Stalker ducked into an alley.
This wasn’t right. There were too many of them; even Plask never had this many men to spare on one target. And he hadn’t been hitting anything big tonight; it was a liquor shipment, a milk run. Nobody in this town would put thirty men on a shipment of tax free booze. It would draw more attention than they could afford, even with most of the cops in their pocket.
Stalker discarded that train of thought. Daniel could think about that, Stalker just cut things up. Stalker would have time to think about it when he reached the base. Daniel might think of something sooner. Even with all the screaming, Daniel’s mind had a lot more free time than his.
Daniel whispered directions in his ear and Stalker took a hard right.
Stalker followed the directions to the letter. It happened automatically, almost like Daniel was the one controlling the legs. But it worked better that way, it let Stalker keep his eyes open.
There were three of them on the street at the exit. They knew he was coming but they hadn’t seen him yet. Daniel wrapped him deeper in the shadows, and their eyes passed over him again. Stalker darted forward, drawing his short swords from their sheaths.
The first two had their throats slit before they knew what happened. Stalker saw the third’s eyes start to widen before he dragged the blade through his neck.
He felt Daniel’s disapproval, even as he felt his understanding. Stalker could have left them alive, but there was no way he could have gotten past them. There were some that could have; one or two even lived in this city. But none of them would have cared to go after the shipment. To them it was just a few trucks of liquor; they couldn’t see the patterns. They didn’t understand that even that one shipment represented hundreds of thousands of dollars of profit for Plask.
Not directly, of course. That shipment would have driven down the alcohol prices in half the city. Over a few weeks those lower prices would lead to an increase in theft, vandalism, even murder. Some of those crime would make it to court, some of them might even take the right people with them, but there was nothing Plask liked more than collecting debt, and the cost for staying out of jail in this town was high.
Of course the others would disagree. They’d claim the two weren’t connected, or that higher prices would just make people more likely to steal. But none of them paid attention like he did. Only he bothered to look for the patterns.
His base was closer now but there were even more of Plask’s men on the loose.
Daniel’s voice filtered through again. This wasn’t right; Plask hated him, sure, but he never bothered to hunt for him, not like this anyway. Plask didn’t think one man in a mask was worth the resources it would take to find him. Especially when he came to them so regularly.
Four more men.
They were close to his base, too close. They must have clustered near places he disappeared before. Plask didn’t have a data cruncher like that. Plask was a money man. He never worried about tactics. He didn’t think about the war.
The four weren’t an issue. His swords darted in and out of Daniel’s shadows too quickly for them to realize what was really happening. The first one didn’t have time to scream before his heart stopped. The second one did. His blade was a fraction too far to the right. The man’s mouth grew redder with every cough, and his eyes grew wider as his lungs filled with blood.
The next two tried to put up a fight. If they’d had their guns ready to fire when he’d appeared they may have managed to get a shot off. But they wasted their time trying to aim at him through Daniel’s shadows. Stalker slid his blade into the first one’s eye. He felt the hard thwack course through his arm when he reached the other side of the man’s skull.
The last pulled the trigger on his gun. It clicked on a dead round. The man’s lips were still forming the curse when his head hit the ground.
The door to his base was close. But with this many around he couldn’t afford to go in.
Daniel gave him a map of the alleys. He didn’t need it, but he hid that from Daniel.
He turned to check that his base was hidden.
Pain ripped through his knee and he hit the ground hard.
There was no gunshot. He would have heard it. Daniel would have heard it. But the hole where his kneecap had been insisted otherwise.
In another second, his other knee was shattered. This time he couldn’t help the rush of air that escaped him, the pitiful cry this attacker was looking for.
A dark chuckle escaped into the alleyway.
“You certainly are a slippery one. Plask insisted that you weren’t worth the effort. Honestly, I agree. But you’re insistence on interfering with his business has started to effect mine. Frankly, I would have liked to avoid this altogether. It’s been over half a year since I had to get my own hands dirty. But bullets don’t mean much to you do they? And anyone who can match you with a sword is not worth the effort. Nonetheless, I am a fair man. I will offer you one chance to swear allegiance to me. I’ll even let you kill Plask in a couple of months, when I’m through with him.”
Stalker forced his legs to charge at the figure. Lighting shot from his shattered knees through his entire body, but he still forced them to give as much speed as they could have ten years ago. He saw the man’s smile as he twisted his body and swung the sword at his neck.
The blade never reached him.
The moment it got within inches of the man, it shattered like glass.
“Now that is a shame. I thought you weren’t a stupid man. But here you are, challenging a trump card with an empty hand.”
The man lifted his hand up to the level of Stalker’s head.
“Do you have any last words before I send you to Hell.”
Stalker’s smile filtered through the shadows of his hood.
Daniel said something, but Stalker couldn’t hear it. He felt the shadows leaving him, leaving only the small piece of darkness projected by his hood.
“It’ll be a long wait. I’ll save your place in line.”
Something flew from the man’s hand and into Stalker’s hood.