# MGH Part 20: Out of The Frying Pan

Warning: The following contains scenes of graphic violence,
coarse language and mature subject matter. This fanfic is
not recommended for the immature either mentally or
emotionally.

My name is Yoi (don't listen to that Koi guy, he isn't me).
I have a very interesting job. Interesting being defined as
potentially lethal to myself or at the very least likely to
cause me a great deal of bodily harm. I hunt down and kill
little girls.

...

Okay, put down the burning crosses already. I don't kill
just any little girls, I only kill those annoying ones who
have a tendency to spout of bad poetry, do stupid routines
involving lots of posing and generally are so unbelievably
cute that you can feel cavities forming just by looking at
them. Of course, I mean Magical Girls. Now, usually this job
is handled by hordes of faceless youma, evil generals with
gravity defying hair and dark queens with bad tempers.
If you've ever heard of a Magical Girl you know how
effective they usually are.

So when the heat from their tiny, cute and cosmically
powered nemesises gets too much to handle they call in the
professionals. That being my partner Itami and myself, oh
and our new members but I'm getting ahead of myself. We're
just two guys (yes -guys- dammit!) who couldn't really find
work anywhere else. mainly because I think we're psychopaths
but I can't really tell. Our job is really simple, the
client calls us in and we set up an ambush and pump Magical
Girls full of lead, sharp metal and high explosives. Simple,
no?

Right, I wish.

Take my recent life for example. It started out pretty
simple, Itami and I got a standard S&D from this guy named
Mashihaisha Ultra to off one Captain Kawaii. But it turns
out that we had been double-crossed (which would start a
nasty trend). Cap. Kawaii was really a psychopath that Ultra
himself had created and found too unstable to use. It turns
out that Ultra was some sort of fallen angel or something
out to control both good and evil. It was real complex and
metaphysical and I didn't really care about it much except
he was trying to kill me.

We offed Kawaii and that really pissed off Ultra, so he
started to send hit squads after us. Like youma and the
sixty-four Crayon Knights (okay so he wasn't the most
imaginative supervillian). Itami and I ended up getting
saved on more than one occasion by Ultra's kids, two
half-angelic cross-dressers named Kyo and Mai who apparently
were only mildly so. Them and Sailor H, a really whacked out
(but damn good-looking) magical babe gone psycho, started
hanging out with us more. H had this thing for Itami so I
couldn't make a move on her myself; not that she treated me
like anything more than pond scum. It was also around this
time that we first meet Aika, a little gunaholic after my
own heart who got turned into a Magical Girl against her
will (which I can sympathize with, believe me). Itami also
started to weird out on me with this cursed sword of his.

While we tried to take down Ultra we ended up getting into
lots of cosmic trouble. Some British guy named Ramsbottom
with the ability to stop time started trying to get me to do
odd jobs for him. One was pissing off the local alien entity
of pure evil from beyond space and time, Shub-Niggurath
(Shubby-chan to her friends but I doubt you could call me
that). This wouldn't have been as bad as it sounded if I
really started to like (and the first one I scored with) who
just happened to be this really disgusting black ooze in a
humans skin. It's also because of her that I'm in my current
predicament.

It turned out that the real big problem with all this mess
was that Kyo and Mai had used some sort of loophole in
cosmic laws to bring their mother (and themselves) back from
the dead. Ultra, Ramsbottom and Shub-Niggurath were really
interested in getting their paws on this power for obvious
reasons. Things looked bleak until we ran into a group
called the "Balancers" who helped us take out Ultra. Oh, and
they reformed Captain Kawaii who now has the hots for me.
Joy. They were also behind Aika's mysterious transition into
Magical Girlhood.

In the end we ended up surviving (and saving the world along
the way I think). Ultra was banished back to heaven (wow,
what a punishment) and the loophole, which allowed people to
come back from the dead, was corrected. Kyo and Mai got
their fathers old job and I was given a great deal of money.
Of course, I had a small problem. In the end I was turned
into a Magical Girl (I shudder at the thought still) but I
got better. Well, halfway. I was no longer magical; I was
still a girl. Aika, who had a crush on me I should mention,
didn't seem to mind which -really- got me to start to worry
about her. Maybe letting her join the Magical Girl Hunters,
as Pretty Deadly wasn't the healthiest thing for her sanity
after all. Oh well, sanity is overrated I guess.

From there my life returned to relative normality. It
couldn't last.

Magical Girl Hunters

Episode 20: Out of the Frying Pan

By: Aaron Peori

An Improfanfic by: Aaron Shattuck

Available at Improfanfic:
http://www.pixelscapes.com/improfanfic/

It was a beautiful night, the kind that poets have been
known to drone endlessly on about. I'm not a poet so I won't
bore you. I was perched on a rooftop across from the local
bathhouse; my legs were starting to get cramps from all the
crouching I had to do. It had been almost three hours since
we started the stake out and I was beginning to experience
the worst enemy someone in my line of work could ever face.
Boredom.

You may laugh but for me this was deadly serious. If I got
bored my concentration would slip and that might slow down
my reaction times a fraction of a second. That fraction of a
second could be the difference between life and death. The
worst part was that I couldn't even listen to music or so
much as whistle. Any noise might give away my position,
which would be a bad thing. Of course, people in my line of
work usually have methods of dealing with this, everything
from Zen thought control to brainwashing. Not being
professionally trained I didn't know any of these so I made
do with what I could.

Just when I thought the situation was going to become
unbearable the mark showed up. We'd spent a few days
tracking her down and on general surveillance so I
recognized her even out of her fuku. I lined her up in the
sights of the rifle. These new night-vision scopes were a
godsend or at least a Finn-send as they were accurate as all
hell. I would have liked to finish this here and now but we
had this thing against doing the job until they transformed.
The thing was that we wouldn't get paid unless we waited.

Right on cue a sound began to come out of the bathhouse. I
smiled as I heard it; Itami was good at timing like that.
The sound was something we'd had the Finn mix up for us. He
had a sound system like you wouldn't believe so for him it
was real easy. Since we'd paid off our bills (with interest)
he was even willing to do us a favor and make it a freebie.
The noise was a neat little mix of several other noises,
various animal growls, some screams from a bad horror movie
and one of Marilyn Manson's songs. It was appropriately
eerie and monsterish.

The girl took a step back at this, and the dull green light
that seeped over the edge of the bathhouse's exterior wall.
The light was just a few of the lights inside covered with
green cellophane. She looked worried for a second and then
pulled something out of that place you never really could
see them pull stuff out of. I know, I tried. It would have
been really useful to be able to prevent them from finding
stuff there but I guess that was not to be.

"Crystal Trashbin Make-up!"

I will not describe what happened next. Suffice it to say it
involved bad music, tasteless glowing things and exposed
flesh. In a few seconds it was over and Princess Sanitation,
remover of the icky forces of evil and poor hygiene stood in
full glory. Then I shot her. It was a nice clean shot, right
through the side of the head. I'd chosen the bullet so it
would cause less gore than some so we'd get an easier ID on
the body.

With the mark down the music and lights turned off and I
started to pack away the rifle. We were getting our usual
fee for this job but it would be worth more thanks to the
minimum of expense and risk of personal injury. We might
even end up in the black this month. Despite the way my life
had gone recently things were looking up.

Ha, ha. It is to laugh.

***

One annoying thing about finally taking down Ultra was the
fact that this probably meant there would be less business
for us to take. Of course, this hadn't effected us yet as
there were still quite a few of the nutballs soldiers of
happiness and light running around annoying people. Still
there were a limited number of them out there and they
couldn't keep us working forever. After that it might be
possible we'd end up having to work at the exact kinds of
places I liked to eat at.

Of course, Itami had suggested that I could probably get a
variety of higher paying jobs with my new... condition. I'd
thanked him for the suggestion by bouncing the heaviest
thing I could find at the time (so it was only a stapler)
off his head. That must have gotten the message through and
he never raised the subject again.

Over the course of the last three months we had managed to
get one job a week, which kept us safely out of dept. Not
with the proper authorities however, but those less proper
authorities who tended to break your kneecaps when you
didn't pay up on time. One advantage I had never figured on
about being turned into a woman was the fact that all those
outstanding warrants and debts that I had managed to build
up over the years now meant about diddlysquat. Not that was
a persuasive argument for me to stay in this form. No
sirree. I was finding a way to change back to a man if it
ki... well, if it injured me slightly. I may be technically
insane but I am not stupid.

Being a woman was a lot more trouble than it was worth in my
opinion. There are a lot of things you probably wouldn't
consider about how annoying it was. Aside from the obvious
sexual difficulties, and if Aika didn't have a problem with
them I certainly did, there were the physical ones.

Firstly the body didn't exactly come with an instruction
manual. I spent nearly a week stumbling around like an idiot
because the balance and weight I had been used to working
with for over twenty years had suddenly changed on me. I
also ended up wearing a sports bra pretty much around the
clock as well. Hey, in my line of work you do -not- want
certain things swinging around to throw you off. At least I
wasn't about to wear one of those normal ones; Itami would
never let me live it down. His ribbing over the sports bra
was bad enough. Oh, you couldn't tell it was ribbing unless
you knew him, but even a totally innocuous comment from
someone else like "Going shopping?" became a massive insult
when he said it.

At least he wasn't bad as Sailor H. She came in one day two
months ago and gave me a package. It turned out to be the
latest Victoria's Secret catalogue. Gee, thanks H, I really
mean that.

The rest of my fashion was still strictly masculine thank
you very much. I would shot myself before I ever let anyone
get me in a dress for any reason, and I meant that two. Aika
and that buzzard of hers had teamed up on me during a job
almost two weeks ago now trying to get me to pose as a nurse
so I could inject some really nasty stuff into a magical
girls intravenous tube. We put her in the hospital but
because of my objection to -that- plan we never did get her
yet. Oh well, the contract didn't have a time limit we'd
just finish when she got out. So I stuck to my ratty, worn
trenchcoat, pants and suit-shirts. Of course, a significant
of clothes that fit my new frame. See what I mean about
being more trouble than it is worth?

Suffice it to say I will never tell another PMS joke in my
life. I swear... well, maybe one or two...

Even after I got used to moving in this new body I still had
trouble with it. There was the social problem for one. Sure
no one recognized me, but no one recognized me. It was a
kick in the ass trying to get that police officer to believe
that yes that -was- my drivers license. Thankfully I looked
enough like myself to pass myself off as a crossdresser.
Than there were the jerks who asked me out. I'd had to stop
going to my favorite bar because of that.

The really annoying thing was that I wasn't even that pretty
so I couldn't see why they bothered. I certainly never would
have asked me out. Now I wasn't fat, or ugly exactly, after
all when I spent a great deal of time running for my life I
tended to shed those excess kilos pretty fast. I was just
average, like I had been when I was a man; whatever magic
magical girl physique either. No, I will not tell you my
to after all, for the sports bra, and for no other reason
whatsoever. Really.

I'd at least gotten used to seeing myself naked. I may not
be the king of personal hygiene but I did bathe on occasion.
It was a good idea for the marks not to be able to smell you
three miles away when you were setting up an ambush. The
first few times had been hellish however and I would rather
not speak of them.

Bathing wasn't the only problem. Sometimes I still shaved
out of habit before I realized I didn't need to. I had a few
small scars on my face to attest to that. No, I did not
shave my legs or any other part of my anatomy, I also kept
my hair short and in the same style I used to. It looked
even stupider now but I didn't really care. At least I had a
private shower; I did not relish going to the public ones.

Now, you might think a perk of this would be for the little
hentai in me to sneak into a girl's room or something and
enjoy myself. Wrong. Oh sure, I still liked women, I had
never felt an urge in the other direction and the moment I
did I would not just shoot myself, I would jump into a
meatgrinder. Well, maybe I would just shoot myself after
all. The problem was that my body reacted... differently is
all I'll say. I wasn't exactly sure I liked it. Not to
mention the fact that I just wasn't as, well, horny as I
used to be. Men and women are just wired differently I
guess. No, I never took it out on a "test drive" either, if
you get my meaning.

It was mainly for this reason that I kept putting off going
on a date with Aika. She seemed to take this rather
personally and in fact seemed more eager to go out with me
now. I never asked her about that, I wasn't sure I wanted to

So, like you can see, being a girl isn't exactly a bed of
roses. So that's why I found myself in Keikaku's shop while
he finished up a phone call with someone. I had gotten him
working on my little problem the day after it had happened.
It probably would have been the day it happened but quite
frankly I was too happy to care at that point. He'd said
he'd come up with something recently but I wasn't getting my
hopes up either. He'd "come up" with almost five
possibilities already but all of them involved going on long
quests into the nether worlds or fighting my ways pasts the
seven demons of nastiness or other stuff along those lines.
Needless to say, after my last sortie into supernatural
politics I was not exactly eager to get involved in more.
Still the situation was getting bleak. Remember I said I was
sorta getting used to this thing. That didn't worry me. That
scared the fucking shit out of me.

Finally Keikaku had finished his phone call and walked over
to sit down behind his little fortune telling table in front
of me. I trusted he was looking out for my best interests,
we had known each other since high school and he liked me
despite of that. I was kinda annoyed with him about the
whole affair with Reika, but I couldn't really expect him to
have known, right? Damn, paranoia was good but I'm not sure
I wanted to make a habit of it.

"What do you have for me?" I said in as nonchalant a tone as
I could manage. I had even gotten used to my new voice.
Almost.

"Well," he hesitated and I felt any hope I did have shatter.
"I found something but it's a little risky."

"There's this place in China that might work but it's
cursed..."

"Forget it," I said, shaking my head. "I am not dealing with
curses, hexes or anything like that! I'm sticking to blowing
away Magical Girls and that is final."

"Fine," Keikaku sighed. "But I really think you ought to
consider one of those options Yoi. Really there isn't a big
demand for magic related to such a... specific task. You may
have to settle for what you can get."

"If I have to settle," I informed him, "I'll find some cash
and blow it on a sex-change operation. I hear they're doing

"Maybe," Keikaku didn't sound convinced. "But it won't be
the same."

"No," I grunted and stood up fast enough to send the chair
crashing behind me. "But it's better than risking my neck
and getting caught up in another of your Balancer schemes."
Keikaku didn't respond but gave me this sort of sick puppy
dog look. I was of the opinion that sick puppy dogs should
be put out of their misery so you can imagine how well it
worked on me. "You think I don't recognize it? I'm not
stupid Keikaku," I turned away, "All this stuff smells a lot
too suspiciously of them getting me to do their dirty work
for them. In fact, I'm of half a mind that they didn't tell
me the whole truth so that they would have this little
carrot to dangle in front of me."

"It's not like that at all!" he protested but I didn't hear
the rest of it as I stormed out of the shop and down the
street. About five blocks later I began to calm down. I
hadn't really meant to explode at Keikaku like that, I guess
this was wearing on me more than I thought. Maybe what I
needed was a vacation. And while I was blowing money I could
probably buy myself a Ferrari and a mansion in Hokkaido.

Damn, this sucked.

***

We were meeting a client the next morning so I made sure to
get plenty of sleep that night. I got there early, and found
Itami waiting for me. He'd been showing up early for
meetings more often now that H was around only part of the
time. Ever since we'd finished the Ultra thing she had been
complaining about our work getting boring and "not her
style". I'd like to say I was sorry to see her show up less
but I'd be lying. The last thing I needed was seeing her in
that excuse for a costume. She didn't stop her hunting of
Magical Girls but our method was too tame for her tastes so
she worked independently a lot. It also meant Itami could
keep his mind on the job more.

Itami pulled a dart from the board and seeing me come in he
offered it to me. I gave him a 'go to hell' look and sat
down. Ever since my brief stint as 'Sailor Dart' I'd sort of
been turned against them. I knew Itami knew this very well,
he was just being a bastard again. I sat down instead and
began to read. I had a bunch of files on my desk and began
to dig into them with a vengeance.

The files contained a lot of information on the client I was
going to meet tonight. Before I had been very lax with
checking out my clients histories but I'd been screwed one
too many times for my taste. So I now made sure I could
learn as much about the client before hand as possible.

My new condition made that a lot easier. It didn't take long
to convince my old contacts of my identity, especially with
both Itami and the Finn vouching for me. But like I said the
police no longer recognized me either. So, in exchange for a
bit of worthless information about certain criminals the
local 'Professional Businessmen's Club' didn't exactly like
anyway I was able to learn a lot.

The company which was contracting us this time was called
"UniOptics", it was officially a research firm looking into
some sort of computer jargon I didn't understand. In reality
it was a front for one of the ninety or so secret
organizations out to rule world. I briefly wondered why
every organization out to rule the world was based in Tokyo.
I mean, I was as patriotic as the next guy was but Japan
really wasn't that big a player in the affairs of world
politics. I didn't know much whether I could trust them, but
if they reneged on their contract they would find that the
police suddenly got a few anonymous phone calls.

I read a little more about them but that got boring real
fast so I passed the rest of the time playing blackjack with
Itami for pretzels. Finally the knock came and I swept the
cards and files into a bin I kept handy near the desk for
just such a situation. Of course, I had once confused that
bin with the garbage can but that was another story. I
adjusted my shirt, making sure I didn't look too feminine
and stood up to let them in. Itami had been ahead by the end
of the game so he got to sit down since we still had only
two chairs.

The guy on the other side of the door was dressed to the
nines. Sharp business suit, neat hair and a power tie even.
He carried a small briefcase with what looked like one of
those laptop things on the side. I quickly scanned him and,
seeing no obvious bulges let him in. I indicated the chair
and he sat down graciously. I moved over to lean against the
wall and smiled at him in my most winning manner. Since I
was the more charming of the two of us I served as
spokesperson, then again Itami had all the social skills of
a rock so that wasn't saying much.

"I was under the impression the team was a pair of male
operatives," the man said coolly.

"We've expanded," I didn't feel like explaining my life's
story to this guy anytime soon.

He paused to run those over in his mind and apparently found
it acceptable since he didn't mention it again. The thing
turned out to be a laptop as he opened it up and activated
it. "You understand of course that we would not be hiring
you if this was not serious," he informed me needlessly,
"However the personal risk to you should be minimal."

"We understand," I schmoozed guiltlessly. "So what exactly
can we do for you?"

He typed a few commands onto his board and then turned the
screen to face us. Itami only briefly glanced at it out of
the corner of his eye. I took more interest. On the screen
were four faces I did not recognize, young girls, magical I
presumed. One was a blond, another a brunette and the other
two had neon pink and orange hair. "These are our problem,"
he told us, "These four young girls have been delaying the
completion of one of our projects for over a year."

"What do you know about them?"

"Practically nothing," he said simply, "Which is why we're
hiring you. We want you to locate and, if possible,
terminate them."

"Teams are always harder than singles," I said.

He smiled like that used car salesman you always saw on TV.
"Like I said," he spoke crisply, "the danger should be
minimal. I am pretty sure their powers don't work outside
the 'net."

I blinked. He quickly hit a few more keys and the picture of
the four girls dissolved to what looked like a surrealist
mathematician's wet dream. Vague geometric shapes floated
back and forth in a landscape composed mainly of
intersecting grids of green lines. Half fevered memories of
horrors such as tangents and mmatrices bubbled into my brain
from old math classes.

"This is the 'net," he explained, "Or at least, the Astral
Planes version of the same."

"Don't bother explaining," I said slowly. "Just tell me what
the deal is with them not being able to use their powers."

"The girls are hackers," he said, "The Magical Hacker
Federation Four they call themselves and have been
ruthlessly disrupting our research in this field." He hit a
few keys and what looked suspiciously like a youma appeared
in the screen. It began to rampage around, destroying the
geometric shapes at random. Then there was a flash of static
and four girls in fuku appeared. The usual type of battle
ensued and the youma disappeared in a flash of television
static. "Since you can't access the Astral Net without magic
they must be Magical Girls. We can't trace down the source
of their excursion however and we would like you to find and
eliminate them for us. We can't send anything but youma into
the net after them and that is hardly effective."

"So," I said slowly just to make sure I got it all right,
"You think these girls transport themselves into the net and
that their transformation has something to do with this so
they can't use their powers outside it."

"Exactly," he agreed. "We only really need their identities
and are willing to pay you your full fee for finding them.
If you take the liberty of eliminating them, and providing
proof that they are the girls we are after, then we will pay
you your full fee per girl."

Well, that would get me a lot closer to that vacation, I
hear China's nice this time of year... I blinked as I
dispelled those thoughts.

"Well," I said, "It's an unusual request but we'll take it."

"Excellent," he stood up slowly, leaving the briefcase
behind. "Inside are all the files we have on their
activities thus far," he indicated the aforementioned
luggage, "If you haven't come up with any solid leads in a
week we will compensate you with half your fee for your time
but will take our business elsewhere." He opened the case to
show it wasn't tampered with.

"Sounds fair," I shrugged. It wasn't a bad deal after all;
we got paid either way really. "We'll take the job."

"Excellent. Good day," he bowed formally and showed himself
out.

I lazily walked over and sat down. I looked through the
files briefly; it was always nice when your clients did the
paperwork for you. I sat back, well this certainly wasn't in
our usual field of specialty but it sounded like a cakewalk.
I looked over at Itami who had returned to throwing darts,
from the looks of it he was trying to draw a square with the
things in the board.

"What do you think?"

"Strange," he commented after a pause.

<thunk>

"Easy money however," I pointed out. He grunted in a
non-commental way so I pushed ahead. "We don't even have to
break the law with this one." Note I said 'have to' not
'would not'. Call me greedy but I wanted the full stash.

"Hard," he monosyllabled.

<thunk>

"Not really," I pointed out, "We call in a few favors, pay
of the right people and we should know where to look."

"Long," he pointed out.

<thunk>

"A weeks work," I said. "We can pull it off."

"Maybe," he said. Wow, two whole syllables, I had his
interest piqued.

<thunk>

"We should at least talk to the Finn," I said.

<thunk>

Damn, but he had a point. Keikaku was both a hacker and a
when he found the matrix or whatever a few months back.
Still I wasn't sure I wanted to see him so soon. I was still
half-convinced he was trying to recruit me to the Balancers'
side permanently too. "If nothing else turns up," I said
finally.

"Fine," he said. He understood, he'd probably had enough of
that sort of thing already too. "Eat?"

"Later," I waved him towards the door. "I'll check these
things out while you're gone."

He paused at the threshold. "Aika?" he asked.

I strung that out in my mind. He probably wanted to know if
I'd be calling Aika in on this mission. Truth be told I
Pretty Deadly's involvement with us. Nothing official was
being said about it so that meant she wasn't in for it with
her parents but after the stunt at the benefit a few months
back she had become an outcast from magical girl society.
She wasn't all that good at surveillance or footwork, just
at making things die.

"Probably not," I said. "We'll keep the option open
however." They had said they didn't -think- the Hacker Four
could use their powers in the real world.

Itami didn't bother to reply as he left and firmly shut the
door behind him. I began to leaf through the folders looking
for anything that might be helpful. It was mostly filled
with jargon and other pieces of technical information I
didn't understand. The Finn would have to decipher that for
us. I quickly found the sections dealing with the
personalities of our marks and got to work.

***

The Finn had moved shop a month back. I never asked why, you
learned not to, and he didn't explain. This time his
'office' was in the basement of a parking garage downtown.
With all the traffic that went in and out of the place I
guess it must have been easier to ship stuff in and out. The
basement was accessed by going down the stairs into what
looked like a storeroom for all the janitors' stuff. Then
you knocked a few times and the back slid open to let you
into the real storeroom.

capacity it seemed. he certainly had a lot more highly
illegal weaponry hanging on the racks around the room
anyway. His kick-ass sound system was in the corner along
with a half a dozen other gadgets and gizmos I didn't really
recognize. The man himself was sitting at his workbench
tooling out an Uzi with some sort of device that looked like
a silencer. I wished him luck with whatever it was he was
doing and announced myself in the usual way.

Whap. I slapped the pile of folder down on the table and he
looked up at me with a bemused smile.

"So," he said calmly and rocked back in his chair. "What
brings you here Koi?"

I gave him my best 'go to hell' look. He had taken to
calling me Koi ever since the change. Needless to say having
him refer to me by the name I had given to my 'more
compassionate' self was annoying. I doubted he did it
intentionally for that reason, he probably just found it
amusing because of the misprinted license.

"No guns this time," I told him. He winced.

"Don't say that," he ordered me politely, "You'll give me a
heart attack." He ruffled the folders. "What are these
then?"

"Technical junk," I told him, "For our next job. We need to
see if anything useful is in it."

"Ah," he opened the first one and scanned down the papers.
"Complex," he observed, "That will cost you."

"Put it on my tab," I told him. He gave me a flat look. "You
know I'm good for it, and I know you won't cheat me." No, it
wasn't phrased like a threat. The Finn was one of maybe four
people I trusted not to screw me, and I was one of them.

"I know," he sighed, "But you set a bad precedent for my
other customers."

"We set a whole bunch of bad precedents."

"True, true..." he closed the folder. "I'll get back to you
in a day or two with the results. What am I looking for?"

"Anything that might help us track the four girls
mentioned," I explained.

He didn't comment on that. He understood perfectly well what
I did.

***

It was on the way home that the weird crap happened. I was
heading home to get myself something to eat and call up
Itami to ask him if he wanted to watch the baseball game
later. I was walking alone throough a bad neighborhood to my
house but I wasn't worried. The few punks on my block who
thought I was prey just because I was a woman had learned
the hard way that this woman carried several very deadly
guns and knew how to use them. The sun was only halfway down
so that helped too. I won't say my street is exactly the
busiest in the world but it had a few cars usually moving
along it. So it was the quiet that was my first clue.

I fell back against the wall and reached under my coat for a
gun. Once my hand was firmly wrapped around the handle of my
Glock I relaxed a little and started to look around. The
first thing I noticed was that no one was moving. Cars had
stopped in the streets and people had halted in mid-step.
The next thing I noticed was that someone had been dribbling
mid-air between the man's hand and the ground. Great, I'd
seen this before.

"Ramsbottom!" I called out and stepped clear of the wall.
"You can come out now."

As if on cue the shining light appeared and two people
stepped out. It was the same pair I had first met when
Ramsbottom had saved my teammate and me from the Crayon
Knights. Ramsbottom was, of course, his usual British self.
The other was a kid in military fatigues and a grease-monkey
suit.

"Yoi old chap," Ramsbottom called delightedly, "How
delightful to see you again after so long a time!"

"Stuff it," I told him evenly.

"Now is that anyway to treat an old friend?"

I didn't dignify that with a response.

"Now, now," he chastised me, "There is no need to act
uncivilized now is there? We've had such a delightful
partnership in the past, why ruin it with harsh words
neither of us mean."

"I'm not interested," I said slowly.

"But Yoi," he said in a cheerful tone. "I haven't even told
you what I want."

"I don't care," I said.

"And after all I've done for you," he tsked.

"Done for me?" I raised an eyebrow, "You managed to get me
in trouble with some alien demigod and sic your magical
women on me."

"I also warned you about Reika," he informed me.

"You lied to me," I replied.

"Well," he stroked the top of his cane, "It was necessary.
You would have hardly done the jobs if you knew what was
expected. But you did the job for me, you removed Ultra,
good show."

"You never hired us to kill Ultra," I said coolly.

"No," he said evenly. "But that is what I wanted. Just think

I did. It didn't take me long to put two and two together.
"That's why you sent us after Shubby-chan's Happy Happy Joy
Joy Fun Club?" I said incredulously. "You knew it would sink
us in too deep for us to pull out, even if we wanted to." He
grinned maniacally. "And that's supposed to get me to trust
you?"

"No my fine young lad," he looked at me, "or should I say
lass?" I glared at him. "Lad it is," he walked over to me.
"I'm sure the Balancers have told you lots of nasty things
about me. Well it's all true," he grinned, "To an extent."

"I don't care," I informed him.

"But you do," he pointed out. "I know this. You want to hear
my reasons, you want to know -why-. Money means a lot to you
Yoi but more important you want to know why."

"Not likely," I said coolly. "I only want to know enough to
keep me alive."

"Self-deception isn't a good thing Yoi," Ramsbottom advised.
"But I digress. I only want to hire you for one job my lad."

"No deal," I said too quickly. Damn but if he didn't have my
curiosity piqued. Still I wasn't about to get myself
involved in this stuff anymore.

"It's a very simple job," he said. "And in exchange, we can
restore certain missing things to you."

Oh great, as if that wasn't an obvious tactic. "The
Balancers are already trying to make that deal," I told him,
"I told them what I'm telling you."

"But the Balancers don't want you Yoi," Ramsbottom
explained, "That want what you are."

"Oh," I replied sarcastically, "And what's that."

"The Random," he said simply.

"The what?"

"They call it karma," he said, "I call it the Random. You
are a being born once a generation who has no destiny. Your
actions are not determined and nobody can ever tell what
your actions will do to the future. They want to harness
that power, use it to maintain their 'balance'" he spat the
word.

"Like I'm supposed to believe you," I said. "I'm certainly
not some chosen champion of light pal."

"No," he said, "You aren't. That's just the point. You are
the only truly free being in existence. And if they can't
control you..." he smiled in a reassuring way, "They can not
afford to let you throw off their plans."

"This is garbage," I told him flatly. "I'm still not
interested so stop spinning fairy tales for your own
amusement."

"Fine," he sighed theatrically, "But old chap I want you to
know I don't want to control you. I want to let you run
free, to do as you would. Create chaos from order. But if
you wish to do otherwise," a light appeared behind him,
"Than do as you will."

He disappeared into the light and his aide followed him. He
gave me a quiet look of pity as he left. I rolled my eyes.
Then sound and life returned to the world. I turned towards
my apartment, suddenly not very hungry and with a cold chill
in my veins. I knew this wasn't over that easy. It never
was.

***

The next few days were rather boring so I won't go into them
in detail. I spent the majority of them concentrating on my
job so it was easier to ignore Ramsbottom. There wasn't much
else I could do about it, unless I went to the Balancers,
and that wasn't likely.

The Finn called me the next day and Itami and I went down to
the basement again. He hadn't been able to decipher the
computer related stuff. It turned out that the use of their
ability to enter the Astral Net caused a short power surge
in the local system. The surge originated from different
location each time so we couldn't use it to single out their
they didn't, we knew what the signs were when they were out
of costume.

So Itami and I ended up cruising around those places for the
next three days just watching faces and taking note of the
area. At the end of each day we came back to the office and
discussed our findings. One the night of the third day we
had more or less picked out our girls. There were four of
them and they often hung out together. They also seemed to
be even more cliquish than normal girls their age as well as
overdeveloped for fourteen-year-olds. There was still the
problem of proving it however.

I spent the next day coming up with a plan I thought would
work.  And I called our employers to set everything in
motion.

Now, I didn't spend all that time just doing the job. Itami
was busy because Sailor H had shown back up and was keeping
him occupied. I ended up hanging out with Aika mostly. Well,
she ended up hanging out with me is more like it. It wasn't
that I was avoiding her really. I just felt uncomfortable
with her efforts to get us to become more of a couple. It
just struck me as fundamentally wrong somehow, what with us
both being girls at the moment. Of course, I could hardly
admit that, it would sound too... unmanly I guess. Still I
successfully was avoiding getting anywhere with her.

My plan was simple but hey, simple worked. I simply got the
company to release a youma into the net, something
expendable. Once they'd done that Itami and I followed
around the girls in question. It didn't take long, soon they
had all gathered in one of their usual "jumping in" points,
a bank machine in a park. Then with the help of some weird
looking pendants they gave a little speech and disappeared
into the screen. I smiled. Itami, holding the camcorder,
only grunted. Confirmation was good, now I just had to
collect the reward.

***

Don't you hate it when the phone wakes you up in the middle
of the night? I know I do. That's why I was half-way to
tossing the blasted thing out the window before I was awake
enough to remember that I shouldn't be doing that. I swear,
if this were an obscene call I would track down the bastard
and fillet him alive.

"Hello" I said, or at least that was the plan, it came out
more like a cross between a yawn and a moo.

"Yoi?" the voice was vaguely recognizable but my still
sleep-fogged brain refused to connect it to a living being.

"Yes?" I said in a manner that made the word sound like I
might be retching.

"We need to talk..."

Then it came to me. It was Keikaku. I shot up in bed, sleep
driven far from sight as hope began to fill me. "About
what?"

"This job you're on."

Wait a minute... "What job? I've never told you about the
job I'm working on now."

"I found out through my connections," he told me smoothly.

"Right," I said doubtfully. Damn, Keikaku was beginning to
annoy me a lot. I guess it might have been the fact that he
just let me down, again, but I decided it would be best to
be a little, if you'll pardon me saying it, bitchy with him.
"What the hell do you want then?"

"These Magical Girls aren't Ultra's people," he informed me.

"And I should care, why?"

"Shinjo, the guy who runs UniOptics is a rogue," Keikaku
pointed out, "The Balancers don't want him to succeed."

"Why?"

"His goals run contrary to the Balance," he said, "If he
sets up this Astral net then bad things will happen, for
everybody."

"So?" I sneered into the phone, "I'm just the hired help.
Don't blame me."

"But Yoi..."

"Listen, I already told you I do NOT work for the
Balancers," I barked into the phone. "If they don't want
this guy to succeed then they better send someone else to
stop him!" I slammed the phone into the cradle and then
slammed the phone against the wall for good measure. I
glared at it for a little bit and lay down, trying to get
some precious sleep.

***

I decided to bring Aika in on this. Maybe it was my paranoia
acting up but I thought it would be best to have a little
more firepower available. Say what you wanted about magical
girls but they did have plenty of power to back up all that
speechmaking. I had learned that the hard way on a few
occasions.

So the three of us sat on a park bench, looking for the
entire world like three people sitting around enjoying a
put a good pair of baggy pants and a puffed out jacket over
her fuku and managed to disguise it pretty well. The four
girls we were following were having some sort of meeting
under a willow tree. A near-by phone booth was one of their
entry points across the city.

Again, the plan was simple. Wait for the distractions we had
worked up with UniOptics to start and then once they moved
for the phone booth finish them off. The escape route was
well planned and the line of sight on all four of them
perfect. Now the only thing that could go wrong was if their
powers worked outside of this Astral Net thing.

My watch beeped, informing me that the distraction had
begun. A weak youma had been released into the net and let
loose for random destruction. The girls looked down a their
beepers started going off and then all four nodded in that
synchronous magical girl way. They stood up and began to
make their way towards the phone booth, the magical

We came up smooth and easy. I pulled the pistol from my
pocket and easily slung it up towards the targets. Speed
wasn't the answer to a good shot, being calm, centered and
of those muffled wheezes that silencers gave off and his
target, the blond, feel over with a big red hole in her
head. Aika was next, her gun steady in her hand as the
bullet took the neon pink one through the heart. Nice shot
that, it would mean the body would be easier to identify. My
shot was next, I had the brunette in my sights, just one
trigger pull away from death.

I hesitated. Damn it Koi! It doesn't matter if she isn't in
a fuku this is still a magical girl. I clamped my teeth down
sharply on my tongue and my gun jumped in my hand. The
brunette went down in a spray of blood from the wound. I
moved my gun to face the last girl, who was standing like a

My gun exploded in my hand. I cursed as I feel back with my
hands bleeding. I recognized the type of explosion; someone
had just put a bullet into my gun. I realized vaguely that
there was no way someone could have shot my gun in mid-swing
like that. This meant that they were aiming at me. This also
meant that my funky karma thing must have been kicking in
again. Joy.

I flung myself down and back. I'd chosen this table because
it was located so close to a stand of trees. In seconds I
was in behind cover. I heard someone curse and then the air
filled with the rough cracking sounds of automatic fire. I
risked a glance out from around the tree I had hid behind
and saw that Aika must have flipped up the picnic table and
that her and Itami were using it as a shields. Gouts of wood
flew out of the table though and it wouldn't last very long.

That was a waste of ammo however and I knew it. Aika and
Itami would find a way out of there before that happened. My
eyes flew across the park and I saw it easily. A hot dog
vendor was pulling a rifle out of his cart and aiming it at
both my partners with slow and easy movements. There were no
obstructions in his line of fire. I yelled out a warning and
reached for a gun despite the pain in my hands.

Itami and Aika ducked at my warning and the first bullet
from the sniper's rifle tore a hole in the wood above
Itami's head. He didn't get off another shot. It hurt like
hell but I managed to squeeze off three quick shots, one to
aim and two to make sure, and he went down in a spray of
blood.

One problem down, who knows how many more to go. These guys
were pros, and I mean the real kind. Someone really wanted
us dead now and my mind began to scroll down suspects. I was
tempted to eliminate all my supernatural enemies on
principle, after all if they wanted me dead they would have
sent a youma, or a demon or a squad of magical girls that
knew how to actually fight. No normal organization of that
type employed human hit men.

There was a thump as Itami landed next to me and rolled
further into the copse of trees. The ground spat upward as
bullets landed where he had been seconds before. I looked
out to see that Aika was still behind the picnic table. Then
she made the mistake. It was a simple mistake, one any
rookie might have made. She pointed her gun around the
corner of the table and began to fire.

The first bullet took her in the wrist, knocking her gun
away and throwing her back slightly. The second bullet came
from another angle; the hitmen had moved a man around the
side while they stalled.  The bullet took her in the
shoulder this time, spinning her around like a top. The
third bullet was a gutshot, straight into the stomach, not
instantly lethal but damn painful.

So now she lay there in the grass slowly bleeding to death
and struggling to breathe. I wish I could say I went
straight out like the hero is supposed to. I wish I could
say I ran out there and grabbed her up in a manner like you
might see in a Hong Kong action film with bullets whizzing
past me and me taking them out with skillful precision
shots.

I didn't. This was the real world. The only reason she was
still alive was because they wanted me to try and save her.
As soon as I went out there I was dead, plain and simple. Of
course, the fact that they were trying this meant they
probably didn't have our escape through the sewer grate in
the middle of this copse covered. Which meant that if I left
now I would survive...

And Aika would die.

There are times, I wish I had gone into something simple.
Like brain surgery.

----------------

Author's notes: Okay, so I'm evil. ^_^

I would like to thank Steven Scougall for his feedback on
helping to make sure that the spelling and grammar in this
chapter are not too atrocious. I would also thank Andy Kent
but he never did get around to helping me on this. ;p

My apologies for any grammatical errors I missed.

Epsilon