By Dev

February 2034
Jade Gate Restaurant
Zero Zone, Neo York
Sunday 11:47am

Searing pain fired up my legs and forced a scream from my lips. Fully awake, I stared wide-eyed and in horror at a young Chinese face as she lowered my feet into a water bucket. Horrified, I instinctually pulled my feet out and stared confusedly at the woman kneeling at the foot of the bed. Scrunching her face up, she forced my feet back into the water.

I squeezed my eyes shut and stifled another scream. <What in bloody hell are you doing to me woman!> Opening my eyes again, I caught an angry look from the young woman.

"What did you say to me?" She asked, on the verge of anger. Her eyes left mine and she dipped a cloth into the wash bucket. Lifting my left foot by the ankle, she began to massage my heel working her way up the arch and over my toes. "You Korean?" she asked, not bothering to look up from her task.

Squeezing my eyes closed, I bit my lip until I tasted blood. "Where..."I began, and then stopped. Recognizing the woman as the waitress who hired me for the hit, I swallowed the question and began searching through the clouds of my memory for a better one. "How I get here?"

She glanced up, then back down as she began on my right foot. "I come to work yesterday morning, and you there." She smiled at me while she scrubbed. "All balled up on our doorstep..."she said taking pleasure in the details. "Just like little child." I winced as she dropped my foot back into the bucket.

"I be back," she said rising and moving towards the only door in the small room. "You have guest too." With that she exited, bringing the bloody cloth along with her. Keeping my eyes on the doorway, I pulled the single blanket over my naked body. The cold outside was seeping in through a cracked window off to my left. An American with blonde hair and worn-out jeans came in just enough to lean against the doorframe, whilst munching on an egg roll.

"Marc!" I said, thoroughly surprised. It had been years since I‚d last seen the Irish operator. Marc O‚Neal was the child of a British father and Irish mother who‚d immigrated to North America after the 2007 riots in London. Marc was a hard bloke with powerful arms that didn't seem to go with the rest of his medium sized body. Spent most of his youth serving in a NYPD SWAT team during the formative years of the Zero Zone, and toughed it out through all the troubles that followed. Didn't take long for the leading Intelligence firm of the time, Corporate Intelligence Society (CIS) to recruit the combat veteran and teach him the shadowy world of espionage and counter-surveillance.

After about 6 years with CIS, the Society tried to set ol‚ Marc up to take a fall for one of there overt piss-ups; needless to say, he didn't like the idea so much and as soon as he realized their plans, spilled his security blanket with their upcoming competitor, Kagura Securities. The result sent CIS into collapse and secured Marc a spot with the new leader in Intelligence and Security. Nowadays Marc is something of a legend among operators, and works as a senior recruiter for young potential as well as Chief Intelligence Analyst for Kagura. Not to mention one of the few friends I had still breathing.

After finishing with his egg roll, he drops his arse on a 60-pound bag of rice which happened to be leaning against the wall, and grinned at me. "Not looking good mate," he said glancing at my feet and taped up ribcage. "Get mugged?"

I shrugged and immediately regretted the motion. "Not sure," I said searching my memory for something to account for all this. "Don't remember much. What day is it?"

Leaning forward and placing his elbows on his knees, he pulls out a smoke and lights up. "Sunday mate. Its Sunday."

"How‚d you know I was here?" I asked, shifting on the bed a bit to make my ribs more comfortable. The waitress steps into the doorway and pulling out a notepad from her apron, doesn't miss a beat.

"When you wake up once, you tell me to call 'dis number," she makes out, handing me the pad. Sure enough, it was Marc‚s cell. Ignoring the confusion on the woman‚s face, I ripped the page out, balled it up and tossed it to the American who nodded thankfully while stuffing it in his jeans.

Taking another drag, Marc nods towards the Chinese girl. "Lass is right; she just called me up one day and said that I needed to come on over and straighten your small Asian ass up." He smiled and continued. "Said you might be in trouble." Looking me up and down again, he laughed. "Looks like the girl was right."

Shaking my head a bit, I try to piece together all that was coming at me. Shivering again, I look over at my former client. "My clothes?"

Looking kind of shy, she lowers her eyes. "You show up naked at our restaurant," she said. Glancing up at me, she smiles. "But I bought you some more." She moves back into the small storage room and picks up a stack of clothes from a beer case.

Taking them from her, I toss off the blanket and pull on the black denim jeans. "Hope they fit," she adds, pretending to be looking out the window behind me. The T-shirt is black and has "Electronica" written in English across the front. I suppress a grin as I pull it on.

"Bandages?" I ask, indicating the bottom of my feet. With an enthusiastic nod, she heads back out into the restaurant.

"Look mate, there‚s more to all this." I glance over at Marc who was taking another drag. "Since the Invasion, Kagura has kept taps on evey major organized crime outfit in the Zone. Helps us to keep up on both sides of the fence you know?" He rises and picks up one of the Doc Martin boots lying at my feet, checking it out. "Nice," he adds with a smile.

"Get on with it," I urged him, whilst picking up the other one and admiring it as well.

"Well, two days past I got a hefty stack of 'intercepts‚ from tapped lines; gotta sort through hundreds of the shit a day you know?" Taking another drag, he waits for me to put down the boot before he continues. "And your name was on one of 'em mate."

I blinked, confused horribly.

Snubbing out his smoke on the concrete floor, he stands back up and heads over towards the window, leaning on a can of pre-packaged beef in the process. "Hoshi-san ring a bell?"

I nod.

"The intercept was from our boy Hoshi, making a call to someone he called 'Theresa‚; that ring a bell?"

Running the name through my mind a few times, I decided to give it up and let him finish. I shook my head.

"Neither had Kagura." He smiled. "But because I‚m such a good mate, I decided to look into it for ya; I mean hell Mits, if you get whacked, who‚s gonna get me free dibs on all the Asian pubs here in the Zone?" I grinned and he tossed me a wink.

"Anyway mate, the phone belonged to a Miss Theresa Morraine. I ran the name through our contacts overseas, and within a few hours, we had a possible match." Marc looks away from the window and lights up another smoke. "Our contact in Hong Kong said that a certain Theresa Morraine had stirred up quite a mess with the local Triads; then skipped town." Taking a pull, he looks over at me. "Interested yet?"

"Stop wankin me mate; who is she?" I asked, practically on the edge of the bed. I had to give it to the boy, listening to him talk was almost as good as a blockbuster thriller on a Friday night.

"Don't know yet," he said taking another pull. I looked away and lay back on the bed, rubbing my eyes. "Look Mits," he said standing up. His tone had changed and I knew that he was done trying to entertain me. "From all the traffic we got with your name on it, you‚re in deep shit mate."

By now the young Chinese woman had returned and she brought with her a box of cleaner pads. Looking about, I found a roll of duck tape and immediate tore off a good piece of it. Putting the pads on the bottom of my torn up feet, I began to wrap em good style with the tape.

"How‚d you manage that," Marc asked, checking out my feet.

"Not sure mate," I said sincerely. A good guess would be that my muggers had left me barefoot, and for some reason or another, I decided it was smart to hop-foot-it all the way across the Entertainment District back to the last place I knew to go; this restaurant. But that was a mouthful, and I wasn't sure if my English was up to it anyways.

"Look Mits," he started again, despite the waitress‚ presence. "Come into the city with me and I‚ll get you straightened out. Legal documents, a job with Kagura;" he grins at me. "Hell mate, you can even stay at my flat until you get your feet under ya and find your own place." Winking at the waitress he took a shot at me. "Hell, you‚re ungly enough that I don't have to worry about you having girlfriends over." He picked at something in his teeth for a moment and continued on a more serious note. "Not worth dying here mate, that‚s for sure."

I shake my head. "Not yet. Gotta make sure things here stay calm before I head anywhere." Although busy loosening the Doc Martins to fit over the bandages and tape, I thought I saw the Chinese girl smile. Hell, maybe I was delusional.

"You‚re in shit state mate. How are you going to protect them if you can't even stand up proper?" Although I wasn't changing my mind on the matter, I had to admit, he had a point.

"Don't know Marc; I just know I can't leave yet." I look at my old mate and smile genuinely for probably the first time in years. "Thanks though mate, it means a lot. Really."

Nodding, Marc slaps me on the shoulder and messes up my hair a bit. "You know my number mate, ring me if ya need anything."

I nod and watch him duck out of the small room. "Ta."

The Chinese girl shifted a bit uncomfortably while I finished putting on my boots. Looking over at her, I allow another smile to tug at my lips. "You also love; thank you."

Returning the smile, she reaches outside the doorway and picks up a tray off the counter. On it was a small bowl of Wan Ton soup and a larger bowl of white rice and vegetables. "And thank you," she says measuring out her final word. "Mitsuo." Grinning at me, she leaves and closes the door behind her.

Forcing my mind to calm itself, I pushed Hoshi-san, Marc, and whoever the hell this Theresa Morraine was, right out. Inhaling the aroma from the soup, my stomach turned over and groaned, reminding me that I hadn't eaten in at least two days.

Sighing, I picked up a spoon and got at it. I didn't know what the Yaks would do next, or how long it would be before they found me. But I did know one thing. This was the best Wan Ton I‚d ever tasted.

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