As Wu led the two men down the ramp and into the docking bay a team of android technicians were already beginning to strip the speeder down for parts. Removing any trace of its existence.
At the far end of the hangar, just inside the bay doors sat their drop ship. In another hour, they would be on the next jump ship out and heading home.
At the foot of the ramp stood ‘Iron Fist’ Chen, the Triad boss for the Xing Shi cell.
Iron Fist Chen’s appearance was almost vampiric. His hair was slicked back and immaculate while his suit was always worn open over a wine-red shirt with the collar unbuttoned. Gold dragon rings with ruby eyes covered the fingers on his right hand, while the cold steel prosthetic on his left gave him his nickname.
He beamed at their captives as Wu brought them down to him.
“Gentlemen.” Chen all but purred at them. “It is so good to see you in the flesh at last. I trust our companions were gentle with you?”
The Police Chief’s eyes burned with impotent hatred at Iron-Fist Chen. Who only smiled wider in response.
Sifu smiled at the Dragon Head. “Alive and unharmed sir.”
“Excellent.” He gestured for two of his soldiers to take them away. Another black speeder sat off to one side with its side door open. The two principles were quickly hooded and taken away.
Iron Fist Chen watched them go. His smile lost its theatricality and replaced it with warmth.
“You’ve done very well.” He told Sifu “You and Hiro both.” Hiro nodded curtly. “With the Chief off the streets, the case against Mr Henderson can proceed unimpeded. With Mr Henderson off the streets, he cannot bribe the Chief’s replacement. We should only need to keep them spirited away for a few months at most while the evidence is resubmitted. Then when the trial is ready to go ahead we’ll release them.”
Sifu nodded respectfully. “As you desire sir.”
“Do you have anything else to report?”
Sifu glanced towards Wu to bring him to Chen’s attention. “Wu performed especially well. His quick thinking prevented an unexpected complication from becoming a problem.”
By habit, Wu saluted Sifu, but as soon as he realised what he’d done he took his hand down. “Thank you Sifu.”
When Sifu turned her attention back to Chen, Ukyo prodded Wu and made a talking motion with her hand. [Yes Sifu. Thank you Sifu.] She nanospoke. [Sometimes I think those are the only words you know.]
Ukyo stifled a giggle.
Chen offered Sifu his hand, Sifu gripped it firmly as they shook. “Give my sincerest thanks to Brother-Dragon Han for me. I’ve never been so glad to be talked into accepting outside help before. If you require anything further before you leave consider it done. I have instructed my aides to extend you every courtesy.”
“Thank you sir. I will let Mr Han know you were grateful for his assistance.”
Iron Fist Chen released her hand and turned away, his assistant falling into line behind him.
As Wu had hoped. Within the hour the drop ship had attached itself to the Jump ship and was heading out. Wu kicked up his feet in the rec room and idly flicked through a magazine on a virtual tablet. Through Wu’s nanoputer Wu could hold and swipe the tablet as though there were a physical object in his hand. On the couch next to him Ukyo lay with her feet dangling over the side. She played with a set of virtual miniatures arrayed on a computer generated battlefield before her. If Wu chose to log out of the personal area network he would see her reach out into empty space and manipulate objects on an invisible board.
For all he understood of the game he may as well have. Only the satisfied tug at her lips told him she was winning.
Off to the side Hiro and Sifu sat at a table covered in virtual reports. They were going over the operation they’d just completed. Successful or not the execution needed to be checked over for mistakes. Perhaps something they’d missed. New strategies would need to be put in place to prevent them from happening again.
Almost on cue a vidwindow containing an HPG call alert appeared in the air in front of Hiro’s face.
Hiro reached out at the virtual screen and pressed the ‘Answer’ icon.
“We have a problem.” Began Iron Fist Chen as his face filled the screen.
“What is it?” Hiro asked.
“It appears one of Mr Henderson’s staff was able to take a photo of Miss Ling and upload it to a social network. The local police have already passed it onto the Federal Authorities.”
Sifu let out a long sigh. “I’m sorry sir.”
Hiro leaned in closer. “Did they get any pictures of the rest of us?”
Chen shrugged. “Nothing conclusive.”
Hiro grimaced and looked to Sifu. “You’ll need to go into hiding.”
Wu banished his virtual tablet and got to his feet. “I’ll go with you.”
Ukyo rolled her eyes.
Sifu smiled at him. “Thank you Wu.” Then she turned to Hiro. “Wu and I will get in an escape pod and draw attention away from the rest of you. They’re likely chasing this vessel already.”
Hiro’s jaw tightened, but his eyes grew softer.
Sifu’s own expression softened. “It appears we must part ways again.”
Hiro cleared his throat and his expression hardened again.
“Good luck out there.” He said evenly. “It will hurt to lose you.”
Sifu smiled slyly. “Thank you for your concern.”
Hiro flicked his eyes towards their assistants for the briefest of moments. “The Black Mask Society needs its best people. It would be impossible to replace you.”
Ukyo stood up beside Wu, she was failing to suppress a cheeky grin.
Sifu cast a knowing look at Hiro. “Many things are impossible to replace.”
She retrieved her sword from her pocket. Taking the handle in both hands she presented it to Hiro. “While I am away it would honour me if you were to look after ‘The Moonlit Thorn’. But I’d also like you to practice with it as well. Should I require your vengeance it would mean a lot if you would have my ally at your side.”
Hiro looked deep into Sifu’s eyes and slowly nodded his head. “Thank you. I will do as you ask.”
Wu nudged Ukyo. [Can you believe those two?]
Ukyo patted Wu’s hand and hissed. [Quiet. This is my favourite show.]
Without breaking eye contact with Hiro Sifu spoke up. “Wu?”
Wu started like a high school kid caught napping. “Yes Sifu?”
“Gather our things. We need to be packed and ready to leave as soon as possible.”
Wu saluted again. “Yes Sifu.”
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