From across a distance of many miles, Zarana and Mainframe spoke to each other in secret. Their meetings were pre-arranged and agreed upon in advance. At the appointed day and time, Mainframe would find a computer with an internet connection and log on.

He used the internet cafes scattered throughout the city, never using the same café twice in a row. You never knew when Cobra might be watching. It was best to be safe. Mainframe was sure that Zarana was doing the same thing, far away.

Zarana: Hey there, I missed you.

Mainframe: Did you have any problems?

Zarana: You know they'll never find me unless I wanted them to.

Mainframe: You mean your brother.

Zarana: I see him sometimes, from far away, patrolling the streets. Him and his gang.

Mainframe: Do you think he's still angry?

Zarana: You know he'll never forgive me.

"Here, Zarana," Ripper said sadistically, "You do the honors."

A short distance before them in the dark city alley, Dial Tone and Mainframe lay on the dank pavement. Mainframe looked around him, as if in a haze. He had been shot in his shoulder. Next to him, Dial Tone was writhing in agony, clutching his neck, trying to stop the blood from pouring out of the bullet wound.

Buzzer knelt down by Dial Tone and said, "Thought you Joes could slip by us, could you? You just don't know when you're beaten, don't you? Can't you see we Cobras are running the show now? This is what happens to people who can't handle the reality of the situation. Ain't that right, Torch?"

"Bet your ass that's right," Torch said.

Zarana pulled out her pistol and aimed it at Mainframe's head. The two of them exchanged a meaningful look. Zarana's hand trembled as she tried to summon the will to fire on the man she had long had a soft spot for, ever since the day she had infiltrated the Joe headquarters and ended up falling for him.

Go ahead, Mainframe's eyes told her. Don't feel bad. They'll kill you if you don't shoot. I couldn't let that happen. Go ahead and shoot.

Lightning and thunder. Rain began to fall hard, drenching everyone.

Ripper stood next to Zarana and breathed into her ear. Zarana could smell his malodorous breath, tinged with the scent of grape soda.

"Do it," Ripper said.

Zarana shut her eyes, and in that moment, her course of action was clear. The other three Dreadnoks were all standing around her and the two fallen Joes. In her mind, Zarana weighed the odds and made her move.

In a flash, Zarana pistol-whipped Ripper in the face, as he stood next to her. Knocked senseless, Ripper crumpled to the pavement. Buzzer and Torch turned to Zarana in surprise, not sure of how they should react. After all, it wouldn't do to shoot their boss's sister. They brought up their weapons anyway, and Zarana, wresting Ripper's rifle free, swung it around toward Torch. The rifle's butt connected with Torch's head, knocking him out cold. With a mad cry, Buzzer threw down his chainsaw and dove at Zarana, tackling her to the ground. They wrestled in the rainy street, oblivious to the cold, the noise of the storm, and the two Joes lying helpless on the ground close by.

"You rotten traitor!" Buzzer spat out. "If you weren't Zartan's sister, I'd cut your heart out."

Buzzer was choking her. He had his full weight on her, and he was forcing her into submission. Zarana hazily perceived the street curb to their side. With all of her strength, Zarana rolled toward the curb, grabbed Buzzer, and slammed his head into the edge of the curb. She pulled out her knife and was about to cut his throat when she stopped herself.

"I'm not going to be a killer anymore," Zarana said to herself as she returned her knife to its place.

Dial Tone was dead. His eyes still open, he gazed out uncomprehendingly at the rain falling from above.

Zarana closed Dial Tone's eyes and turned to Mainframe. Mainframe looked weakly at her and smiled.

"I'll take care of you," Zarana said as she bent down to pick Mainframe. She carried him to safety.

Later that night, Mainframe awoke to find himself lying in bed, in a motel room. He looked down at his wounded shoulder and saw that it had been bandaged up.

Mainframe looked up and saw Zarana standing at the side of the bed. Her body was wrapped in a towel, and her hair was damp, as if she had just come out of the shower. Zarana's rain-soaked clothes were draped over a chair, next to Mainframe's clothes. With a start, Mainframe realized that he was naked beneath his blankets.

"Sorry, I had to undress you. You were soaking wet," Zarana said. "I didn't peek while I was doing it. Honest."

Mainframe gulped. This was a strange situation he found himself in. One moment, he was on the brink of death, and the next thing he knew, he was in a motel room alone with Zarana.

"How are you feeling?"

"Out of it," Mainframe said. "But thank you."

Zarana put a hand on Mainframe's forehead and stroked his cheek tenderly.

"I couldn't do it, Mainframe. I couldn't hurt you."



"My name is Blaine. Call me Blaine."

Zarana smiled as Mainframe touched her hand and gently tugged her toward him. At that moment, something snapped, and they abandoned their restraint. Zarana climbed onto the bed, took Mainframe's face in her hands, and kissed him hungrily. They lost themselves in the moment. As Zarana straddled Mainframe on the bed, she felt his growing arousal through the bed sheets that separated them. The towel that was wrapped around her body began to loosen, and Mainframe's eyes widened as Zarana's body was slowly and tantalizingly revealed to him for the first time. The shape and size of her breasts, her hardening nipples, the smooth contour of her skin. The idea of this woman revealing herself to him filled him with sexual hunger. Ignoring the dull pain from his shoulder, Mainframe pulled Zarana closer to him. He could tell she was becoming turned on as well as she rubbed herself over his erection. Soon, she reached down, grasped his member with her hand, and gently guided him inside of her. She teased him for a bit by hovering above him, allowing him to enter at the tip, and then she eased him all the way inside, delighting at his growing moans of pleasure as she fully enveloped him. He drowned himself in her warmth and her heat as she rocked her hips back and forth, riding him as he grabbed hold of her breasts, until he could take it no more, and came inside of her.

Mainframe: I think about you every day.

Zarana: I think about how we made love. I want you to make love to me again. I wish we didn't have to be separated like this.

Mainframe: Let's meet each other again. In person.

Zarana: Are you sure?

Mainframe: We have to find a way to be together again. Even if it means having to hide all the time. I can't live without you.

Zarana: We'll find a way.

Zarana quietly logged off her computer and stopped to pay the cashier. Exiting the internet café, Zarana adjusted the brown wig on her head and walked into the crowded streets. A giant television screen in the center of the city square flashed the face of Cobra Commander. Cobra Commander's slimy voice filled the air as he lectured the citizens in the civic virtues of Cobra.

Zarana noticed Buzzer twenty yards away, leading away a man in handcuffs.

"We'll teach you what happens when you break the law!" Buzzer cried with enthusiasm. He was dressed in the blue uniform of the Cobra police.

Looking in Zarana's direction, Buzzer paused for a moment, and Zarana was afraid that she had been spotted. Buzzer shook his head and forgot about it, going about his business.

Zarana walked past Buzzer and the Cobra policemen. She slipped away into the darkness, carrying her dreams and desires with her.