All the questions of the day aside, that last one isn't something to work on with a tired mind, today's been a bit of a mind scrambler by the best of standards, and certainly, I could do with a rest. As we leave the site of the second murder, I feel the need for a little refreshment. Checking where we are, I can see that my favourite bar isn't that far from here, and if nothing else, it's a good place to unwind.


She turns back, it looks as if she was about to head back to the office to keep doing paperwork.


"I think a drink is in order."

"Why? We haven't solved anything yet?"

I smile at that, a trademark of the younger operatives, only letting themselves celebrate when they've achieved something 'noteworthy'.

"No, we haven't, but you'll learn one day that sometimes, every day is worth celebrating in it's own right."

She looks unconvinced, so I smile that rogue smile of mine "I could order you to come along........."

She smiles too, I think she's finally getting used to the humour I'm fond of. "Yes Sir."

Bubbles is a small bar and grill at the corner of 27th and Grayson, I found it a few years ago while I was still working street crime, and it's always been an excellent place for food and entertainment. We decide to walk the short distance to the bar from where we are, seems a good a time as any to find out a little something about our latest recruit to the field.

"So why did you get into this work then?"

She snaps a glance over at me, I'm keeping my face fixed forwards, it's hard to tell what someone's thinking when you can only see half of their face, old trick in this game.

"I flunked Operative training, couldn't pass the cardio tests, so I made a second application to try and get into SLA service. " She pauses for a second, then figures that I could get her file at any time, so continues onwards "I wanted to be something more than a Monarch or some pen-pusher, and this seemed to be the only way I could do that."

I nod silently. "Why?" I ask quietly.

"Why what?"

"Why do you want to be more than a pen-pusher, that's where the money is."

"I don't know to be honest, I just wanted to make a difference?"

That earns her a sideways glance "And you came to IA to make a difference?"

"Well, yeah, I figure that someone's got to watch over those who watch over the civilians, and if I can't be a civilian watcher, I'd want to be an Operative watcher."

Curious, but I don't let it show "So it's for the power then?"

"No, not really, I think that we have a duty to be good and right and scrupulous in our duty to the forces of righteousness."

Poor mixed up kid, she's going to have to learn real quick or it's going to be one hell of a bumpy ride that she's in for, but as she finishes the sentence, we round the corner and arrive at the entrance to Bubbles.

"Do you go here often?" she asks as we go through the door.

"No, not really" I reply, a half second before one of the waitresses spies me and hollers "Yo, Rio!" over the bar at me. I think I conceal the blush fairly well and take my usual table. As Eve sits, I can see the smile that says that I didn't conceal the blush as well as I could have done, but I suppose it doesn't matter in the end.

"Meat?" I ask in a conversational tone.

"Erm, yes, that would be fine."

"Two usual," I holler backwards at no-one in particular "With caffeine."

She looks a little worried as I lean back in complete ease, but that said, she's probably used to regular DownTown eating holes, where if they serve you carnivorous pig, you're happy if they killed it first. This is a different place, a place of quality, and it's the only place in DownTown that I'd recommend eating.

Eve's eyes go wide, and I know that Bubbles has arrived behind me, I raise one eyebrow by means of getting Eve to close her mouth and raise one hand above my head, a soft hand brushes mine and interlocks with my fingers briefly.

"How you doing lady?"

"I'm fine." the voice is nearly a purr, which is appropriate all things considered. There's a scrape of the chair to the side of me and she sits down.

Bubbles is a bit of an enigma really, standing nearly six feet tall, she's thin like a wraith until you get to the chest, which is larger than any woman should ever have to put up with. She's beautiful in a way that men have gone to war over, high cheekbones and hair military short, with eyes like the savin lake on Polo at sunrise. But the single most remarkable thing about her is that despite all she's gone through, she has not a single callus on her soul. Eve is still gaping like a tourist as I look back over at her, so I gently squeeze Bubbles hand and wink, she gets the hint and leaves with all the grace that she can muster given the awkwardness of the situation.

As soon as Eve thinks she's out of earshot, she looks over at me in disbelief "Slayer Wept, are those big enough?"

I smile wryly "Did you ever hear of the Tyrus coup on the skin trade?"

"Yeah, of course I did, biggest coup that SLA ever did, over three thousand kids and innocents were saved in that one."

"Yeah, but do you remember the circumstances of the rescue?"

"A little, a few Operatives were lost in the rescue, some of them were found out and killed."

I shake my head almost imperceptibly, sometimes the lies of the departments go beyond all things that I could think of.

"No" I continue quietly "no Operatives were lost in the bust, but one operative went deep cover, a wraith by the name of Mina Durell, it was thanks to her that any of them made it out alive."

Eve leans forwards "What happened to her?"

"Well, she went to the Trade, and was surgically modified, a lot of people will pay loads extra for special needs. At the time, she was fifteen years of age, and one of the youngest keepers of the faith that ever lived, her life was set up and she could have done anything that she wanted."

"So why did she do it?"

"No one knows, but the surgeons at the Trade did her up like you wouldn't believe, remodelled her face to look like a humans. They gave her muscle implants that could let her go on and on, not needing rest, not needing respite, so she could move between one client and the next without a break, and then, to top it all off, they gave her an injection of a drug called Tasyix. You've heard of this drug I take it?"

"Yeah, it's the new Karma drug, replaced breast implants with a separate growth spurt that takes up to three months to work, but there's no side effects."

I smile softly "Yes, that's the one that they've got now, but this was the Trade, and the version that they had wasn't the modified version that had no side effects, and the fact that they pumped in ten times the recommended dose didn't really help."

"So what happened to........." she trails off and looks over to where Bubbles disappeared, then looks back to me. As her eyes meet mine, I nod silently.

"She took all of that, and continued undercover for over six more weeks. She could have come straight back in, and they might have been able to do something about what had been done to her, but she knew that if she came back in, then all that they'd done would have been for nothing."

I pause as the food arrives, smiling up at Mel as she carefully leaves the plates on the table and puts the pitcher of clean beer next to them "Extra Caffeine, m'man" she grins down at me, going back for the bread and cutlery.

I grin back and then look back over at Eve "She means that it's extra strong beer, which is what you need for a good piece of meat like this."

Eve's a little preoccupied in thought at the moment, so I take a sip of the beer and go back to the story.

"Durell was instrumental in identifying the ringleaders of the Trade in that sector, she got the locations of all the warehouses, and two places in Orienta. For her actions, she received the order of the council on Polo, and a full point in SCL increase."

"So why didn't she go back to the Operative life? I mean, surely Karma could have done something to help her."

I shake my head "they're good, oh yes, they're good, but what was done to Durell was a special thing, they tried to remove the implants, but the drugs had altered her metabolism, every time they removed them, they just grew back, and bigger."

Eve looks down at her food solemnly.

"She took retirement from Operative life, there was no way that she could go on being an Operative with the modifications that she'd undergone, so SLA gave her a large bonus and set her up here as 'reward' for her service. I found this place a good few years back, and I've been coming here ever since."

Funny thing about life, every time that you think that it's dealt you a bad hand, you find that someone else didn't even get the cards to play with, looking over at Eve, I can see that the realisation of that is a bitter thing for some.