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Zeo Grey
It's no vacation if you bring your work with you...
Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:17am

She panted for breath. Blood leaked from both nostrils and her mouth. One eye was swollen shut and the other narrowed when the Eliminator whined then clicked. The power cell was dry. She snarled a curse and chucked the useless thing at the nearest attacker. A burly cyborg who laughed when the buster bounced harmlessly from his chest.

Something wet and cold snaked around her throat cinched in tight and cut off all airflow. A hand wrapped around her wrist and flexed. Metal bones cracked and her fingers spasmed. Her beam saber fell and extinguished long before the cylinder bounced from the stone floor.

The cyborg approached slowly; confident in his success. She could see the ugly glimmer of lust in his eyes...

Lina’s eyes snapped open and she screamed hoarsely. Sweat and tears poured down her delicate features to mingle on her chest and the sopping sheet twisted around her body. Taking a deep breath she pushed soaked bangs back from her face and sat up with a groan. The dreams were just as intense as the training program was. She couldn’t tell which parts had really happened and which her fevered imagination added. Nor did she want to find out.

Heaving a groan she rose slowly from her cot and headed for the tiny shower. Turning the water on she didn’t even glance at the bloodstains on the tile. Instead Lina leaned on the metal sink and stared at herself in the mirror. Green eyes circled in purple flesh glared back from a drawn, bloodless, face. Only when steam started to fog the mirror did she move and then only to stumble into the shower where she mechanically cleansed herself. Once a hot shower would have been a luxurious treat now it was a grim reminder that it was a new day filled with more brutal hands-on training inevitably capped with another session in the Program.

Her door whisked open just as Lina was sealing herself in her bodysuit. She didn’t look up. Only one person besides herself had the door code. Even if that weren’t the case the uniquely foul stench of one of Otik’s cheapest cigars was more than enough evidence as to who it was.

Zeo Grey.

Her mentor.

Her torturer.

“Bad night?” He asked casually.

Lina grunted. “How’d you guess?”

“Heard you from the hall.” She glanced at him and he took a long pull on his cigar then examined it. “You wanna quit? Just say the word.”

Lina shook her head. Was that disappointment on his face? A mirthless grin curled her lips.

The dawn air was bitingly cold against her skin and smelled of moisture. The only clue that it had rained the night before. Lina took a firm grip on the hilt of her beam saber and activated it. Zeo held his in a limp grasp that made it look as though the weapon would slip from his fingers at any second. The hard-pan sizzled as the tip of his blue blade brushed against it fusing dirt into glass.

She attacked without warning. A sharp burst from her dash boots and an overhead chop that Zeo blocked with one hand, canting his blade so that hers brushed down its length with an ear-splitting screech. He stepped to the side and she stumbled past him off balance.


Lina snarled a curse and swept around only to have her blade blocked again. Zeo’s hand was a blur as he cuffed her sharply on the jaw. Instead of falling Lina staggered back then regained her balance and fell into a wary ready stance. Zeo examined her guard critically then gave a short nod. Pathetically even that briefest gesture of approval sent a warm rush of pride through her.

Zeo lunged forward and Lina performed a flawless riposte then carried through in a series of dazzling attacks.

The morning passed swiftly into the afternoon in that manner. When Zeo called an end to the training Lina was panting and sore all over. Both sabers’ blades had been dialed back tremendously but each hit burned intensely. By evening Lina knew she would be covered in deep black welts.

Zeo sheathed his saber and hooked his thumbs in his gunbelt. “You got yourself a contract?”

Lina nodded an affirmative. She didn’t have the breath to voice a reply.

“Good. You’ll be coming along then.”


The berserker shrugged. “Damien’s sending every mercenary on a forced vacation to Fiji,” He held a finger up to forestall the inevitable question. “It’s an island. Real rustic sort of place. Think Hawaii minus all the casinos and pollution.”

“A vacation…”

Zeo shook his head. “Not for you.”

Of course not. Lina groaned and squeezed her eyes shut. An all expense paid trip to an island paradise on an enforced vacation and she STILL couldn’t get a break.

Packing had been a breeze. She had purged her belongings in an effort to raise cash and divest herself of anything connected to her former life. The only reason her kit even filled a surplus duffel bag -gotten on the sly from a dead merc’s room- was because she was bringing her armor as Zeo had insisted.

Now, standing in the hanger Lina watched the other mercenaries as they joked with each other, smoked, and drank. It was sobering. The prostitutes of the brothel categorized the Stomping Grounds’ mercenaries in terms of how much they tipped, whether they were abusive, hygiene standards, and a thousand other impersonal standards. Now for the first time Lina saw them as people. Not good people; but more than ATMs with faces or the ghostly figures of stories told in the smoky realm of Wade’s.

Shifting her weight from one foot to the other Lina settled her eyes on the entrance watching for Zeo with each new arrival.

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