By Max Fauth

Jamie Yuen brushed off his long coat as the doors closed behind him, shielding him from the unseasonal cold. Hong Kong's streets were never terribly welcoming, but they seemed especially bitter today. He glanced back over his shoulder, past the two bodyguards and out the glass doors. The street did seen darker today—storm clouds brewing, no doubt. As long as it didn't delay the convoy, he was set. He paused a second, checking the GPS uplink in his headware. The carrier was right on schedule.

He breathed a sigh of relief, and lead his two minders down the plush carpet of the empty foyer. Ahead of him, elevator doors hummed open. My luck, he thought. His hand went to a coin hanging around his neck which he touched out of habit. They stepped casually into the elevator and faced the open doors. "Eighteen," he commanded to the car.

Just as the door began to close, he heard a voice call out. On instinct he commanded "Open," and was immediately rewarded. A young lady rushed towards the car, calling for them to wait. Between her armful of papers and the cane she leant on, the result was more like a flustered fall than anything else. Long dark hair flew around her, tangling her glasses and hiding her face.

He held his hand across the door as she staggered across the threshold, panting for breath. She gulped in air then looked up, her bright green eyes meeting his unfathomable dark glasses. "Th-thank you, sir," she said as she bowed, her Cantonese awkward and accented. She turned to the front, paused to quietly count up, then announced "Fifth floor, if you please."

He looked down at her from behind, enjoying the view. Slim and leggy, short and tucked into a pantsuit that looked more cute than professional. Like an awkward teenager on her first interview. He touched the coin and smiled. My luck.

Jamie Yuen collapsed onto his backside as the elevator doors parted behind him. The girl turned, glasses sliding down her nose and letting the eager gleam on her bright green eyes show through her loose dark hair. Behind her, the two bodyguards slumped to the floor of the elevator; one with a crimson stain across his chest, the other leaving a red smear down the wall. The girl advanced even as he scurried back, leaving behind both her abandoned papers and the haft of the cane, now emptied of its lethal surprise. Said surprise zeroed in on him, a straight, single-edged blade which now dripped his bodyguards' blood as its tip paused right between his eyes.

Her face stern, she drew a mobile from her suit. She tapped a button and held it up, the screen facing him. His fear mounted as he saw the name being called, and his eyes flicked in desperation between the phone, her face, and the tip of the blade.

The phone's speaker came to life. He could make out excruciating detail on the other end; the rustle of cloth in the wind, the rumble of the city, and the faintest hint of calm, restful breathing.

"Now," Aoi said, "Tell the Empress where your convoy is."

"Copy that, boss?"


Shion looked down on the city spread out below her. Even at her considerable altitude, amongst the tallest spires that marked the Hong Kong landscape, the noise was unavoidable. Beneath her the city was booming, bustling and very much alive. She felt the cold wind on her face as it teased her long white tresses and stern grey cloak. It was a moment so few could experience; alone, suspended over the population by sheer force of will, literally above them all.

She scanned the streets below her, looking for her destination. There... She concentrated on the intersection the man had told her, visible from up here as was most of the city. She pictured it in her mind and exerted her will.

A brief moment of blackness and she was there, hanging above crowded streets, over the tangle of cables that cluttered the airspace, but still very much visible to those beneath her. Ahead of her, a bulky transport in corporate colors screeched to a sudden halt. Her target had appeared.

She focused. A sudden rush of air, unfelt by any but her, parted her cloak, revealing the white clamshell armor beneath. Her hair whipped out behind her, waving and thrashing as if it were a living serpent, eager to strike. And her eyes blazed a blank, fiery white as she exerted her power.

The transport began to back up. Shion held out her hands in front of her, half-open as if holding the air. Below, the transport stopped in place, it's wheels spinning ineffectually against the road, sending out gouts of black smoke—yet it did not move an inch. She closed her hands, bringing her fists together. The ground cratered, impacted by an unseeable force. Concrete cracked and water lines burst, spraying their contents in the air. The transport was in the centre of the devastation, its armored hull wrenched out of shape as it was pressed into the pavement, crushed beneath the force of her will. As a final act, she spread her hands like the pages of a book. The transport's roof separated and peeled back, revealing its cargo of now-inoperable military cyberdroids for all the city to see.

"Send a message to our competitor about their unchecked armaments spending" had been her employer's instructions. Of course, this message would likely invite retaliation—not against her, but her employers. She allowed herself a small smile. Business would be good. With a thought, she vanished.

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