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Chapter information

Republic City





Written by

Alan Jack Halverson

Release date

May 13, 2016

Word count


Last chapter

A Trip to the Country

Next chapter

Hold Your Breath

Qing Ru awakened to the ringing of the telephone. He rolled over and turned on his bedside lamp to check the time and found it was about two in the morning. He climbed out of bed and walked into the main room of his new house and picked up the phone. "Hello?" he called sleepily through the mouthpiece.

"Excuse me sir, are you Qing Ru of 221 Zìyóu Street?" the voice called through the speaker.

"Yes," Qing Ru replied. "Who is this?"

"I'm the head of security in the Pink Lotus Housing Development, I was instructed to contact you for assistance by our investigator on call."

"Why call me?" Qing Ru asked. "You should call Li he's a great investigator," Qing Ru began, "I'll get you his number."

"I'm sorry sir, I thought you knew, he is our investigator on call."

Qing Ru stopped and resigned himself to having been called upon by his friend for assistance. Most likely to examine a body, otherwise there seemed to be no reason to call him, especially at such an hour. "I'm even starting to think like him," Qing Ru mumbled to himself after he stopped his musings.

"Sorry sir, what was that?" the man on the phone asked.

"Nothing," Qing Ru replied. "I'll be right over. What's the address?"

"226 Zìyóu Street."

Qing Ru wrote down the address and hung up the phone. He quickly ran into his room and changed out of his pajamas and headed down the street to 226 Zìyóu Street.

When he arrived a security officer greeted him. "Right this way sir," the officer directed. "Li asked us to instruct you to examine the body while you awaited his arrival."

Qing Ru looked around. The building was empty except for the corpse. It appeared that the house hadn't been sold yet and so remained devoid of any furniture. The house design was irregular. Rather than a painting scheme that resembled something from one of the four nations, the walls were simply white, the floors were polished wood and the exterior lacked the familiar pagoda like design of the houses in other suburbs.

Qing Ru then kneeled next to the corpse and began to examine it. Just as he did so, there was a knock at the door. The security officer answered it and in the doorway stood Li who promptly entered.

Li entered the main room. "Ah, Qing Ru, I see you got my message."

"And I see that you've finally taken up Mr. Wu on his offer," Qing Ru replied.

"That's not important right now," Li returned tersely.

Qing Ru's annoyance began to rise, "You realize Li that I have a life and job outside our little adventures and I don't exactly have time to come to your every beck and call."

"And yet you're still here. Besides, that's not important right now either. What is important is what you've found from the body," Li retorted.

Qing Ru acquiesced to his friend's will and began to report on the condition of the body. "He appears to have been healthy for the most part aside from some injuries that have since healed, presumably the result of some past violence. The cause of death appears to have been electrocution judging by the scuff marks on the surrounding floor which indicate massive convulsions. But there is a problem."

"And what's that?" Li asked.

"I don't know how he was electrocuted," Qing Ru replied. "There aren't any electrical burns."

"Nor are there any loose wires that he could have touched," Li remarked. "Is there any other possible cause of death?"

"There are two small punctures in his chest. They're not very deep but he may have been poisoned, but it would be impossible to tell for sure until I could dissect him and take tissue samples."

"This death is indeed very odd." Li then turned to the officer and asked, "How did you come across this 'murder'?"

"Mr. Wu called it in sir. He said he was in the vicinity and noticed the light on in the empty house. When he moved closer he noticed two men facing one another inside. He then saw the second man fall to the ground as if dead."

"I see," Li replied as he stepped away from the private security officer. He then began to examine the rest of the room. He noticed beneath him, not too far away from the feet of the corpse, some light scuffing of the hardwood floor, in addition to rubber marks as if the soles of shoes had been rubbed off on it. He also noticed some fresh blood near the marks. There was also another set of scuff marks leading from where he stood all the way to far wall. Li continued to survey the room. Far from the corpse on the floor lay a dagger that appeared to have gashed the wall and bounced back off it, as if it had been thrown. Li walked over and knelt to inspect the dagger and took note of the blood on it. "Well, it appears that this is the source of our blood."

He stood back up and looked at the security officer. "What do you think?" he asked.

"Well," the officer began. "it would appear that there were two men talking with one another in a house that was unused so as to have some privacy. They then had a disagreement. Judging by the scuff marks and the blood there was a struggle, and then one shot the other with a poison dart that caused him to have a heart attack."

"And this is why I'm the investigator on call and you're just a trainee," Li returned. "If it was just a struggle between the two men mentioned, then it was quite the struggle. The first set of scuff marks by where I was standing earlier are consistent with your theory but then there's the second set leading to the far wall as if someone had been thrown aside and hit the ground with the heels of their shoes scraping the polished wood along the way. Surely if there had only been two men, one could have overpowered the other in this instant. If it had been the previous owner of our lovely corpse then he would be lying over by the far wall. If he had been moved then there would scuff marks to show this, assuming there were only two men of course. If it was the other man, then we'd be looking at a very different corpse indeed still collapsed over by the far wall. If we are to assume that the knife came from the present corpse as it was clear he was not cut nor killed by the dagger, then we'd probably find a pool of blood over by the far wall instead of a few drops. So it would appear that no matter how you look at it, there had to have been more than two people involved whether it be in the murder itself, or in the final framing. Although, it would make much more sense to simply clean up the crime scene rather than to create a false one. So it would appear that the most likely scenario is that there were more than two people involved in the original killing."

"Li," Qing Ru called out.

"Yes?" Li turned to his friend.

Qing Ru held up a small black book. Li grabbed it and opened it up. In the very front there was a scrap of paper. The first part of the message inscribed on it was easily legible and read, "Call me at this number when you've solved it." Below the initial message was a line of the code that had appeared in all the other black books Li had founds.

"It would also appear that this man is an ex-convict," Qing Ru said.

"How so?" Li asked.

"He's been tattooed with a Northern Water Tribe prison mark. They're used to indicate crime, sentence, and prisoner number."

"Well that explains his scars and healed injuries, but it's still odd."

"Why?" Qing Ru asked.

"Why would they recruit an ex-convict?"

"Why would who recruit an ex-convict?" the security officer asked.

"You shouldn't concern yourself with that right now," Li replied.

"If I'm to be learning from you then you should probably tell me what's going on in that head of yours."

"That would be true, if this were your run of the mill murder, but it isn't and I suspect there is a conspiracy involved that connects this crime to many of my previous investigations. A conspiracy that would be beyond your comprehension unless I took the time to summarize all my previous cases. Time that I don't think we have." Li then turned back to Qing Ru, "You can go back home now I suppose, just have that final autopsy done by tomorrow afternoon."

"Tomorrow afternoon it is," Qing Ru replied as he stood up made his way to the door. He then looked at the security officer, "Could you please have him taken down to my office and put on ice?"

"Sure thing sir," the officer replied.

Having acknowledged the reply, Qing Ru finally left as the officer called in some of the guards to help him take the body away.

Meanwhile, Li walked over to the front door and inspected the lock. "It's a Suǒ jī lock," he muttered to himself. He then noted the model number and wrote it down. Li then took a walk around the perimeter of the house as the local security officers locked up. All the locks on the doors and windows were of the same brand and model.

The cab dropped Li off in front of Suǒ jī's shop shortly after eleven the next morning. As Li strode in a machine somewhere in the shop set off a bell tone evidently to alert the owner if he had a customer. The diminutive man came shuffling out of the back of his shop and looked up at Li.

"Ah, detective!" he began, "What can I do for you today?"

"Just Li, thank you, detective seems a bit pretentious," Li replied.

"Very well, suit yourself."

"I was hoping you might tell me about some locks you sold to Mr. Wu and his business partner Kagaku for their housing development."

"Certainly," Suǒ jī replied.

"Here's the model number," Li handed the piece of paper he had used over.

"Oh that won't be necessary, I've only needed to mass produce something once thus far, though hopefully that will change, I hope to expand my business before I die."

"I see," Li replied.

"So the locks I sold them are very interesting locks. They can't be metalbent like most of my other designs, but they also have a special feature that allows the lock to be reset. They use a combination of key and combination lock system. The key and slot are unique to the lock or locks in question and they can't be easily changed. Mr. Wu's security officer keep the keys which they hand out to the people who've bought the house. The combination, however, starts off at a standard default for all the locks but once someone's moved in, they can change the combinations as many times as they like."

"So if the house is unowned, all you'd require is a key?" Li asked.

"Correct," Suǒ jī replied. He then changed the subject, "Is this for an investigation?"

"Yes, there's been a killing up at their development."


"That remains to be seen," Li replied. "Thank you for your time."

"Anytime Li, anytime."

Li turned and walked out the door and hailed a cab to take him to Qing Ru's medical practice. He sat in the cab for about an hour mulling over what he had learned so far and trying to create multiple scenarios to match what he knew about the killing. He eventually decided it was futile to continue this exercise and found something else to pass the time while he was stuck in traffic.

Li was relieved when the cab finally stopped and the driver demanded payment. Li got out, paid the driver and walked into Qing Ru's office. As he walked in, the secretary at the front desk asked him, "How may we help you today sir? Our doctor's a little busy right now, but he should be able to get to you soon."

"That's fine," Li replied. "I already have business with him, he's expecting me right now. Is he in the lab?"

"Yes sir, I'll let him know you're here."

In short order Li was allowed into the back of the office where he proceeded to the lab and met Qing Ru.

"So what do you have for me today?" Li asked.

"Well, our corpse was in his mid-thirties, looks a bit older from the outside though, I chalk that up to a hard life. On the inside, however, aside from his injuries which have long since healed, he was healthy as a sky-bison," Qing Ru replied.

"So he must have been poisoned," Li said.

"Well you see that's the problem," came another voice which belonged to a person Li had neither seen nor noticed before he had spoken. "There's no traces of poison in his system so unless this is some new kind of chemical, it's doubtful that was the cause of the heart attack."

Li, was taken aback by the new man's statement and confused that he hadn't noticed him previously. "I'm sorry, but who are you?" Li asked.

It was Qing Ru who answered, "Li, this is my assistant and medical professional in training, Yi Lao."

"And what makes him think he can just barge in on a private conversation involving sensitive information?" Li asked.

"I didn't barge in, I've been standing here the whole time, I even helped with the analysis. Besides, the information isn't that sensitive, it's just another murder, they're a Yuan a dozen in Republic City," Yi retorted.

"Not like this, and we still don't know that it's a murder," Li replied. He then turned back to Qing Ru and asked, "So what about the electrocution theory and the puncture marks."

"I suppose it is possible that a high enough current could have been delivered through prongs that were embedded in his chest as some kind of projectile but at this point it's all speculation," Qing Ru replied.

"You said he was a convict, from the Northern Water Tribe?"

"Yes, so it would seem if you look at the tattoo on his arm."

"Doesn't the United Republic have rules regarding the immigration of ex-convicts?" Li asked.

"Just that they require their records I think, they add other restrictions later depending on what shows up in the records."

Li thought for a moment and then took a look at the corpse's prison I'd and made note of it. "Do you mind if I use your phone for a moment, I need to make a quick call."

"Certainly," Qing Ru replied.

"Thank you." Li hurried out the lab door and to the secretary's desk and asked her to call up the security office at the Pink Lotus Housing Development.

"Here you are sir," she said as she handed Li the phone once the number had been dialed.

Li grabbed it and waited for someone on the other end to pick up.

"Pink Lotus Security Office, how may we help you?" a voice came over the earpiece.

"Yes, I'm Li," Li began, "Your investigator on call, could you please put the security chief on the line?"

"One moment sir."

A few moments later Li heard the security chief's voice come over the earpiece, "Yes sir, how may I help you?"

"I need you to check something for me, I want you to check the remaining house keys for the unsold houses in the development, tell me if any are missing. I'm specifically interested in the one for 226 Zìyóu Street."

"I'll get on it right away sir, just hold a moment."

Li waited a few minutes while the security chief went and looked for what Li wanted. When he came back he said, "All the keys are accounted for sir, is there anything else?"

"No, thank you. That will be all." At that, Li hung up the earpiece on the receiver and handed it back to the secretary. He then pivoted on his left heel and strode out of the building.

Li entered the police station and strode toward the front desk. "Excuse me," he said to the officer seated behind the desk. "I need access to the Republic City records on all ex-convicts who immigrated from other nations."

"I'm sorry sir, that's classified information for police use only, you'd need special authorization to get it."

"Whose authorization?" Li asked.

"Either the police chief or Officer Shu, the president's deputy chief."

"Oh, well why didn't you say so, Officer Shu's a friend of mine, I'm sure he'd be glad to give me authorization," Li lied.

"I'm afraid that unless you show me some proof of authorization that I can't let you see those records."

"Look, why don't you just go get Officer Shu and he can give me authorization right here," Li suggested.

"Very well," the officer picked up the phone and dialed Shu's office.

Li, quickly and surreptitiously cut the phone line on his sword blade so as to force the officer to go personally get Shu.

"That's odd," the officer commented after holding the earpiece up for a few minutes.

"What's odd," Li asked innocently.

"The line seems to be dead," the officer said putting the phone back down. "I'll have to go get him personally I suppose, you wait here while I'm gone."

"Certainly," Li replied. He then waited for the officer to disappear into the back room before slipping in himself. Li silently made his way through the corridors of the building keeping a low profile until he found the locker room. He then began picking the locks on various lockers until he found a uniform that fit him. He then substituted that for his clothes and resumed his sneaking about the police station.

His next target was the garage. When he finally found it, he found, much to his pleasure, that it was empty. He strode to the nearest police car and opened the hood. "Excellent," he remarked to himself. "It's the new electrically distributed model." Li reached inside the vehicle and removed the distributor cap and then closed the hood. He proceeded to do the same on all the other vehicles in the garage. When he was finished, he went back to the locker room and hid the distributor caps away in an empty locker.

Li then began to search through the building for the records office. When he finally found it he said to the archivist, "Officer Shu wants the records on this criminal," Li pulled out the scrap of paper on which the prisoner's number was written and showed it to the archivist.

"What for?" the archivist asked?

"He was involved in a murder last night and we're trying to clear things up."

"Alright," the archivist replied. "Say, I don't think I've seen you around here before."

"No, I'm new here just got on."

"But you look awfully familiar, like I've seen you before."

"I doubt it, but I seem to get that a lot, I don't know why," Li lied.

"Oh well, it's probably nothing." The archivist then went back into the archives and returned with the records Li had been looking for.

"Thank you," Li said as he took the records.

"No problem."

Li then proceeded to Officer Shu's office since he knew that he would be gone thanks to the person he'd spoken with earlier at the front desk. When Li arrived, he opened the records and proceeded to memorize every detail of the records before closing the folder and leaving it on top of Officer Shu's desk. Li then quickly walked back to the locker room and changed his clothes again. On his way out of the locker room, he saw off to his left down the corridor, a very angry Officer Shu who had just been dragged out of his office for seemingly nothing. Officer Shu also saw Li.

"What are you doing back here? You're not authorized, I'm putting you under arrest immediately," Officer Shu shouted.

Li at this point started running down the hall to the garage. Officer Shu chased after him calling for backup all the while.

Once in the garage, Li opened one of the doors to the exterior and promptly ran out to the street and hailed a cab. Once he got in he looked back and saw Shu still chasing after him with a few other officers trailing behind. Li leaned forward and said to the driver, "105 Main Street, I'll pay you double to step on it."

The cab lurched forward as it accelerated with a magnitude that was unexpected for a simple cab. Too fast even for Officer Shu and his officers. Li looked back and noticed them rushing to get back to the garage to get the police vehicles to chase after the cab. Li smirked and said to himself, "I don't think you'll be going far without a distributor cap." He turned back around and looked out the front window of the cab, quite pleased with himself. He was also pleased to note that there was very little traffic which allowed his cab to get to Qing Ru's medical practice in a timely fashion. When the cab stopped, Li was happy to see the sign of 105 Main Street. It bore the trademark of Qing Ru's medical practice which, although technically part of a much larger company had a name that didn't really indicate that it was just a subsidiary. He had called it "Future Care". Not very creative but Li couldn't help but think that it was a harbinger of the demise of certain old ways in favor of new ones. Li got out of the cab and paid the driver the promised amount. He then walked into the building where he was once again greeted by the secretary.

"Hello again sir, how may I help you?"

"Just tell Qing Ru that I'm waiting for him and wish to speak with him after he closes," Li replied before finding a seat in the waiting room and waiting. As he waited, he reviewed the information he had memorized from the criminal records he had taken. He decided that the best information he had gleaned from the records, at least at the moment, was knowledge about relations in Republic City. Their corpse had a brother by the name of Menatock who lived in one of the poorer quarters of the city. The brother had also apparently been involved in criminal activity in the Northern Water Tribe before moving to Republic City. After reviewing this, Li simply sat quietly waiting for Qing Ru to close up for the day.

When Qing Ru finally got out of the back rooms he used for treating patients and research, he dismissed his secretary and then turned to face Li. "So what do you have?" he asked.

"I have a lead, he had a brother, he lives in an apartment in the slums and I think he can tell us more about our 'victim'. I think he'll be able to give us information about who might want to kill our corpse and why as apparently they've both been involved in criminal activity here in Republic City."

"So is that where we're going?" Qing Ru asked. "The slums?"

"Yes, and I think we'll probably run into some rather unsavory characters so I recommend bringing some of your unconventional weapons," Li replied as he headed out the door to hail a cab.

Qing Ru quickly rushed out the door along with a jar of some unknown compound that Li guessed was probably lye. Qing Ru turned around and locked the door to his office and followed Li into the cab he had just hailed.

They spent the journey in silence and when they finally arrived at their destination, Li paid the cab driver. Li and Qing Ru walked up to the apartment complex's decrepit door which seemed to be just barely hanging on to its existence. Li took little care with the door, assuming, probably quite correctly, that the person who had attached it didn't much care for it anymore, or for the rest of the apartment complex for that matter. After entering the building, Qing Ru followed Li up several flights of stairs until they came to an equally decrepit door. Li took more care with this one, at least initially, and knocked lightly on the door, but still loud enough to be heard inside.

"Menatock!" he called. "We'd like to speak with you."

"Go away!" came a voice from inside.

"Sir," Qing Ru called through the door, "we just have a few questions for you."

Silence followed for a few moments after which Li eventually decided to break down the door. He evidently overestimated how well the old thing would hold up since he collapsed on the floor along with the door after only a single thrust. Li scrambled to his feet as Qing Ru stepped over him to catch a clearly terrified Menatock who was attempting to flee his messy and dank dwelling through a window that hadn't been boarded up.

Qing Ru grabbed his leg and Li arrived shortly thereafter to assist in dragging the escaping man back inside the building. As he came back in, Li and Qing Ru could hear him screaming at them, "No, no, leave me alone, I never talked, I never did anything to him!"

"Never did anything to whom?" Li asked.

"My brother, I didn't tell anyone, I swear, Master's secrets are still safe with me, he doesn't have to kill me, please, just leave me alone."

"Are the Master's secrets still safe with you, tell the truth, I'm surprised he let you live at all," Li replied, deciding to pretend he was one of the Master's agents in an attempt to get the man to keep talking.

"I only left because I got tired of it all, I would never turn informant!"

"Very well, I believe you, but, my friend here doesn't, so tell us, if you didn't cause his death, who did?" Li continued. Qing Ru meanwhile quickly tried to conceal his confused look behind a stern one as he realized what Li was attempting to do.

"Blackbookers, who else?" Menatock replied incredulously.

"Right," Li replied, "they also happened to know where he'd be that night then I suppose, without anyone on the inside telling them."

"Look, I've never said anything since I left, you and the Master know that the whole idea was to let me leave all that behind."

"And the only way that happens is you keep quiet," Qing Ru interjected.

Pleased that Qing Ru was playing along, Li continued, "And it doesn't look like you've been doing that, after all, your brother's dead now isn't he."

"You can't blame me for that! You don't have proof."

"Then tell us why and how the Blackbookers found and killed him, and we'll let you off," Qing Ru returned.

Menatock appeared reluctant to reveal just how much he really knew about his brother's activities and orders but in the face of death, he relented. "They must have been prepared for him, he went to that house to –"

Before Menatock could finish, he was struck in the back of the neck by a small projectile and he collapsed to the floor foaming at the mouth. Qing Ru immediately dropped to help him. Li ducked as another dart came flying through the open window. Still crouching, he quickly rushed up to the window to take a peek out. He saw a figure clad in dark clothing carrying a compressed air dart blower running to a getaway vehicle, apparently believing he had taken out both his targets. "He must have seen us in the window," Li said to himself.

"He's dead Li, some kind of neurotoxin I think, his entire nervous system just shut down," Qing Ru said looking up from the now dead but still frothy mouthed Menatock.

"It would appear that our 'victim' isn't as innocent as he seems," Li remarked.

"I'll say, Menatock must have fallen in with that Master person."

Li was a bit confused for a moment before he realized the source of the confusion. "Oh, yes, him too, but I meant his brother."

"Perhaps we should report this," Qing Ru commented.

"To whom?" Li asked.

"The police of course, now I'm no fan of the local police force but we've got to make sure they can't pin this on us."

"Fair enough," Li replied. "Let's see if there's a phone here."

They searched the apartment room and found no phones so they went down stairs to ask the front desk. When they arrived, they found, not at all surprisingly, that the front desk was unattended, but there was indeed a phone there. Li picked it up and phoned the police. The officer on the other end instructed them to wait at the crime scene until the police arrived.

When Li put down the phone he said to Qing Ru, "We've got to wait upstairs."

They both walked slowly up the stairs and back to the late Menatock's apartment and waited for the police to arrive. During this time, Li decided he should make himself productive and pulled out the scrap of paper with code he had picked up from the earlier crime scene and began to puzzle over it. He also had a copy of the black book and was using it to assist him. After what seemed like an eternity to Qing Ru, Li exclaimed, "Aha!"

"What?" Qing Ru asked.

"I've broken the code," Li replied. "It appears that the book is written in a completely different way from most normal writing. You see, we use characters to indicate ideas so that it comes out to one character per idea and these characters can be combined to form different ideas. But each of these characters has an associated series of sounds, that's how we form the words verbally. This code is completely different, there is one character for each sound and the characters are arranged left to right to phonetically spell out its equivalent character."

"So you've cracked it, you know what the note means?" Qing Ru asked.

"Not yet," Li replied. "I've just identified the principle of the code, I still need to figure out which characters are associated with which sounds."

"Oh," Qing Ru said, somewhat disappointed.

Li of course had lied. He knew exactly what the note said, and he intended to reply to its author as soon as the police issue was out of the way, by himself.

Li turned the knob on the front door of 226 Zìyóu Street and discovered it was unlocked which was unsurprising considering he had arranged the meeting and had already seen the light on inside. Li walked into the still bare and mildly damaged main room of the address and turned to face the man who stood, back to Li, staring out the main window.

Li spoke first, "You're a murderer."

"Come now, if you were truthful when you called me, then we both know that's not true," the man replied as he turned to face Li.

"Indeed," Li acknowledged. "'Call me when you've solved it'," Li quoted the note.

"Well then, explain it to me, how did it happen and why, and who did it?"

"Very well," Li began.

"Mr. Wu arranged to meet with you here, I do not know why but it's not really relevant. All the locks are basically unpickable so whoever opened the house must have had keys, but none of the keys were missing from Mr. Wu's storage. So, either someone very cleverly infiltrated his storage rooms took the keys opened the house and then returned them or else someone who had access to the keys opened the house. The latter is far more likely so it must have been a friend of Mr. Wu's. But there was more, Mr. Wu must have been here as well because he lied about how he noticed the crime. He said he was taking a walk which was his first mistake. Mr. Wu is almost always either working at that time of night or else he is sleeping and he rarely takes leisure strolls. His second mistake was describing the murder so accurately, if you look in from outside, it is difficult if not impossible to see the point where the 'victim' stood unless you are close enough for the people inside to also see you, thus Mr. Wu lied about his position, he was not on the street walking and if he had indeed been near enough to the window to see the crime, he would have fallen victim to murder himself. Hence, he could not have described the death at all, let alone accurately unless he was lying. So why was he lying? Perhaps he was much closer to the crime when he witnessed it. In other words, within the building.

"But there were three people in the building that night. The dead man and two others. When the dead man entered, he caught the other two by surprise. A struggle ensued in which one of the original two to enter was thrown against the wall as evidenced by the scuff marks leading to the far wall. The other of the two, was cut by the blade found at the crime scene, as cut that drew blood but was not fatal as can be seen by the blood stains on the floor. That person was presumably you as I can see your bandaged wrist. Mr. Wu then, must have been the other.

"Mr. Wu then struggled to his feet to assist you and together you threw back the other man, his knife flew across the room and then clattered against the wall where I found it later. As he attempted to continue the struggle, one of you shot him with some kind of projectile that somehow caused a heart attack," Li finished.

"Quite an accurate account of what happened, that projectile was an electricity based weapon. By varying the current through two prongs connected by wires to the launcher you can stun or kill someone. But I still am curious, what of our attacker?"

"He was an ex-convict from the Northern Water Tribe and an employee of the Master. He was presumably sent here to kill you judging by the nature of his employment and the knife."

"I see," replied the man.

"So it wasn't murder, it was self -defense. But considering your leanings, you may very well be a threat to society and peace, so perhaps I should amend my tale somewhat in court."

"Is that really wise Li?" the man asked. "Tell me, who's the real threat to society and peace? People like me who simply want to live our lives in freedom or people like the Master and Officer Shu., the power mongers who seek to control humanity by force and deception. Where is the real threat to peace? Is it with people like me who silently organize and build, or is it with those who beat the innocent and the indigent on the streets for being quote 'degenerates'. Am I a threat to peace or are those who back their demands with the threat of violence the threats to peace? I will admit that people like me attract the attention of some unsavory characters and unveil the violent nature of those who seek to rule, but we are not ourselves violent.

"We are not your enemies Li, but rather, your allies fighting the same enemy," the man finished as he turned to leave the building.

"Then who's our enemy, the Master?" Li asked.

The man did not reply as he exited the door but simply said, "I don't think you'll be taking me to court Li."

Li stood by himself for several more minutes puzzling over the man's cryptic speech and not liking what the meaning entailed. He considered finding a way to bring this man to court again before quickly dismissing the thought. "No," he said to himself. "I'll wait and learn more about this Master first, and these anarchists."

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