Hand over brow, searching a chilled trove of beverages, the quaint chime of convenience store music wasn't doing Liliana's insomnia any favors. One might think her to be just another nocturnal creature, one of the night walkers stuck in limbo, distant and freakish like a subspecies. In truth she did prefer afterhours, but that was because her business always picked up. Opening the shielding to the cold void, Lili squinted and freed an icy bottle of mountain water from its berth, letting the door suck shut on its own as she slowly trotted to the counter, a friendly face greeting her. "Out on patrol again, eh? Eh-heh-ha. I think you could use a stronger drink, by the looks of it." The clerk was old-fashioned and looked like an old, worn book, but was charismatic as people come, well-liked in the community. The African-American of sixty put down his crossword puzzle and punched up the refreshment, much to Lili's disinterest. "Throw in a bottle of aspirin over there while you're at it, Tom", Lili mumbled as she nuzzled the web between her thumb and forefinger. "Hey, this one's on me, kid." It was a favor, and as much as Lili didn't do what she did for favors, she was too tired to care at the moment, and sighed to herself. Heroes don't ever think of themselves as heroes, no one does, but in a big city, word of mouth is law, and the riff-raff knew the places that were untouchable. Lili made sure this place was one of them. "By the by, not to pile on, but when you shake off the blues, another greasy barnacle's been sniffin' around here again." Already breaking into the bottles, Lili downed 325mg of relief and tossed an inquisitive look to the elderly man, "Meth mouth?" "I chased him off about a notch before you came by. I don't need that around here, harrassin' my customers and all; damn pushers. Well, anyway, if it's no shine off your boots, maybe you could put out one of your 'friendly notices'?" Lili exhaled slowly and kept her eyes averted of the bright light overhead, the luminosity throbbing at her temples. "Not like I wanted a night off, or anything. Any idea where he came from?" "I'd say go west, near the subway, I figure. Folks tell me it's a real rat's nest over there, though I never heard of a clean patch of city once you go past 36th." "Well, I'm fresh out of poison, but I guess my boot could use a work-out." "Heh-ha, that's our girl. Hey, we really love ya 'round here, don't do anything stupid though, you hear?" Lili stared in thought, recalling times she's picked fights with gang members and a special occasion where she allowed herself to be kidnapped by slavers, simply to learn where they operated. It was the luxury of being an advanced covert weapon, to be able to take crime by the balls and ride it hard. * Ducking out of the store, Lili was happier to be back in the infinite urban darkness. With no more thought than flicking a light switch, her eyes subtly shimmered, increasing the low-light clarity and allowing her to see everything in monochrome. The walk was brisk but didn't attract attention. Turning the corner at some rundown apartment building, it didn't take long before one of the roaches scampered in front of her, peddling his clear, toxic rocks. "Ehh bebe, bebe, what'chu say? This ice won't cool you down, no-no. I'm talkin' fiiiire, bebe, I got what you need. What'chu say? Ready to rock?" If he'd use less than half a bottle of cheap cologne to cover up his rank odor, maybe he could afford some Neutrogena and a comb. Lili kept her distance; she was worried that he was without a flea collar. This was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. "Maybe later, cutie. That Easy Mart over on 27th isn't handing out permits. So put the word out, because the next needle whore that sticks his toothless head around there is going to get it kicked in. Follow me, vein-banger?" The words were like claptrap to the mush-head, but the colloquial was clear, and he decided to empty his mouth on her, staining her topcoat of lightweight material with scummy globs of spit. Lili's eyes narrowing like a bird of prey, business was indeed going to pick up tonight. "Bad idea." The mongrel quickly went for a weapon tucked into his pants, but the dark-haired girl planted her right foot, snapped her hips and sent her left leg around, jerking her head with it to locate and connected with a clean roundhouse that knocked him for a loop, spurring him to spin, stumble and fall to his hands and knees. The only thing worse than his stench was his bark; it was used to its annoying potential by howling like a mad man. Delivering early on a promise, she punted the side of his head with the rim of her boot to shut him up. Like a call to arms, another pest arrived and immediately intruded with a sawed-off shotgun. His loud entrance from a nearby doorway to his first floor apartment, however, was telegraphed, and Lili had quickly drawn her .45 and dropped the challenger in one shot to the heart. There was now a flurry of activity and shouting, and by this time the lone hero had taken cover under the solid deck of the second floor. Tactically making her way toward the stairs, she bucked up against a column near the base of the ascension and watched for movement. Another door flew open on the first floor, a smaller man with a bandana tied over his face. Lili gave him a courtesy moment, allowing him a chance to run, but when he spotted her, his fate sealed before he could set aim, two shots knocked him off his feet permanently. More yelling came from above; a torrent of chaos and confusion gripped the den of rodents. Meanwhile, the dark-haired lass was cool and collected in her hunt, shifting around the square support pillar and peaked around the corner, looking up the stair case. She was just in time to meet a charging bull in a white tank top. He rushed past Lili who tripped him up, his face smashing into a low curb. A pair of rounds into his legs neutralized him, but Lili made doubly sure by kicking the gun a good 20 feet away. It was almost pitiable the way the last one never saw it coming, but few of her enemies ever had that pleasure. The night was her cloak, and she donned it wisely, her vision unimpeded. The smell of blood in the air, Lili skulked up the stairs and made her way around the second floor balcony. It was much quieter now, but a few more shouts could be heard in the distance. Lili stayed low, slithering her way with silent steps, clutching her modified Glock 21 firmly. * Without warning, a loud voice was heard, and it was coming closer. An apartment door behind Lili busted open, and a muscle-head emerged, pumped full of go-juice. With cat-like reflexes, Lili lunged forward, leapt into the air and drove her knee into his head, hoping to keep the noise down. Alas, the powerful blow only reeled the brute into the open door, prompting Lili to spike the butt of her gun directly down onto his cranium with a sickening impact. Still only stumbling, the beast of a man enraged; turning and clutching Lili by the waist, lifting her off the ground, he drove forward, spun himself and slammed her into the hard, unforgiving wall, almost knocking the wind out of the young girl. She immediately drew her gun up, but he swung his arm like a wooden club, disarming her. Now down to a brawl, the animal wrapped one of his hands around her throat, crushing her windpipe. With only a moment to escape, Lili masterfully tucked her legs in, slipping them between herself and the monster, thrust her hips and wrapped them around his neck, sliding his head all the way up between her thighs, cinching with all her strength. Within seconds his eyes began to bulge and he had to make a desperate bid to free himself, much to Lili's temporary relief. Unable to budge her vice-grip, the psycho used all of his strength, clutching the like a sack of potatoes and slammed forward into the wall, and then again. After taking three stiff blows, Lili used the next attempt against him and swung all of her weight to one side, pulling the man with her in a head-scissor, directed straight over the nearby railing. With amazing agility, she was able release him, free herself and hold on as the man plummeted 15 feet straight into concrete. Beaten and broken, he appeared to lie motionless. Lili rolled back onto the balcony, scampering with choking breath to retrieve her loose sidearm. Other than some distant screams of terror, the violence appeared to be over. Analysis began sparking within the veteran crime fighter, and her sixth sense started to tingle. But taking another look over the edge, she felt there was little more she could do. She decided to enter the apartment of the steroid freak, and began tearing through whatever could be found. Guns, bomb-making ingredients, money, but above all: chalk. Crystal meth; there was enough to cover an Italian family reunion. Ready to smash and dash, there was a faint noise somewhere, and the distinct feeling of being watched. Lili approached the kitchen pantry, redrew her Glock, and eased the door open before knocking it off the hinges with a strong kick. There crouched a sobbing creature, a girl, younger than she. Her skin was deathly pale, with dirty-blonde hair strewn about; cowering in fear, the addict shielded her face, which was soaked with tears and mascara. "P-please, d-don't kill me. I don't wanna die! I ain't got anything to do with this and I saw nothing. I'll disappear, I won't say nothin', I s-swear!" Lowering her guard, Lili moved in, grabbed the girl and pulled her up by the hair, eliciting a fearsome cry from the pitiable tramp. She was forcibly removed from the pantry, pushed face-first against the nearby table, gun's barrel held to the back of her head. The whore's skirt rode high and her thong was ornamental: she was nothing but entertainment here, and clearly got regular abuse. Lili knew to press for answers. "There's more rock here than Britney could swallow. Where are they getting it from?" The girl's sobs made her completely incoherent, and a light, liquid trickling on the floor was more than Lili bargained for. Holstering her weapon, the slut was pulled upright and slapped precisely, shocking the girl and throwing some sense into the fragile mind. Turned out she really didn't know much, but she'd overheard talk about two locations: an underground club in the heart of downtown and the docks in the industrial sector. It was vague, but they were leads to chase. Whatever this operation, it was big, and Lili was intent on bleeding it out of the city.