'The Hive' was the hub of the mid-levels; and the biggest 'open' space inside The Pit itself. Everything of importance in The Pit, going both down and up, passed through this cavernous cube of cold, bare concrete, permanently floodlit from the ceiling four floors above. On each floor spectators crowded the balconies, and more jostled for space on the ground, as the Dog-fight raged in the centre.
After Nikolai had dealt with the latest challenger, driving him head first into the floor with such force that those closest to the ring recoiled against a shower of blood and skull fragments, he allowed himself a moment to observe who had come for their sport. His Pack, the other Dogs who he commanded, dominated the upper floor, howling victoriously and snarling challenges and insults to those below. Master was nowhere to be seen, he knew better to show himself at a place like this, where treachery could hide amongst a sea of other faces. Below them, gangs who had already seen their champions butchered stood with sour faces. This was the last place they wanted to be, and yet they could not risk leaving. The fighting would be over soon, and when it was his Pack would demand their winnings, and the others would do well to accept defeat graciously. Most of the rest were not worth noting. However, Nikolai spotted groups of Men in black combat gear, with rifles over their shoulders and pistols at their hips. The 'Wardens', he knew. The fight was far too big an event for news of it to not reach the surface, and Nikolai assumed that these Men had been sent to stop it. None had tried to do so though, and some were even looking on hungrily, having placed their own wagers.
It had begun with the lesser gangs sending Sheep into the ring with Nikolai. Participation was compulsory for them. His Master, the one they called Azrael, had seen to that. The clever Pigs, the ones who knew they had no chance, forced their lowest recruits, urchins who had clung to them for some degree of protection, to fight, knowing that at least they were expendable. It didn't matter to Nikolai. Soon enough, they were all meat. Next had come Dogs, like Nikolai himself, sent by the larger gangs, who hoped that they could be the one to finally bring him down with strength of numbers. They had come at him two at a time at first, then three, then four. The wielded improvised weapons. Some brandished crudely cut iron shivs, some clubs, with handles of wood and heads of stone, and the higher ranking fighters had even brought pickaxes.
They all failed however, no matter how many times Nikolai fought, his opponents always seemed to make the same mistakes against him. The smaller ones quailed in fear, as he advanced on them, petrified by his size, and by how every muscle in his body seemed to writhe and fight each other for precedence beneath the taut, scarred skin of his exposed torso. It was unwise to be hesitant against Nikolai, and he would crush them one by one. Others were defeated by their own hubris, thinking that his bulk would make him slow and cumbersome. They did not consider how decades in The Pit had sharpened Nikolai's instincts and reflexes, meaning despite his size he could move with the grace of a dancer. When they charged at him, they would often meet only empty air, and in a split second their death would come as quickly as their confusion.
This new challenger was different...
One look at him told Nikolai that this was no Dog. This was a Man, or at least a Bull. His face showed no trace of fear even if it was felt, but neither was it masked by a reckless arrogance. In this Man's dark eyes was a look of cold determination that Nikolai knew very well indeed. It was the same expression he wore when he did his killing.
He was one of the dark-skinned gang, the ones who called themselves the Impi. As they circled, the challenger kept his poise, and with each step looked ready to pounce. In his right hand the challenger held a spear that could match Nikolai for reach. What concerned Nikolai most however, was the burning torch that he held in his left. After so long in The Pit Nikolai was largely numb to cold. Fire however, was a different matter. He hated fire!
Perhaps Nikolai allowed a brief flicker of insecurity to cross his face, for it was then that the Impi chose to lunge with his spear. Nikolai dodged in time, but it had been close, and the Impi continued to thrust his spear and flail the torch, taking his chance to press the attack, again and again, careful and deliberate. It was all Nikolai could do to keep dancing out of the way just in time. He knew he must keep his composure, and not allow himself to become distracted, but the noise of the crowd was building as they saw him, the Dog who they had all been taught to fear, on the back foot, and as the flames from the torch spun their trails of light seemed to plunge the rest of the room into darkness. On the next dodge he wasn't quite so fast, and the head of the burning torch jabbed at his side. For a split second, Nikolai wasn't in The Pit anymore. Nor was he the the towering mass of muscle he had become. Big and strong for his age yes, but at this moment he was helpless, pathetic, whimpering as he hung from the ceiling by his wrists. Faceless men circled around him, asking him questions in their blank voices. Questions, so many questions, and when he tried to answer they poked him with their glowing orange sticks, making him cry out in pain...
Now he was back in The Hive, with his new burn on his side stinging, and he saw that the Impi had made his only mistake. Nikolai must have only been gone a split second, but still the Impi had allowed himself a moments hesitation, instead of finishing the kill. Nikolai bellowed in rage, and charged.
The Impi was too slow in lifting his spear to try and skewer him. Nikolai caught its shaft, and broke it in half as if it was little more than a twig. His challenger tried to respond by bringing round the torch, but this time Nikolai was ready. He caught the Impi's wrist with his left hand, and slammed the heel of his right into his shoulder so hard he felt the Impi's joint shatter. With a scream, the torch and what was left of the spear were dropped. Seizing his chance, Nikolai bulled into him, lifting him off his feet as he ran, and finished by throwing him bodily against a concrete pillar that marked the corner of the ring, where he slid down to the ground, spluttering and gasping.
The fight was over, but Nikolai still had to finish him. Master had commanded that he leave no-one alive. This fight was just as much about making a statement to his enemies than it was about spoils. The crowd was silent now, in shock and anticipation, as Nikolai dragged the Impi to the centre of the ring where all could see, lifting him off his feet by his neck, to begin squeezing the last of his life out of him. While one of the Impi's arms hung limp and ruined, with the other he unsheathed a shiv from behind his back in one last gesture of defiance, swinging it downwards at the arm that held him, and driving the blade into Nikolai's enormous bicep. The challenger's look of sudden triumph tuned to shock however, as, with his other arm, Nikolai withdrew the shiv as easily as another man might remove a splinter, before returning it to him, through his eye.
The Impi shuddered, and then was still. As the rest of his pack gave a roar, and immediately set about collecting their debts, Nikolai studied the face of the Impi one last time. He looked younger now, and feeble. Shrunken, almost resigned in death, and Nikolai felt a pang of what might have been pity. It was hard to be sure, as he rarely felt much of anything. Sheep and Dogs were one thing, but Men should die better than this.
On the roof of the Air Traffic Control tower, watching over the airstrip that was the only way in and out of RACDI-Alpha, Col. Lee surveyed his charge. This was his command, his kingdom; soon, it would be his legacy, and the thought did not cheer him. In his darker moments, Lee had caught himself musing that this God-forsaken pile of snow, death and misery almost made him miss the Siege of Bahrain. He squashed those thoughts though, for they were the foolish ramblings of an aging warrior, his mind giving way to misplaced sentimentality. Nothing, nothing he reminded himself, would make him miss the Siege of Bahrain.
His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Cpt. Montoya, his second in command, and the closest thing to a friend he had here, not that he required friends.
"You picked good weather for it." The Captain remarked dryly, shivering in the bitter cold as he came to stand at Lee's side, looking out over the facility. "Are you sure this is necessary?"
"You know it is." Lee replied, with a curt edge to his voice. Cpt. Montoya was experienced, reliable, and loyal, but he was still a front line soldier at heart, and was a little slow on the uptake for Lee's liking when it came to matters of subterfuge. "There are so few people we can trust, and I know for a fact that Venture has my office bugged. I'd remove them so we could talk in there, but that would only raise suspicion. "Who did you send to stop Azrael's little show of strength?"
"I had Sticks go with his team, as well as Father George. I figured you'd want those slippery little shits and their cronies out of the way so we'd be more secure."
"Good." Lee allowed himself a smile, the Captain was getting better at this. "Now, what have you got for me?"
Cpt. Montoya shifted uneasily. He was a professional, but no-one liked to give Col. Lee bad news. "It's confirmed Colonel, 'O' is compromised. The Inmates know we're protecting him. He's no longer a suitable candidate to complete Objective Alpha."
"I've suspected as much for a long time. Don't fret, the contingency is in place, this will not be a problem."
The Captain frowned. "May I ask what you intend to do Sir?"
"You may not." Lee responded, not unkindly "I'm sorry Captain, but we cannot allow the same mistake to happen twice, not now that we're so close. I'm keeping this one strictly between me and the contact. Rest assured, 'Borealis' will proceed on scedule."
Cpt. Montoya nodded, and left Lee with his thoughts as they turned once again to the faces he had obsessed over for more than a year now. The Ringleaders, the fonts from which the worst of The Pit's suffering flowed.
Do they think themselves Kings down there? Gods even, as they scurry around like rats in the dark, screeching and biting over the scraps they are thrown from above? They will be taught better soon, when 'Borealis' comes for them.
Luka cradled his rifle as he marched. A cheap thing. Some M16 knockoff, there were so many of them. But it was what had been issued to him most recently, and he would take care of it as he had been trained. Society was still in its rebuilding stages, after all and you took what you got. They were coming to the final corner of their perimeter march, back round to the airstrip. Glancing over his shoulder, he snapped, 'Faster! Double time, you dogs!' His gruff and somewhat gravelly voice carrying far. He upped his march to a brisk jog and listened to the tramp of footsteps as his contingent did the same. Not the best soldiers he's served with. Guards tended to become soft, and some of these were already tending towards laziness. He decided he would put in a request to be allowed to run some war games to whip them into shape.
That was something he hated. The damned bureaucracy of places like this. In the old days, he'd have gotten these men on their feet with cold water and harsh words and run them raw. They jogged past the airstrip and back into the little courtyard where their patrol. He'd assigned Sergeant Hayes to lead the second half of the patrol, and was confident in that decision. Keeping all the men in one group wouldn't have enough regularity to the sweeps for his liking. Hayes was one of the few men beneath him he trusted to run a tight shift.
Coming to a stop, he turned to his men. 'Line up!'
They did so with some small efficiency.
In trimmed, practiced motions, they thrust forward an assortment of rifles. Mostly M16 similar weapons such as his own, but a couple of them had AKs. Rather than waste time walking down the line, he raked his eyes across them. They needed to be off to keep in time with the patrol. Hayes' group would be coming to their halfway point soon and he needed to keep that pace. But...
The lanky Korean corporal stood to attention so hard his feet almost left the ground. 'Sir!'
'That isn't your rifle.' Luka scolded himself silently for not noticing sooner. Jinn was holding an M16 knockoff like several of his peers, but Luka distinctly remembered him being signed an AEK-971. What had happened to it? Jinn was now attempting to answer that unasked question. 'The barrel sir. It cracked.'
'So you did not do your duty in properly maintaining your weapon, is what you are saying, soldier?'
'No, sir! The weapon was just old--' At this point, the Warrant Officer interrupted, pulling out the pistol on his hip, which caused a couple of his men to pale visibly. 'See this gun?'
'I have had this Makarov twenty seven years. And someone was probably using it before me. Understand?'
'Don't throw out some excuse as though weapons can't be maintained!'
Jinn nodded. Which of course meant no 'sir', but Luka let it slide. He'd never really been one for formalities and people who cared so much about titles and honorifics usually had power for the wrong reasons, in his experience. Still, he normally chased it up on a matter of protocol. But he needed to be off. 'You'll be cleaning all the rifles in the Armory tomorrow. Your down time, if I remember rightly.'
He didn't wait for a response, turning away. 'Men... move out. Double time. We've wasted enough patrol time pissing around here.'
Acolyte's vision came back very slowly as he opened his eyes to a blurry world. The blur gradually formed itself into a patch of rust. He was staring up at the 'ceiling' of a vent shaft. He glanced down, and squeezed his right hand, feeling the screwdriver clenched reassuringly in it. He'd be jelly legged for a few minutes yet, he supposed. This one had been close. He'd heard voices getting louder around the corner just as he was pulling the grate behind him, and he'd nearly fallen back out. He wasn't sure he'd even gotten all the screws back in place. Still, things like screws going missing wasn't uncommon, so it usually wouldn't raise suspicion. People took them all the time for various purposes, such as using them as bullets in zip guns. He lay his head back down and closed his eyes, willing the aching pressure behind his eyes to go.
Sticks didn't much care for these kinds of spectacles. Despite his sadistic nature he never got any enjoyment from someone else having all the fun. If he wasn't the one looking the victim in the eye then what was the point? This... "event" served its purpose, however. His men were enjoying themselves and Azrael's dog did a decent enough job maintaining the status quo. Keeping the inmates under Azreal's heel made Sticks' job effortless.
As Sticks leaned over the railing looking down at the Impi corpse being dragged away one of his men tapped him on the shoulder, "The stuff's here."
Sticks smirked as he turned to see a familiar inmate being patted down, "Azrael wins again."
The ragged old man smiled and nodded as Stick's men let him though, "Only a fool bets against him these days," The old man produced a small transparent bag full of a crystalline powder. "Here are your winnings Mr. Cornelius."
Sticks took the bag, peeked inside, rolled it up and placed it in his back pocket, "Looks legit. Pleasure as always Mr. Connors."
Sticks learned a long time ago that life was all about the little things. He would meet with his contacts in the upper levels who would distribute the methamphetamine to small-time gang leaders in the lower levels, who would in turn, use it to control their weak minded cronies. Every little bit and piece would move in unison to further Sticks' ambition. It was a simple system that has served him well in the past. Everyone in the pit was in his pocket in some form or another. Even the feared Azrael.
After the the old man had left Sticks handed the product to one of his trusted subordinates, "I have someone I want to check in on. Take care of this." Sticks dismissed the bulk of his men and took three with him as he descended to the blood-works of the makeshift arena. He had a certain dog he'd been wanting to meet with for some time.
Sweat trickled down the ridge of Lucia's nose and dangled at the edge as if it too were anticipating what move Orphan would make next. He stood there calm and collected. At peace. You couldn't even tell if he was breathing. Lucia on the other hand was panting furiously and looked like a mess. She stood in a low crouch holding her dull butter knife in front of her face, waiting... holding anxiety at bay while she attempted to analyze her opponent. Orphan stood before her in a nonthreatening stance as if oblivious to the fight at hand.
Several moments passed. She was supposed to detect a weakness and exploit it, but she didn't know what to look for. Frustrated and anxious, Lucia gritted her teeth and decided to wing it. Maybe, just maybe, she'd win this time. After nearly a full minute of motionless silence Lucia lunged at Orphan. As she closed in Orphan opened his eyes and side stepped, tripping her in the process. In the same motion Orphan brought an elbow down on her spine before she even had a chance to process she'd lost her footing. Her body hit the floor before the wayward drop of sweat did. Lucia's chest took the bulk of the impact knocking the wind out of her and leaving her dazed. Orphan pulled her up by her ponytail and held his dull knife up to her throat.
"You're dead," Lucia didn't move a muscle. After a few moments he released her and wandered to the back of his cell where he plopped down. "You need to cut that hair. It's a liability."
Lucia kneeled down on the floor and rubbed her throat. This was definitely not the worst injury she'd sustained at Orphan's hand, but it didn't make it any less painful. After regaining her composure she got to her feet and looked outside the cell, "I'm going to get some air."
As Fletcher arrived to the fight (still in his priest persona) he suppressed a smile when he saw that his bets were going well. He estimated that the proxies he sent to place his bets would come back with quite a sum after this. But now was the time for him to stay in character.
He walked forward, flanked by 6 wardens armed with rifles, and into the "arena" where the fighting was taking place. He raised a megaphone to his lips and called out to all the inmates with a peaceful voice.
"Please, I beg you all, be calm! It is my mission here to help you, and so I am asking that you return to your areas and work, before the wardens have to use force. If you do not stop this soon, Col. Jin-Oh will see that you are all punished one way or another. I wish only peace for everyone."
The man of god said all of this with the most sincere tone imaginable. It wasn't hard when he knew he was safe. The most powerful gangs all had business with him, so they wouldn't hurt him; and the smaller gangs would be too discouraged by the wardens' guns to try anything stupid.
In small groups, the inmates began to break off and walk away. First, the loners, then the small groups of friends, followed by the small gangs, until the first major gang began to leave, The Impi. Bongani and her son were the last of the Impi to exit, both of them looking at Fletcher with frustrated and puzzled expressions.
Once the Impi left, the other major gangs began to slowly drift away as well, but one who did not leave was the man who had been doing the killing: Nikolai.
"I don't know what it is that has lowered you to this violent way of life my son, but there is always time for redemption." The preist said, extending a hand towards the beast of a man.
Bongani and Unathi Zulu
The Impi were moving back to their territory, with the royalty, Unathi and Bongani, covering the rear of their formation. After that display, there were no doubt some groups looking to spill blood for themselves.
"+We can not trust that snake, mother." Unathi advised. "He claims he wants peace, then gives us the weapons we use to fight. One day, he will betray us.+" The young Zulu had been wary of Father St. George for a long time.
"+Do not presume you are smarter than me my son. I don't trust anyone in this hell that isn't a Zulu. But if we didn't have our weapons, the other gangs would destroy us, regardless of our strength. He is a snake if I've ever seen one, but we need him more than he needs us.+" Bongani replied. Her voice stern and authoritative.
Bongani was trying to figure out what motivated the beast that had killed one of her warriors. He seemed like an absolute madman, but she saw purpose in his eyes, there was more to him than rage.
"+I should have fought.+" Unathi interjected. "+I should have killed that man and set an example.+"
"+You are trying my patience son. I told you, you are not to get involved in meaningless bloodsport.+" Bongani's stress on the word patience made her meaning clear.
"+Bheka managed to wounded him, and I am a better warrior than he was. If I had killed that brute, smaller gangs would be begging to join us.+" Unathi said, his voice rising.
Bongani stopped and slapped her son in the face, hard. The rest of the Impi kept walking without looking back.
Her voice came out as a cold hiss, "+You will not question me again Unathi. You are going to be the Zulu king when I am dead, and you cannot lower yourself to fighting for the entertainment of our enemies. That would make you look weak.+" Her voice softened and she laid her hand gently on the cheek she had slapped.
"+I understand your passion my son. You want to lead by example, like Shaka, but you must remember, killing is not the only test of strength. You are a great warrior, but you do not have to be in such a hurry to prove yourself. Your time will come.+"
There was a short pause.
"+I'm sorry mother. I will not question you again.+" Unathi said.
Bongani gave him an assuring nod, and then together, they hurried to catch up with the other Zulu. There was still much to do today.
"C'mon! C'mon you fucking sh- God dammit!" Cursed Travis as he saw another of his fletchlings fell to the Dog. He cursed and shouted as the weaklings who had begged him for protection were dying in the ring. He was glad though, watching them die was funny and unbeknownst to those around him he had secretly put bets on Nikolai, most people did. Still it was best to put up a ruse, pretend that he wanted his lackeys to live- it was a power thing. Eventually he dispersed from the fighting area with his cronies, returning to his cell.
Travis sat on his rough bed and barked orders to his fellow psychopaths, ordering for them to bring someone to him. A small scraggy young man, almost a boy, was pushed in to the cell.
"Did anyone see you bring him in?" asked Travis to another gang member.
"Don't think so" he replied.
"Good, good. You," he pointed his large dirty finger at the kid. "D'you put my bet on?"
"Y-yeah I di-" the kid was interrupted by a gang member punching him in the back of the head.
"You don't fucking talk to The Dragon you little shit! He talks to you!" The boy fell to the floor and his head lay at Travis' feet. He slowly stood up and was about to apologise when another man punched him in the stomach.
"What did he just say?! What the fuck did he just say! You nod or shake your head you don't speak y'little fuckbag!" The boy shivered and nodded to the man and Travis.
"Good boy," said Travis, "Now go collect my winnings, and I know what I bet, and I know what the odds are, so I know my winnings, and if you skim a little off the top I swear on your worthless mother's life that I will rip out your fucking tongue, pull out your teeth and jam them into your eyes. You got me!" The poor frightened boy nodded and sobbed as Travis signalled his men to kick him out of the cell.
Nikolai looked down at the man and suppressed a laugh, not something he had to do often. He had heard of the Priest, although they had never met in person, and what he heard made him wary. Nikolai feared no Man, not the Wardens, not even Azrael, but he was always watchful for their tricks and their lies, and the Priest spoke with one voice, but many tongues.
"You see how Man there make me bleed?" he said in his thick accent, holding up his arm so the Priest would see better the small streams of blood running from the wound, and to also demonstrate how little the wound bothered him. "Years and years since last I was cut. You know why? Because all in this place know I cut them worse. There is no 'violent' life, little Man. There is only life, or there is death. So deep underground, Man like you would do well to know this."
Acolyte walked along a dimly lit passage. The worst of his post-blackout symptoms had passed, but it had left him feeling a little shaky. He needed food. Fortunately, he hadn't run into any other inmates since he'd crawled out of the vent. Not that he'd expect them to try anything, unless they were a roving band, and he could probably look after himself if they did. But he didn't like fighting, and in his somewhat weakened state, it was always possible something could go wrong.
What he needed was food. He didn't like getting involved in the free-for-alls and gang riots that the supply drops always devolved into, but it was a necessity. He had perfected the art of grabbing what he needed and escaping, usually unscathed. With his knowledge of the vents, he knew where to hide stores of food, drink, and other supplies to ration. Though he was running low since he'd moved further down to the less densely populated lower levels, below where much of the general population chose to reside, but above where a lot of the mining work took place. The problem was that he was further away from the supply drops by being here.
He turned several corners until he came to another straight passage, then crouched down in front of a ventilation grate, removing the screwdriver from the pocket of his well worn pants. He removed the screws and pocketed them, crawling inside and turning to prop the grate so that to the unobservant eye, it would appear to still be attached to the vent. He crawled two corners, to where his goods (the last of them) lay hidden. There was an unopened can of salted sardines, a small loaf of bread and a two liter plastic bottle of water that was a little over a third full. Lying length ways, he tore a couple of small pieces from the bread loaf and nibbled them, savoring the task of eating. That, he'd found during his fasting trials with the Temple, had been the key to rationing food. Making what you gave yourself seem like more than it was. When the allowed morsels had disappeared, he propped himself up on his elbow to take a single swig of water. Then he crawled back out, and screwed the grate back into place.
Walking more steadily now, he thought about what his next move should be. He decided it would be prudent to find some of the less hostile inmates and see if they could give him any clues as to where the next supply drop might be. He needed fresh food and water, as well as some other things, if he could get them.
They all stood out in the crowd. No matter their gang or band allegiance, they all knew Iron-fist. Each glance they exchanged only made her more confident in her role down here, where the sun won't shine. They all cooperated with Iron-fist, whether it be a few words of warning or a true comrade - they all knew the dangers of the pit, and the danger of being a woman in the most lawless part on this forsaken earth.
The official gang numbers were low as usual - only a few that could stand to move independently through the many territories of the pit were Iron-fist's closest comrades. They would arrange the departure of those who failed to respect the lives and well-being of their fellow women to a better life, up in the heavens. The others eagerly agreed to help eradicate the phenomenon, and it wasn't long until the Iron-fist had to address feuds from within gangs themselves.
They never understood how it all worked. Not the other gangs and not the wardens themselves. The women kept their mouths shut, knowing fully well that the only thing keeping men doubting their desires was fear of retribution. It came in the night, and left them naked. They were often spiked on the end of a pole, their bodies' defiled by the same way they forced themselves onto others. In a cruel twist of fate, they found themselves helplessly impaled and begging for mercy, their manhood and pride stripped away. The only thing left to indicate the meaning of this assault was a warning written in blood. 'Rapist', the word written on a wall, or the floor - or the body itself, but it always came with the murder.
Iron-fist exchanged more looks with those women watching the fight. She crossed out two names out of her head as she watched the behemoth in the ring rip them to shreds. The last one was an Impi, the gang she once flirted with. The behemoth tore that poor sod to pieces as well. Then the wardens came to the scene, led by the preacher.
Iron-fist departed from the scene. Her idle walk out of the battleground was met with an encounter with a fellow comrade. Without speaking a word, she slipped a small piece of crumpled paper into Iron-fist's pocket and continued to move on. She leaned against the raw concrete and opened up the message.
'The Dragon...', was his name. A few more details were scribbled further down the message. It seemed as if their crew had a new target to handle. Now would be the time to assemble their forces and think of a plan.
That bastard won't last through the next week. Iron-fist was sure of it.
Lucia used to like "getting some air". She'd frequently take walks alone in New Troy as a teenager and do little more than think to herself the entire time. These days thinking is a detriment it seems. In the past few weeks she had been trying to keep herself busy, whether it be training with Orphan, mining deep in the pit or supplying first aid to injured miners, so as to stay focused and not let her mind wander. It worked for the most part, but it was inevitable that her thoughts would find there way to her brother.
Where was he? Was he alive? Certainly there was more she could have been doing for him, right?
She knew the Pit's layout pretty well by now. She knew where to stay away from, at least. Thankfully, for whatever reason she was under Orphan's protection. People feared him. Being associated with him was likely the only reason she was able to walk around alone the way she was. Even still, wandering around absent minded was never a good idea here and thoughts of her brother's welfare had consumed her cognition.
Where am I?
She went into a panic when she realized she was lost. Frantically looking around, trying to get her barrings she noticed someone she had never seen before. She hid behind a wall and watched as the man closed a ventilation shaft. Who was he? Once he was finished he began walking in her direction.
Oh shit! Oh shit!
"This close to hell is where god is needed most my son. Life in this place has wounded your soul, but no one is ever too far out of his reach. I see you don't want to talk to me now, so I'll go. But if you ever wish to see what awaits you, I am here." Fletcher said.
With that he motioned for the wardens to follow him, and headed for the elevator.
"Col. Jin-Oh, the situation in the hive has been diffused by Father St.George. Several inmates were killed before we got there, but they dispersed without incident. Are there any further orders?" One of the wardens spoke into his radio.
The Zulu Camp was the most defensible position on the level. A sub-tunnel branched off the main one, and the walls were lined with cells. It ended in a relatively large round chamber with more cells in the walls. The only way in was through the hallway/sub-tunnel so the Impi only had to guard one entrance. The cells along the walls were occupied by the higher-ranked Impi. The training area was in the middle of the chamber, flanked by the food storage and the "kitchen" where food was prepared. The rest of the floorspace was mostly used as living space for the lower ranks and the non-warriors. Finally, there was a dirty, dimly lit bathroom, also carved into the wall. It was in disrepair, but they made-do.
When the group returned, they found the aftermath of a struggle. There were 4 bodies on the ground at the entrance, all of them were bald white men with white-league and swastika tattoos. The Aryan Nation had broken the standstill. The Aryan Nation (one of the larger groups) had been passive aggressive toward the Impi ever since the Impi became large enough to be a threat. The only thing that prevented an all-out war was that both sides would suffer heavy losses. Now blood had been spilled.
"+What happened here?+" Unathi barked.
One of the camp sentries spoke up, "+They were high on something, acting crazy. They started throwing rocks and ice at us. It turned into a fight, and they were killed.+"
Unathi began grinding his teeth. His first instinct was to retaliate, but he would not say anything else that would contradict his mother.
"+Who killed them?+" Bongani asked.
Two men who had been sitting on the ground stood and presented themselves without speaking. They knew they would have to answer for this, so they had been waiting.
"+Were they attacking our people?+" Bongani asked the two.
"+You will each get beaten, and you will not have any food for one week. In the mean time, you are not allowed out of the camp until I tell you otherwise. Report to Sifiso.+" She said. Considering the possible danger they caused, this was merciful.
She then pointed at six men nearby.
"+All of you, bring those bodies into the camp and burn them, then clean up the mess. The Aryans can't find out about this.+"
Everyone jumped to their tasks without question. Bongani and Unathi proceeded to their shared cell and draped down the quilt that covered the open bars like a curtain. They needed to have a private talk.
Unathi began pacing, and Bongani sat on the bottom bunk.
"+I know you want to go to war son. So do I, it's in our blood. But we have to be smart. Bide our time.+" Bongani said.
"+I know mother, I know. But we keep training and gathering resources, and then we never use them! When will we make our ancestors proud? How can we call ourselves Zulu when we seem to be afraid of war?+" Unathi replied.
"+One day, the pit will understand the strength of the Zulu. Soon enough, you will lead us, and conquer this hell. The Aryans will be exterminated and The Pit will bow to you Unathi. And after that, there will be no one who can stop us from taking back out home. Remember that son, our goal isn't to become kings of The Pit. our goal, is to take back our home.+"
Nikolai didn't bother to excuse himself as he walked away from the Priest. He didn't want to linger here too long. Master was always in a good mood after a victory in the Dog-Fights, and this one held particular importance, as Master had been growing increasingly concerned about the Impi. He would want to talk about what the bloodshed here would mean for the future, and a Dog should be at his Masters side for such things. His pack would want to congratulate him too. Back in the North Quarter of the Lower Levels, where the Arctic Wolves had their stronghold, he could get his cut and burn seen to.
He gave the body of the Impi one last backward glance as it was being dragged away, and nodded. He had fought well, and bravely. Even so, he had not been the first, and yet this was the first time Nikolai ever felt the need to show a dead Man respect.
Clearing his head of such questions, he turned and exited The Hive.
Col. Lee heard the message on his radio as he exited back on ground level.
"Negative. Continue your assigned patrol, and tell St. George to meet me in my office. I want a full report of who was there, and in what strength."
Lee despised St. George, but it was either him, or debrief Sticks, and bizarrely enough it was the man who went by a false name who was more likely to give him honest answers.
With the patrols complete, Luka sat down in the barracks, and began field stripping his weapons, with a rag and a can of gun oil on hand.
Acolyte noticed the young girl, and the somewhat startled expression on her face. Stopping several feet away to give her room, he put his palms together and bowed deeply in the style of the monks, although he was ready to defend himself if her innocence should prove a ruse. 'Good day, young lady. Are you lost? You look worried.'
After riding up the elevator, Fletcher headed straight for the colonel's office. He had been there enough times that he didn't need directions.
He knocked on the door and there was a gruff "Come in." from the other side.
The priest opened the door and calmly walked in, shutting it carefully behind him.
"So colonel, how are you on this beautiful god-given day?" Fletcher said, rather un-cermimoniusly.
He knew Col. Lee was aware of his identity, and he knew the office was bugged. None of it worried him though.Col. Lee couldn't do anything about him because Nix was not technically under his command. Father St.George and his Church were independently contracted to Venture Horizen, so they only answered to the Executive and Vice Executive of RACDI-Alpha. And the only people listening to the conversation, were the higher-ups that already knew who he was.
Lucia eyes darted side-to-side frantically, as if looking for an escape route, "I... ummmm..."
She looked down at the ground for a brief moment before directing her gaze towards the man in front of her. His hands were shaking... subtly yes, but it didn't look normal. It occurred to her that he was walking in an odd fashion as well. Could he be high? And what was with the bow?
Staring at his hands she asked, "Are you okay?"
By the time he'd made his way down Azrael's dog had already left.
There's always next time.
Sticks turned to one of his subordinates with a smirk, "Let's report back to Lee. I'm sure he's dying to here about the gory details."
Col. Lee studied Fletcher coldly.
"It's trying enough that I'm forced to tolerate your presence here amongst my men, you could at least do me the courtesy of sparing me your bullshit." While Lee didn't mince his words, he was careful to keep his voice level. Fletcher might not answer to him, but he was still in command at RACDI-Alpha, and everything about his manner would emanate control.
"Sit, please." he told Fletcher, while he himself remained standing "I understand that I have you to thank for dispersing Azrael's tournament."
'In truth I knew you and Sticks would do nothing until the fight was over and posed no danger, and all for the better. You brought me more time.'
In the Northern Quarter, the walls of The Pit were solid ice, and the Arctic Wolves held the unforgiving maze of frozen tunnels tight. Dogs patrolled the halls everywhere, and they were heavily armed. Many of the guns and ammunition had been traded by corrupt Wardens, others had been 'liberated' during periods of unrest. Nikolai, now bandaged up and dressed in his wolf skins, was greeted with congratulations by every Dog he came across. He barely acknowledged them though, Azrael had summoned him.
Azrael held council in his own chamber, as icy as all the rest, but fitted with all the comforts a man in The Pit could hope for. All his other lieutenants fell silent as Nikolai entered.
"You're late." Azrael said, his expression hard and blank, yet there was the rare brightness in his eyes that let Nikolai know Azrael was pleased to see him, and he motioned for Nikolai to come and sit at his right hand, the place of highest honour.
"As I was saying, we have won an important victory today friends." Azrael continued "Our dominance in The Pit was just written in blood for all to see, as it has been so many times before. Our struggle for survival continues, and as old pretenders are eliminated, the new emerge, and so our fight never ends, but today we can rejoice at a lesson well taught!"
"THE FURY OF THE PACK IS UNMATCHED!" the rest cried out in unison.
Azrael turned once more to Nikolai, and his eyes drifted down to the dressing on his side. "It could have ended differently. Why did you give him the chance to wound you?" he asked sternly. Azrael did not know about Nikolai's one fear. He showed weakness to no-one, not even his Master.
"Impi Man was good," shrugged Nikolai, making light of it "I was better." Azrael appeared to be satisfied.
"The Impi will want blood spilled in vengeance." said Matthias. "They are small still, compared to us, but they're growing, disciplined, and relentless. Are we wise to provoke them?"
"Let them come!" snarled Sharptooth. "I'll tear their throats out one by one. That Bitch-Queen of theirs I'll do last, but not 'till I've f-"
"Enough." interrupted Azrael "The Impi are no fools. They won't risk open war. Not with us, and not now. That was no green recruit they sent up against Nikolai, but rather one of their best warriors. Short of their own young Prince stepping into the ring himself that was the biggest challenge to us they could make, and we won. They'll have their blood, but not from us. I've seen to that."
"White on black." interjected Nikolai. He had seen the talks with the tattooed men, and surmised as much.
"Exactly!" exclaimed Azrael. "See, the Dog barely talks and yet he speaks more sense than the lot of you put together! The Aryan Brotherhood are our proxies now. For all their talk of pride, the only just cause to them is Meth, and we have a lot of it thanks to our friends on the surface. While the fight was taking place, an attack was initiated. Nothing huge, but the first of many, and the Impi will soon have no choice but open war with the Brotherhood. It's a war they will win, narrowly. They will weaken themselves and all we will lose is a client who'd be a liability to us if left to their own devices for too long anyway. Then... the Wolf will move in for the kill."
The next gathering was supposed to take place in the third outpost of the sisterhood. A small blocked off concrete tunnel whose entrance could be unearthed under a pile of rubble south-east to the arena was just one of the many rendezvous and hiding spots Iron-fist organized. She would have to go through neutral and some-may-say hostile territory, but she was hoped there won't be any trouble on her way. She hoped so, but it seems like chance was against her.
The old woman stopped before a group of three young men who spotted her and approached her with a smile plastered on their faces. They were all white and their heads were shaved - but Iron-fist didn't notice any of the traditional markings on their bodies. They weren't Aryan... not yet.
"Lookie what we gots us here", one of them spoke up excitingly. He was practically naked, with a small piece of cloth covering his crotch. He awkwardly took a few steps forward before one of his comrades stopped him.
"Excuse my friend here, miss, but you're in Aryan territory. There's a toll to collect", the second one spoke surprisingly eloquently. Besides being dressed properly - or as one would expect to see an ordinary resident of the pit, he also brandished a small blade in his hand. A blade he so eagerly showed to Iron-fist to try and remind her of the payment he required.
The old woman didn't have the time to amuse some gang veterans who were sent on errand mission. She was firm and direct. "I can't give you anything. Let me pass through".
The third one started laughing. He was much larger than the other two - he was taller and well-built. His bulging muscles nearly tore through his sleeves as he flexed them before speaking. "If you got nothing, then we collect you".
"Yeah, yeah, we gonna gets the sexy time on, ohh, me first!", the first of the bunch suddenly came back to life when he read the situation again. The one wielding the knife pushed him back again.
"She's too old for that, look at her-", he started waving his knife at Iron-fist as he looked over to his two comrades.
"...and she's a negroid, you moron", the third one turned to the intoxicated in the bunch and slapped him across his face. The intoxicated one fell to the floor holding his face with his hands in pain. "Hey, you think she's Zulu?", he asked his two companions. The one holding the knife shrugged his shoulders and turned his attention back to Iron-fist.
"No, she's deformed". He pointed at her missing arm. "She couldn't be. Besides, what's that got to do with anything?".
"Just let me pass". Iron-fist repeated herself hoping the three would give her some mercy. She hoped so, but it seems like chance was against her... again.
"Just turn back, we didn't get any orders if we met old women-", the one holding the knife waved it again and signaled Iron-fist to bug off. She couldn't go in another direction, that was the only path to the other side and the meeting point.
"-We don't need none, she's not Aryan. We kill her and we get our tattoos". The buff one smiled at Iron-fist. He walked towards her with his hands ready to grab her by the head and smash it at the wall to her left. He charged at her, lifting his arms up and going for her neck. She sprang one of several springs and from her metallic hand emerged a long serrated blade. The old woman ducked down and moved forward, her blade striking underneath the giant's right arm and then slicing down to his ribs. He nearly fell flat on his face as he let out a scream. Down on his knees, he held his bleeding wound and cried out for help.
"Fucking damn it, kill the bitch!", he screamed at the two. The one holding his knife charged at the woman, holding the knife with his right hand and aiming at her heart. A hard swipe of her hand cut through the assailant's forearm to the bone and sent shivers down his spine. He stopped in his tracks, just when Iron-fist pulled out her blade and plunged it into his heart. The knife dropped to the floor and she pushed the man away from her.
Next was the one she forgot to finish. Walking up to the bleeding hulk, she leaned down and looked at him. "Aryans die just as easy as anyone". She held the back of his neck tightly, then moved the blade down and slit his throat. Last of the group was the drunk one, but he seemed to have ran off and left his friends behind. Iron-fist pulled back one of the strings connected to her blade and raised her mechanic arm at the fleeing white supremacist. One pull of the trigger and a small knife was ejected from within her machine, flying at full speed ahead and plunging into his back. The half-naked man squirmed on the floor, crying out for help from anyone in the vicinity.
"You forgot your sexy time, jackass".
The blade punctured his skull and scrambled his brains.
That little encounter was more than she expected to find, but doing that already made he late for the meeting.
Could have brought them to the Cannibals if I had some time...
Acolyte takes a deep breath, stilling the slight tremble in his hands, which he clasps behind his back. 'I'm quite alright. Just the cold. So, what's a young lady like yourself doing out here alone?'
Luka made his way along the corridor, down from the barracks. His rifle was signed back into the armoury, but he still wore the Makarov on his right hip, and a guard's issue close quarters taser on his left. coming to a halt outside of Col. Lee's office, he rapped curtly on the door and waited to be let in. While he waited, he was aware of voices, one of which belonged to that priest, or vicar, or whatever he was.
"Thank you Fletcher, you've told me everything I wanted to know." 'Even if you don't know half of it' "Now, please excuse me." Col. Lee said, as he showed Fletcher out of his office, and let Warrant Officer Korovich in.
Lee had never been particularly close to Korovich. The man was as ram-rod stiff and hard-bitten as Lee himself, and looking at the Warrant Officer was like looking into an uncomfortable mirror, that showed Lee how he had once looked at the height of his military career (despite that face Korovich was actually the elder of the two). Still, he had a profound respect for the man. Korovich's loyalties and motivations were crystal clear, and the two of them spoke the same language when it came to Venture's management of The Pit. The Warrant Officer had been instrumental in the few cases of progress Lee had managed to make so far in his time as Warden in Chief.
'He's still a soldier to the bone. Hard, obedient and uncompromising. He's more than used to matters of grey morality I'm sure. Still, best to only play this particular card at the last possible moment. While there are others around who could manipulate him, the less he knows the better.'
"Warrent Officer Korovich, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
'The Priest's still walking around, I see. I'm surprised none of the inmates have shanked him yet.' And that's not a particularly pleasant surprise... If Korovitch hadn't found the Priest too contemptible to have feelings towards, those feelings would have been dislike. He disliked men who waved their religion around like some kind of rank. And he'd heard the rumors of his supposed dealings, too. Lots of the men had, but there was so much bullshit in the air of the prison, few genuinely believed it. Korovitch himself wasn't inclined to commit either way, as it mattered little to him. He wasn't paid to have opinions.
'Anyway, sir. I want to sign out one of the above ground courtyards for the next three days, and to have someone cover my patrol shift. My men are weak and flabby. This must change. I will whip muscle into the pigs.' His ever present Russian accent making it peegs
Col. Lee considered Korovich's suggestion. The man talked sense. He always did, but Lee thought he saw a better angle to approach this from.
"I agree. Our men need to see themselves as Soldiers first, Wardens second. The Pit is dangerous enough as it is, and many like to forget the danger we face from outside as well. Many would consider the assets here worthy of taking by force is they saw an opportunity, and we must be ready to defend against any and all threats. However, you're too valuable for me to have you stuck on the training field. Your request is granted, but I'll delegate the task to someone else. Someone who is just as capable, have no doubt, but I have need of you elsewhere."
"I want you to personally hand-pick a squad of men. Ex-special forces, such as yourself. People who are already capable, competent, and most importantly, who you can trust without question. You will have command of this elite unit, and you will be equipped with the best arms and equipment we have. You will be our own special force, inside this facility."
He couldn't say anymore here, not where Venture was listening. It wasn't a particularly unusual request. Other Chief Wardens had tried similar initiatives in the past, Lee knew, with varying levels of success. However, none before had gone as far as Lee planned to go, and the Warrant Officer's spearhead would only be one piece in the much larger game Col. Lee was playing.
A rare look of surprise flitted across Luka's face momentarily before his stern expression reasserted itself. 'I see. I assume there's a reason for this. That said sir, it sounds like something you'd give to a Captain. A rank I haven't held since my days in the Spetsnaz. Forgive the curiosity.'
Sticks watched as Luka entered Lee's office.
Busy day for the Colonel it seems.
Sticks knew he had been up to something for some time now. He had been holding secret meetings. Several inmates had conveniently "fallen" in the mines recently as well... not to mention sending him off on a task he knew Sticks wouldn't complete. Sticks knew treachery when he saw it.
He stood where Luka had been waiting for his turn to speak to the Colonel.
Lucia's gaze snapped back up at his face once he had hidden his hands, "Oh, uh..."
Don't say you're lost!
She put a hand on the back of her head nervously, "I was actually headed to a supply drop back this way." She turned and pointed in the direction in which she came.
If that's true, why were you walking in the other direction? Acolyte thinks. What he says is, 'excellent! If I'm not intruding, would you mind showing me the way? Perhaps we can both get the necessities and get out before the vultures start tearing in.'
That was not at all the response I was looking for!
Lucia smiled to hide her distress and sized him up once more. He wasn't malnourished, but he definitely wasn't getting the sustenance his body required. Perhaps a supply drop was the wrong lie, "Okay then, right this way."
As they headed back in the direction of what Lucia was hoping was Orphan's cell she became uneasy. Who was this guy and why was he being so friendly? If he was faking it he was doing a good job. After some internal deliberation she decided to ask him, "So what's with you? I mean, I haven't been here that long and even I know friendliness is nonexistent in the Pit. Most men around here see a woman and immediately think of getting their rocks off. But, you seem-"
Lucia cut herself off and looked back in the direction of where they were headed.
What the fuck are you doing Lucia?! Why are you talking so much?!
The answer was obvious really. She had been here for months without a proper conversation with anyone. Orphan didn't talk much and scared her more than anything else. Even the miners she tended to said little and rarely thanked her.
Lucia was lonely.
"It's not a matter of rank Korovich," replied Lee, impatience adding the smallest edge to his voice. Thw Warrant Officer would know his part when the time was right, but at this moment Lee couldn't afford to many questions "It's a matter of ability. You're one of the few Wardens who can honestly call themselves a soldier. You, and the people who follow you, must be seen as an ideal that the rest can strive towards, and there needs to be an organised force within the Wardens that no Inmate, no matter how powerful, will dare defy. You are the person I have deemed suitable for this task, that is all that matters."
Lee paused, leaned in closer across his desk, and spoke more softly.
"It is also a matter of discretion. Other Warden's in Chief have failed in their endeavors, because they fail to be mindful of dissent and conflicting interests in their own ranks. I trust that, at this early stage, what we have spoken of here stays strictly between us. If my trust is misplaced, speak now and this discussion will have never happened. Otherwise, that will be all, and we'll talk later one you have a shortlist of suitable men."
"I wish to speak with Nikolai further. The rest of you, leave us!" Azrael commanded.
When his council had left, Azrael leaned over a map of The Pit, all is levels separated and documented in exquisite detail.
"Whatever your reasons, this much is clear. You were wounded because you hesitated, because you showed weakness. That cannot happen again."
"Master," Nikolai replied, "You said the Impi will no-"
"Spare me, I'm not concerned about the Impi!" Azrael spat. "You are the personification of our strength. You won yes, but these things are not a simple matter of victory or defeat. For a moment, you were vulnerable, and you made me look vulnerable."
"I will do better, Master" Nikolai replied, impassively.
"You must. For the longest time I considered you to be nothing more than a blunt instrument, but now it is imperative that you understand what we're trying to achieve here. I was thrown in this hole over fifty years ago. Back then, I had nothing, or so I thought. What do you think a man has when he has nothing else?"
"His life." answered Nikolai
"His name!" Azrael corrected him. "The name is more important even than the life, for it is the name that lives on, even after the rest of you is dust, but only if you make you name one that is recognised without question. Do you see now? Even from a place like this, a man can hold all the world in his hands with nothing but his name, and when that man is gone, those who follow him will want for nothing so long as they take his name with them. However, all this can only be achieved if that man is willing to do the things that lesser men cannot."
Azrael was becoming more animated, his voice thick with a feverish passion, Nikolai remained silent, listening.
"That is the gift I give to you." he continued "When I am gone, whenever that may be, my name will be yours. All shall know you as Azrael. My will incarnate, from beyond the grave. You will become more than what you are, but I need you to be ready. I must be sure, absolutely sure, that you are worthy of it. The Pack is more than a gang. The Pack hunts with one mind, howls with one voice. So I must know, have you let go of everything you were before you came here? Do you serve only The Pack?"
Nikolai stared unblinking into Azrael's pupils. The spark in his eyes seemed to flicker. It became a flame, and then a burning field, with a woman screaming a name...
"I serve only The Pack."
Slightly taken aback, Acolyte smiled, amused. 'You're quite blunt, aren't you? Well, honestly there was a time when all I'd think of was "getting my rocks off", and other things besides. But... things change, and so do people. As for friendliness, it is nonexistent, you're right. All the more reason not to reduce what remains even further.'
Luka snapped off an efficient salute. 'Sir!' He considered his new task. 'I'll need the key to the personnel files to figure out who in this place isn't absolutely worthless.' An elite squad, eh? Interesting. His best start would be to run some background checks. Find his best options. Sergeant Hayes may well be among them. Luka had grown to like him, at least so much as his disposition allowed.
Travis and the top men of his gang sat around an old, round, busted wooden table playing cards, knife marks and blood stains marked on the surface. One side of the table was completely broken off and forced one of the men to sit closer, his legs close to another man's, which wouldn't be a problem for normal men, but for these over masculine, sociopathic rapists it was practically making love. One man's foot touched another, and they both shouted at each other, screaming homophobic slurs and insulting each other's manhood.
"Shut the fuck up," proclaimed Travis, more annoyed than angry, but angry nonetheless, "You assholes are interrupting the game." The men slowly sat down, adjusting their seats so they're legs were further apart. "That pussy kid not get back yet?" asked Travis.
"Nope" said another.
"Little bitch is taking his time." He wasn't taking his time, it was quite a trek to get from where the bets were collected and Travis' cell, Travis just hated waiting on other people. When he only needed to rely on himself he was the most patient man in the world. He once waited an entire year just to kill one man, and all because he had planned the murder in his head to the exact specification that he would be disappointed if it didn't go precisely how he wanted.
One of the high rankers said furiously "If he screws us over I'll-"
Travis interrupted him "He knows the risk, and he knows we can find him easily, even if he sells us out to the niggers or nazis.
"Yeah" laughed one other, "its not like it was much anyway." Travis gave the man a stern look, then calmly turned back to his cards, placing them face down on the table. Before anyone could react to what was happening Travis had the man pinned to the floor, hands wrapped around his throat, pressing his thumbs into his Adams apple. He was dead before the others had a chance to stand up. Travis left his body on the floor and sat back down, peeking at the dead man's cards.
"His cards sucked" laughed Travis.
Still looking towards their supposed destination Lucia smiled and much of the doubt she had felt began to evaporate. It was a refreshing exchange.
Even if he doesn't turn out to be genuine at least Orphan can back me up. But where is...
Her thoughts faltered when she saw a swastika painted on a wall nearby. Lucia suddenly realized that she was hopelessly lost. Just as she was about to admit her plight to her new acquaintance she heard a distressed voice crying out for help up ahead. She stopped dead in her tracks, "What was that?!"
Col. Lee showed Korovich out, and with an inward sense of resignation, beckoned in Sticks.
"At ease lieutenant. I've already heard Fletcher's report, You were there before him, so let's here what you have to say."
"I have a job for you." Azrael told him "It's nothing major, but something I need out of the way. Tomorrow you're going to be dealing with a Warden, goes by the name of 'Sticks', on the mid-levels. He won't be there himself, so I wan't to to receive a package from the men that will be representing him. When the package is in your hands, I wan't you to kill them all."
"It will be done," Nikolai promised "but why?"
"Sticks needs to be taught his place. He's useful to us, and he's always known what side his bread is buttered on, but his lack of appropriate humility is making him careless, and he's got just as many deals with our enemies as with us. Killing his men will inform his that the rules have changed. Now, he's either with us, or against us, and killing them at the deal means to bring down any further action on us would also mean openly admitting to corruption, which would cost him everything. He's smart, but not as smart as he thinks he is, and I won't have him thinking that he has power over us just because he supplies some of our goods."
Nikolai nodded in silent approval.
"Tomorrow, when it's done, report back to me. I'll have a much more important task for you then. A task that will take us one step further to securing our greatness permanently."
Sticks sat down with an arrogant smile on his face. Lee didn't want to be in his company, but duty called and Lee had to suck it up. The fact that Lee didn't even bother covering up his dissatisfaction made it all the more enjoyable, "Azrael's dog made a mess downstairs. Killed one of the Impi boys. Apparently one of their best."
Before Lee could interject or question him Sticks continued, "This dog of his is becoming... a problem. As you know Azrael controls the strongest gang and this latest show has solidified his standing as 'the authority' in The Pit. Seeing as how security in the Pit is of the utmost importance I'm sure you're aware of the dangers of one man having too much power down there," Sticks' smiled disappeared as he leaned forward in his chair. "I'm here to make a request."
Acolyte steps forward, preparing to start down the corridor at a jog. 'Stay behind me.' With that, he sets off in the direction of the voice.
Lucia nodded and allowed him to take the lead. After running through a concrete tunnel they happened upon what appeared to be the scene of a massacre. Three men laid out. Their blood forming one consolidated pool.
Lucia took a few steps forward before she noticed an older woman walking away 30 meters ahead. Had she done this?
"Then make it." Lee replied coldly. He had a feeling he wasn't going to like this, not that that would be much of a surprise where Sticks was concerned.
After some time riffling through personnel files, Korovitch found four files that suit his needs.
1) Specialist Lisa Beaumont. French. Age: 24. Specialization Guerrilla Warfare. Ex-mercenary.
2) Sergeant Malik Akua. Nigerian. Age: 33. Ex Nigerian Black Ops. Fought during the Nigerian ethnic cleansing twelve years ago. Remains ambiguous as to which side he was on. No racial incidents reported since employment.
3) Sergeant Raymond Wickers. Scottish. Age: 35. Ex Royal Marine Colour Sergeant. Various campaigns, most prominently the Alaskan oil wars.
4) Specialist Brandon Gibbs. Cajun. Age: 23. Specialization: Mechanics and Armory. Ex US Engineers Corps.
Adding Sergeant Thomas Hayes' profile to the top, he stood up with the bundle and left.
Starting forward, Acolyte calls out to the woman, 'you. Stop! Did you do this?!'