|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Crime/Noir||PG-13||Positive||N/A|
It's amazing. The unpredictability of it all. How your life can just change in an instant. How it can lead you down a road you never could've dreamed you'd be travelling down, until, one way or another, it all ends.
Now I'm not talking about all the shit that's happened to me over the last six months. How I got abducted into the triad and how I can't believe that this is what my life is like now and yada yada yada. Y'know, all that stuff I've been yacking on about nonstop.
No, no. What I can't believe is how I could ever actually end up accepting it. But, lo and behold, after half a year of this shit, it finally dawned on me that resistance was futile. That this was my life now and that I may as well stop trying to fight it.
Besides, even if I still wanted to quit, it was far too late to back out of this thing at this point. I made the choice of who I was the night I murdered Khan underneath that bridge. When the roaring, bloodthirsty orange flames shot from my fingertips and devoured his life the moment they landed on his face.
And I know I was distressed the night it happened. I know I told myself that no matter what I said or did to convince myself that his murder was justified, it wouldn't be true. But I'd thought about it a lot since then, and, frankly, I thought I overreacted a bit. That wasn't the first conclusion I came to though. It took me a good two weeks to get a handle on my emotions and convince myself that it wasn't as serious as I thought. I mean, it's not like I killed an innocent person or anything. No, no, no. This fucker deserved it. Shit, he literally asked me to do it. And by taking his life, the life of an innocent man was spared. My best friend in the whole world wouldn't be here today if I hadn't killed Khan, and I thought that was pretty fair trade.
Speaking of whom, it was good ol' Gan's nightclub that I was on my way to at the moment.
It was six o'candle in the evening, and I was sitting in the back seat of a cab eating one of the most delectable sandwiches I had ever consumed. While I was chowing down on the sandwich, I was thinking about how much I needed a night to relax at Gan's. In the month that had passed since I killed Khan, Qin had had me working a lot more than he used to. I guess because he finally saw the potential in me or something, which was kinda flattering I guess, but it left me feeling really drained a lot of nights. And this week, I had to work even more than usual, since one of our guys got locked up for some kinda drug-related charge and I had to take care of all his responsibilities. So what better way to relax than a night at my favorite place, talking with my favorite person.
I hadn't talked to Gan very much since that night. I'd been too busy to make regular appearances at his club, and when I was able to stop by, he always seemed kinda distracted. Not as upbeat as he usually was. Hopefully, though, I'd get to see him tonight, and the two of us could chat it up.
By the time I'd finished eating my sandwich, the cab came screeching up to the curb and it was time to get out. I pulled a clean stack of yuans out of my coat pocket and placed them in the driver's hand, then stepped out onto the curb. I couldn't help but shiver the instant the frosty, winter air breezed by me. Even with my overcoat on, I still felt like I was standing in the middle of an arctic wasteland without a single article of clothing.
I rushed over to the door while wrapping my own arms around me for warmth, then finally scooted on inside.
The night was young, so the place wasn't as lively as it would be in several hours, but there were still quite a few people there. I made my way through the crowd, my eagerness to see Gan growing with each step, until I noticed something was off.
The club band was playing 'The Badgermole Cries'. This really awful, sappy jazz song that Gan hates with a burning passion, and would never want playing in his club. That's when it dawned on me that he must not have been there, and my eagerness went soaring right out the door. I kicked the ground with my foot and let out a quiet, frustrated, "Fuck!"
Still, even if Gan wasn't there, I needed a drink more than anything in the world, so I kept walking towards my usual seat at the bar.
One thing was for sure though. Riko, the assistant manager who ran the club whenever Gan was away, was in for the argument of his life once Gan came back.
I had managed to weave my way through all the people that littered the club, finding out that the back was a lot more crowded than the front, and before I could plop myself down on my seat, someone approached me.
Seemingly out of nowhere, I found myself face-to-face with Yoshi, the stubby little comedian who had more or less become this club's go-to source of laughs. "Hi! Song!" he said to me, extending his hand for me to shake it. "How are ya doing tonight?"
"Well, I'm a little bummed out that Gan is here," I replied, shaking his hand. "But other than that, not too bad."
"Yeah, Riko is watching over things tonight," Yoshi replied. "He said Gan wasn't feeling too well. Called in sick."
"Aw, damn. That's too bad," I said. Of course, I knew what 'called in sick' really meant, but I obviously wasn't gonna say it. It wasn't for Yoshi to know.
"Well, I've gotta get ready for my set," he said, starting to walk away. "Tell Gan I said hi if you see him later."
"Will do," I replied. Then as he made his way in the opposite direction, I finally walked over to my seat, ordered a scotch on the rocks, and let the drinking commence.
The moment the scotch touched my throat, all the grueling work this whole week had brought with it started to evaporate from my mind. These days, all it takes is one sip of that stuff to relax me. Now that may sound to you like I'm one step away from becoming an alcoholic, but, thankfully, it's not something I depend on to feel better. Not yet anyway. It's just what happens to work best at the moment.
It wouldn't be right, however, if I was able to enjoy the feelings of relaxation that I deserved after such a long week without any sort of interruption.
Not two minutes after I sat down, I heard a voice speak from behind me. "Nice night, isn't it?" it said in the most deadpan of tones. Hearing that gravelly voice caused me to instantly groan in vexation and slam my fist into the bar, before turning around to see the man the voice belonged to.
Gun stood before me, wearing his gray trench coat and fedora, and gazing down at me with those elderly, golden eyes of his. "Nice to see you too," he said.
"What are you doing here?" I queried, making no attempt to hide my frustration.
"Come on. We're going somewhere," he responded, not really answering my question.
"I've already done everything I'm supposed to do this week," I whined. "What more do you people want from me?"
"Come with me. Now," Gun growled, clearly not in the mood for my noncompliance.
I took one more swig of the scotch, and got up from my seat as he instructed, walking with him out the door and over to his light green Satomobile he had parked on the curb.
With the passing of an hour or so, it became pretty clear to me where we were going. The first thing Gun and I did after leaving the club was go back to my apartment. Gun told me to go upstairs and pick out my nicest suit, to which I replied telling him I didn't own a suit.
So, after that, we took ourselves to the nearest department store, where I got to pick out my own suit. This really swanky, burgundy pantsuit that I thought looked really cool. It was exactly the kind of suit I'd always wanted to own, if I ever had one. The whole time we were there, Gun looked like he looked like he wanted to kill himself, he was so bored.
And every time I asked him why I needed a suit or where we were going, or anything like that, he never gave me an answer. He just kept telling me I'd see when we got there. So I thought it was pretty obvious what was going on. I was about to get made.
If you're not sure what that means, allow me to explain. A made member of an organized crime family is somebody who goes from being just an ordinary soldier, to a full-fledged member of the organization. You're given a lot more responsibilities, but a lot more trust and influence as well. In short, you go from sitting at the kids table to sitting at the big table with the grown-ups.
I just couldn't believe how quickly it was happening. I'd only been with the Triple Threats for less than a year, and they were already having me made. When I first started with these guys, I never thought I'd get this far. Not in a million years. But I guess that's life. You can never know what to expect.
After we finished buying the suit, Gun drove me down to this drab little hole-in the-wall restaurant near Central City Station and parked on the curb, leading me to believe this was our stop.
I was proven right when he got out of the car, and started walking towards the place. I followed him inside, walking behind him through the deserted restaurant, that only seemed to be occupied by the owner. As the owner went about his business sweeping up, the two of us made our way to a set of stairs in the back, leading to some sort of cellar.
We walked down into the cellar, and saw quite a few people standing around dressed in black suits. Wearing my bright-colored burgundy suit made me stick out like a sore thumb, but it was alright. I was the coolest looking one there.
Some of the people I recognized, like Qin, Yin, Zolt, Lu, and Rampaging Ryu, one of our new capos. Then there were some people I didn't, like the other three people who were standing in front of me.
Before I could catch their names or ask who they were, Qin stepped forward and addressed me. "Do you know why you're here?" he asked me.
I simply shook my head no, without saying a word.
"Speak when you're spoken to," Zolt piped up. He really just loved getting under my skin.
Rather than shoot him a glare, I held eye contact with Qin and said, "No."
"After conferring with Gun," Qin continued. "I've decided that it's time to make you an official member of this organization. Now I know that everyone here is aware that this is a highly unusual move. That it would normally take years for somebody to get made. But you've proven your worth, Song. You singlehandedly murdered one of this city's most fearsome organized crime members, and in doing so, are largely responsible for our current standing in the war against the Agni Kais. I've given you much more work than usual over the last several weeks, in order to test your resolve and to see how far you're willing to go for this organization, and you have succeeded."
Then there was a pause, as Qin briefly shifted his gaze over to Gun, then to Zolt, then to Ryu, then back over to me. He seemed to be a tad uncomfortable, and I was expecting to find out why in the next second or two.
"Now if you have any doubts about joining," he went on. "Then speak now or forever hold your peace. I am aware that you were brought into this organization against your own will, and that because of that, you may have some reservations about joining. If this is the case, don't hesitate to say so. No one will think less of you. You'll just continue on as you have for the last six months."
This was it. This was the moment that would define the rest of my life. My entire future depended on whether I said 'yes' or 'no' to this question. What did I have to lose? Any hope for a normal life. Any hope of being a decent person in the eyes of society. Possibly my entire life, if I ever got whacked or arrested. And, biggest of all, my humanity. To me, losing my humanity was worse than losing my life. I'd rather die a good person than live on as a monster.
But what did I have to gain? Trust. Financial stability. And, even though it was also something I could lose, my life. Leaving this organization was not an option. They'd have me killed if I tried. I was gonna be doing jobs for them for the rest of my life, and there was nothing I could do to change that. So when you take that into account, the choice was actually quite simple. I already took one drastic measure in an attempt to escape this, knowing fully well that it would most likely cost me my life. Who knows what other stupid thing I would try next? Instead of tiring myself out swimming against the current, it was in my own best interest to turn around and swim along with it.
After I remained silent for a moment, Qin nodded. "Alright then," he said. "Now repeat after me. As the fire I bend burns, so too will I burn if I betray my brothers and sisters."
"As the fire I bend burns," I repeated. "So too will I burn if I betray my brothers and sisters."
"As the earth that I bend shakes," said Qin. "So too will my world shake if I betray my brothers and sisters."
"As the earth that I bend shakes," I repeated. "So too will my world shake if I betray my brothers and sisters."
He didn't make me recite any kind of oath for waterbending, so I assumed it was customary to recite the oath of the element that you bend. It must have been weird for him to make me do two instead of one.
"Congratulations," Qin said, placing a hand on my shoulder. "You're one of us now."
From behind me, Gun placed a hand on my shoulder as well. I looked back to see a genuine smile had taken hold of his face, which was incredibly rare for him.
I gotta say, I know he and I had had our differences in the past, but ever since the night he saved me from Khan, I'd considered him to be a great friend and mentor to me. It was so difficult for me when I started out here, but he was always there to make things better. Maybe I didn't realize that at first, but it was true. I really owed him a lot. Heck, I owed him my life. It was just really great to have a friend in this business. And now that I was made, I would make a lot more.
"Welcome to the family, Song," he said. "Now let me introduce you to the crew." He took a few steps forward and stood next to me, pointing at all of the various people across the room.
"That's Madman Mong," he said, pointing to the first guy. A portly, baldheaded guy who looked to be in his mid-to-late sixties.
"Pleasure to meet you," he said. I could tell from his expression and the way he said just those two words that he clearly didn't wanna be there.
"This here is Kyoko," Gun said, pointing to a very elderly black woman with tall, chrome hair, that was cut just below her chin. It kinda looked like she had a feather duster on her head.
"How do you do?" she asked. She, quite opposite from Mong, seemed to give off a very warm and inviting vibe. I guess it came with the old age.
"And this over here is Chilly Chi Pa," Gun continued, pointing to a tall, tan-skinned guy with combed-down dreadlocks on his head, who looked like some kind of shaman.
"Nice to meet you," he spoke in a gruff, rugged voice.
"And you already know Yin and Lu," said Gun.
Yin looked exactly the same as she always did, but I'd noticed Lu had changed a bit since I last saw him. He'd apparently grown his snowy white hair out on the sides and a little on the top, while the front of his head remained mostly bald. He'd also shaved his goatee off, which was a bit jarring to me, since I'd considered it his trademark up until that point.
"You're officially a member of my crew now, so these are the guys you're gonna be working with from now on," Gun said.
"Nice to meet all of you," I said.
"I'll let you all get acquainted," Qin said, heading towards the staircase. Zolt and Ryu followed him. I couldn't help but crack a grin when I saw the bruises Zolt still had on his face from the night I beat him up in the middle of Gan's club. I can't believe Qin let that pussy become a capo.
Thinking about Gan's club again made me realize that I still had one thing to do before I went home and hit the hay. So I shook Gun's hand, thanked him, and made my way out up the staircase.
I had to wait for nearly a minute in the freezing cold after knocking on Gan's apartment door. That would've been bad enough if I'd still had my overcoat, but with nothing but my pantsuit? I felt like a fucking ice sculpture. I tried to stay warm by breathing small puffs of fire near my hands, but it really didn't do much good.
By the time he finally swung the door open, I was getting ready to kick the fucking thing down.
His response to seeing me wasn't quite what I was used to, but it was understandable, given the circumstances. He at least pretended to act like he was glad to see me, donning a half-assed smile and attempting to sound happy. He also clearly wasn't sick, as his voice sounded completely normal and he showed no signs of illness, but I wasn't gonna be point that out. "Song!" he said. "Hey, child, what are you doing here?"
"Yoshi told me you were feeling sick," I said. "So I came by to see how you were doing."
"Oh, that's sweet of you," he replied. "Uh, come in, come in," he added, waving me inside his humble abode.
I stepped inside, very eager to escape the frigid, outside air. Gan shut the door behind him, and I walked over to his couch while he went into the kitchen.
His apartment was much nicer than mine, which I guess is one of the perks of owning your own nightclub. There were paintings and shit all over the walls of these jazz musicians; all kinds of really nice furniture everywhere, including a black, leather sectional couch in the living room, and this amazingly comfortable recliner chair that I was never allowed to sit in, seeing as how it was Gan's favorite. Still, there were a couple of times I'd sat in it when he wasn't looking, and it was the most divine feeling in the world. Okay, not really, but fuck, was it amazing. I never bought one for myself, because I was always worried I would never get up once I sat down in one.
"Can I getcha anything?" Gan asked from the kitchen. "Tea? Hot chocolate? Anything?"
"No thanks. I'm good," I replied.
With that question answered, Gan came walking into the living room and sat in the recliner chair, while I took a seat on his couch.
"So what's up?" he asked me.
"I just wanted to see you again," I answered. "I feel like we hardly ever see each other anymore. How are you feeling?"
"Ah, not too good at the moment," Gan said. "I've been coughing and sneezing and I've got a runny nose like you wouldn't believe. I've gone through, like, four boxes of tissues."
"That's not what I meant, Gan," I said, a more serious tone taking hold of my voice. "Look, I'm just gonna say it, okay. I know why you've been so distant lately. Anyone who has a near-death experience like the one you had under that bridge can't be expected to just bounce back from it right away."
Gan leaned his head downwards and his gaze shifted towards the floor as he began to feel more and more uncomfortable.
"And I know what you're going through," I continued. "I got abducted by one of them just like you did. So if you ever need to talk to me about it, just know I'm here for you. Spirits know you've been there for me whenever I needed you."
He finally looked up from the ground and directed his line of sight towards me. "Do you ever stop feeling scared to go out at night?" he asked.
"Eventually," I replied. "There's no specific amount of time that it takes. And it's inevitable that you'll worry. But it does go away. You just have to understand that it wasn't going outside that made it happen. It was chance."
Finally, Gan's lips curved upward into a real smile, and I could tell he actually was glad I stopped by. "Thanks, Song," he said. "I'll try to keep that in mind." Then his eyes moved up and down, examining me as if he'd just laid eyes on me for the first time tonight. "Why are you wearing a burgundy pantsuit?" he inquired.
"Let's not talk about that," I chuckled. "Let's just try to have a fun night. Okay?"
"Sounds good to me," Gan said warmly.
- Lu's new appearance is modeled after actor, M. Emmet Walsh.
- Kyoko's appearance is modeled after actor, Nichelle Nichols.
For the collective works of the author, go here.