Walking the Spiral

Photon's inspiration had lead down a strange road. Again and again she walked the edge of the pattern, staring at those twisting sigils, looking into their depths and waiting for something to click. An hour, then two passed. Stonewall was given a blanket and cop long coat to cover up in and now stood, more bored than she thought possible, watching Photon watch the floor. Searching the rest of the apartment, the others found Kimagure's computer, containing records of her cases, her patients and other sundry data. Enough to put her away for 100 years. If they ever found her. She'd had done some work for Blink's father. "Selective Genotype Fertilization", a.k.a., Doll Making, under the board and off the record, along with some gene fixing and implant work. There was also a reference to possible collaboration with Dr. Nostraum. Fortunately, the man was dead.

"…Ok. " Blink hadn't thought that her father was that unscrupulous, but hey… anything for an edge, right?

It was Warp that provided the final inspiration. An offhand comment about how the markings looked like one of those collapsed Holopaintings. Holograms of three-dimensional patterns flattened and twisted into spiraling flat shapes. That's when it clicked in Photon's mind. Casting a hologram of her own, she extrapolated the pattern into three dimensions. The mind truly reeled to look at it then. Words couldn't describe it, Angles and planes that didn't seem…possible, twisting and writhing in mid air. But Blink felt drawn to it, stepping to the center of the Spiral, she smiled, lay back her head and just felt it… pulsing around her. She could use it. Fold space about it and walk it. She didn't even know where those words came from, but she had the knowledge…

Stonewall stared. It was somethin' different all right. But the damn thing made her head hurt. "Anyone know what the hell that thing is? And are we sure we want to let Blink play around in it? Am I the only one that remembers last time?"

"You're not," Photon replied, "but right now that's really the only clue we have about where Kimagure may have gone. Assuming that I've recreated this thing correctly, of course."

"I think you have. But it's little more than a hunch." Dr. Lee said over the link. "If nothing else, the fact that Holly can't process the shape means it's at least similar to two dimensional pattern. Using some simple graphics program I've been running some comparisons against the patterns that manifested on Blink. Without Hol's processing speeds, it might take some time."

"I'd like to order quarantine procedures on that…room." April said. "Until and Dr. Morsham can get there. If its anything like what you described…"

"Where do you want to go?" she asked dreamily. Back home? Mars? Doesn't matter." Blink let the pattern enfold her, feeling it's quirks and pathways. Just like she would on the Net…she got ready to 'jack in'.

Shaking her head and muttering, "Must be fuckin' crazy…" Stonewall walks over to Blink, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her. "Snap out of it chica. You wanna end up somewhere worse this time?"

Blink grabbed Stonewall's arm. "Wanna come along with me?" she asked, with the same dreamy smile on her face.

"Blink, please, she's right. We don't know what might happen. I've got a terrible feeling about this. That we're dealing with something more than just a simple… oh I don't know, I just don't want to lose you…" April had narrowed the link to personal comm. "I love you…"

That shook her. She looked around, then realized what she was doing. She let goof Stonewall's arm quickly. "Sorry, Stoney." she mumbled. "I think I need to get out of here." Narrowing her link to personal with April, she said, "I love you too. This is some weird shit, April. I really don't know what happened to me in there…but I suddenly knew how to use that pattern…"

"Null perspiration, gogirl. I've gotten messy enough today chasing after you…" She grins at the woman, then heads off to one side, calling to Photon. "Yo, boss! We hanging around here any longer? I ain't much use to you now, I ain't much for investigations…"

"I think I know, Blink. I think I do." April didn't just sound nervous, she sounded scared, terrified even. "I think… think its encoded into you, literally… hardwired for lack of better word into your body, like an instinct. Like your powers. When you had those… marks of you body, I ran some scans, Enhance MRI, bioelectrical… Your body's energy pattern matches those markings, flows with them. It's like some sort of bizarre circuit. I'd put it back for further study…until I saw this." Blink heard her take a long, shaky breath. "I'm not making any sense.

"Son of a bitch…" Blink said. "Daddy teamed with her to build me…didn't he? She made him an offer for something, and he went for it… What do I do, April? I can feel it…almost as if it's calling me. I really need to get out of here." She looked toward the others. "Photon, can you get rid of the representation? Or does it still need to be scanned?"

"I think it's time to take this place apart," Photon said. She waved her hand, and the image collapsed. "Since we can't safely follow that pattern, that is. There must be another clue somewhere."

Stonewall sighed. Great, more waiting. "Okay, then boss. What do you want me to do, standing around scratching my ass is getting real boring."

"Perhaps, Stonewall, you could try talking to the locals. Metro PD has but knowing the nature of Sprawlers, they might respond more openly to someone they see as one of their own." Morsham suggested.

"Dunno, doc. I'm dressed in a sheet and a cop jacket. Not sure they'd believe me if I said I was a local." Stonewall looked around. 'Think the cops would mind if I borrowed something from Kimagure's wardrobe? Might not help, but at least I wouldn't be dressed like a cop."

"I doubt anything of hers would fit you." Holly said. "I could bring the AV back, there are some utility suits in it."

Stonewall nodded. "Might work, Hol… Course, I hope no one minds if I do a little alteration… No one walks these streets in nice new outfits…A tear here, a stain there, and I might be able to work it… Meet you at the roof, gogirl?"

"Certified," Holly replied.

Stonewall waves to Photon. "I'm going to meet Hol, then. Then I'll poke around streetside. Buzz me when we're leavin."

"It seems like a good time to bring in our latest recruit since the AV is being called back. " Morsham put in. "Holly, Download Hologram's file to Photon, please."

"Yes ma'am."

Warp went about continuing his search for any possibly secret hiding places. Working along with the plans Holly recovered, he went about the apartment. Aside from the… chamber, the layout seemed to match. Kimagure's bedroom was something he'd never forget.

I hope the group stabilizes soon, Photon thought. It'd be nice to know what I'm going to have to work with from day to day… "Go ahead, Hol." With that, she turned her attention to the file.

Sensing the girl's frustration, Morsham sighed sympathetically. "With any luck, this should be the last for awhile. At least every world government isn't trying to empty its jails into the Project."

"Yet," Photon replied.

"What happened to the cheerful girl I used to know." Morsham replied drily.

Hologram. Terrorist, skilled in urban warfare and tactics. Once a member of a Metahuman Supremacist group in Nippon. Sounded like a fun person to know.

"Oh, Paragon, such nice people you've got me working with…" Photon muttered.

"She's not a bad sort, all together. If her statement can be believed she was lead into the group at an early age. Not uncommon, considering the Nipponese tendency to discriminate against Metas

Photon shrugged. "Discrimination against metas isn't all that uncommon here, either. But, well, 'there but for the grace of God' and all that."

Stonewall trudged back up to the roof, regretting her studly detective boy wasn't still around. She might have flashed him a sample, just to see if he was interested. Anyway, it was good to move around a little… she was startin' ta feel like her namesake in there. Not to mention it was just fucking creepy… Instinctively fingering her crucifix, the blonde stepped out onto the roof and peered into the smoggy skies, vehicle choked skies of the metroplex. Or at least she thought there was a sky behind that wall of dirt, AVs and ADBlimps. One particularly low slow-flying gas bag hovered over the tenement for a moment, blaring the virtues of SimHol VR system. "Making Reality Passe'!" then drifted off, revealing the team AV swooping into for a landing. Giving up trying to figure what passe' meant, Stonewall trudged over to the hovering vehicle, jet backlash ripping at her borrowed jacket and sheet, whipping them into a modesty destroying frenzy…

Hologram opened her eyes. There had been a couple of near misses on the way here. It seemed flyers here in the coast were not as…courteous as they were in her homeland. It was to be expected. "I can't set down, the building isn't rated for landing but I'm maintaining a low hover. Could you take Stonewall her package?" Holly requested.

Hologram nodded. "Hai, Holly-sama. I will gladly deliver the package for you."

Outside the ramp opened, lowering until it was scarcely a half-meter jump to the rooftop. Stonewall looked up, shading her eyes with one hand, clinging valiantly to her makeshift clothing with the other. Why, she wasn't entirely sure. The sheet was all blown up so she was pretty much ass out if anyone cared to look.

She looked to Hologram. "Hi. Name's Stonewall." A platinum blonde woman, tall and broad shouldered, clutching a black jacket, some sort of robe or sheet blowing about her legs. Hologram blushed as an errant gust revealed the robe was all the woman was wearing.

Hologram proves to be a lovely young Asian woman, short and slender, athletic. Her long black hair hangs down to her shoulder, and her eyes are dark pools set in the buttery hues of her skin. She is dressed in a dark jacket, and silky pants set with several small cloth rings for sheaths of various types, none of which she is wearing. Over one shoulder she wears a backpack.

She steps up to Stonewall, and executes a picture perfect bow from the waist, exhibiting no surprise at the state of the woman's undress.

"Kunichi-wa, Stonewall-san. I am called Hologram. I am honored to have been entrusted with this package for you." With that, she hands the package to the woman.

Stonewall returns the bow, lacking a little grace due to her unfamiliarity with it, and trying to hold her clothes together. "Thanks Hologram. Uh, no need to bow, gogirl, I'm just another perp trying to make good. Nothin special." To Holly. "Thanks, Hol. Catch ya on the flip side." Nodding to Hologram, Stonewall turns. "C'mon, I'll take you to the rest of the group before I get changed." On the way, she opens the package to take a look at what she got. Jeans, her spare leathers, even some panties. Holly had set her up pretty good.

To Holly again. "Thanks for the duds, gogirl. You did mondo."

"Hai, Stonewall-san" Hologram replies, and dutifully follows the woman back to meet the rest of her teammates.

Stonewall shrugs, then heads back down to the apartment. "Hey, Boss. Here's the new recruit." Stonewall leaves the two to talk things out, then heads over to a corner to change, dropping the sheet and jacket and putting on what Hol gave her. She seems to finally relax a little once she's dressed. She turns to Photon. "I'm hittin the pavement boss. I'll see what I can dig up on Kimagure."

The "boss" Hologram's large companion referred to proved to an interesting sight. A girl, certainly no older than Hologram, most likely younger. But that wasn't the striking part. She glowed. Her entire being gave off soft, diffuse light, her flesh luminescent making her eyes, nose and mouth, dark holes by comparison. It was a bizarre, yet strangely beautiful effect, almost angelic, certainly inhuman.

Hologram pauses, clearly surprised by the awesome looking woman, but trying to hide the fact. She bows carefully from the waist, and says "Greetings. My name is Hologram. I am pleased to meet you."

Dropping from his perch on the ceiling, Black Scarab landed beside Stonewall and rose from his crouch with an eerie insectile grace. His black chitin shone with an oily sheen. Stonewall could see her face, twisted and distorted, in its (his?) armored skin. Cocking his head, Black Scarab cocked his head, looking at Stonewall, compound eyes sending thousands of tiny reflections.

Hologram was taken aback, This…being looked like combination of muscular man and humanoid beetle. Utterly alien in its motions and manner it reminded her of nothing more than a scurrying bug like the millions that infested her blankets, her apartment as a child.

Blink stepped forward. "Hi, Hologram. Name is Blink." She idly ran a hand through her silver hair. "Welcome to the party."

Hologram bowed again, this time to the silver haired woman. "Kunnichi-wa, Blink-sama. I am Hologram. I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

She noticed the large woman leaving with the Oni. Briefly she wondered if her services were required, but since she had not been invited, she chose to stay here. This Photon seemed to be the leader, although she had given no commands that Hologram had seen. She suspected this organization was run fast and loose, like most things in America. "What is required of me at this time?" she asked Photon.

"Right now, just be ready to speak up if you see something the rest of us don't. Did Holly brief you on what we're currently doing?"

Hologram shook her head. "No, I fear Holly-san did not have opportunity to fully inform me of the purpose of your mission. I would be honored if you would deign to enlighten me."

Photon nodded. "A few days ago, two police officers were sent to this location to arrest Dr. Mara Kimagure on charges of illegal genetic manipulation. One of them," Photon gestured toward the bloodstained area, "never left. The other was admitted to hospital in a catatonic state. That's when we were called in. As it happens, the other officer never had a chance… Kimagure left something inside him that fought its way out and started attacking us. One of our members was injured in the battle, in fact. As a result, Kimagure is now wanted for two counts of murder as well as the genehacking charges. And it's our job," Photon concluded, "to bring her in."

Hologram nodded grimly. This was starting to sound just like home, with secret weapons, gene hacking, and espionage. At least she'd feel like she was in familiar surroundings, she thought. "Thank you, Photon-sama. I will try and be of assistance in this urgent matter."

"Team alert. We have combat situation developing." Holly announced. "Two Targets with an 99% chance of hostilities. Stonewall and Scarab have engaged third in the lobby. Estimated time to engagement 123 seconds."

"Oh, shit," Photon muttered. The last thing she wanted was a general melee right now–it was a distraction from what they were really here for. "Holly, any indication of unusual abilities or weaponry from the two?"

"They apparently possess enhancements to an unknown degree, including multiple limbs and implanted melee weaponry." Holly directed a short visual showing a horrid lizard skin slick humanoid thing with several arms. It was from Stonewall's perspective the images jostling as she dove into combat with the thing.

Hologram nodded at the alert, and glanced over at their leader, while sliding her 10mm Gyodo from its leather sheath. A good gun, solid and dependable. She said, "I am ready for battle. How shall we proceed?"

Blink drew her gun. "Just what I need…" she smiled. "Holly, can you give me a visual? I want to know when I can 'port to them." She headed for the door. "I still think this would be easier if they let us direct-link, compgirl." she mumbled.

"I have no monitors in the hall, Blink. " Holly explained. "Scarab has suffered minor injury, but there assailant is down." the computer sent to the team. Blink could remember the basic layout of the hall, it was fairly clear if she wanted to jump, but remembering the Spiral and its effects on her last attempt to port, she was hesitant.

The neighborhood, to use the term loosely, was primarily a collection of tenements, row after row cut rate cubes meant to stockpile the urban poor, now mostly abandoned. A few windows gleam with flickering lights, most likely squatters and gangs using the rat warren building as bases. Directly across the street was a strip mall, built right into the first floor of a housing tower. It boasted a few light signs, flickering neon nearly lost under the massive, damaged sectional video screen covered with lewdly winking images of Honey Malloy, latest sim sense Porn sensation, to use the term literally. The street is pretty clear, likely the metro presence scared away most of the B and T crowd. A knot of gang boys lurk one corner, sullen and angry, ragged synthleathers, chrome and studs a little to fresh, too neat to hardcore booster, probably juves, looking to get noticed and "tough" by hanging under the noses of Metros that couldn't give less than a damn about them. A possible source. A little down the way, a block or so, there a holosign flickering and shimmering in the evening heat, Toxic Pete's. Sounded like a fun place.

Stonewall turns to Black Scarab. "What say we start with the posers? Then we can try the bar if that doesn't pan out." She sets off towards the group, her step taking on the easy swagger of one used to the street and confident in her ability to kick the ass of anyone who gave her a hard time. Her street face takes over, closed and suspicious, the eyes cold and wary. She walks up to group, leaning against the wall and spitting into the gutter. "Yo, hombres. 'Sup?" She looks up and down the street, supposedly keeping an eye for the metros. "Weird fucking shit in there. That bitch Kimagure ghosted on me. Hired me to do a job, then vanished before payin. You cutters know anything about her?"

The gang boys looked up, moving en masses in that tight predatory way fresh faces take on, able to work up one collective set of balls between them. "So why we tell you chica?" a short one barked. "Nothin' you got to offer, neh?" He spoke in the mangled stew of Spanish, Japanese and English– Streettalk–the native language of the terminally uneducated on the West Coast.

Stonewall grinned, her eyes taking on a harder glint. Definitely posers. Not even the brains to recognize a shark in their little pond. With a flash or motion, she grabs the nearest by the front of his shirt, lifting him effortlessly a few feet into the air, bringing his face to hers. "You tell me cause if you don't, I'll see how far I can toss you." She grinned at him, a feral expression.

There was a collective gasp. The poser she snagged face white, his jaws working silently. Something clattered to the concrete, the short hafted knife he'd been clutching under his jacket.

She looked down at it, smiling. "Ooh. You might have hurt yourself with that. Certainly not me… They call me Stonewall. Three guesses why." She hefts him a little higher, looking past him to his friends. "Now tell me what you know."

"Loco slitch, I dunno know, nes'pas? No Kimagure jive…"

Stonewall shook him a little. "I don't know. You look like you might have some brains rattling around in there… If you know, you better tell me. Now."

"Fuckin' freakjob!", snarling, one lunged, bringing up a snub nosed Hishop, chrome shining along the shot pistol's grip. Stonewall turned, snarling, fist coming just a hair to slow. Mentally cursing she braced. A form broke from the darkness, landing behind the gang boy. Screaming he was hauled off his feet, a chitinous hand crushing his gun arms wrist, snapping it like rotten plastic. Scarab hurled the screaming gangboy aside.

"Last chance, before I feed you to my friend…" Stonewall said, staring at the others.

Scrambling, scattering the poser punks left their down boys to their fate, running down the street. The few pedestrians were smart and filed the scene under "not there", there only response a stiffening on the shoulders and a quicker pace. There was just the one Stonewall held and the one moaning on the ground…

Well, he ain't babbling, so I guess he's telling the truth. She puts the one she's holding down. "You're lucky. I believe you. Now take your friend and head back to your own pond before another shark comes along that ain't as nice as me." She lets him pick up his friend and run, waiting 'til they're gone to pick up the dropped gun and put it in her jacket pocket. Little peashooter… But better to not leave it lying around, and it may come in handy… She turns to Black Scarab. "Thanks. Must be getting slow or something. I've been in the slammer too long…" She sighs. "What say we try the bar. If nothing else, we can get a drink…" Or we could, if I actually had money…

Scarab signed something, his strangely sinuous fingers weaving out the words. Holly translated. He suggested that maybe Kimagure used an alias when dealing with her customers on the street.

"Good point. Too late to ask the punks now, if they even knew anything to begin with." She looks around, scuffing her foot on the pavement. "Hol? Got any info on aliases? If not, we'll have to go by description. Not like she'd be hard to pick out of a crowd anyway."

"Nothing rocky, go girl but I'll keep scamming." Holly replied.

"Thanks Hol." She cursed. "And idiot that I am, I didn't think to bring the pics from the file…" She shook her head. "Never did claim to e the brains of this outfit." She turns to Scarab. "Let's try the bar. I'll have to go by her description."

Toxic Pete's was large one floor bar lit by bare overhead track lights that gave off an ominous buzz. The tables were fashioned from rusted industrial canisters. The bar was a steel and glass monstrosity running along one entire wall, canister seats set up in front of it. The 'tender was an emaciated man in ragged fatigues, his face concealed behind a gas mask. There were a few other patrons, huddled over drinks. None looked up as they entered.

Stonewall prowled over to the bar, looking the bartender up and down. "I'm looking for someone. Kimagure. Probably didn't use that name. Real looker, lived across the street." She nods her head to the building they came from. She'll give a better description as she remembers it. "You know anything?"

No one ever accused her of being subtle, but sometimes it got results. The bartender stared at her for a moment. Or at least she thought he was. Those reflective lenses held her reflection for awhile. Then he jerked his head toward a corner table where several shadowed figures sat.

She nodded to him. "Thanks." She heads over to the table indicated. As she headed over, Scarab bringing up the rear. (That brought back some pleasant memories), she saw a symbol scrawled on the back of one of the…cloaks they were wearing. It looked like a biohazard symbol crafted in crude spray paint. They'd seen the symbol scrawled all over the neighborhood. A gang sign.

"Mind if I sit down, boys?"

One looked up, his face lost in the hood of his cloak. Stonewall caught a strong whiff of something dank and moldy, like dead rat in the walls.

She cocked her head at them. Wierd cutters… "I'm looking for info on a slitch called Kimagure. Maybe not using that name…" She gives the same story she did for the bartender, where she lived, description, etc. "She ditched on a payment. I'd like to find her."

There were three here. One croaked, almost literally. "Why?" with a burst of smell that might have bubbled up from a stagnant sewer. Stonewall would have sworn she saw something wet and glistening under that hood.

"Like I said. She's caused me problems. I want to find her. If you can't help me, say so."

"Not a place for Models like you." the second of the trio gurgled. "Too pretty, to bland." Something like a laugh bubbled from somewhere under the cloak. Stonewall felt…slimed by his gaze. And that was somethin considering she sittin' with a small puddle of Scarab's cum cooling in her panties…

Stonewall shrugged. "I'm flattered. Never been called a model. But don't mistake me. I want information. And I'm thinking you might have it. You can tell me the easy way, or the hard way." She squeezed, leaving fingerprints in the metal table.

"Stonewall." Holly piped in. "Interesting note. If you don't express any signs of mutation to visual inspection. How did he know you were a metahuman?" Stonewall didn't have time to answer as the trio was rising. Not standin so much as flowing into taller postures…

Stonewall looked up, waiting for them to get most of the way up before rising quickly, a smooth motion ingrained from years of street instinct. "Oh well. SO much for diplomacy."

"Follow and learn the answers you seek. If you little mind can handle it."

"Lead the way…" Stonewall follows, hoping Holly picked up the conversation and is alerting the others. "And I'm sure if my little mind can't handle it, you'll explain it to me."

"If it can't, there will be no need to." The trio started off toward the back of the place, not so much walking as seeming to glide. Scarab glanced at Stonewall, somehow managing to convey how spooked he despite well, lacking a face.

Stonewall nodded. Then she grinned. 'Nothing we can't handle' her face seemed to say. Now if only she believed it… What the hell did I get involved in? Man o man, Blink owes me for this one.

Stonewall followed the trio, senses alert for danger, instincts screaming it was already too late. Stonewall tensed, ready for action, and sent a little prayer skyward.

The trio was leading them back toward a door in rear of the bar room. It looked like they were taking to the bathroom. Well, she was sure her little mind could take that. Just then, a shower of spark filled the room, red, blue, green, it was a dazzling storm of color and… sounds, a high pitched whining scream, like a jet turned up a couple of octaves. She could barely tell them difference between the real sparks and her the spots in her eyes, but something grabbed her hand. "Fuckin' moto! (run), go-girl!" it was high childish voice, but urgent.

"What the…!" Stonewall was taken off guard for a moment, but held on to the hand, and did what the voice says. Street rule one. If you see exploding sparks, and someone tells you to run, you do it. She only hopes Scarab follows.

She found herself in the street, holding the hand of a little girl, well not so little but a girl. A blonde with a nightglow t-shirt, dulled a bit by grunge. At first glance, she thought she saw… horns?

She looked around for Scarab, then called him on the comm. "Scarab, I'm out side…" She looks down at the girl. Horns? Weirder things, or maybe it's the flash. "Thanks kid. I was trying to get some info from the freak show. But I 'spose you know they're trouble… Handle's Stonewall." She held her hand out to the girl.

The girl looked up at Stonewall; her eyes were blue… on blue. Solid blue irises and darker blue "whites". "Del the talk-talk, we moto now, neh!" She jerked Stonewall turned the street, or tried to at least. The girl did have horns, small nubs poking through her widely disarrayed hair. Scarab was right beside her, silent as always.

Stonewall smiles. "Yeah, we moto gogirl." She followed. "Lead the way, chica." She looked over to Scarab, smiling a little in relief.

More fire works poured out of Toxic's as the trio ran a short distance to a waiting vehicle. Built low it was a slap dash combination of a ground car body, wrapped around an AV engine. Stonewall could tell because most of it was still visible. "Go-go car." the kid said by way of explanation, clambering inside the vehicle.

Stonewall looks to Scarab, then hops in. "Keep an eye one us, Hol" She says under the sound of the engines.

Scarab stopped her, climbing in first and pulling the silver haired woman into his lap. It was a neater fit, as there wasn't one additional seat. The girl clambered in, crouching behind the driver's compartment. Their driver was dressed in heavy leathers and a helmet, all of it loose on his slim frame. Mostly likely the gear was to protect against the AV's backblast. In back it was hot enough to make Stoney break out in sweat. Without a moment delay, the car lurched forward, screeching off.

Stonewall looked to the girl. "So, now that we got some breathing space. What's your handle chica, and why you so interested in helping out a gogirl like me? Not that I don't preciate. But you know how it is."

The girl jerks a thumb at herself. "Tag's Spring, input's Mtoto," she points at the driver. They passed the sparking doorway of Pete's. The kid driving gunned it, pushing more speed from his vehicle, the bas rumble shooting up past the uncovered seats and right up into Stonewall's backside. AH, she'd missed that feeling. "Bio boys gotsa bad Mojo runnin', real bad… work for Voodoo Doc, the Nipper in the big Conapt." the girl shivered, fear in her strange eyes.

"Kimagure." Stonewall looked at Spring, noting her shiver. "Yah, gogirl. Slitch is definitely bad news." She nodded to Kimagure's building. "Got some gangers with me inside. Once we find her, we're gonna do some major damage. Know any data on Voodoo Doc?"

"Doc run mods an' wires to gangboys, sometimes up some scratch for genejokes fer blood." Spring rolled up her sleeve, bearing a small scar, to neat and round to be natural on her arm. "Goboy Trace go in for it… he vape, she say got no dat on where he go…" Her face soured, as if that lie tasted bad. "She even mess up metro bad, he all scragged when come out… head wonky too…"

"These must be the youths that brought the injured officer in." Holly said.

"Yeah." To Spring. "Thanks, gogirl. That's our Kimagure. Can't wait to put her head through a wall… I knew the slitch was bad news when I saw that fuckin room." She scowls a little. "She ghosted now. Any idea where she hidin, chica? We gonna chill her moves fast."

"Ghost, negam she not come outta conapt since Metro boy get wonked." Spring replied.

"Really?" She thought for a minute. "Hol, you get that? Might want to check the ick room again. And scope out the basement and stuff. She might be hiding in there somewhere." Stonewall looks to the girl. "We going anywhere spec, gogirl? Or can me and the input get out here and start tracking Kimagure?"

"You wan' out? Bioboys scoping for ya." Spring said.

"Yeah, but we got sum shummers in the conapt. We can handle bioboys no sweat. I tangled with uglier than that and came out fine. 'Sides, boss lady'll get mad if we ghost on her. We can make it fine, get my gogirl to pick us up, no worry bout the Bioboys." She turns on the comm again. "Yo Hol? Can you scope this signal and do a pickup?"

"Negative, cant the AV to street level in this area." Holly replied.

"Null perspiration. We'll hoof it back, take a back way out of sight of the bar." She turns to Spring again. "Just dump us here gogirl… Thanks for the assist, I appreciate it. But I got a job to do. You take care of you and your input now, don't worry bout us."

Tapping the driver on the head, the girl pointed to the side street. Mtoto guided the car to stop, but left the engine rumbling. Turning back to Stonewall, she clasped her hand. "Lay some hurt on for our goboy, kay?"

"Certified gogirl. One smack down for the posse." Stonewall grinned. "Thanks for the save, chica. Now you two watch your sixes, and keep a sensor tuned to the bio boys." She gets up, sliding out the door, waiting for Scarab. "Later, gogirl."

Stonewall turns to the street, trying to figure how far they are from the conapt, and what the quickest way back is. They weren't too far, a couple of block if they took it straight back.

Stonewall turned to Scarab. "Let's take it over a block, so we come in around the back. Don't want to run into the weirdoes again, not without backup at least…" Stonewall heads across a block, then back in the direction of the conapt, looking for a back door.

The neighborhood was quiet for a Sprawlzone, a little too quiet. A few faces in windows, a hurried, rushed person here and there, not the pack mass you usually saw. It was… unnatural. Rounding the block, Stonewall looked up as the conapt came into view. A small group of huddled figures was heading into the lobby.

She looked to Scarab. "Looks like they're coming home to mama…" She activates the comm. "Yo Hol, I think you guys got incoming. If they're not heading upstairs, they might be heading for Kimagure…" She looks to Scarab. "C'mon, we can't let them out of our sight!" She starts running to the lobby.

Scarab moved with her, passing Stonewall he gave her a quick pat on the ass just to let her know he was thinking about her, then leapt the final yard, springing like some giant cricket into the lobby. Scarab landed on all fours, looking nothing less than the giant insect now, all armor, blackness and deadly grace. Perversely, Stonewall felt her nipples getting stiff. Man, she was wired weird…

The trio were in the same cloaks as the one from Pete's, might have been them for it mattered. They were just stepping into the elevator as Scarab landed. The rearmost turned, whirling around with guttural hissing.

Stonewall, a step behind, smiled. "Say goodnight, Gracie…" And charged up to take a swing at him. The gang boy opened his arms…all eight of them, appendages blossoming from under the cloak, tossing it aside, revealing a naked, gloaming body, skinny and pale blue, adorned with rippling tattoos, piercings and scars. The sexless body looked more reptilian than human, the skin moist and pulsating with hidden flows and almost visible organs. Each limb ended in a cruel barbed spike of bone, jutting out past the hands. But the face was worse, only eyes, impossibly human eyes, staring out from behind a mask of featureless mask of flesh, madness shining soul deep from within so strong even Stonewall was given an instant's pause.

"Geez, talk about smegging ugly…" (Comm on) "Hol…any time…" She shook her head. "You're not just ugly, you're fugly… Lights out." She takes a swing at him, disgust adding some force to her blow, no holding back with these monsters.

Stonewall's savage blow rocked the…man back with a meaty thwack, it reeled drunkenly, staggered, seeping a white ichor from a ruptured jaw, a few teeth clattering to the floor. Stonewall drew back her fist, shaking the slime from it Scarab leapt before the thing could recover, ripping into it with his carapaced hands, tearing great bleeding rents into it slimy blue skin. Its blood was normal red…

Stonewall sidestepped around so she could get another shot on the ugly thing if it was still moving. "At least they're still kinda human… Hol, I think you've got some on their way up…"

"Relaying tactical information now." Holly replied. The twisted ganger straightened, sneering at Scarab. Stonewall stepped in for a punch, but the thing stepped to the side, just evading her swing, leaving her open. Scarab lunged. There was a sickening wet squelch as one of the bony spurs sank into his armored hide…

"Scarab! Damn!" Feeling a growing anger, Stonewall tries to tackle the thing and drive it down where it can't dodge. She leaps, arms wide to catch the thing if it tries to dodge.

Her tackle carried it and her back, slamming into the grating in front of the elevator shaft. It buckled, groaned and gave way, sending both toppling a floor down to land hard. Stonewall felt the thing snap and crunch under, a burst of blood spewing up and across her fresh t-shirt. It jerked couple of times then lay still. Sitting up she plucked at the stained shirt with her fingers, smirking. Shit… but at least she got to be on top.

She felt a momentary pang of guilt. She'd never killed before… But this thing wasn't human, hadn't been for a long time, if ever…

Then she remembered… "Scarab!" She looked back up, then tensed, leaping back up and through the opening she'd made, looking around for Black Scarab.

The stab wound sure looked ugly. Jagged and big, it was surrounded by jagged cracks in Scarab's ebony chitin, ruining its mirror sheen. Why did that upset her so?

She must be getting fucking soft, that was it… Still, Scarab wasn't a bad sort, and the best lay she'd had in years… Was that it? Just protecting what was 'hers'? Or did she really care about the buggy freak? Ah, fuck it, that would require thinking, and that gave her a headache… She'd just keep it to screwing…

"Its not too bad." April said, her voice cool and professional. "Keep him still and I'll get one of the others to come with automed."

"Got it doc… Uh, you know there's two more heading up? Think the others need a hand?"

"I have informed them. They do not seem in need of assistance, but battle hasn't been initiated yet."

"Photon? Should I go for it? Or just run out there? I don't know if it's this place or just the room… I'm beginning to be afraid to port anywhere…" She readied her gun. "Well, they're looking for us… it's a bet if we stay put they'll find us. Shall we attack or be ready for one?"

"Well, they've already demonstrated hostile intent, so I think it's time to demonstrate the fine art of ambush, myself. Let's get ready for them."

"Stealth mode! My specialty…" Blink says. "Jen, you're a bit too bright to be stealthy, so you hang back within the doorway. Holo and I can cover the hallway, and when they're near us, we can all come out blazing."

Blink started to move out into the hallway, but Photon held up her hand, with a finger to her lips.

*Mutter mutter… Mmbbl*

Presented with such an excellent chance, Holly expanded her banks of colloquial obscenities almost exponentially. Stonewall was a never-ending source of intriguing new data.

"It's either this or break something… And I'm trying to learn how to control my anger…" Stonewall pulls at her bloodied shirt again, it's starting to get sticky. "Where's the doc, I mean, Scarab's pretty hurt…"For the first time, Stonewall looks down at him, her face reflected in his multifaceted eyes. "Don't want to lose such a nice stud…" She said with a grin, turning away to start pacing away, a slight blush coloring her cheeks, gone she turns back to him. Damn! What the hell's wrong with me. I'm acting like some lovesick teenager… Fuck, I'm goin soft all of a sudden… Maybe I should drop this thing with Scarab; it'll only get one of us killed somehow… She looks to Scarab's wound. It was close as is…

Gunfire broke out upstairs…

Whoever they were, the perps were impatient. One of them cut loose with a stream of thunderous blasts, down the hall. Shotgun from the sound of it. Taking potshots at shadows most likely.

"Holly? You sure I shouldn't be up there helping out? I mean Scarab can sit here 'til the doc arrives…" She hit the wall lightly. Dammit, she had to do something. Sitting here watching Scarab was driving her bug fuck. She snorted at that choice of words…

Dammit, she had to get her head straight, this was going way too fast…

"Its not my place to make tactical decisions…" Holly almost demurred, Stonewall thought anyway. "But assistance might be necessary. Actual combat has not been initiated yet however."

Stonewall nodded. "Tell the doc to speed it up, I don't want to leave Scarab hanging here while I go rushing off to help the others…" *To Photon* "Yo, bosslady! Sounds like things are picking up. You want me to come up behind the fraggers?"

The response was low–almost whispered. "Stay where you are for now. There's not a lot of cover in the hallways. We're setting up an ambush for these two–I'll let you know when we spring it. *Then* come running."

Stonewall curse quietly. 'Okay, I got it." As she answered, Stonewall heard something, a scuttering, coming from down the elevator shaft… At first she thought it was her imagination, but there it was again. A moist clicking sound.

Stonewall shakes her head. Damn horror movie shit… She walks over to the shaft, ready to move if she sees something to smash. It wasn't what she saw, but what she didn't see that worried her. The gangboy's body was gone…Her blood ran cold. She'd heard the sound from here… She looked up the shaft…

The shaft went up into darkness. Something warm and slimy dripped on her face…"Shit!" She activates the comm. As she went to speak, a form dropped down, a hideous sucker of a mouth stretched wide, the maw lined with tiny teeth, tentacles reaching for her! She looked up, going pale. Sheer instinct snapped an arm up in a punch as the thing landed on her.

The heavy… thing landed on her, its weightcarrying them both to the floor. It was cold, slimy and reeked of rotting meat. Stonewall gagged, trying to pound at the bloated head. It was like some huge worm, rearing over her, drooling a thick snotty yellow slime on her face.

She struggled against the thing, trying to hit the thing with flailing fist, cursing at the slimy monster. "Get offa me you freak!"

She landed a solid blow, cracking the thing's carapace. It squealed horribly, jerking back, and smacking her face and neck with it thin cold tentacles, each one stung like a small hard whip. Scarab pulled himself to his feet, staggering for her…

"Stay back! You're in no shape for this!" She swung again, trying to smash the thing. She was pissed, old combat instincts kicking in. She wanted to crush this freak, slimy piece of crap…

She hammered the thing again. It drew back and Scarab lunged. His armored spikes slashed into the chitin's shell in a shower of sparks and ichor. It howled, hammering the insectoid. He staggered and fell to his knees, then to all fours… Stonewall punched again, knocking the piece of filth off her and back down the elevator shaft.

Snarling, she leapt to her feet, going down the shaft after intent on turning the thing to a fine red smear before it got up again. The shaft was dark, empty…

Photon and Hologram shimmered out of sight. Warp stepped back into the hallway doorway for cover. They waited.

"Photon," Holly came over comlink. "Stonewall has been engaged. I've lost contact!"

"I'm on it, boss lady." Blink said over the com. This is what I do best." Blink popped out of existence.

Photon muttered a series of oaths. Just great. "We're a little pinned down right now, Hol… Stonewall's on her own for the moment. All contact's been lost?"

"Her rig has been knocked free." Holly replied. "But it's functional."

"Shit!" Stonewall cursed. Looking around she spotted her link and snatched it up. Slipping the rig on she said, "Hol, if this thing's got any scanners, get me a look." Team comm. "Boss lady, look sharp, these things don't die easy, and they'll play possum!"

Blink popped back into reality, just outside the elevator. The perps were around the corner, out of sight for now.

Circe hung back, checking her pistol. It soothed her mind, let her focus. She could feel the sick little bastards, tiny minds squirming with animal excitement, stirred by the idea of blood and death. Yes, that's it, come on, nothing to be afraid of. A cold smile crept over the empath's face, cold and deadly as a stainless steel dagger in the dark, as she fed the gangers' arrogance, their feeling of invulnerability. Emotion, more often than not, guided action far more than thought. In this case, it guided the two to step right into the open doorway, standing nearly shoulder to shoulder, hunched form shrouded in dark robes, their faces covered by heavy gas masks. The blunt ugly barrels of roomsweepers jutting out from under the robes. Gotcha. Circe's grin would have frozen nitrogen.

Blink moved up the hallway a bit, covering the area with her pistol. She stayed ready to port if she needed to, but in the back of her mind hoped it wouldn't be necessary.

Circe watched the uglies moving forward. That's right, you bastards, she thought, the grin still frozen on her face. Keep coming… Circe has a little surprise for you. She sighted. The gun jerked in her hand, sending a slug ripping through one of the cloaked uglies. He spines, robes parting to bare slimy blue skin and multiple arms, blood spurting in a crimson rooster tail from his side. He dropped to one knee in the hall, still holding his shotgun, but loosely. Blink heard a strange gurgling coming from him.

Hologram decides that their leader is incapacitated for some reason opened fired, squeezing off a quick shot. The gangster's head jerked back, soundlessly crumpling. The wall behind was soaked with a mixture of blood and brain matter, running in clotted steams to the floor.

Warp opens a viewing portal to the hallway, small as to be unobtrusive. He fumes at being left here in the room, and wants to see what's happening outside, in case he needs to make a quick grab. His portal shimmered open, forming just above and behind Blink as she crept up the hall. He looks over to Photon should be. "I think the ladies took out both of them. One's got a new hole in his head, the others down, but not out yet."

A flash of light, a pencil thin lance of energy stabbed out from the corner with a sizzling crack, revealing Photon in its backwash. The beam cut across the fallen punk. He stiffened, the sank to the floor in two smoking chunks.

Stonewall gave the shaft one more look, cursing, then turned to Scarab, kneeling behind the insectile man. "Come on, big guy, don't check out on me now." Snapping up, Scarab grabbed the back of head and kissed her, strange tendril tongue slipping into her mouth before she had much to say about it.

Her eyes snapped wide. Shit, she thought he was dead! After the initial shock wore off, she pulled back. "What the hell? I thought you were dying, you bastard!"

Somehow, in some semi psychic way. She knew he was grinning.

She smacked his shoulder. "Dammit Scarab, I was worried…" She rose, turning away. He caught her sleeve, other hand signing. Holly translated, sending the word scrolling across her visor. You know I'm too cute to die.

Stonewall snorted. "Or too damn dense…" She stood, giving him a and up. "If you're well enough to steal a kiss, you're well enough to come upstairs with me to back up the others… Wish I knew where our ugly went though…"

He shuddered, going a little limp, for all the bravado, clearly in pain.

She knelt next to him again, supporting his weight, letting his head rest in her lap. "Hol, get the doc down here now! Scarab's hurt bad."

The medical personal are on their way." Holly said. "Let him lie still." She tried to use her most calm soothing voice, distilled from hundreds of medical and therapeutic vids, so smooth, professional and understanding it set Stonewall's teeth on edge.

She growled, but didn't try to move him, letting his head rest in her lap, gently stroking his face. She waited for the medical personnel to arrive.

I could get used to this, Scarab signed.

Holly filed that voice away as a failed experiment, at least with Stonewall…

Stonewall chuckled. "Don't get too comfy. 'Sides, I got a reputation to uphold." She got on the comm again. "Sorry Hol, I'm just worried. Do you have an ETA for the docs?"

"There's a food riot delaying traffic in this area." Holly replied. "I'm searching for an alternate route."

"Thanks, Hol…" Stonewall sighed, wishing she knew enough to help him.

I can think of other things to while I got my head down here.

"Does he mean cunnilingus?" Holly asked.

"What the hell is cunni…whatever?" Stonewall asked.

"Giving Head, Muff Diving, Eating out, Carpet licking, Box eating, licking the lawn, yodeling in the valley…" Holly went on.

"Okay, okay, Hol. I get the point. And yeah, I think that's what he's talking about. Even wounded, the man's got a one-track mind…" She grins a little, looking down at Scarab. "Don't move around too much, you can get another ride when you're back online."

Gives me reason to live, Angelass.

Stonewall snorts. "Save the flattery, Scarab. You already won me over with that party in the elevator." She chuckles. "SO you better get back up to speed pronto, before I get too horny."

Is that warning or a promise?

"You decide, chummer." She said with a mysterious smirk. Whipping his snake like tongue out, Scarab slurped across her crotch…

She grinned. "You must be out of it. You're supposed to take the clothes off, first…" She cups his cheeks, looking down into his eyes. "Settle down, Scarab. I don't want you getting hurt. We can wait."

Oh, so that's what I've been doing wrong.

Stonewall chuckled. "Har har, Mr. Comedian." She activates the comm. "Are they here yet Hol?"

"ETA 2 minutes," Holly assured her.

Tell them not to hurry. I like it here just fine.

She smiles down at him. "But the sooner they fix you up, the sooner you can play again…"

I can play right now.

She shook her head. "Not 'til you're patched up, Scarab."

I'm pouting.

"Pout all you want. You're too torn up to do anything about it…" She sighed. "Seriously, Scarab. Take it easy, I don't want you hurting yourself."

I'm touched. But I'm all right. Just winded.

She chuckled, stroking his chest. "No, now you're touched. And you're not just winded, you're beaten up and cut. Now be quiet, and wait for the docs, or I'll have to spank you…"

You'd hurt your hand. I'm a hardass. Or haven't you read my file?

"Nah. I can bend steel. Haven't you read mine?"

We'll see if you can bend my steel later.

"Ooh. I do love a challenge…" Stonewall chuckled.

Scarab just looked at he for a moment. Stonewall saw herself reflected in his eyes faceted eyes, a million blondes looking back at her. You're too sweet to be fucking a bug. What's the trip? he asked.

"Sweet. You musta got a hit to the head if you're that fucked up. As for fucking a bug. Hey, whatcha look like ain't no big deal. Nowadays, if ya got the money, you can look like whatever you want. It's just a shell." She shrugs. "And I ain't no catch, so I don't feel like being picky. You wanted, I wanted, we had some fun. What's wrong with that?"

Not a catch, bullshit. You're the sweetest piece of ass I've seen in a long time. Scarab ran his fingers over her cheek, across her lips. Yeah. We had fun, didn't we? I'm lucky.

She grinned. "Yeah, and don't forget it. No reason to jump off the train now, though… I kinda like you, ya big lug."

That's bug.

Stonewall shook her head. "Yeah, I know. Just didn't know if you were, you know, sensitive about being called that…"

Look at me. If I were sensitive. I'd be psychotic by now. He said, then stroked her cheek again.

She shrugs, smiling a little. "Yeah, I know. But I also know how much names can hurt sometimes."

He shrugged, chitin rustling. How about a blowjob?

Stonewall snorted, chuckling despite herself. "Talk about a freakin one- track mind…" She stroked his belly, down lower to his crotch. "Well… I don't know if we have that much time…" She smiled. "But I'll definitely do that and more once we're back home…"

Look at me. You think I got women lining up? He shifted, shivered under her touch; a section of his armored hide bulged then spread like a blossom letting his member rise, thick and hard.

"Mmmm. SO that's where you keep that thing hidden…" Stonewall chuckled, stroking it. She'd never gotten a good look at it before, in the elevator. Scarab shuddered, nuzzling her belly. It felt surprisingly warm, almost hot, soft but with a hard throbbing core, a little like an over-pressured hose, which she guessed it was. The head was blunt only slightly rounded, the twin slits oozing a clear fluid.

She smiled, starting to pump it, letting his head rest in her lap, her breasts gently brushing his forehead as she leans forward slightly. Her hand moves quickly, squeezing as her hand moves up and down the length of his shaft.

He buzzed, chitin covered rear smacking the floor as he thrust against her strokes. His hands were much to busy to talk, brushing up under her t-shirt to cup those swaying mounds. They felt so hard against her skin but gentle.

She sighed, moaning softly. Her hand moved at a steady pace, her thumb rolling over the crown of his member as her hand reached the end, pausing for the briefest moment before stroking down again. Whipping his tongue out, about a foot, Scarab licked her nipples, slithering the whiplike member over the cloth-covered peaks…

Stonewall moaned again, hand tightening a little on Scarab, pumping a little quicker now. "Damn, I don't know which I like more, the unit, or the tongue…"

Flicking the rock hard little points, Scarab only clouded the decisions, now pumping in earnest against her hand. He swelled in her grip as if trying to break free, though that was the very last thing on his mind at the moment.

Stonewall was starting to lose it, her breath coming in short pants, her hips starting to thrust forward a little, rocking Scarab's head. All the while, she kept pumping him, squeezing and stroking, her eyes locked on his member.

Scarab suddenly trilled, arching up. His member leapt in her hand, spurting twin streams of white into the air. The plume spattered Scarab's belly and her arm.

Stonewall, grinned, giving his member a few last squeezes. "Well, hopefully that made you feel a bit better…" She chuckled, licking a bit of his cum off of her arm, wiping the rest on her jacket. Bloody and torn as it was, it was probably a loss anyway.

He shivered again, brining up his hand to speak, but was interrupted by footsteps. Jerking their heads up, Stonewall and Scarab stared back at the white clad parameds looking at them from the doorway, the red/blue light bars casting the entire scene in surreal strobing color.

Stonewall chuckled. "Looks like your ride is here, Scarab." She gently lays his head back on the floor, gesturing them in. "Well, get a move on, people!"

Her voice snapped the dumbstruck medics into action. Trauma Wagon, good outfit, bugs was in good hands…again. She grinned, licking her fingers…

Once she was sure he was safe, she stood, pulling her jacket back into place. She looked at the elevator, trying the button on the off chance it still worked.

Work it did, calling the elevator down…

She tapped her foot, waiting for the elevator. She activated the comm. "Bosslady. Scarab's on his way with the meds. I'm catching the elevator, leave some for me, I've got some aggression to work out."

Warp muttered. "Nevermind. I'll just sit here and watch the pretty walls…" Could have at least left some for me…

Hologram started at the display of Photon's power, then smiled to herself. Now that's the way to handle an enemy. Moving with the stealth that had given her such a solid reputation among her fellows, she headed down the hall, alert for any sign of trouble. Blink was walking up the hall, putting away her weapon slowly.

Hostiles appear to be neutralized. Holly came over the link. Metro Police is securing the block and Scarab is under treatment. His injuries aren't severe, Stonewall.

"Thanks Hol. Kinda figured that, given his…friskiness. But let me get up there in case things go crazy again…" On the com to Photon. "Hey, bosslady. Some of the kids I asked said our lady never left the building… Either she's got another way out, or is hiding out somewhere… I think we should start with the freaky room. Plenty of places to hide there…"

Hologram headed for the elevator, to make her way down to where Stonewall was. It was best to have someone scout their situation in person, and she was an excellent scout. She met the aptly named Stonewall as she got off the elevator. Bloodied, dirty, reeking of sweat and other things vaguely familiar, but Hologram didn't want to dwell on too deeply; she looked every bit the image Hologram had been taught. The Western savage.

Hologram let her invisibility drop, not wishing the stone woman to notice her by accident. She seemed strong enough to shatter a normal person like Hologram into pieces with a single blow. "You are well. There is no threat yet remaining below us?"

"Hi Hologram…" Stonewall looks down at herself at hologram's look. "Yeah, I ran into some trouble downstairs… Just got a new set of clothes, and some freak gets em dirty… I need a vacation." She passes by, heading for the apartment. "No trouble up here?"

"I thought I took down the freak once, he got back up. Knocked him into the shaft, and I lost track of him. Didn't go up or down, from what I can tell. He might still be around somewhere…"

Hologram nodded, and slid her clip from the weapon, smoothly sliding in a new one. She chambered a shell, and glanced around at the elevator. Not a good place for a fight. "We encountered a couple of soldiers above. They were no trouble."

"Watch out, they play dead, then get back up… Though from what Holly showed me, I think you took care of them. I couldn't see the one I was fighting anywhere, he's either hiding, running, or trying to sneak up on us. Best f we stay together for now." She idly pulls at her shirt while they walk down the hall, trying to get it to stop sticking to her.

"I will bear your words in mind, Stonewall-sama. I will not allow them to get up."

Stonewall nods. "Cryo. Everyone else at the apartment?"

Hologram nodded, never wavering in a sweeping pattern with her gaze across the hall as they moved, occasionally glancing over her shoulder. "They are waiting for you and the Oni. Where is the Oni, Stonewall-sama?"

Stonewall's shoulders sagged a little. "He was hurt. The thing jumped him before I could smash it. The meds came for him. Hol say's he'll be all right, it's only minor…" She sighed. Those things are dangerous, we should be careful…"

Hologram never ceased her wary scanning of the area as they walked. "All enemies are dangerous. None should be taken for granted. You did what you could. The Oni will be well. His kind are resilient."

Stonewall nodded. "Yeah, but Kimagure's still gonna pay."

Hologram considered. "Kimagure is the name of your enemy, Stonewall- sama?"

"The psycho who made those freaks, and a few others that have killed and hurt people. She's the one behind all of this." Stonewall growled, her hands clawing in front of her as if she had the woman's neck there to throttle.

Hologram paused from her scan of the hall long enough to give Stonewall an inscrutable look. "The path of vengeance is long and cold. Even at the end of the road, the price is always too high."

Stonewall sighed. "Yeah… But it's our job to bring her in. She's dangerous, already killed one police officer. Forgive me if I decide to hit her very hard before she gets to try anything…"

Hologram sighs heavily, and nods. Her expression flickers to one of sadness briefly, before returning to watchful wariness. "I too understand the path of vengeance, and its deadly allure. This is a road everyone must walk on their own. I wish you luck, Stonewall-sama."

Stonewall looks back. "I'm not going to kill her, I'm no murderer. But I'm not pulling any punches. She's dangerous, and even her little creations hurt Scarab pretty bad. I'm not going to give her a chance to hurt anyone else." She shrugs. "I know where to draw the line…"

Hologram glanced at the stone woman again. Curious notion, she thought idly. "If this woman is dangerous and a threat as you say, then you should remove her. It is best for one to die that many more may live. One does not reason with a mad dog, one puts it down, Stonewall-sama. There is no line to cross. There is only what is needed. That is wisdom. But to hunt, to seek with a heart full of rage, that is the path that leads to the death of the spirit."

Stonewall shrugs. "I guess… I'm pretty simple. I hit things… I'll leave the philosophy to someone who understands it…" She smiles. "Thanks for the concern though."

Hologram nodded. "WE should get back to the others."

Stonewall nodded. "Yeah, don't want them getting lost without us. And at least one of those things is still around, not to mention Kimagure herself…"

The pair hooked up with Blink and reentered the apartment where the others were waiting.

"So, your sources say she never left the building, eh?" Photon mused as Stonewall and Hologram walked in. "And she owned the entire building. I wonder how thorough the police search really was–if they brought in any exotic equipment, in particular."

"Well, we're down a number of bad guys." Blink started out. "Dunno about the slag who went down the shaft, but likely he's zeroed too." She looked around, her eyes invisible behind the mirrorshades. "Photon?" she asked. "You think Kimagure used the gateway to get out of here? Not a possibility I care for, but possible nonetheless."

Stonewall shrugged. "Yeah. But the ones I talked to said no one saw her leave, and given her rep, I'd think they were looking. Either she's holed up somewhere in here, got out through the basement, or used the portal…"

Warp nods. "But I thought only Blink could, unless Kimagure built herself a porter…"

"Maybe she's keyed into it somehow. Or one of the things that built it. I'm not crazy about trying it, but I can feel it pulling on me, almost like it wants me to use it." Blink paused. Or do I want to use IT? she wondered. "Anyway, someone knows what's going on, it just isn't me."

Stonewall shrugged. "I owe Kimagure for Scarab. Your call, boss, want to try?"

Warp nodded. "We don't seem to have any other leads, much as I hate the idea…"

"All right, let's have some fun, then." Photon shook her head. Paragon, what did you get me into…

Stonewall cracked her knuckles. "What's the plan boss?"

Warp nodded. "Yeah, let's do something…"

"I feel I should say this. The circumstances have turned this mission into some well beyond the normal parameters of the Project. You could be venturing into something utterly unknown", Dr. Morsham said over the link. "In good faith I cannot insist any of you continue from this point on."

"You're probably right, Doc, but if we don't handle this, Metro will. They can't let someone whose deliberate actions led to the deaths of two police officers just walk. And anyone they'll send will be even less able to handle whatever they may encounter than we will."

Photon paused. "I'm not happy about this myself–for various reasons." Okay, one BIG reason, she added to herself, glancing at Blink for a moment, remembering what she'd read in the other's file. "But this," she gestured toward the pattern on the floor, "is about the only lead we've got."

Hologram reloaded her Glock. The weapon had performed well. She'd need to clean it later, but for now, it seemed there might still be work for it. "If there is business yet to attend to, then I will accompany you all, if that is acceptable. The job is not finished yet, it seems." She waits calmly to see what the others will decide to do.

"Nothing to do but to do it." Blink sighed, stepping to the center of the floor. "Everyone all packed. Any last minute suggestions?" Why this feeling of dread in her gut? But it there was an excitement as well, an eagerness to open up this door and just step through. Time to walk the Spiral…