by Michael Surbrook

The sudden impact of icy cold water brought Ling Ling from the blessed depths of unconsciousness into the harsh realities of the waking world. She gave an involuntary gasp of shock, and barely managed to avoid vomiting at the sudden waves of pain that washed through her head and stomach. Gasping for air, she tried to open her eyes, wondering at the burning ache that wracked her shoulders. Blinking rapidly in a futile attempt to clear her vision, her surroundings resolved themselves into a myopic blur of dark shades. The single bright spot over her head could only be a lamp, but the rest of the room was a muddled field of dim moving shapes. Letting her head sag downwards, Ling Ling closed her eyes, only slightly questioning how it was she was upright.

Ling Ling could hear voices, including a man's deep rumble that was counterbalanced by a woman's high-pitched tones. There was the sound of footsteps and the shifting of some heavy object. A moment later a large, powerful hand grasped her jaw, forcing her head up, as a second mass of frigid water sluiced over her face and shoulders, washing long strands of her glossy black hair across her forehead and into her eyes. Ling Ling gasped and coughed again, shivering at the chill that now coursed through her body. The owner of the large hand laughed brusquely at her obvious discomfort.

"Wake up!" Large Hands rasped, slapping her lightly on each cheek. "It's show time!"

Ling Ling tired to speak, but could only manage a rusty cough. Idly she wondered where she was, and why her arms ached so. She had vague memories of the attack on her house, of Pai and Yakumo fighting a seemingly endless horde of Triad soldiers that seemed bent of destroying the house and everyone in it. After that there were only faint images of being dragged into a dark building, while a number of black coated men stood about and laughed. She coughed again, vainly wishing for the comfort of a cigarette.

"Dammit," hissed the woman's voice, "Don't tell me she's been broken already!"

"Hah! Not a chance," exclaimed Large Hands, "She's an upgrade and they don't break that easily." He laughed deeply for a second and then added, "Hey, Vixen, why don't you wake her up?"

A low giggle was the only response. A moment later, Ling Ling felt someone standing next to her. She caught a whiff of strong, cheap perfume moments before a pair of sharp points pricked her side. "Yo, bitch, you heard Deano! Wake up!"

The sudden surge of electricity from Vixen's taser ripped through Ling Ling like a knife, tearing forth a shrieking scream of agony as her entire nervous system seemed to light up with a burning fire. She writhed and twitched for several long seconds afterwards, aware only of Large Hand's deep throated laughter and Vixen's high-pitched squeals of delight.

"...why...," she finally managed.

"Why? WHY!?" roared the voice of Deano, "The bitch asks WHY!!?"

The hand grabbed her jaw again, forcing her head up as a leering face come close enough for her to focus upon it, despite her missing glasses. The owner of the hand was a large, powerfully built man, with a shaved head and a strong jaw. At the moment he held a meaty fist in front of her face, gesturing angrily as he shook her back and forth "I'll give you 12 reasons why!"

"You and your two bodyguards killed quite a few little brothers," hissed Vixen icily, "We're here to extract payment."

"Enough." The voice was low, with an air of culture and sophistication, but tinged with malice. "We don't want her damaged too badly."

"But," Deano sputtered, looking behind him at someone Ling Ling was unable to see, "you said we could have some fun..."

"Deano, Deano," soothed the Voice, "When are you going to learn? There is fun, and there is fun."

Ling Ling had only the briefest glimpse of a bright line before she felt the front of her jacket slashed open, the razor sharp blade neatly severing her bra as well. A moment later she could feel a chilly waft of air across her breasts. Deano whistled appreciatively.

"Hey Vixen, get a load of those tits; they're way bigger than yours!"

There was the sound of hand slapping flesh. "Bastard!" Vixen snarled as Deano laughed uproariously.

The Voice meanwhile let the tip of his knife rest lightly upon Ling Ling's sternum. Tapping the blade against her skin, he combed her hair out of her face with his other hand. "So Ms Li, what shall it be? The knife? The taser? Or Deano? Probably Deano, since I doubt he'd want you after I'm done."

Ling Ling wanted to scream. Really she did. But she couldn't, since her throat seemed to have tightened to the point that all she could manage was an almost inaudible rattle. Shaking her head, she tried to pull away from the knife, but only managed to set herself swaying, sending sharp spikes of pain through her shoulders and wrists.

"I see," said the Voice. His tone such that he could have easily been discussing the morning weather report. "Deano! You get her first!"

Deano gave another rumbling laugh. "Hey Vixen, don't get jealous now!"

Ling Ling renewed her struggles, trying desperately to get her hands free from what ever was binding them. She whimpered slightly, wishing only to return to her previously insensible state, the better to survive what ever was coming next. Inwardly she cursed her genetically upgraded body, for the same processes that had made her stronger and faster than an unmodified human had also made her tougher and more durable; which meant she was less likely to pass out in the upcoming torture session. A mixed blessing if there ever was one...

The sound of a door opening abruptly cut off her struggles.

"Dai Lo!" This from Deano and the Voice.

"Get out." The Dai Lo's voice has deep and harsh as if he was unused to speaking.

"But," Deano began to sputter again, "the Boss said we could!"

"He's changed his mind! All of you out!" The Dai Lo tone made it obvious that there was to be no further back talk.

Amid scattered mutterings Vixen, Deano and the Voice left the room. When the door finally shut, the Dai Lo sniffed in disgust, and then walked over to where Ling Ling hung from the ceiling. "Personally, I'd have just shot you, but the Boss has other plans, " he said, cutting her hands free as he spoke. "'Course I think getting revenge on someone like you is stupid, everyone knows Fixers sell to whoever's got the most money..." He shrugged, Ling Ling could see that much, "Actually, I don't think its you he really wants revenge on."

Upon reaching the floor, Ling Ling's first act was to fall over, as her legs promptly collapsed under her. Laying on the cool concrete floor, she turned her head, vainly trying to make out the Dai Lo's shape in the blur. "why... why are you helping me?" she rasped.

"I have my reasons." The Dai Lo bent and fastened a set of handcuffs to her wrists.

"why... why can't I see?"

The Dai Lo snorted again, "Deano shattered your glasses first thing. You're not going blind, if that's what's worrying you."

"Pai? Yakumo?" Ling Ling wondered if that was really her own voice she was hearing.

"Dead." A length of chain was wrapped around one ankle, along with the loud snap of a lock. A moment later a blanket was draped over her body. "I'll see what I can do abut getting you some water and food." She heard the door open, and the Dai Lo pausing. "I'm afraid this is only temporary," he said apologetically, "They will be back." The door slammed with echoing thud.

Ling Ling remained curled on the floor, pulling the blanket tight about her as she considered what the Dai Lo had said. Pai... Yakumo... dead? The realization that she was alone, and held captive within her enemy's camp was too much for her to bear. Tears dripping down her face, she began to sob uncontrollably, weeping and crying for what seemed like hours until finally, exhausted beyond all measure, she passed out of the waking world and into the depths of sleep.

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