RP – Steelhead

Gang Wars: End Game – Part 3

The old man pushed Meili roughly out of the way and turned his sightless face to the window and stared out into the stormy night. It was true, he could ‘see’ the three groups of Tong soldiers were being routed, their lamps scattering like fireflies caught in a sudden gust. Over the wind he could ‘hear’ the cries of harrying forces, the sharp angular voices of the green skins. His keen mind raced, desperately trying to plan and plot his next move but every path and branch he explored was a dead end. Across the water, atop the hotel in the rooms where the object of his bitter hatred lived, he knew she was watching. Watching and smiling, enjoying his defeat, enjoying the end of his Tong. He span around to the girl and felt the elation welling up inside her and it ignited his fury as though a match to oil.

He grabbed her by the throat and lifted her clear of the ground “I may not have the pleasure of killing your bitch mistress tonight,” his voice was wild and full of murder, “but I swear I’ll make you sorry she thwarted me!” He turned to the men in the room and growled “Fan, get over her and tie her down until I’m ready for her,” Fan grabbed the terrified girl’s arms and began lashing the woman to the chair with his own dirty silk belt, as he did so he glanced up at the boss, was it is his imagination or was he taller than before, less decrepit looking, less… less human? He threw prayer to his ancestors that he’d get out of this alive.

“You two,” the boss thundered to his general, “get out there and stop this! I want that bitch’s head here tonight, do I make myself clear?HERE! ” Both men nodded and leapt to their feet, Fan’s own trepidation rising as he noticed the traces of alarm in both the general’s faces as they headed out of the door.

“Now you,” the boss glared down at Meili “you are going to wish your ancestors had drowned your filthy, stinking line at birth!” Her face was a mask of terror whilst behind her Fan was nervously glancing towards the door. “When I’ve finished with you, the fates of your family will seem like a blessing you’ll beg me for!” Fan tried to catch the boss’ attention “You’ll curse your own parents,” Fan reached out a shaking hand towards the boss, “You’ll plead with me… WHAT?” shrieked the old man, no longer able to ignore him. Fan nodded slightly towards the door and all three turned to face it and the increasingly loud and thoroughly unmistakable sounds of a fight taking place outside.

Meili, Fan and the boss all had very different ideas about what the nearing struggle meant. Fan, fearing the authorities, vigilantes or Dragon Tong were about to storm the room, bolted for the window and with a desperate leap smashed his way through. On the other side he hit the icy wharf hard and skittered along the slippery stone and off the edge, plunging into the freezing waters below with a stifled cry.

Meili, hoping the authorities, vigilantes or Dragon Tong were about to storm the room, began to scream for help, her lungs bellowing out for all to hear, her voice carrying far over the wharf and through the storm and up to the highest reaches of her Lady’s hotel.

The boss, convinced the authorities, vigilantes or Dragon Tong were about to storm the room, turned to face the door. He reared up, his skin and bones stretching as he grew taller and broader. Let the Jager come, he thought, let the foxes and the nuns and the dragons come and I will slay them all.

There was a strangled cry from the corridor outside and all fell silent. Even Meili stopped her shouts for help and stared at the door. Suddenly it swung in and the diminutive figure of The Voice fell shot through it, his hands clasped across his throat. The door hit the wall and bounced back to close itself. The small man staggered backwards towards the boss and Meili, emitting a strange wet gasping sound all the way. “Voice?” enquired the boss, his voice, now more animal than human, thick with confusion. The small man turned on his heel and Meili cried out as she saw why he gasped and gurgled. His hands were clasped across the ruin of his throat, fingers clawing desperately at ripped skin and flesh, digging into bleeding, oozing void. His entire throat, including the weapon of his deadly voice box, had been torn out down to his spine. The Voice’s eyes were wide with a mixture of fear, shock and desperation as he stared at the boss and his legs began to buckle under him. He fell to his knees, great gouts of blood pumping from his terrible wound and pooling about him. His lips were still trying to form words as he folded to the floor and, with one last great sigh wetly rasped from his torn throat, and he died where he lay.

The boss looked at the small body in front of him, stunned that anyone could have best The Voice like this. And what of Han Hong, the giant with hands like steel bear traps? Whoever did this to The Voice, the Korean would snap him in two!

From outside there was a sudden, terrible scream that ended with a sickening crack. The boss smiled and shouted “Han, bring me what is left of him! I want to make his final journey an eternal nightma…”

The door swung open again and the old man’s jubilant voice died in his throat as the ruined form of Han Hang, his body bent backwards at the waist until the back of his head touched the floor by his own feet and broken ribs and spine jutted from his burst abdomen, was pushed into the room by a slight Chinese man with long black hair and a face half covered by a glowing red dragon tattoo.

Meili, still tied to a chair, gasped at his apperance.. He was caked in blood, it splattered his whole body and dripped like rain from his bare hands. He looked as though he’d walked through an abattoir!

He shot her a wolfish smile and said, “Hello again pretty one. The Doc sent me.”

***{}***

To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Gang Wars: End Game – Part 2

“Well my dear, when they said you were beautiful I had no idea just how beautiful,” Meili watched the corrupt old man leer at her with sightless eyes from across the room and her skin crawled. Behind her the only door out of the room was blocked by the man who had grabbed her as she went to see Rynhold. Between her and the old man stood a large table with several chairs around two of which were occupied, one by a small evil looking man and the another by a tall, stoney faced giant.

“My my, such fear. I can smell it from here, my dear but please, you have nothing to fear here,” the old man said his croaking voice dripping with false charm. The small man snorted a cruel laugh and shot a look across the table to his tall companion. She had heard of The Voice and Han Hong, who in the slums hadn’t. These men, these… monsters were responsible for nearly all the misery and squalor in her life, all the lost friends and family, all the fear and despair, all could be traced back in lines of tears and blood to the hands of these animals. They were evil spirits, ever hungry, ever greedy, remorselessly swallowing up everyone and everything and their desire to own and control and kill and hurt was without limit. She thought of the people she had grown up with, the good, decent families who had worked and lived and died in this rancid part of a hateful town in a country that barley tolerated their Chinese feet upon its soil, and she saw they were trapped with these devils forever. Just by being born, an act she had no say in or control over, her life had been forfeit, gifted to the Tong, wrapped up and presented to this disgusting old man and there was nothing she or anyone could do. With sudden clarity she marvelled at the sheer godless nature of her life, of all life. She hardly mattered to the people in this room, beyond a desire for the sort of pleasure a cat would extract from toying with a wounded mouse, so it hardly seemed likely she would rank highly in a Divine Being’s thoughts and actions. She was a speck of nothing in an eternity of nothing and she would die here, tonight, and her whole life would have amounted to nothing. Yet… yet she accepted that. She opened her heart and let it in. She meant nothing, so what.

But not Li Fe, not little Li Fe her beautiful nephew. His life meant something.It meant something to her and it had been stolen from her. He had been taken and murdered alone and in the dark by a monster. And for what reason? For nothing? That was something she couldn’t accept, something she wouldn’t accept. She turned to look at the man who had kidnapped her and then back round at the two generals sat at the table. Their faces were hard and their eyes cruel and she hated them with every drop of her soul. She looked up and glared into the blind eyes of the wizened old man who ran the Tong “Yes,” she said in but strong voice, “I am scared of you, but I also pity you.”

The nasty smile on Voice’s face fell like a collapsing building “Pity?” he hissed, “Pity? You stupid… “ The boss silenced him raised hand, “Your pity is as misplaced as your courage my dear. There is only one you should feel any pity for tonight. Come here and I will show you who. Come.”

Meili looked him unable to move, silently suspecting he would kill her here and now “No, I do not mean you, silly girl,” he laughed “Come here and will show you the only soul in Shanghai in need of your pity.” He smiled a thin, empty smile and moved to the window that overlooked the wharves outside. Slowly, glancing at the men sat at the table, she moved towards the old man. He held out his hands and took her by the wrists, his grip firm and as cold as ice as he pulled her to the window. “Here,” his voice dripped with vile false charm ”look across the water and tell me what you see.”

For a second or two she was unsure of what she was supposed to be looking for, the night was dark and the snow storm obscured all but the far lights of the round houses and hotel. The hotel! She span round to look at the old man, her eyes wide with fear and he took hold of her chin and forced her face back to the window, “Keep looking my dear, I wouldn’t want you to miss the fate of the more worthy recipient of your pity. Look closely, can you see my men?” Indeed she could see small groups of bobbing lights, lanterns carried in the darkness by Tong and they were slowly converging upon the hotel. She had to get free, she had to warn her Lady, she had to…

“You can do nothing my dear,” the boss purred, “Nothing but watch as the I finally rid myself of your precious Lady.” He turned her face back to his, “Once she has been dealt with, we will be free to discuss your feelings toward me further. And if you should find you still harbour even the smallest hint of pity then I’m sure The Voice would help with a quiet word in your ear after which I can assure you that you will feel whatever I want you to feel for as long as I want you to feel it.”

Her blood ran cold, she had imagined they were going to kill her but now the full horror of her fate revealed itself to her. She was to become the willing plaything of this corrupt old monster! “Nothing to say now, my dear?” the boss let go of her face and whispered in her ear, “No brave insults? No clever observations?”

She turned to look out at the bobbing lights in the darkness of the storm, each one a stone tied to her ankles dragging her down to the bottom of an ocean whose depths she dare not contemplate. And suddenly the ropes were cut “No,” she said quietly, “Nothing… nothing except…”

His eyes burned into her, “Except?” his voice was diamond hard.

“Why are your men running away from the hotel?” she smiled.

To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Gang Wars: End Game – Part 1

Beck came round slumped on the floor. He was cold, it was dark and someone was talking nearby “… must have watched her come up the stairs…followed her…” he pulled his eyes open only to find he couldn’t see “…the retinas may be detached… could be temporary, could be permanent…” the voice said “…no idea how many… or where they took her…” Beck managed to sit up but decided not to try and stand until the world stopped spinning. He felt stone beneath his hands and wood behind his back, the strong odour of fish was all around him “…must have be in a room somewhere near the docks…most likely the cannery…that means the Tong took us…” It began to dawn on him that it was his voice, slurring and mumbling to himself, trying to work out what had happened, trying to talk himself round.

His head ached and his face felt swollen and tender to the touch. Whoever had hit him had done a good job. He opened his eyes again and this time found the darkness speckled and shot through with grey patches, light crept in to his inky prison from all around and his eyes, far from being blind, were merely taking their time adjusting until he could eventually make out his surroundings. He was in a small, dark room filled with crates and shelving, the air was frigid and the only light came from under what he guessed was the door and from between ill-fitting wooden planks in the walls. He was in a cannery cold store, he fancied, and alone at that for there was no sign of Meili being in the small room with him. Fear and anger rose in his belly as his mind raced with terrible visions of her fate at the hands of these animals. He struggled to his feet and staggered over to the door. Locked! He banged his fists as against it and and shouted as loud as he could muster until there was a sudden hard thump from the other side.

“You shut up!” a Chinese man shouted.

“Where is Meili? Tell me where the girl is!” Beck bellowed back.

The voice on the other side laughed cruelly “She with boss. She have good time. Pretty girl, eh? Boss like pretty girls.”

Beck threw himself at the door, battering it with his shoulder, hurling insults and curses through it until he used up what meager energy he had left and felt himself slide slowly to the floor. Outside his tormentor shouted back “You no worry. You next, OK? Boys see you good, OK?” he cackled and banged on the door. “You go in cans, doctor, understand? You go in cans.” The laughter moved aways from the door and footsteps tramped off away into the cannery leaving Beck alone in the darkness once more.

“Hi Doc,” came a voice from the shadows.

Beck’s froze as he felt hot breath on his neck, skin almost touching his own, “Who’s there?” he whispered quietly into the dark.

“They’ve got her, Doc, they’ve got our girl. You let them walk in and you let them take her and now I’m going to have to get her back, aren’t I?”

Beck was holding his breath, afraid to move or make a sound.

“Well? Aren’t I?”

Beck nodded, a small, jerky movement laced with fear.

“Then I best get started, eh?”

The shadows rippled as Jonny O stepped out from the darkness and smiled a smile full of venom and murder.

To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Gang Wars: Kidnapped

The knock roused Beck away from the cold meal he’d been pushing around the plate for the last fifteen minutes. For a moment he wondered who it could be, the snow storm blowing in over the hills from from St Helens had driven everyone inside seeking warmth, but he supposed it was a patient looking for him to make a house call. With a sigh he dropped his fork into the congealed gravy and went to open the door.

Meili stood, her jet black hair speckled with fat snowflakes, staring at him mutely with wide, tear-streaked eyes. He barely knew what to think, what to say. After everything they had said to each other, after everything he had done, he thought he had lost her forever. “Meili,” his voice sounded small and breathless, “you came…”

The fist came from behind her and caught him full in the face. His world went black and he fell backwards into an abyss that had no bottom.

***{}***

Fan had to work hard not to grin from ear to ear as he pulled the burlap-covered handcart through the open cannery doors. Workers looked up nervously as startled the Tong guards, young arrogant men left behind as the older gang members prepared for evening’s attack on the Dragon Lady, sprang to attention and ran to grab him, He shrugged them off angrily “Get your hands off me,” he hissed. To a man they backed away half a step, unsure of what to do – being told to take down Fan was one thing, actually taking down one of the most dangerous soldiers in the Tong was another. Fan sniffed haughtily, smoothing his clothes for effect, “It would be wise for you all to treat me with more respect that that,” he said to them.

One spat on the floor at his feet, “Huh, why? The boss has put the word out on you Fan. He has a message waiting for you, I hear,” a ripple of laughter ran through the men.

Fan stared back at the youth who had dared speak to him is such a manner, committing his face to memory; if his plan went well he’d need someone to make an example of to re-establish his authority and he would do nicely. “I think the boss will change his mind once he sees what I’ve brought him,” Fan said calmly. All eyes turned to the cart as, with a cruel smile, Fan pulled back the burlap to reveal a terrified Chinese woman laying bound and gagged next to an unconscious white man, “Tell the boss I’ve brought him a gift…”

To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Gang Wars: Tipping Points

“You are sure?” the boss asked in a quiet voice. The sun had only begun to rise on this miserable day and already his generals brought him more bad news.

“Yes, positive,” replied The Voice, fury burning in every syllable.

“And you are sure about our source?”

“Yes. He’s one of the runners, young and stupid but no fool. He says the man, this Jonny O,” he virtually spat the name out, “walked right up to him and told him where to find Shayu.”

“Walked right up to him…” the old man stood by the window and gazed with sightless eyes across the canal to where the Dragon Lady’s hotel sat amid the swirling snow and wind and looked down on Shanghai Boardwalk and the Shamian slums as if mocking the Bing Kong’s lowly status and peasant roots. “Walked right up to him and told him what he’d done…”

It wasn’t a question, but The Voice answered anyway “Yes. And then he laughed. He laughed and swaggered off into the slums.”

The room was silent except for the boss’ quiet, rhythmic breathing and the sound of The Voice squeezing and releasing his small hands into tight fists. Eventually the boss broke the silence, “And Shayu?”

“Han went as soon as the runner told him but the Jager patrol were already there. He’s dead though, Han saw him hanging in front of the tunnel that leads to the forests where that logger lives.”

The boss turned and fixed his milky, un-seeing eyes on pint-sized his right-hand man, “And do we thing he had anything to do with it? I ask as I’d like to know before I have Han burn him alive anyway?”

The Voice sneered cruelly, “I doubt it, that whole area is cut off by this damn storm.”

“So, just this Jonny O then. And what has Fan discovered about him?”

Han looked across at his small colleague and raised an inscrutable eyebrow at him. “Nothing,” The Voice said coolly.

“Nothing?” the boss roared, smashing both fists down onto the table which all but exploded into matchwood at his touch. He flung a chair against the wall and threw a chest of drawers after it. He stood for a while, his chest rising and falling in ragged, angry breaths until he regained his composure, “Are you telling me that still all we know comes from this one man this morning, am I right? No one else has seen this bastard and no one has been able to make the pigs here squeal?”

The Voice nodded.

“And the runner says this Jonny O has a red dragon tattooed on his face?”

Another nod, “Yes.”

The old man, once more calm, turned back to the window and looked up at the hotel, the home of his enemy, the symbol of all that he hated, all that he wanted, and said, “Then if she sends out assassins to kill us one by one, we will send out an army and kill her once and for all.” He turned back to look at his generals, “Tonight. I don’t care how. Do you understand?”

The two generals nodded and turned to leave.

“Voice?” the boss called quietly. The Voice turned round, the boss was staring out of the window again, “Bring me Fan. I wish to discuss his failure in this matter.”

***{}***

Only a stupid man would think everything was going well. Only a stupid man would imagine loyalty counted for more than failure to the Tong. Only a stupid man would say that after Chang and Shayu he would not be next. Fan was many things, but stupid was not amongst them. He had heard that the Tong had set their dogs running for him and he’d spent the whole day scuttling from one hiding place to another. Someone would sell him out, someone would give him up. This was his last safe place, beneath the wharves of Shanghai, in the filth and stench. No one would find him here and that gave him time to think.

What he needed was a sign, a gesture that not only demonstrated that his loyalty was beyond question, but that he had not failed the Tong. Jonny O’s head would be good, but Fan had a decidedly realistic view on success of such a venture. No, what Fan needed was something that struck at the heart of the boss, something that would stop the old bastard feeding him to his generals. His life depended on his next move, but what that move was he had no idea. That is, until fate brought him a small water taxi.

***{}***

Meili had tried to concentrate all day, but her heart and mind had not been on her work and she made too many mistakes. Yet instead of the Yan, the den’s doorman, shouting at her, she received a visit from her Lady. “Go child,” her Lady had said, “go and see him. But do not hurry back, the storm breaks tonight after all.” She had given Meili some money and even walked her out to a waiting water taxi, “Take her to Shamian Alley,” she had said and smiled the strangest smile as the boat rowed Meili out into the approaching twilight.

To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

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1) This post follows on from Aoi’s here.

Gang Wars: Visiting Meili

The bike ride through the dark, quiet city was a sobering affair. After the storm of the previous night, the air had turned cold and the edge of a bitter wind knifed through the streets and alleys. Even the old statues look perished, thought Beck as he left the Town Hall and headed back to Shanghai. He had the curious feeling of being watched and turned back to see the young novice who had called upon him that morning staring back from one of the cells. She was a strange one, he thought, so quiet and shy it hardly seemed possible she was being trained as one of the Perpetual Vigilance’s most deadly weapons. Still, young women in these parts were hardy and knew their own minds and he was sure that under the stewardship of that old battle-axe, the Mother Superior, she’d flourish. As he passed out of sight of the Town Hall and headed east across the city gardens and towards Shanghai’s western-most windmill gate, his attention shifted to another young woman, one he’d said some harsh things to, things he didn’t mean, things he had to try and make right. He had to see Meili at the hotel.

***{}***

“Ahh, Dr Beck,” the usual oily welcome from the host set Beck’s teeth on edge but he just grunted and pushed on past both him and the hired muscle behind him. Straining his eyes through the thick smoke until he saw her bending by the cots, tending to the pipes of the dreaming customers. He wove his way through the room and reached out through the opium haze to touch her shoulder gently. She turned with a smile that fell from her face as she saw him, “Doctor…” she started.

“Meili,” he replied, searching her face for some sign of welcome and finding none “I… That is…”

“Why have you come here?” her voice was low and she busied around him as if her were her customer.

“Meili. What I said… I want to explain,” he was whispering too, the bruiser by the door was watching them, looking for the first sign of trouble, “Please, can we go somewhere? I need to talk to you, I need to explain.”

Meili glanced at the doorman and gave him a barely perceptible shake of her head. He instantly relaxed and stepped back slightly, although his eyes remained on Beck, “You made it clear what you thought,” she replied, a cold, hurt edge to her voice, “What is there to explain?”

“Please… I wasn’t myself… if you would just grant me a few moments to explain,” he tried hard not to plead, “Is… is there somewhere we could talk?”

She looked up at him, her brilliant emerald eyes searching his face, “Follow me,” she sighed and led him through the deep red silk curtains behind the cots to the deeper, more private places hidden below the hotel. The sickly odour of opium smoke mingled with other less exotic yet infinitely more illicit scents – rich perfumes curled around him, sweet flowers of sweat bloomed from doorways full of shadows and sighs. This was the arena of angels, the temple in which they visited their gifts upon mortal men. Despite himself, he found his heart racing as she led him to a small, private room and shut the door behind him. Again she fixed him with her green eyes, “I can not be long,” she said cooly.

“Meili, please,” he said, “when you came to me, when we met, I mean to say after I was… rescued I wasn’t in my right mind and I said things I shouldn’t have…”

“You threw me out!” she hissed, “you told me you never wanted to see me again, you told me I was cursed!”

Tears welled in her eyes and the shame of his words stung him. “But what I said, I meant to protect you…”

“Protect me?” she repeated, her voice dripping with incredulity, “Protect me from what?”

He looked her, memories of his wife’s snarling face burned brightly in his mind, an arctic wind bit at his skin and images of lost children, his own and poor little Li Fe, danced behind his eyes. He didn’t want to give voice to the truth of his failings, his sins, but he needed her to understand, “Please… I have no excuses…”

“Protect me from what,” she asked again, her anger raw and brittle.

“I was out of my mind. The creature, it did something…”

“Protect me from what!” she snapped.

He looked into her perfect green eyes, tears rolling from them down her cheeks, and knew he was lost. He’d said both too much and not enough. How could he tell her now? How could he tell her what he’d done to his family, how he’d let down every member of hers? He was right, she was cursed, cursed to have ever met him. He turned and opened the door before looking back at Meili, “From me,” he said simply and walked out.

The night was cold but he didn’t feel it, after all he’d been to far colder places than this. His lungs itched and gnawed away inside him, his mind twisted and turned, nagging and pleading with him.. He needed to loose himself in the smoke and as the hotel was no longer an option he headed into the slums.

***{}***

Even at this late hour eyes watched him from the darkness. Not just him of course, these eyes, small eager eyes, watched all that happened in Shanghai day and night, but because these eyes were set in the grubby little faces of the street children, no one paid them any attention. Scamps were invisible to all but a few and although on any other day Beck would have noticed them, his opium-hunger blinded him to all but his path through the filthy back streets of Shamian and towards the seedy dens hidden in the deepest, darkest parts of the slums.

The eyes also saw another figure walking through the dark streets, this time heading out of Shanghai and towards the tunnel to St Helens. The eyes had much to report back to their mistress, the pretty lady who paid them and fed them, the doctor was up to his old tricks and a nasty Tong bully was heading into the forests…

To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Dr Beck hurt Meili in the epilogue to “Steal Head” here.

Gang Wars: The Sentinel Reports on Chang’s Death

Grab yourself a copy of the latest issue of the Steelhead Sentinel and read Miss Warbaum’s coverage of the murder of Tong member Chang: http://steelheadsentinel.blogspot.com/2011/02/felled-foe-found-latest-casualty-in.html

Gang Wars: Chang Draws A Crowd

The dockside was surprisingly full when Beck arrived at where the body was being guarded by Sister Jones and an older nun he did not recognise. Around them a small crowd had gathered jostling, eager to see the dead enforcer for themselves and Beck had to squeeze and push his way through. “Quite a gathering, Sisters,” he huffed as he broke through, “Can’t you move them on?”

“We’ve tried, doctor,” the older nun replied, “but they just come back. It’s odd really, the Chinese here usually wouldn’t be seen gawping like this, but don’t detect much respect for this one,” she nodded to the canvas covered body on the quay. Beck bent and pulled back the sheet and the crowd surged forward as one for a better view, Sister Jones moved to push them back as Beck looked at the big, cruel face of the man who had kicked him around his surgery a few weeks earlier and felt a moment of shame at the prick of sour joy in his heart. “No, they wouldn’t have,” he said.

The nun looked at him quizzically. “His name is, was, Chang. He was an enforcer for the Bong Kong Tong and responsible for a great deal of misery in these people’s lives,” Beck looked around at the wall of faces, “Extortion, robbery, kidnapping, murder, even the odd spot of torture just for fun. No, I dare say the only people who will miss him are the rest of the cockroaches in the Tong.”

“So a list of suspects shouldn’t be too hard to produce then,” the sister said with a wicked edge of sarcasm that Beck found refreshing.

“Hah,” he laughed softly, “I would imagine the Sheriff…”

“Marshall,” the nun corrected him.

“Sorry?”

“Promotion. It’s Marshall Ortega now, Doctor.”

Beck smiled, “Well in that case I would imagine the good Marshall could throw a handful of rocks around here and hit a dozen people who wouldn’t shed a tear at Chang’s passing,” the nun nodded in agreement, “But wanting a thug like Chang dead and going up against the Tong to kill a thug like Chang are very different things. I can’t imagine any of these poor devils would risk the retribution on their communities, their families.”

“Then who?”

Beck sighed, “Another gang? The Dragon Tong? Maybe the Fox Battalion?”

“Who?”

Beck pulled the canvas sheet back over Chang and stood up, the sister followed and he pointed at a hand-bill pasted onto a nearby mooring post, “The Fox Battalion. It seems we are to get our very own vigilante force.”

The nun read it silently before shaking her head, “I’ll have to tell the Marshall about this, such a call to criminality can not be tolerated,” she said quietly.

Beck raised an eyebrow in mock-surprise, “Well given how lawless things have become in this part of town, it was bound to happen sooner or later.”

“Surely you don’t approve, doctor?” she asked.

Beck stared at the poster for a second before answering wearily “No, not really, just no longer surprised,” Whoever was setting themselves up to fight the Tong would no doubt end up in his surgery, as would many others if the Tong decided to discourage any further attempts at standing up to them in their usual fashion.

She nodded and a moment of silence hung between them as they considered the ramifications of the poster and its message. “Well I must get back to the Town Hall and inform the Marshall of developments here. Sister Jones will stay with the body,” behind her the young nun smiled meekly at him, “and two porters have been hired to take the body to your surgery. When can he expect your report?”

Beck looked down at the body and ran his fingers through his whiskers in thought, “Tell him I’ll drop it off tonight, I have my rounds to do along with some chores to catch up on, but I’ll get it to him tonight.”

She nodded again and moved to turn away, Beck stopped her with a polite “Excuse me.” When she turned back he said, “You must excuse my manners Sister, but I neglected to ask your name.”

She smiled warmly and said “Sister Mary Eunice Agatha Arcadia Edwards, but you can call me Mary. Except when Mother Superior is around, then you’d be wise to call me Sister Arcadia; I’m afraid the Mother Superior has a rather jaded view of you Doctor. I don’t believe a word of it of course,” her smile became mischievous, her eyes twinkling, “The Marshall says you just have some bad habits, that’s all.”

Beck felt his cheeks redden as, with another quick smile she turned and pushed her way through the crowd. He moved back to the body and was busy collecting his thoughts when the chatter of the crowd was a brief cry followed by a loud splash. Looking over the edge of the quay he saw a Caledonian sailor splashing about and blustering about a broken arm to a rather shocked looking colleague who was rushing down the nearest steps to reach him. Beck turned to the now silent crowd to see what had happened and saw that everyone was staring at a huge Japanese man dressed entirely in black and with very conspicuous pair of swords. As impressive as he was, what caught Beck’s eye was the small, beautiful Japanese woman stood in front and slightly to one side of him. Jet black hair intricately framed her fine-boned face and seemed to blend into her silk kimono. Behind her two impressive black wings rippled and quivered in the breeze and in her hand she held the poster Beck had shown Sister Arcadia only moments before. For a moment their eyes met and Beck found himself wondering what her interest in the Fox Battalion could be before she turned and, along with her mountainous companion, walked off through the crowd as it parted to let them pass.

Beck watched her leave and stood staring long after the crowd had dispersed and the dunked sailor, fished out by his smirking companion, had returned to his ship.

“Doctor…?” Sister Jones’ voice broke him from his thoughts, “the porters are here.”

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To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Chang was first encountered in Dr Beck’s surgery here.
2) The Fox Batallion’s notice was posted to the Ning here.
3) Aoi sees Beck here.

Gang Wars: The Fox Battalion

The morning air was harsh on his face, the light strong and somehow alien in nature. This, Beck thought, is what it must feel like to be a ghost, one of the deceased walking among the living in a world they no longer belonged to. Except he was not a ghost, he was not deceased and, despite the fact that every fibre of his body seemed to be screaming that the very opposite was true, he was very much alive. Only he wasn’t, was he. Was he?

“Doctor!” a strong hand clasped his arm and he spun round to find himself staring into the deep, grey eyes of Captain Williams, skipper of one of the fishing boats that worked out of Shanghai, “The harbour…”

“Hmmm?” Beck stared at the man from somewhere very far away.

“The harbour, you nearly waked off the edge!”

Beck looked down and with a start saw his feet were mere inches from the sheer drop of the stone harbour edge, the waves rolling and crashing against the wall a dozen feet below him. He stepped back, shocked at such a total lapse in his concentration.

“Ye Gods and little fishes, Doctor, pay more heed to your path, sir!” warned Williams.

“Yes… yes of course,” blustered Beck, “I… I’m a little distracted this morning, I fear. A body has been found by some of the night fishermen, you see.”

Williams let go of Beck’s arm and looked into the man’s eyes. He’d heard about his kidnapping at the hands of the devil from the sea and the state the rescuers had found him in and yet here he was, a mere two days later, up and about and tending to his patients. “I’d venture you have good reason to be, sir, good reason indeed but I’d be sorely grieved to hear of your untimely passing lest I am to add your name to the Roll of The Lost at Chapel, sir.”

Beck looked again at the drop into the sea, “Of course, sorry, yes. I’ll be more careful, Captain.”

“See that you do sir, the people here about need you whole and in once piece. One of my crew, an Oriental convert of good standing, told me how much you have done for his family and how grateful his people are, you should be proud Doctor, you should be very proud indeed.”

Beck had no words, nothing to offer the man back so he just nodded slightly and started towards where Sister Jones waited for him with the body dredged from the ocean.

“I shouldn’t worry too much about that body Doctor,” Williams said. Beck stopped and looked back at the Captain. “From what I hear the departed was one of the Tong’s thugs, a nasty piece of work by the name of Chang. It seems that the escalation in hostilities has claimed another victim, although I doubt many will mourn this one. Still, it will only serve to anger the Tong and that is never good for the poor, honest folks around here is it?”

Chang. The name rang like a bell in Beck’s mind and he found his fingers moving to his eye involuntarily. How long ago was it? A month? Six weeks? Something else the old seaman said caught Beck’s attention, “Escalation? You mean between the gangs?”

“Indeed I do sir, indeed I do. These past few weeks have seen an out-break of violence the likes of which, well suffice to say that in my sixty years I have never seen before. Warehouses razed to the ground, explosions felling buildings, murders in the streets, shipping and trade threatened and robbed on every side! The law seems powerless to intervene even as outsiders come in and commit the most heinous crimes imaginable at will. Is it any wonder the folks around here are turning to vigilantism? Why, I shouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t this Fox Battalion that took the law in to their own hands with this heathen brute.”

“I’m sorry, the fox who?” Beck’s mind was spinning with all the new information but he felt better for it, he was feeling grounded for the first time in two days. Here was something he could understand, here was something he could do somethings about. No monsters, no ghosts of the mind, battles between light and dark, just people, people being people.

Williams lifted his hand and pointed to a poster stuck to the side of a tall mooring pole, “The Fox Battalion. I can’t say I approve of their message or intent for as the Good Book says…”

Beck didn’t listen to the bible lesson, instead his attention switched to the bill and its very direct message conveyed in one short paragraph written in, of all things, Latin:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Greetings,

We, the repressed and downtrodden members of society call on the name of justice to take up arms to fight back by any means, against the scum and terror who would defile and cause depravity by selling opium and illicit goods, take our families in the dead of night to be sold on the slave markets, bring thugs into our cities to threaten, steal, and kill for their selfish goals. And what is the Military doing about this, The US Navy and coast guard has it’s hands tied, the English Navy is spread too thin, the US Military and Canadian Mounties are too busy with their own agendas, even the Steelhead Militia force cannot act! That is where we come in, and that is where we ask you, the lawful and honest Individual who wishes to see justice done, come to us, and seek us out if you are interested in joining our cause. Let me be clear, if you are some miscreant, lawless, or have your own agenda, do not bother to apply, for we want loyal, just, honest, law abiding, hard working, and hard fighting individuals, of any sex, species, or race. Break the binds of fear the criminals would shackle us with, and fight for your rights of freedom and justice! Contact Me by leaving a message at the predetermined location if you are interested.

Lt. H
Fox Battalion
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Well… things certainly had become more complicated since he’d left for Babbage six weeks ago…

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To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Chang was first encountered in Dr Beck’s surgery here.
2) The Fox Batallion’s notice was posted to the Ning here.

Loki Eliot’s New Babbage RP – The Black Heart

Loki Eliot’s been a busy lad of late – he’s rebuilt his Goonie Island and started up a new Babbage-based RP called The Black Heart. Like his previous Shadow of 13, The Black Heart has its own website (http://babbagechronicles.co.uk/) and it was during my search for this site I found a posting on his personal blog I’d missed and boy does it give a great run down of his previous stories. Oddly enough, given my love of shared RP in SL, I’ve never taken part in one of his – despite stumbling across them all in one way or another(1). I don’t know why this is, but I put it down to three things:

1) I’ve always wanted to do my own thing – at the times I’ve come across Loki’s RP I’ve been busy doing my own stuff and that brings me to…

2) I simply don’t have enough time! I never have had enough online time to do what I want to – not just in-world, but externally as well. This blog is as important to me as my stuff in-world. Some of you might not see why and that’s fine because to me it is and that’s all that matters. I can be in-world more but write less, or write more and be in-world less – the line has to be drawn and quite often writing and blogging win out. But under all that lies the fact that…

3) I’ve never felt part of the Babbage community. I tried back in late 2007, but it’s always seen like the preserve of builders and creators and so I just have never followed its development much. Same goes for Caledon really. In fact all steampunk. In truth I don’t much care for Steampunk – it just doesn’t interest me in the same way Star Trek/Wars doesn’t (2).

Anyhoo because I didn’t follow Babbage and because I had ideas to do my own stuff and because I have never been in-world as much as I feel I need to be I tended to miss the stuff that went on in the telling of the tales and that sense of ‘going it alone’ doesn’t do it for me (see my recent rant about Call of Duty Black Ops). This is why in the recent Steelhead RP I wanted to collect all the posts from everyone and make a “Story In Full” list so the whole thing felt like a collaborative effort.

Yet my personal foibles aside (3) I really want to get involved in this one, partly because I know some folks already involved (Myrtil and Miss Chernov) and partly because I want to learn more about multiparticipatory RP (as opposed to the other type of multiparticipatory activity this blog is famed for) and who better to learn from than the master (4). I’m sure that in a year from now Steelhead will be putting on this kind of RP – I have, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, several good ideas I’ve already pitched to the bosses ;-D

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(1) This post (https://headburroantfarm.wordpress.com/2007/09/26/in-other-news-murder-most-foul/) is from 3 years ago and shows how even then I was looking for a RP experience (as well as being quite keen on eldrich horror, a fact that hasn’t – and I doubt ever will – change).

(2) I still haven’t found my perfect world in SL, but when I do it’s going to be horror and/or 1940s LA detective noir based 🙂

(3) None of which have anything to do with Loki, who I’ve never met, or his excellent work, which I love.

(4) Although his building, texturing & scripting skills will always be beyond me – Loki is the perfect package for RP!

p.s. You can read more of my RP waffle posts here.