written by David Kuijt & Michael Surbrook
"So we're here," Takeda said pointedly to Marta, ignoring the vidscreen coverage of the attempted hijacking and Jagger's exasperated look. "What now?"
Marta smiled, "First we drop our stuff off at the hotel, then we go to meet my fixer, Miss Ling Ling Li."
The hotel was unremarkable. A heavy package had already been delivered for them—the guns they had ordered, most likely. Jagger took them upstairs, the stairs creaking alarmingly under his feet.
They had three rooms. Marta marched into one, telling Takeda that the rest of them could split themselves among the remaining two rooms as they wished. Takeda frowned, but didn't see that it was worth making an issue over.
Mojo shook his head. "Dat woman, she have a really big stick up her ass."
The meeting that evening was to be at a bar named Wyndham's down by the waterfront. Not surprisingly, it wasn't in a particularly good part of Hong Kong.
As they entered Wyndham's the team was hit by a wall of sound. A deep bass rumbled through the crowded confines of the nightclub, repeatedly telling anyone who cared to listen that 'if you don't like what you see here, get the funk out'. The air was thick with smoke. All around them rough-looking men dealt cards, drank beer, smoked cigarettes and handed money back and forth. Waitresses weaved their way through the press balancing trays of drinks, mostly dressed in tight skirts and open shirts.
Shaking her head, Marta quickly made her way to the back where a series of secluded booths lined the walls. She paused only once, to glance over at the stage where a scantily-clad Asian woman pirouetted supplely about a chair. A tall broad-shouldered man stalked the cleared area in front of the stage, flipping a balisong back and forth in one hand as he scanned the crowd for potential troublemakers.
As one, both Takeda and Mojo started forward after Marta. Jagger, Kenji and Ryan pushed their way to the bar, grabbing the first open seats they could find.
Arriving at a far booth in the back, Marta stopped in surprise. The man sitting on the far side of the table was certainly not Ling Ling. He looked tall, with a handsome face and short hair. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of dark sunglasses, but it was still obvious he was staring right at Marta. He was dressed in an expensive black suit, with a white dress shirt and thin black tie, over this he had a long black raincoat. A bottle of whiskey and an ashtray sat on the table in front of him. With an air of nonchalance he produced a fresh cigarillo, lighting it from the butt of his old one.
"Sit down, Ms. Nys." His voice was low and authoritative.
"Who are you," Marta snarled, "and where's Ling Ling?"
"My name is Ken," he responded slowly. "Ken Gor. As for Ms. Li..."
Turning to one side, he carefully pulled his jacket open, reaching inside only after making sure that Marta didn't intend to shoot him on the spot. Withdrawing his hand, he dropped a pair of battered glasses on the table top. "Ms. Li is enjoying the hospitality of Dai Lo Wang."
Marta stared at the glasses and swallowed. They were Ling Ling's—she recognized the bright gold frames. This pair was twisted and bent, with one lens shattered. Picking them up with great care, Marta tried to keep her hand from shaking as she glared at Ken Gor.
"What is it you want?"
"Me?" Ken acted surprised, "I want nothing. Dai Lo Wang, on the other hand... I believe he wishes to speak with you."
"Dai Lo Wang...?" Marta's glare intensified.
"Yes," Ken smiled, "I think you can guess why."
There was a blur, and Marta had Ken by the tie, pulling him across the table with deceptive ease. "Yes," she hissed, "I can guess why. Mr. Gor, you will take me to see Mr. Wang, and I will talk to him and you will release Ling Ling... do you understand?"
"Perfectly." Even with his tie wound around Marta's fist, Ken remained perfectly at ease.
"Good." Marta sent Ken back into his seat with a push, snatching up the bent frames with her freed hand. Turning away from the table, she glared at Takeda, who had stopped in the crowd to watch the interchange. "C'mon," she growled, and pushed past him.
Turning to follow, Takeda noticed that blood was beginning to seep from Marta's left hand; she was gripping Ling Ling's glasses tightly enough to cut her palm with the shattered lenses.
Ken Gor had a car waiting; after some negotiation he arranged for another car to accommodate the addition of the rest of the group. Jagger grumbled under his voice about the stupidity of getting involved in a Triad war at this point, but Takeda made it clear that he was not prepared to debate the issue. Kenji, as always, didn't let his feelings show on his face.
There were four gunmen at the gate to Dai Lo Wang's mansion. The gate was a heavily reinforced affair that looked strong enough to delay a tank. Jagger continued muttering darkly about the sanity of this whole business; he, Kenji, Ryan, and Mojo all had the shifty eyes of people who knew themselves to be in the sights of hidden gunmen but couldn't do anything about it.
The guards examined the occupants of the cars and demanded the team from Neo York turn over any weapons. Ryan glanced at Takeda, who looked up at the road to the estate before nodding and pulling out his gyrojet. Jagger grumbled even more before handing in his treasured 'Hammer of God'.
The house was a rambling, two story structure that reeked of money. It had spacious, well-tended grounds overlooking the bay. A view like that, along with the amount of open space, spoke volumes about the power and wealth of the owner in land-hungry Hong Kong.
Another dozen gunmen met them at the door to the house, led by a man that looked to be Ken's twin brother. Like his brother he wore a black suit and matching raincoat, and smoked thin cigarillos. Ken leaned over and spoke several quick words to his twin, whose name was Mark, and then brought the whole group inside.
The interior of the house was spacious and open; expensively furnished with white marble floors and broad bay windows. After walking down a short entrance hall and through a pair of heavy wooden doors the team was escorted into a extensive, airy hall. Mark and Ken walked across the wide, wood paneled floor to stand behind a scowling man in a very expensive gray silk suit. From Marta's fixed attention, it was clear that this was Tony "Big Brother" Wang.
Another dozen Triad gunmen stood around the periphery of the room. No weapons were out, but it was clear that Tony Wang was not taking any chances with Marta and her unknown friends.
Tony was listening to another of his lieutenants, who was speaking quietly into his ear. Tony frowned and waved the man back, dismissing him. The man blinked slightly and stepped away from his boss to stand near the wall.
Marta glanced his way briefly, giving him a casual examination. He was average height, well muscled, with an eyepatch that partially covered a slightly scarred face. His dress was casual, in sharp contrast to Ken and Mark. Marta recognized him by reputation as Mad Dog, a Triad gunman with a reputation for violence. Curiously enough, he was also known to have a strict code of personal honor.
A woman looked up as Mad Dog stopped next to her. Marta figured this to be his girlfriend, Mei. She was fairly pretty, with very long hair that fell to the belt of her ankle-length coat. A holstered pistol was visible as she turned to look at Mad Dog.
Standing close to Mei was Judge, whose polished appearance included an open-necked silk shirt and a fine sport coat. He seemed suave, slick, and sophisticated, and carried no visible weapons, but he looked about as harmless as a straight razor. Judge kept silent as the team entered the hall, although he openly sneered at the group of foreigners standing in the center of the room.
On the far side of the hall, near the windows overlooking the bay, stood a huge, burly Chinese guy known as Deano. He sported a severe buzzcut and wore fatigue pants and a white tank top that showed off muscles and more muscles. He cradled a Chinese-make AK-101 with attached grenade launcher under one arm, and a skanky-looking girl on the other.
The girl answered to Vixen. She was thin with wild black hair, and wore a tiny mini-skirt and a tight tube top that revealed enough skin to be illegal in many places. Too much makeup, a big revolver and a few belt-hung grenades completed the outfit.
There were another dozen men at the double doors behind the team. Takeda moved worried eyes to Marta's black hair. It all hung on her temper.
"So," Marta said haughtily, "you wanted to see me?"
Internally Takeda winced. Marta was as bad as her sister, covering fear and uncertainty with arrogance. But Shion could usually back up her arrogance. If a firefight started here now, they would likely all be dead in a matter of moments.
Scowling, Tony Wang stood, giving Marta a look of contempt. "Marta Nys," he said in slow measured tones, "look around you. It would do you good to give me the respect I deserve." Wang glanced at the group who had arrived with Marta, but clearly dismissed them as mercenaries or henchmen not worthy of his attention.
"Respect?" Marta sneered at Wang, "Disgust is more like it."
"What?!" Tony snapped, "Miss Nys, you presume too much! You come into my house and you refuse to give me face? Well," he snarled, "I will teach you to show me proper face!" He waved his hand at Mad Dog and Mei, smoothing his face into a carnivorous smile as they turned and passed through the door behind them.
Pushing his clairvoyant sight on ahead of the two Triad soldiers, Ryan soon found a dark, locked room. Inside a woman hung limply from an overhead pipe, the white cords that bound her wrists brown with soaked-in blood. Her upper body was naked, covered with a disturbing network of whip-weals, cuts, bruises and taser burns; her only garments a pair of ragged and torn black trousers. Her head hung limply, face hidden by a thick mass of ebony hair.
Ryan brought his vision back to the here, momentarily disoriented. He stepped over to Takeda and whispered in his ear.
"I've seen where they're keeping her. She's in a basement room; they're going to get her."
Takeda glanced around at the firepower arrayed against them, and Marta's shoulders taut with anger. A plan grew in his mind. If only he could stop Marta from losing it here, now. He turned to whisper back to Ryan. "Can you find it again, if we return here later?"
Ryan nodded confidently.
Takeda kept his face expressionless and moved over to Marta. He leaned over to whisper in her ear. She jerked suspiciously, then permitted him to put his face close to her ear.
"We've spotted where they're keeping Ling Ling", Takeda whispered. "If you can keep a lid on your temper so we can get out of here alive, we've got a very good chance of busting her out of here."
Marta gave Takeda a dark look, making it hard for him to tell whether she was going to pay any attention to his words.
The far door opened and Mad Dog and Mei entered the hall, supporting a limp Ling Ling between them. It appeared that the two had washed her up a bit, and clothed her in a clean, white long-sleeved jacket, but her head still lolled loosely on her neck. She was alive, but clearly either drugged or nearly unconscious from exhaustion and pain.
Marta stepped forward towards Ling Ling, face grim with anger. She gently put her hand under Ling Ling's chin, tilting up her face to see her glazed eyes.
Beside her, Mad Dog spoke to Marta under his breath. "I did what I could," he muttered.
Marta looked at him with cold eyes. "Don't think that will save you," she responded as quietly.
Marta turned to Tony. "What is it you want?" she hissed.
"You," Tony chuckled. "If you want to see your dear Ling Ling again, I want you to surrender yourself to me."
Marta glanced from Tony to Ling Ling and back, scowling darkly. 'Dear Ling Ling'? How could they know? It had only been that one night. Unless... she looked back over at Ling Ling's beaten body. Yeah, they probably knew.
"So you can kill me, is that right?"
To Marta's surprise, Tony laughed, "No, no, Ms. Nys, I want you to kill for me! You owe me a debt of blood and I intend to see it paid in full."
Marta glared at Tony, swallowing her anger for the moment. "How?"
"It's simple Ms. Nys. You killed... how many was it?"
"Nine." Mark said in a flat tone.
"Nine of my men. Add that to the ones killed by Ms Li and her two dearly departed bodyguards and you owe me 22 of Alec Quan's little brothers."
"Dearly..." Marta whispered, her face pale.
"Ahh..." Tony grinned at her obvious discomfort, "Yes, they are quite dead, I assure you."
Composing herself, Marta looked Tony straight in the face. "When?"
"When what, Ms. Nys?"
"When do I start?"
Tony gave Marta an appraising glance, smiling. This had been even easier than he thought. "Now, if you want."
"Alright, it's a deal. Twenty-two of Alec Quan's men by sunrise and you let Ling Ling go."
"Sunrise? You seem quite sure of yourself Ms. Nys."
"I'm in a hurry."
"Right." Tony motioned to one of his men. "Judge, why don't you escort Ms. Nys and her associates to somewhere she can begin her killing spree."
Judge smiled at his boss and dabbed at his brow with a silk handkerchief. Pulling back the sleeve of his coat, he glanced at his watch. "I suggest we hurry Ms. Nys, you only have seven hours."
Leaving was even more nerve-wracking than arriving, but the group was given their guns back at the gate without incident.
The trip away from Wang's mansion seemed interminable. In the lead car, the tension was thick enough to cut with a knife. Marta glared in silent fury at Judge and the driver, while the Triad gunman simply dabbed at his brow and smiled.
The lights from Tony Wang's mansion were barely visible from the rear window before Marta chose to act. Her hands were nothing more than a blur as she popped her razors and cut Judge's throat all in one smooth motion. Just as quickly, Mojo reached over and grabbed the driver's head, pulling him back over the seat and snapping his neck. The car shuddered for a moment before drifting over to the side of the road.
"Wait here," Ryan said as he stepped out of the car.
Walking back to the second car, Ryan held one hand up in the air and waved.
"---," he called to the driver of the other car.
Pulling over to the side of the road, the driver of the other car rolled down the window and leaned his head out. "What?" he asked.
"My cigs!" Ryan slapped his pocket, "Jagger's got my cigarettes!"
Blinking in confusion, the driver sat back in his seat, before turning to look at the cyborg seated behind him. "He say you have his urrrkkkk..."
Taking his hands away from the driver's head, Jagger dusted the palms together. "Let's get this over with," he muttered.
"The plan is really simple," Takeda said. "Ryan can spot where Ling Ling is; I can get to her if he gives me directions. So it's going to go like this. I will teleport everyone together into the room where Wang saw us. Ryan will spot Ling Ling; I'll cover him while he's doing that. Once he makes sure she's there, I go through the floor with Ryan and we go directly to where she is, then bring her back, and we all teleport out.
Takeda looked at Marta and the rest of the group, checking their guns. "The rest of you are there to cover us and shoot the hell out of any Triad goons you see. Got it?"
Jagger looked sour; the rest nodded. There was a series of metallic 'snick' noises as everyone checked the loads on their weapons, worked the actions, rolled their necks, and otherwise prepared for some bloodletting.
Takeda stood at the center of the ring of them. "Everybody face out," he said. "We'll appear in the middle of the room. Anything armed and moving is likely to be an enemy."
Marta simply stared ahead, a dead calm in her eyes.
Takeda caught Ryan's gaze. "Remember, Ryan—your job is to find Ling Ling and give me a direction, then come with me to get her."
Takeda put his head down, concentrating. A vein started to pulse in his forehead, and his eyes bulged out. His hair slowly rose until it was a dancing chaotic halo. There was a deep creaking sound as the pavement they were on fissured and split, and then they all disappeared, leaving the shattered pavement.
And appearing with a thunderous roar in Tony Wang's spacious reception room, stunning the dozen or so Triad members in the room.
Mojo ended up facing Tony Wang, who was talking with the twins, Ken and Mark Gor. His first bullet knocked Mark back, splattering the shiny floor with blood. Ken drew his own pistol and dove for cover behind his boss' chair. Mojo's next round whined through empty space, while Ken's return fire slapped Mojo in the armor plating of his jacket.
Turning aside, Mojo drew a bead on the figure of Mark, who was trying get under cover. The Chinese man wasn't fast enough, and Mojo's bullet blew his foot off.
"Dey not identical twins no mo'," Mojo said.
Kenji came out of the teleport facing a table of four astonished mooks who had been playing cards. With a pistol in each hand he sprayed the table with bullets, rapid-firing as fast as he could pull the trigger, scattering the enemy.
Jagger was facing a pair of guards and a potted plant. They didn't even get time to bring up their weapons as he shot them down, the huge special-built hand-cannon he used thundering loud even in the cacophony of gunfire coming from the rest of the weapons of the group.
Beside Jagger, Marta spotted Deano and Vixen. She snarled and shot Deano, then charged the duo. Deano shook off the impact and started bringing up his AK-101, finger reaching for the grenade-launcher switch as Marta came running towards him. His vicious smile was chopped off as Jagger's enormous hand-cannon boomed again, blowing his left leg clean off and spinning him to the ground screaming.
"You're welcome," Jagger called to Marta sarcastically.
Marta snarled and threw herself down in a slide as Vixen's drew her magnum, scissoring her legs to take the skanky girl down, but Vixen jumped up from under Marta's legsweep. Without even slowing her slide Marta fired three quick shots from her Hoshoku Zeta, the bullets tearing through Vixen's airborne body and sending her crashing onto the corpse of her lover.
On Kenji's side the heavy doors burst open and a flood of mooks came running in. Kenji switched targets from the shattered card table to the door, blazing away with both hands. Jagger added his firepower to the urgent threat also, the thunder of his hand cannon roaring above the din of the firefight. Bodies seemed to fall as fast as they entered against that tide of bullets; when Jagger's cannon hit center of mass on a Triad gangmember the luckless wight was thrown backwards into the rush, sometimes in two pieces.
Takeda was trying to look in every direction at once, one hand on Ryan's shoulder. Winds from nowhere whipped their hair around. Ryan was staring fixedly in the distance.
"I've got her," Ryan shouted over the shooting. He pointed down and away. "One floor down, that way!"
Takeda looked the direction he pointed for a moment, fixing it in his mind. "Let's go!" Takeda snarled in concentration and gestured roughly towards the polished wood floor beneath their feet. It crumpled, splintered and tore, and the concrete beneath it shattered and fell, leaving Takeda standing on thin air for a second in the middle of a two-meter hole, then he smoothly flew down to the floor below. Ryan scrambled to follow, holding his pistol in one hand as he jumped down through the gap. Marta saw them go, cursed, and jumped up and after them, shooting an enemy gunman three times as she ran, then flipping into the hole head first.
The Triad head, Tony Wang, had been stunned at the unexpected attack. After he recovered he had started screaming at his guards to kill the intruders. Having shot down both Gor brothers, Mojo put a bullet through the center of Wang's body. Red splattered the dark gray suit, and Wang slumped down into his chair. Not intending to leave Wang's death to chance, Mojo sprinted over, putting a round into Ken Gor as he ran. Tony Wang lay crumpled in his seat, face working with fear and fury as he clutched his wound.
"You are a ver' stupid man, Mr. Wang," Mojo said, and put a bullet between the Triad leader's eyes to punctuate his sentence. "Big mistake, pissin' us off." Then he turned, snapped another clip into his heavy gyrojet pistol and picked off another gunman coming out a door behind Kenji.
Kenji turned and added his fire to Mojo's, shooting down the three gunmen coming out of the new door.
As the last gunman fell, Jagger turned from the carnage at the main door and spotted one more gunman hiding behind the potted plant. The mook turned to run as Jagger's eyes fell on him, but too late. The cyborg smoothly brought up his hand cannon. The impact blew the gunman through the plate glass window behind him, somehow miraculously unbroken until then, with a deafening clash of shattered glass.
Silence fell. Some shells tinkled on the hardwood floor as Kenji, Jagger, and Mojo checked around them. Kenji put his hand to his shoulder and brought it back bloody. Just a flesh wound, but he had no idea when it had happened. Mojo and Jagger were unhurt.
"What a colossal waste of time," Jagger said bitterly, feeding shells into his weapons. Mojo came back to the group whistling tunelessly.
Kenji's hands automatically popped the clips in his pistols and put new clips in, motions that they had done hundreds of times before, but his thoughts were elsewhere—what a terrible pity, he thought, that he didn't have his suit with him. All that high-quality video footage he could have had...
Down in the halls below, Takeda flew in a standing position, feet a few inches above the floor, hair wild and wind preceding his passage. At intersections he would pause for Ryan to catch up or call the direction he should go.
"All the way to the end of the corridor, then right," Ryan panted. "Armored door. Can't miss it."
Takeda was off like a missile, passing through the next intersection without slowing down. When Ryan came up to it, though, he saw a tall, muscular and bald Triad tough running up towards him from a side corridor. Ryan turned to face him.
Takeda shot around a corner. At the end of the hall stood Mad Dog in front of a heavy door. Mad Dog's eyes widened at Takeda's approach, but he didn't seem very surprised. He made no offensive move, just reached over to the door and pushed it open.
"They're here," he said in a normal voice to Mei, who was now revealed by the swinging door. She held Ling Ling, but not as a hostage.
Takeda flew up and landed by the door, watching Mad Dog carefully, but the gunman made no offensive move, just returning Takeda's careful gaze.
Takeda stepped into the room, floating Ling Ling out of Mei's arms into his own. Mei stepped back, disconcerted, glancing at Mad Dog.
Marta came sprinting around the corner as Takeda left the room. She ran up, splitting her attention between Mad Dog and Ling Ling. As soon as she saw that Ling Ling seemed okay, she stared at Mad Dog as if wanting him to try something, anything. Mad Dog looked back impassively.
"Time to go," Takeda said. He levitated a few inches off the ground and swept by Marta and Mad Dog, moving far faster than a man could run.
Marta stared at Mad Dog a few instants more, then stepped back a few steps, turned and ran after Takeda.
As Marta ran out of sight around the corner, Mad Dog relaxed slightly and glanced at Mei. "I told Wang it was a bad idea." Mei looked at him with worried eyes; statacco gunfire still echoed down the hall from the distance.
Down the hall, Takeda flew past where Ryan stood panting over the bloody figure of the bald muscleman. The Triad heavy had been as tough as he looked, ignoring Ryan's strikes and shaking off a 9mm bullet as if it had been nothing, all the while knocking Ryan around with crushing kicks that would have taken out someone without his defensive teek field. The tough hadn't been tough enough to take an Earthshaker round in the gut, though, and Ryan had finally taken him down.
"Fall back, Ryan," Takeda called as he flew by. "We've got her; let's get of here!"
Marta came sprinting down the hall behind him, and Ryan took a deep breath and followed.
Takeda levitated up through the hole in the reception room floor, clothes and debris whipping around him. The room was full of cordite fumes, torn bodies, and the coppery smell of spilt blood. Jagger, Kenji, and Mojo had weapons out, but there was no sign of resistance. Jagger's face showed his distaste for the whole mission.
"We all right?" Takeda asked, looking around, as Ryan and Marta scrambled out of the hole. "Let's get out of here."
There were a tense moments as Takeda concentrated and everyone else faced out, looking for anyone who still needed killing, then there was a slight 'whoomph' sound and they teleported away.
A couple of minutes later Mad Dog and Mei came into the room and examined the carnage. Mei's eyes were wide with shock. Mad Dog just shook his head. "I told him; either kill her or dump her, but keeping her was a bad idea. A really bad idea."
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