Meeting Valerie

"Hey, kid." Valerie greeted Manfred. "Thanks for gettin' us a bigger room this time."

"Hi, Valerie." Manfred grinned, holding up the deck of cards that he had bought.

"Kid?" Jerry muttered.

"I've got some people I want you to meet. Friends of mine. They've been helping me since I started my freelance work."

"People?" Valerie looked past Manfred to see Jerry and Derek standing awkwardly by the door.

"In you go, boys." The guard pushed them into the room and shut the door.

Valerie's crazy violet eyes widened as she beheld the two young men standing just inside. "You." she pointed at Derek. "You're a Sabre. What are you doing here? How do you know-"

"He doesn't know anything, Valerie." Manfred interrupted. "He's in the same boat as I am. I never told him what I was looking for, but he's in the same position as me."

"But. . .he's a Sabre. Can you trust this one, kid? Are you absolutely sure?" she asked, as if she thought Derek wouldn't hear. "You were MTA. You know how these guys work."

"I know." Manfred said. "I can promise you that Derek is genuine. He left the Sabres five years ago."

Valerie's eyes widened even more. "So then, who's the other one?"

"Jerry Croft, a former Extra. He's a computer genius, one of the best."

"You mean he's a hacker." Valerie smirked in that unnerving manner that agitated even the most experienced prison guards.

Manfred nodded. "You wanna introduce yourself?"

"Sure thing. But before we get there, why'd you bring em to see me? I got nothing to tell em."

"I wouldn't be so sure." Manfred said. "You could see that Derek was a Sabre when he hasn't been affiliated with them for five years. But I did want them to meet you. We're heading back to Metro tonight, and I wanted them to know about your case before we go. Besides, you can't always play cards with two people."

"So soon? You can't just leave me hanging like this, kid, I've only met you twice now. But I can see us four playing cards. You boys know how to play crazy eights?"

Derek said nothing. Jerry responded with a "Crazy what?" and glanced towards Manfred.

Valerie shook her head in wonder. "Where'd you find these two?" she asked.

"They were involved in my last case. We've been a team ever since."

"Huh. Isn't that something." She turned to face Derek and Jerry again. "C'mon, boys, I don't bite. You gonna let me introduce myself, or should I just shout at ya from here?"

Jerry started to shuffle forward, but Derek pulled him by the arm once again. "Move." he muttered.

"I can walk, you know." Jerry countered.

"Yes, but your feet weren't going anywhere until I pushed you."

"I would have moved."

"Right, Extra. By the time you got over here on your own, we'd already be playing cards."

Valerie turned her head to look at Manfred. "Do they always bicker like schoolboys, or is this just for me?"

"Nah, this is their regular routine." Manfred replied, giving his two friends a look.

Jerry immediately calmed himself, and Derek's face reverted back to it's usual, unreadable expression.

The four of them sat down, and Valerie extended her free hand. "It's nice to meet you two. I'm Val."

"Jerry Croft." Jerry put a hesitant hand into hers a shook it.

"So the quiet one's called Derek." Valerie extended her hand towards Derek as well. "How're you doing?"

Derek, after Jerry elbowed him a few times, quickly shook Valerie's hand. "Been better."

Jerry glanced at him in surprise. 'Been better' was not an answer given often by Derek. Could it be another headache, worse then the one the other week when he had started to lose his vision?

Valerie looked a little surprised herself, but smiled that real, beautiful smile of hers. "Nice to meet ya. Sorry for freakin' out back there when I saw ya, I was just shocked. I don't mean you any ill will or nothin'."

"It's alright." Derek said.

Manfred began to deal out the deck of cards, while Valerie put forth a question.

"Well, how much do you boys know about me?"

Derek said nothing. Jerry, however, was happy to oblige her.

"The Man had me look up some stuff about you so that he could find you. But you're nothing like those old reports I read. They made you look like a total nutjob."

Valerie chuckled. "I'm crazy, I know that, buddy. But I'm not totally off the deep end. Just crazy."

Jerry shrugged. "I've seen crazier people then you before. It's not that big a deal if you're only crazy."

Instead of chuckling, Valerie burst out laughing. "I like this one." she said to Manfred. "Not afraid of speakin' his mind. What about you, former Sabre?" she looked at Derek. "What do you know?"

Derek shrugged. "Not much. I didn't hack into your records or anything," he eyed Jerry for a split second. "But I have heard of you. You're still well-known in the underground. The Wreckers know their propaganda pretty well. You're infamous."

At this, Valerie scowled. "You'd think that those guys would find something better to do with their time."

"Don't I know it." Derek agreed. "Do we want to know what really happened to you?"

Valerie told them her story animatedly, her crazy eyes livid with rage at the mention Wrecker's leaders and soft, but sat as she mentioned "Cassie and Mattie."

Jerry and Derek looked at eachother, then back at Valerie once the tale was over.

"Well, I guess you two got stories as well. Care to share em?" she asked.

The End

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