Wu put the tools down next to the cleaner and leaned back against the couch. She had a point.
He picked up his tea and took a sip, he’d left it a bit too long, but he could get it down a lot easier now.
[All right.] He messaged. [But you’ve got to get me out from the Ranger’s yoke before this agreement means anything. I’m going to give you my access to the Triad’s network. You’ll be able to send Sifu a message, she’ll send it on to Dragon Han who’ll hopefully to send it onto whoever the Ranger’s target is working for. It’s a bit of a long-shot. But they’re the only people who might give a damn that I’m out here.]
[Okay Wu. I won’t let you down.]
[Thank you Hae Lee].
Wu grimaced and finished his tea. A heavy feeling settled on his shoulders. He put his cup down and rested his head on his hand. Up near the kitchenette the marines changed guard. Not one of them even acknowledged Wu was in the room.
Dragon Malcolm got up from his knees. He was a towering hulk of a black man. 6’8”, 99 kilos at fighting weight, 114kg walking around. He wore a weathered black Gi jacket, greying at the edges. On his back the same logo that hung on the wall was emblazoned in a tattered patch, a pair of coiled snakes around a rising fist. A long pair of red kickboxing shorts with a black stripe along the thigh covered him from the hips down and his ankles and fists were wrapped in red cloth.
With his eyes closed he looked as calm as stone.
Dragon Malcolm’s Head Space was a perfect replica of the Mixed Martial Arts gym his father had raised him in. Three hours a night, every night after school. He knew every crease in the tatami mats and every scrap of leather peeling from the heavy bags.
To his right sat a black octagon cage. But today’s exercise required more space to move.
Dragon Malcolm opened his mouth and the voice that came forth filled the room. Commanding rather than instructing.
“Begin program: World Class Fighter. Level 23.”
A chime sounded from nowhere and three figures materialised out of the air around him. To his right appeared a man dressed as an officer of a periphery constabulary, he pulled a baton from his belt as he settled into his stance.
To his left a skinhead punk cracked his knuckles and flicked his cigarette butt onto the floor.
Behind him a figure dressed as a fictional ninja, complete with tabi slippers and shuko claws struck an exotic pose and growled.
Dragon Malcolm’s lips parted and he sucked in a deep breath.
Then another chime sounded and he sighed it all out. “Pause.”
Opening his eyes Dragon Malcolm saw the warning flashing high in the air. Telling him that he was receiving a long-distance call.
A vidwindow appeared in the air in front of him. The former Ranger Rodgers stood to attention on the other end. “Dragon Malcolm. You wanted to speak to me sir?”
Malcolm curled his lip into a smirk. “Yes. Now I don’t, as a general rule, act as a messenger boy for the people under me, but when one of the Triad’s celebrity terrorists asks you for a favour the wise man gets on that real fast. The P.A. of Dragon Han’s Incense Master got himself picked up by the feds and they’ve brought him right to your doorstep. To make things even more interesting, they tell me that the Ranger guarding him is an old protege of yours.”
Rodgers’ eyes snapped into sharp focus on Malcolm’s. The hardened ranger leaned in close to the vidwindow. “They say who?”
Dragon Malcolm looked him in the eye right back. “The name Penny Dreadful ring any bells?”
Rodger’s jaw clenched and for a few seconds of silence he wouldn’t even blink.
“That explains a lot. I had wondered why the Jarheads cottoned on to my trap-house so soon. So Ranger Dreadful is on Aloysius?”
“So they tell me.” Malcolm said. “Now I want you to find this Ranger and free her captive. Doing this won’t just put Han’s Incense Master in my debt, it’ll drag Masamune Hiro to my side as well. Where Sifu goes, Hiro follows and between them they practically exhale public support. Even without your plan rallying the factions under the Society’s leadership will be a piece of cake.”
Rodgers rubbed his chin. “You want this rescue to take priority over the plan?”
“No.” Malcolm raised a finger. “Get it done, get it done soon, but continue the plan to the best of your ability. The timing for this is critical. If Sifu and Hiro arrive before the plan is complete they’ll object, but if it’s too late and we have their friend gift-wrapped and ready for them, they’ll make the best of it.”
Rodgers crossed his arms. “I’ll get it done. Get me everything you’ve got on that P.A. and I’ll have him in your hands by the time our guests arrive.”
Malcolm beamed at his subordinate. “I haven’t even told you the best part yet. We got us an inside woman within Ranger Dreadful’s people, I’ll send you her contact details with the info on the P.A. Get this done for me Rodgers and everyone gets what they want.”
“Sir.” Rodgers nodded and his vidwindow closed.
Dragon Malcolm closed his eyes and sucked in another breath. He couldn’t keep the smile off his face.