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

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"You know who we are, little girl." said Nikolai "We are Arctic Wolves. We are taking you to Master."

She didn't respond to that.

"Dog's can smell fear, little girl." he told her, his voice a low whisper. "Do not be afraid. Master wants you alive. He will speak with you. Do as Master asks, and we will not hurt you again."

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In the darkness Lee strode across the snowy tarmac towards the meeting. What Orphan wanted to talk about, he could probably guess, but he had taken the necessary precautions, just in case.

Lucia clenched her hands into fists, balling up bits of Nikolai's shirt in the process. Why would they want her alive? Could this be about Orphan?

After a few moments she relaxed her grip, "He won't come for me you know. Your 'Master' is... he's wasting his time," Lucia bit her lip and winced. "He's survived despite the odds all this time," She wasn't sure if she was trying to convince him or herself. "Why do you think he'd throw that all away after coming this far?"

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In the darkness, Lee had suddenly stopped walking. He felt a cold chill run up his spine. It was as if Orphan had been following behind him since he left his office, "I thought I had more time, but it turns out I don't," Orphan paused for a brief moment, but continued before Lee turned around. "I need your help, Lee."

Lee turned to face the man. He briefly considered a friendly greeting, but thought better of it. Orphan would know that the pleasantries were hollow. Better to keep this exchange businesslike.

"Make your request. I think we can both agree that I am in your debt."

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Nikolai shrugged "Master will explain. I bring you to him now. That is all that matters."

Orphan took a deep breath before speaking, "The girl I've been sheltering, Lucia... she's been taken by Azrael," Orphan scratched his beard, thinking for a moment and continued. "The Wolves don't give two shits about the girl, it's me they want. I'd gladly hand myself over to them if it meant she'd be safe, but we both know that's not how Azrael operates."

What he had to say next was something he'd considered in the past, but had hoped he'd never have to go through with. Something every inch of his nature fought against.

"Look Lee, I don't give a fuck about what kind of game you're playing in the Pit, but I'm not as old and blind as you may think. I know I've already crossed a line there's no coming back from, but in honor of all the years I cleaned the shit out of this hellhole for you, I ask... give me what I need to get her back and promise me she'll be set free. I know you've read her file and I know you have the kind of pull needed to get it done," Orphan crossed his arms and looked down briefly before looking Lee in the eye once more. "In return you can be sure I won't walk out of there alive."

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Talking to this thickheaded enforcer wasn't going to get her anywhere. Lucia decided to save her energy and think back to any knowledge about the Wolves and the Pit that may help her situation. Though, for some reason... she wasn't as distressed as she thought she should be.

I'm coming at last Tristan...

"For me?" Lee scoffed "You're rewriting history Orphan. You already had plenty of blood on your hands before I was put in command of this place. The predecessor of my predecessor I think it was, or perhaps before even him, who first approached you. Their plan, to have a man beneath the surface to solve problems outside of the Warden's reach and mandate, was certainly poking it's nose in the right direction. However, it lacked a certain sense of... scale."

He took a step closer to the man, and this time spoke more diplomatically.

"Nevertheless, I have used your services, and I am not an unreasonable man. In regards to your suggestion, I cannot grant you what you want. There are too many risks involved there, and any mistake to undo an entire operation years in the making. Rest assured, Lucia will be safe. Ironically, I'd argue that she's safer at this precise moment than she was under your protection. Azrael needs her alive, else she'd already be dead, and I have... implements, in place, that can assure her protection after you are no longer around. While I admit I can't guarantee against some minor level of harm to her person, she will never be in any real danger. Beyond that, I must ask that you trust me, and comply with any demands that Azrael may make of you, for her sake."

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They found Azrael waiting for them in his own private chambers. It had been made to look comfortable, or at least as comfortable as a hollow of solid ice can be. Seated at the long table, the place at the other end had been served with a healthy plate of food, although with no knife or fork.

"My dear Lucia!" he welcomed cheerfully, as Nikolai set her down on her feet and stood guard by the door. He put on a good show of tutting with dissatisfaction at the sight of her bruised face. "I am sorry if the summons I sent for you was a little... physical. I am a cautious man, and it was of the utmost importance that you join me here tonight. Regardless, I offer you my deepest apologies. Now please, sit and eat. Warriors must eat well if they are to grow as big and strong as Nikolai here, and I would feel so dreadfully rude if I started negotiating terms before I had first offered you my hospitality. You are in the presence of a King after all. It is only fitting that you should be made to feel a princess!"

Orphan stepped up mere inches from Lee's face. His stare was... otherworldly, "You tell me what you have implemented. Specifically. You profit from my death as well as Azrael, so you're going to have to prove to me you're not just blowing smoke and hoping I'll take any scraps you serve me."

It is fair to say that Lee had never seen Orphan like this before.

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Lucia wasn't buying into the "hospitality" one bit. She would speak plainly and right to the point, "Spare me the bullshit. Why am I here?"

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Sticks, Conrad and a handful of low-ranking wardens came around the corner bringing the Dragon's "hideout" into view, "Nice little place they've got here. Don't you think?"

Conrad remained silent. He was a professional. As they came closer they noticed two men standing guard armed with crude firearms. It was unlikely they could do any real damage. Conrad signaled to his men and they charged out with weapons hot, "Nobody move!"

The two guards froze, dropping their guns without a second thought. Sticks walked out in front of them, "The 'Dragon' commands such loyalty," Stick's signature grin was an unsettling sight, indeed. "Tell your boss the wardens have a proposition for him. Tell him... I can offer him revenge."

When Acolyte regained consciousness, the first thing he noticed was that he could barely feel his hands. His wrists were tied to an iron support strut behind his back.

He registered a wild eyed face just as he was struck across the face. A feeble blow, but it rocked him. 'G'morning, FUCKER!'

'...what?'
'We brought you back thinking you was us. But... No swastika. Then we figured a bald guy was with Orphan when he killed our boys.'
'Ah.'
'You don't fuck with the master race, blood traitor.' As the Aryan ranted, Acolyte saw a faint glow, drawing steadily closer. The Aryan continued, 'so you're no better than the niggers. No better than cattle. And guess what we do to cattle.'

Acolyte realised the glow was a branding iron seconds before it was placed on his chest by the second Nazi. He screamed.

What seemed like an eternity later, he woke up again to voices. 'So I was getting our stuff from the wolves. Apparently they screwed Orphan!'
'Yeah?' Replied another, 'I'll believe it when I see the body.
'Nah, he was gone but they got his bitch!'

shit...

Lee's face remained impassive.

"You may find me more difficult to intimidate than the people who's company you normally keep Orphan, I warn you of that now. I will not tell you everything. I'm sorry, but I keep my cards close to my chest, and you are currently in a very vulnerable position. I will, however, tell you this. From the moment I first heard of your little intervention of that girl's behalf I knew how this was going to play out. It was textbook really. So, while you were trying in vain to protect her from the inevitable, I set about preparing for this exact eventuality. You may think it absurd, but right now Lucia is safer than she has ever been. While she is with Azrael she is always under my gaze, and when the time comes she, and her brother, will be kept away from all danger. This plan, however, hinges on your co-operation. You will follow any and all demands Azrael makes of you, and if you fail in this, any harm that may come to either of them is not my responsibility. The truth is Orphan, that you were the one who put her in harms way when you made her a fugitive from the most powerful organisation in The Pit, and I have been working for months to undo your mistake."

Lee turned and walked away, back in the direction of his quarters, after a few paces though, he looked back.

"Whatever else you think of me Orphan, I am a man who keeps his word; and I promise you now that she will be safe."

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Nikolai saw Azrael's warm expression falter for the briefest moment. "I admire your spirit Lucia. You are as strong willed as you are intelligent. When this whole messy business is over with, The Wolves would be honoured to welcome you into our ranks. First though, I insist you must eat. It would be unwise to spend the night on an empty stomach. After all, tomorrow is going to be a very busy day indeed."

Orphan stood there alone in the darkness as Lee walked off. He didn't understand everything that was going on, but he sensed it in him. Lee and Orphan were cut from the same cloth. Men who wish they were good, but due to circumstances out of their control were forced to do horrible things. It was likely that Lee was responsible for putting Orphan in this position to begin with, but that didn't matter anymore. Revenge was a petty thing for lesser men.

After sometime he decided to head back to his cell and get some rest. He'd need it.

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Lucia looked down at the meal before her. She was quite hungry. She stared back at the silent, hulking man before taking her first bite. She continued to stare at him. There was something about him that was... off.

The Nazis seemed to have grown bored with him for now, but he doubted he'd have long. Fortunately, the support strut was old, and the iron was ragged. By running the rope around his wrists against the corner of the strut, Acolyte was able to crudely saw through it.

When he tried to stand, he almost fell again. The fit, the beatings and the branding had taken a lot out of him. His chest still burned, and he could feel bruises rising on his face and chest where the Aryans who'd found him had vented their vengeful anger on him. Now, they were doping up somewhere. His vision had adapted to the dark, though and he spotted his holdall in the corner. Crouching in front of it, he took out the bread, a water bottle and some aspirin. He popped two and chased them with water, then set about devouring the loaf of crusty bread. Then he was on his way.

He was around halfway back to Orphan's cell. The pain killers and food had taken effect and he was doing much better. He suspected Orphan had a weapons cache. It went against everything he stood for, but he'd promised Orphan he'd look out for Lucia. He couldn't back out because of bad odds and the likelihood of killing. He'd grab a rifle, find the Wolves, and do whatever he could.

He was snapped out of this reverie when he came around the corner. In front of him were a crowd of about eight Aryans, holding bats and pipes. With them was another, somewhat more intelligent looking Aryan. What was surprising was the .38 snub nose revolver that was strapped to his hip.

Harris von Strucker, Commander of the Aryan Brotherood, held up a severed head by it's hair and threw it to Acolyte's feet. Acolyte recognized it as one of the men who had branded and beaten him earlier, "On behalf of my brothers I apologize for the suffering you encountered at their hands," Harris seemed sincere, or at the very least he was legitimately angry about what had happened. "As you see they paid the price of ignoring my orders."

Harris signaled to his men to stand down and approached Acolyte, "You were there the other day when several of my brothers were murdered and you killed one of my best warriors earlier today. You're good. More than good, my friend," Harris crossed his arms and smiled. "I did my research. Everyone's secrets can be found out here if you know who to ask. I know about your little... problem. But, I also know you're a loner that'd never join us and that's not what interests me anyway. As payment for the good men you've killed I ask that you aid us in the coming war."

Harris began to pace back and forth, "As you have experienced firsthand, my men are more on edge than they've ever been," For a brief moment Harris appeared disturbed by this fact. "They need to quench their bloodlust, and they need to do it soon. The Zulu killed my brother, but our advocate on the surface is willing to assist us on striking back at our ancient foe. We found out only hours ago that the Arctic Wolves have made contract with the Crips and the Zulu and there is no way in fucking hell I'll let us suffer such insults any longer. The time to strike at the Wolves is almost upon us."

Travis was sitting alone in his cell looking at the floor. No one dared enter. He was humiliated. Five men killed and his balls twisted by a wolf. How could he command loyalty like this? Despite the cowards in his group, now even the psychopaths wouldn't respect him.

Scar barged into his cell and barked rudely "Travis."

Travis looked up, confused as the anger had yet to settle in. "What did you just call me?"

"Travis. It's your name isn't it?" Scar remained calm.

"You call me The Dragon bitch." Travis breathed slow, his anger bubbling under his skin.

"Yeah whatever Travis, someone else is here to make you look like a punk, they got guns."

Within seconds Travis pinned Scar to the wall. "Don't you ever, EVER TALK TO ME LIKE THAT YOU LITTLE BITCH!"

"Or what hey?! What the fuck are you gonna do you little pussy! You let the wolves make you their bitch, we got taken outby the mafia like nothing, and guess what? The Aryans don't have our backs!"

"WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!" Travis yelled with ear piercing volume, no doubt Sticks could hear him. "You're just a young limp dick little faggot! Shit why do you think we call you scar? All those cuts do is show how shit you are in a fight, Martin!"

Scar's eyes were ablaze and he kicked Travis in the gut. "My name is SCAR!" He pounced on Travis and began punching him repeatedly in the head. Travis covered himself and push Scar away, reaching for his gun. Scar pushed away the Assault Rifle and began laying fist after fist into Travis's face. In response Travis grabbed his legs and lifted him up with ease, throwing him out of his cell, right in front of Sticks and his men. Travis ran out of his cell, jumped up and landed both feet on Scar's head- leaving teeth and bits of brain matter and skull all over the place.

Travis looked to his sides and saw his guards trembling as the warden's had their guns trained on them. He saw their guns on the floor and shouted "Oh for fuck sake, you pair of pussies. Really? I mean fucking really? How the hell did you faggots survive the mafia hit and yet you shit yourselves when someone puts a gun to you?" They both stuttered for words before Travis cut them off "Y'know what I don't care! If it wasn't for the fact that most of us have been killed in the past few days I'd force you both to march right into the middle of the Pit and fuck each other before killing the pair of you." He turned his attention to the man in charge, Sticks. "The fuck do you want?"

"Taken aback" was an understatement as to how Acolyte felt. These people brought him as close as he'd ever come to disgust. But they could be useful.

'I've no fight with the Zulu, or the Crips. The Wolves, on the other hand... I could lend you weapons. The key word there being lend. They aren't mine to give away. We go to their base, and deal with them. I'll fight to the end, and all I ask is that you help me save one life. Then we go our separate ways. I don't bother you, and you don't bother me. How's that for a deal?'

Harris smiled and threw his hand out for a shake, "Brilliant. I couldn't have put the terms better myself. However, you should know that our man on the surface is still maneuvering his pawns. They will be in place shortly from what I understand. Can the life you need to save last until then?"

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Sticks nearly doubled over he was laughing so hard. Blood and brain matter had splattered onto Conrad's pants and boots, but he paid it no mind. He simply stood their with his rifle trained on Travis, "BEAUTIFUL! That was fucking beautiful," Sticks wiped a tear from his eye and attempted to calm himself before continuing. "Ahem. I'm here to give you a shot at revenge against those who have gravely insulted you," Sticks signaled to the entrance behind Travis. "Could we speak privately?"

'That depends on what your definition of "shortly" is, and just how violently psychopathic Azrael is. For now, we might as well go and get armed. I really hope you're not just bringing these guys, or Tao will take us to the afterlife very soon.'

Expecting Harris and his men to follow, he set off towards Orphan's cell.

The Aryans followed closely behind, "No, our contact assures us that in addition to the full-force of the Aryans we will have others aiding us in the battle," Harris seemed confident.

The group made their way to Orphan's cell and as they came around the corner they immediately noticed the stash of weapons pouring out of a hole in the wall. Before they could run in and start rummaging through it Harris held his hand out, "We'll distribute the goods properly."

He stepped into the cell and began sorting through the weapons.

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Orphan noticed the light of his cell shining into the hall as well as the echoes of voices coming from within. He slowly approached the entrance and peaked around the corner to see Acolyte and a handful of skinheads looting his supply. He stepped into the doorway with his arms crossed, "Kid, what are you doing?"

Acolyte shouldered an Enfield rifle, and turned to face him. 'I'm doing what you asked me to do.'

He saw Orphan raise an eyebrow at the bruises on his face, as well as the swastika burned into his chest. Fortunately, there were a couple of Kevlar vests in the safe, and he pulled one over his shoulders.

'You're welcome to come with. Unless something's stopping you from pulling something like this yourself. In which case, I suggest you turn around. You weren't here, right?'

"You have nothing to fear from Nikolai, my dear." Azrael told her, both of them looking in his direction. He's an, imposing presence I don't deny, but even big Dog's are obedient. Isn't that right Nikolai?"

"Yes, Master." he told them, inclining his head in Azrael's direction before fixing his stare back on Lucia.

"Now, back to the matter at hand Lucia." Azrael continued "I've kept you waiting long enough I think you'll agree. It's time for you to be fully included. I am going to hold court tomorrow, whereupon you will be presented, not as a prisoner, but rather as an ally. You will announce to the congregation that the vile assassin and Warden Collaborator, known as Orphan, kidnapped you and held you against your will for a period of some months, and that he must be made to answer for his crimes. He will consent to meet us at the ring in The Hive by nine o-clock that evening. He will come alone, and unarmed. He will, at last, step out of the shadows, so that all the creatures in The Pit can see him test his might against the might of The Arctic Wolves. If he fails to meet these demands, his mystique will be broken, and henceforth he shall be known as nothing more than a coward and a Rat, who dare not even stand to be counted for the sake of an innocent child such as yourself. He will be denounced, and attained. No-one shall offer him sanctuary, and no Inmate shall ever need for fear the darkness for his sake again.

Together, you and I will take the most important step of all to bringing about true stability in this place, by removing his pestilence from our midst. However, I am not so crude as to command all of this from you at gunpoint. Lord no! Instead, I am inclined to offer an exchange. One I feel I more than worth Orphan's deliverance..."

There was a distinct malevolence in Azrael's eye as he grinned from above his meal at Lucia. Nikolai knew he was enjoying himself.

"I was an only child myself, sweet Lucia. However, from what I understand even among siblings, you two are particularly close. That's right, I will to return your brother to you, as a peace offering between us. However, and here is the important detail, the manner in which he is returned to you will depend on the extent of your co-operation. Should you attempt to shun or subvert my generosity, I may choose to return him in certain, shall we say... installments. First I would give you his fingers, then his toes, then his manhood, and then, well, I'm sure you get the picture. But rest assured, what you do is entirely your choice, and whatever you choose, you will get him back, all of him... eventually."

Of course this was about Orphan. Lucia stopped eating midway through his exposition, mad-dogging Azrael hard. She fought with every fiber of her being to contain her rage. After he was done she took several moments to herself to try and collect her thoughts and form a retort, "An exchange? This is extortion," Lucia stood up with her hands firmly planted on the table. "Don't try to sugarcoat it and don't expect me to be intimidated by your vile descriptions of my brother's demise! After everything you've done to me and my brother I deserve to at least speak to him before I even begin to consider your 'offer'."

Lucia slammed her fists on the table and pointed at Nikolai, "I may not be strong enough yet to hold my own against someone like him, but Orphan's taught me a lot in the short time I've been with him. If you think I'm stupid enough to take you at your word then---" She stopped herself. She was slipping and she didn't want to shoot her mouth off if it meant Tristan would be hurt. She took a deep breath, "Again, let me speak to my brother."

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Orphan looked Acolyte in the eyes, "Disappointing."

He turned and walked off into the darkness.

Acolyte called after him, 'look, I don't like it either. Attacking a group of people, guns blazing is against everything I stand for, but if I hadn't walked out, she might not be in this situation. I have to do something.'

He steps close to Orphan so the others don't hear. 'You think I like working with Nazis? I don't. You saw what they did to my chest. And even though there's a very good chance this won't work, it's the best I can do.'

Orphan stopped and after a brief moment of staring into the void he turned his head towards Acolyte, "I'm sorry I placed this burden on you. Lucia will be safe so long as I comply with Azrael's demands," Orphan looked away and scowled. "An 'old friend' assured me of it. Just promise me you won't do anything stupid," Orphan turned around and put his hands on Acolyte's shoulders. "If this falls through and Lucia's life is in danger I'm... glad you will be there for her."

Orphan nodded to himself and turned to leave.

Acolyte sighed.

'Try not to die. I need to give these guns back to you, after all.'

Orphan waved his hand as he walked into the darkness, "Keep them. You'll need them before this is over."

And with that Orphan was gone.

Azrael took on a more businesslike tone. "As you wish. Sharptooth! Bring him in."

Shaptooth's wretched grin stretched from ear to ear, showing off the long, iron fangs that had replaced his canine teeth. He brought half a dozen of his own men with him, who with them brought a bound Pit Slave. The boy was ragged and his eyes had a glazed look of submission that the Slaves often wore after they had finally resigned themselves to whatever fate their overseers dictated for them. Still, Nikolai remembered his face, how he had kicked and yelled as Nikolai's men had dragged him off before The Orphan had come to save his sister. Not even Sharptooth's mines could change a creatures face completely.

"I trust you recognise him." said Azrael. "As you can see, he had been kept relatively unspoiled. However, you have disappointed me Lucia."

He beckoned to Nikolai, who immediately seized Lucia and held her tight, with her arms locked behind her back, while three other armed men moved to guard the door.

"I offer you my food and my kindness, and so far I have received nothing but venom, which would lead me to believe that you are not taking me seriously; and you have no idea how my I despise it when I feel I am not being taken seriously. It hurts me Lucia, it really does. It's like a thousand ants crawling beneath my skin, all biting and biting and biting! So, I feel you need proof of my convictions, so I am going to give you the deposit payment now. I am not unkind though, so I'll let you choose which part of your brother we take first. Should it be the fingers on his left hand? Perhaps an ear, or an eye would suit you better? If no sort of physical mutilation appeals to you, I could command Shaptooth to take what little remains of his dignity instead? It won't be a pleasant sight, but we appear to be done eating, so at least it won't be bad table manners."

As he spoke Lucia fought to break free, kicking and pulling as hard as she could. Nikolai's grip would not succumb. When he was finished Lucia stopped squirming and stared at her brother's face. His expression was... vacant. She was practically hyperventilating when she spoke, "Tristan... TRISTAN! C-can you hear me?"

He didn't respond. He just looked back at her. Dead behind the eyes.

Lucia burst into tears, "You f-fucking monsters... What did they do to you? Tristan... I..." Lucia had been broken. Nikolai could feel her trembling as she whimpered, mumbling Tristan's name to herself.

"Kópste..."

Lucia's eyes widened as she heard her brother speak.

"Kópste to..."

What is...

"....Níma..."

No... Tristan...

Lucia stared blankly at him, tears streaming down her face. She didn't know what to say.

"Cut Thread". He was asking for death.

When everybody had been appropriately armed, Acolyte approached Harris.

'Alright. It's time you told me who our backup is.'

Harris threw a backpack over his shoulder and shrugged, "That's on a need-to-know basis and apparently we don't need to know."

He placed heavy emphasis on "we" indicating to Acolyte that this may be a bigger game than he thought.

"Alright men, we've cleared this place out. It's time to move!"

"Yeah sure whatever" Said Travis as he walked to a private area with Sticks. "Now a lot of people have gravely insulted me, so why don't you tell me how I can get revenge on half the fucking pit eh?"

Sticks left the recruits who remained outside with their guns trained on Travis' men. Conrad stood watch outside of the room. Sticks leaned up against the wall with his arms crossed. He looked incredibly relaxed, "If you don't mind I'm going to skip all the pleasantries and I'm not going to pull any punches. You've fucked up. You've fucked up bad," Sticks smirked arrogantly. "I know it. You know it. Your men know it. The whole goddamned Pit knows it. But you know what they should be made aware of? No one fucks with 'The Dragon'."

Sticks walked across the room and sat down in a steel chair, "Revenge on all of your enemies will take time, but I'm here to put you in a position that'd make it all possible. How would you like to lead the Arctic Wolves?"

No one fucks with 'The Dragon'." Travis smirked. He felt like Sticks was insulting him, and he was, but those words always gave him a mental hard on. Sticks walked across the room and sat down in a steel chair, "Revenge on all of your enemies will take time, but I'm here to put you in a position that'd make it all possible. How would you like to lead the Arctic Wolves?"

Travis beamed a sadistic smile and laughed an evil cackle. "Y'know its times like this that I wish I had like a liquor cabinet or something. But don't think I'm stupid, I know that all you want is a pawn." Travis moved uncomfortably close to Sticks. "Someone tough who knows how to fuck someone up, without question." Travis paused for a moment before leaning back. "And I'm okay with that, as long as you don't try to make me your bitch. Believe me man I know how to fuck people up. Y'know that part of your brain that says 'This is the wrong thing to do?' Yeah? Well I never had that. I killed a baby in front of a mother once, and then I raped her and drowned her. So you should know just how willing I am to cross a line that other people say should never be crossed. So tell me, what's your plan? And how the hell are you gonna make sure I take Azrael's place?."

Sticks nodded intently as Travis talked himself up. When he was done Sticks leaned in close, "I'm not going to lie. This is going to be some tricky business, but I think you're the man for the job. First thing's first, we need allies," Sticks got out of the chair and began pacing around the room. "I have the Aryans under my control, but they're itching for blood and need to be allowed to feed before too long. Unfortunately, the most likely ally we can hope to have in the coming battle are the Crips who--as I am sure you know--don't play nice with the skinheads," Sticks stopped pacing and smiled at Travis. "And that's where you come in."

"The Wolves have already reached out to the Crips in order to invalidate my alliance with the Aryans. With the Crips' allegiance comes the Zulu, or rather, the people responsible for the late Hans von Strucker's death. Though they have yet to give their answer, the Zulu will likely turn away from the Crips as they despise the Wolves. As a 3rd party I need you to convince the Crips that a temporary alliance with the Aryans against the Wolves is necessary if they are to expand their influence and that continuing to ally themselves with the group responsible for Strucker's assassination will spell doom for them when the Aryans go after the Zulu for revenge," Sticks paused for a moment. "You're getting all this right? Of course you are! Don't worry, I am getting to the part you'll enjoy."

Sticks sat back down across from Travis, "You will also point out that the Wolves are responsible for their men's recent erratic behavior. You will tell them that the Wolves laced their meth with steroids in an attempt to facilitate a war with the Aryans who have begun to rebel against their former masters. This is, in part true, though I suppose it doesn't matter since you don't really need to know what is and isn't a lie here anyway," Sticks took a deep breath. "So this is, specifically what I need you to do: go into Crips territory with an offering... the corpse of a recently deceased Warden should do. Then, you tell them what I told you. Try to make it convincing. If you need to you may challenge their strongest warrior to a duel, in which I am sure you will be victorious. Once you have their word you will report back to me," Sticks closed his eyes nodding to himself. "What comes next will be a glorious battle, the likes of which the Pit has never seen. I will assume command of this facility and be your advocate on the surface while you are placed upon Azrael's throne to run things down here."

"When this is over no one will ever spit on your name ever again. Everyone will fear 'The Dragon'. So... what do you say?"

Travis listened intently to the smug man, who no doubt thought he was better than The Dragon. "Just a few questions. One, how am I gonna get a warden corpse. Two, why wouldn't the Crips want me dead as I've been spreading shit about them killing Aryans. Three, I really don't think the Aryans and Crips will work together, even with the bullshit about the Zulu, what would they gain, the Crips working with the Zulu could easily take out the Aryans. Four, I'm gonna need something to give me an edge during the fight, you got any pills or anything on you that lessons pain, I've seen those big fuckers. And five... I accept." Travis stood and held out his hand to the snidy man.

Back at the Aryan hideout, Acolyte sat himself as far away from the spot where people were toking meth as possible. With his rifle propped against the wall next to him, he sipped at a bottle of concentrate orange juice, and ate a prepackaged tuna sandwich. In one corner, some of them were setting up wrestling bouts. Spirits were high in anticipation of the coming battle. What was rather jarring was 'Death to Niggers' scrawled across one wall. It really served to remind you just who these people were. The swastika brand over his heart had stopped hurting, and was now itching furiously. He pushed a hand underneath his Kevlar vest to scratch it, and sighed to himself. Then, he popped two more Aspirin. Best to keep regular dosage on the run up to the fight. Three boxes of the stuff would keep him going for a good few days, hopefully without incident.

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

Korovitch sat at the desk in his quarters, thinking furiously. Tomorrow, he met with the Colonel. Tomorrow, he found out, at least in part, what the reason was for his sudden call to arms. It'd been a month since he'd had reason to go down into the Pit, and he was interested to find out what had changed that warranted a special unit. Sleepless, he occupied himself oiling the blade of his kukri, and cleaning the fittings with a small tin of Brasso, and a rag. Then he set about once again cleaning his Makarov, and oiling its parts before reassembling it.

Sticks smiled and shook his hand, "On your first point... well that will be made evident shortly. No need to worry there," Sticks' smile grew more insidious. "Onto your second and third points... the Crips value bravado and your history with them will only make you more convincing. Once you've explained to them how the Wolves are manipulating them into warring with the Aryans, how could they not join our cause? The Crips are an incredibly prideful bunch and the fact that the Wolves are known to have a network of Warden connections has already made the Crips suspicious. They hate the Wardens after all. Hence the offering."

"As for your final point," Sticks reached into his back pocket and handed him a small bag of meth. "This should do the trick. Now if you will follow me outside."

Sticks led Travis outside and Conrad fell in behind them. Sticks sighed, "We can't have any witnesses. I'm sure you won't mind," Travis' two guards were about to scream out when they were suddenly gunned down by the Warden recruits. As they fell in behind Conrad Sticks stopped one of the recruits, "No. You wait here and make sure 'The Dragon' doesn't go anywhere."

The recruit saluted and stood by the door of Travis' hideout. As they started for the surface Sticks winked at Travis, nodding his head in the direction of the recruit he'd left to watch him.

He didn't know this kid's name either.

Azrael stood up, slowly applauding the scene before him

"Well now, this has been a dramatic night's entertainment hasn't it? So many twists and turns, I'm positively enthralled!"

This was met by ugly guffaws from Sharptooth and his men. Nikolai remained silent, watching as ever.

"No, my dear. We're not going to kill him. Not yet, anyway. However, if you still haven't fully grasped who you are dealing with. He'll be made to regret those words. What you see here is only the beginning of the suffering I can inflict on people. Is this makes you scream and tear your heart asunder, then know that if you displease me again, I will make you watch as we disassemble your dear brother in ways that your delicate sensibilities cannot possibly imagine being done to men. In your own mind I will make you feel everything that I do to him, and when I am done I will have broken you both."

Azrael made his way towards the pair of them, and, wiping away a tear on Lucia's face.

"Remember my dear, this is all Orphan's fault. If he hadn't involved himself. If he hadn't taken it upon himself to be your knight in shining armor, then you and your brother could have been together all this time. I won't lie to you and say your lives here would have been easy, but you'd have had each-other, you could have comforted each-other through the worst of it, and everything would have been oh so simple. It was Orphan who took that away from you Lucia, not I. Look at yourself, and tell me if his intervention has made you strong? Try and tell me this this is how you wanted things to be? Now, time for bed, and I trust that in the morning you will have seen the truth in my words. Nikolai, escort our guest to the deep cells, and keep watch over her there during the night. Security is of paramount importance."

"Yes, Master." Nikolai intoned, leading her out of the chambers, and down ever further into the bowels of The Pit.

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