I know there are probably mistakes in the following. Don’t complain. Just fix them
Hai moved through the crowd with ease. The lithe Asian man ignored the drizzle as he moved at a quick pace. His new contact was nervous and probably should not be kept waiting. As an independent camera/news man, Hai fell somewhere between legitimate reporter and paparazzi as a lot of reporters did these days. The failing news papers were bleeding staff and the other outlets just weren’t hiring. But Hai was different in that he liked the pace and freedom of an independent. No dress code and no standard hours. Sure he did have to do the occasional milk run of flashing celebrities from time to time. Feel good stories, sports and the occasional feature all padded Hai resume. But he got to do fun things too.
Hai had looked into the Triads with some success and other real news stories. The networks were really focused on fluff these days, but even they had to pay attention when real news hit. And that was where the real money was for him. When REAL news hit in an unexpected place or time the networks went scrambling for any edge they could find. And people like Hai were there to sell it to them, for the right price. Hai really did enjoy it when network managers who refused to hire the little Asian guy with dyed hair and cocky attitude had to come running to him with big fat paycheques.
What Hai was working on this evening might earn him another big paycheque. Gangs always looked sexy on the nightly news. Up North the Canadians had hammered the local gangs to the point the old guard no longer had control of the drug trade. The same went the local gangs in Seattle and Washington State in general. So new bloods were trying to move in and take over. Some of these new groups were doing better than others. Hai’s new contact was talking about a new gang in the area doing well. Moving into the drug market. The Derketo, odd name for a mixed gang, was a new violent gang pushing designer and party drugs. Young and violent was the name of the game for the new guys.
Hai slipped out of the bar music still hammering in the background. A crowd was just starting to form to let patrons in. As he was on his way out, no one paid him any mind. The talk with the contact had been fruitful but a little expensive and Hai was glad that he met his contact during happy hour because the contact was nervous and needed a lot of drinks to calm him down.
Hai rubbed his ears. They were still thumping in time to the beat he’d just left. Noe did have a lot to say. The Derketo was more than a gang. It was a cult. A cult that sold drugs and used exotic pets. Hai was watching the dollar signs in his mind’s eye so he didn’t notice that he was being followed.
Hai walked a good distance to his car and pulled out his keys. He looked around and did not see the two men following him. In retrospect, when Hai thought about this scene later, he would realize he had seen the two people following him, but he’d just ignored them. He would spend many hours wondering why. Hai had studied karate for years. Maybe, if he had seen his attacker coming he could have done something. Or that is what he told himself years later. Maybe it even helped.
At the time his first awareness of his attackers came as he stopped to put his key in the car door’s lock. A very strong hand grabbed his shoulder and spun him around and hammered a blow into his stomach. The punch would have been devastating in a fight but much worse when Hai didn’t see it coming. It ended the fight before it started. If it had not, the follow up kicks and punches would have. Hai was well beyond pain. The world was unfocused and slow. Hai had been in this place during an accident in one karate class. He knew he was hurt badly but sometimes shock was not a bad thing. For a time he did try to protect his head but that did not work. He was bleeding from where his head had bounced off concrete, his nose and lips. His left eye wasn’t working right either. He was also sure some thing was broken in his abdomen. The only thing he really noticed about this attackers was that they wore hoodies and their eyes. Both attackers’ eyes attracted his attention. They had no life to them. Just cold and inhuman. Much like a snakes, they were golden with a vertical iris. His attacker did not talk during the beating. They were not excited or intense.
Hai did see what happened next, but years later he would try to rationalize it. What happened was not possible. Was it?
Everything stopped and his attackers stopped dead in their tracks. It was the type of action you take when you first realized you are being watched, and not in a good way. A small grey cat was sitting on the roof of the car. On its caller hung a small red jewel of some kind. It seemed to glow. A symbol in the center shone out white and clear to be seen even from Hai’s ground level perception. The cat made a loud “meow” sound and looked curiously at the two men, one still with his foot pulled back to administer another kick. Everything stopped until the one of the men made a fast grab for the cat. As fast as he was, he apparently missed as the cat took off down the street the two snake eyed men in hot pursuit.
Hai growled as a blue light flashed by him. The flash drew his attention and he looked up at a very pretty young woman kneeling beside him. Her hair was of spun gold and kind green eyes. She wore a leather jacket with some neon light running through it and jeans.
“You’ve got to get up. We don’t have much time. Help is coming but it is going to take time. That program is only going to run for a couple of minutes.”
Hai shook his head. What she just said didn’t make any sense, but he needed the help. “Help me up” he croaked.
“I can’t,” responded his blonde saviour. “I am not really here. You have to get up.” She pleaded.
“Am I hallucinating?” Hai pondered why he would hallucinate a young blonde woman. And he figured that his hallucinations would speak Hai’s native Cantonese instead of English. Hai was beginning to wonder if he really had been hit in the head too many times.
“No, your not hallucinating. But you must get up. They will realize they have been tricked and will come back. There isn’t much time.” The blonde pleaded.
Hai tried to roll over but failed as a wave of pain washed over him.
The blonde cursed and waved her left arm over him and paused to look at her forearm. He thought he saw a miniature golden glowing image of a human body. Damaged parts glowing in red. The image was suspended about an inch above her left forearm.
“Damn it” cursed the blonde, “they did a number on you.”
The blonde began to type furiously on her left forearm. There must have been some piece of equipment there Hai concluded. He could hear the key strokes even as the image of the body changed to a bunch of characters that he could not read.
Done typing, the blonde reached down with her right hand made to touch Hai’s forehead. Hai felt a shock there. Like a really bad static shock and it hurt for a moment. Then all of his pain was pushed back and his mind became un-fuzzed.
“Come on now. Now we really don’t have much time.” The Blonde pleaded again.
Hai succeeded in rolling over this time and pulled himself up to his hands and knees. “I can’t drive like this.” Hai said, his voice more solid.
“I’m not asking you to; just go over to the alley. We can hide there. But you must hurry. They just realized their mistake.” The blonde stood and waved him to follow, gesturing to a nearby alley. A dark one at that.
“So they can beat me up in there instead? How will that help?” Hai grunted as he struggled to his feet.
“I can hide us there but you must hurry. They are only a block away now.” The blonde walked backward toward the alley. She was looking at her forearm again. Some image was suspended over it but he could not see what it was from where he stood.
“THERE” came a hissing a cry from a block away.
Hai did not need to look. He made a mad shamble for the alley. The blonde waited for him and pointed behind a dumpster.
“How will that help?” Hai asked as he stumbled toward her. The alley was very dark but the woman was easy to make out because of the neon on her jacket.
“Trust me and hurry.” She pointed again.
Hai was not in a position to argue. He fell into the indicated spot with a grunt. The blonde knelt beside him a quick two finger command on her left forearm. Because she was couched over Hai, he could read the display this time. The words “Stealth Mode…100%” flashed up. Then the screen faded away, as did the glowing neon in the blonde’s jacket. This plunged the alley into darkness.
The two men rushed into the alley and where looking around frantically. They clearly could not see Hai or the blonde. The men rushed down the alley in what must have been hot pursuit.
“We’re okay for now. Come on. Help isn’t here yet so we have to keep moving.” The blonde pointed down the alley. “Help is on his way but he’s not set up yet. We need time and distance.”
Hai again staggered to his feet. “Who are you and who is this help?” Hai began to limp down the alley. “A friend of mine is coming but he has to get set up first. And you can call me…” the blonde stopped to think for a moment “Siberys. Always liked that name.” Hai did not bother asking about the allies. He did not have the breath and he leaned on the wall of the alley for support. Siberys’ jacket had lit up again giving him enough light to stagger down the alley. Hai could see a very detailed map project above her left forearm. A simple thin box of polished metal with some golden glowing rune on the top was attached to her forearm. Above the rune was a virtual key board and display hover over her arm. Because of the relative darkness, Hai could see a very faint orange glow over Siberys’ left arm from her hand to her elbow.
Hai and Siberys hid once more but kept moving until Hai legs finally gave out. The pain was back and worse his brain was focused enough to feel every bit of it. Hai cried out has his back hit the wall and he slid down it.
Hai looked up at Siberys to say he couldn’t go on, but Siberys shushed him. “It okay we are close enough.” Siberys had concern in her eyes as she looked down. She crouched down, "Shush now. We don’t need to run farther.”
“There they are!” hissed a voice from down the alley. Hai heard heavy footsteps of people running.
Before Hai tried to pull himself up, Siberys made a pleading hand gesture. “We’re safe, my friend is here. Your safe.” Siberys under sympathy and a surprising level of confidence for a girl about to have her skull bashed in.
More footsteps, closer now. Why didn’t Siberys hide them like before? They had seen them… then there was chanting. A powerful male voice that carried. Hai did not know what the voice said. He did not ever recognize the language. Just the word “old” sprang to mind. Hai only recognized one of the final words in the chant. Something about Ra. Then what could only be described as ‘it’ happened.
‘It’ was a bright light. Blinding, but not. It should have hurt Hai’s eyes but it did not. The entire alley was full of it. Hai’s skin felt warm, like touching a stone that had been in the summer heat all day. Not hot, just pleasant warmth. His pursuers must have felt something else.
Their scream was unearthly. It was cut off abruptly. Hai did not see it, but he knew the men where dead or worse. The light of the alley return to normal and Hai just realized he could hear the sounds of the city again. When had it gone away?
Two men were walking up to Hai and Siberys. She stood to greet them. One was Caucasian and wore a trench coat and bore a staff. His hair was dark and slightly spiky. The other man was harder to make out in his black jacket but his accent gave him away as he approached.“Assalam o alaikum.” Stated the new comer. Siberys just nodded a smiled.
“Oh yes, very subtle. They may have seen that from orbit.” Came a third female voice from the new comers. Hai looked around until he thought he found its source. A small grey cat padding along beside the two men. The cat kept coming after the two men stopped in front of Siberys and moved right up to Hai.
“Always a critic.” Said the man in the trench coat in an exasperated tone.
“He doesn’t look too good.”, purred the cat. She started to sniff Hai. “Maybe one of you awakened types should do something about it.”
The man in the black jacket knelt down beside Hai and uncorked a flask. “Drink.” The man helped Hai drank. The contents tasted like cold tea. Despite the taste, Hai began to feel better. The Arab (?) began patting Hai down. Like one looking for any unseen injuries.
“What took so long?” Siberys asked the trench-coated-man.
“Well I could easily just blast them, but we had to catch them when they fled into the Umbra. Otherwise they’d go tell what happened to their bosses wouldn’t they?”
“Did you catch them at least?” Siberys inquired.
“Well yes, we did.” the trench coated man lifted two crystals attached to leather strings. “We should be away. That effect will draw attention.”
“They are looking. I am already running interference.” Siberys glanced down at the image over her forearm again.
The Arab helped Hai to his feet. Hai was surprised that he could stand. Not unaided, but after the beating he had suffered that was very surprising. The pain was still there and not as sharp. The group headed out of the alleys led by the small grey cat.
After a couple of minutes Hai noticed that Siberys was not with them. “Where did she go?”
“Who? Oh, Ar…Siberys? She does that a lot. You get used to it.” The Arab was shaking his head at the blunder.
The two strange men helped Hai into the back seat of the car.
“We’ll stay behind and clean up.” The man in the trench coat stated, gesturing to the cat.
The Arab looked down at the cat, “Keep him out of trouble. It won’t be long before the Technocracy shows up. There is no way they missed that effect.”
“I keep watch, he cleans up. I can always get away, he”, indicating to the trench coated man, “has more problems.”