In Theory and In Praxis

Participants:

kay_icon.gif monica_icon.gif

Featuring

jiba_icon.gif

Scene Title In Theory and In Praxis
Synopsis Kay and Monica are assigned to a new mission to extend a New York hello to Praxis Industries representatives and… Well. That escalated quickly.
Date April 15, 2018

Company Profile: Praxis Industries is an international company with multiple locations. Their main R&D headquarters is established in Germany, with manufacturing factories in southern China. Their specializations include infrastructure and urban development, industrial electronics and equipment, and (not strangely) a division of ergonomic designer housewares and furniture. Known for their high volume imports contracts and straightforward business culture, Praxis Industries has been slowly and steadily growing on the global stage for some time even before the Second American Civil War. Their tactics seem simple and straightforward: negotiating bulldogs who relentlessly pursue the goal of making an appealing, saleable concept, and pressuring the intended client so that they can’t refuse the deal (by completely legal means, so they claim).
In many areas, this company represents direct competition with Yamagato Industries. Backed by Chinese investors looking to turn a profit on building contracts in the U.S., the company reached out for a market share grab of the U.S. areas that are in want of an alternative to the status quo. A successful meeting with Mayor Caroline Short for a contract amendment that contains an exclusive telecommunications bid, including infrastructure creation, has turned into a business opportunity for the company’s shareholders and would be a significant cut into Yamagato’s contracts in New York. A legal team is already working on a counter-initiative, but the process needs to be catalyzed.

Target Profiles (Surname, Given name):
Hú, Shāi-mìng (胡筛命): Male, 47, Non-evolved: Praxis Industries foreign markets liaison. Handling the negotiations with the state of New York. A paunchy businessman whose average appearance throws off a bullish nature and sharp mind. Speaks fluent English, Mandarin, French and German.
Chuāng, Xíong (莊雄): Male, 38, Non-evolved: Hu's personal assistant. The only son of a family of millers, he moved to Beijing and joined Praxis as an intern, eventually proving himself to be a capable executive assistant. Married to the job, some would say, as he is never without a phone to check communications from the office. Speaks Mandarin and English.
Jiāo, Yù (焦玉): Female, 36, Technopath (Mental Class-C). Jiao is Former Republic of China Military Police (ROCMP). Her registered ability states that she can affect digital functions of machinery and computer software, but limitations and methodology is classified/unknown. Jiao is an orphan, her assumed name an alias. The ROCMP are not forthcoming with details about the woman. Speaks Mandarin, English, French, and possibly other languages accessible from her ability.
Security: The three representatives are protected by a detail of four Praxis Heavy Industries security officers who are staying in an apartment on the floor below the 3-bedroom suite. All the guards at least speak fluent Mandarin, though not all speak English.

Objectives: Eliminate all listed Praxis representatives and security detail. Prevent Jiao from accessing and transmitting Yamagato Industries secure data.

Special Requirement: By whatever means possible, make it look like overflow violence from Staten Island and discredit the Praxis representatives reputation so the mayor and governor will reconsider and reject the contract amendments. No significant or unrepairable destruction of the building in Red Hook where the Praxis representatives are staying. Do not leave any evidence that will point to incriminating Yamagato Industries.


MISSION START


Special orders arrived in Monica’s apartment, again through a black A4 folder with a tablet containing information on the targets and her objective. Whoever drops the folder off is good, leaving no trace of how they get in to the secured apartment or who they even are. What they are, is clean.

This time, Monica does not have to even leave New York, but the mission is tricky. A trio of Chinese representatives of Praxis Industries arrived close to the beginning of March, rented the top two floors of an as of yet not-lotteried 12-story converted mill space apartment building in Red Hook, and have been meeting with Mayor Caroline Short in intensive weeks of negotiations. Towards the end of the allotted time for their trip, they finally had a major breakthrough with the mayor. She kicked up the proposed contract amendments to the governor’s office, where it now is assumed for swift approval. They also got an extension for their trip, in expectations of the contract approval and further negotiations with state representatives to hash out details.

But, given it is the weekend, most government employees aren’t working, including the governor’s office. The window of opportunity is thin, and Yamagato Industries activated their asset to cut off this loose thread before it unravels the company’s infrastructure contracts with the state.

It’s rare when Kay pays a personal visit to her operative before a mission. Often she simply sweeps off to her office and keeps their contact and conversation to their comms. Today, she sits on Monica’s sofa with her own tablet on her lap, having gone over the details of the mission, answering any questions and allaying any misgivings. As always, Kay’s impressed by Monica’s professionalism.

It’s even more rare when Monica finds her handler looking apprehensive. “It isn’t often that I have any personal feelings one way or another about these missions.” The but is implicit, and it’s dangerous to admit to. “The boss says to extend them a New York Hello. If they suffer on this one… I’d consider it a bonus.” There’s bitterness in her tone. Whatever grudge she has against Praxis, it’s enough to encourage this kind of candid conversation. “Ultimately, it’s your choice. I won’t hold it against you for doing it your way, whatever way that is.”

There is little doubt that Monica has noticed the differences, but she hasn't mentioned it. Even the oddity of Kay being here at all. But with Kay feeling bitter and apprehensive, it's important to Monica that she be steady. Reassuring. And that's what she is during the briefing. During the conversation that follows.

"Well. They want it blamed on Staten Island's local color," she notes to her handler, "And I understand that suffering comes with the territory." She doesn't find any pleasure in the assignment, but then, she never does. "They sent along the goodie bag for a reason," she says with a crooked smile, "I don't think it's for the victory party." No, the drugs are for the frame up, not for fun.

"I'm really good at the New York Hello."

A lot of organizations have benefitted from this in the past. Yamagato is just the latest.


Red Hook, Mill Space Apartments


The brickfaced apartment building is meant to be a series of large open-concept lofts in the upper three floors and affordable smaller single and family units in the lower floors. The representatives, having rented the top two floors, have alternated between living on the topmost floor (their favorite, must be the view) and the security detail occupying the floor below which has mostly been used to entertain guests, meet with state representatives, and functions as a working office space for the group.

An overall lazy Sunday has the representatives working on some important decisions, like where to go for dinner. It’s tough given as there’s a food shortage in the Safe Zone, seeing as there’s seven mouths to feed in total including the guard count. Wherever they go, they tend to draw a crowd of hungry eyes and slavering mouths. The Praxis Industries reps have no worries about affordability and resources. The company representatives’ expense list is live updated thanks to Jiao.

“«I don’t know. But I’m tired of the American food,»” Jiao complains as she types away on a sleek laptop. “«All those potatoes are going to make my butt fat.»”

“«That’s why they like it. Americans» like big butts and they cannot lie,” mock-quotes a man seated a couple seats away from Jiao, cleaning a disassembled gun.

“«I could run out and get something to cook,»” Chuang offers, glancing up from his phone, leaning against the kitchen countertop while he nurses a glass of water.

The offer elicits a groan from the older middle aged man, Mr. Hu, lounging back on a soft leather couch, his feet propped upon a couch arm and a book opened, resting on his sizeable midsection. “«It will take too long, plus, waiting for you to come up with a menu? Your cooking is fine, Chuang, but what about the rest of the ‘Four Heavenly Kings’? They would surely starve, with the portions you serve!»”

The nickname given to the four security guards assigned to the group gets a round of laughs and chuckles, especially from Hu, the man who finds his own joke the most amusing of all.

“«Maybe we should go down to Yamagato Park again,»” Jiao suggests, with a frown of concentration at her screen. “«I need better range to try and access their work servers. That Jiba is proving to be quite the adversary.»”

It wasn’t hard to get a listening device into the building. Yamagato’s reach in the Safe Zone is far-reaching, and a little goodwill goes a long way. For all the good it does Kaydence, being as she doesn’t speak the language. But she can understand the most relevant words.

«Your ears burning, Barnes?» From her office, Kay watches the building from a security camera atop a building across the way. Her team has tapped into it and she’s got full control. They installed the darn thing, so it should give her exactly what she wants. «They’re talking about us.» Converse to the mission briefing, Damaris’ voice contains all the sugared sweetness Monica is accustomed to hearing.

Inside one of the elevators, Monica is busy using the ride up to change out of the business suit she walked in with— enough to hide the arm— and into a more relaxed workout style outfit. "I'd be disappointed if they weren't," she remarks to Kay, folding her suit and placing it in the messenger bag she carried in with her. She didn't bring guns, as usual. If she needs one, she'll take one. Her usual excuse. After sliding on comfortable shoes, she cracks her neck and straightens up. "How's your view?" she asks as she glances up at the floor numbers.

The car stops.

The bell dings.

The doors open.

Monica picks up her bag and steps out, taking in a breath before she starts for the guards' apartment. She has the job of making one person look like ten, and she's not about to fall short of the mark. Which is why she breaches the door by kicking it open. Cracking wood, a loud bang, meant to surprise and tip them off balance as she starts her assignment.

The live audio to written script translation software still has some bugs to work out, but Yamagato’s software programmers have managed to get it to the point that Kay gets a semi-legible machine-generated translation from what is being spoken in the apartments both on the top floor and bottom floor. The feed is about ten to fifteen seconds behind. But as the programmers say, that’s all ‘data points’.

Much more efficient are the livestreaming feeds from security cameras outside of the millspace building. Across the way, the cameras that normally watch activity on the streets below now point directly into the large loft space windows, aimed into the open concept common areas of both 11th and 12th floors, where the Praxis Industries employees stay. At present, Kay has all the activity of a Chinese version of a 90’s ensemble cast sitcom to watch and listen to.

Of the three guards downstairs, with their leader cleaning his gun upstairs with the representatives, two of them lounge idly in the central area. The third guard, heading up the staircase to the upper bedroom area, towels off after a short workout. Maybe, if Kay’s being honest, her view’s not all that bad on the 11th floor. There’s no time for such thoughts, though, when the elevator car stops and the loud ring of its bell is caught on the bugged audio. If it’s that loud, then it’s obvious the occupants of the floor have heard it too.

One guard on the couch remarks to the other, “«Think they’ve finally decided where to go?»”
“«With our luck, it’s just going to be the captain telling us we’re on our own.»”
“«Ugh, you’re right. I might just try to get some chips, then.»”
“«Eating all those fried potatoes is going to make your ass fat, Fatass.»”

The tease earns a rueful glare, and the first guard pushes up off his ‘fat ass’ then looks at door, expectantly.

Nothing really prepares them for the sudden loud bang and splintering wood of Monica’s frontal assault. There’s ducking, flinching, and then as guards usually are, they’re alerted. Surprised. But given that they see she has no visible weaponry, the guards are emboldened. “Who are you?” demands the first guard as Monica steps through. The second guard starts forward to confront her. Third guard bolts up the staircase, headed for the bedrooms, likely to retrieve a weapon or call in the intrusion.

How’s that view? «Pretty damn good.» Monica can hear the grin in Kay’s voice in her ear. «Nice entrance.» There’s a tacit get ‘em in there. By the point, Monica’s handler is rarely bothered by her nerves. This job, though? This one’s different. There’s a vendetta attached. While she knows she shouldn’t make these things personal — can’t make these things personal — Kay needs to see this one go well. Better than well.

She knows, nerves aside, that Monica won’t disappoint.

As she watches the guard dash up the stairs, Kaydence Lee realizes she misses the thrill of the chase. Sometimes. This would be one of those times where she’d rather be a partner in this endeavor than an observer, even if she’s essentially dead weight to the SLC-E operative. «I’ll keep eyes on twelve. Fuck ‘em up, Barnes.»

While she can’t thwart a technopath, Kay has had the landline connections on the two floors routed to the phone on her desk. If a call out is made the old fashioned way, she can intercept it and delay.

Inside the door, Monica only pauses a moment. For effect. Her bag drops and she looks between the two guards in front of her. They ask. She doesn't answer.

She charges ahead, but not for the pair. No, she runs for a wall, running up and along it in a way that seems almost inhuman before she launches off and kicks off a support to fling herself up to the upper floor. Hands grab onto the loft railing and she hauls herself up and over to land in a crouch. And then she rushes the third guard, kicking hands away from weapon or comm device, whatever he's aiming for. One, then the other, leg pinging between them. Before her cybernetic arm swings in for a punch to the face.

Kay’s view into the loft apartment common room shows her a pair of surprised guards when Monica wuxia-moves herself from the lower half to the top. Shouts of alarm come from the bottom pair, and they have to rush towards the stairs to try and catch up. Given the circumstances, they’re at a definite disadvantage despite having the numbers.

The open concept plan of the loft has but a few slabs of dry wall to be the intended privacy barriers of the space. It’s enough for normal renters, anyway. While Kay doesn’t see the flat out assault Monica enacts, she can hear it through the open comms. Monica’s kick knocks out the cellular phone in the guard’s hand, but the man sidesteps the punch with a sweep of an arm to block the swing, throwing out a quick jab that strikes back and catches her in the jaw. But it’s a jab, not a full on blow. Either way, Monica knows in an instant that this guy knows how to handle himself.

Running up the stairs, the other pair of guards are soon to be upon Monica.

This would be the best martial arts movie Kay’s ever watched. Monica looks even less believable in practice than some of wire work in those films, though. It’s impressive and awe-inspiring. Almost enough to make a person jealous. Except Kay’s got this job because she wanted it.

So far, they haven’t gone for weapons. With any luck, Monica will have one dispatched before they realize their mistake. While her focus is on the scrap happening on the 11th floor, Kay’s eyes dart back and forth to the monitor that displays the 12th floor, where she’s seen a gun. It’s always a good idea to keep eyes on the gun and count the bullets.

The jab connects, but it isn't enough to throw Monica off. She catches his arm, twisting at the wrist until it breaks. She's not here to mess around, is the message. And her prosthetic makes forceful moves such as this one easy as butter. She yanks his arm, turning him to face the stairs the other two are climbing up and she kicks him in their direction.

And she follows, the body a distraction more than an attack, since she knows he is capable of regaining his feet before any real damage is done. But she's there, grabbing one by the front of his shirt to headbutt him in an effort to throw him off his balance while he's still cresting the stairs. It isn't a fun fall, she assumes.

Unlike the martial arts movies, the fights aren’t choreographed, but very real. The sick snap of the guard’s wrist elicits a pained yell, and the shove of the guard towards his companions brings the third back into view on one of Kay’s monitors. One of the guards catches the man, propping him up on the railing while the other is grabbed, headbutted with a crashing of skulls, and sent toppling down the steps in a rattle of dull noise. His heavy body slides down to land at the mid-way curve.

The last guard standing thinks better of confronting Monica on his own, eyeing her arm and the two downed guards. After a split second’s pause, the last guard swings himself over the rail of the stairs, landing on his feet and then sprinting for the kitchen area. His hand reaches for a large chef’s knife, pulling it off the block and spinning around to a defensive stance.

Upstairs, the three representatives have in the interim decided on heading to the park, or at least looking for a spot near the gates. Jiao taps several keys on her laptop before shutting the display. The guard captain has re-assembled the gun, checking it over once more to make sure that the firearm’s good to go. “«Chuang, call the others,»” Hu remarks from his spot on the couch, still finishing up his read. But he’s close to the end of the chapter and checks the page before he closes up the book. Chuang hasn’t moved either, but his phone is unlocked again to dial for the guards below.

Inside the bedroom on the far end of the downstairs apartment, a light, poppy tune starts to play with the expectation of someone answering.

«They’re calling for their goon squad.» Kay’s nails tap restlessly on her glass-topped desk, lips pressed together as she considers what suggestion to offer. «There’ll be a gun headed your way. Fridge Largemeat was kind enough to clean it for you before he delivers it.»

The man with a broken wrist soon has a broken neck to go with it as Monica crouches next to him to finish the job. And then she starts down the stairs, a glance spared for the man with the knife before she gives his fallen brother a similar treatment. Cold. Methodical. And one left.

Kay's warning brings her attention toward the phone, but she lets it ring. The note about the gun gets a smile and a salute sent toward the windows. She doesn't speak to her handler, though, not yet. A silent attacker can be intimidating and that's what Monica is going for as she finishes descending the stairs. A glance around the room has her plucking up a lamp— it is shaped like a panda, she might remember later— and yanking the cord free from the wall. Her hand loops the cord in big, lazy loops before her steps bring her toward the kitchen and the man with the knife.

«Mood music time. Got it.» The salute draws a grin from the handler, who’s pulling up a playlist on her computer while she flicks glances between screens.

Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)

Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)

«That’s better.»

Monica looks over at him and his defensive stance, but doesn't bother with her own. No, she rushes, cybernetic arm ahead to deflect the knife if she can while her right arm preps to jam the lamp into his gut.

Two down, one to go. The bodies of the pair drape unceremoniously upon the stairs, their dead eyes at unnatural angles bearing silenced witness to the fight below. The last guard grips the kitchen knife tightly, eyes wide like a mouse before a cat. This mouse, though, doesn’t plan on going out without a bit more fight. Monica’s methodical approach gives him a little time too, and when he sees her grab the panda shaped lamp, those wide eyes narrow.

Black Betty had a child (Bam-ba-Lam)

The forward rush sees the guard brace, then spin and swipe the knife for a more vulnerable part of Monica’s less metallic self, but she manages to just catch the tip of the blade slicing off a few strands of hair dangerously close to her eye. The cybernetic arm takes the brunt of the slice, a high shrill screech of the metal contacting stiff carbon fiber that sounds like a scrape of a car door. The guard takes the lamp in the side, but he levels a hard knee up into her hip in countermove and pushes away, backing up several steps into the corner of the L where the cabinets meet the stovetop.

The damn thing gone wild (Bam-ba-Lam)

Above the fray on the next level, Chuang frowns as he checks his phone for signal. “«Mr. Red didn’t answer, but maybe I lost signal. Let me try Mr. White or Mr. Blue,»” he notes aloud before trying another phone. Both the guard captain and Jiao shoot annoyed, but suspicious looks towards the assistant. Jiao huffs and heads off to her bedroom, disappearing from view as she ducks inside. The delay causes Mr. Hu to stir from his lounging position. “«Mr. Yellow,»” says the Praxis rep as he adjusts his pants on his sizeable midriff, “«try the landline. These Americans and their shitty cell service…»” The captain moves and grabs up the receiver of the landline phone, punching in numbers.

She said, "I'm worryin' outta mind" (Bam-ba-Lam)

The damn thing gone blind (Bam-ba-Lam)

Downstairs, the phones for Mr. White and Mr. Blue start ringing in turn, providing a jarring counterpoint to the music playing in Monica’s and Kay’s ears. The landline that’s been redirected starts to ring on Kay’s desktop as well.

The sound of the scrape of knife blade on Monica’s prosthetic has Kay instantly typing up a work order to have the limb checked out by their cybernetics people. Her eyes don’t leave the monitor with the action even as her fingers fly over the keyboard and send the order in. If she hit the wrong keys - and she didn’t - they’ll ask for clarification.

«These idiots think they’re Reservoir Dogs,» the blonde grumbles as she reads the transcript of the conversation that’s happening upstairs while Monica is taking care of business on the eleventh floor.

The phone on Kay’s desk rings.

«Big wigs are calling. Radio silent on my side. Keep up the good work, Barnes.»

Her left hand lifts from her keyboard and rests on the handset of the phone on her desk. She waits one, two, three rings before she lifts it off base and cradles it between her ear and her shoulder. “New York Safe Zone Switchboard,” Kaydence greets in a sweet, nasally, and decidedly New York accented voice. “How can I direct your call?”

“Yes, we have trouble to reach out to our security,” Mr. Yellow’s voice replies to Kay’s in his own heavily accented tone. It manages to be polite, disguising the flatness with as respectful a tone as he can muster in the second language. “They are staying in downstairs. Please, connect our call to…” The guard captain pauses, having to look at the number of the landline downstairs, then translating the digits to English for Kay to take down.

“Oh, sure!” Kay replies with the enthusiasm expected from every operator in a customer service industry. “Let me connect you right away! Hold a moment.” She hits the button on her phone to put the call on hold and counts seconds in her head.

«R&D’s gonna love us this time,» she says with her own voice again into the hot mic when she sees the knife clearly sticking from Monica’s prosthetic limb through the camera across the way. «Going to keep them in suspense until you’re ready for your grand entrance.» She cuts her mic again and re-engages the line on her telephone.

Strands of hair fall and Monica watches from the vantage point of them being right there next to her eye. The knee connects and she hits the fridge with a thud. But she bounces off and comes at him again. The ceramic panda is shattered against the counter, leaving her with a jagged edge as she closes in on him and shoves the sharp ends into the side of his neck.

There's nowhere for him to go but down. Even before she stabs him.

Once he is down, though, she tosses the lamp carelessly and moves to the main room again. Radio silence means that there's no music as Monica grabs her bag and heads back out to the elevator.

The fight between Monica and the guard comes to an abrupt, gurgle filled end as a ceramic shard of black and white gets splashed with red. Not before the kitchen knife in his hand has stabbed into the robotic arm, though it doesn’t get very far against the armored exterior. There’s a slight dent, and the rest of the blade sticks out from her bicep with a wobble of the handle, slightly mocking in its attempt to have harmed her.

Monica leaves the 11th floor kitchen in a bit of a mess.

The operator is back. “Gosh, I’m so awful sorry. Your party doesn’t appear to be available. We’ll send someone up right away to check in on them. Please stay on the line with me and one of our representatives will be with you shortly.”

“«Mr. White and Mr. Blue aren’t answering either,»” Chuang reports after a pause and a disturbed look at his phone screen. “«But I have full bars.»” The observation is more for himself than for the others. At that point, the assistant tucks his phone away in a pocket and instead adds, “«I’ll go downstairs and check on them.»” Mr. Hu nods in agreement to this decision, and goes over to the dining area chair that his outer coat is draped over and starts to pull it on. Jiao is still not visible to the outer security cameras, seeing as she remains in the bedroom.

There was no twelfth floor on the elevator buttons, so she slings the messenger bag over her shoulder and forces the doors open.

So she can start climbing up to the next floor.

She may still hum Black Betty to herself as she makes her way up. The sound cuts off when she reaches the next set of doors, though. She pulls those open, too, and rolls out onto the hallway floor.

The public elevator only goes up to the 11th floor. A reserved, second private elevator that skips the floors of the family apartments but does go to the 11th floor stands inert at the other end of the short hallway as Monica emerges from the shaft of the public elevator. The engineers, at least, recognized there would be an eventual need of a 12th floor button. Eventually.

"Three stooges are down. Going for the big targets now," she says to Kay. She knows not to expect a response for now. If something truly pressing were waiting for her, she would have already been warned about it, anyway. Like the freshly maintenanced gun. So this door gets much the same treatment as the last, with her busting in.

The heavy, rolling, barn-style metal door that is the front entrance to the 12th floor apartment is not a match for the strength in Monica’s arm. There’s a little resistance, followed by a terrible sound of the metal lock bending and scraping on the interior of the apartment brick and bearings when she yanks the door practically off its rollers.

And finds a startled, owlish-eyed Chuang staring right at her not three feet away, frozen in surprise.

Enter Monica.

With both lines muted, Kaydence chuckles, feeling a glee that she normally doesn’t allow herself. Never has had the need.

«Get ‘em where it hurts, Barnes.»

That is an order she can follow.

Monica grins at Chuang, just for a very brief moment before she delivers a sharp kick upward into his jaw. She follows it up with a cybernetic punch to the gut before she grabs him by the neck and starts walking him backwards back into the apartment. At least a few steps so she can have a shield while she checks out where the other bodies in the room are. He's likely to be too much dead weight for her to take very far.

The knife from the floor below (out of her arm now, but held in a back pocket) comes out to stab into the assistant's chest. There's a beat, because really that is plenty, but the orders to make it look gang-related echo back and she pulls the knife out and stabs again. And again. And one more time before she lets the body fall to the floor.

There’s plenty of times for questions as far as Monica’s arm goes, given the readings that display on one of the monitors Kay has at her desk showing the damage level being still minor. Inconsequential. She did manage to just climb an elevator shaft with a knife stabbed into it, so that is something.

Speaking of questions, Mr. Yellow getting put on hold sets the receiver down with a short, foreign, emphatic swear that according to the translation software means something about a king-eight-egg. Then he moves towards the dining table to collect his equipment, including the gun he’d been cleaning. He doesn’t pick up the receiver again.

But that’s because the door swings - slams, rather - aside and Monica enters uninvited. Her swift kick up into Chuang’s chin flings his whole slight body backwards, staggering him until the heavy punch to the assistant’s gut doubles him over in opposing reaction. The man’s phone clatters to the floor, dropping from his pocket with the violence of the movements, and he barely has a chance to grip his stomach in pain before he’s grabbed and stabbed. He doesn’t get the chance to scream, winded as he is. The knife sticking out of his chest ensures that he really doesn’t. Then, the blade pulls out with a wet sound before it stabs back in. Out. And in one more time. And then Chuang’s limp body slips with a dull, heavy thud to the floor, pooling blood beneath.

She doesn’t have too much time more to consider, because Mr. Yellow has that freshly cleaned gun in hand. The guard captain yells at Hu to get down, lunging to a side for a better position, and suddenly opens fire on Monica. The first bullet hits the wall behind her, the second ricochets off her robotic arm in a glancing graze.

Hu, after having had the color in his face completely drain from the sight of his assistant totally murdered in front of his eyes, quickly ducks and scrambles for the safety of cover towards the bedrooms as well. He knocks over the chair where he’d picked up his coat, said clothing article only half put on with one sleeve inserted, the other flopping loose.

While Hu scrambles for the bedrooms, the door where Jiao had entered her own opens by a sliver, enough that she can peek at what’s going on in the common room. But then it just as quickly shuts again.

It used to be that Kay only saw the aftermath of this kind of attack. Once in a while, when she was undercover, she’d be present when shit hit the fan. Now, it’s just Tuesday. Or Sunday in this case. On a pad of paper, Kay writes a note in purple ink. It says, simply, Schedule and she circles it once for emphasis.

«Two rats hiding in the bedrooms.» That technopath might be trouble. Monica can hear Kay’s nails tapping against the glass of her desk restlessly for a moment before she catches herself. It’s a sure sign she’s thinking, and she doesn’t like the conclusions she’s drawing.

When bullets start flying, Monica does her best to dodge, only using her arm to shield herself when she absolutely has to. It's not usually good to be the only one without a guy, but Monica doesn't seem worried. Even her vitals are steady. Elevated since the fighting started, but steady.

At the heads up over her comms, her gaze flicks to the bedrooms. "Let me know if they move," she says lowly. Because she's got this guy out here to deal with. The open design of the apartment makes it difficult to find cover, so Monica goes the other direction. Full speed ahead. Her steps are light, to make it easier to dodge, but she is running right for Mr. Yellow otherwise.

The thing about gunfire is it's loud. Each shot Mr. Yellow spits out of his semi-automatic handgun crackles in the audio of Kay's earpiece, each successive shot a slightly worrisome pop threatening her agent on the other side of that line. The movement in the camera feed is blurred with the speed with which the opponents circle each other in the open common area, Mr. Yellow dodging around furniture and taking shots when he can find Monica in his sights.

Monica's ability is working full throttle, as indicated by her elevated vitals, and she performs some incredible feats of agility in avoiding getting struck by the firearms volley. The loft apartment walls will no doubt be riddled with bullet holes later for ballistics investigators to find.

Somewhere in the back of Monica's mind she's counting the bullets. Mr. Yellow should be almost out, but the last three shots are what's the most hazardous as she closes the distance between them. The third-to-last bullet ricochets off a metal corner of the industrial styled kitchen countertop, and somewhere in her lower hip she feels the burn of a piece of shrapnel piercing into her flesh. A shallow wound, but first blood.

But then she's upon him, and a well aimed strike with her cybernetic arm smacks the gun from his grip, sending the firearm clattering away to the floor, landing with a softened stop upon one of the living room rugs. The captain of the guard tries to back away for some space, but she's smaller, quicker, landing a punch that staggers him back a few steps but doesn't drop him. That's odd, since most people she's punched with such force from her armored limb do.

First blood matters so much less than last blood. Monica goes full in right up until the moment when she punches him with her robot arm and it doesn't flatten him. It makes her hesitate. She steps in, slamming her foot down on his with much the same results. And that's when she changes tactics. Dancing backward, she puts some distance between them, her stances turning defensive.

This wasn't in the mission briefing. But who would she be if she couldn't adapt?


Yamagato Park


From the camera, Kay sees Jiao's bedroom door swing open again and the woman creeping out in a crouch. She's unarmed, but what happens next, Kay doesn't get to see. The camera feed washes out into a white snowy static, then goes dark entirely. Her audio remains, just long enough for the translation software to catch: "«I've got them!»" from Jiao's voice in the distance. Then, the audio cuts off.

Fuck!” Kay slams her palm down on her desktop hard enough to jar the bones in her wrist painfully when the monitors fade to snow. «Barnes!»

Nothing.

A saving grace, as she looks to the screen that monitors the vitals through Monica's arm, is that the woman is still in that moment, alive.

«Miss Damaris, an intrusion has been detected in your system.» The smooth masculine voice of Yamagato's A.I. system, Jiba, delivers in the cold, matter-of-fact neutrality. There is no worry, no panic in the voice. Seconds after Jiba's announcement, the darkened monitor screens blip back on, a single line of command prompt reminiscent of older computer systems requests input with a single blinking text cursor:

ENTER SECURE ID: __

Jiba’s voice is a comfort of sorts. “Can you give me more information?” Not that she’ll understand all the technical stuff. She’s got a decent grasp, but Kay is one of those people for whom things just work or they don’t. The whys and hows aren’t her strong suit by any means. She’s improving, but there’s a reason people go to school for years to learn this stuff.

But who needs a Master’s with assistance like Jiba? Kaydence puts her fingers back to the keys to put in her login.

{klndamaris}

Once the login gets keyed into the command line, all that’s left is a flashing cursor on a blackened monitor screen. It takes an uncomfortable amount of time upon Kay’s keying in of her login before there is any response from Jiba. «There is an attempt to access the server through your login, Miss Damaris,» the pleasantly smooth voice of Jiba continues. «Isolating the program. Unauthorized Response Signature detected.» The monitors on Kay’s screens go dark again, and for an excruciatingly long time it seems like there’s nothing that can be done but to sit and stare at the screen of vitals coming from Monica’s arm.

Suddenly, the photoreactive gasses in the air of Kay’s office come alive with the monitors around her desk. What looks like a clip out of the Matrix floods the view, characters that appear to be in asiatic languages flipping through the air and playing with the numbers. It formulates into what appears to be… a panda? And the panda rolls around in the air a few times before coming to a stop, turning and facing Kay straight on. The cartoonishly shaped animal made of code-bits sticks out its tongue at her, and speaks in Mandarin in a high-pitched ‘cute’ tone. Off to the side, the translation software spits out its phrase: “«Stupid egg! I am the gatekeeper now! Say the magic word!»”

Kay lifts her hand with one finger raised to the disgustingly cute code panda. She doesn’t even care if she can be seen or not - she’s betting (hoping) not - it just makes her feel better.

The panda only gets through the phrase a couple of times before finally the disturbing, taunting image disappears and the gasses dissipate the floating HUD screens. «Apologies, Miss Damaris. The intrusion was more extensive than previously detected. Technopathy countermeasures have been deployed.» If there was a way for Jiba to sound contrite, it would be here. «However, the program gained entry through communications with Miss Dawson’s arm. An immediate disconnection is recommended.»

The vitals on Monica’s arm continue, but there is a noticeable spike in her adrenaline levels, heartbeat and stress indicators.

“What happens to Dawson if we shut down the arm? I can’t—” Kay’s lips purse, she pinches the bridge of her nose and thinks. “Shut it down, Jiba.”

Monica is far more than her arm. She survived without it, and she can again. Though Kay’s aware it’s going to be a hindrance with the weight of it. It can’t be helped this time. She’ll knock some heads together in engineering if she has to in order to get better solutions in the future.

And woe betide them if there isn’t a future for Kay’s operative.

“Lock down my account if you can. Whatever you need to do. I want that bitch locked out.” Kay has half a mind to grab her gun and head down there herself. If only she had a faster means of travel. It’s probably for the best, for the impulsive nature she doesn’t always get the better of, that she doesn’t.

«Understood. Terminating connection,» Jiba’s response follows with an immediate flatline of all vitals in connection with Monica’s arm. Seconds more pass, and the silence is pressing like a pressure cooker. Jiba’s functions, especially in this regard, are a thing best left to Hachiro Otomo to explain. But after what seems like far too long, the sound of A.I.’s voice interrupts an almost meditative moment.

«Rogue program containment complete. It appears the technopath’s connection was severed, Miss Damaris.» The voice of Jiba still remains ever logical, calming. «The intrusion pattern has been logged. Data points analysis in progress.» There’s another pause, then, «What can I assist you with first?»

The silence is oppressive. Overwhelming. It cannot stand. Before Jiba has a chance to break it, Damaris’ fist comes down on her desk, punctuating a shout of “fuck!” There’s a second, third, fourth, and fifth in quick succession. Again, her hand and her wrist are left hurting from the impact. She runs both hands through her hair, fingers shaking as she does so. From the effort it’s taking not to just scream in frustration at herself. She thought Jiba reset the system, and instead she handed that fucking bitch the keys.

But then the intrusion, it seems, has ended.

“I need…” Kay sighs heavily and leans against her desk. After a moment, she rests her head on her arms. She needs a drink is what she needs. And an aspirin. Not necessarily in that order. “Get me audio.”

Credit to the designers of Yamagato’s desktops. They withstand several impacts of frustrated fists for a reason. «Audio reconnection in progress,» Jiba acknowledges and leaves Kay to her thoughts once more. Over her earpiece, there’s the sound of crackling static as a signal scan tunes for the frequency connected to Monica’s.

The first sound that comes over the piece is a loud bang. Unmistakeable. A gunshot.

It’s followed by a dull thud of weight, a clatter of something against hardwood flooring. Silence.

Silence interrupts with the sound of a gun also clattering to the floor. Then there’s the sounds of scraping and scratching, heavy breaths and dragging. The sound of flesh slapping dully on wood, against metal, the occasional thud of something heavy again and again.

That… Kay isn’t sure what she expected to hear, but it wasn’t that. It isn’t that she’s unused to hearing what’s going on without the visual to help, but she’s usually had a visual up to a certain point, and a pretty good idea of how things are going. The silence went on too long. Kay’s stomach is in knots.

«Barnes? Report.»


Meanwhile


“«I’ve got them!»”

Jiao’s tone, triumphant in nature if not understandable by Monica, is a further indication of the shift in momentum. A lack of indication from Kay that one “rat” has emerged from the bedrooms is also likely a point filed away into Monica’s tactics. Or, in a darker thought, this is yet another test.

Monica’s hesitation allows Mr. Yellow to stand his ground, reset his jaw with a click of bones that even she can hear. She gets to watch as the guard captain rolls his shoulders, movements deliberate, testing. And then he reaches an arm up and behind him, a deep red blossoming upon his shirt - blood - as a protrusion of bone grows from the spot into a handle. His hand grips it as it rises out of his own body, holding the slicked red end. As he pulls it free, there’s a dull crunch where the end is snapped off like a plastic model piece off its sheet. The guard captain himself looks pained in the process, but endures long enough. And now, he has a bone the length of a machete in his hands. Blood drips from the end of it, and down his shoulder.

A cold stare levels at Monica, a look she might feel is familiar. The sort of stare she has when she lets her ability take over, pushing her for the kill. Mr. Yellow waits a beat. Then, he charges.

That was not what she was expecting. Monica watches as the man produces a weapon out of himself, bloody though it may be. Her gaze follows from the blade to his wrist and back up his arm. Getting hit with that would be bad. For the blood tests alone. Her eyes find his, and that familiar expression. It makes her own expression harden.

She's on the backfoot when he charges, but she scrambles back, pivoting to the side when he swings at her. She has to jump back at the second swing, just barely dodging. She's counting on his stamina running low before hers does. Since she is just leaning out of the way, not swinging a bone machete around. But when her path crosses a set of chairs, she dashes in that direction, turning her back to him for as long as it takes to grab a chair and spin around to hold it in front of her like a shield.

True, it’s not the most hygenic scenario here. Mr. Yellow’s wielding of the bone sword is done with a high level of skill and trained control, each swing, stab, or outright clubbing motion done with a forceful downward swing she manages to block with the chair. The hard clack of the bone against metal rings out jarringly, the sound of a slight splintering of the weapon evident, and the captain kicks his foot out against the shield, pushing her further back. She can see the weakened point where the open shoulder wound still bleeds under his shirt.

She also sees out of the corner of her periphery, Jiao moving to grab the gun off the rug on the floor.

Monica stumbles back at the kick, her gaze flicking from her chair to his weapon, judging one against the other. Splintering isn't enough to really give her the upper hand, but the gun moving again in the corner of her eye spurs her to movement. She steps in toward Mr. Yellow, foot kicking for his swordhand before she lands and shifts her grip on the chair to slam it into his weakened shoulder.

But she doesn't stay in one place for long and uses the force of her own swing to push her forward. She spins behind the man, aiming to put him between herself and the gun.

She’s not the only one who notices Jiao going for the gun. Mr. Yellow’s brief shift of attention is enough to get Monica in close, her foot snapping out for his hand and knocking the scapula sword out of it. The chair slams hard into the captain’s shoulder, eliciting a cry of pain, but it doesn’t last long. The move behind the guard smartly puts her out of harm’s way and Mr. Yellow into Jiao’s line of fire.

The second to last bullet embeds itself into the guard, staggering him back a few steps and a second spot of red blossoms from his shirt. Mr. Yellow whips his gaze accusingly at Jiao at first, and he barks a phrase at her that could be a swear but sounds more like a command.

Jiao, in turn, retreats back up onto her feet. There’s a pointed look at Monica’s cybernetic arm, then it’s back to the woman’s face. An understanding comes to the Chinese woman’s eyes. “It’s you,” she says in a smooth, if accented English. The name she speaks next tells much of what she knows. “Barnes.” And for a moment, she studies Monica or seems like she’s doing so. Letting it all sink in that Monica’s identity is known, or at least partially figured out now. Or… she’s stalling. But for what.

The bullet stays buried in Mr. Yellow, and Monica is pretty okay with that. She keeps him between them, although the woman's words have her looking over his shoulder toward the technopath. The name she uses causes a rush of panic that doesn't show in her face, but in the beat of her heart and the way her hands tighten their grip on the chair.

But she doesn't let that moment of surprise linger.

Reeling back, she thrusts the legs of the chair toward Mr. Yellow, like she might be trying to impale him. She doesn't think it will work, although she is hopeful, given that he's wounded and distracted. Either way, she lets go of the chair and lunges to grab a vase off an end table. Turning back toward Jiao, Monica pitches the vase in her direction. The face is aimed for. In an attempt to distract her.

Though the chair legs do make contact with the guard captain, there’s a distinct thunk of metal against bone that’s revealed when one leg scrapes against the spot where the bullet had embedded itself. Mr. Yellow steps back, the man’s movements seeming slower. His bloodied hand reaches down to pick up the chair that Monica’s abandoned, and then he hurls it aside out of reach like he’s frustrated. Because he is.

Jiao ducks the vase tossed in her direction, barely listening to the ceramic shattering on the hardwood flooring behind her. The way she looks at Monica is peculiarly focused, both engaged and distant at once. It’s maybe a few seconds before the woman’s face contorts in a flash of what’s probably a headache. And at the same time, Monica’s arm goes numb. Not the right one, the one still attached to her body by her flesh and blood, but her left. The YX Cestus prosthetic jerks unexpectedly.

That seems to be Mr. Yellow’s cue. He rushes off to a side, not too speedily but still using the moment of opportunity, to swipe up the bone sword off the ground and rearm himself. Then he turns back to Monica, and advances once more.

Monica watches as Mr. Yellow regains himself. And starts tossing things. She's managed to put some distance between them, but not so far that he's not still a danger. Jiao's duck and her stare are both noted, but the bone-armored form of Mr. Yellow is the more immediate threat.

So she assumes.

Until her arm goes numb.

And jerks without her say so.

If Kay was still connected to her, she would get a feed of worrisome vitals as her panic draws out and she struggles to ease the push of adrenaline. No time to breathe her way into calm, though, with her opponent coming for her. Falling back into defense, Monica moves back from him until she spots the mantle in her periphery. She moves that direction, yanking out a fireplace poker before she turns back to Mr. Yellow, striking a fencer's stance. Her prosthetic arm is left hanging, but her right seems to be capable, as well. At least when she moves in, thrusting toward his throat. It's not as sharp as his machete, but she's determined.

A satisfied smirk comes out of Jiao even as her hand moves up to touch the base of her nose, coming away with blood dripping out of a nostril. There’s no indication that she’s that worried, however, seeing as she achieves her goal to disable Monica’s robotic arm. Shoving the gun into her belt behind her, the technopath moves in after Mr. Yellow, backing the bone riddled man in turn. Monica’s in real trouble now, as while she’s preoccupied with defending herself against the guard captain’s blood-bone sword with the fireplace poker, she has to watch for snake-like, speedier strikes from Jiao. Her muscle memory kicks in where her mind might be preoccupied with the twinges of fear and worry, a leg lift to block a kick, a swipe of the poker to drive the technopath back.

The poker she thrusts at Mr. Yellow misses by a hair’s breadth, catching shirt rather than skin and tearing fabric open. He counters with a slice of his sword that pangs off the cybernetic arm which, while it hangs like deadweight uselessly, still offers a modicum of protection. But it doesn’t help when Mr. Yellow gets in close, grabbing the flailed limb and yanking her off balance, bringing a hardened skull to crash against hers.

For what it might seem like, they’re herding her into the corner where the bedrooms are. Where they believe she’ll not escape. But also where Hu has been hiding the whole time.

It isn't a situation Monica often finds herself in, when she's having to scramble to stay on her feet. Certainly not in recent years with her new arm and Kay in her ear to guide her through. The thought occurs to her as she works on blocking the two attackers that she's gotten soft. There was a time when she had no one but herself to rely on. When she slept on rooftops. She went through a war with one arm. And here, two people are herding her back into a corner.

Her thoughts are cut off when she's yanked and headbutted. The poker clatters to the floor and she follows after it. It's graceless, how she drops to the floor. Her arm can't catch her and she ends up on her back, vision spinning. But that's also when she realizes where they're trying to direct her. To one of the bedrooms. Where the rat went.

And she is not having that.

Her good hand grabs her numb one and she uses her shoulders to push into a kip up and back to her feet. Her feet take her a few steps up the wall next to the bedroom door before she launches off and grabs Jiao by the back of the head, bringing her face down into Monica's raised knee. She lands in a crouch, grabbing the gun from Jiao's waistband. And she turns it on Mr. Yellow.

One bullet left and she doesn't plan to sit on it. Trick shots are an old skill and she aims her one shot at Mr. Yellow's eye.

And fires.

Jiao’s following up after Mr. Yellow’s headbutt proves to be a mistake in arrogance. Believing they had the upper hand, she’s caught in her forward momentum and spun around by her hair until a sick crunch of broken bone and cartilage yielding knocks the woman down to the floor, her face bloodied with a shattered nose and bleeding veins in her eyes.

Mr. Yellow sees the Praxis representative’s plight and jerks forward, bone sword raised for a devastating stab while Monica’s crouched and vulnerable. He literally doesn’t see the gun until it is too late. And then he really doesn’t see at all. The guard captain topples forward, his body dropping to the hardwood with a heavy thunk and clatter of the sword still in hand. There’s no exit wound of the bullet out of the man’s hardened skull, only the slow pooling of blood and ichor out of a punctured eyesocket.

That’s the thing about gunfire. It’s loud. And then after the ringing fades, there is silence.

Gun still in hand, Monica watches the man topple. While his eye socket oozes. And then, a few beats into that silence, she lowers the gun and lets it clatter to the floor. She tries her arm— no luck. Her expression isn't blank this time, like it usually is once she gets to the killing part of her job. No, this time, it's contorted in anger. And she turns to the technopath, grabbing her by the hair before she drags her across the floor to shove her into a chair. She uses the cord of a lamp to tie the woman to the chair. It's tight. Tight enough that she's soon to lose feeling in her hands. She does the same to her feet.

And then she turns her attention to the bedroom.

Walking back that way, she yanks the bone sword out of Mr. Yellow's hand and stalks toward the door.

I beat my machine, it's a part of me, it's inside of me

Now, she knows it is likely this man is waiting for her to stroll in the door. Probably with a gun, maybe with something more creative, but Monica doesn't care. No clever planning, no tricks, no sneaking. She just turns the handle to try to swing the door open, turning her cybernetic arm toward the room. Just in case.

A low, pained, disorientated moan issues out from Jiao, the woman unaware of her surroundings until she’s forcible grabbed by her hair and dragged away from the spot where for a moment, she’d been knocked out. It’s notably difficult to pull the woman into a chair one handed, but spite makes one efficient. At some point, Monica has to use her teeth as the second hand to tie the cords around her captive’s limbs.

Once she’s taken the bone sword out of Mr. Yellow’s cooling dead hands and stalked over to the bedroom door, she hears naught but silence on the other side of it. But when she tries the handle to the door, it refuses to give. Locked. Of course it is.


Yamagato Park


Although the one side of audio is reconnected so that Kay can hear what’s happening, there’s no response from Monica’s end. If she has acknowledged, Kay’s feed is still a work in progress. Meanwhile, after she takes a moment to really listen in, she can make out that the breathing is familiar. It’s Monica, still alive. Still working.

A pained groan from another feminine sounding voice comes through the speaker. Jiao.

Footsteps move across a floor, light and agile. Had Kay ever noticed how Monica walked? Then the footfalls stop and there’s silence again for a moment. The rustle of cloth, then a hard bang of something hitting wood. Another bang. And another. Wood splinters. Cracking. And one last slam, cracking, a second duller bang of wood against brick wall. A door somewhere has been kicked in.

It’s quiet for a few beats. Quiet enough that Kay can hear the cock of a hammer back. Hu’s voice growls out in the audio. “Stop.”

To her credit, Kay doesn’t start punching her desk again. She doesn’t pick anything up to throw it and she doesn’t scream, either. Lifting her head, she holds her breath for a moment as she listens to the sound of Monica’s breathing. It’s amazing the little things she notices that she didn’t realize she knew so well.

If she was smart, she’d ask to have her operative reassigned after this mission.

She won’t.

“Get that arm back online. Fast as you can.”


Meanwhile


Locked. It seems Monica did not expect that to be the case, although after a moment's thought it is obvious. This isn't a family, it's a bunch of coworkers. She takes in a breath, trying for that calm.

It doesn't come.

I'm stuck in this dream, it's changing me, I am becoming

So she positions herself and kicks at the door. Like a firefighter trying to get to a trapped civilian. Except Monica isn't trying to save anyone. The door is given a sample of the rage boiling in her chest. Every time she thinks to move her arm and can't, it boils a little hotter.

It takes a few kicks to break the door down. The wood splinters around the door lock until finally the latch dents enough and the final slam of her foot sends the door swinging wildly into the wall with a bang of the metal handle against the brick, of wood rattling on hinges.

It could be the rage. It could be the dead weight of her arm, the fact that its function still hasn’t restored, that has her normally mindful awareness in turmoil. She doesn’t see it, hear it, until it’s too late. The priming click of a cocked hammer, and the cold press of a gun barrel to her head. “Stop,” commands the Praxis representative with his finger curled around the trigger of an old six-shot revolver.

The gun barrel rather than the command is what gets Monica to stop. A moment passes with Monica judging the machete in her hand, the gun to her temple, the man's readiness to fire. Her grip tightens on the weapon, which might imply that she is not going to stop. But she doesn't make a move, doesn't make a sound, like she might be waiting for the next command.

The me that you know, she had some second thoughts

But that isn't what's going on at all, really. In reality, Monica is internally debating her gameplan. Because it's risky. She could fail her mission. She could die. But finding herself in this position has done nothing for her mood, so it isn't very long at all before she moves.

She drops. Her knees hit the floor and she spins the bone sword to plant it through Hu's gut.

She's covered with scabs, she is broken and sore

The moment she takes to assess her situation is but a space of a breath. Her mind already knows what it needs to do. Survive. And once the decision is made, her body acts. Knees bang against the ground with the drop, simultaneously with the pull of the trigger from Hu. He would have killed her. The bullet instead pulls down at an angle that cuts into her midsection at an odd angle, exiting out and striking the loose robotic arm on her left somewhere in the wrist. The bullet doesn’t have enough oomph to penetrate the armored shell, though, and drops with a clink of flattened metal onto the floor.

But, she’s achieved her goal. The bone handle of the sword protrudes out of Hu’s ponderous gut as he stumbles backward. The gun in his hand drops, clunks against the floor. It’s not an instant death, not this way. The man sinks to his knees too, leaning against the brick wall, planting a bloody print of his hand against it as he pants heavily, painfully. The words he says are in a native tongue, but she can imagine it a curse. Then Hu topples over limply, breathing slowing, fading to shallow gurgles before it finally goes silent.

Kay doesn’t hear the chirp of acknowledgment that is Jiba’s automatic response to the command. Within seconds, the chaos of events tumble out through the audio and the monitors for Monica’s arm connection.

A gunshot rings out, loud enough it pops the audio in the woman’s ear. The monitor on Monica’s arm connection blossoms to life, charts and numbers and data flowing back onto the screen. «YX Cestus Prosthetic, Online.» The report is redundant. Monica’s vitals though, are there. Stress levels are high. The damage to the arm, minimal. There’s a heartbeat monitor that is racing, but a blood pressure that is worrying. She’s injured.

There’s a sound of something slipping, scraping down, then it stops.

Monica lets Hu have that slow death. After a twist of the blade, she lets go of the handle and turns her attention to herself. Her hand doesn't go to her wound, given that it is covered with Mr. Yellow’s blood right now. Instead, she moves to pick up the bullet first, peering at it for a moment before she tucks it into a pocket. Then she picks up the six shooter and gets up to her feet. By the time she's up, Hu is gurgling and she yanks the blade out of him. To help that along.

The me that you know, she doesn't come around much

She sighs heavily, her head tilting from one side to the other. Neck cracking.

And then she turns back to Jiao.

Her walk is slow, steady. Angry. It's possible that the technopath didn't think about what that arm might mean to the woman attached to it. But it shows in her face now. Monica despaired before she was offered it. She suffered just to have it. And what she's done to keep it, well. Dark memories bring out deep, but quick breaths as she approaches.

That part of me—

When she reaches her, there is no further preamble. Just Monica striking Jiao's face with the hilt of the sword. Blunt, aggressive, meant to last. Not like Mr. Yellow's death. Not even like Hu's. Jiao is special. Jiao hurt her in a way no one else has. Monica only has one hand, but she can do plenty of damage with it. And that's what she aims for. For every target she's killed, Jiao gets hit. For every guard she's attacked, Jiao gets hit. For every day she's woken up afraid to lose her arm—

—isn't here anymore

Jiao gets hit.

«Miss Damaris,» Jiba interrupts with an another alert chirp, «Camera function restored.» And when she looks to the grainy feed of the exterior camera from the building across the street, sight that unfolds is… unsettling in its own way.

Monica walks from the back bedroom towards the open common area. She passes by the still figure of a man laying face down in a pool of blood that seems to come from his skull. Near the front door is still Chuang the assistant, unmoving and cold in a sticky, red-brown pool. But Monica’s walk, slow and steady, takes her towards her captive in a chair. Jiao, the technopath, has her back to the windows as she’s tied tightly to the back, her legs roped to the legs of the chair. The woman’s head lolls to a side, dripping.

Some sort of long sword-like weapon is held in Monica’s hand, slicked with red but gleaming with an off-white color in its grainy look through the camera monitor. And once Monica reaches the captive technopath in the chair, the Asset raises the blunt hilt of the sword to bring down upon the woman’s exposed face. Kay doesn’t see the damage, but she doesn’t need to. She can hear every strike. Every squelch, every crunch, every wet, meaty contact of the bludgeoning side against Monica’s prisoner.

Contrast to the stomach turning sounds in Kay’s ear, Jiba’s announcement: «YX Cestus function monitor restored. Communications restored. Account is secured, Miss Damaris. You are back in control.»

Upon reflection, this doesn’t feel like a bonus after all.

Kaydence Lee sits in her chair, microphone off, a hand over the lower portion of her face. Her thumb rubs over her jaw while she processes what she sees and hears. “Jiba, I’m going to need you to block off Miss Dawson’s schedule. Start with two weeks.” It’s going to be a lot longer than two weeks, but she’ll let the professionals make that call.

“Fuck.” Two quick keystrokes bring her microphone back online. «I’m here. We’re back online. I— Finish the—»

Monica’s never heard her handler at a loss for words before. Not without substituting them for expletives. «Is there anything left of her brain?» She probably doesn’t want the answer to that question, honestly. «We’re looking for more information.» If they can find that information, maybe that will offset a little of how sideways this went. That’s selfish on Kay’s part. «Get what you can and get the fuck out of there and report.»

Hearing Kay's voice back in her ear, Monica stops. There's a shuddering breath before she throws the sword to the ground. "Targets down," she says, out of breath, shaky, quiet. Not normal. She does not answer the question about Jiao's brain. Which might answer the question well enough.

One moment, her arm is dead weight and the next moment, it isn't. Her hand pulls it to her chest and she closes her eyes to keep tears from falling down her face. It takes a long moment of deep, calming breaths before she opens her eyes again. "I'll grab any tech I find during clean up." Clean up, frame up. She hasn't forgotten, she's just rattled. But not so rattled that she doesn't start by checking Jiao's pockets.

The others are checked, too. The bedrooms. Drawers. Her search for information is methodical and thorough. And it doubles with her making sure the place looks as trashed as possible. When she gets back to her bag by the front door, she picks it up. Inside is everything she needs to make sure there's no trace of her left behind. And also, just enough drugs to leave the impression that they had more before it was taken. After all this violence. Phones, laptops, whatever intel she can find, it's all shoved into her bag before she goes back to the hallway to find her way back down. To give the floor below the same treatment.

No evidence of Yamagato involvement left behind.


Red Hook Mill Space Apartments

Monday, 8:48 AM


Blue and red lights strobe intermittently atop a squad car bearing the marks of the 91st Military Police Battalion as it pulls up to a barricade of cars parked along the street. Uniformed MPs stand guard at the entrance of the brickfaced apartment building, the doors opened to the inner foyer. Yellow caution tape strapped around orange and white barricades block onlookers and intruders from the crime scene.

From the passenger side of the vehicle steps a man dressed in ranking uniform, one that causes the MPs at the barricade to move aside without question to the man’s identity. Major Matthew Olson is a man who needs no introduction. “Major,” greets another grim-faced officer with a short salute to greet him. “I’ll be honest, it’s a real shitshow up there.”

The major scans over the gathered bystanders and then gives the barest of nods to the officer. “When did the call come in?”

“8:23, sir. The Chinese weren’t ever late to a meeting with Mayor Short. The mayor’s assistant tried all their phones, and got no answer.”

The officer gestures for the major to proceed in before following.

They don’t stop on the 11th floor, but instead head straight up to the top floor. And Major Olson steps up to the mangled metal door, readying to step in before he’s blocked by the accompanying officer. A glance down keeps his boots from touching the brown, sticky pool of blood that has spread to the threshold. Beyond, the open floorplan reveals the sheer carnage of the multiple victim homicide unfolding before the eyes. Broken, torn furniture upturned, small appliances and furnishings scattered. And four large white sheets covering over the areas of the four victims. Swarming around in groups are teams of investigators and forensics, taking photographs and samples of evidence.

The officer leads the way past the first body, “Xiong Chuang, assistant to Mr. Hu. Stabbed in the heart and upper body multiple times.” They round to the back bedroom area, the second body. “Shai-ming Hu, stabbed in the torso and presumed bled to death.” The third body, when the tarp is pulled back, reveals the third victim with a couple of gunshot wounds and peculiar shoulder wounds. “Jiu-yan Huang. Captain of the security detail for the Praxis group. Gunshot wound. Also, sir, Unregistered Evolved.”

The detail causes the major’s lip corners to slide down a little further. But they move on to the last, taller tarp.

The officer gingerly peels the white sheet back, revealing the barely recognizable, beaten face of the last Praxis representative. Her limbs are covered in blood and splatter, broken in several spots, covered in welts and cuts. Activity nearby stops briefly, all eyes on the victim’s horrifically mangled corpse.

Major Olson swallows back his words and turns away, signalling the officer to re-cover the body.

“Three more bodies downstairs, sir,” the officer adds after having done so.

“No need,” the major replies. “Do we know who it was?”

The officer shakes her head. “No sir, but this level of violence? Suggests anger. Revenge. Personal revenge, maybe.”

The major is silent. Then he nods, and heads back for the door. “Have the report sent to my desk ASAP,” he says as he leaves. “And keep the lid tight on this.”

“Yes sir.”

Once he’s back outside, Major Olson seats himself back into the squad car and unlocks his cell phone, dialing a number. Waiting for the other line to pick up, he steels his insides from the churning. The other party answers with a short click of a receiver being picked up.

“Hello, Mayor Short’s office.”
“This is Major Olson. Please put me through.”
“Right away, Major.”
“Thank you.”

“This is Mayor Short. Major?”

“… Caroline? We have a situation.”


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