Easter morning, 3:00. It was unusually cold for a day intended to celebrate spring. The sky had been clear all of the previous day, but the coolness that had seemed so pleasant hours ago now made for a chill significantly below my level of comfort.

That, and I had a bad feeling about the job.

Things had been good for me. Since the end of the year, I had only failed a single mission, and it was one that my agent admitted was a foolish assignment. The jobs had been pouring in and I was acing nearly every one. I was flush on my payments and had creds to spare. Life had been good to me.

I couldn't think about it now, though; the tactile sensations of the evening rang as a collective entity to form an ominous portent I just couldn't shake. The wind against my face was cold, though significantly muted by my cycshield. The air, while chilly still managed to feel oppressive, bearing down on me as I rode through the night. My cycle vibrated under me reassuringly, a familiar sensation, but it wasn't enough; I couldn't shake my anxiety.

To help reassure myself, I looked over my right shoulder at the limousine. It was fine, of course, keeping pace with me and the other mercenary, who rode his own cycle on the other side of the car. Everything had gone smoothly so far and there were only a few kilometers left to the trip. I returned my attention to the road ahead.

Naturally, I caught it too late.

He was standing on the faux stone awning of a nearby building, an impassive figure obviously waiting for our approach. Not even bothering to hide himself. I recognized the hubris as easily as the form of the figure.

It was Mazu again.

I cursed and slammed the catch that released my katana from its sheath on the cycle. Mazu was already in the air, hanging in my vision like a marionette for two very long seconds before slamming into the limousine so hard that the roof dented. I could hear panicked shouting from inside the car. I drew my blade and leaned to the right, moving in closer to the limo. The merc on the other side of the car shouted, obviously caught off guard.

"Fucking you again!" I shouted at Mazu as my cycle drew near.

Mazu looked at me and smiled a little. "Oh, hey," he said, then leapt off the car and onto the other merc's cycle.

The merc was caught completely helpless as his cycle was boarded; Mazu quickly landed behind him and grasped the handlebars with one gauntlet. The other came down on the merc's shoulder, crushing his cycshield. I dropped my speed so I could pull to the other side of the car quickly, but my timing was poor. Just as I leaned sharply and pulled to the right side of the car, I saw the other mercenary's body hurtling toward me. I cursed and overshot the turn, coming dangerously close to the curb as the merc flew over me and hit the pavement at 120 kph, making a sickening thump behind me.

I decided not to look back.

I gunned the cycle's motor and slowly approached Mazu. He reached around to his back with one gauntlet and pulled one of two devices that he had mounted on his belt from it. It looked like a bonding panel, which only made my bad feeling worse. Mazu looked back at me and shouted over the wind.

"Hey! What's up?"

I gunned the throttle of my cycle, not responding.

"Hey, it's kind of funny!" Mazu shouted, maneuvering the cycle toward the car carefully. "Last time was Christmas, this time is Easter..."

"Can we talk about this later?!" I shouted, annoyed, as my cycle neared Mazu's.

"With your name!" he said, a grin on his face like he was the first person to have thought of this. Jackass. "And we keep meeting on holidays!"

"Iyesu it's like fucking lower school again!" As I shouted, I swung my blade between Mazu and the car. The threat of the blade forced him to veer right and away from his intended target. His response was to hold a gauntleted arm straight out, as though signaling a left turn, and cut his speed drastically. I flattened myself against my cycle, letting Mazu's clothesline attack pass above me, then looked behind to see him pulling behind the car, to the other side.

I dropped my speed quickly, dropping to the rear side of the car, and was immediately greeted by the barrel end of one of Mazu's gauntlets, pointed directly at my face. I instinctively brought my katana up forcefully, catching the gauntlet and forcing it just far enough upward that the Tears fired from it cleared my head by inches. I moved forward quickly, leaning dangerously forward and slamming a shoulder into Mazu's chest. He grunted with pain, then shoved back and leaned away, moving to the other side of the car and bringing his gauntlet to bear again.

I was ready this time; as Mazu's gauntlets made their signature slamming noises, I drew my katana swiftly through the air with my left hand, cutting his Tears out of the air. He gritted his teeth and pulled forward and out of my sight. I did the same, so we were now on opposite sides of the limo. I hurriedly punched a few buttons on my cycle's dash, setting it into auto-run mode. I then let go of the handlebars, clambered tentatively onto the cycle's seat, and placed one hand on the roof of the limo.

Mazu was not ready when I vaulted onto the car. He barely moved a gauntlet up in time to catch my first forceful overhand swing, and it forced him to veer off course, again disrupting whatever he'd planned to do with the bonding panel. Due to my position, I couldn't advance, but continued my attack until Mazu was out of range.

We faced each other with the wind whipping past. I silently hoped that my shoes' grip pads didn't need to be replaced.

"You've improved," Mazu said after a short pause. I sensed a twinge of empathy in his voice and couldn't help but wonder why.

"Thanks," I replied.

"Hope your reputation didn't lag too bad from the Christmas thing," he said.

I had to laugh at that. "Lag? I survived a fight with Mazu. I've never had more business."

Mazu seemed annoyed by that. "You still lost."

"But I didn't die," I pointed out. "When you spare people, it's by accident."

"Yeah," Mazu admitted.

I paused a moment and studied Mazu's face, partly obscured by his hair whipping past in the wind. "Why was that?" I asked him. "Why'd you spare me?"

"Done with this," Mazu snarled, and brought one gauntlet up. He braced himself and fired a fusillade of Tears that he knew I couldn't block. I dropped to the lowest crouch I could manage, but was still caught by a tear against the side of my head and one on my right arm before I took enough cover. Though the wounds stung fiercely, I forced myself to uncurl from my defensive position just in time to see Mazu leap onto the hood of the car, spooking the driver and forcing the vehicle to swerve wildly. Once the ground was steady, I raised myself from the crouch and attacked Mazu mercilessly.

My sword swung again and again, battering his ironclad defenses without stopping. After a few seconds, Mazu faltered and stepped back, closer to the very front of the car. A shocked look slowly spread over his face as he realized that he was actually losing ground to me. Desperately, he shoved me backward and dove for the roof of the car, swinging the bonding panel down and connecting just above the windshield.

When he scrambled back to a standing position and away from my advance, I could see that cable was connected to his gauntlet. Mazu had modified one of his Tear launchers, connecting one teardrop-shaped Plasteel blade to a mag-anchor.

My stomach dropped as Mazu aimed his gauntlet at the wall. "Good bid, kiddo." He fired, slamming the anchor into the wall of a nearby building, where it held fast. Mazu crouched, slamming his gauntlets into the hood of the car and burying its claws into the hood. He was going to stay with the car.

I had no such option. I watched the cable run from the rapidly-retreating anchor to the bonding panel on the roof of the car and realized that I was about to take a high-speed trip to the pavement. I opened my mouth and barely managed to shout a voice command to my cycshield before the cable pulled taut.

My trip through the air was surprisingly graceful. Everything seemed to go quiet and slow down as the cycshield's bubble snapped up around me, and I executed a slow turn in the air. Upside-down and backwards, I watched the car behind me. The car was moving too fast to stop immediately, but the bonding panel had torn a significant portion of the roof off as it pulled away.

I watched the car as it veered off the road, now out of control. Mazu bailed just as the car hit the wall of a building, jolting all of those inside. My viewing of the event was interrupted, then, as my bubble hit the ground.

I caromed across the ground for far further than I was comfortable with, bouncing painfully off the ground with the cycshield's bubble cushioning me from certain death. I looked to the side and saw that my timing was good: my cycle was approaching!

I shouted a command and the bubble snapped away, leaving me to the mercy of the wind and empty air. I clenched my teeth, well aware of my mortality in that instant, and watched my cycle approach at high speed. My hands snapped out and I grabbed the handlebars, taking advantage of their steadiness to gain what little balance I could before I fell heavily across the seat of the cycle.

After a brief moment of maneuvering, I was back on the bike, activated manual controls and threw myself into a skidstop. Seconds later, I was headed back toward the car wreck.

Failure greeted me. Mazu stood impassively, as though waiting for me, with the body of my charge at his feet. The businessman's head was hanging from its hair, which Mazu gripped in one gauntlet. I let my bike slow to a stop twenty paces away from the mercenary.

Mazu held the head up. "I win again, kid. You did better."

I set my jaw. "Now what?"

"Mazu beat you," he said, smirking a bit, "But you got away. Again. You'll be famous at this rate. Happy Easter."

Mazu turned from the wreckage, and walked away, leaving me with the scene of my failed mission and my immeasurable confusion.

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This vignette by Dog.