yoshi....Yoshi Daitsuke"

Slowly a smile crept over Dachend's face. Jack paled completely as the dark eyed man slowly got up. "what--what will you do?" Dachend towered over the trembling man that was nailed to his own chair.

"Burned-earth tactic, man." A vicious smile spread over his face "If you ain't with me, you're against me"

"Dachend no, noooooooooo-HAH!!!" the fat man's shriek ended in a high pitching gasp as Dachend buried the third knife in his groin. Giving the hysterically hyperventilating man a gentle pat on the head Dachend proceeded to kick him hard in the chest. Sending him through the big window and into free fall to the waiting street below.

Dachend looked a moment at the falling shape "Say hello in hell for me Jack" then turned and walked out of the office, absently throwing an incinerator bomb over his shoulder. Seconds later the room exploded into flames.

"Hey you shit wake up."

Slowly Yoshi Daitsuke opened his eyes, finding himself staring into a pair of jet-black eyes "hello asshole" said the face the eyes sat in. To his horror Daitsuke found that he couldn't blink. "Yeah you piece of crap. You've probably noticed that you can't blink. I took the liberty of cutting away you eyelids while you were out. The rush of adrenaline and terror brought Yoshi completely back to awareness. He realized that he was strapped into one of the chairs he used for his test subjects. He was still in the lab.

"Who are you?" no answer.

"What do you want?" nada.

"Are you from an enemy company?" nil.

"I can pay you," zip.

"What ever your after I can double it," nothing.

"Why are you doing this," slowly the man turned and locked his cold black stare with Yoshi and he knew true fear, complete and all consuming. Where was everyone? Where was his staff, the night shift security?

"Where's my people?" not so much out of concern as for a desperate attempt at saving time. The black-eyed man gestured to Yoshi's left, through the glass of the observation chamber. you saw the blood stains on the walls and glass. There was a trail on the glass as if a hand had slid down it drawing trails in blood.

The man came over with one of the needle "lets see how this sense enhancing drug works shall we?"

In vain Yoshi tried to pull away "no stop, help, help! heeeeelp!!!"

"Oh, be quiet, the only one that can hear you, 'cept me are the lab animals." The stranger pulled out a gag ball

"Why are you doing this?" gasped Yoshi as the ball was stuffed into his mouth. The man looked for a moment at him then said in the cold, calm voice.

"Remember a young girl you got in a few years back? A kid from a biker gang. Named Lotus, you killed her, cooked her mind with all this shit here!!" he snarled.

"But do you know what this is?" he continued, pulling out a disk from his jacket. "This is poetic justice." With that he jammed the visor helmet down over Yoshi's head. For a moment there was only darkness then an image appeared. A strange pink form began to take shape, hopping and wobbling about "I love you, you love me, we're a..."

Dachend sat for a moment and looked at the struggling man, how his muscles tightened as he fought to break the restraints. Then the man started to scream and thrash about as much as he could. At a sudden afterthought Dachend stopped the input and walked over, raising the visor helmet. The man looked up at in relieved gratitude, "Oh yeah almost forgot. When I'm done here I'll destroy everything in the lab and I've already been at your home. How does it feel to know that your entire life's work is about to be wasted?"

With that and a satisfied grin Dachend slammed the visor back down and walked back casually turning the machine back on. Ignoring the man's hysterical screams. After waiting for a few minutes he turned up the intensity, with a wry smile Dachend looked through the glass as the man bit through the gag and screamed for all he was worth. For almost an hour he screamed and thrashed. Then blood started to burst from his mouth.

"Yiks, looks like a burst vocal cord buddy," mused Dachend and turned up the intensity farther. For several minutes the man continued to wriggled and yank about. Blood beginning to spill down over his face under the helmet. Then he went into convulsions. After a few minutes Dachend could see how his bones and muscles began to snap under the stress.

"Lotus, this is for you. I hope you appreciate it" whispered Dachend and twisted dial all the way around and then broke it off. Ignoring the splash of red that hit the glass, Dachend walked over and turned the detonator on and headed for the door. The next shift should be here anytime.

They were coming for her, Jude looked over her shoulder as she ran.

"Don't look back" Takeo yelled at her as he stood, shoulder and leg bleeding, holding a nearly empty gun ready to take the on coming enemy.

"Just fucking RUN!" And Jude heard the shots and the sound of the body hitting the cold hard floor. Jude ran. She ran until her legs were shot with lactic acid and her breathing burned in her throat. She ran with blind fear.

Until her foot hit something wet and she found herself sailing free flight through the air as her feet lost contact with the ground. With a bone jarring smack she connected with the ground and slid across it. Dazed she got up, she was all wet, she had landed in a puddle of something. But it didn't feel like water it was too thick for that and lukewarm too. Grim realization closed in on her as she slow looked up everywhere around they sat prone against walls, lay sprawled on the floor. The Dragons, her friends, family, all that she had ever had. She stood, one arm holding the other that had been dislocated in the fall. Her hair was tangled and streaked with blood. Her eyes haunted and terrified as she just dully gazed at the bodies of the only family she had ever known. They lay there and stared at her with those accusing eyes of death.

"Your fault," at first slow and weakly, but the chant gained momentum until it became earth shattering.

"Your fault, your fault, your fault! Your fault!! Your fault!!! YOUR FAULT!!!"

"No," whimpered Jude. She spread her hands and tried to explain, but the chant simply got louder. Sobbing she sank to her knees, "no…"

"NOOOOOO!" sitting bolt upright Jude screamed at the top of her lungs. With a sharp exhalation of breath she felt back, gasping hard for air. Her bed sheet was soaked in sweat. For several minutes she lay just staring at the ceiling, while her heart slowly began to beat at a somewhat human rate.

"Quite a nightmare, hm?" came the dry question from a shadow in the corner of dark loft. Jude froze and her heart rate picked up as if someone had fed enough adrenaline to keep a football team running. Jerking up and around she brought the delicate gun under her pillow out and held it with trembling hands.

"You" she hissed.

The shadow came alive and from it stepped a tall man, his dark in dark eyes looking at her. "The one and only" was the cold reply.

"What the hell are you doing here?!" she whispered fiercely, furious that someone had seen her in a moment of weakness.

"Dropped by to give a little bit advice and a something that might make you sleep better," was the unperturbed reply.

"And what's that anesthetic?" snarled Jude.

That annoying sly grin flashed over his face, "Not exactly, something better. Look familiar?" he tossed a small sign of some kind. In the half dark she caught it with one hand and reach out to turn on the light. The light flickered on and she looked at the object, not letting her eyes off Dachend. It was a name tag, a Sagawa employee name tag. Jude gasped, Yoshi Daitsuke, the man-devil in whose claws she and Lotus had ended up. She looked up slowly. She couldn't, no matter how little she thought of Dachend, she couldn't imagine him working with or for a bastard like Daitsuke. "You got to him." she asked hesitatingly.

"I guess you could use that term" mused Dachend, still standing tall and calm in the shadows.

"You got him good," she asked, having to swallow. She looked down at the card. She really would have preferred to be the one to kill the sorry SOB in slow and inventive ways, but looking at Dachend she figured Daitsuke had gotten his.

A wry smile played on Dachend's lips, "With years interest kid"

Jude sat back slowly letting this sink in, she'd wanted to kill the bastard herself. She'd so very much wanted to kill him herself. Get back at him for every one of the Dragons, but she could settle for this. Studying the wicked looking man, she decided she could definitely settle for this, she just prayed her subconscious would as well. Still she sighed, "Damn."

Dachend grinned as he watched her reaction.

She looked at Dachend. "You realized that you'll Sagawa people breathing down you neck from now till the end of time," her voice sounded dazed and distant.

Dachend snorted and a particularly evil grin crept over his face, "If they ever figure out I had something to do with it, they'll think twice about picking a fight. I'm member a gang too, big and meaner than the one you lost."

Jude blinked; it all seemed so unreal, was she still dreaming? She shook her head lightly, sending honey auburn curls bouncing, "And the advice you talked about?"

Dachend scratched his head and looked strangely uncomfortable, "listen up kiddo, I ain't worth shit at any of this emotional talk or fucking wise up talk. But I talk from hard earned experience when I tell'ya that you don't gain dick from closing up like you are doing. Trust me I know what I talk about."

Jude looked at him suspiciously.

"I cleared up my little disagreement with Sagawa corp tonight. But I know you're far from finished with'em," he looked away from her a moment then back, "You lost your old gang, but Katt and Dracho'xian likes you and me…. Well shit, through I don't got a stinking bike I don't mind tagging along for the fun. All you got to do is call out."

Jude sat with her knees drawn up and the sheets tangled around her legs. Her deep hazel eyes were huge as she tried to deal with everything that Dachend had just dumped on her. Years of hatred and fury suddenly had no where to go. Everything she had ever done had been focused on Daitsuke and Sagawa. She put her head on her knees and tried to think.

Dachend shook his head in amusement. "Need me to pinch you?" The girl looked like someone had just dropped her in the middle of Wonderland, all big eyes and confused looks. Despite her obvious confusion the girl still gave him a nasty glare for that one.

"I.." Jude wondered where her voice had suddenly gone. It was hard to think straight. Everything she had ever wanted for three years was being offered to her. Albeit by a one hell of a mean SOB but still... Her breath felt short. But she needed to know. She had to know how Daitsuke had gone out. For her own sanity, she had to know. She looked up at Dachend with haunted eyes that told him way too much. "How did he die? How did that miserable little bastard die?!"

Dachend just looked at her for a moment. Jude sat on the edge of the bed with her hands fisted in the blankets, her eyes locked on his. He understood the level of hatred that had burned through her body far better than she thought. Slowly, carefully choosing his words in rare moment of compassion, he explained everything that had he had done. Jude took it all in without moving. Her mouth had hardened and her knuckles had turned white as he told her about Jack. The fury in her eyes made them blaze for a moment, and then it passed. He shrugged as he finished the long bloody narrative. "Daitsuke died the same way he'd killed Lotus. Fitting retribution I think."

Jude sat staring at her hands. He was right. Lotus was well avenged. But Jude would have liked to do it herself, but it was far from over, so far from over. Daitsuke was only one part of Sagawa, and only a small part that she had known personally. It was the bastards who had decided to use her and her gang as test subjects that were the real enemy. Daitsuke was simply a tool to them. She straightened her shoulders. Another person would have deluded themselves into thinking that the reason they wanted Sagawa to go down was the fact that they were inhuman monsters feeding off of the weak, the outcast, and hidden. But Jude knew far better than that. She wanted to see their souls in hell because she hated the SOB's for deep and very personal reasons. On her own she didn't stand a chance, but maybe she did if she made some allies.

Without looking at Dachend she said, "I once read that we must struggle not against the world but against ourselves. That we find redemption from our own darkness within ourselves." She laid her head back against her knees and sighed. "I think I was using Daitsuke as the manifestation of my own hatred. Now what do I do?"

She looked up at Dachend and he could see the tears swimming in her dark eyes. "What do I do now? I don't know."

She shook her head and then, swinger her long legs out of bed she stood up. Walking carefully over to Dachend she stood face to face with him so she could look into his black-in-black eyes. "I need time to think. Things have been moving so fast. I sometimes don't even know who or what I am. I need time." She raked a hand through her dark hair and studied Dachend. She didn't like him necessarily, but she didn't hate him either. Perhaps she could trust him. She certainly hoped she could. Jude looked dead into his eyes. "I need time. But, when I'm ready, I'll ask. Until then," She shrugged, "We'll wait and see."

A mysterious smile played over Dachend's face at her last words "don't worry kiddo, I got _all_ the time in world," he began to back into the shadow from where he had appeared.

Jude closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. Her feelings where whirling about inside her. Everything, and she meant EVERYTHING, in her world had been turned topsy-turvy since she came to CAPOW. Suddenly, unwanted tears began to fill her eyes. She opened her eyes again, furiously wiping them away. Ready to shoot a curse at Dachend if he said anything. Nothing, no snide remark, Dachend had disappeared.

"Dachend?" she asked, looking around just in time to see the window to her room slide shut.

Jude looked over at her bed and shook her head. Stretching her arms above her head she made a low hum. If she was going to stay in CAPOW, and it looked like she was going to, she had best get some information. Double checking that Dachend had left she closed the door to her bedroom and walked across the catwalk that connected the lofts in her warehouse. On the other side sat her NAVI purring in the night. She flipped on the switch of the lamp sitting on her deep mahogany table. Shuffling through her papers she found one marked "STRA" quickly looking over it she made the decision to go visit them. She sighed and rubbed her eyes. That could wait until later though. It had been one hell of a day.

Dachend pulled off his T-shirt as he walked through the hallway in Katt's garage, absently throwing it over his shoulder and walked into the bathroom. Kinda strange, Katt didn't mind if he had been working in the hot sun in a pile of fertilizing all day. But he get a drop of blood on him and not wash off properly and he'd sleep on the couch, but still her little quirks were one of the many reasons he loved her so.

Standing under the rushing water, Dachend mused to himself. Damn, that had to be a record. He'd known the little punk for less than a day and he'd already taken on one of the biggest and most ruthless companies he could count on five fingers on her behalf. So he'd had some private issues in it, but at least half of the motivation had come from the haunted look on her face when she'd related to her lost friends. He knew that pain. It had followed him from as long as he could remember. Maybe he'd helped her, just to nag some of his own inner demons or maybe it'd been because he felt down right sorry for her.

Turning off the water, Dachend grabbed a towel "or maybe your really are turning soft you big pussy" he shot at his own reflection in the mirror. On the other hand. He reflected as he walked down the hallway to Katt's bedroom. it'd been funny as hell scaring the shit out of Jack. Of course if Dracho'xian had been along, the damn Samaritan would have objected to kicking the fat jerk out the window. But still, one gotta check if gravity still works every now and then.

Sliding soundless into the room and over to the bed. Slipping under the warm blanket, he crept closer to the little elf. Katt, even in her sleep she sensed his being about and snuggled up to him. Dachend smiled. Before sleep claimed him, a final thought crossed Dachend's mind. Okay so he had all the time in the world. Still he wouldn't mind Jude to hurry up and decide to pick a fight with Sagawa. It'd been so damn boring lately.

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