"Hey, Sorry," I say, "I'll get out of your way."
"Shut yer mouth yeh sorry eejit!" He's drunk off his ass, and he wants this.
"Hey, I'm leaving," I say, and start trying to push my way past. I'm shoved back up against the wall.
"Yer fookin' dead, 's what yeh are!"
There's a dangerous crazklebuzz from behind them. The old barkeep's got her taser leveled on the whole group of us, and its pulsing with ready electricity like a swaying cobra. Thank God for that.
"Yoo boys take yer fight with that sorrey fecker oot back, ken?"
"Yes ma'am," they say together. Shit.
My face hits concrete as I'm hurled out the backdoor. I go numb from the pain--try to drag myself away, but they're on me, kicking the living hell out of me with hamlike fists and big industrial boots. I'm hurled up against a dumpster and I collapse on my hands and knees into bio-waste and trash, spitting blood and retching for air.
"Take 'is fookin' money," says the leader with the metal skull. "An rip that chip out of 'is head, 's worth cash on the market."
Not looking good. I try to go for my gun but my limbs won't respond. One of them whips out a pair of pliers, and they close in.
What happens next makes me think maybe I need to quit drinking. Something comes from the shadows like a panther and bashes the guy with the pliers twenty feet into a corrugated metal wall. It bends with the force of his impact, and a loud CLANG echoes through the alley. There’s screams and the sound of metal ripping flesh, pounding muscles and bone, and the big Irish guy's head caves backwards and spatters the alley with chunks of blood and bone.
Like a dumb statue, he crashes to the ground.
"Oh feckin' hell!"
The rest of his gang goes scampering down the alley, crashing into trash bins and each other, pale as ghosts. My savior reaches out a hand, light-chocolate colored with long crimson nails.
"Jack Fenix, I presume."
I glare up at her. Sleek black leather adheres to her muscular form. Her skin's like milk latte, smooth and creamy brown. Her hair's pulled back in dark ringlets, and she's watching me through red-tinted sunglasses. She's chewing a cheekful of gum. She's a cybernetic ally enhanced femme fatal with a dancer's body and enough implanted muscle to level a building. What the hell does she want with me.
"Who are you," I stutter out.
"My name is Tess. I have information that you need."
It could be a ruse--CyberCorp's latest cyberassassin model taking a test run on my ass. Then again, I get this weird feeling she wants to help me. Why would she have saved me from those thugs, if she was just gonna kill me herself?
"Get the hell away from me," I say, drag myself up, and eye her suspiciously. Get a grip on yourself, Jack.
I take her hand and she pulls me to my feet. Better learn more about her.
She’s obviously a spy. Better take her out now.