Tales of New Secca

Lord Yuan

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Ham threw his fists in a fit of rage, punch after punch, he wasn't even aiming anymore. Drips of his blood whipped with his fists. Boom was blocking every one of them, but Ham could go on, but if his fury subsided in this state he would need to get to a hospital fast. But Ham didn't know this all he knew was hate.

The screams of pain from Torgg were like the screams he caused. That is why Ghost hated him, because of the screams he caused. The screams that ruined their team, Benito and Ham Fist taking small jobs to survive on the street. But Ghost had a family before they met.

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

Benito was getting anxious, from below they could hear more screams and through a window Benito and Lantho could see Kiyoshi under attack.

"I think we should wrap up any scraps below, Kiyoshi is occupied and I'm starting to worry about Ham." Benito tried to slip to Lantho as a hint. Benito himself was felling pain from the implant in his hand, the crystal chip used by Mage Towers to regulate the use of magic used by students.

It burned after a few healing spells and wall spells every time, then it would release magic or some kind of chemical that deteriorated the caster, it did let him cast more weak spells, but after all the walls he was starting to ache. Still the battle cries and screaming below was filled with more pain. If Benito could get down there with Lantho they might be able to turn the tables as a duo of magic armored casters. As long as Benito could hold onto the armor spell before he wipes out. Benito just hopped that too much blood was already spilled. He liked clean jobs more.
 

Crusader

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The bar had changed a lot in the last ten years, it had been a real shithole the last time Fedd had walked into the place, now there was polished wood everywhere, fancy upholstery, the windows were gaudy stained glass affairs all setting the theme to the ‘Ye Old Tavern. It had been ‘Dave’s’ last time, Dave at least had some sense to change the name, and it looked like he’d been putting Fedd’s money to good use in cleaning up the place. Too bad for Dave, Fedd couldn’t pawn the furniture for the cash he wanted.

It was about eleven and the place was real quiet, Fedd sidled up to the bar and took a seat, hearing the strain in the stool as he did. There was no sigh of the barkeep so Fedd took the nearest stack of condiments and smashed it into the service entrance.

Dave was real quick to respond to the sound of breakages, just like old times, and the look on his face when he saw Fedd was priceless.

“Dynamite! I, I, I thought they gave you the chair!? Sully told me!” He saw going an odd shade of grey, very unbecoming of an Orc.

Fedd grunted leaning forward and laying his knuckles onto the bar. “Sully’s full of shit Dave, you know that, and more importantly you know I ALWAYS collect my due, you should expect me to come knocking till the day you die.”

Dave was getting more nervous by the minute, he started wringing the towel he’d been holding until he dropped it jumping at Fedd’s veiled threats. “Easy now Fedd, I’m sorry I didn’t mean nothing by it. Can I get you a drink or anything?”

“I seem to remember your stuff was more watered down that dog’s piss, so brought my own cocktail.” Fedd fished the Molotov from his coat pocket and placed it gently on the bar beside him.

“Oh god Fedd please, I got the place running real nice, we get families in here now! I can’t afford this kind of damage!”

“We’ll see how much you can afford Dave, you owe me ten years backdated taxes, but seeing as how I’m such a charitable fella I’ll give you a break and leave it at 200 Gs. After that we’ll be adjusting your rate to compensate for the higher income bracket of your clientele.”

“200! Fedd I don’t know where to start getting that kind of money together! You can’t be serious!”

Fedd shot up and leaned forward, Grabbing Dave by the head with one hang and dragging him close. He put one of his grubby overlong claws up against Dave’s eye. “Look here Dave, this is my serious face” He pointed the finger at himself. “And that means you get me my money in two weeks, or I start breaking your furniture, and your whole bar and then your whole body.” He let Dave go, and the shy Orc simply slumped against the back wall as his legs gave way beneath him. Fedd left him there on the floor as he walked away to the exit.

“You left your cocktail.” Dave said weakly, now out of view.

“Keep it.” Fedd said. “I’m driving.”
_____

Jhonnah Morris liked the way the bell rang every time he stepped into the South End Diner, he liked the fact there was a bell at all. Most places these days didn’t appreciate the classic touches and South End could be a museum to the fifties for all it’s classic charm. That plus it was the nearest diner to the station by a good five blocks, and the manager was an old friend meant he spent a lot of time there.

With the case files nestled under his arm he took a seat across for Aeryn at their usual booth. He slapped the heavy stack onto the aluminium surface, with the coroners report sitting neatly on top.

“You know.” Aeryn began. “It doesn’t help your reputation much sitting in a place like this rather than the office.”

Morris lifted a single brow while he lit the cigarette that had been in his lips since the precinct. As long as he was by the door the manager neglected his smoking, another reason to stay. “Listen Kid, rule one in Morris’ big book of police procedure; it doesn’t matter how you do it, just get the job done. Who gives one if I do by briefings here or at the office? It’s just you and me on this case and the coffee over here is much better.”

“You know I’m older than you Morris, Right? By like twenty years. When are you going to stop calling me Kid?”

Jhonnah exhaled a puff of smoke towards the door as he took his coffee from the waitress, handing a smile back. “Ah you’re an elf, twenty years is like a week to you people. In human years you must be late teens or something?” He shook his head, realising that wasn’t the smartest thing to say. “That’s not even it Kid, it’s about the job, you’ve been a detective what? Three weeks? Not disrespecting the patrols you pulled back in blue, but investigation is a different game altogether. You’re smart, and capable, you’re going to go far but right now you’re just a Kid, we’ll change that when we’ve cleared a few cases. Rule two; good things take time, rushing to the finish line causes more problems than it solves. Patience is one of the many tools in the police arsenal.”

Aeryn looked at him for a long time on the verge of saying something, but eventually reconsidered, deflecting to the case. “So what did the Coroner find?”

Jhonnah thumbed through the report he’d already gone over down in the Morgue. “Not a lot to work with, the lacerations seem to be claw marks; there’s no sign of artificial edging besides a few shards of glass from the floor, but then there’s no sign of DNA in there either. Same with the rest of the body, no DNA under the nails, no loose hair beside the vic’s and no semen.”

“That was a messy scene and no trace of the perp? That’s a little hard to believe.” Aeryn was evidently doing her best to stomach the case, even a day after the scene it was still hard to shake that bloody mess from their minds. Jhonnah had seen Ruby again on a slab, with the blood cleaned off, she looked even less real then, just a piece of shredded meat with a face. Helluva sight; eyes staring back from half a person.

“No DNA, but that cuts both ways, when we take this to the DA there’s a chance that a clean crime scene is circumstantial evidence of premeditation, which can jump up the charge to Murder One. It’s loose but it can swing the scale for a few jury members.” Jhonnah stamped out his cigarette butt into his empty cup of coffee. “Plus that mess at the scene; if we didn’t find any of the perp on the victim, there’s a better chance it will run the other day. We just need to be quick to catch that break.”

That reminded him. “Speaking of breaks, I’ve got a hunch there’s one here.” He tapped onto the second page of the lab report, and waited for Aeryn to read it.

“Vodka?” Aeryn mouthed, frowning.

“Swabs found it all down her face, CSI found it dried into the floor in the middle of the room, where they think the grizzly scene began, thing is our gal aint a drinker according to her employee records and blood tests, tee total after her mother died apparently. And the coroner found the wound to her left eye wasn’t part of the beating, glass shards from the pile we found.”

“I still don’t see where this is going.”

Jhonnah sniffed, the Kid was still a Kid after all, she didn’t know which string to pull to find the prize; in Jhonnah’s experience pulling at everything vaguely string-like worked well enough. He sifted through the long report to the analysis chart. “Boy’s in the lab did good, narrowed it down to a specific brand, Chekhov’s Reserve. And what’s even more interesting is this is imported stuff not your average run of the mill grocery store brand. And not the rich kind of imported. I’m talking off the cargo container with the mail order brides imported. Back alley stuff only a few retailers in the city will handle which narrows it down a good deal.” Jhonnah grabbed the crime scene report and sifted through the photography, finding the one of the broken glass bottle. “Look here, where the bottle broke, you see the line in the dirt where the puddle was? Volume wise between the traces on the vic and the puddle the whole bottle must have been dropped. That means a fresh purchase.”

“Not likely to find a money trail or CCTV footage in a back alley immigrant shop” The Kid had some sense.

“No” Jhonnah accepted. “But there’s only a few viable locations anywhere near the crime scene and its worth checking out. I’ve got a good feeling about this one.”

Aeryn pondered for a second and nodded. “So when do we check it out?”

“We don’t, You do. I’ve got a meeting with the chief tree minutes ago, we’ll meet back at the office later.”
 

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Aeryn could see the store from where she was parked, down in the South Eastern district out near the bay, most of the eastern block criminal organisations ran in this part of town, she knew that much from growing up near by, and from her father’s stories. Every one of these alleys could have been one of his daring stands, a chase he made that kept the bad guys behind bars. As a child the places he’d talked of had been dark in her mind, full of danger, but they always had a glow to them; the limelight of the stage where those stories unfolded. The reality was dark in truth, but also rank, dirty, vomit stains on the side walk, graffiti all down the walls. It wasn’t a place where heroes were made, it was a place for the criminals, the degenerates; a place where hope came to die.

She looked through her monocular into the store front, past the steel bars, event through the dingy windows she got a good look at the inventory, eventually she spotted the label she was after, the Vodka Jhonnah had fixated on. Stored in the back room and only opened for a few customers, local gang members most likely. She didn’t get a good look into the room from this angle, only the shelf with the vodka was in sight, who new what other shaky merchandise was back there, guns? Drugs?

Aeryn snapped a few photos of the men coming out who had been given access to the back, wrote down descriptions and patterns before moving on. There wasn’t much she could do here besides observe, there wasn’t enough of a connection with the case to do a search and seizure, and without her partner she wasn’t in the position to do an up front rec of the place.

Down the way towards the south end of the block there were some typical gangers, hoppers most like, the corner down the way seemed to be the local spot for L dealing and most of the store’s backroom traffic was going to and from there. A gang connection, just was this investigation needed. Aeryn started up her engine and pulled away from the store, heading back towards the precinct house.

____

“Sorry I’m late Colonel. Case files were weighing me down.” Jhonnah took up a seat in front of his commanding officer who hadn’t moved an inch since Jhonnah had stepped into the office. He still sat in silence, fingers bridged over the file on his desk. After a moment he sighed.

“Joe, you know most of my detectives, they wait for permission to sit down, they wait for my say so before they do anything in my division, not you though.” Col. Dharak was a patient orc, he rarely raised his voice over speaking level and remained calm even as the walls fell in around him. Jhonnah knew after being here so long Dharak tried his best not the be shoehorned into racial stereotypes, he always remained calm and in control to spite anyone who thought an orc would do otherwise. Most commanders would get contempt from subordinates for such an action, but if anything Dharak had defined the term passive aggression.

“They say familiarity breed contempt boss, me, I just assumed I’m not in trouble enough to get shot down over a chair.”

Dharak parted his hands, and placed them on the desk with care. “No Joe, you’re not in trouble, not yet at least, but come the end of the month we’ll find out for sure.”

That one caught Jhonnah off guard; unconsciously he reached fro the cigarette he didn’t have in his lips, and after realising his mistake scratched his nose to cover the fumble. “What do you mean?”

“I just got off the phone with the Deputy of Operations, who in turn you got off the phone with the commissioner, and if I’m to believe it, before that the commissioner had just ended a long conversation with the Mayor, all of whom have an undue amount of interest in your case.”

“Bullshit, city hall doesn’t give two shakes of a dick about the cases we run down here, all they hear is the stats that travel upwards, and last I hear our clearance rate was the highest in the city.” Jhonnah rubbed his fingers together, he needed a smoke.

Dharak merely frowned, he knew Jhonnah’s habits, likely he was using the added tension to his advantage. “That it is, and I push all of you hard enough to keep it that high, but some cases mean a big deal to some people, don’t forget your vic worked down at city hall, have you even been down there yet?”

“Not had a chance yet, been reviewing her files, and going over the coroner’s report, once Aeryn is back in we’ll head down there. Didn’t look like much of a connection to me, besides Ruby Stone was an IT consultant, I wouldn’t have thought the mayor cared about a low level techie on her payroll, there must be hundreds of em down there.”

“For whatever reason, our prestigious mayor does care, you can find out from her yourself when you go down there, she wants to see you personally. Don’t forget, this is an election year, things are busy down there and the mayor is pushing hard to keep her office, promising the earth in reform and innovation, have you heard of prop 08?”

Jhonnah sniffed. “I don’t much do with politics.”

Dharak leaned back in his chair. “You should, prop 08 is the mayor’s ace in the hole for the new term, a radical innovation of police logistics so they say. In reality its budget cuts, hard ones, and the difference going to outsourcing. Runners.”

“Privatisation of Justice?” Jhonnah wanted to spit, “Suited Bursem well enough. I hear things are peachy over there.”

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you Joe, I know your thoughts on this matter, I thought it best you know this before you walk into it down at city hall. The crux is this story could be a field day for the press, if the Mayor can’t hadn’t a murder on her own doorstep it could swing the vote against her and prop 08. As such she is pulling the strong to get this one resolved quickly, you have three weeks to make an arrest after that I cant’ help you Joe.”

“I get it boss, the chain of command is wrapped neatly round your throat. It’s the guys upstairs ****ing me on this one.”
Dharak stood up and walked over to his window, he stood there looking out for a moment. Jhonnah took that as his cue to leave, but as he got to the door the colonel spoke up one last time. “You’re one of my best Joe, if anyone can make this case on time its you, I’ll do what I can if things go south but its time to bring you’re A game.”

Jhonnah didn’t feel the need to repond, he simply left.
 
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I. R. Shogun

I. R. Shogun

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  • Thread Starter
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Lantho:

"I think we should wrap up any scraps below, Kiyoshi is occupied and I'm starting to worry about Ham." said the younger troll to the elder. Lantho inhaled a deep breath through his nose, the youngster was right, it was time to end this.

"Come along then, it's time we end this," said Lantho as he headed for the door.

"What?" said Slice.

"We're going down stairs," said Lantho.

"But I'm supposed to protect you," said Slice.

"Then you'd better come along," said Lantho.

"We can't go down there, if you get into the fray then there was no point in sitting up here all this time," said Slice.

"Perhaps, but if you have a problem with that you're more than welcome to try and stop me," said Lantho, glancing back.

Slice sighed, understanding there was nothing he was going to be able to do to convince Lantho otherwise.

"As I thought, come along boys, time to put an end to this," said Lantho as they headed for the elevator.

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

Vash:

After a few minutes of the troll and the orc slugging it out and Evaltan dying an unpleasant sounding death the male dwarf tossed him the radio that he'd asked to have fixed. Vash didn't bother to try to test it, no time. Instead he clicked the transmitter and shouted in.

"Dispatch this is Vash, I'm at the Arcana Council tower and in need of backup, all hell has broken loose. Long story short we've got Buffalo Boom and a lot of dead runners, I need backup," he shouted.

"Vash this is dispatch, we have units nearby on their way," said the woman at the other end.

"Tell me you've got SWAT and medics mobilizing," said Vash.

"You did say Boom didn't you," the woman responded.

Vash smiled, he hoped Ham could stay up long enough for the fireworks and medics to get there.

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

Lantho:

The elevator took them down in a matter of seconds, and without consulting his associates he moved forward into the fray, or what was left of it. Really at this point it was down to Buffalo Boom and an orc battling while a tired old human and a pair of dwarves attempted to figure out some plan of action. Lantho ignored the non-combatants and corpses and directed his attention to the orc and troll. With a wave of his head the orc was flung back toward the elevator, unconscious before he landed, allowing Benito to attend to him.

"Now then, let's see what you can do against someone your own size," said Lantho.

"Love to, but you'll have to find someone first!" said Boom as he surged forward.

Lantho was no fool, he knew of Boom's reputation, and he knew that a hand to hand engagement against the brute wasn't going to end in his favor. Luckily for Lantho, Boom wasn't the only troll in this fight who was the top of his class. The elder troll's hand began to glow red as he muttered something in the ancient language of magic, whacking Boom against the head as he came close. The blow did little to harm Boom, but it did distract him long enough for Lantho to fire off the spell, thrusting his hand forward and causing a wave of force to drive a wave of force through the body of Boom.

For a second Boom cringed and staggered, but only one second. The brawler then smiled and rammed his head into Lantho's causing a loud crack to echo through the air as he lifted the mage with no effort at all and threw him several feet like a rag doll.

"Come on, I thought troll mages were supposed to be tough, maybe our people were just meant to be brawlers," said Boom as he walked over to Lantho, who just narrowly managed to get to his feet.

"And maybe you should stick to punching things," said Lantho as a massive bolt of lightning left his fingertip, striking Boom square in the face. The brawler stopped long enough for Lantho to extend his palm and blast Boom with a massive fireball which took the brawler off his feet.

Boom sprang to his feet and retaliated with a heavy punch to the mage's jaw, followed by a brutal knee to the stomach. "You want to play tough, I'll show you tough!" Boom roared as he continued to pummel Lantho. The mage could scarcely stand, let alone cast a spell, but Lantho wasn't without his counter measures.

The old mage tossed his staff at Boom who easily caught it, only to have an immense amount of raw mana burn through his body. Lantho had had a staff stolen years ago, and so had decided to have this one made with a booby trap, anyone who wasn't a mage who touched it would feel pain like few had experienced before. Unfortunately Boom had had worse, and as the effect of the staff wore off he looked angrier than before. Lantho didn't much care, he'd gotten the time he needed, and just then a shape like that of a bull rammed Boom through a nearby support beam.

Boom took a moment to shake it off, then smiled and pounded his fist against his chest, "I gotta admit old timer, you put up a decent fight, but now it's time I got serious!"

Just then the blue and red lights began flashing. Boom growled as he looked over and saw the police vehicles surround the building. He was tough, but between the orc and the mage he was still hurt, and in no shape to have an extended fight with the cops and Lantho, even someone as dense as him realized that. "This isn't over,"he growled as he turned and left, smashing through anything that got in his way and disappearing into the night. If it had been anyone but Boom the police would have pursued, but given his track record, if he ran it could only be problematic to try to catch him, more so that usual.

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

Vash:

He heaved a sigh as he sat down once Boom disappeared. The SWAT officers and medics quickly swarmed the lobby and started taking statements and tending wounds respectively. He looked around at the mess of a scene that they now had. Lots of bodies all over, hopefully Ham would be alright after all of that. He could only guess what had become of those CnS kids. It didn't matter he guessed, near as he could tell only Kiyoshi's team had bit it, and that was something he could deal with tomorrow. It was going to be some long days ahead.
 

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Closing time had been and gone an hour past, and three AM rolled in with the sound of stray dogs and car alarms somewhere off east. The night air was cold as ever, always the same in this town. Even as soon as it was after he was out, the air still tasted good. Dirt and pollution savoured like a good wine.

The lights were off at ‘Ye old Tavern’ likely Dave was in back waiting, Fedd had been taken aback that he’d called up so soon ready to hand over the cash, he must be doing good for himself with the new place. Fedd would have to charge extra after this.

Round back out by the dumpsters the rear entrance to the tavern was ajar, a low light pouring out of the narrow crack in the doorway and illuminating the dank alley behind the building. Fedd strode up through the dirt and the puddles to the door, and hunching his shoulders, he delved into the kitchen of the tavern.

The light was still low, and Dave was leaning against one of the work surfaces in the middle of his kitchen, looking like a jumpy fiend, eyes darting forward and back, focussing heavily on the door to the manager’s office before he took in the sight of Fedd blocking the doorway, framed by the night.

Fedd broke the silence with his booming voice. “Wasn’t expecting you to have the money so soon Dave, keep up with the pleasant surprises and things will go smoothly. Where’s the cash?”

Dave rubbed his face twice over before making an all too loud cough. “Er, see there’s a problem Fedd. When you was away it wasn’t like nobody else was running protection, and like it or not I got interest from another party, they weren’t too happy to hear that you showed up the other day.”

“Who’s in the back room Dave? Who do I have to kill now to refresh your memory on my business practices?” Fedd cracked his knuckles, and for knuckles as big as his he would bet whoever was in the next room heard it too.

The back room door swung open slowly, and three suited goons strolled out as leisurely as if they were in a park in the springtime. Fedd didn’t recognise them, but he clocked the style right away. Western Family men.

The de facto leader of the group stepped up toe to toe with Fedd, even coming up short as he was the human thug had all the swagger of someone not used to losing a fight. “Our friend David was telling us that some hoodlum was trying to muscle in on his fine establishment, and me and my associates came to settle this situation. This is your one and only warning punk. This is Gonzatti property, now beat it before we have to clean your blood off the floor.”

Fedd laughed, and ducked so he was face to face with the man. “You have no Idea who you’re dealing with do you prick?”

The goon wasn’t fazed. “Some shitbird like the rest, I don’t give a ****, its you who needs to remember who you’re dealing with. Me, I’m Sonny the Hammer, and my friends there are Vinnie and Vinnie.”

“No relation.” The smaller of the two Vinnie’s interjected before Sonny resumed his monologue.

“And we three run this block and the rest all the way to the Fourth street Bridge, you step into our streets asking for our money and you’re going to get beat. And by the fact that you haven’t ****ed off by now means you need a lesson in manners.”

Even as the three men began a slow stroll towards Fedd he didn’t give a shit. “****ing lieutenants? Muscle, not even a ****ing Capo, you’re in this on your own aint you, the big man doesn’t know about this? ****er probably doesn’t even know I’m out.” Fedd laughed to himself, there went that theory, seemed Gonzatti didn’t give two shits about Fedd either, must be someone else pulling the strings on his release.

Even is the big man didn’t know Fedd was out, there was a good chance still that he had beef to settle in either case, it was best not to get the man’s attention. Fedd was smart enough to know that he should walk away from this building right about now, but letting a racket slip was a downhill ride, protection relied on reputation and sooner or later he’d have to catch up with the mess he’d left behind all those year back. Better now than down the line.

Come out swinging.

“Sonny.” Fedd began. “I got manners aplenty, I got knowledge aplenty, and I got more bodies on me than you can count. I don’t scare at greaseball scum like you.”

One of the Vinnie’s stuck him from behind with a taser, the crackle shot through Fedd’s thick hide and he felt the muscles in his lower back ripple to the frequency of the electric pulse. There was pain, real pain, and that too was something to savour after the artificial touch of the prison pacification system. But that pain wasn’t enough to floor a troll as big as him.

Fedd span and backhanded little Vinnie across the top of the head. The massive sweep of both Fedd’s muscle mass and the spinning action topped the kid like a puppet with it’s string cut. Even before all of the prick has hit the floor Fedd was moving on to Big Vinnie.

Big Vinnie was packing two knuckledusters on callused fists, Fedd smiled as he jumped into the man’s reach, both huge arms swinging inwards in a karate chop that threatened to break the fool’s arms. The madman wasn’t fazed, instead he aimed his punches outwards to intercept Fedd’s strike’s in what could only be an effort to break his own arms in fifty places.

When the impact came Fedd was sent flying back into the Gas oven, breaking steel fixtures and porcelain walls. The pain echoed even through the head trauma from the impact, Fedd’s arms felt like they were on fire.

Through blurred vision he looked up to big Vinnie as he walked over, straightening his tie. The knuckledusters caught the light in an odd way, scattering more light than they should. ****ing enchanted pieces of shit, Fedd should have known Gonzatti thug’s would be packing better hardware.

Big Vinnie smiled through crooked teeth as he stood over Fedd. “I don’t like it when people mess with my pal Vinnie, we got a rep to maintain you know. Out of principal I’m gonna hafta kill ya.” Vinnie glanced the edges of his knuckledusters together, sending a cascade of sparks across the floor, the edges too on a menacing glow that wasn’t there before.

Fedd took the opportunity to kick the fool’s legs out from under him. This close to the oven, there were plenty of prep areas and Big Vinnie’s head found one of the way down, cracking his skull on the corner of one. When Fedd got up he saw a pool of blood forming, he hoped the prick was dead.

There was a bang, and Fedd felt the hollowpoint pancake itself beneath his skin somewhere below his ribcage behind him. There was a second shot that embedded itself in the thick muscles surrounding Fedd’s massive neck. The third and final bullet took his in the hip as he was falling, this time going all the way to the bone.

Not the first time in his life Fedd was happy to be a troll, and as big as he was. Thick skin and tough meat made a big difference to a bullet. That first shot would have killed a human, not right away but it would have pulped enough guts to do you in painfully. Where hollowpoint rounds were meant to increase stopping power by pancaking out inside you and doing more damage, in a troll it just slowed them down before they hit something important.

Three shots to the back however, that would **** almost anyone up. Fedd rolled over to see Sonny at a good distance holding his pistol like an artist ready to make the final brush stroke. “You got game pal, but this is where it ends.”

There was a gunshot.
 

Lord Yuan

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Benito rode along with Ham in the ambulance, helping medics ease the pain. The show was over and Ham's rush was over, the pain kicked in like a kick in the head, and stomach, and leg. Shock kicked in and his blood started flowing, unfortunately through some of his wounds.

"**** shit **** ****! **** Boom that ****ing pile of shit! I swear next time I see him he'll leave shitting out where his head used to be!"

The medics were beginning to question how bad it got in the tower after all that time, they prepared for the assault for a few days, then tried to hold them off an entire day. While Ham still had some vigor, Benito was a bit off, Ham's swearing went over his head, he just had to keep juicing Ham up with drugs and spells.

The little Bentio was thinking about was their pay, would they get any? After all there were like ten other people there trying to stop the attack, and Ham visibly didn't really hold his weight. How would they pay the medical bill? Ham heals fast but he would still be in a hospital bed for awhile. A flurry of questions stung him, draining him even more.

-------------------------------------
A few days later.
-------------------------------------

The third new home in a week, Benito and Ham had become inner-city nomads. Their last locale while safer came to be too costly, the bill was large and there was still no pay from the Arcana Council. Ham was back home but had taken an interest in pain relievers to top it off.

"Damnit Benito, are there any jobs up anywhere? And that Bash guy? He say anything? Any checks? Any pay Benito? Is there any pay??" Ham Fist railed on Benito with, he just asked the same questions an hour ago and Benito gave up trying to answer.

"I'm going to the library."

"Ben why are you going to that ****ing nerd box? We need MONEY, not ****ing books."

"To use their computers to find jobs, the papers just have the same old crap no real jobs."

"Oh." Ham ended the conversation with, Benito was already out the door getting sick of Ham. Sure he just got shot and maimed, but sometimes he is just intolerable.

Benito passed some ordinary gang action, the library was quite a walk away, his pocket almost got picked but he made a field quick so the thief just bruised his finger tips on a magic barrier. Benito didn't even bother to finish him off, he just started to not care.

The library was near empty, the computer lounge even more empty. Half the computers (being three of them then) had been infected with viruses, and no techs around to clean the mess. Still Benito found his way on the web and came to a list of jobs, bounties, ect. One list though caught him off guard, a fairly recently made one by a nameless organization, promising big cash. Ben followed it up and caught sight of a hit list. Normally Benito and Ham don't take dirty jobs but he thought that from a list this strange he might as well see what is up.

-----PRESERVATION OF NEW SECCA EXTERMINATION LIST-----

ALL TIES AND AFFILIATIONS WITH ORGANIZATIONS MUST BE DROPPED TO FIGHT FOR A NEW, NEW SECCA. CURRENT GANGS AND MOBS DOMINATE IN DISREGARD TO COMMON PEOPLE EVEN INFRINGING AND WITHHOLDING INFORMATION FROM YOU. YOU HAVE THE POWER TO KEEP NEW SECCA FREE. BUT YOU MUST BE VIGILANT. THE SHADE HAS ALL THE INFORMATION IN NEW SECCA, TO LEARN HOW TO CLEAN YOUR CITY AND LEARN ABOUT THE SCUM IN YOUR CITY, STAY IN THE SHADE. WARRIORS FOR THE LAW OF VIGILANCE WILL FIND CREDITS UPON FULFILLING TASKS OF THE RETAKING OF NEW SECCA.

-"UNLUCKY SEVEN" MOST DANGEROUS PERSONS TO NEW SECCA-
1. Buffalo Boom - reckless violence and affiliation with dangerous organization, powerful and dangerous
2. Ham Fist - brutal violence
3. Fedd Stromm - powerful and dangerous
4. Slice - powerful and dangerous
5. Dice - powerful and dangerous
6. Gusto Trakk - affiliation with dangerous organization
7. Don Gonzatti - affiliation with dangerous organization
----------------------------------------------------------------


Benito froze his eyes on the screen. Some justice caller spews out a list of who he wants dead, and Ham is second in line? Sure the list was still ripe, but some people must have seen it, how this joker gets his information and money to openly request the offing of big faction bosses must have some edge. Or he could just be a lunatic.

Benito looked up some raunchy websites hoping another computer would catch a bug, one less public access terminal to a bounty notification for his best buddy.

Benito headed out of the library, it looked like they had to find a new place that was cheap and would watch their packs somehow.
 
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I. R. Shogun

I. R. Shogun

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Vash:

His desk was cluttered with all sorts of files, some related to current investigations, some related to what had gone down a week ago at the Arcana tower. Boom had made a fine mess of things, as usual, but then so had Volvchanchin's team, as well as his own squad. Not to mention the hit squad. He'd gotten some reprimand around the precinct, even if the commissioner had let him go on it that didn't mean anyone else had. In short, other cops were pissed, and they had every right to be. That could have been some good PR for the department if they'd been able to stop this thing in it's tracks without so much collateral damage. As it stood though, Vash didn't give a damn. If more cops had been involved Kiyoshi would have been meaner, and the situation probably would have ended up even worse than three dead perps and the council needing a new lobby.

He still couldn't quite figure that one out. Every rumor had said it was Kiyoshi that had planned and coordinated the hit, and yet other than the bullets that they dug out of the walls in Lantho's office and the holes they'd made in the windows there was no sign that she'd been there. If a shooter like her missed and vanished to him that meant something had gone on that he'd like to know about. Unfortunately all things considered he probably never would. She'd pulled a ghost and everyone that had known anything about the hit for sure was dead as far as he knew.

At the very least nobody'd died except Kiyoshi's squad. Ham Fist was alive, if beaten up, Lantho was fine, the Biotechnica team were all in one piece from what he'd seen and he was okay, even if his body hadn't stopped hurting in all the hours since then. If all the worst part that he caught from anyone was the anger of the rest of the department then that was fine, he didn't have many friends with badges anyway. By now all that was bothering him about that incident were the two that he'd pulled into things, and the troll who escaped into the night.

Ham Fist and Benito were slum dogs when he'd met them already, and the bill from the hospital couldn't have helped that at all. Vash had asked Lantho if he could do anything to help them, the old troll had said he'd pull some strings but there were no guarantees, with people who had reps like Ham Fist there never were.

As for Boom, no one had seen or heard anything about him since that night. Vash didn't like that any more than if Boom had started a riot. When someone like Boom went quiet it always meant trouble. Always. And when it came to trolls the city had enough to worry about if the rumors of Dynamite being out of jail were true. Dynamite Fedd, every bit as dangerous as Boom, but not half as stupid.

On the bright side of things not many people outside the department were aware that he'd been involved in the brawl at the tower, but everyone knew there'd been runners involved. With any luck that kind of bad press would weigh on the minds of the voters when it came time for the election and decisions about prop 08. Hell, who was he kidding, nobody was going to care what the bill actually did, it was just about how the mayor spun it. He heaved a sigh as he considered how that bill would change this city, made him think of home, he didn't like that at all...

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

Smiling Tom:

As the world came into focus he found the act of coherent thought escaping him at first. He didn't know where he was, he only kind of remembered his own name. But as he tried to piece together what had happened before the world went black suddenly everything became painfully clear. The tower, the elevator shaft, the figure in black mocking him as she cut the rope.

He regretted sitting up even as he did it as he spat out his first sentence, "That bitch is gonna pay!"

Tom groaned and fell back as the pain became too much for him to bear. Only then did he realize he wasn't alone in the room.

"You know that's a pretty bold declaration for someone who didn't even know he was facing another sapper in the tower. And I thought you were top ten," said the voice he knew from the other end of the phone.

"I figured Kiyoshi of all people would have been able to keep an operation mum, guess that's too much to ask from anyone not into night fighting," said Tom as he tried, and failed, to catch a glimpse of his apparent benefactor.

"Well it's really a shame, you were in some pretty nasty shape when my people dug you out of there, was tough too, cops and EMTs crawling all over the place. But we got you," said the voice.

"Hm, so I'm guessing you still have something for me to do then huh?" said Tom.

"Indeed, and don't worry, it'll bring you right back into contact with Kiyoshi, and the one who cut the rope," said the voice.

"I'm listening," said Tom.

"Well I would hope so, you aren't good for much else right about now," said the voice. "Rest up, I've got my best people working on fixing you up and I want you to be in top form when they're done, when you take on Kiyoshi and claim the number one sapper spot in the city."

"Wait, you mean..." said Tom.

"That girl Midnight," said the voice, which was followed by the sound of footsteps that Tom could only assume was the man leaving.

"Oh, this is gonna be fun," Tom said to no one in particular.
 

wanderingmagus

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Evaltan lay catatonic in a padded cell, twitching. The room was silent except for the buzzing of the fluorescent lights.. and, barely audible, a whisper, repeated over and over:
the truth of the twins... the truth of the twins... the truth of the twins... the truth of the twins... the truth of the twins... the truth of the twins...

---

"How long has he been like this?"

"'ere since 'ey put de suker in dere, guv"

"Will he heal?"

"Jus' da gard, guv. Don' kno nutn'."

"Do you know what this 'truth of the twins' means?"

"Dunna, guv. Sounds like crazy talk ta mae."

*sigh* "Is that all you know?"

"Aye aye, guv. ain't got nutn else 'ere."

"How much for information regarding who made the elf like this?"

*smile* "wut's da elf's life ta yew, guv? Ya got plenty o' knae's wid' ya' bank, an' dis 'un ain' da' good ta' 'gin 'ith"

"How. Much."

"a-ah, 'unded quid'll 'ae fine, guv'na, sah."

*shoves money over* "Who."

"Ah only 'ered it from de bastandars, guv'na, sah, but de sez dem dark elf sappa's dem Twins, uh, 'un starts wid an S an' de uder wid' a D.."

"Slice and Dice?"

"Aye, guv'na, dat's 'em, sah."

"You're sure about this? The sappers from Biotechnica, correct?"

"Aye, sah"

"All right. How much to keep your mouth shut?"

"'ones' man, sah. Ah'll keep me mouth shut, sah, no charge, sah."

"All right." *starts walking away*

*counts money, then stares and whispers loudsly* "Dis' a grand, sah! Ah onl' as' fer a hundre', sah!"

*continues walking* "Keep it. consider it a thank-you gift."

---

"So.. Slice and Dice. Hm... half a million should get it up to the top of the list."

*a phone is dialed*

"wut u want?"

"Five hundred thousand credits to add a new entry in first place."

"dat place foo, man. An dem offa us thirty mill for dat, an' da secon' an' third too."

"I-"

"But tell ya wut. You giv meh six an' ah'll git yer target set up in second."

"Six hundred thousand, then. Who shall I send the money to?"

"Nah ova da fone, man. Who's de targets?"

"Slice and Dice."

*a chuckle* "Dem do you wrong, man?"

"That is none of your concern. Do I have the places?"

"Ye, dey in fourth an' fifth, man. Gimme a ding o'er da Net. You know the place, if you know dis numbah."

"All right." *click*

*tapping on a keyboard. a message is sent. a message is received. money changes hands, and an extermination list is hacked and modified*

"Well well. Father will be pleased." *a smile* "Wipe memory."

"ACKNOWLEDGED"

*A screen goes black* *a smile.*

[ooc: well, that raps up the end of evaltan. i also took the liberty of explaining how slice and dice got up there on the list. And like before, i have no idea who the mysterious person is; Shogun, go ahead and tell me who it was. Surprise me. I'll get posts about the rest of the team later.]
[ooc: also, if the person is kiyoshi, i'll alter the dialogue a bit to reflect that]
 
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Crusader

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“This is a new day for Secca, for a long time our city has been held a prisoner by criminal interests and fear. Drug abuse has swept through the poorer neighbourhoods and bitten into the core of the city, and year after year we see the crime rates rise. Our city has the second highest murder rate in the nation, and it’s long past time we did something.”

Jhonnah scratched his nose as he readjusted himself in the leather wing-backed chair, making all manner of sounds on the expensive furniture. “Save the grandstanding for the masses ma’am, I’m police, I know the stats and I know the murders. I see their faces every day, as well as the faces of the ones who put them in the morgue.” He coughed, biting back the phlegm from hitting the huge rug that covered the centre of the mayor’s office. “Seems to me, with my limited political experience, that the whole new day move is better suited to attacking incumbent candidates, after all why wasn’t there a new day the first time you served your term.”

Mayor Judd levelled her gaze on Jhonnah, and sat a moment looking at the beaten down cop that was in her office. His rain stained overcoat must be quite a contrast to the opulence of the furnishings in this place, and the price tag on his suit was missing more than a couple of zeroes. “I’m glad you’re not with the press Mr. Morris.”

“I don’t have the vocabulary. Plus I make a habit of working for a living.” That seemed to go down well, and took a little chill from the air between them.

“The truth remains the same detective, the police force is overburdened, the administrative branches full to the bursting with red tape and procedural blockages. For the same amount of funding we could have more than twice as many boots on the street if we supplemented the police with private contractors. Not only would it be a saving to the taxpayer, but it would cut the crime rates by at least fifteen percent across the board. And that’s a conservative estimate.”

“I’m sorry ma’am but I’m going to have to admit my bias, this doesn’t sit right with me and there’s no way to convince me otherwise. The police are the mandate of the public, I may have by trouble with departmental red tape but procedure is there to ensure justice, and justice isn’t measured in the crime stats, not even the murder rate. The police are there to ensure public trust, civil obedience is maintained by public mandate as much as the elected officials. Contractors are little more than mercenaries, loyalties neither to the state nor the people, having them on the front line of public order sends a bad message either way. Prop 08 may get you re-elected, but before long it will get you ousted. That’s just my opinion however.” Jhonnah had opinions aplenty on runners, but he didn’t realise how strongly he felt about it until he heard about prop 08, or until he got sent downtown to see the mayor. He might not have a hope in hell of convincing her otherwise, but damned if he wasn’t going to be heard.

“Public trust is a good point detective. But the public have never fully trusted the police, not after the corruption scandal last decade, and day by day they are given examples to dissuade them of their trust, sooner or later they will want to find an alternative, even as an experiment, they will want to give they power to someone else. I’m giving them this opportunity, and only as an experiment, the police will remain, their numbers only bolstered by the private firms, and we will see what they truly want.” Mayor Judd rose to her feet and walked to the pin board standing forlornly by the window, the face of which was covered by a massive map of the city. “Take this trouble at the Arcana tower, from my eyes on the ground it seems the police only arrived late to the scene, the only one there throughout seemed to do little to remedy the situation, indeed it was only the work of contractors at the scene that prevented the assassination of one if this city’s most prominent figures. How are we supposed to deal with incompetence such as this?”

Jhonnah laughed, so it had come to this. “Heh, you pull your spin well, is that how you’re getting the media to play it? I’ve got no lost love for that cop, might be I’m the last person who would stick up for him, but if you’re going to put this on his ass I’d be careful, I’d imagine most of these contractors were there at his request. Like it or not Vash may be the only cop who will be for your prop 08, regularly uses contractors. If you pin the blame on him you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. Plus as I heard it off the radio, the contractors down there were also causing the ruckus, and it was about to get ugly until the sirens started flashing.” Jhonnah had never defended the action of Vash before, and hoped not to again. But when it came to someone ****ing over a city police to score political points, Jhonnah knew where he stood.

“I see” Mayor Judd paused, looking over the red pin that marked the arcana tower on her map.

Jhonnah took the pause in the mood to pick up the folders he’d left on the coffee table, and rather brusquely changed the subject. “So, you say Ms Stone handled the framework for prop 08?”

Taken aback by the sudden shift in topic’s Mayor Judd turned to look down at Jhonnah. “Not exactly, the political framework has been laid down by a number of councillors and legal aides over the course of the legislature, the core of the system is political in nature. Ms Stone handles the logistics, specifically the network we needed to build to house the data protection and financing. Ruby was a prodigy with data management. She started out on the campaign trail during the last election and this one handling the finances and campaign contributions, she did so well we assigned her to building the network for prop 08.”

“So the new system is computer controlled?”

Mayor Judd frowned. “You could put it that way, there will be an administrative branch here at city hall, and a liaison with the police forces, but the core system of contraction goes through the network, to retain anonymity as well as providing a cheaper option than a larger dedicated administration like that of the police. This is mostly where the cost savings arise that allows prop 08 to flourish.”

Prop 08 had stuck in Jhonnah’s gut since he heard it, but this one hit home like a knife. Jhonnah only barely kept up to date on tech, just to keep by, but he knew the dangers in this system, a good hacker or a smart contractor had too many opportunities to abuse the system. Suddenly there was an even bigger motive to take ruby out of the picture, but whose was it? Jhonnah would have to look hard at Ruby’s replacement, her communications before she was killed. This was bad, not only could it implicate any number of ranking government officials, but it could easily be any police who wanted to sabotage prop 08. This was going to be a tough case.

Just then Aeryn stepped into the office from the large wooden doorway. “Ma’am” she muttered before approaching Jhonnah. “Most of Ruby’s workstation has been bagged and tagged, it’ll be down the station when we get in. Uniforms are questioning her colleagues, but there’s a few you might want to do personally.” Aeryn settled into a standing position beside Jhonnah.

He nodded back before approaching the mayor. “I know there’s pressure coming down the pipeline on this, but a rushed investigation can be worse on everyone in the end. It may come down to catching the person responsible for this or catching the deadline for the electorate. I’ve got my marching orders from the precinct, but I wanted to hear it from you personally.”

Mayor Judd just stood there for a long moment, her eyes unfocused, somewhere off in her own thoughts, when she finally spoke, it was a soft simple sentence, almost unheard. “Do your job detective.”

Jhonnah fished a cigarette out form his pocket, intend on finding the nearest fire exit to light it up. “While its still my job to do.” He responded as he left the room with Aeryn.
 

Crusader

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There was a dark room, bereft of all light but the tiniest glimmer humming from a row of servers against the back wall; deep blue flickering lights gave off a pulse so dim it could be mistaken for just another shade of black. Texture added to shadow.

Among the darkness there was the sound of heartbeats and breathing. Then came the voice, alluringly feminine yet with such malice as to drive fear into any who listened.
“Which reprobate came up with this?”

The second voice, clearly submissive chimed in without delay. “We’re still looking into it, so far we’ve eliminated Midnight and most major sappers, most corporations too by the looks of it, definitely a third party, skilled.”

“Skilled.” The woman spoke? “It sounds like the work of an angst ridden teenager. Not one of ours?”

“No Ma’am.”

There was a pause that spanned a heartbeat.

“Find whoever is responsible, either buy them out and take the target off their list or eliminate the problem. This is too soon.”

“Of course Ma’am. We still have the slush fund from the last two operations at our disposal, it should be more than enough to buy them out.”

“The fool doesn’t even mention prices, requests warriors of vigilance! Any merc will ignore it without a hard figure, but still. This is a problem for the operation.”

Another pause followed by the sound of receding footsteps.

“Wait.” The dominant voice began. “While we’re at it, see if this fool will add another name to this list, perhaps we can work this to our own ends.”

“A little overt isn’t it?” the underling replied, aware of the shaky ground with which he criticised his master.

“Overt or not, it still serves in the long run. And having Wrench dead strengthens our position. Do it”

“Yes Ma’am”

_______


“Who’s your daddy?”

Fedd kicked away what was left of Sonny the Hammer’s head from where it had slumped on his shin, he got to his feet in a world of ungodly pain as the metal embedded in his back tore its way through his muscle. The last thing he wanted was to put up with the half assed quips of Jackson Knox.

“You are…ARGH!” Fedd regretted putting weight on his hip the moment he did, bullet fragments must have splintered into the joint. He could feel hot wet blood coursing down his back.

Somewhere behind him there was a whimper. Jackson let off a shot into the row of pans against the back wall, followed by a pair of hands sticking up form behind the counter. “I surrender” the weak and feeble voice of Dave proclaimed.


“**** man, I thought it was another one of them.” Jackson was still jumpy after his moment of triumph, rarely had the dealer had to do any killing, he had muscle for that. This was a favour to a friend, and Fedd was glad he’d asked him along. He should have known Dave for the coward he was.

Fedd limped over to where Dave was nestled down by the fridges, the poor fool had pissed himself. One glace to the rest of the kitchen showed why, one dead, one probably dead and another unconscious, the family didn’t forget trouble like this.

Fedd thought long and hard about how this shit would come back at them.

“Knox, that gun clean?”

Jackson waved a gloved hand at Fedd. “As a whistle, I gots a man for that shit. No serial number, no Id chip.”

Fedd flicked his fingers and Jackson tossed over the piece. With his arms still good, Fedd clocked Dave with a single punch to the face. And picked up the ragdoll body of the man, pressing the gun into his right hand, Fedd carefully let off the trigger a couple of times into the back wall. He propped Dave back against the fridge, gun in hand before proceeding on to Sonny the Hammer. This time it was a little messier puppeteering a man with half a head, but he managed to get three shots off. The first into the wall, the second took Dave in the eye and the third hit the gas main for the oven.

“Time to move.” Fedd said, pushing Jackson to the back door and limping after him. At last he stood on the doorway, fished the pack of matches from his pocket and struck one up. He set the whole pack to burn and left it in the doorway.

It wasn’t till they reached the car that the building went up, Fedd laid himself out on the back seat in pain as Jackson pulled away. “Smart move big guy, me, I’d have just left em, I mean what’s the ****ing barkeep to us right?”

“A Witness, I ain’t going back to jail, that should keep the cops off us, to anyone it’ll look like the gonzatti thugs were pulling their usual shit against someone a little unhinged, and the crossfire set the gas main up. If we’re lucky nobody will even care.” Fedd stuck a finger round back into the first gunshot would, and flicked out the circle of flattened copper jacket. The pain was blinding and nearly knocked him out.

“No hospital” he muttered as his vision faded. “The Greek.” Was all he managed as he fainted from blood loss.

_______

“No trolls in IT.” Aeryn muttered. “A few orcs, couple of elves, no one nearly big enough. There’s a couple of big brutes in the security team but they all have alibis.” She sat against her desk in the department reading over the case file from city hall. Jhonnah meanwhile occupied himself slumped back in his desk chair, hat over his eyes.

“I told you, this one’s pushed out past immediate contacts, it’s going to be a straight up whodunit. We can rule out direct associates, this is as likely to be a hit as anything else knowing the position of Ms Stone. And that cuts any direct link to our perp. What we can get from the workplace is motive at best, and if we’re lucky, the one calling the shots is there in the building somewhere.”

Aeryn sighed. “Please tell me you don’t suspect the Mayor.”

“What?” Jhonnah began, propping his hat off his head enough to look Aeryn in the eye. “Gods no, there was something she said while I was there, about doing my job. It was the way she said it, she cares about this. I think she was pulling prop 08 as an excuse to be mad over something that should be below her notice, Gods know why. Something tells me there’s more there to find though.” Jhonnah coughed. “Did you map out the girl’s schedule?”

Aeryn got up and walked over to the top of her filing cabinet where she’d left the scene report. Over the top of the cubicle walls she could see Smithson over in the break room fuming, the heavy set dwarf gave the water cooler a clean left hook, nearly knocking it over. Aeryn frowned and left the poor fool watching the innocent water cooler rocking on its little plastic feet. “What’s up with him?”

Jhonnah, evidently hearing the dwarf’s muffled anger scratched his chin. “Smithy? You didn’t hear?” He let out a long sigh, still sat with his eyes covered by his hat. “Shit, he just got word from Hayden Bridge, turns out one of his old cases just got back out. Half the district is up in arms about this one. Probably before your time though kiddo.”

“Cons get out all the time, what’s the big deal?”

Jhonnah shook his head, careful not to detach his hat. “Shit, you really don’t know this one? Bout ten years back during full scale riots we pulled down a big troll by the name of Dynamite. Three day manhunt, three men dead. Smithy was lead on those cases but there wasn’t enough on the scene to get a conviction on the murders, asshole troll collapsed a building on two cops so the story goes and knocks another one off a rooftop, no witnesses, no cameras, no DNA. Went down for fifty for the rest of the shit, but the bastard got away with cop killing.” Jhonnah finally removed the hat, no longer in the mood to lounge around ‘thinking’ as he put it. There was something sombre about the act of the man removing his hat. “I still can’t believe he walked this soon, and Smithy must be shitting himself for not getting the conviction. This is trouble in the works you mark my words kiddo.”

“dynamite?” Aeryn muttered, tasting the name.

“Alias of one Fedd Stromm, meanest troll in the city in his day, some say Buffalo Boom is a bigger fish but most of them weren’t around back then. They didn’t live with the riots.” Jhonnah frowned. “Nah, can’t be.”

“What?” Said Aeryn, nearly off in her own head.

Jhonnah scratched his nose and grabbed the file on Ruby Stone. “Dynamite got let out three days before our crime went down, turns out Hayden Bridge was where Ruby’s fathers holed up.” He sifted through a few pages. “That’s a helluva coincidence, Stromm fits our bill neatly. Doesn’t fit with the conspiracy angle though, not yet anyway.” Aeryn watched the twitching of Jhonnah’s eyebrows. “Now that’s just too neat for my liking.”

There was something to think long and hard about.
 

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