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Road To Con City - Excerpt Three

When the Russian walked into the Con City branch of the Hades Corporation, Ralph Briggs skipped a heartbeat. He had never considered himself to be a coward but some of Hades' acquaintances had a reputation that terrified him. The Russian was one of these people. No one knew the name of the Russian, and unlike Hades, he refused to hang a fancy nickname on himself, hence everyone just called him the Russian. Strictly speaking this was incorrect, for he was three quarters Russian and one quarter Japanese, but since he had a clearly Russian accent and his eyes gave nothing away of his mixed heritage, it seemed appropriate enough.

Briggs had never met the Russian before. He had heard of him, of course, but had never been in the same room with him.

Neither had Hades, it would seem.

`Welcome! It is a pleasure to finally meet you in person,' Hades said, and he extended his hand for a handshake. The Russian stood opposite the room wearing a fine white suit and a blue shirt that may have been silk but Briggs could not be certain. He held a long, white object in his hand that at first looked like an antique Japanese sword to Briggs until he realized that it was just an umbrella with a handle that shaped the hilt of a sword. It must have been; after all, there was no way the Russian could have walked through the streets of Con City with a real sword in his hand.

`Entropy beckons us and we must answer the summons, Mister Hades,' he said in a calm, soothing voice, without shaking Hades' hand. `You and me both.'

`No need for such formalities. Just call me Hades.'

`As you wish,' the Russian nodded.

`And how may I address you?'

`Don't.'

It was at this point that the smile faded from Hades' face. Realizing that there would be no handshake, he put his hand in his pocket. He walked up to his desk and sat down in his chair. He shuffled around in it for a while, trying to find the most comfortable way to sit in it. Briggs knew that his boss, much preferring Desert Rock over Con City, hardly ever spent time in this office, hence he was not surprised. Nor was he surprised to see Hades putting his feet up on the desk.

`To business then,' Hades said when he finally deemed himself comfortable enough. `As I explained to you over the phone last night, I require your services. I need some information extracted from a target and I need it before this day is through. Can you handle that?'

`I am here to serve,' the Russian said. `Who is the target?'

`Ralphie, explain the details.'

Briggs nodded and opened the file he had been holding. He cleared his throat and began explaining the situation to the Russian.

`The target is a programmer student at the University of Con City. His name is Mick Clifford.'

He handed a photo of the target to the Russian and continued.

`He is what you would expect from a programmer student. Intelligent and harmless, possessing minimal muscle mass and no combat training whatsoever. No weapons in his possession, either. An easy target.'

The Russian gave the photo back.

`If the target is easy, why was I summoned?'

`Because one of our operatives proved to be a useless incompetent jackass yesterday and got himself killed in the process of trying to nab the target,' Hades said. `I'm through taking chances.'

`The target was taken in for questioning after the incident,' Briggs continued. `He was since allowed to go home to his apartment. The police have stationed a rookie police officer in front of his door. Beyond that, he is not guarded. You will have little to no difficulty with him.'

The Russian nodded and turned to Hades.

`You mentioned extracting information from the target. What do you need from him?'

`Ralphie, show it to him.'

Briggs took a page out of the file folder and handed it to the Russian.

`This is what we need,' he said. `Please memorize it and...'

Before he could finish, the Russian gave the sheet of paper back.

`I have,' he said.

`But... you barely took a glance...'

`Our friend has photographic memory, Ralphie,' Hades interjected. `Just one of the many reasons why he is so highly regarded by his peers.'

`I am not your friend, Hades,' the Russian said. `I am the tool to sow the seeds of chaos with.'

Hades paused before he responded.

`Does that bother you?' he asked. The Russian shook his head briefly.

`No. Does it bother you?'

Hades shrugged.

`No. Why would it?'

`I am the tool to sow the seeds of chaos with. I am the one who bloodies his hands, I do the dirty work. When all is said and done, it is Entropy who reaps the reward of my hard labor. Between Entropy and myself, you are just the middle man. Of the three of us, you are the most insignificant.'

Briggs could tell that Hades was struggling to hold back laughter. While Briggs himself found the philosophy of the Russian awkward and eccentric, Hades found it laughable.

`I like being the middle man,' Hades said after a long pause, smiling. `It is what I was born to be.'

`We all can rise above what we were born to be, Hades.'

`I'm sure my time will come,' Hades said curtly, brushing the topic aside. `Do you have any questions about the job?'

`Yes, one question. What am I to do with the target after I obtain the information?'

`You must make sure he doesn't talk,' Briggs said. `It is essential that no one learns what it was that you made him tell you.'

`There are multiple ways of preventing people from talking,' the Russian said. Hades interjected before Briggs could have replied.

`Use the most efficient method. The permanent one.'

The Russian held up his umbrella in both hands and bowed.

`I shall serve and you shall have what you seek,' the Russian said. It was then that Briggs realized, the umbrella he had taken for a sword really was a sword.

`Is... is that a katana?' he asked. The Russian turned to face him.

`It is. A fine weapon. It belonged to my grandfather.'

`But... how did you walk through the streets with it? How did the police not arrest you?'

`I follow the way of the samurai, Mister Briggs. I hide in plain sight and so does my sword. The adversaries of a samurai do not see the samurai coming until it is too late.'

`Hey, I'm no expert on oriental shit, but aren't you confusing the samurai with the ninjas?' Hades said. Briggs expected the Russian to lash out at his boss in anger but the Russian did no such thing. He responded in the same calm, soothing voice he had used throughout the meeting.

`Ninjas are merely assassins, Hades,' he said. `What I am, is the greatest weapon that has ever served Entropy.'


*

For more, please proceed to the novel Road To Con City.


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