Art by Setz
A steel chain link whips by, inches away from striking my face.
Instinctively, I back away, pull my head away from the metal this matted-hair woman is swinging at me. There’s fifty other guys around me, but she’s chosen me as her next target. I don’t have time for this, and I especially do not have time to get my face scarred up.
But she’s wield this chain like a nunchaku she has no idea how to hold, and it’s flying so fast, so wide, I don’t know how I’ll get past.
Maybe I have time to seduce her?
The chain lashes my arm, slicing open a three inch wound right next to my wrist bone. Blood’s already starting to pour out, and I’m just going to pretend like I don’t notice it so I don’t get completely grossed out.
She growls at me. Literally growls. And more punk-looking people seem to be noticing our particular strife and are approaching. I can barely hold this person off, so I don’t think more is going to be a fun addition.
I seriously don’t have time for this. The men in the white suits are catching up to me and this warzone is going to become a warzone filled with guns and lots of dead people if we don’t stop this soon.
One of the Angels, a bigger man who never needed to be in this kind of fight, is knocked to the ground near the chain-wielding woman. It startles her. I get an opportunity.
So I charge forward, lowering my body and headbutting her in the stomach. She lets out an, “Oof!” and doesn’t have enough time to fight back before I stop and she’s thrown a few feet backwards. With no ability to regain her balance in time, she’s on the dirt pretty quick.
Now, with the other Earth Group members catching up to their KO’d friend, I’m either going to have to fight or run–
And I choose run.
I saw this on TV–in any scene of chaos, especially big fights where two rival gangs are trying to destroy each other and you happen to be caught in the middle, the best thing to do to get out of it is to just sprint. Go in any direction as fast as possible, and everyone will be too preoccupied by punching and knifing each other to even notice what you’re doing. True, I saw this on the TV movie The Billion Dollar Men: Menace Revealed, where all the bionic guys have super speed, but I feel like these powers of mine may be equivalent.
Sure enough, I start sprinting, and people generally step out of the way. This scene’s chaos of the highest order–crust punks with glass bottles, drugged-up hipsters in leather jackets, guys in army camo that clearly were never soldiers, all duking it out in the middle of the construction site, dark enough that I can barely tell who’s on whose side anymore. I just know I gotta run and get out of this.
The deeper I get into the construction site, the closer to the steel beams sticking out from the foundation and making up a skeleton of a building that will never be finished, the more I see what this battle has truly become. The more bodies I see lying on the ground.
This isn’t some scruffle between two criminal groups in a tiff… this is it. This is a war. If we don’t stop this now, Atlanta’s going to fall to pieces. The Angels, the Earth Group–these aren’t people to play around with.
I narrowly miss being hit by a molotov cocktail that whizzes past my head and explodes in flames beside me. I watch as a punk is stabbed in the shoulder and hear her as she lets out a guttural wail. Definitely going to keep running, because–
There’s a pain at my chest. That’s odd.
And in addition to that, suddenly I am lying at my back looking up at the moon. Oh, someone knocked me over. Oh, that’s why I’m writhing in pain right now.
Alright, who’s the wise guy? I spring back to my feet, assume my normal fisticuffs stance, and look around…
It’s Yuri Motokawa, the Mercenary Prince.
And, for the time being, my compatriot in stopping this gang war from enveloping the city.
“You hit me…” I mutter.
“You were about to run headlong into that,” Motokawa says, pointing to the center of the construction site, an almost arena-like enclosure surrounded by quarter-finished buildings and piles of wood and metal to the side.
In the center are two figures. One is a white-suit, white-skin blonde-hair man with a blue glare so fierce it burns the cut on my arm–the leader of the drug ring known as the Angels. He holds two swords in his hands, as if he were some kind of noble samurai. He isn’t. The other is a gigantic man, towering over anyone around him, wearing sunglasses even in the dark and wielding nothing but brass rings on his fingers–the leader of the eco-terror group the Earth Group.
Motokawa and I have waded into the middle of a gang war. There’s a drug king who wants to seize control of the populace, and a revolutionary that wants to destroy all drugs as he does the same. Both have grand plans for the city of Atlanta, and plans that involve ruining a whole lot of lives.
These two men are fighting with the absolute top of their strength, clashing like supernatural forces pitted against one another by some terrible god. I can barely tell what’s happening, they’re both moving so fast. The Earth Group guy is blocking the Angel guy’s sword strikes with nothing but his fists, and now it’s at the point where the Angel guy is having to use his slashes just to keep up defense. But it only lasts for a second before they are back on equal footing. For how quickly the battle is going, it doesn’t seem like this is going to resolve anytime soon.
“You know we have to stop this now,” I tell my companion. “I was chased in here by some white suit Angels that are bringing guns into the fight. A lot of people are going to die.”
“They chose this life,” Motokawa says. “Everyone here knew what they were getting into.”
“You know that’s not true,” I say. “Half the people here are kids. They’re like me. Whatever they’re into now, it doesn’t mean–”
“Shut up,” Motokawa says, with a quieter tone this time. “I’m trying to think.”
And, after only a moment, she balls up her metallic right fist and steps into the makeshift arena.
The two men stop fighting and look at her. They recognize her instantly. If they didn’t know that the Mercenary Prince herself was in their battle, they do now.
And, they may not know it yet, but this battle is already over. It’s been over for a while now.
The white suit man makes the foolish first move, charging at her with both swords drawn. She charges forward as well, punching him the the stomach with her metal fist, then tripping him. One of his swords comes loose from his grip and falls to the ground. Motokawa pushes him back and kicks the sword away from both of them.
The Earth Group guy moves behind the two of them and gets ready to land a punch on Motokawa from behind. I realize I’m not useful being a passive bystander here, so I jump in, sliding across the dirt to cover my companion. I land right in front of the hulking man–
And absorb the blow from his attack–
And skid backwards while holding my position until–
THUD! My back hits a steel beam.
My body freezes up and I feel a shiver tingle throughout my insides. I’m sure that’s just the cold weather, not any serious injuries.
Despite bravely flinging myself into the fight, the Earth Group guy has already turned his attention back to the other two combatants, as if I’m not even worth considering. I find that not only rude, but flat-out insulting. The nerve of this man.
I shake off the pain and jump back in. This guy may be twice, three times my size, but that doesn’t mean we can’t spar like equals.
It also doesn’t mean we can. He hits me a few more times, and I just about collapse onto the ground. He’s also ruined the t-shirt I was wearing, opening a huge hole that the girl with the whip had torn, and exposing my belly button to the world. This must end.
To finish things off, I jump in the air and perform a flying kick. I reach his head–and he grabs me and tosses me to the ground.
Now I’m on my back again.
The Angels guy’s sword is laying right next to me.
I pick up the sword and stab it forward, piercing the leg belonging to the Earth Group man. He screams out in pain and bends down to yank the sword out, and I use this opportunity to get up and do another flying kick, this time my boot colliding with his forehead, knocking him clean out.
At the same time, I see Motokawa still dueling with the Angels man and his single sword. He’s putting up a fight, but he’s already overpowered, and the exhaustion has clearly already set in. Motokawa, on the other hand, looks like she’s watching CNN on her CRT while eating breakfast.
It’s only a second before she knocks the other sword out of his hands. In another, he’s on his knees, hands behind his head.
“M-mercenary Prince,” the man mutters. “I am so sorry to have caused you so much discomfort. However shall I–”
She hoists him up on his feet. Wraps her fleshy arm around his neck. “I know you have guns on us. Come out so you don’t have to kill your boss.”
A few moments later, the white suit men that had pursued me into the construction site enter the center with us, pointing pistols at Motokawa, and at me of course. There’s five of them. They aren’t quite on the level of Motokawa’s thugs, but I can tell they are far from amateurs, especially when they’re wielding firepower.
“I take it you do want him to live?” she asks. It’s rhetorical, because the moment she says this, she snaps the man’s neck and tosses a hidden knife from her jacket into the skull of one of the pistol-wielding Angels. The other four fire, but in one swift move, she raises her metal arm and blocks each of them. They have another chance to fire, but– they don’t.
They’re too stricken with fear to fight again.
“Give me a gun,” she says. One of them hands her his. She points it at the Earth Group boss, unconscious on the dirt, and fires.
I have to look away. I can’t– I can’t watch this sort of stuff.
Now that shots have been fired, the fighting around the construction site has died down. Both the Angels and Earth Group members have started filing into the center, trying to look on as their own leaders have been mercilessly executed by the biggest hired hand in Atlanta. The area is now packed with onlookers
They’re surely asking why she did it, or who hired her to do it. How she could have beaten them, or when she even entered the fray. They’ve come here to watch because they wanted to say where they were when it happened. A story for the grandkids, I guess.
Motokawa doesn’t consider these kinds of things, though, and simply looks at everyone and says, “Bring out your second-in-commands.”
Two new men step out into the arena.
She shoots them, too.
“There,” she says. “The third-in-commands can lead your groups now. But no more gang war. We’re done with this. I don’t want more blood in my city. Not unless I spill it.”
She walks away from the center and approaches me. Puts a hand on my shoulder. Says, “Thanks for the help. I owe you one.”
It’s been more than a year since the Angels and Earth Group gang war ended.
The Earth Group thought it was time to end the terror of technology and began the first phase of their long-planned revolution, but it all got sidetracked when they ran into the biggest drug ring in the city. And from that, the entire city was almost engulfed in a crisis of violence harsh enough that it rivaled the American Civil War in brutality. Two weeks of relentless fighting, bombings, shootings.
But Yuri Motokawa–along with me I guess–stopped it dead in its tracks. No more war. A ceasefire’s been in place between the two gangs ever since then.
“But there’s certainly been a shift,” R8PR says to me as he feather dusts the bookshelf in this tiny Sunday school room. “A shift in mood, in tension.”
“I feel it too,” I say. “Do you want help with that?”
“No thank you, I’m trying to learn how to keep neat and tidy all on my own. It’s a useful skill, even for a robot who has no need for any of it.”
“The Earth Group isn’t though, and that’s why I called you here,” he says. “There’s been rumblings about them. Not just in the news, or in the underground. They appeared in some of those files Jones has on her online server.”
“So the Earth Group and the Ascendants are…?”
“We don’t know yet,” he says. “I have no idea what ‘Ascendants’ even means yet, so there’s no telling how an eco-terror organization is related. What I do know–” R8PR makes one powerful swipe with his feather duster and knocks a whole bunch of dust off. I have to cover my face. “–is that all of this rumbling is happening at the same time that the tech expo is about to begin.”
Ah, the Atlanta Annual Tech Expo. How I have dreaded the day for it to come, and it is almost here, as it comes every summer.
“You want me to go and investigate?” I ask.
“Naturally. You’re off work, right? Now you get to work for me.”
“Sounds about right.”
“Maybe this way you can spend some quality time with Karina,” he says. He flashes an LED wink. I hate him too much to give a snarky response. I just grimace.
Well, I guess I do have a job to do. And I feel very uneasy about it.
But if the Earth Group and Ascendants are both coming up on R8PR’s radar, then I’ve got to find out what’s going on.