Los Angeles, USA
It was dark in the alleyway, after all it was nighttime, but Agent Anna Navarre did not need light to see her targets: a group of armed criminals gathered on a square ahead. The downside was, once she exited the alley, she would be out there in the open with nowhere to hide. Luckily for her, the group was fairly small – one, two, three… five, six, seven, eight bogeys in total. Eight more kills for her kill count, then. No hostages to worry about on this mission, so the UNATCO agents would be able to shoot indiscriminately – and they were trained, unlike their opponents.
A single whispered command word, and Anna’s silhouette shimmered and disappeared. Quick footsteps brought her out into the square and she squeezed the trigger. One man down. When his friends spread out in panic, waving arms and weapons around, she simply dived right in the middle of the chaos, looking for gaps so that she was able to maneuver around to get behind her targets.
A perfect flanking maneuver, since a moment later, Agent Gunther Hermann charged in from the same alleyway she entered from. Unlike her, Gunther was not cloaked – no cloak would work to obscure his huge form without expending too much energy. But he did not need to fear bullets, large portions of his body being protected by subdermal ballistic armor. Rat-tat-tat went his machine gun, moving down two men before they could return fire.
The remaining men spread out even further, taking cover behind streetlamps, greenery and other fixtures and firing their own weapons wildly. Most bullets missed Anna’s assigned partner, as expected, and those that did make contact simply pinged off his augmentations.
‘Shit! That cop is augmented!’ shouted one of the men.
‘Augmented indeed!’ taunted Gunther, flexing his arm for a moment before letting loose more bullets.
Anna rolled her eyes at the theatrics.
‘Ain’t getting paid enough to fight a f’cking ogre!’ yelled another of their opponents, and began to retreat.
The movement put him straight in Navarre’s line of sight. Squeezing the trigger was an automatic reaction. Her aim aided by an augmented right eye was not quite right this time though, and instead of hitting the man’s head her bullet only went into his shoulder. Before he could do more than grunt, she shot him again and he went down.
The sound however caught the attention of the others and Navarre could see the remaining criminals looking around trying to pinpoint her location. Even dumb as they probably were, they realized the huge man couldn’t have been the one to kill their friend. She started moving, changing positions faster than ordinary men could due to her augmented legs.
Her fellow agent used their distraction to deadly effect, taking down one man and severely injuring another to the point that he dropped his gun and pressed his back against the wall, screaming loudly for mercy. Hermann therefore ignored him and turned to target another.
Anna decided to join his side, so in order to do it as quickly as possible, she simply went straight through the middle of the square, knowing that the criminals couldn’t see her and anyway, they were distracted by Gunther. It seemed like a good plan, like the hundreds of times they did it…
Until her cloak failed. It simply switched off mid-movement, revealing her position at the worst possible moment. She was flanked by two men at point blank range, and before she could do more than fire off one shot – which did not hit anything worth talking of – they started shooting. Obviously, she was a much more tempting target than the other agent. She did not even feel the pain when she fell, even though the logical part of Anna’s brain knew they just put a lot of holes in her.
‘Navarre!’ Hermann’s voice booming her name was the last thing she heard before she lost consciousness.
Anna Navarre came to and immediately recognized the sterile white of the UNATCO medbay ceiling and the frowning face of Jaime Reyes, the medic. The events were a bit of a blur in her mind – she definitely lost a lot of blood, enough to alarm Agent Hermann into carrying her – and enough for her to actually let herself be carried. She winced as she remembered the feeling of her wounds being jostled, the fact that she lost perception of time.
But right now she felt fine, so she waved off Reyes trying to stop her from sitting up.
‘I’m fine, Jaime. Do I really need to stay here?’ she complained while slowly examining herself.
No visible wounds, check. No dizziness, check. No pain, check. Really, nothing for Reyes to do – and it seemed that he arrived at the same conclusion that she did, because he shook his head in the negative.
‘It might be prudent for you to go home now if you don’t want to stay the night in the medbay. It’s already dark and... well. You know where you live and what it’s like at this time of the day. I’ll call for Gunther to escort you home, in fact. I know you can deal with any thugs that might try to – ‘ a minute pause – ‘rob you, but they don’t, and I’d rather not see you here tomorrow.’ Here, Jaime winked.
Anna’s mouth did not even twitch. She never had much of a sense of humor.
‘My place’s closer, and less bandits’ said Hermann’s voice, and she looked up to see him standing in the doorway. Finding no fault in his logic, she nodded.
Reyes shrugged, completely unsurprised and not worried at all, as they left the medbay side by side.
They did indeed end up walking to Hermann’s flat. As expected, nobody bothered them. If there were any thugs out at this time of the night, they wouldn’t dare take on a large, muscled, augmented man.
Anna wound up sitting on the chair in the living room, while Gunther rummaged around in the messy kitchen. He emerged, waving two tall glasses and a tall bottle, which he rotated so that she could see the label.
‘Vodka all right?’ he asked and poured her a generous amount as soon as she nodded.
Navarre reached for the glass only to frown, as she discovered her hand was shaking. Actually, not just her hand, the shakes were slowly affecting her arm too. Her workmate reached across the table to wrap her finger around the vessel.
‘It’s just shock, it’ll be gone before you know it. Cheers!’ and he clinked his glass against hers.
She nodded and drank, and indeed discovered that he was right. By the end of the first glass, the shakes were limited to the minute trembling in her fingers. After the second, she was feeling pleasantly warm and they were all but gone – and Gunther knew her well enough to keep pouring unless she said no to the next one.
She lost count sometime around the fourth glass, but her augmentations meant that her head was still clear. Hermann, as usual, drank way less, he was on his second glass only. She teased him about being a lightweight, to which he smiled briefly and she remembered a story about his mates at GSG-9 back home in Germany teasing him about the same thing. In fact, in all the years she had been working with him, she couldn’t recall him smiling much, and pretty much never when not in the privacy of his own flat.
Here, in the ghetto. They might be UNATCO agents, and some of the best, but they were still mechanically augmented and confined to what was officially the Augmented District, but everyone on both sides knew it for what it really was. Anna took another sip of the drink. Gunther was nearly ten years her senior and was augmented voluntarily in the 2020s, the augmentation heyday, before the ghettos and the sneers. She, though...
She lost track of what she was thinking of. Actually, now that she thought of it, her gaze kept returning to her workmate’s face, making him frown – funnily, she thought – before he looked away.
‘Know am ugly. Don’t need you staring, too’ he mumbled into his glass.
‘You are not ugly!’ she protested vehemently, as she always did. ‘Just –not classically handsome.’
Gunther cracked up for a brief moment, barking out a laugh, which quickly turned bitter. Sensing an oncoming episode of weltschmerz, Navarre poured him some more vodka. If a man in his forties really wanted to brood, he should at least do it in style. He drank some, but continued to focus his augmented gaze on the glass instead of looking at her – and the frown wouldn’t do either. She really didn’t like her partner turning into a ball of angst, thank you. She leaned in to pat his huge shoulders...
.... and ended up doing something completely else, probably aided by the warm, liquid courage. Her arm wound up around Gunther’s shoulders instead and she found herself kissing his large mouth. He made a brief, shocked sound, so she kissed him again to shut him up.
‘Navarre? What are-‘ was as far as he got before her lips claimed his for the third time.
‘I thought it was obvious’ she said dryly, and leaned in, before suddenly remembering where she was, as her knee bumped into the table.
Embarrassed and horrified at her own inability to control her impulses – and besides, when was the last time she kissed anyone? – she started moving back to her chair, but Hermann’s large hand on her wrist arrested her movement. He tugged lightly on her so that she returned to her previous position, more or less, and initiated the kiss this time.
Some more kisses later, Anna found herself maneuvering around the stupid table to press herself closer to his huge frame. She was not short at almost 180 centimetres, but he still had more than a head on her, and his shoulders were very broad. In fact, his sheer size had its advantages, she thought. She felt hot, and even though it has been a long time since she last did feel so, she knew perfectly well what was happening – and what she wanted. The only issue was Gunther’s stupidly low self-esteem.
‘Gunther...’ she said, and froze, shocked by the sound of her own voice. Did her cochlear implants malfunction again?
He peered down at her and frowned, apparently able to tell something was off even in the near darkness. To forestall any stupid questions, she slowly ran her hand down his front, past the metal buckle of his belt. His large hand caught hers before it could proceed lower.
‘Anna- do you really- you could have any other-‘ he waved his other hand in the general direction of the other buildings when words failed him.
‘I don’t want others’ she said sharply ‘I want you... unless you don’t-‘ she peered up at him, but trying to read his expression in the dark was a fool’s endeavor, so instead, she wiggled her hand lower and smirked when she felt the bulge in his trousers.
‘I do think you do want me, hmm?’ she murmured lowly, and tried to say something more, but he simply unclasped the belt buckle and pounced on her, growling her name.
Kep rapped his knuckles on the door. He was the UNATCO man assigned to the Augmented District tonight, as policy required all patrols there to consist of two: a local cop and an armed UNATCO representative. Never mind that the cops were usually armed, too, and a noise complaint in Augmented District usually meant trouble. But as he knocked once again, he indeed heard noises from the inside, and moreover, he thought he recognized the area. Wasn’t this where Hermann lived?
Some more moments passed before the door lock clicked and Kep was greeted by the sight of Hermann himself. The majority of him was augmented and the law required augmentations to be fully visible, so he never did wear many clothes, but this time... his workmate’s belt was completely undone, and the zipper was only partially done.
‘You... are... interrupting’ Hermann hissed furiously, carefully enunciating every word as was the case when the German really wanted to avoid any misunderstandings.
Then he slammed the door closed in their faces before Kep could do more than attempt to stutter an apology. He shrugged a shoulder at the cop, and they went back to the station.
Half an hour later, they received another noise complaint at the same address. Even before arriving, Kep felt horribly embarrassed – he was fairly sure what was going on, after all, but the rule was to enter the premises for any subsequent complaints. They shouldered Hermann’s front door open and followed the sounds to what was probably his workmate’s bedroom. They could hear moans, and then a crash that made the city cop break down the door.
In the darkness, they could barely make out Hermann’s broad back. The cop took no chances and in an instant, he pressed his gun’s barrel to the older man’s head.
‘Stand up! Arms up! Face to the wall!’
Kep could see the agent’s jaw work furiously, but he followed the barked orders with no complaints. Unwilling to look at a naked workmate any longer than necessary, he moved his gaze to the bed. The woman, too, had her back to them, and was completely naked. Mostly augmented, and from what he could see, she bore no signs of violence.
Actually... Kep frowned. The blue-black sheen of her augmentations and the pulsing blue lines on her back seemed vaguely familiar.
‘Gunther?...’ the woman asked, confusedly, and started to roll over.
Kep never turned back around as fast as he did in that moment. He recognized the voice and he really, really had no wish to see Anna Navarre naked. He could feel his ears starting to burn. Navarre evidently saw what was going on and screeched loudly at the cop holding Hermann at gunpoint.
‘What do you think you’re doing?!’
‘Saving you, ma’am’ the cop responded smartly, to which Agent Navarre hissed furiously.
‘So you think just because he’s augmented, he’s some sort of a beast?! And what are you even doing here in the first place?’
‘Noise complaint –a- um- ma- Agent Navarre’ Kep said, trying to keep his voice as level as possible and still facing away from her.
Evidently realizing the UNATCO man was someone she knew personally, Navarre was flustered for a moment, which allowed the cop to butt in.
‘Are you sure you’re all right, ma’am? The sounds we heard didn’t seem to-’
‘I am fine and I’ll thank you for leaving immediately!’ Kep’s workmate sounded really incensed, which he found completely unsurprising. He tugged on his partner’s shoulder, trying to get him to leave. He, however, dug his heels in.
‘Are you really sure?’ he asked doubtfully.
Kep groaned loudly. ‘Man, it’s not a good idea to gainsay Navarre-’ he started to say before he was interrupted by a crash and more shouting. He turned around, dreading the sight.
‘Anna, no!’ Hermann was no longer being held at gunpoint, instead, the gun was in Navarre’s hand and she was doing her best to point it at the cop and the German was trying to twist her wrist so that she could not do so ‘You don’t want to shoot him!’
‘I do!’ the agent snarled angrily, obviously not her usual calm self.
‘You might, but you’ll only get us both in trouble!’
‘Get out before she shoots you!’ the UNATCO patrolman snarled at the oblivious city cop.
Once the man was out of the room, he wondered what to do. Fortunately, Hermann had wrestled the gun out of Anna’s hand. Kep saw it slide along the floor, and picked it up automatically, trying not to look at his workmates.
‘Apologies... a-um- umm- Agent Hermann’ he stuttered and quickly left the room.
He tried his best not to think about what he’d just heard and seen, but even before they reached the front door again, they could hear more moans. Evidently they picked back right where they were interrupted, or so said the city cop, but in much more crude words. The implied ‘all augmented women are whores’ made Kep so mad on his workmate’s behalf – Navarre’s, even though he never particularly liked her – that he stepped on the man’s foot ‘accidentally’ when closing the door behind himself.