Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Long, slim fingers stroked the keys of a sleek black laptop. Each punch of the key had a note of confidence. There was no hesitation in what they typed, and their owner wasn't conscious to any guilt in the messages that poured onto the screen. "Alarm system offline. Engaging backup generators in a shutdown sequence. ! Power circuit offline." The owner, a woman, sat back, extremely pleased with her work. She had found over time that she enjoyed talking to herself as she worked, as she was doing now. It made it seem all the more enjoyable, which made it less of a bore. But her mind always stayed on her work. Her eyes scanned the rows of code paging down the screen. The corners of her mouth curled upward into a pleased grin, eyes betraying a hint of amusement. She looked perfectly harmless; Raven hair with a rich plum sheen, dazzling jade green short, svelte body lacked curves in several places, and she had a rather flat chest, but she was beautiful in some ways. Most of them making her all the more dangerous. "Hope he's happy with this crackdown. I'm wasting time on more than a mere amateur job." Mumbled she, slowly. Slowly, she moved the small mouse around on its ball and clicked a few times. A chat window appeared on the screen. She paused before typing: System infiltrated. A response came almost immediately. Thanks, love. ;-) A blinking status bar appeared, and loaded quickly. Another message followed it up. Money transaction sent. The woman grinned and ejected a disk from the computer's hard drive. It was silver and round, about the size of a swatch's face; just an ordinary disk. But it reflected the satisfaction of a day's work, and contained ones and zeros that made it even more satisfactory. It made the cramp in her ass seem like a twitch of a flea's wing. Her stomach groaned suddenly. It demanded a satisfactory meal as well. "Looks like we're off to the market, eh, old friend?" She retrieved her trench coat and winter hat, whistling cheerfully as she walked out the door. Behind her, she left her apartment gloomy and as empty as ever. The walls were painted a bare shade of greenish-black, and the blinds were fastened tight. What little light that did get through them cast long, dreary shadows on the walls. Those shadows were destined to cause the elite hacker some trouble. She knew it; expected it. But she never dreamed it would happen so soon. *** At the market, the aisles were a literal hell. Chock full of people, it was immensely hard to move around, especially since most were rushing. Children whined to their parents about sweets, babies screamed themselves red, and many argued over the sound. Those who weren't were a nervous white, obviously very anxious to get home. At the back of a line, the woman sighed. She never could make sense of Christmas. It wasn't the least bit a religious holiday anymore. It was only commercial now. She clutched her small parcel of items, mostly oblivious to the distractions around her. She rethought her current situation. Me, a 'd have thought I'd become a criminal? Oh, you knew it was coming, a small voice - her supposed 'inner voice' - chided. Could life get any better than that? She sighed, noting how dry and sarcastic her bitch of a conscience was. Vaguely, she wondered what a normal life was sometimes. Though it couldn't be much better than my life now, she thought, eyeing the other customers. A couple of children started wailing. She grinned inwardly.

Leaving the store, she took in a slow breath of crisp air and pulled her coat tighter around her, walking a few blocks to a bar. A pub could solve any problem or depression. She passed a few homeless men and hermits on the way. Paranoia washed over her. She pulled up her hood, still walking. The air was now becoming thick with factory smog and cigarette smoke from some lone gang members in front of broken-down buildings. Her pace quickened. She made a brisk walk the rest of the way to the bar.

Suddenly, she found a hand latched onto her shoulder. It was young and leather-skinned, nails stained a dirty yellow. Hot pungent breath met her neck as a person spoke in her ear, "How much on your card, 'woman'?" There was a slight sneer at the end that mocked her figure-less person. Her eyes, red-rimmed from a sleepless night and irritable, flashed dangerously. Who did people think they were?

"Tell me." she purred lowly, "do you wear a cup?"

Thack! Her free elbow swung out and caught the man - who was fairly surprised - in the solar plexus. Before he had a chance to double over, the hacker whipped around and flat out kicked him between the legs like it was a bloody game of football. She had done this all so fast that she never really saw who he was, and grimaced when she did.

Joran lay on the ground, fairly stunned from the blow. Harquin stood to the side, watching in amusement as he rolled over a few times, silent tears streaming from his eyes.

Harquin quirked a brow. "Well.I see you haven't lost your touch, Raelyn."

The hacker - Raelyn - grinned sheepishly. "Caught me by surprise, Harley. Sorry Joran," she added. Joran still lay clutching himself, oblivious for the moment.

Harquin sighed. "I'm afraid we're not here on a pleasure trip, Rae. Something's come up; we need to talk. You were headed toward the bar?"

Raelyn nodded. "Let's go, then."

The bar was just as usual; crowded and smoke-filled from men and women standing by the bar or sitting around the squashy round tables by the dance floor. The violet lighting lit the interior, giving it a wild outlook. It was more of a club than a bar, really.

They passed the crowd of people, heading toward a more secluded side of the bar where fewer people sat hunched the top of it. The women took a seat on the stools. Joran went to the bathroom to 'fix' himself.