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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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blklizard

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Chapter 31

[Stockholm, Sweden]

(September 9, 2013)

"I'm surprised to see you at the door." Vilken went and gave his girlfriend a kiss. "You missed me, Kim?"

"How was your night?"

"I thought you already knew."

"I only know bits and pieces. I guess I should let you inside before you collapse on the front steps."

"I look that bad?"

"Even coffee can't save you now."

Kim took his hand and led him to the living room. Entering the living room, Vilken noticed the television was turned on and the news was on.

"What was on the news?" asked Vilken as he collapsed onto the couch.

"Hacks."

"Multiple hacks?"

"Apparently, there were reports of hacks in Denmark, Norway and Sweden."

"That makes nearly all the Scandinavian nations. I see now how you figured something was up."

"This hacker is good. Do you have any idea who it might be?"

"I'm coming up blank and my agency told me to stay out of it."

"You won't, right?" said Kim as she snuggled with Vilken. "Don't fall asleep on me either."

"With you in my arms, that offer seems so tempting."

"Answer my question, please."

"I would've left it alone if it was a standalone case. Now, I'm interested."

"You'll need a nap first."

"That too."

Vilken kissed Kim again before walking over to his laptop. Kim followed and saw him going through his emails.

"What are you looking for?"

"A telephone number."

"Of a girlfriend?"

"Of course not. A university friend. He's an American."

"Why would you contact him?"

"I need some help and this guy has some resources."

"How so?"

"His father works for the FBI."

"That makes sense."

Vilken signaled for silence as he entered the number in his phone. After a few rings, someone picked up the phone.

[Longhezhen, China]

(September 9, 2013)

The transfer of the nuclear bomb went without a hitch. Placed in radiation proof containers specially designed for the bombs, the helicopters lift off and headed to their intended destinations. The team leader waited until he could no longer hear the helicopter rotor blades. He then ordered his men to pack up everything so that they left nothing for the Chinese. With everything packed up, the team moved out the facility back into the wilderness. With fresh supplies sent by the helicopters, the team would have enough to last them until they reach the outer fence. Moving silently through the terrain, the team disappeared into the landscape. It would take another three hours before a Chinese patrol reached the inner fence and reported their findings to their superior. By then, the team of infiltrator was long gone.
 

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Chapter 32

[Stockholm, Sweden]

(September 9, 2013)

"Hello?" answered the person on the other end.

"Am I speaking with the Capitalist?" asked Vilken.

"Yes, that would be me. Are you the Hacker?"

"The one and only."

"Vilken! What a surprise. I thought you have forgotten about me since you returned to Sweden."

"I have a girlfriend now, my friend."

"Fate has dealt you a good hand. Is she a looker?"

"She'll have you turn your head."

"Wow, you are doing better than me."

"Still a bachelor, I see."

"I'm not that rich yet."

"How many more years?"

"Not sure. Let me get my accountant."

"You can call him later. I need some help, if that's fine with you."

"Did you get caught again? Do you need another lawyer."

"Hey, I'm been clean since university."

"Alright, let's hear it."

"There has been a series of hacking in Scandinavia. I want to find out who's behind all this."

"Why are you looking for me then?"

"You have connections and resources. It will be fun and it's completely legal."

"Is this your new project?"

"Call it payback. This hacker got me good. I hope to return the favor."

"Alright, I'll help."

"Really?"

"What's with that tone?"

"I thought you would want to time to think it over."

"I can't believe you're trying to talk me out of this."

"I'm not."

"Good, I'll want part of the action."

"Why?"

"Do I have to give a reason?"

"I'm starting to doubt you're Daniel. You never jump head first into these things."

"Alright, my father just died."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Some bastard decided to blow him up."

"Yet you're not seeking revenge?"

"My mother came over and made me promise her I won't"

"Still the honorable man I know."

"I'm taking this job so I can distract myself. Good enough reason for you?"

"Ya, do you mind if I come over?"

"Come over?"

"I can stay at your house."

"Give me a reason why I should say yes."

"I prefer not to get my girlfriend involved."

"You really love her, don't you?"

"I do."

"Alright, you can come over like old times sake."

"Good, I look forward to seeing you again."

"Me too. When are you going to come?"

"I'll be booking plane tickets today. Hopefully, I'll be there by tomorrow."

"Alright, I'll get the guest room ready. See ya."

"See ya."

Vilken waited until his friend hanged up the phone before he hanged up.

"I heard you," said Kim.

"It's too dangerous!" complained Vilken.

"Why are you going then?"

"It's payback. You know the type of person I am."

"Take me with you. I can help."

"I cannot risk it. I love you and don't want you to get involved."

"Do you think I'm fragile like china? I can handle myself."

"I know you can handle yourself. I just don't want to take the risk. Daniel's father just died and he worked for the FBI."

"Are they related? The hacking and his father's death?"

"I don't think so. What I'm trying to say is that, no matter how tough you are, things can unpredictably go sour."

"Can I help in any way?"

"Work hard at school and don't cheat on me."

"Alright, please be careful."

"I will, my love."

Vilken gave his girlfriend another kiss before returning to his laptop to book plane tickets. Luckily for him, he was able to book the place that would leave in a couple of hours.
 

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Chapter 33

[Sanya, China]

(September 9, 2013)

The phone rang multiple times and the man finally decided to pick it up. The man had a good time the day before and, with a hangover, wasn't in a mood to receive the call. However, the constant ringing was giving him a headache and he wanted it over with.

"What is it!" shouted the man.

"General! We have bad news."

"When have you called regarding good news?"

"Facility 64 has been infiltrated."

Until that point, the general wanted to get the call over with so he can return to bed. However, he instantly woke up when he heard about Facility 64.

"What do you mean infiltrated?"

"The guards there were killed."

"Has anything been taken?"

"There are nuclear bombs unaccounted for."

"Anything else?"

"Nothing else was touched. Whoever did this, they had a clear target."

"Who have you given this information to?"

"You're the first, general."

"Good, let's keep it that way."

"Will you be coming over?"

"Of course I will. This isn't an ordinary infiltration. I want a full report when I get there."

The general hanged up and looked around for his clothes. Putting on his clothes, the general heard someone knocking on the door.

"Come in," he said.

A very stunning beauty entered the room wearing only bra and panties.

"Aren't you going to stay and play with me?" she teased.

The general also had a soft spot for beautiful women and hesitated slightly. He then made up his mind.

"I'm afraid this is important business," he said. "I'll be back by tonight, hopefully."

"What should I wear when you return?"

"Preferably nothing," the general said before kissing the woman on the cheeks.

The woman waited until the general was out of earshot before muttering "pig." She then waited by the window until she saw the general was driven away from the estate. Knowing the coast was clear, she headed to the phone and, with her hair clip, retrieved a small chip from within. She returned to her room where she put the chip into her phone. Going through a few options, she listened to the conversation between the general and the caller. After memorizing the conversation word by word, she returned the chip back to the phone before heading downstairs for breakfast. She would deliver the message with a full stomach.

[Stockholm, Sweden]

(September 9, 2013)

Kim entered a number on her cell and waited patiently for someone to pick up.

"This is Samsung customer service. How may I help you?"

"There is a slight problem with my cell and the solution provided by another representative didn't work."

"Do you wish to speak with him again?"

"Yes, I've tried to make a call but I can't seem to reach a man called Steven."

"Steven? You wouldn't happen to have his extension, do you?"

"Yes, I believe his extension is 82."

"I will transfer you to him immediately."
 

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Chapter 34

[Longhezhen, China]

(September 9, 2013)

The general walked towards the entrance with his escorts. He looked around and spotted the captain. The captain, sensing that someone was staring at him, looked up from his clipboard and saw the general. He hurried over to the general.

"Well?" asked the general impatiently.

"We did an inventory check. Other than thirteen nuclear bombs, everything else were left untouched."

"Why the bombs?"

"The bombs were the easiest to get into."

"For a weapon so devastating, you're telling me that it's poorly guarded?"

"Well, we are transitioning into better nuclear warheads and nuclear bombs. These would soon be obsolete."

"Obsolete? Do you know how much damage they possess?"

"I understand, general."

"Let's not forget about the consequences if our enemies get these."

"I doubt the Americans or Russians would be interested."

"Have you forgotten the Japanese?"

"You mean-"

"In case you weren't aware, our two nations aren't getting along too well. A couple of nuclear bombs detonated at our coastal cities would be a disaster for us."

"That does make sense with my findings."

"Findings?"

"Whoever infiltrated are professionals. They are armed with the best weapons money can buy. We recovered some bullets that suggest their origins are from Japan."

"So Japan is behind this."

"I prefer not to jump to conclusion yet. I checked with some of my men and discovered that some Japanese weapons were sold to many other nations recently."

"I would put my money on the Japanese. They would gain the most out of this."

"What will we do?"

"Put in a false report that none of this has happened. Can you imagine the international pressure if this news reaches nations like the USA?"

"Understood, general. I will put in a report of some minor accidents and this conversation never took place."

"You are dismissed."

"Yes, general."

The captain walked away and had a quick conversation with his men before leaving the facility in a jeep. The general stayed behind and pondered about the problem. The facility was under his jurisdiction and he knew that the news would leak out sooner or later. He needed to take necessary precautions should his enemies within China choose to use the opportunity to denounce him and remove his power. The general took out a cigarette and lit it. He stared out into the wilderness trying to anticipate his enemies' moves.

[Stockholm, Sweden]

(September 9, 2013)

Vilken brought his packed bags downstairs where he saw Kim also packing her stuff.

"I don't recall saying you can come with me," he said.

"I don't recall planning a trip to the states."

"Where are you going?"

"Back to South Korea. I have some personal business to attend to."

"That's good."

"Happy to see me go?"

"No, that's not what I meant. I'm just glad that you will be far away from the states."

"Think I can't handle it over there?"

"I thought we already discussed this. You are very capable of handling a lot of things but my heart couldn't handle it."

"That's better."

Kim gave Vilken a kiss.

"I'll call you once I reach home," said Kim as she zipped up her bag.

"Alright, let's head to the airport then."

The two lovers arrived at the airport by taxi before they went their separate ways.
 

blklizard

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Chapter 35

[Beijing, China]

(September 9, 2013)

"General Zhang, may I speak with you?"

General Zhang turned around to see a young man. He recalled that he saw the man before but couldn't put a name to his face.

"People call me the Scorpion," the man said, "General."

"I remember now. You are one of the best assassins we have, right?"

"That is an exaggeration, General. I'm merely good at my job."

General Zhang signaled to the Scorpion to follow him as he made his way down the hall. Everyone that saw the General quickly stood aside to make way for the man. General Zhang was known for his temper and more than a couple people were executed silently when they crossed his path. The General and the Scorpion entered a small room where the General sat down. The Scorpion closed the door behind him and analyzed the room. There was a single desk and a chair along with a laptop on the desk. There were no other chairs in the room which suggested that those that entered were expected to stand. The Scorpion made his way before the desk and waited for the General to talk first.

"What is so important?" General Zhang said after making himself comfortable.

"I bring good news," replied the Scorpion.

"Tell me the news and I'll decide whether it's good or bad."

"There has been a minor incident regarding General Chen."

"You got my attention."

"One of his facilities was infiltrated and thirteen nuclear bombs were reported missing."

General Zhang stood up from his chair and walked over to the window. He stared up to the skies.

"Do you know why I love the rain?" asked the General.

The question caught the Scorpion off guard and he chose to remain silent.

"Rain brings about lower visibility and it muffles sound to a certain extent."

The Scorpion remained silent but his gears started turning. He knew the General was trying to say something.

"I know you are puzzled. I am merely saying that your news are the rain clouds. When it starts raining, we can act."

The General turned around and the Scorpion merely nodded.

"I can see why you live so long. You keep your tongue in check."

The General walked over to his desk and typed a few things in his laptop. He then took out a card and threw it on top of the desk.

"Take this and go to the X-wing," the general said. "You are dismissed."

The Scorpion picked up the card and walked out the door.

[Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia]

(September 9, 2013)

Two engineers were making their way to an oil well when they heard a sound. They turned to their right to see a delivery truck heading their way. The two men got off the road so the truck could pass. The trucker passed without paying the two men any attention and one of the engineers noticed something that was out of place. The engineer pulled out his walkie talkie when his friend stopped him.

"What's wrong?" asked his friend.

"The driver was a Caucasian," replied the man with the walkie talkie.

"That can't be right. You need to get your eyes checked."

"I'm sure. Anyways, what's the harm if I get in contact with headquarters?"

"Alright, you always worry too much."

The man changed the frequency and spoke with someone on the walkie talkie. As the conversation continued, the expression on the two men turned grim. They have learned that no delivery trucks were supposed to be onsite at this time. The two engineers were ordered to leave the site while soldiers were being called in to deal with the intruder or intruders.
 

sebas379

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The first few chapters came across to me as just that, small chapters exploring this mod. But then you mentioned the story is linked to your Hungary AAR. I haven't read that one completely yet, but did read some parts of it. Normally narratives aren't really my cup of tea, but you build up a lot of tension now so I have to see where it leads :)

The story is intruiging, though the further I go the more confusing it gets. Could that be because I started in the wrong place, or is that exactly the point for now? If so, I'll patiently await it's development. I just have the feeling I'm not picking up a few hints here and there. I read this AAR in one go, then turned to the Hungary one and read that one.

Thanks a lot, I'll await further episodes eagerly.
 

blklizard

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The first few chapters came across to me as just that, small chapters exploring this mod. But then you mentioned the story is linked to your Hungary AAR. I haven't read that one completely yet, but did read some parts of it. Normally narratives aren't really my cup of tea, but you build up a lot of tension now so I have to see where it leads :)

The story is intruiging, though the further I go the more confusing it gets. Could that be because I started in the wrong place, or is that exactly the point for now? If so, I'll patiently await it's development. I just have the feeling I'm not picking up a few hints here and there. I read this AAR in one go, then turned to the Hungary one and read that one.

Thanks a lot, I'll await further episodes eagerly.

Welcome! I will admit that I'm trying a style that's new to me so there might be things that could be done better. As for the story, you will need to read the Hungary one as well since it will fill you in with more info (I've started a parallel AAR because I don't want to pack everything into one AAR). One of the problems is that, without proper feedback, I struggle to gauge whether I have the right amount of info or not. I will state that my goal is to start with a story that throws lots of questions at the reader in the beginning. The questions will be answered eventually but I want some tensions to build. Of course, I prefer not to lose my readers completely. Any feedback would be helpful. Thanks! :)
 

sebas379

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Welcome! I will admit that I'm trying a style that's new to me so there might be things that could be done better. As for the story, you will need to read the Hungary one as well since it will fill you in with more info (I've started a parallel AAR because I don't want to pack everything into one AAR). One of the problems is that, without proper feedback, I struggle to gauge whether I have the right amount of info or not. I will state that my goal is to start with a story that throws lots of questions at the reader in the beginning. The questions will be answered eventually but I want some tensions to build. Of course, I prefer not to lose my readers completely. Any feedback would be helpful. Thanks! :)

Alright, then I think I'll start reading over there soon, cause you did manage to hook me with these first pieces :)

edit: The Hungary story is starting to flesh out for me too, but I'm not far enough in yet for solid feedback. I'll get back in a couple of days or so, when I more or less caught up.
 
Last edited:

blklizard

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Alright, then I think I'll start reading over there soon, cause you did manage to hook me with these first pieces :)

edit: The Hungary story is starting to flesh out for me too, but I'm not far enough in yet for solid feedback. I'll get back in a couple of days or so, when I more or less caught up.

At least I did something right with the hooks :p. Take your time and don't rush to give me feedback. I can wait. :)

Chapter 36

[Beijing, China]

(September 9, 2013)

The Scorpion went downstairs and kept walking until he arrived at the entrance to the X-wing. Several guards were outside the entrance and the Scorpion handed over the card he was given. One of the guards took the card and slid it across a card reader. The reader's green light came on and the guards talked into a microphone. Moments later, the confirmation came through a small speaker and the door opened. The Scorpion walked through the door to see two more guards waiting on the other side. The two guards didn't even look his way and they gestured him to follow. For the next couple of minutes, no words were exchanged within the party of three. The party would arrive before a door which was labelled as 'X-6.' The Scorpion entered the room and saw the two guards waiting by the doorway.

Relieved to part with the guards, the Scorpion took some time to examine the room he was in. Initially, he didn't notice anyone else was in the room. There were several desks in the center of the room and file cabinets lined up along the wall. A few fold up chairs were located in the corner along with a few trash bins. There were no decorations on the wall which were painted white. As the Scorpion was about to take a step forward, he heard some rustling of papers and realized that there was a hidden room somewhere. He found a small opening between the file cabinets and walked towards it. As he approached the wall, the rustling of papers became louder confirming his assumption. When he was about to take another step, he heard a voice inside.

"I'll be with you in a minute," said the man inside.

The Scorpion used to opportunity to check up on the file cabinets which were labelled by numbers. Before he had a chance to crack the code, the man appeared behind him like a ghost.

"How may I help you?" asked the man.

If it had been an ordinary man, the sudden appearance of the man would startle him. The Scorpion wasn't an ordinary man and turned around with calmness.

"The General sent me," the Scorpion replied.

"You haven't answered my question."

"The General just sent me. I have no idea why."

"What happened before he sent you?"

"I gave him a report he seemed to be interested in."

"What is the report about?"

The Scorpion hesitated and the man went to the corner to grab two chairs. He set the chairs up so the two men would face each other across a desk. He gestured to the Scorpion to sit down on one of the chairs while he sat down on the other chair. The Scorpion sat down but he remained hesitant to share his report with this stranger.

"Why aren't you telling me you report?" The man took out his lighter and flicked it once.

"I don't know you."

"You don't trust me?" The man frowned and flicked his lighter again.

"If you want to smoke, you can leave for a few minutes. I can wait."

"Smoke? Oh, this lighter. It's not for lighting a cigarette."

"What is it for?"

"Information for information. Tell me about your report first."

"Doesn't seem like I'm getting a good deal. I think I'll speak with the General then."

"No, you can stay. I know why you're here."

"You do?"

"I need to make sure that you are reliable. The fact that you don't share your information so easily means that our enemies will have a hard time getting it out of you."

Before the Scorpion could respond, the man flicked his lighter again and the lights went out.
 

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Chapter 37

[Beijing, China]

(September 9, 2013)

The Scorpion reached for his weapon but the man ordered him to stay calm. A few seconds ticked by and a sound could be heard in the corner. Scorpion wasn't sure what it was but he kept one eye in the corner while keeping his other eye on the man. The sound stopped after a minute and neither men moved an inch since the lights went out. A light came out from the corner and Scorpion looked towards the man anticipating an answer. The man waited a few more seconds before he flicked his lighter again. The lights in the room went on again and the two men remained sitting.

"I know you are curious about that room," said the man.

"I am."

The man got up and did a small stretch. The Scorpion just stood up and kept his eyes trained on the man.

"You can call me Yun," said the man, "Let's go through the door."

At first Scorpion thought the man was kidding. From the lights earlier, he suspected the opening was only a meter tall which meant that going through the entrance won't be a fun experience. When Yun slid the door open, Scorpion found himself staring at stairs leading downwards. Yun started down the stairs first and the Scorpion followed close behind. The passage was narrow but not quite cramped for the two men. They walked down the stairs no problem and the Scorpion soon found himself standing before a vault.

"What goes on here?" asked the Scorpion.

Yun, appearing to have not heard the question, walked up to the vault where he entered a series of passwords into a keypad located on the wall. Several minutes passed and the Scorpion saw sweat dripping down Yun's face. He could tell that Yun was nervous and took a careful look at his surroundings. After a quick inspection, he realized why Yun was nervous. There was a trigger that would shut the door behind them and locking them in. In addition, a series of small openings were located to cover every inch of the room. The Scorpion had a few guesses about what exited the openings and, for once, prayed that Yun would get it right the first and only time. The Scorpion usually didn't trust others because he hated relying on others. He worked alone best and the current situation wasn't what he hoped to be in. A few more agonizing seconds passed by and a click was heard from the vault door. Yun pressed a mechanism that slowly opened the door and both Yun and the Scorpion took a deep breath. The Scorpion approached Yun as soon as the vault door was opened.

"Did you have to do this every time you come here?" he asked.

Yun shook his head and took a deep breath before speaking. "No, this is the only the second time I came down here. The first time I entered the code."

The Scorpion was puzzled by what Yun just said but, before he could ask, Yun read his expression and offered an explanation.

"You see. The general kept this vault a secret for a long time. The vault hasn't been opened for several decades. If I remember properly, I was told that the vault was here since the Cultural Revolution."

"That's a long time, isn't it? What's inside?"

Yun took a step into the vault and the Scorpion followed. They found themselves staring at a platform in the middle. It took them a short while before they realized that the platform was built by stacking gold bars atop each other. On the platform, two boxes were stacked neatly one atop another. Yun walked towards the platform and took off the lid of the first box. Both men looked inside and found themselves staring at very old documents. Document that would date back to the Cultural Revolution assuming Yun's recollection was correct. Yun put the lid back on the box and, as he was going to check the contents of the other box, he and the Scorpion heard noise at the opening. They turned around and found General Zhang standing at the entrance.

"I know you two are puzzled and I will explain everything. First, we must get these gold bars and documents to a safe location."

[Beijing, China]

(July 5, 1967)

A group of youths surrounded an old man who has just returned from his shopping.

"Excuse me," said the old man, "but I need to get home."

The youths refused to budge. One of them, who the old man assumed was the leader, stepped forward and hit the old man. The old man fell to the ground with all his groceries scattered on the streets.

"Are you Wu Zhang?" asked the leader.

Wu rubbed where the youngster hit him and looked back with anger.

"Yes, I am!" he shouted. " Don't you know that you have to respect your elders?"

"Elders? You are nothing more than a capitalist. Our job is to eliminate your kinds."

"Capitalist? You are foolish to think that. You Red Guards are nothing more than a bunch of spoiled brats."

"How dare you insult the Red Guards!"

The leader gave the order and the youngsters joined together to beat up the old man. The beating went on for a few minutes and the old man was eventually bloodied but still breathing. The leader ordered two youngsters to carry him to a nearby prison where he would be interrogated. They expected the old man to give up names of other capitalists after some minor coercing.
 

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Chapter 38

[Beijing, China]

(July 5, 1967)

Two brothers made their way home after a visit to the marketplace. In their hands, they held the food that would become their dinner later in the day. The brothers were arguing about things as usually and failed to realize a group of youths closing in on them. When they suddenly found themselves surrounded by the group of youths, the two older brothers stopped arguing amongst themselves. The eldest walked up to who he assumed was the head of the group.

"What's the meaning of this?" asked the eldest.

The leader of the group walked forward and threw a punch that drew blood from the eldest brother.

"Capitalist dog!" The leader spat at the three brothers which was apparently the signal for the group to pounce.

The old brothers fought the best they could but they were simply outnumbered. They were eventually bleeding on the ground and two youth held each of them in place. The two brothers were frustrated to see no one come and aid them before they were dragged away. A little boy stood at the doorway leading into a building and watched the whole spectacle. A few minutes passed and the boy finally snapped out of his trance. He ran across the courtyard into the building where he dashed up the stairs. He ran through the narrow hallway, while evading the other residents, and called for his mother. He stopped at the door of his home and saw his mother looking back at him.

"What's wrong, my son?" asked the mother.

"The two brothers next door got into a fight and are dragged away," said the boy.

The mother was alarmed by the news and told her son to stay inside. She then headed next doors only to find the door open. She looked inside and saw her friend on the ground crying. She then noticed that the entire room was trashed and realized the urgency of the situation. She walked in and her friend, sensing her presence, looked up but failed to mutter a word. The mother approached her friend and embraced her to give her some comfort.

"My father has been taken," she said.

"I'm afraid your two sons are taken as well," said the mother who braced herself for the reaction.

Her friend looked at her with shock in her eyes. She then fainted and the mother quickly called for neighbors to help her get her friend in bed.

(May 10, 1971)

Fu sat in the courtyard staring at the sky. He never knew his father and brothers and, whenever he asked his mother about them, she simply smiled and said nothing. The only explanation he was given was that they were taken to a faraway place. This day seemed like any other day. People went about their daily routines and Fu laid on the ground alone trying to figure out what was happening in the world around him. He heard some footsteps and sat up to see a stranger walking towards the building. The stranger nodded to Fu who was more confused than ever. Fu watched the stranger enter the building and returned to watching the sky. Several minutes passed and he heard his mother call him. He got up and dashed up the stairs where he nearly crashed into the stranger. The stranger made way so he can pass before descending the stairs. Fu entered the room and saw her mother holding a piece of paper in her hand. His mother gestured him to sit down in a small stool and waited for him to be seated.

"Fu," said his mother, "I'm afraid your father and brothers won't be coming back."

"Why?" asked Fu.

"They went to a really far place. It's really important."

"I want to meet them."

"They want to meet you too. Now, you are the head of the household. You must be strong, okay?"

"Okay."

"Good, you can go play in the courtyard again."

"Yes, mother."

Fu walked slowly out the room but he managed to, before leaving the room, catch a glimpse of his mother crying. Remembering a conversation he overheard from his neighbors, the little boy realized that his father and brothers were dead. He held back his tears because he knew that he was the head of the household. He needed to be strong not just for himself but for his mother as well. He returned to the courtyard and made a vow. He would avenge the father and brothers he never knew.
 
Last edited:

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Chapter 38

[Beijing, China]

(October 7, 1972)

Fu sat on the stairs listening to a couple fighting upstairs. He knew that his mother was most likely the mediator between the couple and stayed out of her way. Fu's mother was good at that kind of stuff. She knew how to calm down the two parties and find a solution that would satisfy both. Fu heard for neighbors that, had his mother been able to plea for her husband and sons, there was a chance they could have been saved. Unfortunately, Fu and his mother lost contact with the three men and didn't heard from them until the news of their death. Since the news arrived about the death of his father and brothers, the financial situation for Fu and his mother has been difficult. Fu, as a four year old boy, was still too young to be left alone at home. The savings that was made over the years were drying up. Therefore, Fu's mother was forced to do favors for the neighbors to earn what little she could get. In addition, the overall financial situation for everyone looked rather gloomy. Food prices, especially the price for rice, increased dramatically. To make things worse, price of fabric and, as a result, clothes rose as well. Thus, people must deal with fewer meals in addition to reusing old clothes. Luckily, the neighbors in the building were kind enough to share some of their meals with Fu and his mother at times. Despite the hardship of everyone, there was a sense of community between them.

Fu sat quietly on the stairs when he noticed a stranger entering the building. Fu has never seen this man before in his life and curiosity got the better of him.

"Who are you?" he asked.

The stranger looked down and smile. "I'm looking for a woman called Mei. Do you know her?"

"She's my mother. She's upstairs."

"Thank you for your help." The stranger pat Fu on the head.

As the stranger made his way up the stairs, Fu followed him with curiosity. The fight between the couple has ended by the time the stranger arrived on the second floor. He asked around for Mei and Fu's mother met him. They exchanged quick greetings before heading to Mei's suite with haste. Fu decided to follow closely to see what they were up to.

"I think Fu is getting a new father." Someone was teasing Fu but the little boy didn't respond to the remark.

Fu arrived at the door which was closed shut. He pushed the door slowly and quietly until there was a large enough slit for him to look through. He saw his mother distressed and the stranger trying to calm her down. After a short while, the stranger handed Mei a key which she hid in one of the jars on the table. The stranger said his goodbye and Fu dashed down the hall as though he was playing a game. He returned to his spot on the stairs and waited until the stranger came down to join him.

"Are you leaving?" he asked.

"Yes," said the stranger, "have a good day."

The stranger left and that was the last time Fu ever saw him.

(October 31, 1972)

Fu was playing in the courtyard when he heard some people yelling. He listened carefully and heard someone mention his mother's name and the word "search." Remembering the stories of a search following the capture of his brother, Fu had a bad feeling and ran into the building up the stairs. He ran to his suite where the door was open. His mother was apparently not inside and Fu looked around. He suddenly remembered a key given to his mother nearly a month ago. Without knowing why, he jumped onto a chair and reached into the jar holding the key. With the key in his hand, he jumped off the chair and made his way to the shared bathroom and entered one of the stalls. He locked himself into a stall and waited.

The group of men Fu heard from the street finally reached the second floor. The leader of the group yelled for the caretaker of the building and an old man greeted him. The caretaker was ordered to lead to way to Mei's room where a search would take place. The men entered the room and trashed everything. They broke every jar on the table and went through all the clothes in the chest. They searched every inch of the room and there would be occasional racket from a furniture suffering too much force. Meanwhile, the leader of the group asked the caretaker about a child he saw running into the building. The caretaker explained that he saw the boy head for the bathroom which might explain his urgency. The group of men found nothing of interest and left. Fu, still terrified in the stall, waited a few more minutes before he got out.

Fu walked to his suite and found an absolute mess. Clothes were thrown everywhere and broken furniture was left in a corner. Jars, ceramics and other fragile containers were shattered on the floor. Even Fu's few toys were spared from destruction. Fu looked inside with his hand on the key he took from the jar earlier. He didn't know why he took the key but, seeing the men left, he knew that whatever he held was important. Mei, having heard the search from a friend, rushed back home desperately. She saw little Fu standing at the doorway of their suite and ran over to pick him up.

"Are you okay, son?" she asked.

Fu nodded.

"What am I going to do?" Mei said to no one in particular.

Mei took Fu inside and check the mess left behind by the search. She saw the broken jars and began to panic. Fu tapped his mother on the shoulder.

"What is it, son?" Mei tried to remain calm with her son in her arms.

Fu took out the key from his pocket and Mei smiled.

"You're a good boy," Mei said as she put Fu down. "Put that in a safe place and help mommy clean the place up."

Fu nodded and put the key back in his pocket. He then gathered his broken toys and started to help his mother cleaning the suite. Neighbors came over and helped with the broken furniture. By nightfall, the suite was cleaned and, except for a few utensils, clothes and the bed, everything else were beyond repair and would be used for a different purpose. Mei and Fu ate their dinner next door and headed to bed soon after. Cleaning the room drained them both and they quickly fell asleep. Even asleep, Fu had his hand in his pocket grasping the key.

(February 3, 1978)

Fu packed the few belongings he had over his ten years. Mei was reluctant to let her son go but she knew that she could do little to convince him otherwise. Mei simply placed her hand on Fu's shoulder. She look down at the boy that has grown so much over the years. Raising Fu was definitely difficult but she found it rewarding as well. Her son was intelligent and strong, both physically and mentally. She saw a bright future for him and knew that the army was the path for him. Fu looked at his mother when he felt the hand on his shoulder. He saw his mother smiling at him.

"Mother," he said, "I'll be back before you know it."

"I know you will. Stay strong and proud, son."

Mei embraced her son who was embarrassed by the act. Still, Fu didn't resist and was actually close to tears.

"I'll make you proud, mother." Fu picked up his bag and did a salute.

Before his emotions overwhelmed him, Fu left the suite where he has been living for ten years. He said goodbye to his neighbors and walked down the stairs. At the doorway, he met with the officer who would be his superior. They saluted each other and got inside a jeep that would drive them away. Mei stood at the window staring at the jeep heading into the distance. She let a tear drip down her cheek but it was a tear of joy. She was proud of her son.

(April 15, 1988)

Fu walked up to a building and stared at it. He couldn't believe that the building still stood with so many other buildings taken down as Beijing was going through a rapid change where the old was taken down and new were rising up. Entering the building, he saw the familiar stairs that were ancient but, otherwise, still functional. He walked up the stairs and, arriving on the second floor, he saw many new faces staring at him. He knew he was a stranger to them and, ignoring them for the moment, walked until he stopped at his mother's suite. He knocked on the door and, few seconds later, an old lady answered the door. The old lady stared up at the stranger before her.

"You must have gotten the suite," she said.

Fu shook his head. "I'm Fu, mother."

"Fu? No, you cannot be Fu. Fu died in the north."

"Mother, it is me. I didn't die there. I was wounded but I lived."

"Where's your proof?!" Mei demanded with a glimmer of hope in her eyes.

"Fifteen years ago, I hid a key in a place I called the Squirrel Cemetery."

Mei was in tears and embraced the son she thought she lost. "Fu!" she cried out and released all the emotions inside of her. "In my gut, I knew you didn't die. I didn't want to believe the news."

Fu returned the embrace. "What matter is I'm home now."

"Yes," said Mei with tears pouring down her cheeks.

The neighbors heard the commotion and few of them managed to piece everything together. As soon as the embrace was over, Mei introduced Fu to the new neighbors and old ones alike. Everyone in the building celebrated the occasion and Fu knew he was home. He decided to wait until his mother passed away before he carried out his revenge. He knew that his mother would stop him but nothing was going to change his mind. As of the moment, he would show filial piety towards his mother who he knew doesn't have much time to live. Before the reunion, he checked with a local hospital where he learned his mother was in the late stages of an incurable cancer. With the little time left, he wanted his mother to live the life of luxury before she joins her husband and two sons that left before her. He would join them eventually but he must carry out the mission given to him when he was four years old.
 

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Chapter 39

[Beijing, China]

(September 9, 2013)

The Scorpion and Yun sat back in their chairs. Sweat soaked both their shirts but their faced showed relief in the air-conditioned room. General Zhang was sat at his desk reading through some of the documents retrieved from the vault. The three men worked tirelessly earlier in transferring the gold bars and documents to a vehicle outside Yun's laboratory. Somehow, nobody else was in the vicinity to catch glimpse of the gold bars during the transfer which went without a hitch. General Zhang took the wheel and they headed out the gates to the main road. The journey took two hours and the three men would find themselves outside a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. The warehouse seemed abandoned with its broken down gate, lack of paint and a roof that has collapsed inwards on itself. The general took out a whistle from his pocket and blew into it. At first, nothing happened as both Yun and the Scorpion looked at their surrounding anxiously. Moments later, a small group of soldiers exited the warehouse and jogged towards the vehicle. The leader of the soldiers jogged to the driver side.

"Deliver the goods in the back into the vault." General Zhang exited the vehicle and gave his command without looking at the soldier.

Without another word, the soldiers headed to the rear and began transporting the gold bars and documents into the warehouse. One soldier was stopped by the general who reached into the box the soldier was carrying. Once he grabbed a handful of documents, he ordered the soldier to resume his trip into the warehouse. The Scorpion and Yun has, by this point, exited the vehicle. They scanned their surroundings and realized that they were far from civilization. Barren land surrounded them with hardly any vegetation within miles. Even the road they traveled on would appear to most as a dirt road likely used by tractors. Except for the occasional wind, there weren't any sound that suggested life in the area. The soldiers carried out their orders in silence while the general looked over the documents he grabbed from the box. The Scorpion and Yun stood around waiting for the soldiers to be done with their task. Without no tasks available to them, they walked over to an abandoned wheel and sat down on it.

"Do you know where we are?" asked Yun.

"Middle of nowhere," said the Scorpion. "Other than that, no."

"What will take place here?"

"I wish that I knew. I'm kept in the dark just like you, my friend."

"When have I become your friend?" Yun stopped his conversation when he noticed a presence.

Yun looked up and saw the general staring at them. He was shaking from staring into the general's eyes which were so cold that they ceased to be eyes of a human.

"Let's go," ordered General Zhang.

He started making his way to the warehouse while both the Scorpion and Yun stood up before patting the dust off their pants. They jogged a little to catch up to the general and walked through the gates together. Yun noticed the Scorpion staring back and did the same. The vehicle they arrived in has disappeared and they didn't even notice it was gone. Keeping pace with General Zhang, the two men entered the warehouse.

The interior of the warehouse enhanced the image of abandonment. Broken crates were scattered across the warehouse with garbage and dust collecting everywhere. General Zhang ignored the refuse and continued forward towards a doorway. There were several similar doorways in the warehouse that suggested that the main space led to several smaller rooms. The party of three entered through the doorway to begin their descent down some stairs. The Scorpion took a sneak peek through the doorways they passed while descending but the darkness made it difficult to make anything out. When the party arrived at the lowest level, the general walked through the doorway first. He stopped just inside the doorway which caused some alarm in the Scorpion and Yun. It seemed like the confidence he carried with him disappeared the moment he stepped through the doorway.

"Turn around and tell your men to put their weapons on the ground," said a man standing before the general.

The Scorpion sneaked a peek and caught sight of the weapon pointed at the general. General Zhang turned slowly and his eyes maintained eye contact with the Scorpion. Like a well rehearsed drill, the general ducked and the Scorpion, with his weapon drawn and aimed, fired two quick shots through the head of the man. The man's body dropped to the floor with a thud and the general went over to pick up his weapon. He gestured to Scorpion to follow him and Yun to stay by the stairs. The general and the Scorpion moved quickly through the darkness until they stopped before the entrance to a room that was well lit.

"The general will be here soon," said a soldier. "We'll then get whatever he has in the vaults here before we leave for luxury."

The other soldiers laughed at the prospect of luxury. They have either failed to hear the two shots from the Scorpion or they mistaken the shots for those fired by their friend. Either way, they weren't ready for the unepxected and that was the moment the duo struck. With coordination, they moved into position where they both had clear line of sight on their targets. Before one of the soldiers could react to the duo, the duo opened fire and bullets would strike home on all the soldiers. The soldiers were dead by the time they hit the ground and the general did a quickly mental count of them.

"That's all of them," he said. "Bring Yun."

Yun came along with Scorpion and was shocked by the carnage in the room. The general led the way as the three men entered an office. The office was air-conditioned and the Scorpion only just realized how hot it was outside. He and Yun took a seat at the two fold up chairs while the general made his way to the desk. Silence would ensue as the general looked through his documents. The Scorpion and Yun, satisfied with the air conditioner and chairs, began dozing off.
 

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Chapter 40

[Outskirts of Beijing, China]

(September 9, 2013)

The Scorpion heard a sound and immediately reached for his weapon. Once he was fully awake, he remembered where he was and saw the general still sitting at the desk. General Zhang caught movement and looked up to see the Scorpion staring at him. He stood and gestured the Scorpion to follow him. The Scorpion nodded and followed after the general. They walked a short distance down the hallway where they stopped under a light bulb.

"Sorry if I have woken you up," said the general.

"Just a little jumpy."

"There is no one else that knows about this place." General Zhang took out a cigarette and lit it with his lighter.

"I prefer not to assume that my enemies don't know. Anyways, I thought you would pick more loyal men." The Scorpion positioned himself so he stood in the shadows.

General Zhang took a smoke. "I guess the idea of getting away with the gold bars was too big a temptation."

"How do you know that I won't betray you either?" The Scorpion scanned the general for a reaction.

General Zhang waited until he finished his smoke before he spoke. "I read the report on you."

"What does it say?" The Scorpion allowed curiosity to creep into his voice.

"I won't bore you so I'll jump to the one point I find interesting."

"Do share."

General Zhang stamped out his cigarette and took a deep breath. "You are my son."

The general tapped the Scorpion on the shoulder and walked back to the air conditioned room. The Scorpion stood in the shadows digesting the news. He took a quick look at his watch and realized that midnight was around the corner. Instead of following after the general, the Scorpion walked in the opposite direction until he reached the stairs. He sat down on the stairs taking out a photo. With the aid of the light bulb in the hall, he could make out the features of his mother.

A grenade exploded nearby. A young boy, roughly ten years old, ran through the streets risking crossfire. The boy put the dangers on the street in the back of his mind as he dashed through the street to the place that mattered the most to him. Weaving through the alleyways, he finally arrived before the entrance to a low-rise. The low-rise has taken quite a beating from the bombardments from the rebels but the boy didn't care. He ran into the low-rise without a second thought and ran straight for a suite on the ground floor.

"Mother!" he cried out.

There was no sound except for the occasional gunshot and explosions in the distance. The boy found some debris in his way and squeezed through them until he got to his destination. The door leading to the suite was broken down and a trail of blood was seen leading inside. With worry, the boy called for his mother again but, once again, received no response. He walked into the suite cautiously and saw the blood trail leading to his bedroom. He ran into his room only to see his mother lying on a pool of blood. He ran over and knelt beside his mother.

"Mother!" he cried out again.

This time, his mother opened her eyes and tried to reach with her hand. The boy knew he was losing his mother but refused to leave her side. He became more distraught when he saw tears running down his mother's face. His mother managed to force a smile.

"I will reunite with your father soon," said his mother. "Live strong."

The mother tried to touch her son's face one last time but her strength finally left her. Her hand dropped to the ground while the light in her eyes disappeared. The boy could no longer hold back his emotions and cried out. The boy didn't know how long he was crying and, being so occupied in his grief, failed to realize the men that entered the suite after hearing his crying. A man knelt beside him and pat him on the head.

"Let's go," said the man.

For whatever reason, the boy listened and reluctantly left his mother behind. That was the day the boy was known as the Scorpion, a name given by the man that would be his mentor for the years to come.

 
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Chapter 41

[Outskirts of Beijing, China]

(September 10, 2013)

The Scorpion opened his eyes and scanned his surroundings. For a second there, he couldn't remember where he was at. When he stood up, he remembered the trip to the warehouse and the confession of his supposed father. Rubbing his temple, he ascended the stairs until he arrived on the main floor. A small gust swept up some dust outside which deterred the Scorpion from leaving the walls of the warehouse. Standing by an opening that served as a window, he looked out at the barren landscape and thought about how far he was from home. Reaching into his pocket, he realized that his photo was gone. He quickly dashed down the stairs to find the general holding the photo in his hand.

"Give it back," demanded the Scorpion.

"Of course." General Zhang handed over to the Scorpion who quickly stuffed it back into his pocket. "She's as beautiful as I remembered her."

"Why did you abandon her then?" The Scorpion blurted out before he could control his mouth.

"It was complicated. You will understand once you find the woman you love." The general turned around and walked back to the air-conditioned room.

The Scorpion stood on the stairs staring at the plain wall where a bullet was lodged.

"Get your posture correct, Scorpion!"

The Scorpion quickly fixed his position hoping to avoid another beating. Luckily, his mentor was satisfied this time and allowed him a break. Sweat was dripping down the Scorpion's back and he took a quick drink from the well.

"Scorpion." The mentor returned with a handgun.

At the sight of the weapon, the Scorpion's eyes lit up. He reached out to touch it only to stop midway upon seeing his mentor's eyes.

"This weapon can take lives, Scorpion. Do you understand?"

The Scorpion nodded.

"Take it." The mentor handed over the handgun. "There's no ammo so you won't hurt yourself."

Scorpion was already busy looking over the handgun and was amazed by its design.

"Your mother was killed by one of these as well."

Hearing those words, the Scorpion's eyes no longer shone but, instead, began revealing the hate and anger underneath the surface. The mentor walked over to pat him on the head.

"Use the gun wisely. Don't use it on innocent people. There should be only two cases where you should use a weapon."

The Scorpion concentrated on his mentor's teachings.

"First, protect those you love."

The Scorpion nodded.

"Secondly, protect China. This is the nation you were born in and you must, within your capabilities, do everything in your power to protect this nation. China has experienced too many internal turmoils and far too many lives were lost. Your future is clear. Discover, track down and kill those that threaten the national security of China. An era of uncertainty has descended on this great nation once again. You, along with the your brothers, will work in the shadows protecting China. For..."

"...we are the Anshalong."


The Scorpion walked to the room where he found Yun awake and reading a book. He looked around but found no bookshelves in the room. Yun caught the Scorpion scanning the room and chuckled.

"I always bring a book on me for these kind of situations." Yun passed the book to the Scorpion. When he saw the Scorpion hesitant in taking it, he laughed. "Don't worry, I have another book on me."

The Scorpion reluctantly took the book. "Thanks."

Yun has already began reading his other book. The Scorpion returned to his seat and looked at the cover of the book: The Cultural Revolution. He smiled to himself and started reading.

[Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia]

(September 9, 2013)

"This is headquarters, what's the situation there?"

"They are well armed. They also carry with them plenty of explosives. We have already suffered heavy casualties. We need backup."

"Understood! Several helicopters will be heading in your directions now."

"Get here quick, we cannot hol-"

"Sentry 5, are you there? Sentry 5?! Damn it, we lost contact to sentry 5. Sir, we must...wait, what are you doing, sir? Wai-"
 
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Chapter 42

[Seoul, South Korea]

(September 10, 2013)

Kim headed to the kitchen to refill her mug with coffee. It has been a year since she left the agency to live with her boyfriend but she was relieved to find everything the same except, of course, for a few new faces. Kim made a call the day before to a man she hoped could get her love out of the states intact. As she was filling up her mug, she heard some whimpering in the kitchen. She put down her mug and searched around the kitchen until she found the source of the whimpering. Hiding under a chair, a golden retriever puppy stared back at her. The puppy was covered in mud and its whimpering suggested that she was scared.

Kim reached out with a hand only to find the puppy backing further against the wall. Kim decided to wait patiently with her hand stretched out hoping that the puppy would know she wasn't a threat. A minute passed and the puppy, curious of this stranger, approached Kim's hand slowly and sniffed it. Following a few sniffs, the puppy licked Kim's fingers which made her giggle. The puppy backed off briefly when it heard Kim giggle but it seemed to have established that Kim wasn't a danger. Being bold, puppy walked up to Kim's face and licked her there. Kim grabbed the puppy and held it in her chest. The puppy, no longer scared of Kim, started wagging its tail.

"Where did you come from?"

The puppy made a small bark with its eyes trained on Kim.

"You're so cute. I'm going to keep you if we don't find your owner." Kim looked around and was relieved that no one was in the office with her. She quickly hid the puppy in her coat. "Don't make a sound, okay?"

The puppy replied by resting its head on Kim's chest. Kim walked to the doorway and checked the hallway to see if anyone was there. Looking left and right, she saw no one and proceeded to walk to the fire exit. Supporting the puppy with one hand, she used the other hand to open the doors. Kim eventually made it to the alleyway behind the building and headed to the streets. She walked a few blocks when she felt her cellphone vibrating in her pocket. She retrieved the cellphone with difficulty while supporting the puppy who was already asleep.

"This is Kim."

"Kim, why are you not at your desk?"

"I just rescued a puppy and decided to keep it." Kim could imagine her boss softening up. She knew that her boss was a softie when it came to dogs, especially puppies.

"I hope you're not lying." The voice was less demanding than earlier and Kim smiled.

"I could text you a picture of the little pup. It's asleep right now. I-"

A large explosion took place several blocks away and its shock wave sent many objects, including Kim's phone, flying. The puppy, woken by the explosion, began whimpering with Kim trying her best to comfort it. Kim looked back and saw smoke rising from a building a few blocks away. It took her a short while before she realized that the building was her workplace. She looked around but was unable to find her cellphone among the debris that have collected. Instead, she held on to the puppy tightly and ran towards her workplace. A block away, she found many innocent civilians injured and the sirens of ambulance and fire trucks approaching quickly. She wanted to get closer but the debris in the area made it difficult. The puppy has, by now, calmed down and poked it head out of Kim's coat. It stared at the scene before staring at Kim. Kim looked down.

"I owe you my life, little one."

The puppy rested its head on Kim's chest again and resumed its nap. Knowing that she had no chance of returning to her workplace, she decided to first head to the vet to make sure the puppy was alright. She knew that she should leave the rescuing to the firemen. Having made up her mind, she walked several blocks, opposing the flow of people that wanted to get a closer look at the blast sight, and arrived at a veterinarian clinic she passed by often before she left for Stockholm. She entered the clinic to find no one inside. With the puppy still in her arm, she walked over to the front desk. From the corner of her eye, she noticed something approaching her on the ground. Looking down, she saw a dog walking over.

"Hello, how may I help you?"

Kim turned towards the voice and couldn't hide her excitement. "Sonu, is that you?"

"Kim? I can't believe we see each other here. I don't think this is a friendly visit, right?"

Sonu walked around the front desk and the dog and give Kim an embrace. When she noticed something bulging out from Kim's coat, she sneaked a peek and caught sight of the puppy. "You found her, Kim. I don't know how I can thank you."

Kim looked down at her puppy. "I thought she was abandoned. I would've taken her home but I guess I'll return her to her rightful owner."

Sonu laughed. "No, I've got the puppy from the pound because she was ill. I nursed it back to health but she somehow managed to escape. If you want to keep her, I can get you to fill out a form while I call the pound."

"That would be wonderful. I've fallen in love with her." The puppy, awake from the commotion, looked around and started shaking her tail when she saw Sonu. "Looks like she still remembers you." Kim pulled the puppy onto the ground where the puppy was greeted by the bigger dog. The two dogs started playing with each other leaving Sonu and Kim to their own conversation.
 

blklizard

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Chapter 43

[Seoul, South Korea]

(September 10, 2013)

Sonu motioned Kim to follow her over to the sofa. Kim sat down while Sonu retrieved two bottle of water from her fridge. She handed Kim a bottle.

"So, how's my best friend doing?"

"Well, things have gotten complicated." Kim opened her bottle of water to take a sip. She didn't realize how thirsty she was until she was handed the water.

"Are you still living with Vilken? I told you he wasn't worth it." Sonu laughed when she saw her friend blush at the mention of Vilken. "I love how you are still innocent. Don't tell me you haven't gone to bed with him." Kim blushed profusely at the mention and Sonu decided to stop teasing her friend. "So, how did you find the little fella?"

Kim saw her friend staring at the puppy who was playing with the older dog. "I found her at my workplace. Heard her whimpering in the kitchen."

"How did she get there?" Sonu reached into her fanny pack for a few dog treats and tossed them over to the puppy. The puppy, who must have been starving, gobbled all the treat up and ran towards Sonu for more. Sonu smiled and handed some of her treats to Kim. The puppy, seeing the exchange, walked over to Kim and stared up with her innocent puppy eyes. Kim lowered her hand and the puppy ate the treats from her hand. Satisfied with her meal, the puppy returned to the bigger dog for more playtime. "She's pretty bright, don't you think?"

"She sure is," Kim said. "I'm worried that I may spoil her rotten."

At the mention of that, Sonu stood up and walked over to her desk where she grabbed a brochure. She handed the brochure to Kim. "There is a website on the brochure that could help. It has tips and advice regarding the care for a puppy for new owners." Sonu looked down at her watch. "Oh dear, let me make a call to the pound first. I could still catch them before they head off for lunch."

Sonu excused herself while Kim walked over to the two dogs. The puppy, now comfortable with Kim, no longer cowered at her approach. Kim picked the puppy up and gave her a kiss on the nose. The puppy name barked twice in response. "I need to give you a name. How about Bella?" The puppy barked as it shook its tail. "I take it you like that name." Kim brought Bella close enough so she could lick her on the face.

"It's so touching I could almost cry."

Kim gave her friend a disapproving look. "Don't go emotional on me. I still remember that class play where you couldn't stop crying." Kim smiled at the thought of her childhood.

"Don't bring that up ever again," Sonu said with a smile. "I just called the pound and they are happy that this puppy found a new owner. I believe you're calling her Bella?"

"Yes, I think the name suits her. Right, Bella?" In response, Bella barked once.

"She's really intelligent. I can't believe she's responding to the name you gave her already." Sonu sat back down on the sofa. "Don't you have work today? Or do you have today off?"

"I sneaked out of work when I found this little fella," Kim said with embarrassment. "I know my boss is a softie when it comes to dogs, especially puppies."

"Wow, I'm impressed. You now know how to manipulate people." Sonu was going to laugh when she noticed the change in expression on Kim's face. Kim suddenly seemed close to tears. "I'm sorry. I didn't meant that."

Sonu walked over to sit beside Kim where she hugged Kim. The puppy, sensing Kim's distress, started whimpering as well. Kim, unable to contain her emotions, started crying. For several minutes, Kim wept like a baby with Sonu sitting beside her patiently. Bella, trying to comfort her owner, licked Kim a few times. Kim finally stopped and thanked her friend for being there. "What's wrong?" Sonu asked.

"Did you hear the explosion earlier?"

"Heard it? I felt it and thought it was an earthquake." Feeling that something was wrong, Sonu looked at her friend with worry. "What's that got to do with you?"

Kim explained how her workplace was destroyed and, had Bella not got her out of there in time, she would have been dead already. Sonu listened intently and never interrupted once. When Kim was finished, she seemed more distressed than before. "Let your emotions free, Kim. It's not good for you."

Kim listened and wept for several more minutes. Once she was done, she brought Bella closer and kissed her again. "Thank you, Bella."

Bella licked her back which made Kim giggle. Knowing that her friend was recovering, Sonu excused herself to make another phone call.
 

sebas379

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Sounds like Daniel, Kim and Vilken got in way over their heads here. I'm not clear on how it connects to Hungary though, but that'll come in the future.
Also, since this is the minor campaigns thread, I'm not sure wether you'r still even playing minor campaigns in the mod the last few chapters :) I wonder wether you formed an opinion on it, since it did seem to add quite a few features.
 

blklizard

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Sounds like Daniel, Kim and Vilken got in way over their heads here. I'm not clear on how it connects to Hungary though, but that'll come in the future.

They entered the rings meant for the big boys. As for Hungary, it will come in much later since I still have lots of ground to cover.

Also, since this is the minor campaigns thread, I'm not sure wether you'r still even playing minor campaigns in the mod the last few chapters :) I wonder wether you formed an opinion on it, since it did seem to add quite a few features.

I haven't played the Phoenix Mod for quite awhile now. However, I did play a relatively large campaign where I explored many of the new features like buildings and wonders. You can find it here.

Chapter 44

[Seoul, South Korea]

(September 10, 2013)

Sonu was on the phone for quite a while and Kim sensed distress in her voice. Politely, she kept her distance so she doesn't eavesdrop on her friend. Bella was placed back onto the floor where she returned to playing with Sonu's dog. Kim watched them and thought back to her younger years at school.

"Shui!"

Sonu's dog looked up at his owner and even Bella stopped to look. Shui saw the signal and followed Sonu into the back. Bella, as if knowing that her playmate had to leave, returned to Kim's side. Kim was surprised by her friend's urgency in that command and picked up Bella. She petted her dog who seemed to enjoy the attention she was getting. A minute later, Shui exited with several toys in his mouth. Bella, curious about the things in Shui's mouth, wiggled out of Kim's hands to check out the toys. Sonu managed to sneak up behind Kim giving her quite a fright.

"You startled me! Are you a ghost?"

Sonu laughed. "Can't believe my best friend wished me harm."

"What's with the toys?" Kim watched her friend who seemed to be tense. "What's wrong, Sonu?"

"I can't get much past you, can I?" Seeing her friend shake her head, Sonu let her breath out. "We're leaving Seoul."

"You're kidding, right?" Kim stopped herself from laughing when she noticed her friend's serious expression. "You're serious, aren't you?"

Sonu handed over a piece of paper that was fresh from the printer. Kim scanned through the content and recognized it as an e-ticket. On the departure time and date, it showed 3 pm on September 10th. "Why?"

"I'm worried about you, Kim. I don't think the bombing was an accident."

"You can't just leave at a moment's notice. What about all your patients?" Kim was alarmed by her friend's rash decision.

Sonu placed her hand on Kim's shoulder to calm her down. "Did you notice that I have no pets here except Shui?"

Kim wasn't sure what her friend meant but she only just realized how quiet it was when she first entered the clinic.

"I've already stopped booking for appointments two weeks ago. If you were someone else, I would have turned you away."

"Why? You shouldn't give it up just for me." Kim felt distressed seeing her friend closed to tears. She went over to comfort her with a hug. "I know this is your dream. Just give me the e-ticket and I can handle the flight myself."

Sonu shook her head. "You're as clueless as ever, Kim. I'm packing up because I'm a little homesick. I will return once I see my parents back in China. I couldn't decide on the exact date but your arrival helped me make up my mind."

Sonu's smile relaxed Kim a little. "I guess you're bringing Shui with you?"

"Not only that. I will also get little Bella ready for the trip too."

Bella stared at Sonu when she heard her name mentioned. When a squeaky rolled past her, she chased after the toy forgetting that she was the topic of the conversation. Kim and Sonu laughed.

"I will give her all the necessary shots and provide you with all the information regarding travels with pets. I'll handle everything and you can simply relax." Sonu stopped her friend with her hand place on Kim's mouth. "I won't let you sit idle either. From now until we arrive in Beijing, I will provide you a laptop computer. Your job is to find out who is responsible for the bombing. I know you kinda excel in that kind of thing."

Kim tapped Sonu on her head. "You know me best!"

Sonu headed to the back where she retrieved a laptop computer. She handed the laptop over to Kim who started her task of tracking down the culprit for the explosion. Sonu then returned to the back and began packing all the stuff for herself and the two dogs. Half an hour passed before Sonu returned with a few needles in a container.

"Bella, time for your shots." Sonu smiled at the puppy but Bella, terrified at the needles, hid behind Shui.

Shui got up and nudged Bella towards Sonu. Shui kept Bella distracted with a few grunts while Sonu gave Bella the shots. The whole procedure ended quickly and Bella didn't even realize that her nightmare was already over. Seeing Sonu walk away, Bella returned to her playful self and chased after the toys scattered across the floor. Sonu disposed of the needles and picked up the bags she packed. She handed Kim two handheld bags while keeping the backpack to herself.

"Ready to go, partner?" Sonu asked as she collected the toys much to the dismay of Bella.

"I'm always ready," said Kim with a smile as she picked up Bella and held her close.
 
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Chapter 45

[Outskirts of Beijing, China]

(September 10, 2013)

The Scorpion opened one eye and saw the general stand up. He covered his mouth as he yawned and stared at the man who supposedly was his father. He watched the general stretch to loosen his muscle and, when General Zhang was about to turn towards him, he turned his head to see Yun dozing with his book still in his hands. He returned his attention back to the general who put up a shush pose and motioned him towards the entrance. They made their way back to the poorly lit hallway and walked a short distance until they stopped outside the room with the dead soldiers.

"Help me get these corpses down the hallway. There's a room for garbage."

The Scorpion obliged without another word and the two of them towed a corpse each with the general leading the way. They arrived in a smaller room where pieces of crates were scattered everywhere along with whatever refuse the soldiers left earlier. The general towed his corpse to a corner and left it there. The Scorpion followed suit and they finished the small operation in a few minutes with a neat pile of corpses. The Scorpion leaned against the wall to catch his breath while he watched General Zhang gather the wood in the room around the bodies. Next, he grabbed a small can of gasoline that has been sitting in the room for who knew how long. Pouring what little gasoline was inside, the general lit a match and threw it on the corpses. The gasoline instantly caught fire with the wood following a close second. The corpses weren't spared and the two men watched until there wasn't anything left except for ashes. General Zhang walked out the room first and the Scorpion, taking another look at the pile of ashes, left as well. As the Scorpion walked down the hallway, he heard some wind traveling through the ventilation no doubt entering the room they were in. The general noticed his son's face betrayed no emotions during the show and smiled as he entered his new office.

For the next hour, the general returned to his papers while the Scorpion continued reading the book he was given. Yun has finally woken up and yawned loudly. Seeing that he got the attention of the other two men, Yun's face turned red and he tried to make himself appear smaller by shrinking in the chair.

"Are you awake now?" The general returned his attention back to his papers.

"Yes, general." Yun turned to the Scorpion but he only received a shrug. He turned towards the general who has, by now, stood up and walked towards him. Yun was handed a small stack of paper and started reading through it.

The Scorpion watched General Zhang returning to his desk with his arms resting on the it. Watching Yun didn't yield anything either as the man was too concentrated on the papers at hand. Not wanting to be nosy, the Scorpion scanned the room for any defects. A short moment later, he, along with the general, heard a sound coming from the stairs. Yun was too concentrated to have noticed. The Scorpion checked up on the general only to see a surprised expression. Without another word, he grabbed his weapon, did a quick check on the ammunition and headed towards the hallway. He quickly merged into the shadows with his weapon trained on the entrance leading to the stairs. The only sound to be heard was the wind passing through the ventilation system. Whatever he heard earlier has suddenly disappeared. The Scorpion crept forward slowly never keeping his eyes off the stair entrance. The distance closed and there still wasn't any other sound to be heard. The Scorpion soon found himself staring straight through the entrance to find a cat staring at him. The cat stared back with green eyes with the same caution.

Suddenly, the cat darted up the stairs as it heard a sound coming from behind the Scorpion. The Scorpion waited a minute longer until he was convinced that the cat was the only intruder. He turned around and headed back to the room. The general stood there at the doorway but he no longer looked tense.

"What was it?" General Zhang asked when his son was a meter away.

"A stray cat." The Scorpion couldn't help but smile.

The general laughed and the two men entered the room to see Yun look at them with a puzzled look.

"Did I miss something?" Yun realized the neither men were going to answer him and returned the papers he was given earlier to the general.

The general sat back down on the desk. "So, think you can carry out this plan?" General Zhang waited for a nod before picking out another paper from his drawer.

Yun walked up and picked up the paper with care. A brief read resulted in a surprised expression on his face which wasn't missed by the Scorpion.

"We'll take the vehicle and head to the bank. We'll set our plan in motion there."