'The Pit: Hell Frozen Over' - Arc 3, Chapter 2: 'Whispers' (Closed, Started)

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Lucia lifted her pickax above her head and swung down hard knocking a large chunk of rock loose, "I'd watch what you'd say about the gangs down here," Lucia nodded in the direction of the mustached Aryan near by. "Miners try to keep that talk to a minimum. But yeah, I don't like where this is going."

Lucia stepped back for a quick breather, "I'm sorry... I don't know what Orphan said to you, but... he's just like that I guess."

Lucia really didn't know what to say.

'It's fine, don't mention it.'

With that, Acolyte turned to the rock wall and began taking swings. 'By the way... what are we mining in this part of the Pit? Coal? Lead? Iron? All of the above?'

"Hey yo, Dragon-bitch!" Jack and Travis turned their attention upwards towards a guard. He grabbed his crotch and yelled "You eva' suck on a real man's cojones?" He burst into laughter as he mocked the Dragon.

Travis's face went red with white hot rage. Without taking his gaze away from the insolent guard he said to Jack "Look's like we're getting ourselves another gun." Jack sniggered and readied his gun, but Travis waved his hand to signal him to put it down. "Not yet." Travis spoke quietly before shouting back up to the guard "Feeling like a big man you Blackrock pussy! HUH?"

The guard just kept smiling and spat down at the floor. "How 'bout you come over here and put that mouth o' yours to some good use."

Travis smirked "Well just remember that you asked for it bitch!" Travis marched his way over to the guard, absolutely fuming. As he got closer both men took a firmer hold of their guns until they were about 10 feet from each other. They both held their guns tightly and were doing everything but actually aiming at each other. "Tell you what, how about we do this like men?"

"You think I'm that stupid chica?"

"Yeah I do, but as a little show of good faith," Travis took off the strap of his gun and threw it to the floor.

"Well fuck me you are a fuckin' dumbass aren't you? How the hell are you not dead yet?" The man smirked and refused to let go of his gun.

"Because I don't fight fair." Within a second Travis dropped down to the ground and Jack riddled the man with bullets. The Kevlar did well to protect everything but his neck as blood spurted out. He dropped like a rock, no time to react as bullets tore through his hands. Travis laughed and picked up his gun, putting the strap back on as he walked into a nearby mine, roughly snatching a pickaxe away from Lucia as he went back to the bleeding guard. "Still feeling funny motherfucker?" Travis spoke quietly into the man's ear as Jack stripped him of his body armour. Travis raised his arms and saw the fear in the man's eyes as The Dragon stabbied him in the stomach with the pickaxe. Blood spurted out of his mouth as he tried to scream. The whole time Travis laughed at him. Slowly he twisted the pickaxe, the main wailing in agony.

Jack picked up the second gun and began examining it, he aimed at the woman and said "Bang. Ha ha ha," he laughed slowly, "You dead bitch." He smirked as Travis kept torturing the man. Eventually it seemed he had lost too much blood and died, but Travis had killed enough people to know there was a little bit of life left in him.

"Jack! Bring that bitch over here!" shouted Travis. Jack kept the assault rifle trained on the girl and nodded for her to go move over to the body.

As she was forced to near closer and closer to the dying man Travis grabbed her by the head and forced her face against the man's bloody throat. He kept lauging, hysterical at this point and waited until the man had finally bled out before pulling the girl away. "Jack," Travis said slowly, sighing pervertedly, "until I get my hands on that other bitch, this one'll do. Move." With that Jacked nudged the girl in the back of the head with the barrel of the gun while Travis put on the Kevlar. "Nice job man, there's a couple holes but not many, you're pretty handy with that." Jack smiled and The Dragon aimed his gun at the girl as they walked towards Dragon territory.

"What about this bald fucker?" questioned Jack.

"I dunno," Travis turned to face him. "What is your deal?"

Lucia bit her lip and closed her eyes trying to drown out the violence behind her. Many of the others continued chipping away at the wall. If you continued doing your job there was less of a reason for anyone to mess with you.

"Bang. Ha ha ha."

Oh...

"You dead bitch."

...Fuck.

This hadn't been the first time she'd had a rifle trained on her since coming to the Pit, but that honestly didn't make a bit of difference. She was still terrified just as much as last time. She slowly turned and approached them.

It was disgusting. Degrading. Lucia fought back the tears, but as the man's laughing intensified something in her clicked and her sorrow suddenly disappeared. What was left was rage. She wanted this man dead.

Kusan...agi...

She barely noticed the pain as she was pulled up by her hair and marched forward. She stared ahead blankly and when she walked too slow Travis sneered and began dragging her by the collar of her shirt. As he turned to Lucia he must have noticed Acolyte standing nearby and addressed him.

"...And I suspect a somewhat body builder looking fella lodging a pick in the back of your skull is a shade counter intuitive to that goal. Am I right?"

As Travis' head was turned to the girl he was dragging he bumped into the man-mountain that was the mustached Aryan. Before they knew it they were surrounded by hardened miners all wielding pickaxes.

The Aryan looked down at Travis and spoke softly, "The girl is with us. Let her go."

A bearded man next to him nodded, "Your quarrel was with that guard. We'll tell the Company what happened, but they will not take kindly to you stealing their miners."

These men stood before the Dragon completely still. Completely calm. Despite wielding inferior weapons they boasted overwhelming numbers.

Acolyte's heart started hammering when Lucia was grabbed, but none of it showed on his face. 'Well, that's a good question, friend. What's anyone's deal in this place? Eating, sleeping; occasionally fighting. Survival, I guess.' He slowly and calmly moved forwards, towards Travis. 'Same goes for my... friend here.' He smiled politely and continued, 'I assume the same goes for the two of you. And I suspect a somewhat body builder looking fella lodging a pick in the back of your skull is a shade counter intuitive to that goal. Am I right?'

Travis pulled at Lucia's collar as she slowed down. However the bald man alerted his presence to a mountain of a man standing in his way. Travis turned, and this man was even bigger than himself. A huge man with a pickaxe, and even more surrounded the two Dragons.

The Aryan looked down at Travis and spoke softly, "The girl is with us. Let her go."

A bearded man next to him nodded, "Your quarrel was with that guard. We'll tell the Company what happened, but they will not take kindly to you stealing their miners."

Travis looked right at the man. 'God dammit I could have gotten this slut, Fuck!' Travis smiled and said calmly, trying to hide his fear. "No worries eh?" He let go of Lucia, "We're on the same side right," Travis lowered his tone sounding angrier, "after all you should know one of your leaders said he had my back, and the backs of all the Dragons. Its the niggers and Orphan we need to worry about right now."

"Whatever" responded the moustached mountain man.

Travis scoffed but forced a smile. "Lets go Jack, we got a new gun today, lets show it off to Clyde."

Once she was released Lucia took a few steps out of the circle of men, but kept her gaze focused on Travis. She pulled a rag out of her back pocket and began wiping the blood off her face. Who the fuck did this guy think he was?

"We're on the same side right... after all you should know one of your leaders said he had my back, and the backs of all the Dragons. Its the niggers and Orphan we need to worry about right now."

Orphan?!

As Travis and his partner walked off Lucia approached the Aryan, "What... what was he talking about?"

The other miners dispersed once the excitement died down. The Aryan nodded to a private space in the mine where they could speak. Lucia followed, "Word is that Orphan and the Zulu came into our territory a few days ago and killed some of our men," Lucia stared at him blankly. "We also just found out that our leader's been assassinated by the Zulu."

The Aryan paused and looked over at the mangled guard on the ground, "Blackrock will double their patrols here after this... but..." The man put a hand on Lucia's shoulder. She flinched a bit, but stopped herself from slapping his hand away. "War is coming to the Pit," He began to walk back to where he had been mining. "Stay safe."

Lucia watched as he left and looked to Acolyte. She kept her eyes on his until they began to tremble. She clenched her chest and turned for the mine's exit in a hurry.

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A few minutes after the confrontation with the miners Travis and Jack were walking back towards Dragon territory when Romeo spotted them coming up the sloped rock. One of them was holding his buddy's rifle, "That fuckin' punta!"

Romeo crouched behind a wall 50 yards ahead and took aim, "Eye for an eye you sunnova-"

Travis had been looking at Jack when his face was suddenly concealed by a red mist. Right between the eyes. Knowing Travis would respond quickly he switched the rifle to full-auto and began carpeting the area in bullets.

"FUCK YOU DRAGON-BITCH COCK SUCKER!"

When Lucia ran off, Acolyte followed swiftly. 'Best not be alone right now. I--' he was cut off by the sound of gunfire around the corner of one of the passages. 'Quick. Back to Orphan's cell, now!' Acolyte decided he would stay and investigate the source of the gunfire. He suspected Travis was involved.

Lucia, still trembling turned and grabbed his wrist before he could run off, "No," She gripped firmly and looked him in the eye. "It's too dangerous... come back with me."

She was pretty shaken up.

Acolyte put his hands on her shoulders. 'If that gang leader from before is involved, this could be important. He's small, but wild. If something's happened, it might be important to find out. I don't plan to get involved, I just need to look.'

What was he even doing? He could see the point in his own words, but they were also motivated by some strange need to prove to Orphan he wasn't some strung out junkie.

Lucia's bottom lip was noticeably shaking and her eyes were welling up, "Then.. then I'll wait for you here..."

She looked away from him in an attempt to pull herself together.

If Acolyte had had hair, he'd have been running his hands through it in distress.

'... fine. But if you hear footsteps, and you don't hear me calling out before I come around the corner, you run.'

He pulled her into a brief hug, and then sped off silently down the passage from which the sound of gunfire had come. A couple more turns brought him to a grizzly scene. Travis' right hand man was barely recognizable from the neck up, sprawled dead on the ground. Travis himself had avoided the gunfire, and the look on his face was one of unquenchable rage. Acolyte watched from around the corner.

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The squad were finishing up their meal when Akua asked, 'sir. I was wondering. That blade on your hip. How does a Russian soldier come to own such a thing?'

Korovitch replied, coming as close as he ever would to humour, 'well, I have a rule. Anything that gets lodged in a man's face is his to keep.'

Travis and Jack were walking back to their turf. "Who's gonna get the new gun?" asked Jack.

"I will dumbass, but I'll give the my other gun to that spic guy."

"Well what about Clyde? He still needs a gun?" Jack was confused, Clyde was one of the main lieutenants.

"Fuck Clyde, he's done nothing but fuck up lately. You want me to give him your gun?" asked Travis annoyed. Jack shook his head. "Good boy" Travis continued.

Jack sighed. 'Good boy?' What the fuck kind of a way is that to speak to his best man. He resigned himself from saying anything, despite their small numbers he knew that Travis was stupid and crazy enough to kill him if he pissed him off. "What do you think about that big ass Aryan back there?" he asked Travis.

"I think he's a little pussy and can't allow another man to have a good time." Travis turned to Jack and said laughing, "I'd 'a let him have sloppy seconds."

Jack barely chuckled. And then all Travis could see was red. "FUCK YOU DRAGON-BITCH COCK SUCKER!" It took a second for Travis to realise what had happened, but he was covered in Jack's brain matter. He stared down and the whole upper left part of his face was just gone. His nose, a lot of his face, just gone.

However Travis was never one to get sentimental, and Jack was barely a friend. But that didn't stop him from filling with rage. Travis ran towards a nearby pile of rubble as he was being fired upon by Romeo. "YOU'RE GONNA DIE YOU GOD DAMN PIECE OF SHIT!" This guy knew how to handle a gun. He stopped firing once Travis was in full cover. Travis peeked out to see what was wrong and consequently nearly got his head blown off. He resided himself to stay in cover and think of a way out of this. That was until a frag grenade rolled its way next to him. The Dragon panicked and threw it back, but the second he got back up he was shot 3 times in the chest. The Kevlar still worked, but man it hurt like hell, most of the bullets went through the stomach anyway. Travis fell back behind the rubble, playing dead and hoping his assailant would come along.

Romeo saw the grenade flying back at him and ran towards cover, however the grenade had already been cooked for too long and it exploded mid air. It blew him back at full force with a deafening sound. It took him a while to recover but he was for the most part alright. He tried to stand back up but found his leg in a lot of pain. He eventually got up and limped his way towards the pile of rubble, gun drawn. He found Travis lying on his back and stood over him, barrel to his face. Trembling with rage he was about to pull the trigger when suddenly he felt a stream of bullets tear through his leg. Romeo fell to the ground clutching his leg. Travis took this oppurtunity to mount him and wrap his hands around his throat, pressing his thumbs against his adams apple until the life left his lungs. Travis stood and turned around to see his saviour.

Clyde stood there, SMG in hand and said "You okay boss?" Travis nodded and stripped the man of his Kevlar, abandoning his old Kevlar, and taking his gun as well. Clyde grabbed one of the assault rifles as he saw Jack's corpse. "Fuck! Jack!"

"Nice shot. Take Jack's gun." Clyde did what he was told and took the gun away from his deceased friend. Clyde carried his own gun on the strap, Jack's in one hand and the guard's in the other, while Travis carried his own and Romeo's guns.

"What was your plan back there?" asked Clyde.

"Fuck you, that was my plan!" exclaimed Travis. "What are you doing out here anyway?"

"You two were gone for a while and you didn't say were you went, I figured either the mine or Aryan turf, so I came here." Clyde replied softly, trying to sound like a good soldier.

Travis nodded in appreciation. "Good. Good man. You saved my ass, but if anyone asks I was fine, understood!" His eyes were ablaze with fury.

"Understood" nodded Clyde weakly.

"Good, c'mon lets get back, I'm getting homesick." Travis immediately changed his attitude. There was no way he would sound like he needed help. They eventually got back to their turf. "I'm gonna lie down." Travis said. He really needed a rest after today.

Acolyte witnessed the carnage and Clyde's arrival. It was lucky the man hadn't come up the same passage Acolyte himself had used. Turning on his heel, he jogged quickly back the way he'd come. Before turning the last corner, he hissed, 'Lucia. It's me. Let's go.'

Lucia, holding her wrist to her chest, nodded and followed suit. She kept her mouth shut and her eyes glued to the ground as they made their way back to Orphan's cell.

Lucia wasn't sure if she was more afraid of Travis or... herself.

The Piranha was savagery made flesh, shrieking and spitting as he flailed through the air, death in each hand. Nikolai, although unarmed, met with equal force. Several strikes, at the very least hard enough to knock the average Inmate unconscious, made contact. However, the crazed Piranha stayed up and fighting. Perhaps he was drugged to give him such inhuman resistance, or perhaps he was just so unhinged the thrill of the fight gave him all the strength he needed. Every time Nikolai had an opening to make a killing blow, a pickaxe would slash through the air, causing him to duck and weave and relinquish the upper hand.

Even this maniac's ferocity could not hold best Nikolai however. As the Piranha drove him back towards the wall, Nikolai jumped, twisting to draw power from his entire body and focus it all into one punch, and pushing himself away from the wall with his other leg at the apex of the jump to bring his fist round in a crushing blow to the top of his challenger's head. The Piranha went sprawling, although he still wasn't done. However, he'd dropped one of his axes, which Nikolai had retrieved as he was getting to his feet. They came together again, this time accompanied by sparks and the song of steel as their weapons met. Nikolai leaned back as a slash passed inches from his face, and then on the return parried, locking the picks together. A step to the side, and a downward swing with his arm flung the Piranha across the floor, his other weapon now lost to him as well. His disfigured face gnashed as he howled with fury, but his war cry was cut short as Nikolai threw his axe, tumbling end over end through the air, to lodge itself between his eyes.

With his opponent dead Nikolai wasted no time in getting straight back to the task at hand. He retrieved his shotgun and gave the order to breach the cell at the end of the room. His remaining ally blasted off the lock with his own weapon. Nikolai burst in, firing indiscriminately.

For a gang with such a proud history and feared reputation as the Piranha's, their ending was unceremonious. There were no final speeches full of platitudes. No brave last stand all guns blazing. They hadn't even been given time to scream before they fell, their blood coating the walls of all the turf that remained to them.

"Let's go." Nikolai ordered. It was over, they need not stay any longer.

Acolyte and Lucia got back to Orphan's cell with haste. When they got in, Orphan didn't say anything, though Acolyte was sure he had registered everything. From the troubled look on Lucia's face to the mine dust on Acolyte's pants and bare chest. 'Lucia had a little altercation with the Dragons in the mines. I got there in time, but I didn't have to do much. In any case, I tailed him, and on top of those casualties from the Mafia hit, I can tell you their top Lieutenant underneath their leader is dead. Guy's gone and picked a fight with the Blackrock.'

Orphan started laughing, "What a dumb ass. I can't imagine he's going to be around much longer," His humored disposition faded as Lucia walked passed the two of them, pulling the linen sheet with her as to close the makeshift "door".

Orphan continued to stare in her direction and grunted under his breath, "I've seen that look before."

Acolyte stood next to Orphan as they watched her go through the sheet door. 'the Dragon and his late lackey tried to nab her just after I got there. The rest of the miners weren't too thrilled with that, though, so it didn't go according to plan. And he mentioned you. Something to the effect of 'our common enemies are the niggers and Orphan'. He's got the Aryans under thumb. Or maybe the other way around what with his losses. My guess is someone saw us with those dead Nazis.'

"Are we absolutely certain of this?" said Azrael, his voice low.

"What the White Stars reported hearing in the Dragon camp raised our suspicions," Yuri replied "what was said to the Aryan's in this latest confrontation would appear to confirm it. I'm not sure Travis even knows how close he came today, but what he intends is clear. He's going after Orphan."

Some around the room laughed at the very thought of the delusional loudmouth pitting his strength against the only enemy still to allude the Arctic Wolves, especially in wake of the highs of their most recent victory. Azrael, Nikolai noticed, did not. The extermination of the Piranha's was little more than a side-show, and in the mean time it would seem several new threats had arisen.

"I'll admit the very thought is ridiculous." Azrael mused, breaking though the laughter "Still, it's always possible he could get lucky, and as such we cannot afford to leave this alone. I don't know how long this... Travis, has been our neighbor in this place, but clearly there are still some unwritten rules in which he needs to be educated." He turned back to Yuri. "You will send men, five times as many as Travis possesses, or more if you wish, right into the Dragon's lair. Make sure they are all well equipped and disciplined. See to it that these exact words are relayed to him personally... 'Orphan is Azrael's alone to kill. He, or anyone associated with him, is off limits to The Dragon's; and if Travis doesn't stop waving around the pathetic excuse for a dick he has and tucks it back in his pants, then Azrael will, personally, relieve him of it.' If he attempts to respond with violence, then kill his men, all of them, and take him prisoner. I will then deal with him publicly the next time I pass judgement."

Yuri nodded, his orders received, and left the council.

"Matthias, Nikolai, remain. I have more private matters to discuss with the two of you. The rest of you, leave us!"

Nobody spoke until the three of them were left well and truly alone in the room.

"It would seem that The Dragons are the least of our problems. Our dear diminutive friend above ground appears to have not entirely learned his lesson. To attempt to pass off his coup inside the Aryan's as the Zulu's work was surprisingly amateurish by his standards. Perhaps we touched a nerve when we made him look a fool the first time..."

"The Aryan's are still co-operating fully. In fact, they're even more complicit than before." Matthias spoke up "If Sticks was planning to betray us then he's going about it in a particularly unorthodox way."

"Their actions are irrelevant!" Azrael interrupted sternly "Mutual goals do not make friends. The Aryan's were ours, now they are his. That's what matters."

"What does Master suggest?" said Nikolai, breaking his usual silence.

"I'm glad you asked. Like it or not, we can't do anything about Sticks directly. He's still our top supplier after all, and the sort of influence he wields is not easily replaced. I think, however, that he overestimates the importance of the Aryans to us. One pawn is as good as another after all. This is where you come in Matthias. You will make contact with the leadership of the Crips, under absolute secrecy. They don't know who the Aryans are taking their orders from, and even if they suspect our involvement, it won't take much to allay their mistrust. You will tell them that the Arctic Wolves are most concerned with the increased aggression of the Aryan Brotherhood, and that we're willing to negotiate and allegiance with the Crips, and the Zulu if they are willing, against the Aryans. Queen Bongani and her new friends in the Crips know that their fight against the Aryan's will be bloody. However, if they join ranks with us, then combined we have the strength to crush them with minimal casualties to ourselves. At worst, the Zulu will reject the offer, in which case the Crips will abandon them for our greater strength, leaving the Zulu friendless, and no threat to us.

In doing this, we will take away Stick's new toys and leave him with only one option. Deal with us, or nobody at all. The Crips will be less inclined to turn for him due to their history of discrimination from the Wardens. Beyond that, he can't show any open aggression towards us without openly admitting his own corruption, thereby ruining himself in the process, which he's not likely to do."

Matthias grinned in approval to the plan, and even Nikolai nodded.

"See it done." said Azrael "Now, Nikolai and I need to speak alone.

Orphan grunted inquisitively, "The Aryans under his thumb? Unlikely. You ever seen the guy?" Orphan smiled. "He's nothing but a rage-fueled rapist. I'm surprised he ever had anyone under his command."

And if he pissed on Blackrock's terf...

"Blackrock will have his head for this, but even so... you two are now targets. You need to stay out of the mines and lay-low."

Lucia could hear them speaking, but none of it registered. She sat on her cot, holding her legs to her chest tightly and staring down at her trembling hand. She couldn't stop thinking about what happened... and what she wanted to do.

She was afraid she'd lose herself.

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Sticks heard a stern knock on his door that woke him from his nap, "Bwah... oh, come in Conrad."

Conrad, emotionless as always, stepped into the office and dropped a file on his table.

"Who's this ugly fuck?"

"Travis the 'Dragon'," Conrad answered. "He runs... or ran, a small-time gang. He's a complete idiot and he's gotten most of his gang wiped out recently, but I think this is the kind of man you were looking for."

Sticks skimmed over the profile, "So, our guys in the Wolves are reporting Azrael's pissed at him... but he won't kill him?" Sticks held his hand over his mouth in thought. This didn't make much sense... this wasn't the Azrael he knew. "What's he playing at? This Travis is a loose cannon with no real ties to anyone of importance. If he's been fucking with Azrael I'd expect him to be dead by the end of the week."

Conrad shrugged, "He's ballsy."

Sticks smirked, "That he is," Sticks dropped the file on the table and looked up at Conrad. "I want him. Make sure one of our guys is with the Wolves when they confront Travis. We'll make our move once they've cleared out."

'Well, see that's the thing', Acolyte replied. 'He saw us, tried to nab her for his own use, and talked to me. We were right under his nose and he didn't get who we were. He still doesn't. In any case, my wound's healed, so Lucia has stopped being all obsessive doctory. I'm not going to take your food and water anymore. I'll be heading off now.'

He held out his hand to shake Orphan's.

Orphan looked down at his hand and shook it firmly before pulling him close to whisper in his ear, "The day the Pit sees true Armageddon is upon us. Lucia must make it out of this place when the opportunity presents itself," Orphan pauses for a moment. "Can I trust you to be there for her when I can't?"

To say Orphan's eyes were intense would be an understatement. The carefree old man suddenly looked like the devil himself.

'I'll keep an eye on her.'

And with that, he was gone around the corner. Acolyte had heard a supply drop was going to happen soon about two 'floors' up. He intended to be there when it happened.

Orphan stood there motionless as Acolyte left the cell. The room was completely still for a few moments until Orphan went to his cot to check his old watch. It was about that time. He pulled back the curtain to Lucia's room, "I have a job to do. I won't be gone long."

She was lying on her side staring at the wall. She didn't respond.

Orphan sighed, "I'm sorry Lucia."

With that, he went on his way.

"Orphan..." Azrael spat out the very word as if it were foul and toxic. "For decades he's has been the question hanging over my reign. Just one man, no crew, no army, no allies, and yet again and again he has defied me, alluded me, made me look weak! He's been smoke between my fingers, every time I clench my fist, he slips away, and now we know he intends to finish what he started the first time he tried to depose me, back when I was little more than a boy. Now though, now we have our chance, and when he dies there will be no more doubt, no more question of my superiority."

The moment had come, Nikolai knew. The moment he had been waiting for. He must be stone, impervious and unknowable.

"You have done well Nikolai, oh so well at the tasks I have set you thus far. Now comes your ultimate test, you will prove yourself a worth heir to me, beyond doubt, if you can slay the one beast that even our Pack fears. Are you ready, Nikolai? Do you believe you can kill him?"

"Yes."

"Good. Orphan is no fool. However, he has made the one mistake I thought he would never make. He has fallen to compassion, and tied himself to someone weaker. A girl who he saved from us when she was thrown in here, a liability. Before you can face him, you must bring the girl to me. She will deliver him to us, provided we make her the right offer.

"What offer?" Nikolai asked.

Azrael smiled. Though his aging features Nikolai saw a little boy, ready to pull off the wings of a fly he'd just caught.

"Her brother's life, for Orphan's."

Orphan's mind was completely preoccupied as he squeezed the life out of the man before him. Was his time coming to an end? How long could he possibly keep Lucia safe?

Once he had finally snapped out of it he realized he was gripping the throat of a corpse. The man he'd been assigned to kill was some rat or another that the wardens wanted eliminated. Orphan didn't need to know much else about him. He didn't want to know anything else about him. Once the kill had been confirmed Orphan dropped the body down the mineshaft from a concealed location high above the mine. A loud crash echoed up the shaft indicating to him that his job was done.

He made his way to the top level of the Pit where he usually met up with his contact. As per usual another bearded man in rags appeared from a dark alley, "Has the package been sent?"

"It's long gone," Orphan muttered without making eye-contact.

The ragged man nodded and started back down the alley when Orphan spoke up, "Wait," The man turned to meet Orphan's gaze. "I need to speak to the Colonel."

The ragged man laughed, "I'm sorry, but I don't know what you're talking about sir, I--"

Orphan grabbed the man by the collar and lifted him off his feet, "I. Need. To. Speak. To. The. Colonel. Understand?"

The ragged man nodded frantically until Orphan dropped him, "I'll see what I can do."

Orphan stood there, motionless, as the ragged man ran down the alley.

Orphan had become a desperate man.

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Orphan had been gone an hour before Lucia finally got to her feet. She walked over to his cot, moved it aside and started feeling around on the wall. Her fingers dragged along the concrete until she felt an artificial crease and pulled hard until it swung open. Inside was a large safe. Orphan had given her the combination, but she'd never felt the need to access it before. After entering the code and turning the spigot the safe opened up to reveal a large collection of firearms and several assortments of bladed weapons. She reached inside and retrieved an old M9 Barretta pistol and an AK-47. Both with original parts and spectacularly maintained.

Lucia put them both on the table and sat down. After staring blankly down at them for several moments she picked up the pistol and began disassembling it. It took her a few minutes, longer than she would have liked. Now was the hard part. It took her fifteen minutes to put it back together. Orphan would not be pleased.

Fuck him. This is for me. Again.

She began disassembling the pistol once more.

Travis was lying down in his cell, dazed and his body stiff. Too much work had been done today for too little gain. 'I was so god damn close to getting my dick wet. Fucking white supremacists why do they care?' His top lieutenant was dead, he had pissed off Blackrock, though he didn't know the shitstorm that would approach due to what he had done, the only good thing that came out of this were two more guns. At least now everyone could be strapped, and he managed to teach one last lesson to the Tigers; who were somehow even lower on the food chain than The Dragons.

His thoughts were interrupted by Scar running into his cell. "Boss. We need you out here."

"Oh for fuck sake what now!" He couldn't be bothered with anything else today he just wanted to sleep.

"Well... the Arctic Wolves are here." The Dragon's face went as white as a sheet, and for the first time Scar had scene his leader show true fear. More than fear, he looked petrified. His hands shook. The hairs on his arms stood on end. Beads of cold swear ran down his back. He licked his lips to try and gain back some saliva as his mouth had gone dry.

His head twitched as he spoke. "Erm, where is everyone else?" Scar was speechless, he had never seen Travis like this. He looked... weak. "WHERE THE FUCK IS EVERYONE!" Travis barked like a scared puppy rather than a vicious wolf.

"Erm, we're all out here... up against the wall. They got us hold up, he said you shouldn't bring a gun. He wants to talk directly to you." Scar had to try and hide the disgust in his voice. Travis was no Dragon, now he could see what Travis really was. 'A scared little pussy.'[/]

"Who's he- whatever." Travis got up slowly and quickly paced outside, and was greeted by 75 Arctic wolves; gnashing teeth and laughing.

A man stepped forwards, Yuri, and said to Travis with dominance "Orphan is Azrael's alone to kill. He, or anyone associated with him, is off limits to The Dragon's; and if you don't stop waving around the pathetic excuse for a dick you have and tuck it back in your pants, then Azrael will, personally, relieve you of it."

Travis stood there and wanted to punch this man's teeth out. [i]'You have the gaul to come in to my house and not pay respects to- No, I can't play that game. I gotta play along with this piece of shit.'
Tracis was about to say yes to everything he said, but he couldn't stand there and be embarrassed in front of his own men. He replied "Okay, I'll leave Orphan alone. But just so you know, no one come into my turf and insults me to my face. Now apologi-" He was interrupted by Yuri grabbing his testicals and began squeezing like a vice, bringing the dragon to his knees. With a wave of his hand Yuri directed his men to kill five dragons, shooting them like a firing line.

"You need to shut your mouth right now, cos if you don't I'm gonna rip these off and bring them to Azrael himself. And believe me that's nice compared to what he'd do if I brought you to him alive. Are we clear?" Travis patted him on the shoulder, begging him for release, and nodded. Yuri smirked and let go, wiping his hands on Travis's shoulder. "Lets go boys."

After spending several hours on the guns Lucia had moved onto conditioning. She had wrapped her hands in some spare medical tape and set a large piece of cardboard up against the concrete wall.

1-2-3. 1-2-3. 1-2-3.

She continued high, middle, and low jabs, throwing in a haymaker every now and then. It had been a boxing technique Orphan had taught her.

1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

The cardboard gave just enough cushioning to not bruiser her knuckle bones, but it still hurt like hell. She was caked in sweat but remained in her old ragged hoody. She needed to sweat the excess fat off. She needed to be light as a feather. She needed to be able to slip through her enemy's fingers.

Images of Azrael, Travis and others flashed in her mind as she continued her exercise, intensifying the impact of her blows. She thought of nothing else but revenge. She wanted to beat these men within an inch of their lives. She wanted to make them suffer as they had made her and so many others. Eventually her wrists began to sting and she noticed that the cardboard had more or less disintegrated.

She plopped down on the floor massaging her wrist. She opened and closed her hand deliberately as if trying to will away the pain. The fact that she was able to control her hand as well as she did despite the pain meant she was making progress.

She'd be ready this time.

Acolyte was crouched in a ceiling vent, peering through the grate. The squad of Wardens had come through to the large clearing on quad bikes hauling trailers full of small stacked crates. Some of the Wardens established a perimeter, while others threw the crates. Some of them broke, and scattered their goods far across the room.

This time around, the Crips and Aryans were the main presences for this drop. The Aryans had a small advantage of numbers. Both sides were armed with shivs, pickaxes, chains and other improvised weapons. On a mesh catwalk dangling from the ceiling, two Warden snipers oversaw the drop. It went smoothly. The Wardens dropped their goods and got out. After a couple of minutes, the snipers left, too. The moment they were gone, hell broke loose. This wasn't a riot, but merely a skirmish for supplies, and as such, the Wardens would allow it to pass.

Some of the first few Aryans were killed or wounded by zip guns. One hit wonders, that wouldn't fire again. The survivors in that first group made it through and started going to work on the gunners with metal pipes. A couple managed to yank out shivs to defend themselves. Acolyte ignored them, watching. As the fighting progressed, both sides also incrementally made off with supplies. Acolyte clocked an Aryan skittering around with a battered holdall. He and a couple of friends grabbed things, half at random and crammed them into the bag. Acolyte counted a can of tuna, a loaf of crusty bread, a portable hob with a small unit of gas, three cans of soup, two 2 liter bottles of water, a pack of water biscuits and three boxes of Aspirin. Aspirin! To Acolyte, that was a treasure. Over the years, he'd discovered regular doses of Aspirin lowered the frequency of his blackouts. They had to be regular doses, though. So he horded any Aspirin he could get his hands on.

He waited, and when the three Aryans passed the way they'd come, he crawled backwards through the vent, around the corner, and kicked out the grate he'd loosened. Lithe as a cat, he dropped and rolled, coming to his feet just as the trio came around the corner. This was his least favorite technique for harvesting from the drops, because it guaranteed violence, but it was his best shot in such a heavy skirmish.

'Hello, guys. Could you do me a favor, and hand over the bag?'
'Fuck off, you ain't Aryan!'
'No, I'm not, but it's just easier for all of us if you give me the bag. Please?'
'I'll give you a bag. A fucken teabagging!'

The three rushed him. Two had rough iron shivs, and the third had what looked like a steak knife. Acolyte sprinted towards them, and they faltered slightly in confusion. Veering to the wall, he set his feet to it, moving quickly along, bringing him up in front of the right-most Aryan. Pushing off the wall, his foot connected hard with the man's jaw with a loud cracking. The Aryan was hit so hard, he bowled into one of his fellows, who stumbled. Acolyte landed, and stooped to the man, swiftly clapping him on the temple and neck on opposite sides, knocking him out. The third took a swinging slash with his shiv, which Acolyte dodged. He grabbed the man's shoulder, found the nerve cluster, and squeezed. The Nazi twitched; the shiv clattered to the floor, and he himself collapsed. Acolyte picked up the holdall, and was about to shoulder it, when he turned to see a familiar face. The mountainous Aryan who'd helped Lucia in the mine shaft.

Ah...

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Stand down Corporal!"

"Fuck you, Sir!"

"I said STAND DOWN, THAT IS AN ORDER!"

"These bastards have been giving us hell for weeks. I'm done with it. I'm done with all of it!"

"Look at him. LOOK AT HIM DAMMIT! What is he, 15? Maybe not even that. Do you think he likes this war any more then we do? He is our prisoner, and we do not shoot prisoners, now lower your weapon."

"Who's war have you been fighting huh? No Tiger officer ever told me what we do and don't do to prisoners before."

"I don't give a shit what anyone else told you. For all command knows or cares we're dead! Fuck this war, and fuck the Tigers. I am the highest ranking officer you've got, and I am taking us all home before anyone else gets killed, do you understand? This kid isn't our enemy anymore, so I am ordering you, to lower. Your. Weapon!"

"Or what, you're gonna shoot me?"

"This is not a path you want to take Corporal..."

"GO ON THEN! PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY, YOU'VE GOT FIVE SECONDS... FOUR... THREE... TWO... ONE..."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Colonel?"

Lee was jerked out of the memory by the arrival of Cpt. Montoya. In a split second, he had composed himself.

"What is it, Captain?"

"'O' has made contact Sir, he says he wants to meet you, in person."

"Then I will not disappoint him."

The Captain paused "Sir, are you sure that's wise"

"No, but considering the circumstances, I feel it's the least I can do. We are proceeding on schedule I trust?"

"Even better than anticipated." Montoya sounded uncomfortable.

"Good." said Lee, but as Montoya turned to leave, he spoke up again.

"Would you describe me as a good man, Captain, if pressed?"

"I would Sir."

"Then you're naive. It's been a long time since I was last a good man. One way or another, I have always fought for what I believe in; and, strangely, I believe more in this than I have about anything in my life. My work will, in the long term, bring hope to this place. Perhaps I will even make it respectable. However, this does not make me a good man. I am a soldier, fighting a war, and I learned a long time ago what happens to good men in times of war."

The Captain said nothing else, for there was nothing else to say.

"I will meet with him at midnight, at the mouth of The Pit. In the morning, I want Lt. Korovich to meet me in my office, so we can talk about his progress. That will be all Captain."

===============================================================================================================================

All points of entry had been cut off, even the vents. While they needed the girl alive, Nikolai and his men did not know what they would find inside the cell block, even though they knew Orphan himself was elsewhere, so they were all armed. A few had thought beforehand that it was excessive to take so much care over one little girl, but Nikolai had corrected them. Anyone who ran with The Orphan was to be taken seriously, and even outside this case, they were never, under any circumstances, to underestimate an opponent. Nikolai would not tolerate mistakes from his chosen.

He crept closer, making astonishingly little sound for a man of his size, his back to the wall so he would not be visible from the line of sight out of the cell. he was close, so close he could hear her breathing heavily. She sounded tired.

It was time to move, and they must move quickly. Nikolai gave the signal, stepped out of the shadows, and kicked through the iron lock on the barred door as if it were paper.

The ragged man returned to Orphan to give him the news. Midnight wasn't too far off, but he had some time to kill and he was hungry. He started for his cell wondering if Lucia had moved a muscle since he had left.

********************************************************************************************************************************

Lucia moved to the table where she had laid her head down for a short break. She was exhausted and was about to fall asleep when she noticed something displayed on the baby monitor Orphan kept atop the nightstand next to his cot. There were several men outside the door. Armed.

Lucia froze. Her breathing grew heavy. Was she about to die?

A week ago--maybe even a few hours ago--Lucia wouldn't have had the will to act. Her fear of a terrible and inevitable end would have doomed her to accept her fate. Now, however....

Goodbye Lucia.

She grabbed the AK-47 and placed her boot on the edge of the table. Just as soon as the lock broke under the weight of the large man's foot Lucia kicked the table on it's side, crouched down and opened fire on the doorway. She didn't yell or scream or shout. She didn't tremble or shake or freeze up. She simply gritted her teeth and fired at her enemies.

A single tear escaped her eye and rolled down the side of her face.

'You could walk away. They need you out there against the Crips.'

'I do not ignore obstacles.'

Acolyte sighed. 'I see...'

'You hurt my comrades. You have our supplies. I can't let that pass.'

The mountainous Aryan still had his pickax from the mines. He hefted it, and charged. Acolyte sidestepped, and the head punched hard into the concrete floor. Acolyte expected him to try to yank it out, but he abandoned it immediately, and shoulder barged Acolyte, catching him by surprise. He went sprawling, winded.

The man then pulled his weapon free, bringing up chunks of concrete. He advanced, and prepared to swing at Acolyte who watched from the floor. He avoided this strike by rolling, and the Nazi stopped the ax head from being buried again. Acolyte jumped to his feet, and ducked back to avoid a slash. He darted forward and peppered the Aryan with a flurry of jabs. The man grunted in pain, but seemed otherwise unaffected. He slammed the pick's haft at Acolyte, who stepped back, grabbing it. Instead of trying to snatch the weapon though, he ducked under it, and under the Nazi's thick arm, turning slightly, and delivering a hard kick to the back of the knee. The Towering Aryan buckled, and then threw himself backwards. Acolyte had to backpedal to avoid being crushed.

He was sluggish. Finding it harder and harder to overcome this leviathan of a man. He should be able to run circles around him and drop him, but he couldn't. Why?

He knew why. And it meant he needed to finish this quickly. He shook his head to clear it as his opponent got to his feet. The Nazi stayed low to the ground and sprinted. Acolyte sprinted too, then at the last moment, jumped. his hands took grip on the huge man's back and he wheeled over him. Turning swiftly, he kicked. His foot planted itself firmly between the Nazi's legs and he crumpled. Acolyte jabbed nerves in the man's right arm and the ax fell to the ground. Then the left elbow slammed into Acolyte's gut and he fell. Then the man was on top of him and they were grappling. Acolyte was quickly getting groggier and groggier. There was only one thing he could do. He jabbed his thumb bluntly between the man's ribs. It went deeper in than the lay person might imagine without breaking skin or flesh. The Nazi gave an almighty flounder, and started gurgling. Then he fell limp. His heart stopped.

It took the weakened and winded Acolyte a herculean effort to lever the man off him. He got unsteadily to his feet, and nearly fell again. A vent. He needed a vent. He took two steps and fell against a wall. As he pushed himself back up, he heard faint footsteps. Shit.

They became louder as he fell to his knees and then sprawled, darkness consuming his vision. He blacked out. The Aryans came around the corner.

They examined the incapacitated men, the dead behemoth, and Acolyte.

'Shit! What happened here? Cried one.
'I dunno, but these are our guys!' They set about dragging away the unconscious. Acolyte's shaved head briefly saved him then.

============================================================================================

Korovitch was coming out of the latrine area when Captain Montoya flagged him down. He snapped off a crisp salute.

'The Colonel wants to see you, Officer.'

'I see.' He left without asking questions. He would find out what for in due time, and that was fine by him.

Nikolai had only a split second, but he'd always been faster than he looked. When he saw the gun he turned like a dancer round to the opposite wall, out of the line of fire. Nevertheless, one bullet grazed his arm, but not badly, and Nikolai only noticed because because he had the time to look as the girl in the room kept firing at the empty space outside the door, punching hole after hole in the wall across from them. When the magazine was empty, he stepped back in and threw the table aside, kicking the empty rifle out of her hands with ease, hauling her to her feet and out of the cell. He struck her with the back of his hand across her face, hard. He didn't quite knock her unconscious, but she was dazed, and went limp. It was time for them to leave.

"Little girl will not fight anymore, or she will die." he told her, as he scooped her up onto his shoulder like she weighed nothing at all, and jogged back towards the exit, his men falling in around them.

Lucia, barely conscious, felt a cold, wet sensation on her back. She summoned enough strength to move her head and look at the massive hand placed firmly on her spine. There was some blood on his fingers. She didn't know where she hit him, but it obviously wasn't a good enough shot. For a moment she contemplated biting his ear and rolling over the side of the balcony, but there were too many what-ifs. The movement was consistent enough to lull her to sleep in her current state, but she fought to stay conscious. She needed to remember where she was. Where she was going.

It took a few minutes, but she eventually mustered up the courage to speak, "Who are you? Where are you taking me?"

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

Orphan arrived to a grim scene. His heart more than sank... it plummeted to the deepest depths of the Pit itself. He walked over to the entrance of his cell and was examining the blood splatter on the wall when a familiar face appeared. It was his bird, "Who did this."

The small, feeble man was trembling, "It was Azrael's men. His Dog led them."

Orphan's expression remained unchanged, "If I survive until the end of the week you will be compensated," orphan said as he headed back the way he came.

The small man reached out, "What will you do?"

Orphan stopped walking for a moment and without looking back said, "Anything I can."

It would be midnight soon.

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