Karin reached the shoreline of Staten Island, reviewing once more in her mind what her contact had told her. Across from her stretched the bay of water that separated Staten Island from the desolate, wrecked remains of what had once been known as Brooklyn and Queens of old New York City. Nowadays, it was referred to as the Southside of Neo York's Zero Zone. But the names meant nothing to the amateur assassin. The only importance that names had for Karin was the reputation they carried. ... and more importantly, her reputation, which would surely grow after this hit.
It was a simple enough job, as her contact had told her: take out the Yakuza leader by any means possible. Of course, getting to the Neo York Zero Zone where the Yakuza leader was located had proved to be more of a hassle then she had bargained for, especially by way of the bridge. Thus, here she was, sneaking around in the morning dawn for a boat that could get her across the choppy waters.
"Yes! Found it!" she thought aloud, spotting a small skimmer and heading directly for it. It was small, about fifteen feet long and looked to be older then she was. There was even an ancient outboard resting on the end of it, the kind started by a yank cord. Various fishing gear littered the floorboards and the whole thing was messy as hell, but it wasn't guarded, the tank turned out to be full, and, as she discovered when she yanked hard on the cord, it worked.
Working quickly, Karin pushed the boat out into the water and jumped into it. She lowered the propeller into the water and was off.
It took awhile, but soon the assassin had reached the southern tip of the Southside. She paused for a few moments to consult her GPS and then continued on. The rest of the trip went fairly quickly and she soon entered the Southside bay.
"Oh my god," she softly spoke upon seeing the wasteland before her.
To someone who had never seen devastation on such a large scale, it seemed as though she were boating through a dream, an all too real dream. The once thriving harbor had been devastated by extensive flooding and years of neglect, and was pocked with what looked like blast craters of some sort. What buildings she saw were either laying in piles of rubble immersed in water or were precariously balanced. She directed her small boat far away from them, afraid that they would tip over at a moment's notice and crush her beneath tons of steel.
When the boat grounded to a halt a good distance from land, she looked over the side, expecting to see shallow ground, and instead the sunken remains of a four lane highway. With some effort, she dislodged the boat and continued on.
*Did the polar ice caps melting do all this? No, couldn't have been the flood's work alone... something else made those blast marks and ripped those buildings apart,* she thought, mind almost numb at the sight of such destruction. *Whoa, cool it, Karin. Don't get so freaked out because you're starring at rubble. I've got a job to do, that's what counts.*
Finally, Karin reached land and hopped out of the small boat, pulling it partially onto the shore in order to keep it from drifting off. With this done, she shoved the destruction of the once-busy district of New York out of her mind and went over her equipment.
She left the disassembled sniper rifle—complete with under-barrel grenade launcher—in its carrying case. An assortment of grenades were in there as well, both rounds for the launcher and some of the hand variety. She placed a laser-sighted Kuan-Ti in a holster on her right hip, while the hold-out Duen went up a jacket sleeve. Her last weapon, a Bowie knife, was tucked inside her boot. Once she was done, Karin slipped her backpack on, checked her GPS one last time, and started off.
As Karin jogged her way north at a quick pace, she realized that there was absolutely no life on the streets. Except for the occasional bird nesting on a rooftop, she saw nothing here that could count as living beings. Thus it was a surprise when, after a few minutes of steady jogging, that she came across someone standing in the middle of the broken street.
She slowed her jog to a brisk walk, which allowed her ample time to scout the man—and it was a man—out. He appeared to be taller then she was and was dressed in ragged jeans, a t-shirt, boots, and heavy gloves. He appeared to be talking to himself, mumbling softly words she couldn't hear.
"Okay... a crazy, no big deal," Karin thought as she approached him. "If he tries anything, I got the Duen. One shot between the eyes and he's toast."
She waved to him and spoke. "Hello," she called out, walking by him. "Just passing by." Karin smiled, hoping that if he was a psycho, her friendliness would deter him from attacking. After all, wasn't anger what prompted psychos to attack in the first place?
He turned at the sound of her greeting and spoke,"Hello."
"Okay, he doesn't seem like he's gonna reach out and try to rip me apart," she thought. "So... what are you doing in this part of town? Doesn't look like a good place to live," she spoke aloud.
"Well... I live here. Do you?"
Karin shook her head. "No... I'm just passing through." She waited a few moments, fidgeting under the stranger's unblinking gaze, and then started off. "Well... see yah!" Karin cried, waving good bye. After a few seconds, she looked back to see if he was still there and blinked in surprise when she saw the street was empty.
"The hell... where'd he go to?" Karin stopped and looked around, "I don't see him anywhere, and he sure as hell can't move that quietly, not in boots like those." She shrugged and shoved the experience aside as she continued jogging north.
Some time later, after walking through at least a mile of deserted streets, Karin realized she could hear the sound of a motorcycle engine. Pausing a moment to take her Duen out, she flicked off the safety and snapped the slide back, chambering a round. Glancing warily about, she moved forward cautiously. Karin had heard stories about Zone go-gangers, and how they would attack without warning.
"Not gonna happen to me," Karin thought as she moved close to the side of a crumbled building. "I got a hit to make." Using the ruin as cover, she snuck forward, and began to hear the sounds of voices in between the roar of the bikes.
As she moved from the cover of one ruined building to another, the sounds of the people talking became more clear, distinct, to the point where she was able to make out two different voices. Edging out from her cover, just enough to get a view without being spotted, Karin took a glance out at the middle of the road.
Despite the range and the early morning light, Karin could easily tell that the two strangers were Pumas. Their height was a dead give away - each of them looked to be well over six feet-tall - not to mention the long cat-like ears and the thick manes of blonde hair. They were dressed in combat armor, and although Karin couldn't tell if they had guns, she was more than ready to assume they were armed.
At the moment one was straddling a motorcycle, revving the engine with gusto. The other one stood a few feet away, next to a second bike and was cheering loudly. "Crank it Anna!" she screamed.
Anna, who was apparently the one on the bike, did just that. There was a loud howl as the engine cycled and then a sudden silence. "Dammit!" the Puma bellowed, "I thought I fixed that!"
"Huh," Karin muttered into the now echoing silence. "Just some Puma's, none of my business." The hitwoman turned away when her foot slipped on some loose rubble, the clattering stone sounding horribly loud in her ears. Without even looking she knew that the Pumas had heard the noise and were no doubt getting ready to blow her away. "Hell... this would have to happen on a simple job, wouldn't it?"
The chattering roar of an autorifle answered her question. Throwing herself flat, Karin managed to get a face-full of dust and dirt as rounds smacked into the brick and cinderblock over her head. After what seemed like forever, and was probably only 15 seconds, the shooting stopped and the street was silent again.
"Uni! You dumbfuck! What was that for?"
"I heard someone sneaking around over there, Anna! Honest!"
Karin muttered numerous curses.
"I see... Hello! Come on out! We won't hurt you!"
"Err.. Anna, you sure on that?"
"Jesus! I'm just passing through!" Karin shouted as she brushed dust off her jacket. "I don't have nothing against you two, quit it!"
Silence and then,"Okay..." said one of the Pumas.
Karin sighed in relief and made ready to continue on when she heard a *phunt* sound. She briefly wondered what could have made such a noise when the realization hit her.
She had a moment to run and dive before the shockwave lifted her off her feet, throwing a huge cloud of dust and debris into the air with an earth-shaking explosion and an deafening roar. Karin spun through the air like a toy before crashing to the ground, debris raining down around her.
As the assassin got back to her feet and the dust began to settle, she saw the two Pumas start walking towards her with large autorifles held in their hands. She coughed and gritted her teeth, then proceeded to yell at them. "Ah hell.. isn't this overkill?! I'M JUST PASSING THROUGH GOD DAMMIT!!!"
Both Puma's cocked their heavy weapons and the one on the left spoke up. "Yeah, but this is OUR street!"
"I don't see your names on it!" Karin yelled back and with that took a running leap behind the cover provided by a shattered wall, firing her Duen as she went.
The two Pumas returned fire, spinning to each side to avoid Karin's somewhat wild shots. Ducking down lower, Karin wished she could find a way to make herself smaller, especially after a second grenade thumped down near her, detonating in a spray of dust, gravel and fragments. The continuous racket of a rifle being fired at full auto hammered at her hearing, and Karin realized to her horror that one of the Pumas was attempting to chew her way through the wall with concentrated weapon fire!
Using the thrown-up dust cloud from the last grenade as cover, Karin edged out from the edge of the wall and returned fire, pulling the trigger as fast as she could. Another burst of gunfire answered her, causing Karen to duck back behind cover with a curse. This mission had just gone from weird to downright infuriating. It was supposed to be a simple hit after a nice long trip, not a fight for her life against two overly-armed Pumas!
Karin swallowed slowly, trying to remain calm despite the warm gun muzzle pressed up against her face.
"I... I'm just passing through," she explained.
"Sure, sure, that's what they all say," the Puma replied, just before everything went black.
Nursing a sore jaw, Karin stared at her foot. A pair of handcuffs connected her ankle to a length of chain, which was then attached to a thick eyebolt stuck in the wall. Her gear was somewhere behind her, and her head was aching something fierce. All in all she was not having a good day.
"Hey," prompted a voice.
Looking up, Karin glanced at her two captors, Anna and Uni, a pair of towering Pumas. "What?"
"Whaddya got?" asked Anna.
"Aces and eights!" Uni cried happily, slapping her cards down.
Anna sighed. "Damn... beats my pair."
Trying not to grin - it hurt her head and might get her smacked - Karin turned her cards over. "Full house."
'DAMN!" Karin winced at the volume, and then did her best to pick up all the cards as the two Puma's stripped off clothing. There was a growing pile of combat armor, boots, gloves, and jumpsuits behind the two. Karin felt lucky, so far she'd lost her gloves, her jacket and one boot.
With a disgruntled 'harrumph', Uni sat back down. She was dressed only in a pair of bikini briefs and socks, while her identical twin still hadn't lost her shirt.
Smiling at her feet, Karin shuffled the cards, trying her best to ignore her captors. They were strong, fast, durable, well-armed, and dangerous, but brains were not their strong point. Sitting up, she started to deal cards, working in a clockwise motion. The two Pumas hung on every card, fairly leaning over her as she dealt. Karin decided it was good she was a female, as she doubted many men could have ignored Uni's current state of undress. Personally, she found it pretty ludicrous, normal women just weren't built that way.
Picking up her cards with a sly grin, Uni fanned them out and promptly pouted. "Who's idea was strip poker?"
"Yours," Anna replied deadpan.
"Aw, shaddup longears."
Sighing, and then wincing at the effort, Karin picked up her cards and slid back, trying to avoid the being struck by an errant fist or foot as the two tumbled about, snarling and spitting curses. Any thoughts she might have had about overpowering her captors vanished the moment she saw one of them throw the other through a wall, a move that did little to slow either of them down. Eventually, the pair calmed down, and glaring at each other, finally sat back down. The fact that the two of them were now virtually naked seemed to be lost on the pair. Idly, Karin wondered what some of her old friends would have paid for a vid of the fight,
"Who's deal?" Anna snapped.
"I just did," Karin pointed out helpfully.
Karin sighed and stretched. "Look... how about we make this the last hand, huh?" she suggested, the frustration and restlessness evident in her voice.
"Why? We're having such fun," Uni asked.
"Yeah well... I got a job to finish. Look, last hand, I win, you get your clothes back and I go free, deal?" Karin offered.
Anna and Uni exchanged glances. "Well..." Anna (or was it Uni?) said.
"She doesn't really have anything cool for us to take," suggested Uni.
"Right, last hand, winner takes all." Karin picked up her cards and tried to keep from sighing in frustration. Two of spades, six of clubs, seven of hearts, jack of hearts and a queen of hearts. Basically junk. Peering over the tops of her cards she noted Anna sorting through her hand in a fashion that seemed to indicate she had nothing but junk as well.
"Anna..." Karin asked, "do you want any cards?"
"Three for me!" chimed in Uni.
"Dealer takes three."
A moment later Anna threw her cards down in disgust. "I'm out." Karin glanced at her cards, she had tossed the two, six and seven and had picked up the three of clubs, the seven of hearts, and the king if hearts. Still junk. "Uni?"
The other puma's ears were straight up, a sure sign she had a good hand. It hadn't taken Karin long to figure out how to play poker with two pumas, watch their ears. Ears up? A good hand. Ears down? Bad hand. Ears flat? Look out for the upcoming fist-fight.
"Right," Karin finally sighed, "I fold."
"Awwww!" Uni whined, slapping down two pair. "I could have won that one!"
"My deal." Anna shuffled quickly, flipping five battered cards to each player.
Karin turned her had over. Four of diamonds, five of diamonds, the queen of diamonds, and a pair of eights. She tossed the queen picking up the ace of hearts in return. Uni was looking glum and her ears were down, Anna dealt herself three cards and her eyes lit up as she turned them over. Karin decided this was not good, all she has was a pair of eights, ace high... not a good way to win this last, and crucial, round of strip poker.
"Anyone going to fold?" Anna asked.
"I'm in," Uni and Karin replied, almost in unison.
"Well, then the dealer calls."
"Uni flipped over a pair of threes, scowling as Karin showed her two eights. With a grin, Anna flipped over two nines. "Lose the jacket!" she cried, seeming to forget that this was a 'winner take all' hand. Karin wisely decided to not remind the synthetic of this fact as she pulled her coat off and set it aside. Meanwhile Anna tried to give a high-five to a glaring Uni. "We've got her on the run now!"
Picking up the deck Uni quickly dealt out another hand. Karin managed to pick up more junk, and after a quick exchange of cards, everyone but Anna folded again, leaving her to grumble at her luck.
It was now Karin's deal, and she was feeling more and more uneasy. It seemed obvious that the two pumas were bored out of their tiny minds, and were more than willing to drag this game out as along as possible. Which meant she had to win and win quickly. Dealing, she picked up her cards. Two of diamonds, seven of spades, the king of diamonds and a pair of eights again.
The pumas both asked for one card, and promptly developed evil grins as soon as they got them. Sweating, Karin tossed the two and the seven, picking up... two more eights. She then sighed, trying to make it sound like she was disappointed rather than relived.
The moment of truth. "Call."
"Three threes!" Anna laughed, slapping her cards down.
"Hah!" her twin yelled, "Three nines!"
"Four eights," Karin said quietly, ducking as Uni sent her cards spinning across the room. Standing, she tired to ignore the sight of Anna tearing her useless hand into bits - which she then ate - and started to gather her equipment. "I can go right? That was the deal."
"Yeah..." Uni moped, undoing the lock on the shackle.
"Okay, see you later, I'm off!"
Scrambling out of the room, Karin headed for the street and her mission Behind her, she could hear the two pumas still talking.
"Hey... didn't I win one of those hands?"
"Didn't that mean I got her guns?"
"This is all your fault you know."
Karin sighed in relief as she quickly put distance between herself and the Puma Twins. If she ever meet them again, it'd be too soon for her taste.
"So much for my early morning strike!" she thought as she jogged down the street at a quick pace. "At this rate, I'll be lucky to nail the guy before sundown!" She quickly checked her GPS and then made a quick turn into an alley, intent on making some time and instead nearly ran into a group of people.
A tall, skinny man with a shock of orange hair stood beside a much shorter, and much wider, individual. Next to both of them was a slim woman, dressed all in black. At the feet of a trio was a large black bag. As Karin watched, the black-garbed woman bent over the bag, unzipping it slightly and peering inside. A moment later she stood up and nodded, producing a roll of money from inside her coat. Slowly peeling off a thin wad of cash, she handed it to the two men.
"Ah hell," Karin muttered, getting their attention, which made her curse some more.
"Unexpected company interrupts our colloquy, Mr. Spratt." stated the shorter man.
"You are perspicacious as ever, Mr. Muttley," replied the other. "Mayhap we should consult with Madame O'Hara regarding the nature of our response to this inadvertent interruption."
The slim woman glanced quickly at Karin, allowing the would-be hitwoman a quick glimpse of shiny chrome eyes, and then turned back to her companions. "Get rid of her."
Cursing, Karin fell back, her Duen sliding into the palm of her hand even as she reached into her coat for her Kuan-Ti. The tall man reached into his coat and produced a big hand gun, the smaller, fatter man following his actions. Without speaking, they split up and ran to opposite sides of the alley, firing as they went. Moving with almost inhuman speed, the woman in black took out a handgun that had a cable running from it into her head.
"Ah god damned hell!" Karin shouted as she returned fire, falling back rapidly. Gunfire whizzed by her dangerously close and she could almost feel the wind of their passage ruffling her hair. Firing back, she managed to tag the fatter man and he dropped his gun, howling in pain. The taller of the two immediately took cover, while the woman in black stepped forward, took careful aim, and fired.
The bullet struck Karin in the chest and the assassin cut off a cry of pain as she fell back at the same time, tripping on a crack in the street. No longer interested in hitting anything, she fired bullets off into the alley wildly, as well as numerous curses as well. Her cursing was almost drowned out by the sounds of gunfire and ricochets until both of her pistols had run dry.
Scrambling to her feet, she dropped her pistols and took cover next to the mouth of the alley, looking in. Aside from the large black bag and the faint cloud of blue smoke, there was nothing else in the alley. For a moment, Karin wondered about what was in the bag, but quickly shut down that line of thought.
"Bastards... didn't see anything and they god damned nearly killed me!" she thought, taking off her backpack and reaching in for a couple of hand grenades. She winced at the growing bruise on her chest. "I'll show those frigging bastards!"
Taking out a fragmentation grenade, Karin looked back into the alley and, after making sure it was clear, tossed the grenade in then quickly snatched up her pistols. Getting to her feet, the assassin ran for all she was worth to put as much distance between herself and the alley. A few second later, the alley was rocked by a big explosion, but Karin kept on running. After all, she didn't know if she had nailed the people, but she wasn't to stay behind and make sure.
After a few minutes of high paced running, Karin was breathless and came to a stop, pistols still gripped tightly in her hands. She gasped for breath, the sweat running off her in drops, and began reloading her weapons. Her stomach growled hungrily and she cursed, realizing that she hadn't bothered to bring any food with her.
"If I had known what kind of fragging crap I was gonna face today, I would have at least brought something!" she thought, grinding her teeth as she slid the last of her ammo into her pistols. "Oh just great! That little war just about killed off what ammo I had!"
Feeling like crap, Karin put her pistols away and resumed her walk, eager to get the hit done and over with. It didn't take long and soon enough, she had found her target. The Yakuzu leader was outside with some of his men, talking about something she couldn't hear. Making sure to stay out of sight, Karin slipped in between two abandoned buildings and looked for a staircase to take her to the roof.
There were none... at least, none she could use without risking her life on them.
She felt the anger rising in her like a growing storm, a storm that had been growing from the moment she first ran across those two Puma's and reaching a peak when she had barely escaped with her life. She was dirty, her chest hurt from the bullet she had taken, hungry, low on ammo, and only needed one more thing to set her off.
Turning about, Karin started to walk towards the mouth of the alley, intent on simply peaking around the corner of it with her rifle and blowing the hit's head away when she tripped over her own feet and landed flat on her face. For a moment she just lay there, face planted in the concrete, hands clenched so tight the knuckles were white. When she got to her feet, she felt something wet dripping from her chin and wiped at it with her hand.
It was blood.
The Yakuzu leader and his men were chatting when they heard the scream. It was a scream of pure rage, a sound that almost set their hearts to pounding as they took out their guns and headed for where they had heard it come from. What they expected was anything but the screaming, cursing, blue haired assassin that jumped out at them, guns firing the last of her ammo.
They quickly dove for cover behind an abandoned car and shot back at Karin who, even in her rage, kept enough common sense to duck back down into the alley. But in the split second before she jumped back to safety, she recognized her target.
"You son of a bitch! You put me through hell!" she yelled, as she alternated between firing at them and struggling to get her rifle and grenade launcher out.
"Just what the hell are you talking about?! I never even meet you!" the Yakuzu leader shouted back.
"Because of you I've been shot at, threatened, nearly killed, creeped out by some weirdo, shot at again, nearly KILLED again, kidnapped..." Karin finally got the rifle out and slapped the grenade launcher onto it. "And all because of you!!!"<
"Look I don't know just what the hell you-"
Karin gasped for breath and looked at her handiwork, the results of which came crashing to the ground in a hunk of burning flesh and metal. The anger over what she had suffered was still pulsing within her, begging to be released. She released it.
Her grenades spent, Karin wiped the sweat from her face and turned her back on the wreckage. The job was done and she could get the hell out of the Zone and collect her pay.
"I swear, if I'm ever offered another job here, I'll pay someone else to do it!"
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