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  1. Chapter 6:  Shadows
  2.  
  3. [i]Sob.[/i]
  4.  
  5. A young woman sits there, curled up and sobbing into her knees.  Around her are four guards, each one armed with assault rifles.
  6.  
  7. "She's been crying for the past hour.  Can't we shut her up?"  Nameless guard #3 looks down at the young woman.
  8.  
  9. "No.  The master said that we weren't to do anything to her until after 24 hours have passed."  The Head Guard checks his gun.  "After that, if the ransom hasn't been paid, then we're allowed."
  10.  
  11. "Seems pretty stupid, if you ask me.  Pain brings motivation, after all."  Guard #3 kneels down.  "Just a slap to shut her.  Just one single slap."  He snorts.  "Or at least some duct tape."
  12.  
  13. "No."  The Head Guard easily hefts up the third guard back to his feet.  "You are not to interact with her.  Understood?"  He sees the third guard just stare at him after forcing his arm off.
  14.  
  15. "Right."  With that, Guard #3 leaves the area and goes behind a block.  Reaching into a pocket, he removes a small packet and opens it, removing a small bit of chew.  "Just how the hell did I end up with these nutjobs?"  Shaking his head, he takes the pinch of chew and puts it against his lower gumline.
  16.  
  17. Two hands reached down from above. Before the man could react, he was snatched up and on to the block, a metal gauntlet chopping his throat, knocking him unconscious. Away he was pulled, out of sight.
  18.  
  19. Soft footsteps on the large block, around to the rest of the three. Two with their backs to the subject, one keeping watch on her still. The other two were looking around to make sure of intruders.
  20.  
  21. [i]Thump.[/i] Feet touched ground lightly, and two hands wrapped around the one who was not paying attention, the Head Guard. One around his chest, one over his mouth, keeping him quiet as he started to struggle.
  22.  
  23. A shake of the head to the hostage woman, the rifle pulled up out of the guard's hand...two whacks, and the two guards were knocked out with the butt of the rifle to the back of the heads before it was dropped.
  24.  
  25. The savior, reached down, picking up the radio from the leader of the group, and looked to the weeping woman. A finger to her lips.
  26.  
  27. "Shhh..."
  28.  
  29. The young woman gasps slightly, but immediately nods and follows the command.
  30.  
  31. [i]"Team 5, this is Team 1.  Come in.  Team 5, do you copy?  Requesting immediate sitrep."[/i]  The communication from the fallen Head Guard's radio comes out loud and clear, devoid of static.
  32.  
  33. The savior held the radio up to her mouth, praying that their communications were masked both ways enough for her gender to be kept secret. From the sound of the tone, there was a vocal mask. "This is Team 1. Nothing wrong, Team 5."
  34.  
  35. Azumi thought for a moment. She could use this opportunity to find out the locations of the other groups. Might as well. "Where are the other teams, Team 1? Have they checked in? How many are alive in each?"
  36.  
  37. [i]Team 4 has yet to check it.  All others have and are in their specified locations.[/i]  However, the Head Guard of Team 1's voice pauses.  [i]"And you know very well that we can't discuss specifics beyond what has been said.  Now, be on the lookout.  The Master suspects that we are to likely have unwanted company.  For the glory of the Demon's Head."[/i]  With that, the communique cuts off.
  38.  
  39. ...right. No looking into information she couldn't expect them to give. But this "Demon's Head..." Time to keep moving. She looked to the hostage, whispering after the communication went down. "Just lie down and pretend to be unconscious."
  40.  
  41. With that, she clipped the radio on to her uniform's belt, then looked up to the nearest block. Swiftly, she climbed it, coming out on top, and started moving, looking for any signs of nearby groups.
  42.  
  43. ---
  44.  
  45. The Head Gaurd of Team 1 looks at his group.  "Keep a close eye out.  Our unwanted guest has arrived."  Seeing the nods of agreement, he once more triggers the radio, this time to someone different.  "You were right, Master.  Our guest is here."
  46.  
  47. [i]"Certainly punctual.  Contact the other teams and inform them.  Be vigilant, and do not underestimate this foe."[/i]
  48.  
  49. "As you command, Master."  Nodding, the Head Guard #1 begins to radio the other teams.
  50.  
  51. ---
  52.  
  53. "Understood."  Head Guard #4 nods as he receives his communique.  Putting his radio away, he looks at the four other guards.  "Alright, I need you to listen up.  Numbers 2 and 3 are to begin patrols for potential intruders.  1, 4 and myself will stay with the hostage."  Guards 2 and 3 nod and immediately begin their patrols.  1 and 4 stare ahead, and the Head Guard circles the immediate area, keeping an eye on their hostage, an elderly Asian man.
  54.  
  55. Silently, Azumi swore above this group, watching their patrols. She knew she had messed up, but at least she had found a new group. Perhaps she could spread this one out a bit more.
  56.  
  57. When the two patrols broke off, she waited for both of the remaining guards to be looking away from her. At that moment, she waved to the old man, hoping he saw her, and made a punching motion. She wanted him to distract them, so long as he didn't get himself hurt in the process.
  58.  
  59. The old man looks up and notices her.  He gives an almost imperceivable nod.  "Could I get something to eat or drink?"  He sees the Head Guard glare at him, so he immediately comes up with a reasonable excuse.  "You see, I haven't eaten today, and if I don't eat regularly, my diabetes will act up."
  60.  
  61. The Head Guard pauses.  Could he be lying?  He wasn't a doctor, but that sounded rather fishy.  But in the end, he couldn't risk it.  Pulling out an energy bar, he hands it to the man, who eats it.  "Is there anything else?"
  62.  
  63. "Well, I do need to go to the restroom..."
  64.  
  65. The Head Guard scowled.  Just how did he end up a baby-sitter?  "4, take him to the restroom."
  66.  
  67. "Yessir." 4 gets the old man to his feet and begins pushing him.  "Come on."  After a while, he eventually guides him to a block with a door in it.  He removes a key and unlocks the door.  "Make it quick."
  68.  
  69. Azumi smirked as her plan went into action. No violence necessary to boot. The young woman took two steps back...then charged, lunging forward. Her right hand grabbed the Head Guard's neck before he could even cry out, her left grabbing the other remaining. Her sudden weight forced them to slam down into the ground. It wasn't too loud, all things considered, but it was enough force for a quick knockout. Taking into account the patrols that were made, she hooked her arms under the Head Guard's shoulders, dragging him around a block, off to a section that would only be visited within a few seconds, but enough time for her to come up with a plan.
  70.  
  71. The woman flattened herself against a wall, waiting for the patrolling guard, number 2, came toward her. He was right there... Two hand grabbed his shirt, yanked him around, smashed his back into the box beside her. The wind knocked out of him, she applied a quick chop to the throat, putting him down beside his leader before creeping out to the other man. Swiftly, she picked him up in a fireman's carry, pulling him back to the others before setting him down. Time to see about those other two. She just hoped she hadn't been spotted yet.
  72.  
  73. Number 4 stands there, waiting, whistling.  The old man was taking his time.  He takes a look at his watch.  "Hurry it up, will you?"
  74.  
  75. Meanwhile, number 3 returns to the center, pausing.  Where were the others?  "Wait a minute...  This isn't good."  She flicks the safety off from her assault rifle and chambers the first round.  She places her back against one of the block walls, taking deep breaths.  "What's going on?"
  76.  
  77. A head reached down beside her, two hands grasping her shoulders. Swiftly, she was yanked up on top of the block, a quick rabbit punch to the back of the head knocking her unconscious as well.
  78.  
  79. [i]Well, at least this guy is up for equal opportunity in his organization. I'll give him that.[/i]
  80.  
  81. Finally, number four begins to escort his hostage back to the group.  "Be thankful that you got shown some leniency.  If it were up to me, you'd be using a coffee can."  However, like his predecessor, number 3, he pauses at the absense of his compatriots.  "Ah, hell."  He knew what was gonna come next.  He just knew it.  He begins to turn around, looking at the environment, a state of panic beginning to set in.
  82.  
  83. Azumi smiled. She looked to the hostage. He had done his part to help her get rid of most of them. Time to see if he could finish the job. The young woman waved to him, then pointed to the last guard. She made a motion of another punch, then a push, then a choking motion, hoping he would get the idea and knock out the guard. Might as well empower him, since it would throw them off the trail.
  84.  
  85. The old man nods.  Without a second thought, he tackles number 4 at his knees, making him toss his assault rifle.
  86.  
  87. "What the hell are you doing!?"  Number 4 removes a handgun, but finds the man sitting on his arm.  "Get off!"
  88.  
  89. The man shakes his head, instead pressing his forearm against the guard's throat.  This goes for a few minutes, until the guard is knocked out.
  90.  
  91. Azumi dropped down to the man's level, grinning beneath her mask. "Good job. Just sit tight. I have to get the others. Do you know anything about where anyone is?"
  92.  
  93. The old man is confused.  "I thought I was the only one."
  94.  
  95. ---
  96.  
  97. Head Guard #1 looks over at his hostage, then to his two partners.  "Everyone stay together.  We cannot afford to separate.  Especially now."  He looks down at the hostage his group had, an eight year-old boy.  More than likely, the 'guest' had already freed the other hostages.  This was the last line... and even though his master said otherwise, he needed an advantage.  Immediately, he begins to pull out a few explosives.  "For the glory of the Demon's Head."
  98.  
  99. "Yes sir.  For his glory."
  100.  
  101. [i]F*** me...[/i]
  102.  
  103. A kid and three guards with bombs. Fantastic, really. She checked her equipment. Smoke gauntlet had enough. Knife working. A few of those sonic grenades left. She'd take her chances here.
  104.  
  105. Holding out her gauntlet, she allowed smoke to cover the area, distorting people's vision as she brought up her low-light vision capability. Then she threw down a sonic grenade, waiting for its explosion.
  106.  
  107. Not waiting any longer, she dropped down. It was time to finish this.
  108.  
  109. Two of the guards immediately begin to cough from the smoke.  The Head guard grabs the boy and holds onto him, holding his own breath.  Then the grenade explodes, sending concussive waves of sound, striking against all three.  The other two are knocked out, but the Head Guard is merely knocked back.  Still holding onto the boy, he pulls out a knife and holds it against the boy's neck, all the while clenching onto a detonator with his other hand.
  110.  
  111. *Cough*  "Show yourself."  The Head guard looks around, and hears the whimpering and coughing of the boy.  "Do so, or I slit the boy's throat."  He punctuates this by pressing the tip of his knife against the boy's neck, drawing a little blood.  "Do not test me."
  112.  
  113. Running, stopping behind him. Knife extended, slice down on the strap on one of the explosives to cut it off of him, another down on the other, then running back and around to the front again as fast as possible. Even from that angle, the best she could do was a kill, no knockout. The smoke was around, but not too bad. In any case, her mask's built-in voice filter worked well enough here. "Let the boy go, and maybe we'll talk about showing myself. Nice and slow, no hurting him. I've dealt with worse, so don't bother trying to be a martyr."
  114.  
  115. "No.  No bargains.  Either submission by you, or death for us all."  The Head Guard steps back, farther away, stepping on his explosives.  He curses under his breath.  "You won't win."  He applies a little more pressure on the boy's throat.  "Now come out!"  Throwing aside his detonator, he pulls out a pistol and aims at the smoke cloud.
  116.  
  117. A swear from the cloud. In any case, it was best to just show herself. The smoke began to clear, and finally showed her in her entirety, costume, mask, and all, the blade retracted into her metal gauntlet. Again she spoke. "Well? Let him go. And put down the gun."
  118.  
  119. The Head Guard drops his gun.  "I don't need the gun for you."  Moving his knife away from the boy's throat, he tosses the boy aside.  "Let's settle this like warriors."  He holds his knife forward and lowers his stance.
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