|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Crime/Noir||PG-13||Positive||N/A|
|A Nice Meal in Linuki|
"You did what?!" Qin roared, shooting up from his desk.
About two seconds before that, Gun and I had just delivered the news about Yang's capture.
"I know this looks bad," Gun stated. "But right now, this is the best option we have. All we have to do is wait this out for a few days until we come up with something."
"Do you understand what you've done?!" Qin shouted. "You two have created a situation where we all go down! If we turn him loose, he'll tell Khan and we'll have a war on our hands. If we kill him, Khan will find out and we'll have a war on our hands! How many ways do you want me to say it, Gun? There is no fixing this!"
"With all due respect, you're not thinking about this the right way!" Gun replied, raising his voice to just the perfect height that helped him reinforced his point, but didn't leak any disrespect. "If we turn him free, we still have a slim chance of negotiating a deal with the Agni Kais."
"A very slim chance," said Qin.
"At least it's something," said Gun. "If we kill him, there'll be no compromise. They're gonna go to war with us and that'll be the end of it."
Qin placed his hands over his chin, carefully contemplating the safest course of action. Me and Gun sat there in silence for a good minute or two, waiting for him to make up his mind. Sure it was annoying just standing there waiting for him to come to a decision, but I really couldn't blame him. I'd do the same thing if I were in his position. If he didn't consider every possible outcome, think of every potential misstep, question every possible move and why it was the best one to make, then that would be the mistake that claimed the lives of however many soldiers died in the ensuing war.
He moved his hands up his face and wiped at his brow, before finally speaking again. "Alright," he said. "We'll hold him for now. I want someone guarding him at all times. And get in contact with your people."
"You got it," Gun replied.
"We don't make a move until I say so," Qin added.
"Of course," said Gun.
And with that, the two of us walked out of his office and made our way down the hall.
"That could've gone better," I remarked.
"That was nothing," Gun said. "Convincing him to hold Yang was the easy part. Now we have to actually make the decision whether or not to cut him free."
"I thought you said killing him wasn't an option," I said.
"It isn't," Gun responded. "But there are still certain things to consider. Do we just set him free or do we negotiate with the Agni Kais for his freedom? And either way, it's gonna take one hell of a good negotiator to keep this from escalating into a full-on war."
A full-on war. After hearing him say that for about the eightieth time, I finally did something I hadn't done since finding myself in this precarious situation. I imagined what my role would be in this seemingly imminent war.
Would I be out there carrying out hits on someone week after week? Would I be one of the people negotiating in order to guarantee our safety? Would they just keep me out of the action altogether and give me something boring to do?
I hoped it would be the third option, as I was in no rush to thrust myself into a situation this potentially dangerous. That's all I could do was hope. Hope that Gun or Qin or whoever's job it was to give me my assignments would keep me out of this.
Once I noticed we had gotten inside the elevator without me even realizing it up until that moment, it hit me that I was thinking way too much. I took a deep breath and cleared my head as well as I could. I couldn't afford to be stressing out. Not now. I just needed to assess the situation and ask Gun what out next move was in order to get a clearer understanding of what our strategy was.
"So what's the plan?" I asked him.
"Let me worry about the plan," Gun replied. "You just go home and get some rest. If I need you, I'll call."
That response wasn't gonna fly with me. I wasn't going home without some kind of assurance that there was a plan in place and this could all be worked out.
"You do have a plan, right?" I asked him. "Because, I tell ya, it sure doesn't sound like it to me."
Gun took a slight breath of agitation before replying. "I have a plan, Song," he told me. "I just don't want to get your hopes up if it doesn't work out."
"Well, I'm not going home tonight unless you tell me what the next move is," I shot back.
Gun turned his head and gave me a look that suggested he was about to tell me to go fuck myself, but I guess he had a change of heart at the last second, because he told me his plan anyway.
"I know a guy," he said. "He's an arms dealer. He says he can get me a very hot item that would be helpful to our particular case. Let's just leave it at that."
I wanted to press further, but I had a good feeling he wasn't gonna tell me anything else. At least now I knew he had something in mind. I bit my tongue and said, "Good enough for me," as the elevator doors opened and we walked into the lobby.
We made it all the way to the front door before Gun said, "By the way, you're watching the prisoner tomorrow," got into his Satomobile, and drove away, leaving me on the street without the chance to reply.
Alright, you fucking schmucks, let's get down to business. I'm gonna be taking over the narration here for a bit. Who am I? The name's Khan. You've already heard of me, so there's no need for an introduction. Now I know you probably have no interest in hearing me talk about my version of what was going on in that particular point in time, but don't worry. You won't have to for long. I have no intention of letting you inside my head for too long, so just listen to what I have to tell you and you'll probably never have to hear from my point of view ever again. Okay? Good.
It was about half past noon and I was sitting in my favorite restaurant, reading the newspaper and waiting for my meal to arrive. It was Po Shi's, this great little diner in the middle of Linuki, which was the borough I grew up in.
I remember the first time my father took me here when I was five. He sat me down and we had a nice meal and at the end of the meal, he said to me, "Son, do you know why we're here?"
I looked up at him and said, "Because we were hungry."
He laughed and said to me, "Yes, that's true, but we could've gone to any restaurant for that. Do you know why we came to this one?"
I shook my head 'no' and he proceeded to explain. "Because, son, this is the first Fire Nation restaurant to ever be opened in Republic City."
Keep in mind, this was back during the very early days of Republic City. Before it eventually became the metropolis that it was now.
"Some of our ancestors did some very terrible things," my father explained to me. "They tried to destroy the whole world until somebody stopped them. Ever since then, the world has looked at us as the bad guys. Whenever they look at us, they think of the people who almost destroyed the world. But look around you now, son."
With my innocent, five-year-old eyes, I gazed around the restaurant and saw all of the faces that were eating there as well. All of the faces that were speaking to their friends and telling stories about something that had happened to them that day.
"They look happy, don't they?" my father said.
"Yes," I replied simply.
"That's because of this place," said my father. "Now that the people who built this city have given all of us the opportunity to thrive, we can show everybody who we really are. That we're not bad people. We can move on from the bad things our ancestors did and build restaurants or companies or skyscrapers if we want."
That conversation has stayed with me to this day. And it's true what my father said. Anybody can be anything here. So what do I intend to be? The motherfucking king, that's what.
Right now I'm the number two guy in the Agni Kai Triad, but one day my boss is gonna keel over and die and that'll leave this whole operation to me. And once I start running shit? This is gonna be my city and not even the Avatar is gonna be able to run me out of town.
I looked up as I saw the waitress heading towards me and put my newspaper down as she handed me my coffee. "Thank you, sweetheart," I said to her as she walked away. Just as I took a sip, I heard the jingling of the bell over the front door of the diner and saw somebody walk in. They were the fellas I was waiting for.
One of 'em was a guy in his late 70s named Yashuko. He had combed-back gray hair with an assortment of wrinkles running all over his face and a short, silver mustache spread across his upper lip, which earned him the nickname, Silver 'Stache Yash. He was the don of the Terra Triad.
The other was Ren, one of his enforcers. He was a dark-skinned guy with very short black hair, a black leather jacket, and a constant stare that would make most people uncomfortable.
As the two of them approached my table, I stood up to greet them. "Hey, Khannie!" he said, affection filling his voice.
"Yash," I replied, stretching my arms out to my sides before both of us went in for a hug. "How the hell are you?" I chuckled as we patted each other on the back.
"Oh, you know how things are," Yash replied.
The three of us sat down in the booth and continued the conversation.
"Where's your guy?" asked Yash.
"Pardon me?" I said.
"Y'know, the guy you brought with you," Yash clarified.
"You mean Mao?" I asked, referring to my own enforcer I brought with me. "He's in the bathroom. Why? Do I need him?"
"No," Yash insisted. "Not right now. But you always need a guy with you when you're meeting someone. That's just a simple rule of business."
"Of course," I replied. "Too many men in this business have died because they were stupid enough not to bring someone with them."
Yash nodded and then an awkward pause filled the room for about five more seconds before he finally decided to speak again. "So, anyway, how's your father doing?"
"That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about," I said.
Before I could continue, I was interrupted by the waitress, who apparently didn't care that we were clearly in the middle of a conversation.
"Hi, what can I get for you guys?" she asked the two of them.
"Uh, I'll just have the komodo sausages," Yash said.
After writing down the order, the waitress' eyes darted over to Ren, who said, "Just a cup of tea for me."
The waitress scribbled it down and sauntered off back into the kitchen to place the order, walking by Mao as he came back from the bathroom.
He sat down next to me, greeting Yash as he did so. "Hey, Yash, good to see you man," he said.
"Good to see you, too, Mao," Yash responded. "Have you lost weight?" he added.
"Nah," Mao replied, waving his hand around as he did so.
"No, I think you've lost a few pounds," Yash laughed.
"Yeah, in my dreams maybe," Mao replied.
"Don't make me break out a scale!" Yash continued. "I'll do it!"
The two finally finished laughing, allowing me to resume the conversation we were having earlier. "So, as I was saying, I need to talk to you about my father," I said.
"What's the matter, Khan?" Yash inquired.
"Last night I got a phone call," I explained. "It was from my father. He told me he was leaving town for a few days. He said the reason was because the stress of the pro-bending season was getting to him. In the twenty-five years that he has been the owner of the Pro-Bending League, I have never seen him stressed in the slightest. My father loves his job and everything about it. If he ever takes a vacation, it is only under two sets of circumstances. The first is the week in which he goes to Ember Island once every year. The second is when it's a family trip."
"What are you saying, Khan?" Yash asked.
"I'm saying that someone – I don't know who – has figured out that I am my father's son and that whoever this scumbag is, they've done something to him."
From the moment he walked in the door, Yash had had a casual expression on his face. The kind you have when you're making normal conversation with a friend. Just that normal look on your face during that brief time in every day when you're allowed to think nothing is wrong. After I spoke that last sentence, his expression turned to one of utter seriousness. The gears were turning in his head and he knew what this meant. He had been in this business long enough to know what happened next.
At first, he tried to rebuff it, hoping that there was another explanation to all of this. "How do you know for sure? You don't have any proof."
"You don't need proof when you have instinct," I replied. "And my instinct tells me I'm right a hundred percent."
Yash put his hands together and brought them up in front of his face. He exchanged a glance with Ren, then with Mao, then looked back to me.
"Have you talked with Tang about this?" he asked me, referring to my boss.
"Yes," I replied. "He said if someone took my father, then he supports going to war. He already hates the Triple Threats. If they did it, then that just gives him an excuse to kill as many of them as possible."
Yash took a pause before he continued. "Alright," he said. "Say you're right. Say some assholes – some of the Triple Threats, the Red Monsoons, they've got your father. They're not gonna kill him. They know they can't do that. They'll probably try to negotiate with you for his freedom."
"Yeah, and unless they've got a negotiator who can talk me down from killing the sons of bitches who took him in the first place, then the moment they give him back, they've got a war on their hands!" I said, pounding my fist into the table.
Yash leaned back in his seat. I could tell he was frustrated with my inability to think of resolving this in a more peaceful way. I'd like to think he'd react differently if it was his father that got kidnapped.
"And what are you telling me this for?" he asked. "I mean, I can guess why, but I want you to tell me."
I paused before speaking and leaned in towards Yash, looking him dead in the eye in order to insure my words carried the utmost clarity. "Because if this escalates into an all-out war, I need to know the Terras have my back."
"Yeah, that's what I thought," he said.
"So? Do I have a yes?"
Yash let out an exasperated sigh. He was in a very tough situation and he knew it. His answer would have a major impact on him, each in very different ways. If he said yes, he would be risking many of the lives in his organization and throwing away the ten years of peace with the other triads that the Terras had worked so hard to maintain. If he said no, he would be going against his code of loyalty and there would be a moral issue at stake. He would be Yash the traitor and none of the other triad higher-ups would be able to trust him again. That could be very dangerous to him down the road.
He bit his lip, looked me in the eye, and said, "I'm with you."
Hey. It's me again. Song. Sorry about the shift in perspective. Hopefully that won't happen ever again.
I'd been sitting in the dim, Kafkaesque room in the warehouse that was holding Yang, since 10 o'candle in the morning and the whole time I was there, we had only spoken to each other twice. Once when he told me he needed to go to the bathroom and once when he had his lunch brought in and he asked me if I wanted the tomatoes on his sandwich. Never thought I'd see a prisoner be picky about his food.
It was now 3 o'candle in the afternoon and I was about to go stir crazy. How lucky was I to have to end up on guard duty? I mean, for fuck's sake, they couldn't have at least assigned someone else to guard him with me? Then I'd at least have someone to talk to. I didn't know if there was such a thing as a triad complain box, but if there was, I was gonna add this to the list of complaints. If there wasn't, then I'd just have to make one.
I thought about making conversation with Yang, but I assumed he probably didn't want to talk to me. Y'know, seeing as how I tried to kill him the other night.
Then something occurred to me that I had to ask him. "Hey, you're the owner of the Pro-Bending League, right?"
"Uh, yes, yes, I am," Yang replied.
"Do you know which teams are corrupt and which ones aren't?" I asked.
"Look, if you want information about which of the triads are paying off each of the teams, then I'm sorry, but I can't tell you," he stated.
"No, no, I'm not asking for them," I said. "I'm asking for myself. I promise I won't tell anyone what you're about to say."
Yang raised an eyebrow, rightfully skeptical of my intentions. "How do I know you're telling the truth?" he asked.
"You have my word," I said. "My lips are sealed. I just wanna know which of the teams I grew up loving are really corrupt."
Yang took a moment to ponder letting me in on what I assume was only one of many of his little secrets. It wasn't very long before he came to a decision and said, "Alright. Which teams do you want to know about?"
I decided to start with the ones that were the least important to me and work my way up. "The rabaroos?"
"They're clean," Yang said.
"The lion vultures?"
"Dirty," he said. "Although that really shouldn't come as a shock. Anyone from Lake Laogai has to be dirty in some way."
That was true enough, I guess.
"The hog monkeys?"
"The pygmy pumas?"
"The armadillo bears?"
This was the one I cared about most of all. The one that would make or break my faith in this sport as a whole and the one that would absolutely break my heart if they turned out to be dirty. "What about the elephant koi?"
"Oh, goodness, are you kidding me?" he said, in utter disbelief at the very thought. "They're the cleanest team in the whole league. They haven't accepted a bribe since the league formed."
The team I'd loved since childhood was the cleanest team in the league. What were the fucking odds? I guess I really know how to pick 'em.
"Am I right to assume they're your favorites?" Yang asked.
"Yeah," I replied.
"Being the owner of the League means I'm not allowed to publicly announce any favorites," he explained. "But I've always liked them the best. I'll never forget the year they won the championship. Were you around to listen to that game?"
"Yeah," I said. "I was ten-years-old when that game came on. I'll never forget that night. They were up against the boar-q-pines and I remember the boar-q-pines were the favorites all fucking year long. Every time I turned on the radio, I heard everyone saying how the boar-q-pines were gonna win. The boar-q-pines had more experience, they had better players, they had more stamina, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."
"Yeah, I know," Yang chuckled. "I remember."
"I remember how close it was too," I recalled. "It was in the third round and the boar-q-pines' lead player, Toza, had the upper hand on Lin, who was the captain for the elephant koi. I remember I was in my room screaming because Toza had backed Lin into a corner and was pelting him with earth disks, but then I remember the radio announcer saying how Lin had managed to hit him with a water drill and knocked him off his feet. Then he sent him spiraling into the water and I hear the words, 'it's over! The elephant koi have done it'! I ran through my entire house screaming for a good couple of minutes until my parents made me quiet down."
"Yeah," Yang chuckled. "That was one of the biggest upsets in pro-bending history. And it was certainly a nice surprise."
I laughed some more as the memories poured into my head like lemonade from a pitcher and my head was swimming with nostalgia. Then I was quickly reminded of the thought that this man was my prisoner and my laughter faded away.
Up until now, I had thought of this man as nothing but a crook. A crook I didn't want to see die, but a crook nonetheless. Just another typical corrupt official in a position of wealth and comfort. But after having pulled back the curtain and seen the true Yang, I realized that he was a delightful man. A man who, despite knowing of the illegal activities going on within his organization, wasn't a bad man at heart. Just one doing what he probably thought he had to.
One thing was for sure now. No matter how this whole business with the Agni Kais was resolved, I hoped he didn't have to die.
I heard a knock on the door and both Yang and I threw our arms up to cover our faces once the door opened and the light burst into the room. Once my pupils adjusted to the light, I could see it was Gun and Yin standing on the other side of the door.
I went outside, closing the door behind me, and joined my colleagues. "So what's the situation?" I asked.
"We need your help with something," said Gun.
- The borough of Linuki was inspired by Brooklyn in New York City.
- The line, "You don't need proof when you have instinct," is a line from the film, Reservoir Dogs, a favorite film of Agent Slash's.
For the collective works of the author, go here.