Gunmetal Black 4
Chapter 11 - Thrown To The Wolves
By
Lewis Smith

www.gunmetalblack.com

Mao had heard the noise outside in his garden and immediately called for Chang. The garden was supposed to be secure, cleared only for himself, unless he was entertaining, which he wasn't.

He tapped the communications device on his desk again. "Chang," he said, firmer this time. He'd never had to call him twice. "Chang, this is Mao. What's happening in the garden?"

There was a rustling at the door. Mao stared at it, as if by concentrating he could see through the sliding panel to what was beyond.

A red-gloved hand slid the door aside. It was Wong, flanked by two other people. The taller man behind him he didn't recognize, and in truth Wong himself looked far different than he had earlier.

The hair stood up on the back of Mao's neck. His dark eyes narrowed on his younger apprentice. "What are you doing here, Wong? Where is Chang?"

"He's busy," Wong said, arrogantly striding into the room. Instead of the conservative suit he had worn earlier he wore a tight black bodysuit, over which he wore red and blue robes. Robes that were usually only intended for ceremonial occasions, and even then, not for anyone of his station. "Besides which, I didn’t want anything or anyone to disturb our meeting."

Mao looked at him contemptuously. "I have nothing to say to an usurper."

Wong smiled. "Oh, the robes, you mean?" He said, running his gloved hands up and down the fine silk of the lapels. "Oh, this is just for afterwards, Mao."

"After what?"

"After I've said my piece to you, Father," a hard, cold, but familiar voice said. The young girl behind Wong and his taciturn compatriot stepped forward. She was dressed in a black and green bodysuit, and though the markings were slightly different than the ones he'd seen before, he knew the style.

"You've aligned yourselves with our enemies, then?" Mao said, gesturing to the girl. His eyes flitted over her, picking her apart, trying not to place the face, but to convince himself that his eyes were lying.

"So I'm still your enemy, then?" Korin asked. Wong watched her with silent bemusement. The wild psychosis that had seemed soaked into her very cells had bled away for a moment and all of a sudden she was a daughter currying her father's favor again. It was almost surreal.

"You plotted against me, Korin," Mao said. "You were punished for it, but I allowed you your life."

"My life," Korin sneered. "How gracious of you. Just allow me to live, but take away everything that was mine, everything that I had coming to me by birthright. Let me live so long as I could be humbled and humiliated, is that the extent of your "gift," Father?"

"The laws of the Syndicate say any member of the ruling family cannot be slain by one who belongs to the Syndicate," Mao said. "I realize you might have suffered--"

"SHUT UP!" Korin said. Wong cocked an eyebrow and smiled a little broader. There, he thought. This is the Korin I've come to know.

"You should have killed me, Father," she said. "Because now I've come back. I clawed my way up and now I'm going to take back what you stole. And then, when you see what you've built burning around you, I am going to kill you."



The alarms blared behind Angela as she ran from the large hatchway that led to the service tunnels. She hadn't gotten a good look at what was behind her at all, but the little she'd seen--red eyes, claws that could apparently rend titanium steel like so much tissue paper--had convinced her that she didn’t want to see more.

Quickly and cautiously she made her way through the streets of the alien sector. She gave a silent prayer of thanks that this sector of the colony had been built to alien tastes, as their rather non-standard approach to architecture gave her plenty of options when hiding from security sweeps and, hopefully whatever it was that was chasing her.

She squeezed into an irregularly shaped alcove to rest her aching muscles. Above her, a patrol craft went screaming by, lights and sirens blaring. She took a deep breath, trying to saturate her lungs with air. The apartment was about ten blocks away and she'd need all the energy and stamina within her lungs to make it in a dead run.

What ever made me think I thought this stuff would be "fun?"

She broke into a run, sprinting towards cover whenever possible. I must be insane, she thought. Should have just stuck to what I was good at. Sneaking in and out. Never have to run this hard, never have to pick the locks on thirty-five heavy service hatches, and if you mess up and get chased . . .well, the people chasing you don’t usually have claws.

She flicked the hair from her eyes, still running. Above her, the thing that had been chasing her leapt from rooftop to rooftop, shadowing her as she came ever closer to the others.



Bullets would do no good against a Ryugan.

Kienan drove his knee into the side of Ghidorus' throat, holding tight to his horns. Kienan had fought his kind before in the bloodmatches, without the benefit of any weapons at all. Ryugans were so much stronger and tougher than humans, there was really only one option if you even wanted to survive a contest with one: Find the spots where their armor-like hide was softest and try to weaken them there.

Easier said than done, Kienan thought, holding on to Ghidorus' horns for dear life as the massive alien tried to throw him off his head. Kienan let go of one of his horns and drove his elbow into the spot where he'd cut Ghidorus earlier, bashing it over and over again, trying to open the cut a little more.

There was a feeling of bursting under his elbow as the cut split open a bit more, a spurt of blood sprayed out and Ghidorus roared, charging like a rhino.

Kienan spared himself a glance behind him and saw he was trying to crush him against a tree. He let go at the last instant, rolling clear as Ghidorus plowed headfirst into the tree. There was a massive crack at the point of impact.

Ghidorus shook his head, leaning back on his heels as he tried to wipe the now pouring blood from his eyes. "Very . . .good," he said quietly. "For a human, of course. I see you remember your match against my pupil very well."

He turned towards Kienan, lying prone in the fine sand of the stone garden.

"It's a sound enough strategy, I suppose--wear us down as the drop of water would the stone," he sneered. "But you will not wear me down Ademetria. My student was a great rock, yes. But I am the mountain itself. What can you possibly do?"

Ghidorus took another step, and as his foot came to rest in the sand, Kienan rolled onto his back and hurled his knife at close range into Ghidorus bleeding eye. It was a risk to hand him a weapon like that, Kienan knew, but if he'd managed to hit him hard enough, the blade would go into Ghidorus' brain, killing him instantly.

Ghidorus' head snapped back with the impact. He took two steps backwards, then leaned forward, the blade hanging out of his left eye socket.

Kienan rolled quickly to his feet, a look of grim determination etched on his face. Ghidous was making a sound, slightly unfamiliar, but he could guess the sentiment behind it.

He was laughing. Ghidorus chuckled as he yanked the Midare-Giri from his eye and turned it over in his hand, tilting his head slightly so that his good eye could regard it.

"Oh yes," he laughed. "Your trophy, "champion." The Midare-Giri, Mistress of Pain. You poor misguided human. You have no idea what this truly is, do you?"

"I don’t care," Kienan said, rocking gently on the balls of his feet.

"We Ryugans used these to tear the hearts loose from our kills in the bloodmatches," Ghidorus said. "It's designed simply to dig through our hides, cut our hearts loose and make it easy to eat them. You imbecilic human. You risked your life to win a piece of our flatware."

He glared at Kienan, most of his face a black, bloody mess and grinned, the blood running in rivulets into his teeth.

"Tell me . . .are you proud of yourself?"

That was it. Kienan flicked his foot, kicking sand up into Ghidorus' face, specifically his wounds. He coiled tightly, then sprang forward, throwing a roundhouse kick that knocked the Midare-Giri loose. He came to rest and threw two more into Ghidorus' blind spot, driving his heel into the wet, matted sand.

Ghidorus grabbed his leg and hurled him backwards into one of the trees. Kienan reached out, grabbing a low branch and using the momentum to slow himself. Ghidorus charged after him, leaping and turning in the air.

Kienan swung backwards, dodging the first kick of his clawed foot, but the follow-up strike of his tail caused him to lose his grip on the branch and crash back into the dirt.

Ghidorus was on him in an instant. Kienan rolled to the side, missing a powerful stomp of the Ryugan's foot, then he rolled back the other way and missed the other. He rolled backwards, narrowly missing the snap of his jaws and kicked Ghidorus hard with both feet, the popping sound within confirming the bones and cartilage he'd crushed.

Ghidorus tumbled back, roaring with rage and pain. One of his teeth flopped out of his mouth into the sand. Kienan flipped back up to his feet and reached into one of the pouches in his belt. He pulled a small cylinder out, flipping a switch on the top of it. There was a loud cracking sound from within as Kienan quickly flicked his thumb back and forth over the cylinder.

He pressed the top and a thin stream of yellow-green liquid sprayed out onto Ghidorus' body. There was a hissing sound, coupled with an acrid smell of burning callused flesh.

Ghidorus reared back, panicking, tearing small cuts in his own skin as he tried to get the acid off of his body. His orange eye was fixed on Kienan, the rage blasting away the almost controlled contempt he'd felt for him.

"You . . .cheated," Ghidorus said.

Kienan glared at him. "What in the hell makes you think this is a game?"



The sleek red form of the Ruby Vroom shot across the sky like a bolt of crimson. Conscience had been as good as her word. As soon as she had engaged the override, Mirage was able to take the shuttle through the gate into the colony itself.

Most hackers who try to create overrides can't penetrate colony navigation systems deep enough, Mirage thought, scanning over the readouts as she increased the speed of the Vroom. Then again, most hackers don’t have the time or patience she does.

If that were all she had to worry about, Mirage could have easily relaxed then and there. However, in addition to the problems waiting for her when she rendezvoused with Vain and the others, there was one more issue. One that Conscience couldn't do a thing about.

The three patrol craft chasing her. They hadn’t engaged her just yet, they were waiting for her to clear the more critical areas before they opened fire.

Not willing to risk their precious colony being damaged, Mirage thought. Maybe I can use that to my advantage.

"Intruder craft," the message came over the speaker. "This is Patrol Ship ZTTL-23. Your are in violation of colony lockdown directive and violating colonial airspace. Stop or we will be forced to open fire.

Mirage sighed and hit a few switches on one of the consoles.

On the rear section of the Vroom, two panels raised. Mirage targeted one of the patrol ships and the two cannons under the panels did the rest. Twin bolts of orange energy streamed towards the patrol ship, blasting one of its propulsion units clean off the fuselage.

The other two closed on her and fired at her, but she was ready. Mirage engaged the Vroom's pinpoint shielding, the instantaneous strengthening of the shields absorbing the heavy energy bolts before they could do any damage. Mirage fired another salvo from the Vroom's rear guns and banked her ship into a high climb, heading for the alien sector.



"So," Mao said, staring at both Wong and Korin. "Your ambition and her thirst for vengeance have brought you to me. It's appalling how negativity draws more of its kind to itself. You surely don’t expect to be able to murder me in cold blood and take power without a fight?"

"Oh, that's already taken care of," Wong said. "We've got a dupe already set up for the purpose. You see Mao, you were murdered by your chief assassin, who was then killed by my forces in retaliation for your murder. The ruling council will praise me for my quick action in quashing the renegade before he could get away, and grant me the entire Frontier to control."

Mao turned to his daughter, who glared silently back with mad staring eyes. "And you, daughter? What do you get after you've taken your revenge?"

Wong walked over to his partner and put an arm over her shoulder. "She gets the privilege of marrying quality."

Korin shook his arm off her shoulder and glared at him with rage. Wong overplayed a look of wounded affection and turned back to Mao. "The Blue Dragons and the Jade Tigers unite in an alliance, and I come ever closer to my ultimate goal."

"You want to rule the entire Syndicate?"

Wong nodded. "You can’t imagine how tired I am of taking orders from people like you. Marco nearly gave away my entire plan there. He'd recorded a meeting between Korin and myself that laid the groundwork for this little scheme, but Kienan took care of that and the evidence was destroyed, so you were kept in the dark. Right where I wanted you."

Mao looked at the silent figure between them. "What of you?" Mao demanded. "What is your role in this scheme?"

"I was hired to eliminate your chief assassin," Karasu said quietly. "The politics of your Syndicate are meaningless to me, as is Wong's plan. Only my mission matters."

Mao absorbed this and felt a quiet sense of relief. If he'd managed to kill Kienan, he would have no reason to stay, so he must still be alive, he thought.

But he can be of no aid to me at the moment.

"So your plan was to keep Kienan busy so that he couldn’t ferret out your plan," Mao's fingers rummaged over the clutter on his desk with quiet precision. "In fact, your entire plan involved keeping everyone from Kienan, to the colony command off-balance so you could strike when no one was looking. A stab in the back."

"It's the safest way, isn’t it?" Wong responded.

Mao turned to Korin, his fingers curling corner of a piece of paper on his. "And you, daughter, are just a pawn in all this. He used your irrational anger as just another bargaining chip to get close to me."

"You could say we used each other, Father," Korin said, sparing Wong a quick hateful glance. "We're going to share power after you’re gone."

"You'll find that a thornier problem than you imagined," Mao said. "For one thing, women have no standing in our Syndicate. So Wong will have to be your interlocutor."

"And he . . .is dead!" Mao cried, throwing the letter opener he'd quietly palmed from his desktop straight for Wong's throat. The letter opener was sharpened steel, and Mao had the strength necessary for a killing strike.

But he hadn't reckoned on Wong's shieldsuit. The letter opener stopped just short and bounced into Wong's gloved hand. He looked at it and smiled.

"You must be joking," Wong said. "As if I wouldn’t have planned ahead for something like this. Here, let me show you how it's done."

Wong flicked the letter opener back at Mao, throwing it with much more force than Mao had thrown it at him. The point of the instrument stabbed through his skull, throwing Mao's spasming body backwards into his chair. He stared lifelessly at Wong and Korin.

"DAMN YOU! He was MINE to kill!" Korin cried, raising her weapon at Wong.

"I've had all of that I'm going to take from you, I think," Wong said, grabbing the barrel of the pistol and knocking her backwards from it with a hard backhanded strike. Korin let go of the pistol and fell backwards onto the floor, her eyes feral with rage.

Wong cradled the disintegrator gun in his hands, staring at her. "We need a corpse for the Syndicates to believe us when we say Mao's been murdered, remember?"

Korin rubbed the side her of her face, her eyes shining with tears of rage.

"Now, to settle the Kienan question," Wong said, turning to Karasu. "Where is he?"

"Outside," Karasu said indifferently.

"WHAT?" Wong said.

"Fighting one of my men," Karasu said, ignoring his employer's exasperation.

"Call the rest of them here at once Karasu," Wong said. "Overwhelm him. He must be killed."

"He will be," Karasu said. "But in our own time and in our own way."

Wong raised the disintegrator gun, pointing it right between the eyes of Karasu's mask. "Now, Karasu. I won’t have you jeopardizing my plans now that they're so close to fruition."

Karasu stared Wong down. "You employ me, Wong. You do not command me."

"As I'm the one holding the gun, I beg to differ," Wong sneered.

"Do you, now?" Karasu said, rippling, shimmering and disappearing from view. Wong looked surprised but didn’t lower the weapon. His eyes narrowed, looking for some sort of telltale sign that Karasu was in the room, that it was an illusion.

"He's gone, Wong," Korin said, irritated beyond all reason. "As usual your way with people has complicated things even more than they were before."

"Shut up, Korin," Wong said. "Keep your mind on the business at hand. Mao's been murdered. Let's spread the word."



Jayla-2 proffered the cup of water to Angela, who took it and gulped it down eagerly, trying to get her breath.

"We made it . . .made it through," Angela said, shuddering with exhaustion. "Mirage is on the way with the Vroom."

Jayla-2 looked at Vain then back to Angela. "I'm just glad you’re all right, Angela," she said, touching her friend's shoulder.

"Angela," Vain said quietly. Her eyes flitted around the room, as if trying to pick out something in the spare, still room. "You weren't followed, were you?"

Angela nodded. "Something in the tunnels," she said, still breathing heavily. "Didn't seem human, and it seemed in a hurry to catch up with me. Tore through most of the hatches in the tunnels."

"And once you were out?" Vain asked, drawing her weapon.

"I thought I'd lost it, whatever it was."

Vain looked at the doorway, her eyes narrowing on it.

She raised her weapon and fired three times.

"No," Vain said, calmly. "I don’t think you did."

The doorway seemed to shimmer, distort and shatter as the shots struck it. There was a ripple of motion, and Vain and Jayla-2 were knocked aside, as the distortion rippled into the shape of the woman known as Akumo, with pale skin and purple tattoos covering her body. She sized Angela by the hair with her left hand, her eyes balefully glaring at the two women getting up from the floor.

"Ademetria," Akumo demanded, her voice icy with rage. "WHERE?"

"No idea," Vain said.

"Don’t LIE to me!" Akumo said. Her mechanical right hand extruded a long thin spike from the "You will tell me where Ademetria is or I will pull it from this child's mind as she dies!"

Vain pointed her weapon at Akumo and took a step forward. "I don’t think you will," she said. "I can kill you before you try."

Akumo's full red lips thinned out into a cruel smile. "You and your freak friend have your own problems. Shishimaru, Ashura, NOW!"

The wall behind Vain and Jayla-2 exploded inward. Standing where the wall had been was a giant, covered head to toe in green metallic armor. It had three pairs of arms, each bristling with its own set of lethal weaponry.

Vain immediately began shooting at it, but it didn’t even bother to recoil from the impact of her shots. Its mighty clawed feet stomped forward towards the Marionette with the quiet certainty of something invincible and inevitable.

Behind it, a shape smaller than its companion leapt at Jayla-2 like a pouncing cat. She rolled to the floor and as the light caught it, Angela could see the full shape of the thing that had chased her through the tunnels.

I hadn’t escaped anything, she thought as Akumo snatched her even tighter by the hair.

Jayla-2 threw Shishimaru off her, misjudging her strength. The lithe robot was thrown clear into the kitchen, rolled with the impact and landed on the countertop, it's facemask opening and blasting a stream of fire across the room. Jayla-2 attempted to roll to the side, but one of Ashura's massive arms caught her in the chest, the force of the snakelike thing slamming her hard into the walls.

"ANGELA! JAYLA-2! DOWN!" Vain said, snapping a small square of metal from her belt. She pressed a button on it and tossed it towards Shishimaru.

The robot tried to get away, but he was close enough that the strong magnet on the bottom of the device slid onto Shishimaru's leg. The robot thrashed wildly for a few seconds, then exploded into a million pieces.

Angela barely missed being caught fully in it by kicking Akumo hard in the stomach. She dropped Angela and she ducked and covered, a stray piece of the robot grazing her cheek.

Akumo grabbed for her, trying to see through the thick smoke that now permeated the room. Vain leapt over another of Ashura's extending arms, trying to close the gap between herself and Angela before she got hurt.

Jayla-2 was stilled pinned to the wall, unable to use her great strength to bring any leverage against the pressure Ashura was exerting to keep her trapped.

Vain had nearly grabbed Angela when in the blink of an eye Akumo appeared from the shadows and smoke, seized Angela by the hair and jammed the spike on her right hand into the back of Angela's brain.

Vain watched as Angela's eyes opened wide, then went suddenly blank. A thin trickle of blood welled up from the corners of her mouth as he body went slack. Akumo's lips spread into a sick grin of triumph as the sensors in the spike "read" the memories in the chemicals in her brain.

I've found him, she thought.

She was about to open her mouth in triumph when Vain shoved her weapon in Akumo's face and pulled the trigger. Akumo's head was instantly vaporized by the burst of plasma energy and her headless body fell to the floor, right beside Angela.

Vain was about to check her over when Ashura's struck her from behind with one of his arms. Vain few forward, smashing into the floor face-first and dropping her weapon. The arm retracted and Ashura turned to the last of them standing.

Ashura launched the other arm at Jayla-2's face, intending to snap her neck and kill her with one final blow. Had the robot been capable of any kind of reasoning, Ashura might have noticed a change occurring in Jayla-2.

It began with an explosion of anger from deep within her. Tears streaming from her eyes, the pupils of which seemed to vanish as her eyes began to glow. Her teeth were gritted tightly and from deep in the back of her throat was a low growl of rage.

They killed her, she thought. They killed Angela. For no reason. Killed her. The thoughts repeated in her head over and over again until they became a blur of white noise in her brain.

Jayla-2 dug her claws into Ashura's hand, bending and tearing it loose from the robot's armature and throwing it aside. The robot launched another arm at her, and she snatched it from the air, breaking it off too.

"YOU KILLED HER!" Jayla-2 said, charging towards the robot, who moved forward, fully intending to meet the charge full on. Two of his smaller arms were extended, an arc of blue electricity sparking between them.

Jayla-2 waded into the arc, the energy shocking her so much her hair began to singe. She felt nothing but hatred and rage, like a burning inferno within her. She reached out for the electric arms, tore them off and began bashing the robot's armor with them.

Vain pulled Angela's body loose of Akumo, looking for some sign that she'd survived somehow. She looked over at Jayla-2, now totally berserk, and remembered a time before she'd been made into what she was and they'd set her loose on someone like a wild animal.

What surprised her most was that compared to that, Jayla-2 was even more berserk this time.

Ashura had one last card to play. Two of them, actually. The last of his arms extended outward and two blasters fired through Jayla-2's abdomen, the white-hot lasers cauterizing their own wounds as they penetrated her body.

Ordinarily, the pain of the laser shots alone would have been enough to kill someone, but Jayla-2 was too far gone to even feel it. The glow in her eyes had now spread to her claws and she sank them into the robot's chest armor, ripping it loose with all the ease of pulling the lid off a jar.

Over and over again she clawed at Ashura's inner systems, his laser arms firing wildly until Vain shot them out. Ashura's chest began to lean backwards as smoke poured from the wreckage of his computer core. Finally he fell over backwards, Jayla-2 still on top of him, pummeling him.

"Killed my . . .FRIEND!" Jayla-2 cried, clawing and kicking as the robot's systems failed for the final time. But Jayla-2 wasn't done. Still livid with fury, she tore Ashura's head off and bashed the wrecked remains of the juggernaut a few more times before she began to slow down."

"Killed . . .my friend . . .WHY? I'll KILL YOU! How does it feel? How . . .do . . .you feel? I . . .killed . . .you," she said, tossing the dented remains of the robot's head down into the pile of debris, the fury giving way to heaving sobs. "How . . .does . . .it feel?"

She stood over the robot for a few moments, gradually regaining control of herself. She was crying uncontrollably now, the strength her fury had given her gone as if it never were. Even the urgency and the danger of everything that had happened to her and had occurred just now seemed very far away as the awful truth of what had happened began to sink in.

She looked over her shoulder. Vain was cradling Angela's body in her arms. Jayla-2 leapt over piles of debris, nearly snatching Angela away from her. She held the corpse of her friend against her chest, crying harder than she'd ever imagined she could because she hurt more than she ever could have imagined.

My friend, she thought. My dearest friend. Killed for no reason at all.

Jayla-2 cradled her friend close, rocking back and forth. For a moment, she hated herself because of what she was. Jayla hadn’t remembered her own death and being essentially resurrected from her, Jayla-2 had no concept of it either. No matter how hard she tried to put it in perspective, she couldn't.

Angela was dead. And unlike Jayla-2, there would be no one to put her back the way she was, no one to miraculously resurrect her. Her life had barely begun, and now it was over.

"Angela," she sobbed quietly. "Oh, I'm so sorry."



The tide had turned, and not in Kienan's favor.

Ghidorus, despite being half-blind and mad with pain from acid burns, had regained his composure and taken the fight back to Kienan. The cracked rib that Kienan had been nursing ever since the fight with Tenma had now broken in full. Kienan breathed shallowly, trying to keep that side out of reach of Ghidorus, lest he use that broken rib to puncture his lung.

Kienan had nearly drowned to death in a pool of blood before. Never again.

Ghidorus knew what he'd done, however and proceeded to smash Kienan on the other side, causing the rib to shift and sending such pain arcing through him that Kienan nearly fell down.

"You . . .are . . .NOTHING," Ghidorus said, forcing the words through his blood-caked mouth and broken jaw. "I . . .might have underestimated you . . .but you still are unable to defeat me."

He kicked Kienan hard in the stomach, sending him flat on his back down on the ground. Kienan fell to the ground, gasping for air. It was all falling away from him, now. He would die here, before he could take revenge for Lil, before he could see Vain, Mirage, Angela and Jayla-2 again.

"No," Ghidorus said, yanking Kienan back up by his arm and clamping his jaws down on Kienan's shoulder. Had Ghidorus' jaw not been crushed, the bite would have punctured his body armor and caught on his major arteries. Even weakened, Kienan could feel his body shutting down under the onslaught of the pain.

Lazily, he opened his eyes and spotted something just within his reach as something inside him kept demanding he keep going. The same quiet resolve that had allowed him to survive Caldera was with him again.

The lazy embrace of death and pain cleared away as Ghidorus tried to bite down harder. His hands closed over the object in the underbrush, tightening into a death grip.

I will not die here, he thought quietly.

Kienan raised his arm. Ghidorus caught sight of the Midare-Giri in Kienan's grip seconds before it punched through the segments in his chest, through to his heart. His jaw immediately went slack, a huge stream of black blood pouring from his mouth as he sank to the dirt and Kienan rose up, shoving the blade deeper and deeper.

"Is . . .this . . .what it's for . . .?" Kienan asked, yanking the blade free from Ghidorus' chest, the blade and most of Kienan's arm shining with the Ryugan's blood. Ghidorus sank to the ground, his blood running from his body like a leaking bag of water.

Kienan stood over him for a few seconds, then began to walk towards the main building. He felt like lying down and dying, but he couldn't.

Not until he'd repaid Mao for what he'd done.

He walked forward, slowly but determinedly. He registered the shape in front of him, but never broke stride.

"Get out of my way." Kienan said to Karasu.

"Gladly," Karasu said. "It may interest you to know that my employer's have broken their contract with me. I no longer seek your death."

"I couldn’t care less," Kienan said, walking past him. "I intend to send your employer straight to hell, now."

"Be my guest," Karasu said. "He is in Mao's office."

Kienan stopped, as if the unusual syntax had frozen him in place. "Mao's office," he repeated.

Karasu nodded. "Yes. He and his consort are keeping Mao's Xai Jian's corpse company."

Kienan blinked. "Then--"

"Yes," Karasu said. "The mastermind behind this plan was Wong Sai Sci. He wanted you out of the way while he dealt with your master. He hired my Onikage to kill you and keep you from interfering with his plans."

Kienan wanted to discount it, wanted to hold on to the hate in his heart that told him it had been all Mao's idea. But something about it made a little too much sense to discount out of hand. And the more he thought about it, the more sense it made.

"Wong," Kienan said.

"I leave you to deal with them in your own way," Karasu said. He paused for a moment. "But do not assume that one day I will not return for your life."

Kienan looked at Karasu, then looked over his shoulder.

"Ghidorus waited for his chance, too," Kienan said, walking past him. "Take a look at him and see what it got him."

Karasu glanced in the direction of Ghidorus' corpse. Kienan stalked onwards with cold furious determination, on the way to settle accounts with Wong and the Blue Dragons once and for all.