Souls Departed

Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Klevetati Yoshino, Toni Villiers

The weaponsmith Ryutaro Tanaka drew a deep breath and closed his eyes, as if resigning himself to something. “I was hired to make the darts as an assassination weapon for a syndicate here on Abbai. It is a terrorist organization, and criminal — several different criminal groups banded together. Their leader is –”

As he spoke, the wall behind him rippled as if from heat haze, and then a massive human form coalesced out of it, swinging a mace which he brought down across the side of Tanaka’s head. The old weaponsmith toppled from his chair, silenced forever.

“Rangers again,” the assassin growled, swatting the workbench to one side as he moved toward Yoshino.

She drew her wooden sword and yelled. “Kim! Toni!” She only needed to hold him off for a minute, she thought, swinging the bokken with both hands, hoping to break her opponent’s charge.

Kim was already at the door when she heard the call. It was the death she had ‘heard’ first. Her pike extended, she smashed the door inward and hurried inside.

Yoshino’s weapon caught her attacker in the midsection, but he was so big that the blow, solid through it was, barely broke his stride. “You gonna die, white witch,” he roared, aiming the mace for Yoshino’s head.

She quickly brought the bokken up to parry, and managed to deflect the strike meant to shatter her skull. The heavy, flanged head of the mace crashed instead into the front of her right shoulder, sending her spinning to the floor with a rough scream.

Kim let her pike slide in her fingers until she was holding it more to one end, like an elongated sword. Neatly avoiding the range of his mace, she put as much strength as she could into the swing. His roar of rage was tinged with pain, as the Minbari-crafted metal caught him right where Yoshino’s bokken had struck a moment before.

The room’s only window exploded inward with a shower of glass as Toni Villiers came flying feet first through it. She rolled once across the floor, using her extended pike to catch and right herself with a fluid motion worthy of a dancer.

“Yoshino, can you move?” Kim asked quickly, even as her movements continued smoothly into a new attack.

The reply was surprisingly steady. “Yes. What do you want me to do?”

“Get yourself clear,” Kim said, her eyes never leaving the man.

Hai,” Yoshino said, already scrabbling for the nearest wall.

Villiers moved quickly to get behind their opponent, bracketing him between herself and Kim, forcing him to choose which of them to attack. He hesitated.

Kim took full advantage of the opening. Her first strike was for his weapon, knocking it to one side. Her second was with her mind. She told his brain about pain, convinced it of an agony that screamed from every nerve like a lightning strike.

Every muscle spasming, moaning in terror as well as pain, he crashed first to his knees, then toppled sideways, almost taking out an astonished Villiers.

There wouldn’t be any real damage, beyond what he did to himself as he fell. Kim was careful of that. It was why she had attacked him that way. She wanted him aware and able for the interrogation.

She lowered her pike and calmly pulled the mace from his loose hands. Only when it landed heavily a few feet away did she end the pain, if not her grip on his mind. She was able to turn her back and offered a hand to Yoshino.

Yoshino took it with her left hand after getting her feet under her. Her right arm dangled uselessly, and the shoulder of her dark tunic was beginning to show an even darker stain of blood.

Kim swore softly, sensing all too clearly the considerable pain her friend was in, despite her efforts to control it. “I’m sorry. I sensed someone else in the room, but I didn’t know—” She stopped and put herself to looking for something to apply to the wound, to stem the flow of blood.

Villiers was already ripping out the lining of her cloak, and offered it to Kim. “Not your fault,” she said. “He’s got some kind of a modified changeling net. That’s where all that power was coming from.”

Yoshino said, “Just … splint the arm to my side … shoulder’s dislocated … collarbone broken too. Don’t know if you can reduce it …”

Grimacing, Kim stepped forward and bound Yoshino’s arm as she asked, silent. Then she hesitated. “Yoshino, if you’ll permit me, I think I can ease the pain a little.”

“I admit … it’s a little worse than a broken nose,” Yoshino said, grinning crookedly. “Go ahead.”

Villiers had already checked Tanaka, confirming that the old man was far beyond help. She moved to stand over his killer, the tip of her extended pike resting gently on his Adam’s apple. “I got this one covered,” she told Kim.

Kim nodded. She didn’t reach for some emergency kit inside her coat. The painkillers necessary would dull Yoshino’s wits when they still had need of them. Pain was a signal, and as she could convince a mind of its existence…

Owing to a few hours during the Day of the Dead, Kim was more sure of her abilities than she had ever been. Though it was no experience of hers, the knowledge now was nestled within her mind, just waiting to be drawn on.

She could do this. Meeting Yoshino’s eyes, she reached gently within her mind. Gradually, she suggested to Yoshino’s mind that the wounds weren’t so terrible, dimming the pain to a level which Yoshino’s own natural tolerance could cope with. It didn’t take quite as much effort as Kim had thought — Yoshino’s pain tolerance was exceptionally high. Perhaps enduring all the tattooing, she mused.

Yoshino relaxed a little, letting her body slump against one of the workbenches and drawing air into the bottom of her lungs. “Arigato,” she whispered.

“You’re welcome. We’ll get you to help soon.” Kim turned back to Villiers and the assassin. “But we’d best get some answers before we go anywhere.”

Yoshino nodded, walking gingerly toward the overturned workbench and Tanaka’s body. The precious swords lay in pieces on the floor, and she set herself to slowly gathering them up. She knew how to reassemble them, but it would have to wait until she had the use of both hands.

Kim stepped over the assassin and crouched down, sitting on her heels. She checked to see if she had gotten the man’s attention. His wide-staring, terrified eyes assured her that she had.

“It is time to tell us what we want to know,” she said quietly. “Or there will be pain that will not end so quickly.”

“What … what do you wanna know?”

“To begin with, who is going to be killed, and when?”

Copyright (c) 2001 Jamie Lawson and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.


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