Author's Note: A big vote of thanks to Strife Aileron for editing this as well as providing many suggestions for improving this story. If I ever do decide to try writing a novel again, I'll be calling on you first

Chasers 2075: Zero-One

"Well, that was a complete fuck-up," Kate Williams snarled irritably.

She casually tossed the file on top of the big desk; almost as if Kate didn't really care about them at all, but her dark brown eyes were pained; haunted by something. The sandy-haired young woman, dressed in battered pants, a ragged T-shirt and an official department jacket, looked so weary. It might have been that she was dieting, or it might be that she was ill, but she did not look good.

The office that they stood in was quite old fashioned, in a way. Instead of a holographic wall set to depict whatever scenes the owner might desire, the wall was covered from top to bottom with photos, plaques, medals and commendations. Many of the photos included the Asian woman who was sitting behind the desk, accepting those many awards and commendations with that same cool and collected smile.

Gwen Musashi looked up at her subordinate, taking in her generally ragged condition, trying to hide her worry. She took the file, the elegant Asian woman's dark eyes narrowed slightly as she ran through all the various sheets and quickly soaking up the facts that were printed on them.
"What went wrong?" Gwen asked her calmly as she read.

"What exactly didn't go wrong?" Kate shot back as she ran a hand through her brown hair tiredly. "Beth tried to subdue the android just like the manufacturer requested," she explained irritably, "she got cold cocked by the damn thing, and then it broke away from the two of us and into a crowd."

Gwen nodded, "After which you shot it down."

"Yes, I did," Kate agreed. She closed her eyes for a moment, remembering sighting at the thing's exposed back. She'd quickly pulled the trigger of her handgun twice, nailing it on the bottom of the spine and base of the neck, stopping it cold.
"There's not very many officers who could have made that shot at such a great distance," Gwen noted thoughtfully. "And it's not all that bad," she finally said as she put the file down, "you did get the android, after all."

Kate sat down with a soft thump in the chair across from Gwen, her brown hair falling into her eyes. "Don't coddle me Gwen," she shot back angrily, "I let it get away from me, and innocent people nearly paid the price for my screw up!"

"Maybe," Gwen said quietly. She looked up to meet Kate's eyes, "I also know that you've been the only officer going out most of the time, you're working yourself down to the wire and I'm partially the one responsible for that."

"You're too high ranked to go out normally," Kate shrugged wearily, "and we both know Beth isn't very suited to go out on field operations."

"She's not so bad," Gwen pointed out weakly, "as long as she's supervised."

Kate sighed to herself softly, not trusting herself to say anything more about it. Elizabeth Harris was a good kid, the sort of technical type who helped keep any major organization running smoothly. The little redhead was incredible with her computers, if you needed any kind of information she could get it, usually within moments. She also had a knack with weapons, helping build the special weapons they needed for their jobs.

But as a police officer, Beth was a just bit more limited. She could handle her handgun as well as any other officer, but she seemed to lack the sort of instincts that a cop needed to have out in the field. Paired up with another officer she did just fine, but on her own she was an accident waiting to happen. An accident that both women sitting in the office badly wanted to avoid.

"She certainly tries," Gwen offered into the silence.

"Maybe, but right now," Kate sighed tiredly, "we're down to two and a half officers." She looked up and gave Gwen a weary smile, "No offense meant."

"None taken," Gwen answered, but deep inside she felt a flash of irritation. What she wanted to be was out in the field, but since organizing the special police unit nicknamed the Chasers, she had been firmly stuck behind a desk. Intellectually, she understood the reasoning behind it, her being one of the few real experts on android crime meant that she had to be available to the brass and other units, but emotionally, it still hurt.

Gwen got up out of her comfortable chair, her crisp, blue business suit hugging her slim form as she walked towards the window. She looked out at the towers that surrounded them on all sides, and for a moment, wished that she could see blue sky. "We might just have a solution to our problem, however," she said without turning around.

"You finally got official permission to bring in another officer?" Kate asked, sitting up in her chair in honest surprise. She snorted and said, "I thought those paper-pushers would have taken a few more weeks to deal with it just on general principles."
"It's been months," Gwen bitterly said as she continued to look out at the city, "I put in the request before Lynn..."

"Ah," Kate's voice was quiet.

"When does your court ordered psych exams start?" Gwen asked into the silence.

"A week," Kate sounded positively disgusted at the idea as she said, "but I was hoping you might be able to get me out of them, Gwen."

"No such luck," Gwen said as she turned back to Kate with a soft sigh. "They sent over the name of the psychiatrist you'll be seeing," she walked over to hand Kate a card she pulled out of her pocket.

"Dr. Alexis Jameson?" Kate read it curiously. She put it away in her pocket with a sigh before getting up out of her chair. "I'm going to go out and check on how Beth is doing, and then take a break," she said, stretching out awkwardly.

"Go get some coffee," Gwen agreed, "and grab some food." Kate gave her a casual wave as she left, and Gwen watched her go worriedly. * * * * *

The hallways were oddly quiet as Kate made her way towards the break room, where she poured a cup of strong, black coffee for herself. She added sugar and whitener, then took a deep pull on it, trying to kick herself back awake. Kate sipped at it when she went to the control room, seeing her friend sitting at the computer terminals, a cold pack pressed to the side of her face.

"Sorry, Kate," Beth apologized, smiled weakly.

The little computer tech looked oddly fragile sitting in the large office chair, Beth's normally pale skin now almost chalky and her hands shook slightly. All around her, the computer terminals worked, information on registered android activity scrolling on their screens. Multiple keyboards, a VR interface rig, and a few items that Kate strongly suspected were gray, or even black market hacker gear were all ready to go.
'It was probably a lot closer to danger than she usually gets,' Kate silently mused as she walked over to stand by the redhead's side. She stood there awkwardly for a few moments before finally saying, "It wasn't your fault, Beth."
"You would never have gotten suckered that way," Beth sighed, wincing slightly as she pressed the cold pack to the side of her face.

"That's because I don't trust anybody," Kate said entirely seriously.

Beth sighed softly, "Maybe I should start trying that."

"It wouldn't suit you," Kate pointed out gently. She frowned down at Beth, "You took your pain-tabs and the anti-inflamitaries?"

"Yes, mother," Beth teased, smiled up at her wryly with green eyes twinkling. She took a deep breath, "I'll try not to screw up like that again, Kate."

"There's some good news," Kate said, deliberately changing the subject, "Gwen's got a new officer coming in."

"About time," Beth burst out, "we've been short ever since..." Beth trailed off, the look on Kate's face stopping her. "Sorry, Kate," she said sheepishly.

"Yeah," Kate pushed off from where she was leaning against the side of Beth's desk. She gave the girl a weak smile, "I'm going to go get something to eat, you want anything?"

"I'm fine," Beth sighed, watching Kate walk away. The miracles of modern medicine would make sure there were no signs of this incident on her tomorrow, no bruises even. Too bad there wasn't something to help Kate deal with her problems so easily. * * * * *

Over in her office, Gwen found her thoughts going in similar directions. If Kate kept pushing herself as hard as she was, she would snap. It was only a matter of time. 'Which means I need to get another officer in here to back her up soon,' Gwen thought firmly.

Gwen leaned over her desk, clearing the old fashioned papers away. "Computer," she said calmly, watching as the top of the desk glowed to life. The holographic screen floated in front of her, her personalized icons hanging in space.

"How can I be of service, madam?" the computer asked, it's clearly female voice pitched to be as gentle and soothing as possible.

"List transfer requests to Police Special Operations Unit, commonly referred to as Chasers," Gwen phrased her request carefully. Computers were good, but an inaccurately phrased request could produce some very interesting results.

"Transfer requests, listed in reverse chronological order," the computer agreed, a list of twenty names and thumbnail images appearing in the air before her.

"Clear all demerit transfers," Gwen ordered.

The computer sounded a bit confused as it answered her, "There are no demerit transfers presently listed."

Gwen nodded thoughtfully and rephrased the command, "Then clear all officers who received demerits or punitive action within a month of the transfer request."

"Four officers remaining," the computer reported.

Gwen looked at the listing, taking in the two female and two male officers. She tapped on each image, quickly running through the listings there. Three of them had more varied personal records, with some demerits and commendations mixed together. The final officer had a remarkably clear record, a list of commendations and awards both from the police and the public.

"Were there any volunteers?" Gwen asked curiously.

"One," the computer reported.

Somehow, Gwen wasn't too surprised to see that the volunteer was also the one with the exemplary record. She tapped on the thumbnail image, bringing a face and name up in a larger scale. The blonde haired woman shown there was oddly beautiful, her clear blue eyes gazing out with an odd look of sincerity.

"Jennifer Grayson," Gwen murmured to herself softly, sitting back in her chair to look at the image thoughtfully.

* * * * *

In another part of the city, a tall blonde answered a telephone, listening to the person with an odd look on her face. The older woman's image in her video-screen grew increasingly peeved as the young woman answered her politely, "No, I'm sorry we can't do something about the sexaroid that your husband bought. I'm sorry that he's been neglecting you, but that's not illegal. No, I don't think the Chasers will destroy a sexaroid for causing your husband to get a sore back..."

There was a sudden loud noise as the caller hung up on her forcefully. "Poor baby," the officer who was sitting at the next desk over gave her a sympathetic smile. She leaned towards the blonde to ask, "Jennifer, you sure you want to transfer over to the Chasers? You might have to deal with stuff like that all the time."

"Gee, thanks, Terry," Jennifer Grayson said, gave her friend a weak smile.

The dark haired Latino woman was attractive; Terry's browned skin almost completely unblemished. The uniform blues she wore looked really good on the shapely young woman, but then again almost anything looked good on her. At least, in Jennifer's opinion.

"You know what I mean," Terry Ramos said casually. She looked over at her friend; the blonde's uniform was perfectly crisp, like she'd just stepped off a recruiting poster, but then again, she always did. Dropping her voice she asked, "Why do you want to join the Chasers?"

"It's not that hard to figure out," Jennifer murmured as she ran through files on her computer, finishing off some of her paperwork, "the Police Special Operations Unit is where the real action is."

"Yeah," Terry shook her head, "you're nuts."

The door to the division head's office suddenly slammed open, and a gray-haired, older man stuck his head out. He looked around before yelling, "Grayson!"

Jennifer exchanged a worried look with Terry before jumping to her feet. She smoothed out her jacket, made sure her dress pants were straight, then went to the office and tapped on the door, entering when she heard the call to come in.
"Detective Grayson reporting as ordered, Captain Samuels," Jennifer stated, coming to attention just inside the office.

Sitting in the comfortable chair in front of Samuels' desk that was normally saved for visiting officials, was a sophisticated looking Asian woman. She was striking; dressed in one of the best quality suits Jennifer had ever seen. Her long, black hair flowed over her shoulders in glossy waves, her eyes dark and piercing.

"Grayson," the older man said coolly, "this is Gwen Musashi, the chief of the Police Special Operations Unit."

"It's nice to meet you," Gwen got up out of her chair, offering her hand. Jennifer took it reflexedly, matching the woman squeeze for squeeze.

"It seems," her superior gave Jennifer a clearly disapproving look as he continued, "that Section-Chief Musashi is here to discuss an application you put in to transfer to her unit." A pause, "Something that was news to me."

"I apologize, Sir," Jennifer apologized.

"It shouldn't take long," Gwen said smoothly, "if I can have her for half an hour, we should be able to get the interview completed."

Realizing that there wasn't very much he could actually do about it, Samuels sullenly agreed, "You have half an hour, then."

"Come with me," Gwen rose smoothly.

Gwen was out the door almost before Jennifer could stumble after her. With remarkable ease; Gwen navigated through the maze of desks and work stations, quickly reaching the hallway. She paused to let Jennifer catch up, then she continued on to the end of the long hall and out to the balcony on that level. A few plants struggled to survive in the dim light, with a couple of benches and a few ashtrays of various types scattered around.

On all sides the massive city rose up around the two of them. The only reason they recieved any sunlight was that they were on a middle level. The towers of the wealthy elite rising up above them like silvery needles, and far below them the sun deprived old city which the newer city was built over top of. The poor lived down there, and those that didn't want to be found.

Gwen walked over to the edge, leaning on the railing to watch cars on the elevated highways moving between buildings and levels. They stood silently for a few moments before Jennifer finally ventured, "It's an honor to meet you."

"Thanks," Gwen answered simply. Casually she asked, "So why do you want to join the Chasers?"

"Huh? I. ?" Jennifer blinked, startled by the sudden question.

"I checked out your record before I came here, Jennifer Grayson," Gwen said, continuing to look out at the city, "even called up some of your other commanders to see what kind of officer you are. No one had anything bad to say about you."

"Thank you," Jennifer murmured, a bit of a blush on her cheeks.

"What I don't know is why an officer with that kind of record want to join my command? We do all the dirty work, the dangerous jobs that other police aren't equipped or even trained to do." Gwen finally looked over at Jennifer, the beautiful woman's gaze piercing as she repeated, "Why do you want to join the Police Special Operations Unit?"

Jennifer met those eyes and confidently stated, "Because I want to help people, and I think the Police Special Operations Unit are the best way to do that. Normal police are just traffic wardens and social workers, but your people are the ones who actually help people."

"That wasn't a rehearsed answer," Gwen said, nodding thoughtfully.

"No, it wasn't rehearsed," Jennifer quietly agreed, nervously wondering if she had just put her foot in it big time.

Gwen pulled a perso-comp from her coat pocket, tapping it on and then accessing a set of files. She keyed something in, "I just approved your transfer."

Jennifer's eyes widened, "What? Are you sure.?"

"Looking at your file very nearly decided me," Gwen said, putting the slim computer away into a pocket before continuing, "meeting you in person finished it." She raised an eyebrow, "Unless you're having second thoughts?"

"No, ma'am," Jennifer said, shaking her head.

"Good," Gwen said, taking a set of papers from another pocket, "you'll report to our section of the police complex tomorrow morning, 0800 hours. We'll have an officer waiting there to help fit you out for your weapon, and begin your training."

"I'll be there," Jennifer nodded, standing at attention.

"Relax, you're not working for me just yet," Gwen said. She smiled slightly as she said, "Oh, we don't do uniforms in the Chasers. Business formal clothing, more or less."

"Right," Jennifer said, blushing.

Gwen ran a hand through her dark hair, "Now for the fun part."

"Hm?" Jennifer looked at her in surprise.

"You're boss isn't going to be very happy about losing an officer of your caliber, I can just tell," Gwen said dryly.

Jennifer nodded glumly, "True."

Gwen gave her a sympathetic smile, "You want me for back up?"

Jennifer hesitated, but there was only a sincere willingness to help in Gwen's manner. "I'd appreciate it," she admitted.
Samuels actually took it pretty well, overall. He was clearly disappointed when the two walked into his office to let him know that Jennifer was indeed transfering, but he looked like he was almost expecting it. He offered Jennifer his congratulations, and added yet another piece of glowing praise to her personnel file. Gwen left with a reminder of her morning appointment, and Jennifer went to clean out her desk.

And break it to Terry.

"You're transferring?! Now?" Terry Ramos blurted, looking at Jennifer in shock.

"Section-Chief Musashi already approved it," Jennifer sais with a smile, shaking her head in admiration. "The woman is incredible," she murmured.

"You were one of the few partners I've had that I could actually tolerate, damn it," Terry complained good-naturedly.

"I'm sure you'll break in a new partner soon enough," Jennifer assured as she packed all her personal items away into a large cube.

"Yeah, you're right about that," Terry sighed.

"And maybe you'll get a cute guy in my spot," Jennifer offered hopefully.

Terry's lips turned up in a smile, giving Jennifer an impish look as she noted, "Speaking of that, I see your new boss is a lot more pleasing to the eyes than Samuels is."

"Oh?" Jennifer tried to sound casual, but a faint blush colored her cheeks.

"Don't give me that," Terry pinned her with a fierce gaze before adding smugly, "you know I know the type you like."

"I don't even know if she'd be interested," Jennifer protested. She shook her head, "Besides, she's my boss. It's impossible."

"Uh-huh," Terry gave her a look.

Jennifer finished packing up her stuff, then with a few simple keys, she cleared her personal settings off of the desk. It would be all ready for a new officer, when one was bumped over to fill her vacant detective's slot.

Jennifer looked over at Terry, quietly saying, "I'm going to miss you, partner."

"Me, too," Terry said as she pulled Jennifer close. She squeezed her friend, not caring about the whispers in the squad-room as the others watched, then reluctantly let Jennifer go. "Watch yourself, please," she said in a whisper.

"Will do," Jennifer agreed. She collected her box full of goods and walked out without a backwards glance, back straight and her steps sure.

Terry watched her go, then she settled behind her desk with a sigh. "I hope those Chasers know the kind of gem they're getting," she muttered.

* * * * *

Gwen walked towards the door to their section, stopping there just before she triggered the opening sensor. The metallic door was marked with 'Police Special Operations Unit' in the typical black, regulation text, and just bellow it, painted on with a much more delicate hand was added the words 'the Chasers.'

'I really should have that removed,' Gwen thought to herself as she walked forward, letting the sensors in the door open it, 'but... I don't want to forget, ever.' She strode down the hall, entering what would have been a staff room in a larger unit. Converted into a combination of a break room and waiting area; it held a few couches, a couple of desks, microwave and freezer.

Curled up in a ball on one of the battered old couches Kate was fast asleep; snoring softly, her brown hair falling into her face, ruffled occasionally by her breath.. On a nearby table a half drunk cup of black coffee sat, slowly growing cold. Gwen picked up a blanket draped over another chair and pulled it over Kate.

"Rest up," Gwen murmured, "you're probably going to need it."

The connecting door led into the computer center, or as Beth liked to call it, 'the bridge.' It was here much of the work of being a Chaser was done, Beth gathering and using data to help track the rogue androids. She could even track them using their internal transponders, if enough information was found on the scene to identify the android in question.

"Hey Boss," Beth absently waved, running a series on checks on her systems. The redhead shifted between three different screens, her eyes narrowed. "Did you see Kate?"

"Out like a light," Gwen said dryly.

"That's what I meant," Beth shot her a impish smile. "So how does the officer check out?" she leaned forward curiously.

"Jennifer Grayson," Gwen handed a slim microdisk over to Beth, "she'll be reporting in here early tomorrow morning."

"She's suitable?" Beth said as she sat up in surprise.

"It looks that way," Gwen agreed. Beth put the disk into one of the computers, running through the information avidly even as Gwen continued, "We'll need you to fit her out with a new weapon, as well as brief her on operations."
"She's certainly a big girl," Beth murmured as she read the file, "maybe she'll be able to handle that cannon I refitted."

"Just keep in mind the powerful recoil of these antiques we use," Gwen reminded her, "they do take some getting used to."

"Right, right," Beth said, nodding.

Gwen sighed as she considered the situation. As time had passed police switched more and more to non-lethal methods of stopping common criminals. The stunners that were currently being used could stop any normal criminal in his tracks, but a malfunctioning android would just ignore the debilitating effects. To stop such things, the weapons of another era were reluctantly resurrected, the projectile weapons of the twentieth century.

'And we're the lucky ones who get to use them,' Gwen thought grimly. "Jennifer will be here at 0800; I suspect precisely," she added.

"Looking at this record I'm not surprised," Beth murmured as she read over more of Jennifer's file. Her eyes widened when she was the image, "She looks a little like...."

"Yeah, I know," Gwen agreed. She looked towards the break-room thoughtfully, "Try not to let Kate scare her away, please."

"I'll try," Beth sighed.

"I'm going out," Gwen said calmly, "but my pager and 'com will both be on. If anything goes wrong, contact me first, only then wake up Kate."

"Got it," Gwen heard Beth say as she left.

The lift brought her down to the garage in only a few moments, and Gwen navigated easily through the lines of cruisers that were waiting down there. Her car gleamed silver in it's spot, a single gesture from Gwen's hand deactivating the security and reactivating the onboard artificial intelligence of the sleek little vehicle.

"Good evening, Chief Musashi," the female voice said sweetly.

"Reset to manual configuration, please," Gwen said crisply as she settled behind the drivers seat, "I want to drive tonight."

"Acknowledged," the car replied.

Gwen started it and smoothly directed the car up the access ramp to street level. The armored exit doors irised aside silently, and she slid out into the rapid flow of traffic. Out of a sense of morbid curiosity she intentionally drove by the public entrance of the police annex and felt a flash of irritation at what she saw out there.

Just like every day this week a group of protesters milled about outside, waving signs or using projected images. The android rights protesters weren't very imaginative in their imagery, the police portrayed as hulking storm troopers, but their message was crystal clear: shut the Chasers down. Gwen searched the crowd with her eyes, and felt relieved that there wasn't a familiar face there.

A muscle in Gwen's jaw jumped as she clenched it tightly. "Uptown map, please," she commanded coldly.

"Map," the computer replied as an image formed in midair beside her, showing both the fastest route to uptown, and the layout of the upper levels of the massive city.

"Thanks," Gwen said as she followed the route, but she could have done it blindfolded if she had to. She slid up a final ramp, and almost gasped. Up above her, she saw the stars, ones that would be hidden from view below this mountainous level of the city.

Up here, Gwen's sleek silver vehicle barely fit in at all. The high priced vehicles that purred their way down the streets, the pollution free electrical engines carrying the people of this level around, were far more expensive than anyone on a lower level could afford. She drove between the silvery towers, breathing the purer air, then finally shook herself.

"Business recreation district," Gwen ordered softly.

The map came up again, and Gwen drove on. The buildings here were decorated a bit more tastelessly, intended to remind people of an earlier era. Finding the building she wanted, Gwen pulled into the under-ground garage, sliding her vehicle into an unoccupied place. She got out, only pausing to activate the security systems, and walked to the lifts.

"Ms. Musashi," the blue-haired young woman greeted Gwen with a smile as she emerged from the lift into the lobby, "it's good to see you again."

"Thank you," Gwen said to her calmly, almost instantly recognizing the android who stood there by name, "Calyx."

"You remembered," Calyx looked up at Gwen, her eyes showing her pleasure at such a simple thing. She accessed a document on a small personal organizer she carried, "Several hostesses have put requests in to be with you when you next came in."

Gwen raised an elegant eyebrow and asked, "Oh?"

"They do talk among themselves," Calyx said to her gently, "and you have developed quite a reputation as a gentle, respectful guest." She looked down, to avoid gazing at the clearly surprised Gwen, "Would you prefer if I chose a hostess for you?"

"Please," Gwen said softly, a faint blush to her cheeks.

"Please go to room number 112," Calyx said softly as she consulted her control panel, "a hostess will meet you there."

Gwen murmured her thanks again, walking down the hall. She found the room and entered, kneeling down by a low table. The room, like the rest of the rooms, was set up like a traditional Japanese home, with paper walls and wood. She breathed deep of the scent and smiled, feeling relaxed by the oddly familiar scent. She had never been to such a place, born and raised in this city, but still...

"Good evening," a quiet voice said as a door slid back. Gwen looked up and blinked in surprise, taking in the beautiful young woman who was standing there.

"Would you like me to pour your drink, madam?" Calyx asked with a nervous smile as she took the sake bottle in her hands, holding it in the traditional manner.

Gwen hesitated, then held out the cup, "Please."