by David Kuijt & Michael Surbrook

Takeda knocked lightly on Marta's door.

There was no reaction for a moment, then Takeda heard the sound of someone walking across the floor. Then the door clicked and swung open slightly.

"Yes?" came Marta's voice from the darkened room.

"It's me, Marta."

Takeda felt more than saw Marta move away from the door, letting it drift open further. There was the oily click of a gun being uncocked and then the lights came on, revealing Marta standing to one side of the entrance hall, a pistol in her hand.

"What do you want?"

The hotel room was small, containing little more than an easy chair and a bed. At the moment, Ling Ling Li lay face down on the bed, the ragged and stained remnants of her clothing laying in a tangled heap on the floor. Thin red lines crisscrossed her back, buttocks and thighs, glistening wetly in the light. Next to Ling Ling sat a small bowl of water and a pile of washcloths, most already red with blood.

Takeda glanced over at the bed. His face turned grim at the sight of Ling Ling's wounds. "How is she doing," he asked quietly.

"She's alive," Marta hissed, "although I doubt she would have lasted much longer."

Takeda shook his head. "Has she regained consciousness?" Marta looked over at the bed and shrugged, "She did for a while. She was asking about Pai and Yakumo... I don't think is she knows they're dead yet."

Takeda turned from Ling Ling to look at directly at Marta. "Is there anything that I can do?"

Marta glanced over at Takeda, a dark scowl on her face. "What's that supposed to mean?" she asked suspiciously.

Takeda shrugged, although his eyes were still direct. "I'm just asking if there is any way I can help. Nothing more than that. No hidden agenda."

Stepping over next to the edge of the bed, Marta set her pistol down on the end table and picked up a washcloth. "I've made a call to Alec Quan, the Dai Lo who hired me the first time around. He's going to send a bunch of little brothers over to ensure Ling Ling makes it to the hospital in once piece."

Tenderly she brushed her hand along the side of Ling Ling's face, pushing the hair aside to reveal one long tapering ear. "He's also going to ensure that Ling Ling receives the best possible care until I get back."

Turning to Takeda, Marta shot him a wicked grin, "Seems he's rather pleased with the fact that Tony Wang is no longer around."

Takeda shrugged. "I'm sure he would be." His eyes looked old in his youthful face as he looked at Ling Ling's injuries. He looked up at Marta as if about to speak, but hesitated, then changed his mind about what he was going to say. "I'll be outside, if there's anything I can do."

"Yeah..." Marta looked over with a dark scowl, "You can keep that jackass Jagger out of here. One more crack outta him about me, my sister or Ling Ling and I'm gonna make his wife a widow."

Takeda nodded and turned away. Then he turned back, eyebrows high. "Wife? Jagger got married?" He seemed truly astonished.

Marta held up one hand and waved her fingers back and forth, "It sure looks like he's got a wedding ring to me."

Takeda shook his head. "Amazing." He shook his head again as he left the room.

Takeda took a chair out of the room he shared with Mojo and Ryan and put it in the hall outside Marta's door, sitting astraddle it and checking his datamail on his fliptop web connection.

A short time later he heard the sound of approaching footsteps. Looking up Takeda saw a good half-dozen men or more, all dressed in long coats and wearing sunglasses, making their way down the hall. Their expressions were stern and serious, and Takeda got the impression that they took their work very seriously.

Takeda stood up, watching them carefully. It would seem that Alec Quan's Triad soldiers had arrived.

"Can I help you?" he asked politely as they approached.

The man in the lead paused. Takeda was standing between him and the door. Removing his glasses, he placed them in a coat pocket. Glancing at Marta's door, he then looked back to Takeda. "We're here on a matter of business. Personal business with Marta Nys."

"I see." Takeda nodded. "Just a second." Without taking his eyes off the six men, Takeda stepped back and knocked on Marta's door.

"Who is it?" The words sounded faint.

"There are some men here to see you, Marta."

There was a moments pause and then the door slowly drifted open. A few seconds later, Marta herself stepped into the doorway, a pistol in her hand. Glancing from Takeda to the Triad gangsters, she let the door swing open all the way. "She's inside," Marta inclined her head in the direction of the bed.

Takeda stepped out of the way of the gangsters. The lead gangster glanced at Takeda for a moment before entering the room, followed by three of his fellows. Two more remained in the hall, flanking the hotel door. It was then that Takeda noticed two more men standing at the far end of the hall, down near where the elevators were. It seemed Marta, and Alec were taking no chances.

Marta stared silently at Takeda for a moment. "We're going to be taking Ling Ling to a local hospital, so expect an ambulance shortly." That said, she turned and entered the room.

Takeda looked around at the gangsters, clearly uncertain what to do. Then his youthful face was wracked by a huge yawn. He'd used his powers quite a bit in the last few hours, doing some things he'd never tried before. He turned and went into his room, where Mojo and Ryan were already snoring, to get some sleep before morning.

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