Are you all with me? Good, then!

IT IS TIME! For another chapter of this lovely story. I haven't posted anything so far since I was a bit busy IRL and my focus was on Blood God (smut included in the next chapter), so it took a while to grease the hamster wheel that is my brain to write something half-way decent again.

It stands reminding everyone again that I barely know stuff about the cyberpunk world and I'm slowly dipping my toes into it, so please to bear with me and correct me if I'm wrong on something. I do appreciate constructive criticism, even if it bruises my ego a bit.

With all this sappy stuff out of the way, let's start this new chapter, choom!

A Far Cry from Normal
[chapter 06: And so begins the growth of a new warrior]

School was even more boring than usual today. It usually was boring, but the need to pay attention to the subjects being droned on by the I.I (interactable interface) normally kept him awake through the entirety of his courses.


David had stopped counting his yawns after the tenth one, his feet constantly pacing as he kept glancing at the timer at the edge of his sight. Time seemed to crawl by, each word that was spoken seemingly being stretched for as long as possible.

Even the dirty glances from Katsuo and his goons seemed to be awfully slow, David wondering what brought about this sensation on his mind. It certainly wasn't normal to be feeling this…apathetic to life.

Still, the courses finished for the day and the students were released from their classes, the teen from Santo feeling his stomach grumble awfully hard. He was used to skip on meals such as lunch when on school, always short on credits to buy even the cheapest meal available on the menu of the pompous academy. Today shouldn't be different, yet it was another thing that decided to differ from his usual life.

David took a peek at his bank account, indecisiveness gnawing on his mind as he wondered if he should splurge a bit to satiate the rather ravenous feeling of hunger that he was feeling. In the end, he decided to eat something somewhere cheaper, aware of the glances that stabbed into his back as the usual corpo-brats glanced in surprise at his sudden appearance by the cafeteria.

The teen from Santo stuffed his hands into his school's jacket and walked down the corridor that would lead him out of the academy when he spotted someone coming towards him.

"Fuck me, just my luck." He muttered under his breath, recognizing the hair cut and color. Katsuo and his two goons. The ultra corpo-brat had been busy talking (or more likely bragging) with the two that followed him, but once one of them pointed him out the rich Arasaka brat had a new target on his sight.

David hoped to go by unmolested by the other teen, but that was as good as hoping for real organic meat from a cheap shop in his district.

Katsuo purposely blocked David's path, the Martinez youngster then stopping and moving to the side in hopes of dodging the mini-corpo. It was useless, as Katsuo followed the beat of his step, moving to remain on his path. This sing-a-song repeated itself three more times before David growled and huffed in annoyance.

"What the fuck do you want, Katsuo?!" David's tone was loud enough that anyone in the hallway would have heard. Considering the tech of this place, there was no doubt a hidden camera with audio was recording nearby, though he wouldn't be surprised if later he were to complain about the harassment, only for the academy to end up with "missing footage".

Katsuo acted as if offended. "How rude of you, Davie-boy! Here I am, concerned with your state of mind after hearing of such sad news about your mother, and this is how you treat my kindness? Tsk tsk tsk." The mock act of victim fooled no one, but the loudness of their voces would spook anyone from approaching them for the while.

David tightened his fists, the urge to fire up the Sandy and clown on Katsuo's dog-ass almost like a terrible itch that begged to be scratched. Though Katsuo was egging him with the commentary, it was unlikely that he knew of David's most recent upgrade – or would even believe that some poor rat from Santo Domingo could acquire such souped-up chrome. David now had the prime opportunity to act.

"What's wrong, Davie-boy?" Even Katsuo's voice grated on David's nerves. "Didn't have enough? I'll be more than glad to give you more." He whispered to him with a cocky grin plastered over his lips.

David felt the world slow down to a crawl, the edges of everything turning into shades of green as the effect of his Sandevistan prepared to activate. Yet before he could truly fire off his augmentation a bell chime echoed along the hallway, followed by a call.

[David Martinez, David Martinez! Your presence is being requested at the entrance of the academy. David Martinez, David Martinez! Your presence is being…]

The built-up tension remained between him and Katsuo's group, but now they could no longer hold him back.

Katsuo scoffed aside, though he didn't seem truly bothered by the interruption of his fun. He eyed David and shrugged his shoulders. "Saved by the bell, huh? Gutter rat."

The teen from Santo clenched his teeth hard, shoving his hands once more inside the pockets of his uniform. He began to walk again, going through the middle of the group, though Katsuo could not let him be without a final parting gift: as they walked past each other the corpo-brat shoved his shoulder against David's, the two pausing to stare at each other.

David's eyes were fuming mad while Katsuo's held on the usual superior gaze.

[David Martinez, David Martinez! Your presence is being requested at the entrance of the academy. David Martinez, David Martinez! Your presence is being…]

It took the voice repeating itself for David to finally disengage from Katsuo. He was biting the insides of his mouth something fierce, tasting some iron on his tongue as he most definitely had hurt the gum with his teeth.

A few moments later he arrived by the entrance of the academy, a recognizable person waiting for him by the organized couches that served as a reception.

"Jason?" David asked incredulously, eyes wide at this strange encounter.

The Caucasian was dressed in something fancier than the usual. Whereas the teen was used to see the man in common jeans and beat-up shirts along with his usual equipment, now Jason was sporting a prim and proper corpo-styled black suit. He never took Brody for a corpo rat, and in all honesty the clothing did not truly feel adequate for him.

Especially with that hair and messy stubble on his face.

"Since when you became a rat?" That was the million-eddies question.

Jason merely smiled at him, the edge of his lips trembling in annoyance. "This is called discretion and disguise, you little shit."

David felt his cheeks heat up a bit at the light rebuke of the older man.

Jason rolled his eyes at the teen, taking the time to look over the entirety of the entrance of academy. "Still, this place is decked out, huh? When I asked for directions to people they were quite cutthroat." He commented.

David nodded his head. Anyone that looked like prey or exhibited any weak behavior would bet pounced on in Night City, so it was already a miracle that no one had tried anything foolish against the tattooed man; then again, it wasn't like it would end up well for such individuals if they tried to klep the Jungle Warrior.

"Still, doesn't explain why you are here." David nonchalantly pointed out.

Jason looked back at him with a dull gaze, the teen feeling small-sized under the eyes of the older man. "Don't take me for an idiot, kid. Blood is harder to get rid off with just warm water and some soap." He commented, making David look to the side to avoid meeting his gaze.

The tattooed man sighed, rubbing his eyelids. "Come on, let's get going." He said while turning around to leave the premises of the building.

David was surprised and remained rooted to his spot. "W-wait, you are not mad?" He asked while hurrying his steps to catch up.

Jason shook his head, left hand rapidly coming over to slap the back of the teen's head. "Dumbass," He said in his usual tone, "I was worried about you. I swear, it is almost like you enjoy doing the complete opposite of what I tell you."

David nursed his head, still a bit embarrassed. "I was planning on telling you…" He muttered.

Jason sighed once again. "I told you that you are a shit liar, kid." They headed back to the station, getting a cart back to Santo Domingo, the traffic of people rather intense.

David felt down at being called out, unable to form any type of response. He wondered what he should say, but a hand on his shoulder got him out of his funk.

"Get that head up and start thinking. I figure that I might as well start things now." Jason spoke to him, the duo not attracting any more attention than the common passerby.

David looked at him with a curious glance. "What do you mean?"

Jason loosened the black tie that was around his neck. He motioned with his head to the glass pane of the NCART, more specifically to their reflection. "When I started on the path of the warrior, there wasn't a proper teacher per say to help me learn things; considering your circumstances, that type of education might wield the best results to you, if your dumbass is going to take grand risks like what you did."

David paid attention to the words very carefully.

Jason – sure that he had the teen's entire attention supply for now – began discreetly pointing towards the various passengers inside the public transport. "Lesson number one, rookie; always pay attention to your surroundings. That way you will be able to identify what is going on around you, easing up the process of planning out your future actions. You don't need to, or more likely won't be able to plan for everything, but being aware of what happens will save your life for sure."

"That guy," he spoke as he discreetly pointed towards a large Asian male, "seems like to be the bodyguard type. The bulge on his suit points towards a gun strapped in there, and his suit almost screams corpo, as you people say. That is without mentioning any other surprises hidden in there."

David tried to be as discreet as possible as he observed the man pointed out by Jason. Though the commentary about the suit was obvious, the mention of a gun made the teen gulp. Weapons weren't anything new in NC, and most everyone who was anyone was packing on some type of heat, but it was something that David hadn't had to worry about until now; hell, he never even imagined his mother did own a piece until he found that painted pistol hidden at home.

The addition of chrome added another mystery element to such matters. Sure, someone might not be packing a gun, but what a surprise (and mistake) it would be to assume that someone without a gun wasn't dangerous. A simple arm could be housing an incredible pair of Mantis Blades ready to slice someone into sashimi while a Projectile Launcher would blow someone into next Tuesday. Hell, he still was sporting some bruising from his beating from Katsuo.

It was something that David had pondered a few times, but having Jason point it out only made it even more important.

The older man kept explaining his method of analyses to the teen, once in a while he would point out another person and ask David to think about the possibilities of what could someone be packing. His guesses ended up mostly remaining unconfirmed, since it wasn't like they could go to the person and ask about their chrome, but it opened a new world of possibilities to him.

He was about to try it again when he felt his systems act up. It was more instinct than anything else, but David was quick to notice when his money-chip shard ejected from its port, someone conveniently passing behind him.

The Sandy was activated in a blink of the eye, David was quick to spin around and position himself behind the person, his hands perfectly positioned to grasp at the wrist of the offender.

Time flowed proper to him as the person caught the chip, yet had their wrist fall perfectly within the grasp of his hand.

The pick-socket was female and rather attractive to boot. If she hadn't tried to rob of the little that he had, David would confidently say that she was his type. Slender, yet not too thin, the thief was wearing an attention-grabbing leotard that matched the color of her hair, a few neon accents distinguishing her currently scowling-features.

She almost moved to grab at his uniform's jacket, but a coughing sound got her attention. Jason had a friendly face and smile, yet his body posture was completely opposite of it, elbow spreading the front of his suit open to reveal his hand resting on the handle of his machete.

"Now now, I wouldn't do that if I were you." His voice remained calm, almost as if they hadn't caught the pick-socket trying to rob them blind. The people around them were a bit curious about the commotion, but so far none were willing to approach.

The girl's features were still harsh, but she knew that they were the ones with the upper hand. Her eyes lit up, though before she could do anything, Jason interrupted by exposing a small length of his sheathed blade.

"Nah ah, that won't do." Jason wasn't in the know about that much technology, but his instincts were on guard against the girl.

She scowled particularly hard towards the Jungle Warrior, but she shifted her gaze to the dark-skinned youth holding her wrist. She motioned with her head to the door that would lead to another cart and the duo followed, Jason out of curiosity and David to see what his mentor would do.

Once the trio had entered the next mostly empty NCART, the girl wrenched her wrist free from David's hold, though she remained in place. She was too close to them now, risking a knife in the gut wasn't something in her plans today.

"What's your angle, huh? Why are you mucking up my biz?" Her prissy attitude and continuously closed-off face managed to dent David's confidence, though Jason remained unmoved and unbothered by her bullshit.

"The kid's money that you stole, miss." Jason took front on the conversation, his right hand always resting on the handle of his blade.

Feeling some confidence return to himself, David tried to school his own features into an annoyed scowl, trying to put on his best punk attitude. When he remembered that that chip shard contained all the cash his mother had managed to get, it was easy enough to do so.

"Quite bold of you to be pick-socketing here. Rather close to Arasaka." David remarked, eyes focused on the chip held in the girl's hand.

She scoffed. "Who cares if I do it, they are corpos; so are you. Probably won't even miss it."

David narrowed his eyes and grit his teeth, annoyed at being compared to those bastards.

Jason intervened. "Whatever the case may be, we want his stuff back. You can continue with your biz," He put sarcastic emphasis on the slang, "Once we have his shit back."

The girl tested the waters, pacing about with careful and slow moves.

"You know," She muttered, glancing at the two, "you two don't really seem to be the corpo type." She said while looking the duo up and down a few times.

"The shard." Jason strongly remarked, David taking a step forward and positioning himself in front of Jason.

She scowled, but slowly extended her hand. The teen moved closer to get it, opening his hand so that the pick-socket would drop it. She did so, the item falling on his hand, though she also took the time to grab his wrist this time. "There ain't many eddies remaining in there, right? Why don't we make a team? You two seem to know your way around things, we could get a quick buck easily enough." She proposed.

Jason seemed unimpressed with the proposal, though David did seem to be interested in whatever it was that the young hacker would offer. The younger teen's hesitation allowed the girl to slowly move her hands up to his neck, where she grabbed a gentle hold of his it in a seductive act.

"David." The older male warned, but the younger one was already trapped.

A quick movement from the girl had David immobilized, a length of yellow thread emerging from one of her wrists and wrapping around his neck while she spun him around, getting his back. Another cable was ejected from her other wrist, this time the girl connecting it to the port on David's neck.

The girl's pupils lit up, Jason sighing in frustration and glaring at the younger male. David could only offer a bitter smile, the lesson of the day being put into practical use quite sooner than he expected.

"Sorry about that, but I like to know who my possible future partners are before-hand." The white-haired girl commented, although there was no hint of apologetic feelings in her voice. "Look at that…top student in Arasaka Academy, good grades in general…One would think that you are some sort of boy-wonder…you are even rocking an…experimental Sandevistan…" Her tone started as sarcastic joy, but it trailed off into a pensive speech.

David growled a bit at the invasion to his privacy, the details of his recently implanted chrome something that he wanted to explain to Jason himself instead of having it be exposed like that. Were it not for the mono-wire wrapped around his throat, he would have fired off his Sandy one more time to give this pick-socketing girl a good introduction to his fist. Momma hadn't raised a woman-beater, but she also had not raised a coward.

The girl released both cables from David, her expressions rapidly shifting from concern to a mostly stoic countenance, though her eyes still held a harshness that Jason could see would spell trouble if they stuck around to find out.

"We are good, no need to worry." He forcefully brough David to his side, putting himself between the duo. One pretty ass and you are down for the count? Shesh, I really need to put some effort on this, huh? The Jungle Warrior mused to himself. "Your offer is interesting, but this one is still wet behind the ears for that type of work."

David wanted to protest to that statement, but held back his tongue. He hadn't really performed anything stellar during this encounter with the pick-socket girl. Though he would give himself some praise for managing to withstand Katsuo's bullshit.

The girl looked like she wanted to insist on the deal, but one look from Jason dissuaded her from any further pushing.

"Alright, alright, your loss." She put her hands up in defeat, taking some distance from the two males. "I'll remain here while, you two do what you do. Just don't muck my biz!" She remarked with a cold tone.

Jason glanced backwards, motioning for David to go ahead with his head while he returned his focus to the white-haired girl. "If you don't mind me asking, you got a name miss hackerwoman?" He released most of the tension from his frame, trying to appear as friendly as he could after the encounter.

The girl seemed to think for a few moments before she nodded. "Yeah, I'm Lucy."

"Brody." Jason answered back, hearing David open the door to the previous NCART wagon. They both headed in, leaving the girl to stare at their backs all the while.

"Kuso daro (Goddammit.)"

The Jungle Warrior managed to hear the words leave Lucy before the door closed, the Japanese swear choppy but still ringing into his ears.

[Cyberpunk ;Edgerunners]

Name: Jason Brody
Age: 28 years old
Bank Account: You are not so bad, choom!
Augmentations: Why are you so retro? You don't even got a basic Kiroshi set!
Tattoos: The complete set of the Jungle Warrior.

[Cyberpunk ;Edgerunners]

Once they reached the apartment, Jason was quick to toss his suit aside, carelessly dropping the piece by the couch as he went to the kitchen and get himself some water.

David lingered by the living room, feeling an awkward tension. He wondered how he should start his explanations to Jason. It had certainly been a heat-of-the-moment thing, chipping in the Sandy, but it was also his best chance at being something more than just another gutter rat from Santo. An ace in the hole that no one would expect.

The surgery had been horrible, but what could he have expected from Doc? The Sandy was in and now he had his ace, it only cost quite a pop of his current account and about five hours of mind-numbing pain. You know, the usual deal.

Nonetheless, the teen sat on the couch and waited, almost like a dog that knew it had angered its owner and waited punishment. It didn't take long for Jason to approach him and sit by his side, having yet to quench his thirst. For a few moments neither male said anything, the awkward silence only being interrupted by the constant cacophony of noises that echoed from the city and reached them.

All of a sudden Jason stood from his seat and sighed in frustration, scratching the back of his head as he stood in front of David.

"First things first, are you alright?" The Jungle Warrior asked, the concern in his voice rather palpable.

David nodded. "Yeah, it doesn't hurt or itch or anything like that."

Jason remained unconvinced, but didn't want to press the issue too much. "Sure, sure. Was it too invasive? I saw some of the shit that the nomads had, I'm sure that it can be quite the trouble to maintain and take care."

The teen froze a bit. Shit, I never thought about maintenance! No fucking way I'm going back to Doc to let him poke back there! Still, he had to answer something to Jason. "It is…a custom cervical spine module. I had to remove my spine to get it in." He answered truthfully, unwilling to skirt around the issue. Better to tell the truth now and be done with it; Jason had been willing to help him so far, he deserved the truth.

The Jungle Warrior raised his brows in astonishment. "You are kidding, right?"

The teen began taking off his jacket and shirt, turning around to show the implanted chrome. "I wish I was."

Jason examined it, sucking in a breath as he noticed the scope of the augmentation. "Shit, kid. I don't know much about tech, but this is…You really went balls to the wall, huh?"

David let out a bitter chuckle, aware of how foolish his choice looked. He let Jason ponder for a while, remaining with his back turned to the man, his head lowered. The older male then slapped the back of his head (again), getting the teen to yelp in surprise.

"You really are one hot-headed little shit." The words were spoken with a mix of defeated acceptance and sympathetic reluctance. "Well, it is already jammed in there and I don't think it will come out that easily; might as well make use of it." He stated, throwing the teen's shirt back at him.

David grabbed his clothing and put it on, turning to meet the older man. "What now?"

Jason crossed his arms. "I have been trying to freelance for a while as a merc. I got a few jobs that I completed – baby stuff to be honest – but it should get me in contact soon enough with a fixer. I'll get us a couple of easy jobs and will be teaching you the ropes while you get used to the big bad Sand-whatever the hell its name is."

"Sandevistan." David helpfully supplemented, Jason nodding to him.

"Yeah, that." He pointed, then glanced at his duffle bag on the floor. "You really want to gather that cash for your mom, huh?"

David's nod was a firm thing, displaying his willingness to fight for his mother. Jason then cracked his fingers, motioning for the teen to stand up.

"Well, since you say you are feeling alright, then let's practice a bit." The Jungle Warrior stated, David dumbly staring at him.

"Practice what?"

Jason took a deep breath to avoid smacking the teen upside the head a third time today, pointing to his own tattoo – more specifically to the three initial animals that started the path. "What do you think, smart guy?"

David widened his eyes, static at the notion. "You serious, choom?!"

Jason didn't respond to his questions with words, but with action. Action which was to bull-rush the teen, tackling him to the floor in one swift motion, David barely capable of understanding how he had been so quickly floored. The usual machete had been drawn so fast the teen hadn't managed to hear it, only feel the tip of the weapon pressed against his chest.

"You are dead." Jason stated in a jovial tone. "This knife is now stuck in your heart and you died before you could even call for help."

David couldn't help but agree, knowing that the blade was pointed at direction his heart. One swift stab of the large blade would destroy the muscle responsible for pumping his blood around his body. The thought was oddly shocking, the idea of how fast his demise could occur.

Jason stood up and offered him a hand. "Get up, you will die plenty more before the day is over. Gotta get that fear of death out of you before we even think of going out there." The young teen took the offered aid and stood up. "You know how to fight?"

David took his best fighting stance. It was mediocre at best, but it was better than nothing. At least they wouldn't have to start from zero.

"All the weapons in the world will be useless on the hands of someone who doesn't know how to use them. You get good at something, and then you keep practicing until it is second nature. And the first step towards that is the good ol' blade. Some take more skill to wield than others, but they are always a good beginner's option." Jason sagely instructed David, skillfully flipping his machete in the air and presenting the handle of the blade to the teen.

"Let's see your best shot."

Outside of the Martinez Apartment.
Three hours after Jason and David's encounter with Lucy.

Lucy exhaled a cloud of smoke as she leaned against the chest-height wall of the megabuilding, waiting for the crew to arrive.

They had been on the hunt for Maine's prized new shiny toy, trying everything they could to track down his supplier; that was easier said than done, since the big lurk of a gonk barely divulged any information about his supplier. Latino woman with tanned skin named Gloria: good fucking luck finding that on the net, considering the number of Latinos living in NC. That was without mentioning any migrating and people using some type of alias.

They had been on the hunt for about a week, though Lucy had honestly given up on the thought of recuperating the Sandy. Kiwi remained steadfast on it, doing a few net dives to see what she could get, but for now it had resulted in fuck all. Maine's insistence in upgrading had grown since the incident with Sasha, the stress trickling down to the entire group.

She took the day off to pick-socket near Arasaka's plaza. It was petty and would be at most seen as s mild inconvenience to the big corporations, but it allowed her to blow off some steam and earn some credits. Who knows, maybe she would strike gold and get some blueprints for something important and fuck with the whole thing.

Most of her day was spent like that, klepping credit shards and the odd chipware. Nothing truly grand, but it would net her an extra income – and hey, there was no such thing as too many credits, especially in this city.

It was rush hour, so that meant both big bootlickers from the corporations and a few mini-corpo brats would be out and about from the academy, easy prey for the picking. All she had to do was be careful with her hacking and be discreet enough to collect her bounty without raising suspicion.

She had been cleaning a few NCARTS when she stumbled upon a rather distinct duo. They stood out from the crowd, though not in the usual sense. The two males seemed to be trying their very best to be copying the Arasaka style, but in the end couldn't be bothered to finish their "cosplay".

The younger one had his jacket on almost as if a coat, open on the front and overall displaying a rogue/punk attitude; the older one looked disheveled and rough, his appearance something unacceptable even among the lowest pawns of any company. The duo certainly was up to challenging the usual strict protocols and norms if their appearances were anything to go by. Still, she wasn't above targeting them just because they broke off a little from the usual mold.

The kid looked like he had weaker ICE, so she launched a quickhack and made her move. Quick and easy.

Or so she imagined it would be. You could color her surprised when suddenly – after her usual moves to grab the credit chip shard – she found herself locked in place due to the kid's grip, his body behind her. It wasn't as if his moves were fast, it was as if he had immediately switched places. If she were an avid fan of fantasies like a certain gremlin-sized companion of hers, she might be inclined to believe that the thuggish looking brat had teleported behind her.

To make matters worse, the older male interrupted her before she could put the moves and intimidate the brat. She was lucky they weren't looking for trouble or to truly take advantage of her. A pick-socket caught in the act was a dead (or worse) pick-socket. Net-runners weren't exactly known for their resilience and dermal plating after all.

Though she tried to play them at an angle, trying to entice the younger one with credits to assure they would not blabber on. They couldn't exactly out her out if they were accomplices after all.

Still, the older one was direct and (surprisingly) only came for the original eddie-chip she had klept. She managed to get some info due to the younger's carelessness, but what she obtained made her work hard to suppress both a gasp of surprise and doubt.

Unless there was more than one experimental Sandies going around that she was unaware of, this kid was the one that had gotten his hands on Maine's precious upgrade. Lucy thought that she should consider herself lucky to be the one to find the souped-up chrome, but then again the sight of the older male got her rethinking her priorities at the moment.

She even tried to push them to work together for now while she contacted Maine, but the man (who later identified himself as Brody) cut the contact short and left with the kid – David, as the info she acquired stated, together with his coordinates home.

He wasn't all that bad looking, but too young – and naïve – for her, but Lucy wasn't that cruel to wish harm upon him. It still begged to question how and why he was sporting the stollen Sandevistan; he had to know it was military-grade, hell, it was new and experimental tech that had yet to be exposed on the market. Lucy hadn't had the time to fully explore the details before she cut the connection between them, but the primary specs of the damn thing looked crazy. And that was without any fine-tunning done to it.

In the end, she opted to call Maine and relay the information and situation she had stumbled upon. Sigh, sometimes it feels like faith is playing a prank on me…She mused while finishing her cigarette.

A call-symbol flickered on her sight, her pupils lighting up as she picked the call.

/Maine-boss: Yo, Lucy! You at the punk's place, dawg?
/Lucy-Lucy: I'm here.
/Maine-boss: Good, I'm coming around with the gang. Keep on the lookout, to see if the gonk's gonna dip or somethin'.
/Lucy-Lucy: You got it.

She cut the call, trying to check around for cameras on the place. The megabuilding was in a rough state and lacked any true security outside of some bums and thugs squatting here and there, wondering how did this kid found himself in such trouble. Had he klept the gear from Gloria? Killed her for it?

She normally wasn't one to question much about the job, but this time it was intriguing for her. His profile indicated a poor up-bringing, though it was impressive that he was in the top of his class for grades with no chrome or chipware to up his game. Nothing truly indicated connections with scavs or anything like that.

The only thing that she could say was strange about the kid was his companion, Brody. The man certainly wasn't a corpo, though why he would want to pass up as one was understandable. Still, it was intriguing. She hadn't managed to grasp even the barest of signals coming off him. Anyone with basic chrome should be rocking some type of operating system that would open up the possibility of hacking, yet she couldn't sense anything from him. At most there was the passive signal of his shard port, but that wouldn't do anything besides hindering him access to chipware.

More and more questions began swimming around in her mind, Lucy wondering if she did the right thing.

Still, it didn't take long for Maine and the rest of the gang to show up, their visible apparel and chrome dissuading any of the crackheads and homeless bums from trying anything.

He was quick to approach her, massive hands carefully raising his sunglasses up. "Anything interesting happened while you waited?"

Lucy crossed her arms, voice calculated and aloof. "Nothing so far. There are no cams to access around the place, so they should be unaware."

The big lug of a man hummed, giving the door a quick glance and furrowing his brows a bit. From behind him a lanky man appeared, arms disproportionately long and sporting a visor covering his eyes.

"Eh, what does it matter anyway? Toss a couple of flash 'nades in there and get the gonk with his pants down!"

Lucy frowned at the mohawk-haired male. "His companion worries me a bit. Didn't seem to have any chrome, but wasn't afraid to fight close to me."

Another figure approached Lucy, this one wearing a face-mask and dressed in a pink coat. "You thinking synth-muscle? Animals member perhaps?"

Lucy shook her head negatively. "Animals don't do discretion or try to avoid trouble. Besides, he wasn't a mountain of muscle."

Maine scoffed, making a show of clenching his right fingers a few times. "Blabbering about possibilities on their door don't get me closer to my Sandy. Kiwi, open it."

The pink-haired woman rolled her eyes. "Alright, you got it." Dry tone aside, the pink-dressed woman began her "magic", eyes shining as algorithms went by in a manner of seconds. It was rathe quick, the red-neon hologram on the door switching to a green color indicating their allowed entry.

The leader of the group stood in front of the door, nodding to one of his net-runners to allow him entry. His right hand moved closer to the door, intend on opening it.

*Click* *Swiish*

Before the group got their bearings, the door opened on its own, a man suddenly emerging from inside the door, no prospects of slowing down as he rushed towards the bigger, chromed-out opponent.

Lucy widened her eyes in shock as Brody rushed from the door like a man being chased by Max-Tec. He held the same machete in his hands, the firm two-handed hold rather telling of his intentions.

The entire group was stunned into surprise as the organic looking male practically slammed into Maine's torso, the Caucasian jumping attack carrying enough momentum that it pushed Maine a couple of steps back. Maybe it was their leader's lucky day, as his already extended hard served as a shield to protect him from the blade, Brody's attack missing the intended target on the larger man.

Nonetheless he still managed to land a rather crippling blow against the chromed mountain of a man, the blade forcefully shoved into Maine's right arm, surely damaging quite a lot of the internal machinery if the flying sparks were anything to go by.

Maine groaned in pain, but managed to recover quick enough to launch a counterattack, left hand motioning to swipe and bat the man aside.

Brody didn't hesitate to leave his blade neatly buried inside the man's arm and duck under the attack, the speedy motion with which he drew a firearm from his hip something that spoke to his skills. The gun's barrel was touching Maine's throat and it was angled upwards, meaning that a single shot could spell the end of their leader.

The entire encounter lasted less than five seconds, after which all the mercs drew their weapons and aimed them at the Caucasian.

"It seems we have reached an impasse, ladies and gentlemen." Jason spoke with a firm voice, his eyes and entire focus directed at Maine. "Now what should we do about this?"

(BGS: Who's ready for Tomorrow)