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

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A smile found its way into Sticks' serious expression, "Look, I know you're intending to cut your... little 'problem solver" out of the deal. It's a smart move honestly," In truth Sticks didn't know this for sure, but considering how Lee had been moving his pawns he had, at the very least, considered it. The prisoners knew he was being protected by the wardens after all, "I'm sure you've been looking into suitable replacements and I think I have found a way to kill two birds with one stone."

Sticks leaned back in his seat and his hand gestures became more animated, "Why not take this dog and put him on a leash. Our leash. He's more than suited for the task and Azrael would lose his biggest gun. Considering what we can do for him... it's an offer no sane man could refuse."

Col. Lee kept his face impassive.

"and what do you think it is that we can 'do' for him, Lieutenant? Azrael has raised the man since he was a pup, and their relationship has only grown closer of late. Their is no in-road for him. No common ground. He cannot be bought, or threatened, or reasoned with. So do tell..." his eyes scanned Stick's mean stature in a subtle but deliberate gesture of disdain "what makes you think he would ever see either of us as his Master?"

Zulu Camp: Unathi, Bongani, Fletcher Nix

The bodies of the Aryans had been disposed of quietly and the blood had been cleaned up. There was no evidence that anything had happened. The job was finished just in time, because when they were done, the priest and his entourage arrived. HE had no less that 3 other holy men and 6 guards with him, making the presence of god known.

They set up their usual area and began preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen, which was no one. Bongani and Unathi stepped out of their cell and looked at the professional preacher. Without looking at them, Father St.George tapped on the shoulder of one of his fellow clergymen.

That man then turned to one of the wardens and said, "I'm gonna use the john, stay with Father St.George." and heded to the bathroom.

Two minutes later, Bongani and Unathi walked into the bathroom after him.

"So, is there anything you need this time? Food, spears, 'the blood of Christ'?" The man asked.

"We need the priest to stop selling drugs to the Aryans. It's making them violent, and that's bad for everyone." Bongani said.

"Well, you aren't the only one." the clergyman replied.

"What do you mean?"

"We aren't giving them their dope. Someone else is. All we know is that it's one of the wardens, since they can't be making it themselves down here."

There was a thoughtful pause.

"If he can find out how the drugs are being delivered, we can stop it." Unathi said.

"And what would the church get for this information?"

"To use an old expression," Bongani said "We will 'owe you one'."

The preacher thought for a moment then said, "I'll take it to the boss. If he agrees, we'll bring you info once we get it. But until then, business as usual."

And with that, he exited to rejoin the "Praise God Parade".

After about 15 more minute had passed, the Priest and his group moved on, leaving the Zulu's to prepare for whatever would come next.

Travis and the Dragon's were still playing cards, the dead body still lying on the floor, when a young jittery man ran in.
"The God train's coming" he said.

"Oh good" said Travis as he stood and placed his cards down. "We'll finish this later." Travis and his men left the cell as Travis said to the jittery kid "Get that body out of here, maybe you can get something from the cannibals." The young man nodded and rushed to pick up the body, struggling to do so as it was so large.

"What do you think we can get from 'em?" Said one of the Dragons, a short but bulky bald haired man.

"We need steds, we need more steds." Said another, this one very tall and with a mohawk.

"You'll get your damn steroids Jack, stop fucking bugging me." Travis replied.

"Can we afford it? That bitch still ain't been back with what we won" said the last one, this one looked no older than 20, yet had more scars on his face than a soldier in his fifties.

"Yes we can, stop questioning me Scar. You raise a good point though, Clyde!" barked Travis at the short man. "Go check on that kid, he's been gone way too long. Break his hand if he's late, kill him if he ripped us off got it?" Clyde nodded in response and was off.

Korovitch made his way back to the Colonel's office with the folders under one arm. His left arm, leaving his right to draw the Makarov. Not because he expected any danger, but because the habit of keeping a weapon in usable reach was so deeply ingrained into his being it was almost imperative.

When he came to the door, he knocked and waited as he had done before.

There wasn't much time to waste. Iron-fist knew the girls were probably waiting for her, and two of them snuk out of their gangs to meet with her on their session. More bystanders could have been an issue had it was the real world, but down here eyewitnesses count for nothing but an interesting tale.

After a male voice called her out, she turned around to see who was behind her. A couple - a young woman and a man stood behind the three bodies she had laid to rest and called out to her. The man wasn't an aryan, and so wasn't the woman...
what were they doing in this level?

"I have somewhere to be". She coldly replied to the man.

Sticks smiled, "That's the thing though, I don't want him to think of either of us as his new 'master'. I want him to think of us as... partners. I will show him a world of things he never knew was available to him. I'm not going to ask him to betray Azrael and swear fealty to us," Sticks' smile grew larger. "He'll eventually do that on his own. Bribery is the most powerful form of persuasion and if you do it right they'll never know they were bribed in the first place. This is exactly the sort of thing Venture hired me for. All I ask of you is that you humor the proposition. I can do all of the legwork, in fact, I'd prefer to."

Acolyte's expression and tone remained calm. 'Did you kill these men?'

Lee could tell from the curtness of the knock that Luka had returned.

"Permission granted Lieutenant Cornelius," he said, before adding with gritted teeth "and if you screw this up, your life here will be more of a living hell than even the lowliest tunnel rat on the lower levels, is that understood?"

"Massive suicide, or so I'm told. Now fuck off". Iron-fist turned away from the two and started walking towards the meeting place.

"Perfectly."

Sticks nodded and promptly left Lee's office. That couldn't have gone any better. While Lee was secretly positioning his forces under the watchful eye of the powers-that-be, Sticks had no such limitations. Well, at least no more than he's used to dealing with already.

Sticks' grin widened as he thought to himself.

Now the dog, then the orphan. You're playing this one close to the chest you crazy bastard.

As he continued down the hall he was stopped by one of his subordinates, "We just got news from our mole."

"Good. Follow me."

Sticks let the man into his office and sat down, "He says Azrael's dog is to meet with your dealers and kill them."

Sticks started laughing, "Trying to send me a message is he?" Sticks stood up and threw his arms up, "He has no idea who he's dealing with, does he? I hope I am there to see his face when he realizes how hard I am going to fuck him!"

Sticks sat back down and thought to himself for a moment, "Contact the Aryans and grab some of them up for the meeting tomorrow. I want them on standby."

"You're still going to let your men meet up with the dog?"

"I'm going to be there when they do."

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Lucia stepped in front of her new-found compatriot and shouted at the old woman, "Told by who? I don't see anyone else around!"

She walked up to the corpses and kneeled down to get a better look, "How does a man intentionally stab himself in the back of the skull?"

Lee didn't like involving Sticks with anything important at the best of times, least of all this. Still, he knew how well connected the lieutenant was, and the more that Sticks could see in this operation for him, the less likely he was to make trouble. Lee supposed the phase 'Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer' was a cliche for a reason.

'What I'd give to have just one free bullet though? I know exactly where I'd send it.'

He welcomed Luka back into his office.

"So, Warrant Officer, what do you have for me?"

Fletcher Nix

The priest and his entourage passed by the group of rapidly dispersing Dragons.

"There is no need to fear the presence of god my friends. Come, if you want to hear the way to forgiveness."

He noticed a big man that the others were all trying to avoid the gaze of. He seemed to be the leader. the Wardens saw a new gang, but Fletcher saw a new business venture.

"You there, what is your name? Are you ready to receive the word of the Lord?"

Zulus
Bongani and Unathi were sitting face to face with one of the leaders of the Crips. When the cataclysm pulled the rug out from under the old world American Government, the largest gang in the country, the Crips, became an anarchistic militia. They claimed the west coast of the United States for themselves, and they are still at war with the new governing body of the reformed USA. The Crips that are captured and sent to the pit as prisoners of war make up the Pit branch of the "gang". They were roughly the same size as the Impi, and they both needed each other.

Bongani had set a meeting with one of their "bosses" called Zig Zag. He was an extremely muscular black man, with biceps like a gorilla's and legs the size of pythons. His long hair was tied back into a ponytail and his messy beard covered his entire jaw.

"I hear you got a beef with dem jack boot crackers on the next level." Said Zig Zag. "I also hear you's some cold blooded niggas: got dis whole, 'African roots' thing going fo ya. I like what I hear."

He was looking at Unathi when he spoke, but he was also glancing at Bongani.

"I also hear that this mamasita to yo left is the boss." He said, finally looking at Bongani. "So, boss lady, what's the deal?"

Bongani spoke with cold authority. "We want you to help us go to war with the Arryans. They're strung out on meth and they are getting more and more violent. I would say we have about 2 weeks before they start attacking everyone who isn't white. We need to kill them first."

Unathi said nothing, but his eyes, like his mother's, showed no hope of mercy.

"Damn, talk about cold blooded. Any motherfucka callen dem self a nazi is as good as dead to us. But how do I know yall wont screw us? You aint the first niggas come to Crips thinkin they was hard. We gotta know this aint a trick."

Unathi spoke, "Then come see our camp."

Zig Zag thought for a moment before nodding slowly. "A'ight, Less go see what the Zulu can do."

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

The warriors were training in the center of the camp when the small group of Crips were led in.

"+Everyone stand back. We have a demonstration.+" Unathi called out.

"Pick any of your men, and I will fight them." Bongani said, walking to the center of the circle drawn on the ground.

Zig Zag let out a stifled chuckle.

"You playin? Girl, I don't want you gettin hurt." Zig Zag responded.

"We both know you want to see what will happen, so let's stop talking and pick a man." Bongani said.

Zig Zag raised an eyebrow and tapped the shoulder of the man to his right. He was skinny with a wild look in his eye. It was apparent he had been a drug addict before he was thrown in the Pit and forced to detox.

He stepped forward with a strange urgency, and as soon as he entered the circle, he charged at Bongani like a wild animal.

She ducked down and swept his legs out from under him with a kick, causing him to crash down painfully onto his chest. She rolled over onto his back wrapping her legs around on of his,and her arms around this throat.

He began gagging violently and rolled over onto his back, putting his weight on her. He brought his elbow down into her ribs time and time again as he slowly faded into unconsciousness. When he went limp, She let him go and stood up. there was a stunned silence in the wake of the short fight.

"Well then-" she began. But before she could finish, the man sprung to his fee and tackled her, pummeling her with his fists. He got in several good shots before she managed to wrap her hands around his left wrist. With one sharp pull, his wrist broke with a painful crack.

He howled in pain as she tossed him off of her. She got on her feet and began savagely kicking his torso as he recoiled on the ground. When his howling subsided into whimpers, she stopped and dragged him out of the circle, leaving him on the ground.

"Damn girl. That was some tight shit. The Crips are in." Zig Zag said.

"That's good to hear." Bongani remarked casually.

"One more thing." Unathi interjected.

"I want to fight you." he said, pointing at Zig Zag.

Bongani's face showed no emotion as she continued looking into Zig Zag's eyes.

The two men were sizing each other up. Unathi's sleek toned form made him look like a living weapon, but he was at least 20-25 pounds lighter than Zig Zag in sheer muscle mass.

Various murmers of encouragement came from Zig Zag's posse, and then he took off his shirt and walked into the circle.

Bongani walked over to her son and put a hand on his shoulder before exiting the circle.

Zig Zag and Unathi stood face to face for a moment before Zig Zag connected with a wicked right-hook. Unathi caught his balance and wiped a bit of blood from his now split lip. They stood motionless for another moment before Unathi returned fire, smashing his elbow into Zig Zag's jaw. The monstrous crip leader was knocked down onto one knee as he watched one of his teeth fly out of his mouth.

He stood up, smiling a bloody smile.

"You are one cold blooded mothafucka." He said, shaking Unathi's hand. He was conceding. All his strength would mean nothing against the Zulu Prince.

This complication was getting on her nerves. She should have already left, but something kept in her place... some shred of curiosity Ilene just had to sate.

On the distance, she could hear them coming. Whether it may be a patrolling guard or reinforcements, Iron-fist had no time to handle them. She took a deep breath and suddenly screamed at the top of her lungs, alerting anyone in the area of her existence.

"NO!". She screamed. "Oh god, they killed them all! Please help!".

The first one to emerge into the street from an improvised doorway seemed like a true Aryan. Shaven, tattoed and walking like a mountain of muscles. His reaction to the death of the rookies was one of disgust merged with displeasure. Perhaps he had hopes for these young greenhorns.

"I paid my toll for safe passage when these two came and killed them all!", Iron-fist pointed at both the bodies and the two outsiders. She could hear more people rushing into the street. Iron-fist slowly backed away from the scene, taking each step carefully away and further towards the hideout. The aryan brandished an improved club - a piece of pipe interjected with several nails to maximize impact.

"You killed donny and gus! fucking bastards-".

Orphan knew the ventilation infrastructure of the Pit like the back of his hand. He helped build it after all. His name may carry weight in the Pit, but his name alone couldn't protect Lucia. She was still too naive and bullheaded to survive on her own in this environment. When he had heard from one of his birds that Lucia had met up with a stranger he went into action. It would be bad enough if the man had been a Nazi or a Crip, but the fact that the bird was unaware of his identity troubled him even more. He could have been a Nazi considering they were in Aryan territory. He preyed he was a Nazi. They were easy enough to deal with.

This should be... Checkpoint 3? Should be. It is. I think.

Orphan's memory wasn't what it used to be, but despite that he decided to go with his gut and slowly removed the vent grate. As he slipped out and positioned himself on-top of a concrete pillar he heard a woman screaming at the top of her lungs. He had heard Lucia's scream before and this definitely wasn't hers. He looked down at the scene below to see Lucia with a man and several Aryans pouring out into the streets to meet them. There were a lot of them. Orphan took his pistol out of his waistband and checked the chamber. Hopefully he wouldn't have to resort to his firearm. Knives were quieter.

"You there, what is your name? Are you ready to receive the word of the Lord?" The head preacher spoke his shit towards Travis, who felt the need to play along.

"Yes I am, I am the dragon, leader of my... flock. I'd hope to make confession." He smirked with the arrogance befitting such a psychopath.

Meanwhile Clyde walked through the halls of the prison trying to find the kid who was supposed to have their money. He shook people up and punched a few out, having no idea of where he might have gone. He had found some Aryan's they were on friendly terms with.

"Yo, you seen a kid running around here? Scrawny bastard carrying some money?"

The Aryan's twitched and answered him quickly, "Seen someone running downstairs, following some coon. Look like he was running into our turf"

Clyde's face turned to one of rage. "Punk bitch is trying to take the Dragon's cash!" Clyde began making his way back to Travis, he would want to know this.

"Yes I am, I am the dragon, leader of my... flock. I'd hope to make confession."

"At last, someone to set an example. All are welcome in the arms of god my son." The priest said.

"Leave us for a moment." He said the the entourage. "Confessions are to be made in private."

The wardens took a respectful number of steps back and the other preachers began trying to engage random inmates.

"Tell me your sins my son." The priest said, laying his hand on Travis's shoulder.

Acolyte grabbed Lucia by the shoulder and hauled her back behind him. 'Now, gentlemen. We can--' he ducked backwards, avoiding the first swing of the club. On the man's back swing, he caught his arm, and in one fluid motion stepped around him, bringing the arm down the man's back. There was a loud crunching sound and the Aryan fell to his knees, clutching his shoulder, and yelling. Acolyte kicked the club over to Lucia, and took a stance, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet. The next rushed him, unarmed. Acolyte stepped close, and twisted his leg around one of his attacker's. Seizing him by the wrists, he shoved him. The Aryan stumbled, and Acolyte followed through, clapping him in the right side of the neck and left temple. The man fell limp. As the other Aryans gradually advanced, he stepped back.

'I really do hope you'll reconsider this.'

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

Luka places the files gently on Lee's desk.

'I've made my picks. I need your opinion, and hopefully approval on them, sir.'

"At last, someone to set an example. All are welcome in the arms of god my son." Said the priest with all the smug manner of Travis himself. "Tell me your sins my son." The priest said, laying his hand on Travis's shoulder.

Travis looked at the hand on his shoulder and shrugged it away. "I have done many things Father and I believe I need help. Or to put it more clearly I need items that will help me. Steroids, meth, coke, some small knives, some wood, rubbing alcohol, actual drinking alcohol, and one of those vests that have lots of pockets. And don't worry about payment, I have a good cashflow coming in any minute now."

Orphan re-positioned himself on the ceiling as he watched the fight below. As he saw Acolyte offer Lucia the club he wondered...

Can she do it?

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

Who is this guy?!

Lucia was about to reach for her combat knife hidden in her boot when the spiked club was thrown to her. Without hesitation she grabbed it and held it up against her shoulder. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

Center... I need to find my center... whatever that---

Her thoughts were interrupted by the screeches of a large bald man barreling towards her with a crowbar. She was out of time to think. She had to act.

Okay... okay... now... find an opening. Find the opening. Simple right? RIGHT? LEGS! THE LEGS! TOP HEAVY!

As he swung vertically down towards her head, Lucia rolled to the side and tripped the clumsy oaf with the club. He hit the ground hard. He'd at least be dazed. Plenty of time to deliver a coup de grace. Though, there was one issue.

Lucia had never taken a life.

When she noticed he was shaking it off and getting ready to retaliate she lifted the club over her head. She was shaking. And then, she froze.

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Fuck.

Orphan positioned himself to drop down into the fray if he had too, but his curiosity was getting the better of him. He wanted to see what the kung fu man would do.

Lee spread the files out in a fan across his desk. He didn't need to read them, as he had already made a point of painstakingly memorizing the personnel files of every Warden who served under him when he was put in command (as well as learning all he could of what was kept off to records); a practice that he had continued for every new recruit that he had been assigned since. No matter how far up the chain of command he got, Lee believed he should know his men as intimately as if he was still a platoon leader, even if that meant a lot of homework. All he needed was the names.

"This is a good foundation. They're all well trained, physically capable, and experienced. You've done well." he told Korovich. His praise may have been brief and sparse, but it was a rare thing, and even rarer still in recent years, for Lee to openly congratulate anyone at all.

"However, this is only the first step, and not even half of what we need to accomplish." he continued. "We've got the men, now we need the Team. That's your next assignment Warrant Officer. For this squad to be ready, I need each and every one of them to be as close as family, and in some ways even closer. I need them acting like they've all been on ops together since the first day they picked up a rifle. Everything they do, they will do together. Any allegiances or affiliations they had before now, and I mean before right now, not just before they came to this facility, are no longer relevant. I want them loyal to only three things; to Me, to You, and to each-other. More important than their training, more important than their experience, is that we have a team that is utterly incorruptible! If you can give me that, then you have a blank check for any and all resources you need, is that understood?"

Fortunately the passage was only wide enough to allow two of them to attack at once. maybe three if they weren't swinging anything. One had slipped past him to get at the girl as he'd dispatched the first two. Now a third was advancing on him while the fourth and final was hefting some sort of knife. He spared a glance back and worry hit him coldly in the gut. His new ally had floored her assailant, but he was getting up. And the look in her eyes, he saw was one of helplessness. The girl was prisoner to her own mind.

All this he saw in a moment. Looking back, he thought, no time to be gentle. when the man drew near, he lunged, jamming his index and middle fingers hard at the man's throat, catching him hard below the Adam's Apple. Dead. But the last one was getting ready to throw his knife. Acolyte backpedaled furiously and threw himself at the Aryan bearing down on his new ally. He was toppled again, just as a red hot line on pain scored across Acolyte's ribs and there was a squelching thump behind him. The two men fell hard, and Acolyte, bleeding, saw the crude knife's tape wrapped hilt sticking out if the side of the man he'd slammed. He looked up to see the final Aryan sprinting at them in a dead run, snarling in blind fury.

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

'Absolutely, sir.' Luka replied. 'I'll have them report to me at dawn tomorrow.'

He turned and left, leaving the files with his superior.

Iron-fist was already gone from the scene. She ran off to meet her allies, and the rest of her walk through Aryan territory was uneventful. Passing through hostile territory, she kept herself on her path lest she would get lost and turn up in another gang's home.

Iron-fist then found her destination - a dead end. She leaned forward and pulled back some pieces of concrete, when she started banging on the metal hatch in a specific rhythm. The hatch opened and Iron-fist jumped down. Inside was a thick short pipe, closed by rubble from both ends, where one of the gang members had made her home. There were seven of them excluding Iron-fist. The youngest, Jenna, pulled up after Iron-fist and tossed some rocks over the hatch before closing it.

"You're late". The resident of the pipe was bitter. She hated it when the girls would meet there, it was too crowded for her to handle. Hanna was much older than the others, going past Ilene's age by five years or so. Her only saving grace was her unhealthy obsession with mechanical engineering, something that gave birth to Ilene's most famous weapon.

"I had to handle some trainee Aryans". Iron-fist answered. "I didn't plan on being late."

"Anyway, you got our message?". She asked Iron-fist. The woman who gave her the piece of crumpled paper was also there. She was officially a cannibal, but the girl only followed the group out of convenience. Eating human flesh changed people, and thus the group would often be cut into two - ones who do so ritualistically, and those who enjoy the taste...

"I gave it to her". The cannibal answered instead of Ilene.

"Good, good. This whole group is poison. We can't engage with them openly, they're too numerous". Hanna presented the problem to the others. There were representatives of several gangs there, and although some were officially enemies they all knew the dragons had to be disposed of.

"Cannibals won't touch 'em". She explained her frustration to the others.

"Of course they won't, they're not hungry". Another woman stepped up. She looked Japanese, and in her mid-thirties. Yoko was an excellent negotiator, and she would often use different methods that yielded... unconventional results. The cannibal seemed insulted by the Japanese woman's jest.

"The Yakuza have no business with them. No animosity, no deals. I can't push them either way". Yoko admitted her failure.

"They're too small for the Cartel to notice. I can't move my platoon and wipe them out, how am I going to explain the casualties?". Maria stepped up and explained her situation.

"Head-bangers don't give a shit". Leila tossed out a sentence. She was indeed integrated well with her group - various tattoos through her body, piecings everywhere, and she was often an addict to some drug or two. However her intelligence was invaluable, and when the head-bangers started a feud, you best avoiding drinking your water.

The two other women were independent and had little gang affiliation. They both knew that the responsibility would rest on them and Iron-fist.

"So we find a way to start a feud. We don't even have to shed our own family's blood. Can we play the mafia?". Iron-fist presented her plan to her comrades. Some of the girls nodded in agreement. Those Italians weren't very fond of Iron-fist's group, but all of their women were very loyal to them. Iron-fist had found only one that agreed to help them for a family feud from within, but that was just once, and she had been ignoring them ever since.

"We stage a theft". One of the independent girls, Delilah, suggested.

"No, that's too risky. We kidnap one of their young. Give 'em to the dragons. Then we go to the dead trail, Esperanta, and ask them to help us." Hannah suggested a plan. Iron-fist nodded, "That sounds good. Any objections?".

None of the girls spoke up. "Delilah, Jenna, I need you both for this.". The two women answered together, "Yes, Ilene".

A plan was already set into motion.

As Acolyte collided with the man at her feet she realized what she had done.

She had failed.

Now with one last man sprinting towards them Lucia had lost heart and didn't know what to do.

Oh God... oh God...

She hefted the club in a batting stance but had trouble keeping her footing. She was trembling.

As he closed in she closed her eyes getting ready to swing when all of a sudden....

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He took a hit for her...

Orphan had a puzzled look on his face. Acts of selflessness like this didn't exist in the Pit. When he noticed the blood pouring from his ribs he shot his eyes towards his apprentice. He saw the doubt in her eyes.

This was no longer a test she had any hope of passing. It was time to act.

Orphan stepped to the edge of the concrete column, counted down to himself and at the right moment, leaped down.

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As she got ready to swing at the Aryan, tears ran down her face.

I... don't want to die...

Then she heard the most unsettling noise she had ever heard in her life. When she opened her eyes she saw Orphan sitting on-top of the man with one knee resting in what used to be the man's spine. He had leaped from the column down onto the man mid-run.

She had been so occupied in figuring out who Acolyte was that she forgot she still hadn't the foggiest idea who Orphan, her protector, really was.

A disturbing noise escaped the man's mouth as Orphan lifted his knee off of his back. He cracked his back until he heard a few satisfying pops, and wandered over to the two men on the floor, "Thanks for protecting her," He said to Acolyte as he offered a hand.

Lucia stood there shivering. Orphan would not be happy about this failure.

Fletcher Nix

"I have done many things Father and I believe I need help. Or to put it more clearly I need items that will help me. Steroids, meth, coke, some small knives, some wood, rubbing alcohol, actual drinking alcohol, and one of those vests that have lots of pockets. And don't worry about payment, I have a good cashflow coming in any minute now."

"Whoa whoa whoa," Fletcher said quietly. "I think you have me mistaken for someone else."

There was a tense pause in which Travis wondered if he had just accidentally given himself up.

"I don't provide drugs. I can get you the other stuff, in return for a favor." Fletcher continued.

Travis was suddenly relieved. "What kind of favor?" he asked.

"If you can find out who is distributing drugs and let me know, I'll get you everything you asked for, free of charge. What do you say?"

Bongani Zulu
Finally having fallen asleep, Bongani dreamed of home. It was thirty years ago when she last felt the sun on her skin, but in her dreams, she was running freely through the African wilderness.

She hunted with lions, flew with the Egrets, grazed with the Elephants, and fought with the Zulu. The wind of the plains made her hair fly in the wind, and the energy of life could be felt all around her. And above it all was the sun, illuminating the entire world, and embracing all living things with it's warmth.

Unathi Zulu

Unathi had too much on his mind to sleep. The sounds of yelling, fighting, and loving could be heard faintly, echoing through the cold air from all over the Pit.

He decided to join a group of Crips on their patrol, hoping to burn off some of his excess energy. As the group of 5 walked through the tunnels in Crip territory, Unathi's trained ears heard the sounds of violence coming from on of the tunnels.

"Do you hear that?" He asked the Crips.

"Yeah, but das cracker territory. We on patrol here." one of them said.

"Are the Crips afraid of a few strung out nazi punks?" Unathi responded.

A few moments later, the party was moving down the corridor. By the time they got to the scene, the commotion was over. Three people, two men and a girl, were standing over several dead Aryans.

"Y'all keep yah fucking hands up!" One of the Crips said, pointing a pistol at them.

Unathi stepped forward and put his hand on the man's gun.

"You don't have to worry." He said. "That's Orphan and his girl."

Unathi knew of Orphan. He had often heard the man was a lethal fighter, and wondered if he would be able to beat him.

Acolyte took the offered hand, and got to his feet, a hand presses against his wound. Blood dripped off his fingers, but you wouldn't have known it from looking at his face. 'It's not a problem. I... I just wish I hadn't had to kill that man. But that's my problem. Who are you, if you don't mind my asking?'

At this point, Unathi and his men came around the corner. Acolyte spared them a glance. 'Gentlemen...' before turning back to the others. 'Young lady, I trust you're okay? I'm afraid I never got your name either.'

The boy sent to collect Travis's winnings was on his way to collect the cash when he noticed something odd. A black woman heading into Aryan territory. Curiosity got the better of the boy and he decided to follow her. However in trying to stay far away enough that she wouldn't notice him he strayed too far, and by the time he had gotten to a hallway she was nowhere to be found. Instead there was a pile of dead Aryans, a bleeding man, a scared woman, the menacing Orphan, some Crips and a Zulu. He knew this place was not for him and decided to turn tail and run, speeding back the way he came, however he made far too much noise running down on the ice cold floor and one of the Crips had noticed him.

Meanwhile Travis stood opposite the preacher. "Whoa whoa whoa," Fletcher said quietly. "I think you have me mistaken for someone else."

Travis paused. He knew that the preacher was some kind of dealer. This 'lamb of God' fucking with me? he thought.

"I don't provide drugs. I can get you the other stuff, in return for a favour." Fletcher continued.

Travis smiled and asked "What kind of favour?"

"If you can find out who is distributing drugs and let me know, I'll get you everything you asked for, free of charge. What do you say?"

"Sure thing preacher man. But I got a question, why can't you get me drugs? And why do you give a fuck about drugs down here?"

Lucia was still in a daze when the men turned the corner. When Acolyte spoke to her she snapped back to reality, shook her head violently and wiped the tears from her eyes, "Oh, um... yeah, you're right. I'm sorry, I'm Lucia. It's..."

She paused for a moment when she noticed his wound.

Was that... my fault?

"Oh my God, are you okay? Quick sit down and apply pressure to the wound. I have a first aid kit in my bag."

Orphan ignored the two of them and turned to face their new guests, "Sorry about the commotion gentlemen. We were just about to take our leave. I'd clear out too if I were you. These skinheads won't be too happy about seeing the likes of you hanging around their territory. Especially considering, well..." His sentence trailed off as he waved his hand in the direction of the dead an unconscious Aryans scattered across the floor.

As Lucia reached into her pack to retrieve the first-aid kit she looked up at Acolyte and nodded towards Orphan, "That's Orphan by the way."

Fletcher Nix
"Sure thing preacher man. But I got a question, why can't you get me drugs? And why do you give a fuck about drugs down here?"

"There's actually a list of reasons I don't go for drugs, but we don't exactly have time for that right now. Your only concern should be finding which of the wardens is supplying meth. If you do that, I can probably even get you some vodka. Until next time my son."

With that, Fletcher rejoined the entourage and departed for the staff elevator.

Unathi Zulu

The Crips were suddenly jumpy upon realization that "Orphan" was standing in front of them, but Unathi stepped forward.

"So, you are the Orphan. I've actually seen you before. When I was 16 I watched you kill that aspiring gang leader, before the Wardens hauled you away. People are always wondering why the wardens seem to protect you. Has anyone ever just asked?"

A small smile appeared across Orphan's face, though it was hard to see it due to his thick beard, "Most people are smart enough not to. Unfortunately it's something I am not at liberty to discuss. If you have a problem with that take it up with the wardens. They're the ones you should be concerned about," Orphan threw out his arms and his smile grew larger. "I'm just an old man trying to live out his remaining days in peace."

Oh... that's right. It's the Zulu woman's boy.

Orphan started scratching his beard in thought, "Say, are you planning to take over leadership of your people after your mother passes?"

Being a fairly tall man, Acolyte smiled down at Lucia, while pressing hard on the wound. 'That'd be most welcome. And don't worry, dear, I've seen and had my fair share of wounds in my day. And it's not as bad as it could have been. The knife mainly skimmed me while it was spinning. I'm surprised it stuck into that man like it did after that. Still, I suppose it does bear stitching.'

Acolyte listened to Orphan and Unathi's exchange. 'Yes, I've heard of you too. I suppose it's good to be able to put a face to a name. But maybe not, depending on how much of what they say about you is hearsay!' He joked, grinning widely.

Orphan glanced back and winked, "Generally those who figure that out don't live to tell about it," Orphan said barely managing to contain his old man chuckle.

Lucia shook her head as she began treating Acolyte's injury, "I still haven't gotten used to that morbid sense of humor."

My fault... my fault. God damn it Lucia, get it together.

Lucia's head was a mess, but she managed to speak clearly, "This will be a very temporary treatment. We should properly clean it out and stitch it up when we get back to Orphan's cell," She paused for a moment. "That is... if you don't mind coming back with us."

Luka sat at the small writing desk in his quarters with a scuffed whisky glass in his hand, half full of cheap vodka. It had started full to the brim, as he'd never seen the point in putting so little liquid into a cup. The Makarov lay on the desk, field stripped, cleaned, and reassembled. In his free hand, he dangled his Spetsnaz tags idly. The day's events had him enraptured. An 'elite squad', Lee had said. But what did a prison facility want with a unit befitting a Black Ops organisation? There was more to this. A fool could see that. The time would come when he'd learn more, he knew, whether the Warden intended it or not. As he sipped his vodka and turned these thoughts over in his mind, he hummed the Soviet anthem. He wasn't a Communist. Not by a long road, but he respected their military force, and the tune befitted such a force. Plus, it had a habit of catching in his head. He'd been exposed to it so much while learning about his homeland's pre-collapse history. Tomorrow, he'd inspect his squad and see if they lived up to their dockets. It was an important day.

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

'That'd be fine,' Acolyte replied. To both of them, he said, 'I don't suppose either of you do know where there'll be another supply drop? I...' he tottered slightly, as though drunken. It wasn't the blackouts, he knew that. But the blood loss, combined with his current state of partial fasting (he must have had about what amounted to four small meals over the past five days) had left him feeling faint.

He gave his head a shake. 'Sorry about that.'

Lucia stood up to support him, "You need to sit down," She put her hand on his shoulder and directed his body down. "We have supplies at Orphan's place. Just try to relax for now."

Acolyte let her support him. 'No, no, I don't take from people. Once I'm stable I'll find my own things.' He smiled, 'let's just get this wound seen to, eh?'

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