“Yes, Mr Cyr, your turn,” Zai said. “We know what you did outside our establishment. While your dedication to your client is admirable, you did hurt our people. We cannot let this pass unavenged.”
“You can’t prove I was there.”
“Oh? Mr Allondir disagreed. When we approached him, he told us you came to his rescue.”
I narrowed my eyes. “So you had him bring me here.”
She laughed. “Of course. Why else would we organize a face-to-face meeting?”
“I’m…I’m sorry,” Allondir whispered.
Responding to that piece of shit was a waste of breath. Instead, I said, “What exactly do you want?”
The triad security team moved in. The orc stood by Kang, while his partner got behind Zai. Dress shoes clacked behind me.
“Why, you of course. Your cyberware will fetch us a pretty penny. And you know what the next big market is? Organs and stem cells. You appear to be a prime source of material.”
A cold black muzzle pressed against my skull. “Get up,” a goon growled.
I brought my hands up, standing slowly. “We can talk about this.”
Zai smiled. “Don’t worry. We have every intention of keeping you alive as long as possible. Stem cells don’t grow in dead bodies, after all.”
“This is a mistake.”
“You shouldn’t have messed with us.”
The goon grabbed the back of my collar, pulling me away from the table. I let him drag me for a couple of steps. Heard him kick my chair away.
“Sylph! Soundproof the room!” I yelled.
Sylphs were among the smallest of astral creatures. So small that unless you’re specifically looking for one, it’s very easy to miss them. The one I had created last night was still going strong. It phased itself back into the real world and disintegrated into balls of light, painting the room white.
Sound is a vibration that propagates through a medium. To halt sound, the sylph need merely inject mana into the air to increase the energy threshold needed for further sound wave propagation. As the gangsters digested this implication, I brought my hands to the back of my neck, reaching down along the spine. My right hand closed on a plastic handle. I yanked sharply upwards, drawing the knife and spun around, snapping my right hand down and stepping out.
It wasn’t merely a deflection. It was a forearm blow. Between the twist and the smash I cleared the goon’s hands from me. Chambering the knife low, I grabbed the back of his elbow and slammed the blade up into his abdomen and tore upwards. Felt flesh part. Ripped up and out. His guts spilled out. Stabbed him again, ripped out what was left of his insides. Kept stitching him up and down. He tried to turn into me, but I held his arm in check. He tried to block the knife, so I circled the knife around his arm, kneed him and sank the blade into his neck. He jerked back.
My blade was held edge-up. He tore his own throat out.
I shoved his weapon arm away and stepped out, hammerfisting his side as I exited, pushing him down. The next triad man was right in front of me, his pistol up in two hands. Good reflexes, but he brought a gun to a knife fight. As he swiveled to track me I slapped the weapon away with my left hand and arced the blade up into his gut.
The fucker stepped back and hollowed out, dodging the attack. I crashed into him, left forearm against his neck, slamming him against the wall, stabbed him in the groin—
The knife snapped.
Shit. Full-body cyborg.
The shock of the blow reverberated down my arm, sliding my hand forward and on to the remains of the blade. As I dropped the knife handle, he slid his gun arm up, trying to angle a shot at me. I slid my left arm down, found his wrist, and jerked him to my left.
His pistol roared.
He pulled away from me. I shot my right palm under his left arm, striking him in the chin. I followed through, pushing him up on his toes and destroying his balance. Cyborg or no, he could not fight anatomy. Even with CNT muscles and carbon fiber limbs, raw strength could not overcome bad structure. When my arm reached its natural limit, I whipped my hand down, slamming his skull against the wall.
He froze, stunned for a moment. I reached around, grabbed the gun, and pried it free.
The weapon was a Glock 92. No manual safety, no complex mechanism, just aim and shoot. Thank God. I placed the pistol in my right hand and worked the slide with my left. A shining brass cartridge flew out; the weapon was loaded and working.
The triad man stepped away from the wall. I caught his sleeve and pulled him down. Wrapped my arm around his neck. Gained his back. Aimed past his right shoulder.
There were four targets: the orc, Kang, Zai, the other goon. As my prisoner struggled, I circled around, placing him in between me and the orc. That brought the last gangster time to bring up his pistol. I extended my weapon and canted it slightly. My vision narrowed to a pinprick; all I saw was the triangular tip of the corner of the slide, roughly aligned with the goon. I fired once, twice, thrice, four times.
As he dropped, I felt electricity building up in the air. Through my ringing ears, I heard chanting.
“-ddess of the air, hear me!” Zai shouted.
I snapped the Glock over. Brought the gun upright. The factory sights were tiny nubs, but the white-painted front sight sharpened into crystal clarity. I trained it on her.
“Steal the breath from Cyr’s fire!”
The 9x23mm round caught her in the face. As she dropped, a blue-white sphere exploded from her, engulfing the room, covering us all.
I brought the gun on the orc. Pressed the trigger.
The Glock was fine. Slide in battery, rounds in mag, good to go…
Shit. The bitch had cursed me. When a shooter pulls the trigger of a gun, it sends the firing pin forward to strike the primer, which in turn causes a spark that detonates the gunpowder that propels the bullet. The hard CLICK was the firing pin striking the primer without effect. Zai had increased the energy threshold for sparking and detonation, effectively disabling the gun.
The orc grinned. Raised his Glock.
I exhaled sharply. The curse had struck him too.
He swore, dropping the gun and reached into a pocket. I stepped—
Tried. My limbs were frozen.
No. Just sluggish.
Fuck. Cyberlimbs ran on hydrogen peroxide. Zai didn’t just increase the energy threshold for firearms; she halted all high-energy exothermic reactions in the area, including the kind needed to decompose hydrogen peroxide to generate power for my limbs. The cyborg I held captive groaned and tried to speak, but all that came out was gibberish, and he went completely limp. He was hors d’combat. For now.
But me, I had sprung for top-of-the-line gear. The cyberlimbs had supercapacitors and reserve batteries for emergencies like this. I could move. Just very slowly to conserve power, unless I forced myself into motion. I let the cyborg’s gun drop from my hand and shoved him face-down to the floor. The orc pulled something from his pocket.
“Allondir!” I yelled.
“What?” he said.
“I can’t move! Get over here!”
He scooted over to me. Kang laughed, and so did the orc.
“Tear my left sleeve open. Now,” I whispered.
SNICK. That sounded like a switchblade.
“Open my left sleeve or we die.”
He grabbed the cuff of the sleeve and ripped. Tied to the underside of my forearm was another sheathed knife.
“Put the knife in my right hand.”
The cyborg moaned and yammered, but he couldn’t betray us. Allondir drew the knife and placed it in my palm. I reversed the blade, holding it edge in,
The orc loomed behind him. “Out the way, elf!”
He grabbed Allondir and shoved him aside. As the orc turned to me, I summoned my reserves and sprung up, screaming, launching my blade at his face.
The orc swore, bringing his forearms into a tight guard. I snaked the knife around him with a forehand stab, going for his throat. But he turtled down, and I got his eye.
He screamed again and exploded out into a shove. I staggered, stumbled against the discarded chair. He closed in, stabbing wildly, but his depth perception was skewed and he missed by inches. I moved right and he struck out with his left arm. Bringing my left arm up, I brought the knife down in an overhand slash, trying to catch his blow and bring it to my elbow. His last knuckle caught on my forearm and slid off. Disengaging, I spun around and vaulted across the table. The orc roared, advancing and turning the corner.
I snatched the teapot with my left hand, momentum carrying it to my armpit. At the same time, I brought the knife up and by my ear, pointed at the orc. I spun around as the orc closed into bad breath range and flung the teapot up at him.
He brought his arms up, but the pot shattered against them and hot liquid splashed all over his wounded face. As he shrieked, I slid up to him, sheared his knife hand away and pinned his arm against his side. I dug the point of the blade into his chest and twisted left, breaking his balance and slamming his back against the wall. The knife slide down, sinking into his gut. I took the opportunity to rip down and out. Stab in, rip out. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
He tried to turn, spinning into me, but with his balance broken he only succeeded in dropping further. Reaching up, I held the arm in place and sank the knife into his neck. Closed my eyes, buried my face into the crook of my elbow and spun out.
Flesh parted. Blood gushed. Loud gurgling.
The moment my back was to the orc I opened my eyes, wiped my face with my free hand and headed for Kang. He had a Glock out too, pointed at me. I juked low and left, slapping the gun away. He fired, and the bullet whizzed past my ear. As he swung towards me I caught his forearm against the back of my blade. Hooked his weapon hand and reeled him into me, grabbing the back of his elbow and fileting the inside of his arm. The Glock dropped.
I stepped around him, wrapping my arm around his neck. I transferred the knife to my left hand, then brought him down so I could kneel and take the pistol.
Scanning, I saw the former cyborg shield pick himself up. I blinked. The curse had broken and I didn’t realize it. As Allondir scooted away from the gangster, I worked the slide of the Glock with thumb and forefinger, and aimed it at the cyborg.
“Oi!” I shouted. “Stop right there!”
He brought his weapon up with his left hand, trying for a headshot. A round went wild above me. I hammered him in the chest, stitching my way up and blowing his head out.
The security team below had to have heard the shots. “Allondir!” I yelled.
“His gun! Take the gun!”
“The knife handle I dropped! Pick it up too!”
I couldn’t do anything about the chair and teapot. But that, in of itself, was nothing. There would be hundreds, if not thousands, of fingerprints on them. If the cops ever found a usable fingerprint I could always claim that I was at a meeting with the duo last week, and there was nobody alive who could contradict me.
As Allondir pocketed the handle, I said, “Now get behind me!”
At that moment, the door burst open, revealing a gangster at the door.
“Back off!” I yelled, aiming the weapon at the goon. “Back the fuck off now!”
“What the hell—”
I sank in the choke. “I have your boss here. Back. The fuck. Up.”
The gangster switched to Mandarin. “Boss, what do I do?”
“Don’t worry about me,” Kang whispered in the same language. “Just kill—”
I shot the gangster in the face.
“I took your advice,” I said.
“Fuck you,” he said, in English.
More gangsters burst in. I pressed the gun against Kang’s temple. “Stop! Stay where you are!”
“Lower your guns,” I said.
They looked at each other, and at Kang. “Boss—” one started.
I fired. He flinched, ducking. Damn. Missed.
“That was your only warning,” I said, returning the gun to Kang head. “Lower your guns. Now.”
“Do it,” Kang hissed.
The gangsters complied.
“Here’s what’s going to happen,” I said slowly. “The elf and I are leaving. The Chairman is coming with us. Leave us alone, and we will return him at the door alive. That is all we want, for all of us to go home. Fuck with me, I will kill him and the rest of you.” I pressed the smoking muzzle against Kang’s face. He cursed. “Tell them what I said.”
“Allondir, place your left hand on my left shoulder. Do not let go. And follow me.”
I pushed the hostage forward and out the door.
“Back up,” I said. “Go back to the stairs. If you try to sneak around me, Kang dies first.”
The gangsters complied, keeping their guns in their hands. I didn’t know how well they had been trained, but if the orc was any indicator, they at least had some idea of what they were doing. If I ordered them to drop their weapons, it could be a trigger to go for a headshot.
“Down the stairs. Now.”
They went down, grumbling and cursing. The rest of the security element was waiting, guns trained at the foot of the stairs.
“All of you, back to the stairs,” I ordered.
“Fuck you,” a brave soul ventured. “You can’t kill of us.”
“I can kill the chairman,” I said, inching towards the stairs. “Do you want to risk it?”
“Nobody else has to die today, you understand? Just do what I say and back up to the stairs.”
They stood around.
“I cut the Chairman,” I said. “If you want him to live, you’d better move.”
The peeled arm looked horrible to the crowd. The triad shooters hustled to the stairs. With my weapon I gestured them down. At the ground floor, there were even more security goons waiting. I barked directions at them, ordering them to gather in the center of the restaurant. My back to the front door, facing the assorted gangsters, I said, “Allondir, check outside.”
A moment later, he said, “All clear.”
“Call the driver. Tell him to pick us up.”
Kang whispered, “You’re not going to get away with this. We’ll find you. We’ll kill you.”
“I have lots of friends,” I replied. “Kill me, and my friends will come back. They will destroy your organization, kill all your friends, and kill you. Slow. And when they are done they will burn Bangkok to the ground and salt the earth. Your death will be the stuff of legends.”
He spat. “Brave words. Don’t threaten me.”
“It’s not a threat. It’s a fact.”
“Is that it?” he snorted. “We are everywhere. You are but one man. We will—”
An engine purred behind me.
“He’s here,” Allondir said.
I cut Kang off with a choke and dragged him outside. The gangsters followed.
“You’ve got shotgun,” I said.
I heard the door open, and slam shut.
“You’re a dead man walking,” Kang said. “We will find you. Cut you up and turn you into a bag of meat. That’s all you are, you hear me? Just a bag of meat for—”
Hardcore criminals do not make idle threats. If they issue warnings, they will follow through. They do not forgive and they do not forget. If a crime boss repeatedly says he means to kill you, believe him.
I pushed him towards his men. Opened the door. Got in. He turned to face me.
“You first,” I said.
And shot him in the face.
I slammed the door shut. “DRIVE!”
The driver didn’t need to be told twice. He hit the gas. The triads fired blindly in the distance. The talisman glowed, kicking up powerful winds that deflected incoming rounds. I tore open my bug out bag and changed out of my blood-soaked clothes.
“Is it…is it over?” Allondir asked.
“Ask me again when we’re back home.”
If you enjoy blending sci fi and fantasy, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES.
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