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Chapter 7

A Dirty Pair/ Iria: Zeiram fusion
by DB Sommer

Any and all C+C appreciated. You can contact me at: sommer@3rdm.net

Disclaimer: Dirty Pair created by Hideki Sonoda and Haruka Takachiho. Iria: Zeiram belongs to Crowd, Bandai Visual, Mitsubishi Corp, Banpresto and US Manga Corps.

"Are you sure it was a good idea to send Kei away?" Yuri asked.

Iria turned away from the controls of the Creeper V and looked to the co-pilot's seat where her new travel companion looked at her expectantly. "I want a second source of information on what Lance has been feeding us. The quickest way to prove he's lying is to have someone else contradict the intelligence he's been giving. Kei knows Myce. She was the logical one to go."

Yuri had to admit, it made sense. It was a pity that meant Kei had to take the Lovely Angel with her while leaving Yuri to travel with Iria. Spending time with Killgore would have been infinitely preferable, but despite defending him against Iria, the troubleshooter wasn't willing to trust him that far yet. Whatever friction there was between Yuri and Kei's mentor, honesty was not a point of contention the way it potentially was with Killgore.

"You trust this slicer?" Yuri asked.

"With my life," Iria said without hesitation.

That surprised Yuri. She personally held a low opinion on what she considered one of the most worthless forms of criminal around. Slicers were always shut-in computer geeks that never left their terminals, mistaking virtual reality as being better than the real thing. They treated their computers better than they would their girlfriends, not that they ever had any. The weasely nerds gave her the creeps.

"Must be one hell of a slicer if you think he can dig up something on Killgore that fast."

"He's a prodigy, there's no doubt about that," Iria confirmed. "He's been plowing through passwords and protection files the way you or I shoot at targets since he was five. That boy was born to do it."

Yuri was curious at the pride-filled tone Iria was using. "He bail you out of a tight spot?"

"Once or twice," she admitted reluctantly. "I got arrested on a backwater world where the bountyhead was related to the local governor. I was slated for execution until Mikael hacked into the prison I was in and overrode the controls to the place. I escaped in the ensuing riot. Went on to nail the bountyhead, as well as the governor, too. It was pretty hairy, though. There were a couple of other times he helped me out of a tight jam, but I've bailed him out five times as often. That boy gets into trouble the way…." Iria paused, obviously trying to come up with a comparison and failing.

"Kei does all the time?" Yuri offered.

"Oh yes. Definitely like Kei," Iria agreed. "They're penchant for getting themselves in trouble is exactly the same, even if nothing else is."

Yuri smiled to herself. So, poor Kei was shuttled off to some boring planet to hang out with a geeky troublemaker. It would serve her right for all the problems she had been causing lately.

The beeping from an incoming communication shook Yuri out of her fantasy of Kei's complaints about being stuck with a nerd while Yuri hogged all the time with hunky Killgore. She read the origin point of the transmission. "It's the Destiny."

"Put it on," Iria snarled.

That girl was going to have to calm down, Yuri decided. If Zeiram didn't kill her, an embolism would.

The message was set for audio only. Killgore's voice came from the speaker, sounding highly jovial. "Good news, Sunshine. One of my contacts just informed me that the ship we've been looking for recently put down on Station Zionacht in the Tribera Sector."

"That's not far away. No more than a couple of hours," Yuri pointed out. Finally, they had a shot at catching up to Zeiram before he had a chance to kill anyone. Or at least before he killed everyone. "Has he started shooting up the place?"

"Not yet, according to the source. And he's been there for half an hour already."

"Should we tip off the local authorities?" Yuri asked.

Iria shook her head. "Bad idea. They don't have the firepower to deal with Zeiram. We tell them he's there, they'll try to take him down, fail, and then the monster will attack the place for sure. Right now time's our ally. If he hasn't attacked yet, he might wait until we get there."

Yuri admitted the logic was sound. There was no reason to push their luck. If things stayed as they were, they could get lucky and surprise Zeiram. Perhaps they'd manage to take him out without destroying half the station.

"How trustworthy is the source?" Iria asked, suspicion lacing her voice.

"We're setting a heading for the station now," Killgore offered in answer.

Yuri noted the continued distrust on Iria's face as the bounty hunter began questioning further. "Why would Zeiram be going there? I've been there before. It's not even a YCS built station. It's one of those local system jobs."

"Couldn't tell you. Maybe hitting YSC targets has become too problematic and he's going after secondary ones to throw us off. Maybe he has some grudge against the local system. Maybe they have equipment from YSC and that's a good enough reason to go after them. I don't know his motive for being there, only that he's there, and it's our job to kill him," Killgore stated.

"Feed us your heading, and we'll follow you in," Yuri said before Iria could launch into another tirade about how Killgore couldn't be trusted and that they should put two missiles into him now while his guard was down.

Yuri's plan worked as whatever protest Iria was going to issue died before it could be born. With a grunt, Iria accepted the information being sent and matched their flight path with the Destiny's.

"Do you think anything's going to be left by the time we get there?" Yuri asked. Iria had gone silent for the most part, and the troubleshooter was reluctant to prod her if it meant unleashing another vitriolic anti-Killgore diatribe. But the alternative silence was driving Yuri crazy. She was too used to Kei's being a chatterbox, one that would fill the air with inane ramblings for hours on end. The only time she had been as silent as Iria was when her jaw had been broken and wired shut.

"Lance said things were still quiet," Iria said. "That's too quiet, in my book. Either his source is completely wrong, or Zeiram and this Scorphius guy who's supposedly pulling his strings are up to something."

Yuri was inclined to agree. Still, if the situation remained the same, and Zeiram sat tight, she thought they had a chance.

A warning klaxon briefly sounded, indicating the ships were coming out of hyperspace. Despite everything being on automatic, Iria and Yuri kept a close eye on the readouts, making certain everything remained within standard parameters. If the ship didn't, they would be quick to correct it. Dropping out of hyperspace in the wrong spot was a good way to end up in the middle of a star, or having parts of one's ship appear in two different places at once.

Everything operated smoothly as the ships dropped out of hyperspace and the view outside returned to the normal scene of eternal darkness broken by occasional pinpoints of night that signified deep space. Once the duo determined that had indeed ended up at the correct celestial contact point, they quickly oriented themselves and began heading toward the orbital flight path that would take them into the station itself.

Yuri watched as a shuttle detached itself from the nearby Destiny. It was necessary for whoever was going to board the station, since the massive ship was too large to dock easily, and time was of the essence. The shuttle could be in before the main ship began the first leg of the docking procedure.

The communication console beeped again.

Yuri answered it, "What now?" she asked politely before Iria could complain.

"There's a potential problem that just cropped up," Killgore said. "I'd advise you to go in ahead of me and via a different route. You might want to claim you don't know me either."

"I knew things were running too smoothly," Iria said. "What did you do now?"

"It's not exactly what I did as much as who I know, or more precisely, who knows me," Killgore admitted. "I've just received a download of crew personnel on the station."

"How did you do that? That stuff's usually private information," Yuri said as her law enforcement instincts came to the fore.

"It's not that well guarded," Killgore answered with the smirk in his voice all too clear. "In any case, it turns out one of my former comrade-in-arms is now the chief of security there."

A smile formed on Iria's face. "Let me guess, you didn't part under the best of terms with him. That is your habit, after all."

"Well, not exactly," Killgore said with a bit of hesitation. "In any case, I haven't done anything wrong, so they can't keep me off the station. But they might decide to give me a hard time. I'd spare you the hassle you might get for being associated with me."

"That's very thoughtful of you," Yuri happily supplied before Iria's said something that terminated the alliance they had with Killgore and his outfit.

"Yes, I'd rather not suffer any guilt by association with you," Iria put in anyway.

"We'll go on ahead. Good luck." Yuri cut the link. She immediately began plotting a new course that would have them approach a different docking bay from the one Killgore's shuttle would be taking.

The inbound flight was uneventful. The station's traffic controllers knew what they were doing and kept other ships well out of the Creeper V's path. Iria handled the ship's controls with the casual hand of someone who had flown so often that the spaceship was as much an extension of her body instead of a mere vehicle. Yuri was the same way with the Lovely Angel. It was a casualness that only a pilot with a couple hundred dockings under their belt could master.

Docking was completed both quickly and efficiently. Nothing occurred during the landing procedure that aroused Yuri's suspicions. It seemed boringly ordinary, with nothing unusual in the slightest. Whatever problems Killgore had been concerned they might run into never materialized.

It was only after they landed and walked down the boarding ramp that Yuri discovered all was not business as usual with their arrival. Waiting for them at the bottom of the ramp was a welcoming party that consisted of a dozen heavily armed men dressed in what were unmistakably station security personnel uniforms. Judging by the way the men handled their weapons in their 'at attention' state, they had some measure of discipline. It was difficult to say if the same thing applied to their skill. Executing parade exercises was one thing, being able to handle oneself in a firefight was completely different.

However, their weaponry, and skill, was secondary in Yuri's threat assessment. Flanking each side of the ramp was the silvery gleam of a metallic robotic guardian that was affectionately nicknamed a 'Bottweiler'. As the name implied, the robots were created in the shape of dogs, quarter ton animals that stood nearly chest high to Yuri. They had been designed with intimidation in mind, their pointed snouts loaded with sharp metal teeth that lacked sides to hide the wicked-looking weapons, giving the constructs a perpetual snarl. While the robots certainly had the ability to bite, their mechanical jaws being able to puncture an inch of titanium without a problem, that was among the least of its weaponry. If Yuri remembered the schematics on them correctly, they were equipped with a number of concealed weapons. Both a pacification package, which included tear gas, electric shocks, and rubber projectiles, and more lethal arms, such as lasers, slug throwers, and flechette rounds. Seeing them waiting with what appeared to be a hungry look in their glowing, ruby red visual sensors was a disturbing feeling, one Yuri was certain was intentional.

Another pair of Bottweilers rested on their haunches, flanking the man at the center of the group, indicating he was the officer in charge. He had a harsh face, made all the worse by the fact half of it had been outfitted with a cybernetic prosthetic. Given how inexpensive human-looking ones were, the choice of mechanization over flesh was intended to intimidate in the same way the Bottweilers were.

The red iris, so much like the Bottweilers seemed to bore through Yuri and Iria. The human one wasn't much better. Both seemed to carry a hint of malice and underlying threat of violence.

Yuri was used to situations like this. For some odd reason, her and Kei were rarely welcomed anywhere with open arms. She directed her attention to the leader. "An interesting welcoming party Mr.…?"

"Captain Campion," he said in clipped, formal tones. He looked her uniform over, his gaze not shifting in the slightest. "You're with the 3WA?"

"A troubleshooter." Yuri walked to the bottom of the ramp, coolly ignoring both the Bottweilers' stares and the men's, and approached Campion. She held out an ID card for him to examine.

He looked the card over. Yuri could see a red light play over the surface of her card, and realized he had an electronic scanner built into his mechanical eye.

He handed the card back to her. "Everything seems to be in order. Are you here on a mission?"

"No." At least, not officially, since she hadn't checked back with headquarters and received the Zeiram case as her assignment. "My friend and I are here to pick up supplies." Which was true. They would pick some up, as well as any Zeirams that might be lying around.

"I see." Campion shifted the conversation to a different topic. "Another ship came out of hyperspace close to you. Are you affiliated with it in some way?"

Yuri cursed silently to herself. Evidently Campion was someone that paid attention to details. Yuri decided to try the 'ditzy girl' act to try to slide out of the situation. Her voice sounded vacuous as she primped her hair. "Oh, that big meanie. It was really annoying the way he nearly came out right on top of us."

The remaining muscles on Campion's face twitched slightly. "Yes, he is an annoying individual."

That settled any question of this man being the one Killgore had mentioned. And his assumption about lingering hard feelings was on the ball. Yuri decided to play along with Campion's attitude. "He should be reprimanded or something."

"Or something," Campion seconded, a snarl in his voice, similar to Iria's when referring to her ex-husband, appeared.

Campion's head suddenly shifted. He went from facing Yuri to looking over her shoulder, and his still natural eye took on a distant gaze. Yuri wondered what was going on when the man spoke again, though this time he addressed the air, rather than her.

"I see. I'll be down momentarily."

Now she understood. There was a receiver built into his cranium, as well as a transmitter in his voice box. She wondered what other additions the man had hidden within his cybernetics, and how much of him that remained was still human.

The captain gave a hand signal to his men. They began to reform in a formation so they could march out of the hanger in an orderly fashion.

Campion returned his attention to the woman in front of him. "A shuttle from that ship is coming in. You might be getting that reprimand that you wanted." He turned to one of his men and said, "I want all the dogs loose."

"All of them?" the man said incredulously.

"I'm expecting trouble," Campion said quietly, then turned back to the women. He bowed. "I'll be taking my leave of you now."

"Certainly." Yuri was delighted to have escaped without incident. The brief message about Killgore's incoming shuttlecraft had already shifted the man's attitude so that he mirrored Iria when she was in the presence of Killgore, except without the open death threats. She hated to think what would have happened if he had figured out they and Killgore were working together.

Campion took only a handful of steps before stopping and looking back at Yuri. "Oh, you'll have to leave all of your weapons on your ship. Your friend as well." He indicated Iria with a nod. "It's standard procedure. No one goes on board my station armed."

Yuri looked at the sidearm in the holster on her hip. It was all she dared bring for fear of tipping the man off that something was wrong. "But I'm a 3WA troubleshooter, and am authorized to carry a firearm with me anywhere at all times."

"I thought you said you weren't on a mission."

"I'm not."

"Then you won't need your weapon."

"You never know what might happen. Some people have a touch of animosity toward the 3WA in general and troubleshooters in particular. Having a weapon around tends to convince them to leave their biases at home," Yuri pointed out.

"That's why we're here, and get paid for what we do." Campion indicated his men and machines. "Of course, you are correct. You do have the authority to carry a weapon with you."

"Thank you," Yuri said, glad she didn't have to pull rank.

"However, in that case, I'll assign a pair of men to you, just to ensure there is no danger to you and you'll encounter a situation that forces you to use your weapon. After all, if you're that worried about people gunning for you, you'll want the additional protection."

Yuri grimaced on the inside. Having a couple of overpaid security guards dogging her steps would ruin everything. She and Iria were going to need privacy if they were to find Zeiram, or at least some clues that would lead to him. "I see your point." She handed her gun to one of the men.

"I don't have any weapons," Iria said.

Campion looked at her incredulously. "An outer rim bounty hunter with no weapons? That would be a first. I assume you have no objections to one of my men searching you?"

Iria held her arms out to her side in offering. Campion pointed to one of his men to search her. He ran a scanner over her entire body, up the front then down the back. When that turned up nothing, he began a physical search. His manner was nothing but professional, his hands searching thoroughly but never lingering long enough to be offensive. He rifled through the bounty hunter's pouches, but came up with nothing more than some transmitters, a small handheld light, infra red goggles, and a few other unusual items.

The searcher made a face at a small rectangle wrapped in puss green foil that was in her belt pouch. "Ugh, KCR Rations?"

"They last forever," Iria said in a slightly offended tone.

"Yeah, because they have the constancy of steel." He rapped it against a piece of her armor, producing a solid impact. "Yep, that's a KCR, all right." he continued his search, and pulled a small boxy item from her bag. He looked it over. "Your vid-cam is broken."

"I know. That's why I'm bringing it along. I'm getting it fixed while I'm on the station."

"I just didn't want to get blamed for it," the man insisted. He turned to his commander. "She's clean."

Campion nodded. "Very well. I want you and Farnsworth to escort the ladies to the commercial section so they can start on their supplies, then rejoin us at docking bay ten."

"Yes, sir." The man saluted crisply.

"Thank you for being so helpful," Yuri said politely, cursing the man on the inside. So much for the direct approach for wandering over to other bay that Zeiram's craft had been docked at. They'd have to do it more surreptitiously.

The other men and robots departed, leaving Yuri and Iria alone with their two escorts.

"If you'd follow me?" Iria's searcher offered, taking the lead.

Having no other choice, Yuri did so. If Iria was annoyed by the inconvenience and search, she gave no indication of it. Outwardly, she seemed to be just what Yuri had claimed, a woman looking for supplies. She was a touch surprised the bounty hunter had removed all of her weapons before coming onto the station. The woman wore a small armory every time Yuri had seen her. She wouldn't have been surprised if the bounty hunter took a shower with a cake of explosive soap on hand and acid concealed in her shampoo.

As they headed toward the commercial section, Yuri took a closer look at the man who was walking next to her. As much as he was trying to hide it, this Farnsworth guy was checking her out. He was definitely younger, probably just turned twenty, and still had a lingering pimply teenager complexion. He didn't move quite as crisply as his compatriot, who had executed the search. Despite his sly interest, Yuri judged him a bit young for her tastes, and not very handsome. It was nice to know she still had eye appeal. His youth and attraction would also work in her favor in other ways.

Yuri's pace slowed subtly, allowing her and her escort to drop back slightly while Iria and her escort took the lead. Once out of their direct line of sight, she met Farnsworth's gaze and began flirting with him in small ways. A slight smile. A glance out of the corner of her eye that implied potential interest. It was nothing overt that would attract the others' attention, yet open enough that the kid would be almost certain to think she found him interesting, which would distract him as he began fantasizing about what the interest might mean.

Just as they reached the commercial section, Yuri slipped, giving a girlish, "Oh," as she fell into the young man. Reflexively Farnsworth grabbed her to keep her from falling. Yuri grabbed hold of him, supporting herself as well as mashing her breasts into his chest.

"Thank you for saving me from that nasty fall," she cooed as she regained her footing.

Farnsworth blushed. "N… No problem." He stood there, staring at Yuri with an open mouth.

His co-worker cleared his throat, gaining the younger man's attention. "We need to get going." To highlight the need to move, the man did so, walking away from Iria.

Reluctantly, Farnsworth agreed. He headed away at a slow trot, following his comrade. He did take a moment to turn and salute Yuri. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss."

"And you too," Yuri said unnaturally cheerfully as she waved at the man.

Once the pair were out of sight, Yuri smiled at Iria. "That takes care of that."

"That whole come on act was to palm his gun, eh?" Iria asked.

Yuri pouted, this time in genuine disappointment. She was sure she had slipped it past everyone. At least the kid hadn't caught on. She twirled the pistol around, showing it off to Iria. "Since they took my gun, it was only fair I take one of theirs." And it was one of the oldest tricks in the book.

"Nice style, though," Iria said as she pulled out the broken camera.

"I don't think we have time to get it fixed," Yuri said, surprised Iria would regard the item as important considering Zeiram was still out there.

"Oh, I don't know," Iria said as she opened the back and proceeded to remove some pieces from it. "I'm handy with parts, and might be able to cobble something together."

Yuri watched in increasing fascination as Iria began removing some of the inconspicuous items from her person and began attaching them together in ways that shouldn't have been possible. Within moments, Yuri understood what was going on as the parts began to take shape and form something else.

Iria took one last item from a pouch, the 'ration' and removed the green foil covering from it, revealing a metal energy cartridge. Iria tapped it once on the top, once on the bottom, and once on the top again. It began to hum. She then slipped the cartridge into the proper part of the somewhat unwieldy, but effective, hand gun she had constructed.

"Nice." Yuri whistled appreciatively.

Iria showed it off to her. "I had it especially made after I got into a bad situation when I was disarmed by the local constabulary, sort of like here. And the police were a group of women that were not lesbians, so your little trick wasn't an option."

The pair concealed their weapons, not wanting to risk any stray security officers that might see them and wonder why they were going about armed.

"So now what do we do?" Yuri asked.

"Let's try to find a roundabout way to get to that ship that was transporting our target and see what we can dig up."

Yuri considered that, then gave a small shake of her head.

"What is it?" Iria asked.

Yuri considered things. "I doubt if Zeiram was brought here without some reason. I wonder if it might be worthwhile to look around and see if we can spot something suspicious."

"He doesn't exactly keep a low profile." Iria pointed out.

"No, he doesn't. Except this time he's being controlled, which explains a lot of things. We need to stop thinking like Zeiram, and start thinking like the guy pulling his strings. If he's here and not shooting up the place, which he has had plenty of opportunity to do, then there must be something he's after."

"Sound reasoning," Iria admitted. "I still say we should check out the ship. Why don't we keep our eyes open for anything unusual while we try to find a way to sneak out to the docking ring, which will take a while anyway? If that doesn't pan out, we'll have some idea of the layout of the place and possibly eliminate some areas to search on the way."

Yuri nodded her head. With the decision made, the two began their search.

Had Lance Eugene Killgore witnessed the earlier meeting between his ex-wife and former member of his mercenary force turned private security head, he would have been struck by an intense feeling of déjà vu, save that Campion was looking at him with the same adoration Iria had. Adoration in the sense that he would love to put a round in Killgore's head.

"It's nice to see you too," Killgore stated in what he hoped was a pleasant voice.

"I'm trying to come up with a reason to allow you on this station. I'm not coming up with one. On the other hand, spacing you seems like a much more enjoyable idea," Campion said.

Killgore noted that Campion's agitated stated had infected his squad, a reaction that often occurred in groups of men that were loyal to their commander. Even the Bottweilers appeared more fierce than mechanical constructs should. A wave of relief surged through Killgore. It was a good thing he had taken Cross with him on the shuttle so he could stand at his side. Between Killgore and his pet Samisdat, he was fairly certain they could handle the squad. Well, maybe not. Campion had been a good man and deadly shot. It was one of the reasons Killgore had been annoyed at the man's resignation. It was a pity his stuffy moral code made him refuse to see things in more practical terms.

Killgore looked the docking bay over, seeing if there was some higher authority he could appeal to. Or bribe. Money opened as many doors as keys. But there was no one to be found. That meant appealing to Campion's better nature. "Now, now, I've done nothing wrong in any official capacity anywhere."

"It depends on where you're talking from. I know plenty of people that would like to see you dead for the things you've done," Campion said.

"But none around here," Killgore retorted. "Look, I'm not here to cause trouble. All I want are some supplies and I'll be on my way. Do you have any official reason for banning me from a space station I've never even been to, located in a system I've flown through maybe four times in my entire life?"

Campion's mechanical jaw tightened.

Killgore congratulated himself on his strategy. One drawback to a strong moral code was that it could be used against you. "Unless you're abusing your power here, I don't see how you can ban me."

Campion's jaw loosened slightly. All but snarling, he bit out, "You're right. I have no reason to currently kick you off the station. But if you so much as spit on the ground, you'll be tossed out an airlock."

"Don't worry. I'll behave myself," Killgore assured him.

Now Campion's snarl changed into a smile. "And to make sure of that, you will have an escort assigned to you."

Campion snapped his fingers. Four of the men and two of the Bottweilers stood at attention. They flanked Killgore and Cross, not coming close enough to violate their personal space either.

"This is harassment," Killgore said.

Campion shook his head. "This is a precaution, which I am allowed to take with my authority as chief of station security. But don't worry, I'm sure since you plan to just pick up some supplies, there won't be any problems. After all, you plan on 'behaving' as you mentioned earlier."

"Of course," Killgore said just as pleasantly. It looked like Campion couldn't let bygones be bygones. It was a pity, but not unexpected. The same fate would have befallen any of the crew that had traveled to the station. And any more than two people landing might have made Campion suspicious enough to throw them off on principle.

Now Killgore and Cross had become something of a lightning rod when it came to attention. All of Campion's thoughts and forces would be focused on him, giving the pair of men hidden in the underside of the ship time to extricate themselves in peace and sneak around to investigate Zeiram's shuttle. If that proved fruitless, they would stake it out in the hopes of taking care of Professor Scorphius should he return.

It would also free up Yuri and Iria and allow them to poke around the station without anyone looking over their shoulders. Given both his wife and the troubleshooter's past records, he had a feeling they would be bringing the Zeiram matter to a head long before his men could do anything about it.

Macon Reece scratched his forehead in annoyance and looked the documentation over. Everything seemed to be in order, with all of the appropriate files and lines filled in, but there was something about the delivery that bothered him. "I'm not sure about this. It says we're only expecting some bulbs from Seti-Beta 9 and some insecticide sprays."

"That's what I got," the man said.

"This crate's ten-by-ten and weighs over a ton," Reece pointed out.

"Packing materials to make sure nothing happens to the items," the explained.

Dissatisfied, Reece looked more closely over the man who had delivered the crate. He was hardly suspicious in appearance. He was an older fellow, a bit pale, which was to be expected to space longhaulers, since they got so little proper UV radiation being cooped up in their ships all the time. He was a touch on the paunchy side, and dressed in the same baggy brown coveralls that seemed to be universal among longhaulers. He was hardly intimidating or odd. The only peculiar thing about him was his smile. He smiled too much for someone delivering a handful of goods halfway across the universe. It was unsettling, like something wasn't right with the man.

"Let's get this over with," Reece's partner, Cole complained.

Reece tried blowing off the comment. That was classic Cole. He complained about everything. The man took no pride whatsoever in his work. True, they were little more than a couple of heavy labor personnel for YSC's Experimental Agricultural Facility #12, but that was no excuse for doing shoddy work.

"I have to check this out with my supervisor," Reece finally decided. Mr. Nuccio was very specific about being notified concerning anything unusual. He liked tight security, and was a very secretive person as well. Everything in the laboratories was off limits to any non-cleared personnel, which was anyone that worked outside the labs. Reece considered it odd to have that much security for a mere agricultural testing lab, but what did he know about agriculture? Maybe they had finally developed the better tomato, and were ready to make trillions once they released it for the mass market.

"Give me a break," Cole complained again. "I hate that guy. He's always complaining about how we're too lax and don't run around like a chicken with its head cut off, like he does."

Reece shut out the whining voice of his partner and dialed the code to the supervisor's number. There was only static in response.

Reece struck the communicator against the crate. "Odd. I can't get through."

"It's probably magnetic interference, again," Cole said. "That happens all the time now. I don't know what they hell they're experimenting on that would involve magnetics."

"They're probably not really an agricultural testing facility, and instead are using that as a cover for developing global killing superweapons," the longhauler said.

Both men stared at the man.

Cole rolled his eyes, "God save me from conspiracy theorists. The next thing you'll suggest is the 3WA is really a cover for a bunch of humanoid supremacists and that the Dirty Pair are their method of exterminating undesirable species." He turned to Reece. "Look, our shift ends in twenty minutes. Do you want to hang around here and not get paid for it when the boss decides we were intentionally screwing around trying to get overtime? His stuff's in order. It scans fine. Someone was anal about the product not getting damaged in transit, which happens all the time. Just sign off on it so we can move it down to storage."

"Right," Reece finally relented. He didn't want to, but it was either that or have to listen to Cole complain for not just the next twenty minutes, but the next two days about Reece's paranoia and how he'd never get a girl because of it. And hearing the longhauler actually voice something that outrageous made Reece realized just how paranoid he was being. Reece had seen some of the botanists on the staff. The only threat they represented to anyone was boring innocents to death by talking about plants.

Reece signed off on the item. He and Cole would have just enough time to move it to the storage center with the rest of the fertilizers before the next shift came on.

"This is turning into a real bust," Yuri complained as they walked through the corridors of the station. Since the docking ring was segregated from the space station proper, the only way to get to it was through tunnels that were monitored, guarded, and had big thick doors that prevented anyone having no business in the docking ring sectors from being there. The only way to get to them from the station itself would probably have been via extravehicular space walk, and neither she nor Iria had a spacesuit.

"I told you his intel was crap," Iria repeated yet again. She did it every time they investigated anywhere and it yielded nothing.

"Maybe you're right," Yuri finally relented. All they were doing was wasting their time. There was no Zeiram here. There wasn't anything of remote interest either. Not even many cute guys. Maybe the shopping district would turn up something worth buying. Yuri needed a new red dress. Her last one had been sort of torn up in a knife fight while working undercover on their last mission. Something with frills maybe. And sequins. Sequins were making a comeback in some areas of the galaxy.

"He was deliberately feeding us false information. He's up to something. We should ditch him," Iria said bitterly.

Yuri sighed and turned on her reluctant partner. "We are not breaking our alliance based on one little problem with misinformation. God, you sound like a little child, constantly whining and complaining about having to hang out with her younger brother or something. You do not have to sleep with him. You don't even have to talk with him. I'll do it. So why don't you just knock off the attitude? "

Iria turned bright red at the accusation. "You don't know anything! You weren't married to him!"

"If you were this bitchy back then, I'm not surprised he dumped you."

"He did not dump me I dumped him!"

"I…" Yuri stopped as something just over Iria's shoulder had caught her attention. It was an older man, dressed in a pair of worn coveralls. The moment he came around the corner of the passageway, he had flinched slightly. While he had continued on his way, he had turned in such a way that he was avoiding looking at the women.

Yuri's investigative training came to the fore. In a public argument like she and Iria were having, the natural response would have been to stare in curiosity at first, then either continue staring or turn away. But he hadn't quite done that. He had wanted to avoid them the instant he laid eyes on them.

Yuri looked closer at him. It had been a fleeting glance, and she could have been wrong, but she hadn't thought so. Her eyes carefully dissected his appearance. The coveralls were baggy, loose fitting, as though the man had lost a great deal of weight and hadn't had a chance to update his wardrobe. He was older, but not too old. Very pale, almost ghostlike. That alone would eliminate him from the one they were looking for, since the man they were looking for was only several shades away from jet black. And besides, what were the odds that in all of the people on the station, the one they were looking for would stumble upon them? And why would he dress like some common laborer? It didn't make any sense. Except, he wasn't exactly laboring. He wasn't carrying anything at the moment. He was actually….

Yuri drew the pistol she had palmed off the security officer, aimed it at the laborer, and shouted, "Scorphius!"

As she hoped, the man jerked reflexively, in the way people did when they heard their name called out, rather than simple shock at a loud noise. She drew a careful bead upon him. "Hands up where I can see them!"

Without question or hesitation, Iria drew her pistol and aimed at him. Upon taking a closer look, she informed Yuri, "He doesn't look like the guy." Whatever doubts she stated openly, she still kept the gun trained on him.

Convinced their prey wouldn't try anything, Yuri said loudly enough for the man to hear, "He might be some hot shot genius when it comes to Bunsen burners and genetic engineering, but he sure sucks at disguises."

"Oh?" Iria asked, her eyes trying to pierce through this one.

"His hands."

Iria looked at them and noted they didn't match the skin tone of the face, but did look dark enough to belong to the man they were looking for "I see what you mean."

The man stared at the appendages in question. He gave a tired sigh. "It's always the little details one overlooks. Might I be allowed to disengage the hologram inducer? It makes everything look a hazy shade of white from my point of view."

"Go ahead. But no funny stuff. In case you didn't notice, you have two weapons ready to perforate you if you make a wrong move," Yuri warned. While everything she said was obvious, past experience taught her it never hurt to confirm what a suspect already believed.

The man reached for his name tag. Immediately his face changed from that of a pale Caucasian to a far darker shade, and his features altered, allowing Yuri and Iria to recognize him as Professor Anton Scorphius.

Yuri smirked in triumph. Kei was going to be so angry that she missed out on her busting the case all on her own. Yuri would not allow her partner to live this one down for a long time to come.

The troubleshooter began, "All right, you're going—"

"Where's Zeiram?" Iria interrupted.

Yuri gave her a cross look. There was no bounty on Scorphius. This was Yuri's jurisdiction, especially since she was the one that had pierced the disguise.

Before she could reprimand her temporary partner for trying to seize control of the situation, Scorphius answered. "Zeiram? You mean the divine sword of justice that has been created solely to mete out the retribution those that have enslaved the universe so righteously deserve? He is here. He is there. He'll be everywhere, striking down the enemies of the universe."

"Oh great, religious fanatic," Yuri moaned. She hated them, largely because when they ended up on the losing side of a fight, they had a bad tendency to try to martyr themselves, hoping to take their enemies with them. Invariably, Yuri and Kei were at the head of the list.

Scorphius snorted derisively at the accusation. "There is no god, woman. Deities are myths created to control others through doctrine and propaganda. My only religion is freedom, freedom from the yoke of tyranny placed upon the shoulders of the people of the galaxy."

"I… see," Yuri said.

"Don't be condescending, woman!" Scorphius snapped. "You're just like the rest of the brainwashed masses throughout the universe."

"And the masses are being enslaved by…?" Yuri prodded.

"The greatest threat the galaxy has ever known. Interstellar corporations."

Now Yuri got it. Anti-capitalist, who tended to be just as frothing at the mouth rabid as any fire and brimstone preacher. She had run into some of those as well, along with a smattering of actual power mongers running some of the interstellar corporations they hated. Her job had allowed her to meet all sorts of interesting people, frequently killing them. "Which is why you've targeted YSC. The folks your family helped found and who, until recently, you were working for."

"Blame me not for the sins of my fathers," Scorphius stated in cold terms. "And I only worked for them until an opportunity presented itself to enable me to free the masses that had been enslaved under those like YSC. They are the very worst of the lot, the head of the snake that orders the other bodies to obey its whims. It's like a hydra, save in reverse. Once I crush the head, the bodies will flail about until they too are destroyed one by one by my divine sword. Only then will true freedom be established."

"So you are the one pulling Zeiram's strings," Iria stated, the coldness in her voice matching the fanaticism in Scorphius' own.

Scorphius smiled. "Oh yes, my sword is sharp and his aim true. Zeiram is a relentless creature who will destroy all in its path. It will not stop until it has consumed everything that is, for that is the very nature of the beast. That is why it exists. To destroy those that stand against my divine cause. What better weapon to use in beheading the evil monsters that would consume the universe than something nature created in their image?"

"For someone that's trying to 'free the masses', you're going around killing an awful lot of them," Yuri spat, remembering the scenes of carnage she had been following in the creature's wake.

Scorphius glared at her. "They are the enablers that allow the interstellar corporations to rule over us all. Without them, the corporations are nothing. Theirs is guilt by association, and they too must pay until they stop feeding the monsters and realize that they must rise up and throw down the chains they place willingly upon themselves like mindless sheep. Generations that have been encouraged to be slaves can only receive enlightenment through acts that will gain their attention and put everything in its proper perspective."

"No matter how many of them have to die." This man made Yuri sick. She resisted the urge to gun him down on the spot. There were still too many questions left unanswered. "For someone who hates corporations, you sure do seem to work for a lot of them. First YSC, then Tormond. Sounds to me like you're either a lunatic or a hypocrite, and I don't care for either one."

Scorphius stared curiously at her. "What do you me—"

"Freeze!" came a voice from directly behind Yuri and Iria.

They afforded each other a glance, then looked over their shoulders to see a young security officer pointing a laser pistol, identical to Yuri's purloined one, back and forth between them, unable to decide which was more dangerous. Standing next to him, ready to pounce at a moment's notice, was yet another Bottweiler.

"Put the guns down!" the guard ordered.

All fanaticism left Scorphius' eyes as he suddenly broke down and said, "Thank goodness you're here, officer. These women threatened to kill me."

Yuri was astounded at the quick emotional change. Usually those sorts of lunatics couldn't knock themselves out of their loop once there were entrenched in it. Still, she had more important things to worry about, like the gun aimed at her by a young, shaky, security guard. "I'm a troubleshooter with the 3WA. This is a criminal that I just arrested."

"She lies," Scorphius said. "No one is allowed to carry weapons on this station, save you security people, yet both she and her companion, who you'll note is not wearing a troubleshooter disguise, are murderers that intended to rob and kill me."

"Put the guns down," the guard repeated.

Yuri and Iria let their guns drop to their feet.

"You're making a mistake," Yuri said. "This is the bad guy, not us."

Now that the women were weaponless, the guard relaxed somewhat. "No one's going anywhere until this gets straightened out." He pulled out a comlink and requested back up for his position.

Scorphius clucked sadly as he scratched his chest. "It's too bad about the Bottweilers."

All eyes turned to him in curiosity.

"What about them?" the guard asked.

"While this station wasn't created by YSC, they were. You see, there's this problem they have that's been kept secret from the public. They have this slight design flaw in their programming. Whenever their sensors pick up a variable high frequency wave length in the ten quian range, they tend to run out of control and attack anyone and everything around them."

Scorphius' scratching stopped once his fingers came to his left vest pocket. Instead the scratching became a push.

Instantly, the Bottweiler howled and shook its head back and forth. The guard looked at it in stunned silence.

"Shoot it!" Yuri shouted.

The guard had just started to react when the Bottweiler, snarling, leaped upon him. The heavy robot frame was too much for him to bear, and he was instantly pinned on his back. His cry of pain was cut short as the robot ripped his neck apart with his teeth.

Yuri and Iria were in motion the instant the Bottweiler had attacked the guard. They picked up their pistols and aimed at the attacking robot. Seeing it crush the guard's neck, they no longer concerned themselves with a stray shot hitting the man and immediately opened fire.

Four shots struck the body squarely. Its heavy armor bore the brunt of the blasts, suffering only a slight amount of damage. It turned toward them howling as two devices, resembling small wheels with open holes along their edges, revealed themselves from concealed sections of the shoulders.

"Slug thrower!" Yuri shouted as she fired several more times. One of the shots hit the Bottweiler squarely in its open mouth even as a single yellow bolt went out from the left shoulder weapon mount . The blast entered the mouth and went out the back, sending a spray of sparks shooting out the mouth as the Bottweiler froze up.

The single bolt hit Iria in the leg. However, luck was with the bounty hunter as rather than exploding, the hardened cartridge deflected off the armor rather than hitting solidly. It chromed off her leg, knocking her limb out from under her, and embedded itself in the wall where a miniature explosion punched through a couple of inches of the plating.

Yuri put several more rounds into the open mouth, where smoke and sparks poured from the aperture, blowing the head clean off. Satisfied it wouldn't be reactivating anytime soon, Yuri moved closer to Iria and examined her for injuries.

"I'm okay. Armor stood up to the shot." Iria hit the leg guard that had deflected the slug and shook her leg around, making sure there was no physical damage.

"That goodness, I…." It suddenly occurred to Yuri she was forgetting something.

Iria reacted to the hesitation first. "Scorphius!"

They both turned to see the man was long since gone.

"Shit, now we have to find him again," Yuri moaned as she chose the direction he had been heading in rather than the one where he had come from. Iria followed, thinking the logic sound.

Heading in the opposite direction of the women, Anton Scorphius congratulated himself. Preparation was the key to success. Not only would the Bottweiler prevent the women from pursuing, delaying them if not killing them outright, but thanks to his foresight, he had hacked into the announcement system and slaved the emitter to it. That meant the signal had been broadcast throughout the station, causing all the robots to run amuck. The ensuing chaos would serve him well as both the security forces and anyone else out to capture him would find their hands full with a hundred homicidal robots rampaging throughout the station. While there was some risk to him (he had not been joking when he claimed they were out of control) there was an easy solution to that problem. All Scorphius had to do was avoid them until he could rendezvous with a certain someone who was far more dangerous than any mere robot.

He pulled a special datapad from his coverall's leg pocket, entered a thirteen digit code, then spoke into it.

"Zeiram, old boy, it's time to wake up and grab what we came for."

Once the oversized crate was lowered to its proper place, Cole pushed the retraction button, allowing it to be offloaded from the hoverlift it had been stored on. He made a great production of looking at his watch. "There, told you we'd get it done, and just in the nick of time." He hopped off the hoverlift and headed for the exit.

"Let me just mark it off as in place," Reece said as he walked over to the crate and aimed his laser reader at the code on the side.

The code disappeared before his eyes as the metal was shredded from the inside. Reece saw what looked like a giant green hand speeding toward his head before he found his vision blocked off by the appendage as it completely engulfed his skull.

He had just enough time to process the sound of his cranium breaking before his brain ceased functioning. It, along with the shattered bits of bone flowed between the oversized fingers of the green giant's hand.

Hearing the Bottweiler's disturbing howl, and seeing it go wild, electrocuting several shoppers coming out of a store, Killgore knew something had gone horribly wrong. Whether it was due to Zeiram, Scorphius, or Yuri's Dirty Pair curse, he didn't know. What he was certain of was that something had to be done before he became a statistic, like the pedestrians that were hit with several flechette rounds and ended up sliced into indescribable masses of blood, bone, and entrails.

Mercenary reflexes took over as Killgore said, "Excuse me," to the security guard that was standing paralyzed next to him.

The man didn't have time to do anything as Killgore punched him in the throat, then struck him again with an elbow to the jaw, knocking him out.

Before the other three men with them could react to the attack, Cross was in motion. A trio of blows were delivered so swiftly that the third man was unconscious before the first hit the ground.

Killgore bent over the man he had knocked out and grabbed his pistol. He'd have to remember to thank Campion later for providing him with a weapon, though he doubted if his former employee would appreciate the irony, considering how determined he was to see to it Killgore had no weapons.

"Incoming!" Cross warned as the Bottweiler that had been pulverizing passersby changed its target to the pair of men.

Cross cut left, drawing its attention as flechettes began flying. He ducked behind a large stonework ornament that depicted some regional VIP. The small pieces of high velocity metal disfigured the stonework, quickly making it resemble an amorphous blob rather than anything that could be called human.

Seeing its firestorm had no effect, the flechette weapon retreated into the robot, and a pair of large electrodes emerged from the neck, arcing electricity between them.

Killgore took the opportunity to aim carefully. He fired three times in rapid succession. All three shots were true as they struck the thin part of the Bottweiler's right foreleg. The robot collapsed, a bolt of electricity going high instead of low, reducing the head of the statue to powder.

With the robot largely immobilized, Killgore took his time as he poured flashes of red into the head of the unit until nothing was left but twisted metal and lubricant spraying up in the air, dousing the silver of its metallic skin with black.

Admiring his handiwork, Killgore lowered his weapon as Cross came out from his hiding spot. At the same moment, a second Bottweiler, bouncing back and forth in what appeared to be a delightful dance, spotted him.

"Look out!" Killgore warned as he brought the pistol up. However, the unpredictable dance of the robot, combined with the angle it was approaching his compatriot, made it difficult to aim. Twice Killgore fired, each shot just missing.

Instead of trying to run, Cross remained standing still, giving his profile to the bouncing robot.

The Bottweiler opened its mouth and roared as it leapt at Cross. Coolly, he sidestepped it at the last instant, bringing his hand up in a flash as the robot bounded past, touching his neck in some way.

Rather than turning around, it bellowed once, then fell forward, face down into the deck plating.

Killgore moved closer, wondering exactly what had happened. Cross was staring mournfully at something in his hand, and the robot had ceased functioning for some reason. It was only as he drew closer that Killgore saw the broken end of a blade protruding from a small, almost nonexistent, line where two of the armor plates met. Looking more closely, he saw that it was at an articulated joint where the armor would normally overlap. The only reason the vulnerable spot had appeared was because the robot had been extended in a leap. Killgore found himself impressed once again with Cross' assassin skills, and was glad they were on the same side.

Killgore whistled appreciatively. "Nice work."

Cross continued staring mournfully at the hilt in his hand. "That was one of my favorite knives."

"How'd you get it past the body check?"

"I slipped it on the guy when he first started searching me, and grabbed it back when he was finished. It was easy. He seemed unnerved and was paying more attention to me than where he was searching."

"Probably from the fact you were making goo-goo eyes at him," Killgore remarked.

"He was cute, but mostly I did it so he wouldn't pay attention to what I was doing," Cross confessed.

With a momentary lull in the action, Killgore went to his comlink and activated it. "Hey, Sunshine, you okay? Campion's friendly neighborhood Bottweilers seem to have developed a slight glitch and are killing everything on sight."

"Drop dead," was the response he received before the link went silent.

"Good, she's all right," Killgore confirmed, setting the comlink to a different frequency. "Mari, Lupe, are you in position?"

A woman's voice answered, "We're watching the Zeiram shuttle now, but something weird's going on. People are running to their ships and heading off station as fast as they can. Like there's been a breakout of Tuerettes or something. They aren't even waiting for proper clearance. Is something going on?"

"Runaway Bottweilers. Watch out for them," Killgore warned, "But stay with the ship. Me and Cross are heading to the Agricultural Center. It has to be Scorphius target. If he slips past us, it'll be up to you to stop him. Killgore out."

"Now we have greater freedom of movement," Cross said as he retrieved a couple of guns of the unconscious guards.

"Except for the Bottweilers," Killgore reminded him as he began an inventory of the guards' pockets.

"It's no worse than the situation we were in on Feirlion when the Lyson Corps was hunting us down in that swamp."

"Good point," Killgore admitted. "Now let's see if we can beat the ladies and find ourselves our big bad bogeyman and the naughty scientist that woke him up."

Satisfied they were prepared any upcoming problems, the men began their search.

Killgore sensed something was amiss when he came upon the ruined remains of the Bottweiler. It wasn't that it had been destroyed; several others had been shot into pieces by the security forces, who had responded quickly to the threat of the runaway machines by forming into units with heavier weapons that could take the robots down. Killgore and Cross had upgraded their weapons in such a manner from a squad that had come out on the wrong side of an encounter with a pair of Bottweilers. Despite the force's training, it appeared they were fighting a losing battle against the robots that seemed to be everywhere.

No, what was disturbing about the robot's remains was the fact there was a large hole in its chest, as though something had been driven through the metal with great force.

Cross closely examined the hole. "Hmm, no scoring around the surface of the damage. Armor is rent as though it was a solid object which punctured the armor." He stuck his head inside the hole. "Well, not only is there no projectile in here, but something seems to have removed both its flechette launcher and the independent power supply to it."

"Weapon upgrade for Big Z," Killgore sighed. He looked up and down the corridor. "The only question is, was he coming or going?"

"Only one way to find out," Cross said. "Should we call the ladies for backup?"

"Not until we confirm he's up ahead and we need the backup. We didn't tell them where he was heading for obvious reasons."

The pair moved forward more cautiously than before. They stuck to the sides of the corridor, moving slowly until they came upon the entryway to YSC's Experimental Agricultural Facility #12.

"Going," Cross said as he spotted the remains of some unfortunate soul, as well as the fact all the debris indicated Zeiram had emerged from here, rather than entering.

Killgore activated his comlink again. "Mari, Lupe, do you read me?" There was no response.

Killgore exchanged a look with Cross. He repeated the question to the comlink several times, but only static answered him. He switched channels. "Destiny, this is Killgore, do you read me?"

"Loud and clear, Sir," came the response.

"Have you spotted the Zeiram ship leaving the facility?"

There was a hesitation before the response. "We can't be certain, Sir. A lot of vehicles have been pouring out of the station for some time. Real reckless, too. There were a number of collisions, which produced a good bit of debris and even more accidents. In all the jumble, it could easily have slipped past without us noticing. It's a real mess out there. Do you want us to try and force our way in?"

"No," Killgore said in tired voice, knowing their prey had eluded their grasp. "Once things settle down, we'll rendezvous with you. Killgore out."

"What next?" Cross asked.

Killgore stared at the path of destruction leading from the agricultural facility. "We go through the records and try to figure out exactly what Scorphius wanted from here?"

"Oh?" Cross asked.

"He changed his method of operations after knocking over that YSC liner. It didn't occur to me until after he didn't hit either Baltron or Omicron 4 that the reason he did it was because of something he found on that liner. This was the liner's destination. Since he didn't come in here, guns blazing like he did with most of the others, that meant he's after more than scorching earth. I want to know what it was. So we'll use our passcodes to lift the information from this little black op, then ask our employers the same thing and see if they're being on the up and up with us."

"And the women?" Cross asked.

Killgore smiled. "I don't think there's any need to burden them with details. All they're interested in is Zeiram, after all. We'll let them know where he's going to hit next after we figure it out ourselves."

Cross pouted, "I still say we don't need them. We can handle this ourselves. We haven't even gone head to head with the beastie."

"Colon did, and look what happened to him and his unit. I'd say Mari and Lupe would agree, too. You can't have too much firepower when it comes to Zeiram. Everyone that's met him agrees to that. Now come on, we have some information to download."

"I hate this!" Yuri snarled through her panting.

"I don't exactly consider this an ideal situation either." Iria slumped against a metal heap that had once been a Bottweiler.

"How many of these things have we taken out?" Yuri asked.

Iria paused to count. "Eleven, counting 'The Gimp' here." She slapped the pile of parts she was resting against. She had nicknamed it that because they had blown off all of its legs before immobilizing it enough to finish it off.

"They must have bought them wholesale or something," Yuri bemoaned. This was another reason she disliked dogs and preferred felines, like Mughi.

Yuri ran a hand through her hair, then realized a breeze was cooling off her sweat-slickened body. "That feels nice," she said.

"What does?" Iria asked.

"The breeze."

"Breeze? We're on a space station."

Both of them sat bolt upright.

"Seal's popped somewhere and the place is decompressing. I've felt it before." Usually on space stations she and Kei had visited, right before the people they were pursuing caused said decompression.

Iria's comlink buzzed. She activated it.

Killgore's voice emitted from the unit. "Bad news, Sunshine. Apparently some idiot using a meteor hauler, one of the deep space ones that're three times as big as the normal ones, was parked in the docking ring and panicked. He tried heading out before detaching all the umbilicals to his vehicle. He pulled off a big piece of the docking ring, the one with my shuttle on it. It then collided with the hauler, and both the section and the hauler collided with the station itself. My men on the Destiny say it's terminal damage and that space station could implode at any time. We'll meet you at the Creeper. Killgore out."

Yuri looked sadly at the carnage, death, and destruction surrounding her. "Another space station that I was visiting destroyed. I'm going to get blamed for this one too."

Iria was already on her feet and heading toward the docking ring. "Come on, we have to get going. If we hurry, we might get lucky."

"You mean we'll get off the station before it's destroyed?"

"I mean we'll get off the station before Lance gets to my ship."

Yuri rolled her eyes. She didn't bother mentioning she wouldn't let Iria leave without the men. Besides, if she had judged Killgore correctly, he had already anticipated Iria's reaction and was already waiting at the ship. He seemed to have a good idea of how his ex-wife reacted to most situations that involved him and her.

"Almost made it, too," Iria grumbled well out of earshot of the two passengers in the back of the ship.

Yuri ignored the whining about Killgore and Cross already waiting on the dock for them. Instead she opted to stare out the viewport as the space station already began lurching in its death throes. That seemed to be happening a lot lately. At least they hadn't lost any planets on this mission.

At least, not yet.

"Do you think Zeiram was still on it?" Yuri asked hopefully.

"We can confirm that his ship had departed before the collision. I think it's safe to assume he was on it rather than the station," Killgore answered.

"I knew that." Yuri sighed. It was never that easy.

So, once again Yuri had to deal with rampaging robots, giant monsters, exploding space stations, and no romantic interests. Part of the problem was, the situation was not unusual for her, just frustrating. Living in 'interesting times' was never a good thing, in her opinion.

Yuri's earlier amusement at Kei's being sent off to the middle of nowhere turned into resentment. It wasn't fair that Kei could loaf around on her ass while Yuri was stuck doing all the dirty work.

She was really going to let Kei have it when she got back.


To be continued.

Authors notes: At last, a new chapter after several years of the fic lying dormant. There will probably be a slight delay between the release of this and the next chapter, since I need to do some work for a friend of mine and make sure the story I'm writing is delivered in a timely fashion. We'll deal with Kei and what she was up to next chapter.

DB Sommer

Chapter 8
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