by Dustin Evermore

Drake rode his motorcycle down a street littered with the rusted carcasses of cars that died long ago. Having decided that it was much too early to head for the bar to look for a contact, the next priority was finding a place to stay. Certainly he could find something better than the awful hole he spent the previous night in.

It took a few tries. The first place he found was just plain filthy. And it had rats. Rats were hard to live with. The second place was what looked like an abandoned house. It wasn't. As Drake was scouting out the upper floor, a go-gang showed up and in a matter of a few minutes were all over the place. It just wasn't worth a struggle he wasn't going to win anyway, so he took off as quickly and quietly as he could.

Now, however, he thought he might have some better luck. He was driving through an area that seemed occupied by old apartment buildings. There were even some people moving about on the street. He stopped the bike and gazed up at a four story apartment building, noting some of the rooms were in fact occupied judging by the occasional open window with some plants or rugs hanging out of them.

It didn't take long to get a room. The manager he found in the lobby informed him they did have some openings and after a quick negotiation, Drake paid him a deposit and first month's rent. The room itself was pretty small, but it did include a shower, toilet, and sink. Not counting the bathroom, it only had one room. A single window looked into an alley past a fire escape. He didn't have much with him but some basic items; tooth paste, brush, razor and a little soap. He put them in the bathroom. He decided he'd need to pick up some blankets and a towel or two. He was able to discover a small shop or two in the area the locals called Bartertown from which he could purchase a few more basics and it wasn't long before he had a workable solution for housing.

On the corner below the apartment building there was a rickety looking tofu dog stand with a similarly rickety looking older man vending the food. At this point tofu sounded pretty darn good to Drake and he was willing to shell out whatever the guy wanted for it. It turned out what the old man really wanted was someone to talk to. He blathered on for some time about apparently inane things for some time before getting to anything interesting.

"And then there are the freaks coming out of the Wastes. I heard they been sneakin' around about sunset. They say there's a gang east of here that's been havin' a rough time of it with them."

"What do you mean, freaks?" Drake inquired, his curiosity mildly piqued.

"Some kinda religious nuts, I hear. Me, I stay clear of that stuff. I don't need to do no scavengin' anymore, now that I've got my stand," he patted his vending cart proudly.

"Huh. Well, thanks for the dog," said Drake as he finished off the last bit of bun and tofu. The old man flashed him a mostly toothless grin.

Drake walked over to the run down shed he'd stowed his bike in as he considered what to do. He had a couple hours yet before sundown, and he wasn't interested in hitting the bar seen until around that time. Pushing his bike out, he decided to take a drive around the area to familiarize himself with his new surroundings.

He was only about seven blocks from Clark Street and he'd wandered around that area enough already so he turned his bike and started cruising east. A lot of the scenery was the same but it became pretty obvious that there were fewer people living in the ruins than in the area of his apartment. The eerie desolation worked at his mind and when gunshots shattered the surreal aural landscape, Drake jumped and swerved the bike.

The shots had echoed through the streets and alleys and it was difficult to get a bearing on the direction they came from so Drake stopped his bike and turned off the engine. Hopping off his Kawasaki, he checked his guns and his blades before moving into the shadowy streets. Soon, Drake could hear shouts and cries of pain to accompany continued shooting. Stealthily moving through first one alley and then another, he was able to zero in on the source of the sound.

It was a fight. Or rather, it was more like a slaughter. Men and women wearing brown armbands seemed to be moving everywhere as they attacked another gang. The only way to see which was which was the fact that those who seemed to be winning all wore a brown arm band, scarf or something that looked like a brown cloak. As for the losing side, Drake noted with surprise that he knew some of them. There, bleeding in the street as he was being dragged away by a brown banded assailant was the Hispanic fellow Drake had overpowered before. And there was the woman who used a hooked chain desperately holding two opponents at bay. He remembered now the name of this gang. They were the Black Mavericks, the ones who had chased Aaron. Now it looked like they were the quarry.

Drake stood in the shadows, unwilling to interfere with the battle, even when a stray bullet ripped up pieces of brick nearby. Then, up the middle of the street charged the berserk leader of the Black Mavericks, the one Aaron called Bret. He was bleeding from the scalp and his left arm hung uselessly at his side. It was his last fight and he knew it. The brown clad assailants swept out of the way, opening a path for him. Suddenly, Drake noticed a gray cloaked figure standing at the end of the street, pistol raised in one hand. He calmly, almost slowly, squeezed one shot off, and instantly Bret's head jerked back and slightly to the left. The back of his skull spouted blood and bone and the unfortunate gang leader limply hit the ground.

Drake then realized the bizarre nature of the fight. Only those who most fiercely resisted the brown bands were met with lethal force. The others were being subdued and dragged away. Worse, someone had noticed Drake watching from the shadows.

Someone had been sneaking through the shadows behind Drake. There was just one at the moment, but as soon as Drake spotted the shaggy-haired man he let out a cry loud enough to alert anyone on the block. That was bad, because Drake knew that meant there could be any number of them falling upon him in a moment. For a moment where time seemed to stop, Drake wondered absently if he could get SynTech to work on a proper sensory net to build into his nervous system. This getting snuck up on just won't do, he thought forgetting it would've helped if he hadn't been so absorbed in watching the fight.

The man was obviously part of the strange gang with the brown armbands. He was obviously also wired. From his right fist sprouted razor sharp knuckle spurs and from his swift, jerky movements, either his nervous system was wired or he was high on some kind of speed. Drake didn't have time to draw his weapons before the guy struck.

Damn he's fast, thought Drake. He barely moved out of the way before the attacker's spurred fist sliced the air with an audible zzziipp! Drake gave a mental command that fired up all his cybernetically enhanced systems. He knew he had to take this guy out fast before his buddies showed up, but now his back was against the wall, greatly limiting his movement.

"So! You're fast, street samurai," his opponent sneered. He let loose with a complex flurry of blows meant to drive Drake into the bricks. Drake now proved to be slightly faster, however, as he blocked with forearms and elbows. With a final, mighty slam! his opponent rammed his right fist into the bricks just as Drake ducked. The wall was visibly damaged as pieces of brick showered everywhere.

"We can use one like you. I shall take you to the master and he shall soon bring you to the Light!"

A religious cult? Drake wondered. He didn't have time to respond. The attacker attempted to drive his knee into Drake's family jewels. Drake leapt above it, but took a hard left to his chest and his wind was pushed out violently. However out of breathe, Drake seized his opportunity to grab the man's fist and and jerk him off-balance. Using his attacker as a pivot point, he levered himself away from the wall and delivered kick to the man's side which sent him staggering away. Drake didn't want to be within arms reach of the attacker again and back-flipped to put distance between them. Simultaneously the aggressor whirled away and assumed a stance one arm forward and another near his face, bending his knees in a half-crouch.

"Kung Fu," recognized Drake. In a flash of bright steel, Drake drew his katana and wakizashi. "Who are you?"

"I am the man who will take you down."

Drake shrugged, "As you wish." He began with a sword flourish meant to confuse the nameless man and continued with a feign and slice meant to cut off the man's spurred hand. His opponent anticipated the move with a dodge and block that caught Drake's wakizashi in the knuckle spurs. Twisting his spurred fist, he tried to disarm Drake, but Drake was simply to strong. The short wakizashi bowed under the strain but did not snap. Drake's katana flashed down hard on the knuckle spurs and broke the sword bind.

Instantly the attacker reacted by sending himself into a wind-milling spin of flailing fists. Drake reacted instinctively by giving ground with another acrobatic cart wheel which landed him further into the street. Never before had he met such an opponent. Never had he seen such speed. It was nearly the equal of his own. And the man's skill in martial arts meant that Drake would be hard-pressed to land a blow with his sword. Drake still had a few tricks left.

He noticed his attacker did not close with him immediately so Drake drew himself into another Nito Kenjutsu stance. Then Drake realized his error. The fight had gone on too long and now he was exposed on the street. He whipped his swords back into the sheaths and assumed Muto Kenjutsu defensive moves as he tried to find the best escape route. Brown-banded cultists had finished with the gang and were creeping in from all directions.

Three gunshots rung out from somewhere as Drake felt bullets impact him through both his armored long coat and his armored body suit. Drake staggered, reeling back. How the hell did they manage to hit me? Drake wondered in confusion. He had spent countless days practicing moves designed to keep him in constant fluid motion in order to make a very difficult target for assassins.

He barely had time to shake off the effect before he detected the sound of a motorcycle engine coming up behind him. A whirring sound was the only warning before Drake felt his neck caught by a hooked chain. His enhanced reflexes gave him just the speed needed to jam his fingers under the chain or his throat would have been crushed instantly as he was jerked off his feet. Choking and gagging, Drake struggled as he was dragged behind the motorcycle. His blurred vision caught sight of the grinning face of his Kung Fu attacker as he was dragged by.

The situation was bad and getting worse the longer Drake was dragged. Using one hand to pull at the chain and another to feel along the rushing ground for something to grab, Drake's desperation grew. At last, the biker turned a corner which sent drake tumbling in a wide arc. He slammed against a lamp post and grabbed it with all his strength. The resulting jerk badly strained his neck and he gave mental thanks for the expertise his scientists showed in developing his muscle enhancement systems. A lesser man's head would surely have been pulled clean off his neck.

The violent jerk also broke the chain and unbalanced the motorcyclist. He went skidding across the pavement, leaving a nasty red smear. Drake, holding his injured neck, threw off the chain and still choking and coughing, beat feet out of there at top speed. With a feeling like a hard knot in his gut, Drake knew this wasn't the last he'd see of the cybernetic Kung Fu practitioner. Nor would this be the last time he'd tangle with the cultists as a whole.

By the time he'd made it back to his bike, Drake felt sure he'd shaken off pursuit. Deciding it was time to find 93 Underground, he headed back to the Clark Street clinic to get directions there from Aaron. At least he had some good news for Aaron. The Black Mavericks wouldn't be bothering him again.

When he arrived at the clinic, he was a little glad that Lydia was busy with a patient. He was embarrassed he'd allowed himself to be taken down by the cultists so easily. Besides the neck-hugging collar covered most of the nasty red welt left by the chain. It was uncomfortable but it wasn't bleeding. There were bullet holes in his body armor, but thankfully they hadn't drilled through. He decided that he really didn't need medical attention anyway. By the time he'd made it to the Neo York Zero Zone's entertainment district, his voice had mostly returned to normal anyway.

Return to Kazei 5 PBEM Stories