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Zemin trudged through the crowded streets, awash in the inescapable neon lights of the lower mining district. The sun barely reached the bottom of these slums, penetrating the smoke and the steam and the thousands of overhanging hovels only in small quantities. The district had once been a small mining community, complete with several enormous extraction platforms built to tear up massive swaths of the ground in search of valuable minerals. As the expansion of Heishi continued to sweep across the planet and envelop other cities, the mining community became one of the cheapest places to live, attracting millions of impoverished citizens to settle there. Slums began to spring up everywhere; on the decommissioned extraction platforms, on the polluted waterfront, and even in the deep canyons and shafts left abandoned by the fading mining industry. Informal expansion continued exponentially, bringing with it waves of crime and poverty that crippled whatever shred of official governance was present in the first place. The Heishi authorities - facing mounting military police casualties and skyrocketing levels of violence - declared the mining district closed to law enforcement of all kinds. That was when the triads took over.

The Zhao clan was the law in these subterranean alleyways and everyone knew it. The peasants, addicts, metal-freaks, organ-rippers, street-cleaners, poachers, and prostitutes all stepped back to make a path for Zemin, lowering their heads to acknowledge her as she passed. Respect was given to the triad before everything else, and in return, the triad kept the population in order and the district relatively peaceful.

The streets became more sparsely populated as she neared her destination. The crowds of rowdy civilians were long gone, replaced by patrolling groups of Zhao enforcers. This part of the district had once been a commercial block, but the triad had bought out every single shop and pushed all the owners out. Only one building still had the lights on now, the decrepit barracks that had housed military police in the days before the law withdrew to safer parts of Heishi. Zemin walked up to the entrance and pushed the door open, brushing past the guards that waited in the foyer. She made her way to the pub that had been attached to the left wing of the barracks, swinging through the gateways and finally coming to a stop in front of a table seated by six men.

The person sitting at the head of the table regarded her for a moment. He was an older man; completely bald and slender in figure. His brow moved downward in a way so that it seemed like he was always frowning. Unlike the others at the table, he was devoid of any implants or visible tattoos. The man gestured to a stack of chairs as the other gangsters made room for another seat at the table. “You met with the doctor?”

Zemin sat down and took a cigarette from one of the cases laid out on the table. “Fixed me up in less than an hour,” She replied. “No problems.”

“Good. You made sure civilians saw you on your way here?”

The assassin nodded, sparking a lighter and raising it to the edge of her cigarette. She looked upwards as she inhaled, examining her adoptive father’s expression. “I went through the open street, just like you asked me.”

Zhao Wu nodded. He looked as calm as ever. “Our appearance in these coming days should be one of uniform strength. We will target the most lucrative businesses of the Kong family; the drugs, the gambling, the prostitutes. We’ll disrupt their protection rackets and make sure people know that to side with them is to dance with a bullet. We’ve been through this before; it’s not pleasant, but we’re more than prepared.” The Dragon Head intertwined his fingers and laid them on the table. “Everyone needs to exercise caution - the attack on the foremost Red Pole is far from the end of their attempts to hit our higher organization.” He paused for a moment. “That’ll be all for now. Further orders will arrive by courier.” The underbosses stood immediately, murmuring in agreement with the triad leader as they collected their things and began to file out of the pub.

Zemin blew smoke towards the ceiling and put her cigarette out, rising to leave with the rest of the gangsters. Wu raised a hand and stopped her, pouring himself another glass of liquor as he waited for the underbosses to exit. “I need to talk to you,” he said. “Have something to drink.”

The Red Pole mumbled an okay, walking over to the bar and retrieving a box of filtered water. Anything that ran through the pipes in this ares of this city (or any area for that matter) was almost certainly filthy, so buying from private treatment plants was the only way to get the good stuff. She placed a straw in her carton and sat back down across from her father.

“This war isn’t going to be good for the triad. We have our hands in many of the same pots that the Kong do. Prolonged conflict is going to destroy a lot of infrastructure on both sides, it might even force the military police to get involved. The Yan officers that are being slowly transferred into the department are unlike anyone else we’ve worked with; full of spit and ideology. They refuse be bribed.” Zhao Wu sighed. He regarded his drink for a moment before pushing it away. “Things are changing against us. We need to end this conflict so we can focus on adjusting to the new era.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I need you to eliminate the Kong family,” Wu replied. “All of them. Cut the head off the snake and all that. They have a great many 49ers, but none of them are particularly loyal or influential. You know what Kong is like, he keeps his power close. If we kill him - and all his children - his organization should fall apart.”

Zemin raised an eyebrow. “If it were only so easy, right? How am I supposed to kill the most protected man in the mining district?”

“I taught you to be resourceful, did I not? Those are my orders, and you will find a way to carry them out.”

The Red Pole nodded begrudgingly. It seemed the matter wasn’t up for discussion. “As you say. I’ll get some men on it as soon as possible, and then attend to the matter personally. It’ll get done.”

“Good. One more thing before you go,” The Dragon Head looked down at the table, suddenly overwhelmingly interested in the wooden grain. “My son… Your brother has gotten into trouble again. With this war now started, I need him back here for his own safety. As soon as possible.”

“Your son?” Zemin began to grind her teeth. Zhao Dun was the only true child that the Zhao boss had ever fathered, his own flesh and blood. He was also an idiot, and he did not get on well with his adoptive sister. “Where is he?”

“He’s using again. I caught him with enough product to kill a horse.” Wu sighed heavily. He was the most practical person that Zemin knew - if someone wasn’t pulling their weight, they were out or they were dead. Unfortunately, that all seemed to fall away when it came to his blood. Dun was an addict, everyone knew that, but he was still one of the most powerful men in the triad. “He escaped his room shortly after, disappeared in the slums.”

Zemin furrowed her brow. “And nobody has heard from him? Is there a chance that Kong hit him?”

“If there’s one thing my son excels at, it’s staying out of sight. Unless someone has combed through every wretched drug den in the district, I doubt he’s been found by anyone except his dealers.” Wu shook his dead. “Besides, the Kong triad would’ve already sent me his head if they had it.”

“So what do you want me to do? Comb through every wretched drug den in the district?”

The Dragon Head sighed again. That was answer enough.
The urban cascade of the Heishi palatial district sprawled for as far as the eye could see. The neatly organized blocks of luxurious housing blanketed the landscape, falling into the misty valley and rising again with the distant mountains. From where she stood opposite the windows of a splendid hillside estate, Zhao Zemin could gaze as far as the sun could reach. It was as if the whole district was laid at her feet. Here was the home of the titans of industry and politics that dominated the continent-spanning city of Heishi. Here was the playground of the powerful, guarded against the grinding sounds of industry and the constant cacophony of the slums. Here was the land of sheep, wealthy men with soft hands and weak stomachs. It was no wonder the triad thrived here.

“Could I get you something to eat or drink?” Zemin turned her attention away from the window, facing the source of the question instead. His name was Cutter - he was some sort of foreigner who had fled his homeworld and started a business in Heishi - built an empire from nothing but some borrowed money. Recently, that empire was rumoured to be declining. “My full staff has not arrived yet,” he continued. “But I’m sure we can make do. Lobster from one of my containments in the southern sea, perhaps? I’m assured they are completely protected from the regular oceanic acidity, grown in full from my personal stock of the finest genetic material.”

Zemin eyed him carefully. Cutter didn’t look broke - he was wearing an expensive evening robe in a house filled with expensive things. Still, Zhao Wu had decided those rumours about his faltering coffers were worth investigating. “Yeah,” she said. “One of those then. You have white liquor?”

“White liquor? Which kind would you prefer?”

“Kind?” Zemin frowned at him. “It tastes the same. Just get it.”

Cutter hesitated as if he was unsure of how to respond. Finally, he nodded. “Certainly. I’ll be back with those in a moment. Make yourself at home, and we’ll discuss business when I’ve relayed our conversation with the staff.” He patted the sides of his robe, smoothing it out before leaving. Zemin watched him walk out of the room. Once he was gone, her hand instinctively drifted towards her belt and she wrapped her metal fingers around the grip of a pistol. The handle hummed as the firing-lock was disabled by the familiar signature of her mechanical hand. She moved the side of her coat over the weapon, hiding it from sight once again.

“I have returned, and bearing gifts!” Cutter exclaimed as he reentered the room, followed by a platoon of smartly dressed servants carrying their platters of lobster. He gestured to the table on the other side of the room just as the servants brushed past her to set it. “I choose some imported vodka for you to drink, I’ve been told its one of the better brands. Haven’t tried it myself - too harsh.” He pulled out one chair and then sat down in another opposite it. “Please, sit down. You can tell me why you’re here and I will see what I can do to help.”

Zemin sat down and drew the glass of vodka towards her. She had no intention of drinking it, nor eating any of the food she had asked for, but it made the discussion seem more amiable. “I've been told that you borrowed a great sum of money from the triad a few years ago. Eleven-million cash, that's the number I was given." She raised her eyebrows, making a show of examining the various paintings and vases that were displayed around the dining room. "We want it back. I have come to collect, with interest." The staff still stood nearby, listening to the exchange with their hands stowed behind their backs. Zemin waved at them to gain their attention. "Do you people not understand this is a private discussion? Out, and lock the door behind you."

The servants glanced nervously from Zemin to Cutter. He swallowed hard, gesturing for them to obey the command with a flick of his wrist. The group seemed to stall for a moment, but after a few seconds of heavy silence they filed out of the dining room and closed the doors behind them. Cutter looked up from the table, his face now pale and flat. “I don’t understand.”

“What don’t you understand?”

“I thought the monetary issues that I had with your organization were already solved,” Cutter furrowed his brow, speaking with a note of genuine confusion in his voice. “The meeting your organization had with me last week, does that not stand anymore?”

Zemin narrowed her eyes. “What meeting?”

“I met with another Zhao representative last week. We discussed the monetary issues that you seem to be hung up on - he said that I would be exempt from payment as long as I consented to another meeting to iron out the finer details of our deal.” Cutter frowned. “Were you not made aware of this? Seems like an internal issue. I happen to own a small augmentation company that produces in communication implants, you know. Perhaps I could, erm, sponsor you.”

“No.”

“Well, I’m sure there is something else I could sell—“

“No, just be quiet for a minute.” Zemin scanned the room, searching for any slight disturbance. Did Zhao Wu really arrange another meeting and forget to tell her? Impossible - everything the leader of the triad did, he coordinated carefully. This had to be something else, a set-up. Zemin drew her gun, causing the man sitting across from her to shrink backward in his chair. "Who did you meet? What did he look like?"

"I didn't really think to make a note of his appearance!" Came the rapid response. "I suppose he was Tianxian, with augmentations and tattoos all over his body. If you put that gun away, maybe I'll be able to remember better without the fear of..."

His voice trailed away as the sounds of crashing pots and pans became audible from the other room. Muffled voices quickly spoke in hushed tones, and soon, the air was full of silence again. Cutter looked to Zemin, finally seeming to realize the situation that they were in. Before either of them could speak, a knock came from the door separating the dining area to the kitchen. "Mr. Cutter, you have a private call. Please come and take it."

Zemin silently rose from her seat and aimed her gun towards the doors where the voice had emanated from. With her free arm, she made ready to overturn the table to act as cover. It probably wouldn't do much if the killers waiting in the kitchen were carrying long guns, but it would put something between her and the bullets that were probably ready for her. Cutter watched as she steeled herself, his panic silently rising. Zemin pointed the gun at him. "Open that door, and then get out of the way."

He knew better than to protest. Rising from his own seat, Cutter padded across the floor and placed his hand on the door handle. He waited for a moment, breathing faster and faster as he readied himself. Just as he seemed to start turning the handle, a shotgun blast tore through the wooden door and blew an enormous hole in his midsection. Cutter crumpled to the floor, instantly killed. Zemin immediately pushed the table up, sending the platters of lobster and the vodka clattering across the marbled floor. The ruined door swung outward, kicked open by a mechanical leg. The perpetrator rushed through the breach, getting two more wild rounds fired before Zemin's pistol put a hole in his neck. He staggered backward, dropping his shotgun and falling into the two other hitmen that had been following his lead. Zemin fired several more bullets at the reeling attackers, mostly hitting the first gunner but scoring a few shots on his two followers.

The assailants quickly composed themselves, pushing the tattered corpse into the doorway and retreating to the kitchen. Zemin heard more than two voices as the killers reorganized themselves, swearing at their wounds and reloading their guns. Zemin did the same, taking the half-spent magazine from her pistol and replacing it with a fresh one. "Red Pole!" One of the attackers shouted from the kitchen. "There are six of us back here! If you surrender, we'll abide by gang law and take you for ransom."

Zemin didn't respond. They wanted her to speak so they could try to pinpoint where she was behind the table, and besides, they were lying. She instead kept her eyes focused on the doorway, waiting for any sign of movement. If they were smart, they were flanking her right now. That was worrying - this dining room was a fairly open space, and if these cutthroats really numbered six they could easily surround her.

Suddenly, a flash of metal sailed through the doorway and clattered across the stone floor. Grenade. Zemin curled inwards, trying to protect her vital organs with her metallic appendages. Every window in the room shattered as the grenade exploded, sending shrapnel in all directions. Zemin felt the blast violently push the table backward, but surprisingly, nothing seemed to make it through the hardwood top. She rose instantly, knowing that any delay would mean the hitmen would be able to enter and kill her while they thought she was disorientated. She surprised a gunman walking tentatively through the doorway with a bullet to the gut, killing him shortly after with a shot that cracked his head into several pieces. She moved forwards, leaving the safety of the table and advancing across the room with her weapon raised. She killed another attacker struggling to get through the door as he tripped over the bodies lying there. Picking up the body of one gangster and holding it in front of her, Zemin pushed through the door and caught the other three hitmen taking cover behind various appliances and features. They shot at her but they lacked accuracy due to the amount of smoke still lingering in the air. Zemin ran through her magazine as she fired at them, also inaccurate due to the hazy air. When it was all said and done, however, she had managed to catch all three of them - one fatally in the top of the head, two in the midsection.

Zemin dropped the torn body she had been using as a shield and let out an exhausted breath. The dead man's blood was mixed with her own - as her adrenaline faded, she realized she had been shot in the very left portion of her abdomen. Her arms were also riddled with damage, but there she felt no pain. Using one hand to keep pressure on her wound and the other to reload her empty gun, she approached the writing body of one of the hitmen. He was shirtless, which made it rather easy to make out the tattoos that streaked across both his implants and his skin. They were Kong 49s. She shot him in the head to finish him off, doing the same for the other gangster lingering to life at the other side of the kitchen.

Staggering out of the kitchen and into the blasted dining room, she struggled over to the overturned table and slid onto the floor, resting her back against the hardwood top. She could already hear the sirens in the distance - the military police were expected to actually arrive on the scene in the palatial district. They would find her, but the Zhao triad owned the police. Even if these MPs decided to be difficult, she would simply bribe them and be on her way. Zhao Wu needed to hear about this ambush, this declaration of war from the Kong triad. First, though, she should probably see a doctor.


wow what a dumb name
still a c c e p t e d tho




you are hereby a c c e p t e d my dude
post your stuff in characters when you get around to it
BLACK SKIES AND BLACK FLAGS


It has been more than a thousand years since humanity first journeyed forward into the stars. Earth remains only as a broken reminder of those who came before - a shattered planet, enveloped in molten fire and acidic clouds. The civilizations that originated there have long since moved onwards to other areas of the galaxy, settling in vast swaths of space far from their original home. Aliens and humans now live in close proximity, interacting in both peace and warfare. The undying ties of trade and economy sweep across the galaxy, transporting goods and material through routes that stretch for lightyears on end. These vast tracts of empty space are subject to a constant battle between crime and law which seems to grow more intense with every passing year. With the stability of the galaxy continuing to decline, men of order and opportunity now venture into the void with dreams of wealth, glory, and eternity.

























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